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Thug To Spend Life In Prison Despite Creative “Imaginary Shotgun” Defense

[ 125 ] October 2, 2014 |

How implausible does a white man’s self-defense claim have to be before he can be convicted of killing a black teenager by a mostly white jury in Florida?  Michael Dunn found out:

Mr. Dunn had said that Mr. Davis, who sat in a Dodge Durango parked next to Mr. Dunn’s car, pointed a shotgun in his direction and tried to get out of the car with it. The police never found a firearm and witnesses never saw one.


This time, prosecutors homed in more forcefully on Mr. Dunn’s actions after the shooting, behavior that they said cloaked him in guilt. Mr. Dunn fled the scene and never called the police, not even after he learned that someone had died. Instead, he and the woman who was then his fiancée drove to their hotel, where he walked the dog, poured himself a rum and Coke and ordered a pizza. The next day he drove two and a half hours back to his house in Satellite Beach, where the police, who by then had his license plate number, arrested him.


Prosecutors damaged his credibility by putting Rhonda Rouer, Mr. Dunn’s former fiancée, on the stand. In tearful testimony, Ms. Rouer, who was inside the store when the shooting took place, said Mr. Dunn complained about “thug” music. And in the night and day after the shooting, he never once mentioned that a teenager had pulled out a firearm.

What’s amazing is that this risible story was enough for a mistrial the first time. Glad to see there was a jury whose credulity had limits this time.

Today In Republican Outreach To Women

[ 52 ] October 1, 2014 |

I’m sure this will be effective!

Is There A Good Liberal Defense For the Sebelius Medicaid Holding? [SPOILER: No.]

[ 100 ] October 1, 2014 |

I have a review of Laurence Tribe and Joshua Matz’s new book Uncertain Justice in the Washington Spectator.  The most striking argument in the book is an attempt to defend the re-writing of the ACA’s Medicaid provisions by linking it to other federal spending coercion cases (like the upholding of the Solomon Amendment.)  You may be surprised to find out that I do not find this convincing:

Their most original argument concerns the Court’s deciding to rewrite the Affordable Care Act to make its extensive Medicaid expansion optional (rather than making all Medicaid funds contingent on accepting the changes). Seven justices, including Democratic nominees Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan, voted for this unprecedented limit on the federal spending power. Some observers (including myself) have interpreted Breyer’s and Kagan’s votes as strategic, doubting that either would have been the swing vote to limit the expansion but wanted to ensure that Roberts would not vote to strike it down. Tribe and Matz not only reject this but try to make a liberal case for the Medicaid holding. Their argument ties the Medicaid decision to a line of cases dealing with the use of the spending power to limit certain forms of speech. The Court’s doctrine in this area has been erratic, striking down a provision that required groups seeking AIDS funding to explicitly oppose prostitution and sex trafficking, but upholding (for example) provisions making educational funding contingent on giving military recruiters access to campus and preventing recipients of certain federal funding from providing abortion counseling. Tribe and Matz advocate for more of the former and less of the latter, and see the Medicaid decision as being part of a tradition of limiting the use of the federal power to coerce.

This argument is intriguing, but also unconvincing. There is a very big difference between coercing individuals—who have explicit free speech rights—and coercing states, who do not. Despite these valiant efforts, the defense of the Medicaid expansion collapses on itself—it would be clearly constitutional for Congress to have simply created the 2013 version of Medicaid from scratch, and it would also be constitutional for Congress to repeal the program entirely, so it makes little sense to say that it’s unconstitutional for Congress to make existing Medicaid funding contingent on accepting new and more generously funded conditions.


The Shields Trade Today

[ 51 ] September 30, 2014 |

With the Royals making the playoffs, Rany Jazayerli says he was wrong about the Shields+/Myers+ trade. I don’t know if I agree, but the trade is theoretically interesting in terms of team-building. At the time, I think Jazayerli’s analysis was obviously correct. I say this even though I think I’m more of a “flags fly forever” guy than most analytical types. I have no problem in theory with trading major potential when you have a window, but based on what was known when they made the trade they just gave up too much for not enough.

Whether the Royals should have done the trade in retrospect is evidently a more interesting question. (As Jazayerli says, from the Rays’ perspective it remains a no brainer.) Certainly, it did pay off in the short-term as Moore intended. Shields was a very good starter, Davis was extraordinary in relief, and the Royals don’t make the playoffs without both. (One reason I still think the trade was a bad idea at the time is that it’s hard to say that the latter was foreseeable.) What makes the question relatively close is that Myers was injured again and was terrible when he did play. He could still be really good, but there’s reason for concern. It’s not as if he’s an established star and the only question is his health; his lifetime RC+ is 105, which is barely playable in the corner outfield. He needs to develop, and while I think that remains a good bet as Royals fans know it isn’t inevitable, and the time he’s missed with injuries is a concern — his age 24 year will be crucial. Odorizzi looks good, but since most young pitchers can’t handle a 200-inning-a-year workload, from a Royals perspective I don’t mind taking the risk. Whether the trade was a good idea in retrospect will come down to Myers. And at this point, it’s hard to know exactly how valuable he is. He might come out next year healthy and picking up where he left off in 2013 — but I wouldn’t be shocked to see him stagnate either. He’s not nearly as valuable a property as he was two years ago after a lost season.

If I were a Royals fan, I probably still wouldn’t want them to have made the deal…but it’s a much closer question than I would have thought. And as Jazayerli says, in that sense I was wrong at the time. And breaking the playoff drought is something that can’t be taken away, and that’s not trivial.

…I will say, though, that if you’re going into “flags fly forever” mode, you really need to hire a minimally competent manager as opposed to, say, Ned Yost.

…a game this good is certainly a point in favor of a more FFF interpretation.

…well, that was something. I’m torn between being happy for the Royals and sympathetic for the perennially snakebit Beane A’s.


I’m Beginning To Think That Arthur Laffer And Stephen Moore Are Not Credible Economists

[ 129 ] September 30, 2014 |

The basic outlines will be familiar to most of you, but John Judis does an excellent job of describing the Koch-induced meltdown in Kansas, filling in a lot of interesting details. (Sam Brownback is obsessed with John Brown, which cannot be a good thing on any level.) The bottom line:

After he had ousted the moderate Republicans, Brownback was able to push an ideologically pure agenda with almost no real opposition. He obtained the power to nominate judges. He reduced tax cuts on the wealthy even more: The rate for the top bracket fell from 6.45 percent to 3.9 percent, and Brownback promised to eventually reduce it to zero when revenues from other sources made up for any potential losses. The economic benefits, he boasted, would be immense. In Denver in October 2012, Brownback predicted “more job creation, more tax revenues, and . . . a much more solid public-sector funding.” The Kansas Policy Institute, for instance, predicted that his tax cuts would generate a $323 million windfall in revenue.


By June of 2014, the results of Brownback’s economic reforms began to come in, and they weren’t pretty. During the first fiscal year that his plan was in operation, which ended in June, the tax cuts had produced a staggering loss in revenue—$687.9 million, or 10.84 percent. According to the nonpartisan Kansas Legislative Research Department, the state risks running deficits through fiscal year 2019. Moody’s downgraded the state’s credit rating from AA1 to AA2; Standard & Poor’s followed suit, which will increase the state’s borrowing costs and further enlarge its deficit.

Brownback had also promised that his tax cuts would vault Kansas ahead of its higher-taxed neighbors in job growth, but that, too, failed to happen. In Kansas, jobs increased by 1.1 percent over the last year, compared with 3.3 percent in neighboring Colorado and 1.5 percent in Missouri. From November to May, Kansas had actually lost jobs, and the labor participation rate was lower than when Brownback took office. The cuts did not necessarily slow job growth, but they clearly did not accelerate it. And the effects of Brownback’s education cuts were also glaring—larger class sizes, rising fees for kindergarten, the elimination of arts programs, and laid-off janitors and librarians.

In fairness, those laid-off janitors and librarians were parasites, not workers. Supply-side works!

If You Like MRA Rape Apologias But Generally Find Them Too Coherent, It’s Your Lucky Day!

[ 129 ] September 30, 2014 |

Forgotten but oddly not gone, Camille Paglia has arranged a large number of very poorly chosen words on a virtual page. It contains stuff like this:

Wildly overblown claims about an epidemic of sexual assaults on American campuses are obscuring the true danger to young women, too often distracted by cellphones or iPods in public places: the ancient sex crime of abduction and murder. Despite hysterical propaganda about our “rape culture,” the majority of campus incidents being carelessly described as sexual assault are not felonious rape (involving force or drugs) but oafish hookup melodramas, arising from mixed signals and imprudence on both sides.

We have cultural references for people who find Hi And Lois a little too cutting edge — these kids today with their phones that aren’t even plugged into the wall and their portable music machines that Apple has recently discontinued because they’re horrible people and don’t care about old people like me — that also don’t mean anything. We have an assertion-without-evidence that the problem of sexual violence on campus is overblown. And we have a made-up and reprehensible category called “not felonious rape,” so apparently the problem of sexual violence on campus is “overblown” so long as we erroneously define some kinds of sex without consent as not being rape — or misdemeanor rape? — because brute force or drugs were not involved. This argument hasn’t improved since Katie Roiphie made it all those many years ago.

In other words, we have appalling ideas expressed in prose to match. It can’t get worse from there, I guess, but:

The basic Leftist premise, descending from Marxism, is that all problems in human life stem from an unjust society and that corrections and fine-tunings of that social mechanism will eventually bring utopia. Progressives have unquestioned faith in the perfectibility of mankind.

Not only a strawman, but an incredibly lazy and cliched one.

Misled by the naive optimism and “You go, girl!” boosterism of their upbringing, young women do not see the animal eyes glowing at them in the dark. They assume that bared flesh and sexy clothes are just a fashion statement containing no messages that might be misread and twisted by a psychotic. They do not understand the fragility of civilization and the constant nearness of savage nature.

This is a lot of words and 90s catchphrases to say “if you get raped it’s your fault for not going to class dressed in a burlap sack.” Again, Paglia seems to realize that the only thing that could be more revolting than her prose is her ideas. Oddly, evidence that sexual violence didn’t exist before people starting saying things they mostly stopped saying during the Bush administration is uncited.

I could go on, but just read this golden oldie from The Editors instead. Now there was a guy who could write.

A Blessing And A Curse

[ 11 ] September 30, 2014 |

In general, I’m inclined to agree that the Supreme Court hears too few cases now that it’s been given near-total discretion over its docket. On the other hand, in general the fewer controversies the current Court resolves, the better.

Today In the New Gilded Age

[ 245 ] September 29, 2014 |

Let me preface this my saying that the tendency for reviews of Lena Dunham’s work to take the form of reviews of Lena Dunham the person is both irritating and sexist. Nonetheless, when Lena Dunham the person does something bad she should be called out for it, and this is really bad:

Last month, the writer, actor and producer Lena Dunham started an ambitious project. Nearly 600 people responded to an open call for video auditions on her website, including a sand artist, a ukulele player, a cappella singers, gymnasts, performance artists and stand-up comics, even some exceptionally charismatic babies.

The seven who made the final cut won’t be making cameos in “Girls,” Ms. Dunham’s HBO show about Brooklyn 20-somethings. Instead, they’ll be the warm-up acts — performing free of charge — on an elaborately produced, 11-city tour to promote Ms. Dunham’s new book, “Not That Kind of Girl.”

As Nolan says, what’s bad about this is not only did Dunham get a nearly $4 million advance for the book — an advance I have a very hard time believing is justified by the book’s commercial prospects — she’s charging 38 bucks a throw for admission to the talks. If you’re doing that, you really have no possible excuse for not paying the people you hire. Pay them, or do the tour solo. This kind of exploitation is just wrong, and please don’t tell me that you’re paying them in exposure.

…as commenters note, both John Scalzi and Steve Albini are excellent on the general principles here.

…I also agree with Abagail Nussbaum in comments that the publisher deserves criticism for this as well.

…UPDATE: a happy ending.

Regulatory Capture

[ 93 ] September 29, 2014 |

Salmon and Lowrey on the devastating findings of a ProPublica report on the deference shown by the New York Fed to the firms it’s supposed to be regulating. The former’s depressing conclusion:

So we have a situation where bank examiners have every bureaucratic incentive to do nothing, and they also have a professional incentive to do nothing, lest the banks they’re examining start becoming more financially precarious. And then, as Dan says, there’s a third structural issue at play — which is that senior bankers have much more access to senior Fed officials than junior Fed officials do. If Segarra and her team kicked up a fuss at Goldman, Lloyd Blankfein could pick up the phone at any time and complain to the president of the NY Fed. The president of the NY Fed knows and likes and respects the CEO of Goldman Sachs; he probably never even met a junior staffer like Segarra. (None of this is helped by the fact that the NY Fed is a private institution, whose shareholders include the likes of Goldman Sachs.)

So while Bernstein’s story is an eye-opening look into how regulatory capture works in practice, the people complaining about the lack of a smoking gun have missed the point. The scandal is precisely that ’twas ever thus: that the Fed was captured, is captured, and probably always will be captured by the banks it regulates. If it refuses to admit that there’s even a problem, then there’s no way that the situation is ever going to improve.

Annals of American Meritocracy II: The Ballad of Clipboard Jesus

[ 91 ] September 29, 2014 |

After endorsing Barnwell’s take on Marvin Lewis, let me proceed to this excellent description of the career of Charlie Whitehurst:

• Whitehurst grows to 6-foot-5.

• He spends four years at Clemson, during which he fails to complete 60 percent of his passes (ending at 59.7 percent) and throws nearly as many interceptions (46) as touchdowns (49). The Tigers go 30-19 during his time in school.

• The Chargers draft Whitehurst in the third round of the 2006 NFL draft.

• Whitehurst spends four years as the third-string quarterback in San Diego behind Philip Rivers and Billy Volek. He does not attempt a regular-season pass. His only experience comes during the 2006-09 preseasons, during which Whitehurst goes 104-of-197 (52.8 percent) for 1,031 yards (5.2 yards per attempt) with five touchdowns and seven interceptions.8

• Seattle’s new brain trust of Pete Carroll and John Schneider targets Whitehurst in a trade, getting their man by sending San Diego a future third-round pick and swapping Seattle’s second-round pick (40th) for San Diego’s (60th) in the 2010 draft.9 They also immediately give Whitehurst a two-year, $8 million contract extension.

• Whitehurst enters into a quarterback competition with 35-year-old incumbent Matt Hasselbeck.

• Whitehurst loses that quarterback competition.

• Whitehurst plays in nine regular-season games over two seasons with Seattle, starting four, most notably the division-clinching win over St. Louis in the fail-in game on Sunday Night Football in Week 17 of the 2010 season. He is benched in his last start after seven pass attempts for an already-injured Tarvaris Jackson. Over the two-year span, Whitehurst goes 84-of-155 (54.2 percent) for 805 yards (a terrifying 5.2 yards per attempt) while throwing three touchdowns and four picks.

• Returning to unrestricted free agency, Whitehurst signs a two-year, $3.05 million deal with the Chargers, including a $1 million signing bonus.

• Now 30 years old, Whitehurst spends 2012 and 2013 as the backup to Philip Rivers without throwing a regular-season pass. He takes 12 snaps during his stint with the Chargers, producing six handoffs and six kneel-downs for a total of minus-5 yards.

• Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt takes over as Tennessee’s head coach and brings Whitehurst along for the ride, giving the now 32-year-old a two-year, $4.3 million deal with $2 million guaranteed.

And it’s the first point that’s crucial here. He’s a tall white guy with a strong arm, so the fact that he’s never shown the slightest evidence of being an NFL quarterback can be overlooked. Coaches think they can teach non-prospects like this to play. They can’t, but they like to think they can. As I’ve said before, the Billy Beane outlook has never been about statistical analysis per se; in part, it’s about not letting your image of what a good player is supposed to look like cloud your talent evaluations.

The other striking thing here is that this isn’t just terrible organizations or obvious incompetents involved here. Wisenhunt isn’t a great coach but he did take an organization with virtually no history of success to within one play of the Super Bowl. Carroll and Schneider have built the best team in the league (granting that they’ve always been better identifying and developing defensive than offensive talent.) Perhaps one lesson here is that good organizations are ones that learn from their mistakes: Russell Wilson is the bizarro Charlie Whitehurst (short for an NFL QB, African-American, doesn’t have a cannon arm, has always been highly productive.)

[PC] See also.

“But He Beat Southeastern Missouri!” Annals Of American Meritocracy I

[ 80 ] September 28, 2014 |


Charlie Weis was rewarded for failing catastrophically as not only a college head coach but as a college offensive coordinator by being given a cool $2.5 million a year to preside over unpaid employees in Lawrence.  Yesterday, KU decided to decline its decided schematic advantage.  Weis leaves the Sunflower state with many millions of dollars and a 1-18 conference record.

Speaking of which, a few years ago Chait wrote about the “negotiating” process behind the hiring of Brady Hoke.  Unlike Weis, Hoke was not a transparently stupid hire; he had a solid record at two lower-tier jobs and was a plausible candidate to step up to the Big 12.  But (to put it mildly) he was no proven major conference commodity like Nick Saban or Urban Meyer.  Despite the fact that he was desperate to come to Michigan and there were no other bidders for Hoke’s services, he was given a lavish contract with a guaranteed base pay of more than $18 million.  Hoke is, for some reason, still being employed as a head coach so that he can lose games and send badly injured unpaid players back on to the field.  The storied Wolverines were the 65th ranked team in the country before being curb-stomped by Minnesota (#56) in Ann Arbor.   I assume Paul will have more when the inevitable happens.

In conclusion, if a booster has taken a KU or Michigan player out for a Quarter Pounder, this would be the greatest scandal in known human history.  I will never stop being outraged by the attacks on this country’s most precious resource, its Noble and Consistently Adhered to By All Relevant Parties Ideals of Amateurism.

Meaningful 162

[ 57 ] September 28, 2014 |

My consistent pessimism about the Mariners was certainly in full force after Austin Jackson lined a 5-0 3-2 pitch to right field in the bottom of the ninth, squandering a bases loaded-none out opportunity.  But with Jackson busting ass to beat out a double play in the bottom of the 11th, they somehow pulled it out.  As bad as the last 10 days went, if you had told me at the beginning of the year that they would be alive on the last Sunday of the year with King Felix on the mound, I would certainly have taken it and how.

And, yes, I can’t complain because As fans have been going through this for two months.  I’d be surprised if they lost to Texas today but evidently I didn’t expect them to go 9-20, either…

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