Betraying America Versus The Agenda

Several hours ago, Tr-mp, who is destroying American credibility in the world faster than even I imagined he could, tweeted the following:

Russian officials must be laughing at the U.S. & how a lame excuse for why the Dems lost the election has taken over the Fake News.

Obviously, Tr-mp is obsessed with the Russia scandal he and his cronies and his relatives are trapped in. But his obsession is not shared by all Republicans. In fact, it doesn’t appear to me that Republicans really give a damn about it. There are a few here and there who express some concern, but mostly the Republican attitude is what I heard this morning from the lips of a Republican strategist named Jason Osborne, who worked for both Ben Carson and Tr-mp. He said, “The Russia investigation is all a bunch of noise,” with the purpose of disrupting the Republican agenda in Congress. “There’s no story here, as far as I can tell,” Osborne said, “Nobody has said anything that there’s illegalities that have been committed.”

Well, since I’ve grown tired of saying it myself (7/27/2016, anyone?), I’ll allow David Corn, of Mother Jones, to say it: “We Already Know Tr-mp Betrayed America.” That piece details all the reasons why it doesn’t matter, in terms of what Americans should think about what happened, whether “explicit collusion” or Osborne’s “illegalities” are ever found in any of the Tr-mp-Russia investigations. As Corn says:

Tr-mp actively and enthusiastically aided and abetted Russian President Vladimir Putin’s plot against America. This is the scandal. It already exists—in plain sight.

You hear a lot of chatter on television about how much “smoke” there is around this whole Tr-mp-Russia thing, but it ain’t just smoke. Corn ends his piece with this:

This country needs a thorough and public investigation to sort out how the Russian operation worked, how US intelligence and the Obama administration responded, and how Tr-mp and his associates interacted with Russia and WikiLeaks. But whatever happened out of public view, the existing record is already conclusively shameful. Tr-mp and his crew were active enablers of Putin’s operation to subvert an American election. That is fire, not smoke. That is scandal enough.

Well, that should be scandal enough. But with an ethically bankrupt Republican Party in charge of Congress, the fact that Tr-mp and his team enabled the Russian plot to undermine our election isn’t scandal enough. All that matters is The Agenda. That nasty, cruel, deadly, billionaire-friendly policy agenda slowly making its way through Congress. Enacting into law that legislative mix of malice and selfishness and ideological insanity is the reason why the immoral or amoral nature of leaders like Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell are on display for all to see, for all who want to see.

Just a while ago, Tr-mp, knowing how much The Agenda means to the twisted ideologues in the Republican Party, tweeted out the following:

The U.S. Senate should switch to 51 votes, immediately, and get Healthcare and TAX CUTS approved, fast and easy. Dems would do it, no doubt!

“TAX CUTS.” Tr-mp, being an unprincipled person himself, understands enough about his fellow unprincipled Republicans in Congress to shout TAX CUTS to them. That’s the Image result for tax cutsgravy. Tr-mp knows that’s what Republicans believe is worth selling their thin souls for. TAX CUTS for their wealthy friends, their wealthy donors, the people they admire most in the world.

Tr-mp reveals a lot about himself in his tweets. And in this one, shouting TAX CUTS, he reveals what he knows about Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell and most of the rest of the Republican Party: there is nothing more important to them than TAX CUTS. Not the Constitution. Not America’s standing in the world. Not Tr-mp and his family enriching themselves at the expense of the rest of us. And certainly not Tr-mp’s open betrayal of America by his official or unofficial collusion with Vladmir Putin and his Russian friends. Nothing.

Nothing but TAX CUTS.

Why Conservatives Need Rush Limbaugh’s Permission To Pass Immigration Reform

There are a lot of conservatives out there in denial about the racist component of the fierce and sometimes weird opposition to President Obama. I’ve written about it often, and while I obviously don’t think all or even most of the opponents of Barack Obama are outright racists, there is a rather large group of folks on the right, the white right, who resent the browning of America.

Along those lines, Mother Jones, which has been doing great journalistic work, published today this article:

mother jones and white nationalists

You can read the article and draw your own conclusions, but I have argued that a lot of the fuel that fires up the irrational hate-Obama movement is a fear that white culture—whatever that is—is being overrun by a foreign one, or many foreign ones.

Defending a white nationalist group, one of the conservatives featured in the Mother Jones piece, James B. Taylor, said:

You’ve got the NAACP and B’nai B’rith. Why not something for white people?

That nationalist group that Taylor was defending is this one:

npi

Here is part of the NPI’s “about” page:

npi about

Look at that nice white American family, those beautiful white children. The white culture these images are meant to represent is what a lot of people on the right are fighting for, indeed, have been fighting for long before anyone ever heard of Barack Obama.

And although the cultural angst that some white folks feel didn’t start with our black president, unlike any American president before him he has the pigmented credentials that serve so well to feed the fear and paranoia that is today a part of the conservative movement.

Speaking of that fear and paranoia, isn’t it ironic that Republican Senator Marco Rubio, whose parents were Cubans and whose ethnicity Republicans are strategically, if not cynically, using to appeal to a broader base of Americans, today had to go before none other than Rush Limbaugh, the whitest of white Obama-hating conservatives, to essentially get his blessing on immigration reform.

And Limbaugh during his interview on Tuesday seemed to give Rubio permission by saying,

Well, what you are doing is admirable and noteworthy.

Ain’t that nice?

But Limbaugh asked him after that :

LIMBAUGH: This legislation that you’ve admitted is not written, but you’re here on the radio today, you’ve been doing a lot of media, who are you trying to reach with this?

RUBIO:  In terms of the —

LIMBAUGH:  The bill.  You talking Hispanics, illegals, are you talking the American people, who are you talking to?

Ahh. You see? “The American people” and “Hispanics” are not really the same thing in the mind of Rush Limbaugh, a man so powerful in the Republican Party that its most prominent Hispanic leader feels the need to get the radio host’s permission to pass immigration laws.

Romney Knows His Peeps

Just when the Romney campaign was all giddy about “reintroducing” the candidate to voters—perhaps they should first reintroduce the candidate to himself—along comes The Truth:

My job is not to worry about those people,” said Mittens, speaking of all those lazy, selfish freeloaders out there who depend on the wealthy—his audience for this revealing look into his soul—for their sustenance.

Romney is so far out of touch that he has no idea how many of those “victims” live in places like Southwest Missouri and have every intention of voting against their interests and for his sorry behind.

And make no mistake about it, most of those Obama-hating folks, after taking their government money for the month, will still run not walk to the polls to give Romney their vote on November 6.

Thanks to Mother Jones for this gem.

Is Romney A Felon Or Will Obama Have To Apologize?

Thursday afternoon’s HuffPo Front Page:

The latest twist in the quest (say that three times) to understand the limits or lack of limits regarding Romney’s money-making during his private-sector years is a Boston Globe article:

Romney stayed longer at Bain
Firm’s 2002 filings identify him as CEO, though he said he left in 1999

The article makes clear why it is important when Mittens left his life in high finance:

The timing of Romney’s departure from Bain is a key point of contention because he has said his resignation in February 1999 meant he was not responsible for Bain Capital companies that went bankrupt or laid off workers after that date.

We all know the man is rich, many of us know at least some ways he got so rich, but an increasing number of us know there is still more to know:

Contradictions concerning the length of Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital add to the uncertainty and questions about his finances. Bain is the primary source of Romney’s wealth, which is estimated to be more than $25o million. But how his wealth has been invested, especially in a variety of Bain partnerships and other investment vehicles, remains difficult to decipher because of a lack of transparency.

The Obama campaign and other Democrats have raised questions about his unwillingness to release tax returns filed before 2010; his offshore assets, which include investment entities based in Bermuda and the Cayman Islands and a recently closed bank account in Switzerland…

One of those Democrats raising questions is a honcho on the Obama-Biden 2012 payroll. From The Guardian:

In remarks that took the campaign to a new, uglier phase, Obama’s deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter said Romney had either misrepresented his position to government regulators or had lied to the American people.

Now, I don’t know why The Guardian chose to characterize this as “a new, uglier  phase,” since wanting to get to the truth is neither new nor ugly.  But there is something strange stirring, as hints are popping up that there is more to come.

Politico’s reporting included this:

Deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter laid out the issue as the Obama team sees it: “Either Mitt Romney, through his own words and his own signature, was misrepresenting his position at Bain to the SEC, which is a felony.”

“Or,” she said, “he was misrepresenting his position at Bain to the American people to avoid responsibility for some of the consequences of his investments,” including layoffs and the outsourcing of jobs.

Felony? Ouch. The use of that word ups the ante a bit, no? Presumably, Ms. Cutter did not make that comment lightly. Her head may roll, if it turns out there is substantial evidence against the notion.

Romney’s team has been in a feud with the Obama campaign and various newspapers over the charges that he was active at Bain after he said he wasn’t. The campaign keeps claiming that “independent fact checkers” have “confirmed” Romney “had no input on vestments or management of companies” after 1999. That is not true, of course. As far as I can tell, what those fact checkers have said is that up until now there has been no proof that Romney was actively involved in Bain’s business after 1999.

But one can fairly say at this point that there is a prima facie case against Romney’s version of events, and it is now up to him to offer more information (tax returns, maybe?) to rebut the accusations, if he can rebut them.

And speaking of accusations, another one appeared today courtesy of Mother Jones:

EXCLUSIVE: Romney Invested Millions in Chinese Firm That Profited on US Outsourcing
The GOP candidate decries China poaching US jobs. But at Bain he held a large stake in a Chinese company that did just that.

And that job-poaching of U.S. jobs occurred before Romney claims he left Bain in 1999, so the timing controversy has nothing to do with this latest charge that Romney invested in companies that he knew—knew—thrived on outsourcing American jobs to China.

Stay tuned.

Killing Abortion Providers May Soon Be “Justifiable Homicide”

Now  things are getting serious.

Maureen Holland at Whatever Works alerted me to a story on Mother Jones website provocatively titled,

South Dakota Moves To Legalize Killing Abortion Providers

A proposal, which has already been voted out of a House committee (“nine-to-three party-line vote“), would alter, according to Kate Sheppard of Mother Jones,

the state’s legal definition of justifiable homicide by adding language stating that a homicide is permissible if committed by a person “while resisting an attempt to harm” that person’s unborn child or the unborn child of that person’s spouse, partner, parent, or child. If the bill passes, it could in theory allow a woman’s father, mother, son, daughter, or husband to kill anyone who tried to provide that woman an abortion—even if she wanted one. 

Right-wing anti-choice bedfellows, including the misnamed Concerned Women for America and Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum, testified in favor of the law, which was allegedly designed as a “clarification of South Dakota’s justifiable homicide law,” but was further amended in committee by obviously militant anti-choicers, who hate big government unless it serves their parochial moral interests.

Basically, the law would allow as an affirmative defense against a murder charge, protection of an “unborn child.” An affirmative defense is a type of defense that admits an act was committed, but excuses culpability for the act. 

The proposed law is “entitled”:

An Act to expand the definition of justifiable homicide to provide for the protection of certain unborn children.

Here is the relevant text:

Homicide is justifiable if committed by any person while resisting any attempt to murder such person, or to harm the unborn child of such person in a manner and to a degree likely to result in the death of the unborn child, or to commit any felony upon him or her, or upon or in any dwelling house in which such person is.

Homicide is justifiable if committed by any person in the lawful defense of such person, or of his or her husband, wife, parent, child, master, mistress, or servant, or the unborn child of any such enumerated person, if there is reasonable ground to apprehend a design to commit a felony, or to do some great personal injury, and imminent danger of such design being accomplished.

Although this particular proposal is worse than most, there are other obstacles to choice that have been enacted or are pending in state legislatures all over the country, including here in Missouri.  Republicans (who are often aided by anti-choice Democrats) are violating the constitutional rights of women—while they simultaneously and falsely claim they are defenders of the Constitution—and it seems the abortion issue is something that many prominent national Democrats—including President Obama—want to avoid. 

Meanwhile, the Mother Jones article ends with this:

The South Dakota bills reflect a broader national strategy on the part of abortion-rights opponents, says Elizabeth Nash, a public policy associate with the Guttmacher Institute, a federal reproductive health advocacy and research group. “They erect a legal barrier, another, and another,” says Nash. “At what point do women say, ‘I can’t climb that mountain’? This is where we’re getting to.”

What They Don’t Say

Mother Jones has come up with “a list of words and phrases and the number of times they are each mentioned in the 45-page” Republican Pledge to America.  As the article points out, the “list is as telling as the actual contents”:

Wall Street: 0
Bank: 0
Finance: 0
Mortgage crisis: 0
Derivative: 0
Subprime: 0
Lobbying: 0
Lobbyist: 0
K Street: 0
Campaign finance: 0
Campaign contribution: 0
Campaign donation: 0
Disclosure: 0
Climate change: 0
Environment: 1 (“political environment”)
Alternative energy: 0
Renewable: 0
Green: 0
Transportation: 0
Infrastructure: 0
Poverty: 0
Food: 0
Food safety: 0
Housing: 0
Internet: 0
Education: 0
College: 0
Reading: 0
Science: 0
Research: 0
Technology: 0
Bush administration: 0

Blanche Lincoln: A New Hero Of The Left?

A story today by The New Republic about the financial reform efforts in Congress begins ominously:

Some two dozen executives from large corporations will be descending on Capitol Hill today to make the case against over-regulating derivatives.

Oh, no.  This financial stuff is hard enough to follow without also having to worry about a legion of Wall Street defenders assaulting our legislators.

The source of the latest angst among Chamber-of-Commerce types apparently comes from none other than Blanche Lincoln, the Democrat that lefties hate for her role in the health care reform fiasco in Congress, who now appears to be out-leftying other more liberal Senators on financial reform.

Lincoln has a new proposal to regulate derivatives, described by Andy Kroll of Mother Jones as,

…those tricky financial products, whose value is linked to the price of commodities or interest rates, used to hedge risk and also make risky gambles.

Calling for transparency in derivatives trading, something now lacking in the system, Lincoln proposes an exchange that will, if enacted, protect against another “AIG-esque collapse” because the inherent risk in such trading will not be concentrated in one place, but spread throughout the members of the clearinghouse.

Another important feature of Lincoln’s proposal, according to Kroll:

Lincoln’s bill would also call for swaps outfits [derivatives trading] to be cut out of big investment banks and essentially made into separate operations. This, of course, would prevent crippling losses on a swap desk from dragging down the rest of the firm—again, a la AIG’s Financial Products division mortally wounding the entire company.

Kroll quotes Felix Salmon, a financial journalist and blogging editor at Reuters, who is not exactly optimistic about Lincoln’s proposal suceeding:

…it’s also pretty clear that none of this is going to happen. Never mind Republican support: this is going to have a hard time even getting Democratic support. It’s all a good idea, but it’s far too radical: while it might have had more of a chance if it had been introduced during the height of the crisis, at this point the banks have got their mojo working again and will quite easily be able to ensure that the beating heart of Lincoln’s proposals is surgically excised before it even gets anywhere near a vote.

The reference to “banks” and “mojo” leads us back to today’s article in The New Republic. As the TNR article makes clear, Lincoln’s proposal rightly exempts from onerous regulation, “derivatives used in commercial activity,” such as when an airline tries to lock in future fuel prices by signing a contract today and betting prices will be higher later:

What the Lincoln bill would regulate is the use of derivatives for more speculative purposes, like a straight-up bet between two Wall Street firms on the future price of oil.

So, why would corporate leaders, who engage in the kind of derivative trading exempted by Lincoln’s bill, make a well-orchestrated appearance in Washington D.C.? TNR writer, Noam Scheiber, explains:

Big financial firms like Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan generate billions of dollars each year as derivatives dealers. But, over the past several weeks, as Democrats’ have escalated their rhetoric and explicitly targeted Wall Street, the big banks have had trouble getting their message out on Capitol Hill. All the more so thanks to Friday’s SEC complaint accusing Goldman of fraud. “The banks’ credibility, their ability to influence this, is limited,” says one derivatives industry lawyer.

And so, instead of mostly making the pitch against regulation themselves, the big derivatives dealers are counting on their corporate clients to do a lot of heavy lifting for them…

In other words, these days no one would believe anything proceeding from the mouths of bankers* who almost bankrupted the nation through, among other things, unfettered trading in derivatives, so they have to go to the bullpen for some help, namely corporate leaders who can leverage the fact that they “employ hundreds of thousands of people across the country.”

While this tactic may seem cynical, worse yet is an even more cynical argument designed to water down any final reform bill, as reported by Scheiber:

…top Wall Street executives have conveyed directly to senior White House officials in recent days, that the administration faces almost as much peril as Wall Street does if it brings a partisan bill to the Senate floor. Should that happen, the argument goes, Senate liberals like Maria Cantwell and Byron Dorgan could triumph on amendments that would move the bill well to the left of where even the administration wants it.

Let’s hope that the high-rollers on Wall Street are once again wrong about their calculations and this time their gambling failures will result not in the near-collapse of our financial system, but in legislation that will finally address their irresponsibility and profligacy, funded most recently by American taxpayers.

________________________________________________________

*”Bankers” is a term used loosely here. Just to illustrate what’s at stake for the so-called bankers, here are some facts from Reuters.com:
Globally, the $450 trillion over-the-counter derivatives market is big business for the banks. Scaling back these operations, or forcing high-volume contracts to move to exchanges, could make trading much less profitable for dealers. Customized contracts would continue but face higher costs.
Lawmakers have sought ways to rein in the opaque world of over-the-counter derivatives after the financial instruments were blamed for exacerbating the financial crisis and prompting the U.S. government bailout of companies such as American International Group (AIG.N).
Jamie Dimon, chief executive of JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N), told bank analysts on Wednesday that forcing dealers to trade derivatives on exchanges could cost his firm up to a couple of billion dollars in revenue annually.
“It will be a negative,” he said. JPMorgan has the largest derivatives exposure of the U.S. banks.
Just five banks account for 97 percent of the total $212.8 trillion worth of derivatives contracts held by U.S. commercial banks, according to a fourth-quarter survey by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

FIVE (5) BLEEPING BANKS HOLD 97% OF $212.8 TRILLION WORTH OF DERIVATIVE CONTRACTS!

Can anyone say, “Too big to fail?”

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