Quick hits (part II)

Hmmm, well I never did get to 1B.  And Part II is really late.  Sorry.

1) This is something.  Local bagel shop owner accidentally caught on voicemail with racist rant against our new Wake County Sheriff.  That will not be good for business.

2) This “progressive” case against Beto made me like Beto more:

In the meantime, though, we have the national election to think about, and when it comes to national politics, O’Rourke is plainly uninspiring. As Zaid Jilani pointed out at Current Affairs, O’Rourke’s congressional voting record signals skepticism about progressive priorities. “While the Democratic base is coalescing around single-payer health care and free college, O’Rourke sponsored neither House bill,” Jilani wrote, “During his time in Congress, he never joined the Congressional Progressive Caucus.” Instead, O’Rourke is a member of the New Democrat Coalition, a centrist caucus with Clintonian views on health care, education and trade.

Where it comes to Medicare-for-all, O’Rourke has been carefully unclear about his stance: A Politico article from July notes that, at least for a time, he had sworn off using the terms “single payer” or “Medicare for all,” instead using the less-specific, policy-neutral phrase “universal, guaranteed, high-quality health care for all.” His campaign website remains unclear, stating that he aims for achieving universal health-care coverage “whether it be through a single payer system, a dual system, or otherwise.”

This is just Tea Party of the Left stupid “progressivism.”  Firstly, all sorts of modern democracies have way better national, universal healthcare without single payer.  That should be the damn goal.  Secondly, yeah, free college is great, but it benefits rich and middle-class far more than the poor.  This should not be the core of the liberal agenda.

3) Drum, “Foodborne Illnesses Were Up Last Year. They May Be Up Again in 2018.”  If only we could be rational about our food and just irradiate it already instead of freaking out about “radiation!”

In any case, I’m not really sure why we put up with this. I’ve probably mentioned this before, but a big part of the answer to food poisoning is simple: irradiation. It’s simple, safe, and it’s old technology with years of use behind it. It won’t do anything for foodborne illnesses introduced during prep—Chipotle can’t run your tacos through an irraditation machine on the way to the cash register—but it would be a boon to the packaged food industry. For all practical purposes, if it were made mandatory it would entirely eliminate foodborne illnesses in raw commercial and packaged foods.

But it’s opposed by conservatives because it’s a regulation that would save lives, and who wants that? And to make things worse, it’s also opposed by many liberals, who view it as a Frankenfood sort of thing that would destroy their precious organic labels. In fact, it would do no such thing. It doesn’t leave any radiation behind, it doesn’t kill off vitamins, and it doesn’t affect the taste of food. It just kills off pathogens, the same as pasteurizing milk.

Why, even lefty rags like Mother Jones think it’s a good idea. You can read all about it here.

4) This is really cool a comic-book-style, “What doctors know about CPR

5) Brian Beutler, “Republicans recommit to to Trump’s impunity”

This highlights the inherent danger of buying your own bullshit when you’re both powerful and corrupt. Republicans in Congress spent the better part of two years trying to shake classified and sensitive information about both the Clinton-email and Trump-Russia investigations loose from the Justice Department, to actively mislead as many people as possible about why Trump confederates keep getting charged with federal crimes. Republicans are desperate for their voters to believe that Trump is the victim of a hidden political conspiracy organized inside the Justice Department, because the alternative is a broad but accurate consensus that the Trump campaign engaged in a genuine criminal conspiracy to cheat in the 2016 election, and that congressional Republicans are complicit in those crimes.

In the end, none of that information was even slightly “devastating” to Democrats. Its real purpose was to flood the zone with ephemera, and potentially harm national security, to obscure the fruits of news reporting and the Russia investigation, and provide Trump with some illusory sense of revenge.

Come January, Republicans won’t control the House anymore, but their ability to produce reams of bullshit will be barely diminished.

There has likely never been a greater mismatch between a president’s corruption and the Congress’s indifference than we’ve witnessed the past two years. In many instances, Republicans have enabled and partaken in the corruption. It is as if Republicans controlled Congress during Watergate, and worked hand in glove with a vast propaganda apparatus not to investigate President Nixon but to smear Archibald Cox.

The GOP response to the puncturing of that impunity will be to characterize any level of oversight beyond what Republicans provided in 2017 and 2018 as “presidential harassment,” and seek to neutralize it with genuine harassment of current and former civil servants. The coming House Judiciary Committee showdown with Comey is best understood less as a parting shot than as the teeing up of diversionary nonsense for Senate Republicans. For instance, the terms of Comey’s agreement with Republicans seem not to preclude Republicans from redacting the transcript, declaring the redacted information classified, and saying it contains evidence that Comey stonewalled or misled the committee. Senate Republicans would then be able to begin the new Congress with yet more counter investigations, designed to muddy the waters whenever the House’s genuine oversight embarrasses the president. We should expect two more years of Nunes memos, because that is what Republicans have promised.

And why wouldn’t they? The Nunes memo is rightly mocked in hindsight, and the House Intelligence Committee’s “report” on Russian election interference laundered illegal false statements, but these efforts also helped social media trolls spread disinformation, and, at least for a time, benefited from credulous coverage in the mainstream press. If the goal is not to win elections, but to protect Trump from the kind of collapse in public opinion that would make him vulnerable to impeachment, they already have proof of concept that the strategy is effective.

The disempowering of newly elected Democrats, and the sowing doubt about the legitimacy of elections Republicans lost aren’t distinct cases of Republicans thumbing their noses at voters, but part of the same overarching plan. The notions that the president should be immune from accountability, and that harassing his political opponents is a proper means of protecting him politically, are close cousins to the idea that he can not be defeated legitimately. Republicans will hobble through 2020 as best they can with whataboutist propaganda and voter suppression, and if those tactics aren’t enough to deliver Trump re-election, they can still claim the results of the election are invalid.

6) Enjoyed this from Seth Masket in how both George HW Bush’s were unusual– parties don’t usually get a third straight term and incumbents usually win.

7) Enjoyed Drum’s mini-rant on nature versus nurture.  Of course it’s both and it is so lame to always set up just one or the other as a straw men. And, yes, there are real differences between male and female brains, but it is generally absurd to talk about the “male brain” and the “female brain.”

8) The new David Attenborough series “Dynasties” will probably end up running on the Greene family television lots (always put on Planet Earth when there’s nothing else to grab my attention).  Here’s an awesome sneak-peak.

9) This interview with Claire McCaskill annoyed me because she focused on how Democrats have “failed” rural Americans.  Only in the sense that they have failed to validate their racial resentment.

10) And, speaking of race, a nice Op-Ed: “Yes, Jury Selection Is as Racist as You Think. Now We Have Proof:
A new study from North Carolina confirms some long-held folk wisdom about race and juries. The good news is there are two doable solutions.”

11) Why are rich people always wanting even more money?  Great explanation here.

As the number of millionaires and billionaires in the world climbs ever higher, there are a growing number of people who possess more money than they could ever reasonably spend on even the lushest goods.But at a certain level of wealth, the next million isn’t going to suddenly revolutionize their lifestyle. What drives people, once they’ve reached that point, to keep pursuing more?There are some good explanations, I found, after talking to a few people who’ve spent significant amounts of time in the presence of and/or researching the really, really rich. Michael Norton, a Harvard Business School professor who has studied the connections between happiness and wealth, had a particularly elegant model for understanding this pattern of behavior.Norton says that research regularly points to two central questions that people ask themselves when determining whether they’re satisfied with something in their life: Am I doing better than I was before? and Am I doing better than other people? This applies to wealth, but also to attractiveness, height, and other things that people fret about.

“But the problem is,” Norton says, “a lot of the things that really matter in life are hard to measure. So if you wanted to be a good parent, it’s a little hard to know if you’re being a better parent now than you were a year ago, and it’s also hard to know if you’re a better parent than the neighbors.”

12) Time for me to start offering cookies on class evaluation day?  Survey say yes.

Objectives

Results from end‐of‐course student evaluations of teaching (SETs) are taken seriously by faculties and form part of a decision base for the recruitment of academic staff, the distribution of funds and changes to curricula. However, there is some doubt as to whether these evaluation instruments accurately measure the quality of course content, teaching and knowledge transfer. We investigated whether the provision of chocolate cookies as a content‐unrelated intervention influences SET results.

Methods

We performed a randomised controlled trial in the setting of a curricular emergency medicine course. Participants were 118 third‐year medical students. Participants were randomly allocated into 20 groups, 10 of which had free access to 500 g of chocolate cookies during an emergency medicine course session (cookie group) and 10 of which did not (control group). All groups were taught by the same teachers. Educational content and course material were the same for both groups. After the course, all students were asked to complete a 38‐question evaluation form.

Results

A total of 112 students completed the evaluation form. The cookie group evaluated teachers significantly better than the control group (113.4 ± 4.9 versus 109.2 ± 7.3; p = 0.001, effect size 0.68). Course material was considered better (10.1 ± 2.3 versus 8.4 ± 2.8; p = 0.001, effect size 0.66) and summation scores evaluating the course overall were significantly higher (224.5 ± 12.5 versus 217.2 ± 16.1; p = 0.008, effect size 0.51) in the cookie group.

Conclusions

The provision of chocolate cookies had a significant effect on course evaluation. These findings question the validity of SETs and their use in making widespread decisions within a faculty.

13) It really shouldn’t take the one Black Republican in the Senate to stop the appointment of federal judges with a racially problematic history.  But it does.  For now, hooray, for Tim Scott.

It is a common rhetorical trope among liberals to suggest that conservative giants of the past would not recognize today’s party of Trump. But Jesse Helms almost certainly would. That’s the problem.

Farr should never have been nominated, and once nominated, the vote against him should have been 0–100. Scott’s stand against Farr was admirable. But it should not fall to him alone to conclude that a man who spent his career trying to prevent his fellow citizens from voting does not belong on the federal bench. Scott has no obligations to the American people that his Republican colleagues do not share. And one of those obligations is to defend the American people from those who would seek to infringe on their basic constitutional rights, no matter what party they belong to, no matter what their racial background might be, and no matter whom they might vote for.

14) Personally, I never use the word “shitstorm,” but was fascinated to learn not just the different meaning, but different level of appropriateness in German and English.

15) Today’s GOP, “Texas Republican Who Helped Write Party’s Platform Says He Is “a White Nationalist and Proud of It”

16) The Trump White House’s plans to counter the Mueller report are, as it turns out, about as well thought-out as most of Trump’s plans.

17) Post, “The man at the center of fraud probe in North Carolina may have been doing this for eight years.”

18) So, my son Alex is on a medicine to try and reduce a “benign” brain tumor that is part of his rare disease.  Treatment seems to be going well, but we won’t know for sure till we get an MRI in a couple months.  Among other really cools things about this medication that is hopefully helping him avoid surgery is that it was discovered in soil samples from Easter Island.

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Quick hits (part IA)

It was a crazy day yesterday, but I wanted to have at least some of these up and ready at the crack of dawn Saturday (just in case super-reader DJC wants to read a few before walking 42km to celebrate his 42nd birthday).

1) Wired article argues that the latest Mueller filings near the worst case (for Trump, that is) scenario:

A year ago, Lawfare’s Benjamin Wittes and Quinta Jurecic outlined seven possible scenarios about Trump and Russia, arranged from most innocent to most guilty. Fifth on that list was “Russian Intelligence Actively Penetrated the Trump Campaign—And Trump Knew or Should Have Known,” escalating from there to #6 “Kompromat,” and topping out at the once unimaginable #7, “The President of the United States is a Russian Agent.”

After the latest disclosures, we’re steadily into Scenario #5, and can easily imagine #6.

2) Really liked this Post piece on the few homes that survived the wildfires in California.  Short version– with more thoughtful design, we can do a lot better.  There was also a great 99% Invisible podcast on this this past summer.

3) NYT asks, “North Carolina Republicans Targeted Voter Fraud. Did They Look at the Wrong Kind?”  Ummm, unequivocally, yes.

It was a triumphant moment for North Carolina Republicans in 2013 when they enacted one of the nation’s most aggressive voter-identification laws.

The measure would combat voter fraud, they argued — though, as federal courts later ruled, it would almost certainly reduce African-American Democratic turnout. At the same time, the law made it easier to obtain mail-in absentee ballots, a form of voting that Republicans used more than Democrats.

But now, with an investigation underway into potential abuse of absentee ballots in a disputed House race, North Carolina’s tangled, partisan history of voting rights and fraud is under a spotlight — and Republicans find themselves on the defensive about whether their reliance on voter identification to combat fraud focused on the wrong source of trouble.

“The history of fraud in North Carolina is mostly in absentee ballots,” said Bill Gilkeson, a former lawyer for the General Assembly who worked on election issues. “That’s where the fraud really happens, and there’s a long history.”

4) A nice appreciation of Nivana’s Nevermind in the New Yorker.  I’d definitely put this among my top 5 favorite albums.

5) Interesting look into the psychology of Michael Cohen and why he is cooperating so much with Mueller.

6) Vanity Fair with what it’s like to be a politically conservative woman at UNC.

7) I hate gender reveal parties.  Shouldn’t take a transgender person to make clear just how wrong they are (though, this transgender columnist does a great job of it).  Mind you, I’m a big fan of finding out the gender before birth, for reasons I’ll happily discuss, but there’s just so much wrong with gender reveals, even when they don’t start wildfires.

8) Enjoyed Franklin Foer on GHWB as “the last WASP president:

The world overflows with affection for the man long known as Poppy—that clubbable, slightly daffy avatar of decency. But the encomiums for George H. W. Bush are coated in thick, water-beading layers of nostalgia. On the surface, obituaries for 41 carry the longing for a time when American politics was ruled by men of “high character” and a sense of “public duty,” the very antithesis of the present partisan era’s coarseness.

What goes unstated, however, is the subtext of that yearning. All the florid remembrances are packed with fondness for a bygone institution known as the Establishment, hardened in the cold of New England boarding schools, acculturated by the late-night rituals of Skull and Bones, sent off to the world with a sense of noblesse oblige. For more than a century, this Establishment resided at the top of the American caste system. Now it is gone, and apparently people wish it weren’t.

9) And Jeet Heer’s balanced take:

There are genuine reasons to praise Bush. Although he could be brutally demagogic when running for office—aside from the racist “Willie Horton” ad released by his allies, Bush’s 1988 campaign relied on the portrayal of Bush as a true American who loved the Pledge of Allegiance, as opposed to the unpatriotic “Greek” Michael Dukakis—Bush was an institutionalist who tried to make government work. That meant reaching across the aisle and working with Democrats in a way that now seems inconceivable, leading to the passage of Americans With Disability Act, the amendment of Clean Air Act, and accepting tax increases to lower the deficit. Bush’s institutionalist instincts also stood him in good stead in foreign policy, where he dealt with world-changing events like the end of the Cold War and Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait by deftly deploying alliances and international organizations like NATO and the United Nations…

Still, to remember Bush only for his successes ignores the grievous faults of that Establishment—particularly its cruelty towards socially marginal groups. Foer, along with David Greenberg writing in Politico, does well to remind readers how Bush opportunistically opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in his failed bid to win a congressional seat in Texas. As a member of the Reagan administration, he opposed sanctioning Apartheid South Africa. The Willie Horton ad is rightly seen as a precursor to Donald Trump’s race-baiting politics.

A cynical willingness to deploy racism isn’t the only point of overlap between Bush and Trump. Bush stuck with a flawed Supreme Court candidate—Clarence Thomaseven after credible allegations emerged that he was guilty of sexual harassment. And Bush’s cynicism about human rights (notably his mild response to 1989’s Tiananmen Square massacre in China) calls to mind Trump’s equal indifference to the issue.

10) I have always found not the Civil War itself, but the years leading up to it and the ideological clashes involved to be the most fascinating part of American history.   Gordon Wood with a great essay on these clashes based on two new books about the pre Civil War era.  Short version: it’s complicated.  Long version: read it.

Quick hits (part II)

1) How all those deliveries for on-line shopping can make traffic worse.

2) Marc Hetherington (and colleagues) is back at it in a nice Vox piece (this one connecting to the rise of right-wing populism):

Those who prioritize order are more likely to value obedience in children

This relationship might seem at first like a random correlation, but it’s far from it. We believe that these child-rearing ideas capture people’s unreported worldviews — their deep-seated understanding of how the world works and what a good society ought to be. Throughout all human history, people have had worldviews. But they haven’t always been connected to politics like they are now in the US, and, increasingly, the rest of the world.

When the central focus of political conflict was economic — how much government ought to spend and how tightly it ought to regulate business, as it was in the US for most of the 20th century — this worldview did little to structure that conflict. There is no reason to think that how wary a person is about the dangers lurking in the world ought to have anything to do with how much they think the government ought to spend on highways or the merits they see in the free enterprise system.

As American party conflict shifted in the late 20th and early 21st century toward racial and gender equality, sexual orientation, immigration, various religious matters, and how best to remain safe from terrorism, the dividing lines changed. People’s deeply ingrained worldviews about the relative safety of these dramatic social changes and the world around us, in general, evolved into the key pivot between Republicans and Democrats.

Their response is to try to impose order on their political system, much like parents might want to impose order on a chaotic household by emphasizing the qualities of respect, obedience, and good manners in children. Although a preference for traditional qualities in children is fine when managing a household — families, after all, are not democracies and children are not political citizens — imposing them on the political sphere is not entirely benign.

Those who prefer obedient, respectful children tend to be less concerned about bedrock democratic principles like free speech and a free press, which can, of course, produce disagreement. They are more open to a strongman leader who might not heed the legislature or judiciary, but who promises a more orderly society.

No matter where they pop up, right-wing populists use a core set of strategies that appeal to a worldview that desires order and predictability. They disparage challengers of traditional hierarchy, including women, racial and ethnic minorities, and LGBTQ people. They advocate granting police wide latitude to weaken social movements that could upset the status quo. And they highlight the potential perils of immigrants — outsiders — in the country…

We are, frankly, alarmed. Most citizens don’t want to live under authoritarian governments that rig or cancel elections. Few citizens clamor for military dictatorships. To use the most extreme example, Germans didn’t vote for Adolph Hitler because he promised to end democracy.

But when people feel like chaos is descending on their society and threats from the outside are ubiquitous, they are willing to turn a blind eye to growing authoritarianism in the interest of the instituting a more “orderly” society.

Democracy is inherently fragile. When right wing-populists find their way into office, the door is open to backsliding on the freedoms and protections of modern democracy as long as it’s done in the name of providing order or harkening back to a time that the country was great.

3) NC Republicans have been surprisingly reasonable, so far, with the new Voter ID law.  Of particular interest to me, unlike their 2013 effort, this one is dramatically more fair to college students.

4) I was no fan of George H.W. Bush at the time, but I did quite enjoy Frank Bruni’s take on the “kinder,” “gentler” George Bush.

5) Nice to see NYT with this “Analysis” piece (rather than an Op-Ed) on Trump’s penchant for lying and liars:

Even more Trump associates are under investigation for the same offense. They are part of a group of people surrounding Mr. Trump — including some White House and cabinet officials — who contribute to a culture of bending, if not outright breaking, the truth, and whose leading exemplar is Mr. Trump himself.

Mr. Trump looks for people who share his disregard for the truth and are willing to parrot him, “even if it’s a lie, even if they know it’s a lie, and even if he said the opposite the day before,” said Gwenda Blair, a Trump biographer. They must be “loyal to what he is saying right now,” she said, or he sees them as “a traitor.”

Campaign aides often echoed Mr. Trump’s pronouncements knowing they were false. People joined the top levels of his administration with the realization that they would be expected to embrace what Mr. Trump said, no matter how far from the truth or how much their reputations suffered.

6) Just one season of football seems to lead to structural changes in the brains of young football players.  That’s not good.

7) Republicans changing the rules whenever they lose a governorship is so inimical to democracy. Ugh.

8) David Brooks on how to think about the economy in age of social collapse.

There’s an interesting debate going on in conservative circles over whether we have overvalued total G.D.P. growth in our economic policy and undervalued programs that specifically foster dignity-enhancing work. The way I see it is this: It’s nonsense to have an economic policy — or any policy — that doesn’t account for and address the social catastrophe happening all around us. Every single other issue exists under the shadow of this one.

Conservatives were wrong to think that economic growth would lead to healthy families and communities all by itself. Moderate Democrats were wrong to think it was sufficient to maximize growth and then address inequalities with transfer payments. The progressives are wrong to think life would be better if we just made our political economy look more like Denmark’s. The Danes and the Swedes take for granted a cohesive social fabric that simply does not exist here.

To make the crucial differences, economic policymakers are going to have to get out of the silos of their economic training and figure out how economic levers can have moral, communal and sociological effect. Oren Cass’s book “The Once and Future Worker” begins this exploration, as do Isabelle Sawhill’s “The Forgotten Americans” and Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse’s “Them: Why We Hate Each Other — and How to Heal.”

It’s not jobs, jobs, jobs anymore. It’s relationships, relationships, relationships.

9) The content cycle:

But the real question is, why did Tucker Carlson choose to devote so much of his valuable airtime to a HuffPost video about tweets, instead of, say, to educating and empowering his viewers to take action in their communities? One answer might be “because he is a fundamentally unserious person who fumbled his way into a lucrative career of stoking fear and resentment in the elderly.” But let’s not be snide about Tucker Carlson! Let’s be scientific. The reason that Tucker Carlson devoted a segment to Rudolph is because Tucker Carlson, like a mountain river, serves a key role in a beautiful and essential natural process: the Content Cycle. And “Problematic Rudolph” is an object lesson in that process.

The Content Cycle, a phrase I did not just come up with right now, describes how content arises from the internet, is absorbed into cable television, and then gets redistributed back into the internet for the cycle to begin anew. Like the water cycle, the Content Cycle provides sustenance and habitation to a multitude of organisms, and in many ways it exists independently of human thought. Let’s walk through Problematic Rudolph as our emblematic example of the Content Cycle.

10) Michele Goldberg, “Trump Is Compromised by Russia: Michael Cohen’s latest plea is proof.”

But even before those inquiries begin, we can see that Putin has been in possession of crucial information about Trump’s business interests that the president deliberately hid from the American people. In a normal political world, Republicans would have enough patriotism to find this alarming and humiliating. Every day of the Trump presidency is a national security emergency. The question now is whether Senate Republicans, who could actually do something about it, will ever be moved to care.

11) This Buzzfeed feature on “rape by fraud” was absolutely fascinating (and disturbing).

12) Bookmarking this, “The 9 essential cookies every home baker should know how to make.”

13) Very encouraging to see that it looks like the Supreme Court has about had it with the abomination that is Civil Asset Forfeiture.

Tyson Timbs just wants his car back. In 2015, Timbs was charged with selling heroin to undercover officers in Indiana to fund his opioid addiction. After he pleaded guilty, a private law firm filed a lawsuit on behalf of the state to confiscate his Land Rover SUV, valued at $42,000. That’s more than four times the maximum $10,000 fine for Timbs’ crimes. But because he briefly carried drugs in the vehicle, the firm claimed that it could seize and sell it, turning over some of the profit to Indiana and pocketing the rest.

Welcome to the topsy-turvy world of civil asset forfeiture, also known as legalized theft. Every year, the federal and state governments obtain billions of dollars thanks to the work of prosecutors who expropriate property with some tenuous connection to a crime. Most states use the money to fund law enforcement, called policing for profit. Indiana also lets private attorneys file forfeiture claims against defendants, earning contingency fees and a share of the profit. That’s what happened to Timbs—so he sued, insisting that extreme forfeiture violates the Constitution. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court signaled that it agreed, with an unusual coalition of justices assailing the practice. A decision for Timbs could curb law enforcement abuses across the country, limiting one of the most scandalous components of our criminal justice system.

14) Enjoyed seeing my Ohio State Professors Herb Asher, and my dissertation adviser Paul Beck, quoted in this Thomas Edsall article on the Democrats 2020 electoral college strategy?  Try to recapture the industrial midwest or focus more on Arizona, Georgia, etc.  I say… both!

15) Policy lessons from Dayton, Ohio on reducing opioid overdoses.  Lives are at stake– we can and need to implement these policies everywhere we can.

16) Cognitive dissonance alert.  I want Ben Sasse to be the thoughtful person who gave this great interview about reading books not the person with his voting record in the Senate.

Quick hits (part II)

1) So, I was never a big fan of “The Breakfast Club,” but my son actually had to watch it for a college class and it’s currently free on Netflix, so…  Still not a big fan.  I enjoyed this piece which states the basic premise of the film is “all parents suck.” That’s probably a big reason it never did much for me, or for my son, yesterday, for that matter.  And OMG is Judd Nelson’s character so absurdly annoying and unsympathetic.  Also, this Molly Ringwald piece about her looking back on her movies in the #metoo era is pretty awesome.

2) “Do more cops in schools make them safer? New study looking at NC schools says no.”

3) Peter Beinart on Nancy Pelosi’s excellent leadership skills.  Yes, Democrats need a new generation of leaders, but for now, we sure can’t do anywhere near as good as Pelosi from someone else.

4) The Psychology replication crisis grows ever worse.

5) Many for-profit universities are basically a giant scam and the Obama administration tried to do something about that.  Alas, Betsy DeVos is undoing all that.

6) Oh man, the new climate report is dire.  Interesting that the Trump administration wanted it released on one of the days of the year when Americans pay the least attention to news.

7) I’ve hated the electoral college for pretty much my whole life as a political scientist (largely, because in practice it leaves determining our president to a small fraction of Americans in swing states).  I had no idea that an amendment to end it actually passed the House in 1979 before failing in the Senate.  Anyway, really great look at the history of efforts to end the electoral college. 

8) The Department of Education has new rules to give more rights to the accused in matters of sexual misconduct on campus and restore a semblance of due process.  Somehow, the ACLU has totally lost its way and is actually against due process in these matters.  Conor Friedersdorf:

The ACLU doesn’t object to any of those due-process protections when a person faces criminal charges. Indeed, it favors an even higher burden of proof, “beyond a reasonable doubt,” to find an individual guilty.

But the ACLU opposes the new rules for campuses. “Today Secretary DeVos proposed a rule that would tip the scales against those who raise their voices. We strongly oppose it,” the organization stated on Twitter. “The proposed rule would make schools less safe for survivors of sexual assault and harassment, when there is already alarmingly high rates of campus sexual assaults and harassment that go unreported. It promotes an unfair process, inappropriately favoring the accused and letting schools ignore their responsibility under Title IX to respond promptly and fairly to complaints of sexual violence. We will continue to support survivors.”

One line in particular was shocking to civil libertarians: It promotes an unfair process, inappropriately favoring the accused. Since when does the ACLU believe a process that favors the accused is inappropriate or unfair?

Not when a prosecutor believes she has identified a serial rapist, or a mass murderer, or a terrorist. In those instances, it is the ACLU’s enemies who declare that crime is alarmingly high and reason that strong due-process rights therefore make the world unacceptably unsafe. It is the ACLU’s enemies who conflate supporting survivors of violent crime with weakening protections that guard against punishing innocents. Those enemies now have the ACLU’s own words to use against it.

9) When the government basically says, “don’t go to that island at all, the isolated indigenous people will probably try to kill you.”  You probably shouldn’t, even if you think they really need to learn about Jesus.  Fascinating story about a misguided missionary and a remote, isolated tribe on an island near India.

10) So glad our previous governor, Pat McCrory, is no longer in office.  In a recent interview he falsely claimed that NC college students were breaking the law in voting where they go to school.  Good on the N&O for calling this out in the headline.  This is how you do it, “Former Gov. Pat McCrory falsely says many college students are committing voter fraud.”

11) Just finished “Big Mouth” season 2.  So profane and so funny.

12) Drum asks, “When Will Conservatives Admit That Racism Exists?”

13) My colleague Jim Zink on the need to amend North Carolina’s amendment process:

North Carolinians just approved four of the six proposed amendments on this year’s ballot. Now, they will have to wait and see exactly what some of those amendments do. This is because, unlike almost all amendments on the ballot over the last 30 years, this year’s amendment proposals were not accompanied by any implementing legislation. Most of the important details about how the amendments work will be hashed-out during the lame-duck legislative session after Thanksgiving.

But what if voters who supported the amendments don’t like how they are implemented?

This scenario highlights a weakness in North Carolina’s amendment process. As things currently stand under the North Carolina Constitution, all amendment proposals are referred to voters by the General Assembly; it acts as the gatekeeper to the amendment process. North Carolinians who don’t like how these amendments are implemented or are otherwise troubled by unintended consequences, therefore, would have to convince their representatives, many of whom were responsible for approving and implementing the amendments in the first place, to adjust or repeal the measures. It would be a real challenge to persuade enough legislators to reconsider: proposals to repeal the amendments or to alter them in order to guide the legislature’s implementation of them would have to first gain the support of three-fifths of all members in each house of the General Assembly before being submitted to voters for approval.

One reform that could mitigate some of these issues is to incorporate a citizen initiative process into North Carolina’s amendment procedures. The details of the process vary from state to state, but generally the 18 states that provide for citizen-initiated amendments require initiative-backers to obtain support (usually in the form of signatures) from a specified percentage of the general population or voters.

14) Really interesting NYT feature on how China is defying the standard model by still manufacturing really cheap consumer goods while also moving into high-end, sophisticated production:

China wants to build homegrown champions in cutting-edge industries that rival Western giants like Apple and Qualcomm. While China has a long way to go, the Communist Party is bringing the full financial weight of the state and forcing other countries to play defense.

In doing so, China is staking out a new manufacturing model.

Economic textbooks lay out a common trajectory for developing nations. First they make shoes, then steel. Next they move into cars, computers and cellphones. Eventually the most advanced economies tackle semiconductors and automation. As they climb up the manufacturing ladder, they abandon some cheaper goods along the way.

That’s what the United States, Japan and South Korea did. But China is defying the economic odds by trying to do all of them.

Look at the evolution of what China sells to the rest of the world. As it ramped up its manufacturing engine in 2000, China was pretty good at making basic products like toys and umbrellas.

 

 

Quick hits (part I)

1) Interesting experience this week.  Posted an “action shot” of me teaching on social media and was informed by a FB friend and former student that one of the students in the photo was possibly making a white power symbol.  Whoa.  Had no idea this was a thing.  For the record, the student says it was the circle game.  Anyway, interesting experience and I certainly learned some things.

2) Yglesias makes a good case.  Sure, a few years ago we would all say Beto for President is ridiculous, but in 2018 America, why the hell not?

It didn’t really make sense, in a traditional analysis, for a little-known House member from El Paso to run for Senate in Texas, and it certainly didn’t make sense for small donors to pour huge sums of money into a long-shot Senate campaign.

But pour the money they did, and while O’Rourke lost, the Texas Democratic Party made enough gains down the ballot that most of the people who pitched in seem to feel pretty good about themselves. And they feel good about Beto, a candidate who inspires an unusual degree of enthusiasm among the Democratic Party faithful.

The template would, obviously, be Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, in which a young, good-looking, charismatic politician known for his compelling speeches and pretty blah normal Democratic Party ideology set aside questions about what he’d actually accomplished as a senator and set his sights on the White House. Except O’Rourke doesn’t even have modest senatorial achievements to inflate because he’s not a senator at all. Which makes the whole thing vaguely ridiculous.

Except, again, the fact that it doesn’t quite seem totally ridiculous tells us a lot about the state of politics as we enter the 2020 presidential cycle. It’s a moment when it seems like anything is possible, but where Democrats are frustrated by the simultaneous emergence of a huge field of potential candidates and the absence of a true political superstar.

3) I don’t know that Student Evaluations have no value in assessing college teaching, but as currently used, probably pretty close and they need to be fairly dramatically re-imagined:

Review of syllabi and classroom observation by peers are both more “useful means of evaluating,” he said. “And I think asking students how engaged they were in the class — and especially if they also ask why — gets “better input from them than the standard questionnaire.”

Ken Ryalls, president of The IDEA Center for learning analytics and a publisher of SETs, told Inside Higher Edearlier this year that not all evaluations are created equal.

“Our advice: Find a good SET that is well designed and low in bias; use the data carefully, watching for patterns over time, adjusting for any proven bias, and ignoring irrelevant data; and use multiple sources of data, such as peer evaluations, administrative evaluations, course artifacts and self-evaluations, along with the student perspective from SETs,” he said via email.

4) This compilation of “offensive” phrases not to use at work (shared by a friend on social media) is the sort of thing that gives liberals a bad name.  Sorry, I will keep saying “peanut gallery,” “no can do,” and “rule of thumb.”

5) In light of Ivanka’s emails, Yglesias reminds us of how Hillary’s emails really did dominate the 2016 campaign:

If that sounds far too boring and unimportant to have conceivably dominated the 2016 presidential campaign, then it is difficult to disagree with you. And yet the facts are what they are. Indeed, by September 2015 — more than a year before the voting — Washington Post political writer Chris Cillizza had already written at least 50 items about the email controversy.

Email fever reached its peak on two separate major occasions. One was when Comey closed the investigation. Instead of simply saying “we looked into it and there was no crime,” Comey sought to immunize himself from Clinton critics by breaking with standard procedure to offer extended negative commentary on Clinton’s behavior. He said she was “extremely careless.”

Comey then brought the email story back to the center of the campaign in late October by writing a letter to Congress indicating that the email case had been reopened due to new discoveries on Anthony Weiner’s laptop. It turned out that the new discoveries were an awfully flimsy basis for a subpoena, and the subpoena turned up nothing.

This all still sounds unimportant, but it was not at the time:

Critically, one useful function of email-based criticism of Hillary Clinton was to pull together the Trumpian and establishment wings of the Republican Party. That’s why it served as the central theme of the 2016 Republican convention, allowing the likes of Scott Walker and Rick Perry to deliver on-message speeches rather than clashing with Trump’s message.

6) Really solid Pro Publica feature (here in the N&O) on the history of hog farm lagoons in NC and efforts at finding a better way.  Honestly, it’s really pretty simple– pay just a little bit more for pork and dispose of the waste in a more environmentally responsible way.

7) Interesting column from Frank Bruni about the fact that, of course, physical attractiveness matters for political candidates, but we rarely talk about it.

Etcoff’s research suggests that people read such positive characteristics as competence, trustworthiness and vigor into someone’s attractiveness, and she told me that this might have special political relevance in our present age of saturation imagery.

8) Interesting Vox interview, “The biggest lie we still teach in American history classes”

Sean Illing

According to your book, the biggest lie we are taught in US history class is that the country started out great and we’ve just been getting better ever since.

But on a long enough timeline, isn’t this partially true?

James Loewen

It’s true enough. My problem is the implication that progress is automatic, which it most certainly isn’t. Second, the idea that we’re always getting better keeps us from seeing those times when we’re getting worse.

Consider the period of 1890-1940, when race relations got systematically worse every year. America actually got more racist in its ideology than at any other time in history. After slavery, white people convinced themselves that there were equal opportunities, which was a lie. They told themselves that black people were criminals and incompetent and unable to succeed.

The point isn’t that life was better for people under slavery; it’s that the story of moral and political progress isn’t so clear. And when we pretend that it is neat and clear, we cause teachers to teach and students to think that progress happens automatically, and that destroys the impulse to change things — to become an activist.

9) Honestly, I love most biscuits.  Sure, some are better than others, but it’s rare biscuit that I don’t enjoy.  Anyway, apparently, southern biscuits really are better and it is about White Lily flour, only available in the South.

10) This was a really interesting story about the decline of Victoria’s Secret since it’s business model is based on women’s underwear that appeals to men, rather than to the actual women that wear them.  A lot harder to pull off in modern America.

11) Enjoyed learning about “explosive odor-pursuit dogs” and how they were deployed in NYC for Thanksgiving.

12) The Chicago hospital shooting and our domestic violence problem:

The story, unfortunately, is a familiar one. Fifty-four percent of shootings with four or more victims are related to domestic or family violence, according to the group Everytown for Gun Safety. And many shooters, from Ian David Long, who killed 12 people and himself at a bar in Thousand Oaks, California, on November 7, to Scott Beierle, who killed two women and himself at a Florida yoga studio less than a week prior, have a history of domestic disputes, domestic violence, or hateful rhetoric toward women.

Domestic violence, unfortunately, is common throughout the world. But ready access to guns in the United States makes it more likely that abuse will turn into mass murder. “The prevalence of guns in this country coupled with the prevalence of domestic violence leads to fatalities,” said Jennifer Payne, an attorney with Chicago’s Legal Assistance Foundation, which offers free legal aid to people in poverty, including domestic violence survivors.

Federal law prohibits people convicted of domestic violence from buying guns. But because of loopholes and inconsistent laws at the state level, many abusers own guns anyway. Closing those loopholes would go a long way to breaking the connection between domestic violence and gun homicide.

“We know this is an incredibly common form of intimate partner violence, and we know how to stop it,” said Phoebe Kilgour, a spokesperson for Everytown. All that’s needed is the political will to actually do so.

13) Love this from McSweeney’s, “If people talked to other professionals like they talked to teachers.”

“I’d love to just play with actuary statistics all day. That would be so fun! I bet you don’t even feel like you’re at work!”

– – –

“You’re a sanitation worker, huh? I hated my garbage collectors when I was growing up. One of them once yelled at me when I stood directly in front of their truck and kept it from completing its appointed rounds, and ever since then I’ve just loathed all of them, everywhere.”

14) Nate Cohn takes a look at how well the polls fared in 2018.  Some pretty interesting conclusions:

It was a good year for polls. This time, they got the basic story of the election right: a Democratic House and a Republican Senate. And on average, the final polls were closer to the results than any election in a decade. Best of all, the polls were relatively unbiased, meaning that one party didn’t systematically overperform or underperform its final poll results.

But while the big picture is much better than in 2016, when the polls systematically underestimated Donald J. Trump in the battleground states, some details are eerily similar. The geographic distribution of polling error was much like in 2016, even though the average poll wasn’t particularly biased at all…

Even though the polls were pretty accurate in the aggregate, there were points during election night — as the Republicans beat the polls in Indiana, Missouri, Florida, Tennessee and Ohio — that briefly felt like 2016 all over again.

The geographic distribution was similar; so was the party that did better than expected. Less significant, but still notable, is that the polls underestimated Democrats in several states where they also underestimated Democrats in 2016, like California, New York and Nevada.

15) I like this take on over-thinking identity politics in the Democrats’ 2020 choice:

Enter CNN’s latest power ranking. Kamala Harris has been deemed “the new Democratic front-runner.” Why? As a “nonwhite woman, Harris looks like the Democratic Party base these days.” The list is full of hot takes that dangerously revolve around identity and not much else. Golden boy Beto O’Rourke, arguably the most exciting figure in the Democratic Party, is ranked a lowly 10th, because he’s “a man running in a party becoming dominated by women.” Julián Castro is ranked seventh, in part because of “the rising influence of Hispanic voters within the Democratic coalition.” Joe Biden “is a white male.” Sorry, Joe! Elizabeth Warren is “a woman in a party that was nominating women at a record pace in 2018.” And Mike Bloomberg’s biggest vulnerability seems to be that he’s “a white guy from N.Y.C.”—not the more glaring political handicap that he’s Mike Bloomberg and it’s the year 2018.

Make no mistake: thanks to Trump, the issue of race matters more in political campaigns than at any time since the 60s. This is especially true among younger voters who are coming of age when cultural combat feels like the dominant vocabulary of our time. Race also matters in a Democratic primary. A Democrat cannot win the nomination without establishing a durable connection with African-American voters, as Bernie Sanderslearned painfully in 2016. Race is an inescapable riptide as we look ahead to the presidential race. But as the term “identity” creeps more and more into our elite political conversation, the complexities of race and gender risk being sanded down into glib pundit-speak, power ranking-style, with little correlation to real-world behavior. People might have a tendency to vote according to their identity in general elections, but the idea that blacks vote for blacks and whites for whites and women for women cannot possibly be mapped onto a Democratic primary that will be historic in its size, diversity, and unpredictability. Moreover, it’s an idea that ignores how voters actually behaved at the polls just more than one week ago.

Quick hits (part II)

1) So, I know that Wisconsin’s gerrymander is perhaps even better/worse than NC’s, but the latest from this year.  Just wow.  So thoroughly undemocratic:

When we look at the State Assembly, which had every seat up for grabs this past Tuesday, that disparity becomes even more glaring.

While final numbers are still not fully available for all races, Democratic Assembly candidates appear poised to take right around 1.3 million votes to Republican Assembly candidates 1.1 million votes.

And yet Democrats walked away with only 36 seats, while Republicans took a staggering 63!​

That means that Democrats won 54% of the vote and yet took only 36% of the seats.

2) A friend/reader argued the other day that democracy was actually under greater threat under Bush/Cheney (Iraq War, torture, and all that).  He had a good point and Adam McKay agrees (Via MoDo):

After a screening of “Vice” Thursday, I asked McKay which of our two right-wing Dementors was worse, Cheney or Trump.

“Here’s the question,” he said. “Would you rather have a professional assassin after you or a frothing maniac with a meat cleaver? I’d rather have a maniac with a meat cleaver after me, so I think Cheney is way worse. And also, if you look at the body count, more than 600,000 people died in Iraq. It’s not even close, right?”

3) This NYT feature on how the NRA has radicalized and politicized through the lens of American Rifleman covers is just amazing.

4) Brett Stephens on the Whitaker appointment:

Of all the ways in which Donald Trump’s presidency has made America worse, nothing epitomizes it quite so fully as the elevation of Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general of the United States. Intellectually honest conservatives — the six or seven who remain, at any rate — need to say this, loudly. His appointment represents an unprecedented assault on the integrity and reputation of the Justice Department, the advice and consent function of the Senate, and the rule of law in the United States…

It says something about how atrocious this appointment is that even Trump is now distancing himself from Whitaker, falsely claiming not to know him despite the latter’s repeated Oval Office visits. It’s the Michael Cohen treatment. When a rat smells a rat, it’s a rat. Only a Republican in 2018 could fail to notice.

5) And the Washington Post editorial:

First, there are Mr. Whitaker’s statements criticizing the Russia probe of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. At the least, they require him to consult Justice Department ethics counsel about whether he can oversee the inquiry with a plausible appearance of evenhandedness. He will do immediate and lasting harm to the Justice Department’s reputation, and to the nation, if he assumes the role of president’s personal henchman and impedes the Mueller probe.

Then there is Mr. Whitaker’s connection to a defunct patent promotion company the Federal Trade Commission called “an invention-promotion scam that has bilked thousands of consumers out of millions of dollars.” Mr. Whitaker served on its board and once threatened a complaining customer, lending the weight of his former position as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Iowa to the company’s scheme.

Finally, and fundamentally most damning, is Mr. Whitaker’s expressed hostility to Marbury v. Madison, a central case — the central case — in the American constitutional system. It established an indispensable principle: The courts decide what is and is not constitutional. Without Marbury, there would be no effective judicial check on the political branches, no matter how egregious their actions.

If the Senate were consulted, it is impossible to imagine Mr. Whitaker getting close to the attorney general’s office. He should not be there now.

6) Masha Gessen says the press corps should not boycott Trump administration press briefings.  Honestly, I find her argument far from persuasive.

But there is a counterargument. The White House is a lousy source of information about itself, but it is also the best available source. The real story of Trumpism is probably found not in the White House or even in Washington but in Ohio, in Texas, along the Mexican border, in refugee camps the world over, in Afghanistan, in Yemen, and in the Palestinian territories. But the story of how the Administration functions must still be observed up close. Walking away would give this White House exactly what it wants: less contact with the media, less visibility, ever less transparency and accountability. Walking away would feel good, but it would ultimately be a loss. Would the loss in information be greater than the gain in solidarity? That’s a hard question, but my guess is that the answer is yes.

7) Vann Newkirk II, “The Georgia Governor’s Race Has Brought Voter Suppression Into Full View.”

8) NYT with a couple of really cool visual features making the case for both expanding the House of Representatives and moving to multi-member Congressional districts.  I suspect most political scientists– your truly included– would agree strongly on both scores.

We’re nearly two decades into the 21st century, so why is America still operating with a House of Representatives built for the start of the 20th?

The House’s current size — 435 representatives — was set in 1911, when there were fewer than one-third as many people living in the United States as there are now. At the time, each member of Congress represented an average of about 200,000 people. In 2018, that number is almost 750,000.

This would shock the Constitution’s framers, who set a baseline of 30,000 constituents per representative and intended for the House to grow along with the population. The possibility that it might not — that Congress would fail to add new seats and that district populations would expand out of control — led James Madison to propose what would have been the original First Amendment: a formula explicitly tying the size of the House to the total number of Americans.

The amendment failed, but Congress still expanded the House throughout the first half of the nation’s existence. The House of Representatives had 65 members when it was first seated in 1789, and it grew in every decade but one until 1920, when it became frozen in time…

There’s no constitutional basis for a membership of 435; it’s arbitrary, and it could be undone by Congress tomorrow. Congress set it in 1911, but following the 1920 census — which counted nearly 14 million more people living in the United States — lawmakers refused to add seats out of concern that the House was getting too big to function effectively. Rural members were also trying to forestall the shift in national power to the cities (sound familiar?), where populations were exploding with emigrants from farm country and immigrants from abroad.

In 1929, Congress passed a law capping the size of the House and shifting responsibility for future reapportionments onto the Commerce Department. That’s why, more than a century later, we find ourselves with a national legislature far too small to fairly represent both the size and diversity of modern America. This warps our politics, it violates basic constitutional principles of political equality, and it’s only getting worse.

There’s a simple fix: Make the House bigger. Many Americans will groan at the thought of expanding a government they already consider too big and unwieldy. Polls consistently show that the public would rather throw the bums out than hire more of them.

9) Peter Beinart on the midterms:

But it’s important to remember that although the country is deeply and closely divided, it’s not divided between similar things. Because the Democrats ran more African Americans and women candidates this year, and because many Republicans campaigned on immigration and Brett Kavanaugh, it’s tempting to describe both parties as waging a culture war. That’s misleading. The culture war was waged mostly by one side. Democratic candidates embodied racial and gender diversity, but they didn’t generally campaign on it. Their message, overwhelmingly, was that they would protect the middle-class safety net. They realized, early on, that absent Barack Obama, Obamacare was extremely popular. As The New York Times’ Alex Burns noted, the Democrats’ campaign could be summed up as: “a noun, verb and preexisting conditions.”…

In the Trump era, Republicans counter economic security with cultural security. Trump promised to protect Americans from Latino murderers and women who destroy men’s lives by alleging sexual assault. And, to a significant extent, it worked. By mobilizing his white, rural base, Trump matched Democratic enthusiasm in purple states such as Florida and Ohio and overwhelmed Democratic incumbents in red states such as North Dakota, Indiana, and Missouri. It’s an old game: W. E. B. Du Bois famously called it the “psychological wage.” Instead of protecting white people from economic hardship, you protect them from the racial demons you’ve stirred up in their minds. And Trump is this era’s undisputed master of that game. He understood that as frightened as many Americans are of losing their health care, he—with the help of Fox News—could make them even more frightened of Honduran asylum-seekers. Now that the election is over, I suspect the caravan will disappear from Fox’s screens and Trump’s Twitter feed—until something like it is needed again.

The harsh truth is this: Racism often works. Cross-racial coalitions for economic justice are the exception in American history. Mobilizing white people to protect their racial dominance is the norm. [emphasis mine] The lesson of 2018 is that American politics is not reverting to “normal.” In many ways, Trumpism is normal. It’s not Trump who is running uphill against American tradition, it’s the people who are trying—bravely but with mixed success—to stop him.

10) Democrats want to make it easier for Americans to vote.  Republicans, not so much:

Far more Democrats than Republicans favor making it easy for all to vote

11) The shameful mis-use of the US Military sitting at the border waiting for the caravan.  This is a scandal that is not being reported as such.  Great feature in the NYT.

12) Swatting is just evil.  And with too many over-zealous, shoot-first cops out there, it can turn into a deadly tragedy.

13) Of course, Jeff Sessions thinks the police never abuse the citizens they supposed to protect:

In a major last-minute act, Mr. Sessions signed a memorandum on Wednesday before President Trump fired him sharply curtailing the use of so-called consent decrees, court-approved deals between the Justice Department and local governments that create a road map of changes for law enforcement and other institutions.

The move means that the decrees, used aggressively by Obama-era Justice Department officials to fight police abuses, will be more difficult to enact. Mr. Sessions had signaled he would pull back on their use soon after he took office when he ordered a review of the existing agreements, including with police departments in Baltimore, Chicago and Ferguson, Mo., enacted amid a national outcry over the deaths of black men at the hands of officers.

14) And if you doubt just how bad this is in many citizens you are willfully delusional.  And you should read Radley Balko:

Fifteen-year-old Bobby Moore was fatally shot in 2012 by Josh Hastings, a police officer with the Little Rock Police Department. Despite serving on the force for only five years, Hastings’s tenure would prove to be enormously consequential. He had been hired over the objection from a high-ranking black police officer, and that objection was well-founded: Before his hiring, Hastings had once attended a meeting of the Ku Klux Klan, then lied about it on his application. He went on to accumulate an astonishing disciplinary record, usually resulting in lax punishment for misconduct.

Hastings once boasted about body-slamming a homeless black woman to the ground. Video footage showed he had lied about a burglary investigation. He slept on the job, drove recklessly and had problems activating his dashboard-mounted camera. He admitted to using racist language. He sometimes needed help writing reports, and colleagues described him as lazy, incompetent and unfit to be a police officer.

Hastings’s ultimate confrontation with Moore, then, seemed almost inevitable. He confronted Moore and two other boys after reports that they were breaking into cars. When the boys managed to get one of the cars started, Hastings fired into the car, killing Moore. Hastings would later claim Moore was attempting to run him over, but forensic analysis showed the vehicle was either stopped or moving backward, and Moore’s wounds were consistent with a driver backing up, not surging forward. The other boys were not wounded.

But Hastings’s story isn’t one of a rogue, aberrant cop so much as a glimpse into the police culture of Arkansas’s largest city. Disturbing as Hastings’s disciplinary record may be, other officers in the department have even thicker personnel files. In fact, many of the very officers who trained and supervised Hastings have had lengthy histories of misconduct — including domestic violence, lying, and the use of excessive force.

15) These signs up near NC State’s campus last week were hilarious:

Campaign sign by pro-voter ID group, November 2018

16) Nice column from Krugman on real American vs. Senate America:

Obviously not everyone lives — or wants to live — in these growth centers of the new economy. But we are increasingly a nation of urbanites and suburbanites. Almost 60 percent of us live in metropolitan areas with more than a million people, more than 70 percent in areas with more than 500,000 residents. Conservative politicians may extol the virtues of a “real America” of rural areas and small towns, but the real real America in which we live, while it contains small towns, is mostly metropolitan.

But here’s the thing: The Senate, which gives each state the same number of seats regardless of population — which gives fewer than 600,000 people in Wyoming the same representation as almost 40 million in California — drastically overweights those rural areas and underweights the places where most Americans live.

I find it helpful to contrast the real America, the place we actually live, with what I think of as “Senate America,” the hypothetical nation implied by a simple average across states, which is what the Senate in effect represents.

As I said, real America is mainly metropolitan; Senate America is still largely rural.

Real America is racially and culturally diverse; Senate America is still very white.

Real America includes large numbers of highly educated adults; Senate America, which underweights the dynamic metropolitan areas that attract highly educated workers, has a higher proportion of non-college people, and especially non-college whites.

None of this is meant to denigrate rural, non-college, white voters. We’re all Americans, and we all deserve an equal voice in shaping our national destiny. But as it is, some of us are more equal than others. And that poses a big problem in an era of deep partisan division.

17) Ezra Klein’s take on the midterms and the “Trump tax” should be read in full.

With Trump, two contrary ideas need to be held simultaneously: His rise to the presidency was a remarkable political achievement by any measure, and yet he is substantially less popular than a politician in his position should be. He’s a political genius and a political underperformer, all at the same time.

Since winning office, Trump has been buoyed by a strong economy. The trends predate him — job growth during the first two years of his presidency has been slightly slower than in the two years preceding his presidency — but their cumulative effect is undeniable: We’re enjoying the longest economic expansion in American history, we’re at or near full employment, and Americans tell pollsters they’re more optimistic about the economy than at any point in decades.

Nothing predicts presidential popularity like a strong economy. And yet in November 2018, Trump is less popular at 3.7 percent unemployment than Obama was in November 2010, when unemployment was 9.8 percent. That’s a tremendous political failure, and it should be seen as such…

Republicans, increasingly, wield power only because America’s political system insulates them from the public’s judgments. The leader of their party — and of the country — came in second in the popular vote to Hillary Clinton and, despite a roaring economy, hasn’t cracked 50 percent in the polls since taking office. Tonight, Republicans lost the House, and if Democrats hadn’t been defending 26 Senate seats to Republicans’ nine, it’s likely they would’ve seen a rout in the Senate too.

The GOP needs to ask itself: What’s going to happen in 2020, when the Senate map reverses, and Republicans are defending twice as many seats as Democrats? What if unemployment is 5.7 percent rather than 3.7 percent?

That Republicans performed this poorly amid this strong an economy and this much geographic advantage should be a wake-up call to the party. Trump’s political strategy is failing, and they are paying the cost.

Gerrymandering, NC style

Nice piece from our local NPR station, WUNC on the extreme gerrymandering in the NC state legislature.  Democrats made big, important gains this year (Republicans finally no longer have a veto-proof majority), but Republicans still have an absurdly high share of the seats in both houses given what was basically a 50-50 vote.  This is just wrong.

North Carolina Republicans won majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly. But Democrats won more total votes.

In Congressional races, the divide was more stark than at the state level. Despite winning fewer than half of the total votes cast, Republicans won 10 of North Carolina’s 13 Congressional seats…

This is absurd, and let’s be honest, has no place in a democracy.  The good news is that redistricting reform really seems to be catching on at the national level.  The bad news is that those of us in North Carolina and many other states are being blatantly denied fair representation.

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