No Influence

Clearly, when one holds constant net interest group alignments and the preferences of affluent Americans, it makes very little difference what the general public thinks. … [A]dvocates of populistic democracy may not be enthusiastic about democracy by coincidence, in which ordinary citizens get what they want from government only when they happen to agree with elites or interest groups that are really calling the shots.

— Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page
Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens” (2014)

This week’s featured articles are “Democracy By Coincidence” and “Rights Are For People Like Us“.

This week everybody was talking about the anniversaries

It’s Marathon Day in Boston, which brings back memories of last year’s marathon. I want to make a claim for having been right in my article “Maybe 9-11 Can Be Over Now“. Then I imagined that the Boston Marathon Bombing could be an anti-9/11, one where heroes saved people rather than dying in the attempt, one that we faced and dealt with as it happened, rather than having unresolved issues we had to take to Afghanistan and Iraq.

I think that happened. Something has gone out of the 9-11 mythology in the last year. It’s just not fresh any more. I think we exorcized those demons.

Yesterday was the 15th anniversary of the Columbine shooting. There, I wish I had such an upbeat story to tell. As Mother Jones put it:

Nothing changed after 13 people were killed at Columbine, or 33 at Virginia Tech, or 26 at Sandy Hook. Each of those tragedies came with the same breaking-news urgency as Columbine, but none generated the same sense of expected action because fewer and fewer people actually believed things could change.

and Ukraine

The Geneva agreement to corral the unrest in eastern Ukraine is faltering. The pro-Russian militants who have occupied several public buildings in various cities have ignored it, and yesterday a shoot-out near Slaviansk killed three people.

Somebody in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk distributed leaflets saying that Jews had to register with the city’s self-appointed pro-Russian separatist government. No one is claiming responsibility for the leaflets or actually registering Jews. It may be a joke, a provocation, a trial balloon … who knows? I mention it just because you may have heard about it.

and right-wing extremists like Cliven Bundy and Frazier Glenn Miller

I discuss Cliven Bundy in “Rights Are For People Like Us“. Frazier Glenn Miller is the 73-year-old KKK grand dragon who shot at three Jewish centers in Kansas City, killing three people, none of whom were Jewish.

Miller’s case prompted a meta-discussion on the left. Rachel Maddow wondered why the media treats each act of right-wing terrorism as a unique event, rather than yet another instance of right-wing terrorism. CNN’s Peter Bergen wrote:

Now let’s do the thought experiment in which instead of shouting “Heil Hitler” after he was arrested, the suspect had shouted “Allahu Akbar.” Only two days before the first anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings, this simple switch of words would surely have greatly increased the extent and type of coverage the incident received.

Bergen claims right-wing terrorists have killed 34 people in the United States since 9-11, compared to 21 by jihadists. Remember that report that Homeland Security had to withdraw in 2009 because conservatives found it upsetting?

and Easter

Not many people celebrate a really old-fashioned Easter any more.

and you also might be interested in …

Once again: What’s the matter with Kansas? You might think getting the First Lady to speak at your high school graduation would be cool, particularly since her husband can’t run again, so there’s no way this is a campaign speech. (I can’t remember who spoke at my high school graduation, which says it all. Four years later, some congressman talked about farm policy at my Michigan State graduation. I was jealous of the Harvard grads, who got Solzhenitsyn that year.) But no. In Kansas, parents think having Mrs. Obama speak will take “the glory and shine from the children.”

Meanwhile, Kansas Congressman Tim Huelskamp makes this amazing claim:

But the numbers we see today is that — as I understand them — we believe there are more people uninsured today in Kansas than there were before the president’s health care plan went into effect.

No idea where he got those numbers; his office won’t say. Gallup has Kansas’ uninsured rate dropping from 16.2% in 2010 to 12.9% this January. In general, the uninsured rate has dropped faster in states that have embraced ObamaCare by extending Medicare and setting up a state insurance exchange; Kansas has done neither.


If you’ve ever downloaded a Cheerios coupon or liked General Mills on Facebook, I’ll bet you didn’t know that General Mills thinks you’ve given up the right to sue the company. I’m considering posting a small-type notice outside my door notifying visitors that by entering my apartment they’ve given me the right to sell their first-born children into slavery. Not that I’d actually do it; I’m such a nice guy, after all. But it might a useful power to have, just in case.


Game of Thrones humor: An honest trailer (with spoilers). Tail wags dog: George R. R. Martin is “a rogue enthusiast … who has written five whole volumes consisting solely of spoilers for the popular television show.” A social-media-company version of the title sequence.


See if your city has a judgmental map.


Elizabeth Hand says she was “saved by ObamaCare“. When are stories like that going to get the kind of media traction that the debunked horror stories did?


Jonathan Chait says that the belief that objective data can lead to nonpartisan or bipartisan solutions is itself a liberal notion.

Evaluating health care, or other government programs, by objective criteria sounds perfectly neutral. But to do so is to disregard the deep moral belief held by most conservatives that big government is inherently wrong. The empirical evenhandedness of the new data journalists is a wonderful contribution to American public life. It is, however, anything but politically neutral.


The Daily Beast pulls together several recent sex scandals in the Christian patriarchy movement to make this point:

The “pitch” of Biblical patriarchy … is that women will be coddled and worshipped in exchange for giving up their ambitions and the autonomy to practice an extreme form of female submission. The unpleasant truth is that a culture that teaches that women are put on Earth for no other purpose but to serve men is not going to breed respect for women. Instead, these incidents show a world where men believe they can do whatever they want to women without repercussions. Is it any surprise that a subculture that promises absolute control over women will attract men who want to dominate and hurt women?

and let’s end with something cool

like maybe a solar-powered electric tricycle with a trunk big enough for groceries.

Or, if you only want 84 mpg:

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