Quick hits (part II)

1) Janet Napolitano with Karen Breslau, “Americans Are Seeing Threats in the Wrong Places
Security means teaching the public which dangers are real and which are not. Trump’s rhetoric isn’t helping.”

In the four years I led the Department of Homeland Security, I learned from the inside that the greatest threats to our safety play out differently from how political speeches and news reports might have us believe. True security means educating the public about which dangers are real and likely and which are not. Hours after a man killed more than four dozen people in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, President Donald Trump downplayed the threat of violence by white-supremacist groups—and went on to contend that the United States is under “invasion” from the south. In fact, mass shootings are genuine security problems. Natural disasters and cyberattacks are genuine security problems. Undocumented immigrants supposedly running over an open border by the millions and attacking Americans on the streets are not.

In a huge and open nation, there will never be enough money, gates, guns, or guards to run down every potential threat. Homeland security works when we adhere to proven principles of law enforcement, national security, and disaster management, and when we integrate those principles with the best data science and other technological innovations available and update them constantly. We get into trouble when political ideology is thrown into the mix. A stubborn or willful misreading of the threat environment leads to poor management of resources and results in failure. And in this regard, I regret to say, we are backsliding terribly.

2) Liked this from a recent Crooked newsletter:

But in cracking open the door to endorsing filibuster abolition down the line, Booker joins Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), South Bend, IN, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Gov. Jay Inslee (D-WA), and others who, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, have accepted that filibuster reform may be necessary if Democrats hope to enact the varied, bold policies the candidates are running on.

This recognition is critical because it shows that Democratic politicians increasingly grasp that Republican leaders, if not Republican voters themselves, remain committed to not negotiating with Democrats in good faith, and are poised to revive the strategy they adopted during the Obama administration of opposing and filibustering Democratic priorities in lockstep.

It’s also important because it comes as the Democratic Party has oriented itself toward defending democracy from conservative forces at all levels—from opposing voter suppression to ending partisan gerrymandering to curbing the influence of money in politics to reforming the electoral college. That project isn’t compatible with a rule that allows a minority of senators, representing an even smaller minority of the population a silent veto over policies that command overwhelming popular support.

3) This is interesting, “Purdue blocking Netflix, Hulu, gaming sites in all classrooms after spring break.”

4) And this, via the Upshot, is pretty wild, “Women With a Twin Brother Are More Likely to Face Penalties at School and Work: Research shows they might act more like boys when they’re young, struggling in school, but then face sexism when they’re grown.”

Women with a twin brother do worse in school and make less money than those with a twin sister, a large new study has found. In their 30s, the women wound up earning 9 percent less. They were also less likely to graduate from school, marry and have children.

The researchers said the effects were because the women were naturally exposed to their brothers’ testosterone in the womb. The study, which was published Monday, included all births in Norway for 11 years.

The findings might also help explain a paradox — over all, girls are doing better than boys in school, but men are doing better than women in the work force. There are other potential explanations involving cultural expectations. Girls seem to be encouraged to be competent, while boys are encouraged to be confident, research shows, and school today requires a lot of self-control, which most boys develop later. Once people start working, women face sexism and a host of other inequalities (many related to motherhood).

Testosterone, which all females are exposed to in utero, might be another contributor. The hormone is associated with certain behaviors— including aggression, competition and risk taking — that might contribute to boys’ underperformance in school, but that are often rewarded in the workplace. Females exposed to an elevated level oftestosterone might act more like boys when they’re young, but then face sexism at work when they’re older. Women are penalized, research shows, when they show many of the same behaviors that benefit men in the workplace.

5) Meanwhile, I find it depressing that our oppressive standards of women’s appearance means that an increasing number of preteen girls feel the need to resort to professional hair removal.

6) Trump’s America: “How a flight attendant from Texas ended up in an ICE detention center for six weeks.”  Also, she’s “from Texas” but a DACA beneficiary.

7) Really like this “defense of eco-hypocrisy.”

Contrary to popular belief, fossil fuel companies are actually all too happy to talk about the environment. They just want to keep the conversation around individual responsibility, not systemic change or corporate culpability.

Sadly, these efforts at distraction have been wildly effective.

Ask your average citizen what they can do to stop global warming, and they will say “go vegetarian”, or “turn off the lights”, long before they talk about lobbying their elected officials. And this framing has been used as an extremely effective cudgel against those speaking out.

Perhaps nobody embodies this more than former Vice President Al Gore, whose Inconvenient Truth documentary catapulted the climate crisis back into the US political discourse. Rather than grapple with the complex, often terrifying facts presented in the film, critics were quick to change the subject.

A report — released simultaneously with the documentary, and authored by a “free market” think tank — claimed that Mr. Gore’s house used 20 times more energy than the average American home. And while Gore’s spokespeople responded with statistics about his energy efficient retrofits, the damage was already done:

“Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth: a $30,000 Energy Bill”cried one particularly snarky headline,from Jake Tapper for ABC News.

More recently, Green New Deal advocate and freshman congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez has faced similar attacks, based on her apparent shocking use of cars. This time, however, there are promising signs that the lessons of past battles have been learned. Rather than defend herself with receipts for carbon offsets, AOC rightly and forcefully steered the conversation back to the only scale that truly matters…

Still, the purity tests persist. And while some come from our opponents, many of them are actually coming from inside the movement too.

George Monbiot, a British environmentalist and journalist, has written beautifully about climate change for years. While much of his focus has been on the structural underpinnings of the problem, Monbiot is also not above directing his fire at the environmentally aware. Society’s addiction to cheap flights is a regular target for his ire:

“If we want to stop the planet from cooking, we will simply have to stop traveling at the kind of speeds that planes permit. This is now broadly understood by almost everyone I meet. But it has had no impact whatever on their behavior. When I challenge my friends about their planned weekend in Rome or their holiday in Florida, they respond with a strange, distant smile and avert their eyes. […] The moral dissonance is deafening.”

For those of us who believe that personal lifestyle change has largely been used as a distraction, it’s tempting to argue that Monbiot’s dinner party conversations are not just awkward or ineffective — they are actively counterproductive. If we’re going to grow a movement that can challenge our fossil fuel dependent economic order, we’re going to need as many people as possible on board—pushing folks away because they participate in that economic order is going to leave us with a pretty small pool of recruits.

8) John Cassidy asks, How did the FAA allow the 737 Max to fly?”  I don’t think it is actually so crazy to have aircraft manufacturers play a major role in deciding whether their products are safe.  They have so much to lose, if they are not, that it seems the financial incentives actually are to have your aircraft as safe as possible.  That said, this seems to have gone wrong in the case of the 737 Max.

9) On what we actually need to do about college:

No change in whom the most selective colleges admit would have a fraction of the good effect on the country that increasing the proportion of college graduates would have.

What’s the barrier to this? It isn’t that we don’t have a big enough higher-education system. These days, about ninety per cent of young people have some interaction with college. The problem is that not enough of them graduate, and so they cannot reap the copious benefits that a degree provides. A commission of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, of which I was a member, reported that only about sixty per cent of students at four-year colleges graduate within six years. Only thirty per cent of community-college students, who are supposed to get their degrees in two years, graduate within six. There are a number of reasons for this, including students being underprepared, higher education’s long-running undervaluation of the intense personal attention that makes all the difference for students who are struggling, and years of funding cuts by state legislatures. That should not give rise to fatalism, though: a few places have shown that dedicated effort can raise graduation rates dramatically. In the majority-minority, majority-poor Georgia State University system, the graduation rate has increased by twenty percentage points in fifteen years, thanks to the advent of a new system of customized advising and tutoring.

Busting the admissions cheaters is the right thing to do, in addition to being emotionally satisfying. But it won’t change America much for the better. Anyone who wants to do that through higher education, and who focusses on élite schools, is looking in the wrong place. The right place to look is the great majority of colleges where getting in isn’t a problem. The right cause to take up is raising graduation rates. Who wins the glittering prizes gets our attention; how well the system works for most people matters a great deal more.

10) The electoral college is almost entirely unjustified.  Jamelle Bouie is on the case:

In February, I wrote about the Electoral College, its origins and its problems. Whatever its potential merits, it is a plainly undemocratic institution. It undermines the principle of “one person, one vote,” affirmed in 1964 by the Supreme Court in Reynolds v. Sims — a key part of the civil and voting rights revolution of that decade. It produces recurring political crises. And it threatens to delegitimize the entire political system by creating larger and larger splits between who wins the public and who wins the states.

Many readers disagreed, making arguments similar to those used by the president and his allies. But those claims — that the Electoral College ensures rural representation, that its counter-majoritarian outcomes reflect the intentions of the framers and that it keeps large states from dominating small ones — don’t follow from the facts and are rooted more in folk civics than in how the system plays out in reality.

Take rural representation. If you conceive of rural America as a set of states, the Electoral College does give voters in Iowa or Montana or Wyoming a sizable say in the selection of the president. If you conceive of it as a population of voters, on the other hand, the picture is different. Roughly 60 million Americans live in rural counties, and they aren’t all concentrated in “rural” states. Millions live in large and midsize states like California, New York, Illinois, Alabama and South Carolina.

With a national popular vote for president, you could imagine a Republican campaign that links rural voters in California — where five million people live in rural counties — to those in New York, where roughly 1.4 million people live in rural counties. In other words, rural interests would be represented from coast to coast, as opposed to a system that only weights those who live in swing states.

11) How not to be a snowplow parent:

Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself

From the moment they are born, our kids study our faces for signs that the world is safe or scary. When they learn to walk, teetering and tumbling to the ground, the first thing they do is look up at us. If we gasp or panic, they do, too. If we react with a mix of empathy and encouragement, they keep going.

Our children never stop scanning our faces for direction on how upset to get, whether they’re bringing home a bad grade or facing a college rejection. That’s why I coach parents to ask themselves a single question when they are faced with an upset child and feel anxiety begin to tighten its grip: How would I parent if I were not afraid? That is, if you knew that despite whatever was happening with your children, they would turn out just fine, what would you say and do differently in this moment?

The question lets us pull back from the catastrophic thinking that often makes us say and do things we later regret, and makes room for openness and optimism. Once we are calm, we can stay in the moment with our children instead of being hijacked by our own fear.

12) Krugman on the reality of rural America:

Rural lives matter — we’re all Americans, and deserve to share in the nation’s wealth. Rural votes matter even more; like it or not, our political system gives hugely disproportionate weight to less populous states, which are also generally states with relatively rural populations.

But it’s also important to get real. There are powerful forces behind the relative and in some cases absolute economic decline of rural America — and the truth is that nobody knows how to reverse those forces.

Put it this way: Many of the problems facing America have easy technical solutions; all we lack is the political will. Every other advanced country provides universal health care. Affordable child careis within easy reach. Rebuilding our fraying infrastructure would be expensive, but we can afford it — and it might well pay for itself.

But reviving declining regions is really hard. Many countries have tried, but it’s difficult to find any convincing success stories.

Southern Italy remains backward after generations of effort. Despite vast sums spent on reconstruction, the former East Germany is still depressed three decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Maybe we could do better, but history is not on our side.

What’s the matter with rural America? Major urban centers have always been magnets for economic growth. They offer large markets, ready availability of specialized suppliers, large pools of workers with specialized skills, and the invisible exchange of information that comes from face-to-face contact. As the Victorian economist Alfred Marshall put it, “The mysteries of the trade become no mysteries; but are as it were in the air.”

But the gravitational pull of big cities used to be counteracted by the need to locate farming where the good land was. In 1950 U.S. agriculture directly employed more than six million people; these farmers supported a network of small towns providing local services, and some of these small towns served as seeds around which various specialized industries grew.

Nor was farming the only activity giving people a reason to live far from major metropolitan areas. There were, for example, almost half a million coal miners.

13) What they are trying to do with the restored felon voting rights in Florida is just unconscionable.  An a poll tax.

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Quick hits (part I)

1) Dahlia Lithwick on Manafort’s sentence:

At the sentencing, Ellis remarked that Manafort had led an “otherwise blameless life,” was “generous,” and loved his family. This despite the fact that his life was quite literally devoted to lobbying for foreign interests that were in some cases vile criminals and to creaming money from one scheme after the next to enrich himself at the expense of his business associates. Frank Foer has done the definitive takedown of Ellis’ comments. But the most important revelation from the hearing is that Ellis is hardly alone in normalizing the criminal conduct of powerful white men. He gave Manafort a pass for doing precisely what Donald Trump, his adult children, and several of his Cabinet members do every day. He put his own legal imprimatur on Trump’s aphorism: “When you’re a star, they let you do it.” [emphasis mine] Manafort did not apologize at his sentencing, and Ellis chided him for that. “I was surprised I did not hear you express regret,” he said. Yet he promptly handed down a sentence so lenient it basically had a nail file baked right into it…

Beyond his marked antipathy for prosecutors, the underlying sin of Ellis’ findings seems to be his willingness to sign off on the idea that literally decades of criminal behavior—tax fraud, deception, lies to banks, and more lies to cover it—are more or less honorable business conduct just two shades griftier than the glittering path of the American dream. Manafort gets credit, in other words, for having his heart in the right place, as he lied and cut corners and cheated his own partners and clients. Who among us hasn’t suffered similar missteps on the road to making our millions?..

Put another way, Ellis’ impulse to forgive Manafort for the way he constructed his life of near-fame and power-brokering is precisely the same impulse that allows some Americans to forgive Donald Trump for cheating on his taxes. (He famously claimed not paying taxes makes him “smart.”) It’s the same impulse that allows so many Americans to forgive Trump’s adult children and business for profiting off the presidency, whether by way of Chinese trademarks for Ivanka or soaring occupancy rates at Trump hotels by those seeking to curry favor. It’s the impulse that allows Trump fans to be largely unbothered by Jared Kushner’s undying friendship with the Saudi crown prince responsible for the hideous murder and dismemberment of a Washington Post reporter. It’s also the impulse that leads some congressional Democrats to claim that going after Trump’s adult children would be deemed excessively punitive. In the world of high-flying, millionaire-adjacent activities, pretty much anything is sketchy and pretty much everything is permissible, until you get caught. All this lying, and covering up, and tax evading, and money laundering, is just the cost of doing business.

2)Yeah, and you totally need to read the Franklin Foer takedown that Lithwick links to.

3a) John Pfaff with a bunch of great tweets arguing, though, that Manafort’s short sentence should be the norm, not the exception.

3b) Drum on the matter:

We are prison crazy in America, racking up an average sentence length of 63 months. This is five times the length of most of our peer countries. But when it comes to white-collar crime, people like Manafort get off relatively easy.

If the average sentence in the US were, say, a more normal 12 months, then Manafort’s 47 months would seem appropriately harsh. And since there’s little evidence that long prison sentences do much to reduce crime, it would be great if both states and the federal government moved in that direction. It’s long past time to dial down the criminal justice system from its excesses of the 80s and 90s.

4) OMG, YA Twitter is just insane.  And you gotta love that one of the worst enforcers of political correctness amok was totally hoisted by his own petard.  But, damn, what a toxic mindset.

5) So, apparently Brian Beutler’s wife is pretty awesome, too.  A great column from physician Lisa Beutler on how Democrats should run on Medicare for All (you should totally read the whole thing– great anecdotes in here, too):

Even if Congress never touches the health care issue again, almost everyone who is satisfied with their current health-insurance plans will lose them at some point. They will change employers, get promotions, lose jobs, or they will do nothing at all and their carriers will simply stop offering the plans they like. Inevitably, thousands if not millions of those people will find themselves in bureaucratic nightmares like the one I’m dealing with when their new insurers try to exploit the churn in the market for profit.

On top of everything else Kamala Harris described in her pitch for single payer, Democrats should home in on this. Will you have to switch plans? Yes. But you will have to switch plans at some point anyhow, and when you do, you will be at the mercy of a system that will try to milk your changing circumstances, for profit, at your expense. Let’s deny them that power. Let’s switch, together, all at once, and then never again.

It will of course be an administrative challenge to transition the population to Medicare by a certain date. But the worst thing Democrats could do is try to outsource that challenge to millions of us who have better things to do in life than argue with insurance companies and collections agencies, and who don’t have $17,000 lying around to make the problem go away. We should debate the best way to accomplish the transition and take great care that good, competent people are put in charge of it. But then we would be done. No one would have to turn down an exciting job opportunity because they’d lose their current insurance ever again. No one would have to switch their doctors because their employers found a cheaper contract with a different insurance company. And no one [cough] would get billed for expensive tests and medications ordered around the time they switched between private plans.

I believe in this vision for health care in America as both a doctor and a patient. I believe that when we finally make the transition we will realize, collectively, almost right away, that our old, private, employer-based insurance system was barbaric, and we’ll marvel that we suffered under it for so long. And I think if we settle for Medicare buy-in, or another half measure, then truly universal health care will remain elusive until a future crop of leaders restarts the debate all over again, and gets it right. But we won’t ever make the leap if the country’s most powerful liberals refuse to make the full, honest argument to the public, and let the chips fall where they may.

6) Ending mass incarceration means fundamentally re-thinking our approach to violent crime.  Michelle Alexander:

And yet, as Danielle Sered points out in her profoundly necessary book, “Until We Reckon,” if we fail to face violence in our communities honestly, courageously and with profound compassion for the survivors — many of whom are also perpetrators of harm — our nation will never break its addiction to caging human beings.

Fifty-four percent of the people currently held in state prisons have been convicted of a crime classified as violent. We will never slash our prison population by 50 percent — the goal of a number of current campaigns — much less get back to levels of incarceration that we had before the race to incarcerate began in the early 1980s, without addressing the one issue most reformers avoid: violence.

Reckoning with violence in a meaningful way does not mean “getting tough” in the way that phrase has been used for decades; nor does it mean being “smart on crime” to the extent that phrase has become shorthand for being “tough” on violent crime but “soft” on nonviolent crime — a formulation that continues to be embraced by some so-called “progressive prosecutors” today.

7) In a normal world, people would still be talking about how insane and incoherent Trump’s CPAC speech was.  Or talking about that at all.

8) We’re always hearing about how Big Pharma has to charge so much to bring us innovative new medicines.  The reality, to a substantial degree, they have to charge so much so that their executives can be egregiously over-compensated:

Despite their claims, the big American drug companies have not been using profits from high prices to ramp up investment in drug development. Our research shows that for 2008 through 2017, 17 pharmaceutical companies in the S. & P. 500 distributed just over 100 percent of their combined profits to shareholders, $300 billion as buybacks and $290 billion as dividends. These distributions were 12 percent greater than what these companies spent on research and development. [emphases mine]

With most of their compensation coming from exercising stock options and stock awards, senior executives benefit immensely. We gathered data on the 500 highest-paid executives in the United States from 2008 through 2017. The number who came from the drug industry ranged from 21 (in 2008 and 2011) to 42 (in 2014). The total compensation of those 42 executives averaged about $73 million, compared with an average of an already over-the-top $32 million for all 500 in 2014.

A total of 88 percent of the 2014 compensation was based on stock. In 2017, 28 drug executives in the top 500 averaged more than $41 million in total compensation, with 83 percent stock-based. By jacking up product prices and distributing the increased profits to shareholders, executives lift stock prices and their take-home pay.

Our research for the Institute for New Economic Thinking demonstrates that these companies, even when they show substantial R. & D. spending on their books, do not have much to show for it.

For example, Merck distributed 133 percent of its profits to shareholders from 2008 to 2017, and Pfizer 107 percent. Although both companies recorded large sums spent on R. & D. — Merck $80 billion and Pfizer $81 billion over the decade — these companies generated most of their revenues by acquiring companies with patented drugs on the market, rather than by developing their own new drugs. Since 2001, by our analysis, Pfizer has had significant revenues from only four internally originated and developed products. Since Merck’s merger with Schering-Plough in 2009, it has had only two blockbuster drugs, of which only one was the result of its own research.

The public foots the bill for this behavior. Not only do we pay high drug prices, our tax dollars supply more than $30 billion per year for life-sciences research through the National Institutes of Health. Yet, like most American companies, the drug industry claims that its corporations need to pay lower corporate taxes to remain competitive globally.

9) The SNL cold open on Michael Cohen was really good.

10) Eliot Cohen on the GOP cowardice is great:

And then there is the gray mass of Republicans in the middle, the ones in the House who voted with the president in favor of declaring a national emergency, and the ones who will do so in the Senate. They are not as sleazy as Cohen, as pugnaciously nasty as Gaetz, or as principled as Gallagher. They are simpler souls: They are cowards.

Talk to them privately, and they will confess that there is no emergency at the southern border—there is a problem, to be sure, but one whose seriousness has actually diminished over time. They know that the congressional leadership had the votes to build walls there for the first two years of the administration but did not manage it. They know, for that matter, that border security involves much more than walls. They know that the president is invoking emergency powers as an electoral ploy, and because he is impatient.

They know, in their timid breasts, that they would have howled with indignation if Barack Obama had declared a national emergency in such a circumstance. As they stare at their coffee cup at breakfast, the thought occurs to them that a future left-wing president could make dangerous use of these same powers—because Speaker Nancy Pelosi rubbed that fact in their face. Some of the brighter ones might even realize that emergency powers are a favored tool of authoritarians everywhere.

But they are afraid. They are afraid of being primaried. They are afraid of being called out by the bully whom they secretly despise but to whom they pledge public fealty. They are afraid of having to find another occupation than serving in elective office. And the most conceited of the lot—and there are quite a few of those, perhaps more in the Senate than in the House—think that it would be a tragedy if the country no longer had their service at its disposal.

11) I read The Mars Room because it got so many great reviews.  And Rachel Kushner can really write… but is it too much to actually want a plot?

12) Catherine Rampell with more ways Republican deregulation hurts consumers

For markets to work, you need a system where either the government protects consumers or consumers can adequately defend themselves. Or both. But you can’t have neither. The “neither” option lands you in a kleptocracy, which is basically where Republicans have been leading the country for the past few years.

Happily, a new bill — introduced by Democratic lawmakers last week — would restore at least some of consumers’ diminished tools for self-defense.

Republican politicians love to talk about their deregulatory successes. They’re not exaggerating: Under President Trump’s leadership, Republicans have repealed or watered down tons of federal rules. If you look through a list of these deregulatory efforts, you’ll notice a striking pattern: Many of them loosen the limits for how much harm businesses can inflict upon consumers. [emphases mine]

13) Great Vox interview with my NCSU colleague and friend, Sarah Bowen (and her co-authors) on the social pressures and unrealistic expectations about home cooking.

14) I’m working on this post during a hockey game–alas, my Carolina Hurricanes are getting killed.  They are playing like they are high on marijuana right now.  The good news is, though, that the NHL, unlike most sports leagues, actually has a totally sane policy when it comes to marijuana.  As I’ve written before, it insane that other pro sports leagues penalize their players for this when there are obviously no performance-enhancing aspects.

15) David Brooks comes around on the case for reparations:

We’re a nation coming apart at the seams, a nation in which each tribe has its own narrative and the narratives are generally resentment narratives. The African-American experience is somehow at the core of this fragmentation — the original sin that hardens the heart, separates Americans from one another and serves as model and fuel for other injustices.

The need now is to consolidate all the different narratives and make them reconciliation and possibility narratives, in which all feel known. That requires direct action, a concrete gesture of respect that makes possible the beginning of a new chapter in our common life. Reparations are a drastic policy and hard to execute, but the very act of talking about and designing them heals a wound and opens a new story.

16) Somehow I missed this in the New Yorker when it came out in 2017, but this story, “A Pill to Make Exercise Obsolete: What if a drug could give you all the benefits of a workout?” is pretty fascinating.

17) Great story in the Nation of the incredibly, stupid, short-sighted, and punitive policy that is Arkansas’ policy of work requirements to receive Medicaid.

Since January 2018, 14 other states have requested the ability to impose their own work requirements on Medicaid. They would be wise to take stock of what’s happened in Arkansas. “Don’t do it,” said Numan, adding: “There’s no good way of implementing this kind of policy.” Even federal agencies are taking note. In November, the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission, a nonpartisan legislative-branch agency, sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar calling for the department to hold off on approving work-requirement requests based on the situation in Arkansas. In February, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Representative Frank Pallone (D-NJ) also wrote to Azar urging him to stop approving Medicaid work requirements, saying their concerns have “play[ed] out in real life in the State of Arkansas.”

Numan wishes the state had put its energy into helping people get the support they need to work, such as education, child care, transportation, and, of course, health care. The very idea of work requirements in Medicaid makes little sense. “Medicaid is a work support,” Alker asserted. “If you want to support work, it makes sense to expand Medicaid. If you want to stigmatize the program and [add] a lot of red-tape barriers, then do a work requirement.”

(Real) quick hits

1) I’m a big fan of the the big 5 personality inventory.  538 with a nice explanation and a nice version of the quiz.  I still get frustrated by “openness to experience” being a single concepts as in some aspects I am very open to experience and I love culture and learning new things, but this is also the guy who would happily eat pizza for lunch five days a week (and often does).

2) Krugman on Elizabeth Warren’s smart plan for universal child care.  I don’t know if Warren would make the best president, but I’m pretty damn confident she has the best policy ideas.

For millions of Americans with children, life is a constant, desperate balancing act. They must work during the day, either because they’re single parents or because decades of wage stagnation mean that both parents must take jobs to make ends meet. Yet quality child care is unavailable or unaffordable.

And the thing is, it doesn’t have to be this way. Other wealthy countries either have national child care systems or subsidize care to put it in everyone’s reach. It doesn’t even cost all that much. While other advanced countries spend, on average, about three times as much as we do helping families — so much for our vaunted “family values” — it’s still a relatively small part of their budgets. In particular, taking care of children is much cheaper than providing health care and retirement income to seniors, which even America does.

Furthermore, caring for children doesn’t just help them grow up to be productive adults. It also has immediate economic benefits, making it easier for parents to stay in the work force…

For the Warren proposal is the kind of initiative that, if enacted, would change millions of lives for the better, yet could actually happen in the near future.

Among other things, unlike purist visions of replacing private health insurance with “Medicare for all,” providing child care wouldn’t require imposing big new taxes on the middle class. The sums of money involved are small enough that new taxes on great wealth and high incomes, which are desirable on other grounds, could easily raise sufficient revenue.

The logic of the Warren plan is fairly simple (although some commentators are trying to make it sound complex). Child care would be regulated to ensure that basic quality was maintained and subsidized to make it affordable. The size of the subsidy would depend on parents’ incomes: lower-income parents would get free care, higher-income parents would have to pay something, but nobody would have to pay more than 7 percent of income.

Warren’s advisers put the budget cost at $70 billion a year, or around one-third of one percent of G.D.P. That’s not chicken feed, but it’s not that much for something that could transform so many lives…

The bottom line is that Warren’s proposal is impressive: It’s workable, affordable, and would do a huge amount of good.

And while this isn’t a horse-race column — I’m not arguing that Warren necessarily will or even should be the Democratic presidential nominee — the field needs more policy ideas like this: medium-size, medium-priced proposals that could deliver major benefits without requiring a political miracle.

3) Really nice Post piece on just went down with even all the Republicans finally admitting we need a new election for NC-9.

4) I was a little disheartened that my son’s middle school health teacher is actually teaching health myths.  In this case, the eight glasses of water a day myth.  Aaron Carroll took it apart back in 2015.

5) Really enjoyed reading John McWhorter on Smollet and victimhood culture:

6) Just in case you didn’t hear the story of the high school that gave out cheerleading awards like the “big boobie award.”  Just ugh.

7) The thinking-man’s libertarian, Will Wilkinson, with a nice piece, “Don’t Abolish Billionaires:
Abolish bad policy instead.”

The empirical record is quite clear about the general form of national political economy that produces the happiest, healthiest, wealthiest, freest and longest lives. There’s no pithy name for it, so we’ll have to settle for “liberal-democratic welfare-state capitalism.” There’s a “social democratic” version, which is what you get in countries like Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands. And there’s a “neoliberal” (usually English-speaking) version, which is what you get in countries like Canada, New Zealand and the United States.

You may prefer one version over the other, but they’re not all that different. And in comparative terms, they’re all insanely great. The typical citizen of these countries is as well-off as human beings have ever been. These places are the historical pinnacle of policy success.

But guess what? There are billionaires in all of them. Egalitarian Sweden, an object of ardent progressive adoration, has more billionaires per capita than the United States.

8) Ah damn was that Dutch historian taking down Tucker Carlson so awesome.

9) Terrific unanimous Supreme Court decision last week on excessive fines and policing for profit:

The Supreme Court struck an extraordinary blow for criminal justice reform on Wednesday, placing real limitations on policing for profitacross the country. Its unanimous decision for the first time prohibits all 50 states from imposing excessive fines, including the seizure of property, on people accused or convicted of a crime. Rarely does the court hand down a ruling of such constitutional magnitude—and seldom do all nine justices agree to restrict the power that police and prosecutors exert over individuals. The landmark decision represents a broad agreement on the Supreme Court that law enforcement’s legalized thefthas gone too far.

10) A nice explanation of how California’s lawsuit against Trump’s emergency is perfectly written to appeal to conservative Justices.  All we need is a modicum of intellectual honesty (I’m actually optimistic on that matter) and we’re good:

This lawsuit joins a series of others that have already been filed by watchdog groups. While they all argue that there is no actual emergency at the southern border, that is not the gravamen of their complaint. Instead of asking the courts to second-guess Trump’s intent, these challengers ask them to decide whether Trump had authority to act in the first place.

The answer, they assert, is no. The Presentment Clause is straightforward: For a bill to become law, it must pass both houses of Congress, then be presented to the president for approval. Yet Congress never passed a bill authorizing and funding the border wall Trump now demands. It never presented such legislation to the president for his signature. This is the stuff of Civics 101. Whatever powers the National Emergencies Act may grant to the president, a federal statute cannot override the Constitution. The executive cannot use funds Congress did not appropriate. He cannot amend statutes himself to create money for pet projects. Trump asked Congress for a large sum of money to construct a border wall; Congress resoundingly and provably said no. The National Emergencies Act does not give him leeway to contravene Congress’ commands.

These problems ought to be catnip for SCOTUS’ conservative justices—particularly Justice Neil Gorsuch. In his very first dissent on the Supreme Court, Gorsuch extolled the virtues of this pristine constitutional system. “If a statute needs repair,” he wrote, “there’s a constitutionally prescribed way to do it. It’s called legislation.” Gorsuch continued:

To be sure, the demands of bicameralism and presentment are real and the process can be protracted. But the difficulty of making new laws isn’t some bug in the constitutional design: it’s the point of the design, the better to preserve liberty.

A year later, in his rightly celebrated opinion in Sessions v. Dimaya, Gorsuch hammered this same point home again. “Under the Constitution,” he wrote, “the adoption of new laws restricting liberty is supposed to be a hard business, the product of an open and public debate among a large and diverse number of elected representatives.” The courts abdicate their responsibility when they ignore the Constitution’s “division of duties” between the branches of government. These “structural worries” form the bedrock of American constitutional governance, whose ultimate goal is to safeguard “ordered liberty.” These new challenges demonstrate that Trump is circumventing these “structural worries” and harming “ordered liberty” in the process.

11) Sorry, but have no sympathy for Americans who betrayed their country to join the brutal, murderous cult that is ISIS and now want to come home and have all be forgiven.

12) There’s a u-curve for the amount of free time that brings you the most happiness.  Honestly, I suspect that I’d be good with more free time than lots of people, “How Much Leisure Time Do the Happiest People Have? Too little, and people tend to get stressed. Too much, and people tend to feel idle.”

13) Not at all surprising to anyone paying attention and not blinded by right-wing Christian ideology, “Meta-Analysis Over Almost 20 Years Has Declared Its Verdict on Abstinence-Only Sex Ed.”  It doesn’t work.

14) Since the opioid crisis is particularly bad in New Hampshire a lot of people are pushing back against legalizing marijuana.  Because smoking pot leads to opioid addiction.  Oh wait.

15) Loved this story on the new, small tyrannosaurs discovered (by a NC State professor!!):

But at just 170 pounds and six feet long from nose to tail, this new human-size dinosaur was muchsmaller than its more famous relative. Growth rings in the bones, much like those in a tree trunk, showed that the individual was at least seven years old and nearly mature. “It’s certainly not a very young individual of a very large species,” Zanno says. Instead, it was an adult—just a small one.

Zanno named it Moros, after the embodiment of impending doom in Greek mythology. It’s a rather dramatic name for such a diminutive dinosaur, but it’s apt considering the creature’s age. Moros lived 96 million years ago, preceding Tyrannosaurus by a good 30 million years. It was a miniature harbinger of the bone-crunching tyrants to come—impending doom, indeed. And its age and size offer important clues about one of the most dramatic plot twists in the dinosaur story.

During the late Jurassic period, at a time when Asia and North America were connected to each other, the first tyrannosaurs evolved in the former continent before crossing over into the latter. At first they were just one of many groups of small-bodied hunters, all skulking subordinately in the shadow of far bigger predators, such as the allosaurs, a family of toothy, two-legged dinosaurs with dangerous claws. But at some point during the Cretaceous period, the allosaurs died out. The tyrannosaurs quickly usurped them, evolving into apex predators that ruled unchallenged in the northern continents until an asteroid strike (perhaps in combination with volcanic activity) ended their reign.

That switch from allosaurs to tyrannosaurs “was a defining event in dinosaur evolution, but we still don’t know very much about it,” says Steve Brusatte from the University of Edinburgh. “We’re not really sure exactly when it happened, if it happened quickly or was more of a prolonged battle, or if it happened across the northern continents all at once.” …

So what the hell happened to the Allosaurs anyway?!

Police state America

I saw several mentions of this video on twitter this weekend, but thanks to Drum, I finally took a look.  OMG it’s horrible.  Here’s Drum’s brief summary:

I hate to ruin your weekend, but this has to be seen to be believed. A driver in Glendale, Arizona was pulled over for a turn signal violation, and the passenger ended up being tased 11 times—including once in his testicles—solely because he politely asked some questions about what was going on. The officer who did this was suspended for 30 hours.

This was just stomach-churning to watch.  There’s a great, lengthy story on it here that analyzes the video with experts on law enforcement use of force.  Suffice it to say, it is beyond appalling that this officer is still on the streets.  Hopefully now that this has come to light, more appropriate action (i.e., prosecution of the officer) will be taken.  But, damn, there’s just so much endemic corruption in law enforcement that those in power saw this body camera footage the police officer faced only a 30 hour suspension.  In some weird way, it’s also nice to see that bad cops can be horrible to white people, too.

Fair trial: American style

You probably know that thanks to Gideon v. Wainwright, criminal defendants have a right to an attorney even if they cannot afford one.  That’s a good thing.  Not only the “right to counsel” but the even more fundamental concept of a fair trial is wholly undermined if the state has competent legal representation but the defense does not.

But the reality is that this fundamental right is undermined every single day throughout the United States and our court system has largely failed to do anything about it.  What does it mean that the state is paying for you attorney if she only has 5 minutes to spend on your case because she’s got 200 other defendants that week?  Exactly.  A fair trial, it is not.  But, welcome to criminal justice for the poor in America.

Nowhere is this more abominable and absurd than the state of Louisiana.  Great photo essay on this in the NYT last week.  Definitely check it out.  Some highlights:

The numbers alone might seem to violate the Constitution. Poor defendants in the United States have the right to a competent lawyer, and hundreds of thousands of defendants rest their hopes on someone like Mr. Talaska.

But there has never been any guarantee that those lawyers would have enough time to handle their cases. That’s why the study cited above, which looked at the workloads of public defenders, is significant.

Right now, courts allow an individual to claim, after they lose, that they received an ineffective defense. But the bar is high. Some judges have ruled that taking illegal drugs, driving to court drunk or briefly falling asleep at the defense table — even during critical testimony — did not make a lawyer inadequate. [emphases mine]

It is even harder to make the argument that the sheer size of lawyers’ caseloads makes it impossible for them to provide what the Constitution requires: a reasonably effective defense. That is partly because there has never been a reliable standard for how much time is enough.

Now, reformers are using data in a novel attempt to create such a standard. The studies they have produced so far, in four states, say that public defenders have two to almost five times as many cases as they should…

“When obstetricians have five times as much work as they can handle competently, terrible things happen,” Mr. Hanlon said. “When public defenders have five times as much work as they can competently handle, terrible things happen, too.”

You don’t have to be a judge, lawyer, or even all that educated to recognize that the idea of a public defender with 400+ clients is hardly a “right to counsel” in any meaningful sense.  The current state of affairs is abominable and an embarrassment.  It’s great that some organizations are trying to do something about this.  And judges have been cowardly in side-stepping this obviously unconstitutional situation.  But shame on the legislators who put so many people in this situation in the first place.  This has to change.

Quick hits (part I)

Oh man, so much good stuff this week.  But a really busy Friday.  So, let’s see how much I get to here:

1) Among the conservatives whom Trump has caused to see the light to varying degrees, George Will:

Dislike of him should be tempered by this consideration: He is an almost inexpressibly sad specimen. It must be misery to awaken to another day of being Donald Trump. He seems to have as many friends as his pluperfect self-centeredness allows, and as he has earned in an entirely transactional life. His historical ignorance deprives him of the satisfaction of working in a house where much magnificent history has been made. His childlike ignorance — preserved by a lifetime of single-minded self-promotion — concerning governance and economics guarantees that whenever he must interact with experienced and accomplished people, he is as bewildered as a kindergartener at a seminar on string theory.

2) Paul Waldman is exactly right, “Why you shouldn’t care when a presidential candidate flip-flops.”  Of course, both the media, the Republican Party, and single-issue agenda pushers have conditioned us to care a lot.  Waldman:

Gillibrand’s situation of starting in a place that isn’t representative of her party and then having to change as she moves to the national stage has plenty of precedents. But the evolution over time may be more common, especially in the past couple of decades as the parties have grown steadily more ideologically more homogeneous and shifted away from the center.

For instance, when Clinton joined her husband in the White House in 1993, it was standard for a Democrat to oppose same-sex marriage and support “tough on crime” measures; she had to apologize for both when she ran for president in 2016. By then Democratic tolerance for dissent from the party’s position on guns had narrowed, which left Bernie Sanders explaining that his sometimes pro-gun record was because Vermont is a rural state where lots of people have guns. In other words, he was faithfully representing the beliefs of his constituents, which you can either say is what a representative should do or is just pandering.

Other Democratic candidates are going to confront this issue as the primaries proceed. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has already released a videoapologizing for her previous opposition to marriage equality. Sen. Kamala D. Harris will be criticized for some of her actions as a prosecutor in California. Former vice president Joe Biden will be grilled on his authorship of the harsh 1994 crime bill (among other things). Sen. Cory Booker will have to defend prior ties to Wall Street. Retired boxer Oscar De La Hoya will have to explain his long record of punching other men in the face (though you probably didn’t know, he’s thinking of running, too).

They’ll all probably say that they’re different today than they were then, and while voters will inevitably judge their sincerity, you don’t really have to believe a politician is sincere when they make this move. Why? Because once they shift, they seldom go back. They don’t get elected and then say, “Ha ha, I fooled you all!” As a voter, you’d do better to accept the change and judge them on whether you like the positions they take now. Because that’s almost certainly what they’ll do if they become president.

3) Derek Thompson on the 70% marginal rate and innovation:

Entrepreneurs aren’t just born tough; they’re born lucky. The majority of successful young founders come from affluent white families, and they often piggyback on the professional connections and business expertise of their parents. Taxing the rich and distributing their income would do nothing to change the networks or tutelage of rich families, but it would reduce precarity among middle- and lower-class families, thus helping nonaffluent children become founders without doing much to punish their richer peers.

If Ocasio-Cortez wanted to destroy the American culture of innovation, she wouldn’t propose a barely applicable marginal tax rate, which exists within a larger tax code, which itself exists within a larger fiscal policy. Instead, she would reduce research funding, protect employer-sponsored insurance to keep tomorrow’s founders locked inside today’s cubicles, and increase student debt to make youth entrepreneurship more precarious. Oh, wait.

4) And Economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman make the case for high marginal rates.  Read this one.

The view that excessive income concentration corrodes the social contract has deep roots in America — a country founded, in part, in reaction against the highly unequal, aristocratic Europe of the 18th century. Sharply progressive taxation is an American invention: The United States was the first country in the world, in 1917 — four years after the creation of the income tax — to impose tax rates as high as 67 percent on the highest incomes. When Representative Ocasio-Cortez proposes a 70 percent rate for incomes above $10 million, she is reconnecting with this American tradition. She’s reviving an ethos that Ronald Reagan successfully repressed, but that prevailed during most of the 20th century.

And she’s doing so at a time when there is an emergency. For just as we have a climate crisis, we have an inequality crisis. Over more than a generation, the lower half of income distribution has been shut out from economic growth: Its income per adult was $16,000 in 1980 (adjusted for inflation), and it still is around $16,000 today. At the same time, the income of a tiny minority has skyrocketed. For the highest 0.1 percent of earners, incomes have grown more than 300 percent; for the top 0.01 percent, incomes have grown by as much as 450 percent. And for the tippy-top 0.001 percent — the 2,300 richest Americans — incomes have grown by more than 600 percent.

Just as the point of taxing carbon is not to raise revenue but to reduce carbon emissions, high tax rates for sky-high incomes do not aim at funding Medicare for All. They aim at preventing an oligarchic drift that, if left unaddressed, will continue undermining the social compact and risk killing democracy.

5) Molly Roberts with my favorite take on the whole Covington Catholic HS mess:

The problem is, neither of these distillations captures the truth, which is hidden somewhere in a mess of different segments of different recordings showing different offenses by different parties. It’s true that the Hebrew Israelites shouted invective at the kids, and it is true that the kids chanted school cheers to drown them out. It’s also true that the schoolboys, whether someone else was mean to them beforehand or not, were giggling as they let loose with offensive war whoops and tomahawk chops while a Native American man beat his drum before them. It’s true that one of them ripped his shirt off in a signal of self-assured dominance. And it’s true that a smirk is a smirk.

The quarrel over the Covington teens is not only a story of social media hate-mobbing. It’s also a story of the groupthinking tendency to hop off a bandwagon as unthinkingly as we hop onto it. More important, it’s a story of our desire to make every cultural controversy fit into a framework that tells some distillable truth about the state of our country today. Any actual truth about the rifts running through America right now can’t be cleanly distilled. That’s a harder story to tell — which might be why so few are trying.

6) Tom Edsall with a deep dive on Democrats’ leftward movement, “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Is Leading and Following at the Same Time: The Democratic electorate has shifted sharply to the left, taking many politicians along with it — willingly and unwillingly.”

7) But when it comes to social issues, it’s not just Democrats moving left, “Young Voters Keep Moving to the Left on Social Issues, Republicans Included”

Democrats of all ages tend to align fairly closely on major social and political issues, but the report highlights a sharp generational divide among Republicans. For example, more than half of the youngest Republicans surveyed said that racial and ethnic diversity was good for American society, a view shared by fewer than 40 percent of their Millennial counterparts, 34 percent of Generation Xers and just three in 10 baby boomers.

Young Republicans are also more likely to approve of same-sex marriage and accept transgender people.

8) Maybe take a stair-climbing exercise “snack

As little as 20 seconds of brisk stair climbing, done several times a day, might be enough exercise to improve fitness, according to a pragmatic new study of interval-style training.

The study finds that people can complete a meaningful series of insta-workouts without leaving their office building or even changing out of their dress shoes, offering hope — and eliminating excuses — for those of us convinced that we have inadequate time, expertise, income or footwear to exercise…

So, for the new study, which was published this month in Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, the researchers decided to see whether it was feasible to break the workout into a series of “exercise snacks” spread throughout the day.

Their hope was that a single quick burst of stair climbing would be strenuous enough to prompt improvements in fitness if it were repeated multiple times, even with hours in between.

To find out, they recruited 24 healthy but inactive college students, tested their endurance and leg power using a specialized stationary bicycle, and randomly assigned them either to continue with their normal lives as a control group or start exercise snacking.

The exercisers reported to the physiology building’s stairwell. There, the researchers directed them to warm up with a few jumping jacks, squats and lunges and then hurry up 60 steps — three flights of stairs — as quickly as they could, one step at a time, while using the guardrail for safety. These ascents lasted about 20 seconds.

And that was the workout. The volunteers repeated these abbreviated exercise snacks twice more that day, usually at lunch and again in the afternoon, for a total intense exercise time of about a minute.

By the end of six weeks, the exercisers had increased their aerobic fitness by about 5 percent. They also showed improvements in leg power and could generate more power while cycling.

9) I’ve done a fair amount of Amazon returns.  I found this pretty fascinating to find out what happens to so much of them.  Pretty sure the headphones I’ve returned (additional headphones from multipack purchases when first pair is defective) have all just ended up trashed.

10) Sarah Jones is right, “Donald Trump Has No Idea How Grocery Stores Work.’

11) I’m a sucker for Girl Scout Cookies and for Vox articles about Girl Scout cookies.  Hooray for Samoas/Carmel Delites.

12) Jeremy Stahl, “Roger Stone’s Indictment Proves the House Republicans’ Russia Investigation Was a Whitewash.”  Yes, it really does.  It’s like asking the guy with a knife, “hey, did you stab that guy over there lying in the pool of blood.”  Guy, “me, no.”  Republicans in Congress, “see, he didn’t do anything wrong.”

13) How much do I love Adam Serwer referencing Stringer Bell’s use of Roberts Rules of Order when it comes to Trup associates taking incriminating notes.

14) Kottke with videos visualizing the speed of light.  This is so cool!

15) Damn, those pot sellers are dangerous!  Radley Balko:

16) Read this excellent piece from Ezra on the excellent political science of Frances Lee and what it tells us about Trump and the current partisan dynamics:

Once a political party has decided the path to governing is winning back the majority, not working with the existing majority, the incentives transform. Instead of cultivating a good relationship with your colleagues across the aisle, you need to destroy them, because you need to convince the voters to destroy them, too.

Dick Cheney, then a member of the House of Representatives, put it sharply in 1985. “Confrontation fits our strategy,” he said. “Polarization often has very beneficial results. If everything is handled through compromise and conciliation, if there are no real issues dividing us from the Democrats, why should the country change and make us the majority?”

There’s nothing particularly unusual about this. It’s the logic of zero-sum contests everywhere. But America’s political system is unusual in that it fosters divided government and is full of tricks minorities can use to obstruct governance, like the filibuster. The current shutdown, for instance, reflects the fact that the Republican president needed Democratic votes to fund the government, even when Republicans held the majority in both the House and the Senate. [emphases mine]

Imagine this structure outside the context of American politics. Imagine you worked in an office where your boss, who was kind of a jerk, needed your help to finish his projects. If you helped him, he’d keep his job and maybe even get a promotion. If you refused to help him, you’d become his boss, and he might even get fired. Now add in a deep dose of disagreement — you hate his projects and think they’re bad for the company, and even the world — and a bunch of colleagues who also hate your boss and will be mad at you if you help him…

The media tends to tell the story of American politics as if it were an episode of The West Wing. The protagonist is the president, and any problem can be solved with enough presidential leadership, with a soaring enough presidential speech.

Brendan Nyhan, a University of Michigan political scientist, calls this the Green Lantern Theory of the Presidency, and defines it as “the belief that the president can achieve any political or policy objective if only he tries hard enough or uses the right tactics.” In other words, the American president is functionally all-powerful, and whenever he can’t get something done, it’s because he’s not trying hard enough, not leading aggressively enough.

Trump, whose political history prior to winning the presidency included a lot of speeches and television appearances but no actual governance, seems particularly besotted by this vision of politics. He often seems to understand his presidency as the Donald Trump Show, where he is the main character, perhaps the only character. During his party nomination speech, Trump famously said, “I alone can fix it,” and if the actual experience of the presidency has perhaps tempered that view a bit, it hasn’t tempered it enough for Trump to work in a truly collaborative, consistent way with the other parts of the government.

 

Quick hits (part II)

1) Pew with a thorough look at public opinion on the border and the shutdown.  Partisanship is a thing.

GOP support for expanding border wall rises; Democratic support falls

2) David Brooks on “putting relationship quality at the center of education.”  I’ve been saying for years and years, that just like Coach K coaches for the relationships, not the championships, I teach for the relationships.

3) I loved the Gillette ad.  Even allowed myself to be goaded into a semi-rare facebook argument (I won, of course– no really, I did), but I also really like Drum’s take on the damn liberals who have to push everything too far.  I also like that he takes on the worst of Vox, which he’s right about and weakens otherwise great journalism.

Well, plenty of men aren’t happy with it. No surprise there. But apparently some women aren’t happy about it either, even though it conveys an explicitly feminist message. Why? Well, at the risk of pissing off some friends, I have to make a confession here: The ism writers at Vox (sexism, racism, ageism, etc.) are always on hand to describe and explain these things. And they always defend the most extreme woke view. Nevertheless, I read most of their wokeness articles anyway, sometimes because they’re good but other times because I’m curious to find out what excuse they’ll use this time to defend the most extravagantly excessive view out there. For the Gillette ad, here it is:

Men who are angry about a commercial and calling for a boycott of a razor company in the comments of a YouTube post are also writing things like, “Gillette is desperately deleting critical comments for fear that people will know about what men are saying about this radical feminist advert.”

These arguments make no sense whatsoever. Still, this ad is a misfire, in that it is a blatant attempt to make money off a painful and ongoing collective action that has not even an indirect relationship to face razors. Is it likely that there were people at Gillette with good intentions and people at Grey who wanted to help realize them? Absolutely! However, it is inherently nonsensical to use feminism to sell men’s grooming products, or any products, as feminism is a political movement bent on dismantling current structures of power, which likely includes multibillion-dollar corporations like Procter & Gamble.

Really?

The reason this commercial is bad is because feminism is dedicated to destroying all large corporations, and it’s therefore inherently nonsensical for large corporations to promote feminist views in their advertising? This wouldn’t pass muster in a freshman women’s studies course. How does it make it past an editor? It persuades no one except those who are already part of the drum circle. Everyone else either skips it entirely or just guffaws when they read it.

I’m not just nitpicking a single piece, either. It doesn’t matter if the subject is liberalism, conservatism, guns, abortion, feminism, racism, climate change, or anything else. We all have to be willing to call out the nonsense on our own side when we hear it. We can’t just automatically go along with the most extreme voices out of fear that we’ll no longer be considered part of the movement if we suggest that maybe someone has gone a wee bit too far.

Anyway: this is just a commercial. Sure, it uses consciousness raising in service of making money. So what? If corporate chieftans are willing to bet that promoting feminism is good for the bottom line, all the better for feminism. How else are you going to reach a hundred million men in prime time, after all?

4) Farhad Manjoo makes the moral case for open borders.  And, for the record, even the liberal NYT commenters let him have it.

5) Apparently treating children equally is a pretty new innovation.  My take is: love your children so that they are each convinced they are your favorite.  It’s actually such a taboo to have favorites that I enjoy joking to my classes that I rank order my children every day with refrigerator magnets.  Anyway, good stuff from Jennifer Traig:

Modern parents haven’t stopped playing favorites; they’ve just stopped doing it openly. Though few parents today will admit they have a favorite child, studies indicate that about two-thirds of parents do. In one small but astounding survey, 80 percent of mothers acknowledged favoring one child over the others. This was no secret to their children, 80 percent of whom agreed. Interestingly, however, when they were asked which child their mother loved most, they almost always got it wrong. Similar results are borne out in larger studies: Two-thirds of children accurately perceive that their parents have a favorite, but less than half get the favorite right.

The idea that you’re supposed to treat your children equally is recent, and it’s still not the norm in much of the world, where different siblings might have different roles and even different titles. In English, we refer to both younger and older siblings as sister or brother, but Chinese has separate terms for each. A gege (older brother) has different rights and responsibilities than a younger one (didi), as do a jiejie (big sister) and meimei (little sister). In Japan, an old slang term for the second son was “Master Cold Rice,” because historically he ate only after the firstborn got his food.

Treating all your children the same is certainly not the norm historically, either. Playing favorites is called “parental differential treatment,” and it was standard practice until fairly recently. Treating all your children the same would be as ridiculous as, say, treating your husband and the doorman the same because they’re both men, greeting them both with kisses and giving both tips for bringing up the mail. The two just play different roles, and there are different expectations for each.

6) Border reality via NPR: “For 7th Consecutive Year, Visa Overstays Exceeded Illegal Border Crossings.”

7) Meanwhile, Drum brings a whole host of border/immigration reality with lots of great charts.

8) This is cool… by making you brain work harder, the Sans Forgetica font can help you learn better.

9) Really enjoyed this from the Economist on why our weeks seven days.  Because… ancient Mesopotamians.

10) Really like this new research from friend PID expert Alex Theodoridis (with Stephen Goggin and John Henderson):

To what extent do voters grasp “what goes with what” among key political objects as they attempt to understand the choices they face at the ballot box? Is recognition of these associations limited to only the most informed citizens? We design a novel conjoint classification experiment that minimizes partisan boosting and allows for the relative comparison of attribute effect when mapping voter associative networks, the cluster of attributes linked to parties and ideological labels. We ask respondents to ‘guess’ the party or ideology of hypothetical candidates with fully randomized issue priorities and biographical details. There is remarkable agreement among both high- and low-knowledge voters in linking issues to each party and ideology, suggesting this minimalist form of associative competence is more widely held in the mass public than perhaps previously thought. We find less agreement about biographical traits, which appear to pose greater informational challenges for voters. Notably, nearly identical issue priorities and traits are associated with party and ideology, indicating these two dimensions are largely fused in the minds of today’s American voters.

11) Frank Bruni asks, “Will the Media Be Trump’s Accomplice Again in 2020?”  Ummmmm… yeah.

Democracies don’t just get the leaders they deserve. They get the leaders who make it through whatever obstacle course — and thrive in whatever atmosphere — their media has created.

“The shadow of what we did last time looms over this next time,” the former CBS newsman Dan Rather, who has covered more than half a century of presidential elections, told me. And what we did last time was emphasize the sound and the fury, because Trump provided both in lavish measure.

“When you cover this as spectacle,” Rather said, “what’s lost is context, perspective and depth. And when you cover this as spectacle, he is the star.” Spectacle is his métier. He’s indisputably spectacular. And even if it’s a ghastly spectacle and presented that way, it still lets him control the narrative. As the writer Steve Almond observed in a recently published essay, “He appears powerful to his followers, which is central to his strongman mystique.”…

Trump was and is a perverse gift to the mainstream, establishment media, a magnet for eyeballs at a juncture when we were struggling economically and desperately needed one. Just present him as the high-wire act and car crash that he is; the audience gorges on it. But readers’ news appetite isn’t infinite, so they’re starved of information about the fraudulence of his supposed populism and the toll of his incompetence. And he wins. He doesn’t hate the media, not at all. He uses us.

Did that dynamic help elect him? There’s no definitive answer. But we gave him an extraordinary bounty of coverage, depriving his rivals of commensurate oxygen and agency. And while our coverage of him had turned overwhelmingly negative by the final months of the 2016 campaign, it by no means started out that way.

12) Greg Sargent makes the case for Sherrod Brown:

Sen. Sherrod Brown will travel to the early presidential primary states in coming weeks, he confirmed to me in an interview. This will stoke speculation about the presidential ambitions of the Ohio Democrat who is widely seen as an ideal messenger for true economic populism as the antidote to President Trump’s sham version of the same.

At the core of Brown’s message is a simple idea: The way to confer dignity on work is to ensure that it pays well. Due to structural economic factors beyond ordinary Americans’ control, wages have stagnated for millions, with many trapped in the ranks of the working poor; but government can remedy this through the tax code by sending struggling Americans money.

Many progressive economists and Democratic lawmakers are coalescing around a way to do this, through one version or another of expanded tax credits for working people and families, to supplement their income and lift them out of poverty and/or closer to the ranks of the middle-class.

13) I cannot believe I was so late to the game of the terrific podcast literally produced in San Quentin by prisoners, “Ear Hustle.”  So good.  Host Earlonne Woods is amazing and so obviously completely rehabilitated.  How many other prisoners who have already served many years and could really benefit society are also languishing behind bars without a podcast to let us know?

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