Archive for the 'Bipartisan' category

The ACORN Lawsuit: Correcting the More Egregious Misstatements and Misunderstandings.

Nov 16 2009 Published by under Bipartisan

Predictably enough, the news that ACORN filed a lawsuit challenging Congress' decision to bar ACORN and it's "affiliates, subsidiaries, or allied organizations" from receiving federal funds has attracted a bit of attention, both in the traditional media and on blogs. Predictably enough, there's a great deal that's being said about the suit that either distorts the facts or just plain gets things wrong. Predictably enough, I'm unable to sit idly by when someone is wrong on the internet, so I'm going to try to identify and correct some of the more egregious errors that have been popping up.

I'm going to start by looking at an assumption that seems to be at the root of many of the arguments in favor of Congress' decision to defund ACORN:

1: Congress decided to give ACORN the money, so Congress can take away the money anytime it wants to.

One of the more explicit examples of this argument comes from American Spectator's Doug Brandow:

The argument really is too silly to refute. Once it votes money, Congress isn't allowed to defund any organization in the future until, what, a full-scale trial? Or does that principle apply only if the organization has misused the cash? In contrast, the Red Cross could be defunded tomorrow because it hasn't gone around advising would-be pimps and prostitutes? Or does this rule apply only to left-wing groups whose misdeeds were caught on tape?

That argument leaves out one very important fact: although Congress explicitly voted to bar ACORN from receiving Federal money, Congress did not actually vote to give most (if not all) of the money in question to ACORN.

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12 responses so far

ACORN, Attainder, and our Craven Congress

Nov 12 2009 Published by under Bipartisan

Thursday morning, a Federal lawsuit was filed on behalf of the community group ACORN and two of its affiliated organizations. The groups are, unsurprisingly enough, claiming that a recently passed provision in an appropriations bill barring federal funds from going to either ACORN or "any of its affiliates, subsidiaries, or allied organizations" violates several of their Constitutionally guaranteed rights. They're asking for a restraining order, temporary, and permanent injunction barring enforcement of the section.

Although the specific law in question is not the same as the bill that we were discussing here and on Ed Brayton's blog several weeks ago, it accomplishes the same things. The only substantial difference is that the pending bill is tied to the continuing appropriations legislation, and is set to expire whenever the continuing resolution does. It's only been in effect for a few weeks, but it's already taken a real toll on real people.

According to affidavits filed in support of the complaint (pdf), just one of the affected organizations - the ACORN Institute - has already had to lay off 17 of its 20 employees. The ACORN Institute is a separately-run organization, and has virtually no overlap between its board of directors and ACORN's own board (one ACORN Institute board member is an alternate member of ACORN's national board). The ACORN Institute has not been convicted of any crime, and none of its employees have been convicted of any crimes related to anything that they've done for the organization. The programs that the ACORN Institute carries - or, rather, carried - out are basic social services work that's entirely unrelated to the voter registration programs that caused the controversy.

The ACORN Institute has lost funding not because of anything that they've been accused -much less convicted- of actually doing, failing to do, or conspiring to do. Congress passed a law that effectively terminated their existing federal contracts, barred them from applying for any new federal contracts, and barred other organizations from subcontracting with them on anything that received federal money. Congress did this because they've been deemed to be an "affiliate" of ACORN - a group which Congress dislikes and believes has engaged in criminal conduct, but which has not yet received the benefit of any sort of judicial due process, or even Congressional hearing.

Let me say that one more time, so that it sinks in: the ACORN Institute has had contracts revoked without due process because they've been legislatively declared to be an associate of a group that Congress decided to punish for alleged but as yet unproven corporate misconduct.

That's wrong.

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5 responses so far

Throwing ACORN Under The Bus

Sep 18 2009 Published by under Bipartisan, Flaming Small-Minded Stupidity

Yesterday the House of Representatives - demonstrating a reckless disregard for the United States Constitution and the very concept of the rule of law - overwhelmingly voted to ban the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now from receiving federal funding. ACORN, you might recall, is the organization that the right-wing echo chamber turned into an all-purpose bogeyman after some temporary ACORN employees were caught submitting fictitious voter applications in poorly thought out efforts to get paid for doing no actual work. More recently, a couple of ACORN employees were caught on camera apparently advising people on how to get federal stimulus funding for a house of negotiable affection.

There's no doubt that attempting to get federal funding for illegal - or potentially illegal - enterprises is wrong. And while some of the allegations made against ACORN - like the tin-foil-hat-paranoid theory that they were going to break up public teabaggings - were clearly absurd, others are serious enough to raise legitimate concerns about the organization.

But whatever legitimate concerns ACORNS actions raise, the actions of the House are much more frightening.

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37 responses so far

Senate Republican announces that end-of-life provision will be removed from bill.

Aug 14 2009 Published by under Bipartisan

If you're holding out any hope that Harry Reid might actually be concealing - deep, deep down - an untapped well of leadership potential, it's probably because you haven't seen this story yet:

The Senate Finance Committee will drop a controversial provision on consultations for end-of-life care from its proposed healthcare bill, its top Republican member said Thursday.

The committee, which has worked on putting together a bipartisan healthcare reform bill, will drop the controversial provision after it was derided by conservatives as "death panels" to encourage euthanasia.

"On the Finance Committee, we are working very hard to avoid unintended consequences by methodically working through the complexities of all of these issues and policy options," Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said in a statement. "We dropped end-of-life provisions from consideration entirely because of the way they could be misinterpreted and implemented incorrectly."

OK. First of all, what the bloody hell is a statement like that doing coming - without contradiction - from the leading Republican on the committee? I wasn't aware that we'd worked long, hard, and effectively to put 60 Democrats into the United States Senate so that Chuck flipping Grassley could run the damn Finance Committee.

Second, but more importantly, how stupid - and on how many different levels - can the Democrats in the Senate possibly get?

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14 responses so far

Charlie Rangel Says Don't Tax AIG Bonuses - And He's Right. (Updated - but he didn't mean it)

Update: My praise for Charlie Rangel in this post was, sadly, premature. Politico is now reporting that Rangel has gotten behind a 91% tax bracket for AIG bonuses.

When it comes to the AIG bonuses, I'm about as angry as any other taxpayer who has been paying attention. This morning, I was absolutely undelighted to read that quite a bit of the "retention" money is going to people who have, in fact, not been retained. The look I just took at AIG Chariman Edward Liddy's opening statement for today's Congressional hearing did absolutely nothing to improve my mood. When he says, "I share that anger," one has to wonder how much of that anger he actually understands.

Not to try to dish out the class warfare, but that's probably because he's rich enough that the numbers don't mean the same thing to him that they do to most of us. On the (very very small) chance that he might see this, let me try to put this into perspective. According to reports, one of the bonus recipients who worked in the AIG unit that caused the catastrophe received a $4.6 million retention payment, and has left the company.

The name of the $4.6 million dollar person has not been released - Mr. Liddy is apparently afraid that publicizing the names of the recipients might endanger their lives - so for the sake of simplicity I'll be referring to this person as "Mr. Scheisskopf". Mr. Scheisskopf worked for the unit at AIG that wrote credit default swaps that dropped AIG - and the American Taxpayer - in the drink. After contributing to a catastrophic collapse of the entire company that has required billions of taxpayer dollars, Scheisskopf, for whatever reason, left the firm. Now, as a "retention" award, the un-retained Scheisskopf is walking away with a cool $4.6 mil.

Let's put that in perspective. The median income for a man in the US was a little over $45,000 in 2007. More than half the wage-earners in the country, at whatever their current salary might be, would have to work for more than a century to earn what this AIG joker is walking away with. Scheisskopf walking away with far more money than most of us will earn in a lifetime, and to top it all up, we're the ones who are paying to clean up the mess he left. If Mr. Liddy thinks that he shares the popular anger about this right now, I'd suggest that he think again - preferably after spending three or four years working a long-hour, low pay job.

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13 responses so far

Cramer/Stewart, The Right, The Wrong, and Democratic Loyalty.

Mar 13 2009 Published by under Bipartisan, Flaming Small-Minded Stupidity

(Fair warning: I usually keep the language clean in this blog, but I didn't manage it this time. Below the fold may be NSFW.)

OK, I admit it. I've still got last night's Jon Stewart CNBC Massacre (with full orchestration and five part harmony) stuck in my mind. I think that's going to be the case for at least a little longer, because I'm still trying to wrap my mind around some of the things I've learned over the course of the whole mess.

One of the (several) things I keep coming back to is just what some of the criticism of last nights production demonstrates. Some critics follow the example set by this schmeckle who decided to try the proven "if I lie hard enough and long enough, I can make something else have happened" strategy. Other criticism reprised the whole "how dare the comedian get serious" stratagem that Tucker Carlson used to such devastating effect back in 2004. That garbage is predictable. Stewart is a comedian, calls himself a comedian, says that his own show isn't fair, and suggests that - just maybe - it would be nice if the real journalists did a better job at covering the news than he does. Given all that, it's not a surprise that people are going to get outraged that Jon Stewart is a comedian and has a show that's not entirely fair.

It's not the predictable nonsense that's got me thinking. Actually, the thing that's got me thinking the most came from a Tweet that Joe DoucheScarborough sent last night:

Cramer just sat there and took his medicine. He's clearly shaken that his fellow Democrats have turned on him.

He went on to clarify that a little later:

I am quoting Cramer. He is a loyal Democrat and it depresses him to be reviled by his political allies.

What I can't figure out is why Scarborough - or Cramer - would expect anything else.

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29 responses so far

Science Funding to be Slashed Under Stimulus "Compromise": Call Your Senators NOW!

TPM has a list of stimulus cuts that a group of senators led by Democrat Ben Nelson and Republican Susan Collins have proposed. The cuts are at 77.9 billion and growing, and include a great deal of the science-related spending. On the chopping block:

  • 750 million - half the proposed increase - of funding for NASA exploration
  • 1.4 billion - from the NSF line. That's the entire proposed increase
  • 427 million - 1/3 of the proposal - from NOAA
  • 218 million - almost 40% - from NIST
  • 1 billion - 38% - from the DOE Energy Efficiency/Renewable Energy line
  • 100 million - from the DOE office of science line. That's the entire proposed increase.

In addition, the cuts include the vast bulk of the education funding.

I know I've been skeptical about the stimulatory effects of some of this funding, but it clearly would have some beneficial effect - and it would certainly have more of an effect than not spending that money would.

Missing from the cuts proposed by the moderates is anything at all from the "tax relief" provisions added to soothe the feelings of the Republicans that are voting against the bill anyway.

And here's the kicker:

Just yesterday, we learned that the treasury overpaid banks to the tune of 78 billion dollars under the TARP Program.

Please - contact your Senators, and contact them now. This could be voted on by the end of the day today, and will almost certainly be voted on by Sunday. Tell them that if they want their 78 billion fracking dollars, they should go look at Wall Street, because that's where they threw it.

UPDATE: ScienceDebate2008's Shawn Otto just emailed out a list of suggestions and talking points. I'm pasting a copy below the fold.
One additional suggestion: SPREAD THE WORD. Pass the message on to as many of your colleagues as you can - particularly to those who don't read blogs.

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11 responses so far

American Pride and Groophar Stupidity

Here are a few numbers from the latest Reuters-Zogby poll. See if you can find the one that's not like the others:

Rated President Bush's performance as excellent or good: 25%

Rated Congress' performance as excellent or good: 11%

Said the U.S. is heading in the right direction: 26%

Rated the performance of U.S. foreign policy excellent or good: 18%

Rated the performance of U.S. economic policy excellent or good: 26%

Said they were very or fairly proud of the U.S.: 88%

Those numbers remind me of a bit from Terry Pratchett's Monstrous Regiment:

"...you might not like everything about your country, eh? It might not be the perfect place, but it's ours. You might not think we've got the best laws, but they're ours. The mountains might not be the prettiest ones or the tallest ones, but they're ours. We're fighting for what's ours, men!"

...

After about an hour, when rain was drumming on the canvas, Carborundum said: "Okay, den, I fink I've worked it out. If people are groophar stupid, then we'll fight for groophar stupidity, 'cos it's our stupidity. And dat's good, yeah?"

Several of the squad sat up in the darkness, amazed at this.

"I realize I ought to know these things, but what does groophar mean?" said the voice of Maladict in the damp darkness.

"Ah, well . . . when, right, a daddy troll an' a mummy troll --"

"Good, right, yes, I think I've got it, thank you," said Maladict. "And what you've got there, my friend, is patriotism. My country, right or wrong."

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6 responses so far

A DonorsChoose challenge update, some new proposals, and what those proposals say about our screwed-up national priorities.

I can't begin to thank the people who have donated to the DonorsChoose campaign enough. As of today - four days into the campaign - we've raised $1045. That's more than was contributed during all of last year's 15-day campaign. That's absolutely fantastic.

As of now, all four of the projects that I picked have been fully funded, but we haven't hit the goal yet. (Either someone donated to one of the projects through this campaign without receiving credit, or someone donated to one of the projects independently of the campaign.) At this point, we're still about $550 short of my goal for the campaign, so I've added a few more proposals. I'm doing something a little different with these, though.

When I picked my original proposals, I focused entirely on science education. I'm a scientist, I write about science (at least on occasion), I write at Scienceblogs.com, and I firmly believe that it's critical for children to receive a good foundation in science. Given all of that, it seemed appropriate that I ask you to help fund projects that have some tangible science component.

The more time I spend browsing through just the Bronx proposals on the DonorsChoose website, the more I think that focusing this funding drive on science was the wrong decision. Science is good. Science is important. Science is critical. But it's not the only critical part of education. Focusing entirely on science is like giving kids nothing but citrus fruit. It's exactly what you need to do if their biggest problem is a vitamin C deficiency. But it's not the best solution if they're starving to death.

There are teachers - not to mention entire schools - that lack some of the most basic essentials needed for education. And when I say basic, I mean basic. I'm not even talking about things that are a basic part of any reasonable concept of a 21st century education. In many of these cases, we're talking about things that are a basic part of a reasonable 19th century education.

I've added a number of additional proposals to my drive. Some of them are still Bronx-based, but I'm no longer exclusively using that as a criteria, either. Leaving poor children behind is not a problem that's restricted to New York City. It's a national disgrace. The common elements behind this set of proposals are that the schools that submitted them are all rated by Donors Choose as having poverty levels of 85% or higher, and the proposals themselves request less than $400. Oh, and these proposals are all for things that these teachers should not, should not, should not have to beg for. These teachers are asking for the kinds of things that most people take for granted.

Even after restricting myself to proposals come from very poor areas, request little money, and are intended to provide things that teachers should already have, I still had a hard time narrowing down the list of proposals. There are just so many to choose from. I've picked a few, and if you folks are kind and generous enough to step up to the gap where our pitiful excuse for a government has gone unforgivably AWOL, I'll find and add more. Take a look at the things these teachers need:

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2 responses so far

The Senate: We Can't Get The Votes To Do Anything Useful, But We Can Tell MoveOn They Were Bad

Gotta love it. The Senate today took a break from being paralyzed by Republican "No Up-Or-Down-Vote For You" obstructionists. They had to. You see, it's important for people to understand that the Senate isn't going to stand still when big mean Democrat netroots activists call a general a mean name. So they took time away from their busy schedule to pass a "sense of the Senate" resolution that reads:

To express the sense of the Senate that General David H. Petraeus, Commanding General, Multi-National Force-Iraq, deserves the full support of the Senate and strongly condemn personal attacks on the honor and integrity of General Petraeus and all members of the United States Armed Forces.

That's nicely worded, especially the "deserves the full support of the Senate" bit. Call me a cynic, but I'm going to bet that in two or three weeks, after the ad that sparked all this fades in the gnat-like memory of the media, we're going to hear a talking point that goes something like this:

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9 responses so far