Josh Harkinson

Josh Harkinson

Reporter

Born in Texas and based in San Francisco, Josh covers tech, labor, drug policy, and the environment.

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Will Rick Perry Run?

| Tue May 17, 2011 4:58 PM EDT

Rick PerryRick PerryThe conventional wisdom is that Americans aren't ready to install another Texas cowboy in the White House. But with the GOP's leading presidential contenders sinking fast, Texas Governor and tea party fave Rick Perry appears to be quietly testing the waters. From Real Clear Politics:

A Texas pol who is close to Perry has been telling a few key strategists that the nation's longest-serving governor sees a vacuum and is waiting to be summoned into the race. This source believes that could happen by late summer. . . .According to another well-connected Republican, at least one Perry confidant has been very quietly making inquiries about the political terrain in the nation's first voting state of Iowa. A third Perry associate, RCP has learned, has been heralding a small contingent of Iowans with the time-tested line that is often used by would-be candidates who are leaving their options open: "Keep your powder dry."

Perry 2012 might not be as far-fetched as it seems. Perry can argue that the Texas economy is doing comparatively well, can tap a deep bench of GOP donors, and enjoys unassailable credibility from the GOP base. On the other hand, his right-wing bona fides won't help America to forget its Bush-era hangover. More on this soon, but in the meantime, leave your thoughts in the comments.

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Ron Paul's 15 Most Extreme Positions

| Mon May 16, 2011 3:30 PM EDT

Could Rep. Ron Paul of Texas ever be a true contender for the White House?

To be sure, the conservative political landscape has shifted dramatically since Paul's quixotic bid for the 2008 GOP nomination was met by jeers from the party establishment, and the Ron Paul Revolution has minted a new generation of libertarian activists who've helped lay some of the organizational and ideological groundwork for the tea party movement. "Time has come around to where people are agreeing with much of what I've been saying for 30 years," the Texas congressman said on Friday, as he launched his third White House attempt. "The time is right."

Yet despite Paul's growing cult following, many of his views are just a tad extreme for voters from either major party. To name just a few of these politically dicey positions, President Ron Paul would like to...

1. Eviscerate Entitlements: Believes that Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are unconstitutional, and has compared the failure of federal courts to strike them down to the courts' failure to abolish slavery in the 19th century.

2. Lay Off Half His Cabinet: Wants to abolish half of all federal agencies, including the departments of Energy, Education, Agriculture, Commerce, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, and Labor.

3. Enable State Extremism: Would let states set their own policies on abortion, gay marriage, prayer in school, and most other issues.

4. Protect Sexual Predators' Privacy: Voted against requiring operators of wi-fi networks who discover the transmission of child porn and other forms online sex predation to report it to the government.

5. Rescind the Bin Laden Raid: Instead of authorizing the Navy Seals to take him out, President Paul would have sought Pakistan's cooperation to arrest him.

6. Simplify the Census: The questions posed by the Census Bureau's annual American Community Survey, which collects demographics data such as age, race, and income, are "both ludicrous and insulting," Paul says.

7. Let the Oldest Profession Be: Paul wants to legalize prostitution at the federal level.

8. Legalize All Drugs: Including cocaine and heroin.

9. Keep Monopolies Intact: Opposes federal antitrust legislation, calling it "much more harmful than helpful." Thinks that monopolies can be controlled by protecting "the concept of the voluntary contract."

10. Lay Off Ben Bernanke: Would abolish the Federal Reserve and revert to use of currencies that are backed by hard assets such as gold.

11. Stop Policing the Environment: Believes that climate change is no big deal and the Environmental Protection Agency is unnecessary. Most environmental problems can be addressed by enforcing private-property rights. Paul also thinks that interstate issues such as air pollution are best dealt with through compacts between states.

12. Not Do Anything, but Still...: Would not have voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 because it was a "massive violation of private property and contract, which are the bedrocks of a free society."

13. Let Markets Care for the Disabled: "The ADA should have never been passed," Paul says. The treatment of the handicapped should be determined by the free market.

14. First, Do Harm: Wants to end birthright citizenship. Believes that emergency rooms should have the right to turn away illegal immigrants.

15. Diss Mother Teresa: Voted against giving her the Congressional Gold Medal. Has argued that the medal, which costs $30,000, is too expensive.

10 CEOs Who Got Rich By Squeezing Workers

| Thu May 12, 2011 7:02 PM EDT

Corporate profits grew 38.8 percent in 2010, the biggest increase since 1950. But while CEOs earned an average of 20 percent more last year, many Americans continued to lose their jobs and benefits. The insecurity of the middle class has a lot to do with how executives are paid. Bonuses pegged to stock prices encourage CEOs to mercilessly outsource and downsize, slashing costs to boost profits. The result is that more corporate leaders are getting paid at the expense of average workers. Here are 10 of the worst offenders:

Michael T. Duke Walmart Jeffrey R. Immelt General Electric Angela F. Braly WellPoint Mark G. Parker Nike Hugh Grant Monsanto Craig Dubow Gannett Clarence Otis, Jr.Darden Restaurants Gary M. Rodkin ConAgra Foods Keith E. Wandell Harley Davidson
Peter L. Lynch Winn-Dixie

*Duke's pay would have dropped even more had Walmart not stopped calculating his bonus based on same-store sales, which have declined over the past two years.

 

The Hypocrisy of Darrell Issa

| Thu May 12, 2011 2:31 PM EDT

At a hearing today of the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform, chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) is expected to attack a Presidential plan to require government contractors to disclose their contributions to political groups. The hearing is a bold move for Issa, who only months ago founded the House Transparency Caucus with the declaration that "sunlight is indeed the best disinfectant."

The disclosure rule at issue is really just a small-bore response to last year's sweeping Citizens United Supreme Court ruling, which opened the floodgates to corporate cash in elections. It focuses exclusively on federal contractors because they presumably have more incentive than other private companies to bribe and influence politicians. So why is Issa throwing a fit?

The answer, as with most things in politics, probably involves money. The union-backed group Chamber Watch has tallied up how much dark money went last year to support Republicans on the Oversight Committee and the Small Business Committee, which is co-hosting the hearing. The results are striking:

Source: US Chamber WatchSource: US Chamber WatchEvidence suggests that a large part of this dark money comes from companies that feed at the public trough. Board members of just one of those dark money groups, the US Chamber of Commerce, earned a collective $44 billion from federal contracts last year, according to Chamber Watch. Only 18 of the Chamber's 53 board members didn't land contracts with the federal government.

Online Creationist Textbook Proposed In Texas

| Wed May 11, 2011 7:08 AM EDT

An online biology textbook up for approval by the Texas State Board of Education is drawing fire from scientific and education groups for tacitly pushing creationism. Created by the obscure, New Mexico-based International Databases LLC, the textbook seeks to justify the existence of a higher being while avoiding direct mention of God or the Bible. The Texas Freedom Network, which monitors the religious right in Texas, said in a press release that its adoption by the SBOE would be "a shocking leap backward."

The textbook's "Origin of Life" chapter details lab experiments that have failed to create life from inorganic materials, concluding that there is a huge gap between "life" and "non-life" (as crudely illustrated in the photo at right). But from there it makes the considerable leap that biological explanations for the origin of life are discredited. "[T]he legitimate scientific hypothesis," it argues, is that "life on Earth is the result of intelligent causes."

The notes to teachers accompanying the chapter leave little doubt that pushing a belief in God is the ultimate goal:

[A]t the end of the instructional unit on the Origin of Life students should go home with the understanding that a new paradigm of explaining life's origins is emerging from the failed attempts of naturalistic scenarios. This new way of thinking is predicated on the hypothesis that intelligent input is necessary for life's origins.

Of course, this is far from the first attempt to insert creationism into Texas classrooms; the issue has often been a cause célèbre for right-wing members of the State Board of Education, as well as Republican state legislators. The SBOE will vote on adopting the new science curriculum materials in July.

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