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Mon May 18, 2015 at 09:24 AM PDT

Mad Men 7.14 - 'Person to Person'

by Adam B

It's the real thing!  (Courtesy AMCtv)
It doesn't matter if Don Draper literally is the person who'd like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony. It really doesn't.

Because whatever Mad Men wants to say about its characters and their fictional lives, in the end, someone co-opted the authentic emotional moments and quest for connection that Don experienced on his new age retreat. And this is the great sin of advertising, as Mad Men has reminded us from the beginning: it takes authentic human emotions, and basic yearnings for contact and happiness, and turns them into a reason you should buy sugar-water.  

I recognize that most viewers came away from the ending assuming that Don came back to McCann (as Stan insisted he would), and cynically used his bottoming-out to come up with one of the most loved ads of all time. Ding! Buy our product, and you'll never be left alone, in the dark. You're part of the global sing-a-long.  [Two decades later, advertising would seize upon the reverse: buy our mass product to show how unique you are!.]

Maybe that's all there is: Don Draper, shithead to the end, can only use profound and potentially transformative emotional moments as a means of finding new ways to sell things. No learning, no growing, despite the hugging. [And no improved parenting, either.]  

Well, Mad Men remains capable of many readings, certainly through the end. Some, below the fold.

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Mon May 04, 2015 at 03:41 PM PDT

Mad Men 7.12 - 'Lost Horizon'

by Adam B

Caution: McCann Erickson May Be Hazardous To Your Hard-Fought Advances Against The Patriarchy.
Mad Men begins with an image of a man falling from a skyscraper; this week, it's the ladies' turn. Whatever advances they had made in the past decade at SC&P are gone, as the McCann Boyz Klub presented itself as a crudely implacable foe: "guys you usually encounter only on workplace training videos about sexual harassment."

Meanwhile, the men adopt old habits: Roger drinks, Harry's a dick, Pete and Ted accept their fates, Don flees, and Bert shows up in his dreams. But by and large, this week was about how women who had earned so much respect lost it quickly.  

Below the fold, I'll let some smarter people than me explain it all.

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U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts arrives prior to President Barack Obama's State of the Union speech on Capitol Hill in Washington, January 28, 2014. REUTERS/Larry Downing (UNITED STATES  - Tags: POLITICS)   - RTX17Z1K
In a move which stunned many Court observers—certainly including me—the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision today that state rules barring judicial candidates from personally soliciting campaign contributions do not violate the First Amendment.

Thirty of the thirty-nine states which elect judges have rules similar to Florida's Canon 7C(1), the subject of Lanell Williams-Yulee's challenge before the court:

A candidate, including an incumbent judge, for a judicial office that is filled by public election between competing candidates shall not personally solicit campaign funds, or solicit attorneys for publicly stated support, but may establish committees of responsible persons to secure and manage the expenditure of funds for the candidate’s campaign and to obtain public statements of support for his or her candidacy. Such committees are not prohibited from soliciting campaign contributions and public support from any person or corporation authorized by law.
While they're intended to promote public confidence in the judiciary, I think these rules are dumb, and had assumed this one was constitutionally doomed given that the Roberts Court seems to detest any restrictions on campaign finance. But dumb rules can be constitutional, and to his credit the chief justice (writing for himself and the court's four liberals) decided that judicial elections were sufficiently different and that the constitutional calculus must change:
Judges are not politicians, even when they come to the bench by way of the ballot. And a State’s decision to elect its judiciary does not compel it to treat judicial candidates like campaigners for political office. A State may assure its people that judges will apply the law without fear or favor—and without having personally asked anyone for money.
Much much more, including Justice Scalia's Word of the Week, below the gnocchi:
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Today's your lucky day, Jesse.
Lucky Dennys Rodriguez. Pulled over for (briefly) driving in the shoulder lane by officer Morgan Struble one night in Nebraska, Rodriguez and his passenger must have thought they had dodged a bullet when Struble prepared to let them go with a written warning. (See, they kinda had a bag of methamphetamine in the car as well.)

But then came Floyd, Struble's drug-sniffing dog who had been waiting in the front seat of the car. It had taken about 22 minutes for the initial traffic stop, and now Struble told Rodriguez that he wanted to give Floyd a little walk around the car. Rodriguez did not consent. Struble did it anyway, and so about 7-8 minutes after the traffic stop was complete, Floyd sniffed the drugs and Rodriguez was arrested. (Unlike two years ago, Floyd's competence is not at issue here.)  

Rodriguez sought to suppress the introduction of the meth into evidence, claiming it was the product of an unconstitutional search. And the court, in a 6-3 decision today, agreed with him. See, it would have been totally okay had Floyd done his business during the traffic stop portion of the events, but extending the duration of the stop to cover non-traffic matters is something the Fourth Amendment does not allow.

Why? And was it the six you'd expect against the three you'd expect? Join me below the fold.

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Mon Apr 20, 2015 at 04:49 PM PDT

Mad Men 7.10 - 'The Forecast'

by Adam B

Don, she's seventeen. Come on.
“Do you ever think there’s less to actually do, but more to think about?”

Mad Men, as self-conscious a show as there has been, is all about the navel-gazing this week. A lot of it felt forced and awkward, with Don being asked to come up with a mission statement for SC&P, leading to his probing Ted and Peggy about their own hopes and dreams (and being disappointed by each's responses). More awkward and anvillicious, still, was Don's own interrogation by his realtor, who acutely diagnosed the pathetic state of Don Draper based on the whole wine-stain-no-furniture thing. And even more awkward still was Don's being called out by his own daughter for macking on one of his contemporaries.  (See, above.)

And yet, all this compulsory introspection led to someplace fairly compelling for the show, as Don and Joan in particular contemplate the paths not taken, and those which might remain viable. So after you're done with that Hanna-Barbera meeting, grab your bus ticket, and let's all go to Playland together.

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Mon Apr 13, 2015 at 02:43 PM PDT

Mad Men 7.9 - 'New Business'

by Adam B

How would you like a full serving of your past? (Courtesy: AMCtv)
Mad Men isn't Lost.  

There is no final Big Question we're trying to answer, no couples we're hoping to see reunited.

To be sure, we want to know what the future will be like for Sally, Peggy, Joan, and a few others, but by and large, we know who these people are, and their fates are generally locked in. While some of the women have significant opportunities to improve their lives, thanks to the feminist revolution, for the men their fates have been sealed long ago. Sure, we don't know when Don Draper's going to die, but we can be pretty sure that when he does, he'll be lonely, sad, and unfulfilled, "an aging, sloppy, selfish liar," still believing he can sell the next woman on what he has to offer.

And this week, to be sure, was a parade of Don's past women, including more Death Brunettes than ever before. Grab your clubs, fix yourself a milkshake, and join me below the fold.

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Mon Apr 06, 2015 at 01:32 PM PDT

Mad Men 7.8: 'Severance'

by Adam B

In a show which rivals The Good Wife for uncomfortable elevator scenes, this was really something. (Courtesy AMCtv)
Is that all there is?

For the entire gang at Sterling Cooper & Partners, that's the question, isn't it? All the partners are, in Peggy's words, "filthy rich" now, as the Cosgroves have always been, but does money make any of them happy? Does the work itself? We see nothing in the workplace this week which gives anyone joy; the sole product pitch was Joan and Peggy's efforts to bring Topaz hosiery into the Age of L'eggs, which was met with even more boorishness and sexism than usual for the show.

So check your answering service for messages, put down the golf clubs, and join me at the diner counter, under the orange squiggle.

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A demonstrator in favor of the Affordable Care Act walks with a sign in front of the Supreme Court in Washington March 4, 2015. The U.S. Supreme Court will weigh a second major case, King v. Burwell, targeting President Barack Obama's healthcare law on We
"This is a straightforward case of statutory construction where the plain language of the statute dictates the result," began the counsel for the anti-ACA plaintiffs today, but nothing, nothing is that simple.

The case turns, as Justice Scalia mused, on the reconciling the difference between the statute Congress intended, and the one which it enacted, and whether an obscure four-word phrase should be given the power to blow the whole thing up. "Is it not the case," he asked, "that if the only reasonable interpretation of a particular provision produces disastrous consequences in the rest of the statute, it nonetheless means what it says. Is that true or not?"

Hopefully, the answer is "not." Indeed, the most likely outcome from today's oral argument in King v. Burwell, as my fellow analysts agree, is that Justice Kennedy will provide a fifth vote (and possibly the Chief a sixth) for upholding the ACA subsidies—but doing so through the employment of a legal doctrine which liberals generally detest, the idea the federal government shouldn't have too much power in coercing the sovereign states. As Kennedy noted to the plaintiffs' lawyer:

Let me say that from the standpoint of the dynamics of Federalism, it does seem to me that there is something very powerful to the point that if your argument is accepted, the States are being told either create your own Exchange, or we'll send your insurance market into a death spiral. We'll have people pay mandated taxes which will not get any credit on -- on the subsidies. The cost of insurance will be sky-high, but this is not coercion. It seems to me that under your argument, perhaps you will prevail in the plain words of the statute, there's a serious constitutional problem if we adopt your argument.
How we avoid that problem, below the orange gnocchi.
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Wed Feb 25, 2015 at 09:45 AM PST

A fishy Supreme Court decision

by Adam B

Commercial fisherman John Yates got let off the hook by the Supreme Court of the United States today. Caught by Officer John Jones of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in the Gulf of Mexico harvesting undersized red groupers in federal waters, Yates ordered a crew member of the Miss Katie to toss the suspect catch into the sea. Yates was charged—not with violation of some federal fishing law, but with violating a provision of the post-Enron Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which provides:
Whoever knowingly alters, destroys, mutilates, conceals, covers up, falsifies, or makes a false entry in any record, document, or tangible object with the intent to impede, obstruct, or influence the investigation or proper administration of any matter within the jurisdiction of any department or agency of the United States or any case filed under title 11, or in relation to or contemplation of any such matter or case, shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both.
"A fish is a tangible object," prosecutors argued. "Oh, come on, that's not what SarbOx was about—it's about financial records," Yates' attorneys responded.

In a 5-4 decision this morning, the Supreme Court agreed with Yates that this application of SarbOx was one tale too far, and dismissed the charge.  

Head below the fold for one of the more unusual court lineups you'll see, and the first time that Donald Rumsfeld and Dr. Seuss were quoted in the same case.

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North Carolina GOP Senate Leader Phil Berger
North Carolina Republican Senate Leader Phil Berger
First they try to make it harder to vote, while also manipulating the map to ensure that Democrats couldn't cast meaningful votes. We've seen this playbook before.

But this? This takes Republicans' war on democracy to a new level:

After passing laws imposing new conditions on abortions and elections, taking away teacher tenure and providing vouchers for private school tuition, Republican state legislators have seen those policies stymied in state and federal courtrooms.

So they have passed another law, this one making those kinds of lawsuits less likely to succeed when filed in state court. Beginning in September, all constitutional challenges to laws will be heard by three-judge trial court panels appointed by the chief justice of the state Supreme Court.

The move takes those cases out of the hands of individual Superior Court judges and sends them to be heard in Wake County, where the panels of judges from across the state will assemble when needed....

“It had always bugged me that a local judge, maybe not even elected, could just stop in its tracks an entire state law that had been approved by both bodies and signed by the governor,” said [Francis X. De Luca, a longtime Republican political consultant].

Yes, that's right: they're going after the courts, and trying to gut the fundamental power of judicial review—the ability of judges to declare laws unconstitutional. As the Charlotte Observer explains:
[T]his new law is judge shopping to the extreme: Challenges to state law will now leap straight to a panel selected by the Republican judges who control the state Supreme Court.

The North Carolina State Bar and the N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts oppose the provision, which is the first of its kind in the country. There’s a reason for that: The law deprives plaintiffs the full appeals process they’re entitled to. That includes Superior Court judges issuing stays on legislation being implemented until matters are legally settled.

All of which means that this law, too, can be added to the list of constitutionally flawed measures passed by N.C. Republicans in recent sessions. This year alone, federal judges struck down an N.C. law that would allow a “Choose Life” license plate, but not a pro-choice plate, as well as a provision in an N.C. law that required doctors to narrate ultrasound images for women seeking abortions.

Also this year, Superior Court Judge Howard Manning rebuked legislators for an “unlawful taking” of Asheville’s water system, and Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood had enough concerns with the legislature’s school voucher plan that he temporarily blocked it....

We’re not sure why Republicans continue to hold their hands over the legal flame like this. It could be that controlling the legislature and governor’s mansion has left them with the illusion that no one, not even judges, should be able to tell them no.

No other state has tried something like this kind of all-out assault on judges. Yet.
Winners and New Champions: Shirt Pleat (DLCC)
Oh, we've had protests before, and costumes, and chants and merriment, but this year's Netroots Nation Chaiman's Pub Quiz featured two elements we've never seen before, and which I will strive to bring back (1) singing, and (2) live tiebreaker questions.

On the first, see, I'm a showtunes fan. My daughters are too. And there's nothing quite like a good singalong. When in Motown, one has to show some respect to the history, which led to the second round of questions here, for which Paul Hogarth was quite generous in leading the room in singing the answers, as well as a 7 song afterparty thereafter.

As for that tiebreaker: well, there are no two teams with a more storied tradition and rivalry in our tournament than the DK staff (Sea Org) and the Calitics crew, this year competing as Six Californias. When it turned out that they were tied for third place, well, we couldn't just have them share the box of goodies, so ...
David Dayen v. Arjun Jaikumar. The judges await the the battle.
[Actually, we had them go back-and-forth naming members of Michigan's Congressional delegation. Arjun Jaikumar outlasted David Dayen with the 11th of 14 members named.]

In addition, awards were presented in the following categories:

Best Cheer:    Mic Check!
Best Costume:    Eau de troit
Best Ruminant Signs:    Moar Goatz
Best Team Name:    It Is Our Sincerely Held Religious Belief That Pub Quiz Team Names Are An Abortifacient, Therefore We Object To Completing This Form
Best Burmese Flag:    Shock & Awesome & The Pythons
Best Penmanship:    Sea Org
Laura Packard and the #ReadyForBonin team share some second-place Orange Faygo
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Wed Jul 23, 2014 at 11:09 AM PDT

NN15: Please join us in Arizona

by Adam B

A beautiful golden sunset over the city lights of downtown Phoenix with a silhouette of a blooming Saguaro cactus in the foreground.
I want to talk to you about how energized I was from this past week in Detroit, from seeing Vice President Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Rev. William Barber, and most importantly so many of you at Netroots Nation.

I want to talk to you about how we're going to keep up the pressure to end the Detroit water shutoffs, because water is a basic human rights and we can make a difference. We may have physically left Detroit, but their struggle is our struggle, too.

And I want to talk about Pub Quiz. OMG, having a room filled with hundreds of friends singing Motown hits and showtunes (as answers to trivia questions) just about made my year.

But I can't, yet. Because I need to talk to you about Phoenix, first.

As many of you know, Markos announced on Saturday that he would not be attending or sponsoring Netroots Nation in 2015, and that the site's staff will not be promoting the event. His reasons are sincere, and you may find them persuasive.

So let me tell you, as chairman of the board of directors of Netroots Nation, why in April 2013 I supported our staff's recommendation to bring our conference to Phoenix, and why we hope you will choose to join us there.  

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