Friday Reads

Good Morning!

Well, we’ve always known Pat Robertson was a little off.  Reconcile all his throw back ideas about women and the GLBT community with his views on decriminalizing marijuana, I dare you!!

“I really believe we should treat marijuana the way we treat beverage alcohol,” Mr. Robertson said in an interview on Wednesday. “I’ve never used marijuana and I don’t intend to, but it’s just one of those things that I think: this war on drugs just hasn’t succeeded.”

Mr. Robertson’s remarks echoed statements he made last week on “The 700 Club,” the signature program of his Christian Broadcasting Network, and other comments he made in 2010. While those earlier remarks were largely dismissed by his followers, Mr. Robertson has now apparently fully embraced the idea of legalizing marijuana, arguing that it is a way to bring down soaring rates of incarceration and reduce the social and financial costs.

“I believe in working with the hearts of people, and not locking them up,” he said.

Rush has lost at least 50 advertisers after his horrendous, personal attacks on a university student exercising her first amendment rights. Just what kind of advertisers does the big blowhard have left?  Well, he’s picked up an online dating service for married people interested in extramarital relations. There’s your family values for you!!!

Advertisers learned something about Rush Limbaugh’s demographic this week.

“Here we thought lots of pleasant, upstanding people were listening to and enjoying the rational things Rush had to say,” dozens of companies said. “Apparently not.”

It turns out that people who really, truly still enjoy Rush Limbaugh’s show are — how do I put this? — jerks.

At least that’s what the new advertisements moving into the vast empty lot of Rush Limbaugh, Inc., implies. “Ah,” you say, as a rat runs over your foot and several people offer payday loans and try to sell you watches from their trench coats. “This place seems to have gone downhill somewhat.”

So far, he’s picked up, the site where you go to cheat on your wife, and another Web site that is explicitly for sugar-daddy matchmaking.

Republicans in the House have basically gone after finance regulators in a way that would basically change one of the major mandates of the Fed’s economic stabilization mandate and the SEC’s ability to police the markets for fraud.  The FED suggestions are outrageous.  They would completely stop the FED’s ability to stimulate the economy and would change the composition of the FED board from economists to the Bank’s District Presidents who are answerable to their member banks. 

The bill, which will be formally introduced later this week by Congressman Brady, would eliminate the employment leg of the dual mandate, requiring the Federal Reserve to focus only on price stability.

The legislation would also restructure the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC). The bill would give permanent seats on the committee to the twelve regional Federal Reserve bank presidents, who are chosen by regional Federal Reserve Bank directors. Those boards are composed of private citizens.

While Mary Shapiro of the SEC has been begging for more money to regulate Wall Street, this bill would remove more funds.

Yesterday, SEC chairman Mary Schapiro begged Congress to increase the agency’s funding, arguing that “the rapidly expanding size and complexity of the markets presents enormous oversight challenges.” Representative Barney Frank, ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee, offered a bill to provide that funding—and Republicans voted lockstep to trash it.

Republicans on the committee offered the perverse argument that since the SEC has repeatedly suffered oversight breakdowns in the past, it’s not entitled to additional funding. Representative Jo Ann Emerson, a Missouri Republican and member of the House Appropriations Committee, echoed this argument in the hearing with Schapiro yesterday:

“I think this body is reticent to throw more money at the SEC until ya’ll have proven that you have addressed the structural problems from within…in a comprehensive way,” [Emerson said]. “Since 2001, SEC’s budget has increased over 200 percent. Despite this tremendous growth in resources over the past decade, the SEC failed to detect Ponzi schemes such as Madoff and Stanford, the U.S. financial system nearly collapsed, and judges continue to question SEC settlements and regulations.”

Further starving a regulatory agency that’s already clearly unable to handle its massive mission is not a terribly convincing argument—one would have to truly believe the SEC is completely capable of policing Wall Street but simply suffering from “structural problems,” as Emerson asserts. (To give a sense of the very real funding problems, JPMorgan Chase—only one of the 35,000 entities the SEC is tasked with regulating—spends four times the entire SEC budget on information technology alone).  But it’s the only argument Republicans have—the SEC is funded entirely by fees from the financial industry, so Republicans can’t carp about the deficit.

None of these folks seem to have any idea about what caused the financial crisis nor how much the underfunding and disabling of regulators and regulators have played into all these problems  It’s really disheartening.

Meanwhile, Romney has told a university student that students going to cheap schools they could afford would be better than government student loans.  BTW, where are there cheap schools now?

Mr. Romney was perfectly polite to the student. He didn’t talk about the dangers of liberal indoctrination on college campuses, as Rick Santorum might have. But his warning was clear: shop around and get a good price, because you’re on your own.

“It would be popular for me to stand up and say I’m going to give you government money to pay for your college, but I’m not going to promise that,” he said, to sustained applause from the crowd at a high-tech metals assembly factory here. “Don’t just go to one that has the highest price. Go to one that has a little lower price where you can get a good education. And hopefully you’ll find that. And don’t expect the government to forgive the debt that you take on.”

There wasn’t a word about the variety of government loan programs, which have made it possible for millions of students to get college degrees. There wasn’t a word urging colleges to hold down tuition increases, as President Obama has been doing, or a suggestion that the student consider a work-study program.

And there wasn’t a word about Pell Grants, in case the student’s family had a low enough income to qualify. That may be because Mr. Romney supports the House Republican budget, which would cut Pell Grants by 25 percent or more at a time when they are needed more than ever.

Instead, the advice was pretty brutal: if you can’t afford college, look around for a scholarship (good luck with that), try to graduate in less than four years, or join the military if you want a free education.

Robert Scheer writes about Dennis Kucinich who will leave Congress after his term finishes.  His district was merged with Marcy Kaptur’s and she won on Tuesday. It’s an interest profile for a quirky politician.

Kucinich never competed in that way. He has been a national symbol of resistance to excessive government power and waste. He also has been a champion of social justice. His has been a rare voice, and one way or another it must continue to be heard. Simply put, when it came to the struggle for peace over war, Dennis was the conscience of the Congress. And he was always at the forefront in defending the rights of unionized workers who once formed the backbone of a solid middle class and who are now threatened with extinction.

Kucinich will surely be back for another turn in public life. As he put it in our Playboy interview:

“I appreciate Woody Allen’s humor because one of my safety valves is an appreciation for life’s absurdities. His message is that life isn’t a funeral march to the grave. It’s a polka.”

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?