Quick hits (part I)

1) Benjamin Wittes (who really knows what he’s talking about) gives 10 reasons “it’s probably too late to stop Mueller.”  I think he’s right, but I’d be happier without the “probably” in there.

2) Nice Monkey Cage analysis from Political Scientist Charles Smith III on why we have to wait so long for election results now.  This is the new reality we just need to get used to:

his slow process of counting ballots has produced considerable controversy. But it shouldn’t. Both state laws and sheer logistics make it impossible to finish counting ballots on election night or even within a day or two. Here’s why that is — and why newly counted ballots seem to favor Democratic candidates.

Why the counting isn’t done on election night

The election night tradition of gathering around the television to see the votes come in and news organizations “call” the winners gives us a false impression: All the votes that need to be counted can, and should, be tallied in the minutes after  the close of polls.

But this is wrong. For one, in almost every state, provisional ballots will have been cast on Election Day by voters whose registration cannot be verified.  In 2016, 2.1 million voters cast a provisional ballot, 71 percent of which were eventually counted after the registration was verified. States are currently in the middle of verifying the registration status of those who cast provisional ballots in 2018, and decisions are being made about whether to count those ballots in this election. Moreover, millions of ballots have been mailed in, which now need to be opened, have voters’ signatures compared to the signature on record and then scanned.

In some states, this means that a large number of votes are counted after Election Day. In 2016, California and Washington counted less than half their votes within a day of the election. Three other states, Alaska, Arizona and Utah counted only about 60 percent. Another six states had counted only 90 percent of their ballots.

In Arizona, ballot-counting takes extra time because three-quarters of Arizona’s voters cast ballots by mail. Many of these are returned in person on Election Day. Processing mail ballots is labor-intensive and can take days if not weeks to complete…

What’s happened in Florida and Arizona is nothing new. In fact, it’s entirely consistent with current trends in election law and election administration. Voters across the United States have demanded greater flexibility in how and when they cast their ballots. This greater flexibility comes with a price: a delay in counting ballots.

Of course, one must guard against shenanigans that could occur during the counting of these additional ballots.

But to date, nothing about the vote-counting in Arizona and Florida suggests that the growing number of votes or their Democratic tilt are due to electoral improprieties.

3) I loved learning all about how the kilogram is being redefined to a universal standard.  It’s wild that until know our basic unit of weight is based on a piece of metal sitting in France.

4) I love NC State basketball and certainly understand the desire to name things after Jim Valvano, but this name is ridiculous: Kay Yow Court at James T. Valvano Arena at William Neal Reynolds Coliseum

5) Good Krugman piece on how the general failure of the Republican tax cuts undermines much of the rationale of Republican economics:

Meanwhile, there’s no sign of the vast investment boom the law’s backers promised. Corporations have used the tax cut’s proceeds largely to buy back their own stock rather than to add jobs and expand capacity.

But why have the tax cut’s impacts been so minimal? Leave aside the glitch-filled changes in individual taxes, which will keep accountants busy for years; the core of the bill was a huge cut in corporate taxes. Why hasn’t this done more to increase investment?

The answer, I’d argue, is that business decisions are a lot less sensitive to financial incentives — including tax rates — than conservatives claim. And appreciating that reality doesn’t just undermine the case for the Trump tax cut. It undermines Republican economic doctrine as a whole. [emphasis mine]

About business decisions: It’s a dirty little secret of monetary analysis that changes in interest rates affect the economy mainly through their effect on the housing market and the international value of the dollar (which in turn affects the competitiveness of U.S. goods on world markets). Any direct effect on business

6) Drum’s headline captures this well, “Military Experts Say We Should Cut Medicare to Fund Bigger Military.”

7) Nice piece from the Atlantic’s Robinson Meyer on the difficulty of controlling California’s wildfires:

Fires in the United States are getting larger, and the country is rapidly losing the ability to deal with them. During President Ronald Reagan’s first term, the federal government spent a couple hundred thousand dollars a year fighting fires, according to Williams. This year, it plans to spend $2.25 billion just battling fires; its full budget for managing them can exceed $5 billion. Yet forest-fire damage has ballooned nonetheless. Since the early 1980s, the land area burned by wildfires every year has increased by 1,000 percent.

“Fires are outrunning us. We’re trying harder than ever to put them out, and they’re continuing to win, more and more, every year,” Williams said. “And it really isn’t for lack of effort. Even when we know it’s been stupid policy to fight every single fire, we’re still trying as hard as we can to do that.”

It’s a message he wishes he could drill into the head of every American. As the California fires have dominated the news, Williams has been asked by friends and journalists why we can’t just fix wildfires, why we can’t just put them out. We have solved all sorts of complex environmental-engineering problems. Why not wildfire?

The question illustrates “the root problem that got us into this mess,” Williams told me. “We think that we as humans should be able to dominate this phenomenon of wildfire. And in reality, we can’t. Even though we can put a person on the moon, and even though we can create this global computer network, we can’t. This is a natural phenomenon that is similar to the ocean in that it is really big, that it is much larger than us when it really gets going

8) Oh, so much wrong with this news story:

9) Hat tip to my wife (and amateur linguist) for this cool article on how your language affects your color perception:

There wasn’t an English word for the color “orange” until 200 years after the citrus fruit of the same name arrived in Europe. Before then, the color was called by the two other colors that, when mixed, make orange: “yellow-red.”

This is just one striking example of the ways in which color categories are shaped by culture. Ancient languages, including Greek, Chinese, Hebrew, and Japanese, didn’t have a word for blue. And Russian speakers have two distinct category words for light blue vs dark blue: Something is never “blue,” in Russian, it’s either “siniy” (dark blue) or “goluboy” (light blue.)

These words don’t simply reflect what we see, but multiple experiments suggest they influence our perception. In one recent study, published in Psychological Science and reported by the British Psychological Society, researchers showed groups of Greek, German, and Russian speakers (103 people in total) a rapid series of shapes, and were told to look out for a grey semi-circle. This semi-circle appeared alongside a triangle in different shades of blue and green, and participants later reported whether they saw a complete triangle, a slight or strong impression of the shape, or didn’t see it at all.

Researchers found that Greek and Russian speakers, who have dedicated words for light and dark blue, were more likely to see a light blue triangle against a dark blue background (and vice versa), than they were to identify green triangles against green backgrounds. Speakers of German, which has no such distinction, were no better at seeing shades of blue triangles than green.

10) I loved this youtube video on why Led Zeppelin’s John Bohnam was such an amazing drummer.  I’ve long-believed that having a great drummer is an under-appreciated fact of why some very good rock bands are great rock bands.

11) Connor Friedersdorf on the folly of blaming “white women” for Trump and Republican victories.

12) I’ve long thought the Post’s Charles Lane responsible for some of the most fabulously inane columns.  He’s so convinced himself of his “both sides!” sensible centrism that he writes columns like, “Voters took on gerrymandering. The Supreme Court doesn’t need to.”  I don’t need to explain to you how utterly short-sighted that is.

13) Interesting piece in Chronicle of Higher Ed on helping college students confront their biases.  My more simplistic approach– start ever single class with Ezra Klein’s “How politics makes us stupid.”

14) Found this article about big box stores trying to cut property taxes via “dark store theory” pretty interesting.

15) Dana Goldstein writes, “Voters Widely Support Public Schools. So Why Is It So Hard to Pay for Them?”  My theory is that it has something to do with the fact that there is a political party committed to telling voters that taxes are bad and no matter what and encouraging delusional thinking like we can have good schools without paying for them.  I won’t name that political party.

16) Wild stuff (literally).  Escaped-from-a-theme-park Rhesus macaques in Florida carry a deadly herpes virus.

17) Somehow I missed this story last week about a man who died from eating a slug.  I brought it up today when I told my kids not to eat the slug in the front yard.  My wife told me this was so last week.  Umm, also, real.

18) This graphic of what treatments are effective for the common cold in children and adults is awesome!  I’m a big fan of the ibuprofen plus pseudoephedrine plus caffeine approach (caffeine does not directly address the basic symptoms, but in my experience when combined with the others really helps with the “generally feeling like crap” symptom).

19) I found the new/recent Peter Rabbit movie (currently on Netflix) unexpectedly charming.

20) I had seen all week that this piece on Larry Nassar (the gymnast-molesting-physician) was amazing and after yet another recommendation, finally read it yesterday.  Just read it.

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Quick hits (part II)

1a) Ezra on Republican lies on health care:

But there’s another question all this raises: Why are Republicans spending so much time lying about their health care policy? Why not just adopt the popular protections for preexisting conditions they claim to support? How did Republicans get here?

I have a theory.

A bit of health policy history is necessary here. In the early 2000s, it looked like Democrats and Republicans were converging around an approach to health care both could live with, built atop some of the Republican ideas offered in response to Bill Clinton’s 1994 proposal…

Over the next decade, opposition to Obamacare became the central feature of Republican policy thought. This had two downstream consequences. One was that it wrecked the central political theory behind the Obamacare compromise — that Democrats, in giving up the policy advantages of single-payer, would gain the political benefits of bipartisan support — and sent Democrats toward Medicare-for-all, which is better at cutting costs, simpler to explain, and more difficult to challenge legally.

The other was that it forced Republicans to abandon a basically reasonable vision of health care policy and left them with, well, nothing. Opposing Obamacare isn’t a policy vision, but it had to be made into one, and so Republicans tried: They began attacking Obamacare’s weak spots — its high premiums and deductibles — and proposing to lower them by permitting insurers to once again discriminate against the sick and the old…

The problem with the Republican health care vision is that it’s hideously unpopular; that’s why the GOP’s Obamacare replacement efforts collapsed. And it’s left Republicans with two choices. They can level with the public about their health care plan and lose the election or they can lie to the public about their health care plan in a bid to keep their jobs. So far, they’ve chosen lying. [emphasis mine]

1b) Chait on GOP lying on health care:

In any case, Trump’s “plan” for health care is a lawsuit to deny protections for people with preexisting conditions. This is the opposite of having a plan to protect people with preexisting conditions.

Republicans are doing this both because they viscerally despise Obamacare and because they ideologically believe the government should not regulate the insurance market. But their position is wildly unpopular. The dynamics of competitive democracy suggest Republicans should be forced to abandon a policy position that they cannot defend to the electorate. Instead they are obscuring their stance with wild lies without altering its substance whatsoever. Whether they succeed in doing so poses an important test for the democratic process.

2) Good stuff from Dylan Scott on how 2018 is the Identity Politics election:

2018 is a trial run for the future

For as much as Republicans decry identity politics, preying on white fears about changing demographics and brown criminals is just another form of it. Republicans don’t have much to offer their voters except corporate tax cuts and Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, so they’re stirring up white fright. Cruz’s campaign is trying to paint O’Rourke as a young punkbeholden to Hollywood liberals. Gillum has faced something more sinister, multiple racist robocalls of neo-Nazi origins.

A promising showing in 2018 for these young, diverse candidates — carried into office thanks to young, diverse voters — would bode well for Democrats in 2020. They can build on that momentum to craft a winning coalition to win the White House. Republicans would, meanwhile, need to evaluate whether running back to the Trump playbook is palatable one more time or whether it would risk electoral disaster.

On the other hand, meager Democratic victories in 2018 would leave the party with uncomfortably few answers about how to win elections in the Trump era — and lend the Republicans confidence that they can keep winning on white fear, at least for the short term.

The midterms represent two very different bets about what kind of identity politics can win an election in America in 2018. Democrats are putting faith in a diverse, progressive future. Republicans see a much darker underbelly in the American electorate, and they are hoping to exploit it for another unexpectedly triumphant Election Day.

3) The extreme prosecution of people for assisting other voters is just voter suppression by another name.  Shame on these prosecutors.

4) Nice Atlantic piece on the present and future of NC politics.

5) Kristoff is absolutely right– legacy admissions is affirmative action for the privileged and we need to do away with it.  I’d like to think I would have still gotten into Duke if both my parents had not gone there, but, damnit, the last thing a kid whose parents went to Duke needs is a lower bar for entry into an elite university.

6) Julia Belluz, “Fox News says the migrant caravan will bring disease outbreaks. That’s xenophobic nonsense.”  Fox is just the worst.  Ugh.

7) Great Conor Friedersdorf piece:

This week, Donald Trump clarified the stakes in the midterm elections. Speaking on behalf of the Republican Party, he urged his followers to back its congressional candidates at the ballot box in a demagogic video. It opens on a demented murderer speaking Spanish in court and segues to footage of the caravan of Honduran migrants entering Mexico, portraying them as barbarian hordes at the gates.

No responsible political actor would select and juxtapose those video images. No charitable or exculpatory account of its intent is even plausible. It was a naked effort to stoke bigotry and exploit ethnic anxieties.

And no Republican Party message is more prominent…

If the GOP succeeds next week at the ballot box, politicians all over the country will conclude that they can advance their careers by vilifying minority groups, frightening voters predisposed to xenophobia, and dividing Americans. No incentive structure is more dangerous to a multiethnic nation. Politicians in other nations marshaling similar tactics have sparked sectarian violence, campaigns of ethnic cleansing, and civil war. Trump happens to preside over a country where such extreme outcomes are unlikely. But that does not change the character of his tactics or the moral obligation to stand against them. [emphasis mine]

8) Great twitter thread on the Republican party of Lincoln.

9) And  great twitter thread from Greg Sargent on what a heinous and fascist use of the military it is for Trump to send troops to the border to “protect” us from the caravan.

10) This is a few minutes old, but I just came across it and I love it.  One of my favorite local sports columnists on the importance of local news (and paying for news):

The Athletic started from scratch, online, and doesn’t have those issues – or that tradition. I wish The Athletic the best. More jobs for people in my line of work is a good thing, and a little healthy competition is as well. They have hired some of my really good friends, longtime and valued colleagues and people I don’t know but whose work I deeply respect.

But they can’t do what we do: Cover a community from top to bottom with the kind of depth and analysis you can’t get from two minutes on TV and the expertise your neighbor posting on Nextdoor doesn’t have. There’s a reason newspapers have thrived for hundreds of years: There’s no better way to get a digest of the news than to have it reported, collated and curated by people who know what they’re doing, whether that’s in print or online.

Our methods of delivery may change – we have some new ideas of our own coming soon – and our numbers may dwindle as we adjust to the changing news economy, but our commitment to our craft and our jobs has not and will not.

I believe in that. There’s no better place in the world to be a sports columnist than the Triangle. And I believe in the vital role newspapers play in our communities and in our country. So I’m staying.

So even if you don’t subscribe to the paper, support us by paying for full access to our website. Or support them. Or both. But news isn’t free. In fact, it’s ridiculously expensive to report and create. If you like it, pay to keep it coming. It’s still the best deal out there. [emphasis mine]

11) Great essay from Ezra on Trump and the media.  You need to read it.

Days after Trump’s inauguration, then-chief strategist Steve Bannon gave an interview to the New York Times.

“I want you to quote this,” Bannon said. “The media here is the opposition party.”

Just in case his point was missed, he said it again. “You’re the opposition party. Not the Democratic Party. You’re the opposition party. The media’s the opposition party.”

The problem was the media didn’t want to be Trump’s opposition party. The media wanted to cover his presidency. Early on, the media wanted more than anything else to normalize his presidency, and their coverage of it; there was a constant hunt for the moments when Trump appeared presidential or seemed to be changing his behavior to better match the burdens of his office.

Trump’s solution to that problem has been to provoke the media into looking like his opposition by lying in more absurd ways and directly attacking them in more outrageous ways at more and more outrageous times. Remember, for instance, “The FAKE NEWS awards,” which Trump hyped on Twitter for weeks?

Trump leverages the trollish formulas boyd outlined to perfection: He uses Twitter to create spectacle on social media, deploys catchy and unusual frames (“FAKE NEWS!” “the true Enemy of the People”) that sympathizers can search for to find supporting evidence or fellow loyalists, and then uses the media’s aggrieved or simply truth-telling reaction to paints himself as a victim of endless media bias (“90 percent of the coverage of everything this president does is negative”).

The media then reacts in the only way that makes any sense given the situation: We cover Trump’s statements as outrageous and aberrant; we make clear where he’s lied or given succor to violent paranoiacs; we fret over the future of the free press. And then Trump and his loyalists point to our overwhelmingly negative coverage and say, “See? Told you they were the opposition party.”

Trump, in other words, manipulates the media using the same tactics as a run-of-the-mill alt-right troll, and for much the same reason: He wants the media to fight with him so he gets more coverage and shows how biased they are against him. He wants the media to fight him because that drives attention to the things he’s saying, to the conspiracies he’s popularizing, and to himself. Going to war with the media nets Trump much more coverage than giving a speech on manufacturing policy or tax cuts.

The problem is Donald Trump isn’t your run-of-the-mill troll. He’s the president of the United States of America.

 

Quick hits (part II)

1) I still think Honeycrisp are overrated, but I always love learning more about apples.  And, I must admit, I’m pretty excited about the coming Cosmic Crisp.  Also, somehow missed this excellent NPR article about “club apples” from a few years ago.

2) Absolutely an under-covered story this election is Republican voter-supression efforts.  Ari Berman in the NYT:

In Georgia and other states, the question in this election is not just about which candidates voters will support, but whether they’ll be able to cast a ballot in the first place. The fight over voting rights in the midterms is a reminder that elections are not solely about who is running, what their commercials say or how many people are registered to vote. They are about who is allowed to vote and which officials are placing obstacles in the way of would-be voters.

The issue of voter suppression has exploded in recent weeks, most notably in the Georgia governor’s race between Stacey Abrams, a Democrat, and Brian Kemp, a Republican. While running for higher office, Mr. Kemp, as secretary of state, also enforces Georgia’s voting laws. This month, The Associated Press reported that Mr. Kemp’s office had put more than 53,000 voter registration applications in limbo because the information on the forms did not exactly match state databases. Seventy percent of the pending registrations were from African-Americans, leading Ms. Abrams to charge that Mr. Kemp was trying “to tilt the playing field in his favor.” Mr. Kemp claimed a voter registration group tied to Ms. Abrams had “submitted sloppy forms.”

Since the 2010 election, 24 states overwhelmingly controlled by Republicans have put in place new voting restrictions, such as tougher voter ID laws, cutbacks to early voting and barriers to registration. Republicans say these measures are necessary to combat the threat of widespread voter fraud, even though study after study shows that such fraud is exceedingly rare. Many of these states have hotly contested races in 2018, and a drop in turnout among Democratic constituencies, such as young people and voters of color, could keep Republicans in power.

3) And the Atlantic’s Van Newkirk II:

Democracy in America is only a little over five decades old. That’s difficult to square with the America that exists in the storytelling tradition: a brave experiment in a government run for and by the people. In reality, the country has always been defined as much by whom it’s kept from voting as by who is allowed to participate, and the ideal of democracy has always been limited by institutions designed to disenfranchise. Put another way: The great majority of all elections in American history would have been entirely illegitimate under modern law.

It seems even today’s elections would have difficulty meeting those standards. Claims of voter suppression have multiplied during the 2018 midterm-election cycle. Gerrymanders dilute black and Latino votes. Voter-ID laws in some states disproportionately affect people of color. Polling-place changes, lines, and irregularities still characterize the voting experiences of many communities of color. In Georgia, the Republican candidate for governor—the state’s secretary of state, Brian Kemp—is facing a lawsuit over allegedly racially biased voter purges. American democracy finds itself at a crossroads, and a future where more suppression is the norm seems like a strong possibility…

Regardless of the outcome, these tactics will make an indelible historical mark on the Georgia election. In that, it’s the vanguard of a new norm rather than an outlier. Since the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision, in which the Supreme Court defanged federal enforcement of the Voting Rights Act, the Court has taken an ax to the stump of voter protections that remained.

In June of this year, the Court gave its blessing to aggressive voter purges, even those that all existing data indicate affect minority communities most. The Court has moved toward extending authorization for voter-ID laws, despite data showing the same. Adding to the Court’s finding in Shelby County that past disenfranchisement was no longer a valid factor in developing current protections against disenfranchisement, the Court argued that “good faith of [the] state legislature must be presumed,” when it upheld Texas congressional districts that were challenged as racial gerrymanders.

So far, the results have been undeniable. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, up to 2 million more people than expected have lost their voting status because of purges after Shelby County. Also according to the Brennan Center, 23 states have made their voting laws more restrictive since 2010, including six of the 10 states with the highest proportions of black voters. And that count doesn’t include North Carolina, the state with the seventh-highest population of black voters, where a battle involving voter ID, gerrymandering, and racial discrimination has dominated politics over the past decade. Nor does it include Texas, now a major battleground for voter-ID laws and gerrymandering plans that mostly affect its high population of Latino voters.

4) Getting adolescent boys to talk about their feelings.  Hell, yeah.

“In here, we get to say stuff we wouldn’t normally say in front of other people. And we don’t judge each other,” said a seventh grader with dark curls. “Boys should have a safe space to talk about things that matter to us,” said another seventh grader with a hint of a Canadian accent.

The two were veterans of a weekly lunch time boys’ group at the Sheridan School, a K-8 private school in Northwest Washington, D.C., explaining the group’s purpose to new members.

Hands went up, thumbs and pinkies wagged back and forth in the shaka or “hang loose” hand gesture, which signifies full agreement at Sheridan. The group’s primary adviser, Phyllis Fagell, started an activity she called the “man box.” She called out a feeling or emotion, and the boys were supposed to determine if it belonged inside or outside of this figurative container of masculine stereotypes.

The 11 middle-school boys quickly agreed that none of the following belonged in the “man box”: trust, sadness, tenderness, patience, fear, insecurity, confusion, feeling overwhelmed and joy.

“You just eliminated 80 percent of human emotions from the male experience,” said Ms. Fagell, who is the school counselor. “Does that surprise you?”

5) Does living together before marriage increase the likelihood of divorce?  Maybe, maybe not.  (But it does increase the likelihood of going to hell!  Sorry, couldn’t resist).  Seriously, researchers still cannot come to a consensus.

6) Drum’s Q&A on Trump’s oddly sensible proposal on prescription drug prices is the best thing I’ve read on it:

Q: This is great! Right now I pay about $400 in annual premiums and another $1,800 in deductibles and copays for my prescription drugs through Medicare. This could really make a—

A: Hold on, cowboy. Just settle down. Let’s get one thing straight right off: Trump’s announcement has nothing to do with your prescription drug plan.

Q: Wait. What?

A: You’re thinking of Medicare Part D, which was passed in 2003. It covers prescription drugs for seniors, but Republicans specifically prohibited Medicare from negotiating prices on Part D and there’s nothing Trump can do about that. Democrats tried to pass a bill changing this a few years ago, but Republicans filibustered it and it failed.

Q: So Trump is asking them to take another look?

A: Nope. Democrats proposed yet another bill last year that would have allowed Medicare to negotiate drug prices, but Republicans killed it and Trump just shrugged. He was too busy trying to dismantle Obamacare. Nothing is changing there.

7) It’s so fascinating the way complex ecosystems are connected.  And really disturbing how human actions can throw these all out of balance.  On the California coast, sea urchins are gobbling up all the kelp.

8) Interesting idea– battery swapping as a faster and more efficient way to charge electric vehicles.

9) The case for teaching loneliness prevention in our schools:

The ideal school curriculum for teaching loneliness prevention, Holt-Lunstad says, would target social isolation as well as the cognitive processes that make people feel lonelier—while, of course, teaching students the health risks associated with loneliness. “Recognizing that it’s something that we need to take seriously for our health is a primary and critical step,” she says.

Holt-Lunstad advocates for a sort of “social education”—similar to efforts by schools to provide, say, sex education and physical education—that would be integrated into existing health-education curricula to teach students how to build and maintain friendships and relationships. Learning how to provide the kind of help and support a friend or partner feels a need for is an invaluable social skill that can be taught in the classroom, she adds. For example, when a friend who is broke asks for money but instead receives a lecture on financial management, she isn’t likely to feel she’s been supported in the way she needs.

10) Initiatives in California and Florida could require more humane treatment animals.  Since the legislatures are obviously far more influenced by Big Agriculture, this is one way to get policy more in line with what the public actually thinks:

Most Americans aren’t vegetarians or vegans, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t concerned with the welfare of animals. Nearly everyone consumes animals that are raised and killed on factory farms (over 99 percent of land animals raised for food are, so even “humane”-labeled food is typically factory-farmed). But even most meat-eating Americans are strongly opposed to the abuses that are commonplace in the industry. In a 2017 Ipsos/Sentience Institute poll, 49 percent of Americans supported a ban on factory farming, nearly 90 percent thought “farmed animals have roughly the same ability to feel pain and discomfort as humans,” and nearly 70 percent agreed that “the factory farming of animals is one of the most important social issues in the world today.”

11) Nice video of Donald Trump advocating political violence time and time again.

12) David Brooks embracing the “nationalist” tag in defense of Trump is pretty pathetic and disgusting.  A great example of NYT commenters being far smarter than the writer in pointing out that Brooks is really talking about “patriotism” and saying “nationalism” for Trump’s benefit.

13) Column in Chronicle of Higher Education advocating lowering the stakes of the job interview dinner.  Good God I would never want a job at a place that chose against me because I prefer pizza and Diet Dr Pepper over sushi and beer.  My experience… people on the search committee want a free dinner at a fancy restaurant and really don’t care much about what the job candidate eats.

14) My friend and colleague Mark Nance on why North Carolinians should vote against the 6 misleading Constitutional amendments the Republicans put onto our ballot.

15) How a controversial on-line charter school is having a surprisingly large impact on Ohio politics.

16) Interesting piece in the Atlantic,  “College Sports Are Affirmative Action for Rich White Students: Athletes are often held to a lower standard by admissions officers, and in the Ivy League, 65 percent of players are white.”

17) EJ Dionne on the Republicans’ long con on the deficit:

A truly gifted con artist is someone who pulls off the same scam again and again and keeps getting away with it.

Say what you will about Republicans and conservatives: Their audacity when it comes to deficits and tax cuts is something to behold, and they have been running the same play since the passage of the Reagan tax cuts in 1981.

Republicans shout loudly about how terrible deficits are when Democrats are in power — even in cases when deficits are essential to pulling the nation out of economic catastrophe, as was the case at the beginning of President Barack Obama’s first term.

But when the GOP takes control, its legions cheerfully embrace Dick Cheney’s law and send deficits soaring. Recall what President George W. Bush’s vice president said in 2002 justifying the 2003 tax cuts: “Reagan proved deficits don’t matter.”

Deficits don’t matter if they would impede handing out tax benefits to corporations and the affluent. But they put us “on the brink of national bankruptcy” and threaten “a debt crisis,” as House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) put it in 2011, when Democrats want to finance programs for the middle class or the poor.

And here’s the critical insight:

Republicans know one other thing: Their deception will work as long as neutral arbiters — in the media and think tanks along with those who genuinely care about deficits — fail to call it out…[emphasis mine]

So here is my plea to the honest deficit hawks out there: Please face up to how right-wing policies are doubly damaging to national solvency. They raise deficits by reducing revenues. But they also endanger us by aggravating inequalities that themselves imperil sustainable budgets and a growing economy. This is worse than a swindle. It’s a dangerous mistake.

18) Disturbing new evidence on the use of antibiotics in livestock farming:

Now a new study, years in the making, goes further than any other to demonstrate that resistant bacteria can move from animals to humans via the meat they become. It also provides a model of how new surveillance systems might reduce that bacterial flow at its source on farms.

It’s just one study, but it possesses outsize significance, because it eliminates the uncertainty at the center of that bacterial flow. Outside of experimental conditions, it’s never been possible to prove that this antibiotic given to thatanimal gave rise to this bacterium that ended up in thathuman. But this new work dives so deeply into the genomics of bacterial adaptation in food animals and humans, it proves the link that ag would rather deny.

 

 

Quick hits (part I)

Oh man, so tired after a long day at the NC State Fair.  But I know how much DJC enjoys his bright-and-early quick hits part I on Saturday’s, so here’s a start.  And a Ferris Wheel, because I love them.

1) Really enjoyed this Chronicle of Higher Ed piece on the “Interdisciplinary Delusion.”

One direction our thought might take us is to the nature of disciplines themselves. A discipline is an academic unit. It is neither a naturally occurring category nor an arbitrary relic of the history of higher learning. Rather, a discipline is an evolving body of skills, methods, and norms designed to explain parts of the world worth knowing something about. To recognize the importance of disciplines — to fight for their survival — is therefore to advocate for a picture of the world, an ontology. It is to insist that the world does not have a single order that is adequately captured by, for example, biology or physics or computation.

2) David Brooks makes the case for multi-member districts and ranked choice voting.  I’m on board with that.

The way to do that is through multimember districts and ranked-choice voting. In populous states, the congressional districts would be bigger, with around three to five members per district. Voters would rank the candidates on the ballot. If no candidate had a majority of first-place votes, then the candidate with the fewest first-place votes would be eliminated. Voters who preferred that candidate would have their second-choice vote counted instead. The process would be repeated until you get your winners.\

This system makes it much easier for third and fourth parties to form, because voting for a third party no longer means voting for one with no chance of winning. You get a much more supple representation of the different political tendencies that actually exist in the country.

The process also means that people with minority views in their region have a greater chance to be represented in Congress. A district in Southern California, for example, might elect a Bernie Sanders-type progressive, a centrist business Democrat and a conservative.

The current system — wherein a vast majority of seats are safely red or blue and noncompetitive, with only a handful of fiercely contested districts — disappears. Every district becomes a swing district, each vote much more important. Congress begins to work differently because with multiple parties you no longer have stagnant trench warfare — you have shifting coalition-building.

There’s a reason voters in proportional representation countries are less disenchanted with politics than we are. Their systems work better.

3) And Lee Drutman with the really thorough and compelling case for proportional representation.

4) Was Gary Hart, Donna Rice and the Monkey Business all a set-up by Lee Atwater?!  Just maybe.

5) I’m enjoying read The Power.  Interesting speculative fiction has to how the world might change if women were physically dominant (in this case because of a gender specific ability to generate electricity that emerges).  Really interesting ideas.  Though, lately I’m frustrated by the intellectual laziness of the suggestion that most all sexual dynamics (e.g., now women are the pursuers and the objectifiers) would just do a 180 switch.

6) The Senate doesn’t look all that much better for Democrats in 2020 either.  And, its pretty simple.  The Senate dramatically over-represents rural voters and rural voters have become ever more Republican:

Some Democrats are hopeful that the sharp red shift in predominantly smaller, whiter, more rural states will be counterbalanced as diversifying states like North Carolina, Georgia, Arizona, and Texas turn blue. But those smaller, whiter, more rural states have already completed their shift to the right; the others have a long—in some cases, really long—way to go before they can be considered “blue” in the way that we consider, say, Arkansas “red.” The Democratic frustration of living under minority rule isn’t exactly subdued right now. But it’s about to become one of the biggest political stories of the next decade

7) And love this from David Leonhardt: “The Senate: Affirmative Action for White People.”

The biggest racial preferences in this country have nothing to do with college admissions or job offers. They have to do with political power. And they benefit white Americans, at the expense of black, Asian and Hispanic Americans.

These racial preferences are the ones that dictate the makeup of the United States Senate. Thanks to a combination of historical accident and racism, the Senate gives considerably more representation to white citizens than to dark-skinned ones. It allows a minority of Americans — white Americans — to wield the power of a majority.

The anti-democratic tendencies of the Senate are well known: Each citizen of a small state is considered more important than each citizen of a large state. It’s a deliberate feature of the Constitution, created to persuade smaller states to join the union. Over time, though, the racial edge to the Senate’s structure has become much sharper — for two big reasons.

First, the states whose populations have grown the most over time, like California, Texas, Florida and New York, are racially diverse. By contrast, the smallest states, like Wyoming, Vermont, the Dakotas and Maine, tend to be overwhelmingly white. The Senate, as a result, gives far more special treatment to whites than it once did.

The second reason is even more frustrating, but it would also be easier to fix. Right now, about four million American citizens have almost no congressional voting power, not even the diluted power of Californians or Texans. Of these four million people — these citizens denied representative democracy — more than 90 percent are black or Hispanic.

They are, of course, the residents of Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. Almost half of Washington’s residents are black, and nearly all of Puerto Rico’s are Hispanic.

8) Ross Douthat argues that Elizabeth Warren played Trump’s game and lost with her DNA results release.  Given that most elite media seems to agree with him, that kind of makes him right.  Presidential politics is 90% media perception.

9) The Post, “Houses intact after Hurricane Michael were often saved by low-cost reinforcements.”  Here’s a crazy idea– let’s make these (truly) low cost reinforcements the building code.

10) I have noticed that “birthday cake flavor” is everywhere now.  And I love it!  Who needs pumpkin spice (though, I like that a lot, too).

11) This from a conservative PS professor is true, “Think Professors Are Liberal? Try School Administrators.”

Today, many colleges and universities have moved to a model in which teaching and learning is seen as a 24/7 endeavor. Engagement with students is occurring as much — if not more — in residence halls and student centers as it is in classrooms. Schools have increased their hiring in areas such as residential life and student centers, offices of student life and success, and offices of inclusion and engagement. It’s not surprising that many of the free-speech controversies in the past few years at places like Yale, Stanford and the University of Delaware have concerned events that occurred not in classrooms but in student communal spaces and residence halls.

Intrigued by this phenomenon, I recently surveyed a nationally representative sample of roughly 900 “student-facing” administrators — those whose work concerns the quality and character of a student’s experience on campus. I found that liberal staff members outnumber their conservative counterparts by the astonishing ratio of 12-to-one. Only 6 percent of campus administrators identified as conservative to some degree, while 71 percent classified themselves as liberal or very liberal. It’s no wonder so much of the nonacademic programming on college campuses is politically one-sided.

The 12-to-one ratio of liberal to conservative college administrators makes them the most left-leaning group on campus. In previous research, I found that academic faculty report a six-to-one ratio of liberal to conservative professors. Incoming first-year students, by contrast, reported less than a two-to-one ratio of liberals to conservatives, according to a 2016 finding by the Higher Education Research Institute. It appears that a fairly liberal student body is being taught by a very liberal professoriate — and socialized by an incrediblyliberal group of administrators.

12) I had no idea I was being tracked as to whether I open my emails or not.  I am and so are you.

13) Via Drum, this was really interesting.  Women and men are more divergent in wealthier countries:

In every case, people who live in richer countries have stronger gender preferences. Looking at the top row, women have greater altruism, more trust, and higher levels of positive reciprocity (i.e., returning a favor with another favor). Looking at the bottom row, men have greater levels of negative reciprocity (i.e., returning an eye for an eye), more tolerance for risk, and greater patience.

This is basically it. This is a study showing associations, but that’s all:

Our findings do not rule out an influence of gender-specific roles that drive gender differences in preferences. They also do not preclude a role for biological or evolutionary determinants of gender differences. Our results highlight, however, that theories not attributing a significant role to the social environment are incomplete….Greater availability of material resources removes the human need of subsistence, and hence provides the scope for attending to gender-specific preferences. A more egalitarian distribution of material and social resources enables women and men to independently express gender-specific preferences.

In other words, being richer provides more opportunity to act the way you want to, and it turns out that this means men and women are more likely to take on gender-specific roles. However, this study merely notes these differences, it doesn’t try to explain them.

14) Early childhood education may not have long-lasting academic benefits, but the evidence suggests it is still totally worth it.

15) Microplastics are found in 90% of table salt.  Sometimes I think, just maybe, we’ll look back on this era and wonder how we so thoroughly poisoned our environment with plastic.

16) Read Ezra Klein’s big think-piece this week, “The rigging of American politics: Political systems depend on legitimacy. In America, that legitimacy is failing.”

American politics is edging into an era of crisis. A constitutional system built to calm the tensions of America’s founding era is distorting the political competition between parties, making the country both less democratic and less Democratic.

Since 2000, fully 40 percent of presidential elections have been won by the loser of the popular vote. Republicans control the US Senate despite winning fewer votes than Democrats, and it’s understood that House Democrats need to beat Republicans by as much as 7 or 8 points in the popular vote to hold a majority in the chamber. Next year, it’s possible that Republicans will control the presidency and both chambers of Congress despite having received fewer votes for the White House in 2016 and for the House and Senate in 2018.

Kavanaugh now serves on a Supreme Court where four of the nine justices were nominated by a president who lost the popular vote in his initial run for office, and where the 5-4 conservative majority owes its existence to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s extraordinary decision to deny Merrick Garland a hearing. This Court will rule on the constitutionality of gerrymandering, voter ID laws, union dues, campaign finance, Obamacare, and more; that is to say, they will rule on cases that will shape who holds, and who can effectively wield, political power in the future.

“The party that is trying to keep minority rule is also going to be the party that has less interest in true democratic representation,” says Lilliana Mason, a political scientist at the University of Maryland. “You have to break some rules of democracy in order to keep minority rule.”

If these dynamics were at least split — if the geography of the House boosted Democrats while the Electoral College leaned toward Republicans — perhaps the dissatisfaction would be diffused, or the dueling interests of the parties would permit a compromise.

But that’s not the case. America’s growing zones of anti-democracy buoy Republicans, who, in turn, gain more political power to write the rules in their favor. As the left realizes it’s playing a rigged game, it’s becoming determined to rewrite those rules itself. If they succeed, the right will see those rewritten rules as norm-defying power grabs that need to be reversed, matched, or exceeded. It is difficult to imagine, from here, the construction of a political system both sides believe to be fair.

The worst white liberals

Those who say that diversity really is a great thing and we should support diverse public schools, but meanwhile do all they can to get their own kids into exclusive mostly white schools, whether private, charter, or magnet.  Why do these particular liberals bother me so much?  Because many of them are my friends and because they should know better.  I’m talking about thorough social scientists who “know” the data is clear their own kids will succeed and thrive whether they are at a 50th percentile public school or a 95th percentile public school, but insist on the latter because ” you’ve got to do everything you can for your kids.”  No, in fact, you don’t.  Not when that means taking your high SES progeny out of a mixed-income, diverse, neighborhood school where they will surely succeed just fine in order to place them in a elite, high-income, mostly white magnet or charter.  Meanwhile, that diverse public school and the kids there suffer the costs.  Nice LA Times column on this recently from Margaret Hagerman:

For two years I conducted research with 30 affluent white parents and their kids in a Midwestern metropolitan area. Over and over I heard comments like Greg’s reflecting a deep ambivalence: As progressive parents, is their primary responsibility to advance societal values ­— fairness, equal opportunity and social justice — or to give their children all the advantages in life that their resources can provide?

Ding, ding, ding– the correct answer is “advance societal values”!  Unsurprisingly, the most common answer is the latter, while deluding oneself that they are still doing the former.

More often than not, values lost out.

Parents I interviewed felt conflicted about using their social status to advocate for their kids to have the “best” math teacher, because they knew other kids would be stuck with the “bad” math teacher. They registered the unfairness in leveraging their exclusive social networks to get their teenagers coveted summer internships when they knew disadvantaged kids were the ones who truly needed such opportunities. They felt guilty when they protectively removed their children from explicitly racist and contentious situations because they understood that kids of color cannot escape racism whenever they please. Still, those were the choices they made.

“I care about social justice, but — I don’t want my kid to be a guinea pig.”

Parents felt caught in a conundrum of privilege — that there was an unavoidable conflict between being a good parent and being a good citizen. These two principles don’t have to be in tension, of course. Many parents, in fact, expressed a desire to have their ideals and parenting choices align. In spite of that sentiment, when it came to their own children, the common refrain I heard was, “I care about social justice, but — I don’t want my kid to be a guinea pig.”…

Some children in my study, for instance, came to the conclusion that “racism is over” and that “talking about race makes you racist” — the kind of sentiments that sociologists identify as key features of colorblind racism. These were kids who were growing up in an almost exclusively white, suburban social environment outside the city.

The kids who lived in the city but attended predominantly white private schools told me that they were smarter and better than their public schools peers. They also thought they were more likely to be leaders in the future. One boy said proudly, “My school is not for everyone” — a statement that reflected how thoroughly he’d absorbed his position in the world in relation to others…

If affluent, white parents hope to raise children who reject racial inequality, simply explaining that fairness and social justice are important values won’t do the trick. Instead, parents need to confront how their own decisions and behaviors reproduce patterns of privilege. They must actually advocate for the well-being, education and happiness of all children, not just their own.

Being a good parent should not come at the expense of being — or raising — a good citizen. If progressive white parents are truly committed to the values they profess, they ought to consider how helping one’s own child get ahead in society may not be as big a gift as helping create a more just society for them to live in in the future. [emphases mine]

I also enjoyed this Atlantic interview with Hagerman:

I recently spoke to Hagerman, and that second group kept coming up in our conversation—how, despite their intentions, progressive-minded white families can perpetuate racial inequality. She also discussed ways they can avoid doing so. The interview that follows has been edited for length and clarity…

Pinsker: What would it look like for a white affluent parent to make a choice not to give their children “the best”? Is it a matter of not calling the school to get the best math teacher? Or is there a more proactive thing a parent might be able to do?

Hagerman: I think part of it is how we choose to define “the best.” Some of the parents in my book, they rejected the idea that their child needed to be in all the AP classes. They valued other elements of their children’s personalities, such as their concerns about ethics or fairness or social justice. There were a handful of parents in my study who resisted having a separate track for AP students, for example, which can sometimes be a segregating force within schools.

There were also affluent parents who were very much opposed to having police officers in schools, and they were using their position of influence in the community to try to get the police officers out of there. Maybe others would be aware of their own presence at PTA meetings, making sure they’re not dominating them and making sure they’re not putting their own agenda ahead of their peers’ agendas. I’m not sure that I saw tons of behavior like that, but I certainly saw moments where some of the families were concerned more about the collective than their own kid…

But the best answer I can really give is that the micro level potentially could shape what goes on at the institutional or structural level. I really think—and this might sound kind of crazy—that white parents, and parents in general, need to understand that all children are worthy of their consideration. This idea that your own child is the most important thing—that’s something we could try to rethink. When affluent white parents are making these decisions about parenting, they could consider in some way at least how their decisions will affect not only their kid, but other kids. This might mean a parent votes for policies that would lead to the best possible outcome for as many kids as possible, but might be less advantageous for their own child. My overall point is that in this moment when being a good citizen conflicts with being a good parent, I think that most white parents choose to be good parents, when, sometimes at the very least, they should choose to be good citizens.

Yes!  I love that point.  I know, I’m no perfect, selfless white liberal putting the community above my kids– and I probably think of myself as better at this than I am because many of my friends/colleagues seem so bad at it– but, regardless, this is a great point.  All of us in more privileged positions really need to think more about the trade-offs between putting our children first and the choices that truly make a better society.

Quick hits

1) I feel bad that I had missed this about the futility of persuasive political communication, but a politically-minded friend shared on FB:

Significant theories of democratic accountability hinge on how political campaigns affect Americans’ candidate choices. We argue that the best estimate of the effects of campaign contact and advertising on Americans’ candidates choices in general elections is zero. First, a systematic meta-analysis of 40 field experiments estimates an average effect of zero in general elections. Second, we present nine original field experiments that increase the statistical evidence in the literature about the persuasive effects of personal contact tenfold. These experiments’ average effect is also zero. In both existing and our original experiments, persuasive effects only appear to emerge in two rare circumstances. First, when candidates take unusually unpopular positions and campaigns invest unusually heavily in identifying persuadable voters. Second, when campaigns contact voters long before election day and measure effects immediately—although this early persuasion decays. These findings contribute to ongoing debates about how political elites influence citizens’ judgments.

2) The family separation stuff just keeps getting worse and worse— “AP Investigation: Deported parents may lose kids to adoption”– but other than some intrepid reporters it’s like nobody even cares any more.

3) Speaking of not caring, Jack Shafer on how the NYT story basically proving Trump is a tax cheat landed with a thud and is already forgotten.

4) Fortunately, I’ve not run into any #Himtoo in my life.  How pathetic.  Definitely the corollary of “All Lives Matter.”

5) Brian Beutler on the civility trap:

Ironically, the bad faith nature of the GOP’s response to Holder and Clinton underscores just how on point both of them are.

There are two valid and honest ways to assess the notion that Democrats should politick as if Republicans want to “destroy” liberal society, and all it stands for. One is to sort out whether it’s politically wise for Democrats to discuss their opponents in unvarnished terms, and campaign accordingly. The other is to ask whether Clinton, Holder, and others have sized up Republicans correctly. It may be that Democrats will fare better at the polls, at least in some races, if they continue to embrace conciliatory language and politics, no matter how “low” Republicans go. But there is no question that, on the merits, more aggressive Democrats have diagnosed what their party is up against correctly.

There’s almost no sense in belaboring the point at all in the Trump era, but Republicans are no strangers to protest politics or incivility. What they reveal, in treating the Tea Party, and the massive resistance to the Obama presidency, and the Trump campaign as natural expressions of public discontent, and the backlash to Trump as a “mob,” is that they seek to make conservative politics the only legitimate form of politics in America.

Republicans pretend to be galled by “uncivil” political rhetoric, not in order to ease partisan tensions, but to warp public perception of where the dangerous, illiberal forces in the democracy are actually located; to distract the commentariat from arenas full of angry Trump supporters chanting for the imprisonment of various female liberals, and beating up protesters, while convincing those supporters that they’re the ones truly under threat.

Trump isn’t oblivious to the apparent hypocrisy of whining about Brett Kavanaugh’s presumptive innocence and declaring Democrats “too dangerous to govern,” within minutes of leading a “lock her up” chant. But it’s only true hypocrisy if you believe the conservatives and liberals share the rights and privileges of American life equally.

In eras of Democratic rule, Republicans take such an expansive view of resistance politics that they treat the threat of political violence as a legitimate part of protest.

6) Damn, if this case doesn’t bring into sharp relief the racial inequity in our criminal justice system.

7) On the limits of Tsunnami early warning systems and what to do if one is coming.

8) Enjoyed Josh Marshall’s unpacking of the GOP’s theory of Christine Blasey Ford:

Of all the things that have happened over the last two weeks, it’s not the biggest problem. But it has been gnawing at me. I believe it actually is a big deal, albeit in a somewhat oblique way. Let’s start with Senator Susan Collins today on CNN. Collins told Dana Bash: “I do not believe that Brett Kavanaugh was her assailant. I do believe that she was assaulted. I don’t know by whom. I’m not certain when.” I focus on Collins only because it is a simple, clear statement. But the great majority of Senate Republicans have made some version of the same argument.

So let’s just say it. This is a preposterous.

It’s possible Blasey Ford is lying about her account. I doubt it, given the evidence we have before us. But it’s possible. What is extraordinarily implausible is that Blasey Ford was attacked, clearly identified the attacker as Brett Kavanaugh, someone she knew reasonably well, and yet somehow confused him with someone else. This isn’t a case where she’d never met Kavanaugh before and picked him out of a line up. That kind of misidentification is plausible and happens. This is different. She already knew him. She knew what he looked like and she has a clear recollection that he attacked her. If someone you know violently attacks you or sexually assaults you, the identity of the person is indelibly fused into the memory because they are inseparable from the act. We don’t have to get overly technical about this. The point is obvious. If you know someone well and they attack you, you’re going to know it’s them and basically be certain about it.

But Collins doesn’t stop here and neither do her colleagues. She is not only sure Kavanaugh didn’t do it. She is also not sure “when” it happened. She and her Republican colleagues suggest that Blasey Ford may have been attacked at some different point in her life altogether – maybe in college? maybe as an adult? – and transposed it back on to her early teenage years.

This is more parlor game hypothetical than anything that is remotely likely to be true.

9) Save the planet, switch to goat meat.  Seriously.  Even notoriously picky me is now open to giving it a try:

“It is difficult to factory-raise goat meat,” said Anita Dahnke, executive director of the AGF, a nonprofit national association representing those who raise goats for milk, meat and fiber, and for pack and grazing services. Dahnke, who also is a partner on a 100-head goat farm in west-central Indiana, explained: “Goats need to get out and ‘browse,’ not graze, so if you’re eating domestic goat, that animal was almost certainly free-range.” She says that most goat herds are definitely not big business in the United States: “The average herd size is 35 head, which is small, so they are not produced at a large-scale level.”

10) Wired on the dangers of us all having our phone number as our universal ID.

11) Interesting essay on “Making Academic Life “Workable” for Fathers.”  Honestly, all I could think about reading this is that Anne-Marie Slaughter is so right that the key is that our society needs to fundamentally re-value how we think about care-giving.

12) Yascha Mounk brings his thoughts on the cultural studies hoax into a nice Atlantic article.

13) Yoni Applebaum on, “How Columbus Day Fell Victim to Its Own Success” was really interesting:

The great irony of Columbus Day, though, is that its struggle for a pluralistic nation succeeded only too well. The ineradicable racial difference of the swarthy Italians faded, over a short few decades, into an indistinguishable whiteness. In 1960, America elected a Catholic president. New waves of immigrants, and other marginalized groups, pressed for an America that would affirm the equality not only of different varieties of white men from Europe, but of all of its varied people. And they proved less likely to recognize themselves in Columbus than in his victims.

The land Columbus encountered was already abundantly peopled; celebrating his voyage as a discovery seemed to confirm a Eurocentric narrative. Many activists pointed to Columbus’ own sins, most significantly his brutal treatment of the continent’s indigenous inhabitants. Others broadened the attack to encompass the subsequent centuries of abuse visited upon native peoples, and the varied flaws of the nations created in his wake. His critics transformedColumbus into the paradigmatic dead white male, a symbol of the limits and costs of American opportunity.

Just as the 400th anniversary of his arrival once galvanized celebrations, the 500th anniversary crystallized this opposition. “Columbus represents fundamentally the beginnings of modern white racism and the construction of racial identities in the United States,” charged historian Manning Marable in 1992. In Denver, where the legal holiday began, American Indian Movement activists poured fake blood on a statue of Columbus in 1989, setting the model for nationwide protests. They capped several years of escalating protests by shutting down the cinquecentennial Columbus Day Parade.

As protesters confront paraders today, they might consider that they actually share quite a bit in common. Those who created Columbus Day, like those who now denounce it, were engaged in a struggle to define a more capacious and inclusive nation. That a holiday named for an Italian Catholic is now taken to mark a national identity that is too narrow, rather than too broad, is the ultimate evidence of its success.

15) Never-Trumper Tom Nichols on why he is finally leaving the Republican Party.

Quick hits (part IB)

A few more I wanted to add in today:

1) Really enjoyed Drum’s take on Kavanaugh:

But there’s something else about the Kavanaugh hearing that struck me pretty hard, possibly because I’m 60 years old and I’ve watched it unfold.¹ For starters, it didn’t change my mind. Quite the opposite. I think it’s obvious that Christine Blasey Ford was telling the truth and that Kavanaugh told a lot of lies. This almost certainly means he’s lying about the assault on Ford too. The funny thing is that I’m still willing to give him the benefit of the doubt about what really happened. Like a lot of people, I refer to his actions as “attempted rape,” but there’s a pretty good chance that this wasn’t his intent at all. At the time, he may well have thought of it as nothing more than horseplay, just a bit of fun and games with no intention of ever taking it past that. And intent matters. Being an infantile 17-year-old lout is way different than being a 17-year-old rapist.

But when he was first asked about all this, he panicked and denied everything. He didn’t have to: he could have admitted what happened, apologized, confessed that he never had any idea how badly it had scarred Ford, and then explained that he’d tried to make up for it by being especially sensitive in his hiring and treatment of women ever since. I’m pretty sure that this would have cooled things down pretty quickly. But once he denied the incident entirely, he had no choice but to stick to his story. Everything that’s happened since has hinged on that one rash mistake.

And this is what explains his almost comically angry testimony. He knew he was guilty and he also knew he couldn’t admit that he’d lied about it. But the Republican playbook has a page for this. Even before his appearance, there were news reports about the advice Kavanaugh was getting: he needed to be passionate, angry, and vengeful against the Democrats who plainly orchestrated this entire witch hunt.

2) And Trevor Noah’s take.

3) And I love this about people who think they will impress others with their fancy purchases:

One story that’s true: Acquiring something luxurious can temporarily increase one’s self-esteem. One story that’s not: Acquiring something luxurious can impress potential friends.

A recent study by Stephen Garcia at the University of Michigan explores that second myth. He and his co-authors set up a variety of hypothetical scenarios and asked subjects what they’d choose to do in one of two roles—either as someone trying to make friends or as someone evaluating potential friends. They found that there’s an imbalance in how the people in the latter position perceive those in the former. “People think … that status is going to attract new friends,” he told me. “However, it actually has the opposite effect—that is, people would rather befriend, in a conversation or in an interaction, someone who doesn’t display [high-]status, but rather more neutral markers,” like a Timex instead of a Rolex…

In another experiment, college students were asked to pick who they’d like to have a conversation with after being presented with two profiles of imaginary participants that included their hobbies, their home state, the type of car they drive, and the brand of winter coat they wear. The fancier peer—the one who drove a 2017 BMW and wore a Canada Goose jacket—was picked less than a quarter of the time.

Garcia told me that one way to explain these findings is that people, when looking for friends, don’t like feeling inadequate; there’s research showing that people get uncomfortable when their friends outperform them and that they’re less okay with a friend’s success than with a stranger’s. (Another interpretation—and this one’s mine—is that people might mistrust rich people, or at least those who flaunt their wealth.)

4) It really is kind of crazy the way parents have turned a blind eye to the debauchery that is beach week for many east coast kids.  Even my friends who had relatively cautious parents let their kids go.  That said, from what I recall, the well-behaved kids with cautious parents generally did refrain from most of the debauchery.  (As did I, for what it’s worth, though I don’t think my non-cautious parents would have even cared that much).

5) Love this!  Dear Brett Kavanaugh– going to Yale is not a moral defense.  It just means you are smart and debauched.

At one point, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse pursued a line of questioning about the “Beach Week Ralph Club,” a phrase that appeared in Kavanaugh’s yearbook next to his senior photo. Kavanaugh told Whitehouse that “Ralph” probably referred to vomiting, something that Kavanaugh attributed to his “weak stomach, whether it’s with beer or with spicy food or anything.” Whitehouse asked if the “Ralph Club” reference had to do specifically with alcohol, and Kavanaugh responded:

Senator, I was at the top of my class academically, busted my butt in school. Captain of the varsity basketball team. Got in Yale College. When I got into Yale College, got into Yale Law School. Worked my tail off.

It was a deflection, but the particular shield he raised was telling. His response seems to suggest a belief that a prestigious education stands as evidence of moral rightness.

He offered the same defense when Senator Mazie Hirono brought up the fact that Kavanaugh’s freshman-year roommate recently remembered him as “a notably heavy drinker, even by the standards of the time.” First, Kavanaugh questioned his former roommate’s motives for saying such a thing. But then he said, “Senator, you were asking about college. I got into Yale Law School. That’s the number-one law school in the country. I had no connections there. I got there by busting my tail in college.”

In those two exchanges, Kavanaugh treated his education as a magic wand, something that could be waved to dispel questions of his conduct. Indeed, Americans have a particular fondness for meritocratic narratives, frequently conflating achievements and hard work with human worth. And as deserving as they tend to think the wealthy and accomplished are of their money and success, it’s likely that luck gets underrated as a cause of them, as the economist Robert Frank has argued. (The word meritocracy was actually coined satirically, in an attempt to show how cruel the world would be if the intelligent and accomplished received preferable treatment.)

6) Krugman on Republican hypocrisy on health care.

On graduation, most medical students swear some version of the ancient Hippocratic oath — a promise to act morally in their role as physicians. Human nature being what it is, some will break their promise. But we still expect those who provide health care to behave more ethically than the average member of society.

When it comes to how political figures deal with health care, however, we’ve come to expect the opposite, at least on one side of the aisle. It often seems as if Republican politicians have secretly sworn a Hypocrite’s oath — a promise to mislead voters to the best of their ability, to claim to support the very protections for the sick they’re actively working to undermine.

To see what I mean, consider the case of Josh Hawley of Missouri, who is running for the Senate against Claire McCaskill.

Hawley is one of 20 state attorneys general who have brought a lawsuit attempting to repeal a key provision of the Affordable Care Act — the provision that protects people with pre-existing medical conditions, by requiring that insurance companies cover everyone of similar age at the same rate regardless of medical history. Kill that provision, and millions of vulnerable Americans will lose their insurance.

But here’s the thing: Protecting coverage for pre-existing conditions is overwhelmingly popular, commanding majority support even among Republicans. And McCaskill has been hammering Hawley over his role in that lawsuit.

So Hawley has responded with ads claiming that he, too, wants to protect those with pre-existing conditions, as supposedly shown by his support for a bill that purports to provide such protection.

I have to say, you almost have to admire the sheer brazenness of the dishonesty here. For the bill Hawley touts is a fraud: It’s full of loopholes allowing insurers to discriminate in ways that would end up making essential health care unaffordable for those who need it most.

7) Why divorce rates are still declining– it’s about who gets married:

When I asked Andrew Cherlin, a sociology professor at Johns Hopkins University, how to make sense of this trend, he opened his explanation with something of a koan: “In order to get divorced,” he said, “you have to get married first.”

The point he was making was that people with college degrees are now more likely to get married than those who have no more than a high-school education. And the key to understanding the declining divorce rate, Cherlin says, is that it is “going down some for everybody,” but “the decline has been steepest for the college graduates.”

The reason that’s the case is that college graduates tend to wait longer to get married as they focus on their career. And they tend to have the financial independence to postpone marriage until they’re more confident it will work. This has translated to lower rates of divorce: “If you’re older, you’re more mature … you probably have a better job, and those things make it less likely that you’ll get into arguments with your spouse,” Cherlin says.

Divorce rates had been increasing since the mid-1800s, in part because of what Cherlin described as “a gradual growth in the sense that it was okay to end a marriage if you’re unhappy.” Divorces spiked after World War II, peaking in 1980.

Cherlin says that in the late 1970s, when he received his Ph.D., it was widely expected among researchers that the divorce rate would continue to rise. But it hasn’t, and what’s behind this unforeseen development is the decline of marriage—and the corresponding rise of cohabitation—among Americans with less education. As the sociologist Victor Chen wrote for The Atlantic last year, those without college degrees were a few decades ago significantly likelier to be married by age 30 than were those with college degrees. Now, Chen notes, “just over half of women in their early 40s with a high-school degree or less education are married, compared to three-quarters of women with a bachelor’s degree.”

Chen connects this trend to the decline of well-paying jobs for those without college degrees, which, he argues, makes it harder to form more stable relationships. Indeed, Cohen writes in his paper that marriage is “an increasingly central component of the structure of social inequality.” The state of it today is both a reflection of the opportunities unlocked by a college degree and a force that, by allowing couples to pool their incomes, itself widens economic gaps.

So, looking at married couples alone doesn’t capture the true nature of American partnerships today. “If you were to include cohabiting relationships [in addition to marriages], the breakup rates for young adults have probably not been going down,” Cherlin says. In other words: Yes, divorce rates are declining. But that’s more a reflection of who’s getting married than of the stability of any given American couple.

8) Philip Bump documents all the places Kavanaugh’s testimony was either false or misleading.  It’s not a short article.

9) Great Fresh Air interview with a former White Nationalist who was basically born into it.  And a nice Post article on him from a couple years ago.

10) Can I tell you how little sympathy I have for folks upset that 12:00 football games don’t leave them enough time to get drunk beforehand?

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