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Distractions, Distractions

Distractions,  Distractions

Wow!  We have a great controversy!  A squib of a memo by the House Intel Comm has completely devoured the media.  A constitutional crisis!  Egad!  In two weeks, or maybe two months, it will be nothing.  But for now, well, very very very serious. At a minimum it has distracted everybody from Trump’s gloriously successful State of the Union speech, which was so well received until this distraction that he thinks will bring about the end of that nasty Mueller investigation.

However, it now appears that this follows an older pattern.  When really serious stuff shows up in Trump World, the world is easily distracted by some much more minor scandal that gobbles up media and public attention.  So, during the campaign there was an important moment when it was reported that emails of the DNC had been hacked by Russians and handed over to Julian Assange and publicly leaked, with these memos being drip drip drip leaked day by day through the campaign.  But did this rather serious report get any public attention?  No no no. We had a much more important scandal to distract us with its outstanding shockingness.  It was the Grab ’em by the Pussy tapes, that, shock! were supposedly going to completely upend and end Trump’s campaign.  Within a few weeks again it was no big deal, distracted by further scandals, but in the meantime the more serious matter of Russian serious intervention in the US election barely ever made it to any public attention at all, although we have been living with that attention to it ever since.

So what might this soon-to-be-forgotten memo be distracting us from (and I recognize that it is more serious than the grab ’em distraction)?  Well, buried on the inner pages of WaPo yesterday and scattered across secondary parts of the internet is a curious story that looks a lot more important than this nothing memo. Not only did Trump on the day befor his SOTU speech violate the Constitution by failing to obey a 515-5 vote in Congress to impose further sanctions on Russia for interfering in the US 2016 presidential election, but this astounding action was preceded by an apparently historically unprecedented event, the visit to Washington by the directors of all three of the top Russian intel agencies prior to his decision to ignore the mandate of the Congress.  Is anybody paying attention to this ultimate payoff to Putin for all the barely hidden Russian money in his unreleased tax returns?  Not with this wonderful distraction of this squib memo.

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Focus Economics top 101 economics blogs

Angry Bear maintains its status as one of FocusEconomics Top Economics and Finance Blogs of 2018. Econospeak is on the list as well, whose authors contribute to Angry Bear.

Angry Bear

The Angry Bear blog is a multi-author blog that covers news, politics and economics. The contributors to the blog are some of the best in the business such as emeritus professors, tax law experts, historians, business consultants, economics PhDs, finance professionals and many more. The articles on Angry Bear cover just about everything under the sun related to economic and political issues, yet the coverage of each issue does not suffer in quality. Each article is deep, well-researched, well-written, and also engaging. Topics covered on Angry Bear include global and U.S. economics, public policy, healthcare, law and politics.

FocusEconomics Top Economics Finance BloggersAngry Bear 2018

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The GOP’s Biggest Charter School Experiment Just Imploded

Mother Jones tells the story here in graphic detail.

The GOP’s Biggest Charter School Experiment Just Imploded

How a washed-up lobbyist built a charter school empire and siphoned millions from public schools.

“Now, with ECOT imploding, some state politicians have floated the idea that Lager, who has made millions in profits off the school and come a long way from the Waffle House, should be personally held responsible for paying back some of the $80 million owed to the state. But while the coming days will reveal if the political will or mechanisms exist to make this happen, it’s unclear how he might ever be held accountable—because the real scandal is that ECOT grew up legally, with the support of state politicians and national GOP power brokers, and that in many ways it has served as a model for schools like it across the country. Now, the same districts ECOT pulled its funds from are scrambling to find a way to take in its former students, and Ohio is facing a reckoning, after nearly two decades when the state became one of the country’s freest laboratories for pro-charter policies. “Why did it take a generation and a half of kids to go through this crappy system for us to do something about it,” Stephen Dyer, a former Ohio state representative asked me in exasperation in December. “The reason is because a lot of money came in.”

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Filibustering?

Lifted from comments on the post Our thoughts and opinions are with you, reader Mark Jamison writes:

Comment:
The filibuster is fundamentally undemocratic in a body that is already constructed undemocratically. The filibuster is an accident of history that has weaponized in the last twenty years.
Yes, in particular circumstances it seems like a firewall but ultimately it does far more damage than good.

What would the ACA have looked like if the Democrats hadn’t had to operate and negotiate under filibuster rules (yes, I know they ultimately used reconciliation for final passage but the bill was constructed under the assumption of needing 60 votes)?
Would Republicans have been more inclined to participate in the negotiations if they knew 51 votes were sufficient?
Would Joe Lieberman have been able to wield veto power over a public option if his vote wasn’t essential?
Would the subsequent opposition to ACA played out the same way – a bill that only required 51 votes would have likely been much less of a Rube Goldberg construction, much easier to administer and much easier to defend.

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Court Orders Nonprofit Law Firm to Pay $52,000 to Oil and Gas Company for Defending Local Fracking Waste Ban

Via rjs newletter via Naked Capitalism:

“Among its claims: The injection well ban violates the corporation’s rights as a “person” under the First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments; the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment; and the Contract Clause and Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution.”

Court Orders Nonprofit Law Firm to Pay $52,000 to Oil and Gas Company for Defending Local Fracking Waste Ban –In early January, a federal judge ordered the nonprofit law firm Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) to pay $52,000 to an oil and gas exploration company for defending a rural Pennsylvania township’s ban on underground injections of frack waste.This sanction comes at the request of Pennsylvania General Energy Company (PGE) and the Pennsylvania Independent Oil &Gas Association, but is part of a growing trend to prevent municipalities across the nation from pushing back against state and federal attempts to overrule them.Starting in 2012, PGE proposed an injection well which, according to Grant Township’s Board of Supervisors, “would receive 30,000 barrels [1.26 million gallons] of frack wastewater per month for 10 years.” The board of supervisors for this small community near Pittsburgh warns that the injection well “threatens to subject every resident of Grant Township to a slow poisoning, and threatens thousands more who depend on Grant Township’s watershed for clean water.” The community’s law, they go on, bans the injection well “as a violation of our basic civil rights.”

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Fair use…linking as copyright infringement

Via David Dayen comes Playboy sues Boing-Boing:

You can read our motion here, and EFF’s press release here. We’ll have more to say after the judge issues his ruling.

Here’s the introduction from our motion to dismiss:

This lawsuit is frankly mystifying. Playboy’s theory of liability seems to be that it is illegal to link to material posted by others on the web — an act performed daily by hundreds of millions of users of Facebook and Twitter, and by journalists like the ones in Playboy’s crosshairs here.

Defendant Happy Mutants, LLC (“Happy Mutants”) is the corporation behind Boing Boing, a blog created and written by five people to share “mostly wonderful things.” For three decades, Boing Boing has reported on social, educational, political, scientific, and artistic developments in popular culture, becoming one of the Internet’s leading sources of news and commentary. Plaintiff Playboy Entertainment Group Inc. (“Playboy”), an entertainment behemoth with a notable history of defending freedom of the press, is suing this much smaller but important news site for reporting on the existence of a collection of Playboy centerfolds and linking to that collection. In other words, rather than pursuing the individual who created the allegedly infringing archive, Playboy is pursuing a news site for pointing out the archive’s value as a historical document.

The facts pleaded in Playboy’s First Amended Complaint (“FAC”) do not state a claim for either direct or contributory copyright infringement. With respect to direct infringement, Playboy alleges that third parties — not Boing Boing — posted the collection at issue, and that Boing Boing made reference to that collection with a hyperlink. As for secondary liability, Playboy does not allege facts that could show that Boing Boing induced or materially contributed to direct infringement by any third party. Playboy’s claim fails for these reasons alone.

What is more, Playboy’s own allegations show that further amendment would be futile. Boing Boing’s post is a noninfringing fair use, made for the favored and transformative purposes of news reporting, criticism, and commentary so that the reader can, in the words of the post in question, “see how our standards of hotness, and the art of commercial erotic photography, have changed over time.”

The Court should dismiss Playboy’s First Amended Complaint with prejudice.

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Rene Boucher Plea Bargains

In case you forgot, a neighbor of Senator Rand Paul was charged with assaulting him. And the reason? Rene Boucher was angry by seeing the 55-year-old senator stack brush near Boucher’s property.

An attorney for Boucher did not immediately return a call seeking comment. Boucher faces a maximum of 10 years in prison if convicted, but in the plea agreement federal prosecutors said they would seek a sentence of 21 months in prison. Appears to be excessive.

“Assaulting a member of Congress is an offense we take very seriously,” Josh Minkler, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana, said in the statement. “Those who choose to commit such an act will be held accountable.”

I am surprised this does not happen more often as our representatives demonstrate a large degree of arrogance with their constituents.

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What If?

Using crime and public safety as a political issue in an election year, New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez: “’I don’t believe that police officers should be under this constant threat of lawsuits that will often cause them to pause, if they’re following their training, there should be something that protects them.’

The bill would protect cops and citizens from the ‘massive payouts that taxpayers are giving crooks and thieves who are hurt or injured by police officers who are doing their job,’”

Today, the burden of proof is on the injured or the dead’s relatives to prove the police officer was negligent giving police officer’s one more level of immunity to lawsuit and convictions. Governor’s Martinez comment about police following their training, is a statement not recognizing the 2014 Department of Justice finding of a pattern and practice of excessive force being used by the Albuquerque police force against those who are a minor threat and the mentally ill. It is obvious they have not been doing so.

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Why Inequality Predicts Homicide Rates Better Than Any Other Variable

By Maia Szalavitz via Naked Capitalism and cross posted from Evonomics; originally co-published at the Guardian and Economic Hardship Reporting Project.

Why Inequality Predicts Homicide Rates Better Than Any Other Variable

– research suggests that inequality raises the stakes of fights for status among men.

The connection is so strong that, according to the World Bank, a simple measure of inequality predicts about half of the variance in murder rates between American states and between countries around the world. When inequality is high and strips large numbers of men of the usual markers of status – like a good job and the ability to support a family – matters of respect and disrespect loom disproportionately.

Inequality predicts homicide rates “better than any other variable”, says Martin Daly, professor emeritus of psychology and neuroscience at McMaster University in Ontario and author of Killing the Competition: Economic Inequality and Homicide.

This includes factors like rates of gun ownership (which also rise when inequality does) and cultural traits like placing more emphasis on “honor” (this, too, turns out to be linked with inequality). “About 60 [academic] papers show that a very common result of greater inequality is more violence, usually measured by homicide rates,” says Richard Wilkinson, author of The Spirit Level and co-founder of the Equality Trust.

According to the FBI, just over half of murders in which the precipitating circumstances were known were set off by what is called the “other argument” – not a robbery, a love triangle, drugs, domestic violence or money, but simply the sense that someone had been dissed.

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