Quick hits (part II)

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

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

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

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

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

Hello (Representative/Senator NAME),

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

Sincerely,
(voter NAME)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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Quick hits (part I)

1) Wow.  Quite the takedown of Jordan Peterson from a former friend and mentor:

‘I thought long and hard before writing about Jordan, and I do not do this lightly. He has one of the most agile and creative minds I’ve ever known. He is a powerful orator. He is smart, passionate, engaging and compelling and can be thoughtful and kind.

I was once his strongest supporter.

That all changed with his rise to celebrity. I am alarmed by his now-questionable relationship to truth, intellectual integrity and common decency, which I had not seen before. His output is voluminous and filled with oversimplifications which obscure or misrepresent complex matters in the service of a message which is difficult to pin down. He can be very persuasive, and toys with facts and with people’s emotions. I believe he is a man with a mission. It is less clear what that mission is.

In the end, I am writing this because of his extraordinary rise in visibility, the nature of his growing following and a concern that his ambitions might venture from stardom back to his long-standing interest in politics. I am writing this from a place of sadness and from a sense of responsibility to the public good to tell what I know about who Jordan is, having seen him up close, as a colleague and friend, and having examined up close his political actions at the University of Toronto, allegedly in defence of free speech. When he soared into the stratosphere he became peculiarly unknowable. There is something about the dazzle of the limelight that makes it hard to see him clearly. But people continue to be who they are even in the blinding overexposure of success. I have known Jordan Peterson for 20 years, and people had better know more about who he is.

There is reason to be concerned.

2) Great NYT Editorial… “If Addiction Is a Disease, Why Is Relapsing a Crime?”  Hell, yeah!

When Julie Eldred tested positive for fentanyl in 2016, 11 days into her probation for a larceny charge, she was sent to jail. Such outcomes are typical in the American criminal justice system, even though, as Ms. Eldred’s lawyer has argued, ordering a drug addict to abstain from drug use is tantamount to mandating a medical outcome — because addiction is a brain disease, and relapsing is a symptom of it.

Ms. Eldred’s case, now before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, has the potential to usher in a welcome change to drug control policies across the country. The case challenges the practice of requiring people with substance use disorders to remain drug-free as a condition of probation for drug-related offenses, and of sending offenders to jail when they relapse.

The prosecution’s counterargument — that the disease model of addiction is far from settled science — is weak.

3) Ummm, so this is bizarre and true.  Medieval obsession with the holy foreskin of Jesus.

4) I was recently talking about the horrible, horrible case of race and the war-on-drugs-gone-really wrong in Tulia, Texas twenty years ago.  If you don’t know about this, you should.

5) Good to know that taxpayer dollars in NC are being used to subsidize religious schools that teach the 6000 year-old earth as science.  Ugh.

6) I like Drum on the gay wedding cake ruling:

Now, sure, the cake store was not a private club. It was a public place of business, and there’s jurisprudence on what kinds of places are covered by the Civil Rights Act and what kinds aren’t. And portraits aren’t cakes, which are merely being used at an event, not necessarily carrying a message of their own. Still, it should be pretty obvious that there are subtle issues here that are all but impossible to decide on a bright line basis. Can a Jewish baker be forced to supply a cake for a KKK rally? Can a Christian sandwich shop be forced to cater a Planned Parenthood fundraiser? Can a gay movie star be forced to sign an autograph for Richard Spencer?

There are rules that would cover all these cases that the Supreme Court could adopt. But why? For the most part they never come up, and when they do they’re generally just ignored because they’re so obviously heinous. So perhaps the better part of valor is just to tap dance for a while. Soon enough, refusing to serve a gay couple will be broadly viewed as equally heinous and the issue at stake will simply disappear. In the meantime, there’s no need to make a potentially disastrous ruling.

I think this is what happened, and even half the court’s liberals decided to go along. They figure it’s basically an ephemeral issue, and both liberals and conservatives have good reason to let it slide since any definitive new ruling would almost certainly hurt everyone in one way or another. Instead the court decided to muddle along until everyone forgets the whole thing, and that was likely a wise decision.

7) The stupidity of our drug and health care policies in one headline, “She paid nothing for opioid painkillers. Her addiction treatment costs more than $200 a month.”

8) This terrific graduation speech is even more reason to love the amazingly awesome Atul Gawande:

Insisting that people are equally worthy of respect is an especially challenging idea today. In medicine, you see people who are troublesome in every way: the complainer, the person with the unfriendly tone, the unwitting bigot, the guy who, as they say, makes “poor life choices.” People can be untrustworthy, even scary. When they’re an actual threat—as the inmate was for my chief resident—you have to walk away. But you will also see lots of people whom you might have written off prove generous, caring, resourceful, brilliant. You don’t have to like or trust everyone to believe their lives are worth preserving.

We’ve divided the world into us versus them—an ever-shrinking population of good people against bad ones. But it’s not a dichotomy. People can be doers of good in many circumstances. And they can be doers of bad in others. It’s true of all of us. We are not sufficiently described by the best thing we have ever done, nor are we sufficiently described by the worst thing we have ever done. We are all of it.

Regarding people as having lives of equal worth means recognizing each as having a common core of humanity. Without being open to their humanity, it is impossible to provide good care to people—to insure, for instance, that you’ve given them enough anesthetic before doing a procedure. To see their humanity, you must put yourself in their shoes. That requires a willingness to ask people what it’s like in those shoes. It requires curiosity about others and the world beyond your boarding zone.

We are in a dangerous moment because every kind of curiosity is under attack—scientific curiosity, journalistic curiosity, artistic curiosity, cultural curiosity. This is what happens when the abiding emotions have become anger and fear. Underneath that anger and fear are often legitimate feelings of being ignored and unheard—a sense, for many, that others don’t care what it’s like in their shoes. So why offer curiosity to anyone else?

Once we lose the desire to understand—to be surprised, to listen and bear witness—we lose our humanity.

9) A prisoner-journalist on the mental health crisis in our prisons.  Yes, it is that bad.

10) Jonathan Bernstein on California’s misguided top-two primary system:

Even if the system avoided each of those problems, it would still be a bad idea because the fundamental concept is to disrupt the ability of parties to choose their own nominees. And that’s a mistake: Parties are necessary to all large democracies. Parties activate and accommodate participation from groups and individuals; they provide critical intermediation between political elites and voters, which in turn makes representation possible; they help organize government and opposition ideas about public policy; and they simplify the often-bewildering choices voters must make.

And what we’ve learned is that parties adapt, no matter how difficult government makes it for them to function. We’ve seen that in California this year, with both Democrats and Republicans finding all sorts of ways to try to get the candidates they want into the November election. However, not all ways of organizing parties are equally healthy or equally permeable, and I worry about the effects of all of this on California’s Democrats and Republicans. Nor does it really make sense to constantly force parties to re-invent the wheel.

It’s a lousy system. The sooner the state gets rid of it, the better.

11) In the latest version of NC Republican legislators know best, they are trying to pass a law that a drink can only be called milk if it comes from a “hoofed animal.”  Hmmm, tell that to babies ;-).  Anyway, supposedly a lot of people are confused that soy milk and almond milk come from cows.  Not sure I buy that.  While I’m at it, it always does mystify me that soy milk has a nutrient profile relatively similar to actual milk, but most of the others are sorely lacking in protein.

12) NYT on the Trump administration, “Grifters gonna grift.”  Forget draining “the swamp.”  How about filling it with pollution and dead bodies.

13) Found this New Yorker article on the science of baldness cures (and maybe some new hope on the horizon) really interesting.  I figure it’s too late for me, but hopefully some new innovations in time for my boys to benefit.  It has always bugged me that somehow baldness is about the one physical characteristic for which it is socially acceptable to make fun of people.

14) This is an encouraging headline, “Sucking carbon dioxide from air is cheaper than scientists thought.”

15) New Yorker post on Elizabeth Warren’s coming anti-corruption agenda (now that’s a damn good idea right now), but what I really loved was this from Warren:

The point seems obvious, but it bears repeating: while much of the press, and therefore the country, is preoccupied by the President’s daily outbursts on Twitter and by the leaks and twists of Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, Donald Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress have been aggressively rolling back regulations of all kinds. The effects of some of these changes may not be directly felt by the voting public for years, when a major health crisis, a financial collapse, or some other catastrophe suddenly arrives, but the risks are being created right now.

“Let’s talk about real freedom,” Warren said, during her speech. “Done right, strong, clear regulations protect the freedom of every American. How free would you be if companies were allowed to lie to you about their businesses in order to trick you into investing your life savings in their stock? How free would you be if no one had to wash their hands before they handled your hamburger? How free would you be if companies could pass off little white pills as antibiotics, even if they weren’t?” Finally, she said, “Don’t tell me that all rules do is restrict freedom. Good rules empower people to live, work, and do business freely and safely.” [emphasis mine]

16) Radley Balko taking down forensic “science” never gets old for me.  Alas, I wish our damn court system would start paying attention and stop allowing convictions on what might as well be astrology in some cases:

The most problematic fields of forensics are those known as the pattern matching fields. This includes any specialty that requires an analyst to look at one sample and “match” it to another. Think hair and carpet-fiber analysis, bite-mark analysis, shoe-print and tire-tread analysis, blood-spatter analysis and fingerprint matching. The degree to which these fields are problematic vary quite a bit (bite-mark matching is probably on the least reliable end of the spectrum, with fingerprint matching at the other end), but all at their core are subjective. (Fingerprint matching breaks down the moment you start looking at partial prints.) That means they cannot calculate a margin for error. It means analysts will often disagree about conclusions, sometimes in ways that directly contradict one another. And by definition, any method of analysis that results in experts coming to contradictory conclusions about the same piece of evidence can’t possibly be accurate (one of them is obviously wrong) or reliable.

This means that these fields aren’t science. That doesn’t mean they have no evidentiary value at all. But it does mean that analysts need to be extremely careful about how they present this sort of evidence to juries. The language they use needs to be standardized and then explained to juries, so that the amount of emphasis the jury puts on it is based on the evidence’s actual significance and not other factors, such as the charisma or persuasiveness of the analyst. This hasn’t been happening.

Finally, some representation

Damn do I love good political satire.  And damn does Thomas Mills nail it here:

In all the hoopla around school safety and gun violence, one group of citizens has been unrepresented: mentally unstable gun owners (MUGOs). While victims of gun violence get undue sympathy, support and, yes, news coverage, MUGOs have almost no voice. Fortunately, House Speaker Tim Moore and the NRA are determined to change that.

Radical Democrats in the legislature proposed legislation that would allow the courts to take guns away from people who are a danger to themselves or others. The so-called Red Flag bill was similar to measures supported by RINOs like US Senator Marco Rubio and passed by liberal GOP-controlled legislatures like the ones in Indiana and Florida. The legislation, also known as Extreme Risk Protection Orders or Gun Violence Restraining Orders, would allow the courts to temporarily remove fire arms from MUGOs if family members or law enforcement could show these people might cause harm to themselves or other people. In other words, this legislation would take guns out of the hands of potentially violent offenders, violating their rights by preventing them from becoming violent offenders.

Fortunately, Moore takes the NRA and their campaign contributions seriously. He understands that the right to bear arms trumps the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Murders and suicides by MUGOs are a small price to pay for a truly free society. Moore knows that a gunshot to the head is not the scene of a tragedy but the sound of freedom.

So as soon as the proposed legislation hit the floor, Moore sent the bill to die a lonely death in the Rules Committee. Moore is one of those Republican leaders that understands there’s nothing the government can do to prevent gun violence and we certainly shouldn’t try. He also knows that the wishes of the NRA should be sacrosanct.  Moore, MAGA and MUGOs: an emerging American tradition.

Democracy in Action

My son David was so excited to exercise his right to vote for the first time ever today in the NC primaries.  Just state legislative races and County Commission (though, surprisingly contentious), but nothing like voting in an actual democracy.

Also, looking ahead, we realized that Alex will be able to vote in 2020.  In many states, being declared “mentally incompetent,” as Alex will have to be to allow us to be his legal guardians once he is 18, prevents you from voting, but not in NC.  And, if there’s one thing we know about Alex’s politics is he hates Donald Trump, so we’ll be able to help him exercise that right in another 2 1/2 years.

Hope for the Republican Party?

As you know, it is all to easy to find examples of Republican state legislators doing and saying really stupid and crazy things.  Sadly, especially here in North Carolina.  I’m so pleased to see that in three cases here in NC, some of the most extreme and embarrassing incumbents are receiving primary challenges because of that.  From the N&O:

Three of the North Carolina House’s most controversial Republicans are facing primary challenges for the first time in years — with opponents eager to highlight things like a statement about Adolf Hitler and a bill about secession.

Rep. Larry Pittman of Cabarrus County near Charlotte and two coastal lawmakers, Rep. Michael Speciale of Craven County and Rep. George Cleveland of Onslow County, have made headlines and sparked outrage, and they occasionally break with House leaders on legislation they don’t think is sufficiently conservative.

Tuesday’s election will be a popularity test for their brand of politics among the GOP faithful who participate in an off-year primary…

Their opponents, however, want to make sure voters don’t forget about the controversies, which they say makes their districts look bad.

“Some folks need to use their ears more and their mouth less, and he’s one of them,” Pittman challenger Michael Anderson said of his opponent. “I don’t think he represents us well at all. He seems to only care about guns and the Civil War and public hangings and Abraham Lincoln.”

Anderson, a professional photographer who’s new to politics, was referring to a Facebook post in which Pittman called President Abraham Lincoln a “tyrant” similar to Germany’s Adolf Hitler — as well as a 2012 email in which Pittman called for bringing back public hangings, including for doctors who perform abortions.

Pittman did not respond to multiple requests for an interview.

Pittman and Speciale have also floated the idea of arming teachers with guns, something their challengers strongly oppose.

The hope for the future of the country lies not in complete Democratic take-over, but in sanity re-taking the Republican party.  I’m sure I disagree with these challengers on 90% of issues, but that’s going to happen.  Hooray for them for at least trying to restore some basic decency and sanity to their party.  I don’t expect they’ll win against incumbents, but it sure would be heartening to see a strong showing.  Though, with today’s GOP primary voters, I don’t exactly have my hopes up.

Quick hits (part I)

1) I like this take on all the Superhero/comic book movies through the lens of opportunity cost of better films not made:

Marvel’s commitment to pretty good filmmaking has made it enormously successful and helped reshape the business of studio filmmaking. But it has also come at a cost — not only for superhero movies, but for ambitious studio filmmaking writ large…

The deeper problem is not so much Marvel as its imitators and boosters. As the major studios continue to chase the reliable returns of Marvel’s business model, and critics continue to celebrate Marvel’s merely satisfactory efforts as better than they really are, the likely outcome is that Hollywood studios will focus even more of their resources and top-tier talent on the production of movies that are watchable, even enjoyable, but aspire to little else. Smaller-budget films and television will fill in some of the gaps, as they already are, but the grandest productions will be reserved for the cautious and competent.

2) I’m excited to be using John Pfaff’s Locked In for my Criminal Justice Policy summer class starting in a couple weeks.  Here’s a nice summary of his key arguments.  Short version: blame prosecutors.

3) It’s not easy to change a country’s alphabet.  I’d love to look at the politics of this.  I almost wonder if you need an autocrat to force it.  There’s huge long-term gain, but that gain is down-the-road, and short-term, what a pain!  The case of Kazakhstan moving from Cyrillic to Latin alphabet.

4) McSweeney’s presents a “generic college paper.”  I feel like I read a few of these this week ;-).

5) Eric Posner and Glen Weyl on the corporate monopoly power behind our new gilded age is really, really good:

In the past two decades, growth rates in the United States have fallen to half of what they were in the middle of the 20th century. The share of income accruing to the top 1 percent has nearly doubled since the 1970s, while the share of income going to all workers has fallen by nearly 10 percent.

These are the marks of our new Gilded Age. It’s tempting to blame impersonal market forces such as globalization and automation for widening inequality. But the true villain would be familiar to anyone who lived through the previous one: market (that is, monopoly) power…

Today, market power takes new forms, but the solution is the same: antimonopoly laws and laws protecting workers, but updated for the problems of the 21st century.

The era of “supply-side economics” championed by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher — which called for tax cuts, deregulation and narrow antitrust enforcement — explains a lot of our current predicament. The key assumption of that era was that markets work best when the government focuses exclusively on enforcing contract and property rights.

This theory turned out to be wrong — not because it celebrates the market but because it misunderstands it. Two centuries earlier, Adam Smith pointed out that the easiest way for businesses to earn profits is not by slashing costs and innovating but by agreeing among themselves not to compete — to exert market power to raise prices or lower wages.

This sort of agreement is now illegal, but businesses have nevertheless found new and creative ways to achieve monopoly profits, while antitrust enforcers have fallen behind.

6) Love Benjamin Wittes game-theorying out whether Mueller subpoenas Trump.

7) How’s that Republican tax cut working out?  Krugman:

In short, the effects of the Trump tax cut are already looking like the effects of the Brownback tax cut in Kansas, the Bush tax cut and every other much-hyped tax cut of the past three decades: big talk, big promises, but no results aside from a swollen budget deficit.

You might think that the G.O.P. would eventually learn something from this experience, realize that tax cuts aren’t magical, and come up with some different ideas. But I guess it’s difficult for a man to understand something when his campaign contributions depend on his not understanding it. [emphasis mine]

8) Why, yes, Arizona’s teacher pay is so low that they bring in low-cost teachers from the Philippines.  Ugh on so many levels.

9) I have an 18-year old about to not leave home.  Looks like I should kick him out and give him money.  Here’s some interesting research from NCSU.

A recent study finds that young people who get financial support from their parents have greater professional success, highlighting one way social inequality is transmitted from one generation to the next.

“The question underlying this work was whether parental support gives adult children an advantage or hinders their development,” says Anna Manzoni, an associate professor of sociology at North Carolina State University and author of a paper on the work…

Specifically, Manzoni found that the more direct financial support young people received from their parents, the higher their occupational status. This was particularly true for college graduates who got direct support from their parents.

On the other hand, young people who received indirect financial support by living at home had lower occupational status. Again, this was particularly true for college graduates.

10) Some very cool visualizations of segregation in America.

11) Oh my goodness.  This is clearly just a not-very-funny, old department store joke.  Not sexual harrassment. And, hey, the whole big story was at a Political Science conference.  Ruth Marcus:

But for goodness’ sake, let’s maintain some sense of proportion and civility as we figure out how to pick our way through the minefield of modern gender relations. Not every comment that offends was intended that way, and intent matters. Maybe check in with the speaker before going nuclear? Maybe consider that there is a spectrum of offensiveness? That not every stray statement by a 76-year-old man warrants a resort to disciplinary procedures?

Because making a federal case, or even a disciplinary one, over a stray elevator remark is not only, well, frivolous — it’s also counterproductive. Take a culture of eggshell fragility. Pair it with a hypersensitive disciplinary mechanism. What you get is a result that serves only to diminish real, and continuing, instances of truly offensive behavior.

12) The Vox headline says it all, “How Medicaid work requirements can exempt rural whites but not urban blacks.”

13) I hate lying in politics.  Sure, politicians are going to spin things, but, ugh, the outright lies.  We’ve got a bunch of Democrats competing against each other for the County Commissioners.  The challengers claim that the controversial decision of the incumbents to buy a failed golf course to turn into a park (we need parks, sounds good to me) is “bailing out a failed golf course.”  Even if you think our dollars should be spent otherwise, this is just a flat-out lie.  Any chance I was going to vote for the challengers went out with that mailer.

14) Paul Waldman on Democrats taking to Republican style of politics:

For many years, Democrats have been convinced that the American people, and even their Republican opponents, are open to persuasion. If they could just have the opportunity to explain why their policies are morally right and practically effective, they could win almost anyone over.

Republicans, on the other hand, harbored no illusions about persuading Democrats of anything. Instead, they had a much more hard-headed view of how politics works.

And now it seems that Democrats are finally coming around to the GOP’s way of thinking.

That has broad ramifications for the future of American politics, not just in how elections are run but how policy is made…

But that strategy has not been met by the other side, which adopts a categorical opposition to any compromise. The NRA and Republicans in Congress are even opposed to universal background checks, which are supported by over 90 percent of the public. They take that position because they’ve made a calculation that there isn’t much point in trying to look reasonable or win over those who might disagree with them. Instead, the way you get what you want is to follow this formula:

  1. Take maximal positions that excite your base
  2. Win elections
  3. Pass bills you like and kill bills you don’t like

This isn’t just about guns. Democrats are now starting to propose extremely progressive ideas on all kinds of other issues, like Medicare for all (or most, at least) and even a federal job guarantee. They know these ideas will find no support among Republicans, but they no longer care. They remember well how Barack Obama crafted a health care plan with roots in the Heritage Foundation and Mitt Romney’s reform in Massachusetts, then spent months trying to convince Republicans in Congress to come to a compromise with him, only to be strung along and ultimately get zero Republican votes in either house.

So many Democrats have concluded that with an electorate as polarized as ours, persuading the other side on almost anything has become basically impossible. If that’s true, and if mobilization is what wins elections, then one important question when crafting policy proposals (especially at a time like now when they’re out of power and can’t actually pass anything) is: “What version of this is going to get our base most excited?

15) Big jury verdict against NC hog farmers for externalizing their pollution onto their neighbors.  But NC’s hog-farm-friendly laws probably dramatically limit the impact.

16) People who think they know a lot about politics just think they know a lot:

Individuals expressing belief superiority—the belief that one’s views are superior to other viewpoints—perceive themselves as better informed about that topic, but no research has verified whether this perception is justified. The present research examined whether people expressing belief superiority on four political issues demonstrated superior knowledge or superior knowledge-seeking behavior. Despite perceiving themselves as more knowledgeable, knowledge assessments revealed that the belief superior exhibited the greatest gaps between their perceived and actual knowledge. When given the opportunity to pursue additional information in that domain, belief-superior individuals frequently favored agreeable over disagreeable information, but also indicated awareness of this bias. Lastly, experimentally manipulated feedback about one’s knowledge had some success in affecting belief superiority and resulting information-seeking behavior. Specifically, when belief superiority is lowered, people attend to information they may have previously regarded as inferior. Implications of unjustified belief superiority and biased information pursuit for political discourse are discussed.

Quick hits (part II)

Better late than never edition.

1) Jennifer Rubin on the cowardly, underminer of the rule of law, Mitch McConnell:

Let’s cut through all this: Republicans are petrified of provoking Trump (“the bear”), whom they treat as their supervisor and not as an equal branch of government. The notion that Congress should not take out an insurance policy to head off a potential constitutional crisis when the president has repeatedly considered firing special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein defies logic. By speaking up in such fashion, McConnell is effectively tempting Trump to fire one or both of them. That will set off a firestorm and bring calls for the president’s impeachment.

“There is evidently no limit on the complicity [McConnell] is willing to shoulder,” argued Norman Eisen, a former White House ethics counsel during the Obama administration. “Even as bipartisan support for the legislation is emerging in both houses of Congress — or perhaps because it is emerging — he stands in the way.” He added: “It is a betrayal of the rule of law for McConnell to take this position when the president has reportedly tried twice to fire Mueller, and discussed it frequently, and is now agitated over the Michael Cohen developments. McConnell will be fully as responsible as Trump if the special counsel is fired.”

2) Good for NC taxpayers that 600 people who don’t actually qualify are no longer getting taxpayer subsidized NC Employee health insurance.  What the article totally fails to address, though, is the costs involved– not at all inconsiderable based on my experiences– of auditing every single policy.

3) Someone sharing this “Chick-Fil-A invades NYC with it’s blatant Christianity” take referred to this– tongue half in cheek, I think– as “why Trump won.”  Not all that far off.  I eat at Chick-Fil-A all the time.  Great fast food and the best service by far in fast food.  And Jesus never comes up at all.

4) How can you not love a story of escaped baboons.

5) Amazingly this headline is not an exaggeration, “Homework assignment asks students to list positive aspects of slavery.”  Un-amazingly, it’s in Texas.

6) NYT re-emphasizing the point that conservative political parties the whole world over except climate change.  Except our very own Republican Party.

7) How Trump lied to get in the Forbes 400.

8) Yglesias with an interesting case for Comey:

The greatest safeguard we have against the dangers of Trump’s highly personalized style of leadership and frequently expressed desire to reshape all institutions to serve his personal goal is that officials and bureaucrats have the power to say no. Comey, whatever else he did, said no to his boss and was fired for his trouble. America needs more government officials who are willing to take that stand. In many ways, Comey is not the hero the United States deserves. But in a critical moment, he may be the hero we need. [emphasis mine]

9) Trey Gowdy is a dishonest partisan hack who is pretty good at convincing journalists he’s not.  The truth will out, though.  To wit, the GOP statement on the Comey memos.

10) And Brian Beutler on Comey:

NPR’s Carrie Johnson pressed Comey on this point, asking “[W]as that your job? Was it your job to worry about those things?”

“I think so,” Comey responded. “As the director of the FBI I think my job is to worry about how—despite what your mother told you about not caring what other people think—as the director of the FBI, the public trust is all you have in that institution. And so yes, worrying about that had to be part of the job description of the Department of Justice—I mean, of the leader of the FBI.”

This would be a powerful argument in a political climate where both major ideological factions felt equally committed to a kind of factual politics. That Comey describes the conspiracy theories Republicans propounded about the email investigation as “politics [as] there always have been,” suggests he suffers from a continued blindness to asymmetries in American political life that allowed him to be bamboozled.

Comey reveals here, as the Washington Post‘s Greg Sargent noted, that he left the institutions of justice vulnerable to bad faith actors angling to manipulate him. Like many journalists, Comey succumbed to a false assumption of balance—that all politics is just politics. He couldn’t and can’t grapple with the idea that one party is less beholden to empiricism and truth than the other, and uses that leeway to undermine neutral institutions unless those institutions do the bidding of the GOP. [emphasis mine]

Honestly, I’m increasingly seeing the bad faith of the Republican Party as the key defining political feature of our time.  And while Democrats have their own occasional foibles, this is so not a “both sides!” issue.

11) Oh man you’ve gotta love NC social conservatives:

The N.C. Values Coalition is urging North Carolina parents to keep their children home on Monday to protest what it calls “graphic, gender-bending, promiscuity-promoting sex education” being taught in public schools.

Conservative activists are upset about what’s taught both in sex education and in programs meant to build acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer and transgender students. They want parents to respond by keeping children home from school as part of Monday’s nationwide “Sex Ed Sit Out” campaign and to vote for candidates who support their views.

In North Carolina, the N.C. Values Coalition wants parents to both keep their children home Monday and to write a letter to their principal explaining their decision.

“This is a national movement to encourage schools to stop using taxpayer dollars to teach programs which are intended to encourage early sexualization of children, causing them to question their own gender and to normalize sexual behaviors that most parents don’t agree with,” said Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the N.C. Values Coalition.

Suffice it to say my kids will be in school tomorrow ;-).

12) Teaching a big Intro to American Government class is a very different experience than teaching my upper-level classes.  But I really do value doing it.  Nice piece in Chronicle of Higher Ed on the value of having high-quality, tenure-track professor teaching intro courses:

To a student who has never encountered a discipline before, the professor teaching the introductory course is the discipline, Chambliss said. “If the physics professor is cool, then physics is cool.” If the professor is dull, the student will think the same of the discipline. If the professor is so dull that the student never takes another physics course, well, that impression could hold for the rest of her life.

That’s one reason Chambliss advocates that colleges put their very best professors in front of as many students as possible, as early as possible. That doesn’t mean every senior professor needs to teach introductory courses, he said — it’s a matter of departments moving a few people around, and rewarding them for their efforts.

Professors and administrators often see a major as a coherent whole, he said. But to students, what matters is the particular course they’re taking this term. If they have a bad first experience, they’re unlikely to stick around for a second one.

13) There’s been a huge row about race and IQ of late involving Ezra Klein and Sam Harris.  That said, easily the best thing I’ve read to come out of this has been Yglesias‘ terrific piece about how Charles Murray (author of the infamous The Bell Curve, and the genesis of the current contretemps) is really all about very conservative public policy, not science at all:

The actual conclusion of The Bell Curve is that America should stop trying to improve poor kids’ material living standards because doing so encourages poor, low-IQ women to have more children — you read that correctly. It also concludes that the United States should substantially curtail immigration from Latin America and Africa. These are controversial policy recommendations, not banal observations about psychometrics…

These claims about the baleful impact of social assistance spending are not uncontroversial claims about science. Indeed, they are not claims about science at all. And since they constitute what Murray himself views as the upshot of his book, and because Murray is a policy writer rather than a scientist, it is correct and proper for fair-minded people to read the book for what it actually is: a tract proposing the comprehensive revision of the American welfare state along eugenicist lines.

 

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