Monday, July 9, 2012

Dark Side of the Verdict (At Least 15 Governors Indicate Rejection of Medicaid Expansion $$$$) Clown Show Capper? Scandalmonger? "Nothing Will Be Done If We Succumb To Them"

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[BREAKING NEWS: Three Ways the Rich and Powerful Have Cheated the Young Out of Their Futures

Rick Perry Announces Texas Won’t Implement the Affordable Care Act, Leaving Millions of Texans Uninsured]

Sometimes I wonder if the so-called modern day progressives (or Libruls!) aren't terminally guilty of the exact errors in thinking (wishful, to be kind about it) that the rightwingnuts so dismissively attribute to them. And the newly received precious knowledge regarding Justice Roberts' fair-minded ACA opinion fits right into the jive.

Dark Side of the Tune?

The individual mandate is constitutional and the media spin is in. In switching his vote at the eleventh hour and upholding the central pillar of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — albeit as a tax — Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts not only came to the rescue of the president’s primary domestic achievement, but also to the rescue of the court itself. With the stroke of his judicial pen, Roberts moved the institution away from the partisan divide that has crippled the country’s civic life and politics and restored the court’s reputation as an independent bulwark committed only to the rule of law. So let the canonizations of the chief begin; at least the branch of government under his wise guidance is above the fray.

Except that the court isn’t above the fray; it’s smack in the middle of it. To be sure, the spin has some things right. The outcome of the Obamacare ruling was both unexpected and a victory for the president. The survival of the mandate also will enable millions of Americans to obtain health insurance, which, while falling substantially short of universal coverage, is a bold improvement over the status quo.

But the spin omits a darker side to the controlling opinion authored by the chief justice — a side that when exposed shows that little has changed in the overall long-term political and constitutional direction of the Roberts court. That direction remains very much on target, aimed at shifting the balance of constitutional authority away from the federal government, at least as far as social programs are concerned, in favor of more conservative and cash-poor state governments in a return to a pre-New Deal era form of federalism that in the process advances and protects the interests of corporations above all other segments of society.

Ordinarily, we might have expected liberal pundits and commentators such as MSNBC headliners Lawrence O’Donnell, Rachel Maddow and Ed Schultz or New York Times Supreme Court reporter Adam Liptak to lead the way exposing the dark side of the Obamacare decision. But for the most part, they and many others have been preoccupied with promoting the dominant narrative of Roberts as judicial savior.

To get a sense of the dark side one has to turn, ironically, to the primary architect of the legal challenges to Obamacare, constitutional law professor Randy Barnett of the Georgetown University Law Center. In an Op-Ed in The Washington Post on June 29, Barnett explains that the challenge to Obamacare had two objectives: saving the nation from the Affordable Care Act and saving the Constitution. In his estimation, and in the view it should be added of like-minded conservative activists from the Federalist Society and the Cato Institute, the Roberts opinion was a split decision, and on balance his side prevailed. Barnett and his cronies lost the battle over the Affordable Care Act but won the war over the Constitution.

First and foremost, Barnett reasons, his side won on the commerce clause. The administration sought to uphold the individual mandate as a valid exercise of congressional authority under the commerce clause of the Constitution both because the act itself (Subtitle F, Part I, to be exact) explicitly states that the mandate is warranted because buying health insurance “substantially affects interstate commerce,” and because the commerce clause since 1937 has been broadly interpreted to uphold a wide array of national initiatives in areas including fair labor standards, civil rights and environmental protection.

In striking down the administration’s commerce clause contentions, Roberts’ analysis accepted without qualification the position Barnett and company had advocated — that the regulation of interstate commerce may not include mandates to participate in commercial activity, whether the activity is one that accounts for more than 17 percent of GDP and that every person eventually will engage in, such as receiving medical care, or the hapless analogy of buying broccoli. Most important, the analysis, Barnett argues, is a “binding holding for future courts to follow,” firmly establishing limits to federal authority where none previously existed.

In Barnett’s view, the Supreme Court also handed his side a decisive victory on the constitutional spending powers of Congress, overturning as “coercive” Obamacare’s mandatory expansion of Medicaid, marking the first time since the New Deal that the court has invalidated a law for exceeding the spending power. The Medicaid expansion — which had required states, largely at federal expense, to increase the number of poor people covered by Medicaid or face a total loss of Medicaid funding — is in jeopardy as right-wing governors from such states as Louisiana, Florida and Wisconsin threaten not to participate in the expansion, which is now optional. Also placed in jeopardy are any future federal spending initiatives that the Roberts court might deem similarly coercive.

“All of this represents,” Barnett continues, “a fundamental departure from how most law professors viewed constitutional law” before the Roberts opinion was issued. Indeed, given the court’s past precedents on the commerce clause, an article in Bloomberg Businessweek on the eve of the oral arguments in March predicted that the individual mandate would be upheld by a resounding vote of 8 to 1, with Clarence Thomas voicing the lone dissent.

Plainly, the outcome of the Obamacare litigation should have been a no-brainer. It became instead a nail-biter decided on the slenderest of reeds (the power to tax) — a backup argument only belatedly embraced by the administration and, according to some news outlets, adopted only at the last minute by Roberts himself.

The reason for Roberts’ turnaround is also plain. The chief justice — who once clerked for William Rehnquist and served as a deputy solicitor general under George H.W. Bush — hasn’t suddenly morphed into a consensus building moderate. Nor have the court’s other conservatives changed. If anything, they have evolved into an even more mean-spirited version of the tribunal that handed down Citizens United two years ago.

Next term, as the nation votes in a presidential election that could determine the court’s composition for a generation, the docket will include cases on affirmative action, voting rights and in all likelihood same-sex marriage. The stakes couldn’t be higher. For American liberals and progressives, it’s time to end the celebrations over Obamacare and refocus on the long hard slog of reclaiming the court.



Maybe people are starting to get it.

It's the people versus the corporations.

Not the people versus some dark suited monster with hidden eyes and socks made out of plastique. But, a man wearing a suit and a tie, well spoken, manicured nails, and a smart phone. On his wall he has an MBA, and a picture taken with a politician.

He robs you with a pen. He doesn't jack your car, he has it repossessed. He doesn't hold your family for ransom, he gets you to co sign on a student loan.

Your NRA membership won't protect you again him. Nor will your shot gun purchased for home defense.

When you look for him, he won't be found, he's on his way by corporate jet, to some clean beach in Paraguay. Decontaminating himself from your environments with a nice cool drink...

While you fry in the midwest, burning like eggs on a skillet that's way to hot....Thanks to global warming.. that he created and abetted.

If you ever actually thought that the Rethugs (term includes the TP'ers and usual hanger-on thuglife) would give up in the face of the election of Obama . . . well . . . you can keep hoping for the next election?

The latest word on markets and politics from my buddy R. J. Sigmund at's been reported that as many as 15 governors have indicated they will either flat-out reject the Medicaid expansion money or are leaning in that direction; that includes two of the states with the highest number who'd be eligible; Florida, which has 44% of its non-elderly people making less than 139% of the Federal poverty line, and south carolina, which has 39% of its non elderly poor enough to be eligible under the ACA... the WaPo has a state by state graphic that shows what happens if your state should opt out of the Medicaid expansion; unsurprisingly, its the poorest that get screwed, because they are also ineligible for tax credits to purchase health insurance....the Medicaid expansion was meant to give coverage to about 17 million of us by 2019, accounting for almost half of the 32 million people the bill promised to insure, so a major revolt by the states could just about gut the purpose of a national health care law...moreover, the supreme court ruling will allow states to cut off those poor who are already on the Medicaid rolls, and also opt out of the ACA program to set up state level insurance exchanges designed to provide subsidies to help people with low and moderate incomes afford coverage...

Charles Pierce has the best Mittens comedy routine at Esquire ever. Pierce puts the capper on the end note of the Clown Circus. Get a subscription to Esquire when you visit. It's the cheapest good read ("last best deal") in the country today.

Beyond Misery in America: Willard Romney

By Charles Pierce, Esquire Magazine

07 July 12

illard Romney, onetime dauphin prince of the Mexican outback and current presumptive nominee of the only Republican party we have, has been having a rough week there up at his lakeside retreat in the small town of Silly Rich Bastard, New Hampshire. He's gotten himself tangled up (again) with his previous incarnations, particularly the Self that once deigned to govern Massachusetts for about 11 minutes back in the early Aughts. That one put in place a mandate requiring that all citizens of the Commonwealth (God Save It!) buy health insurance, or else pay a penalty that would be collected by the state revenoo'ers.
The current Willard, of course, is opposed to mandates because he is the nominee of a party full of crazy people. He and his campaign have spent a week trying to decide if the crazy people are less likely to disembowel them if they call such a mandate a "penalty" or a "tax" in relation to the Obama administration's success at bringing Romney's original Massachusetts plan to the masses. He's also being sniped at by various allegedly non-crazy leaders of his party for not being the candidate of their dreams. All of which seems to be harshing the general mellow up in the piney woods. 
Once again, I put upon my head my speechwriter's hat - it is a lovely green fedora with a red feather in the band - and offer the Romney campaign my services in this strange, floundering hour of its discontent. I believe it doesn't have to be this way. I believe in addressing the problems head-on, as you will see.
I'm Mitt Romney, bitches, and I'm all you got left.
Look at me up here in one of my three primary residences, zipping around Lake You Can't Afford It in my jet-ski with just enough chest hair showing, and gathering my incredibly beautiful, incredibly wonderful, incredibly wealthy family around me to celebrate the Fourth Of July the way all Americans do, except with better cars. It's almost hard to believe up here that I actually had to go all around the country to buy this nomination. I could've closed the deal from my hammock here. No, though, I was willing to go out and meet some of those people. And now, I'm back in the hammock anyway and,
I'm Mitt Romney, bitches, and I'm all you got left.
Stop sweating me, okay? It's time for my nap. Tell Kristol to shut up or I'll look under the lawn chairs until I find enough loose change to buy that little magazine of his and sell it to the publisher of Biker Mamas for a 200-percent profit. Let Kristol go cover Bike Week in Laconia next summer if he wants to run his yap. And Murdoch? He doesn't like me? Tell you what: How about I get in there and revoke that tin citizenship medal that he's got and let him go back to selling titty magazines to sheep farmers in Queensland. He's over here because people like me allow him to be over here. Goddamn immigrant. I hope the senile old fool is tapping my phone, because I won't have to shout at him that,
I'm Mitt Romney, bitches, and I'm all you got left.
In case you haven't noticed, they're still all coming to me. I've been running them through the obstacle course up here all week. Jindal's parking cars, and Pawlenty's almost got the entire pool cleaned out, and Portman mixes a fine dark-and-stormy for the cocktail hour every day. Ann's got Portman cleaning out the stalls. Fine man with a shovel, that Portman, but, Jesus H. Christ Come To Arkansas, he's boring. Ayotte was around this afternoon, but she has to be back on the pole by 8:00 because I promised one of the kids - Tagg, or Tripp, or Tybalt, or Queequeg or whatever the hell his name is - a show for his friends tonight. They will do anything just to be the person I get to send to the funerals of the presidents of countries I could buy for what I've spent on alfalfa for that damn horse, because, well:
I'm Mitt Romney, bitches, and I'm all you got left.
These people all have futures, or they think they do, anyway. (Even Jindal does, like he's got a shot with those hayshakers I met this year. Most of them will ask him to sell them a lottery ticket.) You think they'd be up here in chipmunk country sucking up to me and all the rest of the walking orthodonture in my family if they didn't know what's what in the real world? You think they'd be demeaning themselves in all these different ways if they didn't know I could deliver?
You know what the difference is right now between Tim Pawlenty and the guy who trims my hedges? A green card. You don't think I could send Portman out for whiskey and Chinese hookers any time I want to? Is it a penalty? Is it a tax? You think I care? I can write a check and buy English and change words to mean anything I want them to mean. "Horse" is now "deduction." See how it works? "Penalty" and "tax" and "fee" all mean the same thing. They mean I don't have to pay them. I own English now. Say something. Go ahead, I dare you. Say something and you owe me a buck royalties and you better believe I'm coming for it because,
I'm Mitt Romney, bitches, and I'm all you got left.

Sources close to the Romney campaign have told the blog that the campaign is unlikely to use this speech, or the ideas therein, in part or in full.
Further adventures in speechwriting here, here, here, here, and here.

Robert Reich exposes everything and everyone. As usual. (And is a voice crying out truth in the dark as absolutely no one is listening with any type of power (or is that desire?) to exact penalities. Now.)

Imagine an Obama administration populated by middle-class supporting, knowledgeable financial advisors like Paul Krugman and Joe Stiglitz (although it should be noted that Krugman served - oh my! - on the Council of Economic Advisors during the Reagan administration and Lipsitz as an Obama early advisor stated "that whoever designed the Obama administration's bank rescue plan is 'either in the pocket of the banks or they’re incompetent' ") - whoops - they're disqualified;  but how about at least one very clear-sighted economist utilized by earlier Democratic administrations (instead of Wall Street ownies and their minions). Yeah, there I go again about Rubin's Boys, but Professor Reich would have lifted their blinders and perhaps even provided some much-needed bifocals.

The Wall Street Scandal of All Scandals

Saturday, July 7, 2012
Just when you thought Wall Street couldn’t sink any lower – when its myriad abuses of public trust have already spread a miasma of cynicism over the entire economic system, giving birth to Tea Partiers and Occupiers and all manner of conspiracy theories; when its excesses have already wrought havoc with the lives of millions of Americans, causing taxpayers to shell out billions (of which only a portion has been repaid) even as its top executives are back to making more money than ever; when its vast political power (via campaign contributions) has already eviscerated much of the Dodd-Frank law that was supposed to rein it in, including the so-called “Volker” Rule that was sold as a milder version of the old Glass-Steagall Act that used to separate investment from commercial banking – yes, just when you thought the Street had hit bottom, an even deeper level of public-be-damned greed and corruption is revealed.

Sit down and hold on to your chair.

What’s the most basic service banks provide? Borrow money and lend it out. You put your savings in a bank to hold in trust, and the bank agrees to pay you interest on it. Or you borrow money from the bank and you agree to pay the bank interest.

How is this interest rate determined? We trust that the banking system is setting today’s rate based on its best guess about the future worth of the money. And we assume that guess is based, in turn, on the cumulative market predictions of countless lenders and borrowers all over the world about the future supply and demand for the dough.
But suppose our assumption is wrong. Suppose the bankers are manipulating the interest rate so they can place bets with the money you lend or repay them – bets that will pay off big for them because they have inside information on what the market is really predicting, which they’re not sharing with you.
That would be a mammoth violation of public trust. And it would amount to a rip-off of almost cosmic proportion – trillions of dollars that you and I and other average people would otherwise have received or saved on our lending and borrowing that have been going instead to the bankers. It would make the other abuses of trust we’ve witnessed look like child’s play by comparison.
Sad to say, there’s reason to believe this has been going on, or something very much like it. This is what the emerging scandal over “Libor” (short for “London interbank offered rate”) is all about.
Libor is the benchmark for trillions of dollars of loans worldwide – mortgage loans, small-business loans, personal loans. It’s compiled by averaging the rates at which the major banks say they borrow.
So far, the scandal has been limited to Barclay’s, a big London-based bank that just paid $453 million to U.S. and British bank regulators, whose top executives have been forced to resign, and whose traders’ emails give a chilling picture of how easily they got their colleagues to rig interest rates in order to make big bucks. (Robert Diamond, Jr., the former Barclay CEO who was forced to resign, said the emails made him “physically ill” – perhaps because they so patently reveal the corruption.)
But Wall Street has almost surely been involved in the same practice, including the usual suspects — JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, and Bank of America – because every major bank participates in setting the Libor rate, and Barclay’s couldn’t have rigged it without their witting involvement.
In fact, Barclay’s defense has been that every major bank was fixing Libor in the same way, and for the same reason. And Barclays is “cooperating” (i.e., giving damning evidence about other big banks) with the Justice Department and other regulators in order to avoid steeper penalties or criminal prosecutions, so the fireworks have just begun.
There are really two different Libor scandals. One has to do with a period just before the financial crisis, around 2007, when Barclays and other banks submitted fake Libor rates lower than the banks’ actual borrowing costs in order to disguise how much trouble they were in. This was bad enough. Had the world known then, action might have been taken earlier to diminish the impact of the near financial meltdown of 2008.
But the other scandal is even worse. It involves a more general practice, starting around 2005 and continuing until – who knows? it might still be going on — to rig the Libor in whatever way necessary to assure the banks’ bets on derivatives would be profitable.
This is insider trading on a gigantic scale. It makes the bankers winners and the rest of us – whose money they’ve used for to make their bets – losers and chumps.
What to do about it, other than hope the Justice Department and other regulators impose stiff fines and even criminal penalties, and hold executives responsible?
When it comes to Wall Street and the financial sector in general, most of us suffer outrage fatigue combined with an overwhelming cynicism that nothing will ever be done to stop these abuses because the Street is too powerful. But that fatigue and cynicism are self-fulfilling; nothing will be done if we succumb to them.
The alternative is to be unflagging and unflinching in our demand that Glass-Steagall be reinstituted and the biggest banks be broken up. The question is whether the unfolding Libor scandal will provide enough ammunition and energy to finally get the job done.

Too bad there are so few progressives around anymore to make a big deal of this.

Or this:

Protected Concerted Activity

The law we enforce gives employees the right to act together to try to improve their pay and working conditions or fix job-related problems, even if they aren't in a union. If employees are fired, suspended, or otherwise penalized for taking part in protected group activity, the National Labor Relations Board will fight to restore what was unlawfully taken away. These rights were written into the original 1935 National Labor Relations Act and have been upheld in numerous decisions by appellate courts and by the U.S. Supreme Court. Recent cases involving a range of industries and employees are highlighted on the map below; please hover over a pin for a summary or click and the full story will appear below. (Click here.)

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