30 May 2023

But only now my love has grown

Claude Monet's gardens in Giverny, France

Reminder: One day Richard Nixon decided he didn't want to pay for programs Congress passed that he didn't like. So Congress passed The Impoundment Control Act 1974. This law mandates that the president must pay for anything Congress has authorized. And that means that Biden has to ignore the so-called "debt limit".

"Samuel Alito's Assault on Wetlands Is So Indefensible That He Lost Brett Kavanaugh: On Thursday, the Supreme Court dealt a devastating blow to the nation's wetlands by rewriting a statute the court does not like to mean something it does not mean. The court's decision in Sackett v. EPA is one of the its most egregious betrayals of textualism in memory. Put simply: The Clean Water Act protects wetlands that are 'adjacent' to larger bodies of water. Five justices, however, do not think the federal government should be able to stop landowners from destroying wetlands on their property. To close this gap between what the majority wants and what the statute says, the majority crossed through the word 'adjacent' and replaced it with a new test that's designed to give landowners maximum latitude to fill in, build upon, or otherwise obliterate some of the most valuable ecosystems on earth. [...] If you want to feel really cynical about the Supreme Court—if you want to see how a majority has an infinite number of tools at its disposal to override the words that Congress wrote and instead enshrine a conservative agenda into law—read Alito's opinion in Sackett. Honestly, it's like he's barely even trying. Alito's response to Kavanaugh and Kagan consists of one short paragraph that boils down to four words: Their opinions 'cannot be taken seriously.' Alito relied almost entirely on policy arguments, peppering them with legalese to create the impression of an actual legal opinion. It doesn't work, but who cares? The court has anointed itself the final arbiter of every controversy in the land, and if it thinks the Clean Water Act goes too far, then, well, it's the court's sacred duty to rewrite it. As Kagan put it ruefully: 'That is not how I think our government should work,' because 'it is not how the Constitution thinks our government should work.' Sadly, this is how our Supreme Court now works."

"What the Supreme Court Does Matters More Than What It Says: It's impossible to tell the story of the Supreme Court's voting rights cases without mentioning that John Roberts is opposed to voting rights. [...] This is the basic, quick-and-dirty outline you're likely to read in any coverage of Milligan. But to tell the full story, I think, you have to go back in time—to the early days of the Reagan administration, when a rising conservative legal movement star by the name of John Roberts took a job in the new president's Department of Justice. One especially important part of Roberts's portfolio was advocating for narrow interpretations of the Voting Rights Act: Violations of Section 2 of that law, he wrote, should not be 'too easy to prove, since they provide a basis for the most intrusive interference imaginable by federal courts into state and local processes.' Colleagues remembered him as a 'zealot' who harbored 'fundamental suspicions' about the VRA's utility."

Slowly, slowly, they're starting to admit that what drove the price-inflation was greed. "These companies cynically used global crises to juice profits — and brought us inflation: Throughout all the debate in the last year over what has caused higher prices and how to remedy them, one term hasn't received the attention it deserves, given how well it explains the trend: 'Greedflation.' The term defines as what happens when businesses raise prices higher and faster than is needed to cover increases in their costs. We've reported before that soaring corporate profits have contributed more to inflation than the Federal Reserve Board's preferred targets, wages and consumer demand. Two recent papers, however, measure their impact and identify some of the leading culprits by name."

"Bombshell Report Exposes Key Argument Against Student Debt Relief as 'Categorically False' [...] With debt relief for tens of millions of people hanging in the balance, the GOP state officials who brought the case told Supreme Court justices in late February that they have legal standing to challenge the Biden administration's student debt cancellation plan because if it took effect, it would "cut MOHELA's operating revenue by 40%." MOHELA is Missouri's state-created higher education loan authority, and the supposed financial harms it would suffer under the student debt cancellation plan are critical to the right-wing officials' case. If the Republican plaintiffs can't prove that MOHELA—which is not itself a plaintiff in Biden v. Nebraska—would suffer concrete harm from student debt cancellation, their case falls apart. According to the new report by the Roosevelt Institute and the Debt Collective, not only would MOHELA not be harmed by the Biden administration's student debt relief plan—it would actually see its direct loan revenue rise if the plan is enacted."

Even the conservative Brookings Institute has been saying for over a year that Congress should abolish the debt limit:
"I would like to make three points today.
1. The debt ceiling does not serve any useful purpose. It has not imposed any fiscal discipline on Congress.
2. We don't know what would happen to interest rates and the standing of the U.S. if Congress someday failed to raise the debt ceiling, but we do know the effects would be negative. This is not a risk we should take.
3. Our country faces a lot of long-term economic challenges— high levels of inequality and limited economic mobility, slow productivity growth, climate change, high health care costs, and an unsustainable trajectory for the federal debt. We should address those directly. Bickering over the debt ceiling is a waste of time and energy, creates unnecessary uncertainty, threatens the benefits of issuing the world's safest asset and undermines public confidence in our political institutions.

A note, for comparison: The only other country in the world that has a debt ceiling is Denmark, a nation of six million people with a national debt in 2022 of around 323 billion Danish Kroner. Their debt ceiling is DKK 2 trillion, so reaching the debt ceiling is extremely unlikely any time soon. Unlike America, they have not set a debt ceiling they might — and will — bump up against within the fiscal year. The rest of the countries don't even bother having a debt ceiling because why on earth would you do that?

The trouble with minting the coin is not that it's a "gimmick", but that it would work. "Why Minting the Coin Is A Threat To The Established Order [...] Minting platinum coins with a face value of $1 trillion and depositing them with the Federal Reserve is Constitutional and solves the problem. But it brings up questions that shake the foundations of neoliberalism. If we can 'mint coins' to pay bondholders, why can't we mint coins to do things that people want and need? Instead of just relying on private capital (the rich) to make investment decisions and get things done in our economy? So Biden can do the right thing and just … pay our bills. But then the neoliberal order breaks down. If We (through Congress) can decide to … you name it, then why are we depending on 'the investor class' (capital) and 'market solutions' etc to decide where to invest, allocate resources, do the planning and everything else?"

Atrios wonders why the media talks like DeSantis is the most important governor in America when we have many more impressive governors - and states. He links to Ryan Cooper's article about Tim Walz and Minnesota, who do things like this: "Probably the most significant law passed during the session was a giant expansion of labor rights. As Max Nesterak explains at Minnesota Reformer, the measure mandates paid sick days for nearly all workers, which will accrue at the rate of one hour per 30 hours worked up to a maximum of 48 hours; forbids noncompete agreements in labor contracts; establishes a sectoral bargaining system for nursing homes; allows teachers to negotiate class sizes; and bans 'captive audience' meetings where employers force their workers to listen to anti-union propaganda. It also sets up new protections for meatpackers, construction workers, and Amazon employees. And a separate bill passed on Sunday guarantees a minimum wage for Uber and Lyft drivers." (Oh, but wait, he bottled on one of them: "Minnesota governor vetos gig worker bill following warning from Uber.")

When a Minneapolis county took a little old lady's home to pay off a $2,300 tax bill she couldn't pay, they sold the place but did not return the profit to her. So she went to the Supreme Court, and she won. That's good, but I'm bringing it up because the same people who defend "states rights" have been using the seizure of her condo and theft of the full value of it to "government", by which they mean federal government. They've been treating it as indistinguishable from federal income taxes and any other federal "overreach". They are also the same people who say they want to decentralize power because the federal government is so corrupt and local governments are more answerable (they are not, they are more like local fiefdoms). But here we have a classic example of a local government acting dishonorably and an arm of the federal government being able to undo the injustice.

Ryan Grim alerts us that The criminal case against Henry Kissinger just managed to get stronger somehow, with the arrival of Nick Turse's "Blood On His Hands: Survivors of Kissinger's Secret War in Cambodia Reveal Unreported Mass Killings [...] The U.S. carpet bombing of Cambodia between 1969 and 1973 has been well documented, but its architect, former national security adviser and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who will turn 100 on Saturday, bears responsibility for more violence than has been previously reported. An investigation by The Intercept provides evidence of previously unreported attacks that killed or wounded hundreds of Cambodian civilians during Kissinger's tenure in the White House. When questioned about his culpability for these deaths, Kissinger responded with sarcasm and refused to provide answers."

If you want to know what's happening with Ken Paxton, thank Christopher Hooks for coming closer than I've seen in a long time to the Molly Ivins treatment. "The Texas Legislature Finally Comes for Ken Paxton: The Texas attorney general has spent nearly eight years—and won two elections—under indictment. So why a vote to impeach now? At the start of this week, the Texas Legislature was sliding toward the conclusion of yet another underwhelming, but basically normal, session. Lawmakers had wasted a lot of time and effort, and soon they would go home. But the calm was illusory. By the end of the week, everything was in flames: blood was sloshing down the Capitol's marble halls like the building was the Overlook Hotel. Attorney General Ken Paxton called House Speaker Dade Phelan a drunk, urging him to resign and 'get the help he needs'; later that afternoon, a House committee announced it had been investigating Paxton for months. The Texas House met Saturday, and after about four hours of debate, voted to impeach Paxton. To paraphrase Mao: everything under the dome is in chaos; the situation is excellent. There's been a lot of news coverage of the events of the last week. But this being Texas, it's all underlaid by decades of lore, animosities, and seemingly unaccountable behavior. So if you're trying to get in on the fun, here's a primer."

"American Capitalism Has Produced Its Most Remarkable Innovation Yet: Breadlines: Soviet Russia's food shortages were frequently held up as proof of the Communist system's failure to provide for its citizens. But here in hyper-capitalist America, tens of millions of people are going hungry. [...] The breadline has long been a potent symbol, but it's also one that, for mainstream media and political institutions, can only manifest beyond America's borders. When they happen in other countries, food shortages are framed as evidence of precapitalist backwardness. The American system, by contrast, is one of such relentless dynamism and efficiency that, while individual people might experience problems or hardships — hunger, poverty, unemployment — they are precluded from being an indictment of the model itself."

RIP: "Tina Turner: legendary rock'n'roll singer dies aged 83: Tina Turner, the pioneering rock'n'roll star who became a pop behemoth in the 1980s, has died aged age of 83 after a long illness. She had suffered ill health in recent years, being diagnosed with intestinal cancer in 2016 and having a kidney transplant in 2017. Turner affirmed and amplified Black women's formative stake in rock'n'roll, defining that era of music to the extent that Mick Jagger admitted to taking inspiration from her high-kicking, energetic live performances for his stage persona. " Turner's biggest UK hit didn't get much play in the US, with the result that Phil Spector took out a full-page ad in Billboard thanking the UK for buying "River Deep, Mountain High", which he considered his masterwork. Nevertheless, Turner's light shone in the US as well, and she became the first female performer and the first black performer to appear on the cover of Rolling Stone.

Dahlia Lithwick, "Imagine if the Press Covered the Supreme Court Like Congress: You can't, can you? You can write that the Supreme Court is delegitimizing itself only so many times before you've made yourself ridiculous. If the high court is not in fact behaving in a fashion that makes its decisions respected, the real question is: Why are we all zealously watching and reporting on its decisions as though they are immutable legal truths? Why are we scientifically analyzing every case that comes down as if it holds value? The obvious answer is that these decisions have real consequences—something the past year has shown us far too graphically. But if the Supreme Court is no longer functioning as a real 'court,' why are we mostly still treating its output as if it were simply the 'law'? In some sense, the answer is that the Supreme Court's power and prominence is mediated by the journalists that report on the institution, and we as journalists rely on the court for legitimacy and prominence in return. Someone has to translate legalese to the public. But the way journalists report on the institution—mostly by explaining the 'law'—has set incredibly circumscribed boundaries around how the court's political activities are viewed. The Supreme Court press corps has been largely institutionalized to treat anything the court produces as the law, and to push everything else—matters of judicial conduct, how justices are chosen and seated, ethical lapses—off to be handled by the political press. That ephemera is commentary; the cases remain the real story. [...] It was, at the time, a stinging rebuke to read Margolick conclude that 'no other reporters are as passive as Supreme Court reporters.' Whether the problem was passivity or just a very narrow definition of the job is one thing. But he was emphatically correct to suggest that the long-standing tradition of covering the cases rather than the justices meant that, with few exceptions, there have not been a lot of folks in the SCOTUS press corps on the Clarence/Ginni Thomas beat; almost nobody on the Dobbs-leak beat; and, aside from routinely reporting the fact of plummeting polling numbers, few court insiders on the 'legitimacy' beat. With the notable exception of Politico's Josh Gerstein, who co-reported the Dobbs leak last year, virtually all the scoops about Clarence Thomas' ethical breaches, Leonard Leo's golden spigot, the 'rich donor to Supreme Court Historical Society' pipeline, Ginni Thomas' election disruption efforts, and the catastrophic leak investigation all came from enterprising investigative reporters, political reporters, and 'outsiders' at Politico, ProPublica, and the New York Times. The court's shadow-docket beat was largely invented by legal academics. It speaks volumes about the way the court has been covered that only in the past year have some legacy news outlets hung out 'Help Wanted' ads seeking reporters to cover the court as though it's an actual branch of government and not the oracle at Delphi."

"Economists Hate Rent Control. Here's Why They're Wrong: Half of Americans, namely homeowners, already have rent control. It's time to expand it to everyone. [...] There's just one problem: This neoliberal conventional wisdom is wrong. As recent empirical work has shown, the neoclassical account's core assumptions—one, that rent control restricts the supply of new housing; and two, that it misallocates existing housing, thereby causing an irrecoverable collective loss—fail to hold when it comes to the real world."

"US to give away free lighthouses as GPS makes them unnecessary: Program aims to preserve the properties, most of which are more than a century old, to anyone willing to preserve them."

The Conspiracy Chart —I had no idea there was a theory that Stevie Wonder is not blind.

A few cool pix of Sun halos, arcs and upside-down rainbows seen across England

The Ike & Tina Turner Revue, "River Deep Mountain High", 1969


  1. I remember there was some media push on Nutbush City Limits (pretty sure that was the album River Deep was on in the US as I had it on 8-track). For my money, Nutbush City Limits is Tina's finest song IF you see her perform it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I07249JX8w4

    She takes another piece of my heart with her. Of all the women I loved (on TV) in the '60s, I think only Barbara Eden is still with us.

    1. Barbara Feldon is still around, although she didn't rank up there with Diana Rigg and Nichelle Nichols.