Open Thread: Darth Cheney, Fictioneer


(Jim Morin via GoComics.com)

Conor Friedersdorf at the Atlantic has a pretty good thumbnail summary Remembering Why Americans Loathe Dick Cheney: the Iraq war, torture, Halliburton, Ahmed Chalabi, unlimited detention of the innocent, his radical view of executive power, etc. Colin Powell’s former chief of staff, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, sniffs about Cheney’s “cheap shots”:

“I think he’s just trying to, one, assert himself so he’s not in some subsequent time period tried for war crimes and, second, so that he somehow vindicates himself because he feels like he needs vindication. That in itself tells you something about him,” Wilkerson told ABC News, explaining that Cheney may have “angst” because of receiving deferments instead of serving in the Vietnam War like Wilkerson and others in the administration.
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“He’s developed an angst and almost a protective cover, and now he fears being tried as a war criminal so he uses such terminology as ‘exploding heads all over Washington’ because that’s the way someone who’s decided he’s not going to be prosecuted acts: boldly, let’s get out in front of everybody, let’s act like we are not concerned and so forth when in fact they are covering up their own fear that somebody will Pinochet him,” Wilkerson said alluding to the former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, who was arrested for war crimes.

(via)
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But IMO the most significant review so far is Dahlia Lithwick at Slate dissecting Cheney Getting Away With Torture:

This week Dick Cheney invites us all to join him again in a game he likes to play against the rest of us called Tedious Torture Standoff. He continues to assert—this time in his memoir, In My Time—that he has “no regrets” about developing the U.S. torture program, and he continues to argue—as he did this morning on the Today Show—that torturing prisoners is “safe, legal, and effective.” He continues to assert that he would “strongly support” water-boarding if actionable information could be elicited from a prisoner. He even says that different standards apply to torturing Americans and foreigners. Cheney is trying, in short, to draw us back into the same tiresome debate over the efficacy of torture, which is about as compelling as a debate about the efficacy of slavery or Jim Crow laws. Only fools debate whether patently illegal programs “work”—only fools or those who have been legally implicated in designing the programs in the first place…
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Now we’re getting somewhere

I’ve been following a lawsuit filed against White Management. White Hat Management is a for-profit charter school management company that operates in Ohio and Florida.

The case began in May of 2010:

A group of Cleveland and Akron charter schools is in open rebellion against the for-profit management firm that runs the schools. An unusual lawsuit brought Monday by 10 governing boards of Hope Academies of Cleveland and Akron and Life Skills Centers of Cleveland and Akron alleges that a 2006 state law passed by majority-party Republicans is unconstitutional and gives the for-profit company unchecked authority.

Charter schools are publicly funded but privately operated. In the case of White Hat Management, 96 percent of the state funding flows to the company. The governing boards say that White Hat’s interest in making a profit conflicts with the schools’ goal to educate. The suit, filed in Franklin County Common Pleas Court, says that the boards are “virtually impotent to govern the schools.”

They say that White Hat has refused to provide detailed financial information such as unaudited quarterly financial reports required under the management agreement with the schools. White Hat has also refused to provide details on grants received and also failed to spell out what funds were used to purchase school property and equipment since 2004, the suit charges.

And this month, we (the people) got a good ruling on a discovery request:

Although charter school operator and GOP donor David Brennan has long maintained that he does not have to show how his charter schools spend the millions they receive in taxpayer money each year, a Franklin County judge disagreed and ordered Brennan to open his books.

The ruling is a remarkable victory for open and accountable government and for parents who have been struggling to learn why schools run by White Hat Management have consistently had abysmal academic records.

White Hat gets 96% of all state funds provided to the complaining charter schools but has long maintained that how it spends the public’s money is not the public’s business.A Franklin County judge disagreed: Ohio law “clearly and unambiguously requires operators of community schools to provide their governing authorities with a detailed accounting of how public funds were spent,’’ according to a Wednesday ruling by Franklin County Common Pleas Judge John Bender.

White Hat has control of 96% of state funding, but they also have control of 100% of federal funding, with oversight by a community board where the members of the board themselves state in the complaint that they are “virtually impotent to govern the schools”.

The linked article is a little breathless. It’s not a “remarkable victory”. They won some and they lost some, and keep in mind this is a just a ruling on a discovery motion in an ongoing lawsuit. This whole thing could get interesting when we finally, finally get a peek at White Hat’s books.








Somewhat good news for a Friday morning, or, why professional lobbyists should stick to opining on what they know: lobbying

Where I live, this is good news:

Taxpayers bailed out much of the U.S. auto industry. Now the carmakers might be what saves the nation’s economy from falling back into recession. After a massive restructuring and several high-profile bankruptcies, a leaner, more aggressive auto industry is making a comeback, hiring workers and ramping up manufacturing plants. From a trough two years ago, Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co., Chrysler Group and other auto companies have added almost 90,000 manufacturing jobs, a 14% increase, according to federal employment data.

And it’s not just the Big Three American manufacturers that are thriving. Nissan, VW and other foreign-based firms are expanding in the United States, putting billions of dollars into building and refurbishing plants. Start-ups Tesla Motors in Palo Alto, Fisker Automotive in Anaheim and Coda Automotive in L.A. are hiring and spending hundreds of millions of dollars designing and launching electric and hybrid vehicles. Dealers are having a banner year, making more money per sale than they have in years and hiring back some workers shed during the recession.

The Commerce Department said Wednesday that orders for autos and auto parts jumped 11.5% in July, the most in eight years. That followed an earlier government report on industrial production that showed the auto industry was the strongest segment of the manufacturing economy last month.

This kind of expansion is important to the economy. Including factories, suppliers and dealers, the U.S. auto industry employs about 1.7 million workers and supports an additional 6.3 million private-sector jobs, according to the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich. The center said those positions represent more than $500 billion in annual compensation and more than $70 billion in personal tax revenue.

They were heading back into the 13-million range — helped by a wave of new models, low interest rates and improving consumer confidence — only to be upended by the Japanese earthquake in March. Shutdowns at Japanese-owned factories in Japan and the United States created inventory shortages that led to sharply higher car prices, lower demand and hundreds of thousands of lost sales for dealers. But with those disruptions now in the rearview mirror, the industry is looking for sales to improve over the rest of the year.

Back when millionaire media personalities and conservatives were hoping that the auto industry would fail I remember reading lobbyist/unelected lawmaker Grover Norquist opining on the pages of Politico.

Norquist was quoted during that period as (I guess) an expert on the auto industry. Baffling, to me. As far as I can tell the only thing Grover Norquist has ever done in his entire career is pressure elected lawmakers on behalf of moneyed interests. I have no idea why anyone would ask him anything about manufacturing. He’s a lobbyist. That’s what he does and that’s all he’s ever done.

I think if I were interviewing Norquist I’d ask him about the Abramoff Congressional scandal. He might know a lot about that, and his knowledge there might be interesting and informative to readers. But making and selling a tangible product? Nah. Norquist doesn’t know anything about that.

In any event here’s what the wealthy libertarian lobbyist said in 2009:

“This is somewhere in between Baghdad and fixing the flood in Louisiana,” Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, said, comparing the GM decision to major stumbles by former President George W. Bush. Obama “has decided to take this over. He now owns it.”

Here’s now-majority leader John Boehner, another expert on lobbying and not much else, who, incredibly, represents a district in the rust-belt state of Ohio:

“The pattern here is pretty clear,” House Minority leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Thursday. “Every time the president makes a so-called tough decision, it’s the American middle class that gets hit the hardest.”



Perry for Prez: Grifter Going Big-Time?


(Ben Sargent via GoComics.com)

Matt Yglesias at Think Progess discusses what he considers the “Ten Weirdest Ideas In Rick Perry’s ‘Fed Up’“:

Rick Perry’s November 2010 book Fed Up!: Our Fight to Save America from Washington is not a typical “campaign book” from a political candidate. For starters, its forward is written by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, nominally one of Perry’s rivals for the nomination. For another thing, its overall tone much more closely resembles that of a B-list conservative radio host looking to stir up controversy and sell books than of a cautious politician trying out poll-tested lines. Consequently, while the book is by no means a good one, it’s certainly a lot more interesting than most comparable works. I read it over the weekend, and thus am proud to produce the following list of the Top Ten Weirdest Ideas…
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8. Medicare Is Too Expensive But Must Never Be Cut: Both establishing Medicare in 1965 and expanding it to include prescription drugs in 2003 are examples of “an irresponsible culture of spending in Washington” (page 63), but establishing “‘councils of experts’ and panels of various sorts” to assess the cost effectiveness of different Medicare-eligible treatments is a “frightening” “scheme” that “undermines freedom” and can be fairly labeled “death panels” (page 81)…
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5. Almost Everything Is Unconstitutional: Regrets the existence of jurisprudence construing the Commerce Clause to permit “federal laws regulating the environment, regulating guns, protecting civil rights, establishing the massive programs and Medicare and Medicaid, creating national minimum wage laws, [and] establishing national labor laws.” Perry makes a partial exception for laws barring racial discrimination which he says fulfill “the intent behind the passage of the Reconstruction Era amendments.” (page 51)…

It’s frig-magnet sloganeering like this and the Palenty encomium that I posted earlier which made me suspect that Perry, “a man largely unencumbered by principles” (as a former associate phrased it), was doing the Will-He-or-Won’t-He candidate dance as a means of attracting media attention to increase his marketability on the Wingnut Welfare circuit. Quite possibly at/with the “encouragement” of Republican Serious-Money backers — the people that funded the original Taxed Enough Already agitators. The Koch Bros’n’Cronies seem to be trying to choke off the genuine nutroot Zealot Candidate (Bachmann, who may have been intended as the Palin-blocker) in time to herd the rubes into the “safe” (Romney) chute before the whole Repub-brand starts to whiff too strongly of a fly-by-night carnival. But even the most hard-headed grifter is prone to end up being seduced by his own grift… all the sweet, sweet fluffing Perry’s gotten from the novelty-mad Media Village Idiots over the past week must make it hard for him to resist believing he could run a long con all the way to Tampa, if not the Oval Office.

Which means I once again am driven to quote Doghouse Riley for the perfect encapsulation:

… You’ve just got to love, or puke at the mention of, how Rick Perry became the Instantly Credible Candidate when “credible” is code for–no, hell, it’s not even code, it’s synonymous with–“rich donor list”. I mean, there’s nothing else aside from this constant artificial excitement over what bright, shiny, and fur-wrapped object has grabbed the Religious Teabagger focus du jour. The Texas Miracle–interesting, by the way; a year ago, when the now in decline Establishment Republicans for Mitch–and Mitch himself, I think it goes without saying–touted Indiana as having the best employment record in the Abysmal Obama Economy. Daniels got away with it. Perry won’t.
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And don’t get me wrong: Rick Perry is religious scam artist, a public liar, and a neo-confederate fuck melon. And he could be Your Next President. None of those things is mutually exclusive of the other. Hell, in the last three decades they’re positively correlated. Rick Perry sounds like he stands for something. It may not matter anymore just What that happens to be. Democrats quit doing that full-time in 1981, after spending the previous decade apologizing for George McGovern and ridiculing Jimmy Carter. Sorry, but the possibility of President Rick Perry exists today only because Democrats wouldn’t stand up for themselves after losing to Richard Fucking Milhous Nixon.
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I hate to keep bringing it up, but that’s that. Democrats decided in 1972 that Liberalism had run its course; in 1974 Democratic Senators decided it was too costly to get the money out of politics. 2006 was just a re-capitulation; Democrats placed in a two-house majority because of an extremely unpopular war couldn’t find the wherewithal to defund it, let alone bring anyone home or hold the Worst President in History accountable. Democrats are not going to take their rightful place as the majority party in the US until they chop the Republicans off at the knees. That’s a requirement. Now, of course, the GOP has gone so far Right it’s in danger of falling into a Horowitz Singularity and emerging as weirdly religious Trotskyites, and the Dems will figure once again that sooner or later they’ll return to power on the backs of what morons their opponents are.








Both sides to a contract understanding the terms of the contract shouldn’t be controversial

I was looking around the Consumer Financial Protection Burea site.

The CFPB is the new federal agency that Elizabeth Warren invented and set up, and Rich Cordray has been named to run.

Richard Shelby (R, Lenders) has vowed to fight the CFPB, presumably because he’s opposed to the idea of both parties to a contract understanding the terms of that contract. That would be horrible, if borrowers understood contract terms as completely as lenders do. Must tilt playing field towards lenders or they all crawl under their desks and start weeping at the unfairness of it all. It’s a hard, hard world out there, and they’ve gotten used to an awful lot of coddling.

Two areas on the CFPB site may be of interest to Balloon Juice readers.

The CFPB has been “market testing” a simplified mortgage disclosure form. The voting period ended on August 10, so BJ readers missed the deadline and won’t be able to vote in the current round.

The CFPB wants to know which form is most helpful to borrowers.

Some background:

What is a mortgage disclosure form?
For most Americans, buying a home means taking out a mortgage loan. If you recently applied for a mortgage loan, you received two forms required by federal law: A two-page Truth in Lending disclosure form and a three-page Good Faith Estimate. They’re supposed to help you pick the mortgage product that’s best for you. But if you’ve actually applied for a mortgage recently, what you probably remember most are lots of technical terms and long lists of fees.
These disclosures don’t work if they give you too much information or if the information they provide isn’t what you need.

Why are you combining the two forms?
The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which created the Consumer Bureau, mandated that we combine these two forms into one. So, we are going to combine the two forms into one and make them simpler to understand.

Here are the two proposed forms. Azalea or Camellia (pdf)

Here are the factors we are to consider when choosing the better form:

Would this form help consumers understand the closing costs associated with their loans?
Could lenders and brokers clearly and easily explain the form to their customers?
What would you like to see improved on the form? Is there some way to make things a little bit clearer?

The second area that may be of interest is an online complaint form for people who have a problem with a credit card. That’s here.

h/t Credit Slips