Bill USA's Journal
Member since: Wed Mar 3, 2010, 04:25 PM
Number of posts: 3,627
Number of posts: 3,627
Quotes I like: "Prediction is very difficult, especially concerning the future." "There are some things so serious that you have to laugh at them.” __ Niels Bohr Given his contribution to the establishment of quantum mechanics, I guess it's not surprising he had such a quirky of sense of humor. ......................."Deliberate misinterpretation and misrepresentation of another's position is a basic technique of (dis)information processing" __ I said that
- 2015 (5)
- January (5)
- 2014 (220)
- 2013 (389)
- 2012 (168)
- 2011 (2)
- December (2)
- Older Archives
... "In the past month, Senate Democrats lost a vote on their bill to offset the $6 billion cost of keeping student loan interest rates at 3.4 percent by closing a tax loophole on hedge funds. Senate Republicans lost a vote on their bill to offset it by stripping money from a health care prevention fund.” (emphasis added)
It is more important that the ultra-rich be protected than it is for your son or daughter to find an affordable student loan.
Oh, wait, the Republican did offer another solution — just drop the preventative health care funding from the Affordable Care Act. Stripping funding for cancer screenings, anti-obesity programs, and health care awareness for youngsters didn’t seem very popular, so now the GOP has come back with “tweaks” to the FY 13 budget for offsets. These would include requiring federal employees to contribute 1.2% more to their own retirement funds, a revision of Medicaid taxes, auditing Social Security overpayments, and changing the timeline for the accrual of student loan interest. The Republican wrote to the President, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) responded: “…if Republicans were really serious about negotiating a plan to pay for the bill, they would be meeting with Democrats on the Hill, not writing letters to the president.” Harkin also added that there was no way the Tweaks added up to a real solution.
And, what’s really interesting – is that in the past there was Republican support for closing the very loophole the Democrats are now suggesting. How do we spell O b s t r u c t i o n i s m?
Posted by Bill USA | Thu Jul 11, 2013, 08:24 PM (0 replies)
The American experience with genetically modified food crops, while encouraging, does not justify complacency about potential risks for several reasons. First, our experience is quite limited in important ways. Only two traits, herbicide and insect resistance, have been significant commercial successes. Crops with other traits have failed to achieve commercial success, have been held back by companies, or never made it through the research and development pipeline.
Second, the U.S. government provides very little post-market oversight of biotech foods. A recent report by the U.S.-based Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology (cited above) questions the ability of the government's weak monitoring and enforcement systems to detect unexpected human health and environmental problems and ensure compliance with regulatory requirements.59 In fact, the current "don't look, don't find" approach to monitoring is likely to detect only the most dramatic, highly visible effects.
Third, the scientific underpinnings of risk assessment and risk management are chronically and severely underfunded. Compared with the amount of U.S. taxpayer funds spent on biotech product development and related research, very little is earmarked for research on risks of engineered products. For example, in the 11-year period of 1992 to 2002, the USDA spent approximately $1.8 billion on biotechnology research and approximately $18 million on risk-related research.60 Many features of genetically modified food crops, for example, impacts of stacked genes and unresolved issues about Bt allergenicity, raise concerns that have simply not been adequately investigated.
Fourth, the diversity promised in future products and the new, more complex issues they are likely to raise are expected to severely challenge a regulatory system already straining under the comparatively light weight of today's products. This point is made by a trio of studies produced by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). The first report, Genetically Modified Pest-Protected Plants: Science and Regulation, after reviewing the risks of crops engineered to produce insecticidal toxins and evaluating the EPA's program for regulating these crops, recommended that the agency strengthen its oversight.61
Finally, the scientific evidence available to date, while encouraging, does not support the conclusion that genetically modified crops are intrinsically safe for health or the environment. The next generation of products—crops engineered to produce drugs and industrial chemicals64 and crops engineered to alter regulatory and metabolic pathways65—offer far more numerous traits and appear to be more obviously dangerous than Bt and herbicide-tolerant crops. It would be a serious misstep to overread the positive early experience with Bt and herbicide-tolerant crops and conclude that the weak regulation currently in place will suffice to control the risks of these and other new crops.
Posted by Bill USA | Wed Jul 10, 2013, 05:26 PM (0 replies)
Austerity Discredited, Not Defeated – Time to Fight for Jobs and Growth -Campaign 4 America's Future
For four long years after the recession officially ended, conservative austerity policies have sabotaged America’s economic recovery, condemning millions of Americans to unemployment and poverty. And in Europe, the same policy regime of spending cuts aimed at deficit reduction has thrown most of the continent back into recession.
Austerity has been intellectually discredited in recent months. But conservative spending cuts still dominate policy. And last week’s jobs report shows public sector layoffs are still a serious drag on the U.S. economy.
Economists at the Political Economy Research Institute found fundamental flaws in the work of Harvard’s Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff – up until then conservatives’ best case for austerity. But, despite this intellectual victory, sequestration still cripples our recovery.
Officials at the IMF and the World Bank admitted their demands for more austerity in Europe had been misguided. But German bankers are still imposing severe budget cuts as the price for financing the debts of southern European countries.
The Center for American Progress, previously strong supporters of President Obama’s search for a deficit reduction “grand bargain,” came out against austerity as having harmed U.S. and European growth and called for a policy “reset” rejecting further spending cuts. But in September or October, conservatives in Congress are getting ready to hold the world economy for ransom by (once again) refusing to raise America’s debt limit until the president agrees to another round of damaging spending cuts.
Posted by Bill USA | Wed Jul 10, 2013, 04:09 PM (2 replies)
"There is a distinct line between fighting to turn your ideas into law and trying to wreck a law once it has been passed. The Republicans hope that the problems they create will be blamed on Democrats."
Making ObamaCare work was always going to be hard, which is exactly what you'd expect for a complex new program that affects one-sixth of the U.S. economy.
Remember the rocky rollout of the Medicare prescription drug program in 2006? There were glitches and stories about people who couldn't navigate the system or get the help they needed. Eventually, however, goodwill, patience and sincere effort by just about everyone involved ironed out the kinks in Medicare Part D. It's so popular now that no one would dare try to eliminate it.
That explains — but hardly excuses — Republicans' latest assault on ObamaCare. Having lost in Congress and in court, they're now using the most cynical of tactics: trying to make the law fail. Never mind the public inconvenience and human misery that will result.
Their assault is under way on several fronts. The most disturbing is a concerted attempt to keep the public ignorant about how to use the health care exchanges where uninsured people will be able to sign up for coverage beginning Oct. 1.
Posted by Bill USA | Wed Jul 10, 2013, 04:00 PM (8 replies)
The concept of law lacks a universally accepted definition, but it is safe to say that in the construct of society it is a system of rules and guidelines which are enforced through social institutions to govern behavior and maintain order. Obviously there are members of any society that find fault with specific laws for a variety of reasons, but because laws are for the common good, most people are inclined to follow them as responsible citizens; unless they are conservatives and specifically Republicans. The past four-and-a-half years have demonstrated that Republicans have no respect for the law on myriad levels, and it is in part based on the premise they are destined by god to rule America, and in part because they believe they are fundamentally above the law like common criminals. It is not a new development for Republicans, and conservatives in general, to disregard laws that are contrary to their ideological bent they have spent decades ignoring, circumventing, and blatantly subverting to impose their despotic ideology and rule America.
There is a definite pattern among Republicans of finding some means to ignore, break, and subvert laws by spending millions of dollars to fear-monger, pose legal challenges, change terminology, or insert unrelated, and constitutionally aberrant items into legislation unrelated to their original intent. Unsurprisingly, many laws Republicans undermine have been settled time and again in the courts, and yet they blatantly violate even decades-old Supreme Court rulings with impunity. Even though Republicans’ practice of undermining the law has been going on for decades, they ramped up their efforts since Barack Obama has been President to take advantage of racial animus permeating American society. What makes their efforts all the more despicable is that nearly all the laws of the land they are undermining or violating have little to no effect on their existence or rights as Americans; it is all about control.
For example, the Supreme Court ruled forty years ago that it is a woman’s Constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy up until the time a fetus is viable outside the womb, and for forty years Republicans and the religious right have used every means possible to violate the Court’s ruling. In just the past two weeks, Republicans redefined pregnancy with a personhood law in Ohio’s budget, inserted abortion bans into anti-Sharia legislation in North Carolina, devised disgraceful means to prevent physicians from having access to medical facilities in Texas, and mandated forced transvaginal ultrasounds to dissuade women for exercising their Constitutional rights. The Roe v. Wade decision has no impact on any woman, or man, who is not making a personal reproductive health choice, but Republicans are violating the law with impunity to force their ideology on every woman in America.
Conservative groups could not comport a campaign law requiring them to reveal their donors, so they illegally used social welfare designation to conceal dark money in campaigns, and to circumvent the law they committed perjury and then had the temerity to complain when the IRS followed the letter of the law governing tax exempt organizations. Religious tax-exempt organizations cannot tolerate a law that prohibits them from campaigning from the pulpit and still keep their tax-exempt status, so they videotape themselves violating the law daring the IRS to revoke their tax-exempt status. Their goal is overturning the Separation Clause in the Constitution’s First Amendment they have been violating for the past three decades.
Posted by Bill USA | Tue Jul 9, 2013, 05:51 PM (10 replies)
As ThinkProgress has previously explained, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit is the second most powerful court in the country. It’s also a bastion of right-wing jurisprudence thanks in no small part to Senate Republican filibusters. Two George W. Bush appointees on this court recently struck down clean air regulations that would have prevented “between 13,000 and 34,000 premature deaths, 15,000 non-fatal heart attacks, 19,000 hospital and emergency room visits and 1.8 million days of missed work or school for each year.” Three conservative members of the court handed down a decision earlier this year that would make much of American labor law completely unenforceable, and render an important agency created to check Wall Street impotent to boot. At least two of the Court’s judges believe that all business, workplace or Wall Street regulation is constitutionally suspect.
Time, however, is a harsh mistress, and several of the court’s older Republican appointees have taken partial retirement in the last several years. As a result, this court that once boasted one of the most lopsided lineups in the country now is split 4-3 between Democratic and Republican appointees. Moreover, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing Wednesday on the nomination of Sri Srinivasan to the DC Circuit, a nominee brimming with conservative endorsers and past jobs working for Republican judges and administrations. If Srinivasan is confirmed, Republican-appointees will no longer have a majority among the active judges on the nation’s second-highest court. If another Obama nominee is confirmed to one of the three remaining vacancies, Republican-appointees will be in the minority.
Which explains why Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) used Srinivasan’s hearing to introduce legislation ensuring that this won’t happen:
While it is true that the DC Circuit’s caseload is relatively small in terms of raw numbers, Grassley’s statistics are highly misleading. Unlike other federal courts of appeal, the DC Circuit hears an unusually large number of major regulatory and national security cases, many of which require very specialized legal research, involve intensely long records, and take more time for a judge to process than four or five normal cases of the kinds heard in other circuits. The caseloads outside of the DC Circuit include many routine sentencing, immigration and other cases of the kinds that are often dispatched with in brief orders drafted by staff attorneys (who then have these orders approved by judges). The DC Circuit, by contrast, hears far fewer of these easy cases that require very little work on the part of judges.
Posted by Bill USA | Mon Jul 8, 2013, 07:11 PM (6 replies)
By Rebecca Leber on Jul 8, 2013 at 4:29 pm
South Carolina never found a single dead voter in recent elections. At least, that is the final word from the State Election Commission investigation into whether 900 people voted using a dead person’s name, according to the Columbia Free Times.
The report found that whatever issues existed were usually due to human error, like a clerical mistake or scanning problem, and not because anyone intentionally impersonated a deceased person. For example, hundreds of errors were due to mistakes like confusing a father and son who share the same name.
When Attorney General Alan Wilson demanded the original investigation, he cited “an alarming number” of cases reported by the DMV that “clearly necessitates an investigation into criminal activity.” The initial report surveyed 200 “suspicious” names and found nothing, but Wilson insisted “no one in this state should issue any kind of clean bill of health in this matter” until officials “finished with their work.” Republicans, including Wilson, held up the initial claim that the voting rolls were packed with dead voters to argue for a voter ID law. Rep. Alan Clemmons (R) wrote at one point, “It is an unspoken truth in South Carolina that election fraud exists.”
Even though South Carolina has never found any election fraud, that will not prevent state Republicans from redoubling strict voter ID efforts, invigorated by the recent Supreme Court decision on the Voting Rights Act. In fact, Wilson celebrated the decision, calling the Voting Rights Act an “extraordinary intrusion” and pledging to implement voter ID “without some having to ask for permission or being required to jump through the extraordinary hoops demanded by federal bureaucracy.”
Posted by Bill USA | Mon Jul 8, 2013, 07:06 PM (0 replies)
With the February resignation of Cynthia Bauerly (D) from the Federal Election Commission, Republicans have enjoyed a temporary three-to-two majority on the panel that oversees the nation’s campaign finance laws. And while Vice Chairman Donald F. McGahn II (R) is reportedly preparing to step down soon, he and the two other Republican commissioners want to make some final changes to weaken the agency before the Senate considers two new nominees.
McGahn and his two GOP colleagues on the Commission have blocked virtually all enforcement and rejected efforts to provide greater transparency. A former ethics adviser to disgraced former Congressman Tom Delay (R-TX), McGahn II even admitted in 2011, “I’m not enforcing the law as Congress passed it… I plead guilty as charged,” arguing that he instead enforced the law based on his own interpretation of what the Supreme Court would want him to do. All three, along with the two Democratic Commissioners, are continuing to serve expired terms until their replacements are in place. President Obama has nominated candidates to replace McGahn and to fill Bauerly’s vacancy, but has not yet proposed new names for the other four seats, three of which are occupied by commissioners whose terms have been expired since April 2011 or earlier.
Though President Obama had a rare opportunity last week to fix the Federal Election Commission with one stroke of the pen, his decision not to use it has left the bitterly divided agency with this three-to-two Republican majority until the Senate acts or until McGahn voluntarily departs.
Seizing one last chance to make mischief, McGahn now wants to end a decades-long policy of routinely sharing information about potential criminal campaign finance law violations with the U.S. Department of Justice. He also wants to take away the FEC staff investigators’ power to conduct preliminary inquiries. The FEC’s general counsel, who left the agency Friday, wrote before his departure that McGahn’s proposals “would put the Commission out of step with other independent federal agencies, while resulting in no offsetting benefits to the Commission or the political community,” and “would open up the Commission to charges of obstruction based on rank partisanship.”
Posted by Bill USA | Mon Jul 8, 2013, 07:01 PM (4 replies)
If a leading conservative scholar and former judge were now on the Supreme Court instead of Chief Justice Roberts or Justice Alito, it is likely that the Voting Right Act would remain intact.
Judge Michael McConnell was a leading conservative law professor at the time President George W. Bush named him to the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in 2002 (he’s since left the bench to return to the legal academy at Stanford Law School). McConnell was also widely viewed as a possible Supreme Court nominee during the Bush Administration.
In an interview with NPR’s Nina Totenberg, McConnell has harsh words for the five conservative justices’ recent decision neutering much of the Voting Rights Act — labeling the reasoning that drove that decision “made up.”
Although the conservatives’ decision in Shelby County v. Holder never actually identifies the legal standard of review that led them to strike down the heart of America’s voting rights law, the opinion rests in large part on the fact that the Voting Rights Act applies some of its requirements “only to some States,” in what the Court labels as a “dramatic departure from the principle that all States enjoy equal sovereignty.”
As McConnell explains, however, “(t)here’s no requirement in the Constitution to treat all states the same,” adding that “(I)t might be an attractive principle, but it doesn’t seem to be in the Constitution.”
Posted by Bill USA | Mon Jul 8, 2013, 06:58 PM (14 replies)
"...an honest debate isn't possible when top officials, who hold all the cards, continue to muddle facts and dodge direct answers."
When Edward Snowden alerted the public last month to secret government programs that threaten to trample Americans' privacy, he cast himself as a heroic, self-sacrificing whistle-blower. His leaks were selective, the recipients were responsible news organizations.
But since fleeing the United States for Hong Kong, getting stuck in a drab no man's land in the Moscow airport and casting about the world for asylum, Snowden has looked more like a desperate man bent on revenge against his native country.
Facing charges of espionage, he has allied himself with the publish-anything WikiLeaks website, and he has spilled additional beans — about U.S. hacking into Chinese computers and spying on its European allies — that do more to embarrass the United States than to protect its citizens' civil liberties.
Snowden's self-destructive mystery tour does more than tarnish his image. It threatens to short-circuit the useful debate sparked by his original revelations. The government can use the flawed messenger to divert attention from his alarming message about two National Security Agency programs, one that targets the contents of foreign e-mails, at times sweeping in messages from Americans, and another that vacuums up domestic phone records by the billions.
Posted by Bill USA | Mon Jul 8, 2013, 06:40 PM (0 replies)