The horrific injury to Louisville hoopster Kevin Ware, which I happened to miss while I was watching the game because I wasn't looking at the TV at that moment, and which I vow never to see, has sparked off another round of griping about how these athletes are barely a cut above chattel labor.
Critics are citing a recent report apparently finding that college football players and men's basketball players are being denied $6 billion in pay from 2011 to 2015, i.e., an estimate of their collective fair-market value. Apparently Ware's fair-market value is $1.6 million a year.
This is just really nuts. Some of the people advancing this argument are friends of mine, so I won't name names and I won't use red-hot language here, but let me just say this. I can't help but notice that most of the people who are making this case went to schools where athletics are an afterthought.
Meanwhile, we have two liberal pundit cultural elists, two, who went to schools where sports rule. Jon Chait and my good self. Now Chait went to an excellent school, Michigan, and I went to a so-so one, West Virginia, because I grew up in Morgantown and back in my day going to a great school just wasn't the obsession it's become, and I had no plans at that point to join the cultural elite anyway. But that's an aside.
Ken Vogel has a big piece in Politico about how Terry McAuliffe's Virginia gubernatorial run is supposedly some kind of trial run for Hillary 2016. The Drudge-baitey headline is "Hillary Clinton's First Test." Here's the idea:
In fact, McAuliffe and some of his top allies have suggested to big donors and consultants that supporting his campaign is a way to get in on the ground floor of Hillary 2016, several donors and operatives told POLITICO.
He’s stocked his campaign with top-tier talent likely to be involved in any Hillary Clinton presidential effort, including campaign manager Robby Mook, senior adviser Patrick Hallahan and bundlers including Jonathan Mantz and Jackson Dunn.
And McAuliffe raised nearly $2 million in March alone at a half dozen out-of-state fundraisers featuring former President Bill Clinton or other Clinton insiders including James Carville, Harold Ickes and Dee Dee Myers, according to figures provided by bundlers.
For a while, it seemed like the Florida senator would do the right thing on immigration. Now it’s not so clear. Michael Tomasky on what this means for the future of immigration reform.
Why were we all talking about Marco Rubio yesterday? Because Marco Rubio made sure of it. His little intervention into the immigration bill was designed to achieve a couple mostly obvious objectives: to make sure Chuck Schumer isn’t the one doing all the public framing of the issue, and to say to the Beltway crowd, or try to say, that he’s the one driving this train. But it was an odd incursion too. Rubio actually deserves credit for some of the steps he’s taken on immigration so far. But what he said over the weekend sounded for all the world like somebody who really secretly wants to kill the bill. He may or may not. But the one thing he definitely does not want to kill is his presidential chances, and it seems he’s figured that the way to do that is to keep his options on immigration open. If passage will help, he’ll push for that. But if it turns out that his party hasn’t changed, doesn’t want to change, that the famous outreach program meets resistance from the in-reach caucus—well then, adios.
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) talks to reporters on Capitol Hill March 22, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Drew Angerer/Getty)
To review. It was a big deal over the weekend when the Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO reached an agreement on the temporary and low-skill worker program. That was leaked, probably by the liberal side. Then Schumer—and others, including Republicans—went on the Sunday shows to talk about how the deal among the Senate Gang of Eight that’s been negotiating a bill was basically done.
And that was the moment Rubio chose to release a letter to Senate Judiciary Chairman Pat Leahy to say let’s hold our horses. He wrote: “excessive haste in the pursuit of a lasting solution is perhaps even more dangerous to the goals many of us share … A rush to legislate, without fully considering all views and input from all senators, would be fatal to the effort of earning the public’s confidence.”
I've been firmly in the "I'll believe it when I see it camp," as I've written many times. Two developments over the weekend force a slight upward revision in my assessment.
1. Business and labor came to terms on the guest-worker question. It creates a new visa category, a W visa, for non-farm temporary workers in areas like janitorial services, construction, retail. It will start in 2015 at 20,000 per year and increase from there. Labor seems very happy.
2. There's apparently been movement in the House toward agreement in principle. Senators working on the issue dominated the Sunday shows yesterday, so you know that the Senate is getting there. But Politico reports this morning that the House is too.
Marco Rubio jumped out after someone leaked news of the business-labor deal to say hey wait a minute here, but that's just because he needs to be seen (for his own 2016-related purposes) as running this show. Thus begins the rush to get credit for this, which will be a comical thing to watch as the next weeks and months unfold.
It may take a couple of election cycles, says Michael Tomasky, but Republican moderation on social issues is inevitable—and many evangelicals will respond by withdrawing from politics.
What are evangelical conservatives going to do? I ask the question not with any sympathy, but with a mountain of schadenfreudian glee—I am profoundly reassured about my country’s direction every time I hear Tony Perkins bemoan it. But however it’s asked, it’s a question that’s growing more and more urgent. Mike Huckabee says that if the GOP embraces same-sex marriage, “evangelicals will take a walk.” Others pooh-pooh this on the usual grounds that they’ve got nowhere else to go. But they do: back to private life. And it’s my bet that in, say, eight or 12 years’ time, that’s where a lot of evangelicals will be. Having gotten into politics to rescue America from the sinners and fornicators, I reckon a critical mass will decide by 2024 that it was fun while it lasted, but that the fight is hopeless.
Demonstrators in support of marriage equality chant outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Tuesday, March 26, 2013. A group of students gather and pray before convocation at Liberty University, the small Baptist college founded by Jerry Falwell, Feb. 13, 2013. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP; Norm Shafer/AP)
It’s going to be fascinating to watch and see what the party does on same-sex marriage as these next months and years progress. I, for one, do not expect to see the senators tumble like dominoes after the push from Ohio’s Rob Portman. Too many of them are from states where adopting that position would be suicide. Remember, we’re talking here not about the mores of the state as a whole, but of its GOP primary voters. So Claire McCaskill could announce her support for same-sex marriage in Democratic Missouri. But Roy Blunt in Republican Missouri? One doubts it. Different state, really. He in fact just reaffirmed his support for the Defense of Marriage Act.
Perusing the list of GOP senators, one sees only a few who might follow Portman. Susan Collins of course; Mark Kirk; Kelly Ayotte, at least on geographic grounds, although she’s quite conservative. You get the idea. I haven’t studied the political situations of all 232 GOP House members, and I won’t, but the general picture is similar. Right now, a grand total of two GOP House members back gay marriage—Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida and Richard Hanna of upstate New York. Two.
At the Justice Department's criminal division, Lanny Breuer was supposed to lead the investigation into the financial crisis--the big banks and Wall Street firms. His track record to many close observers has been other than impressive, let's say. And now, it was announced yesterday, he's returning to his old law firm, Covington & Burling. There, for $4 million a year he'll defend...the big banks and Wall Street firms.
The Huffington Post did a big long investigative piece on the shortcomings of the administration's mortgage crisis task force, which was headed by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. The group didn't exactly do nothing, but it did a lot less than liberals hoped. But the problems weren't Schneiderman's fault. His authority was limited, with most key final decisions made by the criminal division. That article got a fair amount of attention because Mike Lux, a longtime progressive activist who follows these issues, was quoted as saying:
Lanny wanted to go back to a law firm that represented banks after he was done. He didn't want to prosecute the banks...Come to think of this, this can all be on the record. I don't give a f--k.
Breuer expressed his prosecutorial philosophy thus: "In reaching every charging decision, we must take into account the effect of an indictment on innocent employees and shareholders," Breuer said. "Those are the kinds of considerations in white-collar crime cases that literally keep me up at night and which must play a role in responsible enforcement."
This sounds rather gross, but one reckons it's necessary:
The deer of Rock Creek Park have so far avoided a depopulation plan announced last May, thanks to a lawsuit and no thanks to the efforts of an unsanctioned hunter, but they can't live forever. The National Park Service's deer culling finally starts tonight, according to a press release from the agency.
But this is no light spring cleaning! The culling, which will go on nightly through Saturday, is part of a plan to take the deer population from 70 deer per square mile to 15 to 20 deer per square mile.
The Park Service will be closing eight roads around the park from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. nightly through Saturday for the slaughters.
Reading this New York Times piece about Republican mayoral candidate Joe Lhota takes me back to my NYC days and memories of the great Hillary v. Rudy showdown that never materialized. The article fingers Lhota as the man who walked point on Giuliani's attack on the Brooklyn Museum over the painting "The Holy Virgin Mary" by Chris Ofili, a faux-naif kind of rendering of the blessed mother with elephant dung adding texture and cut-outs of pornographic photographs adding a bit of, ah, color.
Lhota, a deputy mayor for Giuliani at the time, threatened the Brooklyn Museum with its funding. Giuliani himself went on and on about this for days, said that this kind of thing was society's ruination and of course was the fault of sick people like the Clintons. As mayor, Giuliani wasn't always bad. In fact he did a number of good things and took a number of progressive positions. But as a possible Senate candidate in 1999-2000 (until he dropped out), he was a world-class demagogue on all the unfortunate crap he still rails about whenever Fox hauls him out.
Anyway. Lhota, a Catholic, says simultaneously that he has no regrets about his handling of the situation and that he now is the proud owner of a "much clearer understanding" of the First Amendment. No sign that the reporter asked him how both of those can be true. If he has a much clearer understanding of the First Amendment, then by definition he has regrets.
But I'm less interested in Lhota than in thinking back. Oh, what a time. Those first few months of Hillary v. Rudy were just great. She was a terrible candidate, quite frankly, for a number of months. Then at some point she started to get it. That was just before Rudy dropped out. Spring 2000. Then by that fall, she was really good. And of course she became a good senator (not great, but very good) and left New York state with approval ratings in, I think, the low 70s.
I wrote a short and light-hearted piece for Newsweek this week about why it takes so damn long to get a restaurant check in this country:
It happened again not long ago. We went out to dinner and had a perfectly pleasant meal. We were sated. Ready to go. Then we sat. And I wondered what I always wonder: Who among my fellow Americans enjoys this ritual? You ask for the check. The waiter walks away. He brings it. He walks away again. You put your card in the little sleeve. You wait. The waiter picks it up. He walks away again. Eventually, after reciting the specials at one table and opening a bottle of wine at another, he returns. And finally, 20 minutes after you were ready to leave, the restaurant is ready for you to leave.
Now I admit that I'm a bit of an extreme case. I take a strictly utilitarian view of dining out, and when I'm done, I'm done. I want to leave. I get a perverse kick out of shocking waiters, especially at sightly higher-end places, when I ask for the check while they're clearing the dishes. When they return with the bill I have my credit card out and just hand it to them.
As I said I'm extreme, I know. But most people I talk to are generally on my half of this parking lot--not as antsy as I am, but not into lingering. Then came this tweet this morning from a certain Shannon Murphy who evidently works as a waiter:
Yes, an assault-weapons ban is dead. But, argues Michael Tomasky, a decent gun bill still stands a chance of passage—provided five red-state Democrats do the right thing.
Matters look bleak indeed when 50 senators vote for a measure requiring that any bill changing gun laws get a two-thirds majority. Nothing else, not taxes, not anything (except some internal Senate rules), requires a two-thirds vote. That 50 senators voted this way—including six Democrats—shows what a collection of cowards and lickspittles these people are on the issue. If the NRA said gun bills should only be passed after sundown on Tuesdays between Columbus Day and the Ascension of Abdul Baha, they’d rush in with amendments stipulating that it also had to be raining. And yet, there is still a chance—yes, even with the assault-weapons ban dead—that the Senate at least will pass some fairly decent legislation. The NRA can still lose here. It’s important that you know this. They don’t want you to.
People with Occupy The NRA signs protest investments in gun manufacter companies outside the headquarters of Owl Creek Management on Fifth Avenue in New York on March 18, 2013. (Stan Honda/AFP/Getty)
The demented legislation that passed recently emerged from the mysterious gray matter of Mike Lee, the Utah senator. It proved again the maxim, a maxim being re-proven about every few days in contemporary Washington, that no matter how far right the GOP is, it’s never far enough. A two-thirds majority to change any gun law! Someone like Utah Republican Orrin Hatch had to know deep down what a procedural and constitutional abomination this was. But they all had to vote for it on the Republican side—except Mark Kirk, who’s from Illinois. The roll of Democratic dishonor featured Joe Manchin (WV), Max Baucus (MT), Joe Donnelly (IN), Kay Hagan (NC), Heidi Heitkamp (ND), and Mark Pryor (AK).
It didn’t pass, of course, because anything like that needs 60 votes in the Senate. But the mere fact that it got 50 is chilling. Yet even so, a decent bill on background checks is possible. It actually would make a difference, maybe a big difference—maybe a bigger difference than the already failed assault-weapons ban.
Yesterday, commenter Ben, our stalwart Ben, whose loyalty to this blog I always appreciate even as he scolds me for this or that, suggested that I bring to this enterprise some of the seriousness of purpose that can be found in the pages of Democracy, the journal I edit.
Well Ben, a blog and a quarterly journal are different media of course, and I do think we talk about pretty serious things over here, but I take your point, so here you are. The current issue includes a symposium on voting rights. Among the questions raised, this one by Mark Schmitt and Jonathan Soros: Should there be a constitutional right to vote?
Here's the case. First of all, did you know that there is no right to vote in the constitution? Lots of people assume it must be in there, but no. But it's not. And that fact means that when states impose restrictions on voting, none of those restrictions have to pass any constitutional muster or standard. The number of cases challenging voting rules, the authors note, has doubled in the last decade, and they write:
...enshrining the right to vote in the Constitution would help resolve most of these cases in favor of voters. It would not make every limitation unconstitutional—it is the essential nature of voting, for instance, that there be a date certain by which votes must be cast in order to be counted—but it would ensure that these limitations are judged under the standard known as “strict scrutiny,” meaning that governments would have to show that the restrictions were carefully designed to address a compelling interest of the state. We would come to find that many familiar aspects of our current voting system would not meet this standard and access to the ballot could be extended to millions who are now actively or effectively disenfranchised.
This argument is even loonier than I thought. Jeff Rosen has a good whack at it over at TNR today.
The concern of the responsible procreation caucus is, as I suggested yesterday, the growing number of children born out of wedlock. The theory is therefore that this sad statistic proves that straight people can't control their animal instincts, and, since they can procreate anytime (at least up until a certain age, as Kagan drily noted) and find themselves facing the prospect of raising a child...wait. I've paused in the writing here because I think I'm getting this wrong. It's such pretzelish logic that I can't even paraphrase it. Rosen quotes from a brief prepared by the office of Virginia AG Ken Cucinelli:
When two people become parents by way of artificial insemination, surrogacy or adoption, they have not procreated--at least not with one another. Hence, what is missing is society's interest in encouraging couples to consider and plan for the children that inevitably result from impulsive decisions to act on sexual desires. The sexual activity of same-sex couples implies no consequences similar to that of opposite-sex couples.
Indeed, to the extent same-sex couples must take intentional, non-sexual action to become joint parents, such conduct vitiates the need for government involvement. States may assume that couples who by definition can acquire parental rights only through intentional conduct need no further societal approbation or regulation--they are already focused on the consequences of their actions. It is where the parenting may be unintentional, where couples act impulsively while ignoring the consequences, that social ordering is necessary.
While everyone is focused on courts, let's talk about the terrible situation at the DC Circuit court, where four of the 11 seats are vacant and where Senate Republicans have by every appearance just decided that they are not going to let Obama appoint anyone ever.
Last week, Obama withdrew the nomination of Caitlin Halligan after she got just 51 votes (she needed 60 to break the GOP filibuster). She's a prosecutor, but she's not the kind of prosecutor Republicans can accept because she has prosecuted gun manufacturers. The NRA, essentially, blocked her.
The existing seven judges tilt 4-3 Republican. But it's actually far more imbalanced, because a number of elderly judges have taken "senior status" which means part-time work (with full pay) and almost all of those are conservative, including our old pals David Sentelle and Laurence Silberman, who have done such stellar work on questions like shielding Clarence Thomas's obvious lies during his nomination process (Silberman) and helping Kenny Starr (Sentelle) try to nail Clinton.
All sort of issues come before the Court. Just the other day I mentioned the role the DC Circuit played in watering down Dodd-Frank. Here are a few other recent hits, via People for the American Way: invalidating three appointments to the NLRB, striking down air pollution regulations, ruling for the tobacco companies, using a narrow mil regulation to try to roll back 70 years' worth of regs, and so on.
On this matter of marriage existing for the purpose of procreation, Elena Kagan delivered the question of the day. Counsel Charles Cooper was going on about this link when Kagan asked him if it would be constitutional for a state to deny straight couple 55 and older the right to marry.
Boom. LA Times:
Cooper responded that even in that case, at least one member of the marriage would likely still be fertile, a suggestion that drew laughter from the courtroom.
I should say. The whole argument is preposterous. This is a country where nearly half of all children are born out of wedlock. Believe it or not, while I'm hardly in the same school on this as Rick Santorum or my fellow Morgantown native Robbie George, I actually don't think this is a great thing. But it exists. And pretty soon it's going to be above 50 percent, and someday it's going to be above 60 percent. Can anyone in such a society plausibly make an argument that marriage is the great vehicle for procreation?
Kevin Drum wonders about whether the Court might toss the Prop 8 suit on a technicality or a lack-of-standing issue:
Technically, there's an argument to be made that backers of Prop 8 don't have proper standing to sue in this case. And it's easy to say that this would be a fine example of conservatives being hoist by their own petard, since, as Erwin Chemerinsky has pointed out, they're the ones who have been so eager in the past to deny standing in cases involving civil rights, environmental protection, and the separation of church and state.
But this is a case in which lack of standing is purely artificial. The state of California, which would normally be on the hook to defend its own laws, has declined to do so. This decision means that a properly enacted constitutional amendment literally can't be defended in court, and that's just wrong. Like it or not, half the state voted for Prop 8, and one way or another, their interests deserve their day in court.
He has a point there. In this particular case, this would work out kind of well, presumably--same-sex couple in California would presumably be permitted to start getting married again, depending on how the decision was written, and pro-Prop 8 people would have to scrounge around for a litigant who does have standing. So that would be great. But it wouldn't settle anything beyond California.
The only surprise here is that this hasn't happened sooner. With the Obama administration trying to defend itself amidst multiple scandals, the Tea Party queen went on the attack, questioning the IRS's ability to oversee Obamacare and wondering about 'potential political implications.'
Comedian Dean Obeidallah reviews the former secretary of defense’s new book of rules.