Archive

June 28th, 2016

Tax Dodging on the High Seas

    Let’s criticize cruise ships.

    I know, I know. Things are bad enough without going negative about your summer vacation. But we’ve got some problems here. Plus, I promise there will be a penguin.

    The cruise industry seems to be exploding — the newest generation of ships can carry more than 5,000 passengers. They make a great deal of profit from the sale of alcohol, so imagine the equivalent of a small city whose inhabitants are perpetually drunk.

    Really, these things are so huge, it’s amazing they can stay afloat without toppling over. And when one is parked outside, say, Venice, the effect is like one of those alien-invasion movies, when people wake up and find that a spaceship the size of Toledo has landed downtown. (Venetians also claim the ships are causing waves in their canals.) Environmentalists wring their hands over the air pollution and sewage — a 3,000-passenger ship, which today would rank as medium-size, produces 21,000 gallons of sewage a day, sometimes treated and sometimes not so much. But always pumped into the sea.

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Justices help keep the family together

    On the day of Britain's vote to leave the European Union, it was perhaps appropriate for a divided Supreme Court to decide a case about the complex, coordinated relationship between federal and state law.

    Among many other things, some Britons were worried about maintaining the sovereignty of their legal system against the increasing encroachment of the European Union. In that context, it's worth noticing that well over two centuries since the U.S. Constitution made the American union "more perfect," plenty of kinks remain.

    The particular kink in question involved the Armed Career Criminals Act, a federal law that criminalizes possession of a firearm if you've got three prior convictions for "violent felony," defined somewhat idiosyncratically to include "burglary, arson, or extortion."

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Five things Hillary Clinton definitely shouldn't do at the Democratic convention

    Just what the Republican convention in Cleveland might look like has been the subject of much morbid speculation. But as Politico and other outlets have started to report on Hillary Clinton's plans for the Democratic convention in Philadelphia, it's worth thinking about what she shouldn't do. As with everything about the campaign, the portable insanity generator that is Donald Trump's operation shouldn't be a cause for complacency, and the Democrats should avoid these missteps:

 

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Five myths about sharia

    Clearly, Americans fear sharia, Islam's legal framework. At least nine states have passed "foreign law" statutes banning sharia in American courts - even though no U.S. court has ever ruled based on sharia. Although the Constitution expressly forbids a religious test for would-be leaders of the nation, then-presidential candidate Ben Carson said last year that he'd oppose any Muslim White House aspirant who was "not willing to reject sharia." In this election year, Donald Trump calls for a ban on all Muslim immigration, and pundits argue that sharia prompted the killing of innocent dancers at a gay nightclub in Orlando. Falsehoods about Islam abound, and many of them center on what sharia is and what it is not. Here are five myths.

 

    Myth No. 1

    Sharia is "Islamic law."

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Democrats revive the sit-in tactic to push gun control

    In this evolving era in which political theater takes the place of real decision-making, the House Democrats' scheme of staging a sit-in on the House floor for stronger gun control was a bit of imagery genius.

    While it failed to bring about the sought-after votes on two Democratic gun-control bills that the House Republican leaders are smothering in their cribs, it cleverly if only temporarily revived the spirit of the civil rights movement that dominated America in the 1960s.

    Particularly effective was the recruitment of Georgia Rep. John Lewis as the visible point man in the effort. Lewis brought to the scene the same urgency and commitment that marked his historic leadership in the 1965 march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., where he was brutally beaten by segregationist police thugs.

    The House Republicans willingly if foolishly bought into the political theater by ordering the C-SPAN cameras shut off to stop recording the live action in the House chamber. Their action enabled the Democrats to cry cowardly repression at the hands of their political adversaries.

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Britain's decision to leave the EU is a warning to America

    Like everybody else in London, I woke up this morning, after not much sleep, to graphic depictions of the pound crashing, the stock exchange collapsing and markets all over the world in turmoil. I have no doubt that tomorrow, or the next day, the story will be different. Traders will take a step back and notice that nothing, actually, has happened yet. There will be cheap assets to pick up. Markets will stabilize.

    The true impact, on Britain and on Europe, will not be visible for many years. In a certain sense, it will not be visible at all, for the real damage will be done by the things that will now not happen. The slow agony of the divorce proceedings will take up precious political time and energy in London and other European capitals, so Europe's leaders will not unite to cope with other crises. The U.K. will turn farther in on itself, so British energy and talent will not be dedicated to pushing back against the Islamic State, resettling migrants, resisting Russia. The situation of the U.K. will be unstable and uncertain for a long time to come, so investments will not take place. Money will not be spent. Opportunities will not be created.

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A better way to punish police

    The acquittal Thursday of another Baltimore police officer charged in the death of Freddie Gray, like the acquittal 25 years ago of the Los Angeles officers who beat Rodney King, reveals the inadequacy of the criminal-law remedy. Suing the police for money under a strengthened federal civil rights law would be a better response to police misconduct.

    Right now, however, federal law makes it more difficult to sue a police officer for denying a citizen his constitutional rights than for injuring him by ordinary negligence. If an officer negligently drives his car and injures a citizen, the victim can win money just by proving negligence, and the city that employs the officer pays whatever the jury awards.

    But when an officer uses excessive force or makes an unlawful arrest or search, proving wrongful conduct is not enough. Under Section 1983 of the federal civil rights statute, the officer can escape liability with the special defense of qualified immunity - showing that he reasonably believed his conduct was lawful, even if it was not. And if the jury finds the officer liable, federal law does not require his employer to pay the award.

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Trump, Champion of the Downtrodden? Ha!

    On Wednesday, Donald Trump gave a meandering, fact-challenged speech — read from a teleprompter, no less — that framed him and the Republican Party as champions of America’s women and racial, ethnic and LGBT minorities. I laughed out loud, repeatedly.

    Trump continues to make the incredible claim that his religion-based anti-Muslim policies on immigration and refugees would be good for members of the LGBT communities because many of those people come from countries with brutally anti-gay records.

    As Trump put it: “I only want to admit people who share our values and love our people. Hillary Clinton wants to bring in people who believe women should be enslaved and gays put to death.”

    What? Not only has Trump never specified a values-based exemption to his Muslim ban, but also how on earth would a values test be administered? And where is the specific proof that Clinton explicitly “wants to bring in people who believe women should be enslaved and gays put to death”?

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These swing voters have swung to Trump

    Swing voters tend to be low-information voters. But when veteran pollster Peter Hart convened a group of 11 "blue-collar and economically struggling" voters from suburban Pittsburgh on Tuesday, in research for the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, it seemed that Donald Trump's campaign messages had pierced the fog.

    "He speaks my language," said one participant in the more than two-hour discussion expertly guided by Hart.

    A majority of the group favored a temporary ban on immigration by Muslims, though one participant did point out that there is no way to discern who is, and is not, a Muslim. A slightly slimmer majority supported building a wall on the Mexican border, and plenty of hands also went up to support deporting 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., though a barrage of qualifications soon followed, suggesting few were eager to see the theory of deportation rendered into reality.

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Accounting According To The GOP

    The GOP has now refused funding to fight the zika mosquito saying we can't afford it without cutting from other health and welfare funds.  Don't they know it is one of the things we can't afford not to do?  Don't they appreciate that prevention is far more effective than remediation? Don't they understand that every penny allocated to health and welfare is already needed for previously existing situations?  

    Most especially, there is no remediation for the babies born with the undeveloped heads resulting from their mother's exposure to the mosquito carrying the zika virus.  It will cost far, far more to care for these babies who will never develop to the point of managing their own lives.  Their quality of life will be extremely limited to say the least.  How would these legislators happily expecting the birth of a child of their own feel when it arrives with such an abnormality?  I think it will be a different reaction from the limited vision they currently hold.  I think the money would flow. 

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