Later On

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Archive for the ‘GOP’ Category

Behind Supreme Court’s Obamacare Case, A Secretive Society’s Hidden Hand

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Nina Martin reports at ProPublica:

The Supreme Court has no shortage of potentially precedent-shattering cases on its docket this term. But the one the justices are hearing tomorrow, King v. Burwell, could be the most consequential.

King focuses on the issue of whether low-income people who get insurance under the Affordable Care Act’s federal exchanges are entitled to tax subsidies. Much has been said (and written) about what could happen if the justices rule “no”: Millions of people in as many as 37 states could lose their health coverage. The political earthquake could be cataclysmic.

Yet, few reports have highlighted the role of the Federalist Society, the conservative law group whose ideas are at the intellectual heart of the King v. Burwell challenge. That’s not surprising, given that the group’s members have played a mostly behind-the-scenes part in King — and in many of the most significant conservative legal victories of the last 30 years.

In a new book, “Ideas with Consequences: The Federalist Society and the Conservative Counterrevolution,” Pomona College political scientist Amanda Hollis-Brusky channels her inner investigative journalist to trace the group’s influence on the courts, and especially, the Supreme Court.

Note: This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Q. What is the Federalist Society? What did it grow out of?

A. The Federalist Society was founded in 1982 by a small group of conservative and libertarian law students at Yale and the University of Chicago. Many of the founders had worked on the Reagan presidential campaign, and when they arrived in their elite law schools, they noticed a profound mismatch between the ideas that were achieving political ascendancy — about limited government and free markets and states’ rights — and a liberal orthodoxy that was embedded in almost all major legal institutions of the time.

Flash forward 30 years: The Federalist Society has matured into a self-professed “society of ideas” that claims 40,000 to 60,000 members. These include every Republican-appointed attorney general and solicitor general since the 1980s, dozens of federal judges, and four sitting U.S. Supreme Court justices: Antonin Scalia, who was one of the organization’s original mentors at the University of Chicago; Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and John Roberts.

Q. How does it operate?

A. The Federalist Society doesn’t exhibit its power in a way that is easily recognizable. It doesn’t bring court cases, or lobby, or publish position papers, or officially endorse political or judicial candidates. Instead, it trains and socializes its members through thousands of events every year. It promotes collaboration. Members are encouraged to draw on their training and networks as they go about their work as judges, policy makers, litigators and academics. In this way, the Federalist Society’s influence is one step removed from the policy process. Yet that influence is profound.

Q. The Federalist Society doesn’t even make public its membership rosters. How did you trace its impact on policy and the courts?

A. I used speaker agendas from Federalist Society national student conferences and lawyer conferences from 1982 to 2012 to construct a database of everyone who’s ever participated in one of these meetings: 1,190 individuals in all. These are the thought leaders — the Mick Jaggers of the movement. If you are invited to speak at a national conference, it signals true believership.

Then I tracked their movements: What Supreme Court cases were they participating in? Were they consistently promoting a certain kind of scholarship or set of beliefs?

I identified the key areas of law that have taken a significant conservative turn over the past 30 years. And by reviewing transcripts from meetings and conferences, I was able to show how those ideas were gestated within the Federalist Society network for decades before being accepted by the Supreme Court.

Q. What kind of ideas? . . .

Continue reading.

In general, secrecy is anathema to democracy, since secrecy is prima facie evidence that what is being kept secret is not in the public interest—if it were, secrecy would not be needed.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 March 2015 at 12:38 pm

On Iran: Absence of Plan B

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Kevin Drum has an interesting note: No commentator who is opposed to Obama’s negotiations with Iran has any Plan B. More at the link, but that’s the essence. It’s like the GOP opposition to Obamacare: they don’t like it, but they don’t have an alternative to offer. The same with negotiating with Iran: they don’t like it, but they don’t have an alternative to offer. Childish, not to put too fine a point on it.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 March 2015 at 9:35 am

Chris Christie settles with Exxon for less than 3¢ on the dollar

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The damages were $8900 million, Christie settled for $250 million: 2.8¢ on the dollar. Really knows how to drive a hard bargain, eh? Amazing negotiating skills.

Benjamin Weiser reports in the NY Times:

A long-fought legal battle to recover $8.9 billion in damages from Exxon Mobil Corporation for the contamination and loss of use of more than 1,500 acres of wetlands, marshes, meadows and waters in northern New Jersey has been quietly settled by the state for around $250 million.

The lawsuits, filed by the State Department of Environmental Protection in 2004, had been litigated by the administrations of four New Jersey governors, finally advancing last year to trial. By then, Exxon’s liability was no longer in dispute; the only issue was how much it would pay in damages.

The stakes were high, given the enormous cost the state’s experts had placed on restoring and replacing the resources damaged by decades of oil refining and other petrochemical operations, as well as of the public’s loss of use of the land.

“The scope of the environmental damage resulting from the discharges is as obvious as it is staggering and unprecedented in New Jersey,” the administration of Gov. Chris Christie said in a court brief filed in November.

But a month ago, with a State Superior Court judge believed to be close to a decision on damages, the Christie administration twice petitioned the court to hold off on a ruling because settlement talks were underway. Then, last Friday, the state told the judge that the case had been resolved.

The parties have not announced the deal publicly, and it still must be approved by the judge. But some legal and environmental experts who were told about the agreement asked why New Jersey would suddenly settle a case that it had fought strenuously for more than a decade.

Richard B. Stewart, a New York University law professor and a former head of the Justice Department’s environmental division under President George Bush, noted the “striking disparity between the damages claimed, which have been exhaustively litigated, and the settlement amount,” particularly with a judicial ruling expected soon. Mr. Stewart said that it was hard to assess the agreement without knowing the evidence, but that “it raises questions.”

The documents that made reference to the settlement, which had not been filed publicly, were obtained after a request by The New York Times. They do not reveal the settlement amount; the figure was provided by two people who were told about it, and who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the deal was not yet public. . .

Continue reading.

The citizens of New Jersey got the opposite of a bargain when they elected Christie: that decision alone cost them $8.65 billion. I think New Jersey could probably have used that money.

Christie portrays himself as a tough guy, but he’s obviously a pushover. A blowhard, yes, but no spine. He left $8,650,000,000 on the table.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 March 2015 at 11:54 am

The GOP stance toward education—example: Outlaw AP American History courses

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The GOP has a tortured relationship with education that teaches about reality.

I do understand that some of my readers are Republicans, and they perhaps disagree with what their party is doing. I get that: I disagree with things the Democratic party does (I’m more a progressive, or Social Democrat)—for example, I have posted many times about poor decisions embraced by Democrats. But I think they will recognize that the GOP as a whole has entered new territory and the party as a whole is fiercely anti-education and anti-intellectual and anti-science, as seen by the way the GOP treats candidates who embrace moderate positions. The GOP is not what it was in Dwight Eisenhower’s day.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 March 2015 at 11:45 am

Posted in Daily life, Education, GOP

Benjamin Netanyahu’s Long History Of Crying Wolf About Iran’s Nuclear Weapons

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Murtaza Hussain reports in The Intercept:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to address the U.S. Congress tomorrow about the perils of striking a nuclear deal with Iran.  Netanyahu, not generally known for his measured rhetoric, has been vociferous in his public statements about the dangers of such compromise, warning that it will allow Iran to “rush to the bomb” and that it amounts to giving the country “a license” to develop nuclear weapons.

It is worth remembering, however, that Netanyahu has said much of this before. Almost two decades ago, in 1996, Netanyahu addressed a joint session of Congress where he darkly warned, “If Iran were to acquire nuclear weapons, this could presage catastrophic consequences, not only for my country, and not only for the Middle East, but for all mankind,” adding that, “the deadline for attaining this goal is getting extremely close.”

Almost 20 years later that deadline has apparently still not passed, but Netanyahu is still making dire predictions about an imminent Iranian nuclear weapon. Four years before that Congressional speech, in 1992, then-parliamentarian Netanyahu advised the Israeli Knesset that Iran was “three to five years” away from reaching nuclear weapons capability, and that this threat had to be “uprooted by an international front headed by the U.S.”

In his 1995 book, “Fighting Terrorism,” Netanyahu once again asserted that Iran would have a nuclear weapon in “three to five years,” apparently forgetting about the expiration of his old deadline.

For a considerable time thereafter, Netanyahu switched his focus to hyping the purported nuclear threat posed by another country, Iraq, about which he claimed there was “no question” that it was “advancing towards to the development of nuclear weapons.” Testifying again in front of Congress again in 2002, Netanyahu claimed that Iraq’s nonexistent nuclear program was in fact so advanced that the country was now operating “centrifuges the size of washing machines.”

Needless to say, these claims turned out to be disastrously false. Despite this, Netanyahu, apparently unchastened by the havoc his previous false charges helped create, immediately went back to ringing the alarm bells about Iran.

A 2009 U.S. State Department diplomatic cable released by Wikileaks described then-prime ministerial candidate Netanyahu informing a visiting Congressional delegation that Iran was “probably one or two years away” from developing weapons capability. Another cable later the same year showed Netanyahu, now back in office as prime minister, telling a separate delegation of American politicians in Jerusalem that “Iran has the capability now to make one bomb,” adding that alternatively, “they could wait and make several bombs in a year or two.” . . .

Continue reading.

Toward the end of the article:

The conclusion from this history is inescapable. Over the course of more than 20 years, Benjamin Netanyahu has made false claims about nuclear weapons programs in both Iran and Iraq, inventing imaginary timelines for their development, and making public statements that contradicted the analysis of his own intelligence advisers.

Reminds me of Alan Greenspan and other conservative economists who constantly warn that inflation is just about to happen, year after year after year, with inflation not happening: inability to learn from experience.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 March 2015 at 11:30 am

Robert Kagan, conservative hawk, things GOP made a big mistake inviting Netanyahu to speak to Congress to oppose Obama

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Robert Kagan has an interesting column in the Washington Post this morning. It’s worth reading in its entirety, so click the link. He concludes:

. . . For the United States, however, there is no doubt that the precedent being set is a bad one. This is not the first time that a U.S. administration and an Israeli prime minister have been at loggerheads. President George H.W. Bush and his secretary of state, James Baker, reportedly detested then-prime minister Yitzhak Shamir and did their best to help him lose his next election. Baker even had a few choice words for the American Jews who tried to come to the Israeli government’s defense. Did anyone at the time think of inviting Shamir to address Congress? The very idea would have been regarded as laughable. Now, we’re supposed to believe that it’s perfectly reasonable.

Is anyone thinking about the future? From now on, whenever the opposition party happens to control Congress — a common enough occurrence — it may call in a foreign leader to speak to a joint meeting of Congress against a president and his policies. Think of how this might have played out in the past. A Democratic-controlled Congress in the 1980s might, for instance, have called the Nobel Prize-winning Costa Rican President Oscar Arias to denounce President Ronald Reagan’s policies in Central America. A Democratic-controlled Congress in 2003 might have called French President Jacques Chirac to oppose President George W. Bush’s impending war in Iraq.

Does that sound implausible? Yes, it was implausible — until now. Now we are sailing into uncharted waters. Those who favor having Netanyahu speak may imagine this is an extraordinary situation requiring extraordinary measures, that one side is so clearly right, the other so clearly wrong. Yet that is often how people feel about the crisis of their time. We can be sure that in the future the urgency will seem just as great. The only difference between then and now is that today, bringing a foreign leader before Congress to challenge a U.S. president’s policies is unprecedented. After next week, it will be just another weapon in our bitter partisan struggle.

Kevin Drum observes:

President Obama has been poking sticks in Republican eyes ever since November, and Republicans desperately needed to poke back to maintain credibility with their base. Since passing useful legislation was apparently not in the cards, this was all they could come up with. What a debacle.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 February 2015 at 12:16 pm

Scott Walker simply makes things up

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It’s unclear if he is a sociopath who simply is uninterested in the truth or… well, maybe it’s not so unclear.

Read this brief post by Kevin Drum on what PolitiFact found. It contrasts Walker’s statements with the truth.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 February 2015 at 12:10 pm

Posted in Election, GOP

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