Thursday, July 24, 2014

Did You Miss The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau Anniversary Monday?

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Elizabeth Warren's new book, A Fighting Chance, makes it pretty clear that I'm not the only one who thinks Capital One is one big scam and nothing-- at least up on top-- but a nest of crooks and thieves. In the book she talks about how they cheated their own clients and how the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's first action was to order them to pay $150 million to two million consumers for selling them credit card products they could not use or did not want. So anyone think I would ever in a million years do business with these gonifs? Sure, the same day I do business with Steve Israel, Debbie Wasserman Schultz or Joe Crowley!

So a couple of months ago I got an official-looking letter from the crooks known as Capital One about the credit card I have with them. Except I don't. It even had the last few digits of a number. I was alarmed. I called them and asked what it was all about. The operator was an asshole-- until I told her my next call would be to the CFPB. Everything changed and she said she would delete the account. I told her to please do that and then asked her to tell me how exactly a credit card I had never applied for was active and how they got all my personal information. She said she isn't allowed to say.

So I called CFPB and lodged a formal complaint. At the end of the complaint process they ask you to suggest how the culprit should be handled. I suggested they close down Capital One and throw the CEO and Chairman of the Board into prison for as long as possible since word would get out in the bankster community and a few other banksters might think it wise to forgo this kind of predatory behavior. The CFPB sent me a few letters about how the process was going along over the weeks.

And then I got another letter from Capital One answering my complaint and guaranteeing me they had closed the account. Two weeks letter I got another letter from them-- with the same credit card number-- trying to get more personal information from me. When I called to complain to them again the operator refused to even discuss it unless I gave her my Social Security number. I have to find some time to call the CFPB again. (I'm on the road now and don't have my paperwork handy.)

Monday MassLive.com ran an article by Robert Rizzuto about the success the CFPB has been having since Elizabeth Warren invented it and got it written into statute 3 years ago. For one thing, they've been instrumental in returning over $4 billion scammed from customer by shady banks and other bankstery operations.
And as Monday marks the agency's three-year anniversary, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the architect of the CFPB, says the bureau's many documented success stories not only justify its existence but highlight its effectiveness.

One of these stories centers on a family from Hull, Massachusetts. The father and son, only identified as Harry and Ari, respectively, document their story via a web video released by the CFPB late last week.

Ari, a self-described Iraq military veteran, said he was stationed in El Paso, Texas when he purchased a car prior to deployment, but soon found the terms of his auto loan were a problem.

"I found out about the program that gave me the car loan just by driving off base. There’s car dealerships everywhere and they all have programs tailored towards servicemembers," Ari said in the video. "When the dealership found out that I was a soldier, they promised me… they’d put me in a car I could afford."

Ari gave his father Harry power of attorney over his affairs while he served in Iraq, and it was he who found the terms of the automobile loan to be "unsustainable."

"At some point I decided there would be a need to lodge a formal complaint against this company because they were victimizing soldiers," Harry said in the video. "And I wrote to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in Washington, DC, a detailed letter of my son’s experience and my knowledge of other soldiers who had been victimized in this way."

When the CFPB investigated, they found no wrongdoing pertaining to the specific terms of Ari's loan, but they did end up finding multiple other instances of deceptive practices and efforts to victimize servicemembers by car dealerships. In the end, the CFPB recouped $6.5 million for military members and changed the system to require more transparency and increased disclosures relating to the terms of car loans.

And to Warren, a consumer advocate turned politician who was at the center of the conversation to create the agency, stories like this make the CFPB worth fighting for.

"It's important that the CFPB is there to help protect servicemembers, veterans, and families who are targeted by scams and unfair financial practices," Warren said in an email to MassLive.com. "The consumer agency is a great resource for anyone who has been cheated by credit card companies, mortgage lenders, and other financial institutions, and it is already making a difference for people here in Massachusetts and across the country."
Aside from getting back the $4 billion the banksters have stolen from their customers, the CFPB put rules in place "to protect consumers from a whole host of dangerous financial products and to make sure that companies can't issue the kinds of deceptive mortgages that contributed to millions of foreclosures [and they] helped tens of thousands of consumers resolve complaints against financial institutions that cheated them." A very optimistic Senator Warren, on the anniversary of the agency:
The big banks today are dramatically bigger than they were in 2008 and they are taking on new risks, and I think that means we need a 21st Century Glass-Steagall law to break them up. But I celebrate the progress we've had so far: When big banks have to listen to their customers a little more, the playing field starts to level out just a little bit more.

The big banks spent more than a million dollars a day lobbying against financial reforms, and top lobbyists said that killing off the consumer agency was their number one priority. Even now, the Republicans continue the attack, introducing bills that would take the legs out from under the agency.

We didn't have the lobbying muscle or the money that the big banks had. But we got that agency because we fought for it. We joined forces online and through groups, and we made our voices heard. And now, after three years, it's starting to work.
At the same time, Marianne Williamson penned a post for HuffPo, an open letter to Hillary Clinton. Like so many of us, Williamson would like to see a woman president and she feels Hillary has a lot of qualifications and would "know what to do from Day 1... But none of that is enough to get my vote, or the vote of a lot of people I know. We only want to vote for you if you run like hell away from that corporate box you've landed in. I'm telling you, Hillary. The American people have become hip to what's happening. We know now that Wall Street runs the country, and we don't like it. And for many of us, we don't want to vote for you if Wall Street runs you too... I want you to support reinstating Glass-Steagall-- not just wink at Wall Street while sipping its champagne."

I would have loved to see Williamson run against sleazy Blue Dog/New Dem Adam Schiff instead of moving a few blocks west into Henry Waxman's district to run against him. I doubt she'll decide to take on Schiff next time but I'm thankful that she's staying in the public forum with her powerful voice and important and unbought perspective.


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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A New Breed Of Conservatives Who Aren't Anti-Gay

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Gay conservative Republicans like Aaron Schock (R-IL), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Miss McConnell (R-KY), and Trent Franks (R-AZ) and Patrick McHenry (R-NC) have traditionally locked themselves in closets and voted against LGBT equality in the hope they would fool someone. Gay conservative Democrats have usually been less hypocritical. Maine Blue Dog Mike Michaud stayed in the closet until he came out when Paul LePage started the GOP rumor machine whirling in time for the gubernatorial election. His LGBT record has been so-so, better than most conservatives but not great. Most gay conservative Democrats just come out of the closet these days-- Kyrsten Sinema (Blue Dog-AZ) and Sean Patrick Maloney (New Dem-NY) are good examples.

They are two of the worst Democrats in Congress-- they both tend to vote with Boehner and the Republicans on most core issues-- except on LGBT and women's health issues. Both have excellent voting records on LGBT equality, although working class gays might find minimal solace in that, given the two Democrats' anti-working family perspective on everything else. I often run into Democrats who refuse to believe that gay Democrats can be described as "conservative." That's not only silly, it's getting even sillier and soon we will have gay Republicans voting horribly on everything but gay issues. Carl DeMaio (R-CA) is openly gay and conservative and likely to beat conservative New Dem multimillionaire Scott Peters in San Diego this November. (Polls show DeMaio leading, probably because plenty of disillusioned Democrats have no intention of bothering to come out and vote for a disappointing conservative like Peters.) You don't have to be anti-gay to be conservative. You just have to be for conserving the wealth and power of the wealthy and powerful. That's always been the name of the game. The bigotry and hatred was just convenient to get 2-digit IQ voters to betray their own economic self-interests.

The wonderful Salon article by Tim Donovan I keep referring to Clueless rich kids on the rise: How millennial aristocrats will destroy our future, makes it clear that the next generation of disgusting Republicans won't be anti-gay, just anti-working class. Sinema and Maloney are ahead of the curve. And so is freshman Republican David Jolly, who won the special election to replace Bill Young in Pinellas County and is, as far as I know, straight. And not anti-gay. In fact, he's pro-gay and says he has been since college.
“Republican David Jolly (Fla.) announces support for gay marriage” reads the headline of the story written by the Washington Post's Sean Sullivan, who covered Jolly during his campaign for Florida’s 13th Congressional District. Jolly, when asked by the Post if he supports gay marriage after a Florida judge overturned the state’s ban, said that his personal views on marriage are that it should be limited to one man and one woman. But, he added, states should not be defining the “sanctity” of marriage.

From there, the story quickly went viral. And in almost every article, blog post, story, and tweet, Jolly is portrayed as “coming out” for gay marriage.

Jolly says this has been his viewpoint all along. And not since his campaign, but from his days at law school.

“I can tell you exactly where my thinking began to change,” said Jolly. “It was my constitutional law class in 1998. That began a year of soul-searching on this issue.”

Jolly position on same-sex marriage, he insists, “is not an evolution.” Actually, Jolly’s position is shaped by a libertarian belief that government is not key to the sanctity of marriage.

“To me, that means that the sanctity of one’s marriage should be defined by their faith and by their church, not by their state,” Jolly explained in a statement to the Washington Post. “Accordingly, I believe it is fully appropriate for a state to recognize both traditional marriage as well as same-sex marriage, and therefore I support the recent decision by a Monroe County Circuit Judge.”

...Now that Jolly is talking about the issue, he’s not pulling any punches. He says the state’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages goes against the U.S. Constitution and should be overturned.

Asked if he thinks Attorney General Pam Bondi should abandon her legal efforts to uphold the ban, Jolly reiterated his position that the amendment should be overturned but said he was unclear what the charter of Bondi’s office requires her to do to uphold Florida law.

Jolly also made it a point to say that he thinks one of the great “upcoming fights” is over religious liberty. He said he’s worried that the government will overstep its authority and force religious-based schools to teach about matters that go against their beliefs.

But that fight is for another day. Today, Jolly is making headlines for all the right reasons. The only issue is they should probably have been written months ago.
That doesn't mean Jolly is a liberal or a progressive by any stretch of the imagination. He's a conservative, albeit a new breed of conservative who feels secure enough that he can win reelection without catering to the redneck homophobic hatemongers who so many conservatives are always peering over their shoulders for. A couple of weeks ago, Jolly joined all the Florida Republicans to vote of a crazy amendment by coal industry shill David McKinley (R-WV) denying Climate Change and insisting that the government spent no money on it. Jolly voted for it despite the fact that every single inch of Pinellas County will be uninhabitable, mostly underwater in fact, by the end of the century. Now, that's a conservative!

Jolly's Democratic district-- which Obama won in 2008 and 2012 and which voted against Bush both times as well-- is socially moderate. Jolly is smart enough to know that someday the Democrats won't have a bumbling moron and incompetent like Steve Israel running the DCCC and that he'll have a real race on his hands. He's preparing now-- even though, thanks to Israel's startling arrogance and willful stupidity, he has no opponent in November. His voting record is conservative without being too overtly hateful. His 13.43 ProgressivePunch crucial vote score is even better than Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's 9.06 and she's in an even bluer district, although, again thanks to Israel (and Debbie Wasserman Schultz) she has no Democratic opponent this year. And she isn't anti-gay either and she voted to allow her entire district to sink beneath the waves as well.

Prediction: Aaron Schock will come out of the closet and marry his congressional heartthrob Adam Kinzinger and both will start voting relatively well (you know, "for a Republican") on LGBT issues, while still voting horribly on everything else. And they will be called "moderates."

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James Garner (1928-2014)

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Sonny (James Garner) and Rocky (Noah Beery Jr.): In the history of fiction -- in stories and books and plays and on screens large or small -- has anyone ever done a father-son relationship more powerful and cherishable, not to mention funny, than that of Joseph A. and James Scott Rockford (at least I'm remembering that Rocky's middle initial was "A"; I haven't been able to verify it)?

"At a time when the networks were awash with hard-eyed, traditional Western heroes, Bret Maverick provided a breath of fresh air. With his sardonic tone and his eagerness to talk his way out of a squabble rather than pull out his six-shooter, the con-artist Westerner seemed to scoff at the genre's values."
-- from Frazier Moore's AP obit of "reluctant hero" James Garner

by Ken

This is going to be a little easier than I feared, in part because the AP's Frazier Moore has gotten done some of the most important points quite beautifully in his obit. Here's how he begins:
Few actors could register disbelief, exasperation or annoyance with more comic subtlety.

James Garner had a way of widening his eyes while the corner of his mouth sagged ever so slightly. Maybe he would swallow once to further make his point.

This portrait of fleeting disquiet could be understood, and identified with, by every member of the audience. Never mind Garner was tall, brawny and, well, movie-star handsome. The persona he perfected was never less than manly, good with his dukes and charming to the ladies, but his heroics were kept human-scale thanks to his gift for the comic turn. He remained one of the people.
I hadn't really thought about this point about Garner's looks -- that he made such an irresistible Everyman-ish, little-guy figure even with those "movie-star handsome" looks. "He was so gorgeous," my mother said once of him, and I have to tell you, it wasn't a kind of remark I heard from her a lot.

Yeah, come to think of it, he was pretty darned gorgeous. And I don't imagine his looks worked against him when it came to finding work in Hollywood. Not that he was likely ever to be cast just for his looks. Producers and directors who hired him knew that he could not only act but do most anything an actor can be asked to do. And in an enormously productive career, he did just about everything, and did just about everything well. I gather he was especially fond of The Americanization of Emily, the film in which he costarred with Julie Andrews -- as well he should have been. It's a splendid movie and a splendid performance on his part. But, but --

Intending no disrespect to Jim Garner, there are other actors who could have done that role. When he was cast best, it was in roles that no one else could have done, roles that could burrow into your consciousness and become part of your way of looking at the world.

Obviously I'm thinking above all of his two legendary TV characters, Bret Maverick and Jim Rockford. To return to Frazier Moore:
The 86-year-old Garner, who was found dead of natural causes at his Los Angeles home on Saturday, was adept at drama and action. But he was best known for his low-key, wisecracking style, especially on his hit TV series, Maverick and The Rockford Files.

His quick-witted avoidance of conflict offered a refreshing new take on the American hero, contrasting with the blunt toughness of John Wayne and the laconic trigger-happiness of Clint Eastwood.
Of Maverick Frazier writes:
It was in 1957 when the ABC network, desperate to compete on ratings-rich Sunday night, scheduled Maverick against CBS's powerhouse The Ed Sullivan Show and NBC's The Steve Allen Show. To everyone's surprise — except Garner's — Maverick soon outpolled them both.

At a time when the networks were awash with hard-eyed, traditional Western heroes, Bret Maverick provided a breath of fresh air. With his sardonic tone and his eagerness to talk his way out of a squabble rather than pull out his six-shooter, the con-artist Westerner seemed to scoff at the genre's values.
Yes, exactly! (Frazier points out that the real-life Jim Garner "displayed real-life bravery," winning two Purple Hearts for combat wounds suffered during his service in the Korean War.)

Later Roy Huggins, the creator of Maverick (and of such big-time TV series as 77 Sunset Strip and The Fugitive), had the inspiration -- or just good sense -- to bring those unique qualities back to the tube. Bringing in as collaborator the still-young future TV legend Stephen J. Cannell, he created The Rockford Files.

Here's Frazier again (and this is absolutely terrific):
There's no better display of Garner's everyman majesty than the NBC series The Rockford Files (1974-80). He played an L.A. private eye and wrongly jailed ex-con who seemed to rarely get paid, or even get thanks, for the cases he took, while helplessly getting drawn into trouble to help someone who was neither a client nor maybe even a friend. He lived in a trailer with an answering machine that, in the show's opening titles, always took a message that had nothing to do with a paying job, but more often was a complaining call from a cranky creditor.

Through it all, Jim Rockford, however down on his luck, persevered hopefully. He wore the veneer of a cynic, but led with his heart. Putting all that on screen was Garner's magic.
What TV does so well, a point we keep coming back to, is character. And the greatness of The Rockford Files had everything to do with character, and while, crucially, the show's brilliant characterizations were by no means limited to its central character, it was all done in terms of relationships with Jim.

Wikipedia lists as stars, in addition to Jim Garner: Noah Beery Jr., Jose Santos, Gretchen Corbett, and Stuart Margolin, and they're all splendid examples of what the show could do with relationships built around Jim Rockford: the simply mind-blowingly beautiful as well as hilarious relationship with his father; his friendship with Detective Sgt. (later Lieut.) Dennis Becker (and how big a deal was it when Dennis finally made lieutenant?), the no-longer-romantic (at least on Jim's part) but totally trusting relationship with his long-suffering unpaid lawyer, Beth Davenport; and the side-splitting tug-of-war with his incandescently sleazy ex-prison pal Evelyn (Angel) Martin.

We could go on and on with just the series regulars and irregulars (the Wikipedia Rockford Files article has a nice list of "intermittently recurring players"), but then there are the dozens and dozens of actors, well-known and not so well-known, who created such searingly memorable characters through all six of those seasons. I wouldn't even know where to start, but how about Tom Selleck's two episodes as the golden boy of L.A. PIs, Lance White, the effortlessly self-promoting -- though rigidly honest -- investigatorial nitwit who plays the role of genius PI so triumphantly, while managing to make Jim look (and feel) like nobody? Or Rita Moreno's three episodes as hopefully but woefully striving ex-hooker Rita Capkovic?

There are probably 30 actors whose Rockford Files work we ought to talk about in detail. Just about everybody who worked on the show seems to have done work that would stand among the richest and most distinctive he/she would ever do. It seems pretty clear that far from wanting to hog the limelight, Jim Garner wanted to work with the best people he could -- and always helped make them look their best.

Not to mention the producers and writers -- including, in addition to Roy Huggins and Steven J. Cannell, such future TV heavyweights as David Chase and Chas Floyd Johnson.

Still, all of it orbited around that man at the center of the show, and all that magic he somehow managed to put on screen.

A NOTE ABOUT THE ROCKFORD TV MOVIES

I note that I haven't mentioned the eight Rockford Files TV movies eventually made for CBS (1994-99). I've only started rewatching them (as I've written here, I took the drastic step, and paid the considerable price, to import the second of the two DVD volumes, never released here, from Germany), and so far I'm thinking I may wind up liking them more than I did when they were new -- and not really reincarnations of the original series. But then, Jim Rockford wasn't the same Jim Rockford either. It's one thing for a fellow 20 years younger to be living in a trailer (admittedly on the beach at Malibu). For a fellow of the TV-movie Jim's age, it's something else to still be living in what, however expanded and remodeled, is still a trailer. I guess I'm of an age now where an autumnal Jim may be of more interest. That said, the TV movies still seem to me to have OK writing and acting, which wasn't the standard set by the original series. That standard was, to borrow Frazier Moore's apt word: magic.


It's a business, folks: James Garner talks about having his knee destroyed in Season 2 of The Rockford Files, then having the show canceled two-thirds of the way through Season 6 when he informed his superiors that, with his body in collapse, his doctor had told him he couldn't work. It eventually became well-known how much of his body Jim had sacrificed to the grueling rigors of his role, to keep himself and everybody on the show employed. There was a good deal of acrimony between him and the studio (Universal) and network (NBC), which reminds how much network TV-series production resembles -- or maybe is -- factories churning out assembly-line product. But sometimes that "product" achieves immortality.
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Do You Back Candidates Because They're The Same Color Or Religion As You Are?

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If you read DWT much, you know how much we distrust identity politics around here. Voting for someone because they are the same religion or ethnicity of gender, etc seems kind of primitive and politically immature. I always thought it should be about character and policy. I was very happy last week when People for the American Way endorsed Stanley Chang for the Honolulu-based congressional seat that Hanabusa gave up and I had been very happy a couple months before that to see the Congressional Progressive Caucus endorse him. Stanley is, hands down, the most progressive of the 7 Democratic candidates in the race. Stanley is a Chinese-American. I don't recall anyone being of Chinese ancestry on the PFAW Board and I'm willing to bet that he wasn't endorsed by the CPC because of his ethnicity either. In both cases, it was all about his progressive policy positions and the progressive work he's done on the Honolulu City Council. So I was gob-smacked this week when I was told that two Japanese-American progressives I think highly of, Mark Takano and Mike Honda, bucked the CPC and endorsed one of Chang's conservative opponents, Mark Takai.

I bet Takano, who is very serious about his gay identity as well as his Japanese-American identity would be mortified if he knew Takai's anti-gay voting record that conveniently changed just when he announced he would be running for Congress. Takai voted no on civil unions in 2010 and 2011.

And I wonder if Mike Honda, one of Congress' preeminent supporters of the down-and-out, knows that Takai was the lead sponsor of a bill to drug-test recipients of public assistance benefits last year. And he's been a cheerleader for Donna Kim's endless tirades against public employees and institutions.

I suspect neither Takano nor Honda bothered to read the 2012 Hawaii Family Forum survey, in which Takai is clear he backed a state constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman and backs the conservative position that gives religious organizations the right to refuse outside groups from using their facilities for activities related even to civil unions.

On one issue he's even more conservative than the religious-right candidate in the primary, Donna Mercado Kim. She was undecided on voting to include a conscience exemption in laws requiring all Hawaii hospitals to provide abortifacient medication to sex assault victims, but Takai said yes. It's hard to imagine either Takano or Honda backing someone with this kind of a record-- and not from ancient history wither, from the last election cycle!

Takai also happens to be a big nuclear power booster and introduced bills in both 2009 and 2011 that would “direct the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism to develop a permitting process for nuclear energy generation facilities in Hawaii.” Just five days after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan that caused level 7 nuclear meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, he commented, “I still think it’s prudent for us to take a look at whether nuclear energy is a viable option.”

Takai is far more hawkish than either Takano or Honda and openly advocates spending more money on the military. And he is every bit as friendly with the right wing as Donna Kim is. Hawaii has a fringe Koch-affiliated think tank called the Grassroot Institute. It espouses libertarian economics, but is mostly known for its open hostility to Hawaiian sovereignty. When the Grassroot Institute named a new CEO last year, Takai was the only elected official quoted in the press release. Just a few months ago, he sat down for a nearly hour-long videotaped lovefest (and snoozefest) with the CEO, in which they talked about their shared commitment to Christian faith and beliefs that the public-school system should be "run like a business" and "school choice should be de-politicized." On gridlock in Congress, Takai offered this: "You have people on the left who are really dug in..."

So much for being the "progressive" alternative to Kim (which is an idea he and his backers are pushing hard to people who don't know much about history). Blue America endorsed Stanley Chang-- and as far as I know neither John Amato, Digby, Jacquie or myself is Chinese-American, just progressive-American-- and we're helping him raise money for his get out the vote operation for the August 9th primary. Below is a new ad that shows Stanley talking about... well the same issues Takano and Honda talk about all the time.

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What's Worse-- Rich Old White Aristocrats Or Rich Young White Aristocrats?

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Yesterday I linked to a post at Salon by Tim Donovan, to help get a clearer picture of the next generation of Republicans, Clueless rich kids on the rise: How millennial aristocrats will destroy our future. And he quickly skips over the obvious Ivanka Trumps and Paris Hiltons, gets into some serious economic theory and winds up at electoral politics of the rich and clueless-- and they're certainly not all Republicans either... or at least many are from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party: "a fresh new wave of (many wealthy) millennial Congressional candidates. Enthusiastic and idealistic, these young Americans paradoxically promote a style of bland, Washington Consensus politics, what Pennsylvania House candidate (and proud millennial) Nick Troiano has billed 'radical centrism.' As a generation generally lauded for our commitment to civil service, noted for our love of structure, and gently mocked for our aversion to risk-seeking, surely we must be the perfect generation to fix America’s broken politics… Right?"
Consider two current House Representatives born right on the edge of the millennial generation, Democrats Patrick Murphy (31) and Joseph Kennedy III (33). Their politics are quite divergent, but their individual circumstances are depressingly similar: Both are young white men from wealthy families who attended exclusive private schools starting at an early age. Patrick Murphy is a former Republican who switched parties to defeat conservative wacko Allen West (for which all Americans surely owe him a debt of gratitude). His politics might best be described as “smarmy,” a confusing hodgepodge of positions seemingly intended to appease his right-leaning Florida district. He’s pro-Keystone XL, pro-pointless Benghazi hearings and pro marriage equality. He says he supports “fiscal responsibility,” which is a nice way of saying that he’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing, a center-right politician who wears a donkey pin on his lapel. He’s young enough to surely see the writing on the wall, to sense that the Republican brand is toxic to the majority of his generation.
Let me stop here to insert a few facts about Patrick Murphy that Tim Donovan (who somehow forgot to mention the posterboy for his entire analysis, Sean Eldridge) may not be aware of. His rich father, a Republican of course, started and funded a SuperPAC to elect him. Once Murphy got into Congress, he immersed himself into the Republican wing of the Democratic Party by joining the New Dems and by starting some bullshit No Labels caucus with a bunch of other pathetic Dems with no values and some teabaggy sociopaths from across the aisle, something like Steve Israel's failed Center Aisle Caucus of yore. Fellow transactional New Dem Debbie Wasserman Schultz is already publicly pushing Murphy-- who has accomplished exactly nothing since beating West-- for statewide office. As for Kennedy, Donovan is too kind. He's one of the weakest and politically least progressive members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, as though he were only part of it so he can have it on his résumé. He seems to vote with the New Dems as much as he votes with the progressives and he's a lot more like Murphy than he is like Mark Pocan or Alan Grayson.
Joseph Kennedy III’s politics are somewhat less objectionable, which only serves to underscore the deeper problems at play. A fifth generation politician, it seems fair to characterize Kennedy as the poster child of our new American aristocracy. Agreeing with his positions on some issues won’t change the underlying problem-- a system that’s far too likely to keep all but the wealthiest voices out of political power.

With a few notable exceptions, the latest batch of millennial candidates aren’t any better. Almost universally children of wealth and privilege, most embrace some token aspects of social liberalism while hurrying to display their fiscally conservative bona fides. They represent the status quo of the affluent, the powerful-- the inherited wisdom of a political class that has overseen decades of economic failure for all but the wealthiest among us. When compared with other candidates, most of their positions are uncontroversial-- which only makes their grand pronouncements about changing Washington all the more disheartening. If these candidates are in any way representative of the next class of Americans who are both willing and able to run for national office (and I suspect that they are), they should give pause to anyone who thinks that a new generation is coming of age who will rescue our captured politics.

Up until now, Pennsylvania Independent Nick Troiano and Republican Mike Turner have received the bulk of the media’s attention. (Turner recently lost his primary bid despite outspending his opponent 3-1.) Troiano has been in the public eye for a while, most prominently as one of the founders of “The Can Kicks Back,” a tragicomic millennial astroturfing outfit that tried to sell billionaire debt-alarmist Pete Peterson’s ideological vision to young people (slashing entitlement programs so that his gazillionaire buddies won’t be forced to help shoulder the programs’ expanding costs). The Can Kicks Back has been a monumental failure; the group has struggled to stay solvent, characterized as ”nearly broke” by internal emails discovered by Politico reporter Byron Tau last February. But this is America, and kids from upper-class families and cushy private schools always manage to “fail up.” Rather than departing from politics or taking on a more humble role, Troiano has opted to foist his entitlement reform obsession upon the voters of Pennsylvania’s 10th Congressional district. As for Mike Turner, at least he was honest about being a Republican: Turner’s campaign went viral recently when Mother Jones ran a story titled “This Millennial Bro Is Running for Congress Using the Family Trust Fund," which is pretty much everything you need to know about former candidate Mike Turner.

Examining the full slate of the millennials running for Congress this term, a troubling trend emerges. Despite varying slightly on a number of other (mostly social) issues, the majority of these candidates display an almost monomaniacal obsession with “entitlement reform” and balancing the budget, as if that were the only long-term crisis facing young Americans. (It isn’tAt allEven a bit.)

Take Republican Weston Wamp (27), son of former Tennessee Rep. Zach Wamp (who once suggested that states might need to secede if Obamacare were passed). On his official website, “conservative but independent” Weston Wamp promotes “holding the federal government in check” and “promot[ing] free market principles.” He’s careful to skate around most of the social issues that his generation supports, such as marriage equality, climate change and the War on Drugs (and didn’t respond to a request for comment), though he notes his support for the “right to life and the right to bear arms.” According to recent FEC filings, the Wamp campaign has raised over half a million dollars as of this writing, with more than half of that bankroll coming from 110 individuals who contributed the legal maximum of $2,600.

Or consider Andrew Walter (32), Republican candidate for Arizona’s 9th District. A former quarterback for Arizona State and the Oakland Raiders and the founder of a senior secured business lending firm, Walter claims (falsely) that “our national debt is larger than our entire economy.” He then suggests that we “decrease the size of government,” “cut spending,” and that we add a Balanced Budget amendment to the Constitution, which is basically the worst idea ever. Walter has already raised $383,945 (and borrowed $100,000 more); half of that was provided by just 72 individuals who contributed the legal maximum.

How about Elise Stefanik (29), a New York Republican running for the House? A long-time D.C. insider and Harvard grad, Stefanik was raised by a family that owns a flooring company worth upwards of $50 million (per manta.com, h/t DailyKos). A consummate D.C. insider who’s now posing as a local small businesswoman, her campaign site is much more cagey than any of the other candidates I researched for this piece. She resorts to generalities when discussing most issues, but does tout “fiscal responsibility,” stressing the need to “balance the budget and pay down the national debt.” Stefanik has already raised a staggering $836,126 from a wide-ranging group of individuals, companies, PACs and party leadership.

...Wealth has always been a feature of American democracy, and perhaps these concerns seem overwrought. But the changing shape of America’s upper class, the $15 trillion projected to flow from the old to the young in the coming decades, is a force too powerful to be ignored or overlooked. As long as the cost of running for office continues to rise, the pool of potential candidates will continue to shrink. We must address this new reality before trust in government erodes beyond repair.

Without political intervention this country will become increasingly aristocratic, and faith in our democracy and her institutions will continue to diminish. That might be an acceptable condition for those affluent individuals who’ve already made their fortunes, who’ve seen their wealth rise to unprecedented heights in recent years.

But for the rest of us? Aristocracy can only spell disaster.

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Andrew Cuomo-- The Richard M. Nixon Of The Democratic Party?

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2 crooks- Cuomo and Klein, a perfect match

If your gut tells you that Andrew Cuomo is a sleazy transactional careerist who has no problem living in a corrupt political environment and making it work for him... give your gut a pat on the back. This morning, the NY Times' top political investigative reporter, Bill Rashbaum, along with colleagues Susanne Craig and Tom Kaplan, explained how Cuomo hobbled state ethics investigations. Corrupt is the nature of conservativism. It always was and always will be. Don't ever mix Andrew Cuomo up with his dad.
With Albany rocked by a seemingly endless barrage of scandals and arrests, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo set up a high-powered commission last summer to root out corruption in state politics. It was barely two months old when its investigators, hunting for violations of campaign-finance laws, issued a subpoena to a media-buying firm that had placed millions of dollars’ worth of advertisements for the New York State Democratic Party.

The investigators did not realize that the firm, Buying Time, also counted Mr. Cuomo among its clients, having bought the airtime for his campaign when he ran for governor in 2010.

Word that the subpoena had been served quickly reached Mr. Cuomo’s most senior aide, Lawrence S. Schwartz. He called one of the commission’s three co-chairs, William J. Fitzpatrick, the district attorney in Syracuse.

“This is wrong,” Mr. Schwartz said, according to Mr. Fitzpatrick, whose account was corroborated by three other people told about the call at the time. He said the firm worked for the governor, and issued a simple directive:

“Pull it back.”

The subpoena was swiftly withdrawn. The panel’s chief investigator explained why in an email to the two other co-chairs later that afternoon.

“They apparently produced ads for the governor,” she wrote.

The pulled-back subpoena was the most flagrant example of how the commission, established with great ceremony by Mr. Cuomo in July 2013, was hobbled almost from the outset by demands from the governor’s office.

While the governor now maintains he had every right to monitor and direct the work of a commission he had created, many commissioners and investigators saw the demands as politically motivated interference that hamstrung an undertaking that the governor had publicly vowed would be independent.
Remember Nixon's Saturday Night Massacre (1973), the straw the broke the camel's back in the then-unfolding Watergate scandal? Attorney General Elliot Richardson had appointed Archibald Cox as an independent special prosecutor to investigate Watergate and when Cox proved too independent and too competent, Nixon demanded Richardson fire Cox. Richardson resigned instead. Nixon then turned to Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus and gave him the same directive. Ruckelshaus resigned as well and Nixon then turned to a young far right ideologue in the Department who was already known as a mindless zombie to do the task. Robert Bork, later rejected for the Supreme Court because of it, fired Cox. Apparently there were no Richardsons or Ruckelshauses in the Cuomo scandal, just Borks.
The commission developed a list of promising targets, including a lawmaker suspected of using campaign funds to support a girlfriend in another state and pay tanning-salon bills. The panel also highlighted activities that it saw as politically odious but perfectly legal, like exploiting a loophole to bundle enormous campaign contributions.

But a three-month examination by the New York Times found that the governor’s office deeply compromised the panel’s work, objecting whenever the commission focused on groups with ties to Mr. Cuomo or on issues that might reflect poorly on him.

Ultimately, Mr. Cuomo abruptly disbanded the commission halfway through what he had indicated would be an 18-month life. And now, as the Democratic governor seeks a second term in November, federal prosecutors are investigating the roles of Mr. Cuomo and his aides in the panel’s shutdown and are pursuing its unfinished business.

Before its demise, Mr. Cuomo’s aides repeatedly pressured the commission, many of whose members and staff thought they had been given a once-in-a-career chance at cleaning up Albany. As a result, the panel’s brief existence-- and the writing and editing of its sole creation, a report of its preliminary findings-- was marred by infighting, arguments and accusations. Things got so bad that investigators believed a Cuomo appointee was monitoring their communications without their knowledge. Resignations further crippled the commission. In the end, the governor got the Legislature to agree to a package of ethics reforms far less ambitious than those the commission had recommended-- a result Mr. Cuomo hailed as proof of the panel’s success.

...Mr. Cuomo said early on that the commission would be “totally independent” and free to pursue wrongdoing anywhere in state government, including in his own office. “Anything they want to look at, they can look at-- me, the lieutenant governor, the attorney general, the comptroller, any senator, any assemblyman,” he said last August.

...Yet, The Times found that the governor’s office interfered with the commission when it was looking into groups that were politically close to him. In fact, the commission never tried to investigate his administration.

Beyond that, Mr. Cuomo’s office said, the commission needed the governor’s guiding hand because it was, simply, a mess: Its staff was plagued by “relationship issues” and was “mired in discord.” The commissioners, whom he earlier called some of New York’s sharpest governmental and legal minds, “did not understand the budget or legislative process or how state government worked,” the statement said. Their subpoenas often had “no logic or basis,” and those that touched on the governor’s supporters were more for show than for legitimate investigative purposes, the statement said.
Cuomo has put himself forward as the natural candidate of the Republican wing of the Democratic Party if Hillary stumbles or decides not to run. What a cruel ending of the already frayed relationship between progressives and the Democratic Party that would be!




UPDATE

And Rachel Maddow takes a swing at the developing scandal:



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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Eating Native Foods Is One Of The Pleasures Of Foreign Travel-- Being Careful With Your Restaurant Choices Might Keep You Alive

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You maybe be aware that we also have a travel blog-- and we cover eating in strange places-- whether the bacon craze in Jersey City, the raw food craze in London, how to eat healthy in Bali and Bangkok or even the best eatery in Mali. And we always try to alert readers to problems with food safety-- contaminated bottled water here, filthy food there and... well an article by David Sedaris prompted us-- precisely 3 years ago-- to ask the question How Important Is Food In Determining Where You Travel? Hygiene? Everything is clean and even pristine in Japan, he asserts, but not in China. I'll skip the parts about the toilets-- but feel from to hit the link and read it all--and head right off to the a restaurant he ran across called Farming Family Happiness:
As far as I know there wasn't a menu. Rather, the family worked at their convenience, with whatever was handy or in season. There was a rooster parading around the backyard and then there just wasn't. After the cook had slit its throat, he used it as the base for five separate dishes, one of which was a dreary soup with two feet, like inverted salad tongs, sticking out of it. Nothing else was nearly as recognisable.

I'm used to standard butchering: here's the leg, the breast, etc. At the Farming Family Happiness, rather than being carved, the rooster was senselessly hacked, as if by a blind person, a really angry one with a thing against birds. Portions were reduced to shards, mostly bone, with maybe a scrap of meat attached. These were then combined with cabbage and some kind of hot sauce.

Another dish was made entirely of organs, which again had been hacked beyond recognition. The heart was there, the lungs, probably the comb and intestines as well. I don't know why this so disgusted me. If I was a vegetarian, OK, but if you're a meat eater, why draw these arbitrary lines? "I'll eat the thing that filters out toxins but not the thing that sits on top of the head, doing nothing?" And why agree to eat this animal and not that one?

I remember reading a few years ago about a restaurant in the Guangdong province that was picketed and shut down because it served cat. The place was called The Fangji Cat Meatball Restaurant, which isn't exactly hiding anything. Go to Fangji and you pretty much know what you're getting. My objection to cat meatballs is not that I have owned several cats, and loved them, but that I try not to eat things that eat meat. Like most westerners I tend towards herbivores, and things that like grain: cows, chickens, sheep, etc. Pigs eat meat-- a pig would happily eat a human-- but most of the pork we're privy to was raised on corn or horrible chemicals rather than other pigs and dead people.

There are distinctions among the grazing animal eaters as well. People who like lamb and beef, at least in north America, tend to draw the line at horse, which in my opinion is delicious. The best I've had was served at a restaurant in Antwerp, a former stable called, cleverly enough, The Stable. Hugh was right there with me, and though he ate the same thing I did, he practically wept when someone in China mentioned eating sea horses. "Oh, those poor things," he said. "How could you?"

I went, "Huh?"

It's like eating poultry but taking a moral stand against those chocolate chicks they sell at Easter. "A sea horse is not related to an actual horse," I said. "They're fish, and you eat fish all the time. Are you objecting to this one because of its shape?"

He said he couldn't eat sea horses because they were friendly and never did anyone any harm, this as opposed to those devious, bloodthirsty lambs whose legs we so regularly roast with rosemary and new potatoes.

The dishes we had at the Farming Family Happiness were meant to be shared, and as the pretty woman with the broad face brought them to the table, the man across from me beamed and reached for his chopsticks. "You know," he said, "this country might have its ups and downs but it is virtually impossible to get a bad meal here."

I didn't say anything.
Many Americans think they can avoid that kind of collision with alien reality by sticking to a now ubiquitous McDonald's or KFC. Bad news on that front as well. Note: I have no trouble fasting for a few days or even a week when I have to-- and I would certainly resort to that than ever consider eating in a McDonald's or any facsimile abroad. There's one on the ground floor of the apartment we always rent in Bangkok. Just walking through it-- a shortcut to the elevator-- makes me want to throw up, although it's always filled with happy middle class Thais and relieved American tourists. Is the food they serve filthy and unhealthy? I always assumed so-- and that has been borne out this week by another food scandal in good ole China, a virtual cesspool to begin with. McDonald's and the other fast food companies have been buying meat from a typical food supplier-- typical because in the unregulated universe of Ayn Rand capitalism that holds sway there-- even serving human bits and pieces is within the realm of possibility-- as long as it's profitable.
[A]n undercover local TV reporter found workers repackaging and selling expired and spoiled meat at Shanghai Husi Food Co., owned by the Illinois-based OSI Group. The Shanghai Food and Drug Administration has halted Husi’s operations.

The latest food safety scandal could be a blow to McDonald’s and Yum [KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell] as both hopes to expand in the Chinese market. The pair has already vowed in 2012 to ensure the safety of food they serve after China Central Television reported the companies may have sold chicken fed with unapproved antibiotic drugs and growth hormones.

The Husi investigation shows that the culture of food safety still hasn’t taken root in China, where infants have been killed and sickened after consuming milk powder tainted by industrial chemical melamine. Shaun Rein, founder and managing director of the China Market Research Group, once told me that the problem lies in the country’s porous and outdated supply chain, where every link could go awry.
Tourists and the Chinese middle class expect foreign restaurants to be more reliable and less likely to kill them or make them sick. But we're talking about McDonald's, KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell so... I wouldn't eat in one down the road from where I live let alone in China or anywhere else. They serve garbage and their food and business culture is garbage. So what else could anyone possibly you expect? Starbucks? The Husi Food Co scandal has moved across the Sea of Japan.
The scandal surrounding Husi Food, which is owned by OSI Group of Aurora, Illinois, has added to a string of safety scares in China over milk, medicines and other goods that have left the public wary of dairies, restaurants and other suppliers.

Food safety violations will be “severely punished,” the food agency said on its website.

Starbucks Corp. on Tuesday said it removed from its shelves sandwiches made with chicken that originated at Husi. Burger King Corp. said it stopped using hamburger it received from a supplier that used product from Husi. Pizza restaurant chain Papa John’s International Inc. announced it stopped using meat from Husi.

In Japan, McDonald’s Corp. said it stopped selling McNuggets at more than 1,300 outlets that used chicken supplied by Husi. It said the Shanghai company had been supplying chicken to it since 2002.
Let's hope the "severe punishment" will include extraditing American ex-bankster, billionaire Sheldon Lavin, OSI's sole owner (most of whose political donations go through the Desert Caucus).

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Can the ideological perversions of two unapologetic far-right-wing activists on the District Circuit Court of Appeals lead to defunding Obamacare?

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Plus a promise of thoughts-to-come about James Garner

Yes, justice is supposed to be blind, in the sense of being impervious to outside influences. Unfortunately, the two right-wing crusaders on the District Circuit Court of Appeals who channeled their hostility toward the ACA aren't blind, they're dumb and dishonest.

by Ken

You've no doubt already heard that, as the washingtonpost.com headline put it this afternoon, "Federal appeals courts issue contradictory rulings on health-law subsidies." Which was at least an improvement over the earlier headline, before the announcement of the second ruling: "Federal appeals court panel deals major blow to health law," which spawned pithy broadsides like this blurb on a washingtonpost.com post: "The decision to strike down tax subsidies in federal-exchange states deals a major blow to the Affordable Care Act."

Here's how the Post's Sandhya Somashekhar and Amy Goldstein began their afternoon report on the conflicting rulings, issued about two hours and 100 miles apart:
Two federal appellate courts handed down contradictory rulings Tuesday on the legality of a central part of the Affordable Care Act that provides insurance subsidies to millions of Americans in three dozen states.

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the subsidies available under the 2010 health-care law may be provided only to residents of states that set up their own health insurance marketplaces. Less than two hours later, the Richmond-based 4th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the subsidies, ruling in a separate case that the law’s language was ambiguous, giving the Obama administration the authority to allow the subsidies nationwide.

The divergent rulings increase the likelihood that the question will be decided by the Supreme Court. If the subsidies ultimately are struck down for states that did not set up their own marketplaces, it would be a crippling blow to the federal program, dramatically reducing the ability of low- and middle-income Americans to pay for health insurance, which is now mandatory for most people. . . .
Well, the Obama health-care law may in fact be in jeopardy, considering the species of quasi-judicial life forms a case may encounter as it moves its way up the federal court system to the very pinnacle, which is where, finally, disagreements between the U.S. circuit courts of appeals are resolved. We already know that there are five justices sitting on the Supreme Court who pay only nominal attention to the law and the Constitution, as they happen to align with those justices' deeply held biases and ideological perversions.

But for the record, we're not talking about two circuit court panels that looked deeply into the legal particulars of the case and in all honesty came up with divergent conclusions.

Now I'm prepared to believe that the Fourth Circuit panel did more or less what I just described: look deeply into the legal particulars of its case and come up with its best understanding of the law. But that sure as shootin' isn't what happened with the panel of the District Circuit.

There the two Republican judges, Raymond Randolph (appointed by Bush the Father) and Thomas Griffith (appointed by Bush the Son), who formed the 2-1 majority by which Obamacare would be defunded in states where the health-care marketplaces are federal rather than state entities, simply hung their rigid far-right-wing dogma on what ThinkProgress's Ian Milhiser described in his earlier post today as "a proofreading error" in the ACA, to produce a result that makes sense only when we know that Judge Randolph has already been agitating against the law and during oral arguments actively advocated for the "fuck Obamacare" side.

Here's Ian M on the wacko scumbag who wrote today's jackass, almost totally anti-factual District Circuit ruling:
Judge Randolph is a staunchly conservative judge who spent much of the oral argument in this case acting as an advocate for the anti-Obamacare side. Randolph complained, just a few weeks before President Obama would announce that the Affordable Care Act had overshot its enrollment goal, that the launch of the Affordable Care Act was “an unmitigated disaster” and that its costs “have gone sky-high.” At one point, Randolph also cut off Judge Harry Edwards, the sole Democratic appointee on the panel, to cite an editorial published by the conservative Investor’s Business Daily to prove the argument that Obamacare should be defunded.

The Investor’s Business Daily is not known as a particularly reliable source on health policy. In 2009, for example, it published an editorial arguing that Stephen Hawking, the British physicist who is an Englishman from the United Kingdom, “wouldn’t have a chance in the U.K., where the National Health Service would say the life of this brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless.”
Ian isn't much kinder to Judge Griffith, who "has a reputation has a more moderate judge."
In 2012, Griffith’s colleague, Judge Janice Rogers Brown, published a concurring opinion suggesting that all labor, business or Wall Street regulation is constitutionally suspect. “America’s cowboy capitalism,” Brown claimed, “was long ago disarmed by a democratic process increasingly dominated by powerful groups with economic interests antithetical to competitors and consumers. And the courts, from which the victims of burdensome regulation sought protection, have been negotiating the terms of surrender since the 1930s.” Later in her opinion, Brown suggested that the Court went off the rails when it “decided economic liberty was not a fundamental constitutional right.” In the early Twentieth Century, conservative justices relied on ideas of “economic liberty” that were discarded in the 1930s in order to strike down laws protecting workers’ right to organize, laws ensuring a minimum wage and laws prohibiting employers from overworking their employees.

Griffith did not join Brown’s opinion, but his explanation for why he did not do so is instructive — “[a]lthough by no means unsympathetic to [Brown's] criticism nor critical of [her] choice to express [her] perspective, I am reluctant to set forth my own views on the wisdom of such a broad area of the Supreme Court’s settled jurisprudence that was not challenged by the petitioner.” So Griffith is “sympathetic” to Brown’s argument that much of the Twentieth Century is unconstitutional, but he did not want to join her opinion because the arguments she made were not raised by the parties in that case. Halbig, by contrast, presented Griffith with a much more direct attack on supposedly “burdensome regulation” brought by the forces of “cowboy capitalism.”

SO WHAT'S IT ALL ABOUT?

What is this "proofreading error," as Ian M describes it? Why don't we let him explain?
The two Republicans’ decision rests on a glorified typo in the Affordable Care Act itself. Obamacare gives states a choice. They can either run their own health insurance exchange where their residents may buy health insurance, and receive subsidies to help them pay for that insurance if they qualify, or they can allow the federal government to run that exchange for them. Yet the plaintiffs’ in this case uncovered a drafting error in the statute where it appears to limit the subsidies to individuals who obtain insurance through “an Exchange established by the State.” Randolph and Griffith’s opinion concludes that this drafting error is the only thing that matters. In their words, “a federal Exchange is not an ‘Exchange established by the State,’” and that’s it. The upshot of this opinion is that 6.5 million Americans will lose their ability to afford health insurance, according to one estimate.
Ian acknowledges, "It is indeed true that a single phrase of the Affordable Care Act, if read in isolation, suggests that Congress intended only state-run exchanges -- as opposed to federal exchanges -- to offer subsidies, but this provision is contradicted by numerous other provisions of the law." And he proceeds to set some of them out. The fact is, the Scumbag Judges appear to have pounced on the only mention in the entire law where it's possible to read in such a distinction between state exchanges and the backup federal ones.

And the bald assertion that "a federal Exchange is not an 'Exchange established by the State,' " is on the simple factual level 100 percent incorrect. As Ian points out, Congress always gets to define its own terms in a piece of legislation, and the Twin Scumbags hadn't been so ignorant, lazy, and/or dishonest, they could have availed themselves of the opportunity to inform themselves of what the ACA actually says on the subject. Another provision, Ian points out, indicateds that "any 'exchange' shall be an 'entity that is established by a State'"— language which indicates that federally run exchanges will be deemed to be “established by a state.”

There's a good deal else in the law that makes nonsense of the judicial excrement that flowed from Judge Raymond's stinkybutt into his ruling, starting with the ACA section title "Affordable Coverage Choices for All Americans." "If Randolph and Griffith are correct," says Ian, "Congress would have named that subtitle 'Affordable Coverage Choices for All Americans Except For Those Americans Who Live In States With Federally-Run Exchanges.' " Put it all together, and it's hard to see how any reasonable person could have any question about the intent of Congress here.

But Judge Stinkybutt isn't any reasonable person. It seems clear that he didn't give a good goddamn what the law says, or what the law is. He was after all, actively engaged as a crusading activist, for which the courts above him should not only strike him and his pathetic weasel accomplice Judge Griffith down but recommend that they do the right thing and, in view of their demonstrated inability to serve honestly as judges, step down from the court.

By contrast, Ian writes in his later post taking the ruling delivered two hours later into account:
Unlike the DC Circuit’s opinion, the Fourth Circuit is a model of judicial restraint and humility. Although all three judges on the Fourth Circuit panel were nominated by Democratic presidents (Judge Roger Gregory, who authored the opinion, has the unusual distinction of being nominated by both President Clinton and the second President Bush), the majority opinion does not claim, as the DC Circuit did, that this case is a slam-dunk for their political party’s preferred outcome. Indeed, it claims that different provisions of the law seem to conflict with one another, and that the meaning of the statute is ambiguous. Though Judge Gregory’s opinion concludes that the Obama Administration “make[s] the better of the two cases” regarding how the law should be read, he also writes that “we are not convinced that either of the purported statutory conflicts render Congress’s intent clear.”

Under the longstanding Chevron Doctrine, however, it is not the job of judges who are confronted with an ambiguous statute to read their preferred outcome into the law. Rather, the Supreme Court has ordered federal judges to defer to an agency’s reading of a law — in this case, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) — so long as “the agency’s answer is based on a permissible construction of the statute.” “We ‘will not usurp an agency’s interpretive authority by supplanting its construction with our own,” Gregory writes, “so long as the interpretation is not ‘arbitrary, capricious, or manifestly contrary to the statute.’”
"In the end," says Ian, "the battle between the Fourth Circuit and the DC Circuit is a battle over who gets to make law."
Normally, that power rests with Congress, but when a law is ambiguous, the Supreme Court has long recognized that courts should defer to the Executive Branch. This rule achieves two ends. It ensures that agencies with expertise on a particular area of law get to interpret that law, rather than leaving matters to inexpert judges. And it also ensures that the people who make important policy decisions are ultimately accountable to the American people.

If the electorate does not approve of the Obama Administration’s reading of this law, then the Fourth Circuit’s opinion permits them to vote for a different president who will read the law in a different way. The DC Circuit, however, would steal this decision away from the American people, and place it in the hands of a few unelected officials in black robes.

ABOUT JAMES GARNER

I should have gotten myself into gear faster, I know, since the death of James Garner on Saturday. But it has been an even more than usually hectic time for me, and I need a beat or two to collect some thoughts about the man behind one of the greatest characters, if not the greatest, in screen history. I'm shooting for tomorrow.
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Even If The Senate Dems Avoid A Wave, Pelosi Set The Fate Of The House Dems When She Reappointed Steve Israel

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Yesterday's NY Post found some nicely dressed young people who don't get drunk or get arrested for violent crimes and who knew how to use iPhones and dubbed them the next generation of Republicans, "throwbacks-- spurning drugs, crime and disorder, being sexually responsible and making sound choices about education. They might be the least disaffected, least rebellious kids since the Kennedy years. And that might have surprising political implications down the road." [Obviously The Post is clueless-- and this is the real future of the Republican Party-- but let's play along for a minute.] Absolutely... if Republicans just stop being the party of bigotry and hatred-- and kids never figure this economic stuff out-- they will have a chance to win the votes of these kids. Can they become pundits for the NY Post then?

Not everybody's first read of the morning is the NY Post. These days most people interested in politics start the day with Nate Cohn in the NY Times, right? And yesterday he was taking a less long-term view than are silly friends at the Post. He was looking at the upcoming Republican wave widely predicted for the November midterms. Or rather I should say he was looking for the wave or some sign there is a wave. He's not seein' it. He doesn't take Steve Israel's almost inexplicable incompetence into his calculations or talk about the coming disaster in the House, so I don't know how much credibility he will wind up with on the first Wednesday of November. He's saying the polls don't show a GOP takeover barreling down the pike-- even if he does bend over backwards to make believe Mark Warner (D-VA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) or Jeff Merkley (D-OR) were ever really vulnerable against their trio of fifth rate clownish opponents.
Republicans entered this election cycle with high hopes. President Obama’s approval ratings had sunk into the low 40s, and the rollout of the Affordable Care Act had been an unmitigated disaster. In an off-year election, Democrats weren’t expected to fully mobilize the young and diverse coalition that has given them an advantage in presidential elections. Off-years are also when a president’s party typically suffers significant losses.

This year seemed poised to turn into another so-called wave election, like in 2006 or 2010, when a rising tide of dissatisfaction with the incumbent party swept the opposition into power. Given a favorable midterm map, with so many Democratic Senate seats in play, some analysts suggested that Republicans could win a dozen of them, perhaps even picking up seats in states like Virginia, New Hampshire and Oregon.

The anti-Democratic wave might still arrive. But with three and a half months to go until November’s elections, the promised Republican momentum has yet to materialize.

The race for the Senate, at least right now, is stable. There aren’t many polls asking whether voters would prefer Democrats or Republicans to control Congress, but the Democrats appear to maintain a slight edge among registered voters. Democratic incumbents in red Republican states, who would be all but doomed in a Republican wave, appear doggedly competitive in places where Mitt Romney won by as much as 24 points in 2012.

...But as July turns to August, the G.O.P. is now on the clock. If there is to be a wave this November, the signs of a shift toward the G.O.P. ought to start to show up, somewhere, soon. Every day that goes by without a shift toward the G.O.P. increases the odds that there will not be a wave at all.

How could the Democrats dodge a wave, given the president’s weak ratings and the long history of the president’s party losing in midterms?

Part of it might come from the unpopularity of the Republican Party. The G.O.P. is less popular today than it was in 2010, when G.O.P. favorability ratings increased and Democratic ratings faltered in advance of the midterms. Mr. Obama’s approval ratings might also be deceptive: They’re mainly low because of minimal support from Republican leaners, not because Mr. Obama has lost an unusual amount of ground among his own supporters.
In presidential years, pundits just care about that race and in midterms they just care about the Senate. I agree that the Democrats might avoid the ultimate catastrophe in the battle to hold the Senate, but their weak majority will be a lot weaker even if they don't lose it and the hapless Michael Bennet (and Guy Cecil) will never measure up to Patty Murray's unbelievable series of unexpected victories in 2012 Senate races. But even while she was flushing away GOP hopes in Massachusetts, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Indiana, Virginia, West Virginia, Missouri, Ohio, Montana, Florida, and Michigan, Israel was demonstrating that Pelosi had selected the worst DCCC chairman in the history of DCCC chairmen.

Despite Murray's sweep and Obama's reelection, Israel never even approached winning back the House. Boehner had a 49 seat majority going in and a 41 seat majority after all this tens of millions of dollars were spent. Israel failed in recruiting and he failed in strategy. Pelosi reappointed him and he's doubled down on those same recruitment and strategic operations. And, of course, he will fail again, much worse this time, because he's learned nothing from his failure-- and insists his failure was actually a success-- and has just dug his heals in even worse this time than last time. By digging in an insisting on the DCCC backing a worthless Blue Dog in NC-11, for example, Israel handed Heath Shuler's seat over to Republican Mark Meadows. Missed opportunities due to bad recruitment and refusal to back progressives included open seats like MI-11 (Kerry Bentovolio) and OH-14 (David Joyce), both of which Israel is giving away again this year. Other seats Democrats probbaly would have won if Pelosi had appointed a vaguely competent DCCC chair instead of Israel:
CA-10 (Jeff Denham)
CA-21 (David Valadao)
CA-25 (Buck McKeon)
CA-31 (Gary Miller)
CO-06 (Mike Coffman)
FL-10 (Daniel Webster)
FL-13 (Bill Young)
FL-16 (Vern Buchanan)
FL-27 (Ileana Ros-Lehtinen)
IL-06 (Peter Roskam)
IL-13 (Rodney Davis)
MI-03 (Justin Amash)
MI-06 (Fred Upton)
MI-07 (Tim Walberg)
MI-08 (Mike Rogers)
MN-02 (John Kline)
MN-03 (Erik Paulsen)
MT-AL (Steve Daines)
NV-03 (Joe Heck)
NJ-03 (Jon Runyan)
NJ-05 (Scott Garrett)
NY-02 (Peter King)
NY-11 (Michael Grimm)
NY-19 (Chris Gibson)
NY-23 (Tom Reed)
PA-06 (Jim Gerlach)
PA-07 (Pat Meehan)
PA-08 (Mike Fitzpatrick)
PA-15 (Charlie Dent)
PA-15 (Joe Pitts)
VA-07 (Eric Cantor)
WA-08 (Dave Reichert)
WI-01 (Paul Ryan)
WI-07 (Sean Duffy)
wI-08 (Reid Ribble)
How many of these seats will Israel lose again-- and for the same reasons he lost them in 2012? Almost all of them. The Rothenberg Political Report's most recent ratings show just 51 seats "in play," although he takes far too much "information" from the DCCC and NRCC to serve as a reliable or even credible prognosticator.These are his categories:
PURE TOSS UP

Ron Barber (Blue Dog-AZ)
Scott Peters (New Dem-CA)
Mike Coffman (R-CO)
open Tom Latham (R-IA)
Brad Schneider New Dem-IL)
open Bill Owens (New Dem-NY)
Nick Rahall (Blue Dog-WV)

TOSS-UP/TILT DEMOCRAT

Ann Kirkpatrick (New Dem-AZ)
Joe Garcia (New Dem-FL)
John Tierney (D-MA)
Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH)

LEAN DEMOCRAT

open Gary Miller (R-CA)
Ami Bera (New Dem-CA)
John Barrow (Blue Dog-GA)
Bill Enyart (D-IL)
Cheri Bustos (Blue Dog-IL)
Collin Peterson (Blue Dog-MN)
Rick Nolan (D-MN)
Ann Kuster (New Dem-NH)
Tim Bishop (D-NY)
Michael "Mikey Suits" Grimm (R-NY)

DEMOCRAT FAVORED

Kirsten Sinema (Blue Dog-AZ)
Julia Brownley (D-CA)
Raul Ruiz (D-CA)
Patrick Murphy (New Dem-FL)
open Mike Michaud (New Dem-ME)
Sean Patrick Maloney (New Dem-NY)
Dan Maffei (New Dem-NY)
Pete Gallego (Blue Dog-TX)

TOSS-UP/TILT REPUBLICAN

David Valadao (R-CA)
Steve Southerland (R-FL)
Rodney Davis (R-IL)
Dan Benishek (R-MI)
Lee Terry (R-NE)
open Jon Runyan (R-NJ)
Chris Gibson (R-NY)

LEAN REPUBLICAN

open Tim Griffin (R-AR)
open Mike Rogers (R-MI)
Tom Reed (R-NY)
David Joyce (R-OH)
open Jim Gerlach (R-PA)
open Frank Wolf (R-VA)
open Shelley Moore Capito

REPUBLICAN FAVORED

Jeff Denham (R-CA)
Jackie Walorski (R-IN)
Kerry Bentivolio (R-MI)
Tim Walberg (R-MI)
open Steve Daines (R-MT)
Denny Heck (R-NV)
Bill Johnson (R-OH)
Mike Fitzpatrick (R-PA)
Notice that in Rothenberg's Beltway universe there are overall 51 seats in play, 25 Democratic-held seats and 26 Republican-held seats. However, of the Democratic seats, only 7 are actual Democrats, the rest all being useless Blue Dogs and New Dems from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party-- and that counts 3 cowardly Democratic freshmen, Bill Enyart, Julia Brownley and Raul Ruiz, as real Democrats when all 3 of them usually vote with the New Dems and Republicans on values issues. Most of the Democrats with seats in play deserve to lose and many of the vulnerable Republicans have Israel-recruited opponents who are way too lame to win, from Jennifer Garrison in Ohio, Patrick Henry Hayes in Arkansas and Jerry Cannon in Michigan to Sean Eldridge in New York and Ann Callis in Illinois.

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