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Super Bowl Open Thread

[ 284 ] February 5, 2017 |

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Before we get to the game itself, a couple notes. First of all, Jed York everyone:

We just found out; the 49ers have picked former safety John Lynch as their new GM, and let’s just politely say that, until we learn more, he doesn’t quite fall in the “very plausible” side of the spectrum.

Yes, this got weird–through all the 49ers’ PR announcements about interviews, re-interviews and those who no longer would get interviewed… and through all the guys who said no thanks.

We found out that all the normal candidates either wanted no part of this search or didn’t fit with Shanahan or somehow didn’t meet York and Marathe’s standards, whatever they might be.

So the 49ers shocked the NFL world and pulled off one of their most surprising hires in years–they’ve reportedly given Lynch a six-year (!) contract despite Lynch having zero personnel or NFL management experience… after Lynch himself reportedly called up Shanahan a few weeks ago to volunteer for the job.

Comparisons to the Trump cabinet are obvious, although to be Scrupulously Fair to Jed he apparently did try to get multiple people actually qualified for the job to take it before offering it to Lynch. Well, as any Lions fan can tell you when you hire a broadcaster with no personnel experience as your GM, nothing can possibly go wrong. As for the head coach, I’m disappointed they didn’t hire Cable for self-interested reasons, but I do like the fact that Shanahan will give us a controlled experiment. Some of the people arguing that Matt Ryan wasn’t the MVP although he was very obviously the MVP argued that Ryan benefited enormously from the play-calling wizardry you may remember from such unstoppable juggernauts as the 2014 Cleveland Browns and 2013 Washington Redskins. Myself, I’m sure Shanahan is a perfectly cromulent playcaller, and I’m also sure plenty of guys would look good calling plays for Matt Ryan and a pile of outstanding talent. He’s about to move to the opposite end of the talent spectrum, and good luck with that. Although, hey, Matt Schaub, tanned, rested, and just threw another pick-six!
On this year’s Hall of Fame inductees — well, Tomlinson is a solid selection, Taylor postmature, and Easley very postmature. Warner is an interesting case, but 3 genuinely great years and several more good ones at the highest impact position for a guy who started at 28 is a solid if not overwhelming cv. The writers apparently see Davis as the RB equivalent of Warner, but I don’t buy it: 71 starts of above-average but only great in 2001 play at a low-impact position is really not Canton caliber, plus way too many replacement-level running backs can get 4.5 yards a carry in Shanahan’s scheme (while conversely we certainly know that it wasn’t Martz or Everybody Beats the Whis that explain Warner’s success.) Nothing against Davis and he was a good player, but I just don’t see the Hall of Fame case given the shortness of his career. And, to state the obvious, excluding the overwhelmingly qualified Owens because writers don’t like him is grossly unprofessional behavior.

Team Trump (-3) over Falcons I think the Falcons offense is absolutely for real, and they’re a very live dog. The Pats defense is subject to some dispute. Perpetually aggrieved Pats fans were offended that I cited their mediocre DVOA (16th) rather than their better weighted DVOA (11th). My obvious response is that prior to that last week the weighted rating came from good performances against Brock Osweiler, Matt Moore, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Trevor Siemian, Jared Goff, and Colin Kaepernick, plus OK performances against Flacco and Fitzpatrick. I mean…congratulations, but I don’t see this as much evidence that the defense is better than OK. The performance against the Steelers is more impressive, despite the injury to Bell. But, still, I think Atlanta will be able to move the ball on them fairly effectively. The problem for Atlanta is that while Atlanta’s defense is also improving that improvement was from “bad” to “below average,” and it’s very hard to see Brady not carving it up. And while I like Quinn and I’m glad to be wrong when I wrote him of as a head coach prematurely, it’s hard to bet on a second-year head coach against Belichick for all the marbles. Should be a fun game, but I unlike their close personal friend I don’t think New England will need the Electoral College or the FBI to pull of a win.

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Trump Lied, People May Die

[ 73 ] February 5, 2017 |

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More of this, please:

The scene inside and outside Rep. Tom McClintock’s town hall meeting Saturday morning was at times raucous, and the California congressman ultimately was escorted out by police.

KQED’s Katie Orr reported that the 200 seats for the town hall set up by the Republican in Roseville, Calif. were filled, and hundreds more people remained outside.

McClintock is one of many members of Congress who have been encountering protests at their district offices or town hall meetings since President Trump took office just over two weeks ago. Most protesters have been asking members to fight the possible repeal of the Affordable Care Act, Trump’s cabinet nominees and Trump’s temporary entry ban on immigrants from certain countries and all refugees.

The pro-ACA message is powerful:

And we’re seeing plenty more pushback.

Some Republicans definitely seem to be getting cold feet. Since “repair” is impossible given Republican premises, there’s still a very real risk that they blow everything up. But it’s a winnable fight and it’s one of the most important ones.

Now Let Them Enforce It

[ 132 ] February 4, 2017 |

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President Manchild gave a typically measured response to Judge Robart’s order:

President Trump on Saturday morning ripped into a federal judge’s decision to temporarily block enforcement of his controversial travel ban.

“When a country is no longer able to say who can, and who cannot , come in & out, especially for reasons of safety &.security — big trouble!” Trump posted on Twitter.

He also appeared to question the legitimacy of the federal judge who issued the ruling.

“The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!” Trump tweeted.

If this still feels surreal, it should, and if it feels frightening and dangerous, well that too. One important thing, though — the order is apparently being complied with:

On Saturday, the State Department reversed its revocation of up to 60,000 visas from people who come from seven Muslim-majority countries, the Associated Press reported. Homeland Security also said it would not direct airlines to keep visa-holders from boarding planes to the U.S. and that it would suspend “any and all actions” related to the executive order.

I think I’ll do a separate post on Jackson and Cherokee removal, but the tl; dr is that while we think of it as John Marshall v. Andrew Jackson, it was really John Marhsall v. the Jackson administration, Congress, and the state of Georgia. (Indeed, since Georgia would use anything from pardons to speedy executions to render legal appeals moot, there were ultimately never any orders for Jackson to refuse to enforce.) Marshall, a holdover from a coalition that had been effectively dead for two decades, was in a hopeless position because his position lacked support among federal and state political elites in general.

This situation is different — there is not that kind of broad-based elite consensus in favor of Trump’s Muslim ban. Congress is likely to be useless as a short-term check on Trump, but nor is it likely to go to the mat to defend Trump here (indeed, I’m sure some Republican members of Congress see Trump’s order as bad for business and would be OK with the courts stopping it.) The federal judiciary is a lot more powerful than it was in 1832, and it will have support from many state governments. Some enforcement officials have slow-walked or defied initial court orders, but it’s far from clear how much of this would stand up to a couple prominent contempt citations.

How this will play out, then, depends on some measure on Trump’s popularity. Judges and other public officials are more likely to resist Trump’s arbitrary actions if he continues to be remarkably unpopular for a president in what in quainter times was known as the honeymoon period. So the more Trump’s popularity can be driven down, the better. And Trump’s threats to judicial independence are exactly the kind of thing that might cause the extremely sporadic conscience of John Roberts to awaken.

You Are the Sucker

[ 274 ] February 4, 2017 |

Hmm, I dunno, there were a lot of bad takes:

I can think of some other ba…

OK, it was up there. I’m sure Julian Assange’s thoughts on this subject will be equally profound.

But Now That They Have Poland They’ll Back Off

[ 39 ] February 3, 2017 |

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CNN did everything it could do to Both Sides Do It its election coverage. It employed some of the most ridiculous pro-Trump hacks in the known universe, up to and including his former campaign manager. It was an EMAILS! factory for most of the campaign, and in particular humped the Comey letter with a relentless fervor Dean Baquet himself probably found a little excessive. Its reward?

The White House has stopped sending officials to appear on CNN, a network that President Donald Trump has repeatedly bashed as “fake news,” Politico reported Tuesday evening.

“We’re sending surrogates to places where we think it makes sense to promote our agenda,” an unnamed White House official told Politico.

Politico noted that the last time a representative for Trump appeared on a CNN show was Jan. 8, before the inauguration.

Don’t worry, keep up the fake balance and he’s bound to mature and start treating you right.

More Continuity From the Second of America’s Two Interchangeable Neoliberal Parties

[ 219 ] February 3, 2017 |

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Thankfully, the candidate of Goldman Sachs lost:

U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday will fire the opening salvo in his campaign to scale back major regulations that resulted from the financial crisis, directing a review of the Dodd-Frank Act and putting the brakes on a retirement advice rule.

The executive order Trump will sign on the 2010 Dodd-Frank law on Wall Street reform will be a first step towards rolling back the regulations that Trump sees as hurting the economy, but without rewriting the legislation, which can be done only through Congress. One prominent measure is the “Volcker rule” that greatly restricts how banks can make bets with their own money.

Expectations of simpler bank regulations helped push up stocks on Wall Street in early trading.

[…]

On Friday, the Republican-led Congress killed a Dodd-Frank regulation regarding payments that big energy companies make to foreign governments. Also, the House Financial Services Committee is working on a complete Dodd-Frank revamp.

[…]

The Labor Department’s retirement advice rule, set to take effect in April, is not part of the Dodd-Frank law, but has long been a thorn in the side of the financial services sector.

Issued by the Obama administration in 2016, the rule requires brokers to act as “fiduciaries,” or in their clients’ best interests, when they are advising them about their individual retirement accounts and 401K plans.

That is a departure from the current legal standard, which requires brokers only to recommend investments “suitable” to their clients.

Complying could cost firms as much as $31 billion over the next decade, according to Labor Department estimates.

Trump plans on Friday to issue a memo asking the Labor Department to determine whether the rule should be revised or be scrapped altogether, according to the White House.

“We think that they have exceeded their authority with this rule and we think this is something that is completely overreaching,” the official said.

Opponents of the rule argued it would raise costs and make small accounts unprofitable.

It’s far from the worst thing that will result from this election, but the fact that one of the first Republican policy moves is to restore the inalienable right of retirement savers to be ripped off by unscrupulous parasites is highly instructive. You also have to love the justification of the advisers — “there’s no money in acting in the interests of our customers!” Well, OK then.

Anyway, here’s some free advice for those lucky enough to have retirement savings: low-churn index fund, because paying people commissions for knowledge they don’t actually have and whose business model literally depends on not acting in your interest is a terrible idea. You’re welcome.

The Trump Rule: However Bad You Think Things Are, They’re Worse

[ 119 ] February 3, 2017 |

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The Trump White House didn’t merely put out an implicitly anti-Semitic message on Holocaust Remembrance Day, it prevented the State Department from issuing one without the Holocaust denial in it:

The State Department drafted its own statement last month marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day that explicitly included a mention of Jewish victims, according to people familiar with the matter, but President Donald Trump’s White House blocked its release.

The existence of the draft statement adds another dimension to the controversy around the White House’s own statement that was released on Friday and set off a furor because it excluded any mention of Jews. The White House has stood by the statement, defending it as an “inclusive” message that was not intended to marginalize Jewish victims of the Holocaust.

According to three people familiar with the process, the State Department’s Office of the Special Envoy on Holocaust Issues prepared its own statement for International Holocaust Remembrance Day that, like previous statements, commemorated Jewish victims.

Instead, the White House’s own statement drew widespread criticism for overlooking the Jews’ suffering, and was cheered by neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer.

But, more importantly, how are the State Department’s email management practices these days?

IOKIYAR

[ 155 ] February 2, 2017 |

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A grifter loses another lawsuit:

A federal judge has ordered a golf club owned by President Donald Trump to refund nearly $6 million to members who said Trump’s team essentially confiscated refundable deposits after taking over the country club in 2012

U.S. District Court Judge Kenneth A. Marra ruled that the Trump National Jupiter Golf Club violated the contracts with members by retaining the fees and locking out many members who had declared their plans to resign.

“The Court concludes that the Plan documents, as properly interpreted, were intended to provide club members of the resignation list with a continuing right to use the Club facilities until their membership was reissued to a new member, provided the club member was otherwise in good standing with the Club,” Marra wrote in a 21-page decision issued Wednesday.

This is penny-ante by Trump standards. But can you imagine if a club owned by Bill and Hillary Clinton had been found to have ripped off members to the tune of 6 million? Before you answer that question, consider:

  • The media generated a years-long “scandal” out of a failed Arkansas real estate deal, ultimately leading to Bill Clinton’s impeachment, although this “scandal” revealed no misconduct by the Clintons whatsoever.
  • The two “scandals” that dominated the 2016 campaign, EMAILS! and “people asked Huma Abedin for meetings and didn’t get them, raising questions and casting shadows about the Clinton Foundation” revealed trivial and no misconduct on the part of Hillary Clinton, respectively.

This particular Trump scandal won’t get much coverage, in part because he’s done much worse and in part because his behavior as president is much more disturbing. But it’s also worth noting that Trump is in the White House because the media ginned up much less than this into scandals comparable to Trump’s endless history of fraud and dishonesty.  We really shouldn’t forget this as the Trump disaster proceeds.

Today, Tomorrow, Forever

[ 260 ] February 2, 2017 |

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I’m sure Stuart Taylor will find this highly disturbing:

Supreme Court Justice nominee Neil Gorsuch founded and led a student group called the ‘Fascism Forever Club’ at his elite high school, DailyMail.com can reveal.

The club was set up to rally against the ‘left-wing tendencies’ of his professors while attending a Jesuit all-boys preparatory high school near Washington D.C.

The name may be inconvenient for a Supreme Court nominee facing a tough confirmation battle. However it also shows the depth of Gorscuch’s right-wing credentials – and his penchant for mischief while attending his exclusive prep school in the 1980s.

And to think that this little boy would grow up to be nominated by an illegitimately elected white nationalist in part to provide the fifth Supreme Court vote for upholding vote suppression laws. It’s like ten thousand spoons when all you need is a neocofederate hack.

…Also like rain on your wedding day:

The most intellectually important essay of the 2016 election cycle, and possibly of the whole political era that has begun, is “The Flight 93 Election.” Its previously anonymous author turns out to be former Bush administration speechwriter Michael Anton, reports Michael Warren. Anton is now working as a senior national security official in the Trump administration. Anton’s role in the administration lends his signature essay all the more importance as a statement of Trumpism. The essay has many interesting aspects, which made it the subject of fervent debate during the election. But its most notable characteristic is its almost textbook justification for authoritarianism.

The premise of democracy is that — unlike dictatorships, in which the winning side gains total and essentially permanent power — the losers can accept defeat, because they know they have a chance to win subsequent elections. Without that predicate in place, the system collapses. Anton’s essay makes the case that conservatives should support Trump because, despite his manifest flaws, they cannot survive a single election defeat.

Anton makes the case through the metaphor that carries his essay. Conservatives are like the passengers on Flight 93, an aircraft that has been hijacked by Al Qaeda terrorists and is headed for destruction. Anton presses home the motif through an evolving series of duplicative metaphors. “2016 is the Flight 93 election: charge the cockpit or you die,” he begins. And then: “If you don’t try, death is certain. To compound the metaphor: a Hillary Clinton presidency is Russian Roulette with a semi-auto.” And then: “We are headed off a cliff.” Switching from metaphors to direct argument, Anton predicts in the essay that a Hillary Clinton victory would usher in “vindictive persecution against resistance and dissent.”

Anton describes the government (pre-Trump) as “the junta.” This cannot be dismissed as mere rhetorical exaggeration. To Anton, the rising share of the nonwhite population is a foreign invasion: “The ceaseless importation of Third World foreigners with no tradition of, taste for, or experience in liberty means that the electorate grows more left, more Democratic, less Republican, less republican, and less traditionally American with every cycle,” he writes. He describes the children of immigrants as “ringers to form a permanent electoral majority.” The racial and political implications of this argument are both clear and extreme: Anton believes the white Republican base is the only legitimate governing coalition. Democratic governments are inherently illegitimate by dint of their racial cast.

Is Having a President With the Knowledge and Temperament of a Dim, Petulant Second Grader a Problem?

[ 287 ] February 2, 2017 |

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One of the more persuasive critiques of the Clinton campaign was its decision — particularly late in the campaign, when Trump’s high negatives were well-established and it was becoming increasingly clear that Republican voters were almost all coming home — to focus its advertising on Trump’s character rather than Clinton’s proposals and/or negative advertising based on Trump’s extremely unpopular agenda. I have no idea if a different approach would have worked, but I started to cringe when I saw the kids-watching-Trump ads late in the campaign.

While, with big assists from the 18th century slave power and our benevolent national security overlords, the focus on Trump’s gross unfitness for office didn’t work, the underlying claim certainly wasn’t wrong. Item A:

Instead, President Trump blasted Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull over a refu­gee agreement and boasted about the magnitude of his electoral college win, according to senior U.S. officials briefed on the Saturday exchange. Then, 25 minutes into what was expected to be an hour-long call, Trump abruptly ended it.

At one point Trump informed Turnbull that he had spoken with four other world leaders that day — including Russian President Vladi­mir Putin — and that “This was the worst call by far.

Trump’s behavior suggests that he is capable of subjecting world leaders, including close allies, to a version of the vitriol he frequently employs against political adversaries and news organizations in speeches and on Twitter.

Item B:

President Donald Trump threatened in a phone call with his Mexican counterpart to send U.S. troops to stop “bad hombres down there” unless the Mexican military does more to control them, according to an excerpt of a transcript of the conversation obtained by The Associated Press.

The excerpt of the call did not detail who exactly Trump considered “bad hombres,” nor did it make clear the tone and context of the remark, made in a Friday morning phone call between the leaders. It also did not contain Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto’s response. Mexico denies that Trump made the threat.

Still, the excerpt offers a rare and striking look at how the new president is conducting diplomacy behind closed doors. Trump’s remarks suggest he is using the same tough and blunt talk with world leaders that he used to rally crowds on the campaign trail.

There is a constitutional remedy for removing a demented person from the office. Alas, there is no chance it will be exercised as long as Trump remains useful to Republican efforts to slash upper-class taxes and the welfare state while attacking voting, labor and civil rights and coercing as many women as possible to carry pregnancies to term.

Happy Black History Month!

[ 79 ] February 1, 2017 |

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Oh great:

The Trump administration wants to revamp and rename a U.S. government program designed to counter all violent ideologies so that it focuses solely on Islamist extremism, five people briefed on the matter told Reuters.

The program, “Countering Violent Extremism,” or CVE, would be changed to “Countering Islamic Extremism” or “Countering Radical Islamic Extremism,” the sources said, and would no longer target groups such as white supremacists who have also carried out bombings and shootings in the United States.

Such a change would reflect Trump’s election campaign rhetoric and criticism of former President Barack Obama for being weak in the fight against Islamic State and for refusing to use the phrase “radical Islam” in describing it. Islamic State has claimed responsibility for attacks on civilians in several countries.

In retrospect, one could argue that Trump calling for innocent African-Americans to be lynched was even more important that Hillary Clinton’s email server management.

Very Unfortunate

[ 296 ] February 1, 2017 |

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The 45th president of the United States of America had some thoughts about All Lives Black History Month, a selection of which I present below, verbatim:

Last month, we celebrated the life of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., whose incredible example is unique in American history. You read all about Dr. Martin Luther King a week ago when somebody said I took the statue out of my office. It turned out that that was fake news. Fake news. The statue is cherished, it’s one of the favorite things in the—and we have some good ones. We have Lincoln, and we have Jefferson, and we have Dr. Martin Luther King. But they said the statue, the bust of Martin Luther King, was taken out of the office. And it was never even touched. So I think it was a disgrace, but that’s the way the press is. Very unfortunate.

I am very proud now that we have a museum on the National Mall where people can learn about Reverend King, so many other things. Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I noticed. Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, and millions more black Americans who made America what it is today. Big impact.

Well, I would say the argument that the Constitution is a “covenant with death” and “an agreement with Hell” is holding up pretty well. Amazing job by Douglass on that one.

I’m proud to honor this heritage and will be honoring it more and more. The folks at the table in almost all cases have been great friends and supporters. Darrell—I met Darrell when he was defending me on television. And the people that were on the other side of the argument didn’t have a chance, right? And Paris has done an amazing job in a very hostile CNN community. He’s all by himself. You’ll have seven people, and Paris. And I’ll take Paris over the seven. But I don’t watch CNN, so I don’t get to see you as much as I used to. I don’t like watching fake news. But Fox has treated me very nice. Wherever Fox is, thank you.

We’re gonna need better schools and we need them soon. We need more jobs, we need better wages, a lot better wages. We’re gonna work very hard on the inner city. Ben is gonna be doing that, big league. That’s one of the big things that you’re gonna be looking at. We need safer communities and we’re going to do that with law enforcement. We’re gonna make it safe. We’re gonna make it much better than it is right now. Right now it’s terrible, and I saw you talking about it the other night, Paris, on something else that was really—you did a fantastic job the other night on a very unrelated show.

What can you say — sometimes history inches forward, and sometimes it runs screaming in the other direction.

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