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DAPA Deadlock

[ 23 ] April 20, 2016 |


The arguments against the legality of DAPA are…not good. But, alas, they’re probably still enough to get the four Supreme Court votes its opponents need:

For his part, Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller also got a rough ride from the Court’s liberal faction. Justice Kagan focused in particular on Keller’s concession that it was not illegal for the executive branch to defer action on the groups covered by DAPA. “You’re saying that the government could do this case-by-case, one-by-one with respect to all the people in the class,” asked Kagan incredulously, “but that the government cannot identify the entire class and say we’re forbearing from enforcement?” As for the “lawful presence” language that obsessed both the state of Texas’ briefs and the conservative justices, Kagan correctly observed “that phrase really has no legal consequence whatsoever.”

Kagan’s performance was masterful — but it’s unlikely that it will be enough to save DAPA. As weak as Texas’ arguments were, they seemed good enough to get them the tie they’re looking for.

Some Court observers had speculated before oral arguments that Chief Justice John Roberts might try to avoid a 4-4 split by agreeing with the Court’s liberal faction that Texas lacked the legal standing to challenge DAPA. This is still possible. On Monday, however, he seemed skeptical, asking Verrilli to begin with the standing argument and then peppering with questions suggesting that he believed that Texas had the standing to sue.

An evenly split court affirming the 5th Circuit’s opinion striking down the order would not legally settle the issue of the executive branch’s authority. But it will mean that a class of undocumented immigrants will remain in an unnecessary state of legal limbo. And it also means that the policy will ultimately be determined by the next president: not only through the immigration policy he or she favors, but on who (and whether) he or she will be able to appoint to the Supreme Court.


Linkapalooza Wednesday!

[ 63 ] April 20, 2016 |

Links! Links! Get your hot, fresh links!


[ 64 ] April 20, 2016 |
Rear view of jet aircraft in-flight at dawn/dusk above mountains. Its engines are in full afterburner, evident through the presence of shock diamonds.

F-22 in full afterburner. U.S. Air Force. Public Domain

Been on the road for a bit, getting back into the swing of things…

Congress wants a study on whether to re-open the F-22 Raptor line.  This is a complicated question.  Way back when, I supported the decision to kill the F-22 at 187 planes, largely because the F-35 looked like it was going reasonably well, and because of other priorities.  Since that time the F-35 project has nose-dived, and the F-22 has performed exceptionally well, notwithstanding some issues at high altitude.  I think it’s fair to say at this point that the decision to kill the F-22 in favor of the F-35 was wrong.*

That doesn’t make restarting the F-22 line necessarily the right thing to do, however.  For one, restarting any line is extremely expensive, even when all of the tooling and the procedures have been locked down.  Workforce has to be trained (or rehired), factories have to be spooled up, etc.  The bump will all be in capability; new F-22s will cost more than new F-35s.  Moreover, the ban on F-22 export remains in place, meaning that it will still likely be impossible to recoup any expenses through an export model. Finally, although the F-22 is awesome, it’s also old; re-opening the project at this point means committing to a fighter that’s been in development since the 1980s, and in production since the 1990s.

It’s also worth noting that the worm can turn pretty quickly on the evaluation of defense projects.  Eight years ago the F-22 was an expensive disaster, incapable of contributing in a meaningful way to the COIN fights going on in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Now, it is widely acknowledged by aviation experts to be the finest fighter in the world, a good distance ahead of any competitor currently flying, and most still on the drawing board.  The F-15 and F-16 (especially the latter) followed similar paths.


*Let’s take some care on this sentence; it takes no position on whether killing the F-22 to fund, say, schools or free Toyota Corollas or new battleships or anything else would have been a good idea.  Defense procurement decisions are generally of the branch rather than the root variety


[ 382 ] April 20, 2016 |

Here’s the lesson: Being an independent is worthless. If you register as an independent, you are irrelevant.

If you wanted to vote for Bernie but couldn’t soil yourself with being a Democrat, your fault. Voting isn’t a consumer choice. It’s a compromise with reality. Registering as an independent is fine if you want to remain so pure you can’t be stained by whatever the Democrats choke up. But don’t complain that you couldn’t vote for the candidate you want to win. Because if all those independents in New York who wanted to vote Bernie registered as Democrats, Bernie might have won the state.

Today’s Overdetermined Donald Trump Endorsement

[ 78 ] April 19, 2016 |


Of course:

Buffalo Bills head coach Rex Ryan introduced presidential candidate Donald Trump Monday night at First Niagara Center.

It was quite a scene at the foot of Washington Street with Ryan praising Trump for always speaking his mind. Here are a few snippets of Ryan’s intro, with Trump’s Jock Jams entrance and a video.

“We’re all here tonight because we all support Donald Trump.”

“There’s so much that I admire about Mr. Trump but one thing I really admire about him is, you know what, is he’ll say what’s on his mind. And so many times, you’ll see people, a lot of people want to say the same thing. But there’s a big difference: they don’t have the courage to say it. They all think it but they don’t have the courage to say it. And Donald Trump certainly has the courage to say it.”

“This man is one of the greatest businessmen, obviously, that we can ever remember. There’s no question about that.”

It’s also good to know that the Donald is as fact-challenged about football as anything else:

He won championships in New York, the AFC, twice. And he always had these teams that were brutal. They were just good. Great defenses. … You’re going to have a very, very good season this year. You watch. You have a great coach, you really do.”

What? Although, to be Scrupulously Fair, he probably was (after Marvin Lewis) the second or maybe third (after Del Rio) most important coach on a Super Bowl champion once.

This can also serve as a NY primary open thread. The 538 liveblog is really good if you’re into that kind of thing.

SEIU and Airbnb

[ 100 ] April 19, 2016 |


There is no more difficult labor union to read and write about than SEIU. This is for two reasons. First, it operates somewhat differently than other labor unions, including having a very top-down approach to a lot of things that are not traditional ways labor unions operate. That would be simple enough if those actions didn’t engender rabid hatred of SEIU in a big part of the labor reporting world.

SEIU and Airbnb are seeking an agreement that would lead to the company endorsing the $15 minimum wage (which SEIU has done more than any other organization to make a major issue in American politics in 2016) and would steer union-approved housecleaners to the properties listed with that company. Said cleaners would make at least $15 an hour. Interesting. There are some questions here. Should SEIU be working with a company undermining housing for working-class people? Or SEIU should do what is necessary to ensure as many workers are laboring for a $15 minimum wage as possible? Should SEIU be seeking to cut deals with companies? Or should SEIU see companies as enemies and workers should be organized in a broad-based social movement against them? There are some complexities here, I guess. However, on the face of it, I have to say that I am mostly supportive of accepting the economy as it is and working toward ensuring good wages. But I can see room for argument on some of these points.

But then we have this Guardian piece that seethes anger at Big Purple.

Yet sources say that negotiations have been delayed by internal union dissent over the ethics of the home-sharing startup with some labor activists, including some SEIU members, concerned that Airbnb has exacerbated housing crises in cities across the US, including in San Francisco, where Airbnb is headquartered.

“We are appalled by reports that SEIU is partnering with Airbnb, a company that has destroyed communities by driving up housing costs and killing good hotel jobs in urban markets across North America,” said Annemarie Strassel, a spokeswoman for a rival union, Unite Here.

“Airbnb has shown a blatant disregard for city and state laws, has refused to cooperate with government agencies, and turns a blind eye to the fact that its business model exacerbates the affordable housing crisis.” She added: “A partnership with SEIU does little more than give political cover to Airbnb.”

OK, but there’s a whole story here that’s not told. SEIU and UNITE-HERE hate each other. I’m not going to get into the details here except that it came out of an attempt by SEIU to take over UNITE-HERE. In any case, it’s not like Strassel is some sort of neutral observer here. The biggest reason UNITE-HERE opposes this is that Airbnb has the potential to undermine union hotels. That makes sense for the union to oppose the company. And as for SEIU making this sort of deal, I mean, again, what should a union do? That’s the core question. Is the role of a labor union to act on behalf of the entire working class, as particular activists define it? Or should a labor union act on behalf of its own membership? Not saying there are easy answers here.

But let’s get to the real issue labor writers have with SEIU–that it doesn’t act as they think a labor union should act.

Unionizing Airbnb cleaners could legitimize the startup while providing minimal benefits to a small group of workers, Ward said. If SEIU signs a contract with Airbnb, “They are essentially selling cheap cover to an American corporation for union dues from a few members,” he said. “It goes against all the principles of the labor movement.”

Unions have played a big role protesting against Airbnb and pushing for stricter regulations in cities across the country.

Opponents also argue that users of Airbnb, which is worth an estimated $25.5bn, don’t pay their fair share of taxes. Community and labor groups in San Francisco pushed unsuccessfully for a 2015 ballot measure that would have dramatically increased restrictions on Airbnb users in the company’s home city.

One union that backed the anti-Airbnb measure was SEIU Local 1021 in northern California, another subsidiary of the international organization which spent more than $78,000 to support the campaign and has repeatedly criticized the company for its role in the housing crisis.

In another twist, SEIU International’s former president Andy Stern, now a consultant and Henry’s predecessor, is representing Airbnb in the negotiations with his former employer.

These are some real issues, but it still remains unclear to me that SEIU is doing some awful thing. As for Stern, he’s not my favorite ex-union leader by any means, but I don’t really see a big problem here. If this was a 1950s-era Teamsters sweetheart deal that undermined the actual workers, I would see the point, but here, I don’t really get the outrage, unless you believe that the role of labor movements is as an organization working primarily for the entire working class. Of course SEIU does do that, as stated above, in its $15 campaigns and support for the fast food workers working toward that. But it also sees an opportunity to recognize the economy for what it is and act upon it.

In other words, it feels to me that SEIU is adapting and surviving as a labor organization where a lot of other unions are not. And the compromises that entails makes many labor reporters unhappy. I mean, if Uber wants to make a deal with the Teamsters that unionizes their drivers, I would probably support that too.

Now That’s What I Call A #Slatepitch

[ 73 ] April 19, 2016 |


I suppose I should avoid being trolled by Rebecca Schuman, but really:

Many of these cases—including the ones at Berkeley, Miami, and CalTech—have something utterly unsurprising in common: The alleged inappropriate behavior took place during an “independent study” between the professor and an early career graduate student.

Not only is she generalizing from a small number of anecdotes here, she’s mischaracterizing two of the three cases. As best as I can determine both the McGinn case at Miami and the CalTech case involved the sexual harassment of research assistants, not students doing an independent study. Why is she doing this? Well, you can probably guess were this is going…

Despite an ever-growing string of high-profile cases, many allegations of sexual harassment in higher ed are met with vitriolic disbelief, bureaucratic intransigence, a legal morass, or the full trifecta. But there’s one easy solution that should please everybody, from those advocating for the alleged victims to those who assume that the accused perpetrators are victims of railroading. Here’s my proposal: End the independent study. Forever. Done and done.

Ah, yes! She needs every anecdote she can get, because the point here is not to reduce sexual harassment but to use a hook for some kind of idiosyncratic ex ante obsession with independent studies. And to argue that we should get rid of independent studies because some faculty members sexually harass their research assistants will look too ridiculous.

If I may be forgiven for belaboring the obvious, eliminating independent studies as a “solution” to sexual harassment could not possibly make less sense. It’s both underinclusive (most campus sexual harassment does not take place in the context of independent studies) and overinclusive (there is no reason whatsoever to believe that independent studies are particularly likely to be involve sexual harassment.) Sexual harassment should be forbidden irrespective of the context, and gaps in enforcement will not be solved by eliminating independent studies, particularly given the lack of any evidence that they pose a problem (or even a logical reason why they would pose more of a problem than any other form of student-faculty interaction.)

There is simply no good reason for a beginning grad student (or undergrad) to do an independent study, ever.

Yeah, no. There are, in fact, perfectly good reasons for independent studies, particularly at the smaller colleges that are rarely considered in pop higher ed writing. A student may need a particular course
to graduate that can’t be offered and had a good reason for not taking it the previous time it was offered. A student may want to study a more specific subject there isn’t enough demand to sustain a regular class in. And so on.

Of course, independent studies can be done well or badly, and all things being equal it’s better if they’re used sparingly. Sometimes, they can involve insufficient work. Students lose the benefits of class discussion, and faculty run the risk of having their time exploited (although generally faculty have discretion over whether to agree to a study.) They have strengths and weaknesses. In this, they are like…every other pedagogical tool. There’s no reason to eliminate them, any more than we should eliminated research assistantships because faculty sometimes sexually harass their assistants.

Some day a real rain will come

[ 120 ] April 19, 2016 |

taxi driver

The invaluable Rick Perlstein has a great piece on locating Donald Trump’s political ideas, to use the term loosely, within the cauldron of 1970s New York City politics, which themselves must be located within a much older tradition:

No history of modern conservatism I’m aware of finds much significance in the 22,000 Nazi sympathizers who rallied for Hitler at Madison Square Garden in February 1939, presided over by a giant banner of General George Washington that stretched almost all the way to the second deck, capped off by a menacing eagle insignia. Nor the now-infamous Ku Klux Klan march through the streets of Queens in 1927, when The New York Times reported “1,000 Klansmen and 100 policemen staged a free-for-all,” in which according to one contemporary news report all the individuals arrested were wearing Klan attire, and that one of those arrestees was Donald Trump’s own father.

In the specter of the son’s likely ascension as Republican nominee, however, such events gather significance. Consider the subsequent history of Fred Trump’s career as a developer of middle-class housing in the outer boroughs of New York City. We now know Fred Trump was notorious enough a racist to draw the attention of Woody Guthrie, who wrote a song about him in the 1950s: “I suppose/ Old Man Trump knows/ Just how much/ Racial Hate/ he stirred up/ In the bloodpot of human hearts/ When he drawed/ That color line/ Here at his/ Eighteen hundred family project.”

Twenty years later—by which time he had brought his son in as his apprentice—the hate Old Man Trump stirred in the bloodpot of human hearts became a matter of legal record, when the United States Justice Department sued Trump père et fils for violating the Fair Housing Act of 1968 in operating 39 buildings they owned. Testifying in his own defense, young Donald (who would soon be seen around town in a chauffeured limousine with a license plate reading “DJT”), testified that he was “unfamiliar” with the landmark law. As the evidence in the federal case against the Trump organization became close to incontrovertible, he told the press the suit was a conspiracy to force them “to rent to welfare recipients,” a form of “reverse discrimination.” This proud and open refusal to rent to welfare recipients—whom he said contribute to “the detriment of tenants who have, for many years, lived in these buildings, raised families in them, and who plan to live there”—was Donald Trump’s defense against racism.

It is in this saga that we locate the formation of Donald Trump’s mature political vision of the world, in continuity with America’s racist and nativist heyday of the 1920s, and within the context of a cultural world much more familiar to us: New York in the 1970s, that raging cauldron of skyrocketing violent crime, subway trains slathered with graffiti, and a fiscal crisis so dire that even police were laid off in mass—then the laid off cops blocked the Brooklyn Bridge, deflating car tires, and yanking keys from car ignitions.

That is the New York of Death Wish and Taxi Driver, vigilante fantasies (the latter is a complex and ambiguous film; the former is very much not) that were precursors of the white rage at the core of Trumpism.

A decade later Trump’s nascent political ambitions latched onto the Central Park Jogger rape:

Trump’s political debut, after all, came in response to a mugging. Following the infamous attack on a female jogger in Central Park, Trump purchased full pages in four New York newspapers demanding, “Bring Back the Death Penalty. Bring Back Our Police!” All the hallmarks of his present crusade against “political correctness” were in evidence, such as the harkening to that bygone day when men were men, cops were cops, and punks were punks. He concluded: “I miss the feeling of security New York’s finest once gave the citizens of this City.” As I previously reported, these same police straight-jacketed by liberal timorousness had already coerced the rape suspects into confessions later proven to be false.

That’s N.Y.C.’s avenging-angel conservatism in a nutshell. And now that Trump is gliding toward an expected landslide in the New York primary on Tuesday, April 19, we must begin the work of excavating its history.

Read the whole thing.

Refusing to Unilaterally Disarm Is Not Hypocrisy

[ 86 ] April 19, 2016 |


Jim Geraghty rolls out a particularly well-worn chestnut:

Bernie Sanders released his 2014 tax return this weekend, revealing that he and his wife took $60,208 in deductions from their taxable income. These deductions are all perfectly legal and permitted under the U.S. tax code, but they present a morally inconvenient, if delicious, irony: The Democratic socialist from Vermont, a man who rages against high earners paying a lower effective tax rate than blue-collar workers, saved himself thousands using many of the tricks that would be banned under his own tax plan.

This is the equally asinine flipside to Megan McArdle’s “if you think taxes should be higher, why don’t you just send extra money to the government?” argument. If Bernie Sanders opposed ending tax deductions because they benefited him personally, that would be hypocrisy. Arguing that such deductions should be ended but taking advantage of them while the laws remain on the books is not hypocrisy. These silly gotcha arguments fail to understand not just what hypocrisy means but the fact that political action is only meaningful if it’s collective.

As Drum puts it:

If you don’t like the designated hitter rule in baseball, does that mean you should send your pitcher to the plate just to prove how sincere you are? Of course not. You play by the rules, whatever those rules are.

I favor universal, government-funded health care. Does that mean I should virtuously refuse MoJo’s employer health care? Does anyone on the planet think that makes any sense at all?

Voting as a Self-Affirming Consumer Choice, An Ongoing Series

[ 169 ] April 19, 2016 |


Three guesses as to who published an essay with this punchline, and the first two don’t count:

In a truly democratic system, we’d have more competent, diverse candidates. Voting no longer provides me the indulgence and satisfaction it once did. I feel it does more harm than good with our current political climate. If I vote for Clinton as a rejection of Trump, or vote for Sanders to dodge a Clinton vote, what duty am I actually performing? When I vote for a president I don’t support, I support a flawed political system. I refuse that system.

I suppose this is all self-refuting, but:

  • Just as I wish more people on the right endorsed the idea that vanity candidates were the optimal way of bully pulpiting the Overton Window on steroids, I wish more people on the right believed that not voting was a threat to the system and didn’t put so much effort into things like Shelby County, vote suppression efforts, and so on. Unfortunately, in this respect movement conservatives generally know what they’re doing.
  • I can understand preferring an electoral system that incentivizes multiple parties over one that incentivizes a two-party system. I do not understand the assumption that putting together coalitions ex ante rather than ex post is somehow antidemocratic.
  • On a related point, putting together coalitions ex post doesn’t in any meaningful sense solve the “lesser evil” problem. You might be able to vote for a candidate closer to your preferences, but to accomplish anything they would still have to formally or informally collaborate with the Lieberman For Connecticut For America Party. Adding an additional step to the process of coalition formation doesn’t somehow give you cleaner hands, although if you’re the kind of person who thinks that shopping at thrift stores is striking a major blow on behalf of Bangladeshi textile workers you might like to pretend otherwise.
  • The idea that not voting brings us closer to an electoral system in which you always get to vote for a viable candidate who agrees with all of your views is…missing many causal links. On the other hand, progressives not voting leads to horrible material consequences for many people.

I’ll outsource the rest to Schoenkopf.

No, Hillary Isn’t Stealing the Primary

[ 252 ] April 19, 2016 |


In this Democratic primary that is both inspiring and infuriating in equal measure, one of the least appealing aspects of it how many Bernie supporters are accusing Hillary Clinton or the “Democratic Machine” of stealing the election for her. Now, there’s no question that the primary system is a hot mess–caucuses are undemocratic, many voter registration laws are ridiculous (including New York’s), states won’t pony up for primaries, states have different standards on who can vote in these primaries (I do not believe that non-Democrats should have the right to choose the Democratic Party nominee), etc. But these allegations that the problem is a conspiracy are totally ridiculous. First, the “party machine,” whatever that even means today, is the weakest it has ever been. Remember that for the vast majority of Democratic Party history, the primaries didn’t even mean very much and actual Democratic Party insiders picked the president. This has only changed in the last 50 years. Second, as Holland points out, why would Hillary steal a primary when she has no reason to do so?

It’s a conspiracy theory, and conspiracy theories tend to fall apart under the weight of their own internal illogic. Consider the 9/11 attacks: If they were a “false flag” operation pulled off by a cabal of extremists within the Bush administration in order to create a casus belli for the invasion of Iraq, why wouldn’t they make the attackers evil Iraqi intelligence officers rather than citizens of Saudi Arabia? And if they really felt the need to bring down the World Trade Center, why bother shooting a missile at the Pentagon? Why crash an airplane into a field in the middle of nowhere in Pennsylvania? Even judged on its own terms, the theory makes no sense.

Obviously, if campaign operatives were caught rigging a primary or caucus, their candidate would face a media shit-storm, their political careers would be over, and they might well end up in prison. So let’s set aside the specifics for a moment and consider whether there’s a coherent motive for these crimes that would be worth the risk.

Put yourself in the shoes of a vicious Clinton operative with loose ethics and a desire to win at all costs. Why would such a person bother rigging the vote in Wyoming, the state with the fewest delegates up for grabs? That’s a significant risk and a lot of trouble to go through to turn what might have been an 8-6 or perhaps 9-5 delegate split into a 7-7 outcome.

The same problem holds more generally. While Sanders has run an excellent campaign and exceeded all expectations, at no point during the Democratic primaries has he been on track to win. Sanders has held a lead in a handful of national polls, but at no time in the past year has his support broken 42 percent in FiveThirtyEight’s weighted polling average. And at no point in the race has Clinton held a lead narrower than 9.7 percentage points in that average. Why would any campaign, no matter how unprincipled, fix a race that it’s been winning from the start?

The reasons Sanders isn’t winning are not a conspiracy theory. They are quite explainable. It’s that a) he had a late start and couldn’t really compete in many of the states between Nevada and when his early success led to more fundraising and b) he has done very poorly with people of color and a Democrat can’t win the nomination without sizable black and Latino support.

But for a lot of people, conspiracy theories are more palatable than actual political analysis. It’s easier to blame some nefarious power than own up to a candidate’s or a position’s shortcoming, not to mention the work of structural analysis.

A Divided South

[ 60 ] April 19, 2016 |


Knoxville’s Henley Street Bridge lit in rainbow colors on the night the Supreme Court upheld marriage equality.

Interesting piece on the changing dynamics of the South, with urban centers becoming unabashedly liberal havens. Of course, this can be vastly overrated, especially in terms of voting power. We know that southern states are going whole hog into creating Confederate heritage months, making harder for black people to vote, and repressing GLBT people. And of course if the urban centers are becoming liberal, the suburbs, which in southern urban centers are a lot of people, are very much not liberal. Nonetheless, there is potential for long-term change here.

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