0 for 3 on health care

The N&O ran an article on what “influencers” in NC think about health care policy.  Among those that struck me was Art Pope’s response (Pope is basically NC’s very own Koch brother):

“Citizens are not entitled to ‘universal’ or ‘free’ health care, which means health care provided by a government monopoly and paid for by others,” wrote survey respondent Art Pope, the former budget director under Republican Gov. Pat McCrory. “Just as importantly, even good faith attempts to provide ‘universal health care,’ result in government run health care that is rationed, of poorer quality and more costly. [emphasis mine]

Pope– perhaps the most influential Republican in the whole state is simply wrong, wrong, and wrong.

First, of all, health care everywhere is rationed.  It’s not an unlimited resource.  What is different about America is that it is rationed by your income level and basic ability to pay in a way that it is not in other modern democracies.  Secondly, it is decidedly not of poorer quality in countries with universal care.  In fact, in terms of mortality amenable to health care, the U.S. does quite poorly.  Thirdly, and costly?  What the hell‽  We pay more for health care than anybody.  And we cover fewer people and do it less well.

Of course, Pope is not alone in being amazingly, appallingly wrong on all this.  This is mainstream GOP talking points.  It’s unclear though whether educated partisans like Pope are simply hugely self-delusional or hugely mendacious.  Neither choice is great.  Either way, it would be awesome of Republicans stopped lying about health care.

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Quick hits (part I)

1) There’s some stuff that I know so well and have heard so many times, fertilitythat it is easy to forget that it is actually not as widespread knowledge as I think.  Damn, people are ignorant on the reality of human !

The study, published in the journal Human Fertility, was based on a survey of 1,215 students at a university in Melbourne, Australia.

Most study participants said they wanted to have children, but many women said they plan to postpone childbearing until after they complete their education, advance in their careers, have access to child care and jobs that could be combined with having children, and have traveled and done other things that may be difficult with children.

“Our study shows university students overwhelmingly want to be parents, but most have an unrealistic expectation of what they will achieve prior to conception,” said Dr. Eugénie Prior of the Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority in Melbourne, who led the study.

Only 38 percent of men and 45 percent of women stated correctly that a woman’s fertility declines between 35 and 39 years of age, and only 18 percent of men and 17 percent of women knew that men’s fertility declines between 45 and 49, the authors said.

Many study participants thought male fertility starts to decline before 45, but about a quarter of men and nearly a third of women thought male fertility starts to decline only at 50. Many respondents also thought female fertility starts to decline before age 30, but about a third of men and women thought female fertility starts to decline only at 40.

Participants also overestimated the chances that a 40-year-old woman will be successful in having a baby after one round of in vitro fertilization.

2) The case for getting rid of borders completely.

3) Unsurprisingly, sharks make terrible pets.  Also, how does this WSJ editorial not mention Bond villains‽ (Yes, notice the punctuation there!)

4) Hell yeah it’s time to stop job applicant drug testing.  Again, unsurprisingly, the research connecting any of this to job performance is really weak.

5) I did enjoy this interesting profile of white workers in a chicken-processing plant where the vast majority of workers are Hispanic.  Also, if that’s you, just learn to speak Spanish.

6) This NYT feature on the mystery of the tick-borne allergy to meat is terrific.  Also, the microbiome!

7) I don’t doubt at all that it is easy to fool AI grading of student essays with paragraphs like this:

“History by mimic has not, and presumably never will be precipitously but blithely ensconced. Society will always encompass imaginativeness; many of scrutinizations but a few for an amanuensis. The perjured imaginativeness lies in the area of theory of knowledge but also the field of literature. Instead of enthralling the analysis, grounds constitutes both a disparaging quip and a diligent explanation.”

But, I suspect that the AI would be 90% accurate for 90% of my students.  There really are just some basics of good writing (that sadly, so many are lacking).

8) We maybe had a chance to do something about climate change back in the 80’s and didn’t.  That said– I think the huge amount of cheap energy stored in the ground always made that unlikely.

9) How medical providers use the rules to help charge a ton and we all pay for it (the “why you can’t get an affordable MRI” version).

10) Love this from Annie Lowery, “Jeff Bezos’s $150 Billion Fortune Is a Policy Failure: Growing inequality in the United States shows that the game is rigged.”

Bezos and Amazon are in many ways ideal exemplars of the triumph of capital over labor, like the Waltons and Walmart and Rockefeller and Standard Oil before them. That the gap between executives at top companies and employees around the country is so large is in and of itself shocking. Bezos has argued that there is not enough philanthropic need on earth for him to spend his billions on. (The Amazon founder, unlike Gates or Zuckerberg, has given away only a tiny fraction of his fortune.) “The only way that I can see to deploy this much financial resource is by converting my Amazon winnings into space travel,” he said this spring. “I am going to use my financial lottery winnings from Amazon to fund that.”

In contrast, half of Amazon’s employees make less than $28,446 a year, per the company’s legal filings.* Some workers have complained of getting timed six-minute bathroom breaks. (Amazon said it does not track or limit employee bathroom use.) Warehouse workers need to pick goods and pack boxes at closely monitored speeds, handling up to 1,000 items and walking as many as 15 miles per shift. Contractors have repeatedly complained of wage-and-hour violations and argued that the company retaliates against whistleblowers. An Amazon temp died on the floor just a few years ago.

The impoverishment of the latter and the wealth of the former are linked by policy. Take taxes. The idea of America’s progressive income-tax system is that rich workers should pay higher tax rates than poor workers, with the top rate of 37 percent hitting earnings over $500,000. (The top marginal tax rate was 92 percent as recently as 1953.) But Bezos takes a paltry salary, in relative terms, given the number of shares he owns. That means his gains are subject to capital-gains taxes, which top out at just 20 percent; like Warren Buffett, it is possible he pays effective tax rates lower than his secretary does.

11) More good stuff from Pope Francis: the death penalty is never okay:

12) Some research in support of the traditional lecture approach to teaching:

Recent studies conclude that teachers are important for student learning but it remains uncertain what actually determines effective teaching. This study directly peers into the black box of educational production by investigating the relationship between lecture style teaching and student achievement. Based on matched student–teacher data for the US, the estimation strategy exploits between-subject variation to control for unobserved student traits. Results indicate that traditional lecture style teaching is associated with significantly higher student achievement. No support for detrimental effects of lecture style teaching can be found even when evaluating possible selection biases due to unobservable teacher characteristics.

13) Chait on Republicans and health care:

The new Trumpcare plans will be cheap for people who are healthy enough to qualify. But they don’t cover much. If you find you’re having a baby, or need a weekend stay at a hospital, or even something as exotic as prescription drugs, you’re out of luck. The Journal editorial page insists this will all be fine, because “not everyone needs all benefits,” and also, “[t]he HHS rule also stipulates that issuers must prominently display a notice that the coverage isn’t compliant with the Affordable Care Act. Everyone will know what they’re buying.” Right, because everybody in America is already aware of what the essential benefits of Obamacare contain, and thus what their absence implies. Anyway, insurers are definitely going to make sure you’re aware of all the shortfalls and gaps in the product they’re selling you.

What is striking about the Trump-era Republican health agenda is the lack of policy ambition. Having spent years insisting they had an army of wonks who could design a better alternative to the Obamacare “train wreck,” the Republican plan of attack has dissolved into a rearguard sabotage campaign with no pretense of doing anything to help the poor and sick afford medical care. Health care remains a policy ground with which conservative-movement dogma cannot grapple.

14a) Loved this on the Sarah Jeong tweet controversy:

But others were quick to say that the statements Jeong made could be skewed as racist only if the culture, history and current sociopolitical context of the United States were ignored. [emphasis mine]

“Part of the reason it was so easy for the outrage to be manufactured in the first place was it was completely decontextualized and ahistorified,” said Nolan L. Cabrera, an associate professor at the University of Arizona who will publish a book in the fall about racial attitudes held by white college students. “Then it was easy to drum up anger and say it looks like she hates white people. That only makes sense if you are willfully ignorant of 400 to 500 years’ history and contemporary social context and also the context from which the tweets were sent.”

It is likely true, as many have pointed out, that if any minority group were substituted in the place of white people into Jeong’s statements, she would not have kept her job. Some edited Jeong’s tweets to hammer home that idea, replacing the words “white people” in her tweets with “black people” and “Jewish people.”

But Cabrera said the idea was “a complete false equivalence,” noting that whiteness isn’t a cultural identity the way being black, Japanese American or Jewish is. Cabrera listed off examples of government policies that targeted various racial groups, including the Chinese Exclusion Act and Operation Wetback, calling racism a “systemic reality” that necessarily favors white people.

14b) And this from the Verge:

But as the editors of The Verge, we want to be clear: this abusive backlash is dishonest and outrageous. The trolls engaged in this campaign are using the same tactics that exploded during Gamergate, and they have been employed in recent years by even broader audiences amid a rise in hostility toward journalists. From cries about “ethics in journalism” to “fake news,” journalists have been increasingly targeted by people acting in bad faith [emphasis mine] who do not care about the work they do, the challenges they face, or the actual context of their statements.

Online trolls and harassers want us, the Times, and other newsrooms to waste our time by debating their malicious agenda. They take tweets and other statements out of context because they want to disrupt us and harm individual reporters. The strategy is to divide and conquer by forcing newsrooms to disavow their colleagues one at a time. This is not a good-faith conversation; it’s intimidation.

15) And I liked this take on racist/homophobic tweets from baseball players.

16) How California’s birds are adapting to climate change:

Of 32,000 birds recorded in California mountain ranges in the old and new surveys — from thumb-sized Calliope hummingbirds to the spectacular pileated woodpecker — Dr. Tingley and his colleagues discovered that most species now nest about a week earlier than they did 70 to 100 years ago.

That slight advance in timing translates into nesting temperatures about two degrees Fahrenheit cooler than the birds would encounter had they not moved up their breeding time — almost exactly counterbalancing the two-degree rise in average temperatures recorded over the last century.

17) I don’t know that Sarah will even stick with soccer long enough for her to start heading the ball, but if she does…

And according to a study published Tuesday in Radiology, female players are more sensitive to the impact than males.

The study authors found that female amateur soccer players who frequently head balls showed more white matter brain alterations than their male counterparts. The study included 49 women and 49 men, ages 18 to 50, and examined MRI imaging of players’ brains. Each female player was compared to a male player of a similar age and with other similar characteristics including frequency of heading exposure.

Lead author Michael Lipton, a neuroradiologist and neuroscientist at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, says white matter in the brain can be compared to fiber optic cable, which connects a network of computer. White matter is made up thread-like axon nerve fibers that connect neurons to each other, and their protective covering, myelin.

Heading causes these brain tissues to become disorganized, Lipton says. His previous research found that these abnormalities accompany poorer cognitive functionassociated with memory or attention issues when associated with heading.

“The most important finding here is that we see that in women’s brains, actually looking at brain tissue, there seems to be a greater sensitivity to repetitive, very low-level injury relative to men,” he says.

An important note about this research, Lipton says, is that it isn’t about concussions. Instead, it’s measuring “sub-concussive injuries,” or repeated impacts that don’t cause any immediate, acknowledged problem for the player, but could be problematic in the long-term.

18) I must it really bugs me that nobody seems to be talking about the McGlockton “stand your ground” shooting in Florida.  This deserves protests!

19) I’m thinking of planting an apple tree or two in my yard, and so it was time for a little more apple research.  I finally found an answer to a question that’s been bugging me… why the hell do Red Delicious apples even still exist.  Short answer: export market (and the difficulty of switching to new cultivars) Still doesn’t explain why these poor excuses for apples are always in my grocery stores.

Almost everyone agrees: The Red Delicious is a crime against the apple. The fruit makes for a joyless snack, despite the false promise of its name, with a bitter skin that gives way to crumbling, mealy flesh. The Red Delicious is a bit like a Styrofoam prop: It looks picturesque, but really has no business in the mouth. Maybe that’s why the New York Apple Association suggests people use their Red Delicious in holiday wreaths and centerpieces. They sure look nice, but they taste like inanimate objects.

The Red Delicious looks picturesque, but really has no business in the mouth.

As fruits go, the Red Delicious has an unparalleled power to inspire visceral disgust. (There are whole Reddit threads devoted to bashing it.) And yet the variety is ubiquitous. Though it’s no longer the most popular apple in America—since its heyday in the 1980s, it’s been overtaken by newer, tastier varieties—the Delicious remains the most heavily produced apple in the United States. Which means that, even though we’ve long since caught on, you can still find the red scourge everywhere.

This raises some important questions. Why do we keep growing 2.7 billion pounds of Red Delicious apples every year? And are growers still excited by the Delicious or are they stuck between a declining market and an orchard they can’t afford to tear up?

20) This is infuriating, “Arrested, Jailed and Charged With a Felony. For Voting.”  In North Carolina.  The willingness of Republicans to ruin people’s lives to score political points is just disgusting.

Quick hits (part I)

1) Really interesting feature on the difficulty of making life after hate for former hardcore white supremacists:

Confronting white supremacists online and in the streets may feel personally gratifying and politically urgent. Yet as liberals and the anti-Trump “resistance” fawn over Life After Hate, deradicalization activists argue that much of what the left thinks it knows about shutting down racist extremists is misplaced. When it comes to changing individuals, denunciation may counteract rather than hasten deradicalization. If that seems like surrender, consider that some researchers who study hate groups think we should view violent extremism not only as a problem of ideology, but also as a problem of addiction: a craving for group identity, adrenaline, and the psycho­logical kick of hatred. As with substance addiction, there may be no silver bullet for curing extremism, only a lifelong battle to leave such impulses behind. As Peter Simi, a sociologist at Chapman University in California, puts it, “You probably don’t ever fully move on from violent extremism.” The uncomfortable truth is that the best way to reform racist thugs may be to offer them precisely what they aren’t willing to offer others, and precisely what many people in this polarized political moment feel they least deserve: empathy.

2) Goop (Gwynneth Paltrow’s monetized pseudo science) the magazine is not happening with Conde Nast (publisher of New Yorker, among others) because quality magazines insist on fact-checking.

3) The reality is that Paul Ryan is an horrible person who has protected Trump at every opportunity:

That’s important defensive work on behalf of Trump, and Ryan has been deeply engaged in it

Far more numerous, however, are Ryan’s sins of omissions: things he could have done to strengthen the Mueller investigation, protect it from interference, and subject the Trump administration to real scrutiny.

Ryan could condemn House Oversight Committee Chair Trey Gowdy and House Judiciary Committee Chair Bob Goodlatte for holding farcical hearings on FBI agents Lisa Page and Peter Strzok meant to cast the whole effort to investigate Trump’s Russia conduct as a witch hunt.

He could threaten to strip Gowdy and Goodlatte of their chairmanships unless they commit to launch investigations into Trump’s fraudulent charity, into his potentially corrupt real estate deals abroad, and into the possibility that Trump actively collaborated with Russian intelligence, WikiLeaks, or both. He could urge them to subpoena Trump’s tax returns and search them for irregularities. He has not done any of that.

Ryan could bring the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act, a bipartisan bill that would protect Mueller against arbitrary firing, to the House floor for a vote, or force House Goodlatte to consider it in committee. He has not; he hasn’t even endorsed the bill.

Ryan could force a floor vote on the Protecting Our Democracy Act, a bill with 200 co-sponsors (two of whom are Republicans) to create a National Commission on Foreign Interference in the 2016 Election to investigate what exactly happened with Russia’s interference. He hasn’t endorsed the bill, let alone brought it up for a vote.

Ryan could also force a floor vote on a version of the Senate’s Secure Elections Act, which would get rid of paperless electronic voting machines that are hackable and push states to engage in routine audits to verify election results are legitimate. Mainstream Republicans like Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) are on board. Ryan is not.

A recent report by Politico Playbook suggested that congressional Republicans think all the criticism they’re receiving for carrying water for Trump is unfair. The message, Playbook reported, boiled down to, “WHAT THE HELL DO YOU WANT US TO DO?” They claim they’ve held sufficient hearings and slapped enough sanctions on Russia.

The litany above is what I want them to do, and the person who could make them do it is Paul Ryan. He could remove Devin Nunes with the stroke of a pen. He could bring floor votes on the above legislation whenever he wants. He could whip votes for the legislation too, and push Mitch McConnell to move it in the Senate.

That he doesn’t do any of that, and in fact actively enables the cover-up, is telling. Ryan genuinely believes that the cause of slashing corporate taxes and tax rates for rich Americans is worth collaborating with a reckless administration in an elaborate attempt to cover up wrongdoing. He makes that choice every day, and it should blacken his historical legacy.

4) I do find the controversy about Mesut Özil, the meaning of nationality in Germany, and the German soccer team pretty fascinating.

5) Why don’t more men take their wife’s last name?

And so it is that, even after generations of feminist progress, the expectation, at least for straight couples, has remained: Women take the man’s last name. Seventy-two percent of adults polled in a 2011 study said they believe a woman should give up her maiden name when she gets married, and half of those who responded said they believe that it should be a legal requirement, not a choice. In some states, married women could not legally vote under their maiden name until the mid-1970s.

The opposite—a man taking his wife’s name—remains incredibly rare: In a recent study of 877 heterosexual married men, less than 3 percent took their wife’s name when they got married. When her fiancé, Avery, announced that he wanted to take her last name, Becca Lamb, a 23-year-old administrative assistant living in Washington, D.C., told me that, at first, she said no: “It shocked me. I had always expected to take my husband’s last name someday. I didn’t want to do anything too out of the norm.”

6) I had no idea who James Gunn was but I think Disney was totally wrong in firing him.  And I also think we should not be aiding conservatives in weaponizing old tweets.

7) Sea-level rise is wreaking havoc on NC beaches.  But our Republican legislature requires we pretend otherwise.

8) Is there anything more pathetic than all the racist white people who insist that it is minorities and the anti-racists who are the problem when it comes to race?  David Roberts: on the reaction to his twitter “white people” poll:

Substantively (if you can call it that), there were two basic reactions. One is to say that I’m a racist, or liberals are the real racists, because they keep calling attention to race and dividing people up by race, while conservatives are just trying to be individuals and judge people by the content of their character. It’s the “No puppet! You’re the puppet!” of racism.

(I’m not going to pluck out individual tweets and embed them here because I don’t want to drag individuals on Twitter into a public dispute like this; you can read the thread to see if I’m characterizing it accurately.)

These are mutually contradictory points, of course. “You’re the real racist, and white people rule.” But they are both very familiar in conservative rhetoric and both delivered behind the same aesthetic, using the same keywords, in the same jumbled tone of fury and contempt.

9) I quite loved Billy Joel back in the day (pretty much never listen any more, though still have a soft spot for “Matter of Trust”).  Loved this NYT interview on what he’s up to and why he stopped recording new songs.

10) Speaking of music, had a great time seeing Weezer (for the third time) this past week.  Though, I realized it seems like rock and roll (i.e., guitar-driven rock) really is dead these days.  Given my negativity towards jazz, this little bit in a “rock and roll really is dead” piece really set me back:

Top 40 radio, which has always been for teenagers, is mostly devoted to post-rock pop and hip-hop. In 2016, rock is not teenage music.

Rock is now where jazz was in the early 1980s. Its form is mostly fixed.

Well, damn, nothing I love like catchy, guitar-driven music.

11) A victory for the Impossible Burger.  I remain a techno-optimist on widespread, affordable, and tasty plant-based meat in our future.  Good for our environment and good for humane treatment of animals.

Quick hits (part I)

1) Maps of Israeli settlements that shocked Obama.

2) When you consider the economy, Trump is really unpopular.  Ezra Klein:

3.8 percent unemployment and 42 percent approval. Is that “winning”?

Here’s another way to think about this question: Would President Marco Rubio or Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders or Mitt Romney be at 42 percent amidst 3.8 percent unemployment? I doubt it. But I also can’t prove it.

The strongest argument Allen and VandeHei make, in my view, is that Trump, for all his erratic behavior, is registering numbers in line with some past presidents. They note that at this point, Barack Obama was at 46 percent, Bill Clinton was at 46 percent, Ronald Reagan was at 45 percent, and Jimmy Carter was at 43 percent. This makes Trump’s performance sound, if not impressive, at least normal.

What they fail to note is that all those presidents were managing much more troubled economies than Trump. In June of their second year, the unemployment rate was at 9.4 percent for Obama, 6.1 percent for Clinton, 9.6 percent for Reagan, and 5.8 percent for Carter. (And this understates how bad the economy was, given stagflation and the other aftereffects of the OPEC oil embargo.)

And Allen and VandeHei leave out both George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. While there were foreign policy dynamics present in their presidencies that make them a tricky fit, I’m not sure they’re worse comparisons than Trump’s combination of peace abroad and extremely low unemployment and high stock prices at home.

According to Gallup, they were at 63 percent and 76 percent approval, respectively, at this point. (It must gall Trump that both Presidents Bush, given how little regard he has for their political skill, were so much more popular at this point in their terms than he is.)

Another way to think about this question is to look at the last time the economy was at 3.8 percent unemployment amid a record stock market. That was in April of 2000, when Bill Clinton registered a 59 percent Gallup approval rating — 17 points above where Trump is now.

3) (Don’t miss this EMG) The anti-vaxxers take on a horse vaccine for the super-deadly Hendra virus (I learned about this in the great book, Spillover).  

4) Is there nothing NC Republicans won’t do to try and prop up their candidates?!

5) And speaking of that last sentence, yeah, the interrobang is cool, but a “?!” seems to work just fine for me.

6) Loves this Fresh Air interview with a pastor who was formerly militantly anti-abortion, but now seems more interested in Jesus’ actual message.  So nice to see self-reflection and humility.

7) And, let’s just keep with a Podcast string here… Loved this Radiolab segment on just how biologically complicated sex (i.e. male/female) actually is.  (Make sure you listen, Nicole).

8) In a less busy week, I so would have done a post on Derek Thompson’s great article on how Canada has been pro-immigrant without a populist backlash.  History, man– it matters!

For decades, Canada has sustained exceptionally high levels of immigration without facing an illiberal populist groundswell. It is the most inclusive country in the world in its attitudes toward immigrants, religion, and sexuality, according to a 2018 survey by the polling company Ipsos. In a ranking of the most important Canadian symbols and values, its citizens put “multiculturalism” right next to the national anthem—and just behind their flag. In the U.S., those supportive of multiculturalism say they’re the least patriotic; in Canada, patriotism and multiculturalism go together like fries and cheese curds.

To be clear, Canada has not discovered some magical elixir to eradicate intoleranceracism, or inequality, all of which are present in the nation of 36 million. Its indigenous communities, which have endured centuries of brutalization and discrimination, often live under conditions that are still described as “third world.” And the country is not equally welcoming to all newcomers. But at a time when anti-immigrant sentiment and populist politics are sweeping across Europe and America, Canada stands apart.

What’s Canada’s secret? A blend of imperial history, bizarre and desolate geography, and provincial politics have forged something unique in the Great White North. Countries now buckling under the strain of xenophobic populism should take note.

9) “Carb-rinsing“… who knew?

10) Save the planet, eat beans, not meat.

This inefficient process happens on a massive scale. Brazil, the world’s largest exporter of red meat, holds around 212 million cattle. (In June, the U.S. temporarily suspended imports of beef from Brazil due to abscesses, collections of pus, in the meat.) According to the United Nations, 33 percent of arable land on Earth is used to grow feed for livestock. Even more, 26 percent of the ice-free terrestrial surface of Earth is used for grazing livestock. In all, almost a third of the land on Earth is used to produce meat and animal products.

“The real beauty of this kind of thing is that climate impact doesn’t have to be policy-driven,” said Harwatt. “It can just be a positive, empowering thing for consumers to see that they can make a significant impact by doing something as simple as eating beans instead of beef.”She and her colleagues conclude in the journal Climatic Change: “While not currently recognized as a climate policy option, the ‘beans for beef’ scenario offers significant climate change mitigation and other environmental benefits, illustrating the high potential of animal to plant food shifts.”

11) Josh Marshall on Jim Jordan.  Such a shame that everybody is lying about this man of unquestioned honesty and integrity ;-).  And Paul Waldman:

Today, when allegations of this sort surface against a Democrat, the first impulse of those in the Democratic Party is to assume that the victims are probably telling the truth and ask whether the member should resign. That wasn’t always their response in the past, but now it is. The first impulse of Republicans when such a scandal touches their own, on the other hand, is to defend the member no matter what the facts suggest and charge that it’s a liberal conspiracy.

That may be partly because they all pledged their loyalty to a president who is on tape bragging about his ability to commit sexual assault with impunity (“When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”), and who was credibly accused of sexual misconduct by a dozen women. Whatever the reasons, they haven’t caught up to the morality of the 21st century.

12) Really enjoyed Megan McArdle asking for more intellectually honest conversations around affirmative action.

13) Political Scientists Matt Grossman and David Hopkins on what really needs to be banged into the heads of political journalists, “No, Democrats Aren’t Ruining Their Midterm Chances.”  Of course, among actual media bias, the bias towards conflict is a very real thing.

14) Matt Yglesias on Brett Kavanaugh’s pro-corporate motivating ideology:

While it’s certainly true that a few important remnants — most notably, some semblance of a legal right to abortion — of that old debate remain relevant, the real debate in the American judiciary is whether the Constitution allows the people’s elected representatives to meaningfully regulate the national economy.

Kavanaugh clearly believes it does not: He has called the existence of independent regulatory agencies — notably including the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau but potentially the entire alphabet soup of FCC, FTC, CFTC, SEC, FEC, etc. — a “threat to individual liberty.”

But rather than debate this squarely, we are instead faced with grifters like Kavanaugh’s former boss Ken Starr insisting in the pages of the Washington Post that Kavanaugh stands for nothing more than a simple “pro-democracy, let-the-people-govern-themselves vision.” The truth is quite the opposite — Kavanaugh’s vision, which he shares with Starr and the bulk of the conservative legal academy, is one in which the courts should stand as staunch allies of capital and block any effort at democratic control of big business…

In short, Starr praises Kavanaugh for favoring judicial activism in pursuit of a light-touch regulatory agenda.

The way the American political system works is that passing laws is clunky and difficult. Between bicameralism, the presidential veto, the committee system, and the filibuster, it’s just very hard to get new legislation enacted. At the same time, the business world moves fast to try to exploit profit-making opportunities. So if you want to regulate business effectively, you can’t play legislative whack-a-mole and spot abuses in real time. What reformers do instead is try to create regulatory agencies that are given broad mandates to police areas of conduct.

A classic example is the Clean Air Act, which charges the Environmental Protection Agency with identifying forms of harmful air pollution and promulgating rules to cost-effectively reduce it, rather than counting on Congress to pass new laws every time science or business practice changes. To make this system work, judges need to show deference to the regulatory agencies and acknowledge that the congressional reformers who created them wanted the agencies to have some flexibility and discretion. Kavanaugh, as Starr correctly observers, does not believe that this deference should be granted. This is a crucial aspect of his judicial philosophy, and Starr is right to call attention to it.

But Kavanaugh’s doctrine is not about the promotion of self-government or even about deference, it’s about viewing discretion as a one-way street that is always biased against regulation.

15) John Cassidy on Peter Strzok:

Strzok was far from fazed, however. With his close-cut hair, sharp features, and self-confident bearing, he looked like Hollywood’s idea of a senior F.B.I. agent, and he seemed delighted to have his say in public. In his opening statement, which he read out slowly, in a firm voice, he had already effectively demolished the Republican theory of the case: that he was out to get Trump, and prevent him from becoming President. “In the summer of 2016, I was one of a handful of people who knew the details of Russian election interference and its possible connections with members of the Trump campaign,” Strzok said. “This information had the potential to derail and, quite possibly, defeat Mr. Trump. But the thought of exposing that information never crossed my mind.”

Not content with undermining the logic of his inquisitors, Strzok also dared to question their motivation, and even their patriotism, saying, “I understand we are living in a political era in which insults and insinuation often drown out honesty and integrity, but the honest truth is that Russian interference in our elections constitutes a grave attack on our democracy.” The Russian attack had been “wildly successful—sowing discord in our nation and shaking faith in our institutions,” Strzok continued. “I have the utmost respect for Congress’s oversight role, but I truly believe that today’s hearing is just another victory notch in Putin’s belt and another milestone in our enemies’ campaign to tear America apart.”…

As Strzok spoke, Gowdy leaned back in his chair, a cold look on his face. What was he thinking? He hasn’t served entirely as a White House patsy on the Russia affair. At one point, he suggested that Trump should start acting more like he is innocent. But Gowdy and other House Republicans invested what was left of their credibility in a conspiracy theory that was now blowing up in their faces, live on television. After Strzok said the words “deeply destructive,” there was a brief silence in the hearing room. Then there was a round of applause from the public gallery.

16) The deadly superbug yeast that is coming to get us.

17) Republicans kills off super-useful medical database because, of course, their corporate masters would rather physicians not have ready access to what costly treatments are not actually effective.

18) I love how Waldman puts it, “If this is a ‘witch hunt,’ it sure is finding a lot of witches.”

Early Friday afternoon, the Justice Department announced that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III had indicted 12 Russian officials in connection with the Kremlin’s effort to manipulate the 2016 presidential election, making even clearer what we already knew: The Russian government had a comprehensive program intended to hurt the candidacy of Hillary Clinton and to help Donald Trump get elected.

The fact this has been treated as anything less than a profound national emergency — and that one of our two parties has argued again and again that it’s no big deal — is something that should appall anyone who has even the slightest concern for U.S. national security.

It is notable that these indictments come a day after Republicans mounted a farcical hearing meant to advance the ludicrous notion that the entire Russia investigation is illegitimate because one FBI agent said disparaging things about President Trump in private text messages during the campaign. But here’s part of what Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein said during his news conference today:

The indictment charges 12 Russian military officers by name for conspiring to interfere with the 2016 presidential election. Eleven of the defendants are charged with conspiring to hack into computers, steal documents and release those documents with the intent to interfere with the election. One of those defendants and a 12th Russian military officer are charged with conspiring to infiltrate computers of organizations involved in administering the elections, including state boards of elections, secretaries of state, and companies that supply software used to administer elections.

The indictment contains numerous intriguing details, including the fact that the Russian hacking of the emails of Clinton associates began on the same day that Trump publicly said, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 [Clinton] emails that are missing.”

19) Really interesting feature on how armed citizen good guys in Oklahoma stopped an active shooter, but how the full story is more complicated.  Also, these good guys were an active member of the OK Air National Guard and a former police officer.  This is not just some wannabe heroes who took a couple hour concealed carry class.

20 Nice thorough story of the Thailand Cave rescue was pulled off.

21) The Chait article on Trump’s 30-year connections with Russia that everybody has been talking about.  And NeverTrumper Tom Nichols’ take on it:

Instead, what Chait presents, without having to get too far out on a ledge about agents or assets, is a plausible case that a U.S. president is compromised by a foreign power that has damaging information about him…

Finally, whatever one thinks of Chait’s piece, the attacks from Trump defenders are no more than a reflex that reveals the exhausting double-standard that pro-Trump Republicans must now carry like a cinder block around their necks. People who once wanted to imprison Hillary Clinton for a uranium deal approved by the U.S. government are now waving away 30 years of Moscow’s personal and financial investments in Trump as though it’s nothing more than a condo purchase on an overdrawn checking account.

I do not know how much pressure the president is under from the Russians. Neither does Chait. Neither do Trump’s defenders. We may never get the full story, unless it is revealed to us by Robert Mueller or found in a future tranche of declassified documents. But there is no way to read Chait’s story—or to do any judicious review of Trump’s dealings with the Russians over years—and reach any other conclusion but that the Kremlin has damaging and deeply compromising knowledge about the president. Whether it is using such materials, and how, is a matter of legitimate argument. That such things exist, however, and that they seem to be preoccupying the president, should be obvious. [emphasis mine]

22) Vox headline and subhead says it (mostly) all, “A new study blows up Trump’s “catch-and-release” myth: Families seeking asylum often miss their court dates — not because they’re criminals, but because the system is broken.”

23) Another reason to hate penalty kick shoot-outs to settle soccer games.  In something where the result should be close to 50-50, the team that shoots first wins about 60% of the time.

24) Olga Khazan on the absurd influence of baby formula producers, as recently seen via the Trump administration:

This latest tussle in Geneva follows a decades-long battle by infant-formula makers to promote themselves as essentially on par with breast milk. And while health experts instead say “breast is best,” as this incident shows, policymakers aren’t always willing to put legislation behind that message.

Formula makers have responded to the cultural battle over breastfeeding in true corporate form: by lobbying for their interests and marketing their products. For example, Abbott Laboratories, which makes Similac and other formulas, spent $790,000 on lobbying this year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Though the company has spent more in past years, this year their disclosure lists having lobbied the U.S. Trade Representative, among others, on “proposals regarding infant nutrition marketing.” …

Since 1981, the infant-formula who code has been updated through resolutions at the World Health Assembly. The last update was in 2016, during the Obama administration, and it was a big policy push, according to Elizabeth Zehner, a project director with Helen Keller International. As they often do, industry groups spoke out against it, said Sullivan, the 1,000 Days director who attended the 2016 session. The World Health Assembly “welcomed” the 2016 resolution “with appreciation,” a notch below endorsing it.

However, this year’s resolution wasn’t about updating the code. It was more modest, simply intended to remind countries of the importance of promoting breastfeeding, Sullivan said, and notify them about best practices around breastfeeding and HIV, or during natural disasters.

So it surprised health advocates that the United States would use such heavy-handed efforts to try to kill it. “They used very aggressive tactics to get rid of a resolution that really wasn’t a policy grab,” Zehner said.

Of course, aggressive is often the way of the Trump administration. As President Trump wrote on Twitter yesterday, “The failing NY Times Fake News story today about breast feeding must be called out.”

Quick hits (part I)

1) David Frum on the great Russian disinformation campaign.

2) I honestly think it’s just kind of cute that Michael Gerson asks, “Will the GOP become the party of white backlash?” as if that ship hadn’t sailed long ago.  Hint to Gerson– read your own newspaper.

3) Adam Liptak, “How Conservatives Weaponized the First Amendment.”

4) WRAL editorial on NC Republicans, “230 years ago nation’s founders saw tyranny N.C. legislators now seek to impose.”

Two-hundred-thirty years ago in the Federalist Papers, James Madison identified what the leaders of the North Carolina General Assembly are trying to do today with their bundle of State Constitutional amendments. “The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.

Legislators who write the laws that we live under want voters to change the State Constitution and give lawmakers the power to appoint and pay the judges who will decide if those laws are constitutional. It is a dangerous power-grab by an elite few that weakens the voice of all North Carolina citizens.

This is not about Republicans vs. Democrats. This isn’t about liberals vs. conservatives. It isn’t even about Gov. Roy Cooper vs. Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore.

It is about taking a wrecking ball to the foundation of government established by our federal and state constitutions: The separation of powers and checks-and-balances each branch of government – executive, legislative and judicial – has on the other. This assault can also be found in other proposed amendments, including one to change the appointment and composition of the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement.

5) It’s kind of scary and sad to watch Poland slide further into authoritarianism.  Thinks are just not good in the world.

6) Jennifer Rubin on how we should not be done with Scott Pruitt:

Three aspects of this tawdry episode deserve emphasis. First, congressional oversight was slight, to say the least. Only when Democrats on the House Oversight Committee began meeting with whistleblowers did the Republican majority kick into high gear. Even then, House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) used letters rather than subpoenas to request information. As a result, the EPA’s responses were often incomplete and imprecise. Pruitt’s fall is not because Congress did its job. It allowed the White House to stall well past the point any other administration would have been allowed to.

Second, the investigations should not end with his departure. The extent to which he ripped off taxpayers must be determined, and anyone who assisted in his escapades must be fired. In addition, it is not clear whether any criminal laws were broken or if the government has the ability to force Pruitt to reimburse taxpayers. Republicans will certainly do their best to sweep this under the rug; Democrats should insist taxpayers be repaid.

Third, Pruitt was simply following the lead of the president who has violated about every financial norm his predecessors upheld. President Trump still hasn’t released his tax returns. He has not divested himself of ongoing businesses which he continues to profit from. He continues to receive foreign emoluments, although multiple lawsuits seek to end what may be a constitutional violation. And the president has employed relatives who have their own conflicts, such as his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, giving foreign governments the impression that they could use his financial situation to advance their interests with the U.S. government.

7) Luke Moore says VAR is wrecking the World Cup.  Personally, I’ve been really, really pleasantly surprised with how quick and effective it has been.  That said, he’s totally right about this:

For starters, the ref shouldn’t be seen as an enemy to be undermined and berated during the game by fans and players and commentators, and then mocked endlessly by former players in the studio afterward. Why don’t FIFA and other soccer organizations do more to punish cheating during games? The sport is marred by constant diving, feigning of injuries and dishonest appeals for penalties. Empowering referees to clamp down on such behavior would certainly curtail it — freeing the refs to concentrate on officiating properly. Wishful thinking it may be, but if every player were 100 percent honest, the game would officiate itself. And then we would hardly need those 98-percent-accurate referees, let alone VAR.

8) If you are familiar with the famous “count the basketball passes” experiment, this is a must-read.  If you are not familiar with it, watch this videothen this is a must-read.

9) We have a growing problem with tick-borne diseases.  Personally, I’d hate to end up with a red meat allergy.

10) Catherine Rampell on the US and China:

President Trump is right about one thing. China really has been stealing many of America’s most valuable ideas.

For years, the Chinese government turned a blind eye to counterfeited U.S. luxury goods, bootlegged Hollywood films, fake Apple stores, trade secrets pilfered from cutting-edge U.S. tech companies. It forced U.S. firms to hand over their technology if they wanted to operate in China.

Now the Chinese government has decided to borrow one of our best foreign policy ideas, too: banding together with allies to punish a cheating, trade-obstructing bully…

If this all sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because China’s strategy is very similar to the one the United States had not long ago devised . . . to keep China in line.

11) Oh, man, rescuing those trapped kids in the Thai cave is really, really complicated!

12) I love that England’s “striker’s coach” used to coach with our very own local minor league soccer team, the NC Railhawks (now NCFC).

13) Ron Brownstein on the Democratic Party’s choice in 2020:

Almost halfway through Donald Trump’s tempestuous first term, Democrats are divided between two visions of how they can dislodge the Republican dominance of Washington and most state governments. One camp believes the party’s best chance will come from targeting mostly white, Republican-leaning voters who are recoiling from Trump on personal, more so than policy, grounds. The other camp believes the biggest opportunity is to turn out more voters from the groups most intensely hostile to Trump, in terms of both his style and agenda: Millennials, nonwhites, and white women who are college educated or unmarried. One camp bets mostly on persuading swing voters, the other on mobilizing base voters.

In practice, Democrats inevitably will need to do some of both. It’s a truism that whenever a political party seems to face an either/or choice, the right answer is usually both/and. That’s especially true in the 2018 midterm election. This fall, the party will be fielding dozens of candidates who subscribe to each theory, largely (but not completely) sorted between nominees who focus on persuasion in mostly white, Trump-leaning, or purple areas, and those emphasizing mobilization on more Democratic-leaning and racially diverse terrain.
But in the selection of their 2020 presidential nominee, Democrats will face a genuine crossroads. Few, if any, potential candidates would be equally effective at both energizing the party base and reassuring swing voters. Candidates who tilt mostly toward reassurance might include former Vice President Joe Biden, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Those best positioned to mobilize could include Senators Kamala Harris of California and Cory Booker of New Jersey, two younger lawmakers who embody the party’s growing racial diversity, as well as Senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, two graying lions of the left.Among Democratic political professionals, there’s probably a narrow majority that favors focusing on ordinarily Republican-leaning voters repulsed by Trump. However, the L.A. immigration rally was revealing because it showed the potential strength of the alternative strategy of mobilization.

14) Referring to married women as “Mrs” is an archaic term and we need to do away with it.  Especially Wimbeldon.  Had a really good time explaining this to my boys today, who had no idea.

15) Love this Wirecutter list of kid and family games.  I think I want to buy Dixit.

 

Craziness from not quite Republican state legislator

No, not crazy Republican state legislator, but this guy did manage to get the nomination in NC 48, which appears to be a safe Democratic seat.  Pretty, pretty amazing:

A website tied to a candidate for the North Carolina General Assembly says God is a racist white supremacist and that Jews are descended from Satan.

Russell Walker is a Republican candidate running for state House District 48 which includes Scotland and Hoke counties.

On Tuesday, the North Carolina Republican Party withdrew its support for Walker…

Walker did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Wednesday.

“What is wrong with being a white supremacist? God is a racist and a white supremacist,” the website connected to Walker says.

“Someone or group has to be supreme and that group is the whites of the world … someone or something has to be inferior … In all history in sub-Saharan Africa, no two-story building or a waterproof boat was ever made.”

Walker has authored multiple essays and other articles on the site and has said it belongs to him.

The reporter I talked to today said if you did around the website, it’s even worse.  Yes, credit to Republicans for disavowing him, but that’s a pretty low bar.  Does this guy successfully run and win a nomination pre-Trump?  Maybe, but I think far less likely.  Here’s the news story where you get 5 seconds of me and my office.  (And look, I put a tie on (just for 5 minutes) during the summer.

 

Quick hits (part II)

1) I thought this title from a John Cassidy post kind of answers itself, “Giuliani’s call for Mueller to be suspended is a moment of truth for the Republican Party.”  Maybe.  But we’ve already had a bunch of “moments of truth” and the Congressional GOP has failed them all.

2) So, this nice PS research on racial bias among Republican legislators was just published, though, it looks like it is four years old.  Either way, very good stuff that somehow I had missed:

Groundbreaking work by two USC researchers has shown that lawmakers who support voter ID laws are more likely to show racial bias against Latino constituents.

“We wanted to find out if we could detect bias among legislators toward certain groups of people affected by voter ID laws,” said doctoral candidate Matthew Mendez, who did the research with Christian Grose, associate professor of political science at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. Such laws require registered voters to show government-issued ID, such as a driving license, before they can vote…

To test bias among state legislators, Grose and Mendez developed a pioneering field experiment. In the two weeks leading to the Nov. 4, 2012 general election, they sent emails to 1,871 state legislators in 14 states with the largest Latino populations in the U.S. The emails read as follows:

Hello (Representative/Senator NAME),

My name is (voter NAME) and I have heard a lot in the news lately about identification being required at the polls. I do not have a driver’s license. Can I still vote in November? Thank you for your help.

Sincerely,
(voter NAME)

Grose and Mendez sent one group of legislators the email from a fictional voter they named Jacob Smith. The other group received it from fictional voter Santiago Rodriguez. In each group, half the legislators received emails written in Spanish, while half received emails in English…

The results showed that lawmakers who had supported voter ID requirements were much more likely to respond to Jacob Smith than to Santiago Rodriguez, thereby revealing a preference for responding to constituents with Anglophone names over constituents with Hispanic ones. They also showed legislators were more likely to respond to English than Spanish-language constituents.

Among voter ID supporters, the responsiveness to Latino constituents was dramatically lower than to Anglo constituents. Even within the Spanish-language constituents’ requests, the Spanish speaker with an Anglo name was responded to 9 percentage points more than a Spanish speaker with a Latino name. The latter received virtually no response from the voter ID supporters, with a response rate of just 1 percent.

3) The decision for the AP “World History” course to now focus on post 1450 only has been quite controversial, but, if colleges are only giving credit for college classes that cover that period, than that strikes me as the smart and reasonable approach for the college board.

4) More political science debate on whether Voter ID laws actually suppress turnout.  My take: even if they don’t they are still bad because that is so self-evidently their intent.

5) This American Life had a great story on an actual high school inside a New Orleans jail.  Here’s the Marshall Project version of it.

6) I hate that my wife relies on a lot Uline boxes for her store, because damn are the Uihleins some rich and influential conservatives.

7) Want your kids to eat almost anything?  Sure as hell don’t do what my wife and I have done, but take the advice from this NPR article.

8) Why soccer is the perfect cosmopolitan antidote to Trump (and, damn, hope you saw the Spain-Portugal game yesterday– so entertaining).

Social media, the wildly popular FIFA video game, the ubiquity of international soccer on TV and the marketing of large U.S. companies all increase soccer’s presence in mainstream culture. The degree to which your teenager’s youth soccer is turning him or her into a citizen of the world will vary according to region and other demographic factors (NBC Sports viewership of the English Premier League still skews toward bicoastal elites, for instance). But there’s no question that soccer’s rising popularity is a nationwide phenomenon, and that playing the game and following it represent a sea change in how people are connecting to place and one another through sports: Even casual players and fans are fully aware that the sport doesn’t revolve around the United States. We all know there are better players and better teams elsewhere; that the best a promising young American prospect like Christian Pulisic (a world-class talent) can aspire to isn’t some college scholarship, as it would be in our domestic sports, but to cross the Atlantic at an early age and attach himself to a club like Germany’s Borussia Dortmund — which he did.

America is becoming a soccer power, but we are far from dominant, and this year fans must experience the healthy heartache of the world’s most popular sporting event taking place without the United States, after our national team’s surprising failure to qualify last fall. It’s not always about us.

Think about how subversive all this is to traditional “We’re No. 1” American entitlement or to “America First” isolationism, and the historic suspicion of soccer in some quarters becomes more understandable. Better for Fortress America to play its own games and proclaim its winners “world champions,” lest we end up with a fifth column of rootless cosmopolitans.

9) Speaking of soccer, this is about the best goal I’ve seen in-person (and from pretty much just this angle).  A great goal in any league.

10) Nice Op-Ed on “misguided” legislation (over)protecting NC hog farmers.

11) I’m not too much of an NBA guy, but I did watch some of the finals.  Found this article pretty intriguing about how the under-performance of Kevin Love is actually why the Cavaliers are so much weaker than the Warriors.

12) Of course, NC Republicans did not get any actual input from elections officials or public input before making substantial changes to early-voting hours and requirements.

13) Back to the soccer theme, Man-in-Blazer, Roger Bennett, “Soccer in the U.S. doesn’t need a team in the World Cup. It’s already here to stay.”

14) My first-born (and reader of this blog) graduated from high school on Monday.  How much do I love that Seth Masket analyzed “Donna Martin graduates!” a chant I hear in my head at every graduation I attend, in Mischiefs of Faction.  And, as long as we’re at it, no protest needed for David Greene:

15) First-person account of pediatrician turned lead-poisoning detective in Flint.  So disconcerting how so many warning signs and concerns were ignored.

16) Saw “Incredibles 2” with the family yesterday.  Really, really liked it.  Nice NYT article on how far the animation has come in 14 years.  Also, really enjoyed the Pixar short before the film, Bao.  This led me to recall my favorite Pixar short ever, Knick Knack.

 

17) This was really interesting and surprising– less time for children in the sun may be leading to the world-wide increase in nearsightedness.  (Of course, given my -10 prescription, you’d think I was raised in a cave).

18) So loved the feel-good story of the week about the skyscraper-scaling raccoon in Minnesota.

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