Opinion

The Great Debate

Election laws that prevent elections

spivak -- conyers

After a half-century in the House of Representatives, Representative John Conyers (D-Mich.), now the second longest serving member of Congress, may be an unsympathetic victim to show how election laws can be unfairly used to keep potential challengers off the ballot.

But recent court rulings on Conyers as well as a New Jersey recall attempt highlight how election laws are frequently designed to benefit those in power — and block potential challengers.

Due to its mix of an embarrassing level of incompetence and Conyers’ long service, his failure to get enough signatures got attention. Conyers needed 1,000 valid registered voters in his district to sign his petition in order to get on the ballot. His supporters collected enough raw signatures, but many people either didn’t live in the district or weren’t registered voters. After striking these and other nonconforming signatures, Conyers only had 455 valid signatures. The county clerk struck Conyers from the ballot.

ca recall petitionThe New Jersey recall was much different, but the same principles of who is allowed to gather signatures were at stake. A group targeting the mayor of Vineland never handed in the signatures in the first place. The recall proponents had plenty of time to get the 9,447 signatures — 160 days — but they seem to have failed.

They still sued, however, blaming a law similar to the one in Michigan. The only people allowed to collect signatures for recall petitions are registered voters in the affected municipality. This law, according to the recall proponents, blocked them from organizing in force and using more than just the people of Vineland to get the recall moving.

Obama’s ultimate indignity: Bush seen as more competent

bush-obama

Agreement is not enough.  Performance matters more.

That’s why the outlook for Democrats this November looks bleak.  More and more Americans now agree with Democrats on the issues.  But they are increasingly dismayed by President Barack Obama’s inability to get results.

The Gallup poll reports that, ideologically, Americans are moving to the left on both social and economic issues. Though more Americans continue to identify as conservatives than as liberals, the conservative advantage is shrinking.

In 2010, for example, which saw a huge backlash against Obama, self-described economic conservatives outnumbered economic liberals by 36 points. Every year since, the conservative lead has gotten smaller. It’s now 21 points.

Net neutrality: A web of deceit

Wheeler testifies before a House Energy and Commerce Communications and Technology Subcommittee hearing on oversight of the FCC on Capitol Hill in Washington

Special-interest groups are calling for public-utility regulations to be placed on the Internet — the most innovative and society-shaping deregulatory success story of our time. These people are trying to exert control over the Internet through “net neutrality” regulations that will likely benefit only a few huge Internet companies and the top 1 percent of Internet users.

Net neutrality was developed to ensure that Internet users had the freedom to view all the legal content they wanted. Recently, however, there has been a shift in focus:  Some of the largest Internet companies are citing “net neutrality” as a reason to enshrine specific privileges that largely benefit them.

If these content companies get their way — and the Federal Communications Commission is now deliberating this — Americans will be forced to shoulder the costs for the high-speed networks and infrastructure upgrades needed to support high-volume Internet traffic generators, such as Netflix.

Bergdahl reveals the impossible choices faced by hostages’ families

U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl waits in a pick-up truck before he is freed at the Afghan border

The furor surrounding the exchange of five Taliban prisoners for Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl this week has exposed the murky world — and impossible choices — of the families of Americans taken captive by militants.

Demands for vast ransoms or for prisoner releases put these families in the excruciating position of seeming to be able to save a loved one’s life. Meet demands and your beloved lives. Hesitate and carry responsibility for their death to your grave.

Yet few families have access to the sums of money that militants demand. Nor can they free prisoners held by the United States or a local government. Despite the fact that the families feel primary responsibility, they have no real control.

from The Great Debate UK:

D-Day Dispatch: The first reporter on the beach

"I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full Victory." Dwight D Eisenhower, D- DAY – June 6, 1944

 

<em>"Since before daybreak, bombers and fighters had cascaded their cargoes on German gun emplacements and pillboxes, scoured the skies for the Luftwaffe and probed ahead for tactical targets. This was war in its totality, theatrical and terrifying. The greatest combined operation in history was underway and this time, I was not just in the stalls but on the stage."</em>Doon Campbell, Reuters correspondent, ‘Magic Mistress – A 30 year affair with Reuters’</p><p> 

"Since before daybreak, bombers and fighters had cascaded their cargoes on German gun emplacements and pillboxes, scoured the skies for the Luftwaffe and probed ahead for tactical targets. This was war in its totality, theatrical and terrifying. The greatest combined operation in history was underway and this time, I was not just in the stalls but on the stage."Doon Campbell, Reuters correspondent, ‘Magic Mistress – A 30 year affair with Reuters’

Seventy years ago, the Normandy landings, which began on D-Day ( June 6, 1944), marked  the beginning of the end of the Second World War. Codenamed  ‘Operation Neptune’, the Allies, under the supreme command of U.S. General Dwight D Eisenhower, regained a foothold in Western Europe. Many months would pass before Hitler committed suicide, but from this moment, the days of his ‘Third Reich’ were numbered.

70 years after D-Day, some companies still struggle with their dark WWII history

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As the world marks the 70th anniversary of D-Day this week with films, TV and radio broadcasts and dozens of new books specially published for the occasion, you might think that by now we know everything there is to know about World War Two. Check out any library or bookstore, and the amount of shelf-space dedicated to the 12 years of Hitler’s Third Reich often exceeds that of any other period in history, by far.

Yet even today, one facet of this period continues to be shrouded in obscurity, and still yields new secrets. It is the role, and complicity, of companies in the atrocities committed by the Nazis.

Just last month, two German historians published a detailed account of how the forerunner of automaker Audi AG, Auto Union AG, used concentration camp inmates and dragooned labor at its factories in eastern Germany to produce tank and aircraft engines. About 3,700 inmates of makeshift concentration camps, set up specially for the company by the SS, worked as slave laborers in Zwickau and Chemnitz, alongside 16,500 others who were forcibly conscripted. Moreover, 18,000 inmates of the Flossenbürg concentration camp were put to work to build a massive underground factory for producing tank engines. An estimated 4,500 of those workers died in the process.

Bergdahl prisoner exchange: Weighing the blood on a terrorist’s hands

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President Barack Obama’s decision to release five detainees from Guantanamo in exchange for Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl has provoked much opposition and criticism. The military, however, has an over-arching obligation to ensure the safe return of all personnel.

The criticism about the “price paid” is misplaced. The only way to ensure Bergdahl’s safe return was to release some detainees. The crucial questions are: Who to release? What terrorist acts were they involved in? What potential danger do they pose moving forward?

It is clear is that the freeing of a soldier exacts a price. The point is: What price?

Is Michelle running for the Senate?

michelle walking in

First Lady Michelle Obama is everywhere. She’s traveling to China. She’s raising money for Democrats. She’s issuing plaintive tweets seeking the rescue of the kidnapped Nigerian girls.

She’s wading uncharacteristically deep into the Washington political mud pit to defend her school lunch program against Republicans, assailing them last Tuesday for opting to “play politics with our kids’ health.” She struck a similar tone in a New York Times op-ed two days later, accusing Republicans of trying to “override science” and suggesting they join parents and “put our children’s interests first.”

So what’s with the bolder profile?

Sure,  Obama cares strongly about the things she is doing. That she does care in fact begs another question: Is caring all that’s going on here? Does she have political ambitions that would allow her to pursue an agenda while working to cement her husband’s legacy?

from Jack Shafer:

The guy who reads crap on the Web so you don’t have to

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You know that annoying guy in the office who steps on all of your punch lines? Who deflates with a concise quip the shaggy dog stories you're trying to tell? Well, that buttinski has taken his act to Twitter where, under the username SavedYouAClick, he's razoring the guts out of the often misleading and exploitative click-bait tweets posted by Huffington Post, Vice, Mashable, Cosmopolitan, Business Insider, TMZ, Drudge Report, and others designed to drive you to their stories.

Unlike the guy in your office, SavedYouAClick doesn't annoy, he delights. His interruptions on Twitter are pure public service. His method is simple: grab a publication's tweet that links to one of its stories -- such as this one on Wednesday from BusinessWeek, "How China's government is erasing the memory of the Tiananmen Square massacre" -- and then retweet it with an appropriate click-saving comment. How is China erasing the Tiananmen memory? "By pretending it never happened."

Other recent click-busters from the SavedYouAClick stream:

Adjust brightness, contrast, etc. RT @HuffingtonPost: Instagram introduces 10 new features that will take your photos to the next level

Why reparations for slavery could help boost the economy

A man is silhouetted in the "Door of No Return" at the House of Slaves on Goree Island near Senegal's capital Dakar

In the May 21 issue of The Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates re-opened the question of whether the United States government should pay reparations to African-Americans for the crimes of two and a half centuries of slavery, 60 years of Jim Crow-style segregation and decades more of racist housing policies, zoning and community development. His conclusion — that a great accounting of wrongs must take place, as well as a decision about how to make amends for them– has inevitably sparked disagreement. But set that aside. Imagine we have decided yes, as a society we must pay a price for these injustices, and it must be large. Those payments could well constitute the stimulus that the U.S. economy needs to take it into the next century.

To the economy, stimulus is stimulus, as long as it’s done right. Whether it is paid to a group of people based on where they live, their ethnicity or their religion might matter to politics, but to the economy, it doesn’t matter –  as long as the money is put to work through either consumption or investment. The reparations-as-stimulus idea gets a short mention from Coates, who writes that:

“In the 20th century, the cause of reparations was taken up by a diverse cast that included the Confederate veteran Walter R. Vaughan, who believed that reparations would be a stimulus for the South.”

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