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Socialism & the Battle of Ideas

Authored by Ludwig von Mises via The Mises Institute,

[This article is excerpted from Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis]

It is a mistake to think that the lack of success of experiments in Socialism that have been made can help to overcome Socialism. Facts per se can neither prove nor refute anything. Everything is decided by the interpretation and explanation of the facts, by the ideas and the theories.

The man who clings to Socialism will continue to ascribe all the world's evil to private property and to expect salvation from Socialism. Socialists ascribe the failures of Russian Bolshevism to every circumstance except the inadequacy of the system. From the socialist point of view, Capitalism alone is responsible for all the misery the world has had to endure in recent years. Socialists see only what they want to see and are blind to anything that might contradict their theory.

Only ideas can overcome ideas and it is only the ideas of Capitalism and of [Classical] Liberalism that can overcome Socialism. Only by a battle of ideas can a decision be reached.

Liberalism and Capitalism address themselves to the cool, well-balanced mind. They proceed by strict logic, eliminating any appeal to the emotions. Socialism, on the contrary, works on the emotions, tries to violate logical considerations by rousing a sense of personal interest and to stifle the voice of reason by awakening primitive instincts.

Even with those of intellectually higher standing, with the few capable of independent reflection, this seems to give Socialism an advantage. With the others, the great masses who are unable to think, the Socialist position is considered unshakable. A speaker who inflames the passions of the masses is supposed to have a better chance of success than one who appeals to their reason. Thus the prospects of Liberalism in the fight with Socialism are accounted very poor.

This pessimistic point of view is completely mistaken in its estimate of the influence which rational and quiet reflection can exercise on the masses. It also exaggerates enormously the importance of the part played by the masses, and consequently mass-psychological elements, in creating and forming the predominant ideas of an epoch.

It is true that the masses do not think. But just for this reason they follow those who do think. The intellectual guidance of humanity belongs to the very few who think for themselves. At first they influence the circle of those capable of grasping and understanding what others have thought; through these intermediaries their ideas reach the masses and there condense themselves into the public opinion of the time. Socialism has not become the ruling idea of our period because the masses first thought out the idea of the socialization of the means of production and then transmitted it to the intellectually higher classes. Even the materialistic conception of history, haunted as it is by "the psyche of the people" as conceived by Romanticism and the historical school of jurisprudence does not risk such an assertion. Of itself the mass psyche has never produced anything but mass crime, devastation, and destruction. Admittedly the idea of Socialism is also in its effects nothing more than destruction, but it is nevertheless an idea. It had to be thought out, and this could only be the work of individual thinkers. Like every other great thought, it has penetrated to the masses only through the intellectual middle class. Neither the people nor the masses were the first socialists. Even today they are agrarian socialist and syndicalist rather than socialist.

The first socialists were the intellectuals; they and not the masses are the backbone of Socialism. The power of Socialism too, is like any other power ultimately spiritual; and it finds its support in ideas proceeding from the intellectual leaders, who give them to the people. If the intelligentsia abandoned Socialism its power would end. In the long run the masses cannot withstand the ideas of the leaders. True, individual demagogues may be ready, for the sake of a career and against their better knowledge, to instil into the people ideas which flatter their baser instincts and which are therefore sure to be well received. But in the end, prophets who in their heart know themselves to be false cannot prevail against those filled with the power of sincere conviction. Nothing can corrupt ideas. Neither by money nor by other rewards can one hire men for the fight against ideas.

Human society is an issue of the mind. Social co-operation must first be conceived, then willed, then realized in action. It is ideas that make history, not the "material productive forces," those nebulous and mystical schemata of the materialist conception of history. If we could overcome the idea of Socialism, if humanity could be brought to recognize the social necessity of private ownership in the means of production, then Socialism would have to leave the stage. That is the only thing that counts.

The victory of the socialist idea over the Liberal idea has only come about through the displacement of the social attitude, which has regard to the social function of the single institution and the total effect of the whole social apparatus, by an anti-social attitude, which considers the individual parts of the social mechanism as detached units. Socialism sees the individuals--the hungry, the unemployed, and the rich—and finds fault on that account; Liberalism never forgets the whole and the interdependence of every phenomenon. It knows well enough that private ownership in the means of production is not able to transform the world into a paradise; it has never tried to establish anything beyond the simple fact that the socialist order of society is unrealizable, and therefore less able than Capitalism to promote the well-being of all.

No one has understood Liberalism less than those who have joined its ranks during the recent decades. They have felt themselves obliged to fight excrescences of Capitalism, thereby taking over without a qualm the characteristic anti-social attitude of the socialists. A social order has no excrescences which can be cut off at will. If a phenomenon results inevitably from a social system based on private ownership in the means of production, no ethical or aesthetic caprice can condemn it. Speculation, for example, which is inherent in all economic action, in a socialistic society as well as any other, cannot be condemned for the form it takes under Capitalism merely because the censor of morals mistakes its social function. Nor have these disciples of Liberalism been any more fortunate in their criticisms of Socialism. They have constantly declared that Socialism is a beautiful and noble ideal towards which one ought to strive were it realizable, but that, alas, it could not be so, because it presupposed human beings more perfect morally than those with whom we have to deal. It is difficult to see how people can decide that Socialism is in any way better than Capitalism unless they can maintain that it functions better as a social system. With the same justification it might be said that a machine constructed on the basis of perpetual motion would be better than one worked according to the given laws of mechanics—if only it could be made to function reliably. If the concept of Socialism contains an error which prevents that system from doing what it is supposed to do, then Socialism cannot be compared with the Capitalist system, for this has proved itself workable. Neither can it be called nobler, more beautiful or more just.

It is true, Socialism cannot be realized, but it is not because it calls for sublime and altruistic beings. One of the things this book set out to prove was that the socialist commonwealth lacks above all one quality which is indispensable for every economic system which does not live from hand to mouth but works with indirect and roundabout methods of production: that is the ability to calculate, and therefore to proceed rationally. Once this has been generally recognized, all socialist ideas must vanish from the minds of reasonable human beings.

How untenable is the opinion that Socialism must come because social evolution necessarily leads to it, has been shown in earlier sections of this book. The world inclines to Socialism because the great majority of people want it. They want it because they believe that Socialism will guarantee a higher standard of welfare. The loss of this conviction would signify the end of Socialism.
Sun, February 14, 2016 - 8:45 PM — permalink - 0 comments - add a comment

Malaysian Airlines Flt. MH370 Pilot Resurfaces in Taiwan, Two Years After Flight Disappearance

Friday, February 12, 2016 22:42

(Before It's News)

To this day, no one really knows what happened to the plane or the passengers on Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 that disappeared in March 2013, however one that that has stumped investigators, is how the pilot has mysteriously reappeared in a Taiwan hospital on Monday, suffering from amnesia. From the pilots committing suicide, to aliens and a second “Asian Bermuda Triangle,” the video below takes a look at 10 of the most popular theories of what could have possibly happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.

10. Pilot Suicide: No evidence to date suggests this was the likely outcome

9. Terrorists crashed it into the sea, although none have taken credit for the crash

8. Afghan Hijacking – Russians say crew and passengers are in Afghanistan

7. Life insurance scam

6. North Korea has the plane as part of a cloaking test

5. Landed in the Andaman Islands

4. MH370 hid under another plane

3. Plane shot down by US Military

2. Asian Bermuda Triangle

1. Alien Abduction

10 Theories About Missing Flight MH370


Your News Wire Reports:

The missing pilot of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 that disappeared in March 2013, has mysterious reappeared in a Taiwan hospital on Monday, suffering from amnesia.

Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah was transported to the Taipei Adventist Hospital by villagers after they claim to have found a man lying unconscious on the banks of the Tangshui river. reports:

He finally woke up almost 16 hours after arriving at the hospital, but couldn’t remember his name or how he arrived in Taipei. He was rapidly identified, however, thanks to his fingerprints, instantly attracting a lot of attention from the media and from various Asian governments.

The doctors who have been treating since his arrival believe that he may be suffering from regressive amnesia, caused by a major stress or life-threatening situation.

“The patient seems to have undergone a lot of stress lately, and the amnesia is probably an unconscious self-defense mechanism,” claims Dr. Syed Boon Sulong. “The patient is still very weak and sick, and his brain seems to be blocking access to a certain part of his memory, in order to protect him from pain that these memories could generate. His health is too fragile for the moment, but over time, he should able to remember everything.”

Many people hope that Captain Shah will now be able to bring answers concerning Malaysia Airlines’ Boeing 777-200ER, that disappeared on 8 March 2014, while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

Despite all the efforts of the international community, the fate of the infamous flight remains unclear, almost 2 years after the events. Hopefully, as Mr. Shah recovers his memory, he should be able to bring answers to many questions concerning the 12 Malaysian crew members and 227 passengers from 15 nations that were on board.
Sun, February 14, 2016 - 8:40 PM — permalink - 0 comments - add a comment

Road to World War III: Turkish Army Enters Syria After Second Day of Shelling as Saudi Warplanes Arrive


Update: Reports indicate the Turkish army has crossed the border into Syria.

Дамаск заявил о вхождении турецких военных в Сирию

— Новости ДОЖДЯ (@tvrain_live) 10:56 AM - 14 Feb 2016
"The Syrian government says Turkish forces were believed to be among 100 gunmen it said entered Syria on Saturday accompanied by 12 pick-up trucks mounted with heavy machine guns, in an ongoing supply operation to insurgents fighting Damascus," Reuters reports. "The operation of supplying ammunition and weapons is continuing via the Bab al-Salama crossing to the Syrian area of Azaz," the Assad government says.

Meanwhile, since all that would take to unleash a full-blown war is for some Russian to be unexpectedly blown up, events like this do not inspire much confidence in the Syrian "ceasefire":

#Breaking Several mortars reportedly impacted the vicinity of the Russian embassy in Damascus #Syria

— Michael Horowitz (@michaelh992) 10:52 AM - 14 Feb 2016
On Saturday, the geopolitical world was shocked when Turkey began shelling Aleppo, where the Syrian opposition has its back against the wall in the face of an aggressive advance by Hezbollah and the IRGC supported, of course, by Russian airstrikes.

To be sure, everyone knew Ankara and Riyadh would have to do something quick if they wanted to preserve the rebellion. Their proxies are being rolled up rapidly by Hassan Nasrallah’s army and Vladimir Putin’s air force juggernaut. But few expected the escalation would come so quickly.

But Recep Tayyip Erdogan is unpredictable (just ask the lone surviving pilot of the Su-24 Turkey shot down in November) and this weekend, he decided that there’s no time like the present when it comes to starting World War III.

Officially, Turkey says it’s shelling Kurdish positions in Syria in self defense. It’s all about securing the border against hostiles, Ankara says. Of course the idea that the YPG are set to invade Turkey is laughable. The Syrian Kurds have secured enough space in their own country to declare an autonomous proto-state, and they needn’t aspire to capturing Turkish territory.

But for Erdogan, that’s precisely the problem. Ankara fears the YPG’s gains will embolden the PKK militarily and the HDP politically and last June’s elections clearly suggest that an emboldened Kurdish minority has the power to shake up the political scene.

And so, Turkey is set to take the fight to Syria in the name of fighting “terrorists”, which for Erdogan, means eradicating the Kurds. As we noted on Saturday, the challenge for Ankara and Riyadh is this: somehow, Turkey and Saudi Arabia need to figure out how to spin an attack on the YPG and an effort to rescue the opposition at Aleppo as an anti-ISIS operation even though ISIS doesn’t have a large presence in the area.

Incredibly, Turkey seems less concerned about the optics than we thought. In short, Erdogan looks as though he’s prepared to simply enter the war on the pretext that Turkey needs to roll back the YPG which, you’re reminded is explicitly backed by the US.

In a way that makes sense. You can’t very well shell Aleppo and use ISIS as an excuse. The group’s presence isn’t large enough in the area. But what you can do is say “the PKK are terrorists, they’re allied with the YPG who are in Aleppo, and therefore, we need to shell Aleppo.” Put in the simplest possible terms, what Erdogan is really doing is trying to reopen supply lines closed by Russia and Iran by wiping out Kurdish forces who dominate the northern border with Turkey.

Turkish drones suspected of penetrating Syrian airspace over northern #Aleppo to find additional targets for artillery strikes.

— Daniel Nisman (@DannyNis) 2:43 AM - 14 Feb 2016
The shelling continued on Sunday. "The Turkish army shelled positions held by Kurdish-backed militia in northern Syria for a second day on Sunday, killing two fighters," Reuters reports, citing the admittedly dubious Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The YPG controls nearly all of Syria's northern frontier with Turkey, and has been a close ally of the United States in the campaign against Islamic State in Syria, but Ankara views the group as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a three-decade-old insurgency for autonomy in southeast Turkey."

Jaysh al-Thuwwar, an allied group warned Turkey against further attacks, saying if the country "has goals in our dear nation, we will defend our land and our people, and view it as a hostile party". Again, this comes from the very same groups the US is overtly supporting with arms and air power. So not the CIA-sponsored opposition. Turkey is shelling fighters who literally have the clearance to call in US airstrikes from warplanes that, in an irony of ironies, are flying from Incirlik, the Turkish air base.

And speaking of Incirlik, the Saudis are moving into position.

#Turkey and Saudi Arabia reportedly established a joint operation room for syrian operations, as Saudi jets arrived to Incirlik #Syria #KSA

— Michael Horowitz (@michaelh992) 7:01 AM - 14 Feb 2016
#North_Thunder, the biggest military exercise in the region led by #Saudi

— درع الوطن (@diraalwatan) 7:17 AM - 14 Feb 2016
They're also conducting "exercises" dubbed "North Thunder" or, "Road North." Here's SPA (translated):

Witnessing the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia during the next few hours the arrival of troops participating in the military exercise largest and most important in the history of the region, "Raad north," In the King Khalid Military City Hafr al-Batin in the northern kingdom will be implemented exercise which is the largest military maneuver in terms of the number of countries, with the participation of 20 Arab, Islamic and friendly country, in addition to the Peninsula shield forces, and these countries are: Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Bahrain, Senegal, Sudan, Kuwait, Maldives, Morocco , Pakistan, Chad, Tunisia, the moon, Djibouti, Oman, Qatar, Malaysia, Egypt, Mauritania, Mauritius, in addition to the Peninsula shield forces. Islands constitute Raad north, the largest military exercise of its kind in terms of the number of participating countries, and military equipment quality of weapons and military equipment diverse and sophisticated, including fighter jets from different models reflect the large quantitative and qualitative spectrum, which show him those forces, as well as the participation of a wide range of artillery and tanks, infantry and air defense systems, naval forces, in a simulation of the highest level of high alert for the armies of the countries 20 participation.

Exercise Raad North represents a clear message to the Saudi brothers and brothers and friends of the participating countries stand united to face all challenges and to maintain peace and stability in the region, in addition to the emphasis on many of the goals, all in full readiness circle and maintain the peace and security of the region and the world .

Analysts say that the exercise Raad North confirms that the leaders of the participating countries, are fully in line with the vision of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the need to protect the peace and stability in the region.

A lot of words to say this: "We're flexing our muscles on the way to invading Syria."

"What is present now is aircraft that are part of the Saudi forces," Brigadier General Ahmed al-Asiri told Al Arabiya News Channel on Sunday, referencing the Saudi presence at Incirlik. "The kingdom is ready to participate in any ground operations that the coalition (against ISIS) may agree to carry out in Syria," he added.

Remember, Turkey also shelled the Syrian army on Saturday.

“Turkish artillery shelled Syrian territory, targeting Syrian Kurdish positions and the positions of the Syrian Arab Army,” SANA news agency reported, citing a letter from Damascus to the UN. Expect those attacks to continue in the name of "self defense."

Meanwhile, the Russians aren't letting up. Aleppo will be recaptured and that, as they say, is that. "Russia is determined to create facts on the ground, and when they have accomplished this, then they will invite the West to fight a common enemy, this is ISIS," Norbert Roettgen, head of the foreign affairs committee in the German parliament says, underscoring our contention that Russia is determined to negotiate from a position of absolute strength. "Let's be clear about what this agreement does. It allows Russia's assault on Aleppo to continue for another week," John McCain exclaimed. "Mr Putin is not interested in being our partner. He wants to shore up the Assad regime, he wants to establish Russia as a major power in the Middle East, he wants to use Syria as a live fire exercise for Russia’s modernizing military."

Right. And America is seemingly powerless to stop him.

In the short term, the only question now is this: how long will it be before Turkey or Saudi Arabia kills a Hezbollah fighter or an IRGC general?

Or worse: what happens when a Russian ends up dead at the hands of the region's Sunni powers?
Sun, February 14, 2016 - 7:33 PM — permalink - 0 comments - add a comment

Inside the Most Important Supreme Court Case in Human History

CREDIT: AP Photo/David J. Phillip

The earth just had a terrible day in court.

Tuesday evening, the Supreme Court unexpectedly suspended the Obama administration’s most aggressive effort to fight climate change in a 5-4 vote. The rules, known as the “Clean Power Plan,” target greenhouse emissions from existing power plants and are expected to “decrease total emissions by a total of 16% from 2020 levels” by the time the rules take full effect in 2030. That’s only one step towards the 80 percent total reduction needed to ward of the worst effects of climate change, but it is a significant step.

And, as the Court’s party-line vote suggests, the Clean Power Plan is also a test of whether the United States has the political will to tackle climate change.

If we do not prove able to this task, the consequences will be catastrophic. In the relatively short term, the Environmental Protection Agency predicts that the Clean Power Plan will “avoid thousands of premature deaths and mean thousands fewer asthma attacks and hospitalizations in 2030 and every year beyond.” In the longer term, major cities could be swallowed by the ocean. Displaced residents will trigger a worldwide refugee crisis. Entire regions of the United States could be converted into a permanent Dust Bowl. The sheer magnitude of the catastrophe will rival any tragedy that has faced humanity since the Book of Genesis.

The sheer magnitude of the catastrophe will rival any tragedy that has faced humanity since the Book of Genesis.
For the moment, the fate of the Clean Power Plan — and the question of just how capable the United States is of self-governance — remains uncertain. The Supreme Court ordered the Plan to be temporarily halted, most likely until the Court hands down an opinion on the legality of the Plan in June of 2017. If the Plan survives the next presidential election, and if it is ultimately upheld by the Court, then Tuesday’s order will only succeed in delaying the new rules.

If the Court ultimately strikes down the Plan, however, the United States could be left impotent in the face of a looming catastrophe — and not just with respect to this particular catastrophe. The states challenging the Clean Power Plan call for sweeping changes to the balance of power between the regulator and the regulated. Indeed, if some of their most aggressive arguments succeed, it’s unclear that the federal government is permitted to do much of anything at all.

The Big “Oops”

The various parties challenging the Clean Power Plan, which include multiple states and energy companies, raise several disagreements with how the EPA has interpreted its own authority to regulate under the Clean Air Act. The most difficult question presented by this case, however, is also the most absurd. A quarter-century ago, Congress enacted two conflicting amendments to the Clean Air Act. One of these amendments arguably prevents the EPA from moving forward with the Clean Power Plan, the other does not.

It is as if Schrödinger’s cat were written into the United States Code. The cat is both alive and dead. The Clean Power Plan is both legal and illegal.

To explain, the Clean Air Act contains three provisions governing emissions from existing power plans. The first requires the EPA to set standards for six pollutants that the law labels “criteria” pollutants. The second governs about 200 pollutants labeled “hazardous air pollutants” or “HAPs.” The third, which the EPA relied on when it created the Clean Power Plan, is a catch-all provision permitting regulation of “any air pollutant” that is not covered by the first two provisions.

It is as if Schrödinger’s cat were written into the United States Code. The cat is both alive and dead. The Clean Power Plan is both legal and illegal.

In 1990, however, Congress passed two competing amendments to this catch-all provision. The House version of the amendment arguably can be read to prevent catch-all regulations from being applied to power plants that are already regulated under the first two provisions. The Senate version, by contrast, does not raise this issue.

Rather than reconcile this disagreement in the final bill, however, Congress simply dumped both versions of the amendment into the final bill, passed it, and sent it on to President George H.W. Bush, who signed it into law. Thus, the 1990 law both rewrites the catch-all provision in a way that arguably limits EPA’s power, and rewrites it in a different way that does not endanger the Clean Power Plan.


Despite this conflict, EPA had good reason to conclude that the House amendment does not control this case. A 2012 book co-authored by Justice Antonin Scalia concludes that the proper solution to this dilemma is simply to proceed as if the 1990 amendments never happened. “If a text contains truly irreconcilable provisions, at the same level of generality, and they have been simultaneously adopted,” Scalia wrote with his co-author Bryan Garner, “neither provision should be given effect.”

There’s also the venerable Chevron Doctrine, laid out by the Supreme Court’s 1984 decision in Chevron v. Natural Resources Defense Council, which provides that courts should defer to a federal agency’s interpretation of an ambiguous law so long as “the agency’s answer is based on a permissible construction of the statute.” Writing for herself and two other justices in a 2014 immigration case, Justice Elena Kagan concluded that the Court should defer to an agency under Chevron after it was confronted with a “Janus-faced” statute whose text was at war with itself. Significantly, Justice Anthony Kennedy, the most likely swing vote in the Clean Power Plan case, joined Kagan’s opinion.

The War on the Presidency

This particular challenge to the Clean Power Plan does not arise in a vacuum, however. It is really only one face of a multi-faceted effort to shrink the powers of the presidency and prevent agencies like the EPA from carrying out their lawful authority. Last November, at an annual convention of the Federalist Society — a conservative legal organization whose members include several sitting senators and three Supreme Court justices — the gathered attorneys appeared obsessed with various plans to limit agency actions. As ThinkProgress wrote shortly after the convention, “this topic came up so often that one could be forgiven for assuming that this year’s convention schedule was planned by Captain Ahab, with the Obama administration’s regulations playing the role of Moby Dick.”

Some of their plans involved legislation such as the REINS Act, a bill that passed the House of Representatives on multiple occasions, and that could effectively halt all but the most minor new regulations in their entirety. Other proposals involved ambitious legal doctrines seeking to roll back Chevron or even declare agency regulation unconstitutional.

And this movement to hobble the executive branch clearly has allies on the Supreme Court. The states challenging the Clean Power plan rely heavily on a 2014 opinion by Justice Scalia suggesting that “clear congressional authority” may be necessary when an agency takes a novel regulatory action. Thus, in cases involving what they deem to be novel agency action, the states would flip Chevron on its head and require ambiguous laws to be read against the agency’s position.

Ironically, the biggest sign that the Court is poised to shift power away from the executive and toward the judiciary, however, is a case that was widely viewed as a triumphant victory for the Obama administration. The Supreme Court rejected an effort to destroy much of the Affordable Care Act in King v. Burwell. King, however, also indicated that Chevron may not apply at all to matters of “deep ‘economic and political significance.'” Thus, it’s far from clear that the Court will defer to the EPA when it launches a major effort to combat what may be the greatest looming crisis facing humanity.

The attack on the Clean Power Plan, in other words, could do far more than simply undermine this one set of regulations if it prevails in the Supreme Court. It could potentially place strict limits on federal agencies. In an era when gerrymandering and other redistricting factors make it exceedingly difficult for Democrats to capture a majority in the House of Representatives, such limits on agency action could render Democratic presidents virtually powerless. They would have little chance of gaining the congressional majority they need to govern, even if a majority of the nation supports their agenda, and would be hobbled by new limits on their power to enforce existing laws.

Returning America to the Dark Ages

Yet, despite the aggressiveness of the challengers’ arguments against executive power, these arguments aren’t even the most ambitious portion of their case against the Clean Power Plan. To the contrary, the states challenging the EPA offer a theory of states’ rights that, while difficult to parse, appears to press for limits on federal power that would call into question why we should even bother having a federal government in the first place.

The Clean Power Plan offers states a choice. States may either elect to devise their own plan to meet emissions reduction standards set by the EPA, or they can do nothing and the federal government will implement such a plan on its own. The states challenging the Clean Power Plan raise several states’ rights based objections to this arrangement, most of which are unlikely to garner much support on the Court. As the Justice Department notes in its brief, the Constitution “permit[s] congressional regulation of activities causing air or water pollution . . . that may have effects in more than one State.” Since the federal government could simply choose to regulate greenhouse emissions without any input from the states whatsoever, it is difficult to understand how the Clean Power Plan becomes more offensive to states’ rights because it gives states the option to participate in the process.

The challengers’ most aggressive argument, however, challenges the federal government’s power to enforce regulations that may impose some cost on the states down the road:

If EPA effectively mandates through a Federal Plan the retirement of coal-fired and fossil fuel-fired plants or reductions in their utilization (including by mandating the purchase of exorbitantly expensive emissions allowances), state utility and electricity regulators will have to respond in the same way as if the State itself had ordered the retirements. Likewise, if EPA orders through a Federal Plan that power-plant owners construct new capacity, state utility and electricity regulators will have to plan for and oversee its construction and integration into the electric system as if the State itself had issued the order.

If federal regulations cause someone to built a new power plant, state regulators will want to regulate that plant. And that, somehow, makes the federal regulation an incursion on states’ rights.

Under the challengers’ theory, military bases are unconstitutional.

The problem with this argument is that, if taken seriously, it would invalidate nearly any federal program. Suppose, for example, that the federal government decided to implement a health insurance program for the elderly (we’ll call it “Medicare”). Such a program would inject new money into the health care system, which would cause new hospitals and other health care facilities to be built. These new facilities, moreover, would undoubtedly be regulated by existing state rules and state agencies — they may, for example, need to apply for permits and licenses from state-paid employees. But it’s ludicrous to suggest that, because Medicare sets in motion a chain of events that eventually imposes costs on a state, Medicare is unconstitutional.

Similarly, suppose that the federal government decided to construct a army base within a state. The base would house soldiers, who would patronize state-regulated businesses, drive on state-maintained roads and send their children to state-run schools. Over time, those roads would deteriorate faster and the state may even need to build new roads to accommodate the increased traffic. Meanwhile, the new students would increase the cost of public education. Thus, under the challengers’ theory, military bases are unconstitutional.

The challenge to the Clean Power Plan, in other words, is more than just a threat to the Obama administration’s efforts to ward off a global catastrophe. It is also one of the most ambitious attempts to rethink the role of government to reach the Supreme Court in years. And five justices thought this challenge had enough merit that they halted the Clean Power Plan before any lower court had even considered those rules.

That, in and of itself, may be the most remarkable thing about this case. As the Justice Department explains in its brief, “the danger of premature intervention in lower-court proceedings is particularly acute here, where no court has yet analyzed the merits of applicants’ claims. Applicants identify no case, and we are aware of none, in which the Court has granted a stay of an administrative rule before that rule has been reviewed by any court.”
Sun, February 14, 2016 - 12:05 AM — permalink - 0 comments - add a comment

Bill Maher Lights Up a Joint to Make a Sobering Point


If you're for legalizing it, put down the Cheetos and listen up.

As part of his new rules on Friday's "Real Time," Bill Maher implored those who are for a completely weed-legal America to "get your head out of your grass."

Though some think legalized pot is a forgone conclusion, Maher said "progress doesn't just automatically snowball." The TV host brought up how more than 500 dispensaries have been shut down in Los Angeles and dispensaries "still can't get banking services." He also says with other rights like gay marriage, no one stood to lose money if the law changed. With legal marijuana and the war on drugs, it's different.

And just to make sure he got your attention, Maher even lit up a joint, which he said was legal. For now, anyway ...
Sun, February 14, 2016 - 12:00 AM — permalink - 0 comments - add a comment

Justice Scalia’s Death and Implications for the 2016 Election, the Supreme Court and the Nation

UPDATE: WFAA/HuffPost Calling Heart Attack as the Cause of Death:


Justice Antonin Scalia has died in Texas at the age of 79. Let me begin with condolences to his family, friends, and former clerks who were fiercely loyal to him (and he to them). Whatever you thought of Justice Scalia’s politics and jurisprudence, he was an American patriot, who believed in the greatness of the United States and in the strength of American courts to protect the Constitution’s values as he has seen them. He also wrote the most entertaining and interesting opinions of any Justice on the Court.

I was just in the early stages of a project to evaluate Justice Scalia’s legacy, and I will have much to say later on about Justice Scalia’s impact on the judiciary where his views on constitutional originalism and new textualist statutory interpretation have have played a key role in the development of American jurisprudence and argumentation in the federal courts.

But let’s begin here with the implications for the Court’s current term, its impact on the 2016 election, and on the Nation as a whole.

The Court’s current term. The Supreme Court has been divided in recent years between liberals and conservatives, and more recently between Republican-appointed Justices (all conservative) and Democratic-appointed Justices (all liberal). There are a number of key cases coming to the Court where the Court was expected to divide 5-4 on issues ranging from abortion, to affirmative action, to labor union power, to the President’s power over immigration and energy policy, to voting rights. While there is a vacancy on the Court, many of those cases would now be expected to divide 4-4, which would lead the Court perhaps to dismiss the cases by an equally divided court, leaving lower court opinions standing—whether than opinion pointed in a liberal or conservative direction. Some of those cases could perhaps be delayed for appointment of a new Justice, a Justice that could potentially swing the Court from a 5-4 conservative majority to a 5-4 liberal majority. But that assumes that President Obama could nominate a liberal who could get confirmed by the Republican Senate. I think that’s fairly unlikely. Let me turn to that point.

A replacement by President Obama? It would be good for the Court as an institution to have a full complement of Justices, so that it does not divide 4-4 and can get the people’s business done. However, President Obama is coming toward the end of his term, and would need to get an appointee through the Senate Judiciary Committee. In the best of times, this is a process that takes months. But this is not the best of times. This is a highly polarized time, and strong conservatives will fight VERY hard to have Republicans block a liberal appointment to the Court. So the Obama administration faces something of a choice. Nominate a hard-core liberal who could be filibustered by a Republican Senate, or nominate someone more moderate (Judge Garland?) who could PERHAPS get confirmed if enough Republicans would be willing to go along. That’s no sure thing at all. One reason for nominating a strong liberal would be to make the issue more salient in the Presidential election. So let me now turn to that.

The Supreme Court as a 2016 Presidential campaign issue. A few months ago, before the death of Justice Scalia, I wrote the following at Talking Points Memo:

The future composition of the Supreme Court is the most important civil rights cause of our time. It is more important than racial justice, marriage equality, voting rights, money in politics, abortion rights, gun rights, or managing climate change. It matters more because the ability to move forward in these other civil rights struggles depends first and foremost upon control of the Court. And control for the next generation is about to be up for grabs, likely in the next presidential election, a point many on the right but few on the left seem to have recognized.

When the next President of the United States assumes office on January 20, 2017, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will be nearly 84, Justices Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy will be over 80, and Justice Stephen Breyer will be 78. Although many Justices have served on the Court into their 80s and beyond, the chances for all of these Justices remaining through the next 4 or 8 years of the 45th President are slim. Indeed, the next president will likely make multiple appointments to the Court.

The stakes are high. On non-controversial cases, or cases where the ideological stakes are low, the Justices often agree and are sometimes unanimous. In such cases, the Justices act much like lower court judges do, applying precedents, text, history, and a range of interpretative tools to decide cases. In the most controversial cases, however—those involving issues such as gun rights, affirmative action, abortion, money in politics, privacy, and federal power—the value judgments and ideology of the Supreme Court Justices, and increasingly the party affiliation of the president appointing them, are good predictors of each Justice’s vote.

A conservative like Justice Scalia tends to vote to uphold abortion restrictions, strike down gun restrictions, and view the First Amendment as protecting the right to spend unlimited sums in elections. A liberal like Justice Ginsburg tends to vote the opposite way: to strike down abortion restrictions, uphold gun laws, and view the government’s interest in stopping undue influence of money in elections as justifying some limits on money in politics. This to not to say it is just politics in these cases, or that these Justices are making crassly partisan decisions. They’re not. It is that increasingly a Justice’s ideology and jurisprudence line up with one political party’s positions or another because Justices are chosen for that very reason.

Especially if Senate Republicans block a liberal appointee to the Supreme Court, this has the potential to inject this issue into the Presidential campaign. And it will work both ways. You can bet that Ted Cruz will be running on a platform to replace Scalia with more and more Scalias. This could finally be the election that brings the Supreme Court into national focus much more (it has not been mentioned so far in any of the presidential debates I’ve seen). You can listen to UCI Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky discuss the implications of the changing Supreme Court with Dahlia Lithwick on Slate’s Amicus podcast.

The Implications for the Nation of a changing Supreme Court. There is so much at stake concerning the Supreme Court for the next few years. As I wrote in Plutocrats United, the easiest way to amend the Constitution to deal with campaign finance disasters like the Supreme Court’s opinion in Citizens United is not to formally amend the Constitution, but instead to change the composition of the Supreme Court. Regardless of what happens with Justice Scalia’s replacement, there will be likely at least three other Justices to be appointed over the next 4-8 years of the next President’s term. The stakes on all the issues people care about—from abortion to guns, from campaign finance and voting rights to affirmative action and the environment, depend upon 9 unelected Justices who serve for life.

Ed Whelan (a strong conservative, and former Scalia clerk) and I will be doing a webcast on The Supreme Court and the 2016 Elections on Feb. 22. I’m sure these issues will be hotly debated, as moderated by my colleague (and former LA Times legal correspondent Henry Weinstein).

The kind of battles we will see over the fate of our Nation, enacted in the polarized Congress and in a polarized nation, will be epic. The stakes are high, and as I explain in Plutocrats United, depending on conditions we could see a vacant Supreme Court for a while (look for conservatives to argue over that) and likely the end of the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees (look for that if there is unified control of the Presidency and Senate, but without a filibuster proof majority.)

As I said at TPM, this is the moment. It is the beginning of the most important civil rights debate of our time.

[This post has been updated.
Sat, February 13, 2016 - 11:41 PM — permalink - 0 comments - add a comment

DESPERATE TIMES...Donald Trump Fires Campaign Adviser, Sam Nunberg, amid Racist Facebook Posts


Donald Trump has fired campaign adviser Sam Nunberg after several racially insensitive Facebook posts under his name surfaced last week, The New York Times reports.

"Effective immediately, low level part-time consultant Sam Nunberg is no longer associated with the Donald J. Trump for President campaign," Trump's campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, said in a statement.

The posts in question were dug up by Business Insider and date back as far as 2007, when Nunberg used the word "nigger" in reference to Rev. Al Sharpton's daughter. Other posts attacked Barack Obama, calling him a "Kenyan," "Pan Arabist Marxist Muslim" and "Socialist Marxist Islamo Fascist Nazi Appeaser"; Nunberg also referred to Obama's first inauguration as "the Hip Hop Inaugural Ball."

Nunberg initially denied writing the posts, claiming to CNN, "anything that was posted under my name does not mean I posted it." He added: "I would also point out that all of these things were done before Mr. Trump's campaign, if I even did them — which I deny. In any event, this is the problem with politics… Politics as usual is wrong."

Last Friday, Lewandowski launched an investigation into the posts, calling them "offensive," and saying Nunberg would be fired if they proved to be authentic.

This is the second time Nunberg has been booted from Trump's inner circle in recent years. The strategist was fired in 2014 after arranging a profile with Buzzfeed about Trump's political ambitions that boasted the headline, "36 Hours On The Fake Campaign Trail With Donald Trump."

Nunberg's firing comes as Trump's lawyer, Michael Cohen, apologized for comments he made about spousal rape, in reference to a Daily Beast article about past accusations of sexual assault leveled at the GOP candidate by his ex-wife, Ivana Trump.

Meanwhile, Trump — on the heels of releasing Lindsey Graham's phone number, disparaging Sen. John McCain and referring to Latin American immigrants as rapists and criminals — continues to lead several national polls of Republican presidential candidates.
Sat, February 13, 2016 - 11:30 PM — permalink - 0 comments - add a comment

Ted Cruz: ‘We Are One Liberal Justice Away from a Five Justice Liberal Majority’


“We are one liberal justice away from a five justice liberal majority, the likes of which this country has never seen,” 2016 presidential candidate said Tuesday at the Red Arrow Diner in New Hampshire with radio hosts Andrew Wilkow and David Webb on The Wilkow Majority radio program on SiriusXM Patriot 125.

“The next president could get up to four Supreme Court justices,” Cruz said of the responsibility of appointing judges to the high court, calling it one of the most important presidential tasks.

He detailed that several Republicans have appointed some of the worst liberal Supreme Court judges. He named several, calling out Harry Blackmun, the author of the Roe v. Wade decision.

Earlier in the broadcast, Cruz told the listening audience:

The Rubio-Schumer amnesty bill was the gravest threat to the rule of law, to jobs, to wages that we have seen in modern times. And that was a time for choosing. It was a time where everyone decided, “Which side of the line do you stand on?” Unfortunately, [he] chose to stand with Barack Obama and Chuck Schumer and push for granting amnesty to 12 million people here illegally, push for not securing our borders, for not keeping this country safe, push for allowing President Obama to have even more authority to admit Syrian refugees to this country without mandating any meaningful background checks.

Cruz contrasted that to his standing against and defeating the bill with Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and millions of Americans.

“Marco Rubio, Donald Trump, and Hillary Clinton all support giving citizenship to the 12 million people here illegally,” Cruz said.

He went on to call Rubio charming and smooth.

Cruz said he has spent his entire life defending the United States Constitution. He told the Wilkow audience that he used to lead the Center for Tenth Amendment Studies at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. He stated that on day one of his presidency, he would instruct the U.S. Department of Education to end Common Core.

Host Andrew Wilkow said many callers are saying they are jumping ship from voting for Trump to voting for Cruz. Cruz commented that three months ago, Trump was singing his praises, but “his poll numbers started dropping, our numbers started surging, and suddenly … I became a really rotten guy overnight.”

Radio host David Webb asked Cruz about foreign policy in the Middle East. Cruz said there needs to be more emphasis on destroying the Islamic State (ISIS).

“They are both socialists,” Cruz said of Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). “One admits it. One pretends she’s not.” He went on to say that neither will say the words “radical Islamic terrorism” and that both are disrespectful of constitutional rights.

Cruz warned that nominating a candidate like Rubio or Trump puts Republicans at risk of losing.

Cruz also talked about shutting down the IRS and a plan to make filing taxes as simple as filling out a postcard.

Citing his win in Iowa, Cruz said Americans saw the start of the downfall of the Washington cartel. “We won the biggest vote total any Republican has ever won in the history of Iowa politics by standing with the American people.”

Listen to the entire interview here:

Follow Michelle Moons on Twitter @MichelleDiana.
Sat, February 13, 2016 - 11:11 PM — permalink - 0 comments - add a comment

Senior U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia Found Dead at West Texas Ranch


Associate Justice Antonin Scalia was found dead of apparent natural causes Saturday on a luxury resort in West Texas, federal officials said.

Scalia, 79, was a guest at the Cibolo Creek Ranch, a resort in the Big Bend region south of Marfa.

According to a report, Scalia arrived at the ranch on Friday and attended a private party with about 40 people. When he did not appear for breakfast, a person associated with the ranch went to his room and found a body.

Chief U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia, of the Western Judicial District of Texas, was notified about the death from the U.S. Marshals Service.

U.S. District Judge Fred Biery said he was among those notified about Scalia's death.

"I was told it was this morning," Biery said of Scalia's death. "It happened on a ranch out near Marfa. As far as the details, I think it's pretty vague right now as to how," he said. "My reaction is it's very unfortunate. It's unfortunate with any death, and politically in the presidential cycle we're in, my educated guess is nothing will happen before the next president is elected."

The U.S. Marshal Service, the Presidio County sheriff and the FBI were involved in the investigation.

Officials with the law enforcement agencies declined to comment.

A federal official who asked not to be named said there was no evidence of foul play and it appeared that Scalia died of natural causes.

A gray Cadillac hearse pulled into the ranch last Saturday afternoon. The hearse came from Alpine Memorial Funeral Home.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott released a statement Saturday afternoon, calling Scalia a man of God, a patriot and an "unwavering defender of the written Constitution."

"He was the solid rock who turned away so many attempts to depart from and distort the Constitution," Abbott said. "We mourn his passing, and we pray that his successor on the Supreme Court will take his place as a champion for the written Constitution and the Rule of Law. Cecilia and I extend our deepest condolences to his family, and we will keep them in our thoughts and prayers."

Scalia was nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1986 by President Ronald Reagan.

Staff writers Vianna Davila, Tyler White and Richard A. Marini, John MacCormack and Guillermo Contreras contributed to this report.
Sat, February 13, 2016 - 10:55 PM — permalink - 0 comments - add a comment

Turkish Military Shells Assad Forces, Kurdish Militias in Northern Syria - Reports


The Turkish army has shelled Syrian government forces and Kurdish targets near the city of Azaz in northwestern Syria, including an air base recently retaken from Islamist rebels.

Anatolia news agency reports that the Turkish military hit Syrian government forces on Saturday, adding that the shelling had been in response to fire inflicted on a Turkish military guard post in Turkey’s southern Hatay region.

The Turkish shelling of Kurdish positions has continued for more than three hours almost uninterruptedly, a Kurdish source told RT, adding that the Turkish forces are using mortars and missiles and firing from the Turkish border not far from the city of Azaz in the Aleppo Governorate.

The shelling targeted the Menagh military air base and the nearby village of Maranaz, where “many civilians were wounded,” local journalist Barzan Iso told RT. He added that Kurdish forces and their allies among “the Syrian democratic forces” had taken control of the air base on Thursday.

According to Iso, the Menagh base had previously been controlled by the Ahrar ash-Sham Islamist rebel group, which seized it in August of 2013. The journalist also added that Ahrar ash-Sham militants at the base had been supported by Al-Nusra terrorists and some extremist groups coming from Turkey.

Ahrar ash-Sham is a militant group that has trained teenagers to commit acts of terror in Damascus, Homs, and Latakia provinces, according to data provided to the Russian Defense Ministry by Syrian opposition forces.

The group, which has intensified its attacks on the Syrian government forces since January, was getting “serious reinforcements from Turkey,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said during a briefing in Moscow on January 21.

#BreakingNews First footage of #Turkey heavy artillery bombing on #YPG positions in Menagh airbase #Aleppo #Syria

— Rami (@RamiAlLolah) 10:46 AM - 13 Feb 2016

A source in the Turkish government confirmed to Reuters that the Turkish military had shelled Kurdish militia targets near Azaz on Saturday.

“The Turkish Armed Forces fired shells at PYD positions in the Azaz area,” the source said, referring to the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), which Ankara views as a terrorist group.

A Turkish security official told Reuters that the shelling of the Kurds had been a response to a shelling of Turkish border military outposts by the PYD and forces loyal to Damascus, as required under Turkish military rules of engagement.

Turkey’s PM Davutoglu also confirmed that the country’s forces had struck Syrian Kurdish fighters and demanded that the Kurds retreat from all of the areas that they had recently seized.

“The YPG will immediately withdraw from Azaz and the surrounding area and will not go close to it again,” he told reporters, adding that Turkey “will retaliate against every step [by the YPG],” Reuters reports.

A Kurdish official confirmed to Reuters that the shelling had targeted the Menagh air base located south of Azaz.

According to the official, the base had been captured by the Jaysh al-Thuwwar rebel group, which is an ally of PYD and a member of the Syria Democratic Forces alliance.

#Turkey bombs #Kurds #YPG in #Syria @BBC @CNN @AFP @RT_com @SPIEGEL_EIL @BILD @focuspolitik @sternde @SZ @UN @RaiTv

— Kocgiri (@Kocgiri1) 11:40 AM - 13 Feb 2016

Syrian Kurds are actively engaged in the fight against the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorist group and have been recently described as “some of the most successful” forces fighting IS jihadists in Syria by US State Department spokesman John Kirby, AFP reports.

Earlier, the US also called the PYD an “important partner” in the fight against Islamic State, adding that US support of the Kurdish fighters “will continue.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (L) speaks to German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier at the Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany, February 13, 2016. © Michael Dalder

Turkey’s shelling of the Syrian Kurds comes just days after a plan to end hostilities in Syria was presented in Munich after a meeting of the so-called International Syria Support Group (ISSG), in which Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, US Secretary of State John Kerry, and UN Special Envoy on Syria Staffan de Mistura participated.

‘We will strike PYD’ – Turkish PM

Earlier on Saturday, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu threatened Syrian Kurds with military action, saying that Turkey will resort to force against the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) if it considers the step “necessary.”

“As I have said, the link between the YPG and the [outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party] PKK is obvious. If the YPG threatens our security, then we will do what is necessary,” Davutoglu said on February 10, as quoted by the Hurriyet Daily.

“The leadership cadre and ideology of the PKK and PYD is the same,” he argued in a televised speech in the eastern city of Erzincan on Saturday, AFP reports.

Davutoglu also said that if there is a threat to Turkey, “we will strike PYD like we did Qandil,” referring to a bombing campaign waged by Turkey against the PKK in its Qandil mountain stronghold in northern Iraq, Daily Sabah reports.

Turkey regards the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its military wing, the YPG, as affiliates of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged a decade-long insurgency against Turkish authorities, demanding autonomy for Turkish Kurds.

The latest developments come as Turkey continues a relentless crackdown on Kurds in its southeastern region. Ankara launched a military operation against Kurdish insurgents from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in July of 2015, breaking a ceasefire signed in 2013.

Turkey’s General Staff claim that Turkish forces killed more than 700 PKK rebels during the offensive in the southeastern districts of Cizre and Sur. Meanwhile, Amnesty International has reported that at least 150 civilians, including women in children, were killed in the Turkish military operation, adding that over 200,000 lives have been put at risk.

According to the Turkish Human Rights Foundation, at least 198 civilians, including 39 children, have been murdered in the area since August of 2015.
Sat, February 13, 2016 - 10:08 PM — permalink - 0 comments - add a comment
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