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

Why does Paul Waldman think only URBAN young people are interested in the issue of tuition-free college?

I read Paul Waldman’s posts on the Washington Post Plum Line blog regularly and agree with most of what he says, but his claim today that rural young people who can’t afford college aren’t interested in attending college anyway, and those who do attend are fine with borrowing large amounts of money to do so if that is what’s necessary, strikes me as really strange.  It’s surely not accurate.

Bernie Sanders surely is correct that they do care.  A lot.  Which is the direct subject of Waldman’s post.  Waldman says Sanders is wrong.

Why would Waldman think that?  I have no idea.

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Paul Waldman gives voice to my own dismay at the silly “Republicans now need to ‘show they can govern,’ because everyone wants to ‘get things done’” line …

here.  It’s nonsense.  Obvious, absolute nonsense. Why are so many pundits buying into this line?  Maybe because they’ve heard it over and over and over, from other pundits?

Sorta like other things they’ve heard over and over and over, that maybe they should stop buying?  Yeah, probably.

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Why Tom Harkin Caved

Sen. Tom Harkin said Monday that he shouldn’t have compared Joni Ernst to singer Taylor Swift and added that “in no way did I intend to offend” the Republican Senate hopeful.

“I shouldn’t have said those things, I know that. I regret anytime someone feels offended by what I have said,” the retiring Democrat said in a statement. “But I am only human and I can make mistakes sometimes in how I say something. I can assure Senator Ernst that in no way did I intend to offend her. In fact, I have complimented her on running a very good campaign.” …

“In this Senate race, I’ve been watching some of these ads,” Harkin said. “And there’s sort of this sense that, ‘Well, I hear so much about Joni Ernst. She is really attractive, and she sounds nice.’

“…Well, I got to thinking about that,” he continued. “I don’t care if she’s as good looking as Taylor Swift or as nice as Mr. Rogers, but if she votes like [Minnesota Rep.] Michele Bachmann, she’s wrong for the state of Iowa.”

Ernst, who is facing off against Democrat candidate Bruce Braley for the Iowa Senate seat, invoked the lyrics to Swift’s hit song “Shake It Off” in her response to Harkin on Monday.

“He compared me to Taylor Swift, that’s okay, we’re gonna shake this off, we’re gonna drive on, we’re gonna do the right thing, we’re gonna push this next 24 hours” Ernst said in an interview.

Tom Harkin: I shouldn’t have said it, Lucy McCalmont, Politico, today

That’s right, Ms. Ernst.  You shake it off.  You drive on.  Sheep and lemmings aren’t usually used as working animals in the way that mules, donkeys and horses are.  But the political news media is changing that. They’re the winger Republican Senate candidates’ workhorses this year, and Nia-Malika Henderson and (I assume) others are serving this week as your chauffer. Driving you on to Washington.  Or hoping to.

Harkin, of course, remembers quite clearly exactly what he said.  He no more said Ernst looks like Taylor Swift than he said that Ernst is as nice as Mr. Rogers.  Which is why initially after Ernst’s Fox News statement yesterday morning, he refused to apologize.

But here’s the thing: Once some members of the press picked up Ernst’s outlandish interpretation as fact, Harkin had to choose between reiterating his point that apparently some voters stupidly are fixated on Ernst’s physical appearance and seemingly nice personality, or instead going along with the false narrative that he said Ernst looks like Taylor Swift.  Harkin undoubtedly was pressured by the Braley campaign or by DSCC head Guy Cecil to choose the latter.

That was a mistake, in my opinion.  And I’m damn sure that most voters who actually read Harkin’s comments will know exactly what Harkin was saying.  Some of them will be offended by Ernst’s manipulation and demeaning view of Iowans’ intelligence.

But what most Iowans won’t know is that yesterday, while the political media was all excited about Harkin’s statement—or, more accurately, about Ernst’s (and therefore the media’s) translation of it—Ernst indicated to a reporter that she believes that statements of fact actually are opinions; she doesn’t know the difference between a statement of fact and a statement of opinion.  She also told the reporter that any statement, oral or in print, by a news reporter is a statement of that reporter’s opinion.  Here’s what occurred, as reported yesterday by the Washington Post’s Ben Terris and summarized by Paul Waldman on the Post’s Plum Line blog last evening:

Some reporters actually got within talking distance of Joni Ernst today, and the results were pretty much what you’d expect:

“[Obama] is just standing back and letting things happen, he is reactive rather than proactive,” she said. “With Ebola, he’s been very hands off.”

“What should he have done about Ebola?” Esquire blogger Charlie Pierce asked her. “One person in America has Ebola.”

“OK, you’re the press, you’re giving me your opinion,” Ernst said.

“It’s not an opinion, only one person in America has it,” he said.

“But he is the leader, he is the leader of our nation,” she said. “So what he can do is make sure that all of these agencies are coordinating together, to make sure he is sharing with the American people he cares about them, he cares about their safety.”

It goes on, Waldman says.  Ernst’s comments and the press’s choices about which ones they’ll focus on or even report on.

This year’s election campaign has been a perfect storm of silence of the lambs and silence of the press.

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Libertarian? Or Fascist-Light?

The shooting death by police of Ferguson, MO teenager Michael Brown, and what has happened in the aftermath, has been blanketing the news for the past few days. It’s a story about race, but it’s also become a story about the power of the state and how it’s wielded, and against whom.

So my question is this: Where are the libertarians?

Why aren’t libertarians talking about Ferguson?, Paul Waldman, Plum Line, Washington Post, yesterday

The answer to the question that the title to that post asks is: they are. Libertarians are talking about Ferguson.Waldman’s question addresses a linguistics problem, a misappropriation of a particular ideological term, “libertarian,” by those who ascribe to a narrowly prescriptive ideology that adopts extreme economic libertarianism and certain aspects of fascism.

It is a curious brand of fascism that is peculiarly American, in that it artificially distinguishes between federal powers and state and local ones. A veritable foundation of this ideology formally or tacitly authorizes the use of state and local government police powers—by police, prosecutors, judges, prison guards–to engage in wholesale violations of American constitutional and international human rights. Federal prosecutors and federal judges engage in abuses, including on presumably-rare occasions of actual illegality, but now, finally, at least there’s the possibility of actual scrutiny of federal prosecutorial excess. There remains no working mechanism by which federal or state judges will be investigated for actual illegality in relation to their judicial office, unless the conduct involves an overt monetary bribe or express monetary extortion; judges themselves operate within a statutory system whose very essence is cover-up by their colleagues, and every attempt, including by members of Congress, Republican and Democrat, to change this statutory sham vis-a-vis federal judges is batted down with cries from several Supreme Court justices, including the two Clinton appointees, about judicial independence. (Freedom! Liberty! Judicial Independence!)  As if an independent office of inspector general, as statutory proposals would establish, couldn’t distinguish between unethical or outright illegal conduct and, well, everything else.  And wouldn’t be forced to do that.

About a month ago, Simon Lazarus of the Constitutional Accountability Center wrote an article in The New Republic titled “John Roberts’ Supreme Court is the Most Meddlesome in History” and subtitled “How radical libertarianism is reshaping the bench.” I remember thinking when I saw that article that the primary title is correct but the subtitle is not. Certainly there are some radical libertarians—those who want to eliminate virtually all taxes, federal and state, an virtually all government regulations and civil and criminal prohibitions, federal and state, and who also are, as Waldman puts it, talking about Ferguson. And who want to dismantle the prison-industrial complex. But best as I can tell, they’re not Republicans, and they’re certainly not federal judges, much less federal Supreme Court justices. Accepting their pose as libertarians, without the modifying adjective “economic,” is buying their marketing campaign.

Freedom! Liberty! Libertarianism! The new and improved variety, marketed as the late 18th century strain. Back from the future. I guess.

What most of this crowd actually is is sort of classic-fascist-light, not libertarian. By which I don’t mean that they’re Nazis; Nazism was (and is) only one brand of fascism. I mean fascism more along the lines of the Benito Mussolini or Francisco Franco variety—a pairing of a muscular state police force left to its own (and the dictator’s) devices, and moneyed interests whose support the dictator an his party needed. Modern U.S. neo-federalism, a.k.a. “states’ rights!”–i.e., the right of state and local government officials and employees to violate individual, non-Republican humans’ constitutional rights—is libertarianism only in a George-Orwell-comes-to-Madison-Avenue sense, but it underpins much of Tea Party/Supreme Court libertarianism, if only ostensibly.

One of the most stunning sentences I’ve ever read in a Supreme Court opinion, a sentence that has not received nearly the amount of attention in the general news media or by Democrats that it deserves, is John Roberts’ express statement in the majority opinion in McCutcheon v. FEC, this year’s Citizens United sequel, that extremely wealthy campaign donors become “constituents”–constituents, in the literal election-law, voter-ID sense–of members of Congress not by living in the senator’s state or in the representative’s district but instead by buying access and the right to author proposed legislation. Ordinary folk are constituents only of the elected officials in whose voting jurisdiction they have their primary (for most people, their only) residence, but the Koch brothers are the constituents not just of Kansas’s senators and Wichita’s congressional representative but also of any other senators and congressional representatives that they choose to co-opt as their legislative proxy, for a fee. This, Roberts said, is at the heart of our democracy.

Which indeed it now is, formally and officially, as per the Supreme Court. It’s at the very heart and soul of our democracy these days–our democracy, alone among democracies, since ours is the only democracy in which this flavor of freedom!, liberty!, is packaged as libertarianism. It’s a specialty flavor that would be recognized by 1930s Europeans for the albeit-milder iteration of the political ideology that it really is. And that is recognized, I’d bet, by most close observers of the Supreme Court’s state-courts’-and-state-prosecutors’-and-local-police-officers’-and-state-and-local-prison-guards’-rights-to-violate-individuals’-constitutional-rights-because-the-Constitution’s-structure-requires-it jurisprudence.

This ideology is libertarian only as some characters in Lewis Carroll’s novels, or the Koch brothers, would define that word.  Or as five current Supreme Court justices do, as suits their focused interest of the moment.  Or of the Conservative Legal Movement era, which has in fact been very focused for more than three decades now.  So any moment will do.

Pick your moment.  Any moment.  They sure do.  Just call what you’re doing anything but what it actually is.

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Bottom Line: Joni Ernst Is a Constitutional Law Scholar

You know we have talked about this at the state legislature before, nullification. But, bottom line is, as U.S. Senator why should we be passing laws that the states are considering nullifying? Bottom line: our legislators at the federal level should not be passing those laws. We’re right…we’ve gone 200-plus years of federal legislators going against the Tenth Amendment’s states’ rights. We are way overstepping bounds as federal legislators. So, bottom line, no we should not be passing laws as federal legislators—as senators or congressman—that the states would even consider nullifying. Bottom line.

Christine O’Donnell*, er, current Iowa Republican Senate candidate Joni Ernst, Sept. 13, 2013. H/T Paul Waldman, linking to a Daily Beast article by Ben Jacobs.

Personally, I think she’s right.  Vermont, Massachusetts and Rhode Island should have total veto power over the portion of the Farm Bill that gives subsidies to wheat, corn and soy bean farmers. And I know that James Madison would agree.

Bottom line: Ernst, unlike O’Donnell, is a witch.

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*Corrected link to “Christine O’Donnell Finally Discovers Constitution’s ‘Religious Freedom’ Part,” Gawker, Oct. 19, 2010. 7/29 at 11:06 a.m.

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Here’s what “unaffordable” long-term leukemia care ACTUALLY looks like, Ms. Boonstra. And Rep. Peters.

Just when I thought I’d written my last post on Julie Boonstra, I read Kenneth Thomas’s post below, from Sunday.  The only comment to that post–mine, which I just posted–reads:

How very, very, very sad that there was no ACA during his years of leukemia treatments and hospitalizations, and that we still do not have single-payer.

And how ironic that he had the very same fatal illness that Julie Boonstra has.  I’d like to shove your post in her face, Kenneth.

I’d also like to see Rep. Gary Peters use this family’s situation in his Senate campaign ads in Michigan, and ask whether Julie Boonstra has any idea of what “unaffordable” means with respect to medical care for leukemia.

When she cut the first of her two ads for AFP in mid-February, Boonstra apparently was genuinely unaware of the full terms of her new Blue Cross plan and of the out-of-pocket-costs limitations legislated in the ACA.  And part of the reason why was the failure of healthcare.com to work in October and November and, apparently at least for Michigan’s exchanges, during early December–coupled with Michigan’s decision to not provide its exchange system through a webstie and run and operated by the state.

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Bobby Jindal Picks His Passion: Lieutenant Governors Should File Frivolous Lawsuits (Ostensibly) On Behalf of States

 

LOUISIANA SUING MOVEON FOR TRADEMARK INFRINGEMENT: In a move that has nothing, absolutely nothing to do with the fact that the liberal group’s billboard and TV ad criticize Gov. Bobby Jindal’s decision to turn down the expansion of Medicaid, leaving tens of thousands of Louisianans without health insurance, the state says its lawsuit is just about the fact that the ads riff on their “Louisiana: Pick Your Passion” slogan, and that threatens to dilute the state’s brand. [Boldface mine.]

— Paul Waldman (sitting in for Greg Sargent), Morning Plum, Washington Post, today*

Lordy, lordy.

One of the few tacks of the Conservative Movement at its current stage that actually amuses me (well, you know what I mean) is that after a three-decades-long, intense, obsessive, stunningly successful campaign–in the U.S. Supreme Court, in state Supreme Courts, and through federal and state legislation–to end access to court by ordinary people to file lawsuits against corporations or local, state and federal-government entities, employees and officials, this crowd now routinely uses civil litigation in federal court to challenge the constitutionality of this or that law or public policy, or to distort beyond recognition certain federal statutes so as to flip their meaning.

For decades, these people riffed loudly and unremittingly on frivolous lawsuits, the definition of “frivolous” being defined, of course, as any civil lawsuit that does not attempt to advance a rightwing policy cause; beginning in, I guess, the early ’90s, that’s been the definition, anyway. But most people don’t know that that that what “frivolous” means in the mantra “frivolous lawsuits.”**

So, yes, for someone like me, who’s (all too) familiar with this mighty curious trajectory by the Conservative Movement, the Waldman post this morning was downright hilarious.

It’s especially funny for me. I’ve begun working on a book to be titled “Why Law Is Such an Inside Game.”  Most modern nonfiction books that argue a viewpoint have a catchy or cutesy one- or two-word title (often a pun) and then a subtitle like ““Why Law Is Such an Inside Game.” It’s apparently considered obligatory.  But not for me.

Me? I want my point to be in the title itself.

Anyway … I just thought I’d share the inside joke with y’all.  The article Waldman links to is on the New Orleans Times-Picayune site.  It’s titled “Louisiana sues MoveOn.org over Bobby Jindal billboard,” by Lauren McGaughy.

And really, folks, it’s pretty funny.

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*This post has been corrected to reflect that Paul Waldman, not Greg Sargent, wrote that blog post.  I also amended the title of this post to indicate that the lawsuit was filed by the lieutenant governor, not by Jindal.  The lieutenant governor will be a candidate for governor next year.

**Paragraph edited for clarity, after initial posting.  (3/18)  Not that it matters, since this post isn’t exactly breaking “hits” records.  Oh, well. 

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