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“Gun-Crazy Business Models”: Beretta USA Teaches Us How Not To Run Your Corporation

We often think of business leaders as hard-nosed pragmatists, guided by dollars and cents with little regard to emotion. But the truth is that corporate executives are human just like the rest of us. They can be as irrational as anyone, and frequently make business decisions on the basis of things like spite.

So it is that the gun maker Beretta USA has decided against expanding operations into West Virginia, despite heavy lobbying from state officials, becauseas the Charleston Gazette reports, “they say Sen. Joe Manchin’s push to expand background checks makes the state less stable for their business.” Perhaps the folks at Beretta don’t quite understand what a senator does, or how laws passed (or in this case, not passed) by Congress actually work. If Congress were to pass a background check bill for the country, it wouldn’t make the state of West Virginia any more or less “stable” for the gun business than any other state.

And after all, business is booming. It isn’t that more Americans are buying guns (gun ownership is on a steady long-term decline), but that those who do own guns are buying more and more of them. That’s why companies like Beretta have forged such a close alliance with the National Rifle Association. The NRA tells its constituents that the country is about to descend into a Mad Max-style apocalypse and that politicians will be confiscating their guns any day, so they rush out to buy more, and the gun manufacturers reap the profits.

A new background check law might help keep guns out of the hands of some people who shouldn’t have them, but it probably wouldn’t hurt Beretta’s bottom line one bit. They’re in a business that has gone nowhere but up. Nevertheless, like other gun advocates, they want to think of themselves as oppressed, kept down by mean politicians in their crusade for liberty. But wherever they decide to move those couple of hundred jobs, they’ll be just fine.

And by the way, in the six and a half months since the Sandy Hook massacre, roughly 5,600 Americans have been killed with guns.


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, July 1, 2013

July 5, 2013 Posted by | Background Checks, Gun Violence | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Whether The Pretense Makes Sense Is Irrelevant”: The War On Voting In A Post Voting Rights Act World Just Got Worse

In North Carolina, thanks to Republican gains in the 2010 state elections, the congressional district lines already drawn in such a comically gerrymandered way, the state’s delegation bears little resemblance to the actual wishes of voters. In 2012, for example, a majority of North Carolinians voted for Democratic congressional candidates, and yet, only 4 of the state’s 13 members of the U.S. House are Democrats.

But as the Los Angeles Times reports today, that’s apparently not quite good enough for GOP state policymakers. In a story Rachel has covered on the show, now that the district lines have been gerrymandered to ensure a Republican advantage regardless of voters’ wishes, the next step is to restrict voters’ access to their own democracy.

The GOP chairman of the state Senate rules committee, Sen. Tom Apodaca, said he would move quickly to pass a voter ID law that Republicans say would bolster the integrity of the balloting process. GOP leaders also began engineering an end to the state’s early voting, Sunday voting and same-day registration provisions, all popular with black voters. Civil rights groups say the moves are designed to restrict poll access by blacks, who vote reliably Democratic.

Up until about a week ago, this would ordinarily be the point at which voting-rights advocates, civil rights activists, and anyone concerned with voter access and election fairness would say, “Whew, it’s a good thing the Voting Rights Act still exists. There’s no way these North Carolina’s measures will pass muster.”

But all of that changed rather abruptly when five justices on the U.S. Supreme Court gutting the Voting Rights Act and gave GOP policymakers in North Carolina and elsewhere a green light to start restricting Americans’ access to the ballot box. It is open season on voting rights and Republicans throughout the South are seizing the opportunity.

Originally, GOP lawmakers in North Carolina held back on pursuing voter-ID laws, knowing how racially discriminatory they are. But thanks to the Supreme Court, they no longer care.

What’s especially interesting to me as how thin the pretense is. At least on the surface, Republicans say they need to impose the harshest voting restrictions since Jim Crow to prevent “voter fraud.” In reality, such fraud is practically non-existent, but it nevertheless serves as a convenient pretense. But how does ending Sunday voting prevent fraud? Why eliminate early-voting opportunities and make longer voting lines, neither of which relate to fraud at all?

Of course, questions like these only matter if there’s a real debate, and with Republicans controlling North Carolina’s legislature and governor’s office, whether the pretense makes sense or not is apparently irrelevant.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 2, 2013

July 5, 2013 Posted by | Voting Rights Act | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Fire In Mitt’s Belly”: New Book Reports That Romney Didn’t Want To Run For President In 2012

On an episode of The Office from a few years ago, the desperately insecure character of Andy Bernard (played by Ed Helms) hits upon a strategy to ingratiate himself with people, called “personality mirroring.” He begins not only repeating what people say to him, but adopting the precise manner and mood of whoever he’s talking to. This is pretty much how Mitt Romney went about running for president. A man deeply unsuited to the gladhanding required of a politician made himself into one, through a titanic act of will. And just like when Andy Bernard did it, it was incredibly awkward and off-putting. As the old saying has it, sincerity is the most important thing—if you can fake that, you’ve got it made. Trouble was, Mitt just couldn’t, hard though he might have tried.

And it turns out, Mitt didn’t even want to run for president a second time. Veteran reporter Dan Balz is coming out with a book about the 2012 campaign, and he learned of the internal Romney family deliberations. They took a vote, and ten out of twelve Romneys, including Mitt himself, said he shouldn’t run. Here’s an excerpt:

Mitt Romney had other reasons to think that not running might be the wiser choice. Winning as a moderate from Massachusetts who happened to be Mormon was always going to be difficult. “A lot of the thinking on the part of my brothers and dad was, ‘I’m not sure I can win a primary given those dynamics.'” Tagg Romney said. The prospective candidate also knew the sheer physical and family toll another campaign would take. “He’s a private person and, push comes to shove, he wants to spend time with his family and enjoy his time with them,” his son said. “Even up until the day before he made the announcement, he was looking for excuses to get out of it. If there had been someone who he thought would have made a better president than he, he would gladly have stepped aside.”

I guess the gentle voice of America, whispering to him on the wind that it needed his square jaw and concern for the ruling class, was enough to change Mitt’s mind. But I wonder what he thinks now? We all tend to absolve ourselves of guilt in situations like this, and I’m guessing Mitt now believes there’s nothing he could have done to win. What with Obama showering government goodies on a population of greedy takers, some strategic tinkering wouldn’t have made a difference. But if thinks that now, that would mean that he was wrong when he decided that he couldn’t leave the Republican nomination to the collection of clowns he ended up beating. It’s something of a conundrum. Perhaps late at night, when everyone else is asleep, he rides his car elevator up and down, up and down, replaying the whole campaign in his head.


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, July 2, 2013

July 5, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“An Extension Of The GOP”: The Republicans Of The Supreme Court

In order to fully understand what the five Republican appointees on the Supreme Court have been up to when they make decisions that affect our democracy, as they did last week on voting rights, you need to understand what the Republican Party has been up to.

The modern GOP is based on an unlikely coalition of wealthy business executives, small business owners, and struggling whites. Its durability depends on the latter two categories believing that the economic stresses they’ve experienced for decades have a lot to do with the government taking their money and giving it to the poor, who are disproportionately black and Latino.

The real reason small business owners and struggling whites haven’t done better is the same as most of the rest of America hasn’t done better: Although the output of Americans has continued to rise, almost all the gains have gone to the very top.

Government is implicated, but not in the way wealthy Republicans want the other members of their coalition to believe. Laws that the GOP itself championed (too often with the complicity of some Democrats) have trammeled unions, invited outsourcing abroad, slashed taxes on the rich, encouraged takeovers, allowed monopolization, reduced the real median wage, and deregulated Wall Street.

Four decades ago, the typical household’s income rose in tandem with output. But since the late 1970s, as these laws took hold, most Americans’ incomes have flattened. Had the real median household income continued to keep pace with economic growth it would now be almost $92,000 instead of $50,000.

Obviously, wealthy Republicans would rather other members of their coalition not know any of this — including, especially, their role in making it happen. Their nightmare is small-business owners and struggling whites joining with the poor and the rest of the middle class to wrest economic power away. So they’ve created a convenient scapegoat in America’s minority underclass, along with a government that supposedly taxes hardworking whites to support them.

This is where the five Republican appointees to the Supreme Court have played, and continue to play, such an important role.

First, wealthy Republicans have to be able to spend as much money as possible to bribe lawmakers to do their bidding, tell their version of history, and promulgate several big lies (the poor are “takers not makers,” government keeps them “dependent,” the wealthy are “job-creators” so cutting their taxes creates more jobs, unions are bad, regulations reduce economic growth, and so on).

The five Republicans on the Supreme Court have obliged by eviscerating campaign finance laws. Their 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, along with the broad interpretations given it by several appellate judges (also Republican appointees), has opened the money floodgates.

Second, wealthy Republicans want to quietly reduce the impact of any laws that might limit their profits, even though they may help struggling whites as consumers or employees. The easiest way to execute this delicate maneuver is to make it harder to sue under such laws.

Here, too, the five Republicans on the Court have been eager to oblige by tightening requirements for class actions and limiting standing to sue. In their recent Comcast Corp. v. Behrend decision, for example, they threw out $875 million in damages that a group of Philadelphia-area subscribers had sought from the cable giant, reasoning that the subscriber plaintiffs hadn’t proven they constituted a “class” for the purpose of a class action.

Third and finally, wealthy Republicans want to minimize the votes of poor and minority citizens – and further propagate the myth that these people are responsible for the economic problems of struggling whites – through state redistricting and gerrymandering, voter-identification requirements at polling stations, and the use of almost any pretext to purge minority voters from voting lists.

The five Republicans on the Court obliged last week by striking down a section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that sets the formula under which states with a long history of discrimination must ask the federal government or a judge for approval before changing their voting procedures.

The significance of Shelby County, Alabama vs. Holder was made plain Thursday when the Court effectively nullified two cases involving Texas voter laws by sending them back to lower courts to reconsider in light of Shelby. One was a voter identification requirement, enacted in 2011, that a federal judge had rejected on grounds that it imposed a disproportionate burden on lower-income people, many of whom are minorities. The other was a redistricting plan, also rejected by a federal court, in part because it would block minorities from gaining a majority vote in almost all districts.

But now both are effectively reinstated, as are the efforts of several other states to suppress votes.

Supreme Court justices are appointed for life in order to ensure their independence from politics. But when it comes to the core political strategy of the Republican Party, the five Republican appointees are, in effect, an extension of the GOP.


By: Robert Reich, The Robert Reich Blog, July 1, 2013

July 5, 2013 Posted by | Supreme Court, Voting Rights Act | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A City Of The First Class”; Federal Court Upholds Ban On Undocumented Immigrant Renters, Ruling Cities Can Keep People Out

In a significant win for the anti-immigrant movement, a federal appeals court upheld a Nebraska city’s statute Friday that bans renting property to undocumented immigrants, holding that the law was neither preempted by federal law nor discriminatory.

In a 2-1 opinion, Judge James B. Loken rejected the rulings of several other federal appeals courts that federal immigration regulation precludes local prohibitions on the “harboring” of undocumented immigrants. Reasoning that cities and states are perfectly entitled to keep undocumented immigrants out of their borders, Loken and fellow Republican appointee Steven Colloton upheld a statute making it unlawful to hire, rent to, or otherwise “harbor” an undocumented person in Fremont, Nebraska, dubbed a “city of the first class.”

“Laws designed to deter, or even prohibit, unlawfully present aliens from residing within a particular locality are not tantamount to immigration laws establishing who may enter or remain in the country,” Loken, a former Nixon advisor and George H.W. Bush appointee, wrote for the majority.

In support of this proposition, Loken cites to a footnote in a U.S. Supreme Court decision that, ironically, affirmed the right of undocumented children to obtain a public education. In that footnote, the court recognized, as an aside totally separate from the contrary holding in the case, that a law is not necessarily invalid merely because it imposes an unequal burden on undocumented immigrants.

Fremont’s law does far more than impose an unequal burden on undocumented immigrants. In requiring all rental applicants to register with the city and prove their citizenship, the city of Fremont is not only effectively removing many undocumented immigrants from its jurisdiction; it is also making its own separate determination of lawful presence in the United States, without the assessment and due process that accompanies federal removal.

Just last year, the U.S. Supreme Court reiterated the breadth of federal supremacy in the field of immigration law in striking down key elements of Arizona’s controversial SB 1070, writing that no state or local government is allowed to “achieve its own immigration policy.” And as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit explained in striking down an almost identical provision prohibiting the “harboring” of illegal immigrants, these sorts of local laws attempt to remove undocumented persons from the city “based on a snapshot of their current immigration status, rather than based on a federal order of removal.” Dissenting judge Myron Bright explained:

This produces conflict with federal law because unlawful presence or undocumented status is not in every case equivalent with removability or with eventual removal. “Under federal law, an unlawful immigration status does not lead instantly, or inevitably, to removal.” Additionally, undocumented persons are afforded numerous procedural protections under federal law before an order of removal may issue. The federal government will sometimes exercise its discretion not to prosecute a removal, “thereby tacitly allow[ing] the presence of those whose technical status remains ‘illegal.’ ” Even once a removal proceeding is commenced, it is far from certain it will result in removal.

This ruling is a major win for Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who profited handsomely from drafting this provision for Fremont and several other cities around the country.


By: Nicole Flatow, Think Progress, July 1, 2013

July 5, 2013 Posted by | Immigrants, Immigration Reform | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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