True Believers want the Bible to be the official state book in Tennessee

Tennessee Senate committee meeting

Lawmakers voted to make the Bible the official Tennessee state book…

In a 19-8 vote on Monday, members of the State Senate passed HBO615, sponsored by Republican Steve Southerland, in an attempt to “[recognize] the Bible for its historical and cultural contributions to the state, rather than as government endorsement of religion,”…

Which is how you phrase this crap to make it sound like you actually think the Constitution of the United States defines how you govern.

In the real world, this means bible-thumping opportunist politicians figure they can screw a few more votes out of folks who believe that a 14th Century book compiled by a royal committee should tell our government how to run this country. Really.

Seventeen Republicans and two Democrats voted in favor of the bill — presented just days before candidate filing deadlines for this November’s congressional elections — with six Republicans and two Democrats opposed, primarily for concerns over its constitutionality. Five senators abstained.

…To Hedy Weinberg, the executive director of the Tennessee ACLU, the bill is nothing more than a “thinly veiled effort to promote one religion over other religions [which] clearly violates both the United States and Tennessee Constitutions,”…

If the new bill is approved by Gov. Bill Haslam, Tennessee will become just the second state in the country to have an official state book of any kind (in 2003, Massachusetts deemed the 1941 tale “Make Way for the Ducklings” its official children’s book).

During the Civil War a significant portion of Tennessee refused to join the forces of slavery in their revolt against the Union. I wonder if there is the same level of honesty, civility and dedication to the US Constitution in today’s Tennessee government?

Chamber of Commerce = right-wing extremists with the biggest budget in the USA

In 1912, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was created at the behest of President William Howard Taft as a business counterweight to the growing labor movement.

To say it was a success is an understatement. While organized labor has languished, the Chamber has become the single largest lobbying organization in the country. According to Open Secrets, a site that tracks political lobbying and spending, during the past 18 years the Chamber has spent three times more than any other organization on behalf of industry – $1.2 billion versus $351 million by the No. 2 lobbying group, the National Association of Realtors.

This is of great interest in the context of the Chamber’s opposition to the new fiduciary rules for retirement accounts, requiring brokers to put savers’ interests ahead of their own. Opposing the fiduciary standard may be pro-Wall Street, but it’s anti-small business.

So I decided to do a bit of digging to find out where the Chamber’s advocacy pits it against broader business interests. What I found was that the Chamber is at odds with the interests of some, if not most, of its membership in three other areas: climate change, minimum wages and tobacco.

Examination of other positions leads to the conclusion that the Chamber isn’t so much an advocate for industry as much as it is a conservative think tank.

On climate change, consider that 94 percent of Chamber campaign contributions went to candidates who were climate-change deniers…

Not surprisingly, this has provoked a considerable backlash. In 2009, Apple, the world’s largest company by market value, left the Chamber over its position on climate change. Yahoo left for the same reason in 2011. Athletic apparel powerhouse Nike resigned from the Chamber’s board, though it remained a member in order to press the organization to alter its positions. More recently, Nike joined with 100 other companies to support President Barack Obama’s proposed regulations on carbon emissions…

Ignoring those companies opposed to the Chamber’s stand on climate change is easy. Why? Money, of course. A third of the Chamber’s revenue comes from just 19 companies, many of them in the energy industry.

The case of pharmacy giant CVS Health is also instructive. In 2014, it became the first big drug-store chain to remove cigarettes and other tobacco products from its stores — the reasoning being that it’s in a business related to health care. The following year, after reports that the Chamber was working around the world to fight antismoking measures, CVS decided to drop its membership.

Another schism between the Chamber and most of its membership is over the minimum wage. The Washington Post reported that leaked documents from Republican pollster Frank Luntz showed that 80 percent of business owners supported raising the pay floor…

The Chamber is opposed to a higher minimum wage…

When an organization chartered to represent nation-wide interests deliberately chooses to ignore the needs and wants of the whole class premised in that charter it deserves to be dissolved.

Should that include Congress as well as the Chamber of Commerce?

Thanks to my favorite Recovering Republican.

The fact about climate change that must be repeated

The overwhelming majority of climate scientists — over 97 percent — understand that humans are the primary cause of climate change. This is one of the central facts about human-caused climate change that any climate communicator needs to keep repeating, for several reasons.

First, it’s true, as Politifact detailed on Monday. The scientific literature is clear on this.

Second, the ongoing disinformation campaign funded by the fossil fuel industry (together with false balance by the media) has left the public with the impression that there is considerable scientific debate on a subject where there isn’t.

When people are informed about the reality of the overwhelming consensus they naturally are more inclined to want to take action, as social science research has shown.

The thing is, by 2013, the IPCC’s summary of the science — which are notoriously conservative in part because they require line-by-line approval by every major country in the world — concluded. “It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.”

The IPCC defines “extremely likely” as 95 to 100 percent certainty. That is comparable to the confidence the medical and public health community have that cigarettes are dangerous to your health.

When push comes to shove, how much of your life do you want to spend arguing about whether or not the Earth is round with some Flat-Earther who’s been pulling the Republican Party lever on Election Day ever since their grandfather said they wouldn’t go to heaven otherwise?

Just sayin’ – pick who you have this conversation with.

#PanamaPapers — the scandal is pretty much legal

“I am not a crook”

In the past few days, hundreds (if not thousands) of media reports have linked the Panamanian wealth management firm Mossack Fonseca to a series of financial crimes. The massive “Panama Papers” leak documents the firm’s involvement in facilitating activities that may constitute fraud, money laundering, and theft, including by officials at the highest levels of governments worldwide. But the real scandal is that most of what Mossack Fonseca and the rest of the wealth-management industry do is perfectly legal.

Anyone reading this article can evade taxes, or even dabble in offshore finance, without expert intervention. With just an Internet connection and a few thousand dollars, anybody can create shell corporations and other offshore vehicles in a matter of minutes. It’s child’s play to dodge taxes, debts, child support, and so on by putting assets in one of those structures — though there is a risk of getting caught, audited, and possibly prosecuted.

But that’s not what many of the world’s richest people are doing: They can afford the privilege of defeating the spirit of the laws without violating them formally. What Mossack Fonseca and its counterparts all over the world really provide is the expertise that allows their clients to stay just on the right side of the law — or far enough into the legal grey zones that the clients have a real chance to prevail if they end up in court. That’s why many of the people who have seemingly been exposed by this leak will likely never face charges of any kind. To the extent that Mossack Fonseca’s work facilitated crime, that was a bug rather than a feature…

Some of the activity uncovered in the Panama Papers will turn out to be illegal. But if past is prologue, then the majority of what we learn from the leak will merely be embarrassing for those exposed — showing them to be opportunistic and perhaps unethical, but not criminal.

RTFA for all the gory details. It ain’t anything your favorite Senator, Congress-critter or Presidential candidate doesn’t already know. Some of them are likely to be practicing what Mossack Fonseca have been preaching for decades.