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Before the Party of Lincoln Was the Party of Calhoun

[ 96 ] February 17, 2015 |

Between yesterday’s presidents thread and the fact that I’m teaching Pam Brandwein’s Rethinking the Judicial Settlement of Reconstruction in my semimar today, I was compelled to look up Garfield’s inaugural address. Pretty interesting:


The emancipated race has already made remarkable progress. With unquestioning devotion to the Union, with a patience and gentleness not born of fear, they have “followed the light as God gave them to see the light.” They are rapidly laying the material foundations of self-support, widening their circle of intelligence, and beginning to enjoy the blessings that gather around the homes of the industrious poor. They deserve the generous encouragement of all good men. So far as my authority can lawfully extend they shall enjoy the full and equal protection of the Constitution and the laws.

The free enjoyment of equal suffrage is still in question, and a frank statement of the issue may aid its solution. It is alleged that in many communities negro citizens are practically denied the freedom of the ballot. In so far as the truth of this allegation is admitted, it is answered that in many places honest local government is impossible if the mass of uneducated negroes are allowed to vote. These are grave allegations. So far as the latter is true, it is the only palliation that can be offered for opposing the freedom of the ballot. Bad local government is certainly a great evil, which ought to be prevented; but to violate the freedom and sanctities of the suffrage is more than an evil. It is a crime which, if persisted in, will destroy the Government itself. Suicide is not a remedy. If in other lands it be high treason to compass the death of the king, it shall be counted no less a crime here to strangle our sovereign power and stifle its voice.

It has been said that unsettled questions have no pity for the repose of nations. It should be said with the utmost emphasis that this question of the suffrage will never give repose or safety to the States or to the nation until each, within its own jurisdiction, makes and keeps the ballot free and pure by the strong sanctions of the law.

Obviously, this would be better without the discussions of voter ignorance, although Garfield does go on to make clear that the solution to the alleged problem is quality universal education, not disenfranchisement. But, still, in the context of 1881 this is pretty powerful stuff, and as Brandwein says it wasn’t just guff. Prosecutions of voting rights violations increased substantially, and while Arthur was a machine hack without Garfield’s history of support for the rights of African-Americans he continued to make efforts to protect the ballot. And despite the assumptions of many (including, until recently, yours truly) that Cruikshank and Reese made federal voting rights enforcement effectively impossible, the Supreme Court in fact upheld federal indictments of both state actors and private terrorists in broad language that suggested something very close to a federal police power to supervise federal elections. The traditional view that the selection of Hayes was the end of any Republican efforts to sustain Reconstruction isn’t really right. As Brandwein puts is, the Republican Party of the 1880s wasn’t what it was in 1870, but it wasn’t what it would become either. And it was Republican elected officials, not the Supreme Court, that were primarily responsible for the full Republican retreat from civil rights after 1891.

I’ll probably have a follow-up to the presidents thread, but while we’re here I wanted to make a point about Grant (who I’m inclined to agree Yglesias is probably overrating, although I’ll grant I don’t have a great alternative for #4 myself.) I do think blaming Grant for the Redemption that occurred while he was in the White House involves no little anachronistic Green Lanternism. You have to remember that Grant had nothing like the resources of the modern federal government available to him, and this goes double after the horrible economic depression created by the Panic of 1873. I suppose he didn’t do absolutely everything he could, but given both his limited enforcement resources and a media that was able to minimize the scope of Klan violence, I think he did about as well as could have been reasonably expected in terms of civil rights enforcement.

The contrast with Eisenhower is interesting. Ike, who found school segregation personally unobjectionable, never said a word in defense of Brown v. Board and schools in the South were essentially as segregated the day he delivered his (admittedly excellent) Farewell Address as the day he was inaugurated, despite the Supreme Court’s landmark decision. And, yet, Ike gets enormous credit for his reluctant, one-off decision to send the Screaming Eagles into Little Rock. Grant did more with vastly fewer resources at his disposal against even more brutal opposition, and remains widely derided as ineffective. I don’t get it. When Yglesias ranks Grant over Eisenhower, I think he has a point.

Class Warriors Who Do Not Want to be Criticized

[ 86 ] February 17, 2015 |

The background:

Ten years ago, fresh off his loss to Bush/Cheney as John Kerry’s running mate, John Edwards returned home to open a center on poverty at the University of North Carolina School of Law, his alma mater.

Today, that move looks downright prescient: Ranked better than average in poverty in 2005, North Carolina has since experienced the greatest increase in concentrated poverty in the country. Charlotte has the worst upward mobility of America’s 50 biggest cities. In the east, hundreds of black agricultural towns are neglected and abandoned, and in the west, the Blue Ridge Mountains of Appalachia are suffering from a meth and prescription drug epidemic.

The new bosses:

Then Republicans swept the 2010 midterm and won the governorship in 2012, giving the GOP control of Raleigh for the first time since the Reconstruction. Despite the state’s fifth-highest unemployment rate in the nation, legislators cut unemployment benefits, refused to expand Medicaid, slashed taxes on the rich and raised them on the poor. North Carolina fell to eleventh worst in poverty.

The inevitable:

On three occasions in 2013, UNC Law Dean Jack Boger called Nichol into his office to relay threats from the legislature. If Nichol didn’t stop writing articles, they’d close the Poverty Center, move it to UNC-Pembroke, or he’d be fired. Nichol kept writing the articles.


Six of the seven working group members are Republicans—including Steven Long, who previously sat on the board at Civitas—and the other one is unaffiliated. Targeted centers include the Juvenile Justice Institute, Carolina Women’s Center, the UNC Center for Civil Rights, and the Sonja Haynes Center for Black Culture and History. In December, representatives of the 34 centers spoke at a hearing. “I don’t deny we engage in advocacy and that we have an agenda,” Nichol said at the hearing. “We think people at the bottom aren’t getting a fair shake.”

The working group will make recommendations about cuts and closing to a full BOG vote at their February 27 meeting. If the Poverty Center survives, according to Holmes, we should expect a policy requiring center directors to receive training on what they can and can’t say.

I’m very confident that the same conservatives who argued that students who thought it was a bad idea to give Condi Rice a six-figure paycheck to spout platitudes before a captive audience was the death of free speech in America will be equally outraged by this…

Well, that’s funny, because I happen to have Congressman Doggett right here, so….

[ 25 ] February 16, 2015 |

Earlier this month, I observed that ACA Troofers-in-Chief Adler and Cannon — with their Moops-invaded-Spain theory already imploding all around them — attempted to manufacture evidence that House Democrats thought that the federally-established state exchanges would not provide tax credits. Alas, the letter, written by Lloyd Doggett on behalf of the other Texas House Dems, did not say anything about the issue. As a tell, Adler and Cannon cited a news report about the letter by Julie Rovner — something they wouldn’t have bothered to do if the letter actually said what they claimed it did. But the Rovner story doesn’t back up their claim either, and Rovner confirmed to me that “there was never any discussion about only state exchanges offering subsidies that I was party to.”

I was curious if anyone had asked Doggett had been asked about Adler and Cannon trying to conscript him into the Moops Resistance Forces, and sure enough:

Via Joey Meyer and Brianne Gorod, who add:

All this comes as the Members of Congress most closely involved with the drafting and passage of the ACA are lining up to state on record that they always intended for the tax credits to be available nationwide. Their assertions have been echoed by high-level congressional aides, who have also gone on record explaining that nationwide availability was always the intention behind the law.

The idea that the text of ACA clearly and unambiguously said something, related to a mechanism central to its operation, that not a single legislator who voted for the law 5 years ago believes that it said and many have gone on the record to say that it didn’t say is exceptionally implausible. The idea that the legislators who wrote and voted for the ACA intentionally denied tax credits to the federally established exchanges is less plausible than the typical theory explaining how Hillary Clinton killed Vince Foster.

Today In Texas Justice

[ 26 ] February 16, 2015 |

As improbable as it might seem that Texas might be preparing to execute an innocent man, they very likely are:

Gannon’s reinvestigation of the Reed case will be shown in Monday night’s episode of Dead Again. (Full disclosure: I was interviewed about my reporting by A&E.) At the same time, Gannon’s conclusions, along with that of three of the country’s leading forensic pathologists who have studied the case, are at the heart of a new appeal on Reed’s behalf, filed on Thursday, February 12. The appeal argues that new scientific evidence proves conclusively that the state’s theory of the murder is “medically and scientifically impossible,” and that Reed is, in fact, innocent.

Specifically, Gannon and the forensic experts have concluded that the state’s timeline for Stites’ death is off by several hours. They contend that the decomposing of Stites’ body — observed in crime scene photos and video — prove that she was murdered at least four hours earlier than the state claims. Moreover, they conclude that she was likely killed somewhere far from where her body was found.

Surely, the state would not allow such an in…sorry, I can’t even finish typing that.

Steve Montador, Memorable Minor Players, and the Concussion Crisis

[ 17 ] February 15, 2015 |

If you’re a sports fan, you almost certainly maintain affectionate memories not only for great players but for journeyman players who had memorable moments. When the Flames made an upset run to the Stanley Cup finals in 2004, they lost a couple defensemen, and had to plug a couple of very raw young players into the lineup. One of them, Steve Montador, played a surprisingly strong game in the last NHL playoff game I saw live, when Calgary eliminated Detroit in overtime Game 6. (After maybe an hour of sleep, I flew back to Seattle at 7AM the next morning and delivered what I’m sure was a stirring lecture on the Mongolian judicial system that afternoon.) And then, in Game 1 of the conference finals against San Jose, Montador had a moment no fan of the team at that time will ever forget:

I remember it like it was yesterday: the brutal Sharks line change, the beautiful feed from Iginla, the minor-hockey beaver tail from Montador (which you can see Sutter and his assistants laughing about on the replay.) This wasn’t the beginning of a great career, but it was an admirable one all the same — an undrafted player who played almost 600 NHL games as was well-liked wherever he went.

Montador died today — he was only 35. He had severe problems with concussions at the end of his career, so it’s hard not to speculate, but at this time the cause is unknown. R.I.P.

I need to write a longer post about this, but John Branch’s Boy On Ice — about the premature death of Derek Boogaard, based on his superb NYT series – is very much worth reading for those interested in the concussion crisis in pro sports.

…good related interview with Darryl Sutter. More here.

Yay, At Least Another Year of Gross Media Malpractice

[ 75 ] February 15, 2015 |

So if I can follow the guilt-by-association logic here, Stephen Hawking, Kevin Spacey and Chris Tucker are pedophiles and therefore Hillary Clinton is unfit to be president. And then there’s the laziness: most of it just recycles the Todd Purdum article that was utter crap in 2008 and hasn’t become less so in the meantime.

Here’s the thing: Bill Clinton cannot be held responsible for the bad actions of people he’s flown on planes with. And while I know we all have to pretend that being a bad spouse must make you a bad public official although this is rather obviously false, I think people treating vague rumors about Bill Clinton’s sex life as being relevant should at least have to make an argument about how it disqualifies Hillary Clinton — who, as best as this blog can determine, is a different person — from office.

It’s going to be a long 1-9 years.

And Don’t Kid Yourself, King and Lincoln Would Have Praised Shelby County

[ 50 ] February 15, 2015 |

From the party that brought you the Martin Luther King whose public career consisted of a one-sentence speech, I guess “Abraham Lincoln: Neoconfederate” isn’t that much of a stretch.

“A Sammy Hagar lookalike pushes your face into a leather bag filled with oil…”

[ 20 ] February 15, 2015 |

Low-hanging fruit, I know, but well-turned.

[Target of parody.]

Maureen Dowd’s Greatest Misses, Part II

[ 121 ] February 14, 2015 |

The recent Maureen Dowd post caused numerous people to mention other salient examples from her immense body of terrible work.  A couple strands are worth particular emphasis.

First Pareene had an excellent roundup of her remarkable history of distorting quotes.  Really, more than one of these should be firable offense, even if the rest of her work actually had merit.  And they’re never innocent mistakes — the dishonesty is always in the direction of the narrative she’s pushing.  “Who among us doesn’t like NASCAR?” is the classic example.  Leaving aside the consistent journalistic malpractice, this should also remind us that the idea that she has some kind of shrewd insight into people’s character is risible.  Her narratives are always the stalest, shallowest spin that’s already been established by flacks of the public official’s opponents.  “Al Gore is a soulless, goody-goody liar.” “George W. Bush is an amiable dunce.”  “John Kerry is an effete snob.”  “John Edwards is a pretty boy with a fancy haircut and a big house.”  “Barack Obama is a cold wimp.”  (In fairness, I’ll grant that “Bill deBlasio’s wife doesn’t know her place” is pretty much her own, although not to her credit.)  There’s nothing in her columns that you wouldn’t “learn”  if you spent a few minutes watching “consultants” yell at each other on bad cable news shows.

We discussed this at the time, but the other classic example was when Sandy Hook showed that there’s a first time for everything: in this case, Maureen Dowd caring about a public policy issue.   The first why she could have proceeded is to do some homework, try to find it if any feasible policy changes could have…hahahaha, OK, let’s be a little more realistic.  The political questions surrounding the issue — why couldn’t even the most popular gun control measure pass? — are still interesting, albeit not terribly complicated for anyone who paid some measure of attention to how Congress operates prior to 2013.  Her response, alas, was to wonder why the political team that got comprehensive health care reform passed where Truman and Clinton failed and LBJ didn’t. even. try. didn’t keep track of which Senate votes were needed.  I swear.  And this “analysis” is not just implicitly based on Aaron Sorkin scripts; it’s openly and explicitly based on Aaron Sorkin scripts, which indeed seem to be Dowd’s sole basis for political “knowledge.”

The fact that Dowd has been given large amounts of money to ostensibly write about politics by the nation’s best newspaper for more than two decades says a lot, and none of it is good.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention that she’s also the Judy Miller of love.  The ultra-ultra hard sell the NYT gave to Are Men Necessary? was sort of their equivalent to Mouthpiece Theater.

Republican Governance in 2015: Gay-Bashing to Cover Up Your Rank Incompetence

[ 49 ] February 13, 2015 |

Shorter Sam Brownback: “OK, maybe my Laffernomics was an unmitigated disaster.  Don’t worry, it will mostly be the gays who end up unemployed.”

The ACA Troofer Clown Car

[ 25 ] February 13, 2015 |


CANNON X: “I assure you, Mr. King, that Ted Kennedy, Nancy Pelosi, and President Gruber have all told me that they did not want any tax credits on the federally established exchanges. Oh, and the real inflation rate is 50%. Just agree to file the lawsuit and we’ll get you a copy of Obama’s Kenyan birth certificate.”

Thanks to the investigations into the plaintiffs in King v. Burwell, the question of standing is getting a lot of attention. I think that the Court should interpret standing broadly, so based on what I know now I wouldn’t embrace the argument that not one of the plaintiffs has standing. Roberts has at times advanced a much narrower view, but will certainly be willing to find standing if he wants to reach the merits. He’ll only find a lack of standing if he’s ambivalent about how to resolve the case and wants to put it off, while further advancing his views on standing doctrine in the bargain.  It would be somewhat good news in the short-term if Roberts were to use standing to duck the case, not only because it’s better than a reversal but because the more people sign up on the federally established exchanges the harder it will be for Roberts to pull the trigger on them if he doesn’t feel strong enough to side with the troofers now. I don’t think it’s likely at all that Roberts would do this, but stranger things have etc.

I agree with Beutler that the greater significance of the desperate search for plaintiffs is metaphorical. Decent people are generally unwilling to strip millions of people of their health insurance, using a nutty legal theory that at best could be cleaned up to sound arcane, to further less-than-trivial liberty interests. It’s instructive that the troofers weren’t able to find plaintiffs strong enough to prevent even the possibility of getting dismissed on standing grounds.

And the Court should also heed the troofer-in-chief. He’s entirely candid that the Republican offer to the uninsured is “nothing” — if the five Republicans on the Court side with them, the resulting blood is fully on their hands as well.

This is Not Going to be Interesting

[ 112 ] February 13, 2015 |

Horse race observers are going to try to manufacture drama in the Democratic primary — that’s their job. But as long as Clinton runs, it’s not going to work. I mean, when an evaluation of the potential field 1)fails to identify anyone who has any chance of running and poses any kind of credible threat, and 2)proffers a list that has only 11 names and yet has to be padded out with the likes of Bill Richardson, Joe Donnelly, Jerry Brown and Al Sharpton…I think it’s pretty obvious we’re looking at Secretariat against some tree-toed sloths here.

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