Trickle-down economics is the first cousin of austerity economics. Austerity is nuts when so many millions are out of work. And as we’ve learned before, trickle-down is a fraud. Nothing ever trickles down. - Robert Reich, "A Story for May Day"
Inevitably, in response to that statement by a Justice on our nation's highest court, someone will undertake to try exactly that... using a hand-held rocket launcher to bring down an aircraft, perhaps arguing that it belongs to drug-runners and that "Scalia says I have the right!"
SCALIA: We’ll see. Obviously the Amendment does not apply to arms that cannot be hand-carried — it’s to keep and “bear,” so it doesn’t apply to cannons — but I suppose here are hand-held rocket launchers that can bring down airplanes, that will have to be decided.
WALLACE: How do you decide that if you’re a textualist?
SCALIA: Very carefully.
...Watch the video of a short interview for an impression of the judge, a Carter appointee. Kane advocates in a calm voice for substantial if not radical changes to the American legal system. I'm in no position to evaluate his proposals, but I think they should serve as context for this ruling.
A federal district judge in Colorado issued a temporary injunction permitting Hercules Industries, an air-conditioning company based in the state, not to abide by the rule until the courts reach a decision on the merits of the case. The business owner, a Catholic who opposes contraception, argued that the mandate violates his religious liberty.
Carter-appointed Judge John Kane ruled (PDF) that Hercules raised serious enough questions about the validity of the mandate under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to be given injunctive relief. The 1993 law says the government may not “substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion” — that laws that clash with religious freedoms be justified by compelling government interest and be narrowly tailored to meet that interest.
Kane made it clear that the temporary injunction only applies to Hercules.
[Sanford] Weill created the business model that Wall Street uses to this day — unleashing traders to make big, risky bets with other peoples’ money that deliver gigantic bonuses when they turn out well and cost taxpayers dearly when they don’t. And Weill made a fortune – as did all the other executives and traders. JPMorgan and Bank of America soon followed Weill’s example with their own mega-deals, and their bonus pools exploded as well.
Citigroup was bailed out in 2008, as was much of the rest of the Street, but that didn’t alter the business model in any fundamental way. The Street neutered the Dodd-Frank act that was supposed to stop the gambling. JPMorgan, headed by one of Weill’s protégés, Jamie Dimon, just lost $5.8 billion on some risky bets. Dimon continues to claim that giant banks like his can be managed so as to avoid any risk to taxpayers.
Sandy Weill has finally seen the light. It’s a bit late in the day, but, hey, he’s already cashed in. You and I and millions of others in the United States and elsewhere around the world are still paying the price.
We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. "Necessitous men are not free men." People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.Amen!
In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all regardless of station, race, or creed.
Among these are:
All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.
- The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the Nation;
- The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;
- The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;
- The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;
- The right of every family to a decent home;
- The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;
- The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;
- The right to a good education.
America's own rightful place in the world depends in large part upon how fully these and similar rights have been carried into practice for our citizens. For unless there is security here at home there cannot be lasting peace in the world.
But as conditions in Greece become even more desperate ..., German threats are becoming more dire:Smith then examines the economic and political consequences of various courses of action from the perspective of a number of major players; please read those in the original. Smith's conclusion sounds about right to me:
“If Greece doesn’t fulfill those conditions, then there can be no more payments,” German Vice Chancellor Philipp Roesler told broadcaster ARD yesterday, adding that he is “very skeptical” Greece can be rescued and that the prospect of its exit from the monetary union “has long ago lost its terror.”The immediate trigger is inspectors from the Troika are due back in Greece this week to “assess” progress towards meeting targets. Since there is no way for a patient in an intensive care ward to stave himself back to health, it is not at all obvious how Greek leaders can convince their new economic lords and masters that they can do the impossible. The Wall Street Journal sets forth the critical dates over the coming months:
But without a green light from the troika, Athens risks being cut off from badly needed aid and could run out of cash as early as August. It has sought emergency funding from Europe to cover a looming bond redemption in late August.An unnamed EU source told Der Spiegel [Greece] won’t reach its goal of lowering government debt to 120% of GDP by 2020 (quelle surprise!). The article states that falling short means Greece would need €10 billion to €50 billion more in funding, which the IMF and certain Eurozone governments (read Germany) will nix.
Greece faces a much more important deadline in September, when international creditors are due to make their next aid payment, which they delayed in June as the elections played out. Extending the deadline could require even more aid to support Greece while it delays more cuts.
It’s hard to foresee how this ends, but if the powers that be are balking at another €10 billion to €50 billion for Greece, they will not pony up the hundreds of billions that many analysts see as necessary for Spain. The Eurocrats are running out of runway, and there’s no sign of a Plan B. If we didn’t all have a stake in the outcome, this would make for great theater.
In 2008 and 2010, the Supreme Court issued two Second Amendment decisions. In District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008), the Court ruled that the Second Amendment protects an individual's right to possess a firearm, unconnected to service in a militia and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home. In dicta, the Court listed many longstanding prohibitions and restrictions on firearms possession as being consistent with the Second Amendment. In McDonald v. Chicago, 561 U.S. 3025 (2010), the Court ruled that the Second Amendment limits state and local governments to the same extent that it limits the federal government.Whether those cases were rightly decided or not, a lot of Americans, most presumably not militia members (that's another entire post), avail themselves of the right. It's difficult to compare numbers by year because the surveys do not use consistent counting methods, but it appears from Wikipedia that gun ownership ranged from roughly 36.5% to a peak of 50% of households in the mid 1980s, declining since then to a figure difficult to determine from the wiki. As only 11% of households report engaging in hunting... my maternal grandfather's primary if not only use for his rifles and shotguns... most of those guns are kept for other, largely unspecified purposes. Altogether, as of 1994, Americans owned about 192 million guns. The distribution by region is not too surprising: the East South Central States... Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee... have a 60% ownership rate, while the Northeastern United States... Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont, plus New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania... have a 25% ownership rate. In my opinion this difference probably largely reflects an urban/rural difference. But considering the political volatility of the subject, if you want different numbers, you can surely find them somewhere on the Web. I'll stick with Wikipedia and its sources.
|Republican Surgeon's Kit|
Austin Frakt looks at the Republican health legislation, and finds (quoting a report from AcademyHealth) thatHealth care is one of those disciplines in which the invisible hand of the market, likely as not, raises its invisible middle finger at us all. The market cannot determine rational behavior here, and omitting the necessary research... which only the government has incentive to do, on behalf of the citizenry... is sure to drive an irrational, profit-obsessed, dangerous outcome. Only actual knowledge of outcomes of treatment approaches, as determined by actual research by people trained in performing that research, can tell us whether a given approach is worthwhile or just a waste of patients' money. Doctors are not gods who can simply "know" these things, however vast their professional experience. I cannot imagine that even insurance companies, rapacious as they are, think that this knowledge-free approach is a good idea.
[I]t completely eliminates the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (Sec. 227), and prohibits any patient-centered outcomes research (Sec. 217) and all economic research within the National Institutes of Health (Page 57, line 19).And remember the hatred aimed at comparative effectiveness research.
The ACLU filed a brief in May saying that the government’s order of presumptive classification and the forty-second delay [in the livecast of trials to American news agencies] violate the public’s right of access to the trial. The ACLU’s motion takes issue with the idea that the government has declared detainees’ “personal knowledge of their detention and treatment in U.S. custody” classified. Their exposure to classified information was forced upon them, the ACLU states, in CIA detention and interrogation programs that are now outlawed.
The ACLU argues that an executive order on classification signed by Obama in 2009 says in part that, in order to be properly classified, information must be “under the control of the United States Government.” The ACLU’s brief challenges whether that authority could be extended “categorically to human beings under the government’s control.” [emphasis in original]. The ACLU also argues that the detainees were not in any kind of contractual relationship which would make them liable for the classified information they were exposed to.
If Belmont Abbey had its way, as jams pointed out in comments a couple of days ago, its male employees could still get their Viagra, but its female employees would be deprived of birth control.
Just one day after a federal court in Nebraska threw out a lawsuit brought by seven anti-Affordable Care Act attorneys general, a federal court in D.C. did the same in a case filed by a religiously affiliated college. On Wednesday, a federal judge dismissed the lawsuit filed by Belmont Abbey College (the first of the two dozen challenges to the birth control rule).
This isn’t the first time that Belmont Abbey College has thumbed its nose at federal laws designed to stop discrimination against women in health care. In 2009, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission concluded that the College was discriminating against its employees based on their gender because it withheld coverage for prescription birth control, which only women use, while providing insurance coverage for other prescription drugs. But as far as we know, the college is still resisting the EEOC’s decision and has yet to come into compliance. So it came as no surprise when it challenged the administration’s contraception rule, despite the fact that the rule is on solid legal footing, while the college’s claims are bogus.
Take that, peasants! "You people" have no right to ask us royal personages for details provided by all presidential candidates for several decades. We are not amused!
“We’ve given all you people need to know and understand about our financial situation and how we live our life,” she said.
House Republicans renewed their effort Wednesday by advancing a measure through the Labor-HHS appropriations subcommittee with a rider to roll back President Obama’s contraception mandate. Authorized by the Affordable Care Act, the rule requires employer-provided health insurance plans to cover contraception without co-pays, with carve-outs for churches and religious non-profits. Republicans on the panel defeated a Democratic amendment to strip the provision, suggesting they’re willing to pick the fight.
Senate Republicans have clearly indicated their preference for avoiding the fight altogether, and extending funding for government programs through the election at levels the parties agreed upon during last August debt limit fight. Under pressure, the House GOP leadership appears to be warming to that idea, lest they be held accountable for inciting a government shutdown weeks before Election Day.
Republicans took a beating earlier this year after their failed push to roll back Obama’s contraception rule in its entirety, a battle that yielded significant gains for President Obama among women voters. The GOP eventually backed off, recognizing the toxicity of the issue. ...
If there were a Hell (and regular readers know I dismiss the notion as highly improbable), there would surely be a special place in it for Republicans who spend their money and their efforts suppressing the vote of people less fortunate than themselves.
More than 10 million potential voters in states with voter photo ID laws live over 10 miles from an office which issues such identification more than two days a week, according to a new report from the Brennan Center.
Of that group, 500,000 do not have access to a car or another vehicle, according to the report. While many of those individuals may already have identification, the report argues that such a burden discourages individuals from exercising their right to vote.
“The result is plain: Voter ID laws will make it harder for hundreds of thousands of poor Americans to vote,” the report states. “They place a serious burden on a core constitutional right that should be universally available to every American citizen.”
It doesn't matter to me what Rmoney's income was, per se, but it does matter very much how he obtained the money and whether he paid anything remotely resembling a fair share of taxes on it. As long as he refuses to release his tax returns, I have to assume two things:
... (There are two competing theories about his tax stonewalling. One is that he had one or more years of zero taxes. The other is that he actually made a lot of money in 2009, because he shorted the market. We may never know which is true.)
D.C. Democrats are pushing the Disclose Act again. Disclose stands for Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections. The ACLU and National Right to Life Committee oppose this bill because they fear it would chill free speech. As far as the anti-abortion group is concerned, Disclose stands for "Deterring Independent Speech about Congress except by Labor Organizations and Selected Elites."For once, I find myself opposed to the ACLU position. If spending truly were speech, chilling campaign contributions by identifying contributors might have a chilling effect on free speech. But the Roberts Court notwithstanding, spending is not speech: inequalities in campaign spending are surely the most corrosive influence on actual free speech by natural humans (not corporate entities, and not PACs or SuperPACs) of any in the long history of campaign abuses. Historically, the party that spends the most money on advertising (usually negative advertising, but put that aside for now) is the party that wins a given office, and historically and at present, that party is almost certainly the GOP. What could be more inimical to free speech regarding a partisan contest than effectively unlimited "speech" (i.e., spending) by Republicans and severely limited "speech" (i.e., spending) by Democrats? They should have renamed the Citizens United decision the "GOP Victory Assurance" decision. However imperfect the DISCLOSE Act may be, the notion that we can merely do nothing about this inequity and yet continue to call ourselves a representative democracy is ludicrous.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., frames this year's bill, which failed to win a floor vote in the Senate on Monday, as a reform made necessary by the U.S. Supreme Court's 2010 decision to allow independent expenditure campaigns to spend unlimited money from corporations, plutocrats and unions.
Paul then examines the relative strengths of Pasok (the Panhellenic Socialist Movement, the traditional party of labor in Greece) and Syriza (which Paul refers to as the "radical left"), the difficulty of persuading labor voters to switch their votes, the likelihood of strikes and work stoppages, etc. ... things which hardly ever happen in America due to the weakness of our labor movement, but which are more common tools in Europe.
Greece’s new center-right government is set to impose fresh austerity measures in the fall, including further privatization of utilities, railways and ports. With unions already angry over wage and pension cuts, more work stoppages and demonstrations are expected. Three ministers have already resigned their posts, including a deputy labor minister who said the ruling coalition has no intention of keeping its campaign promise to renegotiate with the Troika (the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund), which had insisted on more austerity as a condition of continued aid to avert bankruptcy.
The government is already unstable. With labor’s help, the people could bring it down, observers say, giving the once-marginal Coalition of the Radical Left (Syriza), the biggest opposition group in Parliament, a chance of forming a labor-backed government opposed to the Troika’s demands.
Forget tailgating, Mitt Romney went all out when the New England Patriots went to the Super Bowl in 2005. Romney, then governor of Massachusetts, diverted $45,000 from the state's Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) to hold a send-off rally for the [Patriots] football team ...
Five days after the rally, four high school students were struck by a pickup truck in the West Roxbury neighborhood of Boston. School officials blamed the accident on poorly plowed roads. Governor Romney blamed the DCR ... and quickly fired DCR Commissioner Katherine Abbott ... .
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), a nonpartisan alliance of local, state and federal environmental resource professionals, places at least some of the blame for the accident on political games and Romney's decision to divert public funds to pay for the Patriots' rally. The group says the fiasco is a prime example of Romney's "take-no-prisoners" management style ...
"He approached governance like a hostile takeover and this resulted in gutted agencies, crippling reorganizations and poor morale among workers," said New England PEER Director Kyla Bennett, a former enforcement attorney with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). ...
Coddington goes on to quote people who actually think this is a good thing, or inevitable given the economics of the news business, or some other claptrap. Personally, I think it's just plain dishonest. If they're going to outsource local news to nonlocal writers, and pseudonymize the purported journalists' bylines, how are they any better than a thorough and careful blogger, that "evil" [/snark] individual whom mainstream journalists are always condemning?
The Chicago Tribune just outsourced its hyperlocal TribLocal sections to Journatic, and it began investigating Journatic’s work for fake bylines. The Chicago Sun-Times, Houston Chronicle, and San Francisco Chronicle also reported fake bylines on Journatic stories in their papers, and the Sun-Times and the newspaper chain GateHouse ended their contracts with Journatic, though GigaOM’s Mathew Ingram reported that those contracts expired before the fake-byline story came out. Journatic’s CEO sent a memo rallying the troops and declaring that its aliases would be discontinued.
The revelations pointed toward a larger discussion over how to do the tough work of making local journalism sustainable, summarized well by NPR’s David Folkenflik. Northeastern journalism professor Dan Kennedy said operations like Journatic’s “pink slime journalism” are a function of the fact that local journalism is difficult and expensive to do well, though the solution will ultimately come from the bottom up, not from cookie-cutter approaches. Free Press, meanwhile, urged us to demand better out of local news.
|Mordor - Total Information Awareness|
...It seems very likely that the FDA's actions were worthy of reporting. But nothing could so effectively reinforce the mostly false image of scientists as brilliant in their field of study but naive about political matters as those scientists' allowing their external communications to be spied upon.
The agency, using so-called spy software designed to help employers monitor workers, captured screen images from the government laptops of the five scientists as they were being used at work or at home. The software tracked their keystrokes, intercepted their personal e-mails, copied the documents on their personal thumb drives and even followed their messages line by line as they were being drafted, the documents show.
The extraordinary surveillance effort grew out of a bitter dispute lasting years between the scientists and their bosses at the F.D.A. over the scientists’ claims that faulty review procedures at the agency had led to the approval of medical imaging devices for mammograms and colonoscopies that exposed patients to dangerous levels of radiation.
A confidential government review in May by the Office of Special Counsel, which deals with the grievances of government workers, found that the scientists’ medical claims were valid enough to warrant a full investigation into what it termed “a substantial and specific danger to public safety.”
So like it or not, we have an election in which one candidate [Obama] is proposing a redistribution from the top — which is currently paying lower taxes than it has in 80 years — downward, mainly to lower-income workers, while the other [Rmoney] is proposing a large redistribution from the poor and the middle class to the top.
Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) on Thursday simultaneously apologized for and doubled down on comments he made last week equating the IRS with the Gestapo.
LePage told Vermont weekly Seven Days that he understands why his claim about the IRS — voiced after the Supreme Court upheld the health care law — offended some.
If this passes muster under Godwin's Law, then, even though Mike Godwin is very much still alive, please count me as a follower of the "Godwin is Dead" movement.
“What I’m trying to say is that the Holocaust was a horrific crime against humanity and, frankly, I would never want to see that repeated,” he said. “Maybe the IRS is not quite as bad. Yet.”
LePage explained that the connection between the Holocaust and “Obamacare” comes from what he called “rationing” contained in the law:
RIGHT TO INSPECT - The public, in exercising its right to self govern, and under principles of Freedom of Information, has a right to examine the original evidence (the ballots) to authenticate reported results in elections.At ground, there is no actual conflict between these rights: ballots from an election, paper or electronic, may be stripped of identifying information and published for inspection and (presumably) verification by interested parties.
RIGHT TO SECRET BALLOT - The public also has a right to a secret, anonymous ballot.
One voting machine vendor, Hart Intercivic, has been especially brazen about printing unique bar codes on each ballot, a dead cinch for stripping out data on how you voted with absentee voting. Hart dominates most Colorado counties (where absentee voting is approaching 50% of all votes), and Washington State, which is now 100% vote by mail.
...Well, yes. And today's racists, who are by no means exclusively confined to the South and are often very conservative in other aspects of their sociopolitical views, are gaining power, in an apparently intentional effort to transform the United States into something other than what it had evolved to be. Authors like Robinson avoid talking about the nation's origins, in which many of the founders were themselves slaveholders. But That was Then, and Now Everything is Different... Except in the South. If that were true, we would face a much smaller problem. But it isn't, and we don't.
For most of our history, American economics, culture and politics have been dominated by a New England-based Yankee aristocracy that was rooted in Puritan communitarian values, educated at the Ivies and marinated in an ethic of noblesse oblige (the conviction that those who possess wealth and power are morally bound to use it for the betterment of society). While they've done their share of damage to the notion of democracy in the name of profit (as all financial elites inevitably do), this group has, for the most part, tempered its predatory instincts with a code that valued mass education and human rights; held up public service as both a duty and an honor; and imbued them with the belief that once you made your nut, you had a moral duty to do something positive with it for the betterment of mankind. Your own legacy depended on this.
Which brings us to that other great historical American nobility -- the plantation aristocracy of the lowland South, which has been notable throughout its 400-year history for its utter lack of civic interest, its hostility to the very ideas of democracy and human rights, its love of hierarchy, its fear of technology and progress, its reliance on brutality and violence to maintain “order,” and its outright celebration of inequality as an order divinely ordained by God.