Thursday, April 30, 2015

Last Call For Breaking The Curve

Everything you need to know about Jeb Bush and GOP outreach to black voters:

Oh, hmm.

That would be Coming Apart: The State of White America 1960-2010, in which Murray explains how LBJ's Great Society and the Civil Rights movement didn't elevate black communities up to where white ones were, they just dragged white communities down (and dumped black ones into the abyss.)

Focusing on whites to avoid conflating race with class, Mr. Murray contends instead that a large swath of white America—poor and working-class whites, who make up approximately 30% of the white population—is turning away from the core values that have sustained the American experiment. At the same time, the top 20% of the white population has quietly been recovering its cultural moorings after a flirtation with the counterculture in the 1960s and 1970s. Thus, argues Mr. Murray in his elegiac book, the greatest source of inequality in America now is not economic; it is cultural. 
He is particularly concerned with the ways in which working-class whites are losing touch with what he calls the four "founding virtues"—industriousness, honesty (including abiding by the law), marriage and religion, all of which have played a vital role in the life of the republic.

He simply assumes that any communities of color are already lost, and that he's effectively writing a lifeboat manual for white America to try to save itself, very much at the expense of everyone else.

If George W Bush represented "compassionate conservatism"  where a rising tide lifts all boats, then Jebby represents "pragmatic conservatism" where the rising tide drowns the weak, so you'd better be willing to step on some heads to stay above water.

He perfectly represents the coming post-Obama GOP ideal of "Austerity will cull the weak". And a lot of poor white voters will correctly interpret that as "It's time to jettison anyone darker than ecru."

Operation Jade Moron

Things that are actually larger in Texas: cheeseburgers, state fairground mascots, and dangerous anti-government paranoia.

Gov. Greg Abbott is hoping to assure Texans that martial law will not be imposed during an upcoming military training exercise that has triggered a cascade of conspiracy theories. 
The Republican governor ordered the Texas State Guard to monitor the two-month-long Jade Helm 15 exercise that will take place in Bastrop County this summer, reported KUT-FM
A U.S. Army spokesman answered questions for about two hours Monday from concerned residents who voiced fears that the federal government would gather intelligence on them, confiscate their guns and other property, or conduct psychological operations on them. 
He also knocked down concerns that foreign fighters – such as Islamic State militants – would be brought in subdue the population. 
The spokesman tried to assure residents that the military has conducted similar exercises before without violating constitutional protections or U.S. law, but the overflow crowd remained highly suspicious. 
“I think historically, it’s much more common for governments to be tyrannical and infringe on other’s rights,” Daniel DuCloux, a Bastrop County resident, told the radio station. “So when you see a large military build-up like this, I think it’s our duty as citizens to question what’s going on and to find answers. I mean, if we don’t, then who will?”

Gotta love these guys. Because as we all know, when the New World Order UN mind-control invasion begins, it's going to start in Bastrop County, Texas, population 75,000.  On the other hand, if this is all true, that means the first major city they'll hit is Austin in neighboring Travis County. That should actually make these nutjobs happy, right?

If You Don't Love Yourself, I'll Make You See Your Own Heart

Notorious RBG vivisected the case against same-sex marriage during Tuesday's oral arguments, and it was amazing.

During Tuesday’s marriage equality arguments in the Supreme Court, several of the Court’s conservative members suggested that same-sex couples should not be given equal marriage rights because these couples have not enjoyed those rights for most of the past. As Justice Antonin Scalia summed up this argument, “for millennia, not a single society” supported marriage equality, and that somehow exempted same-sex couples from the Constitution’s promise of equal protection of the law. 
Not long after her conservative colleagues raised this argument, however, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg explained exactly why marriage was long understood to be incompatible with homosexuality in just five sentences:

[Same-sex couples] wouldn’t be asking for this relief if the law of marriage was what it was a millennium ago. I mean, it wasn’t possible. Same-sex unions would not have opted into the pattern of marriage, which was a relationship, a dominant and a subordinate relationship. Yes, it was marriage between a man and a woman, but the man decided where the couple would be domiciled; it was her obligation to follow him.
There was a change in the institution of marriage to make it egalitarian when it wasn’t egalitarian. And same-sex unions wouldn’t — wouldn’t fit into what marriage was once.

Marriage has changed dramatically in the world over the last thousand years and even during America's relatively short history. Gender in marriage was all about financial arrangements: the man was the chief breadwinner, and the woman subservient.  That's complete changed in 2015.  The notion that marriage is about financial subservience, gender roles, or procreation is ludicrous, but that's the argument against same-sex marriage: "We've always done it this way."

Sure, and slavery, and women not being allowed to vote, used to be traditional law in America too. We got past that.  We'll get past this, as well.


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Last Call For Pissed Christie

Guess which US governor has the lowest approval ratings in the country right now?

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), a potential presidential candidate in 2016, on Monday placed blame on the media for his low approval ratings. 
During an interview with NJ101.5 radio's "Ask the Governor," Christie dismissed the hit he has taken in the polls since the Bridgegate scandal broke.

"If you're going to have relentlessly negative coverage from the media, it's going to affect your poll numbers," Christie said, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer
Christie's approval ratings sunk to the lowest of any governor this year in an April Quinnipiac poll. Fifty-six percent of New Jersey voters said they disapproved of the job Christie is doing, while just 38 percent said they approved.

It's telling that Christie's usually reliable "blame the media for covering what I'm doing" plan is no longer working.  He's not even considered a serious 2016 candidate anymore, a long fall from where he was in 2014.  Bridgegate has finished the man, and at this point he's fighting not to become the next punchline of a GOP governor.

I'm betting he doesn't cross that bridge, because he may not be Governor for much longer.

David Wildstein, a former ally of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie who ordered intentional traffic jams near the George Washington Bridge, is scheduled to plead guilty to criminal charges on Thursday, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. 
Wildstein is set to appear in federal court in Newark, where grand jurors have heard testimony in secret for months about gridlock over four mornings in Fort Lee, New Jersey, according to the person, who requested anonymity because the matter isn’t public. He would plead guilty to a charging document known as a criminal information, the person said. It was unclear what the specific charges would be. 
Wildstein lawyer Alan Zegas and Fishman spokesman Matthew Reilly didn’t immediately return e-mails and calls seeking comment on the scheduled plea. Zegas has said “evidence exists” that Christie knew of the traffic jams at the time.

Now, it's possible Wildstein is falling on his sword to take the blame for Christie, in which case, he might recover from this. But if this is a plea bargain for Wildstein to take a lesser charge in exchange for evidence against Christie, his 2016 run is done.

We'll see.

Never Bet Against The American People Being Dumb

Washington Post political reporter Chris Cillizza is shocked -- SHOCKED! -- to discover that Pew Research's annual reminder showing that Americans are a majority of low-information meatheads when it comes to politics is still showing Americans are low-information meatheads.

The Pew Research Center spent the last month collecting data on responses to its 12-question news quiz. And the results are, um, humbling for those of us who spend every day writing, talking and thinking about politics. 
The overriding message? People don't know so much about current affairs with political tinge. Here are two examples. 
1. The Senate 

Presented with four options about the current partisan makeup of the Senate, roughly half (52 percent) got the answer right. (It's option number 4 above. Duh.) 
Pretty good, right? Not so much. Consider that a straight-up guess would give you a 25 percent success rate since Pew provided four options for people to choose from. Given that, you'd (or maybe I'd) expect a lot more people to get it right. What did the 48 percent who got it wrong choose? One in five people (21 percent) said that Republicans controlled 61 seats while one in ten thought Democrats held the Senate majority (option #3). Six percent said the Senate was tied 50-50. 
2. Elizabeth Warren

Again, roughly half (51 percent) of those who participated in the news quiz knew that Warren was the woman pictured on the lower left above. Ok, so, yes, Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin (top right) does look a little bit like Warren. But, Nancy Pelosi (bottom right but you already knew that) looks nothing like Warren. And, even if you have no idea who Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) is (top left), she still looks NOTHING like Warren.

Your average American got 8 out of 12 right (you can take the quiz here) with older Americans doing slightly better than Millennials.  But after a midterm where only a third of voters bothered to even show up, why is Cillizza in any way shocked at these numbers?  Americans have tuned out politics for the last several years, and the "both sides do it" and "view from nowhere" style of political reporting that carefully assigns blame and fault to all politicians rather than the ones who are actually responsible has achieved the desired effect of making Americans completely apathetic about political issues.

Cillizza wants to know why so many Americans are ignorant about basic politics?

They probably read The Fix.

National Fiduciary League

You may have heard that the NFL is voluntarily giving up its sweet, sweet tax-exempt status.  Why is it doing so?  There has to be a monster of a catch.  Travis Waldron explains:

Under tax law, the NFL and other professional sports leagues have been able to organize as 501(c)(6) non-profit trade organizations. The NFL has done so since 1942, largely without much fanfare or scrutiny. But in recent years, especially as NFL revenues have ballooned to nearly $10 billion annually, the league’s tax-exempt status has come under scrutiny from sports fans, tax groups, and lawmakers from both parties. It is now, Goodell said in the letter, “a distraction” that isn’t worth keeping. 
NFL types might be fond of throwing the “distraction” label on things that don’t deserve it, but in this instance, Goodell is probably right. Relinquishing the tax exemption will almost certainly have little, if any, cost for the league or benefit to taxpayers, since the NFL operates as a pass-through entity. That is, the majority of the money the league takes in is either made by or passed on to teams and taxed at that level, where 31 of the 32 franchises are organized as private, tax-paying businesses (the publicly-owned Green Bay Packers are a nonprofit). 
Because of that, the cost of the exemption to taxpayers (or the benefit to the NFL) is relatively small. According to Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), who featured tax-exempt status for sports leagues in his annual “Waste Book,” those exemptions cost taxpayers as much as $91 million a year. But the NFL is only a part of that, and Citizens for Tax Justice has estimated that the exemption saves the league just $10 million annually, roughly the same calculation the Joint Committee on Taxation made when it estimated that revoking the exemption would increase federal revenues by $109 million over a decade.

But those benefits may not exist at all. Major League Baseball gave up its tax exemption in 2007 and has maintained that doing so had no effect on its finances. The NFL, according to some experts, may have to pay a small amount of taxes based on some revenue it takes in and the structure of a stadium loan program it used to run. But even accounting for that, other experts have in the past guessed that the league might be able to find more than enough write-offs in the tax code to offset what it could have to pay.

So yes, the bottom line is that our corporate tax code is so generous to businesses as large as NFL franchises that it actually may benefit the NFL in the long run.

And the best part is they can keep hustling cities and local governments for fat tax exemptions and stadium sweetheart deals that will keep them making huge profits at the expense of crumbling cities.

Nice work if you can get it.


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Stand With Rand On Quicksand, Con't

Another week, another audience, and Sen. Rand Paul has changed his position yet again on the use of drones in military and combat use, this time when cornered by FOX News. Dave Weigel:

"I do think that there is a valuable use for drones and as much as I’m seen as an opponent of drones, in military and warfare, they do have some value,” Paul said. “I think this is a difficult situation. You have hostages being held; some of them are American. You have people holding hostages; some of them are American. I’ve been an opponent of using drones about people not in combat. However if you are holding hostages, you kind of are involved in combat. So I look at it the way it is in the United States. If there's a kidnapping in New York, the police don't have to have a warrant to go in." 

Of course, as Weigel notes, this is the totally opposite position as to where Paul has been on the question of drones.

Had Paul never spoken out about drones before, this would have been a newsless answer, comparable to what other Republican candidates and politicians had been saying. But Paul has a long, dramatic record of pronouncements about drones. He's said that a drone that flew over his home would meet the business end of a shotgun. He's demanded stronger justifications from the Obama administration before it targets any American citizens. That talk has won him praise from the left and the libertarian right
Yet on Fox, Paul declined the chance to criticize the administration. "You really don't get due process or anything like that if you are in a war zone," said Paul. "I tend not to want to blame the president for the loss of life here. I think he was trying to do the right thing." 
Paul's comments perplexed Glenn Greenwald, the journalist and co-founder of The Intercept who has written extensively about drone warfare. "I don't get his strategy: he's never going to attract GOP hawks, so why dilute what makes him interesting/unique?" asked Greenwald on Twitter. "If his big maverick view is now reduced to 'no drone killings of Americans on US soil,' it's hardly interesting."

You tell me, Double G.  You're the one who's been backing the guy for the last year.  But hey, he's got all kinds of rubes to fool running for President, right?

Oh, and on his other big issue, criminal justice reform? You'd think Rand Paul would be eager to weigh in on Baltimore and continue his "outreach" to black and Hispanic voters. He did that too.

Presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) weighed in on the turmoil in Baltimore on Tuesday, standing with police and blaming the violence on a lack of morals in America. 
"I came through the train on Baltimore (sic) last night, I'm glad the train didn't stop," he said, laughing, during an interview with conservative radio host Laura Ingraham. 
Railing against what he repeatedly called "thuggery and thievery" in the streets of Baltimore, Paul told Ingraham that talking about "root causes" was not appropriate in the middle of a riot. 
"The police have to do what they have to do, and I am very sympathetic to the plight of the police in this," he said.

Nice.  "Lack of morals".

Hoocuddanode, Climate Change Edition

Greg Sargent notes that now that Senate Democrats have all but agreed with the GOP that the Senate and not President Obama should have the final say over negotiations with Iran, Senate Republicans are insisting that the Senate have the same final veto power over any international climate change treaties as well.

Hoocuddanode, right?

Who says the new GOP Congress isn’t interested in getting anything done? The Wall Street Journal reports that Senate Republicans are hard at work hatching a new strategy to accomplish a key piece of their agenda: Undermining President Obama’s chances of reaching an international deal in which major countries agree to curb climate emissions, by sowing doubts about his ability to deliver on our end of the bargain. 
Republicans are already fighting in court to block Obama’s proposed new EPA rules curbing emissions from existing power plans, which is central to U.S. efforts to reach a global climate deal in talks later this year. They argue that the rules are unconstitutional and amount to more executive overreach. The Journal reports that the idea is to send a message that Obama cannot unilaterally negotiate a climate deal, and the model is Tom Cotton’s recent letter to Iran.

Gosh, it's almost like this was the point all along: to set a precedent for every international treaty going forward that the Senate should get the final say.

Whenever there's a Democrat in the White House, anyway.

Sen. James Inhofe said Mr. Obama’s unilateral pursuit of the climate accord exceeds the scope of president’s power. Mr. Inhofe, the chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, plans to hold a hearing this summer focused on the Senate’s advice-and-consent process and its possible application in international climate negotiations. 
Additionally, Mr. Inhofe said the Iran letter, which was penned by Sen. Tom Cotton, could be a useful model to send a message about the climate agreement. 
“The Tom Cotton letter was an educational effort,” Mr. Inhofe said in an interview. Other countries think “if the president of the United States says something, it’s just automatic…His letter was over there saying, ‘the president says he can do this; he can’t do this.’

Some 43 other presidencies were allowed to.  Apparently, when the president is Barack Obama, then the President no longer speaks for the United States of America in international affairs.

Imagine that.  And once again, Senate Democrats have helped by backstabbing the president.


Monday, April 27, 2015

Last Call For A Brave New World

SCOTUSBlog's Lyle Denniston previews tomorrow's Supreme Court oral arguments on same-sex marriage and the Constitutional issues before the justices.

Assuming that the Supreme Court moved forward to a decision on the constitutional controversy, it probably must choose between two contrasting interpretations of what right is at stake. It would be harder for gays and lesbians to win — though not entirely beyond their reach — if one of those versions were accepted by the Justices. 
Gay and lesbian couples insist that they are not asking the Court to declare, for the first time ever, that gays and lesbians have a right to marry — that is, a new and very specific right to marry the person of one’s choice, when that person is of the same sex. 
Rather, they contend that there is an existing right to marry, well established in every state, and they simply want equal access to it. It is their exclusion from a right now open to opposite-sex couples that they argue denies them legal equality and due process under the Fourteenth Amendment. 
There are two variations of that claim. 
One is that the Fourteenth Amendment forbids denial of equal legal rights based upon a constitutionally forbidden category. In this situation, that category is sexual orientation or, as it is sometimes called, gender identity. 
The other is that the Supreme Court has declared that marriage is a fundamental right under the Constitution, and that the right may not arbitrarily be denied to a couple that — except for their same-sex characteristic — would be eligible to enter it. 

And the argument against same-sex marriage:

Many lawyers for states, in defense of their bans, have made a contrasting argument. They contend that gays and lesbians are, in fact, asking the Court to create a brand-new constitutional right to marry a person of the same sex. 
The Court, of course, very seldom establishes a previously non-existent constitutional right. It can extend an existing right to new groups — for example, give women legal equality — but it does so by finding that the underlying constitutional concept has simply evolved. The recognition of a new right is simply an interpretative alteration, not a new creation, done from scratch. 
Even less often, lawyers for the states have contended, does the Supreme Court recognize a new “fundamental right.” To exist at that most important level, there must be a history behind the right, something that is so evidently a part of constitutional understanding that it is only natural to formally acknowledge it. 
In the same-sex marriage cases, then, gay and lesbian couples would confront a major obstacle to winning their case if they had to persuade the Court to create a new right of gay marriage, as such, and, especially, if they had to make the case that such a right is fundamental in the constitutional sense

So the outcome is actually fairly simple if the plaintiffs are victorious:

If the couples win on the first point, then equality would be mandated nationwide, and recognition would seem to lose its separate significance. It is possible that the Court, if it were to examine the recognition issue wholly apart from its obvious link to marriage access, might find it fairly easy to assure equality in recognition. That, in effect, is what it required the federal government to do when, in the Windsor decision, it opened federal marital benefits to already married same-sex couples as a matter of constitutional equality. 
Much of the written briefing in the four cases seems to proceed on the assumption that the two rights being claimed are not distinct, but closely intetwined. It is difficult, indeed, to imagine how the Court might rule in favor of one but not the other.

So the bottom line is that the pro side believes the federal right to marry already exists and is being expanded by the Fourteenth Amendment.  The con side believes the right does not exist, because it is a state issue, and that a federal mandate cannot be created wholesale by the courts (and therefore must fall to the states).

Again, as Denniston says, it seems very difficult to say there's no federal mandate to recognize same-sex marriage nationally without, well, recognizing same-sex marriage nationally.  The clues are there that indicate that there are at least five justices willing to say there is (and possibly six, if you think the Chief Justice wants his fingerprints on this legacy.)

We'll have more data to pore over tomorrow.

Ferguson: Economic Violence 101

Charles Warren details in The Atlantic how Ferguson, Missouri spent years using its police as a taxation force, harassing the (mostly black) citizenry to raise money to run the local government despite Ferguson being the home of a $24 billion Fortune 500 corporation.

Take a walk along West Florissant Avenue, in Ferguson, Missouri. Head south of the burned-out Quik Trip and the famous McDonalds, south of the intersection with Chambers, south almost to the city limit, to the corner of Ferguson Avenue and West Florissant. There, last August, Emerson Electric announced third-quarter sales of $6.3 billion. Just over half a mile to the northeast, four days later, Officer Darren Wilson killed Michael Brown. The 12 shots fired by Officer Wilson were probably audible in the company lunchroom. 
Outwardly, at least, the City of Ferguson would appear to occupy an enviable position. It is home to a Fortune 500 firm. It has successfully revitalized a commercial corridor through its downtown. It hosts an office park filled with corporate tenants. Its coffers should be overflowing with tax dollars. 
Instead, the cash-starved municipality relies on its cops and its courts to extract millions in fines and fees from its poorest residents, issuing thousands of citations each year. Those tickets plug a financial hole created by the ways in which the city, the county, and the state have chosen to apportion the costs of public services. A century or more of public-policy choices protect the wallets of largely white business and property owners and pass the bills along to disproportionately black renters and local residents. It's easy to see the drama of a fatal police shooting, but harder to understand the complexities of municipal finances that created many thousands of hostile encounters, one of which turned fatal.

The familiar convention of the true-crime story turns out to be utterly inadequate for describing the social, economic, and legal subjection of black people in Ferguson, or anywhere in America. Understanding this requires looking beyond the 90-second drama to the 90 years of entrenched white supremacy and black disadvantage that preceded it.

The key to Ferguson's plight is nothing less than decades of a regressive "race to the bottom" taxation system designed exclusively to benefit white property owners and businesses at the expense of black tenants and renters.

Like most of the rest of St. Louis Country, mid-century Ferguson was defended by exclusionary zoning codes and whites-only collusion in the real estate market. In the 1960s Ferguson was known as a “sun-down” community: African Americans, mostly from neighboring Kinloch, came in to work in the houses of wealthy whites in Ferguson during the day, but were expected to be out of town by the time the sun set. To this day, the adjacent cities are joined by only two through streets, the Ferguson city line runs down a neutral zone lined on either side with mirror-image three-way intersections. If you have been to St. Louis, you likely landed in Kinloch. Over the last three decades, the vast majority of that city’s black residents have been displaced to accommodate the expansion of Lambert-St. Louis Airport. Over the same period of time, a small number of African American homeowners and a much larger number of African American renters have gradually replaced whites in Ferguson. Ferguson, which was almost entirely white in 1970, today has a black majority. 
In 1981, a federal judge in Missouri declared that the “severe” residential segregation of the St. Louis metropolitan area had produced a constitutionally impermissible degree of segregation in the region’s schools. The court tasked the East-West Gateway Government Council and the Missouri Housing Development Commission with developing a plan to desegregate the metropolitan area, but they simply ignored the ruling. At the turn of the 21st century, almost one-half of St. Louis County’s 90-odd municipalities had black populations under 5 percent.

And that brings us to Emerson Electric.

For tax purposes, Emerson’s Ferguson campus is appraised according to its “fair market value.” That means a $50 million dollar solar-powered data center is only worth what another firm would be willing to pay for it. “Our location in Ferguson affects the fair market value of the entire campus,” Polzin explained. By this reasoning, the condition of West Florissant Avenue explains the low valuation of the company’s headquarters. 
In fact, the opposite is true: The rock-bottom assessment value of the Ferguson campus helps ensure that West Florissant Avenue remains in its current condition, year after year. It severely limits the tax money Emerson contributes to the Ferguson-Florissant district’s struggling schools (Michael Brown graduated from nearby Normandy High School, a nearly 100 percent African American school that has been operating without state accreditation for the last two years), and to the government of St. Louis County more generally. On the 25 parcels Emerson owns all around St. Louis County, it pays the county $1.3m in property taxes. Ferguson itself receives far less. Even after a 2013 property tax increase (from $0.65 to the state-maximum $1 per $100 of assessed value), Ferguson received an estimated $68,000 in property taxes from the corporate headquarters that occupies 152 acres of its tax base—not even enough to pay the municipal judge and his clerk to hand out the fines and sign the arrest warrants. 
St. Louis County doesn’t just assess Emerson a low market value. It then divides that number in three—so its final property value, for tax purposes, ends up being one third of its already low appraised value. In some states, Ferguson would be able to offset this write-down by raising its own percentage tax rate. Voters would even be able to decide which services needed the most help and raise property taxes for specific reasons. But Missouri sets a limit for such levies: $1 per $100 of property. As Joseph Pulitzer wrote of St. Louis during the first Gilded Age, “millions and millions of property in this city escape all taxation."

A $24 billion company generates just $68,000 in taxes for the city in which it resides.  One percent of assessed value.  Put the $50 billion data center in a place like Ferguson and it becomes nearly worthless to tax.

America is broken.

Warren, No Peace, Brown, Won't Back Down

Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Sherrod Brown continue to go directly after President Obama over fast track authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, and they let fly again over the weekend calling on the president to immediately declassify all terms being negotiated for the deal.

Obama equated that argument to the “death panels” floated during the ObamaCare debate, as a claim so far-fetched as not to be taken seriously, adding that members of Congress have been frequently briefed on the talks.

“Someone coming up with a slogan like ‘death panels’ doesn’t mean it’s true,” he said Thursday. “The same thing is true on this. Look at the facts, don’t just throw a bunch of stuff out there.”

In response to those claims, Warren and Brown told Obama to release the text of the negotiations to the public. While members of Congress can review documents, it is illegal to release them to the public or discuss specifics.

And if, as Obama says, the trade deal is his best effort to carve out good terms for the working class, they argued there is no reason not to let the public review it before it is finalized.

“The American people should be allowed to see for themselves whether it’s a good deal for them,” they wrote.

“Characterizing the assessments of labor unions, journalists, members of Congress and others who disagree with your approach to transparency on trade issues as ‘dishonest’ is both untrue and unlikely to serve the best interests of the American people,” they added.

Brown at least has re-election to try an win in 2016 in Ohio. But Warren is safe and in a safe seat. Going this hard after President Obama didn't exactly work in 2014, so I'm wondering what Warren's game is. Cover for Hillary? Playing the foil to help the President? I'm not sure.

But the argument that negotiation terms need to be disclosed while the negotiations are still ongoing is ridiculous. That is Warren and Brown scoring cheap points, and they know it. If you're going to argue that the deal is bad, but can't tell us as to why, then have a seat.


Sunday, April 26, 2015

Last Call For Memento Mori

People seem to thing Hillary Clinton is doomed by the "revelations" in the book Clinton Cash by Peter Schweizer.  And some Republicans remember that the Clintons are if anything, survivors who are hard to put down.

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson cautioned members of his party Sunday against overconfidence when it comes to Schweizer's blockbuster claims.

“Republicans need to be careful not to overstate the case,” Hutchinson said on Meet the Press. “There’s no evidence of quid pro quo."

Schweizer made the political talk show rounds arguing just the opposite on Sunday, likening the donations made Clinton Foundation during the time that Mrs. Clinton served as secretary of state to insider trading.

Hutchinson countered that all the Schweizer's book really shows is "evidence of mistakes" made by Clinton Foundation. Furthermore, Hutchinson said that, ultimately, those mistakes would not end up swaying a majority of votes. “It doesn’t impact her base or the Republican base,” Hutchinson said of the allegations. “It impacts the voters in the middle.”

There are few voters "in the middle" when it comes to Hillary Clinton.  She's been in the national political spotlight for nearly 25 years now, and the notion that there are still enough people in 2016 who are mulling over Hillary Clinton versus the GOP is laughable. People have already formed their opinions about her, and those opinions have been held for years.

That this hit job of a book is going to change an election 18 months from now is silly.  But it shows how terrified Republicans are of losing to yet another Clinton for the White House. The Clintons have a lot of old friends in the business.

Clinton Cash author Peter Schweizer appeared on This Week and faced a very skeptical George Stephanopoulos, who argued that his accusations that Hillary Clinton exchanged favorable treatment from the U.S. State Department for multimillion dollar donations to the Clinton Foundation were unsubstantiated.

The most significant of the allegations center on a Russian company that was approved by the State Department to purchase a Canadian uranium company, giving Russia a sizable stake in the world’s uranium market, after a $2.3 million donation to the Clinton Foundation. But Stephanopoulos pointed out that the State Department was one of nine agencies that signed off on the deal, and that “there’s no evidence at all that Hillary Clinton got directly involved at all in this decision.” (A smiliar argument was made by Clinton surrogate Lanny Davis over on Fox News Sunday.)

“There were nine different agencies who approved it,” Stephanopoulos said. “Doesn’t that suggest that that was because there was no national security concern, not because of some nefarious influence by Hillary Clinton?”

“We don’t have direct evidence,” Schweizer said. “But it warrants further investigation because, again, this is part of the broader pattern. You either have to come to the conclusion that these are all coincidences, or something else is afoot.”

And by dragging out this nothingburger early in the fight, the Clintons now have the ability to defuse this long before it becomes a problem.

The White House Correspondents (Were) Dinner

President Obama ate everyone's lunch at the WHCD last night, saving the best dishes of revenge for last with comedian and actor Keegan-Michael Key (of Comedy Central's Key and Peele) joining him at the podium as Luther the Anger Translator, and boy did he ever serve those dishes cold.

I honestly don't think I've ever seen President Obama this lethally funny. He decimated the Village, the GOP, Senate Democrats, Hillary Clinton, and just about everyone else who took a swipe at him over the last 12 months, and it was glorious

Unfettered, doesn't need to run again President Obama just keeps getting better and better, folks.

Sunday Long Read: Does Anyone Here Speak Jive?

It's time for a bit of lighter fare this week for your Sunday Long Read.  It's the 35th anniversary of one of my favorite movie comedies of all time, the classic Abrahams/Zucker Brothers riot, Airplane! The AV Club has an oral history of the movie from its creators and stars, and it's just hysterical to see how this film was put together.  The guy that saved the film? Disney head Michael Eisner, wh was at Paramount Pictures at the time with Jeffrey Katzenberg.

J. Zucker: It was a major struggle to get Airplane! greenlit. There was a little bit of interest here and there, but nobody was biting. And then we made Kentucky Fried Movie. As soon as the check cleared for that, we stopped doing the live show and we got a little bungalow up in Santa Monica and wrote Airplane! And then we took it out and shopped it, at which point we got turned down by all the studios until we finally got to Paramount.

Abrahams: We were sort of credible after Kentucky Fried Movie, but we attached ourselves as directors, so that was a dealbreaker in most places. But we shopped iteverywhere. Somebody told me that they’d read a copy of the screenplay. I said, “Oh, yeah? Where’d you find it?” And they said, “I found it on a bus.” [Laughs.] I think that’s probably actually a true story, because there were copies all over the place.

D. Zucker: It was really only one person who saved us and got Airplane! made, and that was Michael Eisner at Paramount.

J. Zucker: Well, Eisner and [Jeffrey] Katzenberg.

D. Zucker: Eisner and Katzenberg, yeah. Eisner heard about the script, called Katzenberg, and asked him to call these guys who did this Airplane! script, whatever it is, and have them in the office on Monday. And that’s how we ended up at Paramount.

J. Zucker: Eisner was having dinner with a woman named Susan Baerwald, who at the time was a reader for United Artists, and they were friends. And he asked her, “So what have you read that you liked?” And she said, “Well, there’s this one script that United Artists passed on, but I thought it was really, really funny.” And she told them a little bit about it, and I think Eisner just thought, “A comedy on an airplane? That’s a good idea!” So they immediately had it tracked down, and then we got a call from Katzenberg, saying, “Come on in, we want to hear about this.”

Abrahams: Even when Paramount were expressing interest and were willing to take a shot on us as directors, at the same time there was a company called Avco Embassy—I think Bob Rehme ran it back then—and they were equally interested and actually offered us a little more money for it. So one weekend, David and Jerry and I kind of decided we’d take off in order to make the decision whether we were going to go with Avco and Paramount, and we just anguished over it.

We spent a lot of time weighing pros and cons of both the companies. In fact, at one point, we said, “We’re definitely going with Avco.” It just seemed like the better decision. So we called up Jeffrey Katzenberg to tell him, and I don’t think the conversation was five minutes. But at the end of the conversation, we were at Paramount. He was really good. [Laughs.] And, of course, we’re forever grateful that he changed our minds.

The whole thing is nearly as amusing as the movie itself.  It's a good read should you be on a flight this weekend.

Or...maybe not, come to think of it.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Last Call For Changing Climate Change

Slate writer and meteorologist Eric Holthaus argues that, given his political constraints, President Obama has been largely successful in getting the ball rolling on dealing with climate change, even though there's a long, long way to go.

On Wednesday, as the president spoke in the Florida swamp, diplomats were gathering in Bangkok to discuss a possible global deal to phase out hydroflorocarbons (HFCs), one of the fastest growing contributors to climate change. This deal wouldn’t be possible without help from the Obama administration.

HFCs, which are used primarily as refrigerants in air conditioning, were phased in as a replacement for CFCs in the 1980s and 1990s in an attempt to stop the growth of the hole in the ozone layer. Since then, they’ve become a big problem in and of themselves—even though viable alternatives are readily available.

A pound of HFCs has up to 14,000 times the global warming potential as a pound of carbon dioxide. U.S. emissions of HFCs are the largest of any country in the world,and they’re rising—but they’re soon to get dwarfed by demand for cooling in places like India as the climate warms and the global middle class of people who can afford air conditioning expands. The proportion of humanity’s total impact on the climate by HFCs is projected to grow rapidly in the coming decades—and could amount to28 to 45 percent of all human-induced global warming by 2050 if the world cracks down on carbon dioxide in the meantime.

So what’s the good news? Air conditioning is a life-and-death issue in India, where its use is projected to grow at a whopping 20 percent per year for the foreseeable future. India had been opposing a transition to HFC alternatives to allow the greatest access to cooling possible. But a big breakthrough on HFCs came earlier this month when India unexpectedly submitted a plan for their global phase-out using the existing Montreal Protocol—the same treaty used to phase out CFCs decades ago. Lead U.S. climate diplomat Todd Stern claimed victory, crediting a bilateral meeting between Obama and Indian Prime Minister Modi in January. The U.S. and China had previously agreed to a similar deal on HFCs in 2013, and the Obama administration announced a voluntary deal with American cooling-intensive companies, like Coca-Cola, last fall.

Because the structure of this year’s first-ever global agreement on climate change is also voluntary—with each country effectively trying to peer-pressure others into greater cuts—it matters that the Obama administration is emerging as an effective negotiating force. India hasn’t yet announced its overall economy-wide goal for cutting carbon, but is rumored to be leaving the door open for more significant cuts should wealthier countries agree to fund them.

Considering Republicans refuse to even acknowledge climate change exists still, it's a victory.  The alternative is a Republican administration that with either do nothing or in fact make things worse by increasing the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and saying "God will sort it out."

There is a difference between the two parties, and climate change action is definitely one of those differences.

The Clinton Rules, Con't

What Hillary Clinton actually said on Thursday's speech at the Women in the World summit, via Steve M:

All the evidence tells us that despite the enormous obstacles that remain, there has never been a better time in history to be born female. Think about that. A girl born twenty years ago in Tanzania could not hope to one day own or inherit property. Today she can. If she were born in Nepal, there was a tragically high chance that her mother and even she would die in childbirth. Today, thankfully, that is far less likely. A girl born twenty years ago in Rwanda grew up in the shadow of genocide and rape. Today she can be proud that women have led the way out of that dark time, and now there are more women serving in her country's parliament than anywhere else in the world.

But the data leads to a second conclusion: that despite all this progress, we're just not there yet. Yes, we've nearly closed the global gender gap in primary school. But secondary school remains out of reach for so many girls around the world. Yes, we've increased the number of countries prohibiting domestic violence. But still, more than half the nations in the world have no such laws on the books, and an estimated one in three women still experience violence. Yes, we've cut the maternal mortality rate in half. But far too many women are still denied critical access to reproductive health care and safe childbirth.

All the laws we've passed don't count for much if they're not enforced. Rights have to exist in practice, not just on paper. Laws have to be backed up with resources and political will, and deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs, and structural biases have to be changed.

What The Clinton Rules says that she said, starting with The Hill:

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on Thursday said "deep-seated … religious beliefs" have to be changed before the world's women will get full access to abortion.
Daily Caller:

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton took a feminist tone on Thursday. She told attendees at the sixth annual Women in The World Summit that “deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed” for the sake of giving women access to “reproductive health care and safe childbirth.”

“Far too many women are denied access to reproductive health care and safe childbirth, and laws don’t count for much if they’re not enforced. Rights have to exist in practice — not just on paper,” Clinton said.

The Week:

Building on her decidedly feminist campaign message, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton took a forceful stance on abortion rights Thursday when she called for a change in "deep-seated" cultural and religious standards.

Clinton made the comments while delivering the keynote address at the annual Women in The World Summit in New York. "Rights have to exist in practice — not just on paper," she said. "Laws have to be backed up with resources and political will. And deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs, and structural biases have to be changed."

Bobby Jindal figures this line of "Hillary hates Christians!" attack is the way back to relevance.

It's ridiculous to see this in action, yet there it is.

Breakfast Of Champions

So, Bruce Jenner's interview with Diane Sawyer was illuminating to say the least.

Bruce Jenner was once hailed as the greatest athlete in the world and later became a reality television star with one of the world’s most famous families. Now, the former Olympian is revealing a secret that has caused him turmoil for decades. 
“For all intents and purposes, I’m a woman,” Jenner told ABC’s Diane Sawyer in an exclusive interview that aired Friday in a special two-hour edition of ABC News’ “20/20.” 
“People look at me differently. They see you as this macho male, but my heart and my soul and everything that I do in life -- it is part of me,” Jenner, 65, said. “That female side is part of me. That’s who I am.” 
In hours of interviews with Sawyer in New York and California, Jenner detailed his internal struggles with being transgender, which he said he has wrestled with since childhood. 
During the interview, Jenner referred to himself using male pronouns and ABC News has chosen to follow his lead, though he also referred to himself as “Bruce” and “her.” 
“I look at it this way—Bruce always telling a lie. He’s lived a lie his whole life about who he is. And I can’t do that any longer,” Jenner said. 
“My brain is much more female than it is male,” he added. “It’s hard for people to understand that, but that’s what my soul is.”

Bruce also identifies as a Republican.  That may be the toughest part of this for the Jenners to deal with. He seems to honestly think the GOP can be more accepting. Part of me actually hopes he changes a few minds.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Last Call For Cruz Mess-ile

The Ted Cruz 2016 Campaign, in one tweet:

"Please give me money while I push for a Constitutional Amendment to stop you from marrying the person you love."

If this doesn't neatly sum up the last 15 years of Republican dogma, I don't know what else would.

The System Is Corrupt

In the small town of Kinloch, Missouri (which happens to be right next door to Ferguson) the city has a new Mayor, Betty McCray.

Or, Kinloch would have a new Mayor, except for the fact that the rest of the town's employees have apparently banded together to stop McCray from ever taking office, accusing her of voter fraud.

Betty McCray, Kinloch’s newly elected Mayor, arrived at City Hall on Thursday morning with an entourage and the intention to fire multiple city employees. 
But before she could enter the building, McCray was told she was the one who was out of job. 
In the parking lot, McCray was met by a half-dozen police officers and City Attorney James Robinson, who held a manila envelope under his arm containing articles of impeachment
“You can’t come in as mayor,” Robinson said. “You have been suspended.” 
McCray refused to take the envelope, saying, “You may be the attorney now, but I promise you, you won’t be later.” 
Robinson also told Alderman Eric Petty, an ally of McCray’s, that the board had drafted articles of impeachment against him. Petty, too, refused to accept them. 
“We won,” he said. “It’s time for them to move on.”

The reason?  A very shifty story about voter fraud in a town where actual registered voters maybe number in just the dozens.

According to documents obtained by the Post-Dispatch through a records request, the city has raised concerns to the St. Louis County Board of Elections and the Missouri Secretary of State about people being registered to vote in Kinloch who no longer live there. On April 2, the city gave the Election Board a list of 27 names of people who it claimed were illegally registered; many of those individual addresses were listed at city-owned apartments. 
McCray said that the concerns about people’s being illegally registered were “absurd.”
“It never came up until I ran for mayor,” she said, adding that people were still living at the addresses the city claims are empty. 
At least two of the apartments in question on Tuttle Street, where six people are registered to vote, according to the city, appeared this week to have been unoccupied for some time. Both were stripped of furniture and appliances. In one, a jar of pickles and two spent oxygen tanks sat amid other debris on the floor. 
Petty said the homes were vacant because the city began evicting people behind on rent shortly before the election because the tenants were supporters of McCray. 
But City Manager Justine Blue said that wasn’t true. The only people who the city is evicting still live in their apartments, she said. The city did file lawsuits to evict some residents, but that was on Thursday, court records show. Blue said those residents have yet to be formally served with eviction notices. 
“Besides, we would have no idea who would be supporting Ms. McCray,” Blue said.

This story is getting truly strange if you ask me.  Somebody's clearly guilty of massive fraud and laying, but I couldn't tell you who.

But here's a hint as to which side I believe is on point: When you have twenty cops for a town of 300 people and the new mayor decides to make fixing that her top priority?  Things will play out as evidenced above.

Another Milepost On The Road To Oblivion

Eighteen more months of this, people. Eighteen more months.

Jeb Bush is eating like a caveman, and he has literally shrunk in size.

The former Florida governor, expected to seek the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, is on the popular Paleo diet, which is based on what are believed to be the eating habits of the Paleolithic hunters and gatherers.

For Paleo practitioners, lean meat and fruits and vegetables are in and processed foods, dairy products and sugary delights are out.

For Bush, the results have been noticeable. Late last year he was something of a pudgy doughboy with a full face and soft jawline. Today the 6-foot, 4-inch-tall Bush sports a more chiseled look. His campaign-in-waiting would not say how much he had lost, but he looks to have shed 20 or 30 pounds.


(On the other hand, it is fair to see Jeb Bush treated like, say, Hillary Clinton by the jackasses in the press.)


Thursday, April 23, 2015

Last Call For Bigotry Today, Bigotry Tomorrow, Bigotry Forevah!

GOP Gov. Bobby Jindal takes to the pages of the NY Times to write an opinion piece on how Louisiana will never, ever, ever, ever, ever allow same-sex marriage, and shame on you for trying to make them accept it, you awful intolerant hatemongers in the corporate wing of the GOP!

THE debate over religious liberty in America presents conservatives and business leaders with a crucial choice. 
In Indiana and Arkansas, large corporations recently joined left-wing activists to bully elected officials into backing away from strong protections for religious liberty. It was disappointing to see conservative leaders so hastily retreat on legislation that would simply allow for an individual or business to claim a right to free exercise of religion in a court of law. 
Our country was founded on the principle of religious liberty, enshrined in the Bill of Rights. Why shouldn’t an individual or business have the right to cite, in a court proceeding, religious liberty as a reason for not participating in a same-sex marriage ceremony that violates a sincerely held religious belief? 
That is what Indiana and Arkansas sought to do. That political leaders in both states quickly cowered amid the shrieks of big business and the radical left should alarm us all. 
As the fight for religious liberty moves to Louisiana, I have a clear message for any corporation that contemplates bullying our state: Save your breath.

Louisianans will have the God-given right to hate some gay people, Goddammit.

I hold the view that has been the consensus in our country for over two centuries: that marriage is between one man and one woman. Polls indicate that the American consensus is changing — but like many other believers, I will not change my faith-driven view on this matter, even if it becomes a minority opinion.

A pluralistic and diverse society like ours can exist only if we all tolerate people who disagree with us. That’s why religious freedom laws matter — and why it is critical for conservatives and business leaders to unite in this debate.

Sure, we all have to tolerate people who disagree with us, except I'm the governor of this effing state and I'm going to sign this bill that makes my minority opinion into law. Tolerance, you see, is you dealing with discrimination and accepting it.


Breaking StupidiNews Roundup

Wow, busy afternoon.

Loretta Lynch has been confirmed by the US Senate to succeed Eric Holder as Attorney General.

The highly politicized five-month battle to choose President Barack Obama's next attorney general came to a close Thursday when the Senate finally voted to confirm Loretta Lynch. The 56-43 vote makes Lynch the first African-American female attorney general in U.S. history. 
But the delay of her nomination neared record-breaking proportions. Republicans leading the Senate refused to bring her nomination up for a vote until Democrats cut a deal on abortion language in an unrelated bill. That legislation passed Wednesday, setting up Thursday's vote and ending the latest partisan Washington standoff. 
Ten Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, joined Democrats. Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz was the only senator not to vote.

The Comcast-Time Warner merger deal looks to be dead in the water.

Comcast Corp. is planning to walk away from its proposed takeover of Time Warner Cable Inc., people with knowledge of the matter said, after regulators decided that the deal wouldn’t help consumers, making approval unlikely. 
A formal annoucement on the deal’s fate may come as soon as Friday, said one of the people, who asked not to be named discussing private information. 
This week, U.S. Federal Communications Commission staff joined lawyers at the Justice Department in opposing the planned $45.2 billion transaction.

And finally, former CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus has been sentenced to probation and a $100,000 fine for disclosing classified information to his mistress.

A federal judge on Thursday sentenced David H. Petraeus, the highest-profile general from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, to probation for disclosing classified information. He was also fined $100,000, which was $60,000 more than the government had recommended. 
The sentencing was the end of a leak investigation that embarrassed Mr. Petraeus and created bitter disputes inside the Justice Department about whether he was receiving too much leniency from Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr..

I'll have more on these stories this weekend, I'm sure.

Earth Dazed

Yesterday was Earth Day, and Gallup has released a poll on what Americans believe will be coming with the effects of climate change. Most Americans agree that the effects of climate change will happen in their lifetimes, a few believe the effects won’t be felt until future generations.

And then there are the paste eating blockheads conservative Republicans.

While a majority of fart-lighting Jackass reenactors conservative Republicans actually do believe the effects of climate change will affect humanity at some point, two in five are running around going “Well, actually…” while the evidence (and the super storms, rising sea levels, melting polar ice caps, public opinion and reams of data) drowns them.

Pretty solid evidence here that like most other issues in America, there’s a major partisan gap between people on the left and Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 watchers people on the right.

Happy Earth Day indeed.


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Last Call For The Clinton Cash Con

We live in an era where you can just make up a scandal and then dare actual news outlets to go and prove your assertions, which you yourself don't have any solid evidence about.  That's the scam behind the latest News Corporation attack on Hillary Clinton.

"Clinton Cash", a book by former Breitbrat Peter Schweizer. designed to keep the 18 months of Campaign 2016 interesting and to keep the haters tuned into FOX News, will be hitting the shelves next month.  But FOX News and the NY Times have cut deals to investigate the book's unproven allegations before the rest of the vultures can strike.  It's literally a manufactured, slickly packaged, and baseless scandal.

ThinkProgress obtained an advance copy of Clinton Cash, which will be released May 5. Schweizer makes clear that he does not intend to present a smoking gun, despite the media speculation. The book relies heavily on timing, stitching together the dates of donations to the Clinton Foundation and Bill Clinton’s speaking fees with actions by the State Department. 
Schweizer explains he cannot prove the allegations, leaving that up to investigative journalists and possibly law enforcement. “Short of someone involved coming forward to give sworn testimony, we don’t know what might or might not have been said in private conversations, the exact nature of the transition, or why people in power make the decision they do,” he writes. Later, he concludes, “We cannot ultimately know what goes on in their minds and ultimately provide the links between the money they took and the benefits that subsequently accrued to themselves, their friends, and their associates.” 

Right there, the NY Times should have passed on it, but it didn't.

Though Schweizer is unable to provide direct evidence that State Department actions were influenced by Clinton Foundation donations, he does raise questions about unsavory donors and possible conflicts of interest, regardless of whether or not they dictated Clinton’s policy. 
The book alleges the Clinton Foundation has failed to disclose some of its donors, digging up Canadian tax records as evidence of a $2 million donation from the Fernwood Foundation that Schweizer says went unreported. He also says he found a $40,000 donation in the form of stocks from the Dattels Family Foundation that was listed on their website but not on the Clintons’ donor list.

Well, those are pretty specific allegations, so they should be easily proven or disproven, yes?

Another 18 months of this is going to be awesome.  Charles Pierce reminds us this stuff has a long, ugly history, and we're going to spend the next year plus getting very familiar with it.

Like A Kansas Tornado, Con't

The coming shortfall in Kansas's state budget is now official, and Gov. Brownback's tax cuts completely failed to create hundreds of millions in new revenue for the state as promised.  Now the plan to balance the state's budget will fall on the poor with a new hike in the state's sales tax.

"You've got policymakers at this point who are unable to embrace the fact that there was a mistake made," said Annie McKay, the executive director of the left-leaning Kansas Center for Economic Growth. The think tank in Topeka argues that the state's deficit can't be eliminated without reversing some of the income tax cuts Brownback made in 2012. 
Poor and working-class Kansans already carry a heavy burden under the state's tax system, compared to people of modest incomes in most other states. Among the fifth of the Kansas population with the lowest incomes, the average person pays 11.1 percent of what they make in state and local taxes, including sales taxes. Among the wealthiest one in every 100 Kansans, the average tax bill is just 3.6 percent of annual income, according to a recent report from the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy

So the poorest Kansans have three times the tax burden as the wealthiest do, and that burden is about to be dramatically increased.

People who make less are more vulnerable to increases in sales and excises taxes, since they spend more of their money buying basic goods and services they need to get by. This is especially the case in Kansas, where food is subject to sales tax. Kansans can receive a tax rebate for their food purchases, but those who make nothing or too little, to owe income tax aren't eligible. The pay the sales tax on food in full. 
The defense of the plan to raise sales and excise taxes -- the sales tax would increase from 6.15 percent to 6.3 percent, under one proposal -- is that people should be taxed on what they spend, not what they make, so as not to penalize them for earning more but instead to encourage them to save and invest their money. 
"You're moving from taxing a productive activity to taxing a consumption activity," said Joseph Henchman of the nonpartisan Tax Foundation. "Most economists will say that it is good for economic growth." 
In practice, though, people who don't have much money can't save or invest it. They have to spend it to get along. The more you make, the smaller the fraction of your income you have to spend to cover the basics. And wealthier households, which spend more on luxuries and entertainment, can always give up some of their purchases and keep the money in the bank if they don't want to pay the higher rate. 
As a result, raising the sales tax equally for everyone means asking poorer households to pay significantly more, relative what they earn.

And remember, this is what Kansas voters cast their ballots for.  Or, at least the ones that bothered to vote did, anyway.  Austerity economics is failing miserably in Kansas, and in 2016, the GOP plan is to bring it to all 50 states.

Might want to start giving a damn, then.

They Make Great Pets

As Steve M reminds us, in a post-Citizens United world, presidential candidates now have public oligarch support. Got the cash? You too can own your own GOP 2016 hopeful, like Norman Braman.

Braman, a former owner of the Philadelphia Eagles football franchise, is poised to occupy the sugar-daddy role for [Marco] Rubio....

The Miami businessman, Braman’s friends say, is considering spending anywhere from $10 million to $25 million -- and possibly even more -- on Rubio’s behalf, a cash stake that could potentially alter the course of the Republican race by enabling the Florida senator to wage a protracted fight for the nomination.

Or Robert Mercer.

Robert Mercer, a Wall Street hedge-fund magnate ... who started at I.B.M. and made his fortune using computer patterns to outsmart the stock market, emerged this week as a key early bankroller of Mr. Cruz’s surprisingly fast campaign start. He is believed to be the main donor behind a network of four “super PACs” supporting Mr. Cruz that reported raising $31 million just a few weeks into his campaign.

Or the Koch brothers, who are wisely making it known who they back, but are saving their money for the general election and not the primary.

On Monday, at a fund-raising event in Manhattan for the New York State Republican Party, David Koch told donors that he and his brother, who oversee one of the biggest private political organizations in the country, believed that Mr. Walker would be the Republican nominee....

Two people who attended the event said they heard Mr. Koch go even further, indicating that Mr. Walker should be the Republican nominee.

... Mr. Koch’s remark left little doubt among attendees of where his heart is, and could effectively end one of the most closely watched contests in the “invisible primary,” a period where candidates crisscross the country seeking not the support of voters but the blessing of their party’s biggest donors and fund-raisers.

As Steve says:

So (even though a Koch spokesman denied this report) here were the Kochs declaring Walker their boy without promising a dime to him -- but because they have so much money they could give him, he's owned.

And if he falters in the primaries, others will line up to be owned by the Kochs, even though they'll know that the Kochs would have preferred to own someone else.

Hey, I guess you could call this the Ownership Society. 

We live in an era where billionaires are openly doing battle for America by purchasing the White House, and it's 100% legal.  The Kochs have bought Scott Walker, and they will get what they want from him.

Republicans often rail about undocumented immigrants. But Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, an expected GOP presidential candidate, took it a step further Monday by sounding some critical notes about the number of those who immigrate to the U.S. legally.

"In terms of legal immigration, how we need to approach that going forward is saying -- the next president and the next Congress need to make decisions about a legal immigration system that’s based on, first and foremost, on protecting American workers and American wages. Because the more I’ve talked to folks, I’ve talked to [Alabama Sen. Jeff] Sessions and others out there -- but it is a fundamentally lost issue by many in elected positions today -- is what is this doing for American workers looking for jobs, what is this doing to wages. And we need to have that be at the forefront of our discussion going forward," Walker said in an interview with Glenn Beck, according to Breitbart News.

The Kochs want a nationalist, protectionist candidate. and Scott Walker has become that candidate, now far, far to the right of the rest of the GOP pack on immigration.

What the voters want is now 100% irrelevant.


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Last Call For The Real Racists In Michigan

Just pointing out the fact this Michigan couple has a noose and Confederate flags hanging from the trees in their yard makes me a racist, or something.

A suburban Detroit business owner and his wife who hung Confederate flags and nooses on their property insist that anyone who sees the actions as racist is “stupid.” 
“I am not a racist,” Robert Tomanovich, owner of Robert’s Discount Tree Service in Livonia, Mich., told the Daily News Monday night. 
“I know black guys, I have black friends. We’re all laughing at this stupidity. Do you know how many white guys were hung back in the day? This isn’t racist. But all of a sudden it’s out of control.” 
Tomanovich , 55,made local headlines when WXYZ reported last Friday that Confederate flags and a noose were hanging outside two of his properties, one of which he uses for his tree-cutting business. The noose hung from a tree small enough for a child to scale. 
The decorations have no connection to the racist history of the Confederacy, said his wife Lindy, rushing to his defense.

Boy, sure is a terrible time we live in when people get upset over stuff like a noose hanging from a tree.  Besides, all those slave lynchings and hangings? White guys died too or something, so what's the big deal?

It's not racist cause he said so, guys.  CASE CLOSED.

Johnny Volcano's Revenge

Sen. John McCain has finally reached the stage in his life where he completely blames his failure to win the White House in 2008 on Barack Obama, and that he's just out of damns to give when it comes to making up niceties and excuses for his foul behavior towards the man who beat him.

Sen. John McCain has an explanation for Obama administration appointees whose confirmation votes are languishing in the GOP-led Senate: It’s payback for Democrats using the so-called nuclear option to push through scores of nominations in the previous Congress.

I told ’em: ‘You jam them through, it’s going to be a long time before I approve of them,’” McCain said, recounting what he told Democrats after they changed the rules in 2013 and confirmed dozens of lifetime judicial appointments and several high-profile Cabinet nominees. “It’s affected me as chairman of the Armed Services Committee.”

McCain did help shepherd Defense Secretary Ash Carter through confirmation — the only Cabinet nominee approved by the GOP Senate. Since then, the Arizona Republican has refused to move 10 civilian nominations that have landed in his committee.

And none of them are going anywhere, either.  It's just petty revenge now, that's all he lives for.

McCain is far from the only one, however.

There are 18 nominations waiting for a vote on the Senate floor — including Loretta Lynch’s nomination to be attorney general — and more than 130 idling in committees. So far, though, only McCain has admitted to deliberately stymieing President Barack Obama’s picks. But even as the GOP Senate Judiciary Committee moves at a pace similar to that of last year’s Democratic Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has done little to bring up nominations for a vote by the full Senate. 
That has Democrats accusing Republicans of slow-walking the nominations amid lingering anger over the nuclear option. 
“It’s appalling,” groused Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the No. 3 Senate Democrat. “I mean, how many times are they just going to throw logs on the process of government? I mean, even district court judges, for lord’s sake.” 
The pace of action on confirmations stands in contrast to legislative action, where Republicans have considered more than 100 amendments this year and passed a budget, and are hoping to soon push through major trade and foreign policy bills.

And voters won't punish the GOP at all.  They haven't in the past.  Why would they now?  Even if a Democrat wins the White House, at best the Dems will have a small Senate majority, and the GOP will still have a huge House majority.  In 2018, the Dems will have to defend the Senate again, and unless the GOP makes the same mistakes as they did in 2012, they'll get the Senate back too.

But all this?  Of course it's mean ol' Obama's fault.
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