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The Party of Lincoln Becoming the Party of Calhoun In One Chart

[ 56 ] August 11, 2016 |

Strangely, Donald Trump’s strategy of “Mitt Romney’s policies except sort of trade with a lot more explicit racism” has not arrested the cratering of African-American support for the Republican Party:


The rest of Enten’s analysis is worth reading as well. Trump is currently in 4th place among African-American voters, which helps to explain why Republicans are so determined to keep African-Americans away from the polls.


Policing In Baltimore is a Racist Shitshow

[ 147 ] August 11, 2016 |


Not that this comes as a shock, but the DOJ’s report is quite remarkable nonetheless:

The Baltimore Police Department is a complete and utter disaster.

That’s the only possible takeaway from reading the US Department of Justice’s 163-page report into Baltimore police, leaked on Tuesday. The report found major flaws in even the most basic modern policing practices, from arrests to use of force to basic interactions with the community. To make it worse, these findings are compounded by what appears to be purposeful, disproportionate targeting of the city’s black residents.

“Racially disparate impact is present at every stage of BPD’s enforcement actions, from the initial decision to stop individuals on Baltimore streets to searches, arrests, and uses of force,” the report concluded. “These racial disparities, along with evidence suggesting intentional discrimination, erode the community trust that is critical to effective policing.”


The report essentially validates many of the protesters’ claims. Baltimore police stop people for essentially no reason, particularly black residents. They are far too quick to use force. Charges are often dropped due to a lack of merit for any prosecution. Cops regularly violate people’s rights, including those protected by the First Amendment and Fourth Amendment. And virtually everyone is aware of these types of problems — officials within and outside the police department, members of the community, and even police union representatives acknowledge the desperate need for reform.

Definitely read the whole etc.

Republicans Restore Wisconsin Vote Suppression

[ 126 ] August 10, 2016 |


Bad draw here:

In a boost to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, an especially conservative panel of three Republican-appointed judges stayed a trial judge’s decision weakening Wisconsin’s voter ID law. Voter ID laws are a common tactic favored by conservative lawmakers which tend to shift the overall makeup of the electorate rightward.

Although these laws, which require voters to show photo ID at the polls in order to cast a ballot, are frequently justified as a way to combat voter fraud at the polls, such fraud is virtually non-existent. Indeed, such fraud is so rare that a nearly two year-long investigation by a top Republican elections official and major supporter of voter ID found exactly zero cases of voter impersonation at the polls. Similarly, when the Supreme Court considered a voter ID law in 2008, the Court’s plurality opinion was only able to cite one example of voter fraud at the polls over the course of 140 years!


Though this order is very bad news for supporters of voting rights, Wisconsin voters who face disenfranchisement do have one reason for hope. After the first Seventh Circuit panel’s decision reinstating the voter ID law, lawyers challenging the law asked the full Seventh Circuit to hear the case, and the ten active judges of the court split 5–5 on whether to do so. Under the court’s rules, an even split means that the panel’s decision remains in place.

Since then, however, Judge John Tinder, a GW Bush appointee, took semi-retirement. Accordingly, the full court is likely split 5–4 on voter ID laws, with skeptics of the laws holding a majority.

If this means Posner writing for an en banc majority, it will have been worth it.

Save Us Brave Sir Pence!

[ 126 ] August 10, 2016 |


This op-ed is easily the lamest thing the New York Times will publish this week, and remember that it published a Maureen Dowd column that was an attempted-and-failed-miserably first-person satire of Donald Trump (apparently, his first act upon assuming office will be to read a particularly shitty Maureen Dowd column verbatim.) Before saying that Trump should maybe kinda resign, he establishes his cred:

All eyes must now turn to his running mate, Mike Pence, to do what must be done.

I say this not as a member of the so-called Never Trump faction of my party. Though Mr. Trump was not my first choice for the nomination, I found his attack on the established order appealing at times, even entertaining, and respected the wishes of a clear plurality of Republican primary voters. Americans long have been entranced with the idea of the political outsider who puts self-interest aside to battle Washington’s wrongdoers and set things right. But in recent weeks — indeed, months — the pitfalls of political outsiderdom have become plain.

He was good at the beginning, when he was a ridiculously unqualified con artist calling Mexicans rapists and calling for Muslims to be deported en masse, but then he went too far!

Seasoned politicians learn what fights to pick, what half-victories to savor, how to make coherent points and how to increase their electoral base. By contrast Mr. Trump, an accomplished businessman unaccustomed to answering to anyone, appears constitutionally incapable of letting any slight go unchallenged. He has proved unwilling or unable to discipline himself to a consistent message or to restrain his worst impulses. He lacks an ability to form, or more important expand, a general election coalition.

Yes, this entirely new information we’ve learned about Donald Trump changes everything.

Now he needs someone to guide him to a graceful exit. Mike Pence is that person.

The unassuming governor of Indiana, Mr. Pence is in a powerful, if unenviable, position. Were he to publicly repudiate his own running mate, or question his fitness for office, the Trump campaign would be unsustainable. He does not need to take such a drastic action — not yet — but the prospect of his doing so, even if conveyed obliquely, might persuade his running mate to broker a withdrawal. At the very least, it might spur intermediaries, such as Mr. Trump’s friends and family, to have a candid conversation with the candidate on what lies ahead if he stays in.


And with a little luck, his running mate, should he replace Mr. Trump as the nominee, might defeat Hillary Clinton, who has severe image problems of her own. In that event, Mr. Trump could reasonably boast that he hand-selected the next president.

If Mr. Pence truly believes Mr. Trump will be a capable president, then he should do nothing. But he owes it to his party, his country and the cause he has championed his entire life to reflect on this carefully. The worst-case scenario is that a man who may be wholly unfit for the office may actually win it. Mr. Pence is among the few who could stop this — now. And, if he has any question about whether Donald Trump can do the job, then he has a responsibility to step aside himself if Mr. Trump won’t.

This is ridiculous on every possible level. First of all, Trump’s campaign is plenty unsustainable as it stands; he’d pretty much need force majeure to win as it stands. Second, the idea that a bland and also very reactionary hack like Pence could win having deposed Trump is absurd. There are also logistical problems of ballot access. And I love the qualifications — maybe Trump’s campaign will be a trainwreck, but we’re not sure yet. Right.

But leaving aside all that, the silliest part is the assumption that Pence didn’t know what he was signing up for. Trump is acting…like he’s acted since the day he became a public figure. Nothing has changed. If Pence thought that Trump was an unacceptable president he wouldn’t have taken the gig. Latimer can pretend to be fooled if he wants, but Pence knew what he was signing up for. I’m sure we’re going to be seeing more than one “poor Mike Pence, he looks so miserable” stories, but nuts to that. Trump is what Trump’s always been.

Today In Republican Policy Wonderlands

[ 295 ] August 10, 2016 |


Welcome back to Kansas, the comprehensive policy trainwreck Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan want to take national:

Earlier this month, USA Today placed the Verruckt water side at Schlitterbahn Water Park in Kansas City, Kansas, on the top of its list of the “13 Best Outdoor Water Park Rides” in America. “Insanity,” the newspaper proclaimed of the attraction, which is the world’s largest water slide, dropping riders by 17 floors in a few terrifying seconds.

On Sunday, a few days after that article appeared, Caleb Schwab, the 10-year-old son of a Kansas state legislator, died on that ride. The circumstances of his death are still murky, though one Kansas City television station is reporting that parkgoers claim the ride’s harness wasn’t working properly. One thing, however, is almost certain: the dismal state of amusement park regulations in the United States, which allow attractions in Kansas and many other states to effectively evade any serious government safety oversight.

Even as amusement rides are getting more terrifying and death-defying by the year, the amusement park industry actively fights attempts at increased regulation. According to the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, surveys reveal that 4 out of 5 of its member organizations say they view “state regulation as the biggest threat to their businesses.”

Early in the Reagan administration, Congress decided to turn most amusement park regulation over to our benevolent local overlords. It seems to be working out great!

Imagine There’s No Polls, They Wouldn’t Have to be Unskewed

[ 124 ] August 9, 2016 |


With Trump’s campaign circling the drain, the inevitable trooferism is happening. Sure, Jim Hoft’s reworking of HA Goodman is funny, but I think this will always be my favorite UNSKEW THE POOLS moment of the election:

It was easy to make fun of all this wishful thinking, but it was understandable given the timing. That Donald Trump’s supporters are already manifesting the same fingers-in-the-ears la-la-la-la-I-can’t-hear-you self-deception three months before Election Day is harder to accept.

But it’s happening. Trump himself has a habit of criticizing individual polls he doesn’t like. Some of his fans are getting more systematic about it. Radio-talk-show host Bill Mitchell offered this Zen-like observation on Twitter: “Imagine polls don’t exist. Show me evidence Hillary is winning?”

We have a winner, although I hope this doesn’t cause the Wall Street Journal to abandon plans to send Peggy Noonan on a lawn sign tour of suburban Dallas with a bottle of Grey Goose.

Today in the Neoliberalism of the Neoliberal Barack Obama

[ 22 ] August 9, 2016 |


Another piece of evidence that the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of health care insurance for the poor has been a major policy success:

A few recent studies suggest that people have become less likely to have medical debt or to postpone care because of cost. They are also more likely to have a regular doctor and to be getting preventive health services like vaccines and cancer screenings. A new study, published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine, offers another way of looking at the issue. Low-income people in Arkansas and Kentucky, which expanded Medicaid insurance to everyone below a certain income threshold, appear to be healthier than their peers in Texas, which did not expand.

The study took advantage of what Dr. Benjamin Sommers, an author of the paper and an assistant professor of health policy and economics at Harvard, called “a huge natural experiment.”

In its 2012 ruling, the Supreme Court made the health law’s Medicaid expansion optional for states. The resulting variation in choices makes it much easier to compare what happened in different states and draw conclusions about what effects health insurance coverage might have for the finances and health of Americans.

The researchers gathered their results by conducting a large telephone survey of low-income residents of the three states. They asked the same questions three times: in 2013, before the law’s Medicaid expansion; at the end of 2014, after it had been in place for a year; and at the end of last year. Then they compared what happened over time, using Texas as a kind of control group to see how much of a difference the Medicaid expansions in the other two states made.

Their survey found people in Arkansas and Kentucky were nearly 5 percent more likely than their peers in Texas to say they were in excellent health in 2015. And that difference was bigger than it had been the year before.

Also relevant:

There are differences between Arkansas and Kentucky as well. Kentucky expanded Medicaid in a more conventional way, while Arkansas tried an innovative expansion, offering its low-income residents private insurance. But the study found only small differences between the two approaches.

All things equal, it’s better to skip the middleman, but if allowing rentiers to make a buck is how you get a red state to expand Medicaid, you obviously do it.

Given the consequences of states refusing the Medicaid expansion, I’m wondering if Sebelius shouldn’t be #1 on this list.

Trump’s Contract On America: “Austerity, With the Chance of a Trade War”

[ 98 ] August 8, 2016 |

trump kfc

Donald Trump decided to talk policy today. Some gestures about trade and a single, targeted tax loophole elimination aside, he expressed standard-issue Republican ideas. In other words, it was probably nuttier than the typical Donald Trump campaign day:

Thus, the GOP nominee tried to change the conversation Monday, by focusing on the issues that really matter to the American people — like increasing the inheritance enjoyed by the children of millionaires, slashing regulations on Wall Street, and accelerating the onset of catastrophic climate change.


Along with these lukewarm appeals to the center of the electorate, Trump doled out hot slabs of red meat to the Republican donor class. The GOP nominee called for repealing “the death tax,” which is to say the tax on the estates of multimillionaires. There is no public interest in repealing this tax, unless one believes that the American economy is currently plagued by too little inequality. Then the candidate who has accused his opponent of being “controlled” by Wall Street proposed a moratorium on all new federal regulations, including those aimed at financial institutions. Finally, Trump pledged to revive the coal industry by repealing Obama’s Clean Power Plan.

While Trump didn’t mention entitlement reform, he also didn’t vow to defend those programs. And his combination of tax cuts, vows to increase spending on the military and law enforcement, and the bipartisan fear of growing deficits would almost certainly require cuts to America’s threadbare social safety net. Thus, the forecast for the Trump economy looks like austerity, with a chance of trade war.

There are many terrifying things about the possibility of Donald Trump become president. The fact that he would sign pretty much whatever legislation Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell put on his desk remians among the most terrifying.

Obama and the Courts

[ 161 ] August 8, 2016 |

Michael Grunwald’s piece about Obama and the courts is very good. A couple of points are worth emphasizing. First, despite Obama being slow getting out of the blocks and unprecedented Republican obstruction, Obama has been able to transform the federal courts:

Ultimately, most of those battles over judges have really been about Obama, a nasty front in the larger partisan war that has raged throughout his presidency. And as with most of the foreign and domestic policy battles of the Obama era, the result, after a lot of bellicose rhetoric and political brinksmanship, has been a lot of change. Obama has already appointed 329 judges to lifetime jobs, more than one third of the judiciary, and they’re already moving American jurisprudence in Obama’s direction. He got two left-leaning women onto the Court: Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic justice, and Elena Kagan, his former solicitor general. He also flipped the partisan balance of the nation’s 13 courts of appeals; when he took office, only one had a majority of Democratic appointees, and now nine do. Just last week, two Obama appointees to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down some of North Carolina’s strict new election law, calling it a discriminatory effort to stop blacks from voting.

With a 4-4 Supreme Court, Democrats taking over the circuits is a big deal (the recent victories on voting rights indeed being one obvious example.)

It’s also worth noting the role that Senate Democrats played in facilitating Republican obstructionism, which was often effective even during the six years in which Democrats controlled the chamber:

Vermont senator Patrick Leahy, who chaired the judiciary committee, made it clear he would honor the “blue slip” system that gave home-state senators a veto over potential nominees, so filling vacancies required cutting deals. In South Carolina, the White House accepted Republican senator Lindsey Graham’s recommendation to elevate a Bush district court appointee, Henry Floyd, to the Fourth Circuit appeals court. Floyd later issued decisions striking down Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage and endorsing the right of transgender public school students to use the bathrooms of their choice. At the behest of Utah senator Orrin Hatch, Obama nominated a personal injury attorney named Robert Shelby to a district court. Christopher Kang, a former deputy White House counsel who vetted nominees, says he only learned Shelby was a registered Republican while reading news reports about his 2013 decision to strike down Utah’s same-sex marriage ban.

One thing too few people understand is how seriously many Democratic senators — and not just more conservative ones, but also some liberals like Leahy and Fiengold — took the Senate’s sclerotic procedural norms, including the ones Republicans were no longer adhering to. Leahy restoring the blue slip even though Hatch abandoned it when he controlled the Judiciary Committee and the next Republican in charge of the committee during a Republican administration will do the same, is a classic example. And this is why it took such an agonizingly long time to kill the filibuster for executive and non-Supreme Court judicial appointments, even though the blanket refusal of Republicans to permit D.C. Circuit appointments was something anyone should have seen coming a mile away. It’s a key reason why, although the federal courts have taken huge steps in the right direction, more wasn’t accomplished.

On a related note, anyone who thinks that a Republican-controlled Senate will have to confirm a Clinton Supreme Court nominee because CIRCUIT SPLITS are mistaking nostalgia for reality as surely as Leahy was.


[ 245 ] August 8, 2016 |


Oddly, Donald Trump’s strategy of committing one massive blunder after another after another on a near-daily basis has not countered the Democratic convention bounce:

Hillary Clinton’s post-convention polling surge is showing no signs of fading. She leads Donald Trump, on average, by about 7 percentage points in national polls, and is an 83-percent favorite to win on Nov. 8, according to our polls-only model. Our polls-plus model — which accounts for the “fundamentals,” as well as the tendency for a candidate’s numbers to temporarily rise after his or her convention — gives her a 76 percent chance. Those are her largest advantages since we launched our election forecasts back in June.


But it’s also possible that Clinton’s strong numbers aren’t solely the result of a fleeting post-convention afterglow. As my colleague Nate Silver pointed out on Friday, Trump’s recent struggles — his attacks on the Khan family and feuds with Republican leadership, for instance — could be inflicting more durable damage to his chances. Trump is the least-liked major party nominee in modern history. Perhaps the conventions and their aftermath, when many voters presumably tuned into the 2016 race for the first time, established a new equilibrium. Perhaps this is 1988 all over again, with the parties reversed.

The real key is the state-by-state data. 538 is showing Trump leading in exactly 2 swing states, and 1)both of those average leads are less than 1%, and 2)those two states — Georgia and Arizona — are superfluous for Clinton under virtually any plausible scenario. The Upshot has a similar picture, although it has North Carolina as a toss-up that slightly favors Trump. With Virginia, Colorado, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania pretty much off the table — and, let me repeat, Michigan is not any kind of swing state — it’s not clear what Trump’s path would look like. Clinton probably doesn’t need Florida, but she looks likely to win it, and without it Trump is absolutely drawing dead. It’s too early to say Trump has no chance, but he’s a yoooooge underdog.


[ 52 ] August 7, 2016 |



I generally don’t care about numerical landmarks of this kind, but (in part because the original members of this blog were part of a season ticket consortium with seats in right field during Ichiro’s peak years) I was invested in this one. Glad to see him going out on a good year as a useful bench player..


[ 178 ] August 7, 2016 |


One of the greatest players in baseball history and the greatest player to play for the Yankees since Mantle has announced his retirement.

I’ve already written a lengthy piece about such nonsense as “A-Rod’s records accomplishments don’t really count because STEROIDS” and “he can’t be in the Hall of Fame because he was a CHEATER,” but such arguments remain really dumb. Cheating and the use of performance-enhancing drugs have been endemic throughout baseball history, encompassing many Hall of Famers. And assumptions that the PED use by sainted boomer icons is somehow different in kind is without any rational basis. Mickey Mantle, who ruined his knees as a young man and was…not a fanatic about conditioning, hit 303/423/591 in a pitcher’s park in a league dominated by pitching at age 32. It strikes me as enormously unlikely that he could have done this without amphetamines, and it’s entirely possible that the liberal distribution of greenies played a role comparable to the role PEDs played in the 90s. And certainly, the idea that baseball as pure and authentic until 1995 and then everything went to hell is just empty-headed nostalgia, nothing more.

Another alleged negative about Rodriguez that has come to define him is the idea that he’s been egregiously overpaid. This is also mostly wrong. His first free agent contract was excellent value for the Rangers (and then the Yankees), and the fact that they were unable to build around him is neither here nor there. The extension he signed was less wise, but I still think the idea that it’s the worst contract ever is silly. The very worst contracts are never going to be “a resource-rich organization overpaying for elite performance.” “Overpaying” Rodriguez won the Yankees a World Series, and it didn’t stop them from doing anything that they otherwise wanted to do.

There is, I suppose, something a little churlish about the way the Yankees let his career just peter out, and Socca makes the obvious comparison:

And yet…it doesn’t bother me. There are multiple reasons why a washed-up Jeter got a somewhat tacky season-long Grand Farewell Tour, and it’s not just about anti-PED hysteria — he was a lifelong Yankee and the lynchpin of the Torre dynasty teams. And in addition, there’s always been an element of protesting-too-much about the New York media’s excessive fawning over Jeter, a tacit acknowledgement that for all his rings on the best-shortstop-of-his-generation question Jeter couldn’t carry A-Rod’s jock. Keeping Rodriguez out the Hall of Fame for a decade or two will be an asinine act of moralizing, but it also doesn’t change Rodriguez’s accomplishments. If a bunch of hacks think he’s less worthy of Cooperstown than Jim Rice or Jack Morris, it says a lot more about the hacks than it does about Rodriguez.

A-Rod was never beloved but he was one of the very greatest, and that’s enough. As with Ted Williams, his greatness will only become more evident over time while the feuds sportwriters had with him will seem increasingly trivial.

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