Quick hits (part II)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9) The content cycle:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Quick hits (part II)

1) So, I was never a big fan of “The Breakfast Club,” but my son actually had to watch it for a college class and it’s currently free on Netflix, so…  Still not a big fan.  I enjoyed this piece which states the basic premise of the film is “all parents suck.” That’s probably a big reason it never did much for me, or for my son, yesterday, for that matter.  And OMG is Judd Nelson’s character so absurdly annoying and unsympathetic.  Also, this Molly Ringwald piece about her looking back on her movies in the #metoo era is pretty awesome.

2) “Do more cops in schools make them safer? New study looking at NC schools says no.”

3) Peter Beinart on Nancy Pelosi’s excellent leadership skills.  Yes, Democrats need a new generation of leaders, but for now, we sure can’t do anywhere near as good as Pelosi from someone else.

4) The Psychology replication crisis grows ever worse.

5) Many for-profit universities are basically a giant scam and the Obama administration tried to do something about that.  Alas, Betsy DeVos is undoing all that.

6) Oh man, the new climate report is dire.  Interesting that the Trump administration wanted it released on one of the days of the year when Americans pay the least attention to news.

7) I’ve hated the electoral college for pretty much my whole life as a political scientist (largely, because in practice it leaves determining our president to a small fraction of Americans in swing states).  I had no idea that an amendment to end it actually passed the House in 1979 before failing in the Senate.  Anyway, really great look at the history of efforts to end the electoral college. 

8) The Department of Education has new rules to give more rights to the accused in matters of sexual misconduct on campus and restore a semblance of due process.  Somehow, the ACLU has totally lost its way and is actually against due process in these matters.  Conor Friedersdorf:

The ACLU doesn’t object to any of those due-process protections when a person faces criminal charges. Indeed, it favors an even higher burden of proof, “beyond a reasonable doubt,” to find an individual guilty.

But the ACLU opposes the new rules for campuses. “Today Secretary DeVos proposed a rule that would tip the scales against those who raise their voices. We strongly oppose it,” the organization stated on Twitter. “The proposed rule would make schools less safe for survivors of sexual assault and harassment, when there is already alarmingly high rates of campus sexual assaults and harassment that go unreported. It promotes an unfair process, inappropriately favoring the accused and letting schools ignore their responsibility under Title IX to respond promptly and fairly to complaints of sexual violence. We will continue to support survivors.”

One line in particular was shocking to civil libertarians: It promotes an unfair process, inappropriately favoring the accused. Since when does the ACLU believe a process that favors the accused is inappropriate or unfair?

Not when a prosecutor believes she has identified a serial rapist, or a mass murderer, or a terrorist. In those instances, it is the ACLU’s enemies who declare that crime is alarmingly high and reason that strong due-process rights therefore make the world unacceptably unsafe. It is the ACLU’s enemies who conflate supporting survivors of violent crime with weakening protections that guard against punishing innocents. Those enemies now have the ACLU’s own words to use against it.

9) When the government basically says, “don’t go to that island at all, the isolated indigenous people will probably try to kill you.”  You probably shouldn’t, even if you think they really need to learn about Jesus.  Fascinating story about a misguided missionary and a remote, isolated tribe on an island near India.

10) So glad our previous governor, Pat McCrory, is no longer in office.  In a recent interview he falsely claimed that NC college students were breaking the law in voting where they go to school.  Good on the N&O for calling this out in the headline.  This is how you do it, “Former Gov. Pat McCrory falsely says many college students are committing voter fraud.”

11) Just finished “Big Mouth” season 2.  So profane and so funny.

12) Drum asks, “When Will Conservatives Admit That Racism Exists?”

13) My colleague Jim Zink on the need to amend North Carolina’s amendment process:

North Carolinians just approved four of the six proposed amendments on this year’s ballot. Now, they will have to wait and see exactly what some of those amendments do. This is because, unlike almost all amendments on the ballot over the last 30 years, this year’s amendment proposals were not accompanied by any implementing legislation. Most of the important details about how the amendments work will be hashed-out during the lame-duck legislative session after Thanksgiving.

But what if voters who supported the amendments don’t like how they are implemented?

This scenario highlights a weakness in North Carolina’s amendment process. As things currently stand under the North Carolina Constitution, all amendment proposals are referred to voters by the General Assembly; it acts as the gatekeeper to the amendment process. North Carolinians who don’t like how these amendments are implemented or are otherwise troubled by unintended consequences, therefore, would have to convince their representatives, many of whom were responsible for approving and implementing the amendments in the first place, to adjust or repeal the measures. It would be a real challenge to persuade enough legislators to reconsider: proposals to repeal the amendments or to alter them in order to guide the legislature’s implementation of them would have to first gain the support of three-fifths of all members in each house of the General Assembly before being submitted to voters for approval.

One reform that could mitigate some of these issues is to incorporate a citizen initiative process into North Carolina’s amendment procedures. The details of the process vary from state to state, but generally the 18 states that provide for citizen-initiated amendments require initiative-backers to obtain support (usually in the form of signatures) from a specified percentage of the general population or voters.

14) Really interesting NYT feature on how China is defying the standard model by still manufacturing really cheap consumer goods while also moving into high-end, sophisticated production:

China wants to build homegrown champions in cutting-edge industries that rival Western giants like Apple and Qualcomm. While China has a long way to go, the Communist Party is bringing the full financial weight of the state and forcing other countries to play defense.

In doing so, China is staking out a new manufacturing model.

Economic textbooks lay out a common trajectory for developing nations. First they make shoes, then steel. Next they move into cars, computers and cellphones. Eventually the most advanced economies tackle semiconductors and automation. As they climb up the manufacturing ladder, they abandon some cheaper goods along the way.

That’s what the United States, Japan and South Korea did. But China is defying the economic odds by trying to do all of them.

Look at the evolution of what China sells to the rest of the world. As it ramped up its manufacturing engine in 2000, China was pretty good at making basic products like toys and umbrellas.

 

 

Quick hits (part II)

1) So, I know that Wisconsin’s gerrymander is perhaps even better/worse than NC’s, but the latest from this year.  Just wow.  So thoroughly undemocratic:

When we look at the State Assembly, which had every seat up for grabs this past Tuesday, that disparity becomes even more glaring.

While final numbers are still not fully available for all races, Democratic Assembly candidates appear poised to take right around 1.3 million votes to Republican Assembly candidates 1.1 million votes.

And yet Democrats walked away with only 36 seats, while Republicans took a staggering 63!​

That means that Democrats won 54% of the vote and yet took only 36% of the seats.

2) A friend/reader argued the other day that democracy was actually under greater threat under Bush/Cheney (Iraq War, torture, and all that).  He had a good point and Adam McKay agrees (Via MoDo):

After a screening of “Vice” Thursday, I asked McKay which of our two right-wing Dementors was worse, Cheney or Trump.

“Here’s the question,” he said. “Would you rather have a professional assassin after you or a frothing maniac with a meat cleaver? I’d rather have a maniac with a meat cleaver after me, so I think Cheney is way worse. And also, if you look at the body count, more than 600,000 people died in Iraq. It’s not even close, right?”

3) This NYT feature on how the NRA has radicalized and politicized through the lens of American Rifleman covers is just amazing.

4) Brett Stephens on the Whitaker appointment:

Of all the ways in which Donald Trump’s presidency has made America worse, nothing epitomizes it quite so fully as the elevation of Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general of the United States. Intellectually honest conservatives — the six or seven who remain, at any rate — need to say this, loudly. His appointment represents an unprecedented assault on the integrity and reputation of the Justice Department, the advice and consent function of the Senate, and the rule of law in the United States…

It says something about how atrocious this appointment is that even Trump is now distancing himself from Whitaker, falsely claiming not to know him despite the latter’s repeated Oval Office visits. It’s the Michael Cohen treatment. When a rat smells a rat, it’s a rat. Only a Republican in 2018 could fail to notice.

5) And the Washington Post editorial:

First, there are Mr. Whitaker’s statements criticizing the Russia probe of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. At the least, they require him to consult Justice Department ethics counsel about whether he can oversee the inquiry with a plausible appearance of evenhandedness. He will do immediate and lasting harm to the Justice Department’s reputation, and to the nation, if he assumes the role of president’s personal henchman and impedes the Mueller probe.

Then there is Mr. Whitaker’s connection to a defunct patent promotion company the Federal Trade Commission called “an invention-promotion scam that has bilked thousands of consumers out of millions of dollars.” Mr. Whitaker served on its board and once threatened a complaining customer, lending the weight of his former position as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Iowa to the company’s scheme.

Finally, and fundamentally most damning, is Mr. Whitaker’s expressed hostility to Marbury v. Madison, a central case — the central case — in the American constitutional system. It established an indispensable principle: The courts decide what is and is not constitutional. Without Marbury, there would be no effective judicial check on the political branches, no matter how egregious their actions.

If the Senate were consulted, it is impossible to imagine Mr. Whitaker getting close to the attorney general’s office. He should not be there now.

6) Masha Gessen says the press corps should not boycott Trump administration press briefings.  Honestly, I find her argument far from persuasive.

But there is a counterargument. The White House is a lousy source of information about itself, but it is also the best available source. The real story of Trumpism is probably found not in the White House or even in Washington but in Ohio, in Texas, along the Mexican border, in refugee camps the world over, in Afghanistan, in Yemen, and in the Palestinian territories. But the story of how the Administration functions must still be observed up close. Walking away would give this White House exactly what it wants: less contact with the media, less visibility, ever less transparency and accountability. Walking away would feel good, but it would ultimately be a loss. Would the loss in information be greater than the gain in solidarity? That’s a hard question, but my guess is that the answer is yes.

7) Vann Newkirk II, “The Georgia Governor’s Race Has Brought Voter Suppression Into Full View.”

8) NYT with a couple of really cool visual features making the case for both expanding the House of Representatives and moving to multi-member Congressional districts.  I suspect most political scientists– your truly included– would agree strongly on both scores.

We’re nearly two decades into the 21st century, so why is America still operating with a House of Representatives built for the start of the 20th?

The House’s current size — 435 representatives — was set in 1911, when there were fewer than one-third as many people living in the United States as there are now. At the time, each member of Congress represented an average of about 200,000 people. In 2018, that number is almost 750,000.

This would shock the Constitution’s framers, who set a baseline of 30,000 constituents per representative and intended for the House to grow along with the population. The possibility that it might not — that Congress would fail to add new seats and that district populations would expand out of control — led James Madison to propose what would have been the original First Amendment: a formula explicitly tying the size of the House to the total number of Americans.

The amendment failed, but Congress still expanded the House throughout the first half of the nation’s existence. The House of Representatives had 65 members when it was first seated in 1789, and it grew in every decade but one until 1920, when it became frozen in time…

There’s no constitutional basis for a membership of 435; it’s arbitrary, and it could be undone by Congress tomorrow. Congress set it in 1911, but following the 1920 census — which counted nearly 14 million more people living in the United States — lawmakers refused to add seats out of concern that the House was getting too big to function effectively. Rural members were also trying to forestall the shift in national power to the cities (sound familiar?), where populations were exploding with emigrants from farm country and immigrants from abroad.

In 1929, Congress passed a law capping the size of the House and shifting responsibility for future reapportionments onto the Commerce Department. That’s why, more than a century later, we find ourselves with a national legislature far too small to fairly represent both the size and diversity of modern America. This warps our politics, it violates basic constitutional principles of political equality, and it’s only getting worse.

There’s a simple fix: Make the House bigger. Many Americans will groan at the thought of expanding a government they already consider too big and unwieldy. Polls consistently show that the public would rather throw the bums out than hire more of them.

9) Peter Beinart on the midterms:

But it’s important to remember that although the country is deeply and closely divided, it’s not divided between similar things. Because the Democrats ran more African Americans and women candidates this year, and because many Republicans campaigned on immigration and Brett Kavanaugh, it’s tempting to describe both parties as waging a culture war. That’s misleading. The culture war was waged mostly by one side. Democratic candidates embodied racial and gender diversity, but they didn’t generally campaign on it. Their message, overwhelmingly, was that they would protect the middle-class safety net. They realized, early on, that absent Barack Obama, Obamacare was extremely popular. As The New York Times’ Alex Burns noted, the Democrats’ campaign could be summed up as: “a noun, verb and preexisting conditions.”…

In the Trump era, Republicans counter economic security with cultural security. Trump promised to protect Americans from Latino murderers and women who destroy men’s lives by alleging sexual assault. And, to a significant extent, it worked. By mobilizing his white, rural base, Trump matched Democratic enthusiasm in purple states such as Florida and Ohio and overwhelmed Democratic incumbents in red states such as North Dakota, Indiana, and Missouri. It’s an old game: W. E. B. Du Bois famously called it the “psychological wage.” Instead of protecting white people from economic hardship, you protect them from the racial demons you’ve stirred up in their minds. And Trump is this era’s undisputed master of that game. He understood that as frightened as many Americans are of losing their health care, he—with the help of Fox News—could make them even more frightened of Honduran asylum-seekers. Now that the election is over, I suspect the caravan will disappear from Fox’s screens and Trump’s Twitter feed—until something like it is needed again.

The harsh truth is this: Racism often works. Cross-racial coalitions for economic justice are the exception in American history. Mobilizing white people to protect their racial dominance is the norm. [emphasis mine] The lesson of 2018 is that American politics is not reverting to “normal.” In many ways, Trumpism is normal. It’s not Trump who is running uphill against American tradition, it’s the people who are trying—bravely but with mixed success—to stop him.

10) Democrats want to make it easier for Americans to vote.  Republicans, not so much:

Far more Democrats than Republicans favor making it easy for all to vote

11) The shameful mis-use of the US Military sitting at the border waiting for the caravan.  This is a scandal that is not being reported as such.  Great feature in the NYT.

12) Swatting is just evil.  And with too many over-zealous, shoot-first cops out there, it can turn into a deadly tragedy.

13) Of course, Jeff Sessions thinks the police never abuse the citizens they supposed to protect:

In a major last-minute act, Mr. Sessions signed a memorandum on Wednesday before President Trump fired him sharply curtailing the use of so-called consent decrees, court-approved deals between the Justice Department and local governments that create a road map of changes for law enforcement and other institutions.

The move means that the decrees, used aggressively by Obama-era Justice Department officials to fight police abuses, will be more difficult to enact. Mr. Sessions had signaled he would pull back on their use soon after he took office when he ordered a review of the existing agreements, including with police departments in Baltimore, Chicago and Ferguson, Mo., enacted amid a national outcry over the deaths of black men at the hands of officers.

14) And if you doubt just how bad this is in many citizens you are willfully delusional.  And you should read Radley Balko:

Fifteen-year-old Bobby Moore was fatally shot in 2012 by Josh Hastings, a police officer with the Little Rock Police Department. Despite serving on the force for only five years, Hastings’s tenure would prove to be enormously consequential. He had been hired over the objection from a high-ranking black police officer, and that objection was well-founded: Before his hiring, Hastings had once attended a meeting of the Ku Klux Klan, then lied about it on his application. He went on to accumulate an astonishing disciplinary record, usually resulting in lax punishment for misconduct.

Hastings once boasted about body-slamming a homeless black woman to the ground. Video footage showed he had lied about a burglary investigation. He slept on the job, drove recklessly and had problems activating his dashboard-mounted camera. He admitted to using racist language. He sometimes needed help writing reports, and colleagues described him as lazy, incompetent and unfit to be a police officer.

Hastings’s ultimate confrontation with Moore, then, seemed almost inevitable. He confronted Moore and two other boys after reports that they were breaking into cars. When the boys managed to get one of the cars started, Hastings fired into the car, killing Moore. Hastings would later claim Moore was attempting to run him over, but forensic analysis showed the vehicle was either stopped or moving backward, and Moore’s wounds were consistent with a driver backing up, not surging forward. The other boys were not wounded.

But Hastings’s story isn’t one of a rogue, aberrant cop so much as a glimpse into the police culture of Arkansas’s largest city. Disturbing as Hastings’s disciplinary record may be, other officers in the department have even thicker personnel files. In fact, many of the very officers who trained and supervised Hastings have had lengthy histories of misconduct — including domestic violence, lying, and the use of excessive force.

15) These signs up near NC State’s campus last week were hilarious:

Campaign sign by pro-voter ID group, November 2018

16) Nice column from Krugman on real American vs. Senate America:

Obviously not everyone lives — or wants to live — in these growth centers of the new economy. But we are increasingly a nation of urbanites and suburbanites. Almost 60 percent of us live in metropolitan areas with more than a million people, more than 70 percent in areas with more than 500,000 residents. Conservative politicians may extol the virtues of a “real America” of rural areas and small towns, but the real real America in which we live, while it contains small towns, is mostly metropolitan.

But here’s the thing: The Senate, which gives each state the same number of seats regardless of population — which gives fewer than 600,000 people in Wyoming the same representation as almost 40 million in California — drastically overweights those rural areas and underweights the places where most Americans live.

I find it helpful to contrast the real America, the place we actually live, with what I think of as “Senate America,” the hypothetical nation implied by a simple average across states, which is what the Senate in effect represents.

As I said, real America is mainly metropolitan; Senate America is still largely rural.

Real America is racially and culturally diverse; Senate America is still very white.

Real America includes large numbers of highly educated adults; Senate America, which underweights the dynamic metropolitan areas that attract highly educated workers, has a higher proportion of non-college people, and especially non-college whites.

None of this is meant to denigrate rural, non-college, white voters. We’re all Americans, and we all deserve an equal voice in shaping our national destiny. But as it is, some of us are more equal than others. And that poses a big problem in an era of deep partisan division.

17) Ezra Klein’s take on the midterms and the “Trump tax” should be read in full.

With Trump, two contrary ideas need to be held simultaneously: His rise to the presidency was a remarkable political achievement by any measure, and yet he is substantially less popular than a politician in his position should be. He’s a political genius and a political underperformer, all at the same time.

Since winning office, Trump has been buoyed by a strong economy. The trends predate him — job growth during the first two years of his presidency has been slightly slower than in the two years preceding his presidency — but their cumulative effect is undeniable: We’re enjoying the longest economic expansion in American history, we’re at or near full employment, and Americans tell pollsters they’re more optimistic about the economy than at any point in decades.

Nothing predicts presidential popularity like a strong economy. And yet in November 2018, Trump is less popular at 3.7 percent unemployment than Obama was in November 2010, when unemployment was 9.8 percent. That’s a tremendous political failure, and it should be seen as such…

Republicans, increasingly, wield power only because America’s political system insulates them from the public’s judgments. The leader of their party — and of the country — came in second in the popular vote to Hillary Clinton and, despite a roaring economy, hasn’t cracked 50 percent in the polls since taking office. Tonight, Republicans lost the House, and if Democrats hadn’t been defending 26 Senate seats to Republicans’ nine, it’s likely they would’ve seen a rout in the Senate too.

The GOP needs to ask itself: What’s going to happen in 2020, when the Senate map reverses, and Republicans are defending twice as many seats as Democrats? What if unemployment is 5.7 percent rather than 3.7 percent?

That Republicans performed this poorly amid this strong an economy and this much geographic advantage should be a wake-up call to the party. Trump’s political strategy is failing, and they are paying the cost.

Exclude this

Back when I was young, naive, and too easily influenced by TV and Hollywood, I thought the exclusionary rule was just horrible.  Why would you let a clearly guilty person go free just because the cops made a mistake.  Isn’t the solution to just punish the cops?!  Oh, how naive I was.  I have long since learned better.  The genius of the exclusionary rule is that it gives the police a hell of an incentive not to violate Constitutional rights in the collection of evidence.  Because, as we know, in reality, the chance that police will actually be meaningfully disciplined for conducting illegal searches, etc., is pretty damn small.  Thus, yes, we do actually let guilty people go free sometimes.  But all of us  are the beneficiaries because it keeps us from living in a police state.

Adult me who studies criminal justice (or lets be honest, any adult who reads the news without hopeless ideological blinders) can tell you that punishing the police is not going to be the solution.  Alas, people like Antonin Scalia, a supposedly brilliant jurist, still managed to see the world like my 13-year old self.  Radley Balko follows up his great reporting on the totally corrupt and out-of-control Little Rock PD with some very compelling evidence on the importance of the exclusionary rule.  Balko:

As I pointed out in a piece published on Sunday, the reason narcotics officers can get away with it goes back to another Supreme Court case — 2006’s Hudson v. Michigan. In that case, the court ruled 5 to 4 that, while the Fourth Amendment does indeed require police to knock and announce, violations of the knock-and-announce rule would not result in the suppression of any evidence seized in the ensuing raid. In the majority opinion, Justice Antonin Scalia argued that there were other remedies for violations of the rule, such as civil liability (lawsuits) or internal professional discipline. [emphases mine]

Seriously?!  Oh, the willful naivete.  Continuing:

As David Moran — the attorney who argued for the losing side in Hudson — told me, Scalia’s remedies have proven insufficient to deter these violations. And, in fact, those of us who were concerned about these sorts of raids predicted at the time that the court’s ruling in Hudson would result in, well, exactly what we’re now seeing in Little Rock.

There’s lot of debate about the Exclusionary Rule, which says any incriminating evidence that police obtain during an illegal search can’t be used against a defendant at trial. Conservatives have long argued that the rule only protects the guilty, since innocent people won’t be in possession of incriminating evidence, regardless of the legality of the search. And even some supporters of the rule have argued that it doesn’t have much value as a deterrent.

What is happening in Little Rock would seem to refute both arguments.

Let’s take the first argument, that the rule only protects the guilty. To examine this, let’s assume that (a) the Supreme Court had ruled the other way in Hudson, and (b) the Exclusionary Rule is an effective deterrent against violations of the knock-and-announce rule. Even assuming both of those things, the innocent people wrongly raided by Little Rock police over the last few years would still likely have been visited by the SWAT team. But instead of having their doors blown off their hinges, incurring thousands of dollars of damage to their homes and facing eviction from their apartments, not to mention experiencing a lot of trauma, the SWAT team would have been required to knock on the door, announce themselves, and give these suspects sufficient time to answer to avoid the violence of a “dynamic entry.” (I should note here that even when police do knock and announce, they often do so just as the battering ram hits the door, which basically nullifies the difference between a no-knock and a knock-and-announce warrant. But in this hypothetical, we are assuming the courts are properly enforcing the rules, so those raids would also be violations of the knock-and-announce rule.)

So 97, and possibly 99, of these 105 warrants were in violation of the Fourth Amendment. I think it is safe to say that, contrary to Scalia’s opinion, lawsuits and internal discipline are providing very little deterrence here. And Little Rock residents have very little protection against having their Fourth Amendment rights violated by illegal no-knock raids…

That said, the comparison is pretty compelling. When Little Rock police and judges know a rule will be enforced by suppression of evidence, they complied with that rule at least 76 percent of the time. (It could be more, depending on how many of the 22 exceptions were legitimate.) But when it’s a rule not enforced by suppressing evidence, they at most complied 8 percent of the time.

In Little Rock, at least, the Exclusionary Rule matters.

And, obviously, it’s not just Little Rock.  This is such an obvious cost/benefit.  Meaningful freedom and protection from a police state for all citizens versus the occasional criminal going free due to overzealous policing.  But, hey, tough on crime!!  That’s worked so well for us.

War on drugs = war on poor and minorities (and the Constitution)

Of course, most readers of this blog likely well know the essential truth of the title of this post.  That said, sometimes it is still shocking just how breathtakingly wrong our war on drugs as gone and how brazenly stupid and discriminatory it can be.  Terrific reported piece from Radley Balko on the absolutely out-of-control Little Rock, Arkansas police department that is literally blowing doors off hinges of residents based in the flimsiest of pretexts.  It’s rotten through-and-through as the police repeatedly rely on transparently unreliable informants to conduct transparently unconstitutional raids that are almost always approved by seemingly unaccountable judges.  Ugh!  I’d like to think that LRPD is one of the worst cases, but you know it’s not the only one.  There’s no really great quotes to sum it up, but some great narrative:

“You don’t know what fear is until you wake up and your own front door is flying at you,” says Roderick Talley.

It was early on a hot morning last summer, and he was dozing on his couch in front of a flickering television. A little before 6:30 a.m., a deafening boom woke Talley and sent his front door flying off its hinges. The door traveled about six feet through the air before landing on top of him and the couch where he had been sleeping. Quickly, 11 heavily armed men filed in, bellowing out a wall of unintelligible commands that Talley was too shaken to process. It took him several seconds to realize they were police.

“Once I figured that out, I just did what I do when I’ve been pulled over,” he says. “I threw my hands up as far up over my head as I could. I didn’t want them to say I was reaching for something and shoot me. I didn’t want them to shoot my dog. I just wanted to survive.”

Talley, 31, is a barber. At the time he was living in Little Rock. Since moving there from Mississippi in 2010, his apartment has been burgled three times, and someone has stolen packages from his doorstep. The complex where he currently resided had recently put out a notice to residents to be on the alert for break-ins. So Talley bought a security system to monitor both the inside and outside of his apartment. About a week before the raid, the outdoor camera picked up some strange activity outside Talley’s apartment. As he sat handcuffed while police officers rifled through his belongings, he began to make the connection.

The outside camera had recorded two odd incidents. First, a man whom Talley didn’t know approached the apartment while Talley wasn’t home. Looking anxious, the man knocked, waited a few moments and then left. A few days later, the camera picked up a police officer outside the door. The officer looked around, snapped a photo of Talley’s door with his cellphone, and left.

Talley at one point told his father about the two visits, who in turn relayed the story to a police officer friend. “When he heard about both men, he told my dad, ‘It sounds like they’re about to kick down your son’s door,’ ” Talley says.

Of course, Trump and Sessions surely think we need more of this.

Quick hits (part II)

1) The NYT with the “myth of the lazy non-voter.  Short version– let’s make it easier to vote!

While many countries greatly simplify the voting process — or make voting mandatory — the solutions here in the United States may not need to be so drastic.

In fact, they are right in front of us. Just as some states that have passed laws restricting access to voting in recent years have seen reduced turnout, states with laws that afford people the greatest access to voting – several states where ID requirements are not onerous, where all residents can register to vote online and registration periods extend to Election Day, and where voters have many options to vote early or on Election Day without losing any income – have experienced high participation. Our democracy depends on the ability to participate freely, without unnecessary barriers. The voters must choose elected officials, and not the other way around.

2) The case for glass as humankind’s most important material.

3) Sperm counts keep falling and scientists can only guess:

Halpern went on to explain that many chemical compounds that are used to make plastic hard (like Bisphenol A, or BPA) or soft (like phthalates) can mimic estrogen in the bloodstream—so men with lots of phthalates in their system are likely to produce less testosterone and fewer sperm (though the U.S. Food and Drug Administration stated earlier this year, somewhat controversially, that its research continues to support its claim that the authorized amounts and uses of BPA are safe for consumers). Plus, chemicals like BPA and phthalates can alter the way genes express themselves, making some of the conditions these chemicals cause inheritable. “Your father passes along his low sperm count to you, and your sperm count goes even lower after you’re exposed to endocrine disruptors,” Halpern wrote. “That’s part of the reason there’s been no leveling off even after 40 years of declining sperm counts—the baseline keeps dropping.”

Sharpe, however, now a professor at the University of Edinburgh’s Medical Research Council Center for Reproductive Health, isn’t totally convinced by the BPA-and-phthalates theory. While there’s a much more cohesive consensus throughout the field of reproductive medicine these days than there may have been 10 or 20 years ago that sperm counts are indeed falling, he says, “the controversy and lack of agreement continue regarding what has caused the fall and when in life has the effect been induced.” Though many consider environmental chemicals to be the primary cause of declining sperm counts, Sharpe says he’s “increasingly skeptical” of that hypothesis: “I would favor that it results from our huge dietary and lifestyle changes, both by pregnant women and by young men.”

Studies like the new ones presented by ASRM, in other words, increasingly serve as bolstering evidence to what many scientists already believe. As scientists reach a consensus that something is happening to men’s sperm in the Western world, the next phase will be to figure out exactly what, and why.

4) Frank Bruni, “Lindsey Graham Is the Saddest Story in Washington: His fight for Brett Kavanaugh completed his transformation into Donald Trump’s slobbering manservant.”

5) I tried reading Jane Austen’s Emma with my email book club of graduate school friends.  I gave up about half-way through as I found the novel relentlessly tedious.  How could this be a classic, I wondered.  Apparently, a huge part of the reason is that the narrative style was revolutionary for 1816.  Now that we’re all used to free indirect, though, damn that’s a lot of boring British, elite, country life to slog through.

6) Nice summary of some nice PS research, “Trump Has Made Republicans More Comfortable Expressing Their Sexism Out Loud”

7) Great Conor Friedersdorf on Republicans and the presumption of innocence:

There are principled civil libertarians and their antagonists on the right and left, in both political parties, but here’s what I see when I step back, survey a range of relevant issues, and make educated judgments about who’d be better to advance presumption of innocence and due process (having already granted that Republicans urge more due process on Title IX):

  • If there are law-enforcement figures at the local level who are depriving people of due process, they are more likely to be defended by Republicans, as happened with Joe Arpaio, and more likely to be reined in by the Democratic approach to the DOJ’s Office of Civil Rights.
  • If there’s a major terrorist attack that inspires renewed calls for racial profiling, elected Democrats are more likely to fight against such proposals while elected and appointed Republicans are more likely to favor the choice that flips the presumption of innocence for some groups.
  • If a president is asserting a lawful ability to imprison people indefinitely without charges or trial, or to torture a suspected terrorist, I expect him or her to have more support on the right than the left, and to be overruled more reliably by Democratic appointed judges (although I would also expect presidents of both parties to transgress in this way).
  • It is the left that has fought to end stop-and-frisk policies that burdened total innocents, and the right that still defends them, even in New York City, where its end caused no rise in crime.
  • If I were placed on a no-fly list and wanted to challenge my status, I’d rather appear before a judge appointed by a Democrat than a Republican, if that’s the only differentiating factor that I had to go on.
  • Were I falsely accused of a crime and ran out of money to fund my own defense, I would rather a Democratic coalition had set the budget for the public defender’s office.
  • Were I mistakenly arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, I would much prefer to go about the attempt to prove my United States citizenship via the due process procedures that the median Democrat favors than the ones that the median Republican favors.
  • If wrongly convicted, I would rather go to a progressive district attorney than a conservative one with new evidence suggesting my innocence.

That is hardly an exhaustive survey. But it should suffice to show partisan Republicans who claim to abhor character assassination and to value the presumption of innocence and due process why they are in no position to be righteously indignant about their coalition or to claim clear superiority to Democrats on these issues. Instead, they ought to feel a moral imperative to push their side to do better.

8) John Pfaff often makes the case that by focusing on for-profit prisons we miss the so-much-wrongness in public prisons (and there’s so much wrong).  That said, for-profit prisons to create uniquely perverse incentives.  Nate Blakeslee with a nice review of Shane Bauer’s first-hand reporting from serving as a guard in an awful, awful for-profit prison.

9) Robert Griffin and John Sides, “Economic Anxiety Didn’t Elect Trump and It May Hurt His Party in the Midterms.”

10) Peggy Orenstein, “We Can’t Just Let Boys Be Boys: Locker rooms are not the place to learn about sexual ethics. Neither is the internet.”

For the past two years I have been interviewing high school and college-age men for a book on their experience of physical and emotional intimacy. I’m not convinced they are always reliable narrators of their own experience. At times, I can almost see the shadow of a girl behind them as they speak — a girl who is furious, traumatized, grieving over harms big and small that the boy in question simply didn’t recognize, or didn’t want to.

At some point in our conversation, these young men usually referred to themselves as “good guys,” and mostly, I would say, they were. They had also all been duly admonished by some adult in their lives — a parent, a coach — to “respect women.” But that, along with “don’t get anyone pregnant,” was pretty much the totality of their sex education. As one college sophomore said to me, “That’s kind of like telling someone who’s learning to drive not to run over any little old ladies and then handing him the car keys. Well, of course, you think you’re not going to run over an old lady. But you still don’t know how to drive.”…

Rather than a deviant’s expression of pathology, assault among adolescents is more likely to be a crime of opportunity. Boys do it because they can: because they are oblivious, because they are ignorant, because they are impulsive, because they have not learned to see girls and women as fully human. And yes, science has confirmed what common sense presumes: Boys are much more likely to rape when they are drunk. And the more they drink, the more aggressive they are, and the less aware of their victims’ distress. By contrast, sober guys not only are less sexually coercive but also will more readily intervene to prevent assaults by others…

A boy who assaults once in high school may not do it again, which in some ways is good to hear. At the same time, that means a seemingly “good guy” may well do a bad thing. A very bad thing. And afterward it is completely plausible for him to get away without apologizing, facing consequences, making amends. The monster-good guy dichotomy contributes to his denial: He could not possibly really be a rapist because that would make him a “monster,” and he is a “good guy.” So he rationalizes, forgets, goes on to professional success and even a happy marriage. Meanwhile, he may have derailed the life of another human being, causing her years, decades, of pain and trauma.

It is natural for parents to think their own sons would be incapable of sexual misconduct, but that does not absolve them of responsibility for educating their boys. Yet according to a survey of more than 3,000 18- to 25-year-olds published last year by the Making Caring Common project, which is part of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, more than 60 percent of respondents had never had a single conversation with their parents about how to be sure that your partner wants to be having sex with you. A similar share had never been told about “the importance of not pressuring someone to have sex with you.”

Honestly, this is an area of sex education, where, I admit, I could be better.  And, I will be.  But at least one of my sons will be following the above link.

11) I have now watched Rocky I, II,III, and half of IV with said son.  Rocky really was a nice movie.  The others can be ridiculous at times, but qualify as pretty solid entertainment (Rocky V will not be happening).  Also, I turned on the TV last night and with no interesting (to me) college football on, I actually watched a boxing match for the first time in my adult life (I always watched Sugar Ray Leonard as a kid as he was a local hero in the DC area).

Quick hits (part I)

1) This WP story/essay about a high school rape in Texas 12 years later is like a gut punch.  Just read it.

2) Paul Waldman, “Why do all these racists keep joining the GOP?”

Florida GOP gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis has a problem, one he shares with a lot of Republicans these days: For some reason, racists are attracted to his campaign and seem eager to give him money and lend their vocal support.

Why does this keep happening to members of the Republican Party who desire nothing but equality and respect for all people? It’s a real mystery…

But you know who doesn’t have to worry about getting endorsed by neo-Nazis, white nationalists and racists? People who don’t give neo-Nazis, white nationals and racists any reason to believe that they share their views. [emphases mine]

Now, it’s true that there are Republican elected officials who don’t. But just by virtue of being Republicans in 2018, being lumped in with racists is a risk they run. Their favored news outlets are positively saturated with white nationalist rhetoric. Their party is led by a man who is not only an obvious bigot but who also turned himself into a political figure by advocating the racist lie that Barack Obama is not actually an American, who ran a presidential campaign built on xenophobia and racial resentment, and who, in office, continues to stoke fear and hatred of immigrants. President Trump doesn’t get celebrated on white nationalist websites because they’re laboring under some misimpression about who he is. So, if you’re a Republican standing enthusiastically behind Trump, racists have every reason in the world to think you’re on their side.

3) Normally, Americans, collectively, are not so smart.  So, for Americans to have figured out the truth of the Republican tax cuts, means, damn were they really bad:

“On average, it looks great. We’re as wealthy as we’ve ever been,” Zandi says. “But that’s not representative of many, many American households. The very skewed distribution of wealth is as skewed today as it was five years ago.”

4) Hillary Clinton speaks out on Trump.  And she’s right on the details which are worth your time:

It’s been nearly two years since Donald Trump won enough Electoral College votes to become president of the United States. On the day after, in my concession speech, I said, “We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead.” I hoped that my fears for our future were overblown.

They were not.

In the roughly 21 months since he took the oath of office, Trump has sunk far below the already-low bar he set for himself in his ugly campaign. Exhibit A is the unspeakable cruelty that his administration has inflicted on undocumented families arriving at the border, including separating children, some as young as eight months, from their parents. According to The New York Times, the administration continues to detain 12,800 children right now, despite all the outcry and court orders. Then there’s the president’s monstrous neglect of Puerto Rico: After Hurricane Maria ravaged the island, his administration barely responded. Some 3,000 Americans died. Now Trump flatly denies those deaths were caused by the storm. And, of course, despite the recent indictments of several Russian military intelligence officers for hacking the Democratic National Committee in 2016, he continues to dismiss a serious attack on our country by a foreign power as a “hoax.”

Trump and his cronies do so many despicable things that it can be hard to keep track. I think that may be the point—to confound us, so it’s harder to keep our eye on the ball. The ball, of course, is protecting American democracy. As citizens, that’s our most important charge. And right now, our democracy is in crisis…

5) I love the idea that we need to take our “social infrastructure” libraries, public parks, etc., more seriously.

6) This story of a woman who’s 1-year old child was literally ripped from her hands and drowned in post-Florence floods is heart-rending.  Also, sad, is just how cruel people are in their “just world biases” and doing everything they can to blame the mother.  Sorry, sometimes bad stuff just happens and it could happen to you, too.

7) Really liked the NYT’s “how to build strength” guide.  I think I need to modify my routine and start pushing myself a little harder.  On the bright side, this linked site said I have the health of a 32-year old. Yeah, me!

8) OMG, so much wrong with our criminal justice system.  But “felony murder” when you can get a murder conviction without actually taking any actions to kill someone (e.g., you are the lookout for a robbery, but then the robber decides to shoot the victim– sure you should be punished, but murder?!) is often so wrong.

The felony-murder doctrine is “one of the most widely criticized features of American criminal law,” the University of Buffalo School of Law’s Guyora Binder wrote in a 2011 law-review article. “Some have concluded that felony murder rules impose unconstitutionally cruel and unusual punishment by ascribing guilt without fault, or that they violate conditional due process by presuming malice without proof.”

There’s no shortage of cases where people were convicted of felony murder despite no demonstrated intent to kill. In 1980, 18-year-old Orlando Stewart and nine other teenagers approached a stranger in Pennsylvania, planning to mug him. One of the teens hit the man, knocking him to the ground and causing a skull fracture that led to his death two days later. Stewart was convicted of felony murder and will remain in prison for the rest of his life.

And this April in Alabama, Lakeith Smith was sentenced to 65 years in prison, including 30 for felony murder. In 2015, the then–15-year-old burglarized two homes with several friends. When the police approached, one of the teenagers fired and was shot and killed by an officer. Smith was convicted of the felony murder of his friend, based on the felony burglary he was committing when his friend was shot.

Felony-murder rules disproportionately affect young people like Brooks, Stewart, Holle, and Smith, who are more likely to commit crimes in groups and are more impulsive than adults, increasing the chances someone in the group pulls a trigger. A law-review article from 2017 described felony murder as “the quintessential juvenile crime, capitalizing on the developmental vulnerabilities of adolescents.”

9) Is this, maybe, karma for Kavanaugh:

It is on this point that the cosmos may be having a laugh not just at Kavanaugh’s expense but at many other people’s. After decades of competitive moralizing and situational ethics—in which every accuser in due course becomes the accused, and anyone riding a high horse can expect to be bucked off—even the concept of fairness in American politics seemingly is defunct.

Three decades of remorseless ideological and cultural combat—over Robert Bork, over Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill, over Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich, over Bush v. Gore, and, at last and above all, over Donald Trump—have made the question virtually irrelevant.

Fairness is rooted in the idea of principles, precedent, proportionality. Few people in American life witnessed at closer range than Kavanaugh the modern reality that when things really matter—in the way that the balance of the Supreme Court matters—all these fine notions matter less than the cold, hard exercise of power.

So here was Kavanaugh—who spent his early 30s as a Ken Starr warrior pursuing Bill Clinton for the political and legal implications of his most intimate moral failings—now in his early 50s facing a political crisis over disturbingly vivid, passionately contested, decades-old allegations about Kavanaugh’s own possible moral failings.

Few prosecutors, it seems likely, would ever open an assault case—36 years later—on the basis of Christine Blasey Ford’s account of being pinned down on a bed by a drunken Kavanaugh, then 17, and being aggressively groped until a friend of his physically jumped in.

But few prosecutors in the 1990s would have pursued an extensive criminal investigation over perjury into a middle-aged man’s lies about adultery if that person had not been President Bill Clinton. In his zeal at the time, Kavanaugh, like Starr, may have worked himself into a belief that this was about sacred principles of law, but to many others—and ultimately to a clear majority of the country—it was obvious that the case was fundamentally about political power.

10) Chevy Chase wants to work, but nobody really wants him.  Recently re-watched “Fletch” and “Fletch Lives” with my oldest.  Still love them (much to my wife’s dismay), and to my great pleasure, so did David.  But they are oh-so-1980’s in so many ways.

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