Monday, October 05, 2015

Was it just a coincidence that John Oliver dealt with Jason Chaffetz right after a fine segment dealing with mental illness in America?


"I don't know what's worse here, the fact that the Secret Service is so petty that they broke the law to embarrass Jason Chaffetz, or the fact that they're so stupid, they didn't realize, if you want to embarrass Jason Chaffetz, just wait, he will do it for you." Watch our Jason have fun with charts! And later show his, er, gentle side as he breaks down at thought of, um, the death of President Lincoln? (Had he maybe just heard the news?)

by Ken

And you thought that with "Sunny John" Boehner we had just about scraped the bottom of the barrel as regards speaker-of-the-House material? Have you seen what's crawling out of the woodwork looking to replace the Sunnyman? Howie has been chronicling this grimy contest for us, and I don't envy him the muck-wallowing that's called for on the new-speaker-selection beat. But now, with several of these unclassifiable zoological anomalies on public display (and who knows how many more standing ready to sully the public consciousness?), the sight is hideous beyond imagining. Until now, "hideous beyond imagining" is the overall descriptive term I would have applied to the assortment of creeps and thugs who constitute the "2016 GOP presidential field."

Not that my estimation of that pack of low-life degenerates has risen in any way. It just hits home now that apparently they really and truly are the party's "A list" after all. The mind reels.

Take the latest announced candidate for the speakership, Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz. Please! Yes, by all that's sane and decent, take him! Far, far away from civilization.

In case you hadn't heard, it appears that person or persons unknown with access to the files of the U.S. Secret Service has/have been very naughty, making public our Jason's once-upon-a-time rejected application to the agency. Of which, we must remember, he has made himself perhaps the leading scourge. This has not put the service in a positive light, it's safe to say. And up top you can see John Oliver's take from last night's Last Week Tonight. I'll have a tiny bit more to say about this in a moment, but for now, I think John's got it covered. It would be only logical to expect that, now that the nation has been shown the episode of the bogus "chart" Jason as a committee chairman had the unmitigated stupidity and even more unmitigated gall to present as some imagined kind of "evidence" against Planned Parenthood, word would be discreetly passed to him that he would do well to leave his resignations -- from his committee chairmanship, from the House of Representatives, and ideally from the human race -- on his desk before turning off his office lights to leave the building.


Specifically, last night's feature segment, about the way we Americans face, or rather don't face, the problems of mental health in the country today. It was another really great piece on a subject that's all but buried from public discussion. This:

"What the fuck is wrong with you?" John asks of Dr. Phil after watching a clip in which the good "doctor" demonstrates his professional expertise with a diagnosis of insanity.

It's a fact that becomes glaringly obvious once it's pointed out, but that I hadn't really thought about: that the only time we have any public discussion of the subject of mental health is after our latest orgy of gun violence, when fans of gun massacres trot it out as a means of changing the subject, thereby forestalling any possibility of public discussion of the issue of gun violence and what we can do to curb it. This subject, as we know, is not allowed to be discussed publicly. You know, the way we saw the little trick being played in the clip by GOP presidential candidates The Donald, Dr. Ben Carson, and "Minister Mike" Hucksterbee. In the clip, John is ungracious enough to point out that back in the day when Minister Mike was the governor of Arkansas, his state was graded D-minus for its mental-health policies. John seems to think this disqualifies a person from lecturing other persons about, you know, mental-health policy.

It is, as John points out, a disgrace, the way we care for Americans with genuine mental-health problems. And those problems have little if anything to do with our frequent orgies of gun violence. The mentally ill, John points out, far from being perpetrators of violence, are much likelier to be victims of it. And in any case, the crucial fact is that none of the gun-violence-loving right-wingers who mouth pieties about mental health at times like this can demonstrate any actual interest in the subject, and not a single blessed thing has been done to improve mental-health care as a result of any of these phony-baloney outbursts of concern designed to mask the real problem of gun violence. The only contribution the gun-violence-loving demagogues make is to further stigmatize people with mental-health problems.

Now John didn't attempt to make any kind of connection between the two segments, the disgrace of our handling of the mental-health issue and the disgrace that is Jason Chaffetz, a man who could conceivably be chosen to run the U.S. House of Representatives. But how is a viewer supposed to not see a connection? Here we've got a large chunk of the House majority, undoubtedly reflecting a large chunk of the U.S. electorate, has formally rejected all claims made on them by the bounds of sanity.


Precisely because the guy has made himself a scourge of the service. He might have gotten away with this if, at some point "back when," he had disclosed the fact himself, in the vein of: "You know, somebody is bound to dig up this bit of ancient history, so I want to get it out myself, just so everyone is clear that it has nothing to do with the deficiencies and depredations I've identified in the workings of the Secret Service. If anything, I like to think it shows the abiding respect I have for the institution."

I don't know that anyone would have bought it, but at least he might have taken a shot at making the case. Whereas now, I don't see how any reasonable person could take seriously anything the whiny rejectee might say about it. When it comes to "disclosure," I suspect you're worlds better off if you do the disclosing yourself.

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Electing An Actual Progressive Isn't The Same As Electing A Corporate Democrat Who's Just A Bit Better Than A Republican


Over the weekend, one of the most talked-about pieces from the mainstream press was Patrick Healy's NY Times report on dissatisfaction with the Democratic Party establishment, "Democrats Find That Anti-Establishment Isn’t Just a G.O.P. Theme." "Anger at the political establishment," Healy wrote,
has overtaken the Republican presidential race, embodied in the candidacy of Donald J. Trump. But it is also coursing through the Democratic electorate, fueling the popularity of Bernie Sanders, inspiring liberal challenges to party-backed congressional candidates and spurring activism on causes from the minimum wage to the Keystone XL oil pipeline.
In the Pew Research survey released last week there was a distinct split on issues between progressive Democrats and conservaDems. 60% of progressives, for example, say they are more likely to vote for a candidate who favors cutting the size of the megabanks, while only 38% of the right-of-center Democrats have the same feeling. 53% of progressives say they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who backs the Iran nuclear agreement, while among the right-of-center Democrats that number (31%) is actually less than the percentage of the cohort who would be less likely to support a candidate who backed the Iran agreement!
Overall, 59% of Republican and Republican-leaning registered voters say the candidates running for the Republican nomination are excellent or good. This compares to 51% of Democratic and Democratic-leaning registered voters who say the same about the Democratic candidates.

In particular, conservative and moderate Democrats are expressing less satisfaction about the field of Democratic candidates than they have in the past. Currently, 45% of conservative and moderate Democratic and Democratic-leaning registered voters view the Democratic candidates running for the nomination as either excellent or good. At this point in the campaign in 2007, fully 62% of conservative and moderate Democratic registered voters had positive assessments of the Democratic field.

Liberal Democrats have typically been more likely than their conservative and moderate counterparts to say that the field of candidates running for their party’s nomination is excellent or good. However, the 26-percentage point gap between the positive assessments of liberal Democratic registered voters (71%) and conservative and moderate Democratic registered voters (45%) is the widest it has been in recent election cycles.
A Sunday Times editorial looked at why progressives are sick of Clinton and the rest of the party establishment.
Sanders has made a campaign theme of skewering the big-dollar, "super PAC" machinery of modern politics, and his donors clearly are responding. He reported 1.3 million online contributions from 650,000 different donors, running ahead of the Obama campaign’s 2008 record for small-dollar gifts. Mrs. Clinton’s campaign reported 250,000 donors three months ago but no new total for the latest quarter...

The small-donor activity may reflect growing public concern that democracy is under assault from politicians’ increasing reliance on millionaire supporters. An opinion poll this month by Bloomberg Politics shows that a stunning 78 percent of the public favors overturning the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which has unleashed unlimited amounts of cash on political races, much of it coming from undisclosed sources.
Now, back to Healy's Times story. In his interviews with a few dozen Democrats in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, he discovered "a sense of hopelessness that their leaders had answers to problems like income inequality and gun violence." These are things that have fueled Bernie's political life and that the Clinton machine is tuned in enough to the zeitgeist to be reacting to.
Mrs. Clinton has tried to lift her declining poll numbers by highlighting endorsements from governors and lawmakers-- but such establishment backing has yet to do much good. Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. could face the same anti-establishment headwinds if he enters the race, given his four decades in Washington, although allies believe he has the personal touch to win over angry Democrats. Mr. Sanders castigates “the entire political and economic establishment” regularly, by contrast, a message that has drawn 650,000 donors and huge crowds of fervent supporters, like the 20,000 people at his Boston rally on Saturday evening.

“I volunteered for Hillary when she ran for president in 2008, but her time is past, I think,” said Nikky Raney, 25, a Democrat from Dover, N.H. “And it’s Bernie who seems most genuine about universal health care and getting big money out of politics.”

Though Mrs. Clinton remains popular in the party, especially among those who want to see a first female president, Mr. Sanders’s call for a “political revolution” and his consistently left-wing policy ideas are inspiring to younger voters, seniors and liberals who would prefer to see a true believer overcome an establishment goliath.

... The disaffection among Democrats flows mainly from three sources, according to interviews with voters and strategists. Disappointment lingers with President Obama over the failure to break up big banks after the Great Recession and fight for single-payer health insurance, among other liberal causes. Fatigue with Mrs. Clinton’s controversies endures, as does distaste with her connections to the rich. And anger abounds at party leaders for not pursuing an ideologically pure, economically populist agenda.

“Establishment Democrats like Hillary could end up heavily outspending people like Sanders, but it may not matter as much as usual because voters are searching for someone off the beaten path,” said Paul Maslin, who was the pollster for Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential race.

Tom Henderson, the Democratic chairman in Polk County, Iowa, which includes Des Moines, said the most widely shared frustration among Democrats there was “the manner in which the economy has bounced back” under Mr. Obama: Wall Street returns look strong and unemployment has declined, but wages and benefits are largely unchanged.

“I think Sanders is pulling in voters who aren’t typical rank-and-file Democrats, but rather folks who have become energized over the last few years to change the country’s direction,” said Mr. Henderson, who is currently neutral in the race. “The question for Sanders is whether he can get those people to show up and vote in February.”

... “There’s just so much hopelessness about people having any real opportunity to just make a living, take care of their families, support themselves,” said Karen Bryant, a physician from New Boston, N.H. “Mrs. Clinton is floundering and Republicans like Jeb Bush are floundering because people see them as politicians whose messages change depending on who they are talking to or how much money they need to raise. If you live year after year not seeing politicians keep their promises, it leads you to support someone like Bernie Sanders.”

... Impatience with politics-as-usual has also led liberals to enter Democratic Senate primaries and mount more aggressive and well-financed challenges than in years past to candidates backed by the national party establishment.

In Florida, Representative Alan Grayson, a self-styled “progressive champion,” is portraying Representative Patrick Murphy, the Democratic Party’s preferred candidate for the seat being vacated by Senator Marco Rubio, as a “lightweight, empty-suit errand boy for Wall Street.” A former president of the Chicago Urban League, Andrea Zopp, is running in Illinois against the party-backed Representative Tammy Duckworth. And former Representative Joe Sestak is running as a liberal anti-establishment candidate in Pennsylvania... The contested primaries extend to House races. In New Jersey, a 24-year-old Sanders supporter, Alex Law, is challenging Representative Donald Norcross, portraying him as a machine politician.
This is hardly a brand-new phenomenon. Last year Zephyr Teachout and Tim Wu challenged corrupt conservatives Andrew Cuomo and Kathy Hochul in New York, and won 30 of New York's 62 counties-- some, like Ulster, Columbia, Schoharie, Otsego and Tompkins, with over 70% of the votes! Sure, lo-info voters in machine-controlled counties renominated Cuomo, but he was forced to spend $60.62 per vote-- over 40 times more than what Teachout spent! 

Now CEO and board chair for the anti-corruption nonprofit Mayday PAC, Teachout told us today that when she ran, she--
sensed a real openness to genuine challenge-- honestly, what surprised me the most is that it came from all quarters, upstate middle class Democrats no longer trusting corporate Democrats to be working for them. There has always been a left flank-- that's not new-- but what I think you see in the last few years is the middle flank, traditional Democrats with traditional values, waking up and realizing that many of the leaders are more corporate and trickle down than FDR, far, far to the right of the traditional Democratic party. You also see a healthy mistrust of cheap sloganeering in favor of more substantive leaders.

All of this gives me a lot of hope, and I hope to see much more in coming years. Labor and the Internet activists will be critical. I see this all as part of post-2008, post-crash politics. The demo with energy, the new insurgents, tend to be talking about taking on the new monopolists-- too big to fail banks, Comcast, etc.-- and talking about power.
Healy in his article very gingerly makes reference to Alan Grayson's run for the open Florida Senate seat against Wall Street patsy Patrick Murphy, who was recruited by the most corrupt and vile creature in the Beltway Democratic establishment, Wall Street's own Chuck Schumer. Murphy is the very worst of what the Democratic establishment has to offer. He has been the quintessential shill for predatory Wall Street banksters on the House Financial Services Committee. and on crucial issues-- so, not naming post offices-- he's voted far more with the GOP than with progressives. Steeped in family corruption, he was one of only seven Democrats to back the Republican bid to establish a Benghazi committee as part of a trumped-up witch hunt against Hillary Clinton, claiming, incongruously, that he was "100% confident it would vindicate" her.

In 2008, when Grayson first ran for his Orlando-area House seat, the Democratic establishment backed dull Chamber of Commerce Republican-lite good ole boy Charlie Stuart. Grayson beat him by over 20 points and then went on to beat the Republican incumbent, in a red district. In 2010 Grayson expected help from the DCCC, but didn't get any... and lost. In 2012 he won his seat back, again with no help from the establishment.

Last night he was succinct and to the point on the role of the party establishment in elections: "The talentless bureaucrats and drones who have misappropriated the party machinery excel at only one thing, and that is losing."

Alex Law is the insurgent progressive-- the first congressional candidate to endorse Bernie-- running against the incredibly corrupt Norcross machine in South Jersey. Norcross' first vote after being installed in Congress mid-session was to vote with the Republicans for the Keystone XL Pipeline. And he hasn't gotten much better since then. This morning we asked Alex why he's the only Democrat running for Congress in New Jersey to have endorsed Bernie. Here's what he told us:
To me, this starts at campaign finance reform. Campaign finance reform could be the most significant issue in our country right now because until it is fixed, our democracy will continue to be bought and sold by big companies and the mega-wealthy. Unlike Hilary who has talked about reform but flagrantly used loop holes to raise incredible sums of money through her Super-PAC, Bernie talks about campaign finance reform and then lives by his principles and does not have a Super-PAC. His campaign is funded by people for people, and to me, that is inspiring. A friend remarked to me last week that every time Bernie says “enough is enough” another working-class person says “ you got that right” reaches for their wallet.

Bernie is also committed to fighting inequality in America, which, along with campaign finance reform, is the root of the problems in our society. Income inequality, health-care inequality, race inequality, marriage inequality, gender inequality-- these are the defining issues of our time, and Bernie has taken a hard stance that he refuses to ignore them.

This is also the crux of many people’s misconception about his self-proclaimed status as a socialist. He is a democratic socialist, which means he doesn’t want to force everyone into fake inequality like some Marxist dream, but rather he wants everyone to exist with equal rules and have an equal chance at success.

• The mega-wealthy and corporations play by a different set of tax rules than we do.

• If you have health care in America, you don’t think about it, but if you don’t or you have bad coverage, your life is a ticking time bomb that can be undone by one broken bone or one family member’s unfortunate illness.

• If you are a minority in this country, the inequalities are too numerous to list, but include things like education, opportunity, and common decency.

• If you are gay, you may be able to be married now, but there is still tremendous progress that needs to happen in the workplace and with hate crime protection.

• If you are a woman, you still don’t have equal pay for equal work.

• If you are trans, every day you face unspeakable difficulty.

I believe a Bernie Sanders presidency will be the only one to wholeheartedly fight all of these inequalities and fight to get untraceable dark money out of politics. That is why I endorse Bernie Sanders, and it is why so many others across the country are joining this progressive movement.

As Bernie’s campaign grows, people are getting inspired to run their own races and do something about these issues. One of my favorite quotes is by Teddy Roosevelt, where he said, “In a Democracy, we have the responsibility of sovereigns, not subjects.” Bernie is inspiring this in people, inspiring people to take back our government from the special interests and make it work for the people again. I am so excited about the amazing crop of progressives that are running this election cycle. People like Rep. Alan Grayson and P.G. Sittenfeld running for Senate are inspirations to me every day.

Like them, I am running against a conservative Democrat in a primary. Like them, I am an underdog. But like them and like Bernie, our brand of honest, creative, and passionate politics is resonating with actual people. I’ve knocked on 17,000 doors in the last 10 weeks. I am talking to real people to carry the Bernie movement into New Jersey. My opponent, Donald Norcross, is the epitome of what is wrong with the Democratic primary. He is entirely funded by his machine-boss brother, and made his political career by legislating bills that have been responsible for some of the largest graft and worst cronyism anywhere in the country. He has voted with the Republicans on every single controversial vote since he got to Congress in 2014.

Here in South Jersey, my campaign is giving people a real choice between a conservative, corporatist, machine candidate and a young, passionate progressive. I hope in reading this, you will be inspired to act too, whether donating, volunteering, sharing, or even running your own campaign. We are all supporting each other, and together we are going to change America for the better.
Healy didn't mention the Democratic primary in Ohio, which pits a tired old Republican-lite establishment shill, Ted Strickland, against a fresh, progressive Cincinnati city councilman, P.G. Sittenfeld. The DSCC and a decrepitly old-guard Ohio Democratic Party are trying to ignore Sittenfeld. But he's the candidate that can provide a contrast to Republican incumbent Rob Portman. "I'm running for Senate because I believe Ohio Democrats deserve a voice and a choice," he told us this morning.

Voters are looking for change, and Ted Strickland doesn't represent the future when it comes to guns, the XL pipeline, paid sick days, or increasing Social Security benefits.I'm the candidate in this race who is unafraid to be truly progressive-- and in my opinion, only a true progressive who isn't afraid to stand up and be counted on controversial issues can beat Rob Portman. Portman and his allies want to make this race about right versus left. I want to make it about right versus wrong-- because I know that is a fight we Democrats can wage and win.
Tim Canova, a professor of law and public finance at Nova Southeastern University, has been mentioned as a possible primary candidate who would pose a progressive/populist challenge to Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a corrupt congresswoman who drew her own district boundaries when she was in the state legislature and who has never had a primary fight before. A Sanders supporter, Canova has been critical of Wasserman Schultz's performance as chair of the Democratic National Committee, including her role in limiting the presidential debates. "It’s bad for Democrats and bad for the country, but she’s apparently decided that it’s good for her own career to hitch her wagon to Hillary Clinton-- but it’s a wagon filled with a lot baggage and broken promises to American workers. People are just tired of being sold out by calculating and triangulating politicians. Wasserman Schultz has become the ultimate machine politician. While she stakes out liberal positions on culture war issues, when it comes to economic and social issues, she’s too often with the corporate elites. On too many crucial issues-- from fast-tracking the Trans-Pacific Partnership to the war on drugs and medical marijuana and mass incarceration, to her support for budget sequestrations and austerity-- Wasserman Schultz votes down the line with big corporate interests and cartels: Wall Street banks and hedge funds, Big Pharma, the private health insurers, private prisons, Monsanto, it goes on and on. It’s easy to say you’re for doing something about climate change and the environment, for pay equity, raising the minimum wage, or getting money out of politics, but it’s mostly just talk when you’re taking so much corporate money at the same time. That’s why the TPP is so insidious. It will shift the costs of environmental protection, health and safety and labor standards from corporate wrongdoers and wealthy investors to the taxpayers who have been taking it on the chin for so long. In many ways, Wasserman Schultz no longer has a choice. She’s become an establishment machine politician who has to turn her back on taxpayers, working folks, students and the elderly poor, unfortunately it’s all to line the pockets of the same corporate interests that are funding her campaigns. In today’s politics, the worst have no convictions, which may explain all their flip-flops on big issues, from Hillary Clinton on Keystone Pipeline to Wasserman Schultz’s indecision on the agreement with Iran. After playing Hamlet for weeks and blocking a DNC resolution, she finally came around to support the Iran agreement, but only when it became pretty clear she would have lost her post as DNC chair, a message apparently delivered in person by vice president Biden. It must be exhausting to have to constantly answer to wealthy campaign donors and corporate lobbyists when making these decisions."

Several years ago Blue America helped insurgent progressive Matt Cartwright go up against a horrible corrupt Republican-lite Blue Dog, Tim Holden, who had gigantic backing from the state and national Democratic establishment. Steny Hoyer and a squad of lobbyists were wandering the northeast Pennsylvania district meeting with party functionaries and imploring them to (somehow) help Holden. But Holden had been voting like a Republican for too many years, and Cartwright made sure the district's voters knew his record. Earlier today he told us that he doesn't think the endorsements of elected officials matter at all.
What matters is your message, and making sure you have the means to get it out there. Those kinds of endorsements worked 40 or 50 or 100 years ago; I think we are at a point now where a candidate's collecting endorsements of other politicians at best is a waste of time, and at worst is actually counterproductive. It's definitely a waste of time, because nowadays in high-profile races information on candidates is so readily and directly available that voters don't depend on party bosses and ward-heelers to tell them who to vote for. It can even be counterproductive, because the politicians bestowing their endorsements may in fact be individually or collectively despised.

In my own experience with a hotly contested primary contest, I was a complete political neophyte in my first election; my opponent was a 20-year incumbent congressman. You could count my endorsements from elected officials and local party committees on one hand; my opponent's list of endorsements was gargantuan. I just focused on raising enough money to get my message out. Since I was able to do that, I did get my message out. Since the voters liked my message more than the other guy's, nobody paid any attention to all those other politicians' endorsements, and I won... by a lot.
Perhaps you want to contribute to one or more of the candidates in this report. Here's how:
Bernie Sanders
Alan Grayson
Alex Law
P.G. Sittenfeld
Matt Cartwright

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Enemies of the State – Reflections on Insurrection and the Second Amendment


"Famous Whiskey Insurrection in Pennsylvania", an 1880 illustration of a tarred and feathered tax collector being made to ride the rail (click to enlarge; source)

by Gaius Publius

Not long ago, this excellent piece by Ken explored the real meaning of the Second Amendment. An added, also excellent, comment by John Puma contributed to the discussion. I'd like to summarize what these two are saying, then print the whole of the first part of Justice John Paul Stevens' dissent in Heller, the Scalia-authored Supreme Court majority opinion that "found" a right for personal gun ownership in the Second Amendment, an amendment about "militias." At the end, I'll add a comment of my own about American insurrection.

Quoting Adam Gopnik's good essay on this subject in The New Yorker, Ken writes (my emphasis):
To the inevitable argument "that the Second Amendment acts as a barrier to anything like the gun laws, passed after mass shootings, that have saved so many lives in Canada and Australia," Adam replies: "In point of historical and constitutional fact, nothing could be further from the truth: the only amendment necessary for gun legislation, on the local or national level, is the Second Amendment itself, properly understood, as it was for two hundred years in its plain original sense."
So what is the "plain original sense" of the Second Amendment? Keep in mind the times. The Constitution was establishing a strong federal government, and the relationship between that government and the (formerly supreme) state governments were continuously at issue. Each state had a state "militia" — a state army, in other words. Would the federal government require that these state militias be disbanded and replaced with a (standing) federal army?

Keep in mind as well that these state militias (state standing armies) had many functions, including suppressing insurrections — in the South, especially slave insurrections, as Thom Hartmann points out. In fact, according to Hartmann, these "militias" were also called "slave patrols," tasked with hunting down runaways.

But state militias weren't just for use against the slaves. This shows the role of state militias during the Whiskey Rebellion of 1791 (links at the source; my emphasis):
The Whiskey Rebellion, also known as the Whiskey Insurrection, was a tax protest in the United States beginning in 1791, during the presidency of George Washington. The so-called "whiskey tax" was the first tax imposed on a domestic product by the newly formed federal government. It became law in 1791, and was intended to generate revenue to help reduce the national debt.[3] Although the tax applied to all distilled spirits, whiskey was by far the most popular distilled beverage in the 18th-century U.S. Because of this, the excise became widely known as a "whiskey tax". The new excise was a part of U.S. treasury secretary Alexander Hamilton's program to fund war debt incurred during the American Revolutionary War.

The tax was resisted by farmers in the western frontier regions who were long accustomed to distilling their surplus grain and corn into whiskey. In these regions, whiskey was sufficiently popular that it often served as a medium of exchange. Many of the resisters were war veterans who believed that they were fighting for the principles of the American Revolution, in particular against taxation without local representation, while the U.S. federal government maintained the taxes were the legal expression of the taxation powers of Congress.

Throughout counties in Western Pennsylvania, protesters used violence and intimidation to prevent federal officials from collecting the tax. Resistance came to a climax in July 1794, when a U.S. marshal arrived in western Pennsylvania to serve writs to distillers who had not paid the excise. The alarm was raised, and more than 500 armed men attacked the fortified home of tax inspector General John Neville. Washington responded by sending peace commissioners to western Pennsylvania to negotiate with the rebels, while at the same time calling on governors to send a militia force to enforce the tax. With 13,000 militiamen provided by the governors of Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, Washington rode at the head of an army to suppress the insurgency. The rebels all went home before the arrival of the army, and there was no confrontation. About 20 men were arrested, but all were later acquitted or pardoned. Most distillers in nearby Kentucky were found to be all but impossible to tax; in the next six years, over 175 distillers from Kentucky were convicted of violating the tax law.[4] Numerous examples of resistance are recorded in court documents and newspaper accounts.[5]

The Whiskey Rebellion demonstrated that the new national government had the will and the ability to suppress violent resistance to its laws.
Even after the ratification of the Constitution, state militias had a military function.

Justice Stevens' Dissent in "Heller"

Now read Justice Stevens' excellent takedown of Justice Scalia's majority opinion in Heller. Trust me, you'll enjoy it (my emphasis in italics; links in the original):
Stevens, J., dissenting
No. 07–290
on writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
[June 26, 2008]

Justice Stevens, with whom Justice Souter, Justice Ginsburg, and Justice Breyer join, dissenting.

The question presented by this case is not whether the Second Amendment protects a “collective right” or an “individual right.” Surely it protects a right that can be enforced by individuals. But a conclusion that the Second Amendment protects an individual right does not tell us anything about the scope of that right.

Guns are used to hunt, for self-defense, to commit crimes, for sporting activities, and to perform military duties. The Second Amendment plainly does not protect the right to use a gun to rob a bank; it is equally clear that it does encompass the right to use weapons for certain military purposes. Whether it also protects the right to possess and use guns for nonmilitary purposes like hunting and personal self-defense is the question presented by this case. The text of the Amendment, its history, and our decision in United States v. Miller, 307 U. S. 174 (1939), provide a clear answer to that question.

The Second Amendment was adopted to protect the right of the people of each of the several States to maintain a well-regulated militia. It was a response to concerns raised during the ratification of the Constitution that the power of Congress to disarm the state militias and create a national standing army posed an intolerable threat to the sovereignty of the several States. Neither the text of the Amendment nor the arguments advanced by its proponents evidenced the slightest interest in limiting any legislature’s authority to regulate private civilian uses of firearms. Specifically, there is no indication that the Framers of the Amendment intended to enshrine the common-law right of self-defense in the Constitution.

In 1934, Congress enacted the National Firearms Act, the first major federal firearms law.1 Upholding a conviction under that Act, this Court held that, “[i]n the absence of any evidence tending to show that possession or use of a ‘shotgun having a barrel of less than eighteen inches in length’ at this time has some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia, we cannot say that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear such an instrument.” Miller, 307 U. S., at 178. The view of the Amendment we took in Miller—that it protects the right to keep and bear arms for certain military purposes, but that it does not curtail the Legislature’s power to regulate the nonmilitary use and ownership of weapons—is both the most natural reading of the Amendment’s text and the interpretation most faithful to the history of its adoption.

Since our decision in Miller, hundreds of judges have relied on the view of the Amendment we endorsed there;2 we ourselves affirmed it in 1980. See Lewis v. United States, 445 U. S. 55, n. 8 (1980).3 No new evidence has surfaced since 1980 supporting the view that the Amendment was intended to curtail the power of Congress to regulate civilian use or misuse of weapons. Indeed, a review of the drafting history of the Amendment demonstrates that its Framers rejected proposals that would have broadened its coverage to include such uses.

The opinion the Court announces today fails to identify any new evidence supporting the view that the Amendment was intended to limit the power of Congress to regulate civilian uses of weapons. Unable to point to any such evidence, the Court stakes its holding on a strained and unpersuasive reading of the Amendment’s text; significantly different provisions in the 1689 English Bill of Rights, and in various 19th-century State Constitutions; postenactment commentary that was available to the Court when it decided Miller; and, ultimately, a feeble attempt to distinguish Miller that places more emphasis on the Court’s decisional process than on the reasoning in the opinion itself.

Even if the textual and historical arguments on both sides of the issue were evenly balanced, respect for the well-settled views of all of our predecessors on this Court, and for the rule of law itself, see Mitchell v. W. T. Grant Co., 416 U. S. 600, 636 (1974) (Stewart, J., dissenting), would prevent most jurists from endorsing such a dramatic upheaval in the law.4 As Justice Cardozo observed years ago, the “labor of judges would be increased almost to the breaking point if every past decision could be reopened in every case, and one could not lay one’s own course of bricks on the secure foundation of the courses laid by others who had gone before him.” The Nature of the Judicial Process 149 (1921).

In this dissent I shall first explain why our decision in Miller was faithful to the text of the Second Amendment and the purposes revealed in its drafting history. I shall then comment on the postratification history of the Amendment, which makes abundantly clear that the Amendment should not be interpreted as limiting the authority of Congress to regulate the use or possession of firearms for purely civilian purposes.


The text of the Second Amendment is brief. It provides: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Three portions of that text merit special focus: the introductory language defining the Amendment’s purpose, the class of persons encompassed within its reach, and the unitary nature of the right that it protects.

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State”

The preamble to the Second Amendment makes three important points. It identifies the preservation of the militia as the Amendment’s purpose; it explains that the militia is necessary to the security of a free State; and it recognizes that the militia must be “well regulated.” In all three respects it is comparable to provisions in several State Declarations of Rights that were adopted roughly contemporaneously with the Declaration of Independence.5 Those state provisions highlight the importance members of the founding generation attached to the maintenance of state militias; they also underscore the profound fear shared by many in that era of the dangers posed by standing armies.6 While the need for state militias has not been a matter of significant public interest for almost two centuries, that fact should not obscure the contemporary concerns that animated the Framers.

The parallels between the Second Amendment and these state declarations, and the Second Amendment ’s omission of any statement of purpose related to the right to use firearms for hunting or personal self-defense, is especially striking in light of the fact that the Declarations of Rights of Pennsylvania and Vermont did expressly protect such civilian uses at the time. Article XIII of Pennsylvania’s 1776 Declaration of Rights announced that “the people have a right to bear arms for the defence of themselves and the state,” 1 Schwartz 266 (emphasis added); §43 of the Declaration assured that “the inhabitants of this state shall have the liberty to fowl and hunt in seasonable times on the lands they hold, and on all other lands therein not inclosed,” id., at 274. And Article XV of the 1777 Vermont Declaration of Rights guaranteed “[t]hat the people have a right to bear arms for the defence of themselves and the State.” Id., at 324 (emphasis added). The contrast between those two declarations and the Second Amendment reinforces the clear statement of purpose announced in the Amendment’s preamble. It confirms that the Framers’ single-minded focus in crafting the constitutional guarantee “to keep and bear arms” was on military uses of firearms, which they viewed in the context of service in state militias.

The preamble thus both sets forth the object of the Amendment and informs the meaning of the remainder of its text. Such text should not be treated as mere surplusage, for “[i]t cannot be presumed that any clause in the constitution is intended to be without effect.” Marbury v. Madison, 1 Cranch 137, 174 (1803). [...]
The rest is a good read as well, though occasionally legalistic, as you'd expect.

Again, the concern of the framers was to protect armed state militias ... only. If they were concerned with protecting the hunting rights of citizens, as the contemporaneous Pennsylvania and Vermont Declaration of Rights documents did explicitly, they would have done so, explicitly. Scalia's opinion, joined by the right-wing majority of the Court, is a 180-degree reversal of the plain meaning of the Second Amendment.

Which leads us to one or two more considerations.

Enemies of the State: The American Insurrection

I have two takeaways from this discussion. Both are striking, and they echo each other in that they stand in 180-degree opposition to each other on exactly the same topic, American insurrection.

First, the primary argument (the "rationale" in sales terms*) of the American Right in favor of a "gun rights" interpretation of the Second Amendment is this: The reason (they say) the Founders wanted citizens to be armed is to oppose the federal government. Yet, as John Puma points out, Article One, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution enumerates the powers of Congress, one of which is (paragraph 15, my emphasis):
To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;
▪ So ask yourself — How can anyone, for any minute, consider that a Constitution that protects the government's right to "suppress insurrections" also adds a right that encourages and arms them? The Constitution is plainly, obviously, an anti-insurrectionist document.

Second, it's been clear for some time that the American Right is not interested in government as established by the Constitution. Their elected officials aren't interested in using the power of Congress to govern, in using the power of the Executive Branch to enforce the law; nor are their appointed justices interested in using the power of the Court to enforce the Constitution.

Using the power of government to subvert the government is itself insurrectionist. Which tells us two things — the insurrectionist strain in voters of the American Right (per their arguments in favor of "gun rights") is matched by the insurrectionist strain in their leaders and those who hold office in their name.

▪ So ask yourself — Why is the rest of the country not treating this insurrection as an insurrection, like the Whiskey Rebellion, instead of treating it as just another difference of political opinion? In other words, why are we not treating the virtual (and sometimes literal) armed rebels in the hills as a threat to the existence of our government?

That's a serious question. The rest of the country does not see the American Right as an insurrection, is determined not to, in fact, and also is encouraged not to. The reasons they don't and won't see the insurrection as an insurrection are both revealing and determinative of the outcome. After all, would the modern and mainly corrupted Democratic Party be able to sell its own brand of "rule by the rich" if they didn't have Republicans to point to as political enemies, instead of what they are, enemies of the state itself?

It seems at least possible that if the Democrats didn't keep the insurrectionist Republican Party alive as political enemies, their leaders would have to offer actual popular solutions, Sanders- and Warren-esque solutions, instead of only offering solutions favored by the wealthy that finance both parties.

I'm serious. Picture a world in which the Republicans were delegitimized as a political party. What would happen to the Democratic Party? It would split, of course, into a party that could only offer blackmail as a reason to vote for them, and a party that offered solutions to real problems instead.

Interesting considerations, no?

*The "rationale" in sales terms — The "rationale" is the cobbled-together explanation you give your spouse for why you want some god-awful something he's certainly going to oppose and you're determined to buy. And yes, this is how sales pitches work. They teach you about the "rationale," just this way, in courses about writing these pitches. The rationale always comes second in the pitch, after you stimulate the "want," the lizard brain reason for buying in the first place ("chicks will love you" or "fish will jump out of the water into your net"). 


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Why Do Catastrophically Failed Economists Keep Getting Recycled By Establishment Politicians?


I was happy for the U.K. last week when I read that the newly elected leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, had selected two of the world's most brilliant economists as advisers, Thomas Piketty and Joseph Stiglitz. Corbyn's comment to the media on his selections: "I was elected on a clear mandate to oppose austerity and to set out an economic strategy based on investment in skills, jobs and infrastructure. Our economy must deliver security for all, not just riches for a few."

How different from that are the grotesquely failed economic advisers most of the U.S. presidential candidates are recycling, self-serving garbage like Glenn Hubbard, Robert Rubin, Lawrence Summers, Kevin Warsh, Tim Geithner, Alan Greenspan, Ben Bernanke (oh, this is convenient), Arthur Laffer, Stephen Moore...?

I have no doubt Jeb, Rubio, Trump and Fiorina would try to bring back Andrew Mellon, clueless Treasury secretary from 1921 to 1932 under Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge, if they could. Cruz, on the other hand, might opt to resuscitate Roger Taney, who was Treasury Secretary-- also the first nominee to any Cabinet position to be rejected by the Senate when his recess appointment failed-- before becoming the worst Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in 1836.

Let's start with an excerpt from NY Times economics columnist Jeff Madrick's book Seven Bad Ideas: How Mainstream Economists Have Damaged America and the World:
Economists were indeed set back on their heels by the financial crisis of 2008 and by the depth of the recession and the levels of unemployment that followed. Though not well implemented, the aggressive financial rescue efforts of the government in 2008 nevertheless kept matters from getting far worse that year. Were it not for the social programs started in the New Deal of the 1930s and expanded in the 1960s, including Social Security, unemployment insurance, and Medicare, and those adopted later, including the earned income tax credit and food stamps—the great embrace of government, not its denigration—the nation would likely have entered a full-fledged depression by 2009. For all the criticism, President Obama’s roughly $800 billion stimulus package of government spending and tax cuts was also a vital contributor to a softer landing for the economy in 2009. Non-laissez-faire economics saved the day.

... In 2001, after the Clinton administration had left office, Lawrence Summers, a Harvard professor and Bill Clinton’s third Treasury secretary, endorsed this new faith in free markets and opposition to government intervention as a victory of new ideas. By contrast, in the 1930s John Maynard Keynes had advocated aggressive government spending—outright budget deficits—to stop recessions and support vigorous recoveries. “The political debates take place within a universe that is shaped by the development of new ideas,” Summers told an interviewer, attributing the change to good, fresh thinking, not merely the return of an old laissez-faire ideology in a more politically conservative time. “Of those new ideas, none is more important than the rediscovery of Adam Smith and the idea that a decentralized system relying on price signals collects information and provides much more insurance than any kind of centrally planned or directed type of system.” Summers, a onetime Keynesian, had for the moment changed his tune, and in this he represented economists generally.

Economists basically discarded Keynesian policy and relied on a narrow version of monetary policy: the manipulation of interest rates by the Federal Reserve, the nation’s central banking system. “We thought of monetary policy as having one target, inflation, and one instrument, the policy rate,” conceded Blanchard. “So long as inflation was stable, the output gap [the difference between potential and actual GDP] was likely to be small and stable and monetary policy did its job.” He noted that “old-style Keynesian stimulus,” by which he meant more government spending, was now “secondary.”

During this period, Clinton, the first Democratic president since 1981, chose to act on the advice of Summers and Robert Rubin, his second Treasury secretary and a former head of Goldman Sachs, and pay down the nation’s debt before seriously raising public investment. The federal deficit was widely thought to deter growth, limiting the money available to private businesses to distribute the nation’s savings. In Clinton’s last year in office, the level of federal public investment as a proportion of GDP was lower than in Ronald Reagan’s last year in office, especially for physical infrastructure and education spending. It was also substantially lower for research and development. The policy was part and parcel of the laissez-faire revolution.

Had economists been fully dedicated to their free-market views, they would also have been up in arms over the glaring lack of regulation of the new and deliberately opaque derivatives market on Wall Street. Based on securities that could be bought and traded with little down payment, these derivatives were at the heart of the financial crisis. If someone is selling a good or a security, competitors cannot offer it for less if they do not know the price asked. Yet the Clinton administration, following the new economic thinking, prevented regulators from setting federal standards of openness in this market.

The most damaging of the new financial derivatives were credit default swaps, a technical name for insurance sold by financial firms to protect investors against price declines of securities. The insurance to protect against losses on mortgage securities became especially popular as the housing boom progressed-- particularly insurance for securities based on subprime mortgages. Because the prices of these insurance-like derivatives were traded secretly, however, there was not adequate competition to keep prices sensible. Economists should have rallied in opposition to the lack of rules, but I could find no research papers done on the phenomenon until it was too late. Some investors and professional traders bought the insurance at high prices, some sold at low prices. Moreover, there were no legal requirements to hold a reserve to ensure that someone selling insurance could pay off—as is done with traditional life and property insurance. When the value of mortgages collapsed as the housing bubble burst, those who sold such insurance-- notably the insurance giant AIG-- could not pay off, making the crisis far worse. Investors who thought they were protected against falling mortgage securities were now losing fortunes, forcing them to sell other securities to meet their liabilities. This drove the prices of other securities still lower, and market prices fell further in a vicious spiral.

Economists also said little when they should have proverbially shouted about the obvious conflicts between those who issued securities and the agencies they hired to rate the securities they sold. These agencies, Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s, were inclined to make their clients happy and gave their securities high ratings, even those based on subprime mortgages. Giving unjustifiably high ratings to the securities of clients who were paying for them seems, well, almost inevitable. After the collapse, the agencies sharply, and with at least temporary embarrassment, reduced their ratings for the large majority of securities they had previously given their highest ratings, the value of which had often fallen to zero.

“Get the incentives right” had become a cliché for economic reform, especially in poorer developing nations. But financial incentives were awry on Wall Street. Traders were paid lavishly when they were correct but were not penalized commensurately when they were wrong, thereby incentivizing them to take risks. Much of the profits earned on trading the new derivatives were kept secret from buyers and sellers so that customers could not seek a better deal elsewhere. It was said that the very high compensation of bankers and traders reflected their unusual talents and that high profits for financial institutions meant they were contributing ever more to the nation’s prosperity. Economists were barely disturbed by such implausible nonsense. Meanwhile, by contrast, laws to set higher minimum wages, it was argued by many economists, would only distort labor markets and result in lost jobs.

Wall Street itself exhibited the characteristics of a monopoly. Commissions were fixed at abnormally high levels for most financial transactions, suggesting the lack of true competition. Fees earned by bankers on transactions were always high but did not fall as a percentage of the soaring value of financial assets, which under normal competitive conditions should likely have been the case. Blanchard, looking back, wrote: “We thought of financial regulation as mostly outside the macroeconomic policy framework.” The silence of so many economists when even their most bedrock conservative principles were violated was disturbing. They had spoken up as a group before, sometimes vociferously, about the benefits of free trade, for example. Their current views on laissez-faire economics, including financial deregulation, were now markedly sympathetic to big business and Wall Street.

In the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, the prices of stocks, bonds, and housing rose to untenable levels on the watch of free-market economists who preached deregulation. During this period, over-speculation led to serious financial crises at home and abroad as free-market advocates successfully reduced controls on lending and investing around the world. A series of major financial crises affecting America began with a 1982 Mexican financing debacle involving U.S. banks and climaxed with the 2008 crisis. Mexico had borrowed significantly from U.S. banks in the 1970s and early 1980s, the careless banks essentially speculating on the future strength of the Mexican economy with loans to the government and for spurious industrial projects. With no guidelines from government or international institutions, the banks had recycled petrodollars through loans especially to Latin America; a favorite recipient was Mexico. When interest rates were pushed up sharply by Paul Volcker’s Federal Reserve in order to stanch U.S. inflation, interest rates on Mexican debt also rose sharply. At the same time, a resulting worldwide recession undercut Mexico’s oil exports. The nation declared that it could not pay its debts to American banks. The Fed and the International Monetary Fund, a world lending organization, helped bail out the banks.

Ensuing financial crises were variations on this theme. The investors in equity incurred huge losses because of overly optimistic speculative investments that initially earned a lot of money and then went bad, but banks were often bailed out. Economies typically slid into recessions when inflation rose and the prices of these financial assets fell. The 1982 recession in the United States, for example, was the worst since the Great Depression-- until the recession of 2008. Despite wide-eyed assertions by well-schooled economists that Americans were now enjoying the Great Moderation, the financial collapses and ensuing recessions had, as noted, cost Americans trillions of dollars in lost wealth and jobs, diminished investment, and failed companies. The U.S. housing crash that began in 2006, along with the accompanying collapse in stock prices, reduced the wealth of Americans by roughly $8 trillion by the time it hit bottom. This crash was also of course the result of overspeculation fueled by borrowing-- homebuyers and investors in complex and hard-to-understand mortgage securities kept buying at ever-higher and less sensible prices. While average wealth rose again in the years after the crash, the money essentially went to the wealthy. Banks had been rescued, stock prices came back, and the well-off held the large majority of stocks; housing prices rebounded only partially. The high-technology stock plunge that occurred in the early 2000s resulted in comparable losses for most Americans. Most high-technology stocks did not recover. Many economists insisted such speculation was necessary to encourage risk taking.

...The free-market economics that had been in vogue were now failing badly. The old remedy advocated by John Maynard Keynes to cure recession—federal spending that would lead to a temporary budget deficit-- had been accepted momentarily but was again soon disdained by many. Since the inflationary 1970s, a federal budget deficit was increasingly seen as the culprit, even among Democratic economists, and this view has been hard to shake completely even after the major recession. The thinking was that a deficit often, even usually, created too much demand for goods and services, thus pushing up prices. It created more demand than the wages and profits the economy itself was generating, requiring borrowing to do so. Once slack was taken up, it was believed, a deficit resulted in an overheated economy. Keynesians typically argued with the new free-market orthodoxy over whether full employment had been reached and whether the capacity of the economy was fully utilized. It was said that the debt financing that pushed up interest rates also left less room for businesses to borrow.

To call economists overconfident during the modern laissez-faire experiment understates their hubris. The susceptibility of economists to new fashions in thinking, their opportunistic catering to powerful interests, and their walking in lockstep with the rightward political drift of America are disturbing for a discipline that claims to be a science.
Larry Kudlow- renowned economist (and deranged drug addict)

The kind of advice Corbyn-- and presumably President Bernie-- will get from Stiglitz is entirely different and from an entirely different, people-oriented perspective. Friday Stieglitz and Adam Hersh, senior economist at the Roosevelt Institute, published a decidedly non-establishment piece on the TPP-- which is nearly negotiated now-- and "free trade" in general. Details are being ironed out in Atlanta. "The biggest regional trade and investment agreement in history," they wrote, "is not what it seems."
You will hear much about the importance of the TPP for “free trade.” The reality is that this is an agreement to manage its members’ trade and investment relations-- and to do so on behalf of each country’s most powerful business lobbies. Make no mistake: It is evident from the main outstanding issues, over which negotiators are still haggling, that the TPP is not about “free” trade.

New Zealand has threatened to walk away from the agreement over the way Canada and the US manage trade in dairy products. Australia is not happy with how the US and Mexico manage trade in sugar. And the US is not happy with how Japan manages trade in rice. These industries are backed by significant voting blocs in their respective countries. And they represent just the tip of the iceberg in terms of how the TPP would advance an agenda that actually runs counter to free trade.

For starters, consider what the agreement would do to expand intellectual property rights for big pharmaceutical companies, as we learned from leaked versions of the negotiating text. Economic research clearly shows the argument that such intellectual property rights promote research to be weak at best. In fact, there is evidence to the contrary: When the Supreme Court invalidated Myriad’s patent on the BRCA gene, it led to a burst of innovation that resulted in better tests at lower costs. Indeed, provisions in the TPP would restrain open competition and raise prices for consumers in the US and around the world – anathema to free trade.

The TPP would manage trade in pharmaceuticals through a variety of seemingly arcane rule changes on issues such as “patent linkage,” “data exclusivity,” and “biologics.” The upshot is that pharmaceutical companies would effectively be allowed to extend-- sometimes almost indefinitely-- their monopolies on patented medicines, keep cheaper generics off the market, and block “biosimilar” competitors from introducing new medicines for years. That is how the TPP will manage trade for the pharmaceutical industry if the US gets its way.

Similarly, consider how the US hopes to use the TPP to manage trade for the tobacco industry. For decades, US-based tobacco companies have used foreign investor adjudication mechanisms created by agreements like the TPP to fight regulations intended to curb the public-health scourge of smoking. Under these investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) systems, foreign investors gain new rights to sue national governments in binding private arbitration for regulations they see as diminishing the expected profitability of their investments.

International corporate interests tout ISDS as necessary to protect property rights where the rule of law and credible courts are lacking. But that argument is nonsense. The US is seeking the same mechanism in a similar mega-deal with the European Union, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, even though there is little question about the quality of Europe’s legal and judicial systems.

To be sure, investors-- wherever they call home-- deserve protection from expropriation or discriminatory regulations. But ISDS goes much further: The obligation to compensate investors for losses of expected profits can and has been applied even where rules are nondiscriminatory and profits are made from causing public harm.

Philip Morris International is currently prosecuting such cases against Australia and Uruguay (not a TPP partner) for requiring cigarettes to carry warning labels. Canada, under threat of a similar suit, backed down from introducing a similarly effective warning label a few years back.

Given the veil of secrecy surrounding the TPP negotiations, it is not clear whether tobacco will be excluded from some aspects of ISDS. Either way, the broader issue remains: Such provisions make it hard for governments to conduct their basic functions-- protecting their citizens’ health and safety, ensuring economic stability, and safeguarding the environment.

Imagine what would have happened if these provisions had been in place when the lethal effects of asbestos were discovered. Rather than shutting down manufacturers and forcing them to compensate those who had been harmed, under ISDS, governments would have had to pay the manufacturers not to kill their citizens. Taxpayers would have been hit twice-- first to pay for the health damage caused by asbestos, and then to compensate manufacturers for their lost profits when the government stepped in to regulate a dangerous product.

It should surprise no one that America’s international agreements produce managed rather than free trade. That is what happens when the policymaking process is closed to non-business stakeholders-- not to mention the people’s elected representatives in Congress.
But how could we do a post about economists and leave Paul Krugman out-- or Republican voodoo economics? On Friday, Krugman looked at the Trump-Jeb-Rubio tax plans in terms of Republican voodoo orthodoxy. They all passed with flying colors: "lavish huge cuts on the wealthy while blowing up the deficit."
[T]here’s the recent state-level evidence. Kansas slashed taxes, in what its right-wing governor described as a 'real live experiment' in economic policy; the state’s growth has lagged ever since. California moved in the opposite direction, raising taxes; it has recently led the nation in job growth.
True, you can find self-proclaimed economic experts claiming to find overall evidence that low tax rates spur economic growth, but such experts invariably turn out to be on the payroll of right-wing pressure groups (and have an interesting habit of getting their numbers wrong). Independent studies of the correlation between tax rates and economic growth, for example by the Congressional Research Service, consistently find no relationship at all. There is no serious economic case for the tax-cut obsession.
Except one:
Republicans support big tax cuts for the wealthy because that’s what wealthy donors want. No doubt most of those donors have managed to convince themselves that what’s good for them is good for America. But at root it’s about rich people supporting politicians who will make them richer. Everything else is just rationalization.

... [N]ever forget that what it’s really about is top-down class warfare. That may sound simplistic, but it’s the way the world works.

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Sunday, October 04, 2015

Tom Guild Is Running In Oklahoma Based On The Issues That People Care About-- Will It Work?


Have Oklahoma City voters had enough of congressional mad dogs like Clyde Russell?

Imagine a candidate's platform making this promise: "If elected, I promise to never vote to shut the government down!" As odd as it seems, it makes sense in the context of the infantile and nihilistic Republican response to not getting their way. And that quote is from Tom Guild, the progressive Democrat running for the Oklahoma City-based congressional seat held by reactionary government shut-down advocate Steve Russell. Or, as Guild put it:
My erstwhile opponent, freshman Tea Partier Rep. Clyde "Steve" Russell (R &Tea Party-OK), has committed another offense for which he should be told, "You're fired!" You would think that someone like Mr. Russell, who makes $285,000 in salary and benefits paid for by taxpayers, should at least be able to keep the federal government's lights on.

Congress averted a government shutdown by approving a short-term spending bill (until December 11) a few hours before the deadline. If the bill had been voted down on September 30, the government would have shut down and turned out the lights.  With enormous stakes staring him in the face, Russell irresponsibly voted "no" on keeping the government open and the lights on. Mr. Russell voted to shut the government down. A unanimous vote by the House Democratic Caucus saved the day and kept the government open for business. Russell's job performance is sort of like hiring a lifeguard for your backyard pool, who then drains the pool and goes home before your guests arrive to spend his pay check.

Fire Russell! If he can't even keep the government open, he is highly unlikely to accomplish anything useful for those of us who pay his salary! It seems he would destroy everything in his wake to defund Planned Parenthood and deprive American women of necessary health care services.
Guild and Russell differ-- fundamentally so-- on a wide range of issues, based on the life experiences each man has had. Russell doesn't see government as a force for improving people's lives. Guild does. This weekend Guild told his supporters that he has supported Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act) from day one and that he still supports it, even though he sees room for improvement. "I was disappointed," he said, "that the public option was not part of the final bill, but the ACA is a very good start on the road to universal health care coverage in our country. Access to affordable health care is a prerequisite for reclaiming the American Dream that some Americans no longer feel is within their reach."
My Republican opponent, Steve Russell (R-Choctaw), incumbent and Tea Party member, not only voted to repeal the ACA (for the 51st time), he was a co-sponsor of a bill in the U.S. House to implement his unfortunate plan. His bill, HR 596, passed by the House earlier this year, was fortunately unable to muster the votes for repeal in the U.S. Senate. As a freshman incumbent, instead of helping Oklahomans and Americans gain health care coverage, Russell wants to take it away again.

As of mid-2015, here is what the ACA has already accomplished--

        10.2 million additional Americans have gained covered through the Health Insurance Marketplace.

        12.3 million additional Americans have enrolled and gained health care coverage through Medicaid and the CHIPS program.

        The uninsured rate for Americans from 2013-2015 declined 9.2% for African Americans, 12.3% for Latinos, and 7.7% for American women.

        55 million American women are now benefiting from preventive services coverage with no costs out-of-pocket.

       Health insurers cannot discriminate on the basis of sex, and being a woman is no longer a “pre-existing condition” to deny women coverage.
If you'd like to help Tom make his case in a red district that just elected a progressive Democrat to the state legislature-- shocking the GOP establishment-- Tom's Act Blue page is right here.

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Fall TV Watch: Tonight the new season can be said to be truly underway


I haven't watched this official season preview of Season 5 of Homeland, which launches tonight, for fear of of spoilers. I started watching one of the series of preview clips CBS has posted in advance of tonight's Season 7 premiere of The Good Wife, and within about three seconds star Julianna Margulies had revealed more than I wanted to know before watching the show.

by Ken

However bleak the new TV season becomes, it doesn't seem to crap up Sunday night. Tonight we have the season premieres of both The Good Wife and Homeland, and it's a good bet that, however I finally decide to finagle my DVR schedule -- it's complicated by the usual start-time derby CBS puts people who insist on watching The Good Wife through with their goddamn NFL game pushing the schedule back -- I expect I'll have watched both by the time I go to bed.

Plus there's the start of Season 2 of Showtime's The Affair (I had very mixed feelings about Season 1, but I watched the whole thing, and I'll probably stick with it, at least for a while). And a new episode of HBO's Project Greenlight, And of course a new episode of John Oliver's HBO Last Week Tonight.

By the time I go to bed I'll likely also have watched the new episode(s) of the current Masterpiece Classic offering, Indian Summers (at least on my PBS station), about life among the rulers and the ruled in the Raj of the '30s, as the independence movement was only beginning to form. By the end of last week's episode, I would have liked nothing better than to be able to go right into another episode. There were enough characters whose situations had grabbed my interest to the point where I really wanted to see more. And I still do!

Which is sometimes the best test of my relationship to a show. How badly do I want to see more of it?

I've already suggested my answers in the cases of The Good Wife and Homeland. Both shows are such familiar commodities that there seems hardly any point in going into them now, except perhaps to make the basic points:

In its six seasons to date, The Good Wife seems to me to have cemented its standing as one of the all-time great TV dramas.

I divine from (a) my enthusiasm carrying over from the end of Season 4 of Homeland and (b) my eagerness for the start of Season 5 that I think it's a substantially better show than most people seem to.

In both cases, the explanation seems to me basically the same: a core cast of characters I'm really interested in and care about -- both people who've been with us the whole way and people who've been brought in at the relevant opportunities -- and stories that make me want to see how they react and what happens to them. Chalk it up to the overriding vision and season-by-season vigilance of the creative overseers, and of course to the teams of writers and actors.

As I mentioned the other day, The Big Bang Theory is another show that involves me in this way -- to such an extent that I usually manage to block out the hideous un-laugh-like noise that disfigures every episode. It doesn't surprise me that this ghastly intrusion may cause many viewers not to realize how good a show this is that's trying to happen while its producers seem to be apologizing for the crap they're fobbing off on us.

I did actually watch the premiere of the show CBS has paired with BBT, Life in Pieces, an extended-family comedy that obviously makes you think of Modern Family, and I thought it wasn't terrible. I thought, this is something I would watch again. And I almost certainly will, but I have a feeling Episode 2 may sit on the DVR for a while until I get around to it.

The same sort of thing happened to me with HBO's Doll and Em. I somehow missed its whole first season, and didn't become aware of it until HBO posted the whole thing on On Demand, obviously in anticipation of the launch of the second season. And via On Demand, I loved the first season. I devoured it.

Em (Emily Mortimer) and Doll (Dolly Wells)

In Season 1, Emily was about to start production on a film that, whatever its problems, has the professional attraction of riding squarely on her shoulders (and in the course of the season -- spoiler alert! -- we got some glimmering of the kind of pressure that puts on an actor) when she was confronted by Doll back in England in crashed-and-burning breakdown mode, and asked her to come to L.A. to work as her assistant on the film, and tensions built into all those years of separate evolution begin to surface.

I congratulated myself on my unintentionally brilliant timing: I would be able to segue right into Season 2.Only it didn't work out that way. I thought the first episode of Season 2 was interesting, as Doll and Em resolved to create a project they can work on, together, as equals. But I noticed that I didn't pounce on Episode 2. And now I seem I'm falling behind, in what is, after all, only a six-episode season. Oh, I'll get to the others eventually. But I'm in no rush. Maybe I'll pick up at a point where the show once again really grabs me, and we'll finish together, the show and I, in a rush.

I'm in sort of the same situation with the CBS drama Limitless, about a guy Jake McDorman) who stumbles into an experimental drug that for a limited time makes his brain work like gangbusters. He winds up in trouble with the law, in the person of an FBI agent played by Jennifer Carpenter, our old friend from Dexter, who was so good as Dexter's succeeding-but-always-fucking-up cop sister Deb. The thing is, the drug -- unbeknownst to the guy -- has devastating side effects, except the other thing is that he appears to be somehow immune, which makes him invaluable as a test subject. If you're not quite believing this, neither am I, quite. But I'd probably have an easier time with it if I was being made to care more about the characters.

In the case of Doll and Em, for example, I wonder if my current less enthusiastic reaction has to do with the fact that, for me at least, Emily Mortimer as an actress usually has strong personal appeal; it's a cinch to care about most of the characters she plays. And Dolly Wells, not so much, and if I have to work to muster emotional support for the emotionally needier Doll character, it's apparently a challenge I'm not rushing into.

As a matter of fact, the show that, before the return of The Good Wife, I've found myself most looking forward to this summer is Showtime's rerun of the whole of its Queer as Folk, its many-season drama, developed for American television by Ron Cowen and Daniel Lipman, about a group of largely LGBT folk in Pittsburgh, but also including a fair number of non-LGBT characters, of which the network has been showing back-to-back episodes Monday nights into Tuesday mornings at 11pm and midnight, at least in my time zone. Earlier on, Showtime was showing whole masses of episodes on a couple of weekend nights, running into the wee or even not-so-wee hours of the morning, and I waa having the TV on, drifting in and out of sleep, watching as much as I could, and wanting more. Since they scaled back to the two episodes per week, I've been feeling majorly deprived, having to wait till late nigh Monday each week for a mere two episodes.

The North American Queer as Folk gang: Standing: Peter Paige (Emmett), Scott Lowell (Ted), Gale Harold (Brian), Robert Gant (Ben), Thea Gill (Lindsay), and Hal Sparks (Michael). Sitting: Randy Harrison (Justin) and Michelle Clunie (Melanie). Unaccountably missing: Sharon Gless (Michael's mother, Debbie).

When I started rewatching the Queer as Folk episodes, I found that the more I watched, the more I became reinvested in the characters, and the more personally I took each succeeding episode. This might be worth talking about at some point, especially in connection with the English Queer as Folk on which the American version was based, especially since almost everything I've heard about the two versions, purporting to "compare" them, seemed to me -- once I finally caught up with the U.K. version -- idiotic. But for now what matters about the American Queer as Folk is that it presents a large and diverse cast of characters I find it ridiculously easy to care about, and scripts and direction that make me want to see what happens next.

I think it's worth noting that when Queer as Folk aired originally, my understanding was that it had a significant core of non-gay fans. I'd like to think this was partly because some people were genuinely curious about what the lives of gay and lesbian folk looked like, but probably even more because the characters and stories made a lot of viewers really wanted to see what happened to these people next.

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