Quick hits (part II)

1) EJ Dionne with the (I think) reasonable, middle-course on the impeachment issue:

This means the House Judiciary, Intelligence, and Oversight and Reform committees should and will begin inquiries immediately. Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) took the first step on Friday by subpoenaing the full, unredacted Mueller report, which the administration immediately resisted. Mueller himself has rightly been asked to appear before both Judiciary and Intelligence.

Nothing is gained by labeling these initial hearings and document requests part of an “impeachment” process. But impeachment should remain on the table. Because Trump and Barr will resist all accountability, preserving the right to take formal steps toward impeachment will strengthen the Democrats’ legal arguments that they have a right to information that Trump would prefer to deep-six.

For now, it’s useful for Democrats such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) to underscore the outrageousness of the abuses Mueller found by calling for impeachment while Democrats in charge of the inquiries such as Nadler and Rep. Adam B. Schiff (Calif.), chair of the House Intelligence Committee, say, as both did on Sunday, they’ll reserve judgment while they sift through the facts…

Of course, Trump is not the only issue in politics. Democratic presidential candidates are already out there focusing on health care, climate, economic justice and political reform. The House can continue other work while the investigators do their jobs.

In an ideal world, the corruption and deceitfulness Mueller catalogued would already have Trump flying off to one of his golf resorts for good. But we do not live in such a world. Defending democratic values and republican government requires fearlessness. It also takes patience.

2) Pretty interesting research from our NCSU MPA director who’s office is across the hall from me:

The debate over tax incentives usually centers on whether they lead to job creation and other economic benefits. But governments must also pay attention to their own bottom lines. This begs the question: How do all the financial incentives that states offer actually influence fiscal health?

New research seeks to answer that question. Using data from the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, researchers at North Carolina State University tallied all incentives offered by 32 states from 1990 to 2015, effectively covering 90 percent of incentives nationally. What they found doesn’t portray incentives in a positive light. Most of the programs they looked at — investment tax credits, property tax abatements, and tax credits for research and development — were linked with worse overall fiscal health for the jurisdiction that enacted them.

“It’s not that incentives are bad or that we shouldn’t use incentives,” says Bruce McDonald, an NC State associate professor who led the research team. “But if a state or local government is going to provide an incentive, there needs to be some kind of clarity on what the realistic expectations are for what they might get back.”

3) San Francisco has been trying to use school choice to desegregate its schools.  It’s not working.

4) Seth Masket has been interviewing Democratic activists in early-primary states.  They are no fans of Joe Biden.

5) Elizabeth Drew on “The Danger in Not Impeaching Trump”

The principal challenge facing the Democrats is that they’ll have to answer to history. The founders put the impeachment clause in the Constitution to allow Congress to hold accountable, between elections, a president who’s abusing power. They specified that “high crimes and misdemeanors” are not necessarily crimes on the books but arise from the singular power of the presidency.

It’s of course politically easier to go after a president for having committed a crime — for example, perjury, for which President Bill Clinton was ostensibly impeached. But that was because the House Republicans didn’t want to say out loud what they were actually going after him for: extramarital sex with an intern in the study next door to the Oval Office.

Many people are getting their history and their definition of impeachment wrong by asserting that what forced Nixon to resign was the revelation in August 1974, very late in the process, of a recording of his trying to obstruct justice. This leads them to the erroneous conclusion that it’s essential to find a “smoking gun” to impeach a president.

In fact, even before that tape was released, the House Judiciary Committee had already approved three articles of impeachment against Nixon. It was widely understood that opinion had moved so strongly against him that the House would approve those articles and the Senate would vote to convict Nixon on those grounds. The tape simply hastened the finale.

By far the most important article of impeachment approved by the House committee on a bipartisan basis was Article II, which called for the punishment of Nixon for abusing presidential power by using the executive agencies (such as the Internal Revenue Service) to punish his enemies and for failing to uphold the oath of office to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” It also said, significantly, that a president could be held accountable for a pattern of abusive or even illegal behavior by his aides.

Madison and Hamilton didn’t say anything about holding off on impeachment because it would be politically risky. It’s hard to imagine they’d put political convenience on the same footing as the security of the Constitution. And the Democrats who prefer to substitute the 2020 election for an impeachment fight don’t appear to have considered the implications if Mr. Trump were to win: Would that not condone his constitutional abuses and encourage his authoritarian instincts? [emphases mine]

6) And Danielle Allen writes, “What Alexander Hamilton would say about the Mueller report”

To quote the Mueller report: “The President has no more right than other citizens to impede official proceedings by corruptly influencing witness testimony.” In addition, the president bears a second burden of personal responsibility — not merely to execute the powers of his office (for instance, hiring and firing) but also to execute those powers “faithfully.”

That question of faithfulness is what Hamilton had in mind when he referred to the “delicate and important circumstance of personal responsibility.” The constitutional apparatus gave to Congress the power and responsibility of addressing that delicate matter. The most important question now before us is whether Congress will use its power — and indeed, rebuild it after a period of decline — to reinforce two core principles of the Constitution: that the president is not above the law and that he or she should be held to a standard of faithfulness.

Hamilton was one of the leading architects of an energetic presidency and was also the person who was therefore most obliged to explain to the public how the country could be assured that such energy would not be misused. A key difference between the British crown and the new American president, he twice insisted in the Federalist Papers, was that the “person of the king of Great Britain is sacred and inviolable; there is no constitutional tribunal to which he is amenable.” In contrast, the president was “at all times liable to impeachment, trial, dismission from office, incapacity to serve in any other, and to forfeiture of life and estate by subsequent prosecution in the common course of law.” The result of this was that, “In the only instances in which the abuse of the executive authority was materially to be feared, the Chief Magistrate of the United States would, by that plan, be subjected to the control of a branch of the legislative body. What more could be desired by an enlightened and reasonable people?”

Above all, what was materially to be feared was that the president would exercise the powers of his office not faithfully but corruptly. He would use lawful powers — again, say, hiring and firing — not for public good, but personal gain.

7) Law professor argues that Mueller did “prove” a Trump conspiracy in Russia.  And, basically, if you use the civil standard of “preponderance of the evidence” rather than the criminal “beyond a reasonable doubt” that’s a pretty fair claim.  And there’s a good argument to be made that impeachment should use that lower standard.

8) It’s really just disgusting how Republicans are trying to do everything they possibly can to maintain unfair electoral advantages:

LAST NOVEMBER, Missouri was one of a handful of states in which voters decided to limit politicians’ power over redistricting, the decennial process in which political boundaries are drawn, because allowing politicians to choose their own voters has become an increasingly corrupt exercise. Now, Missouri Republicans, who have a lock on the state’s legislature and stand to lose some control under the new system, are trying to roll back the reform, insisting that voters were tricked into approving it.

Their cynical maneuver represents another new low in the steady Republican undermining of democracy through false claims of voter fraud, restrictions on voting and other tactics. The Supreme Court, deliberating on whether politicians can be trusted not to deprive voters of their rights through extreme gerrymandering, should take note.

Missouri voters approved a plan that would rely on a professional state demographer to draw lines that would not be warped in favor of one party or another. It was not perfect, but it was better than what Republicans wanted: a system in which the parties have more control — and in which partisan fairness is not a focus. More to the point: Once Missourians embraced a different approach, the debate should have been over. Nevertheless, with supermajorities in both chambers of the statehouse, the GOP can ram the plan through…

Over the years, both parties have angled for advantage in the political line-drawing process and in other areas of election administration. But Republicans have taken the practice to extremes. They heavily gerrymandered political maps in North Carolina and Wisconsin, discouraged voting among Democratic-leaning groups through a war on phantom voter fraud, limited weekend voting and closed voting places in areas where many Democrats live. Where their deck-stacking was not enough to keep them in power, they have undermined the Democrats who beat them, removing power from incoming Democratic governors and state attorneys general.

Meanwhile, as Missouri lawmakers debate their rollback, Texas Republicans are moving to treat mistakes on voter-registration forms as felony offenses that could bring jail time and to discourage people from casting provisional ballots, NPR reported. Tennessee Republicans want to heavily fine groups that turn in improperly filled-in voter-registration forms. Arizona Republicans would cut voters from the mail-in ballot rolls if they do not vote in two successive elections. All of these will help dampen the vote in a country that already suffers from low participation.

9) Catherine Rampell, “Warren’s free-college-and-debt-forgiveness plan may be liberal, but it isn’t progressive.”  There was a pretty good on-line twitter debate on this as it does take its funding from the wealthiest Americans, but there’s also a good case to be made that too much benefit goes to already advantaged middle/upper-middle class.  But, then again, investing in human capital through college degrees.  Honestly, not quite sure what the approach should be here.

10) Conservative writer argues that air pollution regulations show the folly and pointlessness of regulation.  Drum shows that he’s wrong. Yay, regulation.

11) Krugman on “survival of the wrongest”

Evidence has a well-known liberal bias. And that, presumably, is why conservatives prefer “experts” who not only consistently get things wrong, but refuse to admit or learn from their mistakes.

There has been a lot of commentary about Stephen Moore, the man Donald Trump wants to put on the Fed’s Board of Governors. It turns out that he has a lot of personal baggage: He was held in contempt of court for failing to pay alimony and child support, and his past writings show an extraordinary degree of misogyny. He misstates facts so much that one newspaper editor vowed never to publish him again, and he has been caught outright lying about his past support for a gold standard. Oh, and he has described the cities of the U.S. heartland as “armpits of America.”…

Second, the people who got it wrong were if anything rewarded for their errors. Moore was wrong about everything during the financial crisis; he remained a fixture on the right-wing conference circuit, and in 2014 the Heritage Foundation appointed him as its chief economist. Kudlow, who dismissed those warning about the housing bubble as “bubbleheads,” and warned about looming inflation in the depths of recession, also remained a right-wing favorite – and is now the Trump administration’s chief economist.

So the attempt to install Moore at the Fed is right in character. And let’s be clear: The issue is not simply one of having made some bad forecasts. Everyone does that now and then. It’s about being consistently wrong about everything, and refusing to learn from error.

12) I really have to question the wisdom of experts who tell us that babies are literally not supposed to sleep well.  When we let our babies sleep on their stomachs, believe me, it was not about sleeping through the night, it was about getting any decent periods of sleep at all.  The idea that a infant sleeping not on its back will sleep way too long and therefore not get proper nutrition, I suspect, lacks any empirical evidence.

A paradox of the Rock ’n Play, and of infant “sleep aides” and “sleep guides” in general, is that, to some extent, these products are intended to solve a problem that should not be solved. No infant should sleep all night long, on an incline of any degree, because she needs to eat every few hours; what’s more, a baby who sleeps poorly when flat on her back—which is to say, many or most babies—is also a baby who is at lower risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or sids. (sids deaths fell precipitously after 1992, when the A.A.P. issued its flat-on-your-back sleep guidelines.) “Babies are not supposed to sleep through the night,” Rachel Moon, the chair of the A.A.P. Task Force on sids, told me. “Putting a baby on her stomach, and all these things to make babies ‘sleep better,’ quote-unquote, are dangerous because they make babies sleep more deeply, and, with sids, when they sleep more deeply, they can’t wake up.” Moon added that infant sleep is regarded as much more of a crisis in the U.S. than in any other country, owing to a lack of both paid parental leave and extended-family support networks. “When they have to get up in the morning and function for work, of course mothers and fathers get desperate for sleep,” she said.

 

 

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(Real) quick hits

1) I’m a big fan of the the big 5 personality inventory.  538 with a nice explanation and a nice version of the quiz.  I still get frustrated by “openness to experience” being a single concepts as in some aspects I am very open to experience and I love culture and learning new things, but this is also the guy who would happily eat pizza for lunch five days a week (and often does).

2) Krugman on Elizabeth Warren’s smart plan for universal child care.  I don’t know if Warren would make the best president, but I’m pretty damn confident she has the best policy ideas.

For millions of Americans with children, life is a constant, desperate balancing act. They must work during the day, either because they’re single parents or because decades of wage stagnation mean that both parents must take jobs to make ends meet. Yet quality child care is unavailable or unaffordable.

And the thing is, it doesn’t have to be this way. Other wealthy countries either have national child care systems or subsidize care to put it in everyone’s reach. It doesn’t even cost all that much. While other advanced countries spend, on average, about three times as much as we do helping families — so much for our vaunted “family values” — it’s still a relatively small part of their budgets. In particular, taking care of children is much cheaper than providing health care and retirement income to seniors, which even America does.

Furthermore, caring for children doesn’t just help them grow up to be productive adults. It also has immediate economic benefits, making it easier for parents to stay in the work force…

For the Warren proposal is the kind of initiative that, if enacted, would change millions of lives for the better, yet could actually happen in the near future.

Among other things, unlike purist visions of replacing private health insurance with “Medicare for all,” providing child care wouldn’t require imposing big new taxes on the middle class. The sums of money involved are small enough that new taxes on great wealth and high incomes, which are desirable on other grounds, could easily raise sufficient revenue.

The logic of the Warren plan is fairly simple (although some commentators are trying to make it sound complex). Child care would be regulated to ensure that basic quality was maintained and subsidized to make it affordable. The size of the subsidy would depend on parents’ incomes: lower-income parents would get free care, higher-income parents would have to pay something, but nobody would have to pay more than 7 percent of income.

Warren’s advisers put the budget cost at $70 billion a year, or around one-third of one percent of G.D.P. That’s not chicken feed, but it’s not that much for something that could transform so many lives…

The bottom line is that Warren’s proposal is impressive: It’s workable, affordable, and would do a huge amount of good.

And while this isn’t a horse-race column — I’m not arguing that Warren necessarily will or even should be the Democratic presidential nominee — the field needs more policy ideas like this: medium-size, medium-priced proposals that could deliver major benefits without requiring a political miracle.

3) Really nice Post piece on just went down with even all the Republicans finally admitting we need a new election for NC-9.

4) I was a little disheartened that my son’s middle school health teacher is actually teaching health myths.  In this case, the eight glasses of water a day myth.  Aaron Carroll took it apart back in 2015.

5) Really enjoyed reading John McWhorter on Smollet and victimhood culture:

6) Just in case you didn’t hear the story of the high school that gave out cheerleading awards like the “big boobie award.”  Just ugh.

7) The thinking-man’s libertarian, Will Wilkinson, with a nice piece, “Don’t Abolish Billionaires:
Abolish bad policy instead.”

The empirical record is quite clear about the general form of national political economy that produces the happiest, healthiest, wealthiest, freest and longest lives. There’s no pithy name for it, so we’ll have to settle for “liberal-democratic welfare-state capitalism.” There’s a “social democratic” version, which is what you get in countries like Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands. And there’s a “neoliberal” (usually English-speaking) version, which is what you get in countries like Canada, New Zealand and the United States.

You may prefer one version over the other, but they’re not all that different. And in comparative terms, they’re all insanely great. The typical citizen of these countries is as well-off as human beings have ever been. These places are the historical pinnacle of policy success.

But guess what? There are billionaires in all of them. Egalitarian Sweden, an object of ardent progressive adoration, has more billionaires per capita than the United States.

8) Ah damn was that Dutch historian taking down Tucker Carlson so awesome.

9) Terrific unanimous Supreme Court decision last week on excessive fines and policing for profit:

The Supreme Court struck an extraordinary blow for criminal justice reform on Wednesday, placing real limitations on policing for profitacross the country. Its unanimous decision for the first time prohibits all 50 states from imposing excessive fines, including the seizure of property, on people accused or convicted of a crime. Rarely does the court hand down a ruling of such constitutional magnitude—and seldom do all nine justices agree to restrict the power that police and prosecutors exert over individuals. The landmark decision represents a broad agreement on the Supreme Court that law enforcement’s legalized thefthas gone too far.

10) A nice explanation of how California’s lawsuit against Trump’s emergency is perfectly written to appeal to conservative Justices.  All we need is a modicum of intellectual honesty (I’m actually optimistic on that matter) and we’re good:

This lawsuit joins a series of others that have already been filed by watchdog groups. While they all argue that there is no actual emergency at the southern border, that is not the gravamen of their complaint. Instead of asking the courts to second-guess Trump’s intent, these challengers ask them to decide whether Trump had authority to act in the first place.

The answer, they assert, is no. The Presentment Clause is straightforward: For a bill to become law, it must pass both houses of Congress, then be presented to the president for approval. Yet Congress never passed a bill authorizing and funding the border wall Trump now demands. It never presented such legislation to the president for his signature. This is the stuff of Civics 101. Whatever powers the National Emergencies Act may grant to the president, a federal statute cannot override the Constitution. The executive cannot use funds Congress did not appropriate. He cannot amend statutes himself to create money for pet projects. Trump asked Congress for a large sum of money to construct a border wall; Congress resoundingly and provably said no. The National Emergencies Act does not give him leeway to contravene Congress’ commands.

These problems ought to be catnip for SCOTUS’ conservative justices—particularly Justice Neil Gorsuch. In his very first dissent on the Supreme Court, Gorsuch extolled the virtues of this pristine constitutional system. “If a statute needs repair,” he wrote, “there’s a constitutionally prescribed way to do it. It’s called legislation.” Gorsuch continued:

To be sure, the demands of bicameralism and presentment are real and the process can be protracted. But the difficulty of making new laws isn’t some bug in the constitutional design: it’s the point of the design, the better to preserve liberty.

A year later, in his rightly celebrated opinion in Sessions v. Dimaya, Gorsuch hammered this same point home again. “Under the Constitution,” he wrote, “the adoption of new laws restricting liberty is supposed to be a hard business, the product of an open and public debate among a large and diverse number of elected representatives.” The courts abdicate their responsibility when they ignore the Constitution’s “division of duties” between the branches of government. These “structural worries” form the bedrock of American constitutional governance, whose ultimate goal is to safeguard “ordered liberty.” These new challenges demonstrate that Trump is circumventing these “structural worries” and harming “ordered liberty” in the process.

11) Sorry, but have no sympathy for Americans who betrayed their country to join the brutal, murderous cult that is ISIS and now want to come home and have all be forgiven.

12) There’s a u-curve for the amount of free time that brings you the most happiness.  Honestly, I suspect that I’d be good with more free time than lots of people, “How Much Leisure Time Do the Happiest People Have? Too little, and people tend to get stressed. Too much, and people tend to feel idle.”

13) Not at all surprising to anyone paying attention and not blinded by right-wing Christian ideology, “Meta-Analysis Over Almost 20 Years Has Declared Its Verdict on Abstinence-Only Sex Ed.”  It doesn’t work.

14) Since the opioid crisis is particularly bad in New Hampshire a lot of people are pushing back against legalizing marijuana.  Because smoking pot leads to opioid addiction.  Oh wait.

15) Loved this story on the new, small tyrannosaurs discovered (by a NC State professor!!):

But at just 170 pounds and six feet long from nose to tail, this new human-size dinosaur was muchsmaller than its more famous relative. Growth rings in the bones, much like those in a tree trunk, showed that the individual was at least seven years old and nearly mature. “It’s certainly not a very young individual of a very large species,” Zanno says. Instead, it was an adult—just a small one.

Zanno named it Moros, after the embodiment of impending doom in Greek mythology. It’s a rather dramatic name for such a diminutive dinosaur, but it’s apt considering the creature’s age. Moros lived 96 million years ago, preceding Tyrannosaurus by a good 30 million years. It was a miniature harbinger of the bone-crunching tyrants to come—impending doom, indeed. And its age and size offer important clues about one of the most dramatic plot twists in the dinosaur story.

During the late Jurassic period, at a time when Asia and North America were connected to each other, the first tyrannosaurs evolved in the former continent before crossing over into the latter. At first they were just one of many groups of small-bodied hunters, all skulking subordinately in the shadow of far bigger predators, such as the allosaurs, a family of toothy, two-legged dinosaurs with dangerous claws. But at some point during the Cretaceous period, the allosaurs died out. The tyrannosaurs quickly usurped them, evolving into apex predators that ruled unchallenged in the northern continents until an asteroid strike (perhaps in combination with volcanic activity) ended their reign.

That switch from allosaurs to tyrannosaurs “was a defining event in dinosaur evolution, but we still don’t know very much about it,” says Steve Brusatte from the University of Edinburgh. “We’re not really sure exactly when it happened, if it happened quickly or was more of a prolonged battle, or if it happened across the northern continents all at once.” …

So what the hell happened to the Allosaurs anyway?!

Quick hits (part II)

1) How all those deliveries for on-line shopping can make traffic worse.

2) Marc Hetherington (and colleagues) is back at it in a nice Vox piece (this one connecting to the rise of right-wing populism):

Those who prioritize order are more likely to value obedience in children

This relationship might seem at first like a random correlation, but it’s far from it. We believe that these child-rearing ideas capture people’s unreported worldviews — their deep-seated understanding of how the world works and what a good society ought to be. Throughout all human history, people have had worldviews. But they haven’t always been connected to politics like they are now in the US, and, increasingly, the rest of the world.

When the central focus of political conflict was economic — how much government ought to spend and how tightly it ought to regulate business, as it was in the US for most of the 20th century — this worldview did little to structure that conflict. There is no reason to think that how wary a person is about the dangers lurking in the world ought to have anything to do with how much they think the government ought to spend on highways or the merits they see in the free enterprise system.

As American party conflict shifted in the late 20th and early 21st century toward racial and gender equality, sexual orientation, immigration, various religious matters, and how best to remain safe from terrorism, the dividing lines changed. People’s deeply ingrained worldviews about the relative safety of these dramatic social changes and the world around us, in general, evolved into the key pivot between Republicans and Democrats.

Their response is to try to impose order on their political system, much like parents might want to impose order on a chaotic household by emphasizing the qualities of respect, obedience, and good manners in children. Although a preference for traditional qualities in children is fine when managing a household — families, after all, are not democracies and children are not political citizens — imposing them on the political sphere is not entirely benign.

Those who prefer obedient, respectful children tend to be less concerned about bedrock democratic principles like free speech and a free press, which can, of course, produce disagreement. They are more open to a strongman leader who might not heed the legislature or judiciary, but who promises a more orderly society.

No matter where they pop up, right-wing populists use a core set of strategies that appeal to a worldview that desires order and predictability. They disparage challengers of traditional hierarchy, including women, racial and ethnic minorities, and LGBTQ people. They advocate granting police wide latitude to weaken social movements that could upset the status quo. And they highlight the potential perils of immigrants — outsiders — in the country…

We are, frankly, alarmed. Most citizens don’t want to live under authoritarian governments that rig or cancel elections. Few citizens clamor for military dictatorships. To use the most extreme example, Germans didn’t vote for Adolph Hitler because he promised to end democracy.

But when people feel like chaos is descending on their society and threats from the outside are ubiquitous, they are willing to turn a blind eye to growing authoritarianism in the interest of the instituting a more “orderly” society.

Democracy is inherently fragile. When right wing-populists find their way into office, the door is open to backsliding on the freedoms and protections of modern democracy as long as it’s done in the name of providing order or harkening back to a time that the country was great.

3) NC Republicans have been surprisingly reasonable, so far, with the new Voter ID law.  Of particular interest to me, unlike their 2013 effort, this one is dramatically more fair to college students.

4) I was no fan of George H.W. Bush at the time, but I did quite enjoy Frank Bruni’s take on the “kinder,” “gentler” George Bush.

5) Nice to see NYT with this “Analysis” piece (rather than an Op-Ed) on Trump’s penchant for lying and liars:

Even more Trump associates are under investigation for the same offense. They are part of a group of people surrounding Mr. Trump — including some White House and cabinet officials — who contribute to a culture of bending, if not outright breaking, the truth, and whose leading exemplar is Mr. Trump himself.

Mr. Trump looks for people who share his disregard for the truth and are willing to parrot him, “even if it’s a lie, even if they know it’s a lie, and even if he said the opposite the day before,” said Gwenda Blair, a Trump biographer. They must be “loyal to what he is saying right now,” she said, or he sees them as “a traitor.”

Campaign aides often echoed Mr. Trump’s pronouncements knowing they were false. People joined the top levels of his administration with the realization that they would be expected to embrace what Mr. Trump said, no matter how far from the truth or how much their reputations suffered.

6) Just one season of football seems to lead to structural changes in the brains of young football players.  That’s not good.

7) Republicans changing the rules whenever they lose a governorship is so inimical to democracy. Ugh.

8) David Brooks on how to think about the economy in age of social collapse.

There’s an interesting debate going on in conservative circles over whether we have overvalued total G.D.P. growth in our economic policy and undervalued programs that specifically foster dignity-enhancing work. The way I see it is this: It’s nonsense to have an economic policy — or any policy — that doesn’t account for and address the social catastrophe happening all around us. Every single other issue exists under the shadow of this one.

Conservatives were wrong to think that economic growth would lead to healthy families and communities all by itself. Moderate Democrats were wrong to think it was sufficient to maximize growth and then address inequalities with transfer payments. The progressives are wrong to think life would be better if we just made our political economy look more like Denmark’s. The Danes and the Swedes take for granted a cohesive social fabric that simply does not exist here.

To make the crucial differences, economic policymakers are going to have to get out of the silos of their economic training and figure out how economic levers can have moral, communal and sociological effect. Oren Cass’s book “The Once and Future Worker” begins this exploration, as do Isabelle Sawhill’s “The Forgotten Americans” and Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse’s “Them: Why We Hate Each Other — and How to Heal.”

It’s not jobs, jobs, jobs anymore. It’s relationships, relationships, relationships.

9) The content cycle:

But the real question is, why did Tucker Carlson choose to devote so much of his valuable airtime to a HuffPost video about tweets, instead of, say, to educating and empowering his viewers to take action in their communities? One answer might be “because he is a fundamentally unserious person who fumbled his way into a lucrative career of stoking fear and resentment in the elderly.” But let’s not be snide about Tucker Carlson! Let’s be scientific. The reason that Tucker Carlson devoted a segment to Rudolph is because Tucker Carlson, like a mountain river, serves a key role in a beautiful and essential natural process: the Content Cycle. And “Problematic Rudolph” is an object lesson in that process.

The Content Cycle, a phrase I did not just come up with right now, describes how content arises from the internet, is absorbed into cable television, and then gets redistributed back into the internet for the cycle to begin anew. Like the water cycle, the Content Cycle provides sustenance and habitation to a multitude of organisms, and in many ways it exists independently of human thought. Let’s walk through Problematic Rudolph as our emblematic example of the Content Cycle.

10) Michele Goldberg, “Trump Is Compromised by Russia: Michael Cohen’s latest plea is proof.”

But even before those inquiries begin, we can see that Putin has been in possession of crucial information about Trump’s business interests that the president deliberately hid from the American people. In a normal political world, Republicans would have enough patriotism to find this alarming and humiliating. Every day of the Trump presidency is a national security emergency. The question now is whether Senate Republicans, who could actually do something about it, will ever be moved to care.

11) This Buzzfeed feature on “rape by fraud” was absolutely fascinating (and disturbing).

12) Bookmarking this, “The 9 essential cookies every home baker should know how to make.”

13) Very encouraging to see that it looks like the Supreme Court has about had it with the abomination that is Civil Asset Forfeiture.

Tyson Timbs just wants his car back. In 2015, Timbs was charged with selling heroin to undercover officers in Indiana to fund his opioid addiction. After he pleaded guilty, a private law firm filed a lawsuit on behalf of the state to confiscate his Land Rover SUV, valued at $42,000. That’s more than four times the maximum $10,000 fine for Timbs’ crimes. But because he briefly carried drugs in the vehicle, the firm claimed that it could seize and sell it, turning over some of the profit to Indiana and pocketing the rest.

Welcome to the topsy-turvy world of civil asset forfeiture, also known as legalized theft. Every year, the federal and state governments obtain billions of dollars thanks to the work of prosecutors who expropriate property with some tenuous connection to a crime. Most states use the money to fund law enforcement, called policing for profit. Indiana also lets private attorneys file forfeiture claims against defendants, earning contingency fees and a share of the profit. That’s what happened to Timbs—so he sued, insisting that extreme forfeiture violates the Constitution. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court signaled that it agreed, with an unusual coalition of justices assailing the practice. A decision for Timbs could curb law enforcement abuses across the country, limiting one of the most scandalous components of our criminal justice system.

14) Enjoyed seeing my Ohio State Professors Herb Asher, and my dissertation adviser Paul Beck, quoted in this Thomas Edsall article on the Democrats 2020 electoral college strategy?  Try to recapture the industrial midwest or focus more on Arizona, Georgia, etc.  I say… both!

15) Policy lessons from Dayton, Ohio on reducing opioid overdoses.  Lives are at stake– we can and need to implement these policies everywhere we can.

16) Cognitive dissonance alert.  I want Ben Sasse to be the thoughtful person who gave this great interview about reading books not the person with his voting record in the Senate.

One chart to explain the pathologies of American politics?

Okay, this is not perfect.  But you could do a lot worse.  Via Drum:

Alex Tabarrok, Michael Makowsky, and Thomas Stratmann have a new paperout that will, unfortunately surprise no one. The subject is civil asset forfeitures, where police get to keep money they find in (for example) your car even if there’s no evidence that it’s drug related and nobody is convicted of a crime. They just declare the money suspicious, and that’s that.

In some states, police departments get to keep the money they seize. These are the states the authors look at. Then they look at one other variable: whether the local government (city or county) is running a deficit. Guess what they find? More civil asset forfeitures! Are you shocked!

There are no increases in arrests for murder or assault or burglary. Just for crimes where the police get to keep the money. But there’s one more thing. A picture is worth a thousand words, so check this out…

The more black (and Hispanic) an area is, the more likely it is that strapped local governments will turn to civil asset forfeitures to raise revenue. But the more white an area is, the less likely they are to increase the use of civil asset forfeitures.

Ugh.  Entirely unsurprising.  And entirely revealing of the pathologies deep in the heart of America.

Quick hits (part II)

Sorry for the delay.  Very busy, very fun weekend.

1) More Arpaio Mark Joseph Stern on Arpaio and Trump’s white nationalism:

Considering the president’s praise of Arpaio, and promise to consider a pardon for the ex-sheriff, Monday’s overdue, undercooked rebuke of racial animus registers as even more risibly insincere. During his 24-year tenure as sheriff, Arpaio proudly strove to implement white nationalism through a brutal assault on Maricopa County’s Latino population. His barbaric tactics included extreme racial profiling and sadistic punishments that involved the torture, humiliation, and degradation of Latino inmates. Courts repeatedly found that Arpaio violated the United States Constitution, but the sheriff often ignored their efforts to rein him in. There are few more potent symbols of mainstream white nationalism than Arpaio. Taken together with Tuesday’s unhinged press conference, Trump’s praise of Arpaio proves beyond a reasonable doubt that the president has made common cause with white nationalists.

2) I enjoyed this local column, “The Confederacy was a con job on whites. And still is.”

3) Pete Wehner on Trump, our “child-king.”

4) Sessions and the resurgence of civil asset forfeiture.  Not much worse than this.  Except maybe pardoning racists who show contempt for the Constitution.

5) A $1 price increase in a pack of cigarettes leads to a 20% increase in quitting.  Clearly, time to raise cigarette prices even more.

6) Really enjoyed this piece on the downside of using modern technology (Powerschool, in our case), to keep constant check on your kids’ grades.  I went through a phase with this, but it just wasn’t worth it and my son needed (needs?!) to learn to take responsibility for his own grades.

7) Margaret Talbot on Arpaio:

But Trump probably also likes Arpaio because the former sheriff represents in miniature what the President would like to be more maximally—a successful American authoritarian. Earlier this month, in a conversation with Fox News, Trump called Arpaio “an outstanding sheriff” and “a great American patriot.” It’s worth considering what it takes, in Trump’s view, to deserve such tributes. Arpaio, who served as the sheriff of Maricopa County, which encompasses Phoenix, from 1993 until he was voted out of office, in 2016, has a long-standing reputation for flouting civil rights, particularly those of Latinos.

In 2011, an investigation by the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Divisionfound that Arpaio’s sheriff’s department engaged in egregious racial profiling in its traffic stops and discrimination in its jailing practices. In Maricopa County, Latino drivers were four to nine times more likely to be stopped than “similarly situated non-Latino drivers,” and about a fifth of traffic stops, most of which involved Latino drivers, violated Fourth Amendment prohibitions against unreasonable seizures. Sheriff’s department officers punished Latino inmates who had difficulty understanding orders in English by locking down their pods, putting them in solitary confinement, and refusing to replace their soiled sheets and clothes. The investigation found that sheriff’s department officers addressed Latino inmates as “wetbacks,” “Mexican bitches,” “fucking Mexicans,” and “stupid Mexicans.”

Arpaio, throughout his tenure, specialized in meting out theatrical punishments both petty and cruel.

8) Latest research suggests that it is healthier to frontload your calories earlier in the day.  Of course, not long ago I read research that suggested breakfast had no special value relative to other meals.  When I have been dieting and calorie counting, I actually found one of the easiest ways to cut calories was to downsize breakfast.  Sated in the morning with a greek yogurt and no hungrier by lunchtime than with a larger cereal and fruit breakfast.

9) Interesting essay on how our modern culture has basically ruined mindfulness.  A lot of good points, but our modern culture kind of ruins everything, but the basic mindfulness stuff– if correctly understood– still works and still has (modest) empirical support behind it.  I’ve been doing it for almost exactly one year and love it with no plans to stop.  But I’m under no illusions that it has transformed my life and is the secret to everything.  I think Dan Harris’ modest idea of 10% Happier is about right (I think I’m at about 12-13%).

10) Now, this is a fascinating prospect, “Pacific Islanders Appear to Be Carrying The DNA of an Unknown Human Species.”  Somehow, just learned about this November 2016 news.

11) Love this NPR story on how snobbery ruined (took the spice out of) European cooking.  This just rings so true.

Back in the Middle Ages, spices were really expensive, which meant that only the upper class could afford them. But things started to change as Europeans began colonizing parts of India and the Americas.

“Spices begin to pour into Europe,” explains Krishnendu Ray, an associate professor of food studies at New York University. “What used to be expensive and exclusive became common.”

Serving richly spiced stews was no longer a status symbol for Europe’s wealthiest families — even the middle classes could afford to spice up their grub. “So the elite recoiled from the increasing popularity of spices,” Ray says. “They moved on to an aesthetic theory of taste. Rather than infusing food with spice, they said things should taste like themselves. Meat should taste like meat, and anything you add only serves to intensify the existing flavors.”

12) As James Fallows puts it, “The Republican Party Is Enabling an Increasingly Dangerous Demagogue.”  Why yes, yes they are.

13) NPR on the Bernie Sanders voters who voted for Trump.

14) Vox did a whole big article on what a great song Despacito is.  Actually, it’s not.  The tune just really isn’t all that catchy (and I love a catchy tune as much as the next guy).  Drum agrees.

15) John Warner says we already know how to teach writing.

I think I[3] can generate a list of statements regarding the teaching of writing that the vast majority of those in the rhetoric-composition and writing instruction field will agree with:

  1. The more reading and writing we do, the better.
  2. Writing is best taught as a recursive process which includes (but isn’t necessarily limited to) pre-writing, drafting, revision and editing.[4]
  3. Writing should engage with the rhetorical situation: message, audience, purpose and genre.
  4. Reflection and metacognition are key ingredients to developing as a writer.
  5. Isolated exercises in grammar and mechanics that don’t engage with the students’ own writing are not helpful.
  6. Sentence diagramming is not an important skill for good writing.
  7. Peer response and collaboration are useful tools in helping developing writers
  8. Writers write best when engaging with subjects they are both interested in and knowledgeable about

16) Terrific Alec MacGillis Pro Publica article on HUD under Ben Carson.  Short version: it’s not good.

17) I really don’t think people should actually lose their jobs for making fairly innocuous “dongle” jokes.  Of course, this whole damn think spiraled way out of control.  Enough with on-line public shaming.

18) Of course Trump supporters know that it is white Christians in America who are the real victims of discrimination.

19) Ezra with an interesting interview of a DLC guy that is all for ideological flexibility in exchange for actually winning elections.  Count me in for that.

20) Even recent crazy events always seem so long ago in the world of Trump.  Charles Pierce’s blistering take on Trump supporters in the wake of his Arizona speech:

Before we get to the other stuff, and there was lots of other stuff, I’d like to address myself to those people represented by the parenthetical notation (Applause) in the above transcript, those people who waited for hours in 105-degree heat so that they could have the G-spot of their irrationality properly stroked for them. You’re all suckers. You’re dim and you’re ignorant and you can’t even feel yourself sliding toward something that will surprise even you with its fundamental ugliness, something that everybody who can see past the veil of their emotions can see as plain as a church by daylight, to borrow a phrase from that Willie Shakespeare fella. The problem, of course, is that you, in your pathetic desire to be loved by a guy who wouldn’t have 15 seconds for you on the street, are dragging the rest of us toward that end, too…

A guy basically went mad, right there on the stage in front of you, and you cheered and booed right on cue because you’re sheep and because he directed his insanity at all the scapegoats that your favorite radio and TV personalities have been creating for you over the past three decades. Especially, I guess, people like me who practice the craft of journalism in a country that honors that craft in its most essential founding documents. The President of the United States came right up to the edge of inciting you to riot and you rode along with him. You’re on his team, by god…

I have no more patience, and I had very little to start with. I don’t care why you’re anxious. I don’t care for anybody’s interpretation of why you voted for this abomination of a politician, and why you cheer him now, because any explanation not rooted in the nastier bits of basic human spleen is worthless. I don’t want any politicians who seek to appeal to the more benign manifestations of your condition because there’s no way to separate those from all the rest of the hate and fear and stupidity. (And, for my colleagues in the Vance-Arnade-Zito school of Trump Whispering, here’s a hint: They hate you, too.) I don’t care why you sat out in a roasting pan since 5 a.m. Tuesday morning to whistle and cheer and stomp your feet for a scared, dangerous little man who tells you that your every bloody fantasy about your enemies is the height of patriotism. You are now the declared adversaries of what I do for a living, and your idol is a danger to the country and so are you. Own it. Deal with it. And, for the love of god, and for the sake of the rest of us who live in this country, do better at being citizens.

Damn!  And right-on!

Quick hits

1) Excellent piece from Dahlia Lithwick— the lawyers and judges are not going to save us:

The Framers erected an edifice of law intended to constrain power, and the president believes that framework is made of spun sugar and cobwebs. The United States is a nation built upon, as John Adams told us, “a government of laws and not of men.” The Trump administration adheres to no law, and whatever men or women keep faith with the law rather than him are discredited as biased against the president. This only goes one way: Norms are for losers, and laws are for poor people. And now Trump has his dream team of mob lawyers and mad dogs hard at work proving that the only lawyer without a disabling conflict of interest is the one pledging fealty to him.

Don’t expect congressional Republicans to squawk. They will fight for the rule of law and the norms of good governance at precisely the moment when their jobs are on the line. The promise of a raft of newly minted blogger-judges and tax cuts will always win out over fealty to the Constitution. [emphasis mine] This is a problem that requires our focused long-term attention to money in politics, partisan gerrymandering, and voter suppression. And this is, in the end, a problem only because Americans—myself included—are prey to a form of magical thinking about law and the Constitution. The Framers believed the law would fix it, and that makes it easy to hope that the lawyers will fix it. The lawyers became the wizards, and the Constitution became a book of spells, and the best thing a citizen could hope to do is make a donation to a group of lawyers who could perform the right incantations, fondle the correct talisman, and save democracy.

2) I was trying to explain to my kids the other day about a horse-sized duck vs 100 duck-sized horses.  Found this nice Atlantic piece investigating the origins.

3) Really enjoyed the NYT story on the radically different approaches to Catholicism of the bishops of NYC and Newark, NJ.  I’ll definitely take the latter.

4) Among other things, nepotism is just bad business.  What is the chance that your offspring is actually the best person to run the company, etc.  Tales from Trump Inc.

5) Jeff Sessions pretty much never ceases to amaze me with his awfulness.  One of the absolute worst policies in America is civil forfeiture.  Of course, Sessions wants to expand it.

6) What’s most concerning about this health care take is that it’s from Norm Ornstein

Republicans don’t fear the backlash from a bill that will hurt lots of people, including their own voters.

Some think the simple fact of acting, and getting a policy victory, will help. Others may actually believe that the bill will work—hard as that is to believe. But the ideological view that cutting government magically brings freedom and prosperity and good health is strong among many Republicans in Congress. Nonetheless, the more rational or pragmatic ones know that this bill will hurt a lot of people, with a heavier concentration among the white working-class voters that are a mainstay of the current GOP. So why no fear? For one thing, the large tax cuts for the ultra-rich may guarantee that the web of billionaires contributing huge sums to 501(c)4s and other entities to help elect Republicans will double down. In the special election in Georgia’s sixth district, Democrat Jon Ossoff collected a mind-boggling sum for his campaign from small donors; if Karen Handel had not been able to match that with a flood of independent ads financed by big money, we might have seen a different outcome.

For another, with Justice Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court instead of Merrick Garland, states under GOP control and possibly even Congress will pass more and more draconian voter suppression laws (New Hampshire just joined the ranks) that will get a much more favorable treatment down the road. They will be aided by Trump’s outrageous new commission on voting, co-chaired by the king of voter suppression, Kris Kobach and including an all-star list of other voter suppressors, which is already intimidating voters. Money and voter suppression laws could well enable Republicans, even if this disaster of a bill passes, to keep control of both houses at least until 2020—and during that time, they can do even more to tilt the campaign finance system and narrow the electorate to their advantage.

7) John Cassidy’s health care debacle take:

The larger lesson of this sorry episode is that nobody—not McConnell, or Trump, or House Speaker Paul Ryan—can resolve the contradictions of today’s Republican Party. Once the political arm of the Rotary Club and the affluent suburbs, the Party is increasingly one of middle-class and working-class voters, many of whom are big beneficiaries of federal programs, such as Medicaid and the Obamacare subsidies for the purchase of private insurance. But the G.O.P. remains beholden to its richest, most conservative donors, many of whom espouse a doctrine of rolling back the government and cutting taxes, especially taxes applicable to themselves and other very rich people. It was the donors and ideologues, with Ryan as their front man, who led the assault on the Affordable Care Act.

8) Chait #1 on health care:

Republicans have spent eight years assuring the public that they, too, shared the goal of protecting people with preexisting conditions from price discrimination. Sunday, Health and Human Services secretary Tom Price tore down the tattered façade. Asked why insurers called the Republican health-care plan, which allows them to charge higher premiums to the sick than the healthy, unworkable, Price insisted they would just go back to the way things worked before Obamacare. “It’s really perplexing, especially from the insurance companies, because all they have to do is dust off how they did business before Obamacare,” he said on ABC. “A single risk pool, which is what they’re objecting to, is exactly the kind of process that was — that has been utilized for decades.”

Republican policy elites consider such an admission obvious, even banal. To the great mass of the voting public it would come as a shock…

It is true that Democrats have spent several decades accusing Republicans of trying to deny health insurance to the poor and sick. That is because Republicans have indeed spent several decades trying to deny health insurance to the poor and sick. [emphasis mine] As Paul Ryan said earlier this year, he has been dreaming of deep cuts to Medicaid since his kegger days. It is not a popular position by any means. But fanatical hatred of the welfare state does have a constituency among the major institutions of the conservative movement, many of which are well-funded and important to rallying base voters.

9) More Chait:

In truth, it was never possible to reconcile public standards for a humane health-care system with conservative ideology. In a pure market system, access to medical care will be unaffordable for a huge share of the public. Giving them access to quality care means mobilizing government power to redistribute resources, either through direct tax and transfers or through regulations that raise costs for the healthy and lower them for the sick. Obamacare uses both methods, and both are utterly repugnant and unacceptable to movement conservatives. That commitment to abstract anti-government dogma, without any concern for the practical impact, is the quality that makes the Republican Party unlike right-of-center governing parties in any other democracy. In no other country would a conservative party develop a plan for health care that every major industry stakeholder calls completely unworkable.[emphasis mine]

10) Meanwhile, Senate Parliamentarian actually did her job and eviscerated the Senate plan as largely inconsistent with the 50-vote reconciliation rules.  Nice summary from Drum.

11) Universal college admissions tests are of particular benefit to low-income students.  Wake County has all students take the ACT.  Good evidence that every school system should have universal SAT or ACT.

12) Are you a carbaholic?  Survey says yes.  That said, all carbs are not created equal and you can do quite well sticking with the healthier ones.

13) Really depressing developments in Poland.  Democracies are not self-perpetuating.  You’ve got to work to keep them going.

14) My beach read this past week was American War El Akkad’s years working as a reporter in war zones and refugee camps by Omar El Akkad.  Terrific book that really sticks with you.   clearly pay off in the realistic portrayals of a future American civil war.

15) I think Josh Barro has a lot right about liberal/cosmopolitanism values creating a cultural alienation with a lot of voters who might otherwise be open to the Democratic party.  I also think Drum’s critique of Barro is pretty accurate and that there is genuine contempt for those in “flyover country” that presents a real political problem.

16) Loved Todd VanDerWerff’s take on what makes the storytelling in “Mad Men” so good.  He also points out that “Bojack Horseman” uses a similar storytelling technique.  No wonder I love them both.

17) Nick Hanauer’s essay in Politico is simply fabulous.  Read it.

It simply isn’t true that reasonable wages, decent labor protections and higher taxes on the rich would destroy the economy. Such were the norms back in the 1950s and 1960s when America’s growth rates were much higher—and there’s no empirical evidence to suggest that we couldn’t support similar norms today. The truth is that when economic elites like us say “We can’t afford to adopt these higher standards,” what we really mean is, “We’d prefer not to.” We like to frame our claims as objective truths, like the so-called “law” of supply and demand, but what we’re really asserting is a moral preference. We are simply defending the status quo.

In my circles, few seem to want to confront the reality that our political environment won’t improve until the actual economic circumstances of our fellow Americans improve. We rich folks crave the variety and stimulation of progressive blue cities, yet we’re often not willing to fight for basic progressive policies like higher wages and the right to organize. We pound the table, ranting about diversity and inclusion without recognizing that the 43.7 percent of Americans earning less than $15 an hour, mostly white and rural, simply cannot afford to be included in our pricey, progressive, pluralistic enclaves. We smugly #resist when an airline beats a passenger bloody, but we do so from the safety and comfort of our own private planes, literally looking down on the shuttered factories and struggling small towns of middle America as we luxuriously jet from coast to coast.

Today in America, tens of millions of lower- and middle-class workers are routinely subject to poverty wagesunpaid overtimewage theftdehumanizing scheduling practices and the constant threat of automation or off-shoring. But the plight of these workers rarely comes up in conversations with my peers. Maybe the problem isn’t sexy enough. Maybe it seems too big. Maybe it requires the uncomfortable admission that some of our outsized profits are coming at their expense. But whatever the reason, we’ve let the problem grow too large to ignore.

Many of my peers prefer to hide behind the enduring myth that today’s crisis of economic inequality and insecurity is the result of forces unleashed by unstoppable trends in technology and globalization. “It’s not my fault I have so much while others have so little,” we comfort ourselves, “it’s the economy.” That is nonsense. There’s no intrinsic reason why the social and political changes delivered by technological advances and globalization have to massively concentrate wealth in the hands of the few. We simply exploited changing circumstances to take advantage of people with less power than us. [emphasis mine]

 

Sense and nonsense on crime

1) Philadelphia has nominated a Democratic District Attorney candidate (who will surely win) who really gets it:

If elected in November — and he is the heavy favorite in this overwhelmingly Democratic town — Krasner has pledged to never seek capital punishment while working to end bail policies that lock up people for being poor, an asset-forfeiture program that has been a national disgrace, and stop-and-frisk searches that disproportionately target non-whites.

Krasner told his wildly enthusiastic supporters tonight that “[o]ur vision is of a criminal justice system that makes things better, that is just, that is based on preventing crime and is based on building up society rather than tearing it apart.”

2) The Trump administration is bringing in literally one of the worst law enforcement officials in the country:

Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke has gained national notoriety for his inflammatory remarks on Fox News and social media, such as when he called a black CNN commentator a “jigaboo” and repeatedly claimed that Black Lives Matter is a “hate group” and a “terror organization.” Most recently, he’s also drawn scrutiny for his mishandling of the county jail he oversees, where three people and a newborn baby died last year between April and December.

Now Clarke is set, he said, to accept a role in President Donald Trump’s Department of Homeland Security.

3) And a very nice piece of good news, NC looks to finally be on track and no longer be the only state in the country to automatically try 16 and 17 years-olds as adults:

A “Raise The Age” bill to take some teenagers out of the adult court system passed the N.C. House Wednesday in a 104-8 vote.

House Bill 280 would allow a 16- or 17-year-old who commits certain crimes to be tried as a juvenile – not as an adult. North Carolina is the only remaining state that automatically prosecutes people as young as 16 as adults. Violent felonies and some drug offenses would still be handled in adult court.

Similar bills have passed the House in previous years, but this year’s effort has backing from law enforcement and N.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Martin. After Wednesday’s House vote, the bill goes to the Senate, where Republican leaders have included similar legislation in the budget bill passed last week.

Hooray.  But do you want to know why it is so hard to have nice things.  Because there are still so many people (and let’s be honest, most of them old white guys) who are extraordinarily retrograde on these things.  Introducing Larry Pittman:

Rep. Larry Pittman, a Concord Republican and opponent of the bill, said he wants to protect the rights and safety of his constituents, and “I don’t believe we can do that by going soft on crime. One of those is the right not to be robbed.” …

But Pittman said North Carolina shouldn’t follow the lead of other states. “Standing alone does not mean you’re wrong,” he said. “Should we be lemmings running off the cliff into the sea just because 49 other states have done so?”

Good grief.  How much better a place the world would be if there weren’t still all these, “oh no soft on crime!” types.  The very good news is that Pittman is now the minority, at least on this.

The war that is the biggest failure

Terrific piece on the idiotic decision of Trump/Sessions to “get tough” on drugs from the editors of The National Review.  The fact that this is the source gives me some hope.  At least some conservatives see the utter folly of the war on drugs approach:

Jeff Sessions wants to get tough in the war on drugs. The problem with his line of thinking is that managing the duplex problem of drug abuse and drug trafficking is not a war, however much the rhetoric of war may be mistaken for the fact of war, and the Trump administration’s get-tough posture is unlikely to produce the desired result…

The problem with the war on drugs is the war on drugs.

To believe, as we long have, that the decriminalization of some drugs is preferable to the prohibition of them is not to adopt a stance of moral neutrality on the issue of drug abuse and drug addiction. It is instead a concession to reality, which even politicians must take into account from time to time. The reality is that drug prohibition has not produced the desired results; that it is not an effective means of managing drug abuse or drug addiction; that it creates enormously powerful economic incentives for domestic trafficking operations and allied cartels abroad; that incarceration is in many cases not the best way to turn a drug user or drug dealer into a citizen; that the human and financial costs of fighting a “war” on drugs are enormous, and that the martial rhetoric and assumptions associated with that effort are a menace to privacy and civil liberties; that fighting drug crime has become a ready excuse for police and prosecutors to abuse tools such as civil-asset forfeiture; that our focus on winning the so-called war distracts us from the much more important business of winning the peace by helping addicts and offenders reenter society as productive and valued citizens.

Wow!  Could totally imagine the same thing on the editorial pages of the Times or the Post.  Alas, the guys actually setting policy are retrograde morons.

And, speaking of which, Secretary Tom Price, M.D., is just a stupid, angry old man when it comes to the reality of opiate addiction:

Addiction experts are up in arms following remarks from Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, in which he referred to medication-assisted treatment for addiction as “substituting one opioid for another.”

Nearly 700 researchers and practitioners sent a letter Monday communicating their criticisms to Price and urging him to “set the record straight.”

The medicines Price referred to are methadone and buprenorphine, both of which are opioids. The letter notes that there is a “substantial body of research” showing the drugs’ effectiveness, and that they have been the standard of care for addiction treatment for years…

Experts say Price’s remarks, made last week to the Charleston Gazette-Mail, ignore the primary benefits of such medications and go against scientific evidence.

“I was just totally gobsmacked,” says Brendan Saloner, an addiction researcher and assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Saloner says that Price’s own Department of Health and Human Services displays information online that contradicts his comments.

Yeah, but who needs scientific evidence– much less common sense– in Trump’s America.

Quick hits (part II)

1) A little harsh, but I pretty much agree with this take on McCain:

A more accurate way of phrasing “(ambivalently, agonizingly) taking on the president” might be “not actually taking on the president.” McCain has supported every one of Trump’s nominees besides one: budget director Mick Mulvaney, who lost McCain’s support because he has supported defense budget cuts. McCain’s sole inviolable principle is that we must spend an unlimited amount of money on war with everyone forever.

Ever since his longtime aide and ghostwriter Mark Salter wholly invented McCain’s “maverick” persona from whole cloth in the late 1990s, the sum total of McCain’s record of brave or maverick-y actions consists of “giving good quote to reporters.” That’s it…

Most of the political press is amnesiac and sycophantic enough to fall for it again, but it is obvious at this point in his long career that Senator John McCain is not going to “fight” Trump. He’s going to say various anti-Trump things, on TV and to reporters, while never using his very real power as a senior Republican senator to interrupt the implementation of Trump’s, and his party’s, eschatological agenda.

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/02/trumps-exchange-on-asset-forfeiture-is-quite-discomfiting.html

2) This video about how we perceive magenta is so cool.  Seriously, just watch it.

3) Does seem reasonable to me that dairy producers want the nut milk producers to not call their product “milk.”  As I’ve mentioned before, I like my soy milk, but really wonder what all those other nut “milks” do with all the protein.

4) I enjoyed this take on the problematic nature of “win probability” stats in the NFL.

5) I was quite intrigued by this little bit in a piece about the decline of Rock music:

What happened in 1991? Between 1958 and 1990, Billboard had constructed its Hot 100, the list of the country’s most popular songs, with an honor system. They surveyed DJs and record store owners, whose testimonies were often influenced by the music labels. If the labels wanted to push AC/DC, they pushed AC/DC. If they changed their mind and wanted to push the next rock release, AC/DC would fall down the charts and the new band would take their place.

But in 1991, Billboard changed its chart methodology to measure point-of-sales record data and directly monitor radio air play. As I wrote in a 2014 article in The Atlantic, this had a direct impact on the sort of music that made its way to the charts and stayed there. The classic rock and hair-band genre withered in the 1990s while hip hop and country soared up the charts. In the next 25 years, hip hop, country, and pop music have carried on a sonic menage à trois, mixing genres promiscuously to produce the music that currently dominates the charts. There is hip-hop-inflected-pop (Justin Bieber), country-pop (Lady Gaga), and country-rap (Florida Georgia Line and Nelly).

6) The new America’s Cup yachts are pretty insane.  I was actually all into these races during the 80’s when they became a big deal once other countries started to win them.

7) Love Danielle Kurtzleben’s take on “fake news” as “fake language.”

Now, Trump casts all unfavorable news coverage as fake news. In one tweet, he even went so far as to say that “any negative polls are fake news.” And many of his supporters have picked up and run with his new definition.

The ability to reshape language — even a little — is an awesome power to have. According to language experts on both sides of the aisle, the rebranding of fake news could be a genuine threat to democracy.

8) Raising lawmaker pay (abysmally low in NC) is not going to get us a bunch of former Walmart clerks in the legislature, but it surely would diversify our pool of candidates.

9) Sure, it’s five years old, but seems pretty timely to repeat the clear finding that cutting top marginal tax rates decidedly does not increase economic growth.

“The reduction in the top tax rates appears to be uncorrelated with saving, investment and productivity growth. The top tax rates appear to have little or no relation to the size of the economic pie. However, the top tax rate reductions appear to be associated with the increasing concentration of income at the top of the income distribution.”

10) Really enjoyed this on Ole Miss’s liberal agitator.

11) Jonathan Bernstein on Republicans fiddling while the White House burns:

I know I sound like a broken record, but the way out of the worst of this is obvious: Congressional Republicans need to use their leverage to insist the president hire a real chief of staff to clean house  — including removing Bannon — and run the administration properly. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen any hint of it so far. Instead of floating names such as Rob Portman, Mitch Daniels or Lamar Alexander, some Republicans are apparently trying to rally around Priebus, who may not be as objectionable as Bannon but doesn’t have the capacity to get the administration on track. If the Russia scandal is, as NBC’s First Read said today, “arguably the biggest scandal involving a foreign government since Iran-Contra,” then the solution is the same as it was then: Investigate the scandal to be sure, but meanwhile get a steady hand in the White House to make up for the president’s shortcomings.

If Republicans don’t demand a new version of Howard Baker (who fixed what was broken in the Ronald Reagan White House back then), they’ll only have themselves to blame for the next scandal, and the next one, and the one after that. Which, at this rate, might not even get us to Memorial Day.

12) I get that Republicans are more interested in power and partisanship than, you know, stable democracy, but given all we know, it seems that at bare minimum they should require the release of Trump’s tax returns, rather than blocking it.

13) A good take on polling questions and Republican support for action in response to the Bowling Green massacre.

What the question did ask about was whether respondents agreed that a fake event ― presented as a factual event ―  justifies a policy that many Trump supporters already support. Of course many supporters were going to agree with that statement, even if they weren’t aware that the Bowling Green massacre was fiction.

Not knowing about the issue doesn’t make people stupid, either. The pace of news in the last few weeks has been extremely fast. People with nonpolitical lives can’t be expected to keep up.

There’s considerable research on how average people answer poll questions when they might not really know what the question refers to. Some will admit that they don’t know the answer ― as 20 percent of the whole sample and 23 percent of Trump supporters did in this case. But many will think they should have an answer, and say the first thing that comes to mind. This is part of why polling on specific policies is difficult ― people often haven’t given issues a lot of thought, but when prompted, they will make up an opinion.

Research also shows that when you ask people to agree or disagree with something, they are more likely to agree if they don’t have a solid opinion. This is called “acquiescence bias,” and it’s why many pollsters shy away from yes/no or agree/disagree types of questions.

14) On the pervasive sex bias of students in undergraduate Biology classes.

15) Adam Gopnik on the need to take Trump’s threat to democracy seriously:

The trouble with these views, and what makes them cheery but false at best—or sinister or opportunistic at worst—is that they are deliberately blind to both the real nature of the man and the real nature of the threats he makes and the lies he tells. Many autocratic governments have built this road or won that war or engineered a realist foreign policy. They remain authoritarian and, therefore, fatally arbitrary. In a democracy, our procedures are our principles. Every tyrant does nice things for someone. You cannot be a friend to democracy while violating its norms—and when we say, “He violates democratic norms,” we undermine our own point, because “norm” is such a, well, normal word. In truth, what he violates by his statements are not mere norms but democratic principles so widely shared and so deeply important that “bedrock value” is closer to the mark than “democratic norm.”

16) Joseph Stiglitz with a long and thorough explanation of why inequality is bad for the economy.

17) Bill Gates on why it’s time to tax robots.  Seriously.

18) Donald Trump is really good at using the Availability Heuristic for political gain.

19) Glenn Greenwald on the illegal, yet appropriate, leaks:

Yet very few people are calling for a criminal investigation or the prosecution of these leakers, nor demanding the leakers step forward and “face the music” — for very good reason: The officials leaking this information acted justifiably, despite the fact that they violated the law. That’s because the leaks revealed that a high government official, Gen. Flynn, blatantly lied to the public about a material matter — his conversations with Russian diplomats — and the public has the absolute right to know this.

This episode underscores a critical point: The mere fact that an act is illegal does not mean it is unjust or even deserving of punishment. Oftentimes, the most just acts are precisely the ones that the law prohibits.

That’s particularly true of whistleblowers — i.e., those who reveal information the law makes it a crime to reveal, when doing so is the only way to demonstrate to the public that powerful officials are acting wrongfully or deceitfully. In those cases, we should cheer those who do it even though they are undertaking exactly those actions that the criminal law prohibits.

20) Nate Silver’s election post-mortems have been really good.  I really liked this one about the limits of the Clinton ground game.  Maybe ground games just don’t matter as much as we thought.

There are several major problems with the idea that Clinton’s Electoral College tactics cost her the election. For one thing, winning Wisconsin and Michigan — states that Clinton is rightly accused of ignoring — would not have sufficed to win her the Electoral College. She’d also have needed Pennsylvania, Florida or another state where she campaigned extensively. For another, Clinton spent almost twice as much money as Trump on her campaign in total. So even if she devoted a smaller share of her budget to a particular state or a particular activity, it may nonetheless have amounted to more resources overall (5 percent of a $969 million budget is more than 8 percent of a $531 million one).

But most importantly, the changes in the vote from 2012 to 2016 are much better explained by demographics than by where the campaigns spent their time and money. [emphasis mine]

I gotta say, just more reason to believe that when it comes to understanding elections, it’s really not too far from demographics über alles.

21) Very good piece on how cognitive biases pervasively impact the practice of medicine.

 

 

 

http://nautil.us/issue/45/power/bias-in-the-er

 

 

Quick hits (part I)

1) Lynn Vavreck, “you are married to your party.”

2) Tom Edsall explores Trump’s populism:

Those who do not experience the benefits of prosperity, Inglehart and Norris write, can see “others” — “an influx of foreigners,” for example, as the culprit causing their predicament:

Insecurity encourages an authoritarian xenophobic reaction in which people close ranks behind strong leaders, with strong in-group solidarity, rejection of outsiders, and rigid conformity to group norms.

According to the two authors,

The proximate cause of the populist vote is anxiety that pervasive cultural changes and an influx of foreigners are eroding the cultural norms one knew since childhood. The main common theme of populist authoritarian parties on both sides of the Atlantic is a reaction against immigration and cultural change. Economic factors such as income and unemployment rates are surprisingly weak predictors of the populist vote.

In support of this argument, the authors point to 2016 exit poll data showing that Hillary Clinton won voters who said the economy was the most important issue by 11 points, 52-41, while Trump carried those who said immigration was the most important issue facing the country by nearly two to one, 64-33.

In addition to immigration, issues related to race play a central role.

3) Mental health and gun rights is far more complicated than on first glance (and why I held off posting upon the news, because I figured it was).

4) NC sport fan alert: we are about to be so screwed by HB2 for the next 5 years.

5) Drum with a pessimistic view of AI and the future of employment.  I think he’s probably right.

6) The tech behind the Super Bowl half-time drones.

7) NYT, “In One Facebook Post, Three Misleading Statements by President Trump About His Immigration Order.”  Of course, “misleading” is putting it mildly.

8) Tom Price is just the worst.  Great Leonhardt column on the matter:

Each year, a publication called Medscape creates a portrait of the medical profession. It surveys thousands of doctors about their job satisfaction, salaries and the like and breaks down the results by specialty, allowing for comparisons between, say, dermatologists and oncologists.

As I read the most recent survey, I was struck by the answers from orthopedic surgeons. They are the highest-paid doctors, with an average salary of $443,000 in 2015 — which, coincidentally, was almost the exact cutoff for the famed top 1 percent of the income distribution.

Yet many orthopedists are not happy with their pay. Only 44 percent feel “fairly compensated,” a smaller share than in almost every other specialty. A lot of orthopedists aren’t even happy being doctors. Just 49 percent say they would go into medicine if they had to make the decision again, compared with 64 percent of all doctors.

I know that many orthopedists have a very different view: They take pride in helping patients and feel fortunate to enjoy comfortable lives. But despite those doctors, it’s clear that orthopedics suffers from a professional culture that does not live up to medicine’s highest ideals. Too many orthopedists are rich and think it’s an injustice that they’re not richer.

This culture helped shape Dr. Tom Price, the orthopedic surgeon and Georgia congressman who is Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of health and human services…

Yet he hasn’t been content to make money in the standard ways. He has also pushed, and crossed, ethical boundaries. Again and again, Price has mingled his power as a congressman with his desire to make money.

9) Yes, we are having the wrong arguments about GMO’s (but the author interviewed here is a little too willing to be agnostic on the science):

By focusing so much on GMOs, you’re not paying attention to species loss or the decline in aquifers or soil depletion or greenhouse gasses or all the other problems tied up on industrial food production. And I’m sympathetic to that argument. I think GMOs have gotten a lot of attention because they elicit a visceral fear from people, but really we have a lot of other agricultural problems that predate GMOs. If you think about factory farming or fossil fuels or toxic chemicals or soil loss — those things all existed before GMOs, and GMOs just scaled them up.

10) Life under “alternative facts,” e.g., the Soviet Union.

11) Damn, when even war criminal and torture apologist John Yoo says you are abusing executive power, that’s really something.

12) Trump sort of takes on Texas state legislator who opposes the policy horror that is civil asset forfeiture.  I think Drum’s take is spot-on.

This demonstrates the problem with Trump’s shoot-from-the-hip style.1 My guess is that he has no idea what civil asset forfeiture is and has no real opinion about it. If, say, Trump had been in a meeting with a few senators, and Bob Goodlatte had remarked that “police can seize your money even if you weren’t convicted of a crime,” Trump probably would have reflexively answered, “Can you believe that?” Instead, a sheriff said it was a bad thing related to Mexicans, so Trump automatically agreed with him. That means it’s now official Trump administration policy.

Sad. But then again, Jeff Sessions is a huge fan of civil asset forfeiture and all the corrupt incentives it creates, so he probably would have gotten Trump on board one way or another. It’s yet another big win for the working class.

13) I love this– science determines what makes a good dancer:

…very specific patterns may make some people appear to be better dancers than others. That’s the conclusion of a study published on Thursday in Scientific Reports, in which researchers asked 200 people to rate 39 female dancers. A few features stood out as contributing to higher-quality dance: big hip swings, and the right and left limbs moving independently of one another (which the researchers describe as asymmetric arm and thigh movements).

14) A fair amount of public policy comes down to different organized interests fighting each other.  Who gets to do basic laser eye surgery in NC is a great example.

15) Don’t worry about skynet, worry about the AI coming for your middle class job.

16) School integration works.  We should be doing more, not less.

17) The right very much has it’s own political correctness.  Great take from Conor Friedersdorf.

Trump has yet to name right-wing extremism.

He said nothing about the attack in Quebec City. His press secretary, who did mention that attack, suggested that it showed the need for recent security measures taken by the Trump administration, though those measures were targeted narrowly and exclusively at stopping foreign threats from seven majority-Muslim countries. It was as if the press secretary could only conceive of Islamist terrorism.

That is the politically correct posture under Trump…

The White House’s behavior doesn’t make much sense if it prizes common sense over political correctness. But it makes perfect sense if a White House staffer wanted to maintain plausible deniability while catering to the sensibilities of the alt-right, a community where diminishing the relative suffering of Jews in the Holocaust is politically correct––transgressing against Holocaust norms gives them a special thrill. Or even if the original omission was inadvertent, but the White House didn’t want to offend those sensibilities by changing the statement.

18) Amy Davidson on the total Trumpism of Sessions.

19) It may not be “extreme vetting,” but we already have a very good, very thorough vetting system in place for refugees.  This is important as the right is very much suggesting otherwise.  It is 100% foolproof?  Nope.  Also cannot guarantee you computer or phone battery won’t catch on fire right now.

20) Good read from the Marshall Project: exonerated… then deported.

21) Happy 45th birthday to me.

 

Well-regulating the militia

I enjoyed this take on the 2nd Amendment from NC’s favorite Libertarian, Duke Political Science professor, Mike Munger:

My own view is that the Supreme Court got the Second Amendment right, finally, in the 2008 Heller case, overturning some remarkably dumb aspects of the 1939 Millerdecision. Heller recognizes (it was always there!) a presumptive individual private right to own — and “bear,” meaning actually carry — arms. But Heller preserves substantial latitude for legislative assemblies to impose restrictions, rules, and conditions.

So the only actual question is which restrictions, rules and conditions? …

To me, “well regulated” sounds like a driver’s license. No one can be banned from driving, without cause. But behave irresponsibly, or fail to get enough training and skills to drive well, and you don’t get to drive. I think guns ownership is analogous. We can’t impose universal, and foolishly vague, restrictions on the ownership of modern guns. But we can require registration, background checks, classes and tests to show proficiency, and threaten forfeiture if the right is used irresponsibly or to endanger others, even through negligence…

We can’t prevent individual events after they have happened. We should be developing a comprehensive vision of what the right to keep and bear arms, and regulating it well, would look like. We should go back to the Second Amendment, both parts.

Actually, we disagree on that “both parts,” but damn would it be awesome if we actually regulated guns as thoroughly as driving.  Heck, if we actually had that, I’d be mostly just fine with the “not be infringed” part.

And speaking of that well-regulation, here’s an interesting idea– find ways to keep guns away from angry people.  Seriously.  No, this will never be perfect, but there’s plenty of stuff we can do.  Alex Yablon in the Atlantic:

But as that debate plays out, policymakers might also focus on a far more common precursor to gun violence, one that applies nearly universally to shooters of all types: anger…

A 2012 analysis by psychiatrists at Oxford University and Maastricht University compared studies of angry, impulsive personalities and found that such people have “substantially increased risk of violent outcomes” compared to the general population.

People with personalities inclined to violence are usually obvious to their peers and coworkers and have a documented history of antisocial conduct, said Jeffrey Swanson, a Duke University psychiatry professor who studies behaviors associated with violence. They often progress to deadly violence after committing smaller acts like making threats, smashing objects, and assaulting others, he says.

“Most people who commit serious crimes, that’s not where they began,” he says. “They didn’t just start committing gun homicides.”

The roster of America’s most notorious mass shooters is populated by young, angry men who regularly displayed antisocial behavior before they carried out attacks…

Keeping firearms away from angry, violent people is a formidable challenge, made immeasurably harder by loopholes that allow gun purchasers to arrange weapon sales online, at gun shows, and from private sellers without screening. But understanding how rage can boil over into violence, and searching out ways to calm the anger and remove guns from people most likely to use them in acts of violence, should be a public policy imperative, researchers say.

Well, then, that seems pretty clear.  Let’s start by eliminating these loopholes and actually “well-regulating” who can possess a gun.

Quick hits (part II)

1) This post about words not to use around your teenage children is dope.

2) Clickbait for me– a post looking back at the technology (massive laptops, etc.)  in Beverly Hills 90210

3) There are more white voters out there than we realize.  Maybe good news for Trump.  But probably not enough.

4) In Oklahoma, cops are no longer restricting their civil asset forfeiture (i.e., legal thievery) to cash but taking electronic payments as well.

5) The fact that it is not currently the law that financial advisers are required to look out for the interests of their clients, not themselves, is just wrong.  The fact that Republicans are helping them fight to keep it this way is truly appalling.

6) How academic leaders are actually responsible for the chilling of free speech on campus.

But there is a different, though equally important, reason many students today are willing to suppress free expression on campus. And the fault largely lies at the feet of many of the country’s academic leaders. Students and their families have been increasingly treated as “customers.” Presidents of colleges and universities have been too reluctant to “offend” their customers, which may help explain why they so often yield to wrong-headed demands by students. Courage at universities is, unfortunately, a rare commodity—and it’s particularly rare among leaders of institutions pressured by students to act in a politically correct way.

It seems that the vast majority of presidents and provosts of the finest U.S. universities have not seized this moment of concern voiced by students as a teaching moment—a moment to instruct and discuss with students what college is about. Too many academic leaders are obsessed with the security of their own jobs and their desire to protect the reputation of their institution, and too few are sufficiently interested in making statements that may offend students but that show them why they are at these colleges—and why free expression is a core and enabling value of any higher-learning institution that considers itself of the first rank. Of course, there are strong academic leaders who do encourage open discussions of issues raised by students while also speaking out against restrictions on campus speech, against speech codes, safe-space psychology, and micro-aggressions. But they are too few and far between.

7) Are Republican Trump supporters modern-day Neville Chamberlains?

8) This is just a great break-down of a the action leading to a goal (Jermaine Jones for US vs. Costa Rica).

9) Wonkblog summarizes Clinton’s policy agenda.

10) Jon Cohn  performs a public service by consolidating all the worst stuff Trump has said.

11) I honestly suspect that during the campaign we’re going to see a lot to undermine Trump’s reputation as a great businessman.  Atlantic City casinos are a good place to start:

His audacious personality and opulent properties brought attention — and countless players — to Atlantic City as it sought to overtake Las Vegas as the country’s gambling capital. But a close examination of regulatory reviews, court records and security filings by The New York Times leaves little doubt that Mr. Trump’s casino business was a protracted failure. Though he now says his casinos were overtaken by the same tidal wave that eventually slammed this seaside city’s gambling industry, in reality he was failing in Atlantic City long before Atlantic City itself was failing. [emphasis mine]

But even as his companies did poorly, Mr. Trump did well. He put up little of his own money, shifted personal debts to the casinos and collected millions of dollars in salary, bonuses and other payments. The burden of his failures fell on investors and others who had bet on his business acumen.

12) The latest evidence on the existence of planets in the universe seems to make it very, very likely that– at least at some point– there has been other intelligent life in the universe.

13) Are Molten Salt Reactors the energy of the future?  Maybe.  If not them, I think chances are pretty good that we will have some truly amazing energy breakthroughs within the next decade or two.

14) Seth Masket says at least one American political party is working:

“There are always internal divisions within any party, but divisions in 2016 in the Democratic Party are relatively mild,” said Georgetown University political scientist Hans Noel, co-author of “The Party Decides,” via e-mail.

I think the main thing that differentiates the Democrats and the Republicans is that the divide in the Republican Party was among party elites and activists, as well as voters. It was a divide between the Cruz/House Freedom Caucus wing and the Bush/Boehner wing. It was hard to bridge in Congress, and it turned out to be impossible to bridge in the electorate. Donald Trump thus took advantage of this divide and captured control of some of the voters, mostly from the Cruz wing but not exclusively. But the Democrats have been largely united behind Clinton from the start, and the dissatisfaction among voters, while deep, is not widespread.

15) There’s a long evolutionary war going on between snakes and newts.

 

16) Silicon Valley is brilliant television.  You should watch it.  Here’s how they keep it grounded in the real Silicon Valley.

17) Drum says it’s time we stop pretending Trump is about economic anxiety.  He’s right:

“Economic anxiety” as a campaign issue has always been a red herring. And even if you back off a bit and try to limit it solely to the notion that whites are losing ground to minorities, the evidence still doesn’t back you up. You can cherry pick here and there if you want to make that case, but it’s tough sledding. Basically, everyone’s been in the same boat, and blacks and Hispanics haven’t really made up any ground versus whites.

So white anger isn’t really about blacks and Hispanics taking their jobs. Or about blacks and Hispanics making more money and leaving whites behind. Nor do whites have any special economic reason to be more pessimistic about the future than blacks and Hispanics.

If you want to get to the root of this white anxiety, you have to go to its roots. It’s cultural, not economic. It’s demographics, not paychecks. It’s about not being the boss anymore. It’s about lower-class white communities now exhibiting pathologies—drug abuse, low marriage rates, etc.—that were once reasons for them to look down on blacks.

18) Good Lord is Charles Pierce fun to read– especially on Trump:

So, the annual Family and Freedom Summit is going on in Washington, as various Bible-banging grifters and god-bothering Pharisees scour the gospels to find the passage where Jesus gives a pass to vulgar talking yams as long as they can put, say, Pennsylvania in play.

(Those inconvenient speeches about camels and a needle’s eye are readily skipped.)

Anyway, He, Trump stopped by today to assure them that his faith is indeed huge, and that it is the greatest faith anyone ever has had, and that his house has many mansions and they all have gold-plated plumbing fixtures. The presumptive Republican nominee read some words that somebody else wrote for him, once again appearing to have been shot with a tranquilizer dart prior to taking the podium. He was preceded on stage by Ralph Reed, the famous casino bagman and future timeshare owner in Hell, who impressed upon the faithful the need to vote for a guy who thinks they’re even bigger suckers than Reed does.

 He, Trump then came out and his speech was approximately as coherent theologically as a pile of leaves is coherent as a tree.

19a) Two ILRIA’s this week.  Frum on how Trump is violating the “seven guardrails of democracy” and eroding established norms that are essential and fundamental to the health of our nation.

19b) And Ezra Klein making basically the same important and accurate case, minus the metaphor.  Read ’em.  This is why Trump should never, ever get anywhere near the presidency.

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