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The Great Pumpkin Moderate Republican President Is Coming!

[ 136 ] February 23, 2017 |

Zaid Jilani, who is paid to write about politics ostensibly from the left, actually tweeted this:

Screen Shot 2017-02-23 at 12.51.15 PM

So, let me get this straight:

  • Donald Trump had a great infrastructure plan (note: it wasn’t.) He was totally committed to it.
  • Through a mysterious mechanism that will probably never be identified, his administration became packed with finance executives.
  • After their spontaneous appearance in meetings with Trump, these alien finance executives “shut down” Donald Trump’s very serious infrastructure plan.
  • Their mechanism for “shutting down” the plan was to make an argument, which Trump agreed with.
  • Even had these finance executives who mysteriously appeared in meetings with Trump had not been able to “shut down” Trump’s secret plan to create a new PWA by arguing that it was a bad idea and Trump agreeing with their arguments, I would ask how anyone could possibly think there was the slightest chance in hell the proposal would be enacted by Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, only I’m not sure Jilani knows who these people are.

And to add to the comedy, I’d bet Euros to pesos that like many of his buddies Jilani is firmly convinced that Obama, who by this point in his first term had actually signed a major New Deal-style infrastructure program, is a Reaganite shill for capital because he was unable to get multiple Republican votes (not to mention Lieberman, Bayh, Nelson, etc. etc.) for a trillion-dollar stimulus.

I will grant that Jilani’s faith in Republicans is towards the extreme end (Trump is going to stick it to big pharma! And he totally would have done it if the Goldman Sachs people Hillary Clinton forced him to pack is executive branch with didn’t force him to back down!)  But this is part of a broader phenomenon. Trying to minimize the historically yooooge and increasing differences between the parties obviously involves a lot of lying and distortion about Democrats. But it also involves applying a much more charitable standard towards Republicans — the slightest crumb thrown by even a completely obvious fraud like Rand Paul, say, is glommed onto as hope for a Principled Alternative to the Democrat Party.  “The ACA was a Republican plan” is a bullshit argument because it understates what statute accomplished, but it’s also bullshit because it’s massively too generous to the national Republican Party, whose offer to the uninsured has always been either “nothing” or “worse than nothing.” (Cf. also “Hillary Clinton is a moderate Republican.”)

Hence, we get stuff like this:

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So, the the hope that the Republican Party will turn in a populist direction is be based on 1)two statutes passed by a Democratic Congress with veto-proof majorities and signed by a Republican president who would be either noncompetitive for the Republican nomination today or very different in their political stance, and 2)actions that happened more than 100 years ago. In conclusion, it’s very surprising that Donald Trump hasn’t governed as a New Dealer. But I’m sure the next Republican president will totally deliver the goods!

…as noted in comments, another classic of the genre. Yes, it truly mysterious why the left has not “won slots” in the Republican Party and why it is not trying to do so. Similarly, it’s hard to understand why the NAACP in the 50s decided to invest in litigation rather than lobbying the South Carolina legislature.

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Donald Trump’s Callous Bullying Is What the Republican Party Is

[ 158 ] February 23, 2017 |

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This is very Trumpian in its gratuitous cruelty, and yet President Pence, Rubio, or Cruz would be doing the same thing:

The Trump administration on Wednesday revoked federal guidelines specifying that transgender students have the right to use public school restrooms that match their gender identity, taking a stand on a contentious issue that has become the central battle over LGBT rights.

Officials with the federal Education and Justice departments notified the U.S. Supreme Court late Wednesday that the administration is ordering the nation’s schools to disregard memos the Obama administration issued during the past two years regarding transgender student rights. Those memos said that prohibiting transgender students from using facilities that align with their gender identity violates federal anti-discrimination laws.

Needless to say, Jeff Sessions is here to provide some neoconfederate analysis that lacks the the courage of its own repugnant convictions:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement that his department “has a duty to enforce the law” and criticized the Obama administration’s guidance as lacking sufficient legal basis. Sessions wrote that the Department of Justice remains committed to the “proper interpretation” of the anti-discrimination law known as Title IX but said deference should be given to lawmakers and localities.

“Congress, state legislatures, and local governments are in a position to adopt appropriate policies or laws addressing this issue,” Sessions said.

Whether or not transgendered people are human beings who merit the equal protection of the laws is a question of states’ rights. Or Congress. Whoever is most likely to answer “no.” For more of this particular Republican line of analysis, cf. “We must overrule Roe v. Wade to send the issue back to the states, and so Congress can pass national anti-aboriton regulations.”

I would conclude with a “not a dime’s worth of difference” joke, except that I think the play here from this faction of the “left” is to say that caring too much about the rights and physical security of transgender people is IDENTITY POLITICS about BATHROOMS, and Democrats will never be able to win statewide elections in states like North Carolina if they oppose cruel attacks on transgendered people too loudly.

Only Blind Partisanship Could Prevent Liberals From Seeing Rand Paul as a Principled Critic of Executive Overreach

[ 92 ] February 22, 2017 |

randtrump

More on Rand Paul, Trump’s most slavering congressional lackey:

The Republican Party has largely decided to cover for Donald Trump’s massive corruption, grotesque lies, and manifest unfitness for office. But few of them have gone quite so far, or quite so cravenly, as Rand Paul. The junior senator from Kentucky, and onetime hope of the extremely short-lived “libertarian moment” in American politics, has not only attached himself to Trump, but is actively snuffing out whatever faint stirrings of opposition his colleagues can muster.

While the GOP Congress has ignored the president’s self-enrichment, refusal to disclose his tax returns, and clear violations of the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause, some have expressed willingness to investigate his opaque ties to Russia. Paul is not one of them. And not only does he see no need for investigation on Russia, Paul has staked out a stance against any investigations, period, on the brutally frank grounds that it would impair the party’s legislative agenda. “I just don’t think it’s useful to be doing investigation after investigation, particularly of your own party,” he told “Kilmeade and Friends.” “We’ll never even get started with doing the things we need to do, like repealing Obamacare, if we’re spending our whole time having Republicans investigate Republicans.”

Many Republicans have made piecemeal excuses not to exercise the oversight function. Only Paul has elevated the practice of looking away from the crimes of the Executive branch to an actual principle of governance.

No wonder Michael Tracey liked him so much!

The only thing you can say on Rand’s behalf is that at least he’s no longer even pretending that he will act to check the unprecedentedly corrupt and unfit president and doesn’t even pretend that his actions are motivated by anything but partisanship. This in its way is an improvement over the McCains and Grahams who will pretend to be disturbed by Trump’s abuses of power but will do exactly as much about them as Paul will.

The Further Adventures of Paul Ryan, Serious Policy Wonk

[ 170 ] February 22, 2017 |

Ryan-invites-Trump-to-address-joint-session-of-Congress

Paul Ryan has a very, very serious proposal to eventually have a proposal to take away health insurance from millions of people to pay for upper-class tax cuts. He is defending it with all the seriousity his proposal deserves:

The rhetoric: In her inaugural weekly address, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) claimed that repealing Obamacare—a law that, in her words, has experienced “immense progress”—will result in widespread death and suffering.

The reality: Similar claims of 36,000 annual deaths made by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) were already disproven earlier this month—but that didn’t stop Leader Pelosi from following suit.

Only if you click through to the link that allegedly “disproves” the claim, Kessler doesn’t dispute that repealing the ACA would result in large-scale avoidable death and suffering, but merely says that we can’t be sure that the number of deaths would be exactly 36,000 people a year. Whether this justifies Bernie’s claim being given FOUR PINOCCHIOS is, ah, debatable — remember that Kessler once named a perfectly defensible normative claim about Paul Ryan’s plan to end Medicare in the form it’s always existed the “lie of the year” because look at Paul Ryan’s hangdog expression, he would never mean to do that. But that aside Sanders’s claim was not “disproven”; it just put an exact number on a potential range of outcomes, and Pelosi’s accurate claim was not addressed at all. Very serious!

And while the scare tactics Leader Pelosi used painted a grim picture, the status quo remains: Keeping Obamacare will result in even higher costs, fewer choices, and lower-quality care for Americans nationwide.

In fact, the ACA has substantially lowered costs from where they would have been without the law, and the idea that it has resulted in “lower-quality care” is silly. It has reduced “choice” in the sense that it has made the worst junk insurance that gives you almost nothing in exchange for your premiums illegal, but this not a flaw in the law.

That’s why Republicans are focused on repealing Obamacare and replacing it with a patient-centered system—one that prioritizes affordability, quality, and choice. Because being forced into something by the government is the last thing a patient needs when working with his or her health care provider.

See, “choice” gets the italics as well as the bolding, because what Paul Ryan wants is for the law, in its majestic equality, to allow rich and poor alike to afford the best insurance that can be purchased on a deregulated market. And since without a mandate and with a substantial reduction in subsidies most insurance markets will be sent into a death spiral, even the “choice” part won’t really pan out.

In addition to the obvious “rich and poor alike can save money for health care” problem, note that this language is also part of the longstanding conservertarian war on the concept of insurance. It uses buzzwords to avoid being as blunt about it, but the fundamental premise of Ryan’s logic is the same as the obscenely self-centered people who don’t understand why their health insurance should cover maternity since they’ve already had their kids.

Poor Ken Arrow must already be spinning in his grave.

Two Giants

[ 17 ] February 22, 2017 |
5/2/1968 Kenneth J. Arrow, professor of economics, in his office. Credit: Chuck Painter / Stanford News Service

5/2/1968
Kenneth J. Arrow, professor of economics, in his office.
Credit: Chuck Painter / Stanford News Service

Two of the most important social scientists of the 20th century, whose work remains highly illuminating in the 21st, died this week. First, the Nobel-prize winning economist Ken Arrow, who was enormously and justly influential. Most relevant to contemporary American politics is his still-definitive explanation for why markets in health care don’t work.

Also dying this week was Ted Lowi, one of the true greats of political science. R.I.P.

Undemocratic Elections Have Very Bad Consequences

[ 190 ] February 21, 2017 |

colorlines-screenshot-donald-trump-taco-salad-now-050616

None of this is surprising, but it’s still terrible:

The Trump Administration released new rules Tuesday that will hugely increase the number of undocumented people who are targeted for deportation. The new directives from the Department of Homeland Security call more people to be deported more quickly, even for non-violent crimes like abuse of public benefits. It also directs the agency to hire 10,000 new immigration and customs officials, and build new detention facilities to hold everyone who is suddenly considered an imminent threat to the nation.

As The Hill notes, the new rules, implemented under Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, repeal all the directives issued to immigration officials by the Obama administration. Instead of focusing on the deportation of people convicted of violent crimes, the new rules expand the definition of what a “criminal alien” is.

[…]

The new rules also confirm something ProPublica reported: that the United States now intends to deport people to Mexico who are not, in fact, from Mexico.

Well, that SEARING SELF-EXAMINATION after which the RNC determined the party should become more inclusive certainly seems to have been very effective.

A Pro-Trump Anarchobro Says What?

[ 186 ] February 21, 2017 |

I award this take 10 Baylesses and 20 Horowitzes:

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If you’re an American liberal, as opposed to a professional ratfucker of elections on behalf of the alt-right, you may be unaware that “people are not merely entitled by right to six-figure book contracts and speaking gigs an the fora of their choice, but entitled to these things without speaker or gatekeeper being criticized in any way” was a principle of “liberalism.” But, trust me, it is. I would pay particular attention to Article XII of On Liberty.

Simon and Schuster Makes Another Decision Not About “Free Speech”

[ 89 ] February 21, 2017 |

Republican vice presidential candidate Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin winks as she speaks during her vice presidential debate against Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., Thursday, Oct. 2, 2008. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Roxane Gay, as you would expect, hits a moon shot:

In canceling Milo’s book contract, Simon & Schuster made a business decision the same way they made a business decision when they decided to publish that man in the first place. When his comments about pedophilia/pederasty came to light, Simon & Schuster realized it would cost them more money to do business with Milo than he could earn for them. They did not finally “do the right thing” and now we know where their threshold, pun intended, lies. They were fine with his racist and xenophobic and sexist ideologies. They were fine with his transphobia, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. They were fine with how he encourages his followers to harass women and people of color and transgender people online. Let me assure you, as someone who endured a bit of that harassment, it is breathtaking in its scope, intensity, and cruelty but hey, we must protect the freedom of speech. Certainly, Simon & Schuster was not alone in what they were willing to tolerate. A great many people were perfectly comfortable with the targets of Milo’s hateful attention until that attention hit too close to home.

Since people were actually willing to argue with a straight face that it somehow threatened “free speech” to criticize a publisher for giving a six-figure deal to a hate-spewing racist and sexist bullshit artist, I guess a couple of points that should be obvious should be reiterated:

  • No principle of free speech requires anybody to be given access to a particular forum where access is inherently restricted. Simon and Schuster can publish only a tiny fraction of books it might consider publishing in a given year, and even a smaller fraction of that will get an advance several times the median salary. There is no way such choices can be made without “viewpoint discrimination.”
  • Sarah Palin notwithstanding, there is no free speech right –constitutional or otherwise — not to be criticized, and no right not to have a choice made to provide a speaker with a particular forum criticized. The sacred inalienable right to, say, deliver platitudes to a captive audience of college graduates in exchange for a healthy payday without anyone criticizing the choice of speaker is not a thing. Neither the First Amendment nor broader principles of free speech insulate any publisher for choosing to publish a particular book, or a conference for giving a platform to a particular speaker. The fact that S&S and CPAC have decided to withdraw their fora now that they believe Milo will no longer be profitable for the bottom line and/or American conservatism should underscore this point.

Roy has much more.

“Comey sent a letter with no information about a trivial micro-scandal, and yadda yadda yadda President Trump.”

[ 190 ] February 20, 2017 |

nytsat

A recent editorial in the New York Times makes a convincing argument in favor of a special prosecutor to look into Trump’s ties to the Russia campaign — futile, but not wrong. In an epic moment of non-self-awareness, it contains this graf:

James Comey, the embattled F.B.I. director, can’t be trusted to be a neutral investigator, either — not after his one-sided interference in the 2016 election compromised the bureau’s integrity and damaged Hillary Clinton’s campaign in its final days. Anyway, Mr. Comey reports directly to the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, who was not only Mr. Trump’s first and most ardent supporter in the Senate, but the chairman of the Trump campaign’s national security advisory committee.

This is, of course, accurate as far as it goes — Comey is a partisan hack who violated clear rules and norms to damage one candidate for president on the one hand while actively running interference for the other candidate who faced more serious allegations on the other, and it is extremely likely that these actions changed the outcome of the election.

The giant weasel in the room, however, is the question of how Comey was able to influence the election the way he did. I have the answer!

If [EMAILS!] sounds far too boring and unimportant to have conceivably dominated the 2016 presidential campaign, then it is difficult to disagree with you. And yet the facts are what they are. Indeed, by September 2015 — more than a year before the voting — Washington Post political writer Chris Cillizza had already written at least 50 items about the email controversy.

Email fever reached its peak on two separate major occasions. One was when Comey closed the investigation. Instead of simply saying “we looked into it and there was no crime,” Comey sought to immunize himself from Clinton critics by breaking with standard procedure to offer extended negative commentary on Clinton’s behavior. He said she was “extremely careless.”

Comey then brought the email story back to the center of the campaign in late October by writing a letter to Congress indicating that the email case had been reopened due to new discoveries on Anthony Weiner’s laptop. It turned out that the new discoveries were an awfully flimsy basis for a subpoena, and the subpoena turned up nothing.

This all still sounds unimportant, but it was not at the time:

Critically, one useful function of email-based criticism of Hillary Clinton was to pull together the Trumpian and establishment wings of the Republican Party. That’s why it served as the central theme of the 2016 Republican convention, allowing the likes of Scott Walker and Rick Perry to deliver on-message speeches rather than clashing with Trump’s message.

And it’s even worse than this — when the FBI wanted to insulate Trump from the serious questions about Russian attempts to influence the election, the Times was there to put out the FBI’s story on the front page.

The Times was far from the only offender, and probably not the most important one. But it’s pretty rich for the editors to straightforwardly observe that Comey is a hack with no credibility who put his foot on the electoral scale when it has at no point acknowledged its major role in laundering and amplifying Comey’s dirty work.

Needless to say, none of this is a defense of Comey, who horribly abused his office with literally world-historical consequences. But the utter failure of the media to reckon with its accountability for this silly trivia dominating electoral coverage is a serious problem going forward. If you think this can’t happen again to another Democratic candidate, or that there’s some magic trick Democrats can use to ensure that every presidential election is outside the potential ratfucking range, you’re as delusional as the country’s prominent editors are oblivious.

Uber’d

[ 135 ] February 20, 2017 |

Uber

Nobody could have anticipated that a company whose business model is predicated on breaking the law would have a dysfunctional and massively sexist corporate culture:

Uber was a pretty good-sized company at that time, and I had pretty standard expectations of how they would handle situations like this. I expected that I would report him to HR, they would handle the situation appropriately, and then life would go on – unfortunately, things played out quite a bit differently. When I reported the situation, I was told by both HR and upper management that even though this was clearly sexual harassment and he was propositioning me, it was this man’s first offense, and that they wouldn’t feel comfortable giving him anything other than a warning and a stern talking-to. Upper management told me that he “was a high performer” (i.e. had stellar performance reviews from his superiors) and they wouldn’t feel comfortable punishing him for what was probably just an innocent mistake on his part.

I was then told that I had to make a choice: (i) I could either go and find another team and then never have to interact with this man again, or (ii) I could stay on the team, but I would have to understand that he would most likely give me a poor performance review when review time came around, and there was nothing they could do about that. I remarked that this didn’t seem like much of a choice, and that I wanted to stay on the team because I had significant expertise in the exact project that the team was struggling to complete (it was genuinely in the company’s best interest to have me on that team), but they told me the same thing again and again. One HR rep even explicitly told me that it wouldn’t be retaliation if I received a negative review later because I had been “given an option”. I tried to escalate the situation but got nowhere with either HR or with my own management chain (who continued to insist that they had given him a stern-talking to and didn’t want to ruin his career over his “first offense”).

So I left that team, and took quite a few weeks learning about other teams before landing anywhere (I desperately wanted to not have to interact with HR ever again). I ended up joining a brand-new SRE team that gave me a lot of autonomy, and I found ways to be happy and do amazing work. In fact, the work I did on this team turned into the production-readiness process which I wrote about in my bestselling (!!!) book Production-Ready Microservices. 

Over the next few months, I began to meet more women engineers in the company. As I got to know them, and heard their stories, I was surprised that some of them had stories similar to my own. Some of the women even had stories about reporting the exact same manager I had reported, and had reported inappropriate interactions with him long before I had even joined the company. It became obvious that both HR and management had been lying about this being “his first offense”, and it certainly wasn’t his last. Within a few months, he was reported once again for inappropriate behavior, and those who reported him were told it was still his “first offense”. The situation was escalated as far up the chain as it could be escalated, and still nothing was done.

[…]

When I joined Uber, the organization I was part of was over 25% women. By the time I was trying to transfer to another eng organization, this number had dropped down to less than 6%. Women were transferring out of the organization, and those who couldn’t transfer were quitting or preparing to quit. There were two major reasons for this: there was the organizational chaos, and there was also the sexism within the organization. When I asked our director at an org all-hands about what was being done about the dwindling numbers of women in the org compared to the rest of the company, his reply was, in a nutshell, that the women of Uber just needed to step up and be better engineers.

Things were beginning to get even more comically absurd with each passing day. Every time something ridiculous happened, every time a sexist email was sent, I’d sent a short report to HR just to keep a record going. Things came to a head with one particular email chain from the director of our engineering organization concerning leather jackets that had been ordered for all of the SREs. See, earlier in the year, the organization had promised leather jackets for everyone in organization, and had taken all of our sizes; we all tried them on and found our sizes, and placed our orders. One day, all of the women (there were, I believe, six of us left in the org) received an email saying that no leather jackets were being ordered for the women because there were not enough women in the organization to justify placing an order. I replied and said that I was sure Uber SRE could find room in their budget to buy leather jackets for the, what, six women if it could afford to buy them for over a hundred and twenty men. The director replied back, saying that if we women really wanted equality, then we should realize we were getting equality by not getting the leather jackets. He said that because there were so many men in the org, they had gotten a significant discount on the men’s jackets but not on the women’s jackets, and it wouldn’t be equal or fair, he argued, to give the women leather jackets that cost a little more than the men’s jackets. We were told that if we wanted leather jackets, we women needed to find jackets that were the same price as the bulk-order price of the men’s jackets.

Read the whole etc.

The Rugged Independence of Maverick Senator John “Maverick” McCain (R-Maverick)

[ 181 ] February 19, 2017 |

NN_19Senators2

A commenter observed recently that a “moderate Republican” in Congress is someone who talks about opposing some Republican bill before voting for it. (In a few cases, the scam is casting a meaningless nay vote once McConnell has counted the votes.) And since the media is already getting ready to crown John McCain a mavericky critic of Trump because he might grumble about Trump a bit before voting pretty much a straight party line, this is a useful preemptive corrective:

A more accurate way of phrasing “(ambivalently, agonizingly) taking on the president” might be “not actually taking on the president.” McCain has supported every one of Trump’s nominees besides one: budget director Mick Mulvaney, who lost McCain’s support because he has supported defense budget cuts. McCain’s sole inviolable principle is that we must spend an unlimited amount of money on war with everyone forever.

In 2008, the press mostly, finally fell out of love with McCain, in part because he was running against Barack Obama, but also because it became painfully clear that McCain was and always had been a mostly unremarkable party-line Republican, whose obvious discomfort with the far-right was not actually supported by the backbone necessary to challenge the far-right. Now, with a deranged Republican president and a wholly Republican Congress, McCain will once again try to paint himself as a voice of reason and a courageous truth-teller, while not actually doing anything.

And it’s not just McCain either. Anonymous quotes given to journalists are worth nothing. And during the 2016 campaign, as most of you remember I was driven to distraction by Republican politicians who tried to come up with various ways of pretending that their endorsements of Trump weren’t really endorsements. Even a lot of liberals seemed to take Ted Cruz’s non-non-endorsement of Trump at the convention as some sort of act of principle rather than the “I wash my hands of him if he loses but I will support him if he can win” having-it-all-ways it obviously was.

If you oppose Trump, you do something concrete to oppose him. If you would prefer president Pence but are willing to use President Trump as a vehicle to advance Coolidgenomics, you’re a Trump supporter, no matter how much you grumble or whether or not you can look your daughter in the eyes.

Can the Freedom [sic] Caucus Save the Affordable Care Act?

[ 25 ] February 18, 2017 |

housespeakercrisis

I applaud their efforts to make the extremely bad the enemy of the utterly unspeakable:

Some conservative House Republicans are objecting to a major part of the Obamacare replacement outline presented to them by party leaders, underscoring the party’s continuing inability to agree on an alternative health plan.

The proposal would allow Americans who lack insurance to buy coverage with refundable tax credits they can receive before the end of a tax year. House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady said he and other leaders presented the idea during Thursday’s private conference of the House GOP.

Some conservatives say they oppose the idea because it could amount to a new government subsidy by allowing people to receive a larger credit than they pay in taxes. They prefer a mechanism that would preclude people from getting any more money than they paid in taxes.

“I don’t like the refundable tax credit,” says Representative Ted Yoho of Florida. “I don’t want people getting money back.”

“This is Obamacare light,” Yoho said, adding that he told Brady about his views.

Hopefully this resistance to Paul Ryan’s socialist tendencies will prevent the House from passing anything.  Extremism in defense of the liberty to die if you aren’t affluent enough to cover your medical expenses with what you pay in federal taxes is no vice!

 

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