Quick hits (part I)

1) David Campbell and Christina Wolbrecht on how Trump appears to have politically energized girls:

While it is too early to tell, we may be witnessing an emerging generation who are primed for political engagement. Just like baby boomers who came of age during the protests of the 1960s and then remained engaged over their lifetimes, today’s Democratic girls may be launched on a lifelong trajectory of political activism.

In short, one lasting consequence of the Trump era may be a cohort of politically active women — not just in Congress but in our communities — whose entree into politics can be attributed not only to inspiration but also to indignation.

2) Great piece from Jon Bernstein, “Talented Democrats Are All Running for President. It’s a Problem.: Beto O’Rourke’s run for the White House could cost Democrats a Senate seat. That wouldn’t happen in other democracies.”

New polls are showing that Democrats might have a real shot at defeating Texas Senator John Cornyn’s reelection bid next year. The problem? They basically have two appealing candidates for the seat – former Representative Beto O’Rourke and former San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro – and they’re both running for president…

Both Castro and O’Rourke may have calculated that (good polling notwithstanding) they actually have a better shot at the White House than the Senate. After all, the last time a Democrat defeated an incumbent Republican senator in Texas was never. Meanwhile, there’s no powerhouse in the presidential race so far, and both Castro and O’Rourke have plausible cases for the nomination. So while the party would be better off if one of them switched to the Senate race, individually the incentives differ.

More broadly, though, this situation shows what U.S. political parties are up against. It wouldn’t happen in most other democracies. In parliamentary systems, running for the legislature is a precondition to running for prime minister, not an alternative to it. And in most countries, having a talented politician stuck in the wrong constituency isn’t a thing. In legislatures with proportional representation, the best politicians can be placed at the top of the party list and would get seated as long as the party isn’t shut out (it’s a bit more complicated, but that’s the general idea). In some first-past-the-post systems, there’s a much weaker link between residency and constituency (or no link at all). Under British rules and customs, O’Rourke could just run for the far more Democrat-friendly Colorado Senate seat instead of being stuck in his Republican-leaning home state.

3) My daughter’s overly-dramatic best friend (2nd grade) told me all about how scary this Momo thing is.  Scary, that is, to parents who freak out over viral nothingness.

4) Brendan Nyhan: “A Weak President Can Still Be a Dangerous One”

As he has shown, weak presidents can still inflict damage on democracy while in office. In fact, the slow erosion of democratic norms and institutions — not coups or revolutions — is the most common threat to democratic stability in recent decades. (Think of the recent slide toward authoritarianism in Russia, Turkey, or Hungary, not the fascism of mid-20th century Europe.) While our institutions have limited the damage Trump has been able to inflict so far, there is strong expert consensus that U.S. democracy has degraded since he took office.

For instance, Trump’s weakness may frustrate his ambitions in the legislative sphere, but he can still erode protections against executive overreach in his use of national emergency powers to try to fund a border wall or undermine government efforts to punish and prevent foreign influence in elections. The powers of the presidency are potentially expansive even in the hands of a weak president, as Daniel Drezner emphasized in the Washington Post.

Similarly, Trump’s rhetoric can still be dangerous even if his worst impulses are checked on policy. Trump has endorsed a long list of authoritarian actions ranging from law enforcement investigations of his political opponents to criminal assault against a journalist. He echoes Stalinist rhetoric in calling the media the “enemy of the people” and spoke favorably of white nationalist protesters. These statements risk normalizing hatred and violence and undermining democratic norms, particularly within Trump’s party, where his influence is greatest. Robin suggests that critics of the authoritarian threat have reversed themselves on the power of presidential words, but as political scientist Emily Thorson points out, the articles he cites actually focus on how Trump could change Republican politics — a threat even if his words fail to produce immediate anti-democratic actions.

5) This NYT science article is really, really interesting, “Split-Sex Animals Are Unusual, Yes, but Not as Rare as You’d Think: From butterflies to chickens to lobsters, mixed male-female bodies offer clues as to why certain diseases strike one sex more often than the other.”

Gynandromorph butterflies and other half-male, half-female creatures, particularly birds, have fascinated both scientists and amateurs for centuries. The latest sensation was a half-red, half-taupe cardinal that became a regular visitor in the backyard of Shirley and Jeffrey Caldwell in Erie, Pa. Although the bird would have to be tested to confirm that it is a gynandromorph, its color division strongly suggests that it is, scientists say.

Split-sex creatures are not as unusual as they may seem when one discovery goes viral, as the cardinal’s did. It extends beyond birds and butterflies to other insects and crustaceans, like lobsters and crabs.

Scientists say these instances of split-sex animals and insects could offer clues to why some human diseases strike one sex more than the other.

Researchers thought they had figured out the genetics of birds and bees, but gynandromorphs suggest that there is more to learn

6) I find the analytical difficulty in drafting NFL quarterbacks a fascinating subject.  Do does 538, “The NFL Is Drafting Quarterbacks All Wrong.”

7) I like Drum’s “super-abridged Green New Deal”

Outside of war, I can’t think of an example in all of human history where a large polity—let alone the entire world—willingly made significant sacrifices in service of a fuzzy, uncertain hazard that’s decades away. We are overclocked hairless apes who are simply not designed to think that way. Why would anyone deny this?

This, then, circles back to what I was saying a couple of days ago: A climate plan that requires significant sacrifice might work on planet Vulcan, but not on planet Earth. Assuming otherwise is nonserious. We need a plan that will work with only homo sapiens to carry it out, and that means a plan that takes into account human selfishness and shortsightedness. It means a plan that will appeal to China and India and Brazil and the rest of the world. It means a plan that will somehow reduce atmospheric carbon a lot even while most of us sit around fat, dumb, and happy.

The only such plan I can think of is one that increases global R&D spending on climate mitigation by, oh, 10x or so. Maybe 20x if it’s feasible. This money would be spent on developing new sources of clean energy and energy storage; reducing the price of current sources of clean energy; figuring out ways to remove carbon from the atmosphere; and pretty much anything else that seems remotely useful. The fruits of this research would be turned over to the private sector for free, and they would then compete to sell it all over the globe. This would harness human selfishness instead of fighting it. It’s not guaranteed to work, but unlike the GND and similar manifestos, at least it’s not guaranteed to fail.

8) Long-time Democratic politicians could learn a lot from AOC when it comes to how to question a witness at a Congressional hearing.

9) Watched “A Quiet Place” this week.  Really, really enjoyed it.

10) A nice review of the political science on the role of sexism in elections:

How much sexism ultimately influences votes is a matter of debate. In general elections, partisanship beats everything else, said Kathleen Dolan, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, whose research shows that most voters stick with their party’s candidate regardless of gender.

But there has been little comparable research on primaries, where partisanship isn’t in the equation. And the Democrats will have a wide-open presidential primary in 2020 with multiple leading female candidates.

What is not a matter of debate is the array of ways that sexism can manifest on the campaign trail, affecting not only how voters perceive candidates but how candidates present themselves to voters…

One of the most amorphous qualities candidates are judged on, likability is also deeply influenced by gender bias, researchers say. Voters look for it in men, too — consider the “who would you rather have a beer with” question in campaigns — but only in women, research shows, do they consider it nonnegotiable.

“We know that voters will not support a woman that they do not like, even if they believe that she is qualified,” Ms. Hunter said. “But they will vote for a man that they do not like if they believe he is qualified.”

In 2016, for instance, both Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump had poor favorability ratings; among voters who said they viewed both candidates negatively, Mr. Trump won by roughly 20 percentage points.

Women also tend to be viewed as unlikable based on their ambition. Harvard researchers found in 2010 that voters regarded “power-seeking” women with contempt and anger, but saw power-seeking men as stronger and more competent. There is often some implication of unscrupulousness in descriptions of female candidates as “ambitious” — an adjective that could apply to any person running for president but is rarely used to disparage men. Within 24 hours of Ms. Harris’s campaign kickoff, some critics were bringing up her onetime relationship with a powerful California politician, Willie Brown — a common tactic faced by women that sexualizes them and reduces their successes to a relationship with a man.

And if a narrative of unlikability takes hold, it can influence voters without their even realizing it.

11) Loved this NYT Magazine feature on Michael J. Fox and how he is coping with the increasing challenges of his Parkinson’s.  I had never really thought about before just how young he was when first stricken by the disease.

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Quick hits (part II)

1) John Cassidy on the emergency:

Trump’s description of the situation at the border is almost entirely fictitious, of course, but in one sense it is real. It’s a central element of the political narrative he has constructed for his white-nationalist base over the past three and a half years, and, as he helpfully sought to explain, it’s one he can’t easily back away from at this stage. “I ran on a very simple slogan: ‘Make America Great Again,’ ” he said. “If you’re going to have drugs pouring across the border, if you’re going to have human traffickers pouring across the border in areas where we have no protection, in areas where we don’t have a barrier, then it’s very hard to make America great again.”

In this carefully concocted narrative, the wall isn’t a mere stretch of concrete or steel fencing stretching along the border; it’s a symbol of national sovereignty and regeneration. But, if it’s so important, why didn’t Trump get it built during his first two years in office, when the Republicans controlled both houses of Congress? Trump’s failure to get his own party to support what was arguably his signature campaign pledge demonstrates that he is fundamentally a weak and isolated President.

2) In our most recent trip through economically depressed western NC for a couple of hours, Kim and I counted dollar stores.  There were lots.  This is no accident and it’s not good for the local residents:

These stores have gained attention as success stories in the country’s most economically distressed places — largely rural counties with few retail options. Two main chains, Dollar General and Dollar Tree (which owns Family Dollar), operate more than 30,000 stores nationally and plan to open thousands more, vastly outnumbering Walmarts and other retailers.

3) The welfare for “those unwilling to work” in the Green New Deal kinda sounds nuts.  But, as Christine Emba explains, it’s just universal basic income (which does sound much better).

4) Trump’s America: where speaking Spanish in Montana gets you detained by Border Patrol.

5) Excellent Linda Greenhouse piece on abortion, the challenges facing the Supreme Court, and conservative Circuit Court judges making phenomenally intellectually dishonest opinions on the issue.

The Fifth Circuit’s 2-to-1 decision overturning that ruling is a breathtaking piece of work. “We are of course bound by Whole Woman’s Health’s holdings, announced in a case with a substantially similar statute but greatly dissimilar facts and geography,” Judge Jerry Smith wrote for himself and Judge Edith Clement. What can that sentence — indeed, that premise — possibly mean? That Whole Woman’s Health concerned Texas while this case was about Louisiana? That’s like saying that the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, recognizing a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, applied only to male couples and not to lesbians because it was a male couple who brought the case. (It’s worth noting that in the immediate aftermath of Whole Woman’s Health, the Alabama attorney general dropped the state’s appeal of its admitting privileges law, which had been struck down in Federal District Court. “While I disagree with the high court’s decision, there is no good faith argument that Alabama’s law remains constitutional in light of the Supreme Court ruling,” was the state’s lawyer’s honest appraisal of the situation.)

The Fifth Circuit’s contorted explanation for why the Supreme Court’s “close fact-bound balancing analysis” in Whole Woman’s Health wasn’t relevant to Louisiana succeeded only in showing that Louisiana women would in fact be worse off than the women in Texas, where most major cities still have at least one abortion clinic (many Texas clinics did not reopen after the Supreme Court’s ruling). The two judges who formed the Fifth Circuit majority also tried to show that the doctors could have obtained admitting privileges if only they had tried harder, a conclusion flatly refuted by the findings at trial but embraced by Justice Brett Kavanaugh in his opinion last week, dissenting from the Supreme Court’s vote to grant a stay of the Fifth Circuit’s decision. Justice Kavanaugh said the doctors should keep trying.

6) Oh man did I love this McSweeney’s for Valentine’s Day, “Romantic tips to help spice things up for couples with four children and two full-time jobs.”

7) How the changing airline industry doomed the gigantic Airbus 380:

That’s because the A380 was designed for a hub-and-spoke network, in which it would move huge numbers of passengers between major airports. And that’s not what we have now, says Richard Aboulafia, an aviation analyst with the Teal Group. The global aviation system is growing 5 percent year over year, allowing for more point-to-point travel. You don’t need to move 600 people from LA to London, then have them take shorter flights from there. You can send 200 to Lisbon, 200 to Florence, 200 to Prague. “It was a very backward-looking concept,” Aboulafia says. “It was 10 years too late.”

8) Katha Politt makes the case that liberals need to strongly champion government-supported child care.

9) It made me cringe as much as anything I’ve watched in a while, but, I really, really like “Eighth Grade.”

10) Surprised to come across research that suggests “good genes” actually have relatively little to do with life expectancy.

11) Thanks to Nicole (who’s got plenty of first-hand knowledge) for sharing this article on sleep disorders.

12) You know what I have to say about a septuagenarian running 7 marathons on 7 continents in 7 days?  Find some other way to prove your worth to yourself and take what had to be the vast amounts of money spent on this endeavor and use it on almost anything else more productive for society.

13) Gotta love French Fry power rankings.

14) Loved this climate change frame from Farhad Manjoo:

I’m joking, sure; and I’ll admit I had a lot of fun playing out the scenes here. I’m picturing Logan Paul, elevated from YouTube star into commander of the U.S. Space Force, briefing President Trump on a plan to turn coal-power plants into peace museums as a way to fight the aliens. The president is on board, but he has one question: “Can we save America without saving the earth?”

But I am not spinning out this yarn merely as a dumb joke about a blinkered president. Even for people who do believe in global warming, pretending that aliens are attacking the earth accomplishes a neat mental trick. It helps to frame the scope of the threat — civilizational, planet-encompassing — while also suggesting how we might respond: immediately, collectively and for as long as it takes.

Before I understood the horrors that await us, I had thought of climate change as one of a grab-bag of important issues on the lefty to-do list: Give people health care, help them pay for college, fix the climate.

The scale of potential devastation renders such visions laughable. Mitigating climate change and attending to its fallout isn’t going to be a policy plan passed by the next progressive administration. Instead, like the internet and nuclear weapons, the climate is going to be a permanent new feature of our politics. This will be a long-term existential battle that will require remaking every part of society, that might consume other worthy parts of a progressive agenda, that may involve costly and politically unpopular changes to our way of life for years to come, and will necessarily make some people worse off than if we did nothing. But that will be justified, because we understand the stakes: we are fighting murderous aliens.

15) Based in large parts on Benjamin Wallace-Wells efforts to paint a realistic worst-case scenario of climate change.

16) Yes, indeed, sometimes parenting is boring.  Which is why I make no apologies for using my phone when I’m with my kids.

17) Love this metaphor as the agitated teen brain as a shaken-up snow globe.  Shared this with my often-agitated early adolescent.

Sitting right there was an elegant model of the neurology of the distressed teenager. Early in adolescence, the brain gets remodeled to become more powerful and efficient, with this upgrade retracing the order of the original in utero development. The primitive regions, which are just above the back of the neck and house the emotion centers, are upgraded first — starting as early as age 10. The more sophisticated regions, located behind the forehead and giving us our ability to reason and maintain perspective, are redone last and may not reach full maturity until age 25.

While this process is underway, young people are put in a rather delicate position. Though they tend to be highly rational when calm, if they become upset, their new, high-octane emotional structures can overpower their yet-to-be upgraded reasoning capacities, crashing the entire system until it has a chance to reset.

I have enthusiastically recommended glitter jars to several parents and colleagues knowing that some teenagers will instantly benefit from having a concrete model of emotional distress. That said, I have come to appreciate that a glitter jar’s main utility is in the instructions it provides to those who are caring for the overwrought: Be patient and communicate your confidence that emotions almost always rise, swirl and settle all by themselves.

18) I wanted to do a full post on Jacob Hacker’s really thoughtful plan (Hacker totally gets both the policy and the politics) for gradually getting to single payer, but it was too hard to summarize and find a key quote.  Just read it.

Quick hits (part II)

1) I don’t usually agree with Brett Stephens, but I profoundly agree with his central point in his column about Northam:

He may have done something ugly and dumb many years ago, when he was a young man and prevailing notions of socially permissible behavior were uglier and dumber than they are today. In the face of a political and reputational disaster he has stumbled badly in explaining himself. If he weathers the scandal, it will mainly be because all of his potential successors have grave compromises of their own.

In the 35 years between those two points he has, by all appearances, lived an upstanding life without a hint of racial bias. If we are going to embrace a politics where that’s not enough to save a sitting governor accused of no crime, we’re headed toward a dark place.

That’s because we believe that our worst moments and dumbest utterances shouldn’t define us. That our youthful behavior is more of a reflection of what is around us than a representation of what’s inside. That we deserve to be judged by the decency of our intentions and the totality of our deeds. That we are entitled to a presumption of innocence, a measure of forgiveness, a sense for our times, and multiple opportunities for redemption. [emphasis mine]

2) It’s really kind of amazing the way the Supreme Court’s conservatives are so willing to blatantly and transparently ignore the first amendment’s admonition against favoring a religion when that religion is Christianity.

3) Interesting take on Northam– he’s the first actual Southerner Virginia has had for governor in over two decades.

4) Shockingly to nobody but Susan Collins, Brett Kavanaugh believes in neither precedent, Roe v. Wade, (or honestly the need for logic in Supreme Court opinions).

5) Great piece on media bias from Peter Hamby, “The ultimate bias in journalism is not political. It’s toward controversy, gaffes, and scandal—shiny new things that get ratings and shares and downloads. There’s a rather obvious lesson here for Democrats seeking the White House—and for media elites who are tragically out of touch with how Americans actually consume the news.”

6) As I have to keep telling my students, money is far from the most important thing in interest group influence.  Of course, the NRA is super-influential, but even lots of spending does not necessarily get them what they want, “NRA Spent Record Amount Lobbying Congress, With Little to Show.”

7) Jonathan Rauch and Peter Wehner, “Republicans Got Us Into This Mess, and They Have to Get Us Out of It”

The most troubling — and from our point of view the most disappointing — development of the Trump era is not the president’s own election and subsequent behavior; it is the institutional corruption, weakness and self-betrayal of the Republican Party. The party has abandoned its core commitments to constitutional norms, to conservative principles and even to basic decency. It has allowed itself to be hijacked by a reality television star who is a pathological liar, emotionally unsteady and accountable only to himself. And Republicans have embraced presidential conduct that, had it been engaged in by a Democrat, they would have denounced as corrupt, incompetent and even treasonous.

We disagree with those who think that Mr. Trump’s removal by his own party would weaken democratic accountability; if anything, the opposite is true. The United States has only two major political parties, and it needs both to be healthy, rational and small-d democratic. They are our system’s most durable and accountable political institutions and they comprise its first and most important line of defense against political demagogues and conscience-free charlatans. By reasserting its institutional prerogatives — by setting limits to the depredations and recklessness it will accept — the Republican Party would be acting to deter hijackers in the future. In doing so, it would defend our democracy, not weaken it.

8) Late-term abortions back in the news these days.  It’s important to remember that the vast majority of these abortions (which are a tiny fraction of the overall number) are due to horrible birth defects and genuine threats to the mother.  My mom had a friend who was had two pregnancies with anencephaly (do the Greek on that) and it was a pretty horrible experience.

9) Lamar Alexander sounds like he’s making sense on college student loans.  Maybe I’m missing something.

10) Even with the polar vortex January was unusually warm.

11) If you want to talk about “bad faith” when it comes to Republicans and budget deficits, you’d be hard pressed to find a better example than Mick Mulvaney.

12) Jelani Cobb on Northam:

Yet there were other reasons that warranted taking a pause before calling for Northam’s resignation. The governor ran on a progressive platform that included free community college, greater access to health care, criminal-justice reform, a fifteen-dollar-an-hour minimum wage, and a rollback of voter-suppression laws in the state. Every one of those things would have disproportionately benefitted the black residents of Virginia. The yearbook photograph is indisputably terrible. The National Memorial for Peace and Justice, a monument that commemorates the victims of lynching and racial terrorism in America, lists more than four thousand black people who lost their lives to recreational murder in the South. No person who has even the dimmest recognition of what happened to those victims could find humor in a Klansman’s robes. Yet the more salient question, one that could not be answered in the clamor for Northam’s immediate ejection, was how his moral sensibilities had evolved in the intervening three decades.

The odds are high that a fifty-nine-year-old white Southerner would have grown up in a climate of ambient racism. The odds are also high that such a person might never find reason to publicly renounce that past. There is, however, an important tradition of white Southerners—Lillian SmithHarper LeeHowell RainesDiane McWhorter, and, more recently, Mitch Landrieu, the former mayor of New Orleans—publicly grappling with the racist legacy of the region and their own efforts to move beyond it to discover a broader recognition of humanity. (The late Robert Byrd, who served for more than fifty years as a senator from West Virginia, spoke openly about the wrongheadedness of his youthful membership in the Klan.) The example of Landrieu, a possible Presidential candidate in 2020, is particularly instructive. In 2017, he delivered a widely praised speech in which he not only called for the removal of racist monuments from city property in New Orleans but also explained the need to reject the warped view of history that had led to their erection in the first place. Northam’s situation was far more self-interested, but he nonetheless had, for a moment, space to address his prior actions in a way that might have at least been thought-provoking. But no.

13) I’m familiar with dynamic range in photography, but had never really thought about it in popular music.  Turns out the music of today is just plain louder with a much more limited dynamic range (and lots of cool charts here to prove it).

14) I do like that Democrats are pushing hard and bold on environmental policy.  But, I’d like it even better if the plans they pushed were more carefully thought through.  Chait on the Green New Deal:

Enacting an aggressive climate-change policy faces two large obstacles. The first is that every aspect of the policy contains a multitude of knotty technocratic challenges. It entails developing programs to wring carbon emissions out of the power sector, buildings, transportation, agriculture, and changing laws at the federal, state, and local levels. The difficulties faced by the long-developing bullet train in California, a state entirely controlled by Democrats, show how challenging it can be to carry out reforms that require buy-in from lots of stakeholders.

The second problem is political. Any national-level response quickly runs into the fact that, even if Democrats gain full control of government in 2021, and even if they abolish the filibuster or find a way to design a bill that can get around it, they will need the votes of moderate or conservative Democrats from fossil-fuel-producing states. The overrepresentation of oil, gas, and coal-producing areas in the Senate helped kill a modest energy tax under Bill Clinton, and a more ambitious cap and trade program under Barack Obama.

Also, adding in the part about paying for people unable or unwilling to work has the potential to be pilloried by Republicans for ages.

15) I also found this twitter thread on the matter to be a super-interesting way of looking at the underlying issues.

16) If we really believe in rehabilitation and redemption, than even former murderers should be able to work as attorneys.  I’d hire him.

17) Found this 538 feature on young, influential, anti-capitalist Democrats to be pretty interesting.  Personally, like Elizabeth Warren, I just think we need to do capitalism a lot better.

18) And speaking of Warren, I enjoyed Krugman’s take on the seriousness of her ideas:

Which brings me to the case of Elizabeth Warren, who is probably today’s closest equivalent to Moynihan in his prime.

Like Moynihan, she’s a serious intellectual turned influential politician. Her scholarly work on bankruptcy and its relationship to rising inequality made her a major player in policy debate long before she entered politics herself. Like many others, I found one of her key insights — that rising bankruptcy rates weren’t caused by profligate consumerism, that they largely reflected the desperate attempts of middle-class families to buy homes in good school districts — revelatory.

She has also proved herself able to translate scholarly insights into practical policy. Full disclosure: I was skeptical about her brainchild, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. I didn’t think it was a bad idea, but I had doubts about how much difference a federal agency tasked with policing financial fraud would make. But I was wrong: Deceptive financial practices aimed at poorly informed consumers do a lot of harm, and until President Trump sabotaged it, the bureau was by all accounts having a hugely salutary effect on families’ finances.

And Warren’s continuing to throw out unorthodox policy ideas, like her proposal that the federal government be allowed to get into the business of producing some generic drugs. This is the sort of thing that brings howls of derision from the right, but that actual policy experts consider a valuable contribution to the discussion.

Is there anyone like Warren on the other side of the aisle? No. Not only aren’t there any G.O.P. politicians with comparable intellectual heft, there aren’t even halfway competent intellectuals with any influence in the party. The G.O.P. doesn’t want people who think hard and look at evidence; it wants people like, say, the “economist” Stephen Moore, who slavishly reaffirm the party’s dogma, even if they can’t get basic facts straight.

19) Josh Marshall throws some cold water on the Medicare-for-all cheerleaders:

Much of the debate is being carried on on the basis of polling and claims about public opinion that are highly misleading and in some cases intentionally so.

The point is simple. When you poll “Medicare for All” or “a national universal coverage plan” you get anywhere from clear to overwhelming majorities of public support – numbers ranging sometimes into the 60s or even 70s percentages. But when you add a range of the most obvious counters or negatives of such a plan, support drops dramatically.

For instance, if you ask about support for Medicare for All if respondents heard it would “eliminate health insurance premiums and reduce out-of-pocket health care costs for most Americans” you get 67% support and 30% opposition. But if you say it would “eliminate private health insurance companies” support drops to 37%. If you say that it would “require most Americans to pay more in taxes” that also pulls support down to 37%. (These numbers are all from this poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation from last month.)

Now there are good and clear rejoinders to both these criticisms, especially the second. Yes, it would lead to higher taxes. But certainly for the average American those new taxes would be less than the amount of money they currently pay in health insurance premiums. But this gets to a bigger point about politics. You never get to manage a political fight by defining the question entirely on your own terms or un-rebutted. Your opponents get to do the same. Some of those counter arguments will just be baseless or false and they need to be countered as such. With Medicare for All you will almost certainly hear Republicans talking about rationing, death panels, socialism and the like. Medicare for All would probably still include private health insurance providers offering supplementary plans as they currently do with Medicare for seniors. Some version of that exists in most countries with a national health care system. But it would almost certainly eliminate, either in practice or in law, health care plans as we currently know them, plans that provide a single source of reimbursement or coverage for all medical care…

My point here isn’t to throw cold water on the whole effort or demoralize people who see Medicare for All moving to the center of the national debate. But it is a mistake to pretend it’s wildly popular or will be wildly popular in an actual political or legislative debate. Because that’s deeply misleading. It also leads to other confusions. Are Democratic leaders resisting the push for Medicare for All because they’re neo-liberal shills or corrupt weaklings? Or is it because they realize it’s much more political challenging than supporters claim. It may be a bit of each. But people are substantially understating the latter possibility.

20) Chait makes a nice case for an inheritance tax, “An Inheritance Tax Is Democrats’ Best Weapon Against Trump’s Oligarchy.”

21) Flipping channels the other night and “Out of Sight” was on.   Ended up watching the whole thing for the first time in the 20 years since it came out.  Damn that’s a good movie.

22) And, of the newer variety, loved the documentary Three identical strangers.”

Quick hits (part II)

1) Good Atlantic article on the difficulty in actually achieving “potty parity” in building codes and public restroom design.  Of course, as long as they keep building restrooms with urinals right on top of each other with no or tiny dividers, I really question the judgement of the designers.

2) Seth Masket on what lessons the media should learn from 2016:

3) Really enjoyed Yglesias take/explanation of Elizabeth Warren’s pre-political book on family life and economics:

A glimpse of the electable Warren

Perhaps more than anyone else in the Democratic field, Warren’s prospects are haunted by worries about electability, whether framed in gendered terms around “likability” or in more data-driven terms that her 2018 reelection performance was a lot worse than you’d expect from a blue-state senator running in a Democratic wave year.

But while Two-Income Trap does not exactly reflect Warren’s current, much more ambitious, post–financial crisis policy agenda, it does outline a version of Warren that could be more broadly electorally appealing than her current national perception. The Warren of Two-Income Trap is fiercely progressive in championing the public interest over the bank lobby and her determination to clean up the political system, but is also attentive to the ways that poorly designed social programs can have perverse consequences.

And she’s very much not a dogmatic partisan or a member of any kind of establishment — sharply critical of the Republicans who pushed for the banks’ preferred bankruptcy law, but also savage in her attacks on prominent Democrats, including Biden and Hillary Clinton, who helped them do it.

Perhaps most importantly, Two-Income Trap Warren is offering a pitch for a progressive economic agenda that is squarely framed to appeal to people with moderate-to-conservative instincts on some social issues.

Democrats often seem to implicitly cast the “white working class” as composed exclusively of men who wear hard hats and work in factories while “women” are all ambitious professionals trying to balance family obligations with the drive to make partner or shatter glass ceilings in the C-suite. Two-Income Trap, by contrast, speaks to the questions recently raised by Tucker Carlson as to whether unfettered capitalism is undermining the traditional family.

Warren’s core argument in the book is that shifts in family life over the past couple of generations have not been all for the good, and that the explosion of economic inequality that’s accompanied them is part of the reason. Both the ideas she espouses in the book around bank regulation and the ideas she’s only later come to embrace fundamentally connect to this same theme that the kind of stable families conducive to child-rearing that conservatives idealize fundamentally require a different organization of the American economy.

It’s a framing of the relationship between the economy and family life that, while broadly compatible with the existing progressive policy agenda, is nonetheless pretty strikingly different. It has drawn praise from pundits who lean right on social issues but more to the center on economics. If Warren could translate that praise into actual electoral support from similarly inclined voters, it would give her a clear path to general election victory, which, in turn, seems to be the biggest doubt primary voters have about her.

4) Nobody watched the show “You” on Lifetime.  Then it began streaming on Netflix and became super popular.

5) Robin Givhan on the MAGA hat:

But the Make America Great Again hat is not a statement of policy. It’s a declaration of identity.

The MAGA hat. The acronym reads like a guttural cry. An angry roar. MAA-GAA! It calls out to a time — back in some sepia-tinged period — when America was greater than it is now, which for a lot of Americans means a time when this country still had a lot of work to do before it was even tolerant of — let alone welcoming to — them and their kind. Some see an era of single-income families, picket fences and unlocked doors. Others see little more than the heartbreak of redliningwalkers and beards, and the “problem that has no name.”

The past was not greater; it was simply the past. It’s only the soft-focus, judicious edit that looks so perfect and sweet.

In the beginning, the MAGA hat had multiple meanings and nuance. It could reasonably be argued that it was about foreign policy or tax cuts, social conservatism, the working class or a celebration of small-town life. But the definition has evolved. The rosy nostalgia has turned specious and rank. There’s nothing banal or benign about the hat, no matter its wearer’s intent. It was weaponized by the punch-throwing Trump rallygoers, the Charlottesville white supremacists, Trump’s nomination of Brett M. Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, Kanye West and proponents of the wall, the wall, the wall.

6) I’m probably not going to be reading Jon Haidt’s book because I feel like I’ve got a pretty good sense of it from his great interview with Ezra.  And this piece is a really nice summary (thanks, Nicole).  I do think he pushes some of his points too far (and most of academia is not elite liberal arts colleges), but I think he’s got some really important thoughts:

This is a book about three Great Untruths that seem to have spread widely in recent years:

  1. The Untruth of Fragility: What doesn’t kill you makes you weaker.
  2. The Untruth of Emotional Reasoning: Always trust your feelings.
  3. The Untruth of Us Versus Them: Life is a battle between good people and evil people.

While many propositions are untrue, in order to be classified as a Great Untruth, an idea must meet three criteria:

  1. It contradicts ancient wisdom (ideas found widely in the wisdom literatures of many cultures).
  2. It contradicts modern psychological research on well-being.
  3. It harms the individuals and communities who embrace it.

We will show how these three Great Untruths—and the policies and political movements that draw on them—are causing problems for young people, universities, and, more generally, liberal democracies. To name just a few of these problems: Teen anxiety, depression, and suicide rates have risen sharply in the last few years. The culture on many college campuses has become more ideologically uniform, compromising the ability of scholars to seek truth, and of students to learn from a broad range of thinkers. Extremists have proliferated on the far right and the far left, provoking one another to ever deeper levels of hatred. Social media has channeled partisan passions into the creation of a “callout culture”; anyone can be publicly shamed for saying something well-intentioned that someone else interprets uncharitably. New-media platforms and outlets allow citizens to retreat into self-confirmatory bubbles, where their worst fears about the evils of the other side can be confirmed and amplified by extremists and cyber trolls intent on sowing discord and division…

To repeat, we are not saying that the problems facing students, and young people more generally, are minor or “all in their heads.” We are saying that what people choose to do in their heads will determine how those real problems affect them. Our argument is ultimately pragmatic, not moralistic: Whatever your identity, background, or political ideology, you will be happier, healthier, stronger, and more likely to succeed in pursuing your own goals if you do the opposite of what Misoponos advised. That means seeking out challenges (rather than eliminating or avoiding everything that “feels unsafe”), freeing yourself from cognitive distortions(rather than always trusting your initial feelings), and taking a generous view of other people, and looking for nuance (rather than assuming the worst about people within a simplistic us-versus-them morality).

7) It’s just over a year old, but Scott Alexander on the very minimal placebo effect was really interesting.

8) Yeah, it is crazy that somehow we don’t have seamless on-line micropayments by now.  As a lover of good journalism, in particular, this is a real shame.

9) Interesting technical/empirical exploration to conclude that women are better at free throws than men.

10) Tim Herrera on why you should share your salary.  Seems like such a taboo, so, not here.  But, for the record, as a public employee, it is public record.

11) Pacific Standard on the research on home cooking of my friend and NCSU Sociology professor, Sarah Bowen.

12) Wired, “Pesticides are harming bees in literally every way possible.”

13) Okay, I know it’s bad, but this dramatically warmer winter in Raleigh by 2050 (and many other US cities) sounds kind of pleasant.

14) Chait on the total economic failure of Trump’s tax cuts:

Not only was the Republican assumption that zero revenue would be lost too optimistic, and not only was the more modest “dynamic” model that presumed just a trillion-dollar revenue loss too optimistic, but the “static” revenue model was also too optimistic. The tax cuts are losing more than forecasters predicted even when they assumed it would do nothing to encourage growth.

And as for that spike in corporate investment last year? Alexander Arnonsuggests the entire thing was caused by higher oil prices. As oil prices go up, energy firms invest more money in sucking it out of the ground. “The response to the rise in oil prices,” he writes, “explains the entire increase in the growth rate of investment in 2018.”

Obviously the Trump tax cuts have had an effect. They have bequeathed a gigantic windfall benefit to business owners (as well as the heirs to large fortunes, who will have to pay even lower taxes on the largest inheritances). The Trump tax cuts are of a piece with the endemic corruption that has tied the party’s political class to its buffoonish president. He has made his partners richer, at least temporarily. But by the public-facing standards set out for it, as opposed to the private venal reasons, the Trump tax cuts have failed as miserably as everything else.

15) Never thought the Large Hadron Collider would be a failure.  But that’s essentially the case argues a physicist:

I used to be a particle physicist. For my Ph.D. thesis, I did L.H.C. predictions, and while I have stopped working in the field, I still believe that slamming particles into one another is the most promising route to understanding what matter is made of and how it holds together. But $10 billion is a hefty price tag. And I’m not sure it’s worth it.

In 2012, experiments at the L.H.C. confirmed the discovery of the Higgs boson — a prediction that dates back to the 1960s — and it remains the only discovery made at the L.H.C. Particle physicists are quick to emphasize that they have learned other things: For example, they now have better knowledge about the structure of the proton, and they’ve seen new (albeit unstable) composite particles. But let’s be honest: It’s disappointing…

To date, particle physicists have no reliable prediction that there should be anything new to find until about 15 orders of magnitude above the currently accessible energies. And the only reliable prediction they had for the L.H.C. was that of the Higgs boson. Unfortunately, particle physicists have not been very forthcoming with this information. Last year, Nigel Lockyer, the director of Fermilab, told the BBC, “From a simple calculation of the Higgs’ mass, there has to be new science.” This “simple calculation” is what predicted that the L.H.C. should already have seen new science…

But big science experiments are investments in our future. Decisions about what to fund should be based on facts, not on shiny advertising. For this, we need to know when a prediction is just a guess. And if particle physicists have only guesses, maybe we should wait until they have better reasons for why a larger collider might find something new.

It is correct that some technological developments, like strong magnets, benefit from these particle colliders and that particle physics positively contributes to scientific education in general. These are worthy investments, but if that’s what you want to spend money on, you don’t also need to dig a tunnel.

Quick hits part I

1) The lasting impact of pre-K programs is an area a study that has led to quite a range of findings about how well and how long the benefits last.  The latest findings from NC, though, are pretty impressive:

Helen Ladd, Clara Muschkin, Yu Bai, and I have tracked over one million children born in our state between 1988 and 2000 across their preschool years through the end of eighth grade. Because state funds for NC Pre-K (previously called More at Four) were allocated to some counties in some years at higher levels than in other counties and other years, some children were lucky enough to be four years old living in a county where the program was well-funded, while other four-year-old children lived in less well-funded counties. We have reported previously that while they were in elementary school, children in cohorts with average state funding demonstrated higher test scores in reading and math, less grade retention, and fewer placements into special education, compared with children in cohorts with less or no funding.

Our new analyses, just released as a working paper, show that the positive impacts of NC Pre-K and Smart Start continue through grades 6, 7, and 8. There is no fadeout. In fact, the impact grows. By eighth grade, for children in counties with average funding, NC Pre-K has reduced the likelihood of placements into special education by over one third. We find positive impacts for every group of children we studied, including economically disadvantaged as well as advantaged children; African American, Hispanic, and white non-Hispanic children; and children whose mothers are well-educated as well as those whose mothers are less well-educated.

The findings are clear: The more funding that North Carolina invests for NC Pre-K (and Smart Start), the better children will fare as they get older. The benefits from that investment will not fade out but will grow over the lives of these children.

2) I really like the idea of rating health care systems on efficiency (i.e., bang for the buck) as that is where America’s health care is so outlandishly horrible.  I’m not all a fan of using life expectancy as a key measure (mortality amenable to health care, damnit), but, still probably pretty good as a rough metric.  Anyway, in this Bloomberg study of health care efficiency, of 56 countries, U.S. comes in tied for 54th.  Just beating out Bulgaria.  The idea that Republicans essentially accept this monstrous inefficiency is so frustrating.

3) I really meant to do a post on AOC and taxes.  I love that she’s pushing a 70% top marginal tax rate.  Overton window and all that.  And, good policy.  Paul Waldman:

Naturally, just suggesting increasing tax rates at the top sends Republicans to the fainting couch, since the single most fundamental idea to which their party is devoted at this point in history is that the wealthy should pay as little in taxes as possible. But why shouldn’t we discuss it?

Instead, all of the predictions Democrats made about it at the time have come true. Republicans said the tax cut would generate so much economic activity that revenue would soar and the deficit would shrink. In fact, the deficit has ballooned; it is projected to exceed $1 trillion this year. Republicans said corporations would pass their windfall on to workers; Democrats predicted that corporations would use the money for stock buybacks, boosting share prices to benefit wealthy investors. The Democrats were right.

By now, we can say with confidence that the foundational principle of Republican tax policy — that cutting taxes for the wealthy brings economic nirvana and raising taxes for the wealthy brings economic doom — is utterly and completely wrong. It’s not even worth debating anymore. The entire history of U.S. economic policy shows it to be false, from the failure of recent Republican tax cuts to the fact that we had much higher top marginal rates4)  at some of our periods of strongest economic growth. In the 1950s and 1960s, through the postwar boom, the top rate was as high as 91 percent and never fell below 70 percent. [emphasis mine]

4) Stephen Pearlstein defends a better kind of capitalism in Vox.  I’m a fan.

How about let’s start with fixing the capitalism we have — or as Raghuram Rajan and Luigi Zingales cleverly put it, saving capitalism from the capitalists. As I outlined in the book, I would start by getting money out of politics — corporate money but also union money. And ending the stranglehold Wall Street has put on the real economy be demanding companies be run to maximize shareholder value. And more vigorous antitrust enforcement to deal with old-fashioned consolidation and the natural winner-take-all tendencies of the new economy. We need to bring back a serious inheritance tax, a serious and reformed corporate tax and a top marginal income tax of 40 percent.

And while we are at it, why not create a new set of financial institutions — banks, insurance companies, mutual funds and pension funds — that are owned by their customers rather than by shareholders. Even a capitalist can understand the logic of an annual “dividend” for every American as his or her share of the nation’s natural and institutional bounty, particularly if it is combined with an obligation for three years of national service (my version of universal basic income).

Want to get really radical? How about ending school segregation by class the way we did with segregation by race, through enlarged school districts, magnet schools, and creative use of school choice.

I’m all for making it possible once again to organize a union without getting fired or spending the next decade in court, which unfortunately is the current reality. But there may be other, better ways to reinvigorate the union movement and give a bit more power to workers in a post-industrial economy. My guess is that many American workers don’t want the kind of union you pine for — the ones that undermined the competitive viability of their companies, the ones that rejected all pay for performance schemes and saddled companies with rigid work rules…

yes, we live in a society marked by hierarchy and inequality — and, yes, that’s intrinsic to capitalism. And, yes, power — economic power, political power — matters in terms of how the good things in life are distributed. Market fundamentalists who still insist it’s all about voluntary transactions within the context of a perfectly competitive and efficiency marketplace that neutrally and objectively sets economic outcomes are either kidding themselves or are trying to kid us.

But let’s be clear: This somewhat unsavory economic system called capitalism has lifted billions out of subsistence poverty since the industrial revolution and given us longer, healthier, happier lives to a degree not matched by any other system people have tried. And although some people have more power, money, security, and happiness than others, and some people get to boss other people around, the fault line is not between “workers” and “capital.” It’s between high-skilled workers and low, coastal metropolitan workers and rural ones, between white workers and nonwhite, men and women workers, religious workers and non-religious.

Let’s get real: The favorite politician of the oppressed, left-behind workers who you idealize is Donald Trump, while denizens of Wall Street titans and Hollywood moguls and tech billionaires back liberal candidates and causes.

5) I’ve very intrigued by this idea of affective presence.  I’d like to think I have a pretty good one.  But, I definitely know some people who have this in spades and people who are definitely lacking.

Some people can walk into a room and instantly put everyone at ease. Others seem to make teeth clench and eyes roll no matter what they do. A small body of psychology research supports the idea that the way a person tends to make others feel is a consistent and measurable part of his personality. Researchers call it “affective presence.”

This concept was first described nearly 10 years ago in a study by Noah Eisenkraft and Hillary Anger Elfenbein. They put business-school students into groups, had them enroll in all the same classes for a semester, and do every group project together. Then the members of each group rated how much every other member made them feel eight different emotions: stressed, bored, angry, sad, calm, relaxed, happy, and enthusiastic. The researchers found that a significant portion of group members’ emotions could be accounted for by the affective presence of their peers.

6) It’s even easier to legally shoot people in Florida:

Last month, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the state’s controversial “stand your ground” statute applies to police officers, just as it does to civilians. The ruling radically expanded the boundaries of justifiable homicide to grant police immunity from arrest, criminal prosecution, and a jury trial when they claim—even in spite of overwhelming contradicting evidence—to have killed in self-defense. This modification represents the latest in a steadily creeping distortion of justice that intensifies the “shoot first, ask questions later” logic of weaponized self-defense…

“Stand your ground” makes it very difficult to dispute even the most outrageous claims of self-defense. Drafted by a consortium of conservative lawmakers and gun lobbyists, Florida’s statute became the first of its kind in 2005, stipulating that a law-abiding person has no duty to retreat from a perceived threat wherever they may legally be. As Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick explained, “stand your ground” laws stretch the traditional Castle Doctrine beyond the boundaries of the home, allowing you to “bring your castle wherever you go.” On the surface at least, the laws appear to grant all law-abiding persons permission to use lethal force, without first trying to retreat, in order to protect themselves from a threat. When civilians claim to have killed someone because they were in fear for their lives, a judge at a pretrial hearing may rule that their fear was reasonable, in which case they escape arrest and prosecution.

But time and an accumulating archive of evidence shows that, in spite of their apparent race and gender neutrality, “stand your ground” laws intensify existing injustices while making already criminalized populations more vulnerable.

7) How to make a lie seem true?  Repeat, repeat, repeat.  It’s almost like I can think of somebody who does this all the time.

8) John Cassidy makes the case for Elizabeth Warren:

But Warren isn’t merely talking the talk. In the past few years, she has put together a policy agenda designed to level the economic playing field in favor of workers, consumers, and small businesses. To be sure, she supports some things that virtually all Democrats now favor, such as enacting a national minimum wage of fifteen dollars, further expanding access to health care, and building more public housing. But she also has some more distinctive ideas, such as breaking up monopolies and promoting competition, making it easier for unions to organize, and forcing any public company with revenues of more than a billion dollars to set aside forty per cent of the seats on its board of directors for workers’ representatives. The latter proposal was contained in Warren’s Accountable Capitalism Act, which she unveiled last summer. This draft legislation would also place limits on stock-based compensation for senior executives and force companies to get the approval of three-quarters of their shareholders for any political activities they are involved in.

Seizing upon these proposals, some of Warren’s conservative critics have tagged her as an old-style socialist, but that isn’t accurate. Rather than having the government take over the commanding heights of the economy, she wants to use legislation and regulation to root out corporate abuses, correct glaring market failures, and rebalance the power relationships between capital and labor, firms and consumers, and big businesses and small businesses. “I believe in markets,” she told The Nation, earlier this year. “But markets work only when everyone gets a fair opportunity to compete.”

9) Farhad Manjoo joins the chorus (including me) telling you to meditate:

And so, to survive the brain-dissolving internet, I turned to meditation.

Don’t roll your eyes. You’ve heard about the benefits of mindfulness before. Meditation has been rising up the ladder of West Coast wellness fads for several years and is now firmly in the zeitgeist.

It’s the subject of countless books, podcasts, conferencesa million-dollar app war. It’s extolled by C.E.O.s and entertainers and even taught in my kids’ elementary school (again, it’s Northern California). The fad is backed by reams of scientific research showing the benefits of mindfulness for your physical and mental health — how even short-term stints improve your attention span and your ability to focus, your memory, and other cognitive functions.

10) Loved this list of 20 Best TV Dramas since the Sopranos.  Of course my favorite of the Wire, Mad Men, and Breaking Bad were all there.  For my son, I leave off with this:

Quick hits (New Year’s day edition)

1) Really enjoyed Austin Murphy’s account of what it’s like to go from a successful Sports Illustrated  journalist to delivering packages for Amazon.

2) Why it’s not a good idea to tie allowance to chores.  In our case, it’s a huge parent fail in not having my kids do more chores.  But at least we’re not giving them an allowance for it 😉

A range of experts I consulted expressed concern that tying allowance very closely to chores, whatever its apparent short-term effectiveness, can send kids unintentionally counterproductive messages about family, community, and personal responsibility. In fact, the way chores work in many households worldwide points to another way, in which kids get involved earlier, feel better about their contributions, and don’t need money as an enticement.

Suniya Luthar, a psychologist at Arizona State University who studies families, is skeptical of the idea of paying kids on a per-chore basis. “How sustainable is it if you’re going to pay a child a dime for each time he picks up his clothes off the floor?” she says. “What are you saying—that you’re owed something for taking care of your stuff?”

Luthar is not opposed to giving allowances, but she thinks it’s important to establish that certain core chores are done not because they’ll lead to payment, but because they keep the household running. “It’s part of what you do as a family,” Luthar says. “In a family, no one’s going to pay you to tie your own shoes or to put your clothes away.” Whatever the approach, she adds, it’s important to acknowledge that parenting is confusing and exhausting work, and it can be difficult to broker household labor agreements without ever resorting to bribery of some sort.

3) Christian nationalists (and their love of Trump) are the worst:

I have attended dozens of Christian nationalist conferences and events over the past two years. And while I have heard plenty of comments casting doubt on the more questionable aspects of Mr. Trump’s character, the gist of the proceedings almost always comes down to the belief that he is a miracle sent straight from heaven to bring the nation back to the Lord. I have also learned that resistance to Mr. Trump is tantamount to resistance to God.

This isn’t the religious right we thought we knew. The Christian nationalist movement today is authoritarian, paranoid and patriarchal at its core. They aren’t fighting a culture war. They’re making a direct attack on democracy itself.

They want it all. And in Mr. Trump, they have found a man who does not merely serve their cause, but also satisfies their craving for a certain kind of political leadership.

4) This NYT interactive series on women’s reproductive rights is amazing (honestly, I get more value from my $15/month for NYT than for about anything).  There’s too much here to take all on, but I found the part about feticide laws and how they take away women’s rights especially compelling:

Nine states recognize feticide only in later periods of a fetus’s development, such as when it could survive outside the womb. In 2004, Congress passed the first federal statute to give victim status to fertilized eggs, embryos and fetuses, in cases of violent crime against pregnant women.

These laws have meant that pregnant women who were addicted to drugs, were suicidal, were in car accidents, fell down stairs, delivered at home, refused C-sections or went about their lives in ways that were perceived to harm their pregnancies have been detained and jailed for a variety of crimes, including murder, manslaughter, neglect, criminal recklessness and chemical endangerment.

5) The war between abstinence and medication-assisted-therapy approaches to drug addiction.  The fact that science has shown the latter approach to be far more effective does not always matter.

Anti-craving medications are not a silver bullet; relapse is common even among people who take them, and some in fact do better with an abstinence approach. But there is substantial evidence that buprenorphine and a similar drug, methadone — which has faced ideological resistance on and off for decades — reduce the mortality rate among people addicted to opioids by half or more; they are also more successful at keeping people in treatment than abstinence-based approaches.

6) Had a recent argument with my stepmom about how Trump was actually not making America great again.  I kind of wish I had these charts to show her.  Of course, it wouldn’t matter.  As my NeverTrump sort-of-still Republican sister tried to convince her mother and said, “but I’m right,” I explained that being right never convinced anybody.  But, still… facts.

7) Ezra Klein with a great summary of Hetherington and Weiler’s work a couple weeks ago.  Meant to do a post.  You should read it.  On a related note, I’ve assigned Prius or Pickup for my upcoming Public Opinion & Media class.

“Of the many factors that make up your worldview, one is more fundamental than any other in determining which side of the divide you gravitate toward: your perception of how dangerous the world is. Fear is perhaps our most primal instinct, after all, so it’s only logical that people’s level of fearfulness informs their outlook on life.”

That’s political scientists Marc Hetherington and Jonathan Weiler, writing in their book Prius or Pickup, which marshals a massive trove of survey data and experimental evidence to argue that the roots of our political divides run so deep that they make us almost incomprehensible to one another. Our political divisions, they say, aren’t about policy disagreements, or even demographics. They’re about something more ancient in how we view the world.

Hetherington and Weiler call these worldviews, which express themselves in everything from policy preferences to parenting styles, “fixed” versus “fluid.” The fixed worldview “describes people who are warier of social and cultural change and hence more set in their ways, more suspicious of outsiders, and more comfortable with the familiar and predictable.” People with a fluid worldview, by contrast, “support changing social and cultural norms, are excited by things that are new and novel, and are open to, and welcoming of, people who look and sound different.”

What’s happened in recent decades, they argue, is that politics in general, and our political parties in particular, have reorganized around these worldviews, adding a new, and arguably irreconcilable, difference into our political divisions. That difference is visible in everything from what we think to where we live to how we shop, but it’s particularly apparent in how hard it is for us to understand how the other side views the world.

8) I’m not going to read this biography of John Marshall (pretty much never read biographies), but I really enjoyed what I learned in this review.

9) Vox recently recycled it and for all I know, I’ve linked it before, but I really like it.  Current American society/culture makes it too damn hard to make adult friendships.  David Roberts, “How our housing choices make adult friendships more difficult.”  Very true.  I’m very lucky that I have several truly good friends at NC State, but I really wish I know more people in my neighborhood.

10) I loved this essay from Jennifer Weiner on the value of re-learning piano and middle age.  A lot of it resonated with how I feel about taking up guitar.

11) So, as you know, I’m re-working my way through Breaking Bad (love it even more the 2nd time) with my firstborn and reader of this blog.  This time I went and found the video for this song that serves as the music for a terrific scene in a 4th season episode.

I think that will do it for now.  A few more that I wanted to put here, but I’m still hoping to find the time/incentive to give their own post.  Plus, still vacation for today.

Quick hits (part I)

1) I see how it can potentially get out of hand, but I really don’t think schools should be banning parents from having lunch with their kids.

2) As you know, I’m big ran of LARC’s as a tool in fighting poverty.  And Delaware is now giving it a try.  Unfortunately, some research suggests this is not as promising as we might have thought:

The idea of contraception as a key to economic mobility emerged after the 1960s and 1970s, when contraception and abortion became legal state by state. A string of studies showed that, when birth control arrived, women’s careers and educational attainment improved — and the number of children they had declined.

Isabel Sawhill, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, has measured the wide gulfs in outcomes between young women with unintended children and those with planned pregnancies later on. She has written extensively in support of expanded LARC access.

“It’s very expensive and very hard to reduce poverty,” Ms. Sawhill said. “Reducing unplanned births is easy by comparison.”

But it’s possible that youthful, unplanned pregnancies are a symptomof poverty, more than a cause.

One study of teenagers with unintended pregnancies found only small differences in outcomes between those who had miscarriages and those who delivered babies. A review of the returns on investment from contraception found relatively small effects.

“The causal link is kind of a big question mark,” said Caitlin Myers, an associate professor of economics at Middlebury College, who teaches a class on unplanned parenthood in the United States. Ms. Myers said an effort like Delaware’s would improve women’s autonomy and reduce abortions. But she was skeptical that it would necessarily reduce poverty. “To what extent does unintended pregnancy cause bad outcomes versus bad outcomes causing unintended pregnancies? It’s a symptom of poverty, of inequality, of hopelessness about the future.”

3) Popehat (one of those people I discovered on twitter who is just so educational on legal issues) calls out Alan Dershowitz, “Alan Dershowitz Is Lying To You” and it’s just awesome.

4) Really enjoyed this “18 lessons for the news business from 2018.”

The relatively few magazines that are finding a future are thought-provoking, reader-supported ones.

The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Vanity Fair, and Wired are among those that are making the digital subscriber transition. Each offers audiences a unique set of voices and reporting. Each, arguably, has risen to our times. It’s the shelter, fashion, travel, and lifestyle magazines — beset by unlimited free digital competition — that suffer, slim, and shutter.

The lesson, again, and again: Unique voices supported by subscribers point a way forward.

Indeed.  I subscribe to all of those but Vanity Fair.

4) Interesting take from Seth Masket, “The Demise of the Weekly Standard is a Blow to the Republican Party.”

5) Oren Cass writes, “The Misguided Priorities of Our Educational System: We spend too much money on college students and not enough on everyone else.”  He’s right– especially when it comes to vocational education.

One explanation for this bizarre state of affairs, in which society invests heavily in those headed for economic success while ignoring those falling behind, is the widespread belief that everyone can be a college graduate. If that were true, the shove toward the college pipeline might make sense.

But most young Americans do not achieve even a community-college degree. Federal data show that fewer than one in five studentssmoothly navigate the high school to college to career pathway. More students fail to complete high school on time, more fail to move on from high school to college, and more drop out of college. Forty years of reform, accompanied by a doubling of per pupil spending, has failed to improve this picture. Standardized test scores haven’t budged. SAT scores have declined. More students enroll in college, but the share of 25-year-olds with a bachelor’s degree did not increase from 1995 to 2015, and it stands barely above the 1975 level…

But while the median college graduate earns more than the median high school graduate, those workers are not the same person — indeed, they are likely people with very different academic prospects. Look instead at the wage distributions for more comparable samples: those with earnings toward the high end for workers with only high school degrees and those at the low end among college graduates. The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that high school grads with above-average earnings (50th to 90th percentile) earn $34,000 to $70,000 annually. College grads with below-average earnings (10th to 50th percentile) earn $28,000 to $58,000.

Pushing people from the former category to attend college and land in the latter category does them few favors. And remember, that assumes they graduate; people in their position typically will not. Remember also, those are the outcomes before we attempt to create an attractive non-college pathway that they might prefer and that might equip them for success.

6) This is a great feel-good story, “A mother’s leap of faith at an African airport, and a 15-year mystery.”

Maya Hughes was 5 years old when her mother asked a stranger at an airport in Sierra Leone to help get her back to the United States safely. The man helped, then disappeared. Fifteen years later, the three got back in touch with each other.

7) Great stuff from Frank Rich:

What will move them [Republican politicians] is not necessarily Trump’s hara-kiri isolationist agenda but the damage his behavior both abroad and at home is inflicting on the financial markets. The sheer uncertainty of a chaos presidency is pushing the Dow to its worst December since the Great Depression. McConnell and his humiliated departing peer Paul Ryan have tolerated Trump’s racism, misogyny, and nativism, his wreckage of American alliances, his kleptocracy, and his allegiance to Vladimir Putin. They have tolerated as well his con job on the coal miners, steelworkers, and automobile-industry workers of his base. But they’ll be damned if they will stand for a president who threatens the bottom line of the GOP donor class. [emphasis mine]

8) Elizabeth Warren says the government should produce generic drugs.  Given the world’s largest actual collusion ever, this is a very interesting idea.

9) A former student of mine tweeted at the epitome of bad faith politics, NC GOP director Dallas Woodhouse, Chili’s social media account ended up in the middle.

10) I haven’t read enough yet to have a firm take on Mattis and his resignation, but I found Yglesias‘ contrarianism on him very interesting:

Secretary of Defense James Mattis’s decision to resign, complete with a strongly worded letter slamming President Donald Trump, is not so much the end of “adults in the room” safeguarding the country from the president’s worst instincts as it is the end of the myth that there ever were any such adults.

Mattis was, after all, recommended to Trump in the first place because Barack Obama had fired him for his reckless advocacy of military confrontation with Iran. And while the last grown-up was unable to restrain Trump from imprisoning asylum-seeking childrenabusing his pardon power for Joe Arpaioabusing declassification powerundertaking a partisan purge of the FBIcheering the French far right, or issuing apologias for neo-Nazis, he finally decided to take his stand over Trump making the perfectly defensible decision to withdraw US forces from a hazily defined open-ended mission in Syria that lacked any legal authorization.

There’s nothing wrong with quitting over a policy dispute that you feel strongly about. (Though, frankly, I think Trump is on the right side of this one.) But that’s all this was — a normal dispute within the range of things reasonable people can disagree about.

At the end of the day, Mattis proved ineffective or uninterested in preventing shocking abuses of power and flagrant immorality only to throw down over a perfectly legitimate order from the commander in chief.

And while resigning sooner, over something better, would have been welcome, the notion that it could have meaningfully improved outcomes is silly. Trump is unfit for office, and flagrantly so, in ways that are fairly obvious and have been obvious for years. There are no adults in any room he leads, and there never will be. The real grown-ups are the ones who’ve been outside the room trying to get him out of office.

11) I’ve always enjoyed the Black Key’s “Little Black Submarines” when I’ve heard it, but never really gave it all that much thought.  Heard it on the radio the other day, though, and thought, that would be a great guitar part to learn.  It is!  I love a good rock song made up of standard open chords.  And now I’m (and my 12-year old) obsessed with the song.

12) Really interesting Linda Greenhouse piece on the divide among Republicans on the Supreme Court.  It’s a little early to definitely put Kavanaugh on the “sure, very conservative, but not total Republican hack” side along with Roberts, but so far, things are suggestive.  As to Thomas, Alito, and Gorsuch?  Yeah, total hacks.

13) Love this, “Like Tomboys and Hate Girlie Girls? That’s Sexist: We need to stop maligning femininity, in both girls and boys.”

 

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