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Come Back HA!, All Is Forgiven

[ 122 ] May 8, 2016 |


Salon has dug up yet another random hack to get in on the “if you’re an affluent white guy, there isn’t a dime’s worth of difference between Clinton and Trump” racket:

Anecdote: There is a little lunch club in my village, guys who gather for soup and BLTs once a week just to get out of the house during our nine-month winters. It is a mixed bag. Yesterday a kindly, confirmed Republican of the old school brought me up short with this: “I’m sitting this one out. I’m not getting my hands dirty with either of them. I don’t want to have to say I helped make the mess.” This from an ex-State Department official with a long record of service.

I have long considered not voting a legitimate position—whether for the sake of clean hands or for any number of other reasons—but the stance now grows defensible among people who might have cursed it even an election or two back. Not voting is one form of political participation among countless others—an argument I have made scores of times. Look, we applaud people in other countries when they boycott elections that present no substantive choices. Low turnouts, depriving those contesting high office legitimacy, are viewed as honorable in such cases. They are political assertions, verdicts.

1)Clean hands is a particularly dumb argument for not voting; 2)the idea that Clinton v. Trump does not provide voters with a “substantive choice” is insane; 3)his sample of former Republican State Department officials is such a wonderfully self-refuting touch I’d assume it was parody at a different publication. Hopefully his next column will feature someone who used to be a liberal but was insulted at an apocryphal cocktail party and now favors ruling the Clean Air Act unconstitutional.

And now the punchline:

What about Téa Leone for president, on the other hand? Reagan cut the trail for entertainment stars and they named airports and parks after him when he was done. Téa has a lot of experience, given her show consults with State regularly. (Oh, yes. The long arm of official propaganda has many fingers.) And Téa, Madame Secretary, has far better hair than The Great Communicator’s. It deserves a casting credit all its own, in my view.

What a wit! I’m not sure if Salon doesn’t just doesn’t have editors anymore, or if an editor decided to let him keep misspelling Leoni’s name because there was certainly no chance anything else in the article was going to be funny.

So who is this guy?

Patrick Smith is Salon’s foreign affairs columnist.

Seems about right. And give him this: at least he’s not Paglia.


The Ballad of Babe Colon

[ 67 ] May 7, 2016 |

I am agnostic-to-positive about the DH (truth be told, I like the status quo in which each league has a different rule, in part because I like the non-uniformity. I still hate that the NHL felt compelled to change its division names from its robber baron ones to generic geographical ones.) But this is obviously a nearly unanswerable argument against the rule:

Will Cohen be the best MLB play-by-play guy after Scully retires? I certainly can’t name a better one.

Did Paterno Know In 1971?

[ 56 ] May 7, 2016 |


According to an alleged victim, yes:

There are now two allegations by men who say they were sexually abused by Jerry Sandusky, who also say they reported their abuse to the legendary coach in the 1970s.

One of those allegations was made public in a court order related to a lawsuit Penn State University filed against its former insurer over who should have to pay settlements to the more than 30 men who have come forward as victims of Sandusky. The victim was not identified, and the details come from a deposition that is sealed.

The other has spoken to CNN, in great detail, explaining how he was a troubled young kid in 1971 when he was raped in a Penn State bathroom by Jerry Sandusky. Then, he says, his complaint about it was ignored by Paterno.

One defense of Paterno from his apologists was that he didn’t even like Sandusky, which explained stuff like Paterno’s bailing quickly from his star DC’s retirement party. But it is becoming increasingly clear is that he didn’t like Sandusky in large measure because he knew he was a child molester, which didn’t stop him from continuing to employ him, even when Sandusky started a foundation for helping young boys. I’d have to say it’s not much of a defense.

Today’s Less-Than-Surprising Revelation of Bad Behavior

[ 83 ] May 6, 2016 |



Philadelphia County judge Gary Glazer’s opinion today in a lawsuit between Penn State and its insurance company revealed that witnesses testified Joe Paterno knew about Jerry Sandusky’s abuse of children as early as 1976. Other witnesses in the case report members of the coaching staff observed “inappropriate contact” in 1987 and sexual contact in 1988 while another 1988 incident alleged a child’s report of being molested was referred to Penn State’s athletic director. All involved Joe Paterno’s assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky.

Despite these incidents, Sandusky remained involved with the Penn State football program until a week before his arrest. He was convicted of 45 sex crime-related counts in 2012.

Throughout most of the Sandusky scandal, Joe Paterno claimed that he was unaware that his assistant coach was sexually abusing children; 2012’s Freeh Report showed that Paterno was aware of a 1998 incident and told Sandusky he could keep coaching. Today’s opinion from Judge Glazer—relying on sworn deposition from numerous witnesses—holds that Paterno knew about Sandusky’s behavior much earlier.


So did Joe Paterno know about Sandusky in 1976 and do nothing? Did an assistant coach know in 1987? Did another claim of abuse come to the AD in 1988? If so, how could Paterno not have heard about those two accusations?

What about the police investigation into Sandusky and a State College boy in 1998? No charges were filed, but the investigation was intense; Sandusky even admitted making a “mistake.” State College is a small town and Sandusky was a big figure. Paterno never heard? What about the email chain about the situation involving three Penn State administrators, including the athletic director, Tim Curley, who wrote he had spoken to “the coach” about the situation? If Paterno isn’t “the coach” then who else could have been the coach?

Essentially, there is this: How many allegations can there be that Paterno was told something, only for his supporters to keep claiming he didn’t know anything?

That Paterno has apologists outside of his family before this was pretty egregious. If they still are…I don’t even know what to say.

Donald Trump is a Terrible Presidential Candidate

[ 252 ] May 6, 2016 |


I am generally not inclined to be an optimist. But I think the 2016 presidential election is, in fact, a case where optimism is entirely justified:

The fundamental problem for the Republicans is that they’re already at a structural disadvantage in the Electoral College. The last six presidential elections have resulted in four very comfortable Democratic victories, a virtual tie resolved by the Supreme Court, and a narrow win by a wartime Republican incumbent in a decent economy—and George W. Bush was still less than 200,000 votes in Ohio away from a loss. The higher turnouts of presidential elections work against the GOP, and changing demographics are only making the problem worse. Barring economic catastrophe, a poor candidate for the Republicans is like handing an anvil to a mountain climber; they can’t really afford even a modest negative impact.


Let’s start with one state: Florida. It is enormously difficult to see any path for Republican victory that doesn’t include the Sunshine State. But it is very difficult to see Trump, who is likely to both mobilize a higher-than-usual minority turnout and fare even worse among such voters than Mitt Romney, winning a state that was roughly 40 percent African-American and Hispanic as of the 2010 Census—a percentage that is almost certainly higher in 2016. For what it’s worth, the early polling shows Clinton clobbering Trump in Florida.

Trump’s weakness with minority voters and educated professionals will also mean that he’s nearly drawing dead in increasingly blue Virginia, and he may well be an underdog in North Carolina as well. Losing all three states would essentially foreclose a Republican win.

Even assuming that Clinton merely holds Florida and Virginia, it’s not clear how Trump can win. He would have to have unusual success in the upper Midwest, but this is probably Republican wishful thinking.

If Trump loses Florida and Virginia, even winning Ohio, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania wouldn’t put him over the top. Adding Michigan would do it, but contrary to some assumptions, Michigan is not a swing state. Obama won it in 2012 by nearly 10 points against a quasi-native son Republican candidate, and that was in much worse economic circumstances and before Governor Rick Snyder drowned his party’s brand in the Flint River. Trump is not going to carry it. You would also have to be an extremely optimistic Republican to think Trump could capture the relatively diverse and urban state of Pennsylvania for the GOP for the first time since a much more moderate Republican carried it by less than two points in a landslide election in 1988.

After 2012, many Republicans were aware that the country’s demographics were tilting against them in presidential elections. Nominating Donald Trump perversely exacerbates these problems rather than alleviating them. This doesn’t guarantee a win for Hillary Clinton, but it does make it overwhelmingly likely.

There’s also the question of money and organization. Trump isn’t going into his own kick to fund a presidential general election campaign, and while I don’t think #NeverTrump is going to be much of a thing and that most Republicans will fall in line, if more GOP money men than usual decide not to give to Trump this matters more than usual.

Never say never again, but Clinton — despite not being a particularly good general election candidate — is a yoooooooge favorite.

The Long, Long, Long Road to Comprehensive Health Care Reform

[ 156 ] May 5, 2016 |


K-Drum’s history of health care reform attempts is essential, and his conclusion is entirely correct:

This is what politics looks like. Every single Democratic president in my lifetime has tried to pass health care reform. Some of them partially succeeded and some failed entirely, but all of them tried. The two main things standing in the way of getting more have been (a) Republicans and (b) liberals who refused to compromise on single-payer.

Contra Cooper, George Bush did not hand Obama a “great big majority.” Democrats in 2009 had a big majority in the House and a zero-vote majority in the Senate. That’s the thinnest possible majority you can have, and this is the reason Obamacare is so limited. To pass, it had to satisfy the 40th most conservative senator, so that’s what it did.

There’s been a long and ultimately sterile argument over whether Obama could have gotten more. I think the evidence suggests he got as much as he could, but the truth is that we’ll never know for sure. And it doesn’t change the bigger picture anyway: thousands of Democrats—politicians, activists, think tankers, and more—have literally spent decades working their fingers to the bone creating plan after plan; selling these plans to the public; and trying dozens of different ways to somehow push health care reform through Congress. For most of that time it’s been a hard, grinding, thankless task, and we still don’t have what we ultimately want. But in the end, all of these hacks and wonks have made a difference and helped tens of millions of people. They deserve our respect, not a bit of casually tossed off disparagement just because they didn’t propose single-payer health care as their #1 priority every single year of their lives.

Evidently, a lot of people wonder about why Obama/Reid/Pelosi weren’t able to get more. I’m increasingly amazed they were able to pass anything.

The Essence of Trump

[ 174 ] May 5, 2016 |


Is misogyny:

Donald Trump holds one core belief. It’s not limited government. He favored a state takeover of health care before he was against it. Nor is it economic populism. Despite many years of arguing the necessity of taxing the rich, he now wants to slice their rates to bits. Trump has claimed his nonlinear approach to policy is a virtue. Closing deals is what matters in the end, he says, not unbleached allegiance to conviction. But there’s one ideology that he does hold with sincerity and practices with unwavering fervor: misogyny.

We have been collectively blithe about this fact. On its face, Donald Trump’s hateful musings about women and his boastful claims of sexual dominance should be reason alone to drive him from polite society and certainly to blockade him from the West Wing. Yet somehow his misogyny has instead propelled his campaign to the brink of the Republican nomination. Each demonstration of his caveman views—about Megyn Kelly’s menstruation, about Carly Fiorina’s face, about the size of his member—produces a show of mock-horror before Trump resumes his march to the nomination. It fits a familiar pattern. Trump rose to fame on the basis of our prurient interest in his caddishness and amusement at his vulgar provocations.

As I’ve said, there are a lot of things not to like about Hillary Clinton as a candidate, but she’s made sexism a lot less egregious than Trump’s a political liability before.

Two Draft Thoughts

[ 26 ] May 5, 2016 |


A couple of interesting points in Barnwell’s draft writeup. First, on why organizations tend to discount the value of future draft picks:

That’s not an accurate measure. A second-round pick is a second-round pick. Draft picks in the future are treated as though they’re less valuable because the general manager trading the picks might not be around to actually use them, which represents part of the moral hazard incumbent with turning over your personnel department to employees who typically last a few years on the job. Future picks then realistically mean different things to different organizations. Les Snead and Jeff Fisher are probably going to get fired unless the Rams make the playoffs in 2016, which no doubt made it easier for them to trade future picks to move up to the first overall slot. Bill Belichick and Ozzie Newsome aren’t going anywhere unless they want to move on, which is why they can trade for future picks with impunity.

This makes sense. Undervaluing future picks is irrational from an organizational standpoint but not necessarily from the standpoint of an individual GM. Which isn’t to deny people like Belichick and Newsome and Thompson credit — their power gives them a greater ability to play the percentages, but you still have to know what the right move is. The Giants are a stable organization and Jerry Resse won a Super Bowl in his first year — obviously buying him some job security — and yet he’s literally never traded down in the draft. And, conversely, DePodesta/Jackson/Brown can’t be that confident that the Browns won’t decide next year that it’s time for their near-annual managerial and coaching change (Mike Holmgren and Rob Chudzinski: tanned, rested, and ready to trade two first round picks for Melvin Gordon!), and yet they had a pretty much perfect draft day.

Needless to say, I endorse this point about the Solemn Integritude of the teams that passed on Larmey Tunsil because DRUGS:

Tennessee’s move up to grab Jack Conklin is colored by the bizarre fall of Laremy Tunsil, whose social media accounts appeared to be hacked minutes before the draft started. The Tunsil story is still developing as I write this, and it’s entirely possible that teams like the Titans might have preferred Conklin to the Ole Miss product, but the idea that Tunsil was suddenly undraftable because of the suggestion that he smoked marijuana at one point before being drafted is bizarre. The Ravens, who reportedly took Tunsil off their board after the tweet, famously kept Ray Rice on their roster before video of his brutal assault on his fiancée leaked. The Bears, who badly need a left tackle, passed on Tunsil just one year after they signed troubled defensive end Ray McDonald and had owner George McCaskey try to pass off McDonald as a changed man. As Lions general manager Bob Quinn noted, “If we took players off the board because they smoked pot in college or marijuana, like half the board would be gone.” NFL teams chose a bizarre time to get sanctimonious or worried about PR hits.

At least in this case, while it cost Tunsil some money the primary victims of this instance of drug war moralism were the moralists themselves.

There Is No Perfect Way to Design Institutions

[ 102 ] May 4, 2016 |
Republican vice presidential candidate Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin winks as she speaks during her vice presidential debate against Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., Thursday, Oct. 2, 2008.  (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Republican vice presidential candidate Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin winks as she speaks during her vice presidential debate against Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., Thursday, Oct. 2, 2008. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

This is a very important point:

Masket’s case, in other words, is that our institutions should have protected us from this undesirable outcome. Brendan Nyhan also raised this point a while back in a series of tweets.

But I think it’s time to interrogate whether this is really true. Can we really design institutions that protect us from anti-democratic ideas?


One of the reasons advocates for human rights and other freedoms tend to also favor open political processes is that we assume good institutions will choose leaders who will protect freedom and justice. Open elections are certainly better in this regard. But they’re not a guarantee that parties and candidates who rely on bigoted appeals or talk about curtailing freedoms won’t win sometimes.

This is especially important when we talk about American institutions in historical context. I’ve often criticized the anti-partyism and incomplete notions of democracy that have shaped 20th-century party reform in the US. The old convention system, with its brokers and geographic organization, was more pluralistic — it was easier, under the pre-reform convention system, to ensure that a party nominee was acceptable to most factions within a party. As we are now learning, the current primary system allows a candidate to be nominated with a plurality of voters if no strong opponent emerges.

But here’s the thing: While these old institutions were far better at avoiding a conundrum in which a party nominates a candidate that many of its members don’t really like, they were hardly a bulwark against failures of substantive democracy. Anyone with even a passing familiarity with American history can point to at least a few instances of racism, sexism, and xenophobia.

The pluralistic structure of old-school nominations — especially in the Democratic side, where a rule stipulating that nominees had to win two-thirds of delegates held up for 100 years — protected the veto power of the states that became the Confederacy and the Jim Crow South. It wasn’t until after the elimination of the two-thirds rule that the Democratic Party began to take up the issue of civil rights.

In the wake of Trump winning people (especially dismayed Republicans) will tempted to romanticize a period in which party nominations were controlled by party elites. Some already have. But this would be misguided. Proverbial smoke-filled rooms of party elites had a distinctly flawed track record in choosing nominees, both substantively and in terms of reading the electorate. John W. Davis, one of the candidates produced by the rules Julia mentions, was not only substantively illiberal but earned a robust 29% of the popular vote. And unlike certain malfunctioned attempts by Democratic bosses to choose a nominee that I could name, at least nominating Davis didn’t literally lead to civil war. In the last decade, a non-democratic nomination process gave us “Sarah Palin, potential president should something happen to John McCain” with the enthusiastic support of party elites. I’m not sure what the basis for a high level of faith in these elites would be.

Seeing too much democracy as the problem also ignores the extent to which Republican elites made their own bed. As we’ve already discussed, Republican elites have mobilized a variety of racial and cultural resentments to generate support for candidates advancing an agenda whose key priorities notably lack support not only among the public at large but even among Republican voters. This just isn’t a recipe for a stable coalition in the long term.

In this case, the general election is likely to provide a check on the Republican primary electorate. And if it doesn’t — democracy is never a guarantee that the voters will get it right according anyone’s judgement. There’s no institutional framework that can guarantee substantively good results, not least because politics largely involves disputes over what substantively good results are.

The Bottom Line on The Donald and His Party

[ 185 ] May 4, 2016 |


It didn’t come out of nowhere, no matter what conservative pundits are going to claim as they reconcile themselves with their party’s nominee:

The paranoid mendacity of Joe McCarthy, the racial pandering of Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon, and George Bush, the jingoism and anti-intellectualism of Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, and Sarah Palin — all these forces have embodied the essence of American conservative politics as it is actually practiced (rather than as conservative intellectuals like to imagine it). Trump has finally turned that which was always there against itself.

And the paradox is that he has managed to pull off the trick of downplaying or abandoning unpopular orthodox Republican ideas while being highly unpopular with the general electorate:

It is easy to find examples of parties where ideologically orthodox members felt sold out by moderate leaders who softened party platforms. Think of Tony Blair in the UK or Dwight Eisenhower in the US.

But at least those moderate leaders tend to be broadly popular with the public and to win elections. That allows those ideologically orthodox party members to get half a loaf — in the form of implementation of a watered-down version of a party platform.

Trump has somehow found a way to throw away the ideologically extreme ideas that orthodox conservatives cared about while actually making the party less popular. His nomination is a recipe for conservatives to sell out and lose anyway.

And don’t kid yourself: Trump is a terrible general election candidate. I’m not basing that on the head-to-head polls, which show Clinton thumping Trump; they generally aren’t very predictive this far out, and while they might mean more than usual this year because of how well-known both candidates have been for so long, there’s no way of knowing that ex ante. Rather, it’s that 1)the Democrats have a structural advantage in the electoral college all things being equal; 2)his unfavorable ratings are insanely high, putting him in a major hole and negating Hillary Clinton’s own high unfavorables, which should have been a major opportunity for the GOP; 3)Trump is almost certain to mobilize a high minority turnout; and 4)giving sexist boors enough rope is one thing that Clinton does really well. I would never say that it’s impossible for a major party candidate to win an election under the current partisan configuration, but Clinton is a yooooooooge favorite.

Why #NeverTrump Was Never Going to Work

[ 203 ] May 3, 2016 |

The party is coalescing around the nominee:


International Man of Principle Bill Kristol is getting the message:

“I mean, I guess never say never. On the one hand, I’ll say #NeverTrump, and on the other hand, I’ll say never say never.”

Watching the #NeverTrump crowd move into the Trump camp as his nomination becomes ever less evitable is going to be highly entertaining.

…when he’s right, he’s right:

Today in the War on Culture

[ 62 ] May 3, 2016 |


Let’s just say that Edroso’s roundup of conservative reactions to Prince 1)starts with Steve Sailer and 2)the examples arguably get worse. And — hey, it’s about Prince, there has to be some choice material left on the cutting room floor — he didn’t even get to Maggie Gallagher’s discussion of Prince’s “secret Christianity.” It’s true — if he wasn’t a member of America’s most oppressed minority, he might have, say, written a song about his faith called “The Cross” and put it on an immensely influential million-selling record. Or he could have put a religious song called “God” on the b-side of one of his most popular singles. But, in America, Christianity is forced into the closet by big POLITICALLY CORRECT.

As an antidote, I’ve very much been enjoying Pitchfork’s retrospective reviews. Maura Johnston on 1999 and Nelson George on Sign O’ The Times are particularly recommended.

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