Monday, April 4, 2016

Last Call For A Mess Of Carolina BBQ, Con't

If you thought NC GOP Gov. Pat McCrory was a lying sack a crap when it comes to the "anti-discrimination protections" of the state's new anti-LGBTQ law, meet GOP Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, who is a real piece of work.

In an appearance last week on the radio show of Family Research Council head Tony Perkins, as reported by Right Wing Watch, Forest asserted that Charlotte’s ordinance was in fact unconstitutional on the grounds that the state government has exclusive responsibility for public accommodations laws, and not the municipalities. And then Perkins asked a question about the business community’s objections to the law: Essentially, are they just saying this for show? 
“In your discussion with some of these — you don’t have to use any company names or executive names,” Perkins said, “is a part of this their public posture to appease elements within their corporations that are clamoring for this, and are very vocal? And it’s more of just trying to appease them, than it is the business actually taking a position?” 
“Yeah, absolutely it is,” Forest responded. “I mean, listen, obviously, nobody likes discrimination. We don’t like discrimination, and that’s why we passed an anti-discrimination law — that’s what HB2 was. Nobody likes discrimination, so it’s easy to stand up and say, ‘We don’t like anybody being discriminated against.’ Well, our bill does not discriminate against anyone. 
In fact, the Charlotte ordinance was amazingly discriminatory against — especially women and girls, who no longer basically had the freedom to walk into a restroom and know that they were gonna be safe and secure in that restroom, without a man walking in or a pedophile or a predator walking into that bathroom. That’s really discriminatory if you want to talk about discrimination there. 
“But I think that is their take,” Forest said, circling back to the questions about businesses. “And one in particular said, ‘Well you know, they [LGBT groups] have a really strong lobby.’ And so, I think we’re at a place — as you just said, certainly for them truth is all relative — there is no absolute truth anymore, so they can bend the rules and twist it however they want to, to push their agenda.”

And yes, this guy is in fact Lieutenant Governor of North Carolina, spouting this insanity about "no absolute truth" and women and girls being "discriminated against" by trans people for, you know, the crime of existing.

I'm getting so tired of conservative dipsticks actually having political power to make the rest of us miserable.  You would think we would stop doing that, and yet very few of us give enough of a damn to try to stop these idiots.

Meanwhile, the criminalization of trans folks in NC continues.

Trump Cards, Con't

Team Trump is still cleaning up after last week's mess, and is in full "bring me the heads of my enemies" mode.  Lots of enemies out there, too.

In a private document that was circulated over the weekend and obtained by The Washington Post, Trump campaign senior adviser Barry Bennett revealed the mounting frustrations among the billionaire’s top aides as they closed what had been a tumultuous week. 
Entitled “Digging through the Bull [expletive],” Bennett’s memo urged Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski — who was charged with battery last week for yanking a reporter — and others to ignore critics who have questioned whether Trump’s campaign for the Republican presidential nomination has waned. 
“America is sick of them. Their idiotic attacks just remind voters why they hate the Washington Establishment,” Bennett wrote, citing tracking poll data favorable to Trump. 
Donald Trump 1,” Bennett declared, as if he was scoring the past week. “Washington Establishment/Media 0.” 
Bennett, a frequent presence on television, also lashed out at political opponents for having "scurried" onto the cable-news airwaves to offer at times scathing critiques of the Trump campaign, whether it was over its delegate-accumulation strategy or Trump's ability to win a general election.

The US political media was always going to be a major target of the Trump campaign, it was inevitable.  Now we see they are furious with anyone who dares to question Herr Drumpf and the fireworks are coming.

When reached by phone, Bennett confirmed that he wrote the memo and sent it to his colleagues in the campaign. 
“Personally, it’s been a very hard time. You’ve got Republicans in Washington saying they’re keeping lists of people who work for Mr. Trump, who say you’ll never work in this town again,” Bennett said in a brief interview. “My point is that people should be pumped that the establishment is spinning.” 
When asked whether his ire was directed more at the national media or the GOP’s establishment wing, Bennett said, “Both.” 
“All of that is the establishment,” Bennett said. “The press is printing the narrative that the Republican establishment is setting. What’s necessary — what I’m saying here — is that we can’t let that influence how we see ourselves.”

The Trumpies have declared war on the "mainstream media".  It's Palin 2008 all over again.  We'll see how effective it is in the long run, to burn this many bridges.

BREAKING: A One-For-One Deal

The Supreme Court this morning delivered a unanimous 8-0 verdict in a conservative challenge to Texas's redistricting, upholding the Court's"one person, one vote" precedent.

The eight-justice court unanimously rebuffed the challenge spearheaded by a conservative legal activist that could have shifted influence in state legislative races away from urban areas that tend to be racially diverse and favor Democrats to rural ones predominantly with white voters who often back Republicans. 
Two of the court's conservatives, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, concurred only in the judgment and did sign on to the opinion authored by liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The court is one justice short following the Feb. 13 death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia. 
The court said Texas' method of drawing districts does not violate the long-established legal principle of "one person, one vote" endorsed by the Supreme Court in the 1960s during the era of the U.S. civil rights movement. 
Ginsburg wrote that the ruling was based on "constitutional history, the court's decisions and longstanding practice" that says states may draw legislative districts based on total population. 
Adopting a new approach "would upset a well-functioning approach to districting that all 50 states and countless local jurisdictions have followed for decades, even centuries," Ginsburg wrote. 
At issue in the case was whether equality of legislative representation necessitates equal numbers of all residents in voting districts regardless of whether they are eligible to vote or equal numbers of eligible voters.

The policy of counting all residents and not just those who are eligible voters boosts the electoral influence of locales, typically urban, with significant populations of people, often Hispanics, ineligible to vote, including legal and illegal immigrants as well as children.

In other words, Republicans wanted to destroy that principle and redraw districts based on "number of eligible voters" not "number of people in the district".  That would have completely disenfranchised people not eligible to vote depending on state law: college students, undocumented families, children, and people who couldn't vote because of felony convictions.

I'm hoping that the 8-0 decision puts a complete end to this nonsense, and a ruling in favor of conservatives here would have cause absolute chaos in an election year and pretty much destroyed any chance of Democrats ever getting the House back.

SCOTUS saw through it and put an end to it.  We'll see what the GOP has on its list next.

Panamaniacs, Or Coming To America

The "Panama Papers", a treasure trove of terabytes of leaked tax law documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, shows just how corrupt over the years the world's elite have been when it comes to hiding what could be trillions from the tax man.  Several current and former world leaders, high-profile criminals, and even wealthy celebrities all use shell corporations set up by the law firm as tax havens, and now the information is there for the world to see.

Mossack Fonseca is not a household name, but the Panamanian law firm has long been well known to the global financial and political elite, and thanks to a massive 2.6 terabyte leak of its confidential papers to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists it's about to become much better known. A huge team ofhundreds of journalists is pouring over the documents they are calling the Panama Papers.

The firm's operations are diverse and international in scope, but they originate in a single specialty — helping foreigners set up Panamanian shell companies to hold financial assets while obscuring the identities of their real owners. Since its founding in 1977, it's expanded its interests outside of Panama to include over 40 offices worldwide, helping a global client base to work with shell companies not just in Panama but also the Bahamas, the British Virgin Islands, and other notorious tax havens around the world.

The documents provide details on some shocking acts of corruption in Russia, hint at scandalous goings-on in a range of developing nations, and may prompt a political crisis in Iceland.

But they also offer the most granular look ever at a banal reality that's long been hiding in plain sight. Even as the world's wealthiest and most powerful nations have engaged in increasingly complex and intensive efforts at international cooperation to smooth the wheels of global commerce, they have willfully chosen to allow the wealthiest members of Western society to shield their financial assets from taxation (and in many cases divorce or bankruptcy settlement) by taking advantage of shell companies and tax havens.

If Panama or the Cayman Islands were acting to undermine the integrity of the global pharmaceutical patent system, the United States would stop them. But political elite of powerful western nations has not acted to stop relatively puny Caribbean nations from undermining the integrity of the global tax system — largely because western economic elites don't want them to.

And that's the rub: these are the kind of people who have plenty of money to give to politicians to get them to look the other way on things like setting up shell corporations in Panama.  But with it all now out in the open, nearly 40 years of record dating back to 1977, the elephant in the room can no longer be ignored.

As you would imagine, there is quite a lot in the 2.6 terabytes. Here are a few of the highlights that the team found, with links to the full stories where you can read the details: 

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists has a full profile of political figures and their relatives named in the Panama Papers for your reading pleasure.

But though political corruption is fun and newsy, the document dump also features a leaked memorandum from a Mossack Fonseca partner revealing the more boring truth that "Ninety-five per cent of our work coincidentally consists in selling vehicles to avoid taxes."

The Panama Papers show everyday tax avoidance by the rich stretching over decades, and for the most part it's perfectly legal.  That's how the game is played, all we know now is how big that game is.  The global elite have been cheating the world's government for decades because that's what they have the money to do.

Spoilers: taking Panama out of the offshore tax haven game makes it easier on the competition.  You know, America.

After years of lambasting other countries for helping rich Americans hide their money offshore, the U.S. is emerging as a leading tax and secrecy haven for rich foreigners. By resisting new global disclosure standards, the U.S. is creating a hot new market, becoming the go-to place to stash foreign wealth. Everyone from London lawyers to Swiss trust companies is getting in on the act, helping the world’s rich move accounts from places like the Bahamas and the British Virgin Islands to Nevada, Wyoming, and South Dakota. 
“How ironic—no, how perverse—that the USA, which has been so sanctimonious in its condemnation of Swiss banks, has become the banking secrecy jurisdiction du jour,” wrote Peter A. Cotorceanu, a lawyer at Anaford AG, a Zurich law firm, in a recent legal journal. “That ‘giant sucking sound’ you hear? It is the sound of money rushing to the USA.” 
Rothschild, the centuries-old European financial institution, has opened a trust company in Reno, Nev., a few blocks from the Harrah’s and Eldorado casinos. It is now moving the fortunes of wealthy foreign clients out of offshore havens such as Bermuda, subject to the new international disclosure requirements, and into Rothschild-run trusts in Nevada, which are exempt.

US states serving as tax havens is nothing new, both Dakotas, Delaware, Rhode Island and Florida have been playing that game nearly as long as Panama has.  Apparently the world likes a quality tax haven however.  Why dick around with a banana republic when US states with 50 different sets of business and corporate tax laws can provide all you need?

Trump's wrong. America really is the best in the world at some things in 2016.


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