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Dick Cheney Makes a Great Case for Prosecuting Torturers Like Himself

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A Couple of Jokers
A Couple of Jokers…

Can someone please start a Kickstarter campaign to snatch up Dick Cheney and fly him to The Hague for a War Crimes trial? I know a lot of people that would donate money for that…

In a disturbing interview on “Meet the Press” on Sunday, former vice president Dick Cheney basically taunted ambitious lawyers at the Hague to come after him.

The host of the show, Chuck Todd, read horrific details from the Senate report on “enhanced interrogation” and asked Mr. Cheney if he thought they amounted to torture. Rectal feeding? Keeping a man in a coffin-sized box? Handcuffing another man’s wrists to an overhead bar for 22 hours per day, for two consecutive days?

No.

Mr. Cheney was bullishly nonsensical — refusing to acknowledge a difference between mass murder and torture. Worse, he was unrepentant.

Did any of the details from the report “plant any seed of doubt?” asked Mr. Todd. “Absolutely not,” Mr. Cheney answered.

What about the fact that “25 percent of the detainees” turned out to be innocent?

“I have no problem as long as we achieve our objective” answered Mr. Cheney

(click here to continue reading Dick Cheney Makes a Great Case for Prosecuting Torturers – NYTimes.com.)

I find it really hard to make jokes about how evil Dick Cheney is, but without jokes, he’s a sociopathic monster, and sadly a monster that the rest of the world assumes speaks for America.1 No remorse for torturing innocent people, sometimes to death, no remorse at all. Torture doesn’t provide actionable intelligence in the first place, but torturing people just the heck of it? 

As Digby writes:

This went all the way back to the 70s when Cheney was working in the Nixon and Ford White Houses and thought that the USA was becoming soft and the presidency was losing its juice. He was ready to fix that when he got the chance and he has no regrets. He does not care one bit that he’s considered by millions of people to be a war criminal and a sadist. He got what he wanted.

There are Godwinesque restrictions on certain things we can say about Dick Cheney in public. But I don’t think it’s too much to point out that having him on television saying what he said yesterday is the very definition of the banality of evil. Yesterday morning Dick Cheney, torturer, unrepentant war criminal was presented as just another government bureaucrat doing his job. He will be welcomed into the homes of the political elite like any other former VP, as will the man he went to great lengths to say approved it all: George W. Bush.  In fact, Jeb Bush is widely hailed as the best man to carry on the “Bush tradition” and cognoscenti of all political stripes are cheering on his candidacy.

Think about that: the political establishment believes that the brother of the president who ordered torture and invaded a country on false pretenses — and who has never shown the slightest daylight between his brother’s policies and decision and his own beliefs — is an excellent candidate for the presidency. It’s not even a question as far as I can tell.

(click here to continue reading Hullabaloo – How Cheney planned his move for decades.)

and an excerpt from a powerful post by Hunter of Daily Kos:

Let us suppose that every one of the assertions is true. Let us suppose that torture, by which we mean the simulated drownings, the broken bones, the medical injuries, the psychological torture, the death in a bitterly cold room—”worked.” It generated irreplaceable results. Valuable results. It was manifestly successful.

Then why are we not continuing it?

Why are we reserving it for suspected Muslim terrorists or collaborators or hangers-on or those named by another tortured suspect, and not, say, against arms smugglers? Against suspected drug importers? Against Swiss bankers who are suspected of laundering money gained in organized crime?

No, forget that—let us presume it to be not a weapon for fighting crime, but a weapon meant only for war. Does that mean that America shall henceforth be torturing wartime prisoners, if we feel they have information we require?

Set aside the relevant laws and treaties—does only America get to torture prisoners? Are we declaring that wartime torture of prisoners work, and therefore should be used, as international policy statement or as statement that America alone ought to benefit from the manifestly successful tool of torture? We are comfortable, then, with the notion that our own soldiers will be similarly interrogated by opposing forces or groups, and due to our understanding of the military significance of the irreplaceable results to be gleaned, we will acquiesce to the treatment, and will not seek to prosecute those that torture our own citizens?

Or are we, indeed, the declared exception to this rule? We may torture to the point of broken bones, blood clots, mental incapacitation or—oops—the occasional death, but only us, due to our manifest and unique need to do so?

That is where I am stumped, and where, over a decade of debate, we continue to make no progress whatsoever in the conversation. Sen. John McCain can ask the question or I can ask the question; it makes no difference. Whether it be the past vice president or any of the various pundits of the punditry litter, the declaration that our torture of prisoners has been manifestly successful is always where the debate abruptly trails off, like the author has suddenly remembered they have somewhere else to be. There is never an answer on why we have used international law to put torturers to death for past interrogations considered similarly manifestly successful by their nations’ advocates, and no opinion given on whether we shall be withdrawing from those treaties in the future or merely ignoring them if we feel it would be manifestly successful to do so. There is no citation as to what ought to be done against those that treat our soldiers similarly in the future. We are simply told that we will torture, perhaps under euphemism if the wordsmiths object to the older word, because it generates “results.” Full stop. The rest is just left hanging in the wind like a noose from a tree.

(click here to continue reading Of all the torture defenses, ‘because it works’ is the most troubling.)

Footnotes:
  1. He doesn’t, for the record []

Written by Seth Anderson

December 15th, 2014 at 2:56 pm

Posted in politics

Tagged with , , , ,

How Brownback Is Relying On Obamacare To Close Kansas’ Huge Budget Hole

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Don't Fool With Fools Who'll Run Away
Don’t Fool With Fools Who’ll Run Away.

Oh, Kansas, you so crazy – you elected this clown twice!

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) is calling all hands on deck to fix his state’s huge self-imposed budget crisis, which nearly cost him re-election this year, and the staunch conservative is now receiving an assist from an unlikely source: Obamacare.

The state’s well-documented budget troubles came after Brownback’s dramatic reductions in taxes since taking office in 2011. With its revenue drying up and cash reserves depleted, Kansas is staring at a $280 million hole in its $6.4 billion FY 2015 budget, which ends in June.

Brownback offered his proposal for closing that hole last week, a mixture of spending cuts and transferring funds from other parts of the budget to fill it. And second biggest of those transfers is $55 million in revenue from a Medicaid drug rebate program that was bolstered under the Affordable Care Act.

The short version then is this: Obamacare is helping Kansas address its fiscal crisis — even if Brownback’s administration seems loath to admit it.

(click here to continue reading How Brownback Is Relying On O-Care To Close Kansas’ Huge Budget Hole.)

I'm With Stupid
I’m With Stupid

No worries, Kansas will turn into Somalia soon enough, Governor Brownback has 4 more years of wrecking the state’s economy to prove Republican talking points about economics are faith-based. As long as you don’t live in Kansas, or near Kansas, or have any dealings with Kansas, or live in the same country as Kansas, you should be ok…

Two years ago Kansas embarked on a remarkable fiscal experiment: It sharply slashed income taxes without any clear idea of what would replace the lost revenue. Sam Brownback, the governor, proposed the legislation — in percentage terms, the largest tax cut in one year any state has ever enacted — in close consultation with the economist Arthur Laffer. And Mr. Brownback predicted that the cuts would jump-start an economic boom — “Look out, Texas,” he proclaimed.

But Kansas isn’t booming — in fact, its economy is lagging both neighboring states and America as a whole. Meanwhile, the state’s budget has plunged deep into deficit, provoking a Moody’s downgrade of its debt.

There’s an important lesson here — but it’s not what you think. Yes, the Kansas debacle shows that tax cuts don’t have magical powers, but we already knew that. The real lesson from Kansas is the enduring power of bad ideas, as long as those ideas serve the interests of the right people.

Why, after all, should anyone believe at this late date in supply-side economics, which claims that tax cuts boost the economy so much that they largely if not entirely pay for themselves? The doctrine crashed and burned two decades ago, when just about everyone on the right — after claiming, speciously, that the economy’s performance under Ronald Reagan validated their doctrine — went on to predict that Bill Clinton’s tax hike on the wealthy would cause a recession if not an outright depression. What actually happened was a spectacular economic expansion.

(click here to continue reading Charlatans, Cranks and Kansas – NYTimes.com.)

Puzzle of Puzzles
Puzzle of Puzzles

and as long as the morons in Washington don’t follow Brownback’s lead:

Remember, as far as Brownback is concerned, he has a popular mandate from the Kansas electorate. He ruined the state’s finances, won a second term, and sees no need to change course. So, predictably, he’s keeping the tax breaks that didn’t work and slashing public investments even deeper, since this is entirely consistent with the agenda endorsed by voters.  

Shortly after the election, Brownback’s budget director said the administration “has no intention of revisiting the state’s tax policy.” Of course not. Why would failure need to be revisited?  

Postscript: Two years ago, incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said of Brownback’s radical economic experiment, “This is exactly the sort of thing we want to do here, in Washington.” Something to keep in mind.

(click here to continue reading Brownback scrambles to clean up his mess | MSNBC.)

Written by Seth Anderson

December 15th, 2014 at 9:47 am

Posted in politics

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Energy Firms in Secretive Alliance With Republican Attorneys General

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The Dark Doesn't Hide It
The Dark Doesn’t Hide It.

Here are real world consequences of removing all vestiges of restraint of corporate purchase of elected officials, only partially hidden corruption. We are getting the best politicians money can buy, in other words, with the obvious point being it isn’t our money, but corporate dollars that have all the buying power.

The letter to the Environmental Protection Agency from Attorney General Scott Pruitt of Oklahoma carried a blunt accusation: Federal regulators were grossly overestimating the amount of air pollution caused by energy companies drilling new natural gas wells in his state.

But Mr. Pruitt left out one critical point. The three-page letter was written by lawyers for Devon Energy, one of Oklahoma’s biggest oil and gas companies, and was delivered to him by Devon’s chief of lobbying.

The email exchange from October 2011, obtained through an open-records request, offers a hint of the unprecedented, secretive alliance that Mr. Pruitt and other Republican attorneys general have formed with some of the nation’s top energy producers to push back against the Obama regulatory agenda, an investigation by The New York Times has found.

Attorneys general in at least a dozen states are working with energy companies and other corporate interests, which in turn are providing them with record amounts of money for their political campaigns, including at least $16 million this year.

(click here to continue reading Energy Firms in Secretive Alliance With Attorneys General – NYTimes.com.)

Cheap for corporations, $16,000,000 isn’t very much when gutting environmental law is the end result. Remember your high school history books and how indignant the outrage was when discussing the Teapot Dome Scandal? Well, this is a gazillion or two times worse…

Unconventional Solutions
Unconventional Solutions…

Here’s a brief refresher of the Teapot Dome Scandal via Wikipedia:

In the early 20th century, the U.S. Navy largely converted from coal to oil fuel. To ensure the Navy would always have enough fuel available, several oil-producing areas were designated as Naval Oil Reserves by President Taft. In 1921, President Harding issued an executive order that transferred control of Teapot Dome Oil Field in Natrona County, Wyoming, and the Elk Hills and Buena Vista Oil Fields in Kern County, California from the Navy Department to the Department of the Interior. This was not implemented until 1922, when Interior Secretary Fall persuaded Navy Secretary Edwin C. Denby to transfer control.

Later in 1922, Albert Fall leased the oil production rights at Teapot Dome to Harry F. Sinclair of Mammoth Oil, a subsidiary of Sinclair Oil Corporation. He also leased the Elk Hills reserve to Edward L. Doheny of Pan American Petroleum and Transport Company. Both leases were issued without competitive bidding. This manner of leasing was legal under the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920.

The lease terms were very favorable to the oil companies, which secretly made Fall a rich man. Fall had received a no-interest loan from Doheny of $100,000 (about $1.32 million today) in November 1921. He received other gifts from Doheny and Sinclair totaling about $404,000 (about $5.34 million today). It was this money changing hands that was illegal, not the leases. Fall attempted to keep his actions secret, but the sudden improvement in his standard of living prompted speculation.

(click here to continue reading Teapot Dome scandal – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.)

Discarded Cautions
Discarded Cautions.

Sound familiar? Except in this case, the public isn’t outraged, or even well informed that elected officials are getting paid off in such a brazen manner. 

Out of public view, corporate representatives and attorneys general are coordinating legal strategy and other efforts to fight federal regulations, according to a review of thousands of emails and court documents and dozens of interviews.

“When you use a public office, pretty shamelessly, to vouch for a private party with substantial financial interest without the disclosure of the true authorship, that is a dangerous practice,” said David B. Frohnmayer, a Republican who served a decade as attorney general in Oregon. “The puppeteer behind the stage is pulling strings, and you can’t see. I don’t like that. And when it is exposed, it makes you feel used.”

For Mr. Pruitt, the benefits have been clear. Lobbyists and company officials have been notably solicitous, helping him raise his profile as president for two years of the Republican Attorneys General Association, a post he used to help start what he and allies called the Rule of Law campaign, which was intended to push back against Washington.

(click here to continue reading Energy Firms in Secretive Alliance With Attorneys General – NYTimes.com.)

Written by Seth Anderson

December 7th, 2014 at 2:20 pm

Rudy Giuliani Uses Ferguson To Take His Race Baiting To Whole New Level

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crime plus 8 mailbox
crime plus 8 

Rudy Giuliani is in the class of professional Trolls On Television that I try to ignore, along with his fellow grifters like Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann, et al. The odds of any of these losers ever winning a plurality of delegates in a presidential election is extremely slim, in fact, the odds of any of them winning a majority of voters in any state is implausible, and yet they have made careers for themselves appearing on television news programs, spewing bile regarding the political topic du jour.

All that said, Rudy “Nine-Eleven” Giuliani’s latest garbage is disgusting:

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani has been on a tear since Sunday, turning himself into a B storyline as he offers what you might call unvarnished takes on race and crime in America amid the tension in Ferguson, Mo. It started with a “Meet The Press” panel, when he told a black panelist that white police officers wouldn’t be in black communities if “you weren’t killing each other.”

And he hasn’t let up while a grand jury has decided not to indict police officer Darren Wilson in Michael Brown’s shooting and heated protests have followed.

Giuliani isn’t a stranger to racially charged rhetoric, dating back to his time as mayor, but these recent comments were striking even to one of Giuliani’s biographers who was quite familiar with the former mayor’s past rhetoric on these issues.

“Some of this stuff has struck me as a little over-the-top even for him,” Andrew Kirtzman, a former journalist and now a vice president at Global Strategy Group, who wrote a 2001 book about Giuliani, said in a phone interview. “But this is the man who when asked what he had done for the black community in New York, back in the 90s, he said, ‘Well, they’re still alive to begin with.'”

“I used to look at our crime reduction, and the reason we reduced homicide by 65 percent is because we reduced it in the black community,” [Giuliani] said. “Because there is virtually no homicide in the white community.”

(click here to continue reading Rudy Giuliani Uses Ferguson To Take His Race Baiting To Whole New Level.)

Uh, yeah, virtually no homicide in the white community. I went to the FBI’s website, and at random, picked the year 2000 to look at homicide statistics, a year when Giuliani was still Mayor of NYC. I’m not asserting that 2000 was or was not a typical year, but, what a surprise, plenty of incidents of white on white crime.

 

FBI Homicide Statistics by Race 2000

FBI Homicide Statistics by Race 2000

So when Giuliani bloviates:

“When the president was talking last night about training the police, of course, the police should be trained,” he said. “He also should have spent 15 minutes on training the [black] community to stop killing each other. In numbers that are incredible — incredible — 93 percent of blacks are shot by other blacks. They are killing each other. And the racial arsonists, who enjoyed last night, this was their day of glory.”

he’s just talking out of his ass. 85% of the reported homicides of whites were committed by other whites, btw. Does that mean the president should lecture the white community to stop killing each other too?

Written by Seth Anderson

November 29th, 2014 at 10:50 am

Posted in politics

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Republicans As Party Of Pollution

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West Wind Blowing Ill - Redux
West Wind Blowing Ill – Redux

Funny to think just a few decades ago, Republicans were, for the most part, interested in breathing non-polluted air, fishing in non-polluted streams, and so on. Contrast that to the current Republicans who would like nothing better than to kill the planet tomorrow in order to wring profits from Earth today…

Of course, polluters will defend their right to pollute, but why can they count on Republican support? When and why did the Republican Party become the party of pollution?

For it wasn’t always thus. The Clean Air Act of 1970, the legal basis for the Obama administration’s environmental actions, passed the Senate on a bipartisan vote of 73 to 0, and was signed into law by Richard Nixon. (I’ve heard veterans of the E.P.A. describe the Nixon years as a golden age.) A major amendment of the law, which among other things made possible the cap-and-trade system that limits acid rain, was signed in 1990 by former President George H.W. Bush.

But that was then. Today’s Republican Party is putting a conspiracy theorist who views climate science as a “gigantic hoax” in charge of the Senate’s environment committee. And this isn’t an isolated case. Pollution has become a deeply divisive partisan issue.

And the reason pollution has become partisan is that Republicans have moved right. A generation ago, it turns out, environment wasn’t a partisan issue: according to Pew Research, in 1992 an overwhelming majority in both parties favored stricter laws and regulation. Since then, Democratic views haven’t changed, but Republican support for environmental protection has collapsed.

(click here to continue reading Pollution and Politics – NYTimes.com.)

Satanic Gift
Satanic Gift

The Obama administration on Wednesday announced a long-delayed environmental regulation to curb emissions of ozone, a smog-causing pollutant linked to asthma, heart disease and premature death.

The sweeping regulation, which are aimed at smog caused by power plants and factories across the country, particularly in the Midwest, is the latest in a series of Environmental Protection Agency controls on air pollution that wafts from smokestacks and tailpipes. Such regulations, released under the authority of the Clean Air Act, have become a hallmark of President Obama’s administration.

Environmentalists and public health advocates have praised the E.P.A. rules as a powerful environmental legacy. Republicans, manufacturers and the fossil fuel industry have sharply criticized them as an example of costly government overreach. The National Association of Manufacturers has called the proposal “the most expensive regulation ever.”

(click here to continue reading E.P.A. Ozone Rules Divide Industry and Environmentalists – NYTimes.com.)

Paul Krugman thinks the shift to become the Party of Pollution has occurred mostly because the GOP is the proud party of the 1%.

And environmental protection is, in part, a class issue, even if we don’t usually think of it that way. Everyone breathes the same air, so the benefits of pollution control are more or less evenly spread across the population. But ownership of, say, stock in coal companies is concentrated in a few, wealthy hands. Even if the costs of pollution control are passed on in the form of higher prices, the rich are different from you and me. They spend a lot more money, and, therefore, bear a higher share of the costs.

In the case of the new ozone plan, the E.P.A.’s analysis suggests that, for the average American, the benefits would be more than twice the costs. But that doesn’t necessarily matter to the nonaverage American driving one party’s priorities. On ozone, as with almost everything these days, it’s all about inequality.

Written by Seth Anderson

November 28th, 2014 at 11:29 pm

Posted in environment,politics

Tagged with ,

Impeachment Proceedings

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Obama Man
Obama Man Grinning.

This was a parenthetical statement in a troll-baiting OpEd from Peter Schuck

Impeachment proceedings against Richard M. Nixon and Bill Clinton involved criminal conduct more egregious than Mr. Obama’s policy unilateralism.

(click here to continue reading The Impeachment of Obama on Immigration May Be Legal — But It’s Wrong – NYTimes.com.)

Really? Really? I was never a supporter of Mr. DLC Triangulation, a/k/a Bill Clinton, even going so far as voting for the Green Party candidate1 in 1996, but the whole impeachment travesty over testifying about receiving oral sex from Monica Lewinsky was not equal to Richard Nixon’s criminal conduct. Was there some other criminal conduct besides that perjury? Or just a man trying to keep his blowjobs out of the news media?

As to the more immediate question, will Congress actually impeach Obama? Can they? and should they? Is Obama guilty of treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors? What exactly does misdemeanor mean in this context? I guess we’ll see soon enough, as the Republican Party is gearing up to lead the US down the banana republic road…

House Republicans filed a long-threatened lawsuit Friday against the Obama administration over unilateral actions on the health care law that they say are abuses of the president’s executive authority.

The lawsuit — filed against the secretaries of Health and Human Services and the Treasury — focuses on two crucial aspects of the way the administration has put the Affordable Care Act into effect.

The suit accuses the Obama administration of unlawfully postponing a requirement that larger employers offer health coverage to their full-time employees or pay penalties. (Larger companies are defined as those with 50 or more employees.)

House Republicans struggled to find a law firm willing to take their case. Two withdrew, but on Tuesday, Mr. Boehner hired Jonathan Turley, a professor at George Washington University.

(click here to continue reading House G.O.P. Files Lawsuit in Battling Health Law – NYTimes.com.)

Footnotes:
  1. Ralph Nader []

Written by Seth Anderson

November 22nd, 2014 at 10:02 am

Posted in politics

Tagged with , ,

House Passes Bill That Makes It Harder For Scientists To Advise The EPA

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 Fragile Handle With Care

Fragile Planet, Handle With Care.

How simply ridiculous. Was this an ALEC bill? A Koch Industry bill? Which industrial baron insisted upon this travesty?

the House on Tuesday quietly passed a bill that environmentalists say would hamper the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to use the best scientific information when crafting regulations to protect public health and the environment.

The House voted 229-191 to pass H.R. 1422, which would change the rules for appointing members to the Science Advisory Board (SAB), a group that gives scientific advice to the EPA Administrator.

Also called the Science Advisory Board Reform Act, the bill would make it easier for scientists with financial ties to corporations to serve on the SAB, prohibit independent scientists from talking about their own research on the board, and make it more difficult for scientists who have applied for grants from the EPA to join the board. The purpose of the bill, according to Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX), is to increase transparency and accountability to the EPA’s scientific advisors. Burgess said on the floor Tuesday that the board “excludes industry experts, but not officials for environmental advocacy groups.” With this bill, Burgess said the inclusion of industry interests would erase “any appearance of impropriety on the board.”

But scientists, environmental groups, and health experts have said that the bill compromises the scientific independence of the SAB, and makes it harder for the Board to do its job, thereby increasing the amount of time it takes to implement EPA regulations.

“The supposed intent [of the bill] is to improve the process of selecting advisors, but in reality, the bill would allow the board to be stacked with industry representatives, while making it more difficult for academics to serve,” said Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) on the House floor on Tuesday. “It benefits no one but the industry, and it harms public health.”

(click here to continue reading House Passes Bill That Makes It Harder For Scientists To Advise The EPA | ThinkProgress.)

Meagre Results for Lost Souls
Meagre Results for Lost Souls

not to mention there is also HR 4012, the so-called “Secret Science” Reform Act, which is another effort to destroy the EPA, or at least delay it from doing its job:

Under HR 4012, some of the best real-world public health research, which relies on patient data like hospital admissions, would be excluded from consideration because personal data could not, and should not, be made public. Demanding public release of full raw data the agency cannot legally disclose is simply a way to accuse the agency of hiding something when it has nothing to hide. What matters is not raw data but the studies based on these data, which have gone through the scientific process, including rigorous peer review, safeguards to protect the privacy of study participants, and careful review to make sure there’s no manipulation for political or financial gain.

As many politicians have taken pains to point out, they are not scientists, so they should listen to scientific advice instead of making spurious demands for unanalyzed data.

HR 1422, the EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act, sponsored by vocal EPA adversary Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, would similarly erect pointless roadblocks for the agency. The Science Advisory Board, composed of some of our nation’s best independent scientists, exists not to advocate any particular policy, but to evaluate whether the best science was used in agency decisions. This bill would make it easier for experts with ties to corporations affected by new rules to serve on the SAB while excluding independent scientists from talking about their own research.

In other words, academic scientists who know the most about a subject can’t weigh in, but experts paid by corporations who want to block regulations can.

(click here to continue reading Congress Must Block These Attacks on Independent Science | Commentary : Roll Call Opinion.)

So Easily Misunderstood
So Easily Misunderstood

Rep.Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) writes:

Over the past few years, the Republican party has engaged in an unrelenting partisan attack on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). They have harassed the administrator, attempted to delay every new regulation, questioned the integrity of academic and EPA scientists, and sided with industrial polluters over the American people. Later this week, the Republican Majority in the House will continue this assault by considering H.R. 4012 and H.R. 1422.

H.R. 4012, the Secret Science Act of 2014, is an insidious attack on the EPA’s ability to use the best science to protect the health of Americans and the environment. Republicans will claim that H.R. 4012 increases EPA’s transparency, but in reality it is an attempt to prevent EPA from using the best science to protect public health and the environment. This bill would prohibit EPA from relying on scientific studies that involve personal health information or other data that is legally protected from public disclosure.

Any effort to limit the scope of science that can be considered by EPA does not strengthen scientific integrity, but instead undermines it. It would also increase the likelihood of litigation because EPA’s actions would be based on inadequate and incomplete science, leaving any regulation open to legal challenges which would delay the implementation of important public health protections. The true intent of H.R. 4012 is to delay EPA action because that is what industrial polluters want. H.R. 4012 is not only bad for public health, but it is also bad for the taxpayer. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the bill as reported would cost American taxpayers as much as $1 billion dollars over four years.

(click here to continue reading Another attack on the EPA and public health | TheHill.)

I Know Deep Down You Are Not To Blame
I Know Deep Down You Are Not To Blame

So happy that 18% of the electorate is able to set pollution policy for the entire nation. I mean, who would want clean air or water? Or lakes and streams one could actually fish in? No, much better to destroy our planet and wait for The Rapture…1

Footnotes:
  1. I’m being sarcastic, in case this is not obvious. You cannot see my smirk after all []

Written by Seth Anderson

November 20th, 2014 at 10:37 am

Bill to Restrict NSA Data Collection Blocked by Senate Republicans

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Nokia AT&T phone
Relic of a simpler time. 

So the Senate Republicans blocked legislation ((S.2685: Uniting and Strengthening America by Fulfilling Rights and Ensuring Effective Discipline Over Monitoring Act of 2014)) that could theoretically protect us from government overreach. What a surprise!

 Senate Republicans on Tuesday blocked a sweeping overhaul of the once-secret National Security Agency program that collects records of Americans’ phone calls in bulk.

But Tuesday’s vote only put off a debate over security and personal liberties until next year. While a Republican-controlled Senate is less likely to go along with the kinds of reforms that were in the bill, which sponsors had named the U.S.A. Freedom Act, the debate could further expose rifts between the party’s interventionist and more libertarian-leaning wings.

Under the bill, which grew out of the disclosures in June 2013 by Edward J. Snowden, the former intelligence contractor, the N.S.A. would have gotten out of the business of collecting Americans’ phone records. Instead, most of the records would have stayed in the hands of the phone companies, which would not have been required to hold them any longer than they already do for normal business purposes, which in some cases is 18 months.

The N.S.A., Mr. Snowden revealed, was systematically collecting such telephone metadata …from major American phone companies. The program began after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, based on an assertion of unilateral executive power by President George W. Bush. In 2006, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court had secretly brought the program under its authority and started issuing orders under the Patriot Act to the companies for their records.

The proposed legislation would still have allowed analysts to perform so-called contact chaining in which they trace a suspect’s network of acquaintances, but they would been required to use a new kind of court order to swiftly obtain only those records that were linked, up to two layers away, to a suspect — even when held by different phone companies.

(click here to continue reading Bill to Restrict N.S.A. Data Collection Blocked in Vote by Senate Republicans – NYTimes.com.)

For all their chants about eliminating Big Gov’ment, Senator Mitch McConnell and his team secretly love expansion of federal reach. For the GOP: expanding government surveillance is good, controlling women’s uteruses is better, expanding defense contractors weaponry program is best. The only kind of government programs the GOP doesn’t like are things like SNAP, EPA, and so on. You know, the stuff that might actually help someone.

Also of note: Senator Rand Paul, Mr. Libertarian himself, voted no on this bill. Wonder how his acolytes will spin it? Especially since Senators Ted “Calgary” Cruz, Dean Heller, Mike Lee and Lisa Murkowski all voted yes…

Transformers 3 Soldier extra
Soldier making NSA tracked call

From Bloomberg Businessweek, the tech industry was pushing for this bill:

The bill was an attempt to force spy agencies to collect only information sought through a court order and exclude the use of broad searches like by ZIP codes. A coalition of Internet and technology companies, which include Google Inc. and Twitter Inc., supported the Senate bill while saying the Republican-backed House version passed in May would still allow bulk collection of Internet user data.

U.S. Internet and technology companies say they’ve already lost contracts with foreign governments over the issue. Forrester Research Inc. estimates the backlash against NSA spying could cost as much as $180 billion in lost business. Facebook Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Apple Inc.  are among the companies pushing for limits.

Americans learned of the spying in June 2013 when Snowden, a former NSA contractor revealed a program under which the U.S. uses court orders to compel companies to turn over data about their users. Documents divulged by Snowden also uncovered NSA hacking of fiber-optic cables abroad and installation of surveillance tools into routers, servers and other network equipment.

(click here to continue reading Senate Blocks Vote on Curbing NSA’s Bulk Data Collection Program – Businessweek.)

Written by Seth Anderson

November 19th, 2014 at 9:49 am

Posted in politics

Tagged with , , ,

Congress Extends Itself Tax Extender Style

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Relentless
Relentless

Gail Collins provides a good elevator pitch description of a tax policy tool called tax extenders…

One of the very, very few things the current Congress seems determined to deal with before it vanishes into the night is the problem of “tax extenders.” Extenders are strange but much-loved little financial mutants. Sort of like hobbits or three-legged kittens.

Congress, in its wisdom, has created a raft of temporary tax breaks for everybody from teachers to banks that make money overseas. Most are really intended to be permanent. But calling them short-term measures tricks the Congressional Budget Office into underestimating how much they cost.
“If you pass a new tax cut, you’ve got to find offsetting spending cuts. But these are in a sense free,” said Howard Gleckman of the Tax Policy Center.

After the election, both parties appeared inclined to just extend all the tax cuts for two years while making principled mumbling about reform down the line.

But then the Koch brothers roared into the picture. They feel that it’s wrong for the government to give a special benefit to an industry that’s one of their competitors. Especially a government that they and their associates devoted nearly $60 million to getting into office. Politico reported that their representatives have been meeting with Speaker Boehner’s staff.

And you know, they have a point. If Congress actually wanted to do serious reform, it should get rid of special tax breaks for the wind and solar energy sectors. While, of course, also removing all the tax breaks for drilling oil.

(click here to continue reading Congress Extends Itself – NYTimes.com.)

Written by Seth Anderson

November 17th, 2014 at 10:19 pm

The Diabolical Cunning of The Reagan Revolution

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Nixon - Reagan (Rick Perlstein) #doubleExposure
Nixon – Reagan (Rick Perlstein) #doubleExposure

An excerpt from an interview/conversation between Thomas Frank and Rick Perlstein, which contains this illuminating exchange about the death of Democratic Party populism; how the working class Democrat morphed into Reagan Democrats, who now listen to Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, and so on…

Rick Perlstein: And, just to kind of rewind, I was very fascinated to read a book of Mike Royko columns. You know, Mike Royko is this great liberal hero, a real champion of the little guy and the kind of columnist we don’t see anymore. This white working-class populist kind of guy.

Thomas FrankAlthough they didn’t use that term populist back then. They would have just said “liberal” right?

RP–No. They would have probably called him a populist, I think. But I was struck by how many of his columns.… One of his genres was how cruel they’re being to the little guy. One of his genres was the lives of colorful Chicago characters. But a lot of his columns were about how incompetent government was, and he would write about how hard it is to get a refund when the bus token machine doesn’t work, or the lines at the DMV. And, by the same token, when you read the toughest political journalism of the day by someone like Garry Wills, who was writing amazing stuff for Esquire Magazine, it’s so iconoclastic.

TF: How do you mean?

RP: He was so good at knocking politicians off their pedestals and showing them up to be phonies. One of Garry Wills’ favorite rhetorical strategies was to find out what a politician’s favorite book was, according to his campaign rhetoric, and then ask him about the book and prove that, you know, he had no idea what was in there.

So the point is, there was just all kinds of suspicion of government circulating in the culture. It was in the air. I mean, why wouldn’t there be after Vietnam? After Watergate? After the failure of Keynesianism? And one of the sort of diabolical, cunning accomplishments of Ronald Reagan and the Reaganites was to take that free-floating rage, rage about the failures of government and turn it to the advantage of the Masters of the Universe.

TF: Yeah. That’s the story of our time in some ways.

(click here to continue reading Thomas Frank on Ronald Reagan’s secret tragedy: How ’70s and ’80s cynicism poisoned Democrats and America – Salon.com.)

Sadly, this rings true. The GOP has long been the party of oil barons, media moguls, defense contractors, yet the rank and file of the Tea Party ranks are filled with working class and middle class voters, who consistently vote against their own economic interest. How does tax breaks for General Electric and ExxonMobil help a dude working at a muffler repair shop? It doesn’t, and yet…

Circuit Court of Cook County
POW/MIA Flag, Circuit Court of Cook County

The interview morphs into a discussion about the creation of the POW/MIA myth as a cynical Nixon ploy – 

They were quite heroic and the story holds up on its own terms. Unfortunately, the Pentagon distorted it — for example, made up things that weren’t true about prisoners being hung by their wrists and having their arms permanently broken. Well, that was easily checked once they came back, and their arms weren’t permanently broken. But I have the smoking gun, which is Nixon’s Secretary of State, William Rogers, saying the POWs are serving their purpose to basically —you can get the quote from the book — putting the military on a new footing, where they should be—to kind of redeem American militarism.

Illinois still has a POW-MIA remembrance day. So the cynicism is that, generally speaking, when a pilot would get shot down over dense jungle and they didn’t recover the body, they were classified as “body not recovered.”

…Presumed killed in action, basically. And one of the things Nixon did — and the Nixon Pentagon did — was reclassify them as Missing In Action, which served a very important rhetorical purpose: If they were missing in action, maybe they were alive. And if they were alive maybe the enemy had them alive. And so it created this sort of negotiating point. Nixon could accuse them of negotiating in bad faith unless they promised to return these soldiers that they were supposedly holding back. And that turned out to be the sorcerer’s apprentice, because he would always talk about the 1,700 Americans held prisoner or missing in action. And after the war ends and these 600 men come back…

TF That’s how many POWs there were?

Approximately. 592, I think, was the number. People would say “where are the other 1,100?” And their families would say, “where are the other 1,100?” And, basically, this preexisting group that Admiral [James] Stockdale’s wife had started up, the National League of Families of Prisoners of War, the White House basically turned it into their own front group and plumped [it] up into something much bigger than it had been. But then it takes this independent life of its own harassing the government for not more actively looking for their missing family members. So they played with the feelings of these absolutely traumatized families for political gain, and it eventually backfired.

(click here to continue reading Thomas Frank on Ronald Reagan’s secret tragedy: How ’70s and ’80s cynicism poisoned Democrats and America – Salon.com.)

There’s more, and you should read it…

Written by Seth Anderson

November 16th, 2014 at 9:57 am

Posted in politics

Tagged with , , ,

Al Franken Ran As A Liberal, and Won

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Everything Is Political
Everything Is Political

Senator Al Franken won re-election with a novel strategy; he campaigned as he votes: as a Liberal! And won! Sadly, too many of his party tried to win by playing up their conservative side for some reason, and then lost. Seriously, what is the point of presenting oneself as Republican-Lite? Won’t voters just vote for the actual Republican?

Luckily for the Wellstone wing of the Democratic Party, there are a few smart guys, like Senator Franken:

Across the country, other Democratic Senate candidates distanced themselves from President Obama and the Democratic Party platform. Mark Warner, who squeaked by in Virginia, preferred to talk about how he’d tweak the Affordable Care Act than his vote for the bill, while arguing that he hasn’t actually voted with President Obama all that often. Mark Udall in Colorado decided he didn’t want to be seen with Obama. Challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky wouldn’t even say if she voted for Obama in 2012—after serving as one of his delegates to the national convention.

Franken took the opposite approach.

Instead of running away from the progressive accomplishments of the Obama era, he embraced them, railing against bankers, advocating for student loan reform—even defending the Affordable Care Act. Franken ran as an Elizabeth Warren-style Democrat, running a populist campaign that didn’t shirk discussion of the specific policies Democrats could pursue to help the middle class. And voters rewarded him. “This wasn’t a safe seat,” Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, said in an e-mail. “He earned his victory by being a proud populist Democrat for six years and inspiring voters.”

Franken’s Republican opponent, investment banker Mike McFadden, centered his campaign on painting Franken as an Obama shill. But Franken didn’t deny his ties to the president and the Democratic party—and he would have had a hard time of it if he tried. Franken was a favorite of the liberal base before entering politics thanks to his combative, unabashed left-winger radio persona on Air America and his anti-Fox News books. He joined Congress in 2009 as the Democrats’ 60th, filibuster-breaking vote, allowing the party to pass the Affordable Care Act. Since then he’s racked up a clear lefty record, regularly ranking among the most liberal members in the Senate.

(click here to continue reading Al Franken Was Liberal Enough, Tough Enough, and Doggone It, People Reelected Him | Mother Jones.)

Maybe in 2016, more Democrats will decide to run as liberals. Shocking concept, eh?

Democratic Strategists Are Clueless - Tom Tomorrow

Democratic Strategists Are Clueless – Tom Tomorrow

– via http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/11/10/1342914/-Cartoon-Midterm-mayhem

Written by Seth Anderson

November 14th, 2014 at 9:19 am

Yes, I Judge Your Politics

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What Have We Done Wrong?
What Have We Done Wrong?

Jonathan Chait has a nice piece in the New York Magazine responding to David Brooks’ latest bit of twaddle (which you can read here if you are bored or a masochist)

American politics may have been much less partisan in the 1960s, but it was not lacking in hypermoralization. Indeed, it was far more violent. You had white supremacists murdering civil-rights activists in Mississippi, police brutalizing protestors in Chicago, and construction workers beating up hippies in New York City. That angry, hypermoralized politics took place outside of, or within, parties rather than between them.

There are millions of Americans who think it’s okay to deny legal citizens their voting rights or force them to go without health insurance. Those people live in a different moral universe than I do. They’re not necessarily bad people. (Lord knows the people who agree with me on those things are not all good.) But, yes, I believe their political views reflect something unflattering about their character.

(click here to continue reading I’m a ‘Partyist,’ and Yes, I Judge Your Politics — NYMag.)

Yes, count me in the camp that believes in small “d” democracy. If a political party can only seize power by disenfranchising voters through poll taxes, or other duplicitous means, than that party is corrupt. Even dudes who make a living collecting scrap metal have human dignity, and should have a say in their own governance, however small their participation really is in practice. One person, one vote, not one dollar, one vote.

And to Mr. Chait (and David Brooks) larger point: would I want my daughter to marry a Tea Party friendly, Rush Limbaugh reciting, mouth breathing, 6,000 year old Earther who believes the Rapture is approaching? No, I would not. I don’t think they would be worthy of continuing my DNA’s long journey to Alpha Centauri. But, because I am a liberal, if I had a daughter, I wouldn’t get to choose who she loves, I just wouldn’t have to like it.

Written by Seth Anderson

October 31st, 2014 at 7:54 am

Posted in politics,religion

Tagged with ,

Cranky Reagan Biographer Gets Paraphrased, Demands Book Burning

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Nixon - Reagan (Rick Perlstein) #doubleExposure
Nixon – Reagan (Rick Perlstein) #doubleExposure

If you hadn’t heard, Craig Shirley has been making the rounds accusing historian Rick Perlstein of plagiarism. For the record, I purchased a copy of The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan but haven’t started reading yet. Most non-partisan writers, and several partisan writers have disagreed: historians quite frequently paraphrase from their sources, it is how we are taught to write! Perlstein didn’t omit references, just made them available on-line instead of as footnotes or endnotes, nor did Perstein borrow more than a word or two at time. In other words, the accusation seems to be mostly without merit from where I slouch.

Mostly the accusations seem to stem from Perlstein’s lack of hero worship for Ronald Reagan, the so-called patron saint of the Republican Party1.

So if you are at all interested in history of American politics, you might want to purchase a copy of Mr. Perlstein’s book before the pitchfork brandishing hordes manage to storm the ramparts of Amazon.com’s warehouses and burn the books that dare present a nuanced portrait of anyone so holy as Ronald “Bombing Begins in Five Minutes” Reagan.

 

Richard Nixon & Ronald Reagan (Rick Perlstein) - outtake
Richard Nixon & Ronald Reagan (Rick Perlstein) – outtake

Some coverage that caught my eye includes:

Frank Rich reviews the book:

Next to the more apocalyptic spells of American history, the dismal span of 1973 to 1976 would seem a relative blip of national dyspepsia. A period that yielded the blandest of modern presidents, Gerald Ford — “a Ford, not a Lincoln,” as he circumspectly described himself — is not to be confused with cataclysmic eras like the Civil War, the Great Depression and the Vietnam ‘60s. The major mid-70s disruptions — the Watergate hearings and Richard Nixon’s abdication, Roe v. Wade, the frantic American evacuation of Saigon, stagflation, the dawn of the “energy crisis” (then a newly minted term) — were adulterated with a steady stream of manufactured crises and cheesy cultural phenomena. Americans suffered through the threat of killer bees, “Deep Throat,” the Symbionese Liberation Army, a national meat boycott, “The Exorcist,” Moonies and the punishing self-help racket est, to which a hustler named Werner Erhard (né Jack Rosenberg) attracted followers as diverse as the Yippie Jerry Rubin and the Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin. Even the hapless would-be presidential assassins of the Ford years, Lynette (Squeaky) Fromme and Sara Jane Moore, were B-list villains by our national standards of infamy.

“I must say to you that the state of our Union is not good,” our unelected president told the nation in January 1975. That was true enough. America’s largest city was going bankrupt. Urban crime was metastasizing. The C.I.A. was exposed as a snake pit of lethal illegality. The nostalgic canonization of the Kennedy presidency, the perfect antidote to the Nixon stench, was befouled by the revelation of Jack Kennedy’s mob-moll paramour. Yet the mood of the union was not so much volatile as defeated, whiny and riddled by self-doubt. As Americans slouched toward the Bicentennial celebrations of July 4, 1976, pundits were wondering whether the country even deserved to throw itself a birthday party. “Everyone wanted to be somewhere else,” Rick Perlstein writes in “The Invisible Bridge.”

It says much about Perlstein’s gifts as a historian that he persuasively portrays this sulky, slender interlude between the fall of Nixon and the rise of Reagan (as his subtitle has it) not just as a true bottom of our history but also as a Rosetta stone for reading America and its politics today. It says much about his talent as a writer that he makes these years of funk lively, engrossing and on occasion mordantly funny. Perlstein knows how to sift through a culture’s detritus for the telling forgotten detail. Leave it to him to note that the WIN buttons peddled by Ford to promote a desperate “Whip Inflation Now” campaign were “designed by the same guy who invented the yellow ‘smiley face.’ ” Or to recall that the Republican Party tried to combat its dire post-Watergate poll numbers by producing “Republicans Are People Too!,” three fund-raising network television specials starring “everyday Republicans who want to tell why they have stuck with the G.O.P.” Competing against “M*A*S*H” in prime time, the second installment brought in $5,515. The third never ran.

(click here to continue reading ‘The Invisible Bridge,’ by Rick Perlstein – NYTimes.com.)

Shouldn't That Be a Right Turn?
Shouldn’t That Be a Right Turn?

Jesse Walker from Reason Magazine:

Craig Shirley, the author of two books on Ronald Reagan, has sicced his lawyer on Rick Perlstein, whose ’70s history The Invisible Bridge was published by Simon & Schuster this week. Shirley’s attorney is demanding that the publisher pulp Perlstein’s book, pay $25 million in damages, and take out ads apologizing to Shirley in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Newsweek, The Nation, The New Republic, Slate, and Salon.

What provoked these demands? Basically, the 810 pages of The Invisible Bridge include some information that can also be found in Shirley’s book Reagan’s Revolution, and in some places Perlstein paraphrases Shirley. Shirley thinks this constitutes copyright infringement. If you’d like to read the bill of particulars, Dave Weigel has posted the attorney’s letters and Simon & Schuster’s response at Slate, and Shirley himself has posted a litany of alleged thefts on his website.

In the first item on the latter list, the two books do sound alike: Describing the red-light district in Kansas City, Perlstein echoes not just the info in Shirley’s text but Shirley’s words “festooned” and “smut peddlers.” After that, though, we essentially get a list of places where the two writers cited the same facts. Facts are not copyrightable, and one pair of similar sentences does not an infringement make. I don’t see a dollar’s worth of damages here, let alone 25 million

(click here to continue reading Copyright Absurdity: Reagan Biographer Gets Paraphrased, Demands $25 Million – Hit & Run : Reason.com.)

Dave Weigel from Slate:

This just isn’t what happens when Rick Perlstein releases a book. The first in his series, 2001’s Before the Storm, was praised by William F. Buckley. George Will called it “the best book yet on the social ferments that produced Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential candidacy”—in a largely positive review of Perlstein’s second book, Nixonland, which became a best-seller. What changed? This time Perlstein is writing about Ronald Reagan.

Goldwater, Nixon, Reagan—Perlstein has moved from covering a minor saint, to a martyr, to God. Thirteen years ago, when Perlstein profiled Goldwater’s movement, there had been only one recent biography of the Arizonan. There will be at least half a dozen new Reagan books this year alone, everything from a deep dive into the 1986 Reykjavik summit to a collection of leadership tips. Perlstein is challenging an image of the 40th president that is built on many such books, celebrated at Republican county dinners, and quoted by everyone from Ted Cruz (in his arguments for conservative revival) to Joe Scarborough (in his argument that no one should listen to Cruz).

Yes, technically, The Invisible Bridge is a history of January 1973 to August 1976, and Reagan’s own presidential campaign does not start until Page 546 (of 810). But in Perlstein’s telling, Reagan was the essential figure who understood that Americans wanted to revise their history in real time. The Invisible Bridge starts with Operation Homecoming, the negotiated release of Vietnam POWs that was preceded by years of patriotic kitsch. Perlstein recreates the mood by quoting copiously from letters to the editor, from columnists, POW speeches and TV broadcasts. He recalls that it was future right-wing Rep. Bob Dornan who came up with yellow armbands as trinkets of POW solidarity, and recovers forgotten tidbits about them, like how “a Wimbledon champ said that one cured his tennis elbow.”

(click here to continue reading Rick Perlstein’s book on Reagan: The Invisible Bridge, reviewed..)

3/4 of a Kennedy Trumps 1/2 a Reagan
3/4 of a Kennedy Trumps 1/2 a Reagan

Eric Boehlert of Media Matters:

Right-wing publicist and author Craig Shirley doesn’t like a new book about Ronald Reagan written by award-winning (and liberal) historian Rick Perlstein. So the conservative publicist has threatened to sue for $25 million in damages and has asked for all copies of the book to be “destroyed,” claiming that with Invisible Bridge: The Fall Of Richard Nixon And The Rise of Ronald Reagan, Perlstein’s guilty of plagiarism for paraphrasing facts Shirley had previously reported in his own book about Reagan.

But of course, paraphrasing is not the basis for copyright infringement and that’s certainly not what constitutes plagiarism.

Meanwhile, for a best-selling author himself, Shirley seems to have little understanding of copyright law.

He seems to think that because he wrote a detailed book on a chapter of Reagan’s political life (his failed 1976 presidential campaign), every writer who subsequently treads that same ground must credit Shirley because he was there first. But that’s not how it works. “Any similarity between facts in non-fiction books – even if first reported by Mr. Shirley – does not support a claim of copyright infringement,” wrote attorney Elizabeth McNarama, responding on behalf of Perlstein and his publisher.

McNamara stressed:

Your client’s claim rests on the misguided notion that chroniclers of history, like Mr. Shirley, somehow acquire ownership and control over the facts and events they may uncover. This premise collides directly with the most basic principles of copyright law and is contrary to the very fundamentals of historical reporting.

The behind-the-scenes maneuvering suggests Shirley’s plagiarism claim doesn’t represent a serious pursuit. Instead it’s a way for Shirley to draw attention to his own work and to make life difficult for an esteemed liberal writer chronicling a conservative icon.

(click here to continue reading Ann Coulter’s Publicist Launches “Offensive” Against Historian Rick Perlstein | Blog | Media Matters for America.)

Paul Krugman weighs in, speaking from personal experience:

OK, this is grotesque. Rick Perlstein has a new book, continuing his awesomely informative history of the rise of movement conservatism — and he’s facing completely spurious charges of plagiarism.

How do we know that they’re spurious? The people making the charges — almost all of whom have, surprise, movement conservative connections — aren’t pointing to any actual passages that, you know, were lifted from some other book. Instead, they’re claiming that Perlstein paraphrased what other people said. Um, what? Unless there’s a very close match, telling more or less the same story someone else has told before is perfectly ordinary — in fact, it would be distressing if history books didn’t correspond on some things.

(click here to continue reading Sliming Rick Perlstein – NYTimes.com.)

Vote Reagan - Division Blue Line 1995
Vote Reagan – Division Blue Line 1995

David Dayen at Salon:

Simon & Schuster responded to the letters here, by arguing that “any similarity between facts in non-fiction books – even if first reported by Mr. Shirley – does not support a claim of copyright infringement.” In fact, it’s self-evident that facts should remain similar over the course of histories of the same time period. Perlstein believes he merely built upon the historical record that Shirley helped register in his work.  “He doesn’t like the way I do history,” Perlstein told Salon. “He thinks that if he digs up facts by the sweat of his brow that nobody else can use them. In fact, courts have used that exact phrase, ‘sweat of the brow,’ to say that there’s no copyright protection for such facts.”

In many cases, Simon & Schuster notes, Shirley alleges copyright infringement based on third-party quotes found in other sources. For example, Shirley claims that Perlstein stole a quote of Nancy Reagan’s from him without attribution, even though the quote appears differently in the two books. In Shirley’s, Nancy says “That’s what I like to hear”; in Perlstein’s, she says “Now that is the kind of talk I like to hear.” The quotes differ because Perlstein got it from a different book called “PR as in President” by Victor Gold, which is whom he cited in his source notes.

In another allegation, about a hotel manager threatening to throw out the Pennsylvania delegation at the 1976 GOP convention, Perlstein’s source is Time magazine, not Shirley (although he gives secondary attribution to Shirley anyway). Shirley even tries to claim copyright on a CBS News report of the number of delegates that Gerald Ford had attained near the end of the 1976 primaries.

A final claim of Shirley’s reveals too much. Shirley says Perlstein stole his line about Reagan watching the chaotic last night of the 1976 convention on television, “dissolved in laughter” (which is cited). But Shirley doesn’t add the line in “The Invisible Bridge” that comes afterward: “Then, he saw a televised image of himself on television watching it on television – that doesn’t look good – and his smile disappeared.” This additional insight, building on previous work and incorporating this cunning quality to Reagan, also came from a contemporaneous report in the Atlanta Daily World. As Dave Weigel writes, “In Shirley’s version of the story, Reagan was underrated once again; in Perlstein’s, he is underrated but calculating.”

So Shirley, who as a right-wing operative and professional Reagan biographer is naturally protective of Reagan’s legacy, and doesn’t want a book to rise to prominence that calls him into question for any reason, has basically thrown every allegation up against the wall to see if something sticks. He claims plagiarism over inconsequential, ordinary short phrases. He claims plagiarism over quotes that other people said. He claims plagiarism on passages where Perlstein specifically attributes Shirley’s book.

(click here to continue reading The right’s “plagiarism” scam: How low it will stoop to protect Reagan’s legacy – Salon.com.)

and after the New York Times published a “he said, he said” article about the ginned-up controversy, the NYT Public Editor Margaret Sullivan weighed in, concluding:

My take: There’s a problem here. An article about polarized reaction to a high-profile book is, of course, fair game. But the attention given to the plagiarism accusation is not.

Yes, the claim was “out there” but so are smears of all kinds as well as claims that the earth is flat and that climate change is unfounded. This one comes from the author of a book on the same subject with an opposing political orientation. By taking it seriously, The Times conferred a legitimacy on the accusation it would not otherwise have had.

And while it is true that Mr. Perlstein and his publisher were given plenty of opportunity to respond, that doesn’t help much. It’s as if The Times is saying: “Here’s an accusation; here’s a denial; and, heck, we don’t really know. We’re staying out of it.” Readers frequently complain to me about this he said, she said false equivalency — and for good reason.

So I’m with the critics. The Times article amplified a damaging accusation of plagiarism without establishing its validity and doing so in a way that is transparent to the reader. The standard has to be higher.

(click here to continue reading Was an Accusation of Plagiarism Really a Political Attack? – NYTimes.com.)

Footnotes:
  1. despite his oft-stated differences with the policies of the current bunch of Tea-Bagger jokers who chant Reagan’s name like it will ward off evil liberals, communists, and immigrants []

Written by Seth Anderson

August 13th, 2014 at 6:58 am

Posted in Books,politics

Tagged with ,

Bruce Rauner channeled part of fortune to Cayman Islands To Avoid Paying Taxes

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A Mere Hint of Evidence
A Mere Hint of Evidence

Illinois Democratic governor Pat Quinn, the incumbent, is not someone to get excited about, but his opponent in the upcoming election is a non-Mormon clone of Mitt Romney, down to the off-shore tax havens. Bruce Rauner won’t release his tax returns either, basically thumbing his nose at the electorate.

Multimillionaire Republican Bruce Rauner has channeled at least part of his fortune into the Cayman Islands, a Caribbean paradise long criticized as a tax haven for American investors, the Chicago Sun-Times has confirmed.

A Rauner spokesman insisted that the former private equity investor has met his legal tax obligations and properly disclosed to the federal government information regarding at least five investments by him or his firm in a country that has no income tax and a financial system cloaked in secrecy.

Rauner’s campaign has refused so far to release a full set of his most recent tax returns to corroborate that and perhaps show the extent and value of those investments in offshore companies. No one has suggested Rauner has done anything illegal. In fact, offshore investments among the wealthy have been a common practice in recent years.

(click here to continue reading Bruce Rauner channeled part of fortune to Cayman Islands | Early & Often.)

Seem Never Satisfied
Seem Never Satisfied

Are people really going to vote for this plutocrat who is too good, too powerful, too rich to pay his fair share of taxes to a near bankrupt state? If you planned to run for political office, why would you do this? And worse, once news of Rauner’s lack of patriotism was exposed, he doubled down on it.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner funneled part of his wealth to a Caribbean territory long considered a tax haven, a business practice he defended yesterday, stressing there was no impact on his personal tax rate.

A central part of Gov. Pat Quinn’s re-election bid has been scrutinizing how the multimillionaire Rauner made his money, and the Chicago Democrat’s campaign has alleged Rauner “stashed” money to avoid paying taxes. “I’d think someone who anticipates being in the public eye wouldn’t be in the Cayman Islands because the question to be asked is, ‘Why would you have invested there?'” Richard L. Kaplan, a University of Illinois law professor told the newspaper. “

AT NO POINT HAVE I TRIED TO AVOID TAXES’

Rauner dismissed the notion yesterday after speaking to Asian leaders in Chinatown.

“At no point have I tried to avoid taxes or done these things that they’re trying to spin,” he said…

“GTCR has its own structure for just a couple of investments. When they invest in overseas companies, they set up that particular structure. It doesn’t impact our personal tax rate whatsoever.”

Cayman, a British territory, is considered one of the world’s largest financial centers and a haven for mutual funds and private equity. International companies and ultra-rich investors have long taken advantage of offshore financial centers there, drawn by regulations and legal systems making it easy to move capital internationally. 

(click here to continue reading Rauner defends Cayman Islands money move – Government News – Crain’s Chicago Business.)

Not A Republican
Not A Republican

and as Aaron Cynic of the Chicagost writes, this isn’t trivial amounts of money, but most likely millions of dollars:

While Rauner might be in full legal compliance, the practice itself allows major corporations and other wealthy individuals to skip out on paying taxes in the United States. According to a June report from the group Citizens for Tax Justice, U.S. based multinational corporations booking profits in tax shelters like the Cayman’s has allowed them to skip out on an estimated $90 billion in federal income taxes. For someone trying to save the Illinois economy with a tax plan that targets professional and business services – many of which are smaller businesses – sheltering profits from a company boasting a $10 billion investment portfolio seems somewhat duplicitous, at best.

(click here to continue reading Rauner Defends Dumping Dollars Into Off-Shore Accounts: Chicagoist.)

Written by Seth Anderson

August 5th, 2014 at 8:13 am

Posted in politics

Tagged with , ,

The Ridiculous Required White House Response on Marijuana

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Nancy Reagan - Just Say Yo
Nancy Reagan – Just Say Yo

When we talk about how dysfunctional American politics is, here is a prime example. Talk about ridiculous “make-work” jobs, sheesh, thanks President Clinton, and Reagan, and Nixon…

When the White House issued a statement last night saying that marijuana should remain illegal — responding to our pro-legalization editorial series — officials there weren’t just expressing an opinion. They were following the law. The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy is required by statute to oppose all efforts to legalize any banned drug.

It’s one of the most anti-scientific, know-nothing provisions in any federal law, but it remains an active imposition on every White House. The “drug czar,” as the director of the drug control policy office is informally known, must “take such actions as necessary to oppose any attempt to legalize the use of a substance” that’s listed on Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act and has no “approved” medical use.

Marijuana fits that description, as do heroin and LSD. But unlike those far more dangerous drugs, marijuana has medical benefits that are widely known and are now officially recognized in 35 states. The drug czar, though, isn’t allowed to recognize them, and whenever any member of Congress tries to change that, the White House office is required to stand up and block the effort. It cannot allow any federal study that might demonstrate the rapidly changing medical consensus on marijuana’s benefits and its relative lack of harm compared to alcohol and tobacco.

(click here to continue reading The Required White House Response on Marijuana – NYTimes.com.)

via the always interesting and informative DrugWarRant.com

Ballin'
Ballin’

and more history of cannabis prohibition from the NYT Editorial Board:

The federal law that makes possession of marijuana a crime has its origins in legislation that was passed in an atmosphere of hysteria during the 1930s and that was firmly rooted in prejudices against Mexican immigrants and African-Americans, who were associated with marijuana use at the time. This racially freighted history lives on in current federal policy, which is so driven by myth and propaganda that is it almost impervious to reason.

The cannabis plant, also known as hemp, was widely grown in the United States for use in fabric during the mid-19th century. The practice of smoking it appeared in Texas border towns around 1900, brought by Mexican immigrants who cultivated cannabis as an intoxicant and for medicinal purposes as they had done at home.

Within 15 years or so, it was plentiful along the Texas border and was advertised openly at grocery markets and drugstores, some of which shipped small packets by mail to customers in other states.

The law enforcement view of marijuana was indelibly shaped by the fact that it was initially connected to brown people from Mexico and subsequently with black and poor communities in this country. Police in Texas border towns demonized the plant in racial terms as the drug of “immoral” populations who were promptly labeled “fiends.”

(click here to continue reading The Federal Marijuana Ban Is Rooted in Myth and Xenophobia – NYTimes.com.)

National Library of Medicine

Miarihuana – Weed With Roots In Hell! – An ad for the 1930s film “Marihuana.” Credit National Library of Medicine

Fascinating stuff, yet disheartening that decades of policy was built on xenophobia and intentional, malicious misinformation. You should click the link and read the rest of this overview.

Written by Seth Anderson

July 30th, 2014 at 9:13 am