230 Comments

Right on the money Charlie

I truly enjoy reading you and the Bulwark!

Expand full comment

For that piece on higher education, I studied some history of higher ed while working on my master’s and I work as non-academic staff at a college.

I agree there needs to be an overhaul of K-12 and college learning. But I think the misconception is that college was meant to be vocational. When college started being what it is now, it was for people who had a skill set already but needed to learn more. The sciences and going into academics are probably the only time it matters what bachelor degree you get. For the most part, it teaches critical thinking and skills that are transferable. It’s even a common joke that no one does what they major in. I think when we start pushing for alternatives to college, and there's nothing wrong with that for some, it may box them in and they are stuck with whatever trade they pick. And if that trade goes away or becomes automated/replaced by something else, they typically don't have the ability to transfer skills to something new.

The difficulty is that there really isn’t a right answer. Some people don’t have to go to college, but I worry that we get so negative on college that we are just creating more long term problems while not fixing the immediate ones. Otherwise we will find more people who can’t think critically and buy any conspiracy by faux intellectuals.

Expand full comment

I remember enjoying reading Taibbi years ago. I always knew he was an a**hole, but that clip of him at the hearing cements in my mind that he's also a STUPID a**hole. Yeesh. ☹️

Expand full comment

Gotta love George. Hit it right on the head

Expand full comment

True enough…

Expand full comment

Interesting comments on crime. Disinvestment has got to be a part of the problem. In teaching behavior disorders, one learns very quickly, that fast, fair, consequences are very effective. When the number of pd, and prosecutors is too low to get the job done, and you have a progressive Circuit Attorney like Kim Gardner in St. Louis, things grind to a halt. Crime increases. Because of our history of racist police and racist GOP in the State House, when they try to take control it ends up in a quagmire with no good solution in sight. The people who elected her see it as outright racism to take power away from a duly elected black woman, defend her even thought they are often the victims of crime. The GOP uses it as fodder against Democrat controlled cities, even though Joe Smoe from Hicksville has no idea how to solve the problem. Joe is right the combination of Cory Bush and Km Gardner and the label, "defund the police", hurt Dem chances in Missouri.

Expand full comment

RE: DC Crime Bill

I've been quietly stewing when listening to your podcast and reading your newsletters on the DC crime bill.

There are two facets to this discussion:

1) Is the bill wise from a policy perspective?

2) Is the bill wise from a political perspective?

I was pretty disappointed to hear/read that both you and Will Saletan (a progressive I'd expect to take a deeper dive into the issue) conflate the two and think that, on both fronts, D.C. legislators are in effect out-of-touch policy and political idiots.

I know this will never be acknowledged given that the Bulwark has gone full bore on its defence of Congress' measures to overturn these measures, but I must respectfully point out that you are ill informed on the issue.

1) The DC criminal statutes were horrendously out of date and needed to be updated (they included provisions relating to horses, etc.).

2) The minimum sentences for car jacking were out of whack with the sentencing minimums for other far more serious offences. For example, the minimums for car jacking, first or second offence, exceed those for sexual assault.

3) The commission that recommended lowering the maximum sentences did so after reviewing every single car jacking case where the accused was sentenced, and literally not a single person had ever been sentenced to anything close to the maximum sentence, and not a single case resulted in a sentence larger than the new maximum. It's ironic that in yesterday's podcast you lamented the fact that the DC crime bill removes "discretion" from sentencing judges, notwithstanding the fact that the minimum draconian sentences for car jacking do just the same. And the "discretion" you are lamenting is being lost by lowering the maximum sentences, is literally a theoretical option for judges given that no one has been sentenced for anything close to the maximum.

Don't take my word for it:

https://www.npr.org/local/305/2023/01/27/1152145266/is-d-c-really-reducing-penalties-for-violent-crimes-it-s-complicated

"Let's take carjacking, an offense that spiked dramatically in recent years in D.C. and other parts of the country, and which is drawing plenty of concern among residents and grabbing a lot of media attention.

Under current law, unarmed carjacking has a mandatory minimum sentence of seven years and maximum sentence of 21. If armed, that jumps to 15 and 40, respectively. (For context, that 40-year maximum is double the current maximum for second-degree sexual abuse.) Under the revised code, carjacking is divided into three gradations depending on severity, with the lowest penalties for an unarmed offense running from four to 18 years and the highest penalties for an armed offense ranging from 12 to 24 years.

So yes, penalties for carjacking have indeed been reduced. But...

"You have to look at not just penalties on paper, but you have to look at the penalties in practice," says Jinwoo Park, the current executive director of the Criminal Code Reform Commission, which he joined almost a decade ago as an attorney-adviser to the whole process.

Park says that in many cases with violent crimes in D.C., the difference between the maximum sentence that can be meted out and the actual sentences that are handed down are significant. To better understand this, the commission looked at a decade's worth of sentencing data from D.C. Superior Court for pretty much every criminal offense charged — and in many cases, carjacking included, found that actual sentencing was below the maximums allowed by law."

I IMPLORE you to please educate yourselves on the nuances of the bill before continuing to arrogantly mock DC legislators for the crime reform bill they passed.

Ironically, if you educate yourself on the issues, the new crime bill is unquestionably good policy, but bad politics if improperly explained: the irony being that you're taking a Fox News approach to the issue (i.e. misreprenting the contents of the bill to your audience, albeit hopefully unintentionally), thus by being uninformed on the policy question, you're actively contributing to ensuring that it's bad politics as well.

I expect more from the Bulwark.

Expand full comment
founding

I take everything you explained to be true. But if you are explaining, then you are losing. Voters don't want nuance.

Biden did the right thing, at least if you don't want Trump 2.0 or the equivalent.

Expand full comment

As I said, there is a political dimension to the question, and indisputably, opposing the changes is good politics.

But in their analysis of the bill, the Bulwark is also arriving at judgements about the soundness of the policy. And on that front, they have been pushing misinformaton to support their view that the changes are also terrible policy.

Is it too much to ask the intelligent contributors to the Bulwark to inform themselves on the substantive elements of the changes, and provide analysis that is based on a properly informed view of the issue?

Expand full comment
founding

Tough on crime as well as the causes of crime. Yes.

Criminal justice and social justice are inextricably linked. You can't have one without the other. Not in any meaningful way.

Better policing with adequate numbers of *professionals* doing that policing. Criminals appropriately sentenced and then actually serving those sentences. Equal opportunity promoted through 'opportunity pluralism' in education and an overall government 'policy' of promoting the common good of the ordinary everyday people of this country ahead of the well-moneyed special interests, with the realization that all *outcomes* will never be *equal*, since that would require a perfect world. And that ain't where we're livin'.

And maybe a recognition that 'government' can't solve absolutely every problem of our society, nor should it be expected to. There are a few things we still need to do for ourselves.

Impossible? No. Likely? Not very. At least until the political will develops in the electorate to put people in positions of power who will work on solving these problems that is to the benefit of us all, and not to themselves personally as far as their careers, political or otherwise, are concerned. And along with that, there must be a will within our society to pay the cost for the solutions, both in dollars and in shirking the hyper-partisan tribalism that assuages the egos of those who carry grievances - real or imagined - that stand so solidly in the way of anything resembling real and effective progress on more *justice* in every facet in our society.

I wish us all good luck with that.

Expand full comment

Republicans constantly claim to "back the blue," but then also want every Tom, Dick, and Harry who gets pulled over for speeding to have a firearm on them. Cops just love that idea.

It's almost as if there is no logical consistency to their positions.

Expand full comment
founding

I wonder when the cops will realize their lives would be less stressful if they didn't have to worry about getting shot at every traffic stop because the country is awash in guns.

Expand full comment

Charlie, can you please call the Dems and explain this to them? Their loudest and most passionate think compromise, and what the majority actually want, is unimportant, in comparison to what they KNOW is the “correct” way. It is one of the myriad reasons we ended up with Trump.

Expand full comment

The Biden Administration is "swerving right" on crime and immigration, all right -- right to where the voters are. Ideological purity and the self-esteem that it brings are certainly nice and comforting to those who enjoy them, but winning elections is better. And when MAGA is the other side, winning elections isn't just better, it's essential. Go, Joe!

Expand full comment
founding

It's not wise to second-guess Joe Biden's political instincts. In this area, his age and experience are virtues. Progressives have to pipe down and put their issues on hold at least until 2025 while we fight off the existential threat of trump, DeSantis, and the rest of the Republican party all the way down the ballot in every state. If a Republican becomes president, the US will be Florida, Hungary, or worse by 2026. And yes, let's get a grip on illegal immigration and public safety. Law enforcement can be effective without being deadly or inhumane, and let's ensure it has the resources (and accountability) to do the job the way a decent society expects. Finally, let's get the assault rifles off the streets and out of the stores so police officers don't have to fear being outgunned by the people they are sworn to protect.

Expand full comment

Well said! Please put this in a letter to the WH!!

Expand full comment

"College will still be a significant milestone for many, of course, but embracing a paradigm of opportunity pluralism requires many additional routes to adult success."

I harken back to many decades ago when I graduated from high school (1970), 100 people in that graduating class and probably no more than 20 or so going to college including me. We had folks who had trained to be carpenters going straight to work at good paying jobs, laughing at the rest of us as suckers still in school. We had women who would go spend a couple of years at secretarial school to have secure jobs, we had a woman who became a flight attendant and one a fingerprint expert for the FBI. Some that became auto mechanics and plumbers and farmers (did I mention this was a rural area). At our 40th reunion the fellow who had accumulated the most wealth was a farmer. None of these careers I mentioned required a bachelor's degree. I ramble all of this because there is ALWAYS honor in honest work and in the scheme of things plumbers, electricians, farmers, trash collectors are more important to the smooth running of society than say engineers. And for the most part make a decent living at it. We need to make sure the people who go the non college route are not placed in some sort of second tier because they aren't.

Expand full comment
Mar 10, 2023·edited Mar 10, 2023

Maybe more important than literature professors or pundits -- and certainly more important than the "sensitivity readers" of Inclusive Minds, for example -- but not more important than engineers, I think. Not if you like your bridges to stay up as you cross them.

Expand full comment

It might be worth it to reinstate my deleted Twitter account just so that I could like and share George Conway's tweets.

Expand full comment

Ultimately, as a politician, you have to be where the most voters are.

The caveat there is that you have to be where most of the voters in your district (that vote) are. Which is why people like MTG or Gaetz or Gym Jordan or MyKevin can get elected.

Not where most of the people (at large) are, not where all of the registered voters are, but where the actual voters are. Because the reality is that voting DOES (at least for now) count.

Joe and the people around him understand that. They understand that they are (first and foremost) about winning elections and holding office so that they can do other things. Becuse you cannot do much if you don't hold office--and you cannot do much if you can't get people to agitate for or go along with the policies that you push.

The result is neither fair nor just. It just tends to work. Things tend to get done. There is movement. Not necessarily the thing you want, but often a thing on the pathway to the thing you want--setting the stage for the thing you want. And if you do it right, you tend to move along a trajectory that leads to to better things as time passes.

Being unsatisfied with what you get is par for the course. Agitating for more is important and necessary. It sets the boundaries of possible choices. Shifts the goalposts. Prepares the ground. It is particularly important in pushing back against the extremism of the opposite side.

By constructing and continuously reinforcing a narrative of JUSTICE (not equality--or at least not primarily equality) in the background of the rights granted in the Constitution and the ideals of the Constitution--by recapturing words such as liberty and freedom--you can have and use a narrative that can push things toward a more just (and ultimately more equitable) society and politics.

Especially f you couple this with changes to the political incentive structure that reduce the power of extremists (thinking of FFV here).

History is not a thing, in and of itself. It has no mind, no purpose, no goal, no intention. There is no inevitable arc. There is only the day by day by day grind to build a better place and to keep those who would build a worse place from undoing your work.

Expand full comment

As was observed in Mr Conway’s thread, Don even had the romantic grace to write one of the hush money checks to Stormy on Valentine’s Day.

Expand full comment