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In the Wake of Landrieu

[ 204 ] December 9, 2014 |

Explicitly invoking Tom Schaller’s prescient book, Michael Tomasky says it’s time for the Democrats to pretty much kiss off Dixie:

With Landrieu’s departure, the Democrats will have no more senators from the Deep South, and I say good. Forget about it. Forget about the whole fetid place. Write it off. Let the GOP have it and run it and turn it into Free-Market Jesus Paradise. The Democrats don’t need it anyway.

Actually, that’s not quite true. They need Florida, arguably, at least in Electoral College terms. Although they don’t even really quite need it—what happened in 2012 was representative: Barack Obama didn’t need Florida, but its 29 electoral votes provided a nice layer of icing on the cake, bumping him up to a gaudy 332 EVs, and besides, it’s nice to be able to say you won such a big state. But Florida is kind of an outlier, because culturally, only the northern half of Florida is Dixie. Ditto Virginia, but in reverse; culturally, northern Virginia is Yankee land (but with gun shops).

So Democrats still need to care about those two states, at least in presidential terms. And maybe you can throw in North Carolina under the right circumstances. And at some point in the near future, you’ll be able to talk about Georgia as a state a Democrat can capture. And eventually, Texas, too.

But that’s presidential politics. At the congressional level, and from there on down, the Democrats should just forget about the place.

I think this a touch overstated; I wouldn’t give up on fielding competitive Senate candidates in Florida, North Carolina and Georgia, at least.  In a Republican wave midterm year, after all, Hagan lost by less than two points and Nunn wasn’t an embarrassment.  And while in the Electoral College the non-Virginia South is gravy, in the Senate there’s really no such thing as gravy — every seat matters, and the Democrats have to have multiple options in red states to get a significant majority.

But that aside, most of the South is such a write-off that we won’t be hearing nearly as much about how the Democrats need to appeal to Authentic Americans (i.e. Southern Christian conservative white men) for a while, and thank Sherman for that.  Remember when people tried to make Mudcat Saunders a thing?  Bad times.

Violence and the racialized failure of the American state [Guest Post By Lisa L. Miller]

[ 16 ] December 8, 2014 |

We are very pleased to present this post from our friend Lisa L. Miller. Lisa is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Rutgers University. Her research is on the political dynamics of crime and punishment, social policy and law, and constitutionalism. Her most recent book is The Perils of Federalism: Race, Poverty and the Politics of Crime Control (2008 Oxford University Press) and her new book project is entitled, The Myth of Mob Rule: Violent crime and democratic politics. She has published in Perspectives on Politics, Law and Society Review, Policy Studies Journal and Theoretical Criminology, among others. She is a former Visiting Scholar at All Souls College, Oxford University, and a former Fellow at Law and Public Affairs in the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University.

The refusal of grand juries in Ferguson, Missouri and Staten Island, New York, to indict the police officers that killed Michael Brown and Eric Gardner has led some conservative commentators to direct attention to the so-called “Black on Black” crime problem, a much greater threat to Blacks than the police. The reaction from advocates for racial progress is to reject such attempts to connect these phenomenon, and to re-focus attention on state violence.

This is a mistake. The use of lethal force against Black Americans by the police or the state more generally, should not be untethered from the heightened risk of criminal violence that Blacks experience. Doing so simply reinforces the assumption that the primary tool for ameliorating racial inequality is to further constrain the state, which exercises its criminal justice authority disproportionately against African-Americans.

But this view misses the larger problem of racial inequality in the U.S., which is the failure of the state to act affirmatively to successfully protect Blacks, to the same degree as whites, from a wide range of causes of early death. Understanding the link between the disproportionate exposure of Black Americans to one of these causes – murder – as well as to state violence reveals a far more tragic reality than a singular focus on the police suggests, and that is the racialized failure of the American state.

What is a failed state? There is no single definition but, at a fundamental level, failed states are unable to deliver on the most basic of positive goods: security from violence. The United States, as a whole, fails to protect its citizenry from the risk of murder to the same degree as other rich democracies. But for Black Americans, this failure is astounding. The risk of being murdered is seven to eight times as high for Black men as white men, and three to four times as high for Black women as white women. More starkly, at the height of murder risk in the 1990s, the lifetime risk for Blacks was one in twenty-three, compared to one in 160 for whites.*

This exposure to violence is coupled with heightened exposure to other forms of physical risk, including police harassment, arrest, imprisonment and execution, often for offenses, such as drug violations, that they are no more likely to engage in than whites. Sociologists Becky Pettit and Bruce Western estimate that, for men born between 1964 and 1969, approximately three percent of whites and an astonishing twenty percent of Blacks had served time by their earlier thirties. It is not hyperbole, then, to say that African-Americans, far more than their white counterparts, experience devastating under-protection and over-enforcement of, the law.

Some will object to characterizing this as an instance of state failure, and return again to “Black on Black” crime. But why is this a meaningful phrase? It implies that Black victims of murder are somehow implicated in their own victimization, simply because the perpetrators of the crime are from the same race. This is sophistry. The vast majority of murders are intra-racial and crimes committed with greater frequency by whites – such as mass shootings – are never referred to as white-on-white crime. The simple fact is that some American communities are much more likely than others to experience murder and its collateral consequences, and this differential experience does not fall randomly across the population but, instead, is deeply racialized.

From the perspective of state capacity and responsibility, the race of perpetrators is immaterial with respect to its obligation to reduce the levels of violence to which a people are exposed. In nearly twenty years of research on the political dynamics of crime and punishment, I have found that security from violence, from fellow citizens and from the state, are essential public goods, and that the persistent exposure to risk of such violence, no matter the source, is a first-order political problem that citizens of all races expect the state to ameliorate.  The fact that both types of violence fall so disproportionately on African-Americans calls into question the very legitimacy of the American state.

In this sense, thinking about risk more broadly – rather than zeroing in on the risk of police violence – draws into sharp relief the differential exposure of Blacks and whites to the positive goods that the state helps to produce. Whites have little understanding of the historic and contemporary role of the state in producing many of the social conditions that insulate them from serious injury and death. But, as political scientist Ira Katznelson describes in When Affirmative Action Was White, few areas of society are untouched by broad social policies that shaped the opportunities and social conditions of white Americans and that have made society much more secure for them.

That Blacks were often excluded from such goods – directly or indirectly – is a function of the long attachment to racial hierarchy that animates much of our history. That Blacks continue to be at significantly heightened risk of violence reflects the persistent racialized failure of state institutions to work proactively to provide the same protections from violence to which whites are privilege.

While this approach may seem even less likely to come to pass than reforming police, it offers an opportunity to reconnect the fundamental political and socio-economic conditions into which people are born, with specific actions of the state. In fact, the economic crisis of 2008 dramatically highlighted the role of government in contributing to conditions that create greater inequality, as well as those that ameliorate such inequalities. Americans are easily seduced by anti-statist arguments, but in the current political economy – with a stagnant Congress and ineffective leadership in both parties – it is becoming clear that the greatest threat to American democracy is not that the state does too much but, rather, that it does too little, failing address the fundamental needs of citizens. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the life course of African-Americans, for whom violence at the hands of other citizens and violence from the long arm of the law are all too common.

Limited and fair application of the use of force by the police is a crucial component of the democratic state. But restricting ourselves to this understanding of state obligation in relation to racial progress misstates the depth and breadth of racialized risk in the United States. If the economic, social and political conditions in which African-Americans live constituted a distinct nation, there is little question that our government would characterize such conditions as evidence of an ineffective state, one that leaves its citizens unnecessarily exposed to the kinds of risks that modern democratic states have very effectively reduced.  Only through popular demand for a more robust, proactive state, one that can address the causes of violence and reanimate trust between citizens and government, can we extricate ourselves from failure and become the successful state for all citizens that we imagine ourselves to be.

*Lifetime risk calculates the likelihood of being murdered if the homicide rate remained static at the year of one’s birth. While this is an artificial calculation – homicide rates wax and wane and have not remained at their peak for decades at a time – it nonetheless provides a powerful way of understanding just how significant a risk homicide is for Blacks, compared to whites.

Teddy Bear Martin Luther King, and Other Pathologies of Winger Thought

[ 132 ] December 8, 2014 |

Good one from Tomorrow.

The Rolling Stone Mess

[ 188 ] December 7, 2014 |
  • While the it was grossly irresponsible of Rolling Stone to start the piece with specific allegations it apparently made almost no effort to corroborate, it’s also worth noting at this point that we don’t know about whether or not “Jackie” was sexually assaulted.  It has not been proven to be a complete hoax.

Should the Disruptive Silicon Valley Overlords Be Welcomed?

[ 252 ] December 5, 2014 |

This isn’t the most important topic, but rather than make this point again and again in comments I thought I’d make it here. Before that, read Weigel and Fisher and Heer’s twitter essay. And now, to set up my discussion, the always-smart Pierce:

So, no, contra Chait, and even though the magazine unquestionably has regained a lot of its lost quality, especially in its actual reporting, I think the notion that The New Republic is “an essential foundation of American progressive thought” is a ship that sailed a long time ago. Everybody I know who wrote for him thought Frank Foer was a terrific editor, and I’m sure he’ll land somewhere, as will the enormously gifted writers he seems to have nurtured, if they choose not to play in Hughes’s sandbox. (There cannot be a 2016 presidential campaign without Alec MacGillis. I simply won’t allow it.) I am as sure of that as I am that Chris Hughes is going to make a complete hash of the magazine he bought as a chew toy. At least this form of malpractice will be less likely to kill people in distant lands. I guess there’s that.

I don’t disagree with any of this, precisely. Certainly, if this was The New Republic in 2003 I wouldn’t really care that it was effectively ending; I don’t care about its brand. But, to me, the regained quality of the current publication is more relevant than what it was publishing in the 90s or early 2000s. It’s crucial that of his list of the magazine’s sins, only Jeffrey Rosen’s (utterly disgraceful) Stotomayor hatchet job dates from after 2004. (UPDATE: And, yes, as a commenter rightly points out, the awful treatment of Scott Beauchamp by Foer.)  Rosen is a somewhat special case; while he does some good work, especially recently, he has consciously seen himself as preserving the tradition of Frankfurter and Bickel, which is problematic because this tradition is massively overrated. (My only objection to Robert Cover’s classic summary of Frankfurter is that it’s unfair to Bobby Murcer, who while no Mantle or DiMaggio was an underrated player in the end.) At any rate, while Rosen’s contrarianism was typical of TNR 15 years ago it was an outlier now, and was in remission even in Rosen’s own work.

The issue can be thrown into sharp focus by Freddie deBoer’s outright gleeful response to the coming of the Silicon Valley hatchet men. My question: which, specifically, of Jonathan Cohn, Isaac Chotiner, Julia Ioffe, John Judis, Alec MacGillis, Noam Scheiber, Jason Zengerle, Rebecca Traister, Brian Beutler, Rebecca Leber, Alice Robb, or Danny Vinik were producing a “warmongering racist antileft trashpile?” deBoer surely can’t be making a guilt-by-association with past editors argument, given that he’s directly cashed paychecks from the former TNR editor responsible for promoting The Bell Curve, “No Exit,” and Camille Paglia. The thing is that gutting TNR is not going to affect the people responsible for TNR’s past warmongering and racism in any way. The only Iraq War bootser who’s leaving is Wieseltier, who’s going to be just fine, and whose writing will not be mourned but his back of the book will be. The careers of Andrew Sullivan and Betsy McCaughey and Charles Murray and (the now repentant anyway) Peter Beinart and Mickey Kaus and Robert Kaplan and Marty Peretz and Michael Kinsley and all of the Kagans will proceed as they were. Michael Kelly, as best as this blog can determine, will remain deceased. The only people losing anything year are some talented journalists who have been doing some very impressive work, and readers who seem likely to be losing one of the increasingly small number of spaces that pay for good political writing.

Many commenters seem to be squaring the circle by just assuming that the departed will easily be able to find similarly good jobs that will allow them to do serious work rather than produce clickbait. I hope this is right, but it seems to involve a faith in the meritocracy of the journalistic marketplace better suited to The New Republic circa 1998 than our actually existing world circa 2014. Serious political journalism has generally been a loss leader. For all its sins, I don’t see how turning the magazine into another traffic-chaser under the aegis of a CEO who speaks Meaningless Buzzword and apparently lacks the attention span to read more than 500 words at a time is a good thing.

But Who Moved My Cheese? An Inquiry Into the New Disruptively Proactive Paradigm

[ 73 ] December 5, 2014 |

Well, this is not promising:

The irony is that the end of TNR as we know it comes less than three weeks after the 30-year-old Hughes–who had the good fortune to have been Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s Harvard roommate, and helped Zuckerberg launch the social networking behemoth–spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to stage a gala Washington dinner celebrating the magazine’s 100th anniversary. Among the 400 attendees–who supped on “ribbons of beet-cured char,” “beef tenderloin [with] truffled potato crepes” and “apple pecan tart [with] warm bourbon-caramel sauce”–were keynote speaker Bill Clinton, Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. Wynton Marsalis entertained. Vidra also gave a speech, talking mostly about himself, according to one attendee, and, in a brief mention of TNR’s editor, mispronouncing Foer as “foyer”–a gaffe that provoked gasps and laughter.

“That dinner was like the Red Wedding in Game of Thrones,” a TNR veteran told The Daily Beast.

[...]

The friction escalated with the arrival of Vidra, who is said to have complained to Foer that the magazine was boring and that he couldn’t bring himself to read past the first 500 words of an article. According to witnesses, Vidra did little to hide his disrespect for TNR’s tradition of long-form storytelling and rigorous, if occasionally dense, intellectual and political analysis–to say nothing of his lack of interest in the magazine’s distinguished history–at an all-hands meeting in early October.

Presiding at the head of a long conference table, Vidra didn’t acknowledge Foer, who was seated beside him; he didn’t look at him; he didn’t mention him. Instead, as he started to speak, Vidra confided that he liked to stand up and move around the room as he communicated his thoughts, as though he were Steve Jobs unveiling the latest technological marvel. Oddly, he stood up, but he didn’t move.

Vidra spoke in what one witness described as “Silicon Valley jargon,” and, using a tech cliché, declared: “We’re going to break shit”–a vow hardly calculated to ingratiate himself with TNR’s veteran belle-lettrists, who feared that he was threatening the magazine’s destruction. Only a few interns dared to ask questions, which Vidra repeatedly dodged. “The senior people were too shocked to speak,” said a witness. “Jaws were dropping to the floor.” Through it all, Chris Hughes nodded approvingly, an unnerving grin on his face.

To be sure, that meeting was a warning sign. But the manner in which the two technology mavens administered their coup de grâce only two months later has left a bitter taste.

According to informed sources, Hughes and Vidra didn’t bother to inform Foer that he was out of a job. Instead, the editor was placed in the humiliating position of having to phone Hughes to get confirmation after Gawker.com posted an item at 2:35 p.m. reporting the rumor that Bloomberg Media editor Gabriel Snyder, himself a onetime Gawker editor, had been hired as Foer’s replacement. Yes, it’s true, Hughes sheepishly admitted, notwithstanding that he and Vidra had given Foer repeated assurances that his job was safe.

In fairness, I believe them when they say they’re going to “break shit.” Whether anything worthwhile will be built in the place of what was broken is another question. At a minimum, the adaptation-to-the-web issue appears to have been a red herring.

Police Brutality: Crucial Background

[ 81 ] December 5, 2014 |

First, Ian Millhiser on the Supreme Court decision that made it much easier for police officers such as the one that killed Eric Garner to escape legal sanction:

Yet the justices’ decision in Lyons likely played a role in allowing police chokeholds to continue to this day. At the very least, Lyons made it much, much harder for victims of these chokeholds to ensure that other people were not victimized in the future.

Worse, Lyons was just one of many individuals that Los Angeles police targeted with a chokehold, often with fatal results. According to law professor and dean Erwin Chemerinsky’s book The Case Against the Supreme Court, Lyons discovered that sixteen people died after being choked by an LAPD officer, almost all of whom were black men. When police Chief Daryl Gates was asked why almost all of these fatal chokeholds involved African Americans, Gates replied that the “veins or arteries of blacks do not open up as fast as they do in normal people.”

Yet the story of Adolph Lyons and the case that bears his name is also the story of how arcane legal doctrines can reshape decades of police practices. Lyons was a 5-4 decision. If just one more justice had sided with Mr. Lyons, it may have enabled the courts to prevent cases like Garner’s from ever happening.

I will observe at this point that 3 of the five justices in the majority (as well as, admittedly, one dissenter) were appointed by the Last Liberal President, Richard Nixon.

Brian Beutler is also making sense here:

If prosecutors and police departments are too tightly linked for due process to mean anything, then puncturing the impunity requires breaking the link.

One way to do this would be for citizens at state and local levels, through ballot initiatives, to take the authority for presenting evidence of police misconduct to grand juries out of the hands of local prosecutors. That authority could be handed to publicly accountable review boards staffed with civilian lawyers from within the jurisdiction, or to special prosecutors’ offices.

The point would be to eliminate the conflict of interest that arises—as it did in Ferguson and Staten Island—when local prosecutors investigate the officers on whom they rely for evidence, cooperation, and political endorsements.

“I think it’s viable,” Ronald Wright, a distinguished professor of criminal law at Wake Forest University told me by phone Wednesday evening. “You could revise state law so that you could describe the category of cases where the appointment of a special prosecutor is mandatory. The governor shall appoint a special prosecutor in the possible criminal wrongdoing by police officer in jurisdiction with the same boundary as the district attorney. You could have an automatic trigger.”

Governors would also face pro-police political pressures, needless to say, but it’s hard to believe this wouldn’t be an improvement.

Thoughts On the Quasi-End of the New Republic

[ 157 ] December 4, 2014 |

Interesting. A few points:

  • Evidently, the magazine’s tradition is a mixed blessing.  Ta-Nehisi Coates has been running through some of the lowlights on his Twitter feed, and you know many of them: The Bell Curve, racist cover defending welfare reform, comprehensively dishonest anti-health care reform cover story, Marty Peretz, etc.  Don Graham’s “TNR … looking for a qualified black since 1914!” retort to Ruth Shalit’s terrible affirmative action story should still sting. It’s particularly worth emphasizing an often-forgotten fact about the Stephen Glass story: the fiction that made him was a grotesquely racist story about made-up African-American cab drivers.  (Glass’s major talent was telling people what they wanted to hear, and what Marty Peretz wanted to hear was white supremacist bullshit.)  I regret what seems to be happening to TNR, but we shouldn’t forget this part of their legacy either.
  • Still, since Beinart was replaced by Foer the first time it has, on balance, been an excellent magazine.  A lot of first-rate journalists write for it — Jon Cohn, Rebecca Traister, Brian Beutler, Julia Ioffe, and I could keep going for a bit. They were good hires given the space to do their best work. There just aren’t a lot of remaining forums that pay for serious political and cultural writing, and the fact that one seems to be undergoing a major shift in direction isn’t good news.
  • The empty corporate buzzwords that the magazine’s owner and CEO have used to describe their new vision for the magazine are…not promising.
  • Leah Finnigan’s retort, I think, is understandable but misses the point. If Foer were being replaced with Snyder and nothing else was changing, the reaction would indeed be overwrought.  But, of course, that’s not the case.  In particular, the issue with Wieseltier resigning isn’t the loss of his atrocious column but the loss of a superb literary review editor.  Even when the politics pages have been uneven or bad, the back pages of TNR have generally been outstanding.  I hope I’m wrong, but it seems pretty likely that to the extent that the new TNR covers culture at all, it will be much closer to the BuzzFeed smarm model.
  • It’s possible that the new Gotham TNR will be good.  Gabriel Snyder is very well-regarded, and he might be able to retain and attract enough talent to produce a worthwhile magazine.  But given the aforementioned vision of Hughes and Vidra, I find it hard to be optimistic.

…a lot of interesting points from Ezra here.

Saying The Quiet Part With A Bullhorn, Phyllis Schlafly Edition

[ 59 ] December 4, 2014 |

Dahlia Lithwick and Irin Carmon have good roundups of yesterday’s oral arguments in the UPS pregnancy discrimination case. Evidently, anyone bringing a gender discrimination case before the current Court is usually drawing dead, although this case seems a little less clear-cut. Breyer was also particularly…Breyer.

Carmon cites it at the end of her piece, but connoisseurs of crank reactionary arguments really should examine the amicus brief filed by Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum. As Carmon says, in the policy section of the brief they argue that reading the Pregnancy Discrimination Act as a statute designed to inhibit discrimination against pregnancy would “harm American families”:

In enacting PDA, Congress never intended:
(1)to eliminate stereotypes of husband-breadwinner, wife-homemaker families;
(2)to have women return to work immediately after giving birth to the exclusion of caring for their newborns;
(3)to have pregnant women work as package – delivering truck drivers; or
(4)to privilege the status of female truck drivers over either male truck drivers or the women married to male truck drivers.

While the eradication of typical – or even stereotypical – families was the goal of the feminist movement [cites ommittted -- ed.], Congress generally has taken the more moderate path advocated by UPS here.

[...]

At all times relevant to this action, Young herself was married to a man whose job provided medical insurance. Nonetheless, much of the advocacy and data submitted to this Court press the concerns of single women who work and want to have children. If PDA did allow women like Young and similarly situated single women to impose their pregnancies on coworkers [! -- ed.], PDA might provide enough of a cushion for Young, but it would leave similarly situated single women short, once their children were born. Facilitating single motherhood out of strained sense of equality does not do the women or the children a significant or long – lasting favor.

The last paragraph is followed by a lengthy quote from a 1993 Charles Murray op-ed, arguing that single mothers “must destroy the community’s capacity to sustain itself.” Murray is cited again to argue that all attempts to promote economic equality are futile. Oddly, the cites showing that the typical member of Congress that voted for the PDA shared Murray’s crackpot views are omitted.

In addition, I also enjoyed the fact that the brief argues that reading the PDA as trying to prevent discrimination against pregnant women would threaten the nation’s most precious resource of all, the right of citizens not to have an effective remedy when their rights are violated by state governments:

Finally, although UPS itself is not a state entity entitled to sovereign immunity [the Roberts Court is leaving that until 2017 -- ed.], Young’s broad reading would – as explained below – exceed the power of Congress as applied to states. As such, the canon of constitutional avoidance argues for the UPS reading as a way to avoid an unconstitutional statute as applied to states.

Although Congress enacted Title VII under both the Commerce Clause and, as to states, Section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment, Congress can abrogate states’ sovereign immunity only under Section 5. For Congress to do so, there must be a violation of Equal Protection taking place. Unlike prior decisions that have upheld abrogating states’ sovereign immunity to address sex discrimination, the PDA reading pressed by Young and her amici seeks preferential treatment (not non – discrimination) based on the state of being pregnant (not based on sex).

The law, in its majestic equality, should treat men and women who get pregnant exactly the same!

Anyway, anyone can make a horrible argument opposing gender equality, but to combine this with a particularly bad federalism argument in a case that doesn’t even involve a state government — that’s some world-class wingnuttery right there.

Don’t Forget the Sidewalks, Paid For By The Slavery of Taxes!

[ 65 ] December 4, 2014 |

I wonder what the true progressive alternative in 2016, America’s greatest champion of civil liberties Rand Paul has to say about Eric Garner’s killer going unindicted?

Rand Paul blames Eric Garner’s death on high NYC cigarette tax

I appreciate that CNN is trying to dip into satire to try to restore its market share, but this seems a little on-the-nose.

In fairness to Rand, Peter King is a much bigger asshole.

Today In Ridiculous ACA Counterfactuals

[ 177 ] December 3, 2014 |

Tom Harkin has pretty much joined the Rahm/Schumer/Frank bandwagon:

“We had the power to do it in a way that would have simplified healthcare, made it more efficient and made it less costly and we didn’t do it,” Harkin told The Hill. “So I look back and say we should have either done it the correct way or not done anything at all.”

On the general argument that Democrats should have just given up on health care reform until it was possible to get the unicorn and the magic pony, I continue to believe that this position is not merely wrong but grotesquely immoral. It’s one thing to think this in 1974. But at this late date, it should be obvious that Republican control of any legislative veto point makes any health care reform impossible, and there’s also no reason to believe that health care reform failing will magically lead to more progressive reform the next time Democrats get rare full control with a Senate supermajority.

Harkin’s arguments about what was possible at the time are no more convincing:

“We had the votes in ’09. We had a huge majority in the House, we had 60 votes in the Senate,” he said.

He believes Congress should have enacted “single-payer right from the get go or at least put a public option would have simplified a lot.”

“We had the votes to do that and we blew it,” he said.

I’m dismayed to see Harkin use one of the favorite rhetorical strategies of left opponents of passing the ACA — namely, conflating single payer and the House version of the public option as if they were comparable. Single payer would indeed be better and simpler than the ACA, but the idea that Democrats “had the votes” for it in either house is insane, and Harkin can’t possibly believe it.

With the public option the possibility of obtaining the necessary votes is not nearly as risible, but the first problem with this shell game is that the House public option 1)was small potatoes and 2)certainly wouldn’t have made the ACA less complex. I support the public option all things being equal, but as structured in the House bill the public option would not have been available to everyone, would very likely have had higher premiums, and most likely would have ended up as a group of the least healthy people on the exchanges. It was worth trying, but it did not fundamentally change the structure of the ACA.

And even so, I still don’t see how there were 60 votes for it. Harkin, as always in cases like this, doesn’t explain how the votes could have been obtained. The most obvious problem is Lieberman, who repudiated policies he had previously favored to spite liberals, but there were a number of opponents of the public option and Harkin doesn’t explain exactly what leverage Obama or Reid had over them. Indeed, Harkin’s argument in total becomes very nearly self-refuting. If he was willing to walk away from health care and have nothing pass, you don’t think Nelson and Lieberman and Linclon etc. etc. were willing to?

I have nothing against Monday morning quarterbacking in principle, but these arguments about how the leadership that succeeded where Clinton, LBJ and Truman failed actually screwed things up have a very high burden of proof, and this burden cannot be met with bare assertions, hand-waving, and wishful thinking. Alas, that’s all they ever have.

…Mayhew is excellent on this.

BREAKING! Benefits of Arbitrary Police Power Greatly Exaggerated

[ 58 ] December 3, 2014 |

Well, whaddya know:

Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Tuesday that a city his opponents once said would grow more dangerous under his watch had, in fact, become even safer.

Robberies, considered the most telling indicator of street crime, are down 14 percent across New York City from last year. Grand larcenies — including the thefts of Apple devices that officials said drove an overall crime increase two years ago — are also down, by roughly 3 percent.

And after a record-low 335 homicides in 2013, the city has seen 290 killings in the first 11 months of this year, a number unheard-of two decades ago.

[...]

With a month still to go before the end of the year, the favorable crime numbers appeared to render a verdict on at least one question: Would a vast decline in the number of recorded stop-and-frisk encounters create an opening for violence to return? So far, Mr. de Blasio and Mr. Bratton said, the answer has been no.

Mr. Bratton said that by the end of the year there would be fewer than 50,000 such stops, down from a high of over 685,000 in 2011. That sharp decline, like crime over all, began well before Mr. de Blasio took office and has continued.

I don’t understand – Principled Libertarian and not-at-all Republican hack Glenn Reynolds informed me that systematic arbitrary searches were crucial for crime control!  It’s a real puzzler.

[Via]

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