Thursday, October 30, 2014

Close Ties

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi got along really well with lobbyists.

Partners with a powerful Washington, D.C., law firm aren’t registered as Florida lobbyists, but that hasn’t stopped them from wining and dining Attorney General Pam Bondi the past four years to discuss clients.

Bondi dropped suits or declined to investigate cases after numerous behind-the-scenes interactions with the firm, Dickstein Shapiro, the New York Times reported Wednesday.

A Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald review shows none of the partners were registered to lobby in Florida, meaning their advocacy may have violated state law. They won’t be prosecuted unless someone files a sworn complaint with the state.

Cases involving Dickstein Shapiro clients that fizzled in Florida include Accretive Health, a Chicago-based hospital bill collection company shut down in Minnesota for six years because of abusive collection practices; Bridgepoint Education, a for-profit online school that Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller said had engaged in “unconscionable” sales practices; Herba­life, which had been investigated by federal and state authorities; and online reservation companies, including Travelocity and Priceline, on allegations that they were improperly withholding taxes on hotel rooms booked in the state.

Since 2011, Dickstein Shapiro has contributed $122,060 to the Republican Attorneys General Association, a super PAC that contributed $750,000 to Bondi’s re-election bid. She sits on RAGA’s executive committee.

[...]

It’s not the first time questions have arisen about how Bondi intermingles politics with her official duties.

She persuaded Gov. Rick Scott to postpone an execution in 2013 so she could host a political fundraiser. At about the same time, Bondi accepted $25,000 from Donald Trump three days after a spokeswoman said she would be reviewing a complaint filed by the New York attorney general against Trump’s for-profit schools. Though they’ve received complaints in Florida as well, Bondi’s office has yet to take action.

Look at it this way: she saved Florida taxpayers millions of dollars by not taking them to court, and those companies made millions of dollars by ripping off the people of Florida with scammy products and not paying taxes.  It’s the glibertarian’s dream come true.

The election is in five days.  Pam Bondi will win re-election in a walk.  That’s how we roll in Florida.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

And We’re Tired Of You

Aw, Chris Christie is annoyed at hearing about poor people.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) said Tuesday that he’s “tired” of hearing discussion on the minimum wage and seemed to suggest that a higher minimum wage isn’t something to “aspire to.”

“I gotta tell you the truth, I’m tired of hearing about the minimum wage, I really am,” Christie said during an event at the Chamber of Commerce in Washington, according to a recording of his remarks by the liberal opposition research group American Bridge.

“I don’t think there’s a mother or father sitting around a kitchen table tonight in America who are saying, ‘You know honey, if my son or daughter could just make a higher minimum wage, my God, all our dreams would be realized,” he added. “Is that what parents aspire to for their children?”

Well, I’m sure sorry that he’s tired of hearing about the minimum wage.  What a way to ruin his perfect day.  You know who else is tired of hearing about the minimum wage?  The mom who has to feed a family with the money she makes earning it, or the dad who has to pay for other things besides just food and shelter such as healthcare for a child, or the guy who has to work two minimum-wage jobs to pay for the long-term care for a disabled parent.

They’re fucking tired of hearing about the minimum wage, and one of the things they aspire to is getting through the day without being lectured on how boring it is to hear about it from someone who couldn’t last a week on minimum wage.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A Real Job

Hey, all you people at Burger King: according to Brad Schimel, the Republican candidate for Attorney General in Wisconsin, you don’t have a real job.

“I want every one of our neighbors to have a job again, a well-paid job, so we don’t have to argue about minimum wage for someone working at Burger King,” he said. “Let’s get them a real job.”

But meanwhile, until the pony and roses and rainbows show up, you’ll have to work at a poverty-level wage with no benefits or any kind of future beyond upselling for a large order of fries.  Ain’t that America?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Friday, October 10, 2014

Short Takes

State officials ask for an investigation into a fatal shooting of a black man in St. Louis.

ISIS threatening to overrun a province in western Iraq.

Hong Kong — The government backed out of a meeting with protestors.

West Virginia joins the marriage equality march.

Teeter-Totter — Wall Street goes through gyrations this week.

R.I.P. Jan Hooks, 57, actor on SNL and Designing Women.

Tropical Update: Invest 99L is north of Puerto Rico.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Short Takes

There’s a gun battle with ISIS going on in the Turkish border town of Kobani.

Five airports are stepping up screening of passengers arriving from West Africa.

Thomas Eric Duncan, the Ebola patient from Liberia who traveled to Dallas, died yesterday.

Idaho and Nevada: Justice Anthony Kennedy granted emergency stays on marriage equality, then lifted the one on Nevada.

White House alarmed by JP Morgan security breach.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Walmart Ditches Workers

This from Reuters:

Wal-Mart Stores Inc, the biggest U.S. private sector employer, said on Tuesday that its 1.3 million workers would have to pay more for healthcare and it would end benefits for some part-time staff in a move that could prompt other companies to follow suit.

The world’s largest retailer said it would raise health insurance premiums for its entire U.S. workforce beginning in January. In addition, Wal-Mart will end coverage for employees who work fewer than 30 hours a week, a change that will impact 2 percent of U.S. workers, or about 30,000 people.

Because the Walton family is going broke, right?

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Friday, October 3, 2014

Short Takes

The leader of Hong Kong refused to resign in the face of the Umbrella movement.

ISIS is pressing their attack on border towns in Syria and Iraq.

None of the 100 people who came in contact with the Ebola patient in Texas are showing symptoms.

Oil prices are dropping; crude is under $90 a barrel.

JP Morgan hacked; over 76 million households affected.

The Tigers got walloped 12-3 by the Orioles in Game 1 of the ALDS.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Monday, September 22, 2014

Just Like Old Times

Paul Krugman on the GOP blame-the-victim attack on the unemployed.

Last week John Boehner, the speaker of the House, explained to an audience at the American Enterprise Institute what’s holding back employment in America: laziness. People, he said, have “this idea” that “I really don’t have to work. I don’t really want to do this. I think I’d rather just sit around.” Holy 47 percent, Batman!

It’s hardly the first time a prominent conservative has said something along these lines. Ever since a financial crisis plunged us into recession it has been a nonstop refrain on the right that the unemployed aren’t trying hard enough, that they are taking it easy thanks to generous unemployment benefits, which are constantly characterized as “paying people not to work.” And the urge to blame the victims of a depressed economy has proved impervious to logic and evidence.

[...]

Is it race? That’s always a hypothesis worth considering in American politics. It’s true that most of the unemployed are white, and they make up an even larger share of those receiving unemployment benefits. But conservatives may not know this, treating the unemployed as part of a vaguely defined, dark-skinned crowd of “takers.”

My guess, however, is that it’s mainly about the closed information loop of the modern right. In a nation where the Republican base gets what it thinks are facts from Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, where the party’s elite gets what it imagines to be policy analysis from the American Enterprise Institute or the Heritage Foundation, the right lives in its own intellectual universe, aware of neither the reality of unemployment nor what life is like for the jobless. You might think that personal experience — almost everyone has acquaintances or relatives who can’t find work — would still break through, but apparently not.

Whatever the explanation, Mr. Boehner was clearly saying what he and everyone around him really thinks, what they say to each other when they don’t expect others to hear. Some conservatives have been trying to reinvent their image, professing sympathy for the less fortunate. But what their party really believes is that if you’re poor or unemployed, it’s your own fault.

Having just seen Ken Burns’ documentary on the history of the last 100 years in America as seen through the lens of the Roosevelts, it is a stark reminder to hear again the voice of a politician that essentially echoes that of the robber barons of the 1890′s and the 1920′s.  How little things have really changed since then, and even though it took wars and revolutions to try to change them, they still sound like John D. Rockefeller and J.P. Morgan: screw you if you haven’t got a million bucks lying around, and I don’t have to explain a damn thing to anybody.

Footnote:  On a brighter note, the heirs of Rockefeller have decided that they want nothing more to do with the oil business because of its impact on the climate.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Short Takes

Secretary of State Kerry meet with Arab leaders to build a coalition against ISIS.

European leaders agreed to tougher sanctions against Russia.

A newly-released video from Ferguson bolsters claims that Michael Brown was shot while surrendering.

What a surprise: Senate Republicans killed the Citizens United constitutional amendment.

Ted Cruz got booed off-stage by Arab Christians.

Tropical Update: Two areas of potential weather in the Atlantic are Invest 92L and TS Edouard.

The Tigers had a much-needed night off.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Bullshit Works

Digby cites a poll in the Wall Street Journal that says Republicans have a 10-point advantage on the economy.  This despite the fact that the economy under President Obama has done better than it did under Ronald Reagan and the fact that in general the economy usually does better with a Democrat in the White House than it does under those financial geniuses in the GOP.

This proves for the umpteenth time that the Republicans are very good at baffling the voters with bullshit about lower taxes and trickle-down growth while standing atop the rubble of the housing bubble and the worst recession in eighty years.  They stand in the way of anything that could remotely be seen as helping the people who need it the most and then count on their votes in November because they’ve dazzled them with trinkets and frightened them with abstract fears of gay marriage and affordable health insurance.

Republicans have been running the House for four years now and their approval rating is duking it out with ebola to see who’s less popular.  Given that, the voters will happily return 98% of the incumbents in November.  So it works.  Which is why they do it.  It’s a lot easier than actually governing.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Lousy Socialist

How can Barack Obama hold his head up as a commie pinko socialist when he’s doing a better job with the economy than Ronald Reagan?  Don’t ask me, ask Forbes.

When President Obama took office America was gripped in an offshoring boom, started years earlier, pushing jobs to the developing world.  Manufacturing was declining in America, and plants were closing across the nation.

This week the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) released its manufacturing report, and it surprised nearly everyone.  The latest Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) scored 59, two points higher than July and about that much higher than prognosticators expected.  This represents 63 straight months of economic expansion, and 25 consecutive months of manufacturing expansion.

New orders were up 3.3 points to 66.7, with 15 consecutive months of improvement and reaching the highest level since April, 2004 – five years prior to Obama becoming President.  Not surprisingly, this economic growth provided for 14 consecutive months of improvement in the employment index.  Meaning that the “grass roots” economy made its turn for the better just as the DJIA was reaching those highs back in 2013 – demonstrating that index is still the leading indicator for jobs that it has famously always been.

The stock market has converted the long-term growth in jobs and GDP into additional gains for investors.  Recently the S&P has crested 2,000 – reaching new all time highs.  Gains made by investors earlier in the Obama administration have further grown, helping businesses  raise capital and improving the nest eggs of almost all Americans.  And laying the foundation for recent, and prolonged job growth.

[...]

Economically, President Obama’s administration has outperformed President Reagan’s in all commonly watched categories.  Simultaneously the current administration has reduced the deficit, which skyrocketed under Reagan.  Additionally, Obama has reduced federal employment, which grew under Reagan (especially when including military personnel,) and truly delivered a “smaller government.”  Additionally, the current administration has kept inflation low, even during extreme international upheaval, failure of foreign economies (Greece) and a dramatic slowdown in the European economy.

Today, John Boehner asked yet again, “Where are the jobs?”

Ahem:

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) [last Friday] issued America’s latest jobs report covering August.  And it’s a disappointment.  The economy created an additional 142,000 jobs last month. After six consecutive months over 200,000, most pundits expected the string to continue, including ADP which just yesterday said 204,000 jobs were created in August.

Even though the plus-200,000 monthly string was broken (unless revised upward at a future date,) unemployment did continue to decline and is now reported at only 6.1%.  Jobless claims were just over 300,000; lowest since 2007.  Despite the lower than expected August jobs number, America will create about 2.5 million new jobs in 2014.

And that is great news.

Sorry, Mr. Speaker, but we know it’s hard to see anything when you have a bad case of cranial rectitus.

Citizens United Amendment Advances

A pleasant little surprise via TPM:

A Democratic-led constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and subsequent rulings loosening restrictions on money in politics moved forward in the Senate on Monday evening.

The procedural vote was 79 in favor, 18 against.

The vote means the Senate can begin debate on the measure. But it is highly unlikely to ultimately pass the chamber as it faces fierce Republican opposition. It would need to clear another 60-vote threshold in order to end debate and come to a final vote. And that final vote would require the support of two-thirds of senators to succeed.

The measure, proposed by Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM), would restore the legal right of Congress to establish campaign spending limits. Approved by committee on a party line basis in July, it is one of several pre-election votes Senate Democrats are planning in an attempt to highlight the contrast between the two parties before Americans head to the polls.

It has zero chances of passing, but at least they’re going to talk about it, and it will get the Republicans to tell us exactly why they believe that corporations are people, my friend.

They will claim that it re-writes the First Amendment, which is bullshit.  The amendment gives Congress the power to regulate campaign finance.  It does not itself regulate campaign finance.  And it has a clause that specifically states the amendment does not change the First Amendment.  But the big money backers of the GOP will pull out all the stops, so this amendment will have the lifespan of a spider on a hot griddle.