We have one political party that believes in science

So, that’s not exactly new, but the premise of this article in the Post is that it has become worse under Trump.  I’m not so sure that Trump is driving the bus on this as much as he just happened to get on the bus in the front seat (or some-such metaphor), but the reality is this is not doing the planet any favors and probably making open anti-science denialism more prevalent in the Republican party:

Sen.-elect Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee said falsely in the lead-up to her campaign that the Earth has started to cool, and argued inaccurately that scientists have not reached a consensus on climate change.

In Florida, which has been pummeled by hurricanes, Sen.-elect Rick Scott has acknowledged rising and warmer seas could be harmful to his state but won’t attribute it to human activity.

And Sen. John Neely Kennedy, who is expected to announce Monday whether he will run for Louisiana governor, told reporters last week that while the Earth may be getting hotter, “I’ve seen many persuasive arguments that it’s just a continuation of the warming up from the Little Ice Age.”

As President Trump’s rejection of climate science isolates the United States on the world stage, illustrated by the small U.S. delegation dispatched to this week’s United Nations climate summit in Poland, he has also presided over a transformation in the Republican Party — placing climate change skepticism squarely in the GOP’s ideological mainstream. [emphasis mine]

Yeah, ultimately I just don’t believe that emphasized portion.  Sure, there’s been some Republicans in the past who were half-decent on the issue, but this denialism has pretty much always been in the GOP mainstream.  It’s not like Trump has a lot of original ideological ideas beyond that which enriches him is good and non-white immigrants are bad.

Anyway, it really is kind of amazing that our very own Republican party is pretty much the only major political party in the democratic world that actually denies the reality of climate change.  There is quite a lot of damning stuff about today’s GOP, but, this is really up there.  And really depressing.  Because it’s getting hot in here and that takes bipartisan solutions.

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Quick hits (part I)

1) Benjamin Wittes (who really knows what he’s talking about) gives 10 reasons “it’s probably too late to stop Mueller.”  I think he’s right, but I’d be happier without the “probably” in there.

2) Nice Monkey Cage analysis from Political Scientist Charles Smith III on why we have to wait so long for election results now.  This is the new reality we just need to get used to:

his slow process of counting ballots has produced considerable controversy. But it shouldn’t. Both state laws and sheer logistics make it impossible to finish counting ballots on election night or even within a day or two. Here’s why that is — and why newly counted ballots seem to favor Democratic candidates.

Why the counting isn’t done on election night

The election night tradition of gathering around the television to see the votes come in and news organizations “call” the winners gives us a false impression: All the votes that need to be counted can, and should, be tallied in the minutes after  the close of polls.

But this is wrong. For one, in almost every state, provisional ballots will have been cast on Election Day by voters whose registration cannot be verified.  In 2016, 2.1 million voters cast a provisional ballot, 71 percent of which were eventually counted after the registration was verified. States are currently in the middle of verifying the registration status of those who cast provisional ballots in 2018, and decisions are being made about whether to count those ballots in this election. Moreover, millions of ballots have been mailed in, which now need to be opened, have voters’ signatures compared to the signature on record and then scanned.

In some states, this means that a large number of votes are counted after Election Day. In 2016, California and Washington counted less than half their votes within a day of the election. Three other states, Alaska, Arizona and Utah counted only about 60 percent. Another six states had counted only 90 percent of their ballots.

In Arizona, ballot-counting takes extra time because three-quarters of Arizona’s voters cast ballots by mail. Many of these are returned in person on Election Day. Processing mail ballots is labor-intensive and can take days if not weeks to complete…

What’s happened in Florida and Arizona is nothing new. In fact, it’s entirely consistent with current trends in election law and election administration. Voters across the United States have demanded greater flexibility in how and when they cast their ballots. This greater flexibility comes with a price: a delay in counting ballots.

Of course, one must guard against shenanigans that could occur during the counting of these additional ballots.

But to date, nothing about the vote-counting in Arizona and Florida suggests that the growing number of votes or their Democratic tilt are due to electoral improprieties.

3) I loved learning all about how the kilogram is being redefined to a universal standard.  It’s wild that until know our basic unit of weight is based on a piece of metal sitting in France.

4) I love NC State basketball and certainly understand the desire to name things after Jim Valvano, but this name is ridiculous: Kay Yow Court at James T. Valvano Arena at William Neal Reynolds Coliseum

5) Good Krugman piece on how the general failure of the Republican tax cuts undermines much of the rationale of Republican economics:

Meanwhile, there’s no sign of the vast investment boom the law’s backers promised. Corporations have used the tax cut’s proceeds largely to buy back their own stock rather than to add jobs and expand capacity.

But why have the tax cut’s impacts been so minimal? Leave aside the glitch-filled changes in individual taxes, which will keep accountants busy for years; the core of the bill was a huge cut in corporate taxes. Why hasn’t this done more to increase investment?

The answer, I’d argue, is that business decisions are a lot less sensitive to financial incentives — including tax rates — than conservatives claim. And appreciating that reality doesn’t just undermine the case for the Trump tax cut. It undermines Republican economic doctrine as a whole. [emphasis mine]

About business decisions: It’s a dirty little secret of monetary analysis that changes in interest rates affect the economy mainly through their effect on the housing market and the international value of the dollar (which in turn affects the competitiveness of U.S. goods on world markets). Any direct effect on business

6) Drum’s headline captures this well, “Military Experts Say We Should Cut Medicare to Fund Bigger Military.”

7) Nice piece from the Atlantic’s Robinson Meyer on the difficulty of controlling California’s wildfires:

Fires in the United States are getting larger, and the country is rapidly losing the ability to deal with them. During President Ronald Reagan’s first term, the federal government spent a couple hundred thousand dollars a year fighting fires, according to Williams. This year, it plans to spend $2.25 billion just battling fires; its full budget for managing them can exceed $5 billion. Yet forest-fire damage has ballooned nonetheless. Since the early 1980s, the land area burned by wildfires every year has increased by 1,000 percent.

“Fires are outrunning us. We’re trying harder than ever to put them out, and they’re continuing to win, more and more, every year,” Williams said. “And it really isn’t for lack of effort. Even when we know it’s been stupid policy to fight every single fire, we’re still trying as hard as we can to do that.”

It’s a message he wishes he could drill into the head of every American. As the California fires have dominated the news, Williams has been asked by friends and journalists why we can’t just fix wildfires, why we can’t just put them out. We have solved all sorts of complex environmental-engineering problems. Why not wildfire?

The question illustrates “the root problem that got us into this mess,” Williams told me. “We think that we as humans should be able to dominate this phenomenon of wildfire. And in reality, we can’t. Even though we can put a person on the moon, and even though we can create this global computer network, we can’t. This is a natural phenomenon that is similar to the ocean in that it is really big, that it is much larger than us when it really gets going

8) Oh, so much wrong with this news story:

9) Hat tip to my wife (and amateur linguist) for this cool article on how your language affects your color perception:

There wasn’t an English word for the color “orange” until 200 years after the citrus fruit of the same name arrived in Europe. Before then, the color was called by the two other colors that, when mixed, make orange: “yellow-red.”

This is just one striking example of the ways in which color categories are shaped by culture. Ancient languages, including Greek, Chinese, Hebrew, and Japanese, didn’t have a word for blue. And Russian speakers have two distinct category words for light blue vs dark blue: Something is never “blue,” in Russian, it’s either “siniy” (dark blue) or “goluboy” (light blue.)

These words don’t simply reflect what we see, but multiple experiments suggest they influence our perception. In one recent study, published in Psychological Science and reported by the British Psychological Society, researchers showed groups of Greek, German, and Russian speakers (103 people in total) a rapid series of shapes, and were told to look out for a grey semi-circle. This semi-circle appeared alongside a triangle in different shades of blue and green, and participants later reported whether they saw a complete triangle, a slight or strong impression of the shape, or didn’t see it at all.

Researchers found that Greek and Russian speakers, who have dedicated words for light and dark blue, were more likely to see a light blue triangle against a dark blue background (and vice versa), than they were to identify green triangles against green backgrounds. Speakers of German, which has no such distinction, were no better at seeing shades of blue triangles than green.

10) I loved this youtube video on why Led Zeppelin’s John Bohnam was such an amazing drummer.  I’ve long-believed that having a great drummer is an under-appreciated fact of why some very good rock bands are great rock bands.

11) Connor Friedersdorf on the folly of blaming “white women” for Trump and Republican victories.

12) I’ve long thought the Post’s Charles Lane responsible for some of the most fabulously inane columns.  He’s so convinced himself of his “both sides!” sensible centrism that he writes columns like, “Voters took on gerrymandering. The Supreme Court doesn’t need to.”  I don’t need to explain to you how utterly short-sighted that is.

13) Interesting piece in Chronicle of Higher Ed on helping college students confront their biases.  My more simplistic approach– start ever single class with Ezra Klein’s “How politics makes us stupid.”

14) Found this article about big box stores trying to cut property taxes via “dark store theory” pretty interesting.

15) Dana Goldstein writes, “Voters Widely Support Public Schools. So Why Is It So Hard to Pay for Them?”  My theory is that it has something to do with the fact that there is a political party committed to telling voters that taxes are bad and no matter what and encouraging delusional thinking like we can have good schools without paying for them.  I won’t name that political party.

16) Wild stuff (literally).  Escaped-from-a-theme-park Rhesus macaques in Florida carry a deadly herpes virus.

17) Somehow I missed this story last week about a man who died from eating a slug.  I brought it up today when I told my kids not to eat the slug in the front yard.  My wife told me this was so last week.  Umm, also, real.

18) This graphic of what treatments are effective for the common cold in children and adults is awesome!  I’m a big fan of the ibuprofen plus pseudoephedrine plus caffeine approach (caffeine does not directly address the basic symptoms, but in my experience when combined with the others really helps with the “generally feeling like crap” symptom).

19) I found the new/recent Peter Rabbit movie (currently on Netflix) unexpectedly charming.

20) I had seen all week that this piece on Larry Nassar (the gymnast-molesting-physician) was amazing and after yet another recommendation, finally read it yesterday.  Just read it.

Quick hits (part II)

1) I still think Honeycrisp are overrated, but I always love learning more about apples.  And, I must admit, I’m pretty excited about the coming Cosmic Crisp.  Also, somehow missed this excellent NPR article about “club apples” from a few years ago.

2) Absolutely an under-covered story this election is Republican voter-supression efforts.  Ari Berman in the NYT:

In Georgia and other states, the question in this election is not just about which candidates voters will support, but whether they’ll be able to cast a ballot in the first place. The fight over voting rights in the midterms is a reminder that elections are not solely about who is running, what their commercials say or how many people are registered to vote. They are about who is allowed to vote and which officials are placing obstacles in the way of would-be voters.

The issue of voter suppression has exploded in recent weeks, most notably in the Georgia governor’s race between Stacey Abrams, a Democrat, and Brian Kemp, a Republican. While running for higher office, Mr. Kemp, as secretary of state, also enforces Georgia’s voting laws. This month, The Associated Press reported that Mr. Kemp’s office had put more than 53,000 voter registration applications in limbo because the information on the forms did not exactly match state databases. Seventy percent of the pending registrations were from African-Americans, leading Ms. Abrams to charge that Mr. Kemp was trying “to tilt the playing field in his favor.” Mr. Kemp claimed a voter registration group tied to Ms. Abrams had “submitted sloppy forms.”

Since the 2010 election, 24 states overwhelmingly controlled by Republicans have put in place new voting restrictions, such as tougher voter ID laws, cutbacks to early voting and barriers to registration. Republicans say these measures are necessary to combat the threat of widespread voter fraud, even though study after study shows that such fraud is exceedingly rare. Many of these states have hotly contested races in 2018, and a drop in turnout among Democratic constituencies, such as young people and voters of color, could keep Republicans in power.

3) And the Atlantic’s Van Newkirk II:

Democracy in America is only a little over five decades old. That’s difficult to square with the America that exists in the storytelling tradition: a brave experiment in a government run for and by the people. In reality, the country has always been defined as much by whom it’s kept from voting as by who is allowed to participate, and the ideal of democracy has always been limited by institutions designed to disenfranchise. Put another way: The great majority of all elections in American history would have been entirely illegitimate under modern law.

It seems even today’s elections would have difficulty meeting those standards. Claims of voter suppression have multiplied during the 2018 midterm-election cycle. Gerrymanders dilute black and Latino votes. Voter-ID laws in some states disproportionately affect people of color. Polling-place changes, lines, and irregularities still characterize the voting experiences of many communities of color. In Georgia, the Republican candidate for governor—the state’s secretary of state, Brian Kemp—is facing a lawsuit over allegedly racially biased voter purges. American democracy finds itself at a crossroads, and a future where more suppression is the norm seems like a strong possibility…

Regardless of the outcome, these tactics will make an indelible historical mark on the Georgia election. In that, it’s the vanguard of a new norm rather than an outlier. Since the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision, in which the Supreme Court defanged federal enforcement of the Voting Rights Act, the Court has taken an ax to the stump of voter protections that remained.

In June of this year, the Court gave its blessing to aggressive voter purges, even those that all existing data indicate affect minority communities most. The Court has moved toward extending authorization for voter-ID laws, despite data showing the same. Adding to the Court’s finding in Shelby County that past disenfranchisement was no longer a valid factor in developing current protections against disenfranchisement, the Court argued that “good faith of [the] state legislature must be presumed,” when it upheld Texas congressional districts that were challenged as racial gerrymanders.

So far, the results have been undeniable. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, up to 2 million more people than expected have lost their voting status because of purges after Shelby County. Also according to the Brennan Center, 23 states have made their voting laws more restrictive since 2010, including six of the 10 states with the highest proportions of black voters. And that count doesn’t include North Carolina, the state with the seventh-highest population of black voters, where a battle involving voter ID, gerrymandering, and racial discrimination has dominated politics over the past decade. Nor does it include Texas, now a major battleground for voter-ID laws and gerrymandering plans that mostly affect its high population of Latino voters.

4) Getting adolescent boys to talk about their feelings.  Hell, yeah.

“In here, we get to say stuff we wouldn’t normally say in front of other people. And we don’t judge each other,” said a seventh grader with dark curls. “Boys should have a safe space to talk about things that matter to us,” said another seventh grader with a hint of a Canadian accent.

The two were veterans of a weekly lunch time boys’ group at the Sheridan School, a K-8 private school in Northwest Washington, D.C., explaining the group’s purpose to new members.

Hands went up, thumbs and pinkies wagged back and forth in the shaka or “hang loose” hand gesture, which signifies full agreement at Sheridan. The group’s primary adviser, Phyllis Fagell, started an activity she called the “man box.” She called out a feeling or emotion, and the boys were supposed to determine if it belonged inside or outside of this figurative container of masculine stereotypes.

The 11 middle-school boys quickly agreed that none of the following belonged in the “man box”: trust, sadness, tenderness, patience, fear, insecurity, confusion, feeling overwhelmed and joy.

“You just eliminated 80 percent of human emotions from the male experience,” said Ms. Fagell, who is the school counselor. “Does that surprise you?”

5) Does living together before marriage increase the likelihood of divorce?  Maybe, maybe not.  (But it does increase the likelihood of going to hell!  Sorry, couldn’t resist).  Seriously, researchers still cannot come to a consensus.

6) Drum’s Q&A on Trump’s oddly sensible proposal on prescription drug prices is the best thing I’ve read on it:

Q: This is great! Right now I pay about $400 in annual premiums and another $1,800 in deductibles and copays for my prescription drugs through Medicare. This could really make a—

A: Hold on, cowboy. Just settle down. Let’s get one thing straight right off: Trump’s announcement has nothing to do with your prescription drug plan.

Q: Wait. What?

A: You’re thinking of Medicare Part D, which was passed in 2003. It covers prescription drugs for seniors, but Republicans specifically prohibited Medicare from negotiating prices on Part D and there’s nothing Trump can do about that. Democrats tried to pass a bill changing this a few years ago, but Republicans filibustered it and it failed.

Q: So Trump is asking them to take another look?

A: Nope. Democrats proposed yet another bill last year that would have allowed Medicare to negotiate drug prices, but Republicans killed it and Trump just shrugged. He was too busy trying to dismantle Obamacare. Nothing is changing there.

7) It’s so fascinating the way complex ecosystems are connected.  And really disturbing how human actions can throw these all out of balance.  On the California coast, sea urchins are gobbling up all the kelp.

8) Interesting idea– battery swapping as a faster and more efficient way to charge electric vehicles.

9) The case for teaching loneliness prevention in our schools:

The ideal school curriculum for teaching loneliness prevention, Holt-Lunstad says, would target social isolation as well as the cognitive processes that make people feel lonelier—while, of course, teaching students the health risks associated with loneliness. “Recognizing that it’s something that we need to take seriously for our health is a primary and critical step,” she says.

Holt-Lunstad advocates for a sort of “social education”—similar to efforts by schools to provide, say, sex education and physical education—that would be integrated into existing health-education curricula to teach students how to build and maintain friendships and relationships. Learning how to provide the kind of help and support a friend or partner feels a need for is an invaluable social skill that can be taught in the classroom, she adds. For example, when a friend who is broke asks for money but instead receives a lecture on financial management, she isn’t likely to feel she’s been supported in the way she needs.

10) Initiatives in California and Florida could require more humane treatment animals.  Since the legislatures are obviously far more influenced by Big Agriculture, this is one way to get policy more in line with what the public actually thinks:

Most Americans aren’t vegetarians or vegans, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t concerned with the welfare of animals. Nearly everyone consumes animals that are raised and killed on factory farms (over 99 percent of land animals raised for food are, so even “humane”-labeled food is typically factory-farmed). But even most meat-eating Americans are strongly opposed to the abuses that are commonplace in the industry. In a 2017 Ipsos/Sentience Institute poll, 49 percent of Americans supported a ban on factory farming, nearly 90 percent thought “farmed animals have roughly the same ability to feel pain and discomfort as humans,” and nearly 70 percent agreed that “the factory farming of animals is one of the most important social issues in the world today.”

11) Nice video of Donald Trump advocating political violence time and time again.

12) David Brooks embracing the “nationalist” tag in defense of Trump is pretty pathetic and disgusting.  A great example of NYT commenters being far smarter than the writer in pointing out that Brooks is really talking about “patriotism” and saying “nationalism” for Trump’s benefit.

13) Column in Chronicle of Higher Education advocating lowering the stakes of the job interview dinner.  Good God I would never want a job at a place that chose against me because I prefer pizza and Diet Dr Pepper over sushi and beer.  My experience… people on the search committee want a free dinner at a fancy restaurant and really don’t care much about what the job candidate eats.

14) My friend and colleague Mark Nance on why North Carolinians should vote against the 6 misleading Constitutional amendments the Republicans put onto our ballot.

15) How a controversial on-line charter school is having a surprisingly large impact on Ohio politics.

16) Interesting piece in the Atlantic,  “College Sports Are Affirmative Action for Rich White Students: Athletes are often held to a lower standard by admissions officers, and in the Ivy League, 65 percent of players are white.”

17) EJ Dionne on the Republicans’ long con on the deficit:

A truly gifted con artist is someone who pulls off the same scam again and again and keeps getting away with it.

Say what you will about Republicans and conservatives: Their audacity when it comes to deficits and tax cuts is something to behold, and they have been running the same play since the passage of the Reagan tax cuts in 1981.

Republicans shout loudly about how terrible deficits are when Democrats are in power — even in cases when deficits are essential to pulling the nation out of economic catastrophe, as was the case at the beginning of President Barack Obama’s first term.

But when the GOP takes control, its legions cheerfully embrace Dick Cheney’s law and send deficits soaring. Recall what President George W. Bush’s vice president said in 2002 justifying the 2003 tax cuts: “Reagan proved deficits don’t matter.”

Deficits don’t matter if they would impede handing out tax benefits to corporations and the affluent. But they put us “on the brink of national bankruptcy” and threaten “a debt crisis,” as House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) put it in 2011, when Democrats want to finance programs for the middle class or the poor.

And here’s the critical insight:

Republicans know one other thing: Their deception will work as long as neutral arbiters — in the media and think tanks along with those who genuinely care about deficits — fail to call it out…[emphasis mine]

So here is my plea to the honest deficit hawks out there: Please face up to how right-wing policies are doubly damaging to national solvency. They raise deficits by reducing revenues. But they also endanger us by aggravating inequalities that themselves imperil sustainable budgets and a growing economy. This is worse than a swindle. It’s a dangerous mistake.

18) Disturbing new evidence on the use of antibiotics in livestock farming:

Now a new study, years in the making, goes further than any other to demonstrate that resistant bacteria can move from animals to humans via the meat they become. It also provides a model of how new surveillance systems might reduce that bacterial flow at its source on farms.

It’s just one study, but it possesses outsize significance, because it eliminates the uncertainty at the center of that bacterial flow. Outside of experimental conditions, it’s never been possible to prove that this antibiotic given to thatanimal gave rise to this bacterium that ended up in thathuman. But this new work dives so deeply into the genomics of bacterial adaptation in food animals and humans, it proves the link that ag would rather deny.

 

 

Science, gender, Trump, and cruelty

When it comes to the latest Trump administration announcement on defining gender, I think Jamelle Bouie (borrowing from Adam Serwer) is exactly right, “the cruelty is the point.”

That said, James Hamblin with a really, really good piece on the complexities of biological sex that the Trump administration can only pretend to take into account.  And you gotta love the headline, “Against a Federal Registry of Genitals: A report that the Trump administration plans to define gender based on the appearance of infants runs counter to developmental biology and individual privacy.”

Life might be more orderly and easy to understand if biology worked just like this:

People come in one of two sexes, male or female. This is determined by chromosomes, and XX means female, and XY means male. Males have penises and testicles—which are all similar in appearance and curvature and size—that secrete testosterone in similar proportions. This testosterone is metabolized and functions similarly in all men and causes them to have similar amounts of musculature and deep voices and certain amounts of facial and back hair, and to act in particular ways due to this hormone. It causes their brains to develop and make them behave in ways that are “manly.”

These men are attracted to women, specifically women who look normal, which is a result of the fact that they definitionally have exactly and only two XX chromosomes that cause them to develop clitori and uteri and breasts and ovaries that produce estrogen and other hormones that cause cycles of growth and shedding of the uterine lining, and who predictably bear children when sperm meets egg. All of these features develop and function the same way in all women who are normal—whose amounts of hormones make their bodies look and feel more or less the same, and whose brains develop and function in a way that is female, and which consigns them to certain roles in social hierarchies.

This is the middle-school health class version. Like any simplistic model, this one is presented as an introduction. Most 11-year-olds do not yet know about enzymes and cell biology, and have barely begun to consider the complex differences between humans, and aren’t ready to grapple with the social implications of the simplistic dichotomy. Plus it would be impossible to go into greater depth without the class snickering every time the teacher said “ambiguous genitalia” or “micropenis.”

The paradigm is somewhat similar to saying that automobiles come in two forms: cars and trucks. This is a worldview that is easily challenged by the existence of SUVs and station wagons—neither of which would suddenly disappear, even if government officials tried to make up a definition that excluded them.

Yet this is the paradigm that the Department of Health and Human Services is preparing to use to define gender, ]emphases mine] according to a memo reported in The New York Timestoday: “The agency’s proposed definition would define sex as either male or female, unchangeable, and determined by the genitals that a person is born with … Any dispute about one’s sex would have to be clarified using genetic testing.”…

The agency proposes to define gender “on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable.” Which would indeed be ideal at a bureaucratic level. Even looking no further than the maternity ward or doula’s chambers, though, human biology does not abide by the rules laid out for us in sixth grade.

Though they have long been anathema to talk about, there are many thousands of variables that affect gestation and fetal development—some influenced by epigenetic factors generations before conception—that lead to a spectrum of outcomes for any given infant. This can include sex-chromosomal anomalies (XXY or XYY, for example), as well as irregular functioning of enzymes that activate or metabolize hormones, or the blocking of binding sites where hormones typically act, which effectively could lead an XY person to develop female genitalia (known as Swyer syndrome), or an XX person to develop male genitalia, and for thousands of infants each year who are born with “ambiguous genitalia” that can look something like a penis and a clitoris (which are fundamentally structurally analogous, spongy tissue consisting of a crus and glans that become engorged and hyper-sensitive during sex).

There are two statistical peaks in the distribution of infant outcomes that roughly accord with the states described in middle school, but there is also everything in between and on other sides. Entire textbooks are written on the wide variety of ways sex hormones can manifest during fetal development and throughout life. The exact number of infants born in the domain known as “intersex”—who, for any number of reasons, do not clearly fit into one of the two sexes based on genitalia or chromosomes or both—is difficult to know because for many years, such people were “normalized” at birth by default.

The obvious questions, of course, is, what’s the point?!  The cruelty.  And pandering the the cruel.

My grandad was an aircraft engineer, let me fly this plane

Okay, not exactly sure what my granddad did– wish I had learned more when he was alive– but my dad used to always talk about him working on WWII aircraft (B25 Mitchell, in particular, if I recall correctly).  By Trumpian logic, I should be able to fly a plane.  How this guy’s brain works is just crazy.  Anyway, here he is on how he knows best on climate change:

Mr. Trump told Lesley Stahl on “60 Minutes” he isn’t sure climate change is manmade, but “something’s changing and it’ll change back again.” Pressed about those comments in an interview with the AP, the president said he wants clean air and water, but doesn’t want to “sacrifice the economic well-being of our country for something that nobody really knows.”

“And you have scientists on both sides of the issue. And I agree the climate changes, but it goes back and forth, back and forth. So we’ll see,” the president said.

Despite the president’s protestations, there is little dispute among climate scientists around the world, who warn that climate change could be nearing a point where trends cannot be reversed. Earlier this month, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a major report warning that the planet would face catastrophe in the near future if the phenomenon is not addressed.

When the AP brought up the consensus of scientists, however, the president responded by saying that other scientists agreed with him. 

“No, no. Some say that and some say differently,” Mr. Trump said. “I mean, you have scientists on both sides of it. My uncle was a great professor at MIT for many years, Dr. John Trump. And I didn’t talk to him about this particular subject, but I have a natural instinct for science, and I will say that you have scientists on both sides of the picture.” [emphasis mine]

Well, damn, who needs scientific consensus when your uncle was an engineering professor.

And meanwhile, of course, Trump is using his “natural instinct” to do everything he can to gut regulations that might actually help with the climate.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Atlantic with a nice summary of scientific findings on the impact of siblings.  Some good; some bad.

2) I love this idea of letting the size of the Supreme Court fluctuate and saying that each president gets two and only two appointments per term.  This could be done by simply passing a law and is so much more fair than our current system which is overly senstive to surprise deaths, retirements, etc.

3) Time cover story on how Trumpism will outlast Trump.

4) Political Scientist Hans Noel takes on the wrongness of the Senate:

But of course, the fact that the Constitution does something isn’t the same as that something being good. We continue to debate the Constitution itselfand specifically the disproportional Senate. If our intuition tells us that there’s something wrong when a minority has that much power, we should pay attention. The Senate’s equal representation of states — not people — should be discussed on its merits.

I don’t think it stands up…

We have come a long way since the founding. Political scientist Daniel J. Hopkins, in his new book, The Increasingly United States, traces how America has gone from “all politics is local” to a world in which national issues dominate even local conflicts.

Hopkins devotes an entire chapter to the question of whether people think of themselves as Americans or as citizens of their states. Across a wide range of measures, he shows that Americans see themselves as Americans first, citizens of their states second. As he puts it: “Compared to their attachment to the nation as a whole, their place-based attachment is markedly weaker. What is more, the content of state-level identities is typically divorced from politics.”

That finding doesn’t mesh well with the idea of people being represented in government through their states. And citizens, politicians and parties have all long realized that. Political strategies for all national offices involve coordination across geography. If you live in a deep red state, you can donate to a candidate running in a purple one. If your district is safe for the Democrats, you can travel to canvass for a candidate in a swing district.

It is illegal for foreign nationals to contribute money to a US electoral campaign. It is neither illegal nor uncommon for citizens to contribute to electoral campaigns in other states. Some candidates receive sizable portions of their resources from out of their own state.

When Americans are hacking the Constitution to get around the geographic nature of our representation, that should be a red flag.

5) Thomas Edsall on Democrats’ shift to the left:

The dominant role of well-educated, relatively upscale white Democrats in moving the party to the left reflects the declining role of the working class in shaping the party’s ideology…

Politically speaking, there are clear pluses and minuses to this trend.

On the positive side for Democrats, more educated whites are expected to play a key role in the party’s efforts to retake control of the House, especially in suburban districts. Women, in particular, have shifted by the millions toward favoring Democratic congressional candidates.

In 2014, women voted for Democratic congressional candidates, according to exit polls, by a 4-point margin; the Oct. 2 2018 Quinnipiac poll shows women supporting Democratic candidates by 18 points. Women this year are also the most active constituency driving Democratic mobilization.

On the negative side, conservatives are already seeking to capitalize on the ideological shift. President Trump has taken to portraying his critics as “an angry left-wing mob.” This headline in the right-leaning Investor’s Business Daily nicely catches the spirit of this effort: “It’s Official: Democrats Are the Extremists Today.”

According to Gallup, the leftward shift among Democrats is more pronounced on social issues involving race, gender and sexual identity than it is on economic matters.

In a detailed analysis, Gallup found that the lion’s share of the increase in support for socially liberal positions

has occurred among non-Hispanic whites. Whereas just 39 percent of white Democrats said they were liberal on social issues back in 2001-2005, that has risen to 61 percent since 2015-2017. By contrast, blacks’ views have hardly changed: 34 percent in the 2001-2005 period vs. 37 percent in 2015-2017.

In addition, according to Gallup, social liberalism grew substantially more among Democratic women than it did among men and more among college-educated Democrats than among those without degrees.

6) I don’t care for this WP story about Republicans rhetorical embrace of protecting people with pre-existing health conditions, “Growing number of Republicans sounding a lot like Democrats ahead of elections.”  It’s talk!!!  Real journalists should not pretend it is anything otherwise.

7) Jon Cohn characterizes it more accurately, “Republicans Are Still Rewriting History On Pre-Existing Conditions.”

8) Bad week for Elizabeth Warren, but I somehow just came across Chait’s September take on her.  He’s bullish:

Warren has taken the opposite tack, defending her agenda as a plan to save capitalism from its excesses. She has called herself “a capitalist to my bones” (or, at other times, her “ankles.”) “There are so many people right now who argue against these reforms and other reforms, who claim they are pro-business,” she told Franklin Foer, “They’re not. They’re pro-monopoly. They’re pro–concentration of power, which crushes competition.” It is also notable that Warren has directed some of the messaging for her early moves at economic liberals like Foer and Vox’s Matthew Yglesias, who would have a more skeptical view of Sanders-style socialism. She even touted her plans in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.

Warren is shrewdly co-opting that appeal to openness and authenticity, and the importance liberal voters place on appearing to have nothing to hide…

Warren is running on a progressive platform that, if enacted, would sharply curtail political and economic inequality. But unlike Sanders, she is building a profile designed to compete for swing voters also, rather than solely to inspire progressive activists. The distinction can be seen in her rhetoric, policy substance, and choice of emphasis. [emphasis mine]

9) Julia Louis-Dreyfuss‘ comedic brilliance.

10) I do buy so much stuff I never intended to when I go to Ikea.  Here’s why.

11) Max Boot, “Trump has given every despot on the planet a license to kill.”

Now President Trump gives every indication that, far from fighting for freedom, he would rather fight against it. This is the president who said it’s “great” that Xi is declaring himself ruler for life, praised Duterte for the “unbelievable job” he was doing “on the drug problem,” congratulatedRecep Tayyip Erdogan for winning a rigged referendum that spelled the death of Turkish democracy and declared his “love” for Kim Jong Un of North Korea. When confronted by Lesley Stahl on “60 Minutes” about Kim’s catalogue of crime — “repression, gulags, starvation” — Trump was dismissive. “I get along with him really well,” Trump said. “I have a good energy with him.” He was equally blasé when Stahl asked him about reports that Putin is involved in “assassinations” and “poisonings.” He probably is, Trump conceded — but “it’s not in our country,” so who cares? Britain can deal with Russian hit teams on its own.

Now President Trump gives every indication that, far from fighting for freedom, he would rather fight against it. This is the president who said it’s “great” that Xi is declaring himself ruler for life, praised Duterte for the “unbelievable job” he was doing “on the drug problem,” congratulated Recep Tayyip Erdogan for winning a rigged referendum that spelled the death of Turkish democracy and declared his “love” for Kim Jong Un of North Korea. When confronted by Lesley Stahl on “60 Minutes” about Kim’s catalogue of crime — “repression, gulags, starvation” — Trump was dismissive. “I get along with him really well,” Trump said. “I have a good energy with him.” He was equally blasé when Stahl asked him about reports that Putin is involved in “assassinations” and “poisonings.” He probably is, Trump conceded — but “it’s not in our country,” so who cares? Britain can deal with Russian hit teams on its own.

The only thing that matters to this intensely solipsistic president is how other rulers treat him; how they treat their own people or even their neighbors is irrelevant.

Thus, it is hardly surprising that Trump has shown so little outrage about the fate of Khashoggi, an American resident and a columnist for an American newspaper who was reportedly murdered in a NATO country. Trump’s threat of “severe punishment” is undercut by his willingness to accept at face value Saudi denials of complicity — just as he accepted Putin’s denial of hacking the Democratic Party. Trump even speculates, echoing a possible Saudi cover story designed to protect the crown prince, that “rogue killers” could be responsible. How long before he claims that Khashoggi could have been killed by a 400-pound couch potato who somehow waddled into the heavily guarded Saudi Consulate?

If the Saudis carried out this grisly crime with high-level authorization, as the evidence would indicate, they did so at least in part because they anticipated that the American president wouldn’t care about the disappearance of another “enemy of the people.” Other dictatorships are equally emboldened by America’s abdication of authority. This is a good time to be a dictator — and a dangerous time to be a dissident. Trump has given every despot on the planet a license to kill without worrying about the U.S. reaction. Because, in all likelihood, there will be none.

12) The opioid overdose obituary that went viral.

13) The basis of the U.S.- Saudi relationship has roots in the Cold War and US dependence on Saudi oil.  Those situations are now history.  Yglesias on time to re-think the relationship.

14) Best use ever of this meme.

 

Quick hits (part I)

Oh man, so tired after a long day at the NC State Fair.  But I know how much DJC enjoys his bright-and-early quick hits part I on Saturday’s, so here’s a start.  And a Ferris Wheel, because I love them.

1) Really enjoyed this Chronicle of Higher Ed piece on the “Interdisciplinary Delusion.”

One direction our thought might take us is to the nature of disciplines themselves. A discipline is an academic unit. It is neither a naturally occurring category nor an arbitrary relic of the history of higher learning. Rather, a discipline is an evolving body of skills, methods, and norms designed to explain parts of the world worth knowing something about. To recognize the importance of disciplines — to fight for their survival — is therefore to advocate for a picture of the world, an ontology. It is to insist that the world does not have a single order that is adequately captured by, for example, biology or physics or computation.

2) David Brooks makes the case for multi-member districts and ranked choice voting.  I’m on board with that.

The way to do that is through multimember districts and ranked-choice voting. In populous states, the congressional districts would be bigger, with around three to five members per district. Voters would rank the candidates on the ballot. If no candidate had a majority of first-place votes, then the candidate with the fewest first-place votes would be eliminated. Voters who preferred that candidate would have their second-choice vote counted instead. The process would be repeated until you get your winners.\

This system makes it much easier for third and fourth parties to form, because voting for a third party no longer means voting for one with no chance of winning. You get a much more supple representation of the different political tendencies that actually exist in the country.

The process also means that people with minority views in their region have a greater chance to be represented in Congress. A district in Southern California, for example, might elect a Bernie Sanders-type progressive, a centrist business Democrat and a conservative.

The current system — wherein a vast majority of seats are safely red or blue and noncompetitive, with only a handful of fiercely contested districts — disappears. Every district becomes a swing district, each vote much more important. Congress begins to work differently because with multiple parties you no longer have stagnant trench warfare — you have shifting coalition-building.

There’s a reason voters in proportional representation countries are less disenchanted with politics than we are. Their systems work better.

3) And Lee Drutman with the really thorough and compelling case for proportional representation.

4) Was Gary Hart, Donna Rice and the Monkey Business all a set-up by Lee Atwater?!  Just maybe.

5) I’m enjoying read The Power.  Interesting speculative fiction has to how the world might change if women were physically dominant (in this case because of a gender specific ability to generate electricity that emerges).  Really interesting ideas.  Though, lately I’m frustrated by the intellectual laziness of the suggestion that most all sexual dynamics (e.g., now women are the pursuers and the objectifiers) would just do a 180 switch.

6) The Senate doesn’t look all that much better for Democrats in 2020 either.  And, its pretty simple.  The Senate dramatically over-represents rural voters and rural voters have become ever more Republican:

Some Democrats are hopeful that the sharp red shift in predominantly smaller, whiter, more rural states will be counterbalanced as diversifying states like North Carolina, Georgia, Arizona, and Texas turn blue. But those smaller, whiter, more rural states have already completed their shift to the right; the others have a long—in some cases, really long—way to go before they can be considered “blue” in the way that we consider, say, Arkansas “red.” The Democratic frustration of living under minority rule isn’t exactly subdued right now. But it’s about to become one of the biggest political stories of the next decade

7) And love this from David Leonhardt: “The Senate: Affirmative Action for White People.”

The biggest racial preferences in this country have nothing to do with college admissions or job offers. They have to do with political power. And they benefit white Americans, at the expense of black, Asian and Hispanic Americans.

These racial preferences are the ones that dictate the makeup of the United States Senate. Thanks to a combination of historical accident and racism, the Senate gives considerably more representation to white citizens than to dark-skinned ones. It allows a minority of Americans — white Americans — to wield the power of a majority.

The anti-democratic tendencies of the Senate are well known: Each citizen of a small state is considered more important than each citizen of a large state. It’s a deliberate feature of the Constitution, created to persuade smaller states to join the union. Over time, though, the racial edge to the Senate’s structure has become much sharper — for two big reasons.

First, the states whose populations have grown the most over time, like California, Texas, Florida and New York, are racially diverse. By contrast, the smallest states, like Wyoming, Vermont, the Dakotas and Maine, tend to be overwhelmingly white. The Senate, as a result, gives far more special treatment to whites than it once did.

The second reason is even more frustrating, but it would also be easier to fix. Right now, about four million American citizens have almost no congressional voting power, not even the diluted power of Californians or Texans. Of these four million people — these citizens denied representative democracy — more than 90 percent are black or Hispanic.

They are, of course, the residents of Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. Almost half of Washington’s residents are black, and nearly all of Puerto Rico’s are Hispanic.

8) Ross Douthat argues that Elizabeth Warren played Trump’s game and lost with her DNA results release.  Given that most elite media seems to agree with him, that kind of makes him right.  Presidential politics is 90% media perception.

9) The Post, “Houses intact after Hurricane Michael were often saved by low-cost reinforcements.”  Here’s a crazy idea– let’s make these (truly) low cost reinforcements the building code.

10) I have noticed that “birthday cake flavor” is everywhere now.  And I love it!  Who needs pumpkin spice (though, I like that a lot, too).

11) This from a conservative PS professor is true, “Think Professors Are Liberal? Try School Administrators.”

Today, many colleges and universities have moved to a model in which teaching and learning is seen as a 24/7 endeavor. Engagement with students is occurring as much — if not more — in residence halls and student centers as it is in classrooms. Schools have increased their hiring in areas such as residential life and student centers, offices of student life and success, and offices of inclusion and engagement. It’s not surprising that many of the free-speech controversies in the past few years at places like Yale, Stanford and the University of Delaware have concerned events that occurred not in classrooms but in student communal spaces and residence halls.

Intrigued by this phenomenon, I recently surveyed a nationally representative sample of roughly 900 “student-facing” administrators — those whose work concerns the quality and character of a student’s experience on campus. I found that liberal staff members outnumber their conservative counterparts by the astonishing ratio of 12-to-one. Only 6 percent of campus administrators identified as conservative to some degree, while 71 percent classified themselves as liberal or very liberal. It’s no wonder so much of the nonacademic programming on college campuses is politically one-sided.

The 12-to-one ratio of liberal to conservative college administrators makes them the most left-leaning group on campus. In previous research, I found that academic faculty report a six-to-one ratio of liberal to conservative professors. Incoming first-year students, by contrast, reported less than a two-to-one ratio of liberals to conservatives, according to a 2016 finding by the Higher Education Research Institute. It appears that a fairly liberal student body is being taught by a very liberal professoriate — and socialized by an incrediblyliberal group of administrators.

12) I had no idea I was being tracked as to whether I open my emails or not.  I am and so are you.

13) Via Drum, this was really interesting.  Women and men are more divergent in wealthier countries:

In every case, people who live in richer countries have stronger gender preferences. Looking at the top row, women have greater altruism, more trust, and higher levels of positive reciprocity (i.e., returning a favor with another favor). Looking at the bottom row, men have greater levels of negative reciprocity (i.e., returning an eye for an eye), more tolerance for risk, and greater patience.

This is basically it. This is a study showing associations, but that’s all:

Our findings do not rule out an influence of gender-specific roles that drive gender differences in preferences. They also do not preclude a role for biological or evolutionary determinants of gender differences. Our results highlight, however, that theories not attributing a significant role to the social environment are incomplete….Greater availability of material resources removes the human need of subsistence, and hence provides the scope for attending to gender-specific preferences. A more egalitarian distribution of material and social resources enables women and men to independently express gender-specific preferences.

In other words, being richer provides more opportunity to act the way you want to, and it turns out that this means men and women are more likely to take on gender-specific roles. However, this study merely notes these differences, it doesn’t try to explain them.

14) Early childhood education may not have long-lasting academic benefits, but the evidence suggests it is still totally worth it.

15) Microplastics are found in 90% of table salt.  Sometimes I think, just maybe, we’ll look back on this era and wonder how we so thoroughly poisoned our environment with plastic.

16) Read Ezra Klein’s big think-piece this week, “The rigging of American politics: Political systems depend on legitimacy. In America, that legitimacy is failing.”

American politics is edging into an era of crisis. A constitutional system built to calm the tensions of America’s founding era is distorting the political competition between parties, making the country both less democratic and less Democratic.

Since 2000, fully 40 percent of presidential elections have been won by the loser of the popular vote. Republicans control the US Senate despite winning fewer votes than Democrats, and it’s understood that House Democrats need to beat Republicans by as much as 7 or 8 points in the popular vote to hold a majority in the chamber. Next year, it’s possible that Republicans will control the presidency and both chambers of Congress despite having received fewer votes for the White House in 2016 and for the House and Senate in 2018.

Kavanaugh now serves on a Supreme Court where four of the nine justices were nominated by a president who lost the popular vote in his initial run for office, and where the 5-4 conservative majority owes its existence to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s extraordinary decision to deny Merrick Garland a hearing. This Court will rule on the constitutionality of gerrymandering, voter ID laws, union dues, campaign finance, Obamacare, and more; that is to say, they will rule on cases that will shape who holds, and who can effectively wield, political power in the future.

“The party that is trying to keep minority rule is also going to be the party that has less interest in true democratic representation,” says Lilliana Mason, a political scientist at the University of Maryland. “You have to break some rules of democracy in order to keep minority rule.”

If these dynamics were at least split — if the geography of the House boosted Democrats while the Electoral College leaned toward Republicans — perhaps the dissatisfaction would be diffused, or the dueling interests of the parties would permit a compromise.

But that’s not the case. America’s growing zones of anti-democracy buoy Republicans, who, in turn, gain more political power to write the rules in their favor. As the left realizes it’s playing a rigged game, it’s becoming determined to rewrite those rules itself. If they succeed, the right will see those rewritten rules as norm-defying power grabs that need to be reversed, matched, or exceeded. It is difficult to imagine, from here, the construction of a political system both sides believe to be fair.

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