Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Last Call

The equal protection clause states: No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has put forth an opinion that this does not offer protection to women, or respect to sexual orientation, in direct conflict with a 1971 unanimous ruling that said this protected women from discrimination.  The clause has also been a major basis for arguments for LGBT protection.

Marcia Greenberger, founder and co-president of the National Women's Law Center,  fired back a brilliant response. "In these comments, Justice Scalia says if Congress wants to protect laws that prohibit sex discrimination, that's up to them.  But what if they want to pass laws that discriminate? Then he says that there's nothing the court will do to protect women from government-sanctioned discrimination against them."  

Crossing The Rubin Con, Part 2

After Adam Serwer quite neatly disposed of her inane twaddle on the New Black Panther Party yesterday, Jennifer Rubin responds to Serwer with "Nuh-uh.  You're wrong, I'm right!" and manages to double down on her own unique brand of fail.

Let's take them in order. Adam asserts: "Republican congressmen Lamar Smith and Darrell Issa are literally accusing the Obama administration of favoring 'a political ally -- the New Black Panther Party.'" This is wrong. The issue is whether a meritorious claim of voter intimidation was dismissed under pressure from left-leaning civil rights groups and whether there is reason to believe there is a sentiment against a color-blind application of civil rights laws. This point has been made repeatedly by the now-House Judiciary chairman, as well as by Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.).

Next, Adam claims that the case was not dismissed. This is inaccurate. It was dismissed against the New Black Panther Party and two individual defendants. The remedy sought against the remaining defendant (not to brandish a weapon near a Philadelphia polling place) is meaningless, since such action is already prohibited by law.

Adam also errs in claiming that U.S Commission on Civil Rights co-chairman Abigail Thernstrom contends that the case lacks merit. In fact, since the testimony of Chris Coates and the revelations from the Judicial Watch FOIA, Thernstrom has been silent publicly and refused to vote on the interim report or sign letters seeking additional information. I would encourage Adam to interview her to obtain her latest take on the case. Frankly, the refusal of the Democratic members of the commission to address the substantive claims, their opposition to even commencing an investigation, and the close coordination in messaging between the Justice Department and commissioner Michael Yaki should be of concern to those who value an independent-minded commission.

As to the accusations against Deputy Assistant Attorney General Julie Fernandes, the accounts of two former Justice Department employees are in full agreement on the essential fact: Fernandes instructed the attorneys not to bring cases against black defendants. But let's call Fernandes to the stand and get her take.

As for Adam's reference to a case brought against a black defendant, the Ike Brown case was filed during the Bush administration over the extreme objection of liberal department attorneys and civil rights groups who don't believe non-traditional victims of civil rights laws should have the benefit of the government's protection.

In order then, we have two "Well he's right but technically..." followed by a "It's clear that he's hiding something so that means I'm right as far as I'm concerned", then a "Yes you're right but what about...", and finally she ends with "But this proves my point in my view."

In other words, Rubin is doing her best Jonah Goldberg.

When she does have facts, they show Adam Serwer is right.  When she doesn't have facts, she brings in conjecture and theory and claims victory over Serwer's "misinformation".  She doesn't disprove anything, other than the theory that she knows what the hell she's talking about.

Adam Serwer then responds himself at the Plum Line and decimates Rubin.

A slight tug on thread of this accusation reveals the feverish alternate universe of racial resentment in which some conservatives seem to reside. It's not just that they casually accuse the president and the attorney general of being "allies" with a black hate group, it's the implication that there was some political benefit to this relationship, as though the black community as a whole is somehow deeply moved by the NBPP's racial hatred, and the narrowing of the case represents a kind of quid pro quo. We're supposed to believe that without the racist rhetoric of the New Black Panther Party, black people would never have been motivated to go to the polls for Barack Obama? That black separatism has some broad mainstream appeal among African-Americans? This gets more disgusting the more one thinks about it, which is why conservatives rarely go beyond mere implication.

Read the whole thing, it's one of the best pure dismantlings I have read in a long time.

The Will Of The People

It's funny how Republicans say they are doing the "Will of the People" right up until they don't.  Take this CBS/Vanity Fair poll on tackling the deficit:

Sixty-one percent of Americans polled would rather see taxes for the wealthy increased as a first step to tackling the deficit, the poll showed.

The next most popular way -- chosen by 20 percent -- was to cut defense spending.

Four percent would cut the Medicare government health insurance program for the elderly, and 3 percent would cut the Social Security retirement program, the poll showed.

Four out of five Americans want to either eliminate tax cuts for the rich or cut defense spending.   What do Republicans want to do?  Cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid....and make permanent tax cuts for the rich and increase defense spending.

They're doing the will of 7% of the American people.  Literally.

Funny how that works.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

Megan McArdle, ladies and germs.

I view both parties right now as engaged in a colossal game of chicken.  Everyone knows that eventually, we are going to have to do something about the budget deficit.  So everyone wants to pass legislation that will be politically toxic to undo.  The idea seems to be that when the moment of truth finally arrives, the other side will have to make more concessions.  

I assume that at some level, Republicans understand that cutting taxes will make it that much more wrenching when we finally have to cut the deficit.  I assume that at some level, Democrats knew that passing the health care bill would make it harder to balance the budget, because we used up the easiest, most obvious tax increases and spending cuts on expanding health care coverage, instead of using them to bring revenues and spending into roughly the same ballpark.  But I think they view this as a way to improve their initial position in the final showdown, meaning that overall, we'll end up with [lower taxes/higher spending] than we would if they just left well enough alone.
Got it?  She equates Republicans cutting taxes without paying for them with the Democrats retooling health care and actually paying for it, because paying for health care reform used up the "easy" ways to cut the deficit, so Republicans have every right to be pissed off because now we have to make hard choices like not cutting taxes without paying for them with spending cuts.

In other words, it's Obama's fault for wasting these easy health care deficit cutting measures on providing health insurance for 30 million Americans rather than something useful like more tax cuts for people who make $250,000 a year.
So now, when Republicans cut taxes for the rich (which they will have to do, it's a given according to Megan), they'll have to do things like gut Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid in order to lower the deficit.

Shorter McMegan:  Obamacare is forcing us to cut Social Security to pay for tax cuts for the rich, and it's all the Dems' fault.

I swear, Megan McArdle and Jennifer Rubin should start a folk duo and call it "We Have No Idea What The Hell We're Talking About, But Let's Cut Taxes Anyway."

Now That's Hucked Up

A new edition of Huckleberry Finn is about to be released.  This scrubbed version will have no instances of the "N" word, and the word "Injun" is also replaced throughout Twain's novel.  Twain expert Alan Gribben insists he is not trying to censor classic literature, but to update.  Epic fail.  Classic literature does not need to be updated, that is what makes it classic.

Let's look at some of our classics.  To Kill A Mockingbird shows us an ugly time in the South, and a glimpse of how rural life really was for millions.  Steinbeck's Of Mice And Men is brutal and painful, and the characters are not the least bit respectful towards the mentally handicapped.  Speaking of mentally handicapped, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest was miles from politically correct.  It is still one of the best stories I've ever read, mainly for its ability to make my heart hurt at the injustice.  Don't even get me started on Gone With The Wind.  We are not parrots, the purpose of reading is to use the mind and expand our ideas.  Most will not mindlessly flinch at the use of an offensive word, but the anger or outrage we may feel at what once passed for common can inspire us, and help us realize the roots of the words we speak and the culture we came from.  Good art, no matter the medium, inspires thought and stirs our emotions.  And the person who decides what goes into that art is the artist himself.

Nobody has the right to alter someone's work in this manner.  Nobody has the right to decide what we read.  This is no more appropriate than if we try to scrub Snoop Dogg's lyrics for our great-grandchildren.  If you do not want to be exposed, then exercise your rights to choose what you read.  Do not exercise your rights on the behalf of others, who are free to feel differently.  This isn't about the N word, folks.  It is about respecting art, context, history and the lives that people lived for good and for bad.  If Gribben feels there should be a lighter version of this story, then perhaps he should write one.  What he should not do is lead a campaign to alter the art that someone else worked over, and put their heart and best into, and decide what Twain should have said.  

Stupidinews! Little Birdie Stupid Moosie Edition

More dead birds are found in Louisiana, similar to the ones in Arkansas.  There is still no conclusive evidence as to why, but there is extensive trauma in the Arkansas birds, implying they hit something with incredible force.  

The Navy is expected to relieve the captain of the USS Enterprise of his post because of profane videos shown when he was second in command, an official says. - CNN  It's a shame to see a career crumble because of something like this, but it's time to draw a line for what is acceptable.

Sarah Palin is raising hackles for re-tweeting the following: But this hypocrisy is just truly too much. Enuf already–the more someone complains about the homos the more we should look under their bed,” which has thoroughly annoyed just about everyone. I can't tell how much of it is hating gays, or just hating Palin.

In Los Angeles, a man shot a woman dead and surrendered to police after a dramatic standoff.  He is in custody now.  The victim has not been identified, but is described as being around 25 years old.

Bet Your Bottom Dollar

I want to expand a bit on something Bon The Geek found  yesterday.

People have been calling this the Wal-Mart Recession, the retail mega-giant being the surest sign of the recession over the last two years.  I shake my head and laugh, because anyone who thinks we're being driven to Wal-Mart to shop doesn't shop at Wal-Mart and never did.  America has been knocked down a rung to Dollar General, and that's where the big growth is in 2011...and a sign of our major problems.

Dollar General said Monday it plans to hire 6,000 workers this year as it looks to open 625 new stores across the country.

The discount retailer said the new stores will be spread across its current 35-state operating area as well as in three states where the retailer currently doesn't operate: Connecticut, Nevada and New Hampshire.

"Bringing our store model of convenience and value to more people in more states is an exciting opportunity for us," said Rick Dreiling, CEO of Dollar General, in a press release. 

From 2009 to 2011, Dollar General has expanded its work force by 15,000 as it expands its locations. 

So that's 21,000 new Dollar General jobs from 2009 through 2011.

What do you suppose Dollar General employees make?  You figure your average Dollar General store has around 8 employees: a manager, 2 stock guys, 4-5 cashiers.  All but the manager I'm betting are making minimum wage.  Dollar General is doing enough with this business model, "When Wal-Mart Is Too Classy For Ya", to add over six hundred stores this year.

I've talked about the Dollar General Recession before back last February.

That's pretty damn scary.  And yes, I've been in a Dollar General.  There's one in walking distance of my apartment, 3 more within a short drive, and 2 more near where I work.  The stores are relatively clean, there's just stacks of canned goods and other grocery items in open pallet boxes, nothing fancy.  But the prices are the real draw.  It's the convenience store version of Wal-Mart, and frankly if I need to run in someplace and grab a couple of 2-liters or some dish soap or something without the hassle of meeting half the county at the Super Enormous Wal-Mart on a Saturday, I'm all for that.

On the other hand, the jobs that Dollar General happens to be making aren't really high-paying.  For every company like DG hiring 5,000 this year, there's Verizon cutting 13,000.  You can't really sustain a middle class on an economy like that.  It's the roll-down economy:  The Macy's shoppers 5 years ago are shopping at Belk's now.  The Belk's folks are at Target.  The Target folks are at Wal-Mart, the Wal-Mart folks are dropping a rung to Dollar General.

Good for Target.  Good for Wal-Mart.  Really good for Dollar General, you figure another 600 stores in 2011 will get them to 10,000 outlets and 90,000 employees.  Not so good for Macy's.  Or the middle class. 

The Dollar General Recession continues, and it will for some time to come.

A Budget Crisis The Size Of Texas

Very few Villagers are talking about the biggest red state with a massive budget crisis, Texas.  Sure, people mention California, Michigan, and Illinois all the time.  But Texas has a massive fiscal hole...and a GOP super-majority that won't raise a dime in revenues.

This month the state's part-time legislature goes back into session, and the state is starting at potentially a $25 billion deficit on a two-year budget of around $95 billion. That's enormous. And there's not much fat to cut. The whole budget is basically education and healthcare spending. Cutting everything else wouldn't do the trick. And though raising this kind of money would be easy on an economy of $1.2 trillion, the new GOP mega-majority in Congress is firmly against raising any revenue.

So the bi-ennial legislature, which convenes this month, faces some hard cuts. Some in the Texas GDP have advocated dropping Medicaid altogether to save money.

So why haven't we heard more about Texas, one of the most important economy's in America? Well, it's because it doesn't fit the script. It's a pro-business, lean-spending, no-union state. You can't fit it into a nice storyline, so it's ignored.

But if you want to make comparisons between US states and ailing European countries, think of Texas as being like America's Ireland. Ireland was once praised as a model for economic growth: conservatives loved it for its pro-business, anti-tax, low-spending strategy, and hailed it as the way forward for all of Europe. Then it blew up.

The comparisons of Texas to Ireland are apt:  both said austerity is the answer, and both racked up massive deficits anyway.  Now both face massive, across-the-board social spending cuts.   And the reason nobody's talking about it is because it doesn't have any public employee unions...or unions at all.  The blame here clearly comes from Texas slashing business taxes to attract companies, and losing massive revenue as a result.  Business costs are about as low as they come in the Lone Star state...and that's exactly why Texas faces a two-year budget hole of $25 billion, more than a quarter of its total budget.

Texas has already made noises about pulling out of Medicaid and replacing it with a state program that would cut off millions of the poor from getting health care.  They wouldn't qualify.  Hey, if they die, Texas is off the hook for keeping them alive, right?  Poor don't vote Republican anyway.  No harm, no foul...

Turn On The Lights, Watch The Roaches Scatter Part 55

Big news breaking this morning in Foreclosuregate:  Bloomberg is reporting that the 50 state Attorneys General may have reached a settlement with the five largest mortgage banks.

The five largest loan servicers, including Bank of America Corp. and JPMorgan Chase & Co., may be the first to settle with the 50 state attorneys general probing foreclosure practices, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller said.

No settlements have been reached yet, Miller said yesterday in a phone interview. The other three are Citigroup Inc., Wells Fargo & Co. and Ally Financial Inc., said Miller, the leader of the 50-state investigation. The five have 59 percent of the U.S. market, Miller said.

“What we’re looking at is five separate agreements with the five largest servicers,” Miller said. “We’re still a ways away” from reaching agreements, he said. “We’re working very hard to figure out what should be in the settlement.” 

So all that remains are the details and the numbers...but it looks like the big banks are going to walk away with piddling fines after defrauding millions of homeowners.  Certainly this deal will include the end of any and all other state lawsuits filed by homeowners, and the banks will get away with murder.

And if you're hoping for federal intervention, forget it.

Bank of America settled numerous claims with Fannie Mae for an astonishingly cheap rate, according to a Bloomberg report.

A premium of $1.28 billion was paid to Freddie Mac to resolve $1 billion in claims currently outstanding. But the kicker is that the deal also covers potential future claims on $127 billion in loans sold by Countrywide through 2008. That amounts to 1 cent on the dollar to Freddie Mac.

One cent on the dollar.   Expect those levels of fines to be levied by the states against the big banks too, if that much.

Meanwhile, the settlement with the states will almost certainly involve making MERS binding and legal for mortgage paperwork, allowing the banks to bury their bad deeds and get away with the crime of the century.  If this all goes through as I forsee it, it's over.

We lost.  The banks own this country.  And they will soon spark another financial meltdown and be bailed out again.  That cycle will continue until America shatters.


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