Daily Archives: October 17, 2011

Makers of SimCity Have Fun with Herman Cain Tax Plan

Herman Cain Speaks At Values Voter Summit

Image by TalkMediaNews via Flickr

Presidential candidate Herman Cain swears he didn’t get the idea for his nine-nine-nine tax plan from SimCity, but the makers of the game are having fun with the connection.

On Monday afternoon, Electronic Arts lowered the price of SimCity games on its website to $9.99, a ten dollar discount.

It has also put out a video about the similarities between Cain’s plan and the default tax rates in the game SimCity 4, which were first noted by The Huffington Post.

The video ponders the origins of Cain’s plan, with cameos by video game versions of President Barack Obama, Texas Governor Rick Perry and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

In a video aired Friday night on The Rachel Maddow Show, a reporter asked Cain about the relationship between nine-nine-nine and SimCity. “You said you had original ideas, successful people around you thinking ideas up,” the reporter said. “Is it an original idea or modeled after a game?”

“It’s an original idea, and to people who say it’s modeled after a game — it’s a lie,” Cain said during a campaign stop in Tennessee. “That’s all I’m going to say. It is a lie. You see, that’s the difference when you become one or two in the polls. People make up stuff. That is a lie. I’m not going to take it back and not going to politically say, but unfortunately, that is not totally true. It’s a lie.”

Well, at least he has a sense of humor about it.


Filed under Entertainment, Politics, The Interwebs

Bishop and Diocese Indicted for Allowing Priest to Abuse Children

Saint Peter's Basilica, Vatican City, Rome

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A county grand jury has indicted a bishop in the Roman Catholic Church for failure to report suspected child abuse, the first time the leader of an American diocese has been held criminally liable for the behavior of a priest he supervised.

Prosecutors announced the grand jury indictment of the bishop, Robert Finn, and the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph Friday. Each was charged with one misdemeanor count involving a priest accused of taking pornographic photographs of girls. They pleaded not guilty.

The case caused an uproar among Catholics in Kansas City when Bishop Finn acknowledged he knew of the photographs last December but did not turn them over to the police until May. During that time, the priest, Shawn Ratigan, continued to attend church events with children, and took lewd photographs of another girl.

A decade ago, American bishops pledged to report abusers to law enforcement, a policy recommended last year by the Vatican. Bishop Finn made such a promise three years ago as part of a $10 million legal settlement with abuse victims in Kansas City.

The indictment announced by the Jackson County prosecutor was under seal since October 6 because the bishop was out of the country. He returned on Thursday.

Bishop Finn faces a possible fine of up to $1,000 and a jail sentence of up to a year.

The priest accused of taking the lewd photos, Father Ratigan, was a frequent presence in a Catholic elementary school next to his parish. The principal sent a letter to the diocese in May 2010 complaining about Ratigan’s behavior with children. Last December, a computer technician discovered photos on the priest’s laptop and turned the computer in to the diocese. A day later, Father Ratigan tried to kill himself. Monsignor Murphy described, but did not share, a photo of a girl, nude from the waist down, to a police officer. The officer said that the picture might meet the definition of child pornography, but he did not think it would, the diocese said.

Bishop Finn sent Ratigan to live in a convent and told him to avoid contact with minors, but until May the priest attended children’s parties, spent weekends in the homes of parish families, hosted an Easter egg hunt, and presided at a girl’s First Communion.

Parents in the school and parishioners were stunned when police arrested him he was arrested in May after the diocese called the police. A federal grand jury indicted him on charges of taking indecent photographs of young girls.

The new indictment said Finn and the diocese had reason to suspect Ratigan of abuse. It cited “previous knowledge of concerns regarding Father Ratigan and children; the discovery of hundreds of photographs of children on Father Ratigan’s laptop, including a child’s naked vagina, upskirt images and images focused on the crotch; and violations of restrictions placed on Father Ratigan.”

Bishop Finn said in a statement on Friday that he and the diocese had given “complete cooperation” to law enforcement.

The case has generated fury at the bishop, a staunch theological conservative who was already a polarizing figure. There have been widespread calls for him to resign.

Three years ago, Bishop Finn settled lawsuits with forty-seven plaintiffs in sexual abuse cases for $10 million and agreed to a list of preventive measures, among them to immediately report anyone suspected of being a pedophile to law enforcement.

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Ron Paul’s Eyebrow Flees His Face Because of Allergies

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Has Ron Paul been wearing fake eyebrows?

That’s what the New York Times wonders, pointing to an incident at Tuesday night’s Republican presidential debate in which the candidate’s right eyebrow appeared to droop a bit under the hot lights.

Jesse Benton, a campaign spokesman, insisted that Mr. Paul had been the victim of the elements, namely a heavy pollen season in New Hampshire, and called accusations that he’d been artificially enhancing “stupid” and “insulting.”

“Dr. Paul’s allergies acted up a touch,” Mr. Benton said in an explanation that might raise some, you know, questions.

The Times helpfully points out that “eyebrow toupees” are popular these days—maybe even among political candidates.

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Herman Cain and Co. Tout “9-9-9” Plan

Herman Cain

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Herman Cain has called for a plan he calls “nine-nine-nine:” a flat 9% individual income tax rate, a 9% corporate tax rate, and a 9% national sales tax. He has uttered the triple digits repeatedly.

Mr. Cain’s rivals have tried to use the plan’s simplicity against him, responding that it sounds like the price of a pie with pepperoni, for example. (Har, har, Republicans.)

Mr. Cain and his proposal are getting new scrutiny as Republicans flirt with their candidates less than three months before casting the first votes of the primary season. A poll released Wednesday by NBC News and The Wall Street Journal found that Mr. Cain was effectively tied with Mitt Romney.

Although the specifics of the nine-nine-nine plan were developed in the last few months, it is only the latest incarnation of  ideas popular among some supply-side conservatives.

Mr. Cain was a co-chairman in 1996 of the presidential campaign of Steve Forbes, who advocated a flat tax — a single rate on income for all payers. Beyond the obvious problems of the flat tax (increased tax burden on poor people, reduced charitable donations, etc.), the flat tax would effectively double the taxes on the middle class.

The nine-nine-nine plan would be a radical and complex overhaul of the tax system. In developing it, Mr. Cain relied heavily on Rich Lowrie, an investment adviser at a Wells Fargo office in Pepper Pike, Ohio. Mr. Lowrie has never worked for a policy research group or an academic institution, or made a name through economic analysis.

Mr. Lowrie has a bachelor of science degree in accountancy. On his Facebook page, he describes his political views as “free markets.” Mr. Lowrie is involved with the Ohio chapter of Americans for Prosperity, the conservative organization supported by the billionaire Koch brothers.

The plan could have major economic and political challenges: It would result in a substantial revenue loss for the government and shift the tax burden toward lower- and middle-income people.

In an interview, Mr. Cain said he asked Mr. Lowrie to do a “regression analysis” that would allow the government to eliminate all taxes and collect the same revenue from just three streams. “The number came up to be 9%,” Mr. Cain said. “And that’s how we came up with nine-nine-nine.”

Mr. Lowrie, however, admits that he is not an economist. “I don’t list myself as an economist,” he said. “I have an accounting degree, and I’m an investment adviser.”

A former staff member for Mr. Cain in Iowa described his and Mr. Lowrie’s relationship as “buddy-buddy,” adding, “They were just like two executives palling around together.”

Their plan has drawn fire from right and left. Conservatives are wary of a national sales tax, concerned that it would create another method of taxation.

Critics, especially liberals, say the plan offers a huge tax break for the wealthy while imposing a steep new sales tax on the middle-class and working poor; everyday items like milk and bread would be subject to a 9% tax.

In Tuesday’s debate, Mr. Romney took aim at Mr. Cain’s: “Simple answers are always very helpful, but oftentimes inadequate.”

Mr. Cain said an independent analyst examined the plan and found it would raise the same revenue as the existing tax structure. The analyst, Gary Robbins, a consultant in Virginia, said the Cain plan was “revenue neutral.” Even Mr. Robbins, however, has reservations.

“It’s not the plan I particularly would do, but it’s a sound plan,” said Mr. Robbins. Actually, Mr. Robbins’s math determined that the across-the-board rates necessary to raise the same money as existing federal taxes should be 9.1%.

Somehow, 9.1-9.1-9.1 does not trip off the tongue.

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Filed under Economy, National, Politics, Stupid Is As Stupid Does

How to Chip Away at Abortion Rights without Making Abortion Illegal

Albert Wynn and Gloria Feldt at the U.S. Supre...

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Last week’s passage of the “Let Women Die” Act capped off a year characterized by a number of abortion restricting bills.

Since Roe v. Wade has withstood decades of legal challenges, the next abortion laws won’t take on Roe v. Wade directly; rather, they’ll attempt to chip away at a woman’s right to bodily autonomy by eliminating funding, redefining “life,” and harassing doctors who provide abortions.

Federal law prohibits tax money from providing coverage for abortion services, but this hasn’t stopped states from cutting funding from clinics that refer women to places that offer abortions or that segregate the part of their operation that provides abortions from the part of their organization that provides preventive care.

The New York Times reports that Texas, under the leadership of now-Presidential candidate Rick Perry, chose to cut family planning funding by two-thirds. As a result, women’s health clinics around the state have closed their doors. Similar “budget cutting” measures have passed in several states.

Texas is also attempting to dissuade women from having abortions by forcing them to listen to a doctor describe a sonogram.

Ohio is debating a so-called “Heartbeat Bill” that would outlaw all abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, which happens at around 6 weeks’ gestation (Roe v. Wade allows abortions to occur at any time before fetal viability, which happens around the twenty-second week).

Mississippi is allowing its voters to decide on an amendment that would define “personhood” as beginning at conception, which would outlaw all forms of abortion, throw into question the legality of hormonal birth control, and prevent women who are experiencing pregnancy complications from receiving life-saving care.

Time‘s Adam Cohen notes that not all states are going as far as Ohio, Texas, and Mississippi in confronting Roe v. Wade. The hottest trend among anti-choicers is pushing legislation that requires abortion-seeking women to listen to the fetal heartbeat before deciding to end their pregnancies. Michele Bachmann has introduced a bill at the federal level called The Heartbeat Informed Consent Act, which would require all women seeking abortion to listen to the balls of cells in their uteruses pulse before deciding on abortion. A national anti-choice group claims they’re planning on introducing heartbeat legislation in all fifty states over the course of the next year.

Former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline is in hot water for his obsession with destroying the life of murdered abortion provider Dr. Tiller. Kline spent years using his position as A.G. to target and bully Tiller. Last week, a disciplinary panel in the state recommended he have his law license revoked. During Kline’s six years in office, however, he had staff record license numbers of patients at the clinic and then subpoenaed the DMV for the identities of the cars’ owners. He also used data that he knew was flawed to justify his investigations into the clinic, and he stored medical records acquired from the clinic in an unsecured garage, among other things. Kline says he regrets nothing in his pursuit of Tiller.

Via Jezebel.


Filed under Law, National, Politics, Sick Sad World

Cain and Romney Tied, According to New Poll

Herman Cain

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Mitt Romney and Herman Cain are tied for the lead in the race for the 2012 Republican nomination, with Rick Perry dropping to a distant third, according to a new CNN/ORC poll.

With only 33% of Republicans saying that their minds are made up, it’s too early to say the race is over or even that it has boiled down to a fight between Governor Romney and Mr. Cain.

Mr. Cain has seen his support nearly triple, from 9% in September to 25% now; Gov. Perry’s strength has been cut in half in that same time period.

There has been little change for the candidates in single digits — 2- to 3-point swings for Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich and little or no change for Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum and Jon Huntsman.


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Online Banking Makes Customers Less Likely to Switch Banks, Even in Face of Fees

Pelli's Wells Fargo Center, Minneapolis, Minne...

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The steady expansion of online bill paying has emboldened Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, and SunTrust to turn to new fees on customer accounts as other sources of revenue dry up. The fees have caused an uproar among consumers and drawn sharp criticism from politicians, including President Obama.

With 44 million households having used the Internet to pay a bill in the past thirty days it’s a shift that has major ramifications for competition.

Fewer consumers are switching banks: 7% of them moved their primary account to a different institution in 2011, down from 12% last year.

Bank of America today has 29 million account holders banking online and 15 million using the service to pay bills. Company officials say there is no connection between Internet bill paying and the decision to impose the $5 monthly debit card fee. The new fee will not apply to customers with a Bank of America mortgage or those who have an account balance of $20,000 or more.

Members of Congress have taken notice of the fee uproar.

“The difficulty of moving accounts is deliberate and unnecessary,” said Representative Brad Miller, who introduced a bill that would make it easier for customers to switch.

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