Quick hits (part II)

1) Totally agree with Mark Joseph Stern that Democratic politicians need to get out in front on marijuana legalization:

The lack of mobilization from lawmakers is especially puzzling given how neatly marijuana legalization aligns with the goals of the self-styled resistance to Trump. Progressive Trump opponents not only tend to favor legalization on its own, they also broadly support the goals behind legalization. It’s true that the Trump era has reinvigorated liberals’ support for federalism, mostly out of necessity as blue states band together to protect sanctuary cities and fight Trump’s travel ban. But it has also intensified liberals’ opposition to mass incarceration and racial bias in the criminal justice system. Concerns about overpolicing and racism in law enforcement are what animate progressive support for legalization, along with a healthy respect for states’ rights and personal liberty.

And yet, on pot as on so many other issues, Democratic politicians are failing to respond to their base’s stated preferences.

2) Damn the militarization of the police and all the needless no-knock warrants.  And shame on our judicial system for making them way to easy to get.  People die and lives are ruined over these.  And, because, some police departments think it is a good idea to break into a house at 5am, basically unannounced, over a few ounces of marijuana.  Ugh.

3) Basically 75% of my twitter feed yesterday was about the NYT’s big Comey story. Many, many tweets mentioned the fact that the story completely ignores the role of the media in all this.  Relatedly, Drum lays out the clear case for why Comey’s letter was the decisive factor.  I agree.

4) Jacob Levy on Kushner and the problem of nepotism in a democracy.

5) I came across this latest example of classic interest group politics via a FB ad.  I’m 100% convinced that NC ophthalmologists are only interested in the welfare of their patients in attempting to stop optometrists from performing four types of simple surgery that they have been doing successfully in three other states.  I’m sure it has nothing at all to do with protecting their turf and their incomes.  My favorite is their “poll” stating, ” Almost nine out of 10 North Carolina voters oppose legislation that would allow eye-care providers who have not been to medical school to perform eye surgery, a new statewide public opinion poll found.”  As if 1 in 100 NC voters actually has any idea what this legislation is actually about.

6) Ben Mathis-Lilley, “There’s No News Right Now Because Trump Doesn’t Actually Do Anything.”

None of this is really surprising. As has been well-documented, Trump—though he claims to be a “builder”—actually made most of his hay in the private sector by licensing his name. He’s the guy who makes big promises at the ribbon-cutting and gets the name of the project in the newspaper, not the guy who gets the permits and arranges the funding and hires the subcontractors. He doesn’t make things; he talks. (When he does try to make things, they go bankrupt.)

7) While everybody was focused on Betsy DeVos and K-12 education, those in the know were aware that her real damage would be to higher education and college students.  When it comes to student loans, she’s already at it.

8) The saga of North Carolina’s contaminated water gets a nice feature in the Atlantic.  Thanks, NC Republicans!

9) Somehow I missed that prostate cancer screening is back in the news.  Good take on the latest from doctor/blogger Kenny Lin, whom I am now going to start following.  Short version: official take is now that you should at least discuss PSA test with your doctor.  Ongoing reality.  Getting a PSA test makes it about 10 times more likely you will end up incontinent or with sexual dysfunction than the likelihood it will save your life.  No thanks to that trade.

10) Great EJ Dionne column on Trump:

Two issues are paramount in American politics. The first is whether President Trump will get away with his arrogant dismissal of the public’s right to a transparent government free of corrupting conflicts of interest. The second is whether those who would hold him to account remain focused, mobilized and determined.

They are related. There are many reasons to stand against Trump, but the one that should take precedence — because it is foundational for decent governance — is his autocratic assumption that he is above the expectations that apply to us normal humans.

Should Trump separate himself completely from his business interests, as presidents had been doing for more than four decades? His implicit message is always: No, I can do what I want.

11) The political impact of helicopter parents.  Really.

Using a survey conducted at multiple universities in the U.S., we find that helicopter parenting has a significant impact on the policy attitudes of college students. Specifically, students with helicopter parents are more likely to express support for both government surveillance and social welfare policies than are students without helicopter parents. Given the growing trend of helicopter parenting, these findings will likely have substantial implications for both the political science classroom and public opinion in the near future.

12) Excellent Isaac Chotiner piece on how Bill O’Reilly was very much the proto-Trump:

But the aspect of The O’Reilly Factor that always shocked me was a different kind of resentment, which took the form of the anchor’s unrepentant solipsism. It’s simply impossible to overstate how much of each night’s show was consumed by O’Reilly’s own grievances. He skirmished with everyone from Matt Lauer to Rosie O’Donnell to Al Franken, and those fights would invariably become the topic of the day on his show. He spent countless hours talking about himself—usually as the victim of various conspiracies. (Frequently, George Soros was the conspiracy’s prime mover.) He would drone on about the New York Times and how it was out to make him look bad. It was endless, and it was exceptionally boring—to everyone except his legions of viewers and fans.

I never really had a theory for how this supposed man of the people got away with talking about nothing but himself. Then Donald Trump came along. Here was another rich guy who built a following speaking up for the working man. Like O’Reilly he seemed entirely driven by resentment: at President Obama, at the media, at the people who doubted him. And like O’Reilly, he spoke almost entirely of himself. His stump speeches were shocking, in part, because they were rarely about anything other than Donald Trump.

13) Interesting Rebecca Traister piece on the role of women’s reproductive rights within the Democratic party.  That said, I’m tired of throw-away lines like this:

For some time now, Sanders — who, it should be noted, has an extremely strong legislative record on reproductive rights — has spoken somewhat carelessly about a populist strategy that exchanges some core Democratic beliefs for the set of issues that are most important to him. “Once you get off the social issues — abortion, gay rights, guns — and into the economic issues, there is a lot more agreement than the pundits understand,” he said in 2015. In January of this year, at a CNN Town Hall, he reiterated, “Yes, of course, there are differences on issues like choice or on gay rights … But on many economic issues, you would be surprised at how many Americans hold the same views.”

Sanders is wrong that reproductive rights (or gay rights, for that matter) are separate from economic issues. The ability to control reproduction is central to women’s social, professional, and economic stability, and the women most likely to require abortion services and to be negatively affected by restrictions on access to reproductive health care are poor and low-income women, disproportionately women of color.

Really, I get it.  But still, let’s just not pretend people think about and conceptualize these issues the way they do matters like taxes, jobs, minimum wage, etc.  Oh, heck, as long as I’m letting Traister annoy me:

The deprioritization of reproductive rights was part of the strategy that helped Rahm Emanuel, chair of the DCCC, win the House for Democrats in 2006. But Ilyse Hogue, head of NARAL Pro-Choice America, argues that we should evaluate that strategy now with an understanding of its longer-term implications: “It did not result in more progressive legislation or in a durable governing coalition,” she says. “It depressed the base and predicated the rise of the Tea Party.”

Right.  That’s what led to the rise of the Tea Party.  Dumbest, most obviously self-serving political analysis ever?

14) The many forces pulling Trump in a more conventionally conservative direction.

15) Love Josh Marshall’s post on Trump’s “militant ignorance.”

What is endearing, terrifying and hilarious about Trump is not simply his ignorance, really his militant ignorance, but his complete lack of self-awareness about his ignorance. Trump told a reporter for The Wall Street Journal that his understanding of the problem of North Korea changed dramatically after hearing ten minutes of history from the President of China. Needless to say, Trump didn’t need to admit this. But neither was it candor.

So far the Trump Presidency has been a sort of Mr Magoo performance art in which the comically ignorant Trump learns elemental or basic things that virtually everyone in the world of politics or government already knew – things that the majority of adults probably know. Health Care: “Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.” North Korea: “I felt pretty strongly that they had tremendous power. But it’s not what you think.” There are perhaps half a dozen examples equally stark.

In other words, President Trump is open about his discoveries and even eager to share them but universally projects his previous state of comical ignorance onto the general public or whomever he is talking to. In other cases, this would make sense. If Trump discovered that humans could fly if they hold their nose, close one eye and say “Shazam!” I’d want to know. Because that’s awesome. And I wouldn’t think worse of Trump for not knowing it before. Because this is new and amazing information. But learning that health care policy is complicated is a different kind of discovery.

 

 

Quick hits (part I)

1) I miss James Surowiecki, but Adam Davidson is a great replacement at the New Yorker.  Nice column on the absurdity of Trump’s “buy American” executive order:

Snap-on Tools is actually a good example of why Buy American is a fairly meaningless phrase. It is no easy feat to find a product manufactured entirely of material from the U.S., produced by people in the U.S., using tools made in the U.S. In this sense, the executive order recognizes that no blanket order to buy only American will work. The products we buy are made of raw materials transformed into intermediate goods that are then assembled into a finished product. It’s not possible, or even advisable, to insure that an entire production chain will occur in one country. So a politician who wants to increase the percentage of American-made content in the products that are sold here needs to dig deeper. How will the U.S.-made content of a good be defined? Will it be by weight, by dollar value, by labor hours involved? Each metric would have different findings. A car’s bulk, for example, is primarily made up of steel, aluminum, and glass produced by huge machines with not much labor. However, some of the smaller, fussier bits are made by hand in the U.S. Gas tanks, for example, because of strict emissions laws, are surprisingly complex and require a lot of engineering and manual assembly and are often made in the U.S. A gas tank might be relatively cheap and light, but for American workers it’s worth a lot more than many tons of steel. Very quickly, any discussion of the U.S.-made content of any product will turn to the value of intellectual versus physical content…

There is a real problem in the American economy. For much of the twentieth century, there was a wind at the back of working people—a steady increase in jobs, wages, and opportunity for those with basic education and a willingness to put in a hard day’s work. We have shifted from the era of good work for many to the age of the hustle, where those with luck, good connections, education, and ambition can do far better than their grandparents could have dreamt, while those without see their incomes stagnate or fall and face a future filled with doubt. A sober and serious look at the U.S. economy leads, inevitably, to the conclusion that we haven’t cracked this problem yet. In place of serious consideration from the White House, we have absurdist, self-contradicting theatrics.

2) Very cool NYT Magazine feature on how Singapore is creating more land for itself.

3) Small potatoes, but so telling.  Local government knows best; except when the Republican legislators in Raleigh know better.  Again.

4) Jason Lloyd on improving the relationship between science and society.

5) Got into an interesting discussion about racism and Trump based on this Monkey Cage posting looking at 2016 ANES data.  Just measuring racial resentment, the big difference is that Democratic voters now score way lower, not that Republicans were higher in 2016.  That said, I think the key fact is that racial resentment is presumably more important in impacting vote choice than it was prior to Obama.

6) Max Fisher on why North Korea is such a damn difficult problem.

7) Not at all surprised to learn that– not just high school students– but college students don’t learn so great at 8:00am either.  Only 8am class I ever had was teaching one– Intro to American Government in my 2nd year at Texas Tech.

8) I’m basically not a baseball fan at all anymore.  But I used to be, and thus I very much enjoyed this 538 article on how the “save” statistic ruined relief pitching and how it should be replaced.

9) And let’s stick with sports to mention how much I love this concept for fixing the awful endings of so many basketball games.  I learned about it from this Slate sports podcast where it was discussed.  I especially enjoyed Josh Levin’s point that the end of hockey games becomes even more hockey and is great.  In contrast to the end of basketball ruining what we love about the sport.

10) Seth Masket on Trump’s poor record of accomplishment:

The Republican Party, although enjoying control over a great many governments within the United States right now, is facing a significant crisis in that it can’t translate its ideals into law. The one notable legislative success of the Trump administration’s first hundred days — Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch — is the exception that proves the rule. He was a person sent by the White House, rather than a bill formulated in a chamber that’s hostile to democratic lawmaking procedures. There was no negotiation over who he was; it was simply a matter of a yes or no vote.

Writing laws isn’t nearly that easy. Even if Ryan and Trump get better at it, they have significant hurdles to overcome.

11) Found this article about why America has fewer IUD choices than other developed countries surprisingly interesting.  Mostly, because it’s another example of us just being worse at sensible policy.

12) Good on Prince Harry for fighting against the stigma on mental health.

13) It’s entirely possible I shared this when it came out 2 years ago, but I really do like Aaron Carroll’s simple rules for healthy eating.

14) Really liked this Op-Ed entitled, “My Daughter Is Not Transgender. She’s a Tomboy.”

Quick hits (part I)

1) Here’s some cool political science from– air polluters like to position themselves just upwind from the border of a neighboring state.   Stick it to the other guy!

2) Just got Elizabeth Rosenthal’s new book on American health care.  I assign her fabulous NYT series on the matter to my Public Policy classes.  Can’t wait to read this.

3) On the resilience of failed fast food chains.  My wife and I still reminisce about Rax roast beef on our travels to and from Ohio State.

4) Both Derek Thompson and Father James Martin blame the law, as much as United for what happened.  I especially like Martin’s take:

Someone in authority—pilots, stewards, ground crew—might have realized that this was an assault on a person’s dignity. But no one stopped it. Why not? Not because they are bad people: They too probably looked on in horror. But because they have been conditioned to follow the rules.

Those rules said: First, we may sometimes overbook because we want to maximize our profits. Second, we can eject someone because we have overbooked, or if we decide that we want those seats back, no matter what a person can reasonably expect, and no matter how much of an inconvenience this is. And third, and most tragically, human dignity will not get in the way of the rules. A toxic cocktail of capitalism and corporate culture led to a man being dragged along the floor.

That is why bland “nothing to see here” defenses of the ills of corporate America and of the dictates of capitalism bother this capitalist and former corporate employee so much. They fail to see the victims of the system.

5) Tech products are specifically designed to be psychologically addictive.  I know I look at my phone too much, but I still think I’m pretty far from “addicted.”

6) When families use school vouchers for their children with disabilities, they often find they lose the legal protections for children with disabilities.  And they learn this the hard way.  Enough with vouchers, already.  Let’s just invest in high (or at least medium) quality schools for all.

7) Corwin Smidt’s work on the disappearance of swing voters just came out in the latest issue of AJPS and I couldn’t remember if I had ever quick-hitted this Vox piece on it.  It’s good stuff, even if Alvin Chang does not seem to realize that leaners = partisans is not exactly new.  Also, I can think of a view damn relevant piece’s on Party ID from a fellow Ohio State PhD that Smidt fails to cite.

8) In the face of the latest ANES data, Drum argues, “We Still Don’t Know How Much Trump’s Victory Was About Race.”  He’s got some good points:

Klinkner thinks race played a big role in the election. There’s no question this is true, but did it play a bigger than expected role? The two major parties have been splitting further apart by race for years, with Republicans becoming the party of whites and Democrats the party of non-whites. This means that to survive with an ever growing white base, Republicans have to cater to white resentment more and more. Likewise, Democrats have to cater to black and Hispanic interests more and more. This is a cycle with positive feedback, so it’s only likely to get worse.

Racial attitudes certainly played a bigger role in this election than in the past. But did Trump himself accelerate this partisan trend, or was he merely the beneficiary of it? That still seems like an open question to me.

Great points, from Drum.  That said, I think his headline is wrong (and as a blogger, I presume he writes his own).  We know race played a helluva role, like it does with almost everything in modern American party politics.  What we don’t know if this was more for Trump than it would’ve been for Rubio, etc.  I suspect that answer is yes, but for now, I do think that remains somewhat TBD.

9) I find it absolutely appalling that the 4th amendment seems to not apply at all upon entry into the country and that CBP can legally search the entire contents of your smartphone (i.e., the entire contents of your life) without a warrant.  Congress can and sure as hell should change this.

10) What color was that dress anyway, two years later.  Great stuff from a cognitive psychologist who studies color perception.

11) Uncovering the secrets of proto-dinosaurs (this one is for you, DHG).

12) Literally surprised by all these headlines about the “mystery” of why shoelaces untie.  Seriously?  You’ll be shocked to learn that it’s the ongoing low-level stresses caused by your foot hitting the ground and moving through the air.

13) Jay Geils just died.  I found this NPR story about the evolution of the band and the transition of pop music in the early 1980’s utterly fascinating.

14) In case you missed the story of the NC legislator (Republican, of course) who likened Lincoln to Hitler while he was defending his anti gay marriage bill.

15) I know most NYC apartments on TV are pretty unrealistic, but I really enjoyed this piece looking at the apartments on several popular shows.  I was also interested to learn where a lot of the characters lived.

16) Why social mobility is so bad in the South.  Short version: concentrated poverty and lack of social capital:

Concentrated poverty is related to another factor Chetty and his colleagues mention: social capital, which is essentially the mechanism that allows people to interact with others and become a part of broad networks that can lead to opportunity. It can help people get hooked up to first jobs, internships, and scholarships. Without these types of connections, children are more likely to take a similar path to their parents. For those who live in areas of concentrated poverty, this means they don’t learn about opportunities that might get them out of poverty, or about people in different income brackets.

17) Atlantic article summarizing some nice new PS research on how Trump may be changing the meaning of “conservative.”

18) Apparently, job interviews are pretty worthless.  Should we really just hire people based on resumes and application files?  Maybe?

19) I’m sure you’ll be shocked to learn that Susan Rice did absolutely nothing wrong in the silly “unmasking” episode.  I’m sure the cable news networks will devote plenty of time to this point.

20) Chait on Trump’s budget director accidentally telling the truth:

For more than a generation, the Republican Party has single-mindedly pursued the goal of maximizing economic inequality. They have been almost as single-minded about not describing this as their priority. Republicans say their goal is reducing out-of-control deficits, or reducing out-of-control surpluses, or promoting economic growth, or saving Social Security and Medicare. But Donald Trump’s budget director Mick Mulvaney, in a new interview with CNBC’s John Harwood, basically admits that what he cares about is reducing transfers from the rich to the poor…

The place to begin understanding Mulvaney’s ideas here is where he says “letting people keep more of their money … is the most efficient way to actually allocate resources.” The premise of this statement is that the market distribution of income is sacrosanct, and progressive taxation is thus both morally wrong (because it takes money that rightly belongs to high-income people who earned it on their own) and inefficient. Mulvaney concedes that cutting taxes for high-income earners can “contribute to the deficit,” but this fact is “less important.”

21) Seth Masket says goodbye and good riddance to the judicial filibuster.

22) Krugman on Trump’s mean and stupid health care negotiating tactic:

The nastiness should be obvious, but let’s spell it out. Mr. Trump is trying to bully Democrats by threatening to hurt millions of innocent bystanders — ordinary American families who have gained coverage thanks to health reform. True, Democrats care about these families — but Republicans at least pretend to care about them, too.

Why does Mr. Trump even imagine that this threat might work? Implicitly, he’s saying that hurting innocent people doesn’t bother him as much as it bothers his opponents. Actually, this is probably true — remember, we’re talking about a man who once cut off health benefits to his nephew’s seriously ill 18-month-old son to gain the upper hand in a family dispute. But it’s not the kind of thing one expects to hear from the occupant of the White House.

What makes Mr. Trump’s tactic stupid as well as nasty is the reality that Democrats have no incentive whatsoever to give in.

For one thing, what is he offering by way of a deal? Obamacare increased coverage two ways, via Medicaid expansion and subsidized private insurance. Mr. Trump might be able to undermine the private markets, but Medicaid wouldn’t be affected. Why would Democrats ever agree to Republican plans, which would basically kill both?

Then there’s the political reality that by sabotaging Obamacare, the Trump administration would be handing Democrats a huge electoral gift.

Re-segregation NC style

On the surface, this headline sounds reasonable, “Break up Wake County schools? Bill looks at how to divide NC school districts.”  And, given that sometimes various parts of the geographically large Wake County will have a couple inches of snow and close the whole county while other portions have none, I’ve heard this suggested on many a snow day.  Alas, the rationales offered are not exactly compelling:

R

Some state legislators want to look at how to split North Carolina school systems into smaller districts, a preliminary step that could make it possible to break up large systems such as Wake County and Charlotte-Mecklenburg.

House Bill 704 filed this week would create a joint legislative study committee to look into whether legislation should be introduced to allow for the breakup of previously merged school systems. The committee would also consider how to divide school districts and whether a local referendum or petition would be needed before a district could be split.

Many transplants to North Carolina are used to individual towns running their own small school systems. In contrast, most school systems in North Carolina are county-based…

“Over the past few decades, the emphasis in North Carolina has been merging small school systems to form big ones,” Rep. Bill Brawley, a Mecklenburg County Republican and one of the bill’s primary sponsors, said Wednesday. “The idea was economies of scale would improve education in North Carolina.

“Now there’s a concern there may be diseconomies of scale in the big systems. They may be too large.” …

“I’d much prefer to be one of the best school districts in the country than one of the biggest, and we’ll never get there being as large as we are with the bureaucracy as large as it is,” said former Wake school board member Ron Margiotta.

Too state the obvious, first, a large school system is necessarily going to have a large bureaucracy.  Margiotta was never distinguished for his intellectual acumen in his school board days.  The proponents of the smaller school system provide zero evidence that the large bureaucracy is holding Wake County (or CMS) back or that we are somehow suffering some perverse diseconomies of scale.

So, what’s really going on then?  As a FB friend put it, “Alternative bill title: “A Study on How to Resegregate Schools Even More than Entitled Rich White People Already Have.”  Yep.  Read between the lines and that’s what’s going on here.  Little more than “why should our rich suburban white people have to be in the same school system as those urban minorities.”

Hopefully, this goes nowhere, but, this is 2017 North Carolina.

Quick Hits (part II)

1) Social science says don’t spy on your teenager.  (But if you know your teenager is reading this blog post you wrote, does that change things?)

2) Recent research finds that children of older mothers have higher cognitive ability at age 10.  If I was teaching a research methods class, I would so use this article to discuss selection bias.

3) You know I’m a fan of GMO crops, properly-used.  Alas, it can be a problem when farmers don’t use them properly and fail to plant enough refuge crops.  Some recent NCSU research:

For about 20 years, growers have made use of Bt crops to limit crop damage from pests. Bt crops, including corn, are genetically engineered to produce proteins from the Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) bacterium. These proteins are harmless to vertebrates, but toxic to a specific class of invertebrate crop pests.

To date, these Bt crops have been remarkably successful. However, insect pests have shown the ability to evolve resistance to Bt proteins. In order to slow down the development of Bt resistance, farmers who plant Bt crops are urged to plant a certain percentage of their fields with non-Bt crops – called refuge crops. In fact, in the case of Bt corn, farmers are required to plant a section of their fields with refuge crops.

That’s because refuge crops provide fodder for insect pests that are not resistant to Bt proteins. These pests are then able to breed with their Bt-resistant counterparts, diluting Bt resistance in the overall pest population.

But compliance with planting refuge crops is variable. Some growers plant too little of their fields with Bt crops, and some don’t plant refuge crops at all.

4) Speaking of NCSU, my colleague Jim Zink with a post on how “Constitutional Veneration” is an obstacle to constitutional change.

 

5) How comedy gets made via an annotated Daily Show script.

6) Eduardo Porter on the need to think seriously about geo-engineering and climate change.

7) Great Brooks‘ column on Trump’s incompetence.  So good!

The normal incompetent person flails and stammers and is embarrassed about it. But the true genius at incompetence like our president flails and founders and is too incompetent to recognize his own incompetence. He mistakes his catastrophes for successes and so accelerates his pace toward oblivion. Those who ignore history are condemned to retweet it…

Trump’s greatest achievements are in the field of ignorance. Up until this period I had always thought of ignorance as a void, as an absence of knowledge. But Trump’s ignorance is not just an absence; it is a rich, intricate and entirely separate universe of negative information, a sort of fertile intellectual antimatter with its own gravitational pull.

It’s not so much that he isn’t well informed; it’s that he is prodigiously learned in the sort of knowledge that doesn’t accord with the facts of our current dimension.

It is in its own way a privilege to be alive at the same time as a man who is the Albert Einstein of confirmation bias, a man whose most impressive wall is the one between himself and evidence, a man who doesn’t need to go off in search of enemies because he is already his own worst one.

8) Why, yes, those champions of the little guy leading the NC legislature are looking to protect massively-polluting hog farms from lawsuits.  Maybe they should try living next-door and downwind from one of these farms!

9) In case you were wondering about the nutritional benefits of human cannibalism

10) The headline says it all, “The Texas-size scapegoating of an illegal voter is a travesty of justice.”

11) A reminder that there’s really not a lot of value to an elite college beyond a good non-elite college(unless you get tons of personal happiness from following their basketball team as a student and alumnus).  Interestingly, though, for minority students, there is a very real benefit.  Thus:

Elite colleges are most valuable for the students they are least likely to admit—and least valuable for the students they are most likely to admit. More than the size and weight of many thousand envelopes currently in the mail, that is an admissions dilemma worth fretting about.

12) Of course getting on the UNC Board of Governors is all about political donations (instead of, you know, knowing and caring about higher education).  The thing is, you are not supposed to actually admit that when vying for the position.

13) I don’t love all of this essay on how Trump has “blown up” on Republicans, but there’s definitely some good stuff:

Conservative politicians believe the electorate is much more conservative than it actually is. Once you learn this, suddenly a lot of things about how elected officials act make more sense.

The most important major divide among Congressional Republicans isn’t between moderates and conservatives, or establishment and anti-establishment politicians, but between those who know that their agenda is hugely unpopular and that they have to force it through under cover of darkness, and the louder, dumber ones who believe their own bullshit. And for those loud, dumb members, egged on by a media apparatus that has trained its audience to demand the impossible and punish the sell-outs who can’t deliver, those more tactical members are cowards and RINOs.

This is how Mitch McConnell ended up so hugely unpopular and despised in his own party that he attracted a high-profile primary challenger during the period when he was doing more than any other person in Washington to thwart the Democratic Party. This is how and why a deal to cut social insurance benefits with support from a Democratic president repeatedly failed to happen despite President Obama’s best efforts. And this is why Republicans couldn’t repeal Obamacare. The marginally cannier guys thought up a plausible legislative strategy for forcing through an unpopular proposal with minimum oversight, and the House Freedom Caucus guys played a key role in blowing it up because it didn’t repeal Obamacare enough.

The Freedom Caucus, a group of 30-odd true-believers (all men, of those publicly identified as caucus members, and mostly men over the age of 50), rejected the deal because it was hugely unpopular, but what they can’t grasp, or admit to themselves, is that it was hugely unpopular mainly because of the ways in which it did resemble their preferred set of policies, not because of how it diverged from them. It does not compute that a bill that follows their stated priorities—a stingier government that is crueler to its citizens of modest means—would be unpopular even among their own constituents.

14) Easily the best thing I’ve read on Trump and Syria is Frum’s take.

15) And a terrific Margaret Sullivan column on how the media so stupidly just loves any show of military force.

16) Sorry, to mess up your usual weekend quick hits plans, but here’s me at the top of the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower yesterday.

 

 

Quick hits (part II)

1) I’ll use this article about a feud in the Lacks family (as in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks) to say that I thought the book was way over-rated.  Would’ve made a nice New Yorker article.  Massive overkill as a book.  Also, if for some reason some cells from my mom had been cultured and still alive, the fact would mean absolutely nothing to me.

2) This headline really says enough, “Since 2007, the DEA has taken $3.2 billion in cash from people not charged with a crime.”

3) Garrett Epps is not pleased with Neil Gorsuch:

I fear that Gorsuch’s opaque manner actually does not hide, but rather displays, his jurisprudential philosophy. There is a strain of conservative legal philosophy (by no means the only one, but a powerful one) that regards the role of courts as blocking the naïve progressive impulses of the people—poor fools, using individual mandates and Medicaid expansions to construct a modern health care system! Thinking that labor unions contribute to prosperity! Falling for politically correct gabble about feminism and homophobia or whatever the latest fad may be!—and substituting the mature judgment of the high court. Some thinkers on the right now insist that a judge’s duty is to decide whether economic and social regulation is wise, and strike it down if, in the judge’s opinion, it is not. Faced with demographic and political irrelevance, a strain of right-wing thought sees the courts as the final firewall of a laissez-faire economic order.

Of course, the decisions gutting progressive measures are to be couched in soothing neutral language of law—nothing to see here, I just call balls and strikes.

I caught a whiff of that philosophy when Gorsuch insisted, over and over, he was an entirely non-political being who had sprung immaculate from the brow of Lady Liberty. He is simply a judge, he said over and over—a job which calls, apparently, for neither values nor any firm connection to human life as it is lived. Judges just, well, you know, Senator, judge; they channel the brooding omnipresence of reason and then reach results without a thought for the so-called real world the rest of us must live in.

4) Socially conscious investment fund fires their legal firm for enabling Trump’s kleptocracy.

5) All that DHA in baby formula now– no evidence it actually makes any difference.  Human milk and developing baby brains are complicated stuff.

6) Do we have to be so needlessly cruel with undocumented immigrants?  Yes, in Trump’s America.

7) OMG I love how Ashley Feinberg lays out how she step-by-step uncovered James Comey’s secret twitter account.

8) Amazing– NCAA has made a decision that’s better for fans of women’s college basketball than for ESPN’s ratings.

9) Drum with my favorite take on Trump and science:

The problem with science is (a) it’s bo-o-o-o-o-ring, (b) it’s depressing, and (c) it often clashes with stuff you want to do. Really, it’s just a bummer all around. Why on earth would anyone want to staff the egghead department, anyway?

10) Speaking of science, it’s pretty damn insidious how Republicans are trying to limit the EPA’s ability to use it.  TNR with the best description I’ve read about how they make it sound good, but it’s really awful:

The bill, introduced by Texas Republican Lamar Smith, requires the EPA to only use scientific studies for which all data is publicly available and the results are easily reproducible. This is much harder to do than it sounds. Many public health studies use private medical data, while others contain trade secrets and industry data. Moreover, public health studies are impossible to reproduce when, say, they’re based on one-time pollution events or on people who have died since the study was conducted.

David Stevenson, a member of Trump’s EPA transition team, told me last week that the HONEST Act would be instrumental in preventing regulations of carbon dioxide and other pollutions. “Almost everything that has been done in the last 10, 11, 12 years would not pass the standards [under the bill],” he said. “The Clean Power Plan, ozone regulations, particulate matter regulations—everything has been built on science that has not been peer-reviewed, that the data’s not visible, or that there’s only been one person doing the study.”

11) Accentuate the positive— almost certainly good for not just your mental health, but your physical health as well.  Science!  I don’t know if it’s making my youngest son any healthier, but our daily oral gratitude journal seems to be making a difference.

12) Seth Masket is right– gerrymandering is a too convenient scapegoat.  Most of the problem lies in natural sorting of residential patterns.  That said, I’m not sure Masket would have written this quite the same if he live in North Carolina.

13) Cassidy on the Trump White House as the Keystone Kops:

Today, there are still plenty of reasons to be concerned about Trump and his illiberalism. The White House’s recent decision to dismantle President Obama’s clean-air regulations offers fresh testament to the malevolence of the Trump Administration’s agenda, and next week’s meeting between Trump and Xi Jinping, China’s President, will be a reminder of the enormous responsibilities that rest on a President’s shoulders. But, even among ardent Trumpophobes, fear and foreboding have been supplemented by wonderment at the White House’s string of gaffes. These days, instead of Big Brother, it often looks like the Keystone Kops are in charge.

14) Frank Schaeffer argues that Democrats should forget about trying to persuade Trump voters with facts (agreed), it’s all about emotion.

15) Law professor in Vox on just how unfair to women– and probably illegal– Mike Pence’s “never dine alone” standard is.  Not to mention horribly offensive.  And pathetic.  Lots of great mockery on twitter this week.

16) But you can’t beat the Onion, “Mike Pence Asks Waiter To Remove Mrs. Butterworth From Table Until Wife Arrives.”

17) I got to talk to Joe Nocera this week– very cool.  And got one anodyne quote his recent Bloomberg column on the HB2 semi-repeal and the power of college basketball in NC.

18) I think Drum is right– Tom Price is a scandal just waiting to blow up.  The man is shamelessly unethical.

19) Really enjoyed this piece on Dan Monson, the man who got Gonzaga basketball rolling before Mark Few led them to perennial power status.  Monson left for more money and a more prestigious job– as pretty much all coaches do when given the chance– but things have worked out way better for Few.

20) Finally read the big Robert Draper piece about Trump, his advisers, and Congress.  Lots of good stuff.  Worth your time.

21) I’ve got lots of women friends and always have.  Actually, my wife started out as a female friend– admittedly, I wasn’t married at the time.  Anyway, in light of the Pence stuff, I particularly enjoyed this piece on the matter.  Personally, I couldn’t imagine not having female friends:

And how, without occasionally going out for a sandwich, could a married man ever make or keep female friends?

Because I was raised in a Southern Baptist community in Texas, the answer to that last question is still ingrained within me: a married man simply shouldn’t have female friends. It’s not necessary or proper. That’s what plenty of people I grew up around might say. Men and women are meant to serve God in a contained, organized partnership. Intimacy of any sort leads to sexual temptation; a man’s wife is the only woman outside of his birth family who should rightfully play a meaningful role in his life…

But it’s one thing to avoid a particular situation involving a particular woman who makes you feel a certain way; it’s another entirely to avoid all women as a group and as a rule because of the abstract possibility of sexual temptation. It’s telling, and extremely disheartening, that many people can’t tell the difference—that knowing the best thing to do for your partnership and subscribing wholesale to an idea about gender that calcifies woman as secondary could plausibly seem like the same thing. The Pence approach rules out a lunch meeting or a professional dinner with a woman.

22) We need to take the college dropout problem more seriously.  Among other things, colleges being more flexible can help.

23) Damn Trump, Sessions, and company are so dumb about immigration.  I used to have a friend (moved away) who was a highly-skilled college graduate, but she couldn’t work here because here husband was on an H1B.  The Obama administration wised up on that and let spouses work.  Now, Trump is looking to undo that, of course.  The result– smart, motivated people who would grow our economy (it’s not zero sum!!!) will not be able to work.

24) This Kristoff column on Trump voters who realize his policies are screwing them, but that they are still loyal to Trump is just painful.  The persistent theme seems to be they all thought when Trump talked about cutting stuff, it would only be cuts for brown people.

Quick hits (part I)

1) The headline for this WP essay just kills me, “I gave up TV, then qualified for Olympic marathon trials and got my PhD.”  Oh, please, plenty of people manage to accomplish similar goals while enjoying TV.  I got a PhD, tenure, full professor and co-wrote a book while watching lots of TV!

2) Scott Pelley is pulling no punches on Trump.  I hadn’t realized– good for him.

3) Radley Balko on the foolhardiness of putting immigration enforcement above criminal law enforcement.

4) Fun take on how TV Opening Titles have gotten so good.  I totally agree, but, please, no reason to diss Magnum PI!

5) Vox interview with Pippa Norris on the entho-nationalist basis of Trump’s appeal.

I want to return to what you said earlier about the cultural roots of modern populism. In one of your recent papers, you tell a familiar but troubling story: Since at least the 1970s, Western societies have emphasized what you call “post-materialist” and “self-expression” values among the young educated strata of society. This has produced movements toward greater gender and racial equality, equal rights for LGBTQ people, more acceptance of diverse lifestyles and cultures, etc. It’s also resulted in less focus on redistributionist economics.

You argue that we’ve reached something of a tipping point culturally as less educated and older citizens, particularly white men, are now increasingly resentful of a society that no longer privileges them or their values.

Pippa Norris

The idea that values are being changed has long roots going back to the 1970s, but it has new traction, if you like. The argument is that you adopt the values at the time that you grew up and it’s part of your societal conditioning. Look, for example, at the actual groups who were growing up in Europe when there was a welfare state from cradle to grave. The arguments were about meeting basic material needs — full employment, free education, free health care, etc.

In many of these countries, values changed from a focus on material needs — jobs, economic growth, and the things people who lived through the Great Recession and the period of war cared about — to a different set of values, which was environmental, gender equality, participation, democracy and a whole range of other post-material values. This is a long-term change which my co-author, Ron Inglehart, has predicted for many decades.

What we think happened is that there’s been a tipping point in terms of where majority values have become the new minority. So it’s really about population change more than anything else. If a generation grows up with certain values, those values gradually take over that culture. We can see the manifestation in many policies.

Think, for example, of gay marriage and the way in which marriage rights were something that was not even discussed 20 years ago or even 10 years ago. They weren’t mainstream in the political agenda. And now many, many countries have equalized gay marriage, although affluent countries are still going through that process. Similarly, tolerance of homosexuality, ideas that women should have equal values, secular values as well, the idea that religion is no longer central to people’s lives. So those are values which are shifting.

Those people that are benefiting from these shifts take them for granted as they grow in their status and their power, but there’s been a tipping point when those groups and the values around them are no longer being reflected and, what’s more, they can’t even talk about them.

6) A scientifically-validated app that you can use to train your brain so that you won’t need reading glasses.  Cool!  One of the few benefits of my extreme nearsightedness (-10!) is that it delays onset of the need for reading glasses.  But once that small print starts becoming a problem, I am so doing this.  I’d like my wife to be the family guines pig as she’s definitely getting close.

7) No, we cannot blame fancy new dorms for the increasing cost of college.  And, yes, administrative costs are up.  But, mostly, its the cutbacks from state governments.

8) Nate Cohn concludes that poor Democratic turnout was not the driver of HRC’s defeat.  It’s that damn wwc:

If turnout played only a modest role in Mr. Trump’s victory, then the big driver of his gains was persuasion: He flipped millions of white working-class Obama supporters to his side.

The voter file data makes it impossible to avoid this conclusion. It’s not just that the electorate looks far too Democratic. In many cases, turnout cannot explain Mrs. Clinton’s losses.

9) Hobbyhorse riding is big in Finland ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.  Mika?

10) Oh man is the NFL evil and greedy.  And damn do they abuse the suckers who pay for their stadiums to support their greed.  The Las Vegas case is particularly egregious:

In the N.F.L.’s world, displays of principle and common economic sense are for chumps. Las Vegas and Nevada adopted the league’s preferred stance: They rolled belly up. Politicians raised taxes to provide a historic $750 million public subsidy.

This led to unremarked-upon cognitive dissonance in Las Vegas. Even as politicians increased taxes for stadiums, Clark County school officials voted last spring to increase public class sizes and to close a school for at-risk students. There was simply no money. “This is the last thing we ever want to do,” Linda Young, president of the school board, said at that time.

It’s a shame the school board did not build a football stadium, perhaps with a public school annex.

One team owner, Stephen M. Ross of the Miami Dolphins, voted against the relocation. “We as owners and as a league owe it to the fans to do everything we can to stay in communities that have supported us,” he said in a statement.

That was so sweet of him; I hope he has put a few food tasters on his staff.

The N.F.L. makes two demands of its owners: Build ever-grander stadiums with as many public dollars as you can find; and never, ever feel shame.

11) Cost of HB2 to the NC Economy? Just a measly $3.8 billion.

12) Good Conor Friedersdorf on how the egregious, scare-mongering lies of right-wing media set repeal and replace up for failure.

13) Damn, Texas is anxious to execute the mentally disabled.  Fortunately, five members of the Supreme Court believe otherwise.  Among other things, totally asinine to think that if an IQ test comes out 69 execution is off the table but at 74 it is okay.  This puts way too much faith in both the validity and reliability of IQ tests.  Love this key quote:

Texas cannot satisfactorily explain why it applies current medical standards for diagnosing intellectual disability in other contexts, yet clings to superseded standards when an individual’s life is at stake,” Justice Ginsburg wrote. She was joined by Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

 14) Among the lessons of the AHCA failure– policy expertise and seriousness matter.  As I’ve often mentioned, there’s only one party in America that takes public policy seriously and we’re all the worse for it.

15) Alabama’s prisons are truly, horribly, shameful.  There is literally no excuse for this in a modern nation.  We really need judges to step in if the people of Alabama and their representatives are not going to.

16) I’m sure the law and order types hate the idea of college classes in maximum security prison.

17) There are bipartisan steps we can take to actually make the ACA work better.  Alas, there’s really little evidence many Republicans have any interest in ACA working better.

18) Terrific episode of Hidden Brain on Bandwidth Poverty.  If you are not familiar with the concept, you should be.  And this is a great listen.

19) Nice mini tweetstorm from Christopher Frederico on the just released 2016 ANES data.  Short version: confirming Brian Schaffner’s analysis from earlier data, it’s all about the racial resentment.

20) Why professors should not shame their students, even anonymously.

21) Good take from Vox’s Brian Resnick on the crazy/scary new poll showing that 74% of Republicans believe Trump Tower was wiretapped.

22) Ross Douthat wrote a column about how Obamacare doesn’t actually save lies.  Nice rebuttal from Drum:

folks has never been likely to have much effect on death rates.1 Below age 55, it’s even less likely: the death rate is so minuscule that it would take a miracle to invent any kind of health-related practice that had a measurable effect on life expectancy. If the crude death rate is already below 0.5 percent, there’s just no way to reduce it much more.

And yet, people like health care anyway. They like it so much that we’re collectively willing to spend vast amounts of money on it. As you’ve probably heard many dozens of times, health care is one-sixth of the economy. On average, that means we all pay about one-sixth of our income to provide health care for ourselves.

Why? At the risk of repeating the obvious, most medical care isn’t about lifespan. Before age 65, almost none of it is about lifespan. It’s about feeling better.

23) This is cool– evolution is slower and faster than you think.

24) This will be my last quick hits ever.

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