Hello! Here is a roundup of some of the most interesting items from a very few of my favorite sites. I hope you find them interesting.
Watch The Story of Citizens United v. FEC
Party for the Cause
Democracy: Use it or Lose it
“We are targeting various House Republicans in town hall meetings during the recess to let them know these budget cuts are beyond the pale,” said the labor source, who added that it has been difficult to mobilize supporters to public question-and-answer sessions with lawmakers because “they’ve been pretty circumspect in giving out information about the meetings.”
Mike Lux, a Democratic strategist who works with liberal groups, said Democrats hope to replicate a Tea Party-like public uprising against the GOP call for steep budget cuts.
“We’ve got two models we can look at,” he said. “One is the 1995 budget fight, when Gingrich and the Republicans completely overshot and alienated people and the other is Wisconsin right now. As people push extremist budget cuts, it’s going to provoke a backlash and we’re going to see a pushing back.”
By the way—I get this email yesterday:
This summer, Organizing for America will train a new team of summer organizers. The Summer Organizing Fellowship is a grassroots program that aims to put boots on the ground and help foster a new generation of leaders — not just to help win elections, but to strengthen our democracy in communities across the country.
We’re reminded nearly every day of the power of organizing — of people standing up and speaking out in their communities. And that kind of effective organizing doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It takes commitment, time, and hard work to build a movement around a cause.
That’s exactly what our team of summer organizers will do.
They will be trained in the basic principles that have always built and powered effective grassroots movements, and will be assigned to a specific community where they’ll work to organize supporters street by street, neighborhood by neighborhood. They’ll recruit volunteers, run events, knock on doors, and do what it takes to support the President’s agenda. And, in the end, their work will take our grassroots power to an impressive new level.
Folks who trained in programs like this one have gained important skills that have since helped them in careers with OFA and beyond. And they had a good time doing it.
Successful movements have always been built and grown by ordinary people who take responsibility for organizing their fellow citizens to make their voices heard. We’re looking for folks who are ready to work hard to support the President’s agenda and lay new groundwork to carry this movement forward for years to come.
Click here to apply for the OFA summer organizers program or pass it on to a friend — no experience is needed to apply:
Thanks for all you do,
Organizing for America
This coming Saturday and in future days, we can resist the shock therapy of cutbacks and demand that banks pay their fair share. “Cut CEO bonuses, not Social Security.” “Bail out the schools, not the banks.” “Corporate tax dodgers, pay your fair share.” If we join together nonviolently, as workers and unemployed, students and pensioners, immigrants and citizens, homeowners and homeless, rich and poor together, without scapegoats or enemies, we have power, not the power of domination but of cooperation and moral persuasion. As we rouse ourselves from apathy and take action together, for the children’s sake and for the sake of the future, we are upheld and uphold each other through the power of community—people power. Another world is possible! The time is now.
Republicans in Indiana’s state senate on Wednesday killed a proposed “right-to-work” bill that would have reduced the power of unions in the state.
Democratic legislators fled the statehouse on Tuesday to block a vote on the proposed bill, following a similar move by Democratic lawmakers in Wisconsin over that state’s proposed legislation to limit collective bargaining rights for public sector unions.
SEIU, the Service Employees International Union, is holding rallies at state capitols around the country to demonstrate solidarity with public employee unions in Wisconsin. The union has scheduled an event at the Gold Dome in Atlanta at 4 pm today.
This has been posted on the far-right Free Republic site, under the headline:
“Atlanta Tea Party and Many Other Groups, Facing Off the SEIU Thugs Wednesday”
The advice that “attendees are requested to be flexible in your attire” is apparently a suggestion to keep firearms concealed. The original author goes on to claim that “the lefties are idiots who are very good at running their mouths… and also very good at keeping their distance from an armed American”.
Related–from the Southern Poverty Law Center:
A new study by the Southern Poverty Law Center describes a big rise in hate groups across the country.
By its count, there are now more than 1,000 active extremist groups in the U.S. Experts say the largest increase comes from militias that consider the federal government their enemy.
Take the police blotter in January, for instance.
That month, authorities arrested a neo-Nazi headed for the Southwest border. He was carrying a dozen homemade grenades. Police hauled in another man in Dearborn, Mich. They said he had a history of fighting with the federal government, long before he parked near a crowded mosque with explosives in his car.
The FBI and local authorities are still trying to find out who put a bomb on the parade route in Spokane, Wash., just in time for Martin Luther King Jr. day.
Cavanaugh says he thinks more people need to start talking about hate groups. Because, he says, a movement gets stronger when it hides in the shadows.
What’s clearer, however, is that views on unions have been declining in general — as often happens when the unemployment rate is high — and public-sector unions tend to be viewed more negatively than private-sector ones.
[ I hadn’t thought of that—that people are still pro-union despite the high unemployment!]
But there are an awful lot of issues on which the American public has ambivalent feelings, but nevertheless objects to rights being taken away. People might think that alcohol has a negative influence on society, for instance, but I’d imagine that relatively few want to ban it. Even on an issue like abortion, this pattern can sometimes be observed — about as many Americans describe themselves as “pro-life” as “pro-choice”, but polls generally show a clear majority opposed to overturning Roe v. Wade.
I realize that union organizing and collective bargaining rights are not exactly the same as those issues, but the Gallup poll suggests that the same pattern may hold. The public might not be enamored of public sector unions, but by about a 2:1 margin, they think they have the right to exist.
I suspect, then, that the near-term political risks to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker are mostly to the downside. Part of it is that, as in debates over the budget at the federal level, there is an element of what chess players call zugzwang: since any specific solution over deficit reduction is likely to be fairly unpopular, the first mover or perceived aggressor is often at a disadvantage.
The Gallup poll, however, suggests that while reducing benefits and pay for government workers is somewhat unpopular (it is opposed by a 53-44 margin), reducing their collective bargaining rights is much more clearly so (it is opposed 61-33). And Mr. Walker’s budget proposal aims to do some of both.
His argument was two-fold. Public sector unions have a corrupting influence on politics, he said, and government workers themselves are already overpaid.
“They have a parasitic relationship with the states, and a symbiotic relationship with the federal government,” Huckabee said. “Nationally public employees are now making 30 percent more in wages and 70 percent more in benefits and health than are their private sector counterparts.”
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Chants of “kill the bill” and “recall Kasich” pierced the chilly air Tuesday outside the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus.
They came from thousands of union workers who rallied against Senate Bill 5, which would overhaul Ohio’s collective bargaining system for public employees.
Hearings on the bill continued as the protests occurred. The full Senate could vote on the bill within a few weeks.
Senate Bill 5 would eliminate or limit collective bargaining, end binding arbitration and require public employees to pay 20 percent of the cost of their health care.
Wisconsin Governor May Have Committed Ethics, Labor Law Violations in Koch Call, Says Former Attorney General
“There clearly are potential ethics violations, and there are potential election-law violations and there are a lot of what look to me like labor-law violations,” said Peg Lautenschlager, a Democrat who served as Wisconsin’s Attorney General after serving for many years as a U.S. Attorney. “I think that the ethics violations are something the (state) Government Accountability Board should look into because they are considerable. He is on tape talking with someone who he thinks is the funder of an independent political action committee to purchase advertising to benefit Republican legislators who are nervous about taking votes on legislation he sees as critical to his political success.”
On the tape, Walker is asked about “planting some troublemakers” to incite the crowds at what have been peaceful protests.
“I think there’s a serious issue there,” Lautenschlager explained. “That’s a public safety issue. And I think that is really troublesome: a governor with an obligation to maintain public safety says he’s going to plant people to make trouble. That screams out to me. For a governor even to consider a strategy that could unnecessarily threaten the safety of peaceful demonstrators — which the governor acknowledged he did — is something that simply amazes me.”
Lautenschlager noted a body of labor law that prevents employers from using threats of layoffs as a negotiating tactic with unionized workers.
She explained that Walker’s union busting movement isn’t catching on, “What Scott Walker was saying to this guy he thought was a billionaire was how all the other states, all the other states are going to follow in his Scott Walker footsteps, because he is doing the big great thing in Wisconsin in taking on and taking apart the unions. Not only is that starting to not work out for the governor in Wisconsin, it is also not working out in the other states he mentioned so excitedly. You heard him mention his pal Rick Snyder from Michigan. Governor Snyder is facing police and firefighters protesting in Lansing. That’s Michigan. In Ohio, things are yet unresolved. No matter how often Governor Walker says he is talking to Governor Kasich in Ohio, things aren’t going the Republicans’ way there either. Republicans are caving on key portions of their union stripping bill and protests against it are still growing.”
She discussed the fatal flaw in this strategy [of prolonging the protests], “ What we know from recent political experience is that sometimes when protests go on for a really long time, people start to associate the thing that is being protested with the chaos and division and disruption that comes from big sustained protests.”
Later Maddow explained the political calculus that the Republicans now face, “So this is the political calculus that Governor Walker has earned himself. He is now the guy telling Wisconsin he’s going to get rid of thousands of jobs in order to do something that is super unpopular.”
The vast majority of Americans see collective bargaining as a right, and if there is one emotional trigger that will rally the American people behind almost any cause it is the idea that a right is being taken away.
As we reported earlier today, the deputy, Jeff Cox, had tweeted on the weekend that Wisconsin protesters at the state capitol in Madison should be dealt with using “live ammunition.”
Today the Indiana Attorney General’s Office announced that Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Cox is no longer employed by this agency.
The Republican plan to slash government spending by $61bn in 2011 could reduce US economic growth by 1.5 to 2 percentage points in the second and third quarters of the year, a Goldman Sachs economist has warned.
Treasury secretary Timothy Geithner isn’t happy with the latest round of Republican budget cut proposals.
Geithner, speaking at a press conference after a G20 meeting, said the House of Representatives’ $60 billion package of spending cuts, passed on Saturday, would cost jobs.
“In our judgment, the continuing opposition…in the House would undermine and damage our capacity to create jobs and expand the economy,” Geithner said during the press conference on Saturday, Reuters reported.
Without the government spending of the last two years — including tax cuts — the economy would be in vastly worse shape. Likewise, if the federal government begins laying off tens of thousands of workers now, the economy will clearly suffer.
That’s the historical lesson of postcrisis austerity movements. The history is a rich one, too, because people understandably react to a bubble’s excesses by calling for the reverse. When Franklin Roosevelt was running for president in 1932, he repeatedly called for a balanced budget.
But no matter how morally satisfying austerity may be, it’s the wrong answer. Hoover’s austere instincts worsened the Depression. Roosevelt’s postelection reversal helped, but he also prolonged the Depression by raising taxes and cutting spending in 1937. Only the giant stimulus program known as World War II finally ended the Depression. When the private sector is hesitant to spend, the government has to — or no one will.
For the sake of the economy, the best compromise in coming weeks would be one that trades short-term spending for medium- and long-term cuts. Beef up the cost-control measures in the health care overhaul and add new ones, like malpractice reform. Cut more wasteful military programs, like the F-35 jet engine. Force more social programs to prove they work — and cut their funding in future years if they don’t.
On Wednesday, a Reid spokesperson criticized House Republicans’ $4 billion plan as “extreme” and said that both the two-week proposal and the longer-term plan would be “non-starters in the Senate.”
“The Republicans’ so-called compromise is nothing more than the same extreme package the House already handed the Senate, just with a different bow,” Reid spokesperson Jon Summers said in a statement. “This isn’t a compromise, it’s a hardening of their original position. This bill would simply be a two-week version of the reckless measure the House passed last weekend. It would impose the same spending levels in the short term as their initial proposal does in the long term, and it isn’t going to fool anyone.”
Both chambers are in recess this week for the Presidents’ Day holiday. That leaves Congress only a few days when it returns next week to come to an agreement in time to avert a government shutdown.
The full list of mayors participating in this week’s meeting :
Burnsville (MN) Mayor Elizabeth B. Kautz, president, U.S. Conference of Mayors
Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter, second vice president, U.S. Conference of Mayors
Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker
Elizabeth (NJ) Mayor Christian Bollwage
Carmel (IN) Mayor James Brainard
West Sacramento (CA) Mayor Christopher Cabaldon
Columbus (OH) Mayor Michael Coleman
Hallandale Beach (FL) Mayor Joy Cooper
Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer
Alexandria (VA) Mayor William Euille
Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx
North Little Rock (AR) Mayor Patrick Henry Hays
Jackson (MS) Mayor Harvey Johnson, Jr.
Southfield (MI) Mayor Brenda Lawrence
Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield
Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory
Tallahassee Mayor John Marks
Sumter (SC) Mayor Joseph McElveen
Pembroke Pines (FL) Mayor Frank Ortis
North Miami (FL) Mayor Andre Pierre
Santa Ana (CA) Mayor Miguel Pulido
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed
Macon (GA) Mayor Robert Reichert
Mesa (AZ) Mayor Scott Smith
Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola
Schenectady (NY) Mayor Brian Stratton
Gastonia (NC) Mayor Jennie Stultz
Fresno (CA) Mayor Ashley Swearengin
Piscataway (NJ) Mayor Brian Wahler
[Where’s that weasel Villaraigosa? Where’s Gavin Newsome, or Bloomberg? But I do notice many Mayors from Red Cities—good.]
House of Representatives voted 251-174 against anamendment that would fix a flaw in deep-water oil leases on public land and increase royalty payments to the government. The failed amendment to the 2011 fiscal year spending bill was authored by Rep. Ed Markey (MA-07).
Markey’s amendment would have imposed nothing radical. He just wanted the deep-water drillers to pay the standard royalty rate, the same rate they and other companies pay on oil from leases not covered by the waiver. But that, it seems, would be draconian in the view of the majority of Representatives.
I think it’s pretty clear that we’re looking toward a scenario in which John Boehner shuts the government down in the near future. There’ll be a lot of moves between now and then and a lot of reporting on the details, but I think the basic dynamic is pretty clear and abstract. You can compromise about numbers—$10 billion or $5 billion. And you can compromise across modes—cut that instead of this. But you can’t compromise between Congressional Republicans desire to force the White House into a humiliating defeat and the White House’s desire to not be humiliated and defeated. A compromise acceptable to the President would, by definition, fail to meet the objective of halting the march toward socialism.
The interesting theoretical question, I think, is why did the 2006 midterms not result in a government shutdown the way the 1994 midterms did and the 2010 ones will. Part of the issue may have been priority mismatch. Congressional Democrats cared most about seizing the opportunity to increase spending on some core domestic initiatives, while the Bush administration cared most about maintaining a free hand to conduct the war in Iraq. There was intense anger at Democrats from the base for not doing more to force the issue on Iraq in 2007, but it wasn’t anger that had any basis in organized interest groups with real leverage.
The fact that a president (with his nationwide constituency) and a House Speaker flush with midterm victory (having won most recently) both have plausible claims to popular legitimacy makes these kind of clashes difficult to resolve. If Obama were the King of England, then what would happen is that over time his legitimacy would erode and power would pass to the Speaker.
House Republicans rode into the majority with an explicit promise to spur job creation, repeating the mantra “where are the jobs?” over and over during the buildup to November’s election. However, since they’ve come into office, Republicans have spent their time on anything but job creation, bringing up bills repealing the Affordable Care Act and restricting a woman’s right to choose, while pushing for a series of budget cuts that would result in widespread job loss.
Earlier this month, the Economic Policy Institute released a report finding that the $100 billion in discretionary spending cuts that the House GOP passed last weekend would result in the loss of nearly one million jobs. “Cuts of this magnitude will undermine gross domestic product performanceat a time when the economy is seeing anemic post-recession growth,” wrote EPI’s Rebecca Theiss.
We talked a few weeks ago about the very different ways in which the media responds to court rulings on the Affordable Care Act. Those upholding the constitutionality of the health care law get very little attention, while conservative rulings against the law are literally treated as front-page news.
Three federal district courts have said the Affordable Care Act meets constitutional muster; two have reached the opposite conclusion. Here’s how four major media outlets have covered the rulings, in the order in which the decisions came down:
As a legal matter, none of these ruling is more important than the other — they’re all at the federal district level, they’re all dealing with the same law, and they’ll all be subjected to an appeal.
And yet, the discrepancy is overwhelming. In every instance, conservative rulings get more coverage, longer articles, and better placement.
Near the forum’s conclusion, Massachusetts Institute of Technology climate scientist Kerry Emanuel asked a panel of journalists why the media continues to cover anthropogenic climate change as a controversy or debate, when in fact it is a consensus among such organizations as the American Geophysical Union, American Institute of Physics, American Chemical Society, American Meteorological Association and the National Research Council, along with the national academies of more than two dozen countries.
“You haven’t persuaded the public,” replied Elizabeth Shogren of National Public Radio. Emanuel immediately countered, smiling and pointing at Shogren, “No, you haven’t.” Scattered applause followed in the audience of mostly scientists, with one heckler saying, “That’s right. Kerry said it.”
Explanations abound: Is it the media? Under-education? Denialism?
Tom Rosenstiel of the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism pointed at the media, focusing on its overall contraction in the past two decades. Shrinking budgets have led to a proliferation of quick, cheap reporting, as well as discussion and commentary formats that rarely provide informative discussions of actual science results.
“What is shrinking is the reportorial component of our culture in which people go out and find things and verify things,” he said. Truth has little chance to make itself known in the new narrow and shallow public square.
Solutions: Smart talking and media mastery
Surveys show that most people want more information about climate science, Schmidt said, so scientists should engage in public forums such as blogs, question-and-answer sessions and public talks, provided they are not simply stacked with angry debaters.
Scientists must engage with the public and be vigilant against projecting stereotypes of their profession—such as the elitist, arrogant scientist, Schmidt said.
Both MSNBC and CNN allowed Walker to give his prepared statement (which included an absurd statement that his budget will save workers’ money because they won’t have to pay union dues!) — and then cut away from the Q and A when the Wisconsin press tried to ask him about his statements in that prank call today. Have they been scared away from this story by Republicans calling it a “Breitbart” hoax? Or is it that the evocation of the Big Money Koch brothers makes them squeamish. (After all, going after ACORN and Planned Parenthood only affect a bunch of low income women, so who cares?)
I don’t know about that but the Wisconsin press is very, very interested. TPM reports:
The first questioner asked Walker whether he could be trusted to negotiate in good faith, given he had discussed with “Koch” methods of tricking the Democrats into coming back to the Capitol building, and after he alluded to having considered bringing “troublemakers” into the crowds.
Despite the continued dominance of Fox News, the fourth most-watched cable channel in Primetime — that’s cable channel not cable news channel — Glenn Beck‘s ratings slipped in January.
Year over year he posted the biggest loss of any cable news show averaging 1.8 million viewers, down 39% from January 2010. In 25-54 demo he dropped 48%, to 397,000.
Becks ratings have been struggling all month. And by struggling we mean he as been consistently below the 2 million total viewers mark. A first.
So what’s behind this drop? It’s entirely possible viewers are simply tiring of the chalkboard and the high rhetoric, which has been notably higher of late. And needless to say Beck is not the phenom he was a year ago, merely by dint of the country becoming more familiar with him.
But it’s probably also worth noting, just in the context of this January, that the month was dominated by hard news, in the form of the Giffords shooting.
Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and Rush Limbaugh are losing fans in a key market. John Avlon on why listeners and station managers are sick of anti-Obama tirades—and who bucks the trend.
The Obama administration is trying to push a settlement that could force the largest U.S. banks to pay for reductions in loan principal worth billions of dollars following breakdowns in mortgage servicing, The Wall Street Journal said.
Should a settlement be reached, some state attorneys general are also pushing for banks to pay more than $20 billion of civil fines or to fund a similar amount of loan modifications for troubled borrowers, the newspaper said on Wednesday, citing people familiar with the matter.
Regulators are looking to settle with as many as 14 servicers, including three of the nation’s four largest banks: Bank of America Corp , JPMorgan Chase & Co and Wells Fargo & Co , the newspaper said, citing people familiar with the matter.
The administration wants a commitment from loan servicers to reduce loan balances for borrowers who owe more than their homes are worth, and that such costs would not be borne by investors who bought mortgage-backed securities, the newspaper said, citing people familiar with the matter.
It would thus force servicers that mishandled foreclosure procedures to bear losses by writing down loans they service on behalf of clients such as Fannie Mae , Freddie Mac and other investors, the newspaper said.
From Robert Reich’s blog:
The Republican strategy is to split the vast middle and working class – pitting unionized workers against non-unionized, public-sector workers against non-public, older workers within sight of Medicare and Social Security against younger workers who don’t believe these programs will be there for them, and the poor against the working middle class.
By splitting working America along these lines, Republicans want Americans to believe that we can no longer afford to do what we need to do as a nation. They hope to deflect attention from the increasing share of total income and wealth going to the richest 1 percent while the jobs and wages of everyone else languish.
Republicans would rather no one notice their campaign to shrink the pie even further with additional tax cuts for the rich – making the Bush tax cuts permanent, further reducing the estate tax, and allowing the wealthy to shift ever more of their income into capital gains taxed at 15 percent.
The strategy has three parts.
The Battle Over the Federal Budget
The Assault on Public Employees
The Distortion of the Constitution
The Strategy as a Whole
These three aspects of the Republican strategy – a federal budget battle to shrink government, focused on programs the vast middle class depends on; state efforts to undermine public employees, whom the middle class depends on; and a Supreme Court dedicated to bending the Constitution to enlarge and entrench the political power of the wealthy – fit perfectly together.
They pit average working Americans against one another, distract attention from the almost unprecedented concentration of wealth and power at the top, and conceal Republican plans to further enlarge and entrench that wealth and power.
What is the Democratic strategy to counter this and reclaim America for the rest of us?
[I think I’d add wedge issues.]
The U.S. Army illegally ordered a team of soldiers specializing in “psychological operations” to manipulate visiting American senators into providing more troops and funding for the war, Rolling Stone has learned – and when an officer tried to stop the operation, he was railroaded by military investigators.
The orders came from the command of Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, a three-star general in charge of training Afghan troops – the linchpin of U.S. strategy in the war. Over a four-month period last year, a military cell devoted to what is known as “information operations” at Camp Eggers in Kabul was repeatedly pressured to target visiting senators and other VIPs who met with Caldwell. When the unit resisted the order, arguing that it violated U.S. laws prohibiting the use of propaganda against American citizens, it was subjected to a campaign of retaliation.
“My job in psy-ops is to play with people’s heads, to get the enemy to behave the way we want them to behave,” says Lt. Colonel Michael Holmes, the leader of the IO unit, who received an official reprimand after bucking orders. “I’m prohibited from doing that to our own people. When you ask me to try to use these skills on senators and congressman, you’re crossing a line.”
Most policy wonks are inclined to think that carbon pricing is a much better idea than regulating greenhouse gasses under the existing Clean Air Act framework. This has led most media coverage of EPA action to lose sight of the fact that the voting public is enthusiastic about the Clean Air Act and basically all kinds of anti-pollution efforts: [CHART]
The American Petroleum Institute, the Big Oil industry’s chief lobbying organization, will start directly backing political candidates in the second quarter of this year. API, whose membership includes oil giants like Exxon-Mobil and Chevron, already spends tens of millions of dollars every year on lobbying, advertisements and Astroturf campaigns to support the the oil industry agenda. As CAP’s Dan Weiss wrote, API “wants to drill in fragile, sensitive places, keep government tax breaks, expand offshore drilling without reforms, and block global warming pollution reduction requirements.”
“This is adding one more tool to our toolkit,”
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, API spent $6.7 million on lobbying alone last year, after clearing $7 million in 2009. In 2010, API was the seventh most prolific spender in the oil and gas industry, following ConocoPhillips, Chevron, Exxon-Mobil, Shell, Koch Industries and BP.