Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Beginning with â€œThe Shakesâ€, Parallax establishes a definitive pulse for itâ€™s twelve song tracklist via an affinity for the 21st century post-rockabilly croon. It is here where the past and more ghostly inclinations of Atlas Sound mold comfortably with the present. Parallax exhibits no reservations for creepiness, but the spirit is more alive here than itâ€™s ever been- therefore, songs like â€œTe Amoâ€ and â€œMy Angel is Brokenâ€ are able to evolve beyond whimsical afterthoughts, hitting harder and more directly. Whereas Let the Blind and Logos seemingly embodied a whispered secret and its subsequent trust, Parallax outs itself as the truth within. It is a credit to Cox that this record maintains the trademark mystique of Atlas Sound, while still emphasizing the clarity of the music itself. And for these reasons, Parallax feels endlessly mesmerizing- Atlas Sound is finally alive and breathing, unsure of where to go next.
- Fr. Jones
Sunday, November 27, 2011
Columbia's very own Post-Echo takes center stage on December 3rd at Art Bar in the Vista for Â Post-Echo: The Audio/Visual Experiment. Â Featuring musical performances from Roomdance, Forces of a Street, Cassangles, and DJ Bobby Sweatt- the event is also showcasing assorted forms of visual art from members of the Post-Echo label (including the paintings of Joel Floyd aka MouthsandTongue) as well as other talented local artists, including Jason Stroud and Jessica Diaz.
Wait. Â What exactly is Post-Echo? Â Look no further. Â Go here.
Thursday, November 17, 2011
As protests supporting Occupy Wall Street have swelled in recent weeks, hundreds of demonstrators have been arrested across the U.S. This weekend, nearly 100 people were arrested in New York Â and 175 in Chicago . More than 100 protesters  were arrested in Boston last week; a few weeks ago, 700 were arrested  on the Brooklyn Bridge.
NineteenÂ people were arrested in Columbia, South Carolina under the direction of Governor Nikki Haley.
So, if the First Amendment guarantees the right to peaceable assembly, why do peaceful protestors keep getting arrested â€” and sometimes pepper-sprayed and beaten up?
We take a closer look at the laws governing protests and how the government can limit them.
Time, place and manner restrictions
The First Amendment is not absolute. Government can make reasonable stipulations about the time, place and manner a peaceable protest can take place, as long as those restrictions are applied in a content-neutral way.
But what constitutes a reasonable time, place and manner restriction? "It depends on the context and circumstances," said Geoffrey Stone, a professor specializing in constitutional law at the University of Chicago. "Things like noise, blockage of ordinary uses of the place, blockage of traffic and destruction of property allow the government to regulate speakers."
Stone gave a few examples of impeding ordinary usage: disturbing patients at a hospital, preventing students from going to school, or, more relevant for the Occupy movement, disrupting the flow of traffic for a long period of time.
The majority of Occupy Wall Street-related arrests have been on charges of disorderly conduct . Under the New York Penal Code, that includes making "unreasonable noise," obstructing "vehicular or pedestrian traffic," or congregating "with other persons in a public place and refus[ing] to comply with a lawful order of the police to disperse." Basically, the central question is the standard of reasonableness. "You have to tolerate a certain amount of inconvenience in order to make room for First Amendment activity, but not so much that it disrupts things," Stone said. Individual states' unlawful assembly and disorderly conduct statutes have to fall in line with this standard. "They can regulate it less if they want to," Stone added, "but not more."
Content neutrality is king
Time, place and manner restrictions have to apply to similar types of protests equally, without regard for their message or point of view. Consider this yearâ€™s 8-1 Supreme Court ruling that upheld an anti-gay ministerâ€™s right to protest at military funerals. He and a few members of his church would picket the funerals of service members killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, asserting that God hates America because of its tolerance for homosexuality. As Stone has explained , under the First Amendment the government canâ€™t ban people from demonstrating because of the homophobic content of what theyâ€™re saying at funerals but can set limits on how close to the funeral they can be or how loud they can be.
The case of Zuccotti Park
All of this applies to public spaces, like sidewalks and parks. But when you get into the territory of private property, itâ€™s a whole different story.
"The owner of the private property can lawfully evict [protesters] the same way you can toss someone out of your house if you donâ€™t like them," Stone said. "When police act at the request of the owner, theyâ€™re not doing anything that violates the First Amendment."
Interestingly, this hasnâ€™t happened yet to the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators. A month ago today, they settled on a privately owned park in Lower Manhattan as their base of operations.
Brookfield Properties, the parkâ€™s owner, sent a letter to the NYPD earlier this week asking for help clearing the space  so it could be cleaned. But hours before the scheduled cleaning, Brookfield contacted the city to postpone it . New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg claimed that Brookfield reached its decision under pressure from other elected officials .
Update, 10/18: Readers have pointed out that Zucotti Park is a privately owned public space , built by Brookfield in exchange for zoning concessions from the city. As part of the arrangement, the park has to be accessible  to the public 24 hours a day; beyond that, the owners can set their own rules about the parkâ€™s use. This puts it in a legal gray area .
How is the use of force regulated?
So, what laws govern how police are allowed to respond to peaceful protesters who overstep the cityâ€™s time, place and manner restrictions?
Broadly speaking, the unanimous 1989 Supreme Court ruling in Graham vs. Connor set the standard that a reasonable use of force doesn't violate the Fourth Amendment. Once again, itâ€™s all about "reasonableness," as defined from the perspective of an officer in the field :
The Fourth Amendment "reasonableness" inquiry is whether the officers' actions are "objectively reasonable" in light of the facts and circumstances confronting them, without regard to their underlying intent or motivation. The "reasonableness" of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, and its calculus must embody an allowance for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second decisions about the amount of force necessary in a particular situation.
As The New York Times reported last month, the Manhattan district attorney is investigating  an officerâ€™s use of pepper spray on two young women last month. One of the young women who was pepper-sprayed is demanding misdemeanor assault charges  be brought against him. According to WNYC radio , the union representing high-ranking officers argues the officerâ€™s actions restored order at that particular protest, and were thus justified.
by Braden Goyette ProPublica
Dealing with the fallout from Louis ReVille's recent arrest would have been difficult enough. Local law enforcement agencies have charged ReVille with multiple counts of improper sexual contact with juvenile males. ReVille has worked in church and school athletic programs around the Lowcountry for more than a decade. One of his employers was The Citadel summer camp, from 2000 to 2004.
Worse yet, The Citadel â€“ which is proud of its honor code, its character-building environment, its intolerance of dishonest and dishonorable behavior â€“ Â this proud old military college did not go to the police with their information. No, it dispatched its chief attorney to Dallas, where he took a 157-page statement from the former camper and â€“ according to the Post and Courier â€“ started planning a strategy to run out the statute of limitations on ReVille's alleged crimes.
But the young accuser, whose identity remains confidential, was apparently not trying to make a civil or criminal case in the matter. As the P&C reported, the former camper told the attorney he had only one purpose in bringing his complaint: â€œMost of all, the thing I want most is just to make sure he Â doesn't have a chance to do this to anyone else.â€
As we now know, his simple request was ignored. ReVille has been charged with five counts of child sex abuse and more charges are probably forthcoming from multiple jurisdictions. The attorney's report apparently went into a file cabinet somewhere and was forgotten â€“ until two weeks ago. How many people in The Citadel administration knew of the report? President John Rosa said he was aware of it, but never read it. Hmmmm.
Unfortunately for The Citadel, four news cycles ahead and 750 miles away, in College Park, Pa., a very similar scenario was playing out at Penn State University. As the world now knows, former Nittany Lions defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky has been charged with multiple counts of sex abuse against young boys in the football team showers and locker room! It had apparently been going on for years.
In this case, at least two university employees observed the behavior and reported it to superiors. What did the superiors do about it? Well, they didn't go to the authorities, as they should have. Two weeks ago, the story broke and a proud old public university was plunged into an epic Â scandal.
But the PSU board of trustees knew their responsibility. They acted swiftly, firing the athletic director, a university vice president and the president and â€“ to the amazement of all the civilized world â€“ they fired Penn State legend and icon Joe Paterno, the winningest college football coach in history, two days before what was to be his last home game.
The message could not be clearer and if Penn State's righteous action is to be considered the standard for dealing with child sex abuse, then John Rosa and other Citadel officers have much to fear.
At moments like these, we can expect the pompous and the pontifical to cry out against the pedophiles. Indeed, it is easy to denounce those monsters who haunt every parent's dreams. But where are these heroes, where are these guardians of virtue and innocence in the day-to-day governance of our state, in day-to-day advocacy and policy-making?
Numbers don't lie and the numbers from the annual Kids Count survey show that S.C. is the sixth-worst state in the nation to be a child. We rank fifth in child poverty. We are next to last in high school graduation rates. Perhaps one reason for this is that we have the 19th lowest level of expenditure per student in our public schools, at $10,051. We are fifth-highest in infant mortality, fourth-highest in premature births, with the 11th-highest rate of births to teenage mothers.
The GOP's love affair with the fetus is legendary, as is the fact that its passion instantly cools when the fetus emerges to become a breathing child. Children, unlike fetuses, require services and resources which GOPers are loath to provide â€“ things like education, healtcare, nutrition. The Republican passion for these unfortunates begins to warm once more as they approach voting age.
Budgets are about choices, about the things we value. South Carolina's budgets and choices suggest that we do not care about our children. We do not care about their health or safety or education. It's much easier to lock up a pedophile and say we've done all we should for our children.
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
[caption id="attachment_4177" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Lichtenstein's Art Critic"][/caption]
It is not every day that original works of Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Jasper Johns, Louise Bourgeois, Helen Frankenthaler, Ellsworth Kelly, Joseph Kosuth, Bruce Nauman, Robert Rauschenberg, James Rosenquist and Edward Ruscha can be on display anywhere in Columbia, but this month, it is USCâ€™s McMaster Gallery, which impresses art lovers with the most prestigious Pop Art, Minimalist and Conceptual Art collection. The Exhibition â€œCastelliâ€™s Cabinetâ€ can be seen through November 23rd.
City Paper asked Director, Mana Hewitt how was she able to secure such an exhibit.
Hewitt: â€œThis exhibition is owned by Brenau University in Georgia, and is loaned to us. Â My daughter, Vanessa Grubbs is the Director at Brenau Galleries and Collections and she helped us to have this collection at our gallery.
City Paper: How did Brenau University collect such an impressive quality of works?
Hewitt: Gallery owner and collector Leo Castelli from New York developed a friendship with the president of Brenau University and left a sizable collection to the school.
Leo Castelliâ€™s gallery opened in New York on February 10, 1957 and hosted South Carolina native Jasper Johnâ€™s first exhibition. In the beginning, Castelli collected European abstract paintersâ€™ works, such as Kandinsky, but later turned to American Expressionism and later to Pop Art and Minimalism. Castelliâ€™s sensitive eyes to new styles and young artists quickly made him one of the best collectors of Pop, Minimal, and Conceptual Art nation-wide and internationally. Including in his collection are works from Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Cy Twombly, Frank Stella, Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, James Rosenquist, Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, Robert Morris, Bruce Nauman, and Keith Sonnier, which made Castelli an international expert of post-World War II European and American contemporary art.
[caption id="attachment_4178" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Rauschenberg's Caucus"][/caption]
â€œCastelliâ€™s Cabinetâ€ at McMasater Gallery consists of 22 works, multiple pieces from each artist. Jasper Johns have three pieces showing of which â€œPassageâ€ and â€œUntitledâ€ lithographs welcome the visitor at the entrance of the gallery. â€œUntitledâ€ is a black and white lithograph playing with the idea of mixing easily recognizable letters with brushstrokes. The South Carolina native artist began working on his ready-mades and his maps, targets and flags for which he was later most known for and with which he began a new area in American Contemporary art.
Lichtenstein and Warhol are the two most known Pop Artists in the world. Lichtenstein often used enlarged scenes from comic books often including the Benday dots used with photomechanical reproduction. His subjects vary from violent scenes to romantic clichÃ©s, all from modern American life. Warhol in addition to painting also worked as printmaker as he created the famous color versions of movie starts and singers â€œMarilyn Monroeâ€ and â€œElvis Presleyâ€ and his most known painting the â€œCampbell Soup Cansâ€. Lichtensteinâ€™s â€œDrowning Girlâ€ and â€œWhaam!â€ are among his most famous and recognizable works. At McMaster Gallery, two of Lichtensteinâ€™s pieces are featured of which the â€œArt Criticâ€ was chosen to represent the show in the news media.
Another southern painter, Robert Rauschenbergâ€™s work, â€œCaucusâ€ is a result of a new process in which the artists uses a photo silkscreen process to include images on the canvas. In this case, the horse and the tire are transferred to the canvas. Rauschenberg had a strong relationship with Johns and supported each otherâ€™sâ€™ works. Â Rauschenbergâ€™s most famous works are "Combines," and â€œMonogramâ€ in which he used non-traditional materials and objects together with the two dimensional paintings.
Finally, Kosuth represents the Conceptual Art style in the exhibition. This approach represents the intellectual view of art as it breaks down the concept or the forms of thought into information. This movement was strong in the 1970s and one of the founders was Joseph Kosuth. The America-artist created â€œOne and Three Chairs,â€ and â€œArt as Idea as Ideaâ€ in both works he emphasizes that the essence of objects and concept can be broken down to the photograph or even a printed definition of the object.
This exhibit is a great opportunity for art lovers and students to study an important section of post-World War II modern art and its various movements.
Saturday, November 12, 2011
This state has been fighting a rear guard action against modernity for generations, both in Â Congress and the federal courts, working mightily to preserve the tradition of lynching from federal â€œoverreaching,â€ working to keep our schools, lunch counters and entire society segregated, working to keep women out of The Citadel, to mention just a few of its favorite causes. Right now it is embroiled in a major lawsuit to have the 2010 Affordable Healthcare Act overturned. Most constitutional scholars think that this is another lost cause our leaders have tied our fortunes to.
It is tempting to think â€“ indeed, many South Carolinians do think â€“ of our state as a knight errant, battling dragons and evildoers in pursuit of some mythic, ineffable ideal. But in fact, most modern residents of our state look back on these past battles with mixed feelings, if not outright shame.
Most of the â€œidealsâ€ we have defended Â over the years were anything but noble, anything but idealistic.
Our belligerent nature has cost us dearly, in blood and treasure, in social and economic development, in sheer embarrassment. But we never seem to learn.
Now the good people of South Carolina have found a new existential threat, a new reason to gird their loins and put on the war paint. I speak of illegal immigration.
The presence of undocumented aliens in the country and in the state is a problem, but it touches a xenophobic nerve in this insular state, as demonstrated by Congressman Jeff Duncan's (R-Third District) recent remark to a group at Furman University: â€œItâ€™s kind of like having a house...taking the door off the hinges and allowing any kind of vagrant, or animal, or just somebody thatâ€™s hungry, or somebody that wants to do your dishes for you, to come in. And you canâ€™t say, â€˜No you canâ€™t come in.'...Weâ€™re giving those benefits away, which we earn as citizens of this nation, of being legalized citizens.â€
(Compare his remarks to those of then-Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, who compared poor people to animals in last year's Republican gubernatorial primary race: Â â€œMy grandmother ...told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed. You're facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply. They will reproduce, especially ones that don't think too much further than that. And so what you've got to do is you've got to curtail that type of behavior. They don't know any better.â€)
In response to this influx of â€œanimalsâ€ and â€œvagrants,â€ our General Assembly, in June, passed one of the harshest immigration-control laws in the country. Whether it is necessary is highly debatable.
Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement is deporting illegals in record numbers (392,000 last year) and the charge that illegal immigrants have created a crime wave in the state is not born out by statistics, despite some numbers recklessly thrown around by Republican politicians.
This is what is not debatable. The law has gotten the state dragged into court again, and the plaintiffs include the ACLU, 16 sovereign nations and the U.S. Justice Department. When the dust settles, it is almost certain that the state immigration law â€“ or most of it â€“ will be thrown out. Under the Constitution, regulating immigration is a federal responsibility and cannot be preempted by the states. I dare say this fact that is known by most first-year law students and should have been known by members of the General Assembly, to say nothing of state Attorney General Alan Wilson. Now they will learn that lesson in federal court, but how much will it cost this cash-strapped state to defend itself in this most recent judicial fool's errand?
And how much will it cost local law enforcement agencies to stop and hold suspected illegals and in what better ways might they be using their time and resources? How many lawsuits will these agencies face for profiling suspected illegals, when they were only following the mandate of this ill-begotten law?
How much are we likely to see our food prices rise because of a lack of agricultural labor? In Alabama and Georgia, which have passed draconian immigration-control acts, immigrants â€“ legal and illegal â€“ are fleeing the states by the thousands, leaving crops unharvested.
This is clearly a case of the cure being worse than the disease, but South Carolina has a long history of rushing to extreme measures and suffering the consequences later.
by Braden Goyette ProPublica
GOP presidential candidates Herman Cain, Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich have all introduced proposals for flat taxes, which aim to tax everyone at the same rate. The idea is to simplify the tax code, getting rid of loopholes and reducing entitlements and deductions. Gingrich and Perry have both promised that Americans would be able to file their taxes on a postcard.
Flat income taxes have been criticized  for putting a greater burden on middle-income people while cutting taxes for the rich. Critics say a flat tax would bring in less revenue for the government to fund social programs (though, as Rachel Weiner of The Washington PostÂ puts it , â€œof course, for many conservatives, a drastically smaller government is a feature, not a bug").
The United StatesÂ briefly tried Â a flat 3 percent income tax between 1861 and 1872; a flat income tax was reintroduced in 1894 but was struck down by the Supreme Court. Instead, the U.S. has had a graduated income tax since World War I. We havenâ€™t really gotten to see how a flat tax would play out here, and itâ€™s a good time to take a look at other countries that have adopted flat taxes, and how it worked out for them.
Flat-tax success stories?
Most of the countries that have adopted flat taxes in recent years are from the former Soviet bloc. Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, six former Soviet republics and three other Eastern European countries flattened their income-tax rates . Some, like Russia, adopted a flat personal income tax but kept a different rate for corporate income. Others, like Estonia and Slovakia, instituted a flat tax on personal and corporate income. Many of these countries also have a value-added tax , which taxes the difference between the final cost of a product and the cost of the materials used to make it.
Estonia adopted a 26 percent tax  on personal and corporate income in 1994. The country had gross domestic product growth  of 11.7 percent in 1997, and continuously grew between 7 and 10 percent throughout the early 2000s, although many factors, of course, contributed to that. (U.S. GDP growth was 2 to 4 percent over that period.)
In 2001, Russia switched from a system of 12, 20 and 30 percent tax rates to a 13 percent flat income tax. Adjusted for inflation, revenue from Russiaâ€™s personal income tax increased by 26 percent  [PDF] in the year after a flat tax was implemented, and by nearly one-fifth as a percentage of GDP. Russia also saw strong GDP growth  throughout the 2000s, ranging from 6 to 8 percent from 2003-07.
ApparentÂ success stories like these had American supporters of a flat tax crowing. A 2005 Wall Street Journal editorial declared that "the world is flat ;" the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, proclaimed a "global flat tax revolution ."
But economists caution that you canâ€™t necessarily translate these experiences into an American context.
Why flat taxes gained traction in the former Soviet Union
For one thing, those reforms came at a time of massive economic change as former Soviet republics transitioned from command economies to the free market, and Eastern European countries made other systemic changes. Estonia, which introduced a flat tax in 1994, had just started transitioning to a capitalist system three years earlier.
â€œOne of the fastest-growing countries in Eastern Europe has been Slovakia. They introduced flat taxes in 2004, but they also then liberalized the labor market,â€ said Anders Ã…slund, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. â€œCountries with flat income taxes have had high growth, but you canâ€™t isolate the causality.â€
For one thing, adopting flat taxes was also a way for politicians to mark a new era and separate themselves from the former regime. â€œIt was a way of signaling a commitment to the free market,â€ said Michael Keen, an International Monetary Fund senior researcher who contributed to a 2005 study of Russiaâ€™s flat-tax reform.
Flat-tax reforms also caught on because a simpler tax helped to improve collection rates in countries that had large shadow economies  and entrenched corruption. Indeed, among industrialized countries, Russia stillÂ ranks among the most corrupt .
For those at the top of the income spectrum â€” whose tax rate had dropped from 30 to 13 percent â€” there was less of an incentive to evade taxes. The simplified system also left less room to lie on tax forms.
â€œThe more complex the tax system, the more avenues there are for discretion both by people on the revenue side of the collection system and the people paying the taxes,â€ said Gary Hufbauer, also a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, who formerly worked on tax policy at the Treasury Department.
More than just tax reform
While the 2005 IMF study found that overall tax compliance had improved in Russia â€” more people were reporting their incomes and paying taxes appropriately â€” the study also found that this didnâ€™t account for the entire increase in revenue. â€œThe general view among those who have looked closely at the data was that what happened to revenue was a reflection of broader developments to the Russian economy at the time,â€ Keen said.
An overall increase in wages contributed greatly to increased tax revenue. "Our analysis suggests that the strength of [personal income tax] revenues in Russia over this period was largely driven by an increase in real wage rates unrelated to the reform," the IMF study Â saidÂ [PDF; see p. 40].
Though proponents of a flat income tax speculate that a lower consistent tax rate would motivate people to work harder, the 2005 IMF study also found that that wasnâ€™t the case in Russia. â€œBased on what we found and what others have found since, there has been very little effect on actual work effort,â€ Keen said.
How do the candidatesâ€™ proposals compare?
Cain and Perryâ€™s tax proposals arenâ€™t quite like the ones enacted in Eastern Europe. Former Tax Policy Center Director Len Burman has a helpful FAQ  that clarifies this issue:
Yes, so-called â€œflat taxesâ€ are common on Eastern Europe and Russia, but theyâ€™re flat rate income taxes. They include capital income, such as interest, dividends, rents, and royalties in the base as well as wage income. Because high-income taxpayers receive most of the capital income, this makes those flat taxes more progressive than the flat tax periodically proposed in the U.S. (For example, it was the centerpiece of Steve Forbesâ€™ presidential bid. Forbes just endorsed  Perry.)
Both Gingrich and Perry are proposing an optional flat income tax â€” Gingrichâ€™s at 15 percent, Perryâ€™s at 20 â€” that would allow you to choose between paying the flat rate or paying according to the current system. Creating a two-tiered tax system, Ã…slund pointed out, wouldnâ€™t exactly simplify the tax code. Perryâ€™s proposed income tax also isnâ€™t totally flat, because it wouldnâ€™t touch some types of income â€” for instance, investment income .
Cainâ€™s tax plan is flatter â€” heâ€™s proposing a 9 percent personal tax, a 9 percent business tax and a 9 percent federal sales tax to make up for the decreased revenue. Under current tax law, sales taxes are already levied by the states  [PDF], with local taxes coming on top of that. Cainâ€™s plan also would eliminate the Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes. (Cain has expressed interest in privatizing Social Security , and endorsed  Paul Ryanâ€™s plan to privatize Medicare.)
Itâ€™s also worth noting that sending in tax returns on postcards, as Gingrich and Perry have pledged to make possible, could cause a new set of problems. â€œIn tax affairs, what you want is precision in terms of defining whatâ€™s income or what the tax base is and so forth. You canâ€™t do it on a postcard,â€ Hufbauer said. Leaving out the details, he cautioned, would leave room for poor administration or tax evasion.
What a flat tax would do in the U.S.
Experts say we probably wouldnâ€™t see any immediate spike in personal income-tax revenue if the U.S. were to adopt a flat income tax. Instead, they say, the candidatesâ€™ plans probably would lead to plummeting revenue for the first several years.
â€œAny growth effects, even in the best of circumstances, thatâ€™s a five-year proposition,â€ Hufbauer said. â€œAnd how much growth is a matter of debate.â€
Analyses from the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center project that Cain and Perryâ€™s plans would both lead to decreased revenue; the center hasnâ€™t yet scrutinized Gingrichâ€™s plan. Of the other two, Perryâ€™s plan would have a greater impact on government coffers, cutting projected revenue  by about 27 percent by 2015.
The Tax Policy Center also concluded that Perry  and Cain's Â plans would mean an increased tax burden on middle- and low-income families. Cain has since modified his plan so those below the poverty line would be exempt from the individual tax. A Tax Policy Center researcher told The Washington Post that poor families would still see a tax increase  under the plan, albeit a smaller one.
The Gingrich and Perry plans also include some exemptions and deductions that would make them less regressive. Gingrichâ€™s plan Â would allot everyone a $12,000 personal deduction, and count charitable donations and homeownership as tax-deductible; Perryâ€™s includes a $12,500 personal deduction, and deductions for  â€œcharitable contributions, mortgage interest, state and local taxes, and Social Security benefits.â€
As we reported earlier this week, the Federal Election Commission, which regulates the flow of political cash, has been plagued by persistent gridlock  on some key areas of campaign finance.
Whyâ€™s that important? Because, as we explain, more money is coming in and much of it is flowing in through new and barely regulated groups.
Take a look at these graphsÂ â€”Â found in a report  [PDF] recently posted by the commissionÂ â€”Â that shine a spotlight on independent spending, or spending thatâ€™s technically not coordinated with candidates and their campaigns:
Whatâ€™s striking here is that independent spending by â€œPACs, Groups and Individualsâ€ more than quadrupled. Similar spending by parties stayed roughly the same. The data, compiled by the commission, are just another indication that the significance of traditional party committees  is shrinking in the rapidly changing campaign-finance landscape, eclipsed by new groups that can take in unlimited amounts to fund ads. (The other category in the chart, â€œelectioneering communications,â€ represents what are known as â€œissue adsâ€ that donâ€™t explicitly endorse or oppose candidates. Spending on those ads stayed at about $80 million, compared to its 2008 level.)
Another FEC graph breaks down spending a little further. Setting aside the party committees that cut back on their independent spending in 2010, it shows that while traditional PACs have increased their independent spending somewhat, a more substantial increase came from other groups and the rise of Super PACs , which started forming in 2010 after several court rulings opened the door to unlimited corporate and union donations.
Super PACs, as weâ€™ve noted , can take unlimited donations so long as theyâ€™re not coordinating their spending with campaigns. Though these groups have grown in number and influence since the last election cycle, the FEC has yet to issue any rules that specifically address them and has only issued advisory opinions  â€” which don't have the force of law or regulation â€” giving guidance on what theyâ€™re allowed to do.
Individual donors and other groups â€” nonprofit 501(c)s ranging from unions to so-called social welfare groups like Karl Roveâ€™s Crossroads GPS â€” can also make independent, noncoordinated expenditures. They took full advantage of this last cycle, spending more than $70 million.
Campaign-finance watchers estimate that independent spending in the 2012 cycle will blow away what was seen in 2010, especially since itâ€™s also a presidential election year. If the FECâ€™s data are any indication, the Super PACs and other nonprofit groups will be the ones to watch.
At the moment, while fundraising is in full swing, the spending is just starting. Hereâ€™s a look at some of the ads that both Democrat- and Republican-leaning Super PACs and 501(c) groups have already put out with the money that has come in.
A few examples:
Republican-allied Crossroads GPS, a 501(c)(4), just rolled out an ad attacking President Obama this week :
Priorities USA, a pro-Obama Super PAC, launched an attack ad against GOP candidate Mitt Romney  last week:
Make Us Great Again, a pro-Rick Perry Super PAC, releasedÂ its first ads  last week:
Monday, November 7, 2011
FR: Honestly, before I even heard your music, I was intrigued simply based on the name Phantogram.Where did that name come from?Does it have anything to do with actual phantograms?
SB: No.Well, it didnâ€™t when we were thinking about band names.Josh actually thought he made it up.He was trying to find a name that represented something from another world, something ghostly, something there but not there.We were thinking about Ghost Hands or Phantom Hands.There are so many bands and everyone takes a name, so Josh suggested Phantogram, as a description for a message from another world or from a ghost world or something.We really liked the imagery that came with it so we decided to take it.And then we looked it up and the definition was completely different.But it works.
FR: Yeah.It totally works.
FR: How did you begin writing music and how did that lead to the development of Phantogram?
SB:I used to spend my free time on the piano just messing around.Iâ€™d come up with songs and then forget about them a couple days later.I never took it very seriously until I met up with Josh in 2006.And thatâ€™s when we started working together.He came home from living in New York City where he was pursuing a different band with his brother.He let me listen to some of his music and I really was amazed by it.I was in awe, it was so beautiful.And he asked me to sing the songs he was working on and it ended up working out okay.We then decided to collaborate.
FR: Eyelid Movies boasted some pretty stylish music videos with â€œMouthful of Diamondsâ€ and â€œWhen Iâ€™m Smallâ€.Will any tracks from Nightflife be granted the video treatment?
SB: I donâ€™t know.Iâ€™m not sure if thatâ€™s going to happen. Iâ€™m thinking the label will probably want us to do a music video for â€œDonâ€™t Moveâ€ but I think it would be amazing to do something for â€œNightlifeâ€ the song or â€œA Dark Tunnelâ€.That would be pretty cool as well.
FR: That would be the less safe route.
SB: Yeah, I know.
FR: What kind of equipment do you use to create Phantogramâ€™s infectious beats?
SB: Letâ€™s see. We have a laptop we record on in Logic.Weâ€™ve been collecting synthesizers, analogues, a 4-track, records, loop pedals, samplers, drums, drum kit, guitar, bass guitar, tapes and other types of equipment we like to loop things in and put samples in to distort them to make different sounds.
FR: What was the main inspiration behind Nightlife?Do you think your sound has evolved since Eyelid Movies?
SB: Yea.I think the main inspiration behind Nightlife isâ€¦ a lot of experience and emotion, circumstances that Josh and I went through in the past couple of years while weâ€™ve been on tour and been a band who has become successful. We wanted it to be heavy.We wanted it to be dark. We wanted it to have a different dynamic element that Eyelid Movies may possibly lack. Eyelid Moviesâ€¦ we were actually only hoping for it to be a demo when we finished it up in 2007-8.The plan was to just release it locally so we can have some music to play and sell to get our name out there for college radio stations and all that stuff.But it caught on a little bit quicker than we were expecting.So I think Nightlife is definitely a more mature sound than Eyelid Movies. If we ended up waiting a little bit longer or if we knew what the plan was going to be where people caught onto our music quicker, I think Eyelid Movies would have sounded a lot more like Nightlife.
FR: Is the EP a format that you embrace or did the music just need to get out?Any idea when we can expect another full-length from Phantogram?
SB: Iâ€™m not sure what the plan is yet.Josh and I are still figuring it out.I think our initial plan is to get back into the studio and start writing and recording a full-length-but thereâ€™s a side of me that is intrigued about another mini-LP and releasing it sooner.We will see.
FR: You guys have had a pretty rigorous touring schedule over the past year.Not to single anyone out- but do you have a favorite place to play?
SB: We played Santa Fe last night and it was so much fun. We love playing in Minneapolis.Also, the night before last we played in Phoenix and it was incredible too.Josh and I are big fans of driving through smaller cities where most bands donâ€™t drive through or stop and play.You get a crowd and energy that you really canâ€™t find anywhere else because they are so happy you are there.And even if you fuck up the entire set, they will still love it.
FR: What is the most difficult part of translating Phantogram into a live experience?What is the most rewarding?
SB: Thereâ€™s a lot that needs to be done. It can get a little complicated to get the sound from the record into the live environment. But weâ€™re able to pull it off pretty well. When people come up to us when weâ€™re done and say that we were the best show they had ever seen, that has to be the most rewarding.
FR: Since you have officially become a popular female frontwoman for a successful band- are there any other female musical artists, either current or in the past, that influence you?
SB: Oh, man.I donâ€™t have a lot of female inspirations.I look more up to male performers, singers, and songwriters.I guess if I had to pick one, I would have to sayâ€¦ Beyonceâ€™.
FR: Music is currently available in a variety of formats.MP3s, CDs, vinyl, even cassette tapes are staging a mild comeback- whatâ€™s your favorite format for listening to music?
SB: I can say vinyl of course because it sounds the best.The experience of sitting down and listening to vinyl is an experience compared to pressing play on your iPod where you canâ€™t really wait for the next song to come.Sitting and listening to a record and flipping it over, itâ€™s more of a memory thing.But I also really enjoy listening to music while I drive and the only way Iâ€™m able to do that now is with my iPod.It just depends I guess.
FR: Whatâ€™s on your iPod right now?
SB: Com Truise, Exitmusic and Sacred Spirit.
FR: In the past decade, the music business has changed drastically- from Napster to iTunes to Spotify.In your opinion, where do you see the industry going in the next ten years?
SB: I think youâ€™ll see more singles.I think youâ€™ll see more short records.Not necessarily more EPs but mini LPs.I think there will be more connection with visual concepts along with records- like possibly whatever gadget theyâ€™ll have that allows you to put on a record and project something off your phone on the wall while youâ€™re listening to it. I think stuff like that is possible.I think people are going to start- even though I know itâ€™s already popular at the moment- but I think music fans are going to start wanting to collect tangible music the way it used to be.
FR: Any advice to up-and-coming artists struggling to make it in the 21st century music industry?
SB: Donâ€™t think you have to move to a big city to do it.Just work your ass off and believe in your music.Â Do what you have to do.
- Fr. Jones
Sunday, November 6, 2011
Believe it or not, I usually donâ€™t spend my early Sunday evenings jumping up and down in unison with hundreds of costumed hipsters to the otherworldly, euphoric sounds of arena space-rock/dreampop- but I happily made an exception for M83â€™s unforgettable set on the final day of Ashevilleâ€™s Moogfest event. And now the day of rest will never be the same.
- Fr. Jones
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office recently released a much-discussed study showing that over the past three decades the income of the highest-paid Americans has soared while the income of others has grown much more modestly. Hereâ€™s a rundown of some statistics illustrating the growing income gap.
But first, some context. These numbers reflect income, not wealth. So a retiree who owns two houses and three cars may be far better off than someone with a higher annual income, two kids in college and a mortgage. Itâ€™s worth noting that income includes investment income and capital gains.
Also, although a 2010 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development study suggests that there is less income mobility [PDF] in the United States than in many other developed countries, someone in the richest 1 percent this year may have been in an entirely different category 30 years ago. Take Bill Gates. In 1979, Gates was 24, and Microsoft hadnâ€™t even incorporated. He was likely in the bottom tier of earners. More recently, of course, he has easily been in the top 1 percent. According to a 2007 Treasury Department study  [PDF], â€œroughly half of taxpayers who began in the bottom income quintile in 1996 moved up to a higher income group by 2005.â€
Third, though income growth has been unequally distributed, real income for all groups has grown over the past three decades.
In spite of those caveats, the gap between richest and poorest is far greater than it used to be. All income numbers have been adjusted for inflation, and all household income data are adjusted for differences in household size  [PDF; see Appendix A]. Please note that different subsections take different years as a baseline.
(Update, 11/4) You can also find out how income inequality in your county ranks compared to other parts of the U.S. using this interactive chart .
Overall income growth for the country as a whole
Disposable  personal income per capita :
All figures in constant 2005 dollars. Source: Census.gov 
Unevenly distributed growth
|Top 1% of Households||275%|
|Poorest Fifth of Households||18.3%|
|Middle Fifth of Households||35.2%|
Source: Congressional Budget Office 
|Top 1% of Households||10.5%||21.3%|
|Poorest Fifth of Households||2.9%||2.5%|
|Middle Three Fifths of Households||47.8%||38.5%|
Source: Congressional Budget Office 
Large gains for the highest earners, modest gains for the rest
|Top 1% of Households||$339,200||$586,000||$1,038,700||$1,319,700|
|Poorest Fifth of Households||$14,800||$14,800||$16,500||$17,700|
|Middle Fifth of Households||$42,600||$45,000||$50,400||$55,300|
All figures in constant 2007 dollars. Source: Congressional Budget Office 
Decline in median individual income for men, slight gains for women throughout the 2000s
All figures in constant 2010 dollars. Source: Census.gov 
Comparison to other countries
Income inequality on a scale from 0 to 1, 1 being the most unequal:
Source: Bertelsmann Stiftung 
Correction (11/3): One of the charts in this post incorrectly stated that the 81st-99th percentiles accounted for 28.6 percent of U.S. income in 2007. In fact, they accounted for 38.6 percent of U.S. income.
By Will Moredock
Charleston, S.C. - Waves were white-capping on the Ashley River last Wednesday afternoon under the force of a 40 mph wind, which ushered in the first blast of autumn chill. In Brittlebank Park, on the banks of the Ashley, several dozen stubborn optimists wrestled to put up tents and organize their camp in the gale.
These were the local off-shoot of the Occupy Wall Street movement, but they had chosen to stay in Charleston to occupy the park for 99 hours, symbolizing the 99 percent of Americans who are getting screwed by our economic system. I call them optimistic and they were â€“ optimistic in their determination to erect their tents and make their camp in the rising wind and falling temperatures; optimistic in their determination to save this country from the forces of greed and corruption which are Â Â trying to strangle it to death.
Watching them set up a voter registration tent, a food tend, an assembly tent and other functional venues, I felt a pump of optimism in my own chest. These were young people, for the most part, a demographic I had not seen politically active in a long time.
What was it that finally shook Americans awake? Perhaps it was last summer's crisis over raising the debt limit that made people realize how crazy and corrupt congressional Republicans truly are. But there was plenty of evidence of pathology before that debacle.
The gap between rich and poor in this country is wider than it has been in 80 years and there are more Americans living in poverty â€“ 46.2 Â million â€“ than at any time since the Census Bureau began keeping that statistic 52 years ago. Another recent statistic suggests that the richest 400 families in this country control more wealth than the bottom 50 percent of the entire U.S. population. Last year, the top one percent of Americans took home 24 percent of the entire nation's income.
Those living off the stock market pay taxes at 15 percent, which is the same rate as those with a taxable wage Â income between $8,500 and $34,500. As billionaire Warren Buffet has famously observed, his secretary is taxed at a higher rate than he is.
Many of the super rich are corporate CEOs, who have seen their incomes rise to the hundreds of millions of dollars in the last 30 years, while the average American worker's wages (adjusted for inflation) have remained almost flat.
And corporations are taxed like millionaires and billionaires, which is to say, very lightly. American corporations pay less tax than any other member nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Last year, 25 of Â America's largest corporations paid their CEO's more than they paid in taxes.
Right now American corporations make record profits, as they sit on more than $2 trillion in cash reserves, money that could be used to create jobs.
New York Times columnist and Nobel laureate Paul Krugman wrote recently, â€œThe protesters' indictment of Wall Street as a destructive force, economically and politically, is completely correct.â€
He gave a litany of charges against the Wall Street overlords: â€œIn the first act, bankers took advantage of deregulation to run wild..., inflating huge bubbles through reckless lending. In the second act, the bubbles burst â€“ but bankers were bailed out by taxpayers with remarkably few strings attached, even as ordinary workers continued to suffer the consequences of the bankers' sins. And, in the third act, the bankers showed their gratitude by turning on the people who had saved them, throwing their support behind politicians who promised to keep their taxes low and dismantled the mild regulations erected in the aftermath of the crisis.â€
Illustrating his point, last year lobbyists (including many on Wall Street) bought $3.51 billion Â Â worth of influence in Congress. And it seems they got their money's worth. Even now Senate Republicans have declared their intention to block President Obama's nominee to head the new consumer financial regulatory commission. Even after all that has happened in the last three years, the GOPers will not let their banker buddies be regulated. Those same GOPers â€“ along with their colleagues in the House â€“ have denounced any effort to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans, even as they killed the president's jobs bill.
Krugman writes: â€œGiven this history, how can you not applaud the protesters for finally taking a stand?â€
It remains to be seen if the protests in the dozens of other American cities will have any staying power, if they will influence a corrupt and paralyzed government, if they will be the counterbalance to the deranged Tea Party movement. It's not easy sparking a protest against wealth and privilege in the city that started a great war to preserve its wealth and privilege. But you gotta love these young folks for trying.
Visit http://occupycolumbiasc.org or find your local Occupy movement
For years I have been clipping newspaper stories about South Carolina's various quality of life indices. You know â€“ average income, life expectancy, infant mortality, obesity, violence, drop out rate â€“ the kind of things you might want to know if you were thinking about moving here.
I use the numbers to write a column periodically or to update the little civic talk I am occasionally asked to deliver. And the numbers are always troubling. As you probably know, our state Â generally ranks â€œfirst in the worst and last in the best.â€ It is a tradition we share with most of the southern states. In fact, the joke is that only one state keeps us from being dead last in everything. Hence, the oft-spoken benediction, â€œThank god for Mississippi.â€
Well, it looks like my newspaper clipping days are over. The Center for a Better South, based in Charleston, has just released its 2011 Briefing Book on the South, an online statistical profile of the South (bettersouth.org/publications), using 36 indicators and more than 70 data points from an array of sources for each southern state.
The new CBS profile provides one-stop shopping Â to see that South Carolina has the tenth-highest poverty rate in the nation, and ranks fifth in child poverty. We have the second-highest rate of food Â insecurity (it used to be called hunger) and we are the sixth-worst place to raise children.
We rank eighth in diabetes, eighth in obesity, fifth in infant mortality, fourth in premature births, 11th in births to teen mothers, and 12th in adult smoking.
Want some education numbers? We are next to last in the nation in rate of high school graduation. Only 62.2 percent of public high school students graduate on time. Perhaps one reason for this is that we have the 19th Â lowest level of expenditure per student in our public schools, at $10,051.
And we are a violent state, ranking fifth in violent crime, seventh in domestic violence and third in traffic fatalities.
Get the picture?
These bad numbers illustrate a nexus of ancient social and political pathologies. Here's one I found of particular interest. Despite what our Republican governor and legislature would have you believe, we have the eighth-lowest tax burden in the nation, at 8.1 percent of personal income. If lower taxes were the key to jobs and prosperity, South Carolina would be booming, instead of carrying the fourth-highest level of unemployment in the country.
All these numbers were made possible by Andy Brack, founder and president of the Center for a Better South. â€œA hundred and fifty years after shots were fired at Fort Sumter, we have a Civil War hangover,â€ Brack told me last week. â€œWe have not invested in education and infrastructure.â€ (And with the eighth-lowest tax rate in the nation, it is not likely we will start soon.)
Speaking of the South generally, he said, â€œIt's amazing when you look at statistics across the board. We really are at the bottom of the nation.â€
â€œWe have made progress, but so has the rest of the country,â€ he said. â€œWe still lag. We are still trying to catch up.â€
In ranking the states with the lowest household income, southern states hold eight of the bottom ten positions. (South Carolina is number eight.) But there is good news in the survey, Brack said. Virginia ranked No. 44 in household income, showing that a southern state could break out of the pack and become a leader.
â€œSouthern states can be mainstream,â€ Brack said. â€œVirginia raises the standard for everyone.â€
If the 2011 Briefing Book is to have any impact, someone has to read it. Brack sent it out electronically two weeks ago to 1,500 academics, policy-makers, media figures, and legislators around the region.
That's a good start, but beyond reading the book, policy-makers and lawmakers have to care. They have to give a damn. And this Â is where law and policy have failed in the South for centuries. The people who run this state â€“ and all the southern states â€“ are quite comfortable with things as they are. And there is no reason to think this will change soon. Â The only people who could make those smug, greedy bastards give a damn â€“ I'm talking about the voters here â€“ do not go to the polls on Election Day.
You see, South Carolina has the 11th lowest rate of voter participation in the nation, based on 2008 election figures. And that number will soon be dropping. Our General Assembly just passed a voter ID law that will potentially disenfranchise 180,000 more South Carolinians.
This poor, old state is broken and dysfunctional in so many ways, and most of them can be traced to the ballot box.