Kitten Killer Josh Barro


Kitten Killer Josh Barro

New York Needs a Mayor With the Resolve to Let the Subway Kittens Die

The next mayor of New York, if he or she is to do a good job, will have to say “no” a lot. “No” to public employee unions who want a retroactive raise the city can’t afford. “No” to city councilmembers who will try to spend every tax dollar that comes in instead of rebuilding the city’s reserve funds. “No” to NIMBYs who don’t want anything new built in their neighborhoods. “No” to commuters seeking relief from fare increases, bridge tolls, parking fines, and an alleged “war on cars.”

Now, I will note that as far as I know, Josh Barro has not personally killed any kittens. He merely advocates that others do it, a candidate for major in particular, pointing out the “real New Yorkers” don’t care about this. I have had the pleasure of meeting New Yorkers and those have I met strike me as a compassionate and worthy lot. Perhaps he meets a different group.

Statue of Liberty seen from the Circle Line ferry, Manhattan, New YorkNew York does not need a mayor with the “resolve” to kill kittens. New York is not yet a business theocracy where order is preferred over the democratic rabble. Those kitten lovers, those unions, those neighborhoods are constituents in a democracy. They have a voice. They deserve that voice. They participate in society. They pay taxes and obey the laws. That they don’t meet the standards of Josh Baro is not a legitimate reason to disenfranchise or ignore them.

There is a certain implication here that killing kittens, ignoring unions and overruling local populations is a matter of courage. I often hear that acting in defiance of the wishes of those that elected you, for instance, cutting medicare and social security, is a matter of resolve and courage. No, it’s a matter of acting anti-democratically. It’s a matter of denying necessary benefits long proven successful because it disempowers millions of Americans and making them subject to the whims of our “betters.”

We can safely assume that the title of the article is meant to be provocative. I’ll buy that. But I think he means it. And I have seen a number of kitten hating blogs take up the cry and I find this depressing. There is a place for compassion and kindness and I believe that what “real New Yorkers” believe is far more varied than Josh Barro’s friends in the business community.

How can we have business ethics if we live in a country where order and profits (saving time by running over kittens with subway trains) trump moral and compassionate concerns? We might as well fold up our ethics tents and drift away in the night.

I have seen a good number of ethics professors and textbooks explain that business ethics is actually profitable. Businesses that practice ethics have greater customer trust and loyalty, and over time this and other ethics practices produce profits. I don’t doubt this for a moment but it misses the point of ethics. We do it not because it is profitable but because it is right. We do it because we want to live with some sense of purpose beyond counting our money and giggling like Bond villains.

Ruthlessness and profits above all other values are popular right now with the one percent. That you and I are not wealthy is a sign of our unworthiness. But we in the middle class, who do the work, who sacrifice for our values, and who do the jobs of fireman, teaching and policeman are the heart of the nation, the ones that make this country work. I have nothing but pride for being one of those citizens.

James Pilant

 

 

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Cramped Altruism


 

Underage workers in the corporate heaven of Foxconn
Underage workers in the corporate heaven of Foxconn

Cramped Altruism

Other People’s Children – NYTimes.com

I’ve noticed this thing quite a lot in American life lately — this sort of cramped vision of altruism in which it’s considered perfectly acceptable to support only those causes that are directly good for you and yours. We even have a tendency to view it as “inauthentic” when people support policies that aren’t in their self-interest — when a rich man supports higher taxes on the rich, he’s somehow seen as strange, and probably a hypocrite.

Needless to say, this is all wrong. Political virtue consists in standing for what’s right, even — or indeed especially — when it doesn’t redound to your own benefit. Someone should ask Portman why he didn’t take a stand for, you know, other people’s children.

Other People’s Children – NYTimes.com

 

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Stephen Heynmann and Misconduct?


 

Aaron Swartz
Aaron Swartz

Stephen Heynmann and Misconduct?

Aaron Swartz Lawyers Accuse Prosecutor Stephen Heymann Of Misconduct

Federal prosecutor Stephen Heymann engaged in prosecutorial misconduct by withholding key evidence from the defense team of Aaron Swartz, the late Internet activist’s legal team alleged in a letter to an internal Justice Department ethics unit.

Heymann took the lead in the much-criticized effort to imprison Swartz, who committed suicide in January, and was the attorney who handled the case on a day-to-day basis, reporting to U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz. Swartz’ attorney Eliot Peters has filed a complaint with the Department of Justice’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), a step that indicates just how egregious the defense team considers Heymann’s professional behavior. A redacted version of the letter was obtained by The Huffington Post.

In the document, Peters argues that Heymann withheld exculpatory evidence. At issue was whether the federal government had properly obtained a warrant to search Swartz’ computer and thumb drive. Peters argued that the government failed by waiting more than a month to obtain the warrant. Heymann countered that he couldn’t get a warrant because he didn’t have access to the equipment. But an email in Heymann’s possession, which was written to Heymann himself, showed that assertion to be untrue.

In an email that was not provided to the defense team until the last minute, Michael Picket, a Secret Service agent, wrote to Heymann on Jan. 7, “I am prepared to take custody of the laptop anytime after it has been processed for prints or whenever you feel is appropriate. As far as I know no one has sought a warrant for the examination of the computer, the cell phone that was on his person or the 8gb flash drive that was in his backpack.” It would be more than a month before Heymann obtained a warrant -– far too long, in Peters’ estimation, which means that the evidence found on the laptop could have become inadmissible.

Aaron Swartz Lawyers Accuse Prosecutor Stephen Heymann Of Misconduct

Chalking up kills is for fighter pilot’s not prosecutors.

James Pilant

From around the web –

From the web site, Forecasting the World:

In an appalling 5-4 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court confirmed and even strengthened prosecutorial immunity, extending it from personal immunity to a stronger form of agency immunity as well. This means the government can now do anything and they will not be subject to the laws – EVER! The case is Connick v Thompson (2011), where Connick is the former Orleans Parish District Attorney Harry Connick, Sr. (the singer’s father) and Thompson is John Thompson, a man falsely convicted of murder because Connick’s office hid a report that ultimately exonerated him so the prosecutor would not have to admit a mistake. On top of that – they were trying to execute an innocent man to cover up their misconduct.

http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/10pdf/09-571.pdf

The prosecutors admitted that they deliberately withheld evidence. There is no controversy over whether they violated the law and their ethical obligations and railroaded an innocent man and they were prepared to legally murder him since he was only weeks away from being executed for that crime he did not commit when the report that proved his innocence was finally discovered and used to overturn his conviction. Is this not attempted murder?

From the web site, Jonathan Turley:

District judge Ken Anderson of Williamson County, Texas is now formally under investigation for his alleged role in a gross injustice as a prosecutor. It is an all-too-rare case where a former prosecutor is actually called to account for an injustice. In this case, an innocent man, Michael Morton (shown here), now 58, was wrongly convicted in 1987 for the murder of his wife. Prosecutors failed to turn over key evidence showing that his son clearly stated that it was not his father. Instead, they took a tragic murder of a mother and magnified it by incarcerating the grieving father. Anderson was later selected as “Prosecutor of the Year.” We previously discussed the case.

From the web site, Leaksource:

The prosecution didn’t just show poor judgment in its prosecution of Aaron. In addition, Steve Heymann actively broke the law and violated Aaron’s constitutional rights. Below, you can read the details, but the basic outline is that Heymann withheld evidence that would have been helpful to Aaron’s defense, and that he was legally and ethically bound to hand over from the very beginning of the case, until December 2012 — almost two years after Aaron was arrested.

A few additional notes to the release: Heymann appears to be lying to the DOJ, or else the DOJ is lying to Congress, about when Heymann turned over the exculpatory evidence in question. Ryan Grim reports that DOJ is insisting that Heymann turned over the exculpatory evidenceduring the status conference in December, rather than after. But I was there, and that is a lie.

 

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Swartz Charged with Many Crimes to Force Guilty Plea


 

Aaron Swartz
Aaron Swartz

Swartz Charged with Many Crimes to Force Guilty Plea

Aaron Swartz: Eric Holder calls Aaron Swartz case “a good use of prosecutorial discretion.”

Earlier this morning, the Senate Judiciary Committee grilled Attorney General Eric Holder on topics ranging from drones to marijuana policy. About an hour into the oversight hearing, Sen. John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, asked Holder about the DOJ’s prosecution of Aaron Swartz, the programmer and Internet activist who committed suicide in January. Among other things, Swartz had been charged under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act for using MIT’s computer network to unauthorizedly download millions of academic journal articles from a subscription database called JSTOR. He was facing a maximum sentence of 50 years in prison.

The DOJ may have only intended for Swartz to go to jail for a couple months. It’s clear, though, they would’ve had no problem with sending him away for a few years, too. I think Sen. Cornyn put it nicely: “If you’re an individual American citizen, and you’re looking at criminal charges being brought by the United States government, with all of the vast resources available to the government, it strikes me as disproportionate, and one that is basically being used inappropriately, to try to bully someone into pleading guilty to something that strikes me as rather minor.”

Holder claimed that the Department of Justice had conducted “a good examination” of the Swartz prosecution, and came away from it satisfied that there had been no prosecutorial misconduct. And maybe there wasn’t, if you’re judging the prosecutors on whether they deviated from standard DOJ practice. But there is a flaw in the system if the DOJ’s best route to get the sentence it’s looking for is to threaten defendants with disproportionate prison terms. That might be an effective prosecutorial tactic, but that’s not justice.

Aaron Swartz: Eric Holder calls Aaron Swartz case “a good use of prosecutorial discretion.”

So, a federal prosecutor stacks charges on what should be a single offense in order to get someone to plead guilty. Is that justice? Does it bear any resemblance to justice?

Swartz had a strong defense but by the stacking the charges the feds had placed him in a situation where if he lost he could serve fifty years.

It sounds to me that if you wanted to, as a federal prosecutor, you could force people to settle even if they were innocent – just stack the charges so that the risk of losing will put in jail for decades then offer a few months. You generate another trophy for that wall and don’t actually have to go to court and take your case to a jury.

That’s not justice, it’s just a use of overwhelming government resources to force the win.

Tell me, if I put you in a situation like Swartz where you could serve up to fifty years in prison and they offer you three to six months, and you have done nothing, would you take the deal?

Are you willing to rely on your innocence in court, and risk fifty years? You have to think about it, don’t you?

Let’s make it a little tougher. You can’t afford your own attorney and the government is willing to spend several million dollars and thousands of hours investigating you. Every corner of your life will be turned upside down. You’ll go bankrupt from fees. You probably won’t be able to hold a job because of the regular court appearances and your reputation just went through the shredder.

Do you still want to plead innocent or will you take the three months just to make it stop?

James Pilant

From around the web:

From the web site, Another Anthro Blog:

Information is power. But like all power, there are those who want to keep it for themselves. The world’s entire scientific and cultural heritage, published over centuries in books and journals, is increasingly being digitized and locked up by a handful of private corporations. Want to read the papers featuring the most famous results of the sciences? You’ll need to send enormous amounts to publishers like Reed Elsevier.

There are those struggling to change this. The Open Access Movement has fought valiantly to ensure that scientists do not sign their copyrights away but instead ensure their work is published on the Internet, under terms that allow anyone to access it. But even under the best scenarios, their work will only apply to things published in the future. Everything up until now will have been lost.

That is too high a price to pay. Forcing academics to pay money to read the work of their colleagues? Scanning entire libraries but only allowing the folks at Google to read them? Providing scientific articles to those at elite universities in the First World, but not to children in the Global South? It’s outrageous and unacceptable.

From the web site, Gateways: A Dramaturgical Blog:

Not only was Swartz a computer science genius, he was also heavily devoted to freedom of information—which is where he found himself getting into trouble. His friend, journalist and science fiction novelist Cory Doctorow, says he was a “full-time, uncompromising, reckless and delightful shit-disturber.” His first target was PACER.gov, a website that provides court documents to the public for a small fee (about 8 cents per page). In 2008, Swartz, funded by his own money, single-handedly moved the information on to a public website. He released over 18 million pages, an estimated total value of 1.5 million dollars. The FBI investigated the situation, but no charges were filed against him.

Shortly after, Swartz founded DemandProgress.org, a website devoted to internet activism. The website was integral in taking down the Stop Online Piracy and the Protect IP Acts of 2011, two bills which allowed the government more control over what could and could not be posted and shared on the internet (they deserve their own blog post—next week, perhaps).

And from the web site, Justrecently’s Weblog:

What got him into conflict with the judicial system, after some earlier and less significant jostles, was breaking into M.I.T. computer networks in 2010 and 2011, to access JSTOR and to download documents from there. It was apparently meant to be a demonstration, to underline his case that documents like JSTOR’s should be freely available. It had long been argued that such documents should be free because they are produced at public expense, writes the New York Times. The NYT has a detailed account of Swartz’ JSTOR activity. The indictment says that JSTOR’s servers were brought down by his action on several occasions, Wired wrote in September 2012.

It’s apparently a Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) which was applied by federal prosecutors. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in limiting reach of the CFAA, said that violations of employee contract agreements and websites’ terms of service – crucial in Swartz’ case, apparently, at least if up to the prosecutors – were better left to civil lawsuits, also according to Wired. But this ruling wasn’t binding for Massachusetts, and the prosecutors insisted that their charges against Swartz should go on. The maximum penalty – potentially – could have amounted to 35 years in prison, and a million USD penalty. The chief prosecutor in charge was Steve Heymann, who had previously brought hacker Albert Gonzales into jail with a 20-year term.

 

 

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Carmen Ortiz Used Swartz Case to Advance Her Career?


Carmen Ortiz Used Swartz Case to Advance Her Career?

Swartz didn’t face prison until feds took over case, report says | Politics and Law – CNET News

State prosecutors who investigated the late Aaron Swartz had planned to let him off with a stern warning, but federal prosecutor Carmen Ortiz took over and chose to make an example of the Internet activist, according to a report in Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly.

Middlesex County’s district attorney had planned no jail time, “with Swartz duly admonished and then returned to civil society to continue his pioneering electronic work in a less legally questionable manner,” the report (alternate link) said. “Tragedy intervened when Ortiz’s office took over the case to send ‘a message.'”

The report is likely to fuel an online campaign against Ortiz, who has been criticized for threatening the 26-year-old with decades in prison for allegedly downloading a large quantity of academic papers. An online petition asking President Obama to remove from office Ortiz — a politically ambitious prosecutor who was talked about as Massachusetts’ next governor as recently as last month.

Swartz didn’t face prison until feds took over case, report says | Politics and Law – CNET News

From further down in the article:

But the sweeping nature of federal computer crime laws allowed Ortiz and Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Heymann, who wanted a high-profile computer crime conviction, to pursue felony charges. Heymann threatened the free-culture activist with over 30 years in prison as recently as the week before he killed himself. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a Democrat whose district includes the heart of Silicon Valley, has proposed rewriting those laws.

The Boston U.S. Attorney’s office was looking for “some juicy looking computer crime cases and Aaron’s case, sadly for Aaron, fit the bill,” Elliot Peters, Swartz’s attorney at the Keker & Van Nest law firm, told the Huffington Post. Heymann, Peters says, thought the Swartz case “was going to receive press and he was going to be a tough guy and read his name in the newspaper.”

Carmen Ortiz - Future Governor?
Carmen Ortiz – Future Governor?

Just three months ago, Ortiz’s office, as TechDirt reported, severely escalated the already-excessive four-felony-count indictment by adding nine new felony counts, each of which “carrie[d] the possibility of a fine and imprisonment of up to 10-20 years per felony”, meaning “the sentence could conceivably total 50+ years and [a] fine in the area of $4 million.” That meant, as Think Progress documented, that Swartz faced “a more severe prison term than killers, slave dealers and bank robbers”.

Swartz’s girlfriend, Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, told the WSJ that the case had drained all of his money and he could not afford to pay for a trial. At Swartz’s funeral in Chicago on Tuesday, his father flatly stated that his son “was killed by the government”.

Ortiz and Heymann continue to refuse to speak publicly about what they did in this case – at least officially. Yesterday, Ortiz’s husband, IBM Corp executive Thomas J. Dolan, took to Twitter and – without identifying himself as the US Attorney’s husband – defended the prosecutors’ actions in response to prominent critics, and even harshly criticized the Swartz family for assigning blame to prosecutors: “Truly incredible in their own son’s obit they blame others for his death”, Ortiz’s husband wrote. Once Dolan’s identity was discovered, he received assertive criticism and then sheepishly deleted his Twitter account.

Carmen Ortiz – Governor?

From the Boston Globe:

The US attorney’s office’s strong focus on the probation controversy adds a particular sensitivity to the speculation that Ortiz, a 1978 George Washington Law School graduate, is considering becoming a candidate.

It could open her to charges by her opponents and others that she has used the investigation into political leaders to ­advance her political ambitions. Ortiz, however, would be among a crowd of regional federal prosecutors who have used their office to create a high public profile that allows them to run for office.

For example, William F. Weld, who served as US attorney in Boston in the early and mid-1980s, relentlessly pursued former mayor Kevin H. White. No charges were ever brought against White, but the intense publicity gave Weld the ability to parlay that investigation and others into a successful campaign for governor in 1990.

Other US attorneys who went on to successful political careers included former mayor Rudolph Giuliani of New York, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, and former governor ­Janet Napolitano of Arizona, now US secretary of homeland security.

From around the web –

From the web site of Glenn Greenwald:

Just three months ago, Ortiz’s office, as TechDirt reported, severely escalated the already-excessive four-felony-count indictment by adding nine new felony counts, each of which “carrie[d] the possibility of a fine and imprisonment of up to 10-20 years per felony”, meaning “the sentence could conceivably total 50+ years and [a] fine in the area of $4 million.” That meant, as Think Progress documented, that Swartz faced “a more severe prison term than killers, slave dealers and bank robbers”.

Swartz’s girlfriend, Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, told the WSJ that the case had drained all of his money and he could not afford to pay for a trial. At Swartz’s funeral in Chicago on Tuesday, his father flatly stated that his son “was killed by the government”.

Ortiz and Heymann continue to refuse to speak publicly about what they did in this case – at least officially. Yesterday, Ortiz’s husband, IBM Corp executive Thomas J. Dolan, took to Twitter and – without identifying himself as the US Attorney’s husband – defended the prosecutors’ actions in response to prominent critics, and even harshly criticized the Swartz family for assigning blame to prosecutors: “Truly incredible in their own son’s obit they blame others for his death”, Ortiz’s husband wrote. Once Dolan’s identity was discovered, he received assertive criticism and then sheepishly deleted his Twitter account.

From the web site, Translation Exercises:

Conversely, Aaron Swartz was not Muslim, and thus his chances of being targeted as a potential terrorist were significantly decreased. However, his crime was taking concepts like public-access and creative commons too seriously–and thus thwarting the private property interests of info-hoarding profitable (though “officially” non-profit) companies like JSTOR–and officially for-profit companies like Elsevier. As with most policies under the Bush and Obama Administrations, what we have come to understand is that they will fiercely, staunchly, defend the interests of banks, mortgage companies, and their Wall Street friends–and be perfectly equanimous about trampling powerless individuals–especially if they are hotheaded, suggestible, or “excessively” idealistic about standards of fairness and justice.

It is not surprising that Eric Holder and Carmen Ortiz are consistent in their overzealous prosecutions against individuals who are engaged in political dissent: For Aaron Swartz, this dissent took the form of challenging the electronic paywalls that prevented public access to work done by scholars like myself, who will never see a penny from the tens of articles that I have published. Mehanna’s speech at sentencing is worth reading; he is clearly a politically aware young man. His dissent took the form of challenging and criticizing the US government’s imperial war—perhaps in extreme terms—but that is also part of the flexible boundaries of speech.

From the web site, Who What Why:

The suicide last Friday of information activist, computer hacker and technical wunderkind Aaron Swartz has focused attention on Carmen Ortiz, the U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts, whose overzealous prosecution may have led to his death. Swartz, co-founder of a website later acquired by Reddit as well as a prime developer of the online publishing infrastructure known as Rich Site Summary (RSS), was under federal indictment for logging into JSTOR—a database of scholarly articles accessible from universities across the country—and downloading its content with the intent to distribute the articles online free of charge.

Despite JSTOR’s subsequent securing of the “stolen” content and refusal to press charges, Swartz was arrested by the feds and charged originally with four felony counts under the 1986 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. On those charges alone, Swartz was facing a possible 35-year sentence and over $1,000,000 in fines. Just three months ago, a “Superseding Indictment” filed in the case by the U.S. attorney’s office upped the felony count from four to 13. If convicted, Swartz was looking at possibly over 50 years in prison: a conceivable life sentence.

Ortiz, the politically ambitious U.S. attorney for Massachusetts, spearheaded the prosecution against Swartz. “Stealing is stealing whether you use a computer command or a crowbar,” Ortiz proclaimed in a 2011 press release. Her point man in the case was Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Heymann, a specialist in computer crime and son of Philip Heymann, the United States Deputy Attorney General during the Clinton administration. Stephen Heymann led the 2010 investigation into Albert Gonzalez, the TJX hacker, in the largest identity fraud case in history. Heymann’s office suspected that one of the unindicted co-conspirators named in that criminal complaint—“JJ”—was Jonathan James, a juvenile hacker who also killed himself two weeks after his house was raided.

 

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Saving Money by Warehousing Disabled Kids


Federal officials slam Florida for warehousing disabled kids | McClatchy

Under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, people with disabilities or medical conditions must be housed and treated in community settings whenever possible, not in large isolated institutions as most states did in previous decades. Since the law was passed in 1990, advocates for disabled people and children have used it to shut down often squalid institutions and to move disabled and mentally ill people into their own homes or into group homes that are part of larger communities.

In recent years, however, Florida health administrators have relied upon nursing homes to house hundreds of children who could safely live at home with their parents – often at less expense to the state, advocates claim. In his letter, Perez said the state has cut millions from programs that support the parents of disabled youngsters, refused $40 million in federal dollars that would have enabled some children to stay or return home, encouraged nursing homes to house children by increasing their per diem rate – and even repealed state rules that limited the number of kids who could be housed in nursing homes with adults.

Such policies, the Justice Department says, are not only contrary to federal law, they hurt children: Housed in nursing homes that are ill-equipped to care for them, youngsters often are deprived of an education, are unable to see their own parents and siblings – many of whom live hundreds of miles away – have no ability to socialize with typically developing peers, and sometimes are forced to sit for hours in front of a television for lack of recreation or other activities.

In court pleadings, and in a statement Thursday to The Miami Herald, state health regulators say they are complying with all provisions of the landmark law. The state provides all services that are “medically necessary” to sick and disabled children – including skilled nursing care and home health aides – “up to 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” said Shelisha Coleman, a spokeswoman for the state Agency for Health Care Administration, or AHCA, which is a defendant in a 2012 lawsuit that makes the same claims as the Justice Department.

Federal officials slam Florida for warehousing disabled kids | McClatchy

What are the ethics here? The law set up a system to keep children with disabilities at home whenever possible. The state is doing something else. It’s warehousing disabled kids.

I have some experience in state politics. The nursing home industry is often a major campaign contributor to both parties. These kinds of clients bring in millions of dollars of profit. Further, if the children could have been taken care of at home then they form a lesser burden to the institutions than more severe cases – all the more reason to prefer them.

There’s big money here, not to mention the bureaucratic ease of simply processing the children into a system where monthly visits and supervision by state officials is unnecessary or routine.

I’m unimpressed and unhappy with how this is working out.

It’s cold blooded to take children who have a disability and put them in a nursing home without other children, without education and without hope. Not quite murder, but definitely not what the law provided for.

James Pilant

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Felix Salmon Makes a Key Observation


Barack Obama and the limitations of probabilistic decision making | Felix Salmon

For Obama, if a decision doesn’t work out, he’s OK with that, since he reckons there’s a statistical certainty that a good third of his decisions will fail to work out. And he takes solace in the idea that so long as the process of arriving at the decision was a good one, by which he means that it was properly technocratic and probabilistic, then he did the best that he could have done.

But that kind of decision-making framework leaves very little room for ideals — for actually putting into practice the kind of vision you have for America. By making decisions on a case-by-case basis, you can end up missing out on building something bigger and much more coherent. In 2008, America voted for a man who was truly excellent at staring into the distance, a man looking at the big picture, and at a centuries-long legacy. Instead, hampered by the financial crisis and by a dysfunctional Congress, they got a man who spends his days weighing success probabilities: a tactician, rather than a strategist.

Barack Obama and the limitations of probabilistic decision making | Felix Salmon

“Little room for ideals:” Exactly, the President lacks the desire to fight on moral or ethical grounds but governs based on some kind of intellectual calculus, a bloodless exercise in which losses are measured in much the same way as a  a lost chess game.

Mr. Salmon hit on something I have long suspected, and I very much wish both he and I were wrong but we are not. The President lives in a world devoid of ethical calculus. He lives by the probability of the possible. We voted for a new direction for American democracy, a different vision, but we got a President who cannot envision a different reality – only manipulate the current one.

James Pilant

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Thousands of Voters Kicked Off Rolls to Protect Against Nineteen Non-Citizen Voters


No-excuse early voting in U.S. states, as of S...

No-excuse early voting in U.S. states, as of September 2007. in-person and postal in-person only postal only none (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Voters Kicked Off The Rolls In New Mexico Include Voting Rights Activist, Wife Of State Representative | ThinkProgress

More than 170,000 people have been purged from New Mexico’s voter rolls — and among them are a prominent voting rights activist, as well as the wife of a Democratic state representative.

State Rep. Brian Egolf (D) told the AP that his wife received a letter saying that the state government considered her an inactive voter, and that she would need to, essentially, re-register before she could vote in the fall.

Voters Kicked Off The Rolls In New Mexico Include Voting Rights Activist, Wife Of State Representative | ThinkProgress

That 170,000 number is 14% of all the voters in the state. All this because of a handful of questionable votes. How few? Let’s take a look at an editorial from the Sante Fe New Mexican:

If nothing else, Secretary of State Dianna Duran deserves credit for getting to the bottom of that age-old, oft-repeated New Mexico folk tale about dead people voting. Not so much, it turns out.
And Duran can prove it, too. Once in office, she and her staff have taken the state’s voter list, torn it apart, put it back together and in the end, found almost no voter fraud in New Mexico. From the 64,000 voter registration records she once referred to state police as possible cases of voter fraud, we are down to 100-plus voters apparently registered illegally. Of those “illegally” registered, 19 possible non-citizens might have cast a ballot they should not have. Another 641 people, now believed to be deceased, remain on the rolls, although there is scant evidence they are voting. That’s out of 1.1 million registered voters, by the way.

Is something going on here that is not about voter fraud? I think I’ll just let the numbers speak for themselves.

James Pilant

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Americablog’s Author Suffers Health Care Loss


US Politics | AMERICAblog News: ObamaCare: A personal note

Without Obamacare 99% of the country is just one lost job, one medical emergency away from bankruptcy. And one frequently follows from the other.

Without insurance our family medical bill is in excess of $60,000 a year. That is a very large chunk of change even if you are a borderline 1%-er. It means that I have to continue to work just to keep our family health insurance. And not any job, it has to be a job with health care benefits.

US Politics | AMERICAblog News: ObamaCare: A personal note

I am in a similar position. My wife and I have separated and when our divorce goes through I will lose the health insurance I get from her job. Thus, I need to start looking for a job with health care benefits. I live in a nation where living without health care is considered by some to be a privilege. Great.

James Pilant

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Looking for Alternatives after the Wisconsin Vote


Political Animal – Could Climate Hawks Replace Labor?

The big discussion today is the long, seemingly unstoppable death of the labor movement. We seem to be faced with an insurmountable concentration of influence in corporations and the very wealthy. Plutocrats use their influence to swing elections, and then use the power there obtained to further eviscerate countervailing interest groups, so they can strip even more of the country’s wealth into their own pockets. Rinse and repeat. Ordinary middle class non-unionized workers seem to resent public sector unions and covet their benefits, instead of realizing that their lives could be easier if they were so organized. (I also think it’s important to recognize that public unions played no small part in their own downfall through greed and overreach.)

In any case, it seems unlikely that labor is going to rise from the dead. It took the Great Depression to break the power of the plutocratic elite last time around, and with this financial crisis elites have managed to keep the system from completely collapsing, though only just.

Political Animal – Could Climate Hawks Replace Labor?

The attacks on labor unions over the past decades has proven successful in public opinion, in law and in the courts. If progressive politics is to survive, one method would be to find new allies and new terrain to fight on. This isn’t a bad idea but environmentalists are currently under the same kinds of attacks that have impaired labor unions. An alternative media is necessary to put out progressive ideas but more important we need a new generation of progressive thought and investment in think tanks and other organizations to develop long terms plans for the decades. Planning needs to be long term to be effective.

James Pilant

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