Quick hits (part II)

Somehow I lost a whole bunch of saved quick hits.  Whoops!  Abbreviated very NYT-heavy version.

1) Great NYT magazine story on when the crazy politics of wolves in America meets the politics of academia.

2) How medical advances in abortion and contraception means even over-turning Roe v. Wade would not have as much impact as it would’ve had in the past:

Even then, a full-fledged return to an era of back-alley, coat-hanger abortions seems improbable. In the decades since Roe was decided, a burst of scientific innovation has produced more effective, simpler and safer ways to prevent pregnancies and to stop them after conception — advances that have contributed to an abortion rate that has already plunged by half since the 1980s.

3) Neymar as the jumping-off point for the complicated politics of race in Brazil:

When audiences tune in to watch Brazil play, they are treated to a rich spectrum of skin tones flashing vibrantly across the screen. The racial makeup of the Brazilian squad, in fact, generally reflects the demographics of the country. According to 2017 data released by the census department, 47 percent of Brazilians identify as mixed-race, while another 8 percent identify as black. One third of marriages happen across racial boundaries. Such numbers confirm the common belief held by Brazilians, and the millions of international travelers who visited last year, that the country is a racially fluid society.

Unlike the national team, however, the upper echelons of most professions in Brazil — be it medicine, media, business, entertainment or government — are occupied by whites. The nation’s raw demographic data paints an accurate portrait of a diverse people; yet it also adds patina to the old myth, promoted for generations by the government and first intellectualized by sociologists nearly a century ago, that Brazil is a democracia racial, or “racial democracy.”

Because Brazil never had an apartheid system like South Africa, or a ban on mixed-race marriages like America, went the argument, a spirit of warm relations blossomed across racial divides.

Never mind that Brazil was the last country in the Americas to abolish slavery in 1888; or that after abolition, the ruling class mounted a campaign to whiten the majority-black population, by fully subsidizing the immigration of over four million white Europeans, giving them free land, and compelling Brazilians to take up with them.

4) It’s bad enough that the US Military is apparently ramping up efforts to keep immigrants out, but the utter lack of due process and transparency in the process is truly appalling.

“There’s no explanation for this except xenophobia,” said Margaret D. Stock, a retired Army Reserve lieutenant colonel and immigration lawyer who helped create the program. [emphasis mine] Known as the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest or Mavni, the program, created during the George W. Bush administration, allows legal, nonpermanent resident immigrants to join the military and get fast track citizenship.

More than 10,000 troops have joined the military through the program — almost all of them in the Army. At its start, the Army touted its foreign recruits, holding naturalization ceremonies with top brass in places like Times Square. But in recent years the Defense Department has tightened regulations, and thousands have been caught up in extra layers of security vetting. Increased scrutiny for the program began in the last months of the Obama administration over national security concerns.

To screen out possible terrorist or espionage threats, the military requires extensive background checks that have grown more complex in the last two years. The C.I.A. and F.B.I. do background checks, and screenings include criminal history and credit, a review of at least a decade of finances, an exhaustive questionnaire and numerous lengthy interviews. Relatives, employers and neighbors are also interviewed.

5) So clear the Trump administration is proving horribly incompetent and callous in their efforts to reunite immigrant families.  Whereas the travel ban was “malevolence tempered by incompetence” this is malevolence exacerbated by incompetence.  Jonathan Blitzer:

But the government also needs information that Hernández doesn’t have: an address, a full criminal background check on every other adult who might live in the same household as her child, and proof of income. Having just left federal prison, Hernández is effectively homeless. She told me, “Once I realized what was happening, I said, ‘Oh my God, what am I going to do?’ ”

The Trump Administration ended the zero-tolerance policy without a plan for reuniting the children it has taken from their parents (more than twenty-five hundred in the past year) with their families. In late June, the Office of Refugee Resettlement, the division of the Department of Health and Human Services that is in charge of the separated children, had two thousand and fifty-three kids in its custody. The Department is no longer disclosing how many children it is holding, but immigration lawyers at the border say that many parents still don’t know where their children are. Last week, a federal judge in San Diego issued an injunction ordering the Trump Administration to reunite the separated families within the next month. Given the government’s disorganization, it’s impossible to see how the judge’s deadline can be met.

6) Love this take on Jim Jordan:

In every way, Jordan’s conduct violates the standards he applies to Comey, Mueller, Rosenstein, and Sessions. He ducked responsibility for offenses that occurred when he was, in effect, the deputy director of the OSU wrestling program. He claims to have known nothing about Strauss’ locker-room behavior, even though Strauss’ locker was next to his. And for months, despite explicit reports from Strauss’ victims, Jordan has kept silent, asking them not to involve him in the story.

A merciful judge might rationalize Jordan’s behavior. Such a judge might speculate that Jordan didn’t understand the seriousness of what Strauss was doing, that Jordan didn’t think of it as abuse, that he forgot the details, or that his reasons for asking to be left out of the story are understandable. But Jordan has never shown that kind of mercy. He insists that such a person should be prosecuted, charged, or forced from office. That is the justice he must now face.

7) Ed Yong on the history of domesticated dogs in the Americas, “The Original American Dogs Are Gone: The closest living relative of the precolonial canines isn’t even a dog. It’s a contagious cancer.”

8) David Roberts’ excellent take on parenting:

This isn’t to say parents and parenting aren’t important. Parents supply the genes, except in cases of adoption (or remarriage). They control, at least to some extent, the peers and environments to which children are exposed. And of course they crucially affect a child’s quality of life at home, which, as I will argue shortly, is not some minor detail.

But it’s safe to say that your kids’ long-term fate will not be meaningfully affected by the speed and timing of potty training, the brand of educational videos you purchase, or the precise tone of voice in which you discipline. A large proportion of the Parenting Industrial Complex isn’t about kids — it’s about generating content for nervous parents who feel like they should be doing something.

Another way of putting this same point is that an enormous amount of a child’s fate is determined by luck, by accidents of birth, socioeconomics, and geography…

If the David Brookses of the world were honest, their parenting advice would begin: Have a healthy kid, live in an affluent area (with low crime and good schools), be from a socially privileged demographic, and make a decent amount of money. From there on, it’s pretty much coasting. [emphasis mine]

9) Krugman on the non-radicalism of the Democratic left:

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s upset primary victory has produced a huge amount of punditry about the supposed radicalization of the Democratic party, how it’s going to hurt the party because her positions won’t sell in the Midwest (and how well would Steve King’s positions sell in the Bronx?), etc., etc.. But I haven’t seen much about the substance of the policies she advocates, which on economics are mainly Medicare for All and a federal job guarantee.

So here’s what you should know: the policy ideas are definitely bold, and you can make some substantive arguments against them. But they aren’t crazy. By contrast, the ideas of Tea Party Republicans are crazy; in fact, Ocasio-Cortez’s policy positions are a lot more sensible than those of the Republican mainstream, let alone the GOP’s more radical members.

Since Ocasio-Cortez is being compared to Dave Brat, who unseated Eric Cantor, consider this: Brat favors a constitutional amendment forcing a balanced budget every year, which 96 percent of economists think is a really bad idea. Also, by the way, remember that Republicans won big in the midterms that followed Cantor’s demise.

So, about Ocasio-Cortez’s positions: Medicare for all is a deliberately ambiguous phrase, but in practice probably wouldn’t mean pushing everyone into a single-payer system. Instead, it would mean allowing individuals and employers to buy into Medicare – basically a big public option. That’s really not radical at all…

The point, in any case, is that while a jobs guarantee is probably further than most Democrats, even in the progressive wing, are willing to go, it’s a response to real problems, and it’s not at all a crazy idea.

So next time you hear someone on the right talk about the “loony left,” or some centrist pundit pretend that people like Ms. Ocasio-Cortez are the left equivalent of the Tea Party, ignore them. Radical Democrats are actually pretty reasonable.

10) In a similar vein, Kevin Drum argues, “we are all Social Democrats now”

It’s funny. I guess what really gets me is that we already have a perfectly good term to describe people like Ocasio-Cortez (and Bernie Sanders): social democrat. That’s basically the European left, which is why Ocasio-Cortez’s platform would sound pretty ordinary if she were running for office in Sweden or Germany. It’s what I call myself if I’m talking to someone who understands what it means. But the fact that it’s foreign makes it taboo in America. Instead we make up a new term and then struggle to define exactly what it means.

But the truth is that American liberals aren’t becoming either socialists or Bernie-bots. American liberalism is simply moving once again in the direction of Europe. This is something that conservatives have been accusing us of for decades, mostly because it’s true. Our progress in that direction is slow and halting, and sometimes it just stops dead for a while, but American liberals have always admired the social democratic model of Europe. Maybe sometime soon it will become acceptable to just say so.

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Quick hits (part I)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quick hits (part II)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quick hits (part II)

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

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

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

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

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

Hello (Representative/Senator NAME),

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

Sincerely,
(voter NAME)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Quick hits (part I)

1) Wow.  Quite the takedown of Jordan Peterson from a former friend and mentor:

‘I thought long and hard before writing about Jordan, and I do not do this lightly. He has one of the most agile and creative minds I’ve ever known. He is a powerful orator. He is smart, passionate, engaging and compelling and can be thoughtful and kind.

I was once his strongest supporter.

That all changed with his rise to celebrity. I am alarmed by his now-questionable relationship to truth, intellectual integrity and common decency, which I had not seen before. His output is voluminous and filled with oversimplifications which obscure or misrepresent complex matters in the service of a message which is difficult to pin down. He can be very persuasive, and toys with facts and with people’s emotions. I believe he is a man with a mission. It is less clear what that mission is.

In the end, I am writing this because of his extraordinary rise in visibility, the nature of his growing following and a concern that his ambitions might venture from stardom back to his long-standing interest in politics. I am writing this from a place of sadness and from a sense of responsibility to the public good to tell what I know about who Jordan is, having seen him up close, as a colleague and friend, and having examined up close his political actions at the University of Toronto, allegedly in defence of free speech. When he soared into the stratosphere he became peculiarly unknowable. There is something about the dazzle of the limelight that makes it hard to see him clearly. But people continue to be who they are even in the blinding overexposure of success. I have known Jordan Peterson for 20 years, and people had better know more about who he is.

There is reason to be concerned.

2) Great NYT Editorial… “If Addiction Is a Disease, Why Is Relapsing a Crime?”  Hell, yeah!

When Julie Eldred tested positive for fentanyl in 2016, 11 days into her probation for a larceny charge, she was sent to jail. Such outcomes are typical in the American criminal justice system, even though, as Ms. Eldred’s lawyer has argued, ordering a drug addict to abstain from drug use is tantamount to mandating a medical outcome — because addiction is a brain disease, and relapsing is a symptom of it.

Ms. Eldred’s case, now before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, has the potential to usher in a welcome change to drug control policies across the country. The case challenges the practice of requiring people with substance use disorders to remain drug-free as a condition of probation for drug-related offenses, and of sending offenders to jail when they relapse.

The prosecution’s counterargument — that the disease model of addiction is far from settled science — is weak.

3) Ummm, so this is bizarre and true.  Medieval obsession with the holy foreskin of Jesus.

4) I was recently talking about the horrible, horrible case of race and the war-on-drugs-gone-really wrong in Tulia, Texas twenty years ago.  If you don’t know about this, you should.

5) Good to know that taxpayer dollars in NC are being used to subsidize religious schools that teach the 6000 year-old earth as science.  Ugh.

6) I like Drum on the gay wedding cake ruling:

Now, sure, the cake store was not a private club. It was a public place of business, and there’s jurisprudence on what kinds of places are covered by the Civil Rights Act and what kinds aren’t. And portraits aren’t cakes, which are merely being used at an event, not necessarily carrying a message of their own. Still, it should be pretty obvious that there are subtle issues here that are all but impossible to decide on a bright line basis. Can a Jewish baker be forced to supply a cake for a KKK rally? Can a Christian sandwich shop be forced to cater a Planned Parenthood fundraiser? Can a gay movie star be forced to sign an autograph for Richard Spencer?

There are rules that would cover all these cases that the Supreme Court could adopt. But why? For the most part they never come up, and when they do they’re generally just ignored because they’re so obviously heinous. So perhaps the better part of valor is just to tap dance for a while. Soon enough, refusing to serve a gay couple will be broadly viewed as equally heinous and the issue at stake will simply disappear. In the meantime, there’s no need to make a potentially disastrous ruling.

I think this is what happened, and even half the court’s liberals decided to go along. They figure it’s basically an ephemeral issue, and both liberals and conservatives have good reason to let it slide since any definitive new ruling would almost certainly hurt everyone in one way or another. Instead the court decided to muddle along until everyone forgets the whole thing, and that was likely a wise decision.

7) The stupidity of our drug and health care policies in one headline, “She paid nothing for opioid painkillers. Her addiction treatment costs more than $200 a month.”

8) This terrific graduation speech is even more reason to love the amazingly awesome Atul Gawande:

Insisting that people are equally worthy of respect is an especially challenging idea today. In medicine, you see people who are troublesome in every way: the complainer, the person with the unfriendly tone, the unwitting bigot, the guy who, as they say, makes “poor life choices.” People can be untrustworthy, even scary. When they’re an actual threat—as the inmate was for my chief resident—you have to walk away. But you will also see lots of people whom you might have written off prove generous, caring, resourceful, brilliant. You don’t have to like or trust everyone to believe their lives are worth preserving.

We’ve divided the world into us versus them—an ever-shrinking population of good people against bad ones. But it’s not a dichotomy. People can be doers of good in many circumstances. And they can be doers of bad in others. It’s true of all of us. We are not sufficiently described by the best thing we have ever done, nor are we sufficiently described by the worst thing we have ever done. We are all of it.

Regarding people as having lives of equal worth means recognizing each as having a common core of humanity. Without being open to their humanity, it is impossible to provide good care to people—to insure, for instance, that you’ve given them enough anesthetic before doing a procedure. To see their humanity, you must put yourself in their shoes. That requires a willingness to ask people what it’s like in those shoes. It requires curiosity about others and the world beyond your boarding zone.

We are in a dangerous moment because every kind of curiosity is under attack—scientific curiosity, journalistic curiosity, artistic curiosity, cultural curiosity. This is what happens when the abiding emotions have become anger and fear. Underneath that anger and fear are often legitimate feelings of being ignored and unheard—a sense, for many, that others don’t care what it’s like in their shoes. So why offer curiosity to anyone else?

Once we lose the desire to understand—to be surprised, to listen and bear witness—we lose our humanity.

9) A prisoner-journalist on the mental health crisis in our prisons.  Yes, it is that bad.

10) Jonathan Bernstein on California’s misguided top-two primary system:

Even if the system avoided each of those problems, it would still be a bad idea because the fundamental concept is to disrupt the ability of parties to choose their own nominees. And that’s a mistake: Parties are necessary to all large democracies. Parties activate and accommodate participation from groups and individuals; they provide critical intermediation between political elites and voters, which in turn makes representation possible; they help organize government and opposition ideas about public policy; and they simplify the often-bewildering choices voters must make.

And what we’ve learned is that parties adapt, no matter how difficult government makes it for them to function. We’ve seen that in California this year, with both Democrats and Republicans finding all sorts of ways to try to get the candidates they want into the November election. However, not all ways of organizing parties are equally healthy or equally permeable, and I worry about the effects of all of this on California’s Democrats and Republicans. Nor does it really make sense to constantly force parties to re-invent the wheel.

It’s a lousy system. The sooner the state gets rid of it, the better.

11) In the latest version of NC Republican legislators know best, they are trying to pass a law that a drink can only be called milk if it comes from a “hoofed animal.”  Hmmm, tell that to babies ;-).  Anyway, supposedly a lot of people are confused that soy milk and almond milk come from cows.  Not sure I buy that.  While I’m at it, it always does mystify me that soy milk has a nutrient profile relatively similar to actual milk, but most of the others are sorely lacking in protein.

12) NYT on the Trump administration, “Grifters gonna grift.”  Forget draining “the swamp.”  How about filling it with pollution and dead bodies.

13) Found this New Yorker article on the science of baldness cures (and maybe some new hope on the horizon) really interesting.  I figure it’s too late for me, but hopefully some new innovations in time for my boys to benefit.  It has always bugged me that somehow baldness is about the one physical characteristic for which it is socially acceptable to make fun of people.

14) This is an encouraging headline, “Sucking carbon dioxide from air is cheaper than scientists thought.”

15) New Yorker post on Elizabeth Warren’s coming anti-corruption agenda (now that’s a damn good idea right now), but what I really loved was this from Warren:

The point seems obvious, but it bears repeating: while much of the press, and therefore the country, is preoccupied by the President’s daily outbursts on Twitter and by the leaks and twists of Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, Donald Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress have been aggressively rolling back regulations of all kinds. The effects of some of these changes may not be directly felt by the voting public for years, when a major health crisis, a financial collapse, or some other catastrophe suddenly arrives, but the risks are being created right now.

“Let’s talk about real freedom,” Warren said, during her speech. “Done right, strong, clear regulations protect the freedom of every American. How free would you be if companies were allowed to lie to you about their businesses in order to trick you into investing your life savings in their stock? How free would you be if no one had to wash their hands before they handled your hamburger? How free would you be if companies could pass off little white pills as antibiotics, even if they weren’t?” Finally, she said, “Don’t tell me that all rules do is restrict freedom. Good rules empower people to live, work, and do business freely and safely.” [emphasis mine]

16) Radley Balko taking down forensic “science” never gets old for me.  Alas, I wish our damn court system would start paying attention and stop allowing convictions on what might as well be astrology in some cases:

The most problematic fields of forensics are those known as the pattern matching fields. This includes any specialty that requires an analyst to look at one sample and “match” it to another. Think hair and carpet-fiber analysis, bite-mark analysis, shoe-print and tire-tread analysis, blood-spatter analysis and fingerprint matching. The degree to which these fields are problematic vary quite a bit (bite-mark matching is probably on the least reliable end of the spectrum, with fingerprint matching at the other end), but all at their core are subjective. (Fingerprint matching breaks down the moment you start looking at partial prints.) That means they cannot calculate a margin for error. It means analysts will often disagree about conclusions, sometimes in ways that directly contradict one another. And by definition, any method of analysis that results in experts coming to contradictory conclusions about the same piece of evidence can’t possibly be accurate (one of them is obviously wrong) or reliable.

This means that these fields aren’t science. That doesn’t mean they have no evidentiary value at all. But it does mean that analysts need to be extremely careful about how they present this sort of evidence to juries. The language they use needs to be standardized and then explained to juries, so that the amount of emphasis the jury puts on it is based on the evidence’s actual significance and not other factors, such as the charisma or persuasiveness of the analyst. This hasn’t been happening.

Quick hits (part II)

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

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

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

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

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

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

4) Paul Waldman on the pardons:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Quick hits (part I)

1) Love this Atlantic story on how one community college is doing all it can to help students in poverty succeed.  But it is hard, hard work.

2) The NFL is just such a disgusting organization.  The extreme sexism behind the modern cheerleader/models is just too much:

Several N.F.L. teams determined cheerleading programs had a scarcity problem on game days. If cheerleaders were on the sideline dancing, none were available to serve as scantily clad hostesses who could mingle with fans high up in the cheap seats or in the luxury suites, where teams catered to big-money customers.

To address that shortcoming, some teams created a different kind of cheerleading team — one whose members did not do any cheering or require any dance training. They were hired mainly for their appearance. Their visits with male fans, the teams believed, produced a better game-day experience, akin to the approach of the Hooters restaurant chain.

In interviews with a dozen women who have worked for N.F.L. teams as noncheering cheerleaders and six others who had direct knowledge of the noncheering squads, they described minimum-wage jobs in which harassment and groping were common, particularly because the women were required to be on the front lines of partying fans. The fans had no reason to believe these women were not actual cheerleaders because the women often dressed exactly like the cheerleaders dancing on the field or nearly the same.

3) Conor Friedersdorf on Roseanne is great:

Still, I’ve favored public censure in some circumstances—and this is among them.

Without question, Barr’s excretion was protected speech under the First Amendment. But as surely as anti-Semitism is among the most odious social transgressions in Germany, dehumanizing black people ought to be among the most socially stigmatized in America, where African Americans were enslaved then subject to repression and domestic terrorism.

Stigmatizing such hateful, racist words is a social good that protects a clear, longstanding, vital norm. Its absence abetted horrific atrocities in living memory…

Finally, this was not an anomalous misjudgment in a career of mostly upstanding behavior—it is something like strike 3,000. Barr’s oeuvre is rife with flagrantly irresponsible conspiracy theories, some drawing on pernicious racial stereotypes. She even appears to have likened a different black woman to an ape. If social censure is ever warranted for non-crimes, it is here. And Trump supporters who bristle at the notion that their coalition is half “deplorables” ought to be furious at Barr for embodying that stereotype.
Of course, as I’ve previously noted, they ought to have been furious at Donald Trump, too:

The most dangerous thing a leader can do in an ethnically diverse country is stoke ethnic tensions in order to gain power. One needn’t invoke the Nazis to see that truth. Look to the former Yugoslavia, or Rwanda, or Iraq and Syria today. America isn’t on the verge of civil war, but that’s in large part because, while the exploitation of ethnic grievances has always been part of our politics, our leaders have at least held themselves to a certain standard in their public statements.

In contrast, Donald Trump kicked off his campaign by encouraging his followers to think of Mexican migrants as mostly rapists, attacked an American-born judge of Hispanic ancestry, repeatedly savaged Muslims, inspired multiple hate crimes against minorities, used his Twitter platform, with an audience of millions, to retweet and elevate anti-Semites, and inspired more energy and assertiveness from the white supremacist movement than I can ever recall seeing.

Trump’s behavior has been much worse than Barr’s behavior.

His mere words as a candidate and as president have been something like a three-alarm fire for bigoted demagoguery, so Barr’s outburst seems unlikely to serve as a wake-up call to the populist right that its coalition has a serious racism problem.

4) Arlington Cemetery is filling up with no room to grow.  That presents quite a dilemma.

5) How austerity policies in the UK are shaping it to be more like the US.

6) Dinesh D’Souza is such a sleazeball.  Of course Trump pardoned him.  Michelle Goldberg’s take.

7) Teenagers are abandoning facebook.

8) OMG (but not surprisingly) Trump’s CDC pick is awful.

9) From the depressing and unsurprising headline says it all, file: “Black Defendants Get Longer Sentences From Republican-Appointed Judges, Study Finds”

10) I don’t know what happened with Keith Mumphery and a woman at Michigan State University.  I do know that many university Title IX proceedings make a mockery of due process.

11) Loved Frum’s take on Trump’s Memorial Day tweet:

Trump’s perfect emptiness of empathy has revealed itself again and again through his presidency, but never as completely and conspicuously as in his self-flattering 2018 Memorial Day tweets. They exceed even the heartless comment in a speech to Congress—in the presence of a grieving widow—that a fallen Navy Seal would be happy that his ovation from Congress had lasted longer than anybody else’s.

It’s not news that there is something missing from Trump where normal human feelings should go. His devouring need for admiration from others is joined to an extreme, even pathological, inability to return any care or concern for those others. But Trump’s version of this disconnect comes most especially to the fore at times of national ritual.

12) Police often do a horrible job dealing with people in mental health crisis with tragic consequences.  This is a serious and under-appreciated problem.  Vox on the case.

13) Saw some pretty harsh reviews of Solo, so I went in with only modest expectations.  Ended up finding it generally delightful.  Also, really appreciated the use of original John Williams music.

14) The way the horribly misguided “War on Drugs” so discourages basic respect for Civil Liberties is truly one of the worst aspects.  Radley Balko:

In 2006, the Supreme Court ruled in Hudson v. Michigan that evidence seized during raids in which police violate the “knock and announce” requirement is not subject to the exclusionary rule. That rule says that evidence seized during a search that violates the Fourth Amendment can’t be used against a suspect at trial. It’s meant to deter illegal searches. Writing for a 5-to-4 majority, Justice Antonin Scalia said that although the knock-and-announce rule is indeed part of the Fourth Amendment, excluding evidence from raids in which police failed to abide by it was too extreme of a remedy for such a minor violation. Instead, Scalia argued that the “new professionalism” in police departments around the country as well as a trend toward more internal discipline at police agencies were sufficient to deter police from violating the requirement.

That was 12 years ago. I’d submit that there’s growing pile of evidence (and a growing pile of bodies) showing that Scalia was wrong. And there’s no better example than South Carolina’s 15th Circuit Drug Enforcement Unit (DEU).

Here at The Watch, we’ve been following the case of Julian Betton, whose Myrtle Beach, S.C., residence was raided by the DEU in 2015. The evidence for the raid on Betton came from a confidential informant, who claimed to have bought pot from him on two occasions for a total of $100. On April 16, 2015, the task force battered Betton’s door open with a ram, then almost immediately opened fire, releasing at least 29 bullets, nine of which hit Betton. One bullet pierced a back wall in the building, sped across a nearby basketball court and landed in the wall of another house. (This was a multi-family building.)

Yep.  Heavily-armed, trigger-happy SWAT teams for a couple hundred of marijuana.

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