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A Reminder on Tsarnaev

[ 55 ] April 9, 2015 |


Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was found guilty in the Boston Marathon bombing.

At this point, it seems worth remembering that several prominent Republicans, including the 2008 Republican candidate for president, took the opportunity of Tsarnaev’s apprehension to try to read the Fifth and Sixth Amendments out of the Constitution:

Sens. Lindsey Graham, John McCain and Kelly Ayotte and Rep. Peter King argued against trying Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in a criminal court, instead saying that he should be held as an enemy combatant and questioned.

“It is clear the events we have seen over the past few days in Boston were an attempt to kill American citizens and terrorize a major American city,” the four Republicans wrote in a joint statement. “The accused perpetrators of these acts were not common criminals attempting to profit from a criminal enterprise, but terrorists trying to injure, maim, and kill innocent Americans.

In fairness, presumably King would grant any IRA terrorists captured on American soil their full due process rights.

The freakout over the Obama administration’s attempt to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is a civilian court is a too-little-discussed and disgraceful episode. The idea that due process can’t handle the trial of suspected terrorists is wrong on multiple levels, and always has been. People who think that the Bill of Rights and counterterrorism are incompatible have always been wrong.

The Nuts Behind the California Drought

[ 139 ] April 8, 2015 |

Admittedly, the near-death experiences give me an anti-nut bias. But Helaine Olen’s point here is crucial:

Barely mentioned was the fact that the clueless wealthy might just as well go ahead and turn on the taps—let ten thousand golf course bougainvillea bloom. They aren’t the problem, or not much of the problem.

Listen up: California’s agricultural sector uses about 80 percent of the state’s water. As Mother Jones reported, it takes one gallon of water to grow a single almond, and nearly five gallons to make a walnut edible.

But, hey, Governor Brown says those almonds and other produce grown in California aren’t living large. That’s why agriculture was all but excused from his edict. “They’re not watering their lawn or taking long showers,” Brown told ABC’s This Week, of the farmers. “They’re providing much of the fruits and vegetables of America.”

Nuts: Too tasty to fail?

The ritual shaming of the public, in which politicians blame us for their failures, seems like democratic politics in reverse. And the bigger the crisis, the greater the gall. For example, as we all know but few care to remember, the United States recently went through a financial crisis. Banks made massively leveraged bets that didn’t pay off. Complicated, risky financial innovations were presented as safe by people and institutions all of who should have known better. Subprime mortgages were pushed and promoted, often under false pretenses. Credit was offered up to Americans, many of whom took it because they were told it is was a good idea, and cheap, and, anyway, their incomes weren’t keeping up with the cost of housing, healthcare, and education and they needed to get money from somewhere, dammit.

And when it all went bad, who was to blame? Was it the banks who rigged the system? Uh, no. It was all of us. “This is America! How many of you people want to pay for your neighbor’s mortgage that has an extra bathroom and can’t pay their bills?,” screamed Rick Santelli on CNBC. Others blamed the financial illiteracy of the American public. There was actually a 2012 Senate hearing entitled “Financial Literacy: Empowering Americans to Prevent the Next Financial Crisis,” and no, it didn’t explain how teaching people to pay off their credit cards in full every month would have stopped the too-big-to-fail financial services sector from blowing up synthetic credit default swaps.

This is nuts. You and I can no more prevent the next financial crisis any more than some one percenter in Beverly Hills can solve the California water shortage by letting his lawn go desert native.

“We Also Need to Solve the Pakistan Problem.”

[ 122 ] April 7, 2015 |


The Bush administration in one memo. The fact that it was sent to the the fucking stupidest guy on the face of the earth is a bonus. Ah, for the days when the adults were in charge.

I’m still waiting for the memo from Farley explaining how revenues can get into more the million a year range.

Very Serious Candidate Makes Very Serious Argument

[ 144 ] April 7, 2015 |

You may remember Carly Fiorina, who decided to follow up her track record of nearly ruining Hewlett-Packard with kicking some dirt on the grave of California’s Republican Party by becoming a dismal candidate. She is, for some reason, pretending to run for president, but her vision is as acute as it ever was:

Carly Fiorina is blaming liberal environmentalists for what she calls a “man-made” drought in California.

“It is a man-made disaster,” Fiorina, who is “seriously considering” a run for president in 2016, told the Blaze Radio on Monday.

That seems plausible.

Never Forget That Jann Wenner Has Standards

[ 135 ] April 7, 2015 |

Don’t let the fact that nobody will resign or lose their jobs because of the disastrously botched UVA story make you think that you can get away with just anything:

In the end, no one involved in the story’s production will be fired, and amazingly, Sabrina Rubin Erdely—who knowingly dodged a series of basic journalistic steps in order to ensure her story could keep its shocking, deliberately non-representative lede—will still write for the magazine. We’ve come a long way since 1996, when Jann Wenner fired senior music editor Jim DeRogatis after eight months on the job for writing a negative review of Hootie and the Blowfish.

Previous to his firing, DeRogatis was told he was a “bad apple and [didn’t know anything about music]” after he filed his review, which was swapped for a positive one; he later told the New York Observer that perhaps Hootie’s eight and a half million records sold had something to do with Wenner’s decision. The day the Observer report came out, he was fired.

The key, if you’re going to survive, would appear to let Wenner write the instantly embarrassing reviews of his buddies’ terrible records himself. (Incidentally, do Wenner’s reviews allow for a Straussian reading? When he calls Lenny Kravitz and Rob Thomas “outstanding artists,” is he just a suck-up with horrible taste and/or the willingness to shamelessly lie, or is the idea to allow for an esoteric reading where the audience figures out that while he’s obligated to give his friend’s record 5 stars nobody should actually consider buying the thing?)

He Went Down to the Demonstration to Get His Fair Share of His Half-Sister’s Abuse

[ 23 ] April 7, 2015 |

These things I did not know until they were pointed out by a colleague:

Judith Miller grew up in Miami and Los Angeles, where she graduated from Hollywood High School. Her father, Bill Miller, was the owner of a night club in New Jersey and later in Las Vegas.[9] Her sister Susan has a degree in photography from the San Francisco Art Institute. Her half-brother Jimmy Miller[9] was a record producer during the late 1960s and early 1970s, working in support of the Rolling Stones, Traffic, the Spencer Davis Group and Delaney and Bonnie, among others.

As many of you know, the good Miller produced four of the greatest works of 20th century popular music: Beggars Banquet, Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers, and Exile on Main St. He also played the drums on “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” and “Happy,” and added the more cowbell to “Honky Talk Women.” Alas, Judy burned off all of the family’s karmic deposits by letting Dick Cheney’s demon life get her in its sway.

2015 MLB: The AL

[ 29 ] April 6, 2015 |

AL WEST: 1. SEA 2. LAAOA (*) 3. OAK 4. HOU 5. TEX Like Erik, I’m never inclined to be optimistic about the Mariners, and the offense could certainly still have problems. The Cruz signing has a classic closing-the-barn-door-after-etc. feel to it: guy off a career year coming into Safeco, seems ominous. Only the players whose ABs Cruz will be taking over — see Kansas City — were so terrible last year that if he’s even medicore it will be a major upgrade, and any remnants of 2014 will be gravy. Seth Smith is a nice addition, and Jackson isn’t as bad a hitter as he looked in a Mariners uniform last year…in short, the offense should be improved enough to get the division’s best run prevention team into the postseason. In terms of the division, it’s really a coinflip with the Angels, still a good team but who fuck them. I’ve almost given up trying to understand Billy Beane’s shell games, and the A’s should be respectable and possibly a contender. The rotation should be solid — I like Hahn a lot — but if the offense to challenge the Angels and Mariners is there I don’t see it. The Astros are becoming a real time, although they’re not a contender yet; the main significance of their respectability will be to make life harder to prospective wild card teams in the division. The Rangers won’t necessarily be terrible; Beltre remains a marvel, and if Fielder and Choo can have rebound years the offense could be pretty good. But they probably won’t, and even if they do without Darvish they don’t have the pitching to compete in the league’s best division.

AL CENTRAL: 1. DET 2. CLE (*) 3. CHI 4. KC 5. MIN I understand why analysts are down on the Tigers, but while the general trajectory isn’t great I still think they should be mild favorites, as I’d rather bet on their still-good offensive core than on Cleveland’s young arms. Dombrowski will probably need to find some bullpen help, but that doesn’t seem insurmountable. The White Sox are the opposite of the Tigers — looking better long-term, but still too thin to win this year. Sale is as good as any pitcher in the league when healthy, and he has some support (especially the bullpen,) but beyond Abreu the offense starts to get very thin. If the White Sox are going to get into the race this year LaRoche will be crucial, and signing a 35-year-old who’s been very up-and-down coming off one of his better years seems like a classic bad free agent signing to me. I liked rooting for Kansas City in the playoffs last year, but 2015 will be midnight. One of the things that has generally prevented Dayton Moore from succeeding is his bizarre fetish for washed-up right handed hitters with no defensive value and OBP’s about 20 points above their BA. Signing Kendrys Morales — who last year hit .218 with very limited power and approximately zero pitches taken — takes this to the point of self-parody. The failure to upgrade a not-very-good offense will be fatal to a team that’s lost its ace and is likely to suffer at least a little regression in the bullpen. The Twins are assembling some young talent but are at least a year away from being interesting.

AL EAST: 1. BOS 2. BAL 3. TOR 4. TB 5. NYY
As everyone else has said, this a very compressed division. I’m not at all enthusiastic about the Red Sox, with their Brand X starting rotation. But again I’d rather bet on offense than young arms, and the Red Sox have the most offensive depth in an increasingly run-starved context, and they should be able to add starting pitching if they’re in contention. After all, the Orioles don’t have great starting pitching either, and it’s hard to see Baltimore outscoring Boston even if Weiters can stay healthy and they get some bounceback from Davis. They are well-managed at both the field and front-office levels, and I expect them to exceed the analytic projections again. The Blue Jays could certainly win too — if Bautista and Reyes can stay on the field their offense core can compete with Boston’s, but of course they probably can’t. Their rotation has more upside than the Sox but calling their bullpen would be kind. Tampa is the opposite of Boston and Toronto — good-looking rotation, shaky offense — and I don’t like betting on young starting pitchers. But, really, the gap between 1-4 is not very large. Then there’s the Yankees. Offensively, they’re the poor man’s Blue Jays. It’s not just that it’s hard to see Teixeira and Beltran being healthy for most of the year, but even worse there’s not much reason to think they’re championship quality players when they are anymore. Gregorius will help defensively but not much with the bat. I’m not sure why Refsnyder isn’t starting over the remains of Stephen Drew, but whether he’s terrible defensively or Cashman and Girardi have just lost it as talent evaluators the answer isn’t great for Yankee fans. Their hopes for contention rest on their good bullpen and their rotation, which has some upside. But I like those odds even less. Maybe Tanaka is the very rare pitcher who can just pitch effectively through ligament damage without getting Tommy John, but…I know how I’m betting. Maybe Pindea can finally throw 200 innings but ditto. Maybe Sabathia will come back from injury and pitch effectively but triple ditto. Eovaldi was a nice buy-low gamble but I don’t understand why they let McCarthy walk. They’ve managed to stay above .500 2 years in a row with pretty weak teams, but this year I think the flood is coming.

I’ll have to let MVP commenter Howard pick our Planned Parenthood charity bet this year, since the initial premise was that he was regrettably too down on the Yankees.

Selective Health Care Populism

[ 62 ] April 6, 2015 |


Anyone who participated in blog comments sections back in the previous decade knows that there was an inevitable response to criticisms of the Bush administration: “Republicans keep winning elections neener-neener.”  This was true until it wasn’t, as well as being irrelevant to the criticisms.  As Jon Chait argues, with virtually all of their empirical predictions about the ACA having proven to be spectacularly wrong, all that critics of the ACA have are public opinion surveys:

This is the reality that the entire Republican Party has failed to come to grips with. The American health-care system before Obamacare was an utter disaster — the most expensive in the world and also the only one that denied access to millions of its own citizens. Obamacare set out to change those things, and it has worked.

There is one remaining indictment of the law that Tanner makes, and it’s true. “The law remains extraordinarily unpopular, with opponents topping supporters by nearly 11 percentage points, according to the latest Real Clear Politics average,” he argues. It is notable that opponents of Obamacare have fixated on the law’s poor polling. In a recent column, Reason’s Peter Suderman quibbles halfheartedly with the law’s demonstrable success in carrying out its goals — suggesting that the astonishing drop in medical inflation may be owed to outside forces — before reveling for six paragraphs in his major point, which is continued lack of public approval. “Obamacare is simply not well liked,” he concludes, “This is the political reality — and President Obama still refuses to embrace it.”

It is telling that, having lost every substantive argument about the law’s operation, their sole remaining refuge is an argument about its perception. It’s true: Their lies got halfway around the world before the truth could get its pants on. Indeed, if you google most of the factual disputes I discuss above, you’ll get a lot more hits from conservatives making hysterical and false predictions than you will find from reports showing those predictions failed to come true. Those myths still hold enormous sway over public opinion. Far more Americans believe Obamacare has death panels, which is false, than believe its costs have come in under projections, which is true. Conservatives have won the propaganda war over Obamacare. The trouble is that they think this is an indictment of Obamacare, when in fact it’s an indictment of them.

As Chait says, it’s not an accident that much conservative criticism has focused on assertions that the ACA would fail on its own terms. The position of most American conservatives on health care — i.e. that in 2009 too many people had insurance and the insurance that many people did have was too good — is not only morally barbarous but would make the ACA look more popular than free beer in comparison. And in this sense, while the argument that the ACA is unpopular is unusually true for an anti-ACA talking point, it’s still very misleading. Preserving or expanding the ACA remains more popular than cutting it back or rescinding it. The ACA is the least popular health care proposal on offer except for all the others. Which is yet another reason for why Obama is not going to embrace Peter Suderman’s “reality.”


[ 100 ] April 6, 2015 |

Rolling Stone has officially retracted Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s story about campus rape following a fair but brutal Columbia Journalism Review report. Jann Wenner’s comments are not terribly reassuring:

In an interview discussing Columbia’s findings, Jann S. Wenner, the publisher of Rolling Stone, acknowledged the piece’s flaws but said that it represented an isolated and unusual episode and that Ms. Erdely would continue to write for the magazine. The problems with the article started with its source, Mr. Wenner said. He described her as “a really expert fabulist storyteller” who managed to manipulate the magazine’s journalism process. When asked to clarify, he said that he was not trying to blame Jackie, “but obviously there is something here that is untruthful, and something sits at her doorstep.”

Effectively blaming “Jackie” for duping poor naive reporters really isn’t going to wash. As Erik Wemple observes, one of the key findings of the report is that Jackie did not even request that Erdley not contact her friends to verify her account. (And even if she had, the appropriate response is not to put the story in print.) Either way, the alleged victim can’t be blamed for the bad journalism. Rolling Stone thought Jackie’s story was too good to check out; there’s no possible way this can be blamed on the source. And this journalistic malpractice is likely to have very bad consequences.

The Moops Have Always Been At War With Spain

[ 8 ] April 5, 2015 |

Anti-ACA fanaticism: hackery all the way down.

You Botch Many Stories About One Disastrous War, And For Some Reason People Start to Question Your Competence

[ 51 ] April 5, 2015 |

Shorter Judy Miller: I’m not a liar, I’m a gullible rube and Bush administration lickspittle. There’s a subtle difference! Very subtle.

The Pretexts Collide

[ 36 ] April 3, 2015 |

Opposition to same sex marriage and RFRAs explicitly animated by and defended in terms of anti-gay animus: two independently bad arguments that go even worse together.

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