Quick hits (part II)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6) I’m with Drum on Serena Williams

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Key Findings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Quick hits (part II)

1) Reformed right-wing attack dog, David Brock, spent time in the trenches with Brett Kavanaugh and knows him for a hopeless partisan:

But I don’t need to see any documents to tell you who Kavanaugh is — because I’ve known him for years. And I’ll leave it to all the lawyers to parse Kavanaugh’s views on everything from privacy rights to gun rights. But I can promise you that any pretense of simply being a fair arbiter of the constitutionality of any policy regardless of politics is simply a pretense. He made up his mind nearly a generation ago — and, if he’s confirmed, he’ll have nearly two generations to impose it upon the rest of us.

2) Intellectually, I know how bad poll response rates are.  Still, it is something to see that in real-time with this really cool NYT feature.

3) Guns kill people.  With bullets.  Glad California is taking this fact seriously.  And I feel not bad at all for all the “law abiding” hunters and sportsmen who have to be modestly inconvenienced in their purchase of amazingly lethal technology.

4) Person walks into the wrong apartment and shoots someone and a few days later is still not arrested?!  White off-duty cop shoots black person and there you go.

5) This veteran on the flag and anthem kneeling is so good:

But while most veterans have been measured in their responses, one strand of criticism is particularly disturbing: the notion that kneeling during the anthem is a specific affront to veterans and service members. As Kurt Schlichter, a combat veteran and contributor for Fox News, put it, Kaepernick “is targeting us. He knows what this means to us. He knows how insulting it is. He knows how disrespectful it is, and Nike is empowering it.” In a Facebook group for veterans that I belong to, someone wrote: “Anyone not respecting our flag should be deported. Many veterans and servicemen and women have died and suffered grievous wounds for this flag and anthem and constitution. Have some respect.” This argument isn’t new: Last year the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion chastised the protests as disrespectful.

This reasoning is rooted in a premise that is both wrong and dangerous. If kneeling for the anthem and the flag is a direct offense toward the military, that means veterans have a stronger claim to these symbols than Americans in general do. The argument insists that American iconography represents us more than it represents anyone else.

Yet the flag is not a symbol reserved for the military. It is a symbol of the United States of America, and it belongs equally to all citizens, including Americans who kneel during the anthem, or those who wear flag shirts (which is also in violation of the unenforceable flag code), or even those who burn the flag. [emphasis mine]

If we accept the idea that the military and veterans have authority over American symbols, we enforce a very narrow minority view of America and the American experience. Our cultural fabric is as rich as it is because the American myth has been interpreted, reinterpreted, criticized, praised and challenged by Americans of all backgrounds.

6) Love this– your chances of dying ranked by sport and activity.  I’m going to stay away from hang gliding.

7) On the other hand, tennis seems to be the best activity (good exercise plus a strong social component) for a long life.

8) Ummmm, so this article about how the Gulf Stream current may be changing is kind of scary.

9) Loved this on why you should stop yelling at your kids.  Of the differences I noticed since I started practicing mindfulness, way less yelling at my kids is near the top:

How many times in your parenting life have you thought to yourself, after yelling at your kids, “Well, that was a good decision…”?

It doesn’t make you look authoritative. It makes you look out of control to your kids. It makes you look weak. And you’re yelling, let’s be honest, because you are weak. Yelling, even more than spanking, is the response of a person who doesn’t know what else to do.

But most parents — myself included — find it hard to imagine how to get through the day without yelling. The new research on yelling presents parents with twin problems: What do I do instead? And how do I stop?

Yelling to stop your kids from running into traffic is not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about yelling as a form of correction. Yelling for correction is ineffective as a tool and merely imprints the habit of yelling onto the children. We yell at our kids over the same stuff every day, and we yell at them some more because the original yelling doesn’t work. Put your clothes away. Come down for dinner. Don’t ride the dog. Stop hitting your brother.

The mere knowledge that yelling is bad, in itself, won’t help, said Alan Kazdin, a professor of psychology and child psychiatry at Yale. Yelling is not a strategy, it’s a release.

“If the goal of the parent is catharsis, I want to get this out of my system and show you how mad I am, well, yelling is probably perfect,” Dr. Kazdin said. “If the goal here is to change something in the child or develop a positive habit in the child, yelling is not the way to do that.” There are other strategies, and they don’t involve screaming like a maniac.

Many think of positivity as a form of laziness, as if parents who are positive aren’t disciplining their children. But not yelling requires advance planning and discipline for the parents, which yelling doesn’t.

10) Loved this from an umpire on this whole absurdity of “judges just call balls and strikes” business (I’ll always resent John Roberts for fooling everybody with that):

Then there are the other plays, on the bases and at the plate, that require rule interpretations and judgment calls: catches and no catches, fair and foul balls, safes and outs, and base-running.

For example, the rule book states that a runner must avoid a fielder in the act of fielding a batted ball. If you collided with a shortstop who was bent over in the act of fielding a ground ball, you would be guilty of interference. But if the shortstop had completed the act of fielding and was attempting to tag you when the collision occurred, there would be no penalty. Among elite athletes, this all happens in milliseconds, and to the untrained eye, the plays look the same — both violent collisions with the ball on the ground. This requires an interpretation of when one act ended and another began, and whose rights are in effect. This is a judgment call…

As an umpire, you learn to position yourself on the field so that you’re in the most advantageous location to observe a pitch or a play. You learn to read cues and make the proper adjustments when something changes. It can take years of experience, an exhaustive understanding of the rules and consistency in your calls to become a credible umpire, and even then, you’re going to be in the middle of a lot of arguments and controversies. As a mentor of mine reminded me when I started: There was only ever one perfect man, and they crucified him, so umpires have to learn how to handle criticism. As with judging, the tough calls are hardly ever obvious. Balls and strikes are elusive creatures.

11) Loved this Atlantic piece on cognitive biases and the human brain.  I’m pretty tempted to read Richard Nisbett’s Mindware: Tools for Smart Thinkingbut, then again, I kind of suspect I won’t learn anything.  I may be biased, but I am pretty damn sure that I am way better than the average bear (though far from perfect), at avoiding all these cognitive biases.  Because, damnit, the first step definitely is recognizing them.

12) David Frum, great, as always, on Trump,, “The President Is a Crook The country now faces a choice between the Trump presidency and the rule of law.”

13) Relatedly, Dana Milbank on the amazingly amoral and craven Paul Ryan.

14) Margaret Sullivan with a good take on the New Yorker festival-Steve Bannon controversy:

No one wants a festival of ideas to turn into a cozy chat among like-minded friends. That’s pointless.

But also utterly pointless is the notion that Steve Bannon, President Trump’s former chief strategist, might have something new or valuable to offer.

That’s why it was a thoroughly lousy idea for the New Yorker magazine to offer a high-profile perch — an onstage interview by top editor David Remnick — at next month’s annual festival to the deposed Svengali.

There is nothing more to learn from Bannon about his particular brand of populism, with its blatant overlay of white supremacy.

While we’re at it, there is also nothing more to learn from the die-hard Trump voters in what I’ve called the Endless Diner Series — the media’s recidivistic journeys to the supposed heartland to hear what we’ve heard a thousand times before about blind loyalty in the face of all reason.

Yes, it’s time, well past time, to stop lending the media’s biggest and most prestigious platforms to this crowd of racists and liars.

Shut them down — not because of ideology or politics, but because there is no news value there.

 

 

Quick hits

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6) So many idiots like this, ”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quick hits (part I)

1) Really interesting feature on the difficulty of making life after hate for former hardcore white supremacists:

Confronting white supremacists online and in the streets may feel personally gratifying and politically urgent. Yet as liberals and the anti-Trump “resistance” fawn over Life After Hate, deradicalization activists argue that much of what the left thinks it knows about shutting down racist extremists is misplaced. When it comes to changing individuals, denunciation may counteract rather than hasten deradicalization. If that seems like surrender, consider that some researchers who study hate groups think we should view violent extremism not only as a problem of ideology, but also as a problem of addiction: a craving for group identity, adrenaline, and the psycho­logical kick of hatred. As with substance addiction, there may be no silver bullet for curing extremism, only a lifelong battle to leave such impulses behind. As Peter Simi, a sociologist at Chapman University in California, puts it, “You probably don’t ever fully move on from violent extremism.” The uncomfortable truth is that the best way to reform racist thugs may be to offer them precisely what they aren’t willing to offer others, and precisely what many people in this polarized political moment feel they least deserve: empathy.

2) Goop (Gwynneth Paltrow’s monetized pseudo science) the magazine is not happening with Conde Nast (publisher of New Yorker, among others) because quality magazines insist on fact-checking.

3) The reality is that Paul Ryan is an horrible person who has protected Trump at every opportunity:

That’s important defensive work on behalf of Trump, and Ryan has been deeply engaged in it

Far more numerous, however, are Ryan’s sins of omissions: things he could have done to strengthen the Mueller investigation, protect it from interference, and subject the Trump administration to real scrutiny.

Ryan could condemn House Oversight Committee Chair Trey Gowdy and House Judiciary Committee Chair Bob Goodlatte for holding farcical hearings on FBI agents Lisa Page and Peter Strzok meant to cast the whole effort to investigate Trump’s Russia conduct as a witch hunt.

He could threaten to strip Gowdy and Goodlatte of their chairmanships unless they commit to launch investigations into Trump’s fraudulent charity, into his potentially corrupt real estate deals abroad, and into the possibility that Trump actively collaborated with Russian intelligence, WikiLeaks, or both. He could urge them to subpoena Trump’s tax returns and search them for irregularities. He has not done any of that.

Ryan could bring the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act, a bipartisan bill that would protect Mueller against arbitrary firing, to the House floor for a vote, or force House Goodlatte to consider it in committee. He has not; he hasn’t even endorsed the bill.

Ryan could force a floor vote on the Protecting Our Democracy Act, a bill with 200 co-sponsors (two of whom are Republicans) to create a National Commission on Foreign Interference in the 2016 Election to investigate what exactly happened with Russia’s interference. He hasn’t endorsed the bill, let alone brought it up for a vote.

Ryan could also force a floor vote on a version of the Senate’s Secure Elections Act, which would get rid of paperless electronic voting machines that are hackable and push states to engage in routine audits to verify election results are legitimate. Mainstream Republicans like Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) are on board. Ryan is not.

A recent report by Politico Playbook suggested that congressional Republicans think all the criticism they’re receiving for carrying water for Trump is unfair. The message, Playbook reported, boiled down to, “WHAT THE HELL DO YOU WANT US TO DO?” They claim they’ve held sufficient hearings and slapped enough sanctions on Russia.

The litany above is what I want them to do, and the person who could make them do it is Paul Ryan. He could remove Devin Nunes with the stroke of a pen. He could bring floor votes on the above legislation whenever he wants. He could whip votes for the legislation too, and push Mitch McConnell to move it in the Senate.

That he doesn’t do any of that, and in fact actively enables the cover-up, is telling. Ryan genuinely believes that the cause of slashing corporate taxes and tax rates for rich Americans is worth collaborating with a reckless administration in an elaborate attempt to cover up wrongdoing. He makes that choice every day, and it should blacken his historical legacy.

4) I do find the controversy about Mesut Özil, the meaning of nationality in Germany, and the German soccer team pretty fascinating.

5) Why don’t more men take their wife’s last name?

And so it is that, even after generations of feminist progress, the expectation, at least for straight couples, has remained: Women take the man’s last name. Seventy-two percent of adults polled in a 2011 study said they believe a woman should give up her maiden name when she gets married, and half of those who responded said they believe that it should be a legal requirement, not a choice. In some states, married women could not legally vote under their maiden name until the mid-1970s.

The opposite—a man taking his wife’s name—remains incredibly rare: In a recent study of 877 heterosexual married men, less than 3 percent took their wife’s name when they got married. When her fiancé, Avery, announced that he wanted to take her last name, Becca Lamb, a 23-year-old administrative assistant living in Washington, D.C., told me that, at first, she said no: “It shocked me. I had always expected to take my husband’s last name someday. I didn’t want to do anything too out of the norm.”

6) I had no idea who James Gunn was but I think Disney was totally wrong in firing him.  And I also think we should not be aiding conservatives in weaponizing old tweets.

7) Sea-level rise is wreaking havoc on NC beaches.  But our Republican legislature requires we pretend otherwise.

8) Is there anything more pathetic than all the racist white people who insist that it is minorities and the anti-racists who are the problem when it comes to race?  David Roberts: on the reaction to his twitter “white people” poll:

Substantively (if you can call it that), there were two basic reactions. One is to say that I’m a racist, or liberals are the real racists, because they keep calling attention to race and dividing people up by race, while conservatives are just trying to be individuals and judge people by the content of their character. It’s the “No puppet! You’re the puppet!” of racism.

(I’m not going to pluck out individual tweets and embed them here because I don’t want to drag individuals on Twitter into a public dispute like this; you can read the thread to see if I’m characterizing it accurately.)

These are mutually contradictory points, of course. “You’re the real racist, and white people rule.” But they are both very familiar in conservative rhetoric and both delivered behind the same aesthetic, using the same keywords, in the same jumbled tone of fury and contempt.

9) I quite loved Billy Joel back in the day (pretty much never listen any more, though still have a soft spot for “Matter of Trust”).  Loved this NYT interview on what he’s up to and why he stopped recording new songs.

10) Speaking of music, had a great time seeing Weezer (for the third time) this past week.  Though, I realized it seems like rock and roll (i.e., guitar-driven rock) really is dead these days.  Given my negativity towards jazz, this little bit in a “rock and roll really is dead” piece really set me back:

Top 40 radio, which has always been for teenagers, is mostly devoted to post-rock pop and hip-hop. In 2016, rock is not teenage music.

Rock is now where jazz was in the early 1980s. Its form is mostly fixed.

Well, damn, nothing I love like catchy, guitar-driven music.

11) A victory for the Impossible Burger.  I remain a techno-optimist on widespread, affordable, and tasty plant-based meat in our future.  Good for our environment and good for humane treatment of animals.

Quick hits (part I)

1) Maps of Israeli settlements that shocked Obama.

2) When you consider the economy, Trump is really unpopular.  Ezra Klein:

3.8 percent unemployment and 42 percent approval. Is that “winning”?

Here’s another way to think about this question: Would President Marco Rubio or Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders or Mitt Romney be at 42 percent amidst 3.8 percent unemployment? I doubt it. But I also can’t prove it.

The strongest argument Allen and VandeHei make, in my view, is that Trump, for all his erratic behavior, is registering numbers in line with some past presidents. They note that at this point, Barack Obama was at 46 percent, Bill Clinton was at 46 percent, Ronald Reagan was at 45 percent, and Jimmy Carter was at 43 percent. This makes Trump’s performance sound, if not impressive, at least normal.

What they fail to note is that all those presidents were managing much more troubled economies than Trump. In June of their second year, the unemployment rate was at 9.4 percent for Obama, 6.1 percent for Clinton, 9.6 percent for Reagan, and 5.8 percent for Carter. (And this understates how bad the economy was, given stagflation and the other aftereffects of the OPEC oil embargo.)

And Allen and VandeHei leave out both George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. While there were foreign policy dynamics present in their presidencies that make them a tricky fit, I’m not sure they’re worse comparisons than Trump’s combination of peace abroad and extremely low unemployment and high stock prices at home.

According to Gallup, they were at 63 percent and 76 percent approval, respectively, at this point. (It must gall Trump that both Presidents Bush, given how little regard he has for their political skill, were so much more popular at this point in their terms than he is.)

Another way to think about this question is to look at the last time the economy was at 3.8 percent unemployment amid a record stock market. That was in April of 2000, when Bill Clinton registered a 59 percent Gallup approval rating — 17 points above where Trump is now.

3) (Don’t miss this EMG) The anti-vaxxers take on a horse vaccine for the super-deadly Hendra virus (I learned about this in the great book, Spillover).  

4) Is there nothing NC Republicans won’t do to try and prop up their candidates?!

5) And speaking of that last sentence, yeah, the interrobang is cool, but a “?!” seems to work just fine for me.

6) Loves this Fresh Air interview with a pastor who was formerly militantly anti-abortion, but now seems more interested in Jesus’ actual message.  So nice to see self-reflection and humility.

7) And, let’s just keep with a Podcast string here… Loved this Radiolab segment on just how biologically complicated sex (i.e. male/female) actually is.  (Make sure you listen, Nicole).

8) In a less busy week, I so would have done a post on Derek Thompson’s great article on how Canada has been pro-immigrant without a populist backlash.  History, man– it matters!

For decades, Canada has sustained exceptionally high levels of immigration without facing an illiberal populist groundswell. It is the most inclusive country in the world in its attitudes toward immigrants, religion, and sexuality, according to a 2018 survey by the polling company Ipsos. In a ranking of the most important Canadian symbols and values, its citizens put “multiculturalism” right next to the national anthem—and just behind their flag. In the U.S., those supportive of multiculturalism say they’re the least patriotic; in Canada, patriotism and multiculturalism go together like fries and cheese curds.

To be clear, Canada has not discovered some magical elixir to eradicate intoleranceracism, or inequality, all of which are present in the nation of 36 million. Its indigenous communities, which have endured centuries of brutalization and discrimination, often live under conditions that are still described as “third world.” And the country is not equally welcoming to all newcomers. But at a time when anti-immigrant sentiment and populist politics are sweeping across Europe and America, Canada stands apart.

What’s Canada’s secret? A blend of imperial history, bizarre and desolate geography, and provincial politics have forged something unique in the Great White North. Countries now buckling under the strain of xenophobic populism should take note.

9) “Carb-rinsing“… who knew?

10) Save the planet, eat beans, not meat.

This inefficient process happens on a massive scale. Brazil, the world’s largest exporter of red meat, holds around 212 million cattle. (In June, the U.S. temporarily suspended imports of beef from Brazil due to abscesses, collections of pus, in the meat.) According to the United Nations, 33 percent of arable land on Earth is used to grow feed for livestock. Even more, 26 percent of the ice-free terrestrial surface of Earth is used for grazing livestock. In all, almost a third of the land on Earth is used to produce meat and animal products.

“The real beauty of this kind of thing is that climate impact doesn’t have to be policy-driven,” said Harwatt. “It can just be a positive, empowering thing for consumers to see that they can make a significant impact by doing something as simple as eating beans instead of beef.”She and her colleagues conclude in the journal Climatic Change: “While not currently recognized as a climate policy option, the ‘beans for beef’ scenario offers significant climate change mitigation and other environmental benefits, illustrating the high potential of animal to plant food shifts.”

11) Josh Marshall on Jim Jordan.  Such a shame that everybody is lying about this man of unquestioned honesty and integrity ;-).  And Paul Waldman:

Today, when allegations of this sort surface against a Democrat, the first impulse of those in the Democratic Party is to assume that the victims are probably telling the truth and ask whether the member should resign. That wasn’t always their response in the past, but now it is. The first impulse of Republicans when such a scandal touches their own, on the other hand, is to defend the member no matter what the facts suggest and charge that it’s a liberal conspiracy.

That may be partly because they all pledged their loyalty to a president who is on tape bragging about his ability to commit sexual assault with impunity (“When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”), and who was credibly accused of sexual misconduct by a dozen women. Whatever the reasons, they haven’t caught up to the morality of the 21st century.

12) Really enjoyed Megan McArdle asking for more intellectually honest conversations around affirmative action.

13) Political Scientists Matt Grossman and David Hopkins on what really needs to be banged into the heads of political journalists, “No, Democrats Aren’t Ruining Their Midterm Chances.”  Of course, among actual media bias, the bias towards conflict is a very real thing.

14) Matt Yglesias on Brett Kavanaugh’s pro-corporate motivating ideology:

While it’s certainly true that a few important remnants — most notably, some semblance of a legal right to abortion — of that old debate remain relevant, the real debate in the American judiciary is whether the Constitution allows the people’s elected representatives to meaningfully regulate the national economy.

Kavanaugh clearly believes it does not: He has called the existence of independent regulatory agencies — notably including the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau but potentially the entire alphabet soup of FCC, FTC, CFTC, SEC, FEC, etc. — a “threat to individual liberty.”

But rather than debate this squarely, we are instead faced with grifters like Kavanaugh’s former boss Ken Starr insisting in the pages of the Washington Post that Kavanaugh stands for nothing more than a simple “pro-democracy, let-the-people-govern-themselves vision.” The truth is quite the opposite — Kavanaugh’s vision, which he shares with Starr and the bulk of the conservative legal academy, is one in which the courts should stand as staunch allies of capital and block any effort at democratic control of big business…

In short, Starr praises Kavanaugh for favoring judicial activism in pursuit of a light-touch regulatory agenda.

The way the American political system works is that passing laws is clunky and difficult. Between bicameralism, the presidential veto, the committee system, and the filibuster, it’s just very hard to get new legislation enacted. At the same time, the business world moves fast to try to exploit profit-making opportunities. So if you want to regulate business effectively, you can’t play legislative whack-a-mole and spot abuses in real time. What reformers do instead is try to create regulatory agencies that are given broad mandates to police areas of conduct.

A classic example is the Clean Air Act, which charges the Environmental Protection Agency with identifying forms of harmful air pollution and promulgating rules to cost-effectively reduce it, rather than counting on Congress to pass new laws every time science or business practice changes. To make this system work, judges need to show deference to the regulatory agencies and acknowledge that the congressional reformers who created them wanted the agencies to have some flexibility and discretion. Kavanaugh, as Starr correctly observers, does not believe that this deference should be granted. This is a crucial aspect of his judicial philosophy, and Starr is right to call attention to it.

But Kavanaugh’s doctrine is not about the promotion of self-government or even about deference, it’s about viewing discretion as a one-way street that is always biased against regulation.

15) John Cassidy on Peter Strzok:

Strzok was far from fazed, however. With his close-cut hair, sharp features, and self-confident bearing, he looked like Hollywood’s idea of a senior F.B.I. agent, and he seemed delighted to have his say in public. In his opening statement, which he read out slowly, in a firm voice, he had already effectively demolished the Republican theory of the case: that he was out to get Trump, and prevent him from becoming President. “In the summer of 2016, I was one of a handful of people who knew the details of Russian election interference and its possible connections with members of the Trump campaign,” Strzok said. “This information had the potential to derail and, quite possibly, defeat Mr. Trump. But the thought of exposing that information never crossed my mind.”

Not content with undermining the logic of his inquisitors, Strzok also dared to question their motivation, and even their patriotism, saying, “I understand we are living in a political era in which insults and insinuation often drown out honesty and integrity, but the honest truth is that Russian interference in our elections constitutes a grave attack on our democracy.” The Russian attack had been “wildly successful—sowing discord in our nation and shaking faith in our institutions,” Strzok continued. “I have the utmost respect for Congress’s oversight role, but I truly believe that today’s hearing is just another victory notch in Putin’s belt and another milestone in our enemies’ campaign to tear America apart.”…

As Strzok spoke, Gowdy leaned back in his chair, a cold look on his face. What was he thinking? He hasn’t served entirely as a White House patsy on the Russia affair. At one point, he suggested that Trump should start acting more like he is innocent. But Gowdy and other House Republicans invested what was left of their credibility in a conspiracy theory that was now blowing up in their faces, live on television. After Strzok said the words “deeply destructive,” there was a brief silence in the hearing room. Then there was a round of applause from the public gallery.

16) The deadly superbug yeast that is coming to get us.

17) Republicans kills off super-useful medical database because, of course, their corporate masters would rather physicians not have ready access to what costly treatments are not actually effective.

18) I love how Waldman puts it, “If this is a ‘witch hunt,’ it sure is finding a lot of witches.”

Early Friday afternoon, the Justice Department announced that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III had indicted 12 Russian officials in connection with the Kremlin’s effort to manipulate the 2016 presidential election, making even clearer what we already knew: The Russian government had a comprehensive program intended to hurt the candidacy of Hillary Clinton and to help Donald Trump get elected.

The fact this has been treated as anything less than a profound national emergency — and that one of our two parties has argued again and again that it’s no big deal — is something that should appall anyone who has even the slightest concern for U.S. national security.

It is notable that these indictments come a day after Republicans mounted a farcical hearing meant to advance the ludicrous notion that the entire Russia investigation is illegitimate because one FBI agent said disparaging things about President Trump in private text messages during the campaign. But here’s part of what Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein said during his news conference today:

The indictment charges 12 Russian military officers by name for conspiring to interfere with the 2016 presidential election. Eleven of the defendants are charged with conspiring to hack into computers, steal documents and release those documents with the intent to interfere with the election. One of those defendants and a 12th Russian military officer are charged with conspiring to infiltrate computers of organizations involved in administering the elections, including state boards of elections, secretaries of state, and companies that supply software used to administer elections.

The indictment contains numerous intriguing details, including the fact that the Russian hacking of the emails of Clinton associates began on the same day that Trump publicly said, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 [Clinton] emails that are missing.”

19) Really interesting feature on how armed citizen good guys in Oklahoma stopped an active shooter, but how the full story is more complicated.  Also, these good guys were an active member of the OK Air National Guard and a former police officer.  This is not just some wannabe heroes who took a couple hour concealed carry class.

20 Nice thorough story of the Thailand Cave rescue was pulled off.

21) The Chait article on Trump’s 30-year connections with Russia that everybody has been talking about.  And NeverTrumper Tom Nichols’ take on it:

Instead, what Chait presents, without having to get too far out on a ledge about agents or assets, is a plausible case that a U.S. president is compromised by a foreign power that has damaging information about him…

Finally, whatever one thinks of Chait’s piece, the attacks from Trump defenders are no more than a reflex that reveals the exhausting double-standard that pro-Trump Republicans must now carry like a cinder block around their necks. People who once wanted to imprison Hillary Clinton for a uranium deal approved by the U.S. government are now waving away 30 years of Moscow’s personal and financial investments in Trump as though it’s nothing more than a condo purchase on an overdrawn checking account.

I do not know how much pressure the president is under from the Russians. Neither does Chait. Neither do Trump’s defenders. We may never get the full story, unless it is revealed to us by Robert Mueller or found in a future tranche of declassified documents. But there is no way to read Chait’s story—or to do any judicious review of Trump’s dealings with the Russians over years—and reach any other conclusion but that the Kremlin has damaging and deeply compromising knowledge about the president. Whether it is using such materials, and how, is a matter of legitimate argument. That such things exist, however, and that they seem to be preoccupying the president, should be obvious. [emphasis mine]

22) Vox headline and subhead says it (mostly) all, “A new study blows up Trump’s “catch-and-release” myth: Families seeking asylum often miss their court dates — not because they’re criminals, but because the system is broken.”

23) Another reason to hate penalty kick shoot-outs to settle soccer games.  In something where the result should be close to 50-50, the team that shoots first wins about 60% of the time.

24) Olga Khazan on the absurd influence of baby formula producers, as recently seen via the Trump administration:

This latest tussle in Geneva follows a decades-long battle by infant-formula makers to promote themselves as essentially on par with breast milk. And while health experts instead say “breast is best,” as this incident shows, policymakers aren’t always willing to put legislation behind that message.

Formula makers have responded to the cultural battle over breastfeeding in true corporate form: by lobbying for their interests and marketing their products. For example, Abbott Laboratories, which makes Similac and other formulas, spent $790,000 on lobbying this year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Though the company has spent more in past years, this year their disclosure lists having lobbied the U.S. Trade Representative, among others, on “proposals regarding infant nutrition marketing.” …

Since 1981, the infant-formula who code has been updated through resolutions at the World Health Assembly. The last update was in 2016, during the Obama administration, and it was a big policy push, according to Elizabeth Zehner, a project director with Helen Keller International. As they often do, industry groups spoke out against it, said Sullivan, the 1,000 Days director who attended the 2016 session. The World Health Assembly “welcomed” the 2016 resolution “with appreciation,” a notch below endorsing it.

However, this year’s resolution wasn’t about updating the code. It was more modest, simply intended to remind countries of the importance of promoting breastfeeding, Sullivan said, and notify them about best practices around breastfeeding and HIV, or during natural disasters.

So it surprised health advocates that the United States would use such heavy-handed efforts to try to kill it. “They used very aggressive tactics to get rid of a resolution that really wasn’t a policy grab,” Zehner said.

Of course, aggressive is often the way of the Trump administration. As President Trump wrote on Twitter yesterday, “The failing NY Times Fake News story today about breast feeding must be called out.”

Quick hits (part I)

1) David Frum on the great Russian disinformation campaign.

2) I honestly think it’s just kind of cute that Michael Gerson asks, “Will the GOP become the party of white backlash?” as if that ship hadn’t sailed long ago.  Hint to Gerson– read your own newspaper.

3) Adam Liptak, “How Conservatives Weaponized the First Amendment.”

4) WRAL editorial on NC Republicans, “230 years ago nation’s founders saw tyranny N.C. legislators now seek to impose.”

Two-hundred-thirty years ago in the Federalist Papers, James Madison identified what the leaders of the North Carolina General Assembly are trying to do today with their bundle of State Constitutional amendments. “The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.

Legislators who write the laws that we live under want voters to change the State Constitution and give lawmakers the power to appoint and pay the judges who will decide if those laws are constitutional. It is a dangerous power-grab by an elite few that weakens the voice of all North Carolina citizens.

This is not about Republicans vs. Democrats. This isn’t about liberals vs. conservatives. It isn’t even about Gov. Roy Cooper vs. Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore.

It is about taking a wrecking ball to the foundation of government established by our federal and state constitutions: The separation of powers and checks-and-balances each branch of government – executive, legislative and judicial – has on the other. This assault can also be found in other proposed amendments, including one to change the appointment and composition of the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement.

5) It’s kind of scary and sad to watch Poland slide further into authoritarianism.  Thinks are just not good in the world.

6) Jennifer Rubin on how we should not be done with Scott Pruitt:

Three aspects of this tawdry episode deserve emphasis. First, congressional oversight was slight, to say the least. Only when Democrats on the House Oversight Committee began meeting with whistleblowers did the Republican majority kick into high gear. Even then, House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) used letters rather than subpoenas to request information. As a result, the EPA’s responses were often incomplete and imprecise. Pruitt’s fall is not because Congress did its job. It allowed the White House to stall well past the point any other administration would have been allowed to.

Second, the investigations should not end with his departure. The extent to which he ripped off taxpayers must be determined, and anyone who assisted in his escapades must be fired. In addition, it is not clear whether any criminal laws were broken or if the government has the ability to force Pruitt to reimburse taxpayers. Republicans will certainly do their best to sweep this under the rug; Democrats should insist taxpayers be repaid.

Third, Pruitt was simply following the lead of the president who has violated about every financial norm his predecessors upheld. President Trump still hasn’t released his tax returns. He has not divested himself of ongoing businesses which he continues to profit from. He continues to receive foreign emoluments, although multiple lawsuits seek to end what may be a constitutional violation. And the president has employed relatives who have their own conflicts, such as his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, giving foreign governments the impression that they could use his financial situation to advance their interests with the U.S. government.

7) Luke Moore says VAR is wrecking the World Cup.  Personally, I’ve been really, really pleasantly surprised with how quick and effective it has been.  That said, he’s totally right about this:

For starters, the ref shouldn’t be seen as an enemy to be undermined and berated during the game by fans and players and commentators, and then mocked endlessly by former players in the studio afterward. Why don’t FIFA and other soccer organizations do more to punish cheating during games? The sport is marred by constant diving, feigning of injuries and dishonest appeals for penalties. Empowering referees to clamp down on such behavior would certainly curtail it — freeing the refs to concentrate on officiating properly. Wishful thinking it may be, but if every player were 100 percent honest, the game would officiate itself. And then we would hardly need those 98-percent-accurate referees, let alone VAR.

8) If you are familiar with the famous “count the basketball passes” experiment, this is a must-read.  If you are not familiar with it, watch this videothen this is a must-read.

9) We have a growing problem with tick-borne diseases.  Personally, I’d hate to end up with a red meat allergy.

10) Catherine Rampell on the US and China:

President Trump is right about one thing. China really has been stealing many of America’s most valuable ideas.

For years, the Chinese government turned a blind eye to counterfeited U.S. luxury goods, bootlegged Hollywood films, fake Apple stores, trade secrets pilfered from cutting-edge U.S. tech companies. It forced U.S. firms to hand over their technology if they wanted to operate in China.

Now the Chinese government has decided to borrow one of our best foreign policy ideas, too: banding together with allies to punish a cheating, trade-obstructing bully…

If this all sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because China’s strategy is very similar to the one the United States had not long ago devised . . . to keep China in line.

11) Oh, man, rescuing those trapped kids in the Thai cave is really, really complicated!

12) I love that England’s “striker’s coach” used to coach with our very own local minor league soccer team, the NC Railhawks (now NCFC).

13) Ron Brownstein on the Democratic Party’s choice in 2020:

Almost halfway through Donald Trump’s tempestuous first term, Democrats are divided between two visions of how they can dislodge the Republican dominance of Washington and most state governments. One camp believes the party’s best chance will come from targeting mostly white, Republican-leaning voters who are recoiling from Trump on personal, more so than policy, grounds. The other camp believes the biggest opportunity is to turn out more voters from the groups most intensely hostile to Trump, in terms of both his style and agenda: Millennials, nonwhites, and white women who are college educated or unmarried. One camp bets mostly on persuading swing voters, the other on mobilizing base voters.

In practice, Democrats inevitably will need to do some of both. It’s a truism that whenever a political party seems to face an either/or choice, the right answer is usually both/and. That’s especially true in the 2018 midterm election. This fall, the party will be fielding dozens of candidates who subscribe to each theory, largely (but not completely) sorted between nominees who focus on persuasion in mostly white, Trump-leaning, or purple areas, and those emphasizing mobilization on more Democratic-leaning and racially diverse terrain.
But in the selection of their 2020 presidential nominee, Democrats will face a genuine crossroads. Few, if any, potential candidates would be equally effective at both energizing the party base and reassuring swing voters. Candidates who tilt mostly toward reassurance might include former Vice President Joe Biden, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Those best positioned to mobilize could include Senators Kamala Harris of California and Cory Booker of New Jersey, two younger lawmakers who embody the party’s growing racial diversity, as well as Senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, two graying lions of the left.Among Democratic political professionals, there’s probably a narrow majority that favors focusing on ordinarily Republican-leaning voters repulsed by Trump. However, the L.A. immigration rally was revealing because it showed the potential strength of the alternative strategy of mobilization.

14) Referring to married women as “Mrs” is an archaic term and we need to do away with it.  Especially Wimbeldon.  Had a really good time explaining this to my boys today, who had no idea.

15) Love this Wirecutter list of kid and family games.  I think I want to buy Dixit.

 

Quick hits (part I)

1) Seth Masket on the intentional cruelty of zero-tolerance on immigration:

But on immigration he’s been entirely consistent. If there was one defining issue of Trump’s 2016 campaign, it was his insistence on building a wall along the United States’ southern border with Mexico. He’s promised since early in his campaign to stem immigration by Mexicans and Muslims, to deport undocumented immigrants en masse, to bolster the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, and to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The idea of an immigration crackdown has always been central to his policymaking.

Even the most vapid politician tends to have some key conviction on some set of issues. That’s often what draws them a set of backers in the first place. And this conviction is not necessarily something that polls well. The party factions that back a candidate often want some set of policy changes that are actually unpopular, or ideally issues that the public mostly doesn’t pay attention to. And they’re looking for a candidate who will push for those issues even if the political tides change.

This was not a miscalculation. This is Trump doing the job he was selected to do.

2) I’m going to keep using straws, because I am generally, quite good about plastic, and its not really about the straw.

Several environmental organizations have made straw bans a priority lately — raising awareness, nudging celebrities to come out in favor of them, lobbying cities and states to enact them. But some advocates told me their deeper motivation is to build support and awareness for the need to ban other plastic products that are more significant sources of plastic solution than straws.

“Our straw campaign is not really about straws,” said Dune Ives, the executive director of Lonely Whale, the organization that led the straw ban movement in Seattle. “It’s about pointing out how prevalent single-use plastics are in our lives. Putting up a mirror to hold us accountable. We’ve all been asleep at the wheel.”

3) Brian Beutler on Trump’s lessons for Democrats:

The lessons of Obama’s immigration legacy—and of his legislative legacy in general—were clear to many liberals at the time, but have come into greater focus in the Trump era. And one of the principal lessons is this: It is a mistake to cause harm as a dangle for bipartisan support. Democrats today, and in any future majority, would do better to accept the nature of the opposition, and try to help as many people as possible, as much as possible, in any particular political moment…

This same lesson applies elsewhere in the realm of domestic policy. Democrats wasted most of a year in 2009 trying to entice Republicans to support health-care reform. They conceded substantive ideas they liked, and adopted Republican ideas, without realizing Republicans were stringing them along, and when the process was over, zero Republicans voted for the health care bill they had helped to weaken, and they called it “socialism” anyhow. One of the consequences of this error was higher premiums and deductibles, which harmed actual people, some of whom surely punished Democrats in 2016 by staying home, or voting for Trump, who turned around and sabotaged the Affordable Care Act.

Democrats can upend this vicious cycle. It’s important for people who care about the truth to rebut these lies, but Democrats can’t count on people who don’t care about truth to be deterred by fact-checking. All they can do is refuse to reward liars—accept what they’re up against, and do as much good as they have the power to do whenever they can.

4) Jay Rosen, “It’s time for the press to suspend normal relations with the Trump presidency.”

5) As you know, I’m pretty hesitant on four-letter words, but John McWhorter (via Conor Friedersdorf) makes a good case for change here:

He sees taboos against the familiar four-letter words, like damnshit, and fuck, as antiquated vestiges of bygone times when religious taboos, or taboos against sex and excretion, were utterly different than they are today—they make little sense, he argues, in a society where it’s perfectly acceptable to be an open atheist and where many people revel in body positivity and sex positivity. The taboo words make no sense given the dearth of substantive taboos around that to which they refer. For that reason, he refuses to teach his young daughter that it is wrong to say “shit” but okay to say “poop,” or that it is wrong to say “fuck,” though he explains that she should understand the lingering sensitivities of others to those words and take care when and where to use them.

In contrast, he argued, today’s truly profane words—and rightly so—are the n-word and the c-word, words where he is glad to see locutions like the ones I just used because he can make a strong logical and moral case for using them. “That is not something you want The New York Times to have on top of the page. I wouldn’t want my children to ask me what it is. I can’t be flippant about it,” he explained. “I’m telling my children that those words are profane. Why can’t you use them? Because they’re evil … The reason we don’t say those words is that we don’t slur against groups of people … You work against tribalism.”

6) With all the news this week, the Supreme Court finding for AmEx and ever-greater corporate power was pretty much completely ignored.  But it is a great example of the essentially pro-business (not pro-market) ideology that motivates so many conservatives.  Tim Wu:

There is no reason to expect credit card companies to offer their services free. But the credit card tax paid by American retailers and consumers is the highest in the world. Credit card “swipe” fees account for an estimated $42 billion every year in the United States. The Europeans pay less, because they see this as an obvious market failure and limit the commission to 0.3 percent, meaning that you would pay 60 cents instead of $7 in fees for that $200 purchase. We rely on the “American way” — competition instead of regulation to keep prices lower — but that works only if we prevent companies from thwarting competition.

Unfortunately, credit card companies like American Express have managed to stymie fee competition with those gag orders on merchants who contract with them. Merchants are prevented from steering consumers to cheaper options, for example by saying to a customer: “Paying for this microwave with American Express will cost us an extra $5.60. Might you consider using another card if you have one?”

If merchants could tell us which option was cheapest, and steer us in that direction, we would all save money. Even just the threat of steering us in that direction could help keep fees down.

The trial court in this case, after a full trial, found direct evidence that American Express’s gag orders were anticompetitive and thus an illegal restraint on trade. This included evidence that the gag order allowed American Express to raise its fees 20 times in five years.

Nonetheless, the five more conservative justices on the Supreme Court managed to find a way to win this case for American Express. They did so not by contesting the fact that the gag order stymies competition — for that was impossible to disprove. Instead the court put theory ahead of practice in an absurd way: Even though, in practice, American Express hurt competition and inflicted harm on consumers, the court concluded, the company was not, in theory, powerful enough to do so.

The logic is ridiculous: You could just as easily say that robbing banks is economically irrational, given the risks involved, and therefore it does not happen.

7) Love how Emily Yoffe is always willing to take on shibboleths about sexual misconduct.  Of course, sexual misconduct is also about sex, and not just power, yet you’d hardly know it by the statements coming from some quarters.  Really good piece on Weinstein, et al.

8) Thomas Edsall on how immigration opponents really hate being told they are racist.  Problem is, plenty of social science evidence indicates that much of immigration opposition is, in fact, driven by racial animus.

9) Lily Mason turned her nice tweetstorm on asymmetry and incivility into a Monkey Cage post.

10) Jennifer Rubin, on Trump’s losing battle on immigration:

While Democrats have become more enthusiastic about legal immigration, so have Republicans, albeit to a smaller extent. “The share of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents who say legal immigration into the U.S. should be increased has doubled since 2006, from 20% to 40%. . . . The share of Republicans and Republican leaners who say legal immigration should be decreased has fallen 10 percentage points since 2006, from 43% to 33%.” However, 33 percent of Republicans vs. 16 percent of Democrats favor reducing legal immigration.

Despite Trump’s persistent lying, most Americans “know documented immigrants living in the U.S. are not more likely than U.S. citizens to commit serious crimes (65% say this) and that undocumented immigrants mostly fill jobs citizens don’t want (71% say this).” That’s somewhat reassuring after two years of nonstop anti-immigrant harangues…

One area in which nervous politicians and pundits sympathetic to immigration have given ground to opponents is on the use of English. Well, ordinary Americans just don’t like hearing all that Spanish. Perhaps pro-immigrant voices should reassess their eagerness to indulge xenophobes. “Most Americans say they often (47%) or sometimes (27%) come into contact with immigrants who speak little or no English. Among those who say this, just 26% say it bothers them, while 73% say it does not. The share saying they are bothered by immigrants speaking little or no English has declined by 12 percentage points since 2006 (from 38% to 26%) and 19 points since 1993 (from 45%).”

Let me offer some informed speculation as to why the outlook of most Americans so strongly differs from Trump’s and Trump’s base and why Americans as a whole are becoming more sympathetic toward immigrants. Many of Trump’s red-state supporters, as I have observed, come from states with a minuscule number of illegal immigrants. They’ve decided that these people are dangerous and are out to steal their jobs, based on very little firsthand experience. In 2016, Pew found that in states such as Kansas and South Carolina, the number of illegal immigrants was quite small and shrinking (95,o00 in 2009 to 75,000 in 2009 in Kansas, out of a population of nearly 3 million; 100,000 to 85,0000 in South Carolina, out of a population of more than 4.8 million.) In Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s home state of Alabama, the number went from 80,000 to 65,000 — out of more than 4 million people. In short, much but not all of the staunch opposition to both legal and illegal immigration comes from less-populated, rural states with few immigrants.

By contrast, in states with huge illegal-immigrant populations, which have become part of the fabric of society (California, New York, New Jersey, Illinois), the attitude toward immigrants is positive, and becoming more so as more Americans interact, work and live with immigrants — and intermarry as well. Even in Texas, where Republican politicians remain obsessed with deportation, “Three-fifths of the registered voters surveyed in the poll said they would continue the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program. Just 30 percent said the program should end.” (You may recall that Republicans along the border disfavored the wall.)

In sum, the country’s overall view of immigrants and even illegal immigrants is improving since a high percentage of Americans live in heavily populated states with large numbers of immigrants (both legal and illegal). As a percentage of the population (and thereby reflected in the polls). more people are having experience with more and more immigrants; it has changed their view of these Americans.

Trump’s base and the GOP is disproportionately rural and therefore comes in contact far less frequently with actual immigrants. They’re content to blame immigrants — or are riled up to do so by Trump — for social and economic woes that may have in reality virtually nothing to do with immigrants. The population in these states is declining, and with that the number of rabid anti-immigrant voters, although their intensity is soaring.

11) The rise of college grade forgiveness in the Atlantic.  I remember several years ago NC State made it absurdly easy to just remove a single bad grade or two from your transcript (the earlier, far more sensible policy, required a re-take of a bad grade you earned as a freshman).  Now we just let you drop two bad grades, because…?

12) Nice interview with no-longer-Republican, Steve Schmidt.

13) “Abolish ICE” has hit a critical point.  It is definitely no longer a fringe position (and deservedly so).  Brian Beutler:

“Abolish ICE” is catching on because of a widespread and accurate belief that it’s a cruel, rogue agency. And even if the goal of actually abolishing the agency goes unmet, a party unified in hostility to a government agency can have a huge impact on its functioning. Republicans have channeled their antipathy towards the IRS into starving the agency of funds, which has had a huge impact on the agency’s ability to enforce tax law. A tamed ICE that wasn’t engaged in mass raids and deportations would be an improvement over what we’ve got now.

14) Just this week, my son and I were talking about how athletic performance declines with age.  I thought peak was mid-20’s, it’s actually early 20’s.  Though baseball-specific, this is a fascinating look at the issue.  And how experience counter-acts physical decline, to a degree.

15) Recently read Theory of Bastards and really enjoyed.  Nothing like near-future bonobo fiction.

16) Pretty unsurprisingly, both Democrats and Republicans are pretty awful at estimating the actual demographics of the other party (and, I suspect, innumeracy is a huge part of this).  For what it’s worth, I was within a couple percent in my estimates of all of these.

17) This article argues that you really cannot trust negative on-line reviews.  Actually, I think they can be really helpful.  If the only negative reviews, for example, are from people who clearly have not even figured out how to properly use the product, than you are onto something.  On a related note, really enjoyed this Planet Money about fake positive reviews.  Been having a lot of fun with reviewmeta since.

18) Of course Trump’s economic adviser Larry Kudlow is egregiously lying to the American public about deficits.

19) How our brains fall for false expertise.  And how to stop it.

20) Paul Waldman, “No, Ocasio-Cortez’s victory isn’t bad for the Democratic Party.”

21) Who are you pulling for in the World Cup?  My favorites are Belgium and Mexico.

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