Monday, October 29, 2012

The No Agenda Myth - Bill Keller -

David Brooks - the house "reasonable Republican" at the Times is a major perpetrator of the myth that Obama has no second term agenda.  There's a jobs bill and immigration reform.  How much progress do you think can be made in these times? - GWC
The No Agenda Myth -
by Bill Keller

And yet, can we really say we don’t know what to expect from these two men?
With Obama, we can anticipate that the unfinished business of universal health care and the re-regulation of the Wall Street casino will be finished. We can expect investments in education, infrastructure and innovation, followed by a gradual, balanced attack on deficits that includes higher taxes on the wealthiest. (And this time he will have a hefty stick to apply to a recalcitrant Congress: the fiscal cliff, which forces Congress to compromise or share the blame for the ensuing havoc.) We can expect the Pentagon, after winding down two wars, to bank a peace dividend. If Obama is re-elected, especially if he is elected with substantial Latino support, we can expect that he will try to deliver on his postponed promise of comprehensive immigration reform. The fact that these objectives represent a continuation of his first term does not mean he is aiming low. These are ambitious goals.

'via Blog this'

Friday, October 26, 2012

Romney Court Could Turn America Into A Tea Party Utopia: Experts | TPMDC

For reasons that mystify me former con law law professors Barack Obama (Chicago)  and Joe Biden (Widener) have spent less time battling to fill federal judicial vacancies than I would expect from liberals.  Meanwhile the worst are full of passionate intensity.  - gwc
Romney Court Could Turn America Into A Tea Party Utopia: Experts | TPMDC
by Sahil Kapur 
"A potential Mitt Romney presidency carries huge implications for the Supreme Court that have conservatives excited and progressives fearful about the future. Liberal-leaning Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 79, and Steven Breyer, 74, are likely candidates for retirement during a Romney administration, the GOP nominee has vowed to appoint staunch conservatives, and the influential conservative legal community will make sure he follows through. Replacing even one of the liberal justices with a conservative, legal scholars and advocates across the ideological spectrum agree, would position conservatives to scale back the social safety net and abortion rights in the near term. Over time, if a robust five-vote conservative bloc prevails on the court for years, the right would have the potential opportunity to reverse nearly a century of progressive jurisprudence." 'via Blog this'

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Colin Powell endorses Obama

Poltiics is a what have you done for me lately business, so I am not sure what street cred Colin Powell retains with any uncommitted (Republican inclined) voters.  But the endorsement of the guy who ended the Iraq war by the guy who was sent to the UN to sell a phony bill of goods and justify the start of the war matters to me.  It is evidence of Powell's fundamental integrity.  He is the kind of person who could have been elected President if he hadn't been snookered on the Iraq war.  His own fault, but still he was the victim, not the architect. - GWC
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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Iran's route to the sea - Romney's blind spot

Americans are very weak on geography.  Mitt Romney is a real American, unlike the other guy.  Remember the Strait of Hormuz and the tanker war?

GCs to Law Firms: Pay for Your Own Tuna Fish Sandwiches - Law Blog - WSJ

Absolutely.  Those sneaky profits are really annoying.  Billing for Lexis and Westlaw: before they came along we didn't bill clients for the cost of our library.  I never billed clients for such things.  I paid for the Lexis subscriptions my practice required.  - GWC
GCs to Law Firms: Pay for Your Own Tuna Fish Sandwiches - Law Blog - WSJ
by Jennifer Smith
"Here’s a tip for law firms who want to keep clients happy: Don’t buy them fancy lunches with their own money. As The Wall Street Journal reported Monday, law-firm clients that cracked down on outside legal spending in recent years have turned their attention to the expense side of the bill. They’re fighting over line items such as photocopies and food, and pushing back hard on charges for pricey legal research databases such as Westlaw and LexisNexis. Their position: many of these costs are law firm overhead, and so shouldn’t be passed on to the client in the first place. “I think the relationship has changed, and the locus of power has shifted some, and the downturn had something to do with that,” said Christine Helwick, general counsel for California State University"

'via Blog this'

Religion, Race And Double Standards - The Dish | By Andrew Sullivan - The Daily Beast

It's a tricky business - Romney's Mormonism and that Church's racist history.  We know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was not a force for civil rights, and is generally conservative and white.  There have been liberals who came out of that Church - like Mitt Romney's father George who was a liberal Republican in the days when that was not a contradiction in terms.  Mitt was a missionary before the Church dropped its racial barrier to the ministry.  But Andrew Sullivan has an interesting look at the issue. - GWC
Religion, Race And Double Standards - The Dish | By Andrew Sullivan - The Daily Beast: 'via Blog this'

Monday, October 22, 2012

Let Detroit Go Bankrupt -

Mitt Romney at tonight's debate says again that he did not oppose the government bailout of the auto industry; that President Obama's policy regarding the auto industry is what Romney had called for.  Judge for yourself. - GWC
- Let Detroit Go Bankrupt - by Mitt Romney
IF General Motors, Ford and Chrysler get the bailout that their chief executives asked for yesterday, you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye. It won’t go overnight, but its demise will be virtually guaranteed. Without that bailout, Detroit will need to drastically restructure itself. With it, the automakers will stay the course — the suicidal course of declining market shares, insurmountable labor and retiree burdens, technology atrophy, product inferiority and never-ending job losses. Detroit needs a turnaround, not a check.... It is not wrong to ask for government help, but the automakers should come up with a win-win proposition. I believe the federal government should invest substantially more in basic research — on new energy sources, fuel-economy technology, materials science and the like — that will ultimately benefit the automotive industry, along with many others. I believe Washington should raise energy research spending to $20 billion a year, from the $4 billion that is spent today. The research could be done at universities, at research labs and even through public-private collaboration. The federal government should also rectify the imbedded tax penalties that favor foreign carmakers. But don’t ask Washington to give shareholders and bondholders a free pass — they bet on management and they lost. The American auto industry is vital to our national interest as an employer and as a hub for manufacturing. A managed bankruptcy may be the only path to the fundamental restructuring the industry needs. It would permit the companies to shed excess labor, pension and real estate costs. The federal government should provide guarantees for post-bankruptcy financing and assure car buyers that their warranties are not at risk. In a managed bankruptcy, the federal government would propel newly competitive and viable automakers, rather than seal their fate with a bailout check.
'via Blog this'

Russell Means, American Indian Activist, Dies at 72 -

Lakota Sioux Russell Means left the District Court Building in St. Paul, Minn., on Aug. 16, 1974. The leader of the American Indian Movement was on trial for the 1973 takeover of Wounded Knee.
Russell Means outside the U.S. Courthouse where he was on trial 
Russell Means was an extravagant person.  Handsome, impetuous, a battler, and a brawler.  His role in the Wounded Knee reservation protests by the American Indian Movement alerted the nation to the misery and injustices of the the reservation system to which Native Americans (as we came to call them) were subjected.  As a kid at Saturday afternoon movies, cheering the U.S. Cavalry as our men on horseback routed the indians who threatened the wagon train, we never gave the reality a thought.  Until Russell Means, Dennis Banks and other leaders of the movement reminded us that we had stolen their land and left them destitute and - until then - broken. The Times obituary is well worth reading.  - gwc
Russell Means, American Indian Activist, Dies at 72 -
by Robert McFadden
"Undeterred, Means led a caravan of Sioux and Cheyenne into a gathering of 500 people commemorating the centennial of Gen. George Armstrong Custer’s last stand at Little Big Horn in Montana in 1876, the nation’s worst defeat of the Indian wars. To pounding drums, Mr. Means and his followers mounted a speaker’s platform, joined hands and did a victory dance, sung in Sioux Lakota, titled “Custer Died for Your Sins.”" 'via Blog this'

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Grit and Grace of George McGovern - Tom Daschle

I would like to be able to say that I appreciated and supported George McGovern the way he deserved back in 1972 when he ran for President.  I took the semester off for the fall campaign - but I was a volunteer for Tom Hayden and Jane Fonda's Indochina Peace Campaign.  I went door to door - with a peace petition - but not a McGovern button.  I styled myself a radical then - as I had since I spent a year studying with Howard Zinn who warned us about getting "co-opted" by the system.  An odd fear - that reform would buy off radical change.  But former Senator Tom Daschle appreciated him - and remembers Senator McGovern (1922-2012) with appropriate respect - as did Pete Hamill who knew better than me back in 1972. GWC

The Grit and Grace of George McGovern
by Tom Daschle
"Throughout his sixty years in public life, a great deal was written about George McGovern. One of my favorite descriptions of him is by Pete Hamill. Back in the 1972 presidential campaign, he wrote: “George McGovern comes at you like one of those big Irish heavyweights in the 1930s—a little slow, but with the chin shut hard against the chest, the jaw breaching out, coming on, daring you to do your best. ... He might be beaten, but you will know he was there. He will not fold up on you ... he will surrender no dignity ... and you will come away speaking about him with respect.”As we consider George’s contributions to our country, one thing is clear: Americans of all stripes have come away speaking about him with a deep, profound, and enduring respect. Someone once asked St. Francis of Assisi what it took to live a good life. He replied: “Preach the Gospel every day. If necessary, use words.” There are many ways to preach the Gospel. George McGovern practiced more of them that anyone I’ve ever known. He’s been a minister. Teacher. Peacemaker. Humanitarian. Champion of hungry children. "

'via Blog this'

Tribune endorsement: Too Many Mitts | The Salt Lake Tribune

The Salt Lake Tribune endorses President Barack Obama over his Mormon rival  Mitt Romney.Tribune endorsement: Too Many Mitts | The Salt Lake Tribune:
 For four years, President Barack Obama has attempted, with varying degrees of success, to pull the nation out of its worst financial meltdown since the Great Depression, a deepening crisis he inherited the day he took office.
In the first months of his presidency, Obama acted decisively to stimulate the economy. His leadership was essential to passage of the badly needed American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Though Republicans criticize the stimulus for failing to create jobs, it clearly helped stop the hemorrhaging of public sector jobs. The Utah Legislature used hundreds of millions in stimulus funds to plug holes in the state’s budget.The president also acted wisely to bail out the auto industry, which has since come roaring back. Romney, in so many words, said the carmakers should sink if they can’t swim.
Obama’s most noteworthy achievement, passage of his signature Affordable Care Act, also proved, in its timing, his greatest blunder. The set of comprehensive health insurance reforms aimed at extending health care coverage to all Americans was signed 14 months into his term after a ferocious fight in Congress that sapped the new president’s political capital and destroyed any chance for bipartisan cooperation on the shredded economy.
Obama’s foreign policy record is perhaps his strongest suit, especially compared to Romney’s bellicose posture toward Russia and China and his inflammatory rhetoric regarding Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Obama’s measured reliance on tough economic embargoes to bring Iran to heel, and his equally measured disengagement from the war in Afghanistan, are examples of a nuanced approach to international affairs. The glaring exception, still unfolding, was the administration’s failure to protect the lives of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans, and to quickly come clean about it.
In considering which candidate to endorse, The Salt Lake Tribune editorial board had hoped that Romney would exhibit the same talents for organization, pragmatic problem solving and inspired leadership that he displayed here more than a decade ago. Instead, we have watched him morph into a friend of the far right, then tack toward the center with breathtaking aplomb. Through a pair of presidential debates, Romney’s domestic agenda remains bereft of detail and worthy of mistrust.
Therefore, our endorsement must go to the incumbent, a competent leader who, against tough odds, has guided the country through catastrophe and set a course that, while rocky, is pointing toward a brighter day. The president has earned a second term. Romney, in whatever guise, does not deserve a first.
'via Blog this'

Friday, October 19, 2012

NJ State Bar: Protect judicial independence; vote ‘no’ on judicial pension public question

Three months ago a divided New Jersey Supreme Court defied Governor Chris Christie and affirmed a trial judge's ruling in DePascale, J.S.C. v. State that State Constitution's no diminution clause barred a legislated increase in the pension and health benefit contributions of the state's appointed judiciary.  When Christie denounced the lower court judge as a protector and member of a "little cliquey club of 423" the State Bar Association rose to the defense of judicial independence and Assignment Judge Linda Feinberg, the Trenton judge whose court was the mandatory venue for Judge Paul DePascale's challenge.
When the Supreme Court ruled that take-home pay could not be diminished the Governor and Legislature promptly proposed and placed on the ballot Public Question No. 2.  It would amend the constitution.  Voters - 70% of whom - a recent Rutgers Eagleton poll reports - favor the measure overwhelmingly - will be asked:
Do you approve an amendment to the New Jersey Constitution, as agreed to by the Legislature, to allow contributions set by law to be taken from the salaries of Supreme Court Justices and Superior Court Judges for their employee benefits?
 New Jersey judges are nominated by the Governor, confirmed by the State Senate for a seven year term, then repeat the process, receiving tenure until the mandatory retirement age of 70.  During Christie's three year tenure there has been a standoff between Governor and Legislature, leaving two vacancies on the high court.  (Christie has vowed to remake the Supreme Court which he considers to be too liberal.)  But here the branches are united in budget-cutting zeal.  Though it may be spitting into the wind,  the State Bar has again responded strongly, seeing the measure as a threat to the independence of judges who already must twice run the political gauntlet of nomination and confirmation.  NJSBA President Kevin P. McCann's letter follows:


The New Jersey State Bar Association strongly opposes Public Question No. 2, which proposes a constitutional amendment to clarify the Legislature's authority to require contributions from certain judges' salaries for employee benefits.    The constitutional amendment proposed by this question represents a rash reaction to a Supreme Court decision and a dangerous intrusion by one branch of government into the independence of another, co-equal branch of government.  Such a swift reaction – passed by the Legislature a mere few days after the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that the Legislature's prior action on pension and health benefits reform was unconstitutional - illustrates exactly why this proposal is ill-advised.   The NJSBA asks you to join us in opposing this constitutional amendment and to stand up for a free, fair and independent judicial system in New Jersey.   Public Question No. 2, in essence, seeks to undo the clear words of the New Jersey Constitution which has served our great state so well since it was revised in 1947.  Those words were interpreted by the state Supreme Court in its recent decision in DePascale v. State to protect the judicial branch of our state government from possible political interference and/or retaliation by another separate and co-equal branch of government. Indeed, these protections are the hallmark of the free, fair and independent judicial system which New Jerseyans rely on each and every day.    The 1947 revision included the contributions of many great minds after a lengthy debate and discussion, a process that was missing from the legislative consideration of this public question.  While this proposal purports to put judges together with other government employees in connection with deductions from salaries for pensions, health benefits and other similar benefits, it actually represents a stark change in our state government and upends an historical protection that has kept the judicial system of our state free from partisan politics. In fact, the actual language of the proposed amendment is so broad that it could permit the Legislature to specifically target judges’ contributions in the future even at times when other public employee contributions are remaining static.  Furthermore, the measure simply ignores the very well-grounded reasons judges enjoy constitutional protections not afforded to other government employees.  The exceptions to those protections contained in this proposal are not permitted at the federal level and should not be approved in New Jersey.  Judges are treated differently than other government employees because of the unique requirements of the position they hold in our governance structure.  Judges must be free to objectively decide issues that come before them, without fear of retribution, particularly from other branches of government.  The importance of an independent judiciary to the individual citizens of this state cannot be overstated.  It is judges to whom citizens turn when their rights are threatened, when they are seeking fair treatment after being charged with a crime, when government is seeking removal of their children from their home and when they are injured by another.  The drafters of the New Jersey Constitution, like the drafters of the federal Constitution and countless other state constitutions, understood there can be no greater threat to judges being free to resolve issues such as these in an objective, unbiased manner than to allow other branches of government, either directly or indirectly, to alter their salaries during their term of office. It is for this reason that judges, unlike any other government employee, enjoy constitutional protection against a diminution of their salaries while in office. This proposal seeks to erode that protection not just for purposes of enforcing the current pension and health care benefit deductions at issue, but for all time.      Judges are also treated differently than other government employees because of the unique restrictions placed on them while they are in office.  Both the Constitution and the Code of Judicial Conduct prohibit sitting judges from earning additional income from any activity outside of their judicial duties, from participating in political activity or from organizing into an association to petition the Legislature on issues, such as this, that affect them. These restrictions represent important safeguards to an independent judiciary and justify, in part, the heightened constitutional protection afforded the judiciary.  It is important to note as well that judges are not covered by any collective bargaining agreement or statute that provides for increases in salaries or benefits over time -- whether those increases are tied to cost of living increases or otherwise.  Judges must rely on future legislative action for any compensation increases; they should not also have to be fearful of legislative action resulting in compensation decreases.  For all of these reasons, the NJSBA strongly opposes Public Question No. 2 and urges you to vote against it on Election Day.  The present constitutional language has served the citizens of New Jersey well since its adoption in 1947.  It should not be altered hastily and without good reason.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The defining moment: Obama v. Romney

Like others I feared that President Obama had stepped on the real third rail of American politics:  getting your ass kicked...and staying on the floor.  As one deflated reader observed on the TPM editors blog about the President after the first debate "Obama can’t handle confrontation. He wilted at Romney’s aggressive approach. It totally threw him off his game and he never rebounded in any effective way."  So Obama had to get up off the floor, like Wiley Coyote after running into a stone wall and do some butt whupping himself.  There really was a defining moment.  When your adversary says "please proceed", and then "get the transcript" you should - lest you find you are having one of those Wiley Coyote moments like that below when things don't work out as expected.

Medicaid bye bye - Romney vs. Obama -JAMA

From the Journal of the American Medical Association.  If you think that you or your mother or your mother in law might need a nursing home and not be able to pay cash, you will want Medicaid to be there.  Here are the competing proposals of the two candidates for President.

Progress on Drug Courts - NJ Law Journal Editorial Board

Gee, Officer Krupke, we're very upset;
We never had the love that ev'ry child oughta get.
We ain't no delinquents,
We're misunderstood.
- lyrics by Stephen Sondheim

Sometimes change comes from surprising places.  Since West Side Story's Jets sang "Dear kindly Sergeant Krupke, You gotta understand, It's just our bringin' up-ke That gets us out of hand. ..." Republicans have long led the 'tough on crime" charge.  Democrats were portrayed as softies, social workers too eager to "explain" rather than punish.  Democrats got tough too and prison populations swelled.  Finally Republican skepticism about government has led to open doubt about our incarceration strategy.  Groups like Right on Crime make the conservative case for alternatives to incarceration.  In New Jersey Republican governor Chris Christie has advanced the cause of "drug courts" reliant on treatment and rehabilitation. - gwc

Progress on Drug Courts: New Jersey Law Journal Editorial Board

Progress is hard to come by in today's political climate. It has been especially hard in matters of criminal justice, where for many years the fear of being "soft" on crime drove politicians to compete on the toughness scale. The ratchet drove sentences up, never down. With 5 percent of the world's population, we now hold 25 percent of the world's prisoners.
But we are seeing now some progress toward lowering incarceration rates. After years of being branded soft on crime, Democrats have become timid while Republicans have had greater freedom to think through the problems created by three decades of increase in jail populations. It has burdened state budgets and devastated minority communities. (In Louisiana, the most punitive state, one in 86 adults is doing time, nearly double the national average. Among black men from New Orleans, one in 14 is behind bars and one in seven is either in prison, on parole or on probation.)
Like fellow Republican governors Tom Corbett (Pennsylvania) and John Kasich (Ohio), Gov. Chris Christie has championed reductions in incarcerations and greater use of treatment and rehabilitation for nonviolent drug offenders. In July, he signed, S-881, amending the drug-court law, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-14, to increase judicial discretion and reduce prosecutors' ability to block rehabilitation treatment for drug offenders. No longer may a prosecutor block admission to a treatment program instead of prison, even if the defendant has two or more separate prior convictions for non-violent crimes of the third degree.

'via Blog this'

Bill Clinton explains the Romney $5 trillion tax cut plan

Obama's peroration: the 47%

Rhetoricians - students of the persuasive word - will use President Obama's closing statement.  It was his good fortune that Candy Crowley selected as the last - and surprising question - a voter who asked how the candidate would  correct any mis-impression that people may have of him.  Romney said he was caring - caring about 100% of the American people.  It came in slow and low over the plate.  And Obama crushed it to straight-away center:
Barry, I think a lot of this campaign, maybe over the last four years, has been devoted to this notion that I think government creates jobs, that that somehow is the answer. That's not what I believe.
I believe that the free enterprise system is the greatest engine of prosperity the world's ever known. I believe in self-reliance and individual initiative and risk-takers being rewarded. But I also believe that everybody should have a fair shot and everybody should do their fair share and everybody should play by the same rules, because that's how our economy is grown. That's how we built the world's greatest middle class.
And — and that is part of what's at stake in this election. There's a fundamentally different vision about how we move our country forward. I believe Governor Romney is a good man. He loves his family, cares about his faith.
But I also believe that when he said behind closed doors that 47 percent of the country considers themselves victims who refuse personal responsibility — think about who he was talking about: folks on Social Security who've worked all their lives, veterans who've sacrificed for this country, students who are out there trying to, hopefully, advance their own dreams, but also this country's dreams, soldiers who are overseas fighting for us right now, people who are working hard every day, paying payroll tax, gas taxes, but don't make enough income.
And I want to fight for them. That's what I've been doing for the last four years, because if they succeed, I believe the country succeeds.

Obama wins on points in town hall debate

Contenders and moderator - NY Times
Quick reaction to tonight's second debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York.  President Obama showed up tonight and went toe to toe, landing more punches than former Gov. Romney.  Romney's strength remains: there is no boom - I know how to get it done.  Not that he is going to tell us to do more than trust him on the strength of his business record and his governorship in Massachusetts (the strengths of which owe nothing to him).  Romney's tax numbers still don't add up.
Obama's fightback lacks hard punching on the obstructionist Republican Congress and its refusal to pass the American Jobs Act, etc. I know that Romney was not in Congress but he cam be  fairly saddled with the legislative record and program of his party.  I estimate the race will be back to a draw in a week.  GOTV in swing states will decide our future.

And Candy Crowley deserves credit for journalistic backbone tonight - particularly in rebutting Romney's claim that Obama had not recognized as a terror attack the killing of Chris Smith - our Ambassador in Libya. In fact, the transcript of the Rose garden statement shows the President was correct:
"Of course, yesterday was already a painful day for our nation as we marked the solemn memory of the 9/11 attacks.  We mourned with the families who were lost on that day.  I visited the graves of troops who made the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq and Afghanistan at the hallowed grounds of Arlington Cemetery, and had the opportunity to say thank you and visit some of our wounded warriors at Walter Reed.  And then last night, we learned the news of this attack in Benghazi.
As Americans, let us never, ever forget that our freedom is only sustained because there are people who are willing to fight for it, to stand up for it, and in some cases, lay down their lives for it.  Our country is only as strong as the character of our people and the service of those both civilian and military who represent us around the globe.
No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for.  Today we mourn four more Americans who represent the very best of the United States of America.  We will not waver in our commitment to see that justice is done for this terrible act.  And make no mistake, justice will be done." 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Mitt Romney’s ‘new math’ for his jobs plan doesn’t add up - The Washington Post

Wondering about the Romney tax plan?
Mitt Romney’s ‘new math’ for his jobs plan doesn’t add up - The Washington Post
by Glen Kessler
: "Let me tell you how I will create 12 million jobs when President Obama couldn't. First, my energy independence policy means more than 3 million new jobs, many of them in manufacturing. My tax reform plan to lower rates for the middle class and for small business creates 7 million more. And expanding trade, cracking down on China and improving job training takes us to over 12 million new jobs.” — Mitt Romney, “in his own words,” in a campaign television ad Romney’s 12-million-jobs promise has garnered a lot of attention. 

We became interested in this ad after a reader asked whether the campaign had provided much detail on how he would reach this total. This television ad is also prominently featured on the Romney campaign’s “Jobs Plan” Web page.  The math here appears pretty simple: 7 plus 3 plus 2 equals 12. But this is campaign math, which means it is mostly made of gossamer. Let’s take a look." 'via Blog this'

Medicare could be gone in six months - Jon Chait

With Romney now leading in the polls, we are forced to confront what it would mean.  Think Medicare is so entrenched that it is the third rai of politics?  NO.  The Republican majority in the House of Representatives has already voted for the Ryan budget which turns it into a premium subsidy -not an insurance program.  Did you resent Obama's compromise on the public option?  Welcome to the end of "Medicare as we know it".  Think the Senate will save it?  NO.  It is a budget reconciliation measure requiring only a majority - not subject to veto.  A couple of blue dog Democrats and it's bye-bye Medicare for everyone below the cut-off age.  Jonathan Chait explains:
Let’s first imagine that, on January 20, Romney takes the oath of office. Of the many secret post-victory plans floating around in the inner circles of the campaigns, the least secret is Romney’s intention to implement Paul Ryan’s budget. The Ryan budget has come to be almost synonymous with the Republican Party agenda, and Romney has embraced it with only slight variations. It would repeal Obamacare, cut income-tax rates, turn Medicare for people under 55 years old into subsidized private insurance, increase defense spending, and cut domestic spending, with especially large cuts for Medicaid, food stamps, and other programs targeted to the very poor.
Few voters understand just how rapidly Romney could achieve this, rewriting the American social compact in one swift stroke. Ryan’s plan has never attracted Democratic support, but it is not designed for bipartisanship. Ryan deliberately built it to circumvent a Senate filibuster, stocking the plan with budget legislation that is allowed, under Senate “budget reconciliation” procedures, to pass with a simple majority. Republicans have been planning the mechanics of the vote for many months, and Republican insiders expect Romney to use reconciliation to pass the bill. Republicans would still need to control 50 votes in the Senate (Ryan, as vice-president, would cast the tiebreaking vote), but if Romney wins the presidency, he’ll likely precipitate a partywide tail wind that would extend to the GOP’s Senate slate.
One might suppose that at least a handful of Republicans might blanch at the prospect of reshaping the entire face of government unilaterally. But Ryan’s careful organizing of the party agenda has all taken place with this vote as the end point, and with the clear goal of sidestepping any such objection. When Republicans won control of Congress during the 2010 elections, Ryan successfully lobbied the party to take a vote on his budget plan the following April. The plan stood no chance of passage (given Obama’s certain veto) and exposed dozens of vulnerable House members to withering attacks over its unpopular provisions. So why hold a vote carrying huge potential risk and no chance of immediate success? So Ryan could get the party on record supporting his plan, depriving quiet dissidents of any future excuse to defect should the real vote come in 2013..

Monday, October 15, 2012

The abortion that Mitt doesn’t talk about anymore -

The abortion that Mitt doesn’t talk about anymore - by Justin Elliott
"In a 1994 Senate debate with Ted Kennedy, Mitt Romney revealed a startling chapter from his past:  A close relative had died many years earlier in a botched illegal abortion, shaping Romney’s stance in favor of safe and legal access to abortion for all women. But in the many years since that revelation, even as Romney flipped his position and became an ardent opponent of legal abortion, the details of his young relative’s story, including even her name, have never been reported."
  'via Blog this'

Judges campaigning in the bible belt

The Atlantic has been running a series on judicial elections.  There is no escape from politics in judicial selection.  Holmesian legal realism tells us that the prejudices of men have had more impact than the syllogism in the life of the law. We neither can nor should escape from politics in selecting judges: that is we are entitled to know where their sympathies lie and where they stand on the major policy concerns that are likely to come before them.  Attitude to the death penalty, abortion, affirmative action, campaign finance, `tort reform', etc. are certainly proper areas of inquiry for those who nominate, confirm, and vote for judges.
Judicial independence is also of great importance.  A judge has responsibilities that go far beyond the interests of contributors, elected officials, and any particular group of voters.  Within the broad confines of the law a judge should be free during her term in office to make a principled judgment that takes into account the public interest, the proper balance of forces among branches of government, etc.
The biggest challenge is that if a term is limited the judgment of whoever decides on renewal is likely to weigh heavily on the shoulders of the judge who wants to keep the job. In an era when term limits have been popular for legislative and executive branch figures we will not see a move to federal life tenure. `Political’ choices are certain to remain with us – whether in retention elections or political nomination/confirmation battles like those which have roiled New Jersey politics since Chris Christie was elected Governor.But all that said, this advertisement for Don Willett, a sitting justice of the Texas Supreme Court, gives me the creeps.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

`A possibly fatal mistake' - The stakes, the mandate, the election //Nicholas Kristof - NY Times

Scott Androes in freshman year
Nicholas Kristof today tells the story of Scott Androes his dying childhood buddy in Future Farmers of America and Harvard College classmate. An actuary who defied the odds and lost, Androes quit his job, went without health insurance, and didn't go to a doctor when he should have.  Now, at 52, he has advanced Stage IV prostate cancer.  His bill at Swedish Hospital, Seattle is over $550,000 - paid by (misnamed) charity care - that is by the taxpayers - not philanthropists.  That, says Kristof, is the consequence of our irrational health insurnce system.  Instead of enabling preventive care we pick up the tab at the end of life.  The idea behind the health insurance mandate is to protect people from themselves.  One can take a "no nanny state" approach to those like Scott who gamble and lose or the Obamacare approach which Kristof describes this way:
"When I make mistakes, my wife and friends forgive me. We need a health care system that is equally forgiving.  That means getting all Americans insured, and then emphasizing preventive care like cancer screenings. Presidents since Franklin D. Roosevelt have sought to create universal health insurance, and Obama finally saw it achieved in his first term. It will gradually come into effect, with 2014 the pivotal year — if Romney does not repeal it."
Androes today - charity care patient

Friday, October 12, 2012

Chinese Legal Reform: Game On? - China Power

front gate - Supreme Peoples Court, Beijing
The State Council, reports China Daily, has issued the 2012 White paper on Judicial Reform.  I haven't yet read the full text but Fordham law professor Carl Minzner has posted this commentary on The Diplomat's China Power blog. - GWC
Chinese Legal Reform: Game On? - China Power: by Carl Minzner
"Recent years have witnessed a significant degradation in the climate for legal reform in China.  Harassment of public interest lawyers has increased.  Judges have been subjected to tighter political controls.  Given this, it is easy to simply dismiss (as some already have) the State Council’s 2012 White Paper on Judicial Reform in China issued earlier this week as nothing but an effort to whitewash recent developments. This is a mistake.  Carefully parsing the specific language of the White Paper suggests that at least some central authorities are thinking about deepening legal and judicial reform." 'via Blog this'

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Romney’s Debate Win Was about Personality More than Policy — The Monkey Cage

Obama did himself a lo of harm with his weak debate performance.  he really is conflict-averse.  It has hurt his leadership and it hurt him - and worse us who fear a Romney win - last week. - gwc
Romney’s Debate Win Was about Personality More than Policy — The Monkey Cage:

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Where belt tightening gets you: IMF cries uncle

So the IMF - scourge of the third world - transferred its sorcery to the advanced coutnries of Europe - with the entire Republican Party singing two part harmony.  Here's where it got Europe.  Thanks to a Democratic President and Senate majority we have actually been on the up-slope, however unsatisfying the grade- gwc

The IMF Game-Changer - FT Alphaville by Izabella Kaminska

Christine Lagarde has urged countries to put a brake on austerity measures amid signs that the IMF is becoming increasingly concerned about the impact of government cutbacks on growth. Ms Lagarde, IMF managing director, cautioned against countries front-loading spending cuts and tax increases. “It’s sometimes better to have a bit more time,” she said at the annual meetings of the IMF and the World Bank on Thursday.
The fund warned earlier this week that governments around the world had systematically underestimated the damage done to growth by austerity.
That’s from Thursday’s front page story on To say it’s a big deal is possibly understating matters. Though, obviously, we had inklings that this sort of thing was to come as soon as the IMF released its latest World Economic Outlook this Tuesday, which highlighted the organisation’s disappointment with the fiscal multiplier effect being larger than previously anticipated.

Romney's Lies - Debate 1

Lie is a word I never use in print or when speaking to a court or jury.  But it is the centerpiece of what I think is a very careful and compelling video on the first presidential debate by an anonymous person who claims to have voted for McCain in 2008. - gwc

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Schumer Avoids Tax Trap

Schumer Avoids Tax Trap | Jared Bernstein | On the Economy
“If upfront rate cuts are the starting point for negotiations on tax reform, it will box us in on what else we can achieve. Certain conservatives will pocket the rate reductions and never follow through on finding enough revenue elsewhere in the code to reduce the deficit. Or, if they do, it will almost certainly come out of the pockets of middle-income earners.”  - Sen. Charles D. Schumer (D-NY)
"Senator Avoids Trap: First, Senator Chuck Schumer, to his great credit, understands the tax reform trap.  Here at OTE, we’re always warning folks to be aware that when politicians talk about a “grand bargain” on taxes that lowers the rates and broadens the base, you’ve got to be extremely vigilant about not getting stuck with a lot of the former and a little of the latter. “Rate cuts” sound good to everyone and “base broadening” sounds harmless enough.  But the way these debates go, your loophole is my prized “job-creating investment incentive.”  Just ask candidate Romney, who’s very specific about those rate cuts—20% across the board!—but completely silent on the base broadeners. So I was happy to see Sen Schumer say this about that".
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Federal Regulations - the good news

Like a typical trial lawyer I think that regulations are minimum requirements that a jury should consider but not be bound by in deciding whether reasonable care was being taken for another persons's safety and security.  Issuance of federal regulations is a complicated process of notice, comment, response, White House review (by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs - OIRA), and, finally, judicial review.  A little appreciated consequence of the Presidential election is who staffs OIRA, and who is chosen to become a federal judge.  The consequences of both are significant.  Cass Sunstein (who recently concluded three years at OIRA before returning to the Harvard Law School faculty) lays out in a New York Review of Books article what it is all about.  He begins with a catalog of what the Obama administration has accomplished, then turns to what happens when judges review them.  The partisan divide is plain.
Much of the Affordable Care Act cannot go into effect until the Department of Health and Human Services issues rules that actually implement its provisions. Governor Romney has repeatedly said that he would like to repeal the act (and to eliminate or scale back many other regulations). Among other things, recent rules (1) prevent the denial of coverage to people with preexisting health conditions; (2) eliminate annual and lifetime limits on coverage; (3) limit the percentage of premium dollars that can be used for purposes other than health care; and (4) ensure that parents can keep children on their plans until the age of twenty-six.
The Obama administration has also issued rules designed:
• to increase fuel economy requirements for cars and trucks, saving consumers billions of dollars while reducing dependence on foreign oil;
• to protect food safety, with one rule preventing up to 79,000 cases of salmonella every year;
• to prevent hundreds of deaths and injuries on the highways, among other things by reducing the distance in which trucks are required to be able to come to a full stop;
• to protect workplace safety, among other things by requiring new and clearer hazard warnings;
• to ensure fair dealing and to avoid exploitation of college students, with new rules preventing abuses by for-profit colleges;
• to promote energy efficiency with new standards for refrigerators, clothes washers, clothes dryers, small motors, and more;
• to reduce the health risks associated with smoking, among other things by requiring graphic health warnings on cigarette packages;
• to prevent discrimination on the basis of disability and sexual orientation;
• to reduce air pollution, among other things by ensuring that states are not prevented from meeting federal air quality requirements because of pollution from other states (the “cross-state air pollution rule”).
These regulations, like almost all others, can be challenged in a court, which is typically a federal court of appeals consisting of a three-judge panel. As it turns out, a lot depends on whether the panel consists of Republican or Democratic appointees.
Here is a simple way to test whether political convictions matter in legal disputes over regulations. Ask just two questions. (1) Is the regulation being challenged by industry or instead by a public interest group? (2) How many of the three judges were appointed by a Republican president and how many by a Democratic president? If you know the answers to these two questions, it turns out that you know something important about the likely outcome. Here are three facts:
  1. When the affected industry challenges a rule, Republican appointees are significantly more likely than Democratic appointees to vote to strike down that rule.
  2. When a public interest group challenges a rule, Democratic appointees are significantly more likely than Republican appointees to vote to strike down that rule.
  3. Judges’ likely votes are greatly affected by the positions of their colleagues. Sitting with two fellow Republican appointees, a Republican appointee becomes even more likely to side with industry. Sitting with two Democratic appointees, a Democratic appointee becomes even more likely to agree with a public interest group.

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Founders in their own words: the "artificial scaffolding" of Christian belief - Mirror of Justice

If it became known this week that this private letter was written as a college student by a candidate for - Senate?  Member of Congress? President? or Governor , what would be the consequence? - GWC
Mirror of Justice: The Founders in their own words: the "artificial scaffolding" of Christian belief
"And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter. But we may hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away [with] all this artificial scaffolding." — Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, 11 April 1823, Adams-Jefferson Letters,  Lestor J. Cappon, ed., II, 594 "

posted by Patrick Brennan
'via Blog this'

Stile: Christie fight over state Supreme Court is one for the ages : page all -

Stile: Christie fight over state Supreme Court is one for the ages : page all -

A bitter partisan feud more than 150 years ago gave birth to the tradition of bipartisan balance on the New Jersey Supreme Court.
The two-year, bitter partisan feud between Governor Christie and Senate Democrats over the Supreme Court will enter a new stage when the governor offers two new nominees — possibly as early as this week. Christie’s next move could put that bipartisan tradition on trial. Or maybe redefine it.
In the eyes of lawmakers and governors, the tradition is an important hedge against partisan excess. And in the eyes of the public, a bipartisan Supreme Court is far more credible than one handed down by a court “chosen exclusively or preponderantly from one political party,” as Arthur T. Vanderbilt, the first chief justice of the modern court, wrote.
The stakes are high. The court rules on public school funding, environmental regulations, affordable housing and scores of other issues that affect the day-to-day lives of New Jersey residents.
Governors of both major parties have since stuck by the unwritten rule by “common consent” since the 1890s, making sure that the party of the sitting governor should hold a slight, 4-3 majority on the Supreme Court when possible.
The tradition is at the root of the current standoff between Christie and the Senate Democrats, led by Senate President Stephen Sweeney of Gloucester.
It also is why the Democrats say they rejected Christie’s two nominees to the court this year, Bruce K. Harris, a Republican lawyer from Chatham, and Phillip Kwon, the state’s first assistant attorney general, an independent from Closter. Christie argued that the nominations complied with the spirit of the bipartisan tradition, yielding a balance of three Republicans, two Democrats, and two independents.

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Sunday, October 7, 2012

"You are the change" - Obama's rhetoric and the abstract truth

Andrew Sprung writes
It didn't take a four-year crawl back from a financial industry meltdown to make Obama warn that change is slow and frustrating and unromantic. And understanding change as a joint project of leader and led is a concept that Obama has held, and expressed,  since he was a 24 year-old neophyte organizer.
The occasion for that insight into President Obama's consistent rhetorical theme (we are in this together) is Frontline's production of two contrasting personal letters - from Mitt Romney about his work as a Mormon missionary in France and Obama's as a community organizer.  Sprung lays out the consistency in Barack Obama's vision going back to his early twenties when he was a neighborhood organizer in Chicago. - GWC

The credo of a community organizer - Xpostfactoid

Frontline has put up a series of "artifacts" from the lives of Obama and Romney, including a letter, highlighted by Fallows, that Obama wrote to a friend in 1985 (at age 25) when he was a few months into his job as a community organizer on Chicago's South Side. One sentence leaped out at me, because it's echoed in Obama's rhetoric throughout his career in a strain that's often written off as mystical hooey -- including last month, in Charlotte. Not to be coy, I've highlighted it below.
"Promises I hope they can help me keep": Obama's speech at the Democratic Convention this year cast his presidency as such a joint operation. Carefully blended together were the things that "I've" done as president, the tenets that "we" believe, and the choice that "you" must make. That I-you-we blend prepared this peroration:

I work in five different neighborhoods of differing economic conditions. In one neighborhood, I'll be meeting with a group or irate homeowners, working class folks, bus drivers and nurses and clerical administrators, whose section of town has been ignored by the Department of Streets and Sanitations since the whites moved out twenty years ago. In another, I'll be trying to bring together a group of welfare mothers, mothers at 15, grandmothers at 30, great-grandmothers at 45, trying to help them win better job training and day care facilities from the State. In either situation, I walk into a room and make promises I hope they can help me keep. They generally trust me, despite the fact that they've seen earnest young men pass through here before, expecting to change the world and eventually succumbing to the lure of a corporate office. And in a short time I've learned to care for them very much and want to do everything I can for them.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Whither The Choice Election? | TPM Editors Blog

This is an excellent poost by   by TPM's Brian Beutler.  Romney went rogue last night: by bailing out on his Republican primary commitments and back-flipping to being the Governor of Massachusetts (which conservatives always feared).  And the etch-a-sketch caught Obama off guard.  If this is the new, "real Romney" who showed up it is a fundamental change in strategy - that could change the momentum in the race! - gwc
Whither The Choice Election? | TPM Editors Blog
by Brian Beutler
"As barefaced as it was I honestly don’t think Mitt Romney’s live-action Etch-a-Sketching Wednesday night should have come as such a big surprise. Yes, that’s easy to say with the benefit of hindsight. But this wasn’t a stump speech to base Republicans, it was his great entree to the full spectrum of voters, most of whom like President Obama pretty well. What is a big surprise to me — and what I think has the real potential to shake up the nature of the campaign — is how hungrily all the conservatives who’d crapped on Romney for being a moderate squish lapped up all that mushy centrism. Think about it. Romney talked up Romneycare, disavowed the central tent pole of his tax plan, downplayed his radical Medicare plan, claimed he wouldn’t reduce education spending, lauded key parts of the Wall Street reform law, and was silent about every potential budget cut except his bold plan to eliminate public broadcasting subsidies. And today his typically absolutist base couldn’t be happier."

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Wilted? | TPM Editors Blog

This wories me, too. - gwc
Wilted? | TPM Editors Blog: by Josh Marshall
"I’m not sure I’d agree with this. But I did see several readers who cast President Obama’s debate performance last night as part of a larger problem of resisting or retreating from confrontation. One of them was TPM Reader HM. It’s something the campaign and the president need to take note of … Longtime reader with a take on the debate that I’ve not seen stated elsewhere:
 I’ve been an avid Obama supporter, voted for him in 2008 and will be voting for him again, but Obama’s performance last night highlights the very real, absolute worst thing about him as a president and leader: He can’t handle confrontation. He wilted at Romney’s aggressive approach. It totally threw him off his game and he never rebounded in any effective way. And, it’s highly representative of a wider problem. To his credit as a human being, Obama’s wired to irrepressibly seek compromise, to hold out the possibility of unifying the most polarized and entrenched forces, because he wants everyone to just get along. How many times have we heard him say, “I will listen to and consider any good ideas, whether they’re from Democrats or Republicans.”?"

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The Verdict is in: Romney takes Round 1

There is no point in providing citations.  It is a unanimous verdict: Romney was on the attack with a barrage of well-delivered (if largely untrue) attack lines for which the President was unprepared.  Obama the Explainer was on full view.  He does not like to go for the jugular.  Neither do I but sometimes you have to.  And it is not that hard:  everybody knows that if you are going to cut $5 trillion in taxes it's going to cost somebody.  And you know it won't be Romney whose taxes are already 10 points lower than ours.  And you know that the monthly health insurance check you'll get instead of Medicare - Ryan-Romney care - will cost you.  I could go on, bu that's really enough now for post-debate blogging. - GWC
p.s. - except to add that Jim Lehrer really should be retired.  - gwc

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

CCP Central Committee Notice concerning Strengthening Propaganda and Ideology Work | China Copyright and Media

Construction of socialist legality is not just a slogan in China.  The Party means it.  Development of the legal system is designed to strengthen socialism, not to edge toward a western liberal model.  This 1989 Central Comittee memo makes that point.  h/t Rogier Creemers  - GWC
CCP Central Committee Notice concerning Strengthening Propaganda and Ideology Work | China Copyright and Media:
"To realize Party leadership over news, publishing and cultural work, it is necessary to rely on the efforts of all levels’ Party Committees in many areas. Talking about management, at the same time as relying on policy and administrative means, legal system construction must also be strengthened and management according to the law implemented. It is necessary to further determine and concretize citizens’ rights and obligations in speech, publication and other aspects, the Socialist orientation of  propaganda, ideological and cultural work, the leadership position of the Party in ideological work and the guiding position of Marxism." 
'via Blog this'

Judicial Independence - But from Whom? - Jotwell: Legal History

Jed Shugerman is a brilliant young historian  Amazing how going back to the record explodes myths.  One is that we freed judges from politics by making them appointed rather than elected.  That is certainly the received wisdom.  But Jed Shugerman looks back to the 19th century and reports that people elected judges in order to insulate them from interference by governors and legislators.
So when we lament - as I do - the successful campaign to remove Iowa Supreme court judges who voted for same sex marriage, it is good to remember that the electorate elections is only one pressure group ofr many - as we are seeing in the stalemate in New Jersey over nominees to the Supreme Court - whose liberal character Gov. Chris Christie unashamedly wants to change. - GWC
Judicial Independence, But From What? - Jotwell: Legal History:
by Stuart Banner

 If you’ve ever been in a state with contested judicial elections and seen the TV commercials in which the candidates all claim to be the toughest on crime, you start to worry about the intrusion of politics. I imagine that’s the conventional understanding of judicial elections. It was certainly mine.
No other country has this system, so why do we? To the extent there is a conventional historical account, it is that judicial elections were a product of Jacksonian democracy. The idea was to reduce the independence of judges, to bring them closer to the will of the people, to shift power from insulated elites to accountable citizens. That’s a plausible enough story. I believed it.
In The People’s Courts, Shugerman shows that this isn’t true at all.
h/t John Steele - Legal Ethics Forum 

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The Single-Issue Trap | Commonweal magazine

A thoughtful essay about the U.S. Catholic Bishops guide for voters by Notre Dame law professor Cathleen Kaveney.  In my view the Bishops - having failed the biggest moral crisis of our era (clerical sex abuse) - seek to redeem themselves by elevating abortion above all others, while making the fight against same-sex marriage a priority, helping to further isolate youth (and me) from the Church hierarchy.  
Archbishop John Myers of Newark has now gone so far as to say, in a nearly interminable pastoral letter to the faithful that those who don't accept the hierarchy's absolute prohibition of gay marriage (in fact anything but heterosexual marital sex) should not receive communion.  By this measure the overwhelming majority of American Catholics should not being going to Communion because, at a minimum, they don't accept the Church's teaching on contraception.  - GWC
The Single-Issue Trap | Commonweal magazine
by Cathleen Kaveney 
"Voters cannot blind themselves and focus single-mindedly on one issue in the abstract, even if the issue is abortion. They must select among candidates, not among issues—and they are morally required to do so in light of the concrete challenges and possibilities for the common good posed by a specific election at a specific time. This, and not a litmus test of issues, is what forming consciences for faithful citizenship is really all about."

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Eric Hobsbawm, 1917 – 2012

dotCommonweal » Blog Archive » Eric Hobsbawm, 1917 – 2012: "Eric Hobsbawm, 1917 – 2012 October 1, 2012, 10:14 pm Posted by Matthew Boudway 
In one of those coincidences that heighten—or at least change—one’s experience of a book, I had just started reading Eric Hobsbawm’s How To Change the World: Reflections on Marx and Marxism, when I learned that he died earlier today at the age of ninety-five. Hobsbawm kept working right up until the end of his life: How To Change the World appeared last year; next spring his British publisher will release a new collection of his essays on culture and politics. Hobsbawm’s reputation as a historian was so great that it could coexist securely, if not always happily, with his reputation as an unrepentant Communist. He was a historian’s historian. Conservatives like Niall Ferguson and anti-Communist liberals like Tony Judt revered his three-volume survey of “the long nineteenth century”: The Age of Revolution: 1789-1848, The Age of Capital: 1848-1875, and The Age of Empire: 1874-1914."

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