Subscribe via RSS Feed

Author Page for Scott Lemieux

rss feed

Criminalizing Reporting

[ 120 ] August 11, 2015 |

Speaking of taxpayer money being wasted in a horrible cause:

A Washington Post reporter who was arrested at a restaurant last year while reporting on protests in Ferguson, Mo., has been charged in St. Louis County with trespassing and interfering with a police officer and ordered to appear in court.

Wesley Lowery, a reporter on The Post’s national desk, was detained in a McDonald’s while he was in Missouri covering demonstrations sparked by a white police officer fatally shooting an unarmed black 18-year-old.

I’m not one to place a great deal of confidence in our judicial system, but there’s no way this survives a First Amendment challenge. But the kind of authoritarians we’re dealing with just don’t care.

Inside UIUC’s War on Academic Freedom

[ 249 ] August 10, 2015 |

med_resAbove: Texas governor Coke Stevenson, the ideal leader for the modern administator

Why was Steve Salaita fired, without the process he was due, because of political views he expressed, in obvious defiance of the most basic norms of academic freedom? John Wilson, who has been doing fantastic work on this from the beginning, has a long and very useful look at the emails sent by disgraced former president Phyllis Wise. Not surprisingly, former Board of Trustees chair Christopher Kennedy emerges as a particularly villainous figure. First, on his view of academic freedom:

Under “Obligation to Meet Norms of Society,” Kennedy writes: “the University, as the state’s public university, needs to, in many ways, reflect the values of the state.” He warns of a backlash if they are “too cavalier,” one that will “hinder our ability to free ourselves of unwanted procurement rules” and similar important values of the University. Kennedy seemed mostly interested in the state de-regulating economic decisions of the University, and felt that controversial professors would interfere with his goal.

We must destroy academic freedom in order to preserve our ability to get rid of economic regulations. Universities must reflect the values of the state government! Coke Stevenson couldn’t have said it better.

Where an argument that free speech cannot be tolerated if it disagrees with the values of public officials, complaints about civility are highly likely to follow:

Finally, under “Civility,” Kennedy wrote, “Our campus in Urbana is plagued right now with a civility issue. We are all, of course, perplexed by the lack of civility that our students showed in their criticism of an administrative decision. Perhaps we shouldn’t be so surprised by their conduct, given the fact that we have held up to the students examples people like this fellow who thought it was ok to target cops and non-combatants for murder as an expression of political disagreement.”

The problem with allowing free speech is that peons might get the idea that they are permitted to criticize the actions of their superiors and betters, which is inherently uncivil!

I’m also amused that Kennedy thinks that Salaita is comparable to Bill Ayers. Tweets that Christopher Kennedy disagrees with are pretty much like setting off multiple bombs, apparently.

Even worse is when faculty members repeat this we-must-destroy-academic-freedom-in-order-to-save-it nonsense:

The Kilgore case also reveals another major influence on Wise: education professor Nicholas Burbules, who had gained Wise’s trust and support. On Feb. 11, 2014, Burbules wrote an email to Wise discussing ways to ban people like Kilgore from being hired: “A related policy might address the question of ‘controversial’ hires—this is murkier, because people’s ideas of what is controversial will differ. But a crude rule of thumb is, if you think someone’s name is going to end up on the front page of the newspaper as a U of I employee, you can’t make that decision on your own say so. You need to get some higher level review and approval.” As a standard of academic freedom, this is simply appalling: Burbules wanted to explicitly make the controversial status of someone grounds for banning their hiring without permission from top administrators. And that permission would almost never be granted, since he called for “policy changes or new procedures that tell people, ‘We’ve looked into how this happened and here’s what we’re doing to make sure it doesn’t happen again.’”

Burbules advocated “a more principled statement of what the U of I stands for: that we welcome the widest possible range of viewpoints and positions, but not all positions. And that there are some things that are not consistent with our values.” It certainly took chutzpah for Burbules to call his demand for firing controversial faculty “more principled” and welcoming the “widest possible range” of ideas.

“We must tolerate the widest range of views that are sufficiently anodyne that they would not generate any controversy. The principles of free speech and academic freedom should apply only to cases when they are not necessary.” Ye gods.

Wilson’s conclusion:

But it is clear that COM and the Kilgore cases caused Wise and Board to act quickly to decide to fire Salaita, without ever examining his record or hearing from anyone who might disagree with their decision. The disastrous decision to get rid of Salaita was an impulsive reaction by powerful people who understood almost nothing about academic freedom and shared governance, and surrounded themselves with yes men who never questioned their opinions.

Precisely so, and how embarrassing for the academics who defended the firing. Alas, the Illinois taxpayers whose money Wise decided to piss away as she sacrificed academic freedom for other institutional goals won’t get a golden parachute.

And Please Let the Door Hit You on the Way Out

[ 29 ] August 10, 2015 |


One very clear implication of Roberts’s surprisingly forceful rejection of ACA trooferism was that a majority of the Supreme Court was uninterested in having any further frivolous lawsuits rise up from the fever swamps. The lower courts appear to have gotten the message:

On Friday, however, four Republican federal appeals court judges, including at least one of the most conservative judges in the country, laid that threat to rest in an opinion signaling that federal courts will no longer give comfort to lawyers seeking to wipe out Obamacare.


This is an important development not just because it suggests that this lawsuit is unlikely to prevail, but because of the identity of some of the judges who decided not to pick this fight. One judge who joined Judge Kavanaugh’s opinion is Judge Thomas Griffith, the author of a divided three-judge panel’s decision in Halbig v. Burwell, which embraced the same legal arguments presented by the plaintiffs in King. These arguments were just as weak as the arguments presented by Sissel’s attorneys — King and Halbig rested on the unique legal argument that much of the text of the Affordable Care Act does not count. So Griffith’s willingness to sign onto Kavanaugh’s opinion suggests that Griffith’s tolerance for extravagant challenges to Obamacare has waned since he handed down his opinion in Halbig.

Another judge who joined Kavanaugh’s opinion was Judge Janice Rogers Brown a staunch economic libertarian who once argued that courts should treat all labor or business regulation with a great deal of constitutional skepticism. Brown labeled the New Deal a “socialist revolution,” and claimed that Social Security is a kind of intergenerational cannibalism (“Today’s senior citizens blithely cannibalize their grandchildren because they have a right to get as much ‘free’ stuff as the political system will permit them to extract”). So if any judge in the country would be sympathetic to an attack on Obamacare, it is Janice Rogers Brown.

There comes a time when it’s time to pack up your crusade to use litigation to strip millions of people of their health insurance and go home. Janice Rogers Brown finding your arguments too weak to proceed is, in fact, that time.

Why the Planned Parenthood Videos Won’t Change Public Opinion

[ 24 ] August 10, 2015 |


You may have heard that American reactionaries have an exciting new strategy in their war against reproductive freedom: EXCLUSIVE VIDEOS showing that abortion clinics PERFORM ABORTIONS and the personnel who work in them are aware of this fact. The fact that medical procedures sound gross is a deeply silly reason to believe they should be restricted. And as Rebecca Traister points out, it’s not telling women anything they don’t already know:

The videos are likely to have an impact: not on public opinion about abortion, which rarely changes meaningfully, but perhaps
on Planned Parenthood’s funding, and almost certainly on laws made by state legislatures in the parts of America where abortion has already become so inaccessible — thanks to elaborate facility requirements, waiting periods, parental-consent-and-notification laws, earlier gestational cutoffs, and a dwindling number of providers — that it might as well be illegal.

But as a broader strategy, the notion that educating women in the grotesqueries of termination will be a game-changer is absurd. As Richards could tell Daleiden if he asked her his question, women already know what abortion is. We know more about blood, innards, fetuses, and the babies they may become — in short, about life in reproductive bodies — than anti-abortion activists seem to understand.

The average age of menarche in the United States is 12; the average age of menopause, 51. During the intervening decades, most women bleed regularly, and if you think we emit that chlorinated blue water in the maxi-pad ads, you are incorrect. I was in high school the first time a friend joked about a “period chunk.” I was also in high school when I first heard that an acquaintance had had a grapefruit-size dermoid cyst removed from an ovary; as is not uncommon with those cysts, it contained teeth, hair, and skin.


Women do not need real talk about bodies; our adult days brim with the effluvia, the discomforts, the weirdness and emotional intensity and magnitude of our medical choices. Then there is pregnancy itself, wanted or not, and its attendant risks. Women pass early pregnancies into toilet bowls and sadly collect the remains of later ones in Tupperware containers to bring to their doctors. Most of us know of someone who has suffered the excruciating pain of stillbirth. One friend, bleeding 13 weeks into a deeply desired pregnancy, was told by her doctor not to worry unless she passed a clot bigger than her fist.

The first quoted paragraph gets the strategy right. The real target here isn’t public opinion; it’s giving state legislators a pretext to enact the arbitrary restrictions on abortion they want to pass anyway.

Bankruptcy Asymmetry

[ 21 ] August 10, 2015 |

Good point by Dayen here:

The Tea Party, the very movement whose energy Trump has tapped into so successfully, was founded on the principle of not having to “subsidize the loser’s mortgages.”

Businesspeople defaulting on each other never raised this kind of ire: only if ordinary people wanted to allocate losses in the greatest crisis since the Depression onto the banks who caused it did the rage emerge.

When Congress made an effort to change the bankruptcy laws, these same banks howled in protest. Members of the Obama administration, despite expressing support for the idea of allowing judges to modify primary mortgages during the 2008 campaign, decided to sit on their hands and let senators drowning in bank cash kill the idea, leading Sen. Dick Durbin to pronounce about Congress that the banks “frankly own the place.”

In fact, everyone would have benefited from relieving primary mortgage debt, the absence of which led to at least 6 million foreclosures. Economists Amir Sufi and Atif Mian have shown how the post-recession recovery was markedly slower because of the failure to discharge debt, which depressed consumer spending. This huge policy mistake created an unnecessary drag on the economy and made miserable the lives of millions, all so banks didn’t have to bear some of the pain of the post-housing bubble fallout.

Now Playing in the South Bronx

[ 37 ] August 9, 2015 |


I like what the Blue Jays did at the deadline. They added two front-line players they really needed, in a situation in which two impact talents have the leverage to matter even in 60 games. (The Tulowitzki addition was almost as important defensively as offensively; my initial reaction after hearing the trade was wondering if the prodigal son could return to Flushing, but then I looked up Reyes’s steadily deteriorating fielding stats.) They may not track down the Yankees — given how wrong I was about New York at the beginning of the season, I guess I’m not allowed to be skeptical about whether an offense driven largely by exceptional years by injury-prone old guys is going to stay afloat until the end of September. But given that the Blue Jays have in fact been 70 runs better than the Yankees already I like their chances, and at a minimum they’ve almost certainly got one of the wild cards locked up. It would be nice to see them in the postseason for a change.

Deep Thoughts, By And Curated By Maureen Dowd

[ 128 ] August 9, 2015 |


It is not surprising that Maureen Dowd has many nutty things to say about the Donald, for whose presence in the race she must be immensely grateful. (You wouldn’t want her to have to write about welfare reform!) For this special occasion, she has decided to outsource some of her gibberish, with hilarious results:

And Trump is, as always, the gleefully offensive and immensely entertaining high-chair king in the Great American Food Fight. He is, as Kurt Andersen wrote in 2006, “our 21st-century reincarnation of P. T. Barnum and Diamond Jim Brady, John Gotti minus the criminal organization, the only white New Yorker who lives as large as the blingiest, dissiest rapper — de trop personified.”

The novelist Walter Kirn tweeted post-debate: “Trump is simply channeling the bruised petty enraged narcissism that is the natural condition of Selfie Nation.”

After all, as James Gleick has tweeted, “Running for president is the new selfie.”

I enjoy Trump’s hyperbolic, un-P.C. flights because there are too few operatic characters in the world. I think of him as a Toon. He’s just drawn that way. And his Frank Sinatra lingo about women aside, he always treated me courteously and professionally.

I thought the New York Times didn’t run comics, but damned if there isn’t a Hi and Lois right in the Sunday Review. (“The Republican debate on Thursday was the new twerking. ON STEROIDS!”) Dowd has a remarkable ability to find #hottakes as inane as her own, I give her that. “Running for president is the new selfie” might be the worst thing ever written by someone other than Camille Paglia, and indeed I’m surprised it wasn’t Paglia.

It’s also appropriate that Maureen Dowd hauled Kurt Andersen out of the mothballs. Andersen is really one of the underrated buffoons of the early age of the internets. Dig these pensees on the 2000 election:

And indeed, I’m afraid I do think most cops in New York ticketing the double-parked car of a courteous black man carrying cats would speak exactly the way my cop spoke to me on Court Street in Brooklyn. In fact, it was his stern, ridiculous policemanese–“Step away from the vehicle!”–that surprised me, since I’m, you know, white, and middle-aged, and wear glasses.

I too like Bill Bradley, and expect to vote for him in the primary. A friend of mine who’s a theater director recently told me that I should tell another friend of mine who’s a speechwriter for Bradley that he, the director, would like to help coach the candidate in big-audience performing skills. Which I think would be a good idea. And which I also think is a very rich premise for a comedy sketch.

But my problem with politics these days (which I suppose can come across as conservatism–and may well be, in the old-fashioned sense) is that politics don’t and really can’t matter all that much in this country right now. There are rough, large consensuses on all the big issues–economics, social welfare, civil rights, women’s rights, war and peace, even abortion. And they will continue as long as the economy chugs along like this and we stay out of wars any longer than a mini-series. Sure, there’s a biggish, scary lunatic right–the Gary Bauerite creationist anti-gay regiments–but they’re not going to be running the country or amending the Constitution anytime soon. In fact, Pat Buchanan is right about the virtual indistinguishability of the Democrats and Republicans. I sympathize with both Buchanan and Warren Beatty viscerally, if not ideologically. I really think national politics kind of needs to be blown up and rebuilt. For the couple of weeks seven years ago before he revealed himself to be a horrible, crazy gnome, Ross Perot seemed to me like a great idea. And if next November the candidates are George Bush, Al Gore, and Jesse Ventura, it isn’t inconceivable that I would pull the lever for Ventura. And I certainly wouldn’t be very upset if Bush won, even if he can’t name a single book he’s ever read. (One final theory of mine: In presidential elections, the candidate who wins is the one who seems 1) most convincingly like a sportsman and 2) happiest. I think the only clear exception to the rule from FDR-Hoover through Clinton-Dole is 1968, but that one was very close, and it was 1968, when all bets were off.)

Okay, plenty of affluent white hacks were writing that there was nothing at stake in the 2000 elections. But combining a particularly dumb version of Gush-Borism with an assertion that racial discrimination by the NYPD was unpossible because I have this anecdote having been yelled at by an officer in Brooklyn Heights is special. And at least most Gush-Borites were not under the impression that there was no particular difference between the two in June 2002…

Exactly the kind of guy who Maureen Dowd would consider a Deep Thinker, in other words.

It’s Like 10,000 Misogynists When All You Need Is A Knife

[ 103 ] August 9, 2015 |

Erick Erickson taking it upon himself to drum Donald Trump out of Republican respectability because of his sexism is pretty rich:

It’s pretty clear that, when Erickson says he is uninviting Trump for sexism, this is a lie. It’s obvious from Erickson’s own statement that he himself loves sexism and thinks that hating and disparaging women is not only great fun, but that anyone who tells him not to hate and disparage women is themselves a “feminazi” or, worse, a fun-hating “male feminist.” (There’s a whole sub-genre of Erickson tweets disparaging men who advocate for gender equality; for him, hating women is not just defensible, but is in fact an essential component of masculinity.)

So what is Erickson’s actual motivation here? Maybe he believes that Trump is politically toxic and will hurt the GOP’s chances in the presidential election. Maybe it’s that Erickson, a Fox News contributor, is concerned that Trump turning against the network is bad for its control over the party’s agenda. Others who are more experienced at scrutinizing internal GOP politics are probably better suited to answering this than I am.

But the point is that we should not pretend, for even one second, that Erickson is any less the misogynist than Donald Trump.

Indeed, the fact that Erickson has some kind of kingmaker role really tells you much of what you need to know about the GOP circa 2015.


[ 70 ] August 8, 2015 |

It’s damned hard out there for a parodist.

Saturday Links

[ 137 ] August 8, 2015 |

The Fox News Debate

[ 201 ] August 7, 2015 |


There were aspects of the moderation in last night’s debate that were a substantial improvement on the MSM norm. Too often, networks like CNN express their terror at being accused of bias by focusing on horserace trivia that nobody but the journalists themselves care about. (You’ll notice that audience questions may or may not be well-informed, but they virtually never ask about that crap.) Last night the moderators generally focused on substantive policy questions, or personal questions that were clearly relevant (like Trump’s sexism.)

There was one major flaw, though. They took an obvious dive for several candidates, most egregiously for Rubio:

Rubio wasn’t so much thrown softballs as he was given softballs set up on a tee with 10 strikes and the defensive team told to leave the field. (When Kelly asked the last question, I expected her to ask Rubio his position on motherhood and apple pie too.)

The questioning, in other words, was much less fair than it might have seemed on the surface. Donald Trump, who isn’t going to win the nomination but has a toxic effect on the party as long as he’s in the race, was treated to a brutal inquisition. Rubio, who is arguably the most appealing general election candidate in the field but whose campaign is floundering, was thrown one life preserver after another. John Kasich and Jeb Bush were also treated more gently than the other candidates.

In other words, as Ed Kilgore noticed last night, the candidates who Republican elites would most like to see get traction were given much easier questions than the candidates Republican elites would prefer pack up and go away. Ultimately, Fox News gotta Fox News.

You’re Really Going to Miss Harry Reid

[ 56 ] August 7, 2015 |


Oh, great:

New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, the chamber’s third-ranking Democrat, plans to announce his opposition to the nuclear deal negotiated by the U.S., Iran, and five world powers tomorrow, three people familiar with his thinking tell The Huffington Post.

Schumer’s move will come a day after New Hampshire Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Schumer’s fellow New York senator, Kirstin Gillibrand, announced their support for the deal. That momentum is blunted by Schumer’s pending announcement. Backers of the deal had hoped that if Schumer decided to oppose the deal, he would hold off until the last minute.

Schumer’s support of a war footing over diplomacy puts him at odds with the Democratic caucus he intends to lead next term, though it is consistent with the position he has long taken.

What a disgrace. And it’s certainly not because his constituents require it.

Page 4 of 787« First...23456...102030...Last »