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Today in our failed media experiment, a bizarre, crankish lower court ruling becomes a major media event. I almost don’t know what to say about the ruling, which seems like something that will be easily overturned on appeal, and seems to invent a right to have a good teacher while also making it less possible that it will happen:

Los Angeles County superior court judge Rolf Treu cited the historic case of Brown v Board of Education in ruling that all students are entitled to equal education and said the current situation discriminates against minority and low-income students in placing ineffective teachers in their schools.

“Plaintiffs claim that the challenged statutes result in grossly ineffective teachers obtaining and retaining permanent employment, and that these teachers are disproportionately situated in schools serving predominantly low-income and minority students,” the decision said.

I am, most certainly, not a lawyer. But this seems deeply problematic. Inventing a right to equally of outcome in education as a judicial principle isn’t going to actually make it so, figuring out what actually makes a good teacher is an open question, there are state contracts that would have to be broken were this upheld, etc. This is, like, dumb social justice combined with dumb judicial activism, every bit as activist and overreaching as conservatives of the time claimed Brown v. Board to be. So maybe the comparison deserves to be drawn, unfavorably. The more articles one reads about this judge and the ruling, one imagines the guy imaging himself on movie screens years from now delivering this ruling, when in reality just decreeing that everyone should have good teachers will not make more talented people sign up for a profession that is frequently criticized by pundits and elites, constantly turned more mechanical through standardized testing and now Common Core, doesn’t pay well for people with postgraduate education and would lack even the mitigating factor of job security.

The thing that I really don’t get here is this: most prominent education reformers are business types. So one would think they understand concepts like incentives quite well. Removing job security means removing an incentive to join the teaching profession. Without adding others, how do we get the sorts of superteachers this judge thinks we all deserve? I guess the theory is we just churn through, Wal-Mart style, until we get a better pool?

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us_drones_no_waterboarding_we_only_kill_them_cartoonHow in Jeebus’ name can you write an article that refers to drone strikes and completely fail to mention civilian casualties??

The CIA is believed to have conducted more than 350 drone strikes in Pakistan since 2004, killing hundreds of al-Qaida-aligned fighters. [......]

Well, heck, nothing wrong with killing all those scary brown terrorists…  Nothing to see here…

For those of you who are actually interested in the full picture, instead of a sanitized passing reference that protects military leaders from (gasp) getting the vapors:

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International issued a pair of reports in October fiercely criticizing the secrecy that shrouds the administration’s drone program, and calling for investigations into the deaths of drone victims with no apparent connection to terrorism. In Pakistan alone, [The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, a U.K.-based non-profit,] estimates, between 416 and 951 civilians, including 168 to 200 children, have been killed.

But it’s ok, because Obama is totally, seriously, put out of sorts by all those pesky civilians getting killed:

Barack Obama

This is my “disturbed” face.

Obama recently told The New Yorker that he “wrestle[s]” with civilian casualties. But, he said, he has “a solemn duty and responsibility to keep the American people safe. That’s my most important obligation as President and Commander-in-Chief. And there are individuals and groups out there that are intent on killing Americans — killing American civilians, killing American children, blowing up American planes.”

So… The message is “we’re just doing the same evil shit that they do, so it’s ok”…?
Oh, and Obama also gets  ever-so-“disturbed” when told about the hellfire we accidentally rain down on children.

Five years ago, on January 23 2009, a CIA drone flattened a house in Pakistan’s tribal regions.  … Reports of civilian casualties began to emerge. As later reports revealed, the strike was far from a success. At least nine civilians died, most of them from one family. There was one survivor, 14-year-old Fahim Qureshi, but with horrific injuries including shrapnel wounds in his stomach, a fractured skull and a lost eye, he was as much a victim as his dead relatives.

Later that day, the CIA attacked again – and levelled another house. It proved another mistake, this time one that killed between five and ten people, all civilians.

Obama was briefed on the civilian casualties almost immediately and was ‘understandably disturbed’.


But don’t worry, if you’re a nice, pleasant, white, Christian, real American, you’re totally safe.  Pinky swear.

In April 2013 a leaked Department of Justice memo outlined the administration’s legal justification for such killings: the US has the right to kill US citizens if they pose an imminent threat, it said. It added that determining a citizen poses an imminent threat ‘does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on US persons and interests will take place in the immediate future’. Jameel Jaffer of the American Civil Liberties Union described the memo as a ‘chilling document’.

U – S – A !!

“By the time I’m getting out of prison, hopefully, you’ll be done with the presidency. And guess what? I’m gonna make another shitty movie about you again. That’s my business. That’s what I do.” – Dinesh D’Souza


I really think that the tradeoff for a Clinton presidency has to be considered this way. On the one hand, having a successor to Obama that consolidates his health and environment reforms rather than one who dismantles them is invaluable. FDR and Reagan both burnished their legacies by having their successors installed in the presidency, who in turn protected their legacies, and while LBJ did not get his preferred successor Nixon was uninterested in domestic policy, so the Great Society reforms generally stood. On the other hand, the real gains of the Clinton years vanished when G.W. Bush “won” the presidency, though he kept many of the worst parts of the Clinton years, to everyone’s detriment. Also, the de-conservativation of the courts would be nearly complete under eight years of Clinton II. It would ensure that the great bulk of Reagan and Bush I judges are replaced by Democratic appointees, including on SCOTUS. Hell, after sixteen consecutive years of Democratic presidents, we might even be able to claim a majority on the Eighth Circuit. (I’d probably give that 50/50 odds.) And while it’s naive to think that Republicans will substantially moderate by 2016, being out of power for sixteen years could make that process inevitable.  All this would be more than enough to justify a HRC Administration, in spite of the inevitable humanitarian interventions of whichever less powerful and poorer countries Secretary of State Samantha Power and Defense Secretary Susan Rice decide must be subjected to Freedom Bombs so that they can feel better about themselves.

The danger, I think, is more long-term. Having another president committed to liberal interventionism poses a real threat as this cause commands almost no support among the public, and foreign policy interventionism in general is in decline. Outside of some wealthy donors there’s no real support for this kind of stuff among the Democratic base. Politically, one can see Republicans using this to weaken a Clinton Administration in much the same way they have weakened the Obama Administration, by entrapping a chief executive who does care about hawkish pundits and elites into getting involved in no-win scenarios on foreign policy. Obama has been blindsided by this more than once (he still, after all, wants to believe that Republicans care about country first and that there is common ground to be found), and given Clinton’s record I suspect she would be vulnerable to this as well. The danger, in other words, is in having yet another Democratic Party leader who came of age politically during an era where Republicans had 2-to-1 polling advantages on foreign policy, and where Democrats were widely believed to be weak and feckless on the subject, requiring ambitious pols to make sure everyone knew they were “tough” like Reagan. And in general, the need to, Newland Archer-like, continue to respect and respond to a conventional wisdom and a social context that has stopped existing everywhere except for that person’s head is the most frightening prospect of a second Clinton presidency. It’s easy to imagine her as Lyndon Johnson in more ways than one I think.

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I’m not sure which is the bigger tipoff that Duck Dynasty is done: the mountains of Duck Dynasty crap I see at the local dollar store when I visit it for cheap laundry detergent, or that Sarah Palin thinks the head Duck would make a good president.

Relatedly, I don’t think even she knows when she’s trolling anymore.

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Yeah, it’s most of what I “know” about Mississippi, and probably the same for you too.

I have to admit that the prominence of the Mississippi Senate race baffles me a bit. I found the “Constitutional Clayton” saga as entertaining as anyone, but come on. It’s not that there are zero stakes, really, so much as that the stakes are fairly low relative to the hype. Yes, Thad Cochran is probably the best we could hope for of a Republican Senator from Mississippi, and seems like an okay guy who occasionally (though rarely decisively) reaches across the aisle. And Chris McDaniel seems like a neo-Confederate creep. But does anyone really think there will be a huge difference between their voting profiles come, say, the end of 2015? Probably the biggest difference is that McDaniel seems to be a conscientious noninterventionist in the style of Ron Paul while Cochran is just a standard-issue hawk, which is a difference but not one that cuts for Cochran in my opinion, and that a McDaniel win might actually make the seat competitive and I’m not entirely sure who to root for. As James Murphy says, there are advantages to both, but the focus on it simply for the question of, “Is the Tea Party still relevant?” seems a bit pointless.

Also, I’m also baffled by the notion that the Tea Party is this big incumbent-shredding machine when really what they’ve mostly done is to challenge tired, really old men like Mike Castle, Bob Bennett, Dick Lugar and Thad Cochran, regardless of being relatively moderate or basically acceptably conservative. No challenge has been mounted to more RINO-type Republicans under 80 like Scott Brown or Susan Collins. They’re just using anti-Washington sentiment to cut down a bunch of past-their-prime old guys, which somehow doesn’t bother the geriatric club that is the GOP base. Incidentally, even though he should be perfectly acceptable to Republicans because he’s a total asshole, I take dibs on Chuck Grassley as the next Tea-target in 2016. He fits the profile all too well.

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Lev filed this under: , ,  

While one could easily (and fairly) gripe about how the Obama Administration has been delaying EPA regulations on power plants for political reasons for such a long time, from what I read they seem pretty good. And this is a good political analysis of them. Never easy to predict what history will find most relevant about a presidency, but I do think that climate change and the ACA implementation will be the things the public remembers about Obama (in addition to that, you know, whole historic first non-white president thing), and in time the middle one will come to be appreciated for just how well done it was in spite of considerable obstacles. The financial rescue will ultimately be forgotten I think because there’s no particular group of people with an interest in pushing it as a major accomplishment, and because the subsequent recovery was, it’s safe to say, pretty shitty. And while the first debt ceiling was a true disaster–it emptied out the cupboard and locked in an austerity budget in such a way that many liberals, including the president, didn’t see just how thoroughly they’d been whipped until a year and a half later when the damn thing was implemented–it’s seemingly already forgotten by most people.

On a personal note, I am someone who supported Obama in the primaries almost exclusively based on his focus on energy and climate issues (he was a slightly weaker on health care and slightly stronger on climate than the other two lest we forget), as well as his different-sounding take on foreign policy. The latter wound up being nothing, watered down Clinton-hawk soup served with extra ambivalence and an unwelcome trace of self-pity. But enacting these regulations at least makes it feel like the entire thing wasn’t a complete waste of time.

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If it’s a year divisible by six plus two, it means that Susan Collins is getting yet another free ride for a six-year term in very blue Maine. She is what passes for moderate Republican these days, which is to say that she votes with her leadership on nearly everything. Even on disastrously unpopular measures like the anti-contraception Blunt Amendment. She is an utter phony, but she has the endorsement of the state’s other senator, a nominal Democrat. It’s telling that this local article written ostensibly as a case for non-Republicans to support her mostly just talks up her perfect attendance record, as if anyone who went to high school doesn’t know that the one who gets the perfect attendance award is rarely the most talented student, as well as how enduringly popular she is, which is a self-fulfilling prophecy that keeps Democrats from attacking her when she, say, supports the Blunt Amendment, or fully supports the Bush Tax Cuts, or collaborates with Joe Lieberman on national security.

Admittedly, in situations where the Democratic incumbent runs in tough territory, it makes perfect sense to play this kind of all-politics-are-local stuff. But this is a supremely tough cycle for Democrats, and popular former Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee was felled essentially by making the case that, regardless of his personal moderation, his vote for a GOP Senate leader would only hurt the policies they like and help the ones they don’t. Collins is a tough target but there’s just no excuse not to try. Republicans don’t just back off when the shoe’s on the other foot. I truly do believe that Democratic elites give her a pass because they don’t want to lose one of the few moderate-ish Republicans left in Congress, but it deserves constant reminding that the results of this plan continue to be shitty (and if the GOP gets to 51 next year, Democrats will have to live with having passed up this opportunity).