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Misplaced tears for Mitch McConnell

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Misplaced tears for Mitch McConnell

by digby





My Salon column this morning:

The news media has been rightfully up in arms about the president of the United States participating in a cover-up of the murder of a journalist and Washington Post columnist. And they've been equally critical of President Trump's comments last week at a rally in Montana, where he applauded a GOP congressman for body-slamming a reporter because he asked a question. Likewise, the media has understandably protested the Secret Service telling an accredited journalist that he was not allowed to ask Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner questions on an airplane.

This is, after all, a country with a Bill of Rights that protects freedom of the press. All right thinking people are supportive of their position on these issues. Between all that and the constant demeaning of the media by the president, it's clear that this administration is using the power of the government and the president's bully pulpit to threaten the press, and not just in a metaphorical sense. All of the above examples demonstrate a threat of physical violence.

People who understand human rights also understand the role the free press plays in securing those rights. Anyone who cares about liberty and justice can see that this crusade to protect powerful government officials from accountability by muzzling the media is a danger to us all.

Over the past few months, we've gone round and round about "civility" --- who's got it, who doesn't, who's to blame for losing it. The truth is that this country's always been politically unruly and sometimes even violent. It's not in the least bit unusual for citizens to confront their representatives, sometimes rudely and obnoxiously. Just in the past two decades, from Code Pink interrupting and protesting in every Iraq war hearing to the Tea Party spitting on congressmen and screaming in their faces over the health care bill, people from all sides of the political divide have been getting up in their elected leaders' faces. Until recently, this was seen as a normal part of our raucous political life in turbulent times.

This past weekend, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was yelled at in a Louisville restaurant while sitting with his wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. A man approached their table and angrily told they should leave the country. When other patrons spoke up and told him to leave them alone he shouted, "They're coming for Social Security!" (This happens to be true. McConnell told CNBC just last week that the only solution for the massive deficit caused by his massive tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy is to cut "entitlements.")

There have been several similar incidents. Protesters and constituents have approached Sen. Ted Cruz and his wife, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen in public places, giving them hell over policies and practices.

Of all the people in our public life to get angry about this, the last you'd expect would be members of the media, who are being demonized by the president and these very same politicians. But some of them are quite upset and have taken to social media to scold citizens for addressing their leaders in this way:








These are all fine reporters but they are on the wrong track. The same First Amendment that protects them from the authoritarian impulses of a politician like Donald Trump also protects these citizens' free speech and right to petition their government for a redress of grievances.

Not all journalists agreed with this sentiment. Wesley Lowrey of the Washington Post came back with this sharp rebuke:



And journalist Connie Shultz, who also happens to be married to Senator Sherrod Brown, weighed in with a typically wise and decent comment:


Public officials whining about having to deal with angry citizens is unseemly and journalists should not protect them from it. As Shultz says, it's part of the job. In fact, it's a constitutional duty.

Of course, these Republicans might have an easier time of it if they would stop ducking their constituents and hold town halls and other events. But they've cut way back on that part of their job because they don't want to face "gotcha" questions. McConnell himself had a hissy fit over rape survivors confronting senators in the Capitol during the Brett Kavanaugh hearings, complaining on the floor of the Senate, "I don't care how many members they chase, how many people they harass here in the halls, I want to make one thing perfectly clear: We will not be intimidated by these people."

Apparently, at least some elected Republicans believe they shouldn't have to answer to citizens at all. That's part of what's making people so angry. The fact is that Republicans all over the country are suppressing the votes of American citizens. We see it, it's obvious; they aren't really trying to hide it.

We are also living with a system in which a majority of citizens are routinely being relegated to minority status through anachronistic democratic "systems" like the Electoral College, which denied the White House to the winner of the popular vote winner the White House twice within 16 years. (There was only one clear-cut example in the previous 220). As the Washington Post's Paul Waldman has pointed out, in the last three U.S. Senate elections "there were 15 million more votes cast for Democrats than for Republicans," but the GOP still holds a Senate majority and therefore also control of the judiciary. For Democrats to win a House majority this year, they can't just get 51 percent of the vote; most experts believe they have to win by 7 or 8 points just to overcome the effects of Republican gerrymandering.

One might feel differently about this if Republicans made even the slightest gesture to the majority, acknowledging that their power is not derived from a popular mandate. But they don't. They ram through all legislation on a party-line vote, telling the opposition to like it or lump it.

Even setting aside the odious presidency of Donald Trump, people have legitimate grievances. And their supposed leaders are ignoring them.

On the same weekend that McConnell was accosted in Louisville, a woman in another restaurant in Lovettsville, Virginia, began screaming obscenities at another woman and her family, which included a 7-year-old daughter, for having the nerve to speak Spanish in her presence:


This kind of thing happens a lot. People speaking Spanish in restaurants, whether employeesor customers, are routinely harangued by right-wingers. (I don't have to mention all the white people who call the cops on black people for no reason, do I? Or the Trump supporters who run around screaming in people's faces?)

No doubt it's unpleasant for pampered Republican political leaders to be accosted in restaurants by their unruly constituents. But maybe it will give them a little empathy for what it's like to be nonwhite in Donald Trump's America these days. If nothing else, it would be nice if the political media understood that the people who are creating this toxic atmosphere in the first place are the last people to deserve our pity.
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Moab Music Festival draws fans to Utah’s ethereal desert

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For the past 26 years, the Moab Music Festival has been attracting fans from around the world for some of the most unique performances of classical and chamber music. During three weeks in September, the southwestern town, located near Arches National Park, hosts performances in town halls, ranches and the middle of Utah's ethereal desert landscape. NewsHour Weekend's Christopher Booker reports.

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Slate - The New American Songbook

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The New American Songbook is emphatically not a list of the best songs of the past quarter-century, although many of these tracks would make that list, too. As predicted by our panel, tomorrow's oldies, like tomorrow's America, will be a lot less male-dominated, and a lot more diverse.

Below, find the Top 30 songs, in order, all of which were nominated by at least two of our panelists. You can also read the individual ballots of everyone from Chuck Klosterman to NPR's Ann Powers to Drive-By Truckers' Patterson Hood. Which of today's hits will endure as tomorrow's golden oldies? Here's our best guess.

30. Idina Menzel – "Let It Go"
29. Liz Phair – "Fuck and Run"
28. Daft Punk ft. Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers – "Get Lucky"
27. Alanis Morissette – "You Oughta Know"
26. Old Crow Medicine Show – "Wagon Wheel"
25. Destiny's Child – "Say My Name"
24. Israel Kamakawiwoʻole – "Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World"
23. Beyoncé ft. Jay-Z – "Crazy in Love"
22. Nine Inch Nails – "Hurt"
21. 50 Cent – "In Da Club"
20. Adele – "Rolling in the Deep"
19. Oasis – "Wonderwall"
18. Backstreet Boys – "I Want It That Way"
17. Rihanna ft. Calvin Harris – "We Found Love"
16. The Killers – "Mr. Brightside"
15. Céline Dion – "My Heart Will Go On"
14. Santana ft. Rob Thomas – "Smooth"
13. Lauryn Hill – "Doo Wop (That Thing)"
12. Drake – "Hotline Bling"
11. Eminem – "Lose Yourself"
10. Carly Rae Jepsen – "Call Me Maybe"
9. TLC – "Waterfalls"
8. The White Stripes – "Seven Nation Army"
7. Mariah Carey – "All I Want for Christmas Is You"
6. Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars – "Uptown Funk"
5. The Notorious B.I.G. – "Juicy"
4. Kelly Clarkson – "Since U Been Gone"
3. Beyoncé – "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)"
2. Jay-Z ft. Alicia Keys – "Empire State of Mind"
1. Outkast – "Hey Ya"
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0. Hanson - "MMMBop"
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Definitely not made up Murder She Wrote title cards

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Definitely not made up Murder She Wrote title cards [via mefi projects]
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cjmcnamara
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"Hog Calling Was His Calling"
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Law and Economics

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I’ve been waiting for this paper to drop, ever since Suresh told me about it last year. It’s groundbreaking. What it does is to take Steve Teles’ qualitative work on the conservative legal movement, and then ask a simple question: if we start with the qualitative evidence about the program’s intentions, then FOIA the hell out of George Mason University to find out which judges attended the Manne seminars, and then apply cutting edge econometrics and natural language processing to their decisions, what are we going to find out?

Some selected quotes (as well as one quote that isn’t in the current version, but will likely be in the next) under the fold, for those who are interested in the headline findings.

we find that, post Manne attendance, judges render conservative verdicts in economics-relevant cases. Further, using the 100% sample of machine-coded circuit cases, we find that Manne attendees subsequently are more likely to rule against regulatory agencies, for example the EPA and NLRB. Next we look at criminal sentencing in the district courts. We find that Manne attendance is associated with harsher prison sentences imposed. We show that the difference in sentencing harshness between Manne and non-Manne judges is highest after the 2005 Booker decision gave more discretion to judges in sentencing.

We find that Manne attendance is associated with disparate sentencing. The results are consistent with judges learning a theories of simple deterrence and the use of stereotypes as being economically efficient … –that discrimination in prices and in punishment can be analyzed in terms of economic efficiency (documented in the Manne program archives). … Exploiting random panel composition, we document extensive spillovers consistent with both peer and learning effects. Having an economics trained judge on the authoring judge’s previous panel impacts the decision. There is no effect in a set of placebo cases … There are spillovers on rulings against regulatory agencies.


Law and economics’ key criticism of regulatory policies is that they have perverse, unintended economic consequences. In the domain of labor regulation, law and economics scholars (and judges) wrote extensively against New Deal labor law and union protections …. In EPA regulation, almost all environmental regulations can be construed as a form of government expropriation that limits how property owners can develop their property. Reliance on economic analysis in antitrust has attained nearly complete consensus.

By the 1960s, the Supreme Court had read into previous statutes a variety of anti-competitive social and political goals, such as protecting small traders from their larger and more efficient rivals as well as curbing inequality in the distribution of income and undue influence of large business. The law-and-economics movement advanced the initially controversial view that the antitrust laws should promote economic efficiency and consumer welfare, rather than shield individuals from competitive market forces or redistribute income across groups of consumers. In the recent time period, judges who attended law-and-economics training were less likely to have their antitrust decisions appealed (Baye and Wright 2011).

A more controversial branch of law and economics is the use of incentives reasoning in criminal law. In Becker’s (1968) analysis of crime and punishment, the notion of “rational criminals” works against the then-prevailing wisdom of crime as a product of mental illness. This change in perspective motivates deterrence (more police, more punishment) rather than rehabilitation (more social services and mental health treatment) as the preferred focus of crime policy.



The influence of economics on legal thought is, in part, due to a controversial economics training program for sitting judges, the Economics Institute for Federal Judges. … The course was founded and organized by Henry Manne, an influential conservative in the early law and economics movement. The institute was the the flagship program of the Law and Economics Center, the first academic research center devoted to law and economics. It was funded mainly by donations from conservative foundations and business interests. …By 1990, forty percent of federal judges had attended this program. … at least in principle, the program was billed as a non-partisan tool to help judges understand their decisions

In terms of the main lessons, the program strove for ideological balance. Both conservative and liberal economic thinkers were invited. Empirical panels could include both Orley Ashenfelter and John Lott, for example. … The instruction may have been more emphatically delivered by the conservative instructors. Manne himself (who taught part of the course) articulated the view that insider trading was economically efficient. Another instructor, Professor Goetz, defended “’Unequal’ Punishment for ’Equal’ Crime,” arguing that discrimination in punishment can be economically efficient.

In more recent years, the annual reports include instructors with known conservative stances on immigration (George Borjas), crime (James Q. Wilson), and family law (Jennifer Roback Morse, founder of the anti-LGBT Ruth Institute). … In a Fortune magazine article (May 21, 1979), instructors quotes indicate how normative the economics instructors intended to be. Alchian said, “I’m trying to change your view of the world, to show you that what you thought was bad really may not be.” On damages and deterrence, Demsetz said motivated increase in sanctions as, “[an agent is] not likely to be caught, [so] the threat of simple damages may not be a tough enough deterrent” and the moral hazard associated with damages: “The plaintiffs may wait a long time before they complain, because they want damages to pile up.”

On environmental law, Alchian stated, “Give me a capsule that will magically clean all the air in Los Angeles … Beg me to crush it. … I won’t crush the capsule. Because, if I do, poor blacks will have to pay $20 a month more for land rental. … the black in Watts, already used to living with bad air, loses his discount for doing that.” On equal opportunity and discrimination, Feldstein said, “you should be asking questions like, `Is it more likely to be this than that ?’ ”, but no empirical skepticism towards antitrust theory was articulated.



The program has a recognized conservative bias, yet the attending judges are effusive in their praise regardless of ideological standpoint. What is the impact on observed judge decisions? …We focus on two agencies the Law and Economics movement specifically criticized: the National Labor Relations Board and the Environmental Protection Agency. .. Manne judges exhibit a sharp and sudden increase in propensity to vote against federal labor and environmental regulatory agencies. … The differences-in-differences analysis … renders a consistent picture that Manne judges become more conservative after the training relative to their colleagues. …

this indicates the Manne program accounts for 28-42% of the rise in judicial conservatism. If peers and precedent also impact the non-Manne judges, then the true Manne impact may … explain an even larger portion of the historical shift. … Judges increase sentence lengths by 7 percent and any sentence by 2 percentage points after Manne attendance. …United States v. Booker loosened the formerly mandatory U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and offers a policy experiment to analyze the effects of judicial discretion. … economics trained judges render more severe sentences in the fiscal years after Booker. …the racial disparity in sentencing between black and white defendants is larger for Manne-trained judges than their colleagues. In addition, the gender disparity in sentencing between make and female defendants is larger for Manne-trained judges than their colleagues. …

Manne attendance increases use of economics language for Manne judges across both economics and non-economics cases. … Judges who sit with economics-trained judges start to use more economics language, consistent with a learning effect.

And not in the article – but highly relevant – is this quote from a reminiscence of Henry Manne’s influence:

Finally, Manne paid very careful attention to the content of the conference and to the approaches and positions of the attendees. None of the many Manne conferences that I attended were ideological directly. There was no clear or, to my mind, subterranean agenda. Nevertheless, while Manne, both in terms of content and attendees, provided for balance, he did not provide for too much balance. As befits a clever market-maker, Manne’s balance was ingenious. Commonly, extremely prominent liberal economists would attend—such as Paul Samuelson or Ken Arrow. Though both are irrepressible, their positions were often cabined by topics far from familiar to them. Similarly, Manne would typically invite liberal economists to teach at his Judges’ programs. His faculties uniformly showed political and ideological balance. But again, Manne was in charge of the curriculum. A liberal economist teaching supply and demand is hardly dangerous. A liberal economist becomes dangerous when addressing how to improve the world with unlimited spending of other citizens’ tax monies. That, Henry Manne would never allow.

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I Didn’t Hate the English — Until Now

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In which an Irish woman discovers how little the people who shaped her country’s fate know or care.

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