Quick hits (part II)

1) A little harsh, but I pretty much agree with this take on McCain:

A more accurate way of phrasing “(ambivalently, agonizingly) taking on the president” might be “not actually taking on the president.” McCain has supported every one of Trump’s nominees besides one: budget director Mick Mulvaney, who lost McCain’s support because he has supported defense budget cuts. McCain’s sole inviolable principle is that we must spend an unlimited amount of money on war with everyone forever.

Ever since his longtime aide and ghostwriter Mark Salter wholly invented McCain’s “maverick” persona from whole cloth in the late 1990s, the sum total of McCain’s record of brave or maverick-y actions consists of “giving good quote to reporters.” That’s it…

Most of the political press is amnesiac and sycophantic enough to fall for it again, but it is obvious at this point in his long career that Senator John McCain is not going to “fight” Trump. He’s going to say various anti-Trump things, on TV and to reporters, while never using his very real power as a senior Republican senator to interrupt the implementation of Trump’s, and his party’s, eschatological agenda.

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/02/trumps-exchange-on-asset-forfeiture-is-quite-discomfiting.html

2) This video about how we perceive magenta is so cool.  Seriously, just watch it.

3) Does seem reasonable to me that dairy producers want the nut milk producers to not call their product “milk.”  As I’ve mentioned before, I like my soy milk, but really wonder what all those other nut “milks” do with all the protein.

4) I enjoyed this take on the problematic nature of “win probability” stats in the NFL.

5) I was quite intrigued by this little bit in a piece about the decline of Rock music:

What happened in 1991? Between 1958 and 1990, Billboard had constructed its Hot 100, the list of the country’s most popular songs, with an honor system. They surveyed DJs and record store owners, whose testimonies were often influenced by the music labels. If the labels wanted to push AC/DC, they pushed AC/DC. If they changed their mind and wanted to push the next rock release, AC/DC would fall down the charts and the new band would take their place.

But in 1991, Billboard changed its chart methodology to measure point-of-sales record data and directly monitor radio air play. As I wrote in a 2014 article in The Atlantic, this had a direct impact on the sort of music that made its way to the charts and stayed there. The classic rock and hair-band genre withered in the 1990s while hip hop and country soared up the charts. In the next 25 years, hip hop, country, and pop music have carried on a sonic menage à trois, mixing genres promiscuously to produce the music that currently dominates the charts. There is hip-hop-inflected-pop (Justin Bieber), country-pop (Lady Gaga), and country-rap (Florida Georgia Line and Nelly).

6) The new America’s Cup yachts are pretty insane.  I was actually all into these races during the 80’s when they became a big deal once other countries started to win them.

7) Love Danielle Kurtzleben’s take on “fake news” as “fake language.”

Now, Trump casts all unfavorable news coverage as fake news. In one tweet, he even went so far as to say that “any negative polls are fake news.” And many of his supporters have picked up and run with his new definition.

The ability to reshape language — even a little — is an awesome power to have. According to language experts on both sides of the aisle, the rebranding of fake news could be a genuine threat to democracy.

8) Raising lawmaker pay (abysmally low in NC) is not going to get us a bunch of former Walmart clerks in the legislature, but it surely would diversify our pool of candidates.

9) Sure, it’s five years old, but seems pretty timely to repeat the clear finding that cutting top marginal tax rates decidedly does not increase economic growth.

“The reduction in the top tax rates appears to be uncorrelated with saving, investment and productivity growth. The top tax rates appear to have little or no relation to the size of the economic pie. However, the top tax rate reductions appear to be associated with the increasing concentration of income at the top of the income distribution.”

10) Really enjoyed this on Ole Miss’s liberal agitator.

11) Jonathan Bernstein on Republicans fiddling while the White House burns:

I know I sound like a broken record, but the way out of the worst of this is obvious: Congressional Republicans need to use their leverage to insist the president hire a real chief of staff to clean house  — including removing Bannon — and run the administration properly. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen any hint of it so far. Instead of floating names such as Rob Portman, Mitch Daniels or Lamar Alexander, some Republicans are apparently trying to rally around Priebus, who may not be as objectionable as Bannon but doesn’t have the capacity to get the administration on track. If the Russia scandal is, as NBC’s First Read said today, “arguably the biggest scandal involving a foreign government since Iran-Contra,” then the solution is the same as it was then: Investigate the scandal to be sure, but meanwhile get a steady hand in the White House to make up for the president’s shortcomings.

If Republicans don’t demand a new version of Howard Baker (who fixed what was broken in the Ronald Reagan White House back then), they’ll only have themselves to blame for the next scandal, and the next one, and the one after that. Which, at this rate, might not even get us to Memorial Day.

12) I get that Republicans are more interested in power and partisanship than, you know, stable democracy, but given all we know, it seems that at bare minimum they should require the release of Trump’s tax returns, rather than blocking it.

13) A good take on polling questions and Republican support for action in response to the Bowling Green massacre.

What the question did ask about was whether respondents agreed that a fake event ― presented as a factual event ―  justifies a policy that many Trump supporters already support. Of course many supporters were going to agree with that statement, even if they weren’t aware that the Bowling Green massacre was fiction.

Not knowing about the issue doesn’t make people stupid, either. The pace of news in the last few weeks has been extremely fast. People with nonpolitical lives can’t be expected to keep up.

There’s considerable research on how average people answer poll questions when they might not really know what the question refers to. Some will admit that they don’t know the answer ― as 20 percent of the whole sample and 23 percent of Trump supporters did in this case. But many will think they should have an answer, and say the first thing that comes to mind. This is part of why polling on specific policies is difficult ― people often haven’t given issues a lot of thought, but when prompted, they will make up an opinion.

Research also shows that when you ask people to agree or disagree with something, they are more likely to agree if they don’t have a solid opinion. This is called “acquiescence bias,” and it’s why many pollsters shy away from yes/no or agree/disagree types of questions.

14) On the pervasive sex bias of students in undergraduate Biology classes.

15) Adam Gopnik on the need to take Trump’s threat to democracy seriously:

The trouble with these views, and what makes them cheery but false at best—or sinister or opportunistic at worst—is that they are deliberately blind to both the real nature of the man and the real nature of the threats he makes and the lies he tells. Many autocratic governments have built this road or won that war or engineered a realist foreign policy. They remain authoritarian and, therefore, fatally arbitrary. In a democracy, our procedures are our principles. Every tyrant does nice things for someone. You cannot be a friend to democracy while violating its norms—and when we say, “He violates democratic norms,” we undermine our own point, because “norm” is such a, well, normal word. In truth, what he violates by his statements are not mere norms but democratic principles so widely shared and so deeply important that “bedrock value” is closer to the mark than “democratic norm.”

16) Joseph Stiglitz with a long and thorough explanation of why inequality is bad for the economy.

17) Bill Gates on why it’s time to tax robots.  Seriously.

18) Donald Trump is really good at using the Availability Heuristic for political gain.

19) Glenn Greenwald on the illegal, yet appropriate, leaks:

Yet very few people are calling for a criminal investigation or the prosecution of these leakers, nor demanding the leakers step forward and “face the music” — for very good reason: The officials leaking this information acted justifiably, despite the fact that they violated the law. That’s because the leaks revealed that a high government official, Gen. Flynn, blatantly lied to the public about a material matter — his conversations with Russian diplomats — and the public has the absolute right to know this.

This episode underscores a critical point: The mere fact that an act is illegal does not mean it is unjust or even deserving of punishment. Oftentimes, the most just acts are precisely the ones that the law prohibits.

That’s particularly true of whistleblowers — i.e., those who reveal information the law makes it a crime to reveal, when doing so is the only way to demonstrate to the public that powerful officials are acting wrongfully or deceitfully. In those cases, we should cheer those who do it even though they are undertaking exactly those actions that the criminal law prohibits.

20) Nate Silver’s election post-mortems have been really good.  I really liked this one about the limits of the Clinton ground game.  Maybe ground games just don’t matter as much as we thought.

There are several major problems with the idea that Clinton’s Electoral College tactics cost her the election. For one thing, winning Wisconsin and Michigan — states that Clinton is rightly accused of ignoring — would not have sufficed to win her the Electoral College. She’d also have needed Pennsylvania, Florida or another state where she campaigned extensively. For another, Clinton spent almost twice as much money as Trump on her campaign in total. So even if she devoted a smaller share of her budget to a particular state or a particular activity, it may nonetheless have amounted to more resources overall (5 percent of a $969 million budget is more than 8 percent of a $531 million one).

But most importantly, the changes in the vote from 2012 to 2016 are much better explained by demographics than by where the campaigns spent their time and money. [emphasis mine]

I gotta say, just more reason to believe that when it comes to understanding elections, it’s really not too far from demographics über alles.

21) Very good piece on how cognitive biases pervasively impact the practice of medicine.

 

 

 

http://nautil.us/issue/45/power/bias-in-the-er

 

 

Quick hits (part I)

1) Lynn Vavreck, “you are married to your party.”

2) Tom Edsall explores Trump’s populism:

Those who do not experience the benefits of prosperity, Inglehart and Norris write, can see “others” — “an influx of foreigners,” for example, as the culprit causing their predicament:

Insecurity encourages an authoritarian xenophobic reaction in which people close ranks behind strong leaders, with strong in-group solidarity, rejection of outsiders, and rigid conformity to group norms.

According to the two authors,

The proximate cause of the populist vote is anxiety that pervasive cultural changes and an influx of foreigners are eroding the cultural norms one knew since childhood. The main common theme of populist authoritarian parties on both sides of the Atlantic is a reaction against immigration and cultural change. Economic factors such as income and unemployment rates are surprisingly weak predictors of the populist vote.

In support of this argument, the authors point to 2016 exit poll data showing that Hillary Clinton won voters who said the economy was the most important issue by 11 points, 52-41, while Trump carried those who said immigration was the most important issue facing the country by nearly two to one, 64-33.

In addition to immigration, issues related to race play a central role.

3) Mental health and gun rights is far more complicated than on first glance (and why I held off posting upon the news, because I figured it was).

4) NC sport fan alert: we are about to be so screwed by HB2 for the next 5 years.

5) Drum with a pessimistic view of AI and the future of employment.  I think he’s probably right.

6) The tech behind the Super Bowl half-time drones.

7) NYT, “In One Facebook Post, Three Misleading Statements by President Trump About His Immigration Order.”  Of course, “misleading” is putting it mildly.

8) Tom Price is just the worst.  Great Leonhardt column on the matter:

Each year, a publication called Medscape creates a portrait of the medical profession. It surveys thousands of doctors about their job satisfaction, salaries and the like and breaks down the results by specialty, allowing for comparisons between, say, dermatologists and oncologists.

As I read the most recent survey, I was struck by the answers from orthopedic surgeons. They are the highest-paid doctors, with an average salary of $443,000 in 2015 — which, coincidentally, was almost the exact cutoff for the famed top 1 percent of the income distribution.

Yet many orthopedists are not happy with their pay. Only 44 percent feel “fairly compensated,” a smaller share than in almost every other specialty. A lot of orthopedists aren’t even happy being doctors. Just 49 percent say they would go into medicine if they had to make the decision again, compared with 64 percent of all doctors.

I know that many orthopedists have a very different view: They take pride in helping patients and feel fortunate to enjoy comfortable lives. But despite those doctors, it’s clear that orthopedics suffers from a professional culture that does not live up to medicine’s highest ideals. Too many orthopedists are rich and think it’s an injustice that they’re not richer.

This culture helped shape Dr. Tom Price, the orthopedic surgeon and Georgia congressman who is Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of health and human services…

Yet he hasn’t been content to make money in the standard ways. He has also pushed, and crossed, ethical boundaries. Again and again, Price has mingled his power as a congressman with his desire to make money.

9) Yes, we are having the wrong arguments about GMO’s (but the author interviewed here is a little too willing to be agnostic on the science):

By focusing so much on GMOs, you’re not paying attention to species loss or the decline in aquifers or soil depletion or greenhouse gasses or all the other problems tied up on industrial food production. And I’m sympathetic to that argument. I think GMOs have gotten a lot of attention because they elicit a visceral fear from people, but really we have a lot of other agricultural problems that predate GMOs. If you think about factory farming or fossil fuels or toxic chemicals or soil loss — those things all existed before GMOs, and GMOs just scaled them up.

10) Life under “alternative facts,” e.g., the Soviet Union.

11) Damn, when even war criminal and torture apologist John Yoo says you are abusing executive power, that’s really something.

12) Trump sort of takes on Texas state legislator who opposes the policy horror that is civil asset forfeiture.  I think Drum’s take is spot-on.

This demonstrates the problem with Trump’s shoot-from-the-hip style.1 My guess is that he has no idea what civil asset forfeiture is and has no real opinion about it. If, say, Trump had been in a meeting with a few senators, and Bob Goodlatte had remarked that “police can seize your money even if you weren’t convicted of a crime,” Trump probably would have reflexively answered, “Can you believe that?” Instead, a sheriff said it was a bad thing related to Mexicans, so Trump automatically agreed with him. That means it’s now official Trump administration policy.

Sad. But then again, Jeff Sessions is a huge fan of civil asset forfeiture and all the corrupt incentives it creates, so he probably would have gotten Trump on board one way or another. It’s yet another big win for the working class.

13) I love this– science determines what makes a good dancer:

…very specific patterns may make some people appear to be better dancers than others. That’s the conclusion of a study published on Thursday in Scientific Reports, in which researchers asked 200 people to rate 39 female dancers. A few features stood out as contributing to higher-quality dance: big hip swings, and the right and left limbs moving independently of one another (which the researchers describe as asymmetric arm and thigh movements).

14) A fair amount of public policy comes down to different organized interests fighting each other.  Who gets to do basic laser eye surgery in NC is a great example.

15) Don’t worry about skynet, worry about the AI coming for your middle class job.

16) School integration works.  We should be doing more, not less.

17) The right very much has it’s own political correctness.  Great take from Conor Friedersdorf.

Trump has yet to name right-wing extremism.

He said nothing about the attack in Quebec City. His press secretary, who did mention that attack, suggested that it showed the need for recent security measures taken by the Trump administration, though those measures were targeted narrowly and exclusively at stopping foreign threats from seven majority-Muslim countries. It was as if the press secretary could only conceive of Islamist terrorism.

That is the politically correct posture under Trump…

The White House’s behavior doesn’t make much sense if it prizes common sense over political correctness. But it makes perfect sense if a White House staffer wanted to maintain plausible deniability while catering to the sensibilities of the alt-right, a community where diminishing the relative suffering of Jews in the Holocaust is politically correct––transgressing against Holocaust norms gives them a special thrill. Or even if the original omission was inadvertent, but the White House didn’t want to offend those sensibilities by changing the statement.

18) Amy Davidson on the total Trumpism of Sessions.

19) It may not be “extreme vetting,” but we already have a very good, very thorough vetting system in place for refugees.  This is important as the right is very much suggesting otherwise.  It is 100% foolproof?  Nope.  Also cannot guarantee you computer or phone battery won’t catch on fire right now.

20) Good read from the Marshall Project: exonerated… then deported.

21) Happy 45th birthday to me.

 

Quick hits (part I)

1) An interesting take on whether Trump is a weak or strong leader.

2) Incredibly, preposterously, prosecutors are still defending the anti-science of bite mark evidence.  If it were up to me, that would be automatic grounds for disbarment.

Consiglio’s two main arguments are the same arguments Mourges used and that the state deploys in nearly every bite mark case. The first is pretty straightforward, and noted above. To date, no court in the country has ruled bite mark evidence inadmissible. That this is such a strong argument in the courts demonstrates about as emphatically as anything just how ill-equipped the courts are when it comes to assessing science. The fact that no court has yet to rule against “scientific evidence” that nearly every scientist in the country agrees isn’t scientific at all is a damning indictment of the courts and their inability to self-correct. Instead, it’s used as an argument to let yet more unscientific evidence into more cases — and it’s an argument that has yet to be defeated.

Under Frye, for expert testimony to be admissible, it must be generally accepted within the relevant scientific community. Here’s the question at issue: When it comes to bite mark evidence, what is the relevant scientific community? For prosecutors such as Mourges and Consiglio, it is other bite mark analysts. That is, the relevant community of “scientists” whose opinion judges should consider when evaluating the scientific validity of bite mark analysis should be people who already believe that bite mark analysis is scientific. You almost have to admire the brazenness of this argument. It’s like saying that if a judge is evaluating the scientific merit of palm readers, he should only consider the opinions of other palm readers. And yet so far, the argument has worked every time it has been tried.

Ross’s attorneys argue that the “relevant scientific community” should include actual scientists — that is, people who actually abide by the principles of scientific inquiry. Most bite mark analysts don’t operate under double blind conditions. There’s very little peer review. (Indeed, when analysts review one another’s work, there is often disagreement. This is why bite mark cases often feature two or more analysts giving the jury opinions that are diametrically opposed.)

Understandably, Consiglio doesn’t want the judge to consider the opinions of real scientists. So in his brief defending the scientific validity of bite mark analysis, he attacks science itself.

3) Actually, totally makes sense that Putin would be funding the anti-fracking campaign in the U.S.

4) Car dealers don’t actually know anything about the advanced safety features in modern cars.

5) In Trumpworld, 5-year olds can be dangerous terrorists.

6) A study shows that father-child reading leads to improvements in learning and behavior.  Well, damn, in that case, my kids should behave a helluva lot better than they do.

7) More states figuring out that it’s stupid to deny a drivers license for a totally unrelated drug conviction.

8) The right way to say “I’m sorry.”  I’ll save you the time as I’m pretty sure I’ve got this figured out: actually mean it.

9) There’s lots of examples of the amazing inhumanity of the travel ban (allow me to again call out the “Christians” who love Trump), but this one is particularly poignant.

10) Forget safety (okay, don’t really forget safety), but it’s surprising to me that youth football is just now figuring out to use smaller teams.  Today’s youth soccer is so much better than my day due to smaller-sided games for younger players.

11) The logistics and technology behind all those phone calls to members of Congress (if only they’d listen on DeVos!).

12) I have at least one thing in common with Trump— we both use propecia.  This headline at HuffPo is a nice reminder of why I’m not a fan of HuffPo (though, they do have some good writers, e.g., Cohn), “Trump Takes Propecia, A Hair-Loss Drug Associated With Mental Confusion, Impotence.”  (For the record, side effects are incredibly minimal).

13) A profile of the White House’s other Steven, the equally disturbing (and Duke grad!) Stephen Miller.

14) Yes, the Berkeley students who protested professional asshole, Milo Yiannopoulos, with violence were stupid, stupid, stupid.  Yes, Yiannopoulos is abominable, but violence?!  Also, this:

That strikes me as a strong argument. Universities should establish rules for how they treat speakers that student organizations invite. And they should not alter those rules depending on the ideas those speakers espouse, even if their ideas are hateful.  (And yes, I’d apply that not merely to Milo but to a neo-Nazi like Richard Spencer). At Berkeley, the rules say that student organizations get to host their speakers at the Student Union for free. If Berkeley changes that because Yiannopoulos is a misogynist, what happens if a Palestinian group invites a speaker that conservatives call anti-Semitic? …

Of course, Berkeley students also have the right to protest Yiannopoulos. But the university has an obligation to ensure that their right to protest does not prevent the College Republicans from hearing their invited guest. Is the university obligated to spend extra money, which it would not expend for a normal speaker, because Yiannopoulos’s speech requires extra security? I’m not sure. But in any case, Berkeley did not spend extra money. It required the College Republicans to come up with funds for additional security themselves; an anonymous patron contributed $6,000 to help them…

But the argument for letting Yiannopoulos speak is more than tactical. It’s a matter of principle. Conservative students have the right to bring obnoxious bigots to speak on campus and other students have a right to protest. But universities should not let the protesters shut them down. That was hard for many leftists to accept even before Trump’s election. Now that an obnoxious bigot occupies the White House, it’s even harder. But Trump’s presidency is, in part, a test of whether ordinary Americans can avoid sinking to his level, whether a citizenry can respect the principles that its leaders do not. What happened to Milo Yiannopoulos this week is part of that test. It’s important that progressives at Berkeley, and around the country, do not fail.

15) Not in the video clip, but pleased to see my “alternative facts” quote made the write-up of this story.

16) Trump has a grand strategy— it’s just a horrible one.

17) Stephen Walt on Trump’s foreign policy:

you’re a Trump supporter, you might be feeling pretty good about the new administration’s first steps. You may have hailed the Muslim ban (and let’s be honest, that’s what it is) as a long-overdue step to protect Americans from dangerous foreigners. (It’s not, of course, but never mind.) Perhaps you also think the chorus of criticism from lawyers, the media, academics, corporate leaders, foreign governments, and former government officials — including many prominent Republicans — is just welcome evidence that Trump is on the right track. You might well view his first two weeks as clear signs a new sheriff is in town and putting the whole world on notice. You may even see his end-runs around the interagency process, his decision to replace top defense and intelligence officials on the National Security Council with alt-right advisor Stephen Bannon as steps designed to protect the “America First” policies that you voted for in November and that he reaffirmed on Inauguration Day.

With all due respect, you would be wrong.

In fact, if you are a loyal Trump supporter, and especially someone who embraced him because you thought he would deliver a smarter, more self-interested, more restrained, and above all more successful foreign policy than his predecessors, you should be disappointed and deeply worried. Why? Because in just two weeks he has squandered a genuine opportunity to put American foreign policy on a more solid footing and has managed to unite and empower opposition at home and abroad in ways that would have been hard to imagine a few months ago.

18) Apparently this ad from 2010 was banned.  Regardless, I’d never seen it before and it is pretty damn hilarious.

19) Ransomware is going big and that’s not good for anybody.

20) Good take from David Roberts, “Trump isn’t an evil genius.  And that’s not what matters anyway.”

Most Kremlinology isn’t very useful. My theory is that authoritarian demagogues are more alike than they are different. Most of them are narcissists. They are, at root, fearful, paranoid, and tribal, which drives the macho posturing and obsession with loyalty. They have a kind of animal cunning for how to manipulate people, dominate, and accrue power.

But for the most part they aren’t evil geniuses. (One of Russian journalist Masha Gessen’s recurring themes about Putin is what a “grey, ordinary man” he is.) Indeed, evil geniuses are pretty rare — or, to put it more precisely, narcissistic, paranoid tribalists are rarely geniuses, because genius requires a certain detached perspective, an ability to step outside oneself, which is precisely what narcissists lack.

What authoritarian regimes do is blunder forward, grasping and grabbing power whenever and wherever they can, building secretive inner circles, surrounding themselves with supplicant state media, demonizing dissenting voices, and punishing enemies. They do this not because of some 12-dimensional chess analysis of the political landscape, but because that’s what narcissism and zero-sum thinking does. They are more like animals driven by instinct than chess masters driven by strategy, though of course there’s a range (with Trump being on the far blinded-by-narcissism end).

21) Former Bush appointee, Elliot Cohen:

Many conservative foreign-policy and national-security experts saw the dangers last spring and summer, which is why we signed letters denouncing not Trump’s policies but his temperament; not his program but his character.

We were right. And friends who urged us to tone it down, to make our peace with him, to stop saying as loudly as we could “this is abnormal,” to accommodate him, to show loyalty to the Republican Party, to think that he and his advisers could be tamed, were wrong. In an epic week beginning with a dark and divisive inaugural speech, extraordinary attacks on a free press, a visit to the CIA that dishonored a monument to anonymous heroes who paid the ultimate price, and now an attempt to ban selected groups of Muslims (including interpreters who served with our forces in Iraq and those with green cards, though not those from countries with Trump hotels, or from really indispensable states like Saudi Arabia), he has lived down to expectations…

Precisely because the problem is one of temperament and character, it will not get better. It will get worse ,[emphasis mine] as power intoxicates Trump and those around him. It will probably end in calamity—substantial domestic protest and violence, a breakdown of international economic relationships, the collapse of major alliances, or perhaps one or more new wars (even with China) on top of the ones we already have. It will not be surprising in the slightest if his term ends not in four or in eight years, but sooner, with impeachment or removal under the 25th Amendment. The sooner Americans get used to these likelihoods, the better.

22) David Brooks lets loose on the cowardly Republicans enabling Trump:

Many Republican members of Congress have made a Faustian bargain with Donald Trump. They don’t particularly admire him as a man, they don’t trust him as an administrator, they don’t agree with him on major issues, but they respect the grip he has on their voters, they hope he’ll sign their legislation and they certainly don’t want to be seen siding with the inflamed progressives or the hyperventilating media.

Their position was at least comprehensible: How many times in a lifetime does your party control all levers of power? When that happens you’re willing to tolerate a little Trumpian circus behavior in order to get things done.

But if the last 10 days have made anything clear, it’s this: The Republican Fausts are in an untenable position. The deal they’ve struck with the devil comes at too high a price. It really will cost them their soul.

In the first place, the Trump administration is not a Republican administration; it is an ethnic nationalist administration. Trump insulted both parties equally in his Inaugural Address. The Bannonites are utterly crushing the Republican regulars when it comes to actual policy making.

Yep.  That said, I think Brooks, an economic conservative and moderate social traditionalist, is in great denial about how much the rank-and-file GOP is an ethnic nationalist party.

23) Chait with the case for optimism.

24) It actually is quite possible that in addition to clearly suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Trump could be a genuine psychopath (most are not serial killers).  As Yglesias points out, he is profoundly lacking in empathy.

25) John Cassidy also with a positive take on the growing Trump resistance.

26) It’s not perfect, but I love that Ken Pomeroy has come up with a metric for assessing college basketball referee quality.

Quick hits (part II)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A political scientist’s guide to responsible public action:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

17) David Brooks on the politics of cowardice.

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

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

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

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

 

Quick hits (part I)

1) Yglesias on how Trump’s domestic policy agenda is really GWB part II.

Bush rode into office on the strength of white working-class voters who were drawn to his heartland cultural politics, alienated by Al Gore’s aloof demeanor, and appeased by Bush’s repudiation of the hard-right orthodoxy of the congressional GOP of the era. Bush scolded congressional Republicans for seeking to “balance the budget on the backs of the poor” and promised to deliver a much-needed prescription drug benefit to America’s senior citizens.

“George Bush is a different kind of right-winger,” wrote the Economist’s US politics columnin April 2001, “a card-carrying conservative who nevertheless believes in active government.”

Fred Barnes of the Wall Street Journal and the Weekly Standard called him a “big government conservative.”

None of this entailed a retreat from the Republican Party’s basic commitment to an agenda of tax cuts for high-income households and favorable regulatory treatment of businesses. It was, instead, a political strategy to make plutocracy workable. And while Bush-era deficits probably contributed to some long-term problems, the interest rate environment of the time was certainly conducive to “irresponsible” budgeting.

And, indeed, it’s very difficult to imagine Bush securing reelection in 2004 if his trillion-dollar tax cut had been paid for with cutbacks to public services. In reality, however, Bush expanded public services by lavishing new subsidies on American agriculture, introducing new health benefits on American seniors, and increasing federal K-12 education spending in exchange for the accountability reforms of the No Child Left Behind law.

When, eventually, Bush’s administration collapsed into ignominy, conservatives quickly pinpointed these big-spending ways as the reason. Even Bush’s brother Jeb found himself saying that “in Washington during my brother’s time, Republicans spent too much money.”

But by the time Jeb was out on the campaign trail distancing himself from his brother’s big-spending ways, Trump was kicking his butt precisely by distancing himself from the tight-fisted fiscal policies of Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell.

2) Trump takes credit for a $1 billion investment in the US.  Drum points out that this happens about once per day, on average.

3) Wired on Apple’s need to move past the Iphone, on its 10-year anniversary.

4) And David Pogue’s take on the original Iphone from 10-years ago.  Nice reminder of how revolutionary it was.

5) Jeff Sessions should not be our next Attorney General.

6) Neurotracker has convinced professional teams and athletes that it can improve their performance by improving the mental tracking so key in many sports.  Alas, there’s no real evidence it actually does.  It’s honestly a pretty easy experiment to do (randomly assign a college or HS football, soccer, etc. team with experimental and control for a couple weeks, then test), so the fact that there’s not any such evidence makes me very skeptical.  I find the following critique compelling:

Williams, at the University of Utah, challenged the notion that tracking bouncing objects in a simulation could train or quantify anything other than a person’s ability to track bouncing objects in a simulation.

“I’ve never seen a soccer player chasing multicolor balloons around on the field,” Williams said. “It’s just not what soccer players do.”

What soccer players do, he said, is read patterns of play, anticipate what might happen next based on movements of teammates and opponents, and identify familiar sequences as they unfold. This “inside” knowledge, built up over time, promotes the effectiveness and efficiency that Ericsson argues are the hallmarks of expertise.

7) My 10-year old Evan received a mini-drone for Christmas.  A friend said, “so what do you do with it?”  My response, “crash it.”  Managed to actually get it down from 30 feet up in a tree where I stranded it within the first 5 minutes.  Loved this NYT article on Christmas drone horror stories.  We still have our and it still works and we’ve only broken to propellers.  We’ll try again when all our snow and ice melts.

8) This essay by Karl Marlantes on how Vietnam permanently disrupted Americans’ faith in their government is a must read.  (Also makes me think I need to move his novel, Matterhorn, further up my queue).

In the early spring of 1967, I was in the middle of a heated 2 a.m. hallway discussion with fellow students at Yale about the Vietnam War. I was from a small town in Oregon, and I had already joined the Marine Corps Reserve. My friends were mostly from East Coast prep schools. One said that Lyndon B. Johnson was lying to us about the war. I blurted out, “But … but an American president wouldn’t lie to Americans!” They all burst out laughing.

When I told that story to my children, they all burst out laughing, too. Of course presidents lie. All politicians lie. God, Dad, what planet are you from?

Before the Vietnam War, most Americans were like me. After the Vietnam War, most Americans are like my children.

America didn’t just lose the war, and the lives of 58,000 young men and women; Vietnam changed us as a country. In many ways, for the worse: It made us cynical and distrustful of our institutions, especially of government. For many people, it eroded the notion, once nearly universal, that part of being an American was serving your country.

9) Gotta love that the guns rights folks (and DJT Jr) are arguing that we need to make it way easier to buy silencers/suppressors, through legislation titled The Hearing Protection Act.

10) Love that a Dairy Queen owner who unleashed racist rants on his customers had his franchise pulled from him by DQ corporate.  That’s the power of social media for good.

11) The insanity of trying to get even a low-level Senate confirmation from today’s dysfunctional Congress.  Though, that will change.

12) Greg Sargent on Trump’s (lying, of course) response to Meryl Streep:

It’s often argued that we should perhaps give less attention to Trump’s tweets. But Monday’s barrage gets at something important. Yes, all politicians lie. But with only days to go until Trump assumes vast power, Monday’s tweetstorm is a reminder that we may be witnessing something new and different in the nature and degree of the dishonesty at issue. Here again we’re seeing Trump’s willingness to keep piling the lies on top of one another long after the original foundational lies have been widely debunked, and to keep on attacking the press for not playing along with his version of reality, as if the very possibility of shared reality can be stamped out by Trumpian edict, or Trumpian Tweedict.

13) Among the dumbest things we do in American democracy: abysmally poor compensation for state legislators.  Because, you know, it’s not like what state governments do is important or anything.  NPR:

While a few big states have full-time legislatures with higher pay (California pays lawmakers $100,113 a year and Pennsylvania pays $85,339) but in most states, legislators are paid like it’s a part-time job.

According to data compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures, 30 states pay $30,000 a year or less to legislators. New Mexico doesn’t pay lawmakers at all, while those in New Hampshire make just $200 per two-year term…

Median household income in the United States was $55,775 in 2015, according to the Census Bureau.

“Not paying legislators is like a very penny-wise, pound foolish thing,” given the size of state budgets and complexity of issues that legislatures tackle every year, said Stanford University political scientist Neil Malhotra.

That low level of pay also keeps many people from entering politics, said Malhotra. “There’s very, very few working class people in legislatures. This might have something to do with why a lot of legislation does not seem very friendly towards working class people.”

14) I don’t doubt that there really is something to “attachment theory” that proper bonding in very-early childhood can be key for personality throughout life, but this article is absolutely preposterous in not addressing the role of genetics in this issue.  Any parent of more than one child can sure as hell tell you that.

15) How video game designers need to engineer in just the right amount of luck.

16) The difficulty in enforcing ethics laws under Trump.

17) Yglesias reminds of what we do know about Trump and Russia:

18) The Amherst College new mascot– Hamsters.  Kind of love it.  Kind of think it’s silly to change a mascot based on the now-odious, but mainstream enough in the 18th century views, of Lord Amherst.

19) Interesting idea from Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse— many Republican politicians actually want to fight climate change but the fossil fuel industry they are beholden to will not let them.  I’m not convinced.  If true, just more profiles in cowardice.

20) Even if you have good health insurance through your employer, an ACA repeal can really hurt you, too.

21) Hooray for San Diego for not being a hostage to the NFL and refusing to spend hundreds of millions of public dollars to further enrich a billionaire.  And, on the not-so-great economics of having an NFL team in your city.

22) Some interesting research suggests conservative politicians in several countries are more attractive than liberal politicians.

23) This long, thoughtful, post from an Ohio teacher on our way over-reliance on standardized testing is really, really good:

The most critical solution to this is to untie student, teacher, and school accountability measures from testing outcomes, or to combine these scores with a variety of other measures of success. In addition, we need to dramatically reduce the time spent on testing by requiring tests in fewer grades, or not administering tests every year. No high-performing nation in the world tests all students annually…

We are not in an education crisis. We are in a crisis of poverty that is being exacerbated by the school accountability movement and the testing industry. At best, this movement has been misguided. At worst, it is an intentional set up to bring about the demise of the public education system – mandatory testing designed to produce poor results which leads to greater investment made in test preparation programs provided by the same companies who produce the tests, coupled with a related push for privatization of the educational system. All touted as a means to save us from this false crisis.

24) Best explanation I’ve yet read for why recent rules changes have led to college football being so high scoring (it’s all about the blocking on the run-pass option).

25) Pippa Norris responds to the many issues raised on the whole “is North Carolina a democracy” flap.

 

 

Quick Hits (part II)

1) Lee Drutman and Mark Schmitt on the need to fight Trump on norms:

But Trump is no mere Tammany Hall hack. The norms and constitutional provisions he has either violated or is on track to violate go far beyond “honest graft.” His approach is not mere greasing the wheels — it’s puncturing and slashing the tires. Trump’s rewriting of the rules — refusing to acknowledge that he must divest from his businesses, continuing to keep his tax returns secret, tweeting nuclear arms policy, publicly rejecting the findings of the intelligence community on Russian campaign hacking — is so vast that it has swamped his presidency before he has even taken the oath of office.

In this context, challenging Trump primarily on “normal politics” — legislative fights over safety net programs and taxes — is like ignoring a cancer diagnosis and instead devoting all your time to going to your chiropractor because in the past, he’s succeeded at getting rid of your sore back. [emphasis mine]

Defending basic democratic norms and maintaining a strong focus on corruption is the right strategy. Not only is it more likely to work but it is likely to leave our politics in a better place in the end.

 First, making the fight about entitlements and taxes is only going to reinforce existing partisan divides, at a time when Democrats and Republicans need to figure out how to build alliances to minimize the damage Trump can do to basic norms, rather than reinforcing the divide that Trump exploited in the general election.

The only chance of checking Trump’s likely excesses and recklessness is if Republicans step in, as Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham have done in response to Russia’s interference in the election and Trump’s apparent willingness to lift sanctions. Other conservative Republicans, outside Congress, have expressed deep misgivings about Trump’s refusal to even acknowledge conflicts of interest or his failure to hold press conferences. The potential for cross-partisan alliances on protecting democratic norms and civil liberties, and preventing corruption, is much broader than on programs.

Second, it can be hard to hit Trump on policy because he’s made a long game of being ideologically elusive.

2) Charles Feeney is “the James Bond of philanthropy” and basically the anti-Trump when it comes to giving (i.e., he uses his own money and doesn’t make a big show).

3) Really good piece in the Chronicle of Higher Ed on how implicit bias is probably not all it’s made out to be:

That’s essentially Blanton’s argument as well. Public discussion about implicit bias has been based largely on the results from one particular test, and that test, in his view, has been falsely sold as solid science. “They have engaged the public in a way that has wrapped the feeling of science and weight around a lot of ‘cans’ and ‘maybes,’” Blanton says. “Most of your score on this test is noise, and what signal there is, we don’t know what it is or what it means.”

Blanton is not saying there’s no such thing as unconscious bias, nor is he arguing that racial discrimination isn’t a deep and abiding problem in American life (though at least one white-supremacist-friendly website has mentioned his research in an attempt to make that case — illustrating how such discussions can be misconstrued). He just thinks that scientists don’t know how to measure implicit bias with any confidence and that they shouldn’t pretend otherwise. “It is such an important problem that it deserves a stronger science,” he says.

3) Andrew Gelman undermines the claim that North Carolina isn’t really a democracy.  Among other things, 11 other states actually perform worse.

4) Florida’s stand your ground law associated with an increase in homicides:

Results  Prior to the stand your ground law, the mean monthly homicide rate in Florida was 0.49 deaths per 100 000 (mean monthly count, 81.93), and the rate of homicide by firearm was 0.29 deaths per 100 000 (mean monthly count, 49.06). Both rates had an underlying trend of 0.1% decrease per month. After accounting for underlying trends, these results estimate that after the law took effect there was an abrupt and sustained increase in the monthly homicide rate of 24.4% (relative risk [RR], 1.24; 95%CI, 1.16-1.33) and in the rate of homicide by firearm of 31.6% (RR, 1.32; 95% CI, 1.21-1.44). No evidence of change was found in the analyses of comparison states for either homicide (RR, 1.06; 95% CI, 0.98-1.13) or homicide by firearm (RR, 1.08; 95% CI, 0.99-1.17). Furthermore, no changes were observed in control outcomes such as suicide (RR, 0.99; 95% CI, 0.94-1.05) and suicide by firearm (RR, 0.98; 95% CI, 0.91-1.06) in Florida between 2005 and 2014.

Conclusions and Relevance  The implementation of Florida’s stand your ground self-defense law was associated with a significant increase in homicides and homicides by firearm but no change in rates of suicide or suicide by firearm.

5) Political Scientist/Economist/noted libertarian Mike Munger takes to the NYT Op-Ed to argue that football need to be more like rugby to be safer.

6) Drum  says Democrats need a “show us the replacement” mantra regarding Republicans and Obamacare.

7) Thomas Mills on the new governor in town:

What a difference a governor makes! Just a week or so ago, people were asking, “With veto proof majorities in the legislature, what can Roy Cooper do?” Well, yesterday he told us. He can try to expand Medicaid. He can call out Republicans who won’t repeal HB2. He can call on the legislature to raise teacher pay to the national average. In other words, he can set the Democratic agenda and establish the terms of the political debate in a year with special legislative elections. And he can put the GOP on the defensive from the start of his administration…

Cooper is clearly no Pat McCrory. He has a firm grasp of state government and a willingness to push an agenda that McCrory lacked. The legislature has had four years dealing with a push over. They’ll now have to figure out how deal with a governor who clearly plans to make himself a force in Raleigh.

8) Reihan Salam on the policy disaster that would follow from “repeal and delay.”

9) John Cassidy asks if Obamacare can “save the Democrats”

In addition to harming large numbers of Trump voters, repealing most of the A.C.A. would enrage some rich and powerful economic interests that the Republican Party has traditionally courted, such as doctors, hospitals, and insurers. It took the American health-care industry, which is now bigger than the entire economy of France, half a decade to prepare for and implement the law’s provisions. Many working in health care believe it would be folly to destroy the new system before building a proper replacement.

Insurers are warning that a “repeal and delay” plan would create immediate turmoil on the government-run exchanges, many of which are already having trouble attracting more than one or two insurers to participate. Last month, two big trade groups—the American Hospital Association and the Federation of American Hospitals—warned publicly that repealing the A.C.A. could cost hospitals a hundred and sixty-five billion dollars and trigger an “unprecedented public health crisis.” In a letter to Congress on Tuesday, Dr. James Madara, the chief executive of the American Medical Association, said, “We believe that before any action is taken . . . policymakers should lay out for the American people, in reasonable detail, what will replace current policies.” ..

It’s looking more and more like the Republicans are caught in a trap of their own making. Ever since 2008, they and their media outriders, such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, have demagogued the health-care issue in an outrageous fashion. Trump, in running for President, employed the same nihilistic strategy. Now they may pay for it. Despite the Republicans’ vague talk of stripping away government bureaucracy and setting up a more “market-based system” to replace Obamacare, there is no quick fix, no cheap way out. In a private health-care market, the only way to guarantee universal, or near universal, coverage is to employ mandates, subsidies, taxes, and legal directives—the very tools employed in the A.C.A. [emphasis mine]

10) Nice summary in Vox of Brian Schaffner’s latest on how racism and sexism drove support for Trump.

11) Jamelle Bouie says that Democrats don’t have a religion problem, they have a white people problem:

First, the facts. Among the most religious groups in the country are black and Latino Americans…

These voters back Democrats, overwhelmingly. In the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton won 67 percent of self-identified Hispanic Catholics and the vast majority of black churchgoers. She also won 71 percent of Jewish voters and 62 percent of voters who belong to other religious faiths and traditions. She suffered a crushing defeat among white evangelicals—losing them 16 percent to Trump’s 81 percent—and she lost white Catholics by an almost 2–1 margin, 37 percent to 60 percent.

Because white Christians are the majority of religious voters, and Clinton lost the majority of white Christians, you could say (as Wear does) that these numbers represent a “religion problem” for Democrats. But then to make that claim, you have to ignore race. You have to ignore that Democrats do extremely well with believers of color, Christian or otherwise. You have to ignore stark social and theological divides between black and white Christians, who historically have not understood politics and the Gospel in the same way. You have to ignore the fact that, in North Carolina, the Democratic Party won the state’s governorship on the strength of a movement rooted in black churches and tied to religious leadership. Most importantly, you have to ignore that Democrats lost the large majority of white voters, continuing a trend that dates back to 1968.

At this point, you have to answer an interpretive question. Are Democrats losing a collection of groups that happen to be white—religious voters, working-class voters, etc.—or are they losing whites specifically, with those subcategories following from that fact? Given the stark racial divides in those categories—Democrats win nonwhite religious voters by the same margins that they win nonwhite voters without college educations—the broad answer is clear: The Democratic Party doesn’t have a religion problem as much as it has a white voter problem. That white voter problem emerged in the aftermath of the civil rights movement as a resentful backlash to perceived disorder and unfairness and has gotten worse with almost every subsequent presidential election. [emphasis mine]

12) Jerome Groopman with the most notable medical findings of 2016.

13) I think I missed this back in November: Alex MacGillis‘ look at poor (white, of course) voters voting against their economic interests.

14) One man’s quest to change the way we die.  More power to him because we are awful at this in America.

 

Super-late quick hits (part II)

1) Great stuff from Bill Ayers on the stupidity on business as a metaphor for government:

I think I’ll take my Prius drag racing.

It makes perfect sense, right? After all, a Prius is just like those cars you see tearing down the track at drag races. It has four wheels, each with an inflated rubber tire. It has an engine powered by oil-based fuel. It’s got a seat for a driver, with a steering wheel. It’s got a transmission system, and a bunch of electrical support stuff. I mean, they’re practically the same thing.

Of course, this is crazy. A Prius, despite some superficial similarities, is not a drag racer. Attempting to run mine on a drag strip is likely to fail, and cause a fair amount of damage in the process. A drag racer is built for speed. A Prius (unless you heavily modify it!) is built for gas mileage.

Along similar lines, why do so many people insist on arguing that “government should be run like a business”? …

The fact that “business” and “government” both belong to the broader category called “human organization” tells you very little about how to run the latter. The differences between them are far more important than the similarities. And like the comparison between Prius and drag racer, what is most important is the purpose for which each was built.

A business is an organization designed to produce some product or service for the wider world, usually (though not always) at a profit. A business creates what it creates. It is primarily concerned with two groups of people: the owners (who control the business, and in whose interest it presumably operates) and the customers. A business can define its own customer base, to a substantial degree, and doesn’t need to concern itself with anybody else in society. Businesses don’t even have to be all that concerned about their employees, except as these are necessary to produce the product or service.

Governments look nothing like this. They are not meant to operate at a profit, and those that do are generally regarded as corrupt and illegitimate. Governments do not produce individual goods or services, but provide public goods to a broad group of people known as citizens. Except at the margins, governments have very little ability to define who they serve, and governments that decide to serve only one segment of the population usually find themselves losing legitimacy. Legitimate governments can’t pick their “customer base”…

But the chief purpose of the government is not to be a business, but to provide a safe, secure, and fair environment in which everybody can pursue their own individual business. If businesses are like sports teams competing, government is like the referee enforcing the rules of the game.

Ultimately, the purpose of a business is to advance the interests of its owners, usually a small group of people. The purpose of a government is to advance the interests of everybody. A business is partial to itself. A good government is impartial towards all.

2) Trump’s OMB pick Mick Mulvaney thinks it’s a good idea to blow up the debt ceiling.  Ugh.  And he doesn’t think the government should fund scientific research.  Double-ugh.  And he’s part of a larger trend of Trump surrounding himself with Tea Partiers.  Triple-ugh.

3) Recently finished Peter Brown’s The Wild Robot to my 10-year old.  Perhaps the favorite book I have read my kids not written by EB White or Roald Dahl.  So good.

4) The Republican approach to health care policy?  Maybe wait before going to the ER when your kid breaks his arm.  Seriously.

5) Bipartisan Op-Ed arguing that we need nuclear power to slow global warming.  I firmly agree.  And there’s amazing technological advances in contemporary reactors.

6) Also, global warming really sucks for polar bears.  Great photo essay in the NYT.

7) So clear that we all benefit by waiting longer to merge with a lane closure and do a zipper merge.  The problem is that so many drivers are not aware and act counter-productively.  Doesn’t seem that a public service campaign on the matter would be all that hard.

8) A review of the year in cool quantum physics stuff.

9) Nicholas Kristof has a conversation with an Evangelical pastor on whether you can be Christian without believing in the virgin birth or the Resurrection.  Whether those beliefs make you a “Christian” or not, you could do a lot worse than following Jesus’ teachings in the gospels, regardless of whether you believe the other stuff.

10) John Cassidy on Trump’s challenge to democracy:

The big unknown isn’t what Trump will do: his pattern of behavior is clear. It is whether the American political system will be able to deal with the unprecedented challenge his election presents, and rein him in. Especially with a single party controlling the executive and the legislative branches, there is no immediately reassuring answer to this question.

11) I never did watch “Making of a Murderer” (mostly because it struck me as way too much of a time investment), but this really interesting New Yorker article on true-crime as entertainment from back in January (just came across it as promoted as among their most popular articles of the year) makes me glad I did not invest the time.

12) Studies less unfavorable to sugar that are funded by the sugar industry should undoubtedly draw great scrutiny.  That said, these conclusions seem reasonable:

But the scientists behind the paper said more scrutiny of sugar guidelines was needed. The researchers reviewed guidelines issued by the W.H.O. and eight other agencies around the world and said the case against sugar was based on “low-quality” evidence.

“The conclusion of our paper is a very simple one,” said Bradley C. Johnston, a professor of clinical epidemiology at the University of Toronto and McMaster University and the lead author of the new paper. “We hope that the results from this review can be used to promote improvement in the development of trustworthy guidelines on sugar intake.”

Dr. Johnston said he recognized that his paper would be criticized because of its ties to industry funding. But he said he hoped people would not “throw the baby out with the bathwater” by dismissing the conclusion that sugar guidelines should be developed with greater rigor. He also emphasized that he was not suggesting that people eat more sugar. The review article, he said, questions specific recommendations about sugar but “should not be used to justify higher intake of sugary foods and beverages.”

13) Excellent, thorough, Nate Cohn piece looking at how the Obama coalition fell apart for HRC.  Make sure you read this one.

14) Not surprisingly, the relationship between the political attitudes of elite donors and the Democratic party is far more complex than the simplistic portrayals we commonly get.

15) The way in which we basically let police departments steal money from people in this country is just disgusting.  Drum is not having it and either am I.

16) Greg Sargent on why we should be terrified of Trump’s decision-making process.

17) Ezra Klein asks whether Republicans are more addicted to power or ideas.  It’s cute that he even pretends it’s a question:

We are about to learn whether Republicans are more addicted to power or to ideas. This is, it’s worth noting, a live debate. In the Bush years, the GOP cut taxes, expanded Medicare, and started two wars without paying for a dime of it. Then after Barack Obama took office, Republicans became very worried about budget discipline.

 Fiscal conservatism, liberals complained, seemed to mean Republicans could rack up debt for any reason while Democrats couldn’t even borrow to save the economy during a financial collapse (which is, for the record, exactly the time you would want to debt finance).

But the GOP swore otherwise. The Tea Party, they said, was a correction to the regrettable excesses of the aughts. Bush-era Republicans had gone Washington and become addicted to power rather than conservatism. They had betrayed their own ideas and were now being punished by their own voters. It wouldn’t happen again. The opposition to Obama’s debt financing was the principled stand of a chastened GOP, not a cynical ploy to trip up a Democratic president.

If House Republicans — and particularly the House Freedom Caucus, the most debt-obsessed of all House Republicans — decide that Trump only needs to pay half the cost of his plans, then there’ll be no more mystery. Partisanship and power, not ideas and ideology, will have proven the GOP’s real addiction.

18) Poland for a very, very disturbing case study of what can happen when populists come to power in a democracy:

The Law and Justice Party rode to power on a pledge to drain the swamp of Polish politics and roll back the legacy of the previous administration. One year later, its patriotic revolution, the party proclaims, has cleaned house and brought God and country back to Poland.

Opponents, however, see the birth of a neo-Dark Age — one that, as President-elect Donald Trump prepares to move into the White House, is a harbinger of the power of populism to upend a Western society. In merely a year, critics say, the nationalists have transformed Poland into a surreal and insular place — one where state-sponsored conspiracy theories and de facto propaganda distract the public as democracy erodes.

In the land of Law and Justice, anti-intellectualism is king. Polish scientists are aghast at proposed curriculum changes in a new education bill that would downplay evolution theory and climate change and add hours for “patriotic” history lessons. In a Facebook chat, a top equal rights official mused that Polish hotels should not be forced to provide service to black or gay customers. After the official stepped down for unrelated reasons, his successor rejected an international convention to combat violence against women because it appeared to argue against traditional gender roles.

Over the weekend, Warsaw convulsed in street protests amid allegations that the Law and Justice party had illegally forced through a budget bill even as it sought to restrict media access to Parliament.

 

18) David Leonhardt suggests maybe Democrats have been bringing knives to a gun fight.  I think he might be right, but it’ll be a helluva mess if bullets just start flying everywhere.

If he were merely a rogue politician, this story would be a local one. But too many Republicans elsewhere have begun to ignore political traditions, and even laws, to exert power. While Democrats continue to play by more genteel rules, Republicans have subscribed to the Capone school of politics (as Sean Connery fans can recite): “They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue.”

 

19) Must-read NYT piece on Steve Kerr and how we was shaped by his father, who was assassinated as president of American University in Beirut in 1984.

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