Friday, July 29, 2022

Six years ago at the blog: We should have paid more attention to the right-wing's reaction to those Planned Parenthood "sting" videos

To be honest, I'd forgotten all about this story until I came across this old post.

Friday, July 22, 2016

When catharsis becomes an end to itself

Ed Kilgore does a good job summarizing an important aspect of the GOP convention.
On Wednesday night, Team Trump deliberately provoked what can only be described as a lose-lose confrontation with Ted Cruz that created a nasty and divisive scene overshadowing the maiden speech of the vice-presidential nominee. With each such decision, you get the impression the people in charge of this convention have forgotten that the real "arena" is the general election, and that their real audience is an electorate far beyond this bowl seething with unaccountably angry delegates.

Otherwise it's hard to credit the constant, interminable, over-the-top feeding of red meat to the crowd, beginning with Willie Robertson's first-night taunting of people who are not "real Americans." It may be understandable that speakers are tempted to interact with the people on the floor howling for Hillary Clinton's incarceration, but the job of convention managers is to remind them that these people are TV props — ignore them and remember the whole world's watching!

It's almost as though the Trump people are treating the convention as the culmination of the mogul's campaign: an opportunity to glory in their extremely unlikely conquest of one of America's two major parties, to gloat over the shattered Establishment that's being forced to accept them, and to shake their fists at the unbelievers who still mock their orange-tinted champion. That there is still a difficult election ahead and that this convention is a priceless earned-media opportunity to reach out beyond their own ranks seems to be lost on this wild show's organizers and participants.

This unwillingness or inability to shift the focus from the base to a broader audience is something we've been discussing for a long time. Here's a representative post from last year.

Planned Parenthood, channeled information and catharsis

This recent TPM post about the looming government shut-down ties in with a couple of ideas we've discussed before. [Emphasis added]

Facing a Sept. 30 deadline to fund the government, GOP leaders in both chambers decided they would fast-track standalone anti-abortion bills in an effort to allow conservative Republicans to express their anger over a series of “sting” videos claiming to show that Planned Parenthood is illegally harvesting the tissue of aborted fetuses. The leadership hoped that with those votes out of the way, the path would be clear for long-delayed bills to fund the government in the new fiscal year, even if those bills contained money for Planned Parenthood.

But anti-abortion groups and conservative House members are not backing down from their hard line. They are reiterating that they will not vote for bills that include Planned Parenthood funding under any circumstances, despite the maneuvering by leaders to vent their outrage over the videos. If anything, anti-abortion groups are amping up the pressure on lawmakers not to back down from the fight.
Here's what we had to say about the GOP reaction to those videos a month ago.

Fetal tissue research will make most people uncomfortable, even those who support it. If you were a Republican marketer, the ideal target for these Planned Parenthood stories would be opponents and persuadables. By contrast, you would want the videos to get as little play as possible among your supporters. With that group, you have already maxed out the potential gains – – both their votes and their money are reliably committed – – and you run a serious risk of pushing them to the level where they start demanding more extreme action.

With all of the normal caveats -- I have no special expertise. I only know what I read in the papers. There's a fundamental silliness comparing a political movement to a business -- it seems to me that in marketing terms, the PP tapes have been badly mistargeted. They have had the biggest viewership and impact in the segment of the voting market where they would do the least good and the most damage (such as pushing for a government shutdown on the eve of a presidential election).
[I really should have said "causing supporters to push," but it's too late to worry about that now.]

I haven't followed the press coverage that closely, but based on what I've come across from NPR and the few political sites I frequent, I get the feeling that the center-left media is more likely to discuss the doctoring of the tapes than to focus on the gory specifics of harvesting fetal tissue. I'd need to check sources like CNN before making a definitive statement, but it appears that the videos are having exceptionally little effect on what should have been their target audience.

Instead, their main impact seems to have been on the far right. The result has been to widen what was already a dangerous rift. The pragmatic wing looks at defunding as a futile gesture with almost no chance of success and large potential costs. The true believers are approaching this on an entirely different level. It has become an article of faith for them that, as we speak, babies are being killed, dismembered and sold for parts. They demand action, even if it's costly and merely symbolic, as long as it's cathartic.

I've been arguing for quite a while now that we need to pay more attention to the catharsis in politics (such as with the reaction to the first Obama/Romney debate), particularly with the Tea Party.  Conservative media has long been focused on feeding the anger and the outrage of the base while promising victory just around the corner. This has produced considerable partisan payoff but at the cost of considerable anxiety and considerable disappointment, both of which produce stress and a need for emotional release.

There's a tendency to think of trading political capital for catharsis as being irrational, but it's not. There is nothing irrational about doing something that makes you feel better. That's the real problem for the GOP leaders: shutting down the government would be cathartic for many members of the base. It would be difficult to get the base to defer their catharsis, even if the base trusted the leaders to make good on their promise that things will get better.

For now, the Tea Party is inclined to do what feels good, whether it's supporting an unelectable candidate or making a grandstanding play. It's not entirely clear what Boehner and McConnell can do about that.


Thursday, July 28, 2022

Thursday Tweets

I was going to give the abortion thread a rest, but these new twists in the story are worth keeping an eye on.


When you read stories about Trump's declining influence in the GOP, remember he can drop below 50%, he can drop below a plurality, but as long as a significant number of people in the party sound like this, he is still the man with the grenade.


I'll admit I winced a bit at "shouldn't correlate," but it's still an interesting finding.

Yes, it's a campaign ad and there's no telling what was done in the editing, but having grown up and spent much of my adult life around good ol' boys I can tell you that this is exactly the right approach.

It's the "unwisely" that erases the line between the real thing and an New York Times Pitchbot parody.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

History of terrible ideas

This is Joseph.

This amazing tweet has been commented on by both Dmitry Grozoubinski and Eschaton. Here is the tweet, which, to be honest is worse than the article (written by different people to be fair-- Arias and Granoff -- who are generally interested in fewer nuclear weapons): 

The article suggests removing the last 150 American nuclear weapons from Europe. Steven Pinker appears to be expanding that to all of NATO. One option is pointless symbolism. The other is really daft. 

France has 280 deployed warheads and the UK has 120 deployed warheads. Removing 150 warheads is not a small change but is hardly an end to the NATO nuclear force. The United states still has 14 submarines that deploy weapons, with 20 weapons per submarine. Like if this caused a very robust settlement with the Ukraine maybe the symbolism would be worth it, but isn't the actual negotiations supposed to be between belligerents? How well has it worked historically to have a different alliance negotiate on behalf of one side of a conflict? Note that Ukraine has nuclear weapons and decided to get rid of them and may have opinions on the wisdom of this decision. 

Now, getting rid of all of the NATO nukes WITHOUT getting rid of the Russian weapons would mean the only nuclear power in Europe was Russia. It's also a bit unclear how you introduce this idea to France. You know, the country with the famously rocky relationship with NATO. Does England count as Europe for this metric, because I can see this debate a mile off. Nor is it clear how NATO can negotiate on behalf of the Ukraine. Or what the terms of "ending the war" are. Does Russia leave the 20% of the country it currently occupies? What about Crimea? What about post-war guarantees as to no future invasions with a military reformed based on the lessons from this war? 

But the idea in the article (unilateral removal of US weapons) is at least possible. It requires on decision maker (the US) and might (or might not) have some positive benefits in having fewer weapons around. But, to be frank, any lasting peace needs to involve Ukraine and Russia as the core parties and it might make a lot of sense to ask what they want. Obviously, they are currently too far apart for a peace talk but here is where the real seeds of a lasting peace might lie. Perhaps we might wait for one or the other party to actually make this suggestion before we just start proposing things as third parties? 

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

What if Trump's Social Security and Medicare stand was never that big a deal to begin with

 [Note: David Weakliem recently looked at the actual data on this going back to the eighties. Check out his analysis here.]

As alluded to recently, Joseph and I have been having  an argument about political strategy. I contended that the Democrats should be focusing on three issues where the GOP had staked out especially unpopular positions: reproductive rights, the insurrection; and Social Security and Medicare. Joseph countered that, largely because of Trump's public commitment not to cut these programs. The GOP was, in a sense inoculated against these attacks.

For the record, my co-blogger Joseph is possibly the smartest person I know. What's more, he cited a number of other very smart people who were in general agreement including Josh Marshall who is probably our sharpest political analyst. I get very nervous when I find myself disagreeing with either, let alone both. And the Democratic establishment was clearly on board (more on that later in the post).

 I wasn't exactly persuaded but I had enough doubts about my position that I decided back-burner the topic and focus on other things. Then I saw this:

Yes, it's just one poll and we can't say for certain that the fifteen point shift is not an outlier. Even if the move is real, we can't say for sure what caused it. Still, if you see this big a jump in seniors, Social Security and Medicare are the obvious place to look.

 If data and common sense point to Republican vulnerability on the issue, why is conventional wisdom converging in the opposite direction? Perhaps it's because the pundits who shaped that conventional wisdom have always been overly invested in the idea that Trump's position on Social Security and Medicare was a key part of his success.

Think back to 2015.

 Pundits were at a loss to explain the rise of Donald Trump which is part of the reason so many tried to deny it was even happening. (Remember Nate Cohen's series of NYT articles in 2015 arguing that there was no way DJT could beat various candidates despite the fact he was crushing them in the polls.) For people whose job it is to explain things, this is incredibly disconcerting, so when Trump broke with the Republican line on two incredibly unpopular GOP positions, taxing the rich and cutting Social Security and Medicare, the pundit class finally had a theory they could converge on: Trump's success came from his combination of reactionary and liberal populist positions.

This was always a thin thread to hang an interpretation on. The stand was hardly the second coming of Huey P. Long. These GOP positions were so unpopular that even a majority of Republican voters opposed them. At most, Trump had mixed a couple of moderate positions into his reactionary and autocratic platform. 

What's more, they were always a relatively small part of the mix. If you read over the real-time coverage of the campaign, you'll see that SS and Medicare weren't that prominent and the guarantees left considerable wiggle room. [Emphasis added.]

Below is a head-to-head rundown on where Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton stand — as best as anyone can tell. Incidentally, Trump's website makes little mention of Social Security; most of his policy positions come from what he has said in debates or speeches. Clinton's site has more details about her proposals and she has fleshed them out elsewhere.


At a June rally in Phoenix, Trump said: “We’re going to save your Social Security without killing it like so many people want to do.” During the campaign, Trump said something similar: “I will do everything within my power not to touch Social Security, to leave it the way it is.”


But Trump left the window open to future reforms in his comments to AARP, saying: “As our demography changes, a prudent administration would begin to examine what changes might be necessary for future generations.

So his position wasn't that far out of line with lots of Republicans, basically saying we may cut later rather than we should cut now. More importantly, this was never one of the main points of his campaign. I may have missed something in my Google searches, but it appears that Trump didn't talk that much about the issue (it merits two brief mentions in his 6,000+ word announcement speech, neither in the first half) and that it didn't get that much coverage. Perhaps there is data out there that shows that these positions were a major driver of support or that protecting Social Security and Medicare was top-of-mind when people thought Donald Trump, but if so it would be despite sparse coverage and a lack of emphasis from Trump himself.  

In the pundit class, however, the relationship loomed large

From Ezra Klein's influential Vox piece.

Trump is the only Republican running who actually agrees with the GOP base on this one. "They're gonna cut Social Security. They're gonna cut Medicare. They're gonna cut Medicaid," he said on Fox & Friends. "I'm the one saying that's saying I'm not gonna do that!"

And that's what makes a candidate like Trump potentially dangerous. On immigration, Trump holds a hard-line position that the Republican Party establishment has tried to mute, and so far Republican voters are loving it. On Social Security and Medicare, Trump — who opposes cuts — is closer to Republican voters than the party establishment is. On free trade deals, Trump shares a skepticism held by about half of Republican voters, but that's usually suppressed by the party's powerful business wing.

Most candidates who tried to stack this many heterodoxies would be quickly squelched by the party establishment. But Trump isn't beholden to the GOP for money, staff, power, or press attention. That frees him to take positions that Republican voters like but Republican Party elites loathe.

It may be true that support for Trump, so far, is about personality rather than policy. But as the primary wears on, Republican voters might find that they actually agree with him. And that's going to put the rest of the Republican field — all those candidates who were playing by the establishment's rules — in a very tough position.

Klein does get points for pulling away from the then popular "Trump doesn't have a chance" camp, but as mentioned before, there doesn't seem to much evidence that Social Security and Medicare played a big role in Trump's securing the nomination.

Though it has fallen down the memory hole, Trump's real break with the Republican Party line was not over entitlements, but over taxes.

Donald Trump is finally showing us more of his economic plan beyond the "Make America Great Again" slogan on his red hat.

America has now learned:

-- He wants to tax the rich more and the middle class less.

-- He wants to lower corporate taxes.

-- He wants to cut government spending and stop raising the debt ceiling.

"The hedge fund people make a lot of money and they pay very little tax," Trump said in an interview Wednesday with Bloomberg. "I want to lower taxes for the middle class."

In short, Trump is willing to raise taxes on himself and those like him.  

We all know how that worked out.

 Fast forward to 2022. Republicans are talking about cutting, privatizing, or killing Social Security with an openness they hadn't shown in at least twenty years. Trump himself lost interest in the topic long ago. But among the pundit class and much of the Democratic establishment, a few six-year old statements had permanently inoculated not just Trump, but the entire GOP on this issue.

What's remarkable here is not just the convergence but the certainty. A large part of the Republican Party is pissing on the third rail of American politics and yet no influential Democrats thought it was worth pulling the switch just in case the power was on.

If attacks on Social Security have eroded seniors' support for the GOP, they have done so almost entirely on their own. Progressives seldom mention the issue. AARP has been uncharacteristically quiet on the matter. Talking Points Memo, probably the best progressive political news and analysis site has dropped it entirely as far as I can tell.

And while Blake Masters, a GOP senate candidate from Arizona, has warranted a number of TPM stories, his suggestion that we privatize Social Security went unmentioned, despite the fact that almost one fifth the population of the state is 65 or over.

Even in Florida, which has a lot of seniors, Val Demings is all but silent on the topic, despite the fact that her opponent and his fellow senator are both on the record as wanting to cut or kill the program.

There's no conspiracy here, no hidden agenda. These people simply believe with a great deal of confidence that while pushing back against Republican attacks on Medicare and particularly Social Security might be the right thing to do, it is not a winning political strategy.

If there were any doubt in the Democratic establishment's mind, hedging the bet would be cheap, easy and pretty much risk free. A few campaign ads, some viral videos, a couple of lines in stump speeches, a bullet point in campaign websites,  raising the subject in interviews.

The most bizarre part of this is that for decades, one of the unassailable truths of American politics was that attacking Social Security and Medicare was bad for Republicans and defending them was good for Democrats, and yet, in the space of a few years for no particularly good reason, the political establishment became absolutely certain of the exact opposite.

Monday, July 25, 2022

The data are thin but still worth keeping an eye on

A couple of months ago, we did a post prompted by this Nate Cohn NYT piece where we talked about draconian anti-abortion bills being proposed and sometimes passed in states with neither anti-abortion majorities or trigger laws.

 Recently, though, some of the news has been coming from a different direction. [Emphasis added]

The geographic pattern evident in the results suggests that a national outcry over a court decision to overturn Roe might not carry many political consequences in the states where abortions could be immediately restricted. In some of those states, new abortion restrictions may tend to reinforce the political status quo, even as they spark outrage elsewhere in the country.

But in some states, a fight over new abortion restrictions might pose serious political risks for conservatives, perhaps especially in the seven mostly Republican-controlled states that are seen as most likely to enact new restrictions even though a majority of voters tend to support legal abortion.

Mississippi is the third most anti-abortion state in the country according to the NYT piece.

 Yes, n = 1 and this could be a bad poll or an outlier, but should these results be valid not being able to get majority support for Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization in the state where Jackson is the capital, that's worth noting.

Friday, July 22, 2022

Am I an idiot?

This is Joseph.

Mark had a polite comment on one of the positions that I held:
Conventional pundit wisdom was that Trump's statements about defending Social Security and Medicare had inoculated the GOP against that line of attack. Pundits can be idiots

While I hope I avoid the full "idiot" level, I thought it was worth reflecting why my analysis was wrong. After all, numbers like this need to be explained if you think that people just assume social security and Medicare are safe from Republican meddling:


That is a 15 point drop on the generic ballot in two months among the 65+ crowd. 

I think it is important that we be accountable when we are wrong. So what did I miss?

Pondering it for a while, I think I overlooked the real impact of the Supreme Court, in general, and Dobbs, in particular. The quest to overturn Roe versus Wade goes back to the 1980's and Ronald Reagan. But after 50 years this could be dismissed as posturing, after all the ruling had survived two generations of judges who were heavily Republican appointed. But then, one day, it happened.

This seems to me to have had two immediate implications.

  1. Older voters do not like radical change and all of the sudden the Supreme Court was delivering a series of radical rulings, Thermostatic politics kicked in, as well as the general distrust of radical change among those with less time to adapt to it
  2. Suddenly these threats looked less like bombast and more like a real threat.
If I am correct, the implication of abortion is far beyond just the backlash against a known right. It suddenly made the Republican party look like they would do extreme and/or crazy things. Can people like that be trusted with power? 

The supreme court continues with rulings that at least appear to be partisan. Which only makes matters worse. Remember, the same pundits who claimed that people were overwrought about abortion rights are not anywhere near as credible now. Nor is there a great deal of evidence that lawyers think the opinion was especially sound

So my gut instinct is that I missed a tipping point, where the old "they would never do that" claims of the pundit class suddenly lost efficacy and voters became alarmed at what could happen next. As they probably should be. 

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Thursday Tweets

At least here in California, this is what the NIMBY/YIMBY fight actually look like, with valid arguments on both sides.

I should probably talk more about this Monkey Cage piece.


If the food poisoning, cultural appropriation, overpriced menu, and annoying brand hadn't already done it, this would keep me away from the chain.

"First as tragedy, then as farce."

That guy

Checking in with the Paypal Mafia.

Musk's hard right pivot did score him a lot of kind words from Rupert's publications.

Do they covet the blood of the young, because that's Thiel's thing.

Conventional pundit wisdom was that Trump's statements about defending Social Security and Medicare had inoculated the GOP against that line of attack. Pundits can be idiots.

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

"If FIFTY BANKERS ever arrive at your office all at once, (1) you have done something terrible but (2) it is absolutely their problem, not yours."

I might get into trouble for such a long quote, but I wanted to give you a sense of how sharp and funny Matt Levine's writing is (all the more remarkable given his output). Most of his work appear behind the Bloomberg paywall but for cheapskates like me, there's a free but highly influential newsletter (link at the bottom of the page).

 Highly recommended. Essential if you follow business and finance.

If you sell nickel futures at a price of $25,000 per ton, and then the price of nickel futures goes up to $100,000 per ton, then in some simple arithmetic sense you have lost $75,000 per ton. If you sold 100 tons of nickel futures, then you have lost more than $7 million. But if you sold 150,000 tons of futures, the math changes a bit; it becomes non-linear and relativistic. If you sold 150,000 tons of nickel futures at $25,000 per ton, and then the price goes up to $100,000, your banks will call you up and say “uh you have lost $11 billion, can you pay that please,” and you will say “I would prefer not to,” and an insane series of events will happen:

  1. The nickel exchange will cancel a bunch of trades and declare that actually the market price of nickel is $48,000 per ton, magically reversing most of your losses.
  2. Then the exchange will call you and say “okay let’s close you out of that trade at $48,000 per ton.”
  3. Then you will say “no, this is still too much money for me to lose, I prefer not to.”
  4. Then your banks will say “well okay how much are you willing to lose?”
  5. You will say “I would close out this trade at $30,000, that’s how much money I am willing to lose.”
  6. Your banks will say “okay fine, we’ll wait for nickel prices to go back below $30,000, meanwhile we’ll just lend you the money to stay in the position.”
  7. They will.
  8. Eventually nickel prices will go below $30,000 and you will get out of the trade at a modest loss.
  9. If prices never go below $30,000 then I guess your banks are very sad, but honestly they’re pretty sad about all of this anyway.

I cannot stress enough that this is not how it works if you are a small customer. This is the white-glove treatment that only the biggest customers get. If you are big enough, you get to tell the exchange how much money you’re willing to lose, and the exchange and your banks will make sure you don’t lose more than that.

Here is a wild Bloomberg News story about Xiang Guangda, the Chinese metals tycoon who runs Tsingshan Holding Group Co., who is nicknamed “Big Shot,” and who blew up the London Metals Exchange in March. We talked about it at the time, but this story adds a lot more detail about what Xiang, his bankers and the LME were thinking and doing. It is not pretty! Xiang shorted something like 150,000 tons of nickel somewhere in the $20,000s, and when nickel prices went up to $100,000 he said “no thank you”:

After nickel started spiking on March 7, Tsingshan struggled to meet its margin calls. … The LME had eventually intervened to halt trading a couple of hours after nickel hit $100,000. It also canceled billions of dollars of transactions, bringing the price back to $48,078, where it closed the previous day, in what amounted to a lifeline for Xiang and Tsingshan.

And then the LME said “well, okay, $48,000?” and Xiang again said “no thank you”:

To reopen the market, the LME proposed a solution: Xiang should strike a deal with holders of long positions to close out his trade. But a price of around $50,000 would be more than twice the level at which he had entered his short position, and would mean accepting billions of dollars in losses. ...

Xiang told the assembled bankers he had no intention of closing the position anywhere near $50,000. A few hours later he was delivering the same message to Matthew Chamberlain, chief executive of the LME. Tsingshan was a strong company, he said, and it had the support of the Chinese government. There would be no backing down.

And so his banks said “well okay what price would be acceptable” and he said “$30,000” and they said “fine”:

On March 14, a week after the chaos that engulfed the nickel market, Tsingshan announced a deal with its banks under which they agreed not to pursue the company for the billions it owed for a period of time. In exchange, Xiang agreed a series of price levels at which he would reduce his nickel position once prices dropped below about $30,000. 

Eventually nickel got below $30,000 and he got out of the position at about a $1 billion loss. “The loss has been roughly offset by the profits of his nickel operations over the same period.”

The article also describes the scene at Xiang’s office on the evening of March 8:

Within hours, more than 50 bankers had arrived at his office wanting to hear how he planned to respond to the crisis. He told them simply: “I’m confident that we will overcome this.”

If FIFTY BANKERS ever arrive at your office all at once, (1) you have done something terrible but (2) it is absolutely their problem, not yours.

 (And yes, it's a variation on an old joke, but it's a damned good version.)

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

"HODL Mode"

But first, a word from our CEO

Sure it was a Ponzi scheme, but it was an innovative Ponzi scheme.

From the Block:

Celsius remained unable to make any public statements due to legal advice, but people with knowledge of the situation told The Block the firm was looking to avoid lengthy bankruptcy proceedings. Sources said Celsius believes much of its retail clientele would prefer the firm avoid bankruptcy and that users could show their support by engaging "HODL Mode" in their Celsius account, a security feature that keeps users from withdrawing or sending funds while activated, in the hopes that the legal team would see the strength of feeling existing among users. Celsius did not respond to requests for comment at that time.
"Strength of feeling" is a telling phrase. Culture (with emphasis on the first four letters) always plays an outsized role in almost all web3 businesses. While many crypto investors are simply in it because it superficially looks like a good deal, a substantial segment are there not just because they think they'll get rich but because they see themselves as warriors willing to face financial ruin to advance a noble cause. 

For these investors, "HODL" is an emotionally charged term of great power. The idea of making that into a feature is inspired in an incredibly evil sort of way. Just imagine what Ponzi or Madoff could have done with it.

There's a lot more ugliness in the Celsius story. The always reliable Coffeezilla walks us through the latest twists and turns.

Monday, July 18, 2022

When it comes to the political fall-out of Dobbs, functional Republicans have a better grasp than many Democrats do

Mentally, a lot of Democrats are in a strange place these days. They... hell, let's be honest, we won (since I'm clearly taking sides here).  We control the White House and, to a lesser degree, congress. The upcoming election is challenging but, at least for the moment, polls have been trending in our favor and the Republicans have given us a lot to work with.

Given the stakes of the next two elections, this would seem to be a moment for focus on the poor quality of Republican candidates and on issues where the GOP has locked itself into incredibly unpopular positions (particularly reproductive rights, the insurrection and the attack on Social Security and Medicare).

But instead of focus, we are all too often seeing despair and panic, or at the very least, a sense of helplessness.

 Take this reader letter that Josh Marshall ran along with approving comments in his editor's blog recently. [Emphasis added.]

    Just read your latest piece. I still think you are correct on the Codify Roe promise. But every single day that goes by without explicit promises, in living rooms and cars, the energy wanes. The right to abortion (and the right to privacy in general), affects many, many people. The actuality of it, on a day to day or week to week basis, doesn’t.

 We saw a lot of think pieces a couple of months ago arguing that the electoral impact of repealing Roe would be limited since the new laws and their impact would largely be confined to strongly anti-abortion states. (Something we pushed back against at the time.)

In defense of NYT and the rest, in May it was still possible that the outrage would fade and the impact would not go much past women who sought abortions in these states and did not have the option of traveling somewhere that the procedure was available. A serious (arguably unprecedented) roll back of civil rights, but with little political consequences.

We now know how wrong that view was and the horror stories -- underage rape victims, ectopic pregnancies, life-threatening miscarriages, denial of vital medications, travel restrictions -- will only continue to multiply affecting all women between 8 and 55 who may at some point find themselves even temporarily in states with a Republican legislature, and the families of those people and their employers.

Among Republicans, all but the Flavor Aid drinkers are obviously aware of this because they are desperate to change the subject.

(And too many Democrats are eager to oblige them.)

From the LA Times:

In Texas, dispensing methotrexate to someone who uses it to induce a miscarriage after 49 days of gestation is a felony; that makes pharmacists hesitant to fill such prescriptions for almost anyone with a uterus. A new total ban on abortion in Tennessee will effectively criminalize any medication that could disrupt pregnancy past the point of fertilization, with strict exceptions for a patient who will otherwise die. And in Virginia, confusion over rules about who is permitted to prescribe drugs “qualified as abortifacients” may be blocking access to the medication.

“That’s what was shocking to me,” said Schwarz, a 27-year-old who lives in Tysons Corner, Va. “In a state where I thought I was relatively protected regardless of what the Supreme Court decided, I found out I wasn’t.”

Methotrexate was originally developed as a chemotherapy agent more than 60 years ago. But in low doses, it has proved to be one of the safest, least expensive and most effective treatments for roughly a dozen autoimmune conditions, from juvenile idiopathic arthritis to Crohn’s disease.

“It’s one of the most common medications that I prescribe,” said Dr. Grant Schulert, a pediatric rheumatology specialist at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. “It’s really a mainstay of our practice.”


In one case, a pharmacist initially refused to dispense methotrexate to an 8-year-old girl in Texas. In a note the child’s doctor shared with Edens, the pharmacist wrote, “Females of possible child bearing potential have to have diagnosis on hard copy with state abortion laws.” 


“The majority of rheumatic diseases affect females at substantially higher rates than males,” Edens explained. “The prevalence of rheumatoid arthritis in women to men is 3 to 1. For lupus it’s 10 to 1. And so rheumatology is a very female-predominate patient population.”

This is not a fade away kind of issue.

Friday, July 15, 2022

Please stop talking about Biden retiring

This is Joseph.

This post by Robert Reich is very good. Worth reading in full. He makes good points about the health issues that arise with age:

It’s not death that’s the worrying thing about a second Biden term. It’s the dwindling capacities that go with aging. "Bodily decrepitude," said Yeats, "is wisdom." I have accumulated somewhat more of the former than the latter, but our president seems fairly spry (why do I feel I have to add “for someone his age?”). I still have my teeth, in contrast to my grandfather whom I vividly recall storing his choppers in a glass next to his bed, and have so far steered clear of heart attack or stroke (I pray I’m not tempting fate by my stating this fact). But I’ve lived through several kidney stones and a few unexplained fits of epilepsy in my late thirties. I’ve had both hips replaced. And my hearing is crap. Even with hearing aids, I have a hard time understanding someone talking to me in a noisy restaurant. You’d think that the sheer market power of 60 million boomers losing their hearing would be enough to generate at least one chain of quiet restaurants

But this is absolutely the wrong time to be having this conversation. 

Why would the Democrats projects weakness ahead of the 2022 congressional races?

With a 50-50 senate there are currently five toss-up races (Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin). Losing the senate is obviously terrible. Even more aggressively, this is a context where the Democrats strategy is to try and add two senators. That means winning all five toss-up races, barring a surprise. It goes without saying that if South Carolina is competitive then things are going really well, but political strategy is not usually based on the other party completely collapsing. 

It is also worth noting all of the key powers holding congress gives. The ability to have the Jan 6th committee is based on holding the house. The ability to appoint judges, including any surprise supreme court vacancies, is based on holding the senate. There are other nice features, like the ability to pass reconciliation bills that can't be held hostage that are based on congressional control. This stuff is important.

Based in the 2020 timelines, events that you need to be ready for start around February of the election year. Lynden Johnson dropped out of a president race on March 31, 1968 -- the same year as the election. So if Joe Biden had a thoughtful conversation over the summer of 2023 that would be plenty of time for the 2024 elections. But more importantly, unless he is about to actually resign and have Kamela Harris be the incumbent, how does talking about it now help?

Even if you wanted Kamela, would it not make sense to wait for 2 years to fully pass given the 22nd amendment to maximize possible future options. Keep in mind, this argument is about the future of the candidate and not his present. 

Finally, would it even be good politics for Joe Biden to retire? I think that the jury is definitely out. Keep in mind that it is possible that Donald Trump will run in 2024. Obviously, Biden versus Trump is a known good match-up. The age issue is less salient politically when two candidates of similar ages are running and Biden has a style that is very good at kicking Trump off of his rhythm. If it is a different candidate then maybe calculations need to be made but the key issue is how Biden is holding up health-wise, and that is not an easy criterion to evaluate externally. 

But no matter how you look at it, the mid-terms are a crucial piece of information about a decision that is currently not even remotely time sensitive. There are actual years before the decision would need to be made and all a premature decision would do is bring about lame duck status even faster and make things look bad before the midterm elections. How does this help? 

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Thursday Tweets -- "Maybe it was me that made the mess."

Never a good sign.

But they aren't out of ideas yet.

As loud as the outcry over the original decision was, I suspect the real impact of the repeal of Roe will come from the steady drip, drip, drip...

The 'R' in 'ERCOT' stands for 'Reliability.'

Have to have some political tweets.

It's not often I sympathize with DJT, but not being able to talk about the one actual accomplishment of your presidency because it pisses off anti-vaxxers would suck.

Didn't know you could commit treason against a person.

Interesting point.

If the NYT had only mentioned his name.

And to add injury to insult.

We were there first.

And misc.

He added if they'd been making better time, they'd all be dead now.

 "Maybe it was me that made the mess."

Don't worry, he's got this.

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Why do serious journalists keep talking about good fires?

Because they work.

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK — Last year and the year before, in an unprecedented environmental disaster, wildfires in California’s Sequoia National Park and nearby national forests roared through treasured sequoia groves in the Southern Sierra Nevada, generating flames hundreds of feet high and killing nearly 20% of all the giant sequoia trees left in the world.

But the Washburn fire burning now in Yosemite National Park, licking around the edges of the roughly 500 giant sequoias in Mariposa Grove — some over 200 feet tall and more than 2,000 years old  — so far hasn’t killed a single one of the massive old-growth trees there.

A big part of the reason, experts say, is that park officials completed 23 projects at the grove since 1971 to thin brush and set controlled burns to remove dead wood and vegetation that had built up over more than century of fire suppression.

That left less dead material on the forest floor, and fewer shrubs and small trees like firs that can make fires burn hotter. As a result, the forest was restored to a more natural condition, experts say, similar to the way it would have looked centuries ago when lightning strikes and burning from native tribes sent low-impact fires through the Sierra every 10 years or so.

With a few notable exceptions (ProPublica, Reveal, Marketplace, NPR), the national coverage of the California wildfires has been, terrible. Sadly ecstatic disaster porn, with superficial coverage of causes and no interest whatsoever in solutions, which is especially sad because this is one of the few crises where we know what we need to do.

Liz Weil from her definitive ProPublica piece on the subject:

Yes, there’s been talk across the U.S. Forest Service and California state agencies about doing more prescribed burns and managed burns. The point of that “good fire” would be to create a black-and-green checkerboard across the state. The black burned parcels would then provide a series of dampers and dead ends to keep the fire intensity lower when flames spark in hot, dry conditions, as they did this past week. But we’ve had far too little “good fire,” as the Cassandras call it. Too little purposeful, healthy fire. Too few acres intentionally burned or corralled by certified “burn bosses” (yes, that’s the official term in the California Resources Code) to keep communities safe in weeks like this.