Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Wednesday, June 27, 2012 8:47 pm

So much for the rule of law

What’s wrong with this picture?

The U.S. Supreme Court should uphold a law requiring most Americans to have health insurance if the justices follow legal precedent, according to 19 of 21 constitutional law professors who ventured an opinion on the most-anticipated ruling in years.

Only eight of them predicted the court would do so.

So despite near-unanimous agreement on what the nation’s highest court should do given the relevant facts, law and judicial precedents, fewer than half believe that this court will actually do what it should. Put another way, all that stuff about judicial restraint and stare decisis  and “No judicial activism!” that we’ve been hearing from conservatives ever since Brown v. Board of Education is officially crap. Just for the record.

Of course, we’ve seen this coming since Bush v. Gore, when the conservative majority decided that allowing all legally cast ballots to be counted constituted an irreparable harm to George W. Bush. Justice John Paul Stevens’s dissent remains relevant:

It is confidence in the men and women who administer the judicial system that is the true backbone of the rule of law. Time will one day heal the wound to that confidence that will be inflicted by today’s decision. One thing, however, is certain. Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year’s Presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the Nation’s confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law.

Notifying the U.S. Attorney of a crime in Pennsylvania

Here’s Mike Turzai, leader of the Republicans in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives:

Note what he’s saying here: his party plans to carry the state by suppressing the votes of Pennsylvania Democrats who are legally entitled to vote.

For the record, under 18 U.S.C. 241, conspiring to deny a person his civil rights is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

If any Blog on the Run readers live in Pennsylvania, you might want to contact Peter J. Smith, United States Attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, and make him aware of Mr. Turzai’s conspiracy. You can contact Mr. Smith at P.O. Box 309, Scranton, PA 18501-0309.

Thursday, June 21, 2012 9:25 pm

Bill Donohue of the Catholic League (which is just Bill Donohue and his computer) is loathsome, cont.

Now he’s threatening rabbis:

Catholic League president Bill Donohue, a vocal conservative voice who recently warred with The Daily Show over a “vagina manger,” has infuriated prominent Jewish leaders with a private email last week to Philadelphia Rabbi Arthur Waskow.

Waskow, a progressive rabbi involved in the Jewish Renewal movement, had criticized the Vatican and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in a Huffington Post op-ed for “attacking the religious freedom of millions of American women and the religious freedom of American nuns” over contraception.

Donohue responded with a note to Waskow that launched an email exchange that ended with a warning, forwarded to BuzzFeed by a source close to the rabbi, that “Jews had better not make enemies of their Catholic friends since they have so few of them” (Donohue writes that this is a saying of Ed Koch, the former mayor of New York). Donohue also includes a postscript saying, “I do not have a long nose.”

Donahue also raised a recent child abuse scandal in Orthodox Jewish communities.

“You need to do something about this epidemic right now,” he told Waskow, who is not Orthodox, suggesting that Jews follow the Catholic Church’s reforms in dealing with clerical abuse.

The balls on this guy, not to mention the ignorance. He has been a co-conspirator in a decades-long international chilid-rape and obstruction-of-justice scheme, and he presumes to lecture a Reform rabbi about a scandal in the Orthodox community.

Oh, and that “saying of Ed Koch”? Um, not so much:

Koch, the former mayor of New York, said that he never said the quote Donohue attributes to him.

“My comments have always been about fostering good feelings between Jews and Catholics toward mutual understanding of our shared interests,” Koch said in a statement. “However, I certainly do not believe that Jews, or Catholics, should be threatened for making critical remarks, nor should my name be used when doing so. While I do have a high regard for Bill, his references to me and my remarks were inappropriate and different in substance and tone than what I said on an earlier occasion. My remarks did not and do not refer to the Rabbi’s comments.”

(Which just goes to show that Ed Koch is an idiot because no one with an IQ higher than that of a toaster has a high regard for Bill. But I digress.)

I got Bill Donohue’s news releases pretty much weekly when I covered religion back in the mid-1990s. To judge from them as well as this latest incident, he is insane and an utter sociopath. And that’s a bit of a problem when, as New York Times columnist Bill Keller writes:

when he took charge of the Catholic League in 1993, Donohue could be dismissed as a conservative blowhard, one of those laymen who was, ahem, more Catholic than the pope. [His divorce notwithstanding -- Lex.]  But the official church has moved far enough to the right that Donohue now speaks for its mainstream.

Bill Keller has been wrong about many things over the years. But if he’s right about this, then the Roman Catholic Church’s leadership has become an undisputed threat not only to Reform Jews but to all Americans — and needs to be treated accordingly. The Clan of the Red Beanie, as Charlie Pierce frequently calls them, doesn’t seem to understand that we’ve already had this argument, in 1787, and their side lost. The fact that they continue to seek to impose on all Americans, not just their own congregants, public policies that would unquestionably increase total human suffering in this country significantly merely demonstrates the wisdom of the prevailing side all those years ago.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012 8:09 pm

Because we haven’t had any funny cat pictures on Blog on the Run in a while …

Filed under: Uncategorized — Lex @ 8:09 pm

… here’s one:

 

Dean Baker sums up our economic, political and journalistic problems in three short paragraphs

Baker:

Dana Milbank devoted his [Washington Post] column to the disenchantment of progressives with the current political situation. At one point he comments that “the still-lumbering economy has depressed President Obama’s supporters.”

While this is no doubt true, it is worth mentioning that just about all progressives said at the time that the stimulus would be inadequate to restore the economy to a healthy growth path. The collapse of the housing bubble destroyed close to $1.2 trillion in annual demand from construction and consumption. At its peak in 2009 and 2010 the stimulus only replaced about $300 billion in annual spending.

It is discouraging to see so many people suffering unnecessarily, but this outcome is exactly what our analysis predicted at the time. Unfortunately, having a track record of being right is not generally a factor in determining which views carry weight in Washington policy debates.

Somebody tell me again how the U.S. is a meritocracy. Or, as Driftglass famously observed:

Monday, June 18, 2012 8:19 pm

“Irony has been drawn and quartered”

At least at first glance, President Obama’s executive order on immigration appears to be 1) constitutional, 2) well within the scope of precedent with respect to White House executive orders, 3) humane and 4) quite possibly a good idea.

This has not prevented some people from complaining about it. I’m willing to be convinced it’s wrong and even unconstitutional if someone can come up with the right evidence. What I’m not willing to do is be lectured by the fact-challenged, torturerotic Wansee groupie John Yoo:

President Obama’s claim that he can refuse to deport 800,000 aliens here in the country illegally illustrates the unprecedented stretching of the Constitution and the rule of law. He is laying claim to presidential power that goes even beyond that claimed by the Bush administration, in which I served. There is a world of difference in refusing to enforce laws that violate the Constitution (Bush) and refusing to enforce laws because of disagreements over policy (Obama).

Zandar dismisses this with the contempt it deserves:

Yoo’s own theories on the plenary executive are phenomenally daft, but claiming that the President has the authority to declare unending bloody war on tens of thousands of Iraqi and Afghan citizens but doesn’t have the authority to direct enforcement procedures of executive branch agencies is so absolutely douchetronic that Yoo probably needs to waterboard himself for a while just to balance the scales of the universe.

And, finally, Yoo demonstrates not only his ethical illiteracy and constitutional ignorance, but also a fundamental inability to count.

So what we have here is a president who is refusing to carry out federal law simply because he disagrees with Congress’s policy choices.

The federal law in question was the DREAM Act, a congressional policy choice that passed the House and was filibustered in the Senate despite getting a 55-vote majority. In the Framers’ day, numbers like that meant it could become law if the president signed it or declined to veto it. But that fact doesn’t prevent Yoo from lying, once again, about the Framers:

That is an exercise of executive power that even the most stalwart defenders of an energetic executive — not to mention the Framers — cannot support.

Bitch, please. Google “Bush signing statements” and then pull your head out of your rear end and get on the first airplane to The Hague — preferably in irons.

Friday, June 15, 2012 7:42 pm

Calling Wells Fargo out

Filed under: Odds 'n' ends — Lex @ 7:42 pm
Tags: , ,

I don’t think I’ve ever met George Hartzman in real life — and I apologize to him if I have and don’t remember. In the local blogosphere, he runs the Triad Watch blog, with a related Facebook group of which I am a member for reasons that date back to my social-media work at the News & Record. He also has a personal blog.

George has filed a complaint with the N.C. Securities Division against Wells Fargo, alleging violations of Sarbanes-Oxley. That would be the same Wells Fargo for which he currently works.

I’ll let you read it for yourself. But my gut reaction is that there are two and only two possible explanations for his doing so.

1) He is delusional.

2) He is, whether right or wrong, stone-cold certain he has caught his employer violating the law, has tried to work within the company to have the violations corrected and has failed to do so, and is pursuing the only avenue he sees left to protect his clients’ interests.

If the correct answer turns out to be No. 2, I’m not sure how he even gets in his car every morning, what with those big, brass balls clanking around and all.

(h/t: Ed)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012 8:27 pm

Institutionalized

As befits one of the holders of prime New York Times op-ed real-estate, columnist David Brooks has analyzed American society and concluded that the problem is … us:

I don’t know if America has a leadership problem; it certainly has a followership problem. Vast majorities of Americans don’t trust their institutions. That’s not mostly because our institutions perform much worse than they did in 1925 and 1955, when they were widely trusted. It’s mostly because more people are cynical and like to pretend that they are better than everything else around them. Vanity has more to do with rising distrust than anything else.

I guess Brooks didn’t get the word about the brown acid.

Because, see, the Vietnam War, Watergate, Iran-Contra, Monicagate, torture and other war crimes, and even The New York Times helping lie this country into a war and sitting on a story about unconstitutional and criminal government wiretapping for more than a year while the guilty president who ordered it won re-election, have had nothing to do with collapse of people’s faith in institutions. Nor has the fact that the economy got blown up by the greatest white-collar crime in history while  the people responsible are still massively wealthy and the people who warned about it are continually ignored. Nor has the fact that government in general and the Republican Party in particular are hell-bent on looting this country until there is nothing left to steal.

And Jesus H. Child Molesting Vaginal Ultrasound Christ with Jimmy Swaggart Sauce and Jerry Falwell on top, what could institutional religion possibly have done to warrant such a massive loss of trust?

Without having done any polling, I’ll grant Brooks one possible point: It might actually be true that institutions aren’t performing significantly worse now than they did in 1955 (they were screwing up in 1925, too, and the result was the Great Depression). It might just be that thanks to the Intertubez, we just know more about the screwups than we used to. Certainly I don’t think the Catholic Church’s skirts were any cleaner in 1955.

But the reason followers aren’t following leaders the way they used to has nothing to do with vanity on the rabble’s part. (I and people like me don’t think we’re better than everyone else around us, but let’s face it: If Congress, the Roman Catholic Church and The New York Times op-ed page are the standard, then the bar’s really not all that high.) It’s not even explained entirely by the fact that leaders have manifestly screwed the pooch and/or sold themselves to the highest bidder, over and over again. No, what really gets our goats is that if you have enough money and/or profess to believe certain things, you can commit the most calamitous misfeasances, utterly without consequence — indeed, you can make a career out of failing upward – while those who were right are marginalized and ridiculed.  Blogger Driftglass has neatly encapsulated the phenomenon:

That last bit’s the most maddening part, and for Exhibit A, you need look no further than David Effing Brooks himself,  sitting in his comfy office at the Times Almighty and pulling meretricious and/or delusional observations out of his lower digestive tract, not only getting to keep his lucrative job but actually being celebrated as a public intellectual. He has decided that this country’s biggest problem is that you and I haven’t suffered enough. God help us.

It really does get better

Filed under: Love — Lex @ 7:29 pm
Tags: , , ,

Sometimes we just need reminding.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012 8:26 pm

What John Cole gets that the Tea Party and Scott Walker and Mitt Romney do not

Filed under: I want my country back. — Lex @ 8:26 pm
Tags: , , ,

This:

I was in Kroger (our chain grocery store) the other day buying a couple things of crab meat to make crab cakes for the party at Walt’s, and in front of me was a young woman with a baby in a stroller, and she was checking out, and she used food stamps, and then had to spend about five minutes counting coins to have enough to pay for her purchases (which, contrary to Republican beliefs, were not 40’s and steaks, but diapers, milk, oatmeal, and vegetables), and I remember thinking, as she was rushing and making counting mistakes, that poor girl is just humiliated and embarrassed she has to go through this. I genuinely felt bad for her. And then she turned around, looked at me and the people behind me, and apologized- “Sorry, it’s the 31st and I just have to have this stuff, and payday and everything isn’t until tomorrow.”

It was a heart-wrenching experience, and then I looked down at my purchases — crab meat, panko, buffalo mozzarella, green onions, dijon mustard, a couple bottles of wine, and some peel and eat shrimp, and I felt like the biggest most entitled [jerk] ever as I was rung up and handed the lady my debit card and then declined a receipt because “I just do my banking online and I’ll deal with it next week.” At which point I realized how debased and out of touch I am. Here is a woman buying what she can to keep her kid alive, and I’m buying luxury foods, for a party, for other people, and I’m not even worried about the price. However ashamed that young woman ahead of me was, I am sure I felt more ashamed as I understood what I had just said.

But if you ask the modern GOP, I pay too much in taxes, and we do too much for the girl in line in front of me. …  We’re just a seriously [messed]-up nation. I’m not one of those making over 250k, but by any metric in the world I am rich beyond the wildest dreams of historical standards (although, admittedly, it takes a lot less to be “rich” in WV). Please, please, please, politicians. Raise my taxes. Spend it on food stamps, job training, road and bridge construction. Spend it on child care, nursery school, and child development. Anything but more god damned wars and tax cuts for Mitt Romney.

Quote of the day, 9/11 memorial edition

Filed under: Uncategorized — Lex @ 8:24 pm

Nancy Nall: “We won’t know what we need to say about 9/11 for another generation at least. But this is Manhattan real estate we’re talking about here, and you don’t leave that vacant for long.”

Tuesday, June 5, 2012 8:07 pm

Cool astronomy news, non-transit-of-Venus edition

Filed under: Cool! — Lex @ 8:07 pm
Tags: , , ,

Not only has NASA inherited a pair of Hubble-class space telescopes from the National Reconnaissance Office (one of the black-budget agencies). These shorter telescopes with a wider field of view — thus the nickname “Stubby Hubbles” — turn out, Tom Levenson at Balloon Juice tells us, to be just right for the next thing we want and need to do in astronomy.

Monday, June 4, 2012 8:58 pm

The North Carolina Governor’s School and the GOP majority in the General Assembly

I was fortunate enough to attend the Governor’s School of North Carolina in the summer of 1977. Begun in the early 1960s under then-Gov. Terry Sanford, the program brings gifted and talented kids from across North Carolina together for six weeks of focus on their areas of interest, plus an introduction to epistemology and other meaty subjects. It’s a helluva program, and a lot of its alums are doing great things in North Carolina and elsewhere today.

The Republican majority in the General Assembly wants to eliminate state funding for the program. (They’re also trying to cut nine figures from the state budget so they can give their rich friends a tax break. These two phenomena are not unrelated.) Alumni and other interested friends raised enough money to keep the program alive — barely — this year, but its future is by no means assured. So last Friday I wrote the following email to state Sen. Phil Berger, the president pro tem of the Senate:

Dear Sen. Berger:

I write as a native and near-lifelong resident of North Carolina, a graduate of Davidson College, a Republican since 1978 and a member of the Governor’s School of North Carolina Class of 1977 to implore you and the Senate to include full funding for Governor’s School in this year’s and future budgets.

As you no doubt know, Governors School alumni have gone on to successful careers in a wide variety of fields. My own case is an example. My work as an editor on the Governor’s School newspaper in 1977 sparked an interest in journalism that led me to an award-winning (if I may say) 25-year career with newspapers in Statesville, New Bern, Gastonia and Greensboro. And while I didn’t make any professional connections there, I did meet the guy who has been my best friend ever since — Tony Patterson, now an IT professional in Chapel Hill with a company that has operations and clients worldwide.

My sister Jane, who lives in Raleigh, attended Governor’s School also, in 1984, and has gone on to a career in stage productions (theater, concerts, etc.) based on an interest she developed while there.

I realize times are tight, and I applaud the General Assembly’s desire to keep taxes and spending low, particularly while our economy is still muddling along with not enough people at work.

But the talent pool of college-educated professionals is getting tighter, too: The New York Times reported recently that college graduates, more than ever, are moving to large metropolitan areas, leaving small and mid-sized markets such as Asheville, Wilmington, Charlotte, the Triad and the Triangle behind. (The maps published in 2006 with this article by The Atlantic illustrate starkly how much of the country is being drained of its talent. And that article was published on the basis of 2000 data; the 2010 data show the trend accelerating.) Governor’s School is an investment in this state’s talented young people that can make a critical difference when they’re deciding where to go after college. We need that talent here in North Carolina to be competitive.

$800,000 a year is a lot of money. But I think the General Assembly also has an obligation to look at what that money is buying and the difference it can make in the quality of life and the competitiveness of the economy for North Carolinians. I hope you will support full funding for Governor’s School now and in the future.

Thank you for your government service.

Best,

Hooper “Lex” Alexander IV

I got the following response from an aide:

Dear Mr. Alexander,Thank you for your email regarding the North Carolina Governor’s School program. Senator Berger understands your concern and appreciates you taking the time to write.

Senator Berger recognizes the value of the Governor’s School program and commends the determined effort to secure the funding for 2012 through private means. That is an admirable achievement and the success of that effort provides clear evidence of the fact that there are many supporters who believe in and deeply value the program.

At this time, the General Assembly is still in the process of reviewing all aspects of our State’s current financial situation in advance of the budget adjustments that will be made during the short session. Although many factors are still being reviewed at this time, your comments will be taken into consideration.

On Senator Berger’s behalf,

Sara Riggins
Constituent Liaison

Office of the Senate President Pro Tempore

Granted, I’m pretty new to the writing-letters-to-elected-officials thing, but do all elected officials treat all their constituents as if they’re this stupid?

I wrote back:

Ms. Riggins, thanks for responding. Please answer a yes-or-no question for me. Does Sen. Berger support full state funding for Governor’s School, or does he not?

Thank you.

Best,

L.

And she wrote back:

Dear Mr. Alexander,

Thank you for following up. Unfortunately, with the budget review process still underway, I am unable to provide any more details than in my previous response.

Even so, thank you for your sincere interest and concern.

On Senator Berger’s behalf,

Sara Riggins

I can think of two possible reasons why she didn’t answer a simple, yes-or-no question: She didn’t care enough to get an answer, or she knew the answer and knew I wouldn’t like it. Well, screw that:

Thanks for getting back to me, Ms. Riggins.  The senator’s opposition to Governor’s School funding is duly noted. I know double-talkin’ jive when I hear it.

Best,

Lex

The modern Republican party not only has convinced itself that the world was created all at once 6,000 years ago and that global warming is a myth, it also has convinced itself that it can crap on our shoes and call it pudding. But, like Axl Rose, I got no more patience. And God knows I am not alone.

This is a simple story. It’s not that the media can’t tell it. It’s that they don’t want to.

The Wisconsin gubernatorial recall election is tomorrow.

Charlie Pierce, last week:

A lot happened over the holiday weekend, including the first debate between Walker and his Democratic opponent, Tom Barrett, the mayor of Milwaukee, who is a very nice fellow, but who doesn’t yet seem to realize exactly what kind of a fight he’s in. In Friday’s debate, he kept banging on Walker’s responsibility for “the civil war” in the state, as though the primary goal of this whole business has been to get people to be nice to each other again. This is, of course, not remotely the case. The primary goal of this whole business has been to rid Wisconsin of Scott Walker, and of the corporate pirates and mountebanks to whom he is prepared to sell the rest of the state. The reason there’s a recall at all is not that Wisconsinites wanted more civility. It’s that they wanted less of Scott Walker.

There’s more to it than that, but it’s still pretty simple, as Athenae explains:

In the past several weeks I’ve had conversations about the election with family and friends, some of whom agree with me. Some of whom don’t. And what I keep coming back to is fear, among the Walker supporters, among those who say things like “we can’t afford to keep paying for pensions” and “we can’t afford anything but the lowest of low taxes for corporations” and “we can’t do anything we did 40 years ago because of reasons I don’t understand but I know, in my bones, that we can’t, we just can’t.” And I’m being reminded of how radical a message it really is, how radical it always is, to say we can achieve what we want to achieve.

Because it’s not just the cavalier “I don’t wanna, I got mine, screw you,” not from all of them. Not from those who aren’t billionaires but from those who’ve listened to what the billionaires have to say. Who’ve been fed hate and fear for months now, hate and fear of their neighbors, hate and fear of their own futures, and worst of all, hate and fear of their own history.

Their parents or grandparents lived lives we now think of as anachronistic or idealized: Union jobs at a factory, pensions through retirement, health insurance, Social Security and Medicare that actually took care of them when they were very old. Schoolteacher and police officer being occupations that allowed you to own a home, a car, perhaps even send your children to nice schools if you saved very carefully. Possibly a vacation, nowhere fancy, maybe a road trip memorable for anything but the destination.

When you retired, your pension allowed you to keep spending money at the local grocery and dime stores, to stay in your house and maintain it, to enjoy your neighborhood restaurants and attend your neighborhood church and donate to your local Lions Club or VFW. You could rest easy in extreme old age knowing that even if you didn’t leave your children an inheritance, at least you wouldn’t bankrupt them with debt and thus hinder their own starts in life.

These aren’t fancy things, that we’re now told are too much for us to handle, are luxurious and out of hand. These aren’t outrageous expectations. This isn’t Free Purebred Kitten Day, or foot massages from film stars. These are reasonable rewards for living a reasonable, upright, decent life. Used to be, we could afford as a country large numbers of people living just like this if they so chose. This used to be something we could do with ease. And now we’re being told no, we can’t have that anymore, and in fact we have to make sure people don’t have that anymore, we have to make sure nobody even dreams about that anymore, because it’s too expensive and everything’s going to hell. And we’re so, so angry at anybody who tells us different, so, so afraid.

I say it’s fear because: If those things aren’t out of reach, if it isn’t true that “we” can’t afford them anymore, then we have to ask ourselves the question: Why don’t we have them? In answering that there is no earthly reason we can’t have lives just like our parents and grandparents led, but for the bastards we enable in power, we have to admit that we allowed this to be done to us, that we let hucksters and thieves turn us against each other while they ran away with the piggy bank. In really looking at how much money there is and what it goes for, we have to admit that we just didn’t want to question our politicians and fight our bosses and resist our every human urge to not make a fuss in order to get the very least of what is owed to people who teach children and put out fires and arrest that one [jerk] who keeps ripping up the library’s rhododendrons.

That’s too much to look full in the face. In answering it we have to own up to just how much of our own power we’ve been willing to give up. We have to admit that what teachers and public workers and nurses and cops are asking for isn’t some outrageous thing, not if for one second we’d stop undervaluing ourselves, and start demanding what we’ve had to demand so many times before.

We think this is some insurmountable problem, some terrible divide, that we’ve never seen before. We have always had people saying sit down, shut up, don’t rock the boat, while some slick-talking jerk in a shiny suit was pouring fire and brimstone about how the company was gonna mess you for your own damn good. We have always had the jerk, too, and his bosses, and the company will always be with us. This is how this has always worked. What we haven’t always had is an entire pseudo-middle-class establishment media, especially on 24-hour cable news, appealing to ignorant-ass ‘necks reinforcing the message to lay back and think of Wall Street, or else they’ll come for you next, but even that’s not a total excuse.

They’re always coming for you, is what I want to tell everybody who’s angry and everybody who’s scared. The jerk, the company, they’re always out there, and the only thing you can’t afford is to think they’re on your side. When they’re done with the teachers and the steelworkers and the cops, they’ll come for you, too, and no racist sign or hat with teabags glued on gonna save your soul then. The only thing to fear is fear itself, said the last person who understood this well enough to make a case, so up you get.

There’s no reason to be scared, when the scariest thing is that it’s all up to you, and you decide what “we” can and cannot do. And the things we cannot do just melt away, once we really start taking them apart, and seeing what they’re made of. We can do anything if we want it bad enough. We can afford what we want to afford.

We can afford what we can get enough votes to afford.

You want to know why Republicans are working so hard to scratch eligible voters from the voter rolls, in Florida and elsewhere? This right here.

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