Photo of the day

Wired’s photo of the week:

A three-car crash ends in a blaze of fire but no major injuries during the Nascar Cup Series Go Bowling 400 at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas.SEAN GARDNER/GETTY IMAGES

Quick hits (part II)

1) As I’m currently reading Anne-Marie Slaughter’s Unfinished Business, I found this NYT Op-Ed about the role of daughters in providing care to aging parents quite interesting and quite relevant (and on the bright side, I have a daughter):

As Washington debates the relative merits of Obamacare or Trumpcare, many families have already come up with what is arguably the most reliable form of care in America: It’s called daughter care.

The essential role that daughters play in the American health care system is well known but has received little attention. But some health care analysts are beginning to sound the alarm about the challenges women face as caregivers — not just for children but for aging parents — often while holding full-time jobs.

This week, the medical journal JAMA Neurology highlighted a looming crisis for women and their employers: the growing ranks of dementia patients who will end up relying on family members, typically daughters, for their care.

“The best long-term care insurance in our country is a conscientious daughter,” wrote the authors, all of whom are fellows at Stanford University’s Clinical Excellence Research Center, which studies new methods of health care delivery.

2) Thomas Edsall takes on the AHCA, “The Republicans don’t feel your pain.”

3) Evan Osnos on Trump and Comey:

That Trump believed he could fire the person leading law enforcement’s Russia investigation without a meaningful response from another branch of government is a sign of his unfamiliarity with the separation of powers, and, most perilous to himself, an enduring notion of impunity. Before entering the White House, Trump operated by a principle that, as he put it in a moment of “locker room” candor, “When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.” The Constitution disagrees, and, by firing Comey and making a baldly contestable claim to his motives, Trump has invited a new investigation into why he took that step, how he described his reasoning, and whether it represents an abuse of office.

4) So apparently there’s a service you can get that will send telemarketers to a talking robot that keeps them on the line with carefully placed “hmmm” “uh-huh” etc., as long as it can to waste their time.  Okay, I’m not paying for it, but it makes me happy just knowing it exists.

5) Julia Azari and Seth Masket on how Congress must be the check on Trump to prevent a Constitutional crisis.

6) Are their any political creatures more craven and narrow-minded that NC Republican state Senators.  Possibly not.

7) Yes, there really is a four-year old living in the White House.  Trump insists he gets more ice cream scoops than his guests.  Seriously.  What a tiny, pathetic little man.  The fact that anybody supports him truly demonstrates just how powerful partisanship is (and that there’s a lot of other small-minded people out there).

8) Philip Bump on the “one little number” that is all the protection Trump needs.  Yes, yes, yes.

Those engaging in such speculation [about impeachment], though, are warned: There’s one little number that makes such a move unlikely. That number is 84 percent, Trump’s job approval rating among Republicans in the most recent weekly average from Gallup.

9) I think it is cool just how incredibly fast fidget spinners have become the lastest fad.  NYT with a timeline of just how fast they blew up.  And, yes, I’m using one right now while.

10) Thomas Mills on the two North Carolinas:

The Carolina I live in today has a vibrant downtown with plenty of restaurants and a healthy merchant class. Our schools are among the best in the state and some are ranked among the best in the nation. We have well-groomed parks, bike trails, bus service and sidewalks. We’re fifteen miles from a major airport and both north-south and east-west interstates are just minutes away. Our crime rate is low and our biggest struggles concern balancing growth with maintaining our quality of life.

In contrast, the Carolina where I was raised is losing population and the unemployment rate is above the state as a whole. The downtown of Wadesboro is a shell of the place where I sold newspapers and bought everything from clothes to bicycles to baseball gloves. A major artery connecting downtown to Highway 74, the major road running through the county, stayed closed for more than year because the town didn’t have resources to repair a collapsing bridge. Other towns in the county are essentially empty, devoid of any businesses other than a convenience store or two…

Republicans claim their tax cuts have led to magazines citing North Carolina as among the best states for business. That may be true, but those national publications are talking about places like the Triangle, the Triad, and Charlotte, not places like Anson County, Scotland County or Wilkes County. The GOP budget has hung those places out to dry…

In many of those areas, the state is the largest employer, but the Senate would stop providing health insurance to state government retirees for anybody joining the state workforce after 2020. That’s a great recruiting tool.  It’s like throwing an anchor to a sinking boat.

If rural North Carolina is going to catch up and compete they need a serious investment in infrastructure including broadband internet, not more tax cuts.

11) In recent years I’ve become convinced the key to the greatest success in men’s college basketball is getting not the best recruits– who invariably leave after only a year– but, the next best recruits (say, roughly those ranked 25-50) who are still really good but much more likely to give you 3-4 good years of basketball.  Gary Parrish with a nice piece arguing essentially this.

12) Great Charlie Sykes column on how so many conservatives have simply become anti-liberal:

If there was one principle that used to unite conservatives, it was respect for the rule of law. Not long ago, conservatives would have been horrified at wholesale violations of the norms and traditions of our political system, and would have been appalled by a president who showed overt contempt for the separation of powers.

But this week, as if on cue, most of the conservative media fell into line, celebrating President Trump’s abrupt dismissal of the F.B.I. director, James Comey, and dismissing the fact that Mr. Comey was leading an investigation into the Trump campaign and its ties to Russia. “Dems in Meltdown Over Comey Firing,” declared a headline on Fox News, as Tucker Carlson gleefully replayed clips of Democrats denouncing the move. “It’s just insane actually,” he said, referring to their reactions. On Fox and talk radio, the message was the same, with only a few conservatives willing to sound a discordant or even cautious note…

But perhaps most important, we saw once again how conservatism, with its belief in ordered liberty, is being eclipsed by something different: Loathing those who loathe the president. Rabid anti-anti-Trumpism…

actions, his conservative champions change the subject to (1) the biased “fake news” media, (2) over-the-top liberals, (3) hypocrites on the left, (4) anyone else victimizing Mr. Trump or his supporters and (5) whataboutism, as in “What about Obama?” “What about Clinton?”

For the anti-anti-Trump pundit, whatever the allegation against Mr. Trump, whatever his blunders or foibles, the other side is always worse.

But the real heart of anti-anti-Trumpism is the delight in the frustration and anger of his opponents. Mr. Trump’s base is unlikely to hold him either to promises or tangible achievements, because conservative politics is now less about ideas or accomplishments than it is about making the right enemies cry out in anguish.

13) Dahlia Lithwick with Laurence Tribe’s case for impeachment regarding the Comey firing.

14) Why everything we know about salt may be wrong.

15) Of course the Trump administration and Betsy DeVos are doing all the wrong things on student debt:

But with a series of regulatory changes, the Trump administration is taking us in the wrong direction, making student loans riskier, more expensive and more burdensome for borrowers.

First, the Education Department has weakened accountability for the companies that administer student loans. Second, it has made it more difficult for borrowers to apply for, and stay enrolled in, income-based payment plans. Third, Betsy DeVos, the education secretary, has given banks more leeway to charge borrowers high fees — as much as 16 percent of the balance owed — if they fall behind.

16) The Atlantic’s Adam Serwer and Peter Beinart on Comey.  Both really good takes.

17) Donald Trump wants steam catapults on aircraft carriers, damnit!  If it was good enough for Maverick and Ice Man…

18) Honestly, it never ceases to amaze how breathtakingly ignorant Donald Trump is about policy and how incoherent he is when attempting to discuss it.  Yglesias breaks down his recent Economist interview.

19) Big 538 piece on the long, complicated story behind all the false voter fraud claims from the right.

Quick hits (part I)

1) More evidence of the ongoing damage of environmental lead.  As Brendan Nyhan says (and Drum, of course):, “Can’t believe lead removal and mitigation isn’t a first-order policy concern.”  Yep.

2) Ed Yong on the evolution of beauty in animals, and the always-fascinating story of duck sex.

3) Pretty sure my undergrads could tear apart this pretty anemic “rich people always get better stuff” defense our Republican health care.

4) Economists who believe in Trump’s approach to supply side economics (tax cuts pay for themselves through greater economic growth) = economists who misread the question.

5) The Russian experiment to tame foxes is so fascinating and deserves the wider audience this book should bring it.

6) I hope it’s actually good, because I’m pretty sure I’m going to see Blade Runner 2049 no matter what.

7) How the damn anti-vaxxers created a measles outbreak in Minneapolis.

8) Yascha Mounk throws a glass of cold water on happiness over Macron’s win:

But while it’s only natural to be relieved, this is no time to get complacent. On the contrary, there are four reasons why the triumphalist narrative that is already taking hold in the aftermath of the French elections is understating the populist threat to liberal democracy…

Finally, and most important, a lot of the commentary on the rise of populism is treating the success of candidates such as Trump as though they were the result of a mysterious virus that might subside just as quickly as it spread. But to make this argument is to close our eyes to the fact that the current challenge to the political system has been steadily growing over time—which suggests that it has deep, structural causes.

9) I presume I missed this two years ago, but nice to see Columbia Journalism Review give credit to the terrific (and incredibly rare) state politics coverage from our local TV station, WRAL.

10) So, somehow I had never read the famous 1948 short story, “The Lottery.”  Alexandra Petri has, and she has a lot of fun with it.  Well worth reading both.

11) Will Saletan with all the ways Republicans are trying to defend the AHCA.  A lot of explanation that really comes down to one thing: lie.  

12) Catherine Rampell makes the case that Trump’s policies are basically waging a war on Millennials.

13) Warren Buffett appreciates the biggest long term threat to our economy– health care:

Mr. Buffett, in a remarkably blunt and pointed remark, implicitly rebuked his fellow chief executives, who have been lobbying the Trump administration and Washington lawmakers to lower corporate taxes.

In truth, Mr. Buffett said, a specter much more sinister than corporate taxes is looming over American businesses: health care costs. And chief executives who have been maniacally focused on seeking relief from their tax bills would be smart to shift their attention to these costs, which are swelling and swallowing their profits.

It was clarifying to hear Mr. Buffett frame things this way. The need for corporate tax relief has become the lodestar of the corner office, with C.E.O.s rhapsodizing over President Trump’s plan to try to stimulate growth by cutting tax rates for businesses.

14) The key to Trump’s win… white turnout up; Black turnout down:

15) With Comey, it’s easy to forget the mess that is Michael Flynn and Trump’s failure to fire him after he knew he was compromised by the Russians.

16) In no surprise at all, cultural anxiety– not economic concerns– where key in white working class voting for Trump.  German Lopez with summary of PRRI report:

The new survey, by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) for the Atlantic, focused on white working-class voters (those without a college education or salaried jobs), who were part of the key demographic behind Trump’s rise. It looked at how much of their support for Trump correlated with, among other factors, “fears about cultural displacement” — a polite way of describing fears of immigrants from other countries and people of other races.

PRRI concluded: “White working-class voters who say they often feel like a stranger in their own land and who believe the U.S. needs protecting against foreign influence were 3.5 times more likely to favor Trump than those who did not share these concerns.”  [emphasis mine]

17) This interactive dialect map is from 2013 and I probably shared it then, but a friend recently posted on FB and it is so amazing how accurate this is.  It pegged me to Arlington, VA– just miles from my childhood home of Springfield, VA.

18) Good thing Jessica Colotl has had her DACA status revoked and is being sent back to Mexico.  Just the kind of person who is ruining this country.  And, oh my, this 60 Minutes story about the woman married to an illegal immigrant who voted for Trump because she didn’t think her husband was a “bad hombre.”  Ugh.

19) Dylan Matthews on how liberals can improve the tax code.

20) Okay, I really don’t know enough history on the matter to say “worst Attorney General ever,” but now Sessions wants to re-up harsher punishments on low-level drug offenders.

21) Very much enjoyed Friedersdorf’s practical political advice for liberals.

22) David Leonhardt on how the French media got the leaks right and American media didn’t:

The two cases obviously are not identical. (And van Kote wasn’t criticizing American journalism; the criticisms are mine.) But they are similar enough to say that the French media exercised better, more sober judgment than the American media.

This issue isn’t going away. Our digital world ensures that the private information of public figures, and not-so-public ones, will be released again in the future.

The media cannot always ignore that information, tempting as it may seem. But it also should not pretend that the only two options are neglect and sensationalism. There is a middle ground, one where journalistic judgment should prioritize news over the whiff of news.

23) The Census is important.  The director quitting in protest is not good.

24) The 13-year old Spanish girls soccer team that beat all the boys.  At younger ages, there’s really no reason girls teams shouldn’t be able to beat boys.  13 is probably about the last age this could happen.

25) The nationalist/populist right can only do as well as the center-right will let it.  In France, that was a huge loss.  In the U.S., the mainstream right gave it the presidency.

26) Congratulations to EMG (or actually, EGW now) on her lovely wedding yesterday evening.  My guess is she’s not spending her post-wedding morning catching up on quick hits– but she better get to it.

Quick hits (part II)

1) This is really cool– there’s a a reason that Americans smile so much:

But there’s an interesting line of research that helps explain outliers on the other end of the spectrum, too: Specifically, Americans and their stereotypically mega-watt smiles.

It turns out that countries with lots of immigration have historically relied more on nonverbal communication—and thus, people there might smile more…

After polling people from 32 countries to learn how much they felt various feelings should be expressed openly, the authors found that emotional expressiveness was correlated with diversity. In other words, when there are a lot of immigrants around, you might have to smile more to build trust and cooperation, since you don’t all speak the same language.

2) The prosecutor in the Cameron Todd Willingham case may be sanctioned.

3) When it comes to birds, a little brain packs a big punch.

4) A longer post I’ve been meaning to write.  Increasingly the lesson of the Trump presidency is just, lie, lie, and lie some more.

5) Here’s a thought… more drug treatment, less drug punishment.  Some NCSU research:

A recent study finds that even small, day-to-day stressors can cause an increase in illegal drug use among people on probation or parole who have a history of substance use. The study could inform future treatment efforts and was conducted by researchers at North Carolina State University, the University of Texas, the Schroeder Institute for Tobacco and Policy Studies, the Truth Initiative, Gateway Foundation Corrections and Texas Christian University.

“Our findings suggest that drug and alcohol treatment are valuable tools for those on parole or probation, and that even if people relapse, the treatment helps them limit their substance use over time,” [emphasis mine] says Sarah Desmarais, an associate professor of psychology at NC State and co-lead author of a paper describing the work.

6) I’ve always thought the most amazing thing about elite marathoners is how fast they are running for two hours straight.  I can probably barely run that fast period.  I do like this idea in Wired of seeing how long you can actually maintain the 13.1 mph pace.

7) Great NYT editorial on the phenomenal wrongness of our current cash bail system:

As a result, poor people charged with a misdemeanor end up stuck behind bars, while people with money who are charged with the same offense walk free.

The county’s lawyer defended this policy by arguing that poor defendants — who are disproportionately black and Latino — stay in jail not because they can’t buy their way out but because they “want” to be there, especially “if it’s a cold week.” Judge Rosenthal called this despicable claim “uncomfortably reminiscent of the historical argument that used to be made that people enjoyed slavery.”

The real explanation is straightforward: As cash bail has fueled a politically influential, multibillion-dollar industry, courts are relying on it more, and people who can’t afford it are getting locked up at ever greater rates. Judge Rosenthal noted that only two decades ago, less than one-third of people in Texas jails were awaiting trial; today, it’s three-quarters. Forty percent of all misdemeanor defendants in Texas are locked up until their cases are resolved, at a huge cost to the state, and most because they can’t afford bail.

8) Philip bump points out that the AHCA breaks pretty much every promise Trump made on health care.  Raise your hand if you’re surprised.

9) Richard Skinner with a nice assessment of Trump so far:

Instead Donald Trump increasingly seems to be governing like a conventional Republican president—albeit one who is showing signs of incompetence and contempt for governing norms. He is maintaining the existing cleavages on economic and cultural issues that define our party system, while adding a new one based on immigration and race. Republicans had already been trending in a restrictionist direction on immigration for about a decade—going back to the congressional revolt against George W. Bush’s “amnesty.”  It’s relatively easy for Trump to impose his will on immigration; much can be done through executive action, and few Republican constituencies would be upset by a wave of deportations. Around the world, there are plenty of right-of-center political parties that take a hard line on immigration.

So far, Trump has largely prioritized the most traditionally Republican items on his agenda. His one major accomplishment has been the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. His greatest defeat has been the failure of the American Health Care Act—the ignominious outcome of years of GOP war against the Affordable Care Act. Trump’s budget was written by an OMB director taken from the House Freedom Caucus, and with its draconian cuts in domestic spending, reads almost like a caricature of conservative governance. His Cabinet is mostly filled with Republican stalwarts. His economic proposals are heavy on tax cuts and deregulation. His abrupt shifts on Syria, NATO, and China have been mostly in the direction of GOP orthodoxy. By contrast, his populism has been almost entirely limited to rhetoric.

Quick hits (part I)

1) I miss James Surowiecki, but Adam Davidson is a great replacement at the New Yorker.  Nice column on the absurdity of Trump’s “buy American” executive order:

Snap-on Tools is actually a good example of why Buy American is a fairly meaningless phrase. It is no easy feat to find a product manufactured entirely of material from the U.S., produced by people in the U.S., using tools made in the U.S. In this sense, the executive order recognizes that no blanket order to buy only American will work. The products we buy are made of raw materials transformed into intermediate goods that are then assembled into a finished product. It’s not possible, or even advisable, to insure that an entire production chain will occur in one country. So a politician who wants to increase the percentage of American-made content in the products that are sold here needs to dig deeper. How will the U.S.-made content of a good be defined? Will it be by weight, by dollar value, by labor hours involved? Each metric would have different findings. A car’s bulk, for example, is primarily made up of steel, aluminum, and glass produced by huge machines with not much labor. However, some of the smaller, fussier bits are made by hand in the U.S. Gas tanks, for example, because of strict emissions laws, are surprisingly complex and require a lot of engineering and manual assembly and are often made in the U.S. A gas tank might be relatively cheap and light, but for American workers it’s worth a lot more than many tons of steel. Very quickly, any discussion of the U.S.-made content of any product will turn to the value of intellectual versus physical content…

There is a real problem in the American economy. For much of the twentieth century, there was a wind at the back of working people—a steady increase in jobs, wages, and opportunity for those with basic education and a willingness to put in a hard day’s work. We have shifted from the era of good work for many to the age of the hustle, where those with luck, good connections, education, and ambition can do far better than their grandparents could have dreamt, while those without see their incomes stagnate or fall and face a future filled with doubt. A sober and serious look at the U.S. economy leads, inevitably, to the conclusion that we haven’t cracked this problem yet. In place of serious consideration from the White House, we have absurdist, self-contradicting theatrics.

2) Very cool NYT Magazine feature on how Singapore is creating more land for itself.

3) Small potatoes, but so telling.  Local government knows best; except when the Republican legislators in Raleigh know better.  Again.

4) Jason Lloyd on improving the relationship between science and society.

5) Got into an interesting discussion about racism and Trump based on this Monkey Cage posting looking at 2016 ANES data.  Just measuring racial resentment, the big difference is that Democratic voters now score way lower, not that Republicans were higher in 2016.  That said, I think the key fact is that racial resentment is presumably more important in impacting vote choice than it was prior to Obama.

6) Max Fisher on why North Korea is such a damn difficult problem.

7) Not at all surprised to learn that– not just high school students– but college students don’t learn so great at 8:00am either.  Only 8am class I ever had was teaching one– Intro to American Government in my 2nd year at Texas Tech.

8) I’m basically not a baseball fan at all anymore.  But I used to be, and thus I very much enjoyed this 538 article on how the “save” statistic ruined relief pitching and how it should be replaced.

9) And let’s stick with sports to mention how much I love this concept for fixing the awful endings of so many basketball games.  I learned about it from this Slate sports podcast where it was discussed.  I especially enjoyed Josh Levin’s point that the end of hockey games becomes even more hockey and is great.  In contrast to the end of basketball ruining what we love about the sport.

10) Seth Masket on Trump’s poor record of accomplishment:

The Republican Party, although enjoying control over a great many governments within the United States right now, is facing a significant crisis in that it can’t translate its ideals into law. The one notable legislative success of the Trump administration’s first hundred days — Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch — is the exception that proves the rule. He was a person sent by the White House, rather than a bill formulated in a chamber that’s hostile to democratic lawmaking procedures. There was no negotiation over who he was; it was simply a matter of a yes or no vote.

Writing laws isn’t nearly that easy. Even if Ryan and Trump get better at it, they have significant hurdles to overcome.

11) Found this article about why America has fewer IUD choices than other developed countries surprisingly interesting.  Mostly, because it’s another example of us just being worse at sensible policy.

12) Good on Prince Harry for fighting against the stigma on mental health.

13) It’s entirely possible I shared this when it came out 2 years ago, but I really do like Aaron Carroll’s simple rules for healthy eating.

14) Really liked this Op-Ed entitled, “My Daughter Is Not Transgender. She’s a Tomboy.”

Quick hits (part I)

1) I’m glad I never quick-hitted this “do millennial men want stay-at-home wives” piece because it was so thoroughly debunked here.

2) Evidence for democracy in early Meso-American societies.

3) Totally buy that filling up escalators with two people standing on every step is way more efficient for moving large numbers.  Alas, try getting Americans with our cultural ideas of personal space to do that.

4) In case you missed the fabulous LA Times anti-Trump editorial:

What is most worrisome about Trump is Trump himself. He is a man so unpredictable, so reckless, so petulant, so full of blind self-regard, so untethered to reality that it is impossible to know where his presidency will lead or how much damage he will do to our nation. His obsession with his own fame, wealth and success, his determination to vanquish enemies real and imagined, his craving for adulation — these traits were, of course, at the very heart of his scorched-earth outsider campaign; indeed, some of them helped get him elected. But in a real presidency in which he wields unimaginable power, they are nothing short of disastrous.

Although his policies are, for the most part, variations on classic Republican positions (many of which would have been undertaken by a President Ted Cruz or a President Marco Rubio), they become far more dangerous in the hands of this imprudent and erratic man.

5) Hua Hsu says we shouldn’t want perfect robot referees.  I am entirely unpersuaded.  For example, you cannot completely take the referee out of soccer, but we should so have a chip in the ball and every player– no more bad offside calls for starters.

6) Excellent Emily Bazelon and Eric Posner (what a combo!) take on the problem with Gorsuch’s views on the administrative state.

7) This long, informative piece on the history of Republicans totally bogus war on almost totally non-existent voter fraud is really, really good.  Surprise– it’s in Politico.  I definitely learned stuff (or re-learned stuff I had forgotten).

8) Terrific and interactive NYT feature on how Uber uses psychological techniques to get more out of its drivers.

9) Greg Sargent with the headline captures it all, “Why is Trump flailing? Because Americans hate his agenda, and it’s based on lies.”

10) Pretty cool story and video on Seattle’s giant tunnel boring machine breaking through after 3 years.

11) Excellent Jennifer Victor post on how modern partisanship is all about hating the other side and how that makes functional politics so much harder.

12) Since I do a lot of research on the gender gap it’s always especially important for me to control for religiosity as women are always more religious than men.  Yet, I’ve never really come across much seeking to explain that.  Until this Pew interview:

Can you explain in a little more detail what exactly you’re talking about when you suggest a possible biological basis for religious differences between men and women?

I’m not an expert in genetics, but there appears to be some fairly compelling evidence (for example from studies of twins) that genes do affect our disposition to be religious. And if that’s the case, it’s at least plausible that the gender gap in religiosity is partly a matter of biology. If true, though, I doubt that it’s because there’s a “God gene” and women are more likely to have it than men. It seems easier to believe that physiological or hormonal differences could influence personality, which may in turn be linked to variations in “spirituality” or religious thinking…

Does this mean that Christianity is more appealing to women than to men, and if so, why do you think this is the case?

Christianity presents itself as a religion of the powerless: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Depending on your point of view, that’s appealingly feminine or appallingly effeminate. Friedrich Nietzsche wrote in his characteristically abrasive way that women need “a religion of weakness that glorifies being weak, loving, and … humble as divine.”

It’s true that some religions are more appealing to women – or men – than others. If we look at alternative spirituality, some varieties attract mostly women and others are of more interest to men. (Satanism falls into the latter category.) Christianity, too, comes in many forms, to such an extent that it is difficult to generalize about its appeal. The more patriarchal versions are possibly better at keeping men involved. Where men are mostly responsible for public worship, as in Orthodox Judaism and Islam, then of course the gender gap will look different. Overall, though, I doubt that there are important differences between the major world religions in their appeal to men and women. They have all survived and thrived for centuries.

13) Love this story about high school journalists who busted their new principal’s fake degree (and shame on the school system for ever hiring her!!)

14) Never been a fan of the filibuster and I won’t cry to see it go.  Good take.  Even better, though, was how JP introduced this column in his FB share:

I agree, but would go further. The filibuster is an anti-democratic tool of obstruction and unaccountability, and the Senate would be better off without it. However, the Senate itself is an anti-democratic tool of obstruction and unaccountability, as Madison argued at the convention, and also needs to go if we really care about representative democracy.

Sorry to be short and late.  In Chicago learning fascinating new developments in Political Science.  Or something like that.  If you need more to read, just find a copy of Sapiens.

Or wait, if you are not DJC, you probably haven’t read the great Atlantic piece on Woolly Mammoths and climate yet.  It is as good as DJC told me (read it on the plane here).

Quick hits (part II)

1) I’ll use this article about a feud in the Lacks family (as in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks) to say that I thought the book was way over-rated.  Would’ve made a nice New Yorker article.  Massive overkill as a book.  Also, if for some reason some cells from my mom had been cultured and still alive, the fact would mean absolutely nothing to me.

2) This headline really says enough, “Since 2007, the DEA has taken $3.2 billion in cash from people not charged with a crime.”

3) Garrett Epps is not pleased with Neil Gorsuch:

I fear that Gorsuch’s opaque manner actually does not hide, but rather displays, his jurisprudential philosophy. There is a strain of conservative legal philosophy (by no means the only one, but a powerful one) that regards the role of courts as blocking the naïve progressive impulses of the people—poor fools, using individual mandates and Medicaid expansions to construct a modern health care system! Thinking that labor unions contribute to prosperity! Falling for politically correct gabble about feminism and homophobia or whatever the latest fad may be!—and substituting the mature judgment of the high court. Some thinkers on the right now insist that a judge’s duty is to decide whether economic and social regulation is wise, and strike it down if, in the judge’s opinion, it is not. Faced with demographic and political irrelevance, a strain of right-wing thought sees the courts as the final firewall of a laissez-faire economic order.

Of course, the decisions gutting progressive measures are to be couched in soothing neutral language of law—nothing to see here, I just call balls and strikes.

I caught a whiff of that philosophy when Gorsuch insisted, over and over, he was an entirely non-political being who had sprung immaculate from the brow of Lady Liberty. He is simply a judge, he said over and over—a job which calls, apparently, for neither values nor any firm connection to human life as it is lived. Judges just, well, you know, Senator, judge; they channel the brooding omnipresence of reason and then reach results without a thought for the so-called real world the rest of us must live in.

4) Socially conscious investment fund fires their legal firm for enabling Trump’s kleptocracy.

5) All that DHA in baby formula now– no evidence it actually makes any difference.  Human milk and developing baby brains are complicated stuff.

6) Do we have to be so needlessly cruel with undocumented immigrants?  Yes, in Trump’s America.

7) OMG I love how Ashley Feinberg lays out how she step-by-step uncovered James Comey’s secret twitter account.

8) Amazing– NCAA has made a decision that’s better for fans of women’s college basketball than for ESPN’s ratings.

9) Drum with my favorite take on Trump and science:

The problem with science is (a) it’s bo-o-o-o-o-ring, (b) it’s depressing, and (c) it often clashes with stuff you want to do. Really, it’s just a bummer all around. Why on earth would anyone want to staff the egghead department, anyway?

10) Speaking of science, it’s pretty damn insidious how Republicans are trying to limit the EPA’s ability to use it.  TNR with the best description I’ve read about how they make it sound good, but it’s really awful:

The bill, introduced by Texas Republican Lamar Smith, requires the EPA to only use scientific studies for which all data is publicly available and the results are easily reproducible. This is much harder to do than it sounds. Many public health studies use private medical data, while others contain trade secrets and industry data. Moreover, public health studies are impossible to reproduce when, say, they’re based on one-time pollution events or on people who have died since the study was conducted.

David Stevenson, a member of Trump’s EPA transition team, told me last week that the HONEST Act would be instrumental in preventing regulations of carbon dioxide and other pollutions. “Almost everything that has been done in the last 10, 11, 12 years would not pass the standards [under the bill],” he said. “The Clean Power Plan, ozone regulations, particulate matter regulations—everything has been built on science that has not been peer-reviewed, that the data’s not visible, or that there’s only been one person doing the study.”

11) Accentuate the positive— almost certainly good for not just your mental health, but your physical health as well.  Science!  I don’t know if it’s making my youngest son any healthier, but our daily oral gratitude journal seems to be making a difference.

12) Seth Masket is right– gerrymandering is a too convenient scapegoat.  Most of the problem lies in natural sorting of residential patterns.  That said, I’m not sure Masket would have written this quite the same if he live in North Carolina.

13) Cassidy on the Trump White House as the Keystone Kops:

Today, there are still plenty of reasons to be concerned about Trump and his illiberalism. The White House’s recent decision to dismantle President Obama’s clean-air regulations offers fresh testament to the malevolence of the Trump Administration’s agenda, and next week’s meeting between Trump and Xi Jinping, China’s President, will be a reminder of the enormous responsibilities that rest on a President’s shoulders. But, even among ardent Trumpophobes, fear and foreboding have been supplemented by wonderment at the White House’s string of gaffes. These days, instead of Big Brother, it often looks like the Keystone Kops are in charge.

14) Frank Schaeffer argues that Democrats should forget about trying to persuade Trump voters with facts (agreed), it’s all about emotion.

15) Law professor in Vox on just how unfair to women– and probably illegal– Mike Pence’s “never dine alone” standard is.  Not to mention horribly offensive.  And pathetic.  Lots of great mockery on twitter this week.

16) But you can’t beat the Onion, “Mike Pence Asks Waiter To Remove Mrs. Butterworth From Table Until Wife Arrives.”

17) I got to talk to Joe Nocera this week– very cool.  And got one anodyne quote his recent Bloomberg column on the HB2 semi-repeal and the power of college basketball in NC.

18) I think Drum is right– Tom Price is a scandal just waiting to blow up.  The man is shamelessly unethical.

19) Really enjoyed this piece on Dan Monson, the man who got Gonzaga basketball rolling before Mark Few led them to perennial power status.  Monson left for more money and a more prestigious job– as pretty much all coaches do when given the chance– but things have worked out way better for Few.

20) Finally read the big Robert Draper piece about Trump, his advisers, and Congress.  Lots of good stuff.  Worth your time.

21) I’ve got lots of women friends and always have.  Actually, my wife started out as a female friend– admittedly, I wasn’t married at the time.  Anyway, in light of the Pence stuff, I particularly enjoyed this piece on the matter.  Personally, I couldn’t imagine not having female friends:

And how, without occasionally going out for a sandwich, could a married man ever make or keep female friends?

Because I was raised in a Southern Baptist community in Texas, the answer to that last question is still ingrained within me: a married man simply shouldn’t have female friends. It’s not necessary or proper. That’s what plenty of people I grew up around might say. Men and women are meant to serve God in a contained, organized partnership. Intimacy of any sort leads to sexual temptation; a man’s wife is the only woman outside of his birth family who should rightfully play a meaningful role in his life…

But it’s one thing to avoid a particular situation involving a particular woman who makes you feel a certain way; it’s another entirely to avoid all women as a group and as a rule because of the abstract possibility of sexual temptation. It’s telling, and extremely disheartening, that many people can’t tell the difference—that knowing the best thing to do for your partnership and subscribing wholesale to an idea about gender that calcifies woman as secondary could plausibly seem like the same thing. The Pence approach rules out a lunch meeting or a professional dinner with a woman.

22) We need to take the college dropout problem more seriously.  Among other things, colleges being more flexible can help.

23) Damn Trump, Sessions, and company are so dumb about immigration.  I used to have a friend (moved away) who was a highly-skilled college graduate, but she couldn’t work here because here husband was on an H1B.  The Obama administration wised up on that and let spouses work.  Now, Trump is looking to undo that, of course.  The result– smart, motivated people who would grow our economy (it’s not zero sum!!!) will not be able to work.

24) This Kristoff column on Trump voters who realize his policies are screwing them, but that they are still loyal to Trump is just painful.  The persistent theme seems to be they all thought when Trump talked about cutting stuff, it would only be cuts for brown people.

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