The fact of the matter is no country, not Germany, not France, would voluntarily put up with the sort of “adjustment” that has been forced on Greece, for the good reason that gratuitous great depressions are not actually helpful to an economy. Creditors have had five years to mismanage Greece and they’ve done a startlingly effective job. Syriza has had five months to object. However much you may dislike their negotiating style, however little you think of their competence, Greece’s catastrophe was not Syriza’s work. If creditors respond to Syriza’s “intransigence” with maneuvers that cause yet more devastation, that will be on the creditors. Blaming victims for having insufficiently perfect leaders is standard fare for apologists of predation. Unfortunately, understanding this may be of little comfort to the disemboweled prey.
Europe’s creditors are behaving exactly as one might naively predict private creditors would behave, seeking to get as much blood from the stone as quickly as possible, indifferent to the cost in longer-term growth. And that, in fact, is a puzzle! Greece’s creditors are not nervous lenders panicked over their own financial situation, but public sector institutions representing primarily governments that are in no financial distress at all. They really shouldn’t be behaving like this.
I think the explanation is quite simple, though. Having recast a crisis caused by a combustible mix of regulatory failure and elite venality into a morality play about profligate Greeks who must be punished, Eurocrats are now engaged in what might be described as “loan-shark theater”. They are putting on a show for the electorates they inflamed in order to preserve their own prestige. The show must go on.
Throughout the crisis, European elites have faced a simple choice: Acknowledge and explain to electorates their own mistakes, which do not line up along national borders of virtue and vice, or revert to a much older playbook and manufacture scapegoats.
Just when you thought that the Greece saga had run out of plot twists, another one emerged on Thursday—and it was an important one. A few days before a referendum that will probably decide the fate of Greece’s Syriza government, one of the country’s creditors, the International Monetary Fund, came out and acknowledged that the stricken country is unlikely to recover until a good portion of its huge debt load is wiped out.
Echoing the argument that Yanis Varoufakis, Greece’s controversial finance minister, has been making for months, the I.M.F. published an internal analysis that described Greece’s debt dynamics as “unsustainable.” At a minimum, the analysis said, the maturity dates of Greece’s loans, which total more than three hundred billion euros, “will need to be extended significantly.” And if Greece doesn’t push through all of the structural and fiscal reforms that the Fund believes are necessary, “haircuts on debt will become necessary.” (A “haircut” is the financial term for reducing the face value of outstanding debt. If you owned a $1,000 bond and it was subjected to a haircut of ten per cent, it would entitle you to collect just $900 when it became due.)
I should stress that these conclusions weren’t based on the assumption that Syriza, or any future Greek government, would fail to carry through the policy reforms that its creditors are calling for, which include a relaxation of labor laws and a cut in pensions. To the contrary, the I.M.F’s analysis assumes that Greece accepts and meets the terms of the latest offer from its creditors, which the Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, rejected last weekend. This deal would involve the Greek government running a primary budget surplus of one per cent of G.D.P. this year, two per cent in 2016, three per cent in 2017, and 3.5 per cent thereafter. Even if this were to happen, and the Greek economy were to expand at a rate of 1.5 per cent annually, a fifty-per-cent improvement on its historical trend, Greece’s debts are so large that “further concessions are necessary for debt sustainability,” the report says.
One option the report considers involves extending the terms of Greece’s loans from twenty years to forty years, and doubling, from ten to twenty years, the grace period during which it doesn’t have to make any principal repayments. This, in itself, would amount to a significant hit to creditors. But what if the best Greece can manage over the long haul is to run a primary surplus of 2.5 per cent (rather than the 3.5 per cent called for in the latest offer), which seems a bit more realistic—and the economy grows in line with the historical trend? Then, the report concludes, in addition to doubling the grace period for principal repayments and extending the maturities on Greece’s loans, the country’s creditors would have to write off more than fifty billion euros’ worth of debts.
From the early days of our nation, we have been debating what constitutes a “Real American.” If one were to define a real American as a person indigenous to the continent we know as North America, one would certainly have to say that the only Real Americans are native Americans. But since the United States as we know it was formed by the offspring of British colonialists and religious migrants who wanted the colony for themselves, we can fairly say that from the beginning that has never been an accurate definition, even though it probably should have been. (Some people have even described the original “nativists” as the Indians, which I think is wrong. They were defending their own lands against invasion, which isn’t the same thing at all.)
Needless to say the most repressed immigrants in America have always been the descendants of African slaves. They didn’t ask to come here and they certainly didn’t ask to be slaves. But their ancestors were here long before most of the rest of us and their claim to being Real Americans could not stronger. Of course nativists usually don’t see it that way, simply because most nativists are also racists. All you have to do is look at the nonsensical conspiracy theory about the first African American president being a “foreigner”to see how mixed up race and ethnicity are with those folks.
Be that as it may, going all the way back to the beginning, this country has been a nation of immigrants from all over the world. And while we have, at various times and in many different ways, celebrated that fact, we have also been a xenophobic society from the get-go. In the 19th century, the original Americans were upset about Irish catholic immigration. There was fighting in the street over that one for many decades. And soon there was hatred towards German immigrants (the single largest ethnic sub-group in America, by the way) with complaints about their alleged unwillingness to assimilate properly and their habits of speaking their mother tongue, sending their kids to their own schools, and attending their German church (Lutheran, of course). In the 1890s, a Wisconsin Governor said:
“We must fight alienism and selfish ecclesiasticism…. The parents, the pastors and the church have entered into a conspiracy to darken the understanding of the children, who are denied by cupidity and bigotry the privilege of even the free schools of the state.”
Those Germans just refused to assimilate. And look what’s happened. They’re everywhere.
You don’t even want to think about the hatred toward the Chinese. It was one thing to import them by the thousands to do the heavy scut work of building railroads and the like, quite an other to consider them Real Americans. The Irish Americans who had been the object of xenophobic rage in earlier decades were particularly upset by the Chinese, and they led the way to the Chinese exclusion act in 1882, the first of America’s official federal immigration containment programs.
In the 20th century, all those previously considered unworthy (except the Chinese, of course) were suddenly okay, as a huge influx of immigrants from southern and eastern Europe decided to come to the land of opportunity. The government went to work to ensure that this didn’t get out of hand. Senator Henry Cabot Lodge proposed literacy tests, making the intention very clear:
It is found, in the first place, that the illiteracy test will bear most heavily upon the Italians, Russians, Poles, Hungarians, Greeks, and Asiatics, and lightly, or not at all, upon English-speaking emigrants, or Germans, Scandinavians, and French. In other words, the races most affected by the illiteracy test are those whose emigration to this country has begun within the last twenty years and swelled rapidly to enormous proportions, races with which the English speaking people have never hitherto assimilated, and who are most alien to the great body of the people of the United States.
You can see that the Irish, being English speaking, were no longer persona non grata, although nobody wanted to mention their name. (They were mostly Catholic, which was still a bit of sticking point.) Likewise the Germans. But the rest of the world was simply not worthy of our pure-blooded English-German-Irish-French-Scandinavian American stock.
But many of those other people made it though anyway — the country is full of descendants of all of those nationalities. And today, many of those descendants (who we call “Real Americans” in 2015) are infuriated that people from Mexico and central America want to come to the promised land and pollute our purebred English-German-Irish-French-Italian-Russian-Polish-Hungarian-Greek-Japanese-Chinese-Vietnamese-Philipino-etc American stock. They aren’t too happy about the Middle eastern contingent either. Indeed, there are still many immigrants which certain shrill nativists would like to exclude:
No attribute is more important in the minds of Americans than being able to speak English. Nearly nine in ten (89 percent) say speaking English is an important part of being an American, while less than one in ten (9 percent) say it’s not important. There is widespread agreement on this point that crosses generational, political, and religious lines.
A majority (58 percent) of the country also say being born in the U.S. is an important part of being “truly” American, while 40 percent say it’s not important. This viewpoint is relatively consistent across political party, religion, and race—notably, equal numbers of both Democrats (62 percent) and Republicans (62 percent) say that this is important for being “truly” American.
But it’s not quite as bad as it looks:
Despite the importance Americans place on speaking English and being born in the U.S., a recent PRRI/RNS survey found that a majority (54 percent) believe the growing number of newcomers from other countries strengthens American society. Only one in three (33 percent) say it threatens traditional American customs and values. Perhaps not surprisingly, there are significant political divides on this question. Republicans (47 percent) are nearly twice as likely as Democrats (25 percent) to say the growing number of immigrants is a threat to traditional values, and Democrats are 25-percentage points more likely than Republicans (64 percent vs. 39 percent, respectively) to say immigrants strengthen American society.
Among religious groups, white evangelical Protestants stand out as being the only group where a majority (53 percent) say immigrants are a threat to traditional American customs and a minority (33 percent) say they are a strength to society. The religiously unaffiliated are the least likely “religious” group to say immigrants threaten traditional customs and values—just 23 percent say they’re a threat, while 63 percent say they strengthen American society.
Really, it’s the same as it ever was. There’s always someone threatening our pure-blood, hyphenated, ethnically diverse American culture with their beer and their music and their food and their foreign sounding names. Right up until we all start eating their food, drinking their beer, listening to their music and voting for people with their foreign sounding names. Then they’re pure-blooded Americans just like the rest of us.
Americans should be immensely grateful for our immigrant culture. For all of our backwards ways with violence and racism our multi-ethnic, multi-racial, multi-cultural society is our greatest strength as we face a future that requires more global cooperation than in any time in human history. There will probably always be American “nativists” claiming that the wrong people are coming into our country. But they always lose the argument, every single time.
In addition to the 54% who are extremely proud to be an American, 27% say they are "very proud," 14% say they are "moderately proud," 4% are "only a little proud" and 1% state that they are "not at all proud."
While most Americans are proud to be an American, certain groups are especially likely to say they are extremely proud. "Extreme pride" rises for each succeeding age group, from a low of 43% among those under 30 to a high of 64% among senior citizens.
Extreme pride also varies regionally, from a high of 61% in the South to a low of 46% in the West.
Sixty-eight percent of Republicans say they are extremely proud to be an American, much higher than the 47% of Democrats who say the same. As usual, independents are in the middle, at 53%.
This is a dumb poll, I know. I think most people are "proud" of their country in some ways and not so proud in others. If they stop and think about it anyway.
Our Bill of Rights is a truly revolutionary document that really does explicate someguarantee of individual liberty (yeah, even the 2nd Amendment...) in a way that is matched by nobody else in the world. We're still arguing about what it means but it sets forth a set of principles that speak to human freedom and human rights. That's something to be proud of.
On the other hand, we violate so many of those principles what with the torture and the arbitrary executions and the inequality that as much as our ideals are bound up in that document, our reality is most often defined by our betrayal of them. The best we can say is that we're a work in progress.
There is an emotional scene at the end of the movie First Blood. Rambo, the decorated war veteran with post-traumatic stress, is breaking down.
He tells his best friend – his only friend – how since leaving the army his life has gone to hell.
He shouts, "For me, civilian life is nothin'. In the field, we had a code of honor. You watch my back, I watch yours. Back here there's nothin'."
That nothin' is what our elites are sellin'.
Oh, our leaders love them some troops in uniform. They put their hands over their hearts, get all solemn, and snap to attention when soldiers pass. They may even think they mean it. But the values they praise in the military are not the values by which they (and we) have organized an economy that no longer serves us. We serve it.
Inside the base perimeter, training instills esprit de corps. Teamwork. All for one, one for all. Self-sacrifice. We give medals for it. Leave no one behind. A code of honor.
But outside in Anytown, USA? Screw you, I've got mine. Anyone "out of uniform" is unworthy. Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps. Stop picking my pocket. Everyone for himself.
Why is that? What is that?
Inside the perimeter (so the advertising goes), it’s values and honor. Outside? Dog eat dog. Profits before people. Nothing personal, just business.
This side of the line? Leave no one behind. That side? Nothin'.
The values we laud as honorable in our military – the best America has to offer – apply inside the perimeter for the few, for the chosen. But outside? Organizing government around that same code is subversive, contemptible, and dangerous.
What is that?
How did we get from all Men are created equal and caring for the generalwelfare to this wasteland of the soul and call it virtue? Perhaps it is a carryover from a time when in America, on one side of a line the same man could be free and on the other side a slave.
President Barack Obama’s eulogy for the slain Honorable Reverend Clementa Pinckney spoke of grace:
According to the Christian tradition, grace is not earned. Grace is not merited. It’s not something we deserve. Rather, grace is the free and benevolent favor of God -- (applause) -- as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings. Grace.
But there is no United States of Grace. As much as we enjoy telling ourselves this country is uniquely blessed of God, we have constructed for ourselves and given ourselves over to an economic system where grace has no place and kinship has no worth. Those we carefully circumscribe within neat, safe boundaries. Inside the church: grace. Outside the church? Contempt for "the least of these." Inside: unearned blessings, handouts from God. Outside? Handouts breed weakness. The poor deserve being left behind.
Why is that? What is that?
This is not to suggest a union of church and state. Those who think they want it would not stand for their government or their economic system serving the least of these as their holy book recommends. Thus, the system we have constructed bears little resemblance to the ideals therein. There are too many backs we have no interest in watching, and we are too falsely proud to allow them to watch ours.
Markos Moulitsas Zúniga of Daily Kos once explained how he went into the army as a Republican and came out a Democrat. He described his time in the artillery this way:
The military is perhaps the ideal society -- we worked hard but the Army took care of us in return. All our basic needs were met -- housing, food, and medical care. It was as close to a color-blind society as I have ever seen. We looked out for one another. The Army invested in us...
The Army taught me the very values that make us progressives -- community, opportunity, and investment in people and the future. Returning to Bush Senior's America, I was increasingly disillusioned by the selfishness, lack of community, and sense of entitlement inherent in the Republican philosophy.
No code. No honor. Just the emptiness of the self, and an economy structured to make a few impossibly rich while leaving the rest behind. ISIS finds the concomitant sense of isolation fertile ground for recruiting.
At the end of First Blood, Rambo starts crying. Watching, maybe we do, too. Because we know he's right. "Back here there's nothin'."
I guess the fact that it wasn't flown anywhere until African Americans started demonstrated for equal rights in the late 50s and early 60s is just a coincidence. It just happened that at that moment people began to feel their Southern Pride and wanted to celebrate it.
Don't worry your pretty little heads about it ladies
... this doesn't mean a thing:
The trend is not entirely unexpected. After the 2014 elections handed significant victories to abortion opponents, experts in the field predicted that states would pass more stringent anti-choice laws this year. Several states forged ahead into new territory, enacting first-of-their-kind restrictions on the procedure as a new way of testing the bounds of Roe v. Wade.
For instance, Kansas and Oklahoma both approved a new ban on so-called “dismemberment” abortion, an inflammatory way to describe a specific type of second-trimester abortion procedure. And Arizona and Arkansas both adopted a new type of counseling law that forces doctors to tell their patients about an unscientific theory that medication abortions can be reversed. The Guttmacher report notes that these states are charting “new directions that may well serve as models for other states going forward.”
Many states also passed harsh waiting period requirements lengthening the amount of time that patients must wait before ending a pregnancy. North Carolina and Oklahoma both approved 72-hour waits, among the longest in the nation. Meanwhile, several states — Florida, Arkansas, and Tennessee — approved waiting periods with counseling requirements written in a way that mandates two separate trips to the same abortion clinic.
Yeah, whatever right? It's just not that big of a deal.
Well since we're celebrating "liberty" this week-end and all, here's a little reprise of something I've posted before by my friend Debra Cooper about why this matters:
For women ALL Roads to freedom and equality - economic equality and most particularly the ability to avoid poverty START with control of their bodies. If they can't control how they get pregnant and when they will have a child then poverty is the result.
There is theory about something called the Prime Mover - the first action or the first cause. Well for women it IS reproductive rights. It precedes everything. It really is simple. Without the ability to control your own body then you are a slave to everything else.
Frankly sexism, the need to control women's lives by controlling their bodies and the things that arise from it, are endemic to any social structure. It is ever enduring and even when it seems to be quashed it returns in another form. That is the story in the modern era of women's rights. One step forward after a long struggle - suffrage and then a step back. (And no way do I say that women are not complicit in their own subjugation. We are.)
In the epilogue to The Reactionary Mind by Corey Robin, he makes a point of saying that the loss of power and control is what the elite and the reactionary fear the most. More than a specific loss itself, they fear the rising volcano of submerged anger and power. And for them it's most acutely felt as a compulsion for control in the "intimate" arena. That is the most vexing and disturbing of all.
It is why they want to control women. And controlling their reproductive lives is the surefire way to control them.
It is why abortion rights are absolutely central to every other kind of freedom.
In an op-ed published in Tuesday’s New York Times, Reed Watson, the executive director at the Koch-backed Property and Environment Research Center (PERC), along with a research associate at the Center, call for no more national parks, citing the backlog in maintenance for existing parks.
“True conservation is taking care of the land and water you already have, not insatiably acquiring more and hoping it manages itself,” the op-ed reads. “Let’s maintain what we’ve already got, so we can protect it properly,” it concludes.
That doesn't sound so bad does it? We have plenty of them already. We should just take care of those and stop making new ones. No biggie. Except that isn't their agenda at all. This is just a first step:
If you want to see the essential difference between American liberals and conservatives --- and why some people choose those philosophies --- I think this is it:
The funny thing is that I think most liberals would believe that change doesn't preclude adhering to principles. The principles underlying the US were based upon the Enlightenment which has change baked right into it. Indeed, the country was founded on the biggest change of all: revolution.
Democrats have reason to worry that by 2016 they may have a hard time getting their voters to the polls, as Alexis Simendinger has written for Real
Clear Politics. Driven by a competing set of emotions: pure greed and
selfishness on the one hand and a sense of ginned-up grievance on the
other, Republican voters are gung-ho to capture the White House and hold
both houses of Congress. A clownish, patently dishonest and openly
racist Donald Trump is polling second among 20 Republicans for the
nomination. Normal people laugh; Republicans drool. ...
Klein identifies the disparity in passion by citing the example of Wall Street's control of "Albany," the Democratic-controlled New York state legislature:
NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters, "The hedge fund contributors loom very large in Albany and they have way too much influence. That is a fact." I think everyone knows it and few Democrats outside the Beltway careerists can stand it.
Here's what that looks like nationally. Your bottom line, both Senate and House leadership are willing to lose winnable seats. Their real goal — keep real progressives from ever holding office. In other words, they'd rather run money-corrupted, insider-friendly candidates who could easily lose than real populists who might win.
Starting with the Senate, your key perps are Chuck Schumer, faux-progressive and current DSCC head Jon Tester, and before him, blatant "centrist" and former DSCC head Michael Bennet (who is both a TPP perp and up for reelection in 2016):
When Wall Street gets bent out of shape over the populism of Bernie Sanders
and, especially, Elizabeth Warren, they go whining and fuming to
Schumer, and to their House tool, Steve Israel. Both are working hard to
please Wall Street by recruiting conservative pro-Wall Street, pro-Big
Business candidates to run as Democrats. Schumer is fighting like a savage to make sure lifelong Republican and Wall Street suck-up Patrick Murphy is the Democratic nominee for Marco Rubio's open Senate seat in Florida, and he is vigilant that as few Democrats as possible from the Elizabeth Warren wing of the party get near party nominations.
And now the House. Your key perps, Wall Street favorite and former DCCC head Steve Israel, current DCCC head Ben Ray Luján, and she who assigns these people the task of selecting candidates — Nancy Pelosi:
Over on the House side, Steve Israel and hapless sock-puppet Ben Ray Luján are also running around recruiting Blue Dogs, New Dems and outright Republicans. Their latest is Mike Derrick, to run against popular Republican Elise Stefanik in NY-21, a district in which Obama beat Romney 63.3 to 35.2%-- a phenomenal 28.1 point spread. Derrick is a Republican who's conveniently calling himself a Democrat now. Apparently Israel doesn't think a real Democrat could win in NY-21, despite Obama's landslide there. Similarly, Schumer doesn't want Grayson, an outspoken tribune for working families, to win a Senate seat, and his solution is Republican-"turned"-Democrat Patrick Murphy, a New Dem backbencher who votes with the Republican Party more than nearly any other Democrat in the House.
There are scores of cases just like this across the country. And Democrats wonder why their base doesn't turn out?
To put this in my language — for Beltway Democrats with power, the real game isn't to win against Republicans. Yes, they want to do that, but another goal takes precedence — protecting the insider game. Your rule of thumb:
Beltway Democrats would rather protect the game by losing to another insider, even if Republican, than win with a progressive who wants to dismantle the game.
I've made this point before — that money-friendly Democrats are "Tea Partying" progressives to keep control of the party, even if it means surrendering control of Congress.
Which leads to a presidential thought. Would money-friendly Democrats "Tea Party" their post-convention presidential candidate — sabotage his candidacy — if that candidate were Bernie Sanders? We may well see that tested. Stay tuned and watch carefully. Sanders is surging. And it's not like they haven't sabotaged progressives before.
What goes around comes around
I said this wasn't my point, however, what Democrats are doing; nor is it the point of this piece. My point is that the dirty little secret is known to the voters. To repeat Klein:
There are scores of cases just like this across the country. And Democrats wonder why their base doesn't turn out?
The eroding Democratic base showed its distaste for the Beltway insider game, a protection racket really, by handing Democrats significant losses in 2014. Here's just one data point from that race (my writing):
[I]f all current leads hold, [DCCC chief] Steve
Israel turned a 35-seat
deficit into a 61-seat
deficit. You can talk "wave election" and
"gerrymandering" all day, but when Dems don't even compete in 21
winnable seats, your problem starts closer to home — the boss is throwing
I'm not sure the voters knew that "the boss is throwing the race," but the voters were having none of what the boss (Democratic party leadership) was serving up.
Israel and the DCCC failed to compete in 21 winnable seats (list at the source). Seriously, ponder that. If you had a job in marketing, and you didn't put your strongest product in 21 of the competition's weakest markets, you'd be fired. Israel, for this result, got a nice parting gift, and his successor, Ben Ray Luján, is following in his footprints, certainly not by accident.
On the Senate side, you could easily identify several seats the Democrats surrendered in 2014 by running the weaker candidate or covertly sabotaging the stronger one. This doesn't mean these seats would have been won, but the odds of winning would have been greater. In all cases, the candidates whom the DSCC worked against were progressives, enemies of the money-controlled insider game.
And now the polls ... party leaders fear the stay-home problem
Greenberg's polling data takes this 2014 analysis forward to the 2016 election, and in particular, the presidential race. RealClearPolitics (h/t Klein):
Americans want change and reforms, but “people don’t think any of this is going to happen,” Stan Greenberg, chairman and CEO of polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, said during a reporter roundtable organized by the Christian Science Monitor.
Their skepticism doesn’t turn on the idea of a Democratic nominee who would follow a two-term Democrat, President Obama. “It’s because the old political system is uniquely corrupted” in their eyes, Greenberg said. “What matters is how deep the critique people have about what’s happening in the country, both politically and economically.”
Voters define corruption as money in politics and Washington power brokers who are self-serving and disconnected from everyday Americans and their concerns. This is why Clinton’s wealth, the Clinton Foundation’s fundraising, her decades lived as a VIP, and her missing emails discourage some voters from accepting the leading Democratic candidate as trustworthy, even if they favor the economic and social policies she stakes out.
Keep in mind that Greenberg himself is a deep-dyed centrist, and if you read the poll you'll see that in many of his questions. They consistently frame decisions or choices, on both the Democratic and Republican side, in seductive, centrist-confirming terms. And yet, insider Greenberg has still found reason to be concerned:
The Democratic Party’s strategy to hold control of the White House and win congressional seats next year relies on America’s shifting demographics and on voter turnout. But “if the disparity in enthusiasm is not addressed, that strategy is at risk,” Democracy Corps [a group Greenberg co-founded] wrote in a synopsis of the findings that began, “Democrats need to give voters a reason to participate.”
The threat comes down to an enthusiasm gap of 19 points between the Democrats who say they are “extremely interested” in the congressional and local races in 2016, and the much more energized GOP voters.
A 19-point enthusiasm gap isn't going to put Ms. Clinton into the White House without help and some luck, at least as we see it from here. It seems that what Democratic voters (and many activists) have already figured out, has finally percolated up to the ears of party elders.
Atlantic's Emma Green cites attorneys David Boies and Theodore Olson on the effect Citizens United has had on local races across the country. The two debated the effects at the Aspen Ideas Festival this week. But let's begin, as she does, quoting Norm Ornstein:
Loads of money—mostly conservative—went into judicial-retention elections in the last cycle in Florida, following a similar experience in 2010 in Iowa and Illinois. We saw similar efforts on a smaller scale in other states, including Wisconsin and Michigan. All had a ton of attack ads. Those efforts have exploded in the 2014 elections. In North Carolina, where repeal of the state's Judicial Campaign Reform Act by the right-wing legislature opened the door to a further explosion of campaign spending, and where the GOP sees retaining a majority on the court (ostensibly, but risibly, nonpartisan) as a key to their continued hegemony in politics, the Republican State Leadership Committee spent $900,000 on an unsuccessful primary campaign to unseat Justice Robin Hudson, and will target Court of Appeals Judge Sam Ervin IV in his second attempt to move to the Supreme Court (the first one, in 2012, cost $4.5 million or more).
Ervin won that Supreme Court seat (defeating incumbent Robert N. Hunter, Jr.) as did incumbent Democrats Hudson and Cheri Beasley in these officially nonpartisan elections.
In Aspen, Ted Olson, who represented Citizens United lobbying firm, began:
“The more speech we have, the better—that’s what the Framers of the Constitution thought,” he said. One of the key disagreements in Citizens United is whether money counts as speech—the Court accepted Olson’s argument that it does. “It might be nasty speech, it might be unpleasant speech it might make you uncomfortable. The answer to that is the marketplace of ideas.”
But Boies argued that the Supreme Court mischaracterized the effect that money has on politics. In its opinion, he said, the Court argued that there’s a danger of corruption “with respect with contributions to political candidates, but there is less of a danger with regard to independent expenditures. Who knows that? That’s not something that courts are well-designed to determine.” The Court’s argument follows, he said, if you believe that making political donations is the same as making political statements, but “if you believe that speech and money are different … that money enables speech, but is not speech itself, and if you believe that people really are different [from corporations], then the syllogism breaks down.”
The ads run against Robin Hudson were particularly nasty. But having lost those three NC Supreme Court races last November, Republicans (and Olsen) might well argue that speech won and that the money was not as big a danger as Boies believes. But the money failed here only through some smart, effective campaigning and boots on the ground.
Democrats held those two seats on the court and Ervin won his by running as a team, by representing each other at their events as they crisscrossed the state. Plus, the state party (otherwise considered in disarray) instituted a smart "Blue Ballot" campaign that put easily and cheaply reproduced literature in the hands of volunteers in smaller counties across the state. The Blue Ballot featured judges prominently. Sometimes boots on the ground trump money in the bank.
Republicans were not pleased. One who got in our faces outside the Board of Elections here accused us of cheating because we advertised a list of Democratic judges in the officially nonpartisan election. But Democrats supported members of the party openly, and were not shy about it. Republicans mask their list of judicial candidates with a "conservative judges" label.
Having failed in November, North Carolina Republicans next gambit for gaining an edge in the courts was to pass a bill to provide for retention elections. (Ted Cruz, anyone?) You can bet the money will flow freely ahead of those elections as well.
Turnout will be key in 2016, something Howie has something to say about. (And perhaps Gaius here later.) In the meantime, if people don't think the money has an impact, let them come to North Carolina.
That would be Rich Lowry, the editor of the National Review:
As for his instantly notorious Mexico comments, they did more to insult than to illuminate, yet there was a kernel in them that hit on an important truth that typical politicians either don’t know or simply fear to speak. “When Mexico sends its people,” Trump said, “they’re not sending their best.”
This is obviously correct. We aren’t raiding the top 1 percent of Mexicans and importing them to this country. Instead, we are getting representative Mexicans, who — through no fault of their own, of course — come from a poorly educated country at a time when education is essential to success in an advanced economy.
He's 2016's compassionate conservative: they can't help being all rapey, being uneducated and whatnot. That's just how "those people" are.
He is right about one thing, unfortunately:
Trump’s new enemies are doing him an enormous political favor, at least in the short term. There are few things that benefit a Republican candidate in the current environment of left-wing bullying more than getting fired and boycotted for something he’s said. And Trump’s smash-mouth response — oh, yeah, I’m going to sue Univision for a cool $500 million — will be even more endearing to primary voters.
Oh, they love him for more than that. They love him for saying what they all believe.
I'll just point out that Rick Perry lost all moral legitimacy with the human race when he blithely signed more death warrants than any governor in history:
As someone who has personally signed off on killing 278 people, his enthusiasm for the death penalty is unparalleled. (That’s literally true, he’s signed more death warrants than anyone in American history.) He vetoed a bill to spare the mentally retarded and is all for killing juvenile offenders, which is a position that’s not even held by the conservative Roberts court. He’s the most likely governor to have knowingly executed an innocent man.
Texas has killed 527 people since the death penalty was reinstated in 1977. More than half of them were under Rick Perry's watch.
According to the ACLU, Texas also holds the highest number of DNA exonerations with 44 since 1994 (and 36 since 2001); this includes non-capital cases. Twelve people have been released from death row in Texas due to evidence of their wrongful conviction.
Also too: African Americans comprise only 12% of the population of Texas, but they comprise 39.8% of death row inmates.
There is some good news in all this, executions are down in Texas. Of course, Rick Perry is no longer the governor. Correlation isn't causation but correlation is good enough to tell Perry to shut up about "morality." He has no standing to even say the word.
But don't kid yourself. This is one of his big selling points with the faithful:
Fox New's Bill O'Reilly on Monday ran a horrible segment in which he characterized homeless people in New York City's Penn Station as dangerous, playing into some of the worst stereotypes about the homeless — and got the underlying cause of the situation in Penn Station wrong.
They go on to explains that the story is total BS:
Beyond being what Media Matters's Carlos Maza called "one of the most dehumanizing things I've seen on Fox," the segment also misses what could be behind a recent rise of homeless people at the train station. O'Reilly argues this supposed increase — which is completely unproven, and appears to be based on Fox News staffers and some New Yorkers' personal observations — is due to relaxed law enforcement because of "uber-liberal" Mayor Bill de Blasio's policing policies. Not only is there absolutely no evidence to support this assertion, but there's a much more plausible explanation: The number of homeless people in New York City has been trending up for years.
There's more at the link. But it's beside the point. O'Reilly and his dickish minion just wanted to demean unfortunate people for the entertainment of their old, white male audience and blame liberals for it. That's their appeal.
While Jeb Bush finally disagreed with Trump’s comments over the past weekend and former New York Governor George Pataki strongly criticized Trump, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) actually defended Trump during an appearance on Fox News. Meanwhile, the rest of the 2016 GOP field has stayed silent (and in Senator Rand Paul’s (R-KY) case, refused to respond to Trump-related questions yesterday). At the same time, some of the usual suspects like bombastic Rep. Steve King (R-IA) are rushing to Trump’s defense.
It’s important to realize that Trump’s comments and their implications for the already-tarnished GOP brand image could have been easily avoided. If Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) and other Republican leaders had decided to stand up to the nativists in their midst and actually hold a vote on immigration reform last Congress, such a vote that would have passed the House with a majority of Democratic votes and a healthy complement of Republicans. If leadership had stepped up, the Republican Party would have a very different image on immigration and the contours of the 2016 race would be totally different.
The vacuum left by House Republican leadership was easily filled by the loud but not large nativist wing of the GOP. The House failed to allow votes on comprehensive immigration reform but has given nativist-in-chief Steve King multiple votes on denying relief and subjecting to deportation Dreamers and millions of immigrant families. Instead of standing up to Trump. the response to his racist remarks about Mexicans from leading contenders in the GOP primary has been late, tepid or, in Ted Cruz’s case, fawning.
In perhaps the most striking finding, some 63% of Republican voters view immigrants of all stripes as a “burden” who generally compete for jobs, housing, and health care. That’s almost a mirror image of Democrats, 62% of whom agreed with a statement that immigrants “strengthen our country because of their hard work and talents,” and independents, 57% of whom agreed immigrants “strengthen” America overall...
Pew’s numbers show the potential for an ugly fight on the issue, especially in a crowded GOP field where candidates will find it hard to stand out with conservatives. 42% of Republican respondents said they wanted legal immigration decreased versus 28% of independents and 27% of Democrats.
42% of Republicans want to reduce even legal immigration and 63% see immigrants as burdens who are stealing their jobs, houses and health care. That's nativism. And a hell of a lot of our fellow citizens believe it. Trump is singing their song.
The nation of Greece may be the cradle of democracy but these days it’s getting a harsh lesson in its limitations. Right now, streets are filled with protesters but there are no lines at ATMs because the banks are all closed. Everyone is waiting to see what’s going to happen when the people vote this week-end on a referendum that will decide, essentially, if the country is going to remain in the Euro and accept the ongoing edicts of “the troika” or if it’s going to “Grexit. (The troika is the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund which has been lending the the country money for the past five years on the condition that it engage in the metaphorical human sacrifice of its citizens.)
As you undoubtedly know by now, aside from being chosen to suffer for the sins of all the high flyers who caused the financial crisis, the Greeks also had the temerity to elect a leftist government with the express purpose of ending the austerity plan that has ruined their economy and thrown them into even deeper debt than they were in before. That, as Poppy Bush used to say, will not stand. Nobody puts Troika in the corner. The Greeks must pay and pay, not only for their economic folly but also for thinking they could get out of their proper punishment through democratic politics. Sure, those elections are nice and all but lets not forget who’s really in charge.
Paul Krugman’s column on Monday explained that all the hand-wringing over Greece’s “irresponsibility” is balderdash:
[Y]ou need to realize that most — not all, but most — of what you’ve heard about Greek profligacy and irresponsibility is false. Yes, the Greek government was spending beyond its means in the late 2000s. But since then it has repeatedly slashed spending and raised taxes. Government employment has fallen more than 25 percent, and pensions (which were indeed much too generous) have been cut sharply. If you add up all the austerity measures, they have been more than enough to eliminate the original deficit and turn it into a large surplus.
So why didn’t this happen? Because the Greek economy collapsed, largely as a result of those very austerity measures, dragging revenues down with it.
As Krugman has also been observing ever since the financial crisis hit, austerity for these people isn’t really about finance at all. It’s about morality, specifically the alleged “moral hazard” involved in allowing average people to “get away with” running up debt it cannot pay back. Interestingly, this moral hazard never applies to the wealthy businessmen who often make bets that don’t pay off. Bankruptcy, fresh starts, debt forgiveness are things best reserved for people who know how to use them.
These big money boyz just can't quit austerity. makes 'em feel good about themselves. And it's also an excellent con:
We are an elite group of men and women who utilize international financial organizations to foment conditions that make other nations subservient to the corporatocracy running our biggest corporations, our government, and our banks. Like our counterparts in the Mafia, EHMs provide favors. These take the form of loans to develop infrastructure – electric generating plants, highways, ports, airports, or industrial parks.
… Despite the fact that the money is returned almost immediately to corporations that are members of the corporatocracy (the creditor), the recipient country is required to pay it all back, principal plus interest. If an EHM is completely successful, the loans are so large that the debtor is forced to default on its payments after a few years. When this happens, then like the Mafia we demand our pound of flesh.
We'll see this week-end if the people of Greece are going to submit to any more of this. I hope they don't. It's now just a ritual torture for the entertainment of spectators.
Stick a fork in it. Another of those public-private partnership deals is done. Investors are ready to bail:
Barely 10 years after paying the city $1.83 billion for the right to run the Chicago Skyway for 99 years, a Spanish-Australian group of investors has put the historic tollroad concession deal up for sale.
The Skyway concession company’s executives have informed Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration they’re trying to sell their interest in running and collecting tolls from the 7.8-mile-long road on Chicago’s South Side, city officials said Monday.
And right on schedule, too. I described how these go down in December:
US and state taxpayers are left paying off billions in debt to bondholders who have received amazing returns on their money, as much as 13 per cent, as virtually all - if not all - of these private P3 toll operators go bankrupt within 15 years of what is usually a five-plus decade contract.
A "staggering" number go bankrupt, Salzman continues.
Of course, no executive comes forward and says, "We're planning to go bankrupt," but an analysis of the data is shocking. There do not appear to be any American private toll firms still in operation under the same management 15 years after construction closed. The original toll firms seem consistently to have gone bankrupt or "zeroed their assets" and walked away, leaving taxpayers a highway now needing repair and having to pay off the bonds and absorb the loans and the depreciation.
Now, those are the P3 construction deals. The Skyway already existed. There is no indication of the Skyway partners' financial condition (or the roadway's physical condition). Let's just say that after Spanish-Australian consortium Cintra-Macquarie declared bankruptcy last fall on its 75-year concession to operate the Indiana Toll Road after only eight, they may be dumping the Skyway before it comes to that.
Meanwhile, Cintra has signed contracts on its project to widen I-77 north of Charlotte with high-occupancy toll lanes (HOT lanes). Called Thom's Tholl Road by critics, the project was championed by now U.S. Senator Thom Tillis over objections from local businesses and his own party's rank and file.
Local business leaders and politicians chartered a bus to Raleigh on Tuesday to lobby legislators to de-fund the project. State Sen. Jeff Tarte, a Cornelius Republican, has introduced legislation to do just that:
Mecklenburg County Commissioner Jim Puckett was shocked to hear of the contract signing.
“It's the most arrogant and insulting piece of governance I've seen in my 18 years in politics,” Puckett said.
“The fact that five boards, all five boards that are affected by this, asked for a delay and it was not only delayed, but sped up. I think people fear the fact that the government is not listening to them,” Puckett said.
In Raleigh on Tuesday Puckett called the contract "a disaster" and said the state should get out of it as soon as possible.
The group waging a legal battle over the $650 million plan to add toll lanes on Interstate 77 claims an N.C. Senate proposal would “scare off” lawyers from representing citizens groups that oppose state road projects.
The provision, included in a bill outlining changes to statewide environmental regulations, would take away judges’ discretion in awarding attorney’s fees in lawsuits that challenge the state’s “transportation improvements.” Instead, law firms would be made to pay the state’s legal fees if they lose a civil suit.
Kurt Naas of Cornelius believes the legislation is aimed at his group's lawsuit:
“This is a direct aim at the WidenI77.org legal case and a gross abuse of legislative power by those elected to represent the public’s interests,” Naas said in a news release. “This proposed legislation is an intimidation tactic to hinder citizens from their right to due process of the law.”
Your name doesn't have to be Rorschach to see patterns here.
Rand Paul doesn't know how to turn Mexican bashing and immigration into a states' rights issue so he runs away from it. He'd rather not talk about it because libertarianism doesn't have an answer and the GOP demands one.
Does this little event remind you of anything? It should. Here's Sam Seder on an earlier incident that is remarkably similar. It even had Steve King involved:
Poor Rand always seems to be on the run whenever anyone asks him about immigration...
“You can make the argument that hyperbolic rhetoric like this paints the rest of the field as much more moderate,” said Brian Walsh, a veteran Republican operative. “It’s harder in the long run to paint Republicans like Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio as representative of the far right when that rhetorical space is being filled by someone like Donald Trump.”
Yeah. Except Republican primary voters seem to like him quite a bit:
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and businessman Donald Trump top the list of GOP presidential contenders following their back-to-back campaign launches in mid-June, and are the only two Republican candidates holding double-digit support among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents.
I would just remind people that there is a strain in American politics that just loves really rich popular blowhard businessmen. It's the Ross Perot phenomenon. Perot wasn't as crude about Mexicans, but his message was very similar to Trump's. A lot of people like that.
*And remember, Trump doesn't need any donors... there is no way to discipline him. digby 7/01/2015 03:30:00 PM
In a shocking revelation, the UK’s Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) today notified Amnesty International that UK government agencies had spied on the organization by intercepting, accessing and storing its communications.
In an email sent today, the Tribunal informed Amnesty International its 22 June ruling had mistakenly identified one of two NGOs which it found had been subjected to unlawful surveillance by the UK government. Today’s communication makes clear that it was actually Amnesty International Ltd, and not the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) that was spied on in addition to the Legal Resources Centre in South Africa.
The NGOs were among 10 organizations that launched a legal challenge against suspected unlawful mass surveillance of their work by the UK’s spy agencies.
“After 18 months of litigation and all the denials and subterfuge that entailed, we now have confirmation that we were in fact subjected to UK government mass surveillance. It’s outrageous that what has been often presented as being the domain of despotic rulers has been occurring on British soil, by the British government,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.
Why did they do it? Well, why not? After all, hardly anyone gives a shit about any of this. They can spy on whomever they choose on behalf of who knows what? After all, they're spying on multi-national corporations and who knows who that benefits? (They say they're spying on on "French" corporations, but my IRA is invested in all kinds of foreign stocks, including some of those same French companies ... I guess that makes me French too. You too maybe.) Anyway, it's unlikely to be workers in America or anywhere else, that's for sure. But somebody's benefiting. We just don't know who.
But again, nobody gives a shit. Nothing to see here, folks ...
He could not easily attack Clinton from the left, as former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley (D) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) have, although criminal justice reform provides one such opening. He has also argued that she would not aggressively take on big financial interests.
But Webb ended his appearance by saying that he was “very proud of having worked in the Reagan administration” as secretary of the Navy. He pointed out to reporters that conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer shared his view of the Confederate flag — that it shouldn’t be used as a political symbol but that good people fought on both sides. Democratic primary voters are unlikely to be impressed by those references.
Even if he wanted to come at them from the right, this isn't going to get the job done. There might be a few conservative/moderate Democratic primary voters who would be with him on deficit reduction or maybe NSA surveillance or something, but evoking Reagan and the confederate flag (not to mention Krauthamer!) is like saying he's for segregation and imperialism.
Maybe he thinks there are enough semi-sane Republicans out there that might switch. But they aren't defending the confederate flag either.
I think he may be the only voter in the country with his particular set of values.
An internal divide is sharpening among Republican presidential candidates over whether to eliminate the Senate's 60-vote threshold in order to fight Obamacare if they win the White House.
On Tuesday, Carly Fiorina and former Texas Governor Rick Perry told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt they would support using the "Reid Rule"—otherwise known as the "nuclear option"—to scrap the filibuster in order to try and repeal the Affordable Care Act.
"I would," Fiorina said. "And in this case, while I would be very reluctant to do so, the truth is that’s how this thing was passed in the first place." She added, "Obamacare is a tangled web that is becoming worse, clearly, day by day."
"I don’t have a problem at all with breaking the filibuster."
Perry also answered in the affirmative.
"I'm for using the Reid Rule on—to break the filibuster," he said, explaining that he wants to get rid of it both to repeal Obamacare and to confirm Supreme Court justices with a simple majority vote. "I support using the Reid Rule to appoint these Constitutional conservatives as well. So I don’t have a problem at all with breaking the filibuster."
Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush has said he'd "certainly consider" the idea; Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker said he would "absolutely" support it.
On the other side of the divide, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas has rejected the proposition even if it paves the way for repealing Obamacare, arguing that "ending the legislative filibuster would ultimately undermine conservative principles." On his side are Tea Party groups Club For Growth, Senate Conservatives Fund and Heritage Action, who want to preserve the legislative tool for blocking legislation in the future.
Basically this comes down to whether or not you think it's more important to block the other side from doing things you hate or removing all obstacles to doing what you love. It makes some sense that presidential candidates would be in favor of getting rid of it because if they win, they will want to pass legislation. After all, if a Democrat is in the White House that won't happen anyway.
I think this split shows that the conservative groups are aware that they are unlikely to win the presidency and see their role in the future to be obstruction. Nothing they want will get through if a Democrat is in the White House --- and they know that's the likely outcome. They want to preserve their ability to filibuster just in case there are some coattails and Democrats take back the Senate. And hey, they might just want to filibuster a Republican majority too --- they aren't exactly what you'd call team players these days.
It's likely they are going to hold the House regardless so they can probably stop anything anyway. But with the Tea Party being such unreliable allies on issues like trade, groups like Club for Growth probably would like to have another check. And the Tea Party/Heritage action folks are all about obstruction (also known as hostage taking/political terrorism) as their preferred weapon, Cruz being their primary practitioner. They just want to be able to do it, period.
Democrats have the same split, it's just not as acute. Many Senators don't want to get rid of the filibuster because they're afraid of a GOP president and a GOP congressional majority --- and for good reason. But it's purely instrumental for them, they haven't ever used obstruction as a tactic for its own sake. At this point the country looks as though it's going to be splitting the power between the two parties for a while. But if it's close enough to steal it, you know the Republicans will do it. They've proved that already ...
In an election season where there will likely be at least 16 Republican candidates, the survey reveals numerous contenders bunched behind Walker, whose support in the poll has dropped to 18 percent from 21 percent in May and 25 percent in February.
Jockeying for second place are billionaire Donald Trump and retired surgeon Ben Carson, tied at 10 percent; Senators Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas, tied at 9 percent; former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, at 8 percent; and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, at 7 percent.
He may still pull it off. Wisconsin and Iowa are neighbors and share the same media market. But I have never thought it was quite the slam dunk everyone else did.
But jeez, look at the rest of the field. Carson and Trump followed by Paul and Cruz. Walker's not exactly a moderate and he's been going more and more wingnut as the pressure increases and the rest are certifiable loons. Yet, together they are the favorites of a large majority of Iowa Republicans. This is what they want.
I have a piece in Salon this morning about the curious polling results that show half of Democrats think this Supreme Court is "just right". And those findings were the same before the decisions last week. Conservatives, certainly don't agree:
As one might imagine, the conservatives are up in arms. Even a death penalty affirmation and Justice Scalia’s inane ranting about applesauce wasn’t enough to soothe them. According to CNN’s post-decision polling, the right is very upset with this “lefty” court. That’s right. They believe this court is way too liberal. Here’s how it breaks down by party:
Republicans are most apt in the new poll to say the Court’s ideology is too far to the left: 69% see the Court as too liberal. That’s up from 2012, when 59% of Republicans called it too liberal.
Nearly 70 percent of Republicans see this court as too liberal. And this can be attributed to the Chief Justice’s unwillingness to strike down a law that allows people to buy affordable health care and Justice Kennedy’s belief that marriage is so great that everyone ought to be able to do it. That used to be called “compassionate conservatism” and “family values,” but those seems to be out of fashion.
Still, it’s not all that surprising that Republicans would think the court is too liberal. They have been indoctrinated in that idea for half a century and for many it’s just a reflexive belief devoid of any substance. “Unelected judges!” is right up there with “tort reform” for mindless right-wing rallying cries. (And as I’ve written here before, their judicial philosophy is anything but consistent.) But what in the world is going on with the Democrats?
Among Democrats, 34% now say they see the Court as too conservative and 15% too liberal, 49% say the Court is about right. In 2012, just 6% of Democrats described the Court as too liberal, but the share calling it too conservative was about the same at 35%.
I could understand why Democrats would have warm feelings toward John Roberts and Anthony Kennedy after last week. They both not only voted the right way, at least on Obamacare, they also wrote opinions last week in ways that are very satisfying and carry some legal heft going into the future. But half of Democrats thought the court was just right even before those opinions. How can this be? This is the court that has brought us Hobby Lobby and Citizens United and tore the guts out of the Voting Rights Act.
Read on to see some of the reasons why this disconnect has happened. I found that it's not as simple a question as it may seem --- and it's actually fairly complicated. And daunting. Liberals will continue to win a few even with this court simply because the conservatives are swinging for the fences and striking out some of the time. But overall, this court is moving us right and very quickly, particularly on issues that favor business and big money, and it won't be easy to swing it back.