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The Lame-Stream Media or How To Evaluate Claims of Bias

Republicans and conservatives seldom tire of lambasting the media for its bias against Republicans. In our age of over-quantification, "watchdog" groups assign scientific numbers to the bias. Like this article from a while back about President Trump's first 100 days. 

As President Trump approaches the end of his first 100 days in office, he has received by far the most hostile press treatment of any incoming American president, with the broadcast networks punishing him with coverage that has been 89% negative. The networks largely ignored important national priorities such as jobs and the fight against ISIS, in favor of a news agenda that has been dominated by anti-Trump controversies and which closely matches what would be expected from an opposition party.
Ratings Not Bias? 

First, I wonder how much of the alleged bias can be explained simply by ratings. News organizations like CNN, Fox and MSNBC are for-profit. In depth point-counterpoint doesn't scream "watch m…

Mr. President, There is No "Easy Button" For Governing

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Cometh now the latest leaks from the White House that President Trump is frustrated by the way the government works. In politics, we should all try to recognize the premise from which we start our arguments. I get the impression that Trump's premise is that ready-made solutions exist but Obama was just too [insert pejorative here] to implement these obvious solutions. What better illustration of this than his campaign slogan: Make America Great Again.

Let's leave aside the issue of whether American is great (and therefore requires a return to greatness). Instead, look at his specific policies for achieving this goal:

1. Win
2. Win some more
3. Get rid of immigrants who Republicans think are simultaneously stealing our jobs and too lazy to work
4. Win another one
5. And another one

Ok, President Trump has neither specific policy proposals nor a coherent legislative plan to Make America Great Again. His speeches tell us that he's going to accomplish that goal though. 
How? N…

A True Originalist Would Decline the Supreme Court Nomination

President Trump nominated 10th Circuit Judge Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court vacancy left by Nino Scalia's passing. With the snap of his tiny, orange fingers, President Trump has created drama. This is the seat that Former President Obama tried to fill with Merrick Garland but Republicans refused to even meet with man despite universal agreement that he was qualified. Democrats refer to it as the "stolen seat" and are understandably unmoved by Republican's shamefully hypocritical denouncement of Democrats as already being obstructionist. What about Neil though?    Gorsuch is being hailed as an originalist. Originalism is a doctrine that favors looking to the original intent of the men who wrote the Constitution when interpreting it today. It relies on "plain reading" of the words that are actually in the Constitution rather than, say, made-up concepts like "penumbral rights." For now, let's leave aside the very real possibility that politi…

What Scalia Really Wants

Oh, Nino Scalia, you rascal.  He has recently come under fire for "compar[ing] sodomy to murder."  As usual, people are missing the subtlety of the original argument (much same way people mischaracterized the politically foolish comments by Republicans that bad things--e.g. rape--are part of God's plan).

In this case, a gay student asked Justice Scalia why he compares homosexuality to murder.  Scalia was a bit too playful in response.  As a result, people misunderstand his point.  The short answer is that he doesn't compare the two in terms of morality.  He compares the legislature's power to ban either or both.  That's different.  

We have to move beyond a fact to fact comparison.  Scalia is not saying that homosexuality is as morally repugnant as murder.  His argument is more nuanced than that.  He is saying that we ban murder for moral reasons.  Sure, killing someone probably has some negative utilitarian outcome or exerts long-term downward pressure on …

What Voters Want

Molly Ball wrote an article forThe Atlantic website that shows the latest polling numbers explaining what voters want from a "fiscal cliff" deal:
Americans want a deal that reduces the deficit, raises taxes on the wealthy, and doesn't cut entitlement benefits. But most of all, they want compromise That is to say, Americans want the problem solved but they want someone else to pay for it.  This does not surprise me.  It does not trouble me much either.  In a culture driven by consumerism, people desire bargains including policy.  I would prefer they wanted a prudent solution (whatever that is) rather than a simulacrum of "bipartisanship."  History, however, holds too many examples of popularly supported offal to hold much hope in that regard.  

Something does trouble me though.  Perhaps availability bias is at play here but I feel a creeping reliance on poll numbers in analyzing the prudence of policy.  As though popular support equates to wisdom.  It is importan…

Falling to the Darkside: The Legacy of the 2012 Campaign

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"You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain."
- Harvey Dent, TheDark Knight Rises

Many Progressives are jubilant over Barack Obama's reelection.  And yet, they should be mourning the unceremonious demise of the Hope and Change promised in the 2008 election.

This Democratic election effort proved that a party cannot win multiple elections unless it fights dirty. This, to me, is Obama's legacy, unintentional though it may be. The incentives and structure of the election process are so well entrenched, that not even the best of us can resist the temptation and, worse, the need to employ morally distasteful tactics. Obama and Democrats rode into office in 2008/2009 on the wave of public disillusionment with "politics as usual." Four years later, they were politics as usual's number one fans.

How can anyone see this as anything but Anakin Skywalker's transformation into Darth Vader? Isn't this exactly what …