Thursday, June 28, 2012

On the ACA decision

Me, writing just before the decision:
I think it possible that the Court is going to rule beyond the ACA. Perhaps they will take positions that affect Medicare or Medicaid, or perhaps they will restrict the Commerce Clause in some way. Link.
And, b'golly, I called that one. Croak!  Croakcroakcroak! They did blow away the enforcement of the Medicaid expansion in the ACA, and they did it by weakening the Commerce Clause.

I guess they didn't touch Medicare because it is too popular.

The other thing that strikes me, is that like most of the major decisions of the Roberts Court, is that this decision is a mess.  We have no idea how the Court is going to rule on future social welfare programs, now that the Commerce Clause has been held as not applying to this one.  I gather the rest of the Court's conservatives rendered a blithering, blistering disaster of a dissent.  I haven't seen much reporting of it yet, but I suspect some of the ideas expressed in it are going to figure in future conservative decisions.

Meantime, let us take note that for Roberts the wealth of the 1% trumps conservative ideology, but for the rest of the Court's conservatives it is the other way.

Gonna keep us corvids well-fed, what, hey?

Friday, June 15, 2012

Civil Rights: Saving the Best Moves for the Campaign

Obama has announce that "the administration wouldn't seek to deport illegal immigrants under 30 who entered the U.S. as children and meet certain other residency and education requirements for the next two years. They also would be eligible to apply for work permits, [...]"--MSNBC

Looks to me like Obama saved his best civil rights moves for his reelection campaign: this, the end of DADT, and support for gay marriage. These are all both decent things to do, and will garner Obama votes. These civil rights moves do give a bit of hope for his second term. But only a bit. We know he’s a great salesman, but after four years we still don't know what the product is.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Failure of Communism in Russia and Capitalism in the West

Thoughts inspired by the Crooked Timber's on-going seminar on Francis Spufford's Red Plenty and by Gordon's remark, “The dreamers and revolutionaries are still there, but now that the USSR is gone they confront a Right which has far more confidence” in this thread.

    Yet now the right is failing, drifting into ever more radical and authoritarian politics, as its policies fail. They take over powerful countries and what do they do? Impoverish those countries. Start pointless wars. Trash banking and property law systems so that even the privileges of wealth and power are endangered. And in the background, the rising storm of environmental disaster. Like the Soviet Union, this also cannot be sustained.

    I admire this sentence of Spufford's: “The theory of rule by steely, ‘conscious’ guardians of the public good arrived pre-vitiated, grotesquely self-cancelled, by having the actual representatives of the theory turn out to be beefy backslappers with the mental horizons of warthogs.” Yet no more than “steely, ‘conscious’ guardians of the public good” are there Randian super-heroes; many capitalists also have “the mental horizons of warthogs.”

    There is, I think, something wrong with our philosophies, something other than poor economic theories. It is striking to me how both capitalism and communism seem to be failing in the same way and for the same reasons.

    Perhaps we are solving the wrong problems. the 20th century has given us economic theory that could vastly improve the lives of vast majority. And yet we do not implement that theory. If both the Soviet calculation model and the Austrian market model were foredoomed by taking on too much complexity, by trying to encompass too much, what can we say of Keynesian models and the mixed economy, which, setting more modest goals, seem capable of vastly improving material life, and yet which we seem unable to implement with any resolve?

Friday, June 8, 2012

Stealing homes with a pen

"If you add all those up, I don’t think there’s a loan in America that is not touched by this in some way."--David Dayen

"When I pay it off, what will I have, [is] the most famous broken chain of title in the country."--Lynn Szymoniak.

"The millions facing foreclosure [are] not facing foreclosure just because of individual actions."--Malcolm Chu

This was a Netroots Nation panel held "in a room with no streaming, and President Obama is holding a press conference to conflict with it." Marci Wheeler's rush transcript (liveblog) shows possibly the best overview of the homeownership disaster I've seen.

David Dayen kicked off the panel with a catalog of types of housing fraud:
  1. Origination fraud (liar loans, discriminatory, paper fraud) 
  2. Appraisal fraud. Then 
  3. Securitization fraud, failure to convey the mortgages to the trust properly. 
  4. Investor fraud, putting bad mortgages into packages willingly, and not telling the investors. 
  5. MERS, which is a giant tax avoidance scheme. 
  6. Servicer fraud—fee pyramiding. HUD did test of 35 loans from, of the 35 actual price of mortgage could not be verified on 34. 
  7. HAMP.  
  8. Force place insurance fraud. Servicer buys at a huge price and make mortgage holder pay for it. 
  9. Foreclosure mill. 
  10. Robosigning. 
  11. Breaking and entering.
Panel information: Moderator, David Dayen. Panelists: former TARP Inspector General Neil Barofsky, community organizer Malcolm Chu, and whistleblower Lynn Szymoniak. Read Marci Wheeler's liveblog post at Emptywheel. Video is promised for later today.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Wisconsin and the Media

We're seeing a lot of arguments on how this wasn't "really" a defeat for unions and that the voters just don't like recalls. In 2003 when Grey Davis was recalled in California, voters liked recalls fine. Voters were told not to like recalls, over and over. They were told to be jealous of people with decent salaries and pensions, instead of trying to get them for themselves.

I think the bottom line here is that it’s nearly impossible to win against a well-run campaign propagated through a media dominated by the propagandists. All the money spent in the state was able to dominate the media.

Now, this is not news. It is how the authoritarian regimes of the 20th century operated. I think that part of having a free press is having a press that is not monopolized by a single political viewpoint. The people who wrote the post-World-War-II anti-press concentration laws knew understood this very well, having just lived through wars enabled by controlled mass-media. So, so long as there are centralized mass media, I think freedom demands regulation of media concentration.

Bring back the Fairness Doctrine! Put Noam Chomsky on Fox!

The Failure of the Left in the United States

The unions, unnoticed, have been one of the pillars of our democracy. They fund campaigns and all kinds of activism. But now, it seems, the radical right has found a way to defeat unions at the state level.

Yeah, we lost Wisconsin. If that progressive stronghold could not stand, I think only the wealthiest, most urban states will. And Oregon, for some odd reason.

For some years to come, it seems the US right wing has a winning formula. What this means...
  1. More wars. The rich and powerful can't manage to pay the rest of us, but there are always enough of them who want to pay for the next war, and send some of us off to die in it.
  2. Authoritarianism at home. The continued expansion of the surveillance state and the use of militarized policing within US borders.
  3. Uncontrolled carbon emissions and ecological destruction, for at least another decade.
  4. The continued abrogation of ancient rights of property and person.
  5. A continued fall in wages.
  6. A continuation of boom and bust economics that will impoverish all but some of the wealthiest.
  7. The reduction, if not outright elimination, of Social Security. The privatization of Medicare. Severe cuts in Medicaid. People's grandmothers will die, along with grandfathers and children, as well as numerous disabled people. Younger people will have the hard choice of taking in and caring for disabled elderly relatives or seeing them left to charity care.
Personally, it is likely to make it hard for me to get health care. I thank you from the bottom of my heart, oh conservatives, from all its diseased arteries.

And how will it end? I expect to be an old man before I see any improvement, if it comes at all in my life. I do anticipate change as the younger generation grows to middle age and comes into power. Look to the elections of 2020, I think. But, even so, it's going to be a hard ride. Meantime, look to the alternative economy and the new craft economy. Make friends and support each other.

The wildcard, as it has been for years now, is climate change and ecological destruction.

On the defeat of labor in Wisconsin

[I'm cross-posting this in many places]

With the resounding defeat of labor in Wisconsin, we are probably going to see a return to 1880s levels of anti-labor violence. So one of the questions becomes: will a President call out the National Guard, or use the standing military, to put down strikes?

It’s hard for me to imagine that Romney would not. Obama?

Turning to the narrower effort, just what is Wisconsin going to become? Is the University going to survive? What happens when we see people fired in job lots at a whim? It is hard for me to see how violence can be avoided.


BTW, please stop calling it "right-to-work."  Call it "scab."