NPR. Again.

Start with Dean Baker.

Will the ACA Hurt Employers: Morning Edition Says It Depends on How They Feel

Reporters at NPR have the time to look up the requirements of the Affordable Care Act and calculate their impact on employers. Its listeners do not. For that reason, it is incredibly irresponsible to simply report the views of one small business owner saying the bill will be a big burden and then another who says it will guarantee him and his wife insurance.

Morning Edition could have taken 30 second to give listeners an idea of the size of the burden that the ACA imposes. For firms that employ fewer than 50 workers, there are no requirements. Firms of 50 workers or more must either provide insurance or pay a penalty.

The size of penalty is $2,000 per worker, with the first 30 workers exempted. This means that if a company employs exactly 50 workers (as could be the case with the employer profiled), then the company would have to pay a $40,000 fine. If the average pay for a worker is $10 an hour (in other words, everyone gets close to the minimum wage), this fine would add 4 percent to the company’s wage bill. If the employer currently pays for some care (as the employer profiled claimed he did), he would be able to stop paying for the care, which would offset much or all of this cost.

By comparison, past minimum wage increases have been on the order of 15-20 percent. Extensive research has found that these increases in labor costs have had little or no impact on employment, meaning that firms have been able to absorb this additional expense without substantially changing their operations. This research suggests that the burden imposed by the ACA would have relatively little impact on business.

…but don’t stop there. Who was this “one small business owner”? Thanks to the internets, and SteveM at Balloon Juice, we have an answer: Just a Humble Tradesman, Trapped in a World He Never Made.

… So Joe Olivo isn’t just some random business owner—he’s dispatched by NFIB whenever there’s a need for someone to play a random small business owner on TV.

Thanks, NPR and NBC —you asked us to smell the grass, and you didn’t even notice it was Astroturf. Or you noticed, but you didn’t want us to.

Read it all. Reallly.

Glad about SCOTUS & ACA? Thank Louis Brandeis.

John Fabian Witt at Balkinization

The Secret History of the Chief Justice’s Obamacare Decision

A Democratic Party president’s signature legislative victory is imperiled by an aging Supreme Court stocked by Republican appointees. Tricky constitutional law obstacles, including limits on the Congress’s power under the Commerce Clause, threaten to undo a vast federal insurance program designed to solve a pressing social crisis. But then one of the justices identifies an alternative way to rescue the constitutional basis for the legislation: Congress’s tax power, he concludes, offers the basis for upholding the legislation.

The scenario sounds like Chief Justice John Roberts and the Affordable Care Act known as Obamacare, which the Supreme Court upheld yesterday on the basis of the Congress’s taxing power. But it also matches perfectly the story of Justice Louis Brandeis, President Franklin Roosevelt, and the Social Security Act of 1935. And amidst all the coverage of yesterday’s decision, the crucial connection between Roberts and Brandeis has gone missing. Right out of law school, in 1979, the Chief Justice clerked for Henry Friendly, long thought of as one of the greatest judges of the twentieth century, perhaps the greatest federal judge (alongside Learned Hand) never to serve on the Supreme Court. Friendly, in turn, clerked for none other than Louis Brandeis. Brandeis’s broad view of the Congress’s taxing authority is readily apparent in Friendly’s widely respected taxation decisions. And now Brandeis’s influence is apparent in the most important opinion of Chief Justice Roberts’ tenure.

How the banks stole Medicare

This one’s only been sitting around for a couple of weeks. But read it in the context of the Mark Blyth interview I recommended. Nothing like a sensible framework to clarify one’s thoughts.

Simon Johnson:

The world’s largest banks have been accused of many things in recent years, including taking excessive risk in the run-up to 2008, doing great damage to the American economy by blowing themselves up and then working hard to resist any sensible notions of financial reform.

All of this is true, but it misses what is likely to be the most profound negative impact of the banks’ behavior on most Americans. The banks’ actions led directly to an increase in government debt, which in turn has made the reduction of that debt by “cutting runaway spending” a centerpiece of the Republican presidential campaign to date.

As a result of this pressure, Medicare now stands on the brink of being eliminated as a viable form of social insurance. Yet the executives who lead these banks – and the politicians with whom they work closely – will not be held accountable this election season.

Mark Blyth

NewImageI subscribe, via rss, to Christopher Lydon’s Radio Open Source. Truth is, I delete most of the interviews before listening, and I don’t get around to listening very often (as you’ll see in a moment). Lydon isn’t the greatest interviewer in the world, but he has great guests more often than most of these programs. So it is with Mark Blyth.

I just listened to an interview with Blyth from December 2010 (see? told you.), which I now see is the first of eight so far. Go thou and do likewise, is mostly what I have to say.

People want to say: look at those profligate governments, spending all that money. We’ve got to restore fiscal sanity. But it wasn’t fiscal insanity that got us here. It was private-sector leverage and the insanity of banking that brought us to this point. So the bankers put it on the state, and the state turned around it put it on the taxpayer. It’s the biggest bait-and-switch in human history.

Now to listen to the other seven.

Tax cuts in perspective

The tax-cut extension for incomes over $250K would cost $60 billion a year. Is that a lot? Here’s David Leonhardt’s list of alternatives.

  • As much deficit reduction as the elimination of earmarks, President Obama’s proposed federal pay freeze, a 10 percent cut in the federal work force and a 50 percent cut in foreign aid — combined.
  • A tripling of federal funding for medical research.
  • Universal preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds, with relatively small class sizes.
  • A much larger troop surge in Afghanistan, raising spending by 60 percent from current levels.
  • A national infrastructure program to repair and upgrade roads, bridges, mass transit, water systems and levees.
  • A 15 percent cut in corporate taxes.
  • Twice as much money for clean-energy research as suggested by a recent bipartisan plan.
  • Free college, including room and board, for about half of all full-time students, at both four- and two-year colleges.
  • A $500 tax cut for all households.

Americans Want to Live in Sweden

James Kwak.

Americans Want to Live in Sweden

The chart below is from a short paper by Michael Norton and Dan Ariely (author of Predictably Irrational) (hat tip Huffington Post). The top line is the actual U.S.wealth distribution. The second is what Americans think the wealth distribution is. The bottom line is what Americans think the wealth distribution should be.

US wealth distribution

The Hijacked Commission

More on the “National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform”, this time from Paul Krugman.

The Hijacked Commission

… Actually, though, what the co-chairmen are proposing is a mixture of tax cuts and tax increases — tax cuts for the wealthy, tax increases for the middle class. They suggest eliminating tax breaks that, whatever you think of them, matter a lot to middle-class Americans — the deductibility of health benefits and mortgage interest — and using much of the revenue gained thereby, not to reduce the deficit, but to allow sharp reductions in both the top marginal tax rate and in the corporate tax rate.

It will take time to crunch the numbers here, but this proposal clearly represents a major transfer of income upward, from the middle class to a small minority of wealthy Americans. And what does any of this have to do with deficit reduction?

… Still, can’t we say that for all its flaws, the Bowles-Simpson proposal is a serious effort to tackle the nation’s long-run fiscal problem? No, we can’t.

It’s true that the PowerPoint contains nice-looking charts showing deficits falling and debt levels stabilizing. But it becomes clear, once you spend a little time trying to figure out what’s going on, that the main driver of those pretty charts is the assumption that the rate of growth in health-care costs will slow dramatically. And how is this to be achieved? By “establishing a process to regularly evaluate cost growth” and taking “additional steps as needed.” What does that mean? I have no idea.

It’s no mystery what has happened on the deficit commission: as so often happens in modern Washington, a process meant to deal with real problems has been hijacked on behalf of an ideological agenda. Under the guise of facing our fiscal problems, Mr. Bowles and Mr. Simpson are trying to smuggle in the same old, same old — tax cuts for the rich and erosion of the social safety net.

Can anything be salvaged from this wreck? I doubt it. The deficit commission should be told to fold its tents and go away.

Erskine Bowles, Morgan Stanley, and the Deficit Commission

Dean Baker.

Erskine Bowles, Morgan Stanley, and the Deficit Commission

The deficit report put out by the commission’s co-chairs, Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, had one striking omission. It does not includes plans for a Wall Street speculation tax or any other tax on the financial industry.

This omission is striking because the co-chairs made a big point of saying that they looked everywhere to save money and/or raise revenue. As Senator Simpson said: “We have harpooned every whale in the ocean — and some minnows.” Wall Street is one whale that appears to have dodged the harpoon.

This omission is made more striking by the fact that at least one member of the commission, Andy Stern, has long been an advocate of such taxes. Presumably he raised this issue in the commission meetings and the co-chairs chose to ignore him.

The co-chairs apparently also chose to ignore the I.M.F.. Noting the waste and extraordinary economic rents in the sector, the I.M.F. has explicitly recommended a substantial increase in taxes on the financial industry. It is even more striking that the co-chairs apparently never considered a speculation tax since Wall Street’s reckless greed is at the center of the current economic crisis.

In this context, it is worth noting that one of the co-chairs, Erskine Bowles, is literally on Wall Street’s payroll. He earned $335,000 last year for his role as a member of Morgan Stanley’s (one of the bailed out banks) board of directors. Morgan Stanley would likely see a large hit to its profits from a financial speculation tax.

It would have been appropriate for the reporters covering the report to ask about a financial speculation tax. It would also be appropriate to explore the connection between Mr. Bowles role as a Morgan Stanley director and the absence of any financial taxes in this far-reaching report.

via Beat the Press

Americans Want to Live in Sweden

James Kwak.

Americans Want to Live in Sweden

The chart below is from a short paper by Michael Norton and Dan Ariely (author of Predictably Irrational) (hat tip Huffington Post). The top line is the actual U.S.wealth distribution. The second is what Americans think the wealth distribution is. The bottom line is what Americans think the wealth distribution should be.

US wealth distribution

Today another copy of The New York Review of Books arrived…

I’ve recommended David Kaiser before, right? And you haven’t been reading him, have you?

Today another copy of The New York Review of Books arrived,

… The biggest casualty of this crisis will probably be our faith in our democracy. This morning’s New York Times leads with a story on fraud in the Afghan legislative elections and quotes one American official as saying, “It’s not necessarily the pro-Karzai bloc that has done so well, it’s that the Parliament will be more dependent on big power brokers. He added that “they would be more likely to make deals with Mr. Karzai that did not necessarily serve the Afghan people.” I find it hard to believe that I could have been the only reader to notice how well his comment seemed to describe the situation right here at home. …

It’s not too late.

We are Unitarian Jihad

Greetings to the Imprisoned Citizens of the United States. We are Unitarian Jihad. There is only God, unless there is more than one God. The vote of our God subcommittee is 10-8 in favor of one God, with two abstentions. Brother Flaming Sword of Moderation noted the possibility of there being no God at all, and his objection was noted with love by the secretary.

Greetings to the Imprisoned Citizens of the United States! Too long has your attention been waylaid by the bright baubles of extremist thought. Too long have fundamentalist yahoos of all religions (except Buddhism — 14-5 vote, no abstentions, fundamentalism subcommittee) made your head hurt. Too long have you been buffeted by angry people who think that God talks to them. You have a right to your moderation! You have the power to be calm! We will use the IED of truth to explode the SUV of dogmatic expression!

People of the United States, why is everyone yelling at you??? Whatever happened to … you know, everything? Why is the news dominated by nutballs saying that the Ten Commandments have to be tattooed inside the eyelids of every American, or that Allah has told them to kill Americans in order to rid the world of Satan, or that Yahweh has instructed them to go live wherever they feel like, or that Shiva thinks bombing mosques is a great idea? Sister Immaculate Dagger of Peace notes for the record that we mean no disrespect to Jews, Muslims, Christians or Hindus. Referred back to the committee of the whole for further discussion.

We are Unitarian Jihad. We are everywhere. We have not been born again, nor have we sworn a blood oath. We do not think that God cares what we read, what we eat or whom we sleep with. Brother Neutron Bomb of Serenity notes for the record that he does not have a moral code but is nevertheless a good person, and Unexalted Leader Garrote of Forgiveness stipulates that Brother Neutron Bomb of Serenity is a good person, and this is to be reflected in the minutes.

Beware! Unless you people shut up and begin acting like grown-ups with brains enough to understand the difference between political belief and personal faith, the Unitarian Jihad will begin a series of terrorist-like actions. We will take over television studios, kidnap so-called commentators and broadcast calm, well-reasoned discussions of the issues of the day. We will not try for “balance” by hiring fruitcakes; we will try for balance by hiring non-ideologues who have carefully thought through the issues.

We are Unitarian Jihad. We will appear in public places and require people to shake hands with each other. (Sister Hand Grenade of Love suggested that we institute a terror regime of mandatory hugging, but her motion was not formally introduced because of lack of a quorum.) We will require all lobbyists, spokesmen and campaign managers to dress like trout in public. Televangelists will be forced to take jobs as Xerox repair specialists. Demagogues of all stripes will be required to read Proust out loud in prisons.

We are Unitarian Jihad, and our motto is: “Sincerity is not enough.” We have heard from enough sincere people to last a lifetime already. Just because you believe it’s true doesn’t make it true. Just because your motives are pure doesn’t mean you are not doing harm. Get a dog, or comfort someone in a nursing home, or just feed the birds in the park. Play basketball. Lighten up. The world is not out to get you, except in the sense that the world is out to get everyone.

Brother Gatling Gun of Patience notes that he’s pretty sure the world is out to get him because everyone laughs when he says he is a Unitarian. There were murmurs of assent around the room, and someone suggested that we buy some Congress members and really stick it to the Baptists. But this was deemed against Revolutionary Principles, and Brother Gatling Gun of Patience was remanded to the Sunday Flowers and Banners committee.

People of the United States! We are Unitarian Jihad! We can strike without warning. Pockets of reasonableness and harmony will appear as if from nowhere! Nice people will run the government again! There will be coffee and cookies in the Gandhi Room after the revolution. Startling new underground group spreads lack of panic! Citizens declare themselves “relatively unafraid” of threats of undeclared rationality. People can still go to France, terrorist leader says.

Sandy Levinson on Matthew Yglesias on the filibuster

“The challenge of our time is figuring out if effective government is possible given the social, political, cultural, and economic realities we live under. The answer may well be no.”

Then what?

Matthew Yglesias on the filibuster

Matthew Yglesias has a fine post on the threat posed by the filibuster to the functioning of our political order. He concludes by suggesting, altogether plausibly, that if the Republicans were in fact to recapture all three branches of government in the 2012 election, then the first thing they would do would be to abolish the filibuster and thus deprive Democrats of the ability to torpedo whatever legislative programs they might have. It would, of course, serve Democratic Party interests to prevent a Republican government from achieving anything, especially with regard to the economy, that might win them votes. It will be typical Democratic blindness if they protect the filibuster while they in fact “control” the Senate only to see it eliminated once disciplined Republicans take over the Senate and can rely on a Republican President of the Senate (i.e., VP), to rule that the Senate is not a continuing body.

Each party has a vested interest in the destruction of a government headed by the other. This is exactly why James Madison hated parties. He wrongly believed that the Constitution would work to mitigate the ravages of “faction,” but he was wrong, not only because of the rise of political parties (by 1796 or, most certainly, by 1800), but also because of the displacement of the elites Madison had such faith in by “the people” who cared only about their own interests. Gordon Wood’s brilliant new Oxford history spells this out. I certainly don’t advocate returning to a Federalist elite politics, nor do I think they were simply devoted servants of “the public interest.” The challenge of our time is figuring out if effective government is possible given the social, political, cultural, and economic realities we live under. The answer may well be no. We simply have to hope for the best, but this may be the equivalent of hunkering down in New Orleans before Katrina and hoping against hope (or praying) that it will veer away at the last minute.

Galbraith on the deficit

Jamie Galbraith again. Do me, and yourself, a favor and read his testimony to the Deficit Commission two weeks ago.

I’m tempted not to quote anything at all, but I’ll include his conclusion:

Most people assume that “bipartisan commissions” are designed to fail: they are given thorny (or even impossible) issues and told to make recommendations which Congress is free to ignore or reject. In many cases — yours is no exception — the goal is to defer recognition of the difficulties for as long as possible.

You are plainly not equipped by disposition or resources to take on the true cause of deficits now and in the future: the financial crisis. Recommendations based on CBO’s unrealistic budget and economic outlooks are destined to collapse in failure. Specifically, if cuts are proposed and enacted in Social Security and Medicare, they will hurt millions, weaken the economy, and the deficits will not decline. It’s a lose-lose proposition, with no gainers except a few predatory funds, insurance companies and such who would profit, for some time, from a chaotic private marketplace.

Thus the interesting twist in your situation is that the Republic would be better served by advancing no proposals at all.

…and beg you to read the whole thing for a wonderfully clear discussion of deficits and government spending.

Baker on mindreading

…again. I hope you’re all reading Dean Baker as regularly as you read the papers (or listen to NPR).

Maybe Members of Congress Want to Cut Unemployment Benefits to Increase Unemployment

The Post yet again tells us that members of Congress are political philosophers, telling readers that: “Congress’s inaction [in approving an extension of unemployment benefits] has been accompanied by a growing sentiment among lawmakers that long-term unemployment benefits create a disincentive for the jobless to find work.”

How does the Post know what sentiments members of Congress have? Furthermore is there any reason to believe that their sentiments explain their votes on important issues?

Members of Congress get elected and re-elected by getting the support of powerful interest groups, not on their abilities as political philosophers. While the opponents of extending unemployment benefits may believe that they are bad policy, this is likely less relevant to the their votes than the political considerations behind this vote.

At the moment, the Republicans appear to have adopted a strategy of blocking anything that President Obama tries to do, with the idea that a bad economy will be good for them on Election Day. While the Post may not want to assert in a news story that this is the explanation for their opposition to extending unemployment benefits, it is certainly inappropriate to provide an alternative explanation for which it has zero evidence.

Robert Byrd crosses the bar

NPR’s Morning Edition concluded their remembrance of Robert Byrd with his reading of the end of Tennyson’s “Crossing the Bar”. The poem has never been one of my favorites, but it was a nice touch.

Sunset and evening star,
   And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
   When I put out to sea,

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
   Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
   Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,
   And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
   When I embark;

For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place
   The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
   When I have crossed the bar

What we want

From Juan Cole. As you can see from his title, this snippet is in the context of a longer McChrystal piece. But this is what jumped out at me.

Obama’s MacArthur Moment? McChrystal Disses Biden

… Obama has largely misunderstood the historical moment in the US. He appears to have thought that we wanted a broker, someone who could get everyone together and pull off a compromise that led to a deal among the parties. We don’t want that. We want Harry Truman. We want someone who will give them hell ….

Cause and effect in the War on Terror

Glenn Greenwald.

Cause and effect in the War on Terror

American discussions about what causes Terrorists to do what they do are typically conducted by ignoring the Terrorist’s explanation for why he does what he does.  Yesterday, Faisal Shahzad pleaded guilty in a New York federal court to attempting to detonate a car bomb in Times Square, and this Pakistani-American Muslim explained why he transformed from a financial analyst living a law-abiding, middle-class American life into a Terrorist:

If the United States does not get out of Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries controlled by Muslims, he said, “we will be attacking U.S.,” adding that Americans “only care about their people, but they don’t care about the people elsewhere in the world when they die” . . . .

As soon as he was taken into custody May 3 at John F. Kennedy International Airport, onboard a flight to Dubai, the Pakistani-born Shahzad told agents that he was motivated by opposition to U.S. policy in the Muslim world, officials said.

“One of the first things he said was, ‘How would you feel if people attacked the United States? You are attacking a sovereign Pakistan’,” said one law enforcement official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the interrogation reports are not public. “In the first two hours, he was talking about his desire to strike a blow against the United States for the cause.”

When the federal Judge presiding over his case asked him why he would be willing to kill civilians who have nothing to do with those actions, he replied:  “Well, the people select the government. We consider them all the same” (the same rationale used to justify the punishment of the people of Gaza for electing Hamas).  When the Judge interrupted him to ask whether that includes children who might have been killed by the bomb he planted and whether he first looked around to see if there were children nearby, Shahzad replied:

Well, the drone hits in Afghanistan and Iraq, they don’t see children, they don’t see anybody. They kill women, children, they kill everybody. It’s a war, and in war, they kill people. They’re killing all Muslims. . . .

I am part of the answer to the U.S. terrorizing the Muslim nations and the Muslim people.  And, on behalf of that, I’m avenging the attack.  Living in the United States, Americans only care about their own people, but they don’t care about the people elsewhere in the world when they die.

Those statements are consistent with a decade’s worth of emails and other private communications from Shahzad, as he railed with increasing fury against the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, drone attacks, Israeli violence against Palestinians and Muslims generally, Guantanamo and torture, and asked:  “Can you tell me a way to save the oppressed? And a way to fight back when rockets are fired at us and Muslim blood flows?”

This proves only what it proves.  The issue here is causation, not justification.   The great contradiction of American foreign policy is that the very actions endlessly rationalized as necessary for combating Terrorism — invading, occupying and bombing other countries, limitless interference in the Muslim world, unconditional support for Israeli aggression, vast civil liberties abridgments such as torture, renditions, due-process-free imprisonments — are the very actions that fuel the anti-American hatred which, as the U.S. Government itself has long recognized, is what causes, fuels and exacerbates the Terrorism we’re ostensibly attempting to address.

It’s really quite simple:  if we continue to bring violence to that part of the world, then that part of the world — and those who sympathize with it — will continue to want to bring violence to the U.S.  Al Qaeda certainly recognizes that this is the case, as reflected in the statement it issued earlier this week citing the war in Afghanistan and support for Israel as its prime grievances against the U.S.  Whether that’s what actually motivates that group’s leaders is not the issue.  They are citing those policies because they know that those grievances resonate for many Muslims, who are willing to support radical groups and support or engage in violence only because they see it as retaliation or vengeance for the violence which the U.S. is continuously perpetrating in the Muslim world (speaking of which:  this week, WikiLeaks will release numerous classified documents relating to a U.S. air strike in Garani, Afghanistan that killed scores of civilians last year, while new documents reveal that substantial amounts of U.S. spending in Afghanistan end up in the hands of corrupt warlords and Taliban commanders).  Clearly, there are other factors (such as religious fanaticism) that drive some people to Terrorism, but for many, it is a causal reaction to what they perceive as unjust violence being brought to them by the United States.

Given all this, it should be anything but surprising that, as a new Pew poll reveals, there is a substantial drop in public support for both U.S. policies and Barack Obama personally in the Muslim world.  In many Muslim countries, perceptions of the U.S. — which improved significantly upon Obama’s election — have now plummeted back to Bush-era levels, while Obama’s personal approval ratings, while still substantially higher than Bush’s, are also declining, in some cases precipitously.  As Pew put it:

Roughly one year since Obama’s Cairo address, America’s image shows few signs of improving in the Muslim world, where opposition to key elements of U.S. foreign policy remains pervasive and many continue to perceive the U.S. as a potential military threat to their countries.

Gosh, where would they get that idea from?  People generally don’t like it when their countries are invaded, bombed and occupied, when they’re detained without charges by a foreign power, when their internal politics are manipulated, when they see images of dead women and children as the result of remote-controlled robots from the sky.  Some of them, after a breaking point is reached, get angry enough where they not only want to return the violence, but are willing to sacrifice their own lives to do so (just as was true for many Americans who enlisted after the one-day 9/11 attack).  It’s one thing to argue that we should continue to do these things for geopolitical gain even it means incurring Terrorist attacks (and the endless civil liberties abridgments they engender); as amoral as that is, at least that’s a cogent thought.  But to pretend that Terrorism simply occurs in a vacuum, that it’s mystifying why it happens, that it has nothing to do with U.S. actions in the Muslim world, requires intense self-delusion.  

How much more evidence is needed for that?

* * * * *

Three other brief points illustrated by this Shahzad conviction:  (1) yet again, civilian courts — i.e., real courts — provide far swifter and more certain punishment for Terrorists than do newly concocted military commissions; (2) Shahzad’s proclamation that he is a “Muslim soldier” fighting a “war” illustrates — yet again — that the way to fulfill the wishes of Terrorists (and promote their agenda) is to put them before a military commission or indefinitely detain them on the ground that they are “enemy combatants,” thus glorifying them as warriors rather than mere criminals (see this transcript of a federal judge denying shoe bomber Richard Reid’s deepest request to be treated as a “warrior” rather than a common criminal); and (3) the Supreme Court’s horrendous decision yesterday upholding the “material support” statute is, as David Cole explains, one of the most severe abridgments of First Amendment freedoms the Court has sanctified in a long time; this decision was justified by the need for courts to defer to executive and legislative branch determinations regarding “war,” proving once again that as long as this so-called “war” continues as a “war,” the abridgments on our core liberties will be as limitless as they are inevitable.  At some point, we might want to factor that in to the cost-benefit analysis of our state of perpetual war (for more on yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling, see my podcast discussion from February with Shane Kadidal of the Center for Constitutional Rights, counsel to the plaintiffs in this case, on the day the Court heard Oral Argument, regarding the issues that case entailed).


If you can. Sheesh. John Cole this time.

Holy Loads of Tone Deaf

Talk about misreading the public mood. The Democratic immigration reform bill contains the following:


The national ID program would be titled the Believe System, an acronym for Biometric Enrollment, Locally stored Information and Electronic Verification of Employment.


It would require all workers across the nation to carry a card with a digital encryption key that would have to match work authorization databases.

“The cardholder’s identity will be verified by matching the biometric identifier stored within the microprocessing chip on the card to the identifier provided by the cardholder that shall be read by the scanner used by the employer,” states the Democratic legislative proposal.

The American Civil Liberties Union, a civil liberties defender often aligned with the Democratic Party, wasted no time in blasting the plan.


Apparently they think the outcry over the Arizona “SHOW YOUR PAPERS” bill is that it will only be applied to Hispanics. Polls pretty clearly demonstrate that half the country has no problem with the Arizona bill because it will not affect them- it only is an inconvenience for “others” (meaning brown people). But start talking about a national id with biometric data that everyone has to be issued, and you will think the death panels and health care reform debate were a walk in the park.

And I’m not even talking about the actual merits and downsides to the id card. I’m talking about the freak-out that will be inevitable, some of which I will probably even agree with. This is just stunningly tone deaf.