Nope, not an April Fool's joke -- although you could say that this is one holiday the Republican party celebrates every day of the year. From the Marietta (GA) Journal, via Joe My God, the state GOP chairwoman's bizarre theory that people will pretend to be gay in order to get health care benefits. (Maybe we could just, you know, give everybody benefits?)
One woman who has not “gone red” is Georgia GOP Chairwoman Sue Everhart of east Cobb, although she’s aware of the movement.
“Lord, I’m going to get in trouble over this, but it is not natural for two women or two men to be married,” Everhart said. “If it was natural, they would have the equipment to have a sexual relationship.”
Everhart said while she respects all people, if same sex marriage is legalized across the country, there will be fraud.
“You may be as straight as an arrow, and you may have a friend that is as straight as an arrow,” Everhart said. “Say you had a great job with the government where you had this wonderful health plan. I mean, what would prohibit you from saying that you’re gay, and y’all get married and still live as separate, but you get all the benefits? I just see so much abuse in this it’s unreal. I believe a husband and a wife should be a man and a woman, the benefits should be for a man and a woman. There is no way that this is about equality. To me, it’s all about a free ride.”
Oh dear. I think poor Sue has caught one too many showings of "I Now Pronounce You Chuck And Larry." Like Ronald Reagan, she confuses Hollywood with reality. Except maybe for Marcus and Michelle.
Everhart said if she had a young child, she wouldn’t want them to have gay parents who would influence that child’s sexual orientation.
“You’re creating with this child that it’s a lifestyle, don’t go out and marry someone else of a different sex because this is natural,” Everhart said. “But if I had a next door neighbor who was in a gay relationship, I could be just as friendly to them as I could be to you and your wife or anybody else. I’m not saying that we ostracize them or anything like that. I’m just saying I’m against marriage because once you get the gay marriage you get everything else.”
You can't teach an old dog new tricks, and you can't expect corrupt, powerhungry people to change their cheating ways. As I said on Wednesday, Republicans are back to their usual game-playing with voter registrations, using their favorite likely fraudster Nathan Sproul. But since that report, the playing field has expanded significantly.
I found a few more payments, like this one from the Colorado Republican Committee: $140,000 to the Sproul-connected firm on July 6, 2012. (UPDATE: I also found the California Republican Party making $430,840 in payments to "Grassroots Outreach, LLC" this cycle for voter registration. According to this disclosure, Grassroots Outreach shares the same address as Sproul's office in Tempe, Arizona. Craigslist job postings in California andColorado use identical language as Strategic Alled Consulting's listings in North Carolina.)
Those ads look like the one at the top of the page. They also look just like the ads run in 2008, and again in 2010, by the same firm. Here's Keith Olbermann reporting on them on October 21, 2008:
President Obama delivered a strong populist, pro-middle class speech last night. And being a strong populist pro-middle class kind of guy, I naturally liked it a lot. I wasn’t the only one: voters loved it. Check out this dramatic overnight report from Stan Greenberg . The numbers jump off the page at you, with improvement scores on all kinds of key measures going dramatically higher. So it was a very good night for the President, and a good night for Democrats like me who really hate the idea of either Newt Gingrich or Mitt Romney being the guy giving the State of the Union speech next year. Obama set up the frame for all of 2012 extremely well, and Democrats go into the election year with a fighting chance in spite of a bad economy.
But underneath the surface, below the headlines, something else incredibly important happened last night, and in the days leading up to the speech- something that I believe will have a lot more to do with the President’s re-election than the SOTU speech. If he wants to run against Wall Street in this campaign, he needs credibility to do it, and he took a big step toward getting it last night.
The key word of the day is accountability. The progressive movement in this country came together to firmly and aggressively hold this President accountable, and he responded by announcing something that has the potential to finally- finally, finally- hold the big banks on Wall Street accountable. Now, we have to keep holding the President accountable to make sure the right things happen. But a huge, huge step was taken yesterday, and it may yet result in the biggest win progressives and middle class homeowners have had against Wall Street in many decades.
The backdrop is the ongoing fight over what to do about the deep and pervasive corruption of the big banks in terms of mortgage securitization. If that sounds like an obscure wonky issue, know this: it is at the dead center heart of the 2008 financial collapse, and over whether the housing sector and the economy in general comes back strong any time in the next decade. Over 25% of homeowners are underwater on their mortgages, and until you deal directly and aggressively with that problem, the housing market will remain dead, and the economy will stay flat. The reason that all this economic damage happened is financial fraud on a mass level: what NY AG Eric Schneiderman calls the old pump and dump. Bankers committed mortgage origination fraud, duping both home purchasers and investors who bought their crap, on a massive scale. Then bankers (some of the same and some new ones) intentionally inflated a bubble they knew could not sustain itself, and they did it on a massive scale as well. Then they bought off Moody’s and the other ratings agencies to give Triple A ratings to this toxic mess. And then they commissioned perjury on a massive scale- possibly a million separate counts- through the robo-signing scam to try to foreclose on homes as fast as they could.
They made more money faster than any small set of people in world history, and it was based to a great extent on fraud. And the rest of us have been handed the bill: 8 million lost jobs, the $750 billion TARP bailout, the trillions in Federal Reserve bailout, 25 percent of homeowners underwater, millions of foreclosures. And by and large, the bankers who created this mess have yet to be held accountable in any way: they aren’t in jail, they still have their jobs, very few of them have even had to pay fines.
For reasons I will never understand, certain Attorneys General and some members of the Obama administration started over a year ago going down the path of taking a small subset of these issues, the robo-signing, and trying to do a settlement deal with the bankers that would have been a disaster: a relatively small amount of money in exchange for a wide ranging release for legal responsibility in many different areas. This has been called by some a slap on the wrist, but it was far worse than that, because the bankers who caused this mess would have gotten off the hook for most or all of these sins with no investigations being done and no accountability being had. Fortunately, progressives who follow these issues have been able to build a big movement around stopping this get-out-of-jail-free-card deal, and have been demanding a real, full-scale, wide-ranging investigation that included all the financial fraud issues, with a goal of forcing the banks to be held more fully responsible for the damage they have done to homeowners. Led in this fight by the remarkable Attorney General of New York Eric Schneiderman, who fought and scrapped for the right thing every step of the way, we appear to have won a big initial victory in this fight: Eric will be co-chairing a new inter-agency task force to investigate all forms of financial fraud. I am told by a senior White House official who has been involved in all these negotiations that as far as they are concerned, Eric is considered by them as first among equals, with the power to drive this task force forward. Knowing Eric, if he’s not able to get done what he wants through this investigation, he will walk away anyway.
It was one of the few — if not the only — coordinated efforts to attempt in-person voter fraud, and it was pulled off by affiliates of conservative activist James O’Keefe at polling places in New Hampshire Tuesday night. All of it part of an attempt to prove the need for voter ID laws that voting rights experts say have a unfair impact on minority voters.
Now election law experts tell TPM that O’Keefe’s allies could face criminal charges on both the federal and state level for procuring ballots under false names, and that his undercover sting doesn’t demonstrate a need for voter ID laws at all.
Federal law bans not only the casting of, but the “procurement” of ballots “that are known by the person to be materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent under the laws of the State in which the election is held.”
It still amazes me that O'Keefe is allowed to do this as a tax-exempt entity. Here is how he describes his "sting" operation on the YouTube page with the published video:
In an article at Rolling Stone, Matt Taibbi contrasts the story of a woman who committed food stamp fraud and recieved a harsh penalty with the fraudsters of Wall Street, who, at worst, got slaps on the wrist for their crimes. Taibbi explains:
Last week, a federal judge in Mississippi sentenced a mother of two named Anita McLemore to three years in federal prison for lying on a government application in order to obtain food stamps.
Apparently in this country you become ineligible to eat if you have a record of criminal drug offenses. States have the option of opting out of that federal ban, but Mississippi is not one of those states. Since McLemore had four drug convictions in her past, she was ineligible to receive food stamps, so she lied about her past in order to feed her two children.
The total "cost" of her fraud was $4,367. She has paid the money back. But paying the money back was not enough for federal Judge Henry Wingate.
Wingate had the option of sentencing McLemore according to federal guidelines, which would have left her with a term of two months to eight months, followed by probation. Not good enough! Wingate was so outraged by McLemore’s fraud that he decided to serve her up the deluxe vacation, using another federal statute that permitted him to give her up to five years.
He ultimately gave her three years, saying, "The defendant's criminal record is simply abominable …. She has been the beneficiary of government generosity in state court."
Compare this court decision to the fraud settlements on Wall Street. Like McLemore, fraud defendants like Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, and Deutsche Bank have "been the beneficiary of government generosity." Goldman got $12.9 billion just through the AIG bailout. Citigroup got $45 billion, plus hundreds of billions in government guarantees.
All of these companies have been repeatedly dragged into court for fraud, and not one individual defendant has ever been forced to give back anything like a significant portion of his ill-gotten gains. The closest we've come is in a fraud case involving Citi, in which a pair of executives, Gary Crittenden and Arthur Tildesley, were fined the token amounts of $100,000 and $80,000, respectively, for lying to shareholders about the extent of Citi’s debt.
Neither man was forced to admit to intentional fraud. Both got to keep their jobs.
Anita McLemore, meanwhile, lied to feed her children, gave back every penny of her "fraud" when she got caught, and is now going to do three years in prison. Explain that, Eric Holder!
Taibbi is right to be outraged. This is another in a long line of false crises pushed by Republicans that, instead of targeting real problems, target populations that can't speak up for themselves as well or who already suffer from low public approval. For decades, conservatives have targeted the recipients of government assistance programs, trying to pain anyone in one of these programs as part of the "unworthy poor" who are "stealing" from the rest of us. These campaigns heavily target the most vulnerable of the 99 percent and few people are willing to defend the targets.
Think Progress recently pointed out the weakness of the conservative argument against the food stamp program:
But as the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found, SNAP errors are currently at an all-time low, with errors accounting for less than three percent of the program’s cost:
"To ensure that benefits are provided only to eligible households and in the proper amounts, SNAP has one of the most rigorous quality control systems of any public benefit program and, in recent years, has achieved its lowest error rates on record. In fiscal year 2009, even as caseloads were rising, states set new record lows for error rates. The net loss due to errors equaled only 2.7 percent of program costs in 2009. There is no evidence that program errors are driving up SNAP spending."
During the recession, SNAP has been critical for reducing poverty and pumping money into local economies.
It's clear that food stamp fraud is not a real issue. If anything, the biggest problem in the program comes not from program recipients, but stores that accept food stamps, who are committing significant fraud:
A criminal swindle of the nation's $64.7 billion food stamp program is playing out at small neighborhood stores across the country, where thousands of retailers are suspected of trading deals with customers, exchanging lesser amounts of cash for their stamps.
Authorities say the stamps are then redeemed as usual by the unscrupulous merchants at face value, netting them huge profits and diverting as much as $330 million in taxpayer money annually a year. But the transactions are electronically recorded and federal investigators, wise to the practice, are closely monitoring thousands of convenience stores and mom-and-pop groceries in a push to halt the fraud.
Known as food stamp trafficking, the illegal buying or selling of food stamps is a federal offense that has resulted in 597 convictions nationwide and $197.4 million in fines, restitution and forfeiture orders, over the past three years, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Office of the Inspector General. The USDA last month awarded a 10-year contract worth up to $25 million to SRA International to step up the technology used to combat fraud.
Last year, 931 stores nationally were dismissed from the food stamp program for trafficking and 907 others were sanctioned for lesser violations — 37 percent of the nearly 5,000 retailers being investigated.
So the real significant fraud in food stamps comes from retailers -- who are being caught in significant numbers already. On top of that, the president is ramping up enforcement, which is already good. So, again, this isn't a problem that is costing the government or the taxpayers much money in the big picture. The combined fraud rates from individuals and retailers is like 3.5 percent of a $65 billion program, accounting for less than $3 billion annually. The entire realm of fraud for the entire program is less than numerous individual cases of fraud on Wall Street. And that's not even to go into the subsidies, tax relief and bailout money the Wall Street fraudsters got.
Conservatives complain about a few anecdotes of millionaires getting food stamps because of loopholes as if the anecdotes were proof of broader problems. They complain of Barack Obama pushing more to get people enrolled in the program than to prevent fraud, as if making sure that people eat during bad economic times is somehow a crime. And they complain about the lack of inspectors able to pursue fraud cases, despite it being their push for downsizing government that led to that shortage.
Taibbi adds another thought:
Here’s another thing that boggles my mind: You get busted for drugs in this country, and it turns out you can make yourself ineligible to receive food stamps.
But you can be a serial fraud offender like Citigroup, which has repeatedly been dragged into court for the same offenses and has repeatedly ignored court injunctions to abstain from fraud, and this does not make you ineligible to receive $45 billion in bailouts and other forms of federal assistance.
As part of the fraud hysteria promoted by Republicans, people are given penalties way out of proportion with the crimes they are committing. In particular, poorer people are given these penalties. What the proponents of these types of laws -- denial of food stamps because of drug use -- are literally saying is that the punishment for drug use should be starvation.
The company has been charged in the court filing with misdemeanors that include theft by false pretenses, false advertising, and conspiracy, the City Attorney's office said. In addition to the charges against the company, the complaint accuses former CEO Mark Albarian, executives Robert Fazio and Luis Beeli, and salespeople Charles Boratgis and Stephanie Howard of defrauding customers. Current CEO Scott Carter is accused of making false or misleading statements. Each of the charged offenses carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail and maximum fines of between $1,000 and $10,000 per offense.
At the heart of the complaint is the suggestion that Goldline profits not so much by selling pure gold bullion, but by persuading customers who want to capitalize on the rising value of gold to purchase collectable coins. The coins are subject to a significant mark-up in price, and several Goldline customers told ABC News that they found it difficult or impossible to resell those coins without taking a loss.
Of course, this is a scam that Mark Albarian has been involved in before. From my July, 2010 post:
Two of Goldline's executive team -- Mark Albarian and Joel Gabrelow -- were officers of Valley State Bank's Collateral Loan Division from 1984-1986. Gabrelow was also Vice President of Numismatic Lending at West Coast Bank.That time frame is, of course, when Savings and Loan Associations melted down across the country in a foreshadowing of the 2008 banking crisis. While Valley State Bank and West Coast Bank were not S&Ls, they did loan funds based on the value of numismatic coins. A 1987 article from the Los Angeles Timesconcerning an employee who embezzled a large amount of money from this division also has a description of their lending practices:
Unlike many banks, Valley State regularly lends money to investors who buy rare coins or metals such as gold, platinum and silver. Either the bank or another institution holds the metals as collateral until the 180-day loan is paid off.
I'm waiting for Glenn Beck and Fred Thompson, those glorious guardians of liberty, to be next to be served with documents. After all, Beck in particular invoked apocalyptic visions of national destruction to drive up gold prices and hawk coins. It would be so very just to see him caught in the net, wouldn't it?
Jamie Dimon kicked off his Sunday morning appearance on Fareed Zakaria's show with a bit of whine about how mean, mean, mean we all are to bankers. He kicks things right off by blaming the victims:
DIMON: OK. In the United States of America, only one-third of credit is provided by banks. Bank lending actually went up after Lehman Brothers failed, not down. It's a huge misconception. Two- thirds of credit is provided by individuals, corporations, pension plans, you know, et cetera. The huge reduction in credit supplied was the credit supplied in directly to the marketplace. In fact, if you go to any place around the world, you ask people, did you do something more conservative with your money after Lehman went down? Which everyone says, yes.
I would say, well, you caused the crisis. You got scared. You ran. It's perfectly legitimate as an individual protecting yourself. And JPMorgan last year lent or financed $1.4 trillion for corporations, individual around the world, up pretty substantially from the year before and I believe substantially from the year before that.
Really, Jamie Dimon? REALLY? We caused the crisis how? Were we the ones playing high stakes games with mortgages, lending money to people based on fraudulent, jacked up valuations and credit histories and then selling them off to the likes of YOU to gamble? Um no. Not so much.
Funny how the story changes. When he testified before the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, he said this:
"Reflecting on the causes of the crisis, Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan testified to the FCIC, "I blame the management teams 100% and...no one else. (Page 18)"
Or here, where he realizes what gambling with those brokered subprime loans cost JP Morgan (Page 91):
"JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon testified to the FCIC that his firm eventually ended its [mortgage] broker-originated business in 2009 after discovering the loans had more than twice the losses of the loans that JP Morgan itself originated."
Of course, 2009 was too late. Everything had gone to hell in handbasket by then, so rippy-rah-hoo for Jamie Dimon's stellar fiduciary standards.
Or here, where he's talking about how they were shocked -- SHOCKED -- to discover that home prices just don't keep rising when markets collapse (Page 111):
"The whole key to this story is that Andrew Breitbart was set up. He was sent a tape that, as we now know, was massively out of context. It did look like this woman was saying something racist. When she first said it was taken out of context . . . we've heard that before from politicians telling racist jokes. This is the first time in world history it was literally taken out of context.
"It was a lovely speech. Of course the White House reacted that way -- of course you reacted the way you did. Anyone would have. I think Breitbart ought to reveal his source, because he was set up. This was a fraud. The person who sent the edited tape has to know what the full speech said, and whomever sent only that segment to Andrew Breitbart is the one who should apologize to Shirley Sherrod.
Now, think about that. Remember what happened to Dan Rather and 60 Minutes after they used documents that may have been forged as a basis for a story about George Bush's National Guard non-service?
Apparently the Big Hollywood principle is to run the most sensational thing you can find without even questioning its veracity. This is particularly interesting that Big Dim also ran this without identifying the person who supplied it, making it even less likely that the source stood behind the video. Why were they anonymous, anyway?
Because Dimbulb knew the story was a fact-free hatchet job. After all, that's the kind of thing he likes best.
The other day FOX Host Megyn Kelly got into a heated argument with Kirsten Powers because Powers had the audacity to understand that the New Black Panther story Kelly was promoting was nothing more than FOX's attempt at race baiting. The post has spread through the blogosphere quickly and many are discussing this example of inflammatory "journalism" specifically. Last night, she went on The Factor to let off some steam and continue her assault against African-Americans. Unfortunately for Kelly, O'Reilly starts off by highlighting how ridiculous this NBPP story is by stating the fact that there is only EIGHT members in the whole party.
But Kelly has a much more sinister story to tell. One that connects the Obama administration to racist behavior.
O'Reilly: ...but why do you so passionately about the Panther story when there's only eight Panthers? There...er...it's a very minuscule organization.
Kelly: Yea, it's not about the Panthers. Ah, I got involved in this more seriously or more extensively as the DOJ whistleblower came...
Bill: Came on your show.
Kelly: And gave us his first television interview. And the reason that I'm passionate about this case and this story, Bill, is I believe in fidelity to the law. And I believe your viewers know that about me. It doesn't matter whether it's left or right, conservative or liberal. I try to follow the law.
That's the crux of her argument that O'Reilly dutifully is ready to distribute. Kelly is not being honest with the false narrative that she doesn't care which ideology is to blame for not upholding the law because her outrage was nowhere to be found during the Bush years.
And make no mistake about it. This nothing of a case is all about whipping up the racist elements of the GOP/Tea Party Clans and the conservative movements, which they have seized upon and exploited for political gain for decades.
Kevin Drum has been writing about this story as well and he sees what I see. It's all about using The Scary Black Man Thing to appeal to the angry, disaffected white men and point his anger away from the real cause.
Moreover, as others have pointed out, the district at which these two members of the NBPP were filmed was a majority black district that had gone overwhelmingly for John Kerry in 2004. If these two guys were really interested in intimidating white voters in the Philadelphia metro area rather than engaging in street theater, they would’ve shown up at a polling place in King of Prussia or Bensalem, not one in the inner-city at which, conveniently a guy with a video camera had shown up.
As I noted in an earlier post, there’s no evidence that any actual voters were intimidated by these two men, or even that their “protest” lasted longer than the amount of time that the camera crew was there filming them. In fact, judging from this video, it seems clear to me that these two guys were playing for the cameras.
The way FOX is amplifying the narrative of "The Angry Black Man" to their audience is disgusting. That's what Kelly has latched onto even if she deludes herself into thinking that she's on a righteous path. I might actually go on her FOX show and debate her. I've never gone on FOX before and although I've refused up to now, who knows? I doubt she'd have me anyway because I may know a little too much. Powers is hired by FOX and does a good job at times, but she is also a very conservative, pro-life Democrat and doesn't represent progressive thinking.
(T)hey might be playing a dangerous game here. As Chait says, the Fox/Megyn Kelly crusade against the NBPP is taking this to a whole new level, one that's far more overt and far more incendiary than in the past. And there's no telling how that's going to turn out. As a friend puts it, "I think the reason why conservatives have so assiduously censored themselves from playing fast and loose with Atwater-esque racial overtones is that it can be a very difficult genie to put back in the bottle once released on a national stage." The press will start paying attention, tea partiers might feel freer to spout off, and the whole thing could turn ugly very quickly.
Or not. Who knows? But for reasons of both principle and self-interest, some of the conservative movement's big guns might want to think about weighing in on this before it gets out of hand. It can't hurt.
As a man studying the history of the conservative movement, I can make the observation that while conservatives hate and try to reject being painted with the racism brush, they do nothing whatsoever to stop those in their party from spreading this garbage. Like it was done before, the Atwateresque racial overtones still brings in the right wing engagement...and votes. That's the bottom line. No votes, no racism.
As Lloyd Blankfein prepares to testify today that Goldman Sachs is innocent of allegations that the company knowingly sold bad products to clients, Senate investigators are saying that Abacus was just the tip of the iceberg. Stay tuned for fireworks:
In a statement prepared for the hearing and released on Monday, Mr. Blankfein said the news 10 days ago that the S.E.C. had filed a civil fraud suit against Goldman had shaken the bank’s employees.
“It was one of the worst days of my professional life, as I know it was for every person at our firm,” Mr. Blankfein said. “We have been a client-centered firm for 140 years, and if our clients believe that we don’t deserve their trust we cannot survive.”
Mr. Blankfein will also testify that Goldman did not have a substantial, consistent short position in the mortgage market.
But at the press briefing in Washington, Carl Levin, the Democrat of Michigan who heads the Senate committee, insisted that Goldman had bet against its clients repeatedly. He held up a binder the size of two breadboxes that he said contained copies of e-mail messages and other documents that showed Goldman had put its own interests first.
“The evidence shows that Goldman repeatedly put its own interests and profits ahead of the interests of its clients,” Mr. Levin said.
Mr. Levin’s investigative staff released a summary of those documents, which are to be released in full on Tuesday. The summary included information on Abacus as well as new details about other complex mortgage deals.
One, called Hudson Mezzanine, was put together in the fall of 2006 expressly as a way to create more short positions for Goldman, the subcommittee claims. The $2 billion deal was one of the first for which Goldman sales staff began to face dubious clients, according to former Goldman employees.
“Here we are selling this, but we think the market is going the other way,” a former Goldman salesman told The New York Times in December.