Daily Archives: October 20, 2010

Justices Scalia And Thomas’s Attendance At Koch Event Sparks Judicial Ethics Debate

Perhaps now we know why Citizens United v FEC was successful. 

This is absolutely sickening.  The bold and disturbing hubris of conservatives today, with their “in-your-face” attitude is beyond the pale, in my opinion.  Then again, as long as we have wimpy ass Democrats who allow this, as well as a complacent citizenry, this sort of stuff will continue.  In 2012 their boldness will be ten-fold, if they are not put in check.

Huffington Post

Reports that two Supreme Court Justices have attended seminars sponsored by the energy giant and conservative bankroller Koch Industries has sparked a mild debate over judicial ethics.

On Tuesday evening, the New York Times reported that an upcoming meeting in Palm Springs of “a secretive network of Republican donors” that was being organized by Koch Industries, “the longtime underwriter of libertarian causes.” Buried in the third to last graph was a note that previous guests at such meetings included Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, two of the more conservative members of the bench.

It’s not rare for a Justice to attend a seminar sponsored by a group with judicial or political interests. Members of the court, for instances, often speak at academic institutions or think tanks. Virtually all companies, meanwhile, are affected by the judicial branch. So long as Scalia and Thomas did not participate in overt partisan activities, there would be no apparent conflict of interest.

“There is nothing to prevent Supreme Court justices from hanging out with people who have political philosophies,” said Steven Lubet, a professor of law at Northwestern University who teaches courses on Legal Ethics.

But the Koch event appears more political than, say, the Aspen Ideas festival. In its own invitation, it was described as a “twice a year” gathering “to review strategies for combating the multitude of public policies that threaten to destroy America as we know it.” In addition, it’s not entirely clear what the two Justices did at the Koch event. A copy of the invitation that served as the basis for the Times‘s report was posted by the liberal blog Think Progress. It provided no additional clues. A call to the Supreme Court and an email to a Koch Industries spokesperson meanwhile were not immediately returned.

Faced with a lack of concrete information, and cognizant of Koch’s fairly intense history of political involvement, legal ethicists are urging for more disclosure.

“This is certainly worth more reporting,” said Stephen Gillers, a professor of law at New York University. “It is intriguing because the Koch brothers are so politically active and identify with a point of view. I know I would be curious to know exactly what forums the Justices went to. Obviously they could not go to a strategy session about how to elect more Republicans. On the other hand if it was a forum on the meaning of the First Amendment and it didn’t involve strategy or fundraising a Justice could appear… It’s fascinating and it merits more reporting.”   Continue reading…

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Filed under GOP Hubris, GOP Lies, GOP Obstructionism, Judicial Activism, Justice Antonin Scalia, Koch Brothers, Koch Industries

NAACP backs report that ties racist groups to tea party

Actually, this news comes as no surprise.  The good thing is that it’s all documented.

Washington Post

A new report, backed by the NAACP, has found what it says are efforts by white nationalist groups and militias to link themselves to the tea party movement, even as some tea party leaders have expelled members who have expressed racist sentiment.

The report, called Tea Party Nationalism, uses news articles, visits to white nationalist Web sites and observance of tea party functions to claim that tea party events have become a forum for extremists “hoping to push these (white) protesters toward a more self-conscious and ideological white supremacy.”

Its findings cite that members of groups such as the Council of Conservative Citizens, which opposes all efforts to “mix the races of mankind,” have become involved in tea party chapters, and that posters on the online white nationalist Web site Stormfront.org have written of “inflitrating” tea party events.   Continue reading…

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Filed under Homophobia, Islamophobia, NAACP, Racism, Radical Right

Nine Stories The Press Is Underreporting — Fraud, Fraud And More Fraud

This report exposes a lot of what the mainstream media refuses to report on…

Huffington Post

If it wasn’t already blindingly obvious that pervasive fraud was at the heart of the financial crisis and the ensuing foreclosure catastrophe, you would think that the latest news — that banks have routinely been lying their heads off in the rush to kick homeowners off the properties they fraudulently induced them to buy in the first place — would pretty much clinch it.

[...]

1. The astonishing amount of mortgage fraud (literally, millions of cases annually) and how it hyperinflated the bubble and led to the Great Recession.

2. The fact that these mortgage frauds were overwhelmingly due to consciously fraudulent lending practices in which the CEOs of seemingly legitimate entities used accounting tricks as their “weapon of choice” to report higher profits and get bigger bonuses. (George A. Akerlof and Paul R. Romer got it right in the title to their 1993 article: Looting: The Economic Underworld of Bankruptcy for Profit.)

3. The disgraceful lack of prosecutions which has resulted from regulators virtually ending the practice of making criminal referrals and the pathetic March 2007 “partnership” that the FBI entered into with the Mortgage Bankers Association (the trade association of the “perps”) that led the FBI and the Department of Justice to (implicitly) define out of existence fraud by the lenders (and to conceive of them as the “victim” — which they are, but only of their controlling officers). Bush administration attorney general Michael Mukasey in June 2008 notoriously refused to create a national task force against mortgage fraud based on his claim that mortgage fraud was analogous to “white collar street crime.”

4. The “echo” epidemics of fraud set off by the primary epidemic of accounting “control fraud“. The fraud designed by CEOs in turn kicked off an epidemic of fraud among loan brokers and appraisers. Reporters should explore the concept of the Gresham’s-style dynamic in which bad ethics were a competitive advantage and drove good ethics out of the marketplace.

5. The massive foreclosure fraud we are seeing now as another “echo” epidemic. To optimize their accounting control fraud, lenders gutted underwriting. [...]

6. The ongoing massive cover up of losses on bad assets, particularly by the “too big to fail” institutions, which I call “systemically dangerous institutions” (SDIs). Those institutions, along with Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke and Congress (at the behest of the Chamber of Commerce and with no opposition from the Obama administration) in April 2009 forced the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) to change the rules so that the banks do not have to recognize their losses unless and until they sell the bad assets. The implications of this cover up are large (and rarely reported). At the very least, it means that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s propaganda campaign about TARP saving the world at virtually no cost (perhaps even a “profit”) is nonsense — despite its success in influencing the Washington Post and Los Angeles Times[...]

7. The continued absence of effective regulation. It should be scandalous that President Obama left in charge, or even promoted, the anti-regulators who permitted the Great Recession. The (failed) anti-regulator of Fannie and Freddie, for example, remains FHFA’s acting director. This is significantly insane as a matter of both economics and politics. (The administration doesn’t even seem to realize the issue of integrity.)

8. The crises of state and local government and the lack of a rational basis for Republican and Blue Dog opposition to the proposed revenue sharing component of the stimulus bill. The compounding insanity of the administration failing to fight for its concept and failing to make explicit how badly its removal would harm the recovery, employment, and vital government services.

9. The insanity of accepting mass, long-term unemployment rather than having the government provide productive jobs for everyone willing to work (as the employer of last resort).

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Filed under Financial Crisis, Financial Regulatory Reform, Foreclosures

Rally To Restore Sanity’s Roots: ‘Real America’

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Morning Blog Roundup 10-20-2010

Health care law fact check: Medicaid, health spending, and abortion myths and missteps

Would cutting the minimum wage raise employment?

From Obama, the Tax Cut Nobody Heard Of

Corporations Hide Election Spending From the Public Eye

The Perfect Storm

Where’s John Boehner? Watching the clock

Two Weeks Out – Nine Reasons Why Democrats Will Keep Control of the House

Joe Miller: “If East Germany could, we could.”

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Filed under U.S. Politics

Sarah Palin: GOP ‘through’ without tea party

Politico

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin on Monday warned Republican Party leaders that if they do not adhere to the message of the tea party, the GOP may be “through.”

In a brief interview with CNN shortly after a rally for the Tea Party Express in Reno, Palin insisted that the reports of a rift between the tea party and GOP are overblown. But she went on to lay out the consequences of a tea party-GOP split.

“I think more of the machine within the GOP is going to understand that this ‘we the people’ message is rising, and it’s resonating throughout with the independents, with hard core conservatives, with moderates, because it’s just so full of common sense and time-tested truths that can put the economy on the right track,” Palin said.

“Heaven forbid that the GOP machine strays from this message,” she said. “If so, the GOP is through.”

When asked if that meant Republicans would be wise to kick the few remaining moderates out of the party, Palin contended that it would not be necessary — though many of her endorsements have aimed to do just that.

“This is all about an independent message, moderates who just believe that government’s proper role is very constrained and restrained, according to our Constitution, that our states’ rights, our individual rights should be more powerful and made more manifest than a growing federal government — their — their power,” she said.

“So moderates can embrace that,” Palin added. “Independents certainly can.”

Today’s event in Reno follows a Saturday appearance by Palin at a GOP rally in Southern California. She will appear at another party rally this weekend in Orlando, Fla.

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Filed under Republican Secret Donors, Republicans, Sara Palin's Mama Grizzlies, Sarah Palin

Ugandan Newspaper Publishes Names of ‘Top 100’ Homosexuals, Calls for Their Hanging

The relevance of this outrageous story reaches back to  many Republican politicians, especially those affiliated with “C” Street and the “Christian Right” . 

New York Magazine

Several days ago an unregistered, English-language tabloid in Uganda published a front-page headline announcing “100 PICTURES OF UGANDA’S TOP HOMOS LEAK,” and stamped the cover with a yellow label declaring, “Hang Them.” Inside the paper, alongside the men’s photos were printed their names and addresses. Since the paper hit stands, at least four of the men on the list have been attacked. (Still more are in hiding.) This comes a year after a legislator introduced a bill that would have set the death penalty for homosexual acts, a bill that was set aside after international uproar. “Before the introduction of the bill in parliament most people did not mind about our activities. But since then, we are harassed by many people who hate homosexuality,” Patrick Ndede, 27, told the Washington Post. “The publicity the bill got made many people come to know about us and they started mistreating us.”

The article — in a publication called Rolling Stone, which is not related to the U.S. magazine of the same name — also claimed that a deadly new disease was spreading among homosexuals in Uganda, and that homosexuals were raiding schools to recruit “one million children.”

This is not the first time that a paper in Uganda has named “top homos.” Red Pepper, another tabloid, produced a similar self-titled “killer dossier” around this same time last year.

In 2009, the United States donated an estimated $285 million to the Ugandan government through PEPFAR, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief started by George Bush in 2003. Since its inception, Uganda has received over $1.2 billion in aid from the U.S. to combat HIV/AIDS, an epidemic that is flourishing there among the community of men who have sex with men. Rather than distribute condoms or educate gay men to help stop the spread of the disease, the Ugandan official response is to exclude them from services and wage a cultural and legal war against them. When this latest article came out, the government only offered to suspend the tabloid’s circulation because it had not yet officially registered. Once it files the proper paperwork, it may resume publication without facing punishment.

This essay by Jamie Kirchick from the Los Angeles Times last year does a good job of explaining the conflict between the United States’ AIDS funding to Uganda and that country’s policy toward some of its most at-risk citizens. Newsweek has also taken a good look at this issue. Far from improving as a result of the help of the United States, the situation for gays in Uganda seems to only be getting worse.

‘Hang them’: Uganda paper publishes photos of gays [WP]

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Secretive Republican Donors Planning Ahead

This should come as a surprise to no one…but it’s scary as hell!

The New York Times

A secretive network of Republican donors is heading to Palm Springs for a long weekend in January, but it will not be to relax after a hard-fought election — it will be to plan for the next one.

Koch Industries, the longtime underwriter of libertarian causes from the Cato Institute in Washington to the ballot initiative that would suspend California’s landmark law capping greenhouse gases, is planning an invitation-only confidential meeting at the Rancho Las Palmas Resort and Spa to, as an invitation says, “develop strategies to counter the most severe threats facing our free society and outline a vision of how we can foster a renewal of American free enterprise and prosperity.”

The invitation, sent to potential new participants, offers a rare peek at the Koch network of the ultrawealthy and the politically well-connected, its far-reaching agenda to enlist ordinary Americans to its cause, and its desire for the utmost secrecy.

Koch Industries, a Wichita-based energy and manufacturing conglomerate run by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, operates a foundation that finances political advocacy groups, but tax law protects those groups from having to disclose much about what they do and who contributes.

With a personalized letter signed by Charles Koch, the invitation to the four-day Palm Springs meeting opens with a grand call to action: “If not us, who? If not now, when?”

The Koch network meets twice a year to plan and expand its efforts — as the letter says, “to review strategies for combating the multitude of public policies that threaten to destroy America as we know it.”   Continue reading…

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Filed under GOP Fundraising, GOP Hubris, GOP Hypocrisy, GOP Obstructionism, GOP Political Attacks, Republican Secret Donors, Republicans