Search This Blog

Sunday, November 27, 2022


 Dana Goldstein and Robert Gebeloff at NYT:
In 1960, just 13 percent of American households had a single occupant. But that figure has risen steadily, and today it is approaching 30 percent. For households headed by someone 50 or older, that figure is 36 percent.

Nearly 26 million Americans 50 or older now live alone, up from 15 million in 2000. Older people have always been more likely than others to live by themselves, and now that age group — baby boomers and Gen Xers — makes up a bigger share of the population than at any time in the nation’s history.

The trend has also been driven by deep changes in attitudes surrounding gender and marriage. People 50-plus today are more likely than earlier generations to be divorced, separated or never married.
But while many people in their 50s and 60s thrive living solo, research is unequivocal that people aging alone experience worse physical and mental health outcomes and shorter life spans.
Compounding the challenge of living solo, a growing share of older adults — about 1 in 6 Americans 55 and older — do not have children, raising questions about how elder care will be managed in the coming decades.

Bryce Ward at WP:

According to the Census Bureau’s American Time Use Survey, the amount of time the average American spent with friends was stable, at 6½ hours per week, between 2010 and 2013. Then, in 2014, time spent with friends began to decline.
By 2019, the average American was spending only four hours per week with friends (a sharp, 37 percent decline from five years before). Social media, political polarization and new technologies all played a role in the drop. (It is notable that market penetration for smartphones crossed 50 percent in 2014.)

Covid then deepened this trend. During the pandemic, time with friends fell further — in 2021, the average American spent only two hours and 45 minutes a week with close friends (a 58 percent decline relative to 2010-2013).

Similar declines can be seen even when the definition of “friends” is expanded to include neighbors, co-workers and clients. The average American spent 15 hours per week with this broader group of friends a decade ago, 12 hours per week in 2019 and only 10 hours a week in 2021.


Thursday, November 24, 2022

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

The VP and the Counting of Electoral Votes

At AEI, Joseph Bessette and Gary Schmitt find no support for the view that the Vice President has unilateral constitutional authority to resolve electoral vote disputes.
Our analysis proceeds in four stages. First, we show that the framers viewed the Vice Presidency as a rather insignificant office and, thus, one unlikely to be given the constitutional power to decide presidential elections. Second, we show that the relevant constitutional language strongly suggests that Congress possesses the authority to legislate procedures to resolve electoral disputes. Third, we show that in the congressional debates of 1789 to 1805, every major alternative for locating the power to resolve electoral disputes – that it resides in Congress, in the state legislatures, or among the electors themselves when they meet in their states – was advanced except for one: that it resides in the office of the Vice Presidency. This silence, in our view, speaks volumes. Finally, we maintain that the principles and structure of the American constitutional order are inimical to allowing the discretion and will of a single individual (especially one who often has a personal stake in the outcome) to decide presidential elections. In brief, the history of the office, the text of the Constitution, founding-era debates, and the underlying logic of the Constitution do not support the view that the Vice President possesses unilateral constitutional authority to resolve electoral vote disputes.

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Saudi Oil and Influence Operations

 Hiroko Tabuchi at NYT:
Saudi Aramco has become a prolific funder of research into critical energy issues, financing almost 500 studies over the past five years, including research aimed at keeping gasoline cars competitive or casting doubt on electric vehicles, according to the Crossref database, which tracks academic publications. Aramco has collaborated with the United States Department of Energy on high-profile research projects including a six-year effort to develop more efficient gasoline and engines, as well as studies on enhanced oil recovery and other methods to bolster oil production.

Aramco also runs a global network of research centers including a lab near Detroit where it is developing a mobile “carbon capture” device — equipment designed to be attached to a gasoline-burning car, trapping greenhouse gases before they escape the tailpipe. More widely, Saudi Arabia has poured $2.5 billion into American universities over the past decade, making the kingdom one of the nation’s top contributors to higher education.

Saudi interests have spent close to $140 million since 2016 on lobbyists and others to influence American policy and public opinion, making it one of the top countries spending on U.S. lobbying, according to disclosures to the Department of Justice tallied by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Monday, November 21, 2022

Religion and Climate Change Opinion

Becka A. Alper at Pew:
Most U.S. adults – including a solid majority of Christians and large numbers of people who identify with other religious traditions – consider the Earth sacred and believe God gave humans a duty to care for it, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.

But the survey also finds that highly religious Americans (those who say they pray each day, regularly attend religious services and consider religion very important in their lives) are far less likely than other U.S. adults to express concern about warming temperatures around the globe.

The survey reveals several reasons why religious Americans tend to be less concerned about climate change. First and foremost is politics: The main driver of U.S. public opinion about the climate is political party, not religion. Highly religious Americans are more inclined than others to identify with or lean toward the Republican Party, and Republicans tend to be much less likely than Democrats to believe that human activity (such as burning fossil fuels) is warming the Earth or to consider climate change a serious problem.

Religious Americans who express little or no concern about climate change also give a variety of other explanations for their views, including that there are much bigger problems in the world today, that God is in control of the climate, and that they do not believe the climate actually is changing. In addition, many religious Americans voice concerns about the potential consequences of environmental regulations, such as a loss of individual freedoms, fewer jobs or higher energy prices.

Finally, climate change does not seem to be a topic discussed much in religious congregations, either from the pulpit or in the pews. And few Americans view efforts to conserve energy and limit carbon emissions as moral issues.

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Lobbying, Sports Betting, and the Vitality of Mythical Numbers

 Mythical numbers and graphics distort public policy debates.  Sometimes the distortion is deliberateThey call it "juking the stats."

A 2018 SCOTUS decision struck down a federal law forbidding state authorization of sports betting,  Then lobbyists went to work.

Eric Lipton and Kenneth P. Vogel at NYT:

Gambling companies and their allies deployed a bare-knuckled lobbying campaign, showering state lawmakers with money, gifts and visits from sports luminaries and at times using deceptive arguments to extract generous tax breaks and other concessions, according to a New York Times investigation. It was based on thousands of pages of documents and communications obtained in part through open-records requests and interviews with dozens of industry and state officials.
Industry lobbyists, for example, dazzled lawmakers with projections about the billions of dollars that states could expect to collect in taxes from sports betting — projections that, at least so far, have often turned out to be wildly inflated, according to a Times analysis of state tax data.

The gambling industry managed to scare state lawmakers into keeping tax rates low, in part by trotting out data about a sprawling underworld of illegal gambling. The Times found that those figures, which suggested that Americans were placing as much as $400 billion of illicit bets each year, were unreliable.

Where did the eye-popping figure come from? The N.B.A. and the American Gaming Association identified the source as a 1999 report by the National Gambling Impact Study Commission, which Congress created to assess the harms of gambling.

“Estimates of the scope of illegal sports betting in the United States range anywhere from $80 billion to $380 billion annually,” the report said.

In a footnote, the report attributed the range not to an academic study or even an industry analysis, but to an Associated Press article from the month before the report was released. That article, in turn, reported that “commissioners were told” the estimate, though it did not indicate by whom.

A transcript from a commission hearing in 1998 points to the likely source. One of the panel’s commissioners, citing unidentified testimony and staff briefings, said that “there’s somewhere, depending on whose guesstimate you take, within $80 to $380 billion worth of illegal sports gambling.”

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Another Supreme Court Leak?

 Jodi Kantor and Jo Becker at NYT:
As the Supreme Court investigates the extraordinary leak this spring of a draft opinion of the decision overturning Roe v. Wade, a former anti-abortion leader has come forward claiming that another breach occurred in a 2014 landmark case involving contraception and religious rights.

In a letter to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and in interviews with The New York Times, the Rev. Rob Schenck said he was told the outcome of the 2014 case weeks before it was announced. He used that information to prepare a public relations push, records show, and he said that at the last minute he tipped off the president of Hobby Lobby, the craft store chain owned by Christian evangelicals that was the winning party in the case.

Both court decisions were triumphs for conservatives and the religious right. Both majority opinions were written by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. But the leak of the draft opinion overturning the constitutional right to abortion was disclosed in the news media by Politico, setting off a national uproar. With Hobby Lobby, according to Mr. Schenck, the outcome was shared with only a handful of advocates.

Mr. Schenck’s allegation creates an unusual, contentious situation: a minister who spent years at the center of the anti-abortion movement, now turned whistle-blower; a denial by a sitting justice; and an institution that shows little outward sign of getting to the bottom of the recent leak of the abortion ruling or of following up on Mr. Schenck’s allegation.

The evidence for Mr. Schenck’s account of the breach has gaps. But in months of examining Mr. Schenck’s claims, The Times found a trail of contemporaneous emails and conversations that strongly suggested he knew the outcome and the author of the Hobby Lobby decision before it was made public.

Mr. Schenck, 64, has shifted his views on abortion in recent years, alienating him from many of his former associates, and is trying to re-establish himself, now as a progressive evangelical leader. His decision to speak out now about the Hobby Lobby episode, he said, stems from his regret about the actions that he claims led to his advance knowledge about the case.

“What we did,” he said, “was wrong.”

Supreme Court justices mostly police themselves, which Mr. Schenck said he exploited. While they are subject to the same law on recusals as other federal judges, they are not bound by the ethics code that applies to the rest. (Chief Justice Roberts has said they “consult” it.) Under court norms, they can socialize with lawyers or even parties with interests before them, as long as they do not discuss pending cases.

“I saw us as pushing the boundaries of appropriateness,” Mr. Schenck said.