Quick hits (part I)

1) Mike Pesca’s interview with Clint Watts on Russia was among the most enlightening experts I’ve read/heard on the matter.

2) Really interesting story on how Google has taken over classrooms– and universities in a different way.  I love google’s system at NCSU.  I have an @ncsu.edu account that’s actually gmail and unlimited Google drive space.  It all works great for me.  Interesting issues in K-12, though.

Mr. Casap, the Google education evangelist, likes to recount Google’s emergence as an education powerhouse as a story of lucky coincidences. The first occurred in 2006 when the company hired him to develop new business at its office on the campus of Arizona State University in Tempe.

Mr. Casap quickly persuaded university officials to scrap their costly internal email service (an unusual move at the time) and replace it with a free version of the Gmail-and-Docs package that Google had been selling to companies. In one semester, the vast majority of the university’s approximately 65,000 students signed up.

And a new Google business was born.

Mr. Casap then invited university officials on a road show to share their success story with other schools. “It caused a firestorm,” Mr. Casap said. Northwestern University, the University of Southern California and many others followed.

This became Google’s education marketing playbook: Woo school officials with easy-to-use, money-saving services. Then enlist schools to market to other schools, holding up early adopters as forward thinkers among their peers.

The strategy proved so successful in higher education that Mr. Casap decided to try it with public schools.

3) Yes, to hard-right Republicans every health problem is your own damn fault.  Sure diet plays a role in type II diabetes, but genetics plays a hell of a big role, too.

4) Speaking of which, dialysis is just  a giant profit machine in America.  John Oliver is on the case.

5) Julia Azari and 538 friends on how even the biggest scandals cannot break through party identity.

But, at least historically speaking, even the biggest scandals don’t wash away partisanship.

We went back and looked at key congressional votes during three relatively recent periods in which a president was accused of wrongdoing: Watergate(Richard Nixon), Iran-contra (Ronald Reagan) and the Monica Lewinsky scandal (Bill Clinton). Two trends stick out. First, partisanship still matters. And in a big way. Second, when defections do come, they’re more likely to come from the centrist wing of a party.

6) Catherine Rampell on the stupidity of Trump’s “prime the pump” tax plan.

7) On why proper etiquette when addressing professors is important:

The facile egalitarianism of the first-name basis can impede good teaching and mentoring, but it also presents a more insidious threat. It undermines the message that academic titles are meant to convey: esteem for learning. The central endeavor of higher education is not the pursuit of money or fame but knowledge. “There needs to be some understanding that degrees mean something,” Professor Jackson-Brown said. “Otherwise, why are we encouraging them to get an education?”

The values of higher education are not the values of the commercial, capitalist paradigm. At a time when corporate executives populate university boards and politicians demand proof of a diploma’s immediate cash value, this distinction needs vigilant defense.

The erosion of etiquette encourages students to view faculty members as a bunch of overeducated customer service agents. “More and more, students view the process of going to college as a business transaction,” Dr. Tomforde, the math professor, told me. “They see themselves as a customer, and they view knowledge as a physical thing where they pay money and I hand them the knowledge — so if they don’t do well on a test, they think I haven’t kept up my side of the business agreement.” He added, “They view professors in a way similar to the person behind the counter getting their coffee.”

8) This is important– “how home ownership became the engine of racial equality.”  These were policy choices made that dramatically disadvantage Black families through today.

9) Vox took a look at how right-wing media covered the week in Trump scandals.  Squirrel!

10) Duck ramps are awesome.  Amazing lede:

Political turmoil rocked the nation’s capital again on Tuesday evening as politicians from both parties responded to President Trump’s — you know what, never mind. This is a story about ducks.

And a worthwhile expense of taxpayer dollars.  NC Congressman opposing is just an idiot– great comments to him on twitter.

11) Speaking of Republicans unfairly attacking ducks, duck sex is actually an absolutely fascinating area of study within evolutionary biology.  If you don’t know the wonders of duck penises and vaginas (serious), it’s time you learn.

12) William Ayers on the misguided search for ideological purity in college speakers.  He makes a really good case, but I think I would argue against inviting James Watson in the first place.

13) Are men with bears more desirable?  Yes (mostly), says science.  Somebody tell my wife.  She hates mine, but puts up with it for 5/12 of the year.

14) Thomas Friedman gets it with this column (emphases in original):

Since President Trump’s firing of F.B.I. Director James Comey, one question has been repeated over and over: With Democrats lacking any real governing power, are there a few good elected men or women in the Republican Party who will stand up to the president’s abuse of power as their predecessors did during Watergate?

And this question will surely get louder with the report that Trump asked Comey in February to halt the investigation into the president’s former national security adviser.

But we already know the answer: No…

That’s why the only relevant question is this: Are there tens of millions of good men and women in America ready to run and vote as Democrats or independents in the 2018 congressional elections and replace the current G.O.P. majority in the House and maybe the Senate?

Nothing else matters — this is now a raw contest of power.

15) There’s a war between the Washington Post and the New York Times over breaking new scoops on Trump and the American public is the winner.  If you don’t already, you should strongly consider subscribing to at least one.  I could actually have lower-priced educational subscriptions, but I pay the regular rate because I believe in supporting the highest quality journalism.

16) If you are into public opinion polling, this report from Pew on the impact of low response rates on telephone surveys (not all that much, for the most part) is really good.

17)  National Review’s Kevin Williamson needs to tell conservative readers that newspapers are not actually fake news.

18) Jonathan Turley makes the case that the Comey memo is far from the standard of impeachable offense on Trump’s part.

19) Radley Balko on what Mississippi owes a 13 year-old! wrongly convicted and coerced into a false confession.  A hell of a lot more than the nothing he’s getting:

NBC News has published a long story about Tyler Edmonds, a Mississippi man convicted in the 2003 murder of his half sister’s husband. Edmonds and his half sister Kristi Fulgham were both convicted of the crime.

The NBC News story is mostly a look at the limits of the laws states have passed to compensate the victims of wrongful convictions. Most of these laws prohibit victims who contributed to their own convictions from getting compensated, a stipulation that tends to ensnare people convicted because of false confessions. (Edmonds initially confessed, then retracted his confession a few days later.)

This sort of exception to compensation laws is really unfair. It discounts all of the coercion and manipulation that can go into a false confession. In fact, there’s some evidence that innocent people are especially likely to confess under conditions such as prolonged interrogation, sleep deprivation and threats of additional charges. This is because in the moment, they calculate that a confession will at least end the interrogation, and because they’re innocent, the evidence will eventually exonerate them.

But Mississippi’s refusal to compensate Edmonds is particularly troubling for a few reasons. First, there’s Edmonds’s age. He was 13 when he confessed.

Oh, and that’s just the beginning of the wrongness in this case.  I think I might rather be tried in many a third-world country than Mississippi.  Disgusting.

20) In a normal week, the behavior of Turkey’s thugs would be a much bigger story.  So wrong.  And it is deplorable that the Trump administration has not condemned this.  Jennifer Rubin:

Turkey behaves this way in part because Trump ignores, even rewards (by praising an arguably stolen election) bad behavior. He is not putting American values or interests first. He has allowed himself to be “played,” just as he has been by Russia by setting up assistance in the fight against the Islamic State as the sole concern of U.S. foreign policy. This simplistic, inept brand of foreign policy sprinkled with admiration for thuggish leaders has become standard operating procedure in an administration without vision, experience or conscience.

21) Pence’s credibility ain’t looking so great these days.

22) Louisiana looks to become somewhat less an outlier in mass incarceration.  But damn if they are going to let out those feeble, old prisoners to terrorize us!

But in a deal announced on Tuesday, Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) agreed to drop the proposal to offer early parole to geriatric prisoners in exchange for state district attorneys’ support for easing penalties for nonviolent offenders — changes that aim to reduce Louisiana’s prison population by 10 percent in a decade.

It’s a landmark agreement for Louisiana, which locks up residents at a rate twice the national average, making it the country’s biggest jailer per capita. An unusual coalition of business and political leaders, religious groups and liberal activists has been working to end the state’s ignominious distinction with a package of bills that would shorten some prison sentences, prevent certain nonviolent offenders from going to prison and expand eligibility for parole.

23) Jill Lepore on how impeachment ended up in the Constitution.

24) Don’t always love Matt Taibbi, but when it comes to writing about the life of Roger Ailes (“one of the worst Americans ever”), he’s perfect.

He is on the short list of people most responsible for modern America’s vicious and bloodthirsty character.

We are a hate-filled, paranoid, untrusting, book-dumb and bilious people whose chief source of recreation is slinging insults and threats at each other online, and we’re that way in large part because of the hyper-divisive media environment he discovered.

Ailes was the Christopher Columbus of hate. When the former daytime TV executive and political strategist looked across the American continent, he saw money laying around in giant piles. He knew all that was needed to pick it up was a) the total abandonment of any sense of decency or civic duty in the news business, and b) the factory-like production of news stories that spoke to Americans’ worst fantasies about each other.

25) I don’t deal with too many hyper-involved college parents (but FB’s on this day reminds me of the few occassions I’ve posted about it), but I don’t doubt that it’s a growing problem.

Marijuana, alcohol, and stupid corporate policies

From Wonkblog:

Workers at McLane drive forklifts and load hefty boxes into trucks. The grocery supplier, which runs a warehouse in Colorado, needs people who will stay alert — but prospective hires keep failing drug screens.

“Some weeks this year, 90 percent of applicants would test positive for something,” ruling them out for the job, said Laura Stephens, a human resources manager for the company in Denver. 

The state’s unemployment rate is already low — 3 percent, compared to 4.7 percent for the entire nation. Failed drug tests, which are rising locally and nationally, further drain the pool of eligible job candidates.

“Finding people to fill jobs,” Stephens said, “is really challenging.”

Job applicants are testing positive for marijuana, cocaine, amphetamine and heroin at the highest rate in 12 years, according to a new report from Quest Diagnostics, a clinical lab that follows national employment trends. An analysis of about 10 million workplace drug screens from across the country in 2016 found positive results from urine samples increased from 4 percent in 2015 to 4.2 percent in 2016.

The most significant increase was in positive tests for marijuana, said Barry Sample, the scientist who wrote the report. Positive tests for the drug reached 2 percent last year, compared with 1.6 percent in 2012.

Although state laws have relaxed over the past four years, employers haven’t eased up on testing for pot, even where it’s legal.

You know what they are not testing for?  Alcohol.  A drug that virtually every scientist who studies drugs and addiction thinks is more problematic than alcohol.  Should you operate a forklift while high on marijuana?  Hell no.  Should you operate a forklift if you smoked a joint the previous night?  I cannot see any reason why not.  Nobody stops you from operating that forklift if you had a six-pack or bottle of wine the previous night.

Why can’t companies just use a little common-sense.  If drug use interferes with your job; no job.  If it doesn’t, what the problem?  What’s really dumb is the blanket assumption that any non-alcohol drug use should prevent you from having a job.

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) This is really cool– there’s a a reason that Americans smile so much:

But there’s an interesting line of research that helps explain outliers on the other end of the spectrum, too: Specifically, Americans and their stereotypically mega-watt smiles.

It turns out that countries with lots of immigration have historically relied more on nonverbal communication—and thus, people there might smile more…

After polling people from 32 countries to learn how much they felt various feelings should be expressed openly, the authors found that emotional expressiveness was correlated with diversity. In other words, when there are a lot of immigrants around, you might have to smile more to build trust and cooperation, since you don’t all speak the same language.

2) The prosecutor in the Cameron Todd Willingham case may be sanctioned.

3) When it comes to birds, a little brain packs a big punch.

4) A longer post I’ve been meaning to write.  Increasingly the lesson of the Trump presidency is just, lie, lie, and lie some more.

5) Here’s a thought… more drug treatment, less drug punishment.  Some NCSU research:

A recent study finds that even small, day-to-day stressors can cause an increase in illegal drug use among people on probation or parole who have a history of substance use. The study could inform future treatment efforts and was conducted by researchers at North Carolina State University, the University of Texas, the Schroeder Institute for Tobacco and Policy Studies, the Truth Initiative, Gateway Foundation Corrections and Texas Christian University.

“Our findings suggest that drug and alcohol treatment are valuable tools for those on parole or probation, and that even if people relapse, the treatment helps them limit their substance use over time,” [emphasis mine] says Sarah Desmarais, an associate professor of psychology at NC State and co-lead author of a paper describing the work.

6) I’ve always thought the most amazing thing about elite marathoners is how fast they are running for two hours straight.  I can probably barely run that fast period.  I do like this idea in Wired of seeing how long you can actually maintain the 13.1 mph pace.

7) Great NYT editorial on the phenomenal wrongness of our current cash bail system:

As a result, poor people charged with a misdemeanor end up stuck behind bars, while people with money who are charged with the same offense walk free.

The county’s lawyer defended this policy by arguing that poor defendants — who are disproportionately black and Latino — stay in jail not because they can’t buy their way out but because they “want” to be there, especially “if it’s a cold week.” Judge Rosenthal called this despicable claim “uncomfortably reminiscent of the historical argument that used to be made that people enjoyed slavery.”

The real explanation is straightforward: As cash bail has fueled a politically influential, multibillion-dollar industry, courts are relying on it more, and people who can’t afford it are getting locked up at ever greater rates. Judge Rosenthal noted that only two decades ago, less than one-third of people in Texas jails were awaiting trial; today, it’s three-quarters. Forty percent of all misdemeanor defendants in Texas are locked up until their cases are resolved, at a huge cost to the state, and most because they can’t afford bail.

8) Philip bump points out that the AHCA breaks pretty much every promise Trump made on health care.  Raise your hand if you’re surprised.

9) Richard Skinner with a nice assessment of Trump so far:

Instead Donald Trump increasingly seems to be governing like a conventional Republican president—albeit one who is showing signs of incompetence and contempt for governing norms. He is maintaining the existing cleavages on economic and cultural issues that define our party system, while adding a new one based on immigration and race. Republicans had already been trending in a restrictionist direction on immigration for about a decade—going back to the congressional revolt against George W. Bush’s “amnesty.”  It’s relatively easy for Trump to impose his will on immigration; much can be done through executive action, and few Republican constituencies would be upset by a wave of deportations. Around the world, there are plenty of right-of-center political parties that take a hard line on immigration.

So far, Trump has largely prioritized the most traditionally Republican items on his agenda. His one major accomplishment has been the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. His greatest defeat has been the failure of the American Health Care Act—the ignominious outcome of years of GOP war against the Affordable Care Act. Trump’s budget was written by an OMB director taken from the House Freedom Caucus, and with its draconian cuts in domestic spending, reads almost like a caricature of conservative governance. His Cabinet is mostly filled with Republican stalwarts. His economic proposals are heavy on tax cuts and deregulation. His abrupt shifts on Syria, NATO, and China have been mostly in the direction of GOP orthodoxy. By contrast, his populism has been almost entirely limited to rhetoric.

Quick hits (part I)

1) Our absurd levels of mass incarceration place a huge burden not only on the prisoners, but their families as well. And that includes a significant financial burden.

2) Really good Yglesias post on how Wall Street seems to hate decent wages for American workers.

3) China is taking all the damn fish out of the ocean:

Having depleted the seas close to home, Chinese fishermen are sailing farther to exploit the waters of other countries, their journeys often subsidized by a government more concerned with domestic unemployment and food security than the health of the world’s oceans and the countries that depend on them.

Increasingly, China’s growing armada of distant-water fishing vessels is heading to the waters of West Africa, drawn by corruption and weak enforcement by local governments. West Africa, experts say, now provides the vast majority of the fish caught by China’s distant-water fleet. And by some estimates, as many as two-thirds of those boats engage in fishing that contravenes international or national laws.

4) Terrific Wired article on genetics and pain.  Understanding some very rare genetic diseases may help us with better cures in the future.

5) The Post with three priorities to improve your life.  Not a bad list: more interpersonal interaction, easing up on the smartphone addiction, trying to find not just happiness, but meaning.

6) When Transgender men take testosterone, physical changes deepen their voice.  For those transitioning to a woman, no such luck.  A lot can be done with good speech therapy, but it’s hard work.  Probably wouldn’t hurt me to have a few sessions so that I’m not regularly called “mam” by strangers on the phone.

7) What I most liked about this NYT article about how maybe it’s better to fast before a workout based on a study of only 10 men, was how much the commenters ripped into the Times for even thinking about publishing a study based on only 10 men.

8) OMG, lunch shaming poor kids is just so awful.  I cannot believe that there are school districts that will literally take a kids lunch from them and throw it away!  Then again, free lunch is just going to teach these kids that government is a hammock.

9) Seth Masket on Three Myths of politics Trump is clearly rebutting, “Myth 1: Politics Is Easy and Most Politicians Are Lazy or Stupid…Myth 2: The Best Politicians Have the Least Experience…Myth 3: The Country Should Be Run Like a Business.”

10) Surprise, surprise, more evidence that dietary sodium is not a great villain.  Hooray, salt!

11) Some real numbers on all the massive voter fraud out there.

12) How Europe bans GMO food by avoiding decisions on their legality.

13) Basically a cartoon guide to motivated reasoning.  Pretty good stuff.  Will probably share with my students.

14) This bit in an Andrew Exum piece about Trump and Andrew Jackson drew me up short:

Now, may the Lord have mercy on me for this, but perhaps because I have lived in Washington, D.C., for the past several years, as I worshipped last weekend, I also saw something else in the pews: voters. These people—God-fearing Christians committed to racial reconciliation and social justice—should be among the voters for whom a multicultural Democratic Party is competing. [emphasis mine]

But one thing that shines through among many evangelical voters—as well as other, non-evangelical Trump supporters with whom I have spoken back home—is how turned off they are by the smug self-righteousness of contemporary progressive discourse.

Ummm, yeah, no.  If they were truly committed to racial reconciliation and social justice then they ought to be able to overcome a little cosmopolitan smugness to support the one political party that actually believes in these principles.

15) Dave Weigel with a nice piece on how the media just seems incapable of being fair to HRC.

16) McSweeney’s with the professor’s mantra for this time of year, “I would rather do anything else than grade your final papers.”

17) EJ Dionne rips the Republicans on the AHCA:

“This is who we are,” Ryan told his colleagues this week. “This will define us.”

Yes, it will. So please, Mr. Ryan, have the decency to stop giving those speeches in which you tell us about the depth of your concern about the poor and how you became interested in poverty “at a young age.” No one who would risk throwing so many poor people off health insurance with those enormous Medicaid reductions to score a political victory can claim any real interest in the welfare of the neediest Americans. Stick to tax cuts. At least you have convictions about those.

18) Dallas police officer (rightly) charged with murder.  This simply does not happen in a million years without body cameras.  Body cameras are not a panacea, but they are a step in the right direction.

19) Love this quote from Milbank on Comey:

If Comey is mildly nauseated by the thought that he had “some impact,” he should have his face over the toilet bowl when he considers that he handed Trump the presidency. Certainly, there were many factors behind Clinton’s loss. But in an election this close there can be no doubt that Comey’s action was enough to swing the outcome.

20) And, while we’re at it, if you doubt that Comey should be puking his guts out, you have Nate Silver’s very thorough analysis to contend with.

21) I liked this Op-ed arguing against a pro-choice litmus test for the Democratic party.  I don’t think there should be any single litmus test.

Equating non-support of abortion to a total abandonment of women’s rights, the way a pointed headline in New York Magazine did last month, ignores the reality that women’s rights should include far more than that — from an end to pervasive sexual harassment to broader support for mothers. And yes, economic factors may play a role for many women deciding whether to obtain abortions. But suggesting, as did ThinkProgress’s Bryce Covert in a recent New York Times op-ed, that an unyielding abortion rights stance is the only way to ensure women’s ability to achieve financial security confuses cause and effect.

Equating progressivism with being pro-abortion rights assumes that providing a single, simple solution — making it easier to terminate pregnancies — is worth more effort than addressing the root causes of the problem. An equally if not more progressive strategy might focus instead on addressing the lack of maternal leave and child-care policies, demanding a living wage, and pushing back against an economic system that penalizes women for having and rearing children in the first place. And while one might argue that Democrats are already doing all of the above, the willingness to excommunicate those who disagree with one strategy even if they adhere to all others makes it clear which issue matters the most.

22) Solid Jamelle Bouie piece on Trump and the Civil War.

 23) Scientific American uses science and typologies to explain why some people don’t return their shopping carts.  That’s a little unnecessary.  I’ll tell you in four words– they are selfish jerks.

24) Being cited by Nate Cohn in nytimes.com— I’d call that a good day.  One of the best semi-random emails I ever sent was to Seth Masket about the 2010 health care vote.

But the Affordable Care Act did a lot of damage to the House Democrats who voted it into law.

study by the political scientists Brendan Nyhan, Eric McGhee, John Sides, Seth Masket and Steven Greene showed that the Democrats who voted against the A.C.A. outperformed those who voted for it by a net 10 to 15 points in 2010. (Mr. Nyhan is an Upshot contributor.) Our estimates are lower, at around 5 to 10 points, in part because many of the Democratic A.C.A. opponents fared particularly well in the 2008 elections, but it’s a considerable effect either way. (Our estimates are based on the results of recent congressional and presidential elections by district, member ideology and whether the candidates voted for the A.C.A.)…

These results tell a pretty clear story about who could be hurt the most this midterm: the Republicans who ran well ahead of the national party in 2016 but who voted for the A.H.C.A. and were subsequently seen as no different from Donald J. Trump. On the other hand, a similar Republican who voted against the Republican plan might have just taken a modest step toward electoral survival.

25) Catherine Rampell nails it again.  Perfectly captured in the headline, “What do Bigfoot and moderate Republicans have in common?”

Quick hits (part II)

1) This is just horrible, horrible news.  Mark Binker— a longtime NC Statehouse reporter– literally knew NC politics better than anyone I knew.  I loved having him come to my classes to give a reporter’s perspective.  And I loved talking Rec soccer with him and hearing about his two boys.  He will be sorely missed by so many.  Makes me so sad.

2) These time-lapse gifs (soft “g” damnit) are awesome.

3) Plenty of good takes on Trump’s admission, that, what do you know, being president is hard work.  Drum’s:

There are three takeaways from this. First, Trump’s old life was pretty easy because other people ran his companies and he didn’t really do much. Second, he thought presidents just consulted their guts and made decisions, sort of like Celebrity Apprentice, and then stuff magically happened. Third, he still can’t maintain discussion of a real topic (Chinese President Xi Jinping) for more than a few moments before getting sidetracked by one of his obsessions (his huge victory in November).

4) The reality of sweatshops and economics.

5) Raise your hand if you are at all surprised that a vicious, misogynistic Reddit forum was founded by a Republican state legislator.

6) Greg Sargent on the collapse of the latest ACA repeal effort:

I’d like to propose another explanation. What if the GOP repeal effort once again failed because the Affordable Care Act has actually helped a lot of people, and this whole process has made that a lot harder for Republicans to deny? …

In short, many Republicans objected to the new version on the grounds that it would take coverage away from untold numbers of poor and sick people.

At the same time, though, many of these Republicans avoided openly crediting Obamacare with achieving the very protections for those with preexisting conditions and the vast coverage expansion via Medicaid that they now want to preserve. And they pledged to continue trying to repeal the law. These Republicans cannot affirmatively applaud Obamacare’s success in accomplishing ends they now recognize as imperatives, but they can stand up and say they won’t remove or badly weaken the provisions of it that are accomplishing those ends, provided they also say they’ll replace the law whenever some more acceptable alternative — which would also accomplish those ends — comes along.

7) Nice Washington Post article about the value of on-line support for families of children with rare diseases.  When Alex was young, the Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance on-line support was a lifesaver.

8) Some good advice to help keep college students on track for graduation.

9) Seems pretty clear we should no longer be paying TV writers per episode any more.

10) Do we have too many restaurants in America.  Almost surely.  Interestingly, I notice Burger Kings go out of business all the time; never McDonald’s.

11) Drum and Conor Friedersdorf on free speech (or not) on campus.  I strongly agree with both.

 

12) Mark Joseph Stern on NC Republicans.

13) Jamelle Bouie on lower income Americans supporting Trump despite his tax policies that so clearly favor the wealthy:

At first glance, it’s an odd populism that takes from the many to give to the few, that abandons the anxious and suffering in favor of the wealthy and comfortable. But remember, Trump’s populism wasn’t just an appeal to jobs and economic interest—it was a racial appeal. Trump cast blame on Muslims, Hispanic immigrants, and foreign others; he pledged to reopen the mines, recover the factories, and restore the white male industrial wage-earner to his perceived place at the top of the material and social hierarchy.

Trump is busy delivering the latter part of this formula, extolling archetypes of white male masculinity and—through his attorney general, Jeff Sessions—using federal power to crack down on those he defined as racial threats during the campaign. That is populism too, and it is potentially potent enough to satisfy those supporters who may lose out under Trump’s economic program. If nothing else, the racial interests of white Americans have always been at the forefront of white politics, a powerful force across class and social lines. The collapse of support for all kinds of public goods, from robust schools to neighborhood pools, is tied to the perceived beneficiaries. When the majority of white Americans believed those beneficiaries looked like themselves, they backed those investments. When they didn’t, they rejected them, either explicitly or eventually under the guise of “color blind” ideologies. With that said, there are exceptions to this general story, among goods that don’t have the same spatial dimensions as schools or housing but still deliver benefits, which is one reason the conservatives have had little traction fully gutting the welfare state.

14) Philip Carter certainly strikes me as right on this, “How Trump Made America Less Secure in 100 Days: His foreign policy makes no sense, and nearly every military move has been a mistake.”

15) Partisanship is a hell of a drug, part 8 million.

16) Excellent Gillian White piece on the difficulties of escaping poverty:

After divvying up workers like this (and perhaps he does so with too broad of strokes), Temin explains why there are such stark divisions between them. He focuses on how the construction of class and race, and racial prejudice, have created a system that keeps members of the lower classes precisely where they are. He writes that the upper class of FTE workers, who make up just one-fifth of the population, has strategically pushed for policies—such as relatively low minimum wages and business-friendly deregulation—to bolster the economic success of some groups and not others, largely along racial lines. “The choices made in the United States include keeping the low-wage sector quiet by mass incarceration, housing segregation and disenfranchisement,” Temin writes.

And how is one to move up from the lower group to the higher one? Education is key, Temin writes, but notes that this means plotting, starting in early childhood, a successful path to, and through, college. That’s a 16-year (or longer) plan that, as Temin compellingly observes, can be easily upended. For minorities especially, this means contending with the racially fraught trends Temin identifies earlier in his book, such as mass incarceration and institutional disinvestment in students, for example. Many cities, which house a disproportionate portion of the black (and increasingly, Latino) population, lack adequate funding for schools. And decrepit infrastructure and lackluster public transit can make it difficult for residents to get out of their communities to places with better educational or work opportunities. Temin argues that these impediments exist by design.

17) Even more evidence that vouchers are far from the solution to improving public schools:

For more than a decade, House Republicans led by the former Speaker John A. Boehner have used school children in the nation’s capital as an experiment for school choice, funding a far-reaching voucher program to send poor children to private schools over the opposition of local teachers and unions.

Now, with Betsy DeVos, one of the country’s fiercest advocates of school choice, installed as education secretary, that experiment is poised to go national. But Ms. DeVos’s own department this week rendered judgment on the Washington school choice program: It has not improved student achievement, and it may have worsened it.

18) Good piece from German Lopez arguing that although our current drug policy is a disaster, full-on legalization of all drugs is probably not a good idea.  Why?  That’s kind of what we did with prescription opioids and the results sure aren’t pretty.

19) Awesome news from a US District judge in Texas.  More of this, please:

U.S. District Judge Lee H. Rosenthal issued her decision in a sweeping 193-page ruling, finding that the plaintiffs had a high chance of proving at trial that the county’s bail system is unconstitutional. The plaintiffs—Civil Rights Corps, Texas Fair Defense Project and Houston law firm Susman Godfrey, representing all indigent misdemeanor defendants—had charged that Harris County’s bail system punishes the poor and favors the wealthy because bail hearing officers fail to consider people’s ability to pay bail, as the Constitution requires. Instead, plaintiffs claimed, they set bail based on an arbitrary bail schedule and often ignored recommendations to release non-violent people on personal bonds.

20) I might have mentioned this before, but worth doing again.  Had a conversation with a friend the other day who said I basically changed her life in a very positive way by explaining the concept of ego depletion to her.  Alas, I was forced to inform her that the science of that had largely been over-turned since our earlier conversation.

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