Quick hits (part I)

1) Benjamin Wittes (who really knows what he’s talking about) gives 10 reasons “it’s probably too late to stop Mueller.”  I think he’s right, but I’d be happier without the “probably” in there.

2) Nice Monkey Cage analysis from Political Scientist Charles Smith III on why we have to wait so long for election results now.  This is the new reality we just need to get used to:

his slow process of counting ballots has produced considerable controversy. But it shouldn’t. Both state laws and sheer logistics make it impossible to finish counting ballots on election night or even within a day or two. Here’s why that is — and why newly counted ballots seem to favor Democratic candidates.

Why the counting isn’t done on election night

The election night tradition of gathering around the television to see the votes come in and news organizations “call” the winners gives us a false impression: All the votes that need to be counted can, and should, be tallied in the minutes after  the close of polls.

But this is wrong. For one, in almost every state, provisional ballots will have been cast on Election Day by voters whose registration cannot be verified.  In 2016, 2.1 million voters cast a provisional ballot, 71 percent of which were eventually counted after the registration was verified. States are currently in the middle of verifying the registration status of those who cast provisional ballots in 2018, and decisions are being made about whether to count those ballots in this election. Moreover, millions of ballots have been mailed in, which now need to be opened, have voters’ signatures compared to the signature on record and then scanned.

In some states, this means that a large number of votes are counted after Election Day. In 2016, California and Washington counted less than half their votes within a day of the election. Three other states, Alaska, Arizona and Utah counted only about 60 percent. Another six states had counted only 90 percent of their ballots.

In Arizona, ballot-counting takes extra time because three-quarters of Arizona’s voters cast ballots by mail. Many of these are returned in person on Election Day. Processing mail ballots is labor-intensive and can take days if not weeks to complete…

What’s happened in Florida and Arizona is nothing new. In fact, it’s entirely consistent with current trends in election law and election administration. Voters across the United States have demanded greater flexibility in how and when they cast their ballots. This greater flexibility comes with a price: a delay in counting ballots.

Of course, one must guard against shenanigans that could occur during the counting of these additional ballots.

But to date, nothing about the vote-counting in Arizona and Florida suggests that the growing number of votes or their Democratic tilt are due to electoral improprieties.

3) I loved learning all about how the kilogram is being redefined to a universal standard.  It’s wild that until know our basic unit of weight is based on a piece of metal sitting in France.

4) I love NC State basketball and certainly understand the desire to name things after Jim Valvano, but this name is ridiculous: Kay Yow Court at James T. Valvano Arena at William Neal Reynolds Coliseum

5) Good Krugman piece on how the general failure of the Republican tax cuts undermines much of the rationale of Republican economics:

Meanwhile, there’s no sign of the vast investment boom the law’s backers promised. Corporations have used the tax cut’s proceeds largely to buy back their own stock rather than to add jobs and expand capacity.

But why have the tax cut’s impacts been so minimal? Leave aside the glitch-filled changes in individual taxes, which will keep accountants busy for years; the core of the bill was a huge cut in corporate taxes. Why hasn’t this done more to increase investment?

The answer, I’d argue, is that business decisions are a lot less sensitive to financial incentives — including tax rates — than conservatives claim. And appreciating that reality doesn’t just undermine the case for the Trump tax cut. It undermines Republican economic doctrine as a whole. [emphasis mine]

About business decisions: It’s a dirty little secret of monetary analysis that changes in interest rates affect the economy mainly through their effect on the housing market and the international value of the dollar (which in turn affects the competitiveness of U.S. goods on world markets). Any direct effect on business

6) Drum’s headline captures this well, “Military Experts Say We Should Cut Medicare to Fund Bigger Military.”

7) Nice piece from the Atlantic’s Robinson Meyer on the difficulty of controlling California’s wildfires:

Fires in the United States are getting larger, and the country is rapidly losing the ability to deal with them. During President Ronald Reagan’s first term, the federal government spent a couple hundred thousand dollars a year fighting fires, according to Williams. This year, it plans to spend $2.25 billion just battling fires; its full budget for managing them can exceed $5 billion. Yet forest-fire damage has ballooned nonetheless. Since the early 1980s, the land area burned by wildfires every year has increased by 1,000 percent.

“Fires are outrunning us. We’re trying harder than ever to put them out, and they’re continuing to win, more and more, every year,” Williams said. “And it really isn’t for lack of effort. Even when we know it’s been stupid policy to fight every single fire, we’re still trying as hard as we can to do that.”

It’s a message he wishes he could drill into the head of every American. As the California fires have dominated the news, Williams has been asked by friends and journalists why we can’t just fix wildfires, why we can’t just put them out. We have solved all sorts of complex environmental-engineering problems. Why not wildfire?

The question illustrates “the root problem that got us into this mess,” Williams told me. “We think that we as humans should be able to dominate this phenomenon of wildfire. And in reality, we can’t. Even though we can put a person on the moon, and even though we can create this global computer network, we can’t. This is a natural phenomenon that is similar to the ocean in that it is really big, that it is much larger than us when it really gets going

8) Oh, so much wrong with this news story:

9) Hat tip to my wife (and amateur linguist) for this cool article on how your language affects your color perception:

There wasn’t an English word for the color “orange” until 200 years after the citrus fruit of the same name arrived in Europe. Before then, the color was called by the two other colors that, when mixed, make orange: “yellow-red.”

This is just one striking example of the ways in which color categories are shaped by culture. Ancient languages, including Greek, Chinese, Hebrew, and Japanese, didn’t have a word for blue. And Russian speakers have two distinct category words for light blue vs dark blue: Something is never “blue,” in Russian, it’s either “siniy” (dark blue) or “goluboy” (light blue.)

These words don’t simply reflect what we see, but multiple experiments suggest they influence our perception. In one recent study, published in Psychological Science and reported by the British Psychological Society, researchers showed groups of Greek, German, and Russian speakers (103 people in total) a rapid series of shapes, and were told to look out for a grey semi-circle. This semi-circle appeared alongside a triangle in different shades of blue and green, and participants later reported whether they saw a complete triangle, a slight or strong impression of the shape, or didn’t see it at all.

Researchers found that Greek and Russian speakers, who have dedicated words for light and dark blue, were more likely to see a light blue triangle against a dark blue background (and vice versa), than they were to identify green triangles against green backgrounds. Speakers of German, which has no such distinction, were no better at seeing shades of blue triangles than green.

10) I loved this youtube video on why Led Zeppelin’s John Bohnam was such an amazing drummer.  I’ve long-believed that having a great drummer is an under-appreciated fact of why some very good rock bands are great rock bands.

11) Connor Friedersdorf on the folly of blaming “white women” for Trump and Republican victories.

12) I’ve long thought the Post’s Charles Lane responsible for some of the most fabulously inane columns.  He’s so convinced himself of his “both sides!” sensible centrism that he writes columns like, “Voters took on gerrymandering. The Supreme Court doesn’t need to.”  I don’t need to explain to you how utterly short-sighted that is.

13) Interesting piece in Chronicle of Higher Ed on helping college students confront their biases.  My more simplistic approach– start ever single class with Ezra Klein’s “How politics makes us stupid.”

14) Found this article about big box stores trying to cut property taxes via “dark store theory” pretty interesting.

15) Dana Goldstein writes, “Voters Widely Support Public Schools. So Why Is It So Hard to Pay for Them?”  My theory is that it has something to do with the fact that there is a political party committed to telling voters that taxes are bad and no matter what and encouraging delusional thinking like we can have good schools without paying for them.  I won’t name that political party.

16) Wild stuff (literally).  Escaped-from-a-theme-park Rhesus macaques in Florida carry a deadly herpes virus.

17) Somehow I missed this story last week about a man who died from eating a slug.  I brought it up today when I told my kids not to eat the slug in the front yard.  My wife told me this was so last week.  Umm, also, real.

18) This graphic of what treatments are effective for the common cold in children and adults is awesome!  I’m a big fan of the ibuprofen plus pseudoephedrine plus caffeine approach (caffeine does not directly address the basic symptoms, but in my experience when combined with the others really helps with the “generally feeling like crap” symptom).

19) I found the new/recent Peter Rabbit movie (currently on Netflix) unexpectedly charming.

20) I had seen all week that this piece on Larry Nassar (the gymnast-molesting-physician) was amazing and after yet another recommendation, finally read it yesterday.  Just read it.

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Quick hits (part II)

1a) Ezra on Republican lies on health care:

But there’s another question all this raises: Why are Republicans spending so much time lying about their health care policy? Why not just adopt the popular protections for preexisting conditions they claim to support? How did Republicans get here?

I have a theory.

A bit of health policy history is necessary here. In the early 2000s, it looked like Democrats and Republicans were converging around an approach to health care both could live with, built atop some of the Republican ideas offered in response to Bill Clinton’s 1994 proposal…

Over the next decade, opposition to Obamacare became the central feature of Republican policy thought. This had two downstream consequences. One was that it wrecked the central political theory behind the Obamacare compromise — that Democrats, in giving up the policy advantages of single-payer, would gain the political benefits of bipartisan support — and sent Democrats toward Medicare-for-all, which is better at cutting costs, simpler to explain, and more difficult to challenge legally.

The other was that it forced Republicans to abandon a basically reasonable vision of health care policy and left them with, well, nothing. Opposing Obamacare isn’t a policy vision, but it had to be made into one, and so Republicans tried: They began attacking Obamacare’s weak spots — its high premiums and deductibles — and proposing to lower them by permitting insurers to once again discriminate against the sick and the old…

The problem with the Republican health care vision is that it’s hideously unpopular; that’s why the GOP’s Obamacare replacement efforts collapsed. And it’s left Republicans with two choices. They can level with the public about their health care plan and lose the election or they can lie to the public about their health care plan in a bid to keep their jobs. So far, they’ve chosen lying. [emphasis mine]

1b) Chait on GOP lying on health care:

In any case, Trump’s “plan” for health care is a lawsuit to deny protections for people with preexisting conditions. This is the opposite of having a plan to protect people with preexisting conditions.

Republicans are doing this both because they viscerally despise Obamacare and because they ideologically believe the government should not regulate the insurance market. But their position is wildly unpopular. The dynamics of competitive democracy suggest Republicans should be forced to abandon a policy position that they cannot defend to the electorate. Instead they are obscuring their stance with wild lies without altering its substance whatsoever. Whether they succeed in doing so poses an important test for the democratic process.

2) Good stuff from Dylan Scott on how 2018 is the Identity Politics election:

2018 is a trial run for the future

For as much as Republicans decry identity politics, preying on white fears about changing demographics and brown criminals is just another form of it. Republicans don’t have much to offer their voters except corporate tax cuts and Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, so they’re stirring up white fright. Cruz’s campaign is trying to paint O’Rourke as a young punkbeholden to Hollywood liberals. Gillum has faced something more sinister, multiple racist robocalls of neo-Nazi origins.

A promising showing in 2018 for these young, diverse candidates — carried into office thanks to young, diverse voters — would bode well for Democrats in 2020. They can build on that momentum to craft a winning coalition to win the White House. Republicans would, meanwhile, need to evaluate whether running back to the Trump playbook is palatable one more time or whether it would risk electoral disaster.

On the other hand, meager Democratic victories in 2018 would leave the party with uncomfortably few answers about how to win elections in the Trump era — and lend the Republicans confidence that they can keep winning on white fear, at least for the short term.

The midterms represent two very different bets about what kind of identity politics can win an election in America in 2018. Democrats are putting faith in a diverse, progressive future. Republicans see a much darker underbelly in the American electorate, and they are hoping to exploit it for another unexpectedly triumphant Election Day.

3) The extreme prosecution of people for assisting other voters is just voter suppression by another name.  Shame on these prosecutors.

4) Nice Atlantic piece on the present and future of NC politics.

5) Kristoff is absolutely right– legacy admissions is affirmative action for the privileged and we need to do away with it.  I’d like to think I would have still gotten into Duke if both my parents had not gone there, but, damnit, the last thing a kid whose parents went to Duke needs is a lower bar for entry into an elite university.

6) Julia Belluz, “Fox News says the migrant caravan will bring disease outbreaks. That’s xenophobic nonsense.”  Fox is just the worst.  Ugh.

7) Great Conor Friedersdorf piece:

This week, Donald Trump clarified the stakes in the midterm elections. Speaking on behalf of the Republican Party, he urged his followers to back its congressional candidates at the ballot box in a demagogic video. It opens on a demented murderer speaking Spanish in court and segues to footage of the caravan of Honduran migrants entering Mexico, portraying them as barbarian hordes at the gates.

No responsible political actor would select and juxtapose those video images. No charitable or exculpatory account of its intent is even plausible. It was a naked effort to stoke bigotry and exploit ethnic anxieties.

And no Republican Party message is more prominent…

If the GOP succeeds next week at the ballot box, politicians all over the country will conclude that they can advance their careers by vilifying minority groups, frightening voters predisposed to xenophobia, and dividing Americans. No incentive structure is more dangerous to a multiethnic nation. Politicians in other nations marshaling similar tactics have sparked sectarian violence, campaigns of ethnic cleansing, and civil war. Trump happens to preside over a country where such extreme outcomes are unlikely. But that does not change the character of his tactics or the moral obligation to stand against them. [emphasis mine]

8) Great twitter thread on the Republican party of Lincoln.

9) And  great twitter thread from Greg Sargent on what a heinous and fascist use of the military it is for Trump to send troops to the border to “protect” us from the caravan.

10) This is a few minutes old, but I just came across it and I love it.  One of my favorite local sports columnists on the importance of local news (and paying for news):

The Athletic started from scratch, online, and doesn’t have those issues – or that tradition. I wish The Athletic the best. More jobs for people in my line of work is a good thing, and a little healthy competition is as well. They have hired some of my really good friends, longtime and valued colleagues and people I don’t know but whose work I deeply respect.

But they can’t do what we do: Cover a community from top to bottom with the kind of depth and analysis you can’t get from two minutes on TV and the expertise your neighbor posting on Nextdoor doesn’t have. There’s a reason newspapers have thrived for hundreds of years: There’s no better way to get a digest of the news than to have it reported, collated and curated by people who know what they’re doing, whether that’s in print or online.

Our methods of delivery may change – we have some new ideas of our own coming soon – and our numbers may dwindle as we adjust to the changing news economy, but our commitment to our craft and our jobs has not and will not.

I believe in that. There’s no better place in the world to be a sports columnist than the Triangle. And I believe in the vital role newspapers play in our communities and in our country. So I’m staying.

So even if you don’t subscribe to the paper, support us by paying for full access to our website. Or support them. Or both. But news isn’t free. In fact, it’s ridiculously expensive to report and create. If you like it, pay to keep it coming. It’s still the best deal out there. [emphasis mine]

11) Great essay from Ezra on Trump and the media.  You need to read it.

Days after Trump’s inauguration, then-chief strategist Steve Bannon gave an interview to the New York Times.

“I want you to quote this,” Bannon said. “The media here is the opposition party.”

Just in case his point was missed, he said it again. “You’re the opposition party. Not the Democratic Party. You’re the opposition party. The media’s the opposition party.”

The problem was the media didn’t want to be Trump’s opposition party. The media wanted to cover his presidency. Early on, the media wanted more than anything else to normalize his presidency, and their coverage of it; there was a constant hunt for the moments when Trump appeared presidential or seemed to be changing his behavior to better match the burdens of his office.

Trump’s solution to that problem has been to provoke the media into looking like his opposition by lying in more absurd ways and directly attacking them in more outrageous ways at more and more outrageous times. Remember, for instance, “The FAKE NEWS awards,” which Trump hyped on Twitter for weeks?

Trump leverages the trollish formulas boyd outlined to perfection: He uses Twitter to create spectacle on social media, deploys catchy and unusual frames (“FAKE NEWS!” “the true Enemy of the People”) that sympathizers can search for to find supporting evidence or fellow loyalists, and then uses the media’s aggrieved or simply truth-telling reaction to paints himself as a victim of endless media bias (“90 percent of the coverage of everything this president does is negative”).

The media then reacts in the only way that makes any sense given the situation: We cover Trump’s statements as outrageous and aberrant; we make clear where he’s lied or given succor to violent paranoiacs; we fret over the future of the free press. And then Trump and his loyalists point to our overwhelmingly negative coverage and say, “See? Told you they were the opposition party.”

Trump, in other words, manipulates the media using the same tactics as a run-of-the-mill alt-right troll, and for much the same reason: He wants the media to fight with him so he gets more coverage and shows how biased they are against him. He wants the media to fight him because that drives attention to the things he’s saying, to the conspiracies he’s popularizing, and to himself. Going to war with the media nets Trump much more coverage than giving a speech on manufacturing policy or tax cuts.

The problem is Donald Trump isn’t your run-of-the-mill troll. He’s the president of the United States of America.

 

Quick hits (part I)

1) Ron Brownstein with a nice look at key House contests and changing demographic and partisan relationships:

A CNN analysis of the demography of the most competitive districts in the House of Representatives, almost all of which are now held by Republicans, shows that the outcome in 2018 appears poised to reinforce the divides familiar from Trump’s election in 2016.

Democrats’ top opportunities to capture Republican-held seats are concentrated in well-educated, higher-income and preponderantly white districts. Most of these seats are centered on economically thriving suburbs around major metropolitan areas where Trump faces widespread resistance among white-collar voters, especially women, on cultural and personal grounds.

With only a few exceptions, Democrats face more uncertain prospects in Republican-held House seats centered on the blue-collar, exurban and rural communities where Trump remains popular, the analysis found. Of the 43 Republican-held seats that CNN considers leaning toward the Democrats or toss-ups, only nine are in districts where the white population exceeds the national average and the share of residents with college degrees lags the national average…

The longer-term implication is that this election now seems highly likely to widen the trench between a Democratic Party that increasingly controls the major metropolitan areas largely skeptical of Trump and a GOP whose dominance is barely dented in the rural and exurban areas where he remains strong.

Already, the CNN analysis shows, about two-thirds of House Republicans represent districts where the education level lags the national average and nearly three-fifths hold seats where the median income is lower as well. By contrast, about 53% of Democrats hold seats where the education level and median income exceed the national average. If Democratic gains next month are concentrated mostly in white-collar seats, the Republican caucus will tilt ever further toward lower-education and modest-income seats while the Democrats will bend further toward the opposite — expanding the distance between the two sides and making compromise between them even more difficult.

That geographic divergence represents the stark separation in demographic responses to Trump’s tumultuous presidency, with minorities, millennials and college-educated whites, especially women, recoiling from him in large numbers and blue-collar, older and evangelical whites providing him robust, even record, levels of support.

2) Rick Hasen on how Democrats can reverse years of voter suppression.

3) Longer piece from Drum on the future of the Democratic party.  Good, thoughtful, stuff.

This doesn’t mean that Trump’s racist proclamations and policies haven’t had horrible effects, including giving bigots permission to be more flagrant. But it does mean progressive voters and candidates don’t need to feel like they have to choose between racial justice issues and economic issues—no matter how much Team Trump wants them to. After Charlottes­ville, Steve Bannon practically declared victory: “I want them to talk about racism every day,” he told the American Prospect. “If the left is focused on race and identity, and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the Democrats.”

He was wrong on both counts. Not only should liberals have little to fear about keeping a sustained focus on racial justice, but Trump’s victory had little or nothing to do with economic anxiety. That may have played a role in the Republican sweep of the 2010 midterms—the global economy had just melted down, after all—but by Obama’s second term it was not as large a factor. There’s endless data suggesting that Americans were getting more economically optimistic during 2016, just as you’d expect during a recovery from a recession.

Because of this, Trump’s right-wing economic populism has gotten little traction. Economists overwhelmingly agree Trump’s trade war will hurt the economy, and the public is decidedly tepid about his tariffs; only 16 percent of Americans think they will help the economy. Last year’s Republican tax cut for corporations and the wealthy has bombed as well. Unpopular from the start, the law is now supported by barely more than a third of voters.

On the progressive side, things are just the opposite: Obamacare continues to become steadily more popular despite Trump’s persistent efforts to undermine it, and a recent poll showed that Medicare for All is now supported by 70 percent of voters—including a majority of Republicans. Even Fox News was forced to admit in its August poll that Obamacare is more popular than the tax cut.

This gives Democrats tremendous latitude in November. There’s every reason to think they can take aggressive positions on Trump’s odious racial pronouncements and cruel policies. At the same time, they can take aggressive positions against his widely disliked economic programs and in support of their own increasingly popular ideas—which appeal equally to the working class of all races.

4) Vox’s Brian Resnick, “8 lessons from psychology that explain Trump’s caravan fearmongering.”  TLDR: fear works.

5) Useful historical context, “The History Behind the Birthright Citizenship Battle.”

6) Interesting take on animal welfare in Vox: “Want to help animals? Focus on corporate decisions, not people’s plates: The most cost-effective way to help animals on factory farms seems to be campaigns targeting suppliers, not targeting consumers.”

7) Is trick-or-treating on the decline?  Had a great discussion about social trust and the quality of neighborhood trick-or-treating with a colleague who’s suburban neighborhood was a complete Halloween desert.

According to data from the National Retail Federation’s annual Halloween survey, the number of American adults who say they’re planning to take kids trick-or-treating has hovered around 30 percent since 2005. But the NRF doesn’t break that data down between parents and nonparents, so many of the respondents not planning to trick-or-treat may just not have kids. Indeed, a 2011 survey by the nonprofit Safe Kids Worldwide found that 73 percent of parents take their kids trick-or-treating, so the tradition is still going strong.

“I don’t think there are fewer kids trick-or-treating,” says Lesley Bannatyne, a historian of Halloween who’s authored several books on the holiday. “I think they’re trick-or-treating in different places.”

Some of that, she suspects, has to do with changing neighborhoods. Americans are less likely to know and regularly interact with their neighbors than they were in previous decades, according to a 2015 analysis of General Social Survey data.

It’s worth noting that the image of “traditional” trick-or-treating—costumed kids parading down sidewalks, hitting house after decorated house—has only ever really been endemic to American suburbs. Kids who live in cities often trick-or-treat in apartment buildings, and in rural areas where houses are more spread out, Bannatyne says, parties, bonfires, or other centralized gatherings are often more practical alternatives for families.

8) The “digital divide” in schools is not quite what we might expect as rich people move against screen time for their kids.

9) Brownstein (again) on Trump’s fearmongering:

In the final days of the midterm campaign, Trump and other Republicans are focusing their closing arguments on cultural confrontations, from immigration to the bitter confirmation fight over Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Otter’s announcement illuminates one key reason the party is placing so many chips on culture: GOP candidates appear to have lost faith that they can win the argument with voters over the key policies in their economic agenda, especially the longtime effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act and the huge tax cut Trump signed late last year.

“They are ending up on the culture war because we have blunted them on taxes and they can’t talk about health care,” Democratic pollster Ben Tulchin said. “So they are left with one card to play.”…

Trump’s immigration-centered closing arguments show how thoroughly he believes that the GOP base is motivated not by rolling back government (through tax cuts or repealing the ACA) but by resisting cultural and demographic change. [emphasis mine] New national polling this week from the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute supports his instinct. That survey asked Americans whether they believed it was mostly positive or negative for the nation that minority groups will reach a majority of the U.S. population by 2045. While nearly two-thirds of all Americans and four-fifths of Democrats said that the change was mostly positive, slightly more than three-fifths of Republicans described it as mostly negative.

One of Trump’s most profound effects on American politics has been widening existing divides and accelerating ongoing trends. Long before he arrived, the parties were undergoing an overlapping demographic and geographic realignment, with Democrats mobilizing a “coalition of transformation” centered on the voters and regions most comfortable with racial, cultural, and even economic change, and Republicans countering with a “coalition of restoration” centered on the groups and places most resistant to it…

This re-sorting will push the GOP even further toward Trump’s politics of racial and social backlash, because in next week’s election it may doom many of the moderate suburban House members who most resist his direction. After November, the GOP caucus in both congressional chambers will almost certainly tilt even further toward predominantly white, heavily blue-collar, and religiously traditional places where Trump’s insular messaging resonates. The paradox that the final stage of the 2018 election reveals is this: As more upscale voters who benefit from the GOP’s economic agenda flee Trump’s racially infused definition of the party, Republicans will become even more dependent on stoking the cultural grievances of their working-class base.

(Reminder: my problem with the working-class base is not that they are culturally different from me but that they are prone to blame Blacks, immigrants, etc., for their cultural grievances).

10) And Krugman:

What are Republicans lying about? As I said, almost everything. But there are two big themes. They lie about their agenda, pretending that their policies would help the middle and working classes when they would, in fact, do the opposite. And they lie about the problems America faces, hyping an imaginary threat from scary dark-skinned people and, increasingly, attributing that threat to Jewish conspirators.

Both classes of lie are rooted in the real G.O.P. agenda.

What Republicans truly stand for, and have for decades, is cutting taxes on the rich and slashing social programs. Sure enough, last year they succeeded in ramming through a huge tax cut aimed mainly at corporations and the wealthy, and came within one vote of passing a health “reform” that, according to the Congressional Budget Office, would have caused 32 million Americans to lose health coverage.

The G.O.P.’s problem is that this agenda is deeply unpopular. Large majorities of Americans oppose cuts in major social programs, while most voters want to raise, not reduce, taxes on corporations and high-income individuals.

But instead of changing their agenda to meet voters’ concerns, Republicans have resorted to a strategy of deception and distraction. On one side, they have gone full black-is-white, up-is-down on policy substance. Most spectacularly, they are posing as defenders of protection for people with pre-existing conditions — protection that their failed health bill would have stripped away, and which they are now trying to take away through the courts. And they’re claiming that Democrats are the ones threatening Medicare.

On the other side, they’re resorting to their old standby: race-based fear.

11) The Foxconn in Wisconsin con.

12) The case for running without headphones.  Not sold.  Love my podcasts too much!

13) Interesting study looked at 5-second versus 20-second high-intensity intervals.  Unsurprisingly (given my experience with intervals) is that 5 seconds is just too short.  Wish they had done this with 10 seconds.  Love my 30-20-10 workout.

14) Student turned me onto Kate Raworth and her iconoclastic take on economic growth.  Good stuff.

15) New research, “Guns send more than 8,000 US kids to ER each year, analysis says.”  Seems fine.  2nd Amendment, baby!

16) Of course Trump cut funding for programs to fight homegrown violent extremism.

Set aside the question of whether President Donald Trump’s rhetorical flirtations with white nationalism enabled Saturday’s mass shooting in Pittsburgh. What’s undeniable is that his administration has hobbled the infrastructure designed to prevent such murders.

In the waning days of Barack Obama’s administration, the Department of Homeland Security awarded a set of grants to organizations working to counter violent extremism, including among white supremacists. One of the grantees was Life After Hate, which The Hill has called “one of the only programs in the U.S. devoted to helping people leave neo-Nazi and other white supremacy groups.” Another grant went to researchers at the University of North Carolinawho were helping young people develop media campaigns aimed at preventing their peers from embracing white supremacy and other violent ideologies. But soon after Trump took office, his administration canceled both of these grants. In its first budget, it requested no funding for any grants in this field.

It’s part of a pattern of neglect. The grants were administered by the Office of Community Partnerships, which works intimately with local governments and community organizations to prevent jihadist and white-nationalist radicalization. In Obama’s last year, according to the former director, George Selim, the office boasted 16 full-time employees, roughly 25 contractors, and a budget of more than $21 million. The Trump administration has renamed it the Office of Terrorism Prevention Partnerships, and cut its staff to eight full-time employees and its budget to less than $3 million.

17) I’ve read for years and years now that we need to teach reading primarily via phonics.  Somehow colleges of education have not all figured this out‽

18) David Roberts on Republicans’ bad faith climate denialism:

Conservatives have been gaslighting the nation about climate change for years

That is obviously true when it comes to Trump, because he scarcely tries, indeed doesn’t know how, to pretend otherwise. But it’s just as true of the entire conservative movement, for decades now.

All the denialist talking points — nefarious scientists, sunspots, natural cycles — have their true believers in the base, among the chumps who drink the Kool-Aid and fill up the comment sections.

But the motive force is not any assessment of science. It’s the tight alliance between the cultural politics of white resentment and the power of fossil fuel and related industries. To acknowledge anthropogenic climate change is to empower liberals, open the door to additional taxes and regulations, and threaten the power of the fossil fuel industry.

The Republican Party as currently constituted will simply never do those things. Ever. The arguments are secondary.

19) And we’ll end with a long, thoughtful essay in TPM about how the Democrats need to become the party of freedom:

Building on the ideas of thinkers like Eric Foner and Corey Robin, we believe there is a clear organizing principle that provides a path forward: freedom. And history provides a guide.

From abolition to the fight against segregation and Jim Crow, from women’s suffrage to the fight for women’s liberation, from the establishment of the minimum wage to the push for democracy in the workplace and greater protection from economic insecurity, a vibrant and critical element of progressive movements has always been freedom. Throughout our nation’s history, we have fought both ideological and actual battles over the definition of freedom, how it is achieved, and for whom it is offered. These have gone hand-in-hand with fights over how we structure our economy and who it serves.

We can take this moment to expand the idea of what what it means to be truly free. Progressives can reclaim a long history of American political thought that ties economic power to political and personal freedom. We can demonstrate that progressive economic policy is essential to creating the conditions in which individuals can have agency and power over their lives.

To accomplish this, liberals need to embrace three key ideas and goals:

  1. Guarantee the public provisioning of truly universal goods.
  2. Ensure a level and quality of jobs that provide autonomy and dignity.
  3. Curb corporate power.

These three commitments, we believe, are essential to structuring an economy in which Americans across gender, geography, race and class can thrive. Our vision is rooted in the idea that our economy should indeed entitle individuals to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. It harkens back to an older version of the Democratic Party, lead by such presidents as Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson, that recognized that the government can be used as a tool that secures this freedom.

19) Happy 19th birthday (yesterday) to by firstborn son and loyal Fully Myelinated reader.

 

Quick hits (part II)

1) I still think Honeycrisp are overrated, but I always love learning more about apples.  And, I must admit, I’m pretty excited about the coming Cosmic Crisp.  Also, somehow missed this excellent NPR article about “club apples” from a few years ago.

2) Absolutely an under-covered story this election is Republican voter-supression efforts.  Ari Berman in the NYT:

In Georgia and other states, the question in this election is not just about which candidates voters will support, but whether they’ll be able to cast a ballot in the first place. The fight over voting rights in the midterms is a reminder that elections are not solely about who is running, what their commercials say or how many people are registered to vote. They are about who is allowed to vote and which officials are placing obstacles in the way of would-be voters.

The issue of voter suppression has exploded in recent weeks, most notably in the Georgia governor’s race between Stacey Abrams, a Democrat, and Brian Kemp, a Republican. While running for higher office, Mr. Kemp, as secretary of state, also enforces Georgia’s voting laws. This month, The Associated Press reported that Mr. Kemp’s office had put more than 53,000 voter registration applications in limbo because the information on the forms did not exactly match state databases. Seventy percent of the pending registrations were from African-Americans, leading Ms. Abrams to charge that Mr. Kemp was trying “to tilt the playing field in his favor.” Mr. Kemp claimed a voter registration group tied to Ms. Abrams had “submitted sloppy forms.”

Since the 2010 election, 24 states overwhelmingly controlled by Republicans have put in place new voting restrictions, such as tougher voter ID laws, cutbacks to early voting and barriers to registration. Republicans say these measures are necessary to combat the threat of widespread voter fraud, even though study after study shows that such fraud is exceedingly rare. Many of these states have hotly contested races in 2018, and a drop in turnout among Democratic constituencies, such as young people and voters of color, could keep Republicans in power.

3) And the Atlantic’s Van Newkirk II:

Democracy in America is only a little over five decades old. That’s difficult to square with the America that exists in the storytelling tradition: a brave experiment in a government run for and by the people. In reality, the country has always been defined as much by whom it’s kept from voting as by who is allowed to participate, and the ideal of democracy has always been limited by institutions designed to disenfranchise. Put another way: The great majority of all elections in American history would have been entirely illegitimate under modern law.

It seems even today’s elections would have difficulty meeting those standards. Claims of voter suppression have multiplied during the 2018 midterm-election cycle. Gerrymanders dilute black and Latino votes. Voter-ID laws in some states disproportionately affect people of color. Polling-place changes, lines, and irregularities still characterize the voting experiences of many communities of color. In Georgia, the Republican candidate for governor—the state’s secretary of state, Brian Kemp—is facing a lawsuit over allegedly racially biased voter purges. American democracy finds itself at a crossroads, and a future where more suppression is the norm seems like a strong possibility…

Regardless of the outcome, these tactics will make an indelible historical mark on the Georgia election. In that, it’s the vanguard of a new norm rather than an outlier. Since the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision, in which the Supreme Court defanged federal enforcement of the Voting Rights Act, the Court has taken an ax to the stump of voter protections that remained.

In June of this year, the Court gave its blessing to aggressive voter purges, even those that all existing data indicate affect minority communities most. The Court has moved toward extending authorization for voter-ID laws, despite data showing the same. Adding to the Court’s finding in Shelby County that past disenfranchisement was no longer a valid factor in developing current protections against disenfranchisement, the Court argued that “good faith of [the] state legislature must be presumed,” when it upheld Texas congressional districts that were challenged as racial gerrymanders.

So far, the results have been undeniable. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, up to 2 million more people than expected have lost their voting status because of purges after Shelby County. Also according to the Brennan Center, 23 states have made their voting laws more restrictive since 2010, including six of the 10 states with the highest proportions of black voters. And that count doesn’t include North Carolina, the state with the seventh-highest population of black voters, where a battle involving voter ID, gerrymandering, and racial discrimination has dominated politics over the past decade. Nor does it include Texas, now a major battleground for voter-ID laws and gerrymandering plans that mostly affect its high population of Latino voters.

4) Getting adolescent boys to talk about their feelings.  Hell, yeah.

“In here, we get to say stuff we wouldn’t normally say in front of other people. And we don’t judge each other,” said a seventh grader with dark curls. “Boys should have a safe space to talk about things that matter to us,” said another seventh grader with a hint of a Canadian accent.

The two were veterans of a weekly lunch time boys’ group at the Sheridan School, a K-8 private school in Northwest Washington, D.C., explaining the group’s purpose to new members.

Hands went up, thumbs and pinkies wagged back and forth in the shaka or “hang loose” hand gesture, which signifies full agreement at Sheridan. The group’s primary adviser, Phyllis Fagell, started an activity she called the “man box.” She called out a feeling or emotion, and the boys were supposed to determine if it belonged inside or outside of this figurative container of masculine stereotypes.

The 11 middle-school boys quickly agreed that none of the following belonged in the “man box”: trust, sadness, tenderness, patience, fear, insecurity, confusion, feeling overwhelmed and joy.

“You just eliminated 80 percent of human emotions from the male experience,” said Ms. Fagell, who is the school counselor. “Does that surprise you?”

5) Does living together before marriage increase the likelihood of divorce?  Maybe, maybe not.  (But it does increase the likelihood of going to hell!  Sorry, couldn’t resist).  Seriously, researchers still cannot come to a consensus.

6) Drum’s Q&A on Trump’s oddly sensible proposal on prescription drug prices is the best thing I’ve read on it:

Q: This is great! Right now I pay about $400 in annual premiums and another $1,800 in deductibles and copays for my prescription drugs through Medicare. This could really make a—

A: Hold on, cowboy. Just settle down. Let’s get one thing straight right off: Trump’s announcement has nothing to do with your prescription drug plan.

Q: Wait. What?

A: You’re thinking of Medicare Part D, which was passed in 2003. It covers prescription drugs for seniors, but Republicans specifically prohibited Medicare from negotiating prices on Part D and there’s nothing Trump can do about that. Democrats tried to pass a bill changing this a few years ago, but Republicans filibustered it and it failed.

Q: So Trump is asking them to take another look?

A: Nope. Democrats proposed yet another bill last year that would have allowed Medicare to negotiate drug prices, but Republicans killed it and Trump just shrugged. He was too busy trying to dismantle Obamacare. Nothing is changing there.

7) It’s so fascinating the way complex ecosystems are connected.  And really disturbing how human actions can throw these all out of balance.  On the California coast, sea urchins are gobbling up all the kelp.

8) Interesting idea– battery swapping as a faster and more efficient way to charge electric vehicles.

9) The case for teaching loneliness prevention in our schools:

The ideal school curriculum for teaching loneliness prevention, Holt-Lunstad says, would target social isolation as well as the cognitive processes that make people feel lonelier—while, of course, teaching students the health risks associated with loneliness. “Recognizing that it’s something that we need to take seriously for our health is a primary and critical step,” she says.

Holt-Lunstad advocates for a sort of “social education”—similar to efforts by schools to provide, say, sex education and physical education—that would be integrated into existing health-education curricula to teach students how to build and maintain friendships and relationships. Learning how to provide the kind of help and support a friend or partner feels a need for is an invaluable social skill that can be taught in the classroom, she adds. For example, when a friend who is broke asks for money but instead receives a lecture on financial management, she isn’t likely to feel she’s been supported in the way she needs.

10) Initiatives in California and Florida could require more humane treatment animals.  Since the legislatures are obviously far more influenced by Big Agriculture, this is one way to get policy more in line with what the public actually thinks:

Most Americans aren’t vegetarians or vegans, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t concerned with the welfare of animals. Nearly everyone consumes animals that are raised and killed on factory farms (over 99 percent of land animals raised for food are, so even “humane”-labeled food is typically factory-farmed). But even most meat-eating Americans are strongly opposed to the abuses that are commonplace in the industry. In a 2017 Ipsos/Sentience Institute poll, 49 percent of Americans supported a ban on factory farming, nearly 90 percent thought “farmed animals have roughly the same ability to feel pain and discomfort as humans,” and nearly 70 percent agreed that “the factory farming of animals is one of the most important social issues in the world today.”

11) Nice video of Donald Trump advocating political violence time and time again.

12) David Brooks embracing the “nationalist” tag in defense of Trump is pretty pathetic and disgusting.  A great example of NYT commenters being far smarter than the writer in pointing out that Brooks is really talking about “patriotism” and saying “nationalism” for Trump’s benefit.

13) Column in Chronicle of Higher Education advocating lowering the stakes of the job interview dinner.  Good God I would never want a job at a place that chose against me because I prefer pizza and Diet Dr Pepper over sushi and beer.  My experience… people on the search committee want a free dinner at a fancy restaurant and really don’t care much about what the job candidate eats.

14) My friend and colleague Mark Nance on why North Carolinians should vote against the 6 misleading Constitutional amendments the Republicans put onto our ballot.

15) How a controversial on-line charter school is having a surprisingly large impact on Ohio politics.

16) Interesting piece in the Atlantic,  “College Sports Are Affirmative Action for Rich White Students: Athletes are often held to a lower standard by admissions officers, and in the Ivy League, 65 percent of players are white.”

17) EJ Dionne on the Republicans’ long con on the deficit:

A truly gifted con artist is someone who pulls off the same scam again and again and keeps getting away with it.

Say what you will about Republicans and conservatives: Their audacity when it comes to deficits and tax cuts is something to behold, and they have been running the same play since the passage of the Reagan tax cuts in 1981.

Republicans shout loudly about how terrible deficits are when Democrats are in power — even in cases when deficits are essential to pulling the nation out of economic catastrophe, as was the case at the beginning of President Barack Obama’s first term.

But when the GOP takes control, its legions cheerfully embrace Dick Cheney’s law and send deficits soaring. Recall what President George W. Bush’s vice president said in 2002 justifying the 2003 tax cuts: “Reagan proved deficits don’t matter.”

Deficits don’t matter if they would impede handing out tax benefits to corporations and the affluent. But they put us “on the brink of national bankruptcy” and threaten “a debt crisis,” as House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) put it in 2011, when Democrats want to finance programs for the middle class or the poor.

And here’s the critical insight:

Republicans know one other thing: Their deception will work as long as neutral arbiters — in the media and think tanks along with those who genuinely care about deficits — fail to call it out…[emphasis mine]

So here is my plea to the honest deficit hawks out there: Please face up to how right-wing policies are doubly damaging to national solvency. They raise deficits by reducing revenues. But they also endanger us by aggravating inequalities that themselves imperil sustainable budgets and a growing economy. This is worse than a swindle. It’s a dangerous mistake.

18) Disturbing new evidence on the use of antibiotics in livestock farming:

Now a new study, years in the making, goes further than any other to demonstrate that resistant bacteria can move from animals to humans via the meat they become. It also provides a model of how new surveillance systems might reduce that bacterial flow at its source on farms.

It’s just one study, but it possesses outsize significance, because it eliminates the uncertainty at the center of that bacterial flow. Outside of experimental conditions, it’s never been possible to prove that this antibiotic given to thatanimal gave rise to this bacterium that ended up in thathuman. But this new work dives so deeply into the genomics of bacterial adaptation in food animals and humans, it proves the link that ag would rather deny.

 

 

Quick hits (part I)

1) Chait on GOP and the crazy bomber dude:

The left certainly has illiberal, paranoid modes of thought. The difference is that the left-wing version resides outside the boundaries of two-party politics, because the Democratic Party is fundamentally liberal not radical. Coulter’s examples of “liberal” violence inadvertently bear this out: the Haymarket Square bombers were anarchists, and the Unabomber developed an idiosyncratic hatred of technology that did not connect to other nodes of left-wing politics. The street-fighting cult antifa lies outside of, and is primarily hostile to, Democratic politics. Left-wing violence from the 1960s likewise came out of radical groups who viewed the Democratic Party with contempt.

The Republican Party, on the other hand, has followed a course that has made its rhetoric amenable to extremism. Republican radicalism enabled the rise of a conspiratorial authoritarian president, and that president has expanded the bounds of the party’s following farther out to the fringe. It is getting harder and harder to distinguish the “normal” elements of conservatism from the “kook” parts. That some of those kooks would resort to violence is not an accident but a statistical likelihood. Trump’s party is a petri dish for diseased minds.

2) As a candy lover, I loved this cool NYT magazine candy feature.  And I had no idea that Japan loves Kit-Kat’s so much (me, too).

3) Jennifer Finney Boylan on the stupidity of judging as “calling balls and strikes” (something pretty much only conservative judges argue):

There was a lot of talk during the Kavanaugh confirmation hearing about the proper role of a judge, comparing his or her ideal approach with that of an umpire. It was Chief Justice John Roberts, in fact, who — during his own hearing in 2005 — most famously used the metaphor. “Umpires don’t make the rules,” he said. “They apply them. The role of an umpire and a judge is critical. They make sure everybody plays by the rules. But it is a limited role. Nobody ever went to a ballgame to see the umpire.”

A few years later, during Justice Elena Kagan’s confirmation hearing, she agreed with much of what Chief Justice Roberts had said. But she also noted that the metaphor might suggest to some people that law is a kind of robotic enterprise, that “everything is clear cut, and there’s no judgment in the process. And I do think that that’s not right, and that it’s especially not right at the Supreme Court level, where the hardest cases go.”

Judges, like umpires, have to decide what kind of philosophers they will be: empiricists, realists, pragmatists — or something else entirely.

If you “call them the way you see them,” you’re accepting that your role is to incorporate your own wisdom and research into the making of decisions — because “the way you see them” is influenced by your own experience of being human.

If you believe “they ain’t nothing until I call ’em!” you’re not just a pragmatist — you’re an activist, or so conservative legal scholars would have you believe.

And if you “call them the way they are,” you’re suggesting that the law exists independent of human experience — that the business of judging should be like the job of a robot. The realist’s world is a black-and-white one, with no shades of gray.

It’s no coincidence that it’s the world of grays that often presents the greatest challenge for conservatives; they don’t like it when things fall outside the bright lines originally imagined by our 18th-century founders — men whom, we should note, agreed that African-Americans should count as only three-fifths of a human and that the right to vote should be reserved for white men who owned land.

But the passage of time ensures that a changing world surely contains shades of gray. Most of the cases coming before the Supreme Court call not for the application of black-and-white rules but for an understanding of the complexity of human experience.

4) US Fertility rates are way down in just the past decade.  That’s not good (below the 2.1 replacement level is a problem).  And there’s a variety of theories as to why.

5) I’ve beenn waiting and waiting for Terry Gross to get on the Bojack Horseman train and finally interview it’s creator, Raphael Bob-Waksberg.  Finally

6) And the Guardian with a relatively spoiler-free review of the terrific 5th season I just finished watching.

7) Great Jack Shafer column on the need to stop giving attention to everything Trump says:

The rule that everything the president says is newsworthy was established in those days when presidents 1) were less omnipresent that Trump 2) were more circumspect in what they said and 3) in which there was no cable news. [emphases mine] Nobody ever claimed that the president had a right to massive mindshare every time he opened his mouth, but that’s where we’ve landed. When Trump denounced kneeling NFL players—over whom he has no control—the press made a big deal out of it. When he claimed that “unknown Middle Easterners“ have joined the migrant caravans, we elevated it. When he described well-reported news stories as “fake news,” we gave it big play. But why? The press long ago established that Trump lies with such frequency that it might be easier to count the number of true statements he’s made than false ones.

Like winter rain in Seattle, Trump’s lies, his incessant name-calling, and his baseless rabble-rousing have become so common they merit almost no recognition as “news.” I’m not suggesting that the press ignore Trump when he refers to the “Democrat mob” or makes off-the-cuff threats to impose new tariffs. Reporters should still record his remarks for analysis. But they should abandon the default news-sense setting that dictates that any Trumpian riff deserves top-news treatment. As I brainstormed this idea with my editor, I suggested that newspapers could run columns (buried inside the front section) titled “Shit Trump Says” that would list Trump’s arbitrary policy pitches and verbal berserking. My editor said, no, that would only encourage him to fill the column with the sort of vituperation that would make it destination reading.

For once, my editor was right. The threshold for what constitutes news from Trump’s mouth should be reset. Unless his statements are true or his proposals have some chance of advancing, Trump’s loose talk belongs in concise and dismissive stories in the middle pages of the newspaper where we can skim them and move on. The press corps’ new motto should read: “Just because the president said it doesn’t mean it’s news.” Put the president’s boombox on mute.

8) Really interesting Jay Rosen piece on the defensiveness of the NYT.

9) I didn’t know that they made clothes from plastic bottles until last week when I got some new pants with an “I’m made from plastic bottles label.”  And then Vox has something on it the same time.

10) Some good PS research from Gregory Martin and Steven Webster on geographic sorting:

Political preferences in the United States are highly correlated with population density, at national, state, and metropolitan-area scales. Using new data from voter registration records, we assess the extent to which this pattern can be explained by geographic mobility. We find that the revealed preferences of voters who move from one residence to another correlate with partisan affiliation, though voters appear to be sorting on non-political neighborhood attributes that covary with partisan preferences rather than explicitly seeking politically congruent neighbors. But, critically, we demonstrate through a simulation study that the estimated partisan bias in moving choices is on the order of five times too small to sustain the current geographic polarization of preferences. We conclude that location must have some influence on political preference, rather than the other way around, and provide evidence in support of this theory.

11) Not quite sure what to make of this Post piece on Northerners who love the confederate flag.

12) OMG this ad in Arkansas is unreal.  I played in class this week and one kid literally just dropped his jaw and kept his mouth agape in shock for the whole ad.  I then got to show them this jaw-dropping NC ad from 12 years ago that was basically from the same guy.

13) I take probiotics every day because Lactobacillus Rhamnosus GG has actually shown some efficacy in real double-blind trials.  But its probably not doing as much as I hope.  The proven benefits of probiotics are pretty limited.  Aaron Carroll:

Given all of this, what are the benefits? The most obvious use of probiotics would be in the treatment of gastrointestinal disorders, given that they are focused on gut health. There have been many studies in this domain, so many that early this year the journal Nutrition published a systematic review of systematic reviews on the subject.

The takeaway: Certain strains were found useful in preventing diarrhea among children being prescribed antibiotics. A 2013 reviewshowed that after antibiotic use, probiotics help prevent Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea. A review focused on acute infectious diarrhea found a benefit, again for certain strains of bacteria at controlled doses. There’s also evidence that they may help prevent necrotizing enterocolitis (a serious gastrointestinal condition) and death in preterm infants.

Those somewhat promising results — for very specific uses of very specific strains of bacteria in very specific instances — are just about all the “positive” results you can find.

Many wondered whether probiotics could be therapeutic in other gastrointestinal disorders. Unfortunately, that doesn’t appear to be the case. Probiotics didn’t show a significant benefit for chronic diarrheaThree reviews looked at how probiotics might improve Crohn’s disease, and none could find sufficient evidence to recommend their use. Four more reviews looked at ulcerative colitis, and similarly declared that we don’t have the data to show that they work. The same was true for the treatment of liver disease.

14) So, this seems so wrong that it can still happen.  NYT: “Miscarrying at Work: The Physical Toll of Pregnancy Discrimination: Women in strenuous jobs lost their pregnancies after employers denied their requests for light duty, even ignoring doctors’ notes, an investigation by The New York Times has found.”

15) I have to confess, I did not read all of the NYT’s big story on Trump’s massive life-long tax fraud.  But this Fresh Air interview with the authors was great and so worth a lesson.  Rather than focusing on the tax fraud, the real story is about just what an incredible con man Trump is and how he has been conning pretty much everybody (notably of late, credulous Republican voters) about his wealth for pretty much his whole adult life.

Republicans for socialized medicine!

This from Sarah Kliff is awesome, “White House anti-socialism report inadvertently makes a case for single-payer: The Trump administration says this chart is a case against single-payer. Actually, it’s a case for it.”

Earlier today, the White House released a paper titled “The Opportunity Costs of Socialism.” Weirdly, it contains a chart that actually makes a pretty decent argument for single-payer health care.

The chart compares wait times for seniors in countries like Canada, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, and the United States. It purports to show that seniors in single-payer countries wait much longer than those here in the United States…

It all looks pretty clear cut: Places like Canada and Norway have long wait times in their single-payer systems, whereas we here in the United States have very short wait times.

Except, here’s the key thing it leaves out: America’s seniors are essentially in a single-payer systemThe vast majority of Americans over 65 get coverage through Medicare, a government-run health care plan. [emphasis mine]

Ezra follows up with a nice twitter thread of the foolishness of judging a health system primarily by wait times (usually a dead give away that somebody just knows talking points and doesn’t really understand health care policy):

 

Quick hits (part II)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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