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Today’s Live Wire: Quick Links
- Finally, a Coal Mine Disaster Conviction
- Shoe-Thrower’s Index
- Marco Rubio’s Family Lies
- GOP Aflame in Flat-Tax Fever
- Florida Short-changes Its Universities
- A Reminder from George W. Bush
- Crescent Moon, Waning West
- Graphic Inequalities
From the Beckley Register-Herald: “Hughie Elbert Stover, a former lawman turned security chief at the tragedy-scarred Upper Big Branch mine, was convicted in federal court Wednesday of lying to government agents and ordering one of his men to destroy documents wanted in the investigation of an explosion that killed 29 workers. A jury of eight women and four men deliberated six hours before reaching the verdict in the first criminal proceeding to grow out of the April 5, 2010 accident, the worst U.S. mining tragedy in four decades. The 60-year-old Stover, a former Marine who served in Vietnam and was once a Raleigh County sheriff’s deputy, displayed no emotion when the verdict was read by U.S. District Judge Irene Berger, who ordered him back in her court Feb. 29 for sentencing. […] Stover was accused of lying to officials of the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration about the so-called “advance notice” policy of alerting mine officials when inspectors — state and federal — pulled up to the guard shack at the Montcoal mine. Stover told investigators during an interview that he directed his staff to obey the law and not inform anyone about the presence of inspectors, “only me.” Dispatchers, however, testified that warnings routinely arrived in the mine office via a two-channel radio — one for security, the other known as the Montcoal channel — and underground miners subsequently were tipped off. One foreman testified that messages came by telephone, and crews normally had about an hour to clear up deficiencies before the MSHA team reached them.” The full story.
- Atop a Decapitated Peak with Hoot: The Tragedy of Mountaintop Removal
- On Kayford Mountain
- No Survivors Found After West Virginia Mine Disaster
From the Economist: “SINCE our “shoe-thrower’s index” was published on February 9th, Bahrain and, most prominently, Libya, have continued to witness further unrest and demand for regime change. The index attempted to predict where trouble across the Arab world was most likely to arise by applying a subjective weighting to factors such as the length of time the leader had been in power, GDP per person and the level of democracy. We have added two further indicators that were not included in the original—the adult literacy rate and the percentage of people who are internet users—and made the whole index interactive. You can apply your own weightings to each variable to see which country may be the next to experience political upheaval. The index is presented with the weights used in the original version, but differs slightly from that version as some figures have been updated.”
From the Washington Post: “During his rise to political prominence, Sen. Marco Rubio frequently repeated a compelling version of his family’s history that had special resonance in South Florida. He was the “son of exiles,” he told audiences, Cuban Americans forced off their beloved island after “a thug,” Fidel Castro, took power. But a review of documents — including naturalization papers and other official records — reveals that the Florida Republican’s account embellishes the facts. The documents show that Rubio’s parents came to the United States and were admitted for permanent residence more than two-and-a-half years before Castro’s forces overthrew the Cuban government and took power on New Year’s Day 1959. […] The real story of his parents’ migration appears to be a more conventional immigrant narrative, a couple who came to the United States seeking a better life. In the year they arrived in Florida, the future Marxist dictator was in Mexico plotting a quixotic return to Cuba. Rubio’s office confirmed Thursday that his parents arrived in the United States in 1956 but noted that “while they were prepared to live here permanently, they always held out the hope and the option of returning to Cuba if things improved.” They returned to Cuba several times after Castro came to power to “assess the situation with the hope of eventually moving back,” the office said in a statement. In a brief interview Thursday, Rubio said his accounts have been based on family lore. “I’m going off the oral history of my family,” he said. “All of these documents and passports are not things that I carried around with me.” […] In Florida, being connected to the post-revolution exile community gives a politician cachet that could never be achieved by someone identified with the pre-Castro exodus, a group sometimes viewed with suspicion. When Rubio’s parents left the island, Cuban migration to the United States was a trickle compared with what it would become in the years after Castro’s victory. “The vast majority of people who emigrated in the ’50s went for economic reasons, not for political reasons,” said Maria Cristina Garcia, an expert on Cuban migration at Cornell University. Multiple documents signed by Rubio’s parents, including their petitions for naturalization, show that Mario and Oriales Rubio arrived in the United States on May 27, 1956, with their son Mario, 6. Maternal grandfather Pedro Victor Garcia also came to the United States around the same time. […] In one 2010 interview with Fox News’s Sean Hannity, Marco Rubio seemed uncertain about the date of his parents’ arrival, saying, “My parents and grandparents came here from Cuba in ’58, ’59.” None of the public statements reviewed by The Washington Post gave 1956 as their arrival date.” The full investigation.
- Marco Rubio: My family’s flight from Castro
- Marco Rubio on national ticket could be risky bet for Republican Party
- Documents give shape to Marco Rubio’s family history but raise new questions
- Marco Rubio’s Other Deception: Florida Health Choices
- Marco Rubio, Taj Mahal Pasha
The Republican presidential candidates love their flat taxes. From McClatchy: “Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney became the latest to punch the tax button Wednesday, telling a Virginia audience that he’ll soon update his economic proposal to spell out ways to flatten the tax code. His vow came just a day after rival Rick Perry grabbed headlines and talk-show chatter with a proposal for an optional flat 20 percent tax on income. Both followed Herman Cain’s pitch for a flat 9 percent income tax as part of his 9-9-9 plan, which helped him jump to the top tier of candidates for their party’s 2012 nomination. Newt Gingrich and Michele Bachmann endorse a flat tax, too. The flat tax — so called because it offers one flat rate for taxpayers in all income groups while taking away many or all deductions — would simplify taxes. It also would almost certainly give big tax cuts to wealthy Americans. Republicans believe that cutting taxes, especially on the wealthy, helps to spur investment, economic growth and hiring. At the same time, most of the Republican candidates are proposing other changes that also would mean big tax cuts for high-income Americans, such as eliminating taxes on dividend income or capital gains, and eliminating the estate tax, called the death tax by Republicans. […] The debate comes as new data show that the very wealthiest Americans have greatly increased their share of U.S. income in recent decades. The richest 1 percent claimed 17 percent of American income in 2007, more than double their 8 percent share in 1979, according to a report this week from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. Protest over growing income inequality is also among the motive issues driving the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations around the country. Polls show that a solid majority of Americans favor raising taxes on the wealthy. But that’s anathema in the Republican Party, where tax cuts, particularly for higher incomes, are popular. Seven in 10 Americans say that policies of Republicans in Congress favor the rich, according to a New York Times poll published Wednesday. […] A flat tax on income would take away some deductions but lower the rate. Perry, for example, would cut it to 20 percent. Gingrich would cut it to 15 percent. The wealthiest Americans now pay a 35 percent marginal rate on income above $379,950. A detailed analysis by the Tax Policy Center found that the Cain plan would mean an average tax cut of $455,000 for those with incomes above $1 million. Romney once criticized a flat tax proposal in 1996 as a boon to the rich, going so far as personally taking out newspaper ads in early primary states to rip the proposal from then-candidate Steve Forbes. “It’s a tax cut for fat cats,” Romney said then. When he unveiled his economic agenda this year, Romney said he would pursue a “long-term goal” of a “flatter, fairer, simpler structure.” But he also said he wouldn’t change any of the existing personal income tax rates.” The full story.
- Obama Caves on Tax Cuts
- Graphic: Obama’s Tax Deal
- Why the GOP Is More Irresponsible than Obama
- The GOP “Pledge”‘s Empty Promise
- Taxes, the Economy, the Stimulus: Separating Fiction from Fact
From a St. Petersburg Times Editorial: “At least credit former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux for being half-right: Tuition at Florida’s public universities is too low. But so is the state’s direct support. The hard fact that no one in Tallahassee’s majority party seems willing to acknowledge is that the state, not just students, must invest more in higher education if Florida’s universities are ever going to rank among the nation’s best and help diversify the economy. […] Florida’s four largest universities now spend far less on students than similar-sized counterparts across the Southeast — particularly those with national reputations and higher aspirations. For example, taxpayers in North Carolina in 2009-10 sent almost as much money to Chapel Hill to support the well-regarded University of North Carolina, $11,300 per student, as this state spends in tax and tuition dollars combined at the University of Florida in Gainesville. Add tuition dollars and UNC-Chapel Hill spent 70 percent more per student — nearly $19,500 — than the University of Florida’s $11,500. To be sure, students paid more to attend UNC: $8,200 average tuition and fees compared with UF’s $4,800. But at both institutions, students contributed 42 percent of costs, based on the data the institutions submitted to their accreditation agency, the Southern Regional Education Board. […] Facing another $2 billion budget gap in 2012-13 and unwilling to consider new revenue sources, Scott last week launched a review of the state higher education system, intimating he questions why universities cost as much as they do even in cheapskate Florida. […] If all Republicans do in the coming legislative session is reallocate measly resources in the name of economic development, the state will only lose more ground academically.”
- Universities Defend Against Rick Scott’s Primitive War on Anthropologists
- Gov. Scott Proposes Corporate Tax Cuts Even As Florida Faces a Deficit of Up to $2 Billion
- Students as Customers, Universities as Businesses: Scott’s Plan To Texify Higher Ed
By way of Troy Moore:
From the Economist: “For the West, whose ties to Arab dictators once gave it great clout in the Middle East, events in the region have spun way out of control. That fact was underlined this week by the Iraqis’ insistence that all American forces must quit the country by the end of the year. Yet the West should not regret this turn of events. The power that it has lost in the short term should, in the long run, be replaced by influence born of good relations with decent governments. On balance, the Arab world is in far better shape than it was less than a year ago. […] The rise of political Islam is not necessarily cause for alarm among democrats in the West and the Arab world. In Tunisia an Islamist party, Nahda (“Renaissance”), that was brutally banned for decades has won a stunning victory at the polls. Egypt’s Muslim Brothers are likely to do well too. In Libya the Islamists may also be gaining ground. This rattles secular-minded Arab liberals and many well-wishing Westerners. But a more open and tolerant brand of political Islam better suited to the modern world seems to be emerging, especially now that its proponents must compete for the favours of voters who admire the Islamists’ hostility to corruption, but dislike the sectarian and conservative attitudes that many of them expressed when they were underground. No one can be certain that if Islamists gain power they will give it up at the ballot box, but secular rulers sometimes fail that test. And, on the whole, the threat of religious extremism with which strongmen used to justify repression has not materialised. Barring a few ungoverned pockets in Yemen and on the fringes of the Sahara, al-Qaeda has failed to benefit from the democratic wind. The strength of these revolutions is that they have been almost entirely home-grown. […] After the deaths of some 150,000-plus locals and around 5,000 Americans and other foreigners, Iraq has a freely elected government. But it has not developed the habits of tolerance between communities and the independent institutions that underlie all truly successful democracies. A decade of American hard power has been less effective than a few months of peaceful protest in setting countries on the road towards representative government. […] The prospects for Western influence in the Arab world are good. But in the future it will be won through education, investment and, when requested, advice on building up institutions. Such levers do not work as quickly as those that were forged from deals with unpopular and unstable dictators. But, in the end, they are likely to prove more reliable.” The full leader.
From Der Spiegel:
- My Fairest Tax Proposal: A Tax on Nonsense
- Super-Rich, Super-Disingenuous on Taxes
- Wages Down, Hours Up