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We should recognize that Scott Walker may simply be stupid: Wisconsin Is Going to Lose a Bundle on the Foxconn Deal

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Kevin Drum has an interesting chart and post. The chart:

The post begins:

It’s official: Wisconsin has approved a deal to bring a huge Foxconn facility to its state. The way this deal works is that Foxconn pays taxes to Wisconsin and Wisconsin provides Foxconn with refundable tax credits—that is, money that’s paid regardless of whether Foxconn has any tax liability. What this means is that it’s possible for Wisconsin to pay Foxconn more than Foxconn pays in taxes. In fact, it’s not only possible, it’s what they expect. Here’s what the deal looks like in cheese-colored chart form.

According to estimates from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, the money Wisconsin pays to Foxconn will be higher than the combined taxes they get directly from Foxconn and from workers at the Foxconn facility. This annual deficit won’t become positive until 2033. The cumulative deficit won’t become positive until 2042. And this all assumes that Foxconn produces the 13,000 jobs it says it will. If it doesn’t, the deal will look even worse for Wisconsin.

Why enter a deal that’s certain to cost Wisconsin money in the short term and will only become profitable in the long term if Foxconn is still around in 25 years—a long time in the tech industry? . . .

Read the whole thing.

See also “Wisconsin Just Gave Foxconn $2.85 Billion — and Protection From Its Court System — to Build a TV Factory.” The first paragraph:

On Monday, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker signed a law that will transfer $2.85 billion from his state’s taxpayers to a Taiwanese tech company. The law also allows said company to forgo an assessment of how its plans will impact the state’s environment, and to flout laws meant to protect Wisconsin’s wetlands and waterways. Finally, the legislation stipulates that, should environmentalists, local businesses, or Wisconsin residents sue this company, for any reason, any trial-court rulings against it will be automatically suspended, until a higher court weighs in — should the higher court rule also against it, the company will be able to take its case to the state’s (conservative-dominated) Supreme Court in an expedited fashion. . .

Yes, Scott Walker is stupid. And/or he was paid handsomely on the side by Foxconn.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 September 2017 at 5:33 pm

Posted in Business, GOP, Government

Interesting parallel between Vietnam War and American Revolution

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James Fallows has a column that points out similarities, along with a very interesting comment from a reader:

The Ken Burns / Lynn Novick 18-hour series on The Vietnam War began its run on PBS on Sunday night and continues through this week and next. I felt about as familiar with that era as I could imagine—with its tensions at the time, with the journalism and literature that came out of it, with the historical assessments, with the war’s role in music and movies and others parts of pop culture and public imagination. Even so I found this a tremendously revealing series. I recommend it very highly. Please find a way to watch—now, or in the many streaming and download alternatives they are making available.

***

As with any attempt to grapple with a topic this vast and complex, and of such emotional and historical consequence, the Burns/Novick series is bound to be controversial. For one example of an avenue of criticism, see this review by veteran Asia-hand correspondent Jim Laurie, who was on-scene in Vietnam and Cambodia during the war.

Here’s another: When I did an interview with Burns and Novick for the upcoming issue of Amtrak’s The National magazine, I asked them about one of the central themes of their press-tour presentation of the project, as opposed to the video itself. Both Burns and Novick have stressed the idea that the divisions generated by the Vietnam war prefigure the polarization of Trump-era America.

To me, that seems a little too pat. Even though I argued back at the time that the “class war” elements of Vietnam were a central reason the U.S. remained engaged for so many years, so much has happened between then and now that it’s hard to trace a sensible connection from those times to these. Since the height of the fighting in Vietnam, we’ve had: the end of the draft; the disappearance of the Soviet Union; the emergence of China; multiple dramatic shifts in political mood (the arrivals of Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, later Barack Obama, and now Donald Trump, were each seen as the dawns of new political eras); the 9/11 attacks; multiple wars; multiple booms and busts; multiple grounds for hope and despair. Donald Trump was on one side of the Vietnam class-war divide, with his student deferments and mysterious physical disqualifications. Figures as politically diverse as John McCain, Al Gore, John Kerry, Jim Mattis, and Jim Webb were on the other. But it’s hard to make a neat match of that cleavage 50 years ago to the multiple axes of disagreement now. To me, it seems easier to trace a line of descent from the Civil War –subject of Ken Burns’s first national-phenomenon film series, back in 1990—to Trump-era divides than from the Vietnam war.

I lay out this disagreement on a specific point as a set-up for emphasizing  how valuable and informative I think the series is overall. It is remarkable in interleaving the accounts of participants from opposite sides of the same battle – the Americans and South Vietnamese, but also the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong – all describing what they were afraid of, what their plans were, how they reckoned victory and defeat in struggles for control of a particular hill or hamlet. It offers abundant evidence of battlefield bravery and sacrifice, on all sides – but precious few examples of political courage or foresight, especially in the United States. It’s hard to say whether Lyndon Johnson or Richard Nixon comes off worse for the combination of strategic misjudgment and flat-out dishonesty in management of the war. The White House recordings from both men are spell-binding.

Please watch. And since most of today’s Americans had not even been born by the time the last U.S. forces left Vietnam, it’s all the more valuable for generations who know nothing about that era first-hand.

***

Further on the theme of linkages between Vietnam and previous American engagements, a reader makes the evocative connection to the first war that troops of the newly formed United States ever fought.

A reader of the Vietnam era / Boomer era, who grew up in South Carolina, writes:

I saw your recent post in the Atlantic about the upcoming Ken Burns film on the Vietnam War and I remembered this place, the camp/hideaway for General Francis Marion and his irregular forces in the American Revolution. It is about as inaccessible now as then, even following designation as a national historic site. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 September 2017 at 10:21 am

Posted in Government, Military, Video

A Tennessee man could remain in prison for years, even though a judge and prosecutor have dismissed the charges against him

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Radley Balko describes a Kafkaesque quirk of the American criminal “justice” system:

From the Tennessean, here’s a crazy story about a man who looks to be doomed to years in prison, despite the fact that the charges that put him there have been dropped. You can thank the state’s parole board.

A judge and prosecutor dismissed the criminal allegations against John Leon Smith, but in the eyes of the Tennessee Board of Parole he’s still guilty.

The man will remain in prison until next year at least — maybe until 2026 …

… Smith served about half of a 40-year prison sentence for a violent armed robbery and threatening to kill workers at a Nashville restaurant in 1992. Smith fired several shots, which wounded one worker, and as he fled from police, fired shots at officers, according to appeals court records.

“I was drinking and drugging and it cost me my life,” he said. “I threw it away in 30 minutes.”

He was released on parole in October 2013, according to state records.

Seventeen months later he was arrested on two felonies, alleging possession of marijuana and a weapon, court records show. At the time, Smith lived at a North Nashville home with two other people.

Because of his criminal history, Smith wasn’t supposed to have guns.

Court records and transcripts say undercover police intercepted a UPS package with nearly 8 pounds of marijuana inside and delivered it to the home, where Smith answered the door. About 30 minutes later, another man arrived and tried to leave with the package before he was arrested, according to a transcript of one detective’s testimony.

Officers later found a handgun in furniture in Smith’s bedroom and three rifles and a shotgun in a separate closet, records say.

A Nashville judge dismissed the gun charge two weeks later after hearing testimony from the homeowner that Smith did not know the guns were in the home and the handgun belonged to someone else, according to a court transcript.

In March 2016, a year after Smith’s arrest, prosecutors dismissed the other charge against Smith — the drug crime — after the man who claimed the package of pot pleaded guilty, court records show.

“Your case is dismissed,” a judge told Smith, according to the transcript. “That’s the end of that, so, for you.”

The problem: Smith’s arrest was a violation of his parole. Such violations can send him back to prison. It doesn’t matter that the charges were dropped. And the ultimate arbiter of whether Smith violated his parole isn’t the judge or prosecutor, but the Tennessee Board of Parole. And that group of seven people, all appointed by the governor, has decided to keep Smith in prison. Bizarrely, the Tennessee legislature has even passed a law that should apply to cases like Smith’s. But the parole board decided, unilaterally, that the law isn’t retroactive.

This isn’t the first time the Tennessee Board of Parole has come under criticism. Here’s an op-ed, also in the Tennessean, from May:

In 1978, Lawrence McKinney was sentenced to 100 years in prison for crimes he didn’t commit.

He could have expected to serve every bit of it, if not for the work of Memphis attorney Lorna McClusky and the Innocence Project, among others.

He was released after serving 31 years and given $75.

Mr. McKinney didn’t commit the crime and pled not guilty to it. He maintained his innocence and turned down offers for a plea bargain.

Yet, after 31 years of wrongful incarceration, the Tennessee Board of Parole has the gall to want us to believe that it was Mr. McKinney’s release that was the mistake.

Media reports described a Board of Parole hearing to discuss McKinney’s case, after he had been released, that had the feel of a trial. McKinney was grilled about his conviction, which, again, had already been vacated and charges dismissed.

One board member seemed to reject conclusive DNA evidence. To add insult to injury, the same board member flat-out declared that McKinney committed the rape in 1977.

“[W]hen you look at the record in its entirety…what is clear and convincing to me is that Mr. McKinney did commit…the crime of rape in 1977,” he said.

What’s more, arguably this kind of alternative reality seems to be par for the course for the leadership of the Board of Parole.

When recently asked about another case of Robert Polk — a prisoner wrongfully held in prison for two years partly because the Board of Parole did not hold a timely hearing — the leader of the board reportedly said that the wrongful incarceration had nothing to do with the board or his leadership.

As noted, the board considers clemency and exoneration petitions in addition to parole. Exonerees must be declared innocent by the governor in order to be compensated, and most governors won’t exonerate without the board’s recommendation. Tennessee has exonerated just two people since 2000, and only one received compensation.

Members of the parole board are appointed to six-year terms and make around $100,000 per year. It isn’t made up of judges or retired judges. The appointees are largely political. Last year, for example, Gov. Bill Haslam appointed two new members to the board. Both are best knownfor being related to prominent state Republicans. One, Zane Duncan, is a former lobbyist for a Kentucky railroad company … and son of a GOP congressman.  The other, Roberta Kustoff, is a former tax attorney and wife of Rep. David Kustoff (R-Tenn.).

The makeup of the rest of the board is just as puzzling. The current chairman, Richard Montgomery,  is a former state legislator with no criminal justice background. Gary Faulcon is a 25-year police officer. Tim Gobble is a former cop, Secret Service agent and chief deputy of a sheriff’s department. Finally, Barrett Rich is a former state trooper and three-term Republican in the state legislature. Gay Gregson is at least from outside of law enforcement. She worked for more than 20 years in special education and has won community service awards in West Tennessee. She was also an outspoken supporter of Haslam during his campaign.

These are the people who decide the fate of Tennessee prisoners up for parole — and who advise the governor on clemency, pardons and exonerations. They’re mostly former cops and former politicians. There are no psychiatrists or social workers. There are no criminal justice academics, experts in prisoner rehabilitation, or — God forbid — defense attorneys.  According to the board’s annual report for fiscal year 2015-2016, it considered a whopping 16,338 parole hearings that year. Among its “accomplishments” for that year, the board notes that it …

  • “Planned the 13th annual Tennessee Season to Remember event honoring homicide victims, in cooperation with other state criminal justice agencies.”
  • “Honored 12 members of the [Board of Parole] staff with awards for reaching milestones in state service.”
  • “Planted eleven trees in cities across the state to honor victims of crime, and honored victim advocates for their work.”

There’s nothing wrong with honoring victims of crime, of course. But there are also no “accomplishments” listed as prominently to suggest that the parole board puts an equal value on redemption, rehabilitation or reentry. . .

Continue reading.

Words fail me.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 September 2017 at 8:30 am

The Cynicism Behind Graham-Cassidy Is Breathtaking

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Kevin Drum notes:

It’s hard to know how to react to the cynicism of the Graham-Cassidy health care bill. For starters, of course, it’s as bad as all the other Republican repeal bills. Tens of millions of the working poor will lose insurance. Pre-existing conditions aren’t protected. Medicaid funding is slashed. Subsidies are slashed.

But apparently that’s not enough. Republican senators (and President Trump, of course) obviously don’t care what’s in the bill. Hell, they’re all but gleeful in their ignorance. Nor is merely repealing Obamacare enough. Graham-Cassidy is very carefully formulated to punish blue states especially harshly. And if even that’s not enough, after 2020 it gives the president the power to arbitrarily punish them even more if he feels like it. I guess this makes it especially appealing to conservatives. Finally, by handing everything over to the states with virtually no guidance, it would create chaos in the health insurance market. The insurance industry, which was practically the only major player to stay neutral on previous bills (doctors, nurses, hospitals, and everyone else opposed them) has finally had enough. Even if it hurts them with Republicans, Graham-Cassidy is a bridge too far:

The two major trade groups for insurers, the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association and America’s Health Insurance Plans, announced their opposition on Wednesday to the Graham-Cassidy bill….“The bill contains provisions that would allow states to waive key consumer protections, as well as undermine safeguards for those with pre-existing medical conditions,’’ said Scott P. Serota, the president and chief executive of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.

….America’s Health Insurance Plans was even more pointed. The legislation could hurt patients by “further destabilizing the individual market” and could potentially allow “government-controlled single payer health care to grow,” said Marilyn B. Tavenner, the president and chief executive of the association. Without controls, some states could simply eliminate private insurance, she warned.

Literally nobody in the health insurance industry likes this bill. The chaos and misery it would unleash are practically undebatable. It’s being passed for no reason except that Republicans have screwed up health care so epically that they have only a few days left to pass something, and Graham-Cassidy is something.

If there’s any silver lining at all to this mess, it comes from AHIP’s Marilyn Taverner:  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 September 2017 at 8:26 am

Kevin Drum has several excellent posts today

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Written by LeisureGuy

20 September 2017 at 4:41 pm

Facebook Silences Rohingya Reports of Ethnic Cleansing

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Facebook allowed Russian groups to buy ads to influence US election, Facebook allows people to target their ads to anti-Semites and white supremacists (though Facebook said they have stopped doing that in specific cases), and now Facebook is censoring reports of ethnic cleansing. Maybe Facebook has too much power and is prone to using that power unwisely.

Betsy Woodruff reports in The Daily Beast:

Rohingya activists—in Burma and in Western countries—tell The Daily Beast that Facebook has been removing their posts documenting the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya people in Burma (also known as Myanmar). They said their accounts are frequently suspended or taken down.

The Rohingya people are a Muslim ethnic minority group in Burma. They face extraordinary persecution and violence from the Burmese military; military personnel torch villages, murder refugees, and force hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes.

Human rights watchdogs say the persecution has intensified in recent months, and a top UN official described a renewed offensive by the Burmese military as “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees have fled to Bangladesh. Sen. John McCain, who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, has called for reduced military cooperation with the Burmese government because of the violence.

Rohingya people trying to use social media to share information about the attacks on them tell The Daily Beast they have had their posts removed and their accounts shut down, and that they hope Facebook stops silencing them.

A Facebook representative told The Daily Beast the company would look into the situation. “We want Facebook to be a place where people can share responsibly, and we work hard to strike the right balance between enabling expression while providing a safe and respectful experience,” said Facebook spokesperson Ruchika Budhraja in a statement. “That’s why we have Community Standards, which outline what type of sharing is allowed on Facebook and what type of content may be reported to us and removed. Anyone can report content to us if they think it violates our standards. In response to the situation in Myanmar, we are carefully reviewing content against our Community Standards.”

Facebook is currently facing substantial criticism for what appears to be an indifferent attitude toward promoting divisive material. Last week, ProPublica revealed that the network sold ads tailored to “Jew haters.” Days earlier, The Daily Beast reported that Russian front groups used Facebook to organize anti-refugee rallies.

Facebook is an essential platform in Burma; since the country’s infrastructure is underdeveloped, people rely on it the way Westerners rely on email. Experts often say that in Burma, Facebook is the internet—so having your account disabled can be devastating.

Laura Haigh, Amnesty International’s Burma researcher, told The Daily Beast there appears to be a targeted campaign in Burma to report Rohingya accounts to Facebook and get them shut down.

Mohammad Anwar, a Kuala Lumpur-based Rohingya activist and journalist with the site RohingyaBlogger.com, told The Daily Beast that Facebook has repeatedly deleted his posts about violence in Rakhine State, and has threatened to disable his account.

He shared screenshots with The Daily Beast of posts that Facebook removed.

One screenshot shows a post from Anwar about military activity in Burma’s Rakhine State, where most of the country’s Rohingya people live. It’s also where the Burmese military focuses its attacks.

The post, which Anwar published on Aug. 28, noted that Burmese military helicopters were flying over Rohingya villages in the Maungdaw District of Rakhine State.

“We removed the post below because it doesn’t follow the Facebook Community Standards,” read a message from Facebook over the post, which alerted him it had been deleted.

The same day, Anwar posted about members of the Burmese military burning down a Rohingya Hamlet in the Maungdaw District. That post was also removed, with the same message from Facebook citing Community Standards.

The social networking site says it will pull down posts or disable accounts that make direct threats to users; encourage suicide or self-harm; or promote terrorist organizations or organized hate groups. But beyond that, the company is vague about what kind of speech it bans; in a blog post it published on May 23 of this year, Facebook’s head of global policy management Monika Bickert said company standards “change over time” and involve cases that are “often in a grey area where people disagree.”

In another post, Anwar detailed military atrocities.

“#Rohingya homes in the downtown of #Maungdaw are still being set ablaze by the #Myanmar military & #Rakhine extremists,” he wrote.

The post was removed. Facebook later temporarily froze his account and threatened to permanently disable it. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 September 2017 at 5:46 pm

Trump White House Reportedly Nixed Study Showing Benefits of Refugees

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The GOP seems to detest facts and ignores them whenever possible. Benjamin Hart reports in New York magazine:

Ahead of an October 1 decision on how many refugees to admit into the United States next year, the New York Times reports that the Trump administration nixed a report showing that displaced people are beneficial to the U.S. economy. Commissioned by the White House in an effort to help justify its anti-immigration policy platform, the full document never made its way to President Trump, and officials believe it was suppressed before it got there.

The Times has the details of what the never-published report found:

The internal study, which was completed in late July but never publicly released, found that refugees “contributed an estimated $269.1 billion in revenues to all levels of government” between 2005 and 2014 through the payment of federal, state and local taxes. “Overall, this report estimated that the net fiscal impact of refugees was positive over the 10-year period, at $63 billion.”

But White House officials said those conclusions were illegitimate and politically motivated, and were disproved by the final report issued by the agency, which asserts that the per-capita cost of a refugee is higher than that of an American.

Rather than include the key data, the final draft limited its findings to how much money Department of Health and Human Services spends on an average refugee compared to a U.S. citizen. By that metric, it found that refugees seek government services more often, “reflecting a greater participation of refugees in H.H.S. programs, especially during their first four years.”

Stephen Miller, the Trump team’s preeminent immigration hawk, has been arguing that the U.S. should greatly reduce the number of refugees allowed into the country. The Trump administration already halved President Obama’s refugee quota from about 100,000 to about 50,000 people this year, but Miller wants to go much further in the future. (Even the numbers Obama approved were minuscule, on a per-capita basis, compared to Canada and many European countries.) Whatever quota the Trump administration arrives at will likely be the lowest in decades.

Miller, the 32-year-old former Jeff Sessions aide, has had a hand in most of the president’s big nativist moments. He authored the infamous “American carnage” inauguration speech and other addresses that have portrayed immigrants as “animals” who commit grisly crimes. And, not surprisingly, he appears to be one of the central voices that squashed the report in question; the Times reports that Miller “personally intervened in the discussions on the refugee cap to ensure that only the costs — not any fiscal benefit — of the program were considered, according to two people familiar with the talks.” Never mind that many other studies have also shown that refugees are a benefit, not a drain, to American society. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 September 2017 at 5:25 pm

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