Quick hits (part I)

1) Matt Yglesias‘ essay on why it is important to pay members of Congress and their staff a lot more is really great.  You should read it!  Short version: Congress will be better and our democracy will be better:

Congressional pay has been declining in inflation-adjusted terms since the mid-1960s, even while incomes for other professional occupations have risen. Today, a House member earns $174,000 a year — a bit less than the average dentist and quite a bit less than the average doctor — which is certainly not a poverty wage but also not exactly an elite salary. Newly elected members are typically 50-something with professional backgrounds in law and business who are earning less than what they were previously making in the private sector and less than they could make by quitting and going to work on K Street.

Evidence from state legislatures indicates that better pay would attract a larger, more ideologically diverse candidate pool and potentially generate a Congress that actually does things.

But the quality-of-life problems members of Congress face do not stop at salary: They also include the high cost of housing in the Washington, DC, area, and inadequate office staff.

Most House members have unusually high costs of living since they need to maintain two households — one back home in their district and another one in Washington. Dozens of less affluent members sleep in their offices during the workweek.

Meanwhile, members are constantly getting in trouble for things like having staffers do personal errands for them or engaging in corrupt-looking insider trading.

So in addition to reversing the decline in pay for members of Congress, America should make some provision for the housing problem, and offer an adequate level of staffing across the institution so members can get help with their policy development and their dry cleaning.

Then we should hold members of Congress to a higher standard of conduct, with curbs on outside income and stock trading. We should offer staff a real HR department. There are a million things wrong with the American political system and no silver bullet for any of them. But a good place to start is that if you want a great Congress, you need great people, and that means you need to make it a job they’d actually want to do.

2) The reason I first became a fan of Cory Booker is because he was about the only one talking honestly about the fact that truly reforming mass incarceration means thinking differently violent crime.  Then, he kind of lost me with his seemingly naive, overly bipartisan presidential campaign thus far.  But, he’s sure winning me back with rigorous proposals for gun control:

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) sums up his ambitious new gun control plan in one sentence: “If you need a license to drive a car, you should need a license to own a gun.”

On Monday, Booker unveiled his proposal to tackle America’s gun problem as part of his bid for the presidency, detailing a plan that sets a high bar for the rest of the Democratic field.

His plan includes the typical Democratic proposals: universal background checks, an assault weapons banbetter enforcement of existing gun laws, and more funding for gun violence research.

But Booker’s plan goes further by requiring that gun owners not just pass a background check but obtain a license to be able to purchase and own a firearm. It’s a far more robust gun control proposal than any other presidential candidate has proposed. The idea has solid researchbehind it, and real-world experience in nine states that currently require a license or permit for at least handguns, including Booker’s home state of New Jersey.

The plan would go toward addressing a very serious issue: America currently leads the developed world in gun violence. One big reason for that is that America has the laxest gun laws — and the most guns — of any developed country. The research has consistently found that places with easier access to guns and more firearms have more gun deaths.

3) Dahlia Lithwick virtually assembles some great legal minds to ask if we are in a “Constitutional Crisis.”  Lots of varied, thoughtful responses.  But I do love Laurence Tribe’s:

Harvard Law School professor Laurence Tribe agrees that this probably isn’t the time to parse legal language: “Crisis schmisis—what’s in a word? We’re under an ongoing cyberattack from a hostile foreign power that helped install an imbecilic self-seeking con man as our leader, who committed numerous felonies to avoid being held accountable for his illegitimate election, who is encouraging ongoing attacks by that same foreign power and others, who violates his oath of office daily, and who seems secure from removal by virtue of a spineless Senate abetted by a cowardly House. Our constitutional norms are in meltdown as we watch in helpless stupor waiting for the monster to steal or cancel the next election. If this doesn’t qualify as a crisis, the word should be retired forthwith.”

4) Great Jamelle Bouie piece on the problems with the Senate.  For what it’s worth, I’ve been complaining about the fundamental unfairness of the Senate for as long as I’ve been teaching.

The Republican coalition of rural whites, exurban whites and anti-tax suburbanites may not be large enough to win the national popular vote in a head-to-head matchup with Democrats. But it covers a much larger part of the country’s landmass, giving it a powerful advantage in the Senate. And while this coalition — or its Democratic counterpart of liberal whites and the overwhelming majority of nonwhites — isn’t set in stone, it could be years, even decades, before we see meaningful change in the demographic contours of our partisan divides.

5) Thanks to EMG for sharing this piece on what it takes to count the cats in DC.  With fun infographics, too.

6) On a related note– a pretty interesting scientific effort to count all the squirrels in Central Park.

7) It’s long past time to stop sacrificing our kids to the “right to bear arms.”  It’s so morally twisted.  Kristof:

Politicians fearful of the National Rifle Association have allowed the gun lobby to run amok so that America now has more guns than people, but there is still true heroism out there in the face of gun violence: students who rush shooters at the risk of their own lives.

Let’s celebrate, and mourn, a student named Kendrick Castillo, 18, just days away from graduating in Highlands Ranch, Colo., who on Tuesday helped save his classmates in English literature class from a gunman.

“Kendrick lunged at him, and he shot Kendrick, giving all of us enough time to get underneath our desks, to get ourselves safe, and to run across the room to escape,” Nui Giasolli, a student in the classroom, told the “Today” show. Kendrick was killed, and eight other students were injured.

At least three boys in the class — one of them Brendan Bialy, who hopes to become a Marine — tackled and disarmed the gunman. “They were very heroic,” Nui said. Bravo as well to the police officers who arrived within two minutes of the shooting and seized the two attackers.

The courage of those students in Colorado echoes last week’s bravery of Riley Howell, a student at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Riley, 21, charged a gunman there and continued even as he was shot twice. As he tackled the gunman he was shot a third time, in the head, and killed, but he ended the shooting.

Riley was deservedly given a hero’s funeral, and presumably the same will happen with Kendrick. But their parents didn’t want martyrs; they wanted children and grandchildren. And it is appalling that we as a society have abandoned American kids so that they must die to save their classmates. [emphasis mine]

8) I think Kevin Drum is probably right on unions:

In the last 60 years, as private-sector unions disintegrated, labor’s share of national income dropped and dropped and dropped. There was a brief recovery during the dotcom boom, but that was quickly put paid. The Great Recession did even further damage, and by 2019 labor’s share had dropped by 13 percent since 1960. That amounts to about $700 billion in lost wages, or roughly $6,000 per working family.

Why did this happen? Because it could. Without unions to push back, owners of capital took a bigger share for themselves and there was no one to stop them. Nor was this any kind of accident. Throughout the entire postwar era, there is nothing—not abortion, not tax cuts, not opposition to social welfare—that Republicans have been more united and aggressive about than destroying unions. This is because the business class that supports Republicans knows perfectly well that unions are their core problem. You have to kill them off before you can get your tax cuts or your stock buybacks or your executive compensation that’s 300x the average worker.

If you want to know if someone supports the middle class, one question will do the job: do you want labor unions to regain their power? If you don’t, then like Donald Trump, you’re just faking it. Granted, it’s a scary thought for some liberals, too, since a re-empowered labor movement means that a bunch of blue-collar workers would have real power of their own and start calling a lot of the shots on the left. But what other way is there to break the power of corporations and the right?

9) And Tom Edsall asks, “Can Democrats figure out how to get unions back into the equation in 2020?”

Even as many Democrats appear to accept organized labor’s decline, Republicans recognize the crucial importance of unions and are determined to gut them further.

The conservative who may understand labor’s ongoing significance best is Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform.

In a 2017 essay for OZY.com, “Why Republicans (and Trump) May Still Win Big in 2020 — Despite ‘Everything’,” Norquist, a longtime anti-tax, anti-labor activist, argued that continuing the right-wing’s effort to crush labor’s power will be of vital importance to the outcome of the next election…

The problem in building support for a resurgent labor movement is that many liberals and Democrats do not appear to recognize the crucial role that unions continue to play not only in diminishing the effects of inequality, but in voter mobilization and campaign finance. Unfortunately for labor, and for the future of the Democratic Party, groups that are shrinking in numbers and in financial resources lose political leverage and influence, the two commodities unions are most in need of.

What too many on the left of the political spectrum also ignore (or fail to understand) is that labor unions are inextricably intertwined with the economic condition of women and minorities — and, for that matter, of white men. In other words, Democrats make a fundamental mistake if they engage in the politics of subtraction, downgrading the priority of battered but pivotal institutions like the labor movement. They would be wise to commit to the politics of addition instead — amplifying the power of labor to lift up the most loyal Democratic constituencies.

10) OMG I loved Yglesias‘ proposal for “Medicare for Kids.”  Why aren’t Democrats doing this?

Behind the scenes, Democrats in Washington are trying to think about what they’ll do if the party wins the White House in 2021 on a Medicare-for-all platform but still hasn’t made much progress on the critical question of what taxes you’d raise to pay for it.

A natural fallback is to try to find ideas that put the country on the path to the single-payer vision without requiring nearly as much in the way of immediate tax hikes. To many, that means gravitating toward an idea that almost happened in the late stages of the original Affordable Care Act debate — opening up Medicare to a younger class of older people, either by reducing the Medicare eligibility age to 55 or at least creating a structure for the 55-and-older crowd to “buy in” to Medicare.

A much better idea, however, would be to do the reverse and create a universal health insurance program for children. It’s much cheaper, meaning it could be paid for with relatively modest and politically popular tax hikes on the rich and provide a clear, simple benefit to millions of families. New polling shows it’s an extremely popular idea. And most importantly, because kids would age out of the program rather than aging into it, they and their parents would create a natural constituency for further expansions so they can hold on to a benefit they currently enjoy and would fear losing… [emphasis mine]

The great thing from a political economy perspective is that if the beneficiaries of Medicare for Kids liked the program, they would end up having a direct personal incentive to favor its expansion.

Parents who’d loved the fact that they never had to worry about their children’s insurance would hear plans to extend the program up to age 25 or 30 as further reassuring that their kids wouldn’t end up losing out. What’s more, if the government-provided insurance turned out to be good, parents might start to want some for themselves. The basic challenges of program expansion — it costs money, people don’t like paying taxes, and special interest groups will complain — would still be there, of course, but the incentives would be aligned for success to spur program expansion.

Creating special programs for the elderly, unfortunately, has tended to have the opposite impact, and accepting a half-a-loaf strategy to extend Medicare coverage to a larger population of older people might make it harder to eventually achieve universal health care.

Medicare for Kids, by contrast, is the kind of half-measure that would actually keep the country on the path to eventually delivering a real guarantee of health insurance for everyone.

11) So meant to do a post on this.  Alas.  Anyway, love how Jennifer Victor presents Mueller on Trump’s obstruction as almost exactly how we build a social science argument:

 Volume 2 is all about the possibility that President Trump engaged in the criminal act of obstruction of justice during the investigation about his campaign.

The maneuver that Mueller uses in Volume 2 is extraordinary. It’s a social scientist‘s delight and should be used as a case example in research methods classes. Special counsel Mueller uses the logic and procedure of the scientific method to arrive at his conclusion in his investigation about the possibility of obstruction of justice. This is unusual because it is not the typical route that an attorney would use in building a case or preparing an investigatory report. In short, rather than providing evidence to support a claim of obstruction, Mueller essentially sets out to falsify a null hypothesis that obstruction did not occur.

The double-negative language that describes this procedure can be confusing. Here’s how it works. The scientific method that all scientists, natural or social, use involves a process called falsification. The method was popularized by a philosopher named Karl Popper, who in the mid 20th century wrote a book called The Logic of Scientific Discovery. Popper argues that in science it is not possible to “prove” anything; rather, scientists seek to theorize all the possible explanations for a phenomenon, and then seek evidence to disprove as many of those explanations as possible.

It’s a process of elimination. And this is exactly what Mueller does in his report. Mueller does not set out to prove that the president engaged in obstruction of justice; rather, Mueller recognizes that he is bound by the Attorney General’s interpretation of the law, which says the sitting president cannot be charged with a crime. In light of this legal interpretation, it would be futile for Mueller to build a case and demonstrate that the president should be charged with the crime of obstruction. So Mueller does something incredibly clever: He falsifies all of the alternative explanations. [emphasis mine]

12) And what Ben Wittes learned from the Mueller report:

Trump’s complicity in the Russian hacking operation and his campaign’s contacts with the Russians present a more complicated picture.

No, Mueller does not appear to have developed evidence that anyone associated with the Trump campaign was involved in the hacking operation itself. And no, the investigation did not find a criminal conspiracy in the veritable blizzard of contacts between Trumpworld and the Russians. But this is an ugly story for Trump.

Here’s the key point: If there wasn’t collusion on the hacking, it sure wasn’t for lack of trying. Indeed, the Mueller report makes clear that Trump personally ordered an attempt to obtain Hillary Clinton’s emails; and people associated with the campaign pursued this believing they were dealing with Russian hackers. Trump also personally engaged in discussions about coordinating public-relations strategy around WikiLeaks releases of hacked emails. At least one person associated with the campaign was in touch directly with the Guccifer 2.0 persona—which is to say with Russian military intelligence. And Donald Trump Jr. was directly in touch with WikiLeaks—from whom he obtained a password to a hacked database. There are reasons none of these incidents amount to crimes—good reasons, in my view, in most cases, viable judgment calls in others. But the picture it all paints of the president’s conduct is anything but exonerating.

Call it Keystone Kollusion.

13) Sarah Kliff on the three most important things she’s learned as a health care reporter.

14) John Cassidy, “Donald Trump’s business failures were very real.”

In May, 2019, this is all distant history, of course. But don’t let anyone tell you—not Trump, nor Newt Gingrich, nor any of the President’s other apologists—that the businesses Trump operated were successful, or that the huge losses they sustained were simply tax dodges. They weren’t.

15) Really interesting piece on how to fix poverty in the developing world.  I did not love the “liberals won’t like what I have to say” frame.  I liked it just fine.  Of course, societies without basic safety and security are going to suffer horribly and that this fact of life will dramatically reduce the potential beneficial impact of other charitable and philanthropic programs to improve the situation:

f you’re a progressive Democrat in the United States, you’re supposed to care about poverty, education, and women’s rights. If you’re a conservative Republican, you’re supposed to care about terrorism, crime, and controlling immigration. But in real life, all these issues are connected. To solve the problems you care about, sometimes you have to listen to the other side.

Here’s an example: To help the world’s poor people, you have to fight crime.

This is the work of the International Justice Mission, a human rights organization. Its founder, Gary Haugen, outlined the global challenge at an April session of the Faith Angle Forum, a conference on religion and society. In 1994, Haugen led the United Nations investigation into the Rwandan genocide. Three years later, he launched IJM. Through his work and his book The Locust Effect, Haugen makes a compelling case: Today, the principal cause of misery and stagnation in the world isn’t a lack of food or education. It’s violence and lawlessness.

In the United States, crime has sunk to historic lows. But across much of the globe, it’s rampant. The crisis isn’t just war. It’s what Haugen calls “everyday violence”: sex crimes, slavery, and theft. Based on World Health Organization data, Haugen says sexual violence and domestic violence cause more death and disability among women aged 14 to 44 than war, malaria, and car accidents combined. In Peru, he recalls, a doctor reported seeing 50 cases of rape in the preceding five days. All the victims were less than 15 years old.

These crimes are rarely prosecuted. In some countries, statistically, you’re less likely to be convicted of sexual assault than to die from slipping in the shower or being struck by lightning. In such places, ordinary people don’t expect police or the courts to protect them. Often, the police are predators. Kenya, for instance, went through a 25-year period in which, despite chronic police abuse, not one officer was convicted of murder…

The violence is bad enough. But it’s also thwarting development assistance. International organizations throw money at poor countries, often without much to show for it, in part because predators get in the way. One key to development, for example, is educating girls. But in much of the world, what keeps girls out of school is violence. It’s dangerous to walk to school, it’s dangerous to be in school, and many girls face violence at home that keeps them from leaving.

Haugen argues that lawlessness, like joblessness or illiteracy, is a form of deprivation. It’s part of a class structure. Poor people face high crime rates for the same reason they get the worst food and the worst health care. In colonized countries, Western powers designed courts and police to protect their own interests, not the public. In many places, even today, if you want protection, you have to buy it. In the developing world, according to Haugen, the private security industry is four to seven times bigger than public police forces. It’s the largest employer in Africa. [emphasis mine]

Totally makes sense to this liberal.  Let’s do something about it.

16) Tom Nichols on the overly-woke students trying to run elite universities.  Fortunately, I’ve seen only the slightest hints of this at NC State.  This does seem to exist disproportionately among the most over-privileged college students:

When did college students get it into their head that they should be running the university? The distressing trend of students somehow thinking that they’re the teachers began in earnest in the 1960s, a time when at least some of the grievances of campus protesters—from racism and sexism to the possibility of being sent to die in Southeast Asia—made sense.

A more noxious version of this trend, however, is now in full swing, with students demanding a say in the hiring and firing of faculty whose views they merely happen not to like. This is a dangerous development—a triple threat to free speech, to the education of future citizens, and to the value of a college education.

It is no surprise to find Camille Paglia, a professor at Philadelphia’s University of the Arts who has been outraging people across the social and political spectrum for three decades, embroiled in one of these controversies. Paglia proposed to give a talk titled “Ambiguous Images: Sexual Duality and Sexual Multiplicity in Western Art.” According to a letter released by two student activists, “a gender non-binary creative writing major” had “brought this lecture to the student body’s attention through social media and raised their concerns to Title IX and other University administration about the school giving Camille a platform.” This led to a group of students demanding that Paglia (who self-identifies as transgender) be removed from the faculty “and replaced by a queer person of color.”..

To some extent, unbridled and performative student activism is a disease of affluence. Young people who are working their way through school or who are immersed in difficult subjects have less time, and often less economic flexibility, to engage in protest.

Indeed, students at Brown University noticed the time-consuming nature of changing the world, and in 2016 demanded less schoolwork so that they could devote more effort to their “social-justice responsibilities.” As one anonymous undergraduate told the Brown school newspaper, “There are people breaking down, dropping out of classes, and failing classes because of the activism work they are taking on.” A senior with the wonderfully appropriate name of Justice Gaines told the paper, “I don’t feel okay with seeing students go through hardships without helping and organizing to make things better.”

17) New research complicates the push for the $15 minimum wage.  You know me– let’s follow the research and not just be ideological about this.  $15 works politically, but it does seem there’s a good case for regional variation, etc.

18) This was a really enjoyable read in Vox, “The mess that is elite college admissions, explained by a former dean: Eight things I wish people understood about my old job.”  In no surprise to anybody genuinely familiar with higher education, “5) Rankings are arbitrary, misleading, and poisonous”

19) This Op-Ed is right, “We Are Taking Religious Freedom Too Far: We have a right to practice our beliefs, but we don’t have the right to discriminate against others, or endanger their lives.”

20) In the sad, pathetic, and entirely unsurprising files, “Nearly half of white Republicans say it bothers them to hear people speaking foreign languages.”  Definitely had me thinking about Prius or Pickup.

21) Has Norway figured out youth sports?  Maybe:

Imagine a society in which 93 percent of children grow up playing organized sports. Where costs are low, the economic barriers to entry few, travel teams aren’t formed until the teenage years — and where adults don’t start sorting the weak from the strong until children have grown into their bodies and interests. Then, the most promising talents become the most competitive athletes in the world, on a per-capita basis.

I am talking about Norway…

“I like being outside and active with my friends,” Julia Stusvik-Eide, an 11-year-old from Oslo, told me at her neighborhood club as she balanced on cross-country skis with the aid of two classmates, arm-in-arm.

Julia’s comment is hardly a revelation. These are the priorities of most children, anywhere in the world. What’s distinctive about Norway’s sport model is how deliberately it tries to align with those needs.

The country’s Children’s Rights in Sport is a document unlike any other in the world, a declaration that underpins its whole sports ecosystem. Introduced in 1987 and updated in 2007 by the Norwegian Olympic and Paralympic Committee and Confederation of Sports, the eight-page statement describes the type of experience that every child in the country must be provided, from safe training environments to activities that facilitate friendships.

The statement places a high value on the voices of youth. Children “must be granted opportunities to participate in planning and execution of their own sport activities,” according to the document. They may “decide for themselves how much they would like to train,” and can even opt out of games if they just want to practice.

Want to transfer clubs in midseason? Go ahead, no penalty. Suit up with a rival club next week, if you wish.

“We believe the motivation of children in sport is much more important than that of the parent or coach,” said Inge Andersen, former secretary general of the Norwegian confederation. “We’re a small country and can’t afford to lose them because sport is not fun.”

 

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Quick hits (part I)

Oh my, I have been a complete loser blogger this week.  Cannot believe I’ve gone quick hits to quick hits with nothing in between.  And late, too.  Forgive me.  I promise a better week next week.

1) I order a lot from Amazon and thus have a non-trivial amount of Amazon returns.  I was actually somewhat surprised recently when I got my refund as soon as UPS scanned the return package.  I presume Amazon has some algorithm that says I’m a good customer that does not abuse the return process.

2) I also wondered what would happen to the electric razor that I was unhappy with (for my oldest son– I’m all about the Mach 3 Turbo).  Enjoyed this story about trying to make money on bulk Amazon returns.  I imagine, alas, that used electric razors end up in the trash.

3) Stephen Moore is such an absurd hack that it is offensive to hacks to call him a hack.  It’s a very good thing he will not serve on the Federal Reserve.  And to the utter shame (as is so much) of today’s Republicans that they ignored his horrible qualifications and nutty economic ideas, but only gave up on him for his absurd sexist remarks.  Great take from Yglesias:

Stephen Moore is a charlatan who plays a policy expert on TV

If you consume a lot of conservative media, you could easily be under the impression that Moore is one of the top economic policy thinkers in the country.

He has written extensively over the years for the Weekly Standard and National Review, long the two leading intellectual magazines of the conservative movement. He’s a distinguished fellow at the Heritage Foundation and a former member of the Wall Street Journal editorial board. He’s a contributor to CBN News and a former Fox News guy who jumped to CNN in 2017. But, again, even though Trump probably best knows him from television, he’s not just a television pundit. He published in the American Enterprise Institute’s in-house journal and was the director of fiscal policy studies at the Cato Institute for many years.

In short, the institutional conservative movement appears to regard him as a serious heavyweight thinker on economic policy…

Moore’s nomination deserved to sink because he’s a crank. As the Washington Post’s Catherine Rampell writes, he complained of imminent hyperinflation at the height of the Great Recession while now arguing that the economy faces deflation when there’s no evidence of this in economic data. He “advocates — at least when politically convenient — crank economic ideas, including returning to the gold standard.” Paul Krugman reminds us that in 2007-’08 when the country was tumbling into recession, he called for interest rate hikes that would have greatly exacerbated the problem.

4) The economics of creating new antibiotics are really not good in today’s big Pharma world.  The good news, is that there are some innovative policy ideas to encourage the creation of new antibiotics.  And we really need them.

5) A good friend of mine recently had to have his daughter treated with anti-venom for a copperhead snakebite.  Sounded like an all-around nightmare. Especially wondering if his insurance (same as mine!) was going to cover the $14,000 anti-venom.  Christopher Ingraham on why it costs so damn much (only in America, of course), “The crazy reason it costs $14,000 to treat a snakebite with $14 medicine”

Shockingly, the cost of actually making the antivenom — of R&D, animal care, plasma harvesting, bottling, and the like — added up to roughly one tenth of one percent of the total cost. Clinical trials to evaluate the efficacy of the antivenom accounted for another 2 percent. Other miscellaneous costs, including licensing fees, wholesaler fees, regulatory, legal and office costs, and profit to medical providers, added up to 28 percent.

Finally, over 70 percent of the cost — responsible for most of the “sticker shock” you see in so many stories about envenomation care — comes from hospital markups that are used as instruments in negotiation with insurance providers. Depending on the hospital and the insurer, some percentage of this amount later gets discounted during the final payment process.

6) I finally watched John Oliver’s take on how prosecutors are the fundamental problem in our criminal justice system.  He’s right.  And, of course, it’s a really good segment.

7) I just came across this Conversation piece from a few years ago by an NC State professors on the genetics of Eastern Coyotes and how coywolfs are not a thing.  I had no idea that there was always a mix of dog in there:

New genetic tests show that all eastern coyotes are actually a mix of three species: coyote, wolf and dog. The percentages vary, dependent upon exactly which test is applied and the geographic location of the canine.

Coyotes in the Northeast are mostly (60%-84%) coyote, with lesser amounts of wolf (8%-25%) and dog (8%-11%). Start moving south or east and this mixture slowly changes. Virginia animals average more dog than wolf (85%:2%:13% coyote:wolf:dog) while coyotes from the Deep South had just a dash of wolf and dog genes mixed in (91%:4%:5% coyote:wolf:dog). Tests show that there are no animals that are just coyote and wolf (that is, a coywolf), and some eastern coyotes that have almost no wolf at all.

In other words, there is no single new genetic entity that should be considered a unique species. Instead, we are finding a large intermixing population of coyotes across the continent, with a smattering of noncoyote DNA mixed in to varying degrees along the eastern edge. The coywolf is not a thing.

8) Chait, “Trump Claims He Can Ignore Subpoenas Because Congress Is Mean”

This same argument runs nearly all of Trump’s refusals to abide congressional subpoenas. “These aren’t, like, impartial people,” the president declared of Congress. “The Democrats are trying to win 2020.”

The first thing to understand about this legal theory is that it is not a legal theory. Congress is a coequal branch of government which has a legal right to conduct investigations, including of the Executive branch and its officials. There is a legal gray zone around “executive privilege,” which describes the right of officials in the Executive branch to have some confidentiality around their internal discussions.

But Trump is not articulating a theory of executive privilege here. Nor would such a privilege cover a president’s right to maintain a business empire that accepts payments that may or may not be bribes disguised as legitimate reimbursements in complete secrecy from Congress and the public.

Essentially Trump’s argument is that congressional oversight is simply “politics” and, therefore, somehow null and void. Trump’s Deutsche Bank lawsuit has a passage that could have been lifted from an op-ed written by a sophomore member of the College Republicans. It quotes Nancy Pelosi promising “checks and balances to the Trump administration,” then asserts she was “not referring to legislation.” It proceeds to quote a series of journalists describing Congress’s investigations as being unpleasant for Trump:

9) Can’t say I find this Jesse Singal headline all that surprising,”Finally Some Robust Research Into Whether “Diversity Training” Actually Works – Unfortunately It’s Not Very Promising.”

10) Here’s my tweet on the latest Game of Thrones episode:

That said, I loved this tactical analysis of the battle from Angry Staff Officer.

11) Given how much the abortion debate tends to focus on the much more complicated issue of later abortions, this chart from Drum is very useful:

12) I’ve often wondered why getting pictures framed is so damn expensive.  I really would like to framed art in my house, but, the framing always seems like such a rip-off.  Vox is on the case:

Higher pricing is the consequence of frame stores keeping options on hand

According to a 2018 IBISWorld report, there are 9,000 local frame shops in the United States, and if you’ve ever been to one, you know it to be a pretty intimidating experience. You go in knowing you only need one black frame, but are then bombarded with a host of options: There’s matting (a piece of paper or cardboard that goes inside the frame and mounts the print or photo), molding (decorative embellishments on the outside of the frame), glass (referred to as glazing, which can be made of glass or acrylic, and, depending on what you choose, can offer UV protection), and the frames themselves.

According to Mark Klostermeyer, a member of the Professional Picture Frames Association, it’s the sheer amount of mattings, moldings, glazings, and frames a shop provides that drives up prices. The fewer options a business offers, the more able they are to order in bulk, therefore cutting down costs.

Klostermeyer has owned Design Frames, a local custom frame shop in Falls Church, Virginia, for 50 years. “I’m a second generation framer,” he tells me. Klostermeyer offers 2,000 different frames at his shop, along with hundreds of mats and specialty fabric matting options. He also gets custom moldings from eight different vendors.

13) This account of a (non-tenure-track) Duke professor being fired because he may have offended some small percentage of students with just horrible due process is really depressing.

14) Really liked reading about the idea of “decoupling” in Jesse Singal’s article about erisology, the study of how to argue effectively:

The concept of decoupling is erisology at its best. Expanding on the writing of the mathematician and blogger Sarah Constantin, who was herself drawing on the work of the psychologist Keith Stanovich, Nerst describes decoupling as simply the idea of removing extraneous context from a given claim and debating that claim on its own, rather than the fog of associations, ideologies, and potentials swirling around it.

When I first heard of decoupling, I immediately thought about the nervous way in which liberals discuss intelligence research. There is overwhelming evidence that intelligence, as social scientists define and measure it, has a strong hereditary component; according to some estimates, genetic factors account for about half the variation in intelligence among individuals. None of that has anything to do with race, because races do not map neatly onto genetic difference. But because the link between intelligence and genetics is so steeped in oppression and ugly history—that is, because charlatans have so eagerly cited nonsense “research” purporting to demonstrate Europeans’ natural superiority—discussions even of well-founded studies about intelligence often end in acrimony over their potential misuse.

Once you know a term like decoupling, you can identify instances in which a disagreement isn’t really about X anymore, but about Y and Z. When some readers first raised doubts about a now-discredited Rolling Stone story describing a horrific gang rape at the University of Virginia, they noted inconsistencies in the narrative. Others insisted that such commentary fit into destructive tropes about women fabricating rape claims, and therefore should be rejected on its face. The two sides weren’t really talking; one was debating whether the story was a hoax, while the other was responding to the broader issue of whether rape allegations are taken seriously. Likewise, when scientists bring forth solid evidence that sexual orientation is innate, or close to it, conservatives have lashed out against findings that would “normalize” homosexuality. But the dispute over which sexual acts, if any, society should discourage is totally separate from the question of whether sexual orientation is, in fact, inborn. Because of a failure to decouple, people respond indignantly to factual claims when they’re actually upset about how those claims might be interpreted.

15) I really enjoyed telling my wife about the Vegetable Lamb this week:

It’s OK to be wrong, even fantastically so. Because when it comes to understanding our world, mistakes mean progress. From folklore to pure science, these are history’s most bizarre theories.Or so goes the story of the bizarre Vegetable Lamb of Tartary. Also known as the barometz, derived from the Tartar word for lamb, this was a useful little creature that Europeans in the Middle Ages–aware that cotton was a thing that arrived from India, yet unaware exactly how it grew–decided was the source of their newfangled threads.

According to 19th-century naturalist Henry Lee, who penned an exhaustive 60-page treatise on the history of the vegetable lamb, in Europe this legend “met with almost universal credence from the thirteenth to the seventeenth centuries.” Its source, it seems, was the Middle Ages’ most famous traveler, Sir John Mandeville, whose fantastical accounts of his roamings abroad in the 1300s led to no small number of misconceptions back in England.

Mandeville writes in Middle English, so I’ll go ahead and just paraphrase for you: In Tartary (what is now Russia and Mongolia), there grows a plant that produces gourds, and from these issue forth tiny lambs, which men eat. Mandeville, who likely made up a good chunk of his travelsand pulled from reference material instead, wrote that in his experience, they are quite delicious. So based on vegetable lambs not actually existing, we can confirm that Mandeville was somewhat of a liar. (Jorge Luis Borges, in his Book of Imaginary Beings, refers to him hilariously as “the problematic Sir John Mandeville.”)

16) Aaron Rupar on the generally sad media coverage of Trump’s latest lie-fest rallies: “Coverage of Trump’s latest rally shows how major media outlets normalize his worst excesses
Lying is still being recast as ‘reviv[ing] an inaccurate refrain.'”

17) You’ve likely noticed that I like Wired and that it has a paywall.  I’m a subscriber to the print magazine (I love that my 13-year old devours it when it shows up every month), so I happily get the digital as part of that.  I enjoyed reading their lessons from a year behind the paywall:

But the idea was also broader. At WIRED we genuinely believe that journalism as a whole needs to diversify its revenue streams. The advertising business has supported this business for decades—but digital advertising is unruly, unpredictable, and slowly being swallowed by the social media platforms. Paywalls aren’t for every publication, and it would be nice to live in a world in which every reader could access every idea for free. But, in general, paid content seems like the best bet to help this essential and embattledindustry. So, with that spirit in mind, here are some thoughts about what we learned in year one that might apply to other publications.

First off: It worked! Of course you’d expect me to say that, but it really did. I promise. We increased the number of new digital subscribers in the first year by nearly 300 percent over the year before. We don’t know if they’ll resubscribe (please do); we don’t know if they’ll ultimately pay higher prices (please do); we don’t know if it’ll be as easy to get the next batch of people to join (please do). But the early signs are good, particularly for a year in which the bottom fell out from some traffic referrers that used to drive subscribers (hello, Facebook) and the greatest growth was on a platform (hello, Apple News) where getting direct subscribers in 2018 was as easy as hitting a bank shot 3-pointer, and getting subscribers in 2019 will now essentially require a half-court heave.

The second lesson: The stories that led people to subscribe were a little surprising. When we started this, we invested in three new kinds of pieces: longform reportingIdeas essays, and issue guides. All three types overindex in generating subscriptions.

18) Ken Tucker reviewed a new Lizzo album at the end of a Fresh Air episode this week.  I had never heard of her before.  Not my usual type of music, but damn is she good.  I’ve really been enjoying on Spotify this week.  In fact, I’m listening as I work on this post.

19) Black incarceration rates are down.  That’s good.  And we still need to do better.  The charts:

20) So many great takes this week on the amazing awfullness that is William Barr.  Kept meaning to write a post.  I still will,  But this is good.  “Mueller Spent Years Collecting Evidence. Barr Is Pretending It’s Not There.: The special counsel meticulously collected backup for his claims. Barr’s testimony Wednesday dismisses it.”

21) I really hate the way the Supreme Court’s conservatives are willing to overlook all sorts of evidence to pretend that Trump’s administration is acting in good faith when it is so transparently not.  Ugh.  Drum on the census case:

In oral hearings yesterday, the Supreme Court’s five conservatives made it pretty clear that they intend to allow Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to add a question about citizenship to the 2020 census. One of Josh Marshall’s readers offers a pointed and largely correct explanation of why this is so bad:

Everyone knows that in the census case Ross “papered” a rationale to justify a decision made for other reasons. But the Court can overturn the decision without finding that he lied — simply by holding that it was arbitrary and capricious to sacrifice the accuracy of the count to obtain citizenship data that could be obtained (at least as accurately, and perhaps more accurately) through administrative records without adding a question to the census. That seems a pretty reasonable holding given that the Constitution itself focuses on an accurate count of the whole population.

But if the Court goes the other way, it is truly an “emperor has no clothes” opinion. The Court will uphold the reasonableness of Ross’s “determination” even though everyone knows those were not his real reasons — in other words, basing its ruling on what everyone knows to be a fictional story, concocted to pass judicial muster. If the Court is willing to tolerate that, what won’t it tolerate?

And then there are the plainly partisan consequences of the ruling. Combine it with the almost-certain rejection of constitutional challenges to gerrymandering, and other election-related decisions and everything points in the same direction — entrenchment of Republican power to resist the forces of demographic change.

Ross lied initially about the citizenship question, saying it had been requested by the Justice Department even though it hadn’t been. Then he badgered DOJ into requesting it. Then he finally asked his own census experts to weigh in, and they said pretty clearly that they could get better data and a more accurate count without the citizenship question. However, they couldn’t be absolutely, positively, 100 percent sure of that, and that was enough for Ross to hang his hat on. If there was even a 1 percent chance of the citizenship question producing better data, then by God, the census would have a citizenship question…

Republicans know that they’re in a demographic death spiral, so they’ve been doing their best to nickel-and-dime additional votes over the past decade. They’ve tried voter ID laws, gerrymandering, targeting of black voters, and now the census. In every case, the Republican majority on the Supreme Court has taken their side. It’s hard to think of a series of cases that could more clearly demonstrate that Republicans on the Supreme Court are naked partisans when it comes to voting issues, but they don’t seem to care. This is why Mitch McConnell broke the Senate in order to get another Republican on the court, and it looks likely to pay off yet again. [emphasis mine]

 

 

Quick hits (part II)

1) EJ Dionne with the (I think) reasonable, middle-course on the impeachment issue:

This means the House Judiciary, Intelligence, and Oversight and Reform committees should and will begin inquiries immediately. Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) took the first step on Friday by subpoenaing the full, unredacted Mueller report, which the administration immediately resisted. Mueller himself has rightly been asked to appear before both Judiciary and Intelligence.

Nothing is gained by labeling these initial hearings and document requests part of an “impeachment” process. But impeachment should remain on the table. Because Trump and Barr will resist all accountability, preserving the right to take formal steps toward impeachment will strengthen the Democrats’ legal arguments that they have a right to information that Trump would prefer to deep-six.

For now, it’s useful for Democrats such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) to underscore the outrageousness of the abuses Mueller found by calling for impeachment while Democrats in charge of the inquiries such as Nadler and Rep. Adam B. Schiff (Calif.), chair of the House Intelligence Committee, say, as both did on Sunday, they’ll reserve judgment while they sift through the facts…

Of course, Trump is not the only issue in politics. Democratic presidential candidates are already out there focusing on health care, climate, economic justice and political reform. The House can continue other work while the investigators do their jobs.

In an ideal world, the corruption and deceitfulness Mueller catalogued would already have Trump flying off to one of his golf resorts for good. But we do not live in such a world. Defending democratic values and republican government requires fearlessness. It also takes patience.

2) Pretty interesting research from our NCSU MPA director who’s office is across the hall from me:

The debate over tax incentives usually centers on whether they lead to job creation and other economic benefits. But governments must also pay attention to their own bottom lines. This begs the question: How do all the financial incentives that states offer actually influence fiscal health?

New research seeks to answer that question. Using data from the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, researchers at North Carolina State University tallied all incentives offered by 32 states from 1990 to 2015, effectively covering 90 percent of incentives nationally. What they found doesn’t portray incentives in a positive light. Most of the programs they looked at — investment tax credits, property tax abatements, and tax credits for research and development — were linked with worse overall fiscal health for the jurisdiction that enacted them.

“It’s not that incentives are bad or that we shouldn’t use incentives,” says Bruce McDonald, an NC State associate professor who led the research team. “But if a state or local government is going to provide an incentive, there needs to be some kind of clarity on what the realistic expectations are for what they might get back.”

3) San Francisco has been trying to use school choice to desegregate its schools.  It’s not working.

4) Seth Masket has been interviewing Democratic activists in early-primary states.  They are no fans of Joe Biden.

5) Elizabeth Drew on “The Danger in Not Impeaching Trump”

The principal challenge facing the Democrats is that they’ll have to answer to history. The founders put the impeachment clause in the Constitution to allow Congress to hold accountable, between elections, a president who’s abusing power. They specified that “high crimes and misdemeanors” are not necessarily crimes on the books but arise from the singular power of the presidency.

It’s of course politically easier to go after a president for having committed a crime — for example, perjury, for which President Bill Clinton was ostensibly impeached. But that was because the House Republicans didn’t want to say out loud what they were actually going after him for: extramarital sex with an intern in the study next door to the Oval Office.

Many people are getting their history and their definition of impeachment wrong by asserting that what forced Nixon to resign was the revelation in August 1974, very late in the process, of a recording of his trying to obstruct justice. This leads them to the erroneous conclusion that it’s essential to find a “smoking gun” to impeach a president.

In fact, even before that tape was released, the House Judiciary Committee had already approved three articles of impeachment against Nixon. It was widely understood that opinion had moved so strongly against him that the House would approve those articles and the Senate would vote to convict Nixon on those grounds. The tape simply hastened the finale.

By far the most important article of impeachment approved by the House committee on a bipartisan basis was Article II, which called for the punishment of Nixon for abusing presidential power by using the executive agencies (such as the Internal Revenue Service) to punish his enemies and for failing to uphold the oath of office to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” It also said, significantly, that a president could be held accountable for a pattern of abusive or even illegal behavior by his aides.

Madison and Hamilton didn’t say anything about holding off on impeachment because it would be politically risky. It’s hard to imagine they’d put political convenience on the same footing as the security of the Constitution. And the Democrats who prefer to substitute the 2020 election for an impeachment fight don’t appear to have considered the implications if Mr. Trump were to win: Would that not condone his constitutional abuses and encourage his authoritarian instincts? [emphases mine]

6) And Danielle Allen writes, “What Alexander Hamilton would say about the Mueller report”

To quote the Mueller report: “The President has no more right than other citizens to impede official proceedings by corruptly influencing witness testimony.” In addition, the president bears a second burden of personal responsibility — not merely to execute the powers of his office (for instance, hiring and firing) but also to execute those powers “faithfully.”

That question of faithfulness is what Hamilton had in mind when he referred to the “delicate and important circumstance of personal responsibility.” The constitutional apparatus gave to Congress the power and responsibility of addressing that delicate matter. The most important question now before us is whether Congress will use its power — and indeed, rebuild it after a period of decline — to reinforce two core principles of the Constitution: that the president is not above the law and that he or she should be held to a standard of faithfulness.

Hamilton was one of the leading architects of an energetic presidency and was also the person who was therefore most obliged to explain to the public how the country could be assured that such energy would not be misused. A key difference between the British crown and the new American president, he twice insisted in the Federalist Papers, was that the “person of the king of Great Britain is sacred and inviolable; there is no constitutional tribunal to which he is amenable.” In contrast, the president was “at all times liable to impeachment, trial, dismission from office, incapacity to serve in any other, and to forfeiture of life and estate by subsequent prosecution in the common course of law.” The result of this was that, “In the only instances in which the abuse of the executive authority was materially to be feared, the Chief Magistrate of the United States would, by that plan, be subjected to the control of a branch of the legislative body. What more could be desired by an enlightened and reasonable people?”

Above all, what was materially to be feared was that the president would exercise the powers of his office not faithfully but corruptly. He would use lawful powers — again, say, hiring and firing — not for public good, but personal gain.

7) Law professor argues that Mueller did “prove” a Trump conspiracy in Russia.  And, basically, if you use the civil standard of “preponderance of the evidence” rather than the criminal “beyond a reasonable doubt” that’s a pretty fair claim.  And there’s a good argument to be made that impeachment should use that lower standard.

8) It’s really just disgusting how Republicans are trying to do everything they possibly can to maintain unfair electoral advantages:

LAST NOVEMBER, Missouri was one of a handful of states in which voters decided to limit politicians’ power over redistricting, the decennial process in which political boundaries are drawn, because allowing politicians to choose their own voters has become an increasingly corrupt exercise. Now, Missouri Republicans, who have a lock on the state’s legislature and stand to lose some control under the new system, are trying to roll back the reform, insisting that voters were tricked into approving it.

Their cynical maneuver represents another new low in the steady Republican undermining of democracy through false claims of voter fraud, restrictions on voting and other tactics. The Supreme Court, deliberating on whether politicians can be trusted not to deprive voters of their rights through extreme gerrymandering, should take note.

Missouri voters approved a plan that would rely on a professional state demographer to draw lines that would not be warped in favor of one party or another. It was not perfect, but it was better than what Republicans wanted: a system in which the parties have more control — and in which partisan fairness is not a focus. More to the point: Once Missourians embraced a different approach, the debate should have been over. Nevertheless, with supermajorities in both chambers of the statehouse, the GOP can ram the plan through…

Over the years, both parties have angled for advantage in the political line-drawing process and in other areas of election administration. But Republicans have taken the practice to extremes. They heavily gerrymandered political maps in North Carolina and Wisconsin, discouraged voting among Democratic-leaning groups through a war on phantom voter fraud, limited weekend voting and closed voting places in areas where many Democrats live. Where their deck-stacking was not enough to keep them in power, they have undermined the Democrats who beat them, removing power from incoming Democratic governors and state attorneys general.

Meanwhile, as Missouri lawmakers debate their rollback, Texas Republicans are moving to treat mistakes on voter-registration forms as felony offenses that could bring jail time and to discourage people from casting provisional ballots, NPR reported. Tennessee Republicans want to heavily fine groups that turn in improperly filled-in voter-registration forms. Arizona Republicans would cut voters from the mail-in ballot rolls if they do not vote in two successive elections. All of these will help dampen the vote in a country that already suffers from low participation.

9) Catherine Rampell, “Warren’s free-college-and-debt-forgiveness plan may be liberal, but it isn’t progressive.”  There was a pretty good on-line twitter debate on this as it does take its funding from the wealthiest Americans, but there’s also a good case to be made that too much benefit goes to already advantaged middle/upper-middle class.  But, then again, investing in human capital through college degrees.  Honestly, not quite sure what the approach should be here.

10) Conservative writer argues that air pollution regulations show the folly and pointlessness of regulation.  Drum shows that he’s wrong. Yay, regulation.

11) Krugman on “survival of the wrongest”

Evidence has a well-known liberal bias. And that, presumably, is why conservatives prefer “experts” who not only consistently get things wrong, but refuse to admit or learn from their mistakes.

There has been a lot of commentary about Stephen Moore, the man Donald Trump wants to put on the Fed’s Board of Governors. It turns out that he has a lot of personal baggage: He was held in contempt of court for failing to pay alimony and child support, and his past writings show an extraordinary degree of misogyny. He misstates facts so much that one newspaper editor vowed never to publish him again, and he has been caught outright lying about his past support for a gold standard. Oh, and he has described the cities of the U.S. heartland as “armpits of America.”…

Second, the people who got it wrong were if anything rewarded for their errors. Moore was wrong about everything during the financial crisis; he remained a fixture on the right-wing conference circuit, and in 2014 the Heritage Foundation appointed him as its chief economist. Kudlow, who dismissed those warning about the housing bubble as “bubbleheads,” and warned about looming inflation in the depths of recession, also remained a right-wing favorite – and is now the Trump administration’s chief economist.

So the attempt to install Moore at the Fed is right in character. And let’s be clear: The issue is not simply one of having made some bad forecasts. Everyone does that now and then. It’s about being consistently wrong about everything, and refusing to learn from error.

12) I really have to question the wisdom of experts who tell us that babies are literally not supposed to sleep well.  When we let our babies sleep on their stomachs, believe me, it was not about sleeping through the night, it was about getting any decent periods of sleep at all.  The idea that a infant sleeping not on its back will sleep way too long and therefore not get proper nutrition, I suspect, lacks any empirical evidence.

A paradox of the Rock ’n Play, and of infant “sleep aides” and “sleep guides” in general, is that, to some extent, these products are intended to solve a problem that should not be solved. No infant should sleep all night long, on an incline of any degree, because she needs to eat every few hours; what’s more, a baby who sleeps poorly when flat on her back—which is to say, many or most babies—is also a baby who is at lower risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or sids. (sids deaths fell precipitously after 1992, when the A.A.P. issued its flat-on-your-back sleep guidelines.) “Babies are not supposed to sleep through the night,” Rachel Moon, the chair of the A.A.P. Task Force on sids, told me. “Putting a baby on her stomach, and all these things to make babies ‘sleep better,’ quote-unquote, are dangerous because they make babies sleep more deeply, and, with sids, when they sleep more deeply, they can’t wake up.” Moon added that infant sleep is regarded as much more of a crisis in the U.S. than in any other country, owing to a lack of both paid parental leave and extended-family support networks. “When they have to get up in the morning and function for work, of course mothers and fathers get desperate for sleep,” she said.

 

 

Quick hits (part I)

1) Jamelle Bouie, “Why Trump Won’t Stop Talking About Ilhan Omar”

The way Representative Omar’s address made its way to President Trump is emblematic of how inflammatory ideas and rhetoric are transmitted from individual lawmakers and conservative media to the national stage. Omar spoke in public — Fox News even streamed it for its audience. But it wasn’t a controversy until it reached the ears of Representative Dan Crenshaw of Texas, a Republican who took the snippet on 9/11 and framed it as something disrespectful. “First Member of Congress to ever describe terrorists who killed thousands of Americans on 9/11 as ‘some people who did something,’” Crenshaw said on Twitter. “Unbelievable.”

With that, the wider world of conservative media pounced. “You have to wonder if she’s an American first,” declared Brian Kilmeade, one of the hosts of “Fox & Friends” on Fox News. The Rupert Murdoch-owned New York Post took it a step further with a Thursday front page showing a photo from 9/11 — the moment the second plane crashed into the World Trade Center — with the headline, “Here’s Your Something.”…

It is easy to tie these attacks to Trump’s history of anti-Muslim rhetoric. But anti-Muslim prejudice was common in Republican politics before he stepped on the political stage with his “birther” charges against President Barack Obama.

It was an important force among Republican voters — in one 2004 poll, for example, about 40 percent of self-identified Republicans said that Muslim Americans should be required to register with the government and 41 percent said that Muslim-American civic groups should be infiltrated by the government. Well before Obama was a household name and Trump a political figure, a 2006 Gallup poll found wide anti-Muslim prejudice “with Republicans ascribing more negative political and religious qualities to Muslims, and being more opposed to having Muslims as neighbors than are Democrats and independents.”

It was an important force in conservative media. Conservative radio and television hosts frequently conflated all Muslims with the actions of extremists. In one 2006 segment on his radio show, Glenn Beck warned that if “good Muslims” aren’t “the first ones in the recruitment office lining up to shoot the bad Muslims in the head,” then “human beings” might be forced into “putting up razor wire and putting you on one side of it.”

2) Loved this Atlantic article how unlike most medicine, much of dentistry is not currently evidence-based medicine.  Also, pretty sure that my dentist is actually one of the good guys.  The dentist in the article?  Whoa!

3) I love hockey, but I’ll never forget my first hockey game being amazed and appalled at how many of the fans seemed to really revel in the fights and violence.  I love the amazing speed and skill.  And, yes, I appreciate a good clean hit where nobody gets injured.  But the fact that fighting is still essentially allowed (just a minor penalty) puts it at odds with every other serious sport.  Also, it can be bad for your brain.

4) Krugman on Republicans’ crazy obsession with AOC and Omar:

The attack on Democrats has largely involved demonizing two new members of Congress, Representative Ilhan Omar and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Omar is Muslim, and the usual suspects have gone all-out in using an out-of-context quotation to portray her, completely falsely, as sympathetic to terrorists. AOC, who calls herself a democratic socialist — although she’s really just a social democrat — has been the subject of obsessive coverage on the right. Over a six-week period, Fox News and Fox Business mentioned her more than 3,000 times, invariably portraying her as ignorant, radical, or both.

It’s surely not an accident that these two principal targets are both women of color; there’s a sense in which supposed concerns about extremism are just a cover for sexism and white nationalism. But it’s still worth pointing out that while both Omar and AOC are on the left of the Democratic Party, neither is staking out policy positions that are extreme compared with either expert views or public opinion.

5) Yes, Sylvia Hatchell made some inappropriate racially-charged remarks, but, damn did she sure deserve to get fired for the complete disregard for her players’ health.

6) Good stuff in Wired on sleep:

He ran down all the ways in which sleep deprivation hurts people: it makes you dumber, more forgetful, unable to learn new things, more vulnerable to dementia, more likely to die of a heart attack, less able to fend off sickness with a strong immune system, more likely to get cancer, and it makes your body literally hurt more. Lack of sleep distorts your genes, and increases your risk of death generally, he said. It disrupts the creation of sex hormones like estrogen and testosterone, and leads to premature aging. Apparently, men who only sleep five hours a night have markedly smaller testicles than men who sleep more than seven.

“Sleep loss will leak down into every nook and cranny of your physiology,” he said. “Sleep, unfortunately, is not an optional lifestyle luxury. Sleep is a nonnegotiable biological necessity. It is your life support system.”…

His message came across as a rebuke of the idea that sleep deprivation and success somehow go hand in hand. Tim Cook reportedly wakes up at 3:45 am to start work. Barack Obama said he only sleeps about 5 hours. He’s a “night guy.” Donald Trump and Elon Musk both have said they sleep only a few hours a night. But Musk has also admitted to The New York Times that his work schedule was taking a toll on his mental health and whole life. Walker argued that it’s time to stop thinking that needing sleep is a sign of weakness or laziness. In fact, it’s the opposite.

7) Enjoyed this interview with Melinda Gates:

In terms of the work you’re doing right now — as a person, a human being — what keeps you up at night? Contraceptives. Reproductive health. Any time I see anything in the United States that looks like we’re rolling back women’s health, I’m thinking, What communities does that affect in the United States, and whom does it affect disproportionately? Then I worry even more, to be honest, about what the repercussions are going to be on foreign aid in the dollars that we spend in other countries. Because, boy, do I see the difference contraceptives make there.

You’re not thinking about more microlevel stuff late at night? No. I’m thinking about contraceptives, where we’re helping lead internationally. In the United States, when something changes, people are going to stand up. But my role is to make sure that I’m advocating on behalf of, for example, women in Kenya. United States funding of reproductive health rights affects those women. So I have to think macro. I have to.

8) No, not cable pundits, but assuming “mainstream media” = good newspaper journalism, then the Mueller report means three cheers for the mainstream media.  Paul Farhi, “Mueller report suggests the ‘fake news’ came from Trump, not the news media.”

9) ICE departs widower of KIA soldier.  Than reverses course in face of media firestorm.  I wish the latter wasn’t necessary for ICE to do the right thing.  Right now, ICE is an absolute embarrassment of a government agency.

10) Yglesias with a good take on Buttigieg meteoric rise:

As personalities and political thinkers, Buttigieg and Donald Trump are very different. But Buttigieg seems to have assimilated a key lesson of Trump’s 2016 campaign — in a crowded field, attention is the scarcest commodity, and it’s worth seeking wherever it can be found. Trump didn’t have traditional political experience or a traditional campaign operation, but he was willing and eager to be omnipresent on television in unscripted situations…

There’s a cliché in American politics that opposition parties like to select a nominee who is in some sense the opposite of the hated incumbent. And Buttigieg — a young, gay, and extremely earnest Midwestern intellectual who’s also a combat veteran — certainly fits one version of that bill. But he’s also very much a beneficiary of the extent to which Trump’s election has lowered the bar for qualification for high office.

As Olivia Nuzzi, the author of a big new Buttigieg profile in New York magazine, pointed out over the weekend, he’s very much followed the model of obtaining coverage by making himself fun to cover.

11) Drum with a skeptical take on that encouraging Lebron-sponsored public school:

If you read between the lines, here’s what you get:

If:

  • You refuse to take students in the bottom ten percent . . .
  • And you choose students whose parents have affirmatively shown an interest in getting their kids into a better school . . .
  • And you increase the school’s budget by 50 percent to hire lots of tutors and extra aides . . .
  • And you extend both the school day and the school year . . .

Then:

  • You can expect a modest improvement in performance during the students’ first year.

Believe me when I say that I know how cynical this sounds. I’m sorry about that. But I don’t think anyone should be surprised about getting results like this from a program with this framework. Programs similar to this one have been started up before and have often shown promise, just as you’d expect. The problem is getting them to scale; getting them to work when you have to take all comers; and getting them to continue working over the long term. We have very few success stories like that.

12) America making some nice progress on offshore wind power and the technological developments behind it.

13) This NYT interactive graphic on the Notre Dame fire is pretty awesome.

How to learn

Love this from James Lang which pretty succinctly sums up the best approach to learning new information that you actually want to retain (here, for the purposes of good college grades, but, this is universally applicable stuff):

Practice Testing.  Memory researchers have learned in recent decades that our brains have enormous storage capacity.  The challenge for our memories is not so much cramming stuff in there; it’s being able to retrieve information or ideas from our memories when we need them (i.e., when you’re sitting down in front of a test).  It turns out that the more times you practice retrieving something from your memory, the better you get at it.  Highlighting and re-reading do not require you to use your memory at all; practice testing does.  So if you want your memory to go to work for you in the exam, give it lots of practice when you study. Close your book and test yourself.  You can use flashcards; you can take practice quizzes online; or you can even just practice writing and re-writing the key ideas or information that you want to remember.

Spaced Study.  You probably know this one already, so I won’t belabor it.  But the evidence for it is irrefutable.  You will have a much greater long-term grasp of your learning if you space out your study over multiple sessions instead of cramming it all into one.  In one very simple experiment that demonstrated this, students who studied foreign language vocabulary for ten minutes three days in a row outperformed their peers who studied the same vocabulary words in a single thirty-minute session.  Your parents and all of your previous teachers were right: spacing out your study sessions over time beats cramming—by a lot.

 Making Connections.  When we learn something deeply, we relate it to other aspects of our lives and our existing knowledge. We have thick networks of connections between what we know already—or what we experience outside of school—and what we are learning.  As you are studying, try to make connections between what you are learning and other things you have learned or experienced.  Ask yourself connection-making questions: Have I ever encountered this before?  Have I learned anything similar in another course?  In what real-world contexts would this concept or skill operate?  Why is it significant?  This strategy will work best if you write these ideas down; fill out your notebook or your texts with new connections, rather than with highlighting or underlining

All three of these strategies require more work than highlighting or re-reading.  Learning isn’t always easy.  In fact, some learning researchers suggest that struggle in learning is beneficial.  When we grasp things easily and quickly, we also forget them easily and quickly. [emphasis mine]

Quick hits (part I)

1) It’s very early yet, but really promising stuff coming out of the LeBron James-sponsored public school in Akron:

The academic results are early, and at 240, the sample size of students is small, but the inaugural classes of third and fourth graders at I Promise posted extraordinary results in their first set of district assessments. Ninety percent met or exceeded individual growth goals in reading and math, outpacing their peers across the district.

“These kids are doing an unbelievable job, better than we all expected,” Mr. James said in a telephone interview hours before a game in Los Angeles for the Lakers. “When we first started, people knew I was opening a school for kids. Now people are going to really understand the lack of education they had before they came to our school. People are going to finally understand what goes on behind our doors.”

The school opened with some skepticism — not only for its high-profile founder, considered by some to be the best basketball player ever, but also for an academic model aimed at students who were, by many accounts, considered unredeemable…

The scores reflect students’ performance on the Measures of Academic Progress assessment, a nationally recognized test administered by NWEA, an evaluation association. In reading, where both classes had scored in the lowest, or first, percentile, third graders moved to the ninth percentile, and fourth graders to the 16th. In math, third graders jumped from the lowest percentile to the 18th, while fourth graders moved from the second percentile to the 30th.

The 90 percent of I Promise students who met their goals exceeded the 70 percent of students districtwide, and scored in the 99th growth percentile of the evaluation association’s school norms, which the district said showed that students’ test scores increased at a higher rate than 99 out of 100 schools nationally.

The students have a long way to go to even join the middle of the pack. And time will tell whether the gains are sustainable and how they stack up against rigorous state standardized tests at the end of the year. To some extent, the excitement surrounding the students’ progress illustrates a somber reality in urban education, where big hopes hinge on small victories.

2) Even if airlines don’t want to keep buying the 737 Max, they’ve got little choice:

Yet for all the uncertainty facing Boeing today, analysts believe there is little long-term risk to the company. Boeing and its European rival Airbus are the only significant manufacturers of commercial aircraft. And the 737 Max, for all its problems, remains one of two midsize fuel-efficient passenger jets on the market, along with the Airbus A320neo.

“Boeing’s best protection is that this is a supply-constrained industry,” Mr. Aboulafia said. “There are only two modern airplanes that offer fuel savings. The risk of defection is minimal because of that.”

Nor is there much risk that airlines that have already placed orders with Boeing will walk away, analysts said. With Airbus also backlogged, airlines looking for new planes have no real alternatives.

“Boeing’s ability to modify the aircraft effectively, the duopoly structure of the aircraft market, the large installed base of 737s, and Boeing’s deep and long-term relationships with its customers mean that demand for the Max will not change dramatically,” Mr. Seifman wrote.

3) Chait with an update on Trump’s “war on democracy.”

In recent days, the warning lights have flashed as bright as ever. Trump has ramped up the volume of his authoritarian rhetoric. This week alone, Trump has used “treasonous” as a description for both Democratic immigration policy (“I think what the Democrats are doing with the Border is TREASONOUS. Their Open Border mindset is putting our Country at risk”) and the Mueller investigation (“In fact, it was an illegal investigation that should never have been allowed to start. I fought back hard against this Phony & Treasonous Hoax!”).

Meanwhile, he is energetically subverting the independence of the Federal Reserve. The country’s economic health and the president’s standing are generally in alignment, but to the extent that they diverge, Trump wants to ensure that the Fed will prioritize the latter over the former. He has appointed a pair of flagrantly unqualified hacks to the board. “He wants guys he can call at home at night and tell them what he wants done,” a former administration official tells The Wall Street Journal

The Republican Senate recently mounted faint, ineffectual resistance to Trump’s plan to unilaterally redirect federal funds for a purpose Congress has rejected. And it has formed a solid wall of support behind Trump’s refusal to hand over his tax returns to Congress, despite both deep-rooted norms and law supporting the demand that he do so. This is in keeping with a broad Republican decision that Trump is entitled to run a personal business empire while holding office without disclosing the numerous avenues for corruption this arrangement opens up.

Also this week, Attorney General William Barr supplied fresh evidence he is carrying out the job the way Trump has always demanded: as a Roy Cohn figure committed to ignoring Trump’s misconduct while hounding his enemies. Barr announced he is investigating the possibility that the FBI was spying on the Trump campaign. The most likely explanation for what went on, and the one supported by all the known evidence, is that the FBI merely investigated figures associated with the Trump campaign who were connected with Russian intelligence, not the campaign itself. But Barr instead teased more nefarious explanations, even prejudging the outcome of his investigation. (“I think there was a failure among a group of leaders [at the FBI] at the upper echelon.”) And he attacked the FBI for allegedly failingto inform the Trump campaign of Russian infiltration, when in fact it did exactly that

The most dire outcomes do not have to be the most probable outcomes in order to legitimately command our attention. We know for sure that whatever Trump’s capabilities, the malevolence of his intentions lies beyond dispute. If Trump does win reelection — a prospect that is close to a coin-flip proposition under current economic conditions — that would place us now barely more than a quarter of the way through his presidency.

4) Good stuff from Paul Waldman:

Congratulations are in order to JPMorgan Chase, the largest bank in the United States. It just reported that in the first quarter of 2019 it made a record profit of $9.18 billion on $29.9 billion in revenue. Truly, we are living in an age of boundless prosperity.

Well, some of us are. Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JPMorgan Chase, made $31 million last year. Which led to an interesting exchange between him and first-term Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) this week in a Capitol Hill hearing, when Porter asked Dimon to consider the financial situation of a teller working at Dimon’s bank in Irvine, Calif., the location of her district.

A video of Porter questioning Dimon is spreading, and it’s an excellent reminder of something with profound implications for next year’s presidential campaign…

Porter is uniquely situated to do this kind of questioning. A law professor with deep expertise in topics such as bankruptcy, she is quickly becoming one of the financial services industry’s most formidable critics on Capitol Hill. And she was doing more than making Dimon uncomfortable. She was obviously trying to make a larger point not just about JPMorgan Chase or even just about the banking industry, but about the American economy in general.

That point is this: If you have a bank that’s making $9 billion in profit in a single quarter, with a CEO who makes $31 million a year, and yet people who work for that bank can’t possibly make ends meet, something is very, very wrong. And that should be at the center of the campaign of every Democrat running for president.

5) Nice analysis from Pew, “State Drug Imprisonment Not Correlated With Drug Use, Arrests, or Overdose Deaths.”

6) Nice summary of what science has found a year in space did to Scott Kelly, relative to his identical twin, Mark.  Though, this Wired story is actually way more interesting and more fun.

7) The current Jeopardy! champion is a professional gambler and, damn, is he just kicking butt.

8) Okay, so the woman who opened up this “clean” Chinese food restaurant is a total idiot (it’s clean, in the sense of organic, gluten-free, etc.), but damn is the whole culture of ready-offense-taking and cultural appropriation so tiresome.

9) The anti-climate-change right is pushing its message in Finland(!).

HELSINKI, Finland — When they really wanted to rile up conservative voters this spring, the politicians from Finland’s nationalist party made a beeline for the rawest subject in this year’s general election.

No, not immigration. Climate.

As Finland’s other parties competed with each other to offer ambitious climate goals ahead of Sunday’s general election, the Finns Party has seized on climate as a new front in the culture wars, warning its conservative, working-class supporters that they are being betrayed by urban elites.

Aggressive environmental measures will “take the sausage from the mouths of laborers,” warned a Finns Party politician, Matti Putkonen, in a recent televised debate. And, more important, from dogs and cats, whose food, he said, would increase in price by 20 to 40 percent.

“What are you going to say to the little girl or boy who cries when Mom and Dad say that they can’t afford it any longer?” he said. “And take the lovable pet to be put down?”

10) Pew with an early look at the 2020 electorate.

In 2020, one-in-ten eligible voters will be members of Generation Z

11) Jonathan Bernstein on the Republic vs. Democracy foolishness and some nice points about the nature of democracy:

I don’t really know whether the “republic-not-a-democracy” folks are sincerely just misguided pedants or if they are actively trying to use a confusion in the language to place restrictions on voting rights. Either way, they’re just plain wrong. In 21st century America, democracy and republic should be used interchangeably.

12) Love this ruling on needlessly mandatory skirts for girls’ school uniforms:

Three girls in North Carolina were fed up with a school policy prohibiting female students from wearing pants. Skirts, they said, were uncomfortable and restrictive. They wanted to be free to play at recess, do cartwheels with the boys and focus on learning in the classroom — not the position of their legs.

So the girls, then ages 5, 10 and 14, decided to do something about it.

What began with a school petition by one of the students seeking to allow girls to wear pants to school stretched into a yearslong battle that culminated last week when a federal judge struck down the school’s uniform policy as unconstitutional.

“The skirts requirement causes the girls to suffer a burden the boys do not, simply because they are female,” the judge, Malcolm J. Howard, wrote in the ruling, filed on Thursday.

The ruling landed amid a larger discussion about how female students of all ages are viewed, after recent episodes at other schools.

13) Enjoyed this from Scott Alexander.  Here’s just a sampling:

Democracy is two wolves and a sheep deciding what to have for dinner. “Mutton” takes the popular vote, but “grass” wins in the Electoral College. The wolves wish they hadn’t all moved into the same few trendy coastal cities.

Democracy is two wolves and a sheep deciding what to have for dinner. The Timber Wolf Party and the Gray Wolf Party spend most of their energy pandering shamelessly to the tiebreaking vote.

Democracy is two wolves and a sheep deciding what to have for dinner. Everyone agrees to borrow money, go to a fancy French restaurant, and leave the debt to the next generation.

Democracy is two wolves and a sheep deciding what to have for dinner. The sheep votes for the Wolf Party, because he agrees with them on social issues.

14) Interesting idea.  Actually, I spend a lot of time with kids and pretty much never ask them this question, “Stop Asking Kids What They Want to Be When They Grow Up: The question forces children to define themselves in terms of work.”

15) Why are walruses plunging to their deaths en masse in a new nature documentary (that my family so needs to watch)?  Climate change.

16) James Hamblin on the health importance of human touch and the changing ground rules of how we think about it.

17) Michael Lewis has a new podcast on the podcast network co-founded by Malcolm Gladwell.  Podcast nirvana.  And, yes, it is great.

18) I read this article title to my wife this week, “How to Stop Thinking Your Teen Is ‘Pushing Your Buttons’ Do clothes on the floor make you crazy? Experts say that the tension is often about the way the parent responds.”  She responded, “uhhh, yeah, tell them to spend time with Evan at 6:30am or right when he gets home from school.”

19) How insane is it to try and make meaningful conclusions about human health from a group of 10(!!) college students.  Pretty insane.  The NYT should no better, as most of the commenters mentioned.  We need good research on sitting and exercise.  This isn’t it.

 

 

Improving college teaching

Really liked this piece in Chronicle of Higher Ed about how research universities need to do a better job encouraging good teaching.  I especially like the emphasis on frequent peer observation and collaboration as that has proven to be very effective in K-12.

Q. What would fix it?

A. There are three huge interventions that would help. First is careful, ongoing training of TAs. Ongoing training during their first two years of teaching, in which they are systematically observed by faculty who have been trained in observation protocols. Also that they observe each other, and they regularly are prompted to convene and discuss problems of practice.

The second thing is to work with very early assistant professors. What we typically do is someone goes into your classroom once a semester, maybe. Much better would be, again, for them to be given training, for them to be convened and given incentives to participate in other kinds of professional development.

The third thing would be to simply — this is quite hard to do, so I’m not saying it’s not difficult, I just don’t think it’s very expensive — incentivize departments to regularly and systematically meet as groups discussing problems of practice. My department does that now. We have a monthly brown-bag, bringing in experts or discussing, for instance, how do you make a productive discussion happen in a lecture class? What type of feedback do you give students on their papers? Problems of that kind.

I certainly wish there was more of a culture of this in my own department, but I’ve definitely appreciated (and definitely benefited from) all the conversations I’ve had on teaching facilitated by our faculty development center.

Actually, just yesterday came to a fresh insight about my own teaching.  No matter the class, I’m always asking questions and wanting students to talk.  I was talking with a student who was in a relatively small class with another professor where the students never talk at all.  That just seemed like a real shame to me.  And it made me think about why I value having an interactive classroom so much.

The truth is, most student comments, questions, etc., are something I could have said myself more clearly.  But it’s not about just delivering content.  It’s about keeping minds engaged, and you are far more engaged if you might contribute at any time or, for the quiet ones, if you have the opportunity to think about what your classmates have been saying.  Or what you would say if you weren’t so quiet.  And even if most of the student-contributed content is fairly prosaic most of the time, often enough students raise really good, interesting, unusual points that I simply never would have.  What a shame it would be to lose that.

Anyway, lots of stuff us professors can do to be better teachers (let students be a fundamental part of the learning process for sure!) and that universities should be doing to encourage us all to be better teachers.

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