Political Animal


October 20, 2014 2:09 PM Lunch Buffet

This weekend’s Anniversary dinner was great, the Church Rummage Sale was a success, and my Georgia Bulldogs won, so I’m not complaining today, even though being plunged back into midterm politics is a bit of an acid bath.

Here are some midday news/blues treats.

* Dave Weigel touts a Michigan GOP ad as the worst (so far!) of the cycle.

* Obama administration has decided it could suspend sanctions as part of deal with Iran to kill nuclear weapons program without congressional concurrence.

* Sean Trende amplifies Nate Silver’s warnings against making any assumptions polling errors will occur or will “skew” in a particular direction.

* John Judis reviews the winding path to enforcement of Texas’ voter ID law.

* E.J. Dionne discusses the significance of the white working-class vote to Democratic upset efforts in GA and KY.

And in non-political news:

* Another big auto recall, this one from Toyota.

As we break for lunch, here’s Nine Below Zero again, with “Once Twice Three Times Is Enough.”

October 20, 2014 1:39 PM Elections Without Mobilization

At the Prospect today Paul Waldman asks a question that’s academic but still illuminating: what if the United States politics did not revolve so much (as it especially does in low-turnout midterms) on convincing people to show up for elections? What if the U.S. was one of the relatively long list of countries where voting was compulsory?

You may find the idea to be a horrifying infringement on freedom, and if we were ever to do it here it would have to be accompanied by vast improvements in our voting system to make it much easier for everyone to cast ballots, even those who would just leave them blank out of protest. But wouldn’t it be better if the question of who was going to turn out wasn’t a part of our campaigns and the parties could just concentrate on persuading the public that their ideas were superior? We could obviously go a good way toward that goal if we did some practical things, like not holding elections on a weekday when people have to work. And then there’s the fact that now more than ever before, we have one political party that is determined to make voting as difficult as possible, particularly for those unlikely to vote for them.

The same party that discourages voting would obviously initiate a major national freakout at the prospect of universal—much less mandatory—voting. And yes, I suppose we have to come to grips with the fact that there’s no freedom at all in Australia, Belgium and Luxemburg, and that “looters” have taken over these countries and initiated evil policies like universal health coverage. But as Waldman says:

[I]f nothing else we’d be able to say that the choices that came out of the process represented the will of nearly all the people, however ill-informed or ill-considered that will might be. Which is more than we can say now.

I’m all for that, even though I just wrote a post this morning suggesting that my fellow countrymen are prone to irrational panics promoted by political manipulators. We’d have a better opportunity to change that if more of our politics revolved around persuasion rather than mobilization.

October 20, 2014 12:35 PM Joni Versus The Machine

Sometimes media coverage of political campaigns is biased due to partisan favoritism, and sometimes it’s just a matter of defending an endangered campaign “narrative” or set of assumptions about what works (or should work) in politics. I suspect the latter is very actively at play in Shane Goldmacher’s take on the Iowa Senate race at National Journal. The headline really tells you everything you need to know: “Joni Ernst Is the GOP’s Breakout Star. The Democratic Machine Could Still Beat Her.”

Ostensibly the piece is “balanced,” insofar as Goldmacher doesn’t predict Ernst will overcome “the Machine” or vice-versa. But lord-a-mercy, she’s treated like the possible survivor or victim of a mugging:

What the Republicans also have going for them this year is Ernst herself, a folksy state senator and lieutenant colonel in the Iowa National Guard who has emerged as one of the breakout stars of 2014. She burst through a crowded Senate GOP primary with an ad touting her farm-girl roots castrating hogs. “Let’s make them squeal!” she said of Washington spenders. The ad drew national attention (627,000 YouTube views and counting) and a deluge of donations.
It hasn’t hurt that Ernst has a toothy grin and would be the first female combat veteran to serve in the Senate—“Mother. Soldier. Independent leader.” is plastered on her campaign RV. Or that she is running in the 2016 caucus-kickoff state—Republican presidential contenders have been tripping over themselves to fly into Iowa to help. Ernst hauled in $6 million in the third quarter, the most of any candidate in the country in any quarter this cycle….

The adulation goes on and on, especially in a section of the article titled “The Better Candidate.”

Joni Ernst has emerged as the rare Republican capable of uniting the disparate factions of the Republican Party. She was endorsed both by Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin in a contested primary. And her potential as a fresh female face in a party desperate for more female leaders has added to her allure.
Consider this: Romney, Sens. Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, Gov. Rick Perry, former Gov. Mike Huckabee, Sen. Marco Rubio, Rep. Paul Ryan, Gov. Bobby Jindal, and Sens. Rob Portman, John Thune, Kelly Ayotte, and John Barasso all have attended or hosted events for Ernst in recent months.

C’mon, Shane, you know better than that. Of course the entire national party and anyone even thinking about running for president is going to race to help the party’s Senate nominee in the First-in-the-Nation-Caucus-State. That would be true no matter who the candidate was.

“She’s become a rock star, certainly among Republicans,” says Oman, her finance director. To put her $6 million third quarter in perspective, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell raised $3.2 million during the same period.
Ernst, 44, has served in the state Senate since 2011, after working a local auditor. But it’s her two decades in the military, and service in Iraq as part of the Iowa National Guard, that she has highlighted on the trail. “My boots were on the ground now held by ISIS,” she retorted to Braley in their last debate.
Ernst has excited not just GOP insiders but Iowa voters. A recent NBC/Marist poll showed a huge enthusiasm gap, with more than 60 percent of Ernst backers saying they were actively supporting her, versus 34 percent who were more opposing Braley. The reverse was true for him. More than 60 percent of his supporters were mostly opposed to her, rather than actively for him.

Cue the ominous music:

But as the race enters the final two-week sprint, it’s clear that Ernst isn’t so much battling Braley. She’s battling the Democratic get-out-the-vote apparatus.

Goldmacher does acknowledge there is a substantive case Democrats have made against Ernst that she has promoted crazy wingnut positions and causes, but he dismisses it as having failed:

Democrats have tried to cut Ernst down with a campaign to cast her as an extremist. They have some politically potent fodder, including video of her speaking about the possibility of privatizing Social Security and her support for “personhood” legislation, which could ban some forms of birth control (Ernst says she is in favor of birth-control access). She’s suggested that states could nullify federal law and raised the specter of impeaching Obama. She also suggested that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, before trying to backtrack.
“Sound bites have consequences,” Braley has repeated over and over during their debates and on the stump, perhaps more hopefully than factually [!]. Months of attacks have taken their toll on her, but she has avoided the “crazy candidate” stigma that has landed on some other Republicans who have faced such withering critiques.

So the only thing that threatens the pre-ordained, much-deserved victory of Our Joni, it seems, is Democratic mastery of the the dark arts of early voter mobilization—though even there, Republicans are given plenty of opportunity to claim they’ve caught up.

Now I freely admit I have my own biases here: it infuriates me to see the label “the better candidate” attached to anyone running for high office who has ever, ever promoted the insane John Birch Society conspiracy theory of Agenda 21, as Ernst has—much less to suggest that her “toothy grin” and her cute but substantively idiotic “hog castration” ads offset her extremist record. And I don’t know that what national media types say about this race really matters much at all. But it’s part of an atmosphere whereby there are “no Todd Akins or Sharron Angles” to get in the way of the presumed outcome of a GOP takeover of the Senate in part because candidates with extremist positions and records are being cut an awful lot of slack by the supposedly neutral media. Joni Ernst pretty much is Sharron Angle with a better bio and a greater willingness to weasel out of her prior statements; she pretty much is Todd Akin with a superior ability to avoid a dangerous line of questioning by changing the subject. It’s alarming to think such superficial talents are enough to turn champions of the mad fringe into “breakout stars.”

October 20, 2014 11:30 AM Inequality Kills Growth

Part of the basic conservative economic world-view in this and other countries is the belief that growth is entirely produced by owners of capital deploying resources to people and activities the market has deemed valuable, with minimum interference from taxes and regulations imposed by government or wage demands made by workers. Even for those who don’t buy the whole ideology, the suggestion of a perpetual zero-sum tradeoff between growth and equality is powerful, particularly in societies (like ours) with a predisposition to think of wealth and virtue as being closely correlated. How much equality can we afford, we are constantly if implicitly asked?

But there’s growing evidence that inequality is at present the deadliest threat to long-term global economic growth. Here’s investment guru (and chairman of the president’s Global Development Council) Mohamad El-Erian summing it up:

[M]ost countries face a trio of inequalities - of income, wealth, and opportunity - which, left unchecked, reinforce one another, with far-reaching consequences. Indeed, beyond this trio’s moral, social, and political implications lies a serious economic concern: instead of creating incentives for hard work and innovation, inequality begins to undermine economic dynamism, investment, employment, and prosperity.
Given that affluent households spend a smaller share of their incomes and wealth, greater inequality translates into lower overall consumption, thereby hindering the recovery of economies already burdened by inadequate aggregate demand. Today’s high levels of inequality also impede the structural reforms needed to boost productivity, while undermining efforts to address residual pockets of excessive indebtedness.

Thus we have fears of “secular stagnation,” of a slump in consumer demand, growth and productivity that is no longer cyclical, which can become a self-fulfilling prophecy if investors come to believe in it.

So much for buying off the owners of our economy to keep us all employed by giving them an ever-higher-share of wealth! So much for erecting golden calves of entrepreneurial hero-worship to show our appreciation to “job-producers!” In the end they can’t really function without help from us peons.

It used to be a boilerplate argument against “class warfare” to claim that we’d all do better with unequal “slices” of a bigger “pie” than we would be redistributing existing resources. But the more we know, the more it appears those who hoard large “slices” are the ones shrinking the “pie.”

October 20, 2014 10:19 AM Post-Nuclear Senate

One of the data points that should be considered in assessing the significance of the balance of power in the U.S. Senate is the effect on presidential appointments: not just to the executive-branch positions that can effectively be performed by “acting” personnel, but to life-time appointments to the federal bench. It’s a question whose answer has definitely changed after the invocation of the so-called “nuclear option” to allow for majority-vote confirmations of appointments to the Courts of Appeals and District Courts (though not the Supreme Court). In a long Jeffrey Toobin piece in the New Yorker on Barack Obama’s “judicial legacy,” this moment as a turning point is considered:

Republican intransigence about the D.C. Circuit nominees finally brought around even the most senior Democrats to the idea of filibuster reform. “I was probably the last person to agree to it,” Patrick Leahy, of Vermont, the president pro tempore of the Senate, and its longest-serving member, told me. “I believe the Senate should be independent, not a rubber stamp of any Administration. But this was a wholesale filibuster, completely unprecedented in two hundred years.” On November 21, 2013, the Senate voted, along party lines, to change its rules so that only fifty-one votes were necessary to bring up for a vote a circuit-court or district-court nomination.
Since then, the Senate votes have cemented Obama’s judicial legacy. With simple majorities, the Senate approved the three D.C. Circuit nominees, who joined a court that has frequently served as a stepping stone to the Supreme Court. (John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Thomas, and Ginsburg all served on the D.C. Circuit.) The confirmed appeals-court nominees include several judges who conform to the Obama paradigm, in that they are all relatively youthful and impeccably credentialled, with indistinct ideological profiles: David Barron, a forty-seven-year-old Harvard Law School professor, and a former law clerk to John Paul Stevens, to the First Circuit; Pamela Harris, a fifty-two-year-old Georgetown law professor and another former Stevens clerk, to the Fourth Circuit; and Michelle Friedland, a San Francisco attorney active in the legal fight for gay rights (and a former clerk to Sandra Day O’Connor), who is forty-two, to the Ninth Circuit. According to statistics compiled by Sheldon Goldman, of the University of Massachusetts, the average age of Obama’s first-term appeals-court nominees was 53.5 years, and 49.4 for his second-term nominees. This predilection for younger nominees was a strategy of Robert Bauer, Obama’s White House counsel, and his successor, Kathryn Ruemmler. The judges are likely to serve for decades, and they constitute a farm team for prospective Supreme Court appointments.

The DC Circuit appointments, of course, also made possible the recent action vacating a three-judge panel’s Halbig v. Burwell decision that posed a deadly threat to the Affordable Care Act.

It’s not yet clear whether majority confirmations of lower court judges would still be possible if Democrats narrowly held onto Senate control, and what, exactly, Republicans would do to the confirmation rules if they gain narrow control. Having complained bitterly about the “nuclear option,” you’d think they’d go back to the old rules. But they will obviously look forward to the possibility of getting a Republican president’s nominees confirmed in the future. Either way, Obama’s window for making significant changes in the federal judiciary is closing. But it’s an effect that will be felt for many years.

October 20, 2014 9:25 AM Chicken Little Politics

It’s becoming hard to ignore or discount: to a remarkable extent Americans are undergoing panic attacks over Islamic State terrorism and the Ebola outbreak. That it’s happening just before a midterm election is increasingly looking like a potential ace in the hole for Republicans, though a new Politico survey showing a remarkable degree of worry about both IS and Ebola—far more than is remotely justified by facts or experience—doesn’t show it “skewing” the vote towards one party or another. Clearly Republicans believe it will help them, as part of an indictment of the Obama administration as responsible for all human misery, up to and perhaps including Original Sin.

At TNR today, Alice Robb reports on “A growing body of literature in psychology suggests that feelings of fear make people’s political outlook more conservative.” Even without benefit of psychology, of course, fear of Islamic terrorism is likely to make voters more favorably inclined to the party associated with militarism, promiscuous defense spending, hostility to Islam, and disregard for international restrictions on the use of force. And while there’s nothing inherent to a pandemic that would promote political elephantitis, a terrifying disease emanating from Africa might stimulate some warm subliminal feelings for the White Man’s Party.

Far beyond its impact on the current election, however, the susceptibility of Americans to particular types of panic-mongering is—well, not something to panic over, but a source of legitimate concern. It’s extremely likely that the upsurge of fear surrounding IS has little to do with any rational assessment of that organization’s actual capacity to carry out major acts of terrorism in the United States, and everything to do with the beheading videos, which portray a level of savagery that Americans associate with Third World habits of behavior they find scary and inscrutable. And Ebola, of course, is the latest Plague, also brought to us from the Heart of Darkness. Meanwhile, a much more pervasive and dangerous threat—that of global climate change—seems too abstract to command much public concern.

Indeed, if the Fear Factor does help Republicans do better than they otherwise could expect on November 4, it will, ironically, result not in any greater attention to IS and Ebola but to the promotion of domestic policies that ought to be a tad frightening. Ted Cruz has an op-ed at USA Today laying out his ten-point 2015 Republican agenda if his party wins the Senate, and it begins not with action on IS and Ebola (the former gets a drive-by in the final plank as part of a general strategy of throwing money at the Pentagon, and the latter isn’t mentioned at all), but with aligning the federal government aggressively with the cause of exploiting every last fossil fuel resource imaginable. Now that’s scary.

October 20, 2014 8:08 AM Daylight Video

Today’s the 59th birthday of British harmonica virtuoso Mark Feltham. Here he is with Nine Below Zero performing “Soft Touch” twenty years ago. Great rocking wake-up song.

October 19, 2014 7:41 PM The United States is not a meritocracy

The entire conservative ideological program on economics depends on cosmic justice: the idea that those who develop talent and work hard will succeed as they deserve, while those who are lazy and without skills will fail as they ought. That meritocratic concept is the justification for slashing all forms of assistance to the poor and the middle class from food stamps to healthcare. Further, if the rich got there by just deserts, then they should get even more money to keep being so productive for everyone else.

But if it turns out that there is no meritocracy—if the rich get there through privilege and luck rather than industry and talent—then the entire rest of the conservative agenda morally falls apart.

It just so happens that a new study shows that the United States does not, in fact, have a meritocracy:

America is the land of opportunity, just for some more than others. That’s because, in large part, inequality starts in the crib. Rich parents can afford to spend more time and money on their kids, and that gap has only grown the past few decades. Indeed, economists Greg Duncan and Richard Murnane calculate that, between 1972 and 2006, high-income parents increased their spending on “enrichment activities” for their children by 151 percent in inflation-adjusted terms, compared to 57 percent for low-income parents….
Even poor kids who do everything right don’t do much better than rich kids who do everything wrong. Advantages and disadvantages, in other words, tend to perpetuate themselves. You can see that in the above chart, based on a new paper from Richard Reeves and Isabel Sawhill, presented at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston’s annual conference, which is underway.
Specifically, rich high school dropouts remain in the top about as much as poor college grads stay stuck in the bottom — 14 versus 16 percent, respectively. Not only that, but these low-income strivers are just as likely to end up in the bottom as these wealthy ne’er-do-wells. Some meritocracy.
What’s going on? Well, it’s all about glass floors and glass ceilings. Rich kids who can go work for the family business — and, in Canada at least, 70 percent of the sons of the top 1 percent do just that — or inherit the family estate don’t need a high school diploma to get ahead. It’s an extreme example of what economists call “opportunity hoarding.” That includes everything from legacy college admissions to unpaid internships that let affluent parents rig the game a little more in their children’s favor.
But even if they didn’t, low-income kids would still have a hard time getting ahead. That’s, in part, because they’re targets for diploma mills that load them up with debt, but not a lot of prospects. And even if they do get a good degree, at least when it comes to black families, they’re more likely to still live in impoverished neighborhoods that keep them disconnected from opportunities.

Everything about the conservative economic agenda is wrong not only on the merits (supply-side economics is a proven logistical failure, for instance), but from its very philosophical underpinnings.

There is no meritocracy. The rich do not get ahead by their industry and talent, but by luck and connections. It’s more about who you know, than what you know. Which means that anyone defending the right of the rich to take even more money is exalting a system as indefensible as the divine right of kings.

October 19, 2014 4:30 PM What Can Brown Do For You? (Not A Damn Thing!)

In New Hampshire, Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen is hitting Republican opponent and Massachusetts reject Scott Brown hard on his backward energy policies:

U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen is turning the focus to energy this week. Shaheen’s campaign today released a report highlighting votes her Republican opponent, Scott Brown, has taken on energy policy that she says will take New Hampshire in the wrong direction. And tomorrow, the state Democratic Party will host Massachusetts lawmakers and a New Hampshire energy expert to discuss Brown’s energy record…
While energy hasn’t been a central issue to the campaign thus far, both candidates have outlined positions on the topic.
At an energy forum in Concord last month, Brown touted an “all of the above” approach that includes support for nuclear, wind, solar, biomass and geothermal. He has continually called for the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, a proposed oil pipeline that would run from Canada to the U.S.

Shaheen shouldn’t fail to point out that Brown’s views on energy are obviously influenced by one of the darkest forces in American politics:

Karl Rove is also lusting after a Brown win in the Granite State. If New Hamsphire voters judge candidates by the company they keep, they will judge Brown as harshly as Keith Olbermann did four years ago.

Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it. I hope that New Hampshire voters have learned from history.

October 19, 2014 1:18 PM If you want a real answer from conservatives on science, then change the question

In case you haven’t heard by now, the latest conservative cool kid response to questions about climate change or evolution is “I’m not a scientist.” It displays a certain humility and folksy ignorance while avoiding tough questions about destructive GOP policy.

It’s cute, but it only works because journalists are asking the wrong questions. As Ben Adler notes, the question isn’t whether a politician believes in climate change or evolution. It’s whether they accept the scientific consensus on the issue:

So how can journalists avoid letting Republicans give this asinine answer? By asking the right questions. If you ask a non-scientist whether human activity is causing climate change, “I’m not a scientist” has a surface validity as a response. But climate change isn’t a matter of belief. It’s a matter of scientific consensus, just like evolution or gravity. One should not ask whether politicians believe in climate science or evolutionary biology, just as one wouldn’t ask whether a politician believes that gravity causes apples to fall from trees. Instead, the question should be whether they accept climate science. The phrasing could be, “97 percent of papers published by climate scientists in peer-reviewed academic journals have found that human activity is causing climate change. Do you accept those findings?”

Therein lies the key. It’s not about belief, but about acceptance of the scentific consensus.

But I would argue that it doesn’t just stop at the edge of “sciencey” issues like evolution or climate change. We now know a great many things that prove Republicans are dead wrong about policy: higher minimum wage laws create jobs rather than kill them, higher marginal rates on the wealthy do not hurt the economy, abstinence education is a failure, etc.

If journalists want to strive for accuracy, they could begin by asking whether politicians accept the scientific consensus around the minimum wage, tax policy, climate change, evolution, supply-side economic, sex education and a great many other things about which conservatives have been proven wrong by hard data.

If conservatives want to engage in a PR war with science and reality itself, let them do it brazenly in the open rather than with ersatz folksy dodges. It’s all about how you ask the question.

October 19, 2014 1:00 PM The Missing Menino

Boston Globe columnist Lawrence Harmon isn’t too impressed by former Boston mayor Thomas Menino’s new memoir, Mayor For A New America:

Menino, Boston’s longest serving mayor at 20 years, did a good job of providing high quality city services while keeping a lid on residential property taxes. But that’s not the main reason why he left office with a 74 percent approval rating. He is beloved in Boston because he’s the kind of man who puts his granddaughter’s feelings — and the well-being of others, in general — above his own needs. If the book tanks, Menino won’t lose an ounce of popularity in Boston.
Writing a memoir, even with the help of author Jack Beatty, had to be a stretch for Menino. No one would describe the 71-year-old former mayor as self-revelatory. He’s a lot better at doing things than describing why he does things. Surgeons have a saying: You can name it and cut it. Or just cut it. Menino is in the latter category.
Still, Menino worried during the writing stage that his “voice” was missing from the memoir — not his signature mumbling, but the voice that pertains to a writer’s distinctive way of looking at the world. It was a valid concern. The reader gets a good sense of the growth of the city under Menino as he reshaped the city’s skyline, revitalized outlying neighborhoods, invested in successful crime fighting tactics, and gathered in political exiles, including new immigrants. Missing is a sense of Menino’s personal passage from an inconspicuous political aide to a great urban mayor.

In particular, Harmon takes aim at Menino’s chapter on issues affecting the city’s schools, which became infamous during the 1970s busing crisis:

Literarily, Menino loses his voice in an overlong chapter on his efforts to overhaul Boston’s school system. There is too much about mayorally-appointed school boards and superintendent searches and too little about the lives and challenges of Boston’s schoolchildren. Like so many of them, he struggled in school and received painful messages at an early age that he wasn’t destined for success. Menino has maintained contact with many Boston students over the years. It would have been nice to get to know some of them in his autobiography.

Reading Menino’s 250-page book, I find it interesting that with regard to the schools, Menino didn’t mention his courageous effort to defend diversity in the city’s elite examination schools
in the face of two right-wing lawsuits that challenged such diversity efforts. Menino showed uncommon valor in his efforts to maintain the diversity of the city’s exam schools, and it’s odd that he chose not to write about those efforts. It wasn’t his fault that the courts ultimately went against him.

In 2005, a decade after the first of those right-wing lawsuits was filed, the Boston Globe noted the consequences of the legal assault on the diversity efforts at the exam schools. These were the consequences Menino courageously tried to avoid. He should have given himself some credit for not knuckling under to the right-wing forces that regard diversity as just so much political correctness. By fighting for diversity, he indeed showed that he was the mayor for a new America.

October 19, 2014 8:45 AM Bipartisan consensus for universal basic income

It’s an old irony of politics that “bipartisan consensus” only counts when it comes to ideas backed by wealthy centrists between the two parties, but it doesn’t count when it unites both of the more populist elements on right and left.

Thus, deficit reduction, corporate tax breaks and military interventions receive the “bipartisan” label if a few centrist Democrats and Republicans agree on them. But anti-interventionism, resistance to corporate-friendly trade deals, and civil liberties protections that unite right and left along a different ideological axis are still considered outre.

The same goes for a univeral basic income (UBI), which is still pretty far outside the Overton Window of mainstream political discourse (for now), but that is increasingly uniting both progressives and conservatives on the edges. A growing number of progressives have been calling for UBI as a response to globalization, mechanization and flattening of the labor force, and increasing inequality. After all, why roll Sisyphus’ stone up the hill of job protections when jobs themselves are becoming scarce and lower-paid for a wide variety of reasons, when instead we could free up human dignity and creativity by not tying survival to having a “job” for a corporate overlord in the first place?

From a certain conservative point of view, meanwhile, UBI is a simple and elegant solution to the problem of government bureaucracy and program multiplicity that keeps people fed and happy and the pitchforks at bay. Yes, many Objectivist types would prefer that the “non-producers” face starvation as incentive to near slave-wage toil for the “producer” class. That immoral worldview has the producer-parasite metaphor topsy turvy, but it’s also foolish because it nearly guarantees violent revolution. More intelligent conservatives at least comprehend the necessity of maintaining the social order. Milton Friedman supported a universal basic income for similar reasons.

And now even disgraced racist Charles Murray of Bell Curve fame has seen the wisdom of granting a universal basic income to those he delusionally believes to be of lower intelligence than himself.

In short, two very distinct worldviews have both come to the same conclusion: we need to provide a basic universal income that allows people to live in dignity and unleash their creative potential toward their own interests. It’s a bipartisan view.

It’s just not the sort of bipartisanship that has street cred in the Village.

October 19, 2014 8:00 AM The Face of Courage

Rick Piltz, the man who blew the whistle on the George W. Bush administration’s vicious assault on climate science, has passed away.

From Climate Science Watch:

From 1995-2005 he held senior positions in the Coordination Office of the U.S. Global Change Research Program. In the spring of 2005, Rick resigned from his position to protest the Bush Administration’s political interference with climate change communication. His whistleblower documentation of politically motivated White House editing and censorship of climate science program reports intended for the public and Congress received front-page coverage in the New York Times and was widely reported in the media. Rick testified before both the House of Representatives and the Senate at hearings on political interference with federal climate scientists.

Piltz was, of course, brutalized by the climate-change denial industry for his bold decision to reveal the full extent of the Bush administration’s malevolence on this issue: the late wingnut columnist Robert Novak was particularly savage in his attacks.

Piltz refused to bow down to the forces of denial. After leaving the Bush White House, he continued to speak and write and fight for strong action to reduce carbon pollution, and demanded that members of both parties be held accountable for failing to take all appropriate and necessary action to limit dangerous emissions.

Rick Piltz may be gone, but his fight continues. We will fight in his name, and we will make sure that his name is remembered as a hero in the fight for climate justice.

In June 2012, my Progressive Radio Network colleague Betsy Rosenberg and I were honored to interview Piltz; she previously interviewed him in January 2007.

Below, a 2013 interview with Piltz, and a 2005 Piltz appearance on Air America Radio’s The Al Franken Show. More interviews with Piltz can be found here.

UPDATE: From 2005, Brad Friedman interviews Rick Piltz. Part 1 and Part 2.

SECOND UPDATE: Rick Piltz speaks at 350.org’s October 10, 2010 Global Work Party in Washington, DC. He is introduced by Roger Shamel of the Global Warming Education Network.

THIRD UPDATE: More thoughts on the passing of Rick Piltz. Plus, more from Climate Science Watch.

October 19, 2014 7:00 AM Daylight Video

Thirty-five years ago this week, Herb Alpert’s “Rise” was the number-one single in the United States.

October 18, 2014 8:43 PM Economic populism still works as always

Just another reminder that economic populism still works:

Of all the negative campaign messages that Democrats have used this midterm election, the most effective one is a time-tested line of attack: hitting Republican businessmen for being exorbitantly wealthy while outsourcing jobs overseas and laying off employees. It was President Obama’s central argument in his reelection campaign against Mitt Romney, and it is being put to devastating use again in a handful of close gubernatorial and congressional races this year.
More than any of the other well-worn Democratic arguments—Republicans want to restrict access to abortion, they’re beholden to the agenda of the Koch brothers, and so on—this argument is successfully persuading undecided voters in close races.

It’s frankly a good argument in any election cycle, as it has been since at least the days of Teddy and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. But it has special resonance at a time of record income and wealth inequality, aided and abetted by a noxious flood of unregulated money buying elections.

It’s also a good argument when most Americans haven’t seen their wages increase against inflation, and an extremist cabal of ideological conservatives stands fast against even the preferences of rank-and-file Republicans to raise the minimum wage:

A Hart Research Associates poll conducted last year found that 80 percent of Americans surveyed—including 62 percent of Republicans—favor a $10.10-an-hour wage floor. Those numbers appear to have influenced even some top Republicans; 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney now says he’s for a hike, as is former Senator Rick Santorum, who warns his party, “Let’s not make this argument that we’re for the blue-collar guy, but we are against any minimum-wage increase ever. It just makes no sense.” Some GOP candidates in tight races have taken note. In Arkansas, Senate nominee Tom Cotton says he’ll vote yes on his state’s referendum, as does Alaska Senate nominee Dan Sullivan.

When you see conservative Democrats shrink away from the economic populist messaging, it isn’t because they don’t think it will work. It’s because they’ve either bought into a wrongheaded and counterproductive supply-side view of economics, or because they’re more afraid of big money corporate attacks than they are desirous of appealing to the wishes of the electorate.

Political Animal Archive