Kavanaugh and bad faith

I really like that there is a growing consensus among Democratic pundits, elites, bloggers, etc., that today’s Republican Party is fundamentally characterized by bad faith.  You know, it’s not actually going to sway many voters (“hmmm, those Republicans are always acting in bad faith, I’ll vote for Democrats”– nope), but it very much affects how Democratic politicians interact with and respond to Republicans.  And, the more that Democratic elites are consistent in this line, the more this should eventually shape media coverage to reflect that Republicans are acting in bad faith.

Of course, in today’s issue du jour, it really is no exception.  EJ Dionne on Kavanaugh:

In light of the experience of Anita Hill in the 1991 hearings over Justice Clarence Thomas’s nomination, Ford and her lawyers realized that the encounter could become a show trial — of her. They pointed out that some Republican senators had already written her off as “mistaken” and “mixed up.”

So her lawyers told the committee that she wanted an FBI investigation before she testified, which would allow potential witnesses to be interviewed — including an alleged witness who notified the committee that he does not want to testify.

And it is at this point where the suspicion that Republican senators are acting in bad faith cannot simply be dismissed as partisan bias against Kavanaugh.

They argued that the FBI does not undertake such investigations, which was patently untrue, because the FBI went back and investigated Hill’s allegations. The Trump administration could ask for such an inquiry, just as George H.W. Bush’s administration did in the Thomas case 27 years ago.

They expressed outrage that a vote might be postponed by, say, a week or two. This came with little grace from Republican senators who left Justice Antonin Scalia’s seat on the court open for one year and 53 days because they would not even hold a hearing on President Barack Obama’s last nominee, Judge Merrick Garland.

Republicans hate it whenever anyone brings up Garland precisely because the episode is such a clear demonstration of their determination to muscle their way to an ideological majority on the Supreme Court. Hurtling toward a vote on Kavanaugh before November’s elections is part of the same effort. Lisa Banks, Ford’s lawyer, issued a statement Wednesday evening saying, “The rush to a hearing is unnecessary, and contrary to the Committee discovering the truth.”

I would not suggest that Democrats never act in bad faith.  But, as with so much in politics, there is a severe asymmetry going on here, and, unfortunately, the nature of trying to succeed as a political party with widely unpopular policies and let by an incompetent, dangerous blowhard, seems to really incentive bad faith.

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Trump’s unpopularity

Nice take from Seth Masket:

Zaller [reviewing evidence around Clinton and Lewinsky] concludes that “The public is, within broad limits, functionally indifferent to presidential character.” Though Republicans seemed convinced that mounting evidence against Clinton’s character would  generate a massive political backlash against him, their efforts to remove him from office found little public support. In fact, Clinton remains one of the only presidents to leave office more popular than when he entered.

Can the lesson from the Clinton years also be applied to Trump? The economy under Trump bears some similarity to what it was late in Clinton’s term, with unemployment under 4 percent and consumer sentiment near historic peaks. As Ezra Klein noted a few months ago, Trump is far less popular than he should be given the conditions of the economy.

How much less popular? Monkey Cage editor-in-chief John Sides offered an interesting take on this, noting that. from the 1960s through the 2000s, there was a pretty strong correlation between economic performance and presidential popularity. Judging from this, Trump is around 20 points less popular than he should be…

So this leaves us with two divergent conclusions about Trump’s mysteriously low approval ratings.

  • First, Trump’s own behavior—the tweeting, the bigotry, the insults, etc.—is suppressing his approval ratings. Yes, Clinton showed us that voters are indifferent to presidential character, but as Zaller reminded us, this indifference was “within broad limits.” It’s possible that Trump’s daily assaults on presidential norms lie outside those limits.
  • The second option is that, thanks to party polarization, presidential approval is now unaffected by economic performance.

To me, the first explanation seems more plausible. The results of the 2016 election strongly suggested that the economy still plays a strong role in people’s political evaluations. And it’s not like the nation wasn’t polarized during George W. Bush‘s presidency, which did suffer politically when the economy soured.

This all suggests Trump’s own behavior is costing him and his party dearly…

If Trump were, as the Monkey Cage’s Sides suggested, 20 points more popular, Republicans could expect to lose 23 fewer seats in the House of Representatives. That could easily spell the difference between continued Republican control and a Democratic takeover.

Of course, when one pays attention at all it seems kind of insane that around 40% of the public still supports Trump, but as depressing as that figure is (honestly, if any person ever deserved single-digit approval…) it really does show that Trump is not teflon and is very much sucsceptible to political reality.  He may only drop down to 30% if he shoots someone in broad daylight on 5th Avenue, but those numbers are really bad for a president and really bad for his party.

Supreme Court vs. America?

Leaving aside Kavanaugh uncertainty for the moment, this Brownstein take is spot-on:

If the Senate confirms Kavanaugh, which still appears likely despite sharpening Democratic questions about his honesty, he will cement a five-member majority of Republican-appointed justices. Given their ages, those five justices could control the Supreme Court for the next 15 years or more. Over that period, demographers project, the nation inexorably will grow more diverse in virtually every measurable way, from religious preference to sexual orientation and racial and ethnic composition.
That looks like a surefire formula for heightening conflict. Each of the Republican-appointed justices has demonstrated resistance to measures designed to protect or promote the interests of groups that often have been marginalized in American history, from racial minorities to gays and lesbians. And like a tightening tourniquet, the tension is likely to grow between the opposition of the Republican-appointed justices to laws that they feel unduly disadvantage whites and religiously devout Christians, and the calls from those growing minority groups for greater opportunity and inclusion…

But each also pointedly questioned Kavanaugh over his views on a range of questions relating to race, gender and sexual orientation, from affirmative action in employment and higher education to workplace protections for gays and lesbians. In the process, they underscored all the issues that could grow more volatile as the distance widens between a Republican-majority court and a Democratic coalition increasingly centered on the nation’s growing diversity…
The oldest of the five Republican-appointed justices are Clarence Thomas, 70, and Samuel Alito, 68. With justices now often remaining on the court into advanced age (Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 85 and Kennedy retired just before he turned 82), each man could conceivably serve until around 2035. At that point, Chief Justice John Roberts would be 80, while Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s other appointee, would be 68 and Kavanaugh would be 70. All five are men; all but Thomas is white. All are Christian and are or were raised Catholic.
“If this coalition is as far to the right as expected and lasts for that length of time … then we should have something quite unique,” Adam Feldman, the founder of the Empirical SCOTUS blog, which studies Supreme Court trends, wrote in an email.
Over the many years that same majority could control the court, demographers project the nation will profoundly change around them. The Census Bureau forecasts that the white share of America’s population will steadily decline from about 60 percent now to 54% in 2035, en route to falling below 50 percent in 2045, for the first time in US history. The change will be especially rapid among the young: the Census Bureau projects that the white share will fall below 50% for the under-18 population as soon as 2020, and for the 18-to-34 population shortly before 2030.
Much greater religious diversity is approaching as well. White Christians represented a majority of the population for most of American history, but they have fallen to only about 2-in-5 today…
These exchanges map the terrain of the likely conflicts ahead. If confirmed, Kavanaugh will lock in a Supreme Court majority chosen by Republicans elected primarily by the groups that have long dominated American society but are now shrinking: whites and Christians. That court majority looms as a possible seawall against a rising tide of demands for inclusion among the minority groups growing in size. Even last week’s Judiciary Committee skirmishing may seem muted as those waves crash against the court for many years to come. [emphasis mine]
And, that’s even leaving aside that these several of these Justices will have been appointed by popular-vote losers of the presidential election and confirmed by Senators representing much less than half the American people.

Hurricane panic reaches new levels of insanity!

OMG am I frustrated today.

First, the background.  Here in the Wake County/Raleigh area, we were very much spared the worst of the hurricane.  4-6 inches of rain and wind gusts in the 40’s for periods on Friday and Saturday.  At one point, 10% of the county was without power, but as of this writing, we are at .1%.  There’s been Flash Flood warnings, but no serious flooding in this area that I can find in the news anywhere (or flood maps).  I would say the local situation is pretty equivalent to serious thunderstorms moving through on Friday night.

And yet, NC State has canceled class tomorrow and Wake County public schools have canceled school (and added to the totally un-needed Saturday make-up for last Thursday with a day before Thanksgiving make-up– my kids will be attending neither of those make-up days).  “Ongoing effects of the hurricane” my ass!  The ongoing effects for Wake County are pretty much non-existent.  I swear you would think whoever is in charge gets a bonus for each day of canceled school.  If this exact same weather had been caused by unusually violent thunderstorms, there’s no way school would be canceled tomorrow (or, that all local government operations like weekend classes, museums, libraries, etc., would be closed today, as they are), but “hurricane!” and it seems like anything goes.  And, yes, literal disaster conditions exist in many parts of NC.  But not here!!  It’s like saying, well, how can we have school while kids are dying in the Syrian civil war.

NC State should be super-accommodating of students whose homes were flooded out, of course, but why does that mean the rest of us shouldn’t, you know, actually have an education tomorrow. Meanwhile my son’s classes at Wake Tech were canceled, too.  Presumably they say NCSU and UNC’s over-reaction and said, “hey, no school for us, too!”  At least the former have the excuse of many students who live in affected areas.  Wake Tech is a non-residential community college in a county largely unaffected.  What the hell?!

Sometimes I feel like the only sane person around here.  Except for the positive feedback from my readers– thanks!

Oh, and while I am at it, those Amazon Logistics deliveries are such a joke! (as Nicole pointed out in earlier comments).  I had two packages finally show up, in theory, this morning marked delivered “handed to resident” while the whole family was actually at Krispy Kreme.  What the hell I’ve never had an Amazon package from USPS or UPS mis-delivered (highly unlikely some nefarious neighbor claimed my package in-person).  I’ve already gotten my refund, but what an awful experience.

Damn is it all frustrating, but feels good to get it out.

2018 = “year of the mom”?

Forget the year of the woman, 2018 is the year of the mom:

Male candidates have long been able to use their children to appear more youthful, human and charming: John F. Kennedy, Jr. peeking out from his father’s desk in the Oval Office, Andrew Giuliani antically upstaging his father during his inauguration as mayor of New York.

But female candidates with young children have traditionally faced skepticism: “Who’s going to take care of the kids?” voters ask. Women have tended to wait until children were out of the house to run, or, if they didn’t wait, were advised to keep the kids out of the picture.

This year, with a record number of women running for office and a surge of energy among female voters, candidates are pushing back on that bias, arguing that motherhood not only doesn’t disqualify them, it makes them more qualified.

Voters are connecting with candidates who can understand the jumble of forgotten homework, missed buses, stalled commutes and spilled coffee that is morning in America for many families of working parents.

“You want somebody in Congress representing you that on some level you feel has the same values you do and has the same priorities you do,” said Ms. Sherrill, 46. “I hear a lot of, ‘You remind me so much of myself.’ I think that’s important.”

“If I just said, ‘I’m a helicopter pilot and a federal prosecutor’ they might think I’ve served my country, I’m experienced,” she added. “If I say, ‘And I’m a mom,’ they think I get it. ‘She’s a working mom. That’s tough.’”

Good stuff!  That said, life in politics (like, honestly, life in general for American women) is always more complicated:

Still, attitudes about women and children are never simple. The campaign trail only magnifies the complexities.

“There’s motherhood and lack of motherhood, and both matter,” said Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster who has surveyed voters on attitudes about women with children and without. “While having children has gotten easier, not having children has gotten harder,” she said. “It’s political and it’s cultural. Whenever you’re dealing with culture, people are so judgmental of women.”

Candidates without children, like Lauren Underwood, running for a House seat outside of Chicago, say voters have asked when they intend to have them. Groups trying to increase the number of women in political office advise childless women on the best strategies to convey that they share family values. Stacey Abrams, for instance, shows herself surrounded by nieces and nephews and other extended family in ads in her campaign for governor of Georgia. Talking to voters about the importance of kinship care, she describes how her own parents are raising the children of her brother, who suffers from mental illness.

If 2018 becomes the year we stopped punishing women candidates for having young children, I’ll take that as significant progress.

Quick hits (part II)

Wow– so when was the last weekend I had both part I and part II up at the regularly-scheduled time.  Go me.

1) Fortunately, we really got just a glancing blow from Florence, but many others in NC were not so lucky.  If we had had to evacuate, we would have been fine, but it is not at all so simple for many.  Really enjoyed this take:

In the aftermath of landfall, it might be tempting to condemn the people who stayed behind, but please be gentle. Evacuation, like most disaster resilience actions—and really, like most of life—is easier if you have wealth, health and extensive social networks. Being able to pack up your life and leave takes privileges you may not even realize you have. Everyone is doing the best they can based on their personal context.

It takes money to displace yourself. It takes having somewhere better to go and a way to get there. Having a full tank of gas is a luxury when you live paycheck to paycheck. Spending money up front and then waiting for reimbursement requires that you have the money in the first place, while knowing what expenses are covered and how to file the paperwork requires knowledge not everyone has or has access to.

2) Greg Sargent on the latest polls and the Trump backlash:

The anti-Trump backlash is about to collide violently with the GOP’s structural, counter-majoritarian advantages in this election — and the winner of the clash will decide whether President Trump will be subjected to genuine oversight or will effectively be given even freer rein to unleash more corruption and more authoritarianism, while expanding his cruel, ethnonationalist and plutocratic agenda.

Three new polls this morning confirm that this anti-Trump backlash is running strong, with less than two months to go until the midterm elections:

  • new Quinnipiac University poll finds that Democrats have opened up a 14-point lead in the battle for the House, 52-38. Voters want Congress to be more of a check on Trump by 58 percent to 27 percent.
  • new CNN poll finds that Americans approve of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation by 50-38, a new high in CNN polling. By 61-33, Americans say it is examining a “serious matter that should be fully investigated,” as opposed to the “witch hunt” that Trump rage-tweeted about again this morning.
  • new NPR-Marist poll finds that Democrats lead by 12 points in the battle for the House, 50-38. Trump’s approval is at 39-52, making this the fifth recent poll to put Trump below 40 percent.

Crucially, these polls all dovetail with the basic story we’ve seen throughout this cycle, which is that Trump has provoked a backlash among minorities, young people and college-educated and suburban whites, especially women — and even seemingly among independents — that has powered Democratic victories in unlikely places. The new polling finds the backlash is running strong among these groups right now…

What is remarkable about the current moment is the degree to which Trump’s attacks on our institutions appear to be failing, both as a self-defensive tool and perhaps even as a midterm strategy.

For over a year now, Trump has waged a full-scale assault on the mechanisms of accountability arrayed around him. He has savaged the Mueller probe and law enforcement as riddled with corruption and as orchestrating an illegitimate Deep State conspiracy against his presidency. He has attacked the news media as the “enemy of the people,” by which he means Trump and Republican voters, characterizing the free press as part of of that conspiracy against his presidency and his supporters.

But today’s new polling confirms that these things are not working with the broader electorate. There is broad and growing support for the Mueller investigation. And the Quinnipiac poll shows Americans trust the news media more than Trump to tell them the truth by 54-30, and 69 percent say the media constitutes an important part of democracy. Support for our institutions appears to be holding.

3) Friedman on the GOP’s “Devil’s bargain.”

More and more, I wonder if the disgruntled senior Trump administration official who wrote the anonymous Op-Ed in The Times was actually representing a group — like a “Murder on the Orient Express” plotline where every senior Trump adviser was in on it. Why? Because the article so perfectly captured the devil’s bargain they’ve all struck with this president: Donald Trump is amoral, dishonest and disturbed, a man totally unfit to be president, but, as the anonymous author self-servingly wrote, “There are bright spots that the near-ceaseless negative coverage of the administration fails to capture: effective deregulation, historic tax reform, a more robust military and more.”

That’s the anonymous-G.O.P. credo today: We know Trump is a jerk, but you’ve gotta love the good stuff — you’ve got to admit that his tax cuts, deregulation, destruction of Obamacare and military buildup have fueled so much growth, defense spending and record stock market highs that we’re wealthier and more secure as a country, even if Trump is nuts. So our consciences are clear.

This view is not without foundation. Economic growth and employment have clearly been on a tear since Trump took office. I’m glad about that.

But what if Trump is actually heating up our economy by burning all the furniture in the house? It’s going to be nice and toasty for us — at least for a while — but where will our kids sleep?

4) Nobody legally bound to not-disparage Trump should ever be allowed on TV to discuss him.

5) How conservatives successfully work the refs, facebook style:

Four of Facebook’s chosen fact-checkers—the Associated Press, Factcheck.org, PolitiFact, and Snopes—are widely trusted and nonpartisan. The fifth, the Weekly Standard, has generally high-quality editorial content with a conservative ideological bent. This week, the Weekly Standard used its gatekeeping role in an incredibly troubling way, declaring that a story written by Ian Millhiser of ThinkProgress was false, essentially preventing Facebook users from accessing the article…

Unfortunately, Facebook has now given the Weekly Standard what appears to be total veto power over ThinkProgress’ articles. According to a source who spoke to Quartz, Facebook selected the magazine as a fact-checker to “appease all sides”—that is, to convince conservatives that the social network isn’t beset by liberal bias. As a result, a Weekly Standard editor may compel a ThinkProgress writer to “change the headline” or risk losing Facebook traffic. Not because ThinkProgress was wrong, but because the Weekly Standard disagreed with its legal analysis. That is not fact-checking. It is censorship. Indeed, it is the kind of censorship that conservatives wrongly accuse Facebook of foisting upon right-wing outlets.

6) I’m with Drum on Serena Williams

As many people have pointed out, Osaka was playing well and there’s a pretty good chance she would have won regardless. Osaka was up a break, 4-3, and had to hold her serve twice to win the match. After the penalty made it 5-3, it meant she only had to hold her serve once to win. We’ll never know for sure, but there’s no question she was in command of the match both before and after the penalty.

So what’s the conclusion from all this? First, Williams was out of line about the coaching penalty. It’s true that “everyone coaches” and it’s also true that it doesn’t get called a lot. But it does get called, and Mouratoglou’s coaching was far from subtle. The umpire did nothing wrong here.

Ditto for smashing the racket. That was an obvious code infraction.

And that leaves only the third code infraction. This is a judgment call. There’s no question that Williams was ranting and screaming. In one sense, calling a verbal abuse penalty was a no-brainer. On the other hand, it’s the tail end of a grand slam, and some umpires would have just let Williams run out of steam and then allow the match to play out. You could justify either approach, I think.

As for the charge of sexism, I don’t see it. I watch a fair amount of tennis, and I’ve seen men throw temper tantrums. I’ve also seen them get called for it. But with the caveat that I haven’t seen every temper tantrum in recent history,¹ Williams really did have a pretty epic meltdown. I haven’t seen anything like it that I can remember. The penalty may have been a judgment call, but it was a perfectly justifiable judgment call.

If you want to take Serena’s side on this, that’s fine. But please don’t do it on a knee-jerk basis. Williams’s behavior was atrocious, and the umpire, at worst, made a barely incorrect judgment call toward the end of the match. That’s it.

7) Among the most worrisome potential impacts from the massive amounts of rain and flooding from Hurricane Florence in eastern NC is pig manure everywhere.

8) I have a little sympathy for kids who don’t want to do class presentations (even though I never require it myself), but not too much.  Logic like this, does not impress me:

But in the past few years, students have started calling out in-class presentations as discriminatory to those with anxiety, demanding that teachers offer alternative options. This week, a tweet posted by a 15-year-old high-school student declaring “Stop forcing students to present in front of the class and give them a choice not to” garnered more than 130,000 retweets and nearly half a million likes. A similar sentiment tweeted in January also racked up thousands of likes and retweets. And teachers are listening…

“Nobody should be forced to do something that makes them uncomfortable,” says Ula, a 14-year-old in eighth grade, [emphasis mine] who, like all students quoted, asked to be referred to only by her first name. “Even though speaking in front of class is supposed to build your confidence and it’s part of your schoolwork, I think if a student is really unsettled and anxious because of it you should probably make it something less stressful. School isn’t something a student should fear.”

Oh, my.  There’s a reason we don’t let 14-year olds decide what’s best.  I’m with these educators:

But when it comes to abolishing in-class presentations, not everyone is convinced.

“We need to stop preaching to get rid of public speaking and we need to start preaching for better mental health support and more accessibility alternatives for students who are unable to complete presentations/classwork/etc due to health reasons,” one man tweeted.

Some educators agree. “My thoughts are that we are in the business of preparing students for college, career, and civic life. Public speaking is a piece of that preparation,” says Ryan Jones, a high-school history teacher in Connecticut. “Now, some kids (many) are deathly afraid to do it, but pushing outside of comfort zones is also a big part of what we do.”

9) Yes, this Alabama pastor’s protest against Nike really does tell us a lot about “Christianity” for so many conservatives and it’s not pretty.

10) 538’s Perry Bacon, “Americans Are Shifting The Rest Of Their Identity To Match Their Politics.”

We generally think of a person’s race or religion as being fixed — and that those parts of identity (being black, say, or evangelical Christian) drive political views. Most African-Americans vote Democratic. Most evangelical Christians vote Republican. But New York University political scientist Patrick Egan has written a new paper showing evidence that identity and politics operate in the opposite direction too — people shift the non-political parts of their identity, including ethnicity and religion, to align better with being a Democrat or a Republican…

I don’t want to overemphasize the results of these studies. Egan still believes that the primary dynamic in politics and identity is that people change parties to match their other identities. But I think Egan’s analysis is in line with a lot of emerging political science that finds U.S. politics is now a fight about identity and culture (and perhaps it always was). Increasingly, the political party you belong to represents a big part of your identity and is not just a reflection of your political views. It may even be your most important identity.

11) Doctors have a really hard time stopping certain medical practices after it becomes clear they are wasteful or harmful.

12) Nice WP Op-Ed on the latest voter fraud fraud shenanigans from the Trump administration, focused on NC:

IT WAS 5 p.m. on a Friday, just as Labor Day weekend was starting, when, without warning, faxes arrived at North Carolina’s state board of elections and 44 county election boards. The faxes contained a demand so outlandish — and so blatantly in violation of state privacy laws — that several officials assumed they were a hoax. A federal subpoena demanded practically every voting document imaginable, going back years. Absentee, provisional and regular ballots. Registration applications. Early-voting applications. Absentee ballot requests. Poll books.

In fact, it was no hoax. The subpoena sought a list of items which, if satisfied, would force state and local officials to produce at least 20 million documents — in less than four weeks. Prosecutors also demanded eight years of records from the state Division of Motor Vehicles, through which voters are allowed to register to vote. No explanation was provided by Immigration and Customs Enforcement or federal prosecutors, who sought the documents. It is a fishing expedition by the Trump administration to support the president’s repeatedly discredited assertions that voting fraud is widespread, especially by noncitizens casting illegal ballots.

The effect of this expedition, led by Robert J. Higdon Jr., the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, is easy to foresee: This is one more in a long line of GOP efforts to suppress the vote. Members of the state board of elections, split evenly between Democrats and Republicans, voted unanimously to fight the subpoena, which would overwhelm local boards’ administrative capacity. It also would intimidate voters who, with good reason, would fear their votes and other sensitive information were being handed over to federal officials.

13) Really good Pro Publica piece on the growing gap between prosperous cities and those cities left behind:

You might expect regional inequality to self-correct, given how costly and congested the hyper-prosperous cities have become. Instead, the success of these cities feeds on itself, as more employers and highly educated people decide they need to be where the action is. It’s a winner-take-all, rich-get-richer effect. The result is less than ideal for everyone: Those in the winner-take-all cities struggle to get by even with a decent salary, while those in the left-behind cities face demoralizing blight and struggle to find fulfilling work.

This is the exact opposite of what was supposed to happen in the digital age. The internet was supposed to free us to live anywhere. But as Berkeley economist Enrico Moretti foresaw in his 2011 book, “The New Geography of Jobs,” the tech economy in fact encourages agglomeration: Innovation happens best in close proximity, not to mention that it’s easier to make your venture-capital pitch face to face. “It is almost as if, starting in the 1980s, the American economy bifurcated,” Moretti wrote. “On one side, cities with little human capital and traditional economies started experiencing diminishing returns and stiff competition from abroad. On the other, cities rich in human capital and economies based on knowledge-intensive sectors started seeing increasing returns and took full advantage of globalized markets.”

14) Voter Study Group on the hopelessness of third parties:  Pay particular attention to the last point.  Third parties in America are utterly hopeless without major structural changes which the American public is entirely unwilling to embrace. [emphases in original].

Key Findings

  • Two-thirds of Americans want a third party. Sixty-eight percent of Americans say that two parties do not do an adequate job of representing the American people and that a third party is needed.
  • But third-party enthusiasts don’t agree on what that third party should be. About one-third want a party of the center, about one-fifth want a party to the left of the Democrats, and about one-fifth want a party to the right of the Republicans, with the remainder wanting something else. It would take at least five parties to capture the ideological aspirations of Americans.
  • Partisans are not about to abandon their party; most value what makes their party distinct from the other major party. Seventy-seven percent of Americans feel better represented by one party or the other, leaving only 23 percent who are equivocal between the two existing parties. And overwhelming majorities of partisans feel well-represented by their parties (81 percent of Democrats and 75 percent of Republicans) and very poorly represented by the other major party (68 percent of Democrats and 71 percent of Republicans).
  • Americans neither support nor see the necessity for reforms that would help create a multiparty system. Electoral reforms like ranked-choice voting would be necessary for third parties to gain support — even more so given that the actual demand is for multiple additional rather than a single third party. But our research shows little understanding of or support for such reforms. Few make the connection between their stated desire for a third party and the electoral reforms that would make that possible.

15) So, we’re kind of wrong about everything.  The end of the piece mentions Factfulness, which I gave up reading because I actually felt like I already knew pretty much all of it.  My 12-year old son is really enjoying it now, though.

16) Excellent Adam Serwer on the NRA’s problem with Black men shot by police:

Loesch’s reaction is an example of what one might call the “Rice rule,” after Tamir Rice, the 12-year old killed by a white police officer while playing in a park with a toy gun: There are no circumstances in which the responsibility for a police shooting of an unarmed black person cannot be placed on the victim.

At the same time, scolding dead people for being unarmed is standard procedure for the NRA, which attacked Clementa Pinckney, the pastor of Mother Emanuel AME Church, where nine parishioners were massacred by the white supremacist Dylann Roof, for supporting gun control. The group similarly suggested that shootings at Planned Parenthood; at Umpqua Community College in Oregon; in Fresno, California; and at the Capital Gazettein Maryland were so deadly because the victims weren’t armed. The NRA even faulted James Shaw Jr., who prevented a mass shooting at a Waffle House by tackling the shooter, for not being armed while he did it. Ted Nugent, the closest thing the NRA has to a celebrity spokesperson, once called mass-shooting victims “losers” who “get cut down by murderous maniacs like blind sheep to slaughter.”

But the NRA’s conspicuous lack of outrage after the shootings of Philando Castile, Jason Washington, and Alton Sterling, all black men killed by police while in possession of a firearm, suggests an impossible double standard. When armed black men are shot by the police, the NRA says nothing about the rights of gun owners; when unarmed black men are shot, its spokesperson says they should have been armed. To this day, Loesch defends Castile’s shooting as justified—despite the fact that Castile informed the officer he was carrying a firearm. In Washington’s case, Loesch said she was “never going to keyboard quarterback what police are doing.”

17) Really like how Montgomery County, MD is re-thinking “gifted” education.

Quick hits (part I)

So far been pretty lucky with the storm here.  Power was out for about three hours yesterday morning (during which my kids drove me crazy), but other than that, pretty good.  So, you’ll actually have your (rare, these day) on-time Saturday morning quick hits.

1) Oh, to be a pharmaceutical executive and justify price-gouging with your medicine:

In the category of saying the quiet parts out loud, consider this statement by Nirmal Mulye, the chief executive of drug company Nostrum Laboratories: “I think it is a moral requirement to make money when you can … to sell the product for the highest price.”

Mulye was responding to questions posed by the Financial Times about his quadrupling the price of an essential antibiotic to $2,392 per bottle. The drug, nitrofurantoin, is used to treat urinary tract infections. It has been on the market since 1953 and is listed by the World Health Organization as an essential medicine for “basic healthcare systems.”

In his interview with the Financial Times published Tuesday, Mulye defended Martin Shkreli, the former drug company CEO who became the face of the industry’s profiteering in 2015 when he jacked up the price of a generic anti-parasitic drug needed by HIV patients by more than 5,000%. “I agree with Martin Shkreli that when he raised the price of his drug he was within his rights because he had to reward his shareholders,” Mulye told the FT. (Shkreli is currently serving a prison term on fraud charges unrelated to the price hike.)

This is a capitalist economy….We have to make money when we can.

2) Vox’s Zack Beauchamp with a long and depressing tale about Hungary’s gradual move from democracy to authoritarianism.  And the out-group scapegoating behind so much of it.

3) David French on the need to end “qualified immunity” for police and others to violate constitutional rights with impunity.

I’m going to start with a story that will break your heart. In the early morning hours of July 15, 2012, a young man named Andrew Scott was up late, home with his girlfriend. They were playing video games when they heard a loud pounding on the door. Alarmed, Scott grabbed a pistol and opened the door. He saw a man crouching outside in the darkness. Scott retreated, gun still at his side, pointing down to the ground.

Almost instantly, the crouching figure fired his own weapon. The encounter was over in two seconds. Scott lay on the ground, dead. The man who fired? He was a police officer. He was at the wrong house. Andrew Scott was a completely innocent man who had done nothing more than exercise his constitutional right to keep and bear arms in defense of his own home.

As for the officer? Well, not only was he at the wrong house, but he had no search warrant even for the correct house, he had not turned on his emergency lights, and he did not identify himself as police when he pounded on the door.

The officer was never prosecuted. The state ruled that the shooting was “justified” — in part because it said the police had no obligation to identify themselves. Then, when Scott’s estate sued the officer for money damages, the court threw out the lawsuit. A panel from the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal. Then last year the entire court rejected en banc review.

A police officer killed a completely innocent man because of the officer’s inexcusable mistake. He escaped criminal prosecution. And then he even escaped civil liability — because of a little-known, judge-made legal doctrine called qualified immunity.

Sadly, this was but one injustice caused by this misguided doctrine. It will not be the last. But there’s a solution. Judges created qualified immunity, and they can end it. It’s past time to impose true accountability on public servants who violate citizens’ constitutional rights.

4) It is misleading to judge hurricanes primarily by maximum sustained wind.  Something involving total energy or total potential destruction would be better.  That said, this stuff annoys me:

Most people know that the bigger the category, the scarier and more notable a storm.

That rule of thumb has the benefit of being true: It was legitimately worrying when, earlier this week, Hurricane Florence seemed like it might become the first Category 5 storm to strike the East Coast north of Florida. Only 33 Category 5 storms have ever been observed in the Atlantic Ocean, and as President Donald Trump exclaimed last year: “I never even knew a Category 5 existed.”

But this rule can also guide families to ruin, especially if they make a survival decision on the basis of category. A family might decide to ignore an evacuation order since it’s survived a Category 4 storm before. But a storm can be scary and notable without having a high category. That’s because only one trait determines a storm’s categorial intensity: its maximum sustained wind speed.

I don’t doubt we can have better measures.  But the fact is no matter what measures we use, some people are going to act stupidly.  We should not base our measures or media coverage(!!) on the fact that some people will always act stupidly.  Pretty clear that we do with the media coverage.

5) The state of New York is ridiculously bad when it comes to it’s arcane voting laws and the end result is less participation for New Yorkers.  That really needs to change.  On the bright side, an excellent example of how institutional factors affect turnout for my PS 302 students.

6) Generally a fan of Fareed, but this is among his weaker efforts, “The threat to democracy — from the left.”

The real fear that many on the left have is not that Bannon is dull and uninteresting, but the opposite — that his ideas, some of which can reasonably be described as evoking white nationalism, will prove seductive and persuasive to too many people. Hence his detractors’ solution: Don’t give him a platform, and hope that this will make his ideas go away. But they won’t. In fact, by trying to suppress Bannon and others on the right, liberals are likely making their ideas seem more potent. Did the efforts of communist countries to muzzle capitalist ideas work?

Leaving aside the wisdom of the New Yorker festival disinvite, this is a huge mis-reading on Zakaria’s part.  It’s not about suppressing his ideas, but making the statement that they are beyond the pale of acceptable political discourse, due to their white nationalist elements.  Its not fear of the ideas, but rather that there should be some clear lines and that white nationalism is one of them.

7) Relatedly, this essay in the Economist on whether political correctness has gone too far is top notch:

Regardless of how it is labelled, its underlying idea is the same: that measures to increase “tolerance” threaten the liberal, Enlightenment values that have forged the West. Self-styled opponents of political correctness and proponents of free speech may find themselves (mis)quoting Voltaire: “I disapprove what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

When framed like this, it seems utterly reasonable to think that political correctness has the potential to be a menace. Moreover, some aspects of tolerance culture, particularly the actions of students—who frequently draw the ire of such culture warriors—are, in many cases, cloying and precious…

However, some easily-dismissed examples aside, the notion that political correctness has gone too far is absurd. That a man who boasts gleefully about grabbing women by their genitals, mocks disabled reporters and stereotypes Muslims as “terrorists” and Mexicans as “rapists” was able to become the leader of the free world should disabuse anyone of that notion. Indeed those who invoke “political correctness” often use it for more cynical means. It is a smoke screen for regressivism…

These phenomena—invoking “political correctness” as a fig-leaf for naked prejudice, and in spite of evidence to the contrary—find their most troubling embodiment in political figures like Donald Trump and Nigel Farage. [emphases mine] Mr Trump once stated that “the problem [America] has is being politically correct,” and sees himself as a corrective to that. Mr Farage, too, sees himself as a crusader against political correctness.

Both consider themselves to be “taking back” their respective countries from a varied cast of bogeymen: among them elitists, social justice warriors, Muslims and immigrants. Both seem to want to undermine the very institutions that preserve our rights and liberties.

At best, the notion of political correctness having gone too far is intellectually dishonest; a fallacy similar to a straw-man argument or an ad hominem attack. At worst, it serves as a rallying cry to cover up the excesses of the most illiberal in our society.

8) I’m a huge fan of “next generation” nuclear power.  Let’s make it happen.  Nice article in Wired.

Other reactors, like Terrestrial’s molten-salt-cooled design, automatically cool down if they get too hot. Water flows through conventional reactors to keep them from overheating, but if something halts this flow — like the earthquake and tsunami in Fukushima — the water boils off, leaving nothing to stop a meltdown.

Unlike water, salt wouldn’t boil off, so even if operators switched off safety systems and walked away, the salts would keep cooling the system, Irish said. Salts heat up and expand, pushing uranium atoms apart and slowing down the reaction (the farther apart the uranium atoms, the less likely a flying neutron will split them apart, triggering the next link in the chain reaction).

“It’s like your pot on the stove when you are boiling pasta,” Irish said. No matter how hot your stove, your pasta will never get hotter than 212 degrees Fahrenheit unless the water boils off. Until it’s gone, the water is just circulating and dissipating heat. When you replace water with liquid salt, however, you have to get to 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit before your coolant starts to evaporate.

This stuff can sound like science fiction — but it’s real…

In response, these nuclear startups are designing their businesses to avoid horrible cost overruns. Many have plans to build standardized reactor parts in a factory, then put them together like Legos at the construction site. “If you can move construction to the factory you can drive costs down significantly,” Parsons said.

New reactors could also reduce costs by being safer. Conventional reactors have a fundamental risk of meltdown, largely because they were designed to power submarines. It’s easy to cool a reactor with water when it’s in a submarine, underwater, but when we lifted these reactors onto land, we had to start pumping water up to cool them, Irish explained. “That pumping system can never, ever break, or you get a Fukushima. You need safety system on top of safety system, redundancy on top of redundancy.”

Oklo, a Silicon Valley startup, based its reactor design on a prototype that isn’t susceptible to meltdowns. “When engineers shut off all the cooling systems, it cooled itself and then started back up and was running normally later that day,” said Caroline Cochrane, Oklo’s cofounder. If these safer reactors don’t require all those backup cooling systems and concrete containment domes, companies can build plants for much less money.

9) Apple is just done with small (i.e., non-huge) Iphones.  I love my SE.  This makes me sad.  This is actually the one thing that might eventually move me to Android.

10) Watch this Super pod of dolphins.  So cool!

11) Can’t remember if I shared Wirecutter’s guide to adult board games.  Bought Dixit and played it twice already.  The whole family loves it.  Already fans of 7 Wonders and Ticket to Ride.

12) Speaking of playing games, can we play our way to a better democracy?  Yes?

But not all play is created equal. Peter Gray, a developmental psychologist at Boston College, studies the effects of “free play,” which he defines as “activity that is freely chosen and directed by the participants and undertaken for its own sake, not consciously pursued to achieve ends that are distinct from the activity itself.” Guitar lessons and soccer practice are not free play — they are supervised and directed by an adult. But when kids jam with friends or take part in a pickup soccer game, that’s free play.

The absence of adults forces children to practice their social skills. For a pickup soccer game, the children themselves must obtain voluntary participation from everyone, enforce the rules and resolve disputes with no help from a referee, and then vary the rules or norms of play when special situations arise, such as the need to include a much younger sibling in the game. The absence of an adult also leaves room for children to take small risks, rather than assuming that adults will always be there, like guard rails, telling them where the limits of safety lie. Outdoor free play, in mixed-age groups, is the most effective way for children to learn these essential life skills, Professor Gray says…

By the same logic, if we “protect” kids from the small risks and harms of free play, we stunt their ability to handle challenges and recover from failures. When such children arrive at college, we would expect them to perceive more aspects of their new environment as threatening compared with previous generations. We would expect to see more students experiencing anxiety and depression, which is precisely what is happening, according to national surveys and surveys of student counseling centers. These large increases do not just reflect a greater willingness to seek help; there has been a corresponding rise in self-harm,suicidal thinking and suicide among American adolescents and college students.

The second predictable consequence of play deprivation is a reduction in conflict management and negotiation skills. If there is always an adult who takes over, this is likely to create a condition sociologists call “moral dependence.” Instead of learning to resolve conflicts quickly and privately, kids who learn to “tell an adult” are rewarded for making the case to authority figures that they have been mistreated.

It’s easy to see how overprotection harms individuals, but in a disturbing essay titled “Cooperation Over Coercion,” the economist Steven Horwitz made the case that play deprivation also harms liberal democracies. He noted that a defining feature of the liberal tradition is its desire to minimize coercion by the power of the state and maximize citizens’ freedom to create the lives they choose for themselves. He reviewed work by political scientists showing that self-governing communities and democracies rely heavily on conversation, informal norms and local conflict resolution procedures to manage their affairs with minimal appeal to higher authorities. He concluded that self-governance requires the very skills that Peter Gray finds are best developed in childhood free play. [emphasis mine]

13) Even though my daughter is a good reader, we’re having a rough time actually getting her to read every day.  Maybe I should be making her practice math instead:

A large body of research has revealed that boys and girls have, on average, similar abilities in math. But girls have a consistent advantage in reading and writing and are often relatively better at these than they are at math, even though their math skills are as good as the boys’. The consequence? A typical little boy can think he’s better at math than language arts. But a typical little girl can think she’s better at language arts than math. As a result, when she sits down to do math, she might be more likely to say, “I’m not that good at this!” She actually is just as good (on average) as a boy at the math — it’s just that she’s even better at language arts.

Of course, it’s hard to know what’s taking place in the minds of babes. But studies revealing developmental differences between boys’ versus girls’ verbal abilities alongside developmental similarities in boys’ and girls’ math abilities — combined with studies that show that among girls, self-perceived ability affects academic performance — seem to indicate that something like the above dynamic might be going on.

Unfortunately, thinking you’re not very good at something can be a quick path to disliking and avoiding it, even if you do have natural ability. You can begin to avoid practicing it, because to your mind, that practice is more painful than learning what comes more easily. Not practicing, in turn, transforms what started out as a mere aversion into a genuine lack of competence. Unfortunately, the way math is generally taught in the United States — which often downplays practice in favor of emphasizing conceptual understanding — can make this vicious circle even worse for girls.

It’s important to realize that math is, to some extent, like playing a musical instrument. But the instrument you play is your own internal neural apparatus…

All learning isn’t — and shouldn’t be — “fun.” Mastering the fundamentals is why we have children practice scales and chords when they’re learning to play a musical instrument, instead of just playing air guitar. It’s why we have them practice moves in dance and soccer, memorize vocabulary while learning a new language and internalize the multiplication tables. In fact, the more we try to make all learning fun, the more we do a disservice to children’s abilities to grapple with and learn difficult topics. As Robert Bjork, a leading psychologist, has shown, deep learning involves “desirable difficulties.” Some learning just plain requires effortful practice, especially in the initial stages. Practice and, yes, even some memorization are what allow the neural patterns of learning to take form.

Take it from someone who started out hating math and went on to become a professor of engineering: Do your daughter a favor — give her a little extra math practice each day, even if she finds it painful. In the long run, she’ll thank you for it. (And, by the way: the same applies to your son.)

14) Meanwhile, Amanda Ripley looks at why girls in the Middle East outperform boys by so much:

This spring, I went to the Middle East to try to understand why girls are doing so much better in school, despite living in quintessentially patriarchal societies. Or, put another way, why boys are doing so badly.

It’s part of a pattern that is creeping across the globe: Wherever girls have access to school, they seem to eventually do better than boys. In 2015, teenage girls outperformed boys on a sophisticated reading test in 69 countries—every place in which the test was administered. In America, girls are more likely to take Advanced Placement tests, to graduate from high school, and to go to college, and women continue their education over a year longer than men. These are all glaring disparities in a world that values higher-order skills more than ever before. Natasha Ridge, the executive director of the Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi Foundation for Policy Research in the United Arab Emirates, has studied gender and education around the world. In the United Kingdom and the United States, Ridge believes she can draw a dotted line between the failure of boys to thrive in school and votes for Brexit and for Donald Trump. Disengaged boys grow up to become disillusioned men, Ridge says, left out of the progress they see around them.

And the gender gap in the Middle East represents a particularly extreme version of this trend.

“If you give girls a quality education, they will mostly run with it and do amazing things. It propels them,” says Ridge, one of the few researchers to have written extensively about the gender gap in the Arab world. But for boys, especially low-income boys, access to school has not had the same effect. “These boys struggle to find a connection between school and life,” she says, “and school is increasingly seen as a waste of time.”

15) Even liberal political science professors can be racist.  Though, I’m damn sure I’ve never mistaken a Black female political scientist for the hired help and damn sure I never would.

16) Originalism is such crap and pretty much always just a pretext for reaching conservative decisions that fit with a judge’s ideology.  Always happy to read something making this case.

The problem with these appeals to originalism, and the impartiality they connote, is that they have not held true in practice. Which is why to critics, and I’m one of them, the label of originalist strikes us as a cover for imposing conservative value judgments.

Consider that Justice Thomas, along with Justice Scalia, voted to strike down huge swaths of constitutional law without historical justification. Together they invalidated state and federal affirmative action laws, campaign finance legislation, federal laws directing the states to help implement national programs such as background checks for gun purchasers, and many other important pieces of legislation without relying on persuasive originalist evidence.

Justice Gorsuch has only been on the court for a term and a half, but he has already joined with Justice Thomas (and the other conservatives) several times to strike down state laws without relying on originalist sources…

All of which is to say that, for these originalists, originalism didn’t figure very importantly, if at all, in how they cast their votes on some of the court’s most consequential recent cases. Instead, they used, for their own ends, the same type of values-based living constitutionalism that they and other conservative jurists and politicians typically decry.

17) And an interesting take on the politicized Supreme Court, “What’s the Point of the Supreme Court? If you know beforehand how justices will vote based on which president appointed them, then what’s the point of having a court that, in theory, operates above politics?”

18) Jonathan Bernstein is right about the 25th amendment:

If those close to Trump really think he must be removed from office, impeachment and removal are a better tool. The case for abuse of power, obstruction of justice, and generally violating the oath of office may still not be so obvious that it demands congressional action. But impeachment has always been political, and it’s reasonable for Congress to take into account Trump’s general unfitness for office when it decides whether to move ahead. Meanwhile, impeachment has a lower congressional threshold, making it (relatively) easier than relying on the 25th. And it is constitutionally swift and sure, leaving no ambiguity after it happens. 3 It’s true that the anonymous op-ed writer seems at least as concerned with Trump’s violations of conservative orthodoxy, especially on trade, than he or she is with the general lawlessness of the administration. But perhaps that’s just a message for Republicans who refuse to accept what all the other anonymous leakers have told us. At any rate, there’s no reason it should guide anyone going forward.

The bottom line is that the 25th Amendment simply isn’t adequate to the task of removing a president who remains in good enough condition to contest it and wants to do so. Regardless of whether impeaching the president is a serious question, talk of invoking the 25th, even if well-intentioned, is just misguided and dangerous.

19) Discovered this super-cool interactive power outage map today.  You can see the effect of the hurricane in NC and that things get dramatically worse immediately to the southeast of my home, Wake County.

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