Monday, June 22, 2009

Zandar's Thought Of the Day

I would probably stop thinking of Pat Buchanan as MSNBC's resident racist asshole if he didn't spend his weekends hosting conferences with and hanging out with other racist assholes.

On second thought, he'd still be a racist asshole. The thing is every now and again he makes a good point, and has in fact has been one of the loudest voices on the right against the war in Iraq and has made very valid arguments against it, so I know he's capable of using logic correctly.

Yet he's well aware of the fact that the Republican party is heavily skewed towards older white Christian men in America, and he knows they need to attract people outside that demographic...and his ideas for doing that basically revolve around magically convincing more white people to join him by appealing to their inner racist asshole.

He's incapable of coming up with anything else.

The True Cost Of Cap And Trade

Steve Benen runs the numbers on climate change legislation:
For several months, whenever the issue of cap-and-trade comes up, GOP policymakers and their allies immediately turn to their favorite talking point: a cap-and-trade proposal would impose, on average, a $3,128 energy burden on the typical American home. The figure comes from a bastardization of a study conducted by John Reilly, an M.I.T. scientist who supports the cap-and-trade plan -- and who has tried to explain to Republicans why the claim is wrong.

Told, over and over again, that their talking point has no basis in reality, Republican officials nevertheless keep saying it. When the GOP isn't denying climate change science altogether, it's pushing the $3,128 claim.

OK, so we know the Republicans are lying, but what's the actual cost Americans can expect if a cap-and-trade system becomes law? The Congressional Budget Office, which has produced several reports of late that Republicans just love, reported on the expected costs of Waxman-Markey.

...CBO estimates that the net annual economywide cost of the cap-and-trade program in 2020 would be $22 billion -- or about $175 per household. That figure includes the cost of restructuring the production and use of energy and of payments made to foreign entities under the program, but it does not include the economic benefits and other benefits of the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and the associated slowing of climate change.

Some households would pay a little more, and some of the nation's poorest households would actually get money back, but the average is about $175 per household, the equivalent, Chris Harris noted, of "a postage stamp per day."

Better yet, the costs go down in future years, as carbon permits are sold, and the proceeds are "rebated to taxpayers."

Fifteen bucks a month to save the planet, huh? That's what, a NetFlix subscription?

Seems like a winner to me. But the Republicans will continue to scare America right into demanding more "clean coal technology" right up until the coastlines go underwater, I guess.

Not Something I Wanted To Be Right About

Last week I noted the drop in continuing unemployment claims after months of record increases. I said then that the drop had to have been not from people finding work, but from people exhausting their unemployment benefits.

Barry Ritholz has the numbers that unfortunately corroborate my theory.
Those of you (who can still afford the luxury of) a trusty Bloomberg will note the ‘exhaustion rate’ for jobless benefits - EXHTRATE – reveals that people are not leaving the pool of continuing unemployment claims because they are getting new jobs; Rather, they are leaving because they have exhausted their benefits.

They are now unemployed AND broke. That is hardly a green shoot . . .
And it's going to get worse. We've reached a breaking point. People are still losing jobs at a staggering rate, still 600,000 new unemployment claims plus each week. But more people are falling off the unemployment benefits rolls to boot. They're ending up in the darkest corner of the U-6. It will be hell getting out.

I was in a very similar situation after the dot-com bust/9-11 recession in 2002. I know what it's like, and it was the grimmest time in my life so far. I'd never want to go back to that point. It is hell.

Thousands more are entering this hell every week. Many will make it out, but in a paycheck to paycheck world, many more will not. They will slip beneath the cracks, under the waves, and they will pass silently, ghosts in the realm of the living.

Pray for them. Odds are pretty good you know one of them.

At This Point Bring In The Clowns

John Cole captures the GOP response to the stimulus over the last several months.

Oldest wingnut talking point: The stimulus is just pork designed to reward ACORN and left-wing causes.

Older wingnut talking point: The stimulus bill is not creating or saving any jobs.

Old wingnut talking point: Stimulus bill creating jobs after the recovery already started and should be cancelled.

New wingnut talking point: Stimulus bill hidden sexist attack on America’s testicles by ball-busting abortion-having lesbian feminists.

No really, it's Obama's fault that the jobs lost since 2007 (you know, while Bush was President) were overwhelmingy lost by men. The fact that the financial and manufacturing sectors have fallen apart (you know, bankers and factory workers, careers dominated by men) was on purpose, and somehow it's always Obama's fault.

No Stomach For The Fight Anymore

And speaking of Supreme Court news it looks like the GOP has all but thrown in the towel on opposing Sonia Sotomayor.

The calculus could certainly change when Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings begin July 13. But the Republican senators’ initial review of Sotomayor’s record, together with the meetings they’ve had with her, have left them doubting that she’ll be controversial enough to help them or hurt the Democrats heading into the 2010 elections.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said the opposition to Sotomayor doesn’t have the same intensity he felt in 2005, when the GOP threatened the minority’s right to filibuster judicial nominees.

“Right now, you don’t have the fever pitch you did over the filibuster,” said Graham, a member of the Judiciary Committee. “It depends on how she does [at the hearings]. If she performs well, no. If she performs poorly, potentially, yes.”

“I don’t think she’s the kind of person that invites that kind of reaction,” said Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) of the possibility of making major political gains over Sotomayor’s nomination. “I don’t think her judicial record warrants the ability to do that with her.”

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) might be counted on to take an aggressive stand against Sotomayor’s nomination. But he’s in an awkward position: As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, he doesn’t want to be seen as using the nomination for purely political purposes.

“You know, we’re just going to do our job under the Second Amendment: Section 2 of Article 2 of the Constitution, to advise and consent,” Cornyn said. Referring to the NRSC headquarters down the street from the Capitol, Cornyn said, “I really don’t mix my jobs across the street with what we’re doing over here.”

Cornyn said he’s “comfortable” doing both jobs — and that so far, he hasn’t viewed Sotomayor’s nomination as one that would become a major issue in the campaigns.

“I think Republicans have [a] basically different approach to the confirmation process,” Cornyn said. “As I told her, we’re going to treat her with respect and treat her fairly, and that’s the kind of treatment I think every nominee would receive. But it seems to be more the exception than the rule around here.”

Cornyn's sour grapes aside, it's looking like the GOP doesn't really have a play on Sotomayor right now. Most Americans like her and think she would make a fine Justice, and most importantly neither side sees the calculus of the court changing with Sotomayor replacing David Souter in October.

For now anyway, the GOP is looking to let this battle pass. They have their sights set on much bigger contests.

A Question Of Enforcement

In a sweeping and unanimous decision, the Supreme Court has put an end to the practice of preclearance in enforcing the Voter's Rights Act of 1965. Preclearance affected 16 mostly Southern states that had a history of denying blacks the right to vote.

At issue is whether in 2006, Congress properly extended the law -- whose Section 5 mandates that the covered states get advance approval of changes in how their elections are conducted -- or whether the country has made enough progress on racial equality to make continued federal oversight essentially unnecessary.

The case involves a small homeowners association board outside Austin, Texas. In 2003, residents of the Canyon Creek planned community sought to move their polling place to an elementary school that is the neighborhood's polling place for all other elections. Such a move required federal approval under Section 5.

The court's ruling makes the Texas district eligible to "bail out," or become exempt from federal oversight. But it does so without resolving the larger constitutional questions of when race-based solutions can be used to remedy past and present discrimination. Such a narrow ruling upholds the law, for now.

But Roberts noted in his ruling that the preclearance provision raises "serious constitutional questions." And he added that it "represents an intrusion into areas of state and local responsibility that is unfamiliar to our federal system."

Backed by a group of conservative activists, Canyon Creek launched a direct challenge to the law's "preclearance" provision, arguing that it should not be enforced in areas where it can be claimed that racial discrimination no longer exists.

Civil rights groups say Section 5 has proved to be an important tool to protect minority voters from local governments that could set unfair or unconstitutional barriers to the polls. If it is ruled unconstitutional, they warned the justices, the very power and effect of the entire Voting Rights Act would crumble.

The Bush administration had led the legal fight defending the law, but the case was argued in April by a Justice Department attorney named by President Obama.

During those oral arguments, several dozen members of the NAACP rallied outside the court, and members of Congress attended the 70-minute oral arguments, including the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, Patrick Leahy, and longtime civil rights activist Rep. John Lewis.

Since 1982, only 17 jurisdictions have been able to "bail out," or become exempt from federal oversight, out of about 12,000 covered political jurisdictions.

"It is unlikely that Congress intended the provision to have such limited effect," Roberts said, in the face of statistics showing voter turnout and registration rates reaching parity between the races in most areas of the country.

Justice Clarence Thomas, the court's only African-American, supported Monday's decision but said he would have gone farther and declared Section 5 to be unconstitutional.

"The violence, intimidation, and subterfuge that led Congress to pass Section 5 and this court to uphold it it [in part] no longer remains."

A unanimous Supreme Court decision is one of those things that's pretty hard to argue against. Thousands of jurisdictions no longer are assumed guilty of racism before proven innocent. Don't get me wrong, racism still exists...but now at a voting level it has to be proven. I don't agree with Justice Thomas that Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act should be rendered unconstitutional, however.

Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSBlog has more:
With only one Justice voting to strike down Congress’s 25-year extension of the Voting Rights Act’s controversial Section 5, the Supreme Court on Monday interpreted the law in a way that saves it. The Court said that all local units of government must be given the option to bail out of the requirement that they get Washington approval for any changes in their election laws or methods.
So for now, VRA remains intact.


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