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The Wages Of Inequality, Cont’d

[ 68 ] May 26, 2016 |

Hulkamania

If a plutocrat wants to destroy a media outlet, it will be almost impossible for all but the best-capitalized to stop:

Thiel’s interview with the New York Times about his legal campaign, in which a $10 million investment on lawyers managed to bring an entire media company to the brink of disaster, is the new required reading in Silicon Valley, especially the bit where he says that it’s “one of my greater philanthropic things that I’ve done.”

Thiel, like most Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, loves to think of himself as a visionary. His first company, PayPal, started as an attempt to create a whole new global currency; since then he has invested most of his time and money into ambitious attempts to change the world. But it’s his investment in a campaign against Gawker, intended to inflict as much damage as he can on Gawker Media and its proprietor, Nick Denton, which could prove to be his most effective – and his most harmful.

Thiel’s tactics in going after Gawker are very, very frightening for anybody who believes in freedom of speech; they’re also extremely effective, in an evil-genius kind of way.

[…]

It gets worse. If Thiel’s strategy works against Gawker, it could be used by any billionaire against any media organization. Sheldon Adelson, Donald Trump, the list goes on and on. Up until now, they’ve mostly been content suing news organizations as plaintiffs, over stories which name them. But Thiel has shown them how to go thermonuclear: bankroll other lawsuits, as many as it takes, and bankrupt the news organization that way. Very few companies have the legal wherewithal to withstand such a barrage.

This is a problem that’s likely to get worse before it gets better.

…JMM:

It all comes down to a simple point. You may not like Gawker. They’ve published stories I would have been ashamed to publish. But if the extremely wealthy, under a veil secrecy, can destroy publications they want to silence, that’s a far bigger threat to freedom of the press than most of the things we commonly worry about on that front. If this is the new weapon in the arsenal of the super rich, few publications will have the resources or the death wish to scrutinize them closely.

The Hogan case, it must be admitted, is not one that makes Gawker look very sympathetic. Hogan’s lawsuit was not at all frivolous, even if the size of judgment was far too high, and even if we assumed arguendo that Gawker didn’t violate Hogan’s legal rights it showed horrible judgment in publishing sex tapes without his consent. But whatever one thinks about the case at hand, the tactics being used against them can be used against anybody.

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Fallen Starr

[ 98 ] May 25, 2016 |

ken-starr-leaving-pepperdine-law-for-baylor

Ken Starr might outdo Inspector Javert when it comes to the consensual sex of political enemies. When it comes to sexual assault by his football players, not so much:

Ken Starr isn’t exactly in Bill Cosby territory, but with the revelation that he’s apparently being canned from the presidency of Baylor University for ignoring charges of sexual misconduct by football players, he has made himself into one of the most exquisite hypocrites of our age. (I should note that the university, responding to reports Tuesday of Starr’s impending dismissal, refused to confirm the news, although it didn’t deny it either.)

Here is morality according to Starr, who by the way is (of course) a great Christian. It’s appropriate to expose sexual misconduct (wrong, but consensual) when it gives you a shot at bringing down a president you loathe and creating a constitutional crisis over a few blow jobs. But when sexual misconduct risks messing with the football team, well by God, you brush it under the rug! You’re in Texas, boy.

A great deal of excellent background here. And it shouldn’t just be Starr’s head that metaphorically rolls here either.

…More here.

“We need something for readers who love Paglia’s content, but find her writing too coherent and unpretentious.”

[ 148 ] May 24, 2016 |

Dumb-and-Dumber-dumb-and-dumber-6240056-853-461

This is something that was published on Salon. It has words, some of them big ones, but alas the rare occasions in which the combinations of words generate something close to meaning leave you begging for the pure gibberish:

In this election, abstraction will clearly lose, and corporeality, even if—or particularly if—gross and vulgar and rising from the repressed, will undoubtedly win. A business tycoon who vigorously inserted himself in the imaginations of the dispossessed as the foremost exponent of birtherism surely cannot be entirely beholden to the polite elites, can he? Trump is capital, but he is not capital, he is of us but also not of us in the way that the working class desires elevation from their rootedness, still strongly identified with place and time, not outside it. After all, he posed the elemental question, Where were you born?

Though he is in fact the libertine (certainly not Clinton, who is libertinism’s antithesis), he will be able to tar her with being permissive to an extreme degree—an “enabler,” as the current jargon has it, for her husband’s proclivities, for example. It has nothing to do with misogyny. It has everything to do with the kind of vocabulary that must substitute for people’s real emotions, their fears and desires, in the face of an abstract market that presumes to rule out everything but the “rational” utility-maximizing motive.

If you don’t believe that these grafs could be representative, it’s your funeral.

This Is Reassuring

[ 91 ] May 24, 2016 |

woody-johnson-john-idzik

Say what you will about Woody Johnson, the man has an eye for talent: Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow, Mitt Romney, Jeb! Bush. He’s backing another winner:

New York Jets owner Woody Johnson is the latest major Republican donor and fundraiser to get behind Donald Trump, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Johnson, who was finance chairman for Jeb Bush’s failed presidential campaign, plans to raise money for the Republican National Committee and Trump through a joint fundraising committee, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Johnson met with Trump Monday and is prepared to lean on potential donors to get on board, the person said.

For years, Johnson has been a major player in fundraising circles. He was a bundler for the Republican candidate in each of the past four elections, and has written some big checks himself, including the $500,000 he contributed to Right to Rise, the super-PAC that supported Bush. Johnson is likely to donate some of his own money this year, too, the source said.

Johnson, who has known Trump for years, has had an even bigger impact as a bundler. In May 2008, he arranged a fundraiser for John McCain’s cash-starved presidential campaign that brought in $7 million in a single evening. Johnson was also a top bundler for George W. Bush’s 2000 and 2004 campaigns and for Mitt Romney’s 2012 effort.

His tastes in political candidates and quarterbacks are similarly unerring:

20 (51). New York Jets: Christian Hackenberg | Grade: D-

The Jets have been looking for a quarterback and they’re taking the chance on Hackenberg. The tape has been horrible, and that includes his freshman year that everyone touts as his saving grace. He’s been one of the most inaccurate quarterbacks in college football for three straight years and his -12.1 overall grade ranked 41st in this draft class alone in 2015. The Jets are hoping that he can be a reclamation project, but he has to take monumental strides to become a viable NFL quarterback.

Hackenberg had a 53.5 COMP% as a junior. Woof! I think I understand why Fitzpatrick’s agent isn’t blinking.

Don’t Forget the Drug-Running At Mena!

[ 83 ] May 24, 2016 |

151221122025-trump-shrug-super-alt-11

Some more real authenticity from Donald Trump:

In one recent interview, Trump said another topic of potential concern is the suicide of former White House aide Vincent Foster, which remains the focus of intense and far-fetched conspiracy theories on the Internet.

“It’s the one thing with her, whether it’s Whitewater or whether it’s Vince Foster or whether it’s Benghazi. It’s always a mess with Hillary,” Trump said in the interview.

Well, all three of these things involve equally scandalous behavior by Hillary Clinton, you have to give him that.

Oh Brother

[ 223 ] May 23, 2016 |

Trump_the_art_of_the_dealAbove: a book Donald Trump may or may not have read

Um:

Leaving aside the worthlessness of “authenticity” as a criterion of value, Donald Trump? Nothing says “authenticity” like a rich blowhard with a bad toupee and an almost aggressive indifference to the truth (not to mention his previously expressed views.)

This wouldn’t be worth mentioning except that Sanders made the, ah, interesting choice to make West one of his choices for the platform committee. I guess if he wants to use this the committee a vehicle for trolling that’s his privilege, but it strikes me that someone who not only believes that Barack Obama has been a terrible president but considers it obvious that everyone on the left side of the American political spectrum thinks Barack Obama has been a terrible president is not going to be a very effective negotiator with a group of powerful party regulars.

The Crucial Questions for Getting to Universal Health Coverage

[ 22 ] May 23, 2016 |

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This is a really valuable discussion. Pollack uses “single payer” as a synecdoche for “European-style health care,” and I continue to think it’s obvious that the hybrid European systems are vastly more likely destinations for the American system than single payer. But that doesn’t really matter, because most or these questions are equally pertinent to a transition to any system of universal or near-universal coverage. Politically, #6 and #7 are the key roadblocks leading to the questions in #10.

Today In Developments That Perhaps Could Have Been Anticipated

[ 50 ] May 23, 2016 |

grant_r_goodell_roger_1024

Far be it from me to challenge the unimpeachable integritude of the NFL’s leadership, but:

At least a half-dozen top NFL health officials waged an improper, behind-the-scenes campaign last year to influence a major U.S. government research study on football and brain disease, congressional investigators have concluded in a new report obtained by Outside the Lines.

The 91-page report describes how the NFL pressured the National Institutes of Health to strip the $16 million project from a prominent Boston University researcher and tried to redirect the money to members of the league’s committee on brain injuries. The study was to have been funded out of a $30 million “unrestricted gift” the NFL gave the NIH in 2012.

After the NIH rebuffed the NFL’s campaign to remove Robert Stern, an expert in neurodegenerative disease who has criticized the league, the NFL backed out of a signed agreement to pay for the study, the report shows. Taxpayers ended up bearing the cost instead.

The NFL’s actions violated policies that prohibit private donors from interfering in the NIH peer-review process, the report concludes, and were part of a “long-standing pattern of attempts” by the league to shape concussion research for its own purposes.

“In this instance, our investigation has shown that while the NFL had been publicly proclaiming its role as funder and accelerator of important research, it was privately attempting to influence that research,” the report states.

Speaking of egregious misconduct by the NFL’s leadership, I think it’s enormously unlikely that the 2nd Circuit will hear Brady’s appeal en banc, but the NFLPA is dragging out the heavy artillery.

The End of the Post-Brown Dream, Cont’d

[ 93 ] May 23, 2016 |

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Today’s decision, given Rodriguez, means that there is no violation of the Equal Protection Clause though the schools are segregated by race and though the black schools are not only “separate” but “inferior.”

So far as equal protection is concerned, we are now in a dramatic retreat from the 7-to-1 decision in 1896 that blacks could be segregated in public facilities, provided they received equal treatment.

As I indicated in Keyes v. School District No. 1 Denver, Colorado, there is, so far as the school cases go, no constitutional difference between de facto and de jure segregation. Each school board performs state action for Fourteenth Amendment purposes when it draws the lines that confine it to a given area, when it builds schools at particular sites, or when it allocates students.

Milliken v. Bradley (1974), Douglas J. (dissenting.)

Poor, black and Hispanic children are becoming increasingly isolated from their white, affluent peers in the nation’s public schools, according to new federal data showing that the number of high-poverty schools serving primarily black and brown students more than doubled between 2001 and 2014.

The data was released by the Government Accountability Office on Tuesday, 62 years to the day after the Supreme Court decided that segregated schools are “inherently unequal” and therefore unconstitutional.

That landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education began the dismantling of the dual school systems — one for white kids, one for black students — that characterized so many of the nation’s communities. It also became a touchstone for the ideal of public education as a great equalizer, an American birthright meant to give every child a fair shot at success.

But that ideal appears to be unraveling, according to Tuesday’s GAO report.

The proportion of schools segregated by race and class — where more than 75 percent of children receive free or reduced-price lunch and more than 75 percent are black or Hispanic — climbed from 9 percent to 16 percent of schools between 2001 and 2014. The number of the most intensively segregated schools — with more than 90 percent of low-income students and students of color — more than doubled over that period.

The Horror

[ 523 ] May 22, 2016 |

nbc-fires-donald-trump-after-he-calls-mexicans-rapists-and-drug-runnersBoth Sides Do It!

I hope that Ralph Nader has rendered this kind of thing politically inconsequential, but for Chrissakes:

If you look at an electoral contest between the most progressive platform a Democratic presidential candidate has run on in a long time and an orange-hued Mussolini and you conclude that they’re essentially the same because “corporate,” I’m not sure what to tell you. But I guess it does help to explain why Stein, who seems to have real political talent and could make a real contribution to progressive politics, prefers empty wankery instead.

Speaking of Saint Ralph, I see the “public interest” organization he founded continues to share the attitude he’s always displayed towards people who work for him.

Shelby County: The Gift That Keeps On Giving

[ 18 ] May 21, 2016 |

Chief-Justice-John-Roberts

John Roberts’s masterpiece in the field of self-refuting simulacra of constitutional law continues to have the desired effect:

On Thursday, federal district court judge Henry Hudson upheld Virginia’s voter ID law, despite hearing many stories like Okiakpe’s of voters burdened by the law. Hudson, a George W. Bush appointee once known as “Hang ‘Em High Henry” for his tough on crime record, was also the first judge to rule against Obamacare. His decision will make it harder for the 200,000 Virginia voters without a driver’s license to cast a ballot.

Virginia first passed a voter-ID law in 2012, which accepted non-photo IDs like a utility bill, pay stub, bank statement, government check, or Social Security card. The Justice Department approved the law. But after Barack Obama carried Virginia in 2012, the GOP-controlled legislature significantly toughened the law, accepting “only drivers licenses, voter ID cards, student IDs, and concealed handgun permits,” MSNBC reported.

The change needed approval from the DOJ or a federal court, but was allowed to go into effect after the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in June 2013, ruling that states like Virginia with a long history of voting discrimination no longer had to submit their voting changes for federal approval. (The state tried to exclude any “evidence of Virginia’s history of racial discrimination” from being heard in the case as “not relevant.”)

[…]

There’s now overwhelming evidence that voter-ID laws are designed not to combat nonexistent voter impersonation but to make it harder for Democratic-leaning constituencies to vote. Yet conservative judges in states like Virginia and North Carolina keep upholding these laws.

This underscores the importance of changing the courts, particularly the Supreme Court that gutted the VRA. Donald Trump released his short list of very conservative Supreme Court nominees this week. It’s important to remember that both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders would appoint very different people to the bench.

The Joe Arpaio of the Federal Judiciary

[ 67 ] May 20, 2016 |

joe-arpaio

Strikes again:

A federal judge with a history of anti-immigrant sentiment ordered the federal government to turn over the names, addresses and “all available contact information” of over 100,000 immigrants living within the United States. He does so in a strange order that quotes extensively from movie scripts and that alleges a conspiracy of attorneys “somewhere in the halls of the Justice Department whose identities are unknown to this Court.”

It appears to be, as several immigration advocates noted shortly after the order was handed down, an effort to intimidate immigrants who benefit from certain Obama administration programs from participating in those programs, lest their personal information be turned over to people who wish them harm. As Greisa Martinez, Advocacy Director for United We Dream, said in a statement, the judge is “asking for the personal information of young people just to whip up fear” — fear, no doubt, of what could happen if anti-immigrant state officials got their hands on this information. Or if the information became public.

The judge is Andrew Hanen, who conservative attorneys opposed to President Obama’s immigration policies appear to have sought out specifically because of his belief that America does not treat immigrants with sufficient hostility. Texas v. United States was filed shortly after President Obama announced policy changes that would permit close to 5 million undocumented immigrants to temporarily work and remain in the country. As the name of the case suggests, the lead plaintiff is the State of Texas, yet the Texas Attorney General’s office did not file this case in Austin, the state’s capitol. Instead, they filed it over five hours away in the town of Brownsville.

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