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St. Stein Speaks!

[ 234 ] June 25, 2016 |

Jill Stein, as is well known, is the Only Real Leftist in America. Indeed, she is a figure of such pure, undiluted leftist perfection she agrees with Donald Trump only 41% of the time. So I’m sure her thoughts on Brexit will be highly enlightening:

The vote in Britain to exit the European Union (EU) is a victory for those who believe in the right of self-determination and who reject the pro-corporate, austerity policies of the political elites in EU. The vote says no to the EU’s vision of a world run by and for big business.

This is just ludicrous nonsense. The bulk of Brexit support came from pro-austerity Tories. What Brexit means is more austerity as EU subsidies vanish, oh and also the end of progressive EU labor and environmental regulations. If you think this is a defeat for big business, I’d hate to see what a victory would look like. Granted, some City finance types will presumably have to ply their trade in Paris or New York City or Frankfurt now. FIGHT THE POWER!

Insane as this is, though, it helps to explain why she’s campaigning in swing states in a year when 1)the Democratic Party’s platform features a $15 minimum wage, expanded Social Security, and a repeal of the Hyde Amendment and 2)the Republican candidate is Donald Trump. Her politics seem to consist entirely of assuming that if something she doesn’t like loses than her ideal outcome therefore must win.

Unfortunately, the rejection was also motivated by attacks on immigrants and refugees, which must be opposed. That is a defeat.

Apart from that, Mr. Farage! Admittedly, by even acknowledging that xenophobia may have played some role in the Brexit vote, Stein risks being denounced roundly on Twitter for selling out to BIG NEOLIBERAL and wanting to punish the white working class. But, don’t worry, she departs from reality soon enough:

The increase in anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim and anti-refugee sentiment expanded because of the EU’s economic policies, and was a key driver in support of the UK’s departure from the European Union.

Ye Gods. First of all, British austerity — while certainly terrible policy! — was driven by Parliament, not by the EU. Leaving the EU will in fact result in more austerity. And if you think British political elites love austerity now, wait until Scotland leaves the UK, which it almost certainly will if Brexit proceeds. And, finally, while it’s a nice story that all racial resentments are really just epiphenomenal masks for class and economic anxieties it’s not actually true.

Seriously, if it’s very important to you not to sully your personal brand by voting for an icky Democrat in November, find a better alternative candidate than this.

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Brexit — The Ultimate “Triumph” Of Voter-As-Consumer

[ 281 ] June 25, 2016 |

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We’ll be seeing lots of more of this kind of thing, I would assume:

Mandy Suthi, a student who voted to leave, told ITV News she would tick the Remain box if she had a second chance and said her parents and siblings also regretted their choice.

“I would go back to the polling station and vote to stay, simply because this morning the reality is kicking in,” she said.

“I wish we had the opportunity to vote again,” she added, saying she was “very disappointed”.

Khembe Gibbons, a lifeguard from Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk, also said she had regrets about her decision after Mr Farage said he could not guarantee NHS funding.

“We’ve left the EU, David Cameron’s resigned, we’re left with Boris, and Nigel has just basically given away that the NHS claim was a lie,” she wrote.

“I personally voted leave believing these lies, and I regret it more than anything, I feel genuinely robbed of my vote.”

A woman calling into an LBC radio show echoed the sentiment, saying she felt “conned” by the claim and felt “a bit sick”.

A voter who gave his name as Adam told the BBC he would have changed his pro-Brexit vote if he knew the short-term consequences it would have for the UK economy.

“The David Cameron resignation has blown me away to be honest and the period of uncertainty that we’re going to be magnified now so yeah, I’m quite worried,” he said.

“I’m shocked that we voted for Leave, I didn’t think that was going to happen. I didn’t think my vote was going to matter too much because I thought we were just going to remain.”

I don’t know how many Brexit voters fall into the remorseful category. But I remember seeing somewhere (HELP ME BROCKINGTON) that a large majority of Brexit voters assumed that Remain would win. For what was surely a decisive number of Brexit voters, the vote was not a considered view that leaving the EU would be better than remaining, but rather was a vehicle for sending a message to British elites.

To be clear, the biggest villains here are not ordinary voters. David Cameron’s entirely unnecessary gamble was astoundingly incompetent and grossly irresponsible. The reaction of Boris Johnson — the proverbial dog that caught the car — should make it pretty clear that the anti-EU faction of the Tories were more trolls than revolutionaries. And the way you deal with trolls is to ignore them, not to try to shut them up with a binding referendum with huge downside risks. Needless to say, Johnson and Farage and the pro-Brexit tabloids are absolutely shameless liars mobilizing racist resentment, and they deserve all of the criticism they receive and worse. But Cameron knew what they were, and he empowered them to try to gain a short-term advantage within his party.

But if you want to know why I spend so much time criticizing people with prominent platforms trying to convince people the ballot box is not a place for collective political decisions but for life-affirming consumer choices, well, Bregret is why. In the American context, the consumerist arguments from the nominal left for refusing to support Democratic candidates even as the consequences of a Republican victory get increasingly dire generally don’t even really pretend to be tactical; they’re just statements that certain individuals are too good for coalitions that require sharing political space with people who fail to see your unfailing wisdom. This stuff seems harmless until it isn’t. If you want to know when I’m going to stop criticizing pundits who try to encourage this kind of thinking, or the Ralph Naders and (now, apparently) Jill Steins willing to play with fire to stoke their own egos, the answer is “never.” Elections are literally life-and-death matters.

What Brexit Means, And What It Doesn’t Mean

[ 113 ] June 25, 2016 |

Bouie has more.

Now, enjoy this dissing of America’s most ridiculously pompous blowhard, and also Donald Trump.

Does Brexit Mean We’re Doomed?

[ 339 ] June 24, 2016 |

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I suspect we’re going to see a lot of this kind of analysis:

Britain’s stunning vote to leave the European Union suggests that we’ve been seriously underestimating Donald Trump’s ability to win the presidential election.

When you consider all his controversies and self-inflicted wounds over the past month, combined with how much he’s getting outspent on the airwaves in the battleground states, it is actually quite surprising that Trump and Hillary Clinton are so close in the polls. He’s holding his own, especially in the Rust Belt.

Does this make sense? Not really:

  • I mean, on one level it’s scary that Trump is within 6 points. But, still 6 points, in presidential election terms, is getting your ass kicked. And there’s no reason to think he has much upside potential.
  • It might be possible for a formidable campaign organization to overperform the polls. But Trump has the opposite of that. Clinton’s dominance of the airwaves and superior organization is going to make it harder for Trump to overcome a substantial deficit and harder to get his supporters out.
  • The argument against these facts seems to be something like “nobody expected Brexit to win, nobody expected Trump to win, but Brexit won, and Trump has already won once, so Trump can win twice.” But this doesn’t really make any sense. Unlike with Brexit, Trump took a commanding lead in the polls early on in the primaries; skeptics (like me) were ignoring the polls. I don’t think there’s any reason to believe there’s a large reservoir of untapped support for Trump that polls aren’t picking up.
  • One major comparative advantage for Brexit is that none of the prominent assholes on its side were actually on the ballot. People who would never dream of voting for Nigel Farage or Boris Johnson in a national election could vote Brexit. Implicitly voting against Cameron didn’t require voting for someone you hate as much or more. If the question on the ballot in November was “do you want Hillary Clinton to be president?” I would be pretty worried. But it’s not. If Trump is going to win, he’s going to need a plurality of voters to affirmatively vote for him, although he’s a very well-known and widely despised figure heading a nationally unpopular party while barely running a presidential campaign at all.
  • The United States is a much bigger and more diverse country, which really makes a big difference in terms, which is rather important for how a campaign based around mobilizing white resentment will play out. How is Trump going to win Florida, barely a white majority state? What’s his path to the Electoral College without it? (Hint: even if he can win Ohio and Pennsylvania, that’s not enough.)
  • Brexit is helpful to Trump for one reason only: if it harms the American economy, it hurts the incumbent party. Will the effects on the American economy be enough to make a big difference? I doubt it, but that’s the only reason to worry about Brexit in terms of the American presidential election.

Brexit Open Thread

[ 342 ] June 23, 2016 |

I guess this calls for a fresh thread. I will leave the analysis to our British correspondent, but I can tell you that LGM has obtained some exclusive footage of David Cameron, political SUPERGENIUS (#5.)

Kennedy Abandons Roberts on Affirmative Action

[ 160 ] June 23, 2016 |

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I was very pleasantly surprised by Kennedy’s opinion sustaining UT’s affirmative action program today:

The strongest parts of Kennedy’s opinion dealt with Fisher’s contention that UT’s attempts to increase diversity on campus can and should be done exclusively through formally race-neutral measures. First of all, UT presented “significant evidence, both statistical and anecdotal,” that race-neutral measures are inadequate to create a sufficiently diverse campus. Given the compelling interest the state has in such diversity, it must be allowed to experiment, he said.

Even more important from a constitutional (if not a policy) perspective, Kennedy correctly argued that calling the Top 10 Percent system “race-neutral” is disingenuous. Kennedy’s opinion quoted Justice Ginsburg’s observation that such plans are “adopted with racially segregated neighborhoods and schools front and center stage,” and that “[i]t is race consciousness, not blindness to race, that drives such plans.” The Top 10 Percent plan was designed to increase racial diversity. Indeed, unless someone has a secret plan to immediately end endemic de facto school and neighborhood segregation, it is bound to have this effect in practice, since it will guarantee college placement for students in predominantly minority schools.

Kennedy’s increasing impatience with the blind formalism of his Republican-appointed colleagues helps to explain why he finally decided to uphold an affirmative action program. In the 2007 case Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1, Chief Justice John Roberts held that race could not be used even as a tiebreaker to choose between equally qualified applicants, based on the fatuous tautology that “[t]he way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.” Given a background of extensive historical de jure discrimination and persistent de facto segregation, however, the idea that simply ignoring race is sufficient to address racism is an obvious fiction.

Justice Kennedy regrettably joined Roberts’s judgment, but wrote a lengthy, somewhat tortured concurrence in which he refused to endorse the implied conclusion that affirmative action programs are never constitutionally permissible. I will admit to being skeptical that the distinctions drawn by Kennedy in that case would ever make a difference, but today they did.

Justice Alito, conversely, was entirely unsurprising:

There is no small irony in the fact that Justice Samuel Alito, who wrote a long dissent to Kennedy’s opinion, is an alumnus of the Concerned Alumni of Princeton, a group that opposed the gender and racial integration of the university. He is hardly the first conservative to opportunistically discover the value of “colorblindness” once its effects were to make campuses more, rather than less, white.

Alito’s opinion attempts a number of would-be “gotchas” that aren’t very convincing. At one point, he complains that “UT also offers courses in subjects that are likely to have special appeal to members of the minority groups given preferential treatment under its challenged plan.” I confess it is not obvious to me how offering, for example, a Black Studies program and giving students substantial freedom to choose courses demonstrates that the University of Texas is not really committed to racial diversity. Alito also chides UT for using SAT scores, which have “often been accused of reflecting racial and cultural bias.” But, of course, the correlation between SAT scores and racial socioecomomic status is exactly the kind of factor UT’s holistic admissions evaluations—which Alito considers unconstitutional—are designed to take into account. UT is constitutionally permitted to ignore SAT scores—but should also be constitutionally permitted to consider them while placing them in the proper context.

Alito’s complaints about colleges offering courses to appeal to minority groups and “give[ing] undergraduates a very large measure of freedom to choose their classes” were telling. I must admit I was not aware that the 14th Amendment enacted Mr. Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind…

Today at the Court

[ 104 ] June 23, 2016 |

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I have a roundup of today’s decisions. I’ll also have more on the pleasantly surprising Fisher decision later today or tomorrow.

“There Are Too Many Black People On American Currency Nowadays. Please Eliminate One. I Am Not A Racist Crackpot.”

[ 85 ] June 22, 2016 |

tubman

Steve King, everybody:

King filed an amendment late Tuesday to an appropriations bill that would prevent money from being spent on any redesigns of the country’s currency. And he made it clear that his intention is to keep bills looking exactly the way they do now.

“It’s not about Harriet Tubman, it’s about keeping the picture on the $20,” he told Politico, even though Jackson’s image will still be on the back of the bill. “Y’know? Why would you want to change that? I am a conservative, I like to keep what we have.”

He also called it “racist” and “sexist” to say that the United States should put a woman or person of color on the country’s money. “Here’s what’s really happening: This is liberal activism on the part of the president that’s trying to identify people by categories, and he’s divided us on the lines of groups,” he said. “This is a divisive proposal on the part of the president, and mine’s unifying. It says just don’t change anything.”

Donald Trump becoming the Republican Party’s presidential nominee is just a completely inexplicable phenomenon that randomly came out of nowhere.

Let Us Dispel With The Fiction That Marco Rubio Isn’t A Glib Snake Oil Salseman

[ 107 ] June 22, 2016 |

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Of course:

Despite repeatedly insisting he would return to life as a private citizen after his failed bid for the presidency, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is expected to announce he’s running for re-election on Wednesday, the Washington Post reported.

Rubio had already begun informing key Republicans he is running ahead of the formal announcement, two anonymous sources told the Post.

“I think that the point that really drove me to change my mind is that as we enter this kind of new chapter in our history here is, there’s another role the Senate plays that I think can be really important in the years to come,” Rubio told the Miami Herald about his decision to run.

Ah, memories:

To be Scrupulously Fair, this could still be true! Indeed, if Trump brought his electoral ambitions down again it would be perfect.

Pump and Dump

[ 142 ] June 22, 2016 |

Trump-vodka

Big Media Scott is in the Los Angeles Times, discussing Donald Trump’s “presidential campaign”:

As if Trump’s money problems weren’t bad enough, he’s also spending the little he has unwisely. Upward of 20% of his campaign spending is being funneled to various Trump properties as rent or expenses. Presumably in lieu of television advertising, Trump spent more than $200,000 on hats. And while Clinton has a staff of 700 people, Trump has just a tenth of that.

Money isn’t everything, but an advantage that big is hard to overcome. Clinton already has begun to advertise heavily in battleground states in which Trump isn’t running ads at all. And by acting early, the Clinton campaign is locking in advertising at favorable rates, so even when Trump does begin to buy air time, he’ll get less bang for his buck.

Given his massive financial disadvantages, to have any chance at all Trump would need to spend with a laser-like focus on a few swing states. Instead, his campaign has decided to spend some of its very scarce resources trying to win New York, a deeply blue state that Obama carried by 28 points in 2012 and 27 points in 2008. His New York strategy is being devised with Carl Paladino, a sort of dollar-store version of Trump who used a similar “say lots of outrageous things” approach in a 2010 gubernatorial race that he lost by nearly 30 points. Spending money and time trying to win New York would, in other words, be a really dumb idea, even for a Republican flush with cash. For a Republican with as little money as Trump has, it’s a political death wish.

Can his campaign be turned around quickly? It’s not clear. Understandably but also disastrously for someone running for president, Trump hates fundraising.

Even if Trump does decide to get serious about fundraising, I wonder how many Republican donors are going to wonder why they should be buying large positions in Webistics.

Sotomayor, Breyer and the Fourth Amendment

[ 129 ] June 21, 2016 |

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Yesterday, Sonia Sotomayor wrote one of the strongest defenses of the Fourth Amendment and the underlying relationship between citizen and state it implies in the United States Reports. Unfortunately, despite an 8-person court it was written in dissent, because Stephen Breyer is to the right of the Utah Supreme Court on the Fourth Amendment:

Indeed, Thomas’ holding stands the exclusionary rule on its head, creating incentives for the police to engage in illegal misconduct. If you illegally ask for someone’s ID and you don’t find anything wrong, you’re very unlikely to face a serious sanction. If you do find something, you might uncover evidence that leads to an arrest. This is precisely the kind of misconduct the exclusionary rule was intended to prevent, and, as Justice Elena Kagan explains in her own dissent, finding the outstanding warrant is constitutionally irrelevant.

Writing only for herself, Part IV of Justice Sotomayor’s is a powerful and devastating defense of the exclusionary rule and why gutting it matters. The arbitrary powers this opinion effectively gives to the police will not be applied equally — there is no chance that the police will start stopping people walking around Stephen Breyer’s neighborhood and asking to see their papers. These powers will overwhelmingly be used against the poor and people of color, who risk being treated “as second-class citizens.”

Citing (among others) W.E.B. Dubois, James Baldwin, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Michelle Alexander, Sotomayor concisely explains how this arbitrary authority will be disproportionately applied to the most vulnerable citizens. “The white defendant in this case shows that anyone’s dignity can be violated in this manner,” wrote Sotomayor. “But it is no secret that people of color are disproportionate victims of this type of scrutiny. For generations, black and brown parents have given their children ‘the talk’ — instructing them never to run down the street; always keep your hands where they can be seen; do not even think of talking back to a stranger — all out of fear of how an officer with a gun will react to them.”

Rewarding the police for illegal, suspicionless searches of people doing nothing wrong is also contrary to the basic individual privacy and equal citizenship the Bill of Rights and the 14th Amendment are supposed to guarantee. As Sotomayor puts it, the Court’s holding “implies that you are not a citizen of a democracy but the subject of a carceral state, just waiting to be cataloged.”

Sotomayor’s argument is unanswerable, and while it’s not a surprise to see the Court’s Republican nominees ignore such concerns, it’s appalling for Breyer to join them. It’s not as if Breyer is unmindful of the issues Sotomayor raises, or has a generally bad record on civil rights issues. His dissent in Parents Involved v. Seattle School District is a brilliant, powerful demonstration of how formally equal legal language can conceal and reinforce racial hierarchies. But for whatever reason, he has a blind spot from applying this kind of analysis to some Fourth Amendment cases.

Sotomayor’s dissent should be a landmark that helps set the liberal constitutional agenda should Hillary Clinton win and produce the first Democratic-majority Supreme Court in more than 40 years by filling Antonin Scalia’s vacant seat. And one person who Clinton should not nominate for Scalia’s seat is Merrick Garland. Obama’s lame duck nominee looks too much like another Breyer on civil liberties issues. Senate Democrats should quietly help to ensure that Garland’s nomination dies in the Senate after the election. And if Clinton needs inspiration for a pick, she could do a lot worse than looking to Sotomayor.

Going back to Cardozo, there has been a certain strand of liberal technocrat that doesn’t like the exclusionary rule. Superficially, the argument (which prevails in many liberal democracies) seems persuasive: being obtained illegally doesn’t necessarily make physical evidence (as opposed to confessions) less reliable, so misconduct should be punished directly rather than excluding the evidence. But in practice, at least in the American case, the argument is wrong. An effective civil sanction to punish Fourth Amendment violations is a pipedream. And while the “inevitable discovery” exception to the exclusionary rule makes sense, the “good faith” and “attenuation” exceptions are just illogical end-runs around the rule.

MaxSpeak, You Listen!

[ 30 ] June 21, 2016 |

Last fall, OG economics blogger MaxSpeak predicted that Trump would be the Republican nominee. I still thought that was enormously unlikely, so I took him up on his offer to bet. My end of the bet was to offer him the keys to LGM for a day. Not really too painful, since I always liked his writing. And, so, he will be addressing you neoliberal shills today. Enjoy, and be tough but fair!

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