Quick hits (part II)

More from obsessively reading about the Corona Virus so that you don’t have to :-).

1) Eric Levitz is no fan of Biden, but gets that Bernie supporters will simply need to vote for him in November:

Progressives and socialists would be wise to build their own independent institutions and cultivate their own mass base of support. But they should also recognize that they do, in fact, have a profound stake in seeing Joe Biden prevail over Donald Trump this November. For low-income people in Louisiana and Kentucky, the stakes of elections between moderate Democrats and far-right Republicans can be life and death. There is no party in U.S. politics right now that is committed to achieving truly universal health care as quickly as logistically possible. But there is one party that is demonstrably committed to expanding public health insurance, and one that is similarly committed to shrinking it. The tens of thousands of Americans who’ve secured Medicaid as a result of Democrats beating Republicans in elections are worth fighting for; as are the Virginians who will no longer have to ration their insulin because Ralph Northam beat Ed Gillespie; as are the undocumented New Yorkers who can now drive legally because Andrew Cuomo beat Marc Molinaro. To abstain from two-party competition in the contemporary United States is to forfeit ripe opportunities to improve the lives of our nation’s most vulnerable people.

2) I think this “never Biden” contingent will be much smaller in November, but, basically, a lot of people hate that they are stuck with this binary choice.  But, they just are.  It’s Trump or the Democratic nominee and a vote for anybody, but the Democratic nominee or a non-vote serves to keep Trump in office.

3) Very nice guide to the what social distancing actually means.  Also interesting that even the experts are not quite in agreement as to what, precisely, this should mean.  E.g.,

SHOULD I BE CANCELING HAIRCUTS AND OTHER NONESSENTIAL APPOINTMENTS?

Watson: Those are more one-on-one interactions. I think there’s a lower likelihood that exposure is going to occur that way. I don’t think that’s a big concern.

Cannuscio: I would say hold off on your haircut and then when you go back, when it’s clear that we have vanquished this foe, everybody please give your hairdresser extra, extra tips. I hope that policies will be put into place to protect the paychecks of people who will suffer during this period.

4) Meanwhile, I think a social distancing plan that says, basically, don’t let your kids play with their friends is taking this too far.

5) That said, we still don’t have a very good handle on how well the virus spreads before symptoms and the asymptomatic spread may be the scariest part.

6) In happier times, we could focus more on the brutal academic job market for PhD’s.  To some degree, this results from a horrible mis-aligning of incentives whereas universities have great incentive to churn out PhDs (and even create new programs) while there just aren’t the jobs for all these people.  Meanwhile, people keep pursuing this because if you are one of the lucky ones who gets a tenure-track professor job, it’s just an amazing job to have.

7) Even before Covid-19 may have doomed Trump’s presidency, Biden’s performance so far has provided plenty of reason to think well of his chances against Trump.  John Cassidy:

The results from Tuesday’s primary in Michigan, a state that Trump carried in the 2016 general election by eleven thousand votes, provided the strongest evidence yet that Biden’s electoral strategy may be a viable one. Having already scored important primary victories in South Carolina and other Southern states, where black voters form the biggest portion of the Democratic electorate, the former Vice-President defeated Bernie Sanders by a sixteen-point margin in Michigan, where, according to an exit poll, whites without college degrees were the largest single voting bloc…

Of course, you can’t directly translate the results of a Democratic primary to a general election, where the voting pool is much bigger and more conservative. In 2016, about 4.8 million people voted in the general election in Michigan, compared to 1.2 million who voted in the Democratic primary. But you can’t ignore the results of primary elections, either. “You have to be careful about the signal-to-noise ratio, but there is certainly some signal there,” Ruy Teixeira, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and an expert on electoral demographics, told me on Wednesday. “It seems to fit the proposition that Biden is putting forward. If I was part of the Trump campaign, I’d be a little concerned.”

That might be an understatement. In a recent analysis of what it will take to win the Presidency in 2020, Teixeira and a colleague, John Halpin, pointed out that in November, 2016, whites without college degrees made up about forty-four per cent of the electorate, making them the largest single group, and Trump carried them by more than twenty points. In 2020, Trump is once more basing his campaign on appealing to these voters and getting more of them to turn out. The good news for the Democrats—and the worrying thing for the President—is that they don’t need to eliminate Trump’s advantage with white working-class voters, which would be a huge task. Given the Democrats’ advantage in other demographics, merely restricting Trump’s advantage with that group to more manageable levels could be sufficient to carry Biden to the White House. [emphasis mine]

8) You know where we have the opposite of social distances?  Jails, prisons, and courtrooms.  We need to do so much better here.  As Emily Bazelon succinctly puts it, “Our Courts and Jails Are Putting Lives at Risk.”

9) Susan Rice on how to avoid a worst-case scenario.

Yet, there is still limited time to avoid the worst-case scenario if the White House moves very quickly.

Most immediately, the federal government must make millions of test kits available to all who need them at no cost to patients, including by calling on the W.H.O to help. It must speed the preparedness of hospitals and health care workers to ensure there are sufficient beds, ventilators and protective equipment to treat the imminent influx of the very ill. To fully engage the Federal Emergency Management Agency and accelerate the deployment of critical resources, the president should declare a national emergency now. (Mr. Trump declared a national emergency and announced several other steps to speed coronavirus response and testing at a news conference Friday afternoon.)

Next and critically important, the federal, state and local governments must swiftly mandate rigorous social distancing. To the greatest extent possible, all Americans should avoid sizable gatherings and crowded places, especially older adults and those with underlying health conditions. Not only should the sick and those close to them stay home, but we all should avoid concerts, large religious gatherings, sporting events, conferences and the like. Major league sports and the N.C.A.A. have led by example. School closings, as disruptive and costly as they are, can be critically important in limiting community spread.

Aggressive social distancing is our last key tool for slowing the spread of the coronavirus in the United States. If cities and states can “flatten the curve” of infections so that hospitals and health systems are not overwhelmed, we can better treat the very ill and delay the onset of many infections into a period when there are therapeutic treatments and a vaccine.

The severe economic impacts of the coronavirus must be relieved through urgent financial support to workers, caregivers, small businesses and the uninsured, as well as to companies. Paid leave, food assistance, affordable testing and treatment, and increased unemployment insurance are among the many accommodations Congress and the administration must immediately enact to assist the most vulnerable.

10) Very good one on “flattening the curve.”

11) Great Monkey Cage piece from Neil Malhotra on how short-term thinking is endemic to politics.  This is going in the Public Policy syllabus

So why is the United States so poorly equipped for a mass pandemic? Much of the answer plausibly lies in politicians’ incentives. Having the federal government prepare for crises may be incredibly good value for money. But politicians get few or no benefits from doing so, since voters don’t reward them for being ready. This is why…

Despite the clear efficiency of investing in preparation rather than response, prevention spending has decreased over the decades — while response spending has increased. Why has the federal government spent its money so poorly?

The answer lies in electoral incentives. We find that presidents who deliver relief spending after a disaster get a larger share of the votes in the next election. Specifically, if the incumbent party increases relief expenditures in a county from $1 per person (the 66th percentile for spending in the data) to $10 per person (the 93rd percentile in the data), the incumbent party will gain about 0.77 percentage points more in the next presidential vote. But there is a flat relationship between prevention spending in a county and presidential vote share — in other words, there’s no increase at all. This creates a clear incentive for government to not invest much in prevention, and instead to send help when disaster strikes.

12) Yeah, I’ve heard we all sit too much.  But, no, I will be taking up squatting.

13) Want to boost your immune system to fight off Covid-19?  Nothing at all surprising.  Eat right, exercise, reduce stress, and get enough sleep.

14) Good stuff on underlying medical conditions and susceptibility to Covid-19.

15) Conor Friedersdorf with a thoughtful and thorough look at the role of sexism in Warren’s downfall.

16) Twitter is all lit up with this WP story about the bumbled and awful Coronavirus response.  I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but surely a good use of some of your time on Sunday.

The economy was grinding to a halt. Stocks were in free fall. Schools were closing. Public events were being canceled. New cases of the novel coronavirus were popping up across the country.

And then, on Wednesday, the day the World Health Organization designated the coronavirus a pandemic, Jared Kushner joined the tumult.

President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser — who has zero expertise in infectious diseases and little experience marshaling the full bureaucracy behind a cause — saw the administration floundering and inserted himself at the helm, believing he could break the logjam of internal dysfunction.

Kushner rushed to help write Trump’s widely panned Oval Office address to the nation. His supermodel sister-in-law’s father, Kurt Kloss, an emergency room doctor, crowdsourced suggestions from his Facebook network to pass along to Kushner. And Kushner pressed tech executives to help build a testing website and retail executives to help create mobile testing sites — but the projects were only half-baked when Trump revealed them Friday in the White House Rose Garden

Kushner entered into a crisis management process that, despite the triumphant and self-congratulatory tone of public briefings, was as haphazard and helter-skelter as the chaotic early days of Trump’s presidency — turning into something of a family-and-friends pandemic response operation.

The administration’s struggle to mitigate the coronavirus outbreak has been marked by infighting and blame-shifting, misinformation and missteps, and a slow recognition of the danger. Warring factions have wrestled for control internally and for approval from a president who has been preoccupied with the beating his image is taking.

18) Thoughtful and interesting piece on public closings from a physician who wrote a book about the 1918 epidemic.  I was especially interested in the uncertainty on the efficacy of school closings.

19) Helaine Olen, “Coronavirus is an indictment of our way of life”

Our moment of crisis is decades in the making, the endgame of decades of embracing the idea that we are not interconnected, that it is each man and woman for themselves. The results are all around us: Income and wealth inequality soared. When a global financial crisis occurred in 2008, the government bailed out the banks and financial service sector, while allowing millions of American households to go into foreclosure. The rich got even richer, while almost everyone else fell behind. A majority of people say they cannot come up with $1,000 in a pinch without resorting to credit.

Intent on extracting wealth for an ever-smaller elite, we failed to invest. Corporations put money into stock buybacks, not into their employees or research. School funding fell, and our infrastructure — well, it’s a solid D+, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers. Roads are filled with potholes, and bridges literally fall down…

ut the fault is not Trump’s alone. Too many of us were deluded, convinced that we ourselves would be fine while others suffered around us. But it was absurd to think money could protect us from all danger. Viral diseases don’t check your wallet before striking, and they find you at Hamptons summer houses and hidden bunkers alike.

We are all connected. We all need to take on the task of rebuilding our society and putting protections in place so that when the next the crisis comes, we are ready to take it on. That looks like Medicare-for-allPaid sick leave. A strong unemployment system — one that covers gig workers — so that people losing their jobs don’t run out of money almost immediately.

That’s not a radical left agenda, it’s one that protects all of us. It also happens to be humane. And if we do it, some good will come out of this terrible calamity. The world will almost certainly never be the same. It’s in our power to make it a better one than before.

20) David Wallace-Wells lets loose:

This is not how a functioning society responds to a crisis. And while it is important to keep in mind that even the worst-case scenarios for COVID-19 stop far short of producing total social and political disarray — producing merely widespread death and suffering and an almost incalculable burden on our already stretched-thin medical capacity — it is nevertheless astonishing, and horrifying, just how quickly we have arrived here, almost totally distrustful of the civic institutions we expect to protect us.

And how did we arrive here? Part of it is, of course, Trump, who has so accelerated the decades-long Republican war on government, which is to say good governance, that it can now seem the only two people actually working in the federal government are Jared Kushner and Stephen Miller (who, by the way, jointly wrote the speech the president gave last night). Part of it is the long story of neoliberalism, which has taught us all that we make our political mark on the world through consumer choice and individual behavior, that we shouldn’t expect much but economic management from government, and that citizens are meant to be unleashed into unemcumbered markets. Part of it is even deeper cultural transformation, involving growing distrust of institutions and authorities and the growth of a kind of casually paranoid style of go-it-alone American life, as was so memorably documented in Chris Hayes’s The Twilight of the Elites. And part of it is, I think, in the term Ross Douthat has deployed in the title of his new book, “decadence” — the ancient imperial cycle of rising power and competence followed by avarice and narcissism and shortsightedness, but accelerated, in the case of the U.S., for a hypermodern age.

Barely more than two decades ago, the United States saw itself as a kind of eternal and all-powerful empire — the indispensable nation. It would have seemed laughable, then, to be told that China would have produced a far better and more comprehensive pandemic response — a shamefully superior response. But today, distressingly, we take that relative failure for granted, and don’t expect to outperform the Chinese on matters like these, let alone South Korea or Singapore. What feels new is that we are doing worse even than Italy, where in the past few days hundreds have died and where they are now rationing critical-care devices between patients who need them — deciding, between two people who will die without support, which one has a better chance of surviving with the machine and giving it to them. We are well behind Italy and seem somewhat closer in the effectiveness and coordination of our response to Iran, where it’s estimated millions may be infected, including many senior figures in government. When countries like these are desperate, they now turn to China, which is sending a huge supply of necessary equipment and human resources to Italy. The United States used to play that role not that long ago. Now, in this crisis and future ones, who will help us?

21) And, we’ll leave on the most damning note from Derek Thompson, “America Is Acting Like a Failed State”

Throughout the world, the most effective responses to the historic threat of the coronavirus have come from state governments. China imposed a lockdown of tens of millions of people in Wuhan and other cities. In Singapore, the government built an app to inform citizens how to contain the virus and what public spaces to avoid. South Korea opened a number of drive-through centers to accelerate diagnostic testing.

But in the United States, the pandemic has devolved into a kind of grotesque caricature of American federalism. The private sector has taken on quasi-state functions at a time when the executive branch of government—drained of scientific expertisestarved of moral vision—has taken on the qualities of a failed state. In a country where many individuals, companies, institutions, and local governments are making hard decisions for the good of the nation, the most important actor of them all—the Trump administration—has been a shambolic bonanza of incompetence.

It might seem hyperbolic to compare the U.S. government to a failed state that cannot project its authority or adequately ensure the safety of its population. But for much of the past month, the White House has shown an inability to do either.

The Trump administration has failed to perform the most basic function of a state during a pandemic—which is to accurately assess the threat. While South Korea is reportedly conducting 10,000 tests a day, lawmakers learned on Thursday that the U.S. has conducted only 11,000 coronavirus tests in total. (For the U.S. to catch up to South Korea on a per capita basis, it would need to conduct 65,000 tests daily.) But the coronavirus caught the Trump White House flat-footed. The administration fired the U.S. pandemic-response team in 2018. It ignored early warnings from epidemiologists; refused to waive regulations that impeded early testing; and botched its initial COVID-19 testing kits.

The White House has also failed in its basic role to protect the public by communicating accurate and useful information about public health and hygiene.

22) Exactly 21 years ago today, I defended my dissertation :-).

Quick hits (part I)

The world is falling apart and here I am writing a blog post edition.  Also, taking time out of my 6 hours a day of obsessively reading about Covid-19 to write a post.

1) Julia Belluz wrote this two years ago, “Trump vs. “disease X”
The administration is setting up the US to botch a pandemic response.”

2) Michael Tesler, “3 ways the coronavirus could end Trump’s presidency.”  The economy, the incompetence, the focus on health care.  I suspect all three will play a role.

3) Really good discussion on closing schools and public health.  The balance of evidence suggests its the right call.  But there are some reasonable dissenting voices.  Meanwhile, my school system which has been known to shut down (on multiple occassions) for 30mph wind is choosing not to.  Surprising.  Interesting explanation (their take is that unless you are willing to commit to 8 weeks–yikes!!– it’s not worth doing).

4) Jedidiah Purdy on social solidarity:

pandemic makes the slogan of solidarity literal: an injury to one is an injury to all. That’s why a pandemic also heightens the frantic wish to withdraw oneself from the web of interdependence and ride it out alone.

The new coronavirus makes vivid the logic of a world that combines a material reality of intense interdependence with moral and political systems that leave people to look out for themselves. Because we are linked — at work, on the bus and subway, at school, at the grocery store, with the Fresh Direct delivery system — we are contagious, and vulnerable. Because we are morally isolated, told to look out for ourselves and our own, we are becoming survivalists house by house, apartment by apartment, stocking enough that’s canned and frozen, grabbing enough cold meds and disinfectant, to cut ties and go out on our own.

The scramble reveals a class system in which a mark of relative status is the power to withdraw. If you have wealth or a salary from an institution that values you, and enough space at home, you might be able to pull off the essentially absurd trick of isolating yourself for a few months by drawing down the global web of commodities on display at Costco and Trader Joe’s. But for the 50 percent of the country that has no savings and lives paycheck to paycheck, or in small apartments with little food storage, or has to hustle every day to find work, this is simply impossible. People will be out every day, on the subways, at the gas stations, choosing between epidemiological prudence and economic survival, because they have no choice but to make that choice.

And as long as this is true — as long as many of us are out there every day, mixing it up to get by — there is reason to think very few of us will be safe. Extrapolating from the little we know about the virus, the number of carriers will continue to grow. As long as our moral and political isolation drives us back into the marketplace, our material interdependence makes nearly everyone vulnerable.

“Wash your hands” is good advice but also a poignant reminder that this is not the sort of problem that personal responsibility can solve. Epidemiology is a political problem. It’s not hard to sketch the steps that would ease our cruel situation: a work stoppage, massive income support (unemployment payments with some universal basic income in the mix), a moratorium on mortgage foreclosures and evictions. Treatment for coronavirus and potentially related symptoms should be free and comprehensive, no questions asked (about immigration status, for instance), so that no one goes untreated because of fear or poverty. This is all, in the most straightforward sense, good for everyone. It is also how people look out for one another’s vulnerability and need when they see one another’s problems as their own.

5) Georgia’s oh-so-wrong efforts to remove eligible voters from their rolls.  I’m sure this was not at all intended for partisan political gain ;-).

6) Josh Barro with a succinct, yet comprehensive look at how the pandemic in America is likely to get worse.

7) Good and important stuff from Catherine Rampell, “Officials have spent the last few years dismantling anti-recession measures”

8) And, oh yeah, there’s still regular electoral politics.  David Leonhardt,

The biggest lesson is simply this: The American left doesn’t care enough about winning.

It’s an old problem, one that has long undermined left-wing movements in this country. They have often prioritized purity over victory. They wouldn’t necessarily put it these terms, but they have chosen to lose on their terms rather than win with compromise.

You can see this pattern today in the ways that many progressive activists misread public opinion. Their answer to almost every question of political strategy is to insist that Americans are a profoundly progressive people who haven’t yet been inspired to vote the way they think. The way to win, these progressives claim, is to go left, always.

Immigration? Most Americans want more of it. Abortion? This is a pro-choice country. Fracking? People now understand its downsides. Strict gun control? Affirmative action? A wealth tax? Free college? Medicare for all? Widely available marijuana? Americans want it all, activists claim.

This belief helps explain why so many 2020 candidates hoping to win the progressive vote — including Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris — embraced ideas like a ban on fracking and the decriminalization of the border. The left persuaded itself that those policies were both morally righteous and politically savvy. To reject any one of them was to risk being labeled a neoliberal sellout.

The thing is, progressive activists are right about public opinion on some of these issues. Most Americans do favor higher taxes on the rich, marijuana legalization and additional gun control. But too many progressives aren’t doing an honest analysis of the politics. They are instead committing what the journalist Matthew Yglesias has called “the pundit fallacy.” They are conflating their own opinions with smart political advice. They are choosing to believe what they want to believe.

They often do so by pointing to polls with favorably worded, intricate questions — and by ignoring evidence to the contrary. Affirmative action, for example, typically loses ballot initiatives. Polls show that most Americans favor some abortion restrictions and oppose the elimination of private health insurance.

By designing campaign strategies for the America they want, rather than the one that exists, progressives have done a favor to their political opponents. They have refused to make tactical retreats, which is why they keep losing.

9) I loved this cartoon.  That is all.Image may contain Advertisement Poster Brochure Paper and Flyer

10) Even after researching it, it still seems crazy to me that, even in a pandemic, we have to wait a year for a vaccine.  I get that testing is important, and time-consuming, but can’t it be expedited more during a crisis?  Do people actually suffer serious harm from ineffective vaccines?

11) So loved the final season of Bojack Horseman.  Really liked this take that doesn’t give away too much.

How do you end a series like BoJack Horseman? You stay true to your core cast of characters, treating them like flesh-and-blood (horse)people who just happened to live in a heightened world. You follow their stories so far to their logical conclusions, with no more hyperbole than can be found in the real world and without giving into either sympathetic schmaltz or nihilistic cynicism. You find a middle ground, a milestone that ties off the story and acts as a pause before it carries itself forward on its own momentum somewhere off the screen. That is the only way BoJack Horseman–perhaps the greatest animated drama series ever created–could have ended, and that’s exactly the way it does.

12) “GPS Tracking Shows How Much Wolf Packs Avoid Each Other’s Range” (thanks EMG)

wolf pack ranges

13) Well, this may be my last sports link for a while 😦  Very cool analytical analysis of what it takes to score goals at the highest level of soccer.  (Probably not a lot of lessons for my 9-year old girls Rec team).  “Be Quick, Press High, Cut Back: How to Score in the Champions League”

14) Seems that “stand your ground” laws are designed for white men to shoot non-white guys.  Okay, that’s probably not quite fair.  But for women suffering abuse– maybe not so much.  Really disturbing story in the New Yorker earlier this year.  And the follow-up is not encouraging.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Oh damn did I love this from Paul Campos on under-appreciated it is that Trump really is just plain stupid:

In my view, the single most under-appreciated fact about Trump is that he’s a genuinely stupid person. (He does possess a combination of complete shamelessness and an animal instinct for grifting, which is not at all the same thing as actual intelligence). It’s extremely difficult to grasp the depth and breath of Trump’s stupidity, and its consequences — lack of the most basic knowledge, absence of any intellectual curiosity, failure to grasp anything about his own cognitive limitations, aka Dunning-Kruger syndrome — because Trump is a very high status, putatively very wealthy white person, which means he always gets the benefit of the doubt about everything. If Trump weren’t these things, the extremely obvious fact that he’s a very stupid person — and not in comparison to, say, Elizabeth Warren, but in comparison to the average college graduate — would be far more self-evident.

In the minds of the elites and their hangers-on — that is among all respectable people — it literally cannot be the case that Trump is just an extremely stupid person, because to recognize that would delegitimate too many hierarchical systems and institutions in our culture. So he’s “crazy like a fox,” or playing the role of a heel in a reality TV show, or playing a complex game in which he pretends to be incredibly ignorant just to pwn the libs. He may look dumb but that’s just a disguise!

No, no it isn’t. He’s really an idiot. Like your racist uncle who was never smart to begin with and whose brain has now been turned to mush by time and Fox News, he’s a complete dumbass, which probably isn’t a DSM-V category, but should be.

What’s particularly interesting is the extent to which his supporters recognize this. Many of them are of course idiots as well, and don’t recognize that about themselves, so naturally they don’t recognize the, to put it delicately, cognitive limitations of their leader.

But some of them aren’t stupid by any means. They’ve decided that having a stupid person (again: not hyperbole or a metaphor or oh he’s really not stupid although he’s no rocket surgeon — he’s literally quite stupid) is a price they’re more than willing to pay to get their tax cuts and judges and ethno-nationalism etc. (See for instance this interesting argument that Mitch McConnell is fully aware of how utterly unfit Trump is to hold office, but pretends otherwise because the prime directive is always to advance McConnell’s own career).

2) OMG this is awesome, “The Uncomfortable is a collection of deliberately inconvenient
everyday objects by Athens-based architect Katerina Kamprani”

3) This “Sexism Didn’t Kill the Warren Campaign. The Warren Campaign Killed the Warren Campaign” makes a number of good points.  Although, it’s annoying that it cannot admit that sexism likely nonetheless played a role:

I live on the planet where the Democratic electorate chose a woman to be their candidate in 2016—and where that same woman won the popular vote. I suppose it’s possible that the last four years of President Donald Trump have turned Democrats more sexist than they were before, but did that just temporarily stop for the several months Warren was at the top of the polls before Democrats realized they actually don’t want a woman after all? I doubt it.

At the same time, I find it curious that while Warren’s campaign was apparently cut down by sexism and/or misogyny, when other female candidates in the race dropped out, sexism didn’t often come up. One would assume that all female candidates would be subject to the same systemic prejudice, and yet few people claim that Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D–Hawaii) or Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D–Minn.) have failed—or, in Gabbard’s case, will fail—because American voters hate women.

When it comes to Gabbard or Klobuchar or the men in the race, people evaluate their campaigns and generally determine it’s the candidate, not the voter, who is at fault. Gabbard isn’t losing because of sexism, she’s losing because she’s a fill-in-the-blank homophobe/cult follower/Bashar Assad apologist. Klobuchar wasn’t a victim of misogyny, she was an uninspiring candidate who abuses her staff and eats her salads with a comb if she can’t find a fork (a quality I personally find highly electable).

So why is Warren’s loss called sexist when Klobuchar’s was not? …

I live on the planet where the Democratic electorate chose a woman to be their candidate in 2016—and where that same woman won the popular vote. I suppose it’s possible that the last four years of President Donald Trump have turned Democrats more sexist than they were before, but did that just temporarily stop for the several months Warren was at the top of the polls before Democrats realized they actually don’t want a woman after all? I doubt it.

At the same time, I find it curious that while Warren’s campaign was apparently cut down by sexism and/or misogyny, when other female candidates in the race dropped out, sexism didn’t often come up. One would assume that all female candidates would be subject to the same systemic prejudice, and yet few people claim that Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D–Hawaii) or Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D–Minn.) have failed—or, in Gabbard’s case, will fail—because American voters hate women.

When it comes to Gabbard or Klobuchar or the men in the race, people evaluate their campaigns and generally determine it’s the candidate, not the voter, who is at fault. Gabbard isn’t losing because of sexism, she’s losing because she’s a fill-in-the-blank homophobe/cult follower/Bashar Assad apologist. Klobuchar wasn’t a victim of misogyny, she was an uninspiring candidate who abuses her staff and eats her salads with a comb if she can’t find a fork (a quality I personally find highly electable).

So why is Warren’s loss called sexist when Klobuchar’s was not?

4) Zack Beauchamp, “Elizabeth Warren’s exit interview is a warning for the dirtbag left”

5) Adam Cohen has a new book on how the Supreme Court has abandoned the poor:

Instead, 50 years ago, the Court shifted rightward. Although it has long enjoyed a reputation as the defender of society’s most disadvantaged, the Supreme Court is now considered, on many issues, an enemy of poor Americans…

The Court has not only refused to extend new rights to poor people; it has also invoked dubious readings of the Constitution to take away rights that poor people have already won from Congress and the president…

If the Supreme Court had continued on the path laid out by the Warren Court, life for the poor would be far better today. One major setback: In 1973, the Court ruled 5–4, in San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez, that states do not have to ensure that high- and low-income school districts have equal amounts of money to spend on students. If the case had come out the other way, millions of children in low-income districts nationwide would have greater educational opportunities and better life outcomes. They would be better off in another way: If the Court had held that the poor are a suspect class, or took a broader view of equal protection, they could challenge the glaringly unequal levels of welfare benefits across the country. Although benefits are not generous anywhere, in some states, like Wyoming and Mississippi, they are egregiously low, putting the poor in an untenable position.

6) These are good. “40 Comics Reveal What Animals Would Say If They Could Talk”

They Can Talk

7) Every time I teach Criminal Justice policy, one pretty much unanimous conclusion that the students come to is that we need dramatically better police training.  Nice to see conservatives recognize this in the National Review:

After a series of terrible incidents of police violence — think Botham Jean in Dallas, Atatiana Jefferson in Fort Worth, and others — police are under a microscope. Why does it seem like some officers are on a hair trigger, ready to use deadly force with little provocation? Increasingly, critics of police point to what we call “the mindset”: people’s belief that police (despite low crime rates) think that American streets are a battlefield, that they are surrounded by potential enemies, and that every civilian encounter is a struggle to be won.

Not every police officer has the mindset; the best don’t. One of us is a former prosecutor, the other a former police officer who has studied policing for more than 20 years. We know that “the mindset” is real and the root cause of many of these tragedies. But it isn’t inevitable. Instead, police recruits are trained in that attitude and even incentivized to maintain such attitude. Can they be untrained, or trained differently? We think they can — and believe conservatives especially ought to support efforts to reform police training.

The mindset has roots in the drug war, where politicians of all stripes encouraged the militarization of police equipment, tactics, and attitudes. It starts in the police academies. Most use a “stress” model resembling military boot camps, emphasizing drills, intense physical demands, public discipline, and immediate reaction to infractions; substantively, academy training focuses on investigation skills, weapons training, and tactics. But there is little emphasis on the profession of policing, on how to relate to the public, or on developing emotional-intelligence skills. Meanwhile, the average recruit gets less than ten hours of training in de-escalation techniques; 34 states require no training in de-escalation.

As they have proliferated, SWAT teams are increasingly used in standard, on-duty policing activities. In a 2014 analysis, the ACLU, which has done excellent statistical work on this issue, found that 79 percent of the 50,000 annual SWAT callouts were for executing a search warrant, most commonly in drug investigations; only 7 percent were for hostage, barricade, or active-shooter scenarios. At least 60 percent of those operations featured the use of no-knock entries and/or (potentially deadly) flash-bang grenades. The Pentagon’s infamous 1033 Program — which distributes cast-off military equipment such as armored personnel carriers, weaponry, and helicopters to local police — has also helped to drive this phenomenon.

Changes in weapons, tactics, and training birthed the mindset. Reforming all three could help to combat it. To start, the dispersion of cheap military weaponry to police departments must stop. Police ought to be put to the discipline of deciding whether their local situation really justifies the cost of armored personnel carriers.

Finally, we need real, sustained de-escalation training in police academies and among active officers. Departments should accept that, within reason, the onus is on the officer to defuse potentially explosive incidents, slow the pace of police–civilian encounters, and take the time to resolve encounters before they turn violent.

8) Speaking of flaws in our criminal justice system, the way in which it still allows and rewards junk science is beyond appalling.  Maybe a small victory, though.  Radley Balko:

As I’ve written here ad nauseam, judges are entrusted to be the gatekeepers of good and bad science in the courtroom. By and large, they’ve performed poorly. Judges are trained to perform legal analysis, not scientific analysis, and law and science are two very different fields. Science is forward-looking, always changing and adapting to discoveries and new empirical evidence. The law, by contrast, puts a premium on consistency and predictability. It relies on precedent, so courts look to previous courts for guidance and are often bound by prior decisions.

By and large, judges have approached their task of scientific analysis just as we might expect them to: They have tried to apply it within a legal framework. This means when assessing whether a given field of forensics is scientifically reliable, judges tend to look to what previous courts have already determined. And when confronted with a new field, they tend to err on the side of relying on our adversarial system — they let the evidence in but also let the defense call its own experts to dispute the prosecution’s witness. The problem here is that by simply admitting the evidence, the courts lend it an air of legitimacy. Once the evidence is allowed in, whether jurors find it convincing tends to come down to which witness is most persuasive. State’s witnesses are often seen as unbiased and altruistic, while jurors tend to see defense witnesses as hired guns. And the set of skills it takes to persuade a jury isn’t necessarily the same skill set of a careful and cautious scientist. Indeed, the two are often in conflict.

This is why a field such as bite-mark analysis — which has been found to be unreliable by multiple scientific bodies — has yet to be disallowed by any courtroom in the country. Every time it has been challenged, the court has upheld its validity.

9) This is good, “Like the United States, Finland has a capitalist economy. Why are Finns so much happier than us?”  Also, all those awesome Northern European “Social Democracies” are pretty much based on capitalism, not socialism.  They just do capitalism way better than us through robust use of government policy to make capitalism serve the public interest.

10) Relatedly, Ezra Klein with a good discussion of Bernie Sanders and the underpinnings of “democratic socialism.”

11) This from the new NYT media reporter is really good, “Why the Success of The New York Times May Be Bad News for Journalism”

And the story of consolidation in media is a story about The Times itself.

The gulf between The Times and the rest of the industry is vast and keeps growing: The company now has more digital subscribers than The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and the 250 local Gannett papers combined, according to the most recent data. And The Times employs 1,700 journalists — a huge number in an industry where total employment nationally has fallen to somewhere between 20,000 and 38,000…

Because The Times now overshadows so much of the industry, the cultural and ideological battles that used to break out between news organizations — like whether to say that President Trump lied — now play out inside The Times.

And The Times has swallowed so much of what was once called new media that the paper can read as an uneasy competition of dueling traditions: The Style section is a more polished Gawker, while the opinion pages reflect the best and worst of The Atlantic’s provocations. The magazine publishes bold arguments about race and American history, and the campaign coverage channels Politico’s scoopy aggression.

12) Good Yglesias piece on swing voters versus mobilizing the base:

Swing voters are extremely real

The notion that swing voters — voters who back one part in some elections and the other party in others — are mythical is itself a myth.

The 2016 Cooperative Congressional Election Study conducted a large-sample poll and found that 6.7 million Trump voters said they voted for Barack Obama in 2012 and 2.7 million Clinton voters said they voted for Mitt Romney in 2016. In other words, about 11 percent of Trump voters say they were Obama voters four years earlier, and about 4 percent of Clinton voters say they were Romney voters four years earlier.

Geoffrey Skelley of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics has this useful table:

A chart showing Trump, Clinton, Obama, and Romney voters, and how they intersect.Geoffrey Skelley of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics

By the same token, Yair Ghitza of the Democratic data firm Catalist estimates that while Democrats did make significant turnout-related gains in 2018, about 89 percent of their improvement vote margin is attributable to swing voting.

On issue after issue, the voters who a “mobilization” strategy would target are more moderate than consistent Democrats not more left-wing than them. There are plenty of inconsistent voters in America, and it’s smart to try to get them to vote for Democrats. But the inconsistent voters aren’t some secret bloc of hard-core progressives. The most ideologically committed progressives you’re going to find are the people already consistently pulling the lever for Democrats. In other words, no matter what fraction of the electorate Democrats are aiming to target, there’s no real case for becoming more ideologically rigid or adopting policy views that swing voters reject…

But on the big ideological questions, there’s no mobilization loophole that will let progressives evade the problem that some progressive ideas are unpopular. Third-party voters and drop-off voters are more progressive than D-to-R swing voters, which makes them a promising constituency to target. One reason that taking popular positions is smart politics is that it works as a mobilization strategy as well as a persuasion one…

Last but by no means least: While activists often paint a portrait of bold ideological positions firing up the party base, the available evidence suggests the opposite happens — bold ideological positions fire up the opposition partybase

Taking such positions might be a good idea anyway on the merits. Politics matters because policy matters, and a political party that never takes a righteous stand on anything is worth very much. But while centrist types can be wrong about which kinds of policy stances will be popular, there’s fairly overwhelming evidence that popular stands are better than unpopular ones — both because swing voters matter but also because taking popular positions is better from a strict mobilization standpoint.

13) Good stuff from Peter Wehner on Pete Buttigieg:

More impressive to me was the core theme of Buttigieg’s campaign, which he referred to as a “new kind of politics.” In the pre-Trump era, that may well have come across as an empty slogan; in the age of Trump, it captures an urgent national need.

During his campaign, Buttigieg spoke about what he called “rules of the road,” values that he wanted to make hallmarks of his candidacy and that included respect, responsibility, discipline, excellence, joy, and truth. This is what the Buttigieg campaign said about the latter:

Honesty is in our nature, and it is one of our greatest means of restoring faith in our democracy among everyday Americans and building a national movement rooted in trust and faith in our country and our beliefs. Internally and externally, our effort will be characterized by fidelity to the truth.

That is the kind of language and ethos that once would have appealed to Republicans, who now, under the spell of a president of corruptions without borders, have given up on virtue as a touchstone of political life. Politicians and presidents attempting to foster a climate of trust and mutual respect are snowflakes—or so many in the modern GOP and right-wing-media complex would have you think…

Here’s my hunch: Most Americans are bone-weary of Trump’s antics and aggression, his nonstop assault on reality and truth, his dishonoring of the office of the presidency, and his disordered personality. What Buttigieg understood is that the way to defeat Trump (and Trumpism) is to offer as an alternative seriousness to his unseriousness, grace to his gracelessness, equanimity to his instability.

Pete Buttigieg faced too many obstacles to win the Democratic nomination in his first national race, but his remarkable rise is an indication that he tapped into the longings of an exhausted country. Democrats, if they are wise, will nominate someone who does something similar, who shows he can calm the stormy seas rather than further roil them.

14) The federal judge in the following headline was a Bush appointee.  Barr is just the worst,  “Federal Judge Says He Needs to Review Every Mueller Report Redaction Because Barr Can’t Be Trusted”

15) I see Onion headlines most every day shared in social media, but I had not picked up on this, “How ‘The Onion’ Went Full-On Bernie Bro”

16) I keep meaning to say something about Ezra’s new book (got a couple others I want to finish first), but here’s a thoughtful review/analysis:

In Why We’re Polarized, his first book, policy, Klein’s stock-in-trade, recedes, and group psychology takes center stage. That wonk volte-face gives the book its charge. He presents polarization not as the creation of particular individuals but of interlocking systems. In fact, it is a book about two sets of systems. Concatenated personal and partisan identities confront a Madisonian constitution ill-suited to prolonged combat between two evenly matched, deeply divided parties. The results leave politically active individuals—“us”—enraged, and institutions teetering toward crisis. Klein takes up the same metaphor that journalists disillusioned with the party system adopted in the Gilded Age: a machine. But where they crusaded for reform, he concludes with caution…

Here Klein makes his most important move. Instead of highlighting one specific factor, he argues that they all feed on each other at once. Hairsplitting misses the point, which is interconnection across the polarization machine. In the words of the political scientist Lilliana Mason, “Partisanship can now be thought of as a mega-identity, with all the psychological and behavioral magnifications that implies.” Klein takes that insight and runs with it, telling a mega-story about mega-polarization. “The more sorted we are in our differences, the more different we grow in our preferences.” Elite and mass polarization reinforce one another. Above all, as partisanship becomes central to the identities of ever more Americans, leaping beyond policy preferences to feed on our sense of self, its corrosive, zero-sum psychological dynamics accelerate. Personal decisions—where to live, whom to marry—roll up inside these mega-identities: “polarization begets polarization; it’s a flywheel, not a switch.”

17) I’m in the, “actually, Bloomberg’s $500 million sort of worked” camp.  The counter-factual where Biden finishes poorly in Nevada, continues to lose support in South Carolina, and then sees a lot of that “moderate lane” support go to Bloomberg on Super Tuesday strikes me as utterly plausible.  No, things didn’t turn out Bloomberg’s way, but the fact that some very conceivable scenarios might have led us that way should make us rethink what money on a massive scale in primaries can buy.

18) Some interesting theories on why SARS-CoV-2 seems to hardly effect children:

But in studies with mice, his lab discovered that as animals age, their lungs take on damage that leads to structural changes that make them more susceptible to coronavirus infections. With SARS in particular, the older the mice, the sicker they got. “We know the lung environment really matters with this class of respiratory viruses,” says Perlman. “As people age, that lung environment changes. It gets pelted with pollen and pollution and the body responds with inflammation. A history of inflammation may impact how well you do with coronaviruses.”

More research is needed, but it’s a plausible explanation for Covid-19’s mild symptoms in children, says Creech. “The non-inflamed lung is a much less hospitable place for any virus to land,” he says. The next step would be to look at how children with less pristine lungs are faring in the outbreak—like kids with a history of asthma or babies who are born prematurely and lack a substance that helps keep open the tiny sacs in the lungs that exchange oxygen. If these kids experience severe Covid-19 symptoms too, then the “pristine lung” hypothesis holds up.

Another (highly speculative) possibility, says Creech, is that somehow kids may be leveraging their previous immune responses to the cold-causing coronaviruses they’re constantly being assaulted with. “Each of us is a little different in how we can modify the tips of our antibodies to latch on to foreign invaders,” says Creech. “It’s possible that recent coronavirus exposure in kids has led to the emergence of antibodies that have some cross-reactivity with the virus that causes Covid-19.” But, he stresses, so far there’s no evidence that’s what’s going on.

Quick hits (part II)

1) We have a monopoly problem in this country.  Capitalism only works right when government properly sets the rules off the game.  That ain’t happening.  Vox, “America’s monopoly problem, explained by your internet bill”

There’s little denying that since the 1970s, the way antitrust has been approached in the United States has led to a landscape where a smaller number of big players dominate the economy. Incumbents — companies that already exist — are growing their market shares and becoming more stable, and they’re getting harder and harder to compete with. That has affected consumers, communities, competitors, and workers in a variety of ways.

Proponents of the laissez-faire, free market thinking of recent decades will say that the markets have basically worked themselves out — if an entity grows big enough to be a mega-corporation, it deserves its status, and just a handful of players in a given space is enough to keep prices down and everyone happy. A growing group of vocal critics of various political stripes, however, are increasingly warning that we’ve gone too far. Growth and success at the top often doesn’t translate to success for everyone, and there’s an argument to be made that strong antitrust policies and other measures that curb concentration, combined with government investments that target job-creating technology, could spur redistribution and potentially boost the economy for more people overall.

If two pharmaceutical companies make a patent-protected drug and then raise their prices in tandem, what does that mean for patients? When two cellphone companies talk about efficiencies in their merger, what does that mean for their workers, and how long does their subsequent promise not to raise prices for consumers actually last? And honestly, wouldn’t it be a lot easier to delete Facebook if there was another, equally attractive social media platform out there besides Facebook-owned Instagram?

We should be asking the government and corporate America how we got here. Instead, we just keep handing over our money.

2) Gotta say I’m getting pretty damn intrigued by the 16-hour intermittent fasting.  Should not be that hard for me to give up breakfast and eat between 11:30a, and 7:30pm.  But, I love my breakfast and it’s so healthy (Go Lean cereal, fresh raspberries, fresh blueberries, a little soymilk).

3) How is Charles Murray writing pseudo-intellectual stuff about race still a thing?!  Oh, this is how:

Outrage has been good to Charles Murray. Far from being the victim of “a modern witch burning,” as the neuroscientist and podcaster Sam Harris has described him, Murray has been able to cloak himself in the mantle of the embattled intellectual, the purveyor of forbidden knowledge, while comfortably ensconced at the American Enterprise Institute, the influential think tank, for three decades. His previous book, “Coming Apart,” which examined a balkanized America through the lens not of I.Q. but “cultural differences” between wealthy and poor white Americans, was warmly received. “I’ll be shocked if there’s another book this year as important,” David Brooks wrote in his column in this newspaper. The violent actions of protesters when Murray appeared at Middlebury College in 2017 were widely deplored.

With “Human Diversity,” Murray tries to stoke some of the same controversy that powered “The Bell Curve” — which sold 400,000 copies in its first two months after publication — although more cautiously; “Human Diversity” is thick with reassurances to the reader, and caveats that individuals ought to be judged on their own merits. “I’m discussing some of the most incendiary topics in academia,” he writes, hastening to add that “the subtext of the chapters to come is that everyone should calm down.”

4) No, I don’t tire of pieces on William Barr’s awfulness:

This entire weaponization of DOJ investigations, prosecutions, and sentences to punish perceived enemies and to reward loyal factotums is a threat to the rule of law in America. Every judge and every lawyer in the country understands this intuitively. Despite Barr’s insistence, the ominous fault line isn’t between the president’s tweeted threats at the sentencing judge in the Stone trial and his silence. The real fault line is between what has happened, in the aggregate, on Barr’s cheerful watch—the Department of Justice has become another corner of the government that protects not the rule of law but this president, and not just this specific president, but this specific kind of president, the kind who believes himself immune to legal accountability…

The only remaining question is what to do about it, and specifically what lawyers, judges, and law students, all of whom know in their bones what is happening, should do about it. If ever there were a time for the American legal profession to put down its yellow pads and stand up for the rule of law, it’s today, en masse, and without waiting for someone, more senior, somewhere, to lead the way. The catastrophe unfolding at the DOJ transcends Barr and his TV spat with Trump. We are watching what happens when the law is warped to please a man who believes himself to actually be the law, and what happens when his enabler agrees with that project, and disagrees only on appearances.

5) The gender pronoun controversy on the Harvard campus.  One of those interesting areas where the reliably liberal readership of the NYT lets you know in comments that it’s not that liberal (and, yes, I’m a typical NYT reader in that regard).

6) Speaking of which, I’m totally good with NCSU having women’s history month.  As for womxn’s herstory month— oh please!!  This so does not help the cause of women’s rights.

7) Yes, hospital patients would be so much happier if we didn’t make all patients wear the hospital gown even in the cases where it clearly is not needed.

8) How “left digit bias” causes medical errors:

In a new study of physician treatment decisions, published on Thursday in The New England Journal of Medicine, we document signs of left-digit bias. This is the bias that explains why many goods are priced at $4.99 instead of $5, as consumers’ minds round down to the left-most digit of $4.

We hypothesized that doctors may be overly sensitive to the left-most digit of a patient’s age when recommending treatment, and indeed, in cardiac surgery they appear to be. When comparing patients who had a heart attack in the weeks leading up to their 80th birthdays with those who’d recently had an 80th birthday, we found that physicians were significantly less likely to perform a coronary artery bypass surgery for the “older” patients. The doctors might have perceived them to be “in their 80s” rather than “in their 70s.” This behavior seems to have translated into meaningful differences for patients. The slightly younger patients, more likely to undergo surgery, were less likely to die within 30 days.

Our study confirms previous work that found doctors are overly responsive to patient age when diagnosing illness, and that showed how seemingly irrelevant factors‚ such as the difference of a few weeks of age, could govern physicians’ decisions about treatment, with potentially life-altering consequences for patients.

Left-digit bias could affect many clinical decisions. For example, patients with hemoglobin levels of 9.9 grams per deciliter may be perceived as being substantially more anemic than patients with hemoglobin levels of 10.0 grams per deciliter (the difference in the two values has no clinical significance).

9) So many prosecutors are just the worst.  The idea that we can prosecute ourselves out of the opioid crisis is not only wrong, but morally disgusting.  The latest, “Naloxone Now Used as Evidence to Prosecute Indiana OD Victims”

10) There’s just so much damn awfulness every week that we are absolutely inured to it.  Any other president, the pardons would be an ongoing scandal.  Alas, now they’re just Tuesday.  NYT, “The 11 Criminals Granted Clemency by Trump Had One Thing in Common: Connections: The process bypassed the formal procedures used by past presidents and was driven instead by friendship, fame, personal empathy and a shared sense of persecution.”

11) This interactive graphic on how various diseases, including COVID-19 spread, is very, very cool.

12) Austan Goolsbee with the case that it’s not just the internet killing shopping malls:

Collectively, three major economic forces have had an even bigger impact on brick-and-mortar retail than the internet has.

In no particular order, here they are:

  • Big Box Stores: In the United States and elsewhere, we have changed where we shop — away from smaller stores like those in malls and toward stand-alone “Big Box” stores. Four years ago, the economists Chad Syverson and Ali Hortacsu at the University of Chicago analyzed the recent history of retail and found that the rise of warehouse clubs and supercenters was bigger than the rise of online commerce.

    They gave this telling example: Over the 14 years through 2013, Amazon added $38 billion in sales while Costco added $50 billion and the Sam’s Club division of Walmart $32 billion. Amazon had the higher growth rate, but the bigger problem for most brick-and-mortar stores was other, largerbrick-and-mortarstores. This continued in 2019.

  • Income Inequality: Rising income inequality has left less of the nation’s money in the hands of the middle class, and the traditional retail stores that cater to them have suffered. The Pew Research Center estimates that since 1970, the share of the nation’s income earned by families in the middle class has fallen from almost two-thirds to around 40 percent. Small wonder, then, that retailers aiming at the ends of the income distribution — high-income people and lower-income people — have accounted for virtually all the revenue growth in retail while stores aimed at the middle have barely grown at all, according to a report by Deloitte.

    As the concentration of income at the top rises, overall retail suffers simply because high-income people save a much larger share of their money. The government reports spending for different income levels in the official Consumer Expenditure Survey. In the latest data, people in the top 10 percent of income saved almost a third of their income after taxes. People in the middle of the income distribution spent 100 percent of their income. So as the middle class has been squeezed and more has gone to the top, it has meant higher saving rates overall.

  • Services Instead of Things: With every passing decade, Americans have spent proportionately less of income on things and more on services. Stores, malls, and even the mightiest online merchants remain the great sellers of things. Since 1960, we went from spending 5 percent of our income on health to almost 18 percent, government statistics show. We spend more on education, entertainment, business services and all sorts of other products that aren’t sold in traditional retail stores.

    That trend has continued for a long time. The federal government’s Current Expenditure Survey goes back more than a century. In 1920, Americans spent more than half their income on food (38 percent) and clothing (17 percent) and almost all of that was through traditional retail stores. Today, food eaten outside the home and in it accounts for 10 percent of spending and clothing just 2.4 percent.

    Economists debate theories of why we have shifted to services and away from goods but no one questions that it has happened. It means that over time, retailers selling things will have to run harder and harder just to stay in place.

In short, the broad forces hitting retail are more a lesson in economics than in the power of disruptive technology. It’s a lesson all retailers will have to learn someday — even the mighty Amazon.

13) How in the world in 2020 America are we still allowing pelvic exams on unconscious, non-consenting patients in the name of medical training?!

14) Speaking of dumb and evil prosecutors (and, yes, there’s plenty of good ones, but the bad ones do so much harm), this kind of thing is just evil and infuriating:

In October, he left the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola after serving 42 years of a life sentence for murder. He’d maintained his innocence from the start, and his departure should have been a joyous moment. Lawyers working on his case had discovered fingerprint evidence previously concealed by prosecutors that pointed to a wrongful conviction.

Yet Brooks, now 62, didn’t walk out of Angola an innocent man. To secure his freedom, he had to “make a deal with the devil.” Rather than languish even longer as he tried to clear his name, he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge, forfeiting his right to sue, in exchange for immediate release.

“I cried at night in Angola,” confesses Brooks, sitting on his couch next to a pillow with “Blessed” stitched on its front. “I ain’t never thought I was going to get out. So I took the deal. It ain’t right, but that’s the way of the world. It’s a crooked world like that.”

Across the country, the number of exonerations has risen sharply since 2000, especially for homicide cases. The increase is partly attributed to a shift in attitude among some local prosecutors, who have created specialized divisions to review questionable convictions. Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner freed 12 wrongfully imprisoned people in his first two years in office. In Baltimore, the Conviction Integrity Unit of the state’s attorney’s office pursued a decades-old case that last November resulted in the exoneration of three men. Each was a teenager when he went to prison.

Other prosecutors still push back, however, even when evidence overwhelmingly supports exoneration. According to Ellen Yaroshefsky, a professor of legal ethics at Hofstra University, money is the most common reason. Wrongful convictions, especially those involving prosecutorial misconduct, often lead to multimillion-dollar lawsuits. If a prosecutor can persuade the incarcerated person to plead guilty in exchange for freedom, the risk of a costly settlement goes away.

15) How are we still fighting about phonics?!  It just works better than anything else for most kids.

16) Drum on Bloomberg and NYC crime:

I had lunch with a friend yesterday and I promised him that I’d dig up the violent crime figures for New York City. Here they are:

This chart alone should provide you with pretty good clues to the answers to these questions:

  1. Did David Dinkins have a pretty good record on crime?
  2. Was Rudy Giuliani’s adoption of broken windows policing responsible for NYC’s crime decline in the 90s?
  3. Did Mike Bloomberg’s stop-and-frisk policing reduce crime in the 2000s?
  4. Did Bill de Blasio preside over an upsurge in crime in the aughts?

Here are the answers:

  1. Yes: violent crime declined 20 percent on his watch. But nobody knew it at the time because no figures later than 1991 were available during the 1993 mayoral race.
  2. No. Nothing special happened to the crime rate when Giuliani took over. Violent crime was already declining strongly when he became mayor and continued declining after he left. There’s no reason to think that Giuliani had any special impact.
  3. No. Violent crime declined only modestly during his three terms in office.
  4. No. Stop-and-frisk ended and nothing happened. Violent crime stayed low.

17) Really like this on Elizabeth Warren’s approach to capitalism.  Sounds pretty much like I’ve long thought about it without realizing it had a nice theory behind it.  Damn, I wish she were going to be the nominee: “Socialists Will Never Understand Elizabeth Warren: The Democratic candidate is part of a long intellectual tradition that’s gone forgotten in the West: pro-market leftism.”

Warren’s politics are so confusing because we have forgotten that a pro-capitalist left is even possible. For a long time, political debate in the United States has been a fight between conservatives and libertarians on the right, who favored the market, and socialists and liberals on the left, who favored the government…

Warren is reviving a pro-market left that has been neglected for decades, by drawing on a surprising resource: public choice economics. This economic theory is reviled by many on the left, who have claimed that it is a Koch-funded intellectual conspiracy designed to destroy democracy. Yet there is a left version of public choice economics too, associated with thinkers such as the late Mancur Olson. Like Olson, Warren is not a socialist but a left-wing capitalist, who wants to use public choice ideas to cleanse both markets and the state of their corruption…

Now, Warren wants to to wash away the filth that has built up over decades to clog the workings of American capitalism. Financial rules that have been designed by lobbyists need to be torn up. Vast inequalities of wealth, which provide the rich with disproportionate political and economic power, need to be reversed. Intellectual property rules, which make it so that farmers no longer really own the seeds they sow or the machinery they use to plant them, need to be abolished. For Warren, the problem with modern American capitalism is that it is not nearly capitalist enough. It has been captured by special interests, which are strangling competition…

Yet this is a distinctly capitalist variety of radicalism. Socialists will inevitably be disappointed in the limits to her arguments. Warren’s ideal is markets that work as they should, in contrast to the socialist belief that some forms of power are inherent within markets themselves. Not only Marxists, but economists such as Thomas Piketty, have suggested that the market system is rigged in ways that will inevitably favor capital over the long run. The fixes that Warren proposes will at most dampen down these tendencies rather than remove them.

 

Quick hits (part I)

1) This new biography of George Washington sounds really intriguing.

Male historians also emphasize that Washington never had children, and how this was integral to his elevation as the “Father of Our Nation.”

Coe shows that although Washington never had biological kids, he loved children and raised many, including stepchildren, step-grandchildren, nieces and nephews. Domestic life was central to his being; he played with these kids, found them the best tutors and even dispensed love advice. When Washington’s stepson Jack Custis died of typhus during key negotiations after the Battle of Yorktown, the great general left for nearly a week to be with his family.

Coe is a trained historian, but she isn’t an academic. She spent her early career in public history exhibitions at the Brooklyn Historical Society and the New York Public Library before focusing on writing. She’s also a consulting producer on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s new George Washington series, which debuts on the History Channel on Sunday.

Coe’s book is peppered with BuzzFeed-like charts and listicles packed with information both humorous and profound. “If history is boring, it’s the historian’s fault,” she said. It has received mostly glowing reviews from readers and other historians, but on Saturday, a Daily Mail story inaccurately claimed Coe called Washington “an illiterate liar who cheated his way to top,” causing a wave of online harassment. Some early reviews have also described the book as “irreverent” — a characterization she takes issue with.

2) No, it’s not fair to call Bernie a Trump of the left.  But some similarities really bug me.  Like, sorry, but a 78-year old running for president needs to release health records:

Coming off victories in Iowa and New Hampshire, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is increasingly described as the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination. Inevitably, questions will arise about the health of the 78-year-old senator as well as that of the 73-year-old incumbent, President Trump.

But the public reports on the two men’s recent health-related episodes, written by their primary-care military physicians, do not serve voters well. The fault, however, is not with the physicians but with the absence of explicit standards for disclosing health records of presidents and presidential candidates — an eminently rectifiable situation.

Both medical reports omit critically pertinent prognostic data that the physicians certainly know. Sanders had a heart attack in October, but his report is silent about the extent of disease in his coronary arteries, which is the most important factor in determining his risk for another heart attack. The report on Trump’s abrupt, unscheduled visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in November listed several key cardiovascular symptoms the president did not have, but failed to say whether he was free from the sensations of chest squeezing and left arm discomfort that patients classically experience during heart attack and its precursors.

Voters need and deserve health information from candidates because a vote is fundamentally a bet on the future, reflecting the voter’s estimate of the candidate’s ability to lead the nation toward the voter’s desired endpoint. As Woodrow Wilson’s stroke-shattered presidency proves, sickness sidelines effectiveness. Prognostic medical information, unlike knowledge of tax returns or scandals, is directly relevant because illness physically impedes exercise of the office.

3) The compete lack of accountability for bad actions on the part of law enforcement officers (short of clear video of them shooting somebody in the back) is disgusting, disturbing, and appalling.  Something must be done.  Equally appalling is the courts that let them get away with this through ridiculous games.  Radley Balko with the story of a man brutally beaten by cops on a joint federal-state task force, which is particularly immune to justice.  This for me, was the key quote of the Kafka-esque system:

The federal agent escapes accountability because he’s treated like a state cop. And the state cop escapes because he’s assumed to be a federal cop.

4) Nate Silver assess where Bloomberg stands.  He notes, correctly, I think, that Bloomberg took a huge dive in the prediction markets after the debate, suggesting he was probably pretty over-priced before it:

  1. Bloomberg’s recent polling surge is at least partially driven by news coverage. That opens him up to a “discovery, scrutiny, decline” cycle.

Bloomberg had risen slowly but somewhat steadily in the polls since his campaign launch, climbing from 3.6 percent in our national polling average on Dec. 12 to 8.8 percent on Feb. 3. That isn’t bad — a 5.2 percentage-point gain in 64 days — although it was short of the pace he’d need to be seriously competitive on Super Tuesday. If you had extrapolated out Bloomberg’s rate of increase — decidedly not a safe assumption! (see point No. 3) — he would have reached 11.2 percent in the polls by Super Tuesday, short of the usually 15 percent threshold that Democrats require a candidate to clear in order to receive state or district delegates.

Instead, Bloomberg had an abrupt, nonlinear surge in our polling average, climbing from 8.8 percent on Feb. 3 to 15.4 percent on Feb. 13, just 10 days later. He has since somewhat stalled out, for what it’s worth, having risen only to 16.1 percent as of Thursday afternoon.

This increase also happened to coincide with a big spike in news coverage of Bloomberg. I looked at how often candidates’ names appeared3 in headlines at Memeorandum, a site that aggregates which political stories are gaining the most traction, and found that from the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 3 through Thursday afternoon (Feb. 20), Bloomberg was the subject of 80 headlines at Memorandum, slightly trailing Sanders (84) but well ahead of Biden (53), Buttigieg (32), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (19) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (15).

Now, not all of these headlines have been positive for Bloomberg, especially in recent days. But that’s sort of the point. It’s not uncommon for candidates to undergo what political scientists Lynn Vavreck and John Sides call a “discovery, scrutiny, decline” pattern in the polls, where an initial spark triggers a surge in media attention and a rise in the polls, but storylines turn more negative as the candidate gets more scrutiny and their actual performance doesn’t match the newfound hype. Candidates such as businessman Herman Cain and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich underwent this cycle in 2012. Sen. Kamala Harris and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke did so this year.

5) NBC News,  “Texas man close to exoneration after computer algorithm leads to new suspect: Lydell Grant was supposed to be in prison for murder. But an emerging form of DNA technology, which has also come under scrutiny, is helping to free him in an unprecedented case.”

Pretty sure I wrote years ago that DNA analysis which is based on DNA from multiple sources is not nearly as reliable as DNA evidence from a single person.  Grant is quite surely not the only person in prison based on this flawed analysis.

6) You know I don’t post a lot of the crazy true-crime variety, but this one, wow.  “Former Colorado mayoral candidate drugged new mom with cupcake in scheme to steal her baby, police say”

7) This is from 6 years ago, but just showed up in my feed for some reason (also, I like Ortberg more as a satirist than a Slate advice columnist).  “Ayn Rand reviews children’s movies”

“Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”

An industrious young woman neglects to charge for her housekeeping services and is rightly exploited for her naïveté. She dies without ever having sought her own happiness as the highest moral aim. I did not finish watching this movie, finding it impossible to sympathize with the main character. —No stars. 

“Bambi”

The biggest and the strongest are the fittest to rule. This is the way things have always been. —Four stars.

“Old Yeller”

A farm animal ceases to be useful and is disposed of humanely. A valuable lesson for children. —Four stars.

8) Julia Azari with a good case for re-thinking our primary system:

One lesson from the 2020 and 2016 election cycles is that a lot of candidates, many of whom are highly qualified and attract substantial followings, will inevitably enter the race. The system as it works now — with a long informal primary, lots of attention to early contests and sequential primary season that unfolds over several months — is great at testing candidates to see whether they have the skills to run for president. What it’s not great at is choosing among the many candidates who clear that bar, or bringing their different ideological factions together, or reconciling competing priorities. A process in which intermediate representatives — elected delegates who understand the priorities of their constituents — can bargain without being bound to specific candidates might actually produce nominees that better reflect what voters want…

For decades, the conversation about nominations has been about the conflicts between party elites and everyone else. Today, that conversation is counterproductive. A better approach is to think about how voters and elites could best play their different roles: to make their political parties more representative while ultimately narrowing the nomination choice down to one person. And the best way to do that would be through preference primaries.

Preference primaries could allow voters to rank their choices among candidates, as well as to register opinions about their issue priorities — like an exit poll, but more formal and with all the voters. The results would be public but not binding; a way to inform elites about voter preferences.

9) This is a shorter quick hits.  So, spend the time reading all of Adam Serwer’s great essay, ”

Authoritarian nations come in many different stripes, but they all share a fundamental characteristic: The people who live in them are not allowed to freely choose their own leaders. This is why Republican Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, in his speech announcing his vote to convict on the first article of impeachment, said that “corrupting an election to keep oneself in office is perhaps the most abusive and destructive violation of one’s oath of office that I can imagine.”

Democracies are sustained through the formal process by which power is contested and exchanged. Once that process is corrupted, you have merely the trappings of democracy within an authoritarian regime. Such governments may retain elections and courts and legislatures, but those institutions have no power to enforce the rule of law. America is not there yet—but the acquittal vote was a fateful step in that direction.

 

 

Quick hits (part II)

1) I thought James Carville made some good points in a recent interview I linked.  Ed Burmilla, does not:

Carville is the most skilled practitioner of a hobby common to his social and political stratum: ascribing to “the working class”—or simply “voters”—a resistance to any kind of change that inconveniences people like James Carville. Simply put, his performances seek to demonstrate the remarkable coincidence that “voters,” particularly of the central casting Average Joe variety, dislike all of the same things he dislikes.

This is endemic among liberals of the Clinton 1990s vintage, the insistence that their caricatured ideal of the working class cannot stomach the sort of change the left wing of the party prefers. A decade after Clinton’s second term ended, this idée fixe was trotted out to excuse liberals’ refusal to champion marriage equality (Barack Obama ran explicitly opposed to it, and Hillary Clinton famously was “a big fan of civil unions” until it was safe to flip). Sophisticated and urbane liberals like Obama and Clinton were allies to the LGBTQ community, of course! But as a matter of pragmatic politics, neither one could afford to risk alienating that guy in the hard hat, could they?

2) Kristof on Sanders and electability.  I really like that he makes the Reagan comparison, as I was recently thinking the same thing myself.  I do not at all think Sanders is unelectable.  I think he is the riskiest choice.  And I’m in no mood for risks in getting Trump out of office:

“Electability is truly in the eye of the beholder,” notes Larry Sabato, a political scientist at the University of Virginia. “We’re all terrible at figuring out who is electable and who isn’t.”

Back in 1980, Sabato noted, some Democrats rejoiced when Republicans nominated an obviously unelectable candidate named Ronald Reagan. Then in 2016, the one thing many pundits agreed on was that Trump was unelectable. So let’s bring some humility to the exercise.

Still, consider who voters say they might support. Gallup finds that 93 percent of voters now say that they would be willing to vote for a well-qualified woman, up from 33 percent in 1937. And 96 percent say they could support a black candidate, up from 38 percent in 1958. (Voters may exaggerate their own tolerance, but the trend is clear.)

Similarly, 78 percent of voters say they would be willing to support a gay candidate, up from 29 percent in 1983. Indeed, Pete Buttigieg might face more resistance because he is young (only 70 percent are willing to back a candidate under 40) than because he is gay.

Yet there is one kind of candidate that Americans remain hostile to. Only 45 percent say that they would be willing to vote for a socialist. And Sanders faces another hurdle: Only 69 percent say they would consider a candidate over 70.

These are generic questions, and it’s possible that voters would warm to a particular septuagenarian socialist, especially when the alternative is a certain septuagenarian Republican. In head-to-head polls against Trump, Sanders does well; all Democrats do similarly. Yet I keep thinking of how British voters recently overwhelmingly re-elected a deeply flawed conservative leader over a socialist challenger.

Supporters of Sanders believe that he would greatly increase turnout, but there was no sign of that in Iowa or New Hampshire. Sanders won in New Hampshire only because the liberal wing of the party is uniting around him, while the moderate wing is deeply divided (in some ways, this is an echo of 2016, when Republicans could not coalesce around a rival to Trump).

3) My bad habit of not actually listening to my wife is not actually my fault.  Sort of:

“You’re not listening!” “Let me finish!” “That’s not what I said!” After “I love you,” these are among the most common refrains in close relationships. During my two years researching a book on listening, I learned something incredibly ironic about interpersonal communication: The closer we feel toward someone, the less likely we are to listen carefully to them. It’s called the closeness-communication bias and, over time, it can strain, and even end, relationships.

Once you know people well enough to feel close, there’s an unconscious tendency to tune them out because you think you already know what they are going to say. It’s kind of like when you’ve traveled a certain route several times and no longer notice signposts and scenery.

But people are always changing. The sum of daily interactions and activities continually shapes us, so none of us are the same as we were last month, last week or even yesterday.

The closeness-communication bias is at work when romantic partners feel they don’t know each other anymore or when parents discover their children are up to things they never imagined…

Social science researchers have repeatedly demonstrated the closeness-communication bias in experimental setups where they paired subjects first with friends or spouses and then with strangers. In each scenario, the researchers asked subjects to interpret what their partners were saying. While the subjects predicted they would more accurately understand, and be understood by, those with whom they had close relationships, they often understood them no better than strangers, and often worse.

“Accurately understanding another person often requires a second thought, to think, ‘Wait a minute, is this really what this person meant?’ and to check it,” said Nicholas Epley, a professor of behavioral science at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business who studies the closeness-communication bias. “We just don’t do that as much with those we are close to because we assume we know what they are saying and that they know what we are saying.” [emphasis mine]

4) Really enjoyed this New Yorker profile of Sapiens author, Yuval Harari.  Considering what a mega-bestseller this is, also interesting how hard it was for him to get it published in America.

5) Ruy Teixeira (one of the co-authors of the Emerging Democratic Majority way back when) makes the case that, sorry, Democratic candidates still need to look to the middle, “No, radical policies won’t drive election-winning turnout: Despite what Sanders says, Democrats still have to persuade voters in the middle.”

No myth is stronger in progressive circles than the magical, wonderworking powers of voter turnout. It’s become a sort of pixie dust that you sprinkle over your strenuously progressive positions to ward off any suggestion that they might turn off voters. That is how Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), now the Democratic presidential front-runner, has dealt with criticism that his more unpopular stances — including eliminating private health insurance, decriminalizing the border and covering undocumented immigrants in a government health plan — might cost him the votes he needs to beat President Trump.

Sanders’s explanation of why this is not a problem is simple, and he has repeated it endlessly. When a member of the Los Angeles Times editorial board asked him whether “a candidate as far to the left as you” would “alienate swing voters and moderates and independents,” the senator replied: “The only way that you beat Trump is by having an unprecedented campaign, an unprecedentedly large voter turnout.” Faiz Shakir, Sanders’s campaign manager, adds: “Bernie Sanders has very unique appeal amongst [the younger] generation and can inspire, I think, a bunch of them to vote in percentages that they have never voted before.”

This has remarkably little empirical support. Take the 2018 midterm elections, in which the Democrats took back the House (a net 40-seat gain), carried the House popular vote by almost nine points and flipped seven Republican-held governorships. Turnout in that election was outstanding, topping 49 percent — the highest midterm turnout since 1914 and up 13 points over the previous midterm, in 2014 — and the demographic composition of the electorate came remarkably close to that of a presidential election year. (Typically, midterm voters tend to be much older and much whiter than those in presidential elections.) This was due both to fewer presidential “drop-off” voters (people who voted in 2016 but not 2018) and to more midterm “surge” voters (those who voted in 2018 but not 2016)…

Nonetheless, the overwhelming majority of the Democrats’ improved performance came not from fresh turnout of left-of-center voters, who typically skip midterms, but rather from people who cast votes in both elections — yet switched from Republican in 2016 to Democratic in 2018…

What’s more, States of Change data does not suggest that youth turnout, which Sanders promises to increase so significantly, was a particular Democratic problem in 2016. In fact, young voters (ages 18 to 29) increased their turnout more than any other age group in that election, from 42 percent in 2012 to 44 percent in 2016. They also increased — if only slightly — their margin of support for the Democratic candidate…

As Nate Cohn of the New York Times has noted after scrutinizing the data, it’s a mistake to assume that Democrats would benefit disproportionately from high turnout. Trump is particularly strong among white noncollege voters, who dominate the pool of nonvoters in many areas of the country, including in key Rust Belt states. If the 2020 election indeed has historically high turnout, as many analysts expect, that spike could include many of these white noncollege voters in addition to Democratic-leaning constituencies such as nonwhites and young voters. The result could be an increase in Democrats’ popular-vote total — and another loss in the electoral college.

Getting substantial increases in turnout is hard.  And, as much as Bernie’s supporters love him, it’s hard to see him turning a lot of otherwise non-voters into voters.  As far as I know, the last presidential candidate to do that was Obama.  And Obama’s uniquely inspiring to young-people and Black people 2008 campaign is not easily repeated.6) Non Bernie fan writes of the potential disaster of denying Bernie the nomination if he has a plurality, but not a majority of delegates:

But I’m not writing this to bash Bernie. Quite the opposite, actually. While I may doubt his general-election formidability, I have zero doubt about this: The single most disastrous outcome for the party would be for Sanders to win a plurality of pledged delegates, only for Democratic power brokers to try to deny him the nomination at a contested convention.

I shudder to imagine the visceral outrage this would unleash among Bernie voters. It would legitimize their long-standing grievances against the Democratic establishment, and do lasting damage to the party at a time we can least afford it—even if the maneuver ultimately failed. Were it successful, the fallout would be even more dire. One has to assume that many of the millions who voted for him would clamor for him to run as an independent, declare war on the Democratic Party, and refuse to vote for whomever we put on the ticket. And their fury would be justified.

Let’s be clear: This isn’t about appeasing ‘Bernie bros’ to avoid their wrath. It would be fundamentally undemocratic and incompatible with our party’s core ideals—regardless of what may be technically possible under DNC rules—to try to subvert the will of the people in favor of backroom horsetrading to anoint a nominee. It would betray both our principles and our political goals in one fell swoop.

So let’s preemptively kill that inevitable clusterfuck before it can kill us. Every Democrat in the field should commit right now to support the pledged delegate leader at the convention.

Also, I actually disagree very strongly with, “It would be fundamentally undemocratic and incompatible with our party’s core ideals.”  Why that may make sense in what is generally two-party elections, the idea that it is undemocratic to not award office to the plurality leader in a multi-candidate field, just does not hold up.  Imagine 5 candidates each around the low 20’s of delegates and the 23% plurality leader is loved by his core, but hated by everyone else.  Is that really undemocratic that the 2nd place, but non-objectionable to most others would be the nominee?  Of course not.

That said, I don’t doubt the logic of Bernie Bro wrath.  And, you know what, anybody pissed off who stays home and thus helps re-elect Trump– deserves Trump.  Alas, the rest of us don’t.  If Joe Walsh can commit to voting for whomever the Democratic nominee is, surely Bernie supporters should be able to do the same.

7) Radley Balko, “The Roger Stone case highlights our pernicious system of tiered justice”

8) The backlash against bail reform in New York is deplorable:

It just so happens that a campaign to roll back New York’s landmark bail reforms is unfolding as Michael Bloomberg’s presidential run forces a reckoning with stop-and-frisk, the policing tactic that led to the harassment and humiliation of millions of innocent people, most of them black and Hispanic boys and men, while Mr. Bloomberg was mayor of New York City.

Police officials and prosecutors made arguments about stop-and-frisk that sound familiar in the current conversation about bail reform.

For over a decade, these officials assured Mr. Bloomberg and the public that the enormous human cost of stop-and-frisk was worth it, because the practice reduced crime and saved lives.

They were wrong. When stops finally plummeted — first amid Bloomberg-era legal battles and later under Mayor Bill de Blasio — crime rates in the city actually fell.

Now, law enforcement officials are again making arguments against reforms based largely on anecdotal evidence, and they are being given the same benefit of the doubt.

It has been less than seven weeks since landmark criminal justice reforms went into effect statewide banning bail for defendants charged with most misdemeanor and nonviolent offenses.

But already, prosecutors, police officials and others are cherry-picking cases and crime data to make a case for rolling back some of the reforms. “Violent criminals are being returned to the community and will know the names of their accusers and where to find them,” New York City Police Commissioner Dermot Shea wrote in a January Times Op-Ed, lobbying for changes to the law. (A spokesman for Commissioner Shea said that he does support many of the reforms.)…

If prosecutors, police or others believe the law is causing public harm, it is their job to make a reasoned case. Instead, too many have resorted, once again, to whipping up fear over crime to defend policies that lead to over-policing and incarceration.

Regularly missing from their lectures about public safety is any significant recognition of the ways these policies have harmed the safety and dignity of black and Hispanic people in New York…

In this context, the campaign against the bail reforms seems less about public safety than it does about power, designed to make clear that law enforcement remains an untouchable political force in New York politics.

Quick hits (part I)

1) An opportunity to put pangolins in my blog?  Hell, yes.

In the search for the animal source or sources of the coronavirus epidemic in China, the latest candidate is the pangolin, an endangered, scaly, ant-eating mammal that is imported in huge numbers to Chinese markets for food and medicine.

The market in pangolins is so large that they are said to be the most trafficked mammals on the planet. All four Asian species are critically endangered, and it is far from clear whether being identified as a viral host would be good or bad for pangolins. It could decrease the trade in the animals, or cause a backlash.

It is also far from clear whether the pangolin is the animal that passed the new virus to humans. Bats are still thought to be the original host of the virus. If pangolins are involved in disease transmission, they would act as an intermediate host. The science so far is suggestive rather than conclusive, and because of the intense interest in the virus, some claims have been made public before the traditional scientific review process.

2) David Brooks oversells it, but raises some worthwhile points in, “The Nuclear Family Was a Mistake”

This is the story of our times—the story of the family, once a dense cluster of many siblings and extended kin, fragmenting into ever smaller and more fragile forms. The initial result of that fragmentation, the nuclear family, didn’t seem so bad. But then, because the nuclear family is so brittle, the fragmentation continued. In many sectors of society, nuclear families fragmented into single-parent families, single-parent families into chaotic families or no families.

If you want to summarize the changes in family structure over the past century, the truest thing to say is this: We’ve made life freer for individuals and more unstable for families. We’ve made life better for adults but worse for children. We’ve moved from big, interconnected, and extended families, which helped protect the most vulnerable people in society from the shocks of life, to smaller, detached nuclear families (a married couple and their children), which give the most privileged people in society room to maximize their talents and expand their options. The shift from bigger and interconnected extended families to smaller and detached nuclear families ultimately led to a familial system that liberates the rich and ravages the working-class and the poor.

My nuclear family of origin was very small and had no extended family really at all.  My current nuclear family has beloved extended family in state, but still a pretty good distance.  I’ll admit to being jealous of people of have adult siblings, cousins, aunts/uncles, etc., all in the same area.

3) David Leonhardt, “The Question All Democrats Need to Ask Themselves: If your preferred candidate doesn’t win the nomination, will you still do everything you can to deny Trump a second term?”

Yes, the candidates have their differences. But they have much bigger similarities. If elected, every single Democratic presidential candidate would act to slow climate change, raise taxes on the rich, reduce gun deaths, expand voting rights, lower health care and education costs, protect abortion access, enforce civil-rights laws, appoint progressive judges, rebuild overseas alliances and stop treating the Justice Department as a personal enforcer. The moderates are running to the left of Barack Obama, and the progressives would be constrained by Congress.

The alternative, of course, is truly radical. Many Democrats know all this, yet they still get so caught up in the passions of the primary campaign that they risk helping Trump…

Today the Republican Party has become so radicalized that it opposes almost any government action to solve problems. Its domestic agenda consists largely of cutting taxes for the rich and freeing companies from oversight. The substantive part of many policy debates now happens within the Democratic Party — which means that tensions are only natural.

And yet progressives and moderate Democrats still agree on far more than they disagree. Each side would be more effective if it were open to learning from the other, Dionne writes, rather than lapsing into “an unseemly moralism that feeds political superiority complexes.”

My answer to that questsion is, hell, yes (yes, including for Bernie).  One of my problems with Sanders’ supporters is that I feel too many of them are so committed to Bernie that their answer to this question is too much… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

4) I know EMG will enjoy this story on horse toes.  Really.  “A Horse Has 5 Toes, and Then It Doesn’t: As a horse’s hoof forms, scientists say something profound is occurring in its anatomical development.”  Featuring horse embryos from NC State!

The horse embryos were provided by C. Scott Bailey, a co-author and an expert on horse reproduction at North Carolina State University. They were all from mares that had been artificially inseminated on known dates, so the researchers knew with some precision how many days along they were.

The discovery implies something profound about how anatomical development works. As an embryo puts itself together, growing from a tiny wad of cells into multiple specialized tissues fed by blood vessels and linked by the winding threads of nerves, it is following a template. That template is subject to evolution, just like other things about the animal. But some moments in the process, or some routes that development takes, may not be easily altered…

Adult horses have no need of all five toes. But at a point long before the embryos have actual feet, the ancient programming still requires those five clusters to form. Does that mean that diverting development away from this digit-forming process would cause serious problems?

It’s possible, Dr. Kavanagh said. Other stages of development seem to be more flexible, generating new innovations that evolution can act on; it is probably not random chance that some stages are not malleable.

The study confirms an observation published in 2018 by another set of biologists that horses have many more blood vessels and nerves in their legs than required to feed a single toe, suggesting that they still have signs of an earlier, many-toed state.

5) Really good Political Science conversation, “If Moderates Are Electable, Why Are Ideologues Winning?”

Atop Democratic primary polls, Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden are re-igniting a debate about whether moderates are more electable. Are voters pushing the candidates to the extremes or just looking for moderate alternatives? Andrew Hall finds that moderate candidates are more likely to win general elections, but that they are running for office less often than extremists. The benefits of office are declining and the costs are increasing, especially for potential moderates. But Stephen Utych finds that moderates are far less advantaged in general elections over extremists than they used to be. Partisan polarization means voters increasingly treat politicians in each party as interchangeable, lowering the costs of nominating extremists. Either way, voters are not the main cause of polarization.

6) David Frum on the truly execrable William Barr:

At the law schools of the 1970s and ‘80s, a militant faction of professors taught a harsh lesson. Law, they argued, is a myth that property owners invoke to protect themselves and oppress those without property. The legal reasoning that we students were so frantically working to absorb was in fact a deception, an expensive drapery concealing the brute realties of political and class power.

Some students indignantly rejected this teaching. Others accepted that it contained some truth, mixed with much exaggeration and propaganda.

Adam Serwer: The dangerous ideas of Bill Barr

But young William Barr—George Washington University Law School, Class of 1977—seems to have absorbed the radical message with perverse enthusiasm: Alrighty then! Let’s do it!

As attorney general, Barr has focused on two missions: on the one hand, cracking down on crimes by the poor and the foreign-born; on the other, going easy on the crimes of President Trump’s associates. This administration likes to call itself “tough on crime” and to revile its Democratic opponents as “the party of crime.”

But toward its own many crimes, the Trump administration is genially indulgent. Like the gangsters around the table in the first Godfather movie, the Trump administration is able to convince itself that its victims are animals without souls—and that its own lawbreaking is a necessary, even honorable, accommodation to the facts of life. “The real crimes were on the other side!” Donald Trump tweeted after he heard the news of Roger Stone’s recommended sentence of seven to nine years—exactly in line with federal sentencing guidelines for Stone’s convicted offenses.

As attorney general, Barr has delivered a series of speeches about the importance of sternly enforcing the law against lower-class people…

The Trump administration rationalizes its treatment of Stone by endlessly fulminating and tweeting against prosecutors, judges, even jury forepersons. Barr’s warnings against inquiring into subjective motivations in the case of uniformed police dealing with street crime get forgotten when the police wear suits and ties and must deal with Trump crime. Then (and only then!) it matters whether the officer in question showed previous loyalty to President Trump. If not, then (and only then!) the officer’s possible motive matters more than anything, and certainly more than the proven evidence.

American criminal law is harsh; American prison sentences are severe. Most of the time, Trump and his attorney general relish this harshness.

There’s some argument as to who invented the phrase “To my friends, everything; to my enemies, the law.” Whoever said it first, it clearly impels the higher levels of the Trump Justice Department. But even the Trump Justice Department needs the expensive drapery of the pretense of legal reasoning. When the president insists on yanking that drapery aside day after day on Twitter and television, the reality of what is going on becomes too embarrassing even for Barr to endure. [emphasis mine]

7) Annie Lowery is exactly right about the fundamental irrationality of the Berniephobes (he’s far from my first choice, but not because I fear his policies being enacted):

A President Bernie Sanders would have about as much control over the economy as President Donald Trump: outside of a recession, not nearly as much as one might think, and particularly not in the short term. Political scientists and economists have demonstrated that how well the economy performs under different administrations mostly has to do with the fortuities of market timing. President Barack Obama inherited a catastrophe that had nowhere to go but up; Trump inherited a long boom that has just kept booming. Their policies have mattered but, outside the response to the Great Recession itself, mostly on the margin. The same would be true for Sanders or Warren or Amy Klobuchar or Joe Biden or any of the other candidates. If the economy tanks on Sanders’s watch, what he does will be enormously important. If it does not, his policies would take years to change the shape of American growth.

Presidents are just not that powerful in the United States’s polarized, divided, and choke-point-choked political system. Sanders has put out a slate of transformative economic policies, but realistically, few of them are likely to be passed, and those probably in watered-down and compromised versions. As The American Prospect, the left-of-center magazine, has noted, Sanders or another progressive could do a considerable amount via executive action, including the instant forgiveness of student debt held on the federal books. But many of the biggest changes Sanders seeks—wealth taxes, Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, a jobs guarantee—would have to wend their way through Congress.

There is no majority in Congress for any of those policies at the moment. Bodies that overrepresent old, white, and rural voters are unlikely to pass a new New Deal anytime soon. Bernie’s camp openly admits as much, as do elected progressives. Is Medicare for All achievable? “The worst-case scenario? We compromise deeply and we end up getting a public option,” Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said this week. “Is that a nightmare? I don’t think so.” Wall Street knows it, too. In a recent note to clients, JPMorgan’s analysts argued that American “political institutions” would make dramatic policy changes highly unlikely. “We put the probability of major changes like Medicare-for-all or a wealth tax at less than 5 percent.”

Would the economy tank if Congress did pass Sanders’s chosen policy regime? That is questionable as well. Sanders’s economic plans are meant to bolster the earning and political power of low- and middle-income families, while forcing companies to compete with another, taming the power of the financial system, and greening the economy. They amount to a huge fiscal-stimulus program, which would be unlikely to ruin the economy any more than the Trump tax cuts, another big stimulus program, would. The country’s staggering levels of income and wealth inequality are distorting the very fabric of the economy: raising saving relative to consumption and investment, dampening GDP growth, impeding mobility, and fraying the political system. There’s a good argument that reducing inequality would boost the country’s long-term growth rate, not hurt it.

8) Tara Parker-Pope on how, maybe, Millennials slower approach to love and marriage is a good thing:

But what is particularly striking is how quickly the cohort has rewritten the rules for courtship, sex and marriage. In 2018, the median age of first marriage was approaching 30 (29.8 for men and 27.8 for women). That’s more than a five-year delay in marriage compared to 1980, when the median age was 24.7 for men and 22 for women.

A 2017 study in the Archives of Sexual Behavior found that many younger millennials in their early 20s aren’t having sex, and are more than twice as likely to be sexually inactive than the previous generation. Another study found that American couples ages 25 to 34 spend an average of six and a half years together before marrying, compared with an average of five years for all other age groups…

Ask millennials and they will tell you that there is nothing casual about their approach to sex, dating and romance.

“Hooking up with someone doesn’t mean that millennials now don’t value marriage,” says Anne Kat Alexander, who at 23 is in the second wave of the millennial generation. “If anything, they value marriage more because they are putting a lot more forward thinking into that decision.”

Dr. Fisher says her research suggests today’s singles seek to learn as much as possible about a potential partner before they spend time, energy and money on courtship. As a result, the path to romance has changed significantly. Whereas a “first date” used to represent the getting-to-know-you phase of a courtship, now going on an official date with someone comes later in the relationship.

And for some singles, sex has become the getting-to-know you phase of courtship. In a study conducted for Match.com, Dr. Fisher found that among a representative sample, 34 percent of singles had sex with somebody before the first date. She calls it “the sex interview.”

First, do you really need six years to figure out if you should marry someone.  That’s serious overkill.  Secondly, yes, I guess I’m just old, but sex before dating??!!

9) And, yet, apparently when it comes to dating, there’s a lot of very traditional gender role stuff going on.  Sociology Professor, Ellen Lamont, “If You Want a Marriage of Equals, Then Date as Equals: Why are many dating practices a throwback to an earlier era?”

However, I noticed a glaring disconnect between the straight women’s views on marriage and their thoughts on dating. Once these women were married, it was difficult to right the ship, so to speak. The same gender stereotypes that they adopted while dating played out in their long-term partnerships.

Three-quarters of Millennials in America support gender equality at work and home and agree that the ideal marriage is an equitable one. Consequently, I expected the young women I interviewed to epitomize feminist liberation. Yet, when they thought of equality among men and women, they focused more on professional opportunities than interpersonal dynamics. Americans with a college education now get married in their early 30s on average, as young adults put their love life on hold while they invest in their education and establish a career. Given the significant time, money, and effort they put into building this career, the women I spoke with expected to partner with people who would support their ambitious professional goals. The men said they desired and respected these independent, high-achieving women and actually saw them as more compatible partners as a result.

And yet in a throwback to an earlier era, many women I spoke with enacted strict dating rules. “It’s a deal breaker if a man doesn’t pay for a date,” one woman, aged 29, told me. A 31-year-old said that if a man doesn’t pay, “they just probably don’t like you very much.” A lot of men, they assumed, were looking for nothing more than a quick hookup, so some of these dating rituals were tests to see whether the man was truly interested in a commitment. A third woman, also 31, told me, “I feel like men need to feel like they are in control, and if you ask them out, you end up looking desperate and it’s a turnoff to them.”

On dates, the women talked about acting demure, and allowing men to do more of the talking. Women, they said, were more attractive to men when they appeared unattainable, so women preferred for the men to follow up after a date. None of the women considered proposing marriage; that was the man’s job. “I know it feels counterintuitive … I’m a feminist,” the first woman said. “But I like to have a guy be chivalrous.”

On a related note, a female student who is a smart, ambitious, liberal feminist told me about a recent fraternity weekend event she attended (with a, supposedly, better kind of fraternity) that left me beyond appalled at the gender dynamics.

10) And, while we’re at it.  This from Stephanie Coontz is really good, “How to Make Your Marriage Gayer: Same-sex spouses feel more satisfied with their partners than heterosexual ones. What’s the secret?”

Once children come along, old marital traditions reassert themselves even more. A University of Texas researcher, Joanna Pepin, and her colleagues recently found that married mothers spend more time on housework than single mothers and have significantly less leisure time than cohabiting mothers. As Dr. Pepin told me, “The gender expectations traditionally associated with being a wife seemingly encourage married mothers to do more housework than their unmarried counterparts, and their husbands to accept that as normal.”

Here’s where same-sex couples can offer their different-sex counterparts useful tips. Since same-sex couples can’t use imputed male-female differences to sort out who does what, they rely less on stereotypes. Heterosexual parents tend to see tasks such as child care, laundry and dishes as part of a package that is handed to one partner. Same-sex couples are far more likely to each take on some traditionally “feminine” and some “masculine” chores.

They are also more likely to share the routine tasks. A 2015 survey found that almost half of dual-earner, same-sex couples shared laundry duties, compared with just under a third of different-sex couples. And a whopping 74 percent of same-sex couples shared routine child care, compared with only 38 percent of straight couples.

11) I’m not a particular fan or detractor of Bloomberg, but what I don’t like is unfair attacks on anybody that get policy wrong.  Especially when they come from a college professor, like this tweet:

It may be wrong and dangerous, but the research is pretty clear that teacher quality is far more important than class size.  So, wait, neither wrong nor dangerous, but backed by empirical evidence.

12) I loved reading about what it’s like being a pizza consultant.

13) This is kind of amazing, “People Born Blind Are Mysteriously Protected From Schizophrenia”

But the whispered-about fact persists: Being born blind, and perhaps specific types of congenital blindness, shield from the very disorders vision loss can encourage later in life. A myriad of theories exist as to why—from the blind brain’s neuroplasticity to how vision plays an important role in building our model of the world (and what happens when that process goes wrong). Select researchers believe that the ties between vision and psychotic symptoms indicate there’s something new to learn here. Could it be that within this narrowly-defined phenomenon there are clues for what causes schizophrenia, how to predict who will develop it, and potentially how to treat it? …

This view of the brain argues that rather than perceiving the world around us in real time, our brains create a model of what’s out there, predict and simulate what we experience, and then compare our predictions to what’s actually happening—using any errors to update or change the model in our minds. The accuracy of your past predictions are crucial for the accuracy of your overall model—it’s what you’re comparing new inputs to, and how you’re making any adjustments.

This is where vision comes in. Vision gives us a lot of information about the world around us, and is an important sense that helps link together other sensory cues, like sound and touch, Pollak said. If the way a person sees the world is off, it can make it harder to predict, correct errors, and build a model of the world that makes sense. And when people have problems with their vision, the brain has to make more predictions to explain them. On the other hand, if you couldn’t see anything, you wouldn’t build up those false representations of the world around you—which could lead to problems in thinking later on.

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