Quick hits (part I)

1) Best on-line auto part ever.

2) Dahlia Lithwick on Gorsuch’s views on religious liberty:

It’s not just the great deference Gorsuch shows religious adherents that is worrisome. He also believes that the views of religious adherents are beyond factual debate. Again in the Hobby Lobby case, he wrote that companies must pay for “drugs or devices that can have the effect of destroying a fertilized human egg.” That claim is simply false, even with regard to Plan B. It is a religious conclusion, not a medical or legal one. Whether that view is his or he simply declines to probe whether the religious conclusion is accurate, the effect is the same: He has written into a legal opinion a religious “fact” not supported by medical science.

This kind of thinking matters especially when the tremendous respect for religious dissenters is not balanced against the harms incurred by nonadherents. Gorsuch sometimes minimizes or outright rejects the third-party harms of religious accommodations. As Yuvraj Joshi points out at NBC, “while the Supreme Court’s decision in Hobby Lobby considered the impact of the case on women, Judge Gorsuch’s opinion does not even acknowledge the harmful effects of denying access to reproductive health care on female employees and dependents. Instead, his sole concern is for religious objectors who feel complicit in the allegedly sinful conduct of others.”

What that means going into this week’s hearings is that religious liberty works only one way. All of this tremendous deference to the religious sensitivities of the objectors is balanced against, well, no solicitude at all for the interests on the opposing side.

3) Even the former police chief of Greenville, NC takes way too much grief from Trump’s Border Patrol.  Of course, his name is Hassan Aden.

4) This is pretty cool– how chickens can help save threatened wildlife (short version: by being a far more sustainable food source).

5) What the TSA budget should cut (air marshals) and should not cut (pilot training and more).

6) Loved Thomas Frank’s Success and Luck .  Somehow, I missed this piece in the Atlantic last year on how we way undervalue the role of luck in our successes.  Conservatives, of course, are especially guilty of this.

7) Six police wearing body cameras were involved in a shooting, yet, somewhat mysteriously none of them have footage of the key moments.

8) Just so we’re clear– and Steve Coll certainly is on such matters– Tillerson is proving to be a horrible Secretary of State.  Very bad choice for a position that really matters.  And snubbing NATO??!!

9) The marijuana haters were convinced teen marijuana use would go way up with legalization.  It hasn’t.  Were they right about literally anything?  These people have no credibility in a serious policy debate on how we should best regulate marijuana (and the answer sure is hell ain’t the Schedule I status quo).

10) On Jeff Sessions‘ irrational fear of drugs:

“Our nation needs to say clearly once again that using drugs will destroy your life,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions declared last week. The main problem with that message: It isn’t true.

Yes, using drugs, both legal and illegal ones, can destroy your life, but typically it doesn’t. By arguing that drug education should proceed from a false premise, Sessions reminds us what was wrong with the Just Say No propaganda he would like to revive.

11) It is truly hilarious how Trump’s pathetic intellect thinks that if he didn’t know something, other people didn’t either.  (E.g., this intellectual giant just learned Lincoln was a Republican).

12) I’m a big fan of Catholic social teaching.  I wish the American bishops were (they seem to be far more concerned with what gay people are up to).  Anyway, love this post on how Trump’s budget violates the key principles of Catholic Social Teaching.

13) James Fallows on Trump’s wire-tapping lies and the very real cost to his credibility.

The inevitability of this moment, when a new president says Trust me, is why so many veteran officials have warned about Donald Trump’s habit of incessantly telling instantly disprovable lies. Some of the lies don’t really matter: “biggest inaugural crowd ever,” when photos showed it was comparatively small. Some of them obviously would matter, if they were true: millions of illegal voters, wiretapped by Obama. But of course they’re not true, and everyone except Trump and his coterie can look at the evidence and know that. Thus the problem: If an administration will lie about facts where the contradictory evidence is in plain sight, how can we possibly believe them on anything else?

14) Wow.  The horrible, horrible conditions on buses used to transport prisoners across state lines are an embarrassment and abomination.  Alas, given that this is the US criminal justice system, I can’t say I’m surprised.

15) Time to re-think the dinosaur family tree.

16) Inside the auto manufacturing boom in Alabama— dangerous working conditions.

17) Josh Barro on Trump, the bad dealmaker, is great.

18) Ezra on the matter is even better:

So what the hell happened?

The answer can be found in Trump Steaks. And Trump University. And Trump Vodka. And Trump Suits. And Trump’s fragrance line, his board game, his ghostwritten books, his energy drink, his eyeglasses, and his chocolate bars.

Yes, these are all real Trump products. And they expose the reality of Trump’s dealmaking. Trump is not a guy who makes particularly good deals so much as a guy who makes a lot of deals — many of which lash his name and reputation to garbage products.

 Trump, a lifelong teetotaler, didn’t scour the globe to find the very best vodka. No — someone offered him an opportunity to make a quick buck by putting his name on a product he wouldn’t ever touch and he took it. Trump University was a far darker scam. Trump Steaks were, and are, a joke.

This is Trump’s pattern: He licenses his brand and lets others worry about the details of the products. Trump’s partners often end up going out of business and his customers often end up disappointed, but Trump makes some money, and he gets his name out there, and it’s all good.

This was Trump’s approach to the health care bill, too. He let someone else worry about the product and he simply licensed his name, marketing support, and political capital. Trump didn’t know what was in the American Health Care Act, and he didn’t much care. It broke his promises to ensure health care for everyone, to protect Medicaid from cuts, to lower deductibles, and to guarantee choices of doctors and plans — but he didn’t pay attention to any of that. In private, Trump was apparently bored by the subject and eager to move onto tax reform.

 But being president of the United States isn’t like being a downmarket consumer brand. The products you put your name on matter. And the deal isn’t done once you’ve appeared at the ribbon-cutting and hyped up the project. You still need to persuade members of Congress to vote for the bill — and they’re apt to wonder what will happen to them when 24 million people lose their health insurance and millions more find themselves forced into crummier, higher-deductible care.

19) It’s just insane how so many Republicans think it the height of injustice that men buy health insurance plans that cover mammograms and childbirth.

20) Ezra on how Ryan has played Trump is terrific.

21) I make no apologies for being a “distracted” parent when my kids were younger.  Little kids are great.  They can also be boring.

22) And, we’ll conclude with Alec MacGillis’ terrific piece from 5 years ago (and so relevant today) where he sees through how Paul Ryan has scammed everybody into believing he’s a thoughtful policy wonk.

Paul Ryan’s Jesus

You know how much I hate the pious, sanctimonious Christians who don’t seem to actually believe in Jesus’ words about helping the poor, oppressed, etc.  Thus, this Nick Kristoff column is literally one of my favorite Op-Eds I have ever read.  So, so good.  Just read it.

A man was attacked by robbers who stripped him of clothes, beat him and left him half dead. A minister passed down this same road, and when he saw the injured man, he crossed to the other side and hurried on. So did a rich man who claimed to serve God. But then a despised Samaritan came by and took pity on the injured man. He bandaged his wounds and put the man on his own donkey and paid an innkeeper to nurse him to health. So which of these three should we follow?”

“Those who had mercy on him,” Pious Paul said promptly.

Jesus nodded. “So go ——”

“I mean the first two,” Pious Paul interjected. “For the Samaritan’s work is unsustainable and sends the wrong message. It teaches travelers to take dangerous roads, knowing that others will rescue them from self-destructive behaviors. This Samaritan also seems to think it right to redistribute money from those who are successful and give it to losers. That’s socialism! Meanwhile, if the rich man keeps his money, he can invest it and create jobs. So it’s an act of mercy for the rich man to hurry on and ignore the robbery victim.”

And plenty more like that.  Great stuff.

It’s hard out here for a Christian

The level of mass delusion among white Evangelical Christians is just extraordinary.  From PRRI via Vox:

A chart shows polling results about whether Christians face more discrimination than Muslims.

Of course, it’s ridiculous that anybody thinks there’s more discrimination against Muslims than Christians.  But, white evangelicals– wow.  I guess they’ve suffered the gross indignity of hearing “Happy Holidays!” a few too many times.

Quick hits (part I)

1) Yes, occasionally it drives me crazy, but, in general, I love the Facebook algorithm.  I very intentionally react to posts knowing I’ll get more posts like that.  I love this personalization.  I see lots of smart political analysis, lots of photos of little kids, and virtually know videos of cats.  Why would I want to mess with that?

2) The headline says it all, “The Only Thing, Historically, That’s Curbed Inequality: Catastrophe.”  Hey, maybe that means we’ll have a good outcome from Trump ;-).

3) This is pretty cool– an analysis of why Trump’s approval varies according to poll.  And, damn, is Rasmussen an absurdly positive outlier.

4) A visualization of how herd immunity works.  So cool!

5) Ryan Lizza’s piece on Milo.  This bit is so good:

Charlie Sykes, a prominent conservative commentator and Never Trump activist, was similarly disgusted. “So let me get this straight: Matt Schlapp thinks that Milo has ‘an important’ message and this is about free speech?” he asked me, via a direct message on Twitter. “Not sure what is worse: the intellectual or the moral decadence on display here. Apparently, racism, anti-Semitism, and the embrace of Alt Right isn’t disqualifying for CPAC,” he wrote. “This raises the larger question: Are there any standards for conservatives in the Age of Trump? Obviously being an erratic narcissist can’t be disqualifying. Racist tweets or bullying can’t be disqualifying. Trafficking in Alt Right memes has been normalized. So with Trump as POTUS, where can conservatives draw the line? CPAC’s logic: We’ll embrace anyone the Left hates, even if they are a vile, disingenuous, bigoted click whore.”

6) Apparently, the American Academy of Pediatricians makes a lot of recommendations to parents without actual evidence behind them.

7) This letter from an expert on Narcissistic Personality Disorder is so good:

Most amateur diagnosticians have mislabeled President Trump with the diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder. I wrote the criteria that define this disorder, and Mr. Trump doesn’t meet them. He may be a world-class narcissist, but this doesn’t make him mentally ill, because he does not suffer from the distress and impairment required to diagnose mental disorder.

Mr. Trump causes severe distress rather than experiencing it and has been richly rewarded, rather than punished, for his grandiosity, self-absorption and lack of empathy. It is a stigmatizing insult to the mentally ill (who are mostly well behaved and well meaning) to be lumped with Mr. Trump (who is neither).

Bad behavior is rarely a sign of mental illness, and the mentally ill behave badly only rarely. Psychiatric name-calling is a misguided way of countering Mr. Trump’s attack on democracy. He can, and should, be appropriately denounced for his ignorance, incompetence, impulsivity and pursuit of dictatorial powers.

His psychological motivations are too obvious to be interesting, and analyzing them will not halt his headlong power grab. The antidote to a dystopic Trumpean dark age is political, not psychological.

8) A horse that, apparently, we still need to beat and beat until it’s dead… tax cuts (in terms of the marginal rates we have in America) do not lead to economic growth.

9) Chait is always good on Paul Ryan and taxes:

The drive to cut these taxes reflects the party’s deep beliefs that overtaxation of the rich is the most serious form of oppression in modern political life, and they are prepared to spend enormous political capital to rectify this evil. [emphasis mine]

10) I was sort of intrigued by this list of high-paying, low stress jobs.  I was pleased to see “Microbiologist” on here, as that’s the current stated intent of my 11-year old.  But then I laughed out loud when they had Political Scientist on here with an average annual salary of $103,000.  WTF?!

11) Trump supporters in their own words.  As always, ugh.  Little snippets like this are always so telling:

He also favors Trump’s push to roll back regulations that Searles said have “stifled” businesses, including the software company that hasn’t been stable enough to give him a raise in 10 years.

Right.  I’m sure it’s all those amazingly burdensome regulations on software companies that are holding back the economy.

12) This was totally new to me and quite interesting.  The Trump of Slovakia and how he was defeated.

13) A friend shared a version of this— a day in the life of Joe Conservative– on FB.  It’s a little old, apparently, but it’s spot-on as ever.

14) This Quora post on what conservatives don’t get about liberals is really, really good.

15) Colleges pushing back on the use of Advanced Placement tests.  Personally, I’m okay with the idea of using for elective credit, but no way should they truly replace a college class.  I always regretted that I didn’t have the real version of Intro to American Government at Duke.

16) The regulation of elections is about to get even worse.

17) A pastor asks a great question, “when did compassion become partisan politics?”

18) Trump has no idea how to get anything done.  Even when your party has control, legislating is hard work.  And it’s clear, Trump has no appetite for that.  Jon Cohn:

In particular, Trump has no apparent patience for the boring, slow work of politics ― like developing detailed policy plans, or working them out with congressional leaders. And without that kind of unglamorous work, getting stuff done turns out to be awfully difficult.

19) Very important 4th Circuit ruling on Assault Weapons and great analysis from Mark Joseph Stern.  In a less busy week, this definitely gets its own post.

 20) Haven’t heard more since this post earlier in the week, but Republicans in NC are looking to put all the roadblocks they can in front of women seeking medical abortions.

21) Ross Douthat blaming the cultural hegemony of the left for Milo.

22) Why protest?  It’s fun!  Confirmed.

23) I love the Post’s new “Democracy dies in darkness” motto.  Fun take on it from Slate.

24) Excellent interview with a Russian newspaper editor on Trump:

A lot of commentators here believe the most generous interpretation of Trump’s fawning orientation to Putin and Russia is that he’s hopelessly naïve. Do you buy that?

Mikhail Fishman

That’s a good question. Why does he like Putin so much? I think Trump sees Putin as a kind of soulmate. Let’s be honest: Trump is not a reflective person. He’s quite simple in his thinking, and he’s sort of attracted to Putin’s brutal forcefulness. If anything, this is what Trump and Putin have in common.

Sean Illing

Has Putin made a puppet of Trump?

Mikhail Fishman

Of course. This is certainly what the Kremlin believes, and they’re acting accordingly. They’re quite obviously playing Trump. They consider him a stupid, unstrategic politician. Putin is confident that he can manipulate Trump to his advantage, and he should be.

25) There were so many great responses to this ludicrous Paul Ryan health care tweet.  Alas, from what I can tell, nobody compiled the best.  That said, I do like Krugman’s response:

That was last week. This week, perhaps realizing how flat his effort fell, he began tweeting about freedom, which he defined as “the ability to buy what you want to fit what you need.” Give me consumer sovereignty or give me death! And Obamacare, he declared, is bad because it deprives Americans of that freedom by doing things like establishing minimum standards for insurance policies.

Quick hits (part II)

I’ve been spending too much time reading about refugee stuff to pick out good quotes, so a largely quote-free version of quick hits:

1) Benjamin Wittes on the Trump and the completely inappropriate approach to the CIA.

2) And this is insane.  Bannon on National Security Council.  Chairman of Joint Chiefs off?!  WTF?!!

3) Duke fan or not, this essay from current interim coach Jeff Capel on his father (also a long-time coach) and ALS is terrific.

4) Older siblings typically out-perform the younger on average.  Interesting mix of theories as to why.  (And if you are reading this David Greene, let it incentive you to keep up with other older siblings).

5) When I first saw Trump had declared a “Day of Patriotic Devotion” I thought it was the Onion or something.  WTF??  It’s like North Korea.

6) Bill McKibben on the many, many more bad days to come for the environment.  In fairness to Trump, most Republicans seem to hate the environment.

7) Thought this was a really interesting finding that the ACT Science Reading  sections literally make the ACT a worse predictor of college grades than just relying upon math and English.  Sorry, David Greene, you still have to take the whole thing.  (In case you were wondering, my firstborn does regularly read my blog now– I’m going to have to be more careful with some things).

8) Smart guy, good guy, and friend from grad school, David Kimball, with a nice piece on actually effective and meaningful voter reforms instead of Voter ID.

9) Love this Political Science Call to Action from Jennifer Victor.  So going to live by this:

So how do we maintain our credibility as a scientific discipline while engaging in the public sphere in a way that shows normative judgment? I have some advice:

A political scientist’s guide to responsible public action:

  • When you observe or learn about proposals or actions that represent threats to democratic institutions or that violate the Constitution, point it out in public.
  • Write, speak, and post in a variety of venues in a way that uses the research and literature in our field to demonstrate the consequences of proposals that threaten basic institutions.
  • Be specific and matter-of-fact about how actions or proposals may weaken or violate basic American values and democratic norms.
  • Focus on the agreed upon values of American democracy (e.g., civil liberties, civil rights, due process, respect for the rule of law) rather than on partisan or ideological components of actions and proposals.
  • Engage with the media, public, and one another, on these matters; seek venues that provide broad exposure rather than speaking to a disciplinary audience, as is typical.
  • Focus on evidence-based and theoretically rigorous findings that shed light on, or provide appropriate context to, current events.

By being objective and scientific, we remain neutral, while showing how actions and proposals violate or threaten basic democratic institutions. Articulating and elucidating the public on these points is not only consistent with our academic mission; it is our responsibility.

10) Larry Summers says it’s time for business leaders to wake up about Trump.  Hell, yeah!  That said, we know that partisanship is stronger than religion.  It’s probably also stronger than the profit motive.

11) Jamelle Bouie, “OK, Now Can We Start Taking Donald Trump Literally?”

12) Here’s why you should call, not email your legislators.  For real.

13) Of course Trump’s tough-guy talk on torture risks lives.  I cannot believe we have to go through this again!  Ugh, the combined stupid and evil!!

14) John Cassidy on Republican politicians sticking with Trump (tax cuts for rich people!!)

15) Wilbur Ross and government by the ultra-wealthy.

16) Speed reading is great— so long as you are not interested in understanding what you read.  Interesting discussion of the cognitive science behind why it doesn’t really work.  And how to read faster (read more).

17) David Brooks on the politics of cowardice.

18) These nice little HuffPo graphic seems well-sourced, so I’m going with it.  I’m really waiting for the armed toddler crackdown.

19) Emma Green asks, “Will the Pro-Life Movement Split With Trump on Issues Other Than Abortion?”  Ummmm, no.  The Pro-Life movement is largely conservative Christians, and we’ve seen they put the Republican party ahead of the actual teachings of Jesus most anytime.

20) Must read from a Reagan speechwriter on Trump and Holocaust remembrance day.

21) Benjamin Wittes on the refugee executive order, “Malevolence Tempered by Incompetence.”

 

Christian wrong

So, originally, I was just going to include this Bill Ayers excerpt in quick hits, but then I realized I came across two other good posts on the topic this week.  Anyway, Ayers has a really really good take on Trumps profoundly mis-guided and profoundly immoral zero-sum universe.  But he concludes, by bringing it around to the failure of American conservative Christianity, in this regard:

The direction of the Christian gospel is pretty clear on this point. “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” “Love one another as I have loved you.” “Blessed are the merciful, for they will have mercy.” “Do not resist an evildoer. If anyone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other also.” “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

The list goes on and on, of course. Even “us first” nationalism is difficult to sustain in the face of Scripture. At the beginnings of the Abrahamic story God promises that “in you all nations of the earth will be blessed”, and Peter understood that “God shows no partiality”.

I keep being confronted with the same question: for those of us who claim to be Christians, do we take this stuff seriously or don’t we? Forget the Supreme Court, or LGBT rights, or abortion, or any of the other issues that Christians sometimes hold up as being “the” issue that justifies their choices. All of this is under Screwtape’s “Christianity and…” – things we attach to God that become God. They are idols.

To view the world as Us vs. Them, to reduce every human interaction and every issue to a struggle to produce winners and losers, is an utter and complete repudiation of the Gospel of Christ. To follow a man who walks that path is to reject the injunction of Jesus’ own prayer to God: Thy will be done. God’s will is not for a world of conflict and strife. Why would we follow someone who wants to make it more so?

Amen!

Meanwhile, I also enjoyed the take from avowed atheist, Kevin Drum:

But it actually goes further than this. One of the things Donald Trump taught us last year is the ultimate hollowness of the Christian right. Trump is the most obviously unreligious person to run for president in—well, probably forever. He doesn’t go to church. He hasn’t read the Bible. His lifestyle would make Hugh Hefner blush. He doesn’t pray. He doesn’t ask forgiveness from God for his sins. He’s not born again. There is literally nothing in his 70 years on this earth that suggests he’s anything but a stone atheist…

The Christian right has never been about actual faith. Like any other interest group, they just want what they want: abortion restrictions, money for private schools, opposition to gays, and so forth. As long as you’re on board, they don’t care what’s in your heart. They never have, and that’s why the suggestion that Democrats need to be more publicly devout has always been so misguided. Faith doesn’t matter. Empathy for people of faith doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is supporting the Christian right’s retrograde social views, and Democrats were never going to do that.

And, finally, a Divinity graduate friend, shared this progressive Christian take:

For the last few years Christians have been singing worship songs that include lyrics like “ keep my eyes above the waves, when oceans rise …” and yet have rejected refugees who’ve seen loved ones die beneath waves, who themselves have literally struggled to keep from drowning in oceans. Those American Christians — particularly white evangelicals — continue to sing the words: “Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders …” but fail to realize the shameful irony that they’re largely responsible for refusing shelter and opportunity to some of the world’s most helpless and oppressed people.

This represents a predominant theme of Westernized Christendom: proclaiming Christian rhetoric while actively — or passively — practicing the opposite in reality.

Because while the gospels instruct followers of Christ to help the poor, oppressed, maligned, mistreated, sick, and those most in need of help, Christians in America have largely supported measures that have rejected refugees, refused aid to immigrants, cut social services to the poor, diminished help for the sick, fueled xenophobia, reinforced misogyny, ignored racism, stoked hatred, reinforced corruption, and largely increased inequality, prejudice, and fear.

If Christians refuse to help and actually use their political advocacy and opinions to further hurt refugees, immigrants, women, foreigners, minorities, the poor, the oppressed, the persecuted, the sick, the LGBTQ community — and aren’t abiding by the golden rule of loving their neighbors as themselves, then who exactly are Christians supposedly loving?

What benefit are Christians providing their communities, and what good are they contributing to the world around them? Because in America, it appears that the sole purpose of Christianity is to selfishly protect people’s own self-interests instead of sacrificially serving others.

The election of President Donald Trump has proven that numerous Christians are more worried about power, influence, and control than the gospel messages of humility, generosity, ministering to others, and love.

Of course there are exceptions, but it should be sobering for Christians to realize that that many who claim to follow the Prince of Peace, the Healer, the Light of the World, supported policies that are bringing darkness and pain to so many people.

Amen, again.  And, just so I don’t have to do a separate post, here’s today’s NYT story about the refugees (who put their lives at dramatic risk for the American military) who are currently being detained and denied entry to the U.S.  I’m sure that’s just what Jesus would have wanted.

 

Quick hits (part I)

1) Not responding to your exercise regimen?  You will probably respond better to a different one.

2) I think it is the NYT pushing it so much that finally got me into Mindfulness meditation (4 months in and going strong).  This page is a great explanation of what it’s really all about and how to get started, if you so inclined:

Basic mindfulness meditation is the practice of paying attention to the present moment with an accepting, nonjudgmental disposition. The goal isn’t to stop thinking, or to empty the mind. Rather, the point is to pay close attention to your physical sensations, thoughts and emotions in order to see them more clearly, without making so many assumptions, or making up stories.

It’s a deceptively simple exercise — just be right here, right now, without daydreaming. But with practice it can yield profound results, giving us greater control of our actions, and making room for more kindness and equanimity, even in difficult situations. With time, mindfulness meditation can even help us better understand what causes us stress, and what we can do to relieve it.

Though mindfulness meditation was inspired by Buddhist practices, today it is available as a wholly secular practice that emphasizes stress reduction, the cultivation of focus and the development of tranquility.

“There’s a misconception that mindfulness is religious,” said Mr. Smith. “What we have to explain is that it’s a stress reduction technique and a way to get yourself stronger mentally. It’s a self-care practice.”

3a) Theda Skocpol on the need to rebuild the Democratic party from the ground up

3b) And Emma Green on the ideological reasons Democrats have neglected state and local politics:

The unevenness is partly a reflection of progressives’ reluctance to push their policy agendas through states. Historically, arguments against federalism—or the principle that power should be robustly shared between state and national governments—have centered on race. “Progressives are deeply skeptical of federalism, and with good reason,” Gerken wrote in a 2012 essay in Democracy. “States’ rights have been invoked to defend some of the most despicable institutions in American history, most notably slavery and Jim Crow.” Others see the decentralization of governing power as a way of stifling dissent, she argued.

This is one reason why the national Democratic Party has often looked to Washington to make and enforce policy. But there’s another ideological explanation, argued Ernest Young, a professor of law at Duke University, in an interview: The progressive project is ultimately about working toward a society built on one unified vision of policy and culture, rather than a diverse array of policies and cultures. “If you’re confident that you can get the right answer to something, like health-care policy, or welfare, or any number of very difficult social problems, it’s hard not to say that right answer should be equally available to everyone,” Young said, meaning that progressives believe their “right answers” should be legislated through federal policy. “If you’re a more Burkean type of conservative, and you’re skeptical that we’re ever going to find out right answers to these questions, you might favor different solutions in different jurisdictions, and see from experience what works out. That tends to lend itself to a commitment to federalism, and local governments, too,” he said.

4) Very depressing that even Obama and Democrats are refusing to take science seriously when it comes to “forensic science” (which, DNA aside, is rarely actual science).  Surely, thousands of people will continue to be falsely convicted due to this scientific and moral failing.  Radley Balko:

In September, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) issued a scathing report on the use of forensic analysis and expertise in the criminal-justice system. The report, “Forensic Science in Criminal Courts: Ensuring Scientific Validity of Feature-Comparison Methods,” looked at pattern matching forensic disciplines such as bite mark matching, shoe print matching, blood spatter analysis, fingerprint matching and hair fiber analysis. It also looked at DNA testing when investigators find biological material from multiple sources, a scenario that can bring human subjectivity into the testing. With the exception of single-source DNA testing, the report found serious deficiencies in all areas of forensics it studied.

The PCAST report was damning, but if you’ve been following these issues with any regularity, it wasn’t at all surprising. That was in September. It’s now January. And not only has the Obama administration done nothing about the report, the Justice Department has publicly denounced it. That report, along with others and an administration that seemed unusually equipped to take it seriously, presented a small window in which to reform a system. That window is about slam shut. And we’re about to be governed by a new administration that seems likely to board it up, wallpaper it and overlay it with brick. This wasn’t just a missed opportunity; it was a catastrophe. And it’s difficult to overstate the consequences.

5) I’m sure you are as shocked as I am that credit reporting agencies have been lying to consumers.

6a) What’s up with the disk storage in the Star Wars movies?  And the retro technology in general?

6b) And really enjoyed this essay on the nature of “The Force” and the return of “reverence” in Star Wars films.

6c) And this is too good, “Did Inadequate Women’s Healthcare Destroy Star Wars’ Old Republic?

7) Trump appoints Wall Street lawyer to regulate Wall Street.  Chait’s summation, “‘“Drain the swamp’ continues to be one of the greatest cons in the history of presidential campaigns.”

8) Kevin Drum argues that people should understand gravity better and that his explanation is more intuitive than warped space-time.  I’m not so sure.

9) How religion can (indirectly) help influence the gender wage gap:

Wiseman and Dutta looked at how two different measurements of religiosity among residents of different states — belief in God and participation in religious activity — correlated with the gender wage-gap in those states. Even after controlling for age, education, marital status, occupation, time in the workforce, and other factors, they found that this correlation was rather significant: specifically, the that a three percent increase in a state’s religiosity related to a one percent increase in its gender wage-gap.

These findings are consistent with the idea that religious beliefs and institutions, even informal ones, can shape social interactions and thus economic behavior. Women’s roles as mothers and workers are shaped by religious norms and customs, even when those norms aren’t directly dictated by religious dogma.

Traditional religious attitudes might also affect employer behavior, shaping managers’ decisions about whom to hire or lay off, or a family’s decision about who should be the primary breadwinner. Zooming out, the state government’s distribution of resources — like education, health care, and parental leave — can also be shaped by prevailing cultural norms that are shaped by religious attitudes. It stands to reason that policies that have been shown to promote gender parity, like pay-transparency legislation or investments in high-quality child care, might face heavier opposition in those states where religious institutions exert more influence. (That said, the working paper didn’t make any of these claims directly — rather, it provided a jumping-off point for some informed speculation.)

10) Important changes in how Obamacare has changed the practice of medicine for the better will outlast any changes/repeal Republicans make to the ACA.

11) I’m a big fan of art and advertising paintings on the sides of buildings.  So is Atlas Obscura.  I like driving by this one on my way to work.

Image result for raleigh nehi bottling company

12) Norm Ornstein on the GOP’s ethics “disaster” (worthwhile read even with the House GOP backing off):

I have rarely been more angry or dismayed at the conduct of Congress than I was Monday night with the unconscionable, deplorable, underhanded move by Representative Bob Goodlatte to eviscerate and undermine the Office of Congressional Ethics. When House Speaker Paul Ryan and his counterpart Nancy Pelosi indicated weeks ago that they would continue OCE, the reform community—left and right—breathed a sigh of relief. Ryan, like his predecessor John Boehner, had seen the value to the integrity of the House of the office, which has been a stalwart of bipartisan and nonpartisan comity and independence. That makes this bait-and-switch action even more outrageous…

Given Ryan’s solidarity with President-elect Trump on Russian hacking—preceded by his deep-sixing any bipartisan statement during the campaign warning against foreign attempts to influence our elections—along with Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz’s indifference to any investigation of conflicts of interest or ethical problems with the president-elect and his cronies, this is chilling evidence that we are headed for a new age of official embrace or at least acceptance of unethical and illegal behavior. The core of America’s political system depends on real checks and balances, on a Congress that puts country ahead of party. The House leadership showed this week that party comes first. [emphasis mine]

13) Life in Elkhart, Indiana has improved considerably under President Obama.  In this partisan era, though, not even that penetrates partisan biases:

Democrats and Republicans, though, appear to be equally guilty of viewing objective facts through partisan filters–Nyhan said that there’s no conclusive evidence to suggest that one party is more susceptible than the other. Though some research has indicated that even strongly partisan people are more likely to answer questions about politics correctly if they are getting paid to do so, paying Americans to listen to facts doesn’t seem a particularly realistic solution. Little will change, Nyhan said, if the environment in which political leaders and the media promote incorrect information doesn’t change.

There is, however, one way to pierce partisan biases, Nyhan said. If reality intrudes, people may be more willing to accept it. Someone can debate climate change for years, but if his house is threatened by a tide that rises every year as the planet warms, he may be more likely to accept that climate change exists.

But in Elkhart, people have jobs they didn’t have six years ago, and they’re working more hours. Their homes are worth more than they were before Obama took office, on average, and their paychecks are fatter than they used to be. Yet Obama is, and will likely remain, the president who didn’t do anything right.

14) Greg Sargent’s headline gets it (in response to some pretty deplorable comments from the WSJ Editor), “Yes, Donald Trump ‘lies.’ A lot. And news organizations should say so.”  And Media Matters with Dan Rather’s response, beginning, “a lie, is a lie, is a lie.”

15) Fascinating tweetstorm on the Podesta hack.  But seriously, just write a blog post!!

16) Seth Masket with a good piece on the 20th century model of journalism in the 21st century:

As Jonathan Ladd has written, this conception of the news is tied to a rather narrow and recent time period and may simply no longer apply. Ladd writes here:

American journalism became largely nonpartisan in the mid-twentieth century after calls for reform by Progressive Era figures like Walter Lippmann. But… these few decades were an historical aberration made possible by the lack of party polarization and a legal and technological landscape that artificially restricted media industry competition. Beyond these few decades, partisan media are the historical norm in the United States.

We hear many complaints today about the rise of fake news, false equivalencies, deeply partisan news sources, etc., but that’s actually how the political media have typically behaved. Newspapers of the 19th and early 20th centuries were often publicly affiliated with a political party and saw their role as backing that party’s candidates. We seem to be moving back to that model today.

But even if we expect a mid-20th century non-partisan model of media behavior, it’s difficult to pinpoint just where we believe the media went wrong in 2016. Did it ignore Trump’s bigotry, conflicts of interest, sexual predation, and basic ignorance on many public policy issues? Hardly. It reported on these extensively. That’s a large part of the reason Trump had historically high unfavorability ratings throughout the election year. Voters knew who he was. Many were deeply uncomfortable with him. Many of those same people voted for him anyway. According to exit polls, two-thirds of voters felt that Trump lacked the temperament to be president. Among that two-thirds, one in five still voted for him…

One area where the media really did seem flummoxed was in false equivalency. Stories about Clinton’s emails dominated news coverage despite a lack of any evidence of actual wrongdoing, and this may have hurt Clinton significantly.

In part, this is a result of the persistence of the 20th-century non-partisan model of journalism. If you’re covering scandals in one campaign, you’re supposed to cover scandals in the other. Even if the race is between Josef Stalin and Mother Teresa (this one wasn’t), coverage should approach something like balance. Indeed, it may be appropriate for the media to provide more scrutiny of the candidate it thinks is going to win in this model.

17) Nice piece on the real differences between fascism (which does not really fit Trump) and right-wing populism (which does).

18) Of course liberals need to talk about economics and race.

Understanding how Trump and the GOP effectively use race requires seeing that the right is “waging a culture war around gender, elitism, and especially race, using coded and not so coded terms to trigger strong resentments.” This is specifically designed to persuade white voters to cast ballots that are not only against their interests but suicidal for the middle class.

Yes, the economic anxiety many Trump voters felt is real and must be addressed. But addressing that anxiety exclusively would be a big mistake, according to Haney-López, because “it assumes that economic pain comes first, and so, it implies that finances are more fundamental than scapegoating.”

Racial resentment has made the rigged economy we all live in now possible.

The parties have not switched their polarities from the North to the South, and the GOP didn’t become a party that is 90 percent white with 98 percent white elected officials by accident, Haney-López notes.

19) NYT Editorial on the “stolen Supreme Court seat.”  And, yes, “stolen” is about right.

20 Nice essay in Vox on the genuine free speech problem on America’s college campus.

%d bloggers like this: