Banana Republic– NC Style

With so much awfulness in DC, it can overwhelm the ongoing awfulness right here in NC.  And it is pretty damn awful.  WRAL with an excellent editorial summarizing the latest from our “leaders” in the NC legislature:

There are regimes in the world that, barring disasters, cancel elections. They are derisively called Banana Republics, run by juntas whose strongman rulers aren’t quite sure they’ve rigged the voting to come out in their favor.

Unfortunately these days, we don’t have to look beyond our borders – or even our state – to see this kind of undemocratic behavior.

Senate Leader Phil Berger, House Speaker Tim Moore, House Rules boss David Lewis are the junta and North Carolina is a banana republic.

They are cancelling the 2018 judicial and district attorney primaries because their efforts at rigging the elections through their latest gerrymandering scheme might not completely do the trick.

Primaries for state Supreme Court and Court of Appeals will also be cancelled – even though they’re statewide votes and not connected with any redistricting.

“The reason we are delaying the filing for judicial offices is, we are serious about judicial redistricting,” Lewis told WRAL’s Laura Leslie. He says he noticed that many members of the public and the judiciary had advised lawmakers to “take our time and get it right.”

The reality is – and Lewis and his cabal know it — that there was NO outcry from the public, the judiciary or district attorneys to change the districts. There WAS a nearly unanimous outcry from judges, district attorneys, court administrators and others against the secretive effort, hatched in the darkest corners of the legislature, to redraw judicial and district attorney districts for purely partisan advantage.

The scheme has NOTHING to do with making the administration of justice better, more efficient or equitable.

In fact it’s just the opposite. It will make justice more cumbersome and result in more costly legal challenges. It is shameful and disgraceful.  It smacks of the kind of shenanigans bush-league dictators pull.

These guys are just as bad as Trump.  Actually, probably worse, because they are far more adept at their malfeasance.

Advertisements

Quick hits (part II)

1) On President Obama crying after leaving Malia at college. That’ll be me someday.

2) Aaron Blake on Trump’s absurd Puerto Rico tweets yesterday:

Anybody who is surprised at this from a president who attacked a former prisoner of war for being a prisoner of war, criticized a Gold Star family and made fun of a reporter’s physical disability has a short memory. This is who Trump is. He doesn’t accept criticism and move on; he brings a bazooka to a knife fight — even when those wielding the knife are trying to save lives.

But it’s also hugely counterproductive. In three tweets, Trump has moved a simmering, somewhat-negative story for his administration to the front burner. He decided to attack a sympathetic character and turn this into a partisan political debate. Cruz is pleading for help by saying, “We are dying.” Trump essentially told her to stop complaining. He’s also arguing that somebody who is in charge of saving lives is somehow more interested in politics. That’s a stunning charge…

Trump may succeed in getting his base to fight back against the narrative that the Puerto Rico recovery isn’t going well. And perhaps this will all result in the same political stalemate we’ve seen on so many Trump-related controversies, with 35 percent to 40 percent of the country standing by Trump, and most of the rest being outraged.

But that’s not really the point. Most controversies are temporary and blow over. Puerto Rico is a legacy issue for Trump — something that, like Hurricane Katrina, could color views of him for years or decades to come.

3) I had vaguely heard of this “four tendencies” framework and a friend said that it really helped her understand her child.  I’m very much a questioner.  Curious about your thoughts on this and its validity.

4) Great Ezra Klein piece on the broken Senate.  This is going to my Intro and Public Policy classes.

The root issue here is that the Senate’s legislative process has been upended by the abusive use of the filibuster, and neither party has been willing or able to address it. The result is the US Senate is moving towards a process where major bills are protected from filibusters, but the cost of that protection is those bills are distorted by a nonsensical process where the goal is surviving parliamentary challenge, not writing the best policy. The possible costs here are immense: a future in which most significant legislation is drafted poorly and the country is left to suffer the consequences.

“Reconciliation was designed for minor budgetary adjustments, not major policy proposals,” said Alan Frumin, a former Senate parliamentarian.

Neither party likes this state of affairs. Neither party meant to create this state of affairs. And it’s time both parties had the courage to come together and address it.

5) Catherine Rampell on the “ridiculous” GOP tax plan.

6) Drum points out that the vast majority of economists think the GOP is a joke on taxes.

7) Pornhub, yes Pornhub, taking major steps to help users with visual impairments.

8) German Lopez, “A massive review of the evidence shows letting people out of prison doesn’t increase crime.”

9) Cory Booker knows that to end mass incarceration, we have to address it at the state level.  John Pfaff on why that’s such a hard problem:

But any federal law aimed at reducing state incarceration rates must confront the fact that criminal justice costs and benefits are scattered across agencies at every level of government. Decarceration will create winners and losers, and the losers are going to fight to keep prisons full. Any federal action that is blind to these realities will fail.

10) There is no free speech crisis on campus.

More interesting than the flaws in the poll’s execution is the buried lede: the poll failed. Look behind the absurd headlines and the poll demonstrates the opposite conclusion. College students are much more open to free speech than the general public. If it’s “chilling” that 20% of college students misunderstand free speech, what word should we use to describe the quarter of the American public and almost half of Republicans who support censoring unfavorable media outlets. Also from this poll, the college students who identified as Democrats were more open to free speech than their Republican peers. And perhaps the most important lesson from these poll results: a carefully constructed poll can get a small minority of respondents to endorse almost anything.

There is no public space in America more open to diverse opinions than our college campuses. What we are seeing there is not a crisis of tolerance, but a stark collapse in support for the Party of Donald Trump among the cream of a rising generation.

11) Republicans are pushing tax cuts, not tax reform, as Ryan Lizza explains.  I sure wish the media understood the difference.

Instead of doing the hard work of crafting a revenue-neutral tax reform, which requires taking on powerful political constituencies and working with Democrats, Republicans will fall back on arguing that the economic effects of the tax legislation will be so powerful that it will pay for itself with growth.

12) As Paul Waldman puts it, “the media needs a tax tutorial.”

To appreciate how the press is allowing the GOP to deceive the public, you first have to understand the fundamental argument Republicans are making. Their central justification for the tax cuts is that while it looks like they’re a big giveaway to the elite, in fact they are sprinkled with a magical pixie dust that not only spreads their benefits to everyone, but enables us to cut $1.5 trillion in taxes over the next 10 years without costing the government a cent. In fact, not only won’t the deficit go up, it will go down!

This argument is, in a word, false. Untrue, bogus, fallacious, fraudulent, phony. Yet again and again, reporters allow it to go unchallenged…

Which is why, every single time a Republican makes the claim that cutting taxes will create jobs and increase growth, the journalist doing the interview has an obligation — not an option, but an obligation — to say, “Hold on a minute. According to all the evidence we have, what you just said is false. Can you tell me what evidence you have for that claim?”

That’s not combative or hostile or biased, it’s basic journalism. It’s making sure that important political figures don’t throw up a fog of misleading justifications for what they’d trying to do. We may not be able to stop them from trying to deceive the public. But we don’t have to make it easy.

13) Don’t ever get stung by a tarantula hawk (wasp).  If you do, “just lie down and start screaming.”

14) Nice Brett Stephens column on the dying art of disagreement.

15) Why we cannot destroy hurricanes with bombs (or anything else).

16) How do public employees in NC get a $50,000 raise?  Political connections, of course, from those Republican stewards of taxpayer dollars.

17) Kind of crazy how Richard Rorty predicted Trump about 20 years ago.

Members of labor unions, and unorganized unskilled workers, will sooner or later realize that their government is not even trying to prevent wages from sinking or to prevent jobs from being exported. Around the same time, they will realize that suburban white-collar workers – themselves desperately afraid of being downsized – are not going to let themselves be taxed to provide social benefits for anyone else.

At that point, something will crack. The nonsuburban electorate will decide that the system has failed and start looking for a strongman to vote for – someone willing to assure them that, once he is elected, the smug bureaucrats, tricky lawyers, overpaid bond salesmen, and postmodernist professors will no longer be calling the shots.

18) How technology has changed news photography.

19) Trump’s attempts to the contrary, Americans actually understand what the NFL protests are about.

20) Can American basketball teams build better players by following the model of European soccer?

 

 

 

Quick hits (part II)

1) Nice NYT feature on how Amazon is integrating its human and robot workers.

2) Really nice, thoughtful, Garrett Epps piece on religious freedom vs LGBT rights.

3) Some other countries starting to fine parents who don’t vaccinate their kids.  Hell, yeah.

4) You know I love the Post, but this piece on “alternate nostril breathing” is literally one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen in there (and that includes Marc Thiessen columns):

Alternate nostril breathing has been shown to slow down a rapid heart rate and to lower blood pressure. It can clear toxins and respiratory systems — shodhana translates to purification and nadi to channels, so the intent of the practice is to cleanse different systems of the mind and body.

5) Love this from Mark Joseph Stern— Supreme Court justices predict the future all the time, but they are really bad at it.

6) Maybe don’t let your kid start tackle football before age 12.

7) Hell, yes, police need better training to deal with people with autism.  Thing is, though, they need much better training to deal with people with basic human weaknesses and flaws.  Far too much training on weapons and not nearly enough on conflict de-escalation, etc.

8) Why today’s teens are less about sex, drug, and rock ‘n roll (okay, at least the first two):

 

When 17-year-old Quattro Musser hangs out with friends, they don’t drink beer or cruise around in cars with their dates. Rather, they stick to G-rated activities such as rock-climbing or talking about books.

They are in good company, according to a new study showing that teenagers are increasingly delaying activities that had long been seen as rites of passage into adulthood. The study, published Tuesday in the journal Child Development, found that the percentage of adolescents in the U.S. who have a driver’s license, who have tried alcohol, who date, and who work for pay has plummeted since 1976, with the most precipitous decreases in the past decade…

“In a culture that says, ‘Okay, you’re going to go to high school, go to college, go to graduate school, and then get an internship, and you’re not going to really be responsible till your late 20s,’ well then the brain will respond accordingly,” he said.

Whether the changes are positive or negative depends on the reasons for delaying adult activities, Siegel said.

If the delay is to make room for creative exploration and forming better social and emotional connections, it is a good thing, he said. But “if it’s fear-based, obviously that’s a concern.”

Among teenagers now, “there is a feeling you’re getting of, ‘Wow, the world is pretty serious, so why would I rush to immerse myself. . .Why don’t I stay with my friends and away from anything that has heavy consequences, like pregnancy or sexually-transmitted diseases?'”

Teenagers are also more conscious now about the possible repercussions of their actions, said Stephanie Coontz, director of research at the Council on Contemporary Families.

“They’re starting to realize, wow, they really do have to worry about their resumes,” she said. “They come in without the kind of reckless disregard of consequence that a more confident generation of kids had, who said, ‘I’ll drop out of school and join the peace movement, what the hell.'”

With fewer career paths available to those without a college degree, she said, young people can no longer afford that kind of nonchalance.

“They’re absorbing the same kind of anxiety about the future that their parents have for them.”

9) Title IX is awesome when used appropriately.  Laura Kipnis shows how you take a good thing way too far.

10) This feature on Rod Blagojevich in prison was so fascinating.

11) Loved Drum on Trump’s tweets yesterday, “Trump Triples Down on White Racial Grievance Mongering.”

12) Re-thinking Darwin’s theory of sexual selection, especially as it applies to humans.

13) I don’t doubt that, in some cases, attempts at gender equity in Silicon Valley may have gone too far, but few things strike me as more pathetic as the new breed of men out there who are convinced women are out to get them and there’s some sort of witch hunt going on.

14) Dionne, Ornstein, and Mann on how Trump is forcing others to step up and save our democracy:

But precisely because the Trump threat is so profound, he has jolted much of the country to face problems that have been slowly eroding our democracy. And he has aroused a popular mobilization that may far outlast him…

A broad and powerful movement has arisen to defeat Trump and Trumpism. Its success will be a triumph worthy of celebration.

But this is not just an end in itself. It is also an essential first step toward a new politics. It will be a politics that takes seriously the need to solve the problems Trump has exposed. It will nurture our dedication to the raucous but ultimately unifying project of democratic self-government. For it is our shared commitment to republican institutions and democratic values that makes us one nation.

15) So loved this article on the science of hurricanes and why this season has been so bad:

Hurricanes exist to cool the tropics. The vast majority of sunlight beats down in the 23 degrees north and south of the equator. Without something to disperse the energy toward the poles, Earth’s climate would become unbalanced, quickly.

These planetary heat engines sprout from relatively weak clusters of thunderstorms — waves of low pressure from the coast of Africa — and fester in the warm waters of the Atlantic. They feed on tropical moisture and the sun’s intense energy and, eventually, if they get large enough, will start to spin thanks to Earth’s top-like motion.

16) Can teaching Civics save democracy?  I doubt it.  Also, where are the school systems that don’t?

17) Should you buy Tom Brady’s new exercise book?  Only if you don’t believe in science:

The problem with this notion is that exercise science has never heard of muscle pliability.

“It’s balderdash,” says Stuart Phillips, a professor at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, and an expert in muscle physiology.

In scientific terms, he says, muscles that are soft tend to be muscles that are sick. “When folks do little or nothing, as, for instance, during bed rest, then their muscles get very soft,” he says.

Mr. Brady and Mr. Guerrero have not conducted or published clinical trials of muscle pliability. Neither has anyone else. On the huge PubMed online database of published science, I found only one experiment that contains the words pliability and muscles, and it concerned the efficacy of different embalming techniques.

The book’s sections on diet and nutrition similarly lack supporting evidence, although not common sense.

18) Thomas Mills on Confederate monuments in NC:

Yesterday, the Republicans leaders of the legislature told the State Historical Commission to deny Governor Roy Cooper’s request to move Confederate monuments from the grounds of the state Capitol to the Bentonville Battlefield. Their request makes two things clear: The law they passed was meant to protect the monuments, not establish an orderly process for removal like the GOP claimed, and, second, they want to make this fight about race to drive out their base. [emphases mine]

Senator Phil Berger called Cooper’s request political theater, but it’s Berger who using the stage to advance his cause. He could have let the Historical Commission debate the matter and issue an opinion. Instead, he let the press and his base know that he’s standing up for the statues because he wants the argument to play out in the 2018 elections.

Midterm elections usually hurt the party in the White House and Republicans need something to drive their base to the polls. The fight over hundred-year-old monuments is just what they’re looking for. Native rural white Southerners who make up a large portion of the GOP base want the statues to stay. Younger people, especially African-Americans, want them gone. It’s a wedge issue and dog whistle that would make Jesse Helms proud…

Berger claims he wants to prevent the state from trying to “rewrite history” but that’s exactly what the current monuments were intended to do–and did so successfully for almost a century. If Berger’s sincere, he should also urge the current monuments be put into historical context and recognize that they were originally erected at a time when any opposition to them was being suppressed through violence and intimidation.

But Berger’s not going to do that. He’s letting his base know that he’s with them and hoping for a fight that inflames passions. And like gerrymandering and his voter suppression law, he’s letting African-Americans know that their opinions and history really don’t matter much.

Berger and the Republican leadership’s sense of history is really quite good. They understand that race is still a potent and driving force in Southern politics. Today, they’re cynically exploiting it for political gain and betting dividing North Carolina is better than uniting it.

We have got to change high school start times

I was meaning to write a post based on a recent Rand analysis that finds there’s a huge economic benefit to moving school (mostly high school) start times later.  I was slow in writing that up, but did have a great email discussion with an NC State Chemistry professor, Jim Martin, who is on our local school board.  Then, Aaron Carroll had a great piece in the Upshot summarizing all the evidence.  Instead of blogging that, I decided I’d write an Op-Ed for the N&O based on the data and my discussion with Jim Martin on all the political opposition this would bring.  Just maybe, this can help get the local political conversation going a bit.  I particularly wanted to address the fact (elided by Carroll and the Rand summary), that the benefits accrue to the general fund, but the costs are borne almost exclusively by education budgets.  Yep, that damn tyranny of separate budgets.  So, because it’s mine, here’s the whole Op-Ed:

The evidence is clear – it is time for North Carolina high schools to move back their start times for the vast majority of high school students and many middle school students. Here in Wake County, most high schools and some middle schools begin their day at 7:25 a.m. (and, in the extreme case of Apex High, 7:10 a.m.). Such early start times necessitate students getting up at 6 a.m. or even earlier. The research on school start times is compelling – early start times and wake-up times have negative impacts on our students and our communities.

Many blame modern life and smartphones, and question, “Well, can’t they just go to bed earlier?” The answer is no. Adolescent biology is different, and the truth is that teens’ natural biological clocks favor a later bedtime. Add a high-school wake-up time of 6 a.m. to that and all of a sudden the broadly-recommended nine to 10 hours of sleep for an adolescent becomes a literal impossibility. Studies have shown that when school start times become later, students respond not by staying up later but by getting more sleep.

As pretty much everybody knows, a well-rested human is a better-performing human, and the same goes for high school students. Perhaps the quickest, easiest way to achieve improved student performance across the board is not by addressing controversial issues like teacher pay or Common Core (though these are important issues), but actually letting our kids get enough sleep. The data are clear that districts that have shifted to later start times have better student performance.

Surely changing when high school starts would be expensive, with additional transportation and other logistical costs. Ahh, but there’s the rub. The latest systematic research from the highly-respected Rand Corporation says that later start times will actually result in considerable savings – where the economic benefits substantially outweigh the costs. While additional buses and drivers cost more, these costs are more than offset by the increased future economic productivity of well-rested students, as well as avoiding the costs (including loss of life) of early morning, fatigue-induced automobile accidents. The benefits Rand calculated did not even include the positive benefit of lower juvenile crime, which criminologists agree would decrease with fewer unsupervised hours in the afternoon.

With so many compelling arguments for later start times, it should be an easy change – right? How can people oppose healthier, more productive high school students while saving the state money? If only politics were that simple. The reality is, unfortunately, far more complicated.

 The first complicating factor – always a key source of friction in politics – is who pays the costs and who receives the benefits. In this case, the costs would come out of county school budgets. Alas, those same county school budgets will not reap the financial reward that comes from more productive (and alive, having avoided fatal car accidents) future citizens. While this clearly makes economic sense on the state level, it is hard to see school boards taking steps to increase their short-term costs when the benefits are long-term and do not even directly accrue to the county.

The second major complicating factor is status quo bias. People and organizations do not like major change and push back hard against it unless given a compelling reason. And this is a big change. All the evidence-based arguments of student health and economic benefit will come crashing up against the reality that this represents a major adjustment for teachers, administrators and families.

So, how to overcome these problems and bring about the change that will so clearly benefit our adolescents and our communities? This is a case where real political leadership is needed. If evidence for the benefits to young people and society outweighing the costs were enough, our high school students would already be starting at 8:30 a.m. We need politicians and intellectual leaders to clearly and prominently make the case that the difficulties of change are more than worth bearing and that counties will not be financially penalized for doing right by their students.

OK, then, politicians: time to step up and show us you are willing to listen to the evidence and take some concrete steps to benefit our students, schools and communities.

 

Quick hits (part II)

1) Right up my alley– gut bacteria may be a key to weight loss:

Using feces samples, Danish researchers analyzed the ratio of two gut bacteria, Prevotella and Bacteroides, in 62 overweight people. For 26 weeks, they randomly assigned them to a low-fat diet high in fiber, fruits, vegetables and whole grains or a diet comparable to that of the average Dane.

Those on the high-fiber diet with a high Prevotella to Bacteroides ratio lost an average of 10 pounds of body fat, three and a half pounds more that those on the diet with a low ratio.

Obviously, there’s a long way to go on this topic.  But I fully expect that people will be losing weight by modifying their microbiome within the next 10-20 years.

2) I loved this Science story about NC State paleontologist Mary Schweitzer.  Great story of paleontological controversy over dinosaurs, but I loved learning that Schweitzer started out as a young-earth creationist.

3) Is Apple charging too much for the Iphone X?  Maybe.

With the iPod—Apple’s first successful stab at market dominance—Apple had begun with a high price but quickly dropped it. Over the next few years, the iPod underwent amazing transformations, each one introducing vast improvements and—wait for it—much lower prices. It was a classic instance of Moore’s Law, which explained how tech devices can quickly get both cheaper and dramatically better.

But the iPhone was different. It was introduced with $499 at its top price—and 10 years later, its successor costs twice as much. Apple is treating Moore’s Law as if it were a jaywalking statute. Even the second-rung phone announced today, the iPhone 8—albeit a substantial upgrade to the current top-line model—starts at $699.

I love my Iphone.  But, yes, it is a rip-off (especially what Apple makes you pay for additional memory).

4) Haven’t followed it that closely, but the acquittal of police officer Jason Stockley does seem really, really wrong.

5) Of course Trump’s fraudulent voter fraud commission is using private emails.  Lock them up!

6) Nicely reported piece by Michelle Cottle on why cutting taxes will be harder than Trump thinks.  “Failure is always an option.”

7) A policy that will both punish the poor and increase the deficit?  GOP is all over that.

8) How the opioid epidemic made Vox’s German Lopez far more skeptical of full drug legalization:

Meanwhile, the government responded very slowly. The opioid epidemic began in the late 1990s, particularly with the birth of Purdue Pharma’s OxyContin in 1996. But it wasn’t until 2014 that the Drug Enforcement Administration rescheduled some opioid painkillers to put harsher restrictions on them. And it took until 2016 for Congress to pass a law that attempted to seriously address the epidemic.

In fact, the federal government pushed doctors to prescribe opioids through the “Pain as the Fifth Vital Sign” campaign in the 1990s and 2000s, as drug companies misleadingly marketed opioids to treat chronic pain. And in some cases, different levels of government loosened access to opioids after lobbying from drug companies — by passing laws that, for example, required insurers to cover the drugs.

And while Purdue Pharma was eventually fined for its horribly misleading marketing for OxyContin, the hundreds of millions it paid added up to peanuts compared to the tens of billions it’s reaped from the drug.

As a result, a lot of people have died: In terms of overdoses, the opioid epidemic is deadlier than any other drug crisis in US history — more than crack, meth, and any other heroin epidemic. In total, more than 560,000 people in the US died to drug overdoses between 1999 and 2015 (the latest year of full data available) — a death toll larger than the entire population of Atlanta. And while many of these deaths are now linked to illicit drugs like heroin and fentanyl, the source of the epidemic — what got people started on a chain to harder drugs — was opioid painkillers, and legal painkillers were still linked to most opioid overdose deaths as of 2015 (although there are signs that changed in 2016).

This was exactly what anti-legalization activists have warned about: Companies got a hold of a dangerous, addictive product, marketed it irresponsibly, and lobbied for lax rules. The government’s regulatory response floundered. The government even worked with the drug companies in some cases — under the influence of lobbying, campaign donations, and drugmaker-funded advocacy groups. And people got addicted and died.

Looking at this crisis, it slowly but surely dawned on me: Maybe full legalization isn’t the right answer to the war on drugs. Maybe the US just can’t handle regulating these potentially deadly substances in a legal environment. Maybe some form of prohibition — albeit a less stringent kind than what we have today — is the way to go.

9) The fact that Mark Joseph Stern thinks DeVos is taking the right steps on campus rape, make me feel all the more confident that indeed she is.

10) This Op-Ed in support of keeping Confederate statues struck me as laughably bad:

Already across the nation there are moves afoot to take down monuments to Christopher Columbus, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Andrew Jackson, and Woodrow Wilson, and to rename countless institutions, schools, towns, and much more. These efforts are part of an immense national effort which has at its origin small, hard core Communist groups, like the Workers’ World Party in Durham – the same group that cheers on Kim Jong Un in North Korea – who wish to completely erase nearly all American history, to rewrite totally all our past, to purify it of all perceived “impurities.” Once begun, where do they – where will it – stop?

But like all violent forces that wish to purify the past, these efforts end in a kind of intellectual and spiritual madness that devours us all and knows no end. For it is not just Confederate monuments, it is monuments to Vietnam veterans, to the Founders of this nation, to doctors, to women, to children … anyone who did not share a strict Marxist vision of society a century ago … that are now targeted.

Riiiiiight.  The communist menace, coming for our monuments.  What is this?  1952?

11) Still need to read Coates‘ big piece on race and Trump, but I still found George Packer’s rejoined quite compelling:

At the heart of American politics there is racism. But it’s not alone—there’s also greed, and broken communities, and partisan hatred, and ignorance. Any writer who wants to understand American politics has to find a way into the minds of Trump voters. Any progressive politician who wants to gain power has to find common interests with some of them, without waiting for the day of reckoning first to scourge white Americans of their original sin. This effort is one of the essential tasks of politics.

12) Seth Masket on the foolish attempts to silence Hillary Clinton.

13) James Fallows‘ very positive take on her book.

14) And I thought Ezra’s interview with her was really, really good.

15) Greg Sargent: “Hillary Clinton’s new book blasts Republicans and Russia. She’s 100 percent right.”

16) Why, yes, the NC legislature does need to stop governing by whim and decree.

17) Jon Bernstein on how Democrats’ embrace of Sanders’ single payer is not actually the equivalent of “repeal and replace.”

18) I’m not sure if this is how to fix it (sounds good), but if you want to reform criminal justice in America, you probably want to start with prosecutors offices.

19) This Quora post is actually the best thing I’ve ever read on white privilege:

What people are saying is:

  1. Denying you are lucky is silly.
  2. Stop looking bewildered every time a short person can’t reach something. We’re sick of explaining this incredibly simple concept.
  3. We know there are things you do not have (i.e. even higher shelves).
  4. We know there may be other things preventing you reaching the high shelves. Maybe you have bad elbows or arthritis. Short people with arthritis are still below you. You are still lucky you are tall.
  5. It works out well for most people, for the grocery store to put most things on medium shelves.
  6. If you can help shorter people with things on higher shelves, do so. Why would you not do that? Short people can help you with stuff on lower shelves.
  7. We are annoyed that the people who run the grocery store put all the best stuff on the top shelves.
  8. There are a lot of people who are putting things on higher shelves because they hate short people. Don’t associate with those people. They want everything to be about this height:

Same with white. Advantages. It doesn’t mean you’re rich. It doesn’t mean you’re luckier than a lucky black guy. Nobody wants you to be crippled with guilt. Nobody has ever wanted that, or means those things.

It means you have an advantage, and all anyone is asking is that you *get* that. Once you get that, it’s pretty straightforward to all the further implications.

20) Thanks to Irma and decaying infrastructure, Florida is awash in human sewage.

21) John Judis— who once argued that demographics are inevitably on Democrats side, no longer believes that is the case.  He makes the case for an economics-based Democratic politics of the future:

The second fact about elections is that conservatives in both parties have repeatedly defeated left and center-left candidates by dividing their natural constituency—the bottom two-thirds of America’s economic pyramid—along racial or ethnic lines. The Democrats who have successfully countered this divide-and-conquer strategy didn’t turn their backs on the civil rights of African Americans or Mexican-Americans, or on a woman’s right to choose; rather, they emphasized the fundamental interest in prosperity and peace that unites the working and middle classes. Think of Bill Clinton’s “putting people first” campaign in 1992, or Obama’s reelection effort in 2012, when he spent the year contrasting his vision of a country in which “everybody gets a fair shot” with the GOP’s “same old you’re-on-your-own philosophy.” …

If Democrats try to win future elections by relying on narrow racial-ethnic targeting, they will not only enable the Republicans to play wedge politics, they will also miss the opportunity to make a broader economic argument. Not long ago, I spoke with Mustafa Tameez, a Houston political consultant who made his name helping to elect the first Vietnamese-American to the Texas House. The momentum in American politics, he believes, is with Democrats who stress “an economic message rather than ethnic-identity politics. We can’t buy into the conservative frame that the Democrats are a party of the minorities.”

This thinking runs contrary to the “race-conscious” strategy touted by Democrats who believe that a majority-minority nation is a guarantee of victory. Sorry to say, but it’s not going to happen. The best way for Democrats to build a lasting majority is to fight for an agenda of shared prosperity that has the power to unite, rather than divide, their natural constituencies. There is no need, in short, for Democrats to choose between appealing to white workers and courting people of color. By making a strong and effective case for economic justice, they can do both at the same time.

22) Your absolute must-read for today– the resegregation of Jefferson County

Quick hits (part I)

1) An infant’s cry is a hugely powerful signal not just for humans, but many other mammals.

2) In our zeal to convict based on DNA evidence, we’ve taken a great tool and pushed it to the point where we are railroading innocent people (like with so much else of the criminal justice system.  Ugh.

For three decades, forensic DNA evidence has been a valuable tool in criminal investigations, incriminating or exonerating suspects. Matching a defendant’s genetic material with a sample found on a weapon or at a crime scene has proved extremely persuasive with judges and juries.

But not all DNA evidence is equal. Sometimes it’s clear: blood or semen identifies a single person. If it’s just a few skin cells left on an object, or if it contains more than one person’s genetic material, it can be more ambiguous. In such situations, labs used to report that the results were inconclusive, or the defendant could not be excluded from the mix.

New types of DNA analysis have been introduced in recent years to interpret trace amounts or complex mixtures, spawning an industry of testing tools, chemical kits and software. As analysis has become more complex, the techniques and results are coming under fire nationwide.

In the past three years, flaws in DNA methods have temporarily shut down testing in public crime labs in Austin, Tex., and Washington. Lab analysts “make it seem like it’s a completely objective process,” said Bicka Barlow, a lawyer in California with a master’s degree in genetics and molecular biology. “But I’m 100 percent convinced that there are many people who are incarcerated who were convicted with DNA evidence who are innocent.”

3) Dave Leonhardt on the rich getting richer.  It’s a policy choice.

4) Trump giving us “the best people.”  USDA chief scientist, not actually a scientist.  Just a racist.

5) Just another day in American criminal justice.  Headline and subhead, “ICE Wrongly Imprisoned an American Citizen for 1,273 Days. Judges Say He’s Owed $0.
An ICE agent sent through—and his supervisors approved—mistaken paperwork ‘proving’ Davino Watson wasn’t a citizen. And no one’s been held to account for the catastrophic screw-up.”

A not so fun fact about what Donald Rumsfeld once called “known unknowns”: ICE doesn’t know or won’t say how many American citizens have been arrested and imprisoned by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. It’s illegal for ICE to imprison Americans, but so long as its agents don’t believe you are one, the burden is on you to prove it—without being entitled to a lawyer, since most deportation hearings are civil proceedings.

An NPR analysis this year found 693 citizens have been held in local jails on federal detainer requests since 2007 and 818 more have been imprisoned directly by ICE.

Even that’s just a fraction of the 3,600 American citizens a 2011 Berkeley study found were detained by ICE under the “secure communities” program started by President Bush, dramatically expanded and later suspended by President Obama, and now revived by President Trump, who’s threatening to withhold federal funds from localities that don’t sign up. Basically, the program crosschecks local and state fingerprints against federal immigration and criminal records, so that the feds can pick up “illegal immigrants” straight from jails or prisons when their term is up.

6) Really interesting political survey of wealthy Silicon Valley types.  Basically, they are very liberal except for hating regulation.  Farhad Manjoo with a nice summary.

7) North Carolina pastor and Robert E. Lee descendant rejected by his parishioners due to his support for Black Lives Matter.

8) Damn that motivated reasoning is strong stuff.  From some new research:

Ever-growing empirical evidence documents a gender bias against women and their research—and favoring men—in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. Our research examined how receptive the scientific and public communities are to experimental evidence demonstrating this gender bias, which may contribute to women’s underrepresentation within STEM. Results from our three experiments, using general-public and university faculty samples, demonstrated that men evaluate the quality of research unveiling this bias as less meritorious than do women. These findings may inform and fuel self-correction efforts within STEM to reduce gender bias, bolster objectivity and diversity in STEM workforces, and enhance discovery, education, and achievement.

9) Really interesting article about the ketogenic diet (super high in fat; zero carb).  We looked into this for Alex’s epilepsy way back when, but fortunately never had to go down that road.

10) Love this– “no, your ancestors didn’t come here legally.”

Prior to 1875’s Page Act and 1882’s Chinese Exclusion Act, there were no national immigration laws. None. There were laws related to naturalization and citizenship, to how vessels reported their passengers, to banning the slave trade. Once New York’s Castle Garden Immigration Station opened in 1855, arrivals there reported names and origins before entering the U.S. But for all pre-1875 immigrants, no laws applied to their arrival. They weren’t legal or illegal; they were just immigrants. [emphasis mine]

11) Totally with Drum on this one– racism is not the explanation for everything Republicans do.  And to make everything we don’t like be about racism is to diminish the actual impact of racism (also, a reminder that I’ve never been a fan of Amanda Marcotte).

12) Coolest animated gif (soft-g, damnit!) ever?  What increasing hurricane winds do.

13) Max Boot has about had it with Trump’s America.

14) Damn– Lindy West on Ivanka is so good:

Ivanka Trump, first daughter, strode into Washington back in January with big promises: She was passionate about helping “working women,” she said, and she was going to close the gender wage gap even if it killed her.

Well, not if it killed her, not literally, but even if it mildly inconvenienced her, she was on it 110 percent, for the women. Well, not if it mildly inconvenienced her, she’s very busy, but definitely if there was a wage transparency policy already in place, she would not openly and glowingly support overturning it.

Well, unless her dad wanted to overturn it because doing so satisfied two of his top 10 vindictive fixations (constraining women’s independence and destroying the legacy of America’s first black president), but Ms. Trump would absolutely offer a better replacement solution, such as saying the words “child care credit” and “female entrepreneurs” repeatedly near a camera while wearing a blush-pink toggle coat. That, ladies, is the Ivanka Guarantee. Enjoy your money!

Ms. Trump’s self-professed commitment to corporate gender parity (about as milquetoast as feminism gets, but in Trump’s America, radicalism is relative) was trotted out incessantly during the campaign, especially as an antidote to her father’s self-professed commitment to nonconsensually sticking his hands on women’s genitals…

You’d think that a passionate anti-wage-gap crusader like Ms. Trump would relish a broad, ever-expanding data set illuminating her pet issue so that she could go after it with laser focus, but no. She is even more devoted than that. She hates the gender wage gap so much, she can’t even stand to know anything about it. Some heroes wear capelets.

15) Florida’s lessons learned from Hurricane Andrew.  And looks like these lessons will be put to the test.

16) This is pretty cool– how Apple is making Siri sound more human.

17) We’ve got a shortage of bus drivers in Wake County.  For some reason, the Kingswood Orange route consistently bears the brunt of it.  So far this year, my daughter’s bus typically does not leave the school until 45 minutes after school is actually over.  Ugh.  At least, the county just hit upon the solution to a labor shortage– raise wages.  Hmmm, maybe somebody should have thought of that sooner.

18) Chait on Trump, the American oligarchy, and regulatory capture.  It’s really horrible and depressing, but just so buried under the avalanche of wrongness that is the Trump presidency.

 

Some of the most astonishing regulatory capture is under way at the Department of Education. The appointment of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos provoked frenzied opposition, on the basis of her lack of experience and ideological fascination with vouchers. But the focus on DeVos’s beliefs about primary education was always misplaced, for the simple reason that primary education is financed overwhelmingly at the state and local level, so DeVos could not ruin public schools even if she tried.

Where DeVos has had a massive impact is in higher education. The federal government has much higher leverage over post-secondary education due to its involvement with student loans. These loans have often subsidized for-profit colleges, which lure customers using federally backed student loans, and furnish them with substandard or useless education. The Obama administration began cracking down on the for-profit industry in a variety of ways: imposing standards and conditions for its loans, rather than spraying them out indiscriminately to whichever college could vacuum them up. DeVos has turned her department over to the for-profit college industry, which has used its power to protect its own rackets.

19) Really enjoyed this essay on the growth of plot-driven TV comedy and how it shapes the nature of shows.  A lot of good points about Veep.

 

 

Quick hits (part I)

1) I was fascinated by this story about Trader Joe’s products.  Basically, they get national manufacturers to make a Trader Joe’s version to sell for cheaper and keep it entirely secret.

2) Nice 538 piece on the rise of white identity politics.  Pretty sure I’ve posted a version of this chart before, but it’s worth it again.  As long as Republicans manage to convince themselves that white people (and Christians!  My God, the level of delusion!) face more discrimination than Black people, we have a serious, serious problem in this country.

3) Seems like a good time to mention that Republican state legislatures across the country– including here in NC– would like to make it legal to run over protesters.  Seriously!

4) My solar eclipse glasses were refunded by Amazon out of “an abundance of caution.”  That said, based on this Today story, I’m using them anyway (rather than ordering more at what has quickly become astronomical prices):

One sure tip that the glasses are safe for use according to Pfriem is if they have “ISO 12312-2 standard” labeled on them.

Another tip: You shouldn’t be able to see your hand in front of your face while wearing the glasses. That would mean too much light is getting through the filter.

“So a third thing you could look for is when the product is actually in your hand,” Pfriem said. “Look at the film itself and make sure that there’s no pocking, bubbling or creasing. What those deformities sometimes serve to do is amplify the sun’s light coming through the filter.”

The ones I bought are literally like wearing a blindfold except when looking at the sun.  If blocking out that much visible light I’m going to assume they are blocking out the UV as well.

5) How the alt-right’s rebranding has failed.

6) You should take a look at the really disturbing Vice documentary of Charlottesville.

7) I had no idea about “crown shyness” in trees.  Very cool.

8) Enough with the constant password changing and the insistence on special characters.  What you need is a long password.

9) We really don’t have a very good sense of just how bad being “overweight” is for your health.

Most researchers agree that it’s unhealthy for the average person to be, say, 300 pounds. They don’t really know why being very overweight is bad for you, but the thinking is that all those fat cells disrupt how the body produces and uses insulin, leading to elevated glucose in the blood and, eventually, diabetes. Extra weight also increases blood pressure, which can ultimately damage the heart.

But whether just a few extra pounds raise the risk of death is a surprisingly controversial and polarizing issue. Usually, nutrition scientists tell journalists hedgy things like, “this is just what my study shows,” followed by the dreaded disclaimer: “Further research is needed.” But on this question, the researchers involved are entrenched, having reached opposite conclusions and not budging an inch. Like many internecine wars, the dispute mostly comes down to one small thing: how you define the “overweight” population in the study.

10) What Sinclair Broadcasting is doing is very bad and very scary and very under-the-radar.  Not good.

11) The open carry laws in Virginia sure don’t help the situation.

12) NC Governor Roy Cooper makes the strong case for removing the confederate monuments in NC.  Not while the Republicans run the legislature, but he’s right.

13) It is just so obvious that kids need to move to keep their brains working best (heck, adults, too) and just keeping that at their desks all day with minimal breaks is counter-productive.  And, not just obvious, plenty of studies backing them up.  At least some schools are catching on.  Alas, depressing that some educators still can’t get past this mindset:

But not all districts are embracing the trend of movement breaks.

“The bottom line is that with only six and a half hours during the day, our priority is academics,” said Tom Hernandez, the director of community relations for the Plainfield School District in Illinois, about 40 miles southwest of Chicago. He said that under state law, the schools provide daily physical education classes and that teachers in the district find ways to give students time during the day to refresh and recharge.

I think I’m going to send the article to my kids’ elementary principal next week.  I’ll be curious as to her response.

14) Jonathan Bernstein on how a classic of political science (I read it in grad school) very much explains Trump’s weakness as a president:

What Neustadt taught was that the constitutional office of President of the United States is an inherently weak one, but that skilled presidents can nevertheless become enormously influential. The flip side of this, however, is that an amateurish president can barely even exercise the constitutional and statutory authority of the office…

Without a more direct way to control the government, Neustadt argues that presidents must depend on what he calls “persuasion” — better referred to as the skilled use of leverage and bargaining power. Not just with Congress, or within the executive branch, but across the board. This “persuasion” doesn’t necessarily mean changing anyone’s mind. It may just mean convincing someone in a position of power to do nothing rather than something.

Resignations from the president’s American Manufacturing Council are a classic case of failed persuasion. The businesspeople who quit — at least six since the president’s poorly reviewed comments on Charlottesville — were private citizens, not government officials. And all Trump wanted from them, to put it plainly, was for them to do nothing while lending their credibility to his agenda. That’s not necessarily a huge ask in the current situation, which didn’t directly put the interests of Merck or Under Armour at risk. Yet persuading them to stay put was something apparently beyond the very limited abilities of the president at this point. It didn’t help, of course, that Trump reinforced his reputation as a paper tiger by attacking Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier only to have Merck’s share prices spike. As my View colleague Joe Nocera pointed out, “there’s nothing to be scared of” from Trump’s tweets. Skilled presidents, however, rely on more than just threats. They work hard to build strong relationships, and know when to dangle carrots to loosely affiliated supporters, too.

Or perhaps an even better illustration of how weak Trump has become is that he’s even lost, in at least one case, the ability to supply the words coming out of the presidential mouth. Trump resisted the statement originally drafted for him about Charlottesville on Saturday, adding squish words about “many sides” to a statement that would have condemned neo-Nazis. But that didn’t stand; by Monday, over his own personal objections, Trump wound up giving the statement he was supposed to have given in the first place. And after kicking up a firestorm in an ugly appearance on Tuesday in which he went back to blaming both sides, it wouldn’t be surprising if he winds up backing down again — or suffering a real price for saying what he wanted to say.

So Trump is, and will remain for the foreseeable future, a historically weak president. His professional reputation is in tatters, he’s unusually unpopular, and he doesn’t appear to come close to having the skills to do anything about it. Exactly the conditions under which Neustadt predicted presidents would lose influence. [emphasis mine]

15) Been hearing a lot about Antifa lately.  Nice take on it from Peter Beinart.

16) TV is getting more confusing and it’s only going to get worse.

17) Do not use hair conditioner in the case of a nuclear explosion near by.

18) Watched Bill and Ted’s (on Amazon prime this month) with the boys this week.  Holds up in my book.  David loved it just as much as I did at his age.

%d bloggers like this: