Saturday, April 25, 2015

Now He Perks Up






Finally, President Obama has had enough- he's not going to take it anymore! This advocacy for the middle, and working, classes has to end. Therefore, in his typically low-key fashion, on Tuesday, President Obama claimed "I love Elizabeth. We're allies on a whole host of issues, but she's wrong on this... When you hear folks make a lot of suggestions about how bad this trade deal is, when you dig into the facts, they are wrong."

You'd hardly expect the cheerleader for the jobs-destroying Trans-Pacific Partnership to concede the Senator is "right on this."  Still, it was a little disconcerting when Barack on Thursday whined

The one that gets on my nerves the most is the notion that this is a ‘secret’ deal. Every single one of the critics who I hear saying, ‘this is a secret deal,’ or send out emails to their fundraising base saying they’re working to prevent this secret deal, can walk over today and read the text of the agreement. There’s nothing secret about it.

If "the truth shall set you free," Barack stands chained in a 4' x 8' cell.  Too polite to call him a liar, Charlie Pierce comments

In fact, there's been a lot that's secret about it ever since the negotiations began. It was negotiated behind closed doors, and for reasons that benefited nobody except large corporations and the politicians, dictators, and provincial satraps who do their bidding. (The fact we know much of anything at all is because the good folks at WikiLeaks threw some of the treaty out into the world, which is hardly a proof that the TPP isn't a "secret" deal. WikiLeaks doesn't do a lot of work with stuff that's in the public domain.) 

On Friday, Barack added to his earlier remarks

Every single one of the critics saying this is a secret deal, or send out e-mails to their fundraising base that they're working to stop a secret deal, could walk over and see the text of the agreement. When I just keep on hearing people repeating this notion that it's secret -- I gotta say, it's dishonest. And it's a little concerning when I see friends of mine resorting to those sort of tactics.

Of course, it's not secret- not to the people who really count to Barack. Jim Hightower explains

Top executives, lawyers, and lobbyists of 500-some major corporations who serve on 16 Industry Trade Advisory Committees do have access to the secret texts and to the negotiators themselves. They get to review and amend official proposals, submit their own drafts, and generally look after their own very special interests.

Practicing his stand-up routine, Barack maintained "The notion that corporate America is going to be able to use this provision to eliminate our financial regulations and our food safety regulations and our consumer regulations -- that's just bunk, It's not true."

That would not be so funny had the Senate Finance Committee (which ended up approving the fast track bill) not voted on two measures, approving one and defeating the other). They were aimed at deterring currency manipulation and the Administration so concerned about financial regulations opposed both. At the White House Correspondence Dinners, the President kills with his jokes. When ostensibly serious, he's even better.

Finally, flush with a deal which is a veritable wish list for multi-national corporations, Barack turns into a tough guy, discovering his inner Incredible Hulk (below). An exasperated Sherrod Brown of Ohio, according to the Huffington Post, called it "maddening" and

told reporters that the Obama administration was putting on a full-court press unlike anything Democrats have ever seen in his presidency in order to win the authority to fast track enormous trade deals.

"I think if you could get my colleagues to be honest, on the Democratic side, with you -- and I think you can mostly -- they will say they've been talked to, approached, lobbied and maybe cajoled by more cabinet members on this issue than any issue since Barack Obama's been president," Brown said...

"I wish they put the same effort into minimum wage. I wish they put the same effort into Medicare at 55. I wish they put the same effort into some consumer strengthening on Dodd-Frank," Brown said.

Evidently, Barack would have, were he interested in truly universal health care or regulating the financial sector. Alas, we finally have found out who the real Barack Obama is, and it's not pretty.









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Friday, April 24, 2015

He Knows Which Side The Bread Is Buttered On. But He Doesn't Like Bread.





This donor primary," Digby observes

is likely to get a little bit frantic with all the candidates jockeying for the role of the Republican party’s leading man. Will it be the Wisconsin cheesecake Scott Walker, the Texas beefcake Ted Cruz or the spicy Cuban manwich Marco Rubio? And don’t forget the rest of the chorus line. There’s the B-Actor Jeb Bush who could turn in a credible, if not transcendent, performance, or the Wild Arkansas Preacher Mike Huckabee, along with a whole crew of character actors who could be in a position to step up if they are given the chance. It’s wide open. If nothing else the contest should be wildly entertaining for the rest of us.

Wildly entertaining it will be, and wide open among the three leading contenders. Scott Walker, as the candidate most energized by demonizing workers, and Marco Rubio (now making headway with Sheldon Adelson) are starting to round up the big donors. It will be no problem (and already has not been) for John Ellis Bush in part because, as Buzzfeed's McKay Coppins wrote two months ago

When Bush officially launches his presidential bid later this year, he will likely do so with a campaign manager who has urged the Republican Party to adopt a pro-gay agenda; a chief strategist who signed a Supreme Court amicus brief arguing for marriage equality in California; a longtime adviser who once encouraged her minister to stick to his guns in preaching equality for same-sex couples; and a communications director who is openly gay.

To an extent that would have been unthinkable in past elections, one of the leading candidates for the Republican presidential nomination has stocked his inner circle with advisers who are vocal proponents of gay rights. And while the Bush camp says his platform will not be shaped by his lieutenants’ personal beliefs, many in the monied, moderate, corporate wing of the GOP — including pragmatic donors, secular politicos, and other members of the establishment — are cheering the early hires as a sign that Bush will position himself as the gay-friendly Republican in the 2016 field.

Bush obviously needs to walk the gay rights tightrope, with the nod and wink to wealthy gay donors while repeating the "religious conscience" mantra to the GOP popular base, hoping all along that the donor base recognizes his support for rights begins and ends with marriage- and might not include even that.

While Bush, Rubio, and Walker are fully committed to being the next President (though only the Florida senator thus far has announced), it is doubtful that all of the Repub aspirants are determined to obtain the Party's nomination, let alone win a general election.  Charlie Pierce is not the only pundit highly skeptical of Carly Fiorina, "a spectacularly failed business executive (and) a spectacularly failed senatorial candidate," who is set to declare on May 4.

And then there is the curious case of Mike Huckabee.  Ironically,  Salon's Simon Maloy singles out the former Arkansas governor as "at best" a "scam artist" and" at worst" "monster." To the contrary: Huckabee is at worst, even more extremist than most of the prospective GOP field; at best, more earnest than most, perhaps all, of the possible candidates.

"The biggest gap," Chris Hayes has noted, between the donor base and the GOP public "is on marriage equality." Rubio contends (video commentary, below) he would attend a gay wedding. and Bush maintains marriage should be "a local decision."  If the former governor isn't slippery enough, we have Walker (video beneath the other) admitting "I and our family have already had a family member who’s had a reception. I haven’t been at a wedding...for someone I love, we've been at a  reception."  Pierce responds "Is he only in it for the open bar and the bratwurst? Stay tuned."














Huckabee, though, will not be at the reception, for the open bar, the bratwurst, or for show. He contends  

If the courts rule that people have a civil right not only to be a homosexual but a civil right to have a homosexual marriage, then a homosexual couple coming to a pastor who believes in biblical marriage who says ‘I can’t perform that wedding’ will now be breaking the law. Let me make clear: It’s not just saying, ‘I’m sorry you have a preference.’ No, you will be breaking the law subject to civil, for sure, and possibly criminal penalties for violating the law, depending on how the law is written in communities, states and in the nation.

The man from Hope never has claimed to be a lawyer and never should attempt to be one. According to Politico's Nick Gass, he also "said that the government is telling chaplains that they cannot help people 'seek assistance' for a 'homosexual lifestyle' and to 'put their Bibles away, no longer pray in Jesus’ name.'" He has crossed into the point of no return.

Someone did not get the memo.   John Ellis Bush got it, opposing same-sex marriage while urging "respect for the good people on all sides of the gay and lesbian marriage issue — including couples making lifetime commitments." Adopting the "gay and lesbian" and "lifetime commitments" lexicon no doubt reassured those donors Bush has been courting.

Scott Walker got it, threading the marriage equality needle by noting he might be asked to attend a marriage of "someone I love," love being a fairly uncontroversial concept. Even Ted Cruz played it safe, largely punting on the issue.

Gass writes that Huckabee told Politico "that opponents of gay marriage are 'pariahs”' among the 'ruling class' and donors. He also noted that 'supposedly conservative donors and conservative office holders are running away from the issue.'" Mike Huckabee knows the score- he just doesn't want to play the game.



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Thursday, April 23, 2015

A Game They Will Not Play




In January, the American Family Association issued a news release which- in the unlikely event it would be successful- would give opponents of same-sex marriage a fighting chance when the matter hits the High Court this summer. In part, it read (italics the organization's)




In light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s announcement that it will hear the issue, American Family Association (AFA,www.afa.net) says Supreme Court Justices Elena Kagan and Ruth Bader Ginsburg should recuse themselves from making any same-sex marriage decisions because they have both conducted same-sex marriage ceremonies.

“Both of these justices’ personal and private actions that actively endorse gay marriage clearly indicate how they would vote on same-sex marriage cases before the Supreme Court,” said AFA President Tim Wildmon. “Congress has directed that federal judicial officers must disqualify themselves from hearing cases in specified circumstances. Both Kagan and Ginsburg have not only been partial to same-sex marriage but they have also proven themselves to be activists in favor of it. In order to ensure the Court’s integrity and impartiality, both should recuse themselves from same-sex marriage cases. Congress has an obligation to Americans to see that members of the Supreme Court are held to the highest standards of integrity. The law demands it, and the people deserve it"....

Kagan performed a September 21, 2014, same-sex marriage ceremony for her former law clerk and his partner in Maryland. And Ginsburg performed a same-sex marriage ceremony at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C., in August 2013.

*********************************************************************************

Bill O'Reilly emphatically agrees. However, the District of Columbia legalized same-sex marriage in 2009, as did the State of Maryland in November, 2012. It is not unprecedented for Supreme Court justices to perform wedding ceremonies and the ceremonies cited by the AFA were as legal as opposite-sex marriages. Ian Millhiser persuasively argues

If mere participation in a legal institution was grounds for recusal, then it would be difficult to find judges or justices who weren’t recused from many cases. The speed limit in the state of Colorado, for example, is 75 mph, while other states have lower speed limits. Yet, if a litigant were to challenge one of these lower speed limits in court, a judge would not be required to recuse themselves simply because they once drove on Colorado’s roads and took advantage of its higher speed limits.

It's not only that Kagan and Ginsburg have done nothing wrong.  From 1976 to 1979 Clarence Thomas was a lawyer for Monsanto Corporation and as an Associate Justice has taken substantial money- as gifts or speaking engagements- from organizations advocating the interests of agribusiness.  Yet (or maybe therefore) he still sat when the US Supreme Court decided Monsanto Co. v. Geertson Seed Farms in 2010 and Bowman v. Monsanto Co. in 2013.

Moreover, shortly before the Supreme Court ruled on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, in June 2012 Elizabeth Flock of US News & World Report explained that Justice Thomas' wife Ginni

has been a vocal critic of the Affordable Care Act, and she has certainly made money off of that criticism. In 2009, she founded the Tea Party nonprofit lobbying group Liberty Central, which lobbied against the law. There, she made a salary of $120,000, according to the group's 2010 tax filing.

A startup donation to Liberty Central to the tune of $500,000 came from Harlan Crow, a Dallas real estate investor, Republican donor, and friend of Justice Thomas, Politico reported in 2011. Crow declined to comment to the New York Times about whether he was the source of the money.

Ginni Thomas later stepped down as CEO and president of Liberty Central, but started Liberty Consulting in 2010, which also did anti-healthcare reform lobbying, according to the liberal site Mother Jones.

And in January 2011, it came to light that Justice Thomas had "inadvertently" left out information about his wife's employment over the last 13 years—where her earnings added up to as much as $1.6 million, the Huffington Post reported.

One of her former employers: the Heritage Foundation, where Ginni Thomas made hundreds of thousands of dollars between 2003 and 2007, according to a letter from Thomas to the Committee on Financial Disclosure. The foundation has also been a vocal opponent of the healthcare reform law.

That's (relatively) small potatoes, admittedly. Monsanto won both its cases overwhelmingly and the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the ACA,  though it rejected its Medicaid provision. Of far more consequence, however, was Bush v. Gore (1st cartoon from slideshare.net, 2nd from Ann Telnaes), handed down a little over 14 years ago. Most famously, then- Chief Justice Rehnquist and Associate Justice O'Connor had stated their intention to step down if the Republican became President.

More significantly, however, Ginni Thomas- yes, she again- was at the time working at the Heritage Foundation drawing up a list of potential appointees in a Bush Administration. And Justice Scalia's son Eugene was employed at the law firm of Gibson, Dunn, & Crutcher, one of whose partners was Theodore Olson, lead attorney for the former Texas governor in the Supreme Court litigation.  and later Solicitor General in the Bush Administration. (Scalia's son John worked for the firm representing the ticket in the Florida courts.)

When it really counted- when the presidency of the United States and the integrity of the electoral process were at stake- Repub justices decided personal interests came before morality and ethics. Being Democrats, Kagan and Ginsburg probably would recuse themselves were there an actual conflict.  But there isn't, and they won't.













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