Quick hits (part I)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mikhail Fishman

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

Sean Illing

Has Putin made a puppet of Trump?

Mikhail Fishman

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

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

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

Trump logic: opiate problem = crackdown on marijuana

Ugh, the stupid!!  From the Post:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quick hits (part I)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

15) John Cassidy on Republican plans to cut Medicaid:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The truth about ending “mass incarceration”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quick hits (part II)

1) Amy Davidson’s explanation of the legal issues in the 9th circuit ruling is as good as any I’ve read.

2) I think Drum is right about this– why did Democrats oppose DeVos so hard (while others, like Price, skated by)?

On a policy level, opposition to DeVos mostly centered on her devotion to vouchers and charter schools. But if DeVos had been defeated, Trump would simply have sent up another pro-voucher-pro-charter nominee. Defeating DeVos wouldn’t have changed anything.

The real reason Democrats spent so much energy on DeVos is pretty simple: she badly fluffed her Senate testimony, and came out looking like an idiot. Because of this, there was a realistic chance of finding three Republicans to join in opposing her, and thus defeating her nomination. In the end, only two Republicans stepped up, but for a while it looked like Democrats had a real chance at claiming a scalp.

This hasn’t been true of any of the others. There were never any Republicans who might have voted against Sessions or Pruitt or Price, and it’s hard to get the masses psyched up for battle when there’s really no chance of winning. That’s why, relatively speaking, Democrats haven’t mounted as big a campaign against any of Trump’s other nominees.

3) Interesting column from Noah Smith on public-private dysfunction in various policy areas and how to improve it.

4) Of all the stuff I learned in college, the theory of relative deprivation stuck with me as well as anything.  I think it really is useful for explaining a lot in the world.  Very nice NPR piece from Danielle Kurtzleben using it to explain a lot of the current political environment.

5) Yes, statutory rape is wrong.  That said, I really think it is ridiculous for a judge to require no premarital sex at all as a condition for probation.

6) Chait, again, on the need for Democrats to filibuster Gorsuch:

Democrats have nothing to gain by keeping the filibuster on the books. On the other hand, they have a great deal to lose. The last two Democratic Supreme Court nominees were confirmed only because Democrats had near filibuster-proof Senate margins at the time. The last nominee, Elena Kagan, received just 5 Republican votes, and several of those Republicans faced intense backlash from primary challengers for doing so. (Indiana Senator Richard Lugar was defeated in a primary in part because he voted for Democratic justices.)

If the next Democratic president gets a Supreme Court vacancy, he or she will have an extremely difficult time defeating a filibuster. Democrats will probably need to abolish the filibuster for Supreme Court picks to get their justice seated. They may or may not have enough votes to do it. Some of their members (like West Virginia senator Joe Manchin) have political reasons to avoid siding with their party in a high-stakes social-policy fight. Other Democratic senators have expressed institutional reluctance to change the Senate rules. What they need is for Republicans to end the judicial filibuster for them.

McConnell is a norm-violator. That’s what he does. He’s very good at it. Keeping in place an ambiguous set of rules, such as giving the minority a blocking power that the majority openly threatens to eliminate if it is used, is the kind of circumstance under which his tactics thrive. Democrats can eliminate his advantage only if they force the norms and the rules to say the same thing.

7) Seriously– how is it okay for financial institutions to legally give their clients bad advice?!

8) Nice piece from Nate Silver looking at Trump’s successful electoral college strategy.

9) I must say I hate how Trump has ensured that “fake news,” an important concept, has now lost all meaning.

10) The way our culture treats platonic touch among men is ridiculous.  Fortunately, my dad was a hugger, I’m a hugger, and so are my boys.

11) Paul Waldman— beware Trump’s Reichstag fire:

As Harvard Law School professor and former Bush administration official Jack Goldsmith suggested, this could have two purposes, should there be a terrorist attack. “If Trump loses in court he credibly will say to the American people that he tried and failed to create tighter immigration controls. This will deflect blame for the attack. And it will also help Trump to enhance his power after the attack.”

What precisely might Trump do? We know that unlike President Obama, he won’t try to calm people down or remind them of how safe we are. He’ll do exactly the opposite: ramp up people’s fear and anger, using the attack (now matter how minor it might have been) as justification for a range of policy moves. He said during the campaign that he wanted to put mosques under surveillance; that could be just the start of a range of harsh actions directed at American Muslims. More restrictions on travel and immigration would be almost guaranteed. He might well order mass deportations. And given his regular, personal attacks on judges that don’t rule as he’d like, there’s a genuine question of whether he’d obey lawful court orders that restrained him in a situation where he felt he had the advantage.

12) Hell, yeah, Trump is making America less safe.

13) This is good: counter lies with emotions, not facts.  Pretty clear that countering them with facts does not work.

14) Relatedly, good work on how to persuade your ideological opposite— appeal to their values, not yours.

15) Some conservatives just came out with a good plan for a carbon tax. Surprised?  Don’t be– none of them actually hold an elected office.

16) It really is amazing the degree to which Republicans view women through the lens of “wives and mothers.”

17) I think Josh Barro is right that Democrats need to do a better job selling their position on immigration:

I think the true reason that immigration advocates fail to make strong national-interest arguments for immigration is that the pro-immigration impulse is not really about the national interest.

Potential immigrants are human beings with moral worth. Especially in the case of refugees, they have been disadvantaged by the place of their birth. The human condition is improved by their admission to the US. This — a global, humanistic concern — is a driving factor behind support for immigration.

Plus, elites in government, media, and business tend to be in positions where they stand to derive disproportionate benefits from immigration to the US and bear relatively few costs related to it. Thus immigration is a relatively easy area to favor policy altruism.

But what if about half the electorate disagrees? What’s in it for them?

An effective pro-immigration message would synthesize globalism and nationalism

Immigration advocates do not need to abandon the idea that resettling refugees is a morally necessary act of altruism by a rich country, nor do they need to concede the idea that public policy should be made solely in the interest of American citizens, forsaking the concerns of all other people.

But they need to acknowledge that admitting outsiders to the US is a policy choice — and demonstrate that they have carefully considered the national interest in making the choice. Voters will be more inclined to let politicians be altruistic on their behalf if they do not believe their own interests have been lost in the calculations.

So, how many people should we admit to the US based on their need for a new country to live in? For those we admit or naturalize for other reasons, what is the benefit to existing citizens of the US?

18) Woman gets 8 years in Texas prison for illegal voting.  So, you know, about the same as armed robbery.  Definitely read this one.

Quick hits (part I)

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

2) Tom Edsall explores Trump’s populism:

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

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

According to the two authors,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trump has yet to name right-wing extremism.

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

That is the politically correct posture under Trump…

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

18) Amy Davidson on the total Trumpism of Sessions.

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

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

21) Happy 45th birthday to me.

 

Quick hits (part II)

Damn.  I could say a million things about Trump’s craziness from just yesterday.  And, if you really care, I re-tweeted a ton of really good stuff.  So, the regular awfulness, plus not awful miscellany:

1) But, we’ll start with this tweet from yesterday.  As many pointed out, imagine the reaction from Fox, etc., if Obama said something close to half this bad.

2) Cato takes on the precautionary principle.  Hooray:

The precautionary principle emphasizes the “better safe than sorry” mentality but shelters us from the reality that nothing is absolutely safe. Risk exists on a spectrum, it is not binary. The fear of high risks and uncertainty should not stop the resettlement of Syrian refugees here, only if a realistic projection that the long-term harms would exceed the long-term benefits should convince the government to further block Syrian refugees. A cold, hard look at the risks and benefits of allowing more Syrian refugees favors a more open policy.

3) The truth is Bannon and Trump don’t really want immigrants of any kind.  Muslims and refugees are just a start.

4) A nice bit of non-politics, Fans de Waal argues that the link between language and cognition is a red herring.

5) Among other things, Trump is just cruel.  But you knew that.

6) You will not be at all surprised that actual experts think Trump’s ban would do nothing to curtail terrorism.

7) The rules for making a protest work.

 

8) This Wired piece about a woman with no autobiographical memory was so fascinating.  Just trust me and read it.

9) Krispy Kreme donut run made the NYT yesterday.  David and I ran together (this year, I upped my intake from 2 to 3 donuts) for the 4th straight year.  Next year, we’ll add Evan to the mix.

10) Great piece on the reality of living in Russia and scary lessons for the US:

One tends to imagine life in an autocratic regime as dominated by fear and oppression: armed men in the street, total surveillance, chanted slogans, and whispered secrets. It is probably a version of that picture that has been flitting lately through the nightmares of American liberals fretting about the damage a potential autocrat might do to an open society. But residents of a hybrid regime such as Russia’s — that is, an autocratic one that retains the façade of a democracy — know the Orwellian notion is needlessly romantic. Russian life, I soon found out, was marked less by fear than by cynicism: the all-pervasive idea that no institution is to be trusted, because no institution is bigger than the avarice of the person in charge. This cynicism, coupled with endless conspiracy theories about everything, was at its core defensive (it’s hard to be disappointed if you expect the worst). But it amounted to defeatism. And, interestingly, the higher up the food chain you moved, the more you encountered it. Now that Russia has begun to export this Weltanschauung around the world, in the form of nationalist populism embodied here by Donald Trump, I am increasingly tempted to look at my years there for pointers on what to expect in America.

11) Kind of bizarre, definitely needs more editing, but riveting… Swedes trying to decide whether to jump off a 10m diving platform.

12) Of course I knew about Brian Nosek and efforts at replication, etc., did not know there was an Enron billionaire behind it.

13) A 538 piece arguing Trump’s national security council changes really aren’t that unusual.

14) Linda Greenhouse on the changing “judicial mainstream.”

15) Of course Trump is still way too closely tied to his business.

16) It’s too easy for police to get your location data without a warrant.

17) Pretty disturbing story of an accountability-free police shooting.  One thing I’m pretty confident of– police unions are too powerful and too interested in protecting police who are bad actors.

18) Really interesting Pew piece on what makes a “real American” (and a “real” many other nationalities as well).

19) Ezra Klein on Donald Trump and “the Snake.”  Like all longer Ezra pieces on Trump, it is really, really good and you should definitely read it.  And, yes, I’m talking to you faithful reader who doesn’t actually read it.

20) Former right-wing talk radio host sees the error of his ways and how it has led to Trump:

Mr. Trump understands that attacking the media is the reddest of meat for his base, which has been conditioned to reject reporting from news sites outside of the conservative media ecosystem.

For years, as a conservative radio talk show host, I played a role in that conditioning by hammering the mainstream media for its bias and double standards. But the price turned out to be far higher than I imagined. The cumulative effect of the attacks was to delegitimize those outlets and essentially destroy much of the right’s immunity to false information. We thought we were creating a savvier, more skeptical audience. Instead, we opened the door for President Trump, who found an audience that could be easily misled.

The news media’s spectacular failure to get the election right has made it only easier for many conservatives to ignore anything that happens outside the right’s bubble and for the Trump White House to fabricate facts with little fear of alienating its base.

Unfortunately, that also means that the more the fact-based media tries to debunk the president’s falsehoods, the further it will entrench the battle lines.

 

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