Thursday, May 30, 2013

Getting the Fuck Out Of Dodge

I'll be at my good friend's bachelor party for a few days, so no more posting for the week.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

So When They Say "The Banks Are Writing The Bills"...

That is literally the case:
WASHINGTON — Bank lobbyists are not leaving it to lawmakers to draft legislation that softens financial regulations. Instead, the lobbyists are helping to write it themselves.

One bill that sailed through the House Financial Services Committee this month — over the objections of the Treasury Department — was essentially Citigroup’s, according to e-mails reviewed by The New York Times. The bill would exempt broad swathes of trades from new regulation.

In a sign of Wall Street’s resurgent influence in Washington, Citigroup’s recommendations were reflected in more than 70 lines of the House committee’s 85-line bill. Two crucial paragraphs, prepared by Citigroup in conjunction with other Wall Street banks, were copied nearly word for word. (Lawmakers changed two words to make them plural.)

The lobbying campaign shows how, three years after Congress passed the most comprehensive overhaul of regulation since the Depression, Wall Street is finding Washington a friendlier place.

The cordial relations now include a growing number of Democrats in both the House and the Senate, whose support the banks need if they want to roll back parts of the 2010 financial overhaul, known as Dodd-Frank.

This legislative push is a second front, with Wall Street’s other battle being waged against regulators who are drafting detailed rules allowing them to enforce the law.

And as its lobbying campaign steps up, the financial industry has doubled its already considerable giving to political causes. The lawmakers who this month supported the bills championed by Wall Street received twice as much in contributions from financial institutions compared with those who opposed them, according to an analysis of campaign finance records performed by MapLight, a nonprofit group.

In recent weeks, Wall Street groups also held fund-raisers for lawmakers who co-sponsored the bills. At one dinner Wednesday night, corporate executives and lobbyists paid up to $2,500 to dine in a private room of a Greek restaurant just blocks from the Capitol with Representative Sean Patrick Maloney, Democrat of New York, a co-sponsor of the bill championed by Citigroup.

Industry officials acknowledged that they played a role in drafting the legislation, but argued that the practice was common in Washington. Some of the changes, they say, have gained wide support, including from Ben S. Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman. The changes, they added, were in an effort to reach a compromise over the bills, not to undermine Dodd-Frank.
Chris Hayes also had a really good segment on this, particularly about the freshmen democrats involved:

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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Who Needs Paid Vacation/Holidays Anyway?

Well, every other OECD country believes they're worthwhile. Thankfully my employer as well:

But seriously look at that chart. It's not like we're even close. Even the lowest end in this group of countries gets TEN paid vacation days, and the vast majority get double that!

Think about that for a second.

According to my (very, very good on benefits by US standards) contract, I will have to work at my job TEN (10!!!!!!!) years before I get 20 days of paid vacation. And I am definitely one of the lucky ones. On the other end of the spectrum, most retail jobs don't even have paid SICK days!!!

Richest country in the history of the world, just not for any of the people creating that wealth.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Douche Convention Held at White House

The President of the United States can call on basically anyone in the world to give them advice. Following his speech on national security last week, here is who Obama invited to the White House:
President Obama held a private meeting with top national security journalists on Thursday afternoon following his national security policy address at the National Defense University in Washington, POLITICO has learned.

Present at the meeting were Thomas Friedman, The New York Times columnist; Gerald Seib, The Wall Street Journal's Washington bureau chief; Fred Hiatt, the editorial page editor of The Washington Post; David Igantius, The Washington Post columnist; Jeffrey Goldberg, The Atlantic correspondent and Bloomberg View columnist; and Joe Klein, the Time magazine columnist.
The meeting, which was scheduled to last for one hour but lasted for two, was held in the Roosevelt Room of the White House.
Wow, what a loathsome/stupid group of people. I'm guessing they spent that second bonus hour pushing for a re-invasion of Iraq.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Rahm Emmanuel is a Cartoon Villan

I'm kind of amazed he can propose these two things just about simultaneously while keeping a straight face. The Chicago Reader does a good job of summarizing the situation:

When I heard that Mayor Emanuel intends to spend $55 million of your property tax dollars to build a hotel and basketball arena on the near-south side, I thought it must be a cruel joke he's playing on the people of Chicago.

Sort of like the way a sadistic little boy will pull the wings off a fly—just because he can.

Let's start with the mayor's timing. His grandiose announcement came about a week before the May 22 meeting at which his school board appointees are expected to vote on closing 54 schools.

The closings have been opposed by students, parents, teachers, and, in a number of instances, the Chicago Public Schools' own hearing officers. These opponents consider the plan wasteful, hasty, unwise, counterproductive, and dangerous. Other than that, it's great.

As I write, protesters have taken to the streets in the hopes that angry demonstrations will accomplish what crying, begging, pleading, and reasonable argument haven't: convince the mayor to change his mind.

So far, no luck. The mayor says he has to close the schools because the city's too broke to keep them open. Tough times requiring tough measures, and all that.

Of course, as broke as we are, there's still $55 million lying around to buy up some land and hand it over to private entities that don't need it.

Because there's the kind of broke that means we don't have any money for schools, and there's the kind that means we don't have money to subsidize the rich and powerful. We haven't come close to reaching that second kind of broke—and probably never will, so long as this mayor's in charge.

The $55 million will come from tax increment financing districts near McCormick Place. That gives me a chance to discuss a topic I love almost as much as Derrick Rose's left knee—the great scam known as the city's TIF program.

At its essence—if I give it the best possible spin—the TIF program lets the mayor take property tax dollars from the schools, parks, and county in order to invest the money in projects that he hopes will someday generate even more property tax dollars.

Think of it like pulling ten bucks out of your paycheck and investing it in Starbucks stock. In several years, if all goes well, your $10 may have grown into $100. Incidentally, if you do this several thousand times over, you might get wealthy enough to become one of the few people the mayor makes time to meet with—unlike, for example, everyone else who lives in Chicago.

In the case at hand, Mayor Emanuel has decided to take the $55 million and buy some property on which he'll build the aforementioned hotel and basketball arena.

But once the city owns it, this land will move off the property tax rolls because publicly held property is exempt. So instead of investing your property tax dollars in developments that create more property tax dollars, Mayor Emanuel has decided to invest them in a scheme that will yield no property tax dollars whatsoever. Think of it as spending $55 million to lose money.

Just so you know, the land in question, near the intersection of Cermak and Prairie, is not blighted property that no one wants. Which, by law, is what TIF funds are supposed to be invested in.

And even before the mayor announced a TIF handout, developers were already over there clamoring to build things like hotels and retail and tech centers. In other words, had Mayor Emanuel just stayed out of the way, the area would have boomed on its own, bringing in more money for the schools, parks, and county.
The funny part about Rahm is that he really has this warped political view where he thinks this will be a positive for him in the long run. I remember hearing stories about how he would tell freshmen members that going against unions is actually a positive if you own the fight. I haven't seen the polling on this school closing fight, but considering Chicago's support of the teachers during their strike  I'm guessing he's on the wrong side of public perception in this fight as well.

And beyond the polling and such, what type of monster proposes the largest mass school closure in US history AT THE EXACT SAME TIME he is proposing using that money to fund a private college's basketball arena? That is some seriously depraved shit.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

What's 80 Million Dollars to Penny Pritzker?

Ain't shit. (Don't finish his answer.)

Anyway, Obama's absolutely awful Secretary of Commerce nominee may have forgotten about something:

Chicago billionaire Penny Pritzker inadvertently understated a portion of her income by at least $80 million in a disclosure form required for her nomination to be U.S. Commerce secretary and has amended the document.

Forms released online last night by the Office of Government Ethics show that Pritzker earned additional income for consulting work on hundreds of trusts, including family trusts, beyond what she disclosed last week. The omission, discovered by Pritzker’s financial advisers, was due to a clerical error, said Susan Anderson, the nominee’s spokeswoman.
This doesn't even make the top 100 for reasons why she shouldn't get the job, but hey, I'll take it.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Virginia GOP's Crazy Bench is Deep, Apparently

Seriously, where the fuck do they find these people? TPM:
The Republican nominee for lieutenant governor in Virginia has called the Constitution’s original clause to count blacks as three-fifths of a person an “anti-slavery amendment.”

In an April 28, 2011 statement while he was a Senate candidate, conservative minister and lawyer E.W. Jackson held up the three-fifths clause as an “anti-slavery” measure. The context of his statement was to attack President Obama after a pastor at a church service he attended referred to the three-fifths clause as a historical marker of racism.

“Rev. [Charles Wallace] Smith must not have understood the 3/5ths clause was an anti-slavery amendment. Its purpose was to limit the voting power of slave holding states,” Jackson, an African-American, said in his statement.

This is a deeply misleading telling of American constitutional history.

The clause was demanded by Southern proponents of slavery as a way of enhancing their congressional representation. They wanted slaves to be counted as full persons but settled on three-fifths. People of African descent would have had no real rights either way. The inclusion of the clause greatly enhanced the South’s political power and made it harder to abolish slavery. The clause was effectively eliminated after the Civil War by the Thirteenth Amendment.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Asean Johnson for President

He's nine years old. Did I mention that he's NINE YEARS OLD??????

This video is the greatest thing I've ever seen. He's so goddam right about everything.


Monday, May 20, 2013

Tumblr or not to Tumblr?

I had been considering switching this blog to a tumblr once the semester ended, but now I'm a bit nervous because Yahoo is taking it over and I can't think of something they don't suck at.

My main thoughts on switching were:
  • Blogger's CMS kind of sucks, screws up paragraph breaks all the time
  • Tumblr seemed to have a cleaner interface and look, and their CMS seemed to allow both the same level of text based posts plus greater support for images.
  • You can make tumblrs group blogs with comments, but sharing their posts is also much easier than it is on blogger.
Any experiences with tumblr/thoughts?

Friday, May 17, 2013

Train of Thought Lounge: Foo Fighters

Such a weird video:


Atrios nails it here. There is something so absurd about our media's sudden joy at a scandal, rather than, you know, the real life scandals that have been right in front of them for the past 4 years.
Lots real scandals out there, just not ones our Villagers care much about. Wrongful foreclosures, massive long term unemployment, bankster fraud.

Edited talking points. That's the one that got them.
Killing american citizens without trial, and so on. The editors of Politico wrote a huge article about this in one of the least self aware things I've ever seen, basically ever:
The town is turning on President Obama — and this is very bad news for this White House.

Republicans have waited five years for the moment to put the screws to Obama — and they have one-third of all congressional committees on the case now. Establishment Democrats, never big fans of this president to begin with, are starting to speak out. And reporters are tripping over themselves to condemn lies, bullying and shadiness in the Obama administration.

Buy-in from all three D.C. stakeholders is an essential ingredient for a good old-fashioned Washington pile-on — so get ready for bad stories and public scolding to pile up.
Hey guys... IT'S YOUR FUCKING JOB TO TRIP OVER YOURSELF TO CONDEM LIES AND SHADINESS ALL THE GODDAMN TIME, NOT JUST WHEN "THE TIDE HAS TURNED" OR SOME BULLSHIT. Holy fuck these people. Also in typical fashion they put "lies" in the same category as "bullying the press" which is natural considering the self absorbed flowers they are. It's truely unbelievable.

We've had +8% unemployment for 5 years and the administration created a predatory lending program to deal with the foreclosure crisis. BUT THIS IS A TIPPING POINT, AND NOW THE PRESS WILL CARE.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Chart of the Day

From Chris Hayes' twitter. "how the prison industrial complex disenfranchises black men in one chart":

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

And Sometimes You Just Throw Up Your Hands...

I know I shouldn't be shocked, but good lord:
A whopping 41 percent of Republicans polled think the Obama administration’s handling of Benghazi is the greatest scandal in U.S. history. “One interesting thing about the voters who think Benghazi is the biggest political scandal in American history,” PPP adds, “is that 39% of them don’t actually know where it is. 10% think it’s in Egypt, 9% in Iran, 6% in Cuba, 5% in Syria, 4% in Iraq, and 1% each in North Korea and Liberia with 4% not willing to venture a guess.”
There really are no words.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The DOJ is Spying on Reporters

This is pretty bad. ACLU:
NEW YORK – The Department of Justice secretly obtained two months' worth of phone records of Associated Press reporters and editors, according to an AP story.

The following statement can be attributed to Laura W. Murphy, director of the American Civil Liberties Union Washington Legislative Office:

"The media's purpose is to keep the public informed and it should be free to do so without the threat of unwarranted surveillance. The Attorney General must explain the Justice Department's actions to the public so that we can make sure this kind of press intimidation does not happen again."
I'd say this is a good development because it might lead to some push back on this type of craziness, but I agree with Alex Pareene that I just can't see Republicans pushing back on government spying in any meaningful way, even if this is a legitimate scandal for the Obama Administration.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Senator Warren's Amazing Idea on Student Debt

This is such a smart way to frame what would be a really great policy:
“The U.S. government invests in big banks by giving them a great deal on their interest rates,” freshman Sen. Elizabeth Warren said in an interview with Salon on Wednesday afternoon (the transcript of which is below). “We should make at least the same investment in our students.”

Warren was discussing the first bill she has introduced in the Senate, a plan released on Wednesday to address the crisis of outstanding student debt – which topped $1 trillion this year, with over 37 million Americans owing thousands of dollars in higher education costs that could take decades to pay back.

Student debt is now the second-highest form of debt in America – behind only mortgage debt – with the number of borrowers and the average balance increasing 70 percent since 2004. Research from the New York Federal Reserve Board indicates that this has begun to have an impact on the broader economy, with young people burdened by student debt more reluctant to take out auto or home loans. And without congressional action, this will get worse: on July 1, interest rates on federally subsidized Stafford student loans will double, from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent. This will effectively raise costs for 8 million student borrowers by $1,000.

President Obama’s budget proposal would set subsidized student loan rates at 1 percent above the interest rate it costs the Treasury Department to borrow money for the U.S. government. But a variable rate without a cap would come back to haunt students when interest rates rise again. Another proposal would simply freeze the current rate of 3.4 percent, and would institute a plan limiting payment to 10 percent of income over a 10-year period.

Warren’s plan takes it a step further. For the next year, she would reduce the subsidized student loan interest rate to the same rate that America’s largest banks pay to borrow money from the Federal Reserve at the “discount window.” Currently, banks pay a minimal 0.75 percent to borrow from the Fed, one-ninth the rate that students would pay if Congress fails to act by July 1. Under the plan, the Federal Reserve would give the Department of Education the funds necessary to equalize those rates.
I expected her to kick ass, and pretty much everything she'd done since she got to the senate has been awesome.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Another Reason For Immigration Reform

Immigration reform that has a path to citizenship is smart for a lot of reasons, but Digby kind of blew my mind with this:
An analysis by the Social Security Administration says a bipartisan immigration bill pending in the Senate would boost the retirement program's trust fund by adding millions of taxpayers to the economy.

The finding comes in a letter to Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who requested the analysis, from Stephen C. Gross, chief actuary for the agency.

It could provide a boost for the immigration bill, which has been attacked by some conservatives as overly costly, as the Senate Judiciary Committee prepares to begin amending the measure on Thursday.

The analysis says the bill would add more than $300 billion in net additional revenues to Social Security and Medicare over the coming decade.

Gross writes that the overall effect of the bill on the long-range trust fund balance "will be positive."
Now just to be clear: The people who want to destroy social security will always want to do so, and there is no actual crisis that requires social security reform. So maybe none of this will matter. Then again, anything that makes it harder to advocate cutting social security = positive.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Train of Thought Lounge: Pharoahe Monch

Such a slept on song, although you can sadly say that about basically any Pharoahe song.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Great Mysteries of Our Time

Why oh why does the GOP have problem courting nonwhite voters? No one will ever know:
I see the Heritage Foundation continues to be a shining conservative beacon of light to all discredited little hacks who are no longer welcome in more polite society (yes, yes, Mr. DeMint, we see you waving at us). It seems one of the authors of the immigration "study" that had even other conservative think tankers up in arms has a bit of a past; Dylan Matthews at WaPo notes that one of his past hits is a doctoral dissertation recommending America alter its immigration policies to better reflect the obvious differences in intelligence between the "white native population" and the pesky non-white newcomers. Or, as he put it:
"The statistical construct known as IQ can reliably estimate general mental ability, or intelligence. The average IQ of immigrants in the United States is substantially lower than that of the white native population, and the difference is likely to persist over several generations. The consequences are a lack of socioeconomic assimilation among low-IQ immigrant groups, more underclass behavior, less social trust, and an increase in the proportion of unskilled workers in the American labor market. Selecting high-IQ immigrants would ameliorate these problems in the U.S., while at the same time benefiting smart potential immigrants who lack educational access in their home countries."
"No one knows whether Hispanics will ever reach IQ parity with whites, but the prediction that new Hispanic immigrants will have low-IQ children and grandchildren is difficult to argue against."

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Some Senators *Don't* Want to Commit Political Suicide

Good for them:

WASHINGTON -- The majority of Senate Democrats running for reelection in 2014, including three running in red states, have broken with President Barack Obama and are opposing his effort to cut Social Security benefits, imperiling the austerity project known as the "grand bargain."

In his most recent budget proposal, Obama included a measure to reduce the cost-of-living adjustment related to senior and veterans benefits as a compromise offer to Republicans. He had already put so-called chained CPI on the table during both debt ceiling and fiscal cliff negotiations with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), and defended his move this time by emphasizing it was a reform "championed by Republicans leaders in Congress" that would only be made in exchange for new tax revenues.

But Democrats have repeatedly relied on their defense of Medicare and Social Security during election years, and the 2014 crop of candidates are no different: Eight of the 14 Senate Democrats seeking reelection have come out against chained CPI.

Democratic Sens. Kay Hagan (N.C.), Mark Begich (Alaska) and Mark Pryor (Ark.), all running in states won by Republican Mitt Romney in 2012, have publicly opposed the president's effort, going so far as to co-sponsor a Senate resolution against chained CPI last week. Sens. Al Franken (D-Minn.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), running in bluer states, also co-sponsored the resolution.
So good for them for doing the right thing, even if it's probably just because they don't want to get slaughtered in their next election. And that's fine! I don't care the reason, any pushback against impoverishing old people is good!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Lies and the Lying Liars

I haven't had time to read Hertiage's new report that says that this Immigration Bill compromise would cost tax payers 6.3 trillion dollars, but considering their work their constant lying/being wrong about everything else, I'm going to guess it isn't true. Based on the linked article seems like people who have had time to study it agree that this is the case.

These people really do live another world absent from any attempt at honest discourse.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Train of Thought Lounge: Kanye, Mos, Freeway

Have been in the midst of end of semester madness this past week and probably parts of next. Thanks for understanding the sparse posting.

This song is still so awesome.

There is No Pro Labor Party in America

Great tweet from Josh Eidelson:
For those who aren't aware, the person Obama just nominated as secretary of commerce is the billionaire heiress of Hyatt hotels, notorious union busters famous for using heat lamps on striking workers in mid summer last year. Go team D!