The internet lives under the ocean

Oh, man, this NYT photo-essay of how the internet lives under the ocean is so cool.  Here’s a still of the growth of cables over time.  And the story also talks about the shipboard work of laying the ocean cables.

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Raise your kids without anger– Inuit style

One of the most interesting things about being a parent is how you realize that your kids can make you angrier than anybody’s ever made you in your life.  Somehow few things in life are ever as infuriating as your own kids.  But, your the parent and you’ve got to control it.  Amazingly, the Inuit have a whole culture of parenting and raising children that largely avoids anger.  It’s pretty damn fascinating.  Really great NPR story on it:

Briggs quickly realized something remarkable was going on in these families: The adults had an extraordinary ability to control their anger.

“They never acted in anger toward me, although they were angry with me an awful lot,” Briggs told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. in an interview…

For instance, one time someone knocked a boiling pot of tea across the igloo, damaging the ice floor. No one changed their expression. “Too bad,” the offender said calmly and went to refill the teapot.

In another instance, a fishing line — which had taken days to braid — immediately broke on the first use. No one flinched in anger. “Sew it together,” someone said quietly…

Across the board, all the moms mention one golden rule: Don’t shout or yell at small children.

Traditional Inuit parenting is incredibly nurturing and tender. If you took all the parenting styles around the world and ranked them by their gentleness, the Inuit approach would likely rank near the top.(They even have a special kiss for babies, where you put your nose against the cheek and sniff the skin.)

The culture views scolding — or even speaking to children in an angry voice — as inappropriate, says Lisa Ipeelie, a radio producer and mom who grew up with 12 siblings. “When they’re little, it doesn’t help to raise your voice,” she says. “It will just make your own heart rate go up.”

Even if the child hits you or bites you, there’s no raising your voice?

“No,” Ipeelie says with a giggle that seems to emphasize how silly my question is. “With little kids, you often think they’re pushing your buttons, but that’s not what’s going on. They’re upset about something, and you have to figure out what it is.”…

Traditionally, the Inuit saw yelling at a small child as demeaning. It’s as if the adult is having a tantrum; it’s basically stooping to the level of the child, Briggs documented.

Elders I spoke with say intense colonization over the past century is damaging these traditions. And, so, the community is working hard to keep the parenting approach intact…

Now at some level, all moms and dads know they shouldn’t yell at kids. But if you don’t scold or talk in an angry tone, how do you discipline? How do you keep your 3-year-old from running into the road? Or punching her big brother?

For thousands of years, the Inuit have relied on an ancient tool with an ingenious twist: “We use storytelling to discipline,” Jaw says.

How America increasingly accepts corruption

This, from Franklin Foer is great, “We’re Losing the War on Corruption: Paul Manafort and Felicity Huffman are twin avatars of an elite that still acts with impunity.”

In fact, the lawyers had a point. Manafort is being sent to prison for crimes that are systemic, hardly hidden, and usually elicit little more than a yawn or shrug. [bold is mine; italics in original] According to a Justice Department report in 2016, there had been seven prosecutions for failure to comply with FARA since 1966. What makes this figure so galling is how many eminent ex-government officials have served as “strategic advisers” to dictatorial governments.

They might represent foreign governments, but technically do not lobbyCongress on their behalf; they make millions, while never subjecting their work to public scrutiny—or themselves to personal embarrassment…

Or take the more rampant problem of tax evasion. While Manafort will serve time for failing to pay his bills to the government, armies of lawyers and accountants are feverishly devising novel methods of enabling the rich to cheat the IRS, depriving the U.S. of nearly $200 billion in revenue each year. As one old joke holds, the difference between tax avoidance (which is legal) and tax evasion (which is not) is the wall of a prison.

This is the same pattern made visible by the college admissions scandal. The public gets inflamed over a supposedly outrageous piece of behavior that is really not so far from the standard elite procedure. When a wealthy donor contributes $10 million to a university, imagining that their child will someday attend, administrators call it a “gift” and applaud the gesture of philanthropy. But it is, in effect, institutionalized bribery, and it creates new templates of moral behavior. It makes recognizing as wrong under-the-table payments to college coaches harder for parents, when these payment so resemble the gift-giving they see officially sanctioned.

America never had an edenic period, when the country resided in a state of pristine civic virtue. But the past half century has ushered in an era of rank indifference to the perils of corruption and bribery. Not so long ago, the United States had a far more robust definition of what counted as a bribe. That broad definition constrained the growth of the American lobbying industry. Back in the 1960s, lobbying hardly existed in Washington—at least not in the form and on the scale that we now know it. The ledger of officially registered lobbyists extended into the high double digits. By the 1990s, the population of lobbyists had swelled to well over 10,000.

If Americans are more comfortable living in a world of bribery, perhaps it’s because American jurisprudence has legalized so much of it…

Paul Manafort also helped invent this world. He pioneered the structure and practices of the modern K Street lobbying firm. At each step in his career as a lobbyist and consultant, he kept pushing the boundaries of the acceptable, because his experience had shown that he would always get away it. Until Robert Mueller came along, Manafort had every reason to believe that he would never pay a price for his malfeasance. The fact that he will now serve time is a victory in the war against corruption; that he will encounter so few of his own kind in prison is a testament to the fact that we are still losing the war.

Meanwhile in a remotely normal political world

It would be an ongoing and huge scandal that access to the president was being sold off by the owner of some highly-questionable “massage parlors.”  Alas, we live in the present one where our system is clearly so overwhelmed by the pervasiveness of Trump’s malfeasance that it literally cannot cope.  Seriously, ask yourself for moment not just what Fox News would have looked like, but also the network broadcasts and the cover of the NYT if Obama or Clinton (or Bush) had been wrapped up in something like this.  Michelle Goldberg, at least, is on the case:

Even if you’re an avid follower of the news, it’s hard to keep track of Donald Trump’s scandals. The president’s singular governing innovation has been to engage in grift so baroque, so galactically expansive, that trying to comprehend it all at once tests the limit of the human mind. Revelations that would have been shocking in the world we all lived in a few years ago — for example, news that the president overruled his staff to insist on security clearances for his fashion designer daughter and her husband — now take up half a news cycle, at most.

Still, it’s worth trying to summon whatever is left of our pre-Trump sensibilities and pause to consider the epic sleaze of the unfolding story of Li Yang, also known as Cindy Yang.

Yang, in case you haven’t heard of her yet, is a Florida businesswoman whose family owns a chain of massage parlors that, as The Miami Herald put it, “have gained a reputation for offering sexual services.” Last month, Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots and a close friend of and donor to Trump, was charged with two counts of soliciting prostitution at a spa Yang founded, Orchids of Asia. (She reportedly sold it around 2013, but online reviews indicate it was known as a place to buy sex before that.)…

According to Mother Jones, she claimed to have gotten her clients into the most recent New Year’s Eve party at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort. The Herald reported that Yang arranged for a group of Chinese businessmen to attend a Trump fund-raising event in 2017 in Manhattan at which tickets, which foreigners can’t legally pay for, started at $2,700. Her Chinese-language website, which appears to have been taken down, said she was hosting a conference at Mar-a-Lago later this month; Trump’s sister was listed as the guest speaker.

News that the owner of a chain of dubious massage parlors was brokering foreign access to the president of the United States should be a big deal. It has the potential to be a sex scandal, an intelligence scandal and a financial scandal all at once.

“There are profound national security implications to this kind of relationship,” Jeffrey Prescott, a senior director on the National Security Council under Barack Obama, told me. “It goes to the obvious opportunities that foreign governments and interests are going to see to have influence over this president because of the way that he’s arranged his business practices.”

Of course, given that Trump as president is already a sex scandal, intelligence scandal, and financial scandal all at once, we are largely out of additional outrage.  But we shouldn’t be.

Trump’s budget

No, it won’t become law.  But a lot of politics is symbols and a budget is a big giant symbol of what the Trump administration believes is and is not important.  John Cassidy:

I’ve noted before that Donald Trump lives by a famous dictum from Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi propagandist: “When one lies, one should lie big, and stick to it.” (Goebbels attributed this tactic to the English.) And the President has outdone himself with his Administration’s new budget proposal for the 2020 fiscal year, which is entitled “A Budget for a Better America: Promises Kept. Taxpayers First.”

“Promises kept” has a particularly nice ring to it. Almost as nice as what Trump said on that fateful day, June 16, 2015, when he descended the escalator at Trump Tower. “Save Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security without cuts,” he declared. “Have to do it.” Throughout the Republican primary campaign, Trump repeated this pledge many times and also accused his G.O.P. opponents of wanting to slash the three big entitlement programs. In the general-election campaign, he stuck to the same mantra. A few days before Election Day, he suggested that Hillary Clinton wanted to “destroy” Medicare, the public health-care system for the elderly, which she had vowed to expand, and claimed that he alone would “protect” it.

So how does the “Budget for a Better America” treat Medicare and the other programs that Trump vowed to safeguard at all costs? By calling for even larger cuts to them than the White House proposed this time last year, when it formally abandoned Trump’s campaign pledges. The budget for the 2019 fiscal year called for five hundred and fifty billion dollars in cuts to Medicare over ten years. With the budget deficit skyrocketing as a consequence of the Trump-G.O.P. tax bill, the 2020 budget would reduce spending on Medicare by eight hundred and forty-five billion dollars over the next decade. Even in Washington, that’s a lot of money.

The cuts to Medicare would be imposed as the budget allots billions of dollars a year in extra spending to the Pentagon and another $8.6 billion for Trump’s wall along the southern border…

The budget treats Medicaid, the federal health program for poor people and children, in even more draconian fashion. Reflecting a long-standing priority of the Republican Party, the budget would convert Medicaid into a decentralized system administered by the states and financed by federal block grants. By indexing these grants to the consumer price inflation, which rises more slowly than inflation in the health-care sector, the budget would substantially reduce the federal-spending commitment going forward. In addition, it would eliminate funding that the Affordable Care Act provided for individual states to expand Medicaid to more recipients—funding that more than thirty states have taken advantage of in recent years…

It is true that, these days, White House budgets often don’t amount to much. Effectively, they are extended wish lists, which the spending authorities on Capitol Hill often set aside, especially when the government is divided, as it is now. But even a White House wish list is a significant document, because it expresses the spending priorities of the Administration and the President. In this instance, those priorities run directly counter to the message that Trump conveyed on the campaign trail.

No surprise there, you might say. It’s been clear from the beginning that Trump was selling snake oil and that his pledge to protect the safety net was about as valuable as a certificate from Trump University. But it is instructive, nonetheless, to see his mendacity expressed in cold numbers

When a bill won’t become a law

I really love this article in the N&O.  It’s a pretty regular feature of political news to read a variation of, “a bill to do this horrible thing has been filed!”  I don’t know about the statistics for state legislatures, but only 5% of bills filed in Congress every do anything at all.  Most bills are filed and never heard from again.  So, any sorts of “oh, my, look what this bill will do” is great for clicks, but not for too much else.  So, love that this N&O article works to put all this in perspective for readers (even if they are as guilty as anyone of clickbait “teachers with guns!!” headlines):

Watching news reports, you might think that handing out guns to teachers is this year’s top priority. A Charlotte TV newscast recently featured the eye-popping headline that “we are one step closer to allowing teachers to carry guns in North Carolina schools” because a bill “passed its first reading” in the House.

But the headline was false because “first reading” is a meaningless procedural step. First reading is when a bill’s title is read aloud on the floor of the legislature, and it gets assigned to committees. Nearly every bill ever filed has “passed its first reading.”

Second reading and third reading are where lawmakers actually vote, and previous proposals to arm teachers haven’t made it to that step. In the off-chance the gun proposals get through the House and Senate, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper will veto them, and Republicans no longer have enough votes to override his vetoes.

House leaders know this, and last week, that chamber unanimously approved a package of school safety measures that deliberately avoided anything gun-related: No armed teachers, but no gun control either.

Browsing the legislature’s website from Charlotte in search of outlandish bills is a recipe for misleading or downright inaccurate news stories — or at least an excessive focus on bills that are going nowhere.

Last session, nearly 2,000 bills were filed, but only 360 actually became law. [emphases mine] Some of those that fell short were unpopular, but others simply lacked the legislative muscle to get through the process. “There are more than 1,000 bills that are probably the right policy for the state of North Carolina that are going to die in the General Assembly this session,” said Sen. Ralph Hise, R-Mitchell, at a recent NC Insider panel discussion.

But how can you tell which bills have a real shot — and are therefore worth advocating for or against? Here’s what to look for if you do your own research:

Who’s sponsoring it? If the bill sponsor is a member of the GOP leadership team or the chair of a relevant committee, odds are good that the bill will pass at least one chamber. Committee chairs are powerful because once a bill is directed to their committee, they get to decide if and when it gets a vote — or if it’s dead on arrival.

If the bill is a partisan proposal sponsored only by Democrats, or if it’s sponsored by a fringe figure on the right, the proposal is likely already dead.

Is the proposal a re-run? Many persistent legislators file the same bills every session. While the political climate does occasionally shift, bills that went nowhere last session will likely suffer the same fate this year. Examples include repealing permit requirements for guns and reinstating the earned income tax credit.

Did it go straight to the Rules Committee? All bills eventually make a stop in the powerful House and Senate Rules committees, but the committees also often serve as leadership’s dumpster for unpopular proposals. This year, bills to arm teachers and “nullify” the federal legalization of gay marriage went directly to House Rules without other committee assignments. Odds are that they’ll die there.

Of course, these are nice NC-specific explanations, but the same goes for other states in terms of looking who is sponsoring the bill (party, leadership, etc.), procedural hurdles, past bills, etc.

Why health care reform is so hard, NC edition

Well, first of all credit to our Republican NC Treasurer, Dale Folwell for trying to hold down ever-rising health care costs in the state by placing limits on what the State health insurance plan (what I’m on) will pay out.  In this case, 177% of Medicare reimbursement rates.  Even 177% of Medicare is less than hospitals and providers typically get from private insurance and they are not happy.  So, we get to see a perfect demonstration of where the real power in the health care debate lies.  From the N&O:

A plan to save state employees money on their health insurance expenses is facing opposition at the General Assembly over fears it could harm hospitals all around North Carolina, particularly in rural areas.

A bipartisan group of legislators are backing a bill that would stop changes to the State Health Plan that are set to start on Jan. 1, 2020. But if the bill becomes law it would put off the changes until at least 2022, if not permanently.

Robert Broome, the executive director of the State Employees Association of North Carolina, said his group “strongly opposes this bill, which is a clear attempt to put corporate interests over working families and deny taxpayers a cost savings of more than $300 million each year.”

At stake is a question over how hospitals and other health care providers are paid whenever one of the more than 700,000 people on the State Health Plan go in for medical care. Those include state employees, teachers, retirees and their families.

State Treasurer Dale Folwell, a Republican who won the 2016 election for that office, has backed reforms.

His plan, which is now being challenged by this bill, would create a system in which hospitals are paid 177 percent — or nearly double — of what they would’ve earned if the person had been on Medicare instead of the State Health Plan…

Folwell says his changes would save state employees and other members of the health planmore than $60 million a year in out-of-pocket costs, in addition to saving state taxpayers more than $300 million a year.

On Thursday he slammed the bill that would undo that cost-savings plan.

“As keepers of the public purse, we don’t have millions of dollars to spend on advertising and lobbying,” Folwell said in a written statement. “What we offer is devotion to good government and a promise to the people that we will do everything in our power to attack the problem and make health care more affordable and transparent for public employees.”

But hospital leaders say Medicare rates are too low for the plan to work, and that Folwell’s changes could be the final blow forcing some struggling hospitals in rural areas to shut down for good. [emphasis mine]

To be fair, I don’t know the financial situation of NC’s rural hospitals, but I don’t think the State health insurance plan over-paying for everything is the solution.  And it is not at all dissimilar from the corporate claims you get that every single new tax increase or new regulation will bring economic disaster.  And who doesn’t like rural hospitals?  It’s almost like the puppies of the health care debate.  Give us more money, or the puppies get it!

Anyway, lots more stuff in the article, and I’m pretty curious to see what happens here (okay, the hospitals will win), but this is a great example why meaningful health care reform is so hard.  Some people will make less money and they really, really don’t like that.

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