Trump is the Tea Party

Love this post from Chait:

The image of a mass army of principled constitutionalists agitating to carry out Paul Ryan’s domestic-policy vision, while irresistibly useful as conservative propaganda, was a fantasy all along. The backlash against Obamacare did not rest upon any abstract theory about the role of the state. It drew its power from the fear that subsidized (private) insurance would come at the expense of the (single-payer) health care that old people love. [emphases mine] Activists flooding health-care town halls in 2009, the core of the right-wing populist revolt, denounced mythical “death panels,” and Republican messaging focused on the (actual) Medicare cuts to finance a program that’s “not for you.”

Researchers Vanessa Williamson, Theda Skocpol, and John Coggin closely studied the tea party and found its members driven by something very different than a passion for small government. “Opposition is concentrated on resentment of perceived federal government ‘handouts’ to ‘undeserving’ groups, the definition of which seems heavily influenced by racial and ethnic stereotypes,” they wrote in 2011. “More broadly, Tea Party concerns exist within the context of anxieties about racial, ethnic, and generational changes in American society.” They also found that, contrary to the myth that deficits obsessed tea-party activists, “In interviews, Tea Partiers who talk about immigration control regularly mention the security of the US border with Mexico, suggesting that their primary concern is with Latino immigration.” A 2013 close study of Republican voters by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner reached similar conclusions: “the base supporters are very conscious of being white in a country with growing minorities. Their party is losing to a Democratic Party of big government whose goal is to expand programs that mainly benefit minorities.”

The white racial identity, the fear of social change — all of these things perfectly predicted Trump’s rise. But conservatives ignored these findings because they implied that the tea party was not a movement of amateur enthusiasts for the Lochner Constitution, and that the fierce conservative antipathy toward Obama did not arise out of Obamacare’s particular design features or the legislative tactics by which it passed. The tea party was an ethno-nationalist revolt against Obama rooted in fear of social change. Conservative leaders pretended this revolt was a demand for their agenda, but the dissatisfaction of the base implies that the conservative agenda was never the thing that motivated it. Trump hasn’t hijacked the tea party. He’s un-hijacked it.

Yep.  All that.

Police militarization

Great post from Dexter Filkins about a new documentary on police militarization, “Do Not Resist.”

“Do Not Resist” features several eye-popping moments. There’s Dave Grossman, a leading consultant to police and the F.B.I., lecturing a room full of officers on the pleasures of using violence on the job. (“Finally get home at the end of the incident and they all say, ‘The best sex I’ve had in months,’ “ Grossman told them.) There’s the scene, in South Carolina, of the Richland County Sheriff Department’s Special Response Team conducting a practice gun battle, firing automatic weapons and looking very much like the Navy seals in Baghdad. And there’s Alan Estevez, a deputy under-secretary of defense, testifying to Congress that, along with the many tons of military equipment, police departments were in recent years given twelve thousand bayonets…

The 1033 and Homeland Security programs have resulted in local governments around the country acquiring an astonishing range of military equipment, including armored personnel carriers, M-16 assault rifles, grenade launchers, and infrared gun sights, all of which were designed for combat. Among the vehicles routinely given to police departments is the mrap—mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle—which can weigh up to about twenty tons and is designed to survive roadside bombs. According to the Marshall Project, some six hundredmraps have been doled out to local governments around the country; they cost about a million dollars each…

In one of the film’s most poignant scenes, the Richland County Sheriff’s Department deploys its Special Response Team to raid a home in a run-down neighborhood where the inhabitants were suspected of keeping marijuana. The team members, who are dressed for full combat—black fatigues, helmets, and assault rifles—smash the doors and windows, enter the house, and arrest the owner’s son. They seize eight hundred and seventy-three dollars in cash from him, which he tells police he needs to run his landscaping business. They end up finding a gram and a half of marijuana—enough to fill about a teaspoon. The suspect’s mother, who is in the house at the time, is not arrested. “They tore down the house,” she tells the filmmakers. “My son went to jail for a gram and a half that they shook out of a bottom of a book bag.” …

The picture that emerges from “Do Not Resist” is that the acquisition of military equipment and the use of swat teams for routine arrests are feeding on each other—that heavy weapons are encouraging police to act in ways they otherwise would not…

For more than a century, federal law has prohibited the military from being deployed inside the United States against American citizens. The prudence behind that distinction is obvious, not least because while the military is trained to use maximum force, the police, ideally, should only use as much as is necessary to protect themselves or local citizens. “Do Not Resist” shows that the distinction between the two has been severely eroded. [emphasis mine]

Yes!  You give the police fancy new toys they are going to find ways to use them whether it is actually called for or not.  Just like you give a hospital a bunch of new MRI machines, they are going to find ways to use them.  In many cases, supply drives demand.  And sadly, the supply of militarized police had turned too many police into militarized forces which are at odds with actual, good, community-based policing.

Why is Bernie still running?

I’ve actually been asked this question in a number of interviews.  I cannot confess to knowledge of any great political science research on the matter, but I have my basic human psychology theory.  Why does Bernie keep running?  What would you do given the opportunity to go all around the country speaking your mind to adoring crowds, getting more attention for your passionate political concerns then you’ve ever had, and still winning primaries to boot?  Why stop?!  So what if he’s not going to be the nominee– as he surely knows on some level– who would want to give up that gig? Sure, there’s probably other ways to explain, but this sure seems to get it pretty well to me.

Watch out maybe your employees are potheads!

Now, obviously, there’s many a job out there where you don’t want your employees under the influence of any mind-altering substances while they are performing their job, but employee drug testing has gone way too far.  Is there any more evidence that a person who relaxes with marijuana in the evening will create a workplace hazard at work the next day than somebody who has a few beers?  Of course not.  Tell that to the companies that test for one but not the other.  Anyway, this over-use of drug testing is coming back to bite employers.  In the Times:

All over the country, employers say they see a disturbing downside of tighter labor markets as they try to rebuild from the worst recession since the Depression: They are struggling to find workers who can pass a pre-employment drug test.

That hurdle partly stems from the growing ubiquity of drug testing, at corporations with big human resources departments, in industries like trucking where testing is mandated by federal law for safety reasons, and increasingly at smaller companies.

But data suggest employers’ difficulties also reflect an increase in the use of drugs, especially marijuana — employers’ main gripe — and also heroin and other opioid drugs much in the news…

In August, Gov. Nathan Deal of Georgia promised to develop a program to help because so many business owners tell him “the No. 1 reason they can’t hire enough workers is they can’t find enough people to pass a drug test.”

That program is still under discussion. When job seekers contact Georgia’s Department of Labor, which provides some recruitment services to employers, the state would like to begin testing them for drugs; individuals who test positive could receive drug counseling and ultimately job placement assistance, Mark Butler, the state labor commissioner, said in an interview.

“Obviously, it’s not an easy process, and it would be costly,” Mr. Butler said. “But you’ve got to think: What is the reverse of that?” People needed to fill jobs are turned away, and, he added, “it’s pretty much a national issue.”

In Indiana, Mark Dobson, president of the Economic Development Corporation of Elkhart County, said that when he went to national conferences, the topic was “such a common thread of conversation — whether it’s in an area like ours that’s really enjoying very low unemployment levels or even areas with more moderate employment bases.”

In Colorado, “to find a roofer or a painter that can pass a drug test is unheard-of,” said Jesse Russow, owner of Avalanche Roofing & Exteriors, in Colorado Springs. That was true even before Colorado, like a few other states, legalized recreational use of marijuana.

And allow me to belabor a point… sure you don’t want somebody high on marijuana working up on your roof, but you don’t want a drunk either!  Workplace drug use is a bad idea.  But it is ridiculous to go from that to say your workers should never use drugs.

I was disappointed in the Times for not putting this in the larger context, but Daniel Engber did that in Slate (pretty sure I quick-hitted this) late last year:

“Increasing numbers of employers are doing some sort of drug-testing,” says Barry Sample, the aptronymic director of science and technology for the Employer Solutions business unit of Quest Diagnostics. “These days it is rather uniform across many, many employment sectors. Most of the larger corporations, and most—if not all—of the Fortune 500 have some sort of drug-testing.” In all, Sample estimates that some 45 to 50 million workplace drug tests are taken annually in the U.S., making up a massive industry in biomedical HR…

That might make sense if testing yielded clear benefits to the companies that deploy it or to society at large. But here’s the most distressing fact about drug testing in the workplace: As was the case 30 years ago, testing has no solid base of evidence, no proof that it succeeds. We don’t know if screening workers for recent drug use makes them more productive, lowers their risk of getting into accidents, or otherwise helps maintain the social order. [emphasis mine] And what positive effects we do understand—there are indeed a few—seem almost accidental. They may not be worth the time and money and intrusion.

In other words, the drug testing of employees isn’t so much a thoughtful labor policy as a compulsive habit. It’s something that we do because we’ve always done it, and we don’t know how to stop. Testing has become a national addiction, and it may be time to taper off.

Well, damn.  We’re hardly rational when it comes to our criminal laws on drugs.  Not surprising that we’re hardly rational with employee drug testing.  Is it asking to much for a little rationality with how we deal with drugs in this country?  Apparently.  Though we are finally starting to show some signs of progress.

The stupidity of knee-jerk anti-GMO

I caught the end of this depressing GMO story on NPR last week.  Apparently, the marketplace– led by anti-GMO luddites– has decided that sugar from sugar beets is less worthy because sugar beets are modified to by Glysophate tolerant:

About half of all sugar in the U.S. comes from sugar beets, and the other half comes from sugar cane. Now, for the first time, sugar traders are treating these as two different commodities, with two different prices.

It’s all because about eight years ago, nearly all the farmers who grow sugar beets in the United States decided to start growing genetically modified versions of their crop. The GMO beets, which can tolerate the weedkiller glyphosate, otherwise known as Roundup, made it easier for them to get rid of weeds…

Just in the past two years, though, that’s changed. Many food companies have decided to label their products as non-GMO. And because practically all sugar beets in the U.S. are genetically modified, those food products are now using sugar derived from sugar cane grown in Florida, Louisiana or outside the U.S. There isn’t any genetically modified sugar cane…

Maybe this would be rational if consumers were averse to sugar plants sprayed with herbicides, but that’s not it all.  It’s simply an irrational fear of things labeled GMO.  And, of course, the non-GMO sugar actually causes more use of herbicide:

Planting genetically modified sugar beets allows them to kill their weeds with fewer chemicals. Beyer says he sprays Roundup just a few times during the growing season, plus one application of another chemical to kill off any Roundup-resistant weeds.

He says that planting non-GMO beets would mean going back to what they used to do, spraying their crop every 10 days or so with a “witches brew” of five or six different weedkillers.

“The chemicals we used to put on the beets in [those] days were so much harsher for the guy applying them and for the environment,” he says. “To me, it’s insane to think that a non-GMO beet is going to be better for the environment, the world, or the consumer.” [emphasis mine]

Ugh.  And, as for GMO food somehow being “unnatural,” you know what’s “unnatural”?  Pretty much everything we eat.  It is a product of centuries of genetic modification through a process known as artificial selection.  Sure, GMO allows for far more dramatic impact on the genome, but traditional plant breeding changes things plenty. To wit, I love this Vox post on how much some of our favorite foods have changed, e.g.,


evolution of corn

Meanwhile, there was recently a big National Academy of Sciences review about GMO, you’ll be shocked to learn they concluded, as Brad Plumer puts it: “The best evidence suggests current GM crops are just as safe to eat as regular crops.”

Now go back to eating your GMO-free, sugar-cane sweetened cereal.

NC Republicans: bad for business

Obviously, Republicans want to make the current controversy all about bathrooms, privacy, and political correctness.  That works for them and they will surely continue to do it.  But Democrats have a big advantage in that mainstream corporate America–not just a bunch of Hollywood liberals and entertainers is behind them.  And in being against the hate-inspired NC legislation (prominently, not just bathrooms but preventing local protection of LGBT rights), the business community strongly helps the Democrats’ case.

I could be wrong, but it seems to me the Democrats’ Fall campaign in NC has written itself, “North Carolina Republicans: Bad for Business.”  Republicans can talk about privacy and men in women’s restrooms all they want, but I don’t think that resonates with voters like the fact that HB2 is demonstrably and undeniably costing the state jobs and business investment.  That’s a valence issue.  Everybody wants jobs and economic growth and the Republicans are on the wrong side of it because of HB2.  It’s not clear to me how you spin away the fact that numerous national/international companies have said they will not be investing in our state as a direct result of HB2.  Talk about “politicial correcntnness” all you want, but the undeniable fact is that the Republicans’ narrow social agenda is bad for the North Carolina economy.

And here’s some good coverage on the behind the scenes business angle on this I meant to quote from, but, hey, at least this post is existing in reality and not just my head (the graveyard for most of my “posts”).

Maybe the war on drugs really is succeeding!

So, I watched “The House I Live In” for the second time, yesterday, with my Summer Criminal Justice Policy class.  Super-powerful documentary about the utter moral abomination that is our country’s war on drugs.  Already hate the war on drugs?  Watch this and hate it more.  Think the war on drugs isn’t so bad?  Watch this and open your eyes.  If you’ve already got Netflix, it’s on streaming.  Or consider springing just a few bucks to watch on Amazon, etc.

One of my favorite moments in the film is when Canadian addiction expert, Gabor Maté, speaks about the war on drugs.  He suggests, looking through a different lens, maybe the war on drugs really is succeeding.  (I’ll paraphrase and add a little, but basically…) If we consider all the jobs in prisons and in the criminal justice system, if we consider all the money made in the prison-industrial complex, if we consider all the politicians re-elected by being “tough on crime” maybe the war on drugs really is succeeding.

Of course, more than anything, it is absolutely needlessly ruining so many lives and so many communities with so little benefit.  I truly believe that in the next century, Americans will look back on this episode in our history with absolute shame.


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