31 October 2018

The rigging of American politics

Political systems depend on legitimacy. In America, that legitimacy is failing.

Ezra Klein

29 October 2018

26 October 2018

Why More Dictators Are Killing and Abducting Dissidents Abroad

An effective authoritarian state needs its most prominent critics to know that an ice ax in the back is still a possibility, even if they leave. 

Joshua Keating

24 October 2018

It’s better to be born rich than gifted

A revolution in genomics is creeping into economics. It allows us to say something we might have suspected, but could never confirm: money trumps genes. Using one new, genome-based measure, economists found genetic endowments are distributed almost equally among children in low-income and high-income families. Success is not. The least-gifted children of high-income parents graduate from college at higher rates than the most-gifted children of low-income parents.

Andrew Van Dam

23 October 2018

Why this political scientist thinks the Democrats have to fight dirty

I think Democrats should have this debate, but my point is that no policy platform is going to win three or four consecutive national elections for Democrats because we know policy isn’t what decides elections; that’s not how most voters make decisions.

People just don’t seem to make the connection between policies and the party in power.

So, for example, the Democrats passed Obamacare and gave millions of people heath care, and yet tons of people who benefited from it have no idea what it is or how they benefited. And it’s like that with a lot of policies — voters simply don’t connect the dots, and so they reward or punish the wrong party.

I think the idea that we’re going to deliver these benefits to people and they’re going to be like, “Thank you Jesus, thank you for everything that you’ve done, let me return you with a larger majority next time,” is just nonsense. It’s the wrong way to think about politics. 

I don’t think we can restore order by respecting rules that are not respected by Republicans. I do believe we’ll have to find a way to end this procedural war at some point, but now is not that time. Republicans need to know what it’s like to be on the other end of normative violations. The Republicans are behaving like a party that believes it will never be held accountable for anything they’re doing, and so far they haven’t been.

David Faris & Sean Illing

22 October 2018

We Don’t Need to Replace the BQE, But We Will

“If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail” -Abraham Maslow

It should be no surprise that to every highway engineer the solution to traffic is always more roads. In this case, it is the NYC DOT, which last week announced their initial plan to rebuild the crumbling Brooklyn Heights cantilevered section of the BQE from Atlantic Ave to Sands St.

Andrew Lynch

19 October 2018

‘This guy doesn’t know anything’: the inside story of Trump’s shambolic transition team

Michael Lewis, author of Moneyball and The Big Short, reveals how Trump’s bungled presidential transition set the template for his time in the White House

Michael Lewis

18 October 2018

It’s Time for Democrats to Play Hardball With the FBI

One has to consider only that Republicans have spent years accusing former FBI director and lifelong Republican James Comey of orchestrating a cover-up for Hillary Clinton to understand how the GOP would react if, say, an FBI investigation into a Democratic Supreme Court nominee was being overseen by a graduate of the nominee’s law school and a former colleague.

It’s time for Democrats to realize that the rules have changed. It’s not enough to simply rely on most federal law enforcement officials being well-intentioned, nonpolitical figures trying to do the right thing under tough circumstances.

Matthew Miller

16 October 2018

15 October 2018

'A Kind Of Vague Hostility': Michael Lewis On How Trump Loyalists Run Agencies

On the story which concludes the book, about a woman in Oklahoma who prayed for a tornado to destroy her barn

First let's explain why Miss Finley wanted her barn gone: Her husband had killed himself in the barn, and she imagined this act of destruction would come and kind of ease her pain — she wouldn't have to stare at the barn any longer. And what she doesn't imagine is that the same tornado that's going to come take her barn is going to destroy her house, and she didn't want that.

And I thought it was a kind of a lovely metaphor for what Trump voters imagine — or how their imaginations work, or how the human imagination works. It imagines the destruction it wants; it imagines the destruction it wants Trump to inflict on the things it doesn't like about the government.

It doesn't imagine all the collateral damage — it doesn't imagine the damage it will actually do. And I think this failure of the imagination is somewhere near the center of what we're going through right now.

12 October 2018

Trump Said What About Kim Jong-un?

 The most obvious point to make is not the most unsettling—the fact that Trump declared “love” for the most monstrous dictator on the planet, a dynastic thug who murders high-placed critics (including an uncle and half-brother), imprisons millions more, and perpetuates a regime that isolates and impoverishes his people.

No, the inference that we, as American citizens, should draw and find urgently worrisome is that—to an even greater extent than many of us had already realized—Trump’s judgment is out of whack. He cannot be trusted to nominate Supreme Court justices, decide matters of war and peace, order take-out sandwiches for the office, or anything else, large or small. There can’t possibly be a member of Trump’s Cabinet, or the U.S. Congress, who isn’t painfully aware of this fact.

Fred Kaplan

11 October 2018

Why It’s Time to Rename the Russell Office Building

There is little in Richard Russell Jr.’s career that recommends him for this enduring honor.

Joshua Zeitz

10 October 2018

09 October 2018

Everything is going right for the Federal Reserve. It needs to change what it’s doing.

What the Fed needs, then, is a policy framework that gets interest rates up and keeps them there. Its 2 percent inflation target just isn't getting the job done. A 4 percent target might, or, if that was too much, maybe a more flexible 2 percent target that tried to make up for any past shortfalls by letting prices go up by more than that later so that inflation averaged 2 percent over the course of the business cycle. But somethingneeds to change. Otherwise, interest rates are going to keep falling to zero every time there's a recession, recessions are going to keep being worse than they need to be because the Fed will have trouble doing enough to help the economy, and recoveries are going to keep being slow for the same reason.

05 October 2018

Why US public transportation is so bad — and why Americans don’t care

Walker also says most American customers mistakenly prioritize reach over frequency; they want buses or trains everywhere, on every block, as opposed to a few trains that come all the time. “There is a distinctly American idea to have infrequent trains from the suburb into the city,” he says. “That’s an example where you put a line on map and people say, ‘Oh, [transit] exists,’ and someone who doesn’t understand frequency is going to think an area is being serviced when it is not.” Those who are more familiar with public transit understand that it’s better to have a few lines with frequent trains, rather than many lines that leave once every two hours. 

Aditi Shrikant

04 October 2018

A former spy explains why Manafort is crucial to Mueller’s Russia investigation

Viktor Yanukovych, a Ukrainian politician, ran a divisive and ultimately successful presidential campaign in 2010.

Over the course of several months, he portrayed his political opponent, Yulia Tymoshenko, as corrupt and threatened to jail her. He warned that the election might be rigged and called on supporters to march in protest if he lost. He yelled about the corruption of the political elite and attacked his Western allies, calling instead for closer ties with Russia, with whom he had cultivated deep — and hidden — business ties.

Any of this sound familiar?

Alex Finley

03 October 2018

Brett Kavanaugh and the Supreme Court’s looming legitimacy crisis

The past few years have been fraught ones for the Supreme Court. First there was the brazen 2016 power play by Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans in denying President Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, the chance to take the seat vacated by the passing of Justice Antonin Scalia — an episode that left deep scars among Democrats. Trump’s appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Scalia vacancy in 2017, and his subsequent confirmation, only deepened those tensions.

Now comes Brett Kavanaugh, whose nomination has been thrown into uncertainty following accusations from different women, one accusing Kavanaugh of sexual assault while in high school and another accusing him of exposing himself in college (allegations the nominee has denied). The prospect of Kavanaugh, along with another conservative justice accused of sexual harassment (Justice Clarence Thomas), teaming up with the rest of the Court’s conservatives to overturn Roe v. Wade looks like a powder keg.

Zack Beauchamp

02 October 2018

Kavanaugh and Trump are part of a larger crisis of elite accountability in America

Now he may end up as a Supreme Court justice despite never in his life having been involved in anything that was actually successful. He has never meaningfully taken responsibility for the substantive failures of the Starr inquiry or the Bush White House, where his tenure as a senior staffer coincided with both Hurricane Katrina and failed Social Security privatization plan as well as the email shenanigans he misled Congress about, or for his personal failure as a bystander to Kozinski’s abuses.

Matthew Yglesias

01 October 2018

Why Russians Keep Visiting Mariia Butina in Prison

Take it from this former spook: It ain’t because they’re concerned about her well-being.

Alex Finley