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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Daily Drift

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Gerrymandering congressional districts just wasn't enough for North Carolina Republicans

North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory talks to Republican candidate Thom Tillis' supporters during the U.S. midterm election rally for Tillis in Charlotte, North Carolina, November 4, 2014.   REUTERS/Jason Miczek (UNITED STATES  - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS)
North Carolina Republicans are going for a scorched and salted earth policy, when it comes to taking over the state. It's not enough to fix congressional districts for Republicans, they're now trying to do it at the local level.
This session, bills introduced by Republican lawmakers would reconfigure a number of local government bodies around the state, prompting allegations that Republicans are gerrymandering and changing election rules at the city council and county commission levels.
The General Assembly last week changed the composition of the Board of Commissioners in Wake County, home to 10 percent of the state’s population, after November elections in which Democrats gained a 7-0 majority there. Other spoils are both surprisingly puny, like Trinity, N.C., population 6,600, and very significant, like the Democratic stronghold of Greensboro, the state’s third-largest city.
Republicans say the bills will encourage good government and, in some cases, increase representation and geographic diversity. State Senator Chad Barefoot, the Republican sponsor of the bill to change the Wake County board in Raleigh, said he was trying to bring more fairness to a system in which the deck was stacked in favor of urban voters at the expense of those in suburban and rural areas.
Democrats disagree. "They are drunk with their power, and are trying to reshape the rules to dictate the outcomes so that they win at every level of government, whether or not the voters want them to win," State Senator Josh Stein rejoins, homing in on the key problem here: "whether or not the voters want them to win." Of course, the state's Republicans have been working on those voters, too, making sure that as many Democratic voters are suppressed out of the system as possible.

It's such a radical plan even some Republicans are opposed to it. Gov. Pat McCrory blasted it. "If someone wants to change the form of government in one of your cities, then go run for city council, for mayor," he told Raleigh's News & Observer. Jerry Daniels, a Republican Trinity City Council member is appalled. One bill would shrink his council from nine members to six. "She's trying to get Republicans on the board and Democrats off. I'm a Republican, and I'm upset about it."

So much for representative democracy in North Carolina, even for non-teabagger Republicans.

Obama Drops The Veto Hammer On Republicans Plans To Gut Wall Street Reform

President Obama threw cold water on Republican plans to gut Wall Street reform and consumer protections by threatening to veto both GOP bills if they should reach his desk.
The White House first threatened to veto a Republican bill that would allow manufactured housing lenders to raise the cost of loans to consumers:
The Administration strongly opposes H.R. 650, which would weaken key consumer protections and provisions of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.
Specifically, the bill would revise the Truth in Lending Act to allow manufactured housing lenders to raise the cost of loans to consumers without triggering existing rules designed to protect consumers from loans they cannot afford to repay. Many borrowers purchasing manufactured homes are among the lowest income and economically vulnerable consumers. H.R. 650 would put these borrowers at significant risk of being subjected to predatory lending and being steered into more expensive loans even when they qualify for lower-cost alternatives. There is no reason to deny these borrowers the consumer protections that they receive today.
Because H.R. 650 would weaken key consumer protections and provisions of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act, if the President were presented with H.R. 650, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.
Immediately after the veto threat on H.R. 650 the White House followed up by threatening to veto H.R.685 that would also weaken consumer protections for people who are buying a home:
The Administration strongly opposes H.R. 685, which would weaken key consumer protections and provisions of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.
A fundamental component of Wall Street Reform is its requirement that lenders, before extending mortgage loans, make reasonable, good faith determinations that mortgage borrowers have the ability to repay the loans. The law provides lenders with protection from liability under this requirement if their loans satisfy certain clear criteria and thus are “Qualified Mortgages.” One of the criteria is that the up-front costs (“points and fees”) not exceed three percent of the total loan amount. During the housing bubble, many lenders front-loaded mortgage loans with points and fees and therefore had less incentive to determine a borrower’s ability to repay. Moreover, excessive, front-loaded points and fees contributed to predatory lending behavior, “steering” borrowers into more expensive mortgage loans.
H.R. 685 would revise the Truth in Lending Act to allow certain charges to be excluded from the definition of points and fees even when the lender or its affiliates receives the fees. By exempting certain fees from the three percent cap, H.R. 685 would allow lenders to increase the cost of loans and still be eligible for “Qualified Mortgage” treatment. This revision risks eroding consumer protections and returning the mortgage market to the days of careless lending focused on short-term profits.
Because H.R. 685 would weaken key consumer protections and provisions of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act, if the President were presented with H.R. 685, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.
Republicans in Congress are attacking consumer protections in an effort to turn back the clock to the days when Wall Street crashed the U.S. economy. For those who say government doesn’t matter, and that both parties are the same, I suggest that they examine what Republicans are trying to accomplish. President Obama is the only person standing in the way of a Republican agenda that is designed to only serve corporations and the wealthy.
Both of the Republican bills are backdoor assaults on consumer protections and the regulations that were put in place after the last Republican president was a friend of Wall Street. Politics does matter. President Obama and Congressional Democrats are standing up to stop Republicans from returning the country to the bad old days of too big to fail.

Obamacare Is Working As Uninsured Rate Drops Below 12 Percent

Despite persistent Republican efforts to undermine the ACA, Obamacare is, in fact, working, as uninsured rates continue to plummet.…
A Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index survey, released on Monday, finds that the uninsured rate for U.S. adults has dropped below 12 percent for the first time since Gallup began tracking the uninsured rate in 2008. The rate for Americans lacking health insurance has been steadily decreasing since the 3rd quarter of 2013, when 18 percent of U.S. adults had no health care coverage. With the full implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), more commonly referred to as “Obamacare”, that percentage has plummeted to 11.9 percent of American adults who remain uninsured.
The findings are the result of 43,500 interviews conducted with a random sample of American adults from January 2 to March 31, 2015. The 11. 9 percent uninsured rate for the first quarter of 2015, is a 3.7 percentage point drop from the 15.6 percent uninsured rate in the first quarter of 2014.
The uninsured rate in the last quarter of 2013 was 17.1 percent. The individual mandate provision of the ACA took effect in 2014. Since then, the national uninsured rate has dropped by 5.2 percentage points. The decrease in uninsured rates has been most substantial with young adults, low-income Americans, and non-whites, though uninsured rates have dropped for every significant demographic group.
Obamacare has achieved one of its  primary objectives. It has dramatically decreased the percentage of Americans who are without healthcare coverage. The drop from 17.1 percent in late 2013, to 11.9 percent in early 2015 represents over 12 million American adults adding health care coverage in just over a year’s time.
Republicans continue to attack Obamacare, but despite the relentless GOP onslaught, Obamacare is working for the American people. Millions of Americans who were not covered before now have insurance that they can rely upon if they get sick or injured. Many of them were denied coverage before, because of pre-existing conditions or because the costs of health insurance were out of their reach.
Obamacare has delivered tangible results for the American people. While the reformed health care system under the ACA is still far from perfect, there is no question that it is a dramatic improvement over the system that preceded it. Millions of Americans who now have insurance coverage can testify to that fact. Despite persistent Republican efforts to undermine the ACA, Obamacare is, in fact, working.

Hillary Clinton Hires an Openly Gay Man to Be Her Campaign Manager

Robbie Mook It’s official. Vermont native and out gay man Robby Mook will be taking the reigns as Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign manager, the first openly gay man to…

Democrats Fight Back Against Religious Freedom Laws By Pushing For LGBT Federal Protections

In a pointed response to the discrimination brought about by Indiana’s so-called “Religious Freedom” law, House Democrats announced a resolution to protect the civil rights of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community on the federal level.
Representative Jared Polis (D-CO) called it, “A new resolution that discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender is wrong and Congress is on right side of this battle.”
In a call with the press Monday morning, House Democratic Policy and Communications Committee Chair Steve Israel (D-NY), Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO) and Congressman David Cicilline (D-RI) explained that the resolution is a statement of values that LGBT people should be protected from discrimination under federal law. The resolution will be followed up with legislation this spring that will protect the civil rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people on the federal level.
Congressman André Carson (D-IN) will introduce the resolution later this week.
Rep. AndrĂ© Carson of Indiana explained in a statement read during the call that in the wake of backlash against the “Religious Freedom” law in his own state, Congress needed to act to overcome this civil rights issue and “ensure freedom for all Americans.” Carson said action is needed because, “Governments at all levels look to institutionalize discrimination in the name of religious freedom.”
Rep. Jared Polis said the resolution and legislation are necessary because Congress needs to act when basic freedoms come under attack, “Congress won’t sit idly by when our basic freedoms come under attack.”
Rep. David Cicilline charged that the Indiana law undermines basic freedoms, and the reason these freedoms are being undermined is because we don’t have a federal law ensuring equal rights. Cicilline said, “We don’t have a federal LGBT law, ensuring equal rights and due process… In a majority of states it is legal to discriminate against LGBT.” He continued, “The bill would, for the first time, cut through the patchwork of 50 states.”
Democrats are saying it is Congress’ job to take a stand for the basic freedoms of the LGBT community and they can’t allow in any state an intent to discriminate against LGBT, as evinced in Indiana’s RFRA.
“When intolerance occurs anywhere, everyone has a responsibility to take a stand. Intolerance doesn’t represent America, tolerance represents America,” Rep. Steve Israel said. “It’s time for the U.S. Congress to weigh in. … Our goal here is to make it known that we will not accept state discrimination against LGBT. We will protect civil rights and freedoms.”
Rep. Israel got cut off before he was finished speaking, as he was in traffic during the call.
The resolution Democrats introduced today is intended as an affirmative statement that they believe it is Congress’ job to support the LGBT community, it is, they say, “a strong statement of our belief in equality to set groundwork for an introduction later this spring of comprehensive civil rights bill to prevent discrimination.”
A comprehensive bill will be introduced later this spring, for which Democrats are working with coalitions and national organizations to create the language. While there hasn’t been any indication of Republican support as of yet, Democrats are hopeful that the finished bill will have bipartisan support. To this end, it is their hope that the legislation will mirror religious exemptions of the federal law, where LGBT will simply be treated no differently. Cicilline explained that religious liberty and non-discrimination have long co-existed, so both freedoms can be protected.
The Democrats see it as part of their duty in upholding the Constitution that they ensure the civil rights of all citizens, using legislation to do so if necessary. As Polis said, “No one should be denied service or turned away from a store.” Conservatives tend to disagree on principle, as they push for less regulation on the federal level. However in this case, conservatives sort of shot themselves in the foot when they used the idea of religious freedom to trample on the civil rights of others. One freedom does not eclipse another, and if the states can’t or won’t act responsibly, the federal government has a duty to step in and protect its citizens.
There is a case to be made for too much federal interference, but overriding those concerns is the fact that citizens who are supposed to be enjoying the freedom guaranteed to them under the Constitution are instead being denied housing, education, jobs, service and more.
This bill will probably be killed in the House, which like the Senate is run by Republicans. But the idea of federal protection for LGBT people has been introduced and with enough people voting, could become a reality.

Mika Brzezinski Force-Feeds Carly Fiorina A Heaping Dose Of Truth

Mika Brzezinski Force-Feeds Carly Fiorina A Heaping Dose Of Truth
Was that good for you?

Boehner To Hold Tax Repeal Vote To Increase Welfare For the Rich

John Boehner
Despite the ever-widening income gap in America with the poor and middle class losing wealth to the richest Americans in the top one percent of income earners, Republicans still are on a crusade to hand more riches to the already uber-wealthy. This week, Boehner will hold a vote to repeal the “Estate Tax”  and give the very richest of the rich another government handout at the expense of the rest of the population.
According to the Internal Revenue Service, “The Estate Tax is a tax on your right to transfer property at your death” to your heirs. As it stands now, no-one pays ‘Estate Tax” on any inherited estate unless it exceeds $5.4 million that affects the top 0.2 percent (two-tenths) of households in America. Everyone else, including the top 1 percent, pays no estate tax for inherited wealth up to $5.4 million. It is what gives the wealthiest families in America the ability to stay wealthy and become more powerful from generation to generation all while paying nothing for newfound wealth. Republicans want to completely eliminate the Estate Tax to unburden the richest 0.2% of households that include the likes of Romney and Kochs of America.
If one listens to, or believes, Republicans this country just has not been as generous to the wealthy as it has the overwhelming majority of Americans either wallowing in poverty and low wages or struggling to remain in a rapidly vanishing middle class. It is worth noting that the median income in America is below $50,000 and those families not only have little if anything to pass on to their heirs, they will likely struggle to survive right up until the day they die. Still, Republicans complain bitterly that the majority of Americans are sucking money from the government and the wealthy that should be given to the beleaguered and struggling ‘job creator‘ class.
The only problem with that assertion is that the wealthy are major recipients of government welfare most Americans are unaware of. If Republicans can eliminate the estate tax, super-wealthy families will be able to hoard, and increase, their wealth in perpetuity and become ever wealthier from other forms of government welfare Republicans refuse to subject to “reform” revealing the lack of morals they are known for around the world.
It is true that no-one in their right mind would ever accuse any Republican of having any morals, and in no small part  it is due to demands Republicans make on the working poor and poverty class in order to receive government aid they need to survive like food and healthcare assistance; demands and requirements Republicans would never consider making on their wealthy recipients. Republicans have never subjected farmers receiving agriculture subsidies, oil companies receiving billions in subsidies, churches getting hundreds-of-billions in subsidies, or Pell Grant recipients getting free tuition assistance to any of the limitations or demeaning requirements they are putting on poor Americans for something as necessary as food stamps.
Further, wealthy and upper middle-class families profit handsomely from mortgage interest deductions on not just  one large home, but often two, and they are never required to take a drug test, prove they are not using their homes for entertainment, manufacturing methamphetamine, growing marijuana, or letting family members pay rent under the table. Yet, Republicans in states are frantically attaching stringent requirements to receive government aid on the poor, most of whom work low-paying jobs and the elderly and disabled Americans; including active duty military personnel and recent Afghanistan and Iraq combat Veterans.
Most Teabaggers and Republicans bemoan federal assistance to the least advantaged among us but never complain about hundreds-of-billions of taxpayer-funded corporate, uber-wealthy, agricultural, or religious welfare because they do not see the free handouts to those who do not need it. Political scientist  Suzanne Mettler labels it the “submerged state” effect.  Aid such as Food stamps, healthcare assistance, welfare, and to a lesser degree Social Security and Medicare are highly visible benefits the barbaric Republicans, especially religious Republicans, believe should be eradicated to make room for more free welfare for the rich, corporate agriculture, the oil industry, and religion.  The double mortgage interest deduction, billions in subsidies, and high-income earners’ tuition deductions are invisible, or  “submerged” away from the public’s gaze. However, it is still free government welfare for those who already have, and take, enough from the government. The welfare for the rich, corporations, and churches are handed out “in round-about ways” through smaller or non-existing tax bills, unwarranted tax refunds, and payments the better-off do not have to make for Medicare, Social Security, or are allowed to deduct expenses the poor cannot afford.
As Mettler’s research reveals, a very high percentage of Americans who think they get nothing from the government and complain the poor are draining “their” resources actually benefit more from any number of federal programs than the working poor and those in dire poverty including children, the elderly and disabled, and Veterans. Republicans are well-aware of the welfare for the rich and religious and as a distraction they consistently incite righteous indignation from their wealthy donors and anti-government supporters who also rely on government welfare and want whatever those who need it most might receive out of sheer greed and ignorance.
As just one example of government aid the wealthy receive regular Americans cannot is the mortgage interest deduction for big houses and second homes that benefit 5-million Americans making over $200,000 annually. Those deductions alone amount to more housing aid than the over 20-million Americans living on less than $20,000 a year receive from the federal government; under $20,000 for a family is considered dire poverty. Because Republicans will not eliminate or limit deductions for the wealthy (over $200K is wealthy) they are incited to buy bigger homes, and invest second deductible homes simply to receive government housing assistance disguised as tax breaks only the rich qualify for. In fact, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the special deduction is tantamount to the government handing wealthy taxpayers free money and not them keeping more of their own wealth.
The wealthy also get what is known as the ‘yacht deduction‘ because the big boat they own is considered a second home. Plus, if the big boat is loaned or hired out to a charter business when it is not being used, the owner can write off all expenses related to a marine vehicle including purchase price, insurance, maintenance, storage and docking fees; all while having complete access for personal use. Like a wealthy person’s first and second home, the yacht deduction is like getting free welfare from the government just for being rich enough to own a big boat.
Obviously there are plenty of other government handouts to the rich that the rest of the population will never qualify for, much less be aware of, and they will never be targeted by Republicans the way they focus on social programs for the poor and middle class. In fact, instead of even giving the appearance of helping the population, Republicans are specifically looking to eliminate what few restrictions on the super-wealthy becoming even more wealthy. The idea of repealing the estate tax is just one example of Republicans’ working for not just the one percent, but the richest two-tenths of one percent. What is telling is that this upcoming vote to help the richest of the rich get much richer comes on the heels of Republican budget proposals taking even more from the poor and middle class. The only thing that is curious is why Americans are not taking to the streets demanding that some Republican heads roll and it may have something to do with the mainstream media not reporting on what Republicans are doing or why they are doing it.

Rand Paul’s Favorite Philosophers Think Poor People Are ‘Parasites’

Rubio Has Already Alienated Latinos, The Teabaggers, Big Business And The Religio-Wingnuts

The moron has an uphill battle ahead of him to win over the groups he needs as he launches his pretender bid.

Marco Rubio Faceplants Into 2016 By Not Seeming To Know That The 21st Century Already Started

rubio-abcMarco Rubio (R-FL) told ABC News that he is thinks he can be the candidate to lead America into the 21st Century. The problem is that the 21st Century began 15 years ago.
During an interview with ABC News, Rubio said, “I think this country’s at a generational moment where it needs to decide not what party it wants in charge but what kind of country are we going to want to be moving forward. I think the 21st century can be the American century, and I believe that I can lead this country in that direction. I can help lead it there from the Senate. I can lead it there as president.”
Rubio was trying to sell himself as the young visionary, who in contrast to Jeb Bush, will lead the Republican Party and the country forward. There are three problems with Rubio’s argument. First, the 21 Century began 15 years ago. Second, Rubio wouldn’t even be the first Republican president of the 21st Century, and third, the country already has the fourth youngest person ever to be elected president currently occupying the White House.
The mainstream political press has always been more smitten with Rubio than voters, which is why they are tying themselves in knots trying to build Rubio into a legitimate presidential contender. The problem is that all too often voters when Rubio opens his mouth illogical nonsense comes out. Rubio’s generational change agenda involves supporting tax cuts for the wealthy, keeping the Cold War going against Cuba and rejecting all science on climate change.
Sen. Rubio has also humiliated himself by demanding that a non-existent IRS commissioner resign. Rubio is so ambitious that is prone to doing and saying incredibly stupid things in an attempt to pander.
We get it. Rubio is young. Bush is old. However, when it comes to issues, both Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio represent more of the same from the Republican Party.

Trolls About To Go On Endangered Species List

Google Images Search, Marked 'Labeled for reuse,' https://www.google.com/search?safe=off&site=&tbm=isch&source=hp&biw=1117&bih=889&q=angry+online+gamer&oq=angry+online+gamer&gs_l=img.12...1617.1617.0.2642. from Cornell University have created a method of identifying internet trolls with an 80% accuracy.
This is good news. As you know we have had some trolls trying to slither their way onto this blog. They have been identified and the proper authorities are pursuing them as we speak.We know of one troll that has already been arrested for his activities - others will follow.

The Republican cabal’s IRS Cuts Ticking Off Taxpayers And May Cost Over $30 Billion Per Year

Featured image: Composite by Elisabeth Parker with frustrated taxpayer/Image Arcade and IRS tax forms and other tax preparation materials/Pixabay.We all love to hate the IRS, but the GOP’s drastic IRS funding cuts could cost us billions. John Oliver explains.

55 State House Republicans BANNED From N.D. Coffee Shop For Panning Anti-Discrimination Bill

(Image courtesy of Facebook) The Red Raven Espresso Parlor in Fargo, North Dakota, may seem to serve a bitter coffee banning the 55 state Republican House members who panned a recent...

Disgraced Republican Slapped With $76,000 Bill For Special Election To Replace Him

Featured image by Congressman Schock's U.S. House of Representatives office. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aaron_Schock#/media/File:Illinois_Congressman_Aaron_Schock_at_a_press_conference_in_2009.PNG
Disgraced former Illinois GOP Rep. Aaron Schock is still paying for his corrupt use of campaign funds. Literally. Because Schock decided he could spend...

Texas Republican refuses to meet with constituents who don’t share her views

Texas state Representative Molly White (Facebook)
Molly White (R-Belton) has proposed legislation that would allow businesses to refuse to serve customers on religious grounds.
Yep, she's got that deranged look in the eyes ... 
like all religio-wingnuts

She’s Got the Votes, But Senate Republicans Refuse to Confirm Lynch

loretta lynch
Despite collecting enough support to narrowly clear the floor, the confirmation vote for attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch remains on ice. It has been 157 days since the… 

Republicans Finally Let One Of Obama's Judicial Nominees Get A Vote

John CornynRepublicans Finally Let One Of Obama's Judicial Nominees Get A Vote

Cop Caught on Tape Laughing After He Killed Walter Scott

Michael SlagerHe laughed it off. In an audio recording obtained by the Guardian, Patrolman Michael Slager is heard laughing in the minutes after fatally shooting Walter Scott. During the… 

Republican Wins Award For Believing In Climate Change

From the "Holy Crap" Department:
Republican Wins Award For Believing In Climate Change

Who would have ever thought it possible?!