Bloomberg changes everything!

Kidding.  Of course he doesn’t.

Apparently part of his massive effort to light his money on fire rather than spending it in ways that would actually help defeat Trump will include a big ad buy in NC.  So, I got to talk about it on the local news.  I pulled no punches on this one; no “on the other hand…” when it comes to Bloomberg’s chances.  My only regret is that they couldn’t use my quote about Jeb “exclamation point” and his failed 2016 effort despite all his money.

Also, wasn’t sure how the shirt I was randomly wearing when the reporter emailed me would work on TV, but I feel pretty good about it.

“To put not too fine a point on it, I think he’s lighting his money on fire,” Steve Greene, a political science professor at North Carolina State University, said Friday. “I think he has virtually no chance.”

Greene said Bloomberg isn’t adding anything new to the Democratic slate aside from his almost bottomless pockets.

“You just cannot buy yourself an election, especially in primaries,” he said.

Bloomberg appears to be skipping the early primary states entirely, Greene says, hoping that a money bomb in Super Tuesday states could net him enough Democratic delegates – 40 percent of total delegates are up for grabs in 14 primaries from Maine to California – to make him a serious contender.

But that strategy historically doesn’t work, Greene said, adding that Democrats don’t seem excited about Bloomberg’s late entry anyway.

“I’ve seen no signs of support of the grassroots, and without that kind of support, the media’s not going to be paying any attention to him, no matter how much money he spends,” he said.

“The state of the race in North Carolina on March 3 is going to be different based on what happens in Iowa, based on what happens in New Hampshire,” he added. “The idea that you can kind of ignore things that come before and just say, ‘OK, I’m going to spend a lot of money’ just really flies in the face of reality and history.”

 

Quick hits

1) Great stuff from Adam Serwer:

All of these arguments, ranging from the weak to the false, obscure the core reason for the impeachment inquiry, which is that the Trump administration was engaged in a conspiracy against American democracy. [emphasis mine] Fearing that the 2016 election was a fluke in which Trump prevailed only because of a successful Russian hacking and disinformation campaign, and a last-minute intervention on Trump’s behalf by the very national-security state Trump defenders supposedly loathe, Trump and his advisers sought to rig the 2020 election by forcing a foreign country to implicate the then-Democratic front-runner in a crime that did not take place. If the American people could not be trusted to choose Trump on their own, Trump would use his official powers to make the choice for them.

It was, in short, a conspiracy by Trump and his advisers to keep themselves in power, the exact scenario for which the Framers of the Constitution devised the impeachment clause. This scheme was carried out by Trump-appointed officials, and by the president’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, running a corrupt back channel aimed at, in his words, “meddling in an investigation.” And it came very close to succeeding. As Brian Beutler writes, “Had the whole scheme not come to light in a whistleblower complaint, and Trump not released his hold on aid to Ukraine, we might have awaken [sic] one morning to a blaring CNN exclusive about international corruption allegations against the Democratic presidential frontrunner and his party.”

2) New Yorker’s Susan Glaser:

For hours afterward, Republicans on the panel dismissed Hill. Some of them yelled at her. Some of them refused to ask her any direct questions. Some made false equivalences between Russia’s massive state-sanctioned campaign in 2016 and Ukrainian expressions of dismay that Trump publicly backed the country with which they are at war and employed as his campaign chair a man who had worked for their ousted corrupt Russian-backed leader. Confronted after the hearing with Hill’s unequivocal statement that Ukraine had not interfered in the U.S. election, the House Minority Leader, Kevin McCarthy, a man who once mocked Trump for being in the pocket of Vladimir Putin, simply refused to accept it. “I think they did,” he told reporters. On Friday morning, Trump called into “Fox & Friends” and repeated the Russian conspiracy theory about Ukraine all over again on live TV.

The denial was telling. If Republicans were now willing to disavow a fact they had previously acknowledged, it seemed more and more apparent that they could not be swayed by any of the actual evidence against Trump. On Wednesday, Sondland told the committee that Trump had personally directed him to work with his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, to force Ukraine’s hand on the investigations, leveraging a White House meeting sought by Ukraine’s new President. “Was there a quid pro quo?” Sondland testified. “The answer is yes.” But many committee Republicans simply twisted that statement around, repeating Trump’s misleading words to Sondland that there had been “no quid pro,” as if the President’s denial were the only proof needed of his innocence. As Thursday’s hearing wound down, Will Hurd, a retiring Texas representative who was once seen as a possible Republican vote for impeachment, used his questioning time not to engage with Hill but to announce that he saw “no evidence” of impeachable offenses. There was no one left to persuade, at least in the House of Representatives. It was a surprisingly definitive moment.

3) Had no idea college paper mills and plagiarism software were now in an odd symbiosis.

4) Great stuff from Norm Ornstein on the “fantasy world” of Democratic debates:

Yet while polls show that health care is a top priority for voters, and while the policy differences among the slew of Democratic presidential candidates are meaningful, the moderators posing highly specific questions about the issue at past debates have ignored something important: However coherent, complete, fiscally sustainable, or popular the positions the candidates are taking on health reform—and on other issues such as immigration, education, taxes, and more—presidents do not get to wave magic wands and make their policies happen. They are thrown into a governing process in which a president’s plan is almost never enacted into law fully, if it is enacted at all. The legislative process, in recent decades, has become even more toxic. But questions that press the candidates on how they would navigate through this environment—and what they would do to reduce its toxicity—have been conspicuously absent in every debate so far. [emphasis mine]

5) Terrific column from Krugman:

No, what we’re actually witnessing is a test of the depths to which the Republican Party will sink. How much corruption, how much collusion with foreign powers and betrayal of the national interest will that party’s elected representatives stand for?

And the result of that test seems increasingly clear: There is no bottom. The inquiry hasn’t found a smoking gun; it has found what amounts to a smoking battery of artillery. Yet almost no partisan Republicans have turned on Trump and his high-crimes-and-misdemeanors collaborators. Why not?

The answer gets to the heart of what’s wrong with modern American politics: The G.O.P. is now a thoroughly corrupt party. Trump is a symptom, not the disease, and our democracy will remain under dire threat even if and when he’s gone.

6) Really interesting stuff on male/female speech patterns and politics:

Women and men tend to have different speech patterns, linguists will tell you. Women, especially young women, tend to have more versatile intonation. They place more emphasis on certain words; they are playful with language and have shorter and thinner vocal cords, which produce a higher pitch. That isn’t absolute, nor is it necessarily a bad thing — unless, of course, you are a person with a higher pitch trying to present yourself with some kind of authority. This basic contradiction has kept speech coaches in business for decades…

In a course called “Sounding American,” at the University of California at Berkeley, Tom McEnaney, a professor of comparative literature and Portuguese and Spanish, teaches that there is in fact a sound that people associate with authority in this country — and, while it is constantly evolving, it has its roots in many things, one of which is early broadcast technology. Dating back to the phonograph, he said, engineers had created a device that was designed for the male voice — newscasters, presidents, public figures — to the extent that if a woman spoke into it, her voice would sound distorted, thin or scrambled.

“The mic wouldn’t pick up certain ranges of voice,” Professor McEnaney said. “If a woman wanted to speak and get her voice recorded, she had to produce more volume and more energy to make the same marks. She could try to speak lower, or she could shout. But she’d have to change her voice.”

Over time, that technology improved — but he thinks the deep-rooted association between female voices and sonic distortion leads to the seemingly strong (albeit frequently subconscious) reaction that many people have to the higher pitch.

“So there was a bias in the engineering. That bias in the engineering produced distortion, which was mistakenly associated with women’s voices, and then listeners, even after that correction, used that association as the justification for their ongoing prejudice against women’s voices,” Professor McEnaney said. “And those carry up to the present day.”

Indeed, a 2012 study published in PLoS ONE found that both men and women prefer male and female leaders who have lower-pitched voices, while a 2015 report in a journal called Political Psychology determined, in a sample of U.S. adults, that Americans prefer political candidates with lower voices as well.

7) Dana Milbank:

At its core, President Trump’s defense in these impeachment proceedings is not a dispute over the facts of the case, the credibility of the witnesses or the motives of Democrats.

It is a bid to discredit the truth itself.

The Ukraine escapade began, in large part, because Trump pursued a conspiracy theory that Ukraine had interfered in the 2016 election to bring about his defeat, a false notion spread by Vladimir ­Putin and ultimately — with the help of Rudy Giuliani and others — embraced by the president himself.

But to defend Trump, a number of Republicans have concluded that they must establish that he had good reason to believe Ukraine was, in fact, out to get him. They must defend the Putin-planted conspiracy theory.

8) Catherine Rampell, as usual, is right, “Democrats already have a popular, progressive agenda. They just need to amplify it.”

Americans who watched the presidential primary debate this week might have learned something surprising: Despite GOP accusations of Bolshevism, nearly all the Democratic contenders share a pretty mainstream policy platform.

 In fact, as exemplified on Wednesday night, most of their core policy principles are quite popular among voters who identify as Democrats and voters who identify as Republicans.

Consider a few issues that came up during the debate.

For instance, we heard about how the candidates broadly agree on the need for paid family leave. They differ on precisely how many months of leave should be offered and how such a program should be financed. But, according to a Post questionnaire recently sent to each candidate, every single politician still in the race supports some amount of guaranteed paid leave.

This view is squarely within the political mainstream, as you might expect from a policy that already exists in some form in nearly every other country on Earth. In fact, 90 percent of Democrats and 75 percent of Republicans support paid maternity leave, according to a Pew Research Center survey. For paid paternity leave, the shares are 79 percent and 57 percent, respectively.

Democratic candidates also showed significant overlap on other popular policies as well, such as the need for a more progressive tax code.

Yes, they differ on exactly how to raise taxes on the wealthy and corporations, but basically all propose doing so. In espousing those ideas, they contrast sharply with their Republican politician counterparts, who advocate flatter tax rates and more cuts specifically for the rich. But in espousing these ideas, the Democratic candidates find common ground with Americans writ large, most of whom believe that both high-income people and corporations have not been paying their fair share.

9) This in Wired is quite interesting, “The 8-Hour Workday Is a Counterproductive Lie: What was once a socialist dream has become every knowledge worker’s nightmare. It’s time to unmake the modern myth of productivity.”

10) So sad and so true, “How the Collapse of Local News Is Causing a ‘National Crisis’
The loss of local news coverage in much of the United States has frayed communities and left many Americans woefully uninformed, according to a new report.”  Subscribe to your local newspaper, damnit!  Yes, I mean you.

11) I never did quite figure why people thought Nikki Haley was anything other than a typical moral compass-less Republican opportunist.  John Cassidy: “Nikki Haley embodies what’s wrong with the Republican Party.”

12) Trump’s most recent pardons of American war criminals are pretty damn appalling.  But, that’s only the 10th worst thing about Trump this week.

13) Good stuff from Robert Griffin in the Monkey Cage, “Who’s most electable? Don’t trust polls that match Democratic candidates against Trump.  They’re measuring who’s most well known, not who’s most likely to win.”

14) I get that Democrats are going with “bribery”‘ because that’s the term in the constitution.  But, what’s going on here is obviously blackmail/extortion.  Thus I appreciated Benjamin Wittes piece that explains that, in legal parlance, blackmail is bribery.

That said, the bribery statute offers a reasonable working definition of what it means to bribe a public official: “Whoever … directly or indirectly, corruptly gives, offers or promises anything of value to any public official … to influence any official act” has committed the offense.

What’s more, the statute also offers a reasonable working definition of what it means for a public official to demand a bribe: “Whoever … being a public official … directly or indirectly, corruptly demands, seeks, receives, accepts, or agrees to receive or accept anything of value personally … in return for … being influenced in the performance of any official act” also has committed the offense.

15) More exercise ==> less depression.

16) A student informed this week that Joe Biden is the “architect of the war on drugs.”  Whoa.  Somehow I missed that.  No doubt, he was absolutely prominent among Democrats who pushed for and helped pass tougher drug policies.  But architect?  Please.  I guess if you consider, like this article I presume my student read, that even co-sponsoring a bill is being an “architect” than sure.

17) I really wish the ACLU would go back to ensuring free speech and fighting against unjust and unfair mass incarceration policies.

18) Really interesting idea for saving the rhino… flood the market for rhino horns with really good fake horns.  Probably wouldn’t work, but, lots of interesting stuff to think about here.

19) Given that Soledad O’Brien is about the best media critic this side of Jay Rosen, now, really enjoyed reading this, “How Soledad O’Brien Became CNN and the Mainstream Media’s Most Outspoken Critic.”

20) And, another way of re-thinking how we structure our time, “Our Schools Can’t Solve the Problems of Our Rigid Workweek: Parents need better options for after-school care, but longer school days may not be the answer.”

21) Novelty is over-rated.  Really, science says so.  And I agree when I am eating a lunch of pepperoni pizza and drinking Diet Dr Pepper for the 4th or 5th time in a given week.

Counter to previous research, Mr. O’Brien found that across the board, repeat experiences were far more enjoyable than participants predicted.

“Doing something once may engender an inflated sense that one has now seen ‘it,’ leaving people naïve to the missed nuances remaining to enjoy,” he wrote in the study.

In other words: You’re far more likely to enjoy something the second time around than you think.

Given that participants experienced the exact situation they imagined repeating, their predictions should’ve been relatively accurate, Mr. O’Brien explains. In reality, participants who repeated experiences found the second time around just as enjoyable as the first.

“Novel experiences are definitely great for enjoyment, and our studies don’t go against this idea,” he said. “In many cases, the novel option is better. But what our studies emphasize is that repeat options also might have high hedonic value and might also come with less costs to acquire than a purely novel option, and people might sometimes overlook this.”

22) Yes, recent gubernatorial elections can be somewhat telling.  But these elections really are different, “Why Governors Are the Only Candidates Voters Will Break Party Ranks to Support
Unlike other federal and state offices, there’s still ‘wiggle room’ for ticket-splitting in contests for governor. Tuesday’s result in Kentucky means there will be a dozen governors whose party lost the last presidential election in their state.”

23) Blues Clues is coming back!  This brings back very happy memories of early parenthood.  When my oldest (hi, David) was a toddler he was tough.  But the one thing that could get him to just be calm for a while?  Blues Clues.  Hooray for Steve.  Also, loved the chapter on it in Gladwell’s Tipping Point, way back when.

Meanwhile, in the Republican version of reality

Jonathan Bernstein:

To close the Republicans’ argument after five long days of public hearings, Nunes chose to utterly ignore any of the evidence presented — he challenged absolutely none of it, nor did he argue why the allegations were not serious enough to merit impeachment — and instead gave a timeline that proved, he said, that “the whistle-blower’s complaint was a pretext” for an impeachment that Democrats intended anyway.

The pivotal date for him was July 24, when Robert Mueller testified before Congress. Some opponents of the president have speculated that Donald Trump believed he was bulletproof after Mueller’s appearance, and that explains his behavior on the July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. I’m pretty skeptical of that theory; it ascribes the kind of careful plotting to Trump that is not much in evidence elsewhere. Nor is there much evidence that Trump was on better behavior earlier. And besides, by July the Mueller report was old news, and Trump had long since declared himself exonerated, whatever the report actually said. So I don’t buy it at all.

But then there’s Nunes: “July 25, just the next day, a new anti-Trump operation begins, as someone listens to the president’s phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and leaks the evidence to the so-called whistle-blower.”

Here’s where I need a portmanteau for “inane” and “insane.”

Nunes would have us believe not only that the whistle-blower was able to line up a dozen or so foreign-policy and national-security professionals, many of whom were hired by Trump, to testify that they found the call inappropriate (none of them were Democrats, but apparently the whistle-blower’s lawyer has represented Democrats, so that’s something), but also that this whistle-blower apparently was able to manipulate the events themselves, including scheduling the phone call, in order to produce the raw material for this smear. Perhaps he or she also had planted all the seeds of what Rudy Giuliani and the “Three Amigos” and all had been doing for months, just in case the Mueller thing didn’t work out. I suppose there’s at least one alternative: that Trump makes calls like that so often that of course the whistle-blower could show up at the office on July 25 and get to work knowing something would turn up. 

That’s what we’re being asked to believe. [emphases mine]

Maybe Nunes didn’t really mean what he implied — that it was the whistle-blower, acting as part of an anti-Trump conspiracy with House Democrats, who set the entire thing in motion. Listen to his statement; I think that’s what he was saying.

Even if we put that aside, however, there is a logical fallacy at the root of all this. For Nunes, the Democrats are determined to impeach Donald Trump and have been from the start regardless of the evidence. In fact, for Nunes, the evidence is entirely irrelevant to the Democrats, which is why he has no need to refute or even recognize the existence of any of it (indeed, there were reports that Nunes typically walked out of of the room while Schiff and the Democratic counsel questioned witnesses). 

But if that were true, why Ukraine? Why not just impeach Trump over the Russia scandal? After all, if the evidence is irrelevant, there’s no reason at all for Democrats to (supposedly) invent a new scandal when they have a perfectly good old one. Sure, Republicans have decided that the Mueller report exonerated him, but Democrats (and anyone else who read the report or watched Mueller’s testimony) don’t think that. It simply can’t be the case that Democrats are intent on impeaching Trump no matter what the evidence says and that they needed to invent the Ukraine story because the Russia one wouldn’t do.

What, then, is Nunes really saying? What Trump says: This is a witch hunt, meaning in Trump’s odd vocabulary a hunt by witches, and investigations by witches are inherently illegitimate. So if Schiff is a witch, and Nancy Pelosi is a witch, and the witnesses are witches, and the whistle-blower was most definitely a witch, then they have no basis for action against the president, and it doesn’t really matter what so-called evidence they might present. Is that a stretch? Maybe, but it’s a lot less inane/insane than what Nunes is asking us to believe.

And this super-depressing article in Buzzfeed:

But there are two impeachment hearings unfolding in the nation’s capital. One, carried out by the Democrats, is designed to ascertain the truth as to whether Trump sought a “quid pro quo” deal with Ukraine to get the country to investigate Joe Biden and the 2016 presidential election in exchange for aid money. The other, being carried out simultaneously by the Republicans, is quite different. Instead of trying to learn the truth, it seeks to create not just a counternarrative but a completely separate reality.

Each round of GOP questioning is not meant to interrogate the witnesses, which today included Sondland, but instead to create moments that can be flipped into Fox News segments, shared as bite-size Facebook posts, or dropped into 4chan threads. Their alternate universe — built from baseless online conspiracy theories and reading the tea leaves of Trump’s Twitter feed — dominates Fox News and Facebook. And the Republicans’ strategy, as confusing and bizarre as it may seem to those on the outside, is working…

For every piece on Facebook about impeachment from a mainstream publication, there are dozens of unhinged right-wing conspiracies going viral on the social network. A post with a transcript from Rush Limbaugh’s radio show titled “George Kent Made The Case For Investigating The Bidens” (15,000 engagements) was ranked third among this week’s stories with the most engagement about George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, who testified publicly last week. “Impeachment Witness Bill Taylor Admits: I Can ‘Tell You What I Heard From People’” (37,600 engagements) by right-wing news site Western Journal was the third-most-shared story about Taylor.

And David Hopkins on the regrettable conclusion that not even the most gettable Republican, Will Hurd, was actually gettable and what this suggests going forward:

In many ways, the Ukraine affair is shaping up to follow the same pattern as innumerable other incidents over the past several years: an explosive, even unprecedented set of events and factual disclosures that yet change few minds on either side of a solidifying partisan divide. Some critics have suggested that Democrats are making a mistake by moving so quickly toward impeachment. But it seems clear that, whatever other benefits might have been gained from a slower process, a spontaneous emergence of bipartisanship would not have been among them. If Will Hurd isn’t even wavering after the past two weeks of testimony, how many Republicans would ever have jumped?

I honestly cannot believe we are now in a world where a president can be this egregiously guilty of abusing his office for personal gain at the expense of national security and his party defends him no matter what behind debunked and inane conspiracy theories.  That should make anybody worry for our country.

The white nationalist in the White House

Ahhh, Stephen Miller, putting the “white” in the White House.  I was just going to let this go and add Michele Goldberg’s column on Miller to quick hits, but, damn it, then I’m just like everybody else letting this go because there’s just sooooo much.  The president grossly abused his power to serve his own re-election interests while undermining US National Security (we don’t give military aid to Ukraine just to be nice) and his own party doesn’t even care.  So, yeah, that sucks up a lot of attention.

But now we know there’s a white nationalist in the White House.  And he’s still there.  And we’re just all going on like that’s not even an issue.

Putin is winning

It’s been clear since even before Trump was elected that he was in Putin’s pocket.  “No puppet.  No puppet.  You’re the puppet.”  But, damn, if Russia has not now sucked the entire Republican Party into their strategy.  Seriously.  No, the Republicans are not purposely saying, “sure, we’ll do what Putin wants.”  But, by embracing Trump’s absurd defenses and supporting him no matter what, they are absolutely doing Putin’s bidding.  The whole damn party is the puppet now.  It’s really pretty amazing, and depressing as hell, to behold.  There’s seemingly no level they won’t sink to.  As I saw in a tweet the other day, forget shooting someone in 5th avenue, he could go on a rampage with an AK-47 (yes, that weapon chosen purposefully).

Paul Waldman: “Fiona Hill shows how Trump and Republicans function as Putin’s useful idiots”

When former White House national security aide Fiona Hill and diplomat David Holmes testified Thursday morning, they might not have made Donald Trump’s impeachment and conviction more likely, in the sense of providing new evidence of crimes and misdemeanors the president committed.

What they did do, however, was demonstrate that Trump and portions of the Republican Party have become what in the Cold War we used to call “useful idiots,” people who had become tools of the Kremlin not because they were devoted to the Soviet cause but because they were too stupid to realize how they were being manipulated.

In her opening statement, Hill put her finger on the problem:

Based on questions and statements I have heard, some of you on this committee appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country — and that perhaps, somehow, for some reason, Ukraine did. This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves

As this conspiracy theory has it, Ukraine, not Russia, hacked Democratic emails and set up Russia to take the fall for sabotaging the election, and a cybersecurity company called CrowdStrike helped cover it up. Trump pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to help him make this true by finding an allegedly missing server in Ukraine.

This theory is not just bonkers, it is designed to serve the interests of the Kremlin. Holmes explained what Russia gains from the spread of the theory:

First of all, to deflect from the allegations of Russian interference. Second of all, to drive a wedge between the United States and Ukraine, which Russia wants to essentially get back into its sphere of influence. Thirdly, to besmirch Ukraine and its political leadership, to degrade and erode support for Ukraine from other key partners in Europe and elsewhere.

Indeed, just this week, at an economic forum in Moscow, Vladimir Putin celebrated the continued repetition of the Ukraine interference theory. “Thank God,” he said, “no one is accusing us of interfering in the U.S. elections anymore; now they’re accusing Ukraine.”…

Furthermore, the effort to deflect attention away from Russia and on to Ukraine has the effect of making Russia’s almost inevitable effort to meddle in the 2020 election more likely to succeed. When it happens — and it will happen — how are Republicans going to react? It’s all a hoax, they’ll say. Just a Democratic attempt to delegitimize Trump, the way they did before. Nothing to see here, move along.

And Putin will marvel yet again at how easy it is to manipulate the useful idiots in the GOP into doing exactly what he wants.

Booker time

I was giving a talk to NC State Scholars students yesterday and I mentioned my partiality towards Booker a couple of times and in the Q&A, a student asked me to elaborate, so I did.  I haven’t done that here in a while.  So, some of what I said yesterday…

I’ve been a fan of Booker’s since I read his interview on criminal justice reform with German Lopez.  I especially liked this part:

GL: So the bill received some big changes recently, after it was released last year, due to fears about some of the measures benefiting violent offenders. But I know that a lot of reformers and experts actually liked those portions; they think it’s important to acknowledge that sentences are too long not just for drug offenders but for everyone in general. Where do you stand on that, and is it something you intend to work on moving forward?

CB: I’ve spoken about this publicly a lot. And I don’t have unanimity in my own caucus about this. But we have an issue with violent crime in the sense that everybody makes a stark difference between violent offenders and nonviolent offenders.

But for people in the criminal justice working world, that is a gray line at best. You could have someone who’s in a car, driving a boyfriend, and the boyfriend decides to jump out, pull a gun out, rob somebody, jumps back in the car, and she keeps driving — and now she’s a violent criminal.

So we need to start having a better conversation about the many people who are languishing in prison for very long terms when their crime was not showing the right sense and stopping the car and exiting the car as a driver or what have you.

I still think we have disproportionate punishments for people who are so-called violent criminals but don’t necessarily involve any direct actions of violence.

In addition to that, the circumstances to violent crime. I’ll give you an example on an assault charge. If you and I got into a bar fight, and you punched me, and I fell backward and I hit my head, and I died, that’s a horrible crime — but there are circumstances within that. Does that person deserve life imprisonment?

I just think there’s a fear to have a candid conversation about proportionality when it comes to things that are labeled as violent crimes.

This is not controversial stuff for a student of criminal justice.  But it sure is for most politicians.  Three cheers for Booker for being forthright and honest about violent crime, something vanishingly few politicians are willing to be.

It should also be noted that Booker is smart and thoughtful across a whole range of issues, as is clear in this interview with Ezra.

On a practical level, I truly think he is the most general election electable of all the Democrats.  We’ve already seen that plenty of Americans will vote for a Black man.  And strong evidence that having a Black man boosts Black turnout.  Likely beyond the costs of racists who would otherwise vote for a white Democrat.  As for how ideologically pure or not he is, I also get the sense that the most woke of Democrats are “so not a white man” and that some of Booker’s limited heterodoxy may be therefore be more easily forgiven in an identity politics world.

Also, he’s just generally got a lot of stuff going for him. Edward-Isaac Dovere had a nice Atlantic piece, “Why Hasn’t Cory Booker’s Campaign Caught Fire? On paper, he’s exactly what many Democratic voters say they want.”

Staffers for the senator’s campaign are exasperated and annoyed. Booker has tried everything, down to providing hand warmers for the 200 people at the rally in front of the statehouse after he finished filing for the primary. He’s done everything right: established the necessary relationships in key states, racked up more endorsements than any other candidate, performed well in the debates. He carries the message of unity that Democrats say they want. He’s been out front on gun control, he grapples publicly with America’s structural racism, he’s proposed innovative government programs for combatting economic inequality, he’s been squaring progressive politics with openness to business for years. He’s made no big gaffes, had no significant stumbles. His messaging has been consistent. At candidate events, he reliably gives the best speeches to the most thunderous ovations.

And yet few people believe he can win the nomination—and that’s been true for the entire 10 months he’s been running. Black voters don’t seem to believe he can win. Nor do progressive voters. Nor do Wall Street voters. Though his campaign has had no layoffs, no whiplash restructurings, no finger-pointing leaks about internal drama, some staffers have started to wonder if the time has come to start interviewing elsewhere. And now, just as Booker was grasping for whatever slivers of visibility he could grab hold of in impeachment’s shadow, Deval Patrick and Mike Bloomberg have jumped into the race, saying voters in search of a moderate, unifying, electable candidate should take a look at them. Wait a minute, the Booker campaign could be forgiven for saying. Couldn’t you take a look at someone already in the race? He’s right here!

“A lot of people in the party seem to think they need more choices,” Robert Backus, a New Hampshire state representative who’s endorsed Booker, told me after the New Hampshire rally. “They should have listened to Cory—they probably wouldn’t feel that way.”

So why isn’t Booker doing better.  Dovere doesn’t end up with much more than a ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ and I cannot do all that much better.

Meanwhile, today I took the Washington Post’s fun quiz on which Democratic candidate you most agree with.   The winner for me?  Yang :-).  But among actual serious candidates, it was a tie between Booker and Harris.

What I especially liked was the question on nuclear power.  So not popular with the Democratic left.  But if you are actually serious about reducing carbon emission and making decisions based on reasonable policy analysis instead of emotion, nuclear is so the way to go.  And, yet, Booker was the only one of the serious contenders to take this position.  Meanwhile, Elizabeth “I’ve got a plan for that” Warren surely knows better, but panders to the left on this one.  I do like Warren, but she frustrates me so.  Booker is willing to take empirically-supported but unpopular stands to a degree that Warren is not.

Anyway, it’s all just spitting into the wind at this point, but in the alternate reality where Booker is performing better in these primaries and on his way, I maintain he is the single best candidate to defeat Trump.  Plus, he’d be a good president to boot.

Marijuana will be fully legal before long

There’s really only so long older Republicans can push back against a tide of public opinion that looks like this– the latest from Pew:

And, you break it down by party and generation.  And, it really is pretty much just older Republicans still opposed:

Republicans in Silent Generation least likely to favor legalizing marijuana use

Finally, what I found noteworthy, is the strong support for “recreational” use.  A lot of polling doesn’t necessarily break this out, just reporting topline “make legal” numbers, but support for recreational use has actually been well under 50% for most all this time.  Not anymore:

Now, there are real potential harms from marijuana, so we should actually try and be smart about how we legalize it (hey, I’ve got an idea, learn from the laboratory of federalism), but it’s hard to look at public opinion data like this and think anything other than that marijuana will be widely legal before all that long.

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