In Florida, you can receive a death sentence for shoving someone

Seriously.  Good God these “stand your ground” laws are truly insane.  No, you should not strongly shove some stranger confronting your family in a parking lot, but, if you do, in Florida, that stranger apparently has the right to then shoot you to death.  And it’s all here on video.  I’ll even give the you the guy drawing his gun (this is America), but after he draws his gun, it is crystal clear the shover is no additional threat.  This is an execution.  And legal in Florida!

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri showed a video of a deadly July 19 shooting in Clearwater, Fla., and explained why Florida law protects the shooter. (Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office)

Britany Jacobs sat parked in the handicap spot, right in the middle of Michael Drejka’s pet peeve.

She had just finished up a nursing shift Thursday, and she and her boyfriend, Markeis McGlockton, had a car full of children, all under age 6. So she sent McGlockton and their 5-year-old into a Circle A in Clearwater, Fla., for snacks and drinks while she rested in the parked car — or at least tried to.

Also in the lot was Drejka, a regular at the Circle A who regularly took issue with able-bodied people parking in the reserved spot. He circled Jacob’s car, looking for a handicap decal and, finding none, proceeded to forcefully explain to her the finer points of Florida’s disabled parking regulations.

“He’s getting out like he’s a police officer or something, and he’s approaching me,” Jacobs told the Tampa Bay Times.

Jacobs said the conversation grew heated, drawing the attention of other store patrons, including McGlockton, who abandoned his snack run. He came out of the store, then quickly closed the distance between himself and the man confronting the mother of his children and shoved Drejka to the ground.

That action, and the seconds that followed it, have thrust the dispute over the handicap parking spot into the nationwide debate about “stand your ground” laws.

Now seated on the ground, Drejka reached into his pocket, pulled out a pistol and fired a single shot into McGlockton’s chest, an action shown clearly on surveillance video released by the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.

McGlockton clutched his chest, staggered into the convenience store and collapsed. Later, his girlfriend ran into the store and applied pressure to the bullet wound in an unsuccessful attempt to stop the bleeding.

McGlockton, 28, died a short time later, leaving his family to bury him and the rest of Pinellas County to grapple with the legality of his killer’s actions.

On Friday, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri announced that Drejka would not be arrested or charged with a crime, saying that his actions fell within the legal boundaries of Florida’s “stand your ground” law. Then, in an expansive 30-minute news conference, he tried to explain how the law connected to what was going through Drejka’s mind when he pulled the trigger.

This is insane!  The idea that because somebody shoves you– and may even come back for another shove– gives you the legal right to a lethal response is just nuts and America and its absolute worst.  Ugh.

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Quick hits (part I)

Sorry for the slow week (and the late quick hits), but you’ll be glad to know I had a damn good time at the beach.

1) Enjoyed Adam Gopnik on immigration and France’s World Cup win.

2) Still can’t beat the original Ali G show for me (this may be my favorite clip), but I’m still a big Sacha Baron Cohen fan.  Oh, boy did he make some Republicans look stupid advocating for toddlers to have guns.

3) As much as I wanted to write about Trump and Putin this week, I decided my time was better spent in the Atlantic ocean.  That said, I particularly enjoyed some of the following takes.  Max Boot:

President Trump habitually calls the press “the enemy of the people” — a loathsome calumny, redolent of dictatorships, that he repeated on Sunday. In fact, by asking tough questions at Trump’s joint news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday, reporters once again showed that they are the sentinels of America democracy. If anyone is “the enemy of the people,” it is Trump himself.

Those are words I never thought I would write about an American president — even one as boorish and bigoted as Trump. But after his appalling performance in Helsinki at what CNN’s John King aptly called the “surrender summit,” questions about Trump’s loyalty to the American people will only intensify. Indeed, the question came up at the news conference itself. The Associated Press’s Jonathan Lemire courageously asked “does the Russian government have any compromising material on President Trump or his family?”

Think of how extraordinary — how unprecedented — that moment was. Can you imagine a similar question being asked about any previous U.S. president? I can’t.

4) Drum rounds up a bunch of pretty tough criticism of the “Surrender Summit,” but I could not help but notice how there’s hardly any meaningful criticism from sitting Republican officeholders.  What a bunch of cowards!!

5) James Fallows, “This Is the Moment of Truth for Republicans: The GOP can either defend the United States or serve the damaged and defective man who is now its president.”  Sadly, I think we all know what choice we’ll make.  On some level I understand the desire to hang onto political power, but do these Republicans have no genuine patriotism at all?!

There are exactly two possible explanations for the shameful performance the world witnessed on Monday, from a serving American president.

Either Donald Trump is flat-out an agent of Russian interests—maybe witting, maybe unwitting, from fear of blackmail, in hope of future deals, out of manly respect for Vladimir Putin, out of gratitude for Russia’s help during the election, out of pathetic inability to see beyond his 306 electoral votes. Whatever the exact mixture of motives might be, it doesn’t really matter.

Or he is so profoundly ignorant, insecure, and narcissistic that he did not realize that, at every step, he was advancing the line that Putin hoped he would advance, and the line that the American intelligence, defense, and law-enforcement agencies most dreaded.

Conscious tool. Useful idiot. Those are the choices, though both are possibly true, so that the main question is the proportions.

Whatever the balance of motivations, what mattered was that Trump’s answers during his joint press conference with the Russian president were indistinguishable from Putin’s, starting with the fundamental claim that Putin’s assurances about interference in U.S. democracy (“He was incredibly strong and confident in his denial”) deserved belief over those of his own Department of Justice (“I think the probe is a disaster for our country”)…

Trump manifestly cannot help himself. This is who he is.

Those who could do something are the 51 Republican senators and 236 Republican representatives who have the power to hold hearings, issue subpoenas, pass resolutions of censure, guarantee the integrity of Robert Mueller’s investigation, condemn the past Russian election interference, shore up protections against the next assault, and in general defend their countryrather than the damaged and defective man who is now its president.

6) David Remnick (who damn well knows Russia):

At the press conference in Helsinki, Trump proved himself, at best, a heedless amateur, blind to the bogus arguments and offers being made by a shrewd adversary. “President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today, and what he did is an incredible offer,” Trump said. “He offered to have the people working on the case come and work with their investigators with respect to the twelve [Russian intelligence officers who were indicted by Mueller]. I think that’s an incredible offer.” Incredible is the word, and not just for the offer. Trump’s incredible journey to Europe was an act contrary to the interests of his country. Now we will see who, particularly in the Republican Party, will stand up not to applaud the Great Leader but to find the capacity to say what is obvious and what is true.

7) All that said, I did enjoy Douthat’s more temperate take (though it is still plenty damning):

And what about the election-season contacts with suspicious Russian nationals and WikiLeaks, the Don Jr. meeting and the Roger Stone forays? In this theory they’re indicators that Trump, a shady guy surrounded by shady guys and professional morons, might well have colluded given the opportunity — but they don’t prove that any such opportunity presented itself. After all, neither the hacking nor the leaking of emails required his campaign’s cooperation, so there was no reason for the Russian side to advance beyond a deniable low-level meeting and WikiLeaks D.M.s, and thus no real opportunity for the Trump team to be a true accessory to the underlying crime.

This narrative does not exonerate Trump; indeed, it provides various grounds to condemn him. But those grounds are the same grounds that were obvious during the campaign: We watched him blow kisses to dictators then, complain about our allies then, promise a détente with Russia while exploiting the D.N.C. hacking then, double and triple down on falsehoods and bogus narratives then, cling to self-destructive feuds (the Khans, Alicia Machado) in the same way that he clings to public flattery for Putin … and after all this, he was still elected president. So be appalled when he behaves appallingly, but do not be surprised, do not confuse Trump being Trump with Trump being treasonous — and recognize that he isn’t leaving office until you beat him at the polls.

Overall it’s a theory that fits Trump’s personality extremely well, fits the available facts reasonably well, and doesn’t require any new revelations or heretofore-hidden conspiracies. So I continue to give it a … (consults extremely scientific methodology) … 65 percent chance of being the truth.

8) And, then, there”s the red-headed Russian spy, Maria Butina.

9) Okay, switching gears…  What do transgender men have to tell us about the reality of gender in America.  I found the intersection with race particularly interesting:

One night somebody crashed a car into my neighbor’s house, and I called 911. I walk out to talk to the police officer, and he pulls a gun on me and says, “Stop! Stop! Get on the ground!” I turn around to see if there’s someone behind me, and he goes, “You! You! Get on the ground!” I’m in pajamas and barefoot. I get on the ground and he checks me, and afterward I said, “What was that all about?” He said, “You were moving kind of funny.” Later, people told me, “Man, you’re crazy. You never call the police.”

I get pulled over a lot more now. I got pulled over more in the first two years after my transition than I did the entire 20 years I was driving before that. Before, when I’d been stopped, even for real violations like driving 100 miles an hour, I got off. In fact, when it happened in Atlanta the officer and I got into a great conversation about the Braves. Now the first two questions they ask are: Do I have any weapons in the car, and am I on parole or probation?

10) I should’ve probably spent a little more time in the ocean, but had such a hard time pulling myself away from what is now one of my favorite books ever.  Tom Sweterlich’s The Gone World, was just unbelievably brilliant and one of those books that stick with you so much.  I recognize that time travel books aren’t for everybody, but, damn did this book hit all my sweet spots from dystopia, to time travel, to the meaning of identity, to murder investigation, to great plotting, to terrific characters.  Wow.  If you are inspired and read it, please let me know what you think.  Of the many reviews I read, I think the Kirkus one sums it up best:

Sweterlitsch’s latest (Tomorrow and Tomorrow, 2014, etc.) is a mind-blowing fusion of science fiction, thriller, existential horror, and apocalyptic fiction.

Initially set in 1997, the story revolves around Shannon Moss, a federal agent with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service who is assigned to track down a missing girl whose family has been brutally murdered in their home in southwestern Pennsylvania. When Moss realizes the potential killers are missing astronauts whose spaceship vanished while on a black ops mission called Deep Waters, involving time travel, she must figure out how members of a lost crew are now suddenly living clandestinely as domestic terrorists in America. An undercover time traveler herself for the Naval Space Command—she even lost part of her leg exploring a far-future Earth—Moss must track down the killers as the looming darkness of the Terminus, the death of humankind that is at the end of almost every Deep Waters journey, moves ever closer. The power of this novel is twofold: Sweterlitsch’s intricately plotted storyline will keep readers on the edges of their seats until the very last pages, and his extended use of bleak imagery coupled with his lyrical writing style make for an intense and unforgettable read.

11) So, this was interesting.  Dave Leonhardt highlighted the Weekly Standard cover story on the hazards of marijuana.  Had no idea that my friend from freshman year at Duke, Tony Mecia, was now a conservative writer (I do remember him being very conservative way back then, though).  Anyway, I didn’t give a full read, but from my perspective…1) of course there are downsides to marijuana use and it is foolish to pretend otherwise, but 2) those downsides are far less than that for many other mind-altering drugs and it is intellectually dishonest to not at least consider the substitution effect of using marijuana in place of more harmful drugs– including alcohol!

 

 

 

Why the Republican Party doesn’t elect women

Really enjoyed this feature in 538, especially as it included the research of my co-author, Laurel Elder, who does cool research without me (the converse not proving true):

There has been a lot of buzz recently about the wave of women running for office in 2018. It’s record-breaking. But that’s not quite right. At least, it’s too broad.

There are a lot of Democratic women signing up as candidates and winning primaries, particularly for the U.S. House. So far this cycle, according to the Center for Women and American Politics at Rutgers University, 350 Democratic women have filed to run for the House, compared with 118 Republican women. Democratic women have won 105 House primaries, compared with just 25 by Republican women.

That pattern isn’t new. The overall male skew of Congress gets a lot of attention, and rightly so, but that skew looks very different in each party. There are almost three times as many Democratic women as Republican women serving in Congress — and November’s elections might exacerbate the disparity. A Democratic wave could both send many more Democratic women to Congress and also end the careers of several Republican female incumbents…

But this partisan gender gap isn’t just a 2018 thing. The overall gender gap in Congress is fueled and exacerbated by a more specific phenomenon: Few Republican women make it to Congress — or even run in the first place. You can’t understand — or change — Congress’s male bent without accounting for the dearth of GOP women, in particular, getting elected. And it’s not just Congress — Republican women are getting elected at lower numbers than Democratic women to state legislatures, a key stepping stone for people who eventually get to Capitol Hill.

“The Republicanism of a state’s electorate remains a strong, significant predictor of fewer women among Republican [state] legislators,” Hartwick College’s Laurel Elder wrote in an essay that was part of an anthology published this year called “The Right Women,” which chronicled the state of women in the GOP.

“This finding is stunning, as it suggests that the Republican Party itself and the increasingly conservative ideology it has come to embrace is the biggest barrier to women’s representation within the party,” she added.

Indeed, most of the progress toward gender parity in Congress that has been made over the last few decades is due to Democrats; the number of GOP women has increased, but not nearly as much.

And the ideological reality of the parties and of gender mean this will not be easy to overcome any time in the near future:

Women in state legislatures in both parties tend to be more liberal than their male counterparts, according to Thomsen’s analysis of their voting records. This puts female Democrats toward the left-leaning end of their party, while female Republicans are not in the rightward bloc of the GOP. “The ideologues are much more likely to run, and they are much more likely to be men. They are really unlikely to be Republican women,” Thomsen said.

“The research I’ve done suggests that the primary campaign is the toughest hurdle for Republican women to get through, and many do not run, knowing they will not make it through the primary — where voters tend to be far more conservative than the Republican Party at large,” said Shauna Shames, a political science professor at Rutgers who specializes in studying the role of race and gender in and politics.

And even if potential female GOP candidates are as conservative as their male counterparts, voters may think they are less conservative. “There is some scholarly evidence that voters tend to perceive female politicians as more liberal than men,” Hopkins said. “This perception makes it harder for women to win votes in Republican primaries when running against male opponents, because the ideological nature of the Republican Party leads its voters to treat the relative conservatism of the candidates as an important consideration in making electoral choices.”

It’s great that there are so many more Democratic women running, but if we want to get anywhere near 50% (and practically-speaking, I think 40% would be a great goal because it would fundamentally change the institution), we’ve got to get more Republican women, too.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Nice, disturbing NYT feature of pregnancy discrimination in major American companies.

2) I didn’t know you could make ice cream in a plastic bag.  Cool!  That said, I’m pretty happy with the results we get from this.

3) Why do we keep having food-borne illness problems.  Because, unsurprisingly, we need more regulation:

After that, the industry developed the Leafy Green Marketing Association, to start training growers on the best hand-washing and anti-contamination practices. And in 2011, President Barack Obama signed the Food Safety Modernization Act into law, compelling the FDA to develop regulations for water safety on produce. It took four years after that, however, for the FDA to enact the regulations—and they only require very large farms, rather than all farms, to sample and test the water used to grow and clean produce. Today, those regulations are still being phased in—meaning some farms have started monitoring programs, and others have not. No farms are required to report their data to the FDA until next year.

While the LGMA insists its member growers go above and beyond to ensure water safety regardless of regulations, Detwiler believes that’s not the case. “Do you know how many corporate officers have gone to prison for flouting health and safety rules that led to people’s deaths?” he asked. “Three—and the largest sentence ever handed down was three months.” That’s why Detwiler believes farmers don’t have enough incentive to ensure water safety. “If I’m a farm owner, I ask myself: Do I pay to have a third party lab to test these water samples on a regular basis for me to use this water? Or do I consider the small likelihood of someone being able to tie the problem back to me, and decide against it?”

4) I liked Yglesias take on how accepting we’ve become of just how radical Republicans have become:

More broadly, the Kavanaugh view that the Constitution grants powerless individuals little in terms of democratic participation but powerful interests much in terms of exemption from regulation is a very normal Federalist Society view.

But that’s exactly the problem. The American constitutional order is very robust against any effort by an eccentric madman to build a personalized dictatorship. But it’s very vulnerable to the efforts of a disciplined minority to entrench itself in power…

But the party has, as a whole, made a collective and unanimous decision that they are all on the same team and fighting for the same cause. It’s a cause they’ve given up on securing majority support for, but believe can be effectively advanced through gerrymandering, filibusters, judicial review, vote suppression, cable news propaganda, etc. It’s high time to take them at their word that, all things considered, they think this is a good way to go.

Putting Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court is very normal Republican politics, and that’s exactly the problem.

5) This Radley Balko column is so disgusting and depressing and America at it’s worst.  Ugh.  “An Arkansas man complained about police abuse. Then town officials ruined his life.”

6) Michele Goldberg on Republicans and sexual assault/harassment:

Donald Trump just hired Bill Shine, who was forced out of Fox News in the aftermath of sexual harassment scandals there. He will be deputy chief of staff for communications. As of this writing, seven men say that an influential Republican congressman, Jim Jordan of Ohio, knew about the widespread sexual abuse of athletes when he was an assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State University, and did nothing to stop it. Jordan has alternately denied any knowledge of abuse and dismissed what he did hear as “conversations in a locker room.” Many of Jordan’s conservative colleagues continue to publicly support him, as does Trump. Last week Trump made a gross, sexually demeaning joke about a female senator, but most of the public seemed too exhausted to make a fuss.

Amid the flood of personal stories of sexual coercion that has marked the #MeToo movement, we learned how often people — particularly women — will submit to sex they don’t want because men wear them out with entitled demands. In the face of men bent on violation, maintaining one’s own boundaries takes energy, and sometimes it flags. It feels as if we’re now experiencing something similar as a nation…

That may be why Jordan believes he can brazen out his own sex scandal. (Some of his allies, taking a page from Trump, are claiming that accusations against him are part of a “deep state” conspiracy.) You might think that Republicans would be wary of a story involving a congressman and the sexual molesting of student wrestlers. It was only two years ago that the former Republican House speaker Dennis Hastert admitted to molesting teenage wrestlers when he was a wrestling coach, before going to prison.

But who can remember 2016? Who can remember December? Without the force of law behind it, #MeToo can create change only in institutions that are susceptible to shame, and the Trump administration is shameless. After all, if Trump cared about the American people’s consent, he’d resign.

7) NC State Sociology professor and friend, Sarah Bowen (and her co-authors), with an excellent and important NYT-Op, “If Congress Changes Food Stamp Requirements, Kids Will Go Hungry.”

8) Metformin is a pill that sounds too good to be true, but might also actually be true.

9) Emily Yoffe again brings a sober, thoughtful take to issues of sex and sexual assault and American society in looking at Harvey Weinstein and other high profile sexual malefactors.

As one viral post by Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg put it: “The 1992 presidential race was once summed up in a pointed phrase: ‘It’s the economy, stupid.’ Today, as headlines are dominated by stories about sexual harassment and sexual assault at work, a similar phrase comes to mind: ‘It’s the power, stupid.’” Former Vice President Joe Biden reprised the theme in a speech honoring campus activists. “This is not about sex,” he said. “This is about power. Usually fat, ugly men using their power, as you saw with that creep”—a clear reference to Harvey Weinstein…

To leave the sex out of the conversation is to be blinkered about the sexual psychopathology that can upend people’s lives. Abuse of power is indeed intrinsic to the Me Too stories. But power alone does not explain why a man would choose to masturbate into a potted plant in front of a horrified woman rather than have sex with a willing one. Only when we examine the sexual aspect of these violations will we understand fully what is going on—and how to address it.

10) Somebody might want to tell Paul Ryan about this little thing called a veto override.  Damn, I hate that man more than ever.

11) OMG the ATT exec taking over HBO is a moron.  HBO’s value lies in the fact that it has a tremendous reputation for quality discerning viewers subscribe and give it’s shows a chance.  His idea is to make it like Netflix.  Sorry, you simply cannot produce shows at the volume of Netflix and maintain a reputation for consistent

12) This is true and indeed concerning, “The community newspaper is America’s vigilant guardian, and it’s under siege.”

13) Good God Russia’s plan to influence American politics is insidious:

Russia’s information attack against the United States during the 2016 election cycle sought to take advantage of the greater trust that Americans tend to place in local news.

The information operatives who worked out of the Internet Research Agency in St. Petersburg did not stop at posing as American social media users or spreading false information from purported news sources, according to new details.

They also created a number of Twitter accounts that posed as sources for Americans’ hometown headlines.

NPR has reviewed information connected with the investigation and found 48 such accounts. They have names such as @ElPasoTopNews, @MilwaukeeVoice, @CamdenCityNews and @Seattle_Post.

“A not-insignificant amount of those had some sort of variation on what appeared to be a homegrown local news site,” said Bret Schafer, a social media analyst for the Alliance for Securing Democracy, which tracks Russian influence operations and first noticed this trend.

Another example: The Internet Research Agency created an account that looks like it is the Chicago Daily News. That newspaper shuttered in 1978.

The Internet Research Agency-linked account was created in May 2014, and for years, it just posted local headlines, accumulating some 19,000 followers by July 2016.

Another twist: These accounts apparently never spread misinformation. In fact, they posted real local news, serving as sleeper accounts building trust and readership for some future, unforeseen effort.

14) Love this takedown on the doctrine of originalism which pretends to be all about judicial humility and consistency, but ends up being about justifying Conservative judicial decisions.

15) Speaking of which, loved John Cassidy on Kavanaugh and why liberals should be angry:

At the risk of giving yourself a headache, consider some counterfactuals. Absent the Supreme Court’s 5–4 ruling, in 2000, under Chief Justice William Rehnquist, to halt the Florida recount and allow the election of a Republican President who lost the popular vote, John Roberts and Samuel Alito might not be sitting on the Court today. If, in 2016, Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, had adhered to precedent and allowed filibusters on the nomination of Merrick Garland, Gorsuch might well not be a Justice, either. And but for the quirks of the Electoral College nullifying Hillary Clinton’s almost three-million-ballot margin of victory in the popular vote, Kavanaugh would still be a relative unknown.

If these points sound like the complaints of sore losers, they are. But Democrats, Independents, and anybody else who cares about the functioning of American democracy have good reason to be sore. There is no majority of voters out there clamoring for a ban on abortion, restrictions on collective bargaining, roadblocks to legal claims against big companies, or the purging from the electoral rolls of voters who skip a couple of elections. These are the concerns of smaller groups, with strong ties to the Republican Party, whose interests will be disproportionately represented…

By slowly fashioning a ruling conservative bloc on the Supreme Court, the Republican Party has carefully exploited the biases and shortcomings of the political system. Ultimately, that is what makes the prospect of Kavanaugh’s ascension so objectionable. It wouldn’t just cement in place a reactionary and unrepresentative majority. It would be the latest act in an anti-democratic (small “d”) heist.

16) Finally got around to the Atlantic cover story on how being a gender-confused adolescent can be more complicated than is always portrayed.  I found it thoughtful and fair.  Now that I’ve read the article, I’m especially unimpressed with the line of attack given time on The Gist (though with excellent pushback from Pesca).

Quick hits (part I)

1) Maps of Israeli settlements that shocked Obama.

2) When you consider the economy, Trump is really unpopular.  Ezra Klein:

3.8 percent unemployment and 42 percent approval. Is that “winning”?

Here’s another way to think about this question: Would President Marco Rubio or Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders or Mitt Romney be at 42 percent amidst 3.8 percent unemployment? I doubt it. But I also can’t prove it.

The strongest argument Allen and VandeHei make, in my view, is that Trump, for all his erratic behavior, is registering numbers in line with some past presidents. They note that at this point, Barack Obama was at 46 percent, Bill Clinton was at 46 percent, Ronald Reagan was at 45 percent, and Jimmy Carter was at 43 percent. This makes Trump’s performance sound, if not impressive, at least normal.

What they fail to note is that all those presidents were managing much more troubled economies than Trump. In June of their second year, the unemployment rate was at 9.4 percent for Obama, 6.1 percent for Clinton, 9.6 percent for Reagan, and 5.8 percent for Carter. (And this understates how bad the economy was, given stagflation and the other aftereffects of the OPEC oil embargo.)

And Allen and VandeHei leave out both George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. While there were foreign policy dynamics present in their presidencies that make them a tricky fit, I’m not sure they’re worse comparisons than Trump’s combination of peace abroad and extremely low unemployment and high stock prices at home.

According to Gallup, they were at 63 percent and 76 percent approval, respectively, at this point. (It must gall Trump that both Presidents Bush, given how little regard he has for their political skill, were so much more popular at this point in their terms than he is.)

Another way to think about this question is to look at the last time the economy was at 3.8 percent unemployment amid a record stock market. That was in April of 2000, when Bill Clinton registered a 59 percent Gallup approval rating — 17 points above where Trump is now.

3) (Don’t miss this EMG) The anti-vaxxers take on a horse vaccine for the super-deadly Hendra virus (I learned about this in the great book, Spillover).  

4) Is there nothing NC Republicans won’t do to try and prop up their candidates?!

5) And speaking of that last sentence, yeah, the interrobang is cool, but a “?!” seems to work just fine for me.

6) Loves this Fresh Air interview with a pastor who was formerly militantly anti-abortion, but now seems more interested in Jesus’ actual message.  So nice to see self-reflection and humility.

7) And, let’s just keep with a Podcast string here… Loved this Radiolab segment on just how biologically complicated sex (i.e. male/female) actually is.  (Make sure you listen, Nicole).

8) In a less busy week, I so would have done a post on Derek Thompson’s great article on how Canada has been pro-immigrant without a populist backlash.  History, man– it matters!

For decades, Canada has sustained exceptionally high levels of immigration without facing an illiberal populist groundswell. It is the most inclusive country in the world in its attitudes toward immigrants, religion, and sexuality, according to a 2018 survey by the polling company Ipsos. In a ranking of the most important Canadian symbols and values, its citizens put “multiculturalism” right next to the national anthem—and just behind their flag. In the U.S., those supportive of multiculturalism say they’re the least patriotic; in Canada, patriotism and multiculturalism go together like fries and cheese curds.

To be clear, Canada has not discovered some magical elixir to eradicate intoleranceracism, or inequality, all of which are present in the nation of 36 million. Its indigenous communities, which have endured centuries of brutalization and discrimination, often live under conditions that are still described as “third world.” And the country is not equally welcoming to all newcomers. But at a time when anti-immigrant sentiment and populist politics are sweeping across Europe and America, Canada stands apart.

What’s Canada’s secret? A blend of imperial history, bizarre and desolate geography, and provincial politics have forged something unique in the Great White North. Countries now buckling under the strain of xenophobic populism should take note.

9) “Carb-rinsing“… who knew?

10) Save the planet, eat beans, not meat.

This inefficient process happens on a massive scale. Brazil, the world’s largest exporter of red meat, holds around 212 million cattle. (In June, the U.S. temporarily suspended imports of beef from Brazil due to abscesses, collections of pus, in the meat.) According to the United Nations, 33 percent of arable land on Earth is used to grow feed for livestock. Even more, 26 percent of the ice-free terrestrial surface of Earth is used for grazing livestock. In all, almost a third of the land on Earth is used to produce meat and animal products.

“The real beauty of this kind of thing is that climate impact doesn’t have to be policy-driven,” said Harwatt. “It can just be a positive, empowering thing for consumers to see that they can make a significant impact by doing something as simple as eating beans instead of beef.”She and her colleagues conclude in the journal Climatic Change: “While not currently recognized as a climate policy option, the ‘beans for beef’ scenario offers significant climate change mitigation and other environmental benefits, illustrating the high potential of animal to plant food shifts.”

11) Josh Marshall on Jim Jordan.  Such a shame that everybody is lying about this man of unquestioned honesty and integrity ;-).  And Paul Waldman:

Today, when allegations of this sort surface against a Democrat, the first impulse of those in the Democratic Party is to assume that the victims are probably telling the truth and ask whether the member should resign. That wasn’t always their response in the past, but now it is. The first impulse of Republicans when such a scandal touches their own, on the other hand, is to defend the member no matter what the facts suggest and charge that it’s a liberal conspiracy.

That may be partly because they all pledged their loyalty to a president who is on tape bragging about his ability to commit sexual assault with impunity (“When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”), and who was credibly accused of sexual misconduct by a dozen women. Whatever the reasons, they haven’t caught up to the morality of the 21st century.

12) Really enjoyed Megan McArdle asking for more intellectually honest conversations around affirmative action.

13) Political Scientists Matt Grossman and David Hopkins on what really needs to be banged into the heads of political journalists, “No, Democrats Aren’t Ruining Their Midterm Chances.”  Of course, among actual media bias, the bias towards conflict is a very real thing.

14) Matt Yglesias on Brett Kavanaugh’s pro-corporate motivating ideology:

While it’s certainly true that a few important remnants — most notably, some semblance of a legal right to abortion — of that old debate remain relevant, the real debate in the American judiciary is whether the Constitution allows the people’s elected representatives to meaningfully regulate the national economy.

Kavanaugh clearly believes it does not: He has called the existence of independent regulatory agencies — notably including the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau but potentially the entire alphabet soup of FCC, FTC, CFTC, SEC, FEC, etc. — a “threat to individual liberty.”

But rather than debate this squarely, we are instead faced with grifters like Kavanaugh’s former boss Ken Starr insisting in the pages of the Washington Post that Kavanaugh stands for nothing more than a simple “pro-democracy, let-the-people-govern-themselves vision.” The truth is quite the opposite — Kavanaugh’s vision, which he shares with Starr and the bulk of the conservative legal academy, is one in which the courts should stand as staunch allies of capital and block any effort at democratic control of big business…

In short, Starr praises Kavanaugh for favoring judicial activism in pursuit of a light-touch regulatory agenda.

The way the American political system works is that passing laws is clunky and difficult. Between bicameralism, the presidential veto, the committee system, and the filibuster, it’s just very hard to get new legislation enacted. At the same time, the business world moves fast to try to exploit profit-making opportunities. So if you want to regulate business effectively, you can’t play legislative whack-a-mole and spot abuses in real time. What reformers do instead is try to create regulatory agencies that are given broad mandates to police areas of conduct.

A classic example is the Clean Air Act, which charges the Environmental Protection Agency with identifying forms of harmful air pollution and promulgating rules to cost-effectively reduce it, rather than counting on Congress to pass new laws every time science or business practice changes. To make this system work, judges need to show deference to the regulatory agencies and acknowledge that the congressional reformers who created them wanted the agencies to have some flexibility and discretion. Kavanaugh, as Starr correctly observers, does not believe that this deference should be granted. This is a crucial aspect of his judicial philosophy, and Starr is right to call attention to it.

But Kavanaugh’s doctrine is not about the promotion of self-government or even about deference, it’s about viewing discretion as a one-way street that is always biased against regulation.

15) John Cassidy on Peter Strzok:

Strzok was far from fazed, however. With his close-cut hair, sharp features, and self-confident bearing, he looked like Hollywood’s idea of a senior F.B.I. agent, and he seemed delighted to have his say in public. In his opening statement, which he read out slowly, in a firm voice, he had already effectively demolished the Republican theory of the case: that he was out to get Trump, and prevent him from becoming President. “In the summer of 2016, I was one of a handful of people who knew the details of Russian election interference and its possible connections with members of the Trump campaign,” Strzok said. “This information had the potential to derail and, quite possibly, defeat Mr. Trump. But the thought of exposing that information never crossed my mind.”

Not content with undermining the logic of his inquisitors, Strzok also dared to question their motivation, and even their patriotism, saying, “I understand we are living in a political era in which insults and insinuation often drown out honesty and integrity, but the honest truth is that Russian interference in our elections constitutes a grave attack on our democracy.” The Russian attack had been “wildly successful—sowing discord in our nation and shaking faith in our institutions,” Strzok continued. “I have the utmost respect for Congress’s oversight role, but I truly believe that today’s hearing is just another victory notch in Putin’s belt and another milestone in our enemies’ campaign to tear America apart.”…

As Strzok spoke, Gowdy leaned back in his chair, a cold look on his face. What was he thinking? He hasn’t served entirely as a White House patsy on the Russia affair. At one point, he suggested that Trump should start acting more like he is innocent. But Gowdy and other House Republicans invested what was left of their credibility in a conspiracy theory that was now blowing up in their faces, live on television. After Strzok said the words “deeply destructive,” there was a brief silence in the hearing room. Then there was a round of applause from the public gallery.

16) The deadly superbug yeast that is coming to get us.

17) Republicans kills off super-useful medical database because, of course, their corporate masters would rather physicians not have ready access to what costly treatments are not actually effective.

18) I love how Waldman puts it, “If this is a ‘witch hunt,’ it sure is finding a lot of witches.”

Early Friday afternoon, the Justice Department announced that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III had indicted 12 Russian officials in connection with the Kremlin’s effort to manipulate the 2016 presidential election, making even clearer what we already knew: The Russian government had a comprehensive program intended to hurt the candidacy of Hillary Clinton and to help Donald Trump get elected.

The fact this has been treated as anything less than a profound national emergency — and that one of our two parties has argued again and again that it’s no big deal — is something that should appall anyone who has even the slightest concern for U.S. national security.

It is notable that these indictments come a day after Republicans mounted a farcical hearing meant to advance the ludicrous notion that the entire Russia investigation is illegitimate because one FBI agent said disparaging things about President Trump in private text messages during the campaign. But here’s part of what Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein said during his news conference today:

The indictment charges 12 Russian military officers by name for conspiring to interfere with the 2016 presidential election. Eleven of the defendants are charged with conspiring to hack into computers, steal documents and release those documents with the intent to interfere with the election. One of those defendants and a 12th Russian military officer are charged with conspiring to infiltrate computers of organizations involved in administering the elections, including state boards of elections, secretaries of state, and companies that supply software used to administer elections.

The indictment contains numerous intriguing details, including the fact that the Russian hacking of the emails of Clinton associates began on the same day that Trump publicly said, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 [Clinton] emails that are missing.”

19) Really interesting feature on how armed citizen good guys in Oklahoma stopped an active shooter, but how the full story is more complicated.  Also, these good guys were an active member of the OK Air National Guard and a former police officer.  This is not just some wannabe heroes who took a couple hour concealed carry class.

20 Nice thorough story of the Thailand Cave rescue was pulled off.

21) The Chait article on Trump’s 30-year connections with Russia that everybody has been talking about.  And NeverTrumper Tom Nichols’ take on it:

Instead, what Chait presents, without having to get too far out on a ledge about agents or assets, is a plausible case that a U.S. president is compromised by a foreign power that has damaging information about him…

Finally, whatever one thinks of Chait’s piece, the attacks from Trump defenders are no more than a reflex that reveals the exhausting double-standard that pro-Trump Republicans must now carry like a cinder block around their necks. People who once wanted to imprison Hillary Clinton for a uranium deal approved by the U.S. government are now waving away 30 years of Moscow’s personal and financial investments in Trump as though it’s nothing more than a condo purchase on an overdrawn checking account.

I do not know how much pressure the president is under from the Russians. Neither does Chait. Neither do Trump’s defenders. We may never get the full story, unless it is revealed to us by Robert Mueller or found in a future tranche of declassified documents. But there is no way to read Chait’s story—or to do any judicious review of Trump’s dealings with the Russians over years—and reach any other conclusion but that the Kremlin has damaging and deeply compromising knowledge about the president. Whether it is using such materials, and how, is a matter of legitimate argument. That such things exist, however, and that they seem to be preoccupying the president, should be obvious. [emphasis mine]

22) Vox headline and subhead says it (mostly) all, “A new study blows up Trump’s “catch-and-release” myth: Families seeking asylum often miss their court dates — not because they’re criminals, but because the system is broken.”

23) Another reason to hate penalty kick shoot-outs to settle soccer games.  In something where the result should be close to 50-50, the team that shoots first wins about 60% of the time.

24) Olga Khazan on the absurd influence of baby formula producers, as recently seen via the Trump administration:

This latest tussle in Geneva follows a decades-long battle by infant-formula makers to promote themselves as essentially on par with breast milk. And while health experts instead say “breast is best,” as this incident shows, policymakers aren’t always willing to put legislation behind that message.

Formula makers have responded to the cultural battle over breastfeeding in true corporate form: by lobbying for their interests and marketing their products. For example, Abbott Laboratories, which makes Similac and other formulas, spent $790,000 on lobbying this year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Though the company has spent more in past years, this year their disclosure lists having lobbied the U.S. Trade Representative, among others, on “proposals regarding infant nutrition marketing.” …

Since 1981, the infant-formula who code has been updated through resolutions at the World Health Assembly. The last update was in 2016, during the Obama administration, and it was a big policy push, according to Elizabeth Zehner, a project director with Helen Keller International. As they often do, industry groups spoke out against it, said Sullivan, the 1,000 Days director who attended the 2016 session. The World Health Assembly “welcomed” the 2016 resolution “with appreciation,” a notch below endorsing it.

However, this year’s resolution wasn’t about updating the code. It was more modest, simply intended to remind countries of the importance of promoting breastfeeding, Sullivan said, and notify them about best practices around breastfeeding and HIV, or during natural disasters.

So it surprised health advocates that the United States would use such heavy-handed efforts to try to kill it. “They used very aggressive tactics to get rid of a resolution that really wasn’t a policy grab,” Zehner said.

Of course, aggressive is often the way of the Trump administration. As President Trump wrote on Twitter yesterday, “The failing NY Times Fake News story today about breast feeding must be called out.”

Are you white?

Well, it can be predicted surprisingly well by your use of certain products and brands.  The Post sums up some of this intriguing research:

The cultural divide is real, and it’s huge. Americans live such different lives that what we buy, do or watch can be used to predict our politics, race, income, education and gender — sometimes with more than 90 percent accuracy.

It turns out that people are separated not just by gun ownership, religion and their beliefs on affirmative action — but also by English muffins, flashlights and mustard.

To prove it, University of Chicago Booth School of Business economists Marianne Bertrand and Emir Kamenica taught machines to guess a person’s income, political ideology, race, education and gender based on either their media habits, their consumer behavior, their social and political beliefs, and even how they spent their time. Their results were released in a new working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research.

I was definitely surprised by some of these, but here you go.  Like who would think that owning a pet or a flashlight would be so predictive?!  But maybe that’s because I’m white.

And here’s the political positions that predict whiteness:

And, last but not least, the brands that predict you are liberal:

Apparently I’m a bad liberal because I like Arby’s, Jif, and am wearing Dockers as I type.

A Trump foreign policy shortcut

All the political scientists I follow on social media are fairly up in arms when it comes to Trump’s utter idiocy regarding NATO.  That said, I really liked this take from William Ayers:

ver the last few days, Trump sowed chaos at the NATO summit in an unprecedented fashion. At the height of his extremity, he called on NATO members to boost their spending on their militaries to 4% of their GDP.

Nobody in their right mind would call for such a thing. Even the US doesn’t spend that much, and the US outspends the next dozen or so countries on the planet combined.

Trump later appeared to drop that particular target, calling instead for the 2% target to be met immediately – after earlier signing a joint statement that called for meeting that target by 2024. Later, he mentioned 4% yet again, then dropped it again.

None of this makes any sense, if you assume that the President is a minimally rational human being for whom words and numbers have meaning.

But Trump is none of these things. He is not rational, in the sense that he does not select strategies that are aimed at achieving goals. He has said himself that he doesn’t prepare, he “goes with his gut” – the very antithesis of rationality. He is driven by feeling, by instinct. This is many things, but it is not rational in the standard definition of that term.

News networks have been tying themselves in knots trying to make sense of these varying and contradictory statements. Some have taken the time to look up facts that clearly demonstrate that a 4% target is an absurdist fantasy.

All of this is a waste of time. When Trump says 4%, he doesn’t mean what you or I would mean. He doesn’t mean anything. He doesn’t understand the numbers, doesn’t know what the right number would be, and doesn’t care.

When Trump says that everyone else should spend 4%, what he means is, everyone else should do what he says. He means simply to project power, to demonstrate that he is right and everyone else is wrong. That, in his own words, only he can save us.

So let us not waste our time arguing with facts that are obviously and absurdly wrong, or policies that are obviously beyond the bounds of reason. None of this is about policy. It’s about a man on the world’s biggest stage trying desperately to convince everyone (or maybe just himself) that he has all the answers, and that everyone else is wrong.

God help the rest of us. [emphasis mine]

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