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Kudos to the Voters of Albuquerque

[ 61 ] November 20, 2013 |

For the reasons discussed by Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux, unlike a a lot of anti-choice strategies the attempt to enact a municipal ban on abortions after 20 weeks couldn’t be exported to a lot of other places. Nevertheless, the defeat of the proposed ban by 10 points is evidently excellent news, not only because of the immense importance of the clinic that was being targeted but because it suggests that more pro-choice voters are starting to see through “moderate” regulations of abortion as the inequitable trojan horses that they are.

Amanda has more.

Worthwhile Canadian Scandal

[ 30 ] November 20, 2013 |

If Harper was in fact aware of the bribe his staffer paid to Mike Duffy, this would be the rare scandal that would actually merit the “-gate” suffix.

Quite Frankly, That’s Devastating

[ 99 ] November 20, 2013 |

Someone needs to hire Barney Frank to write for them right now:

Recently, while waiting to be interviewed by the Huffington Post, I read something that gave me a very odd sensation. I knew what it must have felt like to be an alleged Iraqi weapon of mass destruction: Dick Cheney had lied about us both.

A copy of Cheney’s autobiography was on the table, and I gave it what is known as a “Washington read” – I went to the index and found my name – and read one of the most inaccurate criticisms ever made of my public record. Cheney wrote that in 2003 the Bush administration had sent legislation to reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to Congress, but “it was killed by Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank.”

That year he led us into war to destroy weapons of mass destruction that did not exist. And I was not the chairman of the financial service committee in 2003 – or in 2004, 2005 or 2006. A Republican was.


To be clear, Cheney’s statement that I killed the bill as chairman of the Financial Service Committee in 2003 is not an exaggeration; it is not a misinterpretation; it is not a distortion. It is a lie.


As a final demonstration of the right wing’s total rewriting of history on the subject, when our committee did vote out a bill to restrict subprime mortgages, we were attacked in an editorial on Nov. 6, 2007, by The Wall Street Journal for interfering with the free market. In a passage they now must wish they never wrote, the editorialists strongly defended the subprime loans that were a major cause of the crisis: “But for all the demonizing, about 80 percent of even sub-prime loans are being repaid on time and another 10 percent are only 30 days behind. Most of these new homeowners are low-income families, often minorities, who would otherwise not have qualified for a mortgage. In the name of consumer protection, Mr. Frank’s legislation will ensure that far fewer of these loans are issued in the future.”

As to Cheney, I guess I should feel consoled that he simply lied about me, and did not invade my home.

PolitiFact has rated Cheney’s claim that Frank was chair of the Financial Services Committee in 2003 mostly true, since there were years when he was chair. Close enough for a Republican!

[HT: JfL]


[ 109 ] November 19, 2013 |


“Now, either [George] Zimmerman is the unluckiest guy on earth—surrounded by people who want to cause him harm—or he is an aggressive and confrontational man who knows enough to keep himself out of the criminal justice system.”

That’s pretty much got it.

Don’t Fear the End of the Filibuster For Judicial Nominees

[ 90 ] November 19, 2013 |

Robert Wilkins is now the third nominee to the D.C. Circuit to be filibustered by the Republican minority. I blame Barack Obama and his unprecedented decision to “pack the court” by using his Article III powers to fill existing judicial vacancies.

Logically, this should compel Senate Dems to blow up the filibuster for judicial appointments, particularly since Republicans are essentially not even bothering to make a plausible case against individual nominees but are just opposed to Obama making nominations in principle. But I’m still skeptical that they’ll pull the trigger. I think this kind of fear might preserve the de facto supermajority requirement:

Democrats, in response, are using the same nuclear-option threat Republicans used in 2005 (and which Democrats used to open a blockade on executive-branch appointments earlier this year). That is certainly a troublesome remedy — it would give a president whose party controlled the Senate nearly unlimited leeway to seat ideologically congenial judges on the federal courts. The ideal solution would somehow compromise between the president’s absolute power to seed the judiciary and the Senate minority’s absolute power to blockade it.

Chait, at least, prefers the abolition of the filibuster for judicial nominees to the status quo. But I don’t really understand the fear of abolishing the filibuster because of what might happen. Two points seem relevant:

  • To see what would happen if the filibuster wasn’t used against judicial nominees, we would have to imagine a scenario…exactly like all of American history between the ratification of the Constitution and the filibuster of Abe Fortas nearly 200 years later.  It’s not clear why this was any worse than the current institutional arrangement.  Obviously, the Supreme Court did a lot of bad stuff during this period, but this wasn’t because of the filibuster.  (The awful white supremacist Supreme Court decisions of the late 19th century were the work of Republican nominees who were confirmed by huge majorities, often by voice vote.   Roger Taney was a mainstream Jacksonian Democrat; Peter Daniel, the one member of the Dred Scott majority who could reasonably be considered a Southern radical by contemporary standards, was confirmed 25-5. And so on.  Plessy and Dred Scott, like most bad Supreme Court decisions, are much more of symptoms of a bad political mainstream than causes, and hence are evils the filibuster is particularly unlikely to prevent.)   The only successful use of the filibuster in the history of Supreme Court nominees had, like most filibusters do, reactionary consequences, giving Richard Nixon one and perhaps two extra Supreme Court nominees.
  • A contemporary Republican president could, indeed, appoint a lot of horrible people given a Senate majority.  But since with the filibuster Bush not only got people like Janice Rogers Brown and Priscilla Owen confirmed to the circuit courts but Sam Alito, the most reactionary Supreme Court justice since James McReynolds, confirmed to the Supreme Court it’s not obvious to me how the filibuster is moderating Republican appointments.

Republican presidents will appoint awful judges with or without a filibuster. Which, as long as Democrats can do the same, is how it should be because elections matter and governments should be able to govern. There’s no reason to maintain the filibuster.

Today In Political Journalists Who Don’t Understand Politics

[ 69 ] November 19, 2013 |

This is a thing that was written in the National Journal:

Unless the website miraculously gets fixed by next month, there’s a growing likelihood that over time, enough Democrats may join Republicans to decide to start over and scrap the whole complex health care enterprise.

Sure, and then people of all political persuasions will unite around President Erskine Bowles.

I’m not sure if it requires elaborate argument to explain to an informed audience why this is nuts, but just in case see Waldman and Chait. Among the countless other problems, a key fallacy is embedded in the phrase “stating over,” which suggests that repealing the ACA would lead to a new bipartisan consensus that would create a New and Better Solution. However little I think of moderate Democrats, they mostly understand what Kraushaar (and a few leftier-than-thous) do not: the alternative to the ACA in actually existing American politics is “nothing.”

Maybe Ken Starr Wrote Him A Letter, Too

[ 89 ] November 19, 2013 |


An Alabama man convicted of raping a teenage girl will serve no prison time. On Wednesday, a judge in Athens, Alabama, ruled that the rapist will be punished by serving two years in a program aimed at nonviolent criminals and three years of probation.

In September, a jury in Limestone County, in north central Alabama, found Austin Smith Clem, 25, guilty of raping Courtney Andrews, a teenage acquaintance and his then-neighbor, three times—twice when she was 14, and again when was she was 18.


Andrews recalled Clem’s crimes to on Thursday. When he abused her at age 14, she said, “He kept saying, ‘This is okay,’ and ‘Don’t say anything or you’re going to get me in trouble,’” she said. Clem threatened her parents lives’ if she told anyone, Andrews said. After he raped her in 2011, she had a family friend inform her parents. She couldn’t bear to, she said, because “I knew it would break their hearts.” That night, her parents reported Clem to the police.

Relevant context:

Alabama ranks third among states in the number of inmates serving life without the possibility of parole sentences for non-violent crimes, according to a study by the American Civil Liberties Union.

49 people in Alabama are currently serving life without parole for drug offenses. Plainly, prison should be reserved for the worst criminals such as this, not child rapists.


[ 43 ] November 18, 2013 |

Apparently the paradigm is lacking a certain proactive strategic dynamism:

It is a good story, as well manicured as a college quad during homecoming weekend. But there’s a problem: The man who started this revolution no longer believes the hype.

“I’d aspired to give people a profound education–to teach them something substantial,” Professor Sebastian Thrun tells me when I visit his company, Udacity, in its Mountain View, California, headquarters this past October. “But the data was at odds with this idea.”

As Thrun was being praised by Friedman, and pretty much everyone else, for having attracted a stunning number of students–1.6 million to date–he was obsessing over a data point that was rarely mentioned in the breathless accounts about the power of new forms of free online education: the shockingly low number of students who actually finish the classes, which is fewer than 10%. Not all of those people received a passing grade, either, meaning that for every 100 pupils who enrolled in a free course, something like five actually learned the topic. If this was an education revolution, it was a disturbingly uneven one.

“We were on the front pages of newspapers and magazines, and at the same time, I was realizing, we don’t educate people as others wished, or as I wished. We have a lousy product,” Thrun tells me. “It was a painful moment.” Turns out he doesn’t even like the term MOOC.

I’ll Take It!

[ 54 ] November 18, 2013 |

Last week, there was a major civil rights victory involving the Roberts Court — a settlement prevented the Roberts Court from gutting the Fair Housing Act.

As an addendum, Serwer’s excellent background piece has another clip for my online “no, Richard Nixon was not any kind of liberal and please stop saying that” file:

Ending discrimination in housing has always ignited closely-held fears and drew comparable resistance to integrating schools. Neighborhoods across the country–not just those in the deep South–were divided by color lines enforced by realtors, lenders, and government officials. As with schools, neighborhoods across America proved stubbornly resistant to integration: whites would leave as blacks acquired the means to move next door. The Fair Housing Act was supposed to help change that, but in 1968 it was a tough sell.

Congress would only pass the Fair Housing Act over Martin Luther King Jr.’s dead body. King’s death, a week before the law passed, gave it political momentum that Capitol Hill couldn’t ignore. President Lyndon Johnson had pushed for passage but it fell to his successor, Richard Nixon, to administer a law he didn’t support.

George Romney, his secretary of Housing and Urban Development, was a true believer. Romney sought to use the law as a mandate to smash residential segregation and reverse years of government-subsidized white flight. Nixon knew he’d face a backlash from the suburban whites whose votes had put him in office so he pushed Mitt Romney’s dad out.

There is probably a good book to be written on the atavistic development of “moderate” Republicans from George Romney to his son.

“We don’t hire the unemployed.”

[ 209 ] November 18, 2013 |

Annie Lowrey’s story on American unemployment is essential, if very depressing, reading:

“I’ve been turned down from McDonald’s because I was told I was too articulate,” she says. “I got denied a job scrubbing toilets because I didn’t speak Spanish and turned away from a laundromat because I was ‘too pretty.’ I’ve also been told point-blank to my face, ‘We don’t hire the unemployed.’ And the two times I got real interest from a prospective employer, the credit check ended it immediately.”

For Ms. Barrington-Ward, joblessness itself has become a trap, an impediment to finding a job. Economists see it the same way, concerned that joblessness lasting more than six months is a major factor preventing people from getting rehired, with potentially grave consequences for tens of millions of Americans.

The long-term jobless, after all, tend to be in poorer health, and to have higher rates of suicide and strained family relations. Even the children of the long-term unemployed see lower earnings down the road.

The consequences are grave for the country, too: lost production, increased social spending, decreased tax revenue and slower growth. Policy makers and academics are now asking whether an improving economy might absorb those workers in time to prevent long-term economic damage.

Plainly, we can all agree that the size of the deficit 30 years from now is the biggest problem facing the country.

Doris Lessing

[ 9 ] November 17, 2013 |

The Nobel-Prize award winning author of, among many others, The Golden Notebook has passed away at age 94. R.I.P.

The GOP v. The Concept Of Consent, The Latest In An Infinite Series

[ 151 ] November 16, 2013 |

Apparently former National Blowjob Inquisitor Ken Starr has finally found an occasion for mercy.
I know Starr doesn’t think that students should have First Amendment rights either, but this is going a little far.

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