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

“Constitutionalism”

Democratic Despotism:

“We find latent in their conception of law— and some have been publicly preaching this view— that law emanates solely from the will of the majority of the people, and can, therefore, be modified at any time to meet majority wishes. This doctrine is absolutely totalitarian, and is contrary to our basic conceptions of the source of law. We have seen that our political system is predicated on the doctrine that there are some immutable laws of nature and certain other divinely sanctioned rights, which the Constitution and our tradition recognized as being above and beyond the power of the majority, or of any other group of individuals or officials of the Government. There are, also, other rights, which because of man’s historic experience, that are specifically protected by the Constitution, and which can only be modified under the prescribed method set forth in the Constitution; and, consequently the majority- will is not free to modify them as it pleases, but only in the circumscribed manner prescribed by the Constitution. That is why our system has been characterized as a government of laws, not of men. That is the distinction between impersonal law and personal law. Americanism is the system of government by impersonal law: totalitarianism is the system of government by personal law.” (emphasis added) — Raoul E. Desvernine, vice-president of the American Liberty League, Democratic Despotism. 1936 (cited in “Business Organized as Powerr: The New Imperium in Imperio” see also “Constitutionalism: Political Defense of the Business Community during the New Deal Period.”)

“Business Organized as Power”:

“As stated in its constitution, the [American Liberty] League’s purposes were, among others,  “to defend and uphold the Constitution of the United States,” “to teach the necessity of respect for rights of persons and property,” “to encourage and protect individual and group initiative and enterprise, to foster the right to work, earn, save and acquire property, and to preserve the ownership and lawful use of property when acquired.” To win these goals the League went further than any previous liberty-loving, liberty-saving organization in our history. Crucial to its functioning was the National Lawyer’s Committee, a group of some 58  prominent attorneys, which issued reports or opinions in advance of Supreme Court decisions, opinions setting aside with solemnity and erudition one after another of the entire New Deal legislative mélange. The League went still further: this private court having, for example, formally declared the Wagner Labor Relations Act unconstitutional, openly advised employers to ignore its provisions.”

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China’s climate announcement

Easily lost in the news of the day, from the NYT:

President Xi Jinping of China pledged on Tuesday that his country would adopt much stronger climate targets and achieve what he called “carbon neutrality before 2060.” If realized, the pledges would be crucial in the global fight against climate change.

This may be mostly PR, but it may signal a significant increase in China’s commitment to decarbonization.  We will learn more as details are provided and China’s next 5-year plan is released in 2021.

If this does reflect an increased commitment to decarbonization, it could be as important as the outcome of the U.S. election for the future of the climate, for several reasons:

China is the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter.  This is (I believe) the first time it has committed to net zero publicly.  A 2050 target would be better than 2060, but a real commitment to hit 2060 would be a huge improvement.

If China moves away from fossil fuels, it may put some pressure on states that participate in its Belt and Road Initiative to scrap plans for new coal fired power plants.  These states have their own agendas and other options, but Chinese pressure would help.

A clear Chinese commitment to clean energy may help persuade Americans who see China as both a military and economic threat and as having relatively competent leadership to prioritize climate policy.

Finally, if China is committed to a green energy transition, this opens the door to formation of a “climate club” that includes the United States, Europe, and China.  Working together, these countries and others could pressure holdouts to reduce their emissions (by imposing tariffs on their exports, for example).  This is critical.  There are many countries in the world that will not voluntarily cut back on their use of fossil fuels.  Asking nicely will not work.  International climate policy needs more stick and less carrot, and switching to a new regime will be much easier if the Chinese are on board.

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“The US is a white Christian country. Everyone else is here on sufferance:”

“The US is a white Christian country. Everyone else is here on sufferance:” Donald Trump, James II, and the Glorious Revolution – by New Deal democrat

For the past year +, I have been reading about the History of Republics -really, a History of the Rule of Law – that has taken me through Ancient Rome, Venice, Genoa, Florence, Switzerland, the Dutch Republic, and currently the Glorious Revolution of 1688 in the UK.

There are enough parallels between that event and the US in 2020 that it is worth some more detailed comparison.

Recently I came across a quote attributed to FDR that I think perfectly encapsulates the current GOP view of the United States:

“The United States is a white Christian country. Everyone else is here on sufferance.”

Now, FDR was a total political animal. He wasn’t necessarily stating his own deeply held view. Rather, more likely he was voicing his opinion of the most prevalent political ideology of the country.

I think that quote – variously reported as “Anglo-Dutch” or “white Protestant” is spot on. It encapsulates an idea that people of color and white non-Christians (including, arguably, Catholics, or at least those who aren’t “pro-life”) are second class citizens. They are de jure equal, but are only entitled to their voice so long as they don’t disturb the hegemony of the founding white Protestants. Hence why “real America” consists of the lily-white areas of the Midwest and West, and why Whites in the South are entitled to rule their States.

Both US political parties really agree with that divide. Think about it: are Blacks and Hispanics *relatively* worse off compared to Whites when the GOP is in control?  If that is true – and I certainly believe it is – then it necessarily also means that Whites are *relatively* worse off compared to  Blacks and Hispanics when Democrats are in control.  I actually think partisans of both parties agree with both of those statements. What they differ on is which outcome is “fair.” That certainly accords with dozens of quotes I have read from partisans and regular supporters on both side of the divide.

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Lifted from comments (Fred C. Dobbs)

The most complicated election in modern history is coming

— soon. Are we prepared?

via @BostonGlobe – September 20

A TEST FOR DEMOCRACY

Experts worry about a nightmare election during a pandemic marred by disenfranchisement and chaos, followed by an acrimonious legal and political dispute over the results that would test the nation’s democratic resolve. …

(A lengthy article, in six parts.)

Chapter 1 – A history of disenfranchisement
Chapter 2 – Fear and mistrust
Chapter 3 – Running elections amid COVID-19
Chapter 4 – Legal battles
Chapter 5 – Disinformation and cybersecurity
Chapter 6 – Mail-in voting

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The Danger Of Fascism With The Death Of RBG

The Danger Of Fascism With The Death Of RBG

 I try to avoid these terms like “fascism,” but it has become clear that Donald J. Trump actively seeks to become an at least authoritarian leader of the US, indeed openly arguing that the Constitution’s limit of only two terms should not hold for him.  We face a clear danger of a contested election that may end up in the Supreme Court. If Trump can put a flunky into the court before the election we may have them putting him in despite a situation where he has clearly lost. And given his recent behavior, backed by a friendly SCOTUS, he would be in position to impose a fascist dictatorship in this nation.

I also note that she died on Rosh Hashanah, and in the Jewish tradition this is a portentous time to die, with one doing so being especially blessed.  I do not know how all this will turn out, and I can think of scenarios where her death at this time may lead to a more progressive future, but she was a very great woman deserving of the most profound respect and admiration, who should rest in the greatest of peace.

Clearly, Mitch McConnell hypocritically seeks to impose a Trump appointee before the election, or if not then, during the following lame-duck session.  So far Romney (R-UT) and Murkowski (R-AK) have said they will not go along with this, but two more GOP Sens must step forward to block this. That may happen.  But if it does not, then the Dem senators must simply shut the Senate down, which I think is about the only thing they can do, given that the filibuster was abolished (by Dems)for judicial appointments. But I think they can simply bring the whole place to a halt, and it may come to that.

Barkley Rosser

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To Do I, II, & III

The COVID-19 Pandemic, the inadequate response thereto, and the incompetency of the Trump Presidency in general, combined, have exposed our nation’s weaknesses and failings to an extent unknown since at least the Great Depression. This is likely a do or die moment for America. Recovery will be difficult. Improbable unless we are careful in our choice of goals and daring in our efforts to achieve them. The margins for error do not allow for dawdling. Attempting to just return to a time before Trump and The Pandemic would be disastrous. A time like this should also be seen as a time of opportunity.

First, we must rid ourselves of denominational economics such as Capitalism, Socialism, Hayekism, Free Marketism, … These, but ideologies, dogmas, that some would impose on economics, on the rest of us; have done the Nation great harm. They are, at their very best, reasonings of a time past. As likely to be the answer to today’s problems as Adam Smith is to rise from his grave.

As a first step toward becoming again competitive in today’s world; we must stop blindly paying twice as much for inferior healthcare, internet, and cellphone service,… as is being paid in other developed nations; and while we are at it, we need to solve our homeless problem. These are all essential services that should be provided to all. In the grand competition of things; we’re losing. Have been for a while. Were before the pandemic. Ideology is a luxury we can no longer afford.

Let’s pay for these things that need to be done, and help with our wealth distribution problem, too, by taxing the piss out of the too rich and too profitable. Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, Sheldon, Warren, …; fun and games are over guys, time for you to pay up.

Let’s pay for these things that need to be done by cutting the ‘Defense’ Budget in half. Halve the number of Generals, the number of Admirals, the number of Aircraft Carriers, the number of Missiles, …; and full-stop attacking other nations. Half of $720+Billion is $360+Billion; $360+Billion is aplenty for Defense, nothing for Attack, and about right for expanding Medicare to Medicare For All. Ike was right about that and Harry was right about health care.

I. Internet Access and Cellular Networks

All those fireman who died because of poor communication on 9/11/2001 should have taught us the need for an ubiquitous cellular network. Mobile radio networks separate cellular networks should have shown us the need for one network. A police car with a half dozen radio antennas on the roof is ridiculous.

So, too, the fact that our cell phone uses a cellular network, our computers use a cable based internet service, and that we need a WIFI router to use our laptops. What’s now the cellular network should be the WIFI router and these routers should be all over our homes, all over every floor in every building, everywhere on our streets, and all across and over rural America. Ubiquitous. Today, thousands and thousands of teachers across America are trying to remotely teach kids, many of whom have very limited internet access, over an internet system that is not reliable. When the fires struck Santa Rosa, the cell towers went down. The internet w/ phones must work at all times during normal times and during times of emergency; needs to be bullet proof. This new inclusive internet is too critical to be trusted to the ‘Market’. Cell phone and Internet should be one and that one should be regulated as a public utility; a service, as a service application, and, as always, the application dictates. Not the ‘Market’.

As a Post Office service, maybe?

In order to fully utilize our Nation’s productivity, better fulfill our personal lives, and assist in times of emergency, the Internet needs be ubiquitous and bulletproof. We should be able to access the internet from our backyards, on a hike, in the mountains, in transit, …; from anywhere we are or can be. It was a big mistake letting cable companies have the internet and the cell phone companies the phone towers. Let the cable companies have Cable TV. Internet and cell phone transmission should be one and the same; should be a Public Utility. It isn’t about ideology, it’s about how it should be; what should be. Half-arsed won’t get it. If we continue to stick with ideology and dogma, China, Japan, and the EU will continue to eat our lunch.

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Wisconsin Supreme Court Blows Up Absentee Voting

Everything was running according to plan in Wisconsin. The state’s 72 county clerks print the ballots, mail them to voters, collect election results, and coordinate their canvassing boards, while 1,850 municipal clerks at the city, village, or township level operate the polling places and handle absentee ballots. The state had prepared for the national election after a tumultuous April election.

This last Thursday September 11th, Wisconsin was all set to have a smooth national election. The state’s 1,850 municipal clerks had printed at least 2.3 million absentee ballots in preparation of another surge in absentee voting (which occurred earlier this year – April) and had already mailed 378,482 of them. They were under way and would to meet the Sept. 17 deadline established by state law when ballots had to be mailed. A deadline by which the SCOTUS had mandated

A little history, this April, the municipal clerks were crushed by a last-minute surge of requests for absentee ballots  from residents who decided to vote by such due to a fear of the Covid pandemic. The resulting delays from not having enough ballots led to ballots being mailed later to voters and a delayed vote, with ballots being received after the state deadline.

On April 6th, SCOTUS in a 5-4 vote with the majority decision authored by Justice Kavanaugh “approved one of the most brazen acts of voter suppression in modern history. The court will nullify the votes of citizens who mailed in their ballots late—not because they forgot, but because they did not receive ballots until after Election Day due to the coronavirus pandemic.

As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in dissent, the court’s order “will result in massive disenfranchisement.” The conservative majority claimed that its decision would help protect “the integrity of the election process.” In reality, it calls into question the legitimacy of the election itself.”

State officials had learned their lesson, planned far ahead to have enough ballots available, and set the stage for the prompt and orderly mailing of millions of ballots to give voters enough lead time to vote on time.

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Trumpian by Ken Melvin

Let’s take a look at the ‘Greatest’ Trump Economy. The first graph shows the BLS Civilian Unemployment rate from 2000 t0 2020. Use the link for a better look Civilian unemployment rate

If you look really close, no you have to look a little closer yet, you can see the Trump effect.

The second graph is the FRED Gross Domestic Product Gross Domestic Product . By clicking on the link you can shorten the period to 2000-2020. It might help find the Trump Effect (the graph, not an abstract of the graph, too).

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Testimony of Mark Jamison; Jones v. United States Postal Service Part II

Testimony of Retired Postmaster Mark Jamison in law suit against the USPS and DeJoy filed Wednesday, September 2, 2020, Save The Post Office

Jones vs Louis DeJoy, Postmaster General of the United States Postal Service and Donald J. Trump, as President of the United States, US District Court, Southern District, New York

Plaintiffs’ Memorandum of Law in Support of Their Motion for Preliminary Injunction, US District Court, Southern District, New York

Declaration of Mark Jamison, US District Court, Southern District, New York

Election Mail

Angry Bear added this chart to depict how people are voting by mail. There are 44 million voters in nine (4 just added) states + D.C. voting by mail only, 118 million voters in 34 states where absentee voting is allowed for all, and 46 million voters in seven states where an excuse is required for absentee voting. The chart above reflects this pattern although some states changed how they vote by mail with some going to all mail, etc.  The purpose was to depict how big the mail-in voting is.

Mark: In the 2018 election there was an audit of election mail that showed that only 96-98% of ballots were delivered on time; in some areas these percentages were worse. The current on-time percentage for the USPS is somewhere closer to 95% right now (again, much worse in some areas). If we applied that number to election mail, that would be like throwing out 5% of the ballots. I do not think that you can deliver 100% of 1st class mail to all of the various addresses that they go to nationwide; there will always be a few problems with deliveries. However, 100% on time delivery of BALLOTS should be the goal for the USPS. There are many articles related to election mail concerns and suggestions that are being published in the leadup to the 2020 election and in response to nationwide concerns about holding free and fair elections, including one that I wrote.

A simple lack of institutional attention could noticeably slow down mail. For the most part ballots originate and are processed within a local area serviced by one or possibly two plants. This takes some transportation issues out of the equation. There are some areas, e.g. Florida where a significant portion of residents have second homes and may be mailing ballots from a distant location. Otherwise the concern is processing and on-time performance within a local area.

Not all first-class mail receives a postmark since some of it does not run through the machines that the USPS uses to cancel mail. Marketing mail would not normally receive a postmark. As recently as the 2018 election, the USPS typically treated ballots and other election mail as 1st class mail, even if it was sent at marketing mail rates.23 The letter sent by Thomas Marshall to 46 states’ secretaries of state and that is referenced above indicated that the USPS would not be able to guarantee on-time delivery of ballots (at least eight days out in the case of Washington state). Marshall’s letter suggests that election mail (ballots or requests for ballots) that is entered at marketing mail rates will be handled as marketing mail, which receives the least preferential handling.

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Testimony of Mark Jamison; Jones v. United States Postal Service Part I

Testimony of Retired Postmaster Mark Jamison in law suit against the USPS and DeJoy filed Wednesday, September 2, 2020, Save The Post Office

Jones vs Louis DeJoy, Postmaster General of the United States Postal Service and Donald J. Trump, as President of the United States, US District Court, Southern District, New York

Plaintiffs’ Memorandum of Law in Support of Their Motion for Preliminary Injunction, US District Court, Southern District, New York

Declaration of Mark Jamison, US District Court, Southern District, New York

“Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

Introduction

Those were the stirring words of President Lincoln during his first inaugural address. The nation had come to a crossroads or perhaps it was a dead end, we could no longer go on without facing our original sin, what some euphemistically called “that peculiar institution.”  After four years of the bloodletting, we finally put aside the evils of slavery, but rather than finish the job we stopped half way.

It took a century to bring the hope of healing to the next step with the Civil Rights laws of the 1960’s. And still we hid from our responsibilities and the hopeful destiny that could have been our course. Some clung to hate and privilege, resisting and rejecting the idea that all of us were created equal and had a role to play as citizens in this experiment of self-government.

Today we have the opportunity to starkly face and solidly put to rest the sins of our past. Even now when the chance to make amends is within our grasp there are those who choose anger and dissension, hate and separation, obfuscation and obstruction over opportunity.

There is no right more sacred than the right to vote, to exercise one’s choice in free and fair elections. Through the Civil War, World Wars, the 1919 flu pandemic and all matter of natural disasters, we have made it a point to hold elections. In these troubled times, faced with another pandemic, there are those who would obstruct our ability to vote for purely partisan reasons. There are those who are too cowardly to stand before the electorate and seek an honest count.

We can and must do better. Every citizen who wants to vote should be able to vote and there should be no question or impediment that prevents that or the counting of their ballot. Every voice must be heard.

The U.S. Postal Service is a treasured institution. It has been around in one form or another since before our country was founded. The mandate of Title 39 gives the Postal Service a mission — binding the nation together. Those words are reminiscent of Mr. Lincoln’s mystic chords. The idea of binding the nation together also implies a healing and a connection. For our entire history the Postal Service has bound this nation together.

Today there are at least ten lawsuits seeking to ensure that the Postal Service does not become another casualty in our age where our most cherished norms and even basic truth itself are rejected for fear mongering, conspiracy theories, financial  advantage, and the exposition of ugly hate that tarnishes any notion of our better angels.

I had the privilege of testifying in one of those suits.

The following testimony was submitted to the U. S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in the case of Mondaire Jones, et al., v. United States Postal Service, et al, on Sept. 2, 2020. The testimony in its original legal format is here.

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