Smoke But No Gun Yet

big picture stuff

Before everybody gets excited about the latest Clinton scandal, do read Joe Conason’s analysis. There’s a lot of unsupported innuendo and connecting dots filled in between things that aren’t necessarily connected. It appears to be another Whitewater — a lot of storm and fury about nothing.


Thank You, Wingnuts!

Democratic Party, Republican Party

The Right is engaged in a full-court-press no-limits feeding frenzy over allegations that the Clintons are doing something fishy. See Charles Pierce, “The Return To Mena Airport: It Begins Again — In which we learn that rich people like the Clintons have lots of money.”

As best I can trace the lines of the conspiracy as it is taking shape, some of the countries and patrons of the Clinton Global Initiative may also have paid Bill Clinton the big money to talk to them. There’s a bit of innuendo to the effect that the Clintons may have been commingling Initiative money with their own. However, if Bill’s piling up $100 mil just for talking, and the man loves to talk, then they hardly seem to have to raid the cookie jar. But the basic thrust is that these countries and patrons one day may seek the favors of President Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The multiple avenues through which the Clintons and their causes have accepted financial support have provided a variety of ways for wealthy interests in the United States and abroad to build friendly relations with a potential future president.

You’re kidding. Wealthy interests might use their wealth to “build friendly relations” with politicians? In 2015? Has anyone told Anthony Kennedy? He might plotz.

(This, by the way, is Clinton Rule No. 2 — what is business as usual for every politician since Cato is a work of dark magic when practiced by either Clinton.)

Even the author of Clinton Cash, the book all the allegations are based on, admits he hasn’t found proof of any actual wrongdoing on the part of the Clintons. But who needs proof? All you have to say is “Oooo, a lot of money, plus Clintons.” A scandal is born.

However, it’s a wonder to me the righties are trotting this stuff out now. As I see it, turning the big guns on HRC now could be doing her, and the Democratic Party, a favor. If she survives this feeding frenzy intact and goes on to win the nomination, it’ll be old news in the fall of 2016. If, on the other hand, the screaming innuendo machine is able to plant the notion that HRC did something bad involving money and her job as Secretary of State in the public mind now, it could cost her the nomination. And then the GOP may end up running against someone they haven’t been smearing for nearly three decades.

So, bring it on.


Here’s My Sincerely Held Religious Belief, Booby

Obama Administration

Bobby Jindal’s op ed in today’s New York Times is worth a careful read, if only to appreciate how truly demented it is.

Jindal apparently has decided to position himself as the Christian Right candidate for President, and he’s not above selling out the state of Louisiana to do so. Along with the usual doublespeak that uses “sincerely held religious belief” to mean “ignorant bigotry,” Jindal is actually threatening the business community with dire consequences if they don’t stop “bullying” people with “sincerely held religious beliefs.”

I liked this part:

A pluralistic and diverse society like ours can exist only if we all tolerate people who disagree with us.

Kinda takes your breath away, huh? Jindal continues,

That’s why religious freedom laws matter — and why it is critical for conservatives and business leaders to unite in this debate.

If we, as conservatives, are to succeed in advancing the cause of freedom and free enterprise, the business community must stand shoulder to shoulder with those fighting for religious liberty. The left-wing ideologues who oppose religious freedom are the same ones who seek to tax and regulate businesses out of existence. The same people who think that profit making is vulgar believe that religiosity is folly. The fight against this misguided, government-dictating ideology is one fight, not two. Conservative leaders cannot sit idly by and allow large corporations to rip our coalition in half.

Since I became governor in 2008, Louisiana has become one of the best places to do business in America. I made it a priority to cut taxes, reform our ethics laws, invigorate our schools with bold merit-based changes and parental choice, and completely revamp work-force training to better suit businesses.

Our reforms worked because they were driven by our belief in freedom. We know that a nation in which individuals, and companies, are protected from the onerous impulses of government is one that will thrive and grow.

“From January 2011 through January 2015, Louisiana under Jindal ranked 32nd in job creation with 5.4 percent growth over four years.  … This compares with a national average of 8.21 percent.” [source]

That’s the intellectual underpinning of America, and in Louisiana we defend it relentlessly.

Intellectual underpinning?

Liberals have decided that if they can’t win at the ballot box, they will win in the boardroom. It’s a deliberate strategy. And it’s time for corporate America to make a decision.

Those who believe in freedom must stick together: If it’s not freedom for all, it’s not freedom at all. This strategy requires populist social conservatives to ally with the business community on economic matters and corporate titans to side with social conservatives on cultural matters. This is the grand bargain that makes freedom’s defense possible.

Because, you know, those civil liberties-loving liberals just hate liberty, or something. But let’s go back to an earlier part of the op ed, in which Jindal says,

Some corporations have already contacted me and asked me to oppose this law. I am certain that other companies, under pressure from radical liberals, will do the same. They are free to voice their opinions, but they will not deter me.

I’d like to know what sort of leverage “radical liberals” have on corporate America that we could pressure business to do anything business doesn’t want to do? The fact is, business doesn’t give a hoo-haw what “radical liberals” think. Business is just looking out for business. And Jindal is threatening business if it doesn’t stop acting in support of its own interests and does what Governor Jindal says. Because freedom.

 Ed Kilgore writes,

So Jindal’s willing to sacrifice some convention business—kinda important to New Orleans, a gay-friendly, tourism-dependent city Bobby’s willing to completely betray—and maybe the kind of corporate “investment” decisions Republican governors normally think of as the sum total of “economic development” on the altar of his commitment to those who would carve out a separate little paradise for themselves where laws contradicting “biblical principles” as understood by cultural conservatives need not be acknowledged. But he’s implicitly going beyond that selfish cost-benefit calculation and threatening job-creators that they’re going to lose the support of The Faithful for their own interests if they consort with secular-socialists on the Christian Right’s agenda.

As in other states with hard-Right governors, Jindal’s tax cutting has put Louisiana in a revenue bind. LSU is drafting an “academic bankruptcy” plan as a result of budget cuts; this news story says “the viability of the entire institution is threatened. … Louisiana’s higher education community is facing an 82 percent funding cut if no extra state money is found.”

John Cole comments,

That would basically be the death of public universities in Louisiana, because no one in their right mind would apply to go and fewer would apply to work there. So in the long run, it may not be just the fact that Louisiana is a haven for bigots driving business out of the state, but the fact that there are no Research 1 institutions working in union with business (see what the morons in the NC legislature are trying to do to university system and the impact it will have on the Research Triangle there), but also because there will be no educated workers in the state to handle the jobs businesses will have. And qualified personnel aren’t going to relocate to some remote bigoted outpost.

So yeah, Jindal. Have at it. Enjoy the complimentary education you’re about to get from the free market, you backwoods hick.

But, y’know, it’ll be worth it to Bobby Jindal as long as Billy Bob Baker can toss customers planning a same-sex wedding out of his bakery. Because nothing says freedom like the privilege to discriminate.

See also Human Rights Campaign Took A Red Pen To Jindal’s Religious Freedom Op-ed.


The Further Adventures of Gov. Sam Brownback

Health Care, Republican Party

Adding to the rolling disaster that is Kansas, Gov. Brownback somehow decided that raising taxes on HMOs would be just the thing to close the state’s budget gap. This is not going well.

According to The Wichita Eagle, leaders at Aetna are warning lawmakers that if Brownback’s proposal goes into effect the healthcare company would be hit with $12 million in additional taxes and add $206 to an average HMO insurance policy holder’s bill. Brownback’s proposal is currently awaiting approval in a House-Senate conference committee.

Seriously, what was he thinking?

Specifically, Brownback is looking to raise a “privilege fee” on annual HMO premiums which is currently at 1 percent. Brownback wants to raise it to 5.5 percent in order to bring in $136 million in new revenues. The $136 million would then be used to replace $80 million in state funds currently going to Medicaid, according to the Eagle. Kansas officials argue that the tax has to go to all HMO companies that offer Medicaid through Kansas’s KanCare program.

And yes, of course Brownback refused to expand Medicaid through the ACA, which would have taken care of the Medicaid problem without Kansas citizens haven’t to suffer for it. Why would we expect anything else?

On Monday, new Kansas revenue estimates projected a $400 million deficit for the 2016 fiscal year. That deficit is projected to grow to near $500 million if lawmakers don’t pass new insurance taxes.

“Conservatives” seem to think that if they can find some magic formula regarding taxes and budgets that costs will just go away. But some costs don’t go away. You can manage them stupidly or smartly, but they aren’t going away, and shifting who has to pay for stuff is not making the cost go away.

Elsewhere: Be sure to read “I am a cook in the US Senate but I still need food stamps to feed my children” and “Conservative Republicans Alone on Global Warming’s Timing.”


The Kings Koch

Obama Administration

This headline — Koch brothers will offer audition to Jeb Bush — says a lot about our current state of political affairs. Their lordships seem to think politicians are just hirelings to be auditioned. Maybe they’re right. And, anyway, a multitude of sources say they’re going to support their boy Scott Walker. See David Koch Signals a Favorite: Scott Walker and David Koch: Scott Walker Would Defeat Hillary Clinton ‘by a Major Margin’. I guess all those years of being the Koch’s loyal poodle are paying off for ol’ Scottie.

See also Elias Isquith:

A subsequent report from Politico cast some doubt on whether David Koch’s claim that Walker should be the GOP’s nominee was as ironclad as the Times indicated. But that doesn’t matter, really. What matters is that because Kennedy illogically and unnecessarilyclaimed in the Court’s Citizens United opinion that “independent expenditures … do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption,” a cryptic remark from one wingnut billionaire can have major implications for a country of more than 300 million.

Despite how farcical such a state of affairs is already, it’s only going to get worse. One of the crucial assumptions Kennedy used to justify Citizens United, for example, was that a big-spending independent group could be barred from coordinating with a candidate. Kennedy reasoned that if a political nonprofit wants to pay for ads attacking Politician X, there won’t be corruption — or even its appearance — unless the nonprofit worked directly with X’s opponent. If the nonprofit were run by X’s allies, it would make no difference.

Opponents of the ruling thought the hypothetical was patently ridiculous. They figured that any wall built between a candidate and her allies would be highly permeable at best. But another recent development from the GOP primary, this time involving former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, suggests the pretense of non-coordination is falling apart even more rapidly than expected, and that we may be about to witness the birth of a whole new kind of presidential campaign.

Technically, Bush is not yet a candidate for president. But he’s fundraising indefatigablyfor his Right to Rise super PAC, which he can “coordinate” with so long as his campaign remains undeclared. That’ll be money well-saved, too, according to the Associated Press: Bush is planning to be the first serious candidate ever to “outsource” to the super PAC much of the work usually done by the official campaign. Thanks to Justice Kennedy, the super PAC won’t be constrained by fundraising limits.

So there we are.. But there is one faint ray of hope from Montana,  of all places. The Koch worked very hard to get Medicaid expansion blocked (why?) in Montana, but they failed. For all their money, they can be ham-handed oafs in politcs:

For the Medicaid battle the Kochs tried a new strategy, one that never works in the West. They flew in a bunch of high-priced young politicos from Washington to get the job done. These held “town meetings” in rural communities at which they showed up in slim-fit suits and pointy shoes, looking like they were heading to a nightclub, lecturing farmers and ranches on politics and the dangers of “more Obamacare” and publicly threatening moderate Republicans. It didn’t take long for them to get booed off the stage by their own partisans.

See, for example, Koch Brothers Group Shouted Down By Irate Citizens During Montana Town Hall Meeting.

Progressives played it smart:

They teamed up with hospital executives, doctors and business leaders. These are Republican-leaning types who wanted Medicaid expansion in 2013 but were let down by their own high-priced conservative lobbyists who failed to deliver Republican votes. This time, the progressives took care of business and pressured one in five Republicans to vote for it. Kim Abbott of Montana Human Rights Network, who coordinated the effort, says they banked a record 10,000 calls to legislators. They found citizens with life-ending illnesses who could not afford treatment, who are not eligible for Medicaid nor an ACA-subsidized plan, and paired them with hospital leaders for media appearances and to testify at hearings at the Capitol. The Kochs’ crew, meanwhile, testified at the same hearings that Americans “will no longer have an incentive to work hard” if Medicaid is expanded. …

… At the height of the debate two months ago, former Gov. Brian Schweitzer, a rancher, wrote a letter to his local newspaper pointing out that Koch Industries owns a ranch in Montana that has taken $12 million in public grazing subsidies while spending their fortune to prevent someone who makes $11,000 a year from getting public help for medical care. The Koch team leader reacted by penning an angry opinion piece, attacking Schweitzer but leaving his accusation unanswered, thus spreading the bad news. It was a serious blow.

Maybe if the Kochs weren’t getting all those free goodies from the government they would have to work harder. Maybe they’d have less time to play politics.

The best part was that the Montana Americans for Prosperity chapter released a statement saying  that “the voices of millions of Montanans” didn’t want to expand Medicaid through Obamacare. Millions? The entire population of Montana is 1,023,579, according to the Census Bureau. There’s no such thing as “millions of Montanans.” Someone from Montana would know that, I suspect.


Check Out the Buzz


… about Our Doug at Balloon Juice.


California Drought Caused by Jerry Brown’s Policies?

Obama Administration

Some guy named Joel Kotkin plumbs new depths of stupid. After acknowleding that California really is suffering an actual drought — although he won’t blame climate change — he writes this —

Like many Californians, [Brown] recoiled against the sometimes haphazard and even ugly form of development that plowed through much of the state. Cutting off water is arguably the most effective way to stop all development, and promote Brown’s stated goal of eliminating suburban “sprawl.” It is typical that his first target for cutbacks this year has been the “lawns” of the middle-class suburbanite, a species for which he has shown little interest or tolerance.

There are a lot of things that could have been done better, but let’s talk about the several years in which Republicans blocked California from doing anything but rot. I liked this part, too:

But it’s not just water that exemplifies the current “era of limits” psychology. Energy development has always been in green crosshairs and their harassment has all but succeeded in helping drive much of the oil and gas industry, including corporate headquarters, out of the state. Not building roads—arguably to be replaced by trains—has not exactly reduced traffic but given California the honor of having eight of the top 20 cities nationally with poor roads; the percentage of Los Angeles-area residents who take transit has, if anything, declined slightly since train-building began. All we are left with are impossible freeways, crumbling streets, and ever more difficulty doing anything that requires traveling.

Developing green technology doesn’t count as “developing,” apparently, and building rail doesn’t count as improving transportation infrastructure. We must not be allowed to diverge from fossil fuels and internal combustion engines. And I’m not sure how you can blame rail development for a decline in transit use if the rails haven’t been developed yet.

See David Atkins at Washington MonthlyDear Conservative Concern Trolls: California Will Be Just Fine, Thank You. 

Joel Kotkin over the The Daily Beast has a has scribbled out the millionth version of the “California is Dying” article—a genre of conservative wishful thinking that turns out to be hilariously wrong every time it is written. For years the story was that California would become the next Greece: hopelessly in debt, unable to pay its bills, with an exodus of taxpayers. That turned out to be bunk, of course: all the state needed to was a 2/3 Democratic supermajority and a Democratic governor, and the state’s fiscal situation was rectified almost immediately.

The new opportunity to concern-troll California with big business propaganda comes with the drought. The drought has become the platform from which the conservative complaint machine hits all its favorite targets: Silicon Valley and Hollywood elites, environmentalists, immigrants, and public works (especially transportation.) Republicans who wish they could turn California into Texas want the state to divert rail funding into building more freeways, drain the wetlands to support oil fracking and big agriculture, and close down the borders so that racist whites will feel a little less uncomfortable. They also want to build lots and lots of desalination plants, and blame progressive policy for the widening income inequality gap that sets the wealthy coast apart from the poorer interior.

The truth will out.


Martin O’Malley Wants It

Obama Administration

New Republic headline: Martin O’Malley Just Jumped to the Left of Elizabeth Warren. Your Move, Hillary.

Speaking at Harvard University on Thursday night, former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley cranked up the pressure on Hillary Clinton by calling for a $15 an hour minimum wage and voicing his opposition to President Barack Obama’s massive trade deal, the Trans Pacific Partnership.

“As we gather here tonight,” he said, “wealth and economic power in the United States of America have now been concentrated in the hands of the very few as almost never before in the history of our country.” …

… O’Malley’s comments are a reminder that other Democratic candidates besides Warren can put pressure on Clinton. While few, if any, political analysts think the former Maryland governor has a real shot at the nomination, he can certainly force Clinton into difficult positions. That’s good. She should have to answer questions on the minimum wage, the TPP, and other controversial issues in the Democratic Party.

IMO the only reason O’Malley or other potential candidates don’t have a “real shot” is that the media won’t cover them, because the media have collectively decided Hillary Clinton has it in the bag. And if she has it in the bag, it’s because the media have decided she does. Argh.


Some People Are Easily Terrorized

Obama Administration

Whoa, folks, Miss Lindsey Graham thinks our Doug should have been shot out of the sky (glad you weren’t, Doug) because he could be mentally ill (unlike most everyone else on Capitol Hill?). Or radically Islamic. Miss Lindsey must have been frightened right out of his crinoline.


The Seattle Restaurant Crisis


You may not have heard of the Seattle Restaurant Crisis, unless you are a regular consumer of rightie media. In which case you would know that restaurants in Seattle are going the way of video stores, or dinosaurs, or something, because the minimum wage was raised to $15 an hour.

Except that isn’t happening. The Sky Valley Chronicle reported,

The blogosphere has once again proved itself to a be fertile source of false news that projects outward as fact at the speed of light.

A March 17th report by the Seattle Times says it found a blogosphere-spread rumor masquerading as fact that recent Seattle restaurant closures may have been linked to the city’s new $15 minimum wage, was false.

The report says an article that made its way into Seattle Magazine (called “Why Are So Many Seattle Restaurants Closing Lately?”) suggested that the city’s newly approved $15-an-hour minimum wage (to be phased in over years) was a factor in some recent Seattle restaurant closures.

That article then caught on fire and was touted as factual in the conservative blogosphere, with the Washington Policy Center (which calls itself a “think tank”) asserting that “Seattle’s $15 wage law a factor in restaurant closings.”

From there the not-real-news flashed over into a veritable forest fire of condemnation in the conservative media with the conservative American Enterprise Institute claiming that,“Seattle’s new minimum wage law takes effect April 1 but is already leading to restaurant closings and job losses.”

That was followed by elderly conservative radio talker Rush Limbaugh, not exactly known in most journalistic circles for being a hotbed of factual, non-biased material jumping on the bandwagon followed by the New York Post running an article called called “Jobless in Seattle.”

Then Forbes chimed right in with,“We Are Seeing The Effects Of Seattle’s $15 An Hour Minimum Wage.”

To Forbes’s credit, it also published a story by Rick Ungar that pooh-poohed the whole thing.

But that was last month. This month Think Progress followed up and confirmed that (a) Seattle restaurants are opening and closing and the same rate they opened and closed for years; and (b) those that closed did not cite the minimum wage hike as a factor.

High-profile writers confidently proclaimed that Seattle’s once-proud restaurant scene was in retreat and that the wage hike was already chilling business activity and killing jobs, based on one anecdotal report. None of that was true. When the Seattle Times asked them about the story, the restaurant owners in questionlaughed off the claim that their decisions were motivated by the wage law. But even that direct testimony didn’t stop the media wave all the way. The conservative National Federation of Independent Business ran a post parroting the disproven restaurant closures claim days after the Times debunked the anecdote underlying the narrative.

Now, there’s even harder evidence that the right was wrong. The Big Picture pulled the numbers on how many restaurant permits have been issued by the city each month going back to the start of 2012. The chart shows plenty of ups and downs – what data scientists call “noise” – but the 12-month average for permits is almost perfectly steady…

A couple of restaurants had added a 2 percent “Seattle Ordinance Wage Equity Surcharge,” but canceled this when customers objected.

However, the facts hardly matter, and you can be sure that the wingnuts will continue to tell themselves that every restaurant in Seattle has closed or is about to, and ha ha those stupid libtards are stupid.  You know the tune, I’m sure.

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