Next stop: State Supreme Court

One of our famously corrupt state judges refuses to stop the voter ID law in PA:

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A tough new voter identification law championed by Republicans can take effect in Pennsylvania for November’s presidential election, a judge ruled Wednesday, despite a torrent of criticism that it will suppress votes among President Barack Obama’s supporters and make it harder for the elderly, disabled, poor and young adults to vote.


Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson said he would not grant an injunction that would have halted the law, which requires each voter to show a valid photo ID. Opponents are expected to file an appeal within a day or two to the state Supreme Court as the Nov. 6 election looms.


“We’re not done, it’s not over,” said Witold J. Walczak, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer who helped argue the case for the plaintiffs. “It’s why they make appeals courts.”


The Republican-penned law — which passed over the objections of Democrats — has ignited a furious debate over voting rights as Pennsylvania is poised to play a key role in deciding the presidential contest.


Plaintiffs, including a 93-year-old woman who recalled marching with Martin Luther King Jr. in 1960, had asked Simpson to block the law from taking effect in this year’s election as part of a wider challenge to its constitutionality.


Republicans defend the law as necessary to protect the integrity of the election. But Democrats say the law will make it harder for people who lack ID for valid reasons to vote.


Opponents portray the law as a partisan scheme to help the Republican challenger, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, beat Obama. Their passionate objections were inflamed in June when the state’s Republican House leader boasted to a Republican gathering that the new photo ID requirement “is going to allow Gov. Romney to win the state” in November.


Simpson, a Republican, didn’t rule on the full merits of the case, only whether to grant a preliminary injunction stopping it from taking effect.


In his 70-page opinion, Simpson said the plaintiffs “did an excellent job of ‘putting a face’ to those burdened by the voter ID requirement,” but he said he didn’t have the luxury of deciding the case based on sympathy. Rather, he said he believed that state officials and agencies were actively resolving problems with the law and that they would carry it out in a “nonpartisan, even-handed manner.”


The law, he said, is neutral, nondiscriminatory and applies uniformly to all voters. Speculation about the potential problems in issuing valid photo IDs or confusion on Election Day did not warrant “invalidation of all lawful applications” of it, he wrote.


Plus, more harm would result from halting the law, he said.

“This is because the process of implementation in general, and of public outreach and education in particular, is much harder to start, or restart, than it is to stop,” Simpson wrote.

White people

An interview with Joan Walsh about her new book:

On the subject of white people, one who’s been in the news a fair bit lately is Paul Ryan. Obviously he comes from a very different social background than Mitt Romney. But he’s been proclaimed as “working-class” by many commentators, and you dispute that.


Absolutely. He is a child of privilege and comfort, born into a construction business run by his family in Janesville, Wis. I think Paul Ryan is a great example of what drove me to write this book. It has been so vexing to me, and so mysterious, that wealthy or upper-middle-class white people, especially Irish Catholics, have become the face of the white working class when they never spent a frickin’ day in the working class in their lives. And that goes for Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Pat Buchanan and Paul Ryan. Ryan’s not as associated with the racism and the really nasty stuff, but his politics are just as nasty. His beliefs and what he wants to do are just as divisive and damaging.


But without irony, last weekend we saw him hailed as the white working-class addition to this ticket. And again, it works. I think it works in part because the media is so removed from any kind of working-class roots themselves that they don’t think about what that means. What that has come to mean is not that you lack a college education and work your ass off doing manual labor. It’s come to symbolize being closed-minded about abortion, being hyper-pro-military, being religious, being culturally very conservative. It doesn’t have any class content at all.

The secret plan

I keep thinking of that old saw about not buying a pig in a poke. How arrogant is this? Ryan will deign to tell us what he has in mind for the rest of us after the election. Just like Richard Nixon’s secret plan to end the Vietnam war! Good times!

I was talking to a journalist last night who told me he didn’t see how Ryan was going to help Romney win. I told him I didn’t think that was the point. I said I think the Republicans already expect Romney to lose, so Ryan is just bait to get out the screaming-meemie base for the down ticket races. I don’t think it’ll work, though, because Ryan is getting out our base, too – especially when he says insane crap like this:

WASHINGTON – The Romney campaign is willing to discuss its proposals on taxes “in the light of day,” vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan said Tuesday evening — just not until after the election.

Multiple tax policy analysts have concluded that Mitt Romney’s tax plan — to close loopholes and reduce taxes for the wealthy — means higher taxes for most people in order for the math to work. Brit Hume of Fox News asked Ryan to counter that charge. “What we’re saying is get rid of special interest loopholes and deductions that are uniquely enjoyed by the wealthy to lower the tax rates for everybody,” Ryan said.

But lowering middle-class tax rates, if coupled with eliminating key deductions, could lead to an effective tax increase, the cornerstone of the analyses of Romney’s tax plan. Hume pressed for specifics.

“That is something that we think we should do in the light of day, through Congress,” Ryan told Hume, promising to “have a process for tax reform so that we do this in the front of the public. So no, the point I’m trying to say is, we want feedback from Americans about what priorities in the tax code should be kept, and what special interest loopholes we want to get rid of.”

One of the “loopholes” that costs the IRS the most money is the mortgage interest deduction. Another relates to municipal bonds. Hume asked Ryan if either would be on the chopping block. Ryan refused to say.

The mortgage deduction is enjoyed by millions of homeowners and is the primary policy by which the government encourages homeownership. Taxing municipal bond interest would drive up the cost of borrowing for local governments substantially.

Ryan’s refusal to lay out the ticket’s tax plan is in line with Romney’s earlier resistance to specify which programs, beyond funding for Planned Parenthood, he’d be willing to cut. During his failed Senate bid in 1994, Romney was open about programs he’d be willing to cut, and faced a backlash. He has cited that negative experience in explaining why he now won’t tell voters what spending he plans to eliminate.

Taking the basic contours of the tax plan that Romney has laid out, the Tax Policy Center concluded that for people making less than $200,000, Romney’s plan leads to a tax hike.

Grover says no to budget deal

So Grover Norquist is throwing a very big monkey wrench into the idea of a lame-duck Grand Bargain to avoid the budget sequester. He says Republicans can indeed find significant cuts in the defense budget, and believes they will do so.

If this is true, and he gets enough of the caucus behind him (after all, this is the same position taken by the progressive caucus, so the numbers might work), there goes the bipartisan wet dream of a Grand Bargain – again. (Yay!) Sounds like he wants Paul Ryan to keep his powder dry for later tax reform:

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, his would-be vice president Paul Ryan, and defense hawks in Congress are wrong that savings can’t be found in the U.S. defense budget, according to Grover Norquist, the influential president of Americans for Tax Reform, who said that he will fight using any new revenues to keep military spending high.

“We can afford to have an adequate national defense which keeps us free and safe and keeps everybody afraid to throw a punch at us, as long as we don’t make some of the decisions that previous administrations have, which is to over extend ourselves overseas and think we can run foreign governments,” Norquist said Monday at an event at the Center for the National Interest, formerly the Nixon Center.

But Ryan’s views are at odds with those of Norquist and other budget hawks, who argue that defense budgets can be trimmed. Ryan’s budget plan provides for increasing military spending and doesn’t suggest any tradeoff or specific defense reforms.

“Other people need to lead the argument on how can conservatives lead a fight to have a serious national defense without wasting money,” Norquist said. “I wouldn’t ask Ryan to be the reformer of the defense establishment.”
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