Quick hits (part II)

1) The Deepwater Horizon movie was really good.  Seems like it barely made a ripple.  Deserved more.  Also, rarely do you see a movie credited as being based on a newspaper article.  Of course, this is one hell of a NYT article.

2) A variety of scientific explanations for why some dogs like to roll around in poop (I remember some very unpleasant experiences with our dog Lira and cow manure when visiting a relative’s farm).

3) On a not at all unrelated note, how dogs are like probiotics:

So there is growing concern that, in our anxiety to banish bacteria from our indoor world, we have become too clean for our own good. We run the risk of scrubbing, disinfecting, vacuuming and filtering out the fortifying mix of microscopic creatures that our immune system needs to develop properly.

Enter the dog.

Dogs roll in the mud. They sniff feces and other questionable substances. Then they track countless germs into our homes on their paws, snouts and fur.

And if the latest research on pets and human health is correct, that cloud of dog-borne microbes may be working to keep us healthy. Epidemiological studies show that children who grow up in households with dogs have a lower risk for developing autoimmune illnesses like asthma and allergies — and it may be a result of the diversity of microbes that these animals bring inside our homes.

4) As you know, I think I’m a pretty good dad.  But apparently I need to up my game and talk to my kids about pornography.

5) How tech billionaires are trying to remake America’s schools.

6) I learned a lot from the Economist’s take on the British election.

7) This Jonathan Ladd piece on the extreme negative partisanship that characterizes our present political era, is excellent.  You should read all of it:

The typical political science answer five years ago was that a democracy could accommodate extremely polarized parties as long as it had the right institutions. Polarization may be causing problems in the US, but that is only because we have a Madisonian system that only works when politicians are willing to work together. Power is divided between Congress, the presidency, and the courts, which are often controlled by different parties. Supermajority rules in the Senate increase the need for the parties to work together if they hope to get anything done.

By this logic, our problems are caused by presidentialism, the Senate’s rules, and perhaps too strong judicial review. We could accommodate more polarized parties if we had a unicameral parliamentary system, in which the parliament elected a prime minister and Cabinet to rule until the next election. (This would presumably solve our problems, whether legislators continued to be selected in single-member districts, as in the UK, Canada and Australia, or by voters choosing among party lists, as in Italy or Israel.)..

My views have changed. I still think that presidential systems produce their own “perils,” but I no longer think a system with fewer veto points can solve our problems. Specifically, the election of Donald Trump has led me to conclude that, regardless of our political rules, negative partisanship among politicians and the mass public is a serious danger…

Negative partisanship swayed Republicans at the mass and elite level. Many Republicans voted for their party’s nominee primarily in order to avoid a Clinton presidency. Clinton, with her high visibility and close connection with liberalism, is almost ideally suited to activating Republicans’ traditional partisan and ideological loyalties.

The country would be substantially better off if the electorate penalized parties for nominating inexperienced, uniformed, impulsive, corrupt candidates for president. Whether you are a conservative or a liberal, you would be better off if the Republicans in 2016 had nominated and elected Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, or even Mike Pence. One of them would implement many of the same policies, but without the massive corruption, the degradation of American political institutions, the danger of starting a major military conflict by accident or incompetence rather than ideology, or the many other Trump specific pathologies.  [emphases mine]

8) My wife and I spent about an hour last week proving to the State Health Plan and the new Republican State Treasurer that she is my wife and our kids are our kids.  Otherwise, we’d lose our insurance.  As my wife pointed out, you’d think the fact that the state health plan actually paid for the births of the younger two ought to be enough for them.  We got it done and our insurance will continue.  But, we could not think about the problems (and time wasted) for those less computer savvy and who may just not be on top of things.  This is a classic example of only considering one side of the cost/benefit– the potential cases of fraud (which, I’m sure are small in number) as opposed to the huge cost spread across all the plan members in terms of time and anxiety, and in some cases, temporary loss of needed insurance.

9) When high school teachers are faced with otherwise intelligent students who think believing climate scientists versus Rush Limbaugh is “just your opinion.”  The teachers in the Times story, need to meet this science teacher in Idaho, who’s got it all figured out.

10) Sorry, that’s it.  Short part II today.  I’m exhausted after a day of celebrating Alex’s birthday plus hosting family plus a dance recital.

Quick hits (part I)

1) I’m not a huge fan of Bill Maher, but I generally think he’s pretty funny and almost always enjoy his “new rules” when I watch his show.  Yes, it was pretty stupid of him to use the N-word recently in a weak attempt at humor, but that seems like a pretty weak last straw, as it was for this writer.

2) The myth of the kindly, non-white-supremacist, Robert E. Lee.

3) How Democrats are increasingly moving in favor of supporting single-payer health care.

4) Given the Lego-loving kids in my house, I really loved this Guardian story on how Lego went from a company on it’s deathbed in 2013 to one of the most globally powerful brands:

In 2015, the still privately owned, family controlled Lego Group overtook Ferrari to become the world’s most powerful brand. It announced profits of £660m, making it the number one toy company in Europe and Asia, and number three in North America, where sales topped $1bn for the first time. From 2008 to 2010 its profits quadrupled, outstripping Apple’s. Indeed, it has been called the Apple of toys: a profit-generating, design-driven miracle built around premium, intuitive, covetable hardware that fans can’t get enough of. Last year Lego sold 75bn bricks. Lego people – “Minifigures” – the 4cm-tall yellow characters with dotty eyes, permanent grins, hooks for hands and pegs for legs – outnumber humans. The British Toy Retailers Association voted Lego the toy of the century.

5) Nice deconstruction from Drum on NYT reporting on how Trump is now lying to his key National Security Staff.  Ugh.

6) Very cool article on the secret micro-dots your printer is probably printing that make leaking documents a precarious proposition.

7) The reality of how Planned Parenthood helps people— in this case, Paul Ryan’s constituents.  Not that he cares in the least.

8) I’m always reading about what’s wrong with the French economy is how it’s too hard to fire workers, but finally an excellent explanation from Catherine Rampell about what’s going on (and how Macron wants to fix it):

So what exactly is wrong with the job market in France?

The problem isn’t generous health-care benefits or onerous environmental protections or the usual “job-killing” regulations that American politicians so often vilify — and that the French love.

It’s that it’s virtually impossible, or at the very least prohibitively expensive, to fire employees. Which makes hiring employees unattractive, too.

In France, firings and layoffs can generally happen under very limited circumstances, including gross negligence and “economic reasons.” Laid-off employees can then challenge their dismissals in court, where judges are seen as somewhat hostile to employers.

Judges, for example, have wide latitude in deciding what counts as a justifiable “economic reason” for a layoff. They may decide that multinational firms that are losing money in France are not allowed to pare back their French workforce if they are collectively profitable in other countries, according to Jean-Charles Simon, an economist and former manager of the country’s main employer organization, Mouvement des Entreprises de France, or MEDEF.

A layoff in such a case could be deemed unfair. Furthermore, there is no cap on the damages that judges can award for unfair dismissal, meaning employers’ potential risks are essentially limitless. The whole process can take years to resolve, too.

9) Seems to me that my school system’s administrators are being needless hard-hearted and cruel in not letting a kid actually celebrate graduation because he didn’t know about the rehearsal:

All Wake County seniors are expected to attend graduation rehearsal, said schools spokeswoman Lisa Luten.

“Graduation is a production,” she said. “The students have to walk in a certain order, they have to sit in a certain row. There are a lot of moving pieces.”

A certain row!!  Oh, my, soooo complicated.  I’m sure allowing some kids to attend who had missed the rehearsals would just be mass chaos.

10) The fact that Eric Trump has basically been fraudulently and illegally stealing from children with cancer should be huge news.  But, increasingly, it seems our capacity for bad Trump news (Comey!!) is a zero-sum game.  And that is so to Trump’s benefit.

11) Derek Thompson on Trump’s policies:

The secret of the Trump infrastructure plan is: There is no infrastructure plan. Just like there is no White House tax plan. Just like there was no White House health care plan. More than 120 days into Trump’s term in a unified Republican government, Trump’s policy accomplishments have been more in the subtraction category (e.g., stripping away environmental regulations) than addition. The president has signed no major legislation and left significant portions of federal agencies unstaffed, as U.S. courts have blocked what would be his most significant policy achievement, the legally dubious immigration ban.

The simplest summary of White House economic policy to date is four words long: There is no policy.

12) Speaking of zero-sum political coverage.  Brian Beutler on how Republicans are trying to dismantle the ACA completely hidden from the light of day and nobody’s paying attention (Comey!).

13) Headline says it all, “How Russian Propaganda Spread From a Parody Website to Fox News.”  Let’s be honest, Fox is hardly a “news” organization.

14) David Leonhardt on Trump’s L’état, c’est moi presidency:

Democracy isn’t possible without the rule of law — the idea that consistent principles, rather than a ruler’s whims, govern society.

You can read Aristotle, Montesquieu, John Locke or the Declaration of Independence on this point. You can also look at decades of American history. Even amid bitter fights over what the law should say, both Democrats and Republicans have generally accepted the rule of law.

President Trump does not. His rejection of it distinguishes him from any other modern American leader. He has instead flirted with Louis XIV’s notion of “L’état, c’est moi”: The state is me — and I’ll decide which laws to follow.

This attitude returns to the fore this week, with James Comey scheduled to testify on Thursday about Trump’s attempts to stifle an F.B.I. investigation. I realize that many people are exhausted by Trump outrages, some of which resemble mere buffoonery. But I think it’s important to step back and connect the dots among his many rejections of the rule of law.

15) Tiny jumping spiders can see the moon at night.  That also means you can get them to follow laser pointers (cool videos at the article).

16) I wanted to give Lee Drutman’s post on Trump exploiting the flaws of our two-party system it’s own post.  Oh well:

In this piece, I want to explore how much this “unlikely” conclusion flows from the zero-sum logic of our two-party system. The short answer: a lot.

Because of the two-party system, Republicans are stuck with Donald Trump. If he goes down, they go down with him. There’s now no way for Republicans to advance conservative policy goals without also advancing Trump. And In this era of bipolar two-party tribal politics, no matter what Trump does, there’s always one thing worse for Republicans. Something even more unthinkable, something even more existentially frightening than Trump with his hand on the nuclear codes: Democrats having power.

In two-party politics, a “pathological liar” is always better than a Democrat

Most congressional Republicans never wanted Trump as their standard-bearer. They still don’t. But their fates are now tied to him. If Trump goes down in a dramatic impeachment (is there any other kind?), Republicans almost certainly lose their House majority in the 2018 midterms, and probably continue to suffer the repercussions in 2020. And there’s a real risk that if Trump goes down, he tries to take all the furniture with him, fracturing the Republican Party.

So Republican congressional leaders are stuck. The only thing worse than having Trump as their unpopular standard-bearer is losing power and popularity because they tried to remove him as their standard-bearer…

For Republicans, the challenge will be to keep their troops feeling certain that however imperfect Trump might be, Democrats would by definition be worse — that it really might be the end of the republic if Republicans lose the house. This likely means doubling down on all the aggressive us-against-them white Christian identity politics and apocalyptic narratives they can find to make sure their base shows up.

And so deeper into the widening gyre we go. This is the logic of our two-party system right now. And Donald Trump is still our president, leading us into deeper tribalism as he takes advantage of our two-party system’s fatal flaw.

17) Pretty cool infographic on the scale of D-day.

18) On the secret social media lives of teenagers.  Damn are their some super-sneaky apps out there.  My teenager just prefers to lie (“sure I did all my homework”) to my face.

19) Nice NYT feature on how to raise a feminist son.  On it.  Great role model for this in my mom.

20) The lies from Trump and his people are pretty amazing.  This one on coal may take the cake.  Also, some nice context.  Chait:

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, appearing on This Week With George Stephanopoulos, casually asserted that the Trump administration has presided over a staggering increase in coal-industry employment. “We’ve had over 50,000 jobs since last quarter — coal jobs, mining jobs — created in this country. We had almost 7,000 mining and coal jobs created in the month of May alone,” boasted Pruitt.

How false are these statistics? Extremely false.

Last month, the coal industry added 400 jobs, not 7,000. Since October, it has added just 1,700 jobs. The industry as a whole now employs 51,000 people — total. (No, there were not merely 1,000 people working in coal before the election.)

It is bizarre to design your country’s energy policy — which, even if you disregard climate science, has important implications for public health and international diplomacy — around the goal of maximizing jobs in an industry that employs fewer people than Arby’s.

21) Happy to learn the Texas teacher who awarded her students “superlatives” such as “most likely to be a terrorist” is out of a job.

22) A friend just recently posted a portion of this 2012 Michael Lewis speech to Princeton students on FB.  It’s awesome!

I now live in Berkeley, California. A few years ago, just a few blocks from my home, a pair of researchers in the Cal psychology department staged an experiment. They began by grabbing students, as lab rats. Then they broke the students into teams, segregated by sex. Three men, or three women, per team. Then they put these teams of three into a room, and arbitrarily assigned one of the three to act as leader. Then they gave them some complicated moral problem to solve: say what should be done about academic cheating, or how to regulate drinking on campus.

Exactly 30 minutes into the problem-solving the researchers interrupted each group. They entered the room bearing a plate of cookies. Four cookies. The team consisted of three people, but there were these four cookies. Every team member obviously got one cookie, but that left a fourth cookie, just sitting there. It should have been awkward. But it wasn’t. With incredible consistency the person arbitrarily appointed leader of the group grabbed the fourth cookie, and ate it. Not only ate it, but ate it with gusto: lips smacking, mouth open, drool at the corners of their mouths. In the end all that was left of the extra cookie were crumbs on the leader’s shirt.

This leader had performed no special task. He had no special virtue. He’d been chosen at random, 30 minutes earlier. His status was nothing but luck. But it still left him with the sense that the cookie should be his.

This experiment helps to explain Wall Street bonuses and CEO pay, and I’m sure lots of other human behavior. But it also is relevant to new graduates of Princeton University. In a general sort of way you have been appointed the leader of the group. Your appointment may not be entirely arbitrary. But you must sense its arbitrary aspect: you are the lucky few. Lucky in your parents, lucky in your country, lucky that a place like Princeton exists that can take in lucky people, introduce them to other lucky people, and increase their chances of becoming even luckier. Lucky that you live in the richest society the world has ever seen, in a time when no one actually expects you to sacrifice your interests to anything.

All of you have been faced with the extra cookie. All of you will be faced with many more of them. In time you will find it easy to assume that you deserve the extra cookie. For all I know, you may. But you’ll be happier, and the world will be better off, if you at least pretend that you don’t.

23) Happy 15th birthday to my pretty amazing son, Alex.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Love this feature on the technology beyond self-driving cars.  Especially Lidar, since it also finds lost cities in the jungle.

2) The physics of the fidget spinner.  My 17-year old soccer players think it’s hilarious that there coach has one, but ph0ysics is cool!

3) Jon Cohn on Republicans and the new AHCA CBO score:

Wednesday’s report from the Congressional Budget Office ought to erase any lingering doubt about how Republicans are trying to change American health care.

If they get their way, they will protect the strong at the expense of the weak ― rewarding the rich and the healthy in ways that punish the poor and the sick.

Republicans have tried mightily to deny this, and accused their critics of dishonesty. President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) ― they and their allies have insisted over and over again that their proposals would improve access to health care and protect people with pre-existing medical conditions.

But it’s the Republicans who are lying about what their plan to repeal Obamacare would do.

They were lying back in March, when they introduced the initial version of the legislation ― a bill GOP leaders had to pull at the last minute because it didn’t have enough votes to pass. And they have been lying since early May, after they revised that proposal and rushed to vote on it before the CBO, Washington’s official scorekeeper, had time to evaluate it formally.

4) Kindergartens literally in the forest are all the rage in Germany.  Does sound pretty cool.

5) Great Paul Waldman column on the Trump budget and the simple-minded fallacy of deserving and undeserving recipients of government benefits.

6) Adam Davidson on pricing theory (I wish I knew more about this, I find the the idea of trying to find the right price to maximize profit an inherently fascinating problem), capitation fees, and how we pay too much for health care.

7) “How a dubious Russian document influenced the FBI’s handling of the Clinton probe.”

8) Democratic norms are under attack, not just by Trump, but in many states as well.  Of course, those of us living in North Carolina are well aware.

9) Child development expert, Allison Gopnik, on how calling Trump a 4-year-old is unfair to 4-year-olds:

But the analogy is profoundly wrong, and it’s unfair to children. The scientific developmental research of the past 30 years shows that Mr. Trump is utterly unlike a 4-year-old.

Four-year-olds care deeply about the truth. They constantly try to seek out information and to figure out how the world works. Of course, 4-year-olds, as well as adults, occasionally lie. But Mr. Trump doesn’t just lie; he seems not even to care whether his statements are true.

Four-year-olds are insatiably curious. One study found that the average preschooler asks hundreds of questions per day. Just watch a toddler “getting into everything” — endangering his own safety to investigate interesting new objects like knives and toasters. Mr. Trump refuses to read and is bored by anything that doesn’t involve him personally.

Four-year-olds can pay attention. They do have difficulty changing the focus of their attention in response to arbitrary commands. But recent studies show that even babies systematically direct their focus to the events and objects that will teach them the most. They pay special attention to events that contradict what they already believe. Mr. Trump refuses to pay attention to anything that clashes with his preconceptions…

Four-year-olds have a “theory of mind,” an understanding of their own minds and those of others. In my lab we have found that 4-year-olds recognize that their own past beliefs might have been wrong. Mr. Trump contradicts himself without hesitation and doesn’t seem to recognize any conflict between his past and present beliefs.

Four-year-olds, contrary to popular belief, are not egocentric or self-centered. They understand and care about how other people feel and think, and recognize that other people can feel and think differently from them.

10) Enjoyed this piece on the now-forgotten “Handmaid’s Tale” movie filmed in Durham in 1989.  It was stilll the talk of campus when I came to Duke the next year.

11) Trump’s ongoing obsession with the (discredited with practically everybody but him and Jeff Sessions) War on Drugs, does not explain all his presidency, but it explains a lot.

12) Loved this piece on the role of Southern pastors in turning the South Republican:

Southern churches, warped by generations of theological evolution necessary to accommodate slavery and segregation, were all too willing to offer their political assistance to a white nationalist program. Southern religious institutions would lead a wave of political activism that helped keep white nationalism alive inside an increasingly unfriendly national climate. Forget about Goldwater, Nixon or Reagan. No one played as much of a role in turning the South red as the leaders of the Southern Baptist Church.

13) Happy 23 years of marriage to Kim and me.

 

 

 

Sense and nonsense on crime

1) Philadelphia has nominated a Democratic District Attorney candidate (who will surely win) who really gets it:

If elected in November — and he is the heavy favorite in this overwhelmingly Democratic town — Krasner has pledged to never seek capital punishment while working to end bail policies that lock up people for being poor, an asset-forfeiture program that has been a national disgrace, and stop-and-frisk searches that disproportionately target non-whites.

Krasner told his wildly enthusiastic supporters tonight that “[o]ur vision is of a criminal justice system that makes things better, that is just, that is based on preventing crime and is based on building up society rather than tearing it apart.”

2) The Trump administration is bringing in literally one of the worst law enforcement officials in the country:

Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke has gained national notoriety for his inflammatory remarks on Fox News and social media, such as when he called a black CNN commentator a “jigaboo” and repeatedly claimed that Black Lives Matter is a “hate group” and a “terror organization.” Most recently, he’s also drawn scrutiny for his mishandling of the county jail he oversees, where three people and a newborn baby died last year between April and December.

Now Clarke is set, he said, to accept a role in President Donald Trump’s Department of Homeland Security.

3) And a very nice piece of good news, NC looks to finally be on track and no longer be the only state in the country to automatically try 16 and 17 years-olds as adults:

A “Raise The Age” bill to take some teenagers out of the adult court system passed the N.C. House Wednesday in a 104-8 vote.

House Bill 280 would allow a 16- or 17-year-old who commits certain crimes to be tried as a juvenile – not as an adult. North Carolina is the only remaining state that automatically prosecutes people as young as 16 as adults. Violent felonies and some drug offenses would still be handled in adult court.

Similar bills have passed the House in previous years, but this year’s effort has backing from law enforcement and N.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Martin. After Wednesday’s House vote, the bill goes to the Senate, where Republican leaders have included similar legislation in the budget bill passed last week.

Hooray.  But do you want to know why it is so hard to have nice things.  Because there are still so many people (and let’s be honest, most of them old white guys) who are extraordinarily retrograde on these things.  Introducing Larry Pittman:

Rep. Larry Pittman, a Concord Republican and opponent of the bill, said he wants to protect the rights and safety of his constituents, and “I don’t believe we can do that by going soft on crime. One of those is the right not to be robbed.” …

But Pittman said North Carolina shouldn’t follow the lead of other states. “Standing alone does not mean you’re wrong,” he said. “Should we be lemmings running off the cliff into the sea just because 49 other states have done so?”

Good grief.  How much better a place the world would be if there weren’t still all these, “oh no soft on crime!” types.  The very good news is that Pittman is now the minority, at least on this.

Quick hits (part II)

1) As I’m currently reading Anne-Marie Slaughter’s Unfinished Business, I found this NYT Op-Ed about the role of daughters in providing care to aging parents quite interesting and quite relevant (and on the bright side, I have a daughter):

As Washington debates the relative merits of Obamacare or Trumpcare, many families have already come up with what is arguably the most reliable form of care in America: It’s called daughter care.

The essential role that daughters play in the American health care system is well known but has received little attention. But some health care analysts are beginning to sound the alarm about the challenges women face as caregivers — not just for children but for aging parents — often while holding full-time jobs.

This week, the medical journal JAMA Neurology highlighted a looming crisis for women and their employers: the growing ranks of dementia patients who will end up relying on family members, typically daughters, for their care.

“The best long-term care insurance in our country is a conscientious daughter,” wrote the authors, all of whom are fellows at Stanford University’s Clinical Excellence Research Center, which studies new methods of health care delivery.

2) Thomas Edsall takes on the AHCA, “The Republicans don’t feel your pain.”

3) Evan Osnos on Trump and Comey:

That Trump believed he could fire the person leading law enforcement’s Russia investigation without a meaningful response from another branch of government is a sign of his unfamiliarity with the separation of powers, and, most perilous to himself, an enduring notion of impunity. Before entering the White House, Trump operated by a principle that, as he put it in a moment of “locker room” candor, “When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.” The Constitution disagrees, and, by firing Comey and making a baldly contestable claim to his motives, Trump has invited a new investigation into why he took that step, how he described his reasoning, and whether it represents an abuse of office.

4) So apparently there’s a service you can get that will send telemarketers to a talking robot that keeps them on the line with carefully placed “hmmm” “uh-huh” etc., as long as it can to waste their time.  Okay, I’m not paying for it, but it makes me happy just knowing it exists.

5) Julia Azari and Seth Masket on how Congress must be the check on Trump to prevent a Constitutional crisis.

6) Are their any political creatures more craven and narrow-minded that NC Republican state Senators.  Possibly not.

7) Yes, there really is a four-year old living in the White House.  Trump insists he gets more ice cream scoops than his guests.  Seriously.  What a tiny, pathetic little man.  The fact that anybody supports him truly demonstrates just how powerful partisanship is (and that there’s a lot of other small-minded people out there).

8) Philip Bump on the “one little number” that is all the protection Trump needs.  Yes, yes, yes.

Those engaging in such speculation [about impeachment], though, are warned: There’s one little number that makes such a move unlikely. That number is 84 percent, Trump’s job approval rating among Republicans in the most recent weekly average from Gallup.

9) I think it is cool just how incredibly fast fidget spinners have become the lastest fad.  NYT with a timeline of just how fast they blew up.  And, yes, I’m using one right now while.

10) Thomas Mills on the two North Carolinas:

The Carolina I live in today has a vibrant downtown with plenty of restaurants and a healthy merchant class. Our schools are among the best in the state and some are ranked among the best in the nation. We have well-groomed parks, bike trails, bus service and sidewalks. We’re fifteen miles from a major airport and both north-south and east-west interstates are just minutes away. Our crime rate is low and our biggest struggles concern balancing growth with maintaining our quality of life.

In contrast, the Carolina where I was raised is losing population and the unemployment rate is above the state as a whole. The downtown of Wadesboro is a shell of the place where I sold newspapers and bought everything from clothes to bicycles to baseball gloves. A major artery connecting downtown to Highway 74, the major road running through the county, stayed closed for more than year because the town didn’t have resources to repair a collapsing bridge. Other towns in the county are essentially empty, devoid of any businesses other than a convenience store or two…

Republicans claim their tax cuts have led to magazines citing North Carolina as among the best states for business. That may be true, but those national publications are talking about places like the Triangle, the Triad, and Charlotte, not places like Anson County, Scotland County or Wilkes County. The GOP budget has hung those places out to dry…

In many of those areas, the state is the largest employer, but the Senate would stop providing health insurance to state government retirees for anybody joining the state workforce after 2020. That’s a great recruiting tool.  It’s like throwing an anchor to a sinking boat.

If rural North Carolina is going to catch up and compete they need a serious investment in infrastructure including broadband internet, not more tax cuts.

11) In recent years I’ve become convinced the key to the greatest success in men’s college basketball is getting not the best recruits– who invariably leave after only a year– but, the next best recruits (say, roughly those ranked 25-50) who are still really good but much more likely to give you 3-4 good years of basketball.  Gary Parrish with a nice piece arguing essentially this.

12) Great Charlie Sykes column on how so many conservatives have simply become anti-liberal:

If there was one principle that used to unite conservatives, it was respect for the rule of law. Not long ago, conservatives would have been horrified at wholesale violations of the norms and traditions of our political system, and would have been appalled by a president who showed overt contempt for the separation of powers.

But this week, as if on cue, most of the conservative media fell into line, celebrating President Trump’s abrupt dismissal of the F.B.I. director, James Comey, and dismissing the fact that Mr. Comey was leading an investigation into the Trump campaign and its ties to Russia. “Dems in Meltdown Over Comey Firing,” declared a headline on Fox News, as Tucker Carlson gleefully replayed clips of Democrats denouncing the move. “It’s just insane actually,” he said, referring to their reactions. On Fox and talk radio, the message was the same, with only a few conservatives willing to sound a discordant or even cautious note…

But perhaps most important, we saw once again how conservatism, with its belief in ordered liberty, is being eclipsed by something different: Loathing those who loathe the president. Rabid anti-anti-Trumpism…

actions, his conservative champions change the subject to (1) the biased “fake news” media, (2) over-the-top liberals, (3) hypocrites on the left, (4) anyone else victimizing Mr. Trump or his supporters and (5) whataboutism, as in “What about Obama?” “What about Clinton?”

For the anti-anti-Trump pundit, whatever the allegation against Mr. Trump, whatever his blunders or foibles, the other side is always worse.

But the real heart of anti-anti-Trumpism is the delight in the frustration and anger of his opponents. Mr. Trump’s base is unlikely to hold him either to promises or tangible achievements, because conservative politics is now less about ideas or accomplishments than it is about making the right enemies cry out in anguish.

13) Dahlia Lithwick with Laurence Tribe’s case for impeachment regarding the Comey firing.

14) Why everything we know about salt may be wrong.

15) Of course the Trump administration and Betsy DeVos are doing all the wrong things on student debt:

But with a series of regulatory changes, the Trump administration is taking us in the wrong direction, making student loans riskier, more expensive and more burdensome for borrowers.

First, the Education Department has weakened accountability for the companies that administer student loans. Second, it has made it more difficult for borrowers to apply for, and stay enrolled in, income-based payment plans. Third, Betsy DeVos, the education secretary, has given banks more leeway to charge borrowers high fees — as much as 16 percent of the balance owed — if they fall behind.

16) The Atlantic’s Adam Serwer and Peter Beinart on Comey.  Both really good takes.

17) Donald Trump wants steam catapults on aircraft carriers, damnit!  If it was good enough for Maverick and Ice Man…

18) Honestly, it never ceases to amaze how breathtakingly ignorant Donald Trump is about policy and how incoherent he is when attempting to discuss it.  Yglesias breaks down his recent Economist interview.

19) Big 538 piece on the long, complicated story behind all the false voter fraud claims from the right.

Quick hits (part I)

1) More evidence of the ongoing damage of environmental lead.  As Brendan Nyhan says (and Drum, of course):, “Can’t believe lead removal and mitigation isn’t a first-order policy concern.”  Yep.

2) Ed Yong on the evolution of beauty in animals, and the always-fascinating story of duck sex.

3) Pretty sure my undergrads could tear apart this pretty anemic “rich people always get better stuff” defense our Republican health care.

4) Economists who believe in Trump’s approach to supply side economics (tax cuts pay for themselves through greater economic growth) = economists who misread the question.

5) The Russian experiment to tame foxes is so fascinating and deserves the wider audience this book should bring it.

6) I hope it’s actually good, because I’m pretty sure I’m going to see Blade Runner 2049 no matter what.

7) How the damn anti-vaxxers created a measles outbreak in Minneapolis.

8) Yascha Mounk throws a glass of cold water on happiness over Macron’s win:

But while it’s only natural to be relieved, this is no time to get complacent. On the contrary, there are four reasons why the triumphalist narrative that is already taking hold in the aftermath of the French elections is understating the populist threat to liberal democracy…

Finally, and most important, a lot of the commentary on the rise of populism is treating the success of candidates such as Trump as though they were the result of a mysterious virus that might subside just as quickly as it spread. But to make this argument is to close our eyes to the fact that the current challenge to the political system has been steadily growing over time—which suggests that it has deep, structural causes.

9) I presume I missed this two years ago, but nice to see Columbia Journalism Review give credit to the terrific (and incredibly rare) state politics coverage from our local TV station, WRAL.

10) So, somehow I had never read the famous 1948 short story, “The Lottery.”  Alexandra Petri has, and she has a lot of fun with it.  Well worth reading both.

11) Will Saletan with all the ways Republicans are trying to defend the AHCA.  A lot of explanation that really comes down to one thing: lie.  

12) Catherine Rampell makes the case that Trump’s policies are basically waging a war on Millennials.

13) Warren Buffett appreciates the biggest long term threat to our economy– health care:

Mr. Buffett, in a remarkably blunt and pointed remark, implicitly rebuked his fellow chief executives, who have been lobbying the Trump administration and Washington lawmakers to lower corporate taxes.

In truth, Mr. Buffett said, a specter much more sinister than corporate taxes is looming over American businesses: health care costs. And chief executives who have been maniacally focused on seeking relief from their tax bills would be smart to shift their attention to these costs, which are swelling and swallowing their profits.

It was clarifying to hear Mr. Buffett frame things this way. The need for corporate tax relief has become the lodestar of the corner office, with C.E.O.s rhapsodizing over President Trump’s plan to try to stimulate growth by cutting tax rates for businesses.

14) The key to Trump’s win… white turnout up; Black turnout down:

15) With Comey, it’s easy to forget the mess that is Michael Flynn and Trump’s failure to fire him after he knew he was compromised by the Russians.

16) In no surprise at all, cultural anxiety– not economic concerns– where key in white working class voting for Trump.  German Lopez with summary of PRRI report:

The new survey, by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) for the Atlantic, focused on white working-class voters (those without a college education or salaried jobs), who were part of the key demographic behind Trump’s rise. It looked at how much of their support for Trump correlated with, among other factors, “fears about cultural displacement” — a polite way of describing fears of immigrants from other countries and people of other races.

PRRI concluded: “White working-class voters who say they often feel like a stranger in their own land and who believe the U.S. needs protecting against foreign influence were 3.5 times more likely to favor Trump than those who did not share these concerns.”  [emphasis mine]

17) This interactive dialect map is from 2013 and I probably shared it then, but a friend recently posted on FB and it is so amazing how accurate this is.  It pegged me to Arlington, VA– just miles from my childhood home of Springfield, VA.

18) Good thing Jessica Colotl has had her DACA status revoked and is being sent back to Mexico.  Just the kind of person who is ruining this country.  And, oh my, this 60 Minutes story about the woman married to an illegal immigrant who voted for Trump because she didn’t think her husband was a “bad hombre.”  Ugh.

19) Dylan Matthews on how liberals can improve the tax code.

20) Okay, I really don’t know enough history on the matter to say “worst Attorney General ever,” but now Sessions wants to re-up harsher punishments on low-level drug offenders.

21) Very much enjoyed Friedersdorf’s practical political advice for liberals.

22) David Leonhardt on how the French media got the leaks right and American media didn’t:

The two cases obviously are not identical. (And van Kote wasn’t criticizing American journalism; the criticisms are mine.) But they are similar enough to say that the French media exercised better, more sober judgment than the American media.

This issue isn’t going away. Our digital world ensures that the private information of public figures, and not-so-public ones, will be released again in the future.

The media cannot always ignore that information, tempting as it may seem. But it also should not pretend that the only two options are neglect and sensationalism. There is a middle ground, one where journalistic judgment should prioritize news over the whiff of news.

23) The Census is important.  The director quitting in protest is not good.

24) The 13-year old Spanish girls soccer team that beat all the boys.  At younger ages, there’s really no reason girls teams shouldn’t be able to beat boys.  13 is probably about the last age this could happen.

25) The nationalist/populist right can only do as well as the center-right will let it.  In France, that was a huge loss.  In the U.S., the mainstream right gave it the presidency.

26) Congratulations to EMG (or actually, EGW now) on her lovely wedding yesterday evening.  My guess is she’s not spending her post-wedding morning catching up on quick hits– but she better get to it.

Town of Cary– not so bad after all?

The other day a student of mine asked me the difference between Cary and Apex, NC.  I explained that, “Apex is what people think Cary is.”  I.e., Homogeneously rich and white. Of course, pretty recently I quoted extensively from a recent N&O Op-Ed about Habitat for Humanity in Cary and drew some pretty unsavory conclusions:

But, alas, it looks like some Cary-ites in the wealthier western part of town cannot even stomach lower income folks living near them…

Anyway, this is only one side of the story, but it’s a pretty damning side.

Well, at least I recognized it was only one side of the story.  Honestly, I figured if the N&O was running an Op-Ed which seemed to be largely based on facts, I could count on it.  Well, maybe not so much.  I received a  very pleasant email from Alicia Angell, a nearby resident, to set me straight.  With her permission, here’s some excerpts (I’ve highlighted some of the most compelling arguments):

First, there have been significant flooding problems in the neighborhoods surrounding this property, and a home 3 doors down was bought and demolished a few years ago by the Town of Cary.  Also, the residents’ concerns about the proposed development blending in with the rest of the neighborhood are valid and supported by the policies in the new Cary Community Plan as well as by the Land Development Ordinance. Check out the Planning and Zoning members’ comments from the link below(at 2:11) and the reasons they voted against the rezoning at their April 17th meeting.   Also, the Town Council and P&Z cannot consider the developer when deciding on rezoning cases, they are required to make their decision based solely on land use.

http://carync.iqm2.com/Citizens/SplitView.aspx?Mode=Video&MeetingID=2634&Format=Minutes

Another fact to be aware of, is when the neighbors on Trimble first learned that the buyer was planning a townhome development there, no one knew it would be Habitat. Neither Bethel nor town staff revealed who the developer was, but the neighbors begin to organize because they wanted a development build that would blend with the neighborhood. It wasn’t until a few weeks before the December neighborhood meeting that the neighbors became aware that the buyer was Habitat.

The editorial says that Habitat reduced the number of units because of neighbors’ concerns.  Actually,  Habitat removed the townhomes from the plan because a few days before the February Town Council meeting they discovered that a buffer would be required which would prevent them from building the density they wanted.  If you watch the Town Council meeting from February 23rd, Kevin Campbell of Habitat explains why the number was reduced (starting at 29:20). “That requirement for that buffer makes the plan that we submitted not practical from our perspective.”

http://carync.iqm2.com/Citizens/SplitView.aspx?Mode=Video&MeetingID=2634&Format=Minutes

Cary has long been a big supporter of Habitat, and has contributed several millions of dollars over the years. There are nearly 50 Habitat homes in Cary and if this rezoning is denied, the $283,000 that has been allocated to this project will likely be transferred to a new Habitat project, and maybe one where they can build the higher density they want.  All of the other Habitat developments in Cary were built to blend with the neighborhoods around them.  If you go visit these developments, you will see that they do, and that they are nearly indistinguishable from the market rate homes nearby.  On Habitat’s website they state  ”Our houses are  designed to take on the look and feel of their neighborhoods”.   The plans for Trimble don’t.

In addition to the Habitat homes, there are also 10 apartment complexes in Cary that are designated for low income residents and a town sponsored program to help lower income homeowners make expensive repairs to their homes. The assumption by some that Cary doesn’t support affordable housing just isn’t true.

Finally, the neighborhoods surrounding this property are not wealthy.  In fact, the area is one of the more affordable parts of Cary.  Homes sell for around $250,000 and townhomes nearby sell for as low as $100,000. The residents here are diverse in ethnicity, income level and religious affiliation and hold many of the occupations mentioned in the editorial; teachers, tradesmen, policemen, etc. 

Now, I’ll be honest, this issue is not sufficiently important to me to do any further research, but given Angell’s compelling case as well as what I’ve heard in-person from a very liberal fellow Cary resident, I think it is safe to say I blogged too soon on this last one.  Or heck, maybe Habitat really has been wronged.  But now you have both sides.  Fair and balanced ;-).

But wait, there’s more.  Wrote this up, was ready to post, and then the N&O comes out with a big article.  Finally found time to link and include some of it’s highlights:

The town’s planning board sided with neighbors last month when it voted 5-3 to not recommend approval of the project. The Cary Town Council, which has the final say, is set to vote on the plan May 25.

“I’d say it’s the most organized opposition I’ve ever seen to something like this,” said John Donachie, a Cary planner who works on affordable housing.

 The controversy highlights the challenges faced by affordable housing efforts in Cary, where land is pricey and scarce and homes are increasingly beyond reach for many families. The average home price in Cary is $340,000.

When organizations like Habitat find land for homes, neighbors sometimes make it clear they’d prefer such projects go elsewhere.

Much of Wake’s affordable housing is in eastern Wake County, where land is cheaper and “the opposition isn’t as sophisticated,” said Kevin Campbell, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Wake County.

About 10 percent of all housing units in Knightdale, Zebulon and Wendell are publicly assisted, either through the federal Section 8 program or through tax incentives for developers.

In Cary, about 1 percent of the housing supply is publicly assisted…

Scottish Hills is an older neighborhood, where homes cost about $250,000.

Campbell said he’s wary of neighbors’ arguments.

“When you say something’s not compatible, you’re saying, ‘We don’t want anything different than what’s here already,’ and it’s not a large step to saying, ‘We don’t want any different people,’ ” Campbell said. “That’s something political leaders need to look out for – that zoning doesn’t become an exclusionary tool.”

You know, that “not compatible” or “doesn’t fit” argument certainly can be problematic.  But my guess is they really just didn’t want townhomes or small homes and were thinking of property values, not necessarily the type of people who would live in the home.  I think it is important that evidence seems to indicate that the objections were to these smaller homes, period, not “Habitat” homes.

I do like the N&O’s bigger picture focus on the difficulty of building more affordable housing in Cary vs. other parts of Wake.  Anyway, was the opposition just a bunch of Cary snobs?  I think not.  Should we be concerned when communities and local opposition make it hard to build affordable housing?  Yes.  As Donald Trump would say, “who knew affordable housing could be complicated?”

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