Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Taney Court II: ...and here we go

In a potentially crippling blow to the new federal health care law, a federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday that the government may not provide subsidies to encourage people to health insurance on the new marketplaces run by the federal government. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, in a two-to-one decision, ruled that those subsidies are only available on “exchanges” run by state governments.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in a decision directly contrary to the D.C. Circuit decision discussed below, on Tuesday afternoon upheld the government rule that cleared the way for subsidies for those buying health insurance on exchanges run by the federal government. … The split in the appeals courts, if it remains after potential en banc reviews, would practically guarantee Supreme Court review. --SCOTUSblog

With luck the DC Circuit Court decision will fall under en banc review, and this will not go to the Supreme Court. Because if it does, a horrific decision seems likely.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Drone Law and the Possible End of the Nation State

(This is the result of some correspondence with Lt. Col. Robert Bateman over at the Esquire Politics Blog. He subscribes to the "just another weapon that won't change much" view of drones and I don't.)

Me, I worry that drones are preeminently a way of controlling and attacking a civilian population. They are an effective assassin's tool. I also worry that the most effective retaliation against drone warfare is probably assaults on the facilities and infrastructure of the drone system, which are usually deep within the borders of the nation that deploys the drones. Drone warfare makes assaults on civilians within a country a reasonable strategy. To get at enemy drones control stations and infrastructure, what general will scruple at also killing enemy civilians?

Because of their surveillance capabilities, they can see and hear, drones can be used for policing as well as military assault. That is both their potential and their nightmare. When drones seek out terrorist suspects within Yemen and Pakistan, both allies, that seems to me policing on the soil of allies. Our laws do not allow for summary execution of suspects and I doubt that Yemeni or Pakistani law does, yet that is what drone law is giving us.

It is possible that aerial drone warfare spells the end of the nation-state. Such things are hard to predict, but if war becomes a thing distributed throughout a region, rather than occurring at borders or fronts, there seems not much point in borders.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

A Radical Program for the 21ˢᵗ Century

Notes toward a program, not a coherent list.

Undoing

  1. Impeach one or more of the conservative SC justices
  2. Repeal Taft-Hartley.
  3. Repeal the espionage act.
  4. Restore the anti-fascist media concentration and balance laws.

Doing

  1. Environment: act on climate change
  2. Economic policy: build Keynesian economic institutions
  3. Corporate law: amend the constitution to state that corporations have only the rights granted them by law, not the rights of natural persons.
  4. Women's rights: pass an Equal Rights Amendment.
  5. Establish national corporate law. End the race to the bottom in corporate law, so that the state with the least regulation on the power and formation of corporations (Delaware) no longer sets the law. Instead, make these laws nationally.
  6. Establish a right to unionize.

Crazies: Wrong And Right

(This started as a letter to Jim Wright, who writes extensively about right-wing crazies outside the centers of power. But I got to thinking that the picture was incomplete, and wondered about the crazies in the centers of power, and what to do about them. This is the result.)

I see a lot about the crazies of the radical right; people like Cliven Bundy and so on. But they're only one prong of a two-pronged movement. They're the outsiders, propagandized to support the insiders: the people who are in the government and, in turn, are put there by that shadowy political leadership that includes the Kochs, Scaife, Heritage, and so on.

There is a real and successful conspiracy.

We snicker at the right-wing nuts and their fear of government. Yet just a few weeks ago, one of the original Occupy Wall Street protesters was sent up for seven years. Her crime? Allegedly she was groped by a police officer (he groped hard enough to leave bruises on her breast) and she elbowed him. She was beaten, jailed, and given a trial presided over by a hostile judge. For her, it seems all the things the right-wing crazies say about the government came true. There was no outpouring of sentiment from the would-be defenders of freedom, no vast outpouring of media coverage from the people who are constantly reminding us of the threat of abused government power.

Police departments have gone hog-wild since 9/11. Homeland Security has funneled huge amounts of money to local police departments. The NYPD spent a huge amount building a surveillance unit to monitor Muslims in the NYC area — half a million people, most of whom are not terrorists. It was shut down this year, having accomplished nothing. It's not just New York City; towns now have tanks. In the Pacific Northwest, not a hotbed of illegal immigration from Mexico, Homeland Security agents were stopping brown people on buses, just because.

We have become accustomed to routine checking of papers by every employer and at every airport. In Washington State, papers are checked at every bar. Bizarrely, just last night my id was checked at Northwest Folklife, a hippie-fest of sorts.

It can't be anarchism if they're checking id.

The Supreme Court has declared that almost any political contribution except direct bribery is protected speech and breaking down the wall between church and state. The House majority has voted to repeal the ACA over 50 times. And it may get worse. Nate Silver gives the Republicans slightly more than an even chance of taking the Senate this year. If they succeed — it is possible they will shoot themselves in the foot again — we may be in for years of government abuse. Even if not, we are in for more years of legislative deadlock, when we face problems desperately in need of attention. Hundreds of thousands lost their homes and their life savings in the banking scams of the 2000s and not enough was been done. The securities markets have been fixed in favor of the very wealthiest traders and banks and are at risk of a second collapse and not enough has been done. We have the highest unemployment in two generations and not enough is being done. We direly need infrastructure work; our country is literally falling apart and not enough is being done. Environmental destruction continues unchecked and not enough is being done. The global balance of power changes and all Washington wants to do is cut the deficit and the civilian government and spend more money on the military.

Why are we so entranced with authority, if authority does not act on our behalf?

As citizens we are subject to an arbitrary and incompetent government, heavily influenced by wealthy minority which controls one house of Congress and has an international propaganda network. Some things the right-wing crazies say are true. They are wrong about which side is doing them. They are wrong about what to do about them. And yet in this the are right: we have lost control of our government and it is not representing our desires or acting in our interests.

We are too much afraid of "anarchism" — freedom — and too little afraid of plutocracy, aristocracy, theocracy, false demagoguery.

What is to be done? Oh, I'm not expecting the United States or the world to suddenly turn into perfect places. But surely democracy can be made to govern more-or-less on behalf of the demos, and not on behalf of wealthy cranks, religious madmen, and the violence-obsessed.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

In Which Ta-Nehisi Coates Makes the Case for Reparations for Slavery and Co-incidentally Told Me Why The Tea Party Is So Angry

Ta-Nehisi Coates has a great article on racism and a case for reparations for slavery. You should go read it. Now.

Have you read it? If not, you really should.

Read it yet? If not, here it is again.

And, in reading it, I understood the anger of the tea party. Historical racism has always been mostly corruption and terrorism, not simple bigotry. Not only were African-Americans directly mistreated, but also there was nowhere for them to turn for justice. The history of fraud, deceit, and terrorism is long and grim and few courts would ever grant relief, let alone punish the guilty.

And this, in the looting of the wealth of the US middle class, is what white middle-class Americans have experienced in the past 35 years. They thought they were the upper class, they thought they could victimize with impunity, and instead they are the victims. Somewhere, I think, there are people saying that they've been treated like niggers. Do they, in their anger, reject supremacy? No, instead they look for new victims.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Study: 1 in 25 People Condemned to Death in the USA Likely Innocent

This is just a "what he said" post, linking an AP article, but the subject seems important enough to make it worthwhile:
About one in 25 people imprisoned under a death sentence is likely innocent, according to a new statistical study appearing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. And that means it is all but certain that at least several of the 1,320 defendants executed since 1977 were innocent, the study says.
About 60% of death sentences are changed to life imprisonment, and the convicts not executed. But innocent convicts sentenced to life also are rarely released; there is much more effort focused on wrongful death sentences than wrongful imprisonment.

Go read the whole thing.

The original article is here. The full text is available without charge.

The Killing Field on the Arizona Border

Me, five years ago:
Oh, you hominids could make the border into a killing field, make a feast for us corvids. That would stop them from coming, probably.
Todd Miller, now,
When you look at a map that shows where such bodies are recovered in southern Arizona -- journalist Margaret Regan has termed it a “killing field” — there is a thick red cluster of dots over the Tohono O’odham reservation. This area has the highest concentration of the more than 2,300 remains recovered in Arizona alone — approximately 6,000 have been found along the whole border -- since the Border Patrol began ramping up its “prevention by deterrence policy” in the 1990s. And as Kat Rodriguez of the Colibri Center for Human Rights points out, these numbers are at the low end of actual border deaths, due to the numbers of remains found that have been there for weeks, months, or even years.
Me again, five years ago:
The people who ran Abu Ghraib and run Gitmo, they'd be happy to do it for you. And then they'd do it to you.
When your policies, be their goals ever so noble, lead to monstrosities, it is time to change them.