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Second and nine

[ 420 ] January 25, 2017 |

In the summer of 2014, Amelia Molitor, a 20-year-old student at the University of Oklahoma, got her face smashed in by Joe Mixon, the football team’s prize freshman running back.  Mixon’s brutal assault was captured on video — a video which both the police and Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops saw before deciding to more or less let Mixon off the hook (Mixon was suspended for his freshman season, and got a legal slap on the wrist).

Molitor was subsequently hounded mercilessly by Oklahoma football fans, apparently for slamming her face into Mixon’s fist, thus endangering his chances of bringing glory to the team on the field.  (The full story is here.)

Two and a half years later, the story became national news when, after a long legal battle, a court ordered the video of the assault to be released to the media.  (It’s here.  Warning: It’s very disturbing).   Once the video was available, it set off a firestorm of protest.

That was the situation when, a couple of weeks later, Oklahoma played in the Sugar Bowl.   Longtime broadcaster Brent Musburger did the play by play of the game for ABC/ESPN.  During the first half, Musburger brought up the controversy. After describing the video as “very troubling to see” he said this:

“We’ve talked to the coaches. They all swear that the young man is doing fine. … Folks, he is just one of the best, and let’s hope, given a second chance by Bob Stoops and Oklahoma, let’s hope that this young man makes the most of his chance and goes on to have a career in the National Football League.”

This caused something of an explosion on social media.  Some ESPN honchos appear to have a had a little chat with their employee at halftime, because in the third quarter Musburger returned to the issue:

“Apparently, some people were very upset when I wished this young man well at the next level. Let me make something perfectly clear. What he did with that young lady was brutal, uncalled-for. He’s apologized. He was tearful. He got a second chance. He got a second chance from Bob Stoops. I happen to pull for people with second chances, OK? Let me make it absolutely clear that I hope he has a wonderful career and he teaches people with that brutal, violent video. OK? Second down and 9.”

The next day, Christine Brennan wrote a column for USA TODAY calling on Musburger to quit.  Today he did.

I’m sure it wasn’t easy for Brennan, who works in the still almost all-male world of high profile sports journalism, to write what she did about her long-time colleague.  It was a brave thing to do, and it seems to have made a difference.






Is our media learning con’t

[ 121 ] January 23, 2017 |

Politico commits journalism:


In his first meeting with congressional leaders of both parties since taking office, President Donald Trump on Monday reiterated a debunked claim that he lost the national popular vote only because of widespread voter fraud. . .

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) confirmed that Trump made the voter fraud claim, but added, “I didn’t pay a lot of attention to it. I was ready to move onto some policy issues. I didn’t anticipate that discussion.”

It’s further evidence of Trump’s fixation with his narrow victory, in which he won the Electoral College handily despite losing the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by nearly 3 million votes. Nearly three weeks after his Election Day victory, as late California returns drove up Clinton’s popular vote margin, Trump tweeted incorrectly about the size of his victory.

“In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally,” he wrote.

He’s provided no evidence to back up that claim, and multiple fact checks and investigations have called the assertion false.

Trump is also still whinging about the crowd size at the inauguration, which is a 12-minute story that’s now four days old because our idiotic electoral system has put an overgrown toddler in the Oval Office:

Hoyer told CNN’s Burnett that Trump also brought up his inauguration crowd size at the gathering.
“He didn’t change his point of view on the crowd size,” Hoyer said. “It was from his perspective a very large crowd … it was clear this was still on his mind.”

What’s the over/under on the duration of the Trump presidency?

[ 287 ] January 22, 2017 |

For any member of the LGM community who doesn’t happen to be a degenerate sports gambler, the over/under is a betting proposition that establishes for betting purposes the most likely probability for an outcome.  (Example: the o/u on the AFC championship game today is 51, which means that the odds makers and the betting public have decided collectively via their wagers that there’s a 50% chance that the teams will score 51 points or more, and a 50% chance the teams will score 51 points or less.  If you take the under you win your bet if the teams score less than 51 points, and if you take the over you win if they score more than 51.  Also, don’t gamble on sports kids.).

Moving right along, Donald Trump’s twitter feed this morning.

OK let’s set the line.

Media bias towards reality once again leads to smear of GOP politician

[ 76 ] January 21, 2017 |

The Associated Press reporting on Donald Trump’s speech to the CIA this afternoon:


President Donald Trump accuses media of lying about inauguration crowds, wrongly says crowd reached Washington monument.

Emphasis added.

I’m no psychologist, but from what I understand Trump represents a truly textbook case of narcissistic personality disorder.

Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for admiration and a lack of empathy for others. But behind this mask of ultraconfidence lies a fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to the slightest criticism.

A narcissistic personality disorder causes problems in many areas of life, such as relationships, work, school or financial affairs.
Probably also domestic and and foreign affairs.

Top Five songs about addiction

[ 151 ] January 20, 2017 |

A continuing series. In no particular order, man.

Warren Zevon, Carmelita

The Kills, Monkey 23

Curtis Mayfield, Freddie’s Dead

Neil Young, Tonight’s the Night

Velvet Underground, Heroin


The lives of others

[ 152 ] January 20, 2017 |

Ten days before the 2016 presidential election, the FBI attempted what turned out to be a successful coup d’ etat.

In the comments to Scott’s post clarifying exactly how a domestic intelligence agency threw an election by choosing to intervene against one candidate, when it had vastly more significant information at its disposal it could have used to intervene against the candidate’s opponent, MDrew quotes Scott and then asks the following question:

Trump is not a legitimate president and should not be treated as such.

Very honest question. How, exactly, is this done, concretely?

I have a rough idea with regard to Democrats in Washington, though would appreciate clarification.

But how is this done among the rest of us, exactly?

It’s a good and important question.  I’m going to try to give only the beginnings of an answer.

First, it’s important to internalize the reality of what has happened.  Rewenzo ends his/her excellent summary of the current state of affairs by noting that “this is the second straight Republican president who was awarded the presidency by an organ of the state, and not by voters.”

The theft of the 2016 election by the FBI was, however, exponentially worse than the theft of the 2000 election by the SCOTUS.

In 2000, the relevant state organ did not interfere with the election until after the fact.  This is a crucial distinction.  A legitimate election actually took place, although the candidate who actually won the vote was denied office by ex post facto intervention.  As bad as that was, it wasn’t nearly as bad as immensely powerful state actors attempting (successfully it turned out) to rig the outcome ahead of time, via an equally illegitimate intervention into the electoral process.  The latter act means that no legitimate election ever took place — only something that looked at the time like a legitimate election.

Furthermore, the 2000 election was, legitimately, extremely close.  The 2016 election was not close: Clinton got nearly three million more votes, and “lost” only because the FBI found a way to detonate successfully the unexploded bomb that is (or was) our electoral college system, via a grossly unethical and probably illegal ex ante intervention, that beyond any reasonable doubt threw the electoral college to the candidate who lost the popular vote by a large margin.

In short, Trump’s presidency is, from both a democratic and procedural standpoint, no more legitimate than the Pinochet regime in Chile, or the Ulbricht regime in East Germany.

So, first things first: figuring out how to live in a place that as of today resembles at a very fundamental level East Germany in 1951 or Chile in 1973 requires coming to grips that this is where we live now.  (Obviously there are still various differences between these places.  For example I can still publish this post.)   Where we live now means that the appropriate attitude of patriotic citizens is one of resistance to the regime: not merely resistance to its particular political goals and initiatives, but resistance to its purported legitimacy.  How is the latter sort of resistance carried out?  That will depend entirely on the particular position of each individual who is part of the resistance.  But the first step is to recognize the political and social reality of our present situation.  Suggestions for further steps are most welcome.


Charlotte School of Law flips off the Obama administration

[ 11 ] January 19, 2017 |

This is one to watch in the first weeks of the Trump regime:

The already-reeling Charlotte School of Law has fired much of its faculty – a possible response to what’s expected to be a significant drop in enrollment when the school reopens next week, the Observer has learned.

Sources said that up to two-thirds of the school’s professors and staff were notified in the past two days. The massive cuts come less than week before the school is supposed to reopen despite crippling financial problems that threaten to overwhelm it.

A fired faculty member who asked not to be named out of concern of retaliation told the Observer that Dean Jay Conison made personal phone calls to the affected staffers starting Wednesday night. Those calls continued Thursday morning, the former faculty member said.

Charlotte, which had its access to federal student loans cut off last month because it was failing to meet even the ABA’s deplorably lax standards, and was also misrepresenting (that’s a nice word for it) to students what their chances of passing the bar were likely to be, was in the midst of negotiating a “teach out” plan with the Department of Education.  This is something the department requires recipients of Title IV loans to do rather than merely leaving current students high and dry when an institution is on the verge of closing its doors. Well current Charlotte students can forget about that now:

The faculty firings are the latest public setback for the uptown, for-profit school. On Wednesday, the federal government announced that negotiations with the school over the return of millions of dollars in student loans have broken down.

In a statement sent to Charlotte School of Law’s students, a top U.S. Department of Education official said his agency and the law school had previously reached an agreement in principle that would have freed up some of the federal loan money in time for the planned start of classes Monday.

Instead, Charlotte School of Law “has since rejected what it had previously accepted and has informed the Department that it will not be accepting the conditions set,” Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell said.

Assuming that the Charlotte School of Law reopens, Mitchell’s announcement means the 10-year-old institution – and its estimated 700 students – must press on without the taxpayer-backed federal loans. Last year, those loans totaled almost $50 million for CSL students.

For weeks, school President Chidi Ogene and Conison have been promising students details of alternative loan options to cover tuition and other expenses. Those details still had not been released Wednesday evening. Nor has the schedule of classes for the upcoming semester, students said.

Thursday, Ogene and Conison issued an extraordinary statement in which they accused the Department of Education of breaking the law and violating its own rules by cutting off the school’s access to loans last year.

“It is regrettable that the Department of Education leadership, in the very last days of its tenure, has chosen to jeopardize the future of all our students,” the statement said. “… That is why we will continue to fight aggressively for the interests of everyone [sic] of our students when the new administration takes responsibility for the department.”

School leaders said they are continuing “to work aggressively to protect our students’ rights. As we said in our earlier statements, we are not holding our students’ education hostage to these negotiations.”

It seems pretty obvious what the game is here: instead of closing down in an orderly manner that would allow students a semester short of graduation to get their degrees,* Charlotte (which means Infilaw, which in turn means Sterling Partners) is gambling that Betsy DeVos and her boss have a warm spot in their hypothetical hearts for operations like this one, and that those embers of affection can be ignited into an institution-saving blaze, if the school’s “leadership” insults the outgoing administration egregiously enough, while groveling before the majesty of their new overlords.  We shall see.

*Actually if the school shuts down then students who haven’t yet graduated have all their federal student loans automatically forgiven.  This would of course be by far the best outcome for the vast majority of current Charlotte students.

If the GOP has gone completely off the rails, that means the Democrats have too

[ 162 ] January 19, 2017 |


Not long ago, another magazine asked me to recommend six books that explain something important about American politics. I chose six of my favorites that help elucidate the most important development of the last half-century in American politics: the Republican Party’s embrace of movement conservative ideology. No other major party in the advanced world rejects on principle any proposed tax-revenue increase, or denies the legitimacy of climate science, or opposes universal health care.

And now, the punchline:

I was told my list could not be published because it was too partisan — to be suitable for publication, I would have to swap out some of the books I chose, and substitute some that made the case that the Democratic Party had also gone off the rails, for the sake of balance. I replied that I could not make this change because I don’t believe that the Democratic Party, in its current historical period, has gone off the rails. That doesn’t mean I consider the Democrats flawless, just that they are a normal party with normal problems. It contains a broad range of interest groups and politicians. Sometimes one interest group or another gains too much influence over a particular policy, and sometimes its leading politicians get greedy or make bad political decisions.

The GOP right now is an abnormal party. It does not resemble the major right-of-center parties found in other industrialized democracies. The most glaring manifestation of this is Donald Trump, the flamboyantly ignorant, authoritarian Republican president-elect. But for all his gross unsuitability for public office, Trump also grows out of longstanding trends within his party, which has previously elevated such anti-intellectual figures as George W. Bush and Sarah Palin as plausible leaders of the free world not despite but because of their disdain for empiricism. And it had grown increasingly suspicious of democracy even before a reality television star with a longstanding admiration for strongmen from Russia to Tiananmen Square came upon the scene — which is why the “mainstream” Paul Ryan wing has so willingly suborned Trump’s ongoing violations of governing norms.

It is still fashionable to regard the two parties today as broadly symmetrical to each other — as, indeed, they once were for many decades. But that quaint notion has blinded many of us to the radical turn the Republican Party has taken, and which has brought the American political system to a dangerous point.


Trump is being sued for defamation by one of the women he allegedly assaulted

[ 139 ] January 18, 2017 |

I’m not putting “allegedly” in scare quotes because I love the Rule of Law like that.


A former contestant on “The Apprentice” who previously accused Donald Trump of making unwelcome sexual advances toward her, kissing her on the lips and groping her in a Beverly Hills hotel filed a defamation lawsuit Tuesday against the president-elect over his denials of her allegations, CBS Los Angeles reported.

Summer Zervos announced the lawsuit at a Los Angeles news conference with her attorney, Gloria Allred, who represents multiple women who have made allegations of sexual misconduct by Mr. Trump. Mr. Trump has vehemently denied the allegations, and he specifically rebuffed Zervos’ accusations.

Zervos and Allred said they called on Mr. Trump in November in retract statements calling Zervos a “liar” and referring to her allegations as “fiction” and “fabrications.”

“I also called up on him to state that what I said about his behavior toward me was true,” Zervos said. “More than two months have gone by and he has not issued that retraction. I wanted to give Mr. Trump the opportunity to retract his false statements about me and the other women who came forward. Mr. Trump has not issued a retraction as I requested, he has therefore left me with no alternative other than to sue him in order to vindicate my reputation.”

“I want Mr. Trump to know that I will still be willing to dismiss my case against him immediately for no monetary compensation if he would simply retract his false and defamatory statements about me and acknowledge that I told the truth about him,” she added.

I wonder if there’s any relevant precedent regarding whether a sitting president can be sued for something he “allegedly” did unrelated to the performance of his office?


Leaving aside the snark for a moment:

(1) Summer Zervos accuses Trump of groping her and kissing her without her consent.  That’s sexual assault.  Sexual assault is a crime which is very hard to prosecute for all sorts of reasons, one of the biggest being that the state has to meet a standard of proof of beyond a reasonable doubt.  Here, Zervos must merely prove that it’s more likely than not that Trump was lying when he claimed that Zervos was lying.

(2) This case is a reversal of the standard New York Times v. Sullivan situation, because it’s the public figure that’s being sued for defamation.  (I doubt that Zervos is even a limited purpose public figure in this context, and even if she is the Sullivan standard seems irrelevant, since Trump actually knows whether his claims about her statements about him are true or not).

(3) Using a million-watt megaphone to lie about having sexually assaulted somebody is, independent of the assault itself, a horrible act that should be punished ruthlessly by the legal system, especially since the criminal law so often fails to punish sexual assault itself.

I hope and trust that we see several more of these in the coming months.

Obama commutes Chelsea Manning’s 35-year sentence

[ 211 ] January 17, 2017 |

President Obama on Tuesday largely commuted the remaining prison sentence of Chelsea Manning, the army intelligence analyst convicted of an enormous 2010 leak that revealed American military and diplomatic activities across the world, disrupted the administration, and made WikiLeaks, the recipient of those disclosures, famous.

The decision by Mr. Obama rescued Ms. Manning, who twice tried to commit suicide last year, from an uncertain future as a transgender woman incarcerated at the male military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. She has been jailed for nearly seven years, and her 35-year sentence was by far the longest punishment ever imposed in the United States for a leak conviction.

Now, under the terms of Mr. Obama’s commutation announced by the White House on Tuesday, Ms. Manning is set to be freed in five months, on May 17 of this year, rather than in 2045.

[EL]: Hmmmm:

Working for Trump

[ 122 ] January 16, 2017 |

David Schizer, until recently dean of Columbia Law School, has just interviewed for the position of Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Tax Policy in the Trump administration.

I don’t know Schizer, and I don’t exactly have a starry-eyed view of Columbia Law School, but I’ll confess this still sort of shocks me.

I spoke with a friend who had a career rather than a political appointment with a a federal agency, and who quit after Ronald Reagan put a particularly noxious (but not utterly unqualified — how far we’ve fallen!) fellow at the head of the operation, and he turned out to be every bit as terrible as people feared he would be. I asked my friend what he thought of people taking political appointments in the Trump administration.  His view is that this is OK as long as the person goes in ready to resign if necessary (Since my friend actually quit a great federal job on principle I’m inclined to have considerable respect for his views on such matters).

His argument is that you can’t just have completely incompetent hacks running everything, so voluntarily taking a mid-level political appointment under Trump, as Schizer is trying to do, is at least defensible, as long as you realize you may well have to quit.

Whether or not you agree with this view, should it apply downward to at least fairly high-level career appointments? (obviously condemning the average federal employee for keeping his or her job is untenable).  For instance if you’re already an AUSA or a federal public defender should you quit rather than work for Trump?

What about people who don’t currently work for the feds? If your dream is to be an AUSA or the like should it be held against you that you took a job in the Trump administration?  (FWIW I will definitely be holding this against such people, should they in the future try to get any job where I get a say in the matter. This includes people who clerk for judges appointed by Trump, etc).

In hypothetical fantasy land at least, you can apply this logic upward as well. Is it OK to take an actual cabinet-level position as an act of self-sacrificing triage?  (I assume this is how Mitt Romney rationalized his participation in a little humiliation ritual that didn’t end up working out, as they say in the Mafia).

Trump to appoint solid gold calf as new poet laureate

[ 136 ] January 13, 2017 |


In a sharp turn of events, President-elect Donald Trump is expected to name Philip Bilden, a private equity investment firm executive with no military or government experience, to be his first secretary of the Navy. The appointment would be the latest sign that Trump wants wealthy businessmen rather than military, policy or political leaders to run the military service agencies.

Bilden has now “moved to the front of the pack and is expected to be named as early as next week,” one transition official, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about internal deliberations, told me. A second transition official confirmed that Bilden is now the likely choice, although nothing is final until announced. For months until recently, former Republican congressman Randy Forbes was widely expected to be named Navy secretary. Forbes had visited Trump Tower multiple times and was approved by top Trump transition officials.

But over the past couple of weeks, Bilden has emerged as Trump’s choice. His appointment would follow the appointment of another wealthy businessman, Vincent Viola, to be secretary of the Army. Trump’s defense secretary nominee, retired Gen. James N. Mattis, was furious about the Viola appointment, mostly because he wasn’t in the loop. But transition sources told me Mattis has signed off on Bilden.

Remember when people spoke of the plutocracy in the new gilded age and it was kinda-sorta-maybe hyperbolic?

Those were the days my friend.

. . . I guess Operation Valkyrie will have to wait:


In a bizarre move, Donald Trump has demanded that the commanding officer of the Washington, D.C. National Guard resign from his post in the middle of the Inauguration ceremony, even though the general will be in the middle of helping oversee the event’s security, the Washington Post reported on Friday.

Maj. Gen. Errol R. Schwartz will be removed from his post at 12:01 p.m. on Inauguration Day, just after Trump is sworn in but before the Inaugural parade begins, according to a memo obtained by the Washington Post.

Schwartz has helped plan the security for Inauguration weekend, and he will be charged with overseeing the D.C. National Guard as well as an additional 5,000 troops sent in for the weekend. But he will have to hand over commend to an interim officer in the middle of Inauguration Day.

“The timing is extremely unusual,” Schwartz told the Washington Post on Friday.

“My troops will be on the street,” he added. “I’ll see them off but I won’t be able to welcome them back to the armory.”

Schwartz told the Post that he was not informed why he must step down abruptly on Inauguration Day.

“I’m a soldier,” he said. “I’m a presidential appointee, therefore the president has the power to remove me.”

Seriously this isn’t going to end well.

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