Monday, March 18, 2013


No Sift the next two weeks, but new posts will appear April 8.

[That's why today's Sift is a little extra-long.]

Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited. From Blackstone through the 19th-century cases, commentators and courts routinely explained that the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.

 -- Justice Anton Scalia, "District of Columbia v. Heller" (2008)

This week everybody was talking about the new Pope ...

and especially about the symbols of his humility, like riding the bus with the rest of the cardinals instead of using a fancy popemobile, eating simple food, dropping by the hotel he was leaving to pick up his own luggage, and so on. That fits with choosing the name Francis and how he has lived as Cardinal Bergoglio. It's also what you might expect from the first Jesuit pope.

That symbolism that could communicate something important about how he wants to run the Catholic Church -- maybe a way to tell the clergy that Catholicism isn't all about them -- or it could just be the trappings of a public image. Too soon to tell.

The good part of Francis' record is that he cares about the poor, and more generally about economic justice and the inequality of wealth. Popes usually do -- something conservative Catholics like Paul Ryan tend to ignore. In general, 20th and 21st century popes have been far more socialist than, say, Barack Obama. But National Review tells the right-wing faithful not to worry:
His counting poverty as a social ill should not be misconstrued as sympathy for statist solutions to it or, indeed, as support for any determinate political program.

On the other hand, his social beliefs are pretty discouraging. Francis isn't likely to soften the Church's opposition to reproductive rights, gay rights, or female priests. However, he apparently did not say: "Women are naturally unfit for public office." A lengthier version of that quote has been floating around the internet all week, but Snopes can't find any prior record of it. (Always check before you forward something outrageous.)

Bergoglio was bishop of Buenos Aires during the "Dirty War" the Argentine junta waged against its own people. The Church in general has apologized for its behavior during that era, and the New Republic describes conflicting reports about Bergoglio's role. So far, though, no smoking gun.
Some prominent human rights activists have come to Bergoglio's defense. Argentine Nobel Peace Prize winner Adolfo Perez Esquivel, who was jailed and tortured by the dictatorship, told the BBC's Spanish-language service that Bergoglio "was not an accomplice of the dictatorship. … There were bishops who were accomplices of the Argentine dictatorship, but not Bergoglio."

On the other hand, he also didn't stand up against the regime, which undermines his moral authority.

BTW, popes are like world wars. Francis doesn't become Francis I until there's a Francis II.

and Senator Portman's switch on same-sex marriage

Rob Portman, the other guy Mitt Romney considered after Paul Ryan, announced in the Columbus Dispatch that he now supports same-sex marriage. He started reconsidering two years ago when he found out that his son was gay.
At the time, my position on marriage for same-sex couples was rooted in my faith tradition that marriage is a sacred bond between a man and a woman. Knowing that my son is gay prompted me to consider the issue from another perspective: that of a dad who wants all three of his kids to lead happy, meaningful lives with the people they love, a blessing Jane and I have shared for 26 years.
Dick Cheney had a similar awakening for similar reasons in 2004, so this may be the way Republicans fulfill my prediction that everybody will support same-sex marriage by 2030. And while I'm glad to see the switch, the self-centered reasoning still bugs me. When will a Republican change his mind -- on anything -- out of compassion for other people's families?

Matt Yglesias' tweets were merciless:
Did Rob Portman used to think that gay people didn’t have dads?
As Dr King said, I have a dream that some day all injustices that personally impact members of my immediate family will be resolved.
Anil Dash tweeted:
Eventually one of these Republican congressmen is going to find out his daughter is a woman, and then we're all set.

which inspired Kevin Drum to note that Republicans with daughters do vote slightly better on women's issues. And which Republican senators voted for the Violence Against Women Act? A handful of men and all five women.

and Paul Ryan's back-from-the-dead budget

My comments are in a separate post: "I Read the Ryan Budget".

but I also wrote about the Keystone Pipeline

The case against the pipeline involves one key point that people don't want to hear: If we're not going to totally wreck the climate, we have to leave some fossil fuels in the ground. The Canadian oil sands would seem to be the perfect candidate. And if not, then what is our plan? I flesh that argument out in "A Hotter Planet is in the Pipeline".

and you also might be interested in ...

As the 10-year-anniversary approaches, more and more people are looking back at the Iraq War. David Frum shares this revelation: The reason the war looked so poorly thought out was that nobody ever thought it out.
For a long time, war with Iraq was discussed inside the Bush administration as something that would be decided at some point in the future; then, somewhere along the way, war with Iraq was discussed as something that had already been decided long ago in the past.
Paul Krugman points out this absurdity: In 2003, millions around the world were protesting the looming invasion, and yet
To this day, pundits who got it wrong excuse themselves on the grounds that “everyone” thought that there was a solid case for war. Of course, they acknowledge, there were war opponents — but they were out of the mainstream.

The trouble with this argument is that it was and is circular: support for the war became part of the definition of what it meant to hold a mainstream opinion. Anyone who dissented, no matter how qualified, was ipso facto labeled as unworthy of consideration.

He notes the same circularity in today's budget debate. If you don't think cutting the deficit is a major priority, you're out of the mainstream. Your opinion is unworthy of consideration, even if you've got a Nobel Prize in economics.

Rick Perlstein describes the outrageous state of those click-through contracts you don't read when you buy software.
Recently I sat down to talk to an activist who’s doing something about it. When Theresa Amato of, who sat with me recently for an interview, told me about this business of companies reserving—and exercising—the right to change contracts after their customers have signed them, and courts upholding that right, I paused a bit. I said I was speechless. “Yes,” she replied. “You should be speechless. And so should everyone.” She laughs—in a laughing-to-keep-from-crying kind of way: “To call this fine print ‘contracts’ is almost a misnomer.” She corrects herself: “It is a misnomer, according to contract theory, because there’s no mutual consent there.”

Matt Yglesias points out that the time to avoid the next bank bailout is now, when the banks are taking profits out of the system. In bad times, when they don't have money to cover their debts, it will be too late.

Meanwhile, I haven't figured out what the Cyprus thing is all about yet.

Noam Chomsky didn't invent this idea, but this is about the clearest expression of it I've heard:
 If you want to privatize something and destroy it, a standard method is first to defund it, so it doesn't work anymore, people get upset and accept privatization. This is happening in the schools. They are defunded, so they don't work well. So people accept a form of privatization just to get out of the mess.

Speaking of schools, Atlantic calls attention to something that always seems to get left out of American articles on Finland's world-leading school system: The Finns don't allow privately funded schools. So the rich can't opt out of the public system and spend more on their own kids.

Across the board, Finland does exactly the opposite of what our school reformers want: no standardized tests, lots of teacher independence, little competition between schools. It seems to work.

This week's indictment of American democracy: According to a ABC/Washington Post poll, 91% of Americans support universal background checks for gun buyers. But when the bill came up in the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday, every Republican voted against it. It passed 10-8 on a party-line vote, but in the full Senate it won't get past a filibuster without at least a few Republican votes.

So how does a major party unanimously defy 91% of the public? Well, look at a different news story: Scott Brown was known as "Wall Street's favorite senator", even though Wall Street is not particularly popular with his constituents in deep-blue Massachusetts. But now that the voters have thrown him out, Brown is doing better than ever. Monday he joined law firm Nixon Peabody, which lobbies for (among others) Goldman Sachs. He also has a gig at Fox News and makes good money speaking at conservative and corporate events. None of that would have happened if he had honestly represented his constituents.

In short, Scott Brown's real career is as a conservative, not as a servant of the people. He furthered that career by defying the voters to maintain his conservative bona fides. That's what the 8 Republicans on the Judiciary Committee are doing.

While we're talking about guns and Republicans: In only a few short months Ted Cruz has become my least favorite senator. Everybody has some personality trait they just can't stomach; mine is arrogant stupidity. Like Joe Scarborough said: "When you're condescending and you don't even have the facts right ... I've got a problem with that."

Cruz's interaction with Senator Feinstein Thursday was classic arrogant stupidity. First, he addresses Feinstein as if she might never have heard of the Second Amendment before. Then he makes two asinine analogies -- comparing Feinstein's assault-weapon ban to Congress specifying that "the First Amendment shall only apply to the following books" or "the Fourth Amendment's protection against searches and seizures could properly apply only to the following individuals".

The First Amendment already doesn't apply to child pornography. The Fourth Amendment is already riddled with exceptions (like email stored in the cloud). And if the Second Amendment won't let Congress put any limit on weapons (see the Scalia quote above) then how are we going to protect airliners from shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles?

After Feinstein slaps him down, Cruz responds with the classic "I admire your passion", as if the considered response of a 20-year Senate veteran was just the sputtering of an emotional female.

Maybe Cruz's response reminded Rachel Maddow of Alex Castellanos saying "I love how passionate you are" to her on Meet the Press last April. Whatever the reason, Rachel was in rare form Friday: She devoted a 17-minute segment to new details on the Newtown shooting, their relevance to Feinstein's assault-weapon ban, and Feinstein's history of being present at a colleague's assassination, culminating in Rachel dishing a full heaping of scorn on Cruz's ignorance and sexism.

It's probably not fair to judge CPAC by one or two white supremacists, outrageous as they were. But this video looks like it might be a fair representation of how young conservatives think about climate change.

It turns out even monkeys reject unfair treatment.

Chris Hayes is leaving my favorite weekend show (Up) and taking over the prestigious 8 p.m. weekday slot starting April 1. Here's one of the many great things about Chris: He doesn't use the standard old-white-guys Rolodex.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Alms From the Poor

The "working poor," as they are approvingly termed, are in fact the major philanthropists of our society. They neglect their own children so that the children of others will be cared for; they live in substandard housing so that other homes will be shiny and perfect; they endure privation so that inflation will be low and stock prices high. To be a member of the working poor is to be an anonymous donor, a nameless benefactor to everyone else.

-- Barbara Ehrenreich, Nickel and Dimed (2001)

This week everybody was talking about ... well, actually nothing really caught on

I couldn't get excited about the death of Hugo Chavez, maybe because I never got that excited about him when he was alive. I did like the discussion Chris Hayes had about Chavez Sunday, because it seemed like he really wanted to know who this guy was and what he meant for Venezuela, rather than to force him into a stereotype.

And I don't have a lot of hope for the next Pope, so that story didn't grab me either.

so I wrote about dysfunctions in media and democracy

"Who Do Representatives Represent?" looks at a fascinating new study: Politicians on both sides tend to think their districts are more conservative than they actually are. An earlier study said that legislators' votes are influenced mainly by the opinions of the wealthy, so I wondered this is all one phenomenon: Maybe politicians correctly estimate the positions of the constituents they really represent -- the rich.

"How Bubbles Look From the Inside" considers how you could tell if you were living inside a news bubble, cut off from actual reality. Day-to-day, you probably couldn't. But the tenth anniversary of the Iraq invasion reminds us that a fantasy world is vulnerable to sudden shocks from events that are too big to spin.

and you also might be interested in

As President Obama's proposal to raise the minimum wage faces predictable opposition (in spite of its popularity -- another one of those dysfunctions of democracy), the public should educate itself about the realities of minimum-wage life. If you didn't read it when it came out in 2001, I suggest picking up Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed, where she makes three attempts (in Florida, Maine, and Minnesota) to find entry-level jobs and live on her wages for a month.

Middle-class people have trouble grasping the reality of what economists call poverty traps: when you can't raise enough money to live cheaply. If you don't have security-deposit-plus-first-month's-rent for an apartment, you'll have to rent a motel room week-to-week. It won't have a kitchen or refrigerator, so you'll have to eat fast food. Maybe the only car you can afford guzzles gas. Or you can't afford a car at all, so you can't get to the better-paying job opportunity. At Ehrenreich's lowest point, she's working seven days a week and can't find a food bank that is open when she can go.

Ehrenreich has a tough time even though she has many advantages: She's white, healthy, and physically fit. Low-wage jobs are plentiful during the boom at the end of the Clinton administration. She only has to support herself, not a child or parent. Because she's only trying to survive for a month, she doesn't face the unpredictable-but-unavoidable challenges that eventually derail even the thriftiest minimum-wage budget: illness, injury, car repair, or toothache. As you read, you'll simultaneously sympathize with Ehrenreich and realize (as she does) that real minimum-wage workers have it much worse.

And while Ehrenreich takes pride in her ability to work hard and keep up, she quickly realizes that her Ph.D. brain doesn't stand out. No manager or co-worker ever says, "You're really smart" or "You pick this up fast."

Ezra Klein explains why Obama can't make a deal with Republicans. Here's a clear case of a Republican saying that a deal would be possible if only Obama would accept X. Informed that Obama accepted X some while ago, he still says there's no deal.

Tod Kelly compares Portland, Oregon to a nearby city in Washington, concluding that people actually like paying taxes if it buys them visible public amenities.

If you're stuck for examples of "wasteful government spending", you can always pick on some science project, because it's easy to make them sound stupid. If there'd been an NSF in colonial American, somebody would have denounced that wasteful grant to fund a guy flying a kite during a thunderstorm.

The economy added an unexpectedly high number of jobs in February and the unemployment rate fell to 7.7%, the lowest number in four years. But Fox News found a way to spin this gold into straw.

New research indicates that global temperatures are higher than they've been in 4,000 years and are near an 11,000-year high. (That would be the highest temperatures ever, if you're a young-Earth creationist.)

Even that understates the severity of the situation, because the real problem is the speed of change, not the absolute temperature. The NYT brings in Penn State climatologist (and Climategate smear victim) Michael Mann for comment:
Dr. Mann pointed out that the early Holocene temperature increase [12,000 years ago] was almost certainly slow, giving plants and creatures time to adjust. But he said the modern spike would probably threaten the survival of many species, in addition to putting severe stresses on human civilization.

“We and other living things can adapt to slower changes,” Dr. Mann said. “It’s the unprecedented speed with which we’re changing the climate that is so worrisome.”

The picture explains it:

Steven Lloyd Wilson captures how so many fans of Orson Scott Card's fiction feel about his ever-uglier political activity: sadness, puzzlement, revulsion. I'm a firm believer that the artist is not the art, and that a lot of world's great achievements were probably created by people I wouldn't choose to hang around with. (Yeah, Frank Miller is probably a fascist, but I still like Dark Knight Returns.) At some point, though, what I know about the author starts to interfere with my appreciation of the work. Card has reached that point. I wish I knew less about him.

Continuing the human-interest theme: NYT Magazine has a brilliant feature on an aging physics professor with previously harmless levels of cluelessness and self-delusion. Then an online-romance scam pulls him into a drug-smuggling plot.

A new study claims that religion may help criminals rationalize their crimes. I like the interpretation of Slate's Justin Peters: It's not that this is the Great Definitive Study -- it's based on a small sample and blah-blah-blah. But the idea that prison ministries help rehabilitate criminals is also based on pretty flimsy research.
As that Bureau of Prisons report put it, while “religious programs in the correctional setting have been the single most common form of institutional programming for inmates,” nobody really knows whether those programs are effective.

You know you're in trouble when your defense is that you miscalculated your opportunism.

That's more-or-less where Jeb Bush is on immigration, which is supposed to be his signature issue. For years, he's been projecting an image as the reasonable Republican, the one most likely to forge a workable compromise with Democrats. This week we saw that the image is the point, not the policy.

Bush's book Immigration Wars came out Tuesday, and the shocker was that his proposal -- legal residency for undocumented immigrants, but no path to citizenship --  is more conservative than bipartisan Senate framework that came out in February. (It calls for "a tough but fair path to citizenship".)

But as soon as he's questioned about it, Bush flip-flops, saying that he could support a path to citizenship. Explanation? "We wrote this book last year, not this year." In other words, at the time the book was written, the Republican nominee's immigration proposals (self-deportation) were so extreme that Bush could stake out a centrist position without calling for citizenship. But by the time the book is out, the center has moved. So Bush moves too. He has never really been for or against citizenship; he just wants to be in the center.

So this whole discussion has nothing to do with immigration; it's about running for president.

Rand Paul does an old-fashioned talking filibuster, holding the floor of the Senate for nearly 13 hours. Eric Holder responds with one word:
It has come to my attention that you have now asked an additional question: "Does the president have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American citizen not engaged in combat on American soil?" That answer to that question is no.

I'm torn about Paul's filibuster. Many of the points he was making were points I've made here: It's very dangerous to allow the executive branch to assemble a "kill list" without oversight from somebody who doesn't answer to the President. (Even a secret "star chamber" court would be better, if it had independent judges.)

But Paul was also phrasing his questions in ways that made them unanswerable. (Holder's version puts in key caveats, like "not engaged in combat".) At a time when well-armed Americans -- many of whom seem to have Paul's sympathy -- threaten revolution if the political process doesn't go their way, the President can't categorically swear off military operations inside the U.S.

Last month, Elizabeth Warren was expressing her concern that "Too big to fail has become too big for trial." This week, Eric Holder basically admitted she was right:
I am concerned that the size of some of these institutions becomes so large that it does become difficult for us to prosecute them when we are hit with indications that if you do prosecute, if you do bring a criminal charge, it will have a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps even the world economy.

So when you set out to regulate the banking system, your very first principle should be not to let any bank get too big to regulate.

The Menendez prostitution scandal is looking more and more bogus, vindicating news outlets that refused to break it.

OK, everybody knows that news stations sometimes edit tape to make a public figure look bad. But a 4-year-old?

Monday, March 4, 2013

Taking Chances

[Political economy] does not treat the whole of man’s nature as modified by the social state, nor of the whole conduct of man in society. It is concerned with him solely as a being who desires to possess wealth, and who is capable of judging the comparative efficacy of means for obtaining that end.

-- John Stuart Mill,
Essays on Some Unsettled Questions of Political Economy (1830)

In life, we take chances on one another. We trust, and we behave in trustworthy ways. Not always; not with everyone. But much more often than the cynical and unflattering views of human nature and interaction would predict. And when we do, it turns out that we thrive; at the least we do better than when we do not trust anyone.

-- Yochai Benkler, The Penguin and the Leviathan (2011)

This week everybody was talking about the Voting Rights Act

The Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday about whether to strike down one of the bill's key sections. There's a fairly narrow legal point at issue, but the arguments about that point set off much wider arguments about racism, voter suppression, and federalism.

A little history you may already know: After the Civil War, the 15th Amendment was added to the Constitution. It's short and to the point:
Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.
Section 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

That worked for a while, but then the southern states figured out how to circumvent it via the Jim Crow laws, which set up a variety of procedural hurdles that white-supremacist local officials could use to keep blacks from voting.

In the mid-20th century, the Supreme Court started overturning discriminatory laws, but it couldn't keep up with white-supremacist legislatures. That's why the Voting Rights Act of 1965 contained Section 5: States or towns with a history of voter suppression (explained well here and pictured in red on the map) would need prior federal approval before they changed their voting procedures. In the pre-clearance hearing, they'd have to establish that the change would not have the effect of disenfranchising minority voters.

Just last year, Texas' Voter ID law was blocked because the people who did not already have the mandated ID were disproportionately Hispanic, and the IDs were harder to get in parts of the state where many Hispanics lived.

Everybody recognizes that it's an extreme step for the federal government to treat some states differently from others. But the 15th Amendment empowers to Congress to enforce the right to vote "by appropriate legislation". The argument is over what's appropriate.

In the past, the Court has found the VRA appropriate, given the problem it was trying to solve. However, John Roberts has never liked the VRA and clearly believes it isn't appropriate any more: Now that blacks in the South vote -- sometimes in higher percentages than whites -- he clearly believes they can protect their right to vote through the ordinary channels that protects minorities in other states. He asked:
is it the government's submission that the citizens in the South are more racist than citizens in the North?

My personal answer would have been "Well, duh." But Roberts apparently believes this is a crushing point.

His attack is part of a larger strategy: On the surface it may look like you could solve Roberts' problem by extending Section 5 to cover the whole country. But then Roberts could question Section 5 as too broad: How can it be appropriate to interfere in the affairs of states that don't have a history of disenfranchisement? (He made precisely that argument when he was in the Reagan administration.)

One thing that is clear is that the nature of disenfranchisement has changed. In the Jim Crow era, whites disenfranchised blacks because they were black. Current voter suppression efforts have a partisan angle: Republicans disenfranchise blacks and Hispanics because they are likely to vote for Democrats.

The race/party relationship is particularly pronounced in the South. In Alabama, for example, Romney won 84% of the white vote and Obama 95% of the black.

and the Violence Against Women Act

which passed the House and will be re-authorized as law. I can guess what you're thinking: "Seriously? This is what a victory looks like these days?" I mean, women also managed to keep the right to vote (in spite of the National Review) and to own property without their husbands' approval. Pop the champagne!

The VAWA didn't used to be controversial, for the obvious reason that nobody (in public, at least) is for violence against women. It was last reauthorized in 2005 without a lot of fanfare and signed by that notorious leftist George W. Bush. The Senate passed it this time 78-22 -- the 22 all being white male Republicans -- but then it got hung up in the House. House Republicans objected to three new provisions: extending the domestic violence protections in the law to same-sex couples, giving temporary visas to battered immigrant women who entered the country illegally, and letting courts on Native American reservations try rape cases.

I haven't been able to fathom whether opposition was based on substantive objections, or just reactions against buzzwords: illegal immigrants! lesbians! Indians judging white people!  (That was a weird one: Senator Grassley really said "on an Indian reservation, [a jury is] going to be made up of Indians, right? So the non-Indian doesn’t get a fair trial." I don't know whether anybody asked him if a Native American can get a fair trial from a white jury.)

Ordinarily, Speaker Boehner won't let a bill come to the floor unless a majority of the Republican caucus supports it -- that's called the Hastert Rule -- but I think he realized that the Tea Party lemmings were headed for a cliff on this one, so he arranged for the Senate bill to get a vote after the Republican alternative failed. All 199 Democrats and 87 Republicans voted for the Senate bill, with 138 Republicans against.

But we should be talking about Detroit's emergency manager

Think of it as the municipal equivalent of being sold into slavery to pay your debts.

Under Michigan's emergency manager law (which existed before Governor Snyder, but got much more draconian during his administration), if a city or town gets into sufficiently difficult financial shape, the governor can appoint an emergency manager whose powers supersede ordinary politics. The elected officials become empty suits, contracts with the unions don't count any more, the manager can sell parks or other municipal properties to whomever for whatever he can get.

It has happened to several small-to-medium-sized Michigan cities before, but now the state is taking over the big enchilada, Detroit.

The voters rejected the law by referendum in November, but the legislature just passed it again -- with a clever gimmick that shields it from repeal by referendum. Add in gerrymandered state legislature districts, and the law becomes virtually voter-proof.

Everyone should be paying attention, because this is one scenario for the death of democracy: Well-to-do people move to suburbs and gated communities, leaving the poor behind in a city with a crippled tax base. The state cuts aid for local things like schools and waits for a recession to put the city in financial trouble. Then the state takes it over and throws out the elected officials.

Who thought this up? A think tank funded by billionaires.

Indiana has passed its own emergency manager law. (Indiana's emergency managers can void union contracts to resolve financial problems, but they can't raise taxes.) Other Republican-controlled states may follow.

and the larger implications of Justice Scalia's "racial entitlement" remark

which ThinkProgress' Ian Millhiser explained. In the oral arguments on the Voting Rights Act (see above), Justice Scalia brushed off the wide majorities (98-0 in the Senate) that reauthorized the VRA in 2006 by saying
Whenever a society adopts racial entitlements, it is very difficult to get out of them through the normal political processes.

(Millhiser has the longer version.) I'm sure you can fill in your own objection to the idea that voting is a "racial entitlement". But the subtext of his statement is that legislators who secretly disapprove of the VRA nonetheless vote for it because they are intimidated by the threat of being accused of racism. (Conservatives often complain about the power and unfairness of accusations of racism, as if this were a bigger problem than racism itself.)

Appearing on the Daily Show, Rachel Maddow gave her interpretation of Scalia's remark: He's a troll.
He knows it's offensive. He knows he's going to get a gasp from the court room, which he got. And he loves it. He's like the guy on your blog comment thread who is using the N-word -- "Oh did I make you mad? Did I make you mad? Did I make you mad?" — he's like that.

But Millhiser's interpretation is more sinister. One justification for abandoning judicial restraint is that the political process is broken. In such a case, the judge views himself as the last line of defense against injustice. In that context, Scalia's logic plugs into some other popular notions on the Right, namely Romney's 47% and the idea that Obama bought the election by giving out favors to "the takers" in society.

Millhiser's analysis:
it’s not hard to predict how a judge who agrees with both Romney’s view of welfare and Scalia’s view of when judges must destroy democracy in order to save it would react to the modern welfare state. With his racial entitlement comment, Scalia offered a constitutional theory that would allow movement conservatives to strike down the entire American safety net.

To me, it's interesting where Scalia doesn't see a broken political system unable to reverse injustice. He favors unlimited corporate political spending and rejects attempts to overrule entrenched corporate entitlements, like the essentially infinite copyright that Disney has on Mickey Mouse.

But I wrote about what capitalism is doing to us

It's kind of a multiple-book review called Nobody Likes the New Capitalist Man.

and you also might be interested in ...

The sequester started. For the next week or so it's easily reversible, but the House shows no interest.

The New Yorker's John Cassidy has a good summary of the Bob Woodward flap.

Mark Hurst pictures Google Glass as a giant step down the road to universal surveillance.

I know that Congressman-Gohmert-said-something-stupid could be a weekly feature, but this stood out:
Slavery and abortion are the two most horrendous things this country has done but when you think about the immorality of wild, lavish spending on our generation and forcing future generations to do without essentials just so we can live lavishly now, it’s pretty immoral.

I suppose if you accept the unBiblical and very-very-weird theological idea that fertilized eggs have souls, abortion could be in a class with slavery. But the debt?

First, I question whether any purely monetary event could be as immoral as slavery (or the Native American genocide, which Gohmert seems to have forgotten). And second, I go back to Warren Mosler's point: All the goods and services produced in the future will be consumed in the future. Our grandchildren will not be sending stuff back in time to pay for our "lavish" lifestyle, any more than we are sending stuff back to 1944 to pay for World War II.

And finally, if lavish living were the problem, the obvious solution would focus on those living lavishly: the rich. Instead, Gohmert's party wants to cut food stamps.

Oh, and one more thing: If we're really worrying about future generations, shouldn't we focus on global warming instead? In a true fiscal emergency, a future government could renounce its debt. But it can't renounce its atmosphere.

You know those arguments we have about guns? We could have people study those questions and report back to us. Oh wait -- we started to do that and the NRA made us stop.

Noted fake-historian David Barton is branching out. He used to lie about the Founders and religion. Now he's lying about the Founders and guns.

Molly Ball: Five false assumptions of political pundits.