Month: January 2013

I Guess that Texas Was Sick of Being a Laughing Stock

This is why the Texas legislature took the power to select textbooks away from Texas Board of Education:

Much has changed since then. In 2011, the Texas Legislature shifted authority to order textbooks from the state to individual school districts with Senate Bill 6. The law deprived the board of its final say-so. Now, school districts have control over how they spend their almost $800 million on learning materials.

“It’s pretty clear that it reduces our authority in the sense that we’re not the only game in town,” board member Michael Soto, D-San Antonio told the Austin American-Statesman.

Filmmaker Scott Thurman describes it this way: Before, “the textbook publishers had to meet 100 percent of the TEKS [Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills standards]. In The Revisionaries, I follow the process of making those standards. Now, they only have to meet 50 percent of the standards…Textbook publishers have a little more wiggle room.”

He speculates that SB6 was passed because of the controversy the board raised in 2009 and 2010. “According to moderate members of the board, the far right didn’t like this at all. They wanted complete control. They wanted to lock in those standards and not allow textbook publishers to work around it.”

Yes, having a Board of Ed that is batsh%$ insane is a problem, particularly when, before the new law, they dictated text books for 5 million students in one fell swoop, which would lead text book publishers to make their books for everyone match the frequently nonsensical requirements of this body.

This is very good news for education in the US.

Reid Never Intended to Reform the filibuster

The problem is that he has gone native:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have come to a deal on filibuster reform. The deal is this: The filibuster will not be reformed. But the way the Senate moves to consider new legislation and most nominees will be.

“I’m not personally, at this stage, ready to get rid of the 60-vote threshold,” Reid (D-Nev.) told me this morning, referring to the number of votes needed to halt a filibuster. “With the history of the Senate, we have to understand the Senate isn’t and shouldn’t be like the House.”

What will be reformed is how the Senate moves to consider new legislation, the process by which all nominees — except Cabinet-level appointments and Supreme Court nominations — are considered, and the number of times the filibuster can be used against a conference report. You can read the full text of the compromise, which was sent out to Senate offices this morning, here (pdf).

But even those reforms don’t go as far as they might. Take the changes to the motion to proceed, by which the Senate moves to consider a new bill. Reid seemed genuinely outraged over the way the process has bogged down in recent years.Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have come to a deal on filibuster reform. The deal is this: The filibuster will not be reformed. But the way the Senate moves to consider new legislation and most nominees will be.

“I’m not personally, at this stage, ready to get rid of the 60-vote threshold,” Reid (D-Nev.) told me this morning, referring to the number of votes needed to halt a filibuster. “With the history of the Senate, we have to understand the Senate isn’t and shouldn’t be like the House.”

What will be reformed is how the Senate moves to consider new legislation, the process by which all nominees — except Cabinet-level appointments and Supreme Court nominations — are considered, and the number of times the filibuster can be used against a conference report. You can read the full text of the compromise, which was sent out to Senate offices this morning, here (pdf).

But even those reforms don’t go as far as they might. Take the changes to the motion to proceed, by which the Senate moves to consider a new bill. Reid seemed genuinely outraged over the way the process has bogged down in recent years.

The Republicans have created a new reality in the Senate, and the older Democratic Senators do not realize that it’s not going back to the way it was before.

We need new leadership in the Senate.

This is All F%$#ed Up and Sh%$

I am referring, of course, to Israel’s election results:

Coalition talks have begun in Israel after near-complete general election results gave right-wing and centre-left blocs 60 seats each in parliament.

President Shimon Peres is expected to ask Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to attempt to form a new government.

His Likud-Beitenu alliance lost a quarter of its seats in the Knesset but remains the largest grouping with 31.

He has offered to work with the newly-formed Yesh Atid party, which shocked observers by coming second with 19.

However, its leader, popular former TV presenter Yair Lapid, has demanded reform of a law under which ultra-Orthodox Jewish seminary students can defer their military service. Religious parties in the current governing coalition are strongly opposed to any changes.

Mr Lapid has also said he would only join a government that was committed to reviving the peace process with the Palestinians.

In 3rd place again is labor, and Kadima, formerly the leading opposition party, is down to just two seats.

I’m hoping that Yesh Atid gets into the coalition (does not look likely), because it has a strongly secular platform, and ending the draft exemption and subsidies to the Ultra-Orthodox would be a very good thing.

As to figuring out what this all means, I’m not sure that anyone knows what it means.

Certainly, I cannot figure out how this will all sort out.

More Agreement With the IMF

They are saying that Britain should back off its austerity policies:

Britain should tone down its austerity plans to help the struggling economy, the International Monetary Fund’s chief economist has suggested.

Olivier Blanchard said the budget in March would be a good time for George Osborne to “take stock” of his plan A.

The comments, in an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, came after the IMF trimmed its forecasts for the UK and global growth. The British economy is now expected to expand by 1% rather than 1.1% this year, and 1.9% rather than 2.2% next year.

Twice in a day I agree with them.

Go figure.

The IMF Gets One Right

IMF chief Christine Lagarde is calling for increases in the minimum wage, strengthening the social safety net, and reining in bankers pay:

Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the IMF, has warned that “corrosive” inequality was hindering the world’s economic recovery.

In a combative speech to an audience of some of the world’s wealthiest financiers at the World Economic Forum, [Davos] Ms Lagarde said that bankers’ pay should be cut to close the gap between the rich and poor. “Excessive inequality is corrosive to growth; it is corrosive to society. I believe that the economics profession and the policy community have downplayed inequality for too long” she said.

Ms Lagarde, a former French finance minister who was appointed head of the International Monetary Fund in 2011, added that it might be necessary for nations to impose minimum wages in order to reduce income gaps.

II believe policies such as robust social safety nets, extending the reach of credit, and – in some cases – minimum wages can help” she told the audience of business and political leaders in the Swiss ski resort of Davos. Ms Lagarde also warned that necessary reforms of the multinational banking sector, which plunged the Western world into recession in 2008-09, were being watered down by industry lobbying.


Ms Lagarde told delegates that bankers’ pay is too high. “We must move in the direction of more prudent compensation practices” she said. “Ultimately, this is all about accountability: we need a financial sector that is accountable to the real economy– one that adds value, not destroys it”.

Your mouth to God’s ear, ma’am.

Good Riddance

Lanny Breuer, head of the criminal division at the Department of Justice and pimp for the banksters, has resigned:

Lanny Breuer is out as head of the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice, according to the Washington Post. After his ratlike performance on Frontline (transcript here) it won’t be long before we find him at some creepy New York or DC law firm defending his best friends, the banks and their sleazy employees. His legacy is simple: too big to fail banks can’t possibly commit crimes, so minor civil fines and false promises of reform are punishment enough. Jamie Dimon couldn’t have put it better.

BTW, the Department of Justice has said that they would never work with the producer of the segment ever again:

He’s gone, but I’m certain that he’s going to a cushy Wall Street gig where he will make millions of dollars.

It’s how back loaded bribery works.

It’s a Petri Dish for Narcissistic Sociopaths

The filibuster stands largely unchanged:

The Senate enacted modest reforms to its filibuster rules with votes that kept bipartisan relations intact but left disappointed liberal groups fuming.

The reforms are the biggest changes to the Senate’s filibuster rules in decades but fell well short of drastic reforms demanded by labor unions and liberal-leaning advocacy groups.

The deal negotiated between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) provoked an outcry from liberal groups.

Passage of the deal sets to rest Reid’s threat, which he had wielded for months, to use the so-called “nuclear option” to change the Senate’s filibuster rules through a simple majority vote.

The enacted reforms do not include the implementation of the talking filibuster, which would require senators seeking to block legislation to actively hold the floor and debate. If debate stops, the pending matter moves to a simple majority vote, under this proposal.

Nor does it shift the burden of sustaining a filibuster onto the minority party by requiring senators to muster 41 votes to continue blocking legislation. Now the burden is on the majority to round up 60 votes to overcome a filibuster.

It’s streamlined a bit, but only a bit.

I’m depressed.

Tobin Tax Progresses in Europe

The EU has begun to implement a plan to tax financial transactions:

A hotly contested tax on financial trades took a big step forward on Tuesday when European Union finance ministers allowed a vanguard of member states to proceed with the plan.

The so-called Robin Hood tax would apply to trading in stocks, bonds and derivatives. Although the tax would probably be small — one-tenth of a percentage point or less on the value of a trade — it could earn billions of euros for struggling European governments.

Algirdas Semeta, the European commissioner in charge of tax policy, called the decision “a major milestone in tax history” and said the levy could be imposed starting next year. But deep concerns about how it would work could still lead to delays.

The European Commission, the bloc’s policy-making arm, still needs to draft the final legislation, and the 11 states in favor of the law will have to give their unanimous approval before it becomes law — two more than the minimum required for legislation to be drafted.

A significant complication is opposition to the tax by Britain, which has the largest trading hub in Europe in the City of London. But because Britain has decided to stay outside the group of states applying the tax, its resistance would probably not stop the plan from moving ahead.

Among the 27 members of the European Union, the proposal has firm backing from Germany, France and nine other countries. Others might eventually support the idea, which is closely associated with James Tobin, a United States economist and Nobel laureate who suggested a version of it in the 1970s.

In addition to be a good source of revenue, it creates a large disincentive for short-term speculation by making it more expensive.

Here is hoping that this becomes a permanent fixture of the world economy.

Just When You Think that Republicans Get Any More Contemptible………

A state legislator in New Mexico proposed legislation to make a rape victim who has an abortion guilty of felony destruction of evidence:

A bill introduced by a Republican state Representative would make it a third-degree felony for a woman who was impregnated as the result of a rape or incest to have an abortion.

House Bill 206, brought by Rep. Cathrynn Brown, R-Carlsbad, is sure to be one of the most controversial bills of the session. While other bills do all they can to discourage women from having abortions by delaying the process, this bill would actually make it a third degree felony to not carry to term a pregnancy that is the result of rape or incest.

ProgressNow New Mexico executive director Pat Davis calls the bill “blatantly unconstitutional” and opposes the bill.

“The bill turns victims of rape and incest, who have just been through a horrible sexual assault, into felons and forces them to become incubators of evidence for the state,” David said in a statement. “According to Republican philosophy, victims who are ‘legitimately raped’ will now have to carry the fetus to term in order to prove their case.”

It in net, and blew up in her face, and suddenly, she is saying that she will rewrite the bill so that it would only apply to the rapist if they coerce an abortion.

If that had been her goal in the first place, she would have put it in in the first place.

Seriously, how do evil f%$#s like this get elected?

Britain’s Cameron Calls for Referendum on EU Membership

He wants to get back some of the powers that have gone to the EU, but the big story is that he is calling for a referendum on leaving the EU:

David Cameron has said the British people must “have their say” on Europe as he pledged an in/out referendum if the Conservatives win the election.

The prime minister said he wanted to renegotiate the UK’s relationship with the EU and then give people the “simple choice” between staying in under those new terms, or leaving the EU.

The news was welcomed by Eurosceptics who have long campaigned for a vote.

France and Germany both warned the UK could not “cherry pick” EU membership.

During noisy Prime Minister’s Questions exchanges in Parliament, Labour leader Ed Miliband said Mr Cameron was “running scared” of the UK Independence Party, whose poll ratings have been rising.

It’s not just the UKIP. It’s also the right wing of his own party who is Euroskeptical, though the Lib-Dems, his junior coalition partners are strongly pro-EU, so he’s got a nasty balancing act.

As to how the vote goes?  My prediction is that the vote won’t ever happen.

I think David Cameron will find a way to declare victory and so not hold the vote.

Then again, my powers of prognostication suck wet farts from dead pigeons.

More on the 2nd Amendment and Its Relationship to Slavery

I will direct you to The Hidden History of the Second Amendment, a 102 page article published in the U.C. Davis Law Review in 1998.  (Link is to the abstract, you can download the PDF from there)

This is a (obviously) a much longer, and much more extensively annotated, piece than either Thom Hartmann’s pro 2nd amendment/slavery patrol link article or Paul Finkleman’s argument against this.

I’ve read the full article, though it was a quick read, and while it clearly does not go as far as Hartmann, author Carl T. Bogus merely addresses the adoption of the 2nd amendment, rather than the whole Constitution as Hartmann does, but he does make a compelling case that the 2nd amendment was specifically a collective right granted to the states, and that the support for this amendment was driven by the fears of slave owners about an uprising, particularly in Virginia.

Bogus (I love that name) does admit that he no evidence that Madison, who wrote the Bill of Rights to preserve slavery, he does show that Madison’s compatriots and constituents in Virginia found the possibility that Congress would disarm the state slave patrols to be a concern of paramount importance.

In either case, it does make a slam dunk case for the 2nd amendment as a collective right assigned to the states, and not a personal right, which makes the so-called “strict constructionists” who voted for a personal right to firearms in District of Columbia v. Heller to be hypocrites and hacks.

He Didn’t Tweet a Picture of His Penis to a Football Player’s Imaginary Penis, So it Does Not Matter………*

This explains why the media has largely ignored the revelation in the latest release of the Federal Reserve’s meeting minutes from 2007, which is that Timothy Geithner was leaking changes to the discount window to the big banks ahead of their official release:

In the summer of 2007, as storm clouds gathered over the world’s financial system, then-New York Federal Reserve President Timothy Geithner allegedly informed the Bank of America and other banks about the possibility the U.S. central bank would lower one of its critical interest rates, according to a senior Fed official.

Jeffrey Lacker, the head of the Richmond Fed, originally raised the allegation during a Fed conference call in August 2007, and he stuck to his 5-year-old claim against the current U.S. treasury secretary in a statement provided to Reuters on Friday.

“From conversations I had prior to the video conference call on August 16, 2007, I was aware of discussions among a few large banks about borrowing from their discount windows to support the asset backed commercial paper market,” Lacker said in the statement. “My understanding was that (New York Fed) President Geithner had discussed a reduction in the discount rate with these banks in connection with these initiatives.”

The folks at Zero Hedge were the first ones to notice this, and they nail it when they say, “[J]ust when we thought our opinion of the outgoing Treasury Secretary and former NY Fed head Tim Geithner, whose TurboTax incompetence is now legendary, couldn’t get lower, it got lower. Much lower.

Here is the pertinent section from the transcript of the August 16, 2007 conference call:

MR. LACKER. If I could just follow up on that, Mr. Chairman.


MR. LACKER. Vice Chairman Geithner, did you say that [the banks] are unaware of what we’re considering or what we might be doing with the discount rate?


MR. LACKER. Vice Chairman Geithner, I spoke with Ken Lewis, President and CEO of Bank of America, this afternoon, and he said that he appreciated what Tim Geithner was arranging by way of changes in the discount facility. So my information is different from that.

CHAIRMAN BERNANKE. Okay. Thank you. Go ahead, Vice Chairman Geithner.

VICE CHAIRMAN GEITHNER. Well, I cannot speak for Ken Lewis, but I think they have sought to see whether they could understand a little more clearly the scope of their rights and our current policy with respect to the window. The only thing I’ve done is to try to help them understand—and I’m sure that’s been true across the System—what the scope of that is because these people generally don’t use the window and they don’t really understand in some sense what it’s about.

They also note that there was a sudden and unexplained jump of 50 points (4%) in the S&P 500 in just 1 hour.  (Note that they also make a compelling circumstantial case that Geithner’s schedule indicates that he leaked this information)

BTW, as ZH also notes, the Fed’s 5 year delay in the release of records means that Geithner has outlasted the statute of limitations.

Awfully convenient, nu?

We won’t have a fix to our financial system until Geithner, and his mentor Robert Rubin are under criminal investigation for what they dud.

*Not my words, but a slight reworking of sentiments expressed by JR at the Stellar Parthenon BBS.

This is Why You Cannot Trust Republicans

The Virginia state senate is evenly divided by party, but yesterday, when a Democratic member of the institution was at the inauguration, they passed a Gerrymandered redistricting of the senate:

An ambush reapportionment effort by Virginia Senate Republicans spilled into partisan conflict tinged with racial resentment Tuesday, raising fears of a legislative train wreck that would derail the Republican governor’s final bid for a legacy.

Black Senate Democrats referred to the GOP’s party-line power play Monday as “plantation politics,” reprising the specter of the same spiteful partisan gridlock that paralyzed the Senate last year.

A scowling Gov. Bob McDonnell delivered a clear rebuke while most Republicans in the House maintained a cold, dismayed silence over the Senate move that caught them off guard.

“Obviously the tactics used yesterday were a surprise and don’t think that’s the way business should be done,” McDonnell said. “I’m not happy about the things that have happened.”

“What I’ve said is that this session should be about education and transportation, not redistricting and other things,” he said.

Despair over the partisan rift was so deep that many lawmakers of both parties compared the damage to the 2001 session, the only one in modern Virginia history to adjourn without finishing work on the state budget.

Ignoring ancient legislative traditions and even a just 2004 amendment to the Virginia Constitution that limits redistricting to once a decade, the Senate’s 20 Republicans shocked Capitol Square by their actions Monday. They abruptly amended a House bill that previously made minor technical boundary adjustments into a total revision of all 40 Senate districts passed in 2011.

With Democratic Sen. Henry Marsh away at President Barack Obama’s inaugural Monday, Senate Republicans caught the 20 Senate Democrats one vote short and muscled Sen. John Watkins’ surreptitious floor amendment to passage on a 20-19 vote with little debate in just 30 minutes.

(emphasis mine)

As to “Governor Ultrasound’s” disapproval, I would not expect a veto.

After all, he disapproved of the transvaginal ultrasound bill, and signed that into law.

Even if he were inclined to veto the bill, McDonnell wants to be the Republican Presidential or Vice-Presidential pick in 2016, and dirty tricks and voter suppression has become a core value of today’s Republican Party.

Now Roll Up the Co-Conspirators

Nechemya Weberman has been convicted of child sexual abuse and sentenced to 103 years:

An unlicensed therapist and respected member of an ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn was sentenced on Tuesday to 103 years in prison for repeatedly sexually abusing a young woman, beginning the attacks when she was 12.

The therapist, Nechemya Weberman, 54, a member of the Satmar Hasidic community of Williamsburg, did not react as the judge sentenced him. The victim, now 18, who delivered an impassioned statement asking for the maximum sentence to be imposed, dabbed away tears.

“The message should go out to all victims of sexual abuse that your cries will be heard and justice will be done,” Justice John G. Ingram of State Supreme Court said before imposing the sentence, which was close to the longest the law allows. Justice Ingram praised the young victim’s “courage and bravery in coming forward.”

The proceedings were closely watched, as this was the first high-profile case against child sexual abuse that the Brooklyn district attorney, Charles J. Hynes, had brought against a member of the politically powerful Satmar ultra-Orthodox community during his more than two decades in office. This sentence is the longest a Brooklyn court has imposed on a member of the ultra-Orthodox community for sexual abuse of a child.

More significant, they managed to get some of the Satmar Jewish community who attempted to intimidate witnesses:

Critics have charged Mr. Hynes with not being aggressive enough in going after molesters in the politically well-connected community. But Mr. Hynes has attributed the lack of prosecutions on the intimidation to stay silent that ultra-Orthodox sexual-abuse victims and their families often face from their own community leaders.

Support for Mr. Weberman was strong in powerful circles of the Satmar community after his arrest in 2011, with hundreds turning out for a fund-raiser for his defense. But the courtroom on Tuesday was about equally divided between supporters for him and for his victim.

Mr. Hynes has said he believes the case may be a turning point for ultra-Orthodox victims of sexual abuse. In addition to convicting Mr. Weberman, his office also charged seven Hasidic men with bribery and intimidation of Mr. Weberman’s victim, who testified over four days. Prosecutors say they know of more victims who were too afraid to testify.

Hopefully, this won’t stop here.

The harassment and coverups within the ultra-Orthodox community on this matter is endemic, and it will not stop until prosecutors go after people who do this.