Push to name donors in political ads hits FCC roadblock – By Mario Trujillo – 05/26/15 06:00 AM EDT

Getty Images

Getty Images

Congressional Democrats’ push to strengthen political ad disclosures in time for the 2016 elections appears dead for now after hitting a roadblock at the Federal Communications Commission.

Amid a divisive legal battle over new net neutrality rules and other pressing telecommunications issues at the FCC, Chairman Tom Wheeler suggested the commission has little appetite to take up a fix on its own.

“Maybe you noticed — we have a long list of difficult telecommunications related decisions that we are dealing with right now. And that will be our focus,” Wheeler said last week when asked if the commission would initiate new rules on its own.

Billions of dollars are expected pour into the 2016 election, and Democrats have pressed the FCC to update its rules to require large donors to be identified at the end of television ads purchased by super-PACs and other outside groups.

Lawmakers in both chambers have introduced bills to force the agency’s hand and Wheeler, a Democrat, noted he would “clearly follow” any mandate from Congress.

But the title of the House proposal — which overtly references GOP mega-donors Charles and David Koch — indicates that the party sees it as more of a messaging bill than anything else. And a failed vote on the legislation in a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee last week confirmed that the proposal would not be able to get passed Republican opposition.

“This isn’t the place for it. If you want to do campaign finance reform, there are other committees of jurisdiction,” said Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), who leads the House subcommittee on Communications and Technology.

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photo by JEFF BROWN

2 feet of snow on Newark, New Jersey, just after Christmas in 2010, Cory Booker, who was then mayor, carefully monitored the storm from his  Twitter account. He responded to tweets from residents, and he mobilized city workers. And when resident Linda H. (@msxmasbaby) tweeted, “Is there NE city volunteers 2 dig some1 out? I’m going 2 have medical procedure done,” he showed up with a shovel. That’s the way Booker rolls. He was early to social media and has made prolific use of it (47,500 tweets and counting) to connect with voters. So when he arrived in the US Senate in 2013, he was dismayed to discover just how out of place he was when it came to his tech-forward approach to government. The legislative body seemed stodgy and alarmingly behind the times, even by government standards, he says. “When they told me I couldn’t sit on the Senate floor with an iPad—that the technology wasn’t even permitted—I breathed deep and knew that I was going to have to start pushing.” To that end, he has recently teamed up with Missouri senator Claire McCaskill to ask for seven reforms. These include streamlining the requirements for email newsletters, letting Senate offices use analytics services to track social media, and adapting the Congressional Record to a more accessible XML format. There’s no telling how likely they are to succeed. But this heavy lifting won’t require a snow shovel.

One Man’s Path to the Senate

1992 A football player and class president, Cory Booker completes bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Stanford

1997 Finishes law school at Yale, having already studied at Oxford as a Rhodes scholar.

1998 Starts political career as a city council member in Newark, New Jersey.

2006 Becomes mayor of Newark, promising to reduce crime and encourage economic development.

2008 @corybooker sends first tweet, plugging an appearance on The Rachel Maddow Show.

2013 Wins US Senate seat in a special election to replace the late Frank Lautenberg.

Why now?

I am very respectful of the Senate’s important traditions, but it also has to keep up with the times.

What can’t you do that you would like to do?

A lot of things!

What’s the deal with the Senate ban on social media analytics tools, which could help senators surface issues from constituents?

Right now, if I ask my constituents questions on social media, it’s treated as if it’s a poll. And that’s just ridiculous.

The Senate just wants to prevent members from using online polling as a campaign tool. But the analytics ban inadvertently prevents lawmakers from identifying voters’ priorities.

Every sector of society looks at digital analytics in a productive way. Limiting my ability to use them is just unacceptable. And by the way, Congress conducts polls using traditional methods. No one is using social media analytics as a substitute for that.

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America will die old and broke: The systematic right-wing plot to ransack the middle-class nest egg – EDWIN LYNGAR TUESDAY, MAY 26, 2015 03:00 AM PDT

Despite what conservatives say, the safety net works—which is why the 1 percent wants to stage a hostile takeover

America will die old and broke: The systematic right-wing plot to ransack the middle-class nest egg

Through a quirk in state term limits combined with a terrible midterm election, the Nevada legislature has been taken over by amateurs and extremists. The legislature is now debating whether to dismantle the Nevada public employee pension system (PERS), a system that has gotten consistently high marks for transparency, responsibility and stewardship.

This attack on retirement benefits follows a very familiar pattern of fabricating data to destroy retirements that work and that people really like. It’s the same nonsense and lies used to destroy private pensions two decades ago, but this time it’s being done as part of a partisan wet dream of “limited government.” It’s a strategy as American as fast food and crumbling infrastructure.

This latest skirmish in the retirement wars perpetuates the biggest lie ever foisted on America—that we cannot afford retirement benefits.

Private pensions have indeed been systematically destroyed in recent decades, and replaced by “defined contribution” 401k plans. The conventional wisdom is that pensions are “too expensive,” but this is the heart of the lie. A great many private pensions were once over-funded, but a change in law allowed companies to “invest” the “excess” funding in other parts of their business. Once businessmen could legally raid the pension fund, the idea of private pensions was over. Many books have been written about the great pension theft. I recommend, for one, reading “Retirement Heist: How Companies Plunder and Profit from the Nest Eggs of American Workers.“ Spoiler alert: you will feel rage.

I’m no bystander in all this, because I’m a member of the Nevada pension system through my day job.  Even when I considered myself a Republican, I supported the pension system, just as my conservative friends and colleagues still do. But a lot has changed in a few years. Public pensions used to have bipartisan support, but the dysfunction and extremism that has turned Washington D.C .into a shit-show has spread to states like mine.

The attacks on benefits are always underhanded and dishonest, an effort to keep critics quiet, and this latest attempt is no exception, because it only targets future members of the pension system. It’s the same tactic used in the constant assault on Social Security — just take it from people who don’t have it yet. My favorite visual is the conservative who collects Social Security month after month (after month after month) then votes for politicians who will destroy those very modest benefits for his children — all while reciting the false narrative of “not saddling” those same children with debt.

You can follow Edwin Lyngar on twitter @Edwin_Lyngar


China’s Race Problem – By Gray Tuttle Foreign Affairs May/June 2015 Issue

How Beijing Represses Minorities

 May/June 2015 Issue

May/June 2015 Issue

For all the tremendous change China has experienced in recent decades—phenomenal economic growth, improved living standards, and an ascent to great-power status—the country has made little progress when it comes to the treatment of its ethnic minorities, most of whom live in China’s sparsely populated frontier regions. This is by no means a new problem. Indeed, one of those regions, Tibet, represents one of the “three Ts”—taboo topics that the Chinese government has long forbidden its citizens to discuss openly. (The other two are Taiwan and the Tiananmen Square uprising of 1989.)

But analyses of China’s troubles in Tibet and other areas that are home to large numbers of ethnic minorities often miss a crucial factor. Many observers, especially those outside China, see Beijing’s repressive policies toward such places primarily as an example of the central government’s authoritarian response to dissent. Framing the situation that way, however, misses the fact that Beijing’s hard-line policies are not merely a reflection of the central state’s desire to cement its authority over distant territories but also an expression of deep-seated ethnic prejudices and racism at the core of contemporary Chinese society. In that sense, China’s difficulties in Tibet and other regions are symptoms of a deeper disease, a social pathology that is hardly ever discussed in China and rarely mentioned even in the West.

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Debunking the Benghazi Myths – By MICHAEL MORELL May 25, 2015

It’s clear pundits don’t understand intelligence work.

Like clockwork, every several weeks, someone discovers a new document that, to their minds, “proves” that what the administration and the intelligence community have been saying about Benghazi is a bunch of lies. But time and again these documents don’t add up. They don’t show what the pundits think they show—and the Benghazi broadsides miss their mark anew.

Here is a recent example: Earlier last week a handful of number of news organizations, including Fox News, breathlessly reported that they had just gotten their hands on a Defense Intelligence Agency report—acquired through a FOIA request by Judicial Watch—that they say proves that the government knew very soon after the attacks on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya on 9/11/12 that they had been planned ten or more days in advance. These news organizations suggest that this document puts the lie to what I and other current and former intelligence officials have been saying—that there was little planning before the attacks.

But the only thing that newly released document proves is that the people who trot out these reports do not understand the world of intelligence and do not take the time to ask the right people the right questions before publishing the “news.” The DIA report in question was an “Intelligence Information Report” or IIR. It is what we term “raw intelligence.” It was not the considered view of DIA analysts. Often from a single source, these bits of information represent one thread that some intelligence collector has picked up. The all source analysts in the Intelligence Community are charged with looking at that snippet of information and every other bit of available information from communications intercepts, human intelligence, open source material and much more to come up with an overall judgment.

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Texas and Oklahoma flooding: Three dead and several missing – BBC News May 26 2015

Media caption Footage showed cars being washed away and the aftermath of flooding in the US

Media caption Footage showed cars being washed away and the aftermath of flooding in the US

At least five people have died and hundreds of homes have been destroyed in flash flooding in the southern US.

Two people were killed in weather-related accidents in Oklahoma and three lost their lives in San Marcos, Texas.

Some areas saw up to 10 inches (25cm) of rain over a 24-hour period, with more predicted across the region.

Twelve people, including two children, were reported missing along the Blanco river in Texas, local media report.

Texas governor Greg Abbott said it was the worst flooding the state had seen, and that he had observed the devastation from the air.

“You cannot candy coat it, it’s absolutely massive and I think it sends a powerful message to anyone who is in harm’s way over the entire state of Texas over the coming days as we see ongoing rain, and that is the relentless tsunami-type power that this wave of water can pose for people,” he said.

‘Praying for the best’

Jonathan McComb was staying at a house in Wimberley with his wife and their young son and daughter when they were swept away.

Mr McComb was taken to hospital with serious injuries, but his family has not yet been found. Five others were also reportedly dragged away by the floodwaters.

His father, former county commissioner Joe McComb told Kiii TV: “It is in the Lord’s hands… we’re praying for the best.”

Three deaths have been linked to the flooding in Texas since Saturday, the latest being a 14-year-old boy who was found with his dog in a storm drain in Dallas.

There were numerous rescues on Sunday after banks burst, and hundreds of homes were destroyed across the region.

Warnings and alerts stretch from Colorado through to Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri and eastern Kansas.

The Blanco is one of the worst hit rivers in Texas. At one point it crested at 43ft (13m) – some 30ft above the designated flood stage and 7ft higher than the 1929 record.

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