Quick hits (part II)

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

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

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

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

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

Hello (Representative/Senator NAME),

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

Sincerely,
(voter NAME)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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Quick hits (part II)

1) Steve Saideman makes the case for disbanding ICE.  I’m increasingly inclined to agree.

2) One thing that really intrigued me in this pre-vote story on the Ireland abortion referendum was the pervasive belief that this was an issue for women to decide:

The argument over the referendum has exposed wide divisions among Irish women and has emerged to some extent as a debate among women for women.

In contrast to the United States, where male politicians, donors and social commentators have often dominated the abortion issue, many men in this Irish vote are tending to hang back, seeing abortion as a woman’s matter. That is in large part a reaction to earlier generations, when women’s issues in Ireland were solely decided by men, including leaders of the Roman Catholic Church.

3) And the post-referendum coverage which emphasizes how far Ireland has moved in such a short amount of time.  My brief take– the near-absolute power of the Catholic Church in Ireland led to obscene levels of corruption.  Once that corruption was finally revealed, the Catholic Church has basically lost all credibility.

4) Sad, sad story of heart transplant gone wrong and everything cascading from there.

5) What is wrong with people that think a man who has clearly been rehabilitated and living a great life out of prison should be sent back in over a technicality?!  Also, he should have never had 35 years in the first place for selling drugs.  This is where you need the pardon power.  But alas, the man is Black and this is a federal issue and Trump is president.

He’s going to prison. To finish out a 35-year term for selling crack to an informant in the 90’s.

Charles had already served 21 years before his sentence was cut short as a result of crack guideline changes passed by the Obama administration. But the U.S. Attorney’s office appealed his release on the grounds that Charles was legally considered a “career offender” due to a prior stint in state prison. They said the retroactive change in the law did not apply to him — and a Court of Appeals agreed.

“He’s rebuilt his life and now they’re coming to snatch it,” says “Wolf”, who met Charles at a halfway house in 2016. They’ve volunteered together almost every Saturday since, long after fulfilling their community service requirements.

6) Was pretty interested to see how Liverpool used Moneyball principles to make it to the Champions League final.

7) Party identification is everything.  The latest research:

In short, people sought and then followed the advice of those who shared their political opinions on issues that had nothing to do with politics, even when they had all the information they needed to understand that this was a bad strategy.

Why? This may be an example of what social scientists call the halo effect: If people think that products or people are good along one dimension, they tend to think that they are good along other, unrelated dimensions as well. People make a positive assessment of those who share their political convictions, and that positive assessment spills over into evaluation of other, irrelevant characteristics.

Our findings have obvious implications for the spread of false news, for political polarization and for social divisions more generally. Suppose that someone with identifiable political convictions spreads a rumor about a coming collapse in the stock market, a new product that supposedly fails, cheating in sports or an incipient disease epidemic. Even if the rumor is false, and even if those who hear it have reason to believe that it is false, people may well find it credible (and perhaps spread it further) if they share the political views of the source of the rumor.

Our results also suggest some harmful consequences of political polarization. Suppose that people trust those who are politically like-minded, even on subjects on which they are clueless. Suppose that they distrust those with different political opinions on nonpolitical issues where they have real expertise. If so, the conditions are ripe for a host of mistakes — and not just about blaps.

8) Antibiotics in meat animals is a complicated issue.  It could be damaging our own gut microbiomes.

9) Dan Balz on Trump’s Mueller strategy:

President Trump is waging a war of attrition against special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation. If his goal is to poison the reception to whatever Mueller’s findings turn out to be, as seems evident from what he and his allies have done, he is making progress.

The slow but steady separation of public opinion underscores the degree of success in the president’s strategy. Through constant tweets in which he has used exaggeration, distortion and outright falsehoods — combined with the activities of his congressional supporters in hectoring the Justice Department and the FBI — Trump hopes to turn the ultimate confrontation into one more partisan battle.

He has created diversions that have helped to reshape attitudes, primarily among Republicans. It started long ago, when he charged, without evidence, that President Barack Obama had wiretapped the phones in Trump Tower during the 2016 campaign. That proved to be false, but it did not deter him from claiming other alleged abuses without solid evidence to back them up…

The pattern continues to repeat itself. Step by step, week by week, the president and his allies cross lines that legal experts insist should not be crossed. The president’s ongoing conflict with the Justice Department and his inflammatory tweets about the Mueller investigation have become so commonplace that it can be easy for people to forget how abnormal it all is.

10) What is the responsibility of a college to let parents know one of their students may be suicidal?

11) Really good Atlantic essay on how to limit school shootings (or at least make them less lethal):

Virtually everyone I spoke with, from the FBI to academic researchers, told me it’s nearly impossible to stop a determined shooter; they’re always one creative step ahead. In one way, Dimitrios Pagourtzis broke with recent shooters: He used his father’s shotgun, rather than a semiautomatic weapon—although Pagourtzis made the shotgun far more lethal by using buckshot. In other cases—at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida; at Virginia Tech; at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut—the gunman used a semiautomatic weapon to wreak even more carnage. Stopping a young person from stealing his parents’ legally owned shotguns is impossible; but experts like Michael Caldwell say that restricting the sale of semiautomatic weapons would go some way to limiting the carnage.

“It may not decrease the number of incidents, but it would decrease the number of fatalities,” says Michael Caldwell, the University of Wisconsin professor, not just because he can get off fewer rounds, but because bullets fired from an AR-15 are so much more lethal. “You don’t have to hit the target straight on to kill a person. If you’re shot in the torso, it will kill you.”

One study tracked school shootings in three dozen countries—incidents in which two or more people died. Half of those shooting incidents occurred in the United States. Given that, according to some studies, Americans are no more emotionally troubled than people in Europe and Canada, the stark difference is guns. Children outside the U.S. “don’t have access to AR-15s or Glocks or other weapons that our kids have access to,” says Dewey Cornell. “That’s a huge glaring obvious problem. It’s obvious to scholars in the field. It’s obvious to folks in other countries. For some reason it’s not obvious to our politicians.”

12) A sad question reveals our cycles of violence:

Researchers with the Boston Reentry Study were one year into their interviews, following 122 men and women as they returned from prison to their neighborhoods and families, when they asked the kind of question that’s hard to broach until you know someone well.

They prompted the study’s participants to think back to childhood. “Did you ever see someone get killed during that time?”

Childhood violence, including deadly violence, kept coming up in the previous conversations. The references suggested a level of childhood trauma among people leaving prison that standard survey questions don’t capture. And so the researchers wanted to be methodical — to ask everyone, directly, just like this.

The answers, among hundreds of other questions the study explored, give insight into the life trajectories that precede prison, and the limitations of the criminal justice system that places people there. In total, 42 percent of the study’s participants said “yes.”…

What, then, is to be done with the knowledge that four in 10 prisoners typical to the Massachusetts state prison system saw someone killed as a child?

Mr. Western argues that this should force us to reconsider the simplified model of offenders-and-victims, and to allow more second chances to people we peg in the first category.

“The whole ethical foundation of our system of punishment I think is threatened once you take into account the reality of people’s lives,” he said. In the study, the people who had experienced the most extreme childhood trauma and violence also struggled the most in adulthood with drug addiction and mental and health problems. The line between the two is not straightforward. But it’s also not irrelevant.

13) 24 years of marriage today.  Pretty happy with it ;-).

Sometimes, everything actually does work out perfectly

So, Mika was kind enough in comments to ask what happened in the soccer tournament this weekend.  We won, we won!  I was sooooo happy.  We last one this post-season tournament in 2013.  Despite having the best team in our league in the regular season every year but last year (2nd best), we fared no better than 2nd in 2014-2017.  Last year’s winners won all their spring games, then swept the tournament, then had a great party.  And that was it– they were almost all high school seniors.  I was actually pretty happy for them because we had shared a practice field with them for 4 years and knew them well.  And I so much wanted us to go out the same way.  And we did!  We lost to that team in the first game of the tournament last year, won our remaining three games, then had two perfect 8-0-0 seasons this year.  And, finally, followed it up with a first place in the tournament.

And the final was tough.  Due to lots of rain, games were shortened to 20-minutes halves, a much less reliable predictor of the better team than our usual 45 minute halves (which were supposed to be 35 for the tournament).  Anyway, we pulled it out 1-0, but it was actually the only game all year we won by a single goal (most every other we won by 3+).

After the game one of the player’s family’s with a lovely home hosted everybody for a season-ending pool party.  It was so great.  Especially enjoyed all the players saying a few words (and especially good words from my son and frequent blog reader, David) about what the team and the coaches (including my redoubtable assistant and some-time reader of this blog, Larry) meant to them.   And then kind of a receiving line at the end where I got to have a few words with each player, some of whom I’ve coached since they were 11 (and most through all of high school) and watched grow into young men.   It was honestly just perfect.  On the way home, my wife said something along the lines of, “I hope you appreciate just how perfectly this worked out.  Life rarely works out so nicely.”  I do, I do!

As many of you know I’m a pretty big Duke basketball fan.  I’ve always loved the way Coach K says what he really values most is not the winning, but the relationships.  I totally get what he means.  I’ll be honest, I actually like winning more than I should and am probably far more competitive as a Blasters coach than any other aspect of my life.  That said, I have loved, loved, loved watching these player grow and improve not just as soccer players, but as young men.  And I’ve had so much fun with them and will really, really miss it.

For now, the soccer journey continues with Sarah’s (soon-to-be) U8 Tornados.  And believe me, that team shows it is definitely not about the winning.  And you better believe as long as Sarah wants to play, I’ll be coach.

Anyway, this is the reason my Instagram profile says, “Dad, professor, soccer coach, blogger.”

Stop breast feeding

Okay, not really.  But for women who struggle with it for a variety of reasons, they sure shouldn’t beat themselves up that they are somehow handicapping their child’s future.

Imagine a random-assignment, rather than observational study on breast-feeding.  Well, they actually did that in Belarus, and the results are pretty interesting.

Some earlier observational studies have suggested that children who are exclusively breast-fed have higher I.Q.s through adolescence, and even higher incomes at age 30. But a randomized trial, a more rigorous type of study that better controls for socioeconomic and family variables, found that breast-feeding in infancy had no discernible effect on cognitive function by the time children reached age 16.

Researchers studied 13,557 children in Belarus, assigning them as newborns either to a program that promoted exclusive and prolonged breast-feeding or to usual care. Mothers and children were followed with six pediatrician visits during the first year of life to assess breast-feeding habits. The study is in PLOS Medicine.

At age 16, the children took tests measuring verbal and nonverbal memory, word recognition, executive function, visual-spatial orientation, information processing speed and fine motor skills.

There was no difference in scores between the two groups, except that breast-feeders had slightly higher scores in verbal function…

“If you want to breast-feed in hope of increasing cognitive functioning scores, you may find some benefits in the early years,” said the lead author, Seungmi Yang, an assistant professor of epidemiology at McGill University in Montreal. “But the effect is going to be reduced substantially at adolescence. Other factors, such as birth order and parental education, are more influential.”

Quick hits (part I)

1) I love books and as much as I like to shop at Amazon, there’s nothing like a real bricks and mortar book store.  The Greene family loves hanging out at our local Barnes & Noble (and yes, we buy things there).  It would be such a shame for them to go out of business. Dave Leonhardt:

At first glance, this seems like a classic story of business disruption. Barnes & Noble and Borders were once so imposing that they served as the model for the evil corporation trying to crush independent bookstores in the 1998 movie “You’ve Got Mail.” Then the world changed. The old leaders couldn’t keep up. Such is capitalism.

Except that’s not anywhere near the full story.

The full story revolves around government policy — in particular, Washington’s leniency, under both parties, toward technology giants that have come to resemble monopolies. These giants are popular, because they provide good products and service. But they have also become mighty enough to vanquish their competitors and create problems for society.

For most of American history, the government viewed giant corporations of any kind as inherently problematic. Their size gave them too much power — to eliminate competition, raise prices, hold down wages and influence politics. So the government passed laws to restrain businesses and occasionally broke up the largest, like Standard Oil and AT&T.

In the 1970s, however, a new idea took hold: Size was not a problem so long as prices remained low. Bigness could even be good, because it promoted efficiency and thus lower prices. The legal scholar Robert Borkwas the most influential advocate for this view, and it soon guided the Supreme Court, the Reagan administration and pretty much every administration since.

But the theory has two huge flaws, as a new generation of scholars, like Lina Khan, is emphasizing. One, prices are not a broad enough measure of well-being. Wages, innovation and political power matter as well. If prices stay low but wages don’t grow — which is, roughly, what’s happened in recent decades — consumers aren’t better off. Two, regulators have focused on short-term prices, sometimes ignoring what can happen after a company drives out its rivals.

The book business is looking like a case study. Amazon is taking over, yet has never run into antitrust scrutiny. It has reduced prices, after all. It sells many e-books for $9.99 and hardcover best sellers at a big discount. So what’s the problem?

Plenty. Amazon has been happy to lose money on books to build a loyal customer base, to which it can then sell everything else. “Amazon isn’t primarily concerned about books these days,” Oren Teicher, who runs an association of independent bookstores, told me. “They are far more focused on getting consumers into their ecosystem so they can sell them every other product under the sun.”

But the artificially low prices have created a raft of problems. Fewer books are commercially viable. Publishers are focusing on big-name writers. The number of professional authors has declined. The disappearance of Borders deprived dozens of communities of their only physical bookstore and led to a drop in book sales that looks permanent.

All the while, many writers and publishers are afraid to criticize Amazon. They’re not being completely paranoid, either. When publishers have fought Amazon, it has sometimes punished them by disrupting sales. Internally, Amazon executives have described small publishers as a “gazelle” — and itself as a cheetah.

2a) Excellent 60 Minutes segment on the problem with prescription drug prices.  1) Obscene greed at the expense of suffering human beings, and 2) an American health care system that legally prevents proper price controls (like exists in most of the rest of the world) to allow that extreme greed.

2b) Drum on the insane, only-in-America, variance in MRI prices:

The price [for an MRI[ varies from about $400 to $2,800 at different hospitals. But even within a single hospital, the price varies between $500 and $1,800 depending on who your insurer is. That’s because some insurers are able to negotiate better deals than others. Needless to say, these differences may very well translate into different copays and different out-of-pocket costs for patients. And if you have a high-deductible plan, that can mean thousands of dollars.

This might all seem kind of crazy, but it’s the free market at work. And thank God for that. If we had the government interfering and setting prices, everyone would be paying the identical $380 Medicare price for a lower limb MRI, just like they do in France and Japan. There’s no telling what havoc this could wreak on the salaries of hospital CEOs.

3) Fathers who exercise have smarter babies.  At least among mice.  Damn, epigenetics is fascinating stuff.

4) Research from my graduate school friend David Kimball on how stereotypes of voter fraud are (unsurprisingly) inextricably linked with racial stereotypes.

5) George Will is no fan of Mike Pence:

It is said that one cannot blame people who applaud Arpaio and support his rehabilitators (Trump, Pence, et al.), because, well, globalization or health-care costs or something. Actually, one must either blame them or condescend to them as lacking moral agency. Republicans silent about Pence have no such excuse.

There will be negligible legislating by the next Congress, so ballots cast this November will be most important as validations or repudiations of the harmonizing voices of Trump, Pence, Arpaio and the like. Trump is what he is, a floundering, inarticulate jumble of gnawing insecurities and not-at-all compensating vanities, which is pathetic. Pence is what he has chosen to be, which is horrifying.

6) And Dana Milbank is no fan of Tom Cotton (and honestly, what decent, non-totally-xenophobic) person is?

7) This NYT feature on first-person accounts of the grey areas of sexual consent was disturbing in so many ways.  And, not to get all moralistic, but, two things… 1) stop getting so damn drunk and then having sex, and 2) is it so crazy to think maybe you should know somebody at least a bit before you have sex?

8) Virginia shows the way on fighting the Opioid crisis and it’s not complicated: treat it like the public health issue it is and use Medicaid.

9) As somebody with -10 vision, damn do I appreciate what my glasses do for me.  I hate to think of all the people desperately in need of glasses who cannot get them.  We should definitely do more in this area.  Also, damn are glasses obscenely over-priced in America.

10) Now that’s what you call a headline, “She was told her perpetually runny nose was from ‘allergies.’ It was a brain-fluid leak.”

11) Loved this interview about “bullshit jobs.”  So glad I don’t have one:

Sean Illing

What are “bullshit jobs”?

David Graeber

Bullshit jobs are jobs which even the person doing the job can’t really justify the existence of, but they have to pretend that there’s some reason for it to exist. That’s the bullshit element. A lot of people confuse bullshit jobs and shit jobs, but they’re not the same thing.

Bad jobs are bad because they’re hard or they have terrible conditions or the pay sucks, but often these jobs are very useful. In fact, in our society, often the more useful the work is, the less they pay you. Whereas bullshit jobs are often highly respected and pay well but are completely pointless, and the people doing them know this.

Sean Illing

Give me some examples of bullshit jobs.

David Graeber

Corporate lawyers. Most corporate lawyers secretly believe that if there were no longer any corporate lawyers, the world would probably be a better place. The same is true of public relations consultants, telemarketers, brand managers, and countless administrative specialists who are paid to sit around, answer phones, and pretend to be useful.

A lot of bullshit jobs are just manufactured middle-management positions with no real utility in the world, but they exist anyway in order to justify the careers of the people performing them. But if they went away tomorrow, it would make no difference at all.

And that’s how you know a job is bullshit: If we suddenly eliminated teachers or garbage collectors or construction workers or law enforcement or whatever, it would really matter. We’d notice the absence. But if bullshit jobs go away, we’re no worse off.

12) If you read one thing this weekend, read the story of the 19-year old Ukrainian who posed as an American high school student.  Amazing story.

Quick hits (part I)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10) Some very cool visualizations of segregation in America.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quick hits (part I)

1) Pretty intrigued by how amazingly gigantic windmills are manufactured and used to generate power.

2) Helaine Olen on how Ronny Jackson sums up the Trump presidency:

Actually, the Ronny Jackson mess is entirely Trump’s fault. And it’s basic to his way of doing business. In fact, it represents a great deal of what we’ve come to expect from this presidency.

If it turns out the Trump administration did conduct due diligence on the appointment, it won’t matter. Because Jackson should never have been nominated for this position in the first place — which highlights how often Trump attempts to appoint people to positions they have no business being in.

Remember Andy Puzder, the former CEO of CKE Restaurants, the would-be secretary of labor whose fast food outlets were a mess of labor-law violations but who was undone by allegations he abused his first wife? Or Betsy DeVos, who couldn’t answer basic questions about education policy at either her confirmation hearing or on “60 Minutes“?

Jackson, who is Trump’s personal physician, almost certainly received the nod only because he gave Trump what he wanted — obeisance…

That brings us to another less than savory part of Trump’s presidency: He presides over Cabinet and staff meetings where courtiers — oops, I mean Cabinet secretaries and other appointees — regularly describe serving him in cloyingly obsequious terms (a “blessing”) and ooze praise for the successes of his presidency.

So Trump picked Jackson despite his lack of significant administrative experience, something one might think necessary to successfully run an agency such as the VA, which has more than 375,000 employees. It appears no one bothered to run anything more than a cursory background check, so they missed the allegations that started surfacing over the past couple of days, such as creating a hostile work environment, overprescribing of medication and on-the-job boozing…

Complaining, as some pundits are doing, that the White House didn’t conduct proper vetting is to miss the point. The real problem is that his requirements for service are the opposite of good governance. We don’t know who Trump will nominate to replace Jackson if and when he drops out. But here’s one thing I can promise. Competence won’t even be on the list of requirements for getting the job.

3) I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that I’m really not much of a drinker.  And I’ve been perfectly willing to forego whatever health benefits moderate alcohol consumption may bring.  It now looks, though, that whatever those health benefits are, they have probably been overstated.

4) In a more normal political world, Mick Mulvaney’s shocking/not-shocking confession would be getting a lot more play:

THE BIG IDEA: Mick Mulvaney said the quiet part out loud.

“We had a hierarchy in my office in Congress,” the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said Tuesday at the American Bankers Association conference in Washington. “If you’re a lobbyist who never gave us money, I didn’t talk to you. If you’re a lobbyist who gave us money, I might talk to you.” [emphases in original]

Mulvaney, who represented South Carolina in the House from 2011 until President Trump appointed him as director of the Office of Management and Budget in 2017, told the 1,300 industry executives and lobbyists that they should push lawmakers hard to pursue their shared agenda.

5) So, I don’t think the Fresno State professor who had the extremely nasty and disrespectful comments about Barbara Bush should have any official punishment from her university, but certainly seems like her opprobrium is deserved.  We may take our “don’t speak ill of the dead” taboo too far sometimes, but this is just so uncivil and mean-spirited.

6) Maybe these Republican teachers in Arizona who want to raise taxes to fund teacher salaries need to re-think their partisanship given that the sine qua non of the Republican Party is tax cuts.

7) Speaking of which, David Roberts lays out the case for why Republican never-Trumpers need to vote Democratic:

All the momentum on the right is in the same direction, toward white grievance and lawlessness — in other words, in precisely the direction Taylor identifies as an existential threat to American democracy. The party has been beaten along the way (2006, 2008, 2012), but it has not flinched. Conservative elites wrote a whole elaborate plan for reformafter the 2012 election, counseling a softening on immigration (ha ha). The party utterly ignored and repudiated it.

I know it is difficult for principled conservatives to see it like this, but the GOP’s devolution toward ethnonationalist populism can be traced all the way back to President Ronald Reagan, or earlier. And though it has zigged and zagged, occasionally paused, it has generally accelerated in the direction of radicalism…

Like it or not, there are only two parties that matter in the US. For a Trumpist GOP to lose, the Democratic Party must win. ‘Tis math.

So Taylor should suck it up and vote for Democrats — not because he likes their policies, but because the alternative is an existential threat.

8) The Greene family loves BattleBots.  So excited for a new season in a couple weeks.  And love this Wired article on the physics of different types of battlebots.

9) Really, really liked Saletan speaking from experience on the race and IQ debate:

I’ve watched this debate for more than a decade. It’s the same wreck, over and over. A person with a taste for puncturing taboos learns about racial gaps in IQ scores and the idea that they might be genetic. He writes or speaks about it, credulously or unreflectively. Every part of his argument is attacked: the validity of IQ, the claim that it’s substantially heritable, and the idea that races can be biologically distinguished. The offender is denounced as racist when he thinks he’s just defending science against political correctness.

I know what it’s like to be this person because, 11 years ago, I was that person. I saw a comment from Nobel laureate James Watson about the black-white IQ gap, read some journal articles about it, and bought in. That was a mistake. Having made that mistake, I’m in no position to throw stones at Sullivan, Harris, or anyone else. But I am in a position to speak to these people as someone who understands where they’re coming from. I believe I can change their thinking, because I’ve changed mine, and I’m here to make that case to them. And I hope those of you who find this whole subject vile will bear with me as I do.

Here’s my advice: You can talk about the genetics of race. You can talk about the genetics of intelligence. But stop implying they’re the same thing. Connecting intelligence to race adds nothing useful. It overextends the science you’re defending, and it engulfs the whole debate in moral flames.

I’m not asking anyone to deny science. What I’m asking for is clarity. The genetics of race and the genetics of intelligence are two different fields of research…

It’s one thing to theorize about race and genes to assist in disease prevention, diagnosis, or treatment, as Reich has done. But before you seize on his essay to explain racial gaps in employment, ask yourself: Given the dubiousness of linking racial genetics to IQ, what would my words accomplish? Would they contribute to prejudice? Would they be used to blame communities for their own poverty? Would I be provoking thought, or would I be offering whites an excuse not to think about the social and economic causes of inequality?…

No, data aren’t racist. But using racial data to make genetic arguments isn’t scientific. The world isn’t better off if you run ahead of science, waving the flag of innate group differences. And if everyone is misunderstanding your attempts to simultaneously link and distinguish race and IQ, perhaps you should take the hint. The problem isn’t that people are too dumb to understand you. It’s that you’re not understanding the social consequences of your words. When you drag race into the IQ conversation, you bring heat, not light. Your arguments for scientific candor will be more sound and more persuasive in a race-neutral discussion.

10) Pretty fascinating how a genealogy DNA database led to catching the Golden State Killer.

11) I enjoyed Julia Azari’s 538 piece on how Paul Ryan and Donald Trump are more alike then people give them credit for.  I also really liked this Sides, Tesler, Vacreck piece I had somehow not seen before:

Ingroup identification is generally less prevalent and politically potent for white Americans than it is for other racial groups. We argue, however, that presidential candidates who appeal to racial threats posed to whites from non-whites, such as Donald Trump in 2016, Pat Buchanan in 1996, and George Wallace in 1968, should activate the dormant political power of white consciousness. We show that white consciousness had a significantly stronger impact on evaluations of Trump than on evaluations of eighteen other political figures in two different 2016 surveys. Furthermore, white consciousness was powerfully associated with support for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential primaries—much more so than it was for Mitt Romney in 2012. We also show that white consciousness was more strongly associated with vote choice in the 2016 general election than in prior elections and more strongly associated with support for Donald Trump against Hillary Clinton than it was when other Republican candidates were pitted against Clinton in trial heats. Finally, we show that George Wallace’s and Pat
Buchanan’s prior presidential campaigns also activated white identity. These results suggest that white consciousness can be a potent force in mass political behavior, and could foreshadow a rising white identity politics in the Age of Trump.

12) I’m sticking with Westworld for season 2, but I really wish the writers were as interested in character and story as they were in puzzles.

13) Loved this about what the Terminator gets right and Back to the Future gets wrong about time travel.  Love both movies.

14) I love reading aloud to my kids (really enjoying reading the Hobbit aloud once again, currently).  Plus, science says it’s good:

It’s a truism in child development that the very young learn through relationships and back-and-forth interactions, including the interactions that occur when parents read to their children. A new study provides evidence of just how sustained an impact reading and playing with young children can have, shaping their social and emotional development in ways that go far beyond helping them learn language and early literacy skills. The parent-child-book moment even has the potential to help curb problem behaviors like aggression, hyperactivity and difficulty with attention, a new study has found.

15) Like this from Chait about how Democratic female politicians should avoid the “victim trap”

Last June, Senator Kamala Harris used a televised hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee to mercilessly dismantle Jeff Sessions, the attorney general. Sessions told the committee he could not answer any questions about President Trump, citing a vague “policy.” Using the rapid-fire questioning method she had honed as a prosecutor, Harris forced Sessions to admit he could not describe the policy in any specificity and didn’t even know if it was written down. At several points, Harris so flustered her prey that his former Republican Senate colleagues came to his defense, asking that he be given more time to answer her chain of queries.

I found Harris’s performance highly compelling, not only as a demonstration of effective legislative oversight, but also as a set piece of political theater for a potential presidential candidate in 2020 or beyond. Many liberals took away from the episode something different. The dominant focus of their commentary was the fact that Republican senators interrupted her in order to give Sessions more time to answer her questions. The men-interrupting-women theme fell into a familiar source of social media umbrage. And those reactions, initially registered on social media, formed the basis for much of the coverage that followed. News reports of the hearing produced headlines like “Once Again, Kamala Harris Is Interrupted at a Senate Hearing” (Huffington Post) and “Kamala Harris Is (Again) Interrupted While Pressing a Senate Witness” (New York Times.)

These headlines are not descriptions of Harris’s commanding testimony, or anything she did. They are descriptions of things that were done to her. And while the intent of the people expressing outrage at the interruptions was sympathetic, it probably was not helpful to Harris, or to her political goals. It removed Harris of her agency, and reduced her to the status of victim. This illustrates the degree to which left-wing political discourse can paradoxically have a harmful effect on women who are trying to break political barriers.

16) Wisconsin’s welfare “reform” is just mean.  And not good policy.

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