Quick hits (part I)

Well, it was get quick hits done in time for you to read it over the weekend or fully enjoy my time at my sister’s house on the Potomac River.  Obviously, I chose the latter.  Good stuff here, though.

1) John Oliver takes on prosecutors!  (About time this part of our criminal justice system got the John Oliver treatment).

2) Yes, having a state-run monopoly on selling liquor is absurd public policy, but whether this will end in North Carolina will not depend on whose policy arguments make the most sense, but which interest groups end up having the most sway with legislators.

3) Of course Republicans want to make it easier for payday lenders to defraud military servicemen.

4) Noah Smith is right, “Domino’s Pizza Fixing Potholes Is an Ominous Sign: Either government is failing, inequality is worsening, or both.”

I recently noticed a string of interesting news stories, all with the same theme. Domino’s Pizza is donating money to 20 U.S. cities, to be used for fixing potholes and cracked roads. Salesforce has donated $1.5 million to reduce homelessness in San Francisco, and its CEO, Marc Benioff, has spoken of grander schemes to end homelessness in the city entirely. And Facebook is talking about renovating a defunct bridge that runs across the San Francisco Bay near its offices.

All of these initiatives, in and of themselves, are good things. It’s good for potholes to be fixed, homeless people to be housed, and traffic congestion to be relieved. But the fact that it’s private companies taking these steps is an ominous sign for the nation. It suggests a breakdown in the government’s ability or willingness to carry out one of its core functions — the efficient provision of public goods.

5) Had an interesting conversation earlier this week about my very religious little sister versus her not particularly religious older sister (both my half-sisters).  In looking to explain the difference, I suggested it was likely genetics as much as anything.  SAR went right to the google and found this:

Social scientific research assumes that religious involvement is primarily, if not exclusively, the product of social‐environmental influences There is growing evidence, however, that genetic or other biological factors also play a role Analyzing twin sibling data from the National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States (MIDUS), this study addresses this issue by showing that individual‐level variation on four different aspects of religious life—organizational involvement, personal religiosity and spirituality, conservative ideologies, and transformations and commitments—is indeed the product of both genetic and environmental influences Specifically, genetic factors explain 19–65 percent of the variation, while environmental influences account for the remaining 35–81 percent depending upon the aspect of religion under investigation [emphasis mine] Research of this type enhances contemporary social science by providing a new perspective that nicely supplements existing ones, but it also highlights potential implications, including explanatory power deficiencies and potentially bias.

6) Speaking of religion, I saw the Book of Mormon and loved it.  Just super-entertaining.  And, part of the enjoyment was seeing the conventions of musical theater used in utterly profane and taboo ways.  And I did find David Brooks‘ take on the show to be thought-provoking.

7) Great interactive piece from Nate Cohn on the Trump coalition.  Check it out.

8) This was really fascinating from Ed Yong, “An Ancient Genetic Quirk Could Doom Whales Today: After losing an unnecessary gene millions of years ago, marine mammals are now uniquely vulnerable to pesticides that have only existed for a century.”

9) Loved this NYT interactive essay on why all the popular songs of recent years sound the same.  (Max Martin).  Actually, very cool visuals with this one.

10) In a different week, I would have written a nice post on the Trump administration’s appalling proposal on legal immigration.  This week, I’ll just tell you to make sure you read Catherine Rampell:

Second, this rule is ostensibly about making sure immigrants are self-sufficient and not a drain on public coffers. But NBC reports that the rule could disqualify immigrants making as much as 250 percent of the poverty level.

Moreover, an immigrant’s past use of benefits does not necessarily mean he or she will need them forever. Even the immigrant populations that you might expect to have the most trouble achieving economic self-sufficiency have proved to be a good long-term investment for the nation’s fiscal health…

Third, and most important, is that under the proposal, it’s not only immigrants who must forgo safety-net benefits if they don’t wish to be penalized by the immigration system. It is  everyone in a given immigrant’s household.

That includes — based on an earlier leaked draft of the proposal published by The Post — an immigrant’s own children, even if those children are U.S. citizens who independently qualify for safety-net benefits.

That’s right. Legal-immigrant moms and dads may soon face a choice between (A) guaranteeing their U.S.-born children medical care, preschool classes and infant formula today, or (B) not threatening their own ability to qualify for green cards or citizenship tomorrow.

The universe of U.S.-citizen children who could be affected is large. The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that, in Medicaid and CHIP enrollment alone in 2016, about 5.8 million citizen children had a noncitizen parent…

Any policy that discourages, even a little bit, poor families’ use of such services is not just heartless. From an economic perspective, it is foolish. We need healthy, well-nourished, well-educated children to become healthy, well-nourished, productive workers.

But once again, children and the economic future they represent are the casualties of Trump’s casual cruelty.

11) Hmmm, lots of great NYT stuff this week.  Here’s a really cool interactive Upshot feature on the “age gap” for new mothers:

Becoming a mother used to be seen as a unifying milestone for women in the United States. But a new analysis of four decades of births shows that the age that women become mothers varies significantly by geography and education. The result is that children are born into very different family lives, heading for diverging economic futures.

First-time mothers are older in big cities and on the coasts, and younger in rural areas and in the Great Plains and the South. In New York and San Francisco, their average age is 31 and 32. In Todd County, S.D., and Zapata County, Tex., it’s half a generation earlier, at 20 and 21, according to the analysis, which was of all birth certificates in the United States since 1985 and nearly all for the five years prior. It was conducted for The New York Times by Caitlin Myers, an economist who studies reproductive policy at Middlebury College, using data from the National Center for Health Statistics.

The difference in when women start families cuts along many of the same lines that divide the country in other ways, and the biggest one is education. Women with college degrees have children an average of seven years later than those without — and often use the years in between to finish school and build their careers and incomes.

People with a higher socioeconomic status “just have more potential things they could do instead of being a parent, like going to college or grad school and having a fulfilling career,” said Heather Rackin, a sociologist at Louisiana State University who studies fertility. “Lower-socioeconomic-status people might not have as many opportunity costs — and motherhood has these benefits of emotional fulfillment, status in their community and a path to becoming an adult.”

12) Whatever the politics of “Medicare for All” even a conservative thinktank admits it saves money (though, they kind of hid that).  Drum doesn’t:

Here’s some good news. The libertarians at the Mercatus Center did a cost breakdown of Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All plan and concluded that it would save $2 trillion during its first ten years:

Now, as you might guess, this was not the spin the Mercatus folks put on their study. Their headline is “M4A Would Place Unprecedented Strain on the Federal Budget.” This isn’t really true, of course, since M4A would absorb all the costs of our current health care system but would also absorb all the payments we make to support it. That includes current taxes (for Medicare, Medicaid, and Obamacare), premiums paid by employers, premiums paid by individuals, and out-of-pocket costs from individuals. Instead of going straight to doctors, hospitals, and insurance companies, it would go instead to the federal government, which would then pay everyone else. It’s a lot of money, but it’s no particular “strain” on anything.

And overall we’d save at least $2 trillion over ten years.

13) Science ways in on “boxers vs briefs” and the answer is “boxers.”  At least if you want to reproduce.

 

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We have criminalized 1970’s and 80’s parenting

This NYT Op-Ed “Motherhood in the Age of Fear” from Kim Brooks, based on her new book, is so good.  I’ve certainly complained here before about just how incredibly stupid we are about modern parenting, but this really brings a lot of different strands together in a particularly compelling and disturbing way.  You really ought to read the whole thing:

We now live in a country where it is seen as abnormal, or even criminal, to allow children to be away from direct adult supervision, even for a second.

We read, in the news or on social media, about children who have been kidnapped, raped and killed, about children forgotten for hours in broiling cars. We do not think about the statistical probabilities or compare the likelihood of such events with far more present dangers, like increasing rates of childhood diabetes or depression. Statistically speaking, according to the writer Warwick Cairns, you would have to leave a child alone in a public place for 750,000 years before he would be snatched by a stranger. Statistically speaking, a child is far more likely to be killed in a car on the way to a store than waiting in one that is parked. But we have decided such reasoning is beside the point. We have decided to do whatever we have to do to feel safe from such horrors, no matter how rare they might be.

And so now children do not walk to school or play in a park on their own. They do not wait in cars. They do not take long walks through the woods or ride bikes along paths or build secret forts while we are inside working or cooking or leading our lives…

I was beginning to understand that it didn’t matter if what I’d done was dangerous; it only mattered if other parents felt it was dangerous. When it comes to kids’ safety, feelings are facts.

As one mother put it to me, “I don’t know if I’m afraid for my kids, or if I’m afraid other people will be afraid and will judge me for my lack of fear.” In other words, risk assessment and moral judgment are intertwined…

That same year, an Arizona woman named Shanesha Taylor was chargedwith two counts of felony child abuse and sentenced to 18 years of supervised probation, all because she had no child care and had to leave her two younger children in the car while she went on a job interview.

In a country that provides no subsidized child care and no mandatory family leave, no assurance of flexibility in the workplace for parents, no universal preschool and minimal safety nets for vulnerable families, making it a crime to offer children independence in effect makes it a crime to be poor.

I spent plenty of time alone in the car when I was a kid.  I wandered all over my neighborhood learning independence.  It was great.  And the point is not anecdote, but as a society we have completely given into irrational fears about child safety. That’s not okay.  And our public policy with regards to parenting sure as hell should not be reflecting that.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Though I’m not much of a Bernie fan, I am a pretty big fan of Elizabeth Warren.  Enjoyed this Rebecca Traister profile of her as the vanguard of Trump opposition.

2) Emily Yoffe on how “zero tolerance” is almost always a bad idea.  Amen!

3) The plastic straw ban gains momentum.  And yet:

The Ocean Conservancy’s 2017 Coastal Cleanup Report compiled beach cleanups around the world and found that the most common trash item found on beaches is cigarettes, followed by plastic bottles, bottle caps, wrappers, and bags. Straws and stirrers placed seventh on the list, at about 3 percent of the total trash. Bloomberg News estimates that on a global scale, straws would probably only account for 0.03 percent of total plastic waste by mass. Another study found that an estimated 46 percentof the debris in the ocean is abandoned fishing equipment.

Seriously, though.  My family uses re-usable water bottles all the time.  We bring our bags to the grocery store, we bring plastic home from fast-food restaurants to recycle.  Some, I’m not going to be lectured to because I still like drinking with plastic straws.

4) Chart from Axios.  Forget drugs– it’s all about hospital and physician prices!

5) Fortunately, I almost never have occasion to go to the trendy restaurants of today.  They are, indeed, too damn loud!

6) Anne Applebaum on the Russian threat:

This matters because Butina is at most the tip of the iceberg, one of the sillier, more junior players in a broader game. Far more important are Russian oligarchs bearing bribes or Russian hackers probing vulnerabilities in our political system as well as our electrical grid. To push back against them, as well as their equivalents from the rest of the autocratic world, we will need not only to catch the odd agent but also to make our political funding systems more transparent, to write new laws banning shell companies and money laundering, and to end the manipulation of social media. It took more than a generation for Americans to reject the temptations of communist authoritarianism; it will take more than a generation before we have defeated kleptocratic authoritarianism too — if we still can.

7) Bill Browder (the man responsible for the Magnistky Act) on Trump.

8) Civil War re-enactment is a dying world.  In part, because it is increasingly difficult to ignore the social-historical context of the War and focus just on the military specifics.

9) Forget batteries, we already have an affordable and efficient way to store energy on an industrial scale.  Use it to pump water uphill.  Seriously.  They are no considering a major project at Hoover Dam.  Also, a good Planet Money on this approach, recently.

10) Though I think we sometimes go too far in truly ambiguous cases (often, involving alcohol) about sexual assault policies, as far as what we teach our children and encourage in society, I really liked this take that “consent” is too low a bar.”

11)

Quick hits (part I)

Sorry for the slow week (and the late quick hits), but you’ll be glad to know I had a damn good time at the beach.

1) Enjoyed Adam Gopnik on immigration and France’s World Cup win.

2) Still can’t beat the original Ali G show for me (this may be my favorite clip), but I’m still a big Sacha Baron Cohen fan.  Oh, boy did he make some Republicans look stupid advocating for toddlers to have guns.

3) As much as I wanted to write about Trump and Putin this week, I decided my time was better spent in the Atlantic ocean.  That said, I particularly enjoyed some of the following takes.  Max Boot:

President Trump habitually calls the press “the enemy of the people” — a loathsome calumny, redolent of dictatorships, that he repeated on Sunday. In fact, by asking tough questions at Trump’s joint news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday, reporters once again showed that they are the sentinels of America democracy. If anyone is “the enemy of the people,” it is Trump himself.

Those are words I never thought I would write about an American president — even one as boorish and bigoted as Trump. But after his appalling performance in Helsinki at what CNN’s John King aptly called the “surrender summit,” questions about Trump’s loyalty to the American people will only intensify. Indeed, the question came up at the news conference itself. The Associated Press’s Jonathan Lemire courageously asked “does the Russian government have any compromising material on President Trump or his family?”

Think of how extraordinary — how unprecedented — that moment was. Can you imagine a similar question being asked about any previous U.S. president? I can’t.

4) Drum rounds up a bunch of pretty tough criticism of the “Surrender Summit,” but I could not help but notice how there’s hardly any meaningful criticism from sitting Republican officeholders.  What a bunch of cowards!!

5) James Fallows, “This Is the Moment of Truth for Republicans: The GOP can either defend the United States or serve the damaged and defective man who is now its president.”  Sadly, I think we all know what choice we’ll make.  On some level I understand the desire to hang onto political power, but do these Republicans have no genuine patriotism at all?!

There are exactly two possible explanations for the shameful performance the world witnessed on Monday, from a serving American president.

Either Donald Trump is flat-out an agent of Russian interests—maybe witting, maybe unwitting, from fear of blackmail, in hope of future deals, out of manly respect for Vladimir Putin, out of gratitude for Russia’s help during the election, out of pathetic inability to see beyond his 306 electoral votes. Whatever the exact mixture of motives might be, it doesn’t really matter.

Or he is so profoundly ignorant, insecure, and narcissistic that he did not realize that, at every step, he was advancing the line that Putin hoped he would advance, and the line that the American intelligence, defense, and law-enforcement agencies most dreaded.

Conscious tool. Useful idiot. Those are the choices, though both are possibly true, so that the main question is the proportions.

Whatever the balance of motivations, what mattered was that Trump’s answers during his joint press conference with the Russian president were indistinguishable from Putin’s, starting with the fundamental claim that Putin’s assurances about interference in U.S. democracy (“He was incredibly strong and confident in his denial”) deserved belief over those of his own Department of Justice (“I think the probe is a disaster for our country”)…

Trump manifestly cannot help himself. This is who he is.

Those who could do something are the 51 Republican senators and 236 Republican representatives who have the power to hold hearings, issue subpoenas, pass resolutions of censure, guarantee the integrity of Robert Mueller’s investigation, condemn the past Russian election interference, shore up protections against the next assault, and in general defend their countryrather than the damaged and defective man who is now its president.

6) David Remnick (who damn well knows Russia):

At the press conference in Helsinki, Trump proved himself, at best, a heedless amateur, blind to the bogus arguments and offers being made by a shrewd adversary. “President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today, and what he did is an incredible offer,” Trump said. “He offered to have the people working on the case come and work with their investigators with respect to the twelve [Russian intelligence officers who were indicted by Mueller]. I think that’s an incredible offer.” Incredible is the word, and not just for the offer. Trump’s incredible journey to Europe was an act contrary to the interests of his country. Now we will see who, particularly in the Republican Party, will stand up not to applaud the Great Leader but to find the capacity to say what is obvious and what is true.

7) All that said, I did enjoy Douthat’s more temperate take (though it is still plenty damning):

And what about the election-season contacts with suspicious Russian nationals and WikiLeaks, the Don Jr. meeting and the Roger Stone forays? In this theory they’re indicators that Trump, a shady guy surrounded by shady guys and professional morons, might well have colluded given the opportunity — but they don’t prove that any such opportunity presented itself. After all, neither the hacking nor the leaking of emails required his campaign’s cooperation, so there was no reason for the Russian side to advance beyond a deniable low-level meeting and WikiLeaks D.M.s, and thus no real opportunity for the Trump team to be a true accessory to the underlying crime.

This narrative does not exonerate Trump; indeed, it provides various grounds to condemn him. But those grounds are the same grounds that were obvious during the campaign: We watched him blow kisses to dictators then, complain about our allies then, promise a détente with Russia while exploiting the D.N.C. hacking then, double and triple down on falsehoods and bogus narratives then, cling to self-destructive feuds (the Khans, Alicia Machado) in the same way that he clings to public flattery for Putin … and after all this, he was still elected president. So be appalled when he behaves appallingly, but do not be surprised, do not confuse Trump being Trump with Trump being treasonous — and recognize that he isn’t leaving office until you beat him at the polls.

Overall it’s a theory that fits Trump’s personality extremely well, fits the available facts reasonably well, and doesn’t require any new revelations or heretofore-hidden conspiracies. So I continue to give it a … (consults extremely scientific methodology) … 65 percent chance of being the truth.

8) And, then, there”s the red-headed Russian spy, Maria Butina.

9) Okay, switching gears…  What do transgender men have to tell us about the reality of gender in America.  I found the intersection with race particularly interesting:

One night somebody crashed a car into my neighbor’s house, and I called 911. I walk out to talk to the police officer, and he pulls a gun on me and says, “Stop! Stop! Get on the ground!” I turn around to see if there’s someone behind me, and he goes, “You! You! Get on the ground!” I’m in pajamas and barefoot. I get on the ground and he checks me, and afterward I said, “What was that all about?” He said, “You were moving kind of funny.” Later, people told me, “Man, you’re crazy. You never call the police.”

I get pulled over a lot more now. I got pulled over more in the first two years after my transition than I did the entire 20 years I was driving before that. Before, when I’d been stopped, even for real violations like driving 100 miles an hour, I got off. In fact, when it happened in Atlanta the officer and I got into a great conversation about the Braves. Now the first two questions they ask are: Do I have any weapons in the car, and am I on parole or probation?

10) I should’ve probably spent a little more time in the ocean, but had such a hard time pulling myself away from what is now one of my favorite books ever.  Tom Sweterlich’s The Gone World, was just unbelievably brilliant and one of those books that stick with you so much.  I recognize that time travel books aren’t for everybody, but, damn did this book hit all my sweet spots from dystopia, to time travel, to the meaning of identity, to murder investigation, to great plotting, to terrific characters.  Wow.  If you are inspired and read it, please let me know what you think.  Of the many reviews I read, I think the Kirkus one sums it up best:

Sweterlitsch’s latest (Tomorrow and Tomorrow, 2014, etc.) is a mind-blowing fusion of science fiction, thriller, existential horror, and apocalyptic fiction.

Initially set in 1997, the story revolves around Shannon Moss, a federal agent with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service who is assigned to track down a missing girl whose family has been brutally murdered in their home in southwestern Pennsylvania. When Moss realizes the potential killers are missing astronauts whose spaceship vanished while on a black ops mission called Deep Waters, involving time travel, she must figure out how members of a lost crew are now suddenly living clandestinely as domestic terrorists in America. An undercover time traveler herself for the Naval Space Command—she even lost part of her leg exploring a far-future Earth—Moss must track down the killers as the looming darkness of the Terminus, the death of humankind that is at the end of almost every Deep Waters journey, moves ever closer. The power of this novel is twofold: Sweterlitsch’s intricately plotted storyline will keep readers on the edges of their seats until the very last pages, and his extended use of bleak imagery coupled with his lyrical writing style make for an intense and unforgettable read.

11) So, this was interesting.  Dave Leonhardt highlighted the Weekly Standard cover story on the hazards of marijuana.  Had no idea that my friend from freshman year at Duke, Tony Mecia, was now a conservative writer (I do remember him being very conservative way back then, though).  Anyway, I didn’t give a full read, but from my perspective…1) of course there are downsides to marijuana use and it is foolish to pretend otherwise, but 2) those downsides are far less than that for many other mind-altering drugs and it is intellectually dishonest to not at least consider the substitution effect of using marijuana in place of more harmful drugs– including alcohol!

 

 

 

Why the Republican Party doesn’t elect women

Really enjoyed this feature in 538, especially as it included the research of my co-author, Laurel Elder, who does cool research without me (the converse not proving true):

There has been a lot of buzz recently about the wave of women running for office in 2018. It’s record-breaking. But that’s not quite right. At least, it’s too broad.

There are a lot of Democratic women signing up as candidates and winning primaries, particularly for the U.S. House. So far this cycle, according to the Center for Women and American Politics at Rutgers University, 350 Democratic women have filed to run for the House, compared with 118 Republican women. Democratic women have won 105 House primaries, compared with just 25 by Republican women.

That pattern isn’t new. The overall male skew of Congress gets a lot of attention, and rightly so, but that skew looks very different in each party. There are almost three times as many Democratic women as Republican women serving in Congress — and November’s elections might exacerbate the disparity. A Democratic wave could both send many more Democratic women to Congress and also end the careers of several Republican female incumbents…

But this partisan gender gap isn’t just a 2018 thing. The overall gender gap in Congress is fueled and exacerbated by a more specific phenomenon: Few Republican women make it to Congress — or even run in the first place. You can’t understand — or change — Congress’s male bent without accounting for the dearth of GOP women, in particular, getting elected. And it’s not just Congress — Republican women are getting elected at lower numbers than Democratic women to state legislatures, a key stepping stone for people who eventually get to Capitol Hill.

“The Republicanism of a state’s electorate remains a strong, significant predictor of fewer women among Republican [state] legislators,” Hartwick College’s Laurel Elder wrote in an essay that was part of an anthology published this year called “The Right Women,” which chronicled the state of women in the GOP.

“This finding is stunning, as it suggests that the Republican Party itself and the increasingly conservative ideology it has come to embrace is the biggest barrier to women’s representation within the party,” she added.

Indeed, most of the progress toward gender parity in Congress that has been made over the last few decades is due to Democrats; the number of GOP women has increased, but not nearly as much.

And the ideological reality of the parties and of gender mean this will not be easy to overcome any time in the near future:

Women in state legislatures in both parties tend to be more liberal than their male counterparts, according to Thomsen’s analysis of their voting records. This puts female Democrats toward the left-leaning end of their party, while female Republicans are not in the rightward bloc of the GOP. “The ideologues are much more likely to run, and they are much more likely to be men. They are really unlikely to be Republican women,” Thomsen said.

“The research I’ve done suggests that the primary campaign is the toughest hurdle for Republican women to get through, and many do not run, knowing they will not make it through the primary — where voters tend to be far more conservative than the Republican Party at large,” said Shauna Shames, a political science professor at Rutgers who specializes in studying the role of race and gender in and politics.

And even if potential female GOP candidates are as conservative as their male counterparts, voters may think they are less conservative. “There is some scholarly evidence that voters tend to perceive female politicians as more liberal than men,” Hopkins said. “This perception makes it harder for women to win votes in Republican primaries when running against male opponents, because the ideological nature of the Republican Party leads its voters to treat the relative conservatism of the candidates as an important consideration in making electoral choices.”

It’s great that there are so many more Democratic women running, but if we want to get anywhere near 50% (and practically-speaking, I think 40% would be a great goal because it would fundamentally change the institution), we’ve got to get more Republican women, too.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Nice, disturbing NYT feature of pregnancy discrimination in major American companies.

2) I didn’t know you could make ice cream in a plastic bag.  Cool!  That said, I’m pretty happy with the results we get from this.

3) Why do we keep having food-borne illness problems.  Because, unsurprisingly, we need more regulation:

After that, the industry developed the Leafy Green Marketing Association, to start training growers on the best hand-washing and anti-contamination practices. And in 2011, President Barack Obama signed the Food Safety Modernization Act into law, compelling the FDA to develop regulations for water safety on produce. It took four years after that, however, for the FDA to enact the regulations—and they only require very large farms, rather than all farms, to sample and test the water used to grow and clean produce. Today, those regulations are still being phased in—meaning some farms have started monitoring programs, and others have not. No farms are required to report their data to the FDA until next year.

While the LGMA insists its member growers go above and beyond to ensure water safety regardless of regulations, Detwiler believes that’s not the case. “Do you know how many corporate officers have gone to prison for flouting health and safety rules that led to people’s deaths?” he asked. “Three—and the largest sentence ever handed down was three months.” That’s why Detwiler believes farmers don’t have enough incentive to ensure water safety. “If I’m a farm owner, I ask myself: Do I pay to have a third party lab to test these water samples on a regular basis for me to use this water? Or do I consider the small likelihood of someone being able to tie the problem back to me, and decide against it?”

4) I liked Yglesias take on how accepting we’ve become of just how radical Republicans have become:

More broadly, the Kavanaugh view that the Constitution grants powerless individuals little in terms of democratic participation but powerful interests much in terms of exemption from regulation is a very normal Federalist Society view.

But that’s exactly the problem. The American constitutional order is very robust against any effort by an eccentric madman to build a personalized dictatorship. But it’s very vulnerable to the efforts of a disciplined minority to entrench itself in power…

But the party has, as a whole, made a collective and unanimous decision that they are all on the same team and fighting for the same cause. It’s a cause they’ve given up on securing majority support for, but believe can be effectively advanced through gerrymandering, filibusters, judicial review, vote suppression, cable news propaganda, etc. It’s high time to take them at their word that, all things considered, they think this is a good way to go.

Putting Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court is very normal Republican politics, and that’s exactly the problem.

5) This Radley Balko column is so disgusting and depressing and America at it’s worst.  Ugh.  “An Arkansas man complained about police abuse. Then town officials ruined his life.”

6) Michele Goldberg on Republicans and sexual assault/harassment:

Donald Trump just hired Bill Shine, who was forced out of Fox News in the aftermath of sexual harassment scandals there. He will be deputy chief of staff for communications. As of this writing, seven men say that an influential Republican congressman, Jim Jordan of Ohio, knew about the widespread sexual abuse of athletes when he was an assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State University, and did nothing to stop it. Jordan has alternately denied any knowledge of abuse and dismissed what he did hear as “conversations in a locker room.” Many of Jordan’s conservative colleagues continue to publicly support him, as does Trump. Last week Trump made a gross, sexually demeaning joke about a female senator, but most of the public seemed too exhausted to make a fuss.

Amid the flood of personal stories of sexual coercion that has marked the #MeToo movement, we learned how often people — particularly women — will submit to sex they don’t want because men wear them out with entitled demands. In the face of men bent on violation, maintaining one’s own boundaries takes energy, and sometimes it flags. It feels as if we’re now experiencing something similar as a nation…

That may be why Jordan believes he can brazen out his own sex scandal. (Some of his allies, taking a page from Trump, are claiming that accusations against him are part of a “deep state” conspiracy.) You might think that Republicans would be wary of a story involving a congressman and the sexual molesting of student wrestlers. It was only two years ago that the former Republican House speaker Dennis Hastert admitted to molesting teenage wrestlers when he was a wrestling coach, before going to prison.

But who can remember 2016? Who can remember December? Without the force of law behind it, #MeToo can create change only in institutions that are susceptible to shame, and the Trump administration is shameless. After all, if Trump cared about the American people’s consent, he’d resign.

7) NC State Sociology professor and friend, Sarah Bowen (and her co-authors), with an excellent and important NYT-Op, “If Congress Changes Food Stamp Requirements, Kids Will Go Hungry.”

8) Metformin is a pill that sounds too good to be true, but might also actually be true.

9) Emily Yoffe again brings a sober, thoughtful take to issues of sex and sexual assault and American society in looking at Harvey Weinstein and other high profile sexual malefactors.

As one viral post by Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg put it: “The 1992 presidential race was once summed up in a pointed phrase: ‘It’s the economy, stupid.’ Today, as headlines are dominated by stories about sexual harassment and sexual assault at work, a similar phrase comes to mind: ‘It’s the power, stupid.’” Former Vice President Joe Biden reprised the theme in a speech honoring campus activists. “This is not about sex,” he said. “This is about power. Usually fat, ugly men using their power, as you saw with that creep”—a clear reference to Harvey Weinstein…

To leave the sex out of the conversation is to be blinkered about the sexual psychopathology that can upend people’s lives. Abuse of power is indeed intrinsic to the Me Too stories. But power alone does not explain why a man would choose to masturbate into a potted plant in front of a horrified woman rather than have sex with a willing one. Only when we examine the sexual aspect of these violations will we understand fully what is going on—and how to address it.

10) Somebody might want to tell Paul Ryan about this little thing called a veto override.  Damn, I hate that man more than ever.

11) OMG the ATT exec taking over HBO is a moron.  HBO’s value lies in the fact that it has a tremendous reputation for quality discerning viewers subscribe and give it’s shows a chance.  His idea is to make it like Netflix.  Sorry, you simply cannot produce shows at the volume of Netflix and maintain a reputation for consistent

12) This is true and indeed concerning, “The community newspaper is America’s vigilant guardian, and it’s under siege.”

13) Good God Russia’s plan to influence American politics is insidious:

Russia’s information attack against the United States during the 2016 election cycle sought to take advantage of the greater trust that Americans tend to place in local news.

The information operatives who worked out of the Internet Research Agency in St. Petersburg did not stop at posing as American social media users or spreading false information from purported news sources, according to new details.

They also created a number of Twitter accounts that posed as sources for Americans’ hometown headlines.

NPR has reviewed information connected with the investigation and found 48 such accounts. They have names such as @ElPasoTopNews, @MilwaukeeVoice, @CamdenCityNews and @Seattle_Post.

“A not-insignificant amount of those had some sort of variation on what appeared to be a homegrown local news site,” said Bret Schafer, a social media analyst for the Alliance for Securing Democracy, which tracks Russian influence operations and first noticed this trend.

Another example: The Internet Research Agency created an account that looks like it is the Chicago Daily News. That newspaper shuttered in 1978.

The Internet Research Agency-linked account was created in May 2014, and for years, it just posted local headlines, accumulating some 19,000 followers by July 2016.

Another twist: These accounts apparently never spread misinformation. In fact, they posted real local news, serving as sleeper accounts building trust and readership for some future, unforeseen effort.

14) Love this takedown on the doctrine of originalism which pretends to be all about judicial humility and consistency, but ends up being about justifying Conservative judicial decisions.

15) Speaking of which, loved John Cassidy on Kavanaugh and why liberals should be angry:

At the risk of giving yourself a headache, consider some counterfactuals. Absent the Supreme Court’s 5–4 ruling, in 2000, under Chief Justice William Rehnquist, to halt the Florida recount and allow the election of a Republican President who lost the popular vote, John Roberts and Samuel Alito might not be sitting on the Court today. If, in 2016, Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, had adhered to precedent and allowed filibusters on the nomination of Merrick Garland, Gorsuch might well not be a Justice, either. And but for the quirks of the Electoral College nullifying Hillary Clinton’s almost three-million-ballot margin of victory in the popular vote, Kavanaugh would still be a relative unknown.

If these points sound like the complaints of sore losers, they are. But Democrats, Independents, and anybody else who cares about the functioning of American democracy have good reason to be sore. There is no majority of voters out there clamoring for a ban on abortion, restrictions on collective bargaining, roadblocks to legal claims against big companies, or the purging from the electoral rolls of voters who skip a couple of elections. These are the concerns of smaller groups, with strong ties to the Republican Party, whose interests will be disproportionately represented…

By slowly fashioning a ruling conservative bloc on the Supreme Court, the Republican Party has carefully exploited the biases and shortcomings of the political system. Ultimately, that is what makes the prospect of Kavanaugh’s ascension so objectionable. It wouldn’t just cement in place a reactionary and unrepresentative majority. It would be the latest act in an anti-democratic (small “d”) heist.

16) Finally got around to the Atlantic cover story on how being a gender-confused adolescent can be more complicated than is always portrayed.  I found it thoughtful and fair.  Now that I’ve read the article, I’m especially unimpressed with the line of attack given time on The Gist (though with excellent pushback from Pesca).

How I am like a poor, uneducated Republican

I’m a fan of having 3+ children.  Gallup has been polling on “ideal family size” for years.  The first chart is pretty dramatic as we can see how this has changed:

FamilySize_1

They also have a table breaking this down by demographics, from which I derived the title of the post:

Meanwhile, a nice piece in the Uphsot about why young adults say they want fewer children:

Wanting more leisure time and personal freedom; not having a partner yet; not being able to afford child-care costs — these were the top reasons young adults gave for not wanting or not being sure they wanted children, according to a new survey conducted by Morning Consult for The New York Times.

The survey, one of the most comprehensive explorations of the reasons that adults are having fewer children, tells a story that is partly about greater gender equality. Women have more agency over their lives, and many feel that motherhood has become more of a choice.

But it’s also a story of economic insecurity. Young people have record student debt, many graduated in a recession and many can’t afford homes — all as parenthood has become more expensive. Women in particular pay an earnings penalty for having children.

“We want to invest more in each child to give them the best opportunities to compete in an increasingly unequal environment,” said Philip Cohen, a sociologist at the University of Maryland who studies families and has written about fertility.

At the same time, he said, “There is no getting around the fact that the relationship between gender equality and fertility is very strong: There are no high-fertility countries that are gender equal.”

My take?  Just have more kids.

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