Friday, January 9, 2009

Smells Like Victory

While I grouse, gripe, and whinge about Obama and the Dems more than I should, things like this remind me the GOP is always, always much worse (h/t Shakesville):
This is such great news:
In the spring of 2007, the Supreme Court told Lilly Ledbetter, a twenty-year employee of Goodyear Tire in Alabama, that if she wanted to take legal action against the wage discrimination she had suffered, she should have filed a complaint within 180 days of the first discriminatory paycheck she received. Since she hadn't, she had no standing to recover decades of lost wages. The Supreme Court did not make it clear how Ledbetter was supposed to have known that she was being discriminated against after only 180 days on the job, seeing that Goodyear forbade employees from discussing their salaries, and Ledbetter only found out years later, thanks to an anonymous note.

Today Congress took a step toward correcting that injustice. The House passed both the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act, restoring and establishing basic protections for employees who are subject to wage discrimination. The Ledbetter Act repeals the 180 day requirement, while the Paycheck Fairness Act protects employees from retaliation by employers if they bring complaints and allows them to sue for compensatory and punitive damages.
Both acts will now go to the Senate, where, if they pass (encourage your senators to vote for them here), they stand to become some of the first bills (soon-to-be-)President Obama will sign into law.

Let's all take a moment to remember how the totally sucktastic GOP nominee John McCain did not support this legislation, instead admonishing women to get more "education and training."

Still loving that he won't be our next president.
It always can be worse, folks. Imagine McCain as President right now, and his crazy ass promises that the totally unregulated free market could fix all the problems we have right now.

In the end, the good guys won in November, and we're seeing results right off the bat.

Feeling Burly

The nameless corporate interests behind California's Prop. 8 are back, this time DEMANDING11!!! that the state of California change their "unconstitutional" campaign finance laws that identify know, to prevent people from finding out who the nameless corporate interests astroturfing crap like Prop. 8 are.
The suit, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Sacramento, cites numerous examples of threatening e-mails, phone calls and postcards – including death threats – allegedly made by opponents of the November ballot measure that banned same-sex marriage in the state.

Ron Prentice, chairman of the Yes on 8 campaign, charged the harassment was made possible by the state's "unconstitutional campaign finance disclosure rules."

California's Political Reform Act, which voters approved in 1974, requires the name, occupation and employer of any individual who makes a campaign contribution of $100 or more.

In an interview, Prentice said the suit was prompted by "hundreds of people who informed us of harassment, intimidation and threats that came to their places of employment as well as their homes."

"This is a small percentage of all those who have been contacted by those who oppose Proposition 8," Prentice said. "This could significantly influence participation in the future for social issues if this kind of intimidation continues to be allowed because of disclosure laws."

Just keep in mind the entire point of this exercise is to have the Supremes eliminate disclosure laws at the federal level so that corporate America can freely donate to whatever legislation they want passed without all that bad PR.

The whining to the refs to have the Nasty Evil Homosexuals stop picking on Cali's avowed bigots (who gleefully removed the civil rights of their fellow citizens, mind you) is disingenuous, transparently self-serving, and just assholish in the extreme. No sympathy at all. It's a land mine, meant to go before the US Supreme Court so that Scalia can take his swing at ending transparency and sunshine laws.

Remember, privacy for donors to politicians is more important than privacy for a woman's own body, or dignity for equal rights to all Americans.

Gotta love it.

The Whole Rotten System

Turns out the muni bond pay-to-play system that snagged Bill Richardson's nomination as Commerce Secretary may be a huge tangled web of mess that could bring down a lot of people.
Ever since New Mexico governor Bill Richardson withdrew his nomination for Commerce Secretary citing an investigation into the company that obtained a contract to advise the state on bond deals, news reports have been making reference to a broader nationwide probe of alleged price-fixing and corruption in the municipal bond industry, which the New Mexico investigation grew out of.

Here at Muckraker, we've started looking into that larger ongoing story, and today the New York Times delivers a helpful takeout on the subject -- though many of the details still remain murky.

As the paper explains, federal and state investigators have over the last few years gathered evidence of what looks like a collusion scheme by financial firms that work with state and local governments on municipal bond deals worth around $400 billion each year.

Explains the paper:

E-mail messages, taped phone conversations and other court documents suggest that companies did not engage in open competition for this lucrative business, but secretly divided it among themselves, imposing layers of excess cost on local governments, violating the federal rules for tax-exempt bonds and making questionable payments and campaign contributions to local officials who could steer them business. In some cases, they created exotic financial structures that blew up.

And crucially, the paper makes clear that this isn't just an isolated case, but rather goes to the very heart of the municipal bond system.

People with knowledge of the evidence say investigators are not just looking at a few bad apples, but also at the way an entire market has operated for years.

A former IRS investigator estimated to the Times that as much as $4 billion has vanished into the system as a result of the schemes.

So gosh, it's looking more and more like the sick, broken system in the banking sector was par for the course in state and local government finance across the country, and of course with states and counties across the country in dire financial straits things will only get much worse.

How many trillions will it take to bail out where YOU live?

Yet Another Milepost On The Road To Oblivion

From Atrios:
CNBC tells me that World Wrestling Entertainment has announced a 10% staff reduction.
We're truly #%@&*$ up the ass with a chainsaw.

It's Official

Governor Blagojevich has been impeached by the Illinois House.
The Democratic-controlled House voted 114 to one to impeach the two-term Democrat, clearing the way for a trial in the state Senate, where conviction by two-thirds of its members would result in his removal from office.

Rep. Barbara Currie, a Chicago Democrat who headed the inquiry committee that recommended impeachment, told the House Blagojevich had betrayed the public trust, "a public servant who has chosen not to serve the public ... who has betrayed his oath of office ... who is not fit to govern."

And the band played on...

Question: how does the evidence at the State Senate trial affect his Federal trial? I'll have to look into that. I do know the standards of evidence are vastly different.

Roubini In '09

Speaking of the last post and how on the economic disaster "nobody anywhere was smart enough to figure it out" according to the Dickster down there, Nouriel Roubini's outlook into 2009 is even more dismal than his proven predictions in 2008. (emphasis moi)
Last year’s worst-case scenarios came true. The global financial pandemic that I and others had warned about is now upon us. But we are still only in the early stages of this crisis. My predictions for the coming year, unfortunately, are even more dire: The bubbles, and there were many, have only begun to burst.

Snow Jobbed Again

534,000 jobs lost in December, unemployment rate is now 7.2% and rising. Vice-President Nameless One says the failing economy is not the White House's fault because "nobody anywhere was smart enough to figure it out". Stock futures are higher because we "only" lost half a million jobs. I'm sure that's a relief to corporate America and Wall Street.

Which of course if you've been paying attention to this blog and several other far smarter people than myself over the last 18 months, you know for a fact that's complete bullshit.(h/t TPM)

1.9 million net jobs lost in the last four months. Half a million so far in 2009. Absolutely sure the 2.6 million or so jobs lost last year (the most since 1945) will pale in comparison come 12 months from now. Five million? Six? Eight? Ten? The real unemployment rate went from 12.5% to 13.5%. Gaining a whole percent a month in this rate is something I think will continue for most of 2009, to that 20-25% range. That's the number to keep an eye on, because it's the percentage of people who are really out of work.

Long way to the bottom still.

Carter-izing The Wound

Obama's been tigh-lipped on the whole Gaza invasion situation, calmly bringing up the "one President at a time" clause and refusing to send "mixed signals."

Well, whether it's close enough to January 20 to do something, or the situation in Gaza is so bad a response is now deemed necessary, that clause just went out the window as the Guardian is reporting Obama is planning "low-level talks" with Hamas.
The incoming Obama administration is prepared to abandon George Bush's ­doctrine of isolating Hamas by establishing a channel to the Islamist organisation, sources close to the transition team say.

The move to open contacts with Hamas, which could be initiated through the US intelligence services, would represent a definitive break with the Bush ­presidency's ostracising of the group. The state department has designated Hamas a terrorist organisation, and in 2006 ­Congress passed a law banning US financial aid to the group.

The Guardian has spoken to three ­people with knowledge of the discussions in the Obama camp. There is no talk of Obama approving direct diplomatic negotiations with Hamas early on, but he is being urged by advisers to initiate low-level or clandestine approaches, and there is growing recognition in Washington that the policy of ostracising Hamas is counter-productive. A tested course would be to start ­contacts through Hamas and the US intelligence services, similar to the secret process through which the US engaged with the PLO in the 1970s. Israel did not become aware of the contacts until much later.

The question is who leaked this story and why? The response from the rabid right is predictable: Obama is apparently the worst person since Neville Chamberlain, and he's aiming to destroy the US, Israel, and delicious pie.

I have to wonder if this leak was made precisely to prevent Obama from talking to Hamas at all. Certainly now he will face immense pressure from the Israel lobby to continue the same failed policies of Preznitman From Preznitland, as Obama will be viewed as a President with something less than unconditional and total support for Israel's every action, which of course is against the rules.

Combine this with the Village barrage on Obama claiming that he's now under assault from his own party for a stimulus package neither side of the aisle likes, and the crusade to Jimmy Carter-ize Obama is on: painting him as a weak President that doesn't have the respect of anyone in Washington or the world.

You know, like Bush is now.

It's possible this is all smoke and mirrors to make Obama look like he's standing up to the Liberal Spending Machine or something (odd plan, given that Senate Democrats have the backbone content of jellyfish on a good day) but it's pretty clear the one thing we can be sure of is that Obama's information control policy is becoming increasingly useless in the environment of Washington. Leaks happen. Everyone uses them as weapons to advance an agenda or to slow an opposing agenda, and so far Obama's not playing the game too well.

[UPDATE] John Cole over at Balloon Juice smells a rat too.

The report mentioned above is in the Guardian, and the Obama team is already denying the leak. For me, the only question is who is planting the leak- is it just wingnut conservatives trying to hamstring the Obama foreign policy, or is it pro-Israel groups trying to box Obama in and move him towards a more pro-Israel by forcing him to slap down Hamas with vigorous denials about this report?

Isn't one group pretty much composed of the other? Either way this looks as John says like a move to cut Obama off at the knees with the Israeli lobby and ensure nothing along the lines of "the new administration legitimizing Hamas" can happen. As I said above, the leak appears to be a weapon aimed at preventing Obama from dealing with Hamas at all.


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