Month: June 2014

And This Decision is a Camel’s Nose Under the Tent

In Harris v. Quinn, the Supreme Court ruled that home healthcare workers who are not members of a union do not have to pay dues for the services received.

It is better than could be expected, since they could have applied this to all public sector unions, effectively going right to work nationwide.

What I do think is that it is clear that this, along with an earlier decision, Knox v. SEIU, are an attempt to reverse the National Labor Relations Act via the death of 1000 cuts.

Eventually, assuming that the current 5-4 reactionary judge/real judge split remains in place on the Supreme Court, they will be making it  impossible for labor unions to function in the United States for the next decade.

This is partisanship masquerading as an impartial judiciary.

Yes, Hobby Lobby is Almost Dredd Scott* Bad

The basic decision is completely incoherent and contradictory.

The gist of the decision is that private corporations can ignore basic regulations if they are “sincerely held beliefs,” whatever the f%$# means, which ignores decades of jurisprudence which slapped down various flavors of bigots, sexists, and nut-jobs who have attempted to use religion to avoid following civil law.

They say that this is so because to quote Mitt Rmoney, “corporations are people too.”

They say that it only applies to “closely held” corporations, (fewer than 5 people holding over half of the equity in the firm) but provide no real explanation for why it should so be limited, and they do not explain why it does not, for example, apply to multibillion dollar corporations like Koch industries.

Furthermore, they say that it applies only to contraception, and not, for example, to the JW’s objection to blood transfusion or vaccination, but again, they simply say this, and provide no real justification:

This decision concerns only the contraceptive mandate andshould not be understood to hold that all insurance-coverage mandates, e.g., for vaccinations or blood transfusions, must necessarily fall if they conflict with an employer’s religious beliefs. Nor does it provide a shield for employers who might cloak illegal discrimination as a religious practice.

Basically, it only applies to contraception, because we care about what Catholics and right wing Evangelicals think, but not (Mercy!) Jehovah’s Witnesses.

What’s more, they redifine the definition of corporations to justify their opinion:

In other words, the Court has changed, definitionally, what it means to be a corporation under the state laws in question.

The existential condition of separateness is true even with closely held companies. The largest such companies – Cargill, Koch Industries, Dell, Bechtel, and Aramark, to name just a handful – have tens of thousands of employees and billions of dollars of revenue. (In 2008, Forbes reported that the 441 largest closely held companies employed more than 6 million people and enjoyed $1.8 trillion in revenue.) They are created under the same understanding of a wall existing between shareholders and the company. They could indeed not exist otherwise – the potential liability to individual investors would simply be too great.

So in evaluating whether Congress intended the word “person” in RFRA to cover corporations, the most reasonable assumption is that the states creating such entities intended such separateness and that corporations should not carry the rights of their shareholders. To assume otherwise flies in the face of decades, indeed centuries, of corporate law assumptions.

The Court makes a second corporate law mistake. In arguing that for-profit companies can have religious purposes, the Court makes hay from the fact that state incorporation statutes typically allow businesses to be chartered for any “lawful purpose or activity.” The Court uses this corporate law truth to argue, as a descriptive matter, that some corporations in fact engage in behavior that is in conformity with the religious views of their shareholders.


Indeed, I will not be surprised if we see, in the coming weeks, a host of closely held corporations – and a few publicly traded ones – asserting the right to discriminate against LGBT job applicants, employees, and customers notwithstanding various state laws to the contrary.

This is an unbelievably bad decision, and, unless the Congress revokes the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (the justification for the ruling), we are in for decades of counter productive anti-American religious zealotry.

This is a horrible decision, and if it had been made at the federal court level, we would assume that it would have been overturned at the appellate level before the ink was dry.

*Dred Scott v. Sandford. If you need this link, read some f%$#ing history.
I dunno. Maybe they do want it apply to Koch industries.

This is Going to Get Very Ugly

The bodies of the three kidnapped teens have been found in Israel:

Israel’s intense 18-day search for three abducted teenagers ended Monday when three bodies were found buried under a pile of rocks in an open field about 15 miles from where the youths were last seen in the occupied West Bank. A nation that had been enmeshed in hopeful prayer was instantly engulfed by a mix of grief and anger and vowed retaliation against the militant Palestinian group Hamas, which Israel says was behind the kidnapping.

“They were kidnapped and murdered in cold blood by beasts,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel said at the start of an emergency cabinet meeting Monday night. “Hamas is responsible, and Hamas will pay.”

Just after midnight, witnesses in the West Bank city of Hebron said the retaliation had begun as Israeli forces used explosives to demolish the homes of Marwan Qawasmeh and Amer Abu Aisha, the Hamas men who have been missing as long as the teenagers and are Israel’s prime suspects.

We are going to see dozens, if not hundreds, of casualties following this, and there is a real possibility that hostilities between Hamas and Fatah resuming as well.

I do not know how many people will die because of this, but my guess is that 90% of them will be Palestinian.  (Particularly since that ratf%$# Natanyahu clearly does not view Palestinians as full human beings)

What the hell were the perps thinking?  I could (kind of) understand if they had demanded a prisoner swap, or if the targeted people were troops, but this is just destructive for its own sake.

The only think that I can figure out is that, to quote Alfred Pennyworth, “Some men just want to watch the world burn.”

Another Example of the US Failure in Iraq

In response to the advance of ISIS, the Iraqi military has taken an emergency deliveries of Su-25 ground attack fighters:

A video uploaded by the Iraqi Ministry of Defence and a subsequent announcement shed light on Iraq’s first success in acquiring a combat capable platform to stop the advance of the Islamic State. The latter has made great progress in capturing large areas of Iraq and is now slowly advancing to Iraq’s capital Baghdad.

”The Ministry of Defence announced the arrival of the first out of five Russian combat aircraft Su-25 into Iraqi territory under a contract with the Russian ministry, which will contribute to increasing the combat capability of the Air Force and the other branches of the armed forces to eliminate terrorism.”

The Iraqi Army and Air Force have proved anything but capable to halt the Islamic State’s advance and have been desperately looking for other ways to fill the caps currently posed in Iraqi’s Armed Forces. With the United States reluctant to provide close air support or speeding up the delivery of Iraq’s F-16s, Iraq has been increasingly looking to countries in Eastern Europe to strengthen the Iraqi Air Force (IQAF). It is now clear a batch of five ex-Russian Su-25s are the first to have arrived.

The first Su-25, still in Russian Air Force (RuAF) camouflage and with a hastily applied Iraqi flag, arrived onboard a Russian An-124-100 cargo plane together with ground support equipment on the 28th of June. The Su-25s are believed to have been stored at the Aircraft Repair Plant 121 (ARZ 121) in Kubinka before being flown to Iraq. The contract also included new engines for the aircraft, which were installed just before the delivery flight.

The Iraqis have been waiting for the delivery of F-16s, but they got these surplus Su-25s in a matter of a few weeks.

It also of note that the Iraq AF operated this under Saddam, and the Iranians operate them today, so there is operational experience that can be tapped.

Additionally, under the current tactical situation, it’s a better weapon system than the F-16, because what is needed is a dedicated close air support (CAS) and strike aircraft with low operational costs.

What’s more the aircraft’s agility at low speed and low altitude allows it to maximize the effect of unguided munitions, which comprise the bulk of Iraqi munitions.

Additionally, it constitutes a major change in Iraqi policy. It shows that they are moving away from Western weapon systems, and the US defense contractors. (Yet another goal of Bush/Cheney that has turned into a fail)

So, the failure of the Neocon’s Iraq adventure continues to damage the interests of the United States.

The Sound You Hear is Another Bubble Collapsing

Remember those stories about all those investors paying cash to acquire rental properties?

Remember how they were going into single family rentals?

Well, it looks like the rush for the door has begun:

A year ago, buying foreclosed homes to rent out was the sure-thing trade for investment firms backed by money from private equity companies, hedge funds and pension systems. But with the supply of cheap foreclosed homes dwindling, some early investors are looking to cash out a bit by flipping homes to competitors.

The Waypoint Real Estate Group, one of the first companies to raise money from private investors to buy foreclosed homes, is quietly shopping as many as 2,000 houses in California that it acquired in the last few years in several private investment funds, said three people who had been briefed on the matter but were not authorized to discuss it. The homes, which are largely rented, are being shown to other companies backed by investor money that have also scooped up distressed houses in states including Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois and Nevada.

Waypoint is considering selling about half of its 4,000 homes. Some of the biggest institutional investors in the market for foreclosed homes — companies like the Blackstone Group, American Homes 4 Rent and American Residential Properties — have slowed their pace of acquisitions in response to an increase in home prices and a dearth of foreclosed homes that do not require significant renovation.

Waypoint is following other early investors like the Och-Ziff Capital Management Group and Oaktree Capital Management, which have sold homes bought near the start of the financial crisis. But unlike Och-Ziff and Oaktree, Waypoint is not leaving the single-family home market. It is still managing more than 7,000 homes for a publicly traded real estate investment trust, or REIT, it formed last year with the Starwood Capital Group called Starwood Waypoint Residential Trust.

Jason Chudoba, a spokesman for the trust and Waypoint’s management company, said the firm did not comment on market speculation.

The single-family home market, after a wave of acquisitions by companies backed by Wall Street money, is changing as institutional buyers now focus more on expanding their operations to manage tens of thousands of homes across the United States. Industry participants say that the rapid buying of foreclosed homes has ended and that they expect other early institutional buyers to sell homes to lock in profits. They say they also expect the business to consolidate into the hands of a few large companies.

So, the small operators are getting out, and the big operators, aka the too big to fail operators are doubling down, because they figure that they know better.

In a way, the TBTF players are right:  When this comes tumbling down, the taxpayers will find a way to bail them out, yet again.

We are f%$#ed.

Finally, Someone Says IT to a Neocon

Thats Gonna Leave a Mark

Katrina Vanden, editor-in-chief of The Nation finally calls out the Neocons as cowards when she tells Bill Kristol join the Iraqi army:

“For example, the president should go to Congress if he’s going to take military action in Iraq,” she explained. “There’s no military solution to Iraq, and I have to say, sitting next to Bill Kristol, man — I mean, the architects of catastrophe that have cost this country trillions of dollars, thousands of lives — there should be accountability.”

“If there are no regrets for the failed assumptions that have grievously wounded this nation — I don’t know what happened to our politics and media accountability, but we need it, Bill,” she continued. “Because this country should not go back to war. We don’t need armchair warriors, and if you feel so strongly, you should, with all due respect, enlist in the Iraqi Army.”

(emphasis mine)

This needs to be said, repeatedly.

The Neocons have spent decades accusing anyone who does not support their stupid military adventures of cowardice.

Calling out them as armchair warriors who send other people’s children to die is an essential part of our public discourse.

It’s Bank Failure Friday!!!! (One Week and One Day Late)

And here they are, ordered, and numbered for the year so far.

  1. Valley Bank, Moline, IL  <== Occurred on June 20
  2. Valley Bank, Fort Lauderdale, FL <== Occurred on June 20
  3. The Freedom State Bank , Freedom, OK

Yeah, I forgot to check last week.

Full FDIC list

The stuff does seem to happen in fits and starts.

So, here is the graph pr0n with last few years numbers for comparison (FDIC only):

I Think that Obama Just Called al-Maliki’s Bluff

Kerry just announced that there will be no airstrikes without a national unity government in Iraq:

US Secretary of State John Kerry has ruled out airstrikes against the rapidly advancing Islamist State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) unless Baghdad forms a more inclusive government, upping the political pressure on Nouri al-Maliki to work with the Sunnis and Kurds, or step aside as prime minister.

“It would be a complete and total act of irresponsibility for the president to just order a few strikes,” Kerry told CBS News on Tuesday. “But there’s no government, there’s no backup, there’s no military – there’s nothing there that provides the capacity for success.”

“The president reserves the right to use force as he does anywhere in the world, if it is necessary,” Kerry said. “But he wants to do so … with knowledge that there’s a government in place that can actually follow through and guarantee that what the United States is working toward can actually be achieved.”

But Prime Minister al-Maliki, a Shiite, rejected calls on Wednesday for a national unity government with Sunnis and Kurds, saying such a step would amount to a coup. Maliki’s State of Law alliance won the most seats in parliamentary elections last April, but fell short of the majority needed to form a government without help from rival parties.

I’m not sure if this is good news, or bad news.

It’s clear that Nouri al-Maliki is the source of most of the problems in Iraq, but our meddling in Iraqi affairs implies that we are getting back in.

It looks like when Obama is desperately trying to get back into the war that he called “stupid” in 2003.

Who says that Irony is dead?

Why You Should Not Give Money to the Red Cross

Even if you ignore their blood products profiteering which killed a significant portion of the Hemophiliacs in the United States under Liddy Dole, you have their routine and brazen profiteering in the event of major disasters:

Just how badly does the American Red Cross want to keep secret how it raised and spent over $300 million after Hurricane Sandy?

The charity has hired a fancy law firm to fight a public request we filed with New York state, arguing that information about its Sandy activities is a “trade secret.”

The Red Cross’ “trade secret” argument has persuaded the state to redact some material, though it’s not clear yet how much since the documents haven’t yet been released.

As we’ve reported, the Red Cross releases few details about how it spends money after big disasters. That makes it difficult to figure out whether donor dollars are well spent.

The Red Cross did give some information about Sandy spending to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who had been investigating the charity. But the Red Cross declined our request to disclose the details.

So we filed a public records request for the information the Red Cross provided to the attorney general’s office.

That’s where the law firm Gibson Dunn comes in.

An attorney from the firm’s New York office appealed to the attorney general to block disclosure of some of the Sandy information, citing the state Freedom of Information Law’s Trade Secret Exemption.

The documents include “internal and proprietary methodology and procedures for fundraising, confidential information about its internal operations, and confidential financial information,” wrote Gabrielle Levin of Gibson Dunn in a letter to the attorney general’s office.

If those details were disclosed, “the American Red Cross would suffer competitive harm because its competitors would be able to mimic the American Red Cross’s business model for an increased competitive advantage,” Levin wrote.

(emphasis mine)

Trade Secret Exemption?  Proprietary Methodology?  Competitive Harm?  Business model?  Competitive Advantage?


You are asking us to give you money on the vague promise that you won’t blow it all on salaries and severance packages for senior executives (and, you know, give thousands of Hemophiliacs AIDS ……… Oops, too late on that one).

The American Red Cross, and the Susan G. Komen foundations are not charities should be our first choices for donations.

I Disagree With the Rude One

In response to the Supreme Court decision giving free reign for antiabortion protesters to intimidate doctors, nurses, and patients, the Rude Pundit suggests that we engage in aggressive in your face threatening protests outside the churches that winds up the anti-abortion terrorists:

Look at that church. Isn’t it a pretty little church? It’s St. Mary’s Church in Grafton, Massachusetts. It’s freakin’ idyllic, no? It’s also deeply invested in anti-abortion actions. The congregation participated in 40 Days for Life, an action during Lent that 17,000 churches around the world took part in, with another 40 Days planned for September 24 to November 2.

The St. Mary’s churchgoers headed over to Worcester to protest at a Planned Parenthood and to “sidewalk counsel” women there. “[I]s it worth it to stand out in the wind and rain and cold to pray in front of Planned Parenthood?” the church’s website asks. And, for them, it was. They convinced one woman to not get an abortion. You can see the baby. It’s like a taste of something that will keep them addicted to protesting. A crack baby, if you will. No doubt the church will be supporting the baby and the mother until the baby is an adult. No doubt.

Come September, and maybe even before, the parishioners will be harassing every woman who goes to the Planned Parenthood, even those just going for pap smears and help getting pregnant. And they will no doubt be joined by the anti-abortion radicals, the fetus picture carriers, the screamers, the hysterics who shame women.

“Is it really necessary to be out on the sidewalk instead of praying at home?” St. Mary’s wants to know. Look up at that picture again. What do you see in front of St. Mary’s? That’s a nice, wide, very public sidewalk. The parking lot is across the street, so most of the people attending church services on, say, a nice summer Sunday will have to walk that sidewalk, a sidewalk just like the one outside Planned Parenthood in Worcester. A sidewalk like the one that Eleanor McCullen “gently” counsels women from outside a Planned Parenthood in Boston.


So let’s get out there, every goddamn Sunday, and head to the churches that send their lunatic Jesus-fellaters out to try to shut down Planned Parenthoods, and stand on their sidewalks, just like the one up there outside St. Mary’s in Grafton, and let’s make churchgoing a living f%$#in’ hell for ’em. Let’s bodily block the access to the walkways that lead to the church. Let’s bring signs that have pictures of women who were killed by illegal abortions. Let’s go up to them and try to convince them to convert or go atheist, following them until we are on church property and have to stop. Let’s block the street by walking back and forth in the crosswalk. Let’s force the churchgoers to need escorts to even get inside.

Shit, let’s plaster the telephone poles with photos of the priests and church leaders, their addresses, their phone numbers. Let’s tell them as they pass, “We know where you live.” Let’s film everyone going into the church and post those on a website. Hey, it’s a public f%$#in’ sidewalk, man. Let’s scream at them about how they’re terrible people, how they support raping children, how they have given money to help silence victims. Can’t you hear their silent screams? Can’t you? F%$#, yeah.

Going to church is a choice, no? Let’s make sure they regret that f%$#in’ choice, however legal it may be for them to make it. Then let’s see how quickly they’re begging for buffer zones.

(%$# mine)

First, and most important, is that this behavior is wrong.

Second, the methods that the Rude Pundit is suggesting require that its target already have a credible fear that they will be the target of violent terrorism.  The folks outside the Church will not be slashing tires, setting fire to the church, or shooting priests,* so any such demonstration will be almost completely without impact.

I would suggest, however, that people of good conscience refuse do make other common causes with people who go to places like St. Mary’s Church in Grafton, because consorting with terrorists, even at a soup kitchen, is still consorting with terrorists.

*Though some former alter boys might be considering this for a completely different reason.


My daughter’s phone has stopped working.

The display and touch screen are dead, but the rest of the phone, an LG Mach LS 860, still works.

I’ve been trying to figure out a way to get the already MyPhoneExplorer synching software to run with no access to the screen.

Why do I do this sh%$?

Insurance Companies Go Postal on Advair, Sales Collapse

It appears that pharmacy managers have decided that spending 5x as much as a French patient does is stupid:

Hallelujah. I never thought I’d see the day that I’d praise an insurance company. But the proverbial Atlas just shrugged.
Insurance company pharmacy benefit managers, who have apparently had it with drug companies charging American consumers ridiculously high, and ever-increasing, prices for prescription drugs, are starting to say “enough.”

At the top of the list is my asthma drug, Advair.

Some big insurance company pharmacy benefits managers are simply no longer permitting their plans to cover Advair. Or at best, they’ve relegated Advair to the lower “third tier,” which means the patient has to pay so much of the price that they simply won’t buy the drug at all.
As a result, Advair sales plummeted 30% this year in the US.

(emphasis mine)

It’s a battle between two groups of parasites, and I hope that there is a way for both of them to ose.

Come to think of it, there is, it’s called Single Payer, bitches.

Another Right Wing Hypocrite

Robert Heinlein, whose life was defined by his US Navy pension, 2/3 of active duty pay, when he was medically retired for TB.

He was in the Navy because his family was politically connected, and got him into the US Naval Academy at Annapolis:

  1. So: Robert Heinlein, that great hero of libertarian culture, was the complete creation of the invisible welfare state.
  2. The invisible welfare state is like white privilege: its whole power comes from the fact it is not talked about. Not seen as welfare.
  3. To understand the American right, we have to understand the process of forgetting that allowed Heinlein to suppress memory of pension.

(Read the rest)

This is Ayn Rand, who had lung cancer from her smoking, going on Medicare all over again.

Libertarians are wrong, and they are hypocrites.

One cannot prove this, but it ‘is’ in the same sense that Mount Everest ‘is’, or that Alma Cogan ‘isn’t’.*

*From The Album of the Soundtrack of the Trailer of the Film of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Bummer of a Birthmark, Chris

It looks like Jabba the Governor has yet another bridge scandal:

Investigations into the Christie administration and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey have zeroed in on possible securities law violations stemming from a $1.8 billion road repair agreement in 2011, according to people briefed on the matter.

While the inquiries were prompted by the apparently politically motivated lane closings at the George Washington Bridge last year, these investigations center on another crossing: the Pulaski Skyway, the crumbling elevated roadway connecting Newark and Jersey City. They are being conducted by the Manhattan district attorney and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The inquiries into securities law violations focus on a period of 2010 and 2011 when Gov. Chris Christie’s administration pressed the Port Authority to pay for extensive repairs to the Skyway and related road projects, diverting money that was to be used on a new Hudson River rail tunnel that Mr. Christie canceled in October 2010.

Again and again, Port Authority lawyers warned against the move: The Pulaski Skyway, they noted, is owned and operated by the state, putting it outside the agency’s purview, according to dozens of memos and emails reviewed by investigators and obtained by The New York Times.


In bond documents describing the Skyway reconstruction and other repairs, the Port Authority has called the projects “Lincoln Tunnel Access Infrastructure Improvements.”

The accuracy of this characterization is now a major focus of the investigations, according to several people briefed on the matter. Under a New York State law known as the Martin Act, prosecutors can bring felony charges for intentionally deceiving bond holders, without having to prove any intent to defraud or even establish that any fraud occurred.

Two veteran prosecutors in the Manhattan district attorney’s office public corruption unit are working with two S.E.C. lawyers who are experts in such bond issues, one person briefed on the matter said, and another noted that while the agencies were each conducting separate parallel inquiries, they were working together.

In addition to criminal charges under the Martin Act, the investigations could result in civil action under the Martin Act or by the S.E.C., under federal securities laws.

Someone has lost a lot of weight for nothing, because he will never be the Presidential nominee.

If You were Wrong About Iraq, You are a Wanker, and You Will Always be a Wanker

Case in point Peter Beinart, who was a full throated supporter of the Iraq war.

He has since admitted that he wrong, but he just cannot stop wanking about Iraq in ways so egregious that it has Digby apologizing:

Oh good lord. When I look like a fool, I really look like a fool. Just the other day I wrote a nice piece about Peter Beinert being someone worth listening to on Iraq because unlike others, he had repented for being wrong and learned some valuable lessons.

Uhm, I spoke too soon:

Yes, the Iraq War was a disaster of historic proportions. Yes, seeing its architects return to prime time to smugly slam President Obama while taking no responsibility for their own, far greater, failures is infuriating.

But sooner or later, honest liberals will have to admit that Obama’s Iraq policy has been a disaster. Since the president took office, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has grown ever more tyrannical and ever more sectarian, driving his country’s Sunnis toward revolt. Since Obama took office, Iraq watchers—including those within his own administration—have warned that unless the United States pushed hard for inclusive government, the country would slide back into civil war. Yet the White House has been so eager to put Iraq in America’s rearview mirror that, publicly at least, it has given Maliki an almost-free pass. Until now, when it may be too late.

Read on to find out how the Obama administration was supposed to perform magic tricks on the head of a pin to prevent this from happening. They didn’t “push hard” against the government to allow troops to stay beyond the Bush administration’s residual forces agreement expiration. He quotes his fellow memebers of the wrong about everything caucus Kenneth “Gathering Storm” Pollack saying that the administration “sent the wrong message” saying “the United States under the new Obama administration was no longer going to enforce the rules of the democratic road…. [This] undermined the reform of Iraqi politics and resurrected the specter of the failed state and the civil war.”


If every pundit who supported the Iraq debacle were made to do something useful for a living, maybe washing dishes of changing bed pans in nursing homes, the world would be a much better place.