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The Success of the First ACA Open Enrollment

[ 106 ] April 18, 2014 |

Fundamentally good news:

President Obama on Thursday announced the final numbers for the Affordable Care Act’s open enrollment period.

Eight million people have signed up for private insurance plans through the new federal and state marketplaces. And within the federal marketplaces, 28 percent of enrollees are ages 18 to 34.

This is good news—very, very good news.

Granted, Real Progressives understand that reducing the number of uninsured is just horse race politics with no policy consequences, but for the rest of us this is a good outcome. And remember that were it not for the Taney Roberts Court and Republican statehouses, the numbers would be substantially higher.

And as Sarah Kilff says, the takeway is straightforward:

There’s a very simple reason that Obamacare hit 8 million sign-ups: Being uninsured is horrible.

But the political conversation over Obamacare was driven almost entirely by people who had, and knew they would be able to keep, their health insurance. It was filled with a lot of assumptions, theories, and speculations about what people who didn’t have good insurance, or any insurance, would do. And after Obamacare’s disastrous launch, the theory took hold that these people wouldn’t find this untested program worth the trouble. It was the permanently insured speculating about the uninsured and the barely insured – and, unsurprisingly, they got it wrong.

And for this reason, people who think it would be better for millions of people to go uninsured than for a rentier to skim a buck off the top are making a grotesquely immoral argument. “Incremental reform” might sound weak, but in this case it will mean alleviating substantial amounts of suffering and anxiety.

Innovations In Leftier-Than-Thouism That Always Happens To Be Rightier-Than-Thouism In Practice

[ 164 ] April 17, 2014 |

Shorter Lambert Strether: I’m baffled that anyone would think that reducing the number of uninsured, such as the net increase of 9.3 million with coverage, is an actual goal of health care policy. Even though I certainly used to think that when people thought my Republican talking point would be proven right! As Megan McArdle says, any good news can be preemptively rejected. Anyway, if only we had Hillary Clinton to enact Hillary Clinton’s health care plan rather than Obama enacting Hillary Clinton’s health care plan we wouldn’t have had any of these problems.

“…there was virtually no investigation at all.”

[ 197 ] April 16, 2014 |

The Amy Schumer sketch I linked to earlier today is, alas, applicable to a much wider array of institutions:

As she gave her account to the police, several bruises began to appear, indicating recent trauma. Tests would later find semen on her underwear.

For nearly a year, the events of that evening remained a well-kept secret until the woman’s allegations burst into the open, roiling the university and threatening a prized asset: Jameis Winston, one of the marquee names of college football.

Three weeks after Mr. Winston was publicly identified as the suspect, the storm had passed. The local prosecutor announced that he lacked the evidence to charge Mr. Winston with rape. The quarterback would go on to win the Heisman Trophy and lead Florida State to the national championship.

In his announcement, the prosecutor, William N. Meggs, acknowledged a number of shortcomings in the police investigation. In fact, an examination by The New York Times has found that there was virtually no investigation at all, either by the police or the university.

Definitely do read the whole depressing thing.

Congress, as some of you remember, attempted to create a civil remedy in cases where state authorities were negligent in sexual assault cases, but this was deemed inconsistent with the Republican war on federal civil rights enforcement via whatever doctrine can be invented or exhumed from the Taney Court. (U.S. v. Morrision, as it happens, also involved a case where a state university put the health of the football team above the security of the person of women on campus, reason the umpteenth for not putting states’ “rights” ahead of actual human rights.) Until conservatives on the Supreme Court rule the Civil Rights Act unconstitutional, however, the way Florida State handled the case is almost certainly illegal, and I hope the Department of Justice is investigating assiduously.

Go, Joe

[ 32 ] April 16, 2014 |

Evidently, Biden’s big mouth isn’t always a blessing, but on same-sex marriage it did indeed compel Obama to postmaturely do the right thing, and good for him.

Annual NHL Picks Post

[ 34 ] April 16, 2014 |
This blog didn’t develop tens of ardent fans by ignoring its Sacred Traditions, and hence I cannot ignore my responsibilities.   (Remember that you can be more right than me twice by joining the Playoff Hockey Challenge.)   Let’s get to it:

Ducks – Stars.  The Stars were actually a somewhat better possession team than the 116-point Ducks, and if I were in Vegas I’d  take them at the +160 they’re getting without hesitation.  But even up — I see the Ducks’s superior front-line talent squeaking by the depth of the Stars.  Plus, we were served lunch by Kyle Palmieri’s girlfriend earlier this year, and when picking a close series you just can’t ignore a completely meaningless factor like that.  Ducks in 7.

Avalanche – Wild. The Avs, as I mentioned, could be the Leafs of next year, making the playoffs despite finishing smack in the middle of Calgary and Edmonton in Fenwick close.  (Although they’re also young enough that their performance might well rise up to their record.)  Which doesn’t make them prohibitive underdogs in the first round against a pretty ordinary team starting Mr. Ilya Bryzgalov, who I’m sure will look great if he ever gets to play on a Dave Tippet-coached team in 2011 again.  If Duchene was healthy, I think I’d step on a Jim Corsi hockey card and pick Colorado.  But as is I have to pick the Wild to be the lucky team to be obliterated by the St. Louis/Chicago winner in the next round.  Wild in 6.

Sharks – Kings. This feels like it should be a conference finals matchup, doesn’t it?  Despite their aging core, the Sharks are a damned good team, and this could finally be their year.  But I can’t pick them over the Kings, an extremely well-coached and talented team who are a lot better than their record.  Have I mentioned how much I miss Darryl Sutter?  (As a coach, I mean.  Someone else picking the players — good idea.  Dean Lombardi?  Great idea.)   Kings in 7. 

Blues – Blackhawks.  I really want to pick St. Louis here.  Their (hockey) fans deserve a few breaks, I like Hitchcock and Davidson, and they’ve put together an impressive team.  I wouldn’t worry about Miller’s underwhelming performance since joining the Blues, and in isolation I think people but too much stock in late season records.  In this case, though, the swoon is caused in part by injuries, so while I would certainly take St. Louis over Colorado or Minnesota I can’t take them over the still-outstanding defending champs.  Hope I’m wrong on this one, but Hawks in 5. 

Now, did you think that I would go through this sacred ritual without letting Michael Berube, the World’s Most Dangerous Professor and Grand Poohbah Emeritus of the English Language whose guest-blogging stint and LGM is now mentioned in 4-point font on page 37 of his cv, pick the Prince of Wales East?  Drink your big black cow and get outta here!  Here’s Michael, who unlike me has an actual rooting interest in these playoffs:

Rangers – Flyers. If the Flyers were playing Satan, I would find some good things to say about the Prince of Darkness and the author of all evil and misery. “You know, he was an archangel, and very attractive, too…. who made God the boss of him anyway?” So I am cheering with all my heart for the wealthy, poorly-run, underperforming franchise that keeps hoping its not-quite-A-level players will be bailed out by their spectacular goaltender and keeps trading desperately for former-A-level players long past their prime. You know why? Dave Schultz beating up Dale Rolfe, is why. Yes, it was 40 years ago. No, I’m still not in a forgiving mood. (And yes, I know that there has never been a Berube who got his name engraved onto the Cup, not one in 121 years. So what.) Rangers in 7.

Bruins – Red Wings. There is some interest here, despite the 1-8 matchup: the Red Wings won the season series 3-1, the only team to beat the Bruins three times this year. Apparently their head-to-head numbers are pretty even since their first meeting in 1926: Detroit leads 266-254-95, and Boston has outscored them 1,848-1,846. But due to a combination of conference-shuffling and long stretches of suckitude on both sides since then, they have not met in the playoffs since 1957. One always fears the Red Wings in April and May, if one knows what one is doing, but this is Boston’s year … again. Bruins in 5.

Lightning – Canadiens. Wait, they have hockey in Tampa Bay now? That one is for Scott, who has never completely forgiven me for rooting for the Lightning over the Flames in 2004. But this is different: ten years ago, Tampa Bay was playing a Canadian team. Now they are playing a French-Canadian team. Les Habs protegera nos foyers et nos droits, d00d. But they will do so in a series full of excruciating 2-1 games. Canadiens in 6.

Penguins – Blue Jackets. The Penguins swept the season series; Crosby has lost to Columbus exactly once in his career– during his rookie season. Since then, the Penguins have outscored Columbus 4,914 to 12, or something like that, and have drunk every single Blue Jacket’s milkshake every day. I think here is where I am supposed to say “but maybe talented Columbus goalie Sergei Bobrovsky will make a series of it,” but I can’t, I just can’t. Penguins in 4, only because I cannot pick Penguins in 3 and Columbus will concede game 4.

[SL]  I’ll take the Rangers, Bruins, Habs, and — since 1)I can’t agree on all 4, 2)Marc-Andre Fleury, and 3)I’ve been hanging with NERDS, Blue Jackets.

Playoff Hockey Challenge

[ 22 ] April 15, 2014 |

For connoisseurs of North America’s finer sports, I have created a Playoff Hockey Challenge group. As always, group name is Lawyers, Guns and Money, password zevon, winner will get a piece of high-quality merchandise from our store.

Just For One Day, Maybe

[ 83 ] April 15, 2014 |

This response to Michael Kazin’s strange argument about LBJ (“why didn’t political leaders use the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act to attack LBJ over Vietnam? Obviously because they think Vietnam was a peachy idea!”) is apt:

Should LBJ be remembered as a “liberal hero”? If in labeling someone hero, we’re presumed to be ignoring or airbrushing his faults—then of course not. Does anyone really have heroes anymore, at least in this sense? My generation, born at the tail end of the 1960s, has never been able to regard any leader as a hero the way earlier generations did. Our sensibilities and our politics have changed too much since the 1960s. No one can overlook anymore (for example) Washington’s and Jefferson’s slaveholding, Andrew Jackson’s Indian removal policies, Lincoln’s and Wilson’s wartime civil liberties records, or FDR’s internment of Japanese Americans. We know these men to be deeply flawed, in some cases to the point where celebrating them produces in us considerable unease. But, ultimately, we still recognize them as remarkable presidents whose finest feats transformed the nation for the good. So if in calling someone a hero it’s also possible to simultaneously acknowledge his failings, even terrible failings, then Lyndon Johnson deserves a place in the pantheon.

But maybe we don’t need to label Johnson a hero. Maybe it’s enough to say he did some heroic things, and that, as the state of American politics today suggests, is rare enough.

The conclusion is correct. The whole idea that we should expect presidents to be heroes is deeply weird and ahistorical. The disastrous second volume of Caro’s LBJ biography is a good illustration of what can happen when you get too far down that particular rabbit hole.

Coming to the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body: Many, Many Trainwrecks

[ 223 ] April 15, 2014 |

What would happen if a Supreme Court vacancy opened up in 2015 after a Republican takeover of the Senate? I agree that it’s pretty much this:

Now imagine a different possibility. Suppose one of the five Republican-appointed seats opened up. None of them would voluntarily surrender a seat at the end of a Democratic president’s tenure, of course. But when the hypothetical gavel transfer to Mitch McConnell takes place next January, Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy will both be 78 years old. The actuarial odds of a 78-year-old man dying within a given year are approximately 5 percent — we will have two of them, with two years of Obama’s term each. (The odds of death rise to 5.6 percent at age 79, for those morbidly inclined.) We are not talking about a freak occurrence.

What would happen then? Would a Republican Senate let Barack Obama — fundamental transformer of America, shredder of the Constitution — appoint a new swing justice? Given a backdrop in which conservatives, having grown deeply pessimistic about their political future, have invested deeply in a legal movement that uses aggressive readings to roll back the state? With every conservative interest group mobilizing for battle, with a vast array of social and economic policy hanging in the balance?
t may seem implausible that Republicans would simply refuse to allow Obama to appoint any justice to such a vacancy. That is only because things that haven’t happened before are hard to imagine. But such a confrontation is not only a logical outcome but the most logical outcome. Voting to flip the Supreme Court would be, if not a political death warrant for a Republican Senator, then certainly taking one’s political life into one’s own hands. Politicians do not like political death warrants — certainly not for the benefit of the opposing party’s agenda.

The modern pattern in American politics is that tactics that are legally available, but never used for reasons of custom, eventually become used. The modern pattern is also that the Republican Party, which is the most ideologically cohesive and disciplined party, leads the way. McConnell did not create this pattern, but he is an important innovator.

McConnell was among the first political leaders to grasp that Republicans had everything to gain and nothing to lose from withholding support for every major element of Obama’s agenda — that the old Beltway folklore, which warned the opposition party that voters would punish them if they appeared obstructionist, had no basis in reality. Most people pay no attention to the details of policy, and form rough judgments on the basis of how much noise and controversy rises out of Washington. “It was absolutely critical that everybody be together because if the proponents of the bill were able to say it was bipartisan, it tended to convey to the public that this is O.K., they must have figured it out,” he confessed. Political scientists understood this reality perfectly well, but it was utterly strange to the old-line purveyors of Washington conventional wisdom. McConnell moneyballed the Senate.

Again, I think we’re about to see particularly vividly that the advise and consent power was a serious mistake. There really should have been a supermajority removal power rather than the requirement to get active consent. The system worked tolerably for longer than could have been expected because of the enduring relevance of the Civil War in constructing political coalitions well into the 20th century, and the norms that developed from that. But like the initial decision to make the vice president the runner-up in the electoral college, the advise-and-consent power isn’t really consistent with with a party system, and now that we have ideologically coherent parties it’s frequently going to be a disaster.

Is Ayaan Hirsi Ali Being Denied A Symbolic Degree The Death Of Academic Freedom? (SPOILER: No.)

[ 158 ] April 14, 2014 |

The intro to Ross Douthat’s last column:

EARLIER this year, a column by a Harvard undergraduate named Sandra Y. L. Korn briefly achieved escape velocity from the Ivy League bubble, thanks to its daring view of how universities should approach academic freedom.

Korn proposed that such freedom was dated and destructive, and that a doctrine of “academic justice” should prevail instead. No more, she wrote, should Harvard permit its faculty to engage in “research promoting or justifying oppression” or produce work tainted by “racism, sexism, and heterosexism.” Instead, academic culture should conform to left-wing ideas of the good, beautiful and true, and decline as a matter of principle “to put up with research that counters our goals.”

The punchline:

It would be a far, far better thing if Harvard and Brandeis and Mozilla would simply say, explicitly, that they are as ideologically progressive as Notre Dame is Catholic or B. Y.U. is Mormon or Chick-fil-A is evangelical, and that they intend to run their institution according to those lights.

I can live with the progressivism. It’s the lying that gets toxic.

These accusations of bad faith and intolerance makes this nicely sanitized version of why people found Hirsi Ali’s past comments objectionable even more irritating:

Hirsi Ali’s invitation was withdrawn because of her sweeping criticisms of Islamic culture…


What both cases [the other one is Eich's resignation, of course] illustrate, with their fuzzy rhetoric masking ideological pressure, is a serious moral defect at the heart of elite culture in America.

The defect, crucially, is not this culture’s bias against social conservatives, or its discomfort with stinging attacks on non-Western religions. Rather, it’s the refusal to admit — to others, and to itself — that these biases fundamentally trump the commitment to “free expression” or “diversity” affirmed in mission statements and news releases.

“Stinging” and “sweeping” criticism is a rather anodyne way of characterizing Hirisi Ali’s arguments. For example, that (not radical but all) Islam must be “crushed” and that if the Constitution doesn’t permit all Islamic religious instruction to be banned, so much worse for the Constitution. The double standard here is the opposite of what Douthat claims; if she had made similar comments about the Jewish or Roman Catholic faith not only would Brandeis’s decision to withdraw the degree not have been subjected to any noticeable criticism, there’s no chance she would have received an honorary degree in the first place. And as for the implication that Brandeis’s ornamental degrees are now reserved for liberals only, Douthat should speak with his colleague David Brooks, who received one in 2011.

And as an argument that liberals no longer value free expression, this is an even weaker case than the Eich resignation. Hirsi Ali was not a professor, or any kind of employee at Brandeis. She has not lost her job. She has an open invitation to speak at the institution. She had an essentially meaningless honorary degree withdrawn. As evidence that liberals don’t really care about academic freedom or freedom of speech, this isn’t even weak tea — it’s plain lukewarm water. Which is why the only specific liberal he cites as representative is an undergraduate who wrote a terrible essay that he concedes nobody else has endorsed.

Shorter verbatim quintessential hack Mr. Zev Chafets: “Brandeis University committed an honor killing this week.” It’s a great moment of self-fetuation; it’s pretty hard to imagine someone is that concerned about honor killing when they compare it to not getting an ornamental degree. (HT: MarkF)

Presidents Tend To Be Evaluated In the Context of Other Presidents

[ 102 ] April 14, 2014 |

I’m honestly not sure who Michael Kazin is arguing with here. I don’t know who thinks that LBJ should be given a pass for Vietnam, and Kazin doesn’t cite anybody who thinks this either. He does cite some public officials giving speeches at an event commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act emphasizing his good points, which is obviously not a context where one expects to see a full evaluation of his record. I’m also not at all persuaded that Vietnam was the key reason that the Democratic coalition foundered during this era. Vietnam was horribly wrong because it was horribly wrong, but in terms of keeping the New Deal coalition together he really had no good options.

“OK, I’ve Never Been To India. But I’ve Seen Eat, Pray, Love. Twice!”

[ 219 ] April 13, 2014 |

If this were published almost anywhere but the NYT Styles section, I could be certain that this was a vicious but deserved hatchet job:

It’s all very cordial: In the fall, Mr. Mellon and Ms. Hanley Mellon, 36, plan to introduce Hanley Mellon, their own clothing line.

They are not exactly starting from the gutter. Mr. Mellon, who comes from the Mellon and Drexel families of Bank of New York Mellon and Drexel Burnham Lambert, grew up in New York City, Palm Beach and Northeast Harbor, Me., and went to the University of Pennsylvania. The walls of the pad he and Ms. Hanley Mellon share at the Pierre are lined with paintings by Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Damien Hirst, Peter Beard and, Mr. Mellon said, “Taylor Swift.”


The couple started slowly with, a lifestyle website that has fashion articles (“For Nicer Weather Days” features a Balenciaga bag, $1,485, and Mulberry coat, $3,000), posts on the perfect crop top featuring portraits of Ms. Hanley Mellon, and collages of images they find inspiring.

The Hanley Mellon line will have 10 pieces of clothing, including a coat and blouses meant to be wardrobe staples for a jet-set life, priced from $250 to $2,000. Each collection will be inspired by a different place in the world, with New York City being the first.

And then, who knows?

“I’ve never been to Africa, but I feel like I have this deep affinity for it,” Ms. Hanley Mellon said. “I’ve read every Hemingway, we collect Peter Beard, I’ve watched ‘Out of Africa.’ It touches your soul to visit and smell the smells, and you can’t recreate the experience without immersing yourself.”

Hopefully historians of The Gilded Age II have already bookmarked this one.

[Via djw]

Atrios: “If only it could be revealed that the New York Times Style section has actually been fiction penned by Andy Kaufman for the past several decades, and then he shuts it down with one final entry: The Aristocrats!”

W Is For Women!

[ 42 ] April 13, 2014 |

Remember when we spent a couple of trillion dollars unleashing large amounts of death on Iraq because Saddam was about to work with his imaginary terrorist allies to nuke Omaha with mustard gas he didn’t possess human rights? Well, extremely unfunny thing about that:

Decades ago, in the years after Iraq gained independence, a tradition of child marriage persisted in its hills and plains. Upon their fathers’ orders, Iraqi girls were betrothed to strangers and rivals alike to resolve tribal disputes or incur favor.

But in the mid-1970s, such acts — called “fasliyah” — were prohibited as the nation moved toward secularization and modernity.

“This decree [banning fasliyah] constituted the first step toward a civilized Iraqi community,” reports the Middle East publication Al-Monitor, “which would put an end to the failures of the tribal… society.”

In the years that followed, rates of child marriage plummeted. By 1997, only 15 percent of Iraqi women were married as children, according to the Central Organization for Statistics. This figure was the same in 2004.

But as the country plunged into the darkest days of the Iraq War, traditions emerged anew — including child marriage.

In 2007, Al-Monitor says, 21 percent of young Iraqi women reported they were married as children. Six years later, the Population Reference Bureau determined that “the decline in early marriages has stopped.”

In fact, the rate had risen.

By mid-2013, more than one-fourth of females were married as children, and 5 percent had been wed before age 15. This rate of child marriage placed Iraq ahead of many nations in the region.

Now the Iraqi government is poised to legalize child marriage for the nation’s majority Shiite Muslim population. But the law, which some expect to pass before this month’s parliamentary elections, would do significantly more than that.

Called the Jaafari Personal Status Law, it would prohibit Muslim men from marrying non-Muslims, prevent women from leaving the house without their husband’s consent, automatically grant custody of children older than two to their father in divorce cases and legalize marital rape.

The law, which proponents say will save women’s “rights and dignity,” would also permit boys to marry as young as 15 and girls to marry as young as nine. Girls younger than nine would be permitted to marry with a parent’s approval.

Something to remember the next time a neocon fantasy runs out of other justifications and settles on human rights as a pretext…

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