Quick hits (part I)

1) Nice profile of Reverend William Barber in Esquire.  Love this part:

His policy positions fall far to the left on today’s political scale. But he sees most of them as coming from conservative traditions rooted in the Bible—traditions that don’t line up with conservative politics today.

People who focus their moral energy on gay marriage and prayer in schools, he says, are missing what Jesus cared about the most: justice and mercy. It’s a stock line in his sermons: “They are saying so much about what God says so little, and so little about what God says so much.”

2) Ryan Lizza on Trump giving up on the border wall.  Love this take:

One reliable way to know that Donald Trump has reversed himself on an issue is if he denies having done any such thing. The pattern repeats itself: his Administration is dealt a major setback—the courts blocking his travel bans, the G.O.P. health-care bill dying in the House—and Trump responds by decreeing that “great progress” is being made and the media is neglecting to cover it. It’s easy to become inured to how bizarre this is: America has a President who denies observable reality and uses his social-media accounts to feed his supporters an alternate version of the truth. All politicians spin. Trump lies, regularly and brazenly.

It should have come as little surprise, therefore, when Trump tweeted the following on Tuesday morning: “Don’t let the fake media tell you that I have changed my position on the WALL. It will get built and help stop drugs, human trafficking etc.” Of course, he did change his position. The tweet came just a day after the White House had retreated from its stance that funding for the wall had to be included in the spending bill that Congress must pass by Friday to keep the government open.

3) The New Orleans monument that conservatives are all upset that just came down was literally  a monument to white supremacy.  And the Minnesota native running as a Trumpist for Governor in Virginia who is all about protecting confederate memorials.

4) Frum says that Trump is showing that really turning up the heat on immigration enforcement is actually effective policy for cutting illegal immigration.

5) Pew on the changing fortunes of the middle class.

5) Drum on Comey:

Once again, the primary concern was protecting Comey and the FBI. Republicans had made it clear that their retribution against anyone who helped Clinton would be relentless, and that clearly had an impact on Comey. Steinbach’s suggestion that Republican vengeance would have destroyed the FBI is clearly nuts, but Comey was taking no chances. He didn’t want the grief.

Even after it was all over, Comey’s partisan influences continued to work on him:

Officials and others close to him also acknowledge that Mr. Comey has been changed by the tumultuous year.

Early on Saturday, March 4, the president accused Mr. Obama on Twitter of illegally wiretapping Trump Tower in Manhattan. Mr. Comey believed the government should forcefully denounce that claim. But this time he took a different approach. He asked the Justice Department to correct the record. When officials there refused, Mr. Comey followed orders and said nothing publicly.

Daniel Richman, a longtime friend of Comey’s, said this represented “a consistent pattern of someone trying to act with independence and integrity, but within established channels.”

The evidence does indeed show consistent behavior, but of a different kind. At every step of the way, Comey demonstrated either his fear of crossing Republicans or his concern over protecting his own reputation from Republican attack. It was the perfect intersection of a Republican Party that had developed a reputation for conducting relentlessly vicious smear campaigns and a Republican FBI director who didn’t have the fortitude to stand up to it. Comey may genuinely believe that his decisions along the way were nonpartisan, but the evidence pretty strongly suggests otherwise.

6) And Tomasky on Comey:

And through it all, he was worried about what Republicans would do to him, but apparently never concerned about how Democrats would react to anything he did. In fact the only lengthy discussion of a Democrat in the piece involves Comey’s anger at Loretta Lynch for agreeing to meet with Bill Clinton on that tarmac; he had every right to be upset about that boneheaded move, but as the article shows—and as we already knew in real time—he didn’t care at all how Lynch and other Justice Department lawyers would react to his taking it upon himself to say the things he said about Clinton.

There are two morals to this story. The first is, well, good on the Democrats, I guess, for not playing politics (Lynch excepted) with such a sensitive matter. This is how things are supposed to work in this country.

But the second moral is that, regrettable as it may be, this isn’t how things work in this country anymore. Republicans were so ferociously partisan about everything having to do with Hillary Clinton—and Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama, and fill in the blank—that they created a reality in which the nation’s top law enforcement official was thinking more or less constantly about how he could avoid incurring their wrath. Of course, he’s a Republican himself, and was involved in Clinton probes in the 1990s, so there’s also that. But how that factored in we can’t know.

7) Somehow I had never heard of the mass pet euthanization in Britain at the start of WWII.

8) We actually still need proof that reducing blue light in the evening helps with sleep (since it’s free, I’ll stick with Flux until evidence says otherwise):

Does blue light actually make you more alert? It sure does. But does removing it from your smartphone’s screen help you fall asleep? That, my friends, hasn’t actually been solidly proven—at least not yet…

The bottom line? “There’s actually no studies that have systematically seen if blue-depleted light at very dim intensities is effective in preventing or reducing the biological disruption caused by light exposure at night,” says Rahman. So that blue dimmer on your phone isn’t yet backed by solid science.

9) You’ll be shocked (shocked!) to learn that much of the legal representation of the folks Arkansas is trying to execute this week was piss-poor.  I’ve got to agree with this conclusion from a Harvard law researcher on the matter:

SHAPIRO: If we assume that the death penalty is not going away but that the process can be fixed, what will it take to fix it?

BRAND: Well, the first thing I would say is, I don’t think it can fix it. For 40 years in the modern era of the death penalty, the court has been trying to issue procedural fixes. It’s been trying to say intellectually disabled people can’t be executed. It’s tried to say juveniles can’t be executed. It said, you really need a lawyer. And as much as the Supreme Court has tried to fix it, it has completely failed. So I think rather than trying to fix it, it is time for the Supreme Court to recognize its sort of complicity in this system where people don’t get counsel is calling into doubt the whole integrity of our judicial system.

10) I’ve yet to come across a really good piece on the ideology of France’s Emmanual Macron.  Thus far, this Roger Cohen is the best I can do.  From what I have read, sounds like most center-left liberals in the U.S. (i.e., people like me) should be pretty happy with him and his ideas for France.

11) WRAL with a nice editorial on the NC legislatures Tax Cuts uber alles policy running our state into the ground.

12) Meanwhile, NC Republicans also want to basically create corporate schools funded by taxpayers.  I just cannot believe the people running my state.

13) Yes, the human brain is a time machine:

And there’s something distinctly human about this? Animals have the ability to look into the future and plan, but not to the extent that humans do.
Yeah, so whether it’s the brain of mammals or other humans, the brain is always attempting to predict the future. If you’re a herbivore or you’re looking for a mate, your brain is telling you to go one way or the other because it’s making its best estimates as to what will optimize its chances of achieving that goal.

But what seems to be distinctly human is certainly the extent that we can engage in what we call mental time travel — this idea that we can consciously project ourselves back into the past and relive experiences. And it’s the ability to see the long-term future that I think is distinctly human. It’s impossible to overestimate how important that is, how much of your life is future-oriented, from going to school — from getting a job to saving for retirement to exercising and going to the doctor. These are all things that would be very difficult for other animals to engage in because they’re for the short- and long-term future. And one of the most transformative inventions humans have ever engaged in was agriculture. The notion of planting a seed and coming back a year later is something we take for granted now, but it’s hard to think of anything more important than that ability.

14) Turns out all those mindless eating studies have not replicated so well.  That said, I literally have no doubt that keeping tempting food out of my sight and easy access makes it way easier for me to resist (unlike the lollipops that were left out in our kitchen tonight).

15) Love this idea of a metacookbook.

16) Salt is the bomb.  Only use it if you want your food to taste good.

17) Will a college tour lead prospective students to choose the wrong college?  Quite likely, says social science:

But insights from research in psychology and behavioral economics suggest a counterintuitive reason to skip them: College tours may hinder students’ ability to pick a college that will further their interests and goals.

This has to do with the difference between our present selves (the self making the decision — in this case, where to attend college) and our future selves (the self experiencing the outcome of this decision). As Daniel Gilbert of Harvard University and Timothy Wilson of the University of Virginia have argued, our present selves believe we are good at making decisions for our future selves, but in fact we all do a relatively poor job of predicting what our future selves will actually value and enjoy…

So why isn’t there an epidemic of students who find themselves in the wrong place and either transfer or drop out? Maybe there is. The only way to know would be to compare transfer and dropout rates between incoming students who used imagination to inform their decision, and those who relied on experience surrogates instead. Such data is lacking.

That said, most students would probably say they feel good about their college choice (even if they could have done objectively better) because of our “psychological immune system,” which buffers us from the unpleasant effects of negative events, and helps us to find the good in whatever situation we find ourselves in.

18) Interesting discussion of the debate over homework in elementary school.  My take: a small amount of thoughtful homework> none > any amount of non-thoughtful homework > too much homework of any kind.  I will definitely err towards none over the last two options.

19) Can plastic-eating caterpillars save the earth?  Maybe.

20) Drum on Paul Ryan and health care:

It’s increasingly obvious that Republicans aren’t actually trying to pass a health care bill. They just want to be able to tell their base that they tried. And President Trump wants to erase the taste of defeat from the first health care bill.

If House Republicans were serious, they’d engage with the health care industry. They haven’t. If they were serious they’d care about the CBO score. They don’t. If they were serious they’d be crafting a bill that could pass Senate reconciliation rules. They aren’t even trying. If Senate Republicans were serious they’d be weighing in with a bill of their own. They aren’t wasting their time.

In the beginning, I think Paul Ryan really did want to pass something, mainly so that it would make his tax cut plan easier to pass. But he’s given up on that. At this point he just wants a piece of paper that gets 218 votes and demonstrates that the Republican caucus isn’t hopelessly inept. He knows it will be DOA in the Senate, but at least it will get health care off his plate once and for all. Then he can move on to cutting taxes on the rich, which is what he really cares about. And he’ll have no trouble rounding up votes for that.

21) Several of my students told me about “Adam Ruins Everything.”  If this excellent video on marijuana is representative, I’ll definitely have to check out more.  Watch it!

 

 

Oh, no, poor people in Cary!

My hometown of Cary, NC (Containment Area for Relocated Yankees) comes in for a lot of criticism for being a bunch of snobby, elite, white people.  Not true!  Okay, not true, at least in my part of Cary, as I’ve written about when discussing my kids’ schools.  But, alas, it looks like some Cary-ites in the wealthier western part of town cannot even stomach lower income folks living near them.  From an Op-Ed in today’s N&O, this is just pathetic:

This week’s decision by the Cary Planning and Zoning Board to recommend that the Town Council deny a rezoning request by Habitat for Humanity of Wake County is disappointing. Through its connections with a local church, Habitat Wake acquired 2 ½ acres of land and planned to build 23 townhomes but needed the land rezoned. Some neighbors complained and Habitat held several community meetings to hear their concerns.

After the meetings, Habitat Wake amended its plans and proposed nine detached single family homes. The neighbors continued to complain about flooding and property values and this week the Planning and Zoning Board made a recommendation to deny Habitat’s request. While the board’s recommendation is not binding, it is a strong recommendation nonetheless. It would be a short-sighted move by the Town Council to deny the request, particularly since their recently approved Cary 2040 Community Plan calls for more affordable housing…

Next, let’s look at the policy. Local zoning laws can either be barriers or aids to development. Zoning laws that restrict where and how housing can be built are especially controversial. As advocates, we often hear local support for affordable housing, as long as it is “not in my backyard”. NIMBYism is difficult for even a respected and conscientious developer like Habitat to overcome. Local governments must take leadership and really examine where their zoning decisions are restricting housing based out of fear rather than health and safety concerns.

Habitat Wake went through a great deal of effort to be responsive to neighbors. It was transparent about the quality of its building methods and how homeowners are chosen. It is the responsibility of the Town Council to honestly weigh factors like bias when considering the zoning request. Kevin Campbell, President/CEO of Habitat Wake commented, “Throughout this process, we have held the legitimate development concerns of the surrounding neighborhood in high regard. We reduced density from our original proposal by 65 percent. We eliminated attached housing units from the proposal based on concerns about compatibility. Twice we adopted plans that were suggested by neighbors only to have that support dropped leading us to the conclusion that there is perhaps an underlying concern about welcoming the future residents to the neighborhood.” [emphasis mine]

As I wrote in my email to Cary’s mayor, let’s not have our town actually live up to the ugly stereotype about us.  Also, of note.  Literally the next street over from mine is Habitat homes.  Good by me, obviously.  It’s just a nice, little, neighborhood with somewhat smaller homes than the rest of the area.  Literally zero problems in 15 years.  But, who knows, maybe it’s been keeping my own property value down because bigots are freaked out by having lower-income people nearby.  Then again, bigots would not be happy in my neighborhood.  Anyway, this is only one side of the story, but it’s a pretty damning side.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Totally agree with Mark Joseph Stern that Democratic politicians need to get out in front on marijuana legalization:

The lack of mobilization from lawmakers is especially puzzling given how neatly marijuana legalization aligns with the goals of the self-styled resistance to Trump. Progressive Trump opponents not only tend to favor legalization on its own, they also broadly support the goals behind legalization. It’s true that the Trump era has reinvigorated liberals’ support for federalism, mostly out of necessity as blue states band together to protect sanctuary cities and fight Trump’s travel ban. But it has also intensified liberals’ opposition to mass incarceration and racial bias in the criminal justice system. Concerns about overpolicing and racism in law enforcement are what animate progressive support for legalization, along with a healthy respect for states’ rights and personal liberty.

And yet, on pot as on so many other issues, Democratic politicians are failing to respond to their base’s stated preferences.

2) Damn the militarization of the police and all the needless no-knock warrants.  And shame on our judicial system for making them way to easy to get.  People die and lives are ruined over these.  And, because, some police departments think it is a good idea to break into a house at 5am, basically unannounced, over a few ounces of marijuana.  Ugh.

3) Basically 75% of my twitter feed yesterday was about the NYT’s big Comey story. Many, many tweets mentioned the fact that the story completely ignores the role of the media in all this.  Relatedly, Drum lays out the clear case for why Comey’s letter was the decisive factor.  I agree.

4) Jacob Levy on Kushner and the problem of nepotism in a democracy.

5) I came across this latest example of classic interest group politics via a FB ad.  I’m 100% convinced that NC ophthalmologists are only interested in the welfare of their patients in attempting to stop optometrists from performing four types of simple surgery that they have been doing successfully in three other states.  I’m sure it has nothing at all to do with protecting their turf and their incomes.  My favorite is their “poll” stating, ” Almost nine out of 10 North Carolina voters oppose legislation that would allow eye-care providers who have not been to medical school to perform eye surgery, a new statewide public opinion poll found.”  As if 1 in 100 NC voters actually has any idea what this legislation is actually about.

6) Ben Mathis-Lilley, “There’s No News Right Now Because Trump Doesn’t Actually Do Anything.”

None of this is really surprising. As has been well-documented, Trump—though he claims to be a “builder”—actually made most of his hay in the private sector by licensing his name. He’s the guy who makes big promises at the ribbon-cutting and gets the name of the project in the newspaper, not the guy who gets the permits and arranges the funding and hires the subcontractors. He doesn’t make things; he talks. (When he does try to make things, they go bankrupt.)

7) While everybody was focused on Betsy DeVos and K-12 education, those in the know were aware that her real damage would be to higher education and college students.  When it comes to student loans, she’s already at it.

8) The saga of North Carolina’s contaminated water gets a nice feature in the Atlantic.  Thanks, NC Republicans!

9) Somehow I missed that prostate cancer screening is back in the news.  Good take on the latest from doctor/blogger Kenny Lin, whom I am now going to start following.  Short version: official take is now that you should at least discuss PSA test with your doctor.  Ongoing reality.  Getting a PSA test makes it about 10 times more likely you will end up incontinent or with sexual dysfunction than the likelihood it will save your life.  No thanks to that trade.

10) Great EJ Dionne column on Trump:

Two issues are paramount in American politics. The first is whether President Trump will get away with his arrogant dismissal of the public’s right to a transparent government free of corrupting conflicts of interest. The second is whether those who would hold him to account remain focused, mobilized and determined.

They are related. There are many reasons to stand against Trump, but the one that should take precedence — because it is foundational for decent governance — is his autocratic assumption that he is above the expectations that apply to us normal humans.

Should Trump separate himself completely from his business interests, as presidents had been doing for more than four decades? His implicit message is always: No, I can do what I want.

11) The political impact of helicopter parents.  Really.

Using a survey conducted at multiple universities in the U.S., we find that helicopter parenting has a significant impact on the policy attitudes of college students. Specifically, students with helicopter parents are more likely to express support for both government surveillance and social welfare policies than are students without helicopter parents. Given the growing trend of helicopter parenting, these findings will likely have substantial implications for both the political science classroom and public opinion in the near future.

12) Excellent Isaac Chotiner piece on how Bill O’Reilly was very much the proto-Trump:

But the aspect of The O’Reilly Factor that always shocked me was a different kind of resentment, which took the form of the anchor’s unrepentant solipsism. It’s simply impossible to overstate how much of each night’s show was consumed by O’Reilly’s own grievances. He skirmished with everyone from Matt Lauer to Rosie O’Donnell to Al Franken, and those fights would invariably become the topic of the day on his show. He spent countless hours talking about himself—usually as the victim of various conspiracies. (Frequently, George Soros was the conspiracy’s prime mover.) He would drone on about the New York Times and how it was out to make him look bad. It was endless, and it was exceptionally boring—to everyone except his legions of viewers and fans.

I never really had a theory for how this supposed man of the people got away with talking about nothing but himself. Then Donald Trump came along. Here was another rich guy who built a following speaking up for the working man. Like O’Reilly he seemed entirely driven by resentment: at President Obama, at the media, at the people who doubted him. And like O’Reilly, he spoke almost entirely of himself. His stump speeches were shocking, in part, because they were rarely about anything other than Donald Trump.

13) Interesting Rebecca Traister piece on the role of women’s reproductive rights within the Democratic party.  That said, I’m tired of throw-away lines like this:

For some time now, Sanders — who, it should be noted, has an extremely strong legislative record on reproductive rights — has spoken somewhat carelessly about a populist strategy that exchanges some core Democratic beliefs for the set of issues that are most important to him. “Once you get off the social issues — abortion, gay rights, guns — and into the economic issues, there is a lot more agreement than the pundits understand,” he said in 2015. In January of this year, at a CNN Town Hall, he reiterated, “Yes, of course, there are differences on issues like choice or on gay rights … But on many economic issues, you would be surprised at how many Americans hold the same views.”

Sanders is wrong that reproductive rights (or gay rights, for that matter) are separate from economic issues. The ability to control reproduction is central to women’s social, professional, and economic stability, and the women most likely to require abortion services and to be negatively affected by restrictions on access to reproductive health care are poor and low-income women, disproportionately women of color.

Really, I get it.  But still, let’s just not pretend people think about and conceptualize these issues the way they do matters like taxes, jobs, minimum wage, etc.  Oh, heck, as long as I’m letting Traister annoy me:

The deprioritization of reproductive rights was part of the strategy that helped Rahm Emanuel, chair of the DCCC, win the House for Democrats in 2006. But Ilyse Hogue, head of NARAL Pro-Choice America, argues that we should evaluate that strategy now with an understanding of its longer-term implications: “It did not result in more progressive legislation or in a durable governing coalition,” she says. “It depressed the base and predicated the rise of the Tea Party.”

Right.  That’s what led to the rise of the Tea Party.  Dumbest, most obviously self-serving political analysis ever?

14) The many forces pulling Trump in a more conventionally conservative direction.

15) Love Josh Marshall’s post on Trump’s “militant ignorance.”

What is endearing, terrifying and hilarious about Trump is not simply his ignorance, really his militant ignorance, but his complete lack of self-awareness about his ignorance. Trump told a reporter for The Wall Street Journal that his understanding of the problem of North Korea changed dramatically after hearing ten minutes of history from the President of China. Needless to say, Trump didn’t need to admit this. But neither was it candor.

So far the Trump Presidency has been a sort of Mr Magoo performance art in which the comically ignorant Trump learns elemental or basic things that virtually everyone in the world of politics or government already knew – things that the majority of adults probably know. Health Care: “Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.” North Korea: “I felt pretty strongly that they had tremendous power. But it’s not what you think.” There are perhaps half a dozen examples equally stark.

In other words, President Trump is open about his discoveries and even eager to share them but universally projects his previous state of comical ignorance onto the general public or whomever he is talking to. In other cases, this would make sense. If Trump discovered that humans could fly if they hold their nose, close one eye and say “Shazam!” I’d want to know. Because that’s awesome. And I wouldn’t think worse of Trump for not knowing it before. Because this is new and amazing information. But learning that health care policy is complicated is a different kind of discovery.

 

 

Quick hits (part I)

1) I miss James Surowiecki, but Adam Davidson is a great replacement at the New Yorker.  Nice column on the absurdity of Trump’s “buy American” executive order:

Snap-on Tools is actually a good example of why Buy American is a fairly meaningless phrase. It is no easy feat to find a product manufactured entirely of material from the U.S., produced by people in the U.S., using tools made in the U.S. In this sense, the executive order recognizes that no blanket order to buy only American will work. The products we buy are made of raw materials transformed into intermediate goods that are then assembled into a finished product. It’s not possible, or even advisable, to insure that an entire production chain will occur in one country. So a politician who wants to increase the percentage of American-made content in the products that are sold here needs to dig deeper. How will the U.S.-made content of a good be defined? Will it be by weight, by dollar value, by labor hours involved? Each metric would have different findings. A car’s bulk, for example, is primarily made up of steel, aluminum, and glass produced by huge machines with not much labor. However, some of the smaller, fussier bits are made by hand in the U.S. Gas tanks, for example, because of strict emissions laws, are surprisingly complex and require a lot of engineering and manual assembly and are often made in the U.S. A gas tank might be relatively cheap and light, but for American workers it’s worth a lot more than many tons of steel. Very quickly, any discussion of the U.S.-made content of any product will turn to the value of intellectual versus physical content…

There is a real problem in the American economy. For much of the twentieth century, there was a wind at the back of working people—a steady increase in jobs, wages, and opportunity for those with basic education and a willingness to put in a hard day’s work. We have shifted from the era of good work for many to the age of the hustle, where those with luck, good connections, education, and ambition can do far better than their grandparents could have dreamt, while those without see their incomes stagnate or fall and face a future filled with doubt. A sober and serious look at the U.S. economy leads, inevitably, to the conclusion that we haven’t cracked this problem yet. In place of serious consideration from the White House, we have absurdist, self-contradicting theatrics.

2) Very cool NYT Magazine feature on how Singapore is creating more land for itself.

3) Small potatoes, but so telling.  Local government knows best; except when the Republican legislators in Raleigh know better.  Again.

4) Jason Lloyd on improving the relationship between science and society.

5) Got into an interesting discussion about racism and Trump based on this Monkey Cage posting looking at 2016 ANES data.  Just measuring racial resentment, the big difference is that Democratic voters now score way lower, not that Republicans were higher in 2016.  That said, I think the key fact is that racial resentment is presumably more important in impacting vote choice than it was prior to Obama.

6) Max Fisher on why North Korea is such a damn difficult problem.

7) Not at all surprised to learn that– not just high school students– but college students don’t learn so great at 8:00am either.  Only 8am class I ever had was teaching one– Intro to American Government in my 2nd year at Texas Tech.

8) I’m basically not a baseball fan at all anymore.  But I used to be, and thus I very much enjoyed this 538 article on how the “save” statistic ruined relief pitching and how it should be replaced.

9) And let’s stick with sports to mention how much I love this concept for fixing the awful endings of so many basketball games.  I learned about it from this Slate sports podcast where it was discussed.  I especially enjoyed Josh Levin’s point that the end of hockey games becomes even more hockey and is great.  In contrast to the end of basketball ruining what we love about the sport.

10) Seth Masket on Trump’s poor record of accomplishment:

The Republican Party, although enjoying control over a great many governments within the United States right now, is facing a significant crisis in that it can’t translate its ideals into law. The one notable legislative success of the Trump administration’s first hundred days — Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch — is the exception that proves the rule. He was a person sent by the White House, rather than a bill formulated in a chamber that’s hostile to democratic lawmaking procedures. There was no negotiation over who he was; it was simply a matter of a yes or no vote.

Writing laws isn’t nearly that easy. Even if Ryan and Trump get better at it, they have significant hurdles to overcome.

11) Found this article about why America has fewer IUD choices than other developed countries surprisingly interesting.  Mostly, because it’s another example of us just being worse at sensible policy.

12) Good on Prince Harry for fighting against the stigma on mental health.

13) It’s entirely possible I shared this when it came out 2 years ago, but I really do like Aaron Carroll’s simple rules for healthy eating.

14) Really liked this Op-Ed entitled, “My Daughter Is Not Transgender. She’s a Tomboy.”

Quick hits (part I)

1) Here’s some cool political science from– air polluters like to position themselves just upwind from the border of a neighboring state.   Stick it to the other guy!

2) Just got Elizabeth Rosenthal’s new book on American health care.  I assign her fabulous NYT series on the matter to my Public Policy classes.  Can’t wait to read this.

3) On the resilience of failed fast food chains.  My wife and I still reminisce about Rax roast beef on our travels to and from Ohio State.

4) Both Derek Thompson and Father James Martin blame the law, as much as United for what happened.  I especially like Martin’s take:

Someone in authority—pilots, stewards, ground crew—might have realized that this was an assault on a person’s dignity. But no one stopped it. Why not? Not because they are bad people: They too probably looked on in horror. But because they have been conditioned to follow the rules.

Those rules said: First, we may sometimes overbook because we want to maximize our profits. Second, we can eject someone because we have overbooked, or if we decide that we want those seats back, no matter what a person can reasonably expect, and no matter how much of an inconvenience this is. And third, and most tragically, human dignity will not get in the way of the rules. A toxic cocktail of capitalism and corporate culture led to a man being dragged along the floor.

That is why bland “nothing to see here” defenses of the ills of corporate America and of the dictates of capitalism bother this capitalist and former corporate employee so much. They fail to see the victims of the system.

5) Tech products are specifically designed to be psychologically addictive.  I know I look at my phone too much, but I still think I’m pretty far from “addicted.”

6) When families use school vouchers for their children with disabilities, they often find they lose the legal protections for children with disabilities.  And they learn this the hard way.  Enough with vouchers, already.  Let’s just invest in high (or at least medium) quality schools for all.

7) Corwin Smidt’s work on the disappearance of swing voters just came out in the latest issue of AJPS and I couldn’t remember if I had ever quick-hitted this Vox piece on it.  It’s good stuff, even if Alvin Chang does not seem to realize that leaners = partisans is not exactly new.  Also, I can think of a view damn relevant piece’s on Party ID from a fellow Ohio State PhD that Smidt fails to cite.

8) In the face of the latest ANES data, Drum argues, “We Still Don’t Know How Much Trump’s Victory Was About Race.”  He’s got some good points:

Klinkner thinks race played a big role in the election. There’s no question this is true, but did it play a bigger than expected role? The two major parties have been splitting further apart by race for years, with Republicans becoming the party of whites and Democrats the party of non-whites. This means that to survive with an ever growing white base, Republicans have to cater to white resentment more and more. Likewise, Democrats have to cater to black and Hispanic interests more and more. This is a cycle with positive feedback, so it’s only likely to get worse.

Racial attitudes certainly played a bigger role in this election than in the past. But did Trump himself accelerate this partisan trend, or was he merely the beneficiary of it? That still seems like an open question to me.

Great points, from Drum.  That said, I think his headline is wrong (and as a blogger, I presume he writes his own).  We know race played a helluva role, like it does with almost everything in modern American party politics.  What we don’t know if this was more for Trump than it would’ve been for Rubio, etc.  I suspect that answer is yes, but for now, I do think that remains somewhat TBD.

9) I find it absolutely appalling that the 4th amendment seems to not apply at all upon entry into the country and that CBP can legally search the entire contents of your smartphone (i.e., the entire contents of your life) without a warrant.  Congress can and sure as hell should change this.

10) What color was that dress anyway, two years later.  Great stuff from a cognitive psychologist who studies color perception.

11) Uncovering the secrets of proto-dinosaurs (this one is for you, DHG).

12) Literally surprised by all these headlines about the “mystery” of why shoelaces untie.  Seriously?  You’ll be shocked to learn that it’s the ongoing low-level stresses caused by your foot hitting the ground and moving through the air.

13) Jay Geils just died.  I found this NPR story about the evolution of the band and the transition of pop music in the early 1980’s utterly fascinating.

14) In case you missed the story of the NC legislator (Republican, of course) who likened Lincoln to Hitler while he was defending his anti gay marriage bill.

15) I know most NYC apartments on TV are pretty unrealistic, but I really enjoyed this piece looking at the apartments on several popular shows.  I was also interested to learn where a lot of the characters lived.

16) Why social mobility is so bad in the South.  Short version: concentrated poverty and lack of social capital:

Concentrated poverty is related to another factor Chetty and his colleagues mention: social capital, which is essentially the mechanism that allows people to interact with others and become a part of broad networks that can lead to opportunity. It can help people get hooked up to first jobs, internships, and scholarships. Without these types of connections, children are more likely to take a similar path to their parents. For those who live in areas of concentrated poverty, this means they don’t learn about opportunities that might get them out of poverty, or about people in different income brackets.

17) Atlantic article summarizing some nice new PS research on how Trump may be changing the meaning of “conservative.”

18) Apparently, job interviews are pretty worthless.  Should we really just hire people based on resumes and application files?  Maybe?

19) I’m sure you’ll be shocked to learn that Susan Rice did absolutely nothing wrong in the silly “unmasking” episode.  I’m sure the cable news networks will devote plenty of time to this point.

20) Chait on Trump’s budget director accidentally telling the truth:

For more than a generation, the Republican Party has single-mindedly pursued the goal of maximizing economic inequality. They have been almost as single-minded about not describing this as their priority. Republicans say their goal is reducing out-of-control deficits, or reducing out-of-control surpluses, or promoting economic growth, or saving Social Security and Medicare. But Donald Trump’s budget director Mick Mulvaney, in a new interview with CNBC’s John Harwood, basically admits that what he cares about is reducing transfers from the rich to the poor…

The place to begin understanding Mulvaney’s ideas here is where he says “letting people keep more of their money … is the most efficient way to actually allocate resources.” The premise of this statement is that the market distribution of income is sacrosanct, and progressive taxation is thus both morally wrong (because it takes money that rightly belongs to high-income people who earned it on their own) and inefficient. Mulvaney concedes that cutting taxes for high-income earners can “contribute to the deficit,” but this fact is “less important.”

21) Seth Masket says goodbye and good riddance to the judicial filibuster.

22) Krugman on Trump’s mean and stupid health care negotiating tactic:

The nastiness should be obvious, but let’s spell it out. Mr. Trump is trying to bully Democrats by threatening to hurt millions of innocent bystanders — ordinary American families who have gained coverage thanks to health reform. True, Democrats care about these families — but Republicans at least pretend to care about them, too.

Why does Mr. Trump even imagine that this threat might work? Implicitly, he’s saying that hurting innocent people doesn’t bother him as much as it bothers his opponents. Actually, this is probably true — remember, we’re talking about a man who once cut off health benefits to his nephew’s seriously ill 18-month-old son to gain the upper hand in a family dispute. But it’s not the kind of thing one expects to hear from the occupant of the White House.

What makes Mr. Trump’s tactic stupid as well as nasty is the reality that Democrats have no incentive whatsoever to give in.

For one thing, what is he offering by way of a deal? Obamacare increased coverage two ways, via Medicaid expansion and subsidized private insurance. Mr. Trump might be able to undermine the private markets, but Medicaid wouldn’t be affected. Why would Democrats ever agree to Republican plans, which would basically kill both?

Then there’s the political reality that by sabotaging Obamacare, the Trump administration would be handing Democrats a huge electoral gift.

Re-segregation NC style

On the surface, this headline sounds reasonable, “Break up Wake County schools? Bill looks at how to divide NC school districts.”  And, given that sometimes various parts of the geographically large Wake County will have a couple inches of snow and close the whole county while other portions have none, I’ve heard this suggested on many a snow day.  Alas, the rationales offered are not exactly compelling:

R

Some state legislators want to look at how to split North Carolina school systems into smaller districts, a preliminary step that could make it possible to break up large systems such as Wake County and Charlotte-Mecklenburg.

House Bill 704 filed this week would create a joint legislative study committee to look into whether legislation should be introduced to allow for the breakup of previously merged school systems. The committee would also consider how to divide school districts and whether a local referendum or petition would be needed before a district could be split.

Many transplants to North Carolina are used to individual towns running their own small school systems. In contrast, most school systems in North Carolina are county-based…

“Over the past few decades, the emphasis in North Carolina has been merging small school systems to form big ones,” Rep. Bill Brawley, a Mecklenburg County Republican and one of the bill’s primary sponsors, said Wednesday. “The idea was economies of scale would improve education in North Carolina.

“Now there’s a concern there may be diseconomies of scale in the big systems. They may be too large.” …

“I’d much prefer to be one of the best school districts in the country than one of the biggest, and we’ll never get there being as large as we are with the bureaucracy as large as it is,” said former Wake school board member Ron Margiotta.

Too state the obvious, first, a large school system is necessarily going to have a large bureaucracy.  Margiotta was never distinguished for his intellectual acumen in his school board days.  The proponents of the smaller school system provide zero evidence that the large bureaucracy is holding Wake County (or CMS) back or that we are somehow suffering some perverse diseconomies of scale.

So, what’s really going on then?  As a FB friend put it, “Alternative bill title: “A Study on How to Resegregate Schools Even More than Entitled Rich White People Already Have.”  Yep.  Read between the lines and that’s what’s going on here.  Little more than “why should our rich suburban white people have to be in the same school system as those urban minorities.”

Hopefully, this goes nowhere, but, this is 2017 North Carolina.

The NC Legislature gets one right

Amazing, I know.  Might as well give credit where it’s due, in this case on “ban the box”:

— A bill that would help people with criminal records get jobs in state government passed the House Tuesday afternoon with surprising levels of bipartisan support.

House Bill 409 would direct most state agencies to “ban the box” on job applications – that is, to move a question about criminal history from the initial stages of a job application to later in the interview process, when an applicant would be able to explain his or her criminal record and why it should or should not matter to consideration for state employment.

Legislative Democrats have filed “Ban the Box” bills most every session since 2011, but they’ve never gained much traction with the Republican leadership. However, House Bill 409 sailed through the House with a 98-14 vote, including all Democrats and the majority of Republicans as well.

The proposal would not apply to jobs with direct interaction with children or the elderly, law enforcement or public safety jobs or any other positions that by law require a criminal history inquiry as a preliminary qualification.

Bill sponsor Rep. Rena Turner, R-Iredell, said the bill also directs state recruitment officers to consider the gravity of the crime, the amount of time passed since it happened, any rehabilitation work and whether the crime committed had anything to do with the job the person is seeking.

Turner is a longtime clerk of court in Iredell County. She said her experience led her to support the measure, which she believes will reduce criminal recidivism.

“Occasionally, there’s somebody who really understands that they messed up,” Turner said. “Maybe it’s been 20 years ago. Maybe it’s been 30 years ago.

“If we keep stuffing them down and never taking their applications,” she asked, “how can we expect them to do any better?

“I think they need a chance,” she said.

I do love that “occasionally.”  Just a reminder that the vast majority of criminals are bad, irredeemable people.  At least we’ll give the “occasional” good one a chance.

Of course, in all seriousness, it is great to see some real bipartisanship on common-sense criminal justice reforms.  There’s so much low-hanging fruit we can improve if Republicans just open their eyes.  Good to see that, at least on some issues, they are.

%d bloggers like this: