Saturday Mashup (5/4/13)

May 5, 2013
  • This recent opinion column in the Murdoch Street Journal by Repug U.S. House Rep John Campbell of California tells us the following…

    There were many contributors to the 2008 financial crisis—including unsound housing loans and mortgage-backed securities, Fannie Mae FNMA -0.12%and Freddie Mac, FMCC -0.85%excess leverage by major financial institutions, and regulatory failures. Car and truck loans were not among the problems, and their lenders in any event pose no “systemic” risk to the financial system.

    And yet, amazingly, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau—a creature of the Dodd-Frank Act, which was passed to correct and prevent the causes of, and problems that led to, the 2008 crisis—wants to change the way car loans are made. The CFPB’s proposal is a noxious attempt to solve a problem that doesn’t exist and is likely to make a mess of one part of the consumer-loan industry that works.

    I’ll explain what is wrong here shortly.

    Currently, if you apply for a car loan through a bank, credit union or one of the car manufacturers like Ford Motor Credit or Toyota Financial, you are judged on matters such as your credit score, income and debt. The financial institution won’t know your race or ethnicity or even necessarily your gender. It will approve or disapprove the application and offer you an interest rate based on the data. That’s just as it should be.

    But it is not good enough for the CFPB. In a quest to make sure that all individuals falling within the “protected classes” under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act get the same interest rate as those who are not covered by it, the agency wants financial institutions to guess your race, ethnicity and gender based on your name and the address on your application. Put bluntly, they want lenders to profile you.

    The CFPB should withdraw this outrageous and abusive guidance immediately and focus on helping consumers in those areas in which the need for reform truly exists.

    Campbell is actually right about most of that without the vitriol (shocking, I know), but here is the problem. The “financial institution” may not have the demographic information on the person trying to purchase a vehicle, but the dealer sure does. And auto dealers have been known to engage in a practice called “dealer markup,” which the CFPB is trying to address, as noted here

    When consumers finance automobile purchases from an auto dealership, the dealer often facilitates indirect financing through a third party lender. The dealer plays a valuable role by originating the loan and finding financing sources. In this indirect auto financing process, the lender usually provides the dealer with an interest rate that the lender will accept for a given consumer.

    Indirect auto lenders often allow the dealer to charge the consumer an interest rate that is costlier for the consumer than the rate the lender gave the dealer. This increase in rate is typically called “dealer markup.” The lender shares part of the revenue from that increased interest rate with the dealer. As a result, markups generate compensation for dealers while frequently giving them the discretion to charge consumers different rates regardless of consumer creditworthiness. Lender policies that provide dealers with this type of discretion increase the risk of pricing disparities among consumers based on race, national origin, and potentially other prohibited bases. Research indicates that markup practices may lead to African Americans and Hispanics being charged higher markups than other, similarly situated, white consumers.

    Oh, and Campbell is a former auto dealership owner who apparently rents properties to dealerships, as noted here (um, want to try and find someone a little more objective to write a column like this? And Campbell is #40 on the list, by the way).

    If auto dealers and the lenders weren’t engaging in this type of nonsense, then there would be no need for the CFPB to step in (more info is here). But since they do…

  • Next, I know I teed off a bit on South Carolina a day or so ago, and with good reason I believe. And here is more cause for indignation…

    The Supreme Court may have ruled ObamaCare is constitutional, but implementing the controversial federal law would become a crime in South Carolina if a bill passed by the state House becomes law.

    The bill, approved Wednesday by a vote of 65-39, declares President Obama’s signature legislation “null and void.” Whereas the law that Obama pushed and Congress passed is known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, South Carolina’s law would be known as the Freedom of Health Care Protection Act.

    It would prohibit state officials and employees from “enforcing or attempting to enforce such unconstitutional laws” and “establish criminal penalties and civil liability” for those who engage in activities that aid the implementation of ObamaCare.

    So it looks like “The Palmetto State” is going to try the whole tenther, “nullification” BS to get around that socialist, big gumint Kenyan Muslim Marxist pre-dee-dint of ours.

    However, as noted here

    Steering South Carolina’s uninsured residents away from seeking primary treatment in emergency rooms and into free health clinics is a worthy idea. But it wouldn’t come close to matching the benefits of expanding Medicaid coverage to hundreds of thousands of low-income South Carolinians.

    Last week, S.C. House Republicans launched a proposal designed to serve as an alternative to complying with the federal Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare. The proposal would pay hospitals $35 million next year to guide the uninsured to the state’s 20 free federally qualified health clinics.

    The plan also calls for giving the clinics $10 million next year to treat those patients. The money would come from $62 million the state Department of Health and Human Services received last year but did not spend.

    The plan also includes $20 million – $6 million in state money and $14 million from the federal government – to pay rural hospitals for the entire cost of uncompensated care they provide for low-income patients. Smaller amounts would go to other efforts to expand and improve care, such as $3 million for a program to repay the student loans of doctors who agree to work in underserved areas of the state.

    But not a single new person would be insured under the plan. By contrast, expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act would result in about 500,000 more uninsured residents being covered.

    Also, here is some background on Bill Clinton’s 2012 Democratic National Convention speech in which he outlined the threat to Medicaid expansion from South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley and her pals in charges of states across this country (oh, and has noted here, South Carolina ranks 44th out of 50 states in median income).

    Truly a miracle of Republican Party “governance,” my fellow prisoners…

  • Further, Charles Lane of the WaPo “wanks” as follows here

    Of all the arguments for the Obama administration’s green-energy loan program, one of the worst is that federal aid leverages private capital.

    Consider Fisker Automotive. In August 2009, this wannabe plug-in electric hybrid car company was hard up for cash to pay suppliers and faced potential layoffs.

    A green-energy loan was the only hope, Fisker executive Bernhard Koehler explained in an e-mail to the Department of Energy — because it would help bring in private money. “We are oversubscribed in this equity round with the DOE support — and nowhere without it,” Koehler pleaded.

    A month later, in September 2009, the Energy Department approved a $529 million low-interest loan. Vice President Biden stood before the proposed site of a Fisker plant in Delaware and described the department’s program as “seed money that will return back to the American consumer in billions and billions and billions of dollars of good new jobs.”

    Alas, government loans could not overcome Fisker’s fundamental problem: no experience mass-producing automobiles, let alone the complex battery-powered luxury cars that it proposed to sell for more than $100,000. Today, the company is nearly bankrupt; taxpayers are on the hook for $171 million, and private investors are probably nearly wiped out. (The story is well told, with documents, at PrivCo.com.)

    In response, I give you the following from here

    First, Fisker originally requested the federal funds it received in 2008, before President Obama took office. Why? Because the Bush/Cheney administration urged the company to participate in the federal loan program, seeing it as a worthwhile investment. If Republicans are convinced Fisker should never have received aid in the first place, they’re lashing out at the wrong president.

    Second, to condemn the federal loan program because one company struggled after receiving assistance is silly — some of the companies in the Department of Energy’s program fared well, some didn’t. It happens. As Michael Grunwald explained a while back, “That’s capitalism. That’s lending. That’s life. As one Obama aide told me: Some students who get Pell grants are going to end up drunks on the street.” It’s not as if those failures discredit the entire Pell grant program.

    And third, (House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell) Issa may want to get off his high horse — in 2009, he urged the Department of Energy to extend federal support to an electronic car manufacturer named Aptera, which declared bankruptcy soon after.

    In the case of this one company, it didn’t work out well, but others have fared far better. There’s no reason for Republicans to throw a fit.

    Silly Steve Benen – what else are the Repugs going to do besides throw a fit? Engage in the tedious, difficult work of actual governance? What a quaint notion (removing my tongue from my cheek).

  • Continuing, I came across this curious item from Think Progress recently…

    The Florida legislature passed a bill this week to impose new obstacles on challenging the death penalty in a state with the greatest number of exonerations. The bill’s intent was to shorten the time inmates wait for execution by imposing time limits for appeals and post-conviction motions, but DNA and other evidence often emerges years after a crime is committed – a concern that didn’t seem to faze Republican proponents of the bill who said swift justice is “not about guilt or innocence”:

    “Is swift justice fair justice?” asked Democratic party Senator Arthenia Joyner, a Tampa attorney who voted against the bill. “We have seen cases where, years later, convicted people were exonerated,” she said. […]

    But Republican Senator Rob Bradley said, “this is not about guilt or innocence, it’s about timely justice.” Frivolous appeals designed only for delay are not fair to victims and their families, he said. […]

    “Only God can judge,” Matt Gaetz, a Republican who sponsored the bill in the House of Representatives, said last week during House debate. “But we sure can set up the meeting.”

    For the record, Matt Gaetz is the son of Don Gaetz, who is in charge of the Florida State Senate. And this tells us that Gaetz the Younger worked in 2010 to defeat amendments that would prevent voting districts from being gerrymandered (which the Repugs have elevated to an art form…the surprisingly forthright excuse – though still a morally bankrupt one – is that the amendments would blunt a “conservative comeback”).

    Florida’s junior state representative also favored repealing Florida’s “Cap and Trade” law here (and get a load of his full-on wingnut language attacking former governor Charlie Crist…some BS about California romance, or something). And based on this, Gaetz the Elder is no prize either.

    However, I don’t believe that M. Gaetz has a right to involve himself on legal matters, at least not for a good while anyway, based on this.

  • Finally, William McNabb wrote the following in the Journal recently (returning to the “money” theme…McNabb is CEO of The Vanguard Group, the mutual fund investing behemoth based in Malvern, Pa.)…

    We estimate that since 2011 the rise in overall policy uncertainty has created a $261 billion cumulative drag on the economy (the equivalent of more than $800 per person in the country). Without this uncertainty tax, real U.S. GDP could have grown an average 3% per year since 2011, instead of the recorded 2% average in fiscal years 2011-12. In addition, the U.S. labor market would have added roughly 45,000 more jobs per month over the past two years. That adds up to more than one million jobs that we could have had by now, but don’t.

    At Vanguard we estimate that the spike in policy uncertainty surrounding the debt-ceiling debate alone has resulted in a cumulative economic loss of $112 billion over the past two years. To put that figure in perspective, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that sequestration may reduce total funding by $85 billion in 2013. Clearly, the U.S. debt situation is the economic issue of our generation.

    Spoken as a charter member of the “pay no price, bear no burden” investor class that continues to skate while the “99 percent rabble” lives paycheck to paycheck…

    Fortunately, Ezra Klein responded as follows here, citing the work of fellow “Wonk Blog” contributor Mike Konczal…

    How do (the authors of the “uncertainty” studies McNabb based his column on) construct the search of newspaper articles for their index, which generates a lot of the movement?

    Their news search index is constructed with four steps. They first isolate their search to a set of articles from 10 major newspapers (USA Today, the Miami Herald, the Chicago Tribune, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Boston Globe, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Dallas Morning News, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal). They then search articles for the term “uncertainty” or “uncertain.” They then filter again for the word “economic” or “economy.” With economic uncertainty flagged, they then filter again for one of the following words to identify government policy: “policy,” “‘tax,” “spending,” “regulation,” “federal reserve,” “budget,” or “deficit.”

    See the problem? We don’t know what specific stories are in their index; however, we can use their search terms listed above to find which articles would have likely qualified. Let’s take a story from their first listed paper, USA Today, “Obama taking aim at GOP pledge on campaign trail,” from August 28, 2010 (for the rest of this post, I’m going to underline the words in quotes that would trigger inclusion in their policy uncertainty index):Brendan Buck, a spokesman for the House GOP lawmakers who crafted the pledge, said “it’s laughable that the president would try to lecture anyone on.” [….] Buck said the pledge was developed to address voter worries about high unemployment and record levels of government and debt.

    “While the president has exploded federal spending and ignored Americans who are asking, ‘Where are the jobs?’, the pledge offers a plan to end the economic uncertainty and create jobs, as well as a concrete plan to rein in Washington’s runaway spending spree,” Buck said.

    Spokespeople for the conservative movement tell reporters that President Obama’s policies are causing economic uncertainty. Reporters write it down and publish it. Economic researchers search newspapers for stories about economic uncertainty and policy, and create a policy uncertainty index out of those talking points.

    It’s about jobs. It’s about generating demand. It’s about the utter failure of austerity not just in this country, but all over the world.

    I understand that McNabb and those in his orbit won’t admit the complete and total collapse of their wrongheaded ideology, but it’s despicable to watch them try and craft a narrative justifying their mistakes to the utter ruination of working men, women and families all over the world.

    On a bit of a happier note, though, this tells us that, while our supposed geniuses of finance have a collective freak out over pending “Too Big To Fail” legislation co-sponsored in the Senate by Sherrod Brown (no surprise) and David Vitter (WHAAA????), local community banks appear to have no problem with it.

    And those are the folks (and the credit unions also, let’s not forget) that are gradually digging us out of the financial mess created by the corporate Wall Street criminals. Those are the institutions releasing the loans and making the credit available to return the key sectors of our economy to life, thereby increasing demand and leading to better hiring numbers such as these (a long way to go I know, but improvement).

    community-banks
    And given all of this, I would say that this is a sign o’the times.

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    Wednesday Mashup (11/21/12)

    November 22, 2012

  • Yep, Thanksgiving will soon be upon us; one way to tell is that the Bucks County Courier Times ran its full-page ad for the Surplus City Gun Mart (well whaddaya know…a Yugo Zastava AK-47 PAP M70 is on sale for $675! Now here comes another angry comment thread started by a gun owner pissed off at me for not saying whether or not it was a full or semi-automatic).
  • Continuing, it looks like the punditocracy is still licking its collective wounds over the Repug election losses suffered two weeks ago – Ross Douthat opined as follows in the New York Times recently (here)…

    Liberals look at the Obama majority and see a coalition bound together by enlightened values — reason rather than superstition, tolerance rather than bigotry, equality rather than hierarchy. But it’s just as easy to see a coalition created by social disintegration and unified by economic fear.

    Consider the Hispanic vote. Are Democrats winning Hispanics because they put forward a more welcoming face than Republicans do — one more in keeping with America’s tradition of assimilating migrants yearning to breathe free? Yes, up to a point. But they’re also winning recent immigrants because those immigrants often aren’t assimilating successfully — or worse, are assimilating downward, thanks to rising out-of-wedlock birthrates and high dropout rates. The Democratic edge among Hispanics depends heavily on these darker trends: the weaker that families and communities are, the more necessary government support inevitably seems.

    Yes, you only need government if you’re “assimilating downward,” according to Douthat.

    Apparently it’s necessary for me to point out that one of our major political parties subjected this country earlier this year to all kinds of fear mongering about the supposed horrors of contraception (and I’ll note that again later), which would definitely help to reduce teen pregnancy (here – sorry to re-inflict “Little Ricky” on everybody again), and that same political party did all it could do to oppose the DREAM Act, which would encourage educational opportunity for Hispanics born of undocumented workers as a condition of citizenship (with the “E” in DREAM standing for “education” – hard to believe that Orrin Hatch was a co-sponsor of the original bill introduced in 2001 with Dick Durbin). And here’s a hint; that party isn’t the Democrats.

    I suppose it’s just “the soft bigotry of low expectations” for Douthat to assume that the only way Hispanics would support the Dems would be if they were getting a handout, but apparently that’s what we have here (with that awful phrase coined by Douthat’s fellow traveler and Bushie Michael Gerson, who, if nothing else, saw the need to reach out to Hispanics for real, albeit for political expediency, in a way Douthat apparently does not).

  • Next, I give you some true hilarity from Michael Barone of Irrational Spew Online (here)…

    Barack Obama attended more than 200 fundraisers for his presidential campaign, but he refrained from raising money for congressional Democrats.

    That proved to be a wise move for him, as were his strategists’ decisions to run heavy ad campaigns against Mitt Romney and to build an even more effective turnout machine in target states.

    But it proved to be less than helpful to his party. Democrats did gain two Senate seats thanks to clueless Republican candidates and Republicans’ failure to produce better turnout.

    But Democrats got beaten badly in races for the U.S. House and state legislatures. That’s clear when you compare the number of House Democrats after this year’s election with the number of House Democrats after 2008.

    In response, allow me to add this, which tells us that the U.S. House Repugs lost eight seats and the Dems picked up eight seats from 2010 until now (incremental progress to be sure, but progress all the same).

    Also, I’ve read some of my lefty brethren, including the folks doing God’s work at Think Progress, decrying the fact that the Repugs gerrymandered congressional districts to favor their party’s incumbents (and as noted here, when you look at net vote totals, the Dems were chosen more than the Repugs, though not by much). I have no doubt that the gerrymandering charge is true, but the Dems aren’t completely innocent on this either, since, as nearly as I can tell, that’s what happened to the gone-and-definitely-not-missed Repug U.S. House Rep Roscoe Bartlett of Maryland (I’m not going to tell you the Dems are perfect, just that the Repugs are better at seizing power and holding onto it by any means necessary).

  • Continuing, Jon Meacham of Time tells us the following; namely, that Number 44 should try to imitate Number 3’s second term (here)…

    At his core, from year to year and age to age, Thomas Jefferson was a politician who sought office and, once in office, tried to solve the problems of his day and set a course for the future within the constraints of his time and place. That he often did so with skill and effectiveness is a tribute to his life and is, I think, the heart of his legacy.

    Far be it for me to criticize a towering intellect like Jefferson, but I will only note the following from here; namely, that Jefferson’s second term wasn’t particularly “ducky.” The biggest thing he did wrong was to try and institute an embargo in an effort to remain neutral in France’s war with Great Britain; the embargo failed, severely hurting the commerce of the northeast states, and by basically entering the Napoleonic Wars on the anti-British side, Jefferson’s actions paved the way to our involvement in the War of 1812.

    Every president in my experience who is elected to a second term faces some kind of travail, either of his own making or not. And believe me when I tell you that I don’t wish that on President Obama, since he has already inherited enough trouble without having to create any more.

  • Further, there are some on my ideological side who have quite rightly taken Charles Lane of the WaPo to task, but I’ve more or less given him a pass. That is, until now; here, he basically says that the income tax deduction for state and local taxes should be eliminated because it benefits “blue” states that “need to live within their means” (see, they have “their expensive urban school systems, bloated pension liabilities and all” – with “urban” being a code for those oh-so-bad Obama voters who “want stuff”).

    Of course, Lane doesn’t even take into account that, regardless of what happens with the budget and the Beltway “fiscal cliff” kabuki, “blue” states will end up paying most of the bill anyway (here). Also, here is an example of “red state socialism” that doesn’t do anything to help our finances either (and Lane, imagining himself as a supposed fiscal guru here, once claimed that cutting the minimum wage was a supposed means to stimulate job growth.

    (I’ll tell you what – I’ll just let Atrios, using that Twitter thingie, have the last word here.)

  • Finally, this Jim Treacher idiot over at The Daily Tucker tells us the following (here)…

    When last we heard from Sandra Fluke, she had parlayed the worldwide fame she earned by being insulted by Rush Limbaugh into a spot on the Obama campaign. Her public appearances have been very successful, with attendance numbers sometimes breaking double digits.

    I was going to try and paraphrase Treacher some more, but I’m not going to bother; putting it as simply as I can, he is criticizing Fluke for her claim that an unintended pregnancy can be a barrier to a career or educational opportunity (which, as noted here, ties into a Guttemacher Institute study that claims the very same thing).

    (Also, though I’m sure Treacher and his fellow wingnuts don’t care, I’m going to provide this link anyway, telling us that the U.N. has declared that contraception is a “human right.”)

    Beyond that, let’s not forget how Fluke ended up in the spotlight; as noted below from here

    Fluke, then a 30-year-old law student at Georgetown, was invited by Democrats to speak at a hearing by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on the new Administration rules on Conscience Clause exceptions in health care.[20] The exception applies to church organizations themselves, but not to affiliated nonprofit corporations, like hospitals, that do not rely primarily on members of the faith as employees.[21] In addition, another exception was created for religious institutions in which an employee can seek birth control directly from the insurance company instead of the religious-based nonprofit.[22] Democrats requested the committee add Sandra Fluke to the first panel, which was composed of clergy and theologians. Committee chairman Darrell Issa (R-California) refused, stating that Fluke lacked expertise, was not a member of the clergy, and her name was not submitted in time.[20][23] Democratic members criticized the decision not to include Fluke since it left that panel with only male members,[24] when the hearing covered contraception coverage.[25]

    So basically, if the Repugs had allowed Fluke to speak at the hearing instead of engaging in a typical hissy fit, then that probably would have been the end of it. But no.

    When I worked on the phones for President Obama and the Democrats a couple of days before the election, I had the opportunity to meet Sandra Fluke; she and Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood stopped by. It was hard for me to recall a more unassuming individual; if anything, she was effusive in her praise of our efforts and tried to downplay her own accomplishments. I made sure to thank her for standing up to Rush Limbaugh and the other blowhards on the right on the contraception issue, and if anything, she was embarrassed by my compliment.

    I started this post writing about Ross Douthat and his column about the Dems and Hispanics. And yes, it’s true that Republican alienation of this very powerful voting bloc had a lot to do with their losses on November 6th.

    But make no mistake that this bunch also lost because of their shameful, despicable words and actions to a hell of a lot of women in this country. And the Sandra Fluke case is Exhibit A on that sorry score.

    And if the Repugs choose to learn absolutely nothing and repeat their grotesque actions two years from now, then they will entirely deserve the electoral losses they will inevitably suffer once again.


  • Friday Mashup (9/21/12)

    September 21, 2012

  • Memo to Time Magazine: Even though the Repugs have obstructed legislation in the Senate in an unprecedented fashion, they are not officially in charge of that body in the legislative branch, despite the implication in your headline.
  • And speaking of Time, I came across this column on the recent finding by the Inspector General that Eric Holder and President Obama are blameless in the matter of the “Fast and Furious” gun walking operation; it’s basically a sensible piece, except for this knuckle-headed attempt at false equivalency…

    (Department of Justice Inspector General, Michael Horowitz) does dispense with one unsubstantiated claim from the left side of the aisle. Some Democrats have said Fast and Furious shows lax gun laws are to blame for the weapons trafficking that contributed to agent Terry’s death. Horowitz finds that prosecutor Hurley and ATF agents in the case did believe they didn’t have sufficient probable cause to seize weapons during Fast and Furious, and Horowitz rejects their “narrow view” of “the quality and quantity of evidence that was necessary to take enforcement action.”

    But ultimately Horowitz says it was not the legal view that prevented ATF or U.S. prosecutors from interdicting the guns in Fast and Furious, but a tactical and strategic decision to let the guns walk in order to pursue higher-ups in the gun-running, drug-smuggling and money laundering operation they were investigating.

    I supposed what Horowitz (or Time writer Massimo Calabresi) is saying is that, on some level, the “tactical and strategic decision” to continue the “gun walking” would not have continued if those who made that decision believed that laws were being broken…ergo, no law could have prevented the tragedy? Perhaps, but am I missing something? How about a bigger ATF budget for operational enforcement for starters?

    Calabresi’s column on this subject is a studious work, though, compared to that of Jake Tapper of ABC, who basically chides Obama here for blaming gun walking operations on our prior ruling cabal, even though Tapper makes no mention of Operation Wide Receiver, which predated F&F (and speaking of F&F, isn’t this interesting?).

    Much of the right-wing hectoring over this, though, had to do with some supposed Obama plot to enforce stricter gun control measures (here), which, sadly, is not likely to ever occur (and here is a shocking candidate for the voice of reason on that subject, since the Party of Obama has, except for folks like Frank Lautenberg and Carolyn McCarthy, basically punted on this life-or-death issue).

  • Turning to the subject of racism by the Teahadists (more “water wet, sky blue” stuff I know), I still think this is beyond the pale…

    …a Tea Party group is now threatening to exact revenge upon the (PA) state supreme court for refusing to uphold a law that prevents many low-income, student and minority voters from casting a ballot:

    Oh, and did you know that the New Hampshire Teahadists have been supposedly collecting data on “voter fraud” for years (here)? Any idea where this “data” is located? “Grant’s Tomb,” perhaps? Or maybe a mayonnaise jar underneath Funk and Wagnalls’ porch (a dated “Tonight Show” reference)?

    Or how about the Tea Party Voter ID antics in Ohio, as noted here? Or the Teahadists’ claim that there are supposedly 30,000 “dead voters” in North Carolina, which has resulted in all kinds of headaches for polling station workers trying to figure out whether or not that claim is actually true (here)?

    Let’s dispense once and for all with the ridiculous notion that voter ID laws are aimed at “voter fraud,” shall we? Their aim is to disenfranchise Democratic voters. Period. Full stop.

    And yes, that is indeed racist (gosh, how shocking for a filthy, unkempt liberal blogger such as yours truly to point that out! I may faint!).

  • Next, I give you more hackery from Investor’s Business Daily (here)…

    Politics: The White House claims two ex-SEALs killed in Libya were inept security guards.

    You know what? Let’s just stop it right there, OK?

    This tells us that the Obama Administration is conducting an investigation into the Benghazi embassy attack that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens, among others, the State Department is setting up an independent panel for that purpose as well, and the National Counterterrorism Director testified about the attack at a Senate committee hearing.

    We just got through a bunch of wingnut bloviation on Fast and Furious. Let’s not start over the embassy attack also, OK (yes, I know – I can dream, can’t I?).

    Update 9/23/12: Here’s more on one of the “inept security guards” (the bar is set pretty low with Investor’s Business Daily to begin with, but they still sank too low to reach even that).

  • Finally, it looks like the Potential Repug Presidential Nominee in 2016 haz a sad (here)…

    Asked to weigh in on Mitt Romney’s comments about not caring about 47 percent of Americans, Gov. Christie today went after the media.

    “Some people in the media should just turn in their media credential and get an Obama For President credential the way they focus on things that people said back last May.

    Gee, I wonder if this has anything to do with Governor Bully’s latest snit? Say buh-bye to a high-profile slot in a (God help us) Romney-Ryan administration if he can’t deliver The Garden State for The Mittster.

    Tee hee hee…


  • Another Repug “Fast And Furious” Misfire

    June 8, 2012


    As noted here

    Attorney General Eric Holder is clashing with congressional Republicans seeking more information about a flawed gun-trafficking investigation in Arizona.

    Lawmakers at a House Judiciary Committee hearing asked Holder what he knew in advance of public disclosure of a so-called gun-walking tactic in early 2011. As part of Operation Fast and Furious, agents were told to forego immediate arrests of suspected straw purchasers of guns and instead try to track the guns to higher-ups in gun-smuggling rings.

    Agents lost track of hundreds of guns which flowed south to Mexico, where many were recovered at crime scenes. Two such guns were found in the U.S. at the scene of the killing of border agent Brian Terry.

    Holder says he became aware of the gun-walking tactic at the same time as the public.

    I know it’s really difficult for the wingnuts to accept this, but could it be that Holder is actually telling the truth here? And that there actually isn’t some kind of godawful conspiracy to indiscriminately arm Mexicans so they can cross back over the border and kill us?

    Particularly since, as noted here (from here)…

    A high-ranking Justice Department official was “stunned” when he learned in 2010 that agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) allowed weapons to “walk” across the Mexican border during the Bush administration, according to recently disclosed documents.

    Documents show that Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jason Weinstein, a career federal prosecutor in a leadership position within the Obama DOJ’s Criminal Division, and other officials worked to keep the attention of the press away from the Bush-era “gun walking” tactics long before the problems with Operation Fast and Furious went public.

    “Been thinking more about ‘Wide Receiver I’,” Weinstein wrote in an email on April 12, 2010. “ATF HQ [headquarters] should/will be embarrassed that they let this many guys walk — I’m stunned, based on what we’ve had to do to make sure not even a single operable weapon walked in [undercover] operations I’ve been involved in planning — and there will be press about that.”

    And it turns out that “Wide Receiver” took place from 2006 until the end of 2007 according to TPM. And by the way, Media Matters also tells us that the ATF was trying to track down the “walked” guns in “Fast and Furious” before border agent Terry was tragically killed by at least one of those weapons.

    If Issa and his pals really want to assign blame for this admitted ATF failure, then maybe they should take a look in the mirror; as noted here, Congress has been playing games with funding the ATF for years. And as noted here, President Obama received praise from Mayors Against Illegal Guns two years ago for increasing ATF funding.

    I should probably encourage Issa to knock off this nonsense, and I do, but the only good thing is that, while these phony-baloney hearings of his are going on (and once more, thanks to all you numbskull voters out there who returned the U.S. House Repugs to power two years ago and enabled this crap), at least he can’t do any more damage to the economy, which he already has done and would do even more based on this.


    Thursday Mashup (3/25/10)

    March 25, 2010


    Timothy Egan of the New York Times opined as follows here…

    Unfairly or not, the defining images of opposition to health care reform may end up being those rage-filled partisans with spittle on their lips. Whether the outbursts came from inside Congress — the “baby killer” shout of Rep. Randy Neugebauer, and his colleagues who cheered on hecklers — or outside, where protesters hurled vile names against elected representatives, they are powerful and lasting scenes of a democracy gasping for dignity.

    Now, ask yourself a question: can you imagine Ronald Reagan anywhere in those pictures? Or anywhere in those politics? Reagan was all about sunny optimism, and at times bipartisan bonhomie. In him, the American people saw their better half.

    I would expect to read something like that at the Fix Noise site; it’s a shame Egan apparently never read Paul Krugman, who once said the following here…

    The Reagan economy was a one-hit wonder. Yes, there was a boom in the mid-1980s, as the economy recovered from a severe recession. But while the rich got much richer, there was little sustained economic improvement for most Americans. By the late 1980s, middle-class incomes were barely higher than they had been a decade before — and the poverty rate had actually risen.

    When the inevitable recession arrived, people felt betrayed — a sense of betrayal that Mr. Clinton was able to ride into the White House.

    Like Ronald Reagan, President (George W.) Bush began his term in office with big tax cuts for the rich and promises that the benefits would trickle down to the middle class. Like Reagan, he also began his term with an economic slump, then claimed that the recovery from that slump proved the success of his policies.

    And like Reaganomics — but more quickly — Bushonomics has ended in grief.

    Also, it should be noted (as has been by Will Bunch, among others) that the ‘60s Reagan with his slicked-back hair, perpetual snarl (shown above) and venomous language (who said in this 1964 speech campaigning for Repug presidential candidate Barry Goldwater that, “We were told four years ago that 17 million people went to bed hungry each night. Well that was probably true. They were all on a diet.”) is a far cry from the sunny, doddering dunce that we saw inhabit An Oval Office while James Watt waged war on the environment, our Marine barracks blew up in Beirut, and Ollie North and his secretary Fawn Hall did all they could to cover up Iran-Contra while Attorney General Ed Meese shredded the evidence.

    Malcolm
    Also, I give you the latest comedy stylings from former Laura Bush employee Andrew Malcolm (here)…

    “Instead of embracing an opportunity to enter a new era,” Obama said…, “Cuban authorities continue to respond to the aspirations of the Cuban people with a clenched fist.”

    As recently as last summer at a Caribbean summit, Obama and Raul Castro talked separately of opening discussions on a wide range of issues including human rights. The country’s semi-retired revolutionary leader, brother Fidel Castro, had warm words when Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in the autumn.

    But then in December the Cuban icon said Obama’s warm smile could not be trusted.

    Today, about seven months out from November’s midterm elections, Obama responded (denouncing Cuba on human rights).

    The lack of response to Obama overtures from Iran have not prompted similar White House outbursts.

    What a shame that Malcolm didn’t bother to use that Google thingie to find out the following (here, from last June)…

    (Iran’s) election result has disconcerted Western powers trying to induce the world’s fifth-biggest oil exporter to curb its nuclear programme.

    U.S. President Barack Obama had urged Iran’s leadership “to unclench its fist” for a new start in ties.

    So not only did Obama criticize Iran over its fraudulent election last year, he did so using the very same language as he did yesterday.

    I guess, though, that this is only mildly dishonest for Malcolm, as opposed to his more extreme dishonesty on display here.

    Malcolm
    Finally, it seems that Repug U.S. House Rep Darrell Issa of California wants a special prosecutor to look into the possibility that the White House offered PA Dem Senatorial candidate (and current U.S. House Rep) Joe Sestak a job so he would drop out of the PA Dem primary against Snarlin’ Arlen Specter (here).

    I’ll tell you what, Issa. You drop this idiotic, partisan waste of time and taxpayer dollars in a cheap effort to grab headlines and I’ll stop calling for you to testify under oath about what it was exactly that you said and discussed with Syrian President Bashar Assad in 2007 (here) on the same trip where Dem House Speaker Nancy Pelosi met with him and was ridiculed all over the place for it (and for good measure, Joe Pitts should get the same treatment for doing the same thing).


    More On The Right-Wing Obama Assault Over The Walpin Wrangle

    June 17, 2009

    barack_obama1
    The Murdoch Street Journal tells us the following today (from here)…

    A George W. Bush appointee, (Gerald) Walpin has since 2007 been the inspector general for the Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal agency that oversees such subsidized volunteer programs as AmeriCorps. In April 2008 the Corporation asked Mr. Walpin to investigate reports of irregularities at St. HOPE, a California nonprofit run by former NBA star and Obama supporter Kevin Johnson. St. HOPE had received an $850,000 AmeriCorps grant, which was supposed to go for three purposes: tutoring for Sacramento-area students; the redevelopment of several buildings; and theater and art programs.

    Gerald Walpin, Inspector General of the Corporation For National and Community Service, was fired by President Barack Obama.

    Mr. Walpin’s investigators discovered that the money had been used instead to pad staff salaries, meddle politically in a school-board election, and have AmeriCorps members perform personal services for Mr. Johnson, including washing his car.

    At the end of May, Mr. Walpin’s office recommended that Mr. Johnson, an assistant and St. HOPE itself be “suspended” from receiving federal funds. The Corporation’s official charged with suspensions agreed, and in September the suspension letters went out. Mr. Walpin’s office also sent a civil and/or criminal referral to the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California.

    So far, so normal…

    Yes, well, the problem to me is as follows (from here)…

    White House counsel Greg Craig, responding to a letter of concern about Walpin’s termination from Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, noted that the “Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of California, a career prosecutor who was appointed to his post during the Bush Administration, has referred Mr. Walpin’s conduct for review by the Integrity Committee of the Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency.”

    Craig said that the White House was “aware of the circumstances leading to that referral and of Mr. Walpin’s conduct throughout his tenure and can assure you that that the president’s decision was carefully considered.” He noted that Walpin’s termination “is fully supported by the Chair of the Corporation (a Democrat) and the Vice-Chair (a Republican).”

    The Journal also tells us about the referral of Walpin by the U.S. Attorney, though Lawrence Brown, the U.S. Attorney since January — a career prosecutor who took over when the Bush-appointed Attorney left — had already decided not to pursue criminal charges in the matter raised by Walpin against Johnson (who has agree to pay back half of the funds in question).

    So basically, a prosecutor appointed by Dubya (according to Craig) “wrote up” Walpin (also ignoring his referral in the Johnson matter), a decision supported by a Repug AmeriCorps Vice-Chair (Stephen Goldsmith), among others.

    And what exactly was Walpin written up for? Well, this may offer a clue, including the following…

    * At (a) May 20, 2009, board meeting Walpin “was confused, disoriented and unable to answer questions and exhibited behavior that led the board to question his capacity to serve.”
    * The U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California complained about Walpin’s conduct to the IG oversight board and alleged he withheld exculpatory evidence.
    * Walpin had “been absent from the Corporation’s headquarters, insisting upon working from his home in New York over the objection” of the board.
    * He “exhibited a lack of candor in providing material information to decision makers.”
    * He “engaged in other troubling and inappropriate conduct.”
    * He “had become unduly disruptive to agency operations, impairing his effectiveness.”

    The Fox piece from Major Garrett (can’t believe I’m giving him a link, but he does appear to “have the goods” on this story) also tells us that Senate Dem Claire McCaskill, among others, is upset over what she believes was improper notification regarding Walpin’s dismissal (Update 6/18/09: McCaskill appears to be “on board” with Obama now based on this).

    I’m not going to pretend that I’m privy to the details in this matter, because I clearly am not (and sure, I can imagine Johnson making a well-placed phone call in the matter to take off some heat). However, the bipartisan dissatisfaction with Walpin is a clue to me that, though there may have been improper congressional notification, removing him was fundamentally the right decision.

    And the “canary in the coal mine” to me here is that Repug U.S. House Rep Darrell Issa of California is in full-on umbrage mode over the matter (here), trying to draw a comparison to Dubya’s firing of the U.S. Attorneys.

    I guess Issa’s not busy enough worrying about allegedly missing emails from the Obama Administration (I mean, as noted here, he was up in arms over that too, until he realized that retrieving Obama Emails would entail doing the same thing for those of Obama’s predecessor that have somehow gone missing).

    And oh yeah, Issa also threatened Henry Waxman here, back when Waxman chaired the Oversight Committee and was quite rightly looking into contractor shenanigans in Iraq (also, Issa “bolted from his seat and left the floor” here when the U.S. House Rep who took over for the late Tom Lantos asked “when will we get out of Iraq” during a Lantos memorial).

    To sum up, I have only this to say; if there’s a case to be made that Walpin was fired illegally, then make it based on the evidence at hand, not conservative fantasies.

    Update 6/18/09: Fix Noise, classy as always…

    Update 6/23/09: Much more on this from Joe Conason here…


    A History Lesson For Darrell Issa

    March 27, 2009

    issa_cries_2003(I have to admit that I’d “well up” if I did something as ridiculous as Issa did here, though hopefully I’d know not to instead.)

    I really don’t know what else there is to say about how far the Republican Party has sunk in this country; all you need to do is read this to get a pretty good indication.

    It’s bad enough that they are preparing a counter proposal to the Obama budget on April Fools Day (here). It’s bad enough that the party can’t even post approval gains beyond the statistical margin of error from week to week, as noted here (yes, I know everything will tighten up more over time). And it’s also bad enough that they can’t escape the perpetual infighting that so frequently makes its way into the public forum (here).

    (OK, to be fair, I should note that the Dems have a bit of a “dirty laundry” problem too, particularly given the fact that the Senate Majority Leader seems to have no issue at all with being flayed in the media, but he seems to leap into umbrage mode at the slightest criticism from the constituency which has revived the party from a bunch of perennially losing DLC-simpatico Repug wannabes into the ruling majority, based on this…it would almost be worth it to see him actually lose next year.)

    Update: Gee, Harry, you’re a real “rocket scientist,” you know that? Maybe there was a reason why I did this (to be fair, though, Reid’s name wasn’t on the list).

    That was a rather lengthy setup, I’ll admit, to the story from The Politico yesterday, telling us the following…

    House Republicans (namely, Darrell Issa of CA) are pressing for a change in federal law that could force Michelle Obama and future first ladies to do more of their policy work in public. But Democrats warn President Obama may take the attempt personally “as an attack on his wife.”

    More transparency on the part of the first lady, huh? What an insignificant little toad you are, Issa. You have less than nothing, so all you can do is go after Michelle Obama instead.

    Pathetic.

    With this in mind, I decided to go back and take a look at some quotes from our former first ladies that could potentially apply to Issa and his ilk; I’m sure, were many of them still with us, they would communicate these sentiments to Issa, and probably some other remarks with much more direct language (most of the quotes came from here, including a bunch from Eleanor Roosevelt).

    Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of husbands – remember all men would be tyrants if they could.
    Abigail Adams

    You watch Laura Linney’s portrayal of her in the HBO series, and believe me, you truly come away with admiration.

    It is one of my sources of happiness never to desire a knowledge of other people’s business.
    Dolley Madison

    Others live on in a careless and lukewarm state – not appearing to fill Longfellow’s measure: ‘Into each life, some rain must fall.’
    Mary Todd Lincoln

    Those who are lifting the world upward and onward are those who encourage more than criticize.
    Elizabeth Harrison (wife of President Benjamin, as opposed to William Henry)

    A woman is like a tea bag – you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.

    No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.

    Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.

    Sometimes I wonder if we shall ever grow up in our politics and say definite things which mean something, or whether we shall always go on using generalities to which everyone can subscribe, and which mean very little (applicable here to more than just Issa).

    What is to give light must endure the burning.

    When you cease to make a contribution, you begin to die.
    Eleanor Roosevelt (owner of all six above)

    I’ll be a wife and mother first, then First Lady.
    Jackie Kennedy

    I don’t think most people associate me with leeches or how to get them off. But I know how to get them off. I’m an expert at it.
    Nancy Reagan

    No snark on that one please – and finally…

    The first lady is, and always has been, an unpaid public servant elected by one person, her husband.
    Claudia “Lady Bird” Johnson

    This information probably will not prevent Issa from doing something stupid again in the future, but maybe it will keep him out of the business of Michelle Obama and future first ladies (that’s probably as close to the White House as Issa will ever get).


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