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

Rampant judicial activism

Via Slate by Dahlia Lithwick and Mark Joseph Stern:

The Clarence Thomas takeover

But Thomas is more than just the Trump administration’s philosophical hero. His once-fringy ideas are suddenly flourishing—not only on the high court, through his alliance with Gorsuch, but also in the executive branch.

Everywhere you turn in Trumpland, you’ll find a slew of Thomas’ former clerks in high places. They are serving in the White House counsel’s office(Greg Katsas, John Eisenberg, David Morrell); awaiting appointment to the federal judiciary (Allison H. Eid, David Stras); leading the departments of the Treasury (Heath P. Tarbert, Sigal Mandelker) and Transportation (Steven G. Bradbury); defending the travel ban in court (Jeffrey Wall); and heading the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (Neomi Rao). Thomas clerks are also working with dark money groups to execute Trump’s agenda (Carrie Severino) and boosting him in the far-right media (Laura Ingraham).

At the precise moment in which the more than 120 vacancieson the federal courts may be the only reason for conservatives to hold their noses and stand by Trump, it’s Clarence Thomas who stands as a living embodiment of wars already won and triumphs yet to come.

Via Buzzflash by Mark Karlin:


Under the Radar, Trump Is Packing the Federal Judiciary With Right-Wingers

Over the past few decades, Republicans have demonstrated that they understand the long-term implications of creating an activist federal judiciary and using every trick in the book and sheer power plays to confirm right-wing nominees. Meanwhile, the Democrats appear to generally be content to play by the Senate rules and not put a full-court press on getting Democratic presidential nominees placed on the various levels of the federal bench. In this sense, Gorsuch is just the tip of the pyramid. Progressives are mostly ignoring all the federal judges confirmed by the GOP at other levels — to great peril.

Jeffrey Toobin, legal analyst for The New Yorker, wrote yesterday of the GOP’s high-intensity push to get its federal appointees seated — as compared to the Democratic senators when they are responsible for federal court nominees:

Trump has also benefited from the greater interest that conservatives, as compared with liberals, have shown in federal judicial appointments at all levels. Republicans simply care more than Democrats do about getting their people on to the bench. Illustrating the varying priorities of the two parties, Allan Smith, of Business Insider, compared the first six months of judicial appointments under Obama and Trump. Smith found that, in this period, Trump nominated eighteen people for district-judgeship vacancies, and fourteen for circuit courts and the Court of Federal Claims. During that same period in Obama’s first term, he nominated just four district judges and five appeals-court judges. In total, when U.S. Attorneys are included, Trump nominated fifty-five people, and Obama just twenty-two. Obama’s attention was, undoubtedly, distracted by a global economic implosion in 2009, but his party had a greater majority in the Senate than Trump’s does now, and still Obama failed to push through more than a handful of judges in that period.

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Democrats in Array

The hardy perennial “Democrat’s circular firing squad is in disarray” story line is looking a bit withered. During the whole dramatic absurd Trumpcare drama (so far Trumpcare is a zombie which can’t be killed) ALL 48 Democratic senators remained united. In 2016 the new Clinton adopted a neo-neo-liberal platform which was actually liberal.

However, some people refuse to let it go. I am one of those people.

update Charlie Pierce is another one, and he can write. Click this link for the post I wish I had written
end update

I want to whine about this informative and well written article by Ryan Cooper
“Why leftists don’t trust Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and Deval Patrick”. Cooper wrote in the third person discussing leftists without presenting himself as one. He left me tempted to title this post “”Leftist Democratism” as an infantile disorder”. His key point is that leftists value style over substance “Second, and perhaps more importantly, they need to make a symbolic rhetorical break with the despised donor class. ” Cooper’s point is that the (un-named and unquoted leftists who clearly include someone named Cooper) care more about style than policy proposals.

I find this frustrating, but admit that it makes political sense. The 2016 election was, among other things, a triumph of style over substance. Trump won some votes of people who wanted to move left from Obama. His proposal to slash the taxes on the rich was less important to them than his fake populist tone. I find myself on the left wing of the Democratic party and agree that anti-banker rhetoric is a key part of Democrats’ best strategy.

On the other hand, factional purism and focusing on small differences within the party is not. Cooper explains suspicion of Harris because she did not prosecute OneWest (treasury secretary Mnuchin’s firm with a business plan based on maximizing foreclosures and subsidies from the FDIC). Here the point is that one should only prosecute if one has a reasonable chance of winning and being a jerk is not a crime. Corry Booker is suspected for having said (years ago) that Obama’s criticism of Wall Street was too harsh (yes outrageously extreme moderation — but just a youthful discretion).

I suspect that a lot of “the left” is suspicious of anyone who is not named Bernard Sanders. I also think that they are focused on uniting against the common enemy the Judean People’s Front the party establishment.

There is, certainly, a good bit of mutual pointless hostility. I hope there is not much to the effort to keep the circular firing squad tradition alive.

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Rasmussen poll shows GOP losing midterms in a wave

Rasmussen poll shows GOP losing midterms in a wave

I like K.I.S.S. methods, and I have decided that the easiest K.I.S.S. guide to the midterm elections is likely to be Rasmussen’s “net strong disapproval” spread.  The theory is that while voters who even weakly approve or disapprove of a President are likely to come out and vote in the Presidential election years, only those with strong opinion — a substantially smaller number — come out to vote in midterm elections.

Here’s what Rasmussen’s net disapproval and net strong disapproval looked like during the Obama years:

Obama had a 1:1 approval vs. disapproval spread on Election Day 2012 (vertical red line), and managed to win re-election.

But on Election Days 2010 and 2014, for every 100 adults who strongly disapproved of Obama, there were only 60-65 and 55 adults who strongly approved of his performance — enough for a GOP wave in each case.

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Understating Trump’s “Achievements”

Understating Trump’s “Achievements”

I regularly hear and see on media and the internet that Trump “has accomplished nothing in six months” or variations on that, with some of these remarks focusing more on his legislative agenda, with discussions about whether it is “dead” or not here after only six months, which is either a very long time or a very short time.   I think this rhetoric is both unwise and inaccurate. It is unwise because it suggests that we want his agenda to be passed, to the extent we know what it is (specifics for large parts of it are missing). Such talk simply encourages the Trujmpisti to push harder to pass all their awful plans.  Thus we should be glad that Obamacare is still in place and not encourage the bums to continue to try to replace it with one of  their half-baked plans that will throw lots of people off their  health  insurance.

As for inaccuracy, while it is true that a lot of big ticket items on the legislative agenda remain stalled, notably in the areas of health care, tax “reform,” financial sector “reform,” and infrastructure, in fact Trump has done much damage with his executive actions, mostly involving undoing Obama regulatory actions, quite aside from getting Neil Gorsuch on the SCOTUS, which is very important and has already led the SCOTUS to partially support his awful Muslim ban.  In any case, while withdrawing from the Paris climate accord is mostly symbolic, he and his underlings have made many moves in the environmental area, none of them good, making it easier for companies to pollute and redirecting research towards fossil fuels and much more. His moves in the immigration area have been awful, although Obama did a lot more deporting than we remember. Nevertheless, although supposedly he was going to focus on deporting criminals, the focus of Obama, he is deporting any illegal immigrant he can get his hands on, and the implementer of his draconian immigration policy is now his chief of  staff.  Prison reform is out the window for now, even though this was an area where liberals and conservatives have agreed in recent years something should be done.  His cutting back on public parks and monuments and the crazy stuff coming out of his education dept, well,the list goes on.

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SOCIAL SECURITY AT BERNIESTOCK

by Dale Coberly

SOCIAL SECURITY AT

BERNIESTOCK

Last Sunday I gave a very short talk about Social Security at a political rally and outdoor party called Berniestock in Lebanon, Oregon.

It was not a venue conducive to detailed explanations or suggesting ways people could try to tell what was true from what was pretending to be true, so I suggested that those interested in learning more should come to Angry Bear where we could explore the issue more carefully.

The purpose of this post is to give anyone who follows up on my invitation at least a place to start if they login to Angry Bear within the next few days.

What I said at Berniestock was limited to telling them that Social Security is paid for by the workers themselves and has nothing to do with the Federal government debt. Nor can Social Security borrow money…or acquire debt… on its own. So all the claims that Social Security was somehow responsible for a huge “looming deficit” were not true.

But, I told them, Social Security does have a problem of its own, which fortunately is easy to fix.

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The Masters Always Deal Themselves the Trumps

More Feargus O’Connor (1844) on labour’s objections to machinery:

And now, sir, let me state my principal objections to the unrestricted use of machinery. First, it places man in an artificial state, over which the best workman, the wisest man and most moral person, has no control. Secondly, while it leads to the almost certain fortune of those who have capital in sufficient amount to command those profits, made up, as you admit, by the reduction of wages; upon the other hand, it leads to uncertainty in the condition of the employed, against which he is incapable of contending. Thirdly, it disarranges all the social machinery of which formerly individuals were necessary items, families formed branches, and small rural districts important sections of the one great whole. Fourthly, the present fluctuations give rise, in good trade, to an augmentation of artificial classes, if I may so call them, who have no natural position in society, but are merely called into existence by present appearances, trade upon nothings, traffic in fiction, and, like your order, speculate upon what they may retire upon when trade begins to flag. Hence we find each fluctuation in trade followed by a new race of shopkeepers, who are grasping in prosperity, compound when appearances change, and retire when adversity comes, leaving a vacuum to be filled up by the next alternation from panic to speculation. 

… 

And now, as the thread of our dialogue has been somewhat broken, I beg to submit a summary of my objections to machinery. Firstly, the application of inanimate power to the production of the staple commodities of a country must inevitably depreciate the value of manual labour; and every depreciation of the value of man’s labour in an equal degree lowers the working-man in the scale of society, as well as in his own esteem: thus making him a mere passive instrument, subservient to any laws that the money classes may choose to inflict, to any rules the owners may impose, and satisfied with a comparative state of existence. I object to machinery, because, without reference to the great questions of demand and supply, the masters can play with unconscious labour as they please, and always deal themselves the trumps. I object to machinery, because it may be multiplied to an extent whereby manual labour may be rendered altogether valueless: I object to machinery, because under its existing operation you admit the necessity of emigration, better ventilation, education, improved morality, manners, habits, and customs of the working classes, thereby showing that a slate of recklessness, ignorance, want, and depravity exists; which, as I before said, you admit to be consequences of the present system.

While the inevitability of each of O’Connor’s objections is subject to debate, the crucial issues at stake for him are the sociological and psychological effects of the unrestricted use of machinery on communities and individuals, under its existing operation. The specter of the “job-killing robot” plays a minor and only contingent role: “it may be multiplied to an extent whereby manual labour may be rendered valueless.” Even that objection can readily be interpreted as more significantly about a loss of social status and psychological esteem rather than a wholesale elimination of jobs.

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Wisconsin Buys Foxconn Facility for Kenosha

FoxconnI picked up this version 4 BS lies of Trump and Scott Walker’s Imaginary Foxconn Factory on Tom Bozzo’s facebook page where I stopped to see what he had to say as of late. While it is a great attention grabber, a link caught my eye in Wonkette’s article leading to this America and the Foxconn Dream . This morning Ken Thomas has his very thorough analysis Foxconn Cashes in for $3 Billion-Plus: Analysis up. The first being the wonkier, the 2nd is a Bloomberg discussion, and Ken’s is an analysis on a topic he pursues, government subsidizing business. And this one ??? I am not sure yet.

You look at the picture and you see Ryan smirking in the background, a smug looking Trump smug face, and Mr. Terry Gou in a slight bow looking directly at Trump. I have seen the look before. Typically, this look comes from an Asian associate when they have taken what they want at your expense. Trump has been beating the protectionist drum loudly these days when talking to our neighbors Mexico and Canada. He has threatened China and other countries as well.

Mr. Terry Gou the CEO of Foxconn said he would only come to the US if the chosen location met Foxconn’s demands, which of course Walker with the aid of Paul Ryan did do. The facility is located in Paul Ryan’s backyard. And the threat of having tariffs placed on Foxconn products has dissipated. Foxconn will invest $10 billion in a factory some say will be 20 million square feet and create 3000 jobs of roughly 6600 square feet for each US worker. Sounds more like a warehouse to me even if they stuck 160 foreign made robotic manufacturing cells (Tesla did such) in it. More than likely, this will be an assembly operation with components and assemblies coming from Foxconn and Foxconn suppliers. The value-add will be out of country.

So what does all of this get Wisconsin for shelling out $519 per Wisconsin constituent and the US also?

According to Bloomberg’s Tim Culpan; “Wisconsin is paying as much as $1 million per job, which will carry an average salary of $54,000. The state’s economic development corporation is selling the project to taxpayers with a claim that it will create 10,000 construction jobs for building the facility and another 6,000 indirect positions. It is expecting $3.3 million of investment per employee from the Taiwanese company”.

Foxconn does not have a history of doing what it says and agrees to do. In Pennsylvania, Foxconn pledged $30 million to build a plant and hire 500 workers. It never happened. A pledge of $1 billion to build a plant in Indonesia dissipated also. Foxconn’s division Hon Hai has not spent 10 billion in any single year on infrastructure nor has it spent as much if one combines the last five years. Walker’s boondoggle may be mostly hype and a way to insure he is reelected in 2018.

I wonder why Walker is not in the picture with Ryan and Trump? Maybe out building his used car business for when he is not reelected?

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Extreme Contempt

Extreme Contempt

Donald Trump has engaged in so many outrageous statements and conduct that it has become very difficult to remember which of  those were really the most outrageous, the most morally contemptible, the ones that should have led his supporters to have abandoned but they did not, the ones that merited above all others the most Extreme Contempt.

The events of the last 24 hours have clarified for me what was the moment in 2016 when Trump crossed the line, when he committed an act of Extreme Contempt that should have lad to every Republican worth anything above a sewer of morally contemptible and disgusting garbage to have rejected this worst of all people to have occupied the White House.  That moment was when he dissed John McCain as a loser for having been captured by the North Vietnamese during the Vietnam War.  I think the only way fervent Trump supporters can justify their existence on this planet after that particular outburst is to simply ignore it and forget about it, which is what I am sure the vast majority of them have done,  But the events of the last 24 hours have brought this matter back into focus, and while I really do not know, I think that it is quite likely that when we get to the bottom line, and we are indeed now at a very serious bottom line, Donald Trump’s ultimate desecration of any moral  consciousness when he dissed McCain for becoming a deeply tortured POW has come back to haunt him and defeat his pathetic and incoherent effort to overturn the Obama health care legacy.

Let me be clear that I have many disagreements with McCain, and many things he has done personally.  But the man’s days are now shorter than most of ours.  Yeah, maybe it will all go away and he will still be a Senator a decade from now.  But more likely he will follow the late Ted Kennedy, who apparently had the same sort of “aggressive” brain cancer he has, and, well…

So, let me confess that I know John McCain.  About a decade ago I sat next to him on a long airplane flight and we discussed climate change.  He had a reasonable view in my mind, and indeed when he ran against Obama, his position was only marginally less progressive/reasonable than Obama’s.  I actually gave him my card offering to give advice, although I never heard from him later.  Of course he has gone silent on this issue more recently as his party has gone off the deep end on denying the very existence of global warming, on the  list of many others where, well, tsk tsk.

So, let us get to the really serious. McCain has been going back and forth on the heath care issue, a man about to die and having surgery on taxpayers money, a man who is by far the most serious Republican senator there is currently by several orders of magnitude, and not just because he is a former presidential candidate of the Republican Party in 2008.  No, he is serious beyond all of them for  his experience, much bragged about by his party in 2008, as a POW in Vietnam, where he experienced Extreme Torture, leading him to stand unequivocally and without a shred of doubt that torture is completely unacceptable, morally and practically.  I applaud his declaring and maintaining this position throughout the Bush admin when torture got approved during the Iraq War.  On this matter he has absolute and unassailable credibility beyond all critics, and I applaud him for this.  I shall add that this is a matter that is personal. My wife was tortured by the former Soviet government, and I have also been tortured in a distant land I shall not name and of which I shall not speak. Unsurprisingly, my wife and I have deep personal support for McCain’s unequivocal position on this matter to totally oppose torture in all circumstances everywhere period.

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Minimums of understanding

Science and Technology advice

Via Science magazine, Trump’s White House science office still small and waiting for leadership:

…Trump has yet to nominate an OSTP director, who traditionally also serves as the president’s science adviser. Nor has he announced his choices for as many as four other senior OSTP officials who would need to be confirmed by the Senate.

Still pending is the status of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, a body of eminent scientists and high-tech industry leaders that went out of business at the end of the Obama administration.

Via NYT, The Climate Lab That Sits Empty:

There are only a handful of labs in the United States and elsewhere with the equipment to reliably make these measurements at the high precision required for atmospheric research. None has the capacity the Boulder lab would have to run the necessary number of measurements — about 5,000 per year. And the Boulder lab, unlike others with similar equipment, would be fully dedicated to monitoring global greenhouse gas emissions.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration first sought funding for this program without success in 2012 and is trying yet again this year. But there seems to be little hope that lawmakers will finally provide the roughly $5 million for the machine and attendant research program. Worse, the whole national greenhouse-gas monitoring program may be at risk, if Congress approves President Trump’s proposed cuts to climate science.

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