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Republicans v. Science

[ 39 ] January 14, 2015 |

This is the kind of trolling I can strongly approve of.

Arbitrary Detention Cannot Fail, It Can Only Be Failed

[ 38 ] January 14, 2015 |

Shorter John McCain, Richard Burr, Lindsey Graham, and Kelly Ayotte: “We can’t possibly release prisoners from Gitmo now. How else could the terrorist attacks in France have not been prevented?”

Jen Hearts Mittens Jeb

[ 75 ] January 14, 2015 |

You heard about how the guy with the Romney face tattoo is no longer backing Romney? That’s nothing!

It’s to a post by WaPo’s Republican blogger Jennifer Rubin, that thoroughly mocks and trashes the idea of Mitt ‘16.

I’m not sure which analogy most aptly describes how shocking this is. Peter’s three-fold denial of Christ? The time Colonel Sanders went off on the quality of KFC’s food? Eldridge Cleaver’s conversion to born-again Christianity? Rubin’s commentary on the 2012 campaign—both the primary and general election phases—was such an endless paen to Mitt Romney that it became a significant sub-topic of campaign journalism (check out this massive Conor Friedersdorf description of her Mitt-o-rific writing). Now her dismissal of Romney ‘16 is as cold and nasty as a Bain firing notice. And it’s not really mitigated by her pretence that Mitt’s interest in running is a fabrication of his former campaign consultants.

In addition to the shift in hack allegiances, I enjoyed this from another Rubin anti-Romney post:

And finally, Romney, it is reported, is talking about adhering to the same anti-immigration-reform, self-deportation stance that led him to win only 27 percent of the Hispanic vote. This is back to the future for the GOP, reverting to a message directed at an electorate (old, white, male) that is shrinking. If he also is going to run against gay marriage, he can forget the millennial vote as well. Romney represents precisely the model that has led the GOP to defeat.

So, what makes Romney unelectable in 2016 are…some of the positions that will be necessary for any candidate to be minimally acceptable to the Republican primary electorate? I can’t wait for the series of blog posts in which Rubin argues in which the Republican candidates opposition to same-sex marriage is a brilliant ploy to stand up against the urban hipster elite.

Sending Abortion Back to the States

[ 17 ] January 13, 2015 |

Nobody could have etc.:

The House plans to vote on legislation banning abortions after 20 weeks on the same day as the annual March for Life next Thursday.

Thousands of anti-abortion demonstrators descend on Washington every year on Jan. 22, which is the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision.

Legislation introduced by Reps. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), titled the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Supporters of the bill maintain that fetuses can feel pain by the approximate halfway stage of a pregnancy.

I’m sure all of the principled Republican federalists who believe that abortion is a matter reserved to the states will vote this legislation down!

Another Problem With Halbig Trooferism

[ 51 ] January 13, 2015 |

Ian Milhiser explains why Scott Walker’s acknowledgement that there’s no substantive difference between a state and federal exchange established by the ACA should be considered to be far more important than those of President, Speaker of the House, Senate Majority Leader, Secretary of State, Chief Justice of the United States, and longtime don of the Gambino crime family Jonathan Gruber:

Normally, courts would treat both Walker and Gruber’s statements even more dismissively because neither man was in the legislature during Obamacare’s enactment. Walker’s statement, however, falls into an exception to this rule that makes it highly relevant to the outcome of King. To understand why, it’s important to understand fully how the King plaintiffs characterize the Affordable Care Act.

The essence of the King plaintiffs’ reading of the law is that Congress viewed the question of whether state or federal bureaucrats operate each exchange as a matter of such overarching importance that they were willing to deny health care to millions of people — in order to ensure that the people running the exchanges all drew a state paycheck. The plaintiffs argue that the tax credits are part of “a variety of ‘carrots’ and ‘sticks’ to induce states to establish Exchanges voluntarily.” In essence, they claim, Congress used the threat that a state’s citizens could lose access to billions of dollars worth of subsidies in order to coerce the states into setting up their own exchange.

The Constitution places limits on states’ power to do this sort of thing, however. When the federal government conditions payment of federal money upon states taking a particular action, those conditions are unconstitutional “if a State is unaware of the conditions or is unable to ascertain what is expected of it.” Moreover, the question or whether a state is able to ascertain what strings come attached to the funds is evaluated “from the perspective of a state official who is engaged in the process of deciding whether the State should accept . . . the obligations that go with those funds.”

This is why Walker’s views hold special significance. Walker, in his own words, “spent nearly two years” studying the differences between state and federal exchanges, and he learned that “there’s no real substantive difference between a federal exchange [and] a state exchange.” Indeed, as Cannon points out, Walker set up an entire state program premised on the idea that federally-run exchanges are permitted to provide tax credits just like state-run exchanges. Walker’s views, in other words, demonstrate that “a state official who is engaged in the process of deciding whether” Wisconsin should set up its own exchange was unable to ascertain the alleged consequences of this decision. Thus, even if the King plaintiffs are correct that Obamacare conditions tax credits on a state setting up its own exchange, that condition is unconstitutional.

Walker, it should be noted, is hardly alone among Republican governors in his belief that “there’s no real substantive difference between a federal exchange [and] a state exchange.” Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman (R) said that “[o]n the key issues, there is no real operational difference between a federal exchange and a state exchange.” Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) explained that his state would opt for a federally-run exchange because there was no evidence of any “clear benefits of a state run exchange to our citizens.” A Supreme Court brief filed by the governors or attorneys general of 24 states explained that the Obamacare “can only operate in the manner that Congress intended” if the tax credits are “intact.”

The law’s staunchest opponents in the states, in other words, including two dozen officials who were actively trying to destroy the Affordable Care Act, were “unable to ascertain” that they could thwart one of the law’s central provisions if they refused to set up a state-run exchange. The King plaintiffs’ reading of the law is unconstitutional.

If only this case were being heard by a legal tribunal, or if any American conservative actually cared about federalism…

Tuesday Links

[ 204 ] January 13, 2015 |

Since some of my colleagues may not be in any condition to blog today, some reading:


There Is A Football Game Tonight In Which Some of my Co-Bloggers Might Take a Heightened Interest

[ 79 ] January 12, 2015 |

However the game tonight turns out — useful breakdown here — it must be acknowledged that the Oregon Duck has come a long way in recent decades.

Why, Oh Why, Did Barack Obama Turn Mitch McConnell Into A Reflexive Partisan?

[ 131 ] January 12, 2015 |

Virtually every word of Christopher Caldwell’s evaluation of Obama’s presidency is an embarrassment. Let’s start here:

Health-care reform and gay marriage are often spoken of as the core of Obama’s legacy. That is a mistake. Policies are not always legacies, even if they endure, and there is reason to believe these will not. The more people learn about Obamacare, the less they like it — its popularity is still falling, to a record low of 37 percent in November. Thirty states have voted to ban gay marriage, and almost everywhere it survives by judicial diktat.

You have to love the bait-and-switch within the same paragraph. Whether the ACA will be enduring is based solely on public opinion surveys, although the GOP isn’t in a position to repeal it and the primary threat to it is “judicial diktat” (although he would never call judicial decisions he likes that.) On the other hand, public opinion strongly trending in favor of same-sex marriage is ignored because in some states same-sex marriage is recognized because of judicial opinions. If Caldwell thinks that same-sex marriage won’t be enduring because the courts took the initiative, all I can say is, care to make it interesting?

It gets worse than this:

These are, however, typical Obama achievements. They are triumphs of tactics, not consensus-building. Obamacare involved quid pro quos (the “Cornhusker Kickback,” the “Louisiana Purchase,” etc.) that passed into Capitol Hill lore, accounting and parliamentary tricks to render the bill unfilibusterable, and a pure party-line vote in the Senate. You can call it normal politics, but Medicare did not pass that way. Gay marriage has meant Cultural Revolution–style bullying of dissenters (notoriously, Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty and the Mozilla founder Brendan Eich). You can call this normal politics, too, but the 1964 Civil Rights Act did not pass that way.

Let’s leave aside the outright factual errors (the “Cornhusker Kickback” was not part of the final ACA, what the hell did Obama have to do with Brandon Eich losing his job and what does it have to do with Maoism?) The argument is still a logical and historical disaster. First of all, Caldwell apparently doesn’t know anything about the passage of the Civil Rights Act or Medicare, both of which involved legislative deals. The EEOC was gutted to get Republican support for the Civil Rights Act; congressional leaders abandoned price controls in Medicare to placate the doctor’s lobby. The idea that there’s something new in making deals with legislators is farcical, and giving some additional Medicaid funds to Louisiana is one of the more trivial examples of the genre.

It is true that major reform legislation passing on a straight party-line vote is relatively unusual. But the obvious problem is blaming Barack Obama for the new conditions of American politics. Let’s go back to the Civil Rights Act. From Julian Zelizer’s superb new book The Fierce Urgency of Now, on getting Senate minority leader Everett Dirksen’s support for cloture on the Civil Rights Act:

Dirksen firmly believed that the job as a legislator was to make the compromises necessary to pass bills. Like so many others in this period of insider politics…Johnson and Dirksen knew each other well, liked each other, and believed in working together…

Johnson was hoping to take advantage of Dirksen’s concern for his legacy. Like Johnson, Dirksen measured his worth by the legislation he was able to move through Congress. (116-7)

So, yes, the ACA was passed through different means than the CRA or Medicare. But the key variable was Congress, not the White House. Johnson was dealing with a Republican leadership that was supportive of some parts of Johnson’s agenda ex ante and, more importantly, believed that it was the job of legislators to pass legislation. The current Republican leadership explicitly believes its responsibility is to prevent legislation supported by a Democratic president from passing, and failing that its job is to not give it any patina of bipartisan legitimacy. The only way Obama could have avoided unified Republican opposition is just to not support any significant legislative initiatives. I’m sure this is Caldwell’s preferred outcome — he’s arguing in transparent bad faith here — but it’s absurd to think that historians will be incompetent enough to think that Obama is to blame for Mitch McConnel’s legislative strategies.

Of course, Caldwell uses similar arguments to call Obama racially divisive:

Mitt Romney won three of five white votes in 2012, and exit polls from 2014 show this to be a floor rather than a ceiling. Obama may be remembered the way Republican California governor Pete Wilson was after he backed the anti-immigration Proposition 187 in 1994—as one who benefited personally from ethnic polarization but cost his party and his country dearly by it.

Sure, Romney may have been beaten convincingly by Obama, but Romney won among real voters, and by definition the candidate that was supported by a more heterogeneous coalition is more racially divisive. (Barack Obama getting 2 out of 5 white votes — divisive! Mitt Romney getting fewer than one in ten African-American votes — inclusive!) I’m sure Caldwell’s views will heavily influence historians — if the Dunning School comes back. Otherwise, while it’s of course unclear how historians will evaluate Obama, the evaluation won’t be this.

Worst. Tu. Quoque. Ever.

[ 139 ] January 12, 2015 |

Shorter Verbatim Dr. Helen: “As if NYC doesn’t have enough to worry about, a campaign is underway to curb manspreading [assholes who sit in a way that occupies multiple seats on the subway — ed. ]…So, if it’s okay to subway shame men, is it okay to slut-shame women? Slut-shaming is “defined by many as a process in which women are attacked for their transgression of accepted codes of sexual conduct.” So now men are attacked. Why is one form of sexism okay and the other not?”

So, let’s see. We have an assertion that men have the right to other people’s public space. We then have a non-sequitur expressing misogynist resentment. Yup, it’s hard to get much more conservertarian than that!

Where’s Your Head Linesman Now?

[ 199 ] January 11, 2015 |


Our brief national nightmare is over.

About the call that Cowboys fans will be complaining about before people laugh at them again, correct me if I’m wrong but I think it was the correct application of a stupid rule — like the Brady tuck call — as opposed to a bad call, like (to pick an entirely random example) picking up a clearly correct DPI flag after the penalty had been announced and marked off.

To turn to the next game, helluva job by the Colts front office. Trading a first-round pick for a replacement-level running back seemed like a great idea at the time — what went wrong?

NFL Divisional Round Picks/Open Thread

[ 223 ] January 10, 2015 |

What can I say — when you’re right 25% of the time, you’re wrong 75% of the time! (Even my win-but-not-cover game was tainted by being adjudicated by the Halbig panel.)

Ravens (+7) over PATRIOTS I’m sure many of you have seen Chopped, the Food Network show premised on the idea that the skill of a chef can be tested by seeing how they work with low quality or mismatched ingredients? It’s a bad theory of cooking skill but an entertaining show. Anyway, the Personnel Belichick seems to have been following this formula for years, challenging Coach Belichick to see how little talent he can have on defense and still win 11 games. The Chopped era of the Patriots is over; finally given some players in the secondary, their defense went from being below- to above- average. They’ve only moved from 5th to 4th in total DVOA from last year, but in terms of playoff prospects I like them more than that level of improvement reflects. But although the perception is that they limped into the playoffs, the Ravens are right behind them, a better team than they get credit for. (The Patriots were the big loser of the Steelers/Ravens game, as I think they would have destroyed Indianapolis.) As Barnwell says, you can say this about a lot of games, but the ability of the Ravens to get a pass rush without blitzing a lot will be crucial; they have the personnel to be capable of it but NE’s offensive line has looked a lot better. If the Patriots had a true #1 wideout who could reliable get down the field against the shaky Ravens secondary I’d pick them even with the spread, but without that I’m less confident. I hate dealing with the Ravens because of Flacco’s low floor and high ceiling, but they certainly have a reasonable chance to win the game, and with that it seems that the chances of a Ravens win + the chances of the Ravens losing by 7 or less are >50%.

SEAHAWKS (-11 1/2) over Panthers It’s not exactly news that not only the defending champions but still the best team in football, with a larger-than-normal home field advantage, going up against a significantly below-average team, is a huge mismatch. This doesn’t make the game easy to pick against the spread, of course; Seattle has a very good not necessarily explosive offense, and with Carolina’s only chance being getting a lot of takeaways they’re likely to have a conservative game plan; I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Panthers get a cover even if the game isn’t really competitive. But still…last week they were trailing at the half against a team that could have significantly improved its QB situation by signing Tim Tebow. It seems more likely that this gets really ugly for Carolina.

PACKERS (-5 1/2) over Cowboys I dithered a lot about this one, given Rodgers’s injury. But, still, assuming he’s mostly functional, the case for the Packers is clear — they’re a similar kind of team to the Cowboys but better. Admittedly, the difference in offences is less than you’d think — Romo actually had a better QBR than Rodgers this year and was #2 behind the likely MVP in DVOA (something apologists for Caldwell’s #punttowin last week fail to adequately take into account.) You can’t just look at this year’s stats when evaluating talent, so you’d have to give Rodgers a bigger edge than that, but it’s not close. Of bigger concern is the Cowboy defense, which I suspect is worse than even their below-average DVOA suggests. If Rodgers can remain upright, I can’t pick against Green Bay here.

BRONCOS (-7) over Colts The Colts have a better chance of winning than the Panthers, but IMHO not by an enormous amount; the market seems to think that the Colts are of similar quality to the Ravens, but I think the market is wrong. The only thing the Colts do better than the Broncos is kick field goals, and the very well-balanced Broncos should be able to exploit Indy’s many holes. Despite some concerns about Manning late in the season, he’s still a significantly better QB than Luck, and while the Broncos had the best defense in the conference with the arguable exception of Buffalo, the Colts…don’t. If I had to bet real money on any of these four games, I think I’d put it on Denver.

Romney/Tebow ’16!

[ 38 ] January 9, 2015 |

Tanned, rested and ready:

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney , the Republican presidential nominee in 2012, told a meeting of donors Friday that he is considering another White House bid in 2016, people present said.

The possibility of a third Romney bid could upend the emerging GOP field, coming as top Republican donors are starting to rally behind former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

Mr. Romney made the remarks during a session Friday afternoon with a few dozen top GOP donors in midtown Manhattan, according to people present.


His potential candidacy has been a topic of frequent speculation among donors and operatives as the field takes shape. Many major GOP donors have been waiting to see what Mr. Romney will do before committing to other Republicans who are taking more aggressive steps to launch White House candidacies.

Wait, why would donors want Romney to run again? Are they that dumb?

During a meeting in the New York offices of Woody Johnson, the owner of the New York Jets, Romney told a group of high-level financial executives and former campaign contributors that he was troubled by the current state of foreign affairs and long-term issues with the economy.


Hey, John Idzik must be better at fundraising that evaluating NFL talent, and I hear he has some free time available! This could be a real juggernaut.

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