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Fewer Floppy Shoes in the Clown Car

[ 88 ] February 10, 2016 |

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Chris Christie is out. Everything Anna Merlan says is true and more, but give him this — he materially improved the chances of a Democratic victory in November and gave me the greatest entertainment value possible out of a primary debate. (Admittedly, the latter is a low bar.)
Carly Fiorina is also out. Remember that brief period during which Fox News tried to make her a thing?

Ben Carson, conversely, is apparently going to stay in. And why not — if you’re running for president, metrics like “having no chance of winning” are relevant, but if you’re running a grift no need to stop until you’ve fleeced every possible rube and gotten their contact info.

And, finally, make sure not to sleep on Vermin Supreme. He could still surprise you!

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The Stakes Are Raised Again

[ 40 ] February 10, 2016 |

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As Erik alluded to earlier, the Supreme Court has stayed the Clean Power Policy while the D.C. Circuit considers legal arguments that are various shades of neoconfederate gibberish being asserted against them.  I have some thoughts on the matter.

The more I think about it, the more outraged I am about eventheliberal Laurence Tribe legitimizing these arguments.  Whether he’s doing it solely for the money or has become intrigued by Richard Epstein’s belief that the 5th and 10th Amendments enacted Mr. Robert Nozick’s Anarchy, State and Utopia  and wishes to subscribe to his newsletter, given both how high the stakes are and how terrible the arguments are he really should be ashamed of himself.

…Plumer has more.

New Hampshire Open Thread

[ 297 ] February 9, 2016 |

I’m inclined to stay out of the predictions racket tonight — if the Maple Leafs can dump Dion Phaneuf’s contract and somehow get a second round draft pick back surely anything is possible. Some links:

  • Greg Sargent has a good deep dive into the issue of Clinton and bankruptcy. I think he’s right on both counts. On the narrow issue, I agree that if a (superfluous) yes vote on one version of a bill was necessary to get an amendment that made it better inserted, it’s a worthwhile tradeoff.  But the fact that such an egregiously anti-consumer statute was ultimately able to pass is about as good an example of Sanders’s structural critique of the American political process as you could wish for.
  • What’s much worse than the Donald using a sexist vulgarity is that his strong endorsement of torture was wildly received.
  • Which certainly isn’t to say that Trump’s sexism isn’t also meaningful.
  • Kilgore is good on what happens if the Rubiobot falls back in with the Governors.
  • The Rubiobot also malfunctions on same-sex marriage. (The fact that Rubio went with the “ask your legislators to change the law rather than the DICTATORS in BLACK ROBES” talking point in a state where the legislature in fact legalized same-sex marriage is extra awesome. Admittedly, this shell game is hardly Rubio’s alone.)
  • Ted Cruz wants Supreme Court justices who are human manifestations of the most recent platform of the Texas Republican Party.  The Alitobot rather than the Robertsbot, in other words, as the latter has been programmed to retain a shred of legal principle in a few high-profile cases.

Brown As An Anti-Integration Weapon

[ 31 ] February 9, 2016 |
Mrs. Nettie Hunt, sitting on steps of Supreme Court, holding newspaper, explaining to her daughter Nikie the meaning of the Supreme Court's decision banning school segregation.  Courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division LC-USZ62-127042

Mrs. Nettie Hunt, sitting on steps of Supreme Court, holding newspaper, explaining to her daughter Nikie the meaning of the Supreme Court’s decision banning school segregation. Courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division LC-USZ62-127042

My colleague Ryane McAuliffe Straus and I have a new paper out, “The Two Browns: Policy Implementation and the Retrenchment of Brown v. Board of Education.” As many of you know, de facto segregation of American schools is on the rise. Part of the reason for this is some crucial Supreme Court decisions, beginning in the early 70s with key votes provided by the 4 justices nominated by the Last Liberal President (TM) Richard Nixon, that essentially provided states with a roadmap for how they could maintain segregated schools with the approval of federal courts. This culminated with John Roberts’s famous Parents Involved tautology, “[t]he way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.” In practice, this means that the Supreme Court is now more likely to use Brown to thwart integration than to require it.

One way of describing this is to say that Milliken and its progeny effectively overruled Brown v. Board. The argument we advance here is a little more complicated. One problem with Brown has always been that the Court never actually made clear what states had to do, a problem that was exacerbated by the paradoxical “all deliberate speed” standard of Brown II. In a sense, the Warren Court’s integrationist interpretation of Brown and the Roberts Court’s anti-intergerationist reading of Brown are both consistent with the letter of the original decision, even if the former is much closer to its spirit. One lesson here is that you can’t just look at whether precedents have been formally overruled when determining how much Supreme Court doctrine has changed. No Supreme Court justice has ever suggested that Brown should be overruled, but how the Supreme Court has interpreted Brown has radically changed since 1968. Conservative justices have no need to overrule Brown when they can actually use it as an anti-civil rights weapon.

The Most Offensive Thing Donald Trump Has Ever Done

[ 163 ] February 9, 2016 |

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That’s it, Donald Trump is simply not qualified to be president:

Although, as always, given the constituencies he’s appealing to it’s pretty shrewd…

The Rubiobot Is No Poet And They Don’t Know It

[ 156 ] February 9, 2016 |

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In light of the latest malfunction of the Rubiobot, some desperate hacks have come up with the idea that the Rubiobot is in fact engaged in a subtle literary technique. This is laughable on its face — the fact that he catches himself during the second “throat” should probably be the tipoff that this wasn’t a deliberate stylistic choice — but nothing is too laughable to make its way to a favorite Republican puke funnel:

He’s a poet like Shelley or Byron!

Dan McLaughlin provides the more hilarious version:

Yes, MLK repeating the same five-word phrase followed by different content each time for effect is exactly like Rubio repeating the same dumb 25-second point three times while being mocked by his debate opponent for robotically repeating his talking points, or for repeating the same talking point during a speech and recognizing your mistake halfway through. Rubio is truly an oratorical and literary genius:

That is not anaphora, because it is not the repetition of the first part of the sentence. This important difference explains why Dickens did not write, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” and why Churchill did not say, “We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, and we shall fight in … France.”

Nor is it part of some poetic device that makes sense if you watch the context of the speech, which I did, and which is just Rubio cycling through his standard stump lines rather than repeating them for some kind of literary effect.

And this is why Rubio visibly hesitates when he is about to say “throats” for the second time. It is the horrified panic of a candidate who realizes he has just done the one thing he desperately needs at this moment not to do.

It will be very meta to see desperate Republicans defend Rubio’s robotic reptition of dumb talking points with the robotic repetition of an even dumber talking point.

This Man Will Almost Certainly Win the New Hampshire Republican Primary

[ 121 ] February 9, 2016 |

Not a dime’s worth of etc.

Surely reasonable, moderate, thinking-person’s conservative Marco Rubio will save the party! Let’s see some reviews from his latest series of words next to each other:

Whatever frantic hackathon Marco Rubio’s programmers conducted after Chris Christie demagnetized their creation on Saturday night seems only to have made the existing problems worse, as the junior senator from Florida stumbled through his stump speech on Monday. Maybe try turning it off and turning it back on again?

Then again, when the words coming out of one’s vocabulator speech/sound system are so utterly meaningless, it would be difficult for all but the most advanced artificial intelligence to recall what even the most recent were.

And let’s dispel once and for all with this fiction that Hollywood is not trying to ram stuff down our throats.

Race-Baiting Hot-Taker of the Day

[ 30 ] February 9, 2016 |

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Colin Cowherd. (Some context about Cowherd’s repeated race-baiting of Wall here.)

The good news is that sometimes you can grow broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public:

Take Colin Cowherd, whose July departure from ESPN was hastened due to his thoughts on Dominican baseball players. While Fox Sports suits have talked up the show’s viewership in press releases, the facts (per ratings data) reveal that between 50,000 and 60,000 people are tuned in on any given day. About twice as many viewers are choosing Chris “Mad Dog” Russo’s show on MLB Network—despite that channel being available in 18 million fewer homes. Other programs that beat out Cowherd during our ratings sample period: Fisher’s ATV World; Saltwater Experience; and Fishing with Roland Martin. All those air on NBC Sports Network, perhaps FS1’s most appropriate rival.

It’s even more grim for The Best Thing I Herd, a Cowherd “greatest hits” show. It rarely pulled even 20,000 viewers, and regularly lost out to programs like UFC reruns on Fox Sports 2 or La Ultima Palabra on Fox Deportes.

The Unnecessary Maureen Dowd

[ 146 ] February 8, 2016 |

The Democratic primaries have been admirably focused on substantive differences. This evidently leaves Maureen Dowd, a third-rate gossip columnist and twelfth-rate theater critic who for some reason is published on the New York Times op-ed page, largely at sea. What, do you expect her to talk about health care policy when she could talk about Bill Clinton’s facial expressions:

As one Hillary booster in Hollywood marveled: “There’s no chance her husband doesn’t understand the problem. The look on his face during her speeches evokes a retired major league All Star watching his son strike out in a Little League game. This is so fixable.”

One trademark of Dowd’s columns is her outsourcing of witless banalities to various unnamed Beltway and Hollywood insiders. It’s actually very logical, the perfect exemplification of the underachieving elite circle-jerk that has conferred inexplicable status on Dowd. If you think A Beautiful Mind and Chicago are towering achievements of American cinema, you may well think Maureen Dowd is a good political columnist!

Her allies think mentioning her shouting is sexist, and sexism does swirl around Hillary, but her campaign cries sexism too often. In 2008, Barack Obama used race sparingly.

These tautologies don’t tell us anything. If Clinton loses more narrowly than expected in New Hampshire and wins big in South Carolina, you could say that it proves her calling out sexism is working. Had she been more sparing in citing sexism, you could say that she was making a mistake in not being more aggressive. It’s all meaningless. And if you think this is what’s driving the 2016 Democratic primaries you’re lost.

Even after all this time watching Bill and Barry, she still has not learned the art of seduction on stage.

The “Barry” thing is as offensive as ever.

Hillary has ceded the inspirational lane to the slick Marco Rubio, who’s more like the new John Edwards than the new Obama.

1)Who finds Rubio “inspirational?” 2)The comparison of Rubio to Edwards is a classic example of the uselessness of substituting fashion analysis for political analysis.

And now, my favorite part:

But she is establishment. So is Nancy Pelosi. So was Eleanor Roosevelt. Hillary must learn to embrace that and make it work for her, not deny it. As a woman, as a former first lady, senator and secretary of state, she’s uniquely equipped to deliver a big, inspiring message with a showstopping speech that goes beyond income inequality, that sweeps up broader themes of intolerance, fusing the economic, cultural and international issues at stake.

Maureen Dowd has been talking to various friends about the Democratic primary. What she has “learned” is that Hillary Clinton has been focused too narrowly on economic inequality. I can’t even.

But anyway, sure, Hillary Clinton could deliver a big speech combining themes of economic inequality with other progressive priorities. It could perhaps start with FDR’s Four freedoms, and then link economic inequality to civil liberties and civil rights and environmentalism and international issues. Here’s a draft she could possibly work with.

As we saw back when Drew Westen was a thing, even people who are obsessed with political rhetoric and think it’s enormously important either don’t know or don’t remember what public officials actually say. It’s an almost perfect self-refutation.

With Notably Rare Exceptions, Marco Rubio Had An Excellent Debate Saturday

[ 84 ] February 8, 2016 |

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Hugh Hewitt, everybody!

Talk-show host and Rubio enthusiast Hugh Hewitt: “I’m a contrarian on Rubio. He won all of that debate, except those three minutes. That will push him back. But he had a terrific second half. And I think he’ll get the bronze come Tuesday night.” Other than that, how did you enjoy the play, Mrs. Lincoln?

This reminds me of a classic moment in the entertainingly pathetic saga of Howard Kurtz. Since he’s now actually cashing paychecks for Fox News, he had to pretend to be very outraged by the BIASED MSNBC debate panel:

Rachel Maddow did a pretty good job in questioning Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders at MSNBC’s Democratic debate last night.

But she shouldn’t have been on that stage as a moderator, sitting next to Chuck Todd, NBC’s political director and moderator of “Meet the Press.”

This is not a knock on Maddow as a commentator. She is smart and passionate, a Rhodes scholar with a deep knowledge of the issues. She did not roll over for Clinton during a recent interview on her prime-time show.

But she is an unabashedly liberal commentator who rips the Republicans every night on her program. She should not have been put in that position.

I actually don’t even agree withe first sentence. Especially after the first segment — which was good because the moderators kept their interventions to a minimum — way too many of Maddow’s questions in particular focused on inane horserace and procedural trivia. (Clinton and Sanders alike handed them beautifully, refusing to rise to the bait and getting them over with as quickly as possible.) Whatever problems there were, however, I don’t really see why Maddow being a liberal makes her unqualified to moderate a Democratic debate.

But, while the argument might be bad, it would be OK if Kurtz was consistent. As you may remember, uberhack Hugh Hewitt was featured in a at least two earlier Republican debates. At one point, he literally applauded when Donald Trump said he wouldn’t run as an independent candidate. I bet Kurtz was equally upset about that, right? As you can see, he didn’t think it was even worth mentioning, and nor did he think it was problematic for Hewitt to be a moderator.

How many years did CNN try to pass off Kurtz as a neutral media critic? If only the Daily Download was still around to cover the story!

A Point Conceded

[ 151 ] February 7, 2016 |

Denver Broncos training camp at Dove Valley

In the NFL preview thread, Denverite said the following in response to Paul saying that the Denver defense looked very good but that Manning looked about done:

I’m like 100% not surprised. Denver’s defense is really good. Historically so. Their offense is iffy.

He may or may not have taken some  good-natured ribbing for this assertion subsequent threads for aggressively defending this proposition throughout the year. Rumors have been spread that I argued that Buffalo had a comparable defense, although these are obviously lies being spread by the Cruz campaign. At any rate, given that Denver just won a Super Bowl with QB play that would have been improved by signing Brandon Weeden, I think we can consider the argument closed.

Yes, Carolina played far from its best game, and whoever pointed out that Carolina’s lousy special teams could be a factor was also prescient. Yes, Rivera was awful from soup to nuts (I’m hoping Barnwell revives Thank You For Not Coaching in fact if not in form tomorrow.) Yes, the officiating was horrendous and favored Denver on balance (although there were plenty of bad calls to go around.) But Denver was flat-out the better team. It needed the defense to be great, and it was. What happened today, for reasons I laid out earlier in the week, is unprecedented. Seattle rode a dominant defense two years ago, but they had a very good QB who has become elite (I wouldn’t have traded him for Cam Newton even before tonight’s game.) Trent Dilfer was more mediocre than terrible. The Broncos defense had almost no margin for error, they played a Hall of Fame QB in the divisional round, the best QB in the league in the conference championship game and a very good one in the Super Bowl, and won all three. It’s an extraordinary accomplishment.

One final point: tonight’s game is an excellent illustration of how dumb the “how many RINGS did he win” theory of player evaluation is. In terms of how he should be evaluated by history, today’s championship should mean absolutely nothing for Manning– at least 30 QBs could have won a Super Bowl with this defense. And had he never won a Super Bowl, he’d still be an inner-circle Hall of Famer. He doesn’t become a greater player because John Elway and Wade Phillips put together a historically good defense.

Congrats to the Broncos and their fans. I’m guessing that the 17-1 bet Denverite refused to hedge will heal the pain of tomorrow’s hangover nicely.

Halftime Observations

[ 256 ] February 7, 2016 |
  • This is certainly following the script of the Denver wins involving “Peyton Manning” (and, for that matter, Tim Tebow, who I think is probably the better player as of now.)
  • Denverite will be happy that nobody can mock his “historic defense” prediction ever again.
  • The officiating has been abysmally bad. The Panthers have the most to complain about — the bizarre refusal to overrule on the clear catch by Cotchery not only led to a Denver TD but cost them a crucial challenge — but there have been bad calls both ways. Still, officials don’t decide games. Carolina didn’t have to respond to that call with a turnover. And Denver responded to a terrible taunting call on Talib with a stop.  (Granted, that call seems like preemptive karma given the effectively unpenalized Talib facemask.)
  • Riverboat Ron seems to be reverting to merely Ron. I understand him being upset about another obviously blown call, and it’s insane that you lose a successful challenge, but you can’t blow your last challenge to gain 7 yards there.  And his clock management at the end of the half was straight from the School of Andy Reid.
  • I assume Kubiak won’t do it as long as he’s ahead, but rationally it’s insane to keep “Peyton Manning” in the game. Even on the first drive he had absolutely nothing on his throws. It does, however, underscore how crucial that Miller strip-sack was — as long as Kubiak is determined to play “Manning,” Denver really cannot play from behind.
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