Quick hits (part II)

1) The NYT with the “myth of the lazy non-voter.  Short version– let’s make it easier to vote!

While many countries greatly simplify the voting process — or make voting mandatory — the solutions here in the United States may not need to be so drastic.

In fact, they are right in front of us. Just as some states that have passed laws restricting access to voting in recent years have seen reduced turnout, states with laws that afford people the greatest access to voting – several states where ID requirements are not onerous, where all residents can register to vote online and registration periods extend to Election Day, and where voters have many options to vote early or on Election Day without losing any income – have experienced high participation. Our democracy depends on the ability to participate freely, without unnecessary barriers. The voters must choose elected officials, and not the other way around.

2) The case for glass as humankind’s most important material.

3) Sperm counts keep falling and scientists can only guess:

Halpern went on to explain that many chemical compounds that are used to make plastic hard (like Bisphenol A, or BPA) or soft (like phthalates) can mimic estrogen in the bloodstream—so men with lots of phthalates in their system are likely to produce less testosterone and fewer sperm (though the U.S. Food and Drug Administration stated earlier this year, somewhat controversially, that its research continues to support its claim that the authorized amounts and uses of BPA are safe for consumers). Plus, chemicals like BPA and phthalates can alter the way genes express themselves, making some of the conditions these chemicals cause inheritable. “Your father passes along his low sperm count to you, and your sperm count goes even lower after you’re exposed to endocrine disruptors,” Halpern wrote. “That’s part of the reason there’s been no leveling off even after 40 years of declining sperm counts—the baseline keeps dropping.”

Sharpe, however, now a professor at the University of Edinburgh’s Medical Research Council Center for Reproductive Health, isn’t totally convinced by the BPA-and-phthalates theory. While there’s a much more cohesive consensus throughout the field of reproductive medicine these days than there may have been 10 or 20 years ago that sperm counts are indeed falling, he says, “the controversy and lack of agreement continue regarding what has caused the fall and when in life has the effect been induced.” Though many consider environmental chemicals to be the primary cause of declining sperm counts, Sharpe says he’s “increasingly skeptical” of that hypothesis: “I would favor that it results from our huge dietary and lifestyle changes, both by pregnant women and by young men.”

Studies like the new ones presented by ASRM, in other words, increasingly serve as bolstering evidence to what many scientists already believe. As scientists reach a consensus that something is happening to men’s sperm in the Western world, the next phase will be to figure out exactly what, and why.

4) Frank Bruni, “Lindsey Graham Is the Saddest Story in Washington: His fight for Brett Kavanaugh completed his transformation into Donald Trump’s slobbering manservant.”

5) I tried reading Jane Austen’s Emma with my email book club of graduate school friends.  I gave up about half-way through as I found the novel relentlessly tedious.  How could this be a classic, I wondered.  Apparently, a huge part of the reason is that the narrative style was revolutionary for 1816.  Now that we’re all used to free indirect, though, damn that’s a lot of boring British, elite, country life to slog through.

6) Nice summary of some nice PS research, “Trump Has Made Republicans More Comfortable Expressing Their Sexism Out Loud”

7) Great Conor Friedersdorf on Republicans and the presumption of innocence:

There are principled civil libertarians and their antagonists on the right and left, in both political parties, but here’s what I see when I step back, survey a range of relevant issues, and make educated judgments about who’d be better to advance presumption of innocence and due process (having already granted that Republicans urge more due process on Title IX):

  • If there are law-enforcement figures at the local level who are depriving people of due process, they are more likely to be defended by Republicans, as happened with Joe Arpaio, and more likely to be reined in by the Democratic approach to the DOJ’s Office of Civil Rights.
  • If there’s a major terrorist attack that inspires renewed calls for racial profiling, elected Democrats are more likely to fight against such proposals while elected and appointed Republicans are more likely to favor the choice that flips the presumption of innocence for some groups.
  • If a president is asserting a lawful ability to imprison people indefinitely without charges or trial, or to torture a suspected terrorist, I expect him or her to have more support on the right than the left, and to be overruled more reliably by Democratic appointed judges (although I would also expect presidents of both parties to transgress in this way).
  • It is the left that has fought to end stop-and-frisk policies that burdened total innocents, and the right that still defends them, even in New York City, where its end caused no rise in crime.
  • If I were placed on a no-fly list and wanted to challenge my status, I’d rather appear before a judge appointed by a Democrat than a Republican, if that’s the only differentiating factor that I had to go on.
  • Were I falsely accused of a crime and ran out of money to fund my own defense, I would rather a Democratic coalition had set the budget for the public defender’s office.
  • Were I mistakenly arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, I would much prefer to go about the attempt to prove my United States citizenship via the due process procedures that the median Democrat favors than the ones that the median Republican favors.
  • If wrongly convicted, I would rather go to a progressive district attorney than a conservative one with new evidence suggesting my innocence.

That is hardly an exhaustive survey. But it should suffice to show partisan Republicans who claim to abhor character assassination and to value the presumption of innocence and due process why they are in no position to be righteously indignant about their coalition or to claim clear superiority to Democrats on these issues. Instead, they ought to feel a moral imperative to push their side to do better.

8) John Pfaff often makes the case that by focusing on for-profit prisons we miss the so-much-wrongness in public prisons (and there’s so much wrong).  That said, for-profit prisons to create uniquely perverse incentives.  Nate Blakeslee with a nice review of Shane Bauer’s first-hand reporting from serving as a guard in an awful, awful for-profit prison.

9) Robert Griffin and John Sides, “Economic Anxiety Didn’t Elect Trump and It May Hurt His Party in the Midterms.”

10) Peggy Orenstein, “We Can’t Just Let Boys Be Boys: Locker rooms are not the place to learn about sexual ethics. Neither is the internet.”

For the past two years I have been interviewing high school and college-age men for a book on their experience of physical and emotional intimacy. I’m not convinced they are always reliable narrators of their own experience. At times, I can almost see the shadow of a girl behind them as they speak — a girl who is furious, traumatized, grieving over harms big and small that the boy in question simply didn’t recognize, or didn’t want to.

At some point in our conversation, these young men usually referred to themselves as “good guys,” and mostly, I would say, they were. They had also all been duly admonished by some adult in their lives — a parent, a coach — to “respect women.” But that, along with “don’t get anyone pregnant,” was pretty much the totality of their sex education. As one college sophomore said to me, “That’s kind of like telling someone who’s learning to drive not to run over any little old ladies and then handing him the car keys. Well, of course, you think you’re not going to run over an old lady. But you still don’t know how to drive.”…

Rather than a deviant’s expression of pathology, assault among adolescents is more likely to be a crime of opportunity. Boys do it because they can: because they are oblivious, because they are ignorant, because they are impulsive, because they have not learned to see girls and women as fully human. And yes, science has confirmed what common sense presumes: Boys are much more likely to rape when they are drunk. And the more they drink, the more aggressive they are, and the less aware of their victims’ distress. By contrast, sober guys not only are less sexually coercive but also will more readily intervene to prevent assaults by others…

A boy who assaults once in high school may not do it again, which in some ways is good to hear. At the same time, that means a seemingly “good guy” may well do a bad thing. A very bad thing. And afterward it is completely plausible for him to get away without apologizing, facing consequences, making amends. The monster-good guy dichotomy contributes to his denial: He could not possibly really be a rapist because that would make him a “monster,” and he is a “good guy.” So he rationalizes, forgets, goes on to professional success and even a happy marriage. Meanwhile, he may have derailed the life of another human being, causing her years, decades, of pain and trauma.

It is natural for parents to think their own sons would be incapable of sexual misconduct, but that does not absolve them of responsibility for educating their boys. Yet according to a survey of more than 3,000 18- to 25-year-olds published last year by the Making Caring Common project, which is part of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, more than 60 percent of respondents had never had a single conversation with their parents about how to be sure that your partner wants to be having sex with you. A similar share had never been told about “the importance of not pressuring someone to have sex with you.”

Honestly, this is an area of sex education, where, I admit, I could be better.  And, I will be.  But at least one of my sons will be following the above link.

11) I have now watched Rocky I, II,III, and half of IV with said son.  Rocky really was a nice movie.  The others can be ridiculous at times, but qualify as pretty solid entertainment (Rocky V will not be happening).  Also, I turned on the TV last night and with no interesting (to me) college football on, I actually watched a boxing match for the first time in my adult life (I always watched Sugar Ray Leonard as a kid as he was a local hero in the DC area).

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Quick hits

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

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

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

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

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

5) Brian Beutler on the civility trap:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quick hits (super-late edition)

Super-late and super Kavanaugh-heavy edition (of course).  Had an amazing trip visiting DC with NC State Park Scholars for four days to learn about leadership in health care crises.  Anyway, here goes:

1) Rebecca Traister on women’s anger:

Brett Kavanaugh bellowed; he snarled; he pouted and wept furiously at the injustice of having his ascendance to power interrupted by accusations of sexual assault. He challenged his questioners, turned their queries back on them. He was backed up by Lindsey Graham, who appeared to be having some sort of fit of rage over people having the audacity to listen to a woman speak about her life and consider that she might be telling an ugly truth about a powerful man. And, as soon as he was finished, it certainly felt as if the white men’s anger had been rhetorically effective, that we had reflexively understood it as righteous and correct.

Fury was a tool to be marshaled by men like Judge Kavanaugh and Senator Graham, in defense of their own claims to political, legal, public power. Fury was a weapon that had not been made available to the woman who had reason to question those claims.

What happened inside the room was an exceptionally clear distillation of who has historically been allowed to be angry on their own behalf, and who has not.

And outside the room was a hint of how it might be changing.

Most of the time, female anger is discouraged, repressed, ignored, swallowed. Or transformed into something more palatable, and less recognizable as fury — something like tears. When women are truly livid, they often weep.

Maybe we cry when we’re furious in part because we feel a kind of grief at all the things we want to say or yell that we know we can’t. Maybe we’re just sad about the very same things that we’re angry about. I wept as soon as Dr. Blasey began to speak. On social media, I saw hundreds of messages from women who reported the same experience, of finding themselves awash in tears, simply in response to this woman’s voice, raised in polite dissent. The power of the moment, the anxiety that it would be futile, the grief that we even had to put her — and ourselves — through this spectacle, was intense.

2) Fascinating combination of good and horrible– the opioid crisis is really helping people on the organ transplant list.

3) This “I believe Brett Kavanaugh” is kind of awesome:

Brett Kavanaugh: I believe you.

I believe you when you called yourself the “biggest contributor” to the “Beach Week Ralph Club.”

I believe you thought the term for a sexual encounter involving two men and a woman, “Devil’s Triangle,” is so funny to you and your friends that you included it on your yearbook page.

I believe you thought it was funny when you eagerly joined your classmates in making cruel jokes at your friend Renate Schroeder’s expense.

Most of all, I believe you when you’ve said in at least two speeches in recent years that you and your friends are committed to hiding the details of your behavior. “But fortunately, we had a good saying that we’ve held firm to to this day … which is: What happens at Georgetown Prep stays at Georgetown Prep. I think that’s been a good thing for all of us,” you told students at Catholic University in 2015.

You also told Yale Law School students that you and your friends had a motto for the night that ended with you falling out of a party bus onto the law school steps: “What happens on the bus stays on the bus.”

I know you’re committed to these mottos because you haven’t fessed up to any of the obvious behavior you described at the time. You claimed in testimony under oath that “ralphing” at Beach Week refers to your sensitive stomach, not puking after a night of drinking.

You claimed in your Senate hearing that you never drank so much you forgot any details the next day, though you were a member of the “100 keg club.” (Half a dozen of your friends stepped forward afterward to scoff at your claim.)

4) EJ Dionne on Trump’s mocking and the GOP:

When a leader can hold power only by dividing his country, stoking its anxieties and hostilities, ridiculing his opponents, and disrespecting every norm of decency, the result is a broken democracy and a demoralized nation.

The fight over Brett M. Kavanaugh’s confirmation to a seat on the Supreme Court has caused predictable handwringing about partisan division, tribalism and incivility. We hear often that both parties are behaving like toddlers who need to be brought to heel by responsible “adults” who know better.

But the narrative of equivalence is worse than inaccurate. It is destructive. It points us to the wrong diagnosis and thus the wrong cure. At this moment in our history, there is only one party being led by President Trump and only one that rushes to his defense over and over.

Trump regularly and unashamedly reminds us of his vileness and thus single-handedly demolishes the everybody-does-it narrative.

Trump’s lying, mocking, despicable verbal mugging of Christine Blasey Ford during a Mississippi rally on Tuesday night may not be a new low for him because there have been so many other lows. But his willingness to suggest that Ford is one of the “evil people” and his twisted account of her testimony about Kavanaugh before the Senate Judiciary Committee ripped the mask of respectability off the campaign to confirm Trump’s appointee.

6) John Cassidy is exactly right on the big-picture lesson from Trump’s tax fraud:

This experience points to an enduring scandal that goes well beyond the Trumps. “The key takeaway from the New York Times article . . . is that the wealthy and powerful abide by a different set of rules than the rest of us,” [emphasis mine] Alan Essig, the executive director of the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, a nonpartisan research group, said in a statement. “Not only does the tax system allow the wealthy to take advantage of legal loopholes, it also allows them to blur the line between legal avoidance and illegal tax evasion with little consequence. . . . We need to reform the tax system to close the loopholes the wealthy use to avoid taxes and substantially increase funding to the IRS to ensure that the laws we do have are robustly enforced.”

But, of course, the Trump Administration and the Republican Party are busy ignoring this advice. The G.O.P. tax-reform bill that passed at the end of last year did virtually nothing to prevent rich people from evading the estate tax and other levies. In reaction to budget cuts imposed by the Republican-controlled Congress, the I.R.S. has slashed its enforcement staff by about a third and reduced the number of cases it brings by about a quarter. “Due to budget cuts, attrition and a shift in focus, there’s been a collapse in the commitment to take on tax fraud,” Chuck Pine, a tax consultant who was formerly a senior criminal-enforcement officer at the I.R.S., told ProPublica. “I believe there are thousands of individuals who have U.S. tax obligations and are not complying with U.S. tax laws.” They are following the example set at the top.

7) This swine disease being spread from disparate pig populations by humans is not great.

8) Brett Kavanaugh brings the 80’s movie “Revenge of the Nerds” back into the news.  I loved that movie as a teenager.  And damn, has it really not aged well.

9) Okay, this is a super-important point from Rebecca Traister (via Ashley Fetters), that I admit I had never really thought about:

Yet Good and Mad posits that there are a few particular types of female anger that are generally exempt from this type of backlash. Which is why, Traister explains, women learn pretty quickly to either hold in their anger or channel it into something more palatable—like caustic humor, indignation inspired by God, or mama-bear protective ferocity. She goes on to suggest that historically, women who have expressed fury on behalf of their children, their household, or some other sort of family-like flock tend to get better results than women who publicly express their fury in other sorts of ways. In other words, the anger of women has a better shot at being taken seriously if it’s recognizable as, or reminiscent of, a mother’s protective anger. In other words, women’s anger is often taken more seriously when it’s packaged as mothers’ anger. [emphasis mine]

Indeed, when Traister offers examples of women who have packaged their anger as a maternal instinct, often they’re the success stories, the women whose dissatisfaction has been taken seriously. For example, there’s Mary Harris Jones, otherwise known as “Mother Jones,” who fought for the rights of miners and other laborers—“her boys,” as she called them—in the late 1800s. More recently, there’s Senator Patty Murray, who as a young aspiring state representative drove to the Washington State Capitol with her two small children in tow to give speeches about state cuts to preschool funding. (She was derided as “just a mom in tennis shoes,” which later became her campaign slogan.) And then there were the conservative women who protested and ran for office during the Tea Party uprising in 2010, dubbed “Mama Grizzlies” by Sarah Palin. As Traister puts it, “these women voicing their anger and throwing around their political weight weren’t caricatured as ugly hysterics; instead they were permitted to cast themselves as patriotic moms on steroids.”

This isn’t just a political phenomenon—it wound up in the spotlight a month ago when Serena Williams, during the hotly contested U.S. Open final, invoked her motherhood in an outburst after the umpire penalized her for on-court coaching: “I have a daughter, and I stand for what’s right for her,” Williams said.

10) This is a powerful essay well worth your time, “I watched a rape. For five decades, I did nothing.”

11) Alexis Grenell on white women:

After a confirmation process where women all but slit their wrists, letting their stories of sexual trauma run like rivers of blood through the Capitol, the Senate still voted to confirm Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. With the exception of Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, all the women in the Republican conference caved, including Senator Susan Collins of Maine, who held out until the bitter end.

These women are gender traitors, to borrow a term from the dystopian TV series “The Handmaid’s Tale.” They’ve made standing by the patriarchy a full-time job. The women who support them show up at the Capitol wearing “Women for Kavanaugh” T-shirts, but also probably tell their daughters to put on less revealing clothes when they go out.

They’re more sympathetic to Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, who actually shooed away a crowd of women and told them to “grow up.” Or Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, whose response to a woman telling him she was raped was: “I’m sorry. Call the cops.”

These are the kind of women who think that being falsely accused of rape is almost as bad as being raped. The kind of women who agree with President Trump that “it’s a very scary time for young men in America,” which he said during a news conference on Tuesday.

But the people who scare me the most are the mothers, sisters and wives of those young men, because my stupid uterus still holds out some insane hope of solidarity.

We’re talking about white women. The same 53 percent who put their racial privilege ahead of their second-class gender status in 2016 by voting to uphold a system that values only their whiteness, just as they have for decades. White women have broken for Democratic presidential candidates only twice: in the 1964 and 1996 elections, according to an analysis by Jane Junn, a political scientist at the University of Southern California.

12) Brain-eating amoeba is super-rare (fortunately), but just struck again in Texas.  Somebody died from this near us at Jordan Lake around a decade or more ago and my wife hasn’t let us back there since.

13) Yale Law dean on Kavanaugh:

Over the past decade, Kavanaugh has been a casual acquaintance. He seemed a gentle, quiet, reserved man, always solicitous of the dignity of his position as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. It was therefore with something approaching unbelief that I heard his speech after Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony.

With calculation and skill, Kavanaugh stoked the fires of partisan rage and male entitlement. He had apparently concluded that the only way he could rally Republican support was by painting himself as the victim of a political hit job. He therefore offered a witches’ brew of vicious unfounded charges, alleging that Democratic members of the Senate Judicial Committee were pursuing a vendetta on behalf of the Clintons. If we expect judges to reach conclusions based solely on reliable evidence, Kavanaugh’s savage and bitter attack demonstrated exactly the opposite sensibility…

His performance is indelibly etched in the public mind. For as long as Kavanaugh sits on the court, he will remain a symbol of partisan anger, a haunting reminder that behind the smiling face of judicial benevolence lies the force of an urgent will to power. No one who felt the force of that anger could possibly believe that Kavanaugh might actually be a detached and impartial judge. Each and every Republican who votes for Kavanaugh, therefore, effectively announces that they care more about controlling the Supreme Court than they do about the legitimacy of the court itself. There will be hell to pay. [emphasis mine]

14) Happy to see an NYT Op-Ed takedown of the sanctimonious Susan Collins:

But if Ms. Collins is a maverick, then I’m an appaloosa.

Yes, she’s shown herself willing to buck her party now and again. FiveThirtyEight reports that she votes in line with Donald Trump 79 percent of the time; only Rand Paul of Kentucky, at 74 percent, has a lower score among Senate Republicans. She’s opposed the president on immigration and abortion restrictions, net neutrality and his policies toward Russia, Iran and North Korea.

But on many key votes, her record is about as moderate as Ted Cruz’s. In January, she provided the Republicans with the crucial 51st vote for the tax bill. She set three conditions: the additional passage of two separate bills to shore up insurance markets for individuals who weren’t covered through their work, along with a promise for Congress to undo the cuts to Medicare automatically triggered by the deficit increase from the tax cut.

After that bill was passed, Ms. Collins said the promises to her were ironclad, and that if her conditions were not met, “there would be consequences.” But the additional bills never got a vote, and a follow-up attempt to add her provisions to the omnibus spending bill in March was defeated, by other Republicans.

Of course they were…

There’s another kind of “maverick,” though — the kind of centrist who wants to please everyone. For Ms. Collins, it’s often meant voting with the most right-wing members of her party, even while attempting to occupy some imaginary moral high ground. It’s hard to see what our senator got for her vote supporting the tax cut last fall. It’s just as hard for me to see her vote for Judge Kavanaugh as anything other than a warm embrace of Donald Trump and everything he stands for, her 45-minute speech notwithstanding.

15a) Honestly, pretty disappointed to see so many political scientists and other academics defend the cultural studies programs/journals against the academics who clearly showed much of the discipline to be a shoddy joke.  I think Kevin Drum has it about right:

Mounk’s list is similar to one I put together last night, and he does a good job of addressing it. So go read Mounk for more on all that. For myself, I just want to make one point about this affair. It’s by far the most important point:

If an amateur with no background can spend three months brushing up on your field, and then immediately start cranking out papers that get accepted at serious, peer-reviewed journals, there is something badly wrong with your field.

That’s it. That’s what the hoaxsters uncovered. All fields have at least a few weak journals. All fields can boast of plenty of lousy journal articles. All fields are embarrassed by occasional frauds. All fields suffer from ideological biases or conflicts of interest that interfere with good scholarship.

But I can’t think of any serious field in which an amateur who’s done a few month’s reading could even produce a plausible parody, let alone a paper that would be taken seriously by dozens of editors and peer reviewers. If that’s all it takes, a PhD is a meaningless five-year waste of time.

This is the problem the academy needs to address, and they need to address it for exactly the reason the hoaxsters gave: these fields are mostly important ones. They deserve rigorous, high-quality scholarship. They can’t be treated as dumping grounds for impassioned mediocrities and then ignored.

If they are, and everyone tacitly agrees to sweep away the whole episode because the hoaxsters didn’t get IRB approval or something, it just gives the game away: these fields exist only to placate troublemakers, and nobody in the serious parts of the university cares about them.

Alternatively, we do care about them, and it’s time for the various disciplines of cultural studies to end their adolescence and adopt the same standards of scholarship as their older, more established peers. That’s my vote.

15b) And Mounk’s whole thread is great.

16) What it looks like when a deer runs in front of a car.  This is kind of amazing (and, yes, disturbing).

17) So, I made it into Politifact on somebody claiming a Democratic opponent was in with “the Pelosi crowd.”

18) 11 Takeaways from the NYT investigation on Trump’s tax fraud.  A huge story for any other president (or almost any other week).

19) The New Yorker asks, “Could Smithfield Foods have prevented the ‘rivers of hog waste‘ after Hurricane Florence?”  Of course, you know, the answer is yes.  But heaven forbid we should expect consumers to pay a few cents more per pound for pork and cause even the tiniest hit to Smithfield’s profits.

 

Quick hits part II

The lots and lots of Kavanaugh edition.

1) Vox on the 3.4 million chickens killed in Hurricane Florence:

Should anyone care? It’s not clear that drowning is a worse death for chickens than standard methods of slaughter. But there are lots of reasons for concern about the general changes to the industry which have increased the scale of the industry so drastically and concentrated animals onto so few farms.

Animals are likely to suffer intensely under those conditions. Waste disposal — an extraordinary challenge at that kind of scale — is handled irresponsibly. Efforts to keep animals alive under those conditions have driven antibiotic resistance. The millions of dead chickens floating in the floodwaters of Florence are just one of many ugly effects of our current agriculture system and its unprecedented scale.

2) I’m not a vegan at all, but definitely vegan-sympathetic.  Really liked this NPR opinion piece on the toll on livestock from Hurricane Florence:

But day by day, the picture is slowly coming into focus, and it’s a horrifying one: confirmed deaths of 3.4 million chickens and 5,500 pigs, numbers that may yet rise…

We need to look beyond the numbers, though, and the tendency to focus on just the agriculture industry’s losses of “swine” and “broiler chickens.” As I have written elsewhere, these pigs and chickens, just like the hunting dogs, are thinking and feeling beings. It’s all too easy to imagine their terror as the floodwaters rose. No one came to their rescue, and they drowned…

We can pledge not to turn away from the plight of these animals — illustrated so powerfully here by McArthur’s and Guerin’s photographs — just as we don’t turn away from trapped hunting dogs or our own pets in trouble. The first step is to open our hearts to what is happening.

In this case, such a pledge means realizing that the drowned pigs and chickens would have died soon anyway, if not in floodwaters, then in the slaughterhouse. In other words, it’s not just the storm deaths. The whole CAFO network and its entanglement with our food system is rotten.

3) Wow– this was a disturbing story.  A physician who is a regular expert witness in child abuse cases who has, apparently, never seen an actual case of child abuse.  Pretty much every time, it is actually a very rare medical condition.  The history of shaken baby syndrome tells us we need healthy skepticism of medical experts and that people are wrongly accused, but, for my money, any “expert” who somehow always finds the same thing might not really be such an expert.

4) My wife could not stop talking about this great essay on “himpathy” for the whole day after she read it.

When it comes to the moral deficiencies exhibited by Mr. Trump and other supporters of the judge, many critics speak about lack of empathy as the problem. It isn’t. Mr. Trump, as he has shown clearly in the Kavanaugh confirmation process, seems to have no difficulty taking another person’s perspective, and then feeling and expressing a sympathetic or congruent moral emotion.

The real problem is that the people Mr. Trump feels with and for are most frequently powerful men who have been credibly accused of serious crimes and wrongdoing. He felt sorry for Michael Flynn, referring to him as a “good guy.” More recently, he felt bad for Paul Manafort. And, in the case of Judge Kavanaugh, Mr. Trump feels sorry for a man accused of sexual assault while erasing and dismissing the perspective of his female accusers.

Mr. Trump is manifesting what I call “himpathy” — the inappropriate and disproportionate sympathy powerful men often enjoy in cases of sexual assault, intimate partner violence, homicide and other misogynistic behavior.

5) And a nice Vox interview with the “himpathy” author.

6) Timothy Egan on how Republicans’ bargain with the devil keeps getting worse:

If you put a man in the White House who openly boasts of being a sexual predator, a president credibly accused by more than a dozen people of misconduct, you are no friend of women and the good men who love them.

If your rallies are highlighted by “lock her up” chants against a person who has never been charged with a crime, you cannot wrap yourself in due process or presumption of innocence.

If your men of God, led by the Rev. Franklin Graham, say attempted rape is not a crime because “if it was true, these are two teenagers, and she said no and he respected that,” you need a new faith in which to cover your hypocrisies.

Story follows character, as the Greeks knew, and what we’re seeing now with the Bonfire of Republican Vanities is the predictable outcome of those who enabled the amoral presidency of Donald Trump.

The bargain was simple: Republicans would get tax cuts for the well-connected and a right-wing majority on the Supreme Court, and in turn would overlook every assault on decency, truth, our oldest allies and most venerable principles. They expected Trump to govern by grudges, lie eight times a day, call women dogs, act as a useful idiot for foreign adversaries, make himself a laughingstock to the world.

“I knew he was a shallow, lazy ignoramus,” as Ann Coulter said, “but I didn’t care.”

In the end, they would get what they wanted. In the end, they would get a court to return America to one imagined by the elites who put forth the lifetime protectors of the permanent class. They would get justices who came through a laboratory of privilege, someone “who was born for” a lifetime seat on the Supreme Court, as Trump said of Brett M. Kavanaugh.

Oh, but the price has gone up. Republicans are left with a roomful of men standing athwart the #MeToo movement and yelling, “Stop!” They are left with Trump, who outlined the game plan for sexual predation, saying women who remember atrocities from the past are part of a “con game.” And men better watch out. George Washington would lose his teeth if he were around today.

7) How the ABA thought there were legitimate concerns about Kavanaugh’s fitness as a judge way back in 2006.

8) Really interesting essay by a sex crimes defense attorney on the questioning of Blasey Ford.

But angry doesn’t always mean credible. In fact, it’s usually a very bad sign when a witness gets angry, especially when the witness starts fighting with the lawyer (or in his case, the senator) questioning him…

In my experience, once a prosecutor like Ms. Mitchell believes a victim is credible, the truth-finding process is over for them. They become the victim’s advocate.
That’s what happened today. Ms. Mitchell asked the questions she was supposed to ask. She tried to show inconsistencies in Blasey Ford’s statements. She tried to show political motivations and improper influence.
But at some point, Ms. Mitchell decided she believed Blasey Ford. I think that happened when she called her a “victim” of sexual assault trauma. At that point, I don’t think she was going to do anything to hurt Blasey Ford. Perhaps that’s why the Republican senators decided to drop her like a hot potato when it came time to really confront Judge Kavanaugh about these allegations.
9) Greg Sargent on the casual lying of Kavanaugh:

Never mind, for now, the bigger matters that Kavanaugh stands accused of misrepresenting and falsifying. This sort of casual lying about trivial things that one should own up to belongs in its own category of reprehensibleness. It betrays a special order of contempt for one’s listeners to feed them obvious crap about matters that most ordinary people would forgive, if only the speaker copped to them.

My guess is that Kavanaugh panicked. All that grooming for this position — Georgetown Prep, Yale, the Federalist Society gatherings and schmoozing, all the slimy, sordid partisan committee grunt work against Democrats, and, in fairness, all the grinding study and hard work — flashed before his eyes.

I don’t know if the content of these seeming misrepresentations about Kavanaugh’s drunkenness and frat-goon treatment of women should be disqualifying. I tend to doubt it. I do think this apparent willingness to casually engage in such trivial dishonesty — about who he once was and where he came from — amounts to an ugly mark on his character that says a lot about who he is now. And that is something one might add to the case against him.

10) Really interesting experiment on perceptions of media bias:

Among all readers in the group who could see the news source, 35 percent exhibit large bias — meaning their trust rating of an article diverged from the blind-review group by 1.5 points or more on the 1-to-5-point scale.

Not surprisingly, those with more extreme political views tend to provide more biased ratings of news. Those who described their political views as very liberal or very conservative exhibited large bias across 43 percent of the articles they rated, whereas those who described their views as moderate exhibited bias just 31 percent of the time. Likewise, those who leaned toward one party but did not fully identify with it exhibited about the same bias as the moderates.

The data also suggests that those who approve of President Trump rate news articles with more bias than those who disapprove of the president (39.2 percent versus 32.8 percent). However, Trump supporters tend to be less biased than those identifying as “very liberal.”

11) Jennifer Rubin with multiple reasons Kavanaugh should not be on the Supreme Court:

4. Kavanaugh’s anger and, more worrisome, his baseless assertion of a political smear inspired by the Clintons(!) and his anger toward Democrats reveal his partisan core. No Democratic claimant or party going before him can have confidence he will deliver an impartial ruling. His rudeness to senators, especially to two women, violated every norm of judicial conduct one can imagine. It is impossible to believe he would recuse himself in any matter involving President Trump and very easy to imagine him taking the president’s side in claiming the Russia probe is part and parcel of the same left-wing conspiracy he thinks tried to defeat him. One can say, Well, he had every reason to be upset. That is why only a select few should be chosen for the court.

12) On Kavanaugh discovering that there’s unfairness in the world.

New York magazine’s Rebecca Traister has written incisively about the constraints that exist on women’s anger. It is not a coincidence that Kavanaugh’s rage and open weeping seem to have buoyed his chances of confirmation, while Ford’s self-presentation was far more “nice”—if she had shown an ounce of the anger Kavanaugh did, she could have easily been written off as shrill or hysterical.
The many women alongside whom I watched the hearing—both in person and virtually, through text messages and social media—all seemed to see some of themselves in Ford because they had all experienced, or lived in fear of experiencing, something along the lines of her story. They, unlike her, were openly angry—probably because they did not have to perform for an audience of mostly male senators. These past two weeks have been a time of sickening, exhausting rage for many women I know.And for that reason, Kavanaugh’s anger was familiar, too. It was the anger of a person who seemed to be just discovering the unfairness of the world.
13) Dahlia Lithwick:

The dynamic of Thursday’s hearing was consistent: He had fury, and contempt, and seething threats that the republic would pay if he were thwarted. She had to functionally lie back and try not to infuriate anyone, as Republicans cowered behind the female prosecutor, Rachel Mitchell, they had brought on to interrogate her. That was until it was Kavanaugh’s turn to speak, when they quickly jettisoned that paper-thin pretense of investigative “independence” and joined Kavanaugh to form a chorus of angry shouting men. They towered silently over Mitchell for the first half of the hearing, then summarily ignored her when she wasn’t offering questions fast or furious enough to protect their nominee.

At least Anita Hill was insulted, demeaned, and discredited to her face. Ford was patronized, thanked, and told that she was very, very credible. Over and over she was told she’d been given a “safe space” to tell her story; as if a safe space substitutes for reasoned process and investigation. She was given a safe space and then dismissed as though she were some character in a very sad French movie that had been very affecting indeed but had nothing to do with the great man and his destiny. After presenting an undeniable narrative—and one the nobody ever really attempted to specifically refute—she was told that her credibility didn’t count for anything because a man was bellowing and injured, that whatever had happened to her was not as important as his pain. And Senate Republicans—having tucked Mitchell back into her naughty chair—were delighted to bellow and yelp of horrid injuries they too had sustained alongside their guy.

14) Great Adam Serwer piece:

Senate Republicans are poised to confirm a man credibly accused of sexual assault with a mere cursory attempt to investigate the charges. With Thomas, at least, many of the facts emerged only after his confirmation. But today’s senators are moving ahead with their eyes open, knowing of Kavanaugh’s dishonesty, his devotion to partisan vengeance over the rule of law, and the possibility that he is a sexual predator.

They will do so because they have not paid a political price for the president’s bigotry, corruption, and incompetence, and the feebleness of the opposition they face has led them to believe they never will. The Republican Party has surrendered itself to a Trumpian agenda of the restoration of America’s traditional hierarchies of race and genderand of vengeance against those who would threaten those hierarchies. The accusations against Kavanaugh—and his conspiratorial, partisan response—have made him a fitting champion for the party of Trump…

By Kavanaugh’s own standard, he is incapable of sitting on the Court. While justices are in practice often partisan actors, hewing closely to one party’s preferred outcome in big cases, they understand their own role as impartial jurists interpreting the law and the Constitution. Kavanaugh’s characterization of the charges against him as a left-wing revenge plot shows that the illusion is not one he even cares to maintain. There is no case that might come before the Court involving partisan interests in which Kavanaugh could be impartial. Kavanaugh himself told us so…

The lesson of the Trump era, since his nomination for president, has been that Republicans will pay no political price for the shattering of rules or norms, or for disregarding common decency, because the Democrats are unwilling or unable to extract one. As long as this is the case, Republicans have no reason to respect any of those things. If Republicans pay a price for confirming Kavanaugh, it will only be because the American electorate has had enough.

15) Dan Hopkins argues that Kavanaugh hearings won’t really affect the midterms, but will have long-term political consequences:

But there is a cost to dropping the cloak of non-partisanship and reserved judicial temperament en route to the Supreme Court, just as there is a cost to putting someone accused of sexual assault by multiple women in a position to cast pivotal votes on abortion rights and related subjects. Trump and other Republicans could have avoided these costs by quickly withdrawing Kavanaugh in favor of an equally conservative but less controversial nominee, but they are now in the position of either forcing their own party’s moderate members to vote Kavanaugh down or setting him up to be a divisive figure on the bench for years to come. It’s even conceivable that John Roberts—sufficiently concerned about the legitimacy of his institution to serve as the surprise swing vote upholding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act in 2012—will turn out to be less ambitious in charting a new rightward trajectory for the Court if Kavanaugh is confirmed than he would have been alongside a different appointee.

Trump, whatever his other qualities, is not known for being excessively occupied with long-term planning, and the entire Republican Party is now subject to Trump’s win-the-day strategic mentality for at least the duration of his tenure as its national leader. That doesn’t mean, however, that the rest of us can’t take the broader view. If Kavanaugh joins the Court, the consequences may not be immediately visible in the election returns, but they will still stretch on for many years after the 2018 midterms have come and gone.

 

If life were grade school, girls would rule the world

This was a fantastic piece in the Atlantic about how girls confidence, relative to boys, seems to drop so precipitously in the middle school years.  I loved the quote, I took for the title of this post:

“If life were one long grade school,” Carol Dweck, the Stanford University psychologist who wrote The Growth Mindset, explained to us in an interview for our first book, women “would be the undisputed rulers of the world. But life isn’t one long grade school.”

So, what’s the story?  Great Atlantic piece on research by Katty Kay, Claire Shipman, and Jillellyn Riley:

In our research, we worked with Ypulse, a polling firm that focuses on tweens and teens, to survey more than 1,300 girls from the ages of 8 to 18 and their parents. (The sample was broadly representative of the country’s teen population in terms of race and geographic distribution.) The data is more dramatic than we’d imagined: The girls surveyed were asked to rate their confidence on a scale of 0 to 10, and from the ages of 8 to 14, the average of girls’ responses fell from approximately 8.5 to 6—a drop-off of 30 percent.

Until the age of 12, there was virtually no difference in confidence between boys and girls. But, because of the drop-off girls experienced during puberty, by the age of 14 the average girl was far less confident than the average boy. [emphases mine] Many boys, the survey suggested, do experience some hits to their confidence entering their teens, but nothing like what girls experience. (The Ypulse survey did not break down its findings at a granular enough level to discern if there was any correlation between kids’ race or income level and their self-described confidence.)…

As boys and girls (and men and women) take risks and see the payoffs, they gain the courage to take more risks in the future. Conversely, confidence’s absence can inhibit the very sorts of behaviors—risk taking, failure, and perseverance—that build it back up. So the cratering of confidence in girls is especially troubling because of long-term implications. It can mean that risks are avoided again and again, and confidence isn’t being stockpiled for the future. And indeed, the confidence gender gap that opens at puberty often remains throughout adulthood.

What makes confidence building so much more elusive for so many tween and teen girls? A few things stand out. The habit of what psychologists call rumination—essentially, dwelling extensively on negative feelings—is more prevalent in women than in men, and often starts at puberty. This can make girls more cautious, and less inclined toward risk taking. Additionally, at an early age, parents and teachers frequently encourage and reward girls’ people-pleasing, perfectionistic behavior, without understanding the consequences. Often, this is because it just makes parents’ and teachers’ lives easier: In a busy household or noisy classroom, who doesn’t want kids who color within the lines, follow directions, and don’t cause problems? But perfectionism, of course, inhibits risk taking, a willingness to fail, and valuable psychological growth. “If life were one long grade school,” Carol Dweck, the Stanford University psychologist who wrote The Growth Mindset, explained to us in an interview for our first book, women “would be the undisputed rulers of the world. But life isn’t one long grade school.”

In fact, later in life, the goalposts shift considerably. “It rewards people who take risks and rebound,” Dweck added. And the boys in our survey seemed to have a greater appetite for risk taking: Our poll shows that from ages 8 to 14 boys are more likely than girls to describe themselves as confident, strong, adventurous, and fearless.

Wow– that’s all disturbing and distressing.  The solution?  Girls soccer.  Okay, not exactly, but:

There’s evidence that tweaking the status quo, and acclimating girls at this critical age to more risk taking and failure, makes a difference. Some of the most compelling data links participation in sports to professional success.

Okay, obviously not just sports (though, I sure hope Sarah wants to stick with soccer as long as possible):

It’s not only through athletics that young girls can gain confidence; sport is simply an organized and easily available opportunity to experience loss, failure, and resilience. But the same skills can be acquired by participating on a debate team, learning to cook, or speaking up on behalf of a cause like animal welfare—as long as there is a move outside of her comfort zone, and a process of struggle and mastery, confidence will usually be the result…

It’s essential to close the gap, and to do so early, because the long-term effects of these dynamics hurt not only girls, but the women they become, many of whom, within a few years of entering the workforce, experience another confidence drop, and a drop in aspirations. Their rule-following, good-girl methods have been celebrated, rewarded by a structured educational and societal system. It’s a shock to arrive in the adult world and discover a dramatically new playing field: Failure is okay. Risk is worth it. No wonder they struggle: Their whole life, to date, they’ve internalized just the opposite, a societal bait and switch that should be recognized. Girls are adept at learning—they just need the right study guide.

Of course, is this all just society?  Is there some nature vs nurture going on here (obviously, there’s some pretty dramatic biological changes– and yes, the brain is biological– for both genders that kick in at puberty).  Would love to see more of this across different countries and cultures.  Of course, even if there is a genuine biological component, that doesn’t mean we we should respond any less to trying to overcome this gap, but I’m pretty curious.  Anyway, for know, all of us need to do our part to turn confident, kick-ass, grade school girls into confident, kick-ass, young women.

Quick hits (part I)

1) This WP story/essay about a high school rape in Texas 12 years later is like a gut punch.  Just read it.

2) Paul Waldman, “Why do all these racists keep joining the GOP?”

Florida GOP gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis has a problem, one he shares with a lot of Republicans these days: For some reason, racists are attracted to his campaign and seem eager to give him money and lend their vocal support.

Why does this keep happening to members of the Republican Party who desire nothing but equality and respect for all people? It’s a real mystery…

But you know who doesn’t have to worry about getting endorsed by neo-Nazis, white nationalists and racists? People who don’t give neo-Nazis, white nationals and racists any reason to believe that they share their views. [emphases mine]

Now, it’s true that there are Republican elected officials who don’t. But just by virtue of being Republicans in 2018, being lumped in with racists is a risk they run. Their favored news outlets are positively saturated with white nationalist rhetoric. Their party is led by a man who is not only an obvious bigot but who also turned himself into a political figure by advocating the racist lie that Barack Obama is not actually an American, who ran a presidential campaign built on xenophobia and racial resentment, and who, in office, continues to stoke fear and hatred of immigrants. President Trump doesn’t get celebrated on white nationalist websites because they’re laboring under some misimpression about who he is. So, if you’re a Republican standing enthusiastically behind Trump, racists have every reason in the world to think you’re on their side.

3) Normally, Americans, collectively, are not so smart.  So, for Americans to have figured out the truth of the Republican tax cuts, means, damn were they really bad:

“On average, it looks great. We’re as wealthy as we’ve ever been,” Zandi says. “But that’s not representative of many, many American households. The very skewed distribution of wealth is as skewed today as it was five years ago.”

4) Hillary Clinton speaks out on Trump.  And she’s right on the details which are worth your time:

It’s been nearly two years since Donald Trump won enough Electoral College votes to become president of the United States. On the day after, in my concession speech, I said, “We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead.” I hoped that my fears for our future were overblown.

They were not.

In the roughly 21 months since he took the oath of office, Trump has sunk far below the already-low bar he set for himself in his ugly campaign. Exhibit A is the unspeakable cruelty that his administration has inflicted on undocumented families arriving at the border, including separating children, some as young as eight months, from their parents. According to The New York Times, the administration continues to detain 12,800 children right now, despite all the outcry and court orders. Then there’s the president’s monstrous neglect of Puerto Rico: After Hurricane Maria ravaged the island, his administration barely responded. Some 3,000 Americans died. Now Trump flatly denies those deaths were caused by the storm. And, of course, despite the recent indictments of several Russian military intelligence officers for hacking the Democratic National Committee in 2016, he continues to dismiss a serious attack on our country by a foreign power as a “hoax.”

Trump and his cronies do so many despicable things that it can be hard to keep track. I think that may be the point—to confound us, so it’s harder to keep our eye on the ball. The ball, of course, is protecting American democracy. As citizens, that’s our most important charge. And right now, our democracy is in crisis…

5) I love the idea that we need to take our “social infrastructure” libraries, public parks, etc., more seriously.

6) This story of a woman who’s 1-year old child was literally ripped from her hands and drowned in post-Florence floods is heart-rending.  Also, sad, is just how cruel people are in their “just world biases” and doing everything they can to blame the mother.  Sorry, sometimes bad stuff just happens and it could happen to you, too.

7) Really liked the NYT’s “how to build strength” guide.  I think I need to modify my routine and start pushing myself a little harder.  On the bright side, this linked site said I have the health of a 32-year old. Yeah, me!

8) OMG, so much wrong with our criminal justice system.  But “felony murder” when you can get a murder conviction without actually taking any actions to kill someone (e.g., you are the lookout for a robbery, but then the robber decides to shoot the victim– sure you should be punished, but murder?!) is often so wrong.

The felony-murder doctrine is “one of the most widely criticized features of American criminal law,” the University of Buffalo School of Law’s Guyora Binder wrote in a 2011 law-review article. “Some have concluded that felony murder rules impose unconstitutionally cruel and unusual punishment by ascribing guilt without fault, or that they violate conditional due process by presuming malice without proof.”

There’s no shortage of cases where people were convicted of felony murder despite no demonstrated intent to kill. In 1980, 18-year-old Orlando Stewart and nine other teenagers approached a stranger in Pennsylvania, planning to mug him. One of the teens hit the man, knocking him to the ground and causing a skull fracture that led to his death two days later. Stewart was convicted of felony murder and will remain in prison for the rest of his life.

And this April in Alabama, Lakeith Smith was sentenced to 65 years in prison, including 30 for felony murder. In 2015, the then–15-year-old burglarized two homes with several friends. When the police approached, one of the teenagers fired and was shot and killed by an officer. Smith was convicted of the felony murder of his friend, based on the felony burglary he was committing when his friend was shot.

Felony-murder rules disproportionately affect young people like Brooks, Stewart, Holle, and Smith, who are more likely to commit crimes in groups and are more impulsive than adults, increasing the chances someone in the group pulls a trigger. A law-review article from 2017 described felony murder as “the quintessential juvenile crime, capitalizing on the developmental vulnerabilities of adolescents.”

9) Is this, maybe, karma for Kavanaugh:

It is on this point that the cosmos may be having a laugh not just at Kavanaugh’s expense but at many other people’s. After decades of competitive moralizing and situational ethics—in which every accuser in due course becomes the accused, and anyone riding a high horse can expect to be bucked off—even the concept of fairness in American politics seemingly is defunct.

Three decades of remorseless ideological and cultural combat—over Robert Bork, over Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill, over Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich, over Bush v. Gore, and, at last and above all, over Donald Trump—have made the question virtually irrelevant.

Fairness is rooted in the idea of principles, precedent, proportionality. Few people in American life witnessed at closer range than Kavanaugh the modern reality that when things really matter—in the way that the balance of the Supreme Court matters—all these fine notions matter less than the cold, hard exercise of power.

So here was Kavanaugh—who spent his early 30s as a Ken Starr warrior pursuing Bill Clinton for the political and legal implications of his most intimate moral failings—now in his early 50s facing a political crisis over disturbingly vivid, passionately contested, decades-old allegations about Kavanaugh’s own possible moral failings.

Few prosecutors, it seems likely, would ever open an assault case—36 years later—on the basis of Christine Blasey Ford’s account of being pinned down on a bed by a drunken Kavanaugh, then 17, and being aggressively groped until a friend of his physically jumped in.

But few prosecutors in the 1990s would have pursued an extensive criminal investigation over perjury into a middle-aged man’s lies about adultery if that person had not been President Bill Clinton. In his zeal at the time, Kavanaugh, like Starr, may have worked himself into a belief that this was about sacred principles of law, but to many others—and ultimately to a clear majority of the country—it was obvious that the case was fundamentally about political power.

10) Chevy Chase wants to work, but nobody really wants him.  Recently re-watched “Fletch” and “Fletch Lives” with my oldest.  Still love them (much to my wife’s dismay), and to my great pleasure, so did David.  But they are oh-so-1980’s in so many ways.

2018 = “year of the mom”?

Forget the year of the woman, 2018 is the year of the mom:

Male candidates have long been able to use their children to appear more youthful, human and charming: John F. Kennedy, Jr. peeking out from his father’s desk in the Oval Office, Andrew Giuliani antically upstaging his father during his inauguration as mayor of New York.

But female candidates with young children have traditionally faced skepticism: “Who’s going to take care of the kids?” voters ask. Women have tended to wait until children were out of the house to run, or, if they didn’t wait, were advised to keep the kids out of the picture.

This year, with a record number of women running for office and a surge of energy among female voters, candidates are pushing back on that bias, arguing that motherhood not only doesn’t disqualify them, it makes them more qualified.

Voters are connecting with candidates who can understand the jumble of forgotten homework, missed buses, stalled commutes and spilled coffee that is morning in America for many families of working parents.

“You want somebody in Congress representing you that on some level you feel has the same values you do and has the same priorities you do,” said Ms. Sherrill, 46. “I hear a lot of, ‘You remind me so much of myself.’ I think that’s important.”

“If I just said, ‘I’m a helicopter pilot and a federal prosecutor’ they might think I’ve served my country, I’m experienced,” she added. “If I say, ‘And I’m a mom,’ they think I get it. ‘She’s a working mom. That’s tough.’”

Good stuff!  That said, life in politics (like, honestly, life in general for American women) is always more complicated:

Still, attitudes about women and children are never simple. The campaign trail only magnifies the complexities.

“There’s motherhood and lack of motherhood, and both matter,” said Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster who has surveyed voters on attitudes about women with children and without. “While having children has gotten easier, not having children has gotten harder,” she said. “It’s political and it’s cultural. Whenever you’re dealing with culture, people are so judgmental of women.”

Candidates without children, like Lauren Underwood, running for a House seat outside of Chicago, say voters have asked when they intend to have them. Groups trying to increase the number of women in political office advise childless women on the best strategies to convey that they share family values. Stacey Abrams, for instance, shows herself surrounded by nieces and nephews and other extended family in ads in her campaign for governor of Georgia. Talking to voters about the importance of kinship care, she describes how her own parents are raising the children of her brother, who suffers from mental illness.

If 2018 becomes the year we stopped punishing women candidates for having young children, I’ll take that as significant progress.

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