Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Last Call

The conservatives at SCOTUS -- and more than a few of the liberals -- had some rough questions for the Solicitor General today regarding oral arguments on Arizona's "Papers, Please!" immigration law today.  Does Arizona have the power to enforce its own immigration laws that go above and beyond federal limits?

"If, in fact, somebody who does not belong in this country is in Arizona, Arizona has no power?" asked Justice Antonin Scalia. "What does sovereignty mean if it does not include the ability to defend your borders?"

Even liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor told the federal governments' lawyer that key parts of his arguments were "not selling very well."

Federal courts had blocked four elements of the state's Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act, known as SB 1070.

While intense oral arguments took place among the justices, outside there were competing demonstrations on the courthouse plaza, with the law's opponents saying it promotes discrimination and racial profiling. Backers say illegal immigration has created public safety and economic crises.

At issue is whether states have any authority to step in to enforce immigration matters or whether that is the exclusive role of the federal government. In dry legal terms, this constitutional question is known as pre-emption.

Paul Clement, lawyer for Arizona, told the high court the federal government has long failed to control the problem, and that states have discretion to assist in enforcing immigration laws.

But the Obama administration's solicitor general, Donald Verrilli, strongly countered that assertion, saying immigration matters are under the federal government's exclusive authority and state "interference" would only make matters worse.

The Obama administration exclusively argued this as a Supremacy Clause case, with the Constitution spelling out that the federal government has jurisdiction over all matters regarding federal borders.  It appears SCOTUS has more than a few problems with this.  There's also the major issue that Justice Kagan recused herself in this case, setting up a 4-4 tie as a very possible scenario (meaning that the lower court ruling would stand in Arizona, but that other states would be able to cite the SCOTUS decision to make their own laws.)  Lyle Denniston:

If the Court is to permit Arizona to put into effect at least some of the challenged parts of S.B. 1070, there would have to be five votes to do so because only eight Justices are taking part (Justice Elena Kagan is out of the case), and a 4-4 split would mean that a lower court’s bar to enforcing those provisions would be upheld without a written opinion.   It did not take long for Justice Antonin Scalia to side with Arizona, and it was not much later that Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., showed that he, too, was inclined that way.   Justice Clarence Thomas, who said nothing during the argument, is known to be totally opposed to the kind of technical legal challenge that the government has mounted against S.B. 1070.

That left Justices Anthony M. Kennedy and Samuel A. Alito, Jr., as the ones that might be thought most likely to help make a majority for Arizona.  Their questioning, less pointed, made them somewhat less predictable.  However, they did show some sympathy for the notion that a border state like Arizona might have good reasons for trying to deal with what Kennedy called the “social and economic disruption” resulting from illegal immigration.

The Court’s three more liberal Justices — Stephen G. Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor — offered what appeared to be a less than enthusiastic support for the federal government’s challenge, although they definitely were troubled that S.B. 1070 might, in practice, lead to long detentions of immigrants.  They wanted assurances on the point, and they were offered some by Arizona’s lawyer, Washington attorney Paul D. Clement.

 We'll see how this falls out, but I'm thinking that this may get very messy if the court sides with Arizona here.  Depending on how broad the written opinion is, things could get out of control fast if it goes against the US here.

So How's That Austerity Thing Working Out For You, Britain?

As I mentioned in this morning's StupidiNews, the UK has officially hit a double-dip recession with two quarters of economic contraction as a direct result of the country's austerity policies.

Gross domestic product fell 0.2 percent from the fourth quarter of 2011, when it declined 0.3 percent, the Office for National Statistics said today in London. The median of 40 estimates in a Bloomberg News survey was for an increase of 0.1 percent. A technical recession is defined as two straight quarters of contraction.

The Bank of England is in the final month of its latest round of economic stimulus and the drop in output comes as prospects dim in the euro region, Britain’s biggest export market. As an anti-austerity backlash gains ground in Europe, the report may add to criticism of Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne’s budget cuts.

“This isn’t supportive of the fiscal consolidation program, so the government is likely to be concerned about that,” said Philip Rush, an economist at Nomura International in London. “The data were bad, and that supports the view that the Bank of England will do a final 25 billion pounds of quantitative easing in May.” 

It's going to take a lot more than that to get the Jolly Old back into the black.  This should also put to rest the issue involving austerity and how it will supposedly "save" economies.  Britain has specifically been knocked back into recession because of these massive cuts, plan and simple.  If government is the spender of last resort and they aren't spending, guess what happens to your economic engine?

And now Britain will have to resort to more qualitative easing after the fact rather than having that money put towards spending before the fact in a far more efficient manner.  Oh well, right?

Just remember the GOP wants to bring even deeper austerity cuts here, and if they get control of the Senate and White House, those cuts will happen, and we will plunge into a recession.  Count on it.  You can prevent that, you know.

Where The Arab Spring Failed

Mona Eltahawy's lightning bolt of a piece in Foreign Policy entitled "Why Do They Hate Us?" is staggering, heart-rending, depressing, and brutally truthful.  She goes into candid detail on the treatment of women in the Middle East and why the world keeps looking the other direction.

Name me an Arab country, and I'll recite a litany of abuses fueled by a toxic mix of culture and religion that few seem willing or able to disentangle lest they blaspheme or offend. When more than 90 percent of ever-married women in Egypt -- including my mother and all but one of her six sisters -- have had their genitals cut in the name of modesty, then surely we must all blaspheme. When Egyptian women are subjected to humiliating "virginity tests" merely for speaking out, it's no time for silence. When an article in the Egyptian criminal code says that if a woman has been beaten by her husband "with good intentions" no punitive damages can be obtained, then to hell with political correctness. And what, pray tell, are "good intentions"? They are legally deemed to include any beating that is "not severe" or "directed at the face." What all this means is that when it comes to the status of women in the Middle East, it's not better than you think. It's much, much worse. Even after these "revolutions," all is more or less considered well with the world as long as women are covered up, anchored to the home, denied the simple mobility of getting into their own cars, forced to get permission from men to travel, and unable to marry without a male guardian's blessing -- or divorce either.
Not a single Arab country ranks in the top 100 in the World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Report, putting the region as a whole solidly at the planet's rock bottom. Poor or rich, we all hate our women. Neighbors Saudi Arabia and Yemen, for instance, might be eons apart when it comes to GDP, but only four places separate them on the index, with the kingdom at 131 and Yemen coming in at 135 out of 135 countries. Morocco, often touted for its "progressive" family law (a 2005 report by Western "experts" called it "an example for Muslim countries aiming to integrate into modern society"), ranks 129; according to Morocco's Ministry of Justice, 41,098 girls under age 18 were married there in 2010.

I don't throw around "must-read" often, but this article certainly belongs in that category if anything does.  Eltahawy herself was detained by Egyptian police during the revolution there last year, sexually assaulted and her arm and wrist broken.  She takes that experience and others in her life and flays the entire culture of the Middle East bare.  It's painful to read at times but it needs to be read anyway, if only to realize how far we have to go as a planet.

And these problems are by no means new.  They were there before we arrived with FREEDOM BOMBS and they're still there now, and yet I can't help seeing where the conservatives in this country want to go.

It's A Gas Gas Gas

Eighteen gas stations in eastern Long Island are charging more than $2 per gallon credit card fees, according to CBS 2 New York. (H/t Consumerist.)
Suffolk County's Weights and Measures Bureau has received 23 complaints about the issue in the past few days alone, according to CBS 2. One customer reported being charged a $15 service fee for using a debit card.

Credit card surcharges are forbidden by law, but there's nothing against a discount for cash.  Clearly, instead of following the spirit of the law, the answer is to hike the price past ridiculous and then slash it for cash.

This is the beginning of a bad trend.  Credit card companies win in the end, it's just a matter of who pays the fee.  Consumers are at the mercy of greed and abuse, and this is only one of many schemes to overcharge.  I'd be against it if they had hard data to show a few cents per gallon made the math work.  But fifteen dollar fees that aren't made clear?  Doubling gas prices or more on a per-gallon basis to use cards?

Bullshit, I say.

Lilly Ledbetter Puts Mittens In His Place

The Lilly Ledbetter Act was meant to give women grounds to sue for unfair pay practices.  It, and other measures like it, have failed.  The Paycheck Fairness Act was the most recent to fail.

Ledbetter points out that women who work for substandard wages lose over a lifetime.  A lifetime of working as hard as men, but lower wages or lack of benefits.  The next time you hear a Republican talk about jobs and growth, remember they unanimously voted against fair pay for women.

In an unrelated news article today, I read some confessions of slimy HR practices.  For example, pictures of kids so parents will chat, and disqualify themselves.  One hiring professional checks for wedding bands, because women can get pregnant and take maternity leave, so no newlyweds for his company.  But the kicker for me was the guy who hired women knowing he could get away with paying her less.  Exploiting working women is a known business strategy.  The GOP stated concerns for businesses if they had to face the "burden" of paying women the same wage for the same work.  But now we're supposed to believe they care about working women.
While Romney decides whether he opposes gender discrimination, here is an important reality he should consider: This isn't just about women. It's about all families and their economic security.
The consequences of unequal pay reach far beyond the paychecks women take home every week. My pension and Social Security were based on an unfair salary, so over the course of my career, I was cheated out of hundreds of thousands of dollars that could have gone to my kids' education or my family's medical bills or to support the shops and small businesses in my community. I also worked countless hours of overtime, but the extra pay I earned was based on the same uneven scale.
The question Romney's campaign couldn't answer is a question of fairness and whether American workers have a level playing field on which everyone has the same opportunity to get ahead.
I know Obama believes in those values. As the grandson of a woman who worked in a bank long after she hit the glass ceiling -- and who was paid less than the men she trained -- he believes equal pay is an essential right. As the father of two girls, he cares deeply about making sure the work force they'll join one day isn't slanted against them.
But I have no idea where Romney stands -- and from the sound of it, neither do those closest to him.
What we do know about whom and what Romney supports is even more unsettling than his silence on this issue. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker recently took away citizens' rights to fight workplace discrimination. Romney called him a "hero" and a "man of courage."

Romney is too cowardly to come forward and speak about fair treatment of women.  He didn't even try to promise to think about maybe considering something that worked to benefit everyone.  He ducked the question.

This is not the leader of a nation.  He is King Shit of Turd Mountain, and anyone with sense would wash their hands of him.

Another Milepost On The Road To Oblivion

So yeah, this happened in Atlanta at a bar. 

Atlanta bar owner posts signs calling President Obama the n-word
The blurry word starts with N.  But don't you dare call 'em racists.  The owner says "I don't feel bad about anything whatsoever, Therefore, they can go out and put their own sign in their own yard and I will not be offended."  Cause it's all about him, see.

Still six months and change to go, too.

The Big GOP Primary Thread: Nor'easter

There was no surprise in Mitt Romney winning all five primaries in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic yesterday, but it was somewhat surprising to see him not do any better than he did.  Even though he was basically the only viable candidate left, anywhere from 33% to nearly 43% of GOP primary voters voted against him yesterday.   Newt got 27% of the vote in Delaware, and Ron Paul 25% of the vote in Rhode Island.

I'm not convinced that 100% of those non-Romney GOP voters are going to pick Romney over Obama.  A great many of them are, but some will stay home too.  A very small percentage may even vote for Obama, although I can't imagine it being more than a couple percent max.  Certainly there will be disillusioned Obama voters who will stay home or cast their vote for Romney too.  I'm not sure how many of each will be out there, but Romney certainly doesn't have an advantage over the President in that respect if he can't break 67% in a one man race.

On the other hand, last night was the end of Newt Gingrich's run whether or not he wants to admit it.  He's done.  On the gripping hand, Gingrich did as good or better than Ron Paul and nobody's expecting Paul to get out the race either, so why should Newt quit?  The latest PPP poll in Texas shows that state's primary is still in play, with Romney having a 45%-35% lead over Gingrich in the state (Yeah, Mitt Romney may not even get 50% in Texas.  Think about THAT for a while.)

Combine that with news that Ron Paul has managed to secure delegates in Iowa and Minnesota and this coronation isn't going quite as smoothly as Mitt would like.

Meanwhile, on the Dem side of things, two Blue Dogs went down in flames in Pennsylvania, primaried out due to redistricting.  Rep. Tim Holden voted against the PPACA and got shown the door as his district went far more blue, losing by 16 points to Matt Cartwright, who ran, shockingly, as a liberal and won.  Holden was expected to be redistricted out but the margin of victory was pretty telling.

But the real story was Rep. Jason Altmire's 2 point loss to Rep. Mark Critz, and the difference?  Organized labor came out big for Critz and gave him the win.  There's an important lesson there for Democrats if they're willing to listen.


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