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

On Second Thought …

After reading this article in today’s NYT detailing how things unfolded in the theater before, during and after the Hamilton performance on Friday evening, I’ve concluded the obvious: that the cast and crew members and the overwhelming number of audience members are paid, professional protesters.

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Redefining Political Correctness to Include Criticism of Appointments of Wall Street, Banking and Fossil Fuel Insiders to Regulatory Bodies

And Extreme Pro-Corporate Lawyers and Judges to the Supreme Court and the Lower Federal Courts. Seriously.

So far, the Trump transition team does not seem particularly concerned, for instance, about a transition team staffed heavily with lobbyists from energy, agriculture, transportation, and banking.

“Frankly, one of the refreshing parts of it about the whole Trump style is that he does not care about political correctness. From a practical standpoint, I have heard lots of people say, ‘Why would we box ourselves out of the most knowledgeable policy people in the country?'” said one source close to the transition team.

Donald McGahn II, a partner at the firm Jones Day and Trump’s lawyer, is expected to play a central role in vetting nominees. So is Arthur Culvahouse, Jr., a partner at the firm O’Melveny & Myers, who helped vet vice presidential candidates and, according to a source, has been helping the campaign organize its White House picks.

Culvahouse declined a request for an interview. None of the lawyers in the political law practice at Jones Day returned POLITICO’S calls. Culvahouse has faced backlash from colleagues at his firm for working with Trump, according to people familiar with the situation, with one person saying the decision was “amazingly controversial” within the firm. Many top partners at O’Melveny, including Tom Donilon, were vocal Clinton backers.

Trump advisers steamroll Christie’s transition: The new, top-down approach is likened to how Dick Cheney ran the Bush transition., Andrew Restuccia and Nancy Cook, Politico, today

Just so you know, Culvahouse played a large role in turning the Supreme Court and lower federal courts into a proxy arm of the far-right Chamber of Commerce, including in Citizens United but also in ways most people have no idea about but would really care about.  These are not pro-union justices and judges, nor are they pro-employee, pro-consumer, pro small-business, anti-financial-industry-fraud, or ant-securities-fraud.  Nor anti-fossil-fuel-industry.  For starters.

So.  From a practical standpoint, who do you think are all those people who are saying to this source close to the transition team, “Why would we box ourselves out of the most knowledgeable policy people in the country?”  And might that source close to the transition team be Mike Pence, who is so close to the transition team that he heads it?

And how likely do you think it is that among the many people who are saying this to the source is, say, a blue-collar voter from Toledo or Youngstown?  Or any region of Michigan?  Or Erie, Pennsylvania?

Or anywhere?

We’re extremely close to down-the-rabbit-hole language of the Arbeit macht frei variety, folks—something I saw last Saturday and mentioned in the update to this post.

George Orwell and Lewis Carroll are laughing.  Really hard.

Good god.  This is the most successful Trojan Horse since the original one. And every bit as sinister.  But also funny, in that this is what’s now called a top-down approach. Always great to see a new euphemism for insider corruption.

They’re not gonna box themselves in, folks.  But massive, intensive publicity might.

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Why does Krugman hold Clinton and her campaign harmless for . . .

the public’s cluelessness about Trump’s policy agenda vs. her own?

PHILADELPHIA — On Wednesday night, the Harvard Institute of Politics pulled together a focus group of eight millennial voters from the Philadelphia area, and a small group of journalists watched. One of the millennials supported the Green Party presidential candidacy of Jill Stein. The rest professed to be totally undecided — despondent about the election, offended that they were being asked to choose between major party candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Most of the participants asked for anonymity. A few, including the Green-voting 27-year-old Amanda, offered up their first names and allowed a few follow-up questions. The small sample of voters, in one swing state, was illustrative just as the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs and Researchpoll had been — and with the same tantalizing power for Democrats. Unlike some of the white working-class men who are breaking for Trump, the millennials were onboard with the Democrats’ 2016 agenda. But they were struggling to cast a vote. Among the lessons:

1. They agree with the Democrats on the issues. For the better part of an hour, the members of the group listed their most pressing policy concerns, from climate change to taxes to education to agriculture. When all the terms were written on a whiteboard, they were ask to list their top three, and for each, say which candidate they agreed with. Seven of the eight millennials ended up preferring Clinton on the issues; the eighth, as mentioned above, preferred Stein.

4. They’re counting on something — an assassin, impeachment — to prevent Trump from doing too much damage. Alex paralyzed the room with laughter when he floated a strange and “dark” idea. “If Trump wins,” he said, “he’s probably going to be assassinated, and Mike Pence will become president.”

Alex, a Democrat who had voted for Barack Obama in 2008, had stayed home in 2012 and cooled on most politicians. He had come to like Pence for his demeanor, as seen at Tuesday night’s debate. But the more important point was that a Trump presidency did not seem like a four- or eight-year proposition.

“He’s going to be in court most of the time as president,” said one focus group member who preferred to be anonymous. “He’s going to get impeached.”

5. They’re not necessarily thinking about all the powers a president would have. One of the questions that halted the group’s discussion was simple: How was the Supreme Court affecting their vote? Several members of the group admitted that they had not considered this; when they did, as in the issue round, they preferred that Clinton appoint members of the court.

— Five lessons about millennial voters from a Philadelphia focus group, David Weigel, Washington Post, yesterday

Meanwhile, today, Paul Krugman, Clinton’s penultimate cheerleader pundit, continues to pin on the political news media the entire blame for this epidemic of cluelessness about Trump’s and the Republican Establishment’s actual policy agenda. And for such things as the unawareness that Trump will be appointing Supreme Court justices, lower-federal-court judges, and federal-agency heads, and will be signing Paul Ryan’s fiscal and regulatory bills.

And that if Trump resigns, is impeached, or is assassinated, Mike Pence (the rightwing talk-show host cum Tea Party pol) will.

Krugman often beats the drum with praise for Clinton by reminding the public of such things as how poised and how much stamina she showed last fall during that 11-hour Benghazi House Committee hearing.  He can’t understand why that doesn’t suffice as reason to be fond of her, or at least to vote for her against Donald Trump.

He even more often rages in anger at the appalling, diametrically opposite manner in which the mainstream political media has covered both Clinton and Trump—and its god-awful-absurd, unremitting obsession with Clinton’s email for a full one-and-a-half years until finally it stopped late last month.

But never, ever, does he acknowledge that the profound lack of knowledge, particularly among millennials, about the differences between these two candidates’ agendas, and between their respective parties’ agendas, may be as much because Clinton herself has failed to apprise the public of this.  Some of it at all, some of it with actual specifics, the rest of it with anything resembling consistency.

To wit, Krugman’s column today, titled “What About the Planet?”  It begins:

Our two major political parties are at odds on many issues, but nowhere is the gap bigger or more consequential than on climate.

If Hillary Clinton wins, she will move forward with the Obama administration’s combination of domestic clean-­energy policies and international negotiation — a one­-two punch that offers some hope of reining in greenhouse gas emissions before climate change turns into climate catastrophe.

If Donald Trump wins, the paranoid style in climate politics — the belief that global warming is a hoax perpetrated by a vast international conspiracy of scientists — will become official doctrine, and catastrophe will become all but inevitable.

So why does the media seem so determined to ignore this issue? Why, in particular, does it almost seem as if there’s a rule against bringing it up in debates?

He goes on to castigate Kaine/Pence debate moderator Elaine Quijano for her general awfulness and, specifically, for this:

[I]t’s really stunning that in the three nationally televised forums we’ve had so far — the “commander in chief” forum involving Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump, the first presidential debate and the vice­-presidential debate — the moderators have asked not a single question about climate.

This was especially striking in Tuesday’s debate.

Somehow Elaine Quijano, the moderator, found time for not one but two questions inspired by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget — an organization concerned that despite relatively low budget deficits now and extremely low borrowing costs, the federal government may face fiscal problems a couple of decades down the line. There may be something to this, although not as much as deficit scolds claim (and Ms. Quijano managed to suggest that Mrs. Clinton’s proposals, which are fully paid for, are no better than Mr. Trump’s multitrillion-dollar debt blowout).

But if we’re worried about the longer­-term implications of current policies, the buildup of greenhouse gases is a much bigger deal than the accumulation of low-interest debt. It’s bizarre to talk about the latter but not the former.

And this blind spot matters a lot. Polling suggests that millennial voters, in particular, care a lot about environmental protection and renewable energy. But it also suggests that more than 40 percent of young voters believe that there is no difference between the candidates on these issues.

I watched that debate from beginning to end (although I’m sure I broke a record for times checking the clock during a 90-minute period).  And I couldn’t believe this moderator’s focus on the national debt.  Or, to be accurate, I couldn’t believe her loaded, circa-2011 questions about it and deep urgency in the tone of her voice.  Might a question specifically about what Trump’s massive tax cuts and massive military board-patrol buildup relative to the debt not have been, y’know, a good thing for her to ask?

But it also might have been a good thing for Kaine to ask.  And it might have been helpful if he’d responded to Pence’s false statement that the debt has increased massively since Obama assumed office with a truthful statement that in fact it has been significantly reduced, but he didn’t.  But Kaine had one, and only one, assignment in that debate, and it wasn’t to make either of those two points.  It was instead to force Pence to accept, reject, or deny the fact of Trump’s racist, xenophobic, misogynist, vulgar, etc., etc., pronouncements.

Mission accomplished.  Unless, of course, the mission was to educate the public about the Trump agenda that huge swaths of the public—including, apparently, most millennials—doesn’t know about.

Including all those court and agency-head appointments. And what that would mean.

I don’t expect that Clinton and her campaign strategists can be disabused of their foundational presumption that moderate suburbanites just love extreme tax cuts for the wealthy, further deregulation of the finance industry, global warming, and complete control of government at every level by a handful of billionaires and some mega-corporations.  Which is why she doesn’t campaign on these, and campaigns almost entirely on the racist, xenophobic, misogynist, etc., etc. stuff, in the belief that only that will sway or hold moderate suburbanites.

So I suppose it would make no difference if someone other than me—someone like, say, Krugman—pointed out that Clinton’s been an extreme enabler of the political news media’s de facto blackout on these dramatic policy-and-appointments agenda differences.  But it would be worth a try.

Although first the people I’m urging to do this would themselves have to be persuaded that Clinton’s poise and stamina during the Benghazi hearing did nothing to educate the public about those policy-and-appointments agenda differences.

I guess I won’t hold my breath.  Even though time is now so short that I probably wouldn’t even turn blue.

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ANTITRUSSSSST! (Dear Hillary: In a well-received economics-themed speech in Toledo on Monday, you mentioned ANTITRUST LAW and ARBITRATION CLAUSES. Please, please do so also at Sunday’s debate.)

Clinton also said she would push for new steps to crack down on “forced arbitration” fine print that prevents workers and consumers from suing companies, proposals aimed at reducing market concentration and increasing competition, and curbing tax rules that gave corporations and the super-wealthy, like Trump, tax breaks not available to ordinary taxpayers.

After Trump’s tax-return leak, Clinton accuses him of protecting a ‘rigged system’, Abby Phillip and David Weigel, Washington Post, Oct. 3

Yes, Monday was economic-policy day for the Clinton campaign.  Tuesday was, well, not.  And while Tim Kaine is taking the brunt of the criticism for that, he is not the one who made that decision.  Clinton and her campaign gurus are.

Abby Phillip reported last night in a blog post titled “Clinton debate prep is focused on what happens once the debate is done”:

Sen. Tim Kaine may have awakened Wednesday to poor reviews after the first and only vice-presidential debate, but his acerbic performance in Farmville, Va., revealed that the Clinton campaign’s strategy for these debates extends far beyond the stage.

Armed with pre-planned Web videos, television ads and tweets, the campaign has used key debate moments this week and last as a cudgel against the Republican ticket, showing a level of discipline and organization largely absent from Donald Trump and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence’s campaign.

“Kaine had a very clear and simple plan for the debate: remind a national televised audience of all of the offensive things Trump has said and done in this campaign,” said Dan Pfeiffer, a former senior adviser to President Obama. “The Clinton campaign was smart enough to know that who ‘wins’ or ‘loses’ the VP debate doesn’t move votes. Instead it’s an opportunity to communicate a message to a very large audience.”

“I don’t see a single thing that Pence did that moved the needle for Trump in any way,” he added.

Both Hillary Clinton and her running mate showed up on their respective debate nights well rehearsed. At moments, they seemed over-rehearsed. At one point Tuesday, Pence shot back at Kaine: “Did you work on that one a long time? Because that had a lot of really creative lines in it.”

But Clinton and Kaine had a larger goal in mind than winning the debates themselves: to create a series of compelling sound bites that they planned to weaponize for the reminder of the campaign. They logged scores of hours of preparation. They recited laundry lists of Trump’s faults. Their clear objective: to record him and his running mate embracing, denying or evading controversial positions that Trump has taken in recorded speeches.

That pattern is likely to continue Sunday at the next presidential debate, Democrats said.

“[Pence] claimed over and over and over again — he claimed, ‘He never said those things!’ ” exclaimed conservative radio host Glenn Beck on Wednesday. “We’re not living in the 1800s. We can go back to the clips on YouTube.”

And that’s exactly what the Clinton campaign did. Shortly after the debate Tuesday, the Clinton campaign tweeted out a glossy new site at hillaryclinton.com/literallytrump. The site highlighted dozens of moments “mentioned at the debate,” most of them by Kaine, with citations to back them up and the “share” button never too far away.

By Wednesday morning, a new video was blasted: a 90-second super-cut of Pence’s denials.

Here’s the problem with that strategy: It’s only half of what the Clinton strategy should be.

The other half?  Illustrating that on his fiscal, economic, and regulatory policy agenda—all of it intricately related—Trump and Pence are exactly the same.  It’s a Mercers/Kochs/Tea Party agenda.  Yet Kaine at the debate—at the orchestration of the Clinton campaign’s strategists—allowed Pence to get away with the more important of the Trump campaign’s two new lines.

The less-important line was the one that everyone knows is preposterous: that it is Clinton rather than Trump who is running a campaign based on insults.  Greg Sargent, linking to a Washington Post video clip of Trump’s rally in Nevada yesterday, writes this morning:

A new, self-effacing version of Donald Trump appeared on the campaign trail late yesterday. In Nevada, Trump said this:

“A vote for me is a vote for change, and common sense, and a strong military, and great veterans’ care, and Second Amendment rights, and good health care….But it’s also a vote directly for you. Because I am a reflection of you.

“You’re voting as people who believe in yourselves. You are voting to believe in your future. You are voting to believe in your great country. All together, we are going to make our country wealthy again….And we are going to make America great again.”

“This isn’t about me, it’s about you” is standard political boilerplate, of course. But in Trump’s case, it may signal a closing strategy.

The Post titled that video clip “Trump to supporters: ‘I am a reflection of you.”  And this time he wasn’t talking only about those who are in the basket of deplorables.

He also wasn’t talking about those who wouldn’t be assisted by the tax policy drafted for him at the Mercer-funded Heritage Foundation, nor to those who would be forced to make up some of the lost income and estate tax revenue in order to pay for the massive buildup in military defense and border security (among other things).  Although he, like Pence on Tuesday night, was claiming that is the “you” who he is talking about, and talking to.

I’ve written two or three posts here at AB in the last few months in which I’ve pleaded with Clinton to discuss antitrust law and also forced-arbitration clauses.  Antitrust law is the more important of the two, and truly implicates the very workings of the larger economy.  In a post several months ago, I recalled that it was a regular part of Bernie’s stump speech, and mentioned an article from back in the summer of 2015 in which the reporter sat not in the press section but instead amongst the crowd at a yugely enthusiastic rally in Iowa and reported that the young woman with long blond hair sitting next to him would rise from her seat and, cheerleader-like, punch the air to shout one or another subject line that Sanders was mentioning—and that one of those things was: ANTITRUSSSSST!!

But forced-arbitration clauses in consumer, employment, securities, mortgage and other loan, and various other types of contracts—as the Supreme Court, in a series of 5-4 opinions, has rewritten (er, “interpreted”) the Federal Arbitration Act to permit in breathtakingly sweeping form, also is important.

The two subjects, along with labor-law issues and campaign-finance law, get at the very heart of what so much of the public means when they say they want change: they want a major recalibration between the profoundly powerful and everyone else.  They want to regain some real power over the private and public institutions that have such a stranglehold on life in this country.

That’s what Bernie understood, and his policy proposals reflected that, and to the extent that they are incorporated into the Democratic Party platform, they still do. Trump understands this, too, and that’s why there has been that other basket—the one without the deplorables.

Trump began his campaign as both a racist and xenophobe and an economic populist.  But last October, in an attempt to fend off a threatened torrent of Koch spending to try to kill his campaign, he quietly switched to Paul-Ryan-on-steroids on fiscal and financial-industry-regulatory matters.  And when not long after that, after the Kochs made clear their continued hostility toward Trump’s candidacy, the hedge-fund-billionaire father-daughter duo Robert and Rebekah Mercer took up the slack.

And then some.

I had expected, naively, before Tuesday that Kaine would get this across at the debate, especially in the wake of the Trump 1995 tax return publication and its (momentarily, I guess) resulting attention to Trump’s tax plan.  And also because Pence is Paul Ryan with gray hair.

I had thought, although it was only wishful thinking, that Clinton and her campaign actually finally recognized that millennials, Rust Belt blue collar voters, and middle-class suburbanites all would be as repelled by Trump’s Heritage Foundation fiscal-and-regulatory-policy agenda.  And that, contrary to what Clinton clearly had believed throughout her campaign from its inception, middle class suburbanites, in large numbers—including many independents and moderate Republicans, like most of the genuinely progressive fiscal and regulatory agenda that Sanders had forced into the party platform.

But I was wrong. Clinton believes, apparently inalterably,  that moderate suburbanites, millennials and racial minorities care only about Trump’s racism, xenophobia, misogyny, vulgarity and such—and his obvious mental instability, which is why reportedly internal polling by both Trump’s and Clinton’s campaigns are showing an en masse movement toward Clinton among independents and moderate Republicans, and third-party-candidate-fan millennials in the last week—more so than the public polls are showing.

But Clinton could wrap this up and tie a bow on it—and significantly help Dem Senate and maybe even House candidates—if she talks about what she talked about on Monday in Toledo.

I also want to say this: For me, what mattered a lot about that speech was that she ventured away from the usual and discussed—mentioned and explained—two tremendously important aspects of the economic-power status quo in the current age: massive consolidation of, and massive control over the legal system by, large corporations, hugely increasing the power of mega-corporations over small and midsize businesses and individuals.

And a big part of what mattered to me is that Clinton trusted that her audience would understand what she was talking about, even though these things required some explanation.

Finally, I want to note that the Phillip and Weigel piece I quoted from above was the only report among the (I believe) three I read about Clinton’s Toledo rally that noted her mention of antitrust and forced-arbitration-clause law.  Neither the NYT report nor Politico did.

I’ve said a couple of times recently that in my opinion the Washington Post’s campaign coverage throughout the primaries and general election campaign has been far superior to any other that I’ve read.  I’ve mentioned John Wagner, who covered Bernie’s campaign and now helps cover Clinton’s, for its straight and thorough reporting on campaign events.  Jenna Johnson’s reporting and David Weigel’s as well have been terrific.  And then there is David Fahrentold’s Pulitzer-caliber investigative reports on the Trump Foundation.

As of right now I expect Clinton to win reasonably comfortably.  But she can win with a fairly clear mandate for the types of change that the Dem platform proposes, if she campaigns on them and—relatedly—on the specifics of Trump’s, and Ryan/Pence’s, actual fiscal and regulatory agenda.

As for Tim Kaine, my heart sort of goes out to him.  And the way that Clinton can make it up to him is not by claiming that he did great at the debate, but instead by pointing out this: Mike Pence built his name as a far-right but studiedly-smooth talk-radio host.  Tim Kaine built his career as a civil rights lawyer.

This matters.  And it favors Kaine, not Pence.

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Kellyanne Conway Admits That Trump’s Domestic Policy Agenda Is Circa 1980s and Early-to-Mid-2000s.

That Is, the Very Opposite of a “Change Agenda.” Clinton Should Quote Her On That.

“His last tweet last night was how excited he was, how proud of him he was. They talked last night. I talked to Mr. Trump during the debate several times,” [Kellyanne] Conway said of Trump’s response to Pence’s debate performance. “I think the one thing to remember is that, as Ronald Reagan always said, personnel is policy. And Donald Trump has promised as president to surround himself with the best people. You saw last night who the best people are.”

Clinton’s camp insists Kaine walloped Pence on substance, Louis Nelson, Politico, today

So, isn’t it time that Clinton apprise the public of what this particular personnel choice indicates about what would be Trump’s … policy?

When I read yesterday morning (I can’t remember where) that the Clinton campaign had told the reporter that Kaine would be focusing on the Clinton campaign’s slogan “Stronger Together,” I said to myself: Here we go again.  God.

I, of course, had hoped, and until I read that article actually thought, that Kaine would, like, focus on the differences between the two campaign’s, y’know, fiscal and regulatory policy proposals. But, silly me, it was after all the Clinton campaign whose debate plans we were talking about.  So of course the plan was to focus on the “Stronger Together” theme of Trump’s xenophobic, racist, misogynist, anti-“fat”, nuttiness.  Since these are things that have received so little attention that the public surely had forgotten them and needed reminding.

Eh.  I feel like a broken record on this.  The Clinton campaign is really, really, really clueless.

And I’m by no means the only one who desperately wants Clinton to just dump her campaign consultants and strategists.  Or, if the problem is Clinton herself, then … I don’t know …allow herself to be hypnotized and indoctrinated by Jeff Weaver.

Last night while feeling not The Bern but just plain burned—really saddened—and skimming the internet for something that would make me feel a little bit better, I came upon something that did.  Sort of.  Slate’s Ben Mathis-Lilley’s instant-debate-analysis post was titled “We Are Begging the Hillary Clinton Campaign: Stop It With These Terrible, Terrible One-Liners.”  He wrote:*

Early in the Sept. 26 presidential debate, Hillary Clinton rolled out what seemed to be a rehearsed line about Donald Trump’s economic plan, calling it “Trumped-up trickle down economics.” She delivered the phrase with the pleased demeanor of someone who believes they are laying down a devastating burn, then repeated it later. Fact-check: It wasn’t a devastating burn. It was a zero out of 10 on the burn scale.

Tuesday night at the vice presidential debate, Tim Kaine also tried some zingers, and they were also bad. You can see them above. The first:

“Mike Pence: But there’s a reason why people question the trustworthiness of Hillary Clinton and that’s because they’re paying attention. The reality is when she was secretary of state, senator, she had the Clinton Foundation accepting contributions from foreign governments—

“Tim Kaine: You are Donald Trump’s apprentice!”

Woooooooooooof. The second:

“Kaine: On the economy, there’s a fundamental choice for the American electorate. Do you want a you’re hired president in Hillary Clinton or a you’re fired president in Donald Trump? I don’t think that’s such a hard choice.”

Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine need to Pokémon Go Fire Whoever Thinks It’s a Good Idea to Use Time Preparing for Debates by Coming Up With These Lines, Which Are Terrible.

Why didn’t he just respond to the substantive allegation regarding the Foundation—as he did, quite well, I thought, later in the debate, but with insufficient precision given the time limitation?

And why the HELL didn’t he tell the public what Trump’s actual fiscal/economic plan is, to the extent that time allowed?  Sorta like, why the HELL didn’t he make clear that Trump’s WILDLY LARGE INCREASE IN MILITARY EXPENDITURES, COUPLED WITH YUUUGE DECREASES IN TAX REVENUE, is not exactly a formula for jobs growth.  And why did he not tell the public at the outset, and with specifics, that TRUMP’S TAX PLAN WILL INCREASE TAXES ON THE MIDDLE CLASS TO PAY FOR THAT MILITARY BUILDUP, while dramatically cutting the income taxes and other taxes of the wealthy?

And why didn’t he tell the public that killing financial-industry reform—the increased oversight and regulation—wouldn’t be, y’know, an economic boon?

His entire debate preparation apparently involved the xenophobia, racism, misogyny, fat-ism, and sheer meanness of Trump.

But Pence had memorized a few imbecilic lines, too—most, um, memorably, that the Clinton campaign is a campaign based on insults.  Of Trump, and of some of his supporters.  A tack that, I’ll guess, most viewers at first were puzzled by and then after Pence repeated for the 16th time, finally got, and found strikingly laughable.  This, I assume—and hope—will become a focus of a Clinton ad.  Along with that “You keep dragging out that Mexican’s” line—or whatever the precise words were.

But, what a missed opportunity last night was to educate the public about Trump’s actual fiscal and regulatory proposals, which Clinton—and Sanders, and Warren, please—need to say, again and again, Pence hardily approves of because it’s the Republican mantra, and has been for 35 years.

Which Kaine failed to say, even in response to Pence’s “Trump’s the change candidate.”  Really?  That’s change?  In the direction the public has in mind when it urges change?

Yes, Kellyanne Conway thinks the one thing to remember is that, as Ronald Reagan always said, personnel is policy. And that Donald Trump has promised as president to surround himself with the best people. You that you saw last night who the best people are. An extremely rightwing, standard-issue Conservative Movement, very Republican Establishment, 12-year former member of that absolutely awesome Congress.

Circa 2001-2012.

The public might like to know this, Hillary Clinton. Tell them.

 

____

*Excerpt format-corrected, 10/5 at 3:28 p.m.

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My Comments-Thread Comment to Robert Waldmann’s “From Small Town to Prison” Post

Robert Waldmann did something this morning that I’d planned to do: He posted an in-depth post about the NYT’s awesome article in yesterday’s paper titled “From Small Town to Prison,” by Josh Keller and Adam Pearce.

Robert makes a critical point about the fiscal cause of the phenomenon that the Times article reports on, and my rather lengthy comment to Robert’s post adds some things that I’d planned as the key point to my post.

Here is my comment in the Comments thread to Robert’s post:

“It is caused by prosecutorial discretion with laws which allow extremely long sentences combined with plea bargaining. If the sentence for the actual crime committed weren’t absurdly long, DAs would not be able to help their counties at the expense of the state.”

That certainly is true, but it also is caused by the complete takeover of the U.S. Supreme Court by the Conservative Legal Movement, which has removed any access to federal court in order to challenge through the habeas corpus process anything—and really, I do mean, as a practical matter, anything—that occurs in state or local court proceedings, however flagrantly violative of even basic constitutional rights.

For state-court criminal cases, these Supreme Court justices (not to be confused with justice; they’re justices, a title, nothing more) these people took an already awful federal-court jurisdictional statute that Bill Clinton cravenly signed in 1996 in order to avoid, y’know, soft-on-crime attacks during his campaign for reelection, and (very) effectively rewrote it to actually completely preclude federal habeas review of ANYTHING that transpires in ANY state or local court.

This was done in the name of states’-rights-to-violate-individual-rights-except-religion-gun-ownership-and -real-property constitutional rights. Er—I mean—in the name of FREEDOM. A.k.a., LIBERTY.

What I hadn’t realized, though, Robert is that because it’s the states that pay for state prisons, there is an incredibly strong incentive for these county DAs and judges to put everyone they can in prison, and or as long a time as is allowed—which according to the Supreme Court is as long as they want. One major achievement of the Conservative Legal Movement is that the Supreme Court has nullified the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

A 12-year sentence for selling a handful of narcotic prescription painkillers, admittedly highly addictive drugs, is both cruel and (happily) unusual, and should be challenged as violating the Eighth Amendment. But under Supreme Court precedent from the current crowd+Antonin Scalia the lower federal courts probably would reject the argument.

I’m so glad you posted this post, Robert. I read the Times article yesterday and planned to include it in a post I plan to write soon whose main subject is my anger about the push by some progressive senators* and by some other progressives to get the Senate to confirm Merrick Garland to fill Scalia’s seat. This is beyond misguided. And it makes no sense.

The big, big progressive complaint about Garland is that he is pro-law enforcement, and especially pro prosecutor—and not all that concerned about such matters as specific constitutional rights such as Fourth Amendment search-and-seizure limitations and, well, other things. But Garland is, I guess, progressive on the kinds of things that corporate conservatives and culture-wars conservatives care about. In other words, he’s fine for conservatives on law-and-order stuff that is politically passe even among most Republicans, but is from the perspective of the Republican donor base and culture-wars base he’s not fine. So why push this guy? Why the hell was he even nominated, in the first place?

(Okay, he was nominated because Obama, like so many other political types, thinks it’s still 1988. But actually it’s not still 1988.)

There are more than a fair share of former prosecutors and other former government lawyers on the Supreme Court and the lower federal benches. There are almost no former criminal defense lawyers and civil rights lawyers on the federal bench at any level, and it’s been, like, forever since there’s been on the Supreme Court unless you count Ginsburg’s Women’s Issues legal background. It’s really, really, REALLY time for one. Or, hey, even two!

Hillary Clinton owes her nomination to African-Americans, and she may well owe her election to them. At a minimum, she’ll owe her large margin of victory to them, if it materializes. So I’ve been wondering: Who will be her first Supreme Court nominee? And her second one?

Everything about Hillary Clinton suggests that if she decides to pay attention to Blacks in her Court selections, she’ll go with appointing a second Black to the Court. I mean, hey—another first! Which she will conflate with, Hey! Someone who will actually matter to a significant numbers of African-Americans in what he or she DOES on the Court.

Which is not to say that that there are no African-Americans who would be terrific for the position; one I know of is an Obama appointee to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Richmond, VA. Or I should say, that’s my impression, although I don’t know all that much about him. But Clinton likely will just operate on the assumption that the specifics of the nominee don’t matter, other than the specifics of race.

My strong, strong preference would be Jeffrey L. Fisher, who was highlighted in one of NYT Supreme Court correspondent Adam Liptak’s occasional Sidebar articles last month titled “Criminal Defendants Sometimes ‘Left Behind’ at Supreme Court, Study Shows.”

And to replace Ginsburg when she retires next July, the drop-dead awesome Vanita Gupta, Obama’s current Justice Dept. Civil Rights Division chief. (Kudos, Mr. President!) Gupta would be the first Asian-American on the Court, which means Clinton actually might appoint her! She won’t appoint Fisher, although there’s no one in the country who could come close to having the impact that Fisher would have on the Court because of his victories at the Court in gaining Scalia’s vote on some major constitutional-criminal-law issues.

Anyway … I’ve inserted into your post a link to the Times article, and corrected a typo (“2006”, rather than “206”). Your posts get a lot of readers, and I hope this one will be no exception even though it’s not on economics, except of course indirectly.

And I want to add this: I would love to see Pence asked about this at his debate with Kaine. And if he’s not asked about it by the moderator, Kaine should raise the point.

Okay, so I guess I’ve now posted that post I’ve been planning to post about progressives trying to push through Garland’s confirmation.  Good; one more thing I can check off my to-do list.

Oh. The title I’d planned for it: “The Really Awful Advice That Some Dem Senators Are Giving to Clinton.” They want her to announce now that she will renominate Garland to the Court–the idea I guess being that the Republican senators might as well confirm him now, although I have no idea why, since she’d be promising to nominate him rather than a young liberal. Garland is in his mid 60s.

Even more bizarre than that argument, Harry Reid also advised Clinton** that she should renominate Garland even if she doesn’t promise, pre-election or pre-inauguration, to do so, because, they say, she’ll be too busy in the first few months of her term to have someone new vetted and then have her administration shepherd the nomination through the Senate.

Seriously; that’s what that article about this that I linked to above  says.* The theory being that the new administration won’t be able to chew gum and walk backward at the same time, and Supreme Court appointments aren’t important.

So there we have it. Some Senate Democrats’ advice to Clinton is to throw away a Supreme Court appointment because it’s just easier that way.

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NOTE: The last five paragraphs were added after original post was posted. 9/3 at 4:20 p.m.

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UPDATE: Reader Nihil Obstet posted this comment in the Comments thread:

One of the great successes of the elite is to weaponize the Supreme Court nomination process by limiting it to culture war issues. We have to vote for our party’s candidate because of abortion, affirmative action, religious freedom, gun regulation, and sexual orientation. Both Democratic and Republican politicians are very happy with those issues. When I’m told that the election is all about the Supreme Court appointment, my reaction is, “You’re not helping your cause by saying that it’s crucial to get more Merrick Garlands on the court.”

I’m not seeing any focus among progressives about the need to reverse the erosion of personal rights with regard to the power of the state and of the corporations.

I responded: Exactly.

Added 9/3 at 4:44 m.

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* Link corrected. 9/3 at 4:56 p.m.

** I erroneously said originally that “these senators” advised this.  But it was only Harry Reid who did, according to the article.  Apologies to Dick Durbin, Chris Coons and Chuck Schumer, the other senators the article mentions.  Also: Durbin apparently is playing a role in this because he is minority whip.  He’s one of my favorite senators, and so I’m a bit disappointed, but I guess he feels that as whip he has to participate in pushing for Garland’s confirmation. 9/3 at 5:08 p.m.

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Britain’s New Prime Minister Openly Channels … Bernie Sanders?

[New British Prime Minister Theresa] May — who campaigned for “remain” in last month’s E.U. referendum — had vowed to unify her bitterly divided party by appointing “leave” and “remain” advocates alike to top posts. She has made good on that pledge.

But she also chosen to banish Gove and others who had been critical players in David Cameron’s government since he brought the Conservatives back to power in 2010. Another key figure who found himself out of a job was George Osborne, who had been the country’s top finance official.

Cameron, Osborne and Gove had together been known as the “Nottting Hill set,” a group of relatively young, Oxford-educated men who sought to modernize a party long known for its fustiness. May is also studied at Oxford, but was never considered part of that clubby grouping. …

The thorough sweep came just a day after May’s rise to power abruptly ended a chaotic, weeks-long leadership void in Britain.

Minutes after curtsying before a handbag-toting queen at Buckingham Palace — the moment May formally ascended to the country’s highest political office — she pledged that a post-E.U. Britain will prosper in its new incarnation, and become more fair and more equitable.

“As we leave the European Union, we will forge a bold, new, positive role for ourselves in the world, and we will make Britain a country that works not for a privileged few but for every one of us,” May said as she stood in front of 10 Downing Street for the first time as prime minister.

May’s speech marked a striking departure from the typical austerity-laden rhetoric of her Conservative Party. Instead of dwelling on the deficit, the country’s second-ever female prime minister emphasized the need to fight “burning injustice,” saying she will work on behalf of the poor, women and minorities.

She also pledged to defend the “precious bond of the United Kingdom,” a nod to her determination to beat back a revitalized secessionist movement in Scotland driven by opposition to the decision to leave the European Union. …

May has been a hawk on the issue of reducing the number of immigrants entering Britain and pushed for a greater government role in electronic surveillance.

Her views on foreign and economic policy are less known. But in her first major speech on the economy this week, her tone was more liberal than expected — emphasizing the need to spur growth and close the gap between rich and poor.

Theresa May puts stamp on British government with mass firing of Cameron ministers, Griffe Witte, Washington Post, this morning  today

Whoa.  Okay, it is by now well acknowledged that Bernie Sanders effectively won the party platform debate, for the most part, anyway.  And my take on Clinton’s comments to us Sanders supporters is that they were sincere; I didn’t view the video or read a transcript, but did read two or three articles about the rally that quoted Clinton’s statements to us, and they sounded sweet, graceful and true.

I think she realizes now that she not only needs most of Sanders’ supporters but also has a better chance to win potential Rust Belt Trump primary voters and also stanch the damage from the Comey email statements last week with the platform as it is rather than as it would have been without the Sanders campaign.

But never in my wildest imagination did I expect that the new British prime minister would coopt so much of Bernie’s campaign language.

The paragraph from the above excerpt of the Post article about defending the “precious bond of the United Kingdom” would seem irrelevant to our presidential campaign, but I do think it’s relevant because Scotland voted (overwhelmingly, I believe) against Brexit.  In other words, May did not direct her Sanders-esque language solely at that Brexit, anti-immigrant, xenophobic British voters but also at Britain’s Bernie Sanders supporters’ counterparts.

The article’s sentence that “May has been a hawk on the issue of reducing the number of immigrants entering Britain and pushed for a greater government role in electronic surveillance” obviously is not Sanders-esque.  Yet apparently she chose in his speech not to mention it.

That so much of her statement today on economic policy apparently took Britain by surprise reflects the swiftness with which major Western politicians are awakening to the remarkably sudden shifts of the political tectonic plates from their positions of the last 40 years.

And I’m so proud to have been a part of the catalyst, if only a teensy tiny part.

****

AND BREAKING NEWS: It looks like PENCE!  As in: Hey, all you folks who thought I’d bring CHANGE.  Apologies.  But I decided instead to go seriously ESTABLISHMENT.

No worries, though.  I’m giving all you Rust Belt types who support me cuz of CHANGE a steep discount for classes at the soon-to-be-revived Trump University.

And by the way, I will absolutely continue to deny that I plan to resign before the inauguration or shortly afterward, this just-kidding-about-anti-establishment-and-change thing not be enough to defeat me cuz of Hillary’s email thing.  (Okay, I’ll just make sure the DONORS recognize that I will, so I don’t havetuh fund my campaign myself. But the upside is that I’ll be available as a professor at Trump U.)

Well, praise the Lord.  Hillary Clinton is, I’m sure.  (I mean, not that Christie would have been better for Trump.  But since Pence is even more Retro than Trump’s pompadour, it’s better for us true progressives and will absolutely highlight our party’s platform.  It’s different than Christie would have been.)

Perfect.  Today is a good day.

But please, Hillary Clinton, choose a true progressive as your running mate.  Seriously; heed Prime Minister May’s tacit advice.  (And mine, of course.)  Pretty please.  Beautiful please.

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