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As the numbers below from the good people at the Alliance For Justice show, the conservative blockade of President Obama’s judicial nominees is reaching absurd and historic levels. Admittedly, Obama has 18 months to go in his term, but if things continue at their current pace, only 20 nominees will be confirmed during his last two years in office. This number would be vastly lower than any other modern president — a fact that is rendered all the more outrageous by the fact that the country and the judiciary are both much larger than they were in the past.

The consequences of this shameless stall job are being felt all over the country (including here in North Carolina) as our court system grows increasingly incapable of doing its job — serving the legal needs of the citizenry.

Confirmations

Commentary

President Obama 3Looking for something to restore your faith in our government? Then check out the new rules adopted yesterday by the Obama administration to clamp down on predatory lenders who take advantage of American servicemen and women.

The new Department of Defense rules, which were announced Tuesday by the President in a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, update the Military Lending Act—a 2006 law that capped interest rates and add-on fees to members of the military and their families at 36 percent.

Unfortunately, the original 2007 regulations implementing the law capped rates for just a small number of loan types, such as payday loans of 91 days or less and so-called “car title loans” of 181 day or less. Since that time, sharks have evaded the rules by simply extending the terms or restructuring the loans — thus allowing them to continue to target service members (something that often impacts their security clearances and even jeopardizes their careers).

Happily, the new rules take big step toward putting an end to these evasions in that they:

  • Apply market-wide to all high-cost credit products that target service members, including payday, auto title and installment loans designed to evade the 2007 protections;
  • Cap interest and add-on fees at 36 percent for loans issued to service members and their dependents;
  • Prevent lenders from using junk fees such as credit insurance, debt cancellation or debt suspension to circumvent the 36 percent interest and fee cap.
  • Preserve service members’ access to the courts by prohibiting forced arbitration agreements;

Research by the Department of Defense released last year found that as many as one out of every ten enlisted serviceman and woman continued to be targeted by high-cost credit designed to evade the Military Lending Act. DoD estimates that the final rule will reduce involuntary separation caused by financial hardship, resulting in a savings of $14 million a year or more.

The rules come as a particular boon to North Carolina, home to tens of thousands of active military personnel and one of the nation’s largest military populations.

Of course, the obvious next step for federal regulators in the years ahead is to extend the protections now afforded to active military personnel to all individuals affiliated with the military and, eventually, all American consumers period. Let’s get to work.

Commentary

For the past six and half years, it’s been obvious to anyone with even a shred of honesty and observational skills that a disturbingly large portion of the incessant opposition to President Obama’s every move is the byproduct of one simple factor: his race.

The haters and obstructionists will deny this and try to attribute it all to Obama’s supposed “leftist” or “socialist’ leanings  — even when the thoroughly moderate President is frustrating progressives and championing one-time conservative and Republican ideas — but you don’t have to be a MENSA member to see and understand what’s really going on.

Fortunately for the sake of the truth — if not the near term well-being of the country — a gaggle of confederate flag waving knuckleheads in Oklahoma cut through all of the B.S. last night and showed both: a) the true nature of the ignorant and irrational hatred with which our President must contend every day and b) its often symbiotic connection to a symbol of racist hatred and treason that continues to stain the country.

Commentary

Governor Pat McCrory’s notorious hyper-sensitivity to criticism was on full display yet again yesterday. The Guv went to the trouble of issuing a special statement in response a mild and understated barb from President Obama about the well-documented decline in North Carolina’s commitment to public education.

Here’s what the Prez said:

“Funding now here in this state, and teacher pay, is ranking as low as it gets. And so part of it is just pointing that out and hopefully understanding this shouldn’t be a partisan issue. It shouldn’t matter whether you’re Republican or Democrat. You should want to make sure schools are successful and have … teachers who are motivated and have professional training but also are making enough of a living that they can afford a middle-class lifestyle.”

Rather than letting the remark go as he would have been smart to do, McCrory tried to respond with a snippy comment in which he touted his Rube Goldberg teacher pay raise plan of last year and basically said that Obama had no idea what he was talking about.

The fact of the matter, though, is that Obama was quite correct. North Carolina spending on public education is still well-below pre-Great Recession levels. And while, some teachers did get a desperately overdue raise last year, it in no way made up for the years of layoffs, class size hikes, losses of support personnel and numerous other indignities visited on our public schools because of the state leadership’s ill-advised tax giveaways to the well-off.

The bottom line: As usual, the Governor overreacted to a gentle bit of criticism and in so doing, only served to focus more attention on the policy failures over which he has presided.

Commentary

#ConfirmLoretta2It’s no particular news that conservatives in Washington continue to raze basic rules and traditions of American governance. When a block of U.S. Senators starts trying to seize authority to conduct U.S. foreign policy from the chief executive, you know things have hit a new low. Still the ongoing stonewalling of Attorney General nominee and North Carolina native Loretta Lynch (which even includes North Carolina’s two senators, for crying out loud) is an especially offensive exercise in dysfunction (and maybe something worse).

As Roll Call’s David Hawkings writes:

“The most amazing thing about the Loretta Lynch story is that the congressional community no longer views it as amazing….

For essentially the first two centuries under our Constitution, senators afforded the president free rein to stock his Cabinet as he chose, except in the most extraordinary circumstances. Getting over the ‘advice and consent’ hurdle was about proving competence for public service, demonstrating good manners and keeping your moral nose clean.

It would not have been newsworthy at all — let alone a rationale for disqualification — for an attorney general nominee to take the same position as the president who nominated her in a balance of powers battle with Congress. (In fact, it would have been much more problematic for a nominee to openly break with the president in such a dispute.)”

Now, as Hawkings points out, a majority of Republican senators would deny Lynch the job merely because they disagree with her position of sticking up for the President’s immigration policy.  They can’t even point to some broad ideological divide with the well-respected prosecutor as was the case when some Democrats balked at approving the far-right conservative John Ashcroft back in 2001.

Of course, the elephant in the room of which Hawkings fails to take note is the little matter issue of who and what Lynch is. That is to say, isn’t it interesting that Senators feel free to break such extraordinary new ground when it’s an African-American president nominating someone who would be the first African-American woman Attorney General?