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In Fairness, There Was Nothing About Drug Running at the Mena Airport

[ 39 ] October 22, 2014 |

I am not particularly thrilled about the prospect of a noncompetitive Democratic primary with Hillary Clinton as the presumptive nominee.  An article that explained why and how a candidate could be preferable would be useful.  Alas, Doug Henwood’s Harper‘s cover story is not that article.  Some of the problems are conveyed even in the intro that isn’t behind the paywall:

“How’s that hopey, changey stuff working out for you?” Sarah Palin asked American voters in a taunting 2010 speech. The answer: Not so well. We avoided a full-blown depression, but the job market remains deeply sick, and it’s become quite mainstream to talk about the U.S. economy having fallen into structural stagnation (though the rich are thriving). Barack Obama has, if anything, seemed more secretive than George W. Bush. He kills alleged terrorists whom his predecessor would merely have tortured. The climate crisis gets worse, and the political capacity even to talk about it, much less do anything about it, is completely absent.

Of the last two assertions, the first (implying that while Bush supported torture he opposed targeted killings) is risible. The argument that nothing has been done about climate change during the Obama administration is just demonstrably false. (Even Thomas Frank concedes that Obama has a good record on the environment, fer Chrissakes.) The claim about secrecy is, I will grant, a judgment call on a small-potatoes issue. And the first talks about structural trends divorced from policy changes and without any explanation of what more Obama could have done about unemployment. (And if you think that a large stimulus was just inevitable, cf. most of Europe.)

As the use of Dick Morris’s “expertise” suggests, things don’t get much better when things get to Clinton. For example:

While it was certainly not the diabolical conspiracy Republicans made it out to be during the fevered days of the Clinton impeachment, it was not nothing.

No, it really was, at least insofar as the Clintons were concerned. Gene Lyons explains:

Basically, the author has performed a simple trick: putting leftward spin on GOP talking points from the 1990s. Because everybody’s either forgotten the details or never knew them, it’s possible to make long discredited charges of corruption against both Clintons sound plausible again.

Whitewater, Henwood assures readers, definitely “was not nothing.”

What it may have been, however, he appears to have no clue. The most basic facts elude him. No, the late Jim McDougal’s doomed Madison Guaranty savings and loan did not finance the Clintons’ real estate investment. They were never “investors in McDougal’s [other] schemes.”

Maybe Henwood would better understand the Clintons’ surprising “escape from the Whitewater morass” if he grasped that they were basically the victims, not the perps.

Here’s how Kenneth Starr’s prosecutor Ray Jahn put it in his closing argument at poor, mentally ill Jim McDougal’s trial:

“Why isn’t the President of the United States on trial?…Because he didn’t set up any phony corporations to get employees to sign for loans that were basically worthless…The president didn’t backdate any leases. He didn’t backdate any documents. He didn’t come up with any phony reasons not to repay the property. He didn’t lie to any examiners. He didn’t lie to any investors.”

A lot of the rest of the analysis isn’t much better. He derides her legislative record, arguing that “of all her senatorial accomplishments, “the [Iraq War vote] arguably had the biggest impact. The rest were the legislative equivalent of being against breast cancer.” Certainly, Clinton deserves a great deal of criticism for supporting the Iraq War, but since this vote almost certainly cost her the Democratic nomination it’s not exactly news. But it’s also true that this was pretty much the only “impact” the vote had — the war was happening however she voted. It’s fair game because it reflects a serious error in judgment, but its causal impact was on the war happening was nil.

The bigger problem, though, is criticizing her for not getting major legislation passed. (This deeply odd way of evaluating a senator’s record is reflected in his language: “Hillary passed a total of twenty bills during her first five years in the Senate.” Individual senators don’t “pass” anything.) The rather obvious problem here is that the entirety of her Senate tenure happened with George W. Bush in the White House, and 6 of those were with a Republican Congress. Of course the only legislation she supported that passed was trivial symbolic stuff. This really takes Green Lantenism to a whole other level; apparently, if Hillary Clinton was a good senator a Republican Congress and Republican president would have passed transformative progressive legislation. That seems plausible!

So while there’s a good Clinton critique waiting to be written, this ain’t it.

…Tom Till in comments:

There are plenty of issues where Hillary Clinton deserves close, even withering scrutiny and where reasonable people can and should debate. The grotesque and preposterous sham known as Whitewater is not one of them. That a number of prominent reporters, editorialists, members of the judiciary, and various elected politicians, operatives, lobbyists, committee staffers, and wingnut bottom-feeders conspired to hatch it, prolong it (in many instances blatantly disregarding the law or at least legal ethics), and infect the political bloodstream with it to such a degree that it ultimately resulted in a president’s impeachment is, well, neither forgivable nor forgettable.

Apparently, An Oxford Education Isn’t What It Used To Be

[ 101 ] October 22, 2014 |

Charles C.W. Cooke is very upset that people who oppose antidiscrimation laws are compared to people who oppose antidiscrimination laws:

In this manner, too, have we come to discuss the ever-diminishing scope of private property rights, our debates centering nowadays not on whether individuals should have a general right to decide whom they will serve, but on why anybody would be asking these questions in the first instance. Think you should be able to decide who comes into your bar? Drop the act, Bubba, you must be in the Klan.

Let’s leave aside the silly assumption that businesses who want to be exempt from civil rights laws are all “individuals.” Do civil rights statutes violate longstanding “rights” of public accommodations to exclude customers for any reason of their choosing? Well, I have someone with some expertise with the subject right here, and:

[I]f an inn-keeper, or other victualler, hangs out a sign and opens his house for travelers, it is an implied engagement to entertain all persons who travel that way; and upon this universal assumpsit an action on the case will lie against him for damages, if he without good reason refuses to admit a traveler.

–Sir William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England

This common law tradition, requiring public accommodations to serve customers with the ability to pay on equal terms, was carried over to the United States. Civil rights laws applying to public accommodations do not represent a dimunition of traditional rights; they represent a statutory recognition of long-standing common law rights. The Jim Crow “general right [of businesses open to the general public] to decide whom they will serve” arrangement Cooke prefers is the anomaly in the Anglo-American legal tradition, not civil rights laws. Generally, people who advocate for policies designed to advance segregationist policy preferences against well-established rights should not be surprised when they’re likened to segregationists.

[Via Edroso.]

Oh! Canada

[ 29 ] October 22, 2014 |

The scope of the attack remains unclear, but this is evidently a frightening development.

Those Who Fail To Learn From the Results of Nominating Shitty Candidates Are Doomed To Keep Losing

[ 70 ] October 22, 2014 |

The Titantic, the Hindenberg, the 2007 New York Mets, Martha Coakley:

National Democrats are haunted by memories of Martha Coakley’s unforced stumbles and missteps in 2010, which cost them a U.S. Senate seat in one of the country’s bluest states.

Four laters later, the Massachusetts attorney general might be about to blow another major contest: The race to succeed Deval Patrick as governor.

With two weeks left to go, a new poll by WBUR, which tracks the race weekly, found Coakley trailing for the first time against Republican Charlie Baker, a former health care CEO who served as secretary of finance and health under Gov. William Weld in the 1990s.

It’s still a close contest: Baker has 43 percent while Coakley has 42 percent, well inside the poll’s 4.4 percent margin of error.

But the troubling sign for Coakley is that Baker appears to be gaining steam down the stretch after consistently trailing throughout the campaign.

“It’s one of several polls which over the last week or so have shown a movement toward Baker,” Steve Koczela, the president of MassINC Polling Group, which conducts the polls, said. “Coakley has essentially been treading water while Baker’s been climbing.”

Coakley’s late drop-off seems eerily reminiscent of the 2010 special election against upstart Republican candidate Scott Brown, when the Democrat blew a huge lead, fell behind in the final stretch, and went on to lose.

Hopefully she’ll pull it out anyway, but it’s ridiculous that the Massachusetts bench is so shallow that someone who ran one of the worst campaigns in known human history — a bad campaign with very substantial consequences for the country, yet — could get nominated for a competitive race again.

“Dane Cook with a better vocabulary and an accent.”

[ 55 ] October 22, 2014 |

Let’s just say that when Russell Brand briefly had that dreadful show that followed up Louie — come back Colin Quinn, all is forgiven — his choice of sidekick was Hank Kinsgley Mr. Matt Stoller.

Ben Bradlee

[ 21 ] October 22, 2014 |

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R.I.P.

Royal Series

[ 35 ] October 21, 2014 |

lorde-kansas-city-royals-george-brett-signed-jersey

Really good fan’s perspective from Rany Jazayerli, especially the risk you know going in that this could be like the ’07 Rockies. I’ll be rooting for KC, but above all it would be nice to have a series that isn’t over quickly.

On the other side, Jonah’s piece on Bruce Bochy is excellent. As he says, the Jaffe/Birnbaum data established him as a first-rate manager even in San Diego, and he’s done a terrific job with the Giants.

…James Shields’s parents should have given him a name that kind of rhymes with “perfectly decent #2 starter.”

Area Hack Pundit Attempts to Defend GOP Vote Suppression, Makes Most Ridiculous Argument Ever

[ 117 ] October 21, 2014 |

Shorter verbatim John Fund: “There’s no doubt that many people in our increasingly mobile and hectic society want voting to be as easy and convenient as buying fast food. But too much of anything can be bad — just ask someone who has gorged on drive-thru burgers and fries.”

Admittedly, Fund drew the short straw on this; attempts to stop or roll back early voting lack even the pretense of a non-partisan justification that other Republican vote suppression efforts have. Still, you’d think someone in Fund’s pay grade could up with something just a tad less transparently self-refuting than “voting on a Sunday is like eating 8 Double Quarter Pounders in one sitting!” The bullshitting about a single election day being “in the Constitution” is a little better, but really.

Your Point Being?

[ 30 ] October 21, 2014 |

A Heritage Foundation hack has taken time off from crafting Democratic health care policy to point out the horrors of Obama’s nominee to head the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division discussing the War on (Some Classes of People Who Use Some) Drugs:

To begin, she believes that the misnamed war on drugs “is an atrocity and that it must be stopped.” She has written that the war on drugs has been a “war on communities of color” and that the “racial disparities are staggering.” As the reliably-liberal Huffington Post proclaimed, she would be one of the most liberal nominees in the Obama administration.

Pointing out the racial disparities of the drug war — facts you do not actually dispute — makes Gupta the real racist or something. As Serwer shorters it:

Not Even Casey Is As Bad As the 5th Circuit Thinks

[ 14 ] October 21, 2014 |

As Anderson noted in comments recently, Judge Dennis’s dissent from the 5th Circuit’s denial of an en banc hearing of its opinion allowing Texas to force most of the state’s abortion clinics to close without any legitimate independent justification is very good:

In upholding Texas’s unconstitutional admitting-privileges requirement for abortion providers and medication-abortion restrictions, the panel opinion flouts the Supreme Court’s decision in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania. v. Casey by refusing to apply the undue burden standard expressly required by Casey. Instead, the panel applied what effectively amounts to a rational basis test — a standard rejected by Casey — under the guise of applying the undue burden standard. The panel’s assertion that it applies Casey is false because it does not assess the strength of the state’s justifications for the restrictive abortion laws or weigh them against the obstacles the laws place in the path of women seeking abortions, as required by Casey. A correct application of the Casey undue burden standard would require that the admitting – privileges provision and medication – abortion restrictions be stricken as undue burdens because the significant obstacles those legal restrictions place in the way of women’s rights to previability abortions clearly outweigh the strength of their purported justifications.

If not overruled, the panel’s sham undue burden test will continue to exert its precedential force in courts’ review of challenges to similar types of recently minted abortion restrictions in Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi.”

Certainly, the history of Casey has shown the vast inferiority of the “undue burden” test compared to Roe’s strict scrutiny test. Nevertheless, despite its vagueness it has to mean a higher standard of scrutiny than rational basis, and the Texas statute could not survive any scrutiny more heightened than the rational basis the 5CA panel applied in practice. The panel acted as if the rational basis test Rehnquist tried to replace Roe with in his throw-Roe-from-the-caboose draft in Webster, and not Casey, was the controlling precedent. I fear that Kennedy might be headed in this direction, but at he very least 5CA can’t do it before he does.

The Principles of John Roberts

[ 5 ] October 21, 2014 |

You might think that the fact that the Supreme Court is willing to allow Texas to conduct an election with a racially discriminatory poll tax reflects a complete disinterest unwillingness* to intervene in the electoral process. Of course, this is not exactly true:

There is no right more basic in our democracy than the right to participate in electing our political leaders,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote in April.

Roberts spoke then for the court’s conservative majority in striking down part of a federal election law so as to allow a wealthy Republican businessman from Alabama to give more money to candidates across the country.

The contribution limit restricted the donor’s free speech, Roberts concluded, and the Constitution requires the court to err on the side of safeguarding that cherished 1st Amendment protection.

But the right to vote, which is the way most Americans participate in a democracy, has gotten far less protection from the Supreme Court under Roberts.

There is no starker example than the high court’s order early Saturday allowing Texas to enforce a new photo identification law that a federal judge had blocked earlier this month after deciding the law would prevent as many as 5% of the state’s registered voters, or 600,000 people in all, from casting a ballot.

Fortunately, the law in its majestic equality permits rich and poor alike to donate great sums of money to political campaigns, which will surely be a consolation to the disenfranchised.

*As Jacob Levy noted on the tweeter, this is a misuse of the word, a misusage I particularly regret in the context of discussing the Roberts Court and voting rights.

A Movement For Everyone: Alcoholics, the Unemployable, Angry Loners…

[ 259 ] October 20, 2014 |

and now come the grifters. It’s just amazing how important an issue ethics in gaming journalism* has gotten!

*Note: underlying “scandal” unlikely to contain any actual evidence even of unethical journalistic behaviors, although it might involve interminable screeds about how someone you don’t know allegedly cheated on someone you don’t know, and the next person to coherently explain why anyone else should give a rat’s ass will be the first.

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