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That joke’s not funny any more

[ 181 ] December 18, 2015 |

hulk hogan

Who is endorsing Donald Trump for president? It’s a motley crew (Use of stock phrase is not intended to imply an endorsement from Motley Crue.)

U.S. Representatives (former)

Virgil Goode of Virginia (former; also presidential candidate in 2012)

Executive branch officials (former)

Jeff Lord, former White House associate political director for the Reagan administration (1987–88)

State legislators

Two Alabama State Representatives: Ed Henry, Jim Carns
Two Georgia State Senators: Burt Jones, Michael Williams
Iowa State Senator: Brad Zaun
Nine New Hampshire State Representatives: Jenn Coffey (former), Fred Doucette, Lou Gargiulo (former), Werner Horn, Paula Johnson (former),Joe Pitre, Stephen Stepanek (Deputy Majority Leader),Dan Tamburello, Joshua Whitehouse
New Jersey State Senator: Michael J. Doherty
Two Oklahoma State Senators: Ralph Shortey, Mark Allen
Three Oklahoma State Representatives: Mike Christian, John R. Bennett, Mike Turner (former)
South Carolina State Senator: John Russell (former, also former rep, son of former Governor Donald S. Russell)
South Carolina State Representative: James H. Merrill (former Majority Leader)

Businesspeople

Carl Icahn, billionaire activist investor
Robert Kiyosaki, businessman and author of the Rich Dad Poor Dad series of books. Authored two business books with Donald Trump.
Charles Kushner, real estate developer and co-owner of Kushner Properties
Jared Kushner, businessman, co-owner of Kushner Properties, owner of The New York Observer, son-in-law of the candidate
Nancy Mace, businesswoman and author
Willie Robertson, businessman, CEO of Duck Commander, star of Duck Dynasty
Phil Ruffin, businessman and partner of Trump Hotel Las Vegas
Dana White, businessman and president of Ultimate Fighting Championship

International political figures

Vladimir Putin, President of Russia and leader of United Russia
Matteo Salvini, Italian MEP and leader of Lega Nord
Geert Wilders, Dutch MP and leader of the Party for Freedom

Organizations

New England Police Benevolent Association

Celebrities, commentators, and activists

Stephen Baldwin, actor
Zoltan Bathory, guitarist of Five Finger Death Punch
Dan Bilzerian, professional poker player (previously endorsed Rand Paul)
Conrad Black, Canadian-born British former newspaper publisher and author.
Gary Busey, actor
Ann Coulter, political commentator and writer
Adam Curry, political commentator and former MTV VJ
Robert Davi, actor, singer, and director
Mike Ditka, retired NFL player and coach and television commentator
Lou Ferrigno, actor and bodybuilder
Jim Gilchrist, leader and co-founder of the Minuteman Project
Hulk Hogan, professional wrestler, actor, television personality, entrepreneur, and musician
William Daniel Johnson, chairman and cofounder of the American Freedom Party
Alex Jones, radio host (previously endorsed Rand Paul)
Charlotte Laws, TV host and author
Matt Light, retired NFL offensive tackle
Gavin McInnes writer, creative director, actor, comedian, and co-founder of Vice Media.
Wayne Newton, entertainer and singer
Ted Nugent, musician, singer-songwriter and political activist
Terrell Owens, retired NFL wide receiver and television personality
Trisha Paytas, YouTube personality and entertainer
Dennis Rodman, retired professional basketball player and television personality
Michael Savage, radio host (before Trump announced, Savage endorsed Ted Cruz and Rand Paul)
Tila Tequila, model, actress and television personality
Ivana Trump, ex-wife of the candidate, socialite and former athlete and fashion model
Mike Tyson, professional boxer
Herschel Walker, retired NFL running back
Chris Weidman, former UFC middleweight champion
Milo Yiannopoulos, British journalist and entrepreneur

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The Last Liberal President, Voting Rights Edition

[ 81 ] December 18, 2015 |

a_nixon-laughing-108329929978

Speaking of voting rights, let’s return to the Golden Age of American Politics when there was a real liberal in the White House and everyone in American politics favored single-payer health care (I’m not sure why it never came remotely close to passing, but I blame Barack Obama.) From Ari Berman’s essential Give Us the Ballot:

[South Carolina GOP Chairman and top Strom Thurmond adviser] Dent told Nixon, “Thurmond was the only Southern leader in the GOP who could rally Southerners to the GOP banner.” Nixon had already been courting South Carolina’s sixty-four-year-old junior senator, telling the press in Columbia, “Strom is no racist. Strom is a man of courage and integrity.” (69)

OK, but Nixon was just pandering to win neoconfederate votes and there was no substance behind it, right? Not hardly. Nixon’s attorney general, future felon and arch-reactionary John Mitchell (not a dime’s worth of difference between him and Nick Katzenbach or Eric Holder!), proposed a substantial revision to the Voting Rights Act as its sunsetted provisions came up for renewal. Nixon’s proposed bill would have eliminated Section 5 — the preclearance provision — from the bill entirely, going Shelby County one better more than 40 years before the fact. The bill also would have eliminated the preclearance formula in Section 4, not to create broader rights enforcement — there would no longer be anything for the DOJ to preclear — but to send a message that there was no problem in states that were still aggressively resisting the Voting Rights Act.

But this was just a purely empty gesture to appease his southern base, right? Well, Nixon cared enough about the bill that the House actually passed his version. The original VRA was preserved because Senate Democrats worked with the well-to-the-left-of-Nixon Republican leadership to pass a renewal that kept Sections 4 and 5, which the Democratic leadership then got through the House. Nixon seriously considered vetoing the bill but in the wake of Kent State decided to hold his fire and let it pass.

Why, I’m beginning to think that the legislation a Democratic Congress put on Nixon’s desk doesn’t really reflect Nixon’s agenda or influence! But, the kind of person who is really committed to this Nixon-was-to-Obama’s-left nonsense might argue, maybe Nixon knew how this would play out, so his attempt to gut the Voting Rights Act was just empty pandering? Well, we can look at Nixon’s civil rights record on low-visibility areas more within his control. Most importantly, his appointment to head the Civil Rights Division was a complete nonentity who took orders from…Harry Dent. Those orders were not “robustly enforce civil rights,” and the CRD was hit with a wave of resignations. Oh, and we shouldn’t forget that Nixon’s Supreme Court nominations provided the four votes necessary to effectively overrule Brown v. Board of Education.

But Hillary Clinton would name Zombie Strom Thurmond to head the Civil Rights Division, introduce legislation to repeal the Voting Rights Act in its entirety and make Jeff Sessions her first Supreme Court nomination, so I’m writing in H.A. Goodman.

Rotten reporting? Go with Door #3.

[ 40 ] December 18, 2015 |

Lemieux links to a MJ piece about yet another NYT story that is turning out to be as authentic as one of CMOT Dibbler’s sausages inna bun.

Schmidt and Apuzzo either have some bad sources somewhere, or else they have one really bad source somewhere. And coincidentally or not, their source(s) have provided them with two dramatic but untrue scoops that make prominent Democrats look either corrupt or incompetent. For the time being, Schmidt and Apuzzo should be considered on probation. That’s at least one big mistake too many.

Drum is very charitable. I’m considerably less so, and bad reporting irks me a great deal (as you may begin to suspect if you read on).

For one, I’m not sure the assumption that these people used anyone commonly recognized as a source is 100% safe. Maybe the NYT’s editorial policy is to accept as a source anything the reporter finds on the internet, even the most maggoty of mangoes. And that would be fine. If it were noted in the story. Plus, it would be hilarious to watch the Very Serious People who think reading the NYT shores up their VSP bona fides react when a Very Serious Story featured as sources SIG Sauer 1776 and Lev. 15:19 commenting on American Thinker.

However, if one assumes the reporters had actual sources, that’s worse. Assume that for the Clinton email crime probe story these innocents blundered onto a source who has no clue what he’s talking about but likes attention/has an axe to grind/likes trolling reporters.

And the reporters go to the next budget meeting and they’re all excited. Because they’ve got this hot story about HRC being the subject of a criminal probe. Their editor should ask for details. Such as “Who are your sources?” And the reporters should provide names and details about the sources. And the editor, while stabbing puppies with his red stylo du correction, asks how they have verified or will verify that the source (or sources) won’t make them look like morons. And so on.

That’s Act 1 (if I assume the source wasn’t someone on Facebook). Act 2 – The Story Runs. Act 3 – The Story Dissolves Like M. Le Trump’s Hair in a Rainstorm. Act 4 should have been a very unpleasant meeting in which the editor and reporters go through the who what when where why and how the hell things went so very wrong and all the parties involved wonder if they’re going to be fired.

Act 5 Should have been the reporters’ stories are subject to additional scrutiny. Maybe not “Please provide three sources and photographs to verify your assertion that the sky is blue” sort of thing, but something that would have prevented Act 6, which is basically a repeat of Act 3, only with a song and dance routine called “Now I know that you are messing with me.”

Anyone stupid and (or) unconcerned about accuracy enough to go near the same source again is running for office as a Republican, or is on the campaign staff of someone who is. Anyone unlucky enough to twice within a year accidentally stumble onto two separate horrible sources has already died in an an accident that requires the word Freak in the headlines of stories that describe it. It is absolutely not possible that mere inadvertence or sloppiness generates these little whoopsies. And so that leaves me before Door #3: Recklessly shitty lying reporters aided and abetted by reckless shitty lying editors who are all nudged-nudge, wink-winked to new heights of shittiness by a shit of an owner who is trying to make a shitty business model yield a high profit.

Police Abuse, Racism, and the Long Arc of Injustice

[ 6 ] December 18, 2015 |

more-laquan-mcdonald-protests-today

This is a guest post from Simon Balto, Assistant Professor of History at Ball State University. He is a former resident of Chicago, and holds a Ph.D. in History from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is currently working on a book about the relationship between the Chicago Police Department and Chicago’s black community.

As the crow flies, the strip of Pulaski Road where Police Officer Jason Van Dyke shot 17-year-old Laquan McDonald sixteen times sits about three miles from the George N. Leighton Criminal Courthouse. Facing murder charges in that shooting, Van Dyke continuously is paraded into the Leighton Courthouse for hearings in the murder case. Having now been formally indicted on six counts of first-degree murder, he heads back again on Friday for still another hearing. Meanwhile, political heads in Chicago are rolling, with Mayor Rahm Emanuel perhaps the next in line to fall.

Interesting, the ways that history resonates here. Since 2012, Chicago’s courthouse has bore the name of Leighton, a trailblazing African American attorney and judge. In June of that year, city officials dedicated the building in his honor, in a public ceremony attended by many city and county officials, including Emanuel and State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez. At the ceremony, officials professed hopes that the building would serve as a permanent reminder of “the importance of the pursuit of justice.” Emanuel spoke admiringly of Leighton’s “service to our community, to our laws, and to our country.” Ever since, Chicago’s most prominent official halls of justice have resounded with the name of George Leighton.

A bettor would guess that Emanuel – who is now facing calls to resign or be fired for possible collusion in covering up the details of McDonald’s killing – knew nothing about Leighton’s work that he did prior to his judgeship. But it’s here that irony really abounds.

Prior to his election to the Circuit Court in 1964, George Leighton served as chairman of the Chicago NAACP’s Legal Redress Committee, and his most sustained work in that role involved combating police brutality there. In doing so, he repeatedly framed racism and police violence as endemic: “the number of [police brutality] cases…so numerous,” and the tapestry of brutalities “so complex,” that the NAACP had taken to hiring a designated investigator to document brutality cases. He referenced numerous instances of black women and men beaten or shot while handcuffed, subjected to coerced confessions, illegally searched, wrongly arrested, and blatantly harassed. He warned that “unless something was done about this plague in the community,” the Department of Justice may have to be called in.

A few years earlier, in 1960, then-CPD Superintendent Orlando Wilson had implemented the police department’s first self-investigatory unit, called the Internal Investigations Division (IID). Three years into its operation, Leighton accused it of being neither “cooperative nor effective.” Others called it “an eyewash operation not vitally concerned with changing improper police behavior or serving the public interest.” As one black CPD Sergeant who had served on the IID during its first few years put it, the entire system was molded by “purposeful and deliberate malfeasance.”

The mechanisms by which the police department examines officer misconduct have changed from then to now. But the overall results have not. An overwhelming majority of citizen complaints against officers, particularly those lodged by black citizens against white officers, are today dismissed for bureaucratic reasons. The few not dismissed result in little to no disciplinary action. This overwhelming inability of the current review system to weed out dangerous and racist officers is an extraordinary detriment to the entire community. Chicagoans deserve more accountability from the police department that their taxes fund. Today as then, they don’t receive it.

Chicagoans also deserve more transparency about the ways that departmental decisions are made, what officials know about cases that are of the public concern, and how they’re responding to those cases. The graphic video showing Van Dyke shooting McDonald sixteen times has drawn sharp attention to the choices made and apparent veils drawn by Emanuel, Alvarez, and now-fired Superintendent Garry McCarthy in the shooting’s aftermath. Their obfuscation has already cost McCarthy his job, and calls from the community echo with increasing volume for Alvarez and Emanuel to give up theirs, as well. Rightly so. The actions of all of these elected officials have been deplorable throughout this case.

But sadly, Chicagoans have really never been able to count on anything much better from public officials in these moments. Spin backward to that early-1960s moment once more. After George Leighton’s accusations of rampant brutality – including police torture practices such as simulated drowning and electric shock – reached the office of Superintendent Wilson, Wilson convened his central staff to discuss the accusations. The minutes of this meeting survive. They show Wilson acknowledging that there was, for instance, “no other logical explanation” than excessive force in the 1962 death of a young black man named Ralph Bush, who was taken into police custody alive and came out dead from blunt force trauma. (Bush’s family lodged a successful civil suit against the city. Leighton represented them.) The minutes also detail the central staff discussing tossing officers’ lockers and vehicles to try to find cattle prods and other “torture devices.”

This differed substantially from the department’s public face, where officials presented the department as effectively beyond reproach. To the public, they used the existence of the IID as a shield to ward off any external criticism coming its way. To the rank-and-file, they called most citizen complaints “slander.” Dishonesty and obfuscation were the norm.

Clearly, they still are. Despite the passage of time, despite decades of atrocity and activism to expose and oppose it, city and CPD officials have learned little. And Chicagoans of lesser means, particularly in its black communities, have been asked to bear an unbearable burden as a consequence – in the abrogation of their rights, the violations of their privacy, and the circumscriptions of their senses of safety.

For generations, community activists in Chicago have called for an expanded role of civilians in the review of police misconduct and in the shaping of police policy. Their demands have ranged from the implementation of a citizens’ review board to complete community control of the police, in which citizen oversight is paramount in virtually every stage of policy-crafting and decision-making. Activists today continue to make similar demands. One can, given the history, hardly think such calls wrong.

These voices must be taken seriously, for they speak not just of current agonies, but resound with decades of pain and frustration wrought by the city. Ignoring them, as the city has too often done, risks continuing Chicago along this decades-long spiral, and risks more black and brown lives being lost at the hands of officers who are clouded by racist visions and who are too quick to turn to violence. We should absolutely concern ourselves in a dedicated fashion with what’s happening right now – with Jason Van Dyke and Rahm Emanuel and the terrible price that Laquan McDonald paid for Chicago’s reticence toward self-critique. But lingering in all of our minds’ eyes should also be the generations of policymakers, department heads, police union heads, and city officials who have actively resisted putting the house in order, despite the pleas of black people.

In the meantime, history continues to prove inescapable, lodged not just in those accumulating frustrations and furies, but also in the names given to brick-and-mortar edifices of justice. Friday, there in the courthouse building named for a man who dedicated himself to fighting police violence and an intransigent city, the legal case of Police Officer Van Dyke in the murder of Laquan McDonald will proceed.

LGM Bowl Mania Reminder

[ 9 ] December 18, 2015 |
1915 Sooner Football team.png

“1915 Oklahoma Sooners” University of Oklahoma – 1916 Sooner Yearbook Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

Picks need to be in by tomorrow for LGM Bowl Mania.  I have 62% confidence that I understand the confidence scoring system correctly.

League: Lawyers, Guns and Money

Password: zevon

My Take on Star Wars

[ 143 ] December 18, 2015 |

This is all I have to say:

Cautiously pessimistic

[ 76 ] December 18, 2015 |

Either the new Star Wars movie isn’t hot garbage, or everyone interviewed for this story has was given a sawbuck to say it’s good. I remain cautiously pessimistic until the annual family movie night outing next week.

A Reminder that the Republican Party is the Dedicated Enemy of Civil Rights

[ 32 ] December 18, 2015 |

thurmond190

An excellent survey of how the Republican justices gutting the Voting Rights Act and the aggressive southern Republican attempt to intimidate voters of color and to game the system so that Latinos can never hold power is just another chapter in American white supremacy. That the central battleground of this white supremacist desperation to hold onto power is Texas will surprise no one.

You Are The Sucker, And Apparently You Love It

[ 61 ] December 17, 2015 |

To return to a favorite subject, the amount of money sophisticated investors throw into hedge funds continues to astound me:

The average hedge fund has gained just 0.3 percent this year, according to HFR’s weighted composite index. That is enough to outpace the 0.75 percent decline this year in the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index.

Given the staggering amount of fees that hedge fund managers generally charge, this is a terrible return. You would be better off picking stocks from the S&P 500 at random and much better off investing in an index fund.

But wait: this has been a relatively good year:

On that score, however, 2015 has been the exception. The broad hedge fund index has underperformed the stock market in America the previous six years.

Paying somebody massive commissions to do worse than throwing darts at the Wall Street Journal indexes is nutty. And the performance isn’t surprising, since there just aren’t that many foreseeably huge arbitrage opportunities out there:

Take John A. Paulson, who made billions of dollars betting against the housing bubble in 2008 but is nursing losses in three funds this year. He is now raising money for two new funds: a private equity fund and a one focused on health care stocks.

Paulson deserves a good deal of credit for identifying the housing bubble and the implications of converting bad loans into allegedly safe securities ex ante when the correct view was the view of a relatively mall minority. But it’s not as if you can count on this happening on an annual basis. Sometimes the bubble you spot is a bubble. Sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes the market can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent. Investing with someone on the basis that a good call can be routinely repeated, especially at steep costs, is a really bad idea.

And yet:

The recent fund-raising, however, underscores a bigger trend in the industry: Pension funds still want to invest in hedge funds, even as they complain about high fees and years of disappointing performance.

As long as you can keep finding the marks, there’s no need to stop the con.

Moore Beethoven

[ 37 ] December 17, 2015 |

Ludwig van Beethoven (Wiggy to his friends), was born 245 years + 1 day ago. So there’s no better time to listen Dudley Moore spoof the old boy.

(And 30 years later…)

 

Trump as moderate: yes, and that doesn’t make him any less appalling

[ 159 ] December 17, 2015 |

Doug Ahler and David Broockman make the case at the Monkey Cage. This seems largely correct to me, but I’m seeing a number of people treating it as objectionable. Thoughts:

1) We define moderate as “agrees with Ds and Rs some of the time,” regardless of the moderation or lack thereof with any specific view, which is arguably incoherent, but it’s still the everyday meaning of the term in American politics.

2) Elite moderates and moderates in public opinion don’t actually resemble each other at all, and (some) elite moderates seem to be in some very deep denial about this (Thomas Friedman’s habit of placing his own views in the mouths of hypothetical everyman figures like cab drivers is a paradigmatic case). In broad strokes, elite moderates are pro-immigration, pro-globalization, socially liberal, and strongly in favor of ‘entitlement reform’; the moderates in the actual public aren’t likely to support any of these positions. This adds to the confusion already produced by the lack of analytic precision in (1).

3) This is only offensive if we treat moderation as a political virtue worthy of praise. This is often assumed in American political discourse, but I think it’s worth rejecting quite strongly (this is particularly the case given (1) above). Whether moderation should considered a virtue or vice is entirely situational.

4) Efforts to map ideology on two dimensions aren’t always completely worthless, but it’s a project with very limited informational value. The authors are absolutely correct to observe “ideological moderation just doesn’t mean much.”

…LeeEsq and Rob in CT observe that another source of confusion here is whether the term is characterizing his views or the manner in which he expresses them. This is a good point, and I think relates to (3) above. If moderation is treated implicitly as a virtue, Trump’s nasty demagoguery appears as evidence against his moderation.

Peak law school?

[ 29 ] December 17, 2015 |

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One of the curiosities of current debates about tuition increases, both at American law schools and in higher education in general, is that there’s very little if any understanding of how much tuition rose in real terms in the 1950s and 1960s. In the case of law schools, average private law school tuition actually went up faster, in percentage terms, than it has over the past 30 years. Of course the increases in recent decades have been from a radically higher baseline:

Private law school tuition 2014

I’ve only collected data on public law school resident tuition since the mid-1970s, but average tuition levels were still barely more than nominal at that time, and remained so well into the 1980s:

Public law school tuition 2014

Notes:

(1) The very rapid rise of private law school tuition in the 1950s and 1960s took place in the context of steadily rising median incomes during these years. Since the 1970s median incomes have remained practically flat.

(2) Any criticism of the cost structure of higher education is sure to produce a bunch of nonsense about “Baumol’s cost disease” from defenders of the status quo. In fact per capita faculty compensation has fallen sharply since the 1970s. For idiosyncratic reasons this hasn’t been true for law schools in particular, but it would be perfectly possible to cut entry level law professor compensation in half with little or no loss of quality. As anyone who has any experience with the hiring market recently is well aware, huge numbers of superbly qualified job candidates, both in traditional legal academic and more pragmatic terms, are finding it impossible to get a job.

(3) The current cost structure of legal education features fantastic levels of successful rent-seeking. If we measure the pedagogic quality of law school by the extent to which it prepares people to become licensed attorneys, there is no evidence that, over the past 40 years, the quadrupling of tuition at private law schools, and seven-fold increase in resident tuition at public schools has produced any quality improvements whatsoever. This is illustrated by the fact that scores on the Multi-State Bar Exam — a scaled and equated test, meaning the scores from which account for changes in the ability of test takers — are actually lower now than they have been at almost any time in the past 40 years.

(4) Econ 101 says that, all things being equal, firms that radically raise prices without commensurate improvements in quality will be immediately undercut by competitors, who will seize market share via lower prices. Econ 201, 301 etc., points out that this model of economic behavior is way too simple. In areas such as higher education, information gaps, Veblen effects, and the like cause potential tuition payers to treat price as a straightforward proxy for quality. This helps explain why every single private law school in the country is now charging vastly more in constant dollars than Harvard and Yale were charging 30 years ago, even though it seems safe to assume that Harvard and Yale Law Schools were providing acceptable-quality legal educations at that time.

(5) All this aside, there is some evidence that Peak Law School is now in the historical rear view mirror. Sticker tuition increased by “only” 5% in constant dollars between 2010 and 2014, while at the same time the percentage of students paying full freight at private law schools plummeted from 48% to 36%. This suggests that, over the past five years, effective per capita tuition has actually declined. Since overall JD enrollment has declined by 23% over this time, law schools on average are pulling in around 25% less in tuition than they were in 2010. (On average is a deceptive term here, as elite law schools are pulling in more tuition than ever, while a school like Thomas Cooley, which has seen enrollment fall 65% over the past five years, is probably getting less than half as much out of its student loan conduits as it was in 2010). Once again, if something cannot go on forever, it will stop.

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