Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Ringside Seat: USA Patriot Capitalists

If you read the 2012 annual report from Booz Allen Hamilton, the company that used to employ Edward Snowden, now the world's most famous leaker, you'll see that good news abounds. The company made $240 million in profits on a healthy $5.86 billion in revenue last year. Though "[t]he United States federal government is in a period of significant uncertainty, characterized by funding challenges and budget cuts," rest assured, investors, because "demand remains high for Booz Allen's capabilities and expertise across our diverse portfolio of clients." Granted, "diverse" may be a bit of an overstatement, since a reported 98 percent of the company's revenue comes from federal-government contracts.

The School-to-Prison Pipeline Works!


Criminal justice reform activists have long argued that the “school-to-prison” pipeline—the process that places children in the criminal-justice system for misbehavior in school—has a destructive effect on future outcomes. A recent working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research gives a sense of just how destructive. According to economists Anna Aizer and Joseph Doyle Jr., juvenile incarceration—one result of getting caught in the pipeline—drastically reduces the probability of completing high school, and substantially increases the odds of adult incarceration. From the paper:

What's Next for Immigration Reform?


For the first time since 2007—and arguably, for the first time in decades—a comprehensive immigration reform bill stands a good chance of passing the Senate.

I Would Desire That You Pay the Ladies

AP Images/Susan Walsh

Fifty years ago today, in 1963, Congress passed the Equal Pay Act. The idea was simple: Men and women doing the same work should earn the same pay. Straightforward enough, right? Change the law, change the world, be home by lunchtime.

Ringside Seat: In the Name of Terror

Imagine that the government said the following: There is a terrible threat to Americans' lives that we need to address, and though in the past we've tried, we haven't done enough. This scourge has killed nearly 400,000 Americans over the last decade, and the government wouldn't be doing its job in keeping us safe if it didn't take some extraordinary measures to deal with it. This threat is known as the automobile, and to confront it, we're instituting a new system to keep it from killing so many of us. What we need is information, to understand who has accidents and under what circumstances they occur. 

How All Three Branches Conspired to Threaten Your Privacy

WikiMedia Commons

The recent revelations about the court order issued to Verizon asking them to hand over data about the calls made by millions of customers were chilling not so much for the specific information the government was asking for, but for what the order likely portended. Given its massive scope, the potential for spying into electronic communications made much more disturbing revelations inevitable. It didn't take long for the other shoe to drop.

A Shocking Outbreak of Intellectual Consistency

National Security Agency headquarters (photo from nsa.gov)

As soon as an issue like the NSA surveillance comes along (and by the way, it needs a name—BigDataGulp, perhaps?), we immediately start hearing charges of hypocrisy. When a Democratic administration does something normally associated with Republicans, we've come to expect everybody to give their partisan affiliations precedence over their prior substantive beliefs, and switch sides. So liberals should now be fervently defending the government's right to see who you called and read your emails, and conservatives should be decrying the expansion of the national security state. And most of all, everyone should be accusing everyone else of hypocrisy.

But weirdly enough, though there are some charges of hypocrisy, actual hypocrisy is in relatively short supply, outside of a few isolated cases here and there. I've spent the morning going around to web sites of various political stripes, and amazingly, most commentators seem to be taking the same positions they did on this matter during the Bush years. Yeah, there are a few buffoonish conservatives like Michelle Malkin who will go on Fox News and say they're shocked, shocked, and what Barack Obama is doing is far worse than anything George W. Bush did, and there are some Democratic members of Congress defending the program (but they all voted for it when they supported the Patriot Act, don't forget). But on the whole what you're seeing are liberals and libertarians criticizing the NSA surveillance, just as they did when Bush was president, and conservatives sort-of defending it.

Game Over

The Pew Research Center is out with a big survey on the public's views on same-sex marriage with lots of interesting things, most of which are continuations of the trend we've seen for a while. But the most interesting findings come from their question about whether people think that marriage equality is inevitable. As you might expect, most of those who support it are optimistic about their preferred outcome, with 85 percent saying it's inevitable. But much more striking, a full 59 percent of those who oppose same-sex marriage say it's inevitable. No wishful thinking here.

Ringside Seat: Can You Track Me Now?

There was once a time when cell phones, like beepers before them, were really only needed by doctors and drug dealers. But in a short time they became ubiquitous, and today nearly nine in ten Americans own mobile phones. That's a lot of phones and a lot of calls, but worry not—the U.S. government is working hard to track each and every one.

The Verizon Data Order and Why It Matters

WikiMedia Commons

Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian had a major scoop yesterday, revealing a court order requiring the communications giant Verizon to hand over information about all the calls in its system, domestic or international. As Greenwald explains, this means "the communication records of millions of US citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk – regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing." 

Is the GOP's Tragedy of the Commons Problem Undoing Immigration Reform?

Marco Rubio may be getting thirsty again.

For some time, everyone in Washington assumed that if any major piece of legislation had the chance to pass this year, it was going to be immigration reform, because at last Republican and Democratic interests had come into alignment. Democrats have wanted reform, including a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, for a long time. Republicans have finally realized that telling Latino voters "We don't like your kind" every couple of years is very bad politics. So with bipartisan "gangs" in both houses of Congress working on reform packages, it appeared that things were moving toward passage.

Until the last couple of days, that is, when things began looking bleak.

Republicans Play Defense in Texas

AP Photo/Harry Cabluck

Yesterday, the Texas Republican Party chair Steve Munisteri announced plans to open five new field offices and hire nearly two dozen full-time outreach workers, who will target nonwhite voters and young people. The national party will help support the effort, investing a currently undisclosed amount. Since the GOP already dominates the state, you might expect the news would only further depress beleaguered Democrats—a well-funded effort to build inroads among voters who don’t typically vote Republican.

Instead, some Democrats were celebrating. Battleground Texas, the group headed by former Obama staffers that promises to turn Texas blue largely through an emphasis on door-to-door canvassing, registration drives, and the like, sent out an email blast highlighting the news, with a subject line: “This is amazing.” The email proclaimed: “There is no clearer sign that Texas matters and will become a battleground state than the national Republican Party investing money in Texas in 2013.” Battleground Texas founder Jeremy Bird, who served as Obama’s national field director in 2012, tweeted out the news with the hashtag “#GameOn,” the group’s favorite slogan.

The celebration makes sense.

Once Upon a Time, There Was a President ...

flickr/United States Government Work

AP Photo

Last week I wrote about why the myth of the magical hero-king— what others call the "Green Lantern" presidency—just won’t die. The reason? Because it seems the myth is in the interest of the presidents themselves!

Ringside Seat: Frankie Muniz's Career Is Dead, Susan Rice's Is Alive

Fortunes can change fast—just ask Susan Rice. Nine months ago, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations was perfectly situated and considered next in line for secretary of State. Then, after attacks in Benghazi left four dead, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, Rice found herself persona non grata.