The political commentator Michael Kinsley once quipped that in Washington, “the scandal isn’t what’s illegal, the scandal is what’s legal.” President Obama echoed this sentiment last week during his comments on the Panama Papers – the 11.5 million leaked files released by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) that have disclosed how the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca set up shell companies to help wealthy individuals avoid paying domestic taxes.
“There is no doubt that the problem of global tax avoidance generally is a huge problem,” Obama has said on April 5, adding, “The problem is that a lot of this stuff is legal, not illegal.”
The disclosures have caused embarrassment for leaders and business magnates all around the world: the Icelandic prime minister resigned over a revealed conflict of interest relating to his handling of the 2008 financial crisis, and politicians from the United Kingdom, Russia, China, and Brazil have been implicated in scandals large and small. Continue reading
U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders is on a winning streak, having won eight of the last nine contests. Though Sanders still trails in terms of pledged delegates (whose support is tied to electoral outcomes in caucuses and primaries) by a count of 1,287 to 1,037, his deficit among superdelegates is even larger.
Created in the early 1980s to empower “party leaders and elected officials” (PLEOs), superdelegates can vote for whichever candidate they prefer at the presidential nominating convention. Among the approximately 712 superdelegates who will be traveling to Philadelphia in July, Clinton has support from 469, compared to 31 who have stated their support for Sanders. Continue reading
In the early 1990s, journalist Dan Baum interviewed Nixon aide John Ehrlichman while doing research for a book on the effects of drug prohibition. Ehrlichman had served as a domestic policy adviser to Nixon, who in June 1971 declared a “war on drugs.” After an initially fruitless discussion, Baum reports that Ehrlichman made the following confession about the real motive behind the administration’s declaration of the drug war:
The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.
Baum says he chose to exclude this interview from his book because he could not find a way to neatly integrate it, and so, for nearly two decades, it remained unpublished (it made a splashless debut in an anthology of essays released in 2012).
Now the quotation appears in Harper’s April cover story, and it is garnering lots of attention. While some are claiming it proves nothing less than proof positive that the war on drugs was a deliberate attack on anti-war youth and African-Americans, some former aides have publicly defended Ehrlichman, who passed away in 1999. Continue reading
But quantity does not necessarily imply quality. While coverage has been abundant, it is worth exploring the nature of that coverage, and, specifically, whether the media is adequately vetting Trump as a candidate.
Chuck Todd, the host of NBC’s Meet the Press, claims that it has.
“A common criticism you’ve heard is that Trump’s rise is the media’s fault, because we have enabled his rise,” Todd has said. “But,” he added, before listing several of Trump’s flip-flops and liberal-to-conservative policy evolutions, “you could argue that the media has also provided all the material that normally a campaign would want to put together an attack against Trump.”
Yet a survey of attack ads against Trump in recent primary contests belies Todd’s claim. Continue reading
The standoff in Oregon that began on January 2 appears to have reached its conclusion. On Tuesday, January 26, several occupiers of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge were arrested, and one occupier, Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, was killed in a confrontation with law enforcement.
The leader of the occupiers, Ammon Bundy, has since called on the occupiers to return home. Only four occupiers remain, and a federal judge has denied the release of several apprehended individuals until the occupation has ended.
With all signs pointing to an imminent end to the conflict, it is appropriate to ask the questions, “What caused the occupation?” and, “Do the occupiers have a legitimate grievance?” Continue reading