Author Archive: Erich Vieth
Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich and his wife, Anne Jay, live in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where they are raising their two extraordinary daughters.
Propublica gives important background for understanding the alleged improper actions of the IRS:
In the furious fallout from the revelation that the IRS flagged applications from conservative nonprofits for extra review because of their political activity, some points about the big picture — and big donors — have fallen through the cracks.
Consider this our Top 6 list of need-to-know facts on social welfare nonprofits, also known as dark money groups because they don’t have to disclose their donors. The groups poured more than $256 million into the 2012 federal elections.
A century ago, Congress created a tax exemption for social welfare nonprofits. The statute defining the groups says they are supposed to be “operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare.” But in 1959, the regulators interpreted the “exclusively” part of the statute to mean groups had to be “primarily” engaged in enhancing social welfare. This later opened the door to political spending.
Here are the six points elaborated by Propublica:
1. Social welfare nonprofits are supposed to have social welfare, and not politics, as their “primary” purpose.
2. Donors to social welfare nonprofits are anonymous for a reason.
3. The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision meant that corporations could pay for political ads, anonymously, using social welfare nonprofits.
4. Social welfare nonprofits do not actually have to apply to the IRS for recognition as tax-exempt organizations.
5. Most of the money spent on elections by social welfare nonprofits supports Republicans.
6. Some social welfare groups promised in their applications, under penalty of perjury, that they wouldn’t get involved in elections. Then they did just that.
Non-believers have been villainized for so long by religious leaders that it leaves us flummoxed when a religious leader fails to take an unfair swipe at us. The religious leader I’m referring to is Pope Francis, and what he said was resoundingly refreshingly ordinary, though it sounded so good coming from the leader of the Catholic Church:
“Atheists should be seen as good people if they do good, Pope Francis has said in his latest urging that people of all religions, and none, work together.
“Just do good, and we’ll find a meeting point,” the pope said in a hypothetical reply to the hypothetical comment: “But I don’t believe. I’m an atheist.”
The new Pope has thus jumped over a very low bar. One small step for a man–one giant leap for a religious leader.
Users of the world’s most popular video sharing service upload 100 hours of video to the site every minute. That’s 6,000 hours of video every hour and a whopping 144,000 hours of video every day.
Stunning new development regarding the Obama administration’s war on journalism, and this is not hyperbole. What follows is an excerpt from Glenn Greenwald’s analysis:
Under US law, it is not illegal to publish classified information. That fact, along with the First Amendment’s guarantee of press freedoms, is what has prevented the US government from ever prosecuting journalists for reporting on what the US government does in secret. This newfound theory of the Obama DOJ – that a journalist can be guilty of crimes for “soliciting” the disclosure of classified information – is a means for circumventing those safeguards and criminalizing the act of investigative journalism itself. These latest revelations show that this is not just a theory but one put into practice, as the Obama DOJ submitted court documents accusing a journalist of committing crimes by doing this.
That same “solicitation” theory, as the New York Times reported back in 2011, is the one the Obama DOJ has been using to justify its ongoing criminal investigation of WikiLeaks and Julian Assange: that because Assange solicited or encouraged Manning to leak classified information, the US government can “charge [Assange] as a conspirator in the leak, not just as a passive recipient of the documents who then published them.”
[T]he point of the unprecedented Obama war on whistleblowers and press freedoms: to ensure that the only information the public can get is information that the Obama administration wants it to have. That’s why Obama’s one-side games with secrecy – we’ll prolifically leak when it glorifies the president and severely punish all other kinds – is designed to construct the classic propaganda model. And it’s good to see journalists finally speaking out in genuine outrage and concern about all of this.
From the NYT–most of the cells that comprise you do not contain your DNA:
I can tell you the exact date that I began to think of myself in the first-person plural — as a superorganism, that is, rather than a plain old individual human being. It happened on March 7. That’s when I opened my e-mail to find a huge, processor-choking file of charts and raw data from a laboratory located at the BioFrontiers Institute at the University of Colorado, Boulder. As part of a new citizen-science initiative called the American Gut project, the lab sequenced my microbiome — that is, the genes not of “me,” exactly, but of the several hundred microbial species with whom I share this body. These bacteria, which number around 100 trillion, are living (and dying) right now on the surface of my skin, on my tongue and deep in the coils of my intestines, where the largest contingent of them will be found, a pound or two of microbes together forming a vast, largely uncharted interior wilderness that scientists are just beginning to map.
According to Pogo, here are 10 basic questions about tax expenditures and the economy for which there are no meaningful answers. Here are the first 5 questions–the answers are all “we don’t know”:
1. How many federal dollars are spent in my community?
2. What small businesses in my community are receiving federal dollars?
3. How many jobs were created with federal spending?
4. How much fraud is there in federal spending?
5. What happens to the federal spending that falls through the cracks?
Bernie Sanders is one of the few incorruptible Senators. It’s not surprising, then, that it was Sanders who stepped forward to proposed legislation to actually break up the largest banks. It’s distressing that laws accomplishing this weren’t passed back in 2008, but not surprising, since the banks own Congress. Politico reports:
Sen. Bernie Sanders proposed legislation today that would break up the big banks and financial institutions that crashed the economy. The ending of too big to fail would also open the door to criminal prosecutions.
Sen. Sanders called ending too big to fail a matter of justice, “We have a situation now where Wall Street banks are not only too big to fail, they are too big to jail. That is unacceptable and that has got to change because America is based on a system of law and justice. In my view, no single financial institution should have holdings so extensive that its failure could send the world economy into crisis. At the very least, no institution, no CEO in America should be above the law. If an institution is too big to fail, it is too big to exist.”
The legislation makes its intended purpose clear, “Notwithstanding any other provision of law, beginning 1 year after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary of the Treasury shall break up entities included on the Too Big To Fail List, so that their failure would no longer cause a catastrophic effect on the United States or global economy without a taxpayer bailout.