Monday, May 28, 2012

Elsewhere: The crazy, Lugar, and more

I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday.* Greg is still playing hooky, so I've been over at Plum Line more than usual. Today I had one on where the presidential race sits now, and another on what to expect from Dick Lugar for the rest of the year. Way back on Friday, I had a Post Partisan post about the latest conservative defector,

Meanwhile, I had a Salon column over the weekend about the future of the GOP and the crazy. I'm not especially optimistic about that future...I said that the best chance for change is probably if GOP-aligned interest groups decide that the crazy really threatens them enough for them to fight to get rid of it.

I should be back to a normal blogging schedule tomorrow; meanwhile, you can expect another round of Watergate blogging some time later today. With any luck earlier than I've been getting to it lately.

*And a belated Gut Yontif to those celebrating poor neglected Shavuot. At my house? Blintzes were eaten.


  1. The crazy Repubs are not concerning because the Democratic crazy caucus is so huge.

    ***Begin The Atlantic quote***

    "We all feel threatened," said Rep. Hank Johnson, a Georgia Democrat, as he sat by the fireplace off the House floor. "If the only reason that you would suffer a complaint is because of your skin color, that is a cause for concern."

    It is a grave accusation: Could the congressional ethics process, ostensibly safeguarded by professional staff members and by a bipartisan structure that allows nothing to move forward unless Democrats and Republicans agree, be singling out African-Americans?

    ***End quote***

    The Congressional Black Caucus is under perpetual investigation for hiding stolen money in freezers, not paying taxes, using corp money to fund giant junkets and parties, shunting tax money directly to banks partly owned by spouses, etc. The CBC response to all of this (as with any criticism) is "that's racist!!!"

    At least he didn't accuse Dems of lynching.

    There a crazy beam shoved up your party's eye, Bernstein. Is that why you can't see it?

    1. Corrupt as the day is long isn't crazy.

      A portion of the CBC suffers from a problem: electoral immunity. They simply cannot be defeated, even if they get caught in a scandal, in either a primary or a general election. I imagine the same thing would happen to a Republican who was so immune (see: Stevens, Ted: yes, prosecutors mucked that one up something fierce, but the guy was also guilty as sin).

      This relationship between electoral security and looting (as in the type of corruption whereby a legislator enriches their own bank account) is actually well established. Justin Buchler and I demonstrated it in a model and paper that appears in his recent book as a chapter, but there's plenty of evidence that this happens in other places (Japan, for example). Note, however, that cheating (that is, corruption intended to affect the results of an election, like Watergate or what most reporters assume campaign contributions to be doing) is associated with elections being CLOSE.

      So, take the two most famous presidential scandals: Watergate and Teapot Dome. Watergate: cheating. They were trying to bug the DNC. Why? Well, even setting aside Nixon's MANY character flaws, never forget that he was a Republican president in a Democratic era. He lost in 1960, and could have easily thought he won in 1968 due to Democratic Party suicide. Teapot Dome: looting. Pure example of payoffs and corruption, under a Republican administration during a Republican era: between 1860 and 1932, only Wilson and Cleveland defeated Republicans (and Cleveland was a Bourbon Democrat, and Wilson, well, not really a good fit for Dems at his time, either).

      Corruption is more likely amongst urban Democrats for the simple reason that urban districts are the most overwhelmingly partisan distrits in either direction, in this case, Democratic. In fact, as we firm up our partisanships and districts become even safer, I would expect that we'll see more instances of looting in the future. So, the future will be less Willie Browns (while Speaker of the CA Assembly, the man was bought and paid for by tobacco) and more Duke Cunninghams (who really didn't break any campaign finance laws...he just took cash/benefits).

      One wonders if the Tea Party primaries aren't a good thing from the perspective of corruption. You can make the district overwhelmingly Republican without a fear of looting (because primary challenges are MORE likely in safer seats...just ask Utahns), and doing so avoids the temptation for cheating. (Orrin Hatch may be called the "Senator from Disney," and they may give him a ton of money, but he isn't selling out: he genuinely sides with them on IP issues {fancying himself a songwriter}. Disney is just giving money to help reelect their biggest defender.)

    2. Matt Jarvis,

      "Corrupt as the day is long isn't crazy."

      The quote is about the racial paranoia of Democrats in the CBC and the total disinterest of other Democrats in pushing back against their nuttiness. You know that the CBC is unusually corrupt, but if you confronted a member over some ethics violation (that would probably lead to jail time if Martha Stewart did it) the member would call you a racist. Read the article. This is my whole point: Andre Carson can lie about the Tea Party/n-word and Demos will just run with it. He can then say that there's a race war between Tea Party members and blacks and "retract" it to saying that only those in Congress want to string them up. Dems don't care. Many examples.

      I see three possibilities:

      1) Democrats believe these insane claims.
      2) Democrats are resigned to dealing with the corrupt nuts in their party.
      3) Democrats are OK with any attack on Reps... even ones specifically designed to instigate racial hatred.

    3. Backyardfoundry,
      What's the best case to be made that the CBC is as highly visible and drives the rhetoric/framing/policies/ideological transformations of the overall Democratic party leadership to the same extent as figures like Sarah Palin/Rush Limbaugh/Fox News's brand of hysteria does with the Republican party leadership? As far as I can tell, the CBC has remained marginal and in terms of the evolution of the Democratic party since the early 1980s, it has been a notable loser in terms of influence.

    4. backyard: it's not nuttiness. It's just pure, craven self interest. They play the race card because they can. It's a useful card for them to play. And, after 4 centuries of white people screwing them over, I'm willing to forgive a little paranoia amongst African-Americans. But, when I see a Sheila Jackson-Lee, for example, I don't see crazy. I see a fantastically overdeveloped sense of importance and entitlement. Dollar-bill Jefferson, Charlie Rangel, the list goes on. In fact, when I think of crazy amongst the CBC, only Maxine Waters and Cynthia McKinney come to mind (and they ALSO have the overdeveloped sense of importance!) Most stories about "nuttiness" in the CBC can be explained by this.

      But PF's point is sound: the CBC doesn't drive the Democratic party bus. It gets a seat on it (not in the back!), but the Dem Party is just too big a tent to have one bus driver. The Republican Party is much more homogenous. The Dems always allowed the CBC to offer their own version of the budget...and it always went down in flames. That's not driving the bus; that's mounting a child's steering wheel to the back of a seat and saying "Go ahead...'Drive' the bus!" (For that matter, in a number of years, the Republicans allowed the CBC budget as an alternative to theirs, again from the "no harm, no foul" principle)

      I mean, a Democrat running for president can have a "Sister Soulja" moment and still keep support in the party. Name a national Republican figure who has survived dressing down Rush without tucking their tail between their legs.

    5. "What's the best case to be made that the CBC is as highly visible and drives the rhetoric/framing/policies/ideological transformations of the overall Democratic party leadership"

      How can the CBC be as visible if most of the MSM avoids the CBC's endless lunacy? Carson's "hanging from a tree" should have been his macaca moment, but nearly zero have heard of it. Carson, et al should have been pilloried by the press when the n-word incident was shown to be fabricated. No one knows about it. Maxine Waters may get Frank's old seat, and people should know that she holds the Fed partly responsible for racially disparate home ownership and lambastes Fed members for it. Ever heard of this? Is not monetary policy already impossible to get right?

      I don't know who in the Democratic party to blame for race-based policies. It may be the CBC or the leadership, but the pernicious effects of race based policies are never mentioned by Dems. Are most Dems terrified to talk about race in the "wrong" way because they fear members of the CBC or do they think that there are no old policies that need serious review? The party needs transformation, but Dem fear of a standoff with nutty CBC members may be keeping them from it.

  2. The Donald is a buffoon and a fraud -- Republicans are being used for his own amusement. But he’s a celebrity, not a party leader. Elizabeth Warren, on the other hand, is supposedly the brains behind modern progressivism. Warren’s own delusional self-serving lies can’t quite compare with The Donald’s, but there’s much more at stake in her case…

    1. Conservatism is a CultMay 28, 2012 at 4:46 PM

      "Warren’s own delusional self-serving lies..."
      What are you talking about?(Or maybe I should say: what has Fox news driven you into hysterics about?)

    2. Conservatism -- Warren claims she is a minority (Cherokee) because of an ancestor "with high cheek bones." It looks like she did this to advance her career (Harvard Law claimed her as their first minority hire). She has no connection to Native American groups, no history of associating with them or speaking to their issues, etc, etc. Look into it for yourself -- The Boston Globe had a front page article last week. I don't know how any liberal can honestly think Warren qualifies for the protections of minority status. What does it mean to be a progressive if one of your intellectual leaders is allowed to make a mockery of one of your signal issues?

      I'm not a liberal, but I admire (and have voted for) liberals such as Barney Frank. Warren has only given me reasons to vote against her, and this one is a real doozy because it makes me question her character, her judgement and her principles.

    3. Conservatism is a CultMay 28, 2012 at 6:49 PM

      What I have read:
      Warren says she did not seek, nor receive any kind of preferential treatment, and I haven't seen any evidence to the contrary. Harvard Law School asked Warren if she had any minority blood, Warren answered (truthfully, as far as she knew) that there was a family tradition of a Cherokee ancestor. Harvard Law used that information for their own purposes(to claim they had "diversity" on their faculty). Basically, a none-story, but throw in some innuendo and allegations of impropriety and, voila, a scandal is born. The Republicans have given us a word for this process- "swiftboating". The classic example of this kind of scandalmongering was "Whitewater" and the Clintons. Does anyone remember what laws the Clintons supposedly violated in relation to their investment in the Whitewater land deal?

    4. Conservatism is a CultMay 28, 2012 at 6:57 PM

      Is Scott Brown trying to distract voters from the actual issues? If so, well, "You're doin' a heckuva job, Brownie."

    5. I believe the Cherokee claim has been confirmed, 1/32. But I find it difficult to believe that Warren got where she is because of a racial preference, and I'm skeptical that she would have sought it on such a flimsy basis. This is election-year trash-talk.

    6. Scott: The 1/32 claim has been quietly retracted by the individual who first made it. I wouldn’t get hung-up on that if there were any evidence that she actually lived with a Native American identity in any meaningful way. The fact that leaders of Native cultural organizations on campus weren’t even aware of her is telling. Of course no one involved will ever admit to it, but it’s hard to believe that Harvard Law’s first ever “minority” hire received no benefit from her supposed minority status.

      Conservatism: Is Warren the member of any tribe? No. Does she meet any Federal definition of Native American status? No. There’s no “family lore of minority blood” box. The idea that such a well-educated attorney could be as ignorant as you are of what it means to be a minority is hard to believe. She’s clearly a fraud and the only way you can excuse her is to re-define minority status into complete meaninglessness. Based on this new definition, it looks like I’m not just white, but also black, Jewish, Hispanic and Algonquin.

    7. Couves, when you say she isn't a member of a tribe and doesn't meet any Federal definition of Native American status, you are saying that she isn't going to get a preference. Is there evidence that Harvard even knew about it before she was hired? Why do people assume that you can't mention interesting or unexpected aspects of your ethnic heritage without intending to swindle? No one is accusing you of manipulating your black-Jewish-Hispanic-Algonquin heritage for undue personal advantage.

    8. Scott -- Warren is claiming to be a minority and I am not. It would never even occur to me to check all the boxes I just mentioned. That she can't distinguish her own identity and experience from that of an actual minority is troubling.

    9. Since Elizabeth Warren claims to be Cherokee, has she spoken about her peoples' ongoing attempts to kick all of the black people out of the tribe? I would think that the racial injustice of a powerless minority would interest her:

    10. Couves and Backyardfoundry,
      So are you genuinely angered and appalled by this Warren issue, which would be one thing, or are you simply happy to use it as a way to express and politically rally support against a larger problem you have with Democratic Party policy, which is in your mind far more substantive? Because the latter seems a much more understandable approach. Hard for me to believe that this is about Warren genuinely being unveiled as to the core an egregious, empty-suit liar or the thoughtless way in which Cherokee history is used?

    11. Couves, that last part, of course, was meant to be humorous. Laugh, damn it.

    12. Conservatism is a CultMay 29, 2012 at 9:55 AM


      Warren filled out a biography for the American Association of University Women from 1986 to 1995 where she listed herself as part Native American. There is NO EVIDENCE that Warren believed that claim was false; that is an inference that YOU are making. There is NO EVIDENCE that Warren's claim to Native American heritage involved any kind of malign, ulterior motive, but you are inferring or insinuating that.
      There is NO EVIDENCE that Warren sought any kind of preferential treatment, and no evidence that she received any kind of preferential treatment based on her claim of Native American heritage. Again, that is an inference that you are making.

      1) WARREN- claimed to be part-Cherokee in her AAUW bio
      2) YOU (and others)- claim Warren is lying, claim she tried to get preferential treatment, claim she had bad motives (to list herself as Native American)
      3) YOU (and others)- claim that all this reveals something sinister and troubling and malign about Warren's "character" and that Warren's bad "character' should disqualify from being elected to the Senate

      Is this an accurate summary?

    13. PF - I have trouble believing that any liberal actually thinks Warren is a minority.

      Believe me, I'm no Scott Brown fan. I think his ideas about civil liberties and the Constitution are appalling (and I've told him so in a public forum). So when you say that it's hard to believe my motives aren't political, I think you might be projecting.

    14. Let me get this straight: you think that Scott Brown's policy positions are unconstitutional, but this is trumped by the speculation, for which there is little evidence, that Warren claimed minority status on a law school app.

      This is crazy.

    15. purusha - Warren admits to claiming minority status in the past and still claims to be a minority today.

      She hasn't given me any reason to believe she would have voted differently on the NDAA and other "anti-terrorism" issues. If the progressives' champion were a real progressive, there's no way I would vote for Scott Brown.

      Also, one thing about MA politics is that we have a history of selecting Democratic Senators for life. Scott Brown can always be replaced in the next election, but we'd be stuck with Elizabeth Warren for a very long time.

    16. Couves,
      My question and my suspicion was about the fact that it's hard for me to understand why it's worth focusing or really caring about this issue. Unless, that is, one decides to force the particular facts of Warren's case into a mold representing something much bigger. Various conservatives or GOP partisans and Brown's campaign seem to want it to speak to the large, vexing, and much more real issue of minority politics in America and any minority-related policies such as affirmative action. I question whether there really is a close connection to be made. I question whether the instances of Warren stating she has Cherokee heritage, even enough to be regarded as a fractional Cherokee, really bespeak a startling lack of character for office. Most importantly, I fail to see what significant benefits she plausibly received by claiming (whether in good or bad faith) to be a minority. Her scholarship is as far as I can tell widely respected by her qualified peers and no one has chosen to convincingly critique it, in a way that really would impugn her accomplishments as a scholar.

      I think a lot of liberals don't think she's a minority in the sense of how that term relates to state and federal policy, or how it reads in political discourse surrounding government policy; most liberals probably have little problem with her saying she has some Cherokee heritage, according to her knowledge of her family background. Even if she were lying, the issue seems either very peripheral, I think. Was Warren ever running substantially on some claim to being a minority or on a major current issue that she cast specifically in terms of minority rights? The marginal stir in MA that the matter has caused would make much more sense if that were the case.

    17. PF,

      Warren is the most visible self-identified Cherokee in the country. Do you honestly believe that it would be a complete waste of babble time for Warren to tell us what she thinks about this intra-POC SNAFU? Wouldn't America learn about race in America if the thoughtful Warren explained about her views on the attempt to de-nation all of these blacks?

    18. backyardfoundry,
      You're an accomplished and innovative concern troll. Hats off.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. What we are dealing with here is something that psychologists call "pseudo-certainty." That's when you anticipate the final outcome of a series of contigent decisions and not only exaggerate (subconsciously, not intentionally) the likelihood of the final outcome but completely disregard the mathematical probabilities associated with the intervening steps that must be taken before you even know the situation when the final decision is to be made. Here we have the assumptions that (a) anyone who mentions a trace of nonwhite blood must be out to cheat the system for his/her own advantage, (b) any outrageous claim to a preference will be rewarded by an inherently corrupt system for reasons that are not entirely clear to me but seem to be clear to opponents of the system, and (c) anyone who ever benefited from such a preference is unfit for any position that he/she ultimately attains and therefore a fraud. It's a lot of assumptions, and I'm not so sure about the certainty of any of them.

    1. Scott - Do you really believe she's a minority?

    2. I believe she has said she had a Cherokee ancestor. Everything beyond that seems to be speculation and/or accusation.

    3. Scott - From the Boston Globe:

      "Warren arrived as a visiting professor in 1992, but left a year later. By then, she had been listing herself for seven years as a minority in a legal directory often used by law recruiters to make diversity-friendly hires. She continued to list herself in the book until 1995, the year she took a permanent position at Harvard."

    4. What is the worry here, Couves? You think it's probable that Warren made a concerted effort to advance her career in an illegitimate, unfair way, to lie her way into an academic position she wouldn't have otherwise received? Is the claim that Harvard hired her because of her ethnicity and in spite of her scholarship? Or that Harvard hired her because of her scholarship and skills, but also because of her ethnicity? Is the claim that Warren lied, that she was naive in believing family lore, that she was too blasé in her reported self-identification? Is this about Warren's character or is it that some of her actions can be taken to mean that she probably holds liberal policy positions on affirmative action with which you disagree? You said above that "it makes me question her character, her judgement and her principles." Is the account of events enough as it is to condemn her? Or would more evidence establishing her and Harvard's motives be required? Is the Warren-Brown election one in which it seems like a scrutiny of character even in activities unrelated to political and government work is an important and possibly decisive factor?

  5. PF - My issue is that she isn't a minority under any reasonable definition of the term. She's either clueless or a fraud. Understanding what it means to be a minority is an important part of being a Senator, or at least it should be. My most charitable read of her motives shows her to be failing in this very basic way.

    1. Ok, fair enough. I think I've come to understand your perspective somewhat better on its own terms. That said, I hope you can see how I can go quite far in agreeing with you about Warren's error, but not find darker insinuations persuasive or think it justifies a judgment that she's a "fraud."

      For what it's worth, I think this TNR post is insightful, though yet again it does try to understand the animus surrounding the issue as a symbol for some larger matter (the identity of academia in our political culture):

    2. Also, just now, another Bernstein on the matter:


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