Monday Reads

washington's birthdayGood Morning and Happy President’s Day!

Some of you have a long weekend so I hope you’re enjoying it!  Here’s some news to think about today.  Republicans are trying to intimidate the nonpartisan and highly respected CBO after it showed yet another one of their tax schemes for their donor corporations does exactly the opposite of what Republicans say it will do. So, we’ve got yet another example of trying to suppress the studies since the facts don’t match the memes.

Last month, another non-partisan agency, the Congressional Budget Office, released an analysis showing that one of the GOP’s favorite corporate tax ideas would end up pushing jobs overseas. Again, instead of reexamining their ideas, Republicans are attacking the messenger:

The Congressional Budget Office is defending a recent report on how U.S. multinational corporations are taxed, after a top Republican criticized the analysis as biased. [...] “This report purports to provide an even-handed review of different policy issues related to the taxation of foreign source income,” [House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave] Camp (R-MI) wrote to [CBO Director Doug] Elmendorf last month.

However, a closer analysis of the report reveals that it is heavily slanted and biased in favor of one specific approach to the taxation of foreign source income – and relies heavily on sources that tend to support that conclusion while ignoring sources that support a different conclusion,” he added.

Elmendorf defended the report, saying it “presents the key issues fairly and objectively and that its findings are well grounded in economic theory and are consistent with empirical studies in this area.”

The GOP’s idea — known as a “territorial” tax system — would permanently exempt U.S. corporations from paying taxes on profits they make overseas. CBO found such a system would result in “increasing incentives to shift business operations and reported income to countries with lower tax rates.”

A horrifying tale of treatment of homeless women comes from a Florida woman who went undercover to learn more about the experience.  Alternet has some details but be sure to read her account that’s written in a local magazine.  Florida has one of the highest populations of homeless and many women and children are among their ranks.

Renee Miller, a  Tallahassee woman who works with a Christian group that helps the homeless, went undercover to check out a local shelter after hearing reports of abuse. She claims that immediately upon arrival she was sexually propositioned by a staff member:

He said, “Okay, well here is my number. Call me and we can hook up later tonight.”

Did I just get propositioned by a staff member? I was infuriated but did not want to break my cover.

I answered, “Nah, man, I just need some food and some sleep.”

“You don’t want to sleep in there. It’s dangerous. You can come sleep at my place. We can stop at McDonald’s.”

Seriously, a staff member – a person with some authority – was propositioning me – no, better yet, PREYING on a woman he KNOWS is in a vulnerable situation. A woman comes to The Shelter to escape the insecurity of the streets, not to be thrown to the wolves. Now I know why he let me stay and kicked the older woman out. He didn’t want to get in her pants.

I wanted to stall him so I asked for a drink of water. He came back with his own half-drank bottled water for me.

He propositioned me again. He said, “It’s not safe in there for women. You are better off coming home with me. I get off at 11:45. Just meet me in that parking lot over there.”

I wanted him to leave me alone so I told him I would go with him later.

He asked me to be discreet and don’t tell anyone I was going.

Eventually, she got so creeped out by the staffer that she called police to safely escort her out, she says.

Here’s the link to Renee’s first hand account.

LincolnThe Economist explains the links between the US’s declining upward mobility and the incredible differences between the amount of monies and time spent on early childhood education in other countries and the US.

But it is most acute in America. Back in its Horatio Alger days, America was more fluid than Europe. Now it is not. Using one-generation measures of social mobility—how much a father’s relative income influences that of his adult son—America does half as well as Nordic countries, and about the same as Britain and Italy, Europe’s least-mobile places. America is particularly exposed to the virtuous-meritocracy paradox because its poor are getting married in ever smaller numbers, leaving more children with single mothers short of time and money. One study suggests that the gap in test scores between the children of America’s richest 10% and its poorest has risen by 30-40% over the past 25 years.

American conservatives say the answer lies in boosting marriage; the left focuses on redistribution. This newspaper would sweep away tax breaks such as mortgage-interest deduction that help richer people, and target more state spending on the poor. But the main focus should be education policy.

Whereas most OECD countries spend more on the education of poor children than rich ones, in America the opposite is true. It is especially bad at early-childhood education, which can have a big influence on results later (see article): only one four-year-old in six in America is in a public pre-school programme. Barack Obama has increased pre-school funding, but deeper change is needed. Because the school system is organised at the local level, and funded mainly through property taxes, affluent areas spend more. And thanks to the teachers’ unions, America has been far less willing than, say, Sweden to open its schools to choice through vouchers.

In higher education stiff fees in America mean that many poor children never get to university, and too many of those who do drop out. Outdated affirmative-action programmes should give way to schemes to help students based on the poverty of the applicant rather than the colour of his skin.

As for the rich strivers, there is nothing that you can, or should, do to stop people investing in their children, but you can prevent them from unfairly adding to their already privileged position. For instance, standardised tests were supposed to favour the brainy, but the $4.5 billion test-prep industry, which disproportionately caters to the rich, indicates that this is being gamed. Intelligence tests should be more widely used. The other great unfairness has to do with the preferences that elite American universities give to well-connected children, either because their parents went to the university themselves or because they have given money. An educational institution should focus on attracting the best people, and then work out how to finance the poorer people in that category.

A new computer program has been developed to reconstruct ancient, dead languages.

Researchers have created software that can rebuild protolanguages – the ancient tongues from which our modern languages evolved.

To test the system, the team took 637 languages currently spoken in Asia and the Pacific and recreated the early language from which they descended.

The work is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

Currently language reconstructions are carried out by linguists – but the process is slow and labour-intensive.

Dan Klein, an associate professor at the University of California, Berkeley, said: “It’s very time consuming for humans to look at all the data. There are thousands of languages in the world, with thousands of words each, not to mention all of those languages’ ancestors.

“It would take hundreds of lifetimes to pore over all those languages, cross-referencing all the different changes that happened across such an expanse of space – and of time. But this is where computers shine.”

A Brit professor specializing in colonial studies compares the life and portraits  of US Slaves portrayed in two recent movies to history.  Those would be, of course, Django Unchained and Lincoln.   It’s an interesting read from AJ.

American slaves and ex-slaves are portrayed by Spielberg as a bunch of nicely dressed Black soldiers, who are nothing but secondary characters in the background of a much bigger stage and plot, where Lincoln, William Seward, Thaddeus Stevens and other white men define their futures without much input from them. The absence of Douglass, a consummate abolitionist whose opinions were always heard and on occasion supported by Lincoln is a historical calamity that excludes probably the most significant African-American protagonist altogether from a history he helped to write.

In Tarantino’s world, on the other hand, slavery and race are exhibited through the lens of violence, blood and death. Django is a slave with attitude and panache. While in Lincoln white men fight for and against slavery mostly in civilised manners and in sanitised quarters, here they are killed left, right and centre, and in true Tarantinesque style, their blood splatters everywhere. More importantly, much more importantly, this is the main difference between these two films. The protagonist of Tarantino’s film is a black man, a slave.

Django Unchained has been criticised because of its violent content, especially considering the recent shootings that have taken place in the US. However, that should not take away credit from Tarantino who, in my opinion, chose an honest path when he decided to portray American slavery as it really was – a nasty, violent business.

Those who find Mandingo fighting or a slave being killed by dogs revolting should know that violent instances like these were by no means extreme or extraordinary events. Across the Americas and on a daily basis, African slaves and their descendants were subject to punishments like these, and to some that were probably even worse.

Environmental groups marched on Washington to convince Obama to nix the Keystone Pipe Line.

The pipeline would bring fossil fuels from Canadian tar sands fields to the Gulf Coast. Environmentalists are painting Obama’s upcoming decision as the litmus test for whether he plans to make good on recent comments about tackling climate change.

Activists at Sunday’s rally said approving the pipeline would taint Obama’s record on climate change. They said they hoped the demonstration would give the president the will to nix Keystone, even when a majority of both the House and the Senate want it built.

“His heart is there. The question is can we change the politics enough so he can do what he knows is right. And I believe that he will,” Van Jones, a former Obama adviser, told The Hill.

The politics surrounding the project are formidable.

So, that’s a few tidbits to get us started today.  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

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41 Comments on “Monday Reads”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Good Morning!!

    Here’s a White House initiative I can support wholeheartedly: Obama Seeking to Boost Study of Human Brain

    The Obama administration is planning a decade-long scientific effort to examine the workings of the human brain and build a comprehensive map of its activity, seeking to do for the brain what the Human Genome Project did for genetics.

    The project, which the administration has been looking to unveil as early as March, will include federal agencies, private foundations and teams of neuroscientists and nanoscientists in a concerted effort to advance the knowledge of the brain’s billions of neurons and gain greater insights into perception, actions and, ultimately, consciousness.

    Scientists with the highest hopes for the project also see it as a way to develop the technology essential to understanding diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, as well as to find new therapies for a variety of mental illnesses.

    Moreover, the project holds the potential of paving the way for advances in artificial intelligence.

  2. bostonboomer says:

    I haven’t seen Django Unchained yet, but that assessment of Lincoln reflects my own very well.

    • Joanelle says:

      I finally got around to reading “Team of Rivals” which supposedly is the basis for the movie “Lincoln” – but from what is said above Spielberg left a lot out. The book (Doris Kearns Goodwin) is wonderful. Lots of details of life in the 19th century and she certainly included Douglass as a friend of Lincoln, they had in interesting relationship, relied on for input by Lincoln in his some of his decisions. If you haven’t read it – I recommend it – and was looking forward to the movie.

      • bostonboomer says:

        The movie is worth seeing, but Spielberg almost completely ignores the contributions of women and African Americans to abolition of slavery.

    • Dak, that was a great AJ article, thanks for including it. I haven’t seen either film…they did not stay for long at our local movie theater.

    • janicen says:

      The brutality of slavery comes through in the movie like nothing I have ever seen depicted. It was excellent.

  3. bostonboomer says:

    NYT editorial: About Those Black Sites

  4. Pat Johnson says:

    O/T, but the Sunday talk shows had McCain once again, spouting off about Hagel “not fit” to become Secretary of Defense.

    This from a man who chose as his running mate one of the least qualified people to ever be in consideration to “lead” should he have not been able to finish his term.

    Can anyone else see the hypocrisy in this declaration? And why do these shows continue to showcase John McCain who is filled with such bitterness, hate, and vitriol?

    Then Lady Lindsay pops up full of faux outrage that Hagel apparently does not “love Israel” enough to hold the same post. Since when does any criticism of Israel and its policies preclude a vote?

    McCain is unable to live with his defeat to become POTUS while Lindsay is running for his political life in SC for fear of being primaried while he bows to the Religious Right in a move to hold his seat

    Shameful that the networks continue to offer these two a forum for continually blocking appointments based on self serving statements. McCain will never live down the choice of Sarah Palin no matter how much he bashes the current administration.

    Thank goodness he never became president no matter how disappointing we find Obama. This guy lives for revenge.

  5. bostonboomer says:

    Man who slapped boy on Delta flight has been fired from his job.

    He’s been charged with simple assault and faces a year in prison.

    • RalphB says:

      They’re moving pretty fast. Yesterday he was suspended from his job, today he’s fired. He could do time and that’s good.

    • janicen says:

      I just saw the mother and child on one of the morning talks today. I wasn’t aware at first that the mom was white and the baby was black. The child had been adopted by two heterosexual parents. I have little doubt that what set the racist off was that a white woman was presumably in a relationship with a black man and had a baby with him. I have experienced similar hatred, although without the violence, from two police officers, one black and one white, at a church picnic while I was walking around carrying my friend’s granddaughter. Just be a white woman carrying a black baby, and you’d be shocked at the utter contempt people feel for you.

  6. RalphB says:

    Great post. On that CBO report, of course this will result in more jobs going overseas. Duh.

    The GOP’s idea — known as a “territorial” tax system — would permanently exempt U.S. corporations from paying taxes on profits they make overseas.

    What we should do instead is tax corporate profits made anywhere, whether repatrioted or not, giving them a deduction for foreign taxes paid. Something close to that would bring a lot of money into the Treasury and be quite fair I think.

  7. RalphB says:

    WaPo: Congressional staffers often travel on tabs of foreign governments

    About a dozen congressional staffers flew business class on a trip to China last summer and stayed at luxury hotels while touring the Great Wall and the Forbidden City and receiving a “briefing on ancient artifacts and dynasties” at the Shanghai Museum.

    The all-expenses-paid visit came courtesy of China. The Chinese government hosted a day of meetings with officials in Beijing followed by eight days packed with outings to destinations often frequented by tourists along with a stop at a missile frigate and two others related to national security — the official theme of the trip.

    More and more foreign governments are sponsoring such excursions for lawmakers and their staffs, though an overhaul of ethics rules adopted by Congress five years ago banned them from going on most other types of free trips. This overseas travel is often arranged by lobbyists for foreign governments, though lobbyists were barred from organizing other types of congressional trips out of concern that the trips could be used to buy favor.

    The overseas travel is covered by an exemption Congress granted itself for trips deemed to be cultural exchanges.

    This seems relevant since Congress has been so interested in Chuck Hagel’s funding!

  8. Breaking news in Wisconsin, Planned Parenthood to close Chippewa Falls center

    Planned Parenthood is announcing today the closing of four of its family planning health centers, including one in Chippewa Falls.

    The others are in Beaver Dam, Johnson Creek and Shawano, and all four will be closing between April and July.

    According to a statement from Planned Parenthood, the closings are a direct result of the state legislature’s elimination of funding for the organization in the state’s last budget cycle.

    Patients of the Chippewa Falls center were notified last week, and the center is expected to close in mid-May. Patients will be referred to Planned Parenthood of Eau Claire for treatment.

    The Chippewa Falls health center has been open since 1984. In just the last decade it has served 5,750 women and men with cervical and breast cancer screenings, sexually transmitted infections testing and treatment, birth control counseling and options, pregnancy testing, HIV screenings, annual exams and referrals to a network of community resources.

  9. This is something: Food poverty ‘puts UK’s international human rights obligations in danger’ | Society | The Guardian

    An explosion in poverty-related hunger in Britain is putting the government in danger of failing to meet its international human rights obligations to its most vulnerable citizens, charities have warned.

    The UK is a signatory to a UN economic and social rights convention that sets out minimum standards of access to food, clothing and housing.

    Campaigners say austerity measures could put the UK in breach of the convention as welfare cuts threaten to leave hundreds of thousands of low-income households unable to afford to eat regularly and healthily.

  10. RalphB says:

    Dee Dee Myers and Karl Rove; What if Hillary had beaten Obama in ’08? (video) This could be the first Hillary/2016 commercial.

  11. RalphB says:

    Tiger Beat: Why John McCain turned on Chuck Hagel

    Well into last week, Sen. John McCain was telling confidantes that he would vote for cloture on the nomination of his one-time pal and fellow Vietnam veteran Chuck Hagel to be defense secretary.

    Then Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) came to McCain’s Senate office late Wednesday afternoon and turned around the Arizona Republican

    For old McCain allies, it was an all-too familiar scenario: Their champion pulled back into the fray by his friend Graham, a likable but impulsive figure caught up in his own political battles with the right in South Carolina.

    I doubt they intended it but this is a broad indictment of both McCain and Graham as first class douchenozzles who are unfit to serve.

    • RalphB says:

      WOULD THE HAGEL-HATERS HAVE FILIBUSTERED GEORGE W. BUSH?

      The Daily Caller has another “scoop” which is spectacularly hosed and a giant bowl of fail.

    • RalphB says:

      Maybe we didn’t realize at the time, what a calming influence Senator Lieberman (I – Israel) had on Senator McClown (R – AlZheimer) and Senator Limpseed Cornpone Grahamcracker (R – Closet).

      The old bird and the old girl seem to be more than a bit off their med’s lately.

      Oh well, the Three Stooges were never the same after Curly died, either.

    • bostonboomer says:

      More from Tiger Beat:

      By reversing himself, McCain effectively sacrificed his own credibility to buy Graham more time to continue his campaign against Hagel — an issue that plays to Graham’s advantage as he prepares to run for reelection in 2014.

      “This is just a bone thrown to Lindsey Graham, who keeps painting himself into corners and then pleading with friends to crawl in there with him in a vain attempt to save a little face,” one Republican insider told POLITICO.

  12. RalphB says:

    Horse meat in Eurozone beef traced back to ex-KGB arms merchant?

    http://cannonfire.blogspot.com/2013/02/bout-steak.html

  13. NW Luna says:

    Don’t like the idea of getting a cold along with your Americano or dinner, served by your sneezing, coughing barista or waitperson? Paid sick leave helps sick workers afford to stay home rather than come in to work to spread sickness around to co-workers and customers.

    A year and a half after the Seattle City Council voted to require private employers to provide paid sick leave, business groups are hoping to redo the debate on potentially more friendly turf: the state Capitol.

    Republican lawmakers introduced two bills last week to repeal or weaken Seattle’s ordinance — both spurred by complaints from some of the same groups that originally opposed the measure, the sponsors said. …..

    “I don’t know what’s going on here,” said Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Kent. “I guess they just like to beat up on poor people.”

  14. Fannie says:

    Did I just hear that Mississippi just ratified the 13th amendment??????????????

  15. RalphB says:

    Maddow special on Iraq should be very good!

    • dakinikat says:

      Wish she’d have spent some time on how the press strew the path with rose petals and even more hubris.

      I still think Judy Miller should go to the Hague with Cheney & Wolfie and sit in the same jail cell.

      • RalphB says:

        I couldn’t agree more. One of the problems I have even with liberal leaning journalists like Rachel is they are still journalists and protect each other. The person who said something about the press failing was Mike Isikoff and he soft pedaled it.

  16. NW Luna says:

    Speaking of human brains, here’s a story with some lovely pics of neural networks or nerve pathways in the brain. The reporter thought that being in the MRI machine was “a pleasant experience.” Huh. Can’t say I’ve heard that too often!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-21487016

  17. dakinikat says:

    Two 5th grade boys armed with a stolen semi-automatic gun plotted to kill a classmate: http://maig.us/Xiy8TN