Quick hits (part I)

1) The psychologists behind the CIA’s torture program.

2) How to manipulate teenage defiance for good.

3) Yet more evidence on the link between childhood lead exposure and crime.

4) Jonathan Rauch on why it will be so hard to impeach Trump:

In 1974, as today, Republican legislators were fearful of the political consequences of abandoning a Republican president who enjoyed Republican partisans’ support. That was one reason they protected him for so long. So a key question becomes: when did the Republican base sour on Nixon, making it safe for party leaders to eject him?

The answer, as shown in the second chart, is: never. To the bitter end, his Republican approval stayed at or above 50 percent (with only minor and temporary exceptions). In other words, Nixon divided Republicans but never lost them, despite his evident and gross malfeasance.

Because the Republican Party of 1974 was more moderate and heterogeneous than the Republican Party of today, we can expect today’s Republican base to be even more likely to protect Trump than yesterday’s Republican base was to protect Nixon.

5) Mark Joseph Stern on how the logic of two recent SC decisions on free speech may have an impact on the gerrymandering case.

6) Speaking of which, I find Charles Lane’s post arguing that we don’t want courts deciding how much partisan gerrymandering is too much to be remarkably unpersuasive.

7) Sticking with the Supreme Court, Garrett Epps argues recent rulings are far too trusting of the government on national security.

8) Why the health care industry is not doing more to stop the AHCA (short version: they have a lot of stuff they want from Republicans and don’t want to get on their bad side).

9) Unwritten rules of flying you are probably breaking.  I love this one:

10. Don’t recline in economy. No, listen to me, asshole: Don’t recline in economy. The amount of extra comfort you gain is nothing compared to the chain reaction of pain you have just set off behind you, in which every other passenger in your path is consigned to a modified form of the Trolley Problem, whereby they can either subject themselves and possibly the person next to them to hours of discomfort by doing nothing, or continue the chain reaction by reclining their own seat to gain a little room. If you have the world’s most specific back problem and must sit at precisely a 110-degree angle, then turn around, ask the person behind you if this is OK, and give them time to arrange their laptop, knees, and soul for what you are about to inflict, you heartless life-ruiner who should have taken the bus.

10) Mike Munger talks scholarly writing.  Ummm, no getting up at 4:30am for me to write; I’ll settle for less productivity.

11) The tick that gives people red meat allergies is spreading.  Please don’t bite me.  Please don’t bite me.

12) It’s all in the headline and I’m damn sure it’s not a coincidence, “Trump seeks sharp cuts to housing aid, except for program that brings him millions.”

13) Chris Fitzsimon on the NC budget.

14) Drum on Seattle’s experiment with $15 minimum wage.

The obvious conclusion is that raising its minimum wage hasn’t depressed employment in Seattle at all. DeLong comments:

Low-end labor markets simply do not appear to work like competitive markets.Rather, they work like markets in which employers have substantial market power—and thus minimum wage laws have the same efficiency benefits as does natural-monopoly rate regulation. Why low-end labor markets do not appear to work like competitive markets is a very interesting—and, I believe, unsolved—question. But it is in all likelihood a fact to deal with.

I’d add an obvious caveat to this: it’s possible that a modestly higher minimum wage has little effect when the economy is doing well. We don’t know yet how employment in Seattle will respond when the economy turns down.

15) Good story on the incredibly difficult call sailors had to make to seal watertight doors after a recent collision with Japanese freighter.

16) Is North Carolina the future of American politics?

Welcome to North Carolina circa 2017, where all the passions and pathologies of American politics writ large are played out writ small — and with even more intensity. Ever since 2010, when Republicans seized control of the General Assembly for the first time in a century, and especially since 2012, when they took the governor’s mansion, the state’s politics have been haywire. “There’s been a bigger and quicker shift to the right here than in any other state in the country,” says Rob Christensen, a longtime political writer for The News and Observer newspaper in Raleigh.

In just a few years, North Carolina Republicans have not just run quickly through the conservative policy checklist; they’ve tried to permanently skew the balance of power in the state in their favor, passing some of the most restrictive voting laws in the country and drawing some of the most egregiously gerrymandered congressional and state legislative districts in modern American politics (though their moves have repeatedly failed to pass muster with the courts). Cooper’s victory, and the blowback to H.B. 2 that preceded it, seemed to suggest a chastening of the party — until Republicans contested the election results with a series of baseless allegations of voter fraud and legal challenges that left the state in limbo for four weeks before McCrory finally conceded.

17) Chait argues the Conservative health care agenda is dead.  He’s right:

Why didn’t Republicans decide to write a conservative health-care bill? Because Americans don’t want one. Marketized health care with transparent pricing turns out to be literally the opposite of what the country prefers. Washington Post reporter James Hohmann travels to Georgia’s sixth district, the site of the contested special election, and finds through “dozens of interviews” that even the Republicans in this affluent district want a health-care plan that gives them less, not more, skin in the game. One representative right-wing voter hates Obamacare because, he tells Hohmann, “I have to pay a $40 co-pay just to see a doctor.” Any authentic conservative health-care program would increase, not decrease, that amount. “Their expectations might seem unreasonable to anyone who is closely following the debate or is steeped in the complexities of public policy,” reports Hohmann, “but they believe Donald Trump can and should enact a replacement plan that will both reduce their costs and improve their quality of care.” Why would they have these expectation? Because while Republican wonks have been advocating more skin in the game for consumers, Republican politicians have been promising the opposite. That is why Mitch McConnell denounced Obamacare for having the very features — high deductibles and co-pays — that conservative wonks would like to extend…

Rather than design a health-care bill that pursued conservative priorities, they have kept the structure of Obamacare and simply drained its resources in order to finance a large, regressive tax cut. It turns out you can work pretty quickly if you don’t care about substance. Whether or not they dismantle Obamacare, the Republicans have already given the conservative health-care agenda a permanent burial.

18) George Lakoff on Trump.

19) This Washington Post story will likely be the definitive story of Russia’s interference in the election.  Not only is it your must-read of the weekend, it’s surely the must-read of the month.  Just do it.

20) And, oh man does Charles Pierce let loose on the Obama administration for not taking much stronger action (I think he’s probably right).  Also, Mitch McConnell is truly, truly evil.

21) And while we’re on Trump and Russia, Bloomberg on yet more shadowy connections.  Don’t worry, though, just smoke, no fire.  I’m sure Democrats are just making this all up.

22) Though as Josh Marshall says,

The best analog to President Trump’s stance toward the Russia probe and his refusal to accept that Russian interference even happened is a husband who is suspected in his wife’s disappearance and repeatedly insists that she’s probably on a beach in Aruba having a good laugh at his expense.

In any normal circumstance, by any conventional standard, Trump’s attitude and actions are ones that are only consistent with guilt. He has not only repeatedly insisted on his innocence, which the innocent and guilty do in equal measure, but insisted that the crime itself never actually happened. On top of this, using his unique powers as President, he has repeatedly taken actions to end the investigation into his campaign. The most blatant example was firing the FBI Director with the stated goal of relieving the pressure of the Russia probe. But that’s just the most glaring example.

23) I was pretty disappointed in how this Freakonomics interview with Charles Koch let him so easily whitewash the reality of the extremity of his politics and his influence.

24) I did enjoy this Slate story on James McGill Buchanan, who has had a profound influence on the Koch’s.

25) I don’t care what Dean Heller is saying now, I do think the truth is, as Chait says, “GOP moderates always cave.”  They will just use some piddling little excuse to come through with the votes anyway,  just like Tom MacArthur in the House.

Lying parents

Happy Father’s Day.  I love my dad and I’m happy my kids love me, but I could’ve done with a little less paternal fawning over all the “greatest dad ever”s on social media.  Yeah, I’m a curmudgeon some times.  That said, I did enjoy my Father’s Day hike with the kids.  Here I am with the 3 kids who wanted to pose with me.

Anyway, Pew had a nice FactTank piece on modern Fatherhood.  I found this chart hilarious, as should every other parent who is honest:

You know what you call parents who say parenting is enjoyable and rewarding all of the time?  Liars.  You all know how much I love being a dad.  But “all the time”?!  Oh, yeah, I’m loving it when Evan and Sarah won’t stop screaming at each other for whose bothering who and who hit who, etc.

Also, while we’re at it, interesting to see how much more time parents now spend with their kids and the gender disparities:

Quick hits (part II)

1) How Facebook is trying to combat terrorists/extremists using its site.

2) Don’t you just totally know NRA the reaction to Philandro Castille (a licensed gun owner shot after he informed the police officer he was licensed and carrying) from the would be completely different if he were white instead of Black.  Hell yes.

Staying conspicuously silent on the Yanez verdict so far is an organization that can typically be counted on to offer extreme and uncompromising advocacy on behalf of licensed American gun owners: the National Rifle Association. As of Saturday afternoon, the NRA had issued no statement addressing the verdict, its pugnacious chief spokesman Wayne LaPierre had not been quoted in any media stories about it, and an email from Slate requesting comment had not received a response. For those who remember the aftermath of Castile’s death, this should come as no surprise: The NRA was almost completely silent then, too, putting out a tepid statement only after coming under intense pressure from some of its members. As was widely noted at the time, whoever wrote the statement—most likely LaPierre himself—couldn’t even bring himself to mention Philando Castile’s name.

On its face, the Castile case would seem to have all the trappings of a cause célèbre for the NRA. The group’s most fiercely held belief is supposed to be that law-abiding citizens shouldn’t be burdened—let alone killed in cold blood—by repressive agents of the government just because they want to protect themselves and exercise their Second Amendment rights. Castile should be a martyr for the NRA, while Yanez—who reached for the holster of his service weapon as soon as Castile mentioned he was armed—should be its bogeyman.

3) Hand it to Brett Stephens— NYT’s newest conservative columnist.  His latest installment, cheekily titled, “Only Mass Deportation Can Save America” is great:

In the matter of immigration, mark this conservative columnist down as strongly pro-deportation. The United States has too many people who don’t work hard, don’t believe in God, don’t contribute much to society and don’t appreciate the greatness of the American system.

They need to return whence they came.

I speak of Americans whose families have been in this country for a few generations. Complacent, entitled and often shockingly ignorant on basic points of American law and history, they are the stagnant pool in which our national prospects risk drowning.

On point after point, America’s nonimmigrants are failing our country. Crime? A study by the Cato Institute notes that nonimmigrants are incarcerated at nearly twice the rate of illegal immigrants, and at more than three times the rate of legal ones.

Educational achievement? Just 17 percent of the finalists in the 2016 Intel Science Talent Search — often called the “Junior Nobel Prize” — were the children of United States-born parents. At the Rochester Institute of Technology, just 9.5 percent of graduate students in electrical engineering were nonimmigrants.

4) I was pretty intrigued by these emotional and academic readiness challenges for young adults.  I know an almost legal adult who needs to try some of these.

5) College kids were way more interested in eating carrots with fancy names than with healthy names.

6) The many, many ways we talk to boys differently than we talk to girls.  And that’s definitely not all good for boys:

When fathers appear in children’s picture books, they’re angling for laughs, taking their sons on adventures or modeling physical strength or stoic independence. There is the rare exception in children’s books where a father baldly demonstrates — without symbolic gestures — his love for his son (a few are “Guess How Much I Love You” and “Oh, Oh, Baby Boy!”). Just as women’s studies classes have long examined the ways that gendered language undermines women and girls, a growing body of research shows that stereotypical messages are similarly damaging to boys.

2014 study in Pediatrics found that mothers interacted vocally more often with their infant daughters than they did their infant sons. In a different study, a team of British researchers found that Spanish mothers were more likely to use emotional words and emotional topics when speaking with their 4-year-old daughters than with their 4-year-old sons. Interestingly, the same study revealed that daughters were more likely than sons to speak about their emotions with their fathers when talking about past experiences. And during these reminiscing conversations, fathers used more emotion-laden words with their 4-year-old daughters than with their 4-year-old sons.

7) Our school kids need to exercise.  They’ll do better in school.  And be healthier.

8) In case you missed the totally bizarre experience where Trump’s cabinet members took turns praising him.  Krugman get it, “”Their own private Pyongyang.”

9) Oh man do I love these maps of the hidden structure of “Choose your own adventure” books.  Damn did I love The Mystery of Chimney Rock and Journey under the Sea in particular.

10a) Vox with a nice piece looking at the acquittal in the Philandro Castille shooting.

10b) Interesting take that essentially argues, the system sucks, but given the system, the Castille jury did the right thing.  I’m thinking that our standard of an “objectively reasonable” belief that there is a threat is just not working.  It seems increasingly clear that an officer thinking (barring any clear visual evidence) that a suspect is reaching for a weapon is just too low a bar.

11) A truly fascinating Supreme Court case that creates a clear, high, bar when it comes to gender discrimination as a matter of law.  Alas, it leaves the plaintiff in the case totally screwed.

12) Good interview with a Trump biographer:

OK, then let’s talk about the present. Is Trump self-aware about the fact that his presidency is not going well, and if so, what do you think he makes of that?

I think he has a remarkable capacity for denial, and I think there have been very few occasions over the course of his life where he has been slapped in the face with his failure, whether it was his bankruptcies, the failures of any number of his businesses, the failures of two marriages. In each case, he has an almost admirable ability to move through life as if those losses and failures hadn’t happened, and to portray them not in a crass political spin sort of way but in a really gut-level, deeply felt way as things that didn’t bother him and things that he didn’t even acknowledge.

By living in the moment rather than dwelling on the past or even acknowledging the past, he has the ability to keep going. People who were with him when his casinos were going down, when he was suffering through these bankruptcies, and being in this humiliating position of groveling before bankers, thought, “He’s going to come in the next day utterly crushed and not willing to face people, and humiliated,” and it never happened. He came in just as bright and bullish as he’d been the day before. That capacity serves him well I think in some ways, but it also divorces him from reality in some ways. That, I think, is what people around him have come to find a bit frightening.

13) How your mind makes accidents happen.

Quick hits (part I)

1) How could I not love the NYT feature, “How to raise a reader.”  Alas, I wish my oldest was willing to read more novels and fewer Dungeons and Dragons guidebooks.  (At least he has good taste in blogs).

2) How the prosperity gospel (oh how I hate the prosperity gospel for being so obviously at odds with the real one) explains Evangelical support for Trump.

3) Meant to include last week.  Deborah Tannen on how absurd it is that Republicans were hanging on the fact that Trump said to Comey he “hopes” that Comey could let the Flynn investigation go.  When I say to my kids, “I hope you get off the computer and ready to go in five minutes” they know its an order.  Language is a lot more than just word choice.

4) I’ll be honest, the latest research is not encouraging for diet soda.

People who drink diet sodas daily have three times the risk of stroke and dementia compared to people who rarely drink them, researchers reported Thursday.

It’s yet another piece of evidence that diet drinks are not a healthy alternative to sugary drinks, and suggests that people need to limit both, doctors said…

The researchers accounted for age, sex, education, overall how many calories people ate, diet quality, physical activity, and smoking.

If I were not already a regular soda drinker, I would be wary of starting.  But as a very healthy (by every objective measure) diet soda drinker, I’m not stopping now.  Also, I still believe that used responsibly (i.e., not, “oh, I had Diet Coke, now I can have cake for dinner) diet soda is probably preferable to consuming all that sugar in regular soda.

5) Of course most new terrorist attacks show how utterly pointless Trump’s travel ban is.  That is, pointless except as xenophobic symbolism appealing to the Republican base.

6) Speaking of stupid Trump policies– undoing Obams’s Cuba policy is stupid, stupid, stupid.  And doing it in the name of human rights– just after his visit to Saudi Arabia– is extraordinarily dishonest.

7) Not every day I link to the Hindu Times, but the latest research on genetic immigration into the Indian sub-continent is really interesting:

The thorniest, most fought-over question in Indian history is slowly but surely getting answered: did Indo-European language speakers, who called themselves Aryans, stream into India sometime around 2,000 BC – 1,500 BC when the Indus Valley civilisation came to an end, bringing with them Sanskrit and a distinctive set of cultural practices? Genetic research based on an avalanche of new DNA evidence is making scientists around the world converge on an unambiguous answer: yes, they did.

This may come as a surprise to many — and a shock to some — because the dominant narrative in recent years has been that genetics research had thoroughly disproved the Aryan migration theory. This interpretation was always a bit of a stretch as anyone who read the nuanced scientific papers in the original knew. But now it has broken apart altogether under a flood of new data on Y-chromosomes (or chromosomes that are transmitted through the male parental line, from father to son).

Lines of descent

Until recently, only data on mtDNA (or matrilineal DNA, transmitted only from mother to daughter) were available and that seemed to suggest there was little external infusion into the Indian gene pool over the last 12,500 years or so. New Y-DNA data has turned that conclusion upside down, with strong evidence of external infusion of genes into the Indian male lineage during the period in question.

The reason for the difference in mtDNA and Y-DNA data is obvious in hindsight: there was strong sex bias in Bronze Age migrations. In other words, those who migrated were predominantly male and, therefore, those gene flows do not really show up in the mtDNA data. On the other hand, they do show up in the Y-DNA data: specifically, about 17.5% of Indian male lineage has been found to belong to haplogroup R1a (haplogroups identify a single line of descent), which is today spread across Central Asia, Europe and South Asia. Pontic-Caspian Steppe is seen as the region from where R1a spread both west and east, splitting into different sub-branches along the way.

8) I did not follow the case of the texting-encouraged suicide till I read about the verdict yesterday.  Technology aside, the case raises so many fascinating legal issues around responsibility, culpability and free will.

9) The Gif (always soft “g” to me!) is thirty years old and going strong.  Pretty cool history of the matter in Wired.

10) How Amazon purchasing Whole Foods may signal the end-of-the-line for an increasing number of cashiers.

11) Also led me to a link on a Neil Irwin story from last year on how Walmart paying it’s employees more has been good for business:

As an efficient, multinational selling machine, the company had a reputation for treating employee pay as a cost to be minimized.

But in early 2015, Walmart announced it would actually pay its workers more.

That set in motion the biggest test imaginable of a basic argument that has consumed ivory-tower economists, union-hall organizers and corporate executives for years on end: What if paying workers more, training them better and offering better opportunities for advancement can actually make a company more profitable, rather than less?

It is an idea that flies in the face of the prevailing ethos on Wall Street and in many executive suites the last few decades. But there is sound economic theory behind the idea. “Efficiency wages” is the term that economists — who excel at giving complex names to obvious ideas — use for the notion that employers who pay workers more than the going rate will get more loyal, harder-working, more productive employees in return. [emphasis mine]

12) It’s not inherently wrong for Megyn Kelly to interview Alex Jones, but as she’s actually done it– as Julia Belluz nicely argues– is all wrong:

Reporting on Jones makes sense; he has indeed gained prominence since the last election. But a serious sit-down interview was a poor choice of format for covering him. It’s extremely difficult to have a reasonable exchange with a person who regularly rants and spews nonsense, as Jones does. It’s like running a straight one-on-one with a climate change denialist or someone who refuses to accept the Holocaust happened.

Jones doesn’t live in reality, and Kelly’s interview risks validating him and disseminating his bullshit. It doesn’t leave space for context and debunking.

It also sends the message that in an era of “fake news” and a president who regularly attacks the media, hoaxers like Jones are worthy of an hour of primetime TV to share their ideas.

If Jones’s words didn’t have dangerous real-world consequences, it wouldn’t matter much that he’ll soon have this megaphone. But they do — from spurring people to violent action to undermining institutions such as the media, science, and government.

13) Did you know about the giant, lost, medieval-era city on the outskirts of St. Louis? Me neither.

14) Just to be clear, any parent who would yell at the lifeguard for telling their kid not to run at the pool is a horrible parent.

15) A very nice interview explaining what the hell is going on with Qatar.

16) The story of a Maine woman who was attacked by a rabid raccoon and drowned it in a puddle is pretty amazing.

17) Even if you are not a Duke basketball fan, you might enjoy the story of the man with Downs Syndrome (recently passed away) who was a fixture behind Coach K and the Duke bench for decades.

Quick hits (part II)

1) The Deepwater Horizon movie was really good.  Seems like it barely made a ripple.  Deserved more.  Also, rarely do you see a movie credited as being based on a newspaper article.  Of course, this is one hell of a NYT article.

2) A variety of scientific explanations for why some dogs like to roll around in poop (I remember some very unpleasant experiences with our dog Lira and cow manure when visiting a relative’s farm).

3) On a not at all unrelated note, how dogs are like probiotics:

So there is growing concern that, in our anxiety to banish bacteria from our indoor world, we have become too clean for our own good. We run the risk of scrubbing, disinfecting, vacuuming and filtering out the fortifying mix of microscopic creatures that our immune system needs to develop properly.

Enter the dog.

Dogs roll in the mud. They sniff feces and other questionable substances. Then they track countless germs into our homes on their paws, snouts and fur.

And if the latest research on pets and human health is correct, that cloud of dog-borne microbes may be working to keep us healthy. Epidemiological studies show that children who grow up in households with dogs have a lower risk for developing autoimmune illnesses like asthma and allergies — and it may be a result of the diversity of microbes that these animals bring inside our homes.

4) As you know, I think I’m a pretty good dad.  But apparently I need to up my game and talk to my kids about pornography.

5) How tech billionaires are trying to remake America’s schools.

6) I learned a lot from the Economist’s take on the British election.

7) This Jonathan Ladd piece on the extreme negative partisanship that characterizes our present political era, is excellent.  You should read all of it:

The typical political science answer five years ago was that a democracy could accommodate extremely polarized parties as long as it had the right institutions. Polarization may be causing problems in the US, but that is only because we have a Madisonian system that only works when politicians are willing to work together. Power is divided between Congress, the presidency, and the courts, which are often controlled by different parties. Supermajority rules in the Senate increase the need for the parties to work together if they hope to get anything done.

By this logic, our problems are caused by presidentialism, the Senate’s rules, and perhaps too strong judicial review. We could accommodate more polarized parties if we had a unicameral parliamentary system, in which the parliament elected a prime minister and Cabinet to rule until the next election. (This would presumably solve our problems, whether legislators continued to be selected in single-member districts, as in the UK, Canada and Australia, or by voters choosing among party lists, as in Italy or Israel.)..

My views have changed. I still think that presidential systems produce their own “perils,” but I no longer think a system with fewer veto points can solve our problems. Specifically, the election of Donald Trump has led me to conclude that, regardless of our political rules, negative partisanship among politicians and the mass public is a serious danger…

Negative partisanship swayed Republicans at the mass and elite level. Many Republicans voted for their party’s nominee primarily in order to avoid a Clinton presidency. Clinton, with her high visibility and close connection with liberalism, is almost ideally suited to activating Republicans’ traditional partisan and ideological loyalties.

The country would be substantially better off if the electorate penalized parties for nominating inexperienced, uniformed, impulsive, corrupt candidates for president. Whether you are a conservative or a liberal, you would be better off if the Republicans in 2016 had nominated and elected Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, or even Mike Pence. One of them would implement many of the same policies, but without the massive corruption, the degradation of American political institutions, the danger of starting a major military conflict by accident or incompetence rather than ideology, or the many other Trump specific pathologies.  [emphases mine]

8) My wife and I spent about an hour last week proving to the State Health Plan and the new Republican State Treasurer that she is my wife and our kids are our kids.  Otherwise, we’d lose our insurance.  As my wife pointed out, you’d think the fact that the state health plan actually paid for the births of the younger two ought to be enough for them.  We got it done and our insurance will continue.  But, we could not think about the problems (and time wasted) for those less computer savvy and who may just not be on top of things.  This is a classic example of only considering one side of the cost/benefit– the potential cases of fraud (which, I’m sure are small in number) as opposed to the huge cost spread across all the plan members in terms of time and anxiety, and in some cases, temporary loss of needed insurance.

9) When high school teachers are faced with otherwise intelligent students who think believing climate scientists versus Rush Limbaugh is “just your opinion.”  The teachers in the Times story, need to meet this science teacher in Idaho, who’s got it all figured out.

10) Sorry, that’s it.  Short part II today.  I’m exhausted after a day of celebrating Alex’s birthday plus hosting family plus a dance recital.

Quick hits (part I)

1) I’m not a huge fan of Bill Maher, but I generally think he’s pretty funny and almost always enjoy his “new rules” when I watch his show.  Yes, it was pretty stupid of him to use the N-word recently in a weak attempt at humor, but that seems like a pretty weak last straw, as it was for this writer.

2) The myth of the kindly, non-white-supremacist, Robert E. Lee.

3) How Democrats are increasingly moving in favor of supporting single-payer health care.

4) Given the Lego-loving kids in my house, I really loved this Guardian story on how Lego went from a company on it’s deathbed in 2013 to one of the most globally powerful brands:

In 2015, the still privately owned, family controlled Lego Group overtook Ferrari to become the world’s most powerful brand. It announced profits of £660m, making it the number one toy company in Europe and Asia, and number three in North America, where sales topped $1bn for the first time. From 2008 to 2010 its profits quadrupled, outstripping Apple’s. Indeed, it has been called the Apple of toys: a profit-generating, design-driven miracle built around premium, intuitive, covetable hardware that fans can’t get enough of. Last year Lego sold 75bn bricks. Lego people – “Minifigures” – the 4cm-tall yellow characters with dotty eyes, permanent grins, hooks for hands and pegs for legs – outnumber humans. The British Toy Retailers Association voted Lego the toy of the century.

5) Nice deconstruction from Drum on NYT reporting on how Trump is now lying to his key National Security Staff.  Ugh.

6) Very cool article on the secret micro-dots your printer is probably printing that make leaking documents a precarious proposition.

7) The reality of how Planned Parenthood helps people— in this case, Paul Ryan’s constituents.  Not that he cares in the least.

8) I’m always reading about what’s wrong with the French economy is how it’s too hard to fire workers, but finally an excellent explanation from Catherine Rampell about what’s going on (and how Macron wants to fix it):

So what exactly is wrong with the job market in France?

The problem isn’t generous health-care benefits or onerous environmental protections or the usual “job-killing” regulations that American politicians so often vilify — and that the French love.

It’s that it’s virtually impossible, or at the very least prohibitively expensive, to fire employees. Which makes hiring employees unattractive, too.

In France, firings and layoffs can generally happen under very limited circumstances, including gross negligence and “economic reasons.” Laid-off employees can then challenge their dismissals in court, where judges are seen as somewhat hostile to employers.

Judges, for example, have wide latitude in deciding what counts as a justifiable “economic reason” for a layoff. They may decide that multinational firms that are losing money in France are not allowed to pare back their French workforce if they are collectively profitable in other countries, according to Jean-Charles Simon, an economist and former manager of the country’s main employer organization, Mouvement des Entreprises de France, or MEDEF.

A layoff in such a case could be deemed unfair. Furthermore, there is no cap on the damages that judges can award for unfair dismissal, meaning employers’ potential risks are essentially limitless. The whole process can take years to resolve, too.

9) Seems to me that my school system’s administrators are being needless hard-hearted and cruel in not letting a kid actually celebrate graduation because he didn’t know about the rehearsal:

All Wake County seniors are expected to attend graduation rehearsal, said schools spokeswoman Lisa Luten.

“Graduation is a production,” she said. “The students have to walk in a certain order, they have to sit in a certain row. There are a lot of moving pieces.”

A certain row!!  Oh, my, soooo complicated.  I’m sure allowing some kids to attend who had missed the rehearsals would just be mass chaos.

10) The fact that Eric Trump has basically been fraudulently and illegally stealing from children with cancer should be huge news.  But, increasingly, it seems our capacity for bad Trump news (Comey!!) is a zero-sum game.  And that is so to Trump’s benefit.

11) Derek Thompson on Trump’s policies:

The secret of the Trump infrastructure plan is: There is no infrastructure plan. Just like there is no White House tax plan. Just like there was no White House health care plan. More than 120 days into Trump’s term in a unified Republican government, Trump’s policy accomplishments have been more in the subtraction category (e.g., stripping away environmental regulations) than addition. The president has signed no major legislation and left significant portions of federal agencies unstaffed, as U.S. courts have blocked what would be his most significant policy achievement, the legally dubious immigration ban.

The simplest summary of White House economic policy to date is four words long: There is no policy.

12) Speaking of zero-sum political coverage.  Brian Beutler on how Republicans are trying to dismantle the ACA completely hidden from the light of day and nobody’s paying attention (Comey!).

13) Headline says it all, “How Russian Propaganda Spread From a Parody Website to Fox News.”  Let’s be honest, Fox is hardly a “news” organization.

14) David Leonhardt on Trump’s L’état, c’est moi presidency:

Democracy isn’t possible without the rule of law — the idea that consistent principles, rather than a ruler’s whims, govern society.

You can read Aristotle, Montesquieu, John Locke or the Declaration of Independence on this point. You can also look at decades of American history. Even amid bitter fights over what the law should say, both Democrats and Republicans have generally accepted the rule of law.

President Trump does not. His rejection of it distinguishes him from any other modern American leader. He has instead flirted with Louis XIV’s notion of “L’état, c’est moi”: The state is me — and I’ll decide which laws to follow.

This attitude returns to the fore this week, with James Comey scheduled to testify on Thursday about Trump’s attempts to stifle an F.B.I. investigation. I realize that many people are exhausted by Trump outrages, some of which resemble mere buffoonery. But I think it’s important to step back and connect the dots among his many rejections of the rule of law.

15) Tiny jumping spiders can see the moon at night.  That also means you can get them to follow laser pointers (cool videos at the article).

16) I wanted to give Lee Drutman’s post on Trump exploiting the flaws of our two-party system it’s own post.  Oh well:

In this piece, I want to explore how much this “unlikely” conclusion flows from the zero-sum logic of our two-party system. The short answer: a lot.

Because of the two-party system, Republicans are stuck with Donald Trump. If he goes down, they go down with him. There’s now no way for Republicans to advance conservative policy goals without also advancing Trump. And In this era of bipolar two-party tribal politics, no matter what Trump does, there’s always one thing worse for Republicans. Something even more unthinkable, something even more existentially frightening than Trump with his hand on the nuclear codes: Democrats having power.

In two-party politics, a “pathological liar” is always better than a Democrat

Most congressional Republicans never wanted Trump as their standard-bearer. They still don’t. But their fates are now tied to him. If Trump goes down in a dramatic impeachment (is there any other kind?), Republicans almost certainly lose their House majority in the 2018 midterms, and probably continue to suffer the repercussions in 2020. And there’s a real risk that if Trump goes down, he tries to take all the furniture with him, fracturing the Republican Party.

So Republican congressional leaders are stuck. The only thing worse than having Trump as their unpopular standard-bearer is losing power and popularity because they tried to remove him as their standard-bearer…

For Republicans, the challenge will be to keep their troops feeling certain that however imperfect Trump might be, Democrats would by definition be worse — that it really might be the end of the republic if Republicans lose the house. This likely means doubling down on all the aggressive us-against-them white Christian identity politics and apocalyptic narratives they can find to make sure their base shows up.

And so deeper into the widening gyre we go. This is the logic of our two-party system right now. And Donald Trump is still our president, leading us into deeper tribalism as he takes advantage of our two-party system’s fatal flaw.

17) Pretty cool infographic on the scale of D-day.

18) On the secret social media lives of teenagers.  Damn are their some super-sneaky apps out there.  My teenager just prefers to lie (“sure I did all my homework”) to my face.

19) Nice NYT feature on how to raise a feminist son.  On it.  Great role model for this in my mom.

20) The lies from Trump and his people are pretty amazing.  This one on coal may take the cake.  Also, some nice context.  Chait:

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, appearing on This Week With George Stephanopoulos, casually asserted that the Trump administration has presided over a staggering increase in coal-industry employment. “We’ve had over 50,000 jobs since last quarter — coal jobs, mining jobs — created in this country. We had almost 7,000 mining and coal jobs created in the month of May alone,” boasted Pruitt.

How false are these statistics? Extremely false.

Last month, the coal industry added 400 jobs, not 7,000. Since October, it has added just 1,700 jobs. The industry as a whole now employs 51,000 people — total. (No, there were not merely 1,000 people working in coal before the election.)

It is bizarre to design your country’s energy policy — which, even if you disregard climate science, has important implications for public health and international diplomacy — around the goal of maximizing jobs in an industry that employs fewer people than Arby’s.

21) Happy to learn the Texas teacher who awarded her students “superlatives” such as “most likely to be a terrorist” is out of a job.

22) A friend just recently posted a portion of this 2012 Michael Lewis speech to Princeton students on FB.  It’s awesome!

I now live in Berkeley, California. A few years ago, just a few blocks from my home, a pair of researchers in the Cal psychology department staged an experiment. They began by grabbing students, as lab rats. Then they broke the students into teams, segregated by sex. Three men, or three women, per team. Then they put these teams of three into a room, and arbitrarily assigned one of the three to act as leader. Then they gave them some complicated moral problem to solve: say what should be done about academic cheating, or how to regulate drinking on campus.

Exactly 30 minutes into the problem-solving the researchers interrupted each group. They entered the room bearing a plate of cookies. Four cookies. The team consisted of three people, but there were these four cookies. Every team member obviously got one cookie, but that left a fourth cookie, just sitting there. It should have been awkward. But it wasn’t. With incredible consistency the person arbitrarily appointed leader of the group grabbed the fourth cookie, and ate it. Not only ate it, but ate it with gusto: lips smacking, mouth open, drool at the corners of their mouths. In the end all that was left of the extra cookie were crumbs on the leader’s shirt.

This leader had performed no special task. He had no special virtue. He’d been chosen at random, 30 minutes earlier. His status was nothing but luck. But it still left him with the sense that the cookie should be his.

This experiment helps to explain Wall Street bonuses and CEO pay, and I’m sure lots of other human behavior. But it also is relevant to new graduates of Princeton University. In a general sort of way you have been appointed the leader of the group. Your appointment may not be entirely arbitrary. But you must sense its arbitrary aspect: you are the lucky few. Lucky in your parents, lucky in your country, lucky that a place like Princeton exists that can take in lucky people, introduce them to other lucky people, and increase their chances of becoming even luckier. Lucky that you live in the richest society the world has ever seen, in a time when no one actually expects you to sacrifice your interests to anything.

All of you have been faced with the extra cookie. All of you will be faced with many more of them. In time you will find it easy to assume that you deserve the extra cookie. For all I know, you may. But you’ll be happier, and the world will be better off, if you at least pretend that you don’t.

23) Happy 15th birthday to my pretty amazing son, Alex.

Where does the time go?

Love this infographic that compares where the time goes for people with one child compared to households with no children.  Wow!  Imagine with 4 :-).  Click the link to see it larger.

 

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