Democracy, NC Republican style

I have, of course, been remiss in not mentioning the completely appalling behavior of NC Republicans earlier this week.  The N&O Op-Ed captures it well:

The verdict is now plain. North Carolina’s Republican legislative leaders — not actually leaders, but connivers — are beyond shame.

In a stunning display of contempt for democracy, House Speaker Tim Moore, a Cleveland County Republican, called a surprise vote to overturn Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of the state budget just after a session opened at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday. Democratic lawmakers and the media had been told by Republican leaders that there would be no vote in the morning.

Most Democrats were absent. Enough Republicans, aware of the secret plan, were there. When Rep. Jason Saine, a Lincolnton Republican, made the motion to reconsider the state budget, the handful of Democrats on hand objected strenuously.

“This is a travesty of the process and you know it,” said Rep. Deb Butler, D-New Hanover.

That it was, but with these Republicans a travesty of the process is just business as usual. With only 64 of the House’s 120 members present, the vote to override passed 55-9…

But this isn’t a case simply of hardball politics and sly legislative maneuvering. This is a case of breaking faith with the people of North Carolina and with all who strove and sacrificed over generations to protect and advance North Carolina’s political system as one based on a true representation of the people’s will, a true democracy.

And the legislation at issue isn’t a bill of limited scope. It is the state budget. It is how North Carolina defines itself by the priorities it sets in spending. And it’s being held up by a dispute over a major issue that involves billions of federal dollars and ultimately affects everyone in the state, Medicaid expansion…

Not only was the House vote dishonest, it was carried out by a Republican majority that courts have repeatedly found to have gained seats through illegal gerrymandering. It was an illegitimate majority acting in an unethical way. These Republicans may be incapable of shame, but North Carolinians should be outraged. First by gerrymandering and now by a high-handed vote, something new has been taken from them. It’s called democracy. [emphasis mine]

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The courts get it right on the NC Gerrymander

A few days late on this, but it needs it’s own post.  This is a big deal.

Mark Joseph Stern on “Elena Kagan’s Blueprint to End Partisan Gerrymandering”

The brilliance of Kagan’s dissent lay in its clarity: She laid out the precise harms inflicted by partisan gerrymandering and explained how they can be measured and remedied. Kagan identified two distinct but intertwined constitutional violations: Warped maps “reduce the weight of certain citizens’ votes,” depriving them of the ability to participate equally in elections; they also punish voters for their political expression and association. These dual injuries, Kagan concluded, implicate fundamental principles of both equal protection and freedom of speech.

After castigating her conservative colleagues for minimizing these harms, Kagan illustrated the ease with which courts can address them. In his Rucho opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts insisted that federal courts were unable to determine when a partisan gerrymander goes “too far.” Kagan pointed out that, in fact, plenty of lower courts have already done exactly that. These courts deployed a three-part test. First, they ask whether mapmakers intended to entrench their party’s power by diluting votes for their opponents. Second, they ask whether the scheme succeeded. Third, they ask if mapmakers have any legitimate, nonpartisan explanation for their machinations. If they do not, the gerrymander must be tossed out.

“If you are a lawyer,” Kagan wrote, “you know that this test looks utterly ordinary. It is the sort of thing courts work with every day.” In practice, the most important part of the test—its evaluation of a gerrymander’s severity—often boils down to a cold, hard look at the data. Take, for instance, North Carolina’s congressional map, which contained 10 Republican seats and 3 Democratic ones. Experts ran 24,518 simulations of the map that used traditional, nonpartisan redistricting criteria. More than 99 percent of them produced at least one more Democratic seat. The exercise verified that North Carolina’s map isn’t just an outlier but “an out-out-out-outlier.”

Roberts rejected Kagan’s reasoning, asserting that her test was “indeterminate and arbitrary.” [emphasis mine] But on Tuesday, the Wake County Superior Court rested its decision on precisely the three-part test that Kagan proposed.

On occasion, Roberts can be impressively thoughtful about the proper role of the courts.  Alas, he can also be a horrible political hack.  This was the latter.

And the NYT Editorial:

Three state judges on a North Carolina trial court just did what a majority on the United States Supreme Court said was impossible only a few months ago — apply well-established legal standards to strike down some of the most egregious partisan gerrymanders in the country.

The state court judges’ 357-page ruling applies to the North Carolina state legislature, the General Assembly, which now has two weeks to come up with new, fairer maps for state legislative districts. It also sends a broader message to the justices in Washington, and to state judges everywhere: See? Protecting democracy from self-interested, power-hungry politicians isn’t so hard after all…

The existing maps were so effective that they helped entrench Republican majorities even when Democrats won more votes statewide. In 2018, Republican candidates for North Carolina’s House of Representatives won less than 50 percent of the two-party statewide vote, but walked away with 65 seats to the Democrats’ 55. Republican candidates for the State Senate also won a minority of the popular vote, and still took 29 of 50 seats.

This kind of abuse of the democratic process is precisely what courts are designed to fix. But when North Carolina voters begged the United States Supreme Court for relief, arguing that they had been written out of the political process by the very people who were supposed to serve them, the five conservative justices turned their backs. The court could do nothing, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in a demoralizing opinion in June — not because the Republicans are innocent, but because the judiciary can’t hold them accountable for what are, in essence, political crimes.

On Tuesday afternoon, the North Carolina judges — two Democrats and a Republican — agreed unanimously that they didn’t need the federal Constitution to vindicate Americans’ basic democratic rights. They could rely on their state’s own Constitution, which guarantees, among other things, free elections, equal protection and freedom of speech and assembly — all of which they said the Republicans’ maps violated.

Quick hits (part II)

Look at this, your first double quick hits, on-time, weekend in forever :-).

1) Truly, the everyday corruption of the Trump administration is just astounding.  And the politicization of the Department of Justice is among the worst parts.  NYT:

President Trump’s Justice Department — for it is increasingly clear that the department has been reduced to an arm of the White House — has opened an antitrust investigation of four auto companies that had the temerity to defy the president by voluntarily agreeing to reduce auto emissions below the level required by current federal law.

The investigation is an act of bullying, plain and simple: a nakedly political abuse of authority.

The department is supposed to prevent companies from acting in their own interest at the expense of the public. The four automakers, by contrast, are acting in the public interest.

That the government of the United States would fight to loosen emissions standards in the face of the growing threat posed by climate change also boggles the mind. Not content to fiddle while the planet burns, Mr. Trump is fanning the flames…

If the Justice Department wants to get serious about antitrust enforcement, there are plenty of places to get started. This investigation is an embarrassment. It might as well wheel out the statue of Lady Justice and replace it with a bronze marionette.

2) Oh, and why we’re at it, how about making immigrant kids go hungry.  Seriously, of course.  My friend and colleague, Sarah Bowen, in the NYT:

Between 2012 and 2017, as part of a study of how low-income mothers feed their children, we talked with women who had moved from Mexico and Central America to the United States. They came here because they wanted to be able to offer their children more than they’d had growing up, including a full belly at the end of every day. Over the course of our research — amid increasing ICE raids, tightened work restrictions and growing anti-immigrant sentiment stoked by President Trump’s rhetoric — we found that many families became afraid to apply for food assistance programs. The Trump administration’s new “public charge” rule will intensify this kind of fear for immigrant families, including those who are in this country legally. One result will be more hungry families and children.

By allowing the government to deny permanent legal status (also known as green cards) to people who have received public benefits like housing assistance, SNAP or Medicaid, the new rule — which will go into effect Oct. 15 if it survives legal challenges, including suits by CaliforniaNew York and Washington — will force families to choose between putting food on the table and the promise of future citizenship.

3) Wired feature on the wagon wheel effect of water going up and other fascinating illusions is pretty cool.

4) Thanks to JPP for sending me this, “It doesn’t matter if it’s sugary or diet: New study links all soda to an early death.”   From my response to his email,
“Thanks, of course. I find this one particularly interesting in that they have 400K+ people and still can’t truly make useful conclusions about diet soda. Just too many unmeasured factors, even with their controls. And, while we all understand the potential deleterious mechanisms for excess sugar, I would argue that it is incumbent upon them to add a scientifically plausible mechanism of action for aspartame leading to diseases of the circulatory system.”  Some studies make me honestly assess my commitment to diet soda.  This was not one of them.

5) Is there anything dumber than Republicans’ asinine, bad-faith “republic, not a democracy” nonsense (well, sure, of course there is, but this is really annoying)?  Jamelle Bouie:

But the crux of Crenshaw’s argument is his second point. “We live in a republic.” He doesn’t say “not a democracy,” but it’s implied by the next clause, where he rejects majority rule — “51% of the population doesn’t get to boss around the other 49%.”

You can fill in the blanks of the argument from there. The Founding Fathers built a government to stymie the “tyranny of the majority.” They contrasted their “republic” with “democracy,” which they condemned as dangerous and unstable. As John Adams wrote in an 1814 letter to the Virginia politician John Taylor: “Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself. There never was a Democracy Yet, that did not commit suicide.”

But there’s a problem. For the founders, “democracy” did not mean majority rule in a system of representation. The men who led the revolution and devised the Constitution were immersed in classical literature and political theory. Ancient Greece, in particular, was a cautionary tale. When James Madison critiqued “democracy” in Federalist No. 10, he meant the Athenian sort: “a society consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person.” This he contrasted with a “republic” or “a government in which the scheme of representation takes place.” Likewise, in a 1788 speech to the New York ratification convention, Alexander Hamilton disavowed “the ancient democracies in which the people themselves deliberated.” They “never possessed one good feature of government,” he said. “Their very character was tyranny; their figure deformity.”…

It’s worth asking where this quip — “we’re a republic, not a democracy” — even came from. Nicole Hemmer, a historian of American politics and the author of “Messengers of the Right: Conservative Media and the Transformation of American Politics,” traces it to the 1930s and 40s. “When Franklin Roosevelt made defending democracy a core component of his argument for preparing for, and then intervening in, the war in Europe, opponents of U.S. intervention began to push back by arguing that the U.S. was not, in fact, a democracy,” she wrote in an email…

These origins are important. If there’s substance behind “We’re a republic, not a democracy,” it’s not as a description of American government. There’s really no difference, in the present, between a “republic” and a “democracy”: Both connote systems of representation in which sovereignty and authority derive from the public at large.

The point of the slogan isn’t to describe who we are, but to claim and co-opt the founding for right-wing politics — to naturalize political inequality and make it the proper order of things. What lies behind that quip, in other words, is an impulse against democratic representation. It is part and parcel of the drive to make American government a closed domain for a select, privileged few. [emphasis mine]

6a) Really interesting NYT feature on how Phoenix is adapting to climate change by moving more and more activities to the night-time.  Also, speaking as a resident of an almost temperate rainforest climate, people really should not move to the desert by the millions.

6b) And very, very cool interactive Washington Post feature on how climate change is already affecting all sorts of places across America.

7) Paul Waldman, “if we told the truth about guns”

The next thing they’d say: We know that more guns don’t equal less crime. Because if that were true, then not only would America have the lowest crime rates in the industrialized world (which we don’t), but also the places with the most guns would be the safest places (which they aren’t).

The next thing they’d say: We know that more guns don’t equal less crime. Because if that were true, then not only would America have the lowest crime rates in the industrialized world (which we don’t), but also the places with the most guns would be the safest places (which they aren’t).

And then: We know that the “good guy with a gun” taking out a mass shooter is a fantasy. It’s something that rarely happens despite all the millions of people walking around with guns. But we love that fantasy. It’s a big part of the attraction of guns. Just thinking about it makes us feel strong and capable and manly, as though we could turn into action heroes at a moment’s notice, exchanging fire with a terrorist strike team or saving a bunch of innocent kids from a mad killer.

And: We know that guns are not the only protection against tyranny, no matter how many times we say otherwise. The very idea is absurd. If it were true, there would have been authoritarian takeovers in recent years in Britain, and France, and Sweden, and Norway, and … you get the idea.

8a) This was a really good piece from Perry Bacon Jr last month, “GOP Politicians Are Much More Resistant To Gun Control Than GOP Voters Are.”

8b) Relatedly, Dylan Matthews from last year on how gun ownership because a political identity is really good:’

In 1972, about 66 percent of gun owners voted for Richard Nixon, compared to 55 percent of non-gun owners, for a gap of 11 percentage points.

In 2012, 56 percent of gun owners voted for Mitt Romney, compared to 26 percent of non-gun owners. The gap was 30 percent, almost triple what it was in 1972. Joslyn and Haider-Markel updated their study in 2017, and found that the gap in 2016 wasn’t quite as large as in 2012 — 62 percent of gun owners and 38 percent of non-owners voted for Trump  but it did remain significant and far larger than in the 1970s and ’80s.

The gun gap could just be an artifact of other demographics. For instance, we know that for a whole host of historical reasons, black Americans overwhelmingly vote for Democrats and whites mostly vote for Republicans; whites are also likelier to own guns, so the gap might reflect racial differences. Same goes for partisan gender gaps (women are more likely to be Democrats and less likely to own guns), rural/urban gaps, and so forth.

But Joslyn and company find that even after you control for gender, race, education, age, rural/urban status, and even party affiliation, gun ownership still correlates strongly with presidential vote choice. Indeed, they find that in their regressions, it “exerts a greater influence on likelihood of voting Republican than gender, education, or rural residence, and rivals age.”

These regressions can’t prove causality — that is, they can’t prove that gun ownership causes people to vote Republican. But they do show that the phenomenon we’re seeing isn’t just an effect of which racial groups or genders are likely to own guns.

8c) And while wer’re at it, Nate Cohn from 2017 with lots of cool graphics on how “Nothing Divides Voters Like Owning a Gun.”

9) My wife particularly loved this story about the problems faced by those left behind in gentrification.  I really don’t know what the solution is, but I don’t think preventing the revitalization of urban cores by wealthier residents (and an important reversal of decades of white flight) is a bad thing.

10) Speaking of my post on ebooks, good stuff from Wired on “The Radical Transformation of the Textbook.”

11) Good stuff from Lili Loofbourow on “sharpiegate.”

More interesting in Trump’s ongoing lie is what his absolute fixation on maintaining it says about the state of his White House and its relationship to the information environment. So clumsy and obvious was the Sharpie-drawn extension that it seemed like a test—how much can I get away with? Authoritarians frequently gauge their subordinates’ loyalties by ordering them to agree to things that are plainly untrue. This is the very first thing Trump did to then–press secretary Sean Spicer, who was forced to publicly defend the president’s claim about crowd sizes at his inauguration despite photographic evidence to the contrary. Spicer obliged, teaching Trump that he could use weak people to help him bend reality as president.

Here’s a theory about why Trump couldn’t let it go this week: One of his staunchest allies didn’t seem to have his back. It may have rattled him. Fox News, which he has recently started attacking for being insufficiently slavish—has let him down…

And if #Sharpiegate can be said to serve any non-embarrassing function, it’s as a test of another kind, to see which institutions and people have rotted under the president’s hysterical commands and which ones haven’t. On Thursday, U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Peter Brown issued a statement taking responsibility for the president’s out-of-date information. On Thursday, a source from the White House informed CNN that Trump had personally directed Brown to make this statement. The president was forcing a high-ranking military official to cover for him. On Friday evening, the NOAA released a peculiar, unsigned statement throwing the Alabama NWS under the bus for contradicting the president-who-shall-not-be-contradicted. (The NWS Employees Organization wasn’t having it, and neither were many former NOAA officials, who professed themselves stunned.)

What’s noteworthy about all this is not that Trump is forcing the government to write him notes of excuse; that’s old news by now. It’s that his critics have not merely shrugged and gone away, and that even the façade of his defense has shown cracks. It was a White House aide who revealed the John Roberts visit to the Oval Office, and, according to the Washington Post, it was a White House official who broke with the administration line to admit that the president of the United States had marked up an official NOAA map in order to avoid even a whiff of admitting fault.

“No one else writes like that on a map with a black Sharpie,” the source said. Trump can sell whatever he wants; he’s seeing what happens when people don’t buy it.

12) This is excellent and true, “The Guy Who Open-Carried an Assault Rifle Into Walmart After El Paso Is America’s Best Gun Control Activist”

On Aug. 3, a 21-year-old Texas man shot 46 people in an El Paso Walmart with a semi-automatic rifle, killing 22 of them. On Aug. 8, a 20-year-old man wearing body armor and carrying a semi-automatic rifle entered a Walmart in Springfield, Missouri, in what police say he intended as a “social experiment” to see if the store would honor the state’s open-carry law in the wake of the El Paso killings.

The experiment got results. After shoppers panicked and a store employee pulled a fire alarm to trigger an evacuation, the man—his name is Dmitriy Andreychenko—was arrested and charged with making a terrorist threat; prosecutors argue that he recklessly disregarded the possibility that his actions would cause dangerous chaos. If you’ve been following the rise of politically motivated “tactical” open-carry culture in the last six or so years, what happened next was surprising: Walmart—and a number of its competitors, like Kroger, Wegmans, CVS, and Walgreens—have announced that they are “requesting” or “asking” customers not to display firearms in their stores even in states where the practice is legal.

As private entities, the stores have the right to set rules for their property. Walmart says it will take a “a very non-confrontational approach” to enforcing its request, but gun proliferation is a cultural issue as well as a legal one, which is why certain gun enthusiasts have been so eager to make a public show of openly carrying—and why the company’s move, however non-confrontational, carries weight. Gun activists’ goal has been to make ordinary citizens accept the presence of people who could kill at any moment—to deliver the message that visibly armed citizens ought to be part of everyday life, to express the power of the gun-rights movement, and to convey the idea that arming oneself, rather than collectively disarming society, is the proper response to feeling unsafe.

Open carry has been hard to stop at the legal level in states where Republicans control legislatures, which, of late, is most of them. The Supreme Court has not recognized a constitutional right to carry guns in public, yet, but it hasn’t struck down any open-carry laws either. Advocates of gun control (or gun safety, if you prefer) have been attempting for years to do an end-run by persuading chain stores and restaurants—which can be more responsive to national, general-public opinion than legislators in gerrymandered states—to ban open carry, with some success.

None of their efforts, though, have been as instantly effective as Andreychenko’s stunt in making the point that wearing military protective gear and carrying a semi-automatic weapon should perhaps not be considered an acceptable way to behave, during peacetime, around people who are shopping for paper towels. [emphasis mine]

13) Been a huge fan of Lizzo’s music since I discovered her via Fresh Air earlier this year.  So good!  And, thus, very intrigued to learn that it wasn’t even her terrific songs on her new album that finally brought her to the success she deserves.  De gustibus non est disputandam!  I even discovered when following the youtube links, that she’s playing in Raleigh this Friday.  Alas, I don’t have to worry about being the weird middle-aged white dude at her concert, because it’s sold out.  Obviously booked this small venue before she really took off.

14) New Yorker with some of the truly amazing detail NC GOP gerrymanderer-in-chief Thomas Hofeller had on his computer.

15) How two-factor authentication with your phone may no longer keep you safe.  Turns out that the massively weak link is the cell phone companies.  And, apparently, they don’t care.  Seems to me maybe the government needs to make them (I can dream).

16) Have I mentioned how much I love Netflix’s Dark?  A nice appreciation in Wired.

17) Wow, here was quite the hot take in the NYT, “Dogs Are Not Here for Our Convenience:
Spaying and neutering puppies shouldn’t be standard policy — and it isn’t automatically the “responsible” choice either.”  Steve’s take.  We have a moral and ethical responsibility to treat them well, but… they kind of are here for our convenience.

18) Michele Goldberg made the case for Cory Booker back in early August.  I’m still hopeful he’ll catch on as a real contender.

19) Some health news I really like, “Flavonoids in Plants May Help Protect Against Major Killers: Those who ate the most flavonoid-rich foods had a lower risk for cancer and cardiovascular death.”

Consuming flavonoids, a large class of nutrients found in plant foods, may reduce the risk for cancer and cardiovascular death.

Researchers used data on 56,048 Danes, following their diet and health prospectively for 23 years. During that time, 14,083 of them died. The study is in Nature Communications.

After controlling for smoking, hypertension, cholesterol and many other health and dietary factors, they found that compared with people in the lowest one-fifth for flavonoid intake, those in the highest one-fifth had a 17 percent reduced risk for all-cause mortality, a 15 percent reduced risk for cardiovascular disease death, and a 20 percent reduced risk for cancer mortality. The association peaked at about 500 milligrams of flavonoids a day, and was stronger for smokers, heavy drinkers and the obese.

Good sources of flavonoids include tea, chocolate, red wine, citrus fruits, berries, apples and broccoli. One cup of tea, one apple, one orange, and three-and-a-half ounces each of blueberries and broccoli would supply more than 500 milligrams of total flavonoids.

Yeah, not so much the brocoli, but love me berries and citrus.

20) This was a disturbing and sadly unsurprising Op-Ed, “A Child Bumps Her Head. What Happens Next Depends on Race: My black and Latino clients are accused of abuse when their kids have accidents.”

Quick hits (part II)

1) There have to be so many screw-ups for Jeffrey Epstein to have killed himself:

For anyone familiar with Bureau of Prisons standard operating procedures, Jeffrey Epstein’s apparent suicide is more than mysterious; it is unfathomable.

The 66-year-old accused sex trafficker was found dead in his prison cell at the Metropolitan Correction Center (MCC) Saturday morning, apparently after having hanged himself.

The Bureau of Prisons, the federal agency that runs the MCC, has said the FBI will investigate.

It had better.

Epstein’s death almost certainly means that astounding blunders occurred, perhaps by multiple personnel at the Bureau of Prisons (BOP).

If any prisoner in the federal system should have been a candidate for suspicion of suicide, it was the high-profile and disgraced Epstein. All administrative and structural measures should have been in place to ensure it could not happen. And yet it apparently did.

2) I enjoyed this on the idea of “hate-reading” but no-way will I spend a whole book on it.  Definitely worth it for an article, though:

This is not about reading a book you know is bad, a pleasure in its own right, like an exceptionally dashing villain. It’s about finding a book that affronts you, and staring it down to the last word.

At a time when people are siloed into narrow sources of information according to their particular tinted worldview — those they follow on Twitter, the evening shoutfest they choose, AM talk radio or NPR — it’s no surprise most of us also read books we’re inclined to favor. Reading is a pleasure and a time-consuming one. Why bother reading something you dislike?

But reading what you hate helps you refine what it is you value, whether it’s a style, a story line or an argument. Because books are long-form, they require more of the writer and the reader than a talk show or Facebook link. You can finish watching a movie in two hours and forget about it; not so a novel. Sticking it out for 300 pages means immersing yourself in another person’s world and discovering how it feels. That’s part of what makes books you despise so hard to dismiss. Rather than toss the book aside, turn to the next page and wrestle with its ideas. What about them makes you so uncomfortable?

3) Meanwhile, I sure hope this guy can save Barnes & Noble for my love-reading.

4) I found this personal essay on spending 12 hours in BWI airport a delightful read.

5) Dana Milbank en fuego:

After two horrific mass shootings, we come together as a nation to confront an urgent question: How are we going to keep Wayne LaPierre safe?

The longtime head of the National Rifle Association, it turns out, is worried sick about his personal safety in this gun culture.

After the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012, he and his wife bravely waited out the uproar on the pink-sand beaches of the Bahamas, part of $542,000 in private jet trips and personal items the NRA bought for him. And now, thanks to some delightful reporting by my Post colleagues Carol D. Leonnig and Beth Reinhard, we know that last year’s Parkland massacre left LaPierre so fearful for his personal safety that he tried to have the NRA buy him a $6 million French-chateau-style mansion with nine bathrooms in a gated Dallas-area golf course community.

He told associates he was worried about his safety and thought his Virginia home was too easy for potential attackers to find.

Ultimately, the financially stressed NRA didn’t buy LaPierre the mansion. That’s too bad, because, as the saying goes: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a French chateau.”

6) Even without knowing the exact details of who’s “right” and “wrong” here, this is a great example of why meaningful health care reform will be so hard.  Hospitals and doctors will get less money and they really don’t like it.  And they win politically.  

7) Good stuff from Yglesias on what the SoulCycle controversy tells us about Republican politics:

It’s interesting that though Ross is willing to support Trump’s reelection bid in material ways, he doesn’t seem particularly inclined to tell us what the issues are on which he agrees with the president.

Instead, he gave a laundry list of progressive-friendly policy stances that he wants to be seen as holding. It’s pretty clear, however, that Trump is not a big champion of environmental sustainability. Not only does the president mock climate change as a conspiracy theory and tell people that windmills cause cancer, he’s also overseen an unprecedented reversal of decades of progress against non-climate air pollution even as scientific evidence mounts that smog is killing tens of thousands of Americans a year

The issue on which Ross agrees with Trump is likely taxes. Ross has an estimated net worth of $7.7 billion. And while you might think that part of the pleasure of having $7.7 billion is that you don’t need to sweat the small stuff, the fact of the matter is that Trump’s changes to the estate tax alone are worth $4.4 million to a guy like Ross. The median American’s net worth is about $97,000, meaning that Trump and congressional Republicans handed Ross a chunk of change that’s more than 40 times as large as the typical American’s total wealth. That’s a pretty good reason to care passionately about the 2020 election.

But of course Trump’s tax cuts didn’t stop there. Ross is getting thousands of dollars a year in basic rate cuts. And while he is best known for his fitness-related consumer brands, he’s also a major commercial real estate developer, and since Trump is also in this line of business, his tax law is loaded with special provisions to specifically help that genre of rich person.

It’s quite plausible that Ross is telling the truth and he legitimately does have profound disagreements with Trump over certain culture war issues. It’s just that the amount of money at stake for Ross, personally, in the question of Trump’s political success is mind-boggling — far more than the typical person deals with in their lifetime or can even really conceive of…

This stuff is not the foundation of Trump’s popularity, but it very much is the foundation of his political impunity. Impeachment, meaningful congressional oversight, and everything else is on hold because Trump’s presence in office serves the interests of the billionaire class…

All of which is to say that regardless of Ross’s personal views on racial equality, it’s not just that he’s willing to overlook Trump’s retrograde attitudes on these issues for the sake of tax cuts. The political focus on racial conflict is integral to the political viability of the tax cut program. A national debate that focused primarily on whether 20 million people should lose their insurance so that Ross can get a tax cut would be a disaster for Ross’s personal financial interests. To get what he wants, he needs a big national argument about race even while he’d like his more culturally progressive customers to believe he’s secretly on their side.

8) Popehat’s twitter thread on Epstein is a must-read:

9) Conor Friedersdorf on Tucker Carlson:

And apart from the omissions, the segment was riddled with reasoning so inane, one wondered if stupidity or sophistry was the more charitable explanation. White supremacy is “not a real problem in America,” Carlson said, arguing that “the combined membership of every white-supremacist organization in this country, would they be able to fit inside a college football stadium?”
The 9/11 terrorists would fit in a locker room. Every MS-13 gang member in America would fit in the Great Western Forum. The worldwide membership of ISIS might well fit in Michigan Stadium. “Fits in a football stadium” is an idiotic proxy for “a real problem,” especially when only official “members” are counted as part of that problem.

I happen to think that the term white supremacy is now used too promiscuously by some intellectuals. It obviously does not follow that white supremacists don’t exist, or that they aren’t a threat worth taking seriously

Dismissing white supremacy as a concern, Carlson reasoned, “I’ve lived here 50 years and I’ve never met anybody, not one person, who ascribes to white supremacy.” While I doubt that, it would be a dumb argument even if it were true. As far as I know, I’ve never met a murderer or a child molester or a perpetrator of elder abuse. Yet I am certain that all three crimes are still problems.

“The whole thing is a lie,” Carlson insisted. “If you were to assemble a list, a hierarchy of concerns or problems this country faces, where would white supremacy be on the list? Right up there with Russia, probably.”

Russia is a nuclear-armed autocracy that remains the most significant reason for the continued existence of NATO. The country actively works to undermine U.S. interests around the globe. It pays a troll army to sow discord among American citizens, and successfully stole emails from the Democratic Party to influence the last presidential election. I happen to think that some people overstate its influence. That does not mean Russia doesn’t pose real challenges to the country.

10) Good stuff on end-of-life cancer treatment:

Although slightly more than two-thirds of cancer patients treated in the United States are cured, this is mostly the result of early detection and combinations of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy treatments developed decades ago, Dr. Azra Raza, director of the Myelodysplastic Syndrome Center at Columbia University, wrote in her forthcoming book “The First Cell, and the Human Costs of Pursuing Cancer to the Last.” In fact, experts suspect that some cancers discovered through early detection would never have become fatal even if they had not been treated.

But once solid tumors like cancers of the breast, colon, lung and prostate have spread well beyond the organs where they began — so-called Stage 4 cancers — cure is rarely, if ever, possible, although treatments with immunotherapy, for example, can sometimes prolong lives for months or longer.

(Prospects are far better for body-wide cancers of the blood and lymph systems.) At best, the often very costly treatments available today to treat patients with far advanced Stage 4 tumors do little more than postpone the inevitable and can make patients even more debilitated. When chemotherapy is used palliatively to shrink painful tumors, it is important to know when to stop because it is no longer helping.

11) I got a call for a reporter to comment on Cooper’s new appointment to the NC State Elections Board this week, but I called him back too late to be interviewed.  Didn’t even bother to find out who the new appointment was without the impending interview.  Probably for the best that he didn’t show up at my office and tell me it’s Damon Circosta.  I like to think that I’m always fair and objective, but it would be hard for me to not be unfairly positive.  Also, did not care for the Republicans complaining about him in this article, as if the previous appointment of a registered Independent would somehow get a person without any partisan leanings.  What you really want is somebody who will absolutely be fair and not a partisan hack, and any fair-minded Republican knows that’s Damon Circosta:

Damon Circosta will replace Robert Cordle, who resigned from the board late last month after telling a crude joke to room full of election officials. This will bring the board back up to five members – two Republicans and three Democrats – and they’ll name their own chair.

That person will be the board’s fourth chair since early December, when another Cooper appointee resigned the job.

“Every election is important, but there has never been a better time in our state to put voters first,” Circosta said in a press release Wednesday. “I appreciate the faith Governor Cooper has put in me to carry out this important role. I look forward to working with the State and County Boards of Elections to ensure elections are secure and that voters have confidence in the process.”

Circosta was on a previous iteration of the board in 2018, but that body dissolved as part of a long-running legal battle between Cooper and the General Assembly’s Republican majority over board appointments. Republicans bashed the choice Wednesday night, noting Circosta was the board’s required unaffiliated voter under it’s last iteration. He’s a registered Democrat now.

“Gov. Cooper isn’t even pretending that he cares about good government,” state Sen.

Ralph Hise , who co-chairs the Senate Redistricting and Elections Committee, said in an emailed statement. “By appointing Damon Circosta to the Board today as the tie-breaking Democrat, he’s admitting that his previous appointment of Circosta as an ‘unaffiliated’ member was a sham.”

Quick hits

1) This is kind of too perfect.  The NC Republican party’s “expert” witness has had his testimony thrown out in a big gerrymandering case because he used totally made up figures about the gerrymandered districts.

2) NC State’s Class of 2022 Park Scholars (and me!) are going to DC in October for a “learning lab” on mass incarceration.  I helped them put together this great list of pre-trip reading and viewing.  Want to understand mass incarceration in America?  You could do a lot worse than this list.

3) Sometime longform journalism is just too long.  That said, I did enjoy skimming this feature in The Cut, “The Most Gullible Man in Cambridge A Harvard Law professor who teaches a class on judgment wouldn’t seem like an obvious mark, would he?”

4) Good chance you saw this headline, “Emmett Till Sign Photo Leads Ole Miss Fraternity to Suspend Members.”  I will say this little bit pulled me up short:

But the Ole Miss chapter of Kappa Alpha, which the three students are members of, said in a statement on Thursday that it took swift action after it learned of the photo on Tuesday.

“The photo is inappropriate, insensitive, and unacceptable,” the fraternity chapter said. “It does not represent our chapter.”

Of course they said that, but, the reality is KA is a fraternity that celebrates the confederacy and this is the U of Mississippi chapter, so…

5) I’ve long known the “felony murder” rule is abominable.  I guess I should’ve not been surprised that we’re about the only country systematically unjust enough to regularly use it:

The origins of the felony murder rule are murky. Generations of law students have been taught that it is a relic of British common law.

But Guyora Binder, a professor at the University at Buffalo School of Law and a leading expert on felony murder, said he had found otherwise. He traced modern felony murder doctrine to the 1820s, when state legislatures in the United States codified criminal offenses.

England abolished its version of felony murder in 1957, followed by India, Canada and other common law countries, and the United States remains the only country where the felony murder doctrine still exists. A Michigan Supreme Court ruling that did away with it in that state nearly four decades ago called it “a historic survivor for which there is no logical or practical basis for existence in modern law.”

6) This is titled, “Barr’s talking points on the death penalty are misleading.”  To be fair, what does Barr say that’s not misleading.  Still, good stuff:

The worst. It’s a tired talking point – frequently amplified to “worst of the worst” – employed by death penalty proponents who know they can’t argue the merits of the system and instead must rely on fear-mongering and vague stereotypes to rally what little public support is still available to them on this issue.

The reality is that the “worst of the worst” is a subjective classification to begin with – what line one draws in the sand for throwing away the sanctity of human life will vary from the lines of others. But even if we could come to a consensus on what crimes constitute this indistinct classification, a quick look at the facts shows clearly that the severity of the crime rarely determines who gets a death sentence.

In actuality, the leading determinates for who receives the death penalty and who does not have little to do with the nature of the crime at all. In both state and federal systems, it is the location where the crime is committed that is the leading factor in a capital sentence. Just 2 percent of counties bring the majority of death penalty cases. All executions since the death penalty was reinstated in the 1970s have come from a mere 16 percent of the nation’s counties. At the federal level, three states – Texas, Missouri, and Virginia – are responsible for the majority of the cases, and all of the cases have come from 31 of the nation’s 94 federal judicial districts.

7) If you’ve read this blog for a while, or been in my Public Policy or Criminal Justice Policy classes, you know I’ve been a huge fan of criminology scholar, Mark Kleiman.  He has done as much to influence my own thinking on criminal justice as any scholar has influenced me on any subject.  I will still be assigning When Brute Force Fails for many years to come. Alas, he passed away this week.  I’ll link Kevin Drum’s remembrance, as I’m pretty sure its Drum who introduced me to his scholarship.  Also a nice appreciation from German Lopez.

8) I unapologetically use plastic straws, but I actually quite like paper straws, too, and would happily transition if that’s all that were available.  They last plenty long enough for me to finish a drink and refills.  But, now that Trump is against them, all the more reason.

9) RIP Rutger Hauer.  Bet you didn’t know he was the one to come up with the indelible, “tears in the rain” line.

10) I’ve got David Epstein’s Range sitting on the table 10 feet from me (thanks, DJC), but think I’m going to finish my Chernobyl book first.  Here’s Epstein, “Chances are, you’re not as open-minded as you think.”  But, what if I actually am? 🙂

Do you think of yourself as open-minded? For a 2017 study, scientists asked 2,400 well-educated adults to consider arguments on politically controversial issues — same-sex marriage, gun control, marijuana legalization — that ran counter to their beliefs. Both liberals and conservatives, they found, were similarly adamant about avoiding contrary opinions.

When it came to same-sex marriage, for example, two-thirds of those surveyed passed on a chance to pocket money if, in exchange, they took some time to just look at counterarguments, never mind seriously entertain them.

The lesson is clear enough: Most of us are probably not as open-minded as we think. That is unfortunate and something we can change. A hallmark of teams that make good predictions about the world around them is something psychologists call “active open mindedness.” People who exhibit this trait do something, alone or together, as a matter of routine that rarely occurs to most of us: They imagine their own views as hypotheses in need of testing.

11) In a related vein, nice Vox piece from Robert Peal, “The science of regrettable decisions: A doctor explains how our brains can trick us into making bad choices — and how to fight back.”

In the scientific literature, George and I noticed an interesting pattern: Under the right circumstances, a subconscious neurobiological sequence in our brains causes us to perceive the world around us in ways that contradict objective reality, distorting what we see and hear. This powerful shift in perception is unrelated to our intelligence, morals, or past behaviors. In fact, we don’t even know it’s happening, nor can we control it.

George and I named this phenomenon “brainshift” and found that it happens in two distinct situations: those involving high anxiety and those associated with major reward.

Under these conditions, all of us would do something just as regrettable as the headline-grabbing stories above, contrary to what we tell ourselves. Phrased differently, we don’t consciously decide to act a fool. Rather, once our perception is distorted, we act in ways that seem reasonable to us but foolish to observers.

12) “Fast track” deportation is just so wrong:

The Trump administration’s expansion of the use of fast-track deportations through “expedited removal” will create a “show me your papers” regime nationwide in which people — including citizens — may be forced to quickly prove they should not be deported. This policy allows Immigration and Customs Enforcement to quickly deport someone without going before an immigration judge, undermining American principles of fundamental fairness and putting United States citizens, permanent residents and asylum-seekers at risk of wrongful deportation.

For 15 years, the government has been applying expedited removal in a limited way to those within 100 miles of the Canadian or Mexican border who have been in the United States for less than two weeks. The entire process consists of an interview with an immigration officer during which the burden is on the individual to prove a legal right to remain in the United States. One could be questioned, detained and deported very swiftly with little time to consult a lawyer or to gather evidence to prevent deportation. The extremely short timeline of the expedited-removal process increases the chances that a person who is legally entitled to stay in the United States can end up being removed anyway. The government now says it will apply it across the country for many people who cannot prove they have been present in the United States for two years or more. The expansion could affect thousands of people nationwide.

13) Tamar Haspel on why ultra-processed food makes us fat:

“There are several potential hypotheses,” Hall told me. Top of his list? Calorie density. “There were about two calories per gram in the processed food,” excluding drinks, “and in the unprocessed it was closer to one.” People also ate the ultra-processed meals a lot faster. “It might be softer, easier to chew and swallow,” Hall said. And that could mean that satiety signals, which take time, don’t get to your brain until after you’ve overeaten.

This is not a new idea. Penn State nutrition professor Barbara Rolls has been studying it for a couple of decades and wrote the “Volumetrics” series of diet books based on the idea of calorie-density. According to her, diets based on decreasing calorie density — which comes down to eating foods that have more water and less fat — are more effective than any of the diets that manipulate macronutrients.

They have a different mechanism, she explains. “It’s behavioral. It’s visual.” You’re responding to cues about the amount of food you’re eating. So, for example, if you give research subjects the same cereal in two different forms — flaky (higher volume) and crushed (lower volume) — they eat a third more of the crushed version. On average, people tend to decide how much to eat by gauging the amount of food; the more there is available, the more they eat, and volume and weight both play a role, Rolls says. Visual cues matter…

In a nutshell: The root of obesity is palatability and calorie density, combined with ubiquity and convenience. Satiety hormones and other metabolic machinations have much less to do with it. We’re responding to cues from without, not from within. One new study doesn’t prove it, of course, but it’s the hypothesis that best fits the preponderance of the evidence. [emphasis mine]

14) An argument that I should strongly consider not grading my students because it hinders learning.  Hmmm.

That is the kind of growth Blum wants students to experience in her courses. But her research and personal experience have persuaded her that it’s difficult to achieve when students are graded. Blum has come to the conclusion that grades are meaningless, even harmful. Grades, Blum is now convinced, are a barrier: between students and professors, between students and learning.

So Blum has stopped grading. She has joined the ranks of college professors and schoolteachers experimenting with “ungrading,” a set of practices meant to redirect time and attention to more important things. Like most professors, Blum can’t discard grades completely — she still has to hand them in at the end of the term. But that leaves the rest of the semester to help students question the premise of those grades and encourage them to focus instead on their learning.

 

Quick hits (part I)

1) Just another day in American-style corporate health care:

Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals announced today that the company expects to pay $15.4 million in a settlement with the U.S. Justice Department after allegations that Questcor Pharmaceuticals, which Mallinckrodt acquired in 2014, had bribed doctors and their staff to prescribe an incredibly expensive drug.

Two whistleblowers came forward in April to accuse Questcor of trying to boost profits for Acthar, a medication primarily for infants with seizures. Questcor raised the price of the medication by almost 100,000 percent (not a typo) from just $40 in 2000 to $38,892 today, despite the fact that Acthar has been on the market since 1952. Mallinckrodt currently rakes in about $1 billion per year from Acthar, according to CNN. [emphases mine]

“Mallinckrodt denies any wrongdoing on the part of Questcor during the relevant period, and intends to vigorously defend the company in this matter,” the company said in a press release.

Mallinckrodt has previously pointed out that the drug price of Acthar was raised by Questcor before Mallinckrodt bought it. But that doesn’t change the fact that Questcor appears to have been purchased by Mallinckrodt precisely because it was making money hand over fist.

Nor does it change the fact that about $8,000 of the price hikes on Athcar have reportedly occurred since Mallinckrodt bought Questcor. And the $15.4 million fine, which has yet to be finalized with the DOJ, pales in comparison to how much money the company is currently taking in on the drug.

While the company denies wrongdoing, the whistleblower lawsuit alleges that the “illegal practices that Questcor had been engaging in since 2007 have knowingly been continued since the merger and acquisition of Questcor by Mallinckrodt.”

Acthar is used for infantile spasms, which afflict roughly 2,000 babies in the U.S. each year, but Mallinckrodt has expanded the use of Acthar for other ailments like rheumatoid arthritis. A 60 Minutes report from May of 2018 raised serious questions about how well the drug actually works for arthritis in seniors, and an expert who spoke with 60 Minutes said that there’s “no evidence” Acthar works for rheumatoid arthritis despite the fact that Mallinckrodt reportedly makes about $500,000 each year for prescriptions treating the condition.

Curiously, there’s a drug called Synacthen that’s identical to Acthar and sells for just $33 in Canada. So why isn’t Synacthen available in the U.S.? Because Mallinckrodt bought the U.S. rights to Synacthen and simply doesn’t make it available to American consumers.

Ugh.  Also, Infantile Spasms are a particularly serious type of seizure.  So wrong.

2) Roxanne Gay says freak out.  Drum says, maybe not so much:

And there’s more. The headline unemployment rate is at its lowest rate in half a century and the long-term unemployment rate is lower than it was at the height of the housing bubble. Household earnings are up about $8,000 over the past five years. Blue-collar wages have increased by more than $1 per hour. The poverty rate has dropped for three straight years and is now lower than at any time aside from the peak of the dotcom boom. Despite the best efforts of Republicans, Obamacare continues to provide health coverage for nearly 20 million additional people compared to a decade ago. Among teens, cigarette smoking is down; alcohol use is down; other drug use is down; teen pregnancy is down; and arrests are down. The US economy is the most robust in the world. About 700,000 new citizens are naturalized every year, up from 100,000 in 1980. Same-sex marriage is legal in all 50 states. And on a personal note, there’s been a huge surge in new treatments for multiple myeloma, which means that I will probably be blathering on your computer for many years to come.

My message here is simple. If you cherry pick all the bad stuff that’s happened in the past few years, you can make a case for being pretty discouraged. If you cherry pick all the good stuff, you can make a case that everything is fine. The real reality is somewhere in-between. So if you feel like being discouraged, don’t let me get in your way. But there’s always good and bad in the world, and there’s no reason to insist otherwise.

Except for climate change, where we’re still on track to commit planetary suicide and no one is truly taking it seriously. That’s just a pure nightmare.

Oh, yeah, except climate change.

3) My colleague, Andrew Taylor, makes a pretty interesting argument about liberal bias among political science professors using social science.  Though, this liberal is no big fan of implicit bias (heck, among other things, we’ve got enough explicit bias these days):

Yet, although academic political scientists consider themselves experts who have built robust models validated by all sorts of empirical studies, they seem to believe the kinds of misinformed and prejudicial attitudes and anti-social and harmful behavior they attribute to just about everyone else have somehow evaded them.

That is odd. The last time I checked, political science professors were human beings. They are surely not immune from theories of human behavior they hold and have validated under scientific conditions.

One such in-vogue theory is unconscious or implicit bias. This is the idea that individuals are inherently prejudiced against others from certain groups. Social scientists use the theory to explain pervasive racism and prejudice against out or minority groups in all walks of life. The idea is that although a person may feel they judge others neutrally or on merits unrelated to group membership, they hold biases, admittedly often small, that they are incapable of correcting.

These attitudes adversely affect the individuals who constitute their object. Compounded, they can have material effects on public policy and social outcomes.

Although the theory has vocal critics and some proponents recognize its limited capacity to predict the behavior of individuals, the academy has produced a great deal of confirmatory published experimental and survey research.

Academics consider bias particularly pervasive in homogenous populations. Political science is certainly homogenous. A number of studies show the discipline’s professors are overwhelmingly liberal and largely identify as Democrats—by about 10 to 1 according to a study of North Carolina and Florida faculty I recently co-authored and that is forthcoming in a flagship journalof the American Political Science Association.

Actually, I’m not sure of the research on this (and, sorry, not going to check right now), but in my experience (okay, with myself and other informed PS professors) being aware of various cognitive biases actually really does make us less susceptible to them.  How many other people discuss the “sunk cost trap” while in line with friends at lunch?

4) Dana Milbank on how for Trump, D-Day was all about… Donald Trump.

5) It’s bad enough to have really bad people among Catholic priests.  Even worse when they are Catholic bishops:

During his 13 years as bishop in West Virginia, one of the poorest states in the nation, Bransfield spent $2.4 million in church money on travel, much of it personal, which included flying in chartered jets and staying in luxury hotels, according to the report. Bransfield and several subordinates spent an average of nearly $1,000 a month on alcohol, it says. The West Virginia diocese paid $4.6 million to renovate Bransfield’s church residence after a fire damaged a single bathroom. When Bransfield was in the chancery, an administrative building, fresh flowers were delivered daily, at a cost of about $100 a day — almost $182,000 in all.

Bransfield, 75, drew on a source of revenue that many parishioners knew little about, oil-rich land in Texas donated to the diocese more than a century ago. He spoke of church money as if it were his to spend without restriction, according to the report.

“I own this,” he is quoted as saying on many occasions.

6) I read $2 a Day about poverty in America as NC State incoming Freshman reading a couple years ago.  It was really good.  And I assign this summary to my Public Policy class.  Turns out, new research strongly suggests that it significantly overstates extreme poverty in America.  That said, there still is too much extreme poverty in America.

7) Really excited to see the updated Hall of Fossils next time I visit the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.  I also like that they reference the last major renovation in the early 1980’s.  I still have very fond memories of my dad taking me to a members only reception for the re-opening featuring dinosaur cookies.

8) Dara Lind with a terrific article on how the border crisis really is a crisis now.  And why.  A must-read.  I added this to my Public Policy syllabus for next semester.

9) Meanwhile a harrowing Politico article on life for poor women in Honduras:

What do you do when you fear for your life and the state won’t protect you? Or if the state might make your already tenuous situation worse? The fraught calculations that face Sofia and her mom are endemic across Honduras, a country that remains in the grip of a rash of violence against women and girls. For some, the answer is simple and disruptive: They have to leave. When exhausted families, mothers toting babies and young women traveling alone arrive at the southern border of the United States, it’s not just gang violence or criminality in general that they’re fleeing. It’s also what Sofia whispers about to her bunny: men who beat, assault, rape and sometimes kill women and girls; law enforcement that does little to curtail them; and laws that deny many women who do survive the chance to retake control and steer their own lives.

As of 2015, Honduras ranked among a tiny group of nations, including war-racked Syria and Afghanistan, with the highest rates of violent deaths of women. Although Honduras’ overall murder rate has decreased in recent years, it remains one of the deadliest countries in the world, and the murder rate has been declining more slowly for female victims. Murder remains the second-leading cause of death for women of childbearing age.

10) Terrific interview with the creator of HBO’s “Chernobyl” on the nature of truth and stories and the show.

11) This Reason satirical campaign video meets used car ads is really, really good:

12) Seth Masket on the potential costs of not impeaching:

But even if we assume there would be a political price for impeachment, that does not mean that declining to impeach would be without consequence. For one thing, if there are voters who would be bothered by impeachment, there are quite a few others who would be bothered by the lack of it. The idea that Trump has clearly committed impeachable acts but Democrats in the House of Representatives won’t punish him because they think it will hurt them in the next election is not a particularly inspiring message, especially for a party that keeps urging people to put country before party.

On top of that calculus, it’s entirely possible Trump wins re-election whether Democrats pursue impeachment or not. He’s won before, incumbents usually win re-election, and they almost always do during a growing economy. What’s the lesson coming out of that election? “We might have removed him but failed to so here he is for another four years”?

It’s important to consider just what the lessons of this presidency will be for subsequent administrations and congressional parties. If Democrats decide that, despite widespread lawbreaking, impeachment just isn’t on the table because conviction is unlikely and there may be political costs, then it would effectively remove impeachment as a serious constraint on presidential actions. And given that the Department of Justice has also removed itself from control of the president, that would basically mean that presidents truly are above the law as long as they serve…

But fairly or not, Democrats have been placed in the position of determining whether to prosecute presidential lawbreaking. Either choice may have negative consequences, but the decision should be evaluated not just in terms of what will happen this year or next, but for the decades to come.

12) I’m sorry, but I’m so not impressed by arbitrary feats such as climbing Everest and returning home all within 14 days.  The key is living in a hypoxia chamber rather than actually acclimating at the mountain.

13) Endorse: Students should stop treating faculty as expendable.  That said, as a middle-aged white male, I hardly ever run into this anymore.

14) Damn, the willful ignorance of Republicans on climate is just breathtaking.  And, I’m not going to just blame Trump– he’s, symptom, not cause here:

Fifty or 100 years from now, we may well say that President Trump’s concerted effort to exacerbate climate change — and that’s precisely what it is — was the single worst thing he did in a presidency full of horrors. A new report from the New York Times gives new details about just how diabolical his administration’s actions have been:

In the next few months, the White House will complete the rollback of the most significant federal effort to curb greenhouse-gas emissions, initiated during the Obama administration. It will expand its efforts to impose Mr. Trump’s hard-line views on other nations, building on his retreat from the Paris accord and his recent refusal to sign a communiqué to protect the rapidly melting Arctic region unless it was stripped of any references to climate change.

And, in what could be Mr. Trump’s most consequential action yet, his administration will seek to undermine the very science on which climate change policy rests.

The goal appears to be to keep the government from ever confirming that climate change exists and, failing that, to do everything it can to make it look less serious than it is. The administration also plans to create a new panel to downplay climate change and discredit legitimate science on the topic, led by National Security Council senior director William Happer, who once said, “The demonization of carbon dioxide is just like the demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler.”

15) And you can very much appreciate Tom Nichols’ take on “Chernobyl” without watching the show.

16) Catherine Rampell with a good take (and I’m disappointed in Warren here), “Everyone’s got a climate plan. So where’s the carbon tax?”

To be clear, the candidates’ proposals include many other good ideas. They all say we should eliminate subsidies for fossil-fuel companies. They all boost federal investment in and incentives for R&D in clean technology. This is critically necessary, especially for basic research, which private companies might not be sufficiently incentivized to undertake on their own.

But then things go off the rails.

The plans devote a lot of verbiage to talking about the magical properties of government procurement — that is, using the deep pockets of the government to purchase more energy-efficient products. Warren, for instance, analogizes her own plan, which includes a $1.5 trillion federal procurement commitment, to the industrial policy America previously undertook for the space race and our mobilization against Nazi aggression.

But in both of those historical comparisons, “The goal wasn’t to create a commercial product,” points out David Popp, a Syracuse University professor who specializes in environmental economics. “The government was the consumer.”

Just because the public sector buys more energy-efficient lightbulbs, electric cars or solar panels doesn’t mean the (much larger) private sector will, absent price incentives. Especially if we add conditions to the production of those green goods that actually increase their costs to consumers, as some of these plans do.

17) Greg Sargent:

Amazingly, after all we’ve seen, there’s still a tendency in some quarters to treat the falsehoods regularly told by President Trump, and echoed by his media allies, as a somewhat exaggerated but basically conventional form of political dishonesty.

But Trump and certain of his media partisans have long been engaged in something altogether different — something that can only be described as concerted and deliberate disinformation…

It’s the disinformation, stupid

It should be impossible to watch these diatribes in full without quickly realizing that this isn’t ordinary political dishonesty — some level of artifice is an inevitable feature of politics — but rather is something much more insidious. What’s notable is the sheer comprehensiveness of the effort to create an alternate set of realities whose departure from the known facts seemingly aims to be absolute and unbridgeable…

Disinformation and ‘constitutional rot’

Don’t take my word for it. With Trump’s lies and distortions now numbering over 10,000, serious political theorists have noted this aspect of Trumpian disinformation. See this Jacob Levy essay, which argues that Trump’s autocratic reshaping of reality on multiple fronts depends on the delegitimization of other institutional authority.

Or see this Jack Balkin essay on “constitutional rot.” One key sign of our breakdown, Balkin argues, is the fact that Trump has the backing of what can only be understood as “domestic propaganda machines.”

Such propaganda, Balkin notes, “undermines the crucial role of deliberation and the search for truth in a democracy. Propaganda attempts to put everything in dispute, so that nothing can be established as true.” It “undermines shared criteria of reasoning, good faith attempts at deliberation, and mutual accommodation between political opponents in democracies.”

17) Smoking gun evidence that NC Republicans lied to the courts for political gain.  I’m sure Democratically-appointed judges will care.  Would be nice if Republican-appointed ones would, too.  You know, rule of law and all that.

Smokable hemp = legal marijuana?

So, this is kind of interesting, allowing smokable hemp in North Carolina may open up a Pandora’s Box that kind-of legalizes marijuana through a loophole.  Of course, presumably NC would turn into an unlivable hellhole like… Washington or Colorado, if that happened.  Here’s the story:

North Carolina agriculture officials envision hemp as a major cash crop for the state, but law enforcement officials told lawmakers Thursday that the push to boost the industry could essentially legalize marijuana because of the difficulty in telling the two cannabis plants apart.

Much of the annual farm bill under consideration in the General Assembly is dedicated to setting up the necessary state infrastructure to regulate hemp production now that the federal government has loosened its restrictions on hemp.

When North Carolina first legalized growing hemp as a pilot project in 2015, the market for the crop was primarily textiles and rope. Since then, however, the fastest growth in the market – and the highest profits – are in smokable hemp products.

Smokable hemp flowers, or so-called pre-rolls, contain CBD but almost no THC, the active compound in marijuana. But they look and smell just like marijuana.

The State Bureau of Investigation and other groups want the state to ban farmers from growing them.

“Law enforcement cannot discern the difference between smokable hemp and marijuana, and our State Crime Lab cannot discern the difference because they can’t discern the level of the THC that it contains,” Peg Dorer, director of the North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys, told members of the Senate Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources committee on Thursday. [emphasws mine]

The farm bill would create a presumption in state law that licensed hemp farmers aren’t growing marijuana, but Dorer said that creates a loophole that would basically legalize marijuana in the state.

“Law enforcement will not be able to seize or arrest for marijuana because they can’t tell, and prosecutors will have a very difficult time and will not be able to prosecute any violations of marijuana laws,” she said.

Hemp industry advocates said technology that can tell smokable hemp from marijuana is commercially available to law enforcement, and hemp farmers already growing smokable products said eliminating that market could cripple their businesses.

Oh no, law enforcement not being able to use any of its limited resources seizing marijuana.  They might have to… I don’t know… worry about actual problems to protect society.

 

 

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