Quick hits (part I)

1) Good article in Chronicle of Higher Ed about the Canadian graduate student reprimanded for showing a video debate about gender neutral pronouns.

2) Check out America’s declining fertility rate.  You know how to maintain economic growth and a society that is not hopelessly old when this is below 2.0?  That’s right– immigration.

3) Washington State University campus Republicans re-elected their organization’s president even after he was shown to be a a white nationalist.

4) Yglesias on tax cuts and deficits

At some point Democrats will be in a position to govern again, and will likely want to roll back significant elements of this unpopular and regressive tax plan. At that point, they’ll have a choice between spending the money raised on deficit reduction (as the partial repeal of the Bush tax cuts did) or to help pay for worthwhile new programs. It’s true, of course, that Republican politicians will opportunistically flip and start condemning debt as the greatest evil of all.

More to the point, it’s true that the CEO class — currently hungry for tax cuts — will revert to “grand bargain” mode and insist that tax increases, if they must happen, should be paired with spending cuts. It’s true that much of the media will cover this hypocrisy in a clueless and irresponsible way. But the most important truth of all: Democrats will have the power to govern as they see fit, and the right choice will be to implement sound economic policy, not obsess about the deficit. So let’s not spend the Trump years in a senseless state of debt panic.

5) Very useful reminder from Chait that even the least conservative GOP Senator, Susan Collins, is still in conservative fantasyland on taxes.

6) Seth Masket on Trump facing consequences:

There are some important ways in which Trump is paying a price for his behavior, however, and these should not be ignored simply because they move slowly. For one, there’s a very serious criminal investigation of this administration moving ahead. Robert Mueller’s investigation has now produced four indictments this year, including that of the president’s former campaign manager and his choice for national security advisor. In the legal world, this is fast, and consequential, work, and could well end up as a case for impeachment and removal.

What’s more, we shouldn’t ignore the fact that Trump is highly unpopular. His approval ratings seem mired in the 30s during a period of solid economic growth, low crime, low gas prices, low inflation, and a relatively peaceful international environment. This unpopularity is costly to him and his agenda and it could prove devastating for his party.

7) I love my Netflix.  Interesting Vox take on the future of streaming.

8) Ahhhh, McSweeney’s, “Things to do at work besides showing your penis to coworkers.”

9) Former child actress gets the best of FCC Chairman in battle over net neutrality.

10) Lemurs and gut microbiomes— two of my favorite topics together!  Also, I love that their is now a journal called “Gut Microbes.”

11) A good (and much shorter than Jesse Singal’s long, but excellent) article on the deep flaws of the widely-used Implicit Attitude Test to measure racism.  And a nice further (short) response from Jesse Singal.

12) In a similar vein, excellent Hidden Brain podcast on the heinous mis-use of super-flawed personality tests.

13) Nice Mea Culpa from Billy Bush.

14) Philip Bump, “Why aren’t you paying the estate tax? Maybe because you bought 311,000 bottles of whisky.”

15) What happens when cheerleaders in small-town NC take a knee for the anthem.

16) Really enjoyed this piece from Allison Benedikt (who married her former workplace supervisor) on the grey area of workplace romance:

If a younger woman asks an older and more professionally powerful man for job advice, and that man ends up hitting on the woman, is that on its own harassment? Is it always wrong when a man is attracted to a woman at work, and acts on that attraction? If that man tries to, say, kiss the woman he is attracted to, and she’s not into it, and they leave it at that, was that forcible kissing? If a woman is not attracted to a man who comes on to her, and that man is in a position of any sort of power, is that clearly a fireable offense? I don’t think the answer to these questions is definitively yes. And yet, these tales and others like them have been stitched into the narrative of behavior that’s truly beyond the pale, and at times punished accordingly…

But when John took me to a dark bar after we closed our first story together, or when he made his move on the steps of the subway station, in the romantic glow of the Duane Reade sign, why wasn’t that harassment? Though he wasn’t the editor of the magazine or anything close, he controlled which assignments I got, and which I didn’t, and would have been the person to write my evaluation, had we done those back then. There were the steps John took to evaluate my interest before leaning in for that kiss, like asking me out for drinks after work. But what if I had felt pressure to say yes to his  invite? Or what if, when he did kiss me, I had pulled away? At the time, our work and our social lives were all mixed up in wonderful, messy, risky ways. I know John wouldn’t have punished me at work had I not been interested in his advances; if he had, that would have been harassment, and not OK. Even so, life at the magazine might have become uncomfortable for me, or for him, if things hadn’t worked out. Maybe I would have wanted to find another job, or maybe he would have. Maybe, because I was younger and less established, it would have fallen on me to figure that out, which would have been hard, but no harder than needing to find a new job because I wasn’t advancing or because I hated my boss for nonkissing reasons. Maybe I wouldn’t have cared at all that this weird dude kissed me. Maybe I would have been flattered. Or maybe it would have really sucked. In none of those scenarios, though, would John have been a sexual harasser simply because he had more power in the office than I did and made a move. He took a risk. I was capable of evaluating his advances for myself. In my case, I welcomed them. If we had just met today, though, I fear there’s no way he would have even tried…

Of course not all workplaces are the same, and I have no interest in arguing that every office should be flirty and fun, or that all bosses should feel free to flirt with abandon. My point is not that I know where the line is. It’s that, even in the midst of the most public reckoning with atrocious and abusive male behavior of my lifetime, the line is not as clear as much of the dialogue would have you think. We spend a huge portion of our waking hours at work, and particularly when you are young and single or childless or divorced or simply working all the time, much of your social life revolves around your colleagues. We have work crushes and work wives and husbands, and sometimes we kiss our co-workers or sleep with them. Sometimes that turns into something real—my husband and I are not the only long-married couple to come out of that now-defunct magazine. But sometimes it turns into everyone at a bar, drinking a little too much, and a man touching a woman’s arm or leg or rubbing her shoulder, trying to make a move, and that woman not being into it. That’s an uncomfortable situation, but we all make each other uncomfortable sometimes, particularly when sex and attraction are involved. The goal should be for a person to say “no thanks, dude,” without consequences, not for rejection to never be necessary at all.

17) A nice, succinct summary of how CRISPR-CAS9 gene editing works.

18) History tells us that getting rid of net neutrality is a radically bad idea.

19) Was talking about people taking their kids to Disney World at way too young ages at lunch and I hit upon the term “performative parenting.”  Unsurprisingly, I’m not the first to coin it, but damn is it an apt term in our social media age.

20) Or not.

21) The best solution to obesity is actually bariactic surgery.  A huge part of its effectiveness is that it actually changes how the body produces hunger and satiety hormones.

22) Really interesting piece from Farhad Manjoo on how Amazon has led to a growth in surprisingly cheap– while still being good– consumer electronics.  I’ve definitely benefited from this headphones and very much recognize the attempts of these small companies to work rigorously for strong Amazon reviews.

23) Chait with the case for why the Steele dossier on Trump is likely mostly true.

24) And he points to this assessment from intelligence pros:

[Editor’s Note: In this special Just Security article, highly respected former member of the CIA’s Senior Intelligence Service, John Sipher examines the Steele dossier using methods that an intelligence officer would to try to validate such information. Sipher concludes that the dossier’s information on campaign collusion is generally credible when measured against standard Russian intelligence practices, events subsequent to Steele’s reporting, and information that has become available in the nine months since Steele’s final report. The dossier, in Sipher’s view, is not without fault, including factual inaccuracies. Those errors, however, do not detract from an overarching framework that has proven to be ever more reliable as new revelations about potential Trump campaign collusion with the Kremlin and its affiliates has come to light in the nine months since Steele submitted his final report.]


25) Christina Cauterruci argues the Democrats have successfully played the long game with Franken’s resignation:

I’d counter with an even longer game: Think about the Democrats with long, bright futures ahead of them, the rising stars, the next Obamas, the legislators who might pass universal Medicare or eliminate Medicaid abortion bans or become president someday. If Kirsten Gillibrand, Sherrod Brown, and Kamala Harris didn’t condemn Franken, they’d lose no small degree of faith among women currently feeling empowered by the #MeToo movement to root out abusers. If Franken was allowed to keep his seat while his party comrades twiddled their thumbs, young people who already think the Democratic Party is a corrupt instrument of the bourgeoisie would have one more reason to write it off for good. By sacrificing one senator, however popular he might be and whatever the perils of relinquishing his seat, Democrats were able to prevent irreparable damage to the party’s reputation among the people it should care about most: its base.

There’s another still longer game to think about, too. In the best-case scenario, the hurt caused by Franken’s resignation will be a memorable lesson to Democrats: Don’t mistreat women, or promote the candidacies of people who do—otherwise, your party might take a debilitating loss when it can least afford it, and the whole country will suffer. The moral high ground can be painful to walk, but at least there are fewer gropers there.



No really, NC Republicans really do hate poor people

Radley Balko on the case:

This story from the Marshall Project is just infuriating. North Carolina, like many states, has added layers of fees and fines for roadway infractions — and then for not being able to pay those fees and fines — that for low-income people can make even something as banal as a seat-belt violation grow into a crushing debt.

As post-Ferguson reports have drawn national attention to the debilitating nature of these fines and fees, some North Carolina judges have begun waiving them for people who can demonstrate that they’re too poor to pay them. Enter the state legislature, which Republicans control with a veto-proof majority.

A new North Carolina law takes effect Friday that is designed to hamstring the ability of judges to waive fines and fees for poor people.

Critics say the law will mean jail time for more poor people who can’t pay court costs that start at $179 for a seat belt violation and can easily surpass $1,000.

The law is believed to be the first of its kind in the country. It runs counter to reform efforts in other states that are attempting to reduce the number of people jailed because they are unable to pay fines or fees or make bail…

The argument in favor of the law, as near as I can tell, is that many public services in the state (including the courts) rely on these fines and fees for significant portions of their operational budgets. But the problem there is not that waiving these fees will starve the courts and some of these agencies of revenue; it’s that the state has a system in which so many basic government functions are reliant on fines and fees extracted from people accused of breaking the law. It doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in the impartiality of the state’s municipal courts when their operating budgets grow fatter with every conviction and thinner with every acquittal…

Here’s what likely will happen: Under the new law, judges who frequently grant waivers are now looking at thousands of dollars in additional costs. If they stop granting waivers, those costs go away. The people who were too poor to pay before are probably still too poor to pay. It’s just that now their debts will continue to mount, they’ll eventually face the loss of their driver’s license and perhaps eventually wind up in jail. [emphases mine] (Also, please spare me the line about “if you’re too poor to pay the fine, just follow the law.” As I’ve explained here before, our roads and traffic laws are designed to encourage law-breaking and to generate revenue.)…

This legislation is abominable. In most jurisdictions where we see this odious system of fines, fees and predatory municipal courts, the system itself was the product of public officials who probably weren’t considering all of the ramifications and possible unintended consequences of the laws they were passing. That is, they’re guilty of careless and sloppy policymaking, but probably not of intentionally targeting the poor.

This North Carolina law is more sinister. These politicians are putting a boot to the necks of the state’s poor. And the fact that they’ve refused to put their names on the law is the big tell. They know exactly what they’re doing.

Wow.  It seems that every time you think, “damn, these Republicans running the state are stupid and evil, how much worse can it get?” they decide to show us.  Why not just pass a bill directly throwing poor people in prison.

Quick Hits (part II)

1) It’s been 60 years since the Russian dog, Laika, went into space.

2) Trendiest parenting fears of 2017.

3) This interview on “why we pretend to know things” is really, really good.

Sean Illing
I’m trying to think about all of this in terms of our political circumstances. Most of us don’t understand as much as we think, and yet we’re all cocksure about a range of issues. So when we are arguing about politics, what are we really arguing about? Is it about getting it right or is it about preserving our sense of rightness?

Steven Sloman
I’m not sure there’s a sharp distinction between wanting to get it right and wanting to preserve our sense of rightness. In the political domain, like most domains in which we don’t just hear or see what’s true, we rely on social consensus. So argument is about trying to convince others while we’re trying to convince ourselves. Getting it right essentially means we’re convinced.

Of course, we’re biased to preserve our sense of rightness, but we have to be. If we weren’t, we’d be starting again each time we approached an issue; our previous arguments would be for naught.

Nevertheless, people differ on this. Everyone has a compulsion to be right, meaning that they want the people around them to think they’re right, and this is easily achieved by mouthing the things that the people around you say. And people who are more capable tend to be better at finding ways to interpret new facts in line with their community’s preconceptions.

But some people do try to rise above the crowd: to verify claims independently, to give fair hearing to others’ claims, and to follow the data where it actually leads. In fact, many people are trained to do that: scientists, judges, forensic investigators, physicians, etc. That doesn’t mean they always do (and they don’t always), just that they’re supposed to try. [I’m going to assume he means social scientists in that, too]

I like to live in communities that put a premium on getting things right even when they fly in the face of social norms. This means living with constant tension, but it’s worth it.

4) Wonkette with my favorite take on the Donna Brazile “rigged” election silliness.  On the bright side, when liberals whine about the “rigged” election, that’s a great shortcut to know I need not take them intellectually seriously.

5) HB2 continues to haunt NC.

6) When mean videos make it past the YouTube filters for kids.

7) How Fox News covered the Manafort indictment.  Surprise– not well.

8) So, we know vaccines don’t cause autism, but we still don’t really know what does other than “it’s complicated.”  Oh, yeah, and Fragile X and Tuberous Sclerosis Complex.

9) Britain’s National Health Service trying to incentive losing weight and quitting smoking before access to routine surgery.

10) The college kids taking on the twitter bots.

11) An Iowa teenager scapegoated for the problems with the ACA marketplace and what really caused the problems.

12) Nice profile of John Kasich.

The urban vacuum

Terrific Ron Brownstein piece last week (I love him, but hate that he’s at CNN now.  Though, good for CNN, I guess) on the hugely important, under-appreciated demographic shift taking place.  America’s major urban areas are basically sucking up all the educated people and all the economic productivity in ever greater numbers:

In metro areas from Seattle to Chicago to Washington, DC, new data show that per capita incomes, education levels and the young adult share of the population are rising rapidly in downtown urban centers that were left for dead 30 and 40 years ago. Simultaneously, in many of the same places, incomes, education levels and the age structure is failing to keep pace, or even deteriorating, in the small town and exurban communities at the metropolitan area’s periphery.

This widening geographic separation between town and country — reinforced by a strong urban tilt in such key measures as venture capital investment and new business formation — helps explain President Donald Trump’s overwhelming support in the smaller, mostly white communities that largely feel excluded from the economic recovery since 2009…

Using data from the 1990 Census, and the five-year 2011-2015 average from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, the analysis shows that many cities have been revived by an influx of well-educated, affluent, young people, even as communities further from the urban core have struggled to retain those same prized residents. In some places, the inner suburbs in between have also gained; in others they have lost ground. But the tilt in opportunity away from communities on the urban periphery to those at the city core is consistent through all regions. [emphases mine]

The UVA data documents this shift by measuring the demographic and economic characteristics of people who live in the urban centers of 50 large metropolitan areas and up to 30 miles from them. In a series of interactive charts, it compares those profiles in both 1990 and today. That comparison produces a pattern reminiscent of what Ross Perot, the independent presidential candidate in 1992, once called “a giant sucking sound” — in this case center cities pulling away the most upwardly mobile people from smaller places.

Since 1990, the overall number of college graduates in the nation has grown, but the gap between the share of them living in central cities and smaller places is widening.

In Chicago, the share of college graduates in the central city has increased since 1990 by 25 percentage points. That’s almost exactly double the increase (13 points) in communities at 30 miles. In Seattle, over the same period, the share of college graduates at center city has exploded by 26 percentage points (from 35% to 61%) while growing just six points (from 17% to 23%) 30 miles out. In Charlotte, the share of residents with a college degree in 1990 was 11 percentage points greater at the city center than at the 30-mile marker; now the difference is 41 points. In 1990, about 1 in 5 people at the city center in Phoenix held a college degree, roughly double the level in communities 30 miles away. Now nearly 3 in 5 center residents in Phoenix have a degree, well over triple the level at 30 miles…

The frustrations of younger mostly minority communities inside growing cities, and the older, predominantly white communities at their periphery, are really two reflections of the same challenge: finding ways to more widely disperse opportunity beyond well-educated workers in a few highly networked urban centers of clustered talent. Trump has responded mostly by pointing blame at foreign trading competitors, immigrants and the political “elite,” while Democrats typically shake their fist at the rich and Wall Street. But both parties are still largely at square one of formulating an agenda that can plausibly channel more of the growth coursing through the biggest cities into the places it has bypassed — both nearby and far away.

This is a big, important change that will definitely shape politics in major ways.  Rob Christensen does not reference Brownstein, but his piece on the struggling smaller cities in NC fits exactly into this pattern.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Using algorithms to help with sentencing decisions seems like a good way to minimize the impact of human bias.  Alas, it actually exacerbates racial bias.

2) Paul Waldman and Jon Chait both with the exact same (and completely apt) take on Trump, Republican, and Russia.  “No puppet.  No puppet.  You’re the puppet!”

3) My friend/colleague who studies China made a compelling case to me at lunch the other day that goings-on in China of late are really important.  Here’s the NYT story.

4) Yglesias makes the case that Corker and Flake need to actually use their leverage as Senators:

I don’t live inside the minds of Flake, Corker, and McCain, so I can’t know exactly how much of a high point of ideological principle they view this bank regulation thing to be. But in general, to take action against Trump, they need to do four things:

  1. Identify something they want to force Trump to do.
  2. Identify something Republicans want to pass that they think is less important than No. 1.
  3. Say that unless No. 1 happens, they will scuttle No. 2.
  4. Repeat as necessary.

Part of the genius of the American system of government is that issues don’t need to be closely related for senators to make them be closely related. Flake, Corker, and McCain all care a lot about foreign policy, for example. So one thing they might be concerned about is the extent to which the State Department’s senior leadership ranks are riddled with vacancies. They could have stood up and said they would scuttle the bill on bank lawsuits unless Trump submitted a full slate of well-qualified nominees for these positions.

Or since all three men have spoken out about the Trump administration’s troubling dishonesty, perhaps the thing they want is for Chief of Staff John Kelly to apologize to Rep. Frederica Wilson for lying about her in the White House briefing room…

The point isn’t that anti-Trump Republicans should adopt all of my policy views. It’s that they need to engage in some self-reflection about their own policy views. Pick some things that seem important to them but unlikely to happen, pick some things that seem likely to happen but less important, and threaten to scuttle the likely things unless they get their way on the important things. That’s what legislators do — they legislate.

5) Honestly, the workaday NYT headline says it all, “Tax Cuts Are the Glue Holding a Fractured Republican Party Together.”

6) An experiment that made participants feel less susceptible to fear made them temporarily more liberal.

7) I have to say, this Burger King anti-bullying ad really is very good.  For my part, I ran with Evan in his middle school’s “anti-bullying 5K” today.

8) Seth Masket, “Meet Fox News, Our Director of National Policy.”

I strongly recommend reading through Matthew Gertz’s Twitter thread in which he watched Fox & Friends while following Trump’s Twitter feed. Basically, approximately 30 minutes after a Fox story, Trump would tweet something related to it. Fox called congressional Democrats obstructionists at 6:08 a.m. on October 18th, and Trump tweeted that Democrats are opposed to his tax reductions 30 minutes later. Fox ran a story about James Comey at 6:29 a.m., and Trump tweeted a criticism of Comey 27 minutes later. This pattern continues. (The president TiVo-ing Fox & Friends helps account for the time lag.)…

Presidential scholars will tell you that the presidency is a constitutionally weak position, but that one of the major strengths it has is setting the agenda for the federal government. No one can compete with the media attention the president will receive, and what he decides will be an important issue often ends up becoming so; whoever sets the president’s agenda possesses a great deal of power. Often, that role has fallen to the major political parties, but Trump’s relationship with his party is a tenuous one. Sometimes it falls to the president’s most immediate set of advisers.

In Trump’s case, it appears to be Fox News. The news network devoted to covering the federal government is, in fact, setting that government’s agenda. Reporters and news outlets have occasional had some sway with the president, but it’s hard to think of a parallel to this relationship. Indeed, this helps to explain why the Republican agenda has been so fraught and disorganized.

9) Enjoyed Popular Science’s round-up of the 12 most important health innovations of the year.

10) Andrew Sullivan lets loose on the “Trump abyss.”  Wow.

Yes, the forms of the Constitution remain largely intact after nine months. But the norms that make the Constitution work are crumbling. The structure looks the same, but Trump has relentlessly attacked their foundations. Do not therefore keep your eyes on the surface. Put your ear to the ground.

And we know something after a year of this. It will go on. This is not a function of strategy or what we might ordinarily describe as will. It is because this president is so psychologically disordered he cannot behave in any other way. His emotions control his mind; his narcissism overwhelms even basic self-interest, let alone the interest of the country as a whole. He cannot unite the country, even if, somewhere in his fathomless vanity, he wants to. And he cannot stop this manic defense of ego because if he did, his very self would collapse. This is why he lies and why he cannot admit a single one of them. He is psychologically incapable of accepting that he could be wrong and someone else could be right. His impulse – which he cannot control – is simply to assault the person who points out the error, or blame someone else for it…

If I were asked which were the problems that are most overlooked right now, I’d say record levels of social and economic inequality, declining social mobility and a dangerous, unsustainable level of debt. Acquiescence to all three poses a threat to the legitimacy of democratic capitalism. My own understanding of conservatism would be particularly concerned about all three, because conservatives should want to conserve our system of government and support for free market economics.

So what does the ostensibly conservative party in America – the Republicans – propose we do? They propose that we make all of this de-legitimization of democratic capitalism much, much worse. I’m referring primarily to their proposed massive tax cut to the super-wealthy, the abolition of the estate tax, and their bid to add over a trillion dollars to the debt.

11) Damn.  I will take a libertarian anyday, or heck, a Mitt Romney Republican, over these damn totalitarians in liberal guise on college campuses.  I don’t know anything about the University of Oregon president.  I do know that nothing justifies students preventing him from giving his “state of the university” speech.

12) Is there something about the state of Oregon.  Reed College, which, like Oberlin, pretty much represents extreme liberalism amok on campus, apparently has pretty much lost its mind.  This essay from a Reed professor was just sad.  Worst part is that the college administration allowed this.  On the bright side, as much as everybody likes to say “kids today” Reed and Oregon are still outliers.  That said, actual liberals need to vociferously speak up against this authoritarian crap.

At Reed College in Oregon, where I work, a group of students began protestingthe required first-year humanities course a year ago. Three times a week, students sat in the lecture space holding signs — many too obscene to be printed here — condemning the course and its faculty as white supremacists, as anti-black, as not open to dialogue and criticism, on the grounds that we continue to teach, among many other things, Aristotle and Plato.

In the interest of supporting dissent and the free exchange of ideas, the faculty and administration allowed this. Those who felt able to do so lectured surrounded by those signs for the better part of a year.

13) Apparently stealing marathon bib numbers and designs prior to the race by social media and then using them to make counterfeits and run the race is a big thing.

14) The shameless disrespect for the judicial branch in NC is certainly one of the most frustrating– and woefully under-covered– aspects of the clowns currently running our state legislature.

15) The Supreme Court is not above playing fast and loose with facts.

Photo of the day

Had a great time at the NC State Fair yesterday.  Loved the colors in this shot (my Canon G7X in HDR mode).

Yes, I live in a Banana Republic

No, not the United States, but North Carolina.  It’s shameful and pathetic.  The latest attempts of NC Republicans to undermine the judicial branch are chronicled in the NYT:

RALEIGH, N.C. — Republicans with a firm grip on the North Carolina legislature — and, until January, the governor’s seat — enacted a conservative agenda in recent years, only to have a steady stream of laws affecting voting and legislative power rejected by the courts.

Now lawmakers have seized on a solution: change the makeup of the courts.

Judges in state courts as of this year must identify their party affiliation on ballots, making North Carolina the first state in nearly a century to adopt partisan court elections. The General Assembly in Raleigh reduced the size of the state Court of Appeals, depriving Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, of naming replacements for retiring Republicans.

And this month, lawmakers drew new boundaries for judicial districts statewide, which critics say are meant to increase the number of Republican judges on district and superior courts and would force many African-Americans on the bench into runoffs against other incumbents…

Republicans say their goal is to correct yearslong imbalances from shifts in population, ignored while Democrats held power, and to give voters more information about little-known judges in down-ballot races. “This is about making good policy,” Representative Justin Burr, who unveiled the proposed new judicial maps in a series of Twitter messages one Sunday in June, has said.

And if you believe that, I’ve got a bridge to sell you.

Since Republicans ended more than a century of Democratic rule in 2010 by capturing both houses of the General Assembly, they have justified their sometimes hardball tactics as being no different from Democrats’ ways in the past. Mr. Cooper’s narrow victory, the General Assembly rammed through laws to strip him of crucial powers.

But longtime observers of North Carolina government say Republicans’ actions are without recent precedent. And court rulings seem to affirm their point. The United States Supreme Court said this year the legislature created illegal racial gerrymanders in drawing election maps for Congress and its own members in 2011. The Supreme Court also sustained a lower-court ruling that North Carolina’s 2013 voter ID law was unconstitutional and discriminated against blacks “with almost surgical precision.”

“Anybody who has been around for a while will tell you what’s happened in the last few years is on an entirely different level than anything done before,” said Michael Crowell, a former associate director of the Institute of Government at the University of North Carolina, who is unaffiliated with a party. “The common feature here is that so much of it seems to be designed to manipulate the election process.” [emphasis mine]

In a smart formulation Brendan Nyhan often uses– what would you think about this if you saw it in another country?  That’s right.  Banana Republic.  The callous disregard for basic principles of democracy is depressing and disgusting.

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