Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

I keep wondering: Is anyone under the age of 40 ‘Ready for Hillary’?

Yves Smith linked this morning on her Naked Capital blog to my post from yesterday called “The Secretive Democracy Alliance’s Secret Is Out: Some of its members are elitist, racist and self-serving,” and added a comment about it:

Helpful, but does not follow the logic to the obvious conclusion. Why is the Dem apparatus harping on the Kochs and not issues that would motivate voters, like more jobs, better access to housing and education? Because they’ve done nothing on those fronts and don’t intend to. […]

The link and Yves’ comment “pinged back” as a comment to my post.  In response to Yves and to a comment by Daniel Becker, I wrote:

My intended point, Yves, was that harping on the IS harping on the issues that would motivate voters, like more jobs, better access to housing and education.  Steve Phillips, et al., think that only white men and married white women are smart enough to understand the connection between politicians’ financial benefactors and those politicians’ proposed legislation and attempts to block legislation.  I think Phillips is wrong.

The failure of the Obama administration–courtesy largely of Tim Geithner and of Obama’s weird infatuation with him throughout Obama’s first term, but also to Obama’s laconic, detached, I’m-a-centrist! persona–to propose and then fight for substantial Keynesian fiscal policies and for other progressive policies–is not, say, Nancy Pelosi’s, or Dick Durbin’s, or Sherrod Brown’s, or Tom Harkin’s fault.

And, yes, the very last thing that the Dems need is yet another presidential nominee who’s never had an original policy idea in her life; who almost never takes a policy position that actually leads rather than follows (and in the one instance in which she did–drivers’ licenses for unauthorized immigrants–scrambles and backtracks at first sign of political harm to her; who spends her time posting to a silly Twitter account and trying to enhance her personal persona rather than ever, ever, ever actually thinking about and offering specific domestic policy proposals; and who apparently can’t function without the constant presence of an entourage of her “people,” i.e., her devotees.

How many other Secretaries of State had a constant go-fer?  How many other FORMER Secretaries of State brought along that same constant go-fer after leaving office? How many couldn’t manage without one?

I keep wondering: Is anyone under the age of 40 “ready for Hillary”? Best as I can tell, the answer is, no. What people ARE ready for is a politician–like Durbin, Harkin, Elizabeth Warren, Sherrod Brown, the former two who are too old to run for president, the latter two who don’t appear interpeted in doing so–who doesn’t have a Twitter account, or a personal entourage, or a daughter whose parents thought it was a good idea for her to sell her celebrity name (and nothing more) to a network news program for a huge amount of money, and talked their daughter into doing that.  Someone, in other words, who’s not famous for just being an ‘icon’, but who has built a mostly-quiet career as an economics populist in Congress or academia.

And, Daniel, I, like you, still cringe, as I did in 2008, at a campaign run almost entirely on a promise of Hope and Change, the substance of which the candidate never specified because he himself had no particular person convictions or policy ideas.  We don’t need another such standard bearer–not even one who replaces Hope and Change with WOMEN! WOMEN! WOMEN!  One Dem presidential candidate, and Dem president, of that ilk is more than enough, thank you very much.

Daniel, I think you and Yves have it backwards. The Dems can’t show progress in policy BECAUSE of the billionaire-controlled campaign-finance system.

So now I’ve gotten it off my chest.  It, being my dismay and utter frustration at the silly Hillary-or-bust obsession of the seemingly hypnotized Establishment Democrats and pundits.

This woman has written a narcissistic book for which she was paid handsomely-being paid handsomely appears to be her primary concern–and is in the process of blowing her book-tour interviews.  Which is nice, because now maybe–just maybe; it’s by no means certain–some actual longtime progressive policy person of some political stature, who doesn’t have a Twitter account or a personal entourage, and is not entirely self-obsessed–will step forward and run for the Dem presidential nomination, on a platform that details policy rather than relies upon personal celebrity and gender.

Hope springs eternal. Although the Kochs, the Chamber of Commerce, and some hedge fund folks have noticed, few political journalists–and apparently no Dem pols and political consultants–have.  This country is suddenly moving rapidly toward a progressive economic-populist era.  Instead, the over-40 professional political crowd thinks that the political sun rises and sets each morning with Hillary Clinton’s personal appearances and Twitter comments.  It doesn’t.

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Post edited slightly for clarity after posting. 6/25 at 3:58 p.m.

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Chris Cillizza Misses the Point. (The most important point, anyway.)

Anecdotal evidence, the basis of so much journalism prior to the rise of the data movement and still, to my mind, over-relied upon — is just that: anecdotal. Roughly 65,000 people voted in the Cantor-Brat primary; Brat won by more than 7,200 votes. Assuming that what a non-scientific sample  of 1, 10 or even 100 people in the district thought about Cantor (or Brat) in the run-up to the race — the shoe-leather reporting prized by Carr — was indicative of how 65,000 people were planning to vote seems to me to be somewhat misguided. (Now, if all 100 people a reporter talked to in the district loudly derided Cantor as an out of step liberal, then I take back my previous point. But, my guess is that wouldn’t have happened.)

Should I have seen Eric Cantor’s loss coming?, Chris Cillizza, Washington Post, today

I assume that Cillizza is, as he says, responding to New York Times writer David Carr’s column on Monday, “Eric Cantor’s Defeat Exposed a Beltway Journalism Blind Spot,” rather than also to, say, my AB post from Wednesday, in which I discuss Carr’s column and note that what the national news media missed, but what the local political reporters Carr mentions recognized, was not simply local antagonism toward Cantor but, to an apparently substantial extent, local antagonism toward Cantor because he is the very embodiment of the politician who shares John Roberts’ particular view, stated expressly in his opinion two months ago in McCutcheon v. FEC, of who or what a politician’s “constituent” is.

In my post on Wednesday (picked up in full elsewhere, I’m glad to see), I noted that the in-depth analysis of it by political several political journalists now that the post-Canter-defeat dust has settled is that critical to Brat’s victory was an anti-plutocracy theme and that Cantor provided the perfect foil for it. Most of the articles discussing this say that the Chamber of Commerce–an explicit target of Brat’s during the campaign, and other major players among the Republican business constituency, who Roberts described in McCutcheon as constituents entitled to secretly help draft legislation by dint of their ability to purchase that right, concur and are springing into action.  As Gail Collins summarized it in her New York Times column yesterday:

The defeat of the House majority leader, Eric Cantor, terrified many of the party establishment’s supporters, particularly since Cantor’s opponent ran against Wall Street, big business and bank bailouts.

It’s a problem, if you’re a big-money donor, to be worried that your party is being taken over by crazy people who will alienate the voters in a national election by opposing immigration reform and contraception. It’s a catastrophe to be worried that it’s being taken over by economic populists.

Cillizza and, I suspect, a number of other professional political analysts remain wedded to what is quickly becoming an outdated model.  They’re missing some important handwriting on the wall, which is that huge swaths of the public are dismayed at the meaning of “constituency” and “democracy” as defined in the New Dictionary of Supreme Court English, edited by Roberts and Anthony Kennedy.  As I said in my Wednesday post:

Call McCutcheon v. FEC the new poll tax. I do.  After all, John Roberts, in a surprising bit of honesty, described it in his opinion for the majority as pretty much that in his opinion in that case earlier this year. “Ingratiation and access . . . are not corruption,” he wrote, quoting Anthony Kennedy’s the Court’s decision in Citizens United, and then explained:

“They embody a central feature of democracy—that constituents support candidates who share their beliefs and interests, and candidates who are elected can be expected to be responsive to those concerns.”

But Cantor’s constituents–the ones that Roberts says should dictate Cantor’s policy positions and write legislation he proposes–couldn’t vote in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District last week. The district is too far away for them to commute to Wall Street, or to Wichita, KS, or downtown Houston, or Raleigh, NC.  And surprisingly, it turns out that Brat actually ran what was in large part a progressive economic-populist–an anti-plutocracy–campaign highlighting who exactly Cantor’s  constituents (to borrow Roberts’ term) are.  So, now that that is being widely reported and is sinking in, hedge-fund types and the Chamber of Commerce crowd apparently indeed are starting to pray.

Apart from the obvious reason for the definitional chasm between Roberts & Co. and most people embedded in that statement by Roberts–specifically, the definition of “democracy”–add to the rapidly growing list of Roberts’ casual redefinitions of common words this new definition of “constituent,” one disembodied from residency in the candidate or officeholder’s actual election jurisdiction.

Cantor was beaten, in substantial part, it certainly appears, by Citizens United and McCutcheon–by a backlash toward the political system that is now, bizarrely but expressly, institutionalized as a matter of constitutional jurisprudence.  Turnout was very heavy, far heavier than it was in the primary in that district two years ago, when apparently all the candidates were fine, thank you very much, with poll-tax democracy.

I titled that post “David Brat, et al. v. John Roberts, Anthony Kennedy, the Koch Brothers, the Chamber of Commerce, et al.”  And in the last two paragraphs, I elaborated upon the title, writing:

Brat, for his part, appears to be about to run a general-election campaign consisting mainly of slogans and non sequiturs.  No surprise, of course; slogans, cliches, non sequiturs are the very essence of the current Republican Party–both factions of the Tea Party/Republican Party. The Paul Ryan/Koch brothers/Chamber of Commerce faction and also, because of the mutual exclusivity of its premises, the (newly named) David Brat faction. That’s simply the nature of this beast.

But the divorce case originally known as Movement Conservatives v. Movement Conservatives, filed June 10, 2014 in the Richmond, Virginia Court of Public Opinion, is a class action.  I just checked the docket for the case, and it’s now called Movement Conservatives, et al. v. Movement Conservatives.  And already, there have been several amicus briefs filed on behalf of the petitioners.  And the Supreme Court may not decide the outcome of it after all.

That last sentence is true; the Supreme Court has lost control of the narrative on this.  It has tried, but unsuccessfully, to decree new non-legal definitions of “corruption,” “democracy,” “constituent,” “person,” and “speech.”  It is losing its case in the courts of public opinion in most jurisdictions around the country; that much already is clear.  But the Court will decide, very possibly–in other litigation; actual imminent litigation, in Wisconsin state court and very possibly in federal court–whether or not two key provisions of Wisconsin state, and of still-standing federal, campaign-finance statutes violate five Supreme Court justices’ view of the First Amendment within the peculiar prism of their definitions of those words.

Best as I can tell from news reports in the last 24 hours, the apparently forthcoming state prosecution of a few people involved on behalf of Gov. Scott Walker and Republican state legislators in the Wisconsin recall elections in 2011 and 2012, and perhaps of Walker himself, will necessarily involve challenges by the defendants to the constitutionality of Wisconsin’s (and possibly eventually to the federal government’s) statutory prohibitions against consort between election campaigns and PACs purporting to be “operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare” and unaffiliated with a political party or candidate.

The PACs are not subject to donor-amount limits, and they also can qualify for non-profit tax status if they meet a low bar for what constitutes “exclusively for the promotion of social welfare”.

But whether operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare, as “social welfare” is defined by most people, or instead as it will be defined in New Dictionary of Supreme Court English, these groups embody a central feature of democracy as defined in the April 2, 2014 edition of that Dictionary—that constituents support candidates who share their beliefs and interests, and candidates who are elected can be expected to be responsive to those concerns. And Scott Walker and the Republican legislators who were subject to possible recall adopted the very definition of “constituent” included in the current edition of the New Dictionary. Most of the people and groups with which they appear to have been coordinating were Walker’s and the legislators’ constituents only in the newly defined sense.  They were not residents of Wisconsin and therefore could not show a valid photo ID at a polling place in Wisconsin. (They would have to vote by absentee ballot.)

But Walker & Friends still remain a bit too precocious in one respect.  The Court’s majority has not yet redefined “democracy” to include as a central feature a First Amendment right of constituents (under either definition, traditional or new) to hide their identity when contributing directly to a political campaign.  And it well may not do so.  Kennedy indicated in his opinion in Citizens United that he does not believe that secret donations to campaigns embody a central feature of democracy.  Uh-oh.

Ultimately, though, what matters most is the outcome that civil litigation, Movement Conservatives, et al. v. Movement Conservatives, because not all five of the current editors of the New Dictionary are young and healthy–and because of the political facts illustrated by the surprisingly high turnout in the open primary in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District and the predominant campaign theme of the winner.  But I don’t expect Chris Cillizza to get that.

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What is Wrong with “Our” VA

This was an answer in the local Weekly Reader to a couple of others who insisted VA healthcare should be disassembled and handed over to the private sector. I guess I could have said “nuts; I did say “nonsense.”

“All right, they’re on our left, they’re on our right, they’re in front of us, they’re behind us…they can’t get away this time.” You figure out who said this.

Senator Bernie Sanders bill failed by 4 Republican votes to get out of the Senate. Within that bill there were several sections dealing with meeting the needs of veterans.

Section 327 would require VA to develop and transmit to Congress a strategic plan for improving access and quality of health care services for veterans in rural areas. This plan would include goals and objectives for: the recruitment and retention of health care personnel in rural areas; ensuring timeliness and improving quality in the delivery of health care services in rural areas through contract and fee-basis providers; implementation, expansion, and enhanced use of telemedicine services; ensuring the full and effective use of mobile outpatient clinics.

Section 501 would direct VA to reorganize the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) into geographically defined VISNs. In addition, it directs the Secretary to ensure that each VISN provides high quality health care to veterans, increases efficiency in care delivery, implements best practices, enhances collaboration with partner entities, among other management functions. Finally, this section requires the Secretary, at least every three years, to review and assess VISN structure and operations and submit review results to the Committees on Veterans’ Affairs.

Section 502 would require VA to establish not more than four regional support centers within VHA to assess how effectively and efficiently each VISN conducts outreach to veterans who served in contingency operations; administers programs for the benefits of women veterans; manages programs that address homelessness among veterans, and consumes energy. In addition, the regional support centers would assess the quality of work performed within finance operations, compliance related activities and such other matters concerning the operation and activities of each VISN as the Secretary considers appropriate. “Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act of 2014”

Here is what some of those needed four Republican Senators said:

“I don’t think our veterans want their program to be enhanced if every penny of the money to enhance those programs is added to the debt of the United States of America,” Senator Jeff Sessions Republican Alabama.

“Greatly expanded spending without any realistic offset,” as he dickered with Reid over sanctions on Iran. Republican Senator Mitch McConnell, Kentucky

“I think the decision we got here, as we debate this legislation, is whether we are going to commit to a promise that is bigger than what our kids can fulfill.”It costs more than our kids can afford (with a little sh*t-eating grin on his face). My colleagues pointed out most of the veteran organizations support this bill in fact correct. Senator Richard Burr Republican North Carolina

As far as the bill, the chairman has offered here, this bill has already been debated and there are problems with this bill that is an extensive piece of legislation that has many good elements in it. It also has a cost issue at a time when our nation owes $18 trillion and that was the reason why so may on my side of the aisle objected to it and that is why I would object as to the motion made here today by the Senator from Vermont.” Republican Senator Mario Rubio, FLA.

After causing Senator Bernie Sander’s bill to fail by 4 votes, these same 4 Senators are now trying to get to the bottom of why there are delays in getting care for veterans. The VA has always had a degree of issues with it in waiting for the benefits offered and this has been the case for decades. Too often and too late much of the delay is the result of the lack of funding to meet the influx of newly discharged and veterans (disabled and healthy). The issue extends to the Vietnam Veterans who are now arriving at the VA installations with issues resulting from age. Old Mr. Invincible has seen a few instances of physical vulnerability.

To answer to the insistence on leaving Veteran healthcare to the free market, we pretty much have done so with everyday people over the decades. What have we experienced?

– Since the proposal of Hillarycare in the nineties, we have seen the cost of providing healthcare quadruple. There are no controls or incentives to stem the persistent and ever-increasing cost of healthcare by the industry as it is a service- for- fees- cost- model, which makes it money by selling you more. The US has one of the most expensive healthcare systems in the world without the benefit of the best care globally.

– We have left the training of doctors and the supply of them to the free market. Increasingly we are experiencing a shortage of primary care doctors not only at the VA; but, it is being experienced in the private healthcare market today. Only 20% of the students hoping to be doctors are going into primary care and the shortage is growing. “The US is short ~16,000 Primary-Care Doctors. The PPACA attempts to solve the problem by skewing funding and salary to primary care except Congress is cutting PPACA funding “Congress, for example, already has chopped about $6.25 billion from the ACA’s new $15 billion Prevention and Public Health Fund, which pays for programs to reduce obesity, stop smoking and otherwise promote good health. In addition, federal support for training all types of physicians, including primary care doctors, is targeted for cuts by President Obama and Congress, Republicans and Democrats, says Christiane Mitchell, director of federal affairs for the Association of American Medical Colleges, who calls the proposed cuts “catastrophic.” Nurse Practitioners are coming on line; but, the time table is long and they will not be abundant for years yet Some of this is a contrived shortage as cited by PNHP:

“(Nursing schools are trying to produce more Nurse Practitioners (NPs) to deal with the crisis in primary care, but have been consistently attacked by MDs who insist that NPs are not well enough educated to provide even routine primary care.)” “Lack of funding is the Real VA scandal”

– Try getting in to see a Cardiologist or specialist or primary care doctor in 2-3 weeks in the commercial market. You can not and the wait times extend outward from 1-3 months in private medical care clinics (my experience). This is typical. Phillip Longman the author of The Best Care Anywhere most recently pointed to the wait for a private clinic doctor’s appointment.

patients who already have good private insurance have trouble scoring an appointment with a primary care physician. Which is why, (Philip Longman interview at Vox) , wait times for an appointment in Los Angeles are on average up to 59 days and in Boston up to 63. Newspaper reports like that in the New York Times spotlight vets who have been able to get immediate appointments in the private sector.

Well I congratulate them.

Most people I know, even those with good health insurance have a pretty hard time finding a PCP whose practice is even open to new patients and have to wait a good long time for specialist care as well. How will the nation’s overtaxed primary care doctors suddenly be able to accommodate millions of vets when they can’t handle the patients they already have, plus the influx of patients who will now be insured thanks to the Affordable Care Act?”

And the acting VA Chief is planning on dumping thousands of veterans into the commercial market? The placing of Veterans in the commercial market will start an erosion of VA benefits for those who have earned it serving the “4 chicken-hawks” I named above who sent them to war.

– The VA offers more to veterans than what the private healthcare clinics can. As one Livingston Daily Veteran (Jim Pratt) pointed out: “The VA system has major advantages over private hospitals in some things- such as electronic medical records, coordinated care, and early screening and detection of issues that of are particular need for military veterans. U of M medical center does not screen for PTSD, or for titanium dust (Camp Victory), depleted uranium exposure (All our engagements since the 1980’s), or exposure to ionizing radiation. The VA can do those, and more.

Another veteran, Jack Samples points to the efforts of the Ann Arbor VA in handling its patient workload. Having been there myself, I can vouch for it also. Guarantees two-week maximum waits for primary care appointments, Provides 24-hour emergency care, provides daily urgent care for anyone who does not have an appointment but needs or wants to see a doctor, etc.

– VA Primary Care doctors are underpaid and making less than their commercial counterparts do. It is difficult to attract more primary care doctors to the VA when more can be made in commercial hospitals.

The list goes on, on how Congress has failed the veterans of this nation with some lame excuses for not funding the last two wars and preparing adequately to receive veterans. Much of this is not the fault of the VA. The generalities expressed by two readers do not hold up to a close examination and there is no economic reason to give veteran healthcare over to a failed private healthcare system which abandoned millions of people.

“The Architect of the VA’s Quality Transformation Under Clinton Speaks Out”, Phillip Longman

“VA Care: Still the Best Care Anywhere? Part II”, Phillip Longman

“How to Beat the Doctor Shortage”, Marsha Mercer

“The Best Care Anywhere”, Phillip Longman

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Finally … a growing public awareness and concern about the ‘attitudinal model’ of Supreme Court votes. [Expanded repost]

Correction appended below.

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Scott Lemieux weighs in at The Week, writing that, although “Supreme Court voting is too complex to be explained by any single factor,” the “attitudinal model” – which posits that “Supreme Court votes are explained by what judges consider desirable policy” – “still contains a good deal of truth.”

— Amy Howe, SCOTUSblog, Friday Roundup, May 16 this morning

Lemieux’s article is a must-read–for his own excellent commentary and because it mentions recent articles and empirical studies that not only make the substantive point but also illustrate that we’ve reached, or are about to reach, the point at which, having broken through to the larger, general news media, it becomes a subject of discussion among, y’know, ordinary folk. The sort of people whose cert. petition, should they file one, the Court wouldn’t be caught dead actually considering granting.

Lemieux’s statement that “Supreme Court votes are explained by what judges consider desirable policy” is profoundly accurate.  During the 1980s and ‘90s the justices were quite open about this, at least regarding access-to-federal-court issues.  By which I mean that they engaged in wholesale fabrications of jurisdictional, quasi-jurisdictional, and “immunity” doctrines, and the rewriting of procedural statutes (the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure are statutes)–in an unremitting juggernaut to deny federal-court access to pretty much everyone who isn’t a corporation, a state (states are now people, just like corporations, except when someone wants to sue them), a public official or employee acting in the course of his or her employment, or a rightwing culture warrior.

The Roberts Court has continued this, in spades, except when a mega-corporation or a multi-millionaire represented by a $1,000/hr. Washington-based Supreme Court Specialist asks that they narrow the doctrine.  There was a very, very recent (May 5), stunning exception to this hard-and-fast qualifications-to-have-your-cert.-petition-considered prerequisite list, in an opinion that I would consider the second-most-significant opinion of this term  (McCutcheon v. FEC is the most important, in my opinion), except that I already know that the lower courts will ignore the opinion–simply pretend that it doesn’t exist–and get away with it. The Court, as currently constituted, won’t grant another cert. petition to enforce the two (equally important) rulings in that case, Tolan v. Cotton, unless a mega-corporation needs it–a highly unlikely event.

If you doubt that, please read the dissent from the decision to hear that case.*  It will be educational, I trust.

The Roberts Court’s contribution to the Court’s wholesale self-conferred policymaking role is to purport to justify their policymaking as mandated by the Constitution–by its structure, its history, its … whatever.  Whatever, usually being some comment by one of its framers (almost always James Madison, the unwitting mascot of today’s far right), or a pre-Civil War Supreme Court opinion.

That the actual structure of the Constitution, as well as its explicit provisions, include, for example, a clear separation-of-powers bar to judicial-branch fabrication of jurisdictional and other procedural bars to access to federal court has, since the early 1980s mattered not one whit.  So the Court no longer adds to the a veritable avalanche of fiats that the justices themselves justified in some instances as simply their idea of good policy.  The fiats these days come clothed as alleged personal dictates of Madison or of Congress, notwithstanding the chasm between Madison’s (and other framers’) actual expressed beliefs–or Congress’s actual clear intent, as per the statute’s or procedural Rule’s words as those words are commonly understood (or were, at the time of enactment)–and the Court’s suspiciously rightwing interpretation of them. And now, finally, the general news media and the larger public are catching on.

Progress.

Another terrific article about this is an op-ed by journalist Michael McGough in Thursday’s Los Angeles Times, in which he says he’s “struck by how the controversy over whether the Supreme Court justices have become more partisan in recent years parallels a phenomenon I discovered when writing about the Church of England: the ‘party bishop.’”

Relatedly, another terrific article in The Week, this one by Matt Bruenig, argues for term-limiting Supreme Court justices, and is subtitled “Lifetime appointments were meant to preserve judicial independence. But the high court has devolved into a political body with too much power.”  That article is similar to one by law professor Eric Segall published at CNN.com earlier this week, except that Bruenig’s article details some specific amendment proposals.

These are matters whose time finally may have come as issues worthy of serious attention, with real possibility for change.

Like this one.

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NOTE: This is an edited and expanded version of a post I posted yesterday and have now deleted.

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CORRECTION: I received the following email this morning from a law clerk to a federal magistrate judge:

Greetings,

I read your article, “Finally . . . a growing public awareness and concern about the ‘attitudinal model’ of Supreme Court votes” this morning after linking to it from SCOTUSblog.  In it, you referenced Tolan v. Cotton from the current Supreme Court term saying, “The Court, as currently constituted, won’t grant another cert. petition to enforce the two (equally important) rulings in that case, Tolan v. Cotton, unless a mega-corporation needs it — a highly unlikely event.  If you doubt that, please read the dissent in that case.  It will be educational, I trust.”

Upon linking to Tolan v. Cotton, however, I found no dissent, only a concurrence by Justice Alito, joined by Justice Scalia. Did I misread your comment?

I responded:

I am sorry; you are right that the Alito opinion, joined by Scalia, is a concurrence in the judgment.  It was a dissent from the decision to grant cert., but a concurrence in the two substantive rulings–one concerning summary-judgment jurisprudence, the other concerning “qualified immunity” federal common law. Once the Court decided, 7-2, to grant the cert. petition, Alito and Scalia did agree that the Court of Appeals had ignored the mandate of Rule 56 and the Court’s own summary-judgment and qualified-immunity jurisprudence. But since petitioner Tolan was neither a state trying to have the Court overturn a federal habeas grant nor a mega-corporation asking the Court to rein in the rampant and breathtaking misuse by the lower federal courts of the Court-fabricated jurisdictional/quasi-jurisdictional “federalism” doctrines, Alito and Scalia objected to the majority’s decision to grant the petition.

The part of my post in which I (briefly) discussed Tolan addressed the issue of who has access to Supreme Court “error review”, and when, and why. So I used the word “dissent,” but should have explained that the opinion was only a dissent to the part of the opinion granting cert. and stating why, and not to the substantive outcome.

I’ll add a correction to my post.

Beverly Mann

Some of this is technical language, and sometime later today or tomorrow I’ll post separately about this, explaining it.  But I wanted to post this correction here as soon as possible.  The emailer said she serves as the death-penalty law clerk to the magistrate judge she works for. 5/21 at 1:21 p.m.

* Sentence corrected, 5/21 at 1:47 p.m.

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“Sit In The Back of The Bus, I want this Seat”

I grew up in the city of Chicago in the fifties and sixties. When I was going into the military, I saw the west side of Chicago burning as I returned my then girl friend back to her home. It is still hard to believe this type of discrimination would happen today as it happened then . . . and it is. Yet it is even harder to believe a lone white man would demand a seat from a black woman and tell her to move to the back of the bus in New York City. The African Americans kept their cool even with an obviously crazy old white man making racists demands on them.

which begin after the man asked her to move:

BLACK PASSENGER: Why?

WHITE PASSENGER: “Because the back of the bus is over there… I mean the black of the bus is over there.”

BLACK PASSENGER: “Excuse you?”

WHITE PASSENGER: “Yes, I want that seat.”

BLACK PASSENGER: “Why do I have to go to the back of the bus?”

WHITE PASSENGER: “I want that seat.”

BLACK PASENGER: “No, I’m not getting up cause you’re being… no… you’re being racist.”

His comment after everyone on the bus objects to his demands??? “This is why we need Donald Sterling.”

Many of us had witnessed what we thought to be the death of this type of overt and bold display of racism decades ago. You have to wonder whether recent societal views towards discrimination have created an environment for the reemergence of this type of public display. This person does not appear to be a skinhead or a KKK member and appears to be just an average male on a bus.

With a court that looks at discrimination as something which is in the past and laws are no longer needed; with a large segment of our political leaders and a greater portion of the population claiming they have the right to discriminate in day to day business or otherwise activities on race, sexual orientation, or gender; with an economy skewing productivity gains away from the majority of the population; We are heading to another point where there will be another city and economy burnt. We are squeezing the low income and minority population as never before and sneering at them with our Donald Sterling threats.

HT: FirebrandProgressive and Crooks and Liars

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Americans Raid 401(k)s

Angry Bear has carried posts on this issue over the years. 1. 2008 and draining the 401k pool of money, 2. Draining 401ks, 3. 401k and Social Security, 4.. Kenneth Thomas and retirements money (Links), 5. A 1000/mo pension equals 300,000 in savings among others.

Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism  makes an impassioned statement. (Re-posted with permission)

Americans Raid 401(k)s, Replacing Home Equity Withdrawals as Way to Make Ends Meet

It’s been creepy to see economists and the financial media cheering the re-levering by American households as a sign that they economy is on the mend and consumers are regaining their will to shop. But ordinary Americans took huge balance sheet hits in the crisis: the loss of home equity, which only in some markets has come all the way back; job losses and pay and hours reductions, which led many to run down savings as they readjusted; declines in stock market portfolios; lower income thanks to ZIRP for retirees and other income-oriented investors.

While the top wealthy are borrowing, in contrast to the behavior of the rich predecessors, on the other end of the spectrum, many are still struggling for survival. The latest job report showed that the number of long-term unemployed, reflected in the level of people who’ve given up looking for work and are counted as no longer in the workforce, only continues to rise. Food stamps and extended unemployment benefits have been cut. And with soup kitchens under stress too, one wonders how people who are in such dire financial straits manage to get by.

Before the crisis, if someone was hit with a financial emergency, like an accident or sudden job loss, those who had houses could often draw on home equity. With that piggybank depleted or non-existent, the last-ditch financial fallback is accessing retirement savings.

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Greg Mankiw thinks the VA is having problems.

I can not believe the nerve of  Greg Mankiw posting a blog about the Veterans Administration having problems.

He suggests giving Vets a voucher.

I suggest that he should apologize to all the Vets  for the War and Tax cuts policies that were implemented while he was at the White House that created the problem he is referring to.

But I guess Republicans do not believe they ever have to take the blame for the problems they create.

 

 

 

 

 

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Wasting One Life Away

A while back, I had written this: “One in 31 Adults”. As this was one of my first posts, Dan was kind enough then to post it on Angry Bear.

One in 31 Adults” (~2.3 million) are under the control of the correctional system according to a March 2009 Pew Center Report of the same title. 1 in every one hundred adults are imprisoned in jail, state prison, or federal prison. 25 years ago, those under the control of the correctional system was 1 in 77 adults as compared to 1 in 31 adults. If you factor in the numbers on parole or probation (~5.1 million [2007]), the numbers in jail, prison or on probation swell to ~ 7.3 million under some type of correctional/probationary control (2007).

What does the then growing prison and correctional population cost taxpayers? To support the then growing state prison population, costs ranged (it has only gone up) from ~$13,000 in Louisiana to ~$45,000 in Rhode Island annually (2005). The average was ~$23,000 annually, “US Imprisons 1 in every 100 Adults” NYT. The cost of imprisonment compares nicely to a state or private college education (another story which then I had not written about). As a whole the US imprisons a higher percentage of its population than any other nation in the world (and we still do such) from which the cost burden of housing prisoners has become an issue for states with a decreasing/stagnant economy and decreasing tax revenues. Paradoxically while costing the state more, jails and prisons for many communities are a stable and growing business employing people, services, and a fast growing part of the rural community economies.

If you want to see how prisons impact local communities, go visit Ionia, Muskegon, Kingsley, etc. Michigan; prisons/jails are the major employer in small communities and Michigan courts keep them full. Livingston County is building a $15 million extension to its jail to overcome crowding. Just like building a warehouse to house inventory, the county will fill it up. “If you build it, they will come.” Whack the prisons/jails and the towns dry up. The laws such as three strikes and drug possession for imprisoning nonviolent prisoners are antiquated. Fast forward to 2014 and this story of a man who was sentenced to prison and how they never came to get him while he was out on bond.

“Back in 1999, Anderson helped rob a Burger King assistant manager in St. Charles, Mo., with what turned out to be a BB gun. In May 2000 he was convicted of armed robbery and sentenced to 13 years in prison — but because of a clerical error, he never did the time.

While out on bail, he went on to become a law-abiding, happily married man with four children. After training as a carpenter, Anderson started a small businesses and built his own home from the ground up. On the weekends, he volunteered at his church, went fishing, fixed up old cars and helped his kids prepare for their spelling tests — ‘just normal, everyday, good stuff,’ he told Snow.

At first, Anderson lived every day wondering whether law enforcement might arrive and take him to prison.

‘For the first couple of years, yes,’ he said. ‘When I’m in the shower, I hear a noise, outside somebody closing the door, I’m thinking it’s them at the door every single day.’

Despite that anxiety, he did not turn himself in.

‘That was not me,” he said. “Prison is not me.’

Then, early one morning in July 2013, that day came, as law-enforcement officials descended on his home and hauled him away for failing to serve his sentence all those years ago. Anderson maintains that he was never a fugitive and he never hid his whereabouts from authorities.

‘We did everything we were supposed to do,’ Anderson told Snow. ‘We filed all the paperwork. My attorney (at the time) told them that I wasn’t incarcerated, that I was out on bond.’

Anderson told Snow that as the years passed, he registered his businesses with the state of Missouri, renewed his driver’s licenses, got married and even voted — all the while using his full name and his current mailing address.

‘A fugitive is someone that they’re looking for and that’s running,’ Anderson said. ‘I never ran, and they weren’t looking for me. … I used to think, ‘Maybe they just wiped the slate clean.’”

No, they did not wipe the slate clean, through clerical error they had lost Cornealious “Mike” Anderson in the state correctional system. If you ever want to see a low caliber operation, visit your prisons. I had to laugh when one guard was explaining to me how to secure a vehicle in a heavily patrolled area. In the early seventies, I chased prisoners for the USMC during the few months remaining of my enlistment. Existence in the state system for many workers is measured by how little you do.

Missouri caught up with Mike and they want their 13 years of prison-time-slice of his life. Mike is now sitting in prison today “It’s — it’s like my life is wasting away.” Considering what he has contributed to society over the last 13 years as a normal citizen making a living and paying taxes, Mike’s life is wasting away. Mike has gone from being a contributor in society by leading a normal life, raising a family, and paying taxes to a prisoner in a Missouri prisoner and the state and its citizens paying for his upkeep.

Thirteen years of making ~$40,000 annually or ~$520,000 in economic activity to 13 years @ $22,350 annually or $290,550 in cost to the state plus the loss of his salary for a total 0f $810,550 over the next 13 years plus welfare for his wife and 4 children. All just to get even with a person who made a normal life for himself.

“I gave my life to the Lord and he changed my mindset, gave me a new heart — changed my mind about the way I was living, the way I thought about things. And I just — I became a man.” This fits in with the religious culture one would see in this part of the state. It is also not unusual to see this reaction in prison where the prisoners become religious, especially when they are cut off from family, as they have no one else to turn to while there and they cling to anything. We have bought a few Bibles and teaching Bibles for prisoners from time to time and have probably stocked a library or two with our purchases of other books. Mike did this outside of prison when he really did not have to do so and he proved his worth. Maybe if he were white the reaction might have been different as back when the Pew Report was written, 1 in 11 adult African-Americans were imprisoned as compared to a lesser rate for Caucasians. The US imprisons more African-Americans then Caucasians.

We as a society really do some dumb things.

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Kudos to Ross Douthat for his rebuttal to David Brooks on Piketty. Now, who will rebut Douthat about recent tax-policy history?

It turns out that Paul Krugman is not the only NYT columnist/blogger who reads Angry Bear. Ross Douthat does, too!

Okay, seriously: Douthat’s delicate-ballet filleting of Brooks’s take on Piketty is priceless.

Now, maybe someone can fillet Douthat’s take on tax-rate increases for “Americans making (or inheriting) in the $100,000-$500,000 range,” which, he says, “is a demographic, it should be noted, that’s proven much more successful at resisting tax increases in the age of Obama than have the true plutocrats above them.”

Hmm.  You’d almost think it was the Republicans rather than Obama and the congressional Democrats who tried to restore to Clinton-era levels the Bush-era tax cuts for people in the $250,000-$500,000 range, and estate taxes, and that Obama and the congressional Dems put a halt to it. Unless, that is, you have no familiarity with the psychology term “projection.”  Or you just have a short memory.

This did happen in the age of Obama, though, so I guess it’s fine to suggest falsely that it was Obama’s choice. Obama orchestrated Republican obstructionism. Who knew?

And that Republican threat last December to shut down the government again, before finally acceding to some part of Obama’s tax-rate increases?  Or am I confused, and it actually was the other way around?

Elsewhere in his post, Douthat says the Democrats won’t propose higher tax rates on people in that income bracket because, if they do, people in that bracket won’t vote for them.  I guess he’s surveyed the many millions of people in that bracket who voted for Obama in 2012 despite his tax-increase proposals, and learned that they’ve had a change of heart since the election.

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Gail Collins (and me): Free Us From ‘Freedom’

To be fair, I don’t think Hannity had any idea about Bundy’s racial theories. However, it’s generally a good idea to be wary of lionizing people who go around saying: “I don’t recognize the United States government as even existing.”

Anyhow, Cliven was toast, although he did make an appearance on CNN, in which he explained that his racist remarks were all about — yes! — freedom. In this case, the “freedom to say what we want. If I call — if I say ‘negro’ or ‘black boy’ or ‘slave,’ I’m — if those people cannot take those kind of words and not be offensive, then Martin Luther King hasn’t got his job done yet.”

— Gail Collins, Of the Fox and the Cattle, NYT, today

I was happy, when I read that column this morning, to see that people are catching on to this rightwing “stick-the-label-’freedom’-onto-whatever-we-want-to-do” thing–this is very big at the Supreme Court these days–but now I’m having second thoughts.

I’ve always wanted a ranch out West.  And I don’t really recognize Cliven Bundy as even existing, nor the Recorder of Deeds in his county as even existing.  And if I can get a group of folks together who don’t either, I see no reason why I can’t fulfill my dream and have a ranch out West even though I can’t actually afford to buy one.

My dream involves horses, though; not cattle.  But there probably are some horse ranches in that county whose “owners” I don’t even recognize as existing, so while I don’t really want the land they claim is theirs–the Bundy ranch is big enough for my needs, and it looks nice–I’m sure my group and I can manage the horse-herding thing from one ranch to another.  At least as long as we have enough ammunition for our AK-47s.

The best part is that one of my senators–not Harry Reid; the other one–will be very supportive of me in this.  I can’t wait to vote for him in 2018.  If I haven’t shot myself with my semi-automatic by then.

I now want to see the Republicans regain control of the Senate.  So maybe I can convince the Democrats to feature ads quoting Heller on this whole freedom/Bundy issue.  I’m sure the Dems think that would scare some moderate folks into voting Democratic, so they won’t see my real purpose.  But I know better.  A lot of moderates want ranches in the West, too.

Wanna join me on the ranch?

 

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