Quick hits (part I)

Sorry for the slow week (and the late quick hits), but you’ll be glad to know I had a damn good time at the beach.

1) Enjoyed Adam Gopnik on immigration and France’s World Cup win.

2) Still can’t beat the original Ali G show for me (this may be my favorite clip), but I’m still a big Sacha Baron Cohen fan.  Oh, boy did he make some Republicans look stupid advocating for toddlers to have guns.

3) As much as I wanted to write about Trump and Putin this week, I decided my time was better spent in the Atlantic ocean.  That said, I particularly enjoyed some of the following takes.  Max Boot:

President Trump habitually calls the press “the enemy of the people” — a loathsome calumny, redolent of dictatorships, that he repeated on Sunday. In fact, by asking tough questions at Trump’s joint news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday, reporters once again showed that they are the sentinels of America democracy. If anyone is “the enemy of the people,” it is Trump himself.

Those are words I never thought I would write about an American president — even one as boorish and bigoted as Trump. But after his appalling performance in Helsinki at what CNN’s John King aptly called the “surrender summit,” questions about Trump’s loyalty to the American people will only intensify. Indeed, the question came up at the news conference itself. The Associated Press’s Jonathan Lemire courageously asked “does the Russian government have any compromising material on President Trump or his family?”

Think of how extraordinary — how unprecedented — that moment was. Can you imagine a similar question being asked about any previous U.S. president? I can’t.

4) Drum rounds up a bunch of pretty tough criticism of the “Surrender Summit,” but I could not help but notice how there’s hardly any meaningful criticism from sitting Republican officeholders.  What a bunch of cowards!!

5) James Fallows, “This Is the Moment of Truth for Republicans: The GOP can either defend the United States or serve the damaged and defective man who is now its president.”  Sadly, I think we all know what choice we’ll make.  On some level I understand the desire to hang onto political power, but do these Republicans have no genuine patriotism at all?!

There are exactly two possible explanations for the shameful performance the world witnessed on Monday, from a serving American president.

Either Donald Trump is flat-out an agent of Russian interests—maybe witting, maybe unwitting, from fear of blackmail, in hope of future deals, out of manly respect for Vladimir Putin, out of gratitude for Russia’s help during the election, out of pathetic inability to see beyond his 306 electoral votes. Whatever the exact mixture of motives might be, it doesn’t really matter.

Or he is so profoundly ignorant, insecure, and narcissistic that he did not realize that, at every step, he was advancing the line that Putin hoped he would advance, and the line that the American intelligence, defense, and law-enforcement agencies most dreaded.

Conscious tool. Useful idiot. Those are the choices, though both are possibly true, so that the main question is the proportions.

Whatever the balance of motivations, what mattered was that Trump’s answers during his joint press conference with the Russian president were indistinguishable from Putin’s, starting with the fundamental claim that Putin’s assurances about interference in U.S. democracy (“He was incredibly strong and confident in his denial”) deserved belief over those of his own Department of Justice (“I think the probe is a disaster for our country”)…

Trump manifestly cannot help himself. This is who he is.

Those who could do something are the 51 Republican senators and 236 Republican representatives who have the power to hold hearings, issue subpoenas, pass resolutions of censure, guarantee the integrity of Robert Mueller’s investigation, condemn the past Russian election interference, shore up protections against the next assault, and in general defend their countryrather than the damaged and defective man who is now its president.

6) David Remnick (who damn well knows Russia):

At the press conference in Helsinki, Trump proved himself, at best, a heedless amateur, blind to the bogus arguments and offers being made by a shrewd adversary. “President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today, and what he did is an incredible offer,” Trump said. “He offered to have the people working on the case come and work with their investigators with respect to the twelve [Russian intelligence officers who were indicted by Mueller]. I think that’s an incredible offer.” Incredible is the word, and not just for the offer. Trump’s incredible journey to Europe was an act contrary to the interests of his country. Now we will see who, particularly in the Republican Party, will stand up not to applaud the Great Leader but to find the capacity to say what is obvious and what is true.

7) All that said, I did enjoy Douthat’s more temperate take (though it is still plenty damning):

And what about the election-season contacts with suspicious Russian nationals and WikiLeaks, the Don Jr. meeting and the Roger Stone forays? In this theory they’re indicators that Trump, a shady guy surrounded by shady guys and professional morons, might well have colluded given the opportunity — but they don’t prove that any such opportunity presented itself. After all, neither the hacking nor the leaking of emails required his campaign’s cooperation, so there was no reason for the Russian side to advance beyond a deniable low-level meeting and WikiLeaks D.M.s, and thus no real opportunity for the Trump team to be a true accessory to the underlying crime.

This narrative does not exonerate Trump; indeed, it provides various grounds to condemn him. But those grounds are the same grounds that were obvious during the campaign: We watched him blow kisses to dictators then, complain about our allies then, promise a détente with Russia while exploiting the D.N.C. hacking then, double and triple down on falsehoods and bogus narratives then, cling to self-destructive feuds (the Khans, Alicia Machado) in the same way that he clings to public flattery for Putin … and after all this, he was still elected president. So be appalled when he behaves appallingly, but do not be surprised, do not confuse Trump being Trump with Trump being treasonous — and recognize that he isn’t leaving office until you beat him at the polls.

Overall it’s a theory that fits Trump’s personality extremely well, fits the available facts reasonably well, and doesn’t require any new revelations or heretofore-hidden conspiracies. So I continue to give it a … (consults extremely scientific methodology) … 65 percent chance of being the truth.

8) And, then, there”s the red-headed Russian spy, Maria Butina.

9) Okay, switching gears…  What do transgender men have to tell us about the reality of gender in America.  I found the intersection with race particularly interesting:

One night somebody crashed a car into my neighbor’s house, and I called 911. I walk out to talk to the police officer, and he pulls a gun on me and says, “Stop! Stop! Get on the ground!” I turn around to see if there’s someone behind me, and he goes, “You! You! Get on the ground!” I’m in pajamas and barefoot. I get on the ground and he checks me, and afterward I said, “What was that all about?” He said, “You were moving kind of funny.” Later, people told me, “Man, you’re crazy. You never call the police.”

I get pulled over a lot more now. I got pulled over more in the first two years after my transition than I did the entire 20 years I was driving before that. Before, when I’d been stopped, even for real violations like driving 100 miles an hour, I got off. In fact, when it happened in Atlanta the officer and I got into a great conversation about the Braves. Now the first two questions they ask are: Do I have any weapons in the car, and am I on parole or probation?

10) I should’ve probably spent a little more time in the ocean, but had such a hard time pulling myself away from what is now one of my favorite books ever.  Tom Sweterlich’s The Gone World, was just unbelievably brilliant and one of those books that stick with you so much.  I recognize that time travel books aren’t for everybody, but, damn did this book hit all my sweet spots from dystopia, to time travel, to the meaning of identity, to murder investigation, to great plotting, to terrific characters.  Wow.  If you are inspired and read it, please let me know what you think.  Of the many reviews I read, I think the Kirkus one sums it up best:

Sweterlitsch’s latest (Tomorrow and Tomorrow, 2014, etc.) is a mind-blowing fusion of science fiction, thriller, existential horror, and apocalyptic fiction.

Initially set in 1997, the story revolves around Shannon Moss, a federal agent with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service who is assigned to track down a missing girl whose family has been brutally murdered in their home in southwestern Pennsylvania. When Moss realizes the potential killers are missing astronauts whose spaceship vanished while on a black ops mission called Deep Waters, involving time travel, she must figure out how members of a lost crew are now suddenly living clandestinely as domestic terrorists in America. An undercover time traveler herself for the Naval Space Command—she even lost part of her leg exploring a far-future Earth—Moss must track down the killers as the looming darkness of the Terminus, the death of humankind that is at the end of almost every Deep Waters journey, moves ever closer. The power of this novel is twofold: Sweterlitsch’s intricately plotted storyline will keep readers on the edges of their seats until the very last pages, and his extended use of bleak imagery coupled with his lyrical writing style make for an intense and unforgettable read.

11) So, this was interesting.  Dave Leonhardt highlighted the Weekly Standard cover story on the hazards of marijuana.  Had no idea that my friend from freshman year at Duke, Tony Mecia, was now a conservative writer (I do remember him being very conservative way back then, though).  Anyway, I didn’t give a full read, but from my perspective…1) of course there are downsides to marijuana use and it is foolish to pretend otherwise, but 2) those downsides are far less than that for many other mind-altering drugs and it is intellectually dishonest to not at least consider the substitution effect of using marijuana in place of more harmful drugs– including alcohol!

 

 

 

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Quick hits (part I)

1) Seth Masket on the intentional cruelty of zero-tolerance on immigration:

But on immigration he’s been entirely consistent. If there was one defining issue of Trump’s 2016 campaign, it was his insistence on building a wall along the United States’ southern border with Mexico. He’s promised since early in his campaign to stem immigration by Mexicans and Muslims, to deport undocumented immigrants en masse, to bolster the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, and to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The idea of an immigration crackdown has always been central to his policymaking.

Even the most vapid politician tends to have some key conviction on some set of issues. That’s often what draws them a set of backers in the first place. And this conviction is not necessarily something that polls well. The party factions that back a candidate often want some set of policy changes that are actually unpopular, or ideally issues that the public mostly doesn’t pay attention to. And they’re looking for a candidate who will push for those issues even if the political tides change.

This was not a miscalculation. This is Trump doing the job he was selected to do.

2) I’m going to keep using straws, because I am generally, quite good about plastic, and its not really about the straw.

Several environmental organizations have made straw bans a priority lately — raising awareness, nudging celebrities to come out in favor of them, lobbying cities and states to enact them. But some advocates told me their deeper motivation is to build support and awareness for the need to ban other plastic products that are more significant sources of plastic solution than straws.

“Our straw campaign is not really about straws,” said Dune Ives, the executive director of Lonely Whale, the organization that led the straw ban movement in Seattle. “It’s about pointing out how prevalent single-use plastics are in our lives. Putting up a mirror to hold us accountable. We’ve all been asleep at the wheel.”

3) Brian Beutler on Trump’s lessons for Democrats:

The lessons of Obama’s immigration legacy—and of his legislative legacy in general—were clear to many liberals at the time, but have come into greater focus in the Trump era. And one of the principal lessons is this: It is a mistake to cause harm as a dangle for bipartisan support. Democrats today, and in any future majority, would do better to accept the nature of the opposition, and try to help as many people as possible, as much as possible, in any particular political moment…

This same lesson applies elsewhere in the realm of domestic policy. Democrats wasted most of a year in 2009 trying to entice Republicans to support health-care reform. They conceded substantive ideas they liked, and adopted Republican ideas, without realizing Republicans were stringing them along, and when the process was over, zero Republicans voted for the health care bill they had helped to weaken, and they called it “socialism” anyhow. One of the consequences of this error was higher premiums and deductibles, which harmed actual people, some of whom surely punished Democrats in 2016 by staying home, or voting for Trump, who turned around and sabotaged the Affordable Care Act.

Democrats can upend this vicious cycle. It’s important for people who care about the truth to rebut these lies, but Democrats can’t count on people who don’t care about truth to be deterred by fact-checking. All they can do is refuse to reward liars—accept what they’re up against, and do as much good as they have the power to do whenever they can.

4) Jay Rosen, “It’s time for the press to suspend normal relations with the Trump presidency.”

5) As you know, I’m pretty hesitant on four-letter words, but John McWhorter (via Conor Friedersdorf) makes a good case for change here:

He sees taboos against the familiar four-letter words, like damnshit, and fuck, as antiquated vestiges of bygone times when religious taboos, or taboos against sex and excretion, were utterly different than they are today—they make little sense, he argues, in a society where it’s perfectly acceptable to be an open atheist and where many people revel in body positivity and sex positivity. The taboo words make no sense given the dearth of substantive taboos around that to which they refer. For that reason, he refuses to teach his young daughter that it is wrong to say “shit” but okay to say “poop,” or that it is wrong to say “fuck,” though he explains that she should understand the lingering sensitivities of others to those words and take care when and where to use them.

In contrast, he argued, today’s truly profane words—and rightly so—are the n-word and the c-word, words where he is glad to see locutions like the ones I just used because he can make a strong logical and moral case for using them. “That is not something you want The New York Times to have on top of the page. I wouldn’t want my children to ask me what it is. I can’t be flippant about it,” he explained. “I’m telling my children that those words are profane. Why can’t you use them? Because they’re evil … The reason we don’t say those words is that we don’t slur against groups of people … You work against tribalism.”

6) With all the news this week, the Supreme Court finding for AmEx and ever-greater corporate power was pretty much completely ignored.  But it is a great example of the essentially pro-business (not pro-market) ideology that motivates so many conservatives.  Tim Wu:

There is no reason to expect credit card companies to offer their services free. But the credit card tax paid by American retailers and consumers is the highest in the world. Credit card “swipe” fees account for an estimated $42 billion every year in the United States. The Europeans pay less, because they see this as an obvious market failure and limit the commission to 0.3 percent, meaning that you would pay 60 cents instead of $7 in fees for that $200 purchase. We rely on the “American way” — competition instead of regulation to keep prices lower — but that works only if we prevent companies from thwarting competition.

Unfortunately, credit card companies like American Express have managed to stymie fee competition with those gag orders on merchants who contract with them. Merchants are prevented from steering consumers to cheaper options, for example by saying to a customer: “Paying for this microwave with American Express will cost us an extra $5.60. Might you consider using another card if you have one?”

If merchants could tell us which option was cheapest, and steer us in that direction, we would all save money. Even just the threat of steering us in that direction could help keep fees down.

The trial court in this case, after a full trial, found direct evidence that American Express’s gag orders were anticompetitive and thus an illegal restraint on trade. This included evidence that the gag order allowed American Express to raise its fees 20 times in five years.

Nonetheless, the five more conservative justices on the Supreme Court managed to find a way to win this case for American Express. They did so not by contesting the fact that the gag order stymies competition — for that was impossible to disprove. Instead the court put theory ahead of practice in an absurd way: Even though, in practice, American Express hurt competition and inflicted harm on consumers, the court concluded, the company was not, in theory, powerful enough to do so.

The logic is ridiculous: You could just as easily say that robbing banks is economically irrational, given the risks involved, and therefore it does not happen.

7) Love how Emily Yoffe is always willing to take on shibboleths about sexual misconduct.  Of course, sexual misconduct is also about sex, and not just power, yet you’d hardly know it by the statements coming from some quarters.  Really good piece on Weinstein, et al.

8) Thomas Edsall on how immigration opponents really hate being told they are racist.  Problem is, plenty of social science evidence indicates that much of immigration opposition is, in fact, driven by racial animus.

9) Lily Mason turned her nice tweetstorm on asymmetry and incivility into a Monkey Cage post.

10) Jennifer Rubin, on Trump’s losing battle on immigration:

While Democrats have become more enthusiastic about legal immigration, so have Republicans, albeit to a smaller extent. “The share of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents who say legal immigration into the U.S. should be increased has doubled since 2006, from 20% to 40%. . . . The share of Republicans and Republican leaners who say legal immigration should be decreased has fallen 10 percentage points since 2006, from 43% to 33%.” However, 33 percent of Republicans vs. 16 percent of Democrats favor reducing legal immigration.

Despite Trump’s persistent lying, most Americans “know documented immigrants living in the U.S. are not more likely than U.S. citizens to commit serious crimes (65% say this) and that undocumented immigrants mostly fill jobs citizens don’t want (71% say this).” That’s somewhat reassuring after two years of nonstop anti-immigrant harangues…

One area in which nervous politicians and pundits sympathetic to immigration have given ground to opponents is on the use of English. Well, ordinary Americans just don’t like hearing all that Spanish. Perhaps pro-immigrant voices should reassess their eagerness to indulge xenophobes. “Most Americans say they often (47%) or sometimes (27%) come into contact with immigrants who speak little or no English. Among those who say this, just 26% say it bothers them, while 73% say it does not. The share saying they are bothered by immigrants speaking little or no English has declined by 12 percentage points since 2006 (from 38% to 26%) and 19 points since 1993 (from 45%).”

Let me offer some informed speculation as to why the outlook of most Americans so strongly differs from Trump’s and Trump’s base and why Americans as a whole are becoming more sympathetic toward immigrants. Many of Trump’s red-state supporters, as I have observed, come from states with a minuscule number of illegal immigrants. They’ve decided that these people are dangerous and are out to steal their jobs, based on very little firsthand experience. In 2016, Pew found that in states such as Kansas and South Carolina, the number of illegal immigrants was quite small and shrinking (95,o00 in 2009 to 75,000 in 2009 in Kansas, out of a population of nearly 3 million; 100,000 to 85,0000 in South Carolina, out of a population of more than 4.8 million.) In Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s home state of Alabama, the number went from 80,000 to 65,000 — out of more than 4 million people. In short, much but not all of the staunch opposition to both legal and illegal immigration comes from less-populated, rural states with few immigrants.

By contrast, in states with huge illegal-immigrant populations, which have become part of the fabric of society (California, New York, New Jersey, Illinois), the attitude toward immigrants is positive, and becoming more so as more Americans interact, work and live with immigrants — and intermarry as well. Even in Texas, where Republican politicians remain obsessed with deportation, “Three-fifths of the registered voters surveyed in the poll said they would continue the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program. Just 30 percent said the program should end.” (You may recall that Republicans along the border disfavored the wall.)

In sum, the country’s overall view of immigrants and even illegal immigrants is improving since a high percentage of Americans live in heavily populated states with large numbers of immigrants (both legal and illegal). As a percentage of the population (and thereby reflected in the polls). more people are having experience with more and more immigrants; it has changed their view of these Americans.

Trump’s base and the GOP is disproportionately rural and therefore comes in contact far less frequently with actual immigrants. They’re content to blame immigrants — or are riled up to do so by Trump — for social and economic woes that may have in reality virtually nothing to do with immigrants. The population in these states is declining, and with that the number of rabid anti-immigrant voters, although their intensity is soaring.

11) The rise of college grade forgiveness in the Atlantic.  I remember several years ago NC State made it absurdly easy to just remove a single bad grade or two from your transcript (the earlier, far more sensible policy, required a re-take of a bad grade you earned as a freshman).  Now we just let you drop two bad grades, because…?

12) Nice interview with no-longer-Republican, Steve Schmidt.

13) “Abolish ICE” has hit a critical point.  It is definitely no longer a fringe position (and deservedly so).  Brian Beutler:

“Abolish ICE” is catching on because of a widespread and accurate belief that it’s a cruel, rogue agency. And even if the goal of actually abolishing the agency goes unmet, a party unified in hostility to a government agency can have a huge impact on its functioning. Republicans have channeled their antipathy towards the IRS into starving the agency of funds, which has had a huge impact on the agency’s ability to enforce tax law. A tamed ICE that wasn’t engaged in mass raids and deportations would be an improvement over what we’ve got now.

14) Just this week, my son and I were talking about how athletic performance declines with age.  I thought peak was mid-20’s, it’s actually early 20’s.  Though baseball-specific, this is a fascinating look at the issue.  And how experience counter-acts physical decline, to a degree.

15) Recently read Theory of Bastards and really enjoyed.  Nothing like near-future bonobo fiction.

16) Pretty unsurprisingly, both Democrats and Republicans are pretty awful at estimating the actual demographics of the other party (and, I suspect, innumeracy is a huge part of this).  For what it’s worth, I was within a couple percent in my estimates of all of these.

17) This article argues that you really cannot trust negative on-line reviews.  Actually, I think they can be really helpful.  If the only negative reviews, for example, are from people who clearly have not even figured out how to properly use the product, than you are onto something.  On a related note, really enjoyed this Planet Money about fake positive reviews.  Been having a lot of fun with reviewmeta since.

18) Of course Trump’s economic adviser Larry Kudlow is egregiously lying to the American public about deficits.

19) How our brains fall for false expertise.  And how to stop it.

20) Paul Waldman, “No, Ocasio-Cortez’s victory isn’t bad for the Democratic Party.”

21) Who are you pulling for in the World Cup?  My favorites are Belgium and Mexico.

Quick hits (part II)

So much good World Cup to watch this weekend had me behind.  Here you go…

1) Ed Yong on how we are not ready for the next plague.

2) Vann Newkirk, “Beneath the constant contradictions and reversals, the administration has a single through line: Its policies always serve to dehumanize those deemed not to belong.”

The United States has a well-documented history of abuses at the border and child-snatching from minority families, one that stretches across administrations past and present. Racism has for centuries set the parameters of who belongs in America and who doesn’t, and has at the whims of its champions created penalties to enforce its borders, whether at a fence in Texas or discriminatory housing covenants in suburbia. The statements from Trump officials in the current saga help illuminate this logic of immigration and citizenship in America. Whether it decides to keep families together or not, and regardless of what it intended to do in the first place, the administration has one consistent through line: Its policies always serve to dehumanize those deemed not to belong.

3) Plastic, plastic everywhere!  (But I’m not giving up my straws).

4) I gave up on Westworld a few episodes into season two because top-notch production values and a great cast cannot make up for writing that is far more interested in puzzles than character development and compelling stories.  Todd VanDerWerff on how Westworld is ultimately like a video game.

5) It increasingly seems like the calls for “disband ICE” make a lot of sense.  Here’s the case of a Canadian jogger detained for two weeks for accidentally jogging across an unmarked border.

6) A new book takes a fascinating look at the demise of the Weimar Republic and the Nazi’s rise to power.

It did not occur to the president’s camp that the Nazis would do as well as they did, or that their leader would escape their control. And so the feckless schemes of the conservatives realized the violent dreams of the Nazis. The Nazis won 37 percent of the vote in July, 33 percent in a November election, and Hitler became chancellor in January 1933. A few weeks later, he used the pretext of the arson of the Reichstag to pass an enabling act that in effect replaced the constitution.

Hindenburg died in 1934 believing that he had saved Germany and his own reputation. In fact, he had created the conditions for the great horror of modern times. Hett’s book is implicitly addressed to conservatives. Rather than asking how the left could have acted to stop Hitler, he closes his book by considering the German conservatives who aided Hitler’s rise, then changed their minds and plotted against him. Following the recent work of Rainer Orth, Hett says that the Night of the Long Knives, the blood purge of June 1934, was directed mainly against these right-wing opponents.

The conclusions for conservatives of today emerge clearly: Do not break the rules that hold a republic together, because one day you will need order. And do not destroy the opponents who respect those rules, because one day you will miss them.

7) Hugely under-reported… FBI conspiracy the (New York office) to defeat Hillary Clinton.

8) Koch brothers really are evil.  They are spending their money to thwart public transit around the country.  Because, you know, poor people should have to buy a car damnit.

9) Dave Leonhardt on the two big problems in higher education:

American higher-education policy has two overarching problems. We don’t spend enough money on college education for middle-class and poor students. And we don’t demand enough accountability from colleges.

The two problems feed off each other, leading to miserably low graduation rates — often below 50 percent — at many colleges. The colleges that have figured out how to do better aren’t rewarded with more resources. The colleges with weak results face few consequences. All the while, lower-income students suffer.

Fortunately, the problem of college performance is starting to get more attention — from colleges themselves, state officials and others. But there is still a huge missing piece: the federal government. Washington has the potential to influence higher education, via both money and oversight, more powerfully than any state or college consortium…

The second part of the new proposal would require colleges to meet performance benchmarks in exchange for the infusion of new federal spending. These benchmarks would include graduation rates and post-college employment and would vary based on “degree of difficulty.” A college that enrolled mostly low-income students wouldn’t be expected to have the same results as an elite college. Over the long term, colleges that failed to meet the benchmarks could lose funding, as is already the case in some states, including Florida and Indiana.

10) Hard to know what age is best to start allowing kids to head the soccer ball.  Clearly, when in doubt, older is better.  I’ll admit to wincing a few times at seeing how hard the balls were that my U18 players headed.  Fortunately, the most frequent headers seemed to have solid technique.

11) I really like Drum’s take on the cell phone Supreme Court case:

Like the Obamacare decision, this one is Roberts plus the liberals, with all the other conservatives dissenting. It’s yet another reason for conservatives to think they’ve been betrayed by a Supreme Court nominee. But Roberts wrote the decision and specifically said that his opinion was “informed by historical understandings ‘of what was deemed an unreasonable search and seizure when [the Fourth Amendment] was adopted.’ ” And let’s face it, if you could travel back in time and ask James Madison if he thought it would be OK for the government to use a magic device that tracked the precise movements of virtually every human being in the country, what do you think he’d say? That is, what do you think he’d say before he dropped dead of apoplexy?

Live by originalism, die by originalism. The fact is that it really ought to be the “living Constitution” liberals who have a tough time with a case like this, while the conservatives should be diehard Fourth Amendment purists. But conservatives today are all believers in extreme police power, and that overrides their originalist tendencies. A lot of other things override their originalist tendencies too. This is what makes me so suspicious of originalism to begin with. If you only use it when it produces a result you agree with, what use is it?

12) I refuse to accept cultural relativism.  A culture that calls for women to become complete outcasts– to the point of sometimes dying– while they are menstruating is a culture that is wrong and needs to change.

13) Well, damn, sure does seem like this NIH study was set up to find that drinking alcohol is good for you.  And yet, it didn’t.

A 165-page internal investigation prepared for Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, concluded that Kenneth J. Mukamal, the lead investigator of the trial, was in close, frequent contact with beer and liquor executives while designing the study.

Buried in that document are disturbing examples of the coziness between the scientists and their industry patrons. Dr. Mukamal was eager to allay their concerns, respond to their questions and suggestions, and secure the industry’s buy-in…

The study was intended to test the hypothesis that one drink a day is better for one’s heart than none, among other benefits of moderate drinking. But its design was such that it would not pick up harms, such as an increase in cancers or heart failure associated with alcohol, the investigation found.

Scientists who designed the trial were aware it was not large enough to detect a rise in breast cancer, and acknowledged to grant reviewers in 2016 that the study was focused on benefits and “not powered to identify negative health effects.”

“Clearly, there was a sense that this trial was being set up in a way that would maximize the chances of showing a positive effect of alcohol,” Dr. Collins said last week as he accepted his advisers’ recommendation to terminate the trial.

14) I think it might me a little premature to consider this particular interventions hopeless, but, alas, a comprehensive study funded by the Gates foundation found that rewarding good teachers and firing bad ones did not improve student performance. Drum summarizes.  Since we know that countries that out-perform us take good teaching way more seriously, I’m not willing to give up on that yet.

Quick hits (part I)

1) Really enjoyed the commentary from my friend and awesome political scientist, Marc Hetherington, on Trump:

Marc Hetherington, a political science professor at Vanderbilt University, said the list of presidential missteps this week shows “Trump is not especially adept at being president, at least not insofar as people measure adeptness as the ability to solve problems rather than create them.”

“That he struggles to maintain 40 percent approval ratings, and has members of his own party deriding him or apologizing for him, says a lot about his political acumen,” Hetherington added.

2) How Turkey’s move towards Islamism threatens to undermine it’s public education.

3) Interesting analysis from Stanley Greenberg on the potential perils of Trump’s base-service strategy:

Mr. Trump’s strategy is to continue to build support with the Tea Party supporters and evangelicals who make up a plurality of those who identify as Republicans, but they are by no means the whole of the party. And Mr. Trump shows as much interest in winning over those less enthusiastic Republicans as he does in winning independents and Democrats — which is to say, not much…

Mr. Trump’s base strategy brands the Republican Party as sexist, racist, xenophobic and anti-immigrant, which magnifies the anti-Trump reaction among Democrats. But it also leaves a tenth who are conservative Catholics and a fifth who are nonreligious conservatives more tentative in their support of the Republican Party — and it pushes away the quarter of Republicans who remain ideologically moderate. [emphasis mine] The harder the president bangs these drums, the more Democrats become enraged and a segment of Republicans gets demoralized. The more he trashes and defeats his Republican opponents in primaries, the more these voters may contemplate different political options…

And then President Trump surprised nearly all political analysts with his decision to govern as a militant Tea Party and evangelical conservative and to make this the heart of his strategy for the midterm elections. Each provocation and each dog whistle — if we can even call them that anymore — make Democrats even more determined to vote and to register their rejection of Mr. Trump’s remade Republican Party. In our polling of registered voters nationally and in the Senate battleground states, a remarkable 79 percent of Democrats strongly disapprove of Mr. Trump, a number that rose to 87 percent in a survey completed last week. Mr. Trump is making Democratic base voters even angrier than you might expect.

4) Soccer remains in the dark ages when it comes to head injuries.

5) Richard Hasen on the Supreme Court gerrymandering punt:

  Although people will focus on the court’s ducking of the issue, what’s really going on is that two of the court’s savviest justices on the right and left, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Elena Kagan, are continuing a battle for the soul of Justice Kennedy on the question of politics in redistricting, and Kennedy, who apparently is not leaving the court anytime soon, watches, broods, and stays silent…

Second, and more to the point of enticing Justice Hamlet, Justice Kagan glommed onto Justice Kennedy’s favorite theory for what’s wrong with partisan gerrymandering: It is a First Amendment associational injury. In Justice Kennedy’s thinking, partisan gerrymandering might be unconstitutional if people are suffering in their political representation solely because they are members of one party or another. Justice Kagan not only fleshed out and endorsed that theory (the beauty pageant again). She also tried to prebut any standing objections, suggesting that state political parties would be in an excellent legal position to assert a First Amendment injury across an entire state when the state has engaged in egregious redistricting.

It’s a nice theory, but it only works with Justice Kennedy coming along. And Kennedy did not come along for the ride Monday with Justice Kagan. He didn’t reject it either, leaving him where he’s been since 2004, in the middle, watching the action around him.

6) Leah, Littman, “How Trump Corrupts the Rule of Law.”

We take it for granted that President Trump says demonstrably false things on any number of topics. That is itself alarming.

But gross factual mischaracterizations have started to trickle down to the lawyers who serve at the president’s pleasure: At oral argument in the Supreme Court, for example, the solicitor general declared that the president had made it crystal clear that he would never follow through on his campaign promise to ban Muslims. In fact, the president never said any such thing.

What if Mr. Trump, and increasingly his Department of Justice, made it routine to take the same black-is-white, up-is-down approach toward the law as they take with the facts?

Mr. Trump is making a mockery of law in the appalling policy of forcibly separating families at the border. In the case, Ms. L v. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the president has made the up-is-down claim that a Democratic law — the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, in conjunction with the Homeland Security Act and statutes criminalizing illegal entry — requires him to separate families to protect the children. The administration’s legal mumbo-jumbo attempts to use laws that are meant to protect vulnerable children as a screen to terrorize them and to deter immigrants from coming to the United States border…

And in order to hold government officials accountable for their choices, we need to be able to acknowledge what the law does not say.

That is what makes the Trump administration’s legal claims so dangerous: The administration is simultaneously insisting that it must enforce a law that does not exist, but is refusing to defend a law that actually does exist, and jeopardizing the law in the process.

7) Celebrities are becoming uncomfortable with 20th Century Fox since it’s corporate cousin, Fox News, is increasingly little more than Trump propaganda.

8) I’ve actually tried to largely ignore just how horrible the treatment is for the separated kids because it is too sad.  My wife is (appropriately) beyond outraged.  Ashley Fetters in the Atlantic, “The Exceptional Cruelty of a No-Hugging Policy: When kids separated from their families on the U.S.-Mexico border can’t get hugs or physical comfort from the caretakers at their shelters—or even from one another—their experience becomes even more traumatic..”

9) China won’t take our recycled plastic anymore because it’s just too dirty.  But if we can keep it clean enough, like San Francisco, they’ll still take it.  But, ultimately, it may be an important wake-up call:

Brooks says that she hopes the terrible options for the present plastic glut will help leaders plan better for future waste, or even eliminate it altogether. Her study found that about 90 percent of the traded plastics are single-use polymers, and she hopes that this data will encourage governments to put regulations in place to cut down on disposable plastics. “My dream would be that this is a big enough wake up call to drive international agreements,” she says. The ban has already caused the EU to consider a tax on throwaway plastics. Maybe more cities will step up to decontaminate their waste, like San Francisco. Or—imagine this—cut back on plastics altogether.

10) Sometimes I can’t resist an emotional, liberal, political rant:

Like many Americans, I’m having politics fatigue. Or, to be more specific, arguing-about-politics fatigue.

I haven’t run out of salient points or evidence for my political perspective, but there is a particular stumbling block I keep running into when trying to reach across the proverbial aisle and have those “difficult conversations” so smugly suggested by think piece after think piece:

I don’t know how to explain to someone why they should care about other people.

Personally, I’m happy to pay an extra 4.3 percent for my fast food burger if it means the person making it for me can afford to feed their own family. If you aren’t willing to fork over an extra 17 cents for a Big Mac, you’re a fundamentally different person than I am.

I’m perfectly content to pay taxes that go toward public schools, even though I’m childless and intend to stay that way, because all children deserve a quality, free education. If this seems unfair or unreasonable to you, we are never going to see eye to eye.

If I have to pay a little more with each paycheck to ensure my fellow Americans can access health care? SIGN ME UP. Poverty should not be a death sentence in the richest country in the world. If you’re okay with thousands of people dying of treatable diseases just so the wealthiest among us can hoard still more wealth, there is a divide between our worldviews that can never be bridged.

I don’t know how to convince someone how to experience the basic human emotion of empathy. I cannot have one more conversation with someone who is content to see millions of people suffer needlessly in exchange for a tax cut that statistically they’ll never see (do you make anywhere close to the median American salary? Less? Congrats, this tax break is not for you).

I cannot have political debates with these people. Our disagreement is not merely political, but a fundamental divide on what it means to live in a society, how to be a good person, and why any of that matters. [emphasis mine]

11) Of course the Republican Party wants to pay for it’s tax cuts off the back of hungry kids:

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, if House Republicans get their way, more than two million people, many of them young children, will lose access to the food stamp program known as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). The farm bill that passed by a two-vote margin on Thursday includes tougher work requirements and new eligibility restrictions that would make it much more difficult for families who need food assistance to get it.

The Agriculture Department administers SNAP. If the president gets hisway, SNAP would be moved to the Department of Health and Human Services. And the name of that department, which already oversees other social programs like Medicare and Medicaid, would be changed to include the word “welfare,” which holds about the same amount of appeal for Republicans as “Communists” once did.

The goal of these maneuvers is twofold: to stigmatize such programs — racially stigmatize them for white voters — and to make them easier to cut or eliminate.

12) Of course many of the Republican party’s most odious anti-immigration types have immigrants in their own ancestry who did not follow the law in their immigration.

13) American-style “trickle-down” economics comes to Colombia.

14) Given so much system racism, it may be time to reconsider traffic stops:

A forthcoming book, “Suspect Citizen: What 20 Million Traffic Stops Tells Us About Policing And Race” adds to that conversation, taking an unprecedented, granular look at the traffic stops in one state…

In the book, he and his colleagues lay out stark disparity in policing at North Carolina’s traffic stops, and unpack the reasons behind the trends they observe. CityLab caught up with Baumgartner to discuss these findings:…

We also lookedat a city-by-city comparison of the proportion of whites, blacks, and Hispanics who live in that town to the proportion that they represent in the traffic stop data. Again, we do this with caution, but still it shows that, on average, black drivers are much more disproportionately represented—about 60 or 70 percent more likely to be in that traffic stops data than in the population of that city…

What about searches?

Our main focus in the book is who gets searched after a traffic stop because being searched is sign that the officer views you with suspicion. Hence the title of the book “Suspect Citizens.” I’m a white, middle-aged college professor, so the last time I was actually stopped for a traffic violation was 40 years ago, in 1974 … and I’ve never had my car searched after a traffic stop in my life. These things are quite rare for people of, for example, my demographic but they’re quite common generally.

We controlled for why you get pulled over, what time of day it was, what day of the week was that, what police agency was it, what month of the year—all of those things. We still saw these very, very significant, robust findings that young people, males, and people of color are much more likely to be searched after a traffic stop.

15) Jennifer Rubin on the Democrat’s message:

Now, Democrats have been accused of having no message, or just not a clear message. It seems pretty clear to me — put an end to pandemic corruption in this administration and stop him from doing extreme and horrible things that violate our democratic and moral standards while also hurting even his own voters (e.g. tariffs, increasing Obamacare premiums).

16) Trump’s Zero Tolerance as a 1940’s propaganda film.

17) A 19th century scientist was onto the human microbiome, but nobody was listening.

18) It really is appalling what Border agents can away with 100 miles from the border, i.e., an area that encompasses most of the American population, but this nice ACLU explainer explains that they still need “reasonable suspicion” of an immigration violation.  The problematic reality is that such suspicion is all-too-often based on being not white.

19) It took me a while, but I finally got around to reading John Dickerson’s tour-de-force on the American presidency.  This one is going right into the Intro to American Government syllabus.

 

 

 

Quick hits (part II)

1) Dan Hopkins in 538 on how all politics became national.

2) The best way to have self-control?  Don’t test your self-control.  That’s not a zen thing.  Rather, don’t have brownies in your house and try to resist, just don’t have the brownies in your house.  Soooo true in my experience.

3) Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s husband wisely reflects a year after her death and amazing final NYT essay.

4) Perhaps the real problem with robots and jobs in the future, “Robots Might Not Take Your Job—But They Will Probably Make It Boring.”

5) On-line harassment is the worst and sometimes it is okay to kill birds for science.  What a beautiful bird.

The mustached kingfisher.CreditRobert Moyle

6) It would be great if “Making of a Murderer” led the Supreme Court to revisit false confessions, which it desperately needs to do:

After the Seventh Circuit’s ruling, Dassey’s attorneys filed an appeal to the Supreme Court. In some ways, the issues at stake in the case are overdue for review. The Court has not weighed in on the so-called voluntariness issue since DNA-based exonerations began to reveal just how common false confessions are in our justice system. According to attorneys from the Innocence Project, an organization that uses DNA evidence to exonerate wrongfully convicted people, more than a quarter of all exonerated people were originally convicted following false confessions. Juveniles are particularly susceptible to offering false confessions, as are people with intellectual disabilities.

Dassey’s case could provide some much needed attention to the subject of police interrogations. When interviewing a suspect, most police officers in the U.S. rely on some version of the Reid Technique—a method that has been denounced by many psychologists and jurists as outdated and coercive, as I detailed in this magazine, in 2013. And, even if the Reid Technique weren’t itself seen as a problem, much of the training that officers receive is informal, and happens on the job. The result is that the quality of interrogation in any given police department depends almost entirely on the individual police officers’ experience.

It’s a fundamental premise in American law that no one should be forced to confess to a crime that he or she didn’t commit. The Supreme Court took up the subject in earnest in the nineteen-thirties, after a federal commission found that police across the country commonly used torture to extract confessions; in 1936, the Court reversed the convictions of three African-American men from Mississippi who confessed to murder after all three were whipped and one hung by the neck from a tree. “The rack and torture chamber may not be substituted for the witness stand,” Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes wrote. That decision cemented the constitutional protection that only confessions given “voluntarily” could be accepted in court.

In the decades following, the Supreme Court narrowed the definition of voluntary confessions to exclude those made after threats or psychological pressure from interrogators. Yet this standard proved subjective.

7) Mantis shrimp are neither mantis nor shrimp, but fully awesome.

8) Dan Gillmor, “Dear Journalists: Stop being loudspeakers for liars,”  Hell, yeah!!

Your job is not to uncritically “report” — that is, do stenography and call it journalism — when the people you’re covering are deceiving the public. Your job is, in part, to help the public be informed about what powerful people and institutions are doing with our money and in our names.

But but but but, you say, we call them out on the lies. We let them lie and then we refute it.

Yes, sometimes you do that, but not consistently. And you almost always refuse to call the lies what they are, resorting instead to mushy words like “falsehood” in order to seem more “objective” even when it’s blatantly clear that the statement was a knowing lie.

But even if you did that every time, and in real time, which you absolutely do not, it wouldn’t be sufficient. Researchers have shown conclusively that repeating the lie tends to reinforce it. There’s some evidence that challenging lies can help in some circumstances, but most of what you’re doing is amplifying lies.

You need to face something squarely: You’re confronted with radical hacking of your own systems of operation. This requires radical rethinking of those systems.

So in a world where powerful people lie so brazenly, how can you stop letting them do it, while still fulfilling your essential role in our society? By hacking journalism to meet the challenge, starting with an announcement to the liars and the public that you’re no longer going to play along. Here are some of the ways you can make that stick:

Stop putting known liars on live TV and radio programs. CNN, MSNBC, CBS, et al, you know for certain that Kellyanne Conway will lie if you put her on TV. Just don’t do it anymore. (This means, of course, that you should never air White House briefings.)

9) Alexis Madrigal on how nobody actually talks on the phone anymore.  Amazing how our culture has changed on this.  I’m even amazed at how much my wife and I rely on texting each other.

10) About 10 years ago I really thought about getting Lasik, but decided that given my really bad vision, -10, the risks were too great even though I was nonetheless a candidate for the procedure.  I’m glad I decided that.

11) We need to find new ways to support local newspapers in the internet age.  They are too important to democracy to seem them wither and disappear:

When local newspapers shut their doors, communities lose out. People and their stories can’t find coverage. Politicos take liberties when it’s nobody’s job to hold them accountable. What the public doesn’t know winds up hurting them. The city feels poorer, politically and culturally.

According to a new working paper, local news deserts lose out financially, too. Cities where newspapers closed up shop saw increases in government costs as a result of the lack of scrutiny over local deals, say researchers who tracked the decline of local news outlets between 1996 and 2015.

12) Man, poor Venezuela is so screwed up.  It’s amazing how much awfulness a corrupt and incompetent government can accomplish in a pretty short amount of time.

13) Catherine Rampell rebuts the “just like other criminals” claim of Jeff Sessions and all those other xenophobic, Trump-loving, pseudo-Christians:

There are two enormous problems with this “it’s just like how we treat other criminals” claim.

First is that U.S. government is ripping immigrant children out of their parents’ arms even when the parents didn’t actually commit a crime (including the crime of crossing the border illegally).

Second, in some cases the government is refusing to return immigrant children to their parents even after the parents are released from jail.That is not something that happens when parents are released from prison for other, non-immigration-related crimes, unless those parents are otherwise accused of being unfit parents. Which is not happening here.

14) Found this NYT guide to a midlife tune-up full of interesting stuff.

15) Really interesting research on how exercise and standing may both benefit your physical health in very different ways.  Short version– do both.

Over all, the results suggest that exercise and standing up have distinct effects on the body, says Bernard Duvivier, a postdoctoral researcher at Maastricht University, who led the new study.

Moderate exercise seems to hone endothelial and cardiac health, he says, probably in large part by increasing the flow of blood through blood vessels.

Standing up, on the other hand, may have a more pronounced and positive impact on metabolism, he says, perhaps by increasing the number of muscular contractions that occur throughout the day. Busy muscles burn blood sugar for fuel, which helps to keep insulin levels steady, and release chemicals that can reduce bad cholesterol.

Of course, this study was small and quite short-term, with each session lasting only four days. Over a longer period of time, the biological impacts of both moderate exercise and less sitting would likely become broader and more encompassing.

But even so, the findings are compelling, Dr. Duvivier says, especially for those of us who often are deskbound.

“People should understand,” he says, “that only moderate exercise is not enough and it’s also necessary to reduce prolonged sitting.”

16) The science behind Improv.

17) Fascinating and disturbing maps of highly-localized areas where unsolved murders are particularly common.

18) Charles Blow on Trum’s will to hatred

But it is the language in the body of Trump’s 1989 death penalty ad [in response to the since-exonerrated “Central Park 5”] that sticks with me. Trump wrote:

“Mayor Koch has stated that hate and rancor should be removed from our hearts. I do not think so. I want to hate these muggers and murderers. They should be forced to suffer and, when they kill, they should be executed for their crimes.”

He continued:

“Yes, Mayor Koch, I want to hate these murderers and I always will. I am not looking to psychoanalyze or understand them, I am looking to punish them.”

That to me is the thing with this man: He wants to hate. When Trump feels what he believes is a righteous indignation, his default position is hatred. Anyone who draws his ire, anyone whom he feels attacked by or offended by, anyone who has the nerve to stand up for himself or herself and tell him he’s wrong, he wants to hate, and does so.

This hateful spirit envelops him, consumes him and animates him.

He hates women who dare to stand up to him and push back against him, so he attacks them, not just on the issues but on the validity of their very womanhood.

He hates black people who dare to stand up — or kneel — for their dignity and against oppressive authority, so he attacks protesting professional athletes, Black Lives Matter and President Barack Obama himself as dangerous and divisive, unpatriotic and un-American.

He hates immigrants so he has set a tone of intolerance, boasted of building his wall (that Mexico will never pay for), swollen the ranks of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and attacks some as criminals and animals.

He hates Muslims, so he moves to institute his travel ban and attacks their religion with the incendiary comment that “I think Islam hates us.”

He always disguises his hatred, often as a veneration and defense of his base, the flag, law enforcement or the military. He hijacks their valor to advance his personal hatred.

So I remember that. I center that. I hear “I want to hate” every time I hear him speak. And I draw strength from the fact that I’m not fighting for or against a political party; I’m fighting hatred itself, as personified by the man who occupies the presidency. That is my spine stiffener.

19) Some fun nuggets in the latest PPP poll:

Associating themselves closely with Trump hasn’t done a lot for either Rudy Giuliani or Roseanne Barr’s image. Giuliani- once a well respected figure in American politics- is now seen positively by only 32% of voters to 48% who have a negative opinion of him. That puts him on only slightly better ground than Roseanne- not once a well respected figure in American politics- who has a 25/52 favorability spread.

-Americans are still pretty down with Canada. 66% of voters see the country favorably to 13% with a negative opinion of it. There is somewhat of a divide between Clinton voters (77/7) and Trump ones (54/19) when it comes to the country but at the end of the day they’re both pretty positive on Canada. Only 5% of voters think Canada should be punished for stuff that happened in the War of 1812 to 82% who are opposed.

-We polled on two great internet debates and settled one while another will rage on. When it comes to who the GOAT is there’s not a lot of division among Americans- 54% say it’s Michael Jordan to only 14% for LeBron James. Much divides us along party lines these days but the belief that Jordan is the greatest ever is one that brings us together as Democrats (60/17), Republicans (51/17), and independents (49/8) alike.

Polling on Laurel vs. Yanny brings no such clarity though. 21% say it’s Yanny, 20% say it’s Laurel…and 49% said they had no clue what we were asking about, perhaps a bit of a reality check on how tuned in most Americans are to the debates that consume people who spend all day on the internet.

20) It’s Yannny ;-).

21) Saw “Raiders of the Lost Ark” on the big screen today for the first time since 1981.  Great stuff.

Quick hits (part II)

1) I thought this title from a John Cassidy post kind of answers itself, “Giuliani’s call for Mueller to be suspended is a moment of truth for the Republican Party.”  Maybe.  But we’ve already had a bunch of “moments of truth” and the Congressional GOP has failed them all.

2) So, this nice PS research on racial bias among Republican legislators was just published, though, it looks like it is four years old.  Either way, very good stuff that somehow I had missed:

Groundbreaking work by two USC researchers has shown that lawmakers who support voter ID laws are more likely to show racial bias against Latino constituents.

“We wanted to find out if we could detect bias among legislators toward certain groups of people affected by voter ID laws,” said doctoral candidate Matthew Mendez, who did the research with Christian Grose, associate professor of political science at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. Such laws require registered voters to show government-issued ID, such as a driving license, before they can vote…

To test bias among state legislators, Grose and Mendez developed a pioneering field experiment. In the two weeks leading to the Nov. 4, 2012 general election, they sent emails to 1,871 state legislators in 14 states with the largest Latino populations in the U.S. The emails read as follows:

Hello (Representative/Senator NAME),

My name is (voter NAME) and I have heard a lot in the news lately about identification being required at the polls. I do not have a driver’s license. Can I still vote in November? Thank you for your help.

Sincerely,
(voter NAME)

Grose and Mendez sent one group of legislators the email from a fictional voter they named Jacob Smith. The other group received it from fictional voter Santiago Rodriguez. In each group, half the legislators received emails written in Spanish, while half received emails in English…

The results showed that lawmakers who had supported voter ID requirements were much more likely to respond to Jacob Smith than to Santiago Rodriguez, thereby revealing a preference for responding to constituents with Anglophone names over constituents with Hispanic ones. They also showed legislators were more likely to respond to English than Spanish-language constituents.

Among voter ID supporters, the responsiveness to Latino constituents was dramatically lower than to Anglo constituents. Even within the Spanish-language constituents’ requests, the Spanish speaker with an Anglo name was responded to 9 percentage points more than a Spanish speaker with a Latino name. The latter received virtually no response from the voter ID supporters, with a response rate of just 1 percent.

3) The decision for the AP “World History” course to now focus on post 1450 only has been quite controversial, but, if colleges are only giving credit for college classes that cover that period, than that strikes me as the smart and reasonable approach for the college board.

4) More political science debate on whether Voter ID laws actually suppress turnout.  My take: even if they don’t they are still bad because that is so self-evidently their intent.

5) This American Life had a great story on an actual high school inside a New Orleans jail.  Here’s the Marshall Project version of it.

6) I hate that my wife relies on a lot Uline boxes for her store, because damn are the Uihleins some rich and influential conservatives.

7) Want your kids to eat almost anything?  Sure as hell don’t do what my wife and I have done, but take the advice from this NPR article.

8) Why soccer is the perfect cosmopolitan antidote to Trump (and, damn, hope you saw the Spain-Portugal game yesterday– so entertaining).

Social media, the wildly popular FIFA video game, the ubiquity of international soccer on TV and the marketing of large U.S. companies all increase soccer’s presence in mainstream culture. The degree to which your teenager’s youth soccer is turning him or her into a citizen of the world will vary according to region and other demographic factors (NBC Sports viewership of the English Premier League still skews toward bicoastal elites, for instance). But there’s no question that soccer’s rising popularity is a nationwide phenomenon, and that playing the game and following it represent a sea change in how people are connecting to place and one another through sports: Even casual players and fans are fully aware that the sport doesn’t revolve around the United States. We all know there are better players and better teams elsewhere; that the best a promising young American prospect like Christian Pulisic (a world-class talent) can aspire to isn’t some college scholarship, as it would be in our domestic sports, but to cross the Atlantic at an early age and attach himself to a club like Germany’s Borussia Dortmund — which he did.

America is becoming a soccer power, but we are far from dominant, and this year fans must experience the healthy heartache of the world’s most popular sporting event taking place without the United States, after our national team’s surprising failure to qualify last fall. It’s not always about us.

Think about how subversive all this is to traditional “We’re No. 1” American entitlement or to “America First” isolationism, and the historic suspicion of soccer in some quarters becomes more understandable. Better for Fortress America to play its own games and proclaim its winners “world champions,” lest we end up with a fifth column of rootless cosmopolitans.

9) Speaking of soccer, this is about the best goal I’ve seen in-person (and from pretty much just this angle).  A great goal in any league.

10) Nice Op-Ed on “misguided” legislation (over)protecting NC hog farmers.

11) I’m not too much of an NBA guy, but I did watch some of the finals.  Found this article pretty intriguing about how the under-performance of Kevin Love is actually why the Cavaliers are so much weaker than the Warriors.

12) Of course, NC Republicans did not get any actual input from elections officials or public input before making substantial changes to early-voting hours and requirements.

13) Back to the soccer theme, Man-in-Blazer, Roger Bennett, “Soccer in the U.S. doesn’t need a team in the World Cup. It’s already here to stay.”

14) My first-born (and reader of this blog) graduated from high school on Monday.  How much do I love that Seth Masket analyzed “Donna Martin graduates!” a chant I hear in my head at every graduation I attend, in Mischiefs of Faction.  And, as long as we’re at it, no protest needed for David Greene:

15) First-person account of pediatrician turned lead-poisoning detective in Flint.  So disconcerting how so many warning signs and concerns were ignored.

16) Saw “Incredibles 2” with the family yesterday.  Really, really liked it.  Nice NYT article on how far the animation has come in 14 years.  Also, really enjoyed the Pixar short before the film, Bao.  This led me to recall my favorite Pixar short ever, Knick Knack.

 

17) This was really interesting and surprising– less time for children in the sun may be leading to the world-wide increase in nearsightedness.  (Of course, given my -10 prescription, you’d think I was raised in a cave).

18) So loved the feel-good story of the week about the skyscraper-scaling raccoon in Minnesota.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Sarah Kliff had some great pieces on the insanity of ER bills a couple weeks ago.  You can make sure you actually go to an in-network ER when having an emergency only to be billed for out-of-network physicians in your in-network ER.  Only in America.  Her follow-up is called, “There are actually some great policy ideas to prevent surprise ER bills.”  But, of course, there are.  I don’t think policy to prevent this is actually all that complicated.  It’s political will, damnit.

2) Caitlyn Flanagan on Title IX and “mutually non-consensual sex.”

3) The famous marshmallow test of delayed gratification is not all it’s cracked up to be.  And, like so much in life, it’s really all about socio-economic background.

Watts and his colleagues were skeptical of that finding. The original results were based on studies that included fewer than 90 children—all enrolled in a preschool on Stanford’s campus. In restaging the experiment, Watts and his colleagues thus adjusted the experimental design in important ways: The researchers used a sample that was much larger—more than 900 children—and also more representative of the general population in terms of race, ethnicity, and parents’ education. The researchers also, when analyzing their test’s results, controlled for certain factors—such as the income of a child’s household—that might explain children’s ability to delay gratification and their long-term success.

Ultimately, the new study finds limited support for the idea that being able to delay gratification leads to better outcomes. Instead, it suggests that the capacity to hold out for a second marshmallow is shaped in large part by a child’s social and economic background—and, in turn, that that background, not the ability to delay gratification, is what’s behind kids’ long-term success…

This new paper found that among kids whose mothers had a college degree, those who waited for a second marshmallow did no better in the long run—in terms of standardized test scores and mothers’ reports of their children’s behavior—than those who dug right in. Similarly, among kids whose mothers did not have college degrees, those who waited did no better than those who gave in to temptation, once other factors like household income and the child’s home environment at age 3 (evaluated according to a standard research measure that notes, for instance, the number of books that researchers observed in the home and how responsive mothers were to their children in the researchers’ presence) were taken into account. For those kids, self-control alone couldn’t overcome economic and social disadvantages.

4) Paul Waldman on the pardons:

On Thursday, President Trump announced that he is pardoning conservative pundit and author Dinesh D’Souza, who pled guilty in 2014 to violating campaign-finance laws. Unlike other presidents who used their pardon power to correct injustices, Trump has used it almost exclusively to dole out favors to the right wing.

That Trump decided to pardon D’Souza, one of the most despicable and poisonous figures in American public life, is further proof that this president spends a good deal of his time acting like a right-wing Internet troll whose greatest pleasure in life comes from finding ways to Trigger the Libs.

I suspect a lot of the coverage of this decision will be framed as “Trump Pardons Conservative Author,” which will inevitably soft-pedal the rancid bile D’Souza regularly spews into American debate. So we have to be clear about just who D’Souza is. He isn’t just a conservative or a provocateur. He’s a bigot, a liar, a criminal, and a peddler of insane and hateful conspiracy theories.

First, let’s put this in context. Trump’s previous pardons were granted to the authoritarian racist Joe Arpaio; Kristian Saucier, a sailor convicted in a case in which he photographed classified spaces on a submarine, who became a cause celebre on the right when conservatives tried to use him as an argument for why Hillary Clinton should be punished for having a private email server; Lewis “Scooter” Libby, who revealed the name of a covert CIA operative in order to discredit her husband, a critic of the Bush administration; and the boxer Jack Johnson, whose case was championed by Sylvester Stallone.

In other words, with the exception of Johnson’s pardon — which Trump gave solely because a celebrity asked him to — all of his pardons were meant as favors to the right wing…

In other words, D’Souza is a conservative for the Trump era: bigoted, hateful, happy to spread lies, and consumed with bizarre theories about Democrats’ secret plans to destroy the country. In fairness, we should acknowledge that many conservatives find D’Souza an embarrassment, someone they wish would go away and not sully their ideological cause with his loathsome ideas.

5) Chait, “The Constitutional Crisis Is Already Underway.”

6) Alexis Madrigal on how Americans still watch a ton of TV:

Americans still watch an absolutely astounding amount of traditional television. In fact, television viewing didn’t peak until 2009-2010, when the average American household watched 8 hours and 55 minutes of TV per day. And the ’00s saw the greatest growth in TV viewing time of any decade since Nielsen began keeping track in 1949-1950: Americans watched 1 hour and 23 minutes more television at the end of the decade than at the beginning. Run the numbers and you’ll find that 32 percent of the increase in viewing time from the birth of television to its peak occurred in the first years of the 21st century.

Over the last 8 years, all the new, non-TV things—Facebook, phones, YouTube, Netflix—have only cut about an hour per day from the dizzying amount of TV that the average household watches. Americans are still watching more than 7 hours and 50 minutes per household per day.

7) When abortion is illegal but still common (which it would be in America) there are a host of new problems, as we can see in Latin America.

8) One of the most frustrating things about our criminal justice system is the utter lack of respect and concern for real science.  The idea that somebody would be put away for life based on dubious “blood splatter” analysis is so appalling.  Great summary of this problematic issue in an NYT editorial:

That unreliability is not unique to bloodstain-pattern analysis. As DNA testing has revolutionized forensic science and helped to exonerate hundreds of wrongfully convicted people, it has also shined a light on the inadequacy of earlier methods. The National Academy of Sciences report found significant problems with the analysis of bite marks, tire treads, arson and hair samples. In 2015, the F.B.I. released an initial review of hundreds of convictions it had won and found that over two decades, the bureau’s “elite” forensic hair-sample analysts testified wrongly in favor of the prosecution 96 percent of the time. Thirty-two of the defendants in those cases were sentenced to death, and 14 of those were executed or died in prison.

The scientific analysis of forensic evidence can be essential to solving crimes, but as long as the process is controlled by the police and prosecutors, and not scientists, there will never be adequate oversight. Changing this was the goal of a national commission established in the wake of the 2009 report. Unfortunately, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has long sided with prosecutors and rejected efforts to look more critically at forensic sciences, let the commission expire last year.

 

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