Quick hits (part II)

1) Dana Goldstein reviews a new book on the for-profit college scam.

2) Costs/benefit-wise, guns in the home–especially due to dramatically heightened suicide risk– fail miserably.

3) Love a good, negative review, like the one of the new book Convergence arguing that everything is all coming together:

Watson’s apparent mastery of the ingredients and recipes of all the sciences might stagger a general reader used to the works of mortals. What will stagger the knowledgeable is the confidence with which he presents nonsense.

4) When it comes to analyzing college basketball, I love Ken Pomeroy.  Slate This article on how the metrics the NCAA uses grossly discriminate against mid-major teams is really good.

5) Sticking with college sports… all the TV money flowing in for football and basketball means that coaches of even the lowliest sports teams now well out-earn full professors.

6) Liberals are turning to MSNBC in droves.  I’d prefer the NYT, but I’ll take political engagement with cable news channels with no political engagement.

7) How intellectual humility can make you a better person.  I think the constant rejection of trying to get articles published probably serves academics well in this regard.

8) Impossible Foods Impossible Burger is about to massively scale up.  I sure do hope this is the  beginning of the end of meat.

9) Democrats are divided on how to approach Gorsuch.  Here’s an idea– it’s Merrick Garland’s seat.

10) A looming future of antibiotic resistance?  Maybe.  But I’m actually an optimist on what scientists will be able to accomplish on this.

11) Kevin Drum is right that fiscal conservatives should love national healthcare.  The problem is, more than they like saving money, they hate giving government benefits to people they think do not deserve them.  Drum  with the key reason national health care saves money:

It’s ironic, but it turns out that central governments are a lot better at keeping a lid on health care costs than the private sector. The reason is taxes. National health care is paid for out of tax revenue, and the public pressure to keep taxes low is so strong that it universally translates into strong government pressure to keep health care costs low. By contrast, the private sector is so splintered that no corporation has the leverage to demand significantly lower costs. Besides, if health care costs go up, corporations can make up for it by keeping cash salaries low. This is part of the reason that median incomes have grown so slowly over the past 15 years. Corporations simply don’t care enough about high health care costs to really do anything about it.

12) Why do comedians laugh at their own jokes?

13) Chait with a great piece on Ryan, Trump, health care, and taxes:

Liberals have been warning for years that the “alternative” Republican plan that could actually pass Congress was a mirage. There was no plan that could be both acceptable to conservative anti-government ideology and to the broader public. The dilemma Republicans find themselves in now — a plan that subsidizes too little coverage to be acceptable to vulnerable members, and too much coverage for the party’s right wing — has always been unavoidable. Whoever had to write the first version of the Republican health-care bill that would have to be scored by the Congressional Budget Office and pass both chambers was given a task with impossible parameters. Ryan is being turned into the fall guy for eight years of lies that the entire Republican party, himself included, told the country and itself.

However, Ryan does appear to be the mastermind behind the legislative sequence Trump has agreed to. The plan is rooted in Ryan’s obsessive quest to pass a huge tax cut for the rich that will be permanent. That strategy requires a series of difficult steps, which — if carried out correctly at every turn — will ultimately culminate in a massive tax cut that can be scored by the Congressional Budget Office as revenue-neutral after ten years, and thus avoid the arcane budgetary requirement that caused the Bush tax cuts to expire automatically after a decade. This intricate calculation, based on complying with the Senate’s budget rules, is the linchpin of the entire Republican legislative strategy.

 

14) Sometimes it really takes just a little bit of money to get a college student over the finishing line.  Good to see that some colleges realize what a good investment this is.

15) Unlike the rest of Europe, anti-immigrant, right-wing parties are making little headway in Spain.  Read the NPR story to find out why.

16) A student recently shared this with me– I missed it last year.  How Denmark treats their prisoners well and it is a win for everybody:

Still, the value of Denmark’s example to a reform-minded public lies not in replicating its particular strategies or techniques but in adopting its broader ethos — one that grants prisoners dignity and allows room for error.

This is a lesson that the United States needs to learn. The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, yet we have little to show for either the money invested or the lives lost to this system. U.S. prisoners wear anonymous facility garb, eat mass produced food in assembly cafeteria lines, and spend hours on end in tiny, bleak cement cells. As President Obama noted this past week, as many as 100,000 prisoners across the United States are housed in solitary confinement. Hundreds of these prisoners are released directly to the streets every year, often with dangerous consequences: two went on shooting rampages upon release in 2013…

Officials say a zero tolerance policy is the only way to ensure safety in a facility full of felons. But in reality, such policies do little. Prisoners use drugs, escape and recidivate. In spite of invasive search routines for prisoners and visitors alike, prisons across the United States report problems with contraband from drugs to cellphones to prison-made knives. Even though U.S. prisoners are not permitted to have knives or prepare their own food for safety reasons, in 2011 the Supreme Court found that one California prisoner died unnecessarily every week — lives lost not to violence, but to medical negligence. And when a prisoner escaped from Clinton Correctional Facility in New York in June 2015, more than 60 prisoners complained of a backlash of abusive beatings. Danish prison officials say that their prisoners act out less because they are treated humanely; they, too, are allowed to make mistakes. [emphasis mine]

17) Should have had this last week.  No, smartphones are not luxury items.  Giving up your Iphone does not exactly save you enough to buy health insurance.  Only out-of-touch Republican legislators seem to think so.

18) Dahlia Lithwick on how Trump’s own words were a key in knocking down travel ban 2.o.

19) William Ayers on political conflict on campus:

20) Speaking of which, NC State students not particularly big fans of free speech:

21) Last, and certainly not least, the latest research strongly suggests that Voter ID laws do not reduce turnout.  If you are a liberal, you were probably too ready to believe the earlier research that they do.  To be clear, I still strongly oppose Voter ID laws because they are a solution to a problem that does not exist and do disproportionately impact minorities and young people.  Just because they are not as effective at demobilization as their Republican sponsors hoped, does not make them okay.

 

Quick hits (part II)

1) Oh man do I love this Donald Trump quote on health care.  He can fix it!

This will be a plan where you can choose your doctor, and this will be a plan where you can choose your plan. And you know what the plan is. This is the plan. It’s a complicated process, but actually it’s very simple, it’s called good health care.

It’s called double-digit IQ.  Seriously.  The man has some obvious skills, but, come on.

2) It would be nice when you hear all those dramatic stories about rising health care premiums if they pointed out just how few people they actually apply to.  This NYT feature does.

3) I gotta say, as a man whose job it is to explain things for a living, this whole “mansplaining” thing to shut down men really gets to me at times.  Because I really value expertise, I literally cannot imagine trying to explain something to someone in their field of expertise just because they are a woman.  I don’t doubt that there are men that do this– and it’s wrong and stupid– but let’s not blame the whole damn gender for a few jerks.

4) NYT Editorial on the stupidity (interesting, how often that word comes up around the Trump administration) of proposed Homeland Security budgets:

Instead, Mr. Kelly is giving every indication that he and his vast department are fully on board with executing Mr. Trump’s fixation on protecting the nation from an imaginary siege at the southern border, while waging an all-out deportation campaign against millions of unauthorized immigrant workers and families who pose no threat to the nation. It’s a misguided, self-destructive direction to take the country. Mr. Kelly should be stepping on the brakes, not the gas.

The latest evidence, first reported by Politico, is a draft Department of Homeland Security budget that would bulk up border spending at the expense of the Coast Guard, the Transportation Security Administration and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The Coast Guard would be cut 14 percent, from $9.1 billion to $7.8 billion. Cuts to the T.S.A. and FEMA would be about 11 percent, to $4.5 billion and $3.6 billion, respectively.

The senselessness of such cuts is obvious if you understand some basic concepts. Like, the Coast Guard guards our coasts. It plays a major role in interdicting drugs at sea. The T.S.A. keeps bombs off our planes. FEMA helps people after disasters. If your goal at Homeland Security is security for the homeland, you recognize that the job is more complicated than contracting out one 2,000-mile wall.

5) It is worth noting that the AHCA is a complete violation of many of Trump’s promises.  But, of course, he never actually cared about (or, clearly, understood) health care policy.  Keeping non-white Christians out of America?  That he cares about.  That’s MAGA.

6) I’ve never been much for warm-up or cool-down with exercise.  That said, there’s some good evidence that that FIFA 11+ protocol is great at reducing injury.  It’s also long and complicated.

7) Kristoff: connecting Trump’s dots on Russia.  Who knows what’s really going on, but there sure are a hell of a lot of dots.

8) Yglesias with important point on the routinized lying, etc., coming out of Trump,  This is incontroveribly bad for democracy:

The issue was the release this morning of a strong jobs report indicating continued growth in the economy, which many Republicans took the opportunity to crow about. Given the frequency with which candidate Trump had questioned the integrity of government economic data (calling them “phony numbers” and “one of the biggest hoaxes in American politics”), the question went, was President Trump confident that today’s report was accurate?

Spicer, with a wry grin on his face, said, “They may have been phony in the past, but it’s very real now.”

Reporters laughed at the absurdity of the answer and the absurdity of the overall situation. And given the number of different things the White House is currently facing scrutiny over — from a national security adviser who was working as an agent of a foreign governmentto a health care plan that betrays all of Trump’s campaign promises to the bizarre assertion that White House staffers don’t need to follow government ethics rules — it’s a little hard to blame reporters for not wanting to get bogged down in an argument over some transparent BS.

 That said, it’s a pretty good indicator of how much Trump has succeeded in lowering the bar in terms of standards of conduct.

He spent months routinely maligning the work of career civil servants for no good reason. And now that it’s convenient for him to accept their work, he’s going to start accepting it. But there’s no apology and no admission of error — and it’s not even a big story. Just another day at the office. [emphasis mine]

9)  Really good Wonkblog piece from Ana Swanson on how the good jobs report is not necessarily all that helpful for Trump’s blue-collar, white supporters.  I think this graph is particularly key to contemporary American politics:

10) Relatedly, Ronald Klain on how Democrats should be attacking Trump on his failed economic promises:

The list of “kitchen table” concerns on which Trump promised focus and action — “immediately” — in his first 100 days as president goes on: affordable child care, middle-class tax relief, simpler tax forms, savings accounts for elder care and more. But Trump has not offered plans to do any of these things thus far — not one.

Not only is Trump failing to deliver on the economic promises he made during the campaign, but also he is breaking new ones he made as president…

But most voters still don’t like Trump, and other than a single good performance before Congress, he’s done little to assuage their anxieties and much to exacerbate them. This puts the burden on Trump — even more than most new presidents — to deliver on his audacious campaign promises or risk being viewed as just another “all talk, no action” politician.

11) Tillerson may be the weakest Secretary of State ever.

12) Catherine Rampell takes her whack at AHCA:

Let’s abandon the pretense.

Republicans’ “health care” bill is not really about health care. It’s not about improving access to health insurance, or reducing premiums, or making sure you get to keep your doctor if you like your doctor. And it’s certainly not about preventing people from dying in the streets.

Instead, it’s about hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts — tax cuts that will quietly pave the way for more, and far larger, tax cuts…

For those keeping score, that means fewer people would have insurance, those who get insurance on the exchanges would pay a higher price for it and Medicare’s solvency would be jeopardized as a bonus.

Hard to see how this achieves any of President Trump’s stated goals to “lower costs, expand choices, increase competition and ensure health-care access for all Americans.”

13) Krugman:

But Republican leaders weren’t willing to bite that bullet. What they came up with instead was a dog’s breakfast that conservatives are, with some justice, calling Obamacare 2.0. But a better designation would be Obamacare 0.5, because it’s a half-baked plan that accepts the logic and broad outline of the Affordable Care Act while catastrophically weakening key provisions. If enacted, the bill would almost surely lead to a death spiral of soaring premiums and collapsing coverage. Which makes you wonder, what’s the point? …

Given the sick joke of a health plan, you might ask what happened to all those proclamations that Obamacare was a terrible, no good system that Republicans would immediately replace with something far better — not to mention Donald Trump’s promises of “insurance for everybody” and “great health care.”

But the answer, of course, is that they were all lying, all along — and they still are. On this, at least, Republican unity remains impressively intact. [emphasis mine]

14) And David Brooks— sounding far more center-left than center-right– to me:

The central debate in the old era was big government versus small government, the market versus the state. But now you’ve got millions of people growing up in social and cultural chaos and not getting the skills they need to thrive in a technological society. This is not a problem you can solve with tax cuts.

And if you don’t solve this problem, voters around the world have demonstrated that they’re quite willing to destroy market mechanisms to get the security they crave. They will trash free trade, cut legal skilled immigration, attack modern finance and choose state-run corporatism over dynamic free market capitalism.

The core of the new era is this: If you want to preserve the market, you have to have a strong state that enables people to thrive in it. If you are pro-market, you have to be pro-state. You can come up with innovative ways to deliver state services, like affordable health care, but you can’t just leave people on their own. The social fabric, the safety net and the human capital sources just aren’t strong enough. [emphasis mine]

New social crises transform party philosophies. We’re in the middle of a transformation. But to get there we’ve got to live through this final health care debacle first.

 15) Thomas Edsall interviews a bunch of really smart political scientists about what to make of what’s going on with the bases of the political parties.

16) I’m so tired of reading about people falsely convicted based on junk science.

 

17) That said, this is great news.  Maybe we’ll have less wrongful convictions based on false confessions.

18) This is great— 1950’s sexist print ads set to Trump quotes.

19) Paul Waldman is right– you can basically sum up Republican ideology as “you’re on your own.”

Quick hits (part I)

1) I think I shared this once already, but I went back and read it more closely.  This idea of moral re-framing is really important, I think.

2) Twelve bacteria to be afraid of.

3) Thanks to computers, we can be very clear on whether there’s gerrymandering.  Here’s hoping the Supreme Court accepts the inescapable logic.  Monkey Cage:

There is a perfectly good scientific standard for determining whether there is partisan gerrymandering. This is the “partisan symmetry” measuredeveloped by Andrew Gelman and Gary King. Essentially, symmetry requires that a specific share of the popular vote (say, 60 percent) would translate into the same number of congressional seats, regardless of which party won that share of the vote. For instance, if winning 60 percent of the popular vote in a state gives the Republican Party 65 percent of the congressional seats, then the Democratic Party should also win 65 percent of the seats if it wins 60 percent of the vote.

….But as Justice Scalia pointed out in his Vieth opinion, parties do not have a right to equal representation, any more than any other social group. It is only individual voters who have a right to equal treatment under the 14th Amendment and Article 1 of the Constitution….In our book, we show that the partisan symmetry standard can be logically derived from the equal treatment of individual voters, based on recent results in social choice theory. In partisan elections, you cannot treat all individual voters equally without treating all parties equally. This means that the party that gets more votes must get more seats. This sounds obvious, but it is precisely what the Supreme Court did not accept in the Vieth case. We show — line by mathematical line — that this logic is inescapable.

4) What’s the deal with Japan’s problematic economy you are always hearing about?  Not much– they’re just getting older.  Oh, and a great way to counter-act that (and one of our keys to success)– immigration.

5) Emily Bazelon looks at how Bannon and Sessions could reshape federal law enforcement (not for the better, mind you).

6) Love this Hidden Brain podcast on the tremendous benefits of using therapy for Chicago teens at high risk for violence.

7) After DeVos hailed HBCU’s as “school choice” Yglesias with a nice piece on just how dumb the selection and confirmation of DeVos was:

the Republican Party only sabotaged itself by confirming weak nominees like DeVos. Her confirmation hearing was a gaffe-tastic disaster, and her tenure in office is shaping up to be much the same. It would not have been difficult to find someone with similar policy views to DeVos but a somewhat deeper understanding of them and some actual experience in a job that involves a heavy public communications element. Republicans count DeVos’s confirmation as a “win.” But your Cabinet is supposed to be a portfolio of assets, and she’s a huge liability.

8) Nice to see the book thrown at these white supremacists using racism as terrorism.  That says, 13 years in prison seems awfully harsh.

9) I, too, am all for more reasonable alcohol policies in North Carolina.  And as for the drinking age, I think it is ridiculous that at 18 you can go to war, be sentenced to death for a crime, and vote for president, but not buy a beer.

10) It is truly amazing and appalling the degree to which our “justice” system will forgive bad forensic “science” if it has already led to a conviction.  In this case, the absurd non-science of the “death mask.”  Radley Balko on it, as always.  This quote is the key:

As I wrote here in 2014, the main problem is that both federal court precedent and the federal code value the finality of verdicts more than justice.

11) The headline says it all, “What Trump’s travel ban ignores: Radicalized U.S. citizens pose the greatest threat.”

12) This NPR story about the problem of replacement music in streaming TV shows was really interesting.  I hate that the rights owners are so petty on this.  I also assume that at this point when TV shows buy the rights to music they also buy the rights for future digital broadcast.

13) Fred Kaplan on the absurdity of Trump’s proposed Defense increase:

Many Republicans, including Trump, like to say that the nation has fewer planes and ships than at any time since the end of World War II or since some other signpost from the distant past. Assuming the numbers are accurate, they’re irrelevant. The firepower of a single aircraft carrier dwarfs the entire fleet of any nation from earlier eras. No generals or admirals would say they’d trade the force of today with that of any yesteryear.

One might argue that the military needs more weapons of specific types to meet rising threats of a certain sort. If so, the question isn’t how much to spend but what to buy. Trump’s directive spells out no such details. Those will be filled in and hammered out later by the Office of Management and Budget, the comptrollers of the various departments, and the relevant committees in Congress. Meanwhile, simply throwing money at the Pentagon won’t necessarily solve the problems, especially if it means taking money away from other buildings in town.

14) Amanda Marcotte on the rule of not abortion, but race and segregation, in the founding of the religious right.

15) Jamelle Bouie on Trump’s deafening silence on the Kansas shootings:

Trump’s selective outrage is more than just a double standard. Like his early blitz of executive orders, it’s an important symbolic gesture. Proclaiming new draconian measures to protect police officers is explicitly siding with “Blue Lives Matter” against protesters and reformers. Likewise, elevating one kind of attack as worthy of condemnation and ignoring another is to implicitly say that one kind of assailant is more dangerous than another—and for that matter, the life of one kind of victim is more valuable than another. For Trump, “radical Islamic terrorism”—which in practice just means Islam—is the principal threat to the United States. And so any attack on a Western target (Trump is also seemingly indifferent to terrorist violence against Muslim targets) from anyone who fits that description, or who can be linked to refugees or immigration, becomes a cause for focus and attention from the White House.

The opposite is true for anti-Muslim or anti-immigrant hate crimes, or acts of terror planned or committed by white supremacists. Despite the real toll they take on communities, those attacks are of little interest to the administration. Indeed, in another largely symbolic move announced at the beginning of this month, Trump said he would revamp and rename a program designed to counter all violent extremism so that it focused on “radical Islamic extremism.” It will no longer target white supremacist groups and other racist extremists. Again, it’s a symbol and a signal: Islam is the threat, not racism or weaponized hate toward nonwhites and immigrants.

16) The “Real men provide. Real women appreciate it” billboard conflict in NC.

17) On insane prescription drug prices and how pharmaceutical companies give away free drugs to deflect attention from the problem.  Don’t tell me we need more capitalism in health care.  $4500 for a $1 drug is not working.

Patient-assistance programs like Kaleo’s have historically been used to justify exorbitant price hikes, while undercutting the political case for pricing regulation. “That has been an effective P.R. tactic that has helped to forestall regulation for half a century,” said Jeremy Greene, a medical historian and the author of the book, “Generic: The Unbranding of Modern Medicine.” Philanthropy programs, in other words, are used to inoculate the company against complaints that the full prices of their drugs are too high. “The patient-assistance programs are ways to charge much higher prices to people in insured populations,” Geoffrey Joyce, a health economist at the University of Southern California, said. “But that money gets paid by someone, generally by ending up in premiums or by being born by taxpayers.”

18) Trump’s crazy adviser, Sebastian Gorka, will literally not even admit that Islam is a religion.  Ugh.

19) This story about an Idaho teen who got a slap on the wrist for sodomizing a mentally disabled teammate with a coat hanger has one breathtakingly awful quote from the judge:

Stoker, as he sentenced Howard to community service and probation, was emphatic that the assault did not constitute a rape, the British newspaper reports.

“Whatever happened in that locker room was not sexual,” he said. “In my view, this is not a case about racial bias,” he also said.

“People from the east coast have no idea what this case is about,” he said, according to the Guardian. “But I’m not going to impose a sentence that is not supported by the law.”

Idaho values.

20) In defense of the college lecture:

Lectures are not designed to transmit knowledge directly from the lecturers’ lips to students’ brains — this idea is a false one, exacerbated by the problematic phrase “content delivery.” Although lecturers (hopefully) possess information that, at the beginning of a lecture, their students do not, they are not merely delivering content. Rather, giving a lecture forces instructors to communicate their knowledge through argument in real time.

The best lectures draw on careful preparation as well as spontaneous revelation. While speaking to students and gauging their reactions, lecturers come to new conclusions, incorporate them into the lecture, and refine their argument. Lectures impart facts, but they also model argumentation, all the while responding to their audience’s nonverbal cues. Far from being one-sided, lectures are a social occasion.

21) I really love this on how good typography could have prevented the Oscars fiasco.  So very true.

22) Should we move to open peer review?  One neuroscientist strongly thinks so.

23) Apparently a bunch of idiots at Middlebury College shouted down Charles Murray’s lecture and then attacked his car when he was leaving.  There’s some open dialogue for you.  Damn, do I hate, hate, hate, that it is liberals that act this way.  Bill Ayres‘ take:

That said: this behavior reported here by a group of Middlebury students is appalling. If free speech on a campus means anything, it means that people who are invited by members of the community – people who apparently thought he had something worth listening to – be allowed to share their views with decorum and civility. Shouting a speaker down, and then jumping on his car as he attempts to leave, are inconsistent with this notion.

The open letter referred to in the article linked above tries to square this circle by arguing, essentially, that there are certain views that are outside the boundaries of free speech protection and which therefore can and should be censured. It also argues that the airing of those views in and of itself constitutes a threat to other members of the community, a form of (their word) intimidation…

The students in question (on both sides) probably don’t see it this way, but this is a politics of force. It is a politics that says, I am right and you are wrong and I am going to use all of the power at my disposal to impose my will on you. It is as anti-democratic as anything they are protesting against. I do not envy my colleagues in the Middlebury administration as they try to untangle this mess.

24) Really interesting interview on the roots of the opioid epidemic:

At the end of the day, opioids were the solution not for patients’ problems but for doctors’ problems.

There has been a huge transformation in the past 30 years in health care delivery, beginning with a migration out of private practice into large integrated health care centers. That’s something that I call the Toyotazation of medicine — tremendous pressure on doctors within these large integrated health care centers to practice medicine in a certain way and get patients out in a timely fashion to be able to bill insurers at the highest possible level and to make sure that their patients were satisfied customers.

This was a huge contributing factor to the opioid epidemic — by giving doctors a way to just give a pill to patients to get them out the door, while also feeling like they were doing something to help patients, at least in the short term. Opioids became the proxy for a doctor-patient relationship.

The other underrecognized piece of this is what I call the medicalization of poverty. Opioids have become a proxy for a social safety net. So we have doctors routinely confronted with patients who not only have multiple medical problems — from diabetes to hypertension to asthma to cardiac disease — but also very significant psychological, social, and economic problems. Many of them are undereducated. Many of them are underemployed. Many of them are homeless. Many of them are struggling with multigenerational trauma.

Because we lack a social safety net to take care of these people, we are now medicalizing their problems, and telling doctors that they have to take care of their problems. Doctors are feeling incredibly overwhelmed in this space with this growing population of individuals with very complex biological and psychosocial problems. In the face of that, they’re prescribing opioids — because opioids work quickly, patients are grateful, and it seems to be something they can do in the face of overwhelming problems.

The other piece of it are new illness narratives that have now become commonplace. Everything from “pain is dangerous” to “people are fragile” to “the body can’t heal itself” and “doctors have superhuman abilities to heal” and “illness is an identity” and “victimhood gives you a right to be compensated.” These are illness narratives that I think create a culture in our society, which we’re not even aware of, that’s contributed to the opioid epidemic.

25) Happy Birthday to my lovely wife, Kim.  I think she reads my blog from time to time, but I doubt ever makes it to the bottom of quick hits :-).

Quick hits (part I)

1) Yes, occasionally it drives me crazy, but, in general, I love the Facebook algorithm.  I very intentionally react to posts knowing I’ll get more posts like that.  I love this personalization.  I see lots of smart political analysis, lots of photos of little kids, and virtually know videos of cats.  Why would I want to mess with that?

2) The headline says it all, “The Only Thing, Historically, That’s Curbed Inequality: Catastrophe.”  Hey, maybe that means we’ll have a good outcome from Trump ;-).

3) This is pretty cool– an analysis of why Trump’s approval varies according to poll.  And, damn, is Rasmussen an absurdly positive outlier.

4) A visualization of how herd immunity works.  So cool!

5) Ryan Lizza’s piece on Milo.  This bit is so good:

Charlie Sykes, a prominent conservative commentator and Never Trump activist, was similarly disgusted. “So let me get this straight: Matt Schlapp thinks that Milo has ‘an important’ message and this is about free speech?” he asked me, via a direct message on Twitter. “Not sure what is worse: the intellectual or the moral decadence on display here. Apparently, racism, anti-Semitism, and the embrace of Alt Right isn’t disqualifying for CPAC,” he wrote. “This raises the larger question: Are there any standards for conservatives in the Age of Trump? Obviously being an erratic narcissist can’t be disqualifying. Racist tweets or bullying can’t be disqualifying. Trafficking in Alt Right memes has been normalized. So with Trump as POTUS, where can conservatives draw the line? CPAC’s logic: We’ll embrace anyone the Left hates, even if they are a vile, disingenuous, bigoted click whore.”

6) Apparently, the American Academy of Pediatricians makes a lot of recommendations to parents without actual evidence behind them.

7) This letter from an expert on Narcissistic Personality Disorder is so good:

Most amateur diagnosticians have mislabeled President Trump with the diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder. I wrote the criteria that define this disorder, and Mr. Trump doesn’t meet them. He may be a world-class narcissist, but this doesn’t make him mentally ill, because he does not suffer from the distress and impairment required to diagnose mental disorder.

Mr. Trump causes severe distress rather than experiencing it and has been richly rewarded, rather than punished, for his grandiosity, self-absorption and lack of empathy. It is a stigmatizing insult to the mentally ill (who are mostly well behaved and well meaning) to be lumped with Mr. Trump (who is neither).

Bad behavior is rarely a sign of mental illness, and the mentally ill behave badly only rarely. Psychiatric name-calling is a misguided way of countering Mr. Trump’s attack on democracy. He can, and should, be appropriately denounced for his ignorance, incompetence, impulsivity and pursuit of dictatorial powers.

His psychological motivations are too obvious to be interesting, and analyzing them will not halt his headlong power grab. The antidote to a dystopic Trumpean dark age is political, not psychological.

8) A horse that, apparently, we still need to beat and beat until it’s dead… tax cuts (in terms of the marginal rates we have in America) do not lead to economic growth.

9) Chait is always good on Paul Ryan and taxes:

The drive to cut these taxes reflects the party’s deep beliefs that overtaxation of the rich is the most serious form of oppression in modern political life, and they are prepared to spend enormous political capital to rectify this evil. [emphasis mine]

10) I was sort of intrigued by this list of high-paying, low stress jobs.  I was pleased to see “Microbiologist” on here, as that’s the current stated intent of my 11-year old.  But then I laughed out loud when they had Political Scientist on here with an average annual salary of $103,000.  WTF?!

11) Trump supporters in their own words.  As always, ugh.  Little snippets like this are always so telling:

He also favors Trump’s push to roll back regulations that Searles said have “stifled” businesses, including the software company that hasn’t been stable enough to give him a raise in 10 years.

Right.  I’m sure it’s all those amazingly burdensome regulations on software companies that are holding back the economy.

12) This was totally new to me and quite interesting.  The Trump of Slovakia and how he was defeated.

13) A friend shared a version of this— a day in the life of Joe Conservative– on FB.  It’s a little old, apparently, but it’s spot-on as ever.

14) This Quora post on what conservatives don’t get about liberals is really, really good.

15) Colleges pushing back on the use of Advanced Placement tests.  Personally, I’m okay with the idea of using for elective credit, but no way should they truly replace a college class.  I always regretted that I didn’t have the real version of Intro to American Government at Duke.

16) The regulation of elections is about to get even worse.

17) A pastor asks a great question, “when did compassion become partisan politics?”

18) Trump has no idea how to get anything done.  Even when your party has control, legislating is hard work.  And it’s clear, Trump has no appetite for that.  Jon Cohn:

In particular, Trump has no apparent patience for the boring, slow work of politics ― like developing detailed policy plans, or working them out with congressional leaders. And without that kind of unglamorous work, getting stuff done turns out to be awfully difficult.

19) Very important 4th Circuit ruling on Assault Weapons and great analysis from Mark Joseph Stern.  In a less busy week, this definitely gets its own post.

 20) Haven’t heard more since this post earlier in the week, but Republicans in NC are looking to put all the roadblocks they can in front of women seeking medical abortions.

21) Ross Douthat blaming the cultural hegemony of the left for Milo.

22) Why protest?  It’s fun!  Confirmed.

23) I love the Post’s new “Democracy dies in darkness” motto.  Fun take on it from Slate.

24) Excellent interview with a Russian newspaper editor on Trump:

A lot of commentators here believe the most generous interpretation of Trump’s fawning orientation to Putin and Russia is that he’s hopelessly naïve. Do you buy that?

Mikhail Fishman

That’s a good question. Why does he like Putin so much? I think Trump sees Putin as a kind of soulmate. Let’s be honest: Trump is not a reflective person. He’s quite simple in his thinking, and he’s sort of attracted to Putin’s brutal forcefulness. If anything, this is what Trump and Putin have in common.

Sean Illing

Has Putin made a puppet of Trump?

Mikhail Fishman

Of course. This is certainly what the Kremlin believes, and they’re acting accordingly. They’re quite obviously playing Trump. They consider him a stupid, unstrategic politician. Putin is confident that he can manipulate Trump to his advantage, and he should be.

25) There were so many great responses to this ludicrous Paul Ryan health care tweet.  Alas, from what I can tell, nobody compiled the best.  That said, I do like Krugman’s response:

That was last week. This week, perhaps realizing how flat his effort fell, he began tweeting about freedom, which he defined as “the ability to buy what you want to fit what you need.” Give me consumer sovereignty or give me death! And Obamacare, he declared, is bad because it deprives Americans of that freedom by doing things like establishing minimum standards for insurance policies.

Trump logic: opiate problem = crackdown on marijuana

Ugh, the stupid!!  From the Post:

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Thursday that he expects states to be subject to “greater enforcement” of federal laws against marijuana use, a move that could undercut the growing number of jurisdictions moving to legalize the drug for recreational purposes.

Spicer, speaking at a White House press briefing, said that President Trump sees “a big difference” between use of marijuana for medical purposes and for recreational purposes.

“The president understands the pain and suffering that many people go through who are facing, especially terminal diseases, and the comfort that some of these drugs, including medical marijuana, can bring to them,” Spicer told reporters.

Spicer said that state’s allowance of marijuana for recreational purposes “ is something the Department of Justice, I think, will be further looking into.” …

In explaining the rationale of greater enforcement of federal marijuana laws, Spicer cited growing problems with other illicit drug use.

“I think that when you see something like the opioid addiction crisis blossoming in so many states around this country, the last thing we should be doing is encouraging people,” Spicer said. There is still a federal law that we need to abide by.” [emphasis mine]

No, no, no!!!  Marijuana is a gateway drug like salad is a gateway food.  Just because most illegal drug users start with marijuana does not mean a causal chain.  It’s like suggesting a nacho appetizer or a salad causes people to eat dinner.  It just comes first.

In a statement Thursday afternoon, the National Cannabis Industry Association took issue with that argument.

“Science has discredited the idea that marijuana serves as any kind of gateway drug, and the addiction and death rates associated with opioids simply do not occur in any way with cannabis,” said Aaron Smith, the organization’s executive director.

He’s right!  But, I’d argue this is somewhat flawed journalism.  How about having one of the actual scientists say that scientists have discredited the idea.  You know a bunch or readers will automatically discount anything from the National Cannabis Industry Association.  This is just lazy “both sides” reporting.  Even better, the journalist should use their own voice to make this point.  “Scientists have found no evidence to support the gateway hypothesis…”

Anyway, big picture.  If there’s anything that’s a stupid waste of federal resources, it’s cracking down on recreational marijuana use in states that have decided it should be legal.  The Feds know best, that’s the Republican mantra, right?

Quick hits (part I)

1) Love this Wired feature on the challenges facing the NYT.  I love the idea of it re-inventing itself as a premium subscriber service like HBO and Netflix.  For the record, I think NYT, HBO, and Netflix are all terrific and worth paying for.  (Though, “The Young Pope” please!)

2) Nick Kristoff on a stark, ignored, reality: husbands (and a hell of a lot of other things) are far more dangerous than terrorists.

3) John Oliver decide to take the message to Trump where he’ll see it– cable news ads.

4) I don’t doubt that those who have fought to remove smoking from public gathering places have overstated the health benefits of doing so, as argued in this extreme example of a #slatepitch.  That said, I find it amusing that the piece does not even address the fact that most of us non-smokers (i.e., most of us Americans) strongly prefer to not be around noxious vapors fouling our air.

5) Interesting Op-Ed– what modern day Muslims should learn from Jesus.

6) Why is Trump so obsessed with apologies?  Like so much else, it’s a simple dominance display for him:

For Trump, apologies aren’t about resolving conflict or fostering relationships or even setting the record straight. Like so much of what he does, they are about besting someone. Trump expresses his displeasure at how he has been treated; the offending party feels compelled to make amends. An apology that requires threats or twitter trolls to extract only highlights Trump’s superior strength all the more. Your criticisms of Trump may not have been wrong. You may not feel one bit bad about them. You may loathe and disdain him even more after apologizing. What matters to him is that you have had to publicly ask for his forgiveness. Which proves you are a total loser.

7) Zack Beauchamp takes a deep-dive into the utterly delusional world of “counter-jihadism” that is so influential with Trump’s own delusional worldview.

8) NYT pulling no punches in the lede on Pruitt’s confirmation.

The Senate on Friday confirmed Scott Pruitt to run the Environmental Protection Agency, putting a seasoned legal opponent of the agency at the helm of President Trump’s efforts to dismantle major regulations on climate change and clean water — and to cut the size and authority of the government’s environmental enforcer.

9) Advice to conservative college students from a formerly conservative professor.

10) Drum with more evidence for the lead-crime link.

11) Amanda Taub with a good piece on “the deep state” you’ve likely been hearing much about.

12) I got more enjoyment out of “why liberals are wrong about Trump” than anything I read all week.  Just trust me and click the link.  Seriously.

13) Peter Beinart on how much of the anti-Trump right has made peace with Trump:

It’s not deranged to worry that Trump may undermine liberal democracy. It’s deranged to think that leftist hyperbole constitutes the greater threat. Unfortunately, that form of Trump Derangement Syndrome is alive and well at National Review. And it helps explain why Republicans across Washington are enabling Trump’s assault on the institutions designed to restrain his power and uphold the rule of law.

It is inconvenient for National Review that the individual in government who now most threatens the principles it holds dear is not a liberal, but a president that most conservatives support. But evading that reality doesn’t make it any less true.

14) Raising the price of a $575 life-saving drug to $4500.  So wrong.  Pharmaceutical companies make life-saving drugs.  Many pharmaceutical companies are also greedy and evil while they’re at it.  Talk about preying upon human suffering.

15) John Cassidy on Republican plans to cut Medicaid:

Still, the Republican Party’s internal machinations are a secondary matter. The key point is that G.O.P. leaders are intent on ripping up a successful and affordable reform that helped fill a gaping hole in the social safety net. In the process, they will endanger the health of a lot of Americans who don’t have the resources to protect themselves and their families. And that’s shameful.

16) Why yes, there are some bad dudes when it comes to immigration.  Unfortunately, it seems that some of these bad dudes are actually working for ICE.

17) More evidence for modern conservatism as white tribal politics.

18) I know you’ll be shocked to see evidence of how Trump tried to keep Black families out of his properties.

19) Terrific piece in Vox looking at (and speculating upon) the mating history of humans and neanderthals.  This particular bit was new to me:

Siepel has also found evidence of an even earlier mating than those that took place around 50,000 years ago. In the fully sequenced Neanderthal genome published in 2014, he found some human genes dating back to 100,000 years ago. “Instead of finding Neanderthal segments in modern human genomes, we identified modern, human-like segments in one of the Neanderthal genome,” he says.

It goes to show these matings weren’t a one-time event in our history. (And it adds a wrinkle to the common story that humans left Africa around 50,000 to 60,000 years ago. Human DNA found its way into Neanderthals 100,000 years ago, so there must have been an earlier human incursion into Europe. Those humans, though, did not survive.)

20) Democrats are now more inclined to embrace conspiracy theories.  Why?  Because conspiracy theories are for losers.

21) Doctors finally admit that lifestyle and exercise– not drugs– are the best treatment for lower back pain.  I found this bit of particular interest:

Obesity, being overweight, smoking, depression, and anxiety have all been linked with lower back pain. But the cause is usually more complicated. “Our best understanding of low back pain is that it is a complex, biopsychosocial condition — meaning that biological aspects like structural or anatomical causes play some role, but psychological and social factors also play a big role,” said Chou, who wrote a big evidence review that helped inform the new ACP guideline.

For example, in patients who have nearly identical results from an imaging test like an MRI, those who are depressed or unsatisfied with their jobs tend to have worse back pain than people who aren’t, Chou said. Partly for this reason, doctors don’t generally recommend doing MRIs for acute episodes of low back pain, since they can lead to overtreatment — like surgery — that also won’t improve health outcomes.

As for the modestly annoying lower-back pain I began experiencing about 10 years ago… I started sleeping with a pillow under my hips (I sleep on my stomach) and it’s never been anything but a very occasional annoyance since.

22) Catherine Rampell on Republicans plans to completely gut the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  It really is truly breathtaking how much Republicans are totally willing to screw over the little guy.  There’s plenty of areas where I just disagree with Republicans, and I get that, but I really do not understand how people justify these types of positions.

23) Drum’s quasi fact-checking of Trump’s disaster press conference is so entertaining.  My favorite part:

I mean, I watch CNN, it’s so much anger and hatred and just the hatred. I don’t watch it any more…Well, you look at your show that goes on at 10 o’clock in the evening. You just take a look at that show. That is a constant hit…Now, I will say this. I watch it. I see it. I’m amazed by it.

Fact-check: Schrödinger’s cat. Trump both watches and doesn’t watch CNN.

24) Yeah, the modern research university really is built off the exploitation of adjuncts.   But that’s because far too many people are willing to work for $3-4000 per class in the hopes that it will lead to somethhing good and permanent when it almost never, ever does.  Hope springs eternal…  And, yes, universities need to stop producing so many more PhD’s than there are decent jobs.  Damn, perverse incentives.

25) Great Vox conversation with Gary Kasparov on Putin and Trump.

The truth about ending “mass incarceration”

Yes, we have too many people in prisons.  Yes, we have too many non-violent drug offenders in prisons.  But, we cannot solve our mass incarceration problem simply by releasing all the non-violent drug offenders.  The simple truth is that we have to massively re-think how we deal with violent criminals if we want to make a serious dent (and we sure as hell need to).  Nice summary of the latest work from Criminologist John Pfaff in a recent Wonkblog post.

Consistent with Pfaff’s analysis, drug crime convictions account for the incarceration of fewer than 1 in 6 state prison inmates. Also, drug offenses don’t contribute to the appalling racial disparities in imprisonment. The white rate of being sentenced for drug crimes (15 percent) is actually slightly higher than that for blacks (14.9 percent) and Hispanics (14.6 percent). Reducing sentences for nonviolent drug criminals would thus not only have a small impact on mass incarceration, it could also worsen racial disparities in imprisonment rates.

 In contrast, and again consistent with Pfaff’s thesis, violent offenses explain the majority of mass imprisonment. They also drive racial disparities in imprisonment because the rate for whites (46.6 percent) is significantly lower than that for blacks (57.8 percent) and Hispanics (58.7 percent).

Given the outsize role of violent crime in mass imprisonment, what should be done about it?  Pfaff favors “cutting long sentences for people convicted of violence, even for those with extensive criminal histories, since almost everyone starts aging out of crime by their 30s.” He also advocates for relying less on prison altogether and expanding community-based anti-violence programs that have strong evidence of preventing violence in the first place.

Even better, is Pfaff’s own piece in the WSJ:

There is an obvious rejoinder, of course: Don’t we need to keep people convicted of violence locked up for long periods? Isn’t this how we have kept the crime rate down for so long?

The answer to both of those questions is, “No, not likely.” Simply put, long prison sentences provide neither the deterrence nor the incapacitation effects that their proponents suggest. (There may be moral arguments for long sentences, but that is a separate issue from public safety.)

Consider deterrence. It seems logical that long sentences would scare people away from committing crimes. But a long line of studies makes it clear that longer sentences don’t really deter would-be criminals. Those contemplating crime often don’t know how long sentences are, or even that sentences have gotten longer.

More important, those who are most likely to engage in violence and antisocial behavior tend to be very present-minded. They don’t think a lot about tomorrow. What really deters them, if anything does, is the risk of getting caught in the first place: policing and arrests, not prison sentences.

But our policies generally get this backward, emphasizing punishment over police work. Even as states have passed tougher and tougher sentencing laws, the rates for solving crimes have remained low, even for serious offenses. In 2015, around 60% of murders resulted in an arrest (down from over 80% in 1970). Police made arrests in only half of all serious assaults that year, and in about a third of all robberies and forcible rapes.

Even if longer sentences don’t deter, however, perhaps they are effective at incapacitating people who pose serious risks? At one level, this is inarguably true: As long as someone is in prison, he cannot hurt someone else (at least no one outside of prison).

But if incapacitation is the goal, our policies should detain someone only as long as necessary but no longer. The U.S. spends about $200 billion a year on criminal justice and about $80 billion just on corrections. There are real costs to keeping people locked up too long and admitting too many people to prison in the first place.

“Violent offender” is a common term in the criminal-justice debate, but it points to a deep problem in how we approach incapacitation. Calling someone convicted of a violent crime a “violent offender” suggests that this identity is who he is: He is a violent person. But, with very few exceptions, this is incorrect.

Violence is a phase, not a state. People age into violent behavior and age out of it: A 24-year-old is more violent than a 7-year-old or a 60-year-old. It’s true that some people are more prone to violence than their peers, but almost everyone exhibits some sort of bell-curved trajectory of violence over their lives. Young men are simply more prone to violence than any other demographic group.

It is almost impossible, however, to predict how violent a young person will be in the future. Imposing harsh sanctions for a first violent act needlessly detains many people who are not serious future risks. In addition — and somewhat counterintuitively — by the time a person in his 30s has generated a long criminal history suggesting that he poses a continuing risk, he is likely to have started “aging out” of crime, violent behavior in particular.

A prominent study of hundreds of at-risk men that tracked their behavior from ages 7 to 70, for example, found that most started to engage in crime in their late teens and began to stop in their mid to late 20s. Only about 10% continued to offend consistently into their 30s, and only about 3% did so at high rates.

My previous optimism about genuine progress in criminal justice reform is strongly tempered by having a couple of “law and order” morons like Trump and Sessions in charge, but, at least it’s pretty damn clear what we need to do.  Of course, it’s been clear we need to re-think the “war on drugs” for a long time and there’s been precious little progress on that.

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