Quick hits (part I)

1) I like John Cassidy’s take on Bezos and the National Enquirer:

All credit to Bezos for refusing to submit to these intimidation tactics. He’s a ruthless plutocrat whose online behemoth crushes retailers big and small. He has run his company with all the transparency of the Politburo. And he has exploited his great riches to buy one of the most important and influential newspapers in the country, the Washington Post. But he’s just as entitled as the next person to a private life—and he has just performed an important public service, or maybe two.

Bezos has made transparent the bullying tactics employed by the National Enquirer and raised the question of how often they are directed at targets who are less well able to defend themselves. “On that point, numerous people have contacted our investigation team about their similar experiences with AMI, and how they needed to capitulate because, for example, their livelihoods were at stake,” Bezos writes. In addition, he has raised the intriguing question of how and why the tabloid went after him in the first place.

2) I’m not sure that “helicopter parenting” and “intensive parenting” are the same thing, and definitely not the same thing as “authoritative parents,” but this is definitely interesting, “The Bad News About Helicopter Parenting: It Works: New research shows that hyper-involved parenting is the route to kids’ success in today’s unequal world.”

But new research shows that in our unequal era, this kind of parenting brings life-changing benefits. That’s the message of the book “Love, Money and Parenting: How Economics Explains the Way We Raise Our Kids,” by the economists Matthias Doepke of Northwestern University and Fabrizio Zilibotti of Yale. It’s true that high-octane, hardworking child-rearing has some pointless excesses, and it doesn’t spark joy for parents. But done right, it works for kids, not just in the United States but in rich countries around the world…

It’s not enough just to hover over your kids, however. If you do it as an “authoritarian” parent — defined as someone who issues directives, expects children to obey and sometimes hits those who don’t — you won’t get the full benefits.

The most effective parents, according to the authors, are “authoritative.” They use reasoning to persuade kids to do things that are good for them. Instead of strict obedience, they emphasize adaptability, problem-solving and independence — skills that will help their offspring in future workplaces that we can’t even imagine yet.

And they seem most successful at helping their kids achieve the holy grails of modern parenting: college and postgraduate degrees, which now have a huge financial payoff. Using data from a national studythat followed thousands of American teenagers for years, the authors found that the offspring of “authoritative” parents were more likely to graduate from college and graduate school, especially compared with those with authoritarian parents. This was true even when they controlled for the parents’ education and income.

The benefits aren’t just academic. In a British study, kids raised by authoritative parents reported better health and higher self-esteem. In the American study, they were less likely to use drugs, smoke or abuse alcohol; they started having sex at older ages, and they were more likely to use condoms.

3) Jamelle Bouie with a great take on “moderate” Democrats:

There’s something odd about the self-described moderates and centrists considering a run for president. If “moderation” or “centrism” means holding broadly popular positions otherwise marginalized by extremists in either party, then these prospective candidates don’t quite fit the bill.

Senator Elizabeth Warren’s proposed wealth tax on the nation’s largest fortunes is very popular, according to recent polling by Morning Consult, with huge support from Democrats and considerable backing from Republicans…

In each case, these moderate politicians have positioned themselves against broad public preference. What then makes a moderate, if not policies that appeal to the middle?…

What connects them (and similar politicians) is a belief that meaningful progress is possible without a fundamental challenge to those who hold most of the wealth and power in our society. For Biden, you don’t need to demonize the richest Americans or their Republican supporters to reduce income inequality; you can find a mutually beneficial solution. Bloomberg, a billionaire, may have a personal reason for rejecting wealth taxes, but he may also see them as unnecessary and antagonistic if the goal is winning powerful interests over to your side. McAuliffe governed Virginia with an eye toward the business community. Sweeping social programs might be popular, but they might alienate that powerful constituency. And Schultz wants a Democratic Party less hostile to those he calls “people of means,” who otherwise back goals like gun control.

But this is a faulty view of how progress happens. Struggle against the powerful, not accommodation of their interests, is how Americans produced the conditions for its greatest social accomplishments like the creation of the welfare state and the toppling of Jim Crow. Without radical labor activism that identifies capitalism — and the bosses — as the vector for oppression and disadvantage, there is no New Deal. Without a confrontational (and at times militant) black freedom movement, there is no Civil Rights Act. If one of the central problems of the present is an elite economic class that hoards resources and opportunity at the expense of the public as a whole, then it’s naïve and ahistoric to believe the beneficiaries of that arrangement will willingly relinquish their power and privilege.

4) Terrific Pro Publica feature on the story of US Navy warships crashing into cargo ships.

5) Stacey Abrams excellent essay in defense of “identity politics.”  The other essays in here are really good, too (thanks, Stefan, for pointing these out).  And Zack Beauchamp’s summary in Vox.

6) The gender gap in educational confidence and what to do about it:

When investigating what deters professional advancement for women, the journalists Katty Kay and Claire Shipman found that a shortage of competence is less likely to be an obstacle than a shortage of confidence. When it comes to work-related confidence, they found men are far ahead. “Underqualified and underprepared men don’t think twice about leaning in,” they wrote. “Overqualified and overprepared, too many women still hold back. Women feel confident only when they are perfect.”

As a psychologist who works with teenagers, I hear this concern often from the parents of many of my patients. They routinely remark that their sons do just enough to keep the adults off their backs, while their daughters relentlessly grind, determined to leave no room for error. The girls don’t stop until they’ve polished each assignment to a high shine and rewritten their notes with color-coded precision…

We need to ask: What if school is a confidence factory for our sons, but only a competence factory for our daughters?

This possibility hit me when I was caring for an eighth grader in my practice. She got terrific grades but was feeling overwhelmed by school. Her brother, a ninth grader, had similarly excellent grades, but when I asked if he worked as hard as she did, she scoffed. If she worked on an assignment for an hour and got an A, she felt “safe” only if she spent a full hour on other assignments like it. Her brother, in contrast, flew through his work. When he brought home an A, she said, he felt “like a stud.” If his grades slipped a bit, he would take his effort up just a notch. But she never felt “safe” enough to ever put in less than maximum effort.

That experience — of succeeding in school while exerting minimal or moderate effort — is a potentially crucial one. It may help our sons develop confidence, as they see how much they can accomplish simply by counting on their wits. For them, school serves as a test track, where they build their belief in their abilities and grow increasingly at ease relying on them. Our daughters, on the other hand, may miss the chance to gain confidence in their abilities if they always count on intellectual elbow grease alone.

7) This is cool— though, personally I preferred to speed up the time-lapse, “Watch a single cell become a complete organism in six pulsing minutes of timelapse.”

8) Farhad Manjoo makes a pretty good case for abolishing billionaires.  Excuse me, people of wealth.

I like to use this column to explore maximalist policy visions — positions we might aspire to over time rather than push through tomorrow. Abolishing billionaires might not sound like a practical idea, but if you think about it as a long-term goal in light of today’s deepest economic ills, it feels anything but radical. Instead, banishing billionaires — seeking to cut their economic power, working to reduce their political power and attempting to question their social status — is a pithy, perfectly encapsulated vision for surviving the digital future.

Billionaire abolishment could take many forms. It could mean preventing people from keeping more than a billion in booty, but more likely it would mean higher marginal taxes on income, wealth and estates for billionaires and people on the way to becoming billionaires. These policy ideas turn out to poll very well, even if they’re probably not actually redistributive enough to turn most billionaires into sub-billionaires.

More important, aiming to abolish billionaires would involve reshaping the structure of the digital economy so that it produces a more equitable ratio of superrich to the rest of us.

Inequality is the defining economic condition of the tech age. Software, by its very nature, drives concentrations of wealth. Through network effects, in which the very popularity of a service ensures that it keeps getting more popular, and unprecedented economies of scale — in which Amazon can make Alexa once and have it work everywhere, for everyone — tech instills a winner-take-all dynamic across much of the economy.

9) Loved this Frank Bruni column on Tony Romo and the value of true expertise:

It’s about the rarity of his unquestionably deep knowledge in an era when so many of the people who put on the trappings of authority and peddle pearls of wisdom don’t actually have the goods. When so many opinions come with a swagger inversely proportional to their worth. When social media, cable channels, webcasts, podcasts, blogs and more have created an environment in which everybody’s an expert and nobody’s an expert — in which it’s sometimes impossible to tell.

With Romo you can tell. His verified foresight proves his genuine insight.

As I’ve savored his genius and reflected on its appeal, I’ve flashed back to some comments that President Obama made to The New Yorker’s top editor, David Remnick, for a lengthy article in late November 2016 about his waning days in office. Obama was obsessed with the chaotic nature of this new information ecosystem. “Everything is true and nothing is true,” he told Remnick. “An explanation of climate change from a Nobel Prize-winning physicist looks exactly the same on your Facebook page as the denial of climate change by somebody on the Koch brothers’ payroll.”

10) That column led me to this article on Lebron James’ super-human memory.  I had no idea.  Clearly, his amazing performance is not just physical, but very much mental as well.

11) Drum, “We Are All Social Democrats Now”

Because life would sure be a lot easier if we could all learn to accept social democrat as the most accurate description of most modern progressives.

I’m perfectly happy with the label, myself. For those of you who are hazy about what social democracy is, here’s a quickie bullet list. Assuming I didn’t bungle anything, it basically follows the work of Sheri Berman, one of today’s foremost scholars of social democracy and author of The Primacy of Politics: Social Democracy and the Making of Europe’s Twentieth Century:

  • Non-revolutionary; accepts democracy as its political foundation
  • Seeks to reform and reshape capitalism, not destroy it
  • Market based, but harnessed to the common good by a regulatory state
  • High progressive taxes to support a generous welfare state
  • Fundamentally communitarian, originally designed to counter the appeal of nationalism
  • Undergirded by belief in both social and economic equality

It’s worth adding that like most political movements, social democracy is both flexible and limited. It doesn’t insist on any particular view of gun rights or abortion, for example, nor will it tell you if recessions are best handled by monetary or fiscal policy.

12) Krugman, “Trump Versus the Socialist Menace”

What do Trump’s people, or conservatives in general, mean by “socialism”? The answer is, it depends.

Sometimes it means any kind of economic liberalism. Thus after the SOTU, Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, lauded the Trump economy and declared that “we’re not going back to socialism” — i.e., apparently America itself was a socialist hellhole as recently as 2016. Who knew?

Other times, however, it means Soviet-style central planning, or Venezuela-style nationalization of industry, never mind the reality that there is essentially nobody in American political life who advocates such things.

The trick — and “trick” is the right word — involves shuttling between these utterly different meanings, and hoping that people don’t notice. You say you want free college tuition? Think of all the people who died in the Ukraine famine! And no, this isn’t a caricature: Read the strange, smarmy report on socialism that Trump’s economists released last fall; that’s pretty much how its argument goes.

So let’s talk about what’s really on the table.

Some progressive U.S. politicians now describe themselves as socialists, and a significant number of voters, including a majority of voters under 30, say they approve of socialism. But neither the politicians nor the voters are clamoring for government seizure of the means of production. Instead, they’ve taken on board conservative rhetoric that describes anything that tempers the excesses of a market economy as socialism, and in effect said, “Well, in that case I’m a socialist.”

 

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Quick hits (part II)

1) Jeannie Suk Gersen on what DeVos’ new Title IX proposals on campus sexual violence get right (a lot) and wrong (a lot).

2) Good stuff from Matt Glassman (easily one of the smartest people I follow in twitter) in the NYT:

Donald Trump has a Congress problem. He can’t get Republicans to promote his policies. And when he forces the issue — as with his border wall — he can’t win their support.

But most Americans don’t know that. After all, Republican legislators voted with the president well over 90 percent of the time during the 115th Congress. Record numbers of appellate judges were confirmed, and the president signed major tax legislation. Many observers have concluded that Mr. Trump dominates the Republican Party, and his loyal base holds congressional Republicans tautly in line.

But discerning legislative influence is more difficult than it appears. Throughout the first two years of the Trump presidency, Republican leaders in Congress skillfully used a variety of tactics to minimize the president’s influence and maximize their own control over public policy.

Critically, congressional Republicans have adopted strategies that make the public — and more important, his conservative base — think Mr. Trump is in command. To casual followers of political news, the visible evidence from congressional votes and news releases suggests a powerful president leading a loyal congressional party. In reality, Republican legislators have hidden their influence, purposefully disguising a weak president with little clout on Capitol Hill while also preserving party unity.

3) Loved this Edsall piece, “The ‘Rotten Equilibrium’ of Republican Politics”

s trend creates a significant dilemma for Trump and the Republican Party. Candidates on the right do best during hard times and in recent elections, they have gained the most politically in regions experiencing the sharpest downturn. Electorally speaking, in other words, Republicans profit from economic stagnation and decline… [emphasis mine]

The results here and in England reinforce the conclusion that the worse things get, the better the right does.

As a rule, as economic conditions improve and voters begin to feel more secure, they become more generous and more liberal. In the United States, this means that voters move to the left; in Britain, it means voters are stronger in their support for staying in the European Union…

This has put the Republican Party in a painful position, according to Wilkinson:

It’s going to get worse for the G.O.P. as the urgency of the economic problems grows. But they just don’t understand that pushing the same button over and over isn’t going to have the same effect. And this is so in part because they don’t really want to see the seriousness of economic divergence, because they have no idea what to do about it that is remotely consistent with Zombie Reagan social policy dogma.

Brink Lindsey, vice president for policy, replied to my queries from a somewhat different angle: “You don’t need conscious intent to produce dysfunction to explain Republican governance failures.”

In Lindsey’s view,

it starts in ideological self-delusion — that government is simply incapable of performing well, so starving it of funds is always a good idea and trying to make it work better is a waste of time. The problem starts there, as I said, but it doesn’t end there, as these attitudes can very easily merge into cynical, lazy indifference to public administration and onward to outright venality and corruption. And, of course, this ideological stance turns out to be incredibly convenient for rich donors looking for any excuse to keep their taxes down.

4) Jill Lepore on the past, present, and future of journalism is terrific.  Read it! (My future students will)

5) I have never made the dreaded “reply all” by accident mistake, but here’s some advice if you do.  Actually, what I love is using the Gmail “mute” feature on my colleagues who (purposely) excessively “reply all.”

6) We need to talk more about the racial wealth gap in America and Cory Booker’s “baby bonds” are a great way to think about addressing it.

7) Oh, let’s mix things up and mention a conservative column that argues that liberal policy plans are over-reliant on taxing the rich to achieve their goals.

The “just tax the rich” rhetoric remains empty because the numbers simply do not add up. Wealthy families and corporations are not a bottomless ATM available to finance a socialist utopia.

In fact, America’s federal tax code is already the most progressive in the OECD, even adjusting for income inequality. The Congressional Budget Office reports that the top-earning 20 percent of taxpayers earn 53 percent of the income, yet pay 69 percent of all federal taxes, including 88 percent of all income taxes. The bottom 40 percent of earners earn 14 percent of the income while collectively paying no income tax, and less than 5 percent of all federal taxes. Tax code regressivity is not the problem.

Some good and true to a point.  And if we really want single-payer health care, yes, we absolutely need to tax the middle class, too (and that’s so much better than all that money going to health insurers, etc.).  But, looking at the massive income inequality in our country, yeah, we should be taxing the rich more.

8) Speaking of which, as Drum points out, there has been a massive shift in the share of business income that actually goes to the workers:

Since 2000, labor’s share has declined by about a trillion dollars. If you’ve become jaded by numbers this huge and have no idea what they mean on a human scale, it’s simple: this works out to something in the ballpark of $7,000 per worker. If we could just get back to the level of 80s and 90s, we’d all be making about $7,000 more per year.

This is not a huge ask. It’s not like trying to bring back the postwar Golden Age. We’re talking about something that was common as recently as 20 years ago. Since then, the CEO class has decided to add a trillion dollars to its income by taking it away from its workers. This is something that Democratic presidential candidates ought to share when they’re out on the campaign trail.

9) Does democracy need truth?  I’d say yes.

10) Seth Masket gives an emphatic “no” to the question of whether Democrats need to nominate a white man to defeat Trump:

What the bulk of the research suggests is that partisanship and campaign fundamentals (the conditions of the economy, the popularity of the incumbent, conditions of war or peace, and so on) have far greater impact on the vote that any intrinsic demographic qualities of the candidates themselves.

11) NYT, “Young Voters Keep Moving to the Left on Social Issues, Republicans Included.”  And, no, they are not going to move back more conservative when they get older.  The world changes.

12) Nice Wired story on how a recent “cancer cure” story is awful journalism run amok

13) In honor of Booker’s presidential declaration, a thread from John Pfaff that reminds me why I first became a fan.  He’s about the only politician talking truly honestly on criminal justice reform.

14) Let’s keep with the twitter.  Really liked this thread on Northam.  I’ll put the tweets I especially liked here.

15) OMG did I hate being bored as a kid.  And I hate it as an adult (it’s just much easier for me to avoid now).  I do not think childhood boredom made me a better person.  Just a more whiny one ;-).

16) This is really good and really sad, “the promise and heartbreak of cancer genomics.”

17) An article in the Chronicle of Higher Ed asks, “Are You Assigning Too Much Reading? Or Just Too Much Boring Reading?”  Personally, I say, neither.

18) Jane Brody makes the case for portion control as the key to weight loss.  I don’t know if it’s the key, but it is important and I’ve found it very valuable.  I like not denying myself anything (including donuts, girl scout cookies, and pizza today), but knowing it’s okay because they were all limited quantities.

19) And here’s your must-read for the day.  Eric Levitz relies on some nice empirical political science to make the case that Democrats should be waging class war in 2020:

Piston’s research affirms a broader insight of contemporary political science: Most human beings view politics through the lens of group identity, not ideology. Ordinary voters do not develop an intellectual attachment to some abstract philosophy of government, and then join the party whose platform best represents their theory of the state. Rather, the average voter is born into a variety of social groups (a religion, a “race,” a class, etc.), and then joins whichever party appears to best represent her people.

This theoretical framework helps explain why voters in the ANES surveys were less likely to complain about the GOP’s indifference to “inequality,” than about the party’s undue deference to the rich: Inequality is an ideological abstraction, “the rich” is a widely resented social group. The “all politics is identity politics” framework also indicates that the typical swing voter isn’t an ideological moderate, but rather, an American whose various social group attachments pull him or her in conflicting directions — for example, a white male union member who sees his racial and gender identities affirmed by the GOP, but his workplace identity celebrated by the Democrats.

There’s little to no evidence that railing against “the billionaire class” hurts Democrats electorally by making them sound too “far left” (in fact, Piston’s book shows that progressive fiscal policies become more popular — which is to say “mainstream” — when pollsters emphasize that said policies would hurt the rich). Meanwhile, there is significant evidence that the deployment of populist, “us versus them” rhetoric increases the salience of class resentments in U.S. elections — and thus, increases the Democratic Party’s share of the vote.

Moderate Democrats have every right to insist on praising the “patriotism” of America’s plutocrats, and deriding the “nasty divisiveness” of their party populists. But when they do so, they are prioritizing their ideological purity over defeating Donald Trump.

 

 

 

 

 

Quick hits (part II)

1) Pew with a thorough look at public opinion on the border and the shutdown.  Partisanship is a thing.

GOP support for expanding border wall rises; Democratic support falls

2) David Brooks on “putting relationship quality at the center of education.”  I’ve been saying for years and years, that just like Coach K coaches for the relationships, not the championships, I teach for the relationships.

3) I loved the Gillette ad.  Even allowed myself to be goaded into a semi-rare facebook argument (I won, of course– no really, I did), but I also really like Drum’s take on the damn liberals who have to push everything too far.  I also like that he takes on the worst of Vox, which he’s right about and weakens otherwise great journalism.

Well, plenty of men aren’t happy with it. No surprise there. But apparently some women aren’t happy about it either, even though it conveys an explicitly feminist message. Why? Well, at the risk of pissing off some friends, I have to make a confession here: The ism writers at Vox (sexism, racism, ageism, etc.) are always on hand to describe and explain these things. And they always defend the most extreme woke view. Nevertheless, I read most of their wokeness articles anyway, sometimes because they’re good but other times because I’m curious to find out what excuse they’ll use this time to defend the most extravagantly excessive view out there. For the Gillette ad, here it is:

Men who are angry about a commercial and calling for a boycott of a razor company in the comments of a YouTube post are also writing things like, “Gillette is desperately deleting critical comments for fear that people will know about what men are saying about this radical feminist advert.”

These arguments make no sense whatsoever. Still, this ad is a misfire, in that it is a blatant attempt to make money off a painful and ongoing collective action that has not even an indirect relationship to face razors. Is it likely that there were people at Gillette with good intentions and people at Grey who wanted to help realize them? Absolutely! However, it is inherently nonsensical to use feminism to sell men’s grooming products, or any products, as feminism is a political movement bent on dismantling current structures of power, which likely includes multibillion-dollar corporations like Procter & Gamble.

Really?

The reason this commercial is bad is because feminism is dedicated to destroying all large corporations, and it’s therefore inherently nonsensical for large corporations to promote feminist views in their advertising? This wouldn’t pass muster in a freshman women’s studies course. How does it make it past an editor? It persuades no one except those who are already part of the drum circle. Everyone else either skips it entirely or just guffaws when they read it.

I’m not just nitpicking a single piece, either. It doesn’t matter if the subject is liberalism, conservatism, guns, abortion, feminism, racism, climate change, or anything else. We all have to be willing to call out the nonsense on our own side when we hear it. We can’t just automatically go along with the most extreme voices out of fear that we’ll no longer be considered part of the movement if we suggest that maybe someone has gone a wee bit too far.

Anyway: this is just a commercial. Sure, it uses consciousness raising in service of making money. So what? If corporate chieftans are willing to bet that promoting feminism is good for the bottom line, all the better for feminism. How else are you going to reach a hundred million men in prime time, after all?

4) Farhad Manjoo makes the moral case for open borders.  And, for the record, even the liberal NYT commenters let him have it.

5) Apparently treating children equally is a pretty new innovation.  My take is: love your children so that they are each convinced they are your favorite.  It’s actually such a taboo to have favorites that I enjoy joking to my classes that I rank order my children every day with refrigerator magnets.  Anyway, good stuff from Jennifer Traig:

Modern parents haven’t stopped playing favorites; they’ve just stopped doing it openly. Though few parents today will admit they have a favorite child, studies indicate that about two-thirds of parents do. In one small but astounding survey, 80 percent of mothers acknowledged favoring one child over the others. This was no secret to their children, 80 percent of whom agreed. Interestingly, however, when they were asked which child their mother loved most, they almost always got it wrong. Similar results are borne out in larger studies: Two-thirds of children accurately perceive that their parents have a favorite, but less than half get the favorite right.

The idea that you’re supposed to treat your children equally is recent, and it’s still not the norm in much of the world, where different siblings might have different roles and even different titles. In English, we refer to both younger and older siblings as sister or brother, but Chinese has separate terms for each. A gege (older brother) has different rights and responsibilities than a younger one (didi), as do a jiejie (big sister) and meimei (little sister). In Japan, an old slang term for the second son was “Master Cold Rice,” because historically he ate only after the firstborn got his food.

Treating all your children the same is certainly not the norm historically, either. Playing favorites is called “parental differential treatment,” and it was standard practice until fairly recently. Treating all your children the same would be as ridiculous as, say, treating your husband and the doorman the same because they’re both men, greeting them both with kisses and giving both tips for bringing up the mail. The two just play different roles, and there are different expectations for each.

6) Border reality via NPR: “For 7th Consecutive Year, Visa Overstays Exceeded Illegal Border Crossings.”

7) Meanwhile, Drum brings a whole host of border/immigration reality with lots of great charts.

8) This is cool… by making you brain work harder, the Sans Forgetica font can help you learn better.

9) Really enjoyed this from the Economist on why our weeks seven days.  Because… ancient Mesopotamians.

10) Really like this new research from friend PID expert Alex Theodoridis (with Stephen Goggin and John Henderson):

To what extent do voters grasp “what goes with what” among key political objects as they attempt to understand the choices they face at the ballot box? Is recognition of these associations limited to only the most informed citizens? We design a novel conjoint classification experiment that minimizes partisan boosting and allows for the relative comparison of attribute effect when mapping voter associative networks, the cluster of attributes linked to parties and ideological labels. We ask respondents to ‘guess’ the party or ideology of hypothetical candidates with fully randomized issue priorities and biographical details. There is remarkable agreement among both high- and low-knowledge voters in linking issues to each party and ideology, suggesting this minimalist form of associative competence is more widely held in the mass public than perhaps previously thought. We find less agreement about biographical traits, which appear to pose greater informational challenges for voters. Notably, nearly identical issue priorities and traits are associated with party and ideology, indicating these two dimensions are largely fused in the minds of today’s American voters.

11) Frank Bruni asks, “Will the Media Be Trump’s Accomplice Again in 2020?”  Ummmmm… yeah.

Democracies don’t just get the leaders they deserve. They get the leaders who make it through whatever obstacle course — and thrive in whatever atmosphere — their media has created.

“The shadow of what we did last time looms over this next time,” the former CBS newsman Dan Rather, who has covered more than half a century of presidential elections, told me. And what we did last time was emphasize the sound and the fury, because Trump provided both in lavish measure.

“When you cover this as spectacle,” Rather said, “what’s lost is context, perspective and depth. And when you cover this as spectacle, he is the star.” Spectacle is his métier. He’s indisputably spectacular. And even if it’s a ghastly spectacle and presented that way, it still lets him control the narrative. As the writer Steve Almond observed in a recently published essay, “He appears powerful to his followers, which is central to his strongman mystique.”…

Trump was and is a perverse gift to the mainstream, establishment media, a magnet for eyeballs at a juncture when we were struggling economically and desperately needed one. Just present him as the high-wire act and car crash that he is; the audience gorges on it. But readers’ news appetite isn’t infinite, so they’re starved of information about the fraudulence of his supposed populism and the toll of his incompetence. And he wins. He doesn’t hate the media, not at all. He uses us.

Did that dynamic help elect him? There’s no definitive answer. But we gave him an extraordinary bounty of coverage, depriving his rivals of commensurate oxygen and agency. And while our coverage of him had turned overwhelmingly negative by the final months of the 2016 campaign, it by no means started out that way.

12) Greg Sargent makes the case for Sherrod Brown:

Sen. Sherrod Brown will travel to the early presidential primary states in coming weeks, he confirmed to me in an interview. This will stoke speculation about the presidential ambitions of the Ohio Democrat who is widely seen as an ideal messenger for true economic populism as the antidote to President Trump’s sham version of the same.

At the core of Brown’s message is a simple idea: The way to confer dignity on work is to ensure that it pays well. Due to structural economic factors beyond ordinary Americans’ control, wages have stagnated for millions, with many trapped in the ranks of the working poor; but government can remedy this through the tax code by sending struggling Americans money.

Many progressive economists and Democratic lawmakers are coalescing around a way to do this, through one version or another of expanded tax credits for working people and families, to supplement their income and lift them out of poverty and/or closer to the ranks of the middle-class.

13) I cannot believe I was so late to the game of the terrific podcast literally produced in San Quentin by prisoners, “Ear Hustle.”  So good.  Host Earlonne Woods is amazing and so obviously completely rehabilitated.  How many other prisoners who have already served many years and could really benefit society are also languishing behind bars without a podcast to let us know?

Quick hits (part I)

1) Interesting piece on Apple becoming more of a luxury brand:

And so Apple is gravitating to its strength—selling a commoditized product at a very high price as a part of a semi-open (or partly closed) ecosystem of services. Indeed, another change in how the company plans to present its financial picture is a more detailed breakdown of its “services” segment, which includes iTunes, the App Store, and ApplePay, all of which presumably will be a greater share of its revenue and profit.

Look, then, at where Apple is growing and where it isn’t: It is gaining share in the wealthy countries of the European Union and in the United States, and flat (or losing) in places such as China, Nigeria, India, and the rest of the world formerly known as developing. But its profit is growing massively, and from what we can tell growing everywhere. In a world where everyone will soon have a smartphone as surely as electricity, and the middle class will likely have a tablet or some form of computer, Apple has elected to be more like Tiffany or Mercedes rather than Walmart or Hyundai. That means speaking to as an aspirational clientele for whom brand, form, and function are all of a part, and where the higher price point is at times a sotto voce aspect of the appeal.

It is hard to argue with that strategy, although it does make Apple a different sort of company than it was a decade ago, away from owning the market with a range of prices and products and toward a premier provider in a mass world. It is also hard to see that strategy not producing incredible profits and cash for the coming years, absent some tectonic disruption in communications akin to the introduction of the iPhone in 2007, which is not evident but not impossible. In some sense, it is back to the future for Apple, which began in the 1980s selling a high-priced, elegantly designed Mac that eschewed the mass market.

Unlike then, however, it is hard to picture Apple as a leading innovator of the next thing or things, whatever those may be. Rife with cash and focused on honing and defending a premier brand, it is more like a dynamic retailer than a tech disrupter.

2) We were having fun with this sentence last night explaining to the kids how which word gets emphasized changes the meaning of a sentence, “I never said that she stole my money.”

3) I’m no expert on unions, but public and private sector unions really are fundamentally different and it really is too easy for public sector unions to abuse their position.  And California is a great example.  Drum.

4) Americans are literally dying because synthetic insulin, a product that has been around decades, keeps going up in price by absurd amounts.  Only in America, of course.  In theory there is competition, but, really, this is market failure which means the government needs to do something– like every other damn modern country.

5) Excellent (as always) Tom Edsall piece on “how the fight over men is shaping our future.”

Last week, however, the American Psychological Association entered the fray with the release of its long-planned “Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Boys and Men.”

The A.P.A. guidelines argue that the socialization of males to adhere to components of “traditional masculinity such as emotional stoicism, homophobia, not showing vulnerability, self-reliance and competitiveness” leads to the disproportion of males involved in “aggression and violence as a means to resolve interpersonal conflict” as well as “substance abuse, incarceration, and early mortality.”

The premise underlying the guidelines is summarized in a descriptive essay on the A.P.A.’s website: “Traditional masculinity — marked by stoicism, competitiveness, dominance and aggression — is, on the whole, harmful.” According to the A.P.A., the persistent commitment of many boys and men to the norms of traditional masculinity helps explain why

Men commit 90 percent of homicides in the United States and represent 77 percent of homicide victims. They’re the demographic group most at risk of being victimized by violent crime. They are 3.5 times more likely than women to die by suicide, and their life expectancy is 4.9 years shorter than women’s. Boys are far more likely to be diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder than girls, and they face harsher punishments in school — especially boys of color.

There is widespread support for many of the recommendations in the guidelines — encouraging increased paternal involvement with children, for example, and developing better approaches to reduce bullying — and these are not in dispute…

The report notes that “in the aggregate, males experience a greater degree of social and economic power than girls and women in a patriarchal society.” This, according to the guidelines, is detrimental to men because

Men who benefit from their social power are also confined by system-level policies and practices as well as individual-level psychological resources necessary to maintain male privilege. Thus, male privilege often comes with a cost in the form of adherence to sexist ideologies designed to maintain male power that also restrict men’s ability to function adaptively.

Republicans and Democrats have sharply polarized views on such findings.

According to an October 2017 Pew Research report, a quarter of Republicans said the country has not done enough to insure equal rights for women, while 54 percent said the country has done enough and 18 percent said the country has gone too far. Among Democrats, 69 percent said the country has not done enough, 26 percent said the country has done enough and 4 percent said the country has gone too far…

Many Republicans believe gender roles to be distinct and that categorical denial of hormonal or biological underpinnings to sex differences is erroneous — while simultaneously voicing doubts about the legitimacy of the science of evolution. Many Democrats defend the basic theory of evolution but remain wary of, if not hostile to, biological explanations of human behavior, in part because of their belief in the efficacy of government or other societal intervention to change behavior.

What is patently clear to those on one side of the debate is patently false to those on the other. The pressures to conform to conservative orthodoxy on the right and to liberal orthodoxy on the left sometimes seem to preclude reasonable compromise — that nature and nurture interact endlessly. Fundamental disagreements about sex and gender have become so polarized that oversimplification is inevitable, and the obvious truth that both social and biological forces are at play is cast aside. [emphasis mine]

6) Meanwhile, a record low 46% of women are satisfied how women are treated by society.  I like that, as it shows that more women than ever are aware of the fundamental problems in how our society treats women.  You cannot address a problem if you don’t admit it’s there.

7) Not much could be better than Charles Pierce taking it to Mitch McConnell:

There simply is no more loathsome creature walking the political landscape than the Majority Leader of the United States Senate. You have to go back to McCarthy or McCarran to find a Senate leader who did so much damage to democratic norms and principles than this yokel from Kentucky. Trump is bad enough, but he’s just a jumped-up real-estate crook who’s in over his head. McConnell is a career politician who knows full well what he’s doing to democratic government and is doing it anyway because it gives him power, and it gives the rest of us a wingnut federal judiciary for the next 30 years. There is nothing that this president* can do that threatens McConnell’s power as much as it threatens the survival of the republic, and that’s where we are.

McConnell declared himself in opposition to Barack Obama right from the first day in office. There’s even video. Most noxiously, in reference to our present moment, when Obama came to him and asked him to present a united front against the Russian ratfcking that was enabling El Caudillo del Mar-a-Lago, McConnell turned him down, flat. Moreover, he told Obama that, if Obama went public, McConnell would use it as a political hammer on Hillary Rodham Clinton. (Obama should have done it anyway, god knows.) McConnell issued a watery denial of these charges, but there’s no good goddamn reason to believe him.

He doesn’t have the essential patriotism god gave a snail. He pledges allegiance to his donors, and they get what they want. He’s selling out his country, and he’s doing it in real-time and out in the open. This is worse than McCarthy or McCarran ever were. Mitch McConnell is the the thief of the nation’s soul.

8) A robotic device created for female pleasure had its technology award revoked for being ““immoral, obscene, indecent, profane or not in keeping with CTA’s image.

9) NYT writes, “Doug Jones Risks His Alabama Senate Seat Over the Shutdown and the Wall.”  Ummm, Doug Jones risks his Senate seat by running against any Republican not named Roy Moore next time.

10) This story about Michael Cohen paying some Liberty University flunkie to “rig” some on-line polls is just so sad, pathetic, and so Trump and so Liberty.

11) Baby Shark is all the rage.  I actually learned of this from my pre-schooler newphew, but then learned from my kids its everywhere and I just didn’t know about it.  I especially enjoy annoying them by singing it not quite right.

12) Loved this story on why the UCLA gymnastics floor routine went viral and on NCAA versus elite gymnastics.  For the record, I love NCAA gymnastics and have really enjoyed NC State meets in recent years.

13) Even a ten minute walk has benefits for your brain.  Just move, people.

14) I don’t get why it is not standard practice to numb with lidocaine before giving children shots.  We did it this year (we’ve been using it since Alex has had to get monthly blood draws) and it really helped.

“If you ask every single child in the United States, what are you most afraid of going to the pediatrician, the answer is needle pokes,” said Dr. Stefan Friedrichsdorf, the medical director of pain medicine and palliative care at Children’s Minnesota.

The pain and fear around childhood vaccinations, he said, contributes to the development of needle phobias, which can make people reluctant to get flu shots and other potentially lifesaving vaccines. Thus, pediatric pain specialists hope that reducing or eliminating the pain associated with needles can potentially reduce what we now call vaccine hesitancy, encouraging parents to get those annual flu shots for themselves and their children, and generally taking away some of the fear that can get in the way of ideal health care.

“We now have noticed that since we started doing this, it’s a life changing event, kids are less and less likely to be needle phobic,” Dr. Friedrichsdorf said. “We are trying to prove it’s lifesaving.” Through an initiative called the Comfort Promise at Children’s Minnesota, the entire hospital has committed to reducing or eliminating needle pain, along with other types of pain.

This Christmas break, spend less time with your kids

Seriously.  Sort of.  Great Claire Cain Miller piece yesterday in the Upshot about the absurd over-parenting that now characterizes upper-middle class households.  I’m surrounded by it, of course, and probably guilty to some modest degree, but I would say the balance of the evidence is pretty clear we are harming our kids and creating excess parental stress– i.e., a lose-lose.  To be clear, spending time with your kids, especially in enriching activities, is great.  But not every moment of a kids day should be micro-manged nor should parents worry that if their kids are out playing in the neighborhood instead of going to an expensive summer camp that their kids will fall behind.  And, in fact, I think the evidence is pretty clear that, on net, helicopter parenting is bad for kids.

To rely on anecdote, my parents loved me a ton and I knew it and they spent quality time with me every single day.  But it was that constancy, not the volume or level of oversight that mattered.  Somehow I achieved pretty good success in life without every doing expensive summer camps and spending absolutely ungodly hours of my childhood watching Brady Bunch, Gilligan’s Island, etc.

Anyway, some of my favorite parts of the article:

Parenthood in the United States has become much more demanding than it used to be.

Over just a couple of generations, parents have greatly increased the amount of time, attention and money they put into raising children. Mothers who juggle jobs outside the home spend just as much timetending their children as stay-at-home mothers did in the 1970s.

The amount of money parents spend on children, which used to peak when they were in high school, is now highest when they are under 6 and over 18 and into their mid-20s…

While this kind of intensive parenting — constantly teaching and monitoring children — has been the norm for upper-middle-class parents since the 1990s, new research shows that people across class divides now consider it the best way to raise children, even if they don’t have the resources to enact it…

“As the gap between rich and poor increases, the cost of screwing up increases,” said Philip Cohen, a sociologist at the University of Maryland who studies families and inequality. “The fear is they’ll end up on the other side of the divide.”

But it also stokes economic anxiety, because even as more parents say they want to raise childrenthis way, it’s the richest ones who are most able to do so.

“Intensive parenting is a way for especially affluent white mothers to make sure their children are maintaining their advantaged position in society,” said Jessica Calarco, a sociologist at Indiana University and author of “Negotiating Opportunities: How the Middle Class Secures Advantages in School.”

For the record, I don’t really buy that last part so much.  I suspect it is far more a basic psychological “keeping up with the Joneses” than an actual fear of one’s kids economic future.  Rather, if all the neighbors are parenting one way, many feel they need to do the same.  It’s just as much about pressure as is what clothes to wear in high school.  Anyways…

The American Academy of Pediatrics promotes the idea that parents should be constantly monitoring and teaching children, even when the science doesn’t give a clear answer about what’s best. It now recommends that babies sleep in parents’ rooms for a year. Children’s television — instead of giving parents the chance to cook dinner or have an adult conversation — is to be “co-viewed” for maximum learning…

Ia new paper, Patrick Ishizuka surveyed a nationally representative group of 3,642 parents about parenting. Regardless of their education, income or race, they said the most hands-on and expensive choices were best. For example, they said children who were bored after school should be enrolled in extracurricular activities, and that parents who were busy should stop their task and draw with their children if asked. [emphasis mine]

“Intensive parenting has really become the dominant cultural model for how children should be raised,” said Mr. Ishizuka, a postdoctoral fellow studying gender and inequality at Cornell.

Ugh.  In fact, I am ignoring my bored daughter right now so I can finish this blog post.  Seriously!  I really enjoy doing stuff with my kids so I do a lot of it.  But I am not here to entertain them.  And this:

Experts agree that investing in children is a positive thing — they benefit from time with their parents, stimulating activities and supportive parenting styles. As low-income parents have increased the time they spend teaching and reading to their children, the readiness gap between kindergarten students from rich and poor families has shrunk. As parental supervision has increased, most serious crimes against children have declined significantly.

But it’s also unclear how much of children’s success is actually determined by parenting.

“It’s still an open question whether it’s the parenting practices themselves that are making the difference, or is it simply growing up with college-educated parents in an environment that’s richer in many dimensions?” said Liana Sayer, a sociologist at the University of Maryland and director of the Time Use Laboratory there. “I don’t think any of these studies so far have been able to answer whether these kids would be doing well as adults regardless, simply because of resources.”

Actually, the question is not that open.  Twin studies make it pretty clear that, within a normal healthy range, parenting styles just don’t matter that much.  And, over-parenting can almost certainly be counter-productive, for children and their over-involved parents:

Psychologists and others have raised alarms about children’s high levels of stress and dependence on their parents, and the need to develop independence, self-reliance and gritResearch has shown that children with hyper-involved parents have more anxiety and less satisfaction with life, and that when children play unsupervised, they build social skills, emotional maturity and executive function.

Parents, particularly mothers, feel stressexhaustion and guilt at the demands of parenting this way, especially while holding a job. American time use diaries show that the time women spend parenting comes at the expense of sleep, time alone with their partners and friends, leisure time and housework. Some pause their careers or choose not to have children. Others, like Ms. Sentilles, live in a state of anxiety. She doesn’t want to hover, she said. But trying to oversee homework, limit screen time and attend to Isaac’s needs, she feels no choice.

Anyway, time to go help by bored daughter figure out one of her new Christmas presents.  We’ll have fun, but then it’s back to letting her entertain herself.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Thomas Edsall talks to political scientists about white identity politics

For 50 years Republicans have battered the Democratic coalition, wielding the so-called southern strategy — built on racism and overlaid with opposition to immigration — to win control of the White House and one or both chambers of Congress.

At the same time, Democrats have struggled to piece together a coalition strong enough to deliver an Election Day majority. In the 1950s, the Democratic coalition was 87 percent white and 13 percent minority, according to the American National Election Studies; it is now 59 percent white and 41 percent minority, according to Pew Research.

As the Democratic Party has evolved from an overwhelmingly white party to a party with a huge minority base, the dominant strategic problem has become the tenuous balance between the priorities of its now equally indispensable white and minority wings.

President Trump has aggressively exploited Democratic vulnerabilities as no previous Republican candidate had dared to do. The frontal attack Trump has engineered — in part by stigmatizing “political correctness” — has had a dual effect, throwing Democrats back on their heels while simultaneously whetting their appetite for a fight.

For Democrats to counter Trump effectively, a number of scholars believe it is essential to understand the motivations — the needs, beliefs and agendas — of those whites who have moved into the Trump camp. Only armed with that information, the way these scholars see it, can the left recapture enough of those voters to regain majority status on a more permanent basis, both in its battles for Congress and for the White House.

2) I like Saideman’s take on Mattis– yes, we will in fact miss him, but his “adult” influence has also been overrated.

3) Good take on the search for anti-conservative bias on google:

It is, perhaps, unsurprising that none of the Congress members complaining about Google’s anti-conservative bias appeared overly concerned that hate groups had hijacked YouTube. Instead, they kept hammering at the bias they claimed the company was directing against them.This is because, as Pasquale told me, the Republicans are very good at “working the refs” to get what they want. What they want here is to bring Google to heel, as they’ve done to Facebook, which conspicuously hired the conservative politician Jon Kyl to investigate its anti-conservative bias, and added an avowedly conservative publication, the now defunct Weekly Standard, to its fact-checking team, giving the magazine’s staff the ability to down-rank sources with which it disagreed ideologically.

But the #StopTheBias campaign has a more pernicious goal: it is yet another way for Trump and his minions to undermine the credibility of the mainstream media.

4) Yglesias on Paul Ryan’s farewell address:

The first half of Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s farewell address to Congress is dedicated primarily to his effort to convince himself that a deficit-financed tax cut for the rich represents not just an idea he happens to favor, but a substantive legacy that constitutes a worthy career-long labor. Then it went off the rails.

In the back half of his speech, Ryan challenged Congress to address the needs of the poor as he claims he attempted during his time in public service. This claim is at odds with his many attempts to take away health care for America’s most vulnerable, his abandonment of tax incentives for the lowest earners, and his commitment to dubious anti-poverty programs.

“You all know that finding solutions to help people lift themselves out of poverty is a personal mission for me,” he said, echoing a line that he has shopped to a lot of journalists over the years but that there is no evidence of in his record. He then went on to say a bunch of stuff that isn’t true about the social safety net, the American poor, and his own record on either.

It’s a perfect capstone to Ryan’s career: Rich people get tax cuts; poor people get pious words and misleading rhetoric.

Paul Ryan is wrong about the war on poverty

Ryan’s entire thinking about the subject of poverty is shaped by his deep commitment to a fundamentally false premise: the notion that anti-poverty programs have failed.

5) Finally watched the SNL “It’s a Wonderful Trump.”  Definitely worth your time.

6) Dana Milbank, “This week in Trump inhumanity: Keeping a mother from her dying toddler.”

7) Drum makes a good case that even though vaping is better than smoking it is still really bad– the potential for a costly, life-long addiction to nicotine.

8) Speaking of nicotine addiction– a new study that shows meditation is amazingly successful for quitting smoking.

9) How Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” message unraveled.

10) Catherine Rampell, “Has the GOP tax cut delivered? Yes — and the tooth fairy was here just last night!”

11) Helluva graphic— most mentioned country on front of NYT over time.

12) Scientists have a found a new kingdom of life.  Whoa!

The tree of life just got another major branch. Researchers recently found a certain rare and mysterious microbe called a hemimastigote in a clump of Nova Scotian soil. Their subsequent analysis of its DNA revealed that it was neither animal, plant, fungus nor any recognized type of protozoan — that it in fact fell far outside any of the known large categories for classifying complex forms of life (eukaryotes). Instead, this flagella-waving oddball stands as the first member of its own “supra-kingdom” group, which probably peeled away from the other big branches of life at least a billion years ago.

13) “Gene-edited farm animals are coming. Will we eat them?”  I will.  Is it really so different than all the highly-selective breeding we’ve been doing for thousands of years?

Researchers, after years of fighting public skepticism on genetically modified foods, are hopeful but not optimistic. Advocates are lining up on both sides of the issue.

“We’re at this inflection point in society, where gene editing is really taking off, and now is the time we could have a more sustained public conversation about how we want it used in our world and how we don’t want it to be used,” said Jennifer Kuzma, co-director of the Genetic Engineering and Society Center at North Carolina State University. “All the polls indicate that people are less comfortable with animal biotechnology than plant biotechnology. . . . A regulatory system cannot be based 100 percent on science or scientific risk, and values come into play when setting the standards.”

14) David Leonhardt makes the case for Democratic Party populism in 2020:

There is only one quality — beyond, of course, charisma — that Democrats should demand in their nominee. The Democrats need a candidate who can and will run as an economic populist…

They need a candidate who will organize the 2020 campaign around fighting for the little guy and gal. (And most of the potential Democratic nominees could do so.) It would be a campaign about Republican politicians and corporate lobbyists who are rigging the game, a campaign that promised good jobs, rising wages, decent health care, affordable education and an end to Trumpian corruption.

The country doesn’t only need this agenda. It wants this agenda. A mountain of evidence shows that populism — the real kind, not the faux Trump version — is the Democrats’ most effective political strategy. Yet that evidence often gets obscured by less important issues, like a candidate’s race, sex or precise spot on a traditional liberal-conservative spectrum…

More than 60 percent think taxes on upper-income people are too low, according to Gallup. Almost 70 percent say the same about corporations. A clear majority also favors expanded government health care, more college financial aid, a higher minimum wage and tougher anticorruption laws…

This group is mostly white, mostly without a college degree and disproportionately rural, according to the analysis, by YouGov Blue and Data for Progress. On social issues, the group’s attitudes look pretty Republican. Many of its members think sexism isn’t that big of a problem, for instance. They express anxiety about demographic change and favor tighter border security.

These are the sort of voters that some Democrats had written off as irredeemable racists. But that’s a terrible mistake.

On economic issues, swing voters look decidedly un-Republican. They are even more populist than loyal Democrats. By a wide margin, they favor free college, a big expansion of Medicare and federal action both to reduce drug prices and to create jobs.

“These voters want leaders who are going to look out for them,” Alissa Stollwerk of YouGov told me. Trump persuaded many voters that he was their ally by running a racially focused campaign. Democrats have already shown they can win back a meaningful share of them by running an economically focused campaign.

15) Yeah, I get that we’re all completely used to Trump’s lies.  But how is that nobody cares that he so clearly lied about an issue at the heart of the whole Russia/collusion issue?!

16) Chait, “The More Republicans Lose, the Harder They Work to Rig the Game.”

17) The link between August birthdays and dramatically higher diagnoses of ADHD suggests that we are overdosing the disease.

These arbitrary cutoffs have important implications for the diagnosis of A.D.H.D. In a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, we found that among several hundred thousand children who were born between 2007 and 2009 and followed until 2016, rates of A.D.H.D. diagnosis and treatment were 34 percent higher among children born in August than among children born in September in states with a Sept. 1 school entry-age cutoff. No such difference was found among children in states with different cutoff dates. The effects were largest among boys.

We believe these findings reveal just how subjective the diagnosis of A.D.H.D. can be. In any given class, inattentive behavior among younger, August-born children may be perceived, in some instances, to reflect symptom of A.D.H.D., rather than the relative immaturity that is biologically determined and to be expected among children who are nearly one year younger than September-born classmates.

Though I’ve no doubt ADHD is over-diagnosed I can state from personal family experience that an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment with medication can make a huge positive difference for the family and for the firstborn son so diagnosed.

18) Among my favorite reads of the week is Yglesias on the conservative attack on democracy.  Read it.

The threat to democracy isn’t “populism”

All of which is to say that the real Trump-era threat to democracy is the opposite of populism.

Trump has many of the mannerisms and much of the style of a plebiscitary dictator who wields demagogic rhetoric to turn the crowd against liberal institutions. But in a real-world sense, Trump and his political allies are unpopular, and people keep voting against them.

They nevertheless wield vast political power, however, because of institutions. The Electoral College, gerrymandering, and the maldistribution of Senate seats allow the GOP to enjoy political power that’s disproportionate to their voting support.

A tight-knit group of Federalist Society lawyers and judges allow conservatives to advance policy ideas that lack public support through the judiciary. When in doubt, they fib and hope Fox News will help them muddy the waters.

The case will, of course, make its way up to higher courts, where hopefully cooler, more humane heads will prevail. But whether they do depends not just on the law but on the political context.

The rhetoric and practice of actual majoritarian populism — rather than simply assuming Chief Justice Roberts will do the right thing — is critical in moments like this. Judicial conservatives will be restrained in their activism if and only if they believe that defying the will of the people on such consequential matters will lead to their delegitimization.

It’s a fear they ought to have. But one which will only develop if progressive leaders are able to move beyond excessive fear of populism and learn to speak the language of popular majoritarianism and democratic self-rule.

19) Conservative blogger Ann Althouse had a post on my research.  Cool?  Anyway, interesting, but wrong take here:

I’ve observed over the years that researchers tend to explain any gender difference in a way that makes whatever is true of women good. This is an interesting example of that. You can see that they’re presenting the independence and courage of men as “risk taking,” “deviance,” and insensitivity to “morality.” I’m intrigued by the presentation of women as pushed by the Democratic elite. Is being a follower regarded as a positive quality (when you follow the Democratic elite)?

Quick hits (part II)

1) Paul Waldman with “All the ludicrous defenses Republicans offer on the Russia scandal.”

2) Of course, many Republican politicians refuse to even discuss anything bad about the president.

3) Of course the Trump administration is trying to make your air dirtier, too.  Seriously, this is not just liberal hyperbole.  Interview with a former EPA scientist.  What the hell is wrong with Republicans?!

4) And here’s a fascinating and disturbing story from NPR, “Customs And Border Protection Paid A Firm $13.6 Million To Hire Recruits. It Hired 2.”

5) And it links to an interesting AP story on absurd misuse of polygraphs in hiring.

6) Okay, finally a link that made me happy.  Alan Sepinwall ranks the best TV shows of the streaming era.  The winner: Bojack.

So far, streaming has produced one show that feels like an inner circle Hall of Famer. Raphael Bob-Waksberg’s animated series — about a depressed, alcoholic, narcissistic horse (Will Arnett in the title role) who was a Nineties sitcom star — is capable of being TV’s funniest show and its saddest, often within seconds of each other. It takes advantage of the serialization that streaming subscribers so often want, even as its individual episodes often stand out as instant classics. It satirizes itself and the TV business as a whole while galloping rings around almost anything that business has done over the last few years. Everything else on this list ranges from very good to excellent but flawed; this is the one unequivocally Great streaming original so far.

7) I’ve been saying for years that “judicial activism” is simply any legal decision Republicans don’t like,  In a more traditional use, it does refer to judges who are aggressive in making new law (or overturning law) through their own interpretations.  The federal judge in Texas on the ACA is a perfect example of judicial activism amok.

8) A follow-up story a year later about a 12-year old boy who tried to commit suicide by jumping off a bridge who ended up living, but killing the motorist he landed on.

9) I’m so done with Christmas gifts.  Of course, this is the privilege of being comfortably upper-middle class.  Alas, I’m too lazy to try and invent a new tradition for my family and don’t exactly want to go cold turkey.  But once all the kids are older, definitely going to reduce to a secret santa or give to charity or something.

10) So, ten years later, it seems that, somehow, the Octomom has actually done a decent job raising her kids.  It also seems like she’s quite a liar and a little bit crazy.

11) This: “Not just Hill interns: Public office pays so little, it’s the realm of the rich and retired.”  Serving in government is incredibly important work.  We should actually compensate it like that and ensure that we get a far more diverse cross-section of society represented in public service.

12) I meant to include this in my intellectual humility post and forgot.  It’s good, “The Benefits of Admitting When You Don’t Know.”

Then again, as Nobel Prize–winning astrophysicist Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar noted, believing that you “must be right”—in other words, lacking intellectual humility—can actually stymie discovery, learning, and progress.

Given this puzzle, my colleagues and I set out to test whether intellectual humility was empirically associated with learning outcomes.

We started by measuring high school students’ intellectual humility. We had students rate themselves on statements like “I am willing to admit it when I don’t know something” and “I acknowledge when someone knows more than me about a subject.” We wanted to know: Would this intellectual humility relate to students’ motivation to learn, their learning strategies, and even their grades? What’s more, would teachers observe any differences between students with differing levels of intellectual humility?

We found that the more intellectually humble students were more motivated to learn and more likely to use effective metacognitive strategies, like quizzing themselves to check their own understanding. They also ended the year with higher grades in math. We also found that the teachers, who hadn’t seen students’ intellectual humility questionnaires, rated the more intellectually humble students as more engaged in learning.

13) Rob Christensen knows more about NC politics than almost anybody alive.  Thus, there’s plenty to learn from his column, “10 things I’ve learned in 45 years of covering North Carolina politics.”  Here’s his last two points:

9. There is a mismatch between the voters and the legislature. North Carolina is a moderate state with a slight conservative tilt, according to the annual national polls of voter attitudes conducted by the Gallup organization. But the GOP legislature has made North Carolina into a national laboratory for sharply conservative policies. The policies don’t fit the profile of Tar Heel voters.

10. Bill Snider, the late Greensboro newspaper editor and columnist, once gave this advice to young reporters: ‘From time to time, you will be tempted to write that race is no longer a factor in Tar Heel politics. Don’t do it.’ While we have come a long way, racial views are still a potent force in shaping voting preferences.

14) This look at grade inflation in the Ohio State student newspaper is amazingly comprehensive and well done.  And, OMG, the amount of grade inflation at Ohio State!

15) If you are only good read one of these links it full, it should be Eduardo Porter’s great NYT feature, “The Hard Truths of Trying to ‘Save’ the Rural Economy.”

Rural America is getting old. The median age is 43, seven years older than city dwellers. Its productivity, defined as output per worker, is lower than urban America’s. Its families have lower incomes. And its share of the population is shrinking: the United States has grown by 75 million people since 1990, but this has mostly occurred in cities and suburbs. Rural areas have lost some 3 million people. Since the 1990s, problems such as crime and opioid abuse, once associated with urban areas, are increasingly rural phenomena.

Rural communities once captured a greater share of the nation’s prosperity. Jobs and wages in small town America played catch-up with big cities until the mid 1980s. During the economic recovery of 1992 to 1996, 135,000 new businesses were started in small counties, a third of the nation’s total. Employment in small counties shot up by 2.5 million, or 16 percent, twice the pace experienced in counties with million-plus populations.

These days, economic growth bypasses rural economies. In the first four years of the recovery after the 2008 recession, counties with fewer than 100,000 people lost 17,500 businesses, according to the Economic Innovation Group. By contrast, counties with more than 1 million residents added, altogether, 99,000 firms. By 2017, the largest metropolitan areas had almost 10 percent more jobs than they did at the start of the financial crisis. Rural areas still had fewer.

The Economic Innovation Group measures “distress” as a combination of data ranging from joblessness and poverty to abandoned homes and educational attainment. Since the 1990s, there has been an “intensifying ruralization of distress,” said John Lettieri, the group’s president.

 

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