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Friday Links: UNINTIMIDATED Edition

[ 81 ] August 21, 2015 |

Let Them Eat States’ Rights!

[ 19 ] August 21, 2015 |

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker

Scott Walker has an EXCITING NEW HEALTH CARE PLAN featuring such diverse elements as effectively destroying state regulations, removing most federal regulations, and withdrawing much of the subsidies that would otherwise go to the non-wealthy. The question among Republicans is whether his plan is acceptable or outright communism:

Walker’s politics are not about small government. After all, he thinks that abortion should be illegal even when necessary to save a woman’s life, and he just approved a $250 million gift of taxpayer money to hedge fund billionaires to build a basketball stadium. Rather, his politics are about assisting the rich and powerful at the expense of the poorer and less powerful.

His health care plan is no exception. Like the ACA, Walker’s plan would offer tax credits to allow people to purchase insurance. But Walker’s tax credits would be distributed on the basis of age, not income. The result, as Jeffrey Young and Jon Cohn demonstrate, would be a disaster for the non-affluent, as insurance would become unaffordable for many people at any age. And in addition, Walker also advocates savage cuts to Medicaid. The callousness Walker showed in refusing the ACA’s Medicaid expansion in Wisconsin is reflected in his health care plans.

So Walker’s plan would be an utter disaster if implemented. But it’s not just about Walker. Amazingly, some conservative candidates and pundits attacked Walker’s plan from the right. A spokesman for also-ran candidate Bobby Jindal accused Walker of collaborating with Bernie Sanders to create a plan that would make health care far less accessible to the non-rich.

Essentially, Republicans look at the state of health care circa 2009 — in which more than 16 percent of Americans were uninsured, and in which insurance companies could abuse consumers in a number of ways — and argue that even fewer Americans should have insurance and the quality of the insurance should be much worse. This is one of the many reasons that the contemporary Republican Party is simply unfit to govern at the national level.

At this point, rather than go to the trouble of writing up a whole series of planks, the 2016 Republican economic platform should just consist of a restaurant receipt from a dinner for 6 lobbyists at the Capital Grille with “get a six figure job, parasite” written in the “tip” section.

Winnowing in 2016

[ 66 ] August 21, 2015 |


Interesting point by Bernstein:

The first test for the announced candidates has arrived. Perry’s campaign, we learned Monday night, is broke and has stopped paying staffers. As of now, however, the team is pledging to carry on, in part because Perry’s super-PAC still has plenty of money. Politico also suggests that Rand Paul and Rick Santorum are hanging on partly because of super-PACs.

If the normal winnowing doesn’t happen in this cycle, that’s a big deal. It could undercut the party’s influence over who gets the nomination. Typically, only candidates with significant support and little strong opposition among party actors have a realistic chance of winning. Party influence depends on stable, predictable rules and practices, and if this has changed — if, for example, most of the 17 Republican candidates remain in the race well into the caucuses and primaries — then almost anything could happen.

I also agree that we should be careful before assuming that super-PACS will substantially alter the winnowing process in primaries. (In Perry’s case specifically, I’d be very surprised if he was still around for Iowa.) But at a minimum, the larger amounts of money sloshing around have to effect how the invisible primary plays out.

And, of course, Trump — independently financed, and with no real roots within the Republican Party — is sui generis. He can stay in and probably attract at least some support for as long as he wants. I still don’t think there’s any chance he can win the nomination, but his presence will still affect the process.

Front Page Rape Fantasies and the American Prison

[ 52 ] August 20, 2015 |

Fishkill Correctional Facility_0

Evidently, spokesman even Subway doesn’t deserve Jared Fogle is a very bad person who has committed crimes that merit substantial prison time. Nonetheless, using your newspaper’s front page to express your wishes that he gets raped in prison is depraved.

It’s this kind of cavalier attitude toward the physical security of prisoners that leads to abuses like this:

On the evening of April 21 in Building 21 at the Fishkill Correctional Facility, Samuel Harrell, an inmate with a history of erratic behavior linked to bipolar disorder, packed his bags and announced he was going home, though he still had several years left to serve on his drug sentence.

Not long after, he got into a confrontation with corrections officers, was thrown to the floor and was handcuffed. As many as 20 officers — including members of a group known around the prison as the Beat Up Squad — repeatedly kicked and punched Mr. Harrell, who is black, with some of them shouting racial slurs, according to more than a dozen inmate witnesses. “Like he was a trampoline, they were jumping on him,” said Edwin Pearson, an inmate who watched from a nearby bathroom.

Mr. Harrell was then thrown or dragged down a staircase, according to the inmates’ accounts. One inmate reported seeing him lying on the landing, “bent in an impossible position.”

“His eyes were open,” the inmate wrote, “but they weren’t looking at anything.”

Corrections officers called for an ambulance, but according to medical records, the officers mentioned nothing about a physical encounter. Rather, the records showed, they told the ambulance crew that Mr. Harrell probably had an overdose of K2, a synthetic marijuana.

He was taken to St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital and at 10:19 p.m. was pronounced dead.

No member of the Beat Up Squad has faced any sanction for this. Maybe the New York Post can make a witless joke about it.

Against Arctic Drilling

[ 23 ] August 20, 2015 |


As Rebecca Leber observes, Clinton’s break from the Obama administration is good policy and good politics:

The environmental group 350 Action, among Clinton’s harshest critics on climate issues, offered rare praise Tuesday for Clinton’s leadership—while noting she still hasn’t taken a concrete position on the group’s top target, the Keystone XL pipeline.

“This is a hugely encouraging sign from Hillary Clinton, and it’s in no small part thanks to activists in Seattle, Portland, and around the country who’ve placed their bodies on the line to put Arctic drilling and the broader issue of climate change on the political map,” 350 Action spokesperson Karthik Ganapathy emailed the New Republic. “It’s not easy to stand up to Big Oil, nor to break with a sitting President from within your party—so Secretary Clinton deserves real credit for that.”

In some ways, a candidate’s position on Arctic drilling is more consequential than the Keystone XL pipeline. President Barack Obama’s final decision on the proposed pipeline is expected to come soon, whereas the next president will set the agenda for offshore drilling, including in the Arctic. According to federal estimates, the U.S. Arctic contains 30 billion barrels of undiscovered oil: the equivalent of running the Keystone XL pipeline at full capacity for 75 years, even if you count the added carbon emissions from tar sands oil, according to Natural Resources Defense Council Arctic Director Neil Lawrence. If Keystone is ever built, the State Department has put the pipeline’s lifespan at roughly 50 years.

You Gonna Take A Feel-Good Hollywood Biopic From Someone Who Slapped Beat the Crap out of Dee Barnes?

[ 84 ] August 19, 2015 |

Dee Barnes on Straight Outta Compton:

Three years later—in 1991—I would experience something similar, only this time I was on my back and the knee was in my chest. That knee did not belong to a police officer, but Andre Young, the producer/rapper who goes by Dr. Dre. When I saw the footage of California Highway Patrol officer Daniel Andrew straddling and viciously punching Marlene Pinnock in broad daylight on the side of a busy freeway last year, I cringed. That must have been how it looked as Dr. Dre straddled me and beat me mercilessly on the floor of the women’s restroom at the Po Na Na Souk nightclub in 1991.

That event isn’t depicted in Straight Outta Compton, but I don’t think it should have been, either. The truth is too ugly for a general audience. I didn’t want to see a depiction of me getting beat up, just like I didn’t want to see a depiction of Dre beating up Michel’le, his one-time girlfriend who recently summed up their relationship this way: “I was just a quiet girlfriend who got beat on and told to sit down and shut up.”

But what should have been addressed is that it occurred. When I was sitting there in the theater, and the movie’s timeline skipped by my attack without a glance, I was like, “Uhhh, what happened?” Like many of the women that knew and worked with N.W.A., I found myself a casualty of Straight Outta Compton’s revisionist history.

Dre, who executive produced the movie along with his former groupmate Ice Cube, should have owned up to the time he punched his labelmate Tairrie B twice at a Grammys party in 1990. He should have owned up to the black eyes and scars he gave to his collaborator Michel’le. And he should have owned up to what he did to me. That’s reality. That’s reality rap. In his lyrics, Dre made hyperbolic claims about all these heinous things he did to women. But then he went out and actually violated women. Straight Outta Compton would have you believe that he didn’t really do that. It doesn’t add up. It’s like Ice Cube saying, “I’m not calling all women bitches,” which is a position he maintains even today at age 46. If you listen to the lyrics of “A Bitch Iz a Bitch,” Cube says, “Now the title bitch don’t apply to all women / But all women have a little bitch in ‘em.” So which is it? You can’t have it both ways. That’s what they’re trying to do with Straight Outta Compton: They’re trying to stay hard, and look like good guys.

Straight Outta Compton is hardly unique in this respect — biopics tend to whitewash, even when they’re not done with the cooperation of the subjects. And, of course, misogyny from both art and artists is depressingly common, and does not in itself mean that a biopic of very influential artists is unjustified. I would suggest, however, that at a minimum Straight Outta Compton not be called “unvarnished.”

From the Party of Lincoln to the Party of Calhoun, An Ongoing Series

[ 233 ] August 19, 2015 |

Roger-Taney-in-1858Mister, We Could Use A Chief Justice Like Roger Taney Again

Chalk up another crackpot position that’s gone utterly Republican mainstream:

On Sunday, business mogul Donald Trump came out in support of ending birthright citizenship — and on Monday, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker joined him.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich said recently that he didn’t think the party needed to go that far in trying to crack down on illegal immigration. But during his run for governor in 2010, according to the Columbus Dispatch, he reiterated his longtime support for ending birthright citizenship.

When Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul first ran for the Senate in 2010, he said he didn’t “think the 14th Amendment was meant to apply to illegal aliens.” He has since pushed for a constitutional amendment. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has said the issue needs to be re-examined as well.

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum has also stated his support for altering the 14th Amendment…

And on Monday night, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal joined the debate, tweeting, “We need to end birthright citizenship for illegal immigrants.”

Even South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, a longtime supporter of immigration reform, has called for a consideration of a change in the Constitution because he believes immigrants will simply “drop and leave” their kids in this country.

Taken together, that’s a solid chunk of the Republican field. And for a political party desperately trying to improve its standing with Hispanic and other minority voters, it could portend a damaging bend toward nativism.

If the Republican Party has ever accomplished something good, contemporary Republicans will do what they can to purge any trace of the preemptive heresy from the books.

Amanda Terkel has a good companion piece on the history of denying citizenship to various classes of people.


[ 17 ] August 18, 2015 |

0904_saudi_women_970-630x420“Sure, you can’t drive, vote, or walk around unaccompanied.  But at least you’re not in Venezuela!  Savor your economic freedom!’

For whatever reason, I’m always fascinated by libertarian “Freedom Indexes.” Does CATO’s international comparison consider equal inheritance rights but not the ability of a woman to choose not to carry a pregnancy to term when measuring women’s rights? I think you know the answer to that. Does the methodology apparently assume that all “government transfers and subsidies” and “administrative requirements” on business represent net reductions in freedom? But of course. Do its choices lead to such results as Hong Kong being designated the freest place on Earth and Venezuela being considered less free than…Saudi Arabia? Yup.

And yet, despite the various ways in which the game is rigged, I also note that all of the major Scandinavian states and Germany still rank as more “free” than the United States. “The regions that had greater overall levels of freedom exhibited higher ratings in personal freedom relative to economic freedom than the less free,” the analysis concludes. Maybe there’s a lesson there!

Foner on the Lessons of Reconstruction

[ 41 ] August 17, 2015 |

The whole interview is great, as you would expect. The answer to the assertion that the Civil War was about “states’ rights” is perfect (i.e. the state’s “right” to establish slavery, which by the way required substantial federal intervention with dubious constitutional authorization every so-called advocate of “states’ rights” supported.) A couple more arbitrarily selected highlights. First, on the question of whether Reconstruction was a “bourgeois revolution”:

I tend not to use terminology like that, which I feel is an insider terminology. I try to write as clearly and accessibly as possible. So I understand what it means to call it a bourgeois revolution, and there are a lot of ways one could say it is. But I don’t think you would find that phrase in my writings.

But I do call it a revolution. I call the Civil War the Second American Revolution, as historian Charles Beard did, and as abolitionist Wendell Phillips did. But the Revolution is the destruction of slavery, that’s the revolutionary quality. That’s Du Bois’s point.

I call it a capitalist revolution. I don’t know if that’s the same thing as a bourgeois revolution. It destroys a system that is both capitalist and non-capitalist in ways that are quite difficult to explain, but the consequence of the Civil War is capitalist hegemony throughout the entire United States.

But that’s not the cause of the Civil War, because the capitalists were perfectly happy with the slave South. They made a lot of money off the slave South and there was no reason for them to go to war. But the consequence of the war was certainly the hegemony of Northern industry and finance throughout the entire country.

I also loved this, on the process by which conservatives try to pretend that they retroactively support things they opposed:

We shouldn’t allow them to take possession of these struggles. By the way, Obama absorbs all of this into his narrative of American history, obviously, and what’s objectionable about all this — from Obama’s vision of American history to Karl Rove’s — is that they see all these things as struggles within a stable system, so to speak.

Instead of denying, like the Right used to, that we’ve ever had inequality in this country, the Right says, “Well of course slavery was horrible, but we abolished it. We abolished slavery.” We! We! Who’s this “we,” you know?

And then they say, “Jim Crow, it was terrible.” No one’s defending Jim Crow anymore. We had a great civil rights struggle, Martin Luther King is a hero to everybody left, right and center, but it’s a defanged Martin Luther King. Martin Luther King is the guy who gets up at the Lincoln Memorial and, you know, says one sentence — I want my children to be judged by the content of their character — and that’s Martin Luther King. You don’t get the King who spoke out against the Vietnam War, or the Poor People’s Campaign King.

King was a radical guy. King said that the Civil Rights Movement was a fundamental challenge to American values. The people who absorb it into a feel-good thing now say it was an expression of basic American values. In other words, there is a stable thing called Americanism which all these struggles are just improving all the time.

But the whole thing is very much worth reading.

A Lazy Pundit’s Wet Dream

[ 150 ] August 17, 2015 |


The title alone guarantees you a blast furnace take. The nearly drama-free Democratic nomination contest, highly reminiscent of 2000, is 1968 all over again!

The expected battle of the dynasties between Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush no longer seems inevitable.

This is some nicely done bullshit, pretending that the Democratic nomination is in serious doubt because the Republicans really do have a hotly contested primary. My question: who ever said Jeb! was inevitable? I think even those who (unlike me) think he’s the most likely to win would agree that he’s highly evitable.

Anyway, to the meat of the argument, such as it is:

Just as President Lyndon Johnson, whom everyone expected to run for re-election, symbolized the Democratic establishment then, Hillary Clinton does now. While Johnson controlled the party apparatus (which in 1968 still chose most of the delegates), Clinton has locked up most of the Democratic donors. Both of them, too, have already lost a nomination battle to a younger, more attractive candidate: LBJ to JFK in 1960, and Clinton to Barack Obama in 2008. And both have serious vulnerabilities that pundits initially underestimated: the Vietnam War for Johnson, and the ongoing email scandal for Clinton.

Wait, what?

the Vietnam War for Johnson, and the ongoing email scandal for Clinton.

Comparing the piddlyshit email non-scandal with Vietnam is so wrong on so many levels it’s hard to even know where to begin. But the idea that Hillary Clinton is going to give up her campaign over this crap is absurd.

Both of them seem to struggle to appeal to a huge new generation of voters: Boomers in 1968, Millennials now.

Is there any evidence for this claim about Clinton?

And like Johnson, Clinton has been challenged by an insurgent Senator with unusual views. Bernie Sanders of Vermont has cast himself in the role of Senator Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota, whom no one gave a snowball’s chance in hell when he announced for President late in 1967. When McCarthy nearly beat Johnson in New Hampshire, the President shocked America by dropping out of the race. Bernie Sanders has just surged ahead of Clinton in New Hampshire in at least one poll, and like McCarthy, will likely command the support of an army of young volunteers there.

Could Sanders give Clinton a very tough fight in New Hampshire? Sure. What is the possible basis for the belief that she would drop out if this happens? I have no idea.

I’ll skip the comparison between Biden and Humphrey because if Clinton stays in the race it’s irrelevant.

You’ve probably already guessed who has been drafted into RFK’s role:

The obvious candidate to fill RFK’s role as the one to shake things up would be another four-year Senator with a national following, who has resisted numerous urgings to get into the race earlier this year: Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. Warren insists that she is not going to run, but it’s always possible that she might feel very differently about a race against Sanders and Biden, should Clinton’s campaign founder.

And what if the Clinton emails implicate Clinton, Sanders, and Biden in the murder of Vince Foster, an entirely plausible scenario? I bet Warren runs! Fortunately, the Ambassador Hotel has been demolished.

Sure, it’s a long shot, but—while the Republicans are getting most of the attention now—history proves that the Democrats are still worth watching.

That word “proves,” it does not mean…

The Great Ex-President

[ 99 ] August 17, 2015 |


As we ponder the legacy of Jimmy Carter, it’s worth emphasizing that while he was a rather ineffective president he’s been a remarkable force for good as an ex-president:

Guinea Worm eradication is near. Guinea Worm is a waterborne disease that affects only the poorest of the poor people on the planet. But after millennia of inflicting pain and suffering in Asia and Africa, the disease is tantalizingly close to being wiped off the face of the earth. 30 years ago there were millions of cases worldwide. In 2014, there were just 126. This decline is thanks in large part to Jimmy Carter and the the work of the Carter Center, which launched a Global Eradication Program in the 1980s.

This is just one of countless examples of course. He really deserves immense credit for this work.

Sunday Links

[ 61 ] August 16, 2015 |

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