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“Unless it involves Sage Northcutt hand-ripping apples and ginger roots and mashing them through a sieve, I call bullshit.”

[ 48 ] December 7, 2016 |


It’s that one special December day we look forward to every year: the hater’s guide to the Williams-Sonoma catalogue:

As always, there is nothing rich people love more than eating fancy versions of white trash food. “It’s franks and beans, but the beans are imported from Tuscany and the franks are actually made from Japanese HegWu beef. Such whimsy! NINETY DOLLARS PER PIECE.” Every time a Brooklyn resident raves about “comfort food,” a coal miner from Appalachia is crushed in a landslide.

Can I confess something? I would totally love to own that Tartan dutch oven. If a reader bought one for me I would end my silence and tell you what I really think about James Comey.


Misogyny – Buckeye State style

[ 39 ] December 7, 2016 |

Ohio’s General Assembly just can’t get enough of that sweet lady-hating legislation.

Ohio legislators passed a “heartbeat bill” Wednesday that bans abortion after a fetus’s heartbeat can be heard — on average around six weeks into a pregnancy. The bill has no exception for cases of rape or incest.

The bill was tacked on at the last minute to another bill addressing child abuse. It was approved in the Republican-dominated state House and Senate, and will now move on to Republican and anti-abortion Gov. John Kasich’s desk. He will sign or veto it within the next 10 days.

Forced pregnancy logic – stick a bill that will increase the number of unwanted children onto a bill about child abuse. I assume the fact that some victims of child abuse will be forced to give birth to children fathered by their abusers is seen as a good thing by the people who draft and vote for these sorts of bills.

Many women do not know they are pregnant until they have missed two periods, which can often be around eight weeks. Others may find out before the six-week mark, but might still be unable to get an abortion in time because there are a lack of clinics in Ohio and state laws require women wait 24 hours between an informational appointment about abortion and having the procedure done.

And what’s better than oppressing women with one arbitrary ban on a medical procedure? Of course.

Abortions would be banned after 20 weeks under a bill Republican lawmakers hoped to pass Wednesday and add to legislation already on its way to GOP Gov. John Kasich that would prohibit abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected.

House lawmakers heard testimony about the 20-week ban Wednesday morning with a scheduled committee vote in the afternoon and a goal to put it on the House floor later in the day.

That follows House approval Tuesday night of the so-called heartbeat bill, clearing the way for what would be one of the nation’s most stringent abortion restrictions.

The second bill may be due to the fact that Gov. Kasich has expressed doubts about the 6-week ban. Or, an excess of evil.

I wonder how long it will take our new Republican Congress to pass their Life Begins at Hello bill?

More on Workers and Environmentalists

[ 21 ] December 7, 2016 |


My New Republic essay on how environmentalism needed to get in touch with working-class concerns came out on the day that protestors forced the Obama administration to reroute the pipeline away from the Standing Rock reservation. That was a total coincidence. But the aftermath of this is a good window into a number of related issues. First, it’s well worth noting how the work of the wonderful Bill McKibben has accomplished a great deal of bringing environmentalism back toward a mass movement, making connections with a lot of other left-leaning groups, if not necessarily a lot of organized labor. McKibben has a good essay placing the pipeline movement in the larger context of indigenous activism as well as thinking about what this means in Trump’s America:

Indigenous organizers are some of the finest organizers around the globe – they’ve been key to everything from the Keystone fight to battling plans for the world’s largest coal mine in Australia. If we manage to slow down the fossil fuel juggernaut before it boils the planet, groups like the Indigenous Environmental Network and Honor the Earth will deserve a great share of the credit. Right now, for instance, Canada’s First Nations are preparing for “Standing Rock North” along the route of two contested pipelines out of Canada’s tarsands. But in the Dakotas it’s been particularly special: they’ve managed to build not just resistance to a project, but a remarkable new and unified force that will, I think, persist. Persist, perhaps, even in the face of the new Trump administration.

Trump, of course, can try and figure out a way to approve the pipeline right away, though the Obama administration has done its best to make that difficult. (That’s why, instead of an outright denial, they simply refused to grant the permit, thus allowing for the start of the environmental impact statement process). But if Trump decides to do that, he’s up against people who have captured the imagination of the country. Simply spitting on them to aid his friends in the oil industry would clarify a lot about him from the start, which is one reason he may hesitate.

In any event, though, time is measured somewhat differently in the dispute between this continent’s original inhabitants and the late-coming rest of us. For five hundred years, half a millennia, the same grim story has repeated itself over and over again. Today’s news is a break in that long-running story, a new chapter. It won’t set this relationship on an entirely new course – change never comes that easily. But it won’t ever be forgotten, and it will influence events for centuries to come. Standing Rock, like Little Big Horn or Wounded Knee, or for that matter Lexington Green and Concord Bridge, now belongs to our history.

Meanwhile, while environmentalists need to do much more to connect with workers, it’s not as if the unions involved in the pipeline construction are bathing themselves in glory. Of course, these tensions have a historical context that I tried to address in the New Republic piece, but in the present, it’s fine if you don’t want to support the Laborers or Teamsters position on the pipeline. The IBT and LIUNA reactions are very disappointing:

The Teamsters union warned good jobs are at risk Monday over a decision by the Obama administration to stop construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline.

After twice defending its approval process in court, with victories in both cases, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reversed course when it announced Sunday that it would not approve construction permits needed to finish the project. The Teamsters argued the decision will hurt working Americans.

“The decision will have a direct and negative impact on the hardworking men and women—including Teamsters and other union members—who have invested their lives in building the infrastructure that makes this country run,” the Teamsters said in a statement provided to InsideSources. “The Teamsters Union looks forward to moving past this disappointing decision toward the eventual approval of this easement and completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline.”

The Standing Rock Sioux tribe and its supporters claim the nearly completed pipeline runs too close to sacred tribal burial sites and could affect the tribe’s water supply, though the pipeline never crosses onto tribal land. The Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) argues the Obama administration is “appeasing environmental extremists.”

“Blocking the final portion of construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline after it is 93 percent complete and fully reviewed is a short-sighted, gutless, and irresponsible decision,” LIUNA President Terry O’Sullivan said in a statement Sunday. “It only serves to prolong the conflict that is dividing communities in North Dakota.”

This is ridiculous. The Obama administration did not kill the project. It just sought to change the route. Yes, this means there are delays. But the work is going to happen. On the other hand, I do get the deep necessity of these unions to find work for their members, many of whom are chronically underemployed. The plain fact is that there is not enough good work for working-class people anywhere in this country. But these unions, who desperately need allies to survive in the Trump years, are also acting out of cultural biases and disdain for the hippies and Indians involved in the protest and are doing themselves no favors. In the end, most of the left will barely care if LIUNA is demolished in the next 4 years. And while some of that is on the left activists from various movements who are indifferent or even hostile to collective economic action, a lot of it is the consistently antagonistic positions many unions, particularly in the building trades have taken toward other social movements.

How the Roberts Court Helped Out Wells Fargo

[ 52 ] December 7, 2016 |

Chief-Justice-John-Roberts“I applaud how these hard-working salesmen met their quotas!”

If you were wondering why I listed AT&T v. Concepcion as one of the very worst Roberts Court decisions, here you go:

The bank has sought to kill lawsuits that its customers have filed over the creation of as many as two million sham accounts by moving the cases into private arbitration — a secretive legal process that often favors corporations.

Lawyers for the bank’s customers say the legal motions are an attempt to limit the bank’s accountability for the widespread fraud and deny its customers their day in open court.

Under intense pressure to meet sales goals, Wells employees used customers’ personal information to create unauthorized banking and credit card accounts in a far-reaching scandal that has rattled the San Francisco bank to its core, forcing the retirement of its longtime leader, John G. Stumpf, and enraging regulators and politicians of all stripes.

The bank’s arbitration push in recent weeks is fanning those flames anew.

“It is ridiculous,” said Jennifer Zeleny, who is suing Wells Fargo in federal court in Utah, along with about 80 other customers, over unauthorized accounts. “This is an issue of identity theft — my identity was used so employees could meet sales goals. This is something that needs to be litigated in a public forum.”

In arbitration, consumers often find the odds are stacked against them. The arbitration clauses prevent consumers from banding together to file a lawsuit as a class, forcing them instead to hash out their disputes one by one and blunting one of most powerful tools that Americans have in challenging harmful and deceitful practices by big companies.

Strict judicial rules limiting conflicts of interest also do not apply in arbitration, enabling some companies to steer cases to friendly arbitrators, according to a 2015 investigation by The New York Times.

Arbitration is also conducted outside public view, and the decisions are nearly impossible to overturn.

Ms. Zeleny, a lawyer who lives outside Salt Lake City and opened a Wells Fargo account when she started a new law practice, said it would be impossible for her to agree to arbitrate her dispute over an account that she had never signed up for in the first place.

The bank’s counterargument: The arbitration clauses included in the legitimate contracts customers signed to open bank accounts also cover disputes related to the false ones set up in their names.

Some judges have agreed with this argument, but some lawmakers and others consider it outrageous.

“Wells Fargo’s customers never intended to sign away their right to fight back against fraud and deceit,” said Senator Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat, who introduced a bill last week that would prevent Wells from forcing arbitration in the sham account cases.

Yet even as the bank reels in the court of public opinion, Wells Fargo has been winning its legal battles to kill off lawsuits. Judges have ruled that Wells Fargo customers must go to arbitration over the fraudulent accounts.

In dismissing one large case seeking class-action status in California, a federal judge ruled last year that it was not “wholly groundless” that customers could be forced to arbitrate over accounts they had never agreed to. That case is now being settled, according to legal filings.

Some of these victims, admittedly, probably would have been kept out of federal court and/or denied class action arbitration claims no matter what. But California used to have regulations that limited forced arbitration clauses. Alas, the Roberts Court ruled that these regulations were preempted by federal law, even though they were clearly not preempted by federal law. In conclusion, the Roberts Court is all about ethics in gaming journalism federalism. So Wells Fargo will probably find that defrauding their customers won’t work out that badly for them in the end.

There are so many things the next unified Democratic government (if any) needs to do, but federal restrictions on forced arbitration contracts is something that should be on the radar. The extreme deference given to forced arbitration agreements is essentially a corporate license to steal, leaving consumers with rights but an effectively worthless remedy in many cases.

The poll, part 2/3: Feeling the Bern? Or feeling the Johnson?

[ 103 ] December 7, 2016 |

This is part 2 of a series of 3 posts by Jameson Quinn, based on a pre-election poll run by and GfK research. Part 1 introduced the poll and analysis methodology, and discussed the lessons of the poll regarding the two-way Hillary/Trump race. This part talks about what the poll tells us about support for other candidates or potential candidates. Part 3 will talk about the implications for voting systems.

I want to clarify especially that I’m speaking for myself in these posts. Specifically, Electology (aka the Center for Election Science or CES) is a nonpartisan organization; our board members and supporters include active and committed members of all of the top 4 US parties (Republican, Democratic, Libertarian, and Green). I honestly believe that our proposals for voting reform would bring the kind of positive-sum changes that could be win/win for all of these groups and more. We value our nonpartisan position, and any statement I make here that’s partisan is NOT the position of the organization.

The focus of electology’s part of this poll was on alternative voting methods. To that end, voters were asked about how they would have voted under 3 such methods (approval voting, 0-5 score voting, and IRV), as well as under plurality (aka First Past the Post). They were also asked for their honest opinions of the candidates on a 0-5 scale. Interviewees were randomly given either a short list of 4 candidates — Clinton, Trump, Johnson, and Stein — or a longer list of 9 possible candidates — Clinton, Sanders, Trump, Cruz, Johnson, Stein, McMullin, Bloomberg, and Castle.

In this installment, I’m focusing on the question of how people felt about all of these candidates, not on the effects of voting system per se. To that end, I’ll look at the results from the long list of candidates, under approval and score voting. In the next installment, I’ll dive much further into the differences between the long and short lists, the various voting methods, and what that shows. (Teaser: plurality still sucks and needs reforming, but the other lessons are not entirely what I’d hoped for.)

So, here’s the flashy, yet controversial, picture. (I know that there are a lot of caveats and disclaimers with this picture, and I’ll try to cover them below. And I’ll still probably fail to give all the caveats I should, so you can yell at me in comments if you want.)


What are you looking at? I made demographic models, as detailed in the previous post, for the score results of all 9 candidates mentioned above. Each model used ordered logistic regression; I’ll explain what that is below. Then I applied the models to each state’s demographics, as given by the Current Population Survey, and voting propensity by ethnicity, gender, and state from 2012. I then corrected the Clinton and Trump results by the factor by which my plurality model from last post got the state wrong; and the other candidates’ results by those factors for Clinton and Trump, each raised to the power of the correlation between the major-party candidate’s simulated plurality total and the minor candidate’s simulated score voting total. (The sum-absolute-value of those correlations was between 0.5 and 1 for both Cruz and Sanders; and none of the other candidates came close to winning anywhere).

Or, in plain English, I used the survey results to model how each state’s population would have responded to the score voting question, and then rescaled the results to agree better with the actual voting outcome.

scoremapWarning: Poll results do not guarantee contrafactual performance.

If you’re wondering about the strange empty area in the Midwest: that’s because nobody actually lives there. That is, the states above are scaled proportionally to their electoral votes. (If I’d scaled them to their population, Wyoming would be microscopic.) This excellent map format is from Daily Kos Elections.

Of course, the obvious disclaimers apply. I’m aware that this involves unfair comparisons. Clinton and Trump went through bruising general election campaigns and both got large amounts of primarily-negative media coverage; Johnson and Stein were mostly not treated seriously; and during the general election campaign, the other hypothetical “candidates” like Sanders basically only got attention from their supporters. I’m happy to discuss why or how that happened in the comment section, but for now: yes, I am fully aware that if Sanders had been the nominee or one of many nominees, this would not have been the map.

Furthermore, if the real-world election were being run using score voting, voters would almost certainly vote more strategically than they do on a poll. (I’ll talk more about that in the next installment).

Specifically regarding McMullin: my model would probably underestimate the support of regional candidates like him, so it’s possible that a more perceptive model would give states like Utah or Nevada to him.

And finally: even if you ignore all the above disclaimers, this map above is a visualization of what “might” happen if we kept the electoral college but used score voting in each state. That’s a crazy hybrid of election methods that nobody actually advocates. We need to get rid of the electoral college. (I’ll talk more about this point too in the following installment.)

Still. Those disclaimers notwithstanding, I find this map very interesting. The electoral totals would be: Sanders 280, Trump 174, Clinton 73, Cruz 11. Sanders wins this crazy hybrid election outright.

Read more…

The apotheosis of false equivalence

[ 218 ] December 7, 2016 |

Following up on Scott’s various posts on this extraordinarily important topic, a new Harvard Kennedy School study finds that Hillary Clinton received more negative press coverage over the entire course of the presidential campaign than Donald Trump:

Criticism dogged Hillary Clinton at every step of the general election. Her “bad press” outpaced her “good press” by 64 percent to 36 percent. She was criticized for everything from her speaking style to her use of emails.

As Clinton was being attacked in the press, Donald Trump was attacking the press, claiming that it was trying to “rig” the election in her favor. If that’s true, journalists had a peculiar way of going about it. Trump’s coverage during the general election was more negative than Clinton’s, running 77 percent negative to 23 percent positive. But over the full course of the election, it was Clinton, not Trump, who was more often the target of negative coverage (see Figure 1). Overall, the coverage of her candidacy was 62 percent negative to 38 percent positive, while his coverage was 56 percent negative to 44 percent positive.

Consider how utterly astonishing this finding ought to be, at least in any halfway sane world (obviously I’m positing a hypothetical here).  Donald Trump is, by an enormous margin, the least-qualified candidate to ever receive a major party nomination for president.  This is true even without reference to his extensive history of personal corruption, his lack of any apparent interest in public policy, his overt unapologetic racism, sexism, etc. etc.

It gets worse:

Even those numbers understate the level of negativity. Much of the candidates’ “good press” was in the context of the horserace—who is winning and who is losing and why. At any given moment in the campaign, one of the candidates has the momentum, which is a source of positive coverage. Figure 2 shows the tone of the nominees’ coverage on non-horserace topics, those that bear some relationship to the question of their fitness for office—their policy positions, personal qualities, leadership abilities, ethical standards, and the like. In Trump’s case, this coverage was 87 percent negative to 13 percent positive. Clinton’s ratio was identical—87 percent negative to 13 percent positive. “Just like Tweedledum and Tweedledee,” as Barry Goldwater said dismissively of America’s two parties in the 1960s.

How’s that for fair and balanced?

You can believe, as I do, that Hillary Clinton was a flawed candidate in all sorts of ways, and that belief is still just completely irrelevant to evaluating this level of false equivalence.  It’s as if the sports media were to compare a far from optimal NFL quarterback — say, Trevor Siemian — to somebody who has never even played football, only to reach the conclusion that neither was a “good” quarterback.

Well now we’re going to get random person off the street quarterbacking our team for the next four years.  Actually worse than random person off the street — I would quite literally prefer a random person as POTUS to Donald Trump, and that’s true even if the random selection pool included infants, lunatics, and Jill Stein.

A Disastrous Failure of the Press

[ 342 ] December 7, 2016 |

clinton benghazi

Perlstein puts all of the pieces of the puzzle in place:

America’s media establishment endlessly repeated Republican claims that Hillary Clinton was a threat to the security and good order of the republic, because she stored official emails on her own server, and erased about 33,000 of them she said were private. The New York Times ran three front-page stories about FBI director James Comey’s surprise review of another set of emails found on the computer of Anthony Weiner’s wife, Clinton aide Huma Abedin. This second review, however, like the first, ended up showing no wrongdoing.

It’s worth pausing here to observe how astounding this is. The Times ran three front page stories about the FBI director having found some emails that very predictably revealed no relevant information about a trivial pseudoscandal that involved no significant misconduct by Hillary Clinton. Three. To choose at random from the countless things Donald Trump did that were far worse than legally using a private email server, Donald Trump called for innocent African-Americans to be lynched. A search of of “Donald Trump Central Park five” and “Donald Trump Central Park jogger” reveals no news stories and one op-ed about it. Perhaps the search is failing to pick up something, but we can safely conclude it received far less coverage.

The elite gatekeepers of our public discourse never bothered with context: that every Secretary of State since the invention of the internet had done the same thing, because the State Department’s computer systems have always been awful; that at the end of the administration of the nation’s 41st president a corrupt national archivist appointed by Ronald Reagan upon the recommendation of Dick Cheney signed a secret document giving George H.W. Bush personal, physical custody of the White House’s email backup tapes so they would never enter the public record. (A federal judge voided the document as “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, and contrary to law.”) The White House of his son George W. Bush erased 22 million of its official emails, including those under subpoena from Congress. Newspapers archived by the Lexis-Nexis database mentioned Hillary R. Clinton’s 33,000 erased private emails 785 times in 2016. I found six references to George W. Bush’s 22 million erased public ones: four in letters to the editor, one in a London Independent op-ed, another in a guide to the U.S. election for Australians, and one a quotation from a citizen in the Springfield (Ohio) News-Sun.

And now we have Donald Trump, elected in part because of his alleged tender concern for the secure handling of intelligence, making calls to world leaders from Trump Tower’s unsecured telephones.

Trump boogied his way to Pennsylvania Avenue to the tune of the extraordinary finding by a Washington Post-ABC News poll that “corruption in government” was listed by 17 percent of voters as the most important issue in the presidential election, second only to the economy, and ahead of terrorism and health care—and that voters trusted Trump over Clinton to be better on the issue by a margin of 48 to 39 percent, her worst deficit on any issue. This is the part of my article where rhetorical conventions demand I provide a thumbnail sketch of all the reasons why it’s factually absurd that anyone would believe that Donald Trump is less corrupt than Hillary Clinton. I have better things to do with my time than belabor the obvious.

Yet somehow, the great mass of Americans believed Clinton was the crook. Might it have something to do with the myriad articles like, say, “Smoke Surrounds the Clinton Foundation,” by The Los Angeles Times’s top pundit Doyle McManus? This piece, all too typically, despite endeavoring to debunk Trump claims of Clinton corruption, repeated charges like “Doug Band, who helped create the Clinton Global Initiative, sought access to State Department officials for Clinton Foundation donors”—even though donors did not get that access). And that donors harbored the “assumption” that they would “move to the head of the line”—even though they never did.

Investigating the Clinton Foundation for corruption was entirely appropriate. It was done, none was found, and...many lengthy stories were written suggesting that innocuous behavior RAISED QUESTIONS and presented TROUBLING OPTICS anyway. And, hence, an election that resulted in the election of a president whose financial interests are opaque and is openly planning to run the White House as a massive grift operation featured corruption as a major issue…and Trump’s opponent was portrayed as the corrupt candidate, and the public got the message. Heckuva job, really.

He did it for the children! {update}

[ 162 ] December 7, 2016 |

Here’s the Washington Post’s headline for its front page above the fold article about Edgar Maddison Welch, the gunman that put a D.C. block on lock down Sunday: Deluded into a D.C. ‘hero mission’?

It’s a dreadful headline because of the way it’s constructed and a wonderful headline because it warns the reader that things are only going to get worse. (Another link in case of FYPressReader.)

The article is many paragraphs about what a nice guy, loving father, his family and friends just can’t understand why he did it (but it must have been because he cared about the children) is the man who drove from North Carolina to D.C. in order to terrify people with his big old blunderbuss, because he read some words on the internet.

A portrait of Welch based on interviews with his friends suggests he is an adoring father to his children but also someone unable to claim interest in a career, including following his father, who is a filmmaker, or his mother, who volunteered as a firefighter.

“Unable to claim interest in a career,” mesdames et messieurs. For when you want to do violence to the language and skitter around the fact that the subject of the story didn’t have a steady job.

But it’s not his fault he read the words on the internet and cared. He loves his kids! He likes to hike! Friends just can’t believe he would do such a thing!

And it isn’t the fault of people like M. Flynn, the second of that name, that Welch fired a gun in a restaurant because they didn’t tell Welch to do it.

In the same way, Welch’s actions aren’t the fault of the people who wrote the words on the internet. These things just happen. Therefore, the non-violent portion of the population will just have to hope that when the concern-driven heavily armed man shows up where they are that they get an Edgar Welch, not a Robert Dear. Fingers crossed!

Here’s a fun game for those who haven’t read the story yet. Guess how many paragraphs the reporters write before they get around to mentioning the gun-toting cock nugget of the hour has a rap sheet? (Hint: Many.)

Welch has one conviction, for driving while impaired in 2013 in Salisbury. He has been arrested several times in North Carolina, once on a drug charge, in 2007, and he was in a police report when his name appeared on a forged prescription, according to records from Salisbury police. He was twice a victim of assault by someone with a gun, though details were not immediately available.

In October, police said, he was the driver of a car that struck and critically injured a 13-year-old boy. His most recent job is noted in 2013, in the impaired-driving case, where his grandmother wrote the court that he worked for his father’s film company, Forever Young Productions, making daily deliveries and pickups of film prints.

{Update: FYWP selects posts at random and turns off the comments. Because FY.}

The Smearing of Keith Ellison

[ 207 ] December 7, 2016 |


Michelle Goldberg:

The first time I visited Shuhada Street in Hebron, a city of 200,000 in Israel’s West Bank, I felt as if I’d stepped through a looking glass. For most of the past 12 years, the once-bustling market street has been under lockdown to protect 800 militant Jewish settlers who’ve seized part of the old city. Aside from soldiers and a few orthodox Jewish women pushing baby carriages, Shuhada Street is empty and silent; in the parlance of the Israel Defense Forces, it is “completely sterilized,” which means that Palestinians aren’t allowed to set foot on it. Most of the Arabs who once lived in the area have left, but the few who remain are virtual prisoners in their apartments, where cages protect windows and balconies from settlers’ stones. Palestinians who live on Shuhada Street aren’t allowed to walk out their front doors; if they must go out, they have to climb onto the roof and down a fire escape into a back alley. My tour guide, an orthodox Jewish IDF veteran who’d become a fierce critic of the occupation, described what happens if the Palestinians get sick. “The Jewish subset of the Red Cross doesn’t treat Palestinians here,” he told me. “What you see a lot of times is Palestinians carrying people by foot to an area with an ambulance.”

The disorientation of Shuhada Street comes not just from the moral horror, but from the near-impossibility of conveying that horror to most Americans without sounding like a crank. Before that first visit, I was someone who rolled my eyes when left-wingers described the occupation of Palestine as apartheid, a term that seemed shrill and reductive and heedless of a thousand complexities. Afterward, I realized how hard it is, within the cramped, taboo-ridden strictures that govern mainstream discussion of Israel, to talk about what’s happening in Hebron. If I’d never been there and someone had described it to me, I wouldn’t have fully believed her.

Keith Ellison, the Democratic congressman from Minnesota and candidate for Democratic National Committee chairman, was also stunned by what he saw in Hebron; I spoke to him about it after his first trip there. This summer, he tweeted a photo of one of the city’s caged apartment windows, where someone had put a sign saying, “Caution: This was taken by Israel. You are entering Apartheid.” Now that tweet is being used to smear Ellison as an anti-Semite and derail his candidacy for DNC chairman. The anti-Ellison campaign, coming at a time when Donald Trump’s election has emboldened genuine anti-Semites to a degree unprecedented in living memory, is evidence of warped priorities among a good part of the American Jewish community. The need to defend the indefensible in Israel is leading to the demonization of an ally of Jews in America.

The battle to ensure that Keith Ellison becomes head of the DNC has become an extremely important one. Schumer seems, for now, to be holding firm. And it’s essential that this continue. If one of Obama’s Republican Daddies actually throwing the presidential election to a Republican with the EMAILS! non-scandal teaches us nothing else beyond the obvious “no more Republican Daddies,” it should be this: no more Shirely Sherrods. No more internalizing Republican smears. Capitulating to this crap is wrong on the merits and also achieves nothing politically. Keith Ellison is an excellent choice to lead the DNC. He is not an anti-Semite. Ignore the ridiculous claims that he is. And let’s get to work.

LGM Bowl Mania Annus Horribilis

[ 6 ] December 6, 2016 |

546e88c83c7d97b5ee3d8636065a634cThe LGM Bowl Mania league has been reactivated for 2016.  Do your best to close out the most horrific year in recent history by picking as many losing collegiate football teams as possible!

League: Lawyers, Guns and Money

Password: zevon

Prize for the least horrible entry.

Manslaughter for a White Man Killing a Black Man? Shouldn’t He Get a Medal?

[ 22 ] December 6, 2016 |


Newell Normand, sheriff of Jefferson Parish in Louisiana (and other than Bull Connor, how much more appropriate could a name for a southern white sheriff be?) has a great justification for his extremely poor choices made around the murder of former Jets running back Joe McKnight by a white man. First, he didn’t he arrest the guy. Now the guy has been charged with manslaughter, probably meaning he won’t serve much time, if any at all. And then there’s his actions at press conferences:

The sheriff said that officials had 10 hours of non-custodial interviews and two hours of custodial interviews with Gasser, who didn’t ask for an attorney. Normand added that officials had 160 interviews related to the case since Thursday, and criticized those who were critical of law enforcement.

Normand took a significant portion of his time to a condemn some of the national reaction to the story. For the second time, he said that a witness lied when they claimed that McKnight was apologizing as Gasser shot him, after which Gasser stood over his body as he said, “I told you don’t fuck with me,” before shooting again. “Shame on that individual,” Normand said.

To add detail to his argument, Normand read an anonymous internet comment out loud directed at one of his colleagues, that included the insults “you punk-ass Uncle Tom coon” and “rat-ass faggot punk.” When asked by a reporter why he read those comments, and if he understood why a case with a white man shooting a young black man would be so nationally scrutinized, Normand cited black-on-black crime statistics for the parish. “If you want to look at the statistical data, your fear is somewhere else,” Normand said.

Black on black crime! The favorite dodge of racists everywhere justifying white murders of black people. The only lesson we can take is that black lives don’t matter so go ahead white people, kill ’em all! They will probably kill each other anyway! For that matter, let’s suppress their voting rights and destroy the social safety net and anything else that might conceivably help a black person live a dignified life in this nation.

Taiwan: The New Israel

[ 94 ] December 6, 2016 |
FILE - Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kansas) and President Richard Nixon outline the Republican campaign plans January 25, 1971. Dole said Wednesday May 15, 1996 he was quitting the Senate after 27 years to challenge President Clinton full time, ``with nothing to fall back on but the judgment of the people.''  (AP Photo, files)

FILE – Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kansas) and President Richard Nixon outline the Republican campaign plans January 25, 1971. Dole said Wednesday May 15, 1996 he was quitting the Senate after 27 years to challenge President Clinton full time, “with nothing to fall back on but the judgment of the people.” (AP Photo, files)

Glad to know that conservatives are looking to turn Taiwan into the new Israel, allowing the interests of a client state to supersede that of the superpower in order to serve right-wing foreign policy goals that severely undermine American prestige around the world. That Bob Dole is ending his long history in politics by seeking this goal should not surprise us.

Bob Dole’s lobbying Donald Trump on Taiwan went far beyond a congratulatory phone call from Taiwan’s president.

Dole, the only past Republican presidential nominee to endorse Trump before the election, briefed the campaign’s policy director, set up meetings between campaign staff and Taiwanese emissaries, arranged for Taiwan’s delegation to attend the Republican National Convention, and helped tilt the party platform further in the island’s favor, the disclosure released to POLITICO shows. He even arranged for members of Taiwan’s ruling party to take a White House tour, according to the filing.

Taiwan paid the 93-year-old Dole and his law firm, Alston & Bird, $140,000 between May and October, according to the new disclosure. His spokeswoman declined to comment.

Dole’s work is part of Taiwan’s decades-long investment in grooming conservatives to bolster its U.S. relations at China’s expense, dispatching lobbyists to ply Capitol Hill, feting congressional staff with trips to Taipei, throwing parties at a vast DC estate, and funneling money to China hawks at right-leaning think tanks.

Earlier this year, Dole set up a meeting between Taiwan’s representative to the U.S., Stanley Kao, and Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, a key Trump adviser and later his choice for attorney general. He also convened a meeting between Taiwanese diplomats and the Trump transition team. The disclosure didn’t specify exactly when the meetings occurred.

The filing also reveals Dole’s hand in making the Republican platform the most pro-Taiwan it has ever been. The 2016 edition added language affirming the “Six Assurances” that President Reagan made to Taiwan’s security in 1982.

Boy, how could this go wrong…..

And while I recognize that Bob Dole is not exactly a figure who attracts a lot of nostalgia, when Dole dies, can we please avoid talk of those days in the past when the Republican Party was full of reasonable moderates? It’s true enough that conservatism was less fanatical when Dole started his career but that was partly because it was out of power. Dole did more than his share to move this nation sharply to the right and continues to do so today, undermining national and regional security. Thanks Bob.

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