You are browsing the archive for 2015 January 29.

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Sens. Paul and Boxer Announce the Invest in Transportation Act

January 29, 2015 in Politics & Elections

WASHINGTON, D.C. -U.S. Senators Rand Paul (R- KY) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) today announced that they will be introducing the Invest in Transportation Act of 2015. This bipartisan legislation would extend the Highway Trust Fund, which supports millions of jobs. The bill would also boost economic growth and create jobs by providing an incentive for companies to bring back some of the estimated $2 trillion in foreign earnings that are being held overseas.

Senators Paul and Boxer today released a white paper explaining the details of their proposal, which will be introduced in the coming weeks. To read the document, click HERE.

‘I am pleased to be working with Senator Boxer on a bipartisan solution to a tax and highway spending problem. The interstate highway system is of vital importance to our economy. All across the country, bridges and roads are deficient and in need of replacement. We can help fund new construction and repair by lowering the repatriation rate and bringing money held by U.S. companies back home. This would mean no new taxes, but more revenue, and it is a solution that should win support from both political parties,’ Sen. Paul said.
Sen. Boxer said, ‘This bipartisan repatriation proposal is a win-win for our economy and our country. First, it will bring back hundreds of billions of dollars in foreign earnings that are sitting offshore, which can be invested here in America to create jobs. Second, the taxes paid on those earnings will be used to extend the Highway Trust Fund, which supports millions of jobs nationwide. I hope this proposal will jumpstart negotiations on addressing the shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund, which is already creating uncertainty that is bad for businesses, bad for workers and bad for the economy. I will also be working with Senator Inhofe and my colleagues on the Environment and Public Works Committee on other proposals to pay for rebuilding our nation’s aging transportation infrastructure.’

The legislation would strengthen the U.S. economy and create jobs by allowing companies to voluntarily return their foreign earnings to the United States at a tax rate of 6.5 percent. The rate is only for repatriations that exceed each company’s average repatriations in recent years, and funds must have been earned in 2015 or earlier. Companies would have up to five years to complete the transfer.

The measure would ensure that a portion of the …read more

Source: RAND PAUL

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Sens. Paul and Flake Issue Letter of Support for U.S.-Cuba Policy Reform

January 29, 2015 in Politics & Elections

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) have issued a letter backed by seven Republican senators to President Barack Obama affirming their commitment to work to expand trade and travel between the United States and Cuba. The letter – also signed by U.S. Sens. Pat Roberts (R-KS), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Mike Enzi (R-WY), John Boozman (R-AR), and Susan Collins (R-ME) – marks the public emergence of a coalition of GOP senators intent on ensuring Congress plays an integral role in reforming and modernizing U.S.-Cuba policy.

‘Our hope is that changes to the current trade and travel relationship will advance our goal of bolstering the vulnerable private sector and increasing entrepreneurship while decreasing the role of state-controlled enterprises,’ wrote the Republican senators.

‘With the significance of your recent announcements related to Cuba, we look forward to Congress turning its attention toward modernizing U.S.-Cuba policy to the benefit of U.S. citizens and the Cuban people alike. Congress must play an integral role in reforming our policy toward Cuba.’

The signed letter can be viewed HERE.

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Source: RAND PAUL

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Improving Educational Options for Georgia Children

January 29, 2015 in Economics

By Andrew J. Coulson

Andrew J. Coulson

Like a dozen or so other states, Georgia has a K-12 scholarship tax credit program. It allows individuals and businesses to donate to non-profit Student Scholarship Organizations (SSOs), and the SSOs help families pay tuition at their preferred private elementary and high schools. The donors receive a state tax cut in the amount of their donation, in return for having made a host of new educational options available to children.

One catch is that the program’s total size is tightly capped at $58 million, limiting the number of children who can be served. This year, that cap was reached within a few hours on January 1st. Legislators will debate in the coming session whether or not to raise the cap. There is good reason for them to do so.

Studies of a similar program in Florida have found that it improves the academic achievement of students who switch from public to independent schools and that it also improves achievement among students remaining in public schools. Moreover, the program has been found to save taxpayers tens of millions of dollars every year because the private sector educates students more economically than does the public sector.

It is the freest and most market-like systems that best serve families.”

In recognition of these advantages, the Florida legislature has repeatedly raised the cap on its scholarship tax credit program. In fact, it has added an automatic growth provision to the law. As a result, the program’s cap now rises annually so long as total donations in the preceding year either closely approached or hit the cap.

In doing this, Florida has been following the consensus of international research on education system quality. Several years ago I reviewed the research from all over the world comparing alternative approaches to running and funding schools. A key challenge in drawing lessons from foreign studies is that there are many economic and cultural factors that also affect student achievement, besides the design of the school system itself. Fortunately, many countries have different types of school systems operating side-by-side within their own borders.

By focusing on studies of these within-country differences in education systems, I discovered a clear pattern: it is the freest and most market-like systems that best serve families. These systems treat both educators and parents with respect. Educators are free to use the curricula and methods they deem best, and parents are free to choose among …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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The Fire of 1910 – Why It Still Matters

January 29, 2015 in History

January 29, 2015 12:00 p.m.

Never in recorded United States history has there been anything to match the fire of 1910. For its size, its ferocity, its impact, nothing comes close. Over the course of a weekend, 3 million acres were burned — an area equal to the size of Connecticut. Several towns were leveled, and about 100 people were killed, as well.

But beyond the astonishing numbers about timber blown down in hurricane force winds, and temperatures at the peak of the firestorm touching 2,000 degrees, the fire stands out for another reason. As a nation, the United States had never tried to organize a large force to fight a wildfire. It was done in 1910, and the lessons, and consequences, are with us still.

In the early 20th century, fire was the one element that people still feared in the American West. Wolves had been wiped out. Grizzly bears were diminished. The native tribes had been moved aside, to distant reservations. Fire had devastated big cities — Seattle and San Francisco, prominently. New towns were rising near the public land forests, and they lived in fear of a sudden storm of heat and flame.

With the 1910 fire, a vast army – itinerant laborers, immigrants, even people who’d been let out of jail — was thrown together to protect towns and farms. They were guided by the infant Forest Service, then five years old. They failed miserably, as the blaze rushed through the Bitterroot Mountains, and people died from falling trees, flame and smoke inhalation.

But thereafter, the Forest Service became the Fire Service. They vowed to put out every fire. As the author Norman Maclean noted (he was a boy when the fire hit, and later worked in the woods), every ranger had “1910 on the brain.” Foresters operated on something called “the 10 o’clock rule” — that is, if a fire was spotted on your watch, from your lookout, in your particular national forest, it had to be put out by 10 o’clock the next morning.

Of course, fire, which is part of nature, could not be entirely contained. But the Forest Service tried. Throughout the 20th century, large armies of firefighters were assembled to tackle the big blazes in open country. An entire industrial complex — of planes that could dump retardant, of quick-strike Smokejumpers who parachuted into trouble spots, of mobile units that traveled from fire to …read more

Source: AMERICAN EXPERIENCE

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Revealed: A Whole New Terrifying Level of Surveillance

January 29, 2015 in Blogs

By Oliver Laughland, Rory Carroll, The Guardian

New documents show government tracked drivers with license plate readers on mass scale.


Federal agencies tried to use vehicle license-plate readers to track the travel patterns of Americans on a much wider scale than previously thought, with new documents showing the technology was proposed for use to monitor public meetings.

The American Civil Liberties Union released more documents this week revealing for the first time the potential scale of a massive database containing the data of millions of drivers, logged from automatic license plate readers around the US.

As President Obama’s nominee for attorney general prepared for a second day of confirmation hearings in Washington, senior lawmakers also called on the US Justice Department to show “greater transparency and oversight”.

Further documents released by the ACLU on Wednesday show that Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officials in Phoenix planned on “working closely” with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to monitor public gun shows with the automatic technology in 2009. 

Although the DEA has said the proposal was not acted upon, the revelations raise questions about how much further the secret vehicle surveillance extends, which other federal bodies are involved and which other groups may have been targeted.

“The broad thrust of the DEA is to spread its program broadly and catch data and travel patterns on a massive scale,” Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst with ACLU, told the Guardian. “This could be a really amazing level of surveillance that we’ve not seen before in this country.”

The ACLU warned that the buildup of a vehicle surveillance database, the existence of which first surfaced on Monday, stemmed from the DEA’s appetite for asset forfeiture, a controversial practice of seizing possessions at traffic stops and vehicle pullovers if agents suspect they are criminal proceeds.

Outgoing US attorney general Eric Holder opened a review into federal asset forfeiture earlier this month. Critics said the proposed reform merely “nibbled” at the problem.

“I think that a number of people would have questions about …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Kristen Schaal Talks Directly to Jon Stewart's Balls in Defense of 'Manspreaders'

January 29, 2015 in Blogs

By Kali Holloway, AlterNet

The Daily Show’s women’s issues correspondent hilariously stood up for men's rights to save an extra subway seat for their testicles.


Wednesday night, the Daily Show’s Senior Women’s Issues Correspondent Kristen Schaal came to the defense of manspreaders – those guys who sit with such gaping gaps between their knees that they take up two seats on the subway.

In alliance with men’s groups who have complained that the backlash against manspreading is yet more evidence of the war on men’s rights – because god forbid you not make rush hour a nightmare for all of us – Schaal declared herself an ally of manspreaders and spoke directly to John Stewart’s balls in cooing tones. 

“You poor caged balls. Your ancestors used to roam free. The wind blowing through your soft fuzzy hair. The sun soaking up into your wrinkled skin. Knowing that this day, this land, this whole goddamn world was yours!”

Check out the clip below for the rest of Schall’s inspired and hilarious “defense” of men’s testicular right to unnecessarily take up all the room on public transport. 

 

 

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Source: ALTERNET

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The Smart Way to Stop Illegal Immigration

January 29, 2015 in Economics

By Alex Nowrasteh

Alex Nowrasteh

The new Congress has come ready with some fresh ideas for immigration reform. Freshman Republican Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., said in a recent interview, “We have to start with a secure border, we have to start with a guest worker program.” Gardner is right to link border security with a guest worker visa program. The former cannot be achieved without the latter.

Gardner’s comments are an under appreciated bit of common sense in an immigration debate stubbornly stuck between the polar opposite demands for nearly unlimited border security from the populist Right and unconditional amnesty from the progressive Left. Neither position will stop illegal immigration.

Doubling down on enforcement by itself won’t work. Since 1992, there has been an almost 500 percent increase in the number of Border Patrol agents and patrol hours spent along the Southwest border. In 2014, apprehensions — a proxy measure of the number of illegal crossers — were little more than a fourth of their 2000 peak of 1.6 million. Last year’s apprehensions were almost 100,000 fewer than they were forty years ago in 1974.

Doubling down on enforcement by itself won’t work.”

Texas Republican Rep. Mike McCaul’s new Secure Our Borders First Act would amass dubious technologies at the border — fences and other security gimmicks that will have little impact on an already trivial flow of unlawful immigrants. Instead of beefing up security, a guest worker visa program could decrease illegal immigration even further. History provides a prime example.

In 1953, there were about 2 million illegal immigrants from Mexico in the United States. By 1955, the number had fallen 90 percent and the cross-border flow nearly ceased — all while the number of Border Patrol agents actually dropped. This turnaround was achieved by the expansion of the so-called “Bracero” guest worker visa program.

After the expansion, Mexican workers learned that they could get a work visa easily. The visa allowed American farmers to legally hire migrant workers with minimum government oversight. Border Patrol helped by handing illegal immigrants a Bracero visa at their worksites. Many times, Border Patrol even brought the workers to the border so they could take one step into Mexico and immediately into the U.S. legally — a process dubbed “walking around the statute.”

Once Mexican migrants realized it was simple and cheap to get a visa and American farmers realized they could hire all of the legal migrant workers …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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WATCH: Jon Stewart Mocks Koch Brothers $900 Million Campaign Pledge—'Behold Our Benevolent Overlords'

January 29, 2015 in Blogs

By Janet Allon, AlterNet

It's not as if huge sums of money have ever distorted the political process before.


Jon Stewart took aim at the Koch brothers' plan to spend $900 million on the 2016 election cycle Wednesday night. But don't worry,  there's a good chance that they are not seeking “control over the levers of democracy,” perhaps they would, Stewart suggests, be “satisfied with just hand jobs.”

Ha!

And anyway, always ridiculous Ted Cruz has argued that it is “grotesquely unfair to paint the Koch brothers as nefarious billionaires.”

Oh no, they are “benevolent gods,” quipped Stewart next to a picture of the Koch brothers as Venuses on clam shells.

But really, why is everyone so worried about money distorting our leaders' priorities? Wiith prompts from Lassie, Stewart delves into a little recent example of that precise distortion in the Obama administration.

Be afraid, be very afraid. Watch:

 

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Source: ALTERNET

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7 Big Lies about the ’7 Big Lies’ in American Sniper

January 29, 2015 in Blogs

By Political Zach Foster

The specific “lies” I’m citing were taken from a
Yeah, that was cheesy. Transporting this character from Anbar province to West Baghdad is like expecting a Crip to operate in Blood territory; both gangs gun for the cops, but they sure as hell don’t work together.
While the “Mustafa” in the film was fictional, there really was a ridiculously lethal sniper in Fallujah and Ramadi, and HUMINT (human intelligence, for all you civilians) told that he was an Olympic marksman. More importantly, he was damn good at his job of killing American troops and Iraqi security forces. Let’s put into context how nasty things were in Fallujah and Ramadi: of the 4,489 American soldiers killed in Iraq, 1,135 died in Anbar province alone. The jihadists in Anbar did not screw around. RUMINT (rumor intelligence) reported that the sniper was killed in an airstrike in Ramadi.
3. “The Film Portrays Chris Kyle as Tormented By His Actions.”
Uh, no, it doesn’t. Anyone paying attention to key scenes and dialogue would figure out that the film actually shows Kyle as tormented by his failures. Kyle said in the movie, and over and over again in the book, that his biggest regrets were the men he wasn’t able to save. He wanted to kill more insurgents so they wouldn’t be able to continue killing Americans.
Take, for example, the scene where Kyle sits alone on the couch, having a flashback while staring at the blank TV screen. One does not here any screams or lamentations in Arabic…
4. “The Real Chris Kyle Made Up A Story About Killing Dozens of People In Post-Katrina New Orleans.”
<span style="font-family: …read more

Source: ZACH FOSTER RANTS