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Home country: USA
Current location: Georgia
Member since: Tue Feb 10, 2004, 12:08 PM
Number of posts: 34,497

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Environmental Scientist

Journal Archives

Watching Scotty Blow

By Charles P. Pierce on October 20, 2014

Out on the banks of the shining Menomonee, and elsewhere in The Good Land, it seems that Scott Walker, the goggle-eyed homunculus hired by Koch Industries to manage their midwest subsidiary formerly known as the state of Wisconsin, and the entities allied with his campaign, is sparing no effort to keep his job, and to keep the tiny flame of his national aspirations a'burning. Walker being Walker, this means cheap ploys and gamey stratagems that you can smell across the lake in Muskegon. For example, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel got interested in the circumstances by which all the lawsuits aimed at levelling the playing field keep ending up in front of Rudolph Randa, a U.S. District Judge with views on corporate influence in elections that would have caused Fighting Bob LaFollette's pompadour to ignite spontaneously. At issue are state laws forbidding coordination between outside groups and the formal campaigns of people who are running for office. This also is the very point at issue in the latest John Doe investigation into how Scott Walker conducts himself in office, which is not very well, at least if you're not Scott Walker.

The J-S found that the groups supporting Walker -- and, therefore, his campaign-- are finagling the process so that their cases end up being heard by Randa's friendly ears. The result, according to the J-S, is something out of Joseph Heller.

When a conservative group filed a lawsuit over campaign finance laws earlier this month, its lawyers filled out court paperwork in a way that all but guaranteed they got a judge who has already ruled that groups and candidates can work closely together. The plan worked. On Tuesday, two weeks after Citizens for Responsible Government Advocates filed its suit, U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa issued an order limiting how campaign finance laws could be enforced, opening the door for groups and candidates to team up in the weeks before the Nov. 4 election. Critics of the ruling say an attorney for the state should immediately appeal the decision and challenge how Randa was assigned to the case. In the days since the ruling, the lawyer has not done that. He declined to say whether he would. Randa's ruling could change the way campaigns are run, but so far the candidates for major offices say they are not changing how they operate and will not work with outside groups for this election. Normally, federal judges are randomly assigned to cases. But when CRG filed its lawsuit, it said its case was related to two others that Randa already had. Doing that meant the case automatically went to Randa to determine if it should stay with him.

You read that last sentence correctly. Randa gets to decide whether or not Randa hears the case. The law is an ass, and not a particularly bright one, either. It gets better, too.

One of the cases that CRG contended was linked to its lawsuit was a challenge to an investigation of Gov. Scott Walker's campaign and groups allied with him. However, CRG filed its suit only after an appeals court had ruled that earlier case be dismissed. "This was artful to the point of manipulative," said Jeremy Levinson, a Democratic attorney who specializes in campaign finance laws. CRG attorney Andrew Grossman said in an email to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that the two cases "involve some common legal issues and factual background. "We followed the court's rules in disclosing related litigation, and any objection to that is ill-informed grousing," he wrote in his email. The case is crucial because it challenges the laws at the heart of the stalled investigation into Walker and conservative groups.

Which is, of course, the point. Now, under ordinary circumstances not involving republics made of bananas, since it is public officials currently investigating Walker on these very issues that the front group is suing, the state's attorney general would take up the case for the defendants. In Wisconsin, under Scott Walker? Not so much.

GOP Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen declined to represent the officials...

Captain Louis Renaud, please call your office.



Charles P Pierce- The Embarrassment of Being American Today

As critical as I often am about The New York Times's op-ed page, and the denizens thereof, I often say that there's one thing that The New York Times is better at than any other newspaper -- it can be The New York Times. Case in point: this morning's front page, which pairs up two stories about the Ebola outbreak, one from Liberia, where the disease is killing hundreds of people a week, and one from the United States of America, where it has killed one person. Can I just say that the World's Greatest Democracy doesn't profit from the comparison?

Here's Liberia, as brought to us by Helene Cooper, herself a Liberian emigre.

The new demon, of course, is Ebola, which has killed more than 2,000 Liberians and has struck double that number, crippled the country's health system, ground the economy to a standstill and made international pariahs of anyone with a Liberian passport. Those facing it close up are fearful of what could happen and often angry that they are largely left on their own. But many Liberians are treating the disease with much the same resignation as the killers of the past - accepting that the threat is there, and doing their best to navigate around it. They wash their hands with chlorine, they walk up to the laser thermometers at the entrances of public buildings to check their temperature. They still take care of family members who fall ill because there is no other alternative. I have been trying to be as unruffled as my Liberian compatriots, but I've been living in the United States for too long now. My tolerance for risk has gone way down.

And here's the USA, brought to us by Jennifer Steinhauer.

Also last week, a teacher at an elementary school in Strong, Me., was placed on a 21-day paid leave when parents told the school board that they were worried he had been exposed to Ebola during a trip to Dallas for an educational conference. On its website, the Maine district explained that though it had no evidence to support a leave, "the district and the staff member understand the parents' concerns. Therefore, after several discussions with the staff member, out of an abundance of caution, this staff member has been placed on a paid leave."

The hotel in Dallas where this teacher stayed is 10 miles from the hospital where Thomas Duncan died. There is no form of projectile vomiting that carries 10 miles, even downwind. I know. I googled it. Jesus H. Christ on a ventilator, can we all at least agree to pretend that we're an evolved nation?


This Age of Derp

By Paul Krugman

I gather that some readers were puzzled by my use of the term “derp” with regard to peddlers of inflation paranoia, even though I’ve used it quite a lot. So maybe it’s time to revisit the concept; among other things, once you understand the problem of derpitude, you understand why I write the way I do (and why the Asnesses of this world whine so much.)

Josh Barro brought derp into economic discussion, and many of us immediately realized that this was a term we’d been needing all along. As Noah Smith explained, what it means — at least in this context — is a determined belief in some economic doctrine that is completely unmovable by evidence. And there’s a lot of that going around.

The inflation controversy is a prime example. If you came into the global financial crisis believing that a large expansion of the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet must lead to terrible inflation, what you have in fact encountered is this:

I’ve indicated the date of the debasement letter for reference.

So how do you respond? We all get things wrong, and if we’re not engaged in derp, we learn from the experience. But if you’re doing derp, you insist that you were right, and continue to fulminate against money-printing exactly as you did before.



More than half of broadcast advertising in the midterms has been paid for by outside groups

Beyond its durable imprint on American civic life, the Watergate scandal of four decades ago left its mark on political language. For one thing, that suffix will not go away. Commit a major folly, and you can count on some headline writer describing it as Whatever-gate. Forty years later, investigations into wrongdoing by public officials still routinely yield the Watergate-era chestnut: What did so-and-so know, and when did he know it? Americans are well aware, too, that they would be wise to “follow the money,” abiding words bequeathed by the shadowy figure Deep Throat in “All the President’s Men,” the 1976 Watergate-themed film.

“Follow the money” was sound advice in the 1970s. It is even more sensible these days, when cash courses through American politics like a flash flood.

“Watergate” was a catchword for a multitude of government and political sins. At its core were secret, and illicit, contributions to the 1972 re-election campaign of President Richard M. Nixon. Some Nixon retainers went to prison. Also, more than a dozen American corporations were found guilty of criminal behavior, typically for having showered barrels of dollars on the campaign in the hope — no, expectation — that their largess would translate into favors from the administration. As can be seen in the latest video documentary from Retro Report, tracing the money side of life from Watergate to today, much has changed. Oh, the cash still flows, and a fair amount of it continues to be secret. But what was deemed ill-gotten loot 40 years ago is now legally accessible, countenanced by no less than the United States Supreme Court. And the money no longer rains down on presidential and congressional campaigns by the barrelful. By the truckload is more like it.

Big political scandals have often inspired laws to address whatever went wrong. Watergate was no exception. The same went for lesser situations that were eyebrow-raising all the same; the trading of campaign contributions for sleepovers in the Clinton White House was one example. With almost every cycle of wrongdoing and attempted reform, Americans have had to absorb a sometimes-bewildering array of political terms, like “soft money” versus “hard money,” or PAC — it stands for political action committee, in case you forgot — versus “super PAC.” They have also had to come to grips with Supreme Court rulings that do not always seem consistent, one with another, on what sort of behavior is kosher.



If you want to know why people increasingly are voting in Repubs in spite of the failure of Republican ideology, start here.

Monday Toon Roundup

Middle East




An interesting gif on what we eat


Bwahahahah! Poll: Mitt Romney leads 2016 GOP field


Some Scumball killed a Tasmanian Devil in the Albuquerque Zoo

Albuquerque police are investigating a murder mystery at the New Mexico city’s zoo after an endangered Tasmanian devil, one of four on loan from Australia, was found dead in its exhibit.

Horrified zookeepers at the Albuquerque BioPark Zoo told police they found “Jasper” in his enclosure Wednesday morning lying in a pool of blood. He was last seen alive Tuesday afternoon.

Police think someone threw a thick chunk of asphalt at Jasper, striking him in the head and fracturing his skull.

“It looks like there was a malicious intent and essentially our poor Tasmanian devil was killed, intentionally, by what seems to be blunt force trauma to the head,” Gilbert Montano, Mayor Richard Berry’s Chief of Staff, told KRQE-TV Friday.



Vote all you want. The secret government won’t change.

The people we elect aren’t the ones calling the shots, says Tufts University’s Michael Glennon

By Jordan Michael Smith | OCTOBER 19, 2014

THE VOTERS WHO put Barack Obama in office expected some big changes. From the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping to Guantanamo Bay to the Patriot Act, candidate Obama was a defender of civil liberties and privacy, promising a dramatically different approach from his predecessor.

But six years into his administration, the Obama version of national security looks almost indistinguishable from the one he inherited. Guantanamo Bay remains open. The NSA has, if anything, become more aggressive in monitoring Americans. Drone strikes have escalated. Most recently it was reported that the same president who won a Nobel Prize in part for promoting nuclear disarmament is spending up to $1 trillion modernizing and revitalizing America’s nuclear weapons.

Why did the face in the Oval Office change but the policies remain the same? Critics tend to focus on Obama himself, a leader who perhaps has shifted with politics to take a harder line. But Tufts University political scientist Michael J. Glennon has a more pessimistic answer: Obama couldn’t have changed policies much even if he tried.

Though it’s a bedrock American principle that citizens can steer their own government by electing new officials, Glennon suggests that in practice, much of our government no longer works that way. In a new book, “National Security and Double Government,” he catalogs the ways that the defense and national security apparatus is effectively self-governing, with virtually no accountability, transparency, or checks and balances of any kind. He uses the term “double government”: There’s the one we elect, and then there’s the one behind it, steering huge swaths of policy almost unchecked. Elected officials end up serving as mere cover for the real decisions made by the bureaucracy.



Toon: Happy Halloween

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