Cancel cancel culture

This past week Obama made some statements about the problems with cancel culture.  Journalist, and, cancel culture apologist Ernest Owens took to the Op-ed pages of the NYT to attack Obama and defend cancel culture.  Obviously, Owens does not speak for all cancel culture, but insofar as he is representative, what he really shows is how this approach can lead to (otherwise) intelligent people being guilty of very sloppy thinking.  For me, I’ll likely never forget one of my (otherwise intelligent) students zealously arguing that when it comes to potentially racist/sexist behavior “intent doesn’t matter.”  Whoa.  I don’t think you need to be a lawyer to appreciate that “intent” is pretty much at the heart of how we judge other people’s actions all the time.  Of course, a wrongful act is still wrong, but it is preposterous to eliminate the state of mind of the person committing the act from consideration.

Anyway, what we see from Owens here is intellectually lazy and dishonest ways of trying to frame the discussion to his advantage.  For example:

His eagerness to dismiss one part of what happens when young people stand up for what they believe in as “casting stones” is a reminder of a largely generational divide about whether it’s impolite to speak out in favor of the most vulnerable among us and the world we’d like to live in. While there’s some debate about which generation Mr. Obama belongs to, he’s solidly in the older camp.

Seriously?  Talk about a straw man.  As if Obama is somehow arguing against standing up for the vulnerable or standing up for what they believe in.  He’s arguing about “canceling” people because of a single incident/statement and refusing to see the complexity and nuance that is, you know, most of human life.

I loved the idea in Alan Jacob’s How to Think that you be able to describe your opponent’s idea in such a way that they would agree with your characterization.  Then you attack it.  (A steel man instead of a straw man)  Now that’s critical and serious thinking.  It’s pretty clear that Obama would never agree that it is impolite to speak out for the vulnerable.

There’s more, of course:

Boomers and Gen-Xers, along with a handful of younger people with more regressive views, have been agitated by the way many young Americans — and especially young people of color — use social media, the only platform many of us have, to talk about the causes we care about.

But they are going to have to get over it.

The issues that my fellow millennials, along with even younger people in Gen Z, tend to be “judgmental” about are the same ones many of our parents and grandparents have been debating for decades. Being outspoken about climate change, women’s rights, racial justice, LGBTQ inclusivity and gun control — and critical of those who stand in the way of progress on these issues — is work that’s been left to us.

Riiiiight.  I’m just a bitter Gen-Xer upset at all those young people of color using social media.  And speaking out about climate change, women’s rights, racial justice, etc.  Like most Gen X liberals, I’m, obviously, totally against these things.

Or this:

What people of Obama’s generation don’t understand — or don’t want to understand — about the ways in which younger people use the internet to make our values known, is that we’re not bullies going after people with “different opinions” for sport. Rather, we’re trying to push back against the bullies — influential people who have real potential to cause harm, or have already caused it. At the very least, we can speak up to send a message to vulnerable people that the bullies’ bigoted or backward views aren’t the only ones out there.

Hmmm.  Like digging through celebrities’ forgotten tweets from years ago to find anti-LGBTQ statements?  That’s really pushing back against bullies?

Or maybe the problem is lumping Kevin Hart’s forgotten homophobic jokes in with Harvey Weinstein’s serial sexual assault and treating them as of the same piece:

Similarly, harsh scrutiny of Hollywood heavyweights Harvey Weinstein and Roman Polanski is appropriate. The National Football League doesn’t deserve my viewership after blackballing former player Colin Kaepernick for standing up against racist police brutality. Dave Chappelle should be ridiculed for making transphobic jokes, especially at a time when black transgender women continue to be murdered. It’s not rude or intolerant to say Kevin Hart’s homophobia isn’t funny.

Nobody on the left, of any age, is saying that it’s rude or intolerant to say Hart’s past homophobic jokes aren’t funny.  We’re saying to “‘cancel” Hart over these jokes is an over-reaction that doesn’t actually serve liberal ends of social justice.

And, lastly, from (seemingly) totally out in left field, I was at church yesterday and the gospel reading was from Luke 19.  Short version: Jesus was so not about cancel culture:

1He came to Jericho and intended to pass through the town.2Now a man there named Zacchaeus, who was a chief tax collector and also a wealthy man,3was seeking to see who Jesus was; but he could not see him because of the crowd, for he was short in stature.4So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus, who was about to pass that way.5When he reached the place, Jesus looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.”6And he came down quickly and received him with joy.7When they all saw this, they began to grumble, saying, “He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner.”a8But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over.”b9* And Jesus said to him, “Today salvationc has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham.10* d For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.”

People are complicated!  Good people do bad things.  Bad people do good things.  The problem with cancel culture is it too readily fails to admit this basic reality and concludes that bad things equals bad people and that’s the end of it.

And, on the bright side, I’ve got so few twitter and blog followers that I’m not too worried about being canceled over this post.  But, heck, if I was actually semi-famous, I’d need to watch out.

Quick Hits (part II)

1) Andrew Sullivan on the taboo of discussing the fact that some transgender people actually de-transition.  Alas, among many, even discussing this fact gets labeled “transphobic.”  Once again, why can’t we just believe that we need to be sympathetic to and support trans persons and yet admit, maybe some teens actually rush into the process.

A Brown University professor, Lisa Littman, published a paper earlier this year citing parents’ reports on their transgender kids. She discovered a pattern: Most (83 percent) were girls in their teens with no previous history of gender dysphoria, who spent a lot of time online, and “more than one-third [of whom] had friendship groups in which 50 percent or more of the youths began to identify as transgender in a similar time frame.” Littman was not the first person to use this term, but she described this phenomenon as “rapid onset gender dysphoria,” and worried that it could be caused by social contagion, or connected to other issues such as the rejection of parents, depression, autism, and bipolar disease. Littman was concerned that these kids were not getting the full range of mental health help they needed. (Earlier this year, a governor of the Tavistock Centre resigned after submitting a report that argued that teens were being fast-tracked to transition in the center, without sufficient exploration of other comorbid factors. He felt the place had so lost its way in a thicket of ideology that he had to quit.)

The Littman paper was assailed by trans activists and their allies, denounced as transphobic, and had to have its framing language changed before it was republished. But the research and the findings, while very limited in their scope, held up under peer review, and were the same in the republished version as in the original. This is a real enough phenomenon to merit much more research to confirm it. But the pressure to stop this research remains enormous: Littman herself lost her consulting job over the paper, after a campaign to get her fired for transphobia.

2) Republican Senators’ latest plan to excuse Trump?  Throw out a bunch of legal language that maybe they don’t even understand and presume that it’s enough to convince their Fox News base:

“To me, this entire issue is gonna come down to, why did the president ask for an investigation,” Kennedy, who worked as a lawyer, said in an interview. “To me, it all turns on intent, motive. … Did the president have a culpable state of mind? … Based on the evidence that I see, that I’ve been allowed to see, the president does not have a culpable state of mind.”

Maybe the Fox viewership will be thrown by “culplable state of mind,” but, ummm… yes!

3) Of course Trump made up the “whimpering” death of Al-Baghdadi.  But, it’s Trump, so who cares?

That Mr. Trump seems to have made up the scene of a whimpering terrorist may be shocking on one level yet not all that surprising from a president who over the years has made a habit of inventing people who do not exist and events that did not happen. Mr. Trump’s flexibility with fact has become such an established feature of his presidency that polls show most Americans, including even many of his own supporters, do not, as a rule, take him at his word.

What may be most telling about the episode is how little attention the disparity of details received. In the past, presidential words were scrutinized with forensic exactitude and any variance from the established record could do lasting political damage. In the era of Trumpian truth, misstatements and lies are washed away by the next story, prompting Pinocchios from fact checkers and scolding from Democrats and Never Trumpers while Republicans dismiss them with that’s-just-Trump-being-Trump weariness.

“Donald Trump is not simply a serial liar; he is attempting to murder the very idea of truth, which is even worse,” said Peter Wehner, a former strategic adviser to President George W. Bush and an outspoken critic of Mr. Trump. “Because without truth, a free society cannot operate.”

4) I enjoyed George Packer’s essay on trying to do right by his kids in NYC public schools.  But, even though he’s a really thoughtful liberal, in the end, it did seem a little too hard for him to realize what an utterly insane liberal-elitist-NYC bubble he lives in.  Safe to say, Packer’s kids will be fine at any non-horrible schools.

5) Yes, the photos here are great, but really love the title, “30 Pics Of Finnish Cats Living Their Best Winter Life.”

Norwegian-Forest-Cats-Sampy-Hiskias

6) Totally with Brett Stephens on this one.  We really should judge art on it’s own merit, not the political/ideological views of it’s creators.  Stephens talks about finding out Roald Dahl was quite an anti-semite.  Definitely disappointing to learn this.  Charlie and the Chocolate Factory still an all-time amazing book that I will enjoy again.  And, yes, I also still enjoy Michael Jackson’s music, while I’m at it.

7) This was really good from Matt Stoller, “Corporate America’s Second War With the Rule of Law
Opinion: Uber, Facebook, and Google are increasingly behaving like the law-flouting financial empires of the 1920s. We know how that turned out.”

8) Was looking to buy some tickets the other day and the fees, my God, the fees.  So totally absurd that we cannot find a way to require transparency in ticket pricing for sports/entertainment events.

9) This is great news, “Long-awaited cystic fibrosis drug could turn deadly disease into a manageable condition.”

The therapy is a combination of three drugs that wouldn’t have been possible if scientists working in academic laboratories hadn’t unraveled the basic biology of the disease. Finding the gene was a needle-in-a-haystack-type problem, Collins said, and it led scientists to a malfunctioning protein that normally keeps the right balance of salt and water in the lungs. There are more than 1,700 gene mutations that can cause the protein to malfunction, but in the most common mutation, the protein is misfolded and can’t reach the right spot in the cell — and even if it does reach that spot, it doesn’t work properly. The new combination therapy includes one drug that corrects the misfolded protein and two that activate the correctly folded protein when it reaches the right spot in the cell.

In the largest trial, reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, 403 patients who had at least one copy of the most common gene mutation underlying cystic fibrosis received either Trikafta or a placebo. There were improvements in objective tests of lung function, decreases in lung problems and hospitalizations and an increase in people’s quality of life.

Many physicians see the most transformative potential impact of the drug in the hope that it will be eventually approved for younger children, as Vertex’s other drugs have been over time. The drug can help older patients, but it can’t erase years of lung damage; if it works and is safe in younger children, it could prevent damage in the first place.

10) It’s sad that the hierarchy of the Catholic church will, apparently, at least consider pretty much anything to address the shortage of priests.  But women.

The modern Catholic Church is beset with serious problems. Among them is that not enough men want to be priests. Over the past three weeks, 184 bishops gathered at a Vatican summit to seek solutions for the Amazon region in particular, singled out because of myriad crises it is facing, including environmental devastation, violence and a shortage of priests to serve the needs of the faithful there.

The bishops’ solution: Do anything other than ordaining women as priests.

On Oct. 26, in a “revolutionary” decision, the bishops gathered at the Vatican voted 128 to 41 to allow an exception to what has essentially been a 1,000-year ban on the ordination of married men as priests. They recommended this change for only certain parts of the Amazon and for only married men already made deacons, meaning men already allowed to perform marriages and baptisms, but not to officiate at mass, which only priests can do. It is now for Pope Francis to decide whether the decision goes forward.

It is surprising in many ways that the bishops made this decision. Allowing a married man to be a priest violates several longstanding rules. They voted as they did despite the tremendous importance of chastity for the Catholic Church and the old idea that sexual activity is a pollutant that cannot be allowed near the holy ritual of the mass. They voted in favor of married priests despite a longstanding fear that for a priest to have a wife and a family would lead to serious conflicts of interest. There is a legend that the word “nepotism” was invented in honor of the grasping nephews of popes who sought and obtained more than they deserved thanks to their powerful uncles (and “nephews” we can sometimes see as a euphemism for “sons”).

These potential conflicts of interest and other dangers that family influence and obligations bring, therefore, are something Catholic authorities have long recognized and have eagerly sought to prevent. They voted as they did despite the symbolic importance, too, of the idea that a priest be united to only one spouse, the Church, just as Jesus Christ was united in an exclusive bond with the Church…

Pope Francis himself has acknowledged that there could be what the theology professor Gary Macy has called a “hidden history” in which women had a larger role in ministry than the Catholic Church currently accepts, for which scholars such as Dr. Macy have found ample and intriguing evidence. While rejecting much of this evidence, conservative Catholic authorities do, however, recognize that for several centuries, their predecessors, like the leaders of the Eastern Churches then and now, allowed married men to serve as priests or as bishops, though sometimes they required celibacy and that their wives enter religious life.

11) Stuff like this makes me a techno-optimist in general.  CRISPR may actually solve our problem with antibiotic resistance:

Crispr-based antibiotic pills aren’t yet anywhere near pharmacy shelves. But developing such treatments could allow scientists to harness the power of the human body’s own resident microbes in preventing disease.

“Scientists are starting to figure out that microbiota can also be extremely beneficial for our health,” said Luciano Marraffini, a microbiologist at Rockefeller University and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Conventional antibiotics do not distinguish between good and bad bacteria, eradicating everything indiscriminately and occasionally creating problems for people with weakened immune systems.

“A major benefit of Crispr is that we can program it to kill only specific pathogenic bacteria and leave alone the rest of our healthy microbes,” Dr. Marraffini said.

A few companies have started to pursue Crispr-based antibiotics that can be delivered through viruses that have been engineered so that they cannot reproduce or cause infections themselves, as well as other methods. Dr. Marraffini is a co-founder of one such start-up, Eligo Bioscience.

The specificity of Crispr is equally enticing to researchers looking to target pathogenic viruses. Instead of having Crispr kill viruses that infect bacteria, as it does in nature, scientists are programming it to chop up viruses that infect humans.

12) Eat your fiber!  “Fiber and Yogurt Tied to Lower Lung Cancer Risk: By promoting a healthy gut microbiome, a high-fiber diet and foods like yogurt may lower lung cancer risk, even among smokers.”  And “Fiber in Fruits and Grains Protects Against Diverticulitis”

13) Dahlia Lithwick on “the judges Republicans are doing it all for.”

It’s not news that Trump has made packing the federal courts with the youngest, most radical, least qualified jurists ever seen a priority. Nor is it news that this project has been singularly successful because it was contracted out to effective outside groups, and because Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell now cares about no other. Last week, the Senate advanced the nomination for a lifetime tenured position of a 37-year-old associate professor, who had been rated “not qualified” by the American Bar Association. Justin Walker, the prospective judge in question, has never tried a case. He’s never been co-counsel in a case. His principal qualification for a federal district court judgeship seems to be his important legal work spent “conducting over 70 interviews in which he challenged the account of Christine Blasey Ford.” He’s a TV judge whom Mitch McConnell somehow touted as “unquestionably the most outstanding nomination that I’ve ever recommended to Presidents to serve on the bench in Kentucky.” Despite his lack of any judicial qualifications and the once-rare not-qualified ABA rating, every Republican on the Judiciary Committee voted to advance his nomination while Democrats broke against him. As Jennifer Bendery noted here, “in his entire eight years in the White House, President Barack Obama didn’t nominate anyone to be a lifetime federal judge who earned a ‘not qualified’ ABA rating.” Walker was Trump’s fourth. And on Thursday, the Senate is poised to vote on the fifth, Sarah Pitlyk, nominated to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri.

14) Americans trust local news.  Brendan Nyhan on how that belief is being exploited by bad actors:

The nature of the news misinformation problem may be changing. As consumers become more skeptical about the national news they encounter online, impostor local sites that promote ideological agendas are becoming more common. These sites exploit the relatively high trust Americans express in local news outlets — a potential vulnerability in Americans’ defenses against untrustworthy information.

Some misinformation in local news comes from foreign governments seeking to meddle in American domestic politics. Most notably, numerous Twitter accounts operated by the Russian Internet Research Agency were found to have impersonated local news aggregators during the 2016 election campaign.

A recent Senate Intelligence Committee report found that 54 such accounts published more than 500,000 tweets. According to researchers at N.Y.U., the fake local news accounts frequently directed readers to genuine local news articles about polarizing political and cultural topics.

Domestically grown dubious outlets are also proliferating. Last week, The Lansing State Journal reported the existence of a network of more than 35 faux-local websites across Michigan with names like Battle Creek Times, Detroit City Wire, Lansing Sun and Grand Rapids Reporter…

Over all, we found that people preferred to consume local news most. Holding other factors constant, Americans were 11 percentage points more likely to choose articles from local news sources than ones from online-only national outlets — precisely why dubious websites might impersonate local news sources. This differential was largest among Republican identifiers and people with a negative view of the news media.

The prevalence of these impostors is likely to increase as the 2020 election approaches, threatening to mislead more voters and to promote greater skepticism toward all news media, including the local outlets that so many Americans rely on and trust.

15) “Tales from the teenage cancel culture.”  Personally, I’m ready to cancel cancel culture.  Perhaps the response from my younger readers… “Okay Gen-Xer”

16) Sad, hilarious, and amazing how dumb Trump and friends are about what a “witch hunt” means.

17) OMG I hate Britt Hume so much.  What a hack!  Now, I’m far from an expert on American foreign policy (as you’ve noticed, very much a domestic policy guy).  But for Hume to claim that American foreign policy is nothing more than what the president wants foreign policy to be is insane:

What’s also insane is all the commenters in this threat totally on this absurd “l’etat c’est moi” bandwagon where whatever Donald Trump wants is policy (even if it is to subvert America’s national security to his own personal interests).

Just for the record, Congress plays a role in foreign policy, too.

Quick hits (part II)

Sorry to be so late… Duke basketball on Saturday night and NC State Fair today.

1) Career diplomat on how Trump has devastated US Diplomacy.

2) Missouri Senator Josh Hawley is just the worst.  Basically, Trump, but not stupid.  Recently he attacked non-elitist Greg Sargent for being a coastal elitist.  Ed Kilgore cuts Hawley down to size:

Beyond hypocrisy, Hawley, who is not a stupid man, is engaging in the kind of crude geographical and cultural stereotypes that ought to make him ashamed. A very wise man who represented a state adjoining Hawley’s in the U.S. Senate had this to say about that unfortunate and divisive tendency:

The pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats. But I’ve got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the Blue States, and we don’t like federal agents poking around in our libraries in the Red States. We coach Little League in the Blue States and yes, we’ve got some gay friends in the Red States.

All kinds of people live and work in all kinds of places, and demagogues who try to convince their constituents that Greg Sargent hates them and can’t understand them because of where he lives and works are deeply cynical. Josh Hawley isn’t what he superficially appears to be at this moment. Neither are most of us.

3) Not a big fan of Latinx.  I think I usually stick with Hispanic.  Here’s a Vox comic that I think is supposed to make the case, kind of, for Latinx, but ends up making the point that trying to use language for ideological purposes instead of clear communication is ultimately a fool’s errand.

4) Good stuff on Trump’s overwhelming corruption:

In other words, the president is unique in his corruption in American history. The watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has regularly compiled a tally of Trump’s conflicts of interest and violations of the emoluments clauses. The latest numbers are stark: 1,493 trips to Trump properties by government officials, usually spending taxpayer money that will enrich the president; 292 promotions of Trump properties by White House officials; 63 foreign trademarks awarded to Trump brands, mostly from China and Brazil, while he has been president.

The president himself had made 387 trips to his properties, 240 of them to play golf. He regularly does semi-official infomercials for his properties, and he’s told couples considering staging a wedding reception at Mar-a-Lago in Florida or the Trump country club in Bedminster, N.H., that, if they do, he might be available for a photo op. He famously doubled the initiation fee at Mar-a-Lago, to $200,000, when he became president, enabling foreign figures (and others) to gain entrée to the president for a price his businesses collect.

The message has been received: Foreign governments, including Romania, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, moved events from other venues to Trump properties, and foreign countries or other foreign-connected entities have held 13 events at his properties, surely enriching him along the way. (He claims profits from foreigners are repaid to the Treasury; without his tax records, this can’t be checked). One hundred and twenty-one foreign officials from 71 foreign governments have visited his properties; lobbyists of all stripes have scheduled events there. Trump has openly talked about his ventures in places like Saudi Arabia and Turkey even as he has bent American foreign policy in ways that benefit those countries’ autocrats.

The president likes to pretend that there is no such thing as a conflict of interest, that his actions are ”perfect” and “innocent.” But we should not let his lies obscure what are ongoing, direct and outrageous abuses of the Constitution for financial gain by the president and his cronies. The House impeachment hearings are concentrating on other abuses of power, but there is no doubt our Framers would see the emoluments violations as a long series of impeachable and unconscionable offenses.

5) Yes, you can be addicted to video games.  Fair to say my oldest son once suffered from such an addiction.  As for my third son, he’s at least addiction adjacent at this point.

6) Dan Drezner on Trump’s 3rd and 4th rate people:

One of the amusing aspects of Mulvaney’s witless incompetence as a Trump shill is learning of Jared Kushner’s disenchantment with his performance. When Kushner seems like the more competent person in a staff, that is a sign that the staff has scraped the absolute bottom of the barrel.

Politico’s Daniel Lippman had a story over the weekend that bolsters my “it’s the staff, stupid” hypothesis:

Trump has never felt shackled by traditional ways of running a government. But earlier in his administration, “there was enough guardrails around Trump or enough caution on his part that when he did things that were more impulsive, they had less significance and fewer external ramifications,” a former White House official said….
Trying to constrain Trump is “a pipe dream,” one current White House official said. “Everyone who has tried had eventually failed in some way.”
“It’s just looking like everything is coming apart,” a former White House official said. Another former senior West Wing aide agreed that the White House seemed to be “a little bit unraveling” in recent days.
Some current White House officials say they are exhausted amid the constant fighting and lack the energy to constrain a willful president bent on having his way. It’s normal for officials to return to the private sector after a few years of pressure-cooker public service, but the Trump administration has seen extraordinary levels of turnover, and the administration’s ranks are thin and getting thinner. A White House official described a “Who cares?” attitude creeping through the building under Mulvaney’s hands-off management style.

Let me be perfectly clear: Trump is his own worst enemy. His governing impulses, to the extent that they exist, are awful. But he has not suddenly gotten worse. His staff, on the other hand, has devolved.

7) Never-Trumper David French with his latest Trump takedown, “If You Didn’t Already Think Trump Was Unfit for Office, Syria and Ukraine Should Change Your Mind.”

8) And Greg Sargent on Josh Hawley:

That great middle has no apparent room for the tens and tens of millions of Americans who believe we have expansive moral obligations to some of those outside our borders (majorities favor allowing Central American refugees to try for asylum), or to future generations who will suffer from climate change (majorities see it as a crisis and see the need for sacrifices to combat it, and favor rejoining the Paris climate deal).

Where in this great middle is there room for the popular majorities who believe we should sacrifice some of our sovereignty to act in international concert to solve such problems, and thus actually align with the supposedly “elite” positions claimed by Hawley?

Hawley can reach for the “elitist” charge so easily because it’s largely performative. It’s centered on a conception of middle class virtue that lives or dies on being from “the heartland” — rural and exurban Red America — and on holding the suite of conservative nationalist values that are actually being rejected by a vast swath of the real American mainstream.

9) Dahlia Lithwick on Trump and “quid pro quo.”

The truth about that quid pro quo talk? It’s the new “no collusion.” It’s a way in which the White House uses a fake legal test—like insisting that if Mueller finds no collusion then Trump is exculpated—to both define away the misconduct using made-up legal concepts and also to raise the bar far beyond what is being sought. By parroting “no collusion,” Trump and Attorney General Bill Barr (oh, and Graham) deployed a pretend crime Trump didn’t commit to distract from the actual crimes of conspiracy and obstruction that were under investigation.

By insisting there be a criminal quid pro quo in Trump’s dealing with Ukraine—a move the White House has been relying on for weeks now—Trump defenders are pretending to cede ground when, in fact, they are inventing imaginary legal baselines for misconduct and raising meaningless impeachment bars to rest somewhere above the ozone layer. Part of the reason Mulvaney’s comments last week were so damaging was that admitting Trump engaged in, and routinely trades in, quid pro quos crosses these imaginary lines, sky-high though they may be.

There is no criminality requirement for impeachment. There isn’t a quid pro quo requirement, either. Dean Erwin Chemerinsky of University of California–Berkeley told me the same thing in an email, “The Constitution does not require that there be a crime in order for it to be an impeachable offense. ‘High crimes and misdemeanors’ is thought to refer to serious abuses of power. No quid pro quo is needed for it to be deemed an abuse of power.” It’s been amply demonstrated by scholars that nobody needs to prove that Trump committed a crime under any statutory definition of criminality, to have committed the kinds of abuse of power offenses that formed the spine of the articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon.

To be sure, the debate over whether or not there was a quid pro quo on offer is useful, and it’s even useful for proving noncriminal abuse of power claims. But while we can argue about quid pro quos to establish misconduct for public opinion purposes, it remains a tiny piece of the puzzle. If it turns out that a quid pro quo around aid to Ukraine can be proved, that’s outstanding news for House Democrats. But it is not necessary for a criminal impeachment conviction, and Senate Republicans should not be permitted to hide behind claims that it is. Graham’s statements should be recognized for exactly what they are—a line of defense for Trump, and a distortion of the constitutional floor for impeachment, and nothing close to a crack in the wall of protection for the president.

10) Ron Brownstein, “Trump Has No Room for Error in 2020: Changes in the electorate are putting the squeeze on the president.”

The risk in Donald Trump’s base-first electoral strategy is only rising—because the size of his base is shrinking.

Working-class whites are on track to continue declining as a share of eligible voters in 2020, according to a study released today by the liberal think tank Center for American Progress. In turn, two groups much more resistant to Trump will keep growing: Nonwhite voters will swell substantially, while college-educated white voters will modestly increase.

These shifts in the electorate’s composition may seem small, but they could have big implications next year. The report projects that these demographic changes alone could provide Democrats a slim Electoral College majority by reversing Trump’s narrow victories in the three blue-wall states that keyed his 2016 victory: Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. Indeed, the shifts could be enough to narrowly tip these states back toward the Democrats even if college- and non-college-educated whites and minorities behave exactly as they did in 2016—if their turnout rates stay the same and if they split their votes between Trump and the Democratic nominee in exactly the same proportions as they did then.

And, if all other voting patterns hold equal, these changes alone could add another percentage point to the Democratic nominee’s margin of victory in the national popular vote, giving that candidate an advantage over Trump of more than 3 points. All told, the study, provided exclusively to The Atlantic, underscores how narrow a pathway the president is following headed into 2020.

11) Jonathan Rauch with a thoughtful essay on “Rethinking Polarization.”

12) Wired on the California wildfires, “Kincade Fire: The Age of Flames Is Consuming California: Yet another massive wildfire is ravaging Northern California. Welcome to the Pyrocene—think of it like the Ice Age, but with fire.”

13) I was thinking the other day about hearing the notable decline in religious adherents that it’s gotta be that so many people are turned off by the rank hypocrisy of so many so-called “Christians.”  Well, Kristoff has a column on that:

The decline in religion is particularly evident among young people. Those born between 1928 and 1945 are only two percentage points less likely to identify as Christian than they were a decade ago, while millennials are 16 percentage points less likely to call themselves Christians.

“Adults coming of age today are far less religious than their parents and grandparents before them,” said Gregory Smith of the Pew Research Center.

Smith noted that the data seem consistent with the argument made by leading scholars that young adults have turned away from organized religion because they are repulsed by its entanglements with conservative politics. “Nones,” for example, are solidly Democratic…

The central issue is that faith is supposed to provide moral guidance — and many moralizing figures on the evangelical right don’t impress young people as moral at all. Senator Jesse Helms said in 1995 that AIDS funding should be cut because gay men get the disease. The Rev. Jerry Falwell and the Rev. Pat Robertson initially suggested that God organized the 9/11 terror attacks to punish feminists, gays and lesbians.

God should have sued Falwell and Robertson for defamation. But, in some sign of karma, a survey found that gays and lesbians have higher public approval than evangelicals do.

14) The Whistleblower’s work is done here.  Nice NYT Op-Ed:

“Where is the Whistleblower, and why did he or she write such a fictitious and incorrect account of my phone call with the Ukrainian President?” President Trump tweeted Thursday night. “Why did the IG allow this to happen? Who is the so-called Informant (Schiff?) who was so inaccurate? A giant Scam!”

The thing is, Mr. Trump, virtually every piece of information that the public first learned from the whistle-blower’s complaint has been corroborated by the White House’s reconstructed transcript of your call with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine or by the congressional testimony and documents provided by current and former administration officials. In the few remaining cases, save one, journalists have backed up his assertions through reporting.

15) Another Raina Telgemeier quick hit (my daughter reads her books like nobody elses)– how the author turned her own fears and anxieties into her super-successful graphic novels.

16) The loudest bird in the world.  This is cool.

17) Much to enjoy here, “The 20 defining comedy sketches of the past 20 years.”

And then God said, “let there be AR-15s”

Speaking of God, Alexandra Petri is so good at this.  In response to Sarah Sanders’ embarrassing and ludicrous claim:

“Democrats say we have guns in America because of ‘corruption.’ No, we have guns because it’s our God-given right enshrined in the Constitution.” — Former White House press secretary Sarah Sanders

Petri gives us this:

Yes, this is true, and it is good that we talk about it. This is a fact about the American founding that has been suppressed for too long. Certainly all the firearms that sprout Hydra-like across the country were acquired by no mortal means, and it is important for us to describe exactly how they came about, so that we may better understand and appreciate them.

The year is not important. But it was a long time ago, at least 230 years.

The country possessed many wonders. There were waterfalls, rocks, rills, woods, templed hills. There were raccoons, small nervous bears that were forever washing their hands like tiny Lady Macbeths. There were armadillos. There was even syphilis and Christianity, both thoughtful gifts from Europe. But when one surveyed the country from above, something seemed to be missing. What was it?

Suddenly, thunder rumbled. In the hall in Philadelphia where they were gathered to write a Constitution, and also in Virginia where George Mason was crafting the Virginia Declaration of Rights (confusingly, these events were in different years, but theologians assure me this is possible), the delegates shuddered, and Benjamin Franklin had to rub James Madison’s back soothingly and murmur to him so his hands stopped shaking enough to be able to start taking notes again.

“BEHOLD,” said a thundering voice from a cloud. (Madison had resumed taking his notes at this point, which is how we know this.) The heavens parted. An enormous hand stretched forth, holding a mysterious black object, long and pointed like a stick.

“I’M GIVING YOU THIS,” the hand said. “A GIFT, FROM ME TO YOU, THAT NO ONE CAN EVER TAKE AWAY.”

“What is it?” the delegates asked.

“JUST TAKE IT,” the hand said. “DON’T WORRY ABOUT IT.”

“What’s it for?” the delegates asked.

“KILLING,” the hand said. “INDISCRIMINATELY. CHILDREN, TEENAGERS, GRANDMOTHERS, PARENTS ON THEIR WAY TO PICK UP THEIR KIDS FROM SCHOOL. TODDLERS. I GUESS YOU COULD USE IT FOR HUNTING, BUT NOT IF YOU WERE PARTICULARLY GOOD AT HUNTING.”

“Like a musket?” someone asked.

The voice laughed long and loud and rumblingly. “ONLY IN THE LOOSEST SENSE,” the voice said. “FOR BEHOLD, THIS CAN FIRE 600 ROUNDS PER MINUTE.”

“This seems like it could be useful in a war,” Mason said, not unreasonably.

“I DON’T MEAN IN WAR,” the voice said. “THAT GOES WITHOUT SAYING. I MEAN, IN PRIVATE HOMES AND ON CITY STREETS AND UNLOCKED IN CABINETS IN HOUSES WITH TODDLERS IN THEM, AND IN THE HANDS OF POLICE OFFICERS.”…

“I have a slight question,” Benjamin Franklin said.

“STOP ASKING QUESTIONS,” the voice said. “AND IF ANYONE EVER SAYS, ‘THERE ARE TOO MANY, THESE ARE TOO DANGEROUS, WE DON’T WANT THEM ANY MORE, THE MILITIA THING HAS REALLY WANED SO IT SEEMS LIKE MOSTLY THEY ARE USED TO CAUSE ACCIDENTS IN THE HOME, TO INCREASE THE LIKELIHOOD THAT PEOPLE WHO WANT TO END THEIR LIVES WILL BE ABLE TO DO SO, AND TO DECREASE THE NUMBER OF CHILDREN AND CIVILIANS,’ YOU MUST SAY NO, BECAUSE I TOLD YOU SO AND I AM PLEASED TO BEHOLD THIS GREAT WORK.”

Are Christian conservatives driving liberals away from religion?

Maybe.  And who can blame them when you look at the absolute gross distortions of Christianity that are so common among right-wing Evangelicals, e.g., harsh treatment of migrants and refugees is just fine and Donald Trump a champion of “Christian” values.

I was recently telling my Intro to American Government class about the grown of secular voters and how they are quite associated with the Democratic  party.  What I did not realize, though, is that there’s some very intriguing social science actually suggesting a causal path of aversion to right-wing Christianity leading liberals to identify as non religions.  538’s Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux and Daniel Cox sum up the research:

Over the course of a single generation, the country has gotten a lot less religious. As recently as the early 1990s, less than 10 percent of Americans lacked a formal religious affiliation, and liberals weren’t all that much likelier to be nonreligious than the public overall. Today, however, nearly one in four Americans are religiously unaffiliated. That includes almost 40 percent of liberals — up from 12 percent in 1990, according to the 2018 General Social Survey.1 The share of conservatives and moderates who have no religion, meanwhile, has risen less dramatically.

The result is that today, most people’s political ideology is more tightly tethered to their religious identity…

Margolis and several other prominent political scientists have concluded that politics is a driving factor behind the rise of the religiously unaffiliated. For one thing, several studies that followed respondents over time showed that it wasn’t that people were generally becoming more secular, and then gravitating toward liberal politics because it fit with their new religious identity. People’s political identities remained constant as their religious affiliation shifted.

Other research showed that the blend of religious activism and Republican politics likely played a significant role in increasing the number of religiously unaffiliated people. One study, for instance, found that something as simple as reading a news story about a Republican who spoke in a church could actually prompt some Democrats to say they were nonreligious. “It’s like an allergic reaction to the mixture of Republican politics and religion,” said David Campbell, a political scientist at the University of Notre Dame and one of the study’s co-authors. [emphasis mine]

So, there you have it.  As long as Christian conservative use religion as a cudgel to promote their biases and excuse horrible behavior towards society’s most vulnerable, liberals who might be on somewhat of a religious fence will continue to turn away.

Quick hits (part I)

Finally.  The first Saturday 6am quick hits in seemingly forever (I’m thinking of your happiness DJC).  Enjoy.

1) Timothy Egan on why people hate religion (or at least the horribly hypocritical “Christian” Trump supporters)

White evangelical Christians, the rotting core of Trump’s base, profess to be guided by biblical imperatives. They’re not. Their religion is Play-Doh. They have become more like Trump, not the other way around. It’s a devil’s pact, to use words they would understand.

In one of the most explicit passages of the New Testament, Christ says people will be judged by how they treat the hungry, the poor,the least among us. And yet, only 25 percent of white evangelicalssay their country has some responsibility to take in refugees.

Evangelicals give cover to an amoral president because they believe God is using him to advance their causes. “There has never been anyone who has defended us and who has fought for us, who we have loved more than Donald J. Trump,” said Ralph Reed at a meeting of professed Christian activists earlier this summer.

But what really thrills them is when Trump bullies and belittles their opponents, as counterintuitive as that may seem. Evangelicals “love the meanest parts” of Trump, the Christian writer Ben Howe argues in his new book, “The Immoral Majority.” Older white Christians rouse to Trump’s toxicity because he’s taking their side. It’s tribal, primal and vindictive.

So, yes, people hate religion when the loudest proponents of religion are shown to be mercenaries for a leader who debases everything he touches. And yes, young people are leaving the pews in droves because too often the person facing them in those pews is a fraud.

They hate religion because, at a moment to stand up and be counted on the right side of history, religion is used as moral cover for despicable behavior.

2) It is possible that estrogen protects women from mental illness and that they become more susceptible after menopause?  Quite interestingly, yes.

3) It is possible that my phone was listening while a friend was telling me about this research and that’s why the article showed up in my FB feed later that night?  Yes!  And creepy!

4) So, to raise a reader I should neither reward my kids for reading or punish them for not reading, but simply model my love of reading.  You know what?  That latter approach so does not work for my kids.  So, yeah, sometimes I just make them do it.  And, hopefully, if they read enough they’ll actually realize reading is awesome.  But, otherwise, it would be all Fortnite all the time.

5) OMG it’s awful and horrible what’s going on with radical Islamist women at a refugee camp in Syria.  Really, really disturbing read.

6) And a story in the Post, too, “At a sprawling tent camp in Syria, ISIS women impose a brutal rule

7) Well, it dropped from the news really quickly (appropriately so, I think), but good work from Ben Wittes on the ridiculous anti-Comey report from the DOJ Inspector-General:

And there it is: the inspector general of the United States Department of Justice taking the position that a witness to gross misconduct by the president of the United States has a duty to keep his mouth shut about what he saw. Remember, after all, that Comey was a witness here as well as the former FBI director. That’s an extraordinary position for a law enforcement organization to take. If that is what FBI policy and an employment agreement required of Comey under the extraordinary circumstances he faced, so be it. I’m glad both were given their due weight.

8a) Yglesias is quite right, “The wild corruption of Trump’s golf courses deserves more scrutiny: Mike Pence is staying three hours outside of Dublin so Trump can make money.”  Democrats really need to sink their teeth into this.  Pretty much any other government employee would be fired over such egregiously corrupt behavior.

8b) Unsurprisingly, Chait is really, really good on this:

As an ethical violation, what’s notable about Pence going (literally) out of his way to stay at a Trump property is the meagerness of the stakes and the black-and-white clarity of the offense. Any government official below Trump’s rank who engaged in a similar offense would be fired. Just imagine if some assistant secretary was running a hotel on the side and told one of their subordinates to stay there on official business. They’d be fired on the spot.

It might seem strange for Trump and Pence to incur the awful publicity that comes with engaging such corruption in broad daylight, especially when the payoff — a handful of additional customers at a resort — is relatively small. But it is precisely that disjuncture between the brazenness and the scale that makes this episode significant. Pence is establishing the principle that Trump is entitled to profit from his office, and — far more importantly — his participation signals his culpability in the scheme.

Trump is generally an outgrowth of the party’s broader authoritarian evolution, but one way in which he is an outlier is his determination to blend his business with his public duties. Before Trump, Republicans never contemplated the idea that a president could run a private business while serving in office. Trump has blurred this line so repeatedly it barely registers when he does so. His staffers promote his daughter’s brand, he touts one of his resorts as a potential host site for next year’s G7 summit, his Washington hotel becomes a marker for foreign and domestic allies to pay tribute — the accretion of small violations gradually implicates the entire party establishment.

9) Some good PS research… why are young Evangelicals sticking with the Republican Party?  Abortion and the stickiness of Party ID.

10a) I read very few autobiographies or memoirs, but I read Andre Agassi’s Open upon the strong recommendation of my friend Laurel (i.e., “Elder” in all the “Elder and Greene” parenthood and politics research) and I’m really glad I did.  The New Yorker found it worth remembering 10 years later.

10b) Which reminds me.  I really should check out some from this NYT list of best memoirs of the past 50 years.

11) Loved this history lesson on the political party system in the 1850’s (I actually wrote a graduate school paper on the topic) for never Trumpers:

Ex-Democrats in the 1850s and 1860s didn’t have to become Whigs. They were able to join a new political party—albeit one dominated by former Whigs.

The shrewdest of today’s Never Trump Republicans realize that they face only one clean choice, and it is, of course, more jarring: Become Democrats or, like the prominent GOP strategist Steve Schmidt, become independents and support Democrats. Third parties have rarely taken flight in American history, and when they have, they rarely stay airborne for long.

Like the Iowan who felt as though he were “tearing [himself] away from old home associations,” Never Trumpers will find it a bitter pill to swallow.

But history offers them some consolation.

In the process of abandoning their party allegiance, most Democrats-turned-Republicans disenthralled themselves from political prejudices that no longer made much sense. In Congress, they avidly supported distinctly Whiggish policies like the Homestead Act, the Land-Grant Agricultural and Mechanical College Act and the Pacific Railroad Acts, all of which established a foundation for the country’s post-war economic growth. On some level, the war catalyzed this political realignment. But something equally fundamental may also have been at play: Having concluded that their former Whig enemies shared their fundamental commitment to the good of the nation, ex-Democrats freed themselves to imagine a larger space for political collaboration.

12) This was really interesting, “Why Euthanasia Rates at Animal Shelters Have Plummeted: A cultural transformation: Spaying and neutering are now the norm, and rescue adoption is growing in popularity.”

13) I think I might have mentioned (if not here, at least on twitter), my frustration with Elizabeth Warren rejecting nuclear power.  Henry Olsen, “Don’t trust candidates who ignore nuclear power.”  I know he’s forgotten these days, but hooray for Cory Booker.

14) Good stuff (as always!) from Thomas Edsall on the growing education split in the parties:

In less than a decade, from 2010 to 2018, whites without a college degree grew from 50 to 59 percent of all the Republican Party’s voters, while whites with college degrees fell from 40 to 29 percent of the party’s voters. The biggest shift took place from 2016 to 2018, when Trump became the dominant figure in American politics.

This movement of white voters has been evolving over the past 60 years. A paper published earlier this month, “Secular Partisan Realignment in the United States: The Socioeconomic Reconfiguration of White Partisan Support since the New Deal Era,” provides fresh insight into that transformation.

The authors, Herbert Kitschelt and Philipp Rehm, political scientists at Duke and Ohio State, make the argument that the transition from an industrial to a knowledge economy has produced “tectonic shifts” leading to an “education-income partisan realignment” — a profound realignment of voting patterns that has effectively turned the political allegiances of the white sector of the New Deal coalition that dominated the middle decades of the last century upside down.

Driven by what the authors call “first dimension” issues of economic redistribution, on the one hand, and by the newer “second dimension issues of citizenship, race and social governance,” the traditional alliances of New Deal era politics — low-income white voters without college degrees on the Democratic Party side, high-income white voters with degrees on the Republican side — have switched places. According to this analysis, these two constituencies are primarily motivated by “second dimension” issues, often configured around racial attitudes, which frequently correlate with level of education.

For the record I took my Intro to Comparative Politics class with Kitschelt 27 years ago.

15) So, apparently there are three pillars of charisma:

Olivia Fox Cabane, a charisma coach and the author of the book “The Charisma Myth,” says we can boil charismatic behavior down to three pillars.

The first pillar, presence, involves residing in the moment. When you find your attention slipping while speaking to someone, refocus by centering yourself. Pay attention to the sounds in the environment, your breath and the subtle sensations in your body — the tingles that start in your toes and radiate throughout your frame.

Power, the second pillar, involves breaking down self-imposed barriers rather than achieving higher status. It’s about lifting the stigma that comes with the success you’ve already earned. Impostor syndrome, as it’s known, is the prevalent fear that you’re not worthy of the position you’re in. The higher up the ladder you climb, the more prevalent the feeling becomes.

The key to this pillar is to remove self-doubt, assuring yourself that you belong and that your skills and passions are valuable and interesting to others. It’s easier said than done.

The third pillar, warmth, is a little harder to fake. This one requires you to radiate a certain kind of vibe that signals kindness and acceptance. It’s the sort of feeling you might get from a close relative or a dear friend. It’s tricky, considering those who excel here are people who invoke this feeling in others, even when they’ve just met.

To master this pillar, Ms. Cabane suggests imagining a person you feel great warmth and affection for, and then focusing on what you enjoy most about your shared interactions. You can do this before interactions, or in shorter spurts while listening to someone else speak. This, she says, can change body chemistry in seconds, making even the most introverted among us exude the type of warmth linked to high-charisma people.

16) The miracle treatment for poverty?  Cash for poor people.  Seriously .

17) I had no idea that typical electric cars had a single-speed transmission!  This was really interesting.

To go with a 0 to 60 mph time under three seconds, 750 horsepower, and the ability to refill its battery in just over 20 minutes, the engineers at Porsche gave their all-new, all-electric Taycan a two-speed gearbox. And while that feature is unlikely to grace any headlines, it represents a potentially major shift for the electric car market.

Apart from the Taycan, every production EV uses a single-speed transmission, and gets along just fine. Internal combustion engines need a bunch of gears because they have a narrow RPM window within which they can operate efficiently. For electric motors, that window is much wider, so a single-speed works for both low-end acceleration and highway driving. It does require some compromise, and so EV makers favor low-end acceleration over Autobahn-worthy top speeds. Where most electrics top out around 125 mph (Tesla limits its cars to 163), the Taycan will touch 161 mph.

18) When Sean Trende says, “Yes, the GOP Should Worry About Texas” the GOP should worry about Texas.

19) Some interesting research:

There are many reasons people fail to act in environmentally friendly ways. Inertia, for some. Fatalism, for others. Then there’s the difficulty of fully grasping the long-term consequences of our actions.

New research points to another, more surprising disincentive for going green: the fear that others might question our sexual orientation.

As a 2016 study confirmed, environmentalism is widely perceived as feminine behavior. Even today, caring and nurturing behavior is associated with women—and that includes taking steps to sustain the environment.

But as this new paper points out, specific types of pro-environment behavior can align with either masculine or feminine stereotypes. It also reports that engaging in the “wrong” type of environmentalism can lead people to wonder about your sexuality, and perhaps even avoid socializing with you.

20) This really bugged me, “Whole Foods CEO on plant-based meat boom: Good for the environment but not for your health.”  Sure, I’m biased because I love the stuff, but I don’t think the point of this is that it’s health food.  Yes, it is highly processed, but nobody is mistaking fake meat for broccoli and blueberries and it surely lacks some of the bad stuff for you in real meat.  But far more importantly, relative to real meat, plant-based meat is so damn good for the planet.  That’s why I am happy to eat all I can.

21) This interactive NPR feature is really, really cool (and informative!), “PLASTICS
What’s recyclable, what becomes trash — and why”

Demographically, I am so  Republican

That is often the thought I have when I am sitting in church.  Which, is in fact, where I will be when this post goes live.  There I am in the pew as a married, white, male, father of four and laughing to myself at how Republican that makes me.  Of course, when I’m sitting in my office as a social science professor at a university, that sure pegs me as a Democrat.  And I do spend a lot more time there :-).

Anyway, I bring this up because there’s a really cool NYT “quiz” that places your likelihood of being D or R based on a series of demographic questions.  It’s really cool to see the interactive graphic swing left or right depending on the answers.  And to see the relative influence of various answers.  In my case, answering that religion is “important” made me dramatically more Republican.  Once the quiz asks that, they don’t even bother with college education (obviously, far less predictive once you have already established religion).  Being, Catholic, though shifted be back some left.  Anyway, here’s my results, +46R

I took the quiz a second time, because, I would probably say religion is “somewhat important” which was not an option, so I started, in this case, with the “not important answer.  In this case, I ended up +2 D.

I was looking pretty D, but in this case, that Catholic identity shifted me back right.

Obviously, demographics are not destiny, but there are very strong statistical relationships and it interesting to see the relative impact and how likely people who share you characteristics are to be R or D.  And the accompanying article does a great job explaining this and looking at interesting recent shifts in these relationships, e.g., how college graduates have shifted left.

And, one addendum I just have to add.  A similarly liberal friend of similar demographics shared his same +46R results on FB.  One of the responses was from a very accomplished science journalist about what a waste of time those “on-line quizzes” are as if this was a Buzzfeed “which Kardashian are you?” quiz.  I replied that this was based on solid data and social science and that he might want to actually read the article.  Nope “I’ll pass.”  Yowza.  I don’t know if this “science” journalist thinks he’s too good for social science or what, but that was disturbing.

Anyway, try it out yourself and please consider sharing results/thoughts in comments.

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