Later On

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Archive for the ‘GOP’ Category

GOP opposes community policing initiatives

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Radley Balko, among his morning links (worth checking), points out:

House Republicans want to kill the DOJ’s community policing office, which “focuses on improving the relations between police departments and their communities.” They also want to cut funding to the civil rights division, which has been investigating police departments that have shown a pattern of constitutional violations.

I truly do not understand the GOP mind, but that’s been obvious for quite a while.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 May 2015 at 2:26 pm

Matt Welch of Reason has some choice words for GOP authoritarians

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Matt Welch writes:

Another day, another round of embarrassing authoritarian nonsense from would-be Republican presidential candidates. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), the honey-throated apocalyptic who Ed Krayewski writes about below, made the following “joke” on Saturday:

If I’m president of the United States and you’re thinking about joining al-Qaeda or ISIL — anybody thinking about that? — I’m not going to call a judge, I’m going to call a drone and we will kill you.

Previously in Graham joke-ology, John McCain’s mini-me said that the “first thing” he would do as president is refuse to “let Congress leave town until we fix this. I would literally use the military to keep them in if I had to. We’re not leaving town until we restore these defense cuts.” Tee-hee!

Speaking of longshot candidates, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie apparently thinks this is a winning message in the Live Free or Die State:

Christie will say [in prepared remarks Monday] that Americans “shouldn’t listen to people like Edward Snowden, a criminal who hurt our country and now enjoys the hospitality of President Putin – while sending us messages about the dangers of authoritarian government.”

“When Edward Snowden revealed our intelligence secrets to the world in 2013, civil liberties extremists seized that moment to advance their own narrow agenda. They want you to think that there’s a government spook listening in every time you pick up the phone or Skype with your grandkids,” Christie is set to declare.

While savoring that phrase civil liberties extremists, please do note that John Ashcroft was going around giving that same speech back in the summer of 2003, just lying his face off in the process.

The most cheery aspect to this sub-Zell Miller crankery is that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 May 2015 at 6:55 pm

Posted in Election, GOP

Why do Republicans oppose infrastructure spending?

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First, watch this (and particularly the Hollywood blockbuster trailer that ends the segment):

RETIII reports in DailyKos:

As the Amtrak derailment showed (again), the refusal to spend on infrastructure literally kills.Also, infrastructure spending: (i) is necessary and unavoidable (failure to timely spend on infrastructure increases the deficit in real terms), (ii) improves the gross domestic product and competitiveness, and (iii) is an obvious source for increased employment, particularly in currently hard hit segments.  Moreover, infrastructure spending remains unambiguously popular.  Indeed, infrastructure spending historically has had bipartisan support.

So, why are modern Republicans ideologically opposed to infrastructure spending today?  For example:

In 2012, House Republicans introduced a transportation bill (including cuts in Amtrak subsidies and increases in truck-weight limits) that Ray LaHood, secretary of transportation during Obama’s first term, called “the worst transportation bill I’ve ever seen during 35 years of public service.” LaHood himself had been a seven-term Republican congressman from Illinois before he agreed to serve in Obama’s cabinet.

The most accepted (or easily reported) explanation is that today’s Republican party is dominated by Southern states, the center of heavy infrastructure (and costs) is located in the Northeast, and Republicans refuse to spend on states that don’t vote Republican.  There is truth to this explanation and, frankly, it is not properly reported as part of the wider partisan scandal that it is.  For example, although federal disaster relief is uniformly passed in the wake of hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, etc., the Hurricane Sandy relief bill was passed only when (as one of a few instances) the “Boehner Rule” was lifted to allow a bill to pass with largely Democratic votes. Why?  Because only 70 House Republicans could be found who were willing to vote for federal emergency hurricane relief if the affected area was the the East Coast.  Nice.

While as egregious as that geographic partisanship is, there are also at least four other fundamental reasons that explain the new Republican refusal to invest in infrastructure – all of which are largely undiscussed in general reporting.

1.  Starve the Beast: While Republicans continue to refuse to raise revenue necessary to fund infrastructure spending (traditional Starve the Beast), the latest application – Starve the Beast 2.0 – looks to hold hostage any and all necessary spending for cuts to other, unfavored, government spending.  In that sense, you have to understand the crucial (even threatening) need for infrastructure spending as identical to the “debt ceiling.”  For Republicans, the hundreds of billions to trillions of unmet infrastructure spending represents a massive, annual golden opportunity to extort draconian cuts to social, regulatory, non-defense spending.  That is why Republicans also reject deficit-financing for infrastructure spending (at historically low interest rates) or alternative proposals like a private-public infrastructure bank.  The goal here is not to invest in the country, but to seize upon any vulnerability to “drown the government in a bathtub.”

This is plainly evident, btw.  When President Obama proposed increased infrastructure spending in 2011 Republicans opposed it with a plan that would have “paid for the spending with a $40 billion cut in unspent funding for other domestic programs . . . and would block recent clean air rules and make it harder for the administration to issue new rules.”  In 2014, Eric Cantor explained that  Congress should not be adding new money, but instead streamlining the process for getting current resources to state and local governments.”  In 2015, Republicans opposed Democrats’ proposed additional infrastructure spending by proposing instead to create a “deficit neutral reserve fund,” that didn’t identify the amount of such fund, or how – or whether – it would be funded. Just yesterday I saw Paul Ryan flatly reject any increased spending for infrastructure, regardless of the fatal Amtrack crash.

2.  Privatizing the nation’s infrastructure: This is the big kahuna that the press generally feels uncomfortable reporting.  Republicans – at the behest of their mega-bank/private equity patrons – really, deeply want to privatize the nation’s infrastructure and turn such public resources into privately owned, profit centers.  More than anything else, this privatization fetish explains Republicans’ efforts to gut and discredit public infrastructure, and it runs the gamut from disastrous instances of privatizing private parking meters to plans to privatize the federal highway system.

Indeed, if you listen to Republican proposals for “infrastructure reform,” what you hear is: privatization and a longing for private tolls, tolls, tolls.  As the Cato Institute explained in Senate testimony, now is the time to go back in time:

The way to do that is to reduce hurdles to entrepreneurship and more private investment. Private infrastructure is not a new or untried idea. Urban transit services in America used to be virtually all private. And before the 20th century, private turnpike companies built thousands of miles of toll roads. The takeover of so much infrastructure by governments in the 20th century was a mistake, and policymakers should focus on correcting that overreach.

If the goal is to privatize and monetize public assets, the last thing Republicans are going to do is fund and maintain public confidence in such assets.  Rather, when private equity wants to acquire something, the typical playbook is to first make sure that such assets are what is known as “distressed assets” (i.e., cheaper to buy).

3.   Private Activity Bonds:  This one is a real unreported doozy, and is directly related to both privatization efforts and the Starve the Beast scheme. Known as “Private Activity Bonds,”under current law, state and local governments are allowed, effectively, to delegate the ability to issue tax-free bonds to private corporations and investors.  As a result, the private investors have the lower borrowing costs associated with government financing and the interest earned on such bonds is tax-free at both the federal and state level.  Do you get that?  Local governments are financing the efforts to privatize their own public assets and the private equity investors earn tax free profits on their investment.  Privatization is not just a golden opportunity, but a tax-payer subsidized, tax-free opportunity – – with no demonstrated public benefit:

What is more, the projects are often structured so companies can avoid paying state sales taxes on new equipment and, at times, avoid local property taxes. While some deals might encourage businesses to invest where they might otherwise not have invested, there are few guarantees that job creation or other economic benefits actually occur.

4.  Repeal Labor and Environmental Laws: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 May 2015 at 11:12 am

How Fox News continues to hurt the GOP

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James Fallows writes in his Atlantic blog:

Let me recommend for your weekend reading, or for your weekday reading if you’re seeing it then, a detailed study by Bruce Bartlett called “How Fox News Changed American Media and Political Dynamics.” You can download the 18-page PDF from this site of the Social Science Research Network.

The idea that Fox News operates with different aims and by different norms from those of, say, the BBC is familiar. But this presentation is notable for two reasons.

The first is its source — for those who don’t know, Barlett is a veteran of the Reagan and Bush-41 administrations and was an influential early proponent of supply-side / tax-cut economics. He also worked for Ron Paul. Since then he’s harshly criticized the Bush-43 administration, but in no sense does he come at this as a Democratic party operative.

The second and more important reason is Bartlett’s accumulation of detail showing (a) that Fox’s core viewers are factually worse-informed than people who follow other sources, and even those who don’t follow news at all, and (b) that the mode of perpetual outrage that is Fox’s goal and effect has become a serious problem for the Republican party, in that it pushes its candidates to sound always-outraged themselves.

I recommend the whole thing, but here are two samples. First, on misinformation, a quote from an academic study: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 May 2015 at 12:25 pm

Posted in GOP, Media

Rendell Blasts GOP ‘SOBs’ Who Didn’t Have ‘Decency’ To Delay Amtrak Vote

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UPDATE: See also Adam Gopnik’s column “The Plot Against Trains” at the New Yorker. So far as the GOP hatred of subsidizing railroads, they might want to consider that our highways, roads, and streets are totally subsidized except for a few toll roads. Maintenance of transportation infrastructure has traditionally been seen as a government responsibility, but the government has been shirking its responsibilities in order to grant more money to the extremely wealthy.

It did strike me that the Republicans in Congress showed too much eagerness to cut the Amtrak budget the day after the terrible crash (caused in part by previous Amtrak budget cuts that did not allow safety measures to be implemented in time). Caitlin MacNeal writes at TPM:

“Here, less than 12 hours after seven people died, these SOBs, and that’s all I can call them, these SOBs didn’t even have the decency to table the vote,” he said.

Hayes, who said he was playing devil’s advocate, pressed Rendell, asking why the accident should influence a vote on the budget.

Rendell said that Republicans’ “policy is terrible.”

“This country used to have the world’s best infrastructure,” he continued.

Rendell then recalled testifying about transportation funding in Congress while he was governor of Pennsylvania.

“Senator Shelby said, ‘Well governor, you’re asking us to subsidize Amtrak.’ I said, ‘Senator, there isn’t a rail system in the world that isn’t subsidized,'” Rendell said. “What are these guys smoking?” . . .

Continue reading. Video clip at the link.

See also this informative NY Times article by Michael Shear and Jad Mouawad:

The Amtrak train that derailed in Philadelphia on Tuesday night was equipped with an automatic speed control system that officials say could have prevented the wreck, which killed eight passengers and injured hundreds. But the system, which was tantalizingly close to being operational, was delayed by budgetary shortfalls, technical hurdles and bureaucratic rules, officials said Thursday.

In 2008, Congress ordered the installation of what are known as positive train control systems, which can detect an out-of-control, speeding train and automatically slow it down. But because lawmakers failed to provide the railroads access to the wireless frequencies required to make the system work, Amtrak was forced to negotiate for airwaves owned by private companies that are often used in mobile broadband.

Officials said Amtrak had made installation of the congressionally mandated safety system a priority and was ahead of most other railroads around the country.

But the railroad struggled for four years to buy the rights to airwaves in the Northeast Corridor that would have allowed them to turn the system on.

“The transponders were on the tracks,” said one person who attended a Thursday morning briefing for congressional staff members. “But they also said they weren’t operational, because of this ongoing spectrum issue.”

Despite the delays, the system may have been just months from being operational when Northeast Regional Train No. 188 careered into a sharp curve at over 100 miles per hour, twice the posted speed, and hurtled off the tracks Tuesday night. The Federal Communications Commission had approved Amtrak’s application for the purchase of wireless spectrum from an entity called Skybridge Spectrum Foundation on March 5, clearing the way for final tests on the system, a spokeswoman for the commission said.

If the system had been operational, “there wouldn’t have been this accident,” said Representative Robert A. Brady, Democrat of Pennsylvania. . .

Continue reading. Later in the article:

. . . Still, several federal officials and safety experts defended Amtrak’s record. Many pointed out that the railroads was one of the few in the United States that were on schedule to meet a federal deadline to have positive train control technology operational before the end of the year.

“Amtrak has been in a leadership role on this,” said Mark Rosenker, a former chairman of the safety board. “They were talking about positive train control when I was at the board.”

Railroads other than Amtrak, particularly freight railroads, have been much slower to implement these systems, citing the technological challenges, shortages in equipment and the availability of radio spectrum, among other issues.

“The sad irony in this accident is that Amtrak is further along than almost anybody in reaching their deployment of positive train control,” said Joseph C. Szabo, a former administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration. “They have been very steady and very committed. So much has been done.”

Edward R. Hamberger, chief executive of the Association of American Railroads, said railroads would not complete the installation of all systems for positive train control until the end of 2018. After that, he estimated, it will take about two years to test that all components of the system work together correctly.

To date, he said, railroads have installed the technology on about 8,200 miles of tracks, out of 60,000 miles where the technology is federally required. At the end of last year, about 15 percent of locomotives were fully equipped, and railroads had installed about 56 percent of the track systems.

Railroad officials said Thursday that installation of the safety system on tracks across the country was also hampered for more than a year by longstanding F.C.C. rules that required environmental and preservation reviews before the safety system’s antennas could be installed in historic areas or near tribal lands. . .

Written by LeisureGuy

15 May 2015 at 10:41 am

The Fraternity of Failure

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Paul Krugman has an exceptionally good NY Times column today, and the comments are worth reading as well. It begins:

Jeb Bush wants to stop talking about past controversies. And you can see why. He has a lot to stop talking about. But let’s not honor his wish. You can learn a lot by studying recent history, and you can learn even more by watching how politicians respond to that history.

The big “Let’s move on” story of the past few days involved Mr. Bush’s response when asked in an interview whether, knowing what he knows now, he would have supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq. He answered that yes, he would. No W.M.D.? No stability after all the lives and money expended? No problem.

Then he tried to walk it back. He “interpreted the question wrong,” and isn’t interested in engaging “hypotheticals.” Anyway, “going back in time”is a “disservice” to those who served in the war.

Take a moment to savor the cowardice and vileness of that last remark. And, no, that’s not hyperbole. Mr. Bush is trying to hide behind the troops, pretending that any criticism of political leaders — especially, of course, his brother, the commander in chief — is an attack on the courage and patriotism of those who paid the price for their superiors’ mistakes. That’s sinking very low, and it tells us a lot more about the candidate’s character than any number of up-close-and-personal interviews.

Wait, there’s more: Incredibly, Mr. Bush resorted to the old passive-voice dodge, admitting only that “mistakes were made.” Indeed. By whom? Well, earlier this year Mr. Bush released a list of his chief advisers on foreign policy, and it was a who’s-who of mistake-makers, people who played essential roles in the Iraq disaster and other debacles.

Seriously, consider that list, which includes such luminaries as Paul Wolfowitz, who insisted that we would be welcomed as liberators and that the war would cost almost nothing, and Michael Chertoff, who as director of the Department of Homeland Security during Hurricane Katrina was unaware of the thousands of people stranded at the New Orleans convention center without food and water.

In Bushworld, in other words, playing a central role in catastrophic policy failure doesn’t disqualify you from future influence. If anything, a record of being disastrously wrong on national security issues seems to be a required credential.

Voters, even Republican primary voters, may not share that view, and the past few days have probably taken a toll on Mr. Bush’s presidential prospects. In a way, however, that’s unfair. Iraq is a special problem for the Bush family, which has a history both of never admitting mistakes and of sticking with loyal family retainers no matter how badly they perform. But refusal to learn from experience, combined with a version of political correctness in which you’re only acceptable if you have been wrong about crucial issues, is pervasive in the modern Republican Party.

Take my usual focus, economic policy. If you look at the list of economists who appear to have significant influence on Republican leaders, including the likely presidential candidates, you find that nearly all of them agreed, back during the “Bush boom,” that there was no housing bubble and the American economic future was bright; that nearly all of them predicted that the Federal Reserve’s efforts to fight the economic crisis that developed when that nonexistent bubble popped would lead to severe inflation; and that nearly all of them predicted that Obamacare, which went fully into effect in 2014, would be a huge job-killer.

Given how badly these predictions turned out — we had the biggest housing bust in history, inflation paranoia has been wrong for six years and counting, and 2014 delivered the best job growth since 1999 — you might think that there would be some room in the G.O.P. for economists who didn’t get everything wrong. But there isn’t. Having been completely wrong about the economy, like having been completely wrong about Iraq, seems to be a required credential.

What’s going on here? My best explanation is . . .

Continue reading. By all means, read the whole thing—and some of the comments.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 May 2015 at 10:32 am

Posted in Election, GOP, Government

As Train Crash Death Toll Reaches 8, GOP Votes to Cut Amtrak Budget by $250M & Delay Safety Upgrades

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It occurs to me that part of the decline of the US is that the GOP is actively working to hasten the decline—see headline, for example, or see the earlier post today about how the South Carolina legislature prevented the man from getting medical care. Democracy Now! has a video report and transcript. Their blurb:

The death toll from Tuesday’s Amtrak train derailment in Philadelphia is now at seven and is expected to rise. About a dozen passengers are still missing. Authorities now say the train was traveling at about 106 miles per hour, more than double the speed limit, as it headed into a steep curve. National Transportation Safety Board member Robert Sumwalt said the accident would have been preventable if Amtrak had installed positive train control technology on that section of track.

Just hours after the crash, the Republican-controlled House Appropriations Committee rejected a Democratic amendment to offer $825 million to speed up positive train control implementation. In addition, the committee voted to cut Amtrak’s budget by $250 million. We speak to Edward Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department of the AFLCIO, which represents two million transportation workers, including the vast majority of Amtrak workers, and David Sirota, senior writer at the International Business Times. His recent piece is headlined “Lawmakers Moved to Delay Rail Safety Rule Weeks Before Philadelphia Derailment.”

Written by LeisureGuy

14 May 2015 at 11:59 am

Posted in Congress, GOP, Government

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