The Greene New Deal

Sorry, couldn’t resist.  I can’t believe it’s taken me that long to give a post that title.  So, I’m far from an expert on these things and I remain profoundly uncertain about what is the best political approach on facing climate change.  But, policy-wise, I think Megan McArdle makes a hell of a lot of sense (while being overly harsh on the GND):

Like all myopes, the Green New Dealers can see clearly only what’s right in front of them, which is to say the United States, beyond which they perceive only the fuzzy outlines of a half-mythical European enviro-paradise. And 30 years ago, that was an almost reasonable way to look at the problem. But today, the United States accounts for 4.3 percent of the world’s population, roughly 25 percent of its economic output and 15 percent of its carbon emissions from fuel combustion. Meanwhile China, with 18 percent of the world’s population, has 15 percent of its gross domestic product and 28 percent of its emissions. And India, with a population almost as big as China’s, produces only about 3 percent of global GDP and 6 percent of emissions.

Looking at these three countries brings the scale of the problem into focus. There is a small, rich world that lives in comfort and plenty, and a much larger, poor one that wants to get rich. To do so, those billions of people will pass through an intermediate stage when their developing industries are much dirtier than their highly regulated rich-world counterparts. The global emissions problem is likely to get much worse before it gets any better…

Even if the United States becomes ever more efficient in its energy use, that still won’t prevent the planet from warming. For that matter, zeroing out U.S. emissions and moving the whole country into yurts wouldn’t prevent the climate from warming, because Americans are not the biggest problem anymore. The problem is the more than 6 billion people who aren’t living in the rich world… [emphases mine]

Developing countries aren’t going to put scarce resources into artificially expensive “green” ways of replicating the rich-world lifestyle; they’re going to get there by the least costly route. The solution isn’t figuring out how to subsidize or mandate green alternatives; it’s figuring out how to make them cheaper than the carbon-intensive versions…

There are a number of possible paths to that outcome, and the United States should be walking them all: massive government investment in scientific research, along with a revenue-neutral carbon tax and research prizes to encourage private industry to get into the act.

And, Drum has a somewhat similar take:

This is why I’m basically pessimistic about the Green New Deal. It’s deliberately vague so no one will freak out too much, but deliberately vague won’t get the job done. If we want to seriously slash carbon emissions, there are going to be sacrifices. Less meat. Smaller cars. Higher prices for fossil fuels. (Way higher.) Taxes that go beyond the top 1 percent. What makes us think that will fly in a world where bans on plastic bags or straws provoke a huge backlash?

The answer, I believe, is twofold. The first is enormous investment in R&D. World War II levels. We need to invent the equivalent of radar, codebreaking, and the atomic bomb. The second is, in keeping with spirit of the GND, enormous infrastructure buildout. We have the technology to electrify a big part of our economy already if we only commit the dollars to do it. Both of these initiatives would be popular since they generate economic activity and put people to work. If we manage to demonstrate the minimal sacrifice necessary to fund them with a substantial progressive carbon tax, we have a plan. It’s not a perfect plan. It’s probably not enough all by itself. And it’s not guaranteed to work.

But it’s also not guaranteed to fail.

So, what we need is massive, massive investment in R&D that will ultimately change carbon emissions for the whole damn world.  Is the reach-for-the-skies, clearly unrealistic (e.g., zero omissions by 2030) the best way to get there politically?  Probably not, but I’m open to the idea that it is.  As 538’s Maggie Koerth-Baker puts it, “The Green New Deal Is Impractical, But ‘Practical’ Solutions Haven’t Worked Either.”  But, what I am confident is that policy-wise, we absolutely have to think about what we can do in the U.S. that will ultimately make a difference on a global scale.


Raleigh ==> Tallahassee

Wow, this map is so cool and so disturbing at the same time.  Based on the latest climate change research it estimates the nearest U.S. city climate match for 2080 under worst case and more moderate climate change scenarios.  More about it here.  For example, in the high emissions estimate, Raleigh’s 2080 climate will basically be like present-day Tallahassee, Florida.  The reduced emissions forecast puts us at Natchitoches, LA, which somehow sounds worse.  Anyway, pretty fascinating stuff– check it out!

This is fine (environmental collapse edition)

So, this seems… not good.  Via the Guardian:

The world’s insects are hurtling down the path to extinction, threatening a “catastrophic collapse of nature’s ecosystems”, according to the first global scientific review.

More than 40% of insect species are declining and a third are endangered, the analysis found. The rate of extinction is eight times faster than that of mammals, birds and reptiles. The total mass of insects is falling by a precipitous 2.5% a year, according to the best data available, suggesting they could vanish within a century.

The planet is at the start of a sixth mass extinction in its history, with huge losses already reported in larger animals that are easier to study. But insects are by far the most varied and abundant animals, outweighing humanity by 17 times. They are “essential” for the proper functioning of all ecosystems, the researchers say, as food for other creatures, pollinators and recyclers of nutrients.

Image result for this is fine

Quick hits (part I)

1) I like John Cassidy’s take on Bezos and the National Enquirer:

All credit to Bezos for refusing to submit to these intimidation tactics. He’s a ruthless plutocrat whose online behemoth crushes retailers big and small. He has run his company with all the transparency of the Politburo. And he has exploited his great riches to buy one of the most important and influential newspapers in the country, the Washington Post. But he’s just as entitled as the next person to a private life—and he has just performed an important public service, or maybe two.

Bezos has made transparent the bullying tactics employed by the National Enquirer and raised the question of how often they are directed at targets who are less well able to defend themselves. “On that point, numerous people have contacted our investigation team about their similar experiences with AMI, and how they needed to capitulate because, for example, their livelihoods were at stake,” Bezos writes. In addition, he has raised the intriguing question of how and why the tabloid went after him in the first place.

2) I’m not sure that “helicopter parenting” and “intensive parenting” are the same thing, and definitely not the same thing as “authoritative parents,” but this is definitely interesting, “The Bad News About Helicopter Parenting: It Works: New research shows that hyper-involved parenting is the route to kids’ success in today’s unequal world.”

But new research shows that in our unequal era, this kind of parenting brings life-changing benefits. That’s the message of the book “Love, Money and Parenting: How Economics Explains the Way We Raise Our Kids,” by the economists Matthias Doepke of Northwestern University and Fabrizio Zilibotti of Yale. It’s true that high-octane, hardworking child-rearing has some pointless excesses, and it doesn’t spark joy for parents. But done right, it works for kids, not just in the United States but in rich countries around the world…

It’s not enough just to hover over your kids, however. If you do it as an “authoritarian” parent — defined as someone who issues directives, expects children to obey and sometimes hits those who don’t — you won’t get the full benefits.

The most effective parents, according to the authors, are “authoritative.” They use reasoning to persuade kids to do things that are good for them. Instead of strict obedience, they emphasize adaptability, problem-solving and independence — skills that will help their offspring in future workplaces that we can’t even imagine yet.

And they seem most successful at helping their kids achieve the holy grails of modern parenting: college and postgraduate degrees, which now have a huge financial payoff. Using data from a national studythat followed thousands of American teenagers for years, the authors found that the offspring of “authoritative” parents were more likely to graduate from college and graduate school, especially compared with those with authoritarian parents. This was true even when they controlled for the parents’ education and income.

The benefits aren’t just academic. In a British study, kids raised by authoritative parents reported better health and higher self-esteem. In the American study, they were less likely to use drugs, smoke or abuse alcohol; they started having sex at older ages, and they were more likely to use condoms.

3) Jamelle Bouie with a great take on “moderate” Democrats:

There’s something odd about the self-described moderates and centrists considering a run for president. If “moderation” or “centrism” means holding broadly popular positions otherwise marginalized by extremists in either party, then these prospective candidates don’t quite fit the bill.

Senator Elizabeth Warren’s proposed wealth tax on the nation’s largest fortunes is very popular, according to recent polling by Morning Consult, with huge support from Democrats and considerable backing from Republicans…

In each case, these moderate politicians have positioned themselves against broad public preference. What then makes a moderate, if not policies that appeal to the middle?…

What connects them (and similar politicians) is a belief that meaningful progress is possible without a fundamental challenge to those who hold most of the wealth and power in our society. For Biden, you don’t need to demonize the richest Americans or their Republican supporters to reduce income inequality; you can find a mutually beneficial solution. Bloomberg, a billionaire, may have a personal reason for rejecting wealth taxes, but he may also see them as unnecessary and antagonistic if the goal is winning powerful interests over to your side. McAuliffe governed Virginia with an eye toward the business community. Sweeping social programs might be popular, but they might alienate that powerful constituency. And Schultz wants a Democratic Party less hostile to those he calls “people of means,” who otherwise back goals like gun control.

But this is a faulty view of how progress happens. Struggle against the powerful, not accommodation of their interests, is how Americans produced the conditions for its greatest social accomplishments like the creation of the welfare state and the toppling of Jim Crow. Without radical labor activism that identifies capitalism — and the bosses — as the vector for oppression and disadvantage, there is no New Deal. Without a confrontational (and at times militant) black freedom movement, there is no Civil Rights Act. If one of the central problems of the present is an elite economic class that hoards resources and opportunity at the expense of the public as a whole, then it’s naïve and ahistoric to believe the beneficiaries of that arrangement will willingly relinquish their power and privilege.

4) Terrific Pro Publica feature on the story of US Navy warships crashing into cargo ships.

5) Stacey Abrams excellent essay in defense of “identity politics.”  The other essays in here are really good, too (thanks, Stefan, for pointing these out).  And Zack Beauchamp’s summary in Vox.

6) The gender gap in educational confidence and what to do about it:

When investigating what deters professional advancement for women, the journalists Katty Kay and Claire Shipman found that a shortage of competence is less likely to be an obstacle than a shortage of confidence. When it comes to work-related confidence, they found men are far ahead. “Underqualified and underprepared men don’t think twice about leaning in,” they wrote. “Overqualified and overprepared, too many women still hold back. Women feel confident only when they are perfect.”

As a psychologist who works with teenagers, I hear this concern often from the parents of many of my patients. They routinely remark that their sons do just enough to keep the adults off their backs, while their daughters relentlessly grind, determined to leave no room for error. The girls don’t stop until they’ve polished each assignment to a high shine and rewritten their notes with color-coded precision…

We need to ask: What if school is a confidence factory for our sons, but only a competence factory for our daughters?

This possibility hit me when I was caring for an eighth grader in my practice. She got terrific grades but was feeling overwhelmed by school. Her brother, a ninth grader, had similarly excellent grades, but when I asked if he worked as hard as she did, she scoffed. If she worked on an assignment for an hour and got an A, she felt “safe” only if she spent a full hour on other assignments like it. Her brother, in contrast, flew through his work. When he brought home an A, she said, he felt “like a stud.” If his grades slipped a bit, he would take his effort up just a notch. But she never felt “safe” enough to ever put in less than maximum effort.

That experience — of succeeding in school while exerting minimal or moderate effort — is a potentially crucial one. It may help our sons develop confidence, as they see how much they can accomplish simply by counting on their wits. For them, school serves as a test track, where they build their belief in their abilities and grow increasingly at ease relying on them. Our daughters, on the other hand, may miss the chance to gain confidence in their abilities if they always count on intellectual elbow grease alone.

7) This is cool— though, personally I preferred to speed up the time-lapse, “Watch a single cell become a complete organism in six pulsing minutes of timelapse.”

8) Farhad Manjoo makes a pretty good case for abolishing billionaires.  Excuse me, people of wealth.

I like to use this column to explore maximalist policy visions — positions we might aspire to over time rather than push through tomorrow. Abolishing billionaires might not sound like a practical idea, but if you think about it as a long-term goal in light of today’s deepest economic ills, it feels anything but radical. Instead, banishing billionaires — seeking to cut their economic power, working to reduce their political power and attempting to question their social status — is a pithy, perfectly encapsulated vision for surviving the digital future.

Billionaire abolishment could take many forms. It could mean preventing people from keeping more than a billion in booty, but more likely it would mean higher marginal taxes on income, wealth and estates for billionaires and people on the way to becoming billionaires. These policy ideas turn out to poll very well, even if they’re probably not actually redistributive enough to turn most billionaires into sub-billionaires.

More important, aiming to abolish billionaires would involve reshaping the structure of the digital economy so that it produces a more equitable ratio of superrich to the rest of us.

Inequality is the defining economic condition of the tech age. Software, by its very nature, drives concentrations of wealth. Through network effects, in which the very popularity of a service ensures that it keeps getting more popular, and unprecedented economies of scale — in which Amazon can make Alexa once and have it work everywhere, for everyone — tech instills a winner-take-all dynamic across much of the economy.

9) Loved this Frank Bruni column on Tony Romo and the value of true expertise:

It’s about the rarity of his unquestionably deep knowledge in an era when so many of the people who put on the trappings of authority and peddle pearls of wisdom don’t actually have the goods. When so many opinions come with a swagger inversely proportional to their worth. When social media, cable channels, webcasts, podcasts, blogs and more have created an environment in which everybody’s an expert and nobody’s an expert — in which it’s sometimes impossible to tell.

With Romo you can tell. His verified foresight proves his genuine insight.

As I’ve savored his genius and reflected on its appeal, I’ve flashed back to some comments that President Obama made to The New Yorker’s top editor, David Remnick, for a lengthy article in late November 2016 about his waning days in office. Obama was obsessed with the chaotic nature of this new information ecosystem. “Everything is true and nothing is true,” he told Remnick. “An explanation of climate change from a Nobel Prize-winning physicist looks exactly the same on your Facebook page as the denial of climate change by somebody on the Koch brothers’ payroll.”

10) That column led me to this article on Lebron James’ super-human memory.  I had no idea.  Clearly, his amazing performance is not just physical, but very much mental as well.

11) Drum, “We Are All Social Democrats Now”

Because life would sure be a lot easier if we could all learn to accept social democrat as the most accurate description of most modern progressives.

I’m perfectly happy with the label, myself. For those of you who are hazy about what social democracy is, here’s a quickie bullet list. Assuming I didn’t bungle anything, it basically follows the work of Sheri Berman, one of today’s foremost scholars of social democracy and author of The Primacy of Politics: Social Democracy and the Making of Europe’s Twentieth Century:

  • Non-revolutionary; accepts democracy as its political foundation
  • Seeks to reform and reshape capitalism, not destroy it
  • Market based, but harnessed to the common good by a regulatory state
  • High progressive taxes to support a generous welfare state
  • Fundamentally communitarian, originally designed to counter the appeal of nationalism
  • Undergirded by belief in both social and economic equality

It’s worth adding that like most political movements, social democracy is both flexible and limited. It doesn’t insist on any particular view of gun rights or abortion, for example, nor will it tell you if recessions are best handled by monetary or fiscal policy.

12) Krugman, “Trump Versus the Socialist Menace”

What do Trump’s people, or conservatives in general, mean by “socialism”? The answer is, it depends.

Sometimes it means any kind of economic liberalism. Thus after the SOTU, Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, lauded the Trump economy and declared that “we’re not going back to socialism” — i.e., apparently America itself was a socialist hellhole as recently as 2016. Who knew?

Other times, however, it means Soviet-style central planning, or Venezuela-style nationalization of industry, never mind the reality that there is essentially nobody in American political life who advocates such things.

The trick — and “trick” is the right word — involves shuttling between these utterly different meanings, and hoping that people don’t notice. You say you want free college tuition? Think of all the people who died in the Ukraine famine! And no, this isn’t a caricature: Read the strange, smarmy report on socialism that Trump’s economists released last fall; that’s pretty much how its argument goes.

So let’s talk about what’s really on the table.

Some progressive U.S. politicians now describe themselves as socialists, and a significant number of voters, including a majority of voters under 30, say they approve of socialism. But neither the politicians nor the voters are clamoring for government seizure of the means of production. Instead, they’ve taken on board conservative rhetoric that describes anything that tempers the excesses of a market economy as socialism, and in effect said, “Well, in that case I’m a socialist.”


Quick hits (part I)

1) We very much take it for granted, but we have gotten so much better at weather prediction (case in point, polar vortex) in recent years.

2) The science of why this weeks frigid temperatures are caused by global warming and we’re likely to have more such events in the future.

The exact details of how this works are complex, but the explanation is simple: warmer land temperatures, particularly in northern North America and northern Eurasia, allow more heat to be transported into the Arctic stratosphere. A warmer Earth makes sudden stratospheric warming events more likely and more frequent. And those events destabilize the polar vortex, bring cold air down into the mid-latitudes, and cause the extreme weather we’re experiencing right now.

3) Obviously, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam was wrong to dress in blackface in 1984, but short of murdering, raping, etc.,  someone in 1984, I think it is absurd to call on a person to resign in 2019 when we have a whole career of public service in between by which to judge them.  Maybe I’m missing something, but I’ve heard nothing calling into question Northam as a racist.  It would be one thing if he had some ambiguous/questionable history, and you could say, “see!” but there’s no history of racism, thus this is something really, really stupid and offensive for which he should rightfully apologize.  But to call for his resignation based on something 35 years ago when you’ve got the intervening 35 years to judge his character strikes me as dramatic overkill.  I got in an argument with my wife about this this morning, and honestly, the very fact that it ended up in his medical school yearbook and nobody thought to stop it tells you that it was, very unfortunately, not too far from the cultural mainstream in 1984 white Virginia.

4) I could do a whole quick hits just on Howard Schultz.  The great thing about his candidacy is that it has brought about so much smart commentary on the stupidity of reflexive “both sides!” centrism and the current state of the party system.  Great piece from Eric Levitz, “Howard Schultz Wants a President Who Will Tell Billionaires Their Favorite Lies”

As many have already noted, a “realist” who believes that a third-party candidate can win the 2020 election is a contradiction in terms. Schultz is about as fluent in the realities of modern American politics as Donald Trump is with those of modern American grocery shopping. Meanwhile, Schultz’s ostensible belief that the U.S. government is analogous to an upscale coffee chain — and thus, that Uncle Sam has no more business running up a $21.5 trillion debt than Starbucks does — is no less a declaration of economic illiteracy than Trump’s insistence that trade deficits are tantamount to theft.

But what makes Schultz’s pretensions to realism truly hallucinatory is this: Even if one stipulates that he is right about the appeal of centrism, and the evil of deficits, his own promises about fiscal policy would still be muchmore extravagantly “unrealistic” than the median democratic socialist’s.

In recent days, Schultz has promised to reduce economic inequality, end extreme poverty, cut the deficit, combat structural racism, and ensure that every American has access to quality health care — while keeping taxes on the rich near historic lows.

5) Krugman on “fanatical centrists”

Finally, the hallmark of fanatical centrism is the determination to see America’s left and right as equally extreme, no matter what they actually propose.

Thus, throughout the Obama years, centrists called for political leaders who would address their debt concerns with an approach that combined spending cuts with revenue increases, offer a market-based health care plan and invest in infrastructure, somehow never managing to acknowledge that there was one major figure proposing exactly that — President Barack Obama.

And now, with Democrats taking a turn that is more progressive but hardly radical, centrist rhetoric has become downright hysterical. Medicare and Medicaid already cover more than a third of U.S. residents and pay more bills than private insurance.

But Medicare for all, says Schultz, is “not American.” Elizabeth Warren has proposed taxes on the wealthy that are squarely in the tradition of Teddy Roosevelt; Bloomberg says that they would turn us into Venezuela.

Where does the fanaticism of the centrists come from? Much of the explanation, I think, is sheer vanity.

Both pundits and plutocrats like to imagine themselves as superior beings, standing above the political fray. They want to think of themselves as standing tall against extremism right and left. Yet the reality of American politics is asymmetric polarization: extremism on the right is a powerful political force, while extremism on the left isn’t. What’s a would-be courageous centrist to do?

The answer, all too often, is to retreat into a fantasy world, almost as hermetic as the right-wing, Fox News bubble. In this fantasy world, social democrats like Harris or Warren are portrayed as the second coming of Hugo Chávez, so that taking what is actually a conservative position can be represented as a brave defense of moderation.

But that’s not what is really happening, and the rest of us have no obligation to indulge centrist delusions.

6) And Michael Tomasky,” Howard Schultz Is Wrong About ‘Both Sides.’ It’s Republicans Who Ruined the Country.”

Both parties are not to blame for the current dysfunction. All right, the Democratic Party is not blameless. But political polarization has been driven almost wholly by the Republican Party.

I could write a book about this (wait, I have!), but here in a column, let me just give a couple of examples.

The first is Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge. You probably know of it; he has this pledge that he makes Republican members of the House and Senate sign agreeing that they’ll never raise a tax. He dreamed it up in the 1980s, and it really took off after George H.W. Bush broke his “no new taxes” pledge in 1990. They’ve almost all signed it, and with very minor exceptions, no Republican in Congress has voted for a tax increase since 1990.

This has caused untold dysfunction. How? It’s a government’s job to assess the needs of the body politic and address new needs as they arise through some combination of spending cuts, borrowing, and tax increases. The government wanted to create Social Security; it imposed a tax. It wanted to build interstate highways; it borrowed and imposed a tax. It wanted to bail out the Social Security Trust Fund; it did so through a negotiated combination of spending cuts and tax increases.

Well, if taxation is taken off the table, the government can’t do its job. And that is what Norquist and the Republicans have done.

Imagine if the Democrats had done the opposite. If some Grover Norquist of the left had imposed a no-spending-cuts pledge. They would be branded as complete obstructionists, and reasonably so. But they have not. They accept spending cuts. Maybe grudgingly, but they accept them. They agreed to the 2011 sequestration deal that included big domestic cuts.

So in other words, one party, the Republican Party, has said, for 30 years now, that one of the two major tools any legislature has as its disposal to address society’s problems is unusable, untouchable. That is divisive. That has caused dysfunction. And it’s all on the Republicans. [emphasis mine]

7) Dahlia Lithwick on the awfulness that is Stephen Miller.

8) This is crazy and fascinating– big gender gap of student evaluations of teaching on a 1-10 scale that pretty much disappears on a 1-6 scale (for the record, NCSU uses 1-5).

9) Eric Levitz gets another for his great take on Democrats’ irrational support of the filibuster (something I’ve been complaining about for about as long as I’ve been teaching):

The wealthy speculators and slave owners who founded our republic had little faith in popular democracy. The specter of a tyrannical majority using its power over the state to infringe on individual liberty (i.e. their property rights) haunted their collective imagination. To keep that hypothetical thieving mob at bay, they designed a system of government chock-full of veto points — which is to say, opportunities for powerful minorities to kill popular reforms.

To become a law, bills would need to make it through the committee systems of not one but two legislatures, past an independently elected president, and then (after Marbury v. Madison) survive the withering scrutiny of judicial review (and in many cases, the modifications of state-level officeholders). By modern standards, this system was exceptionally small-c conservative. Virtually no contemporary democracy makes it anywhere near as difficult for elected majorities to govern as the early American republic did.

And yet, even the men who designed this system could not condone the modern Senate filibuster. The framers explicitly debated whether legislation should be subjected to any kind of supermajority requirement in the Senate — and they affirmatively decided against it.

And then, the upper chamber accidently created a loophole that allowed any individual senator to prolong debate indefinitely. Eventually, a supermajority threshold was established for closing that loophole, and, as American politics polarized, exceeding that threshold became a requirement for passing any major law. Now, America’s legislative system isn’t just unwieldy and conservative by 21st-century international standards, but also, by 18th-century American ones…

Arguments for preserving the filibuster come in two flavors: misguided and bad.

10) Drum asks, “How Did Lefties Take Over the Democratic Party So Quickly?” and answers that the ideological divisions were never so big to begin with.

It starts with the observation that there are two fundamentally different kinds of left-wing “centrists.” The first genuinely has pretty moderate views. The second actually has fairly lefty views but doesn’t think there’s any chance of getting them enacted. So they propose moderate programs not because it’s all they want, but because it’s all they think they can get. These folks are best thought of as tactical centrists.

Barack Obama was a genuine centrist in some areas (fiscal policy, for example), but a tactical centrist in others. I don’t have any doubt, for example, that he’s supported true national health care pretty much forever. He just didn’t admit it because he didn’t want to come off as too radical. And once elected, he let Congress take the lead and create the Affordable Care Act because he was keenly aware that it was the most he could get from the Democratic Party at that time.

But what happens to tactical centrists when, suddenly, national health care becomes a mainstream idea again?¹ Well, they were always for it privately, so they’re perfectly happy when it becomes OK to say so publicly.

I think what Drum is missing is not just the shift in the Overton window, but, more importantly, how Obama’s presidency (and I do love the guy) pretty much showed the failure of the tactical centrism approach for Democrats.  Why moderate your ideal points for compromise with somebody who is never going to actually compromise with you?

11) I love this, “Want to Stop Fake News? Pay for the Real Thing.”  Yes.  And you should start with a subscription to the Times or the Post if you don’t have one.  For the record, I could pay less than I do with an Educator rate, but I don’t because I believe in paying for what these news organizations provide.  And, especially pay for local news because we don’t have government accountability without it.

12) Seen a lot of good tweets on the matter and this Vox piece summarizes the key arguments, “The remarkably selective outrage on the right about Roger Stone’s arrest: ‘You shouldn’t only start caring about these things when some rich, white, powerful elite is subjected to its abuses.'”

13) Almost forgot Jamelle Bouie’s historical take on Schultz:

Is there any chance a third-party candidate could contest the presidency and win?

The short answer is no. As long as the United States has an Electoral College and winner-take-all process for presidential elections, third-party and independent candidates will have a hard time finding any traction.

There have been times in American history, though, when third-party candidates have upended the political landscape, winning entire regions of the country, although never the presidency. But unlike Schultz, those candidates weren’t self-proclaimed “independents”railing against “divisiveness” from the center; they were polarizers who built support by cultivating personal followings and sharpening ideological, cultural and geographic divides…

All of these examples share key elements. The most successful third-party candidacies relied on a pre-existing mass constituency, whether a movement or a charismatic following or a distinct minority with shared political and cultural interests. To mobilize those constituencies, candidates threw themselves into polarizing the electorate from novel positions — not the center — sharpening differences and working to reorganize the electoral playing field around their concerns. And they played on divisions in the major parties themselves, capitalizing on shifting attitudes within each coalition. The Populists exploited agrarian discontent within the Democratic Party; the Dixiecrats did the same for white Southern opposition to racial liberalism.

To believe, as Howard Schultz does, that “a formidable third choice for president also has a chance to succeed for the first time since George Washington,” one also has to believe that the structure of American politics has suddenly changed, with a large and distinct constituency of voters just waiting to be tapped by an enterprising candidate. Neither is true.

14) How the bad guys are getting past two-factor authentication.  Sneaky!

15) Trump tweeted out support for Bible literacy classes.  But teaching the bible in an honest and academic way might not be so good for Christians.

16) Love this, “Mom Mortifies Son With Amazing Jumbotron Performance.’

17) Drum, “Only 27% of Americans Think American Health Care Is Above Average.”  You know I’m not suprised.  One argument I pretty much never get from my students any more is, “but American health care is the best in the world!”

18) Interesting from NYT, “A Tiny Screw Shows Why iPhones Won’t Be ‘Assembled in U.S.A.’”

19) Really great NYT feature on American figure skater Gracie Gold and her struggles with mental illness.  I don’t care how talented, I honestly cannot imagine putting my child and whole family what it takes to go through to be an elite individual athlete.

20) Surely not everybody’s cup of tea, but damn did I love the outrageous and surreal satire in “Sorry to bother you.”

21) Enjoyed Benjamin Wallace-Wells on Kamala Harris.

22) And more good Schultz readings to cap things off.  Paul Waldman, “What Howard Schultz’s ludicrous candidacy tells us about the American electorate”

23) And Greg Sargent, “Howard Schultz is anything but a realist.”

Quick hits (part II)

1) Good Atlantic article on the difficulty in actually achieving “potty parity” in building codes and public restroom design.  Of course, as long as they keep building restrooms with urinals right on top of each other with no or tiny dividers, I really question the judgement of the designers.

2) Seth Masket on what lessons the media should learn from 2016:

3) Really enjoyed Yglesias take/explanation of Elizabeth Warren’s pre-political book on family life and economics:

A glimpse of the electable Warren

Perhaps more than anyone else in the Democratic field, Warren’s prospects are haunted by worries about electability, whether framed in gendered terms around “likability” or in more data-driven terms that her 2018 reelection performance was a lot worse than you’d expect from a blue-state senator running in a Democratic wave year.

But while Two-Income Trap does not exactly reflect Warren’s current, much more ambitious, post–financial crisis policy agenda, it does outline a version of Warren that could be more broadly electorally appealing than her current national perception. The Warren of Two-Income Trap is fiercely progressive in championing the public interest over the bank lobby and her determination to clean up the political system, but is also attentive to the ways that poorly designed social programs can have perverse consequences.

And she’s very much not a dogmatic partisan or a member of any kind of establishment — sharply critical of the Republicans who pushed for the banks’ preferred bankruptcy law, but also savage in her attacks on prominent Democrats, including Biden and Hillary Clinton, who helped them do it.

Perhaps most importantly, Two-Income Trap Warren is offering a pitch for a progressive economic agenda that is squarely framed to appeal to people with moderate-to-conservative instincts on some social issues.

Democrats often seem to implicitly cast the “white working class” as composed exclusively of men who wear hard hats and work in factories while “women” are all ambitious professionals trying to balance family obligations with the drive to make partner or shatter glass ceilings in the C-suite. Two-Income Trap, by contrast, speaks to the questions recently raised by Tucker Carlson as to whether unfettered capitalism is undermining the traditional family.

Warren’s core argument in the book is that shifts in family life over the past couple of generations have not been all for the good, and that the explosion of economic inequality that’s accompanied them is part of the reason. Both the ideas she espouses in the book around bank regulation and the ideas she’s only later come to embrace fundamentally connect to this same theme that the kind of stable families conducive to child-rearing that conservatives idealize fundamentally require a different organization of the American economy.

It’s a framing of the relationship between the economy and family life that, while broadly compatible with the existing progressive policy agenda, is nonetheless pretty strikingly different. It has drawn praise from pundits who lean right on social issues but more to the center on economics. If Warren could translate that praise into actual electoral support from similarly inclined voters, it would give her a clear path to general election victory, which, in turn, seems to be the biggest doubt primary voters have about her.

4) Nobody watched the show “You” on Lifetime.  Then it began streaming on Netflix and became super popular.

5) Robin Givhan on the MAGA hat:

But the Make America Great Again hat is not a statement of policy. It’s a declaration of identity.

The MAGA hat. The acronym reads like a guttural cry. An angry roar. MAA-GAA! It calls out to a time — back in some sepia-tinged period — when America was greater than it is now, which for a lot of Americans means a time when this country still had a lot of work to do before it was even tolerant of — let alone welcoming to — them and their kind. Some see an era of single-income families, picket fences and unlocked doors. Others see little more than the heartbreak of redliningwalkers and beards, and the “problem that has no name.”

The past was not greater; it was simply the past. It’s only the soft-focus, judicious edit that looks so perfect and sweet.

In the beginning, the MAGA hat had multiple meanings and nuance. It could reasonably be argued that it was about foreign policy or tax cuts, social conservatism, the working class or a celebration of small-town life. But the definition has evolved. The rosy nostalgia has turned specious and rank. There’s nothing banal or benign about the hat, no matter its wearer’s intent. It was weaponized by the punch-throwing Trump rallygoers, the Charlottesville white supremacists, Trump’s nomination of Brett M. Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, Kanye West and proponents of the wall, the wall, the wall.

6) I’m probably not going to be reading Jon Haidt’s book because I feel like I’ve got a pretty good sense of it from his great interview with Ezra.  And this piece is a really nice summary (thanks, Nicole).  I do think he pushes some of his points too far (and most of academia is not elite liberal arts colleges), but I think he’s got some really important thoughts:

This is a book about three Great Untruths that seem to have spread widely in recent years:

  1. The Untruth of Fragility: What doesn’t kill you makes you weaker.
  2. The Untruth of Emotional Reasoning: Always trust your feelings.
  3. The Untruth of Us Versus Them: Life is a battle between good people and evil people.

While many propositions are untrue, in order to be classified as a Great Untruth, an idea must meet three criteria:

  1. It contradicts ancient wisdom (ideas found widely in the wisdom literatures of many cultures).
  2. It contradicts modern psychological research on well-being.
  3. It harms the individuals and communities who embrace it.

We will show how these three Great Untruths—and the policies and political movements that draw on them—are causing problems for young people, universities, and, more generally, liberal democracies. To name just a few of these problems: Teen anxiety, depression, and suicide rates have risen sharply in the last few years. The culture on many college campuses has become more ideologically uniform, compromising the ability of scholars to seek truth, and of students to learn from a broad range of thinkers. Extremists have proliferated on the far right and the far left, provoking one another to ever deeper levels of hatred. Social media has channeled partisan passions into the creation of a “callout culture”; anyone can be publicly shamed for saying something well-intentioned that someone else interprets uncharitably. New-media platforms and outlets allow citizens to retreat into self-confirmatory bubbles, where their worst fears about the evils of the other side can be confirmed and amplified by extremists and cyber trolls intent on sowing discord and division…

To repeat, we are not saying that the problems facing students, and young people more generally, are minor or “all in their heads.” We are saying that what people choose to do in their heads will determine how those real problems affect them. Our argument is ultimately pragmatic, not moralistic: Whatever your identity, background, or political ideology, you will be happier, healthier, stronger, and more likely to succeed in pursuing your own goals if you do the opposite of what Misoponos advised. That means seeking out challenges (rather than eliminating or avoiding everything that “feels unsafe”), freeing yourself from cognitive distortions(rather than always trusting your initial feelings), and taking a generous view of other people, and looking for nuance (rather than assuming the worst about people within a simplistic us-versus-them morality).

7) It’s just over a year old, but Scott Alexander on the very minimal placebo effect was really interesting.

8) Yeah, it is crazy that somehow we don’t have seamless on-line micropayments by now.  As a lover of good journalism, in particular, this is a real shame.

9) Interesting technical/empirical exploration to conclude that women are better at free throws than men.

10) Tim Herrera on why you should share your salary.  Seems like such a taboo, so, not here.  But, for the record, as a public employee, it is public record.

11) Pacific Standard on the research on home cooking of my friend and NCSU Sociology professor, Sarah Bowen.

12) Wired, “Pesticides are harming bees in literally every way possible.”

13) Okay, I know it’s bad, but this dramatically warmer winter in Raleigh by 2050 (and many other US cities) sounds kind of pleasant.

14) Chait on the total economic failure of Trump’s tax cuts:

Not only was the Republican assumption that zero revenue would be lost too optimistic, and not only was the more modest “dynamic” model that presumed just a trillion-dollar revenue loss too optimistic, but the “static” revenue model was also too optimistic. The tax cuts are losing more than forecasters predicted even when they assumed it would do nothing to encourage growth.

And as for that spike in corporate investment last year? Alexander Arnonsuggests the entire thing was caused by higher oil prices. As oil prices go up, energy firms invest more money in sucking it out of the ground. “The response to the rise in oil prices,” he writes, “explains the entire increase in the growth rate of investment in 2018.”

Obviously the Trump tax cuts have had an effect. They have bequeathed a gigantic windfall benefit to business owners (as well as the heirs to large fortunes, who will have to pay even lower taxes on the largest inheritances). The Trump tax cuts are of a piece with the endemic corruption that has tied the party’s political class to its buffoonish president. He has made his partners richer, at least temporarily. But by the public-facing standards set out for it, as opposed to the private venal reasons, the Trump tax cuts have failed as miserably as everything else.

15) Never thought the Large Hadron Collider would be a failure.  But that’s essentially the case argues a physicist:

I used to be a particle physicist. For my Ph.D. thesis, I did L.H.C. predictions, and while I have stopped working in the field, I still believe that slamming particles into one another is the most promising route to understanding what matter is made of and how it holds together. But $10 billion is a hefty price tag. And I’m not sure it’s worth it.

In 2012, experiments at the L.H.C. confirmed the discovery of the Higgs boson — a prediction that dates back to the 1960s — and it remains the only discovery made at the L.H.C. Particle physicists are quick to emphasize that they have learned other things: For example, they now have better knowledge about the structure of the proton, and they’ve seen new (albeit unstable) composite particles. But let’s be honest: It’s disappointing…

To date, particle physicists have no reliable prediction that there should be anything new to find until about 15 orders of magnitude above the currently accessible energies. And the only reliable prediction they had for the L.H.C. was that of the Higgs boson. Unfortunately, particle physicists have not been very forthcoming with this information. Last year, Nigel Lockyer, the director of Fermilab, told the BBC, “From a simple calculation of the Higgs’ mass, there has to be new science.” This “simple calculation” is what predicted that the L.H.C. should already have seen new science…

But big science experiments are investments in our future. Decisions about what to fund should be based on facts, not on shiny advertising. For this, we need to know when a prediction is just a guess. And if particle physicists have only guesses, maybe we should wait until they have better reasons for why a larger collider might find something new.

It is correct that some technological developments, like strong magnets, benefit from these particle colliders and that particle physics positively contributes to scientific education in general. These are worthy investments, but if that’s what you want to spend money on, you don’t also need to dig a tunnel.

Quick hits (part I)

Oh man, so much good stuff this week.  But a really busy Friday.  So, let’s see how much I get to here:

1) Among the conservatives whom Trump has caused to see the light to varying degrees, George Will:

Dislike of him should be tempered by this consideration: He is an almost inexpressibly sad specimen. It must be misery to awaken to another day of being Donald Trump. He seems to have as many friends as his pluperfect self-centeredness allows, and as he has earned in an entirely transactional life. His historical ignorance deprives him of the satisfaction of working in a house where much magnificent history has been made. His childlike ignorance — preserved by a lifetime of single-minded self-promotion — concerning governance and economics guarantees that whenever he must interact with experienced and accomplished people, he is as bewildered as a kindergartener at a seminar on string theory.

2) Paul Waldman is exactly right, “Why you shouldn’t care when a presidential candidate flip-flops.”  Of course, both the media, the Republican Party, and single-issue agenda pushers have conditioned us to care a lot.  Waldman:

Gillibrand’s situation of starting in a place that isn’t representative of her party and then having to change as she moves to the national stage has plenty of precedents. But the evolution over time may be more common, especially in the past couple of decades as the parties have grown steadily more ideologically more homogeneous and shifted away from the center.

For instance, when Clinton joined her husband in the White House in 1993, it was standard for a Democrat to oppose same-sex marriage and support “tough on crime” measures; she had to apologize for both when she ran for president in 2016. By then Democratic tolerance for dissent from the party’s position on guns had narrowed, which left Bernie Sanders explaining that his sometimes pro-gun record was because Vermont is a rural state where lots of people have guns. In other words, he was faithfully representing the beliefs of his constituents, which you can either say is what a representative should do or is just pandering.

Other Democratic candidates are going to confront this issue as the primaries proceed. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has already released a videoapologizing for her previous opposition to marriage equality. Sen. Kamala D. Harris will be criticized for some of her actions as a prosecutor in California. Former vice president Joe Biden will be grilled on his authorship of the harsh 1994 crime bill (among other things). Sen. Cory Booker will have to defend prior ties to Wall Street. Retired boxer Oscar De La Hoya will have to explain his long record of punching other men in the face (though you probably didn’t know, he’s thinking of running, too).

They’ll all probably say that they’re different today than they were then, and while voters will inevitably judge their sincerity, you don’t really have to believe a politician is sincere when they make this move. Why? Because once they shift, they seldom go back. They don’t get elected and then say, “Ha ha, I fooled you all!” As a voter, you’d do better to accept the change and judge them on whether you like the positions they take now. Because that’s almost certainly what they’ll do if they become president.

3) Derek Thompson on the 70% marginal rate and innovation:

Entrepreneurs aren’t just born tough; they’re born lucky. The majority of successful young founders come from affluent white families, and they often piggyback on the professional connections and business expertise of their parents. Taxing the rich and distributing their income would do nothing to change the networks or tutelage of rich families, but it would reduce precarity among middle- and lower-class families, thus helping nonaffluent children become founders without doing much to punish their richer peers.

If Ocasio-Cortez wanted to destroy the American culture of innovation, she wouldn’t propose a barely applicable marginal tax rate, which exists within a larger tax code, which itself exists within a larger fiscal policy. Instead, she would reduce research funding, protect employer-sponsored insurance to keep tomorrow’s founders locked inside today’s cubicles, and increase student debt to make youth entrepreneurship more precarious. Oh, wait.

4) And Economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman make the case for high marginal rates.  Read this one.

The view that excessive income concentration corrodes the social contract has deep roots in America — a country founded, in part, in reaction against the highly unequal, aristocratic Europe of the 18th century. Sharply progressive taxation is an American invention: The United States was the first country in the world, in 1917 — four years after the creation of the income tax — to impose tax rates as high as 67 percent on the highest incomes. When Representative Ocasio-Cortez proposes a 70 percent rate for incomes above $10 million, she is reconnecting with this American tradition. She’s reviving an ethos that Ronald Reagan successfully repressed, but that prevailed during most of the 20th century.

And she’s doing so at a time when there is an emergency. For just as we have a climate crisis, we have an inequality crisis. Over more than a generation, the lower half of income distribution has been shut out from economic growth: Its income per adult was $16,000 in 1980 (adjusted for inflation), and it still is around $16,000 today. At the same time, the income of a tiny minority has skyrocketed. For the highest 0.1 percent of earners, incomes have grown more than 300 percent; for the top 0.01 percent, incomes have grown by as much as 450 percent. And for the tippy-top 0.001 percent — the 2,300 richest Americans — incomes have grown by more than 600 percent.

Just as the point of taxing carbon is not to raise revenue but to reduce carbon emissions, high tax rates for sky-high incomes do not aim at funding Medicare for All. They aim at preventing an oligarchic drift that, if left unaddressed, will continue undermining the social compact and risk killing democracy.

5) Molly Roberts with my favorite take on the whole Covington Catholic HS mess:

The problem is, neither of these distillations captures the truth, which is hidden somewhere in a mess of different segments of different recordings showing different offenses by different parties. It’s true that the Hebrew Israelites shouted invective at the kids, and it is true that the kids chanted school cheers to drown them out. It’s also true that the schoolboys, whether someone else was mean to them beforehand or not, were giggling as they let loose with offensive war whoops and tomahawk chops while a Native American man beat his drum before them. It’s true that one of them ripped his shirt off in a signal of self-assured dominance. And it’s true that a smirk is a smirk.

The quarrel over the Covington teens is not only a story of social media hate-mobbing. It’s also a story of the groupthinking tendency to hop off a bandwagon as unthinkingly as we hop onto it. More important, it’s a story of our desire to make every cultural controversy fit into a framework that tells some distillable truth about the state of our country today. Any actual truth about the rifts running through America right now can’t be cleanly distilled. That’s a harder story to tell — which might be why so few are trying.

6) Tom Edsall with a deep dive on Democrats’ leftward movement, “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Is Leading and Following at the Same Time: The Democratic electorate has shifted sharply to the left, taking many politicians along with it — willingly and unwillingly.”

7) But when it comes to social issues, it’s not just Democrats moving left, “Young Voters Keep Moving to the Left on Social Issues, Republicans Included”

Democrats of all ages tend to align fairly closely on major social and political issues, but the report highlights a sharp generational divide among Republicans. For example, more than half of the youngest Republicans surveyed said that racial and ethnic diversity was good for American society, a view shared by fewer than 40 percent of their Millennial counterparts, 34 percent of Generation Xers and just three in 10 baby boomers.

Young Republicans are also more likely to approve of same-sex marriage and accept transgender people.

8) Maybe take a stair-climbing exercise “snack

As little as 20 seconds of brisk stair climbing, done several times a day, might be enough exercise to improve fitness, according to a pragmatic new study of interval-style training.

The study finds that people can complete a meaningful series of insta-workouts without leaving their office building or even changing out of their dress shoes, offering hope — and eliminating excuses — for those of us convinced that we have inadequate time, expertise, income or footwear to exercise…

So, for the new study, which was published this month in Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, the researchers decided to see whether it was feasible to break the workout into a series of “exercise snacks” spread throughout the day.

Their hope was that a single quick burst of stair climbing would be strenuous enough to prompt improvements in fitness if it were repeated multiple times, even with hours in between.

To find out, they recruited 24 healthy but inactive college students, tested their endurance and leg power using a specialized stationary bicycle, and randomly assigned them either to continue with their normal lives as a control group or start exercise snacking.

The exercisers reported to the physiology building’s stairwell. There, the researchers directed them to warm up with a few jumping jacks, squats and lunges and then hurry up 60 steps — three flights of stairs — as quickly as they could, one step at a time, while using the guardrail for safety. These ascents lasted about 20 seconds.

And that was the workout. The volunteers repeated these abbreviated exercise snacks twice more that day, usually at lunch and again in the afternoon, for a total intense exercise time of about a minute.

By the end of six weeks, the exercisers had increased their aerobic fitness by about 5 percent. They also showed improvements in leg power and could generate more power while cycling.

9) I’ve done a fair amount of Amazon returns.  I found this pretty fascinating to find out what happens to so much of them.  Pretty sure the headphones I’ve returned (additional headphones from multipack purchases when first pair is defective) have all just ended up trashed.

10) Sarah Jones is right, “Donald Trump Has No Idea How Grocery Stores Work.’

11) I’m a sucker for Girl Scout Cookies and for Vox articles about Girl Scout cookies.  Hooray for Samoas/Carmel Delites.

12) Jeremy Stahl, “Roger Stone’s Indictment Proves the House Republicans’ Russia Investigation Was a Whitewash.”  Yes, it really does.  It’s like asking the guy with a knife, “hey, did you stab that guy over there lying in the pool of blood.”  Guy, “me, no.”  Republicans in Congress, “see, he didn’t do anything wrong.”

13) How much do I love Adam Serwer referencing Stringer Bell’s use of Roberts Rules of Order when it comes to Trup associates taking incriminating notes.

14) Kottke with videos visualizing the speed of light.  This is so cool!

15) Damn, those pot sellers are dangerous!  Radley Balko:

16) Read this excellent piece from Ezra on the excellent political science of Frances Lee and what it tells us about Trump and the current partisan dynamics:

Once a political party has decided the path to governing is winning back the majority, not working with the existing majority, the incentives transform. Instead of cultivating a good relationship with your colleagues across the aisle, you need to destroy them, because you need to convince the voters to destroy them, too.

Dick Cheney, then a member of the House of Representatives, put it sharply in 1985. “Confrontation fits our strategy,” he said. “Polarization often has very beneficial results. If everything is handled through compromise and conciliation, if there are no real issues dividing us from the Democrats, why should the country change and make us the majority?”

There’s nothing particularly unusual about this. It’s the logic of zero-sum contests everywhere. But America’s political system is unusual in that it fosters divided government and is full of tricks minorities can use to obstruct governance, like the filibuster. The current shutdown, for instance, reflects the fact that the Republican president needed Democratic votes to fund the government, even when Republicans held the majority in both the House and the Senate. [emphases mine]

Imagine this structure outside the context of American politics. Imagine you worked in an office where your boss, who was kind of a jerk, needed your help to finish his projects. If you helped him, he’d keep his job and maybe even get a promotion. If you refused to help him, you’d become his boss, and he might even get fired. Now add in a deep dose of disagreement — you hate his projects and think they’re bad for the company, and even the world — and a bunch of colleagues who also hate your boss and will be mad at you if you help him…

The media tends to tell the story of American politics as if it were an episode of The West Wing. The protagonist is the president, and any problem can be solved with enough presidential leadership, with a soaring enough presidential speech.

Brendan Nyhan, a University of Michigan political scientist, calls this the Green Lantern Theory of the Presidency, and defines it as “the belief that the president can achieve any political or policy objective if only he tries hard enough or uses the right tactics.” In other words, the American president is functionally all-powerful, and whenever he can’t get something done, it’s because he’s not trying hard enough, not leading aggressively enough.

Trump, whose political history prior to winning the presidency included a lot of speeches and television appearances but no actual governance, seems particularly besotted by this vision of politics. He often seems to understand his presidency as the Donald Trump Show, where he is the main character, perhaps the only character. During his party nomination speech, Trump famously said, “I alone can fix it,” and if the actual experience of the presidency has perhaps tempered that view a bit, it hasn’t tempered it enough for Trump to work in a truly collaborative, consistent way with the other parts of the government.


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