The NYT reports that for prominent Mormons who are bankrolling Mitt Romney's campaign, their support of Romney is about his being a Mormon, and more generally, about helping promote Mormonism in America and across the world.But this election isn't about Romney's Mormonism, really.[R]ecords show that roughly two dozen members of Mormon families provided nearly $8 million of the financing for...
I'm going to bring these to your attention without much comment for now, but will have more to say later. Needless to say, reading this should tell you we've entered a new phase.First, from Gizmodo (via the excellent Steve Hynd, and The Agonist):Within the next year or two, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will instantly know everything about your body, clothes, and luggage with a...
North Carolina's primary was a long time ago?May 8?but voters are finally going to the polls to pick nominees in three congressional districts where runoffs were required. Our roundup of all three contests is below, but first, here's a map of the Tarheel State's new (and wondrously gerrymandered) congressional map to help you follow along:
Hudson's fundraising has also been better than Keadle's, though Keadle's loaned his own campaign over $337K, while Hudson has taken a quarter mil from PACs, which is a hefty sum for a non-incumbent. Hudson took 32 percent on primary night while Keadle scored 22 percent (sadly, uber-nutcase Vernon Robinson finished third). I'd bank on Keadle having the more enthusiastic supporters for a mid-summer, low-turnout primary. The winner will take on third-term Dem Rep. Larry Kissell in the fall.
? NC-09 (R): A gazillion-way field to replace retiring GOP Rep. Sue Myrick in this very red district got whittled down, naturally, to just two on primary night: ex-state Sen. Robert Pittenger (who earned 32 percent of the vote) and Mecklenburg County Commissioner Jim Pendergraph (25 percent). Unlike in NC-08, no third-party groups have really bothered here, probably because Pittenger, a wealthy real estate investor, has dumped $2 million of his own money into the race. The differences between the two seem to be more stylistic than ideological: Pendergraph has a reputation as more of a consensus-builder while Pittenger is a fire-breathing conservative who alienated fellow legislators during his brief tenure. For what it's worth, Myrick has endorsed Pendergraph (and Rep. Patrick McHenry is backing Pittenger). Whoever emerges victorious will face Democrat Jennifer Roberts, who is also a Mecklenburg County commissioner.
? NC-11 (R): Here we have a contest between Mark Meadows, another real estate investor, and Vance Patterson, a businessman who says he's started 16 companies. (A Borscht Belt jokester would ask: "But how many did he finish?") Both candidates have self-financed a good chunk?Meadows some $264K and Patterson about $311K. But that's it for Patterson: He's eschewed traditional fundraising while Meadows has pulled in another $200K from individuals. Meadows came very close to meeting North Carolina's 40 percent threshold for avoiding runoffs with 38 percent on primary night (Patterson was well back at 24 percent), so conventional wisdom would label him the front-runner. The victor will run against Hayden Rodgers, chief-of-staff to retiring Rep. Heath Shuler, whose seat Democrats are trying to defend.
Yale University’s new partnership with the National University of Singapore (NUS) could be seen as a interesting means of bringing liberal ideas to a strictly authoritarian country. But the latest news from the Wall Street Journal about the venture isn’t promising:
[T]he Singapore campus won’t allow political protests, nor will it permit students to form partisan political societies. …
Laws in the city-state say protests can be held only at a speaker’s corner in a Singapore park, and even those gatherings face restrictions on what may be discussed. Holding cause-related events elsewhere is illegal without a license from the police.
The college, which is wholly funded by the Singapore government and private donors, expects to admit its first batch of students in August 2013.
Yale-NUS President Pericles Lewis even told the Journal that students “are going to be totally free to express their views” despite the ban, failing to understand that freedom of political speech can be rendered almost meaningless without concomitant protections for freedom of association (as provided in the First Amendment). When Yale’s American faculty, anticipating this sort of problem, passed a resolution urging “Yale-NUS to respect, protect and further principles of non-discrimination for all, including sexual minorities and migrant workers; to uphold civil liberty and political freedom on campus and in the broader society,” Yale President Richard Levin said the resolution “carried a sense of moral superiority that I found unbecoming.”
In 2011, the State Department noted reports of the following human rights abuses in Singapore: “mandated caning as an allowable punishment for some crimes, infringement of aspects of citizens? privacy rights, restriction of speech and press freedom and the practice of self-censorship by journalists, restriction of freedoms of assembly and association, and some limited restriction of freedom of religion.”
Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson (R), a Mitt Romney campaign surrogate, compared the government’s investment in failed energy company Solyndra to the Soviet Union and Cuba, during an appearance on CNN’s Starting Point this Tuesday.
“President Obama simply doesn’t understand that it’s the free enterprise systems, the private sector, the productive sector, not the government sector that creates long-term self-sustaining jobs,” Johnson declared. “Take a look at the Soviet Union, Venezuela’s economic basket case, and is anybody moving to the island paradise of Cuba?”
The comments perplexed host Soledad O’Brien, who pressed Johnson to clarify the comparison:
O’BRIEN: You’re surely not suggesting that the idea and the concept behind Solyndra and other green energies like Solyndra is comparable to the Soviet Union and Cuba, right?
JOHNSON: No, I am suggesting that, because when you take taxpayer money and you invest that into businesses, that’s the taxpayer money put at risk. And let’s face it, the lesson of the Soviet Union and other socialist nations is that governments are very poor allocators of capital. It’s an economic model that doesn’t work.
O’BRIEN: Didn’t it work in Massachusetts? Isn’t that exactly what Governor Romney did in Massachusetts in green energy when he was the governor of Massachusetts?
JOHNSON: Listen, the path we need to take this country on is with free enterprise system, the private sector that creates long term self-sustaining jobs and that’s exactly what Governor Romney would do as President Romney.
Romney has repeatedly reiterated his debunked claims that Solyndra’s bankruptcy symbolized the corruption and cronyism of the Obama administration, despite his own efforts as governor of Massachusetts to secure state loans for green developers that later went belly up.
Our guest bloggers are Adam S. Hersh, an Economist at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, and Cameron DeHart, an intern at CAPAF.
The Federal Reserve, America?s central bank, has two jobs: make sure that inflation stays low, and make sure that employment stays high. Of late, with the economy still in a funk, the Fed?s first job has been easy to manage; the second, much less so.
Today and tomorrow, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will testify before the House Financial Services Committee and the Senate Banking Committee. While the private sector continues adding new jobs — each month for the past 28 months — unemployment in the United States remains unacceptably high four and a half years since the start of the Great Recession. At fulfilling its employment mandate, the Federal Reserve is failing.
Since the crisis began, the Fed has taken some out-of-the-ordinary measures to help boost employment, but can it do more? The answer is undoubtedly yes. And members should ask Bernanke why he and the Fed are not taking these or other actions to do its job consist with the severity of America?s unemployment woes:
1) Target the economy, not inflation. Currently, the Fed targets its policy to maintain a 2 percent annual inflation rate (currently running at 1.7 percent annually). The market knows this and tempers its investment behavior accordingly. Instead, the Fed could target the growth of gross domestic product, before inflation, so-called ?nominal GDP targeting.? This would amount to a pledge to keep our economy growing on a sensible path, according to University of California, Berkeley economist Christina Romer. The move would work by causing investors and consumers to form expectations of slightly higher inflation, thereby creating an incentive to invest and consume today instead of tomorrow.
2) Target unemployment. Charles Evans, the President of the Reserve Bank of Chicago, suggested adopting an explicit target for the unemployment rate, following a so-called ?Evans? Rule.? In line with its dual mandate of stable prices and maximum employment, the Fed should pledge to do whatever it can to get the economy back to full employment, even if that means accepting a little more inflation for the time being. There is no reason to think accepting slightly higher inflation for lower unemployment is any worse than accepting higher unemployment for low inflation?and a lot of reason and economic evidence to suggest it is much better.
3) More easing. The Fed has already engaged in two rounds of ?quantitative easing? — directly buying assets in financial markets to affect interest rates. Now it’s time for a third. Past easing primarily targeted government bonds, whose rates underpin our financial system, and mortgage-backed securities. But there?s no reason the Fed needs to stop there. The next round of easing could also target municipal bonds, student loans, or even securitized credit card assets to push down interest rates on infrastructure investments for cash-strapped state and local governments, for education that help people boost their skills and temporarily take sabbatical from the labor force, and for financially-strained families.
4) Keep on twistin’. In September 2011, the Fed introduced ?Operation Twist??aiming to tweak earlier quantitative measures in order to push down longer-term interest rates. While not changing the money supply, the move ?twists? the Fed?s holdings to sell short-term securities and buy long-term ones. Since that time, 30 year interest rates have fallen nearly one percentage point, helping to push down interest rates on, among other things, mortgages for new home purchases and refinances. The Fed could twist some more to give greater confidence and incentive to people looking to invest in America for the long-term.
5) Take big banks off the dole. At present, the Fed pays private banks 0.25 percent interest on funds deposited with the Fed in excess of what is required for prudential purposes. That?s more than the interest rate banks can earn by lending to low-risk real businesses, about 0.14 percent at present. Currently, banks hold more than $1 trillion in such excess reserves. By keeping excess reserve interest rates so high, not only is the Fed subsidizing the profits of big banks, but also it is not creating incentives for banks to do the work of lending. Cutting off excess reserve interest payments — or better yet, charging negative interest penalty on reserves in excess of prudential requirements — will give banks an incentive to lend and make them work for their big profits.
6) Dollarize the recovery. The Fed?s actions to boost employment in the U.S. economy need not focus on our own financial markets. Rather, the Fed can wield its power to create money against the artificially undervalued currencies of other countries, like China. By intervening to sell dollars for targeted foreign currencies, the Fed would create pressures to rebalance exchange rates, thereby improving the global competitiveness of American exporters and domestic producers and leading directly to a strengthening of the U.S. economy and job creation.
For his part, Bernanke should step up to the bully pulpit and press Congress on why it is not doing more to address America?s unemployment crisis. Though the Fed still holds a lot of arrows in its quiver, Bernanke surely knows that straightforward fiscal policy could easily outperform a monetary policy bank-shot in job-creating bang for the buck. That?s why he should use the Fed?s economics acumen to push back on conservatives in Congress whose zeal for spending contraction is pulling the rug out from under us even as the Fed tries to shift the economy into a higher gear.
A group of prominent American climate scientists sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today urging her to consider the climate impacts of developing the Keystone XL pipeline.
Last summer, Secretary Clinton said she would “leave no stone unturned” in the State Department’s review of the pipeline. However, in its report on the project last August — released before President Obama denied the permit and encouraged TransCanada to choose another route — the State Department made almost no mention of climate change.
That’s a pretty big stone left unturned, say the nation’s top scientists.
The letter, which includes signatures from James Hansen and Michael Mann, says that avoiding climate change in an environmental review is “neither wise nor credible.”
This lack of serious consideration of climate change isn’t much a surprise. The Obama Administration has created a double standard on climate through both the Keystone XL pipeline and its support for Arctic offshore drilling.
In the case of Arctic drilling, the Interior Department noted in its environmental review of Shell’s drilling plans that the region is “experiencing variations that are accelerating faster than previously realized.” But the Interior Department did not use this assessment to question the prudence of drilling for more fossil fuels that will only accelerate that warming trend.
In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, President Obama said he believes “that we’re going to have to take further steps to deal with climate change in a serious way.” But when asked to respond to NASA Climatologist James Hansen, who said that opening up tar sands is “game over” for the climate, the President avoided making a direct connection between Keystone XL and climate change:
James Hansen is a scientist who has done an enormous amount not only to understand climate change, but also to help publicize the issue. I have the utmost respect for scientists. But it’s important to understand that Canada is going to be moving forward with tar sands, regardless of what we do. That’s their national policy, they’re pursuing it. With respect to Keystone, my goal has been to have an honest process, and I have adamantly objected to Congress trying to circumvent a process that was well-established not just under Democratic administrations, but also under Republican administrations.
The reason that Keystone got so much attention is not because that particular pipeline is a make-or-break issue for climate change, but because those who have looked at the science of climate change are scared and concerned about a general lack of sufficient movement to deal with the problem.
However, even with the President admitting that people are frustrated about inaction on climate, The White House and the State Department have largely avoided examination of the climate impacts of building the pipeline — a project that would bring up to 800,000 barrels of tar sands crude into the U.S. each day. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that tar sands emit up to 82 percent more greenhouse gases that average crude.
In that Rolling Stone interview, President Obama said he believed climate change would be an election-year issue. Encouraging the State Department to take a serious look at the climate impacts of the Keystone XL pipeline would be a great start.
Below is the letter sent this morning to Secretary Clinton:
Dear Secretary Clinton,
We are writing to ask that the State Department conduct, as part of its evaluation of the Keystone XL pipeline proposal, a serious review of the effect of helping open Canada?s tar sands on the planet?s climate.
At the moment, your department is planning to consider the effects of the pipeline on ?recreation,? ?visual resources,? and ?noise,? among other factors. Those are important?but omitting climate change from the considerations is neither wise nor credible. The vast volumes of carbon in the tar sands ensure that they will play an important role in whether or not climate change gets out of hand; understanding the role this largescale new pipeline will play in that process is clearly crucial.
We were pleased that President Obama saw fit to review this project more carefully; it would be a shame if that review did not manage to comprehensively cover the most important questions at issue.
Associate Professor, School of Engineering
University of St. Thomas
Department of Global Ecology
The International Research Institute for Climate and Society
The Earth Institute, Columbia University
Chief Scientist for Climate Change Programs
Michael E. Mann
Professor of Meteorology
Director, Earth System Science Center
The Pennsylvania State University
Alexander Agassiz Professor of Biological Oceanography
Albert G. Milbank Professor of Geosciences and International Affairs
Woodrow Wilson School and Department of Geosciences
Raymond T. Pierrehumbert
Louis Block Professor in the Geophysical Sciences
The University of Chicago
Distinguished Professor Emeritus and Research Professor
Scripps Institution of Oceanography
George M. Woodwell
Founder, Director Emeritus, and Senior Scientist
Woods Hole Research Center
– After Republicans blocked the DISCLOSE Act last night, the Senate will take it up again this afternoon for another shot at advancing campaign finance transparency. Republicans have not indicated whether a night of sleep will have changed their minds, however.
– A new report from the National Climatic Data Center has declared the current drought in the U.S. the worst since 1956, warning that food prices are likely to spike and the national economy will likely suffer.
– On last night’s Daily Show, Jon Stewart brought up questions about Mitt Romney’s time as CEO of Bain Capital:
– Gallup confirms that people still really, really hate Congress:
– And finally: Olympic athletes are starting to arrive in London, and promptly getting lost.
I’m relieved to know that I can apparently go back to thinking of Louis C.K. as the person I thought he was?though with some newly-acquired doubts about his taste in comedy?after his appearance on The Daily Show last night. Apparently, I?and the people who thought he was mocking Daniel Tosh?was wrong to interpret his Tweet to Tosh praising his television show, sent in the teeth of a…er…vigorous conversation about Tosh’s response to a woman at a show who told him rape jokes weren’t funny, as a show of support. And I’ve rarely been more glad to be wrong. C.K. apparently sent the Tweet while he was on vacation in Vermont, inspired by an episode of Tosh.0 that amused him, and not meant to condone Tosh’s actions at all, given that C.K. was largely offline and was unaware of them (an excuse that if it was anyone else, I’d probably be skeptical of, but that I’m willing to do C.K. the credit of believing). C.K. explained that chain of events?as of the original writing of this post, I thought he’d deleted the relevant tweet, but apparently it’s still in his timeline?and explained his reaction to the controversy since. Watch it:
The key bit is here:
It’s also a fight between comedian and feminists, which are natural enemies, because stereotypically speaking, feminists can’t take a joke…And on the other side, comedians can’t take criticism…I’ve read some blogs during this whole thing that have made me enlightened to things I didn’t know. This woman said how rape is something that polices women’s lives. They have a narrow corridor. They can’t go out late, they can’t go to certain neighborhoods, they can’t get a certain way, because they might get?That’s part of me now that wasn’t before. And I can still enjoy a good rape joke…This is also about men and women…Couples are fighting about Daniel Tosh and rape jokes. That’s what I’ve been reading on blogs. But they’re both making a classic gender mistake on this. Because the women are saying ‘This is how I feel about this.’ But they’re also saying ‘My feelings should be everyone’s primary concern.’ But the men are making this mistake, they’re saying ‘Your feelings don’t matter. Your feelings are wrong, and your feelings are stupid.’…To the men I say, ‘Listen. Listen to what the women are saying for a minute.’ And to the women, I say ‘Now that we heard you, now shut the fuck up for a minute.’
The way C.K. talks about his education in rape culture is the kind of thing that’s made me extend him so much credit in the past?even though, yes, to all the people who’ve sent me disturbing bits he’s done in the past, I’m aware?and the reason I’m willing to reup here. His curiosity is interesting to me, and I think it makes the women in Louie‘s audience, and the audience for C.K.’s shows feel like, even if C.K. crosses our personal lines, there’s a chance that he’s working through something in a way that will be useful to both him and us. And if I thought we could get the same deal he’s proposing here?folks who have been impacted by and have a direct stake in an issue talk, people who are less directly impacted listen, we give them room to think it through?more generally, I’d take it.
In an attempt to save money, the Florida legislature recently approved a law altering the fashion in which private court-appointed defense attorneys for the poor were compensated. Unfortunately, now that the law is being implemented, its unintended consequences have become clear – indigent defendants are losing access to adequate legal representation:
A growing number of local criminal defense attorneys say new flat state fees for cases as complicated as rape and second-degree murder are so low that they either can no longer afford to take them or would have to cut drastically the number of the hours they work.
Both choices, these lawyers say, raise an issue that goes to the core of the nation?s legal system: the quality of defense the accused receive in court.
Joe Walsh is one of those attorneys. He spent about 40 hours on the aggravated battery case of Marcus Griffin after his court-appointed defender fell ill. He got Griffin a time-served sentence after discovering there was little evidence tying him to a convenience store stabbing because workers cleaned and poured bleach over potentially crucial evidence.
Normally, Walsh would have charged a fee for his work as a private attorney who takes court-appointed cases when other lawyers cannot. But now, because Florida this year created a small registry of court-appointed attorneys who will be paid flat fees, Walsh must split $1,000 with the previous attorney assigned to the case ? taking home less than a third of what he would normally make.
The problem with the Florida legislation isn’t just that defense attorneys are paid less. The new law creates a “flat fee” model for attorney compensation that, according to a Palm Beach Post report, sets a cap on the amount of money that a defense lawyer may be paid with only very limited opportunities for special consideration in uncommonly difficult cases. The problem, as per the Post account, is that the caps are so low that defense attorneys will likely break even or lose money on any given case if they attempt a meaningful defense, giving lawyers a strong incentive to either refuse to take poor clients facing serious charges or end the cases as quickly as possible regardless of the consequences for defendants.
In essence, poor defendants accused of heinous crimes will be represented by lawyers who are losing money by defending them.
Similar laws around the country have had disastrous consequences. As the National Legal Aid and Defender Association (NLADA) notes, “Because the lawyer will be paid the same amount, no matter how much or little he works on each case, it is in the lawyer?s personal interest to devote as little time as possible to each appointed case, leaving more time for the lawyer to do other more lucrative work.” Indeed, both the Iowa and Washington Supreme Court have struck down state flat fee laws as destroying poor citizens’ rights to a fair trial. NLADA researchers have found serious problems with the use of flat fees in some Utah counties and Tennessee’s move towards flat fee compensation last year sparked a public outcry. The Sixth Amendment requires lawyers present more than a token defense for their clients at trail, but flat fees make it extremely unlikely that lawyers will be able to do anything but that.