Thursday, March 11, 2010

Last Call

Mike Stark.  Making Washington miserable, one politician at a time.  Today's target:  my good friend The Odious Patrick McHenry.

TOPM:  Still not gay.  Also, still not very polite to liberals with cameras.

Also, adding the Stark Reports to the blogroll.

Epic Paul Ryan Really, Really Fails At Math Fail

So, turns out somebody other than GOP Rep. Paul Ryan took a look and crunched Paul Ryan's numbers.  Even better, it turns out that Ryan's numbers were full of crap, and that his budget would actually make the deficit worse than Obama's budget.
The Tax Policy Center--a non-partisan think tank--did a thorough analysis on the impact of the tax changes Ryan proposes--a massive tax cut for the wealthy, paired with substantial tax increases on 90 percent of the country--and found that the so-called "Roadmap" would actually leave the federal government desperately starved for funds.

According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, "the Ryan plan would result in very large revenue losses relative to current policies."
[The Tax Policy Center] estimates that even with its middle-class tax increases, the plan would reduce federal revenues to 16 percent of GDP in 2014. Because the tax cuts for the wealthy would dwarf the tax increases for the middle class, the Ryan plan would allow the federal debt to continue growing for a number of decades to come, despite its steep cuts in Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.
The result, they conclude, is ballooning, unsustainable deficits--a quirky feature for a plan touted far and wide for its potential to right the country's fiscal course. And yet, Ryan's star is on the rise in the GOP and in Washington.

By contrast to the Ryan Roadmap, President Obama's budget would increase revenues as a share of GDP from 14.5 percent in 2010 to 19.6 percent in 2020. There would still be deficits at that point--but at a much more sustainable level than under the GOP alternative. 
That's hysterical.  The size of Ryan's tax cut for the wealthiest 10% of Americans is so absolutely massive thateven the combined spending cuts on Medicare and Social Security and the accompanying tax increases on the other 90% of Americans combined would still leave the deficit in worse shape than Obama's "unsustainable" and "bankrupting" budget proposals.

But that's the GOP for you.  Smokescreen the rubes and then steal the cash.

This is your Tea Party tax hero, guys.  He's ripping you off even worse than Obama's "socialist tyranny" is.  And you're cheering him on.


Sitting In Judgment

The House has unanimously voted to impeach Louisiana federal Judge Thomas Porteous.
The House voted unanimously on Thursday to impeach a Louisiana federal judge for a range of ethical transgressions.

The Senate will now pick up the case against Judge G. Thomas Porteous Jr., with a two-thirds vote required to convict him. If that occurs, Judge Porteous would become the eighth federal judge impeached and convicted.

Judge Porteous, who was appointed to the federal bench by former President Bill Clinton in 1994, was accused of accepting bribes and making false statements during both his personal bankruptcy proceedings and to the Senate and the F.B.I. during his confirmation process for the federal bench.
The evidence hearings in December were stunning.
In the opening hearing, House investigators said Judge Porteous had accumulated more than $150,000 in credit card debt by 2000, mostly for cash advances spent in casinos.

Two New Orleans lawyers who once worked with Judge Porteous said they had given him at least $20,000 in cash while he was a judge, including $2,000 stuffed in an envelope in 1999, just before Judge Porteous decided a major civil case in their favor.

After they complained to Judge Porteous about his solicitations for cash and threatened to cut him off, the lawyers said, Judge Porteous began sending court-appointed work to their firm. In return, they say, they sent some of their fees to the judge.

At another hearing, the lawyer that Judge Porteous hired for his 2001 bankruptcy discussed how they initially filed it under the name “Orteous,” with a hastily arranged post office box as the judge’s address to keep his name out of the newspaper. House investigators said Judge Porteous also lied about his debts and assets in an effort to lower his bankruptcy payments.

Later, a New Orleans bail bondsman, Louis Marcotte, testified that he and Judge Porteous had a longstanding relationship in which Mr. Marcotte routinely took Judge Porteous to lavish meals at restaurants in the French Quarter and offered his employees to work on Judge Porteous’s cars and home. In return, Judge Porteous manipulated bond amounts for defendants to give Mr. Marcotte the highest fees possible, said Mr. Marcotte, who served 18 months in prison on related corruption charges.

Judge Porteous also erased criminal convictions for two of Mr. Marcotte’s employees.

“I knew he was struggling,” Mr. Marcotte testified, adding that the judge would have “five, six Absolut and tonics” at lunch.
“I asked him for things, and he asked me for things,” Mr. Marcotte said.
This guy is crooked as hell, like some fictional character.  Now he faces a different front of the Senate.

Ironically, at least half the folks in the Senate are more crooked than Porteous is.  How's that for justice?

Unleash Joe Biden, Israel Edition

The Vice President's trip to Israel continues to be nothing but frustration as the Netanyahu government has decided to completely ignore the US. MJ Rosenberg:
It is about the effect that Prime Minister Netanyahu's announcement of new West Bank settlements -- during Vice President Biden's visit -- could do to the United States. It is written by a top Israeli journalist, Shimon Shiffer, in the conservative Yedioth Achronoth, the largest circulation newspaper in Israel..
People who heard what Biden said were stunned. "This is starting to get dangerous for us," Biden castigated his interlocutors. "What you're doing here undermines the security of our troops who are fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. That endangers us and it endangers regional peace."
Yesterday's announcement of 1600 new settler units was the tip of the iceberg. Today Israel announced another 50,000 settler units in Jerusalem. What a way to treat Joe Biden, who has been so close to Israel for 30 years that he's practically a kibbutznik.

It all makes me suspect that Israel is just faking its fear of Iranian nukes. If Israel was really concerned it would place its relationship with the United States above the political desire to suck up to settlers, religious fanatics and rightwing lunatics. Clearly, it does not. 
Hey Joe?  Israel doesn't care.  They're not going to give an inch because they figure you're going to be gone before they are, and that the Republicans and Dem Israel hawks will make you understand Israel's in charge of this relationship.

Taylor Marsh has a point for once.  What are you going to do, punish Israel?  Dream on.  They own us.

Live From New York

Betty White will be hosting SNL.
Betty White fans, your prayers have been answered. The former "Golden Girl" will appear on "Saturday Night Live" in the near future, she confirmed to PEOPLE at Elton John's annual Oscars viewing party on Sunday night.

Fans have been clamoring for White, 88, to do "SNL" -- an idea she called "ridiculous" just a few weeks ago -- ever since her comic turn in a Snickers ad during the Super Bowl. One Facebook page devoted to the cause has attracted half a million fans.

When asked by PEOPLE, "Are you doing 'Saturday Night Live'?" she answered, "Yes," even if she remains perplexed by the groundswell of support.

"I don't know why or how," she says, "but it's been wonderful."
You go, Betty.  Teach these kids how to be funny, because lord knows they forgot.  I'll actually tune into SNL to see this one.  And frankly, you know who else I'd love to see host?  Bob Saget.

He's a foulmouthed hardcore bastard, he is.

A Bush In the Volcano

Jeb Bush is backing John McCain against J.D. Hayworth for Arizona's Senate race, something that's not going to sit real well with the Teabagger crowd.
Another high-profile Republican is backing Sen. John McCain's bid for a fifth term in the Senate.

McCain's campaign announced Wednesday that former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has endorsed the Arizona Senator.

"As we continue to face tough challenges both at home and abroad, America needs leaders like Senator John McCain in the United States Senate," said Bush. "John is a proven conservative leader committed to reducing taxes, fighting wasteful spending and keeping America safe."
Ahh, but the rub is Sarah Palin is backing McCain too, and the Teabaggers despise the guy.  What to do?

This primary may be far more entertaining than Crist-Rubio in Florida.  So far all the big names are backing Johnny Volcano against Hayworth.  For his part, Hayworth's camp is taking it in stride.
The Hayworth campaign doesn't seem to care what baby Bush has to say about John McCain -- it contends that Hayworth is the true conservative in the race.

"If Kurt Warner called Danny Sullivan a good quarterback it does not make it so. Same goes here," Hayworth spokesman Jason Rose tells New Times. "The campaign of the people vs. the politicians rolls on. No matter how you slice it, or who says what, there is one consistent conservative in this race and that's J.D. Hayworth."
Well, Hayworth's consistent alright. He's consistently up to his neck in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal.  That's probably why McCain has a healthy lead.  Still, if McCain gets Scozzafavaed....

If It's Thursday...

New jobless claims down 6K to 462K this week.  Continuing claims at 4.62 million.

Still no real evidence of a recovery, just that we're not falling as fast anymore.  8.4 million jobs is a big hole to dig out of, and we're still heading down.

Payday Payola

I've gone after payday lenders before on this blog when Ohio passed a law strictly regulating these vampires. In Kentucky they still operate with impunity and here in Boone and Kenton counties you'll find them in every strip mall and shopping center.  There's a lot of money to be made in usury.

Enough money to lobby Congress to abandon consumer financial protection agencies, for example.
Meet W. Allan Jones, who in 1993 founded Check Into Cash, a pay-day lending chain that says it now has 1,100 stores in 30 states. The company offers short-term loans designed to tide customers over until their next paycheck. But the interest rates can be as much as 400 percent on an annualized basis, meaning that they lead many borrowers to end up digging themselves deeper into debt.

Lately, Congress has been mulling how to structure a new Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA), so as to avoid a repeat of the financial crisis. And reform advocates have argued that increased regulation of pay-day lenders is an essential piece of the puzzle. But after lobbying by an industry group that Jones helped establish, Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) acted to thwart the new agency's ability to effectively monitor Jones's industry.

As Harper's noted in a story on the pay-day lender industry last year entitled "Usury Country," "a payday loan essentially becomes a lien against your life, entitling the creditor to a share of your future earnings indefinitely."

"It's the craziest business," Jones told a reporter in 2008. "Consumers love us, but consumer groups hate us."
Piecemeal state laws won't stop ghouls like Allan Jones from preying on the weak and destroying them.  Strong national laws will.  But of course, our Senate's been for sale for generations now.
All of this wouldn't amount to much more than a rather severe lapse in taste (although we admit the three-story tree-house sounds cool) were it not for recent events in the U.S. Senate.

There, Corker reportedly has weakened the section of the major financial regulatory reform bill that deals with pay-day lenders. Thanks to Corker, who sits on the Senate Banking committee, the new CFPA will have to get permission from a body of regulators in order to enforce rules against payday lenders and other non-bank financial companies -- a step that consumer groups say will significantly hamstring the agency's ability to crack down on predatory lending practices.

Corker's intervention came after intense lobbying from the Community Financial Services Association (CFSA), a trade group of pay-day lenders created in 1999 by Jones and others in the industry. In the last three months of 2009, CFSA spent $500,000 lobbying Congress on the financial regulatory reform and other issues affecting regulation of the pay-day loan industry, according to disclosure records examined by TPMmuckraker. (One of the top Washington lobbyists hired by CFSA, Wright Andrews of Butera & Andrews, was also the prime lobbyist for the sub-prime mortgage industry earlier this decade.)

Jones is a longtime backer of Corker -- as well as of several other lawmakers, from both parties, on the Banking committee. Since 2001, Jones, his relatives, and his employees, have contributed $31,000 to the campaigns of Corker, a former Chattanooga mayor, according to the New York Times.

The pay-day lenders say it was the banks, not them, that caused the financial turmoil, so they shouldn't be penalized for it. But consumer groups, and their allies in Congress and the Obama administration, argue that the competitive pressure on the banks from less regulated sectors like the pay-day lenders prompted the banks to lower their lending standards, helping to create the mortgage crisis. And they add that the predatory practices of the pay-day lenders merit greater regulation in their own right.

As for Jones, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment, he says he's always looked out for the less fortunate. He once explained that his father had taught him: "I should always give more than my fair share."
And he does.  He just expects 400% interest on it.  And in states without payday lending regulation (like Kentucky) the situation will only get worse as legalized loan sharking destroys more and more Americans who fall through the cracks.

A LaRose By Any Other Name

Colleen "Jihad Jane" LaRose, the American woman arrested in October on terrorism charges and due to be indicted, raises an excellent point about the idiocy of the right on the issue of the Warren Terrah.

Colleen LaRose is a blue-eyed, blonde Caucasian American woman.  When the terrorists were Arab in appearance, the Wingers said we had to subject them to extra scrutiny because "that's who the terrorists were."  Same went for black men after the underpants bomber last Christmas.

Notice these folks are now dead silent after the news on this case broke.  Digby's pronouncement on this then holds even more true now.
If you add in Africans (as you must by this logic) that's about half of the global population right there. But then how do we know that some guy named Bob isn't a Muslim? Or that some young woman named Samira isn't a terrorist? It gets really complicated. The only profiling that will really work is to not let anyone in the US at all and to require all US citizens to wear designations on their clothes to indicate which religion they are. Anything short of that just won't get the job done. 
My question is this for the racial profiling of "Muslim terrorists" crowd:  How do you intend to prevent the next Colleen LaRose?  Do you plan to give up your civil liberties for a little safety?  How many more non-Arab, non-African "terrorists" are out there waiting to get past your proposed defenses specifically because they are not dark-skinned?

It was stupid then.  It's even more stupid now.  Which one of the profiling advocates will call for profiling all white women on US international flights first?

Children Of The ACORN

The federal judge at the heart of the funding matter for ACORN has made permanent the injunction against Congress that prevents them from specifically defunding the voter organization based on...Andrew Breitbart's bad press.
U.S. District Judge Nina Gershon cemented her earlier decision in December and made the injunction against government intervention permanent, asking all federal agencies to spread the word that money to ACORN be allowed without delay.

The judge wrote that it was "unmistakable that Congress determined ACORN's guilt before defunding it." Congress may investigate ACORN but cannot "rely on the negative results of a congressional or executive report as a rationale to impose a broad, punitive funding ban on a specific, named organization."

The Center for Constitutional Rights had charged Congress in last year's case of violating the group's constitutional protections.

"This is why the Constitution contains a prohibition against Congress enacting a bill of attainder – to prevent Congress from acting as judge jury and executioner," said Jules Lobel, a cooperating attorney with the center.
The evidence against ACORN was dismissed out of hand but the damage to ACORN has already been done.  Still, it's good to see somebody's still interested in actual law and order.  Just because you don't like what ACORN does, doesn't mean you can simply slap a bill of attainder on it.


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