Quick hits (part I)

1) Best on-line auto part ever.

2) Dahlia Lithwick on Gorsuch’s views on religious liberty:

It’s not just the great deference Gorsuch shows religious adherents that is worrisome. He also believes that the views of religious adherents are beyond factual debate. Again in the Hobby Lobby case, he wrote that companies must pay for “drugs or devices that can have the effect of destroying a fertilized human egg.” That claim is simply false, even with regard to Plan B. It is a religious conclusion, not a medical or legal one. Whether that view is his or he simply declines to probe whether the religious conclusion is accurate, the effect is the same: He has written into a legal opinion a religious “fact” not supported by medical science.

This kind of thinking matters especially when the tremendous respect for religious dissenters is not balanced against the harms incurred by nonadherents. Gorsuch sometimes minimizes or outright rejects the third-party harms of religious accommodations. As Yuvraj Joshi points out at NBC, “while the Supreme Court’s decision in Hobby Lobby considered the impact of the case on women, Judge Gorsuch’s opinion does not even acknowledge the harmful effects of denying access to reproductive health care on female employees and dependents. Instead, his sole concern is for religious objectors who feel complicit in the allegedly sinful conduct of others.”

What that means going into this week’s hearings is that religious liberty works only one way. All of this tremendous deference to the religious sensitivities of the objectors is balanced against, well, no solicitude at all for the interests on the opposing side.

3) Even the former police chief of Greenville, NC takes way too much grief from Trump’s Border Patrol.  Of course, his name is Hassan Aden.

4) This is pretty cool– how chickens can help save threatened wildlife (short version: by being a far more sustainable food source).

5) What the TSA budget should cut (air marshals) and should not cut (pilot training and more).

6) Loved Thomas Frank’s Success and Luck .  Somehow, I missed this piece in the Atlantic last year on how we way undervalue the role of luck in our successes.  Conservatives, of course, are especially guilty of this.

7) Six police wearing body cameras were involved in a shooting, yet, somewhat mysteriously none of them have footage of the key moments.

8) Just so we’re clear– and Steve Coll certainly is on such matters– Tillerson is proving to be a horrible Secretary of State.  Very bad choice for a position that really matters.  And snubbing NATO??!!

9) The marijuana haters were convinced teen marijuana use would go way up with legalization.  It hasn’t.  Were they right about literally anything?  These people have no credibility in a serious policy debate on how we should best regulate marijuana (and the answer sure is hell ain’t the Schedule I status quo).

10) On Jeff Sessions‘ irrational fear of drugs:

“Our nation needs to say clearly once again that using drugs will destroy your life,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions declared last week. The main problem with that message: It isn’t true.

Yes, using drugs, both legal and illegal ones, can destroy your life, but typically it doesn’t. By arguing that drug education should proceed from a false premise, Sessions reminds us what was wrong with the Just Say No propaganda he would like to revive.

11) It is truly hilarious how Trump’s pathetic intellect thinks that if he didn’t know something, other people didn’t either.  (E.g., this intellectual giant just learned Lincoln was a Republican).

12) I’m a big fan of Catholic social teaching.  I wish the American bishops were (they seem to be far more concerned with what gay people are up to).  Anyway, love this post on how Trump’s budget violates the key principles of Catholic Social Teaching.

13) James Fallows on Trump’s wire-tapping lies and the very real cost to his credibility.

The inevitability of this moment, when a new president says Trust me, is why so many veteran officials have warned about Donald Trump’s habit of incessantly telling instantly disprovable lies. Some of the lies don’t really matter: “biggest inaugural crowd ever,” when photos showed it was comparatively small. Some of them obviously would matter, if they were true: millions of illegal voters, wiretapped by Obama. But of course they’re not true, and everyone except Trump and his coterie can look at the evidence and know that. Thus the problem: If an administration will lie about facts where the contradictory evidence is in plain sight, how can we possibly believe them on anything else?

14) Wow.  The horrible, horrible conditions on buses used to transport prisoners across state lines are an embarrassment and abomination.  Alas, given that this is the US criminal justice system, I can’t say I’m surprised.

15) Time to re-think the dinosaur family tree.

16) Inside the auto manufacturing boom in Alabama— dangerous working conditions.

17) Josh Barro on Trump, the bad dealmaker, is great.

18) Ezra on the matter is even better:

So what the hell happened?

The answer can be found in Trump Steaks. And Trump University. And Trump Vodka. And Trump Suits. And Trump’s fragrance line, his board game, his ghostwritten books, his energy drink, his eyeglasses, and his chocolate bars.

Yes, these are all real Trump products. And they expose the reality of Trump’s dealmaking. Trump is not a guy who makes particularly good deals so much as a guy who makes a lot of deals — many of which lash his name and reputation to garbage products.

 Trump, a lifelong teetotaler, didn’t scour the globe to find the very best vodka. No — someone offered him an opportunity to make a quick buck by putting his name on a product he wouldn’t ever touch and he took it. Trump University was a far darker scam. Trump Steaks were, and are, a joke.

This is Trump’s pattern: He licenses his brand and lets others worry about the details of the products. Trump’s partners often end up going out of business and his customers often end up disappointed, but Trump makes some money, and he gets his name out there, and it’s all good.

This was Trump’s approach to the health care bill, too. He let someone else worry about the product and he simply licensed his name, marketing support, and political capital. Trump didn’t know what was in the American Health Care Act, and he didn’t much care. It broke his promises to ensure health care for everyone, to protect Medicaid from cuts, to lower deductibles, and to guarantee choices of doctors and plans — but he didn’t pay attention to any of that. In private, Trump was apparently bored by the subject and eager to move onto tax reform.

 But being president of the United States isn’t like being a downmarket consumer brand. The products you put your name on matter. And the deal isn’t done once you’ve appeared at the ribbon-cutting and hyped up the project. You still need to persuade members of Congress to vote for the bill — and they’re apt to wonder what will happen to them when 24 million people lose their health insurance and millions more find themselves forced into crummier, higher-deductible care.

19) It’s just insane how so many Republicans think it the height of injustice that men buy health insurance plans that cover mammograms and childbirth.

20) Ezra on how Ryan has played Trump is terrific.

21) I make no apologies for being a “distracted” parent when my kids were younger.  Little kids are great.  They can also be boring.

22) And, we’ll conclude with Alec MacGillis’ terrific piece from 5 years ago (and so relevant today) where he sees through how Paul Ryan has scammed everybody into believing he’s a thoughtful policy wonk.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Oh man do I love this Donald Trump quote on health care.  He can fix it!

This will be a plan where you can choose your doctor, and this will be a plan where you can choose your plan. And you know what the plan is. This is the plan. It’s a complicated process, but actually it’s very simple, it’s called good health care.

It’s called double-digit IQ.  Seriously.  The man has some obvious skills, but, come on.

2) It would be nice when you hear all those dramatic stories about rising health care premiums if they pointed out just how few people they actually apply to.  This NYT feature does.

3) I gotta say, as a man whose job it is to explain things for a living, this whole “mansplaining” thing to shut down men really gets to me at times.  Because I really value expertise, I literally cannot imagine trying to explain something to someone in their field of expertise just because they are a woman.  I don’t doubt that there are men that do this– and it’s wrong and stupid– but let’s not blame the whole damn gender for a few jerks.

4) NYT Editorial on the stupidity (interesting, how often that word comes up around the Trump administration) of proposed Homeland Security budgets:

Instead, Mr. Kelly is giving every indication that he and his vast department are fully on board with executing Mr. Trump’s fixation on protecting the nation from an imaginary siege at the southern border, while waging an all-out deportation campaign against millions of unauthorized immigrant workers and families who pose no threat to the nation. It’s a misguided, self-destructive direction to take the country. Mr. Kelly should be stepping on the brakes, not the gas.

The latest evidence, first reported by Politico, is a draft Department of Homeland Security budget that would bulk up border spending at the expense of the Coast Guard, the Transportation Security Administration and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The Coast Guard would be cut 14 percent, from $9.1 billion to $7.8 billion. Cuts to the T.S.A. and FEMA would be about 11 percent, to $4.5 billion and $3.6 billion, respectively.

The senselessness of such cuts is obvious if you understand some basic concepts. Like, the Coast Guard guards our coasts. It plays a major role in interdicting drugs at sea. The T.S.A. keeps bombs off our planes. FEMA helps people after disasters. If your goal at Homeland Security is security for the homeland, you recognize that the job is more complicated than contracting out one 2,000-mile wall.

5) It is worth noting that the AHCA is a complete violation of many of Trump’s promises.  But, of course, he never actually cared about (or, clearly, understood) health care policy.  Keeping non-white Christians out of America?  That he cares about.  That’s MAGA.

6) I’ve never been much for warm-up or cool-down with exercise.  That said, there’s some good evidence that that FIFA 11+ protocol is great at reducing injury.  It’s also long and complicated.

7) Kristoff: connecting Trump’s dots on Russia.  Who knows what’s really going on, but there sure are a hell of a lot of dots.

8) Yglesias with important point on the routinized lying, etc., coming out of Trump,  This is incontroveribly bad for democracy:

The issue was the release this morning of a strong jobs report indicating continued growth in the economy, which many Republicans took the opportunity to crow about. Given the frequency with which candidate Trump had questioned the integrity of government economic data (calling them “phony numbers” and “one of the biggest hoaxes in American politics”), the question went, was President Trump confident that today’s report was accurate?

Spicer, with a wry grin on his face, said, “They may have been phony in the past, but it’s very real now.”

Reporters laughed at the absurdity of the answer and the absurdity of the overall situation. And given the number of different things the White House is currently facing scrutiny over — from a national security adviser who was working as an agent of a foreign governmentto a health care plan that betrays all of Trump’s campaign promises to the bizarre assertion that White House staffers don’t need to follow government ethics rules — it’s a little hard to blame reporters for not wanting to get bogged down in an argument over some transparent BS.

 That said, it’s a pretty good indicator of how much Trump has succeeded in lowering the bar in terms of standards of conduct.

He spent months routinely maligning the work of career civil servants for no good reason. And now that it’s convenient for him to accept their work, he’s going to start accepting it. But there’s no apology and no admission of error — and it’s not even a big story. Just another day at the office. [emphasis mine]

9)  Really good Wonkblog piece from Ana Swanson on how the good jobs report is not necessarily all that helpful for Trump’s blue-collar, white supporters.  I think this graph is particularly key to contemporary American politics:

10) Relatedly, Ronald Klain on how Democrats should be attacking Trump on his failed economic promises:

The list of “kitchen table” concerns on which Trump promised focus and action — “immediately” — in his first 100 days as president goes on: affordable child care, middle-class tax relief, simpler tax forms, savings accounts for elder care and more. But Trump has not offered plans to do any of these things thus far — not one.

Not only is Trump failing to deliver on the economic promises he made during the campaign, but also he is breaking new ones he made as president…

But most voters still don’t like Trump, and other than a single good performance before Congress, he’s done little to assuage their anxieties and much to exacerbate them. This puts the burden on Trump — even more than most new presidents — to deliver on his audacious campaign promises or risk being viewed as just another “all talk, no action” politician.

11) Tillerson may be the weakest Secretary of State ever.

12) Catherine Rampell takes her whack at AHCA:

Let’s abandon the pretense.

Republicans’ “health care” bill is not really about health care. It’s not about improving access to health insurance, or reducing premiums, or making sure you get to keep your doctor if you like your doctor. And it’s certainly not about preventing people from dying in the streets.

Instead, it’s about hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts — tax cuts that will quietly pave the way for more, and far larger, tax cuts…

For those keeping score, that means fewer people would have insurance, those who get insurance on the exchanges would pay a higher price for it and Medicare’s solvency would be jeopardized as a bonus.

Hard to see how this achieves any of President Trump’s stated goals to “lower costs, expand choices, increase competition and ensure health-care access for all Americans.”

13) Krugman:

But Republican leaders weren’t willing to bite that bullet. What they came up with instead was a dog’s breakfast that conservatives are, with some justice, calling Obamacare 2.0. But a better designation would be Obamacare 0.5, because it’s a half-baked plan that accepts the logic and broad outline of the Affordable Care Act while catastrophically weakening key provisions. If enacted, the bill would almost surely lead to a death spiral of soaring premiums and collapsing coverage. Which makes you wonder, what’s the point? …

Given the sick joke of a health plan, you might ask what happened to all those proclamations that Obamacare was a terrible, no good system that Republicans would immediately replace with something far better — not to mention Donald Trump’s promises of “insurance for everybody” and “great health care.”

But the answer, of course, is that they were all lying, all along — and they still are. On this, at least, Republican unity remains impressively intact. [emphasis mine]

14) And David Brooks— sounding far more center-left than center-right– to me:

The central debate in the old era was big government versus small government, the market versus the state. But now you’ve got millions of people growing up in social and cultural chaos and not getting the skills they need to thrive in a technological society. This is not a problem you can solve with tax cuts.

And if you don’t solve this problem, voters around the world have demonstrated that they’re quite willing to destroy market mechanisms to get the security they crave. They will trash free trade, cut legal skilled immigration, attack modern finance and choose state-run corporatism over dynamic free market capitalism.

The core of the new era is this: If you want to preserve the market, you have to have a strong state that enables people to thrive in it. If you are pro-market, you have to be pro-state. You can come up with innovative ways to deliver state services, like affordable health care, but you can’t just leave people on their own. The social fabric, the safety net and the human capital sources just aren’t strong enough. [emphasis mine]

New social crises transform party philosophies. We’re in the middle of a transformation. But to get there we’ve got to live through this final health care debacle first.

 15) Thomas Edsall interviews a bunch of really smart political scientists about what to make of what’s going on with the bases of the political parties.

16) I’m so tired of reading about people falsely convicted based on junk science.

 

17) That said, this is great news.  Maybe we’ll have less wrongful convictions based on false confessions.

18) This is great— 1950’s sexist print ads set to Trump quotes.

19) Paul Waldman is right– you can basically sum up Republican ideology as “you’re on your own.”

Quick hits (part I)

1) Yes, we should admit that integrating large numbers of refugees may be hard and complicated.

2) When the headline says it all, “G.O.P. Repeal Bill Would Cut Funding for Poor and Taxes on Rich.”

3) The kids are alright.  Or, at least committing way less crime than they used to.

4) Cutting the IRS means good news for wealthy tax cheaters.  Hooray!

5) Seth Masket with the case for Democratic recklessness.

6) George Will just amuses me– bringing up the fact that liberals in the early 20th century supported eugenics to damn current liberals.  Yeah, yeah, and lots of Southern Democrats used to be racists.

7) Oh, man have I loved our super-warm winter and early spring, but there are potentially serious ecological costs:

These kinds of mismatches can upset complex relationships between animals and their environment. In the Arctic, some grasses bloom a month before normal, depriving hibernating animals of a crucial early-spring food source. Snowshoe hares turn white during the winter, and then brown during the summer, so that they can be better camouflaged against the ground. But now that snow is melting earlier in the year, many are still wearing their white coats in the spring mud—making them especially easy for predators to pick off.

These kind of seasonal mismatches are best documented in the Arctic, but researchers are increasingly finding them elsewhere.

8) Trump’s bizarre virtual conversation with Fox & Friends.

9) Marines are generally seen as holding themselves to an especially high-standard of honor.  Thus, this disgusting and pervasive sexual harassment of female Marines is especially problematic.

10) Fascinating story of an adoption gone wrong.  This situations are always so difficult.  And a college friend of mine, now law professor (Kevin Maillard) weighs in.

11) Dahlia Lithwick on the sketchy logic of Trump’s new travel ban.

12) Last wee I listened to an utterly fascinating interview of Yuval Harari by Ezra Klein and started reading Sapiens.  So good.  Here’s Harari on AI and the future of humans.

13) Time Inc. is cutting back on the magazine business.  Can’t blame them.  There was a long time when I had weekly subscriptions to Time, Sports Illustrated, and Entertainment Weekly.  But that was a long time ago.

14) Read this amazing essay by a dying woman about trying to find a good partner for her soon-to-be-widowed husband.  Heartbreaking.  And then I realized it was by one of my very favorite children’s book authors– the brilliant Amy Krouse Rosenthal.  So sad.  (If you have kids in the picture book, give Yes Day and Uni the Unicorn a try).

15) Frank Bruni defends Trump against the food snobs.

16) Kristoff on the reality of Planned Parenthood.  Defunding it is just so, so stupid.

This is health care at its best, preventing diseases and averting teenage pregnancies, all while saving public money. Yet clinics like these across America are in peril because of myopic Washington politics…

Let’s be clear: This isn’t about the government paying for abortions. That’s already mostly banned. This is about paying for birth control and cancer screenings when the provider has some connection, even a remote one, to abortions…

Pence and his Republican colleagues in Congress are, I think, well-intentioned politicians driven by a revulsion for abortion. But the truth is that these clinics do more to reduce abortion rates than any army of anti-abortion demonstrators.

17) Washing your produce is probably a waste of time.  I’ll stick with it anyway.

18) Republicans in control of Congress = easier for rich people to cheat on their taxes.  That’s good– right?

19) Making up data about your cancer research is a problem.  Unless you bring in millions in grant money to your university.

20) The hallways of my department are too quiet, too.

21) I love birds.  I love pantones.  Thus, I reallyarticle loved this about the role of bird coloration in the evolution of pantone.

22) I was waiting in the dentist office this week when I randomly came across this article on twitter about how it really makes no sense to divorce oral health from the rest of human medicine.

23) This NYT feature on the shame of Baylor sports (coddling sex offenders to achieve victories) is really good.

Where’d the 2016 Gender Gap go?

Actually, it was really big.  That said, probably not as big as a lot of people were expecting.  My friend Barry Burden (and colleagues) with a nice piece on this in the latest issue of the Forum.  Some highlights:

The reality of the 2016 election did not match these expectations. Although men and women continued to vote for different parties on average, exit polls showed that 54% of women and 41% of men voted for Clinton, a gender gap of 13 points. As Figure 1 shows, this disparity between the sexes is larger than gaps observed in previous elections, by not by much. It is only three points larger than the gap in 2012 and just two points larger than it was in 2000. 5 Rather than a dramatic break with prior elections resulting from the Clinton-Trump face-off, 2016 represents the continuation of a gender divide that has slowly expanded in recent decades…

Partisanship aside, popular commentary on the gender gap in 2016 also overlooked what political scientists know about the issue areas where men and women disagree. Although politicos and journalists pay a great deal of attention to the politics of gender, gender in the electorate itself does not form as strong of a partisan cleavage as do social characteristics such as race, ethnicity, and religiosity. Despite the prominence of “women’s issues” such as abortion rights and birth control access, public opinion scholars have long observed men and women to have fairly similar attitudes on these issues on average. Instead, the “issue content” of the gender gap – where it exists at all – falls more strongly along social welfare policy, economics, and foreign policy, as well as the relative salience given by men and women to these issue areas (Chaney, Alvarez, and Nagler 1998; Manza and Brooks 1998; Kaufmann and Petrocik 1999; Box-Steffensmeier, De Boef, and Lin 2004; Kaufmann 2006)…

Gender was a central factor in the 2016 campaign. How could a contest between a hyper-masculine misogynist and the first female major party candidate not be? Yet expectations for a “Grand Canyon” sized gender gap were not met in large part because they were out of step with previous scholarship on the gender gap and scholarship on partisan voting behavior more broadly. The gender gap in vote choice from past elections already reflected gender differences in party preferences and in policy views, broadly speaking. And due to the recent growth in the constraint between partisanship and discrete issue preferences, neither partisanship nor voters’ issue preferences are manipulable in the way that journalistic conjectures often assume.

Quick hits (part I)

1) Yes, occasionally it drives me crazy, but, in general, I love the Facebook algorithm.  I very intentionally react to posts knowing I’ll get more posts like that.  I love this personalization.  I see lots of smart political analysis, lots of photos of little kids, and virtually know videos of cats.  Why would I want to mess with that?

2) The headline says it all, “The Only Thing, Historically, That’s Curbed Inequality: Catastrophe.”  Hey, maybe that means we’ll have a good outcome from Trump ;-).

3) This is pretty cool– an analysis of why Trump’s approval varies according to poll.  And, damn, is Rasmussen an absurdly positive outlier.

4) A visualization of how herd immunity works.  So cool!

5) Ryan Lizza’s piece on Milo.  This bit is so good:

Charlie Sykes, a prominent conservative commentator and Never Trump activist, was similarly disgusted. “So let me get this straight: Matt Schlapp thinks that Milo has ‘an important’ message and this is about free speech?” he asked me, via a direct message on Twitter. “Not sure what is worse: the intellectual or the moral decadence on display here. Apparently, racism, anti-Semitism, and the embrace of Alt Right isn’t disqualifying for CPAC,” he wrote. “This raises the larger question: Are there any standards for conservatives in the Age of Trump? Obviously being an erratic narcissist can’t be disqualifying. Racist tweets or bullying can’t be disqualifying. Trafficking in Alt Right memes has been normalized. So with Trump as POTUS, where can conservatives draw the line? CPAC’s logic: We’ll embrace anyone the Left hates, even if they are a vile, disingenuous, bigoted click whore.”

6) Apparently, the American Academy of Pediatricians makes a lot of recommendations to parents without actual evidence behind them.

7) This letter from an expert on Narcissistic Personality Disorder is so good:

Most amateur diagnosticians have mislabeled President Trump with the diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder. I wrote the criteria that define this disorder, and Mr. Trump doesn’t meet them. He may be a world-class narcissist, but this doesn’t make him mentally ill, because he does not suffer from the distress and impairment required to diagnose mental disorder.

Mr. Trump causes severe distress rather than experiencing it and has been richly rewarded, rather than punished, for his grandiosity, self-absorption and lack of empathy. It is a stigmatizing insult to the mentally ill (who are mostly well behaved and well meaning) to be lumped with Mr. Trump (who is neither).

Bad behavior is rarely a sign of mental illness, and the mentally ill behave badly only rarely. Psychiatric name-calling is a misguided way of countering Mr. Trump’s attack on democracy. He can, and should, be appropriately denounced for his ignorance, incompetence, impulsivity and pursuit of dictatorial powers.

His psychological motivations are too obvious to be interesting, and analyzing them will not halt his headlong power grab. The antidote to a dystopic Trumpean dark age is political, not psychological.

8) A horse that, apparently, we still need to beat and beat until it’s dead… tax cuts (in terms of the marginal rates we have in America) do not lead to economic growth.

9) Chait is always good on Paul Ryan and taxes:

The drive to cut these taxes reflects the party’s deep beliefs that overtaxation of the rich is the most serious form of oppression in modern political life, and they are prepared to spend enormous political capital to rectify this evil. [emphasis mine]

10) I was sort of intrigued by this list of high-paying, low stress jobs.  I was pleased to see “Microbiologist” on here, as that’s the current stated intent of my 11-year old.  But then I laughed out loud when they had Political Scientist on here with an average annual salary of $103,000.  WTF?!

11) Trump supporters in their own words.  As always, ugh.  Little snippets like this are always so telling:

He also favors Trump’s push to roll back regulations that Searles said have “stifled” businesses, including the software company that hasn’t been stable enough to give him a raise in 10 years.

Right.  I’m sure it’s all those amazingly burdensome regulations on software companies that are holding back the economy.

12) This was totally new to me and quite interesting.  The Trump of Slovakia and how he was defeated.

13) A friend shared a version of this— a day in the life of Joe Conservative– on FB.  It’s a little old, apparently, but it’s spot-on as ever.

14) This Quora post on what conservatives don’t get about liberals is really, really good.

15) Colleges pushing back on the use of Advanced Placement tests.  Personally, I’m okay with the idea of using for elective credit, but no way should they truly replace a college class.  I always regretted that I didn’t have the real version of Intro to American Government at Duke.

16) The regulation of elections is about to get even worse.

17) A pastor asks a great question, “when did compassion become partisan politics?”

18) Trump has no idea how to get anything done.  Even when your party has control, legislating is hard work.  And it’s clear, Trump has no appetite for that.  Jon Cohn:

In particular, Trump has no apparent patience for the boring, slow work of politics ― like developing detailed policy plans, or working them out with congressional leaders. And without that kind of unglamorous work, getting stuff done turns out to be awfully difficult.

19) Very important 4th Circuit ruling on Assault Weapons and great analysis from Mark Joseph Stern.  In a less busy week, this definitely gets its own post.

 20) Haven’t heard more since this post earlier in the week, but Republicans in NC are looking to put all the roadblocks they can in front of women seeking medical abortions.

21) Ross Douthat blaming the cultural hegemony of the left for Milo.

22) Why protest?  It’s fun!  Confirmed.

23) I love the Post’s new “Democracy dies in darkness” motto.  Fun take on it from Slate.

24) Excellent interview with a Russian newspaper editor on Trump:

A lot of commentators here believe the most generous interpretation of Trump’s fawning orientation to Putin and Russia is that he’s hopelessly naïve. Do you buy that?

Mikhail Fishman

That’s a good question. Why does he like Putin so much? I think Trump sees Putin as a kind of soulmate. Let’s be honest: Trump is not a reflective person. He’s quite simple in his thinking, and he’s sort of attracted to Putin’s brutal forcefulness. If anything, this is what Trump and Putin have in common.

Sean Illing

Has Putin made a puppet of Trump?

Mikhail Fishman

Of course. This is certainly what the Kremlin believes, and they’re acting accordingly. They’re quite obviously playing Trump. They consider him a stupid, unstrategic politician. Putin is confident that he can manipulate Trump to his advantage, and he should be.

25) There were so many great responses to this ludicrous Paul Ryan health care tweet.  Alas, from what I can tell, nobody compiled the best.  That said, I do like Krugman’s response:

That was last week. This week, perhaps realizing how flat his effort fell, he began tweeting about freedom, which he defined as “the ability to buy what you want to fit what you need.” Give me consumer sovereignty or give me death! And Obamacare, he declared, is bad because it deprives Americans of that freedom by doing things like establishing minimum standards for insurance policies.

Quick hits (part II)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

Quick hits (part II)

1) Amy Davidson’s explanation of the legal issues in the 9th circuit ruling is as good as any I’ve read.

2) I think Drum is right about this– why did Democrats oppose DeVos so hard (while others, like Price, skated by)?

On a policy level, opposition to DeVos mostly centered on her devotion to vouchers and charter schools. But if DeVos had been defeated, Trump would simply have sent up another pro-voucher-pro-charter nominee. Defeating DeVos wouldn’t have changed anything.

The real reason Democrats spent so much energy on DeVos is pretty simple: she badly fluffed her Senate testimony, and came out looking like an idiot. Because of this, there was a realistic chance of finding three Republicans to join in opposing her, and thus defeating her nomination. In the end, only two Republicans stepped up, but for a while it looked like Democrats had a real chance at claiming a scalp.

This hasn’t been true of any of the others. There were never any Republicans who might have voted against Sessions or Pruitt or Price, and it’s hard to get the masses psyched up for battle when there’s really no chance of winning. That’s why, relatively speaking, Democrats haven’t mounted as big a campaign against any of Trump’s other nominees.

3) Interesting column from Noah Smith on public-private dysfunction in various policy areas and how to improve it.

4) Of all the stuff I learned in college, the theory of relative deprivation stuck with me as well as anything.  I think it really is useful for explaining a lot in the world.  Very nice NPR piece from Danielle Kurtzleben using it to explain a lot of the current political environment.

5) Yes, statutory rape is wrong.  That said, I really think it is ridiculous for a judge to require no premarital sex at all as a condition for probation.

6) Chait, again, on the need for Democrats to filibuster Gorsuch:

Democrats have nothing to gain by keeping the filibuster on the books. On the other hand, they have a great deal to lose. The last two Democratic Supreme Court nominees were confirmed only because Democrats had near filibuster-proof Senate margins at the time. The last nominee, Elena Kagan, received just 5 Republican votes, and several of those Republicans faced intense backlash from primary challengers for doing so. (Indiana Senator Richard Lugar was defeated in a primary in part because he voted for Democratic justices.)

If the next Democratic president gets a Supreme Court vacancy, he or she will have an extremely difficult time defeating a filibuster. Democrats will probably need to abolish the filibuster for Supreme Court picks to get their justice seated. They may or may not have enough votes to do it. Some of their members (like West Virginia senator Joe Manchin) have political reasons to avoid siding with their party in a high-stakes social-policy fight. Other Democratic senators have expressed institutional reluctance to change the Senate rules. What they need is for Republicans to end the judicial filibuster for them.

McConnell is a norm-violator. That’s what he does. He’s very good at it. Keeping in place an ambiguous set of rules, such as giving the minority a blocking power that the majority openly threatens to eliminate if it is used, is the kind of circumstance under which his tactics thrive. Democrats can eliminate his advantage only if they force the norms and the rules to say the same thing.

7) Seriously– how is it okay for financial institutions to legally give their clients bad advice?!

8) Nice piece from Nate Silver looking at Trump’s successful electoral college strategy.

9) I must say I hate how Trump has ensured that “fake news,” an important concept, has now lost all meaning.

10) The way our culture treats platonic touch among men is ridiculous.  Fortunately, my dad was a hugger, I’m a hugger, and so are my boys.

11) Paul Waldman— beware Trump’s Reichstag fire:

As Harvard Law School professor and former Bush administration official Jack Goldsmith suggested, this could have two purposes, should there be a terrorist attack. “If Trump loses in court he credibly will say to the American people that he tried and failed to create tighter immigration controls. This will deflect blame for the attack. And it will also help Trump to enhance his power after the attack.”

What precisely might Trump do? We know that unlike President Obama, he won’t try to calm people down or remind them of how safe we are. He’ll do exactly the opposite: ramp up people’s fear and anger, using the attack (now matter how minor it might have been) as justification for a range of policy moves. He said during the campaign that he wanted to put mosques under surveillance; that could be just the start of a range of harsh actions directed at American Muslims. More restrictions on travel and immigration would be almost guaranteed. He might well order mass deportations. And given his regular, personal attacks on judges that don’t rule as he’d like, there’s a genuine question of whether he’d obey lawful court orders that restrained him in a situation where he felt he had the advantage.

12) Hell, yeah, Trump is making America less safe.

13) This is good: counter lies with emotions, not facts.  Pretty clear that countering them with facts does not work.

14) Relatedly, good work on how to persuade your ideological opposite— appeal to their values, not yours.

15) Some conservatives just came out with a good plan for a carbon tax. Surprised?  Don’t be– none of them actually hold an elected office.

16) It really is amazing the degree to which Republicans view women through the lens of “wives and mothers.”

17) I think Josh Barro is right that Democrats need to do a better job selling their position on immigration:

I think the true reason that immigration advocates fail to make strong national-interest arguments for immigration is that the pro-immigration impulse is not really about the national interest.

Potential immigrants are human beings with moral worth. Especially in the case of refugees, they have been disadvantaged by the place of their birth. The human condition is improved by their admission to the US. This — a global, humanistic concern — is a driving factor behind support for immigration.

Plus, elites in government, media, and business tend to be in positions where they stand to derive disproportionate benefits from immigration to the US and bear relatively few costs related to it. Thus immigration is a relatively easy area to favor policy altruism.

But what if about half the electorate disagrees? What’s in it for them?

An effective pro-immigration message would synthesize globalism and nationalism

Immigration advocates do not need to abandon the idea that resettling refugees is a morally necessary act of altruism by a rich country, nor do they need to concede the idea that public policy should be made solely in the interest of American citizens, forsaking the concerns of all other people.

But they need to acknowledge that admitting outsiders to the US is a policy choice — and demonstrate that they have carefully considered the national interest in making the choice. Voters will be more inclined to let politicians be altruistic on their behalf if they do not believe their own interests have been lost in the calculations.

So, how many people should we admit to the US based on their need for a new country to live in? For those we admit or naturalize for other reasons, what is the benefit to existing citizens of the US?

18) Woman gets 8 years in Texas prison for illegal voting.  So, you know, about the same as armed robbery.  Definitely read this one.

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