Thursday, July 14, 2011

Last Call

If you want to know how Republicans were able to take over at the state level so efficiently and why they are able to flood slate legislatures with carbon copy culture war legislation (like scores of abortion bills), you can trace it back to ALEC, the American Legislative Executive Council.  Over at Crooks & Liars, Karoli flags down what this odious group does:  it's who is writing these bills and giving them to Republican lawmakers in order to carry out their orders.

Who are these people?
  • Corporations - Here is a list of corporate members of ALEC. They're the same names you see on the top of the Dow and NASDAQ lists, with some exceptions, like Koch Industries. Notable members include Altria (formerly RJR Tobacco), Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) - the private prison operator, DuPont, Exxon-Mobil, McDonalds, Intuit, and Coca-Cola. But they are just a few. I doubt there are many names on the list that aren't recognizable.
  • Corporate Trade Groups - Groups like the American Bail Association, American Bankers Association, PhrMA, National Association of Charter School Organizers, and more.
  • Non-profit organizations - Those oh-so-nonpartisan groups (yes, that's sarcasm) like The Mackinac Center for Freedom and Democracy (ha!), Goldwater Institute, and Reason Foundation are or have been members. You know, the organizations that write legislation and hand it off to people like Scott Walker to ram through Wisconsin, or who shut down the government like they have in Minnesota (for nearly 2 weeks now).

Basically corporate conservative America is voting on legislation as ALEC, and sending these "corporate approved" pieces of legislation to their GOP underlings at the state level.

And now we come to the footsoldiers who actually carry this stuff back to their states like ants swarming a spot of honey on the countertop. John Nichols reports:
“Never has the time been so right,” Louisiana State Representative Noble Ellington told conservative legislators gathered in Washington to plan the radical remaking of policies in the states. It was one month after the 2010 midterm elections. Republicans had grabbed 680 legislative seats and secured a power trifecta—control of both legislative chambers and the governorship—in twenty-one states. Ellington was speaking for hundreds of attendees at a “States and Nation Policy Summit,” featuring GOP stars like Texas Governor Rick Perry, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Convened by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)—“the nation’s largest, non-partisan, individual public-private membership association of state legislators,” as the spin-savvy group describes itself—the meeting did not intend to draw up an agenda for the upcoming legislative session. That had already been done by ALEC’s elite task forces of lawmakers and corporate representatives. The new legislators were there to grab their weapons: carefully crafted model bills seeking to impose a one-size-fits-all agenda on the states.
Which is, of course, what I wrote about back in February when I put together a list of what those newly-elected conservative governors were doing in their states.

This is why, by the way, idiots like Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann can actually run for office and get serious support. They're just the marionettes behind the real policymakers, just like Governor Bighair in Texas and Governor Gollum in Florida.

This shadow corporate government is literally writing the laws that they want the Republicans to pass.  They are controlling your state government.  That is why Republicans are so keen on states' rights these days.  This is why they want to turn Medicare and Medicaid into state block grants.  This is why they want to take the spending decisions and legislative decisions away from Washington, so that no federal government can impede a de facto permanent 50 red state scenario.

Take the states and weaken the federal.  Permanent control of the country.  We've seen what phase one of this has already done to our country in just a few years.  Imagine another generation of GOP super-majorities in states like Florida and Texas, Arizona and Georgia, Ohio and Indiana, Colorado and Utah.

Are you getting the picture now that the real battle is at the state level where you live?  Do you understand that by taking over as many state legislatures as possible, the money guys get to call all the shots no matter what progressives can accomplish at the federal level?  Are you angry yet that ALEC exists only to copy and paste wingnut bills into as many states as possible, as often as possible, and leave no time for anything else?

Good.  You should be.  I know I am.

Staking The Vampire Lie On The Housing Crisis

Over at Barry Ritholz's place, Center for American Progress economist David Min sharpens up a couple sequoia trees' worth of evidence and drives them into the heart of the vampire lie that federal regulators forcing banks to make subprime loans to poor minorities caused the financial meltdown.  Min takes the lie to school, along with one of its main authors, American Enterprise Institute flack Peter Wallison.

So how did Wallison get to the conclusion that it was federal affordable housing policies that caused the crisis, despite the countervailing evidence? As Phil Angelides, chairman of the FCIC, has stated, “The source for this newfound wisdom [is] shopworn data, produced by a consultant to the corporate-funded American Enterprise Institute, which was analyzed and debunked by the FCIC Report.”

Angelides is of course referring to Wallison’s AEI colleague Edward Pinto. Wallison’s conclusion that federal affordable housing policies are primarily responsible for the financial crisis is based entirely on the research conclusions of Pinto, who finds that there are 27 million “subprime” or “high-risk” loans outstanding, with approximately 19.25 million of these attributable to the federal government’s affordable housing policies. As I point out in “Faulty Conclusions,” Pinto only gets to these numbers (which are radically divergent from all other estimates—for example, the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office estimates that there are only 4.59 million high-risk loans outstanding) by making a series of very problematic and unjustified assumptions.

Case in point: To support his claim that the Community Reinvestment Act, which requires regulated banks and thrifts to provide credit nondiscriminatorily to low- and moderate-income borrowers, caused the origination of 2.24 million outstanding “high-risk” mortgages, Pinto includes many loans originated by lenders who were not even subject to CRA. In fact, most of the “high-risk” loans Pinto attributes to CRA were not eligible for CRA credit.

Similarly, in arguing that Fannie and Freddie’s affordable housing goals caused the origination of 12 million “subprime” and equivalently “high-risk” loans, Pinto includes millions of loans that would not typically qualify for those goals. In fact, the vast majority (65 percent) of the “high-risk” loans Pinto attributes to the affordable housing goals of Fannie and Freddie fall into this category.

The Community Reinvestment Act has time and time again been dragged out as the "real cause" of the housing depression because banks were supposedly forced into giving mortgage loans to minorities who couldn't afford the payments.  I talked about this in detail here, the pernicious revisionist idiocy that it wasn't Wall Street greed but awful poor black people who decimated the housing market has been a lie the right has been telling since Obama was elected.

David Min brings the hard numbers in his paper to disprove this stupidity, and while it gets into the weeds on the issue, it's worth reading if only for the blatant disregard of the facts involving banks, the subprime loans they made to minorities at much higher rates, and that fact that a massive majority of the mortgage boiler room shops that made these loans were not subject to the CRA at all.

Yes, it's an ugly, horrible, self-serving racist lie.  But the right doesn't care.  Only "winning" matters.

A Very Hostile Environment

Republicans are turning to their next set of legislative priorities down the road from the debt ceiling mess, and that's jobs jobs jobs declaring war on the environment.

Republicans in the House of Representatives are waging an all-out war to block federal regulations that protect the environment.

They loaded up a pending 2012 spending bill with terms that would eliminate a broad array of environmental protections, everything from stopping new plants and animals from being placed on the endangered species list to ending federal limits on water pollution in Florida.

The terms also include a rollback of pollution regulations for mountaintop mining and a red light on federal plans to prevent new uranium mining claims near the Grand Canyon.

Another Republican-sponsored bill that's before Congress would weaken the nation's 1972 Clean Water Act, taking away the Environmental Protection Agency's authority to step in when it finds state water-pollution rules too loose.

The sweeping anti-environmental regulation agenda has support among Senate Republicans and the GOP's presidential hopefuls. Its backers say it's necessary for the sake of jobs and economic growth.

Right.  Despite the fact that companies continue to sit on massive amounts of cash and record profits as second quarter earnings season gets underway, the problem with unemployment is that regulations are far too restrictive for American corporations to make any money, Republicans say.  Yes, Obama has been terrible for corporate profits.  See how much regulations are hurting businesses?  Hurting them all the way to all-time high profitability numbers and CEO pay higher than before the financial crisis.  Yep, regulations are really hurting.

And having learned nothing, the GOP latest hostage is the environment.  Clear air and water, endangered species, safety regulations, our national parks and forests, in a GOP world all of those take a back seat to making record corporate profits even higher.

And no, they don't give a damn:

EPA funding would be cut by $1.5 billion, or 18 percent, from 2011, putting funding below where it was in 2006, during the Bush administration. The level would cut funds sharply for states and communities to install clean-water infrastructure.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund would be cut by 79 percent from last year. It provides matching grants to states and local governments for recreational areas and facilities. The money comes from oil and gas revenues.

Among the bill's proposed policy changes:
  • Money would be available to take animal and plant species off the endangered and threatened lists, but not to add any.
  • EPA water-pollution initiatives would stop. The agency couldn't regulate coal ash as a hazardous waste when it's placed in landfills, something it hasn't yet decided whether to do. The EPA and the Department of the Interior would be blocked from regulating water pollution from mountaintop coal mining.
  • The Interior Department would be prevented from carrying out its plan to ban new uranium mining near the Grand Canyon for 20 years.
  • A provision by Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., would block the EPA from spending money to enforce water pollution rules in Florida.
  • A provision by Rep. John Carter, R-Texas, would stop the EPA from limiting mercury and other hazardous air pollutants from the Portland cement industry, a type of cement.
House Republicans put similar cuts in the 2011 spending bill, but Senate Democrats and President Barack Obama eliminated most of them.

Republicans scream and howl about how future generations will be "destroyed" by taxes, but are doing everything they can to see future generations actually destroyed by chemicals, pollution, poisons and lack of oversight.  Who needs clean air and water anyway?

Another Milepost On The Road To Oblivion

The Tea Party is serious about fixing America's economy and getting jobs back for the people but first we have to stop Socialist manatees.

You think I'm making this up.  I am not.  Manatees.  Florida Tea Party?  Hates them some manatees.

A Citrus County tea party group has announced that it's fighting new restrictions on boating and other human activities in Kings Bay that have been proposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

"We cannot elevate nature above people," explained Edna Mattos, 63, leader of the Citrus County Tea Party Patriots, in an interview. "That's against the Bible and the Bill of Rights."

Federal officials "want to restrict the entire bay," she contended. "They don't want people here."

Last week, Mattos, who says she has 800 members signed up on her group's website, and other tea party members picketed outside a public hearing on the new rules. Because they weren't allowed to bring their signs inside, she said, "my anger took over" and she sent a sharply worded e-mail to thousands of tea party members across Florida, urging them to write to Congress to block the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Then, on Tuesday, Barbara Bartlett, who identified herself as a tea party member, told the Hernando County Commission that the federal wildlife agency had no business sticking its nose into Citrus County. But parts of Kings Bay have been a federal wildlife refuge since 1980. 

Unemployment?  Wall Street greed?  Heavens no, that's not important.  What's important is getting rid of these SOCIALIST SEA COWS IN OUR FREE MARKET OCEAN.

These people are a friggin' joke.  This is the hill they want to die on, removing manatee protections so they can drive their boats faster.  This should be Florida's next legislative priority.  Idiots.  And people ask how it's possible Rick Scott won.

Stopped Clock Syndrome Strikes In Iowa

I'm no fan of Mitt Romney, but just because I don't like him doesn't mean he can't play his cards right once in a while:

(CNN) -- Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney will not sign a controversial marriage vow from the Iowa social conservative group, The Family Leader.
"Mitt Romney strongly supports traditional marriage but he felt this pledge contained references and provisions that were undignified and inappropriate for a presidential campaign," said campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul late Tuesday night.

This is something the current administration has failed to proactively address, and it is going to bite them in the butt eventually.  I'm afraid that oversights like this will send votes in the wrong direction in 2012.  Recent concessions have been made, but the flip flopping damage has been done.

It Ain't Easy Being A Kid These Days

Whether you're in Australia...

As a four-year-old girl desperately paddled towards a life jacket amid the wreckage of SIEV 221, a man bobbing in the monstrous Christmas Island swell grabbed it and then kicked her away, an inquest has heard.
Local Australian Federal Police officer, Special Constable Shane Adams, stood on the cliffs at Rocky Point on December 15, trying to help the 89 asylum seekers and three crew members whose boat had smashed into rocks.

"He reached out and grabbed the life jacket, pushed out with his right foot and struck the young girl on the shoulder, pushing her back," he told the inquest on Christmas Island.
That was the last time Const Adams saw the girl.

Whether you were just born to an idiot...

Police say a 35-year-old Tennessee woman is accused of driving drunk through Cobb County at more than 90 mph with her four children in the car.

Marietta police say Maria Michelle Baylor of Jackson, Tenn., faces DUI and child endangerment charges. 
Or whether you were born to an abusive parent who defies all reason...

Mr Justice Weir held that the woman alone was responsible for administering the overdose which caused significant, non-accidental harm to the little girl.

And Lo, He Brought The Tablets Down

Don't look now, Apple and Samsung, but Amazon wants in on the tablet game.  The long rumored entry by the Kindle guys into the tablet computer market will be here in time for the holidays. Inc will launch a tablet computer this year to extend its position as the world's largest Internet retailer, expand in mobile commerce and sell more digital goods, according to analysts and investors.

Amazon plans to introduce a tablet with a 9-inch screen before October that will run on Google's Android operating system, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday, citing unidentified people familiar with the matter. An Amazon spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday.

Analysts and investors have been expecting a tablet from Amazon for several months. The company's shares hit a record high earlier in July, partly on optimism about the new device, according to Colin Sebastian, an analyst at R.W. Baird.

"Amazon's brand, user base, and digital media offering would position a tablet well against some of the other options out there," Sebastian told Reuters. "Tablet users tend to purchase more digital items than comparable physical items, so Amazon wants more exposure to that."

Of course it will be running Android.  And of course you'll be able to use it with Kindle books.  But will you be able to read for long periods of time like you can with a Kindle and can't do so well on the iPad?  I prefer the Kindle itself for reading books over the iPad.  Amazon would want to do it right.

If they do, things could get very interesting.  And the more competition, the better.

Out-FOX-ing Himself

How much trouble is Rupert Murdoch in over the UK phone hacking scandal?  This much.

New York Republican Pete King is calling on the FBI to investigate whether Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation hacked into the voicemail accounts of Sept. 11 victims, calling the allegations of the scandal “disgraceful.”

“As I see it, I would expect more things to be coming out over the next several weeks,” King told POLITICO. “And as we approach 9/11, the tenth anniversary, it’s even going to get worse.”

King said in the letter, addressed to FBI Director Robert Mueller, that the journalists should face felony charges if the allegations are proven true.

“It is revolting to imagine that members of the media would seek to compromise the integrity of a public official for financial gain in the pursuit of yellow journalism,” wrote King, who is also chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.

Folks, if Peter King is calling for Rupert Murdoch's investigation, things are going to get very, very, very ugly for the News Corporation founder.  Yes, I know, the odds of Peter King actually doing anything about it are slim to none.  But the odds of News Corp.and its shareholders doing something about it after being inundated with bad press and now bipartisan calls for congressional probes?  Much higher.

Pull up a chair.  This is going to get messy.

No Dealing On The Debt Ceiling, Part 34

So over at the NY Times, Ross Douthat tries to convince himself that Republicans aren't completely insane.

The Republican Party’s strategy in the debt-ceiling negotiations has baffled centrists and vindicated liberals. For months, the party’s leaders have repeatedly turned down deals that would cut spending significantly because their members won’t compromise on taxes. To moderates, this intransigence is inexplicable: Are they crazy? To the left, it’s all-too-predictable: See, we told you they were crazy!
But there is a method to the Republicans’ madness, and it rests on four things they know (or at least sense) about the deficit debate that the rest of the political class often ignores. 

He goes on to explain that House conservatives should take the McConnell plan because A) Obama is really a right-of-center guy, B) the Bush Tax Cuts are set to expire if nothing is done, C) grand bargains never work out as good as people say they will and D) we're going to have to raise taxes at some point.

I'd argue point A, but the other three are correct.  The problem is Douthat is ignoring point E, which is the Republicans really are insane fanatics.  Steve Benen:

For the country’s sake, I’d love to believe Douthat. Really, I would. I’d be absolutely delighted to learn that Republicans are just aggressive poker players, but when push comes to shove, they’ll be able to tell the difference between fantasy and reason, and they’ll put the nation’s interests first.

But here we are, 20 days until a brutal deadline, and Republicans give every appearance of being downright certifiable. We know this from their own rhetoric, and we know this from every published description of Republican deliberations in this process. According to the party’s own Speaker, at least a quarter of the House GOP caucus actually wants to see the United States default. The actual number is probably much higher.

As one leading economist put it yesterday, observers around the world are saying of Republicans, “There’s no way they could possibly be this stupid.”

It’s time people start coming to grips with the fact they very well might be precisely this stupid.

And let's not forget Eric Cantor is shorting treasuries...and he stands to make quite a bit of money if the US does default.  He does have some influence over that, you know.

I'm still going to go with Wall Street kicking enough tea party ass to force a deal.

Oh, and you know that whole "Republicans demand that we'll never raise a dime of taxes" thing?  It's complete hogwash.  Gallup's latest poll:

Preferences for Spending Cuts vs. Tax Increases to Reduce the Deficit, by Political Party, July 2011

For you non-math geniuses out there, what "26% of Republicans say only spending cuts should be used to cut debt" is that the other 74% of Republicans are okay with at least some tax increases.  A vast majority of Republicans are in favor of some tax increases, which is exactly what President Obama offered and the GOP summarily rejected out of hand Saturday.

So no, the Republicans are not serious in any way.  They have lost this one.  They're now resorting to lying about Obama "storming out" of yesterday's talks.

Let that sink in for a sec.  Republicans?  Lying about Obama?  Shocking, I know.


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