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Wage Theft and the Supreme Court

[ 37 ] October 15, 2014 |

This amicus brief is not one of the Obama administration’s better moments.

Abortion Green Lanternism

[ 9 ] October 15, 2014 |

Atrios is making sense:

What was especially maddening about Saletan-esque arguments over the years, aside from their clear wrongness, was that he seemed to truly believe that if only pro-choice people would admit it was all so icky and horrible then anti-abortion people would just surrender and go home. It was the position that only a High Priest Of Punditry could take, that the discourse was more important than the policy.

There were a lot of pathologies in the general pundit discourse about abortion in the preceding decade (which, thankfully, seem to be a little less common now.)  But one of the strangest is the idea that there was some rhetorical strategy that could end the underlying conflict. And it’s particularly odd in the context of abortion, where public opinion has been remarkably stable since the issue became politically salient in the mid-60s, all the clever rhetorical strategies of both sides aside.   Framing and messaging are overrated in general, and abortion is a particularly strong case in point even though it’s an issue where people seem to be particularly obsessed with it.

Frivolous Legal Threat of the Day

[ 49 ] October 15, 2014 |

Blake Lively.

Tuesday Links

[ 33 ] October 14, 2014 |

Anti-density restrictions are an incumbent protection racket that work well for the affluent and not so much for anyone else.

Abortion Rights Without Apology

[ 167 ] October 14, 2014 |

Katha Pollitt has a fantastic looking new book about abortion rights coming out. This, in turn, has led to some excellent writing from Laurie Abraham, Hanna Rosin, Lindsay Beyerstein, and Jill Filipovic. I liked Rosin’s open in particular:

I had an abortion. I was not in a libertine college-girl phase, although frankly it’s none of your business. I was already a mother of two, which puts me in the majority of American women who have abortions. Six out of 10 are mothers, which makes sense, because a mother could not fool herself into believing that having another baby was no big deal.

I start the story this way because Katha Pollitt, author of Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights, would want it this way. In fact any woman who’s reading this piece and has had an abortion, or any man who has supported one, should go in the comments section and do the same thing, until there are so many accounts that the statement loses its shock value. Because frankly, in 2014, it should be no big deal that in a movie a young woman has an abortion and it’s no big deal. We shouldn’t need a book explaining why abortion rights are important. We should be over that by now.

Much more of this, please. Nuts to the “we should perhaps reluctantly make abortion legal but let’s all admit that it’s icky and immoral” arguments from the Saletans and McArdles. Women should not be required to carry unwanted pregnancies to term, women should not have to navigate an arbitrary obstacle course before having an abortion, these rights should not require any apology or tut-tutting about individual choices, and legal abortion is a positive social good. The end.

Stay Classy, Politico!

[ 25 ] October 14, 2014 |

Mike Allen’s influential newsletter, Pay For Play, gives us careful analysis of Karen Lewis’s brain tumor:

PLAYBOOK WINNER OF THE DAY: Mayor Rahm! Chicago Tribune 2-col. lead, “Lewis bows out … Ailing union chief’s decision eases Emanuel re-election bid,” by Rick Pearson, Juan Perez Jr. and Michelle Manchir: “Karen Lewis, the … combative and charismatic leader of the Chicago Teachers Union, will not run for mayor, significantly boosting Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s chances to win re-election next year.”

I’m tempted to say that Emmanuel must have paid for that, but I’m sure Allen can be that callous for free.

Careful archival research by LGM has uncovered Politico’s daily HOT TAKE from April 15, 1865:

PLAYBOOK WINNER OF THE DAY: Andrew Johnson! Doughface Star Tribune Picayune 2-col. lead, “Lincoln assassinated … national hero John Wilkes Booth challenges federal overreach.” Objective analysis of consequences: “Unity ’64 and No Labels agree: President Johnson should finally bring moderate governance to White House, countering Radical Republicans and their nutty ideas like “the 13th Amendment empowered the federal government to legislate to stop the re-imposition of a slave system” and “black people should have access to public accommodations” and “black people should vote” and “treason should be punished” … Easy re-election win in 1868 expected.”

Impeachment, or Trial For Treason?

[ 24 ] October 14, 2014 |

Shorter Republican Party: The fact that the writing of EPA regulations is not delegated entirely to the coal lobby is a worse scandal than Whitewater and Benghazi put together.

The Obama Administration Has Numerous Failures. The ACA Isn’t One of Them.

[ 194 ] October 13, 2014 |

I agree with some of Sawicky’s critique of Krugman’s Rolling Stone defense of the Obama administration. The point about the kiss up/kick down nature of the criminal prosecutions, in particular, is unanswerable. I don’t agree with the Cornel West argument that he pretended to be something he wasn’t — he strikes me as exactly the moderate liberal Democrat he’s always posed as — but I don’t think anything meaningful or interesting turns on the distinction. The record is what it is, and I think despite some oversimplifications Krugman’s bottom line is correct (only two presidents of the last century could even plausibly claim to have a more substantial record of progressive achievement, which is a successful presidency where I live.)

I can’t say, however, that Max’s attempt at a non-Green Lantern critique of the ACA succeeds:

On the big fucking deal of health care, PK tries to get the best of both sides of the argument. He acknowledges the left criticism of relying on health inscos to fill the coverage gap, then implies that the stupid left doesn’t understand a single-payer plan would not have gotten enough votes to pass. What the not-actually-stupid left really wanted and had a right to expect was the inclusion of some kind of public option, which was arguably not a manifestly disabling feature from a political standpoint. And even if it proved to be so, there is no reason to make a rhetorical virtue in the form of bogus celebrations of “the market” out of a political necessity.

First of all, sad as it is the single-payer argument isn’t a strawman. There are otherwise very smart liberals, not just on the intarwebs somewhere but in the New York Review of Books, that we could have had single payer had Obama only Bully Pulpited the Overton Window Under the Bus on Steroids. (There’s a variant of the argument that concedes that single payer probably wasn’t viable, but Obama should have made it his opening bid, on the theory that if you walk into an Audi dealership and offer $500 for their best car they have no choice but to sell it to you for $1,000.)

But I agree that the more common critique was the failure to include a public option. On that, two points. First of all, a public option was worth trying, but I don’t agree that it was a magic bullet that would have transformed the ACA from hopeless neoliberalism to real progressivism. The public option passed by the House would have had, at best, a minor impact on the exchanges. It was not the road to nationalizing the health care industry. But the policy merits are moot, because it’s pretty obvious that the votes even for the weak House version weren’t there in the Senate. I don’t know how anyone could see how Lieberman acted and still think that it could have gotten 60 votes. Max doesn’t even try to outline what leverage Obama had over the many Senate Democratic opponents of a public option, which given how such conterfactuals tend to go is probably for the best.

The fact that Max doesn’t. even. try. to explain how a public option could have passed suggests that this isn’t his biggest issue with the ACA. The more important one seems to be his objection to Obama “mak[ing] a rhetorical virtue” out of the exchanges. (He’s been even more explicit about this before, conceding that Obama got about as much as could have been expected out of Congress but criticizing him for various alleged Bully Pulpit failures.) The theme continues here:

This problem of turning a practical limitation into a rhetorical virtue afflicted the inadequate stimulus plan as well. Instead of taking what could be gotten but acknowledging the level was insufficient, the Administration acted as if it was all good. It wasn’t. PK again agrees. He can say it but you can’t.

Well, anyone can say it; the question is whether the inadequacy is plausibly Obama’s fault, and Max doesn’t really argue that it is. But leaving aside that I don’t think that presidential rhetoric matters very much, I don’t understand this particular criticism even on its own terms. Obama is supposed to run down the important legislation he signed? I’m not really inclined to urge that presidents demonstrate political incompetence.

On a final point, on the ACA I continue to reject the idea that it reflects “neoliberalism.” As always, missing from these arguments is the Medicaid expansion. As far as I can tell, none of Obama’s critics from the left would disparage the original Medicaid that covered a fraction of a fraction of the poor as “neoliberalism,” and yet a Medicaid that covers everyone within 138% of the federal poverty line is not seen by Obama’s left critics as an accomplishment worthy of any particular note. The focus is on the exchanges, suggesting that had Obama (like Great Society Democrats) just done nothing for the uninsured who don’t qualify for Medicare or Medicaid he would somehow be more progressive than he was because he used more regulated and subsidized markets to insure people. This doesn’t make any sense. If the U.S already had single payer or national health, you could call it “neoliberal” reform. If single payer could plausibly have passed, you could call it “neoliberal.” But given the actually existing status quo ante, it’s not “neoliberal” in any sense. When Obama touts it a a major progressive achievement, he’s not just doing what any politician would, he’s right on the merits.

Not All Local Officials Prioritize Football Over Sexual Assault Victims

[ 57 ] October 13, 2014 |


At least six members of the Sayreville High School football team were taken into custody by police this evening on charges in connection with a series of locker room sexual assaults on four victims, NJ Advance Media has learned.

A seventh player was charged, but not immediately taken into custody. He was being sought by police.

The detentions — on a night the team was scheduled to play Monroe High School for its homecoming game on its home field — came less than a week after its season was abruptly canceled by school officials in the wake of allegations of what was first called “serious bullying and harassment” of younger players.

The parent of one victim later described what occurred as a violent ritual involving anal sexual attacks by seniors who routinely preyed on freshmen.

The Worst, And Most Inexplicable, Radio Ever.

[ 48 ] October 13, 2014 |

I generally listen to NPR while waking up and working in the morning and late afternoon news periods. But last week, my exposure was limited only to the time it takes me to turn off the clock radio I’ve forgotten how to program properly. This is because of WAMC’s bizarre pledge drive srategery. Your typical NPR or PBS sandwiches the begging for money around programming that people may want to hear. When I moved up here and the first pledge drive started, I realized to my increasing horror that WAMC’s pledge drives cut out the carrot and rely solely on the stick. No programming at all — not even news updates on the half hour! — just people asking for money, with maybe a brief interview with an author plugging a book that’s being used as bait or something.

That this creates radio that’s well beyond unlistenable goes without saying — without hesitation I can say that I would rather listen to any wingnut talk radio or all-bands-who-sound-like-Creed station or even a station consisting of nothing but Cokie Roberts editorial comments. What I don’t understand is how this could be even in the self-interest of the station. The canonical public media fundraising model seems to be theoretically sound — people will sit through the fundraising pitch to get to the news stories or Monty Python movie or whatever, and will therefore likely hear several while being reminded of why they like the station. Telethons bring in the Fabulous Baker Boys to try to maintain viewer interest. LGM blegs are, for better or worse, interspersed among the usual complaints about bad cocktails and local public radio stations. But who the hell could listen to someone read a 1-800 number hundreds of times an hour with nothing to break up the tedium? The fact that the pledge drives still go on forever suggest that the pitches can’t be very efficient on a per-minite basis.

I gather from a Facebook inquiry that this model is unique — does any other NPR station do this?

“Hide, and Then Hinder”

[ 28 ] October 12, 2014 |

Given a choice between basic human rights and the local semi-pro football team, the university and local police chose the latter:

Florida State University officials and Tallahassee police took steps to both hide, and then hinder, the criminal investigation into a rape allegation against the school’s Heisman-trophy winning quarterback Jameis Winston last fall, a FOX Sports investigation has found.

The upshot: University administrators and Winston’s attorney, Tim Jansen, had a head start on the state attorney in Tallahassee responsible for investigating and prosecuting serious crimes. Florida State administrators, for instance, had all the police reports at least four days before State Attorney Willie Meggs was handed the case.

In fairness, Winston wasn’t suspected of a serious offense, like selling his autograph for 20 bucks or something.

Free the Minors!

[ 24 ] October 11, 2014 |


Leave Scorch Aloooooooooooone!

On Thursday, I inadvertently stumbled onto a story that would get national media attention. I drove to the War Memorial world-renowned Glens Falls Civic Center to get tickets to the inaugural opening night game on Saturday, and met the mascot who was on the premises as part of what turned out to be a disastrous PR initiative. In addition to the obvious tastelessness of the film, I’m also offended by the historical revisionism of the backstory. Everyone knows that the name is meant to commemorate Sherman’s marches through Western Canada and the Adirondacks.  Never forget.

I am, however, compelled to note that Scorch not only offered us a friendly greeting but directed me through the labyrinthine set of stairwells to the office where I could buy a ticket-flex pack. So I AM ON TEAM SCORCH.

To make a broader point, my relative excitement about the new AHL team 50 miles away when I only sporadically attend the games of the local AHL team says something about the nature of minor league sports in the US. I like watching live hockey a lot, of course, and if I still lived in Calgary I would see as many games as I could afford to. (Which, given current prices, wouldn’t be very many; it’s good that I’m not moving back, since this blog might have a higher fundraisers-to-posts ratio than Jeff Goldstein’s.) AHL games are cheap and relatively high quality. But as Bill James pointed out a couple decades ago, since they exist purely for developmental purposes and aren’t really allowed to compete properly, it’s impossible to develop any real attachment to the teams. I’m interested to watch Adirondack because I have an attachment to the players through my attachment to the parent club.

For some reason, people are very fond of citing the European relegation system, often using it to make quarter-assed arguments that could be identified as unworkable on the slightest inspection. (Hi Utica — you’re an NHL team now! Let us know how selling what are surely your many skyboxes to all the Fortune 500 companies with head offices in Oneida County is going!) Relegation doesn’t make any sense here, even if you think that its benefits are greater than I do. On the other hand, having actual free minors like European club teams would be a major improvement for North American pro sports. The best players would eventually end up in the major leagues, but minor leagues where teams could actually compete on a season-to-season basis rather than existing solely to serve the goals of another organization would be a lot better.

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