Can’t we just pay more for our meat?!

Very disturbing article from Melissa Wenner Moyer in Scientific American about the risks to humans posed by the systematic over-use of antibiotics in factory farming:

Many researchers worry—and the new findings add fresh urgency to their concerns—that the abundant use of antibiotics on farms is unraveling our ability to cure bacterial infections. This latest research, scientists now say, shows resistance to drugs can spread more widely than previously thought and firms up links in the resistance chain leading from animal farm to human table. In 2014 pharmaceutical companies sold nearly 21 million pounds of medically important antibiotics for use in food animals, more than three times the amount sold for use in people. Stripped of the power of protective drugs, today’s pedestrian health nuisances—ear infections, cuts, bronchitis—will become tomorrow’s potential death sentences.

Yet the farm industry argues these worries have been wildly overblown. The idea that antibiotics “in animals directly relates to a risk to human health, we believe, has been greatly exaggerated,” says Richard Carnevale, vice president of regulatory, scientific and international affairs at the Animal Health Institute, a trade group that represents veterinary pharmaceutical companies. Researchers have not directly shown that farm antibiotic use is sparking more resistant infections in people, he and other industry representatives point out. Many of the drug-resistant infections circulating in today’s hospitals have never been linked to farms or animal meat.

Scientists now counter that the farm industry is the one exaggerating—even engineering—scientific uncertainty to protect their interests. “Frankly, it reminds me of the tobacco industry, the asbestos industry and the oil industry,” says James Johnson, an infectious disease physician at the University of Minnesota who studies antibiotic-resistant pathogens. “We have a long history of industries subverting public health.” He and other researchers admit that it is difficult to connect all the dots, but the farm industry, they say, deliberately makes it harder. Some big meat companies instruct their farmers to keep researchers away, arguing they need to keep animals free of outsiders and their diseases, which makes it impossible for scientists to solidify the science. As Tara Smith, an epidemiologist who studies emerging infections at Kent State University, tells me, the companies “want us to prove all these steps, but they’re really tying our hands.” …

Scientists still have many, many questions about antibiotic resistance—questions that may never get answered if food companies continue to ban outsiders from their farms. Even so, the weight of the evidence points strongly toward reducing antibiotic use on farms, relying instead on novel infection-control regimens or age-old strategies such as providing animals with ample space. Until some of those changes occur, researchers and the rest of us will continue to worry about the growing strength of foodborne bacteria and the increasing weakness of our medicine against them.

So, no, not “proven” links.  But the smartest scientists working on the matter not under the pay of the meat industry are damn worried.  And that should mean something.  (When it doubt…science!).  But what is so frustrating is that it just doesn’t have to be this way.  This is capitalism run amok. In order to get our meat as absolutely cheaply as possible we all bear the risks to public health (hello, externalities).  We all likewise share in the moral crime of making these animals lives so horrible.  This is where government is supposed to come in and protect us through appropriate regulations.  But, we all know government regulations just destroy jobs and ruin everything.

The truth is, though, we can have meat raised much more humanely and at much lower risk to public health (as nicely described in the article).  And, some of it, we do.  The problem?  Most people just want their meat as cheaply as possible.  Ahhh, capitalism.  So, what’s the solution?  Actually, that’s pretty easy, since it’s clear the public will settle for the lowest common denominator of cheap meat, this is where government needs to step in with appropriate regulations (e.g., antibiotics only used for actually sick animals.  Imagine that).  Sure, meat will cost more (but probably not as much as you might think), but the point is that it should cost more because right now there are important costs not being capture in the super-market price.  But, for now, that’s nowhere near happening.

I’ll keep hoping we can do better here– and there’s actually some progress– but I’m more optimistic that the real long-term solution is plant-basedmeat.”  What I do know for sure is that what we are doing now is both dangerous and morally wrong.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Andrew Prokop on why the failure of populist Democratic Senate candidates should makes us skeptical of Democratic populism.

2) Nice interview with Brendan Nyhan on Trump and the erosion of Democratic norms.

3) I was initially concerned when a person I don’t know all that well posted, “5 reasons not to vaccinate your kids.”  But then I read it and all was well.

4) Interesting Forbes feature on how Jared Kushner helped Trump win.

By June the GOP nomination secured, Kushner took over all data-driven efforts. Within three weeks, in a nondescript building outside San Antonio, he had built what would become a 100-person data hub designed to unify fundraising, messaging and targeting. Run by Brad Parscale, who had previously built small websites for the Trump Organization, this secret back office would drive every strategic decision during the final months of the campaign. “Our best people were mostly the ones who volunteered for me pro bono,” Kushner says. “People from the business world, people from nontraditional backgrounds.”

Kushner structured the operation with a focus on maximizing the return for every dollar spent. “We played Moneyball, asking ourselves which states will get the best ROI for the electoral vote,” Kushner says. “I asked, How can we get Trump’s message to that consumer for the least amount of cost?” FEC filings through mid-October indicate the Trump campaign spent roughly half as much as the Clinton campaign did.

5) Dana Goldstein on Trump’s threat to public education.

6) Democracies— including our own– maybe not as stable as we thought.

7) The man running  for school board on a platform of ending high school  football:

Davis doesn’t think that football should be outlawed, any more than boxing or mixed martial arts are illegal. If a parent wants to send their child to a private gym, or enroll that child in a private football program, well, it’s a free country. Only don’t ask schools to sponsor a concussion delivery system, and don’t ask taxpayers to pick up the tab. Beyond abolishing high school football, Davis’s platform calls for banning heading in soccer, instituting concussion protocol training for coaches in every sport, and forbidding Clark County teams from playing against outside schools that don’t follow the same standards. “Schools have a mission of educating kids and protecting their welfare,” he says.

8) Trevor Noah on Trump’s lies.

9) James Fallows on Trump’s lies:

  • Unlike other public figures we’ve encountered, Donald Trump appears not even to register the difference between truth and lies. He lies when it’s not “necessary” or even useful. He lies when disproof is immediately at hand. He shows no flicker in the eye, or “tell” of any kind, when he is caught in a flat-out lie. Richard Nixon looked tense and sweaty when saying “I am not a crook.” Bill Clinton went into his tortured “it depends what the meaning of is is” answer precisely because he was trying to avoid a direct lie.
    Trump doesn’t care. Watching his face for discomfort or “tells” is like looking at an alligator for signs of remorse.
  • Thus the media have to start out with the assumption that anything Trump says is at least as likely to be false as true. He has forfeited any right to an “accurate until proven to be inaccurate” presumption of honesty. Thus a headline or framing that says “Trump claims, without evidence, [his latest fantasy]” does more violence to the truth than “Trump falsely claims…”

10) Raise your hand if you are the least bit surprised that Texas wants to use an unrealistic definition of “intellectually disabled” so that they can execute more people.

11) Big federal court decision requires NC Republicans to re-draw state legislative districts and hold a new election next year.  Typically classy response (to a unanimous decision):

“What the Fourth Circuit court put forward (Tuesday) would be the single largest disenfranchisement of the voters in North Carolina history,” asserted the Executive Director of the NC GOP, Dallas Woodhouse. “We would go from somewhere around 5 million people voting on legislative elections to probably 300,000. And we’re going to overthrow one full year of a General Assembly. And we’re going to throw out the legally cast votes of 4.5 million people in North Carolina. What the Fourth Circuit court has suggested is nothing but a banana republic kangaroo court that would disenfranchise 4.5 million people from districts that were precleared by the U.S. Justice Department and have had now three elections in them.”

“All of a sudden you have one circuit court,” Rucho joined in, “the most liberal, that has decided that they don’t believe in following legal precedent; that they don’t believe in following the constitution; and they use their own, let’s just say, their own fabricated law and interpretation of the constitution. This will be handled by the United States Supreme Court,” Rucho promised. “I think we have a rogue court there right now, and it needs to be addressed by the U.S. Supreme Court.”

12) Adam Gopnik’s take on Democrats and identity politics.  A rare time I do not agree entirely with Gopnik (I just don’t think you can ignore the economic angle).

13) Ivanka Trump has written a few books.  Apparently, she is as self-delusional as her father:

Ivanka Trump’s 2009 self-help book, “The Trump Card,” opens with an unlikely sentence: “In business, as in life, nothing is ever handed to you.” Ivanka quickly adds caveats. “Yes, I’ve had the great good fortune to be born into a life of wealth and privilege, with a name to match,” she writes. “Yes, I’ve had every opportunity, every advantage. And yes, I’ve chosen to build my career on a foundation built by my father and grandfather.” Still, she insists, she and her brothers didn’t attain their positions in their father’s company “by any kind of birthright or foregone conclusion.”

The cognitive dissonance on display here might prompt a reader who wishes to preserve her sanity to close the book immediately…

This messy argument comes with correspondingly messy metaphors. “We’ve all got our own baggage,” Ivanka writes, before explaining what she means by baggage: “Whatever we do, whatever our backgrounds, we’ve all had some kind of advantage on the way.” Ivanka compares herself to a runner positioned on the outside track, whose head start at the beginning is just an illusion. “In truth, the only advantage is psychological; each runner ends up covering the same ground by the end of the race.” Soon, though—by page nine—she has grown tired of pretending to be her reader’s equal. “Did I have an edge, getting started in business?” she asks. “No question. But get over it. And read on.”

14) Steve Saideman on Trump’s over-reliance on generals.

15) Speaking of generals, I don’t know all that much about James Mattis, but the stuff I hear is good.  Makes me wonder why he wants to work for Trump.  Here’s Mattis‘ take on being “too busy to read” (of course, Trump never reads anything):

The problem with being too busy to read is that you learn by experience (or by your men’s experience), i.e. the hard way. By reading, you learn through others’ experiences, generally a better way to do business, especially in our line of work where the consequences of incompetence are so final for young men.

Thanks to my reading, I have never been caught flat-footed by any situation, never at a loss for how any problem has been addressed (successfully or unsuccessfully) before. It doesn’t give me all the answers, but it lights what is often a dark path ahead.

16) Perhaps the House “Science” Committee (which re-tweets climate change denying articles) needs to re-name itself under present Republican leadership.  Just depressing.

17) Art Pope-funded NC conservative Civitas Institute is suing to throw-out votes based on Same-day registration.  Still would not let McCrory win, but mostly, just so wrong:

Civitas wants the more than 90,000 SDR ballots removed from the statewide count in the governor’s race until all counties have verified the voters’ addresses. The group estimates that 3,000 of these ballots will be thrown out. But even if that estimate is correct and all of those ballots were cast for Cooper, McCrory would still trail by roughly 7,000 votes…

Hall said the McCrory team, Civitas and Woodhouse have “an elitist perspective on elections” that hearkens back to the pre-Civil War era.

“If they can no longer require property ownership as a prerequisite, then they’d like to require documentation that favors voters with long-term residency, plus identification attached to property, such as a Department of Motor Vehicles license,” he told Facing South.

18) John Cassidy on the victims of an Obamacare repeal:

Of course, there’s no guarantee that Price’s plan, or anything close to it, will end up being enacted. Indeed, despite his selection for a Cabinet position, there is still a great deal of uncertainty about what sort of health-care legislation Trump and the Republican Congress will actually pass. Repealing Obamacare might appear straightforward as a general principle, but the details are immensely complicated. At this stage, about the only thing we can say for certain, or near certain, is that the big losers in whatever legislation might emerge will be the poor and the sick. [emphasis mine]


Quick hits (part II)

1) It’s truly unconscionable how we treat workers in poultry processing plants.  What really kills me about it is that I suspect we would only pay a modest amount more for it if workers were actually treated humanely.

2) Ezra Klein argues that Democrats need to be an emboldened minority party after winning the popular vote.

3) David Remnick on Obama’s reckoning with a Trump presidency.

4) Now Trump isn’t so sure about torture because the last guy he talked to explained that he doesn’t actually work.  And he was especially convincing because his nickname is Mad Dog.  Sad.

5) Uwe Reinhardt’s headline says it all, “Republicans can repeal Obamacare. They can’t repeal the logic of health insurance.”

6) Of course we all talk to ourselves all the time (especially while writing blog posts, actually).  Had not really given it much thought till this fascinating piece in the Atlantic.

7) How to be better at persuading other people, based on science.  Short version, of what most smart people have already figured out– you have to rely on arguments that resonate with their approach to the issue, not yours.

8) So, maybe we are not politically sorting ourselves by where we live so much after all.

9) Damn straight, you should subscribe to a newspaper and support good journalism.  Yes, I’m talking to you.

10) The election’s most-alarming story– Russian influence:

Part of the Russian operation’s success is that we cannot measure the effect. Did the DNC emails depress the Sanders vote for Clinton? Did the Podesta emails turn off independents? Would voters have responded differently if major media had reported the email releases not as legitimate news but as an intelligence operation by a hostile foreign power aimed at undermining the integrity of U.S. elections? There are no clear answers. But there are certainties: The email operation increased negative stories about Clinton, fueled an immense propaganda attack and diminished coverage of actual issues. The large polling lead Clinton gained after the debates slipped significantly under this barrage of negativity — even before FBI Director James B. Comey’s bombshell.

11) Rather disturbing that Trump’s National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn, is basically insane.  Or, if not insane, certainly only a tenuous connection to reality.

12) Brendan Nyhan on how Trump’s brand of identity politics could exacerbate our tribal politics:

Mr. Trump’s approach has the potential to transform the party system. First, the success of his campaign may encourage other Republicans to adopt his model. He has shown that the penalty for deviating from orthodox policies is minimal and that an ethno-nationalist style can have significant electoral advantages.

Second, though presidents cannot impose their will on most of domestic policy, they can help define the issues on the political agenda. In the choices that he makes, Mr. Trump may play down conflict over the size and scope of government and shift the political debate toward questions of national identity, immigration and culture.

Finally, few Republicans are likely to want to cross Mr. Trump and his energized supporters given the threat of a potential primary challenge in 2018.

Consider, for instance, Mr. Trump’s decision to name as his chief strategist Steve Bannon, the head of Breitbart, a website described in an article in the conservative National Review as catering to “a small but vocal fringe of white supremacists, anti-Semites and internet trolls.” Though the move lacked recent precedent, no Republicans in Congress objected, which made the issue into a partisan dispute with Democrats. Mr. Trump has also stirred emotions by promising to deport two to three million undocumented immigrants. By contrast, the fate of a tax cut — normally the top G.O.P. domestic policy priority — has received less attention (though the party will almost certainly pursue one).

Mr. Trump’s success is likely to provoke a response from Democrats that could accelerate this shift. They face an outraged liberal base that is likely to reject conciliatory messages intended to win back votes among the white working class.

The party might instead double down on cosmopolitan appeals to the minority voters and college-educated white voters who were the main target of Hillary Clinton’s campaign. The strategy failed in 2016, but the incentive to try again is clear. Democrats came closer to winning several Sun Belt states where minority and college-educated white populations are growing, like Arizona and Georgia, than they did some traditional Midwest strongholds with higher numbers of noncollege whites, like Ohio and Iowa.

13) Peter Beinart on the electoral college, it “Was Meant to Stop Men Like Trump From Being President.”

14) Why Senate Republicans might actually keep the filibuster (judicial appointments aside, I presume).

15) Excellent Scott Lemieux post on the Democrats’ post-mortem problem:

This isn’t to say that Democrats shouldn’t analyze and try to learn from the defeat. But it’s crucial to remember that the 2016 election is never going to be run again. We’ve learned for sure that Hillary Clinton should not be the Democratic nominee again, but I don’t think that’s something to worry about. Trump will presumably be on the ballot again, but as an incumbent with a record. What message and strategy the Democratic candidate should use will depend on who wins the nomination, what Trump’s record looks like, and what the salient issues are. The 2020 election will be its own thing and should be treated as such. As Hillary Clinton now knows all too well, what we think we know about politics can be turned on its head very quickly.

16) Krugman explains how Trump’s infrastructure plans get it all wrong.

17) There are no easy answers for the problems faced by working-class whites in Rust Belt America.  That said, Donald Trump certainly showed that you can win an election by pretending there are easy answers.  The reality, though, is tough:

But the question is what Democrats should say. The biggest problem Democrats face now, and will face in the future, is that there are no simple solutions to the economic crisis in the Rust Belt. Democrats have tried, with proposals like infrastructure projects, science and technology education, and tax credits for companies that offer apprenticeships, but few of the policy prescriptions that could begin the process of getting millions of white, working-class men back to work are very sexy. “There’s no silver bullet,” Ned Hill, a professor at Ohio State University and the faculty affiliate for the Ohio Manufacturing Institute, told me. “This is an adult conversation so easy answers aren’t there.”…

This underscores the grim reality that both parties have to face. There’s a very real possibility that no amount of investment or retraining can replace the manufacturing jobs that have been lost. It’s been decades, after all, since the North American Free Trade Agreement, and nearly as long since China entered the World Trade Organization in 2001. Despite both Democratic and Republican administrations since then, there has been no reversal of fortunes for the Rust Belt.

This is not the uplifting message that either party will want to embrace on the campaign trail. The most effective solutions to it aren’t going to be popular: They include helping people move to areas where there are jobs, and providing wage subsidies for those who can’t. And that may mean that they never come to pass.

18) Mostly, I love the headline, “Learning to love the secret language of urine,” plus I found this little tidbit pretty interesting.

Learning about the body’s many excretions, secretions and suppurations in medical school, I realized that each medical specialty has its own essential effluent. And I heard that some physicians choose their careers based on the bodily fluid they find least revolting. Thus, a doctor disgusted by stool and pus but able to stand the sight of blood might end up a hematologist, while one repulsed by urine and bile but tolerant of sputum might choose pulmonology.

Well, I guess that would make me a nephrologist.

19) This post arguing that liberals are largely crying wolf on racism and sexism got some good discussion in my comments.  Honestly, I think part of this is a problem that Ezra Klein has often mentioned in his podcasts, if not on Vox.  We have difficulties with the language around race.  That’s why I like to use racial resentment and white ethnocentrism.  In large part, these are fairly clearly-defined, measurable, social science terms.  And, I while it may be crying wolf to call Trump “racist” (though, I think there’s a plenty good case he is), it is absolutely clear that his campaign thrived on racial resentment and an appeal to white ethnocentrism.


The future of Medicare

Paul Ryan wants to dismantle Medicare.  Ian Milhiser explains why that’s such a bad idea, but it’s pretty well captured in this single chart:

But hey, private is better!  Even it ends up in basically wasting $6000.  Then again, the $6ooo per person will go to making health insurance executives richer, so that’s surely a good trade.

Also, a nice chart from Krugman on the relative efficiency of Medicare:


When it comes to Medicare privatization it’s hard to get any more  stupid about policy in the service of ideology.

President Leprechaun riding a Unicorn

Seems about right to characterize Trump’s fanciful take on public policy.  So, I read this Vox piece about Trump on Roe v. Wade.  Trump has committed to appointing Justices who will overturn it.  In this same interview, he said that gay marriage is “settled law.”‘   Hmmm, do you think he knows that Roe v. Wade was 43 years ago and Obergefell was last year?  Also, find me a conservative judge willing to overturn Roe v. Wade, but who will nonetheless take a stand for gay rights.  Right.  Then find me a unicorn.

I listened to the rest of the interview via podcast yesterday and also got a kick out of his take on health care.  We’re going to repeal the affordable care act and replace it simultaneously with better, cheaper, health care.  And if you believe that, I’ve got a whole country’s worth of bridges to sell you.

Looking throughout the developed world, there is one approach proven to provide access for all citizens and better health outcomes for those citizens at a lower price.  That’s right– substantially greater government involvement than we have in the U.S.

Sure, all politicians stretch the truth.  But we’ll sooner see leprechauns riding unicorns to find their pots of gold than anything remotely like what Trump has said.

How to psychologically survive a Trump presidency– meditation

So, I’ve been meaning to do a post on mindfulness meditation for a while now.  I’ve been reading about it and been intrigued for a while.  Mostly, because it has long come up in my research as a scientifically-validated approach to helping with ADHD and anxiety, two mental health issues that run in my progeny.  I haven’t gotten my kids into it yet, but I was curious enough that I decided I wanted to give it a try despite my own noted mental/emotional stability.  Basically, seemed worth trying.  As you might gather, I’m super-skeptical of anything remotely new-agey and most non-Western medicine, but I’ve been impressed by the solid research behind this and if you re-frame meditation as brain exercise (as I have done for my own benefit), it sure sounds a lot better to me.

Anyway, I did the free trial of Headspace because I was intrigued from this New Yorker article from last year.  My mind always seems to be racing, but I surprised myself how well I did in these 10 minute chunks.  After that, I looked for a free app, but stumbled upon 10% Happier.  Not free.  But affordable enough and I absolutely could not resist ABC Newsman Dan Harris’ pitch:

Interested in meditation, but allergic to woo-woo?

Despite its PR problem, mindfulness meditation is a simple, secular, scientifically validated exercise for your brain.

In this two-week course you’ll learn how to meditate with skeptical newsman Dan Harris and one of the greatest American meditation teachers, Joseph Goldstein.

Every day, delivered straight to your mobile device, you’ll get video lessons that teach the essentials, and guided audio meditations that walk you through the practice in the simplest possible way. Also, because self-discipline isn’t always enough, you’ll also get a living, breathing coach to help you follow through.

Just in case you’re worried, meditation does not require a lot of the things people fear it might. For example, you don’t have to sit in a funny position. (Unless you want to, of course.) You also don’t have to: light incense, chant, or believe in anything in particular. There’s nothing to join, no special outfits to wear.

Anyway, I’ve been at it for a couple months now, and damn if I’m not 10% or so happier🙂.  All of us perseverate on negative, unhelpful thoughts from time-to-time and I’ve found that since I began mindfulness meditation, I’ve found it way easier to not perseverate.  The first time I really noticed was when I had medium-sized fight with my wife in the morning.  Normally, I would have spent much of the day ruminating on it and thinking about what I would say when we continued our argument in the evening.  But nope, just made a mental note of the negative thoughts and put them aside.  Issues were resolved that evening, as I knew they would be, but with much less psychic distress during the day.

So, onto the title of the post.  Let’s be clear– Trump is a disaster of a human being and president.  I’m under absolutely no illusions about that.  And I will spend lots of time thinking about his awfulness for the next (hopefully, only) four years.  But what I surely don’t need (and you, either, presumably), is to get stuck in negative emotional loops thinking about Trump’s awfulness.  I was amazed by my calmness on election night and the next day, which I largely attribute to the meditation.  Again, I’m not at all saying don’t be angry, afraid, appalled, aghast, etc., by Trump, but personally I have found that I can be plenty upset by what Trump represents, but not find myself stewing in the negative emotions that come with this.  Or hey, maybe liberals totally drive you crazy.  Same principle.

Or, yet, forget the political tone of this completely, and just view it as a plug for mindfulness meditation from a former somewhat skeptic.  Ten minutes a day can make a real difference.

Quick hits (part II)


1) Sarah Kliff with a nice summary of how more women in government makes government better (onto the Gender  & Politics syllabus for next time).

2) How about that, Art Pope and Pat McCrory get a pretty good Funny or Die treatment.

3) Chait on the Republic at the brink:

However low my opinion of the Republican Party, it was not low enough. Mostly they have shuffled along or beavered away on Trump’s behalf as though everything is normal. The political apparatus of the Republican Party will not stop him. The response has been chilling in its ordinariness. Trump is an authoritarian but not a fascist, and a racist but not a genocidal one. With that important caveat, read this passage (from a Politico report on the Trump transition team) without thinking of Hannah Arendt and the banality of evil:

Several said they set aside initial alarm over the 2005 video released in early October that featured Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women, as well as the subsequent accusations of sexual assault from a number of women.

The initial shock led some team members to contemplate quitting, but sources said there have been no defections. Several transition staffers said that although they have privately held reservations about their nominee, they felt a duty to help prepare for the possibility that he could be elected.

“We may not like what he said — we may think it was childish or juvenile,” one transition official said. “But then we say, ‘Look, you know, he’s kind of our boss.’ In this town, if you were to bail on every politician who had a scandal, you would not have a long-term relationship with very many people.”

“People have mostly kept their heads down and continued working,” another transition official added…

His capacity to suppress his own moral qualms is chilling. Pence is perfectly representative of the conservative movement and the normal, non-Trump Republican Party, which is why Trump selected him over his personal preference for the more instinctively slavish footman Chris Christie. And Pence’s response to the revelatory Billy Bush audio is a synecdoche for the behavioral response that has allowed Trump to mostly consolidate his party and come within missed-short-field-goal odds of becoming president.

This is not a joke. This is one of the moments in history when the republic is at the brink.

4) Headline, “For Melinda Gates, Birth Control Is Women’s Way Out of Poverty.”  I would argue it should be more like, “for people who understand root causes of poverty, Birth Control…”

5) Interesting explanation of how the exit polls are actually conducted.

6) The case that all the talk of declining Black turnout is alarmist.

First, setting the bar for black turnout at Obama levels was always unrealistic for Hillary Clinton. Barack Obama is a once-in-a-generation political leader. He brought out millions of previously disengaged and uninterested voters in addition to inspiring historic African-American turnout. Nobody, outside of a magical Michelle Obama-Cory Booker ticket, could reach that level of excitement and turnout. 

Despite Obama being a tough act to follow, historically, the black vote is on Hillary Clinton’s side. African-American turnout in presidential election years has gone up every cycle since 1984. In fact, the largest single year increase in African-American voter turnout in the last 20 years wasn’t for Barack Obama in 2008. Black turnout increased a full 8.5 percentage points (from 52.9 percent to 61.4 percent) from the 2000 to the 2004 presidential election, and just continued to rise with a certain former senator from Illinois (69.1 percent in 2008, with a slight dip to 67.4 percent in 2012).

This isn’t to suggest that President Barack Obama didn’t galvanize black voters in a unique way, but history suggests that even with Obama not on the ballot, and in the face of horrendous voter suppression, black turnout may drop slightly, but not catastrophically, for Hillary Clinton. If Hillary Clinton’s African-American turnout numbers settle somewhere between peak Obama (69.1 percent) and John Kerry (61.4 percent) then she will likely win the White House.

7) Adam Gopnik’s anti-Trump takes are as good as anybody’s.

Donald Trump is not normal in any of these ways, and yet we continue to treat him as though he were. Those of us who warned last spring that he was being underestimated and “normalized” by a sinister process of gradual acceptance of the unacceptable turned out, tragically, to be right. Trump is not normal. Nothing about him is. One need only look at his rallies, track the rhetoric they offer and the vengeful orgy of hatred and misogyny and racism they induce, to see just how different he is. His followers are not, shall we say, there to root on their favored libertarian in his pursuit of free-market solutions to vexing social problems; they are there to scream insults and cry havoc on their (mostly imaginary) enemies, to revel in the riot of misogyny and racism that Trump has finally given them license to retrieve from the darkest chapters of our past. (“Not politically correct” means openly brutal to minorities and women.) A ten-year-old screams, “Take that bitch down!” to laughter. One need only track the past month’s series of outrages, each quickly receding into the distance, to recall that he has done not one but almost innumerable things that in any previous election would have been, quaint word, “disqualifying.” His Twitter assault on the former Miss Universe was followed by his confession and boasts of being a sexual predator, which were followed by the confirmation of numerable women that, yes, indeed, he is a sexual predator—met only by his snarling denials, none of them the least bit convincing, and the familiar big-lie technique of insisting that their stories have been “debunked” when they have not even been effectively denied.


The truth is that Trump’s “positions” on specific issues are more or less a matter of chance and whim and impulse (Of course women should be punished for having abortions! Ten minutes later: no, they shouldn’t) while his actual ideology, the song he sings every day, the one those listeners and followers gleefully vibrate to, is one anthem, and it is the sound of the authoritarian and anti-democratic impulses

8) Paul Waldman piece on the escalating Republican war on democratic norms is important.  Read it.

9) Some people say, Trump can’t read.  Brilliant Samantha Bee.

10) Well, you don’t fire a Catholic priest, but whoever runs this parish in San Diego needs to be removed from his pastoral role.

11) The artificial pancreas is coming (honestly, I’ve been surprised it’s not here yet).  I’ve got some good friends who will hopefully get huge benefit from this technology before too long.

12) Former head of the CIA endorsing Clinton (like most everybody who actually takes national security seriously):

In sharp contrast to Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Trump has no experience on national security. Even more important, the character traits he has exhibited during the primary season suggest he would be a poor, even dangerous, commander in chief.

These traits include his obvious need for self-aggrandizement, his overreaction to perceived slights, his tendency to make decisions based on intuition, his refusal to change his views based on new information, his routine carelessness with the facts, his unwillingness to listen to others and his lack of respect for the rule of law.

The dangers that flow from Mr. Trump’s character are not just risks that would emerge if he became president. It is already damaging our national security.

13) I think the coming Republican Civil War may well be the most intersting and important feature of American politics in the near future (here’s hoping the white ethnocentrists lose).

14) David Frum makes the powerful case for why true conservatives need to vote for Clinton:

One of only two people on earth will win the American presidency on November 8. Hillary Clinton is one of those two possibilities. Donald Trump is the only other.

Yes, I fear Clinton’s grudge-holding. Should I fear it so much that I rally to a candidate who has already explicitly promised to deploy antitrust and libel law against his critics and opponents? Who incited violence at his rallies? Who ejects reporters from his events if he objects to their coverage? Who told a huge audience in Australia that his top life advice was: “Get even with people. If they screw you, screw them back 10 times as hard. I really believe it”? Who idealizes Vladimir Putin, Saddam Hussein, and the butchers of Tiananmen as strong leaders to be admired and emulated?

Should I be so appalled by the Clinton family’s access-selling that I prefer instead a president who boasts of a lifetime of bribing politicians to further his business career? Who defaults on debts and contracts as an ordinary business method, and who avoids taxes by deducting the losses he inflicted on others as if he had suffered them himself? Who cheated the illegal laborers he employed at Trump Tower out of their humble hourly wage? Who owes hundreds of millions of dollars to the Bank of China?  Who refuses to disclose his tax returns, perhaps to conceal his business dealings with Vladimir Putin’s inner circle?

To demonstrate my distaste for people whose bodies contain mean bones, it’s proposed that I give my franchise to a man who boasts of his delight in sexual assault? Who mocks the disabled, who denounces immigrant parents whose son laid down his life for this country, who endorses religious bigotry, and who denies the Americanism of everyone from the judge hearing the fraud case against Trump University to the 44th president of the United States?

I’m invited to recoil from supposedly fawning media (media, in fact, which have devoted more minutes of network television airtime to Clinton’s email misjudgment than to all policy topics combined) and instead empower a bizarre new online coalition of antisemites, misogyists, cranks, and conspiracists with allegedly ominous connections to Russian state spy agencies?

Is this real life?

To vote for Trump as a protest against Clinton’s faults would be like amputating a leg because of a sliver in the toe; cutting one’s throat to lower one’s blood pressure. [emphasis mine]

15) Orin Kerr has never voted for a Democrat for president.  Until now.

16) Anne Applebaum on Trump as a threat to the West.

17) Interesting analysis clearly suggests “shy Trump voters” will not be deciding the election.

18) Should male college soccer players be crudely rating and commenting about female soccer players amongst themselves?  Nope. But, honestly, this does strike me as pretty typical “locker room talk” that does not rise to the level of canceling the remainder of a season.  Also, I do think it is a meaningful gulf from crude objectifications to “rape culture.”  Suffice it to say I’ve heard lots of female sexual objectification in my male heterosexual life.  And, yet, I’ve truly never heard another man suggest that female consent doesn’t matter.

19) Are there massive policy differences at stake in this election?  Hell, yes.  As Yglesias points out, you’d hardly know from most media coverage.

These stakes are critically important to the future of the country. But they’ve been nearly invisible from coverage of the campaign.

A recent study showed that network television news has dedicated more minutes to Hillary Clinton’s email server than to all policy issues combined. The day after the FBI revealed that it had found some emails that might be copies of emails it had already read but that if they weren’t simply duplicates might be relevant to an investigation of Clinton’s email server, all three above-the-fold New York Times stories were about the new emails, even though there was no information about them.

This dynamic is, currently, hurting Clinton in the polls, though earlier in the year she helped establish it by centering Trump’s temperamental unfitness rather than any policy agenda at the core of her argument.

But regardless of which candidate the policy-light tone of coverage helps at any given moment, it represents a fundamental abdication of responsibility to explain to people what is going on. The two candidates are running on very different policy agendas, agendas that in some ways contradict the media narratives about downscale “populists” versus cosmopolitan elites. And because House Republicans are both unified on policy and entrenched in safely drawn districts, there is a sharp asymmetry in terms of the direction of change.

Trump is nobody’s idea of a policy wonk, but he has signed on to a real agenda, and if he wins he’ll probably implement it. The public should hear about its contents before they decide whether to make him president.

20) Nice YouGov analysis on the few voters actually switching from R-D/D-R from 2012-2016.  Not many switchers at all.  Among those who are, education is very much at the center of what’s going on.

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