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Today’s Fraud From Our Benevolent Financial Overlords

[ 127 ] September 9, 2016 |


Wells Fargo edition:

In 2015, the city of Los Angeles sued Wells Fargo WFC -0.96% for unethical customer conduct, accusing the bank of secretly opening unauthorized accounts that then accrued bogus fees. One year later, Wells is paying for this behavior: the bank announced Thursday that it has reached settlements with city and federal officials totaling nearly $200 million.

Wells Fargo said Thursday that it has reached agreements with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Los Angeles attorney office over allegations that it, among other improper activities, opened deposit accounts and transferred funds without customers’ consent. The bank will pay a total of $185 million in fines, plus another $5 million in what it is calling “customer remediation.”

A consent decree released by the CFPB Thursday reveals the lengths to which thousands of Wells employees went in order to meet sales quotas. The CFPB investigation determined that, going back to “at least” 2011, Wells opened deposit accounts for existing customers without their knowledge or consent and proceeded to transfer money to those accounts from their other accounts; submitted credit card applications in customers’ names, also without their knowledge or consent; enrolled people in online banking services they did not ask for, in some cases using email addresses that the customers themselves did not create; and ordered and activated debit cards — and PIN numbers — using consumers’ information without their knowledge or approval.

I would point out that Republicans strongly opposed the creation of the CFPB, attempted to stop if from being staffed, and it wouldn’t exist had Romney won, but I wouldn’t want to unfairly demonize any Republican who isn’t literally Donald Trump.


How Is Scab Teaching At LIU Going?

[ 197 ] September 9, 2016 |


About as well as you’d expect:

Hundreds of Long Island University students walked out of their classes at noon on Thursday to protest the administration’s continued lockout of their professors, a move they say has compromised their education and the rights of students and teachers alike. Many said that classes—taught by an interim staff—were as disorganized this morning as they had been on Wednesday, the first day of the semester.

“We aren’t planning to go back to class at all until our professors are back,” said Sharda Mohammed, 18, a sophomore studying philosophy. “Today I walked into my English class and the guy gave us a syllabus and told us we could leave. He couldn’t even pronounce the names of the books.”

“They are charging us full tuition for this, and they’re not teaching us,” she added. “I was in class for five minutes today.”

Gina Pacifico, a 19-year-old sophomore from Queens, said she had a two-hour organic chemistry lecture in which the instructor left after an unproductive 40 minutes. “He didn’t teach,” Pacifico said. The business school seemed to be less affected by the lockout. Business major Gabriel Torres, 27, said his business classes were “fine, so far.” While Shelleyanne Esquilin, 17, said her professor was running between rooms, essentially trying to teach two classes at once.


[ 233 ] September 9, 2016 |


Opening day showed both the exciting and ugly sides of the NFL. The Broncos were able to come back against the Panthers in large measure because of the injuries they were able to inflict on the other teams QB. What’s worse is that between inept officiating and strange quirks in NFL rules, the Broncos were penalized a net of zero yards for multiple illegal hits that changed the course of the game, injured the most important player on the opposing team, and could well affect Carolina’s season going forward:

The Denver Broncos beat the Carolina Panthers tonight, 21-20, in a thrilling game that was marred by serial headhunting from the fearsome Broncos defense. Cam Newton led the Panthers to a 17-7 halftime lead with 111 passing yards, a rushing touchdown, and a passing touchdown. After the break, he only went 7-for-16 with a pick and 83 yards. This is because the Broncos got to him and mashed his face in every chance they got.

Newton looked good until early in the third quarter, when DeMarcus Ware got around the edge and sacked him straight into Von Miller. Newton hobbled to the sideline with an apparent right ankle injury, and he was a step slower after returning to the game. The replay also shows that Miller smashed his face into Newton’s and clearly jarred him with the hit. Later in the game, Brandon Marshall flew in on a defenseless Newton and went straight at his mouth. No penalty was called.

The most brutal hit, however, came courtesy of Darian Stewart, who flew into Cam’s brain as Shaq Barrett took him down by the ankles. Since Cam’s feeble throw didn’t clear the line of scrimmage, Stewart’s personal foul was offset and the hit was essentially free.


When officials let the Broncos get away with that first hit, they set the game on slippery ground, as the Broncos were then incentivized to continue going at Newton’s dome. Newton managed to make all manner of plays when his offensive line afforded him sufficient time, so the Broncos set out to make the most of any chance they got. Unfortunately, this turned into repeat attempts to turn Cam Newton’s brain into jelly. If they were trying to knock him out of the game, they almost succeeded.

But at least no footballs were deflated, so there’s nothing that warrants a suspension or anything.


Here’s the NFL’s explanation for why Newton wasn’t taken out of the game to be evaluated for a possible concussion:

NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport obtained an explanation from a league spokesman about the situation:

“There was communication between medical personnel on the Carolina sideline, including the unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant, and the two independent certified athletic trainer spotters in the booth. During stoppage in play while on-field officials were in the process of administrating penalties, the unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant and team physician requested video from the spotters and reviewed the play. They concluded there were no indications of a concussion that would require further evaluation and the removal of the player.”

Given the NFL’s emphasis on improving player safety, the situation surrounding Newton could lead to further inquiry, including questions about how consultants can conclude from video that Newton didn’t suffer a concussion without medical personnel speaking directly to the player during the game.

OK then.

Seriously, they’re still barely pretending to care.

NFL 2016

[ 156 ] September 8, 2016 |


NFC EAST 1. Um, if you’re one of those hardcore types who just has to bet…NYG? 2. WAS 3. DAL 4. PHI I’ll start with the division I have no idea what to do with; I really don’t like any of these teams. The Giants have a passing game, and their defense should be better. On the other hand, the offensive line seems like a shambles, and attempts to rebuild defenses with expensive non-elite free agents don’t have a great track record. Also, as many Giant fans seem to be noticing, it’s really time for some #Realtalk about Steve Spagnolo. The last 5 defenses he’s been involved with as a defensive coordinator or head coach have ranked 30th, 32nd, 21st, 19th, and 31st in DVOA. He’s like the boring version of Rob Ryan. And even the 2007-2008 defenses he’s still milking a career out of were pretty unimpressive (13th and 8th in DVOA) given that he had multiple All Pro-to-Hall of Fame pass rushers to work with. He deserves his share of the credit for the Super Bowl Win over the 2007 Pats, but at this point I’m not sure continuing to employ him as a DC makes any more sense than starting David Tyree at wideout would. The Redskins could definitely repeat, but I remain somewhat skeptical about Cousins, who will need the o-line and his skill players to stay healthy to be a effective again since he’s unusually vulnerable to pressure. The addition of Norman will help the defense, but most signs point to regression and I can’t really disagree. The Romo injury is devastating to the Cowboys — Prescott is an interesting prospect but he seems pretty unlikely to be quality starter is a rookie, and backing him up is the Sanchize. It’s tempting to think that the o-line and Bryant and Elliot et al. are so good they can make anyone look good, but to this argument I have 4 words: “Brandon Weeden Matt Cassel.” Plus their defense is pretty bad. But, really, I’d give roughly equal odds to any of these three teams. In Philadelphia, Roseman has done an admirable job of cleaning up Chip Kelly’s worst misses, but for 2016 he’s made an already weak roster even worse. Even if he had had a full training camp, it’s pretty hard to see Wentz jumping from the FCS to quality NFL starter throwing to a fourth-rate receiving corps under a rookie coach.

NFC WEST 1. SEA 2. ARI (*) 3. STL LA 4. SF This stars-and-scrubs division is much easier. Basically, if Palmer is healthy and performs well, Arizona is the best team. But at 36 with his erratic and injury-prone history — I’ll lean very slightly to Seattle despite grave concerns about the Seahawk offensive line. These are two of the best 5 teams in football if they’re remotely healthy. The Rams are starting Case Keenum at QB and recycling Jeff Fisher to see if he can achieve his 40th non-winning season in a row — welcome back to the NFL, Los Angeles! The one interesting question about the 40ers — could Chip do anything with Kaepernick? — will apparently not be answered in the opening weeks or perhaps ever. It’s also not obvious how Kelly’s uptempo system will work to the advantage of a team that will have less talent than virtually every team it plays.

NFC NORTH: 1. GB 2. MIN. 3. DET. 4. CHI The injury to Bridgewater makes this division as easy to pick as the East is difficult. My views on Bradford are on the record; he is not a championship quality QB and a bad QB and a great running back equals a below-average offense. I think the Lions might weather the loss of Megatron a little better than might be expected and they were better than their record showed last year, but even a wildcard is a stretch. I don’t think Chicago has the defense yet, but any order in which the non-Green Bay teams finished here wouldn’t surprise me.

NFC SOUTH: 1. CAR 2. TB(*) 3. NO 4. ATL The Panthers will win fewer games this year but they remain the best team in the division, and getting Benjamin back will more than make up for the loss of Norman. I see Winston and the Bucs as the team most likely to step into the void created by the injury to Bridgewater in a conference that doesn’t have a lot of serious Super Bowl contenders. Brees is still great and still doesn’t have the defense to win. Hiring Dan Quinn seems to be one of those classic Peter Principle coordinator deals where the hiring hurt both the incoming and departing teams; guys like that rarely turn it around in the second year.

AFC EAST 1. NE 2. BUF 3. NYJ 4. MIA There are definite vulnerabilities for the death star — not only is Brady going to miss 4 games he’s at an age where rapid decline is possible (although he was so good last year I wouldn’t be unduly concerned in 2016.) Maybe Scarnecchia can save the o-line and maybe he can’t, and the Pats might struggle to have even a minimally competent running game. But it’s still enormously difficult to see them not winning the division. You can sorta make a case for the Bills — they appear to have a QB, and between the talent on the roster and Ryan’s track record as a defensive coach there’s room for a huge improvement. But subjectively I’m not wild about the team — hiring his legendarily incompetent brother is Ryan’s latest step toward self-parody, and the defensive front 7 is already riddled with injuries and suspensions, and the teams only threatening receiver is also fragile and inconsistent. I would much rather have Bowles as a head coach, but you have to expect Fitzpatrick to regress and the Jets’ opening schedule is brutal. I would expect the Dolphines to keep Dolphining.

AFC WEST 1. KC 2. DEN(*) 3. OAK 4. SD
We’ve been through this — the Broncos have a great defense, but barring another extraordinary run of luck that’s not going to take what by all appearances is quarterbacking that will struggle to be replacement level that’s not going to get them home field in the playoffs, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see them finish last in an improving division with a couple of defensive injuries.

AFC NORTH 1. PIT 2. BAL (*) 3. CIN 4. CLE The Steelers will again have an excellent offense, and the defense should be good enough. The Ravens and Bengals should both be wildcard contenders. As the liberal blogosphere’s preeminent Marvin Lewis apoligist I fear they may have missed their best shot last year, but they could win the division. The Browns appear headed in the right direction, with a front office that made shrewd moves and a good head coaching hire (that might hurt the Bengals as well,) but they certainly will be terrible in 2016.

AFC SOUTH 1. IND 2. JAX, I guess? 3. HOU 4. TEN Looks like another win by default for the Colts, although it’s time for Andrew Luck to take a step forward (the most accomplished QB from his draft class, as of now, is Russell Wilson.) I don’t like any of the remaining three teams at all. The Titans seem to be elaborately trolling Oregon fans, taking Mariotta and then somehow replacing Everybody Beats the Whis with a substantially worse coach — a guy who didn’t deserve< a second shot getting a third -- running an anachronistic under-center GROUND AND POUND offense. Between the Jags and Texans meh; I'll give a nod to the former because while I'm not a big Bortles fan better him than Osweiler.

Can Social Media Pushback Effectively Counter Journalistic Malpractice?

[ 184 ] September 8, 2016 |


As Paul observed below, in his half an hour of tossing 20-mile-an-hour softballs at Donald Trump that notably contrasted with his treatment of Hillary Clinton’s HIGHLY TROUBLING emails Matt Lauer showed that he is to journalism what Southern Comfort is to bourbon. At least his ineptitude is being noted fairly widely:

It was a high-stakes political moment, far from the chummier confines of the “Today” show and, for Matt Lauer, NBC’s stalwart of the morning, a chance to prove his broadcasting mettle on the presidential stage.

The consensus afterward was not kind.

Charged with overseeing a live prime-time forum with Donald J. Trump and Hillary Clinton — widely seen as a dry run of sorts for the coming presidential debates — Mr. Lauer found himself besieged on Wednesday evening by critics of all political stripes, who accused the anchor of unfairness, sloppiness and even sexism in his handling of the event.

Granted 30 minutes with each candidate, who appeared back-to-back at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in Manhattan, Mr. Lauer devoted about a third of his time with Mrs. Clinton to questions about her use of a private email server, then seemed to rush through subsequent queries about weighty topics like domestic terror attacks.

When an Army veteran in the audience asked Mrs. Clinton to describe her plan to defeat the Islamic State, Mr. Lauer interjected before the candidate could begin her reply.

“As briefly as you can,” he said, one of several moments where the anchor spoke over Mrs. Clinton to remind her that their time was running short.

Mr. Trump stormed onstage in his familiar motor-mouth style, often talking over Mr. Lauer and declining to directly answer many of his questions. At times, Mr. Lauer — who has conducted fewer adversarial interviews with Mr. Trump than his colleagues on NBC’s political desk — appeared flummoxed by his subject’s linguistic feints.

Drawing particular ire was the moment when Mr. Trump asserted, with his usual confidence: “I was totally against the war in Iraq.”

In fact, Mr. Trump initially said he supported the war, a point that Mrs. Clinton had raised earlier in the evening, citing an interview that Mr. Trump had given to Howard Stern. But Mr. Lauer left the assertion unchallenged, zipping along to his next question about Mr. Trump’s professed tendency to “say things that you later regret.”

Journalists and longtime political observers pounced. “How in the hell does Lauer not factcheck Trump lying about Iraq? This is embarrassingly bad,” wrote Tommy Vietor, a former aide to President Obama. Glenn Kessler, the chief fact checker at The Washington Post, posted a link to NBC’s check of Mr. Trump’s claim and wrote: “@MLauer should have been prepared to do this.”

“Lauer interrupted Clinton’s answers repeatedly to move on. Not once for Trump,” Norman Ornstein, the political commentator, wrote in a Twitter message, adding: “Tough to be a woman running for president.”

When the media relentlessly and often dishonestly went after Gore in 2000 — which Krugman noted recently — the contemporary social media insfrastructure was not on place, meaning much less opportunity to push back against Connolly, Seeyle, Dowd, Rich et al. Another difference is that while we can argue about whether the coverage of Trump has been commensurate to his sheer level of corruption and unpreparedness, the media generally hasn’t rolled over for Trump they way they did for Bush; Lauer has been more the exception. At worst, the narrative of 2016 will be Both Sides Do It. Which is outrageous in itself, but probably not as damaging as Only Al Gore Does It in 2000.

…and even more brutal Times review of Lauer, which is vaguely encouraging:

The NBC presidential forum on Wednesday night in Manhattan brought together the candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald J. Trump to try to determine who has the strength, preparation and presence of mind to lead during a time of crisis.

It sure wasn’t Matt Lauer.

In an event aboard the decommissioned aircraft carrier Intrepid, the “Today” host was lost at sea. Seemingly unprepared on military and foreign policy specifics, he performed like a soldier sent on a mission without ammunition, beginning with a disorganized offensive, ending in a humiliating retreat.


Like Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Trump has had a few controversies related to the military. You might recall him feuding with a Gold Star family, or mocking Senator John McCain for being captured in Vietnam, or likening his prep-school attendance to military experience.

Mr. Lauer evidently didn’t recall any of that. He kicked off by asking Mr. Trump what in his life had prepared him to be president, the kind of whiffle ball job-interview question you ask the boss’s nephew you know you have to hire anyway.

Mr. Lauer did press the Republican candidate on his claims of a “secret plan” to defeat the Islamic State and his repeated praise of Vladimir V. Putin, the president of Russia, leading Mr. Trump to cite the Russian authoritarian’s poll numbers and compare him favorably with President Obama.

In general, though, Mr. Lauer’s questioning of Mr. Trump was like watching one student quiz another to prep for a test neither had done the reading for. The host asked soft open-ended questions that invited the candidate to answer with word clouds.

29-Year-Old With No College or Professional Experience to Revolutionize Baseball

[ 170 ] September 8, 2016 |


Fitting that this happens on the same week that Skip Bayless takes his hot takes to Rupert Murdoch. It’s the second most irrational Tim Tebow-related move by a pro team located in the New York/New Jersey era.

I’m not sure what Alderson is thinking, but since the Mets seem likely to play in the wild card game (thank you San Fransisco!) despite losing most of their starting rotation and most of their infield, I can’t really complain.


I appreciate that Chip Kelley is well on his way to achieving Enemy of the Blog status (we’ll reserve a suite in the Mickey Kaus wing!), but this is still relevant re: Tebow:

Before Tim Tebow and the Eagles parted ways last week, coach Chip Kelly had a recommendation for the quarterback: head north.

Per Zach Berman of The Philadelphia Inquirer, Kelly thinks Tebow could gain valuable experience in the Canadian Football League (CFL). It would give him a chance to get in more live game reps. He played in four preseason games before the Birds let him go during the final round of cuts.

The Montreal Alouettes own Tebow’s CFL rights, so he would have to play in Quebec if he decided to pursue a career in the league. However, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports says it’s unlikely the former Heisman Trophy winner plays in Canada. Why? Because he already has a cushy broadcasting gig at ESPN waiting for him. He can probably make more money talking on TV than he could in the CFL.

Imagine that; an NFL player who believes himself underappreciated could take active steps to improve the quality of his game! This points to a problem that’s in some ways more significant that Tebow’s lack of talent; he just doesn’t seem all that interested in putting in the work necessary to become a decent football player.  To be sure, the talent-based constraints on Tebow seem likely to have limited him, at the upside, to backup and situational contributions, but having a job in the NFL is hardly a trivial accomplishment. Plenty of other players have believed that the NFL has understated their talent, and they’ve worked hard both to improve their game, and to showcase their ability.

The problem with Tebow is just that he’s too damn lazy to do any of that.

Safe Spaces and Trigger Warnings Continue to Destroy America

[ 200 ] September 7, 2016 |


Rod Dreher:

Virtue-signaling at its finest, from tomorrow’s generation of American elites

What exactly is this outrage?

Brown University students are returning to classes this semester to find free tampons and sanitary napkins in academic building bathrooms.

Truly, this represents the death of all cultural standards in the United States. Soon, campus restrooms may even begin to offer moochers free luxury items like hot water, soap and toilet paper rather than making students bring such items themselves as Sam Brownback intended. This policy will destroy America again, after it was destroyed by trigger warnings and Robert Mapplethorpe.

Meanwhile, this comment is outstanding whether it’s parody or not:

Man, this is bad enough on its own terms, but the thought of looking ridiculous in front of Vladimir Putin is what makes it truly intolerable. I’m going to put plutonium in someone’s cereal tomorrow morning to help America get its mojo back.

[Via of course]

“Big Fucking Deal”

[ 150 ] September 7, 2016 |


For the first time, the rate of those without medical insurance has dropped below 9%:

Fewer Americans are uninsured than ever before, new federal data shows.

Quarterly numbers from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) show that the uninsured rate fell to 8.6 percent during the first three months of 2016. That’s the lowest rate the government has on record.

The NCHS data shows states that chose to expand Medicaid programs have cut their uninsured rate in half, while states that opted out of Medicaid expansion programs have not seen as dramatic of a decline.

I hope you will not unfairly demonize kindly, moderate Republicans like John McCain and Mitt Romney and Sam Alito merely because their actions would have caused the number of uninsured to head back towards 20% — what’s tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths and untold unnecessary bankruptcies between friends, really? Please leave the benevolent Republican state overlords who are refusing the Medicaid expansion alone too — they hardly represent the historically unprecedented threat to democratic governance that Democrats have routinely asserted they are, and if you were a Louisiana voter in 2015 you should have written in Steve Zahn’s character from Treme.

…and, rather than replying to multiple comments let me say that while the ACA was a yoooge achievement obviously there are serious remaining problems with the American health care system and the ACA cannot be the endgame.

She Was Donald Trump’s Kind of Activist

[ 178 ] September 6, 2016 |


Phyllis Schlafly has died before she could see the first woman become president. If I may be permitted to unfairly demonize the Republican nominee, he is a big fan:

Donald Trump lamented the passing of far-right activist Phyllis Schlafly in a statement on Monday, thanking her for sharing his commitment to an “America First” agenda.

In an interesting choice of words, the GOP nominee also called Schlafly “a champion for women.” She was known as a social conservative crusader who led the movement to defeat the Equal Rights Amendment, painted feminists as aggressive “men” in disguise, and claimed that “virtuous women” never experienced workplace sexual harassment.

“Phyllis Schlafly is a conservative icon who led millions to action, reshaped the conservative movement, and fearlessly battled globalism and the ‘kingmakers’ on behalf of America’s workers and families,” the statement read. “I was honored to spend time with her during this campaign as she waged one more great battle for national sovereignty. I was able to speak with her by phone only a few weeks ago, and she sounded as resilient as ever. Our deepest prayers go to to her family and all her loved ones. She was a patriot, a champion for women, and a symbol of strength. She fought every day right to the end for America First. Her legacy will live on in the movement she led and the millions she inspired.”

She was indeed a champion for women in exactly the same sense Trump is.

Did Democrats Unfairly “Demonize” Republicans Like John McCain and Mitt Romney? (SPOILER: No.)

[ 468 ] September 6, 2016 |


For some reason, the thread on Beth’s short recent post is approaching 1,000. Rather than diving back in, and since the views Glenn expressed in the interview that Beth found objectionable aren’t particularly unusual, it’s worth explaining the two key problems with what he was arguing. Let’s go to the relevant quote:

I mean, the tactic of the Democratic Party in the last 25 years—they know that ever since they became the party of sort of corporatism and Wall Street, they don’t inspire anybody, so their tactic is to say the Republican Party is the epitome of evil.

Let’s stop here for a second, since this kind of ahistorical assertion — the Democratic Party used to be good but it’s now the party of evil neoliberalism — is a very common move. It is also a rather absurd fiction. Whatever its faults and limitations the Democratic Party of Obama/Pelosi/Reid is one of the most progressive iterations of the party’s nearly 190 year history. The overall trajectory of the party for the past decade is clearly to the left, not to the right. And this nostalgia for the mythical Golden Age of the Democratic Party is particularly strange coming from someone with Glenn’s priorities. What Democratic Party of the past are we supposed to be pining for — when LBJ and JFK were going to Vietnam and wiretapping Martin Luther King? When FDR was sending people of Japanese descent to concentration camps? When Truman was loading the Supreme Court with First Amendment-eviscerating poker buddies? When Jackson was cleansing Georgia of Native Americans? Help me out here. It’s true that the party has changed — in the New Deal era, the conservative Democrats that worked with Republicans to control Congress between 1938-1964 were more likely to be southern segregationists than Wall-Street influenced northerners. This was…not better.

As I’ve observed before, there is a reason for this imaginary history of the Democratic Party — namely, it allows people to avoid confrontation with the massive structural barriers that stand in the way of even left-liberal national coalitions: numerous veto points in a political system awash with money, electoral systems that privilege conservative rural areas, the preponderance of low-turnout midterm elections, etc. etc. The vast majority of major liberal federal legislation was passed in three brief periods under FDR, LBJ and Obama, and even in those cases it wasn’t so much that liberals controlled Congress as that there were political contexts that compelled moderate and conservative Democrats (and, in the case of LBJ, moderate and liberal Republicans) to go along with an unusually influential liberal minority. At some point, you have to consider the possibility that the Democratic Party isn’t suppressing a natural social democratic and staunchly civil libertarian governing majority.

There’s also another serious problem here. I, personally, find the idea that I should expect to be “inspired” by leaders of major national coalition parties very odd. But I also recognize that many Democratic voters are, in fact, inspired by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. If pundits don’t understand that it’s not a big deal, but the fact that some influential people within the Sanders campaign failed to understand that many Democrats are inspired by Obama and Clinton and why is in fact a potentially serious problem. You can’t build a majority coalition without understanding this.

To return to Glenn’s argument:

Even when they have conventional nominees like Mitt Romney or John McCain, they demonize them and say they’re this unparalleled threat to democracy. In this election, just by coincidence, it happens to be true.

As Glenn says in comments, he is not making the increasingly common and very dumb “crying wolf” argument — that is, that the Democratic Party somehow caused Trump by being unfair to reasonable, moderate, thinking person’s conservatives like McCain and Romney. But he nonetheless is arguing that Democrats “demonized” Romney and McCain. The problem is that this is also wrong. The Democratic argument against McCain and Romney was not that they were an “unparalleled threat to democracy” but that they were Republicans that would therefore enact or seek to enact various terrible policies. The election of Mitt Romney would have meant tens of millions of people stripped of their health insurance and those that retained insurance paying more while receiving less. It would have meant Antonin Scalia being replaced with someone probably to the right of Scalia, and if Romney were to win re-election it would probably mean a Supreme Court in firm Republican control for a generation or more, with countless horrible consequences. It would have meant huge tax cuts and major cuts to federal programs. It would have meant environmental deregulation as the climate change crisis accelerates. And so on and so on and so on. By erroneously claiming that Democrats “demonized” McCain and Romney, Glenn is minimizing the large and increasing differences between the two parties, which fully existed prior to Trump, and would also be true had the Republicans nominated Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz.

This “demonization” argument reminds me of Doug Henwood’s argument that it’s “blackmail” to point out how bad Republicans are, thus depriving him of his inalienable right to vote for vanity candidates without being criticized or something. Except that Henwood goes Glenn one better, arguing that it’s somehow dirty pool for Democrats to point out that Donald Trump would be a horrible president. I don’t share Henwood’s obsessive hatred of Hillary Clinton, but even if I did the imperative of keeping any contemporary Republican out of the White House — let alone one as unqualified and unconstrained by norms as Trump — is a perfectly good motive to vote for the Democratic candidate, and it’s not “blackmail” for the Democrats to seek the votes of people to the left of the typical congressional Democrat by being much better than the Republicans.

Do State and Local Governments Promote More Accountability to the Voters?

[ 89 ] September 6, 2016 |



We have an idea of American democracy that goes something like this: The Constitution gives different politicians oversight over different governmental bodies, which in turn affect citizens at the national, state, and local levels.

The politicians who control these different governmental bodies are, naturally, different people. So if a state lawmaker is doing a crummy job or passing unpopular legislation, her constituents can punish her individually at the ballot box.

There’s just one problem: This seems to be not at all what really happens.

In his new study, Rogers writes that the public often has no idea what’s going on in their state legislatures, or what their state representatives are arguing about or why. They don’t even know who their representatives are.

“I mean, ask yourself, do you know who your state legislator is? Do you know what they do in their day-to-day job?” Rogers says in an interview. (I didn’t, but I also live in Washington, DC, which doesn’t have a state legislature, so at least I have an excuse.) “The answer for most people is ‘no’ and ‘no,’ so they then have to make an evaluation based on something — even if that something has little to nothing to do with what the state legislator does herself.”

He notes that just 1 percent of local news is about statehouse news. The vast majority of local coverage — more than 60 percent — is instead about the presidential election, one study found.

Fewer than 20 percent of voters can identify their state legislator, according to a Vanderbilt study published in 2013. An even higher number have no opinion about whether said legislator is doing a good job.

Not knowing who your lawmaker is will make it pretty difficult to evaluate his or her work. So how are voters making up their minds?

It is in this void that voters tend to focus on something else altogether: what they think of the president.

It’s not that voters’ perceptions of the state legislatures themselves are completely irrelevant. Voters are about 6 percent more likely to vote against their state lawmaker if they disapprove of their state legislature, and they’re about 9 percent more likely to do so if they disapprove of their governor.

But the president’s popularity was way, way more important in shaping outcomes for state lawmakers.

Mitch McConnell’s evil genius, in other words, works on two levels. Voters don’t blame legislators for obstruction, and because the president gets the bulk of the blame he also helps Republicans on the state level.

First Tragedy, Then Farce

[ 110 ] September 4, 2016 |


If I were Howie Roseman, I’d be booking a trip to Monte Carlo right now. First, he gets two teams to pay for the privilege of assuming ghastly Chip Kelly contracts. Now, he gets someone to clean up his own mess:

After Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater tore an ACL, an effort immediately emerged to identify all of the team’s options at the position. Few if any lists included Sam Bradford’s name.

But Bradford, whom the Eagles insisted was their guy for 2016, is suddenly Minnesota’s guy for 2016. The Eagles have announced that the Vikings sent a first-round pick in 2017 and a fourth-round pick in 2018 to get Bradford.

You can sympathize with the Vikings overreacting to what is not only a season-ending but career-threatening injury to Bridgewater. But as Chip found out the hard way Bradford isn’t the solution to any problem other than “we need a cheap backup.” His raw stats look vaguely OK, but as the advanced metrics (24th in DVOA, 34th in QBR) have consistently indicated, once you boil off Colonel Checkdown’s 4-yard completions on 3rd-and-7 and 8-yard completions in garbage time, he’s consistently been one of the worst starting quarterbacks in the league. (And this isn’t a prejudice against his conservative style, either — Alex Smith’s numbers hold up fairly well in the advanced metrics because unlike Bradford he consistently moves the chains.) Plus he gets hurt a lot. You would have to be one hell of an optimist to think that he’s suddenly going to turn it around working for Norv Turner as he pushes 30. This will still be a lost season for the Vikings, and now they won’t even get a solid 1st round pick out of it. And while I still think the Eagles were really dumb to trade up for Wentz this obviously mitigates the damage.

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