Quick hits (part II)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6) I’m with Drum on Serena Williams

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Key Findings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Quick hits

So, I was completely computer-less from Wednesday morning until Friday night this week.  I’ll admit, it was oddly liberating, but I’m sure I failed to read so much good stuff.  So this solo edition of quick hits is an amalgam of really recent stuff and older stuff I somehow missed posting before.

1) WP editorial on the abuse of migrant kids in detention, “Migrant kids were stripped, drugged, locked away. So much for compassion.”

2) (Big) Steve Saideman with an “it’s all identity politics” post:

Either way, much of politics is very much identity politics.  The only people who deny this reality are those whose identities already dominate politics.  I remember reading books about Race and US foreign policy–and it blew my mind to think that white folks and their race influenced US foreign policy.  Seems obvious now, but it was in a time and a context where folks were wondering about whether US foreign policy would remain rational and realist if other groups with other views of the
national interest, or their group’s interests, would shape US foreign policy (Mrs. Spew considers anyone using the term identity politics dismissively is really anti-civil rights so she substitutes civil rights activism for identity politics).

So, today, in the US, when I hear people dismiss identity politics, they tend to be white Christian folks who have always won and imposed their values on US politics (and projecting themselves, fear what the others would do if they are in power).  There was, of course, conflict among these folks about who and what counts as white (are Italians white? are Arabs?) and as Christian (in Lubbock, where I lived, the category of Christian is much narrower than I conceived).  But these folks tend to agree that when People of Color push issues favorable to their group or point out that Black Lives Matter, they get upset, because they are uncomfortable with being informed that their vision of “All Lives Mattering” might just still have some identity politics to it.

In sum, identities always matter, politics is often about defining the content of the identity, the boundaries of identities and how one should treat those of other identities.

3) The group that definitely faces prejudice in college admissions?  Introverts.

4) My former student who made the political big time with a nice NYT quote on how Republican tax cuts can help fund Republican campaigns:

“The American people know that the Republicans who control Washington sold them out with a disastrous tax giveaway to the rich and big business that the rest of the country is being forced to pay for,” said Andrew Bates, a spokesman for the liberal campaign group American Bridge. “The fact that those same corporations and wealthy individuals have turned around to bankroll Republican campaign efforts is further proof of what this travesty was all about.”

5) Now that it’s a week old and Trump is up to new nightmares, we’ve already forgotten about Peter Strozk.  But this is still a good take:

And this is why the crux of this complicated saga is actually pretty straightforward. Strzok stood accused of undermining public trust in the independence of the FBI through his carelessness. This is indeed a significant offense, one that liberals and conservatives alike should take very seriously. But by caving to a massive campaign of vilification by the president, and publicly violating Wray’s promise that the investigation into Strzok would be done by the book, the bureau’s leadership has undermined that trust in a much more public, deliberate, and grievous manner than the man they scapegoated ever did.

Even at this late stage, many commentators still take it for granted that Trump’s attempts to curb the independence of key political institutions will miraculously be foiled by the Constitution. But Strzok’s firing is only the latest in a series of cases in which high-ranking civil servants have been personally attacked by the president and then been forced to leave office under highly unusual circumstances: At this point, Trump has managed to dispatch the FBI’s director, its deputy director, its general counsel, and the head agent of its investigating agency.

6) So many idiots like this, ”

Sgt. Temo Juarez was a Trump guy. An Iraq combat veteran who served as a Marine infantryman and then an Army National Guardsman, his friends called him a “super conservative.” With his wife, he brought up their two daughters in Central Florida. He supported Trump in 2016, eager for a change.

But now, “I am eating my words,” he told the military newspaper Stars and Stripes in an interview published last week.

On Friday, Juarez and his family became the latest victims of Trump’s zero-tolerance policy on immigration.

On that day, his wife, Alejandra, left the country under a deportation order. She had come to the United States from Mexico illegally as a teenager two decades ago and had until now being living undisturbed with Temo, a naturalized U.S. citizen, and daughters, both natural-born Americans. This week, Temo will fly to Mexico with his daughters, 9-year-old Estela and 16-year-old Pamela — and leave his younger daughter there, even though English is her first language. He can’t do his construction job and take care of her in Florida by himself.

7) Nice Benjamin Wallace-Wells piece on John McCain.

8) We’re worried about the wrong bees (this one was really eye-opening to me):

Honey bees will be fine. They are a globally distributed, domesticated animal. Apis mellifera will not go extinct, and the species is not remotely threatened with extinction.

The bees you should be concerned about are the 3,999 otherbee species living in North America, most of which are solitary, stingless, ground-nesting bees you’ve never heard of. Incredible losses in native bee diversity are already happening. 50 percent of Midwestern native bee species disappeared from their historic ranges in the last 100 years. Four of our bumblebee species declined 96 percent in the last 20 years, and three species are believed to already be extinct. A little part of me despairs when I read in a scientific paper: “This species probably should be listed under the Endangered Species Act if it still exists.”…

The evidence is clear that many native wild pollinators are declining. That wouldn’t be a big deal, if commercial honeybees could pick up the slack. They can’t.

Managed honey bee colonies supplement the work of natural wild pollinators, not the other way around. In a study of 41 different crop systems worldwide, honeybees only increased yield in 14 percent of the crops. Who did all the pollination? Native bees and other insects.

9) Mark Joseph Stern on the evil Kris Kobach, “Kansas Is Living in the Mess Kris Kobach Made: The secretary of state ruined the Republican primary just like he ruins everything else.”

10) Trump hires the very worst people.  Paul Waldman:

President Trump, however, follows a different and far more bizarre script. When he gets betrayed by a former aide, he says that he knew all alongwhat a terrible person the aide was, and in fact he even knew before he hired her how awful she was.

Yes, I’m talking about Omarosa Manigault Newman, but only partly about her, because it goes much farther. We may have never had a president who filled out his administration with such a collection of corrupt, incompetent and immoral aides, and we’ve certainly never had a president who was so eager to tell everyone that his own administration is a wretched hive of scum and villainy…

So Trump’s story is that Omarosa was a “crazed, crying lowlife,” but he gave her a job in the White House, a job that many other people would have been happy to have. Then, though he said Monday that “People in the White House hated her. She was vicious, but not smart,” he kept her around for a year.

Trump would also like America to know that his attorney general is a complete failure. Trump’s displeasure comes from the fact that by recusing himself from the Russia investigation, Jeff Sessions has rendered himself unable to shut it down in order to protect him; as he says, “If we had a real Attorney General, this Witch Hunt would never have been started!” In another tweet, Trump refers to “the ‘Justice’ Department,” to communicate that this vital part of the government he leads is not doing its job…

Now let’s remind ourselves of something. One of the rationales that businesspeople always offer when they run for office is that unlike career politicians, they can bring their hard-nosed business sense to government, including in hiring. Instead of bringing on a bunch of cronies, with their commitment to efficiency and results they’ll hire the best people for the job. This is what Trump himself said in 2016 when he was asked by a hedge fund manager what criteria he would use to select members of his administration

11) Georgia’s Republican gubernatorial nominee is a true enemy of democracy.

12) Molly Roberts on why we don’t need a tape of Trump saying awful things:

But maybe confirmation is exactly what we’re looking for. The White House lies regularly, and when it’s not lying it’s at least spinning. We’re suffering whiplash from our collective plunge into a post-truth presidency, and something as stubborn and physical as a tape offers stabilization. A recording reassures Trump critics that they’ve been right all along, and more than that, it inspires the optimistic notion that, up against the sort of evidence that’s hardest to contradict, the rest of the country will finally start to see along with them.

It won’t. That’s not only because Sarah Huckabee Sanders could say the tape was tampered with, or because Trump’s backers would probably believe her. It’s because in a post-truth presidency and a post-truth country, it’s not only a matter of our inability to agree on individual facts and individual fictions. It’s also about the inevitable extension of that inability: Americans live in two totally separate realities, where one group’s good guys are the other group’s bad guys, and where Trump either augurs the disintegration of everything admirable in America or is the beginning of a better, brighter era ahead.

America knows Trump is racist, and his base continues to approve of him anyway. America knows he has catered to Russia at every turn, and his base continues to approve of him anyway, discounting the investigation into election interference as unimportant or a witch hunt. America knew during the election that he was a credibly accused sexual assaulter — and there was a tape — and it elected him anyway.

We don’t need a tape, not one bit. But even if we had one, it wouldn’t make much of a difference.

13) Really enjoyed this account of a UNC football player who gave up the game he loved and his NFL dream after too many concussions.

14) “How punitive, omniscient gods may have encouraged the expansion of human society”

Researchers have examined the relationship between “moralistic” gods – those who care about how we treat each other – cooperation and the size of human societies. This research continues to find a strong relationship between belief in such deities and social complexity. For example, the ancient Greeks appear to have appealed to Zeus during oaths, and in the Iliad, Homer attributes him with concern for justice. Along with having various deities, the Greeks also of course lived in a complex, interconnected social system.

Recent experimental research suggests that punitive, omniscient and morally concerned gods may curb selfishness because these gods trigger both the feeling of being watched and the fear of punishment for breaking the rules. Cross-cultural studies using historical or survey data have also found this relationship. But until now, no one had investigated the relationship between types of gods and selfishness directly using experimental methods with as culturally diverse participants as those in our study.

These results suggest that certain religious beliefs may have contributed to the stability of expanded trade, the moderation of conflict among coreligionists, and how coreligionists might be coordinated when confronting outsiders. Belief in a moralistic, punishing god could have helped people overcome selfish behavior to cooperate fairly with more far-flung individuals, laying the groundwork for larger social networks.

Our findings also partially explain why some religions have dominated the globe; conquest, violence and conversion all require extreme levels of coordination and cooperation. Indeed, Christianity and Islam in particular often tout belief in a moralistic, punishing and omniscient deity, and these traditions have spread around the world.

15) The rise of charter schools and failure of public school integration.

16) CRISPR and the future of food (sign me up).

17) Washington Post with the 23 best movies of the 21st century.  I’ve seen 14 and loved about half those 14.

Quick hits (part I)

Well, it was get quick hits done in time for you to read it over the weekend or fully enjoy my time at my sister’s house on the Potomac River.  Obviously, I chose the latter.  Good stuff here, though.

1) John Oliver takes on prosecutors!  (About time this part of our criminal justice system got the John Oliver treatment).

2) Yes, having a state-run monopoly on selling liquor is absurd public policy, but whether this will end in North Carolina will not depend on whose policy arguments make the most sense, but which interest groups end up having the most sway with legislators.

3) Of course Republicans want to make it easier for payday lenders to defraud military servicemen.

4) Noah Smith is right, “Domino’s Pizza Fixing Potholes Is an Ominous Sign: Either government is failing, inequality is worsening, or both.”

I recently noticed a string of interesting news stories, all with the same theme. Domino’s Pizza is donating money to 20 U.S. cities, to be used for fixing potholes and cracked roads. Salesforce has donated $1.5 million to reduce homelessness in San Francisco, and its CEO, Marc Benioff, has spoken of grander schemes to end homelessness in the city entirely. And Facebook is talking about renovating a defunct bridge that runs across the San Francisco Bay near its offices.

All of these initiatives, in and of themselves, are good things. It’s good for potholes to be fixed, homeless people to be housed, and traffic congestion to be relieved. But the fact that it’s private companies taking these steps is an ominous sign for the nation. It suggests a breakdown in the government’s ability or willingness to carry out one of its core functions — the efficient provision of public goods.

5) Had an interesting conversation earlier this week about my very religious little sister versus her not particularly religious older sister (both my half-sisters).  In looking to explain the difference, I suggested it was likely genetics as much as anything.  SAR went right to the google and found this:

Social scientific research assumes that religious involvement is primarily, if not exclusively, the product of social‐environmental influences There is growing evidence, however, that genetic or other biological factors also play a role Analyzing twin sibling data from the National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States (MIDUS), this study addresses this issue by showing that individual‐level variation on four different aspects of religious life—organizational involvement, personal religiosity and spirituality, conservative ideologies, and transformations and commitments—is indeed the product of both genetic and environmental influences Specifically, genetic factors explain 19–65 percent of the variation, while environmental influences account for the remaining 35–81 percent depending upon the aspect of religion under investigation [emphasis mine] Research of this type enhances contemporary social science by providing a new perspective that nicely supplements existing ones, but it also highlights potential implications, including explanatory power deficiencies and potentially bias.

6) Speaking of religion, I saw the Book of Mormon and loved it.  Just super-entertaining.  And, part of the enjoyment was seeing the conventions of musical theater used in utterly profane and taboo ways.  And I did find David Brooks‘ take on the show to be thought-provoking.

7) Great interactive piece from Nate Cohn on the Trump coalition.  Check it out.

8) This was really fascinating from Ed Yong, “An Ancient Genetic Quirk Could Doom Whales Today: After losing an unnecessary gene millions of years ago, marine mammals are now uniquely vulnerable to pesticides that have only existed for a century.”

9) Loved this NYT interactive essay on why all the popular songs of recent years sound the same.  (Max Martin).  Actually, very cool visuals with this one.

10) In a different week, I would have written a nice post on the Trump administration’s appalling proposal on legal immigration.  This week, I’ll just tell you to make sure you read Catherine Rampell:

Second, this rule is ostensibly about making sure immigrants are self-sufficient and not a drain on public coffers. But NBC reports that the rule could disqualify immigrants making as much as 250 percent of the poverty level.

Moreover, an immigrant’s past use of benefits does not necessarily mean he or she will need them forever. Even the immigrant populations that you might expect to have the most trouble achieving economic self-sufficiency have proved to be a good long-term investment for the nation’s fiscal health…

Third, and most important, is that under the proposal, it’s not only immigrants who must forgo safety-net benefits if they don’t wish to be penalized by the immigration system. It is  everyone in a given immigrant’s household.

That includes — based on an earlier leaked draft of the proposal published by The Post — an immigrant’s own children, even if those children are U.S. citizens who independently qualify for safety-net benefits.

That’s right. Legal-immigrant moms and dads may soon face a choice between (A) guaranteeing their U.S.-born children medical care, preschool classes and infant formula today, or (B) not threatening their own ability to qualify for green cards or citizenship tomorrow.

The universe of U.S.-citizen children who could be affected is large. The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that, in Medicaid and CHIP enrollment alone in 2016, about 5.8 million citizen children had a noncitizen parent…

Any policy that discourages, even a little bit, poor families’ use of such services is not just heartless. From an economic perspective, it is foolish. We need healthy, well-nourished, well-educated children to become healthy, well-nourished, productive workers.

But once again, children and the economic future they represent are the casualties of Trump’s casual cruelty.

11) Hmmm, lots of great NYT stuff this week.  Here’s a really cool interactive Upshot feature on the “age gap” for new mothers:

Becoming a mother used to be seen as a unifying milestone for women in the United States. But a new analysis of four decades of births shows that the age that women become mothers varies significantly by geography and education. The result is that children are born into very different family lives, heading for diverging economic futures.

First-time mothers are older in big cities and on the coasts, and younger in rural areas and in the Great Plains and the South. In New York and San Francisco, their average age is 31 and 32. In Todd County, S.D., and Zapata County, Tex., it’s half a generation earlier, at 20 and 21, according to the analysis, which was of all birth certificates in the United States since 1985 and nearly all for the five years prior. It was conducted for The New York Times by Caitlin Myers, an economist who studies reproductive policy at Middlebury College, using data from the National Center for Health Statistics.

The difference in when women start families cuts along many of the same lines that divide the country in other ways, and the biggest one is education. Women with college degrees have children an average of seven years later than those without — and often use the years in between to finish school and build their careers and incomes.

People with a higher socioeconomic status “just have more potential things they could do instead of being a parent, like going to college or grad school and having a fulfilling career,” said Heather Rackin, a sociologist at Louisiana State University who studies fertility. “Lower-socioeconomic-status people might not have as many opportunity costs — and motherhood has these benefits of emotional fulfillment, status in their community and a path to becoming an adult.”

12) Whatever the politics of “Medicare for All” even a conservative thinktank admits it saves money (though, they kind of hid that).  Drum doesn’t:

Here’s some good news. The libertarians at the Mercatus Center did a cost breakdown of Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All plan and concluded that it would save $2 trillion during its first ten years:

Now, as you might guess, this was not the spin the Mercatus folks put on their study. Their headline is “M4A Would Place Unprecedented Strain on the Federal Budget.” This isn’t really true, of course, since M4A would absorb all the costs of our current health care system but would also absorb all the payments we make to support it. That includes current taxes (for Medicare, Medicaid, and Obamacare), premiums paid by employers, premiums paid by individuals, and out-of-pocket costs from individuals. Instead of going straight to doctors, hospitals, and insurance companies, it would go instead to the federal government, which would then pay everyone else. It’s a lot of money, but it’s no particular “strain” on anything.

And overall we’d save at least $2 trillion over ten years.

13) Science ways in on “boxers vs briefs” and the answer is “boxers.”  At least if you want to reproduce.

 

Quick hits (part I)

1) There’s some stuff that I know so well and have heard so many times, fertilitythat it is easy to forget that it is actually not as widespread knowledge as I think.  Damn, people are ignorant on the reality of human !

The study, published in the journal Human Fertility, was based on a survey of 1,215 students at a university in Melbourne, Australia.

Most study participants said they wanted to have children, but many women said they plan to postpone childbearing until after they complete their education, advance in their careers, have access to child care and jobs that could be combined with having children, and have traveled and done other things that may be difficult with children.

“Our study shows university students overwhelmingly want to be parents, but most have an unrealistic expectation of what they will achieve prior to conception,” said Dr. Eugénie Prior of the Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority in Melbourne, who led the study.

Only 38 percent of men and 45 percent of women stated correctly that a woman’s fertility declines between 35 and 39 years of age, and only 18 percent of men and 17 percent of women knew that men’s fertility declines between 45 and 49, the authors said.

Many study participants thought male fertility starts to decline before 45, but about a quarter of men and nearly a third of women thought male fertility starts to decline only at 50. Many respondents also thought female fertility starts to decline before age 30, but about a third of men and women thought female fertility starts to decline only at 40.

Participants also overestimated the chances that a 40-year-old woman will be successful in having a baby after one round of in vitro fertilization.

2) The case for getting rid of borders completely.

3) Unsurprisingly, sharks make terrible pets.  Also, how does this WSJ editorial not mention Bond villains‽ (Yes, notice the punctuation there!)

4) Hell yeah it’s time to stop job applicant drug testing.  Again, unsurprisingly, the research connecting any of this to job performance is really weak.

5) I did enjoy this interesting profile of white workers in a chicken-processing plant where the vast majority of workers are Hispanic.  Also, if that’s you, just learn to speak Spanish.

6) This NYT feature on the mystery of the tick-borne allergy to meat is terrific.  Also, the microbiome!

7) I don’t doubt at all that it is easy to fool AI grading of student essays with paragraphs like this:

“History by mimic has not, and presumably never will be precipitously but blithely ensconced. Society will always encompass imaginativeness; many of scrutinizations but a few for an amanuensis. The perjured imaginativeness lies in the area of theory of knowledge but also the field of literature. Instead of enthralling the analysis, grounds constitutes both a disparaging quip and a diligent explanation.”

But, I suspect that the AI would be 90% accurate for 90% of my students.  There really are just some basics of good writing (that sadly, so many are lacking).

8) We maybe had a chance to do something about climate change back in the 80’s and didn’t.  That said– I think the huge amount of cheap energy stored in the ground always made that unlikely.

9) How medical providers use the rules to help charge a ton and we all pay for it (the “why you can’t get an affordable MRI” version).

10) Love this from Annie Lowery, “Jeff Bezos’s $150 Billion Fortune Is a Policy Failure: Growing inequality in the United States shows that the game is rigged.”

Bezos and Amazon are in many ways ideal exemplars of the triumph of capital over labor, like the Waltons and Walmart and Rockefeller and Standard Oil before them. That the gap between executives at top companies and employees around the country is so large is in and of itself shocking. Bezos has argued that there is not enough philanthropic need on earth for him to spend his billions on. (The Amazon founder, unlike Gates or Zuckerberg, has given away only a tiny fraction of his fortune.) “The only way that I can see to deploy this much financial resource is by converting my Amazon winnings into space travel,” he said this spring. “I am going to use my financial lottery winnings from Amazon to fund that.”

In contrast, half of Amazon’s employees make less than $28,446 a year, per the company’s legal filings.* Some workers have complained of getting timed six-minute bathroom breaks. (Amazon said it does not track or limit employee bathroom use.) Warehouse workers need to pick goods and pack boxes at closely monitored speeds, handling up to 1,000 items and walking as many as 15 miles per shift. Contractors have repeatedly complained of wage-and-hour violations and argued that the company retaliates against whistleblowers. An Amazon temp died on the floor just a few years ago.

The impoverishment of the latter and the wealth of the former are linked by policy. Take taxes. The idea of America’s progressive income-tax system is that rich workers should pay higher tax rates than poor workers, with the top rate of 37 percent hitting earnings over $500,000. (The top marginal tax rate was 92 percent as recently as 1953.) But Bezos takes a paltry salary, in relative terms, given the number of shares he owns. That means his gains are subject to capital-gains taxes, which top out at just 20 percent; like Warren Buffett, it is possible he pays effective tax rates lower than his secretary does.

11) More good stuff from Pope Francis: the death penalty is never okay:

12) Some research in support of the traditional lecture approach to teaching:

Recent studies conclude that teachers are important for student learning but it remains uncertain what actually determines effective teaching. This study directly peers into the black box of educational production by investigating the relationship between lecture style teaching and student achievement. Based on matched student–teacher data for the US, the estimation strategy exploits between-subject variation to control for unobserved student traits. Results indicate that traditional lecture style teaching is associated with significantly higher student achievement. No support for detrimental effects of lecture style teaching can be found even when evaluating possible selection biases due to unobservable teacher characteristics.

13) Chait on Republicans and health care:

The new Trumpcare plans will be cheap for people who are healthy enough to qualify. But they don’t cover much. If you find you’re having a baby, or need a weekend stay at a hospital, or even something as exotic as prescription drugs, you’re out of luck. The Journal editorial page insists this will all be fine, because “not everyone needs all benefits,” and also, “[t]he HHS rule also stipulates that issuers must prominently display a notice that the coverage isn’t compliant with the Affordable Care Act. Everyone will know what they’re buying.” Right, because everybody in America is already aware of what the essential benefits of Obamacare contain, and thus what their absence implies. Anyway, insurers are definitely going to make sure you’re aware of all the shortfalls and gaps in the product they’re selling you.

What is striking about the Trump-era Republican health agenda is the lack of policy ambition. Having spent years insisting they had an army of wonks who could design a better alternative to the Obamacare “train wreck,” the Republican plan of attack has dissolved into a rearguard sabotage campaign with no pretense of doing anything to help the poor and sick afford medical care. Health care remains a policy ground with which conservative-movement dogma cannot grapple.

14a) Loved this on the Sarah Jeong tweet controversy:

But others were quick to say that the statements Jeong made could be skewed as racist only if the culture, history and current sociopolitical context of the United States were ignored. [emphasis mine]

“Part of the reason it was so easy for the outrage to be manufactured in the first place was it was completely decontextualized and ahistorified,” said Nolan L. Cabrera, an associate professor at the University of Arizona who will publish a book in the fall about racial attitudes held by white college students. “Then it was easy to drum up anger and say it looks like she hates white people. That only makes sense if you are willfully ignorant of 400 to 500 years’ history and contemporary social context and also the context from which the tweets were sent.”

It is likely true, as many have pointed out, that if any minority group were substituted in the place of white people into Jeong’s statements, she would not have kept her job. Some edited Jeong’s tweets to hammer home that idea, replacing the words “white people” in her tweets with “black people” and “Jewish people.”

But Cabrera said the idea was “a complete false equivalence,” noting that whiteness isn’t a cultural identity the way being black, Japanese American or Jewish is. Cabrera listed off examples of government policies that targeted various racial groups, including the Chinese Exclusion Act and Operation Wetback, calling racism a “systemic reality” that necessarily favors white people.

14b) And this from the Verge:

But as the editors of The Verge, we want to be clear: this abusive backlash is dishonest and outrageous. The trolls engaged in this campaign are using the same tactics that exploded during Gamergate, and they have been employed in recent years by even broader audiences amid a rise in hostility toward journalists. From cries about “ethics in journalism” to “fake news,” journalists have been increasingly targeted by people acting in bad faith [emphasis mine] who do not care about the work they do, the challenges they face, or the actual context of their statements.

Online trolls and harassers want us, the Times, and other newsrooms to waste our time by debating their malicious agenda. They take tweets and other statements out of context because they want to disrupt us and harm individual reporters. The strategy is to divide and conquer by forcing newsrooms to disavow their colleagues one at a time. This is not a good-faith conversation; it’s intimidation.

15) And I liked this take on racist/homophobic tweets from baseball players.

16) How California’s birds are adapting to climate change:

Of 32,000 birds recorded in California mountain ranges in the old and new surveys — from thumb-sized Calliope hummingbirds to the spectacular pileated woodpecker — Dr. Tingley and his colleagues discovered that most species now nest about a week earlier than they did 70 to 100 years ago.

That slight advance in timing translates into nesting temperatures about two degrees Fahrenheit cooler than the birds would encounter had they not moved up their breeding time — almost exactly counterbalancing the two-degree rise in average temperatures recorded over the last century.

17) I don’t know that Sarah will even stick with soccer long enough for her to start heading the ball, but if she does…

And according to a study published Tuesday in Radiology, female players are more sensitive to the impact than males.

The study authors found that female amateur soccer players who frequently head balls showed more white matter brain alterations than their male counterparts. The study included 49 women and 49 men, ages 18 to 50, and examined MRI imaging of players’ brains. Each female player was compared to a male player of a similar age and with other similar characteristics including frequency of heading exposure.

Lead author Michael Lipton, a neuroradiologist and neuroscientist at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, says white matter in the brain can be compared to fiber optic cable, which connects a network of computer. White matter is made up thread-like axon nerve fibers that connect neurons to each other, and their protective covering, myelin.

Heading causes these brain tissues to become disorganized, Lipton says. His previous research found that these abnormalities accompany poorer cognitive functionassociated with memory or attention issues when associated with heading.

“The most important finding here is that we see that in women’s brains, actually looking at brain tissue, there seems to be a greater sensitivity to repetitive, very low-level injury relative to men,” he says.

An important note about this research, Lipton says, is that it isn’t about concussions. Instead, it’s measuring “sub-concussive injuries,” or repeated impacts that don’t cause any immediate, acknowledged problem for the player, but could be problematic in the long-term.

18) I must it really bugs me that nobody seems to be talking about the McGlockton “stand your ground” shooting in Florida.  This deserves protests!

19) I’m thinking of planting an apple tree or two in my yard, and so it was time for a little more apple research.  I finally found an answer to a question that’s been bugging me… why the hell do Red Delicious apples even still exist.  Short answer: export market (and the difficulty of switching to new cultivars) Still doesn’t explain why these poor excuses for apples are always in my grocery stores.

Almost everyone agrees: The Red Delicious is a crime against the apple. The fruit makes for a joyless snack, despite the false promise of its name, with a bitter skin that gives way to crumbling, mealy flesh. The Red Delicious is a bit like a Styrofoam prop: It looks picturesque, but really has no business in the mouth. Maybe that’s why the New York Apple Association suggests people use their Red Delicious in holiday wreaths and centerpieces. They sure look nice, but they taste like inanimate objects.

The Red Delicious looks picturesque, but really has no business in the mouth.

As fruits go, the Red Delicious has an unparalleled power to inspire visceral disgust. (There are whole Reddit threads devoted to bashing it.) And yet the variety is ubiquitous. Though it’s no longer the most popular apple in America—since its heyday in the 1980s, it’s been overtaken by newer, tastier varieties—the Delicious remains the most heavily produced apple in the United States. Which means that, even though we’ve long since caught on, you can still find the red scourge everywhere.

This raises some important questions. Why do we keep growing 2.7 billion pounds of Red Delicious apples every year? And are growers still excited by the Delicious or are they stuck between a declining market and an orchard they can’t afford to tear up?

20) This is infuriating, “Arrested, Jailed and Charged With a Felony. For Voting.”  In North Carolina.  The willingness of Republicans to ruin people’s lives to score political points is just disgusting.

The Trump Jesus

Oh my, oh my.  I started reading this Washington Post article this morning about Southern Baptists in Alabama trying to reconcile their faith and their love of the amazingly God-less and amoral man that is Trump.  I stopped reading because it was long and, look, pro-life judges!  Later on, though, I discovered via twitter that I had missed the best part.  Damn, motivated is strong with partisanship, but it can be even stronger with religion.  Check this out from a “Sunday school teacher” (and the  best evidence yet to stop using that phrase as the marker of a decent person):

And there was Sheila Butler, who sat on the sixth pew on the right side, who said “we’re moving toward the annihilation of Christians.”

She was 67, a Sunday school teacher who said this was the only way to understand how Christians like her supported Trump.

“Obama was acting at the behest of the Islamic nation,” she began one afternoon when she was getting her nails done with her friend Linda. She was referring to allegations that President Barack Obama is a Muslim, not a Christian — allegations that are false. “He carried a Koran and it was not for literary purposes. If you look at it, the number of Christians is decreasing, the number of Muslims has grown. We allowed them to come in.”

“Obama woke a sleeping nation,” said Linda.

“He woke a sleeping Christian [emphases in original] nation,” Sheila corrected.

Linda nodded. It wasn’t just Muslims that posed a threat, she said, but all kinds of immigrants coming into the country.

“Unpapered people,” Sheila said, adding that she had seen them in the county emergency room and they got treated before her. “And then the Americans are not served.”

Love thy neighbor, she said, meant “love thy American neighbor.”

Welcome the stranger, she said, meant the “legal immigrant stranger.”

“The Bible says, ‘If you do this to the least of these, you do it to me,’ ” Sheila said, quoting Jesus. “But the least of these are Americans, not the ones crossing the border.”

To her, this was a moral threat far greater than any character flaw Trump might have, as was what she called “the racial divide,” which she believed was getting worse. The evidence was all the black people protesting about the police, and all the talk about the legacy of slavery, which Sheila never believed was as bad as people said it was. “Slaves were valued,” she said. “They got housing. They got fed. They got medical care.”

Good God.  It’s almost like an Onion parody of a Southern Christian.  Alas, that’s the reality.

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.”

GOP ==> Jesus

Really interesting Op-Ed in the NYT by Michele Margolis today describing her research on religion and politics.  I’ve made the case here many times that many Evangelicals clearly put their political beliefs ahead of their supposed Christian beliefs, but Margolis’ research systematically shows that, we really are in the world of PID before everything.  To be fair, this happens for Democrats, too, but moves them in the opposite direction.  Margolis:

Most Americans choose a political party before choosing whether to join a religious community or how often to attend religious services. [emphases mine]

Faith often becomes a peripheral concern in adolescence and young adulthood — precisely the years when we tend to form stable partisan attachments. Religion typically becomes relevant again later, after we have children and start to think about their religious upbringings. By that time, our political views are set, ready to guide our religious values and decisions.

This is precisely the pattern that produced the religiosity gap between Democrats and Republicans. In 1965, M. Kent Jennings and Richard Niemi conducted a survey of over 1,500 American high school seniors, and then followed up with those people when they were in their 20s and 30s, and at 50.

Analyzing these data, I find that twentysomething Democrats and Republicans were equally secular: Most had pulled away from religion after high school, and Democrats and Republicans did so at similar rates. But nine years later, Republicans had become much more likely to attend church than their Democratic counterparts. In contrast, even those who bucked the secular trend and remained religious in their 20s were no more likely than less religious members of their cohort to join the Republican ranks in their 30s…

In one experiment, I showed some people a flyer advertising their political party, while other people saw an apolitical flyer. Relative to Republicans who saw the apolitical flyer, Republicans who saw the partisan flyer reported feeling closer to their religious faith. Democrats who saw a political flyer, in the other hand, had the opposite response.

In other words, a subtle nudge to think about politics made Republicans feel more religious and Democrats feel more secular.

It may seem counterintuitive, if not downright implausible, that voting Democrat or Republican could change something as personal as our relationship with God. But over the course of our lives, political choices tend to come first, religious choices second…

These same dynamics help explain religious identity in the age of Donald Trump. The familiar narrative that religious beliefs lead white evangelicals to the Republican Party ignores the flip side: how Mr. Trump’s polarizing presidency could be changing evangelicalism in America.

Hearing evangelical leaders praise Mr. Trump and noting his persistent approval among white evangelicals, white Trump supporters may find themselves more and more drawn to the evangelical label and to churches they know will be filled with politically like-minded congregants.

In my case I’ve been an (almost) weekly church-goer my whole life and that never changed.  And the Catholic Church drives me crazy some times, but there’s enough focus on social justice (you know, the stuff Jesus talked about literally all the time), that I’m not going anywhere.  Fair to say, focusing on politics, though, almost surely makes me think in a more secular manner (though, I’m a very secular thinker– whatever that is– for a weekly churchgoer), in part, because “Christianity” in American has become so allied with the GOP.

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