You are your choices

Sorry for the slow blogging when there’s so much good stuff to blog about.  Teaching 3 hours a day (Maymester summer course) on a course that needs updating sucks up a lot of time.  So, until Maymester is over, it’ll be slow.

That said, gotta comment on Trump’s proposed budget.  Not only is it wantonly cruel, it’s absurdly short-sighted.  Not that any of that surprises me.  The Post:

President Trump’s 2018 budget request to Congress seeks massive cuts in spending on health programs, including medical research, disease prevention programs and health insurance for children of the working poor.

The National Cancer Institute would be hit with a $1 billion cut compared to its 2017 budget. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute would see a $575 million cut, and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases would see a reduction of $838 million. The administration would cut the overall National Institutes of Health budget from $31.8 billion to $26 billion…

The slashing of programs that normally have enjoyed bipartisan support is part of the Trump administration’s effort to trim trillions of dollars in spending over the next decade while at the same time paying for tax cuts and increases in military spending…

But the document posted late Monday shows that blow-back from that earlier budget request did not dissuade the administration from its strategy of cutting nonmilitary discretionary spending to pay for tax cuts and a boost in the Pentagon budget.

Why would we want to invest in healthy children or combatting cancer when there’s rich people who need tax cuts?!

Milbank:

So it has come to this: A Russian government-funded propaganda outfit schooling the Trump administration on the cruelty of its proposed federal budget.

Mick Mulvaney, President Trump’s budget director, unveiled Trump’s ghastly 2018 budget proposal Monday afternoon in the White House briefing room, and one point of pride was that it proposed that the child-care tax credit and the earned-income tax credit — benefits for working families — be denied to illegal immigrants. “It’s not right when you look at it from the perspective of people who pay the taxes,” Mulvaney declared.

But Andrew Feinberg, a reporter with Russia’s Sputnik news outfit, pointed out that many of the children who would be cut off under Trump’s proposal are U.S. citizens. “Whether they’re here illegally or not,” Feinberg noted, “those families have American-citizen children.”

Mulvaney, who probably didn’t know he was being interrogated by Sputnik, argued back, saying that Feinberg wasn’t duly considering taxpayers and that “we have all kinds of other programs” for poor kids.

At this, another reporter in the room interjected: “You’re cutting that, too.”

It was a bizarre scene: An organization financed by Vladimir Putin’s regime, in the White House, lecturing a Trump administration official. (Maybe they aren’t “colluding” after all.) But Trump’s budget is such that it leaves this White House’s credibility on a par with (or perhaps below) that of a Russian propaganda outfit.

The budget claims it balances the budget over a decade without touching Social Security and Medicare, while spending more on national security, the border, infrastructure and more.

How? The budget would eviscerate aid to the poor, and it makes preposterous assumptions about future growth. In other words — a cruelty wrapped in a lie. Mulvaney on Monday acknowledged it’s a “fair point” that Congress will ignore the proposal. But this outrage deserves attention.

Yep.  This is who Trump is.  This is who the modern Republican party is.  Tax cuts (and lies) über alles.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Two (!) Texas Tech professors have decided to run for Congress in the very red district.  Good for them.  They’re going to lose– but worth it for Democrats to fight the fight.

2a) The Young America Foundation is bankrolling a lot of the conservative speakers roiling college campuses.  Not a fan.  That said, I have greater antipathy towards those who think the solution is to deny free speech to others.

2b) On a related note, students at Illinois prevented a representative from ICE from speaking to a Sociology class.  Seriously?!  Wrong and pathetic.

3) Speaking of conservative speakers, a really, really interesting deconstruction of Charles Murray’s IQ research.

4) It’s actually been a few years since my son Alex cracked an Ipad screen, hooray!  And when I looked at the prices to buy him a new one I was amazed at what a great deal the latest Ipads are.

5) Jennifer Rubin sees the Trump catastrophe as the downfall of a generation of Republicans.  I think she’s wrong– political memories are short, but I enjoyed reading it:

Pence might reach the presidency to fill out his boss’s term if Trump is forced out, but it is hard to imagine him ever achieving that office on his own. Many will have concluded that he is either too dim and gullible or too dishonest for the presidency. Moreover, his decision to sign on as Trump’s VP and vouch for his character will be powerful evidence of rotten judgment and a permanent stain on his record.

In that regard, Pence is hardly alone. Either during or at the end of his first term, Trump’s presidency will end, voluntarily or not. (No matter how strong the economy might be, a president waist-deep in scandal and unable to accomplish major legislative initiatives is likely to face primary and/or general-election defeat in a reelection bid or decline to seek re-election.) When the party — or what remains of it — looks for leadership, where will it turn?

Not to the likes of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) or Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), who opportunistically backed Trump after declaring his unfitness. Not to the likes of Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), who became Trump’s palace guard, vouching for Cabinet secretaries and refusing to denounce conflicts of interest and possible violations of the Constitution’s emoluments clause. Come to think of it, any Republican who failed in his or her constitutional duty of oversight, continuing to turn a blind eye toward wrongdoing and to rationalize Trump’s conduct, should be disqualified from high office, if not shunned by conservatives. (As for the House members who thought Trump’s chumminess with Russia was humorous, one can only marvel at their gross hypocrisy in get-tough-with-Russia rhetoric.) We can count on one hand the number of lawmakers who have not committed gross political malpractice either by acts of commission or omission since Trump was elected (even if one excuses endorsing an obviously unfit person for president).

6) Paul Waldman on Pence, “Mike Pence wants us to believe he’s innocent. Don’t buy it.”

7) What I find most amazing about the Trump calls Comey a “nut job” thing is that somebody in possession of the notes on this leaking the fact.  It’s like a boat with a bunch of cannonball-sized holes in it.

8) Point I’ve been making a lot lately, and Julia Azari does a great job with here– impeachments are inherently about politics, not the law.

9) Who owns the space between reclining seats on an airplane?  Pretty clear the person in front who has the option to recline does.  That said, I’ve always thought these people were selfish jerks.  I never recline.

10) Wisconsin’s Voter ID law really is horrible and makes it way too hard to vote for way too many people (again, because there is virtually no in-person voter fraud to prevent anyway!).

11) And a great Fresh Air interview with Ari Berman on the voter fraud fraud.

12) Last night, my kids were asking be about why animal shelters euthanize animals.  Apparently, in the Pacific Northwest there’s a lot less euthanasia going on.  This has led to an informal network of transporting animals to shelters there.

13) Good piece from Zack Beauchamp on how Mike Flynn is central to bringing Trump down.  It really is pretty amazing:

President Donald Trump loves Michael Flynn. His ardor hasn’t faded despite the fact that the biggest scandals engulfing the Trump administration right now trace back to the disgraced former national security adviser, or that their very closeness is sparking growing talk of impeachment. If anything, all of that seems to be making Trump love Flynn even more.

Trump has loved Flynn for a long time. In November, he loved Flynn enough to appoint him to be his national security adviser despite knowing that Russia had paid Flynn $45,000 to attend a dinner with Vladimir Putin. Trump loved him enough to keep him on despite, as the New York Times reported late on Wednesday, Flynn informing the Trump transition in early January that he was under FBI investigation for secretly lobbying on behalf of the Turkish government.

Trump loves Flynn enough to stick with him even after acting Attorney General Sally Yates warned the administration, on January 26, that Flynn had lied to the vice president about his interactions with the Russian ambassador and could potentially be blackmailed by the Kremlin. Trump loves Flynn so much that even after he was finally forced to fire him for said lies on February 14, he defended the man’s integrity in a press conference.

“Michael Flynn — General Flynn — is a wonderful man,” the president said in a press conference on February 15. “I think he’s been treated very, very unfairly by the media.”

Trump loves Flynn so much that the same day of that press conference, he ordered everyone out of the room after a top-level meeting on counterterrorism — except FBI Director James Comey. Trump then asked Comey, pretty bluntly, to drop the Flynn investigation.

14) Brooks on the Trump administration talent vacuum.  What kind of smart, ambitious conservative would want to throw his lot in with the Trump administration at this point?  Exactly.  So the guys we’re getting are not exactly the A team.

15) The “motivated ignorance” of Trump supporters is not at all suprising, but pretty amazing to behold, just the same:

If you’re looking for an explanation for why Trump’s support is so solid among his base — and why it will remain so stubbornly high — read this piece by the Associated Press, where the reporters asked Trump supporters how they’re handling the wave of scandals.

“I tuned it out,” Michele Velardi, a 44-year-old in Staten Island, told the AP of the recent news. “I didn’t want to be depressed. I don’t want to feel that he’s not doing what he said, so I just choose to not listen.”

16) Not the first time I’ve read about Finnish baby boxes.  Pretty cool idea (obviously awaiting your take, Mika.)

17) Conor Friedersdorf on how the anti-anti Trump pundits dodge Trump criticism:

But defending what Trump says or does is often impossible. Americans can’t help but know that he didn’t win the popular vote; draw more people to his inauguration than Barack Obama; act wisely in appointing Michael Flynn; execute well in that first executive order on travel; or accomplish more in his first 100 days than any other president.

Americans can’t help but see that he is erratic, and that his domestic agenda has stalled bigly. He can claim that no politician has ever been treated more unfairly. But we can’t help but know that Ronald Reagan was shot and that John F. Kennedy was killed.

That’s why pro-Trump and anti-anti-Trump commentators have adapted.

As the weeks pass, they spend less time making positive arguments for the president and more time hiding behind the talking point that his critics are overwrought. Unhinged. Hysterical. Suffering from Trump Derangement Syndrome. Don’t look here, at the president who shared too much information with Russian diplomats in an Oval Office meeting. Look there at an excessive reaction to it…

The approach is inseparable from the web era. No matter how bad a Trump blunder, someone can be found overreacting to it or otherwise losing their cool on social media. In fact, social-media feeds disproportionately expose us to the most over-the-top takes, making it seem as if they reflect the median reaction even when that is far from true…

More honest Never Trumpers are driven by any number of things; but I wonder if part of the posture that some have taken these last months is ultimately a defense mechanism. How depressing and unnerving to fully confront the unfitness of the president.

How tempting to evade the terrible truth.

18) Somehow I missed this excellent Atlantic article from a year ago about how Rutgers-Newark does a way better job recruiting and graduating minority students by eschewing the lower standardized test scores which often have way less predictive value with this group.

19) Oh man do I love this letter from a pastor to Franklin Graham.

Here’s the thing, Frank. At the last judgment, Jesus doesn’t ask anyone about who they voted for, how many times they have been divorced, what their sexual history or orientation is or for whom they did or did not bake wedding cakes. His sole concern is for how we treated the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the imprisoned, those deemed “least” among us. No, I didn’t get that from any private chat with God. We small church pastors have to rely on the Bible for our intel. I got this stuff from the Gospel of Matthew, 25th Chapter to be precise. As I said, that, too, is in the Bible. (It’s a great book, Frank. You should read it sometime.)

19) Really, really like this (long!) Daniel Engber piece on social-psychologist, Daryl Bem and ESP and what it means for psychology (long been a fan of Bem and self-perception theory, and even used it in my own work way back when).

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 I)

1) Mike Pesca’s interview with Clint Watts on Russia was among the most enlightening experts I’ve read/heard on the matter.

2) Really interesting story on how Google has taken over classrooms– and universities in a different way.  I love google’s system at NCSU.  I have an @ncsu.edu account that’s actually gmail and unlimited Google drive space.  It all works great for me.  Interesting issues in K-12, though.

Mr. Casap, the Google education evangelist, likes to recount Google’s emergence as an education powerhouse as a story of lucky coincidences. The first occurred in 2006 when the company hired him to develop new business at its office on the campus of Arizona State University in Tempe.

Mr. Casap quickly persuaded university officials to scrap their costly internal email service (an unusual move at the time) and replace it with a free version of the Gmail-and-Docs package that Google had been selling to companies. In one semester, the vast majority of the university’s approximately 65,000 students signed up.

And a new Google business was born.

Mr. Casap then invited university officials on a road show to share their success story with other schools. “It caused a firestorm,” Mr. Casap said. Northwestern University, the University of Southern California and many others followed.

This became Google’s education marketing playbook: Woo school officials with easy-to-use, money-saving services. Then enlist schools to market to other schools, holding up early adopters as forward thinkers among their peers.

The strategy proved so successful in higher education that Mr. Casap decided to try it with public schools.

3) Yes, to hard-right Republicans every health problem is your own damn fault.  Sure diet plays a role in type II diabetes, but genetics plays a hell of a big role, too.

4) Speaking of which, dialysis is just  a giant profit machine in America.  John Oliver is on the case.

5) Julia Azari and 538 friends on how even the biggest scandals cannot break through party identity.

But, at least historically speaking, even the biggest scandals don’t wash away partisanship.

We went back and looked at key congressional votes during three relatively recent periods in which a president was accused of wrongdoing: Watergate(Richard Nixon), Iran-contra (Ronald Reagan) and the Monica Lewinsky scandal (Bill Clinton). Two trends stick out. First, partisanship still matters. And in a big way. Second, when defections do come, they’re more likely to come from the centrist wing of a party.

6) Catherine Rampell on the stupidity of Trump’s “prime the pump” tax plan.

7) On why proper etiquette when addressing professors is important:

The facile egalitarianism of the first-name basis can impede good teaching and mentoring, but it also presents a more insidious threat. It undermines the message that academic titles are meant to convey: esteem for learning. The central endeavor of higher education is not the pursuit of money or fame but knowledge. “There needs to be some understanding that degrees mean something,” Professor Jackson-Brown said. “Otherwise, why are we encouraging them to get an education?”

The values of higher education are not the values of the commercial, capitalist paradigm. At a time when corporate executives populate university boards and politicians demand proof of a diploma’s immediate cash value, this distinction needs vigilant defense.

The erosion of etiquette encourages students to view faculty members as a bunch of overeducated customer service agents. “More and more, students view the process of going to college as a business transaction,” Dr. Tomforde, the math professor, told me. “They see themselves as a customer, and they view knowledge as a physical thing where they pay money and I hand them the knowledge — so if they don’t do well on a test, they think I haven’t kept up my side of the business agreement.” He added, “They view professors in a way similar to the person behind the counter getting their coffee.”

8) This is important– “how home ownership became the engine of racial equality.”  These were policy choices made that dramatically disadvantage Black families through today.

9) Vox took a look at how right-wing media covered the week in Trump scandals.  Squirrel!

10) Duck ramps are awesome.  Amazing lede:

Political turmoil rocked the nation’s capital again on Tuesday evening as politicians from both parties responded to President Trump’s — you know what, never mind. This is a story about ducks.

And a worthwhile expense of taxpayer dollars.  NC Congressman opposing is just an idiot– great comments to him on twitter.

11) Speaking of Republicans unfairly attacking ducks, duck sex is actually an absolutely fascinating area of study within evolutionary biology.  If you don’t know the wonders of duck penises and vaginas (serious), it’s time you learn.

12) William Ayers on the misguided search for ideological purity in college speakers.  He makes a really good case, but I think I would argue against inviting James Watson in the first place.

13) Are men with bears more desirable?  Yes (mostly), says science.  Somebody tell my wife.  She hates mine, but puts up with it for 5/12 of the year.

14) Thomas Friedman gets it with this column (emphases in original):

Since President Trump’s firing of F.B.I. Director James Comey, one question has been repeated over and over: With Democrats lacking any real governing power, are there a few good elected men or women in the Republican Party who will stand up to the president’s abuse of power as their predecessors did during Watergate?

And this question will surely get louder with the report that Trump asked Comey in February to halt the investigation into the president’s former national security adviser.

But we already know the answer: No…

That’s why the only relevant question is this: Are there tens of millions of good men and women in America ready to run and vote as Democrats or independents in the 2018 congressional elections and replace the current G.O.P. majority in the House and maybe the Senate?

Nothing else matters — this is now a raw contest of power.

15) There’s a war between the Washington Post and the New York Times over breaking new scoops on Trump and the American public is the winner.  If you don’t already, you should strongly consider subscribing to at least one.  I could actually have lower-priced educational subscriptions, but I pay the regular rate because I believe in supporting the highest quality journalism.

16) If you are into public opinion polling, this report from Pew on the impact of low response rates on telephone surveys (not all that much, for the most part) is really good.

17)  National Review’s Kevin Williamson needs to tell conservative readers that newspapers are not actually fake news.

18) Jonathan Turley makes the case that the Comey memo is far from the standard of impeachable offense on Trump’s part.

19) Radley Balko on what Mississippi owes a 13 year-old! wrongly convicted and coerced into a false confession.  A hell of a lot more than the nothing he’s getting:

NBC News has published a long story about Tyler Edmonds, a Mississippi man convicted in the 2003 murder of his half sister’s husband. Edmonds and his half sister Kristi Fulgham were both convicted of the crime.

The NBC News story is mostly a look at the limits of the laws states have passed to compensate the victims of wrongful convictions. Most of these laws prohibit victims who contributed to their own convictions from getting compensated, a stipulation that tends to ensnare people convicted because of false confessions. (Edmonds initially confessed, then retracted his confession a few days later.)

This sort of exception to compensation laws is really unfair. It discounts all of the coercion and manipulation that can go into a false confession. In fact, there’s some evidence that innocent people are especially likely to confess under conditions such as prolonged interrogation, sleep deprivation and threats of additional charges. This is because in the moment, they calculate that a confession will at least end the interrogation, and because they’re innocent, the evidence will eventually exonerate them.

But Mississippi’s refusal to compensate Edmonds is particularly troubling for a few reasons. First, there’s Edmonds’s age. He was 13 when he confessed.

Oh, and that’s just the beginning of the wrongness in this case.  I think I might rather be tried in many a third-world country than Mississippi.  Disgusting.

20) In a normal week, the behavior of Turkey’s thugs would be a much bigger story.  So wrong.  And it is deplorable that the Trump administration has not condemned this.  Jennifer Rubin:

Turkey behaves this way in part because Trump ignores, even rewards (by praising an arguably stolen election) bad behavior. He is not putting American values or interests first. He has allowed himself to be “played,” just as he has been by Russia by setting up assistance in the fight against the Islamic State as the sole concern of U.S. foreign policy. This simplistic, inept brand of foreign policy sprinkled with admiration for thuggish leaders has become standard operating procedure in an administration without vision, experience or conscience.

21) Pence’s credibility ain’t looking so great these days.

22) Louisiana looks to become somewhat less an outlier in mass incarceration.  But damn if they are going to let out those feeble, old prisoners to terrorize us!

But in a deal announced on Tuesday, Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) agreed to drop the proposal to offer early parole to geriatric prisoners in exchange for state district attorneys’ support for easing penalties for nonviolent offenders — changes that aim to reduce Louisiana’s prison population by 10 percent in a decade.

It’s a landmark agreement for Louisiana, which locks up residents at a rate twice the national average, making it the country’s biggest jailer per capita. An unusual coalition of business and political leaders, religious groups and liberal activists has been working to end the state’s ignominious distinction with a package of bills that would shorten some prison sentences, prevent certain nonviolent offenders from going to prison and expand eligibility for parole.

23) Jill Lepore on how impeachment ended up in the Constitution.

24) Don’t always love Matt Taibbi, but when it comes to writing about the life of Roger Ailes (“one of the worst Americans ever”), he’s perfect.

He is on the short list of people most responsible for modern America’s vicious and bloodthirsty character.

We are a hate-filled, paranoid, untrusting, book-dumb and bilious people whose chief source of recreation is slinging insults and threats at each other online, and we’re that way in large part because of the hyper-divisive media environment he discovered.

Ailes was the Christopher Columbus of hate. When the former daytime TV executive and political strategist looked across the American continent, he saw money laying around in giant piles. He knew all that was needed to pick it up was a) the total abandonment of any sense of decency or civic duty in the news business, and b) the factory-like production of news stories that spoke to Americans’ worst fantasies about each other.

25) I don’t deal with too many hyper-involved college parents (but FB’s on this day reminds me of the few occassions I’ve posted about it), but I don’t doubt that it’s a growing problem.

Photo of the day

From a recent Atlantic photos of the week gallery:

A streak of light trails off into the night sky as the US military test fires an unarmed intercontinental ballistic missile at Vandenberg Air Force Base, some 130 miles (209 kms) northwest of Los Angeles, California early on May 3, 2017. 

Ringo Chiu / AFP / Getty

Marijuana, alcohol, and stupid corporate policies

From Wonkblog:

Workers at McLane drive forklifts and load hefty boxes into trucks. The grocery supplier, which runs a warehouse in Colorado, needs people who will stay alert — but prospective hires keep failing drug screens.

“Some weeks this year, 90 percent of applicants would test positive for something,” ruling them out for the job, said Laura Stephens, a human resources manager for the company in Denver. 

The state’s unemployment rate is already low — 3 percent, compared to 4.7 percent for the entire nation. Failed drug tests, which are rising locally and nationally, further drain the pool of eligible job candidates.

“Finding people to fill jobs,” Stephens said, “is really challenging.”

Job applicants are testing positive for marijuana, cocaine, amphetamine and heroin at the highest rate in 12 years, according to a new report from Quest Diagnostics, a clinical lab that follows national employment trends. An analysis of about 10 million workplace drug screens from across the country in 2016 found positive results from urine samples increased from 4 percent in 2015 to 4.2 percent in 2016.

The most significant increase was in positive tests for marijuana, said Barry Sample, the scientist who wrote the report. Positive tests for the drug reached 2 percent last year, compared with 1.6 percent in 2012.

Although state laws have relaxed over the past four years, employers haven’t eased up on testing for pot, even where it’s legal.

You know what they are not testing for?  Alcohol.  A drug that virtually every scientist who studies drugs and addiction thinks is more problematic than alcohol.  Should you operate a forklift while high on marijuana?  Hell no.  Should you operate a forklift if you smoked a joint the previous night?  I cannot see any reason why not.  Nobody stops you from operating that forklift if you had a six-pack or bottle of wine the previous night.

Why can’t companies just use a little common-sense.  If drug use interferes with your job; no job.  If it doesn’t, what the problem?  What’s really dumb is the blanket assumption that any non-alcohol drug use should prevent you from having a job.

Not a child?

David Brook’s column this week comparing Trump to a child was great.  Yglesias makes an interesting argument– Trump is not a child, but the living embodiment of the spoiled, unaccountable rich person that American culture creates.  Personally, I thin they are both right.  Yglesias:

The truth is that Trump is no child. He’s 70 years old. And he’s not just any kind of 70-year-old. He’s a white male 70-year-old. A famous one. A rich one. One who’s been rich since the day he was born. He’s a man who’s learned over the course of a long and rich life that he is free to operate without consequence. He’s the beneficiary of vast and enormous privilege, not just the ability to enjoy lavish consumption goods but the privilege of impunity that America grants to the wealthy…

Donald Trump is not a toddler

My 2-year-old son misbehaves all the time. The reason is simple: He’s a toddler.

He stuck his foot in a serving bowl at dinner Tuesday night. He screams in inappropriate situations. He’s terrified of vacuum cleaners. He thinks it’s funny to throw rocks at birds. He has poor impulse control and limited understanding of the consequences of his actions.

But he’s also, fundamentally, a good kid. If you tell him no, he’ll usually listen. If you remind him of the rules, he’ll acknowledge them and obey. He shows remorse when his misdeeds are pointed out to him, and if you walk him through a cause-and-effect chain he’ll alter his behavior. Like all little kids, he needs discipline, and he’s got a lot to learn. But he is learning, and he has some notion of consequences and right and wrong.

Trump is not like that — at all… [emphasis mine]

What’s beyond question, however, is that Trump’s expressed view that a rich and famous man like him can get away with anything is both sincere and largely correct. From his empty-box tax scam to money laundering at his casinos to racial discrimination in his apartments to Federal Trade Commission violations for his stock purchases to Securities and Exchange Commission violations for his financial reporting, Trump has spent his entire career breaking various laws, getting caught, and then essentially plowing ahead unharmed. When he was caught engaging in illegal racial discrimination to please a mob boss, he paid a fine. There was no sense that this was a repeated pattern of violating racial discrimination law, and certainly no desire to take a closer look at his various personal and professional connections to the Mafia.

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