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The Legend of the Avro Arrow

[ 50 ] March 28, 2015 |

On Thursday I gave a presentation at University of Ottawa’s Centre for International Policy Studies. After the talk, we visited the Canadian War Museum, which combines one of the most effective and minimalist war memorials I’ve ever seen with an outstanding collection of tanks and other vehicles. While at the museum, I had the opportunity to visit the museum store, where I found these:


Yes, those are CF-105 Avro Arrows. Canadians apparently love the ill-fated Arrow as much as they love hockey, poutine, and milk-in-a-bag.

The next day, I’m making my way through security, the Arrows safely in my carry-on. As it goes through the x-ray machine, I hear an audible gasp, and a few seconds later the whatever-Canada-calls-its-TSA-people staffer came up to me and said “We approve of your choice of toy airplane.” Because, of course, they had identified the two die-cast Arrows from their silhouettes alone.

The Arrows are now in good hands.
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Onward to Revolution!

[ 143 ] March 28, 2015 |

liberty

I’m never quite sure why the New York Times writes about real estate and the lives of the rich in the way it does. Is it about sucking up to the 1 percent? Or are these writers actually secret Marxists seeking to spur class warfare against the rich by writing these articles? I know it’s the former but it sure seems like the latter sometimes.

I first read this article because it’s summary described how the wealthy buying houses in the Hamptons was a sign of an improving economy. Well OK then. But it is really so, so much worse than that. An excerpt:

It was that word “special” that doubled the project’s time for one room in his 8,000-square-foot home, taking more time to finish than the spa with the Turkish marble floors or the wine cellar.

“What most people call screening rooms are glorified dens, with a big television and leather chairs, maybe some stadium seating,” he said. “I wanted mine to have a vision. I feel it’s one of the most impressive screening rooms in the country.”

The screening room, which is oval, has a hand-painted ceiling that mixes silver and gold leaf with Swarovski crystals.

….

“It’s very hard for someone who is not trained to get all the subtle nuances of the houses right,” said Campion Platt, an architect and interior designer, who worked with Mr. Seltzer on his home. “It’s about scale and proportion. Until they see it all assembled, they can be surprised.”

The toughest spaces are not screening rooms, he said, but great rooms, those vast open spaces meant to be the convening spot of a home. “It has to do with the scale and placement of the furniture,” he said.

But people make seemingly smaller mistakes that have larger ramifications. They skimp on lighting and tile, said Shane Inman, an interior designer who specializes in kitchens and baths.

And just as bad as having too much furniture in the great room, people don’t allow enough space for a kitchen to be functional. “They don’t know how many inches they need to walk past something,” Mr. Inman said.

To minimize those gaffes that detract from a dream home, many people with means hire a team to help them, such as architects, contractors, craftsmen and landscapers. Finding them is not easy. One option is the famous architect route, picking a Richard Meier or Robert A.M. Stern, the dean of the Yale University School of Architecture. But that is out of reach of all but the wealthiest people, and even those who can afford them need to want a house that matches the architect’s style. Another option is to seek referrals from friends.

It’s so declasse not have Rem Koolhaas or Richard Rogers design your home. Really, if you don’t hire a Pritzker Prize winner, you end up with Swarovski crystals in your ceiling. And who wants that? Nouveau money, that’s who.

Seriously, Upton Sinclair or Leon Trotsky could not write a more effective tract to convert people to socialism.

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The Stupidity of Pre-Draft Quarterback Analysis

[ 59 ] March 28, 2015 |

Washington Oregon Football

Following the NFL before the draft is always an exercise in stupidity, but never more so than when discussing quarterbacks. I admit I have a rooting interest this year since Marcus Mariota is the greatest Oregon player of my lifetime. And I have no idea how he will translate to the NFL. He’s an incredible athlete and very smart but he does miss some open receivers at times and fumbles a bit. I personally don’t think that he’s never huddled is a real issue. But you know what, it probably depends on the team who drafts him. I don’t know.

What I do know is that the coverage of quarterbacks every year is really stupid. Last year, it was Teddy Bridgewater for all sorts of really stupid reasons. And it turns out he looks like a very solid quarterback. This year it is Mariota for many of the same stupid reasons. What’s crazy is how much so many coaches want their QBs to be “leaders” of a very particular type, which is mostly yelling a lot. They want Brett Favre. And if a QB reminds them of him, they’ll raise him in the draft.

“Just because a guy doesn’t yell and scream at a guy when he doesn’t run the right route, ask any of those guys if they’d take Eli Manning. I don’t see Eli Manning screaming and yelling at anybody,” said Chip Kelly, Mariota’s coach at Oregon before Kelly went to the Eagles. “But you talk about a stone-cold killer in the fourth quarter, look how many fourth-quarter comebacks Eli’s had.

“It’s the silly season. I’ve said it before. The NFL draft hype is the craziest thing in the world. Guys are going to go up, guys are going to go down. Cam Newton couldn’t play. There’s no reason to draft him in the first round. All of a sudden, he goes No. 1. It’s crazy.”

Zimmer, who had been known as a smart and cocky defensive coordinator before getting his shot with the Vikings, admitted he was one of those guys that wanted to see some swagger out of his quarterback. Zimmer might not have been as adamant about it as other coaches, but he certainly considered that factor a plus.

Bridgewater has made him a believer.

“Well, I did learn a lot about that, to be honest with you,” Zimmer said. “He’s a guy that leads by how hard he works, by the improvement that he makes in practice every day, the way he wanted to learn how to annunciate the plays, just all the extra effort that they guy put in. … He’s not one of those guys that is going to get in your face, this or that, but the players all gravitate towards this guy. He’s always got a smile, he’s confident but not cocky. It’s never about him, so it’s always about, How can I help this guy do this better or the team.

“Maybe it’s not your leadership style that everybody is thinking about, but it was really effective this year. So I learned quite a bit.”

So nice of an NFL head coach to learn that, hey, maybe a QB doesn’t have to be brash to be effective. I’m glad that basic logic has entered the NFL finally, at least in places. See also Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan. Jameis Winston might be a great NFL QB. I don’t know. I do know that he throws A LOT of interceptions. A 25:18 TD:INT ratio is not going to fly in the NFL. Not to mention that it’s not like FSU had terrible receivers or played great defenses all year. Again, I don’t know. But Winston’s brashness and cockiness is serving him well with the troglodytes who staff so much of the NFL. And some of this is a combination of the NFL’s toxic masculinity and racism. If the QB doesn’t play those super manly games, then he’s not their man. And if he is a quiet Hawaiian dude (and Mariota is nothing if not a quiet Hawaiian dude) then there’s a problem with him. Forget what you’ve seen on the field and what you’ve seen in the interviews. How did he do in his pro day and at the combine and how loud is he? That’s true leadership!

Of course, none of this matches the all-time stupidest pre-draft fall of a QB, which was Aaron Rodgers, who fell partially because previous QBs coached in college by Jeff Tedford like Kyle Boller and Akili Smith had not done well in the NFL. I’m glad the science behind that proved so solid!

…I will also note that a) of all the Oregon uniforms, those are the best by far and b) this was the game when Oregon beat Washington for merely the 11th consecutive year.

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Useful Idiots

[ 381 ] March 28, 2015 |

Welp, I’m glad the National Review finds our old friend Freddie DeBoer useful in making arguments about how the real McCarthyism is on the college campus today. Because Freddie is the real leftist after all. Perhaps we should take odds on when he will show up here to accuse me of being part of this McCarthyist mob silencing dissent.

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This Day in Labor History: March 28, 1977

[ 10 ] March 28, 2015 |

On March 28, 1977, AFSCME Local 1644, a union primarily made of African-American sanitation workers, went on strike in Atlanta, hoping to force mayor Maynard Jackson to grant them a much needed pay raise. Jackson’s anti-union positions would deeply disappoint organized labor who believed that labor rights were civil rights. It would also demonstrated the willingness of many civil rights leaders to turn their backs on the needs of the poorest workers when they reached positions of authority. Finally, the failure of this strike showed that just electing supposedly progressive people to positions for power would not be a panacea for working class people.

The background for the AFSCME action in Atlanta goes back to its successful 1968 Memphis sanitation worker strike that served as the background for the assassination of Martin Luther King. Building on that, AFSCME continued trying to organize black workers in southern cities. Labor rights were civil rights and the martyrdom of King while supporting their cause was proof enough of this to black public workers around the South. The union became heavily involved in southern urban politics, seeking to elect blacks to power that would, presumably, use that power to increase the wages and working conditions of black workers.

The AFSCME-affiliated sanitation workers in Atlanta worked hard to elect who they thought was one of their own to the mayor. The Maynard Jackson campaign was an extension of the labor rights as civil rights theme. Jackson became a force in Atlanta politics in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Jackson was the first black attorney to work for the National Labor Relations Board office in Atlanta. As vice-mayor Jackson supported organized labor, breaking with mayor Sam Massell over a 1970 sanitation strike. In 1973, Jackson was elected mayor and it was a moment of rejoicing for African-Americans across the United States, as the rise of black political power seemed a confirmation of the civil rights movement, especially in the South. At first, Jackson did work to fight for the rights of the black poor, firing the racist white police chief in 1974. But the racial tensions this built and Jackson’s desire to be reelected in difficult economic times began to win out over racial and class equality concerns.

To say the least, Jackson did not repay the sanitation workers for their help. In his first three years as mayor, the workers received no raises and salaries remained stuck at an average of $7500 a year ($29,000 today). This placed a full-time worker supporting a family of four below the poverty line. Worker anger began to grow. Jackson would not give any ground. Instead, he embraced the city’s powerful white business community. They were concerned about the growing inflation of the 1970s and so Jackson decided to alleviate their concerns and drive workers deeper into poverty without raises to match that inflation. The workers demanded a 50-cent an hour raise. He refused to negotiate with AFSCME on the pay raises. Instead, Jackson became an austerity politician, stating “There will no deficit while I am mayor.” Jackson wouldn’t even return AFSCME’s phone calls by 1975. Over the next two years, smaller labor actions began popping up such as a one day strike in July 1976 and a wildcat strike in February 1977.

Finally, on March 28, 1977, the workers marched to City Hall to demand a meeting with Jackson. While Jackson did come out, he completely dismissed them. They were shocked that their own man, a hero of the civil rights movement, would treat them so shabbily. Basically there was no meaningful difference between Jackson and the white mayors of the past when it came to their work. At this point, the workers decided to strike. The next morning, 1300 workers went on strike.

Jackson quickly moved to isolate the workers by claiming AFSCME was attacking black political power. AFSCME president Jerry Wurf, the man who brought Martin Luther King into Memphis, was called a “racist manipulator” for for wanting to see black political power in Atlanta die, which really meant siding with the black workers over the black mayor. This is particularly ironic since the 1977 strike started without Wurf’s knowledge. It came completely from the rank and file and local staffers angry over Jackson’s betrayal. Jackson accused AFSCME of seeking to eliminate black political leadership throughout the South, saying “I see myself as only the first domino in [labor’s] Southern domino theory. If organized labor makes the move on black political leadership, I think it’s going to have severe consequences for labor Southwise, particularly AFSCME.” This was a cynical attempt to undermine community support for the strikers, an open race-baiting move by Jackson.

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Meeting between Maynard Jackson and striking workers

Jackson then fired all the striking workers on April 2. The black middle class fully supported this move. Sadly, so did the civil rights leaders. Martin Luther King, Sr. said Jackson should “fire the hell” out of the sanitation workers. Joseph Lowery, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, also came out against the strikers. James Farmer was an important exception to this, appearing at rallies with AFSCME. The union also took out advertisements in the New York Times to highlight Jackson’s betrayal.

It didn’t work. Jackson simply crushed the union. By the end of April, half of the strikers had already given up and applied to get their old jobs back. Leamon Hood, the AFSCME staffer in charge of the strike, recommended on April 26 that workers end the strike. AFSCME itself cut off funding for the strike on April 29. Over the next year, the workers who wanted their jobs back did eventually return to work. Somewhat ironically, the most militant workers accused Hood and Wurf of selling out but there was simply no way to win this strike in the face of overwhelming opposition from the heroes of the civil rights movement.

In the end, the strike showed that electing supposedly progressive leadership was not a panacea for worker power. Electing the right politicians is a necessary part of what unions have to do to get their members’ better lives, but it is often difficult to hold them to their promises, even when they come out of something as transformative as the civil rights movement.

I relied on Joseph McCartin, “Managing Discontent: The Life and Career of Leamon Hood, Black Public Employee Union Activist,” in Eric Arnesen, ed., The Black Worker: A Reader and Manning Marable, How Capitalism Underdeveloped Black America to write this post.

This is the 140th post in this series. Previous posts are archived here.

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Sweet Dreams

[ 4 ] March 28, 2015 |

Nighty-night!

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Justice Finally Done

[ 74 ] March 27, 2015 |

I argued that year that the United States should not have given a second’s consideration to extraditing Amanda Knox had she been re-convicted of a murder she plainly didn’t commit.   Fortunately, this action will no longer be necessary.    Glad someone else in the Italian judicial system finally stepped into the grown-up chair.

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Mapping Occupation

[ 11 ] March 27, 2015 |

Freedman_bureau_harpers_cartoon

The historian Gregory Downs and the historian and visual designer Scott Nesbit have put together a pretty fantastic visualization of the U.S. Army occupation of the South during Reconstruction. Looking at this really demonstrates the tenuous hold the military had over the white South, even at its height in rural places. The Army guaranteed the civil rights the emancipated slaves demanded but the lack of a long-term and sizable military force meant it could do little about white violence. This is worth your time.

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The Amateurism Fallacy

[ 88 ] March 27, 2015 |

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When you boil them down, defenses of the NCAA cartel boil down to a “if things were different, they wouldn’t be the same” argument.  Allegedly, the mystique of the NCAA comes down to players being forbidden from receiving anything but scrip as direct compensation, and also having extraordinary, unique bans on third party compensation that don’t apply to any other students imposed on them.  People are not offended by everyone else in the NCAA raking in as much cash as they possibly can, but end the exploitation of players in high-revenue sports and the edifice would crumble.

The most important response to this argument, of course, is “who cares?”  If the popularity of NCAA sports depends on gross exploitation and egregious double standards, then it’s not worth saving.  Sentimentality and trivial aesthetic preferences are pathetically weak justifications for denying the people taking the most risk and generating the most value fair compensation.

But here’s the thing: I don’t believe that the argument is correct on its own terms.  Owners asserted, after all, that free agency would destroy the popularity of pro sports, when in fact the popularity of pro sports exploded after free agency.  What fans will rant about to talk radio hosts has little connection with their future behavior.  In comments in the last thread, I think djw put the point brilliantly:

What’s particularly absurd about the first complaint is that at big-time sports schools, Football and Basketball resemble a professional team already in all the relevant ways: some of the best athletes in the world who treat athletics like more than a full time job, extremely high level of competition and performance, tons of money, marketing, and TV contracts, lots of people making obscene amounts of money, world class facilities, etc. The only real difference is that the people who do the most important and risky labor don’t get paid/get paid in dubious company script. It’s enormously popular.

On the other hand, there are hundreds of DII and DIII schools where the same sports teams resemble the amateur ideal a great deal more–no compensation, HS+ level facilities, part-time coaches, practice and travel schedules that let athletes be students in a meaningful sense, etc. Nobody cared. I attended one of those schools, I only heard my team was playing for a national title by watching sportscenter. (But I did watch UW on TV every week).

Bitter scribe’s assumption is that even though every single step toward professionalism so far has made college sports more popular, that one last step will someone how ruin everything. Let’s just say he’s got a substantial unmet burden of proof here.

The fact that the popularity of college sports is inversely correlated with how closely they embody the Noble Ideals of Amateurism makes claims that compensating players fairly will destroy college sports implausible in the extreme.

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Larry Tribe: The Crank Years

[ 44 ] March 27, 2015 |

laurence-tribe

Chait has an amusing discussion of Laurence Tribe’s willingness to cash paychecks from Big Coal to make arguments better suited to the CATO institute blog:

Tribe is playing an important legal role, which has to be evaluated on its own terms. Other law professors, like Richard Revesz, Jody Freeman, and Richard Lazarus, have called Tribe’s legal argument frivolous and absurd. Tribe has responded. But aside from the legal case Tribe has devised, his advocacy is also playing a crucial public role in the debate — even liberal professor Laurence Tribe noted that Obama’s climate regulations must be unconstitutional, which sounds very different from even coal company lawyer Lawrence Tribe agrees that Obama’s climate regulations must be unconstitutional. Should anybody put weight on Tribe’s endorsement of the anti-Obama lawsuit, any more than they should have taken Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz’s word for it that O.J. Simpson was innocent?

The question of whether Tribe is arguing in bad faith is difficult to answer. His fetish for bad states’ rights arguments did not begin here, although as far as I can tell he’s certainly never made any claims this remotely this bad or this radical before. As Paul has previously observed, at Tribe’s particular position in the legal profession asking whether he’s arguing in bad faith is almost a category error, like trying to figure out what the leader of a large brokerage party “really thinks.”

The more important question is whether his arguments are at all plausible, and…they are in fact strikingly terrible. They push far beyond current federalism doctrine to reach results with appalling consequences. Taken together, if applied seriously the arguments he’s making would threaten huge swaths of the United States Code. I’m particularly gobsmacked that he would embrace a favorite argument of radical libertarians, “the contemporary regulatory state is unconstitutional because the takings clause“:

Second, the constitutional arguments are wholly without merit. Tribe argues that EPA’s rule is an unconstitutional “taking” of industry’s private property under the Fifth Amendment because government regulation of power plant pollution has not covered greenhouse gas emissions until now. The clear implication of Tribe’s novel view of the Constitution is that the coal industry, and the power plants that burn their coal, possess an absolute constitutional property right to continue to emit greenhouse gases in perpetuity. No Supreme Court opinion has ever announced such a preposterously extreme proposition of constitutional law. Nor has even one single Justice in more than two centuries of cases endorsed such a reading of the Fifth Amendment.

If Tribe were right, government could never regulate newly discovered air or water pollution, or other new harms, from existing industrial facilities, no matter how dangerous to public health and welfare, as long as the impacts are incremental and cumulative. The harm EPA seeks to address with its power plant rule not only affects future generations, but also current ones already managing the impacts and risks of climate change. Indeed, after an unprecedented and exhaustive scientific review, EPA in 2009 made a formal finding that greenhouse gases already endanger public health and welfare. The D.C. Circuit upheld this finding, and, given a chance to review it, the Supreme Court declined. This is important because it makes it all the more astonishing that Professor Tribe has himself determined that greenhouse gases do not pose the kind of risk that government is entitled to address, unless it is willing to compensate industry for its losses. It is hard to imagine a more industry-friendly and socially destructive principle than this.

Thankfully, this principle has no basis in constitutional law. The Supreme Court has repeatedly made clear that the Fifth Amendment’s Takings Clause does not shield business investments from future regulation, even when that regulation cuts sharply into their profits. The Constitution protects only “reasonable investment backed expectations,” and there is simply no reasonable expectation to profit forever from activities that are proven to harm public health and welfare. Certainly the coal industry uniquely enjoys no special exemption from this fundamental constitutional rule.

The nondelegation and anti-commandeering are no better, and any of them could have been made by Richard Epstein himself. I don’t really care whether Tribe believes them or not; what matters is that they all need to be killed and the earth salted before they could reemerge. They would be embarrassing if they were being made for good policy ends, let alone being made to protect the interests of polluters and increase carbon emissions during an environmental crisis. And I’m note sure he’ll be able to get even Clarence Thomas’s vote for the constitutional arguments.

Tribe has made many salutary and important contributions to constitutional law. Where’s he’s coming from here, I have no idea.

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Same-Sex Marriage Pre-History

[ 37 ] March 27, 2015 |

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Reasonable Moderate Sam Alito and other theocrats claim that same-sex marriage is illegitimate because it is a brand new perversion of a perfect and long-lasting institution. This is of course hooey. First of all, much of the history of the United States is based around the right to marry the person of your choice and live a dignified life with that person. Let’s not forget that slaves could not marry.

If you have access via a library to the latest edition of the Journal of American History, I highly recommend Rachel Hope Cleves’ article on the prehistory of same-sex marriage. And if you can’t read it, she did a podcast you can listen to. She basically tracks down a long history of gay marriage, going back to berdaches among southwestern indigenous peoples through gold miners in 19th century California and to many cases throughout American history of people accepting marriage and marriage-like arrangements between same-sex couples. So much of our gay history, even from gay activists, comes from a touchstone that the past was a horrible place and that only after 1969 did things improve. This is not so dissimilar from our popular history of sexuality. Both on both counts, the history is much more complicated and if the 1950s and early 1960s were a period of repression of gays (and sexuality more broadly), before World War II, it’s a whole other country out there. Take the image above, which is in her article. This is a circa 1820 marriage silhouette of Sylvia Drake and Charity Bryant. Such silhouettes were common among married couples at that time. Drake and Bryant made a life together and maybe not everyone was comfortable with it, but they made it work, living as active church members in their Vermont community.

Even the New York Times could speak positively of same-sex marriages, at least in theory. This comes from Cleves’ article and the reference is an 1883 story uncovered of two women married to each other, one of whom was passing as a man.

Now that the Waupun public has succeeded in ascertaining that Mr. Dubois, the husband of Mrs. Dubois, is really a woman, it is assumed, as a matter of course, that the pair must separate. Public opinion will not tolerate the marriage of two women, and Mr. Dubois has escaped probable imprisonment and threatened tar and feathers by confessing her sex and agreeing to abandon her wife. At this distance from Waupun it may strike unprejudiced people that Mr. and Mrs. Dubois have been subjected to rather harsh treatment. If Mrs. Dubois chose to marry a woman, whose business was it? Such a marriage concerns the general public less than the normal sort of marriage, since it does not involve the promise and potency of children. It has been well established that if a woman chooses to wear trousers she has a right to wear them, and no one will venture to deny the right of any two women to live together if they prefer the society of one another to solitude. Why, then, has not Mrs. Dubois the right to live with another woman who wears lawful trousers, and why should so much indignation be lavished upon Mrs. Dubois’s female husband? There are many women who, if they had the opportunity, would select other women as husbands rather than marry men. The women who regard men as dull, tiresome creatures, incapable of understanding women, would find sympathy and pleasure in the society of female husbands.

These stories are important in fighting back against the false history of marriage pushed by theocrats. Yesterday’s passage of a discriminatory bill in Indiana shows just how important this is. While gay marriage seems like it will soon be universal, the theocrats will not give up and equal rights for all will need defense. A usable past is a key part of that defense.

….Another summary of the article in the Washington Post for those without access to the original.

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Reid Retires

[ 131 ] March 27, 2015 |

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Harry Reid is retiring — an a presidential cycle, luckily. Kilgore on his legacy:

We’ll soon get around to appreciations of what Reid accomplished and tried to accomplish, and an assessment of the contest to succeed him as Senate Democratic Leader (Chuck Schumer and Dick Durban are the most likely candidates). I think he will be most remembered as the Senator who finally began restricting the out-of-control use of the filibuster, though he also deserves significant credit (or blame) for how the Affordable Care Act was put together and enacted. For now we can just marvel at his long and very significant career.

I’ve said this before, but I think Ed’s assessment of Reid’s work on the ACA is far too equivocal. It seems ever more obvious in retrospect that what’s surprising is not that something much better than the ACA couldn’t pass but that Reid and Obama were able to get 60 votes for anything. Certainly, the next person with an even slightly plausible argument explaining how he could have gotten the votes of Lieberman, Bayh, Nelson, Landrieu, Lincoln, et. al for, say, a meaningful public option will be the first. There were certainly more liberal senators than Reid, but I’m not sure how many of them would have been more effective parliamentarians. He was very good at his job at a time when the Democrats really needed him to be.

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