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Amped Status's List: Government & Politics

  • May 23, 17

    "Today’s post will focus on Trump’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia, a revolting spectacle which I could barely bring myself to follow. It all started Saturday morning as I tried to enjoy a beautiful day with my growing family and parents who were in town for a visit. My day was more or less ruined upon witnessing the appalling scene of Trump and his top advisors dancing with the rulers of the terrorist sponsoring state of Saudi Arabia while clutching swords. I’m sorry for doing this to you, but in case you missed it."

  • May 04, 17

    "Regardless of what the wall eventually looks like – presuming, of course, it ever gets built – a new report by the Government Accountability Office suggests there are plenty of ways for illegal immigrants, illicit drug smugglers and human traffickers to breach almost any barrier the administration might choose to erect. And they could do it by land, sea or air.

    Between 2011 and 2016, for example, 67 cross-border tunnels were uncovered in the Border Patrol’s territory around Tucson, Arizona, and San Diego, according to the report. While the number of cross-border tunnels uncovered declined over the past five years, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials say illicit cross-border tunnels pose a “persistent threat to national security.”

    Tunnels found in recent years range from crudely constructed holes the run short distances to highly sophisticated, elaborately constructed passageways with lighting, electricity, ventilation and train tracks."

  • May 03, 17

    "Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte has launched a brutal war on his own people that has left around 7,000 people dead.
    Purportedly a “war on drugs,” an Amnesty International investigation revealed “the police have systematically targeted mostly poor and defenseless people across the country while planting ‘evidence,’ recruiting paid killers, stealing from the people they kill and fabricating official incident reports.”
    “This is not a war on drugs, but a war on the poor. Often on the flimsiest of evidence, people accused of using or selling drugs are being killed for cash in an economy of murder,” Amnesty International’s Crisis Response Director Tirana Hassan said.
    Trump responded to this vicious campaign by praising Duterte’s efforts and inviting him to the White House. The invitation was extended during a phone call on Saturday, which the White House described as “very friendly.”"

  • May 02, 17

    "They live in privileged compounds where they eat chocolate cake and order missile strikes....

    Donald Trump is the face of our collective idiocy. He is what lies behind the mask of our professed civility and rationality—a sputtering, narcissistic, bloodthirsty megalomaniac. He wields armies and fleets against the wretched of the earth, blithely ignores the catastrophic human misery caused by global warming, pillages on behalf of global oligarchs and at night sits slack-jawed in front of a television set before opening his “beautiful” Twitter account....

    It is inevitable that for the final show we vomited a grotesque figure like Trump...

    The more the warning signs are palpable—rising temperatures, global financial meltdowns, mass human migrations, endless wars, poisoned ecosystems, rampant corruption among the ruling class—the more we turn to those who chant, either through idiocy or cynicism, the mantra that what worked in the past will work in the future, that progress is inevitable. Factual evidence, since it is an impediment to what we desire, is banished. The taxes of corporations and the rich, who have deindustrialized the country and turned many of our cities into wastelands, are cut, and regulations are slashed to bring back the supposed golden era of the 1950s for white American workers. Public lands are opened up to the oil and gas industry as rising carbon emissions doom our species. Declining crop yields stemming from heat waves and droughts are ignored. War is the principal business of the kleptocratic state....

    All of our systems of information, from self-help gurus and Hollywood to political monstrosities such as Trump, sell us this snake oil. We blind ourselves to impending collapse. Our retreat into self-delusion is a career opportunity for charlatans who tell us what we want to hear. The magical thinking they espouse is a form of infantilism. It discredits facts and realities that defy the glowing cant of slogans such as “Make America great again.” Reality is banished for relentless and baseless optimism.
    Half the country may live in poverty, our civil liberties may be taken from us, militarized police may murder unarmed citizens in the streets and we may run the world’s largest prison system and murderous war machine, but all these truths are studiously ignored. Trump embodies the essence of this decayed, intellectually bankrupt and immoral world. He is its natural expression. He is the king of the idiots. We are his victims.

  • Apr 27, 17

    "T.J. discusses Scott’s February article, “Do We Have a Legitimate Government?” and what that could mean. They delve into the regulatory state, how culture leads and politics follows, and the decentralization of American society. Scott’s new book, Politics Has Failed, America Will Not, explores these ideas and more."

  • Apr 21, 17

    "Percentage of total articles compared to election day polling data
    MEDIA ATTN ELECTORAL POPULAR
    DONALD TRUMP 54% 57% 43%
    HILLARY CLINTON 46% 43% 47%"

  • Apr 20, 17

    "Quarles served two stints in the Treasury Department, under both Bush administrations, but afterward, he moved to the Carlyle Group, the $169 billion private equity giant. Quarles was part of the financial services team, which appears to be registered in the Cayman Islands tax haven."

  • Apr 19, 17

    "According to news reports and White House press releases, since his inauguration, President Trump has met with at least 190 corporate executives – averaging more than two a day. Counting repeat attendees, he has had at least 222 corporate executive meetings. These totals do not include his reported frequent telephone conversations with Blackstone’s Steve Schwarzman and other CEOs. Nor do they not count administration members and nominees. Since the Nov. 8 election, Trump has met with at least 224 corporate executives since being elected president.

    "

  • Apr 18, 17

    "A lawsuit filed in January by the activist group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington that charges Trump with violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution has now added two new plaintiffs with a credible claim of standing. That is, the ability to argue that they have actually been harmed by the president’s continued ownership of for-profit businesses while in office.

    The lawsuit’s main charge is that because business enterprises like the Trump International Hotel in Washington, just a few blocks down Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House, accepts payment from foreign governments for rooms and event space, it puts the president in violation of a constitutional ban on accepting money from foreign governments in exchange for services.

    When the suit was originally filed, the standing claim seemed weak at best, with CREW asserting that it was being harmed because Trump’s conflicts effectively forced it to use its resources to file suit against him. At the time, experts said the claim was likely a placeholder for more credible standing claims that would come along later, and now some have."

  • Apr 18, 17

    "A total of 31 lawmakers in Massachusetts are co-sponsoring  H. 2897, which would allow towns, municipalities, and cities to use ranked choice voting for their local elections. Originally sponsored by Representative Mike Connolly, H. 2897 also specifies certain requirements for ranked choice voting ballots, establishes ranked choice voting election procedures, and gives local governments the option to return to their prior voting method after using ranked choice voting for four years.

    "

  • Apr 18, 17

    "the Left and Right status quo candidates are indistinguishable in terms of their self-serving corruption and elitism:Mechanic-Candidate Bursts French Political Elite's Bubble (NY Times)
    Here in the U.S., the self-serving Democratic Party elites operate within the Corporatocracy structure, in which the state protects and funds private-sector cartels; the two intertwined and self-reinforcing elites manifest and enforce state policies."

  • Apr 18, 17

    As anti-war activist Rosa Luxemburg concluded, “Those who do not move, do not notice their chains.”

    "Daily, all across America, individuals who dare to resist—or even question—a police order are being subjected to all sorts of government-sanctioned abuse ranging from forced catheterization, forced blood draws, roadside strip searches and cavity searches, and other foul and debasing acts that degrade their bodily integrity and leave them bloodied and bruised.

    Americans as young as 4 years old are being leg shackled, handcuffed, tasered and held at gun point for not being quiet, not being orderly and just being childlike—i.e., not being compliant enough.


    Government social workers actually subjected a 3-year-old boy to a forced catheterization after he was unable to provide them with a urine sample on demand (the boy still wasn’t potty trained). The boy was held down, screaming in pain, while nurses forcibly inserted a tube into his penis to drain his bladder—all of this done because the boy’s mother’s boyfriend had failed a urine analysis for drugs.

    Americans as old as 95 are being beaten, shot and killed for questioning an order, hesitating in the face of a directive, and mistaking a policeman crashing through their door for a criminal breaking into their home—i.e., not being submissive enough.

    Consider what happened to David Dao, the United Airlines passenger who was accosted by three police, forcibly wrenched from his seat across the armrest, bloodying his face in the process, and dragged down the aisle by the arms merely for refusing to relinquish his paid seat after the airline chose him randomly to be bumped from the flight—after being checked in and allowed to board—so that airline workers could make a connecting flight.

    Those with ADHD, autism, hearing impairments, dementia or some other disability that can hinder communication in the slightest way are in even greater danger of having their actions misconstrued by police. Police shot a 73-year-old-man with dementia seven times after he allegedly failed to respond to orders to stop approaching and remove his hands from his jacket. The man was unarmed and had been holding a crucifix.

    "

  • Apr 18, 17

    "A nurse at Avera St. Mary’s Hospital in Pierre inserted a pencil-sized tube into Sparks’ urethra to drain his bladder. Moments later, an officer with the Pierre Police Department held a cup of Sparks’ urine that soon would be sent off for drug testing.

    “It was degrading,” Sparks said. “I was angry. I felt like my civil rights were being violated.”

    Hours earlier, police responded to a domestic dispute at Sparks’ home. When officers observed him acting “fidgety,” they asked for a urine sample. When Sparks refused, police sought a warrant from a Hughes County judge to obtain a urine sample by “medically accepted means.”

    In Pierre, those means have repeatedly included forcibly catheterizing people who refuse or are unable to provide a sample. Officers subjected a 3-year-old boy to a similar procedure in February as part of a child welfare investigation, according to the American Civil Liberties Union."

  • Apr 18, 17

    "But there is a major difference between Sanders and Mélenchon. The American chose to run within an existing political party, while the Frenchman seeks to compete against them. That’s why, unlike Sanders, Mélenchon is still in the running at this late stage, as the voters are souring on the candidates of the far-right and co-opted center.

    Prior to announcing his bid for the White House, Sanders had to choose between running as an independent, as he did in his Senate races in Vermont, or within the Democratic Party. He openly struggled with that choice in an interview in March of 2014 with The Nation. “There is today more and more alienation from the Republican and Democratic parties than we have seen in the modern history of this country. … In that sense, running outside the two-party system can be a positive politically,” he noted.

    “On the other hand,” he went on, “given the nature of the political system, given the nature of media in America, it would be much more difficult to get adequate coverage from the mainstream media running outside of the two-party system. It would certainly be very hard if not impossible to get into debates. It would require building an entire political infrastructure outside of the two-party system: to get on the ballot, to do all the things that would be required for a serious campaign.”

    For those same reasons, when Sanders lost the Democratic presidential primary to Hillary Clinton, he chose not to keep running as an independent, even though he had long argued that he had a much better chance of beating Donald Trump than Clinton had.

    If it was easier in the U.S. to run outside the two-party system, Sanders could more easily have run as a third-party candidate, and conceivably could have made an argument as election day approached that Clinton would have been the “spoiler” — the candidate draining votes from him, rather than the other way around.

    Mélenchon is probably looking at the ruling Socialist Party candidate Benoît Hamon — polling at eight percent — and wondering if Hamon’s voters will prevent him from going to the second round of voting. Mélenchon was once a junior minister in the the Socialist Party, which is France’s version of the Democrats. But as the Socialists moved towards neoliberalism, he left the party and for a long time was in the political wilderness. When he announced last year that he would be challenging the mainstream parties in France’s presidential election, he was considered a non-factor."

  • Apr 17, 17

    "This process is already well underway around the globe. The Oxfam report points out that in 1990 the average corporate tax rate in the world’s 20 major countries was 40 percent; by 2015 it had fallen to 28.7 percent. Moreover, the average 2.8 percent of GDP that OECD companies raised via corporate taxes in 2014 was significantly down from the 3.6 percent they raised just seven years before in 2007.

    Politicians acutely feel pressure to bring down rates to make their countries “competitive.” Speaking last September, Bill Clinton explained that he didn’t mind a 35 percent corporate rate when he was president because at that point “it was precisely in the middle of the OECD countries” — but “it isn’t anymore,” so “we should try to get it as close to the international average as we can.”"

  • Apr 16, 17

    "The 0.01 percent consists of the cycle’s top donors — where the number of members equals 1 percent of 1 percent of the United States’ estimated adult population (aged 18 or older). In 2012, that group numbered fewer than 24,000, and gave about $1.6 billion in contributions. The total for 2016’s 0.01 percent spiked to more than $2.3 billion — an increase of about 45 percent. That vastly outstripped the growth in the group’s size, which was only 3 percent."

    With a final cost of roughly $6.5 billion

  • Apr 13, 17

    "According to TheHill.com, government ethics watchdog group Pro Publica reported on Thursday that the administration only has enough money on hand to build 7 miles of a wall that is purportedly going to be 1,000 miles long.

    “Although estimates to build the wall soar past $20 billion,” wrote Pro Publica’s T. Christian Miller, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency “has so far managed to scrape together only about $20 million, according to its top contracting official. The rest of the cash will have to come from Congress, which so far has proven reluctant to foot the bill.”

    Parts of be border currently feature fortified walls to impede the flow of migrants back and forth between the U.S. and Mexico. Those walls cost around $2.8 million per mile, said Pro Publica, and — according to CNN — they are believed to be largely ineffective, but no one knows for sure because CBP has made no effort to establish a metric for its success and the agency is not currently tracking how many migrants traverse that portion of the border at any given time."

  • Apr 13, 17

    "THE EXPORT-IMPORT BANK is a big corporate welfare program that likes to keep a low profile. But in the past few years, the anti-establishment Republicans of the House Freedom Caucus and a handful of progressive Democrats including Bernie Sanders turned it into a rousing populist issue, first refusing to re-authorize the bank, then blocking nominations of new board members.

    The bank dishes out billions of dollars of taxpayer-backed loan guarantees to a few U.S. corporations who use the subsidies to sell their goods abroad. Critics have dubbed it the “Bank of Boeing” because the aerospace giant receives more assistance than any other single firm; in 2014, $7.4 billion in long-term guarantees — 68 percent of the total made by the Ex-Im Bank — were for Boeing.

    Candidate Donald Trump was strongly on the side of the reformers.

    “I don’t like it because I don’t think it’s necessary,” he told Bloomberg’s With All Due Respect in early August 2015. “It’s a one-way street also. It’s sort of a feather bedding for politicians and others, and a few companies. And these are companies that can do very well without it. So I don’t like it. I think it’s a lot of excess baggage. I think it’s unnecessary. And when you think about free enterprise, it’s really not free enterprise. I’d be against it.”

    But what Trump said then is no longer operative. As on many other issues, it turns out either Trump didn’t mean what he said, or he’s been manipulated into changing his mind, or both"

  • Apr 13, 17

    "But while you weren’t looking, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been courting local and federal law enforcement with the promise of lax oversight of police abuses against citizens, punishment for cities that choose not to use local resources for the hunting of undocumented immigrants, and a renewal of the so-called war on drugs that for decades was little more than a war on black and brown people. On Tuesday, Sessions disbanded the independent, nonpartisan National Commission on Forensic Science—the people who evaluate the scientific soundness of evidence admitted in criminal trials. The idea seems to be to task law enforcement with deciding the means by which it determines which evidence is permissible, even as the administration seeks ways to lock up people on the pretext of drug possession. The responsibility for making recommendations on the scientific soundness of various means of evidence collection will now fall to prosecutors.

    But it doesn’t stop there. On April 4, Sessions demonstrated his contempt for his department’s past interventions on local law enforcement in jurisdictions where abuses of citizens are shown to be systemic, and promised to lighten up on the use of consent decrees that place offending police departments under Justice Department monitoring for a period of time. He’s also been on a speaking tour of threats against the (mostly Democratic) political leadership of the nation’s great cities, promising to slash their federal funding unless local law enforcement is turned into a locally funded arm of the federal government by participating in the round-up of immigrants who don’t have papers. (So much for the right’s love of local control.) For good measure, Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, is calling on Republicans in Congress to include these proposed funding penalties against so-called sanctuary cities in the spending bill Congress must soon take up in order to keep the government running—a move that could lead to a government shutdown.

    "

  • Apr 06, 17

    "oting on the blockchain sounds like a brilliant idea, promising to eliminate fraud while providing complete transparency to the final results.

    But in practice, blockchain voting is extremely difficult to implement in a way that both keeps the votes private (so you don't know how a person voted) and doesn’t require a third party. There are a few voting apps already out there, like the Blockchain Voting Machine, Follow My Vote and TIVI, that use the blockchain as a ballot box. But each of these, in some way or another, relies on a third party to achieve voter privacy.

    At the Financial Cryptography and Data Security Conference in Malta this week, however, a PhD student from Newcastle University in the UK, caught audience attention when he stepped forward with a proposal for secure voting that involves no third party for privacy – or for tallying votes.

    Patrick McCorry's Open Vote Network is a smart contract written in Solidity, where ethereum takes over the work of the trusted third party.

    The solution, he said, is ideal for boardroom voting, although not for large groups.

    "

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