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It’s Like, How Much More Modo Could This Be? And the Answer Is None. None More MoDo.

[ 77 ] July 8, 2016 |


Maureen Dowd’s latest entry begins with a lengthy, rambling, do-I-really-have-to-write-800-whole-words-this-week anecdote about how she can’t bear to be alone in public but had to in Paris recently and went out with an J. Crew branded onion on her belt which apparently isn’t the style at the time although she was assured that it was, which leads us to the most perfect Maureen Dowd sentence ever:

I was armed with a bunch of newspapers, so I could pretend to study up on the Brexit vote convulsing Europe.

Her terror of eating alone forced her to take an extreme measure she would otherwise never consider: reading a newspaper. But, don’t worry, she was just “pretending” to learn something about Brexit, which she then goes on to opine about by talking to some random people and finding out that they confirm what ever superficial theater-critic idea she had to begin with. Maurren Dowd is paid a six-figure salary, ostensibly to write about politics.


“a nonfiction McMuffin”

[ 51 ] July 8, 2016 |


Noted fabulist Jonah Lehrer somehow managed to get a publishing house to buy his stoned boarding-school-dorm musings (thesis of book as described by author: “Love is the only happiness that lasts. It is the opposite of underwear. It is the antithesis of chocolate cake.”) Jennifer Senior has a review that I hope earned her double time:

Jonah Lehrer has had time to work on “A Book About Love.” His schedule no longer teems with lucrative speaking engagements. He no longer writes for The New Yorker or contributes to “Radiolab” on NPR. With this project — his shot at redemption, provided to him by Simon & Schuster after his public tumble from grace — Mr. Lehrer could have written something complex and considered. Books are still the slow food of the publishing business. Yet here is Mr. Lehrer, once again, serving us a nonfiction McMuffin.

I wasn’t expecting it. I was one of those weirdos who thought Mr. Lehrer would make a respectable comeback. He’s bright. He’s a decent stylist. He languished in the public stockade for weeks for his sins. Why wouldn’t he try something personal, something soulful, something new?

No clue. But he didn’t. His book is insolently unoriginal.


In retrospect — and I am hardly the first person to point this out — the vote to excommunicate Mr. Lehrer was as much about the product he was peddling as the professional transgressions he was committing. It was a referendum on a certain genre of canned, cocktail-party social science, one that traffics in bespoke platitudes for the middlebrow and rehearses the same studies without saying something new.

Apparently, he’s learned nothing. This book is a series of duckpin arguments, just waiting to be knocked down. Perhaps the flimsiest: that Shakespeare’s famous star-crossed teenagers have come to define our understanding of love.

“But this description of love — the Romeo and Juliet version — is woefully incomplete,” he writes in the introduction. Love is not just lust, madness, or a great tidal flow of dopamine, he is quick to tell us. “Love is a process, not a switch.”

Fine. But is there really any evolved adult who believes otherwise? When a widow wakes up sobbing in the middle of the night, mourning the loss of her husband of 50 years, is she mourning the loss of passion, giddy infatuation and great sex?

No matter. Mr. Lehrer bangs this same note throughout the book. On Page 53, he says we wrongly assume that “what we feel at first sight” will help us predict long-term relationship outcomes; on Page 104, he reminds us that our psychological needs have little to do with the romance of country-western songs. On Page 246, he’s still saying it’s commonly believed that “once we fall in love, the love is supposed to take care of itself.” But no: “This is wrong on every level.”

You know what he says love requires? Hard work. “When a relationship endures,” he explains, “it is not because the flame never burns out. It is because the flame is always being relit.”

There’s a lot of dime-store counsel in this book, often followed by academic citations. It’s like reading an advice column by way of JSTOR.

It also, as you might expect, at least skirts the edge of plagiarism:

But I fear Mr. Lehrer has simply become more artful about his appropriations. At one point, for instance, he writes: “We don’t love our kids despite their demands; we love them because of them. Caregiving makes us care.”

I stopped dead when I read that sentence. Reread it. And read it again. It sounds to me like a clever adaptation of one of the most beautiful lines in “The Philosophical Baby” by Alison Gopnik: “It’s not so much that we care for children because we love them as that we love them because we care for them.”

I’m pretty certain Mr. Lehrer read Ms. Gopnik’s quote. Why? Because I cite it in my own book — which he cites, twice. (Though not for that.) He also wrote about “The Philosophical Baby” for The Boston Globe.

Although, really, the outright fraud obscures the more important issue about Lehrer, which is how a lazy purveyor of puddle-deep crap got so many well-compensated gigs writing about important subjects for prestigious publications in the first place. Being a white guy with a degree from an elite college is probably a prerequisite…

Thing Equally as Inevitable as Clinton Not Being Indicted to Happen

[ 127 ] July 8, 2016 |


Right on schedule:

After three weeks of private preparations, Senator Bernie Sanders is expected to endorse Hillary Clinton on Tuesday at a campaign event in New Hampshire, according to three Democrats who have been involved in the planning.

The Clinton campaign on Thursday announced the New Hampshire trip but did not provide details, including any mention of Mr. Sanders.

Mr. Sanders, in an interview Thursday with Bloomberg View’s Al Hunt, came as close to endorsing Mrs. Clinton as he ever has, saying: “We have got to do everything that we can to defeat Donald Trump and elect Hillary Clinton. I don’t honestly know how we would survive four years of a Donald Trump as president.”

The three Democrats, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to reveal confidential conversations, said that the endorsement was partly the result of daily talks between Mrs. Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, and the Sanders campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, about bringing together the two rivals and advancing the policy priorities of Mr. Sanders. The discussions included a dinner between Mr. Mook and Mr. Weaver in Burlington, Vt., where Mr. Sanders has his campaign headquarters.

Despite all the teeth-gnashing, this works out perfectly well for all involved.

St. Stein Speaks!

[ 68 ] July 7, 2016 |


Shorter Jill Stein: “As America’s most uncompromising leftist, I believe we need more selective criminal prosecutions of people based on specious national security grounds.”

If you want to use your vote to make a self-affirming consumer choice rather than to participate in the collective decision to determine who will be president, that’s your privilege. But, really, Jill Stein? Write in, I dunno, yourself, Zombie Eugene Debs, Katha Pollitt, Tim Raines, something like that. Your act of pointless narcissism deserves better.

Bill Kristol’s Dream Candidate Speaks

[ 155 ] July 7, 2016 |


“There is a cruel irony in The Chief Justice’s reliance on our decision in Brown v. Board of Education. The first sentence in the concluding paragraph of his opinion states: “Before Brown, schoolchildren were told where they could and could not go to school based on the color of their skin.” This sentence reminds me of Anatole France’s observation: “[T]he majestic equality of the la[w], forbid[s] rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal their bread.” The Chief Justice fails to note that it was only black schoolchildren who were so ordered; indeed, the history books do not tell stories of white children struggling to attend black schools, In this and other ways, The Chief Justice rewrites the history of one of this Court’s most important decisions.”

Parents Involved v. Seattle School District (STEVENS, J., dissenting.)

David French offers some advice to people legally carrying firearms in their cars if they get pulled over by the police. And yet, it seems like there’s something…missing from his 4-point list. I can’t quite put my finger on it.

Mark Dayton’s reaction to the summary execution of Philando Castile is rather more sensible.

The Center Cannot Hold

[ 70 ] July 7, 2016 |


I have a quasi-longform up at the New Republic about the Supreme Court during the Obama administration and the forthcoming period of transition. My two central points are that 1)although there were some big liberal wins and Obama’s legislative agenda mostly survived intact, we shouldn’t forget how conservative the Roberts Court has been and 2)the Court is about to take a major lurch to the left or right:

The chief justice’s defense of Obamacare marked a high point in the Court’s deference to the legislature and common sense. It should be noted, however, that the legal challenges to the ACA were not entirely unsuccessful. Combined with the actions of Republian statehouses, the Court’s inept and illogical re-writing of the Medicaid expansion in Sebelius has denied health care coverage to millions of poor people. We also shouldn’t forget the Court’s 2014 decision to strike down the mandate requiring employers to provide contraceptive coverage as part of taxpayer-subsidized health plans.

Still, the fact that the Court mostly upheld the Affordable Care Act, combined with major victories on gay and lesbian rights, abortion, and affirmative action, suggest a Court that is politically unpredictable and more capable of compromise than the political branches. But it would be unwise to assume that past results will be repeated in the future.

With the admittedly crucial exception of Sebelius, the liberal victories of the Roberts Court were due to one man: Anthony Kennedy. This isn’t surprising. Since early in the Nixon administration, the median vote on the Court on the most politically salient issues has been a Republican, but a moderate, country-club Republican: Potter Stewart, Lewis Powell, Sandra Day O’Connor, and now Kennedy.

The issue going forward is that this kind of Republican is rapidly going extinct. (It is no coincidence that Kennedy was Ronald Reagan’s third choice, after a disastrous attempt to nominate arch-conservative jurist Robert Bork.) As Donald Trump’s list of prospective judges indicates, future Republican nominees are going to be in the mold of Samuel Alito and Roberts, not O’Connor and Kennedy. This will be true for two reasons: A Republican president will face intense pressure from the Republican conference not to pick “another Souter,” and a Republican president may have a hard time finding a fairly young, moderate Republican judge to nominate even if he wanted one. The political scientist Amanda Hollis-Brusky, author of a definitive recent study of the conservative legal group the Federalist Society, says the group “performs the dual function of vetting and credentialing judges, as well as acting as a vocal audience pressuring Republican presidents to pick reliable conservatives.”

As the University of Maryland law professor Mark Graber explained in a recent paper, the Supreme Court has historically been a centrist institution. But the tendency of the Court to represent, for better or worse, the political center was not inevitable. It stemmed from the fact that elites—from whose ranks Supreme Court justices are generally chosen—tend to have less polarized views than ordinary members of the party.

In 2016, however, exactly the opposite is true: Party elites are much farther apart than voters are. Donald Trump’s rise is, in part, a reflection of the increasing gap between the GOP’s elites and its voters, exemplified by his blasé attitude toward conservative orthodoxy.

A decade from now, the Supreme Court will almost certainly not be controlled by either a moderate Republican like Anthony Kennedy or a heterodox liberal like Byron White, a JFK nominee who dissented in Miranda v. Arizona (which established Miranda rights) and Roe v. Wade (which established the right to an abortion). The median vote on the Court will almost certainly be a conservative in the mold of Alito or Roberts, or a liberal in the mold of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

…as Joe points out in comments, this Linda Greenhouse piece on the asymmetric polarization of the Court is important related reading.

Bush’s Poodle

[ 113 ] July 6, 2016 |

The Chilcot Report is out and, as you would expect, it’s devastating:

There was no imminent threat from Saddam Hussein.

The strategy of containment could have been adopted and continued for some time.

The judgments about the severity of the threat posed by Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction – WMDs – were presented with a certainty that was not justified.

Despite explicit warnings, the consequences of the invasion were underestimated. The planning and preparations for Iraq after Saddam were wholly inadequate.

The widespread perception that the September 2002 dossier distorted intelligence produced a “damaging legacy”, undermining trust and confidence in politicians.

The government failed to achieve its stated objectives.

So, Tony, have you learned anything?

But asked whether invading Iraq was a mistake Blair was strikingly unrepentant. “I believe we made the right decision and the world is better and safer,” he declared. He argued that he had acted in good faith, based on intelligence at the time which said that Iraq’s president had weapons of mass destruction. This “turned out to be wrong”.


Steal A Little and They Throw You In Jail, Steal A Lot And They Make You King

[ 165 ] July 6, 2016 |

Some excellent points from Anil Dash here:



[HT to Anne Thériault for putting the Tweetstorm in a more convenient format.)

Today In Not Entirely Unforeseeable Events

[ 145 ] July 6, 2016 |



Gretchen Carlson, a longtime Fox News host, has filed a lawsuit against Fox Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes alleging that he made unwanted sexual advances and then sabotaged her career when she refused.

The lawsuit claims she was “a conscientious, hard-working, and successful” journalist over her 11 years at the network and that her recent solo show ranked number one for cable news programs in her time slot. Yet it alleges that she was unfairly paid less than male peers and denied desirable assignments and other opportunities in retaliation for her complaining of sexual harassment and gender discrimination she says she experienced, as well as rejecting Ailes’s sexual advances.

Carlson joined Fox News in 2005 and began co-hosting “Fox & Friends” in 2006. In September of 2009, the lawsuit says she complained to her supervisor that her co-host Steve Doocy “regularly treat[ed] her in a sexist and condescending way,” including putting his hand on her or pulling her arm to quiet her during live shows. She also claims he mocked and shunned her off air, belittled her, refused to engage with her on air, and “generally attempt[ed] to put her in her place by refusing to accept and treat her as an intelligent and insightful female journalist rather than a blond female prop.”

Ailes’s response, according to the lawsuit, was to criticize Carlson, calling her a “man hater” and “killer” and telling her to learn to “get along with the boys.” Afterward, she claims Ailes retaliated by assigning her to less important interviews, removing her from a weekly appearance on “The O’Reilly Factor,” and reducing her appearances during a coveted 6:00 a.m. slot. She was then fired from “Fox & Friends” and reassigned to a slot in the 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. hour, where she alleges her compensation was reduced even though her workload increased.


In September of last year, Carlson met with Ailes to complain about the discriminatory treatment and sexual harassment she felt she was receiving from coworkers. According to the lawsuit, Ailes responded, “I think you and I should have had a sexual relationship a long time ago and then you’d be good and better and I’d be good and better,” adding, “sometimes problems are easier to solve” that way. She says she refused his advances.

You also have to love this detail:

She also alleges he told her she saw things as though it “only rains on women” and told her to stop worrying about getting “offended so God damn easy about everything.” He also told her she tried to “show up the boys” on “Fox & Friends.”

“You will be working with two of the dumbest people in the known universe. Try not to make them look bad.”

Elsewhere in the American meritocracy, here’s a flaming hot take for you:

With the Global Warming Crisis, We Cannot Afford These Takes

[ 111 ] July 5, 2016 |


Mike Lupica, needless to say, thinks it’s somehow unsporting for Kevin Durant to leave for a better team because this is the lazy hot take du jour. But I love this argument in particular:

players control everything else in sports these days, why not their message?

Yes, the players control everything. They can even, after a period of several years, have some input into where they play! One way you can tell that the players control everything nowadays is that one of the biggest stars in the NFL got suspended for 4 games, at the cost of millions of dollars, for a less-than-trivial offense the league has essentially no evidence he even committed. And, of course, the fact that the NFLPA agreed to a system in which the commissioner could suspend anybody for any length of time for any reason without any effective right to appeal proves that the players wanted it that way, because if Gilded Age Supreme Court decisions have taught us anything it’s that management and labor have equal bargaining leverage, and it’s not as if the NFL would ever use scabs to break a strike or as if billionaire owners can afford to wait more than players with 2 or 3 year “careers” can.

Another way you can tell that players have all of the power now is that NHL free agents are insisting on getting paid mostly in signing bonuses for some entirely random reason. What, do you seriously think the league would ever lock out players for a whole season or something?

And yet, as profit-taking hacks go, Lupica is no Rick Reilly. See, your ordinary hack just gives the “if Durant were a REAL MAN he would stay in Oklahoma” hot take and moves on. But as Calacaterra says, distracting people from your redundant take with a sub-Catskills joke about Kate Upton’s breasts is how a real master of “Phone it in? Nah, have the pool boy phone it in for you” hackery proceeds.

In Unprecedented Development, Clinton Scandal Massively Overblown

[ 284 ] July 5, 2016 |

CEDAR FALLS, IA - MAY 19: Democratic presidential hopeful and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hosts a small business forum with members of the business and lending communities at Bike Tech bicycle shop on May 19, 2015 in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Yesterday Clinton hosted an organizing rally with supporters in Mason City. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Hillary Clinton will not be indicted:

FBI Director James Comey said today his agency is not recommending that charges be brought against Hillary Clinton as a result of the year-long investigation into her use of a private email server while serving as secretary of state.

“Although there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case,” Comey said in a news conference.

“In looking back at our investigations into the mishandling or removal of classified information, we cannot find a case that would support bringing criminal charges on these facts,” he added.

Comey’s last sentence is the key. There would be no precedent for bringing charges based on this set of facts:

Indeed, as Comey noted in his announcement, the FBI could not “find a case that would support bringing criminal charges on these facts” as “all the cases prosecuted involved some combination of: clearly intentional and willful mishandling of classified information; or vast quantities of materials exposed in such a way as to support an interference of intentional misconduct; or indications of disloyalty to the United States; or efforts to obstruct justice.”

This not the kind of Clinton scandal based on absolutely nothing; it’s the kind of Clinton scandal where behavior genuinely worthy of criticism is massively overblown. Of the issues that voters should be concerned about heading into the 2016 elections, Hillary Clinton’s email servers should not rank among the top 1,000.


Similarly, in a bizarre way I feel vindicated in my prediction that the Expos would regret trading Delino DeShields for Pedro Martinez.

The Kansas Economic Miracle

[ 144 ] July 5, 2016 |


As most of you know, Kansas was provided an excellent test case for supply-side economics. The answer is that upper-class tax cuts have utterly failed to deliver the promised economic growth and caused state revenues to crater, threatening valuable state services. Brad DeLong provides an exhaustive collection of links, concluding:

Let me, for one, say that I am surprised that the economic results of Laffer-Moore grifter tax cuts in Brownbackistan have been so bad. I expected them to be bad. But I expected big tax cuts to steal at least some of the tax base from neighboring Missouri: south of the Missouri River the Kansas-Missouri border is State Line Road, and the state border bisects the two million person Kansas City metroplex. But no: worse than I would have imagined likely, even for Brownback, even for Laffer and Moore.

Moving money from the state budget where it is spent in-state into the pockets of the rich whose marginal propensity to spend in-state is low has consequences. Add in the effects of not expanding Medicaid and the tax cuts, and $1 billion/year of government-funded spending that would be happening were Kansas part of Colorado is not happening. If the in-state multiplier is two, then the simple Keynesian model all by itself accounts for the post-2012 divergence between Brownbackistan and the U.S. average–you don’t need any resort to “uncertainty” generated by the Brownback trainwreck.

And it’s not as if Kansans haven’t noticed what a catastrophe this is — Brownback is enormously unpopular. Which, of course, is why Republicans want elections in which 1)as few people as possible vote and 2)the wealthy minority that actually benefits from policies that are disastrous for everyone else can spend huge amounts of money in election campaigns. It seems worth noting as well that Paul Ryan is fully committed to Brownbacknomics, which might be worth keeping in mind the next time someone tells you that being indifferent about the results of the next federal election is a self-affirming consumer choice and refusing to support Hillary Clinton will really stick it to BIG NEOLIBERAL.

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