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When Racist Demagoguery Works

[ 222 ] March 18, 2015 |

In the waning stages of the campaign, Benjamin Netanyahu explicitly laid out his vision for an apartheid state. The response of the electorate was…not encouraging:

After a bruising campaign focused on his failings, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel won a clear victory in Tuesday’s elections and seemed all but certain to form a new government and serve a fourth term, though he offended many voters and alienated allies in the process.

With 99.5 percent of the ballots counted, the YNet news site reported Wednesday morning that Mr. Netanyahu’s Likud Party had captured 29 or 30 of the 120 seats in Parliament, sweeping past his chief rival, the center-left Zionist Union alliance, which got 24 seats.

If you have any optimism about this political situation, I both envy you and question your grasp on reality.

Look Out, Utica!

[ 37 ] March 17, 2015 |

I’m disappointed by the tie that permits neither of DJW or I to have bragging rights, although at least there wasn’t a shootout.

I can’t speak to how Dayton has responded to past incidents, but I would have to say that the new mayor’s crackdown here is a relatively rare moralistic use of the police power that I can get behind. There’s really nothing cute about vandalism and mass public intoxication, and it’s not a “tradition” worth preserving.

Israel Can Be Democratic, It Can Have Netanyahuism, But Not Both

[ 168 ] March 17, 2015 |

There really isn’t anything substantively new about Netanyahu’s stance on settlements; it’s the equivalent of Obama on same-sex marriage, in the opposite direction in terms of social justice. The fact that he’s given up even the pretense of favoring Palestinian statehood should at least clarify things, particularly when (appropriately) read in tandem with his vile race-baiting about Arab Israelis. Netanyahu is now explicitly committed to a particular vision of Israel, which includes permanent settlements on Palestinian land, a permanently disenfranchised and unrepresented Palestinian population, and Arab Israelis treated as second-class citizens. This is, quite, simply, an apartheid state. Which makes the fact that he has a very solid chance to remain Prime Minister all the more depressing.

I also wish I was more confident that “a deep American alliance with the kind of garrison state Netanyahu envisions will become untenable.”

The Concussion Crisis Reaches a New Level

[ 43 ] March 17, 2015 |



Despite being a rookie drafted in the third round, linebacker Chris Borland was an important part of the 49ers defense last season, even starting eight games. With Patrick Willis retiring and Justin Smith reportedly considering the same, the 49ers will rely on Borland even more heavily this season. Or, were going to. Outside the Lines is reporting that Borland, 24, has told the 49ers that he is retiring “because of concerns about the long-term effects of repetitive head trauma.”


Borland told Outside the Lines that he began considering retirement as far back as training camp, when he believes he suffered a concussion but played through it in order to try and make the team. After the season he says he met with former players as well as doctors, which only further solidified the decision. He plans on going back to school at Wisconsin—where he graduated with a degree in history—to work towards his new career, possibly in sports management.

Between this and the string of early retirements…it’s hard not to think that more and more players will start making similar decisions.

Chip Kelly, SuperGenius: The Trolling Stage

[ 39 ] March 16, 2015 |

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Either Kelly has a great sense of humor or Eagles fans should be even more terrified that he’s been put in charge of personnel:

Chip Kelly’s first offseason at the controls has been full of twists and turns. The latest? The Eagles worked out quarterback Tim Tebow this morning, a league source confirmed.

Adam Schefter was first with the news.

Hmm. Well, in his only season as a regular in 2011 Tebow actually had a higher QBR that year than the injury-prone QB that Kelly just spent draft picks and more than $10 million in cap space to acquire,although neither could match the peerless Sanchize. So, really, Tebow does seem to be the kind of QB Kelly seems to be looking for — why not sign him?

Yes, yes, Bradford did improve all the way to merely “below average” in 2012 — a level Tebow will never get near — but I’m still not really convinced that “collect as many shitty overhyped failed 1st round QBs as possible” is going to be a path to victory no matter how good Kelly is with the xs and os.

…looks like Kelly is sticking with only two bad former first round picks for now.

The Bailout of the Health Insurance Industry Continues

[ 34 ] March 16, 2015 |

DoctorAbove: Someone please stop such horrifying events

Why couldn’t Obama have just let private insurers wither away like they were totally going to?

More than 16 million Americans have gained insurance coverage as a result of President Barack Obama’s health care law, the administration said Monday as the White House prepares to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the law’s signing.

In releasing the latest estimates, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell called it “the largest reduction in the uninsured in four decades.”

Hopefully the Supreme Court will intervene soon to help to stop our national nightmare!  When I hear the Solicitor General argue that the purpose of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was to provide more affordable and highly regulated insurance to as many people as possible rather than to make esoteric points about federalism I feel like I’m looking through the looking glass. This can’t possibly describe the thinking of the libertarian crackpots who drafted and voted for the law.

In addition, I hope the Supreme Court won’t be swayed by traitors like Matt Mead, who’s surely hiding Sylvia Burwell’s secret plan to get the Wyoming legislature to establish a state exchange.

ACA Trooferism: The First Time as Farce, the Second Time as Farce

[ 26 ] March 16, 2015 |

still-of-kevin-costner-and-wayne-knight-in-jfk-(1991)-large-picture“If the federal government intervenes in the economy in any way, the Moops will overrun us all. Haven’t you seen that documentary about what they did to Rearden Steel?”

The satirical novel we’re all living in continues to be a little on-the-nose:

The latest legal argument attacking Obamacare is literally a joke.

In 2012, officials from seven states penned a letter that, at least on its face, appears to be a very long list of requests for information from the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). In reality, however, the letter was a kind of prank that state officials played on HHS, according to one official who signed onto the letter. The letter, in other words, was not actually a request for information. It was an attempt to “spoof” a similar request that HHS made of the states.


That claim by Tanden prompted Michael Carvin, the attorney for the plaintiffs in King, to cite the states’ letter to HHS. That letter includes, among many other inquiries, a request that HHS identify the specific legal authority that permits it to “administer premium tax credits” in the federally-run exchanges that HHS is required to set up in states that elect not to operate their own exchange. Thus, if the letter is read as an earnest request for information, it seems to suggest that the state officials who signed it had doubts about whether these tax credits are authorized by law.

But here’s the problem: the letter wasn’t an earnest request for information. According to Tim Jost, a health policy expert and law professor at Washington and Lee University, the letter was a “joke.” The states, Jost explains, “got what they thought was an unreasonable demand from the feds and they sent back a letter that mirrored the request they got from the federal government.”

A state official who signed the letter, who spoke to ThinkProgress on condition of anonymity, confirmed Jost’s understanding.


If anything, Carvin’s attempt to bolster his case by unwittingly citing a practical joke is a microcosm for King v. Burwell as a whole. The central premise of Carvin’s argument is that a few words of the law can be read out of context in a way that sabotages much of the rest of the law. Once those words are read in their proper context — a context that includes a passage defining the word “Exchange” so that state-run and federally-run exchanges will be treated identically under the law — Carvin’s entire argument falls apart.

Oh, sure, you laugh now. But you haven’t seen how Carvin’s reply will make devastating use of the typographical arts! He has a letter that proves that President, Speaker of the House, Senate Majority Leader, Secretary of State, Prime Minister, and co-writer of “Blurred Lines” Jonathan Gruber told the states to say that their serious query was a joke!

Monday Links

[ 188 ] March 16, 2015 |

This Will be the Longest 18 Months Ever

[ 38 ] March 16, 2015 |

When I see that many people are pretending to take a ludicrous-on- -its-face story written by Ed Klein seriously…can we just have the election now please?

Chip Kelly, SuperGenius

[ 62 ] March 15, 2015 |


I can understand why the Eagles gave Chip Kelly control over personnel if it was between that and losing him. And the first major trade he pulled off was good: dumping an extremely expensive running back who was mediocre last year and getting a very good linebacker (albeit one coming off a year lost to injury) is a terrific trade. And as someone who would rather see the Bills win than any other AFC team, it’s awesome to see them once again try to build an offense around a large financial or draft pick investment in the running game, because 1974 is bound to come back anytime now.

The problem is that the rest of Kelly’s moves could come right out of the playbook of any hapless Browns/Bills/Jaguars hack:

In all, Kelly is committing a lot of money to his running backs. Let’s assume that Mathews’s deal eats up about $4 million in cap space this year. Assuming that it has a roster bonus, Murray should come in at about $9 million. The Eagles already have Sproles on their cap at $4.1 million. Even if they cut Chris Polk, that means about $17 million in cap space is committed to running backs.

The only team that even comes close to the Eagles on running back spending would be the Vikings, who have $18 million committed to backs this season, but $15.4 million of that money belongs to Peterson, who is likely to be released or traded. Otherwise, nobody else is spending more than $10.9 million on running backs, which leaves the Eagles as an enormous outlier in terms of how they’re choosing to use their cap space.


Here’s the simplest way I can put this: Pretend, for a moment, that the Raiders or the Jaguars or the Browns made this exact same pair of moves. They would be the laughingstocks of the league, fools making the same stupid mistakes that bad franchises always make. The Eagles understandably aren’t being painted with that brush because Kelly has earned a certain level of credibility as a forward-thinking coach. With the moves Kelly has made this offseason, that credibility is on the line.

Kelly may very well make these signings work, but the Murray deal is a classic example of what bad teams do in free agency. Two years from now, we may very well look back at the past 72 hours in Eagles history as the moment when Kelly sealed his status as the next Bill Belichick. We also may look back at it as the time when Kelly sealed his fate.

This kind of investment in running backs in 2015 is really stupid. It would be bad even if the spending was on backs of proven durability as well as high performance, because the position just isn’t important enough to contemporary NFL offenses. But of course Matthews hasn’t been an elite RB since 2011 and can’t stay on the field, and while Murray is very good (although probably not as good as he looks running behind Dallas’s offensive line), has an extensive injury history and Garrett handled him like Billy Martin handled his starting pitchers in his one healthy year last year. Paying Murray a top-of-the-market contract after a 500-touch season is about as good a gamble as getting in on the subprime mortgage market in 2006.  These are two bad contracts that are much worse in tandem than either one would be individually.  And the contract Kelly offered Frank Gore was no prize either — let’s just say the organization that did land Gore thought that Trent Richardson was worth a 1st round pick.

And that’s just the beginning. As Barnwell says, paying a corner who looks perfectly solid playing across from Richard Sherman in Pete Carroll’s defense as if he’s Darrelle Revis is a bad investment. But at least Maxwell can play. If anything, I think Barnwell is underselling how atrocious the Bradford trade is. There are three rather obvious problems with the deal.

  • Bradford has an onerous contract.
  • Bradford can’t stay on the field.
  • Bradford has been dogshit on those increasingly rare occasions when he does make it onto the field. His career QBR of 40.7 would rank him 26th among NFL QBs last year, behind human replacement level Kyle Orton (42.6) and also behind luminaries such as Ryan Fitzpatrick (55.3) and and Brian Hoyer (43.1).

Now, yes, Bradford does figure to look better going from offenses run by the likes of Brian “talent sees the next generation and flees in terror” Schottenheimer and (Josh McDaniels – Bill Belichick) to an offense run by Kelly. Let’s generously say the difference is worth 20 points of QBR. This would land him…somewhere between Mark Sanchez and Nick Foles under Chip Kelly. The upside of the move, in other words, is that Kelly will get the same performance he was getting from much cheaper players he already had. And, of course, given Bradford’s history it’s likely that the Sanchize will end up taking a healthy share of the snaps this year anyway.  On this trade, perhaps the best analogy isn’t the Bills or Raiders but Tony Reagins. The Rams got rid of one of the worst contracts in the sport and landed a probably better player and a net improvement in draft position out of the deal (and probably would have been even better off taking the 1st rounder Kelly remarkably offered.)

Kelly’s reputation as an offensive supergenius actually does have some merit.  But the fact that he can make the Nick Foleses and even Mark Sanchezes of the world look competent is all the more reason not to massively overpay offensive talent (or “talent” as the case may be.)  It’s hard to imagine Kelly matching the level of success attained by his one-time college rivals Carroll and Harbaugh until he works with someone in charge of personnel who (unlike himself) has some idea what he’s doing.

The Answer Is Always War: The Four Traits of Neoconservatism

[ 179 ] March 14, 2015 |

Wherever there’s a non-ally of the United States not being invaded by the United States, Fred Hiatt is there to find a crackpot to advocate that the problem of non-invasion be solved immediately:

Obama’s stance implies that we have no choice but to accept Iran’s best offer — whatever is, to use Rice’s term, “achievable” — because the alternative is unthinkable.

But should it be? What if force is the only way to block Iran from gaining nuclear weapons? That, in fact, is probably the reality. Ideology is the raison d’etre of Iran’s regime, legitimating its rule and inspiring its leaders and their supporters. In this sense, it is akin to communist, fascist and Nazi regimes that set out to transform the world. Iran aims to carry its Islamic revolution across the Middle East and beyond. A nuclear arsenal, even if it is only brandished, would vastly enhance Iran’s power to achieve that goal.

Such visionary regimes do not trade power for a mess of foreign goods.

Conveniently, the ridiculous-though-not-treasonous letter to Iran from most of the Republican Senate conference has allowed Chait to distill the 4 crucial characteristics of neoconservatism:

  •  “First, of course, is the wild confrontationalism, which in this case was directed not against Iran but against the Obama administration.”
  • “the letter was drafted and signed with maximum haste and a total contempt for planning or serious thought of any kind.
  • “the ploy has failed even by the standards of its own logic.
  • “And, then, finally, there is the stubborn refusal to concede the plan has backfired even in the face of overwhelming evidence.

The mere summary doesn’t do it justice — it’s all worth reading. Muravchik’s letter has already scored highly on points one and two…

…as if often the case, Fallows is excellent.

Today’s Unanswerable Counterfactual

[ 28 ] March 13, 2015 |

Interesting question from IB:

I agree on the general point here, but don’t you think that actions by the Obama and Clinton White Houses would be a central part of any adequate explanation for why we got comprehensive health care reform in 2009-10, but not in 1993-4? Or to put this another way: had Obama not prioritized healthcare reform, the 111th Congress would never have passed comprehensive health care reform. And had Clinton played his hand somewhat differently, the 103rd Congress might have.

A few points:

  • Again, to reject Green Lanternism is not to deny any presidential influence on legislation, with agenda-setting being most important.  Certainly, health care reform could have failed in 2010 — some Democrats, including Obama’s Chief of Staff, were urging him to abandon the ACA, and some are still pushing the line.  Obama playing his hand well and remaining steadfast in the face of political headwinds was one of the many necessary conditions of accomplishing the massively difficult task of comprehensive health care reform, although in most political contexts it would still have been insufficient.  (For that matter, the Civil Rights Act almost certainly would not have passed in 1964 with JFK in the White House, although had the Republicans ran Goldwater in this alternate universe most of the Great Society probably would have eventually happened anyway.)
  • If Obama had played health care reform in 2010 the way Clinton did in 1993, I don’t think anything like the ACA would have passed.  Evidently, Obama had the advantage of hindsight that Clinton didn’t. (I again note the irony that most of the people who insist that Obama totally could have gotten singlepayeroratleastthepublicoption passed believe that Obama should have used the “come up with a bill and ram in right down Congress’s throat” model that was a complete disaster for Clinton.)
  • It’s hard to be sure, given how badly bungled it was by the Clintons, but my guess is that as far as comprehensive health care reform in 1993 they were drawing dead anyway.  On health care, the Republican conference was already where it would be on pretty much everything in 2009; he was not getting more than token Republican support.  The Democratic caucus was both smaller and more conservative in 1993 than it was in 2009.   The Finance Committee Chair was Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who was both hostile to health care reform and a consummate preening asshole – a man, in other words, who could make you appreciate Max Baucus.  Clinton didn’t deal with him well but I doubt it mattered in the end.  We’ll never know for sure, but I think the legislative context wasn’t favorable enough even had Clinton used better tactics. 


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