Quick hits

1) Good stuff here.  Again, when reforming policing it’s all about reforming a culture. “I Was Mayor of Minneapolis. I Know Why Police Reforms Fail.
An us-versus-them culture has deadly consequences.”

Amid the outcry over George Floyd’s death and now hundreds of inhumane, overtly racist acts by police around the country, a number of cities are contemplating dramatic reforms to policing. No action is more important than changing toxic us-versus-them police cultures—in which an officer who might individually make the right call becomes silently complicit when a fellow officer goes rogue. This culture enabled three officers in my city to stand by while Floyd was killed. It allows the bombastic union chief Bob Kroll, the president of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, to disparage Floyd and refuse to condemn his death. To this day, this culture enables almost all those officers I met at their swearing-in ceremonies to choose Kroll—by overwhelming margins—as their public voice.

Many commentators on police culture have noted this dynamic: Almost by definition, officers see the worst things happening in their city on any given shift. After being in danger every night, officers gradually stop seeing the humanity in the people and neighborhoods they patrol. Instead, they go back to the precinct with the only people who can really understand what they are going through. People with exceptionally tough jobs serving complex humans naturally vent when they are together. What teacher hasn’t complained about a student in the privacy of the teachers’ lounge?

But the tribalism that can build up within police departments is far more consequential. Us versus them—meaning police versus criminals—slowly curdles into police versus the people: Who would live in these crime-infested neighborhoods where we risk our lives? Waiting to stoke that resentment are police-union leaders such as Kroll, who defend even the more aggressive acts of officers and, even in a case as extreme as Floyd’s death, prevent any self-examination by blaming the victim.

I used to say that the majority of officers are good but silently let a minority set the dominant culture. But now I believe that no one can be called a “good officer” if they are not working actively and openly to change the culture and unseat their toxic union leaders. The silence of the “good officers” so far is deafening, but a glimmer of hope came recently when more than a dozen brave Minneapolis officers bucked their union, condemned the officer who murdered George Floyd, and vowed to regain the community’s trust.

2) Okay, this is a little different for me.  But, I just have to say that if you rob a convenience store, have what you need, and then literally try and burn the clerk to death, hell yeah, now I’m quite happy with a nice, long 26 year sentence (or longer) for the perpetrator.

3) Had a great email conversation with Nicole on biology, human sex, and JK Rowling thanks to this post in Quillete.  Obviously, sex is not a perfect binary, intersexed does exist.  But, biological sex is not some normal curve or spectrum and I think this article is quite right about that.  But that doesn’t mean we should treat transgender people with as much dignity and respect as possible (and Nicole pointed out to me where Rowling had, indeed, failed at this).

Till now, even the most thematically ambitious feminist theorists have acknowledged that sex itself is a real biological phenomenon, and that sexual dimorphism is an important component of human existence as well as human rights. Yet increasingly, such common-sense propositions as JK Rowling’s are now cast as hate speech.

As more and more people refer to themselves as trans, nonbinary, two-spirited, and gender-non-conforming, there’s been a push to realign the objective reality of biological sex to match one’s subjectively experienced gender identity. In the emerging view, the very notion of males and females existing as real biological entities is now seen as obsolete. Instead, some argue, we have only varying degrees of “male-ness” and “female-ness.” And so the very idea of segregating sports (or anything, for that matter) using binary sex categories is seen as illegitimate, since, if no definitive line can be drawn, who’s to say a purported “male” athlete isn’t really female?

The view that sex is a spectrum is not confined to fringe critical theorists. It has made inroads into mainstream culture, thanks in part to a highly sympathetic media environment. Even prestigious scientific journals such as Nature have given space to authors who argue that “the idea of two sexes is simplistic” and that “biologists now think there is a wider spectrum than that.” Another Nature editorial insisted that attempts to classify an individual’s sex using any combination of anatomy and genetics “has no basis in science.” A new book, The Spectrum of Sex: The Science of Male, Female, and Intersex, argues this position from cover to cover. Its publisher, a Canadian academic press, gushes that “this transformative guide completely breaks down our current understanding of biological sex.”

In February of this year I co-authored a Wall Street Journal op-ed on the subject, entitled The Dangerous Denial of Sex. Along with my co-author, developmental biologist Emma Hilton, I highlighted the harms that sex-spectrum pseudoscience can impose on vulnerable groups, including children, women, gay men, and lesbians. Since we were confined to a newspaper op-ed format, Dr. Hilton and I had scant space to explore in detail the actual science of biological sex and the pseudoscience that is sex spectrum ideology. That is the subject of this essay.

4) Good stuff from Pro Publica, “How America’s Hospitals Survived the First Wave of the Coronavirus: ProPublica deputy managing editor Charles Ornstein wanted to know why experts were wrong when they said U.S. hospitals would be overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients. Here’s what he learned, including what hospitals can do before the next wave.”

5) Dan Froomkin on the normalization of Trump:

In Friday’s New York Times, the paper’s White House bureau chief, Peter Baker, tut-tutted the “normalization” of Donald Trump’s presidency – as if he himself, along with his colleagues, weren’t among the people most responsible for it.

In a “White House Memo,” Baker wrote about the damning things former national security adviser John Bolton says about Trump in his new book – startling revelations like that Trump “sees his office as an instrument to advance his own personal and political interests over those of the nation”; that Trump is “erratic,” “impulsive” and “stunningly uninformed”; that he makes “irrational” decisions; and that he feels that “the rules that governed other presidents in the post-Watergate era are meant to be broken.“

Baker’s “nut graf,” as we call it in the business, came after he described a scene in which Bolton agrees with then-chief of staff John F. Kelly that there has never “been a presidency like this”. Baker wrote:

That is self-evidently true and yet it bears repeating every once in a while. After more than three years of the Trump presidency, it has become easy to forget at times just how out of the ordinary it really is. The normalization of Mr. Trump’s norm-busting, line-crossing, envelope-pushing administration has meant that what was once shocking now seems like just another day.

As it happens, I don’t actually think the public experiences Trump’s presidency as normal — quite the contrary. I think there are two widely held and mutually exclusive views of the president, and in neither of them is he even remotely normal.

But reading, listening to and watching the news coverage of Donald Trump, I am often struck at the lack of context, alarm, and outrage from the mainstream political media. There’s an awful lot of stenography and credulousness.

So, coming from almost anyone besides Peter Baker, what he wrote there would be astute media criticism.

Coming from him, though, it’s preposterously, laughably ironic.

Now in Baker’s defense, he is a sharp, fast and agile reporter who has at times written about Trump in highly incisive and critical terms, especially in his news analyses. For better and for worse, he is hugely admired by his colleagues, and is a role model for many of them. We were colleagues once, even friends.

But way too often, especially in his daily articles, Baker has downplayed the profoundly aberrational, deviant nature of the Trump presidency. He has taken what Trump says at face value even when he knows better. He has internalized Trump’s framings, refused to call lies lies, and engaged in mind-boggling false equivalence. When all else fails, he has resorted to pox-on-both-your-houses, boring-what-else-is-new coverage.

6) Always read what John Dickerson has to say about the presidency, “The ultimate test of presidential character is restraint”

Yet here is the problem: We don’t talk about restraint much in campaigns these days. When we do, we treat it as a liability and reward its absence. The unfortunate results are evident.

The conservative political scientist James Q. Wilson said character was composed of two qualities: “empathy and self-control.” Wilson defined empathy as “willingness to take importantly into account the rights, needs, and feelings of others,” and self-control as “willingness to take importantly into account the more distant consequences of present actions.” Both qualities are built on restraint — the ability to put public over self, and future over present.

The presidency, too, was built on restraint. As the framers designed the office in the summer of 1787, they picked George Washington to preside. He was chosen not because of his military skill or his speech-making (he said very little) but for his restraint, a trait the Founders hoped would contain the inevitable temptations toward monarchy in an office they were creating to take action. When an incredulous King George III heard Washington planned to return to Mount Vernon after leading the continental army, the monarch reportedly said: “If he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world.” And, of course, Washington’s decision not to seek a third term set a precedent for presidential restraint for years to come.

In 2015 and 2016, Donald Trump escalated this tradition. He denigrated John McCain and all POWs; mocked a disabled reporter; savaged Jeb Bush by suggesting his brother had lied his way to war and should be impeached; and suggested that the father of another rival, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), was implicated in the John F. Kennedy assassination.

In office, previous presidents (such as George H.W. Bush) recognized a distinction between no-holds-barred campaign tactics and the restraint traditionally associated with governing. Trump has not — confronting allies, accommodating adversaries, insulting Cabinet members and treating the truth as optional. Supporters applaud all of this as the disruptive action they voted for.

7) Interesting public opinion and analysis from Brian Schaffner on white priviledge:

8) I feel reasonably confident that the steps NC State will take (masks!! and distancing) will actually minimize transmission of the virus in the academic and working environment on campus.  It’s what the students will do otherwise which will likely be the biggest problem.  NYT Op-ed: “Expecting Students to Play It Safe if Colleges Reopen Is a Fantasy”

My skepticism about the strategies under consideration is not based on videos of college students frolicking on Florida’s beaches when they were explicitly told to avoid large gatherings. Rather, it comes from more than 40 years teaching and researching young people.

Most types of risky behavior — reckless driving, criminal activity, fighting, unsafe sex and binge drinking, to name just a few — peak during the late teens and early 20s. Moreover, interventions designed to diminish risk-taking in this age group, such as attempts to squelch binge drinking on campus, have an underwhelming track record. There is little reason to think that the approaches proposed to mitigate transmission of the coronavirus among college students will fare any better. A series of studies that compare the ways in which young people and adults think and make decisions about risk-taking confirms this.

The late-adolescent peak in risky behavior has been found pretty much around the world. Although risky behavior is more common in some countries than others, the heightened risk-taking characteristic of adolescents, relative to adults, is more or less universal. My colleagues and I recently completed a study of more than 5,000 people between the ages of 10 and 30 from 11 different countries (including both Western and non-Western ones). Respondents answered a series of questions about the extent to which they had engaged in various types of risk-taking. Consistent with large-scale epidemiological studies, we found a peak in risk-taking somewhere between age 20 and 24 in virtually every country.

Our team has also conducted experiments in which we test participants on various risk-taking tasks under controlled conditions, which allows us to rule out any age differences in real-world risk-taking that might be caused by environmental factors, such as opportunity or cultural norms. As in our survey studies, risk-taking peaked during adolescence. Other studies, using different samples, have reached similar conclusions…

My pessimistic prediction is that the college and university reopening strategies under consideration will work for a few weeks before their effectiveness fizzles out. By then, many students will have become cavalier about wearing masks and sanitizing their hands. They will ignore social distancing guidelines when they want to hug old friends they run into on the way to class. They will venture out of their “families” and begin partying in their hallways with classmates from other clusters, and soon after, with those who live on other floors, in other dorms, or off campus. They will get drunk and hang out and hook up with people they don’t know well. And infections on campus — not only among students, but among the adults who come into contact with them — will begin to increase.

At that point, college administrators will find themselves in a very dicey situation, with few good options.

I look forward to a time when we are able to return to campus and in-person teaching. But a thorough discussion of whether, when and how we reopen our colleges and universities must be informed by what developmental science has taught us about how adolescents and young adults think. As someone who is well-versed in this literature, I will ask to teach remotely for the time being.

9) In case I didn’t mention it, I found “Never have I ever,” especially John McEnroe’s narration, quite delightful.

10) Loved this podcast, “David Watkins, Ph.D.: A masterclass in immunology, monoclonal antibodies, and vaccine strategies for COVID-19”  Super interesting.  And, very optimistic on my new favorite thing– monoclonal antibodies.

11) Short one– sorry.

Quick hits (part I)

1) With the end of Game of Thrones being a year ago, Wired re-pushed this piece on two approaches to storytelling and how GoT got all messed up in it’s final season:

It all comes down to how stories are crafted, and for that, we need to start with two different types of writers: plotters and pantsers. Plotters create a detailed outline before they commit a word to the page. Pantsers prefer to discover the story as they write it—flying by the seat of their pants, so to speak. Both approaches have their advantages. Since plotters know the story in advance, it’s easier to create tight narratives with satisfying conclusions. But that amount of predestination can sometimes make characters feel like cogs in service of the story. Pantsers have an easier time writing characters that live and breathe. They generate the plot by dropping a person with desires and needs into a dramatic situation and documenting the results. But with the characters in charge, pantsers risk a meandering or poorly paced structure, and they can struggle to tie everything together.

To be clear, the advantages of each are not guarantees. And plotters can write memorable characters, while pantsers can write thrilling sequences. The differences usually smooth themselves out over successive drafts anyway. Where the effect can be pronounced is in an ongoing television or book series, since the beginning of the story gets released and digested by the public while the rest is still being written…

Still, the approach to storytelling changed in the third act, and an audience can feel that happening. We fell in love with one kind of show, but that’s not the show that’s ending. No amount of spectacle or fan service is satisfying if we don’t buy how the characters got there. Treating the journey as equally important to the destination is how you get conclusions that feel earned, and it’s how characters stay alive after they’ve met their fates.

Endings invite us to consider the story as a whole; where it started, where it went, and where it left us. And we can feel the gaps as this one comes to a close.

2) Damn I love this headline of the latest Thomas Edsall, “When the Mask You’re Wearing ‘Tastes Like Socialism’”

The chart — documenting findings from two Pew surveys, one conducted April 7-12, the other April 29-May 5 — shows that in a matter of three weeks, Republican voters shifted from a modest majority (51-48) concerned that the restrictions would be lifted too quickly, to a similarly modest majority (53-47) concerned that the restrictions will not be lifted quickly enough. Democrats, on the contrary, went from a decisive majority who feared (81-18) that restrictions would be lifted too quickly to an even stronger concern (87-13).

3) Some malls will probably never re-open.  A good look at how it’s not really just the internet that’s been killing malls.

4) I saw an ad for “plant-based butter” the other day and thought, “ummm, margarine?”  Basically, yes, and fancy marketing, but a little more complicated.

5) Thanks to JW for sharing how professors are thinking about trying to stop cheating in an on-line only world  Fortunately for me, my course material is readily adaptable for take-home exams as that’s how I’ve been doing most of my finals for years.  Having the book/notes in front of you will not let you actually understand how polarization of media bias really work in 75 minutes.

6) When reading Emily Oster’s great piece on Covid this week, I came across something she wrote last year on parenting.  Was so glad to finally see an honest take on infant sleeping (pretty sure I wrote a post years and years ago complaining about our non-sensical binary approach to safe sleeping– found it!):

In the U.S., for example, official safe-sleep guidelines decree that parents not sleep in the same bed with their babies (commonly called co-sleeping), out of concern about higher rates of sudden infant death syndrome and suffocation. The policy message against co-sleeping is very clear, and very dire; when my daughter was born there was a brief controversy around a set of anti-co-sleeping advertisements, which equated bed sharing with allowing your infant to sleep next to a kitchen knife.

When I wrote my recent book, Cribsheet, I spent a lot of time with the data on co-sleeping. And I ultimately came to agree with the official guideline, in the sense that I believe the evidence shows a higher risk of infant mortality when parents share their bed with their infant. But the story’s not as simple as Big Baby would have you believe.

Co-sleeping is especially dangerous when accompanied by parental smoking, heavy drinking, or pillows and fluffy covers on the bed. In a safe sleep environment there is still a risk, but it is fairly small compared with other risks people take regularly (such as driving their children in a car). Seeing these risks for what they are, some parents might decide that co-sleeping (as safely as possible) is what works for their family.

The typical argument against framing risk in this way goes like so: Assuming there is a risk, even a very small one, we should tell people to avoid it. By informing parents that the risk is small, we normalize this behavior, making it seem okay. The same argument applies to the formula-mixing example at the start of this piece: Sure, the risk of bacteria is small, but it’s not zero, so why not tell parents to just boil the water?

But some infants simply will not sleep on their own. Despite parental best efforts at swaddling, white noise, rocking, tiptoeing out of the room, etc., some three-week-old babies will always wake up within a few minutes of being put down alone. In this situation, what’s a parent to do? Remember that Big Baby also tells parents that sleep is incredibly important for the developing brain (which it is). And consider that if baby’s not sleeping, Mom and Dad aren’t sleeping, and if Mom and Dad aren’t sleeping, they’re probably stressed—and perhaps clumsy with that boiling water.

It is easy to say, “Do the safest thing, it’s only a few months, it ends,” but where do people get the resources to survive these few months? When parents set out to do everything by the book, too often they ultimately muddle through, making choices at random. They co-sleep by accident: They try to stay awake and end up snoozing with the baby on a sofa (much more dangerous). Or  parents try to split the night between them and then both drive to work the next day exhausted.

If parents understood that the risks of co-sleeping (in a safe sleep environment) are small, more of them might do it—just like if they understood that the risks of using room-temperature water for formula are small, they might do it. The simple fact that resources are limited means the alternative might be worse.

7a) Just found out a whole book that takes down all the “appeal to nature” fallacies we rely upon.  But… but… chemicals!!

7b) Meanwhile, I’ve got a neighbor-friend who’s been telling me all about his crazy cleans/detox.  I just nod and don’t say anything negative and then discuss science with my boys as we continue along with our walk afterwards.

8) Paul Waldman on “Obamagate” and “unmasking” and horrible journalism:

So the fact that Obama administration officials saw intelligence reports saying the Russian ambassador was talking to an American about sensitive matters regarding the relationship between the two countries and asked “Who is this American who’s negotiating with the Russians?” (it turned out to be Flynn) can be characterized not as what those officials absolutely should have done, but as the heart of a sinister conspiracy.

The people who are feeding this lunacy—Trump himself, Republican politicians, media figures—all understand this perfectly well. But their project is built on the assumption that their target audience, the great mass of conservative voters, is ignorant and easily misled. They have seldom been given cause to think otherwise.

So they scream “Obamagate!” and give the topic wall-to-wall coverage on Fox News, in the hope that the end result will be that while most people won’t have much of a grasp on the details, they’ll remember that Obama and Biden tried to frame Trump and victimized his aides, just as all they grasped in 2016 was that Hillary Clinton was a corrupt schemer. As former Trump adviser Steve Bannon once said, the strategy is to “flood the zone with shit,” to pour so much misinformation into the media that the truth loses any importance.

Here’s the dilemma we in the media often find ourselves in: Trump will make some fantastical claim, and because he’s the president, everyone reports it. Some of the most important news outlets reflexively do so in an even-handed way that gives automatic credence to the charge. One could imagine the headline: “Trump Says Obama Killed Kobe Bryant With Ebola; Former President Denies.” With Trump’s charge immediately amplified by the conservative media, legitimate news organizations feel they have no choice but to spend time debunking the claim, the result being that the story is given even wider circulation. Most Americans just hear that there was something about Obama killing Kobe Bryant.

Unfortunately, except under the most extraordinary of circumstances, there is never a story that is widely understood in all its nuance by the public as a whole. The best we can hope for is that despite its limited capacity for attention and understanding, the public winds up reaching an accurate conclusion despite the attempts to mislead it.

But it often doesn’t work out that way, and Republicans are very practiced at engineering the opposite result. Experience has taught them that the variables that would matter in a more rational world—Is there any evidence for the charge they’re making? Is it relevant to the question of who should be president? Does it actually reveal something about the Democrat in question?—don’t actually matter at all.

9) Interesting piece on how right-wingers pushed “believe all women” instead of “believe women” as a feminist trap.  Also, probably don’t believe Tara Reade.

10) NYT piece about children seeing grandparents and if you are keeping a safe enough quarantine before doing so.  I really don’t like that the expert advice here mentions a variety of super-low risk encounters like “delivery driver” and potentially jogging to close to another person.

So as a first step, think about human contacts, big and small, by every member of the household. How many times did someone go to a store? Did you meet up with a friend for a walk? When you jog, how close are you to other runners? At the park, did your children run up to another child before you could stop them? Is a teenage boyfriend dropping by the house? Do you always wear a mask? Do your children?

“If you’re a family and you have some leakage in your quarantine protocol — if you had to go to the grocery store, for instance, delivery people came over, other people entered your house — any time you have a break in that protective bubble I would be extremely cautious,” said Dr. Soe-Lin.

11) An interesting argument that the key to safe re-opening is not social distancing, but isolation of those diagnosed with Covid.

12) A pretty compelling argument that traveling in airplanes does not actually spread a lot of disease.

You don’t get sick on airplanes any more than anywhere else. Really, you don’t.

If you think this is preposterous or even dangerous to suggest during a pandemic, consider this fact: The ventilation system requirements for airplanes meet the levels recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for use with covid-19 patients in airborne infection isolation rooms.

Before we go any further, let’s make one thing clear: Airplanes are certainly vectors of disease, efficiently transporting infectious people around countries and the globe. This is obviously critical in terms of outbreak control for covid-19. But the fact that airplanes help spread disease across geographies does not mean that you are necessarily at risk during flight. There are fairly simple things you can do, if you do need to travel, to reduce the odds of getting sick.

Billions of people travel by plane every year, yet there have only been a handful of documented disease outbreaks attributable to airplanes in the past 40 years. If planes made you sick, we would expect to see millions of people sick every year attributable to flights. We haven’t seen it because it’s just not happening.

Consider one study that examined a passenger with tuberculosis on an airplane. It found that the median risk of infection to the other 169 passengers on the airplane was between 1 in 10,000 to 1 in a million. Wearing a mask, as some airlines now require, reduced the incidence of infection another 10-fold.

There’s a reason the risks are low. The required aircraft systems do a really good job of controlling airborne bacteria and viruses.

To get technical, airplanes deliver 10 to 12 air changes per hour. In a hospital isolation room, the minimum target is six air changes per hour for existing facilities and 12 air changes per hour for new. Airplanes also use the same air filter — a HEPA filter — recommended by the CDC for isolation rooms with recirculated air. Such filters capture 99.97 percent of airborne particles.

13) The Mount St Helens eruption was definitely one of the more memorable events of my childhood (I was 8).  Enjoying reading about it 40 years later, “Forty Years Later, Lessons for the Pandemic From Mount St. Helens: The tensions we now face between science, politics and economics also arose before the country’s most destructive volcanic eruption.”

14) Good stuff from Radley Balko, “The last days of a covid-19 prisoner”

It isn’t clear why Charles Hobbs was arrested in January. More than 20 years ago, a judge gave him five years probation for a crime that required him to register as a sex offender in one of the most restrictive counties in the country. He had no criminal record prior to that, and until January, his only subsequent arrests were for failing to register in 2007 and 2014. An attorney for his family says those arrests occurred when Hobbs temporarily moved in with a girlfriend and failed to notify the county where she lived.

When the coronavirus pandemic began to sweep the country, a judge ordered him released from jail and placed in home confinement, given his multiple underlying conditions of congenital heart failure, kidney failure and hypertension. But for reasons that also aren’t clear, that never happened. Last month, he caught the virus, and his condition deteriorated until a fellow prisoner found him unconscious. He was revived and transferred to another cell with other prisoners who had tested positive for covid-19. He got sicker and ultimately died alone in a Miami hospital on May 2.

15) Good stuff from Jonathan Safran Foer.  Truly hard to disagree, “The End of Meat Is Here: If you care about the working poor, about racial justice, and about climate change, you have to stop eating animals.”

16) In a very similar vein, Wired goes all in (and you know I’m with them!) on a plant-based meat future, “Let’s Rebuild the Broken Meat Industry—Without Animals: Covid-19 has laid bare many flaws of industrialized animal agriculture. Plant- and cell-based alternatives offer a more resilient solution.”

17) You know the real shame of it is that the horrible, horrible people who make-up rape allegations for personal gain do so much damage to the vast majority of rape victims who are actual victims.  Also sucks that it completely ruin an innocent person’s life.

19) You can’t just “re-open” an economy in an active pandemic.  Politico, “Reopening reality check: Georgia’s jobs aren’t flooding back”

20) Great stuff from the Henry Blodgett and David Plotz newsletter, which I’m now quite the fan of (always been of fan of Plotz).  “‘Reopening’ won’t fix the economy. Beating the virus will.”  It’s full of charts and links that all come down to this all-important fact:

Reopening is an important and meaningful step. But even when everything is open, our economy won’t recover until people feel safe resuming their normal lives.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Terrific twitter thread from Noah Smith on the coming Higher Ed apocalypse.  I’d like to think his dire predictions are wrong, but every one of them strikes me as supported and well-reasoned.  I’ve argued that we have too many over-priced, mediocre liberal arts colleges, but I sure don’t want to see a ton of them go belly-up at once.

2) This is fabulous, “We could stop the pandemic by July 4 if the government took these steps”

There is already a bipartisan plan to achieve this; we helped write it. The plan relies on frequent testing followed by tracing the contacts of people who test positive (and their contacts) until no new positive cases are found. It also encourages voluntary isolation, at home or in hotel rooms, to prevent further disease spread. Isolated patients would receive a federal stipend, like jurors, to discourage them from returning to workplaces too soon.

But our plan also recognizes that rural towns in Montana should not necessarily have to shut down the way New York City has. To pull off this balancing act, the country should be divided into red, yellow and greenzones. The goal is to be a green zone, where fewer than one resident per 36,000 is infected. Here, large gatherings are allowed, and masks aren’t required for those who don’t interact with the elderly or other vulnerable populations. Green zones require a minimum of one test per day for every 10,000 people and a five-person contact tracing team for every 100,000 people. (These are the levels currently maintained in South Korea, which has suppressed covid-19.) Two weeks ago, a modest 1,900 tests a day could have kept 19 million Americans safely in green zones. Today, there are no green zones in the United States.

Most Americans — about 298 million — live in yellow zones, where disease prevalence is between .002 percent and 1 percent. But even in yellow zones, the economy could safely reopen with aggressive testing and tracing, coupled with safety measures including mandatory masks. In South Korea, during the peak of its outbreak, it took 25 tests to detect one positive case, and the case fatality rate was 1 percent. Following this model, yellow zones would require 2,500 tests for every daily death. To contain spread, yellow zones also would ramp up contact tracing until a team is available for every new daily coronavirus case. After one tracer conducts an interview, the team would spend 12 hours identifying all those at risk. Speed matters, because the virus spreads quickly; three days is useless for tracing. (Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., are all yellow zones.)

A disease prevalence greater than 1 percent defines red zones. Today, 30 million Americans live in such hot spots — which include Detroit, New Jersey, New Orleans and New York City. In addition to the yellow-zone interventions, these places require stay-at-home orders. But by strictly following guidelines for testing and tracing, red zones could turn yellow within four weeks, moving steadfastly from lockdown to liberty.

Getting to green nationwide is possible by the end of the summer, but it requires ramping up testing radically. The United States now administers more than 300,000 tests a day, but according to our guidelines, 5 million a day are needed (for two to three months). It’s an achievable goal. Researchers estimate that the current system has a latent capacity to produce 2 million tests a day, and a surge in federal funding would spur companies to increase capacity. The key is to do it now, before manageable yellow zones deteriorate to economically ruinous red zones.

3) “Obamagate” is, more than anything, an abomination in the functioning of the modern media.  It needs to stop.  Aaron Blake, “Trump’s playbook on ‘Obamagate’ is extremely — and dubiously — familiar”

4) This is soooo pathetic and depressing, “Masks and Emasculation: Why Some Men Refuse to Take Safety Precautions: They think it makes them look weak, and avoiding that is evidently more important to them than demonstrating responsible behavior”

5) And more good stuff on social norms and masks.  Love the explicit smoking analogy, which I have made:

Similarly, the first wave of evidence about the harms of smoking focused on damage to the smokers themselves and had no effect on smoking in public spaces. People thought individuals had “the right to harm themselves,” says psychologist Jay Van Bavel of New York University. “It really started to change once we realized the consequences of secondhand smoke. Do you have a right to damage kids at school, your colleagues at work or the staff at a restaurant?” So far 28 states and Washington, D.C., have said the answer is no and passed comprehensive smoke-free-air laws.

“Social norms can change rapidly,” says social psychologist Catherine Sanderson of Amherst College, “and it doesn’t take everybody.” In an online experiment conducted by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, subjects engaged in social coordination to assign names to an object. The tipping point for achieving enough critical mass to initiate social change proved to be just 25 percent of participants. “They become the social influencers, the trendsetters,” Sanderson says. “You get this sweep.”

Leadership is critical, however, which is why behavioral scientists were so alarmed by the recent examples of Vice President Mike Pence and President Donald Trump refusing to wear masks during public appearances. “They are the primary people who are setting norms, especially when it’s on television or in the news,” Van Bavel says. Those politicians are flouting the advice of their own public health officials. In early April the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officially recommended “wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.” It did not help, however, that the new recommendation conflicted with earlier statements from officials suggesting that masks were ineffective or should be left for medical professionals, who needed them more…

Barriers remain. The politicization of masks in the U.S. might mean that some areas of the country will never adopt them entirely. And endemic racism has led some young black men to fear that they will be mistaken for criminals if they wear masks in stores.

Once masks become the norm in most places, however, donning them will not seem odd or alarming, says psychologist Alexander Todorov of Princeton University, who studies facial expression. “People compensate. When they meet on the street, there is more gesticulation. People engage in strategies to make sure that they’re being understood.”

I don’t think we’re going to get there, though.  At least not without real leadership from all sectors of society, and right now we’re getting none.

6) Also, on the topic of the media utterly failing us– the horribly disproportionate coverage of the protests:

In the last few weeks, protests against state lockdowns and social distancing measures have seized national headlines. The wall-to-wall coverage might give the impression that what we’re seeing is a powerful grassroots movement in the making.

But research we just conducted on protest attendance and media coverage shows something different: This massive media coverage has in fact been out of proportion.

A comprehensive look at the social distancing protests reveals that they have been small in terms of both the number of participants and locations. As one official in the administration of Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) tweeted about a protest in Annapolis on April 20, “There were more media inquiries about this than there were participants.”

Our count confirms this impression. As of May 3, we counted 245 protests throughout April and early May against social distancing and related restrictions. In contrast, notable recent uprisings numbered in the hundreds of protests throughout the country in a single day, including Lights for Liberty against the detention of immigrants on July 12, 2019 (699), the climate strikes of September 20, 2019 (1184), pro-impeachment rallies on December 17, 2019 (599), and the fourth Women’s March on January 18 of this year (267).

The social distancing protests have also drawn modest crowds, with between 35,000 and 47,000 total attendees reported across all events combined through May 3. In comparison, a single protest against the governor in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, brought out upward of 250,000 on July 21, 2019. Hundreds of thousands turned out for PRIDE marches in June 2019 and the September 2019 climate strike. The Lights for Liberty protests exceeded 100,000, and December’s pro-impeachment rallies exceeded 75,000.

These numbers are backed up by recent polling that shows widespread national support for lockdowns to prevent the continued spread of the coronavirus.

Yet anti-Trump protests with far more attendees in a single day than all of April and early May’s #ReOpen events (as they have been called) passed with far less attention in the national press.

My take?  Working the refs worked.  Cover these protests and prove that you are not really the “liberal” media.

7) This is good, from bestselling author Richard North Patterson “The Pandemic and the GOP’s Science Problem: The party’s uneasy relationship with science goes back decades.”

“It’s hard to know,” writes Max Boot, “exactly when the Republican Party assumed the mantle of the ‘stupid party.’” But one might look to the 1970s as the gateway to a politically calculated dismissal of scientific knowledge.

Having allied with evangelicals over social issues, the GOP’s political class found it expedient to honor fundamentalists’ most fundamental premise: creationism. Evangelicals flocked—and the GOP became an anti-evolutionary haven. As recently as last year, Gallup found that 55 percent of self-identified Republicans—as compared to 40 percent of the general population—agree with the statement “God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so.”

Conservative media vilified evolutionary science. “Everybody that believes in Darwinism is corrupt,” pronounced Rush Limbaugh in 2010. “Liberals love anything that allows them to say there’s no God.”

It’s no longer just the party’s base that professes disbelief in evolution. In 2011, presidential candidate Jon Huntsman tweeted: “I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy.” Within the GOP, it was. By 2016, eleven of the serious GOP presidential aspirants were on the record as refusing to opine on evolution or rejecting it outright. A twelfth—Jeb Bush—said it shouldn’t be taught in public schools. (Interestingly, Donald Trump seems not to have been asked about his beliefs on evolution—or, at the least, not to have given a coherent answer.)

This progression fed a widening attack on knowledge rooted in what GOP strategist Stuart Stevens labels his party’s “toxic fantasies”: “Government is bad. Establishment experts are overrated or just plain wrong. Science is suspect.”

One additive, the anti-vaccination movement, combined a distrust of science, an adamant libertarianism disdainful of public health, and an insistence on parental rights often rooted in fundamentalism. From Kentucky to Oregon to California, anti-vaxxers like Michele Bachmann became an ardent minority within the party.

The World Health Organization lists opposition to vaccines among the top ten threats to global health. But here’s Trump in a presidential debate: “Just the other day . . . a child, a beautiful child went to have the vaccine, and came back, and a week later got a tremendous fever, got very, very sick, now is autistic.”

Creationism and anti-vaccinationism did not, in themselves, transform federal policy. But disdain for science, once unleashed, spreads its political contagions.

8) Good stuff on reopening:

As circumstances have evolved, so has my thinking. We have survived the surge in hospitalized cases and suffered immense economic trauma. The full lockdown made sense weeks ago. But the situation is changing, and more data on the virus are now available to inform our next steps. The choice before us isn’t to fully lock down or to totally reopen. Many argue as though those are the only options.

As a physician, I firmly believe that the primary goal of our reopening strategy should be to maximize the number of lives saved. But virus mitigation can take many forms, ranging from effective to excessive. Extreme forms of mitigation can have diminishing returns. Projections of the death toll produced by the current economic shutdown are often politically motivated, but the effects on human life are real…

So what does a new, safer status quo look like? It looks different in different parts of the country. Not all reopenings are created equal. Areas with continuing outbreaks or rising cases should postpone nonessential activity, and those with a declining case trend should engage in some basic practices.

We need universal masking. China gives the earliest preview of a reopened society after a harsh wave of the virus. And while the Chinese Communist Party has not been honest about its coronavirus handling, Chinese doctors and citizens have largely been transparent. I recently called some prominent Chinese doctors to ask why they believe the infection is being controlled in most of their country. In their clinical judgment, they believe the main reason is universal masking.

Spend more time outside. Since April, we’ve learned a lot about indoor versus outdoor transmission of the coronavirus. Early on, we closed parks and told people to stay inside their homes. But studies have since shown that being outdoors with appropriate distancing carries a lower risk of getting the infection than being indoors. These findings have implications for restaurants and other businesses and activities that are able to use outdoor areas. Yoga and other fitness activities should resume outside when possible. Similarly, instead of having someone to your home for a meal, consider having a meal in your yard or at a park, six feet apart…
We must prioritize safeguarding nursing homes. Throughout April, several studies using antibody testing found that asymptomatic infections are 10 to 20 times more common than previously observed, lowering the true case fatality rate. The data also taught us that young, healthy Americans have a fatality rate similar to that of the seasonal flu. Deaths among those young and healthy are rare. (In fact, community immunity from seasonal viruses is often achieved through younger people developing antibodies.) About one-third of all Covid-19 deaths in America occurred among nursing home residents. In New Jersey, half of all deaths have been among long-term-care residents or workers. Nursing homes are often short-staffed and the last in line when it comes to getting needed resources…
Protect those at high risk. The data show that those with pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes, lung disease or a weakened immune system are among the most vulnerable. Based on the degree of their risk and the prevalence of the virus in the region, we should advise these high-risk individuals, particularly the elderly, to avoid interactions with others until the risk of contagion is extremely low. This approach aligns with the White House’s return-to-work road map that shelters high-risk individuals until Phase 3, even as many businesses are reopened.

9) This was a nice piece on trying to take a look at giving thoughtful, serious, risk assessment to various activities from hanging in the backyard with friends to letting your kids bike with a friend.  We need more of this.  But we need more of this that acknowledges to kids biking outside is very low risk, not intermediate risk.  And that doesn’t assume the 10 people who came to your backyard are all hanging out with a different 10 people during the week.  I actually learned from my son that my wife disapproves of me talking to a neighbor, outside, usually 8-10 feet apart, 2-3 times a week because he is still working every day.  As you know, I’m obsessed with the science of transmission and will definitely take my chances with outdoor conversations at a good distance.

10) If you saw anything about the new Title IX regulations there’s a good chance it was the hyperbolic overly-liberal version where Betsy DeVos just allowed rape on campus.  Not so.  Harvard Law professor Jeanne Suk Gersen has been better on this issue than anybody and she takes a solid, thorough look at the new regulations:

It was unclear, however, precisely what aspects of the regulations were so extreme and alarming. Uncharacteristically for the Trump Administration, the Education Department, in crafting the regulations, engaged with a large range of public comments and concerns—from schools, advocates for survivors, and advocates of due process—and the regulations reflect that engagement. They are not exactly as I would wish, but they clarify the rights of both victims and the accused in a way that is likely to lead to improvements in basic fairness. The suggestion that even the most controversial provisions of the regulations allow rape with impunity speaks to a disturbingly large gap between reality and rhetoric on the topic—one that is particularly important to address, so students do not get the false sense that they should not bother to report assaults…

More than any specific commands, the government’s threat to withdraw federal funding from schools that did not comply with its Title IX guidance caused schools to attempt to please the government, by devising new practices, policies, and procedures that aimed to make it easier for victims to report assaults and to prevail in campus complaints. Soon, some advocates of fair process, among them law professors at Harvard (myself included), the University of Pennsylvania, and Cornell, raised concerns that the pressure to protect victims had led to an overcorrection: accused students were facing expulsion or suspension without fair procedures to defend against disciplinary charges. In many cases, accused students were not being given the complaint or identities of witnesses, and not being shown the evidence or the investigative report. Since 2011, hundreds of accused students have sued their schools for using unfair disciplinary procedures, and have won court judgments or received settlements. Courts have held that, just as it is sex discrimination under Title IX for schools to treat female victims of sexual assault unfairly, it can also be sex discrimination under Title IX to treat males accused of sexual misconduct unfairly…

The new regulations free schools to do some things that previously were prohibited or understood to be disfavored. The Obama Administration clearly stated its belief that compliance with Title IX required the use of the preponderance standard for sexual-harassment cases, because any higher standard would, by design, tilt toward the accused. The new regulations allow schools to choose between the preponderance standard or the higher “clear and convincing evidence” standard, which would demand heavier proof to find that the accused is responsible. But, because schools are not required to shift away from their current use of the preponderance standard, it will be surprising if many do. Prior guidance had discouraged schools from using informal resolution, such as mediation, for sexual-assault allegations, but the new regulations allow schools to offer the option, as long as the accused is not an employee, both parties voluntarily agree to it, and the process is led by a trained facilitator. There is a legitimate worry that schools could pressure victims into informal processes, which cost less than formal ones. But many victims who might not report sexual misconduct, owing to a reluctance to unleash a lengthy investigation or a harsh penalty, may be more willing to seek the school’s help because of the availability of an informal option. And many accused students, who might fight the acceptance of responsibility in an adversarial or punitive framework, may be more willing to give a desired apology and make amends.

11) Good stuff from Jeffrey Goldberg, “The Conspiracy Theorists Are Winning: America is losing its grip on Enlightenment values and reality itself.”

12) Sean Trende with some good points, “The Costly Failure to Update Sky-Is-Falling Predictions”

We could go on – after being panned for refusing to issue a stay-at-home order, South Dakota indeed suffered an outbreak (once again, in its meatpacking plants), but deaths there have consistently averaged less than three per day, to little fanfare – but the point is made.  Some “feeding frenzies” have panned out, but many have failed to do so; rather than acknowledging this failure, the press typically moves on.

This is an unwelcome development, for a few reasons. First, not everyone follows this pandemic closely, and so a failure to follow up on how feeding frenzies end up means that many people likely don’t update their views as often as they should. You’d probably be forgiven if you suspected hundreds of cases and deaths followed the Wisconsin election.

Second, we obviously need to get policy right here, and to be sure, reporting bad news is important for producing informed public opinion. But reporting good news is equally as important. Third, there are dangers to forecasting with incredible certitude, especially with a virus that was detected less than six months ago. There really is a lot we still don’t know, and people should be reminded of this. Finally, among people who do remember things like this, a failure to acknowledge errors foments cynicism and further distrust of experts. The damage done to this trust is dangerous, for at this time we desperately need quality expert opinions and news reporting that we can rely upon.

13) Finally have gotten around to watching HBO’s Succession.  Four episodes in and I really, really like it (and thanks to JCD who pushed this harder than anybody).  I especially love the theme song.  Apparently, the composer is really pretty amazing.

 

Quick hits (part II)

1) Vox with a piece on reading classic novels during quarantine.  Interestingly, I’ve been giving Moby Dick a go.  It’s described as a “hard read” here.  If, by that it means, absurdly long sentences and absurdly long gaps in forward plot movement, then, definitely.  I’m sticking with it about a chapter a night, but I’m a big believer that classics should not actually be “hard” to read.  That’s why Tolstoy is the greatest.  Enjoyable reading that has more insight into the human condition than any other author I’ve ever read.  You don’t need overly-complicated sentences or wandering digressions for that.

2) Laura McGann spent a long time covering Tara Reade and has some interesting thoughts:

All of this leaves me where no reporter wants to be: mired in the miasma of uncertainty. I wanted tobelieve Reade when she first came to me, and I worked hard to find the evidence to make certain others would believe her, too. I couldn’t find it. None of that means Reade is lying, but it leaves us in the limbo of Me Too: a story that may be true but that we can’t prove…

There’s another issue at play, which Biden supporters and critics of Reade have pointed to in response to her allegation. A year ago, Reade went to mainstream, national outlets including the Times, the Post, and the Associated Press. It was in the middle of a competitive Democratic primary. She had no obvious connection to any candidate. And if voters or the party pushed Biden out, it was unclear who would benefit.

This year, Reade has emerged as an ardent Bernie Sanders supporter, with a much more damaging story to tell about Biden, who is now the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. She went public with the rape accusation on a podcast sympathetic to Sanders and followed up with Ryan Grim of the Intercept, an outlet that has been consistently critical of Biden.

A few weeks before Reade spoke to Halper, she replied to a tweet from Grim seeming to tease that a story was coming.

3) Love this NPR feature on how your state is doing on Covid testing.  Hooray for NC!

4) Oh man, this Vox piece on the havoc Covid is wreaking on the food supply chain was tough.  Making it worse than ever for the animals.  It’s enough to make me close to renouncing meat all together (I’m pretty much down to pepperoni and occasional chicken– and boy am I waiting for Beyond Chicken).

This context should put your missing hamburger into perspective. The plight of these workers is just the starting point in a chain of crises the coronavirus is creating in America’s food supply. The shuttered meatpacking plants have created a bottleneck in the system through which most meat in the United States must flow in order to get ground beef to Wendy’s, chicken breasts to your local grocery stores, bacon to the nearby diner now trying to run a takeout business, and so on.

Things get really tricky on the other side of that bottleneck, where thousands of farmers have planned the lives of their animals around a schedule that terminates at those meatpacking facilities. If those plants aren’t operating, it’s not like they can just keep the cows, chickens, or pigs in a nearby field.

“If you hold them, they gain weight and you have to feed them, and that’s expensive,” Mary Hendrickson, a rural sociologist at the University of Missouri, told Recode. “And if they gain too much weight, then they’re going to be too big to be processed in these very standardized meat plants, like Smithfield.”

“So you might try to hold them up” and keep the animals waiting in a feedlot, Hendrickson added. “Or you’re going to kill them, euthanize them.”

Now imagine this at scale. According to Jayson Lusk, an agricultural economist at Purdue University, the meat processing capacity in the United States is down by about 40 percent. In the pork industry alone, that amounts to 200,000 pigs that won’t get sent to slaughter, because the meatpacking plants that would process them are closed or otherwise unavailable. If nothing else changes, those 200,000 excess pigs a day become a million pigs a week with nowhere to go but a mass grave.

5) Just another day in America, “High school senior, mother say large group of armed people, including off-duty deputy, terrorized them in their home”  Of course you can figure out the races of the people involved :-(.

6) Hilariously and depressing predictable, “Nearly Half of Men Say They Do Most of the Home Schooling. 3 Percent of Women Agree.”

7) I’ve never met Ohio State political scientist Alex Wendt, but now I really want to.  Interesting interview on how we should take UFO’s seriously.  Really.

8) NYT on Flynn, Barr, and the gross politicization of the justice department

To Mr. Barr, these reforms were obstacles to a vision of a virtually unbound executive. For decades, he has pushed to give presidents — Republican presidents, anyway — maximum authority with minimal oversight. In a 2018 memo criticizing the Russia investigation, he argued that the president “alone is the Executive branch,” in whom “the Constitution vests all Federal law enforcement power, and hence prosecutorial discretion.” For the attorney general, that discretion includes cases involving the president’s own conduct.

If you’re having trouble distinguishing Mr. Barr’s vision of the presidency from the rule of a king, you’re not alone. “George III would have loved it,” said Douglas Kmiec, who led the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

“Bill Barr’s America is not a place that anyone, including Trump voters, should want to go,” wrote Donald Ayer, who served as deputy attorney general under the first President Bush. “It is a banana republic where all are subject to the whims of a dictatorial president and his henchmen.”

Bill Barr’s America is the one we’re now living in. The Justice Department, in the midst of a presidential campaign, has become a political weapon.

9) Vitamin D is no cure for Covid, but it sure looks like you don’t want to be really low heading into an experience with the disease.

10) Great stuff from Jamelle Bouie:

The vast majority of these protesters — like the vast majority of those who want to prematurely reopen the economy — are white. This is in stark contrast to the victims of Covid-19 (who are disproportionately black and brown), as well as those who have lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic (who are also disproportionately black and brown), as well as those who have been or will be forced to work — or work more — as a result of reopening (the service workers and laborers who are again disproportionately black and brown).

It’s true that not every racial disparity speaks to some deeper dynamic of race and racism. But this one does. I don’t think you can separate the vehemence of anti-lockdown protesters from their whiteness, nor do I think we can divorce their demands to “reopen” the economy from the knowledge that many of those most affected belong to other racial groups. It’s not so much that they’re showing racial animus (although some are), but that their conception of what it means to be “free” is, at its root, tied tightly to their racial identity…

If whiteness has meant the right to control and to be free from control, then it is easy to see how racial identity might influence the reaction to the lockdowns among a certain subset of white Americans.

More than just burdensome, the restrictions become an intolerable violation of the social contract as these Americans understand it. They run against the meaning of their racial identity, of the freedom and autonomy it is supposed to signify. And they resolve the violation by asserting the other aspect of white freedom, the right of control.

You can see this play out on the ground, in the protests, and you can see it play out on the national stage. President Trump has both encouraged anti-lockdown protesters — using the language of liberation to do so — and issued an executive order bringing meatpacking facilities under the purview of the Defense Production Act, which would allow him to force meatpacking workers — again, a disproportionately black and brown work force — back on the job despite the threat of infection, illness and death.

Likewise, when Rebecca Bradley, a Supreme Court justice in Wisconsin, compared the state’s stay-at-home order on Tuesday to Japanese internment during World War II, she was making a statement about who deserves autonomy and who doesn’t.

The great irony, of course, is that this conception of freedom, situated within racial hierarchy and meant to justify deprivation and inequality, has always been impoverished when compared with an expansive, inclusive vision of what it means to be free. And in the particular context of a deadly pandemic, the demand to be free of mutual obligation is, in essence, a demand to be free to die and threaten those around you with illness and death. Most Americans, including most white Americans, have rejected this freedom of the grave. But among the ones who haven’t are the people leading our government, which means that this “freedom” remains a powerful — and dangerous — force to be reckoned with.

11) On an encouraging note, maybe monoclonal antibodies will save us.  Seriously.  This could be the killer therapeutic we need.

12) And this is really cool, “Scientists have discovered a microbe that completely protects mosquitoes from being infected with malaria.”

Quick hits

1) Major “lamestream” media organizations have been so astoundingly bad with their daily coverage of Trump’s propaganda events.  Eric Boehlert: (whom I used to love for his media criticism way back during GWB and I have no rediscovered):

If Trump’s daily pandemic press briefings aren’t newsworthy events, why does the news media continue to shower them with ceaseless attention?

Nobody is under any obligation to carry the briefings live and in their entirety. That’s a choice television news outlets make voluntarily. And everyday they choose to turn on the cameras and allow Trump to ramble, sometimes for two hours as he alternately unravels and misinforms about a public health crisis. Networks are making that choice at the same time more journalists concede the briefings aren’t actually news.

“Over time, the news conferences have become increasingly devoid of actual news,” ABC News recently conceded, in a report specifically about how Trump is using them not to inform the public, but as a way to maintain a high media profile.

During a briefing this week, an on-screen banner for CNN announced the event had become a “propaganda session.” Immediately following, CNN anchor John King admitted, “That was propaganda aired at taxpayer expense in the White House briefing room.”
So why air it?

2) Jacob Hacker makes a compelling case that Biden should adopt Elizabeth Warren’s strong public option plan (I’m sold).

The core argument for the public option is that it wouldn’t frighten or disrupt the lives of the roughly 150 million Americans who had employment-based insurance before the pandemic (roughly 10 million of them have likely lost their coverage in the past month, according to the Economic Policy Institute). But that raises an obvious question: What assurances are being provided that those with such plans will continue to have them, be able to afford them, and not be clobbered by bills not paid by them?

After all, even before the current crisis, premiums and out-of-pocket spending were rising rapidly for insured Americans. Last year, the total premium for family coverage (worker plus employer) cost an average of $20,000. Meanwhile, deductibles have more than tripled since 2008. And while virtually all large employers offer coverage, firms with fewer than 200 workers — which employed roughly four in 10 Americans before the pandemic — have continued their retreat from sponsoring insurance.

The basic problem is simple: Health care prices are rising much faster than wages, and private insurers haven’t been able to do anything about it, except narrowing their networks or raising out-of-pocket costs. Nor have employers shown the clout to push back, which is why they’re making their workers pay more — or getting out of the system altogether.

The bottom line is that Mr. Biden’s plan would not achieve universal insurance and would leave many with private insurance continuing to face high costs. Yes, his plan also has a relatively modest 10-year cost. But, partly for that reason, it would expand the reach of federal insurance only modestly, which means in turn it would be unlikely to rein in prices on its own.

Ms. Warren’s public option is very different. It would offer broader benefits on more generous terms than any existing proposal besides Mr. Sanders’s, including free coverage for everyone under age 18. Her public option would automatically enroll everyone younger than 50 who lacked alternative coverage. Those over age 50 would be able to enroll directly in Medicare — that is, a full decade before they could join Medicare under Mr. Biden’s current proposal.

Ms. Warren’s plan also includes a number of specific measures to reduce the prices paid by the federal government. Moreover, her public option is so generous, it’s certain to get substantial enrollment, so that pricing power will reach a big and growing share of the market.

Indeed, Ms. Warren’s public option is so generous that if it were set up, tens of millions of insured Americans with workplace coverage would likely jump into it.

3) Dan Guild on Trump’s approval numbers and November prospects:

— There is a substantial and persistent difference among pollsters’ findings with respect to Donald Trump’s job approval and his percentage against Joe Biden.

— Biden’s ability to consolidate the anti-Trump vote will be decisive. [emphasis mine]

— Trump’s statewide job approval is almost exactly what one would predict given his 2016 share of the vote. His approval is below 50% in every state that was competitive in 2016.

— However, Trump’s predicted two-party share of the vote is over 50% in states with 289 electoral votes. Seven states with a combined 88 electoral votes are projected to be within one point.

These numbers suggest that Biden’s ability to consolidate voters who do not approve of the president’s performance will be the difference between a very close election and a relatively significant Democratic victory.

Critically, if the president continues to underperform his job approval by three to four percentage points, the state job approval numbers suggest a Democratic mini-landslide is possible.  [emphasis in original]

And, honestly, I think Biden is definitely better-positioned to do this consolidation than was Clinton.

4) Honestly, David Kessler’s The End of Overeating is a non-fiction book that has stuck with me about as much as any book I have read (amazing what I remember from a book I read 10 years ago).  So, I’ll surely read his new one.  Major takeaways from the NYT article:

Slow carbs like broccoli, beans and brown rice slowly release glucose as they travel through our systems, eventually reaching the lower parts of the gastrointestinal tract. There they trigger a hormone called GLP-1 that tells our bodies we are being fed, resulting in feelings of satiety. But because fast carbs are rapidly absorbed in the upper parts of the digestive tract, they flood our systems with glucose and insulin, the fat-storage hormone, while failing to stimulate GLP-1. As a result, Dr. Kessler said, they fail to turn off our hunger switch.

At the same time, studies suggest, they elicit a potent neurological response, lighting up the reward center in the brain in a way that compels people to eat more even when they are not hungry. Processing also affects the amount of calories that we absorb from our food. When we eat a starchy carb that is minimally processed, much of it passes through the small intestine undigested. Then it is either used by bacteria in the colon or excreted. Industrial processing makes more of those calories available to our bodies, which can accelerate weight gain.

Dr. Kessler stressed that he is not telling people they should never eat these foods — just to be mindful about what they are and how they affect their health. The less often you eat them, he said, the less you will crave them.

He encourages people to follow three steps to improve their health. Limit fast carbs and prioritize slow carbs like beans, legumes, whole grains, nuts, fruits and vegetables. Watch your LDL cholesterol, a strong driver of heart disease, and eat a largely plant-based diet to help lower it if necessary. And lastly, engage in daily exercise to help control your weight and improve your overall metabolic health.

5a) So, there’s this whole debate now on proper social distancing when running.  Thing is, unless you are running in a truly crowded urban area (which, I expect does not apply to the vast majority of us) you are always going to be running at least 15 feet behind anyway, lest clearly and appropriately being perceived as a creep!  On rare occasions when we walk the dog in the neighborhood, someone will end up closer than 20 feet to us.  Just not okay.

5b) Wired, “Are Running or Cycling Actually Risks for Spreading Covid-19?  An unpublished study went viral after a research team warned that respiratory droplets may travel more than 6 feet during exercise. But that’s not the whole story.”

But so far there are no published studies of the spread of the novel coronavirus from one person to another in outdoor settings. One recent study of 318 outbreaks of three or more Covid-19 patients found all but one transmission occurred indoors—but as with many studies being conducted right now, that report was published as a pre-print in MedRxiv by a team of researchers at Hong Kong University and Southeast University in Nanjing, China, which means it has not yet been peer-reviewed.

Linsey Marr, an expert in airborne transmission of viral diseases and a professor of civil engineering at Virginia Tech, says the issue of whether people can become infected from cyclists or runners is still undecided. “We need to keep in mind, though, that we don’t yet know what size particles released by an infected person actually contain virus and whether that virus is ‘alive,’ or can still infect others,” Marr wrote in an email to WIRED.

6) Chris Federico and smart other people in the Monkey Cage, “Will the coronavirus make conservatives love government spending?”

Left versus right, or freedom versus protection?

Our research suggests that there is nothing “natural” about the tendency for conservatism in the sense of an emphasis on security, certainty and tradition to go along with support for minimal government. Though many people hold this pattern of beliefs in Western countries — especially if they are highly attentive to politics — it is relatively rare in the world at large. Survey data from 99 nations suggests that cultural conservatism and stronger needs for security and certainty often correlate only weakly with economic attitudes. In fact, they correlate with interventionist economic preferences more often than with right-wing free-market preferences.

In other words, for much of the world, politics is not exclusively organized around the usual left-right ideological divide but also around a freedom-versus-protection axis. On one end of this axis are libertarian views on both culture and economics, with people believing that everyone should be free to make their own choices; on the other end, people want the government to safeguard security and stability in both the cultural and economic domains. On this axis, government interventions in the economy are not indulgent liberal wastes of citizens’ tax dollars in order to pander to people who won’t help themselves but rather an essential means of protecting citizens from economic risks — one that is psychologically congruent with cultural conservatism.

7) This is great from David Hopkins, “Solving the COVID Crisis Requires Bipartisanship, But the Modern GOP Isn’t Built for It”

The contemporary Republican Party has been built to wage ideological and partisan conflict more than to manage the government or solve specific social problems. So perhaps it shouldn’t be shocking that an array of subjects, from what medical treatment might help COVID patients to how important it is to take measures protecting the lives of the elderly, have been drawn into the perpetual political wars. But leading conservative figures like Trump, Sean Hannity, and the Heritage Foundation will find it much easier to persuade existing supporters to take their side in a fight with “liberal” scientists, journalists, and public safety authorities than to win over the American public as a whole.

Republicans need a party-wide reset of priorities. There has seldom been a time in recent political history when daily partisan point-scoring has been rendered more irrelevant. The general election is far enough away that good policy is good politics: the best way for the ruling party to serve its own electoral interests is to work as hard as possible over the next seven months to render COVID manageable and prevent economic freefall. The widespread public confidence that will be necessary for “normal life” to resume simply can’t be jawboned back into existence via daily press conferences, radio broadcasts, or Fox News monologues. If Republicans lose the battle with the coronavirus, they won’t have much of a chance to win the fight against liberalism.

8) Love my small Iphone SE.  But it’s camera software is light-years behind the newer technology.  Very excited about the new SE, which I’ll definitely be getting.  But I do wish they had not felt the need to increase the size.

9) This is great from Jennifer Weiner, “The Seductive Appeal of Pandemic Shaming: I can’t control who gets sick or when we might return to something that looks like normal. But judging a random guy on the sidewalk? That I can do.”

10) The committed NeverTrumpers (George Conway and friends) endorse Biden in the Post, “We’ve never backed a Democrat for president. But Trump must be defeated.”

11) Covid-19 is proving to be a highly unusual disease in a number of interesting ways.  And, increasingly, this means doctors are figuring out better ways to actually treat the disease.  Yes, it will remain damn serious for many who are infected, but even without new drugs, doctors will increasingly figure out the best course of action for patients given their particular symptoms.  NYT, “What Doctors on the Front Lines Wish They’d Known a Month Ago: Ironclad emergency medical practices — about when to use ventilators, for example — have dissolved almost overnight.”

12) Again, this disease is really serious.  But if it was actually routinely as contagious as many people make it out to be, grocery store employees would be dropping like flies.  They are not.  Drum, on the matter.

13) I don’t remember why I had this “Tips for Keeping a Gratitude Journal” open.  But it’s damn good advice.  Perhaps more than ever during a pandemic quarantine.  Personally, I don’t actually write anything down, but do this orally with two of my boys each night.

14) Some good political science on liberal media bias in the Monkey Cage, “Journalists may be liberal, but this doesn’t affect which candidates they choose to cover.”

15) So, I had read about the controversial film, “The Nightingale.”  Was also very intrigued by the trailer.  But Netflix’s algorithm told me I’d only give it 3 out of 5 starts.  But, I watched it anyway.  I wanted to like this movie so much more than I did (aspects were really well done), but, damn, if Netflix wasn’t right.  So not a fan of movies (or books) that really need a good editor, and so not a fan of cartoonishly evil villains.  Really appreciated David Edelstein’s negative take (re-affirming his status as one of my favorite reviewers).

16) And, as long we we’re in the entertainment realm.  I’m now into season 3 of “The Americans” and loving it (thanks, MY, if you are reading this).

Quick hits (part II)

1) Oh damn did I love this from Paul Campos on under-appreciated it is that Trump really is just plain stupid:

In my view, the single most under-appreciated fact about Trump is that he’s a genuinely stupid person. (He does possess a combination of complete shamelessness and an animal instinct for grifting, which is not at all the same thing as actual intelligence). It’s extremely difficult to grasp the depth and breath of Trump’s stupidity, and its consequences — lack of the most basic knowledge, absence of any intellectual curiosity, failure to grasp anything about his own cognitive limitations, aka Dunning-Kruger syndrome — because Trump is a very high status, putatively very wealthy white person, which means he always gets the benefit of the doubt about everything. If Trump weren’t these things, the extremely obvious fact that he’s a very stupid person — and not in comparison to, say, Elizabeth Warren, but in comparison to the average college graduate — would be far more self-evident.

In the minds of the elites and their hangers-on — that is among all respectable people — it literally cannot be the case that Trump is just an extremely stupid person, because to recognize that would delegitimate too many hierarchical systems and institutions in our culture. So he’s “crazy like a fox,” or playing the role of a heel in a reality TV show, or playing a complex game in which he pretends to be incredibly ignorant just to pwn the libs. He may look dumb but that’s just a disguise!

No, no it isn’t. He’s really an idiot. Like your racist uncle who was never smart to begin with and whose brain has now been turned to mush by time and Fox News, he’s a complete dumbass, which probably isn’t a DSM-V category, but should be.

What’s particularly interesting is the extent to which his supporters recognize this. Many of them are of course idiots as well, and don’t recognize that about themselves, so naturally they don’t recognize the, to put it delicately, cognitive limitations of their leader.

But some of them aren’t stupid by any means. They’ve decided that having a stupid person (again: not hyperbole or a metaphor or oh he’s really not stupid although he’s no rocket surgeon — he’s literally quite stupid) is a price they’re more than willing to pay to get their tax cuts and judges and ethno-nationalism etc. (See for instance this interesting argument that Mitch McConnell is fully aware of how utterly unfit Trump is to hold office, but pretends otherwise because the prime directive is always to advance McConnell’s own career).

2) OMG this is awesome, “The Uncomfortable is a collection of deliberately inconvenient
everyday objects by Athens-based architect Katerina Kamprani”

3) This “Sexism Didn’t Kill the Warren Campaign. The Warren Campaign Killed the Warren Campaign” makes a number of good points.  Although, it’s annoying that it cannot admit that sexism likely nonetheless played a role:

I live on the planet where the Democratic electorate chose a woman to be their candidate in 2016—and where that same woman won the popular vote. I suppose it’s possible that the last four years of President Donald Trump have turned Democrats more sexist than they were before, but did that just temporarily stop for the several months Warren was at the top of the polls before Democrats realized they actually don’t want a woman after all? I doubt it.

At the same time, I find it curious that while Warren’s campaign was apparently cut down by sexism and/or misogyny, when other female candidates in the race dropped out, sexism didn’t often come up. One would assume that all female candidates would be subject to the same systemic prejudice, and yet few people claim that Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D–Hawaii) or Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D–Minn.) have failed—or, in Gabbard’s case, will fail—because American voters hate women.

When it comes to Gabbard or Klobuchar or the men in the race, people evaluate their campaigns and generally determine it’s the candidate, not the voter, who is at fault. Gabbard isn’t losing because of sexism, she’s losing because she’s a fill-in-the-blank homophobe/cult follower/Bashar Assad apologist. Klobuchar wasn’t a victim of misogyny, she was an uninspiring candidate who abuses her staff and eats her salads with a comb if she can’t find a fork (a quality I personally find highly electable).

So why is Warren’s loss called sexist when Klobuchar’s was not? …

I live on the planet where the Democratic electorate chose a woman to be their candidate in 2016—and where that same woman won the popular vote. I suppose it’s possible that the last four years of President Donald Trump have turned Democrats more sexist than they were before, but did that just temporarily stop for the several months Warren was at the top of the polls before Democrats realized they actually don’t want a woman after all? I doubt it.

At the same time, I find it curious that while Warren’s campaign was apparently cut down by sexism and/or misogyny, when other female candidates in the race dropped out, sexism didn’t often come up. One would assume that all female candidates would be subject to the same systemic prejudice, and yet few people claim that Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D–Hawaii) or Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D–Minn.) have failed—or, in Gabbard’s case, will fail—because American voters hate women.

When it comes to Gabbard or Klobuchar or the men in the race, people evaluate their campaigns and generally determine it’s the candidate, not the voter, who is at fault. Gabbard isn’t losing because of sexism, she’s losing because she’s a fill-in-the-blank homophobe/cult follower/Bashar Assad apologist. Klobuchar wasn’t a victim of misogyny, she was an uninspiring candidate who abuses her staff and eats her salads with a comb if she can’t find a fork (a quality I personally find highly electable).

So why is Warren’s loss called sexist when Klobuchar’s was not?

4) Zack Beauchamp, “Elizabeth Warren’s exit interview is a warning for the dirtbag left”

5) Adam Cohen has a new book on how the Supreme Court has abandoned the poor:

Instead, 50 years ago, the Court shifted rightward. Although it has long enjoyed a reputation as the defender of society’s most disadvantaged, the Supreme Court is now considered, on many issues, an enemy of poor Americans…

The Court has not only refused to extend new rights to poor people; it has also invoked dubious readings of the Constitution to take away rights that poor people have already won from Congress and the president…

If the Supreme Court had continued on the path laid out by the Warren Court, life for the poor would be far better today. One major setback: In 1973, the Court ruled 5–4, in San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez, that states do not have to ensure that high- and low-income school districts have equal amounts of money to spend on students. If the case had come out the other way, millions of children in low-income districts nationwide would have greater educational opportunities and better life outcomes. They would be better off in another way: If the Court had held that the poor are a suspect class, or took a broader view of equal protection, they could challenge the glaringly unequal levels of welfare benefits across the country. Although benefits are not generous anywhere, in some states, like Wyoming and Mississippi, they are egregiously low, putting the poor in an untenable position.

6) These are good. “40 Comics Reveal What Animals Would Say If They Could Talk”

They Can Talk

7) Every time I teach Criminal Justice policy, one pretty much unanimous conclusion that the students come to is that we need dramatically better police training.  Nice to see conservatives recognize this in the National Review:

After a series of terrible incidents of police violence — think Botham Jean in Dallas, Atatiana Jefferson in Fort Worth, and others — police are under a microscope. Why does it seem like some officers are on a hair trigger, ready to use deadly force with little provocation? Increasingly, critics of police point to what we call “the mindset”: people’s belief that police (despite low crime rates) think that American streets are a battlefield, that they are surrounded by potential enemies, and that every civilian encounter is a struggle to be won.

Not every police officer has the mindset; the best don’t. One of us is a former prosecutor, the other a former police officer who has studied policing for more than 20 years. We know that “the mindset” is real and the root cause of many of these tragedies. But it isn’t inevitable. Instead, police recruits are trained in that attitude and even incentivized to maintain such attitude. Can they be untrained, or trained differently? We think they can — and believe conservatives especially ought to support efforts to reform police training.

The mindset has roots in the drug war, where politicians of all stripes encouraged the militarization of police equipment, tactics, and attitudes. It starts in the police academies. Most use a “stress” model resembling military boot camps, emphasizing drills, intense physical demands, public discipline, and immediate reaction to infractions; substantively, academy training focuses on investigation skills, weapons training, and tactics. But there is little emphasis on the profession of policing, on how to relate to the public, or on developing emotional-intelligence skills. Meanwhile, the average recruit gets less than ten hours of training in de-escalation techniques; 34 states require no training in de-escalation.

As they have proliferated, SWAT teams are increasingly used in standard, on-duty policing activities. In a 2014 analysis, the ACLU, which has done excellent statistical work on this issue, found that 79 percent of the 50,000 annual SWAT callouts were for executing a search warrant, most commonly in drug investigations; only 7 percent were for hostage, barricade, or active-shooter scenarios. At least 60 percent of those operations featured the use of no-knock entries and/or (potentially deadly) flash-bang grenades. The Pentagon’s infamous 1033 Program — which distributes cast-off military equipment such as armored personnel carriers, weaponry, and helicopters to local police — has also helped to drive this phenomenon.

Changes in weapons, tactics, and training birthed the mindset. Reforming all three could help to combat it. To start, the dispersion of cheap military weaponry to police departments must stop. Police ought to be put to the discipline of deciding whether their local situation really justifies the cost of armored personnel carriers.

Finally, we need real, sustained de-escalation training in police academies and among active officers. Departments should accept that, within reason, the onus is on the officer to defuse potentially explosive incidents, slow the pace of police–civilian encounters, and take the time to resolve encounters before they turn violent.

8) Speaking of flaws in our criminal justice system, the way in which it still allows and rewards junk science is beyond appalling.  Maybe a small victory, though.  Radley Balko:

As I’ve written here ad nauseam, judges are entrusted to be the gatekeepers of good and bad science in the courtroom. By and large, they’ve performed poorly. Judges are trained to perform legal analysis, not scientific analysis, and law and science are two very different fields. Science is forward-looking, always changing and adapting to discoveries and new empirical evidence. The law, by contrast, puts a premium on consistency and predictability. It relies on precedent, so courts look to previous courts for guidance and are often bound by prior decisions.

By and large, judges have approached their task of scientific analysis just as we might expect them to: They have tried to apply it within a legal framework. This means when assessing whether a given field of forensics is scientifically reliable, judges tend to look to what previous courts have already determined. And when confronted with a new field, they tend to err on the side of relying on our adversarial system — they let the evidence in but also let the defense call its own experts to dispute the prosecution’s witness. The problem here is that by simply admitting the evidence, the courts lend it an air of legitimacy. Once the evidence is allowed in, whether jurors find it convincing tends to come down to which witness is most persuasive. State’s witnesses are often seen as unbiased and altruistic, while jurors tend to see defense witnesses as hired guns. And the set of skills it takes to persuade a jury isn’t necessarily the same skill set of a careful and cautious scientist. Indeed, the two are often in conflict.

This is why a field such as bite-mark analysis — which has been found to be unreliable by multiple scientific bodies — has yet to be disallowed by any courtroom in the country. Every time it has been challenged, the court has upheld its validity.

9) This is good, “Like the United States, Finland has a capitalist economy. Why are Finns so much happier than us?”  Also, all those awesome Northern European “Social Democracies” are pretty much based on capitalism, not socialism.  They just do capitalism way better than us through robust use of government policy to make capitalism serve the public interest.

10) Relatedly, Ezra Klein with a good discussion of Bernie Sanders and the underpinnings of “democratic socialism.”

11) This from the new NYT media reporter is really good, “Why the Success of The New York Times May Be Bad News for Journalism”

And the story of consolidation in media is a story about The Times itself.

The gulf between The Times and the rest of the industry is vast and keeps growing: The company now has more digital subscribers than The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and the 250 local Gannett papers combined, according to the most recent data. And The Times employs 1,700 journalists — a huge number in an industry where total employment nationally has fallen to somewhere between 20,000 and 38,000…

Because The Times now overshadows so much of the industry, the cultural and ideological battles that used to break out between news organizations — like whether to say that President Trump lied — now play out inside The Times.

And The Times has swallowed so much of what was once called new media that the paper can read as an uneasy competition of dueling traditions: The Style section is a more polished Gawker, while the opinion pages reflect the best and worst of The Atlantic’s provocations. The magazine publishes bold arguments about race and American history, and the campaign coverage channels Politico’s scoopy aggression.

12) Good Yglesias piece on swing voters versus mobilizing the base:

Swing voters are extremely real

The notion that swing voters — voters who back one part in some elections and the other party in others — are mythical is itself a myth.

The 2016 Cooperative Congressional Election Study conducted a large-sample poll and found that 6.7 million Trump voters said they voted for Barack Obama in 2012 and 2.7 million Clinton voters said they voted for Mitt Romney in 2016. In other words, about 11 percent of Trump voters say they were Obama voters four years earlier, and about 4 percent of Clinton voters say they were Romney voters four years earlier.

Geoffrey Skelley of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics has this useful table:

A chart showing Trump, Clinton, Obama, and Romney voters, and how they intersect.Geoffrey Skelley of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics

By the same token, Yair Ghitza of the Democratic data firm Catalist estimates that while Democrats did make significant turnout-related gains in 2018, about 89 percent of their improvement vote margin is attributable to swing voting.

On issue after issue, the voters who a “mobilization” strategy would target are more moderate than consistent Democrats not more left-wing than them. There are plenty of inconsistent voters in America, and it’s smart to try to get them to vote for Democrats. But the inconsistent voters aren’t some secret bloc of hard-core progressives. The most ideologically committed progressives you’re going to find are the people already consistently pulling the lever for Democrats. In other words, no matter what fraction of the electorate Democrats are aiming to target, there’s no real case for becoming more ideologically rigid or adopting policy views that swing voters reject…

But on the big ideological questions, there’s no mobilization loophole that will let progressives evade the problem that some progressive ideas are unpopular. Third-party voters and drop-off voters are more progressive than D-to-R swing voters, which makes them a promising constituency to target. One reason that taking popular positions is smart politics is that it works as a mobilization strategy as well as a persuasion one…

Last but by no means least: While activists often paint a portrait of bold ideological positions firing up the party base, the available evidence suggests the opposite happens — bold ideological positions fire up the opposition partybase

Taking such positions might be a good idea anyway on the merits. Politics matters because policy matters, and a political party that never takes a righteous stand on anything is worth very much. But while centrist types can be wrong about which kinds of policy stances will be popular, there’s fairly overwhelming evidence that popular stands are better than unpopular ones — both because swing voters matter but also because taking popular positions is better from a strict mobilization standpoint.

13) Good stuff from Peter Wehner on Pete Buttigieg:

More impressive to me was the core theme of Buttigieg’s campaign, which he referred to as a “new kind of politics.” In the pre-Trump era, that may well have come across as an empty slogan; in the age of Trump, it captures an urgent national need.

During his campaign, Buttigieg spoke about what he called “rules of the road,” values that he wanted to make hallmarks of his candidacy and that included respect, responsibility, discipline, excellence, joy, and truth. This is what the Buttigieg campaign said about the latter:

Honesty is in our nature, and it is one of our greatest means of restoring faith in our democracy among everyday Americans and building a national movement rooted in trust and faith in our country and our beliefs. Internally and externally, our effort will be characterized by fidelity to the truth.

That is the kind of language and ethos that once would have appealed to Republicans, who now, under the spell of a president of corruptions without borders, have given up on virtue as a touchstone of political life. Politicians and presidents attempting to foster a climate of trust and mutual respect are snowflakes—or so many in the modern GOP and right-wing-media complex would have you think…

Here’s my hunch: Most Americans are bone-weary of Trump’s antics and aggression, his nonstop assault on reality and truth, his dishonoring of the office of the presidency, and his disordered personality. What Buttigieg understood is that the way to defeat Trump (and Trumpism) is to offer as an alternative seriousness to his unseriousness, grace to his gracelessness, equanimity to his instability.

Pete Buttigieg faced too many obstacles to win the Democratic nomination in his first national race, but his remarkable rise is an indication that he tapped into the longings of an exhausted country. Democrats, if they are wise, will nominate someone who does something similar, who shows he can calm the stormy seas rather than further roil them.

14) The federal judge in the following headline was a Bush appointee.  Barr is just the worst,  “Federal Judge Says He Needs to Review Every Mueller Report Redaction Because Barr Can’t Be Trusted”

15) I see Onion headlines most every day shared in social media, but I had not picked up on this, “How ‘The Onion’ Went Full-On Bernie Bro”

16) I keep meaning to say something about Ezra’s new book (got a couple others I want to finish first), but here’s a thoughtful review/analysis:

In Why We’re Polarized, his first book, policy, Klein’s stock-in-trade, recedes, and group psychology takes center stage. That wonk volte-face gives the book its charge. He presents polarization not as the creation of particular individuals but of interlocking systems. In fact, it is a book about two sets of systems. Concatenated personal and partisan identities confront a Madisonian constitution ill-suited to prolonged combat between two evenly matched, deeply divided parties. The results leave politically active individuals—“us”—enraged, and institutions teetering toward crisis. Klein takes up the same metaphor that journalists disillusioned with the party system adopted in the Gilded Age: a machine. But where they crusaded for reform, he concludes with caution…

Here Klein makes his most important move. Instead of highlighting one specific factor, he argues that they all feed on each other at once. Hairsplitting misses the point, which is interconnection across the polarization machine. In the words of the political scientist Lilliana Mason, “Partisanship can now be thought of as a mega-identity, with all the psychological and behavioral magnifications that implies.” Klein takes that insight and runs with it, telling a mega-story about mega-polarization. “The more sorted we are in our differences, the more different we grow in our preferences.” Elite and mass polarization reinforce one another. Above all, as partisanship becomes central to the identities of ever more Americans, leaping beyond policy preferences to feed on our sense of self, its corrosive, zero-sum psychological dynamics accelerate. Personal decisions—where to live, whom to marry—roll up inside these mega-identities: “polarization begets polarization; it’s a flywheel, not a switch.”

17) I’m in the, “actually, Bloomberg’s $500 million sort of worked” camp.  The counter-factual where Biden finishes poorly in Nevada, continues to lose support in South Carolina, and then sees a lot of that “moderate lane” support go to Bloomberg on Super Tuesday strikes me as utterly plausible.  No, things didn’t turn out Bloomberg’s way, but the fact that some very conceivable scenarios might have led us that way should make us rethink what money on a massive scale in primaries can buy.

18) Some interesting theories on why SARS-CoV-2 seems to hardly effect children:

But in studies with mice, his lab discovered that as animals age, their lungs take on damage that leads to structural changes that make them more susceptible to coronavirus infections. With SARS in particular, the older the mice, the sicker they got. “We know the lung environment really matters with this class of respiratory viruses,” says Perlman. “As people age, that lung environment changes. It gets pelted with pollen and pollution and the body responds with inflammation. A history of inflammation may impact how well you do with coronaviruses.”

More research is needed, but it’s a plausible explanation for Covid-19’s mild symptoms in children, says Creech. “The non-inflamed lung is a much less hospitable place for any virus to land,” he says. The next step would be to look at how children with less pristine lungs are faring in the outbreak—like kids with a history of asthma or babies who are born prematurely and lack a substance that helps keep open the tiny sacs in the lungs that exchange oxygen. If these kids experience severe Covid-19 symptoms too, then the “pristine lung” hypothesis holds up.

Another (highly speculative) possibility, says Creech, is that somehow kids may be leveraging their previous immune responses to the cold-causing coronaviruses they’re constantly being assaulted with. “Each of us is a little different in how we can modify the tips of our antibodies to latch on to foreign invaders,” says Creech. “It’s possible that recent coronavirus exposure in kids has led to the emergence of antibodies that have some cross-reactivity with the virus that causes Covid-19.” But, he stresses, so far there’s no evidence that’s what’s going on.

Quick hits (part II)

1) How Tuesday’s became election day.

At the time, the U.S. was a largely agrarian society and many of the all-white, male voting population were farmers.

“Elections were usually held in the county seat,” said King. “And you have to remember that county seats were designed to be one day’s ride away by horseback.”

Americans were also generally a God-fearing Christian people and would not travel on Sundays, so Mondays were out.

“Agricultural fairs and market days were on Wednesdays,” said King.

A Tuesday election day meant farmers could travel on Mondays, vote Tuesday morning, then head back home in time for market on Wednesday.

2) OMG this is good, “I went to Hogwarts for seven years, did not learn math or spelling, and now I can’t get a job.”

Thanks to the Hogwarts curriculum, I can withstand mind control and even limited torture, but I cannot write a compelling cover letter without humiliating grammatical error’s. Why is literature not a course at your skool? I can enchant my quill to write my thoughts, but I never learned how to make my thoughts enchanting. I heard that Durmstrang students have a skool newspaper. You know what Hogwarts has? A three-headed dog lurking in the castle, with permission to kill whoever it finds. Indeedly, my life was constantly endangered while at Hogwarts, which was an academic distracshun.

3) The world is entirely unequipped for the current refugee crisis:

We are in an age of mass displacement. Yet the powerful and stable nations of the world have not figured out a humane way to handle the influx of people claiming persecution while balancing domestic concerns about security and cultural change. Instead, doors are simply closing, with asylum protections rolled back seemingly everywhere. In Italy, where the former interior minister denounced “fake refugees,” boats of Africans have been blocked from docking. The European Union pays handsomely to keep asylum seekers away, while Turkey considers sending Syrian refugees back to their homeland, which is still at war. In the U.S., the indefinite detention of asylum-seeking children prompted the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to say she was appalled. Thousands of asylum seekers are sent from the U.S. to dangerous sections of Mexico and even to countries they’re not from.

The point is, Trump’s theory of executive power does real work and has had real consequences. The opening memorandum prepared by Trump’s defense team for his Senate impeachment trial, for example, served as an homage to the general concept of absolute rights and built from its vision of an unconstrained executive the startling argument that the president cannot be impeached for abuses of power. Trump’s coinage actually made a revealing, and legally mystifying, appearance in the brief: “It is well settled that the President has a virtually absolute right to maintain the confidentiality of his diplomatic communications with foreign leaders.” As support for this sweeping claim, Trump’s team cited the Supreme Court’s 1974 decision in United States v. Nixon. But that decision notes nothing more than the courts’ traditional deference to the president’s claims of executive privilege over communications bearing on sensitive foreign-policy and national-security matters—and ultimately determined President Richard Nixon must hand over tapes subpoenaed by the special prosecutor investigating the Watergate scandal.
Where Trump derived the idea that as president he enjoys absolute rights is unclear. But his chosen phraseology is sticky and evocative. It carries a quasi-juridical ring that belies its conceptual incoherence. Closely examined, his incessant invocation of the phrase evokes the image not of the leader of the free world, but of a freeholder enjoying untrammeled and indefinite possession of his estate. Constitutionally baseless but rhetorically compelling, the whole concept of “absolute rights” is best described as a legal innovation by a real-estate mogul who understands power through the prism of private property rather than public obligation…“I have an Article II, where I have the right to do whatever I want as president,” Trump crowed to a group of teenage conservatives at a Washington, D.C., summit in July, awkwardly waving his constitutional authority like a golden ticket entitling him to full possession of a chocolate factory. Conceived this way, as absolute title, Article II vests the president not with power sanctioned by and concomitant with his obligations to the people, but with rights enforceable against them.This is a profound misunderstanding of the American constitutional system. Within that system, rights protect individuals against incursions by the state. The assertion of “absolute rights” by the country’s chief executive stands this concept on its head by purporting to insulate state conduct, however arbitrary and transgressive, from review or even critique. The idea is incompatible with the design of Article II, which vests the president with conditional, circumscribed authority to ensure that the laws are “faithfully executed.” Some of that authority is his alone to exercise—for example, only the president can grant pardons, command the armed forces, and recognize foreign states. But to the extent he misunderstands or abuses that authority, the Constitution facilitates challenge by the other branches. In extreme cases, that challenge is supposed to take the form of impeachment and removal.

4) Really liked this on Pete’s gayness:

Really, though, they shoved the pill-the-gay-away comment into a preexisting narrative: the one that says Buttigieg is basically straight. There’s a hashtag going around, #PetesNotGay, that involves dissections of the mayor’s closed-mouthed kisses with his husband on the campaign trail. Onion articles have imagined Buttigieg revealing a wife and kids, or condemning his own sexualityThe New Republic last year published then retracted a scathing essay by Dale Peck that blasted Buttigieg as so buttoned-down and assimilated that he undermines a movement based in what is still often termed deviance. In a New Yorker piece titled “The Queer Backlash to Pete Buttigieg Explained,” Masha Gessen ends by calling Buttigieg “a straight politician in a gay man’s body.”

These arguments that present Buttigieg as not really gay so obviously flirt with the essentialism queer people fight against that it’s a bit shocking to see them get traction at all. Boring gays are still gay. Gays who love the Dave Matthews Band are still gay. Progressive gays who survey the current political landscape and bet that the way to successfully enact economic and social justice is by triangulating between Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden are—and this is the sticking point—still gay. That mantra of gay is good works as an anti-stigmatizing tool; it’s what, in fact, Buttigieg was invoking by saying he was glad he wasn’t able to medicalize himself straight. Conflating gayness with any particular moral, political, or aesthetic value the observer has deemed good, though, is an act of hijacking—one weirdly similar to the rhetorical move homophobes use when they say gay people are immoral.

5) OMG do media companies so need to stop giving into bad-faith complaints from the right.  Journalists are allowed to have personal opinions, just like all Americans.  Absent evidence of actual bias in news coverage, this is a non issue.

6) The fact that most Covid-19 cases are mild is good if you get it, but mostly means that this virus is just going to spread like hell.  Sorry, it’s coming to a neighborhood near you.

7) Some interesting new social science on how partisanship is transmitted (or, not transmitted) from parents to kids:

Most of what is known regarding political socialization treats parent–child concordance as evidence of transmission. This direct-transmission approach remains agnostic regarding how socialization occurs, whether traits have a role in a child’s ability to identify and understand their parent’s values or their motivation to adopt their parents’ values. This article advances a perception-adoption approach to unpack these microprocesses of socialization. The authors test their model using three independent studies in the United States that together comprise 4,852 parent–child dyads. They find that the transmission of partisan orientations from parent to child occurs less than half the time, which is qualitatively different from the generally held view. More importantly, the findings provide a greater understanding of how key predictors facilitate the political socialization process. Specifically, politicization improves child perception, but has no role in the child’s motivation to adopt parental values. Closeness and parental value strength influence children to want to be like their parents, but do nothing to improve children’s ability to recognize their parents’ values. And education, previously thought to have little role in transmission, does not influence a child’s ability to understand their parent’s affiliation, but appears to make children more likely to reject whatever they believe it to be.

8) This NYT feature on the shortage of forensic pathologists was really fascinating (and interesting, but not gruesome, photos, too).  Also, like most things where there’s a shortage– just pay more!

The most obvious cause of the forensic-pathologist shortage is the substantial pay gap between their field and other medical specialties. “Forensic pathologists are some of the lowest-paid physicians in the country,” said John Fudenberg, the coroner of Clark County, Nev., who is not himself a forensic pathologist but leads a team of them. “They go to more school than a lot of medical doctors, and they come out and a lot of them are starting at like $150,000 a year. They could go into clinical pathology and make nearly twice that!” Physicians often leave medical school hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, which makes it difficult to justify further training in exchange for a lifetime making a fraction of the average physician’s salary…

This work is unpleasant to think about for most people. But Americans’ unwillingness to devote time and money to studying the dead — our supposition that the story, or the parts of it that matter, stop with the heartbeat — absolutely fails to imagine the intimacy with which the living and the dead remain connected. The dead tell us how we’re dying, how we’re living, who among us gets a better shot at a whole and healthy life and the ways in which we remain vulnerable to one another and to the vicissitudes of an unpredictable world. Our epidemics, the commonality of our despair, our continual mistakes, the progress we have yet to make, the wrongs we have yet to correct — all these are mirrored back to us by the dead.

9) What Oregon Republicans are doing to democracy is truly horrible.  Really, that’s not hyperbole.  They have realized that the state’s constitution allows a minority to complete block the ability of the majority to govern, so they are.  David Roberts with an excellent piece:

In Oregon right now, a handful of white people from the far right are holding the state government hostage.

No, it’s not another armed occupation of government buildings, like in 2016. This time it’s a handful of Oregon lawmakers who refuse to enter government buildings, thereby holding the business of the legislature hostage.

It ought to be getting more national attention, if for no other reason than it perfectly encapsulates larger national political trends. It is like a snow globe, a perfect miniature representation of what the Republican Party is becoming.

In a nutshell, Oregon Republicans are exploiting an arcane constitutional provision in order to exert veto power over legislation developed by the Democratic majority, on behalf of an almost entirely white, rural minority. Five times in the past 10 months, they have simply refused to show up for work, preventing the legislature from passing bills on guns, forestry, health care, and budgeting. The fifth walkout, over a climate change bill, is ongoing.

It is an extraordinary escalation of anti-democratic behavior from the right, gone almost completely unnoticed by the national political media. Nevertheless, it is a big deal, worth pausing to consider, not only because it is preventing Oregon from addressing climate change, but because it shows in stark terms where the national GOP is headed…

Over and over again, a handful of Oregon Republicans have held the state hostage to their demands. Yet the national media seems incapable of calling it what it is.

For example, have a look at this story from the Associated Press. It is positively surreal in its devotion to the exhausted tropes of mainstream political coverage. The debate in Oregon has become “pitched” and the episode “reveals sharp divisions.” Republicans say this, Democrats say that, he says, she says, the end.

Nowhere in the story will the reader be told that Democrats have a supermajority in the legislature. Nowhere will they be told that a small, demographically homogeneous minority is using once-extraordinary measures to routinely thwart the will of the democratically elected majority. Nowhere will they be told that the white minority holding the state hostage has been backed in the past year by the threat of far-right militia violence.

Mainstream political coverage, as we’ve seen again and again in the Trump years, is simply incapable of communicating a sense of crisis. There is only one model of story — what each side says, in equal measure — and it only serves to blur and obscure a situation in which one party, not the other, has lurched in a radically anti-democratic direction. (The local coverage from outlets like OPB is much better.)

Meanwhile, Democrats in state government wring their hands and cave to Republican demands again and again, as though it is simply a matter of course that a large majority must bend the knee to a small minority.

10) Damn those Chapo Trap House people really are pretty horrible.  Yes, a Tea Party of the left.  I don’t blame Bernie that these people are supporters, but it does concern me that people like this are among his most ardent supporters.

Quick hits (part I)

Happy Leap Day.

1) I am so not getting a PSA screening until there are outcomes way better than this:

In the most definitive study done to date to assess the value of PSA screening, the European Randomized Study of Screening for Prostate Cancer concluded that 781 men aged 55 to 69 when they enrolled would have to be screened to prevent one man from dying of prostate cancer after 13 years. In this study, approximately one man in six who were screened was falsely identified as possibly having prostate cancer, and two-thirds of positive PSA results in the first round of screening were false-positives.

2) Loved this “Virtual imagery that would make me run faster on the elliptical”

My onscreen avatar is carrying a laptop and it is just beginning to rain. Also, she’s wearing suede…

I snatch a golden idol from a pedestal in an ancient temple, and, as I smirk, thinking how easy that was, rocks fall from the ceiling. The roof is going to collapse! I sprint down a corridor, idol in hand, while arrows shoot from the walls, each a near miss. My colleague’s there, waiting for me, telling me to give him the statue first and then he’ll help me across the pit that gapes between us—but he betrays me, stealing the statue and leaving me to die. I leap over the pit, slide under a closing stone door, and BAM, there’s my colleague, dead. Arrows got him. I recover the statue, pausing for a moment to catch my breath, maybe wipe the sweat off my brow with a lemongrass-scented towelette, but there’s no time! A massive boulder comes rolling down out of nowhere, and if I don’t keep running, I will be crushed!

3) David Roberts on how Elizabeth Warren is the only candidate who understands the procedural reforms necessary to restore trust in American government.  But, sadly, that doesn’t exactly resonate with voters.

4) Wired, “Will Your Cat Eat Your Corpse? The short answer is maybe. The long answer won’t make you feel any better.”

5) Atlantic with good stuff from EJ Dionne’s new book:

The broad idea of dignity and its specific connection to work has been on my mind ever since. The idea appealed to me because it rang true to the core idea of Catholic social thought—“the equal dignity of every person”—that helped shape my own politics long ago. But to see it used so explicitly in a campaign was instructive. The idea finds its power from a deep intuition that the anger in our public life, across many of our lines of division, arises from a felt denial of dignity.

Blue-collar workers of all races—very much including the white working class, which has loomed so large in political analysis since 2016—have experienced this denial of dignity. But it is also experienced by African Americans, Latinos, and immigrants across classes. In the Trump Era, these workers confront a rise in racism and nativism championed by the president himself. Women who experience sexism, and young Americans who see themselves denied opportunities their parents enjoyed, feel it, too.

In my new book, Code Red: How Progressives and Moderates Can Unite to Save Our Country, I argue that dignity should be the central purpose of a new post-Reagan economics and a new post-Trump politics. Dignity binds together progressives and moderates opposed to Trump. It can also bring together constituencies who now find themselves opposed to each other. A focus on dignity may thus have immediate political power, but it also has a deep moral resonance.

Dignity is compelling because it is a value, not an ideology or a program. But neither is it an empty slogan. Dignity has strong implications for both policy and our culture. And it answers a moral yearning felt both individually and collectively. Lifting up dignity as a core national purpose is essential to renewing a society that has lost track of the powerful “We” that opens our Constitution. A commitment to equal dignity can play an important role in pulling together a nation that Trump has devoted himself to dividing.

6) On Adam Cohen’s new book on how the Supreme Court overwhelmingly has protected the rich over our history:

Many progressives hold these truths to be virtually self-evident. The United States Supreme Court has the hallowed role of protecting the most vulnerable in society. At a minimum, it does not engage in judicial activism to burden them further. And only now, when the court has shifted decisively to the right, is it in danger of relinquishing that function.

Adam Cohen’s “Supreme Inequality” shows that these beliefs utterly fail to capture the court’s treatment of the poor. For 50 years, he explains, it has exacerbated economic inequality through its aggressive jurisprudence…

Cohen’s insight that the court has been an activist for income inequality is important. Commentators have widely excoriated income inequality as the scourge of our time (Cohen quotes the hedge fund manager Ray Dalio’s description of it as an “existential threat” to the nation). Yet many attribute income inequality to broad trends like advances in technology or globalization — and even commentators who point to the actions of governmental institutions rarely mention the court. After Cohen’s book, progressives should add the court’s jurisprudence to the list of causes for income inequality. What’s more, they should include income inequality on the list of negative consequences to be feared from future courts, especially now that Brett Kavanaugh has joined the court.

7) I haven’t yet read McKay Coppins big Atlantic cover story on the massive Republican disinformation campaign that’s coming, but it’s been the talk of the town and a must-read.  I did listen to his Fresh Air interview, though.  And, damn, it really is scary as hell.

8) Soft “g” for .gif, damnit!  If you were actually using the internet back in the 1990’s, like I was, there was no controversy, that was just how it was pronounced.

9) I think/fear Brian Beutler is spot-on about the media’s 2016 malpractice almost sure to be repeated if Bernie is the nominee:

Trump has only just begun treating Bernie Sanders as his likely 2020 opponent, but Sanders’ lengthy public career and progressive politics have already aroused the same professional habits that brought us the email craze four years ago.

Political journalists face strong incentives to portray the two major parties as roughly similar moral and ethical entities that happen to share different philosophical values. Reporters are often trained to approach their subjects this way, until the practice becomes so ingrained that the supposed equivalence between the parties becomes axiomatic to them. These incentives drove mainstream media outlets to amplify the email controversy and downplay Trump’s cascade of outrages until their coverage appeared balanced, but thus left consumers with wildly inaccurate perceptions of the candidates’ relative trustworthiness.

To allow moral and ethical distinctions between partisan agendas and tactics to seep into reporting would be extremely disruptive. One party’s conduct might be consistently less ethical and principled than the other’s, but acknowledging as much, and allowing it to shape coverage, would alienate sources in that party, and drive its followers to outlets willing to sanitize the truth. But if the background assumption of most news producers is that both parties engage in dirty tricks, politicians of all stripes lie, and the nature of empirical fact itself is contestable, it creates a huge loophole that allows unscrupulous, dishonest actors to game news coverage itself, until it no longer conveys reality. [emphasis mine]

Sanders’s candidacy comes as an enormous relief to practitioners of this kind of journalism. As the most left-wing member of the Senate, and perhaps of the whole Congress, he allows political journalists to fall back on platitudes about the parties catering to their extremes, without examining the content of their agendas or their political styles.

10) Linda Greenhouse, “The Supreme Court Nears the Moment of Truth on Religion: The majority’s view of the Constitution’s free-exercise clause poses a threat to civil society.”

The startling fact of the matter is that Judges Griffin, Stranch and Donald were applying the law as they found it — as the Supreme Court has handed it to them in a series of decisions instructing judges to accept almost any religious claim, no matter how preposterous, at face value and to put the government to an extremely tough test to justify any infringement on a “sincere” religious belief. In the Hobby Lobby case six years ago, the court gave dispositive legal weight to the claim by owners of two for-profit businesses that the legal requirement to include contraception coverage in their employee health plans would make them complicit in the sin of birth control.

“It is not for us to say that their religious beliefs are mistaken or insubstantial,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the majority.

Rather than looking at the Sixth Circuit prison decision, Fox v. Washington, as an outlier, we need to see it as a harbinger, a frightening one. I don’t know whether this particular case will end up at the Supreme Court. But there are plenty of cases like it, making claims that would have been dismissed out of hand not too many years ago and that now have to be taken seriously by those of us worried about the growing threat that an increasingly weaponized free-exercise clause poses to civil society, along with the statutes meant to extend its reach.

11) Lessons from a Buddhist monk on facing death.  Good stuff, but… We’ll see how I feel about this when I’m old, but what really scares me about dying at this point in my life is not actually dying, but the certainty of suffering for those I would leave behind.  Even if one is comfortable with their own death, you cannot get everybody who loves you thinking like a Buddhist monk.  And it’s a lot easier to deal with the death of a loved one at an older age than when you feel you’ve lost somebody way to early.

12) Well, of course Republicans want to make poor people freeze to help fund Corona virus response.  Yes, seriously.  These people are the worst:

It’s now looking like coronavirus is threatening a potential public health emergency. And a battle has broken out between the White House and Democrats over how much money to allocate to the crisis, with the White House pushing for less than Democrats think is called for.

But at the core of this dispute is something that’s hasn’t yet gotten public exposure — and is potentially very troubling.

House Democrats tell us they are outraged by one aspect of the White House response in particular: The White House appears to have informed Democrats that they want to fund the emergency response in part by taking money from a program that funds low-income home heating assistance.

A document that the Trump administration sent to Congress, which we have seen, indicates that the administration is transferring $37 million to emergency funding for the coronavirus response from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, which funds heating for poor families.

13) I actually quite like Turkish Delight (I used to have a colleague who would regularly return with it from Turkey), but I do so love this post, “C.S. Lewis’s Greatest Fiction Was Convincing American Kids That They Would Like Turkish Delight”

14) Yes, we totally should do toilets like the Japanese do.  To some degree, though, it would almost be worse to get used to a better toilet experience at home and then have to suffer in comparison when going anywhere else in America.  But, hey, if this actually starts taking off, I’m ready to be an early adopter.

15) Very good stuff here, “I was a juror in the Roger Stone trial. Attacking our foreperson undermines our service.”

These events raise serious concerns for me not merely as a juror in the trial but also for the threat to our bedrock principles.

Elected officials have no business attacking citizens for performing their civic duty. The jury system is rooted in English common law and enshrined in both Article III and the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution; it is fundamental to the American system of justice. All of us need to be concerned when this process is attacked. More than 1.5 million Americans are impaneled on juries every year, according to the National Center for State Courts. Federal service is more rare than state-level service, but a 2007 center report found that more than a third of Americans will serve on a jury at some point in their lifetimes. Jurors are not merely expected but required to judge facts fairly. We are required to disclose any potential bias and are asked whether that potential bias would prevent us from rendering an impartial verdict.

16) Drum with a good take on the outrage machine (and, damnit, I did read this article before I saw Drum’s post):

Can someone please tell me why this tiny local story is on the front page of a national newspaper?

Oh, right: it “went viral.” Therefore it must be covered.

STOP IT STOP IT STOP IT STOP IT. Everything is caught on camera these days. Everything is outrageous these days. Everything goes viral these days—if by “viral” you mean that a few thousand people took five seconds to retweet something.

Why do we do this? Why can’t we let local stories stay local unless they truly have some kind of national significance? Why do we insist on stoking outrage at every opportunity? It’s not as if we lack for plenty of genuine national-level outrages, after all.

 

 

 

Quick hits (part I)

1) This new biography of George Washington sounds really intriguing.

Male historians also emphasize that Washington never had children, and how this was integral to his elevation as the “Father of Our Nation.”

Coe shows that although Washington never had biological kids, he loved children and raised many, including stepchildren, step-grandchildren, nieces and nephews. Domestic life was central to his being; he played with these kids, found them the best tutors and even dispensed love advice. When Washington’s stepson Jack Custis died of typhus during key negotiations after the Battle of Yorktown, the great general left for nearly a week to be with his family.

Coe is a trained historian, but she isn’t an academic. She spent her early career in public history exhibitions at the Brooklyn Historical Society and the New York Public Library before focusing on writing. She’s also a consulting producer on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s new George Washington series, which debuts on the History Channel on Sunday.

Coe’s book is peppered with BuzzFeed-like charts and listicles packed with information both humorous and profound. “If history is boring, it’s the historian’s fault,” she said. It has received mostly glowing reviews from readers and other historians, but on Saturday, a Daily Mail story inaccurately claimed Coe called Washington “an illiterate liar who cheated his way to top,” causing a wave of online harassment. Some early reviews have also described the book as “irreverent” — a characterization she takes issue with.

2) No, it’s not fair to call Bernie a Trump of the left.  But some similarities really bug me.  Like, sorry, but a 78-year old running for president needs to release health records:

Coming off victories in Iowa and New Hampshire, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is increasingly described as the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination. Inevitably, questions will arise about the health of the 78-year-old senator as well as that of the 73-year-old incumbent, President Trump.

But the public reports on the two men’s recent health-related episodes, written by their primary-care military physicians, do not serve voters well. The fault, however, is not with the physicians but with the absence of explicit standards for disclosing health records of presidents and presidential candidates — an eminently rectifiable situation.

Both medical reports omit critically pertinent prognostic data that the physicians certainly know. Sanders had a heart attack in October, but his report is silent about the extent of disease in his coronary arteries, which is the most important factor in determining his risk for another heart attack. The report on Trump’s abrupt, unscheduled visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in November listed several key cardiovascular symptoms the president did not have, but failed to say whether he was free from the sensations of chest squeezing and left arm discomfort that patients classically experience during heart attack and its precursors.

Voters need and deserve health information from candidates because a vote is fundamentally a bet on the future, reflecting the voter’s estimate of the candidate’s ability to lead the nation toward the voter’s desired endpoint. As Woodrow Wilson’s stroke-shattered presidency proves, sickness sidelines effectiveness. Prognostic medical information, unlike knowledge of tax returns or scandals, is directly relevant because illness physically impedes exercise of the office.

3) The compete lack of accountability for bad actions on the part of law enforcement officers (short of clear video of them shooting somebody in the back) is disgusting, disturbing, and appalling.  Something must be done.  Equally appalling is the courts that let them get away with this through ridiculous games.  Radley Balko with the story of a man brutally beaten by cops on a joint federal-state task force, which is particularly immune to justice.  This for me, was the key quote of the Kafka-esque system:

The federal agent escapes accountability because he’s treated like a state cop. And the state cop escapes because he’s assumed to be a federal cop.

4) Nate Silver assess where Bloomberg stands.  He notes, correctly, I think, that Bloomberg took a huge dive in the prediction markets after the debate, suggesting he was probably pretty over-priced before it:

  1. Bloomberg’s recent polling surge is at least partially driven by news coverage. That opens him up to a “discovery, scrutiny, decline” cycle.

Bloomberg had risen slowly but somewhat steadily in the polls since his campaign launch, climbing from 3.6 percent in our national polling average on Dec. 12 to 8.8 percent on Feb. 3. That isn’t bad — a 5.2 percentage-point gain in 64 days — although it was short of the pace he’d need to be seriously competitive on Super Tuesday. If you had extrapolated out Bloomberg’s rate of increase — decidedly not a safe assumption! (see point No. 3) — he would have reached 11.2 percent in the polls by Super Tuesday, short of the usually 15 percent threshold that Democrats require a candidate to clear in order to receive state or district delegates.

Instead, Bloomberg had an abrupt, nonlinear surge in our polling average, climbing from 8.8 percent on Feb. 3 to 15.4 percent on Feb. 13, just 10 days later. He has since somewhat stalled out, for what it’s worth, having risen only to 16.1 percent as of Thursday afternoon.

This increase also happened to coincide with a big spike in news coverage of Bloomberg. I looked at how often candidates’ names appeared3 in headlines at Memeorandum, a site that aggregates which political stories are gaining the most traction, and found that from the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 3 through Thursday afternoon (Feb. 20), Bloomberg was the subject of 80 headlines at Memorandum, slightly trailing Sanders (84) but well ahead of Biden (53), Buttigieg (32), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (19) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (15).

Now, not all of these headlines have been positive for Bloomberg, especially in recent days. But that’s sort of the point. It’s not uncommon for candidates to undergo what political scientists Lynn Vavreck and John Sides call a “discovery, scrutiny, decline” pattern in the polls, where an initial spark triggers a surge in media attention and a rise in the polls, but storylines turn more negative as the candidate gets more scrutiny and their actual performance doesn’t match the newfound hype. Candidates such as businessman Herman Cain and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich underwent this cycle in 2012. Sen. Kamala Harris and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke did so this year.

5) NBC News,  “Texas man close to exoneration after computer algorithm leads to new suspect: Lydell Grant was supposed to be in prison for murder. But an emerging form of DNA technology, which has also come under scrutiny, is helping to free him in an unprecedented case.”

Pretty sure I wrote years ago that DNA analysis which is based on DNA from multiple sources is not nearly as reliable as DNA evidence from a single person.  Grant is quite surely not the only person in prison based on this flawed analysis.

6) You know I don’t post a lot of the crazy true-crime variety, but this one, wow.  “Former Colorado mayoral candidate drugged new mom with cupcake in scheme to steal her baby, police say”

7) This is from 6 years ago, but just showed up in my feed for some reason (also, I like Ortberg more as a satirist than a Slate advice columnist).  “Ayn Rand reviews children’s movies”

“Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”

An industrious young woman neglects to charge for her housekeeping services and is rightly exploited for her naïveté. She dies without ever having sought her own happiness as the highest moral aim. I did not finish watching this movie, finding it impossible to sympathize with the main character. —No stars. 

“Bambi”

The biggest and the strongest are the fittest to rule. This is the way things have always been. —Four stars.

“Old Yeller”

A farm animal ceases to be useful and is disposed of humanely. A valuable lesson for children. —Four stars.

8) Julia Azari with a good case for re-thinking our primary system:

One lesson from the 2020 and 2016 election cycles is that a lot of candidates, many of whom are highly qualified and attract substantial followings, will inevitably enter the race. The system as it works now — with a long informal primary, lots of attention to early contests and sequential primary season that unfolds over several months — is great at testing candidates to see whether they have the skills to run for president. What it’s not great at is choosing among the many candidates who clear that bar, or bringing their different ideological factions together, or reconciling competing priorities. A process in which intermediate representatives — elected delegates who understand the priorities of their constituents — can bargain without being bound to specific candidates might actually produce nominees that better reflect what voters want…

For decades, the conversation about nominations has been about the conflicts between party elites and everyone else. Today, that conversation is counterproductive. A better approach is to think about how voters and elites could best play their different roles: to make their political parties more representative while ultimately narrowing the nomination choice down to one person. And the best way to do that would be through preference primaries.

Preference primaries could allow voters to rank their choices among candidates, as well as to register opinions about their issue priorities — like an exit poll, but more formal and with all the voters. The results would be public but not binding; a way to inform elites about voter preferences.

9) This is a shorter quick hits.  So, spend the time reading all of Adam Serwer’s great essay, ”

Authoritarian nations come in many different stripes, but they all share a fundamental characteristic: The people who live in them are not allowed to freely choose their own leaders. This is why Republican Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, in his speech announcing his vote to convict on the first article of impeachment, said that “corrupting an election to keep oneself in office is perhaps the most abusive and destructive violation of one’s oath of office that I can imagine.”

Democracies are sustained through the formal process by which power is contested and exchanged. Once that process is corrupted, you have merely the trappings of democracy within an authoritarian regime. Such governments may retain elections and courts and legislatures, but those institutions have no power to enforce the rule of law. America is not there yet—but the acquittal vote was a fateful step in that direction.

 

 

Quick hits (part I)

1) An opportunity to put pangolins in my blog?  Hell, yes.

In the search for the animal source or sources of the coronavirus epidemic in China, the latest candidate is the pangolin, an endangered, scaly, ant-eating mammal that is imported in huge numbers to Chinese markets for food and medicine.

The market in pangolins is so large that they are said to be the most trafficked mammals on the planet. All four Asian species are critically endangered, and it is far from clear whether being identified as a viral host would be good or bad for pangolins. It could decrease the trade in the animals, or cause a backlash.

It is also far from clear whether the pangolin is the animal that passed the new virus to humans. Bats are still thought to be the original host of the virus. If pangolins are involved in disease transmission, they would act as an intermediate host. The science so far is suggestive rather than conclusive, and because of the intense interest in the virus, some claims have been made public before the traditional scientific review process.

2) David Brooks oversells it, but raises some worthwhile points in, “The Nuclear Family Was a Mistake”

This is the story of our times—the story of the family, once a dense cluster of many siblings and extended kin, fragmenting into ever smaller and more fragile forms. The initial result of that fragmentation, the nuclear family, didn’t seem so bad. But then, because the nuclear family is so brittle, the fragmentation continued. In many sectors of society, nuclear families fragmented into single-parent families, single-parent families into chaotic families or no families.

If you want to summarize the changes in family structure over the past century, the truest thing to say is this: We’ve made life freer for individuals and more unstable for families. We’ve made life better for adults but worse for children. We’ve moved from big, interconnected, and extended families, which helped protect the most vulnerable people in society from the shocks of life, to smaller, detached nuclear families (a married couple and their children), which give the most privileged people in society room to maximize their talents and expand their options. The shift from bigger and interconnected extended families to smaller and detached nuclear families ultimately led to a familial system that liberates the rich and ravages the working-class and the poor.

My nuclear family of origin was very small and had no extended family really at all.  My current nuclear family has beloved extended family in state, but still a pretty good distance.  I’ll admit to being jealous of people of have adult siblings, cousins, aunts/uncles, etc., all in the same area.

3) David Leonhardt, “The Question All Democrats Need to Ask Themselves: If your preferred candidate doesn’t win the nomination, will you still do everything you can to deny Trump a second term?”

Yes, the candidates have their differences. But they have much bigger similarities. If elected, every single Democratic presidential candidate would act to slow climate change, raise taxes on the rich, reduce gun deaths, expand voting rights, lower health care and education costs, protect abortion access, enforce civil-rights laws, appoint progressive judges, rebuild overseas alliances and stop treating the Justice Department as a personal enforcer. The moderates are running to the left of Barack Obama, and the progressives would be constrained by Congress.

The alternative, of course, is truly radical. Many Democrats know all this, yet they still get so caught up in the passions of the primary campaign that they risk helping Trump…

Today the Republican Party has become so radicalized that it opposes almost any government action to solve problems. Its domestic agenda consists largely of cutting taxes for the rich and freeing companies from oversight. The substantive part of many policy debates now happens within the Democratic Party — which means that tensions are only natural.

And yet progressives and moderate Democrats still agree on far more than they disagree. Each side would be more effective if it were open to learning from the other, Dionne writes, rather than lapsing into “an unseemly moralism that feeds political superiority complexes.”

My answer to that questsion is, hell, yes (yes, including for Bernie).  One of my problems with Sanders’ supporters is that I feel too many of them are so committed to Bernie that their answer to this question is too much… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

4) I know EMG will enjoy this story on horse toes.  Really.  “A Horse Has 5 Toes, and Then It Doesn’t: As a horse’s hoof forms, scientists say something profound is occurring in its anatomical development.”  Featuring horse embryos from NC State!

The horse embryos were provided by C. Scott Bailey, a co-author and an expert on horse reproduction at North Carolina State University. They were all from mares that had been artificially inseminated on known dates, so the researchers knew with some precision how many days along they were.

The discovery implies something profound about how anatomical development works. As an embryo puts itself together, growing from a tiny wad of cells into multiple specialized tissues fed by blood vessels and linked by the winding threads of nerves, it is following a template. That template is subject to evolution, just like other things about the animal. But some moments in the process, or some routes that development takes, may not be easily altered…

Adult horses have no need of all five toes. But at a point long before the embryos have actual feet, the ancient programming still requires those five clusters to form. Does that mean that diverting development away from this digit-forming process would cause serious problems?

It’s possible, Dr. Kavanagh said. Other stages of development seem to be more flexible, generating new innovations that evolution can act on; it is probably not random chance that some stages are not malleable.

The study confirms an observation published in 2018 by another set of biologists that horses have many more blood vessels and nerves in their legs than required to feed a single toe, suggesting that they still have signs of an earlier, many-toed state.

5) Really good Political Science conversation, “If Moderates Are Electable, Why Are Ideologues Winning?”

Atop Democratic primary polls, Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden are re-igniting a debate about whether moderates are more electable. Are voters pushing the candidates to the extremes or just looking for moderate alternatives? Andrew Hall finds that moderate candidates are more likely to win general elections, but that they are running for office less often than extremists. The benefits of office are declining and the costs are increasing, especially for potential moderates. But Stephen Utych finds that moderates are far less advantaged in general elections over extremists than they used to be. Partisan polarization means voters increasingly treat politicians in each party as interchangeable, lowering the costs of nominating extremists. Either way, voters are not the main cause of polarization.

6) David Frum on the truly execrable William Barr:

At the law schools of the 1970s and ‘80s, a militant faction of professors taught a harsh lesson. Law, they argued, is a myth that property owners invoke to protect themselves and oppress those without property. The legal reasoning that we students were so frantically working to absorb was in fact a deception, an expensive drapery concealing the brute realties of political and class power.

Some students indignantly rejected this teaching. Others accepted that it contained some truth, mixed with much exaggeration and propaganda.

Adam Serwer: The dangerous ideas of Bill Barr

But young William Barr—George Washington University Law School, Class of 1977—seems to have absorbed the radical message with perverse enthusiasm: Alrighty then! Let’s do it!

As attorney general, Barr has focused on two missions: on the one hand, cracking down on crimes by the poor and the foreign-born; on the other, going easy on the crimes of President Trump’s associates. This administration likes to call itself “tough on crime” and to revile its Democratic opponents as “the party of crime.”

But toward its own many crimes, the Trump administration is genially indulgent. Like the gangsters around the table in the first Godfather movie, the Trump administration is able to convince itself that its victims are animals without souls—and that its own lawbreaking is a necessary, even honorable, accommodation to the facts of life. “The real crimes were on the other side!” Donald Trump tweeted after he heard the news of Roger Stone’s recommended sentence of seven to nine years—exactly in line with federal sentencing guidelines for Stone’s convicted offenses.

As attorney general, Barr has delivered a series of speeches about the importance of sternly enforcing the law against lower-class people…

The Trump administration rationalizes its treatment of Stone by endlessly fulminating and tweeting against prosecutors, judges, even jury forepersons. Barr’s warnings against inquiring into subjective motivations in the case of uniformed police dealing with street crime get forgotten when the police wear suits and ties and must deal with Trump crime. Then (and only then!) it matters whether the officer in question showed previous loyalty to President Trump. If not, then (and only then!) the officer’s possible motive matters more than anything, and certainly more than the proven evidence.

American criminal law is harsh; American prison sentences are severe. Most of the time, Trump and his attorney general relish this harshness.

There’s some argument as to who invented the phrase “To my friends, everything; to my enemies, the law.” Whoever said it first, it clearly impels the higher levels of the Trump Justice Department. But even the Trump Justice Department needs the expensive drapery of the pretense of legal reasoning. When the president insists on yanking that drapery aside day after day on Twitter and television, the reality of what is going on becomes too embarrassing even for Barr to endure. [emphasis mine]

7) Annie Lowery is exactly right about the fundamental irrationality of the Berniephobes (he’s far from my first choice, but not because I fear his policies being enacted):

A President Bernie Sanders would have about as much control over the economy as President Donald Trump: outside of a recession, not nearly as much as one might think, and particularly not in the short term. Political scientists and economists have demonstrated that how well the economy performs under different administrations mostly has to do with the fortuities of market timing. President Barack Obama inherited a catastrophe that had nowhere to go but up; Trump inherited a long boom that has just kept booming. Their policies have mattered but, outside the response to the Great Recession itself, mostly on the margin. The same would be true for Sanders or Warren or Amy Klobuchar or Joe Biden or any of the other candidates. If the economy tanks on Sanders’s watch, what he does will be enormously important. If it does not, his policies would take years to change the shape of American growth.

Presidents are just not that powerful in the United States’s polarized, divided, and choke-point-choked political system. Sanders has put out a slate of transformative economic policies, but realistically, few of them are likely to be passed, and those probably in watered-down and compromised versions. As The American Prospect, the left-of-center magazine, has noted, Sanders or another progressive could do a considerable amount via executive action, including the instant forgiveness of student debt held on the federal books. But many of the biggest changes Sanders seeks—wealth taxes, Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, a jobs guarantee—would have to wend their way through Congress.

There is no majority in Congress for any of those policies at the moment. Bodies that overrepresent old, white, and rural voters are unlikely to pass a new New Deal anytime soon. Bernie’s camp openly admits as much, as do elected progressives. Is Medicare for All achievable? “The worst-case scenario? We compromise deeply and we end up getting a public option,” Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said this week. “Is that a nightmare? I don’t think so.” Wall Street knows it, too. In a recent note to clients, JPMorgan’s analysts argued that American “political institutions” would make dramatic policy changes highly unlikely. “We put the probability of major changes like Medicare-for-all or a wealth tax at less than 5 percent.”

Would the economy tank if Congress did pass Sanders’s chosen policy regime? That is questionable as well. Sanders’s economic plans are meant to bolster the earning and political power of low- and middle-income families, while forcing companies to compete with another, taming the power of the financial system, and greening the economy. They amount to a huge fiscal-stimulus program, which would be unlikely to ruin the economy any more than the Trump tax cuts, another big stimulus program, would. The country’s staggering levels of income and wealth inequality are distorting the very fabric of the economy: raising saving relative to consumption and investment, dampening GDP growth, impeding mobility, and fraying the political system. There’s a good argument that reducing inequality would boost the country’s long-term growth rate, not hurt it.

8) Tara Parker-Pope on how, maybe, Millennials slower approach to love and marriage is a good thing:

But what is particularly striking is how quickly the cohort has rewritten the rules for courtship, sex and marriage. In 2018, the median age of first marriage was approaching 30 (29.8 for men and 27.8 for women). That’s more than a five-year delay in marriage compared to 1980, when the median age was 24.7 for men and 22 for women.

A 2017 study in the Archives of Sexual Behavior found that many younger millennials in their early 20s aren’t having sex, and are more than twice as likely to be sexually inactive than the previous generation. Another study found that American couples ages 25 to 34 spend an average of six and a half years together before marrying, compared with an average of five years for all other age groups…

Ask millennials and they will tell you that there is nothing casual about their approach to sex, dating and romance.

“Hooking up with someone doesn’t mean that millennials now don’t value marriage,” says Anne Kat Alexander, who at 23 is in the second wave of the millennial generation. “If anything, they value marriage more because they are putting a lot more forward thinking into that decision.”

Dr. Fisher says her research suggests today’s singles seek to learn as much as possible about a potential partner before they spend time, energy and money on courtship. As a result, the path to romance has changed significantly. Whereas a “first date” used to represent the getting-to-know-you phase of a courtship, now going on an official date with someone comes later in the relationship.

And for some singles, sex has become the getting-to-know you phase of courtship. In a study conducted for Match.com, Dr. Fisher found that among a representative sample, 34 percent of singles had sex with somebody before the first date. She calls it “the sex interview.”

First, do you really need six years to figure out if you should marry someone.  That’s serious overkill.  Secondly, yes, I guess I’m just old, but sex before dating??!!

9) And, yet, apparently when it comes to dating, there’s a lot of very traditional gender role stuff going on.  Sociology Professor, Ellen Lamont, “If You Want a Marriage of Equals, Then Date as Equals: Why are many dating practices a throwback to an earlier era?”

However, I noticed a glaring disconnect between the straight women’s views on marriage and their thoughts on dating. Once these women were married, it was difficult to right the ship, so to speak. The same gender stereotypes that they adopted while dating played out in their long-term partnerships.

Three-quarters of Millennials in America support gender equality at work and home and agree that the ideal marriage is an equitable one. Consequently, I expected the young women I interviewed to epitomize feminist liberation. Yet, when they thought of equality among men and women, they focused more on professional opportunities than interpersonal dynamics. Americans with a college education now get married in their early 30s on average, as young adults put their love life on hold while they invest in their education and establish a career. Given the significant time, money, and effort they put into building this career, the women I spoke with expected to partner with people who would support their ambitious professional goals. The men said they desired and respected these independent, high-achieving women and actually saw them as more compatible partners as a result.

And yet in a throwback to an earlier era, many women I spoke with enacted strict dating rules. “It’s a deal breaker if a man doesn’t pay for a date,” one woman, aged 29, told me. A 31-year-old said that if a man doesn’t pay, “they just probably don’t like you very much.” A lot of men, they assumed, were looking for nothing more than a quick hookup, so some of these dating rituals were tests to see whether the man was truly interested in a commitment. A third woman, also 31, told me, “I feel like men need to feel like they are in control, and if you ask them out, you end up looking desperate and it’s a turnoff to them.”

On dates, the women talked about acting demure, and allowing men to do more of the talking. Women, they said, were more attractive to men when they appeared unattainable, so women preferred for the men to follow up after a date. None of the women considered proposing marriage; that was the man’s job. “I know it feels counterintuitive … I’m a feminist,” the first woman said. “But I like to have a guy be chivalrous.”

On a related note, a female student who is a smart, ambitious, liberal feminist told me about a recent fraternity weekend event she attended (with a, supposedly, better kind of fraternity) that left me beyond appalled at the gender dynamics.

10) And, while we’re at it.  This from Stephanie Coontz is really good, “How to Make Your Marriage Gayer: Same-sex spouses feel more satisfied with their partners than heterosexual ones. What’s the secret?”

Once children come along, old marital traditions reassert themselves even more. A University of Texas researcher, Joanna Pepin, and her colleagues recently found that married mothers spend more time on housework than single mothers and have significantly less leisure time than cohabiting mothers. As Dr. Pepin told me, “The gender expectations traditionally associated with being a wife seemingly encourage married mothers to do more housework than their unmarried counterparts, and their husbands to accept that as normal.”

Here’s where same-sex couples can offer their different-sex counterparts useful tips. Since same-sex couples can’t use imputed male-female differences to sort out who does what, they rely less on stereotypes. Heterosexual parents tend to see tasks such as child care, laundry and dishes as part of a package that is handed to one partner. Same-sex couples are far more likely to each take on some traditionally “feminine” and some “masculine” chores.

They are also more likely to share the routine tasks. A 2015 survey found that almost half of dual-earner, same-sex couples shared laundry duties, compared with just under a third of different-sex couples. And a whopping 74 percent of same-sex couples shared routine child care, compared with only 38 percent of straight couples.

11) I’m not a particular fan or detractor of Bloomberg, but what I don’t like is unfair attacks on anybody that get policy wrong.  Especially when they come from a college professor, like this tweet:

It may be wrong and dangerous, but the research is pretty clear that teacher quality is far more important than class size.  So, wait, neither wrong nor dangerous, but backed by empirical evidence.

12) I loved reading about what it’s like being a pizza consultant.

13) This is kind of amazing, “People Born Blind Are Mysteriously Protected From Schizophrenia”

But the whispered-about fact persists: Being born blind, and perhaps specific types of congenital blindness, shield from the very disorders vision loss can encourage later in life. A myriad of theories exist as to why—from the blind brain’s neuroplasticity to how vision plays an important role in building our model of the world (and what happens when that process goes wrong). Select researchers believe that the ties between vision and psychotic symptoms indicate there’s something new to learn here. Could it be that within this narrowly-defined phenomenon there are clues for what causes schizophrenia, how to predict who will develop it, and potentially how to treat it? …

This view of the brain argues that rather than perceiving the world around us in real time, our brains create a model of what’s out there, predict and simulate what we experience, and then compare our predictions to what’s actually happening—using any errors to update or change the model in our minds. The accuracy of your past predictions are crucial for the accuracy of your overall model—it’s what you’re comparing new inputs to, and how you’re making any adjustments.

This is where vision comes in. Vision gives us a lot of information about the world around us, and is an important sense that helps link together other sensory cues, like sound and touch, Pollak said. If the way a person sees the world is off, it can make it harder to predict, correct errors, and build a model of the world that makes sense. And when people have problems with their vision, the brain has to make more predictions to explain them. On the other hand, if you couldn’t see anything, you wouldn’t build up those false representations of the world around you—which could lead to problems in thinking later on.

Quick hits (part I)

1) Sam Vinograd on Trump’s firing of Vindland and Sondland:

And there is also little doubt that this move was intentional retribution — and designed to send a clear message to any other government official who dares to challenge the President. Speak out, and you risk compromising not just your own job, but that of your family’s.
Of course, the President’s surrogates will defend him and argue Trump has the full right to hire and fire staff as he sees fit. And while that may be true, it also ignores the sad reality hidden in that truth. The President only wants henchmen and yes-men who defer to his orders and actions, no matter how dangerous, inappropriate or potentially illegal they may be.
There have been earlier reports that Trump is downsizing the NSC and stacking it with more political appointees. By removing Vindman, and by moving forward with plans to cycle out career government officials, it appears that the President also does not want witnesses around to report, through legally protected channels, any future actions that may cross moral or legal lines.
But there is a great danger to removing individuals like Vindman from the NSC who have longstanding relationships. Trump appears intent on transforming the NSC — from a critical American policy-making apparatus that advances the rule of law to a political arm for his personal benefit — with little regard for rules or laws. [emphasis mine]

2) Honestly, one of the best things to happen to me this winter is that the newly-opened Lidl in my neighborhood (I love this store!) carries Crimson Crisp apples, my favorite apple heretofore only seen at the Farmer’s Market.  And only $.99/pound and I’d pay $4/pound; they’re that good.

3) Jamelle Bouie, “The Republican Party Has Embraced Its Worst Self”

Let’s return to those rival accounts of United States history. If the story of the American republic is the story of democratic decline as much as it is of democratic expansion — if backlash shapes our history as much as progress does — then the current moment is easy to understand. We are living through a period of democratic erosion, in which social and political reaction limits the reach and scope of past democratic victories. In this way of looking at the present, we’re living through a period of institutional deterioration, during which American government ceases to function in the face of polarization, zero-sum conflict and constitutional hardball.

Republican politicians have been the single most important force behind that erosion, breaking norms, backing suppression and welcoming an endless flood of money into our politics, all to protect themselves and their ideology from the will of the people. Viewed in that light, the acquittal of President Trump — the desperate cover-up in the face of damning evidence — is just another brick on a road Republicans have been paving for years.

It is what you would expect them to do, not because of any fear of the president or personal fealty to him, but because the party sees accountability, whether to voters or to the Constitution itself, as a threat to its interests. If the acquittal of Trump shows us anything, it’s a Republican Party free of pretense or artifice, ready to embrace its worst self without shame or embarrassment.

4) Dana Milbank, (who, by the way, used to be very much a “both sides,” all-about-the-game centrist before Trump) “This vulgar man has squandered our decency”

The president had broken the law, cheated in his reelection, abused a vulnerable ally by withholding military aid, emboldened a foe and concealed the facts — and there would be no consequences. His fellow Republicans rejected even the symbolic sanction of censure.

It didn’t take long to see the consequences of acquittal: Trump’s blasphemy at the National Prayer Breakfast, his obscene rant in the White House, his move to evict from the White House a decorated military officer who testified during impeachment, his attorney general’s edict that he alone would decide which presidential candidates to investigate and his Treasury Department’s release of sensitive records about the family of a Trump political opponent even as it refuses to release similar records about Trump.

This is a man of the lowest character — and his partisans cheer. The Post identified more than 30 distortions in his State of the Union address Tuesday, where he announced he would award the nation’s highest civilian honor to a man who joined Trump in spreading the “birther” libel and who popularized the tune “Barack the Magic Negro” for his millions of listeners.

And the Republicans on the House floor chanted: “Four more years!

Of this?

5) Dahlia Lithwick, “The Law Is for Suckers”

It is a paradox that the most litigious country in the world—a country whose founding documents were largely drafted by lawyers, and whose constitutional true north has long been the constraints afforded by the law—elected a man who has spent the bulk of his life creating a two-tiered system, in which some men are bound by law and others float away from it. We knew long before he was elected that Donald Trump would not be bound by the rule of law, or by the norms of a system dependent on checks and balances. He told us as much. During the campaign he floated the prospect of torturing the families of enemies, and rewriting libel laws, and banning travelers to the United States based on their religion. Sure, it maybe sounded like hyperbole, and it maybe sounded like campaign-speak, and even as some of those efforts were effectuated, including the Muslim ban and family separations, and even as the norms about nepotism and self-dealing and disclosure were brushed away, it still seemed as if a country founded on law would locate some guardrails.

It hasn’t. Just as Zirin promised us, Trump has deployed all of his Roy Cohn strategies to show us that the law is for suckers, and that for great men it serves as a nuisance at most, something to be gotten out of with a squadron of well-paid lawyers, by terrorizing opposing parties and witnesses, by lying fluently and repeatedly, and by declaring victory even when you lost. It should not surprise a soul that he would have brought those tactics to bear as a candidate, as president, and as the subject of an impeachment inquiry. The legal arguments he has deployed throughout this process—that he should have “absolute immunity” from investigation; that he could not be removed from office for crimes; and that he could only be impeached for literal crimes, not high crimes and misdemeanors as the Framers intended—were vintage Roy Cohn. As was the argument, as proffered by Alan Dershowitz, that if the president believed his election interference was in the best interest of the republic, it was both not illegal and also not an impeachable offense. The fact that the Senate and the Justice Department helped him evade accountability, or that White House counsel Pat Cipollone and Dershowitz and Ken Starr served as Roy Cohn mini-me’s, should surprise nobody. Nor should the fact that the “trial” was not a trial and the jurors were not jurors or that a nontrivial number of the jurors voted to acquit him while still acknowledging that what he did was the thing he continues to deny having done.

Nobody should be surprised that in the wake of 3,500 lawsuits, Trump will conclude that he is indeed above the law, that the legal regime exists only for suckers, and also that he can repurpose the machinery of law to investigate, harass, and punish the whistleblowers and the witnesses and those who sought to constrain him. At which point the law won’t just be the thing that applies only to losers and suckers, but also the thing that can be used to put down those who sought justice in the first place. And nobody should be surprised that having invited foreign election interference and having been acquitted for doing so, this president will use the formidable power of his Justice Department to manipulate the 2020 election, and to call into question the results of that election in the courts.

6) Brian Klaas, “Senate Republicans just paved the road to American authoritarianism”

The Senate has neutered itself. That shift in power isn’t temporary — it sets a new orthodoxy of what presidents can get away with.

If Trump commits a crime (as he allegedly has, repeatedly), he cannot be indicted under guidelines from the Justice Department. And if he yet again abuses his power with corrupt intent, it’s up to his lackeys in the Senate to hold him accountable with an impeachment trial — and they just spectacularly failed to do so despite him committing the most egregious abuse of power in recent American history.

Perhaps most striking was the moment in which one of Trump’s defense lawyers, Alan Dershowitz, argued that “if a president does something which he believes will help him get elected in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment.” That logic — that if the leader takes an action to win with corrupt intent but believes that his victory is ultimately good for the country, then it’s fine — is the logic of authoritarian despots. It is a logic that is poisonous to democracy. (Dershowitz has since tried to back away from his own words, but there’s no changing the fact he appears to have captured precisely the philosophy that currently informs thinking among Senate Republicans.)

All of this would be quite worrying indeed if the current president were someone who mimicked the behavior of autocrats. We would be right to panic if the man in the White House was someone who, for example, attacked the media with Stalinist rhetoricscapegoated minority groups, called for the jailing of his political rivalspoliticized the rule of lawhired cronies and family members for top jobs, called to ban an entire religion from entering the country, directly profited from his office, and had invited foreign adversaries to help him stay in power.

Okay, maybe it’s time to break the glass.

7) Okay, I’ll mix it up now.  Hooray for Finland and parental leave:

Parents in Finland will be given the same amount of parental leave, regardless of their gender or whether they are a child’s biological parents, the government announced.

The changes, which were announced Wednesday and could come into effect as early as 2021, are a bid to promote gender equality and inclusivity for same-sex couples and to encourage fathers to take as much time off work as mothers.

The measure is one of the latest reforms under Finland’s new government, led by Sanna Marin, a progressive prime minister who took up the post late last year. Ms. Marin made news when she took up the post late last year becoming the world’s youngest premier and heading a coalition government made up of all female leaders.

Under the new reforms, each parent will be allowed 164 days of paid parental leave, which increased the total allowance for a couple from 11.5 months to more than 14 months, the government said in a statement. Single parents will have the right to use the parental leave quotas of both parents.

The minister of social affairs and health, Aino-Kaisa Pekonen, said that the new policy shows the government’s “investment in the future of children” and in the well-being of families.

“The reform will be a major change in attitudes, as it will improve equality between parents and make the lives of diverse families easier,” she added.

8) Not everyday you find out a business a few hundred yards for your house is a front for prostitution.

Because of community concerns, Cary police said they conducted a “limited operation” involving massage businesses.

Late last week Jin Li, 42, was arrested at the Koko Spa on Southeast Maynard Road.

A mile away at Studio Salons on Northeast Maynard Road, police arrested 43-year-old Jin Hongmei.

Both women are charged with practicing massage without a license and prostitution.

Moana Anderson and her husband brought their four daughters to the indoor playground next door Monday.

“That’s kind of scary because we wanted our kids to be safe,” Anderson told ABC11.

Can, I tell you, though, how absolutely not scared I am for the kids.

9) John Sides (who, by the way, I’m very excited to be bringing to speak at NC State in a pre-Super Tuesday lecture on February 27) on the Democrats not in disarray:

But the disarray story line deserves some qualifications. A survey — conducted in November and December by the Democracy Fund Voter Study Group — points to a more complex picture. The survey is unique because it includes 4,250 respondents who have been interviewed periodically since late 2011, as well as interviews with new respondents to ensure that the sample as a whole is nationally representative.

Twenty-five percent of likely Democratic primary voters say they plan to support former vice president Joe Biden, followed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) at 20 percent and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) at 16 percent. November and December polling averages showed similar results, though Sanders has gained some ground and Warren has lost ground.

But you have to look beyond those top-line numbers to see the key takeaway: Despite the lack of consensus on a nominee, there are important signs of unity within the party right now. And history tells us that party unity is likely to grow as November approaches.

1. Most Democrats like most Democrats.

Overall, most Democrats feel favorably about the Democratic front-runners.

10) I’m pretty fascinated by the American Dirt controversy.  Though not as fascinated as Jesse Singal.  It occurred to me Arthur Golden could never write Memoirs of a Geisha today.  And, that’s a shame, because it’s a great book.  Singal on the controversy and the failure off journalism:

There were certain problems with how American Dirt, the novel by Jeanine Cummins that is currently one of the hottest-selling titles on Amazon, and which was chosen by Oprah for her super-famous book club, was written and publicized.

But how severe were those problems? And which of them were actual, you know, problems, rather than the inevitable outrage-overgrowth that instantly sprouts, kudzulike, during any sort of online pileon, suffocating reasoned conversation?

If you read most journalistic coverage of this controversy, you will not be informed. If anything, you will end up more misinformed than you were when you started. And that’s a useful problem to explore given where journalism is right now. I haven’t read American Dirt, so I can’t speak directly to the plot. But the book itself isn’t actually the point I’m interested in: Rather, I want to talk about the nature of how this controversy — and seemingly every controversy, these days — is being covered by mainstream media outlets…

So, anyway, I read some of the coverage of the American Dirt dustup, hoping to better understand what was happening, because my gut impulse was there was at least some there worth extracting and understanding, even if it was at the bottom of a large, stinky pile of internet bullshit. And almost as soon as I started, I realized I couldn’t really trust most of what I was reading, because all it was doing was presenting a too-lightly curated version of “people on the internet are saying…,” with the people in question often leveling critiques about as sophisticated and thoughtful as, well, “If a racist character expresses racist sentiments, that means the book is racist.” Or the author of a given piece him- or herself was making these sorts of arguments. In other words, these articles were contributing to and amplifying the bullshit, not joining me, hand in hand, facemasks snugly secured, to help me dig through it in search of something worthwhile — which is what journalism is supposed to do!

11) Bats are always the damn reservoir species for nasty zoonotic diseases.  Interesting new scientific theories on why.  In large part– flying:

In a 2018 paper in Cell Host and Microbe, scientists in China and Singapore reported their investigation of how bats handle something called DNA sensing. The energy demands of flight are so great that cells in the body break down and release bits of DNA that are then floating around where they shouldn’t be. Mammals, including bats, have ways to identify and respond to such bits of DNA, which might indicate an invasion of a disease-causing organism. But in bats, they found, evolution has weakened that system, which would normally cause inflammation as it fought the viruses.

Bats have lost some genes involved in that response, which makes sense because the inflammation itself can be very damaging to the body. They have a weakened response but it is still there. Thus, the researchers write, this weakened response may allow them to maintain a “balanced state of ‘effective response’ but not ‘over response’ against viruses.”

12) Thanks to a reader for this link about autism and brain myelination:

Scientists have found a clue to how autism spectrum disorder disrupts the brain’s information highways.

The problem involves cells that help keep the traffic of signals moving smoothly through brain circuits, a team reported Monday in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

The team found that in both mouse and human brains affected by autism, there’s an abnormality in cells that produce a substance called myelin.

That’s a problem because myelin provides the “insulation” for brain circuits, allowing them to quickly and reliably carry electrical signals from one area to another. And having either too little or too much of this myelin coating can result in a wide range of neurological problems.

For example, multiple sclerosis occurs when the myelin around nerve fibers is damaged. The results, which vary from person to person, can affect not only the signals that control muscles, but also the ones involved in learning and thinking.

The finding could help explain why autism spectrum disorders include such a wide range of social and behavioral features, says Brady Maher, a lead investigator at the Lieber Institute for Brain Development and an associate professor in the psychiatry department at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

“Myelination could be a problem that ties all of these autism spectrum disorders together,” Maher says. And if that’s true, he says, it might be possible to prevent or even reverse the symptoms using drugs that affect myelination.

13) Good stuff from Planet Money, “The Limits Of Nudging: Why Can’t California Get People To Take Free Money?”

Quick hits

1) I saw this article on diamonds in the latest New Yorker and thought no way was I going to read something so long.  But so interesting on the geology, business, and history of diamond mining and production.

2) Big retail pharmacy chains are cutting back on staff and increasing medication errors, all in the name of greater profits.  I’m shocked.

3) The top leadership at Victoria’s Secret is disgusting, abusive, sexists.  I’m shocked.

4) I knew Inuit (maker of Turbo Tax) was an evil company.  I did not, realize, however, the depths of their moral depravity.  Great episode of “Reply All” on how they lie and mislead to stick it to poor people.  And shameful that our government is complicit in this.

5) I am such a corrupting influence on the youth, that my kids and their friends enjoy regularly singing the chorus of this song.

6) Tipping is a stupid, stupid way of doing things.  Just raise prices and pay workers an appropriate wage!  So much evidence that this is the way to go.  In the world we actually live in, I recognize the benefits of tipping hotel staff generously.  But don’t tell me there’s no downside to what is a stupid, unfair system, New York Times:

Many hotel staff earn the minimum wage, Ms. Cleveland said, and tips can add meaningful income. “There’s no downside in being generous in tipping.”

7) Love the premise here, “Kids Are Master Manipulators. So Use Game Theory Against Them.”  For the record, I’m already on it.  Number #1– do not make non-credible threats.

8)  Tamar Haspel, “Most dietary supplements don’t do anything. Why do we spend $35 billion a year on them?”   Because as a species we are proven morons when it comes to stuff like this.  Though, a few things actually have benefits:

How is it that perfectly respectable public-health initiatives, such as vaccines and water fluoridation, give rise to suspicion and conspiracy theories, while an entire industry that’s telling us out-and-out falsehoods in order to take our money gets a free pass?

Dietary supplements, people! Where is the outrage?

Every year, Americans spend something like $35 billion on vitamins, minerals, botanicals and various other substances that are touted as health-giving but mostly do nothing at all. Nothing at all!

Could the entire category really just be a rip-off? I turned to the National Institutes of Health. I spoke with Carol Haggans, a scientific and health communications consultant with the Office of Dietary Supplements, about vitamins and minerals, and to Craig Hopp, deputy director of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, about botanical and other kinds of supplements.

My question was the same: Which dietary supplements actually have well-established benefits?

“It’s a short list,” Hopp told me. “Ginger for nausea, peppermint for upset stomach, melatonin for sleep disruption. And fish oil does seem to show some promise for cardiovascular disease, although some of the data is conflicting.” He went on to list some of the supplements that haven’t shown benefits in trials: turmeric, St. John’s wort, ginkgo, echinacea.

On the vitamin and mineral side, Haggans pointed out a couple of wins. Folic acid reduces risk for fetal neural tube defects, and it is widely recommended for women who may become pregnant. Vitamin B12 in food is sometimes poorly absorbed, she told me, and supplements can help in people over 50 (and vegans, because B12 comes from animal products). Then there’s a combination supplement that may slow the progression of macular degeneration. It’s also possible a daily multivitamin may decrease some disease risk.

9) I actually never use Rotten Tomatoes (I’m more a Metacritic guy), but I found this “behind the scenes” take on how they work quite interesting.

10) Look at this, #10 before my first purely political post this week (maybe politics is just too damn depressing this week).  Very good stuff from Lynn Vavreck and Chris Tausanovitch, “Are Democratic Voters Truly Divided by Ideology?  Survey results suggests their views and priorities are far more alike than different, despite labels like moderate or progressive, centrist or liberal.”

Of course, similarities across voters on policy preferences don’t imply similarities across candidates, and some voters will care about the distinctions even if, on average, everyone’s supporters want the same things. What’s clear is that policies aren’t driving division among most of the supporters of these candidates. If there is a fight for the future of the Democratic Party, it doesn’t appear to be playing out in terms of what voters want from their government. On that, no matter whom they may vote for in the primary, Democratic voters appear to be driving on a one-lane road. [emphasis mine]

11) I am so on this.  NYT, “Looking on the Bright Side May Be Good for Your Health: A number of recent long-term studies has linked greater optimism to a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease and other chronic ailments and to fostering ‘exceptional longevity.'”  Thing is, this seems so much more like just how I am naturally wired, than a conscious choice.  And, it is.  But everybody can do at least something:

Although the evidence indicates that a person’s outlook on life tends to stay stable over time, given the potential health benefits of optimism, I asked Dr. Rozanski if there might be a way to foster greater optimism in chronic pessimists.

He cited the tenets of cognitive behavioral therapy, which can help people develop better coping skills and counter negative thoughts.

“Our thinking is habitual, not conscious, so the first step is to learn to catch yourself when thinking negatively and make a commitment to change how you look at things,” he advised. “Recognize that the way you’re thinking is not necessarily the only way to think about a situation. Just that thought alone can decrease the toxic effect of negativity. Step two is to substitute a better thought that is credible.”

Dr. Rozanski likened the practice to increasing muscle strength, “gradually building a ‘muscle’ of positive thinking, for example, by trying to feel more grateful.”

I also asked these experts whether there’s a downside to optimism. The answer: not if it’s realistic and fosters views and outcomes that are within the realm of possibility.

12) Dan Froomkin calls out NYT’s Peter Baker on absolutely egregious both-sidesim.  As much as I love the NYT I wish it was better than this.  But for it’s lead political reporters, it’s just not.

There is one principle that should guide every serious news organization’s coverage of the impeachment trial: That the full truth should come out.

But because that guiding principle might tend to be interpreted as biased in favor of the political party that currently subscribes to that same notion, it has been wholly abandoned by the leaders of our most elite newsrooms, and by the reporters who have risen to stardom by doing their bidding.

Instead, as they do with so many other political stories, these journalists approach the impeachment trial as a game, covering each side with as little show of favoritism as they can possibly muster. This often leads to false equivalence, one example of which is when “both sides” are equally blamed for something that only one side has actually done.

Sometimes, the conflict between that approach and the one in which getting at the truth matters is just too much to deal with, if you care at all about the latter.

Case in point: New York Times all-star Peter Baker’s infuriating article Wednesday about how Democrats and Republicans have turned themselves “upside-down” when it comes to their views of John Bolton.

Yes, there’s a legitimate story in how Republicans who once spoke adoringly about Bolton are now calling him a traitor.

But to my knowledge, no Democratic senators have changed their minds about Bolton. They still think he is, as Baker gently mocks them for saying so in his lede, “too extreme,” “aggressively and dangerously wrong”“downright dangerous,” “nutty,” “reckless” and “far outside the mainstream.”

What these Democrats do believe is that Bolton’s testimony could help arrive at the truth. And they want Republican senators to hear him out.

13) It’s not surprising that Trump’s latest, disgusting moves on immigration haven’t gotten more attention this particular week, but, damn they are still so wrong.  I really like the way Masha Gessen puts it in a larger context of how Americans think about personal responsibility.

The thinking that underpinned the anti-immigrant amendments was fundamentally indistinguishable from the thinking that drove welfare reform in general: that undeserving people would somehow take advantage of the system, getting something for nothing. The spectre of the “welfare queen” haunted America. Viewed through the prism of this fear, immigrants are the least deserving people of all, because they haven’t paid their imaginary dues.

One could point out that noncitizens pay taxes. (Notably, many noncitizens pay Social Security taxes even though they may never attain the status that would entitle them to benefits.) But arguing about taxes misses the point. The basic idea behind the welfare state is that it’s best for a society when all its members lead lives of dignity. Not only those who have paid taxes, not only those who have worked, want to work, or will work, not only those who were born here, but all people who inhabit this wealthy land ought to have a roof over their heads and food on the table, have basic medical care, and be free of fear that they will not have any of these things tomorrow. Precisely because this is the foundational principle of a welfare state, in most welfare states noncitizens are eligible for public assistance, and, indeed, public assistance is seen as an essential element of integrating immigrants into society.

14) Fun and interesting stuff from Marc Hetherington (honestly about the best combination of excellent political scientist and good person I know) and others about how Iowa voters are making their choices:

In considering whom to nominate to run against President Trump, Democrats in Iowa appear to be employing criteria they might use to choose a car to drive or music to listen to: whether they want to fit in with the crowd or stand out.

Former vice president Joe Biden — establishment candidate and front-runner — is losing potential supporters for a reason that has nothing to do with political views. Many Democratic voters have a strong “desire to be different” in their regular lives. That disposes them toward candidates with more niche views and backgrounds.

Like driving a Saab rather than a Honda or arguing that punk rock pioneers Iggy and the Stooges were superior to mainstream favorite Led Zeppelin, picking candidates who challenge the establishment allows people to advertise their distinctiveness and authenticity.

We used survey data collected in Iowa to find out how much individuals’ preferences for being unconventional influences their political choices…

Our new theory suggests people inform their political choices by drawing on the same habits of mind they use in their personal lives. The habits of mind that people call on most frequently will also be the ones they turn to most when they encounter new problems or need to make new choices.

That is why a general desire to be different is a compelling explanation for primary election voting behavior. Americans have countless opportunities to decide whether to conform or be different. Choosing a candidate in a primary might look like yet another opportunity for that desire to be different…

In the December survey, we offered people the following three statements, and asked whether they agreed, disagreed or neither:

  1. When it comes to things like which sports teams to root for, which styles of clothes to wear, which type of cars to drive, what kind of music to listen to, and so forth, I tend to choose things that are different from the choices most people make.
  2. I like ideas and activities that are unconventional.
  3. When something becomes popular with other people, I tend to become less interested in it.

To measure desire to be different, we summed up respondents’ answers to the three questions and took the average. We divided scores into three categories — low, medium, and high — to more easily compare the choices of people who do not want to stand out with those who like to be different…

While desire to be different devastates Biden’s support, it is a bulwark of Sanders’s support. The quirky Vermonter runs only third, with 23 percent, among those who score low in desire to be different — but he leads all his competitors, with 32 percent, among those who like to stand out.

Warren also benefits from people who prefer the less conventional. She receives only 18 percent support from those scoring low in desire to be different, placing her last among the top four. But among those who score medium or high, she is nine and six points more popular.

15) Chait, “The Republican Cover-up Will Backfire. The House Can Keep Investigating Trump.”

16) Important twitter thread from Ezra:

 

 

 

 

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