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Things Ben Carson Has Said That Would Seem Not to be True

[ 51 ] November 11, 2015 |


A comprehensive guide.

On a related note, Nancy Latorneau:

Recently Carson took a cutesy pot-shot at those elite professionals who actually know things by going on twitter to say, “It is important to remember that amateurs built the Ark and it was the professionals that built the Titanic.” One has to wonder whether Dr. Carson would suggest that amateurs take up the practice of pediatric neurosurgery – or if his particular brand of professionalism is simply exempt from this kind of derision.

What that radio host and Dr. Carson are espousing (and Colbert was mocking) is the tendency of conservative media to attract viewers/listeners by appealing to their feelings about what must be true rather than the facts. When facts intrude on our “garage logic” it makes us uncomfortable because it creates what we call cognitive dissonance. We are comforted by the alternative of simply blaming the elites and rejecting the facts.

That’s why I’d suggest that the root cause of an attraction to anti-knowledge was the creation of Fox News. What Murdoch managed to do with that network was to pose the proposition that facts were merely the liberal media at work. So on one side of the “debate” you have the conservative garage logic and on the other you have liberal facts. The rest of the media – in an attempt to prove they weren’t liberal – accepted this frame, giving credence to anti-knowledge as a legitimate position. That traps us into things like having to argue over whether the science of human’s contribution to climate change is real because denialism is given credence as the opposing conservative view.


Dealbreakers and Dreaming of the Good Republican

[ 240 ] November 10, 2015 |

bernie-sandersAbove: neoliberal sellout, probably to the right of the last real liberal president Richard M. Nixon

I basically agree with the overall thrust of DeBoer’s intervention into the Sanders-and-feminism debate. Obviously, Clinton has been subject to all kinds of sexist abused and criticism, some of that is inevitably going to come from Sanders supporters, but most Sanders supporters are not sexists and there are reasonable ideological reasons to prefer Sanders to Clinton. (I also recommend Rebecca Traister’s argument from the other end.) I can’t resist, however, pointing out one of the strangest tropes to become a thing among the leftier-than-thou set:

What’s not strange is that, as a socialist, I would not support Hillary Clinton, who is to the right of Richard Nixon.

Omitted: a single issue on which Hillary Clinton is to the right of Richard Nixon, let alone a full comparison that would show Nixon far to Clinton’s right. (Nixon only vetoed some of the environmental legislation that massive veto-proof majorities of a Democratic Congress put on his desk! Oh for the days of real liberals in the White House!) We’ve been through this many times and I won’t go through it in detail again, but since it’s of particular relevance to the upcoming election, let us consider Nixon’s first choices as Supreme Court nominees: William Rehnquist, Warren Burger, Lewis Powell, and Clement Haynsworth. He got only 3 out of 4, but this was enough to do stuff like effectively overrule Brown v. Board. Clinton’s Supreme Court nominees would be justices like Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan. SPOILER: these justices would be well to the left of William Rehnquist, fairly reflecting the ideologies of both nominating presidents.

But the strange tendency of allegedly tough-minded leftier-than-thous to fantasize about imaginary Republicans who are better than contemporary Democrats aside, at least deBoer is talking about not supporting Clinton in the primaries, which in itself is fair enough, right? Alas, things started off on an even sillier level:

To begin with, I have repeatedly and publicly said that I won’t vote for Bernie Sanders due to his stances on Israel, immigration, and guns.

I…what can you even say? Bernie Sanders — far enough to the the left as to, as Traister says, be significantly less likely to win the White House than Hillary Clinton if he got the nomination — is not left-wing enough to be a Democratic nominee worth supporting? This isn’t unprecedented — Naderites ran a third-party candidate against noted neoliberal sellout Paul Wellstone, remember — but this doesn’t make it any less unserious. And even leaving aside the fact that “dealbreakers” don’t really make any sense in the context of electoral politics, these dealbreakers are highly uncompelling. What practical difference would Bernie Sanders being a wet on gun control (while representing a tiny rural state in Congress) make? Do you think he would veto any of the zero gun control bills Congress would pass in his first term? Seek out liberal judges specifically because they support Heller? Do you think anyone who gets elected president of the United States is going to eliminate American aid to Israel or get well to the left of Sanders (who supports a progressive version of comprehensive reform, the DREAM ACT, and expanded DACA) on immigration? Do you think these differences are enough to be indifferent about Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz becoming president of the United States, likely with Republicans in control of both houses of Congress? (There would be a lot of heightened contradictions, I’ll give you that.)

Look, if your support for the leader of a major brokerage party that has to assemble a national majority coalition is conditional on the candidate having positions that are identical to yours, you really should stop paying attention to (and certainly forget writing about) electoral politics and spend your time worshiping at the altar of a stagnant pool instead.

High Broderite of the Day

[ 99 ] November 9, 2015 |

Michael Barbaro.

There are some journalists who strive to write things that are true, and there are some who seek to reaffim that Both Sides Do It irrespective of the underlying facts.

When Activism Works

[ 68 ] November 9, 2015 |

Wolfe is out.

…very useful background here.

Yadda-Yaddaying Medicaid

[ 24 ] November 9, 2015 |


Shorter Tyler Cowen: if you set aside the most egalitarian parts of the ACA, it is less egalitarian than you probably think.

In fairness, when he finally gets around to discussing the Medicaid expansion — which really should be the centerpiece of the discussion given his argument, rather than an afterthought — he at least mentions that the expansion has covered many fewer people than anticipated because it was re-written by John Roberts, a point critiques from the left tend to omit. But the point is also inconsistent with the “nobody knows how to address inequality” thrust of the post. The re-writing of the Medicaid expansion (justified with unprecedented and ludicrously incoherent reasoning) was not some inevitability. And the resistance of red states to the expansion will teach an important lesson to the next Democratic legislative majority: make Medicaid a federal program.

Meanwhile, we may be getting a very vivid illustration of the egalitarian benefits of the ACA in Kentucky.
…Dean Baker has more.

Today’s Mike McCarthy Award For Putting the Points on the Board in the NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE

[ 132 ] November 8, 2015 |

Mike McCarthy

Goes to Mr. Dan Quinn.
It is really, really hard for a decentish team to lose to a team that’s starting Blaine Gabbert at quarterback. But not impossible! One way of helping to accomplish this is with some old-school strategery. Say, kicking a field goal on 4th-and-goal from inside the 2 yard line down by four points with 3 minutes left. It worked! (I mean, Gabbert is terrible for an NFL QB, but he’s not “it is impossible for his team to get a single first down” terrible.) Perhaps it was Quinn’s homage to his old friend Darrell Bevell’s most recent Super Bowl play call.

Besides, as Jim Caldwell would point out, the optimal play call there is clearly a quick punt. Quinn will never be able to win unless he really learns to trust his defense. Mere idiotic decisions to kick field goals don’t quite show a full commitment.

…the anti-Mike McCarthy award goes to Chip Kelly for going for it on 4th-and-short in OT. Sure, it was the right percentage play, and sure it worked — but how will he ever recover the trust of his defense?

Fact-Challenged in the Most Republican Way Possible

[ 81 ] November 8, 2015 |


The real story behind the Ben Carson “Perceptions 301” story Paul referenced yesterday is somehow even more hilarious than if he had just made everything about it up.  Apparently, he convinced himself that being the last sucker to identify a hoax was actually the sign of his immense honesty and integritude, and then invented various facts to justify his self-flattery.

The explains a lot about his quack pharmaceutical grift.  And his belief that being a particularly egregious sucker is a sign of personal virtue is so closely aligned with the Republican base maybe he can win the nomination after all…

Some Notes on the Yale Not Actually Free Speech Controversy

[ 338 ] November 7, 2015 |


A few points on the Yale Halloween discussion:

  • Burgwell’s original email was entirely unobjectionable, and was not in any way inconsistent with principles of free speech. It did not announce a policy that required anyone to do anything.  It encouraged people not to wear racially insensitive costumes.  Uh…good?  What’s the problem here?
  • Erika Christakis’s email, conversely, was rather silly.  Nobody was trying to “control” what people were wearing, and her argument that these emails didn’t give students the appropriate space to be “offensive” and “obnoxious” was extraordinarily unconvincing on the merits, not least because it ignores both the asymmetrical effects of racist Halloween costumes, particularly in the context of Yale’s still ongoing issues of racial inequity.   (The detail that the university still has a building named after John Calhoun is instructive.)
  • The context of the allegedly racially exclusionary frat party is also very important.
  • Calling on someone to resign, whether right or wrong, is free speech.
  • I don’t think Christkis’s email was a firable offense, and I don’t agree with all of the reaction against it.  But it is certainly worthy of substantial criticism.

“It doesn’t matter. Nothing is going to happen to him anyways.”

[ 64 ] November 6, 2015 |


Greg Hardy’s domestic assault is as horrifying a story as you would fear. 

One really important part of the story is that it’s extremely unclear why prosecutors dropped the case on appeal, since Holder would not have had to testify:

With Holder gone, prosecutors had the choice of dismissing the charges or trying to introduce Holder’s statements as part of the trial. Murray’s office reviewed the interview that Holder gave to police and compared it to a transcript of the bench trial. (District court criminal trials aren’t recorded by a court reporter in North Carolina, Murray wrote, but Hardy’s defense team had hired one and eventually agreed to let prosecutors see it.)

“In comparing the prior statement with Ms. Holder’s District Court testimony, the State concluded that, in her absence, it did not have sufficient legal basis upon which to introduce the initial statement she provided to law enforcement,” Murray wrote.

What does that mean? My repeated attempts to reach Murray for comment got nowhere—he never returned a phone call or email I sent. The assistant district attorney who handled the case, Jamie Adams, has since left the office; I wasn’t able to reach her. At the time, the News & Observer reported that, “Several legal experts around town speculated that prosecutors spotted inconsistencies that prevented them from building their case around Holder’s former accounts.”

There are minor inconsistencies in Holder’s versions of events—in court, for instance, she added a part about Hardy ripping a necklace off of her and throwing it in the toilet, then slamming the toilet lid on her arm repeatedly when she tried to get the necklace, and left out the part where he takes out a cell phone—but the overall order of events stays pretty much the same. None of the inconsistencies in her tellings are nearly as significant as the discrepancies in the various versions of events that Hardy has given.

At any rate, the case was dropped, Hardy was declared legally innocent, and he went back to the NFL a bigger star than ever. (Both the NFL and the Dallas Cowboys declined to comment.) In the end, Holder was right. Her own prophecy came true, despite her own attempts to prove it wrong.

The question of whether he should be playing the NFL is an interesting one, but the much more important question is why he’s not in prison.

Could A Particularly Pointless Vanity Campaign Have Saved Us All?

[ 55 ] November 6, 2015 |


Albert Burneko laments the fact that someone who was never actually running for president is no longer running for president:

Lessig’s résumé, by any reasonable standard, is very impressive. He is among America’s most credible and authoritative voices on political and campaign finance reform, as well as on technology and internet rights, which will be among the most important areas of public policy in the 21st century. He has degrees in economics, management, philosophy, and law; he has clerked in the Supreme Court; and he is one of the top professors at Harvard Law School, from whence graduated the current presidents of both the United States and Taiwan, five of the nine sitting justices on the U.S. Supreme Court, sitting U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, and damn near every other political figure whose name you know who has a law degree. He helped write the constitution of the nation of Georgia! He co-founded Creative Commons! He was fictionalized in an episode of The West Wing, for god’s sake! How many of the other candidates have been portrayed by Emmy- and Independent Spirit Award-winning thespian Christopher Lloyd, I ask you? None of them.

And yet, none of this—nor a campaign as formally and legitimately declared as any other, nor fundraising and polling numbers not meaningfully smaller than Jim Webb’s or Martin O’Malley’s—could even get Lessig on the stage for the Oct. 13 Democratic debate.


Imagine you are an alien from a distant, highly advanced, space-faring civilization. You have been sent to observe the species in charge of planet Earth, to determine what relationship, if any, your species should have with theirs. From your invisible spaceship high in the atmosphere, you download to your quantum meta-cortex (at bitchin’ data-transfer speeds) all the information you can get about the contest currently underway to choose a leader for what has been Earth’s most powerful nation for the past 60 years or so. This nation is in decline; on that there is near universal agreement. It faces major challenges, among them what might eventually be existential threats to human civilization. This is serious business, and from it you will learn a great deal about these curious sweaty hominids.

And, hmm, well, jeez. Whatever can this mean? They found room in their persuasive arguing contests for Lincoln Chafee; for Donald Trump; the supposedly progressive party carved out space for Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of the Navy to rail against racial inclusiveness in anti-discrimination policies; the supposedly pro-business one made room for a business executive whose boldest and most defensible claim to leadership mettle is that the corporation from which she fired 30,000 workers had not altogether ceased to exist when it got around to firing her for incompetence. But, for the renowned expert on law and representative government, the one with practical experience in and actual informed positions on the major public concerns of the day? Shit, I guess they ran outta lecterns.

Here’s the thing: politician is a job of its own, and Larry Lessig really isn’t remotely qualified to do it. Not every smart person who has written books and has expertise on certain political issues is capable of being a good political leader. Policy expertise is no guarantee that you’ll have good ideas about how to bring desirable policy changes about, and Lessig has now shown this multiple times, after attracting money that could be used for something that’s actually useful.

Lessig wasn’t running for president — he was running to bring issues to the table. So we have to consider what, exactly, of value he was trying to bring to the table. Did he stake out a position rejected by most mainstream Democrats? Nope. His views campaign finance and electoral reform are not meaningfully different from those of Clinton, Sanders, or O’Malley. He wasn’t trying to push the Democratic center of gravity to the left like Sanders is trying to do on economic issues.

So any added value he was bringing to the table had to involve ideas for achieving campaign finance and electoral reform while Republicans have a hammerlock on the House of Representatives and control the median vote on the Supreme Court, or for attracting more support to the cause. And on both fronts, for all of his credentials and policy expertise his ideas were just transparently stupid. (There’s a reason Burneko spends a lot of time discussing Lessig’s cv and no time discussing the details of his actual campaign.) A presidential candidate cannot transform an election into a “referendum” by refusing to discuss other issues. The word “mandate” does not suddenly make all structural limitations on political change disappear. You cannot attract support to an important cause by ignoring most of the issues your constituents want to talk about. Pledging to take your ball and go home once Congress addresses your single issue is not actually a source of leverage, and also makes you look like the dilettante you in fact are. Needing Drew Westen — the leftier Mark Penn — to tell you that this is even worse. The fundamentally condescending nature of Lessig’s campaign — we need a real expert to show these professional politicians how to get Republicans to pass legislation contrary to their ideological and practical interests! — just makes the fundamental unseriousness of his No Labels pablum and silly ideas about how to make omnibus electoral reform happen look all the worse.

On the narrow issue of the debates, I have a certain sympathy for the view that if Lincoln Chaffee can be permitted onstage, Lessig should have been. On the other hand, it’s worth noting that the support threshold for participating in the Democratic debates is so low that, er, Lincoln Chafee could clear them. He didn’t clear the threshold in large measure because he didn’t enter the race in a timely manner, but he should have know the rules in advance. And it’s also awkward for the DNC to make a special exemption when a candidate announces in advance that he’s not willing to discuss most of the topics the other candidates will address. But, ultimately, I wish he had been invited to the debates so nobody would tempted to argue that his failure to gain any traction was part of some sort of DNC conspiracy to silence him.

I conclude by once again citing the great Garry Wills:

It is too easy to conclude, prematurely, that the only “way to save oneself is to bury oneself.” Seneca would judge that a politician who refuses to answer questions has barely been engaged in the first place. Those who decide they are too good for politics may be right, but they are often the least qualified judges, either of their own virtue or the system’s viciousness.

Moving Wealth Upward

[ 27 ] November 6, 2015 |

That’s Marco Rubio’s tax plan.

Also, There Will Be Outside Agitators!

[ 47 ] November 5, 2015 |
A man urges people to vote against the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance outside an early voting center in Houston on Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015. The contested ordinance is a broad measure that would consolidate existing bans on discrimination tied to race, sex, religion and other categories in employment, housing and public accommodations, and extend such protections to gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)

A man urges people to vote against the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance outside an early voting center in Houston on Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015. The contested ordinance is a broad measure that would consolidate existing bans on discrimination tied to race, sex, religion and other categories in employment, housing and public accommodations, and extend such protections to gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)

Ann Althouse is fascinated by the views of people who opposed the Houston civil rights ordinance, wishes to subscribe to their newsletter, and believes you should not suggest that their opposition to civil rights is motivated by bigotry:

The first sentence of a NYT editorial titled “In Houston, Hate Trumped Fairness.”

The language is so extreme — “vilifying,” “hate.” It seems to me that the focus on access to women’s bathrooms wasn’t aimed at the transgendered at all, but on males who might take advantage of a new opportunity to engage in voyeurism and sexual assault.

Hmm, should we take the “BUT MEN IN WOMEN’S BATHROOMS!!!!!!!!!!” objection to civil rights protections seriously? Let us consider the arguments advanced by Althouse:

  • Do civil rights ordinances provide an “opportunity” to engage in sexual assault?  No, they do not — sexual assault remains in fact remains illegal, and Houston repealing its civil rights ordinance will not physically bar any man who wishes to enter a women’s restroom to commit sexual assault in any case.
  • Do civil rights ordinances provide an “opportunity” to engage in voyeurism?  No, they do not.   Houston repealing its civil rights ordinance will not physically bar any male pervert who wishes to put on a wig and enter a women’s restroom.  In most cases, the only way to know if someone doing so is actually male is if he engages in behavior that would constitute harassment even under existing civil rights ordinances.
  • Many jurisdictions already have civil rights ordinances that apply to transgender people.  Have they made BATHROOM PREDATORS a thing? No they have not, which isn’t surprising since the argument makes absolutely no sense on its face.

When someone makes a transparently bad argument as a pretext for opposing civil rights protections, it is in fact entirely fair to call them bigots.  Sorry!

You may also remember Ann Althouse from such arguments as “judges who oppose the constitutional protections for gay and lesbian people while railing against ‘the so-called homosexual agenda’ are not homophobes.”  You might say there’s an anti-anti-homophobia pattern here.


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