Déjà vu

If I had ever been here before
I would probably know just what to do.
Don’t you?

— David Crosby, “Déjà vu” (1970)

This week’s featured posts are “Sam We Am” and “What Should ‘Racism’ Mean?

This week everybody was talking about Michael Sam and the NFL

I cover this in detail in “Sam We Am“. It’s part of this week’s déjà vu theme: The arguments we’re hearing against Sam joining the NFL are the same ones that get trotted out — and usually defeated — whenever some new group wants to be included somewhere. And they’re almost exactly the ones that the public just rejected in 2011 when Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was being repealed. As a result, public discussions that used to take months to play out are happening in days.

Friday we got a better view of what Sam might be walking into with the release of the independent report the NFL commissioned on the locker-room culture of the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins bullying story broke in November, when Jonathan Martin left the team and Richie Incognito was suspended.

After a thorough examination of the facts, we conclude that three starters on the Dolphins offensive line, Richie Incognito, John Jerry and Mike Pouncey, engaged in a pattern of harassment directed at not only Martin, but also another young Dolphins offensive lineman, whom we refer to as Player A for confidentiality reasons, and a member of the training staff, whom we refer to as the Assistant Trainer. We find that the Assistant Trainer repeatedly was targeted with racial slurs and other racially derogatory language. Player A frequently was subjected to homophobic name-calling and improper physical touching. Martin was taunted on a persistent basis with sexually explicit remarks about his sister and his mother and at times ridiculed with racial insults and other offensive comments.

and more advances for same-sex marriage

In another example of déjà vu, you can add Virginia to the list of states (Utah, Oklahoma, …) where federal judges have thrown out the state constitution’s same-sex-marriage ban after last summer’s Windsor decision. And Kentucky now has to recognize marriages performed in other states.

Like the debate over Michael Sam, these cases have a same-old-same-old quality. No matter how many times judges shoot down their arguments, traditional-marriage-only advocates offer nothing new. In her Virginia decision, Judge Allen repeated what all the other judges have been saying:

The legitimate purposes proffered by the Proponents for the challenged laws — to promote conformity to the traditions and heritage of a majority of Virginia’s citizens, to perpetuate a generally-recognized deference to the state’s will pertaining to domestic relations laws, and, finally, to endorse “responsible procreation” — share no rational link with Virginia Marriage Laws being challenged.

These arguments have become batting-practice pitches, not serious attempts to strike the same-sex couples out. The obvious implication is that the Religious Right’s quiver is empty, and that (while there’s still considerable mopping up to do) the national debate is over, at least as far as the law goes.

and — surprise! — a clean debt ceiling extension

President Obama signed it Saturday. The Tea Party can’t hold the world economy hostage again until March 15, 2015.

John Boehner allowed this vote in the House (and was one of only 28 Republicans to vote yes) and Mitch McConnell voted to kill Ted Cruz’ filibuster. You’ve got to figure they looked at the political fallout of the October crisis and said, “We’re not doing that again.”

It probably also means that Mitch McConnell is more afraid of Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes than of his Tea Party challenger in the Republican primary. Still, outside-group ads like this one from the Senate Conservatives Fund can’t be doing McConnell any good.

There’s a rude justice to lines like: “Mitch McConnell is trying to bully conservatives just like the IRS is.” The GOP leadership helped create this fantasy world. Now they have to live in it.

and the Republican Civil War starting to get real

The NYT reported:

“I’ve been told by a number of donors to our ‘super PAC’ that they’ve received calls from senior Republican senators,” said Matt Kibbe, president of FreedomWorks, which is supporting challengers to Republican incumbents across the country. The message from these donors was blunt: “I can’t give to you because I’ve been told I won’t have access to Republican leadership,” Mr. Kibbe said. “So they’re playing hardball.”

Interfering with the donor base really is hardball. TPM commented: “It’s hard to overstate the animosity that House GOP leaders feel for outside tea party groups these days.”

and the Michael Dunn verdict

Guilty, but not of murder. It’s hard not to see this as another racial statement by a Florida jury. If a black adult had sprayed bullets around a car of white boys, I find it hard to imagine a jury taking his I-thought-I-saw-a-gun defense seriously.

Sunday on MSNBC’s “Disrupt with Karen Finney“, Faith Jenkins reacted like this:

Every racial stereotype you could possibly advance about a young black teen, Dunn used it: thug, gangster, rap music. … We see from the Zimmerman trial and now with this trial, some sort of perfect defense emerging when you kill a young black kid. All you have to do is say, “I was in fear for my life.” “They were reaching for my gun.” or “They had a gun.” … and then “They said they were going to kill me.” … That seems to be the perfect defense now.

and Comcast’s bid to take over Time Warner Cable

The deal valued at $45 billion says a lot about the way antitrust law has been interpreted since the Reagan administration. Comcast argues that the two cable companies don’t compete in many markets (and it’s willing to spin off the TWC franchises in those areas), so consumers shouldn’t see any difference.

But the full impact of the merger hits in two ways: It limits the number of companies who might come up with a new model entirely; but more important, it gives the new Comcast an even larger bulk it can throw between producers and consumers. I talked about this phenomenon in 2012 in “Monopoly’s Role in Inequality“. In that piece I argued for transparent markets that would make common carriers out of middlemen like the cable companies. Instead, we have opaque markets, where giant media conglomerates duke it out with giant distribution networks.

In an opaque market, the way to get rich is not to produce things, but to build middleman power that allows you to dictate terms up and down the supply chain.

At the time, I used a skuffle between Viacom and DirectTV to illustrate.

Maybe you couldn’t watch Jon Stewart for a week, but the problem had nothing to do with either you or Jon Stewart. He wasn’t asking for a raise; you weren’t balking at the price of watching the Daily Show. But both you and Jon were irrelevant when two giant middlemen had a power struggle. … These middlemen outweigh both you and Jon Stewart. If Jon doesn’t work for one of the six big media companies, he can’t reach a major audience. If you don’t deal with either DirectTV or a cable monopoly, your TV choices shrink considerably.

That’s the threat. Not that you’ll have fewer companies to deal with in your town, but that the industry will continue to re-configure for the benefit of middlemen rather than producers or consumers.

I hope The Week and Quartz are right when they predict the merger won’t go through.

and you also might be interested in …

Robert Draper’s profile of Wendy Davis in the NYT Magazine puts her in a good light, but its title — “Can Wendy Davis Have it All?” — exemplifies the gender double-standard he criticizes. Nobody ever asks whether a male candidate can “have it all”.

The WSJ’s Valentine’s Day advice to women comes from Susan Patton.

Think about it: If you spend the first 10 years out of college focused entirely on building your career, when you finally get around to looking for a husband you’ll be in your 30s, competing with women in their 20s. That’s not a competition in which you’re likely to fare well.

I think your first mistake was looking for relationship advice in The Wall Street Journal.

I know you’re all just dying to know what connection religion might have to porn addiction, so here it is:

There was no connection between the religious devotion of the participants and how much porn they actually viewed, the studies showed. However, stronger religious faith was linked with more negative moral attitudes about pornography, which in turn was associated with greater perceived addiction.

Three Republican senators have outlined a plan to replace ObamaCare — years after Republicans floated the “repeal and replace” slogan. We’ll see if the GOP leadership actually gets behind the plan, or if it’s just a we-have-a-plan-too puff of smoke.

The WaPo suggests several reasons the plan would be worse than ObamaCare, but in some sense that misses the point. ObamaCare, after all, is based on the Republican alternative to HillaryCare in the 1990s. That Republican “plan” evaporated as soon as HillaryCare was off the table, and when Republicans controlled both Congress and the White House during the Bush administration, they did not pursue it. When Obama gave them a serious opportunity to implement the ideas they had said they supported, they denounced it as “socialism” and claimed it was unconstitutional.

Voters need to ask themselves whether the same thing would happen here. I think it would: The day Republicans successfully repeal ObamaCare, their “alternative” will be history … until a future Democratic president revives it in 2030 and it becomes socialism too.

Republicans in the Missouri legislature have a new plan for pushing schools to “teach the controversy” about evolution.

I keep thinking that someday, as the 1% accumulate more and more power, workers are going to rediscover unions. Well, it didn’t happen this week in Chattanooga: The UAW failed to organize the VW plant, in spite of VW’s neutrality in the matter.

You know who wasn’t neutral? Tennessee’s Republican Senator Bob Corker, who claimed that unionization would send production of a new VW SUV to Mexico — even though VW management had claimed otherwise. Also Republican State Senator Bo Watson, who threatened a loss of state incentives if the plant went union.

Whether those threats swayed the election or not, it hard to argue with Business Week: “If the UAW couldn’t win this one, what could they win?”

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  • Alan  On February 17, 2014 at 2:55 pm

    Unions have a bad reputation that makes unionizing places harder. While I believe the lion’s share of the blame belongs to businesses and politicians interested in union busting, part of it falls to the unions. But there are certainly unions more interested in becoming more powerful than serving the interests of their members. I like my own local union. I loathe the larger union we’re affiliated with: they helped a different union try to claim half of our members, they dismissed complaints about it, and they punished our local by withdrawing services we paid for in retaliation for someone in our union relatively innocently saying they think our existing union is a better fit than the one that one that wanted to claim half of our members. I still pay my dues (despite state level legislation that make it optional and require me to arrange payments directly instead of coming out of my paycheck), but it always angers me to think that a lot of my dues are supporting a parent union that I don’t trust.

  • Anonymous  On February 17, 2014 at 5:35 pm

    I LOL’d. “I think your first mistake was looking for relationship advice in The Wall Street Journal.” Thanks for the laugh, Doug.

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