Quick hits (part II)

1) A little harsh, but I pretty much agree with this take on McCain:

A more accurate way of phrasing “(ambivalently, agonizingly) taking on the president” might be “not actually taking on the president.” McCain has supported every one of Trump’s nominees besides one: budget director Mick Mulvaney, who lost McCain’s support because he has supported defense budget cuts. McCain’s sole inviolable principle is that we must spend an unlimited amount of money on war with everyone forever.

Ever since his longtime aide and ghostwriter Mark Salter wholly invented McCain’s “maverick” persona from whole cloth in the late 1990s, the sum total of McCain’s record of brave or maverick-y actions consists of “giving good quote to reporters.” That’s it…

Most of the political press is amnesiac and sycophantic enough to fall for it again, but it is obvious at this point in his long career that Senator John McCain is not going to “fight” Trump. He’s going to say various anti-Trump things, on TV and to reporters, while never using his very real power as a senior Republican senator to interrupt the implementation of Trump’s, and his party’s, eschatological agenda.

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/02/trumps-exchange-on-asset-forfeiture-is-quite-discomfiting.html

2) This video about how we perceive magenta is so cool.  Seriously, just watch it.

3) Does seem reasonable to me that dairy producers want the nut milk producers to not call their product “milk.”  As I’ve mentioned before, I like my soy milk, but really wonder what all those other nut “milks” do with all the protein.

4) I enjoyed this take on the problematic nature of “win probability” stats in the NFL.

5) I was quite intrigued by this little bit in a piece about the decline of Rock music:

What happened in 1991? Between 1958 and 1990, Billboard had constructed its Hot 100, the list of the country’s most popular songs, with an honor system. They surveyed DJs and record store owners, whose testimonies were often influenced by the music labels. If the labels wanted to push AC/DC, they pushed AC/DC. If they changed their mind and wanted to push the next rock release, AC/DC would fall down the charts and the new band would take their place.

But in 1991, Billboard changed its chart methodology to measure point-of-sales record data and directly monitor radio air play. As I wrote in a 2014 article in The Atlantic, this had a direct impact on the sort of music that made its way to the charts and stayed there. The classic rock and hair-band genre withered in the 1990s while hip hop and country soared up the charts. In the next 25 years, hip hop, country, and pop music have carried on a sonic menage à trois, mixing genres promiscuously to produce the music that currently dominates the charts. There is hip-hop-inflected-pop (Justin Bieber), country-pop (Lady Gaga), and country-rap (Florida Georgia Line and Nelly).

6) The new America’s Cup yachts are pretty insane.  I was actually all into these races during the 80’s when they became a big deal once other countries started to win them.

7) Love Danielle Kurtzleben’s take on “fake news” as “fake language.”

Now, Trump casts all unfavorable news coverage as fake news. In one tweet, he even went so far as to say that “any negative polls are fake news.” And many of his supporters have picked up and run with his new definition.

The ability to reshape language — even a little — is an awesome power to have. According to language experts on both sides of the aisle, the rebranding of fake news could be a genuine threat to democracy.

8) Raising lawmaker pay (abysmally low in NC) is not going to get us a bunch of former Walmart clerks in the legislature, but it surely would diversify our pool of candidates.

9) Sure, it’s five years old, but seems pretty timely to repeat the clear finding that cutting top marginal tax rates decidedly does not increase economic growth.

“The reduction in the top tax rates appears to be uncorrelated with saving, investment and productivity growth. The top tax rates appear to have little or no relation to the size of the economic pie. However, the top tax rate reductions appear to be associated with the increasing concentration of income at the top of the income distribution.”

10) Really enjoyed this on Ole Miss’s liberal agitator.

11) Jonathan Bernstein on Republicans fiddling while the White House burns:

I know I sound like a broken record, but the way out of the worst of this is obvious: Congressional Republicans need to use their leverage to insist the president hire a real chief of staff to clean house  — including removing Bannon — and run the administration properly. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen any hint of it so far. Instead of floating names such as Rob Portman, Mitch Daniels or Lamar Alexander, some Republicans are apparently trying to rally around Priebus, who may not be as objectionable as Bannon but doesn’t have the capacity to get the administration on track. If the Russia scandal is, as NBC’s First Read said today, “arguably the biggest scandal involving a foreign government since Iran-Contra,” then the solution is the same as it was then: Investigate the scandal to be sure, but meanwhile get a steady hand in the White House to make up for the president’s shortcomings.

If Republicans don’t demand a new version of Howard Baker (who fixed what was broken in the Ronald Reagan White House back then), they’ll only have themselves to blame for the next scandal, and the next one, and the one after that. Which, at this rate, might not even get us to Memorial Day.

12) I get that Republicans are more interested in power and partisanship than, you know, stable democracy, but given all we know, it seems that at bare minimum they should require the release of Trump’s tax returns, rather than blocking it.

13) A good take on polling questions and Republican support for action in response to the Bowling Green massacre.

What the question did ask about was whether respondents agreed that a fake event ― presented as a factual event ―  justifies a policy that many Trump supporters already support. Of course many supporters were going to agree with that statement, even if they weren’t aware that the Bowling Green massacre was fiction.

Not knowing about the issue doesn’t make people stupid, either. The pace of news in the last few weeks has been extremely fast. People with nonpolitical lives can’t be expected to keep up.

There’s considerable research on how average people answer poll questions when they might not really know what the question refers to. Some will admit that they don’t know the answer ― as 20 percent of the whole sample and 23 percent of Trump supporters did in this case. But many will think they should have an answer, and say the first thing that comes to mind. This is part of why polling on specific policies is difficult ― people often haven’t given issues a lot of thought, but when prompted, they will make up an opinion.

Research also shows that when you ask people to agree or disagree with something, they are more likely to agree if they don’t have a solid opinion. This is called “acquiescence bias,” and it’s why many pollsters shy away from yes/no or agree/disagree types of questions.

14) On the pervasive sex bias of students in undergraduate Biology classes.

15) Adam Gopnik on the need to take Trump’s threat to democracy seriously:

The trouble with these views, and what makes them cheery but false at best—or sinister or opportunistic at worst—is that they are deliberately blind to both the real nature of the man and the real nature of the threats he makes and the lies he tells. Many autocratic governments have built this road or won that war or engineered a realist foreign policy. They remain authoritarian and, therefore, fatally arbitrary. In a democracy, our procedures are our principles. Every tyrant does nice things for someone. You cannot be a friend to democracy while violating its norms—and when we say, “He violates democratic norms,” we undermine our own point, because “norm” is such a, well, normal word. In truth, what he violates by his statements are not mere norms but democratic principles so widely shared and so deeply important that “bedrock value” is closer to the mark than “democratic norm.”

16) Joseph Stiglitz with a long and thorough explanation of why inequality is bad for the economy.

17) Bill Gates on why it’s time to tax robots.  Seriously.

18) Donald Trump is really good at using the Availability Heuristic for political gain.

19) Glenn Greenwald on the illegal, yet appropriate, leaks:

Yet very few people are calling for a criminal investigation or the prosecution of these leakers, nor demanding the leakers step forward and “face the music” — for very good reason: The officials leaking this information acted justifiably, despite the fact that they violated the law. That’s because the leaks revealed that a high government official, Gen. Flynn, blatantly lied to the public about a material matter — his conversations with Russian diplomats — and the public has the absolute right to know this.

This episode underscores a critical point: The mere fact that an act is illegal does not mean it is unjust or even deserving of punishment. Oftentimes, the most just acts are precisely the ones that the law prohibits.

That’s particularly true of whistleblowers — i.e., those who reveal information the law makes it a crime to reveal, when doing so is the only way to demonstrate to the public that powerful officials are acting wrongfully or deceitfully. In those cases, we should cheer those who do it even though they are undertaking exactly those actions that the criminal law prohibits.

20) Nate Silver’s election post-mortems have been really good.  I really liked this one about the limits of the Clinton ground game.  Maybe ground games just don’t matter as much as we thought.

There are several major problems with the idea that Clinton’s Electoral College tactics cost her the election. For one thing, winning Wisconsin and Michigan — states that Clinton is rightly accused of ignoring — would not have sufficed to win her the Electoral College. She’d also have needed Pennsylvania, Florida or another state where she campaigned extensively. For another, Clinton spent almost twice as much money as Trump on her campaign in total. So even if she devoted a smaller share of her budget to a particular state or a particular activity, it may nonetheless have amounted to more resources overall (5 percent of a $969 million budget is more than 8 percent of a $531 million one).

But most importantly, the changes in the vote from 2012 to 2016 are much better explained by demographics than by where the campaigns spent their time and money. [emphasis mine]

I gotta say, just more reason to believe that when it comes to understanding elections, it’s really not too far from demographics über alles.

21) Very good piece on how cognitive biases pervasively impact the practice of medicine.

 

 

 

http://nautil.us/issue/45/power/bias-in-the-er

 

 

Chart of the day

From Pew.  How the US stacks up in science, reading, and math.  Also, you don’t really hear a lot about Japan, but what they do is really, really good.  Their approach (as I learned in Building a Better Teacher) is largely about investing extensively in teacher collaboration.

Quick hits (part I)

1) Love this Wired feature on the challenges facing the NYT.  I love the idea of it re-inventing itself as a premium subscriber service like HBO and Netflix.  For the record, I think NYT, HBO, and Netflix are all terrific and worth paying for.  (Though, “The Young Pope” please!)

2) Nick Kristoff on a stark, ignored, reality: husbands (and a hell of a lot of other things) are far more dangerous than terrorists.

3) John Oliver decide to take the message to Trump where he’ll see it– cable news ads.

4) I don’t doubt that those who have fought to remove smoking from public gathering places have overstated the health benefits of doing so, as argued in this extreme example of a #slatepitch.  That said, I find it amusing that the piece does not even address the fact that most of us non-smokers (i.e., most of us Americans) strongly prefer to not be around noxious vapors fouling our air.

5) Interesting Op-Ed– what modern day Muslims should learn from Jesus.

6) Why is Trump so obsessed with apologies?  Like so much else, it’s a simple dominance display for him:

For Trump, apologies aren’t about resolving conflict or fostering relationships or even setting the record straight. Like so much of what he does, they are about besting someone. Trump expresses his displeasure at how he has been treated; the offending party feels compelled to make amends. An apology that requires threats or twitter trolls to extract only highlights Trump’s superior strength all the more. Your criticisms of Trump may not have been wrong. You may not feel one bit bad about them. You may loathe and disdain him even more after apologizing. What matters to him is that you have had to publicly ask for his forgiveness. Which proves you are a total loser.

7) Zack Beauchamp takes a deep-dive into the utterly delusional world of “counter-jihadism” that is so influential with Trump’s own delusional worldview.

8) NYT pulling no punches in the lede on Pruitt’s confirmation.

The Senate on Friday confirmed Scott Pruitt to run the Environmental Protection Agency, putting a seasoned legal opponent of the agency at the helm of President Trump’s efforts to dismantle major regulations on climate change and clean water — and to cut the size and authority of the government’s environmental enforcer.

9) Advice to conservative college students from a formerly conservative professor.

10) Drum with more evidence for the lead-crime link.

11) Amanda Taub with a good piece on “the deep state” you’ve likely been hearing much about.

12) I got more enjoyment out of “why liberals are wrong about Trump” than anything I read all week.  Just trust me and click the link.  Seriously.

13) Peter Beinart on how much of the anti-Trump right has made peace with Trump:

It’s not deranged to worry that Trump may undermine liberal democracy. It’s deranged to think that leftist hyperbole constitutes the greater threat. Unfortunately, that form of Trump Derangement Syndrome is alive and well at National Review. And it helps explain why Republicans across Washington are enabling Trump’s assault on the institutions designed to restrain his power and uphold the rule of law.

It is inconvenient for National Review that the individual in government who now most threatens the principles it holds dear is not a liberal, but a president that most conservatives support. But evading that reality doesn’t make it any less true.

14) Raising the price of a $575 life-saving drug to $4500.  So wrong.  Pharmaceutical companies make life-saving drugs.  Many pharmaceutical companies are also greedy and evil while they’re at it.  Talk about preying upon human suffering.

15) John Cassidy on Republican plans to cut Medicaid:

Still, the Republican Party’s internal machinations are a secondary matter. The key point is that G.O.P. leaders are intent on ripping up a successful and affordable reform that helped fill a gaping hole in the social safety net. In the process, they will endanger the health of a lot of Americans who don’t have the resources to protect themselves and their families. And that’s shameful.

16) Why yes, there are some bad dudes when it comes to immigration.  Unfortunately, it seems that some of these bad dudes are actually working for ICE.

17) More evidence for modern conservatism as white tribal politics.

18) I know you’ll be shocked to see evidence of how Trump tried to keep Black families out of his properties.

19) Terrific piece in Vox looking at (and speculating upon) the mating history of humans and neanderthals.  This particular bit was new to me:

Siepel has also found evidence of an even earlier mating than those that took place around 50,000 years ago. In the fully sequenced Neanderthal genome published in 2014, he found some human genes dating back to 100,000 years ago. “Instead of finding Neanderthal segments in modern human genomes, we identified modern, human-like segments in one of the Neanderthal genome,” he says.

It goes to show these matings weren’t a one-time event in our history. (And it adds a wrinkle to the common story that humans left Africa around 50,000 to 60,000 years ago. Human DNA found its way into Neanderthals 100,000 years ago, so there must have been an earlier human incursion into Europe. Those humans, though, did not survive.)

20) Democrats are now more inclined to embrace conspiracy theories.  Why?  Because conspiracy theories are for losers.

21) Doctors finally admit that lifestyle and exercise– not drugs– are the best treatment for lower back pain.  I found this bit of particular interest:

Obesity, being overweight, smoking, depression, and anxiety have all been linked with lower back pain. But the cause is usually more complicated. “Our best understanding of low back pain is that it is a complex, biopsychosocial condition — meaning that biological aspects like structural or anatomical causes play some role, but psychological and social factors also play a big role,” said Chou, who wrote a big evidence review that helped inform the new ACP guideline.

For example, in patients who have nearly identical results from an imaging test like an MRI, those who are depressed or unsatisfied with their jobs tend to have worse back pain than people who aren’t, Chou said. Partly for this reason, doctors don’t generally recommend doing MRIs for acute episodes of low back pain, since they can lead to overtreatment — like surgery — that also won’t improve health outcomes.

As for the modestly annoying lower-back pain I began experiencing about 10 years ago… I started sleeping with a pillow under my hips (I sleep on my stomach) and it’s never been anything but a very occasional annoyance since.

22) Catherine Rampell on Republicans plans to completely gut the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  It really is truly breathtaking how much Republicans are totally willing to screw over the little guy.  There’s plenty of areas where I just disagree with Republicans, and I get that, but I really do not understand how people justify these types of positions.

23) Drum’s quasi fact-checking of Trump’s disaster press conference is so entertaining.  My favorite part:

I mean, I watch CNN, it’s so much anger and hatred and just the hatred. I don’t watch it any more…Well, you look at your show that goes on at 10 o’clock in the evening. You just take a look at that show. That is a constant hit…Now, I will say this. I watch it. I see it. I’m amazed by it.

Fact-check: Schrödinger’s cat. Trump both watches and doesn’t watch CNN.

24) Yeah, the modern research university really is built off the exploitation of adjuncts.   But that’s because far too many people are willing to work for $3-4000 per class in the hopes that it will lead to somethhing good and permanent when it almost never, ever does.  Hope springs eternal…  And, yes, universities need to stop producing so many more PhD’s than there are decent jobs.  Damn, perverse incentives.

25) Great Vox conversation with Gary Kasparov on Putin and Trump.

Secretary DeVos

Jim Newell explains why Democrats’ frantic efforts to get a 3rd Republican Senator to oppose DeVos are unlikely to succeed:

This does not mean that it would be in vain to continue calling or writing them urging them to change their minds. If the heat is turned up to an extreme following a senator’s announcement of support, one of those senators could rethink. The idea is for a senator to feel that the trouble he or she would get in with constituents for supporting DeVos would be greater than the trouble with Trump for voting against her.

That’s a high bar to clear, and it’s why Democrats are having such a hard time finding that third Republican defection. It’s not just any vote against DeVos—it’s the one that would seal DeVos’ fate, and embarrass the Trump administration. That vote will be expensive. Earning the lifetime enmity of the new president, as well as falling out of favor with the Republican Senate leadership, would make the would-be 51st senator’s life miserable, without a clear, immediate payoff beyond earning the undesirable title of Democrats’ Favorite Republican Senator. The would-be 51st senator would have to feel that the future of his or her career would be fatally threatened, by some combination of irate constituents and well-funded interest groups, by voting for Betsy DeVos.

Yep.  At this point, that’s a very, very tough move for any Republican to take.  Now, if 4-5 had come out in concert against her earlier you couldn’t really pin it on any one of them.  But at this point, fairly or not, any Republican Senator who comes out against DeVos will experience serious rage.  Alas, it is sad that virtually all Republicans will approve someone so transparently and patently unqualified.  Yes, Presidents should have fairly wide latitude with their cabinet picks.  But DeVos is beyond that latitude.  Surely there would have been some actually competent people who were rabidly all about school choice.  Then again, maybe liberals should be glad we get the incompetent version.

Quick hits (part I)

1) An interesting take on whether Trump is a weak or strong leader.

2) Incredibly, preposterously, prosecutors are still defending the anti-science of bite mark evidence.  If it were up to me, that would be automatic grounds for disbarment.

Consiglio’s two main arguments are the same arguments Mourges used and that the state deploys in nearly every bite mark case. The first is pretty straightforward, and noted above. To date, no court in the country has ruled bite mark evidence inadmissible. That this is such a strong argument in the courts demonstrates about as emphatically as anything just how ill-equipped the courts are when it comes to assessing science. The fact that no court has yet to rule against “scientific evidence” that nearly every scientist in the country agrees isn’t scientific at all is a damning indictment of the courts and their inability to self-correct. Instead, it’s used as an argument to let yet more unscientific evidence into more cases — and it’s an argument that has yet to be defeated.

Under Frye, for expert testimony to be admissible, it must be generally accepted within the relevant scientific community. Here’s the question at issue: When it comes to bite mark evidence, what is the relevant scientific community? For prosecutors such as Mourges and Consiglio, it is other bite mark analysts. That is, the relevant community of “scientists” whose opinion judges should consider when evaluating the scientific validity of bite mark analysis should be people who already believe that bite mark analysis is scientific. You almost have to admire the brazenness of this argument. It’s like saying that if a judge is evaluating the scientific merit of palm readers, he should only consider the opinions of other palm readers. And yet so far, the argument has worked every time it has been tried.

Ross’s attorneys argue that the “relevant scientific community” should include actual scientists — that is, people who actually abide by the principles of scientific inquiry. Most bite mark analysts don’t operate under double blind conditions. There’s very little peer review. (Indeed, when analysts review one another’s work, there is often disagreement. This is why bite mark cases often feature two or more analysts giving the jury opinions that are diametrically opposed.)

Understandably, Consiglio doesn’t want the judge to consider the opinions of real scientists. So in his brief defending the scientific validity of bite mark analysis, he attacks science itself.

3) Actually, totally makes sense that Putin would be funding the anti-fracking campaign in the U.S.

4) Car dealers don’t actually know anything about the advanced safety features in modern cars.

5) In Trumpworld, 5-year olds can be dangerous terrorists.

6) A study shows that father-child reading leads to improvements in learning and behavior.  Well, damn, in that case, my kids should behave a helluva lot better than they do.

7) More states figuring out that it’s stupid to deny a drivers license for a totally unrelated drug conviction.

8) The right way to say “I’m sorry.”  I’ll save you the time as I’m pretty sure I’ve got this figured out: actually mean it.

9) There’s lots of examples of the amazing inhumanity of the travel ban (allow me to again call out the “Christians” who love Trump), but this one is particularly poignant.

10) Forget safety (okay, don’t really forget safety), but it’s surprising to me that youth football is just now figuring out to use smaller teams.  Today’s youth soccer is so much better than my day due to smaller-sided games for younger players.

11) The logistics and technology behind all those phone calls to members of Congress (if only they’d listen on DeVos!).

12) I have at least one thing in common with Trump— we both use propecia.  This headline at HuffPo is a nice reminder of why I’m not a fan of HuffPo (though, they do have some good writers, e.g., Cohn), “Trump Takes Propecia, A Hair-Loss Drug Associated With Mental Confusion, Impotence.”  (For the record, side effects are incredibly minimal).

13) A profile of the White House’s other Steven, the equally disturbing (and Duke grad!) Stephen Miller.

14) Yes, the Berkeley students who protested professional asshole, Milo Yiannopoulos, with violence were stupid, stupid, stupid.  Yes, Yiannopoulos is abominable, but violence?!  Also, this:

That strikes me as a strong argument. Universities should establish rules for how they treat speakers that student organizations invite. And they should not alter those rules depending on the ideas those speakers espouse, even if their ideas are hateful.  (And yes, I’d apply that not merely to Milo but to a neo-Nazi like Richard Spencer). At Berkeley, the rules say that student organizations get to host their speakers at the Student Union for free. If Berkeley changes that because Yiannopoulos is a misogynist, what happens if a Palestinian group invites a speaker that conservatives call anti-Semitic? …

Of course, Berkeley students also have the right to protest Yiannopoulos. But the university has an obligation to ensure that their right to protest does not prevent the College Republicans from hearing their invited guest. Is the university obligated to spend extra money, which it would not expend for a normal speaker, because Yiannopoulos’s speech requires extra security? I’m not sure. But in any case, Berkeley did not spend extra money. It required the College Republicans to come up with funds for additional security themselves; an anonymous patron contributed $6,000 to help them…

But the argument for letting Yiannopoulos speak is more than tactical. It’s a matter of principle. Conservative students have the right to bring obnoxious bigots to speak on campus and other students have a right to protest. But universities should not let the protesters shut them down. That was hard for many leftists to accept even before Trump’s election. Now that an obnoxious bigot occupies the White House, it’s even harder. But Trump’s presidency is, in part, a test of whether ordinary Americans can avoid sinking to his level, whether a citizenry can respect the principles that its leaders do not. What happened to Milo Yiannopoulos this week is part of that test. It’s important that progressives at Berkeley, and around the country, do not fail.

15) Not in the video clip, but pleased to see my “alternative facts” quote made the write-up of this story.

16) Trump has a grand strategy— it’s just a horrible one.

17) Stephen Walt on Trump’s foreign policy:

you’re a Trump supporter, you might be feeling pretty good about the new administration’s first steps. You may have hailed the Muslim ban (and let’s be honest, that’s what it is) as a long-overdue step to protect Americans from dangerous foreigners. (It’s not, of course, but never mind.) Perhaps you also think the chorus of criticism from lawyers, the media, academics, corporate leaders, foreign governments, and former government officials — including many prominent Republicans — is just welcome evidence that Trump is on the right track. You might well view his first two weeks as clear signs a new sheriff is in town and putting the whole world on notice. You may even see his end-runs around the interagency process, his decision to replace top defense and intelligence officials on the National Security Council with alt-right advisor Stephen Bannon as steps designed to protect the “America First” policies that you voted for in November and that he reaffirmed on Inauguration Day.

With all due respect, you would be wrong.

In fact, if you are a loyal Trump supporter, and especially someone who embraced him because you thought he would deliver a smarter, more self-interested, more restrained, and above all more successful foreign policy than his predecessors, you should be disappointed and deeply worried. Why? Because in just two weeks he has squandered a genuine opportunity to put American foreign policy on a more solid footing and has managed to unite and empower opposition at home and abroad in ways that would have been hard to imagine a few months ago.

18) Apparently this ad from 2010 was banned.  Regardless, I’d never seen it before and it is pretty damn hilarious.

19) Ransomware is going big and that’s not good for anybody.

20) Good take from David Roberts, “Trump isn’t an evil genius.  And that’s not what matters anyway.”

Most Kremlinology isn’t very useful. My theory is that authoritarian demagogues are more alike than they are different. Most of them are narcissists. They are, at root, fearful, paranoid, and tribal, which drives the macho posturing and obsession with loyalty. They have a kind of animal cunning for how to manipulate people, dominate, and accrue power.

But for the most part they aren’t evil geniuses. (One of Russian journalist Masha Gessen’s recurring themes about Putin is what a “grey, ordinary man” he is.) Indeed, evil geniuses are pretty rare — or, to put it more precisely, narcissistic, paranoid tribalists are rarely geniuses, because genius requires a certain detached perspective, an ability to step outside oneself, which is precisely what narcissists lack.

What authoritarian regimes do is blunder forward, grasping and grabbing power whenever and wherever they can, building secretive inner circles, surrounding themselves with supplicant state media, demonizing dissenting voices, and punishing enemies. They do this not because of some 12-dimensional chess analysis of the political landscape, but because that’s what narcissism and zero-sum thinking does. They are more like animals driven by instinct than chess masters driven by strategy, though of course there’s a range (with Trump being on the far blinded-by-narcissism end).

21) Former Bush appointee, Elliot Cohen:

Many conservative foreign-policy and national-security experts saw the dangers last spring and summer, which is why we signed letters denouncing not Trump’s policies but his temperament; not his program but his character.

We were right. And friends who urged us to tone it down, to make our peace with him, to stop saying as loudly as we could “this is abnormal,” to accommodate him, to show loyalty to the Republican Party, to think that he and his advisers could be tamed, were wrong. In an epic week beginning with a dark and divisive inaugural speech, extraordinary attacks on a free press, a visit to the CIA that dishonored a monument to anonymous heroes who paid the ultimate price, and now an attempt to ban selected groups of Muslims (including interpreters who served with our forces in Iraq and those with green cards, though not those from countries with Trump hotels, or from really indispensable states like Saudi Arabia), he has lived down to expectations…

Precisely because the problem is one of temperament and character, it will not get better. It will get worse ,[emphasis mine] as power intoxicates Trump and those around him. It will probably end in calamity—substantial domestic protest and violence, a breakdown of international economic relationships, the collapse of major alliances, or perhaps one or more new wars (even with China) on top of the ones we already have. It will not be surprising in the slightest if his term ends not in four or in eight years, but sooner, with impeachment or removal under the 25th Amendment. The sooner Americans get used to these likelihoods, the better.

22) David Brooks lets loose on the cowardly Republicans enabling Trump:

Many Republican members of Congress have made a Faustian bargain with Donald Trump. They don’t particularly admire him as a man, they don’t trust him as an administrator, they don’t agree with him on major issues, but they respect the grip he has on their voters, they hope he’ll sign their legislation and they certainly don’t want to be seen siding with the inflamed progressives or the hyperventilating media.

Their position was at least comprehensible: How many times in a lifetime does your party control all levers of power? When that happens you’re willing to tolerate a little Trumpian circus behavior in order to get things done.

But if the last 10 days have made anything clear, it’s this: The Republican Fausts are in an untenable position. The deal they’ve struck with the devil comes at too high a price. It really will cost them their soul.

In the first place, the Trump administration is not a Republican administration; it is an ethnic nationalist administration. Trump insulted both parties equally in his Inaugural Address. The Bannonites are utterly crushing the Republican regulars when it comes to actual policy making.

Yep.  That said, I think Brooks, an economic conservative and moderate social traditionalist, is in great denial about how much the rank-and-file GOP is an ethnic nationalist party.

23) Chait with the case for optimism.

24) It actually is quite possible that in addition to clearly suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Trump could be a genuine psychopath (most are not serial killers).  As Yglesias points out, he is profoundly lacking in empathy.

25) John Cassidy also with a positive take on the growing Trump resistance.

26) It’s not perfect, but I love that Ken Pomeroy has come up with a metric for assessing college basketball referee quality.

The reality of school choice

Really enjoyed this policy-oriented take on Betsy DeVos and school choice from Sarah Carr in Slate.  School choice is far from the panacea DeVos and like make it out to be, but, properly regulated by government, there’s something to be said for it:

DeVos is sounding an old tune in her insistence on the power of parental choice as a lever to improve education in America. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the notion became a rallying cry for conservatives—and some liberals—eager for states to embrace private school voucher programs, charter schools, or both. (Charter schools are public-private hybrids that typically must follow the reporting requirements of traditional public schools, including test scores and graduation rates. Voucher programs, by contrast, divert public funds—often in the form of “tuition vouchers”—to private schools that lack the regulations and transparency of public ones. Charter schools generally garner more bipartisan support than voucher programs, but several Democrats, particularly black ones, have endorsed vouchers as a potential boon for low-income families of color.)

Although DeVos’ exhortations on behalf of parental school choice are familiar to anyone who follows education reform, today she is wildly out of touch with a large part of the movement she purports to represent. The nearly 30-year history of school vouchers and charters in America has shown that parental choice—in the absence of government intervention—will not improve the quality of education in America and could inflict significant damage on the poorest communities. Indeed, even many of the staunchest early supporters of unchecked parental choice have moderated that stance over the past 15 years. By all appearances, DeVos hasn’t faced a similar moment of reckoning. [emphases mine]

Howard Fuller, an early and well-known supporter of school vouchers who founded Marquette University’s Institute for the Transformation of Learning, has long advocated for providing poor parents with more educational options. He still believes strongly in the power of school choice. Yet based on experience and evidence, he came to see the need for a greater governmental role—either direct or delegated—in determining which schools can open and which ones should close. “The free-market ideas upon which the voucher program was founded—that academically superior schools will thrive because parents will choose them over lousy schools—has not been borne out over the past two decades,” Fuller was paraphrased as saying in a 2011 Milwaukee Journal Sentinelarticle

Yet unchecked free markets in education will inevitably put poor families in an even worse position. Numerous studies have shown that parents rely on word of mouth over other more objective and researched factors when selecting a school. That goes for parents of all income levels. But low-income parents are at a disadvantage because they often lack the time, wherewithal, and resources to thoroughly investigate school options for their kids, or access to some of the strongest schools (which may have complicated, time-consuming admissions processes). Some parents have less-than-stellar memories of their own, often subpar, educational experiences and may fear the traditional system as a result. That makes them especially vulnerable—although not uniquely so—to charismatic con men and women masquerading as educators: the Bernie Madoffs of the education space.

Some charter schools seem to have really figured things out, but on average, it is clear that vouchers and charters are not some amazing solution.  Remember, all those nations that outperform us on education are not doing it based on school choice.  Free markets are awesome where the conditions are right and they work.  Primary and secondary education are not that place (like health care, not coincidentally).  So, yes, I’m okay with a properly-regulated role for charters, but I have absolutely no use for this false free-market ideology of education.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Saletan on Trump and his speech:

On Friday, a morally empty man gave a morally empty speech. There was no talk of humility, no acknowledgment of enduring prejudice, no plea for decency. Instead, Trump railed against foreigners and “a small group in our nation’s capital” that “has reaped the rewards of government.” In place of Bush’s praise for mosques, Trump spoke of Islam only as a source of terrorism. The man who ran on a platform of “take the oil” fumed that American wealth had been “redistributed all across the world.” He accused countries of “stealing our companies and destroying our jobs.”

This is why Trump is unworthy of your respect. It’s not because he didn’t win the popular vote. It’s not because of his party or his policies. It’s not because of Russia. It’s because of who he is. For all his faults, even those that turned out to be disastrous, Bush was a decent man. He believed in something greater than himself. Trump doesn’t.

2) This sentiment from Bryan Caplan (author of my oft-cited Selfish Reasons to have more kids) makes a good point:

3) Running might actually be good for your knees.

4) Dana Milbank’s favorite signs from the DC Women’s March.

5) Jack Shafer argues that Trump has actually liberated journalists to produce better journalism.

6) Don’t usually read sponsored content, but this piece on middle school versus junior high (which I attended) was pretty good.

7) Extreme picky eating has made the DSM V.  I don’t think Evan is quite there, but not too far off:

At age 12, after Brendan started showing signs of malnourishment, the family took him to Walden Behavioral Care, an eating disorder treatment center in Waltham, Mass., where he was given a diagnosis of avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder, or Arfid. The eating disorder was added to the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the American Psychiatric Association’s reference manual, in 2013.

While many kids go through periods of being picky, or selective, eaters, Arfid is picky eating taken to the extreme. A Swiss study of 1,444 children ages 8 to 13 found that 3 percent were affected by the condition, which often starts in childhood.

Those with Arfid avoid specific colors, textures, tastes or smells of foods, or are afraid of choking or vomiting. Others may have no interest in eating at all.

8) Great NYT photo essay on an innocent bystander improbably killed by a bullet shot a good distance away.

9) On a highly-related note, Linda Greenhouse on the Supreme Court’s next gun battle.

10) A FB friend recently posted about the principal about her kids’ middle school being way over-punitive.  Sadly, we don’t take good principals very seriously and principal quality really matters.

11) German Lopez’s headline gets it, “Trump: crime and gangs are ruining the country. Actual statistics: that’s not remotely true.”

12) Fallows:

The message will be stated and restated this day: For the 58th time, the system has worked, and power has smoothly transferred from one heir of George Washington to another. The truth is not so happy. With full advance notice, and despite the failure to gain a plurality of the nation’s vote, the United States will soon inaugurate someone who owes his office in some large part to a hostile foreign intelligence operation. Who is, above and beyond that, a person whose character that leaves him unqualified to hold the presidency, and threatens the country with an impending sequence of financial and espionage scandals—a constitutional crisis on two legs.

The real message of today is that the system has failed. The challenge of the morrow is to know what to do to save the remainder.

13) Concussion is, obviously, very serious, yet quite difficult to accurate diagnosis.  Now, technological advancement means we may be able to accurately diagnose with a finger prick.

14) Samantha Bee takes on Kellyanne Conway. Oh man is this good.

15) Alvin Chang with a nice chart and comic look at how white America is increasingly self-segregating.

16) Trump’s putative EPA head cannot even admit lead is bad for children.  Ugh.  Drum:

If Pruitt had been asked about the effects of zirconium dioxide on Alzheimer’s disease or something, then sure. Nobody knows everything, after all. But lead paint has been in the news for something like 50 years now and Flint’s water pipes have been in big, bold headlines for the past two. You’d have to work pretty hard not to be aware of what lead does.

 Still, if you’re bound and determined never to regulate anything, no matter how dangerous, then I suppose it pays to aggressively shut your eyes to environmental dangers of all kinds. Welcome to the New Model EPA, folks.

17) Chait on yesterday’s marches:

It matters that Trump drew a sparse crowd to inaugural festivities that he had billed beforehand as a historic, Jacksonian uprising of The People. And it matters much more that millions of Americans came out on a Saturday to register their protest. It is not only catharsis, though catharsis is better than depression. The message has been heard by the political class, Republican and Democratic alike.

It might be easy to assume that Trump and his allies feel insulated from accountability. It is not quite so simple. Republicans in Congress have thus far given Trump near-total cooperation of the assumption that they could move quickly and with little resistance to implement their agenda. Democrats did not really wake up from their late-Clinton slumber until the middle of Bush’s term, after which a lot of legislation had already passed. Republicans assuming they could rush through Paul Ryan’s agenda, while allowing Trump to obliterate long-standing governing norms, will rethink. The kind of backlash Democrats eventually mounted against Bush, which drove landslide victories in the 2006 midterm and the 2008 election, is a plausible possibility. In those elections, many seemingly safe red states turned blue.

One of the great weaknesses of American liberalism is a congenital tendency toward depression when their party holds power. The demobilization of the Democratic base is over. The prospect of a Democratic wave may not stop Republicans, and it may not even give them pause. But the governing party had probably assumed the clock would not start for months on the liberal backlash. Now the clock is ticking already.

18) My favorite sign at the protests:

19) And love this NYT photo feature of protests around the US and the world.

20) Yglesias argues that the GOP is sabotaging itself by confirming such weak nominees like Betsy Devos:

But while trying to hide DeVos from public view may be a service to her personally, it’s a disservice to both the Trump administration and the larger Republican Party. Presidents, after all, need Cabinet secretaries who can be effective public spokespeople for administration policy. The education secretary represents the administration on Capitol Hill, in the media, to university administrators and state and local officials, and as an interface with civil society groups that care about education. Even the heads of the second-tier agencies are important people in American politics and society, and having good people fill the roles is important.

In some ways this is especially true when the secretary deals with an issue that isn’t an important personal priority of the president, like education. State and local governments employ more than 10 million education workers who collectively teach more than 50 million kids. That Donald Trump’s coal-and-steel vision of American prosperity is relatively indifferent to educators’ work only heightens the responsibility that will fall on DeVos as she acts as the administration’s face on an issue that matters to many people, even if it doesn’t matter that much to Trump…

At the end of the day, there is going to be an education secretary, and that person is going to be a member of Trump’s administration. It’s in the Republican Party’s interest, more than anyone else, that that person be an effective member of the team. Shielding DeVos’s flaws from public scrutiny by scheduling an unusually brief hearing with limited questions at an odd time works well if your goal is to spare her embarrassment. By the same token, nobody can stop congressional Republicans from hustling Tom Price into office before anyone’s taken a rigorous look at his stock trading. The obviously unqualified Ben Carson seems to be a shoo-in at HUD.

But the GOP is only sabotaging itself by allowing Trump to draft this C-list roster. The president can’t be everywhere simultaneously — an effective Cabinet is how he extends his reach, influences more people, and gets more done. Rushing weak candidates through is a good way to put points on the board, but only weakens their own administration in the long run.

 

 

 

 

 

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