Sunday, September 7, 2014

Last Call For Wonks For Sale

Everything else is for sale in American politics to foreign countries with cash at the expense of US workers, why not think tanks and lobbyist firms?

More than a dozen prominent Washington research groups have received tens of millions of dollars from foreign governments in recent years while pushing United States government officials to adopt policies that often reflect the donors’ priorities, an investigation by The New York Times has found.

The money is increasingly transforming the once-staid think-tank world into a muscular arm of foreign governments’ lobbying in Washington. And it has set off troubling questions about intellectual freedom: Some scholars say they have been pressured to reach conclusions friendly to the government financing the research.

Here's the billion dollar question:  if unlimited money influencing politics by US billionaires and corporations is "protected free speech", what's unlimited money by foreign billionaires and corporations in US politics called?

The think tanks do not disclose the terms of the agreements they have reached with foreign governments. And they have not registered with the United States government as representatives of the donor countries, an omission that appears, in some cases, to be a violation of federal law, according to several legal specialists who examined the agreements at the request of The Times.

As a result, policy makers who rely on think tanks are often unaware of the role of foreign governments in funding the research.

The smartest policy wonks in the country didn't know who they were shilling for.  Let that sink in.

The arrangements involve Washington’s most influential think tanks, including the Brookings Institution, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and the Atlantic Council. Each is a major recipient of overseas funds, producing policy papers, hosting forums and organizing private briefings for senior United States government officials that typically align with the foreign governments’ agendas.

Most of the money comes from countries in Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere in Asia, particularly the oil-producing nations of the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Norway, and takes many forms. The United Arab Emirates, a major supporter of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, quietly provided a donation of more than $1 million to help build the center’s gleaming new glass and steel headquarters not far from the White House. Qatar, the small but wealthy Middle East nation, agreed last year to make a $14.8 million, four-year donation to Brookings, which has helped fund a Brookings affiliate in Qatar and a project on United States relations with the Islamic world.

Do you not think that other countries haven't noticed that our politics and politicians are on sale to the highest bidder?  Why should they be left out?  Just because it's against the law?  The Supreme Court "fixed" that in Citizens United for US corporations.  I'm sure they'll "fix" it for foreign powers too.

The Kids Are Not Alright

A new Harvard University survey finds that under 25% of Millennial voters under 30 plan to definitely vote in NovemberLess than one in four, folks.  Just how bad is it?  This bad.

The numbers show voter enthusiasm among young people is down even from 2010, when Republicans took back the House of Representatives. Enthusiasm for the 2014 midterms is especially low among Democratic millennials, with the survey showing that 44 percent of young people who voted for 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney “definitely” plan to vote this year, while only 35 percent of President Barack Obama’s voters are planning to come back to the ballot box in November.

That could spell disastrous news for Democrats, who have traditionally relied on youth voters to give them the advantage on Election Day.

The poll begs the question of whether the Obama turnout machine can really get young people motivated without a president at the top of the ticket. It also found that young women, another key Democratic constituency, are feeling uninspired to head to the polls. Just 19 percent of women said they were “definitely” going to cast a ballot, compared to 28 percent of men.

Part of the reason young people are not all that interested in voting, experts said, is they don’t believe politicians in Washington are addressing issues that matter to them. The poll found that young people are very concerned about issues like wealth disparity in the country and student debt.

Well, the best way to make sure politicians continue to not give a damn about those issues is to not vote.  Why should politicians in either party care about you if you're going to sit at home?  Let the adults who do vote determine the country's future if you abdicate your role in being part of the decision.

But when the Tea Party controls all of Congress, and only passes Tea Party laws, well maybe you'll care about voting then.


Another NBA Owner Ousted Over Racism

Say what you will about new NBA Commissioner Adam Silver: in the wake of former LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling's virulent racism, Silver isn't tolerating very much from the billionaire owners of NBA teams.  The latest example being made is of Atlanta Hawks owner Bruce Levenson, who is giving up his controlling interest in the team after a nasty 2012 e-mail surfaced.  The email reads in part:

Before we bought the hawks and for those couple years immediately after in an effort to make the arena look full (at the nba's urging) thousands and thousands of tickets were being giving away, predominantly in the black community, adding to the overwhelming black audience.

My theory is that the black crowd scared away the whites and there are simply not enough affluent black fans to build a signficant season ticket base. Please dont get me wrong. There was nothing threatening going on in the arean back then. i never felt uncomfortable, but i think southern whites simply were not comfortable being in an arena or at a bar where they were in the minority. On fan sites i would read comments about how dangerous it is around philips yet in our 9 years, i don't know of a mugging or even a pick pocket incident. This was just racist garbage. When I hear some people saying the arena is in the wrong place I think it is code for there are too many blacks at the games.

I have been open with our executive team about these concerns. I have told them I want some white cheerleaders and while i don't care what the color of the artist is, i want the music to be music familiar to a 40 year old white guy if that's our season tixs demo. i have also balked when every fan picked out of crowd to shoot shots in some time out contest is black. I have even bitched that the kiss cam is too black.

Gradually things have changed. My unscientific guess is that our crowd is 40 pct black now, still four to five times all other teams. And my further guess is that 40 pct still feels like 70 pet to some whites at our games. Our bars are still overwhelmingly black.

This is obviously a sensitive topic, but sadly i think it is far and way the number one reason our season ticket base is so low.

Besides the fact Levenson badly needs to invest in an iPad email program that has spell check, he basically self-reported the email to Silver during the whole Sterling scandal.  With the Clippers now firmly in the hands of Microsoft co-founder Steve Ballmer, Silver's now free to deal with Levenson, who to his credit is stepping down immediately.  Not that he had a choice.

My guess is that somebody ratted Levenson's email out to Silver, and Silver let Levenson fall on his own sword after seeing that he didn't have a choice, and that he was smart enough to take Silver's way out, rather than emulating Sterling's futile attempt to fight while still losing.  That means Levenson is not completely stupid, unlike Sterling was.

We'll see how this gets cleaned up, and what other little nuggets of Levenson's "wisdom" surface.  But it's clear to me that the second this went public, Levenson really was going to find out what a "low season ticket base" actually meant.

Don't let the door hit you on the way out, Bruce.

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