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Category: General

BREAKING! Person Good At Running Econometric Models Says Silly Things About Politics!

[ 83 ] November 15, 2014 |

Before dealing with the latest reported comments of President, Speaker of the House, Senate Majority Leader, Secretary of State, Chief Justice of the United States, Prime Minister, and Grand Poobah Jonathan Gruber a reminder about his actual role in crafting the ACA:

Mr. Gruber was not, as many claim, the architect of the health-care law. He is an MIT economist who, as a consultant to the Department of Health and Human Services, modeled the impact of various subsidy levels and rules. He did not make policy, nor did he work for the White House, HHS, or any congressional committee. Earlier, he advised the Massachusetts legislature when it created the health-care reforms that were a model for the ACA.

He did some informal consultation with the White House when putting together exactly the kind of proposal anyone following the Democratic primaries knew he would, and had grad students run some models to test various outcomes.  Again, this is not a trivial role, but assertions that he was the “architect” of the ACA or “wrote” it are demonstrably false.  In addition, in this context it apparently has to be emphasized that he was being paid for his expertise as a health care economist; he wasn’t being paid to tell Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid how to pass legislation.

At any rate, Gruber’s attempts to portray himself as some kind of Machiavellian super-genius are getting ever more annoying:

In a 2011 conversation about the Affordable Care Act, MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, one of the architects of the law more commonly known as Obamacare, talked about how the bill would get rid of all tax credits for employer-based health insurance through “mislabeling” what the tax is and who it would hit.


“It turns out politically it’s really hard to get rid of,” Gruber said. “And the only way we could get rid of it was first by mislabeling it, calling it a tax on insurance plans rather than a tax on people when we all know it’s a tax on people who hold those insurance plans.”

Ah, more proof that economist’s disease — where expertise in one subject area convinces someone that they are experts in everything — isn’t confined to the right.  First of all, how on earth is it “mislabeling” to call a tax on insurance plans a “tax on insurance plans?” It’s like saying that it’s lying to call a tax on imported goods a “tariff” because consumers bear some of the cost. Gruber seems to think that it’s dishonest to use merely accurate ways of describing your policy proposals, as if it’s the job of people proposing something to portray the proposals in the worst light possible.  I don’t know if Gruber noticed, but plenty of people on the other side of the aisle were busy making things up about the ACA to attack it; I don’t think that Democrats were obliged to do the same.

And, second, as with his previous own-goals the argument is not merely wrong but self-refuting even if you grant the false premise. Precisely because the public is ill-informed on policy details it doesn’t matter to mass public opinion what you call the tax on insurance plans.  Informed stakeholders, meanwhile, knew exactly what the tax did and didn’t like it. Gruber’s comments could not be more wrong on every level.  As a political analyst, he’s a hell of a health care economist.

Part of me feels bad for piling on; I don’t doubt that he was well-intentioned and it can’t be pleasant to be the right-wing villain du jour.  But Gruber has, at the very least, not discouraged the exaggerations of his role in creating the ACA, and he’s made a truckload of money from his reputation.  When you take on this kind of role, you really do have be responsible in your public comments, and Gruber has failed spectacularly in his self-appointed role again and again, saying things that are politically damaging (potentially OK) and wrong (very much not OK.)

The Neo-Confederate Roots of Off-Year Governor Elections

[ 33 ] November 15, 2014 |

Why are so many governor elections in non-presidential years? The answer depends on state, like so much else in American life. But in Florida at least, the election was moved off the presidential year in order to preserve white supremacist power:

Or maybe just like 1961.

That’s the year Florida Democrats changed the rules.

And to increase turnout and win, Florida Democrats should change the rules back in 2016.

According to legendary journalist Martin Dyckman, in 1961, Democrats were scared of presidential election cycles screwing up their dominance of state government, specifically Nixon vs. Kennedy.

So, instead of allowing JFK to be a drag on the (conservative) Democratic ticket, the Florida Legislature amended the Constitution, requiring the Governor and the Florida Cabinet to be elected in midterm, non-presidential election cycles.

This resulted in racist segregationist Democrat Haydon Burns serving an abbreviated two-year term. In 1968, the new rules were further cemented in the Florida Constitution.

Today, because of this change, about 2.5 million presidential cycle voters entirely ignore the Governor and the Florida Cabinet.

In short, knowing that poorer and younger voters don’t come out for midterm elections, the Florida white supremacist power structure changed the state constitution to ensure voting at a time that would more likely protect their interest. I’d like to know more about this and explore why states have selected their gubernatorial elections on a particular date.

I will also suggest that the staggering of elections is pretty unhealthy for our democracy because the proliferation of political ads turns more people off than on and seeing them 2 or 3 times every 4 years instead of once probably reduces public interest. That’s strictly my speculation though.

Burn Baby Burn

[ 92 ] November 15, 2014 |


150 years ago today, troops under the command of William Tecumseh Sherman undertook the major portion of the burning of Atlanta. The real story around this event is quite complicated, but it was November 15, 1864 that the major conflagration began. He then proceeded to take the reality of war to the plantation owners of Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina before they finally gave up on their treasonous war to defend slavery the next spring.

…See also this piece about how Georgia is moving to a less offensive official public remembrance of Sherman, making neo-Confederates cry. So sad.

Food Royalty

[ 72 ] November 14, 2014 |

corn girl

We’ve discussed the 1935 Idaho Potato Queen here in the past. But she didn’t exist in a vacuum. Food related royalty has long been a thing in the U.S. They still are too. I once attended the Yamboree in Gilmer, Texas. There was a Yam Queen. It was very exciting.

Sometimes, said food royalty poses with the food in somewhat odd ways.
That is the subject of tonight’s Friday night open thread. Above is the Kearney, Nebraska Corn Goddess. Don’t know the year. Below, a Pork Queen.


I’m Convinced!

[ 89 ] November 14, 2014 |

Vote suppression guru Hans von Spakovsky makes an excellent, if inadvertent, case for the confirmation of Loretta Lynch.

The Cosby Silence

[ 164 ] November 14, 2014 |

Excellent questions from one of his many accusers:

While I am grateful for the new attention to Cosby’s crimes, I must ask my own questions: Why wasn’t I believed? Why didn’t I get the same reaction of shock and revulsion when I originally reported it? Why was I, a victim of sexual assault, further wronged by victim blaming when I came forward? The women victimized by Bill Cosby have been talking about his crimes for more than a decade. Why didn’t our stories go viral?

Unfortunately, our experience isn’t unique. The entertainment world is rife with famous men who use their power to victimize and then silence young women who look up to them. Even when their victims speak out, the industry and the public turn blind eyes; these men’s celebrity, careers, and public adulation continue to thrive. Even now, Cosby has a new comedy special coming out on Netflix and NBC is set to give him a new sitcom.

There is a new 544 page biography of Cosby out that apparently ignores the extensive allegations of sexual assault entirely. The first, laudatory New York Times review of the book did not consider this worthy of mention at all; Dwight Garner’s more reserved review confines his objections on this score to a sentence. The cycle of silence or near-silence goes on and on.

This also can help us to understand why Jian Gomeshi thought he could just bluff and bully his way through the allegations against him. The horrible truth is that what’s surprising is not that he got away with it for so long, but that he suffered any professional consequences at all.

Choose Your Own Adventure

[ 32 ] November 14, 2014 |


R.A. Montgomery, author of the Choose Your Own Adventure children’s book series, has died. It is impossible to overstate how awesome these books were when I was 10 or 11 years old. Hopefully, Montgomery’s path to Heaven or Hell doesn’t include such similarly precarious choices as the many where the Maya would kill you, which seemed to happen a lot to me when I read the books.

The Other, Grosser McCain

[ 109 ] November 14, 2014 |

Go, Gamergate, go!

May I tell you what the most amusing thing about right-wing conservatives hitching their wagons to this odious movement is? They have no idea what they’re talking about. They’re not familiar with the details of Gamergate at all. They’re not familiar with its origins. They just know that a bunch of angry boys are “winning” and “standing up” to evil feminists. And, because they’re mindless reactionaries, that’s all they need to know to know which side they’re on. Still more delicious is the the fact the longer this drags on the more obvious it becomes that this was never anything more than an excuse to shit on women.

The comment section is comedy platinum.

That said, it doesn’t matter how many back pats the SJWs give the gaming industry, no one is going to by a video game, the object of which is to have your character curl up in a fetal position after drinking a bottle of cheap sangria, listen to Tracy Chapman albums and weep about how misogynistic society is. “Achievement Unlocked! Unlimited Free Spermicide w/ Titanium Diaphragm!”


Apparently, Gamergate is such an unstoppable force of nature it can time-travel, as–according to this comment–it’s clearly playing out in 1991.

EDIT: I should also add that the “SJW’s” have been making rhetorical mincemeat of the Gaters from the get-go, and that everyone outside its bubble–to include celebrities and celebrities in the gaming world–hates #GamerGate. It is, by any measure, a miserable failure of a movement.


[ 56 ] November 14, 2014 |


Don Blankenship, CEO of Massey Energy and one of the most detestable and immoral people living in the United States, was finally indicted for a few of his many crimes yesterday.

Don Blankenship, the longtime chief executive officer of Massey Energy, was indicted Thursday on charges that he orchestrated the routine violation of key federal mine safety rules at the company’s Upper Big Branch Mine prior to an April 2010 explosion that killed 29 miners.

A federal grand jury in Charleston charged Blankenship with conspiring to cause willful violations of ventilation requirements and coal-dust control rules — meant to prevent deadly mine blasts —during a 15-month period prior to the worst coal-mining disaster in a generation.

The four-count indictment, filed in U.S. District Court, also alleges that Blankenship led a conspiracy to cover up mine safety violations and hinder federal enforcement efforts by providing advance of government inspections.

“Blankenship knew that UBB was committing hundreds of safety-law violations every year and that he had the ability to prevent most of the violations that UBB was committing,” the indictment states. “Yet he fostered and participated in an understanding that perpetuated UBB’s practice of routine safety violations, in order to produce more coal, avoid the costs of following safety laws, and make more money.”

The indictment also alleges that, after the explosion, Blankenship made false statements to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the investing public about Massey’s safety practices before the explosion.

I’m really curious to what extent lying to investors wasn’t his real downfall. Being indicted is definitely not the same as receiving the harsh punishment Blankenship deserves, but it is a necessary and all too rare step to hold an employer accountable for people dying on the job. Still, the case of Blankenship is SO egregious that it could not be ignored and still took 4 1/2 years after the death of 29 miners.

Thanksgiving: The Holiday of Abolitionists

[ 46 ] November 14, 2014 |


My dislike for a lot of traditional Thanksgiving food, especially turkey, is fairly well known around these parts, but I always knew the holiday and its food more or less came out of colonial era New England. What I did know was that the celebration of Thanksgiving became deeply wrapped up in the sectional politics of the pre-Civil War era as New Englanders sought to make it a national holiday. This is just great stuff:

Virginia was the hotbed of anti-Thanksgiving sentiment. In 1853, Governor Joseph Johnson declined to declare a day of Thanksgiving for his state, citing Thomas Jefferson’s firm doctrine of separating church and state. Johnson’s successor, the slave-owning fire-brand Henry A. Wise, was even more intransigent. In 1856, he received the same annual letter from Sarah Josepha Hale that every other governor did, encouraging him to declare a general day of Thanksgiving. Wise not only declined to make the proclamation, but fired back a testy refusal.

“This theatrical national claptrap of Thanksgiving,” he declared, “has aided other causes in setting thousands of pulpits to preaching ‘Christian politics’ instead of humbly letting the carnal Kingdom alone and preaching singly Christ crucified.” By “other causes,” of course, he meant abolitionism.

That same year, the Richmond Whig elaborated the Southern case against Thanksgiving, excoriating the carnality of the holiday, which the editors felt should instead be spent in divine worship. In the District of Columbia, they noted, where all federal offices would be closed, “an astonishing quantity of execrable liquor will be guzzled” and the holiday would be “little more than an occasion for indulgence in dissipation at the cost of character.”

“While we are content,” the editors continued, “to buy our cotton spools and wooden ware from New England, because hers are the cheapest, we are by no means content to receive her notions of religion, morals, the duties of citizenship, &c, as being the best.”

Anti-Thanksgiving sentiment wasn’t confined to Virginia. In 1855, William H. Holcomb, a homeopathic physician in Natchez, Mississippi, recorded in his diary, “This was Thanksgiving day…I am sorry that the Yankee custom has crept in among us. I object to it because it makes gratitude to God a matter of civil ordinance, and limits to a single day the exhibition of feelings which should be a portion of our daily life.”

Those damned abolitionists, forcing Thanksgiving down the throats of Southern elites while attacking the benevolent institution of slavery….

Of course, the South did have one good point against Thanksgiving, which was the absurdity of New Englanders not celebrating Christmas. It was only after the Civil War that Thanksgiving was widely celebrated in the South and Christmas in New England. Interesting that in doing so, the South also basically accepted the entire menu from New England. Rather unfortunate too.

John Doar

[ 14 ] November 14, 2014 |


I’d have to say that someone who was one of the top two people in the Civil Rights Division from 1960-7 (among countless other accomplishments being on the front lines of the integration of Ole Miss and prosecuting the lynchers of Chaney, Schwerner and Goodman) and was chief counsel of the House Judiciary Committee during the Nixon impeachment process lived a life of exceptional accomplishment on the side of the angels.

a great interview with Doar here.

A Unicorn Industrialist Made Me Gay

[ 81 ] November 13, 2014 |

Origami Isopod wants you to look at these book titles. Not I, I find it entirely unfunny. As you know, I’m not in to this sort of thing, being as mature and dignified as I am.


* A Billionaire Dinosaur Forced me Gay
* Cyclops Forced me Gay
* Forced Gay by Aliens
* Robohound Forced me Gay
* Brachiosaurus Made me Gay
* Dark Pegasus Made me Gay
* Gay Lord of the Orcs
* Bigfoot’s Side Piece
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