Subscribe via RSS Feed

Author Page for Scott Lemieux

rss feed

Jill Stein Being A Buffoon Is Overdetermined

[ 215 ] August 30, 2016 |


As ridiculous as Jill Stein’s tendency to play pattycake with anti-vaxxers and use of DANK MEMES to attract the kids are, her ignorance about basic facts of politics and public policy are far more comprehensive. Peyser collects some of the sillier comments from her recent Washington Post interview here, including an instructively Trump-like claim that the presidency isn’t “rocket science.” Her recent Intercept colloquy is even more derp saturated. It’s amazing how many absurd statements she can fit into a single “thought”:

But in practice, if Trump wins, what happens to the Fight for $15, what happens to Planned Parenthood, what happens to health reform and immigration reform? Wouldn’t there be a difference between a Trump presidency and a Clinton one?

Maybe around the margins. We would have the Affordable Care Act, instead of some other privatized option. The Affordable Care Act is not a solution, it’s quite a problem. It provides some care for all. There was a Medicaid expansion, but that Medicaid expansion has been stopped, and it made health care more expensive and more out of reach.

I’m not even sure where to start.

  • The argument that because the ACA didn’t fully nationalize the American health insurance industry that there’s really no meaningful difference between the “privatized” ACA and the “privatized” Republican alternative is obscenely wrong. A unified Republican Congress would deregulate the insurance industry and probably block grant or privatize Medicaid. Tens of millions of people would lose health insurance and those that retained insurance would pay more while receiving less.
  • The term “privatized” strongly suggests that the ACA constricted public insurance and deregulated private insurance, which is the antithesis of the truth. (This is a close cousin to the ‘the ACA BAILED OUT the insurance industry’ argument, ludicrously assuming that we’d have single payer were it not for that meddling ACA.)
  • The idea that the ACA made insurance more expensive is absurdly wrong.
  • The Medicaid expansion was not “stopped.” A majority of states have adopted it. Millions of poor people have health insurance because of it. Were Stein to succeed in her goal of throwing the election to Trump, conversely, the most likely outcome would be millions fewer people having access to Medicaid than did before the ACA was passed.
  • It is true that while all Democratic statehouses accepted the Medicaid expansion after it was ineptly re-written by John Roberts, most Republican statehouses have not. This is surely central to Stein’s point that there is no meaningful difference between the two parties.
  • And note how she just dodges the point about the other massive differences between the parties. Is the difference between, say, Roe v. Wade being restored and being overruled “marginal”? How about carbon emissions being more tightly regulated rather than deregulated by crackpot climate change denialists? Oh, wait, Stein already answered that question:

I think they both lead to the same place. The lesser evil, the Democrats, certainly have a better public relations campaign, they have better spin. The dangers are less evident, but they’re catastrophic as well. Just look at the policies under Obama on climate change.

Yes, let’s do look at them. I see the Clean Power Plan, killing the Keystone pipeline, substantial subsidies for clean energy, tighter emissions standards in many areas, and the effective death penalty for the coal industry. Of course, these massive substantive differences are just “PR,” and I’m sure policy under EPA director Inhofe would be exactly the same!

Her analysis of legislative politics is equally shrewd:

You said before that President Obama came into office with an incredible public mandate, and yet he had an incredibly hard time getting anything through Congress. If you were to win the election, would you be able to get any legislation past them?

Because he didn’t want to. He didn’t try. He put his ground troops on the shelf. The myth is out there that the Republicans stopped him. He had two Democratic houses of Congress, he could have done something. He didn’t. What he did was make George Bush’s tax cuts for the rich permanent and he gave Wall Street the biggest bailout on record, that’s what he did.

You think Congress wouldn’t stop you?

No, because we won’t put our ground troops on the shelf. That’s what Barack Obama did.

Jill Stein’s GROUND TROOPS will force Paul Ryan to enact the Green platform. That and her DANK MEMES! The whole interview is like this — there’s scarcely a sentence that doesn’t have a massive factual howler, logical fallacy, or both. (To be Scrupulously Fair, she does defend approval voting, but this doesn’t help to explain why she’s running as if the U.S. already had it.)

And yet, someone in Stein’s position has to afford to be made to look ridiculous. The idea that there’s no major differences between the parties in 2016 is massively stupid, but since the only effect the Greens could ever have on an election in the current context is to elect Republicans, the Green leader has no choice but to pretend to believe it. She doesn’t have a good answer for what a Green presidential campaign can accomplish, but that’s because such an answer doesn’t exist. Being an ignorant crank is exactly what her form of third-party campaign demands.


The Clinton Rules

[ 211 ] August 30, 2016 |

powell-wideAbove: Only A Fool Or Frenchman Could Question His Unimpeachable Integritude!

The contrast between how the Clinton Foundation and Colin Powell’s foundation have been covered is indeed striking:

Because Colin Powell did not have the reputation in the mid- to late ’90s of being a corrupt or shady character, his decision to launch a charity in 1997 was considered laudable. Nobody would deny that the purpose of the charity was, in part, to keep his name in the spotlight and keep his options open for future political office. Nor would anybody deny that this wasn’t exactly a case of Powell having super-relevant expertise. What he had to offer was basically celebrity and his good name. By supporting Powell’s charity, your company could participate in Powell’s halo.

But when the press thinks of you as a good guy, leveraging your good reputation in this way is considered a good thing to do. And since the charity was considered a good thing to do, keeping the charity going when Powell was in office as secretary of state was also considered a good thing to do. And since Powell was presumed to be innocent — and since Democrats did not make attacks on Powell part of their partisan strategy — his charity was never the subject of a lengthy investigation.

Which is lucky for him, because as Clinton could tell you, once you are the subject of a lengthy investigation, the press doesn’t like to report, “Well, we looked into it and we didn’t find anything interesting.”

Instead we get things like:

An Associated Press investigation whose big reveal is that Clinton once tried to help out a Nobel Peace Prize winner who was in hot water with the ruling party of his home country.
An LA Times story headlined “Billionaire’s Clinton Ties Face Scrutiny,” about a rich Lebanese-Nigerian man who appears to be genuinely somewhat shady, gave money to the Clinton Foundation, and received nothing in exchange.
A Wall Street Journal story about how the crown prince of Bahrain scored a meeting with Hillary Clinton years after having donated to the Clinton Foundation. The story somehow forgets to mention that Rice, Powell, Madeleine Albright, and Warren Christopher had all also met with him during their tenures as secretary of state
An ABC investigation that concluded a donor had used a foundation connection to get a better seating assignment at State Department function.

Three of these stories, in other words, found no wrongdoing whatsoever but chose to insinuate that they had found wrongdoing in order to make the stories seem more interesting. The AP even teased its story with a flagrantly inaccurate tweet, which it now concedes was inaccurate but won’t take down or correct. The final investigation into the seat assignments at least came up with something, but it’s got to be just about the most trivial piece of donor special treatment you can think of.

Did one of Alma Powell’s donors ever ask for a better seat at a Powell-era function? Nobody knows, because nobody would think to ask.

The Clintons have made mistakes. But it’s absolutely true that going back to Whitewater the media has been inventing anti-Clinton scandals out of absolutely nothing, and this continues in earnest during this campaign.

Takes Never Sleep

[ 55 ] August 30, 2016 |


Skip Bayless has still got it, everyone!

He began stirring it up in L.A. last week, taking to a Fairfax Avenue barber shop to talk sports with fans who came in for a cut. Bayless defended the abilities of Tim Tebow and opined that Aaron Rodgers is overrated considering his mixed playoff results.

I would expect all of these 7 forms of Colin Kaepernick hot takes to appear on Skip’s exciting new Fox show within the first ten minutes.

Both Sides Do It, An Eternally Recurring Series

[ 155 ] August 29, 2016 |

Yes, Hillary Clinton making Anthony Weiner the CEO of her campaign showed very poor judgment. Can’t dispute that logic.

Good Luck With That

[ 134 ] August 29, 2016 |


The Denver Broncos have named as their starting quarterback someone who, if he fully retained his NCAA production levels, would be a replacement-level NFL starter at best. The fact that there is, as far as I can tell, no contemporary precedent for someone as mediocre in peonage ball as Siemian becoming a viable starter (Tom Brady, a once-in-multiple generation development story, was a lot better in college adjusted for context) doesn’t make it impossible. But it does mean that the decision should be considered excellent news for the Kansas City Chiefs. Although, in fairness, I’m sure the Broncos will get a huge haul for Mark Sanchez.

In other NFL news, I have finally fulfilled my lifelong ambition of making it into Why Your Team Sucks. I can’t find the original comment, but if he’s still lurking thanks to Joe From Lovell for inspiring the joke.

Only Donald J. Trump Can Protect the Sacred Bonds of Matrimony

[ 126 ] August 29, 2016 |
Marla Maples and Donald Trump during "The Will Rogers Follies" Gala - May 16, 1991 at Palace Theater in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)

Marla Maples and Donald Trump during “The Will Rogers Follies” Gala – May 16, 1991 at Palace Theater in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)

Apparently the latest round of internet interaction from Carlos Danger was the last straw for Huma Abedin. The Republican nominee for president has some thoughts on the subject:

“Huma is making a very wise decision. I know Anthony Weiner well, and she will be far better off without him,” Mr. Trump said in a statement.

“I only worry for the country in that Hillary Clinton was careless and negligent in allowing Weiner to have such close proximity to highly classified information,” he continued. “Who knows what he learned and who he told? It’s just another example of Hillary Clinton’s bad judgment. It is possible that our country and its security have been greatly compromised by this.”

Yes, we cannot have a president who has an adviser whose husband virtually cheats on her — what does that say about her judgment? Rather, we need a president who openly boasted about his affairs while married to his first two wives.

I am looking forward to the first pundit who spent years arguing that it was highly disturbing that Abedin didn’t leave Weiner who finds it highly disturbing that she left him, and either way it says something very bad about Hillary Clinton because something.

Are TRIGGER WARNINGS and SAFE SPACES Destroying Free Speech? (Spoiler: No.)

[ 177 ] August 29, 2016 |

635973704823610467775588141_Safe-Space-Sticker-e1406320631580Above: Why Do These Monsters Hate Free Speech?

The University of Chicago “safe spaces” letter does have one virtue: it’s produced some excellent writing debunking the dense web of strawpersons and urban legends and random anecdotes that seem to be pervasive in discussions of these issues. Mark Tushnet on trigger warnings:

That, I think, is what discussions of trigger warnings should be about – whether pedagogic choices made in a different era, with a different set of students with different values and known backgrounds from those today, should be adhered to. An example: I can imagine – because I think I did it many years ago – referring in a class discussion of Everson v. Board of Education to Justice Jackson’s dissenting reference to Lord Byron’s description in Don Juan of Julia, but I certainly wouldn’t do so today; the pedagogic benefit, which is minor, is clearly outweighed by the interference the reference would cause, particularly because there are many other ways of making Jackson’s point.

Instructors use trigger warnings, when they do so in a sensible manner, to maximize their pedagogic effectiveness as instructors: They want to include material whose content might distract students who weren’t prepared for it, and hope that the warning will be enough to reduce the distraction to a level where the substantive point can still be made. These choices are bound up with a lot of other pedagogic judgments – Can one make the substantive point by using other material? Will giving the trigger warning itself distract students, as they wonder, with respect to each item up for discussion, whether that was what the trigger warning was about? So, it’s quite silly to say, as the University of Chicago letter did, that the University “does not support” giving trigger warnings. At the very least, instructors should have the freedom to make a responsible decision that giving a trigger warning will, in the circumstances, enhance pedagogic effectiveness. If the University doesn’t support their doing so, it doesn’t care about good teaching.

Tushnet on “safe spaces”:

The widely noted University of Chicago letter to freshman is, I’m afraid – with due respect to my friends there – basically quite stupid (in the words that have attracted the most attention). The phrasings are either transparently false or so vague as to obstruct rather than facilitate clear thinking about the issues the letter purports to address.

Quoting: “We do not condone the creation of intellectual ‘safe’ spaces where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own.” That’s either false or an indication that people should think carefully about sending their children to the University. Consider some examples: A war veteran is assigned a dormitory room with a roommate who is aggressively anti-the-war-in-which-the veteran-served. Almost every evening the roommate seeks to engage the veteran in a conversation about the injustice of the war and of specific incidents during it. The veteran goes to the appropriate university authorities and asks to be assigned a different roommate, saying, “I’m perfectly happy to engage in a discussion of the war in a military history class, a philosophy class on justice in wartime, and in many other places. But in the evening I just want to kick back and relax, and study for my classes. My room, in short, should be a safe space with respect to conversations about the war.” I think the university might well be irresponsible if its only response were, “Grown-ups have to learn how to work out for themselves the resolution of these kinds of disputes.” (That’s the “think carefully about sending your kids to the University” prong.) And, in my view, it wouldn’t be acting badly if it reassigned either the veteran or the roommate to another dormitory room, thereby “condon[ing] the creation of [an] intellectual ‘safe space'” for the veteran. (That’s the “it’s false” prong.)

Henry Farrell on “safe spaces”:

What this all suggests is that questions of preserving academic freedom and academic diversity are more complicated than the University of Chicago’s rather self-congratulatory letter to incoming students would suggest. Lohmann’s fundamental point (and I really hope the book emerges, so that these ideas get the airing they deserve) is that successful universities – surely including the University of Chicago – are congeries of safe spaces that factions of scholars have carved out to protect themselves from their intellectual enemies. More concretely – the University of Chicago has both a very well recognized economics department and a very well recognized sociology department. There is furthermore some overlap in the topics that they study. Yet the professors in these two departments protect themselves from each other – they do not, for example, vote on each other’s tenure decisions. They furthermore have quite different notions (though again, perhaps with some overlap) of what constitutes legitimate and appropriate research. In real life, academics only are able to exercise academic freedom because they have safe spaces that they can be free in.

Thinking about universities in this way doesn’t provide obvious answers to student demands for safe spaces, some of which seem to me to be legitimate, some not (I also suspect that the media has an interest in hyping up the most ridiculous seeming claims because the weird social connections between the American elite and a very small number of colleges mean that this stuff gets an audience – but that’s another matter for a different post). What it does though, is to make clear that universities’ and professors’ own notions (myself included) of what makes for legitimate inquiry, academic freedom etc, and what doesn’t are themselves contested, and the products of social processes that don’t always look particularly good when they’re subjected to sustained inquiry.

Obviously, any useful pedagogical tool can be misused or implemented in a manner inconsistent with academic freedom (although it’s striking how few random anecdotes people whinging about trigger warnings have come up with — we’re still hearing, for example, about the dumb Oberlin policy from 2014 which was never actually implemented.)  Some student requests and reasonable and some are not. But this idea that coming out against BIG POLITICALLY CORRECT in this way is taking some kind of bold stance is very silly. As Tushnet observes at the first link, we’re already seeing the two-step of terrific triviality in which it is said that the most natural reading of the phrase “do not support so-called trigger warnings” — i.e. that the administration opposes the use of trigger warnings even if it can’t forbid them — is wrong, and actually all that the letter meant is that they aren’t required. Which is 1)not what the letter says and 2)if so, it’s not clear who disagrees, but anyway. It’s also striking how quickly supporters of the letter start bringing up things — such as “Yale students failed to show proper deference to Erika Christakis’s authori-tah” — that do not in fact have anything to do with “trigger warnings” but do suggest that it’s a problem when students object to how administrators exercise their authority. I’m reminded of the movement a couple years ago to suggest that America’s elites have an inalienable right to get five-figure paydays to deliver banalities to a captive audience free of any objections on the part of the campus community.

On the University of Chicago’s Letter to Students Prospective Donors

[ 248 ] August 28, 2016 |


The University of Chicago has issued a letter coming out against BIG POLITICALLY CORRECT. I think DeLong is right to subject it to “a hermeneutics of derp:”

It seems to me more likely than not that John Ellison is not talking to his future students here. It seems to me that he is more likely than not to be talking to those of their parents who spend an unhealthy amount of time glued to and being traumatized by Fox News. And he is doing so in the hope that those parents will send more students to U. of C. It’s a marketing ploy–not part of an orientation for new students.


But, Jesse, surely John Ellison can find a way to say “we welcome the contributions to the intellectual life of the college of Donald Trump supporters” that doesn’t also carry the very strong implication that Hillel and the Newman Center are in some sense illegitimate?

As I said, this is a very charitable reading he is engaging in here.

As I see it, a university is:

*first of all, a safe space for ideas.

*second, a safe place for scholars.

Those two imperatives do not forbid but rather mandate trigger warnings, whenever they are helpful in aiding the members of the University and scholars to grapple and process with difficult ideas or shocking facts.

Those two imperatives also require all members of the university to treat one another with respect–to avoid giving even a hint that other members do not belong or do not have rights or are not secure in their persons.

And these two imperatives require that sub-communities within the university have spaces that are safe–in which discussion can proceed accepting for the moment the premises of the sub-community.

I’ve never understood the argument that trigger warnings are some kind of inherent threat to free speech on campus and I still don’t. If you’re applauding the actions of Chicago’s administration, it sure can’t be because of academic freedom.

Donald Trump’s Race-Baiting of the Hour

[ 120 ] August 27, 2016 |

What a guy:

NBA star Dwyane Wade’s cousin Nykea Aldridge was fatally shot Friday pushing a child in a stroller in a Chicago.

Less than 24 hours later, Donald Trump said her death was evidence that African-Americans will vote for him in November.

As always, there are ways in which Trump’s bluntness is relatively unusual. But the underlying idea — African-Americans will leave the DEMOCRAT PARTY PLANTATION because BLACK-ON-BLACK VIOLENCE is not exactly rare in Republican circles.

In other Trump news, this picture of the doctor who wandered out of a Paul Thomas Anderson movie to to take 5 minutes writing up a report declaring Trump the healthiest presidential candidate in the history of history itself is the sole redeeming factor of his campaign:


Above: the Cuervo Gold, the fine Colombian, make tonight a wonderful thing

Can Our Revolution Be His?

[ 37 ] August 26, 2016 |


Bernie Sanders’s new group is off to a somewhat rocky start:

Bernie Sanders has launched Our Revolution, a new group meant to support progressive causes. In doing so, they’re also promising to “revitalize American democracy” and “elevate the political consciousness.” All of which sounds great, and crucial, and they will probably be right on it, as soon as they replace the majority of the staff, who have resigned almost instantly.

Some of this initial rough patch seems to be connected to choices made by Sanders. In particular, Jeff Weaver, sort of the Mark Penn of the left, is predictably alienating a lot of staffers and causing resignations over Sanders’s personal entreaties. But as Merlan says, there are broader issues with this kind of enterprise that aren’t really about Bernie per se:

Politico reports that the board, which is chaired by Jane Sanders, was growing “increasingly concerned about campaign finance questions being raised over the last week.” Questions like, how does a political nonprofit founded by and closely linked to a sitting U.S. senator operate legally, even if Sanders isn’t directly running the show?


The nonprofit status also means the group can’t give money directly to candidates. And the arrangement is deeply ironic, given that 501 (c)(4) designations are usually pursued by people who don’t want to disclose their donors. The most infamous example is Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS, which managed to get itself qualified as a nonprofit “social welfare group” despite being run by Karl Rove.

There are, in other words, structural reasons why major activist groups tend not to be led by sitting politicians: doing so limits what they can do and limits their leverage. If Our Revolution or a similar group of set of groups is going to be successful — and finding a way to harness Sanders’s strong support into a powerful voice in the party is important — it probably can’t be about Bernie or any other currently office-holding politician per se. And that’s probably not a bad thing.

The Grand Old Alt-Right Party

[ 105 ] August 26, 2016 |

Clinton’s speech yesterday carefully laying out Donald Trump’s history of racism was indeed very important. It’s also enormously difficult to imagine a major Democratic politician giving it ten years ago — Trump has had a taboo-shattering effect two ways, not only making the overt expression of racism within the Republican Party more common but allowing it to be called out without immediately setting off Both Sides Do It alarms. I also agree with Jeet Heer that what appeared to be conciliatory language towards Republicans was actually more like “if you support Trump, explicitly or passively you own him.” And the most important Republicans, we should never forget, do:

Republican leaders Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell have ducked questions about Clinton’s denunciation of the alt-right. But the question has already been answered. Party leaders who can accept Trump as their nominee have made a public admission that racism in the Republican coalition is a fact of political life they are willing to live with.

Banning “Burkinis” is a Disgrace

[ 318 ] August 25, 2016 |


Katha Pollitt is excellent on why coercively policing the appearance of women in the name of secularism is not better than doing so in the name of religion:

But how do bans on Islamic dress—the head scarf, the niqab, and now the burkini—free women? That would be true only if wearing them were enforced by Muslim communities regardless of women’s own preferences. This is the case in Saudi Arabia and Iran, where covering is the law, and in parts of many Muslim-majority countries by social custom. When France instituted its ban on head scarves in public schools in 2004, it was justified as necessary in part to protect schoolgirls from male relatives keen to control them. (Those views now seem overblown.) The same theory explains why the ban on wearing the niqab (the two-part full-face veil) in public calls for a €150 fine for the woman, but a whopping €30,000 fine and a year in jail for any person who forces a woman to wear it. (No one has yet been convicted.) As Ed Vulliamy points out in The Guardian, though, the penalty for wearing a burkini (€38 in Cannes) falls on the woman alone. Are those women subjugating themselves? “It is my choice to try and cover whilst poolside so I can feel comfortable and make the most out of my love for swimming, and my faith,” writes Shereen Malherbe on Muslimah Media Watch.

The apparent fact that some Muslim women want to wear burkinis doesn’t mean that the garment isn’t sexist. Sexism would never have become the powerful social force it is if women didn’t buy into it too. That’s why it’s easy to find women who think that a woman who won’t wear a burqa—or a knee-length skirt—is asking to be raped. Still, it’s hard to see pathbreaking Muslim Olympic athletes like the hijab-wearing American fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad or Egyptian volleyball player Doaa Elghobashy as lacking agency. Even if you think Islamic garb—or Orthodox wigs, or fundamentalist-Mormon prairie dresses—is a fashion prison, it doesn’t follow that banning it is the path to liberation.

In fact, it does the opposite: It fetishizes Islamic covering as a communal identity marker and turns it into a way of poking the majority culture in the eye. It also further marginalizes Muslim women. Not men, who dress as they please with no awkward questions about whether they truly want to sport that beard or crocheted skullcap. In France, street attacks on women in Muslim dress have increased since the niqab ban. A Muslim woman in a head scarf can’t work in a government job. According to a recent legal ruling, she can even be denied a job in a day-care center lest she give toddlers the wrong idea about a woman’s place. Prime Minister Valls even wants to ban the head scarf from universities. This isn’t feminism; it’s cultural panic.

Page 5 of 864« First...34567...102030...Last »