It’ll never work.

I used to work, at a couple layers of remove, for a man who believed, deeply, in bipartisanship. All of our problems could be solved, he contended, if we could just sit down at the Table of Brotherhood, square in the middle of the Marketplace of Ideas, and reason together over our shared situation. He’s an old man now, and I doubt he’s changed his mind at all, although maybe it’s dawned on him that, as scores of others have pointed out, that we no longer have two parties dealing in good faith, but OMG we’ve been over this so many times I’m already bored.

Anyway, I thought of him when I read this story in Washington Monthly, which is about how the Biden administration is sending money intended for cities directly to the cities themselves, not going through the usual block-grant process, in place since the Nixon administration. Why? Because that’s how red-state governors like to punish blue cities:

When Hurricane Harvey struck Houston in 2017, city lawmakers expected the state to pass along the more than $1 billion Congress had appropriated for emergency aid. Instead, they received nothing: The entire package was doled out to largely white, inland communities less affected by the storm. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner accused Abbott of a “money grab.” The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development later found that the stunt put Texas in violation of the Civil Rights Act. “Let me just tell you, that remains a sore spot,” Turner recently told me.

Of course, until fairly recently, the block-grant system worked passably well. I don’t want to over quote from what is a very readable story (for such a nerdy one), but this stood out to me:

Then, as now, tensions existed between urban and rural interests over spending and other decisions. For instance, politicians representing cities wanted funding for projects like mass transit, whereas those from more rural areas wanted money spent on roads. But back in the 1970s—indeed, for most of U.S. history—disagreements between rural and urban interests weren’t necessarily partisan in nature. Rural lawmakers (depending on the state) were as likely to be Democrats as Republicans, and spending battles typically involved bipartisan dealmaking—for instance, urban Democrats aligning with suburban lawmakers, who were largely Republicans, to get money for metro-wide bus service.

Only in the past 20 years, as the parties sorted more starkly geographically—with metro areas becoming overwhelmingly blue, and rural and exurban areas becoming overwhelmingly Republican—have the battles over the funding of local communities become reliably partisan and ideological. In 2011, for example, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, the Ron DeSantis of that era, signed legislation preempting the ability of local governments to mandate that private businesses in their jurisdictions offer paid sick leave, as Milwaukee had done. Soon after that, 15 more states passed similar statutes. In 2012, Barack Obama took 69 percent of the vote in cities with more than 500,000 residents while winning just 22 percent of total counties, the lowest share in history. Meanwhile, the Republican Party was methodically consolidating power over state governments: Between 2010 and 2013, the number of states with a Republican ruling trifecta jumped from nine to 25, their largest state lawmaking majority since the 1920s. Governors and attorneys general launched an endless barrage of lawsuits against Obama’s government.

This, more than anything else, is what drives me nuts about today’s GOP: They still contend that they are the party of the smallest government, the most local government, until they aren’t. When Washtenaw County, home of Ann Arbor, proposed banning or otherwise discouraging the use of plastic grocery bags — the kind that end of blowing in the breeze and getting tangled in tree branches, not the sturdier multi-use ones I tote to Kroger — the Michigan legislature passed a law forbidding such local ordinances, because Meijer and other representatives of Big Grocery kicked about it. Here’s the story on what’s happening in Texas:

Over (Gov. Greg Abbott’s) two-plus terms, he and his GOP-controlled legislature have overridden the ability of local governments in Texas to, among other things, mandate paid sick leave, require COVID-19 vaccines for workers, expand voting options, and regulate oil and gas drilling within their own borders.

You can’t sit down in the marketplace of ideas with people like that. You can only burn them to the ground. Fortunately, they’re doing a pretty good job of lighting their own fires.

But they’re still dangerous. In the cheering over Janet Protasiewicz’ victory, one dark detail was overlooked, and thanks to my cheesehead friend for pointing it out. North shore Milwaukee voters elected a Republican to the state senate, giving them a supermajority there, and guess what?

The Wisconsin Constitution allows lawmakers to remove state officials “for corrupt conduct in office, or for crimes and misdemeanors,” but Knodl has said he would consider launching impeachment proceedings for criminal justice officials “who have failed” at their jobs.

Knodl said he would support invoking the that power against Janet Protasiewicz, the Milwaukee County Circuit Court judge who won a race for a vacant seat on the state Supreme Court. Knodl did not immediately say he would consider voting in favor of impeaching Protasiewicz if she is elected.

State law allows a two-thirds majority in the state Senate to hold impeachment trials for state officials accused of corruption or crimes and misdemeanors if a majority of Assembly members vote to introduce impeachment articles, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Reference Bureau.

Yes, we could see an impeachment of a justice who hasn’t even assumed her office yet.

So that’s where we are. I’m reminded of a line from the Doors: They got the guns but we got the numbers. Let’s just hope we don’t have to call upon Shakespeare by the end of this: Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more, Or close the wall up with our English dead. I’d rather be a modest-living expat in some European capital than have to fight for my own country.

Posted at 11:54 am in Current events |

48 responses to “It’ll never work.”

  1. Deborah said on April 6, 2023 at 1:42 pm

    So depressing. Minority rule, how are we going to get out of this? It’s simply immoral.

    How do you pronounce Protasiewicz? Is it Pro-ta-say-eh-witz?

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  2. LAMary said on April 6, 2023 at 1:57 pm

    I saw trump’s poste arraignment rant yesterday. He mentioned the other investigations going on and referred to ““Lunatic Jack Smith” and then added, “I wonder what his name was before the change.” What a POS this guy is and why do so many of my fellow Americans think he’s going to save the country. That mention of Jack Smith was obnoxiousness squared. I am counting on the State of Georgia to take this monster down. I doubt NYC is going to manage it.

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  3. FDChief said on April 6, 2023 at 2:18 pm

    “I’d rather be a modest-living expat in some European capital than have to fight for my own country.”

    “Listen, and understand. The Terminator is out there. It can’t be bargained with, it can’t be reasoned with, it doesn’t feel pity or remorse or fear, and it absolutely will not stop…EVER, until you are dead!”

    The GQP are living that. Now. Today. Tomorrow. Forever. We, those of us who refuse to accept the white plutocratic theocracy they want, have to choose. I’m sorry, but that’s it. That’s the choice; flee, fight the Republicans on your feet, or bend the knee…and die on your knees.

    And most of us cannot afford – or wish – to flee.

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  4. Cheez Whiz said on April 6, 2023 at 2:33 pm

    As i understand it, cities largely exist at the sufferage of the state, they are chartered into existence by the state in the first place, so state government has a lot of leeway in screwing them over.

    The Republican Party that existed before say, Gingrich, is dead as a door nail. What changed is that as a consequence of Trump taking control of their base, the “intellectual” foundations of the Party became irrelevant. Those ideas have proved to have no sway over their voters, so the Party is all-in on culture war grievance as their only lever to dislodge Trump. Only subscribers to the NYT or less-insane billionaires care what Brooks or Douthat have to say, let alone think tanks like the Heritage Foundation. Any small-government claptrap you may hear is just the faint sound of old-school Republicans screaming into the void.

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  5. Sherri said on April 6, 2023 at 3:47 pm

    So, Clarence and Gianni Thomas routinely take fancy vacays on the dime of a big Republican donor, but that’s not who he really is, oh no:

    In Thomas’ public appearances over the years, he has presented himself as an everyman with modest tastes.

    “I don’t have any problem with going to Europe, but I prefer the United States, and I prefer seeing the regular parts of the United States,” Thomas said in a recent interview for a documentary about his life, which Crow helped finance.

    “I prefer the RV parks. I prefer the Walmart parking lots to the beaches and things like that. There’s something normal to me about it,” Thomas said. “I come from regular stock, and I prefer that — I prefer being around that.”

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  6. FDChief said on April 6, 2023 at 4:34 pm

    Clarence Thomas…simple person, person of the earth, the common clay of the New West. You know…

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  7. Sherri said on April 6, 2023 at 4:50 pm

    A friend of mine doubts that Thomas would vote to overturn Loving. I don’t think he’d hesitate, even though he’s in an interracial marriage. Just like he can take a $500k vacation while claiming that he prefers RV parks.

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  8. Jeff Borden said on April 6, 2023 at 6:00 pm

    Conservatism has always been a mean, ugly view of the world leavened on occasion by “happy warriors” like St. Ronald of Reagan. But it’s always been about keeping the little guy down, fluffing the balls of the rich and powerful and reminding people of color, immigrants and other “lesser” ‘Muricans they are nothing but shit. The economics of conservatism and all that “trickle down” baloney have been so thoroughly disproven no one seriously believes it beyond the Grover Norquists of the world.

    It strikes me we’re in a demographic race.

    Adherence to religion is in steep decline. Acceptance of those unlike ourselves is in ascension especially among younger generations. Younger people aren’t quite so sure capitalism is the road to riches older generations believed. Gay marriage, in vitro fertilization, abortion. . .all are welcomed by the young. Rural areas are emptying out faster than population can be replaced.

    Against this backdrop, we see our right-wing overlords building the defenses they hope will withstand the rising tide of change they hate. Will they be able to build an effective barrier that thwarts upcoming generations who loathe much of what the wing nuts love? Will the strength of that wave be enough to breach the barriers and swamp the mole people? I wish I knew, but until then, any state cursed with one-party QOP rule is fucked.

    I’m scared time will run out.

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  9. 4dbirds said on April 6, 2023 at 6:15 pm

    For the past 40 years the two attitudes that have fascinated me were, first the number of people I served with, in the army, who were perfectly contented with their lives as long as they could make their car payments. There was usually no mortgage/rent issues as the military provided either housing or an allowance for that. No, politics, civil rights, equal rights, the environment or even their asshole sergeant didn’t bother them as long as they could have their car or truck. I belonged, thanks to my parents constant harping to the group of people who always wanted more. Not just for me but everyone. I think this is where a lot of GQP people fall, in the if I make my house and car payment I don’t want anyone overturning the apple cart. The second group of people I couldn’t wrap my head around were the younger women who claimed they would never be feminists and didn’t get it. They weren’t man haters like those of us who actually fought for women’s rights. Now, many of them are finding out the things they took for granted are being taken away. Now they’re fired up and voting. I’m glad they are but doesn’t anyone read or study history? Nothing is given to you if you’re not part of the ruling group. You don’t keep it either if you don’t pay attention. I had a classmate die of sepsis due to an illegal, botched abortion. Now, that was not public knowledge, but word always gets out. I had sepsis just before covid and it is a dangerous and painful condition. I wonder how long she suffered before she told her parents. Although we were only passing acquaintances, I still remember her. Man hater? Naw. As the sister, wife and mother of men, how can I hate them. I just hate the patriarchy. Get and stay mad young women.

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  10. David C said on April 6, 2023 at 6:15 pm

    I can pronounce Pro-Tuh-Say-Witz now because I saw all the ads. Don’t ask me to spell it though. She’ll be Judge, sorry, Justice Janet. Sounds good. The loudmouth who barely won his seat in the Senate may say he’ll impeach everyone with a (D) behind their name, but they won’t. The suburban WOW (Waukesha, Ozaukee, and Washington) counties around Milwaukee County are trending blue. All of the Fox Valley counties, where I live went, for Judge Janet. They considered those areas theirs and it’s breaking down. The Rs know their fun is almost over and they’re too lazy to do it anyway. They’d rather be back home running their small businesses like the small minded businessmen they are and collecting their pay for doing nothing. They don’t want to spend the time in the People’s Republic of Madison that it would require.

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  11. Suzanne said on April 6, 2023 at 6:23 pm

    Clarence: “I come from regular stock, and I prefer that — I prefer being around that.”
    He’s gonna throw his wife under the bus, isn’t he? It’ll be Ginny’s fault that they went on these fancy vacations, he will claim she’s the one who liked it & goaded him into it. Aw, shucks, after all, he’s just a simple country bumpkin trying to keep the old ball & chain happy.

    As for Loving, no doubt he would vote to overturn and them be surprised it affects him personally. “Hey, guys! Leave me alone. I’m one of the good ones!”

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  12. Jeff Borden said on April 6, 2023 at 7:19 pm

    One of my favorite political commentators Charles Pierce, asks a question that intrigues me: Is our country more cruel or stupid?

    What say you?

    I’d vote stupid, but it’s really a toss-up.

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  13. LAMary said on April 6, 2023 at 7:39 pm

    I vote stupid too.

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  14. David C said on April 6, 2023 at 7:58 pm

    Equal measures.

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  15. FDChief said on April 6, 2023 at 8:34 pm

    Porque no los dos?

    Actually, I’d vote for “deluded”, at least for the bulk of the GQP. The plutocrats who own them are greedy and cruel, some of the saddest are cruel and stupid, but the vast majority of them are simply kidding themselves.

    They want the cruel to be cruel…to “them”, without realizing that to those oligarch the cletuses are “them”, too. They think the leopards won’t eat THEIR faces.

    Like the filthy tattered Hitlerjugend clutching his panzerfaust as the Red Army blasts its way towards them, they will always just believe harder that their beloved Fuhrer has a brilliant plan.

    I’d be fine with that…except the sonsofbitches are gonna drag us down with them. They’re gonna be the shock troops, the strikebreakers and Pinkertons of the New Gilded Age.

    If we’re to avoid that fate, they MUST be destroyed.

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  16. brettvk said on April 6, 2023 at 8:37 pm

    I have a younger brother who’s quite a bit better off than I am, and he’s decided to leave Texas to live, and possibly seek citizenship, in Spain. He was putting off his plans until after our remaining parent, our mother, dies, but she’s in good shape for a nonagenarian and the US is not. I can’t blame him for the decision but I’m hoping he’s more pessimistic than prophetic.

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  17. Deborah said on April 6, 2023 at 8:40 pm

    I say stupid, my husband says cruel.

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  18. Jeff Gill said on April 6, 2023 at 9:33 pm

    Going with selfish.

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  19. Sherri said on April 6, 2023 at 10:24 pm

    With the TN legislature voting to expel two members for the temerity to peacefully protest, I think I’m going to have to go with cruel.

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  20. Dexter Friend said on April 7, 2023 at 12:19 am

    Right, Jeff B. … I get exasperated when former repugg Joe Scarborough, who does a marvelous job these days trashing Trump for 4 hours a day (when he shows up for work anyway), continually praises Reagan, he of the great morning for America crapola, while Mike Barnicle and Michael Beschloss and Jon Meacham join in on Reagan-love.
    I have stated here before the vitriol I have for Reagan’s legacy and the sheer hatred I and my working class cadre had for that President.
    Thursday, 90% of MSNBC coverage was about the Tennessee political system, how Republicans expelled 2 Democratic Party African Americans from state offices and let a white woman keep her job over a gun-control issue.

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  21. FDChief said on April 7, 2023 at 1:23 am

    Dahlia Lithwick being brilliant as usual:

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  22. diane said on April 7, 2023 at 2:17 am

    Thank you FDChief. That was more than worth the click.

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  23. alex said on April 7, 2023 at 7:25 am


    I once worked with a young woman who eschewed feminism. She was a Rush Limbaugh fan and loved to drop the term “feminazi” at every opportunity and talked wacko politics nonstop. She also opened up about the fact that she was bipolar and married to a physical abuser did a lot of TMI-ing that struck me as kind of a cry for help. I remember driving her home from work one day when her car wouldn’t start but she had me drop her off out of view of her home because she was afraid her husband would beat her.

    Eventually she lost her job over no-showing too much because of problems at home.

    Ever since then I’ve always wondered, whenever encountering a young woman who seems to endorse misogyny, whether she’s a victim of domestic abuse.

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  24. FDChief said on April 7, 2023 at 8:39 am

    Alex: every good extermination camp needs kapos, tho, right?

    The whole sorry tale of the non-rich voting Republican is that woman. What good does it do some forklift operator to hate drag queens instead of get single-payer? To have their kid be free of learning about Rosa Parks instead of a shooting-free high school?

    The “policies” of the GQP – to the extent they have any – are “More money for me. Fuck you.” And the Kochs and Thiels and Elmos know perfectly well that if they let the rubes see the con they’d be politically deader than the Whigs.

    So the feed this red meat to these clucks, who’re mean, stupid, and delusional in thinking that somehow they’ll benefit because the oligarchs will treat the dark and the queer worse.

    And they do benefit – in that they DO feel good knowing that somewhere some poor schmuck is getting it worse and harder than they are.

    That’s sick and wrong. But that’s where they’re coming from.

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  25. Jeff Borden said on April 7, 2023 at 11:28 am

    Whooooeeeee. Is Clarence Thomas rotten to the core or what? He’s accepted private jet rides, cruises on mega-yachts and vacations at expensive resorts from a QOP gazillionaire for decades without ever revealing it as required by law. Our Supreme Court is a bad joke. . .sleazebags like Beer Bong Brett, closet witch hunters like Strip Search Sammy, would-be handmaidens like Amy Coney Gilead. . .presided over by the weakest and most feckless chief justice since Roger Taney. Old Clarence was just the first of many. . .

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  26. Sherri said on April 7, 2023 at 11:43 am

    At least the TN legislature gave us all a real life lesson in Critical Race Theory, by expelling the two black legislators and not the white legislator for the same offense. And I thought they didn’t want their children exposed to it!

    The billionaire who funds Clarence Thomas has statues of former dictators in his backyard. You can’t make this shit up.

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  27. Deborah said on April 7, 2023 at 1:57 pm

    Sherri is right, it’s for real

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  28. susan said on April 7, 2023 at 2:57 pm

    Deborah, I am unable to read NYT’s articles, probably because I bad-mouth them so much. What does it say?

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  29. said on April 7, 2023 at 3:05 pm


    I would love to know what it say also since I can’t access because I fired the NYTs after they fired Lauren Wolfe.

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  30. Dave said on April 7, 2023 at 4:07 pm

    Susan, I haven’t read the NYT article but I found another article about him in the Dallas newspaper site. He has a collection of statues from countries formerly ruled by dictators that he obtained when these dictators fell. That article is here:

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  31. Sherri said on April 7, 2023 at 4:34 pm

    Clarence Thomas said that he was advised that he didn’t have to report his gifts from his good buddy Harlan Crow. However, he used to report them, until the LATimes wrote an article about them in 2004. Then, he stopped reporting them, but kept accepting them.

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  32. Jenine said on April 7, 2023 at 4:47 pm

    Thanks Dave, I liked the ’14 Dallas News article. We’ve been doing a re-watch of Justified which includes a family of ne’er-do-wells named Crowe who live in Harlan county. So that’s what his name reminds me of.

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  33. Sherri said on April 7, 2023 at 4:52 pm

    Always read Dahlia.

    Jenine, I had the same reaction. In my head, Harlan Crow is Dewey Crow’s second cousin once-removed, from the branch of the family who got out of Harlan County.

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  34. Jim said on April 7, 2023 at 5:23 pm

    Jeff G: Newark mounds went national!

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  35. Sherri said on April 7, 2023 at 6:35 pm

    Bipartisanship has never really been attempted in a multiracial, pluralistic world. It was only effective in a world where a bunch of white men sat around that Table of Brotherhood to discuss their ideas about how the world should work for everyone else. Women and people of color were not welcome at the Table of Brotherhood, and their ideas were for the most part, dismissed as frivolous and unimportant.

    The attempt to expand that table, to allow other voices besides the white men traditionally accepted at that table, is fundamentally what is behind the total collapse of bipartisanship that we see today.

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  36. Deborah said on April 7, 2023 at 7:51 pm

    Harlan Crow is the son of Fred Trammell Crow, who started a real estate company in Dallas called Trammell Crow. When my husband worked at an architecture firm in Dallas and Houston he worked with that company, they were typical smarmy developers, they went bankrupt at some point during the Reagan recession. After that the son, Harlan took over. My husband remembers Harlan as being a good looking young man, but now he looks like the fat cat that he is.

    I know there’s a way you can gift a link for people to be able to read an article in the NYT, I’ll have to figure out how to do that.

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  37. linda said on April 7, 2023 at 8:08 pm

    Block grants have been a slush fund for right wing state governments for a long time, ever since the welfare “reforms” of the 1990s, supported by gullible centrist Dems. The abuses of Mississippi in turning poverty block grants into volleyball stadiums was just the worst. For years, the GOP used them to fund fake “pregnancy crisis” centers and private college scholarships. In the last few years, Ohio had the balls to demand a mass transit grant AND not use it for mass transit. They sued and lost.

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  38. Sherri said on April 7, 2023 at 8:23 pm

    One of the conservatives’ favorite judge is federal district judge Matthew Kaczmaryk, of Amarillo. He’s an ultra right wing Trump appointee and the only judge in his district. So, when conservatives file a lawsuit in his district, they’re pretty much guaranteed to get him as the judge in the case. In some states, judges rotate to cover single state districts, but not in Texas. Which is why so many high profile cases, like the mifepristone case, get filed in Amarillo.

    Kaczmaryk today suspended FDA approval of mifepristone; fortunately, for now, a federal district judge in Eastern Washington ruled that the FDA must retain access at virtually the same time. Unless Kaczmaryk is overturned on appeal by the circuit, this means a circuit split and a likely SCOTUS case.

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  39. Sherri said on April 8, 2023 at 12:22 am

    More on the dueling mifepristone cases, and just how insane Kaczmaryk’s opinion is:

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  40. Dexter Friend said on April 8, 2023 at 2:27 am

    I have totally joined the no-confidence brigade that realize SCOTUS is now the enemy of the people. Jane Mayer just finalized it.
    Impeach Clarence Thomas.
    How can these fuckers break all these laws and just say they didn’t break any laws?

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  41. LAMary said on April 8, 2023 at 11:32 am

    Trammel Crow has a pretty big presence in SoCal too. Newport Beach is full of Trammel Crow developments.

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  42. Deborah said on April 8, 2023 at 1:21 pm

    I can’t find any info about protests anywhere about the Judge in Texas’s decision. I got a text that there would be one on April 15, asking for money and then no locations. Anybody know anything about protests?

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  43. Sherri said on April 8, 2023 at 3:13 pm

    Dahlia is on fire this week. Amicus is great, with Sherrilyn Ifill and Steve Vladeck as guests.

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  44. Sherri said on April 8, 2023 at 5:18 pm

    A ghost town of McCastles. Really.

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  45. Deborah said on April 9, 2023 at 11:23 am

    Wordle was maddening today, I finally got it in 6 but that’s not a real word.

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  46. Julie Robinson said on April 9, 2023 at 1:56 pm

    Happy Easter to those who celebrate, and a good day to everyone else. We’ve just sent one crew home and are waiting on the second, as well as a delectable cheesecake.

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  47. Sherri said on April 9, 2023 at 4:44 pm

    So completely predictable to see people like Jonah Goldberg and David French leaping to the defense of Harlan Crow, collector of Nazi memorabilia and dictator statues.

    “Really, it never bothered me once when I was in his library to see the Hitler painting right there next to the Norman Rockwell. Of course Harlan Crow isn’t a Nazi!”

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  48. Suzanne said on April 9, 2023 at 8:41 pm

    David French is a frustrating guy. He writes some really insightful pieces about how far off the rails conservatives have become but he just can’t get to the point of noticing that that’s a feature not a bug in the conservative system. He comes close but just can’t do it. Blinders. He has big blinders on but he can’t grasp that.

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