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Today In Developments That Perhaps Could Have Been Anticipated

[ 50 ] May 23, 2016 |

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Far be it from me to challenge the unimpeachable integritude of the NFL’s leadership, but:

At least a half-dozen top NFL health officials waged an improper, behind-the-scenes campaign last year to influence a major U.S. government research study on football and brain disease, congressional investigators have concluded in a new report obtained by Outside the Lines.

The 91-page report describes how the NFL pressured the National Institutes of Health to strip the $16 million project from a prominent Boston University researcher and tried to redirect the money to members of the league’s committee on brain injuries. The study was to have been funded out of a $30 million “unrestricted gift” the NFL gave the NIH in 2012.

After the NIH rebuffed the NFL’s campaign to remove Robert Stern, an expert in neurodegenerative disease who has criticized the league, the NFL backed out of a signed agreement to pay for the study, the report shows. Taxpayers ended up bearing the cost instead.

The NFL’s actions violated policies that prohibit private donors from interfering in the NIH peer-review process, the report concludes, and were part of a “long-standing pattern of attempts” by the league to shape concussion research for its own purposes.

“In this instance, our investigation has shown that while the NFL had been publicly proclaiming its role as funder and accelerator of important research, it was privately attempting to influence that research,” the report states.

Speaking of egregious misconduct by the NFL’s leadership, I think it’s enormously unlikely that the 2nd Circuit will hear Brady’s appeal en banc, but the NFLPA is dragging out the heavy artillery.

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The End of the Post-Brown Dream, Cont’d

[ 93 ] May 23, 2016 |

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Today’s decision, given Rodriguez, means that there is no violation of the Equal Protection Clause though the schools are segregated by race and though the black schools are not only “separate” but “inferior.”

So far as equal protection is concerned, we are now in a dramatic retreat from the 7-to-1 decision in 1896 that blacks could be segregated in public facilities, provided they received equal treatment.

As I indicated in Keyes v. School District No. 1 Denver, Colorado, there is, so far as the school cases go, no constitutional difference between de facto and de jure segregation. Each school board performs state action for Fourteenth Amendment purposes when it draws the lines that confine it to a given area, when it builds schools at particular sites, or when it allocates students.

Milliken v. Bradley (1974), Douglas J. (dissenting.)

Poor, black and Hispanic children are becoming increasingly isolated from their white, affluent peers in the nation’s public schools, according to new federal data showing that the number of high-poverty schools serving primarily black and brown students more than doubled between 2001 and 2014.

The data was released by the Government Accountability Office on Tuesday, 62 years to the day after the Supreme Court decided that segregated schools are “inherently unequal” and therefore unconstitutional.

That landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education began the dismantling of the dual school systems — one for white kids, one for black students — that characterized so many of the nation’s communities. It also became a touchstone for the ideal of public education as a great equalizer, an American birthright meant to give every child a fair shot at success.

But that ideal appears to be unraveling, according to Tuesday’s GAO report.

The proportion of schools segregated by race and class — where more than 75 percent of children receive free or reduced-price lunch and more than 75 percent are black or Hispanic — climbed from 9 percent to 16 percent of schools between 2001 and 2014. The number of the most intensively segregated schools — with more than 90 percent of low-income students and students of color — more than doubled over that period.

The Horror

[ 524 ] May 22, 2016 |

nbc-fires-donald-trump-after-he-calls-mexicans-rapists-and-drug-runnersBoth Sides Do It!

I hope that Ralph Nader has rendered this kind of thing politically inconsequential, but for Chrissakes:

If you look at an electoral contest between the most progressive platform a Democratic presidential candidate has run on in a long time and an orange-hued Mussolini and you conclude that they’re essentially the same because “corporate,” I’m not sure what to tell you. But I guess it does help to explain why Stein, who seems to have real political talent and could make a real contribution to progressive politics, prefers empty wankery instead.

Speaking of Saint Ralph, I see the “public interest” organization he founded continues to share the attitude he’s always displayed towards people who work for him.

Shelby County: The Gift That Keeps On Giving

[ 18 ] May 21, 2016 |

Chief-Justice-John-Roberts

John Roberts’s masterpiece in the field of self-refuting simulacra of constitutional law continues to have the desired effect:

On Thursday, federal district court judge Henry Hudson upheld Virginia’s voter ID law, despite hearing many stories like Okiakpe’s of voters burdened by the law. Hudson, a George W. Bush appointee once known as “Hang ‘Em High Henry” for his tough on crime record, was also the first judge to rule against Obamacare. His decision will make it harder for the 200,000 Virginia voters without a driver’s license to cast a ballot.

Virginia first passed a voter-ID law in 2012, which accepted non-photo IDs like a utility bill, pay stub, bank statement, government check, or Social Security card. The Justice Department approved the law. But after Barack Obama carried Virginia in 2012, the GOP-controlled legislature significantly toughened the law, accepting “only drivers licenses, voter ID cards, student IDs, and concealed handgun permits,” MSNBC reported.

The change needed approval from the DOJ or a federal court, but was allowed to go into effect after the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in June 2013, ruling that states like Virginia with a long history of voting discrimination no longer had to submit their voting changes for federal approval. (The state tried to exclude any “evidence of Virginia’s history of racial discrimination” from being heard in the case as “not relevant.”)

[…]

There’s now overwhelming evidence that voter-ID laws are designed not to combat nonexistent voter impersonation but to make it harder for Democratic-leaning constituencies to vote. Yet conservative judges in states like Virginia and North Carolina keep upholding these laws.

This underscores the importance of changing the courts, particularly the Supreme Court that gutted the VRA. Donald Trump released his short list of very conservative Supreme Court nominees this week. It’s important to remember that both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders would appoint very different people to the bench.

The Joe Arpaio of the Federal Judiciary

[ 67 ] May 20, 2016 |

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Strikes again:

A federal judge with a history of anti-immigrant sentiment ordered the federal government to turn over the names, addresses and “all available contact information” of over 100,000 immigrants living within the United States. He does so in a strange order that quotes extensively from movie scripts and that alleges a conspiracy of attorneys “somewhere in the halls of the Justice Department whose identities are unknown to this Court.”

It appears to be, as several immigration advocates noted shortly after the order was handed down, an effort to intimidate immigrants who benefit from certain Obama administration programs from participating in those programs, lest their personal information be turned over to people who wish them harm. As Greisa Martinez, Advocacy Director for United We Dream, said in a statement, the judge is “asking for the personal information of young people just to whip up fear” — fear, no doubt, of what could happen if anti-immigrant state officials got their hands on this information. Or if the information became public.

The judge is Andrew Hanen, who conservative attorneys opposed to President Obama’s immigration policies appear to have sought out specifically because of his belief that America does not treat immigrants with sufficient hostility. Texas v. United States was filed shortly after President Obama announced policy changes that would permit close to 5 million undocumented immigrants to temporarily work and remain in the country. As the name of the case suggests, the lead plaintiff is the State of Texas, yet the Texas Attorney General’s office did not file this case in Austin, the state’s capitol. Instead, they filed it over five hours away in the town of Brownsville.

Why Did #NeverTrump Fail?

[ 199 ] May 20, 2016 |

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For multiple reasons, but if you had to boil it down to two variables there would be 1)collective action problems and 2) the alternative candidates were lousy:

The persistence of coordination issues at this stage suggests a key facet of Republicans’ predicament. Failures in the nomination stage can be attributed to slow movement, incorrect interpretation of what the Iowa results meant for Rubio, and, later on, an overemphasis on being against Trump rather than for another candidate. But the overarching theme here is that bargaining has broken down because, in many cases, no one has anything that anyone else wants.

This is the principle that unifies several of the different coordination failures. First, elites’ inability to successfully signal to the voters that they were supposed to line up behind Jeb, then Rubio. Elites coordinated, and voters didn’t care, as one of my party politics students observed. Second, this helps explain the inability of candidates to coordinate to stop Trump.

[…]

You could probably pinpoint the start of the #NeverTrump movement as the publication of the National Review issue dedicated to declarations against the candidate. The NeverTrump folks really got going after Super Tuesday, when Trump swept the contests and Rubio had an especially disappointing night (sorry, Minnesota caucuses).

In a lot of ways, the #NeverTrump effort looked the most like a coordinated movement within the party of anything that happened in this nomination season. But it forgot something: a candidate. Rubio stayed in the race for two more weeks, and the elephant in the room (no, I will never tire of that pun) was that the polarizing and widely disliked Cruz was the most viable alternative. Furthermore, what did the NeverTrump movement have to offer potential supporters? What kinds of credible threats could it make?

A Strawman Appropriately Repurposed

[ 191 ] May 19, 2016 |

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Ross Douthat finds the “smug style of American liberalism” guff news he can use:

THE rise of Donald Trump, and with him a white-identity politics more explicit than anything America has seen in decades, has created an interesting division on the political left — over the question of what, if anything, liberal politics ought to offer to people who seem bigoted.

On the one hand there are liberals determined to regard Trumpism as almost exclusively motivated by racial and cultural resentments, with few legitimate economic grievances complicating the morality play. From this perspective, the fact that Trump’s G.O.P. has finally consolidated, say, a once-Democratic area like Appalachia is almost a welcome relief: At last all the white racists are safely in the other party, and we don’t have to cater to them anymore.

On the other hand, there are left-wingers who regard Trump’s support among erstwhile Democrats as a sign that liberalism has badly failed some of its natural constituents, and who fear that a Democratic coalition that easily crushes Trump without much white working-class support will simply write off their struggles as no more than the backward and bigoted deserve.

I like how the left-wing gadfly Fredrik deBoer framed this issue: “What do you owe to people who are guilty of being wrong?” It’s a question for liberals all across the Western world to ponder, given the widening gulf between their increasingly cosmopolitan parties and an increasingly right-leaning native working class.

He definitely gets where deBoer and Rensin are coming from. And between the three of them, they have collectively identified zero liberals who share the set of beliefs (“white working class Trump voters have no legitimate economic grievances and we should not try to help them materially”) attributed to them.

I won’t repeat my previous arguments about this in full, but to summarize: nobody (well, not literally, it’s a big internet and I’m sure someone in a comments section somewhere is saying something dumb, not nobody of any influence) is saying that because racism a major factor in Trump’s support that federal economic policy should not try to help Trump voters. The argument is against the pundit’s fallacy that if you materially help the kind of working class voters in states like West Virginia that now support Trump and Republicans for federal office they will immediately start voting for liberal Democrats for federal office. But, of course, the fact that (for example) greatly expanding Medicaid hasn’t helped Democrats even in the red states that have taken the expansion like Kentucky doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done, and I defy you to name me one liberal Democrat who thinks otherwise.

In addition, although people like Rensin and deBoer can’t see it because this is more about their hatred of liberals than any kind of serious political analysis, the fact that white supremacy constitutes a factor (not a monocausal factor, but a factor) in explaining white working class support for Trump is also a powerful argument against 90s-era DLC gestures to the right, which didn’t stop West Virginia and Kentucky and Tennessee from going deep red either. To the best of their ability, Democrats in federal office should strengthen the safety net and expand access to health care and expand labor protections and increase regulation of business where necessary because it’s the right thing to do. Doing so doesn’t guarantee electoral victories, but not doing it doesn’t guarantee electoral success either.

One other example in the liberals=neoliberals=conservatives trend that I hope will not persist in the same volume after the primaries are over:

As Bouie says, it’s an impressively layered strawman — pretend to believe that racism is about individual morality rather than structural inequality, so that you can falsely attribute to left-liberals a belief that if working class voters have racist beliefs the government shouldn’t do anything for them. As an alternative, one could argue with actually existing liberal arguments, but I guess that would be too much work.

11 White Reactionaries

[ 72 ] May 19, 2016 |

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If you like Sam Alito, you’ll love who Donald Trump would nominate to the Supreme Court. In conclusion, not a dime’s worth of difference!

Talking With Threatening Trolls

[ 237 ] May 18, 2016 |

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They are an unrepresentative minority, but Bernie Bros are real and they are less than spectacular.

As Rob reiterated earlier today, there’s nothing about this unique to Sanders; neither Clinton’s supporters nor surrogates behaved any better at thus stage of the 2008 campaign, and evidently Mark Penn et al. could see and raise any of Jeff Weaver’s aggressive intelligence-insulting and rube-running about his candidate’s chances of winning. But am I ever looking forward to this being over.

The Feckless Neoliberalism of the Democrat Party

[ 163 ] May 18, 2016 |

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Surely the Department of Labor in a Romney administration would have done the same thing:

Millions of Americans will get a raise beginning Dec. 1, and not because their employers will have a sudden outbreak of Christmas generosity. Rather, it will come courtesy of the Obama administration, which on Tuesday evening released the final version of a long-planned update to the nation’s overtime regulations.

Under the new Department of Labor rules, salaried employees earning less than $47,476 annually will automatically receive overtime pay when they work more than 40 hours in a week, double the current $23,660 ceiling. Administration officials estimate that more than 4 million workers will be impacted by the change, which will increase their pay by an estimated $12 billion over the next decade. “It is based on a simple proposition. If you work overtime, you should actually get paid for working overtime,” Vice President Joe Biden said on a press call.

The change in overtime eligibility rules was first proposed by the Obama administration two years ago and immediately ran into opposition from pro-business groups like the Chamber of Commerce, the National Retail Federation, and the National Restaurant Association. Opponents claim the change will be a job- and income-killer, forcing many businesses to either cut their employees’ hours, make do with less workers, or even switch more work over to automated technology that minimizes or eliminates the need for human involvement.

This is a really important change. As Olen explains, under the status quo ante, companies could easily evade overtime laws by making ordinary workers “managers” and paying them low salaries rather than by the hour, allowing employers to demand more uncompensated hours. Requiring workers with such titles and salaries to be paid something like a middle class salary is the only effective way of combating this scam.

Hillary Clinton’s “Shift to the Left”

[ 109 ] May 18, 2016 |

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Political reporters have been characterizing Clinton coming out for a Medicare buy-in and against the Hyde Amendment is a shift to the left. This is not exactly true, as both reflect long-standing views. Which doesn’t mean her emphasis on them isn’t important:

Last week, Hillary Clinton unveiled a single-payer health insurance plan that would allow people to buy into Medicare starting at age 50 or 55. To some political reporters, this embrace of a public option represents an ideological shift. “Mrs. Clinton is moving to the left on health care,” asserted The New York Times, attributing it to her unexpectedly strong challenge from Bernie Sanders. Clinton was “floating a new idea,” declared The Wall Street Journal.

But this is not precisely correct. There’s nothing remotely new about Clinton’s support for a Medicare buy-in or a public option for health insurance. From the beginnings of her husband’s administration, health care has been a major priority for her, and she deserves major credit for the Affordable Care Act, which closely resembles the plan that was a centerpiece of her 2008 campaign. Sanders is having an effect on Clinton, but he is not causing her to change her stance, so much as he is compelling Clinton to emphasize her existing, more-liberal positions.

Indeed, Clinton’s support for a Medicare buy-in is nothing new, and dates back at least 15 years. In a 2000 debate in her New York Senate campaign against then-House Republican Rick Lazio, Clinton said that she would ideally “allow people between 55 and 65 to buy into Medicare.” This shouldn’t have been surprising, since her husband had floated the idea in his 1998 State of the Union address. It’s hardly a novel concept.

[…]

But a better example is her expressed support for repealing the Hyde Amendment ban on Medicaid coverage of abortion.

The Amendment is one of the most important legislative barriers to abortion access, and also exacerbates the unequal access to reproductive care faced by poor women. Even if a Clinton replacement for the late Supreme Court Justice Anonin Sclaia ensures that Roe v. Wade survives, the Hyde Amendment substantially limits practical access to abortion. So it was very welcome for progressives to see Clinton come out against it (as has Bernie Sanders.)

Even so, this is not actually new for Clinton. In a 2008, her campaign told a reproductive rights website that she “does not support the Hyde amendment. She believes low-income women should have access to the full range of reproductive health care services.” Her opposition to the Hyde Amendment is a change in emphasis, not a change in ideology.

Does this mean that the Sanders campaign is having less of an effect that some people have claimed? I don’t think so. For national political leaders, emphasis and priorities matter. There’s a difference between opposing the Hyde Amendment while answering a question in an online interview, and pledging to repeal it during a presidential campaign speech. That’s not because Clinton’s saying something in public will cause people to change their views, but because party leaders help set the legislative agenda. Democrats have to try to figure out what they will do during the next period of unified Democratic government, even if it doesn’t come about in 2017. For the presumptive nominee to support policies like a Medicare buy-in and a repeal of the Hyde Amendment makes the next Democratic Congress more likely to put them on the front burner.
Like most politicians with ambitions for national office, Clinton has both more-liberal and more-conservative aspects of her record and policy views. Sanders, and the support he’s receiving, are encouraging her to emphasize the former—and to progressives, who want the party’s left flank to keep the pressure on, this is an immensely valuable thing.

In that sense, whether these ideas are “new” positions for Hillary Clinton may not matter very much in the end. Progressives saw more of their agenda realized under Obama than under Bill Clinton, but that had more to do with political circumstance than with the president’s personal ideological preferences. Opposition to the Hyde Amendment is a longstanding part of Hillary Clinton’s record; so is feinting to the center by saying that abortion should be “safe, legal, and rare.” That she feels more inclined to emphasize the former rather than the latter matters, and it’s evidence of a party moving in a more progressive direction.

Another way of putting it, as I elaborate on in the piece, is that if you compare the body of legislation signed by Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, it looks as if the latter is considerably more liberal. But most of the difference is that the Democratic coalition to the whole has moved to the left, not differences in their personal views. Had he assumed office in 2009 Clinton would have governed much more like Obama than like he did in the 90s. And there’s never been a penny’s worth of difference between Obama and Hillary Clinton on domestic policy. The relative success of the Sanders campaign both reflects and (if played correctly) should accelerate the leftward shift of the party.

She had won the victory over herself. She loved The Donald.

[ 64 ] May 17, 2016 |

trump_n_mitt

The process of the GOP meekly falling into line behind Il Douche continues apace:

For all the disgusting insults Donald Trump has lobbed at Fox News Channel anchor Megyn Kelly—from retweeting someone calling her a bimbo, to implying she was on her period while moderating a debate—even the most naïve observer of politics and media in the Age of Trump must have known that Tuesday night was inevitable. And by “Tuesday night,” I don’t just mean a television special—this particular one on the Fox broadcast network, and moderated by Kelly with Trump as her star guest. Equally preordained was the fact that, at a time when Rupert Murdoch, Roger Ailes, and most of the Fox News Channel have made their peace with Trump, Kelly would eventually conduct a fawning, boring, and pointless interview with the presumptive Republican nominee.

Despite the ridiculously positive media coverage she receives from a press mostly skeptical of her FNC peers (which ignores how racist her show continues to be), Kelly is less a maverick than a team player (on a rather dirty team). It’s true that she did a good job challenging Trump and other Republicans at the debates. But that challenge of Trump took place in the context of a network that was at least partially opposed to him, and at a time when Murdoch was uncomfortable with Trump’s rise. As Gabriel Sherman reported on Tuesday, one “high-level” Fox source told him that it was Murdoch himself who encouraged Kelly to go after Trump at that first debate.

Now, with Murdoch having warmed considerably to Trump, it was predictable that Kelly would do so as well, seeking out a meeting with the businessman and conducting the cozy interview that aired on Tuesday night.

We can only hope that Fox News’s attempts to prop Trump up will be as ineffectual as its attempts to stop him from being the nominee.

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