Quick hits (part I)

1) Sorry, I can’t let Howard Schultz go.  Eric Levitz on his vapid town hall:

A promise to make health care affordable for every single American — which is to say, to extend insurance to the nearly 30 million people who currently lack it, and drastically reduce costs for the one in four Americanswho currently forgo necessary medical care because even with insurance they cannot afford it — without increasing the deficit, significantly raising taxes, or disrupting the private insurance market. (Schultz feels no obligation to specify how he would do this.)

This is indicative of Schultz’s broader program. For all his bluster about the Democratic Party’s unrealistic promises — and the left’s refusal to recognize the necessity of legislative compromise — Schultz offered CNN’s audience virtually nothing beyond unrealistic promises and statements that betrayed an ostensible ignorance of the necessity of legislative compromise. On the latter count: Any political observer with a rudimentary understanding of the U.S. Senate would know that, if a voter wants incremental improvements to the health-care system — but not Medicare for All — they will (almost certainly) get what they’re looking for from any Democratic nominee; even president Bernie Sanders will not be able to pass any legislation without the approval of red-state Democrats like Jon Tester and Kyrsten Sinema. Which is to say, to the extent that Schultz is proposing concrete policies, they are just less-detailed versions of the Democratic Party’s consensus positions.

2) Chait on the “emergency.”

As a matter of principle, the Constitution establishes a system that requires the House, Senate, and the president to approve new laws. In some cases, expediency requires the president to act unilaterally. Those rare cases are not defined as emergencies because they’re important — lots of policy is important, even life-threatening. The emergencies are cases where the executive needs to act in an especially urgent way, and where congressional involvement may not be practical…

The anticipation that courts will smack down Trump’s attempted power grab has created some complacency about the brazenness of his attempt. The clever take in Washington is that Trump is claiming emergency powers knowing full well he will probably lose.

But it hardly vindicates the president. Trump impulsively engineered a government shutdown out of the mistaken belief that somehow it would give him leverage over Democrats, and without any understanding of the humanitarian fallout. After he quickly realized it wouldn’t, he made almost no effort to negotiate in good faith, even though it certainly would be possible to imagine immigration policies most Democrats and some Republicans would want enough to authorize more border-security funding.

Having deliberately inflicted pain on his own country on a whim, he is defying democratic norms in order to extricate himself from the humiliation of a retreat. That he is likely to lose may mitigate the offense, but doesn’t excuse it. Trump has at minimum proven that he lacks the temperament or basic competence to serve as president of the United States.

3) Jordan Weissman is right about this plan to allow Medicare buy-in for those 50 and over, “Moderate Democrats Are in Love With a Tepid and Outdated Idea to Fix Health Care.”

4) Yasha Mounk on the “emergency”

Americans often like to imagine that their system of checks and balances is a secure bulwark against the threat of autocracy. But in reality, no set of political institutions is, in and of itself, enough to constrain a popular and power-hungry president intent on destroying the republic. One of the reasons for this is the classic problem of the state of emergency, with which political philosophers and students of the law have grappled ever since the Roman Republic.

As Cicero argued in De Legibus, the safety of the people is the highest law; when a polity faces some unforeseen emergency, there may thus be urgent and legitimate need to loosen some of the ordinary legal restrictions on the powers of the highest magistrate. At the same time, it is obvious that any legal recognition of the need for emergency powers creates a huge opportunity for abuse; if an aspiring autocrat declares a false emergency, he would instantly be liberated from the usual constraints on his power. The history of the 20th century demonstrates that this is no abstract concern: From Adolf Hitler in Germany to Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines, some of the most brutal dictators of the past hundred years have consolidated their power by exploiting emergency legislation.

5) I’m covering this in my public policy class and I don’t recall sharing it here before (and if I have, it’s really good).  David Roberts, “What genuine, no-bullshit ambition on climate change would look like.”

6) Nice piece from Paul Waldman, “Warren and Klobuchar demonstrate the fundamental divide among Democrats.’

This is Warren’s articulation of the problem: Not just that the system is rigged — something Trump said in 2016 — but that it’s rigged by and for a specific group of wealthy individuals who shape it for their own benefit. This willingness to name the villains of the story she tells distinguishes Warren from many of the other candidates.

She also said, “We can’t afford to just tinker around the edges—a tax credit here, a regulation there. Our fight is for big, structural change.” She then outlined an agenda for economic and political reform to change how the system operates. So to summarize, Warren says the problem is a system rigged by the wealthy; the solution is a series of broad and fundamental policy changes that take away their power to continue rigging the system. She’s the one to implement them, because though she came from a poor family, she had the opportunities she says are lacking in the United States today, and she has spent a career understanding and attempting to confront the forces that limit those opportunities for ordinary people.

Klobuchar detailed some of the same policy proposals as Warren, such as reforms to reduce political corruption and guarantee voting rights. She did name some particular individuals — a reference to “dark forces” attacking voting rights, another to “tax loopholes designed by and for the wealthy,” and criticisms of pharmaceutical companies and the gun lobby — but she didn’t tie them together in a single us-vs.-them critique. For Klobuchar, the real problem is “our politics,” a system in which everyone is implicated and everyone can have a part in improving.

7) NC legislature considering revising the law on alcohol sales.  Just sad that Republicans still justify laws with rationales like this,

The state could make more money by allowing ABC stories to open on Sundays. North Carolina is one of only eight states that doesn’t allow liquor store sales on Sundays.

“I think we need Sunday free for the Lord’s day,” said Rep. Pat Hurley, a Republican from Randolph County.

8) This professor says that email is “making professors stupid.”  Yeah, it seems like some workdays are all about email management (but in reality, those emails are generally about my teaching, research, and service) and I don’t think it’s making me stupid.

9) Sorry, I cannot let Howard Schulz go, but his campaign really is illustrative about so much in American politics.  Ezra, “Howard Schultz’s campaign is based on 3 ideas, and they’re all wrong.

10) When it comes to advanced analytics, I just love learning about hockey (especially goaltending).  Love this 538 trying to figure out why scoring is noticeably up in hockey this year.  TLDR– it’s not clear, but it’s fun to watch.

11) David Hopkins, “There Are No Clear Lane Markers on the Road to the White House.”

Political journalists are fond of metaphors, and one recent analogy that seems to be rising in general usage is the comparison of the presidential nomination process to a highway with multiple “lanes” corresponding to identifiable party factions or subgroups. According to this view, each candidate and primary voter resides in a specific party lane (or, on rare occasions, can straddle the boundary between two lanes). The best-positioned candidates in the race, then, will be those who can unite the voters in their lane—either because they have it all to themselves from the start, or because they quickly knock similarly-situated candidates off the road…

While some of these analytical attempts to sort out the primary competition contain grains of truth—there are, after all, identifiable constituencies within the parties that are more or less attracted to various candidates—the “lanes” model of characterizing nomination contests is fundamentally flawed and potentially misleading. It rests on assumptions about how voters behave in party primaries that don’t hold up in reality, as the history of presidential nominations (including the 2016 race) makes very clear…

It’s important to understand how candidates behave strategically to build electoral coalitions and, to the best of our ability, to identify what considerations prompt voters to choose a specific candidate. But any conceptual model of nomination politics needs to incorporate a large random error term, representing the varying effects of personal charisma, persuasive advertising, memorable debate performances, catchy slogans, journalistic takedowns, verbal gaffes, and other factors that have proved difficult to anticipate yet can be just as influential as substantive positions or group membership in shaping voters’ evaluations of the candidates. We’re about a year away from primary and caucus participants being asked to officially register their preferences, which means that we’re still a year away from rank-and-file Democrats beginning to settle on their choice of nominee. It’s a long road to the nomination, and the vagaries of timing and luck ensure that many unforeseen twists and turns still lie far ahead.

12) Interesting take on the Amazon HQ2 mess:

No deal has garnered as much attention as Amazon’s, particularly since local politicians engaged in dozens of publicity stunts designed to woo the retail giant. While the company was searching for new offices, its value ballooned to $1 trillion and Bezos became the richest man in modern history. Meanwhile, investigative reports trickled out all year about the company’s brutal labor practices. The news often came with some mention of HQ2.

LeRoy says Amazon has indeed inadvertently highlighted public subsidies, which corporations have been able to negotiate largely in the dark. “I think Amazon is not winning a lot of love from corporate America for that,” he says. Deals between governments and other tech companies—and the secrecy surrounding them—are receiving scrutiny, too. Two nonprofits are suing San Jose, California, over a $67 million deal to sell government land to Google for new office space. The organizations argue city officials illegally signed nondisclosure agreements with the tech giant.

But the outcry over Amazon’s HQ2 search won’t necessarily have a lasting impact on the way government officials hand out subsidies to corporations. Jensen says he’s witnessed a number of governments make cosmetic reforms, like introducing rules requiring companies verify the number of jobs they end up producing, but that fundamental issues often don’t get addressed. “I think the PR of this decision hasn’t been positive and there is a potential for a backlash,” he says. “But I feel like I have seen enough terrible economic development scandals that go by the wayside.”

13) Sean Illing on the “emergency,” “Trump declared a national emergency at the border. I asked 11 experts if it’s legal. Spoiler alert: probably not.”  This is really useful for understanding the legal basis of why Trump will likely lose in court.  And it’s not about the obvious lack of urgency.

14) An interesting take on modern journalism, “Journalism is not dying.  It’s returning to its roots.”

If, however, you explained Twitter, the blogosphere, and newsy partisan outlets like Daily Kos or National Review to the Founding Fathers, they’d recognize them instantly. A resurrected Franklin wouldn’t have a news job inside The Washington Post; he’d have an anonymous Twitter account with a huge following that he’d use to routinely troll political opponents, or a partisan vehicle built around himself like Ben Shapiro’s Daily Wire, or an occasional columnist gig at a less partisan outlet like Politico, or a popular podcast where he’d shoot the political breeze with other Sons of Liberty, à la Chapo Trap House or Pod Save America. “Journalism dying, you say?” Ben Franklin v 2.0 might say. “It’s absolutely blooming, as it was in my day.”

What is dying, perhaps, is that flavor of “objective” journalism that purports to record an unbiased account of world events. We take journalistic objectivity to be as natural and immutable as the stars, but it’s a relatively short-lived artifact of 20th-century America. Even now it’s foreign to Europeans—cities such as London cultivate a rowdy passel of partisan scribblers who don’t even pretend there’s an impregnable wall between reportage and opinion. The US was much the same until the late 19th and early 20th century. Until 1900 or so, most newspapers were overtly political, and a name like The Press Democrat meant Democrat with a big D. Advertising was a minor concern, as party leaders encouraged members to subscribe to their local party organ, obviating the need for anything more than classifieds.

15) A rare link courtesy of my youngest son, who sent me this interesting article about the rise of “legacy” board games.  Sorry, I won’t be buying games anytime soon in which I have to tear up cards.

16) Before this season, I was feeling pretty flat about Duke basketball– despite a lifetime of fandom– due to all the one-and-doneness.  But, damn, Zion Williamson’s super-human ability and amazing joie de vivre is his play have brought me fully back on board for this season at least.

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Quick hits part I

1) The lasting impact of pre-K programs is an area a study that has led to quite a range of findings about how well and how long the benefits last.  The latest findings from NC, though, are pretty impressive:

Helen Ladd, Clara Muschkin, Yu Bai, and I have tracked over one million children born in our state between 1988 and 2000 across their preschool years through the end of eighth grade. Because state funds for NC Pre-K (previously called More at Four) were allocated to some counties in some years at higher levels than in other counties and other years, some children were lucky enough to be four years old living in a county where the program was well-funded, while other four-year-old children lived in less well-funded counties. We have reported previously that while they were in elementary school, children in cohorts with average state funding demonstrated higher test scores in reading and math, less grade retention, and fewer placements into special education, compared with children in cohorts with less or no funding.

Our new analyses, just released as a working paper, show that the positive impacts of NC Pre-K and Smart Start continue through grades 6, 7, and 8. There is no fadeout. In fact, the impact grows. By eighth grade, for children in counties with average funding, NC Pre-K has reduced the likelihood of placements into special education by over one third. We find positive impacts for every group of children we studied, including economically disadvantaged as well as advantaged children; African American, Hispanic, and white non-Hispanic children; and children whose mothers are well-educated as well as those whose mothers are less well-educated.

The findings are clear: The more funding that North Carolina invests for NC Pre-K (and Smart Start), the better children will fare as they get older. The benefits from that investment will not fade out but will grow over the lives of these children.

2) I really like the idea of rating health care systems on efficiency (i.e., bang for the buck) as that is where America’s health care is so outlandishly horrible.  I’m not all a fan of using life expectancy as a key measure (mortality amenable to health care, damnit), but, still probably pretty good as a rough metric.  Anyway, in this Bloomberg study of health care efficiency, of 56 countries, U.S. comes in tied for 54th.  Just beating out Bulgaria.  The idea that Republicans essentially accept this monstrous inefficiency is so frustrating.

3) I really meant to do a post on AOC and taxes.  I love that she’s pushing a 70% top marginal tax rate.  Overton window and all that.  And, good policy.  Paul Waldman:

Naturally, just suggesting increasing tax rates at the top sends Republicans to the fainting couch, since the single most fundamental idea to which their party is devoted at this point in history is that the wealthy should pay as little in taxes as possible. But why shouldn’t we discuss it?

Instead, all of the predictions Democrats made about it at the time have come true. Republicans said the tax cut would generate so much economic activity that revenue would soar and the deficit would shrink. In fact, the deficit has ballooned; it is projected to exceed $1 trillion this year. Republicans said corporations would pass their windfall on to workers; Democrats predicted that corporations would use the money for stock buybacks, boosting share prices to benefit wealthy investors. The Democrats were right.

By now, we can say with confidence that the foundational principle of Republican tax policy — that cutting taxes for the wealthy brings economic nirvana and raising taxes for the wealthy brings economic doom — is utterly and completely wrong. It’s not even worth debating anymore. The entire history of U.S. economic policy shows it to be false, from the failure of recent Republican tax cuts to the fact that we had much higher top marginal rates4)  at some of our periods of strongest economic growth. In the 1950s and 1960s, through the postwar boom, the top rate was as high as 91 percent and never fell below 70 percent. [emphasis mine]

4) Stephen Pearlstein defends a better kind of capitalism in Vox.  I’m a fan.

How about let’s start with fixing the capitalism we have — or as Raghuram Rajan and Luigi Zingales cleverly put it, saving capitalism from the capitalists. As I outlined in the book, I would start by getting money out of politics — corporate money but also union money. And ending the stranglehold Wall Street has put on the real economy be demanding companies be run to maximize shareholder value. And more vigorous antitrust enforcement to deal with old-fashioned consolidation and the natural winner-take-all tendencies of the new economy. We need to bring back a serious inheritance tax, a serious and reformed corporate tax and a top marginal income tax of 40 percent.

And while we are at it, why not create a new set of financial institutions — banks, insurance companies, mutual funds and pension funds — that are owned by their customers rather than by shareholders. Even a capitalist can understand the logic of an annual “dividend” for every American as his or her share of the nation’s natural and institutional bounty, particularly if it is combined with an obligation for three years of national service (my version of universal basic income).

Want to get really radical? How about ending school segregation by class the way we did with segregation by race, through enlarged school districts, magnet schools, and creative use of school choice.

I’m all for making it possible once again to organize a union without getting fired or spending the next decade in court, which unfortunately is the current reality. But there may be other, better ways to reinvigorate the union movement and give a bit more power to workers in a post-industrial economy. My guess is that many American workers don’t want the kind of union you pine for — the ones that undermined the competitive viability of their companies, the ones that rejected all pay for performance schemes and saddled companies with rigid work rules…

yes, we live in a society marked by hierarchy and inequality — and, yes, that’s intrinsic to capitalism. And, yes, power — economic power, political power — matters in terms of how the good things in life are distributed. Market fundamentalists who still insist it’s all about voluntary transactions within the context of a perfectly competitive and efficiency marketplace that neutrally and objectively sets economic outcomes are either kidding themselves or are trying to kid us.

But let’s be clear: This somewhat unsavory economic system called capitalism has lifted billions out of subsistence poverty since the industrial revolution and given us longer, healthier, happier lives to a degree not matched by any other system people have tried. And although some people have more power, money, security, and happiness than others, and some people get to boss other people around, the fault line is not between “workers” and “capital.” It’s between high-skilled workers and low, coastal metropolitan workers and rural ones, between white workers and nonwhite, men and women workers, religious workers and non-religious.

Let’s get real: The favorite politician of the oppressed, left-behind workers who you idealize is Donald Trump, while denizens of Wall Street titans and Hollywood moguls and tech billionaires back liberal candidates and causes.

5) I’ve very intrigued by this idea of affective presence.  I’d like to think I have a pretty good one.  But, I definitely know some people who have this in spades and people who are definitely lacking.

Some people can walk into a room and instantly put everyone at ease. Others seem to make teeth clench and eyes roll no matter what they do. A small body of psychology research supports the idea that the way a person tends to make others feel is a consistent and measurable part of his personality. Researchers call it “affective presence.”

This concept was first described nearly 10 years ago in a study by Noah Eisenkraft and Hillary Anger Elfenbein. They put business-school students into groups, had them enroll in all the same classes for a semester, and do every group project together. Then the members of each group rated how much every other member made them feel eight different emotions: stressed, bored, angry, sad, calm, relaxed, happy, and enthusiastic. The researchers found that a significant portion of group members’ emotions could be accounted for by the affective presence of their peers.

6) It’s even easier to legally shoot people in Florida:

Last month, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the state’s controversial “stand your ground” statute applies to police officers, just as it does to civilians. The ruling radically expanded the boundaries of justifiable homicide to grant police immunity from arrest, criminal prosecution, and a jury trial when they claim—even in spite of overwhelming contradicting evidence—to have killed in self-defense. This modification represents the latest in a steadily creeping distortion of justice that intensifies the “shoot first, ask questions later” logic of weaponized self-defense…

“Stand your ground” makes it very difficult to dispute even the most outrageous claims of self-defense. Drafted by a consortium of conservative lawmakers and gun lobbyists, Florida’s statute became the first of its kind in 2005, stipulating that a law-abiding person has no duty to retreat from a perceived threat wherever they may legally be. As Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick explained, “stand your ground” laws stretch the traditional Castle Doctrine beyond the boundaries of the home, allowing you to “bring your castle wherever you go.” On the surface at least, the laws appear to grant all law-abiding persons permission to use lethal force, without first trying to retreat, in order to protect themselves from a threat. When civilians claim to have killed someone because they were in fear for their lives, a judge at a pretrial hearing may rule that their fear was reasonable, in which case they escape arrest and prosecution.

But time and an accumulating archive of evidence shows that, in spite of their apparent race and gender neutrality, “stand your ground” laws intensify existing injustices while making already criminalized populations more vulnerable.

7) How to make a lie seem true?  Repeat, repeat, repeat.  It’s almost like I can think of somebody who does this all the time.

8) John Cassidy makes the case for Elizabeth Warren:

But Warren isn’t merely talking the talk. In the past few years, she has put together a policy agenda designed to level the economic playing field in favor of workers, consumers, and small businesses. To be sure, she supports some things that virtually all Democrats now favor, such as enacting a national minimum wage of fifteen dollars, further expanding access to health care, and building more public housing. But she also has some more distinctive ideas, such as breaking up monopolies and promoting competition, making it easier for unions to organize, and forcing any public company with revenues of more than a billion dollars to set aside forty per cent of the seats on its board of directors for workers’ representatives. The latter proposal was contained in Warren’s Accountable Capitalism Act, which she unveiled last summer. This draft legislation would also place limits on stock-based compensation for senior executives and force companies to get the approval of three-quarters of their shareholders for any political activities they are involved in.

Seizing upon these proposals, some of Warren’s conservative critics have tagged her as an old-style socialist, but that isn’t accurate. Rather than having the government take over the commanding heights of the economy, she wants to use legislation and regulation to root out corporate abuses, correct glaring market failures, and rebalance the power relationships between capital and labor, firms and consumers, and big businesses and small businesses. “I believe in markets,” she told The Nation, earlier this year. “But markets work only when everyone gets a fair opportunity to compete.”

9) Farhad Manjoo joins the chorus (including me) telling you to meditate:

And so, to survive the brain-dissolving internet, I turned to meditation.

Don’t roll your eyes. You’ve heard about the benefits of mindfulness before. Meditation has been rising up the ladder of West Coast wellness fads for several years and is now firmly in the zeitgeist.

It’s the subject of countless books, podcasts, conferencesa million-dollar app war. It’s extolled by C.E.O.s and entertainers and even taught in my kids’ elementary school (again, it’s Northern California). The fad is backed by reams of scientific research showing the benefits of mindfulness for your physical and mental health — how even short-term stints improve your attention span and your ability to focus, your memory, and other cognitive functions.

10) Loved this list of 20 Best TV Dramas since the Sopranos.  Of course my favorite of the Wire, Mad Men, and Breaking Bad were all there.  For my son, I leave off with this:

Quick hits (part I)

1) I see how it can potentially get out of hand, but I really don’t think schools should be banning parents from having lunch with their kids.

2) As you know, I’m big ran of LARC’s as a tool in fighting poverty.  And Delaware is now giving it a try.  Unfortunately, some research suggests this is not as promising as we might have thought:

The idea of contraception as a key to economic mobility emerged after the 1960s and 1970s, when contraception and abortion became legal state by state. A string of studies showed that, when birth control arrived, women’s careers and educational attainment improved — and the number of children they had declined.

Isabel Sawhill, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, has measured the wide gulfs in outcomes between young women with unintended children and those with planned pregnancies later on. She has written extensively in support of expanded LARC access.

“It’s very expensive and very hard to reduce poverty,” Ms. Sawhill said. “Reducing unplanned births is easy by comparison.”

But it’s possible that youthful, unplanned pregnancies are a symptomof poverty, more than a cause.

One study of teenagers with unintended pregnancies found only small differences in outcomes between those who had miscarriages and those who delivered babies. A review of the returns on investment from contraception found relatively small effects.

“The causal link is kind of a big question mark,” said Caitlin Myers, an associate professor of economics at Middlebury College, who teaches a class on unplanned parenthood in the United States. Ms. Myers said an effort like Delaware’s would improve women’s autonomy and reduce abortions. But she was skeptical that it would necessarily reduce poverty. “To what extent does unintended pregnancy cause bad outcomes versus bad outcomes causing unintended pregnancies? It’s a symptom of poverty, of inequality, of hopelessness about the future.”

3) Popehat (one of those people I discovered on twitter who is just so educational on legal issues) calls out Alan Dershowitz, “Alan Dershowitz Is Lying To You” and it’s just awesome.

4) Really enjoyed this “18 lessons for the news business from 2018.”

The relatively few magazines that are finding a future are thought-provoking, reader-supported ones.

The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Vanity Fair, and Wired are among those that are making the digital subscriber transition. Each offers audiences a unique set of voices and reporting. Each, arguably, has risen to our times. It’s the shelter, fashion, travel, and lifestyle magazines — beset by unlimited free digital competition — that suffer, slim, and shutter.

The lesson, again, and again: Unique voices supported by subscribers point a way forward.

Indeed.  I subscribe to all of those but Vanity Fair.

4) Interesting take from Seth Masket, “The Demise of the Weekly Standard is a Blow to the Republican Party.”

5) Oren Cass writes, “The Misguided Priorities of Our Educational System: We spend too much money on college students and not enough on everyone else.”  He’s right– especially when it comes to vocational education.

One explanation for this bizarre state of affairs, in which society invests heavily in those headed for economic success while ignoring those falling behind, is the widespread belief that everyone can be a college graduate. If that were true, the shove toward the college pipeline might make sense.

But most young Americans do not achieve even a community-college degree. Federal data show that fewer than one in five studentssmoothly navigate the high school to college to career pathway. More students fail to complete high school on time, more fail to move on from high school to college, and more drop out of college. Forty years of reform, accompanied by a doubling of per pupil spending, has failed to improve this picture. Standardized test scores haven’t budged. SAT scores have declined. More students enroll in college, but the share of 25-year-olds with a bachelor’s degree did not increase from 1995 to 2015, and it stands barely above the 1975 level…

But while the median college graduate earns more than the median high school graduate, those workers are not the same person — indeed, they are likely people with very different academic prospects. Look instead at the wage distributions for more comparable samples: those with earnings toward the high end for workers with only high school degrees and those at the low end among college graduates. The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that high school grads with above-average earnings (50th to 90th percentile) earn $34,000 to $70,000 annually. College grads with below-average earnings (10th to 50th percentile) earn $28,000 to $58,000.

Pushing people from the former category to attend college and land in the latter category does them few favors. And remember, that assumes they graduate; people in their position typically will not. Remember also, those are the outcomes before we attempt to create an attractive non-college pathway that they might prefer and that might equip them for success.

6) This is a great feel-good story, “A mother’s leap of faith at an African airport, and a 15-year mystery.”

Maya Hughes was 5 years old when her mother asked a stranger at an airport in Sierra Leone to help get her back to the United States safely. The man helped, then disappeared. Fifteen years later, the three got back in touch with each other.

7) Great stuff from Frank Rich:

What will move them [Republican politicians] is not necessarily Trump’s hara-kiri isolationist agenda but the damage his behavior both abroad and at home is inflicting on the financial markets. The sheer uncertainty of a chaos presidency is pushing the Dow to its worst December since the Great Depression. McConnell and his humiliated departing peer Paul Ryan have tolerated Trump’s racism, misogyny, and nativism, his wreckage of American alliances, his kleptocracy, and his allegiance to Vladimir Putin. They have tolerated as well his con job on the coal miners, steelworkers, and automobile-industry workers of his base. But they’ll be damned if they will stand for a president who threatens the bottom line of the GOP donor class. [emphasis mine]

8) Elizabeth Warren says the government should produce generic drugs.  Given the world’s largest actual collusion ever, this is a very interesting idea.

9) A former student of mine tweeted at the epitome of bad faith politics, NC GOP director Dallas Woodhouse, Chili’s social media account ended up in the middle.

10) I haven’t read enough yet to have a firm take on Mattis and his resignation, but I found Yglesias‘ contrarianism on him very interesting:

Secretary of Defense James Mattis’s decision to resign, complete with a strongly worded letter slamming President Donald Trump, is not so much the end of “adults in the room” safeguarding the country from the president’s worst instincts as it is the end of the myth that there ever were any such adults.

Mattis was, after all, recommended to Trump in the first place because Barack Obama had fired him for his reckless advocacy of military confrontation with Iran. And while the last grown-up was unable to restrain Trump from imprisoning asylum-seeking childrenabusing his pardon power for Joe Arpaioabusing declassification powerundertaking a partisan purge of the FBIcheering the French far right, or issuing apologias for neo-Nazis, he finally decided to take his stand over Trump making the perfectly defensible decision to withdraw US forces from a hazily defined open-ended mission in Syria that lacked any legal authorization.

There’s nothing wrong with quitting over a policy dispute that you feel strongly about. (Though, frankly, I think Trump is on the right side of this one.) But that’s all this was — a normal dispute within the range of things reasonable people can disagree about.

At the end of the day, Mattis proved ineffective or uninterested in preventing shocking abuses of power and flagrant immorality only to throw down over a perfectly legitimate order from the commander in chief.

And while resigning sooner, over something better, would have been welcome, the notion that it could have meaningfully improved outcomes is silly. Trump is unfit for office, and flagrantly so, in ways that are fairly obvious and have been obvious for years. There are no adults in any room he leads, and there never will be. The real grown-ups are the ones who’ve been outside the room trying to get him out of office.

11) I’ve always enjoyed the Black Key’s “Little Black Submarines” when I’ve heard it, but never really gave it all that much thought.  Heard it on the radio the other day, though, and thought, that would be a great guitar part to learn.  It is!  I love a good rock song made up of standard open chords.  And now I’m (and my 12-year old) obsessed with the song.

12) Really interesting Linda Greenhouse piece on the divide among Republicans on the Supreme Court.  It’s a little early to definitely put Kavanaugh on the “sure, very conservative, but not total Republican hack” side along with Roberts, but so far, things are suggestive.  As to Thomas, Alito, and Gorsuch?  Yeah, total hacks.

13) Love this, “Like Tomboys and Hate Girlie Girls? That’s Sexist: We need to stop maligning femininity, in both girls and boys.”

 

Quick hits (part II)

1) Paul Waldman with “All the ludicrous defenses Republicans offer on the Russia scandal.”

2) Of course, many Republican politicians refuse to even discuss anything bad about the president.

3) Of course the Trump administration is trying to make your air dirtier, too.  Seriously, this is not just liberal hyperbole.  Interview with a former EPA scientist.  What the hell is wrong with Republicans?!

4) And here’s a fascinating and disturbing story from NPR, “Customs And Border Protection Paid A Firm $13.6 Million To Hire Recruits. It Hired 2.”

5) And it links to an interesting AP story on absurd misuse of polygraphs in hiring.

6) Okay, finally a link that made me happy.  Alan Sepinwall ranks the best TV shows of the streaming era.  The winner: Bojack.

So far, streaming has produced one show that feels like an inner circle Hall of Famer. Raphael Bob-Waksberg’s animated series — about a depressed, alcoholic, narcissistic horse (Will Arnett in the title role) who was a Nineties sitcom star — is capable of being TV’s funniest show and its saddest, often within seconds of each other. It takes advantage of the serialization that streaming subscribers so often want, even as its individual episodes often stand out as instant classics. It satirizes itself and the TV business as a whole while galloping rings around almost anything that business has done over the last few years. Everything else on this list ranges from very good to excellent but flawed; this is the one unequivocally Great streaming original so far.

7) I’ve been saying for years that “judicial activism” is simply any legal decision Republicans don’t like,  In a more traditional use, it does refer to judges who are aggressive in making new law (or overturning law) through their own interpretations.  The federal judge in Texas on the ACA is a perfect example of judicial activism amok.

8) A follow-up story a year later about a 12-year old boy who tried to commit suicide by jumping off a bridge who ended up living, but killing the motorist he landed on.

9) I’m so done with Christmas gifts.  Of course, this is the privilege of being comfortably upper-middle class.  Alas, I’m too lazy to try and invent a new tradition for my family and don’t exactly want to go cold turkey.  But once all the kids are older, definitely going to reduce to a secret santa or give to charity or something.

10) So, ten years later, it seems that, somehow, the Octomom has actually done a decent job raising her kids.  It also seems like she’s quite a liar and a little bit crazy.

11) This: “Not just Hill interns: Public office pays so little, it’s the realm of the rich and retired.”  Serving in government is incredibly important work.  We should actually compensate it like that and ensure that we get a far more diverse cross-section of society represented in public service.

12) I meant to include this in my intellectual humility post and forgot.  It’s good, “The Benefits of Admitting When You Don’t Know.”

Then again, as Nobel Prize–winning astrophysicist Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar noted, believing that you “must be right”—in other words, lacking intellectual humility—can actually stymie discovery, learning, and progress.

Given this puzzle, my colleagues and I set out to test whether intellectual humility was empirically associated with learning outcomes.

We started by measuring high school students’ intellectual humility. We had students rate themselves on statements like “I am willing to admit it when I don’t know something” and “I acknowledge when someone knows more than me about a subject.” We wanted to know: Would this intellectual humility relate to students’ motivation to learn, their learning strategies, and even their grades? What’s more, would teachers observe any differences between students with differing levels of intellectual humility?

We found that the more intellectually humble students were more motivated to learn and more likely to use effective metacognitive strategies, like quizzing themselves to check their own understanding. They also ended the year with higher grades in math. We also found that the teachers, who hadn’t seen students’ intellectual humility questionnaires, rated the more intellectually humble students as more engaged in learning.

13) Rob Christensen knows more about NC politics than almost anybody alive.  Thus, there’s plenty to learn from his column, “10 things I’ve learned in 45 years of covering North Carolina politics.”  Here’s his last two points:

9. There is a mismatch between the voters and the legislature. North Carolina is a moderate state with a slight conservative tilt, according to the annual national polls of voter attitudes conducted by the Gallup organization. But the GOP legislature has made North Carolina into a national laboratory for sharply conservative policies. The policies don’t fit the profile of Tar Heel voters.

10. Bill Snider, the late Greensboro newspaper editor and columnist, once gave this advice to young reporters: ‘From time to time, you will be tempted to write that race is no longer a factor in Tar Heel politics. Don’t do it.’ While we have come a long way, racial views are still a potent force in shaping voting preferences.

14) This look at grade inflation in the Ohio State student newspaper is amazingly comprehensive and well done.  And, OMG, the amount of grade inflation at Ohio State!

15) If you are only good read one of these links it full, it should be Eduardo Porter’s great NYT feature, “The Hard Truths of Trying to ‘Save’ the Rural Economy.”

Rural America is getting old. The median age is 43, seven years older than city dwellers. Its productivity, defined as output per worker, is lower than urban America’s. Its families have lower incomes. And its share of the population is shrinking: the United States has grown by 75 million people since 1990, but this has mostly occurred in cities and suburbs. Rural areas have lost some 3 million people. Since the 1990s, problems such as crime and opioid abuse, once associated with urban areas, are increasingly rural phenomena.

Rural communities once captured a greater share of the nation’s prosperity. Jobs and wages in small town America played catch-up with big cities until the mid 1980s. During the economic recovery of 1992 to 1996, 135,000 new businesses were started in small counties, a third of the nation’s total. Employment in small counties shot up by 2.5 million, or 16 percent, twice the pace experienced in counties with million-plus populations.

These days, economic growth bypasses rural economies. In the first four years of the recovery after the 2008 recession, counties with fewer than 100,000 people lost 17,500 businesses, according to the Economic Innovation Group. By contrast, counties with more than 1 million residents added, altogether, 99,000 firms. By 2017, the largest metropolitan areas had almost 10 percent more jobs than they did at the start of the financial crisis. Rural areas still had fewer.

The Economic Innovation Group measures “distress” as a combination of data ranging from joblessness and poverty to abandoned homes and educational attainment. Since the 1990s, there has been an “intensifying ruralization of distress,” said John Lettieri, the group’s president.

 

Quick hits (part I)

1) Emily Bazelon and Miriam Krinsky on the steps that new reform-minded prosecutors should be taking:

Our recommendations begin with the premise that the level of punishment in the United States is neither necessary for public safety nor a pragmatic use of resources. Prosecutors can address this first by routing some low-level offenses out of the criminal justice system at the start. For the cases that remain, they can help make incarceration the exception and diverting people from prison the rule, a principle advanced by the district attorney in Brooklyn, N.Y., Eric Gonzalez. Finally, prosecutors should recognize that lengthy mandatory sentences can be wasteful, since most people age out of the period when they’re likely to reoffend, and also don’t allow for the human capacity to change.

As prosecutors know, locking people up makes them more prone to committing offenses in the future. They can lose their earning capacity and housing, leaving them worse off, often to the point of desperation. And so the community is often better served by interventions like drug or mental-health treatment, or by restorative justice approaches, in which a person who has caused harm makes amends to the victim. In some cases, the best response is to do nothing.

2) Slate essay, “How I Went From Graduate School Student to Amazon Warehouse Janitor: Why is it so hard for black women like me to find full-time work in our chosen fields?”  It just might have something to do with the fact that her degrees are a BA in English and MFA in creative writing with a plan to, “start my own company doing what I love: writing and creating opportunities for other artists. I wanted to create a space where emerging visual and performing artists could receive professional development and education, network with local companies and potential clients, and expand their portfolios with themed exhibitions and performance opportunities.”  To be fair, there’s some real data on the under-employment of Black women, but this should not be the exemplar.  I quite enjoyed the comments on this one.

3) Vox reviews a bunch of Democratic health plans for (near) universal coverage.  You will be unsurprised to learn my favorites were the two center-left thinktank plans.  And, yes, Medicare for all would be great if we were starting from scratch.  But we’re not and that therefore imposes huge non-monetary costs (in addition to the financial ones, that I am fine with).

4) Of course the Trump administration wants to roll back clean water regulations.

5) Didn’t do much more than skim Andrew Sullivan’s essay on how we all have religion and we have replaced real religion with political tribalism.  But, damn, Pesca’s takedown was good.  Ezra Klein is on the case, too.

6) Yeah, it’s not just the name-brand big Pharma ripping us off. The generic makers have quite the cartel:

What started as an antitrust lawsuit brought by states over just two drugs in 2016 has exploded into an investigation of alleged price-fixing involving at least 16 companies and 300 drugs, Joseph Nielsen, an assistant attorney general and antitrust investigator in Connecticut who has been a leading force in the probe, said in an interview. His comments in an interview with The Washington Post represent the first public disclosure of the dramatically expanded scale of the investigation.

The unfolding case is rattling an industry that is portrayed in Washington as the white knight of American health care.

7) This is really cool from Wired, “How the CIA trains spies to hide in plain sight.”

8) Great Yglesias essay on the growing anti-democracy problem of the GOP:

The steady erection of a system of minority rule that Republicans are implementing is not as dramatic as a populist putsch. But it’s actually happening before our eyes. And it’s led not by the rabble-rousing president or the unwashed masses who thrill to his rallies, but by the elite network of donors, operatives, and politicians who run the Republican Party and the conservative movement.

9) George Packer (what’s with him at The Atlantic instead of the New Yorker) hits on similar issues, “The Corruption of the Republican Party: The GOP is best understood as an insurgency that carried the seeds of its own corruption from the start.”

10) Former federal prosecutor, on the National Enquirer publisher: “AMI’s Immunity Deal Is a Disaster for Donald Trump.”

11) So, Americans way over-freakout about stranger abductions of children.  But every now and then it does happen and it’s horrible.  Like this 13-year old NC girl who was raped and murdered.  What’s even more awful is that if local law enforcement had followed through on a DNA hit on a rape case in 2016, the murderer would already surely have been in prison.  So sad all around.  And some heads should roll.

12) Enjoyed the science of growing a perfect Christmas tree.  Do love the NC fraser firs we get every year.

13) I love Melissa and Doug’s classic wooden toys.  Our kids have gotten lots of enjoyment out of them over the years.  Enjoyed this Vox feature on the company.

14) Well, ain’t this interesting, “Movies Starring Women Earn More Than Male-Led Films, Study Finds.”  My son applies the Bechdel test to pretty much everything we watch.

The research also found that films that passed the Bechdel test — which measures whether two female characters have a conversation about something other than a man — outperformed those that flunked it.

“The perception that it’s not good business to have female leads is not true,” said Christy Haubegger, a C.A.A. agent who was part of the research team. “They’re a marketing asset.”

15) Prediction, Mark Harris will never represent North Carolina in the U.S. Congress.  The Post, “N.C. congressional candidate sought out aide, despite warnings over tactics.”

16) New breakthrough means maybe Moore’s law is safe for a while yet.

17) My home county, Wake, is geographically quite large.  It’s not uncommon for parts of the county to have snow and ice while others are safe to drive.  This invariably leads to calls to break up the county into smaller districts.  Our recent absurd (for December) amounts of snow led to a terrific tweetstorm about the history of the unified county schools and the role of this system in desegregation.   WCPSS is still overly cautious on weather (especially when somebody says, “hurricane!”), but this was a great education for local residents.

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.

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.

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