Tuesday Mashup (4/15/14)

April 15, 2014

equal pay

  • I know my “A” list “betters” have already pilloried Beltway media stenographer Ruth Marcus who said here in Jeff Bezos Daily that the Senate Dems’ language on equal pay for women is “revolting,” but I feel compelled to “pile on” anyway.

    And that is because what is really revolting is the fact that congressional Republicans have blocked the legislation Marcus ridicules three times now, including the occasion noted here from June 2012 (as the story notes, the equal pay issue sprung from the Lilly Ledbetter Law, passed and signed by Obama to correct yet another awful Supreme Court decision, this one limiting workers’ rights to sue for alleged pay discrimination – no word from Marcus on whether or not she thinks any of that is “revolting” also).

    With all of this in mind, I think it’s time to revisit the following lowlights from Marcus:

  • As noted here, Marcus also criticized Mary Cheney for supporting marriage equality (actually, opposing her sister Liz’s opposition to same, and yes, I know this puts me in the utterly weird position of actually defending a member of the family of Dick Cheney).
  • Marcus also said here once said that “80 percent of people with employer-sponsored health insurance would be unaffected” by a 2007 health care proposal from Dubya that would have led to smaller Social Security payouts for workers who participated.
  • She also sprang to the defense of former Bushie “Abu” Gonzales here.
  • Here, “Glenzilla” took Marcus to task in a discussion about NSA leaker Edward Snowden (yep, Greenwald is definitely someone who gives it to you straight, whether you like it or not).
  • Marcus had a problem here with recess appointments under Obama, but not under Dubya since her husband benefitted from it.
  • A whole bunch of stuff on Marcus can be accessed from here (some duplicate items I’ll admit).
  • It’s pretty disheartening to be a Dem when you don’t see your candidates mixing it up with the Repugs they claim to be running against, instead opting for some “sensible centrist” BS campaign that inevitably loses elections. And that is just fine with Marcus and her effete brethren, tut-tutting over that nasty rabble who dares to hold her to account while she hob-knobs with the “smart set” and politely asks to pass the sweet and sour shrimp.

  • And speaking of corporate media wankery, I give you this prize from Matt Bai (in the matter of “Wall Street Scott” Brown taking his act on the road to New Hampshire)…

    Constituency-shopping now isn’t only viable for a glamorous candidate like Hillary Clinton, an Arkansan by way of Illinois who followed RFK’s path to a Senate seat from New York. In a sense, most of our leading politicians now are carpetbaggers of one kind or another. Barack Obama is from Hawaii or Illinois or even Kansas, depending on how you look at it. Mitt Romney was a Massachusetts governor with a political base in Utah. The Bushes are from Maine and Texas and Florida.

    Yes, but not a one of them tried to flip from one Congressional seat to another representing constituencies from completely separate states, did they?

    Oh, and let’s not forget how Bai also once claimed that we lefties “demand…partisan government,” or something, here.

  • Next, it looks like Murdoch Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens is in a particularly crabby mood today, lashing out at Republicans and Democrats alike and basically arguing that Rand Paul should win the Repug presidential nomination (God, how can we seriously be talking about that already?) “because maybe what the GOP needs is another humbling landslide defeat” (here).

    See, our Pulitzer Prize-winning (ugh) scribe is mad at Paul (the junior senator from a state with eight electoral votes, as Stephens puts it) because the “ophthalmologist” criticized “Deadeye Dick” Cheney and the rest of Bushco for waging war in Mesopotamia to make scads and scads of dough for Halliburton (I think you can chalk this up to the broken clock that is right no more than twice a day).

    So how does Stephens put it?

    …It’s the signature question of every conspiracy theorist with an unhinged mind. Cheney. Halliburton. Big Oil. The military-industrial complex. Neocons. 9/11. Soldiers electrocuted in the shower. It all makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?

    Is Stephens seriously trying to argue that the documented incidents of our soldiers electrocuted in showers in Iraq and Afghanistan (I must have slept through the scathing congressional hearings that took place over that one…right?) are instead the work of “every conspiracy theorist with an unhinged mind?”

    As repugnant as that false equivalency is, it is totally in character for Stephens, given his prior commentary on Iraq as noted here.

  • Further, this story seemed to come and go about the U.S. potentially allowing international control over domain names that used to be under our purview, but I thought it rated a mention (especially since that moonbat Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee was caterwauling about it in the House)…

    The “domain name system” is sort of like the phone book for the Internet—it’s the tool your computer used to convert the URL “Time.com” into the unique code of numbers and letters that are the actual address for this website—and it has historically been owned by the United States but administered through the international nonprofit ICANN. The Domain Openness Through Continued Oversight Matters Act (a name excruciatingly eked out of the DOTCOM Act acronym) would, if passed into law, prevent the Obama Administration from going through with its plan to permanently turn control of the Internet’s domain name system over to an international authority comprised of various Internet stakeholders. Under the DOTCOM Act, that handover would be delayed at least until the completion of a government study into the implications of such a move.

    I honestly don’t know enough about this issue to comment much one way or the other, but here is my question – how come there are so many congressional representatives on both sides who are apparently up in arms over a real or imagined threat to the Internet from non-U.S. “actors,” but these same folks apparently have no issue with the telcos running completely roughshod over any attempts to maintain a free and open internet in this country via Net Neutrality?

    Yes, I know the answer (ka-ching!), but I need to ask anyway.

  • Continuing, I haven’t bothered to find out what “The Pericles of Petticoat Junction” (as James Wolcott calls him) has been up to for a little while now, so I give you the latest from a certain V.D. Hanson here (looks like it’s more indignation over supposed liberal persecution)…

    What if you supported equality for all Americans regardless of their sexual preference, but — like presidential candidate Barack Obama in 2008 and about half the country today — opposed making gay marriage legal?

    If you were the CEO of Mozilla, Brendan Eich, you would be forced to resign your position.

    Awww…

    The departure of Brendan Eich, as far as I’m concerned, was nothing more than the free market, so beloved by Hanson and his playmates, at work. And that would be the same free market that dispatched Martin Bashir from his job as an MSNBC commentator, even though he apologized for an inference about Sarah Palin that was admittedly sickening (matched only by Palin’s original comments about slavery).

    abughraibhood
    Oh, and as long as we’re talking about a supposed liberal “inquisition,” let’s not forget that this image (the closest thing to an honest-to-goodness, for real inquisition that I can recall) can be traced back to the foul, fetid Bushco reign, with that gang being comprised of anything but liberals.

    Besides, if Hanson honestly cared about free speech in the workplace, then he might want to read this column from Slate’s Jamelle Bouie on the subject, particularly the following…

    …let’s grant that…Eich’s forced resignation is an attack on speech, and that this is an ugly bout of bullying against someone who hasn’t expressed his views in the context of his job. If that’s true, then Eich is just the highest profile victim of a status quo that threatens countless workers.

    Title VII of the Civil Rights Act might protect workers from discrimination on the basis of their race, color, religion, sex, age, or national origin, but almost everything else is fair game for private employers who want to get rid of workers. Not only can you be fired for your political views—for sporting the wrong bumper sticker on your car, for instance—or for being “sexually irresistible” to your boss, but in most states (29, to be precise), you can be fired for your sexual orientation or gender identification, no questions asked.

    In any case, there’s nothing conservatives can do about Eich’s resignation. But they can join with labor activists and others to push for greater worker protections, like the Employee Non-Discrimination Act. For as much as employer flexibility is important to a dynamic economy, it’s also true that no one should fear firing for the people they love, the identity they claim, or the donations they make.

    Simply put, if conservatives are frustrated by the treatment of Eich for his role in Proposition 8, then they should be outraged by the treatment of ordinary people at the hands of the people who employ them.

    More on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act is here, which has been introduced in congressional sessions for just about 20 years and has been stalled every time (the latest version has passed the Senate and is currently stuck in the U.S. House…shocking, I know).

    Update 4/16/14: And as long as I included that pic, here is an update.

  • On we go – this from The Daily Tucker tells us the following…

    Senate Republicans warn that President Obama’s new focus on agricultural methane emissions could mean a tax on livestock emissions — including cow flatulence.

    South Dakota Sen. John Thune and fellow GOP senators sent a letter to Obama administration officials urging them not to regulate livestock emissions as part of the president’s crusade against global warming.

    Obama’s “Climate Action Plan” would require the dairy industry to reduce methane emissions by 25 percent by 2020. The Agriculture Department, Energy Department and Environmental Protection Agency are set to put together a “Biogas” roadmap to reduce methane emissions.

    Republicans argue that Obama’s methane reduction plan could lead to “heavy-handed” regulations that would “have detrimental implications on livestock operations across the country.”

    The EPA is currently barred from regulating methane emissions from livestock production through an “annual appropriations rider” that expires every year. But this does not mean the EPA will not try again, warn Republicans.

    Of course, EPA head Gina McCarthy (as the piece tells us) said that the EPA has no plan to try and regulate methane emissions from “cow flatulence.” Which is a shame, actually.

    And that is because, as noted here, “cow flatulence and indigestion is really no joke: measuring and reducing methane emissions from all of the world’s livestock is a serious area of study.”

    Continuing…

    …there is general agreement that livestock farming worldwide is a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions, producing 80 million metric tons of methane a year, or about 28% of global methane emissions from human-related activities.

    Meanwhile, researchers at the University of New Hampshire had to defend their $700,000 Department of Agriculture grant to study reducing emissions from cow burps at organic dairy farms, when it wound up on Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn’s list of the most wasteful government programs.

    Researchers in Argentina don’t think cow farts are a laughing matter either. They have strapped plastic tanks to cows’ backs in order to trap and measure the amount of methane each animal produces (a 1200-pound cow produced 800 to 1000 liters of emissions each day). With about 55 million head of cattle grazing on grasslands in its beef industry, Argentina has a significant stake in understanding this source of its greenhouse gases (which could be as high as 30 percent of its total emissions).

    And as noted from here

    Most of the planet-warming greenhouse gas pollution in the United States comes from carbon dioxide, which is produced by burning coal, oil and natural gas. Methane accounts for just 9 percent of the nation’s greenhouse gas pollution — but the gas is over 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide, so even small amounts of it can have a big impact on future global warming.

    So go ahead and keep making your “Apocalypse Cow” jokes, wingnuts, while our planet slowly melts, our waters dry up and we all choke to death on our own fumes. Heckuva job!

  • Kathleen_Sebelius_official_portrait

  • Finally, I just wanted to say thanks to departing HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who probably will get only a speck of the credit she is due for helping to ensure that the Affordable Care Act became law; millions of Americans have benefitted and will benefit by obtaining health coverage when they would have otherwise been denied, in no small part because of her efforts (I thought this was a well-done appreciation – this also).
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    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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