You can now access all the past editions of The Daily Planet on the green Category bar on the top of each page under the heading PlanetPOV.
Record spending in the 2010 election — including hundreds of millions of corporate dollars — has shown us clearly what’s wrong with the idea that corporations have a right to spend limitless money on elections, as if they were people. When corporations take over our democracy, people lose.
In January 2010, a closely divided Supreme Court opened the floodgates, ruling that corporations have a Constitutional “free speech” right to spend money on elections. The court trampled on decades of settled law, including the new McCain-Feingold law enacted just a few years ago by members of Congress from both parties.
Corporations (and the Supreme Court) are out of control. It’s time to take back our democracy.
Unless state lawmakers take action by March 24th, unemployed workers in Michigan could lose up to 20 weeks of unemployment insurance known as “Extended Benefits.” The federal government now covers 100% of the cost of these benefits for non-government employees. Thanks to federally funded Extended Benefits, over one billion additional dollars flowed into Michigan since the recession started—benefiting unemployed workers and businesses alike. Nearly 250,000 of us, our friends, family members, and neighbors have counted on these benefits (an average of $284 per week) to put food on the table and a roof over their heads.
On April 2nd, an estimated 35,000 unemployed workers in Michigan will be cut-off of the Extended Benefits they’ve been receiving—unless the legislature acts.
After ignoring the public and voting to attack working families, Wisconsin’s Republican state senators need to be punished.
We are mobilizing volunteers and preparing new TV, radio, and online ads that urge the recall of vulnerable Republican senators — can you chip in $3 to our recall fund below?
The House Agriculture Committee endorsed a letter this week to Budget Chairman Paul Ryan arguing that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which helps low-income Americans purchase food, would make a better target for cuts than automatic subsidies to farms.
The move comes as food prices are rising — the Department of Agriculture expects overall food prices to rise 3 percent to 4 percent this year — making it harder for the beneficiaries of SNAP to stretch their existing benefits, even as farmers profit from the tightening market. Critics across the political spectrum have called agricultural subsidies wasteful and unnecessary, and they question the logic of maintaining them as lawmakers hunt for budget cuts.
Anti-hunger advocates say the move to reduce food aid comes at just the wrong time. The Food Research and Action Center, an anti-hunger advocacy group, reported earlier this month that almost 1 in 5 Americans struggled to afford food for their families in 2010, with some of the highest rates of food hardship occurring just last fall.
Senator Bernie Sanders:
An important new initiative from Half in Ten, a national campaign to reduce poverty by 50 percent over the next ten years, and the Coalition on Human Needs, is putting a face on irresponsible “slash and burn” deficit reduction by showing how it would damage real lives. The organizations are collecting people’s stories so that the cruel consequences of draconian cuts to key federal programs are plain to see.
But the Boehner-led “so be it” Republicans would nearly eliminate funding for Community Service Block Grants (CSBG) for the remainder of 2011, and President Obama proposes cutting it in half in 2012. The cuts would disrupt the antipoverty services provided by 1,065 community action agencies nationwide to over 20 million low-income people, including 5 million children, 2.3 million seniors and 1.7 million people with disabilities. What makes the cuts even more insane is that the agencies generate $6.54 from state, local, and private sources for every federal dollar received, according to the Coalition on Human Needs.
But, hey, at least folks can turn to higher education, right? Actually, not really. At a time when the US is now 12th in the world in the percentage of 25 to 34 year olds with a college degree, the GOP bill would result in 9.4 million low-income college students losing all or some of their Pell grant. It would reduce the maximum Pell grant by a whopping 17.4 percent! (Obama would increase Pell Grant funding by 20 percent.)
What is most maddening about the budget debate is that few legislators are talking about alternatives like increasing revenues by closing obscene tax loopholes and corporate giveaways and making the wealthy pay their fair share. Instead, the proposals hit the most vulnerable people the hardest-lower-income people, children, seniors, people with disabilities, unemployed workers, and others. (For a “Better Budget for All” check out this report.)
Kudos to Half in Ten and the Coalition on Human Needs for collecting these stories and making these budget cuts real. If you have a story to tell, please share it. The only way we win this budget battle is to show the very real consequences of these abstract numbers being thrown around Washington, DC, and then organize and demand alternatives.
The House GOP’s 2011 budget would chop $156 million from the Centers for Disease Control’s funding for immunization and respiratory diseases. The GOP reductions are likely to hit the CDC’s support for state and local immunization programs, the agency’s ability to evaluate which vaccines are working, and its work to educate the public about recommended vaccines for children, teenagers, and other susceptible populations. The CDC especially focuses on serving lower-income families who receive vaccines at state and local health offices and community health clinics, rather than a private doctor’s office.
Last week, a disheartening letter from 64 Senators went to President Obama, demanding that “grand bargain” that would include “reforms” of Social Security.
And as BTD points out, that’s some chutzpah calling for tax “reform” after most of them voted for continuing the Bush tax cuts. And that there’s “the absurdity of a supermajority of Senators acting as if they have nothing to say on this, but more striking to me is Democrats signing on to this document that expressly calls for ‘spending cuts’ and ‘entitlement changes’ but can not say the words ‘tax increases.'”
Tax increases are supposedly critical to any deal the White House would support.
In other words, cuts to Social Security are still on the table, provided revenue increases for it are coupled with those cuts. Social Security should never have been put on the table of deficit and budget negotiations, but Obama put it there by convening the deficit commission, and these 64 Senators are keeping it there. And the tax cut deal makes the whole situation even more of a mess.
If approved, the acquisition would leave America with only three sizeable operators in the wireless-telecom business: AT&T, Verizon and Sprint. For this reason, the deal is likely to meet stiff opposition from consumer groups and other telecoms firms, which worry that AT&T will use its extra muscle to crush competition further. A study by the General Accounting Office (GAO), an arm of Congress, found that America’s four big wireless carriers already control 90% of the national market. Indeed, there had been much speculation that AT&T would buy a big company in a foreign market such as India rather than splash out at home, given the risks of a prolonged anti-trust investigation there. But rumours that Sprint was also sniffing around T-Mobile probably encouraged it to make its move.
Assuming it gets a green light, the deal will remove an innovative carrier from the market—one that has long offered some of the lowest prices for cellular service in America. Ironically, T-Mobile USA’s latest television advertising campaign is especially rude about the quality of AT&T’s service and the offers that it provides. As well as bashing AT&T on air, the company has clashed with its rivals over telecoms regulation.
Many studies have shown that income inequality is rising. In several different types of communities, median family income is lower now than 30 years ago. Yet an intriguing survey by Michael Norton and Dan Ariely found that Americans believe wealth distribution to be far more equal than it actually is and, if given a choice, they would select an even more equitable scenario.
Why do Americans seem relatively unperturbed about growing income inequality? Is it a lack of awareness, or are there other factors?
Read the discussion.
A group of multinational corporations have been undertaking a quiet lobbying campaign in an attempt to goad Congress into approving what it known as a tax repatriation holiday. Such a holiday would allow these corporations to bring money they have stashed overseas back to the U.S. at a dramatically lower tax rate. Usually, repatriated money is subject to the statutory U.S. corporate tax rate of 35 percent, and remains untaxed until it comes back to the U.S.
The corporate case for this tax break is that it will bring a flood of capital into the U.S. that will be spent on domestic investment and job creation. 2012 Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney is pushing the policy by making similar claims. However, research into a previous repatriation holiday — enacted by Congress in 2004 — shows that it did not deliver the promised returns in terms of investment or job creation, instead going to line the pockets of corporate executives.
One of the most powerful tools for improving the educational achievement of poor black and Hispanic public school students is, regrettably, seldom even considered. It has become a political no-no.
Educators know that it is very difficult to get consistently good results in schools characterized by high concentrations of poverty. The best teachers tend to avoid such schools. Expectations regarding student achievement are frequently much lower, and there are lower levels of parental involvement. These, of course, are the very schools in which so many black and Hispanic children are enrolled.
Breaking up these toxic concentrations of poverty would seem to be a logical and worthy goal. Long years of evidence show that poor kids of all ethnic backgrounds do better academically when they go to school with their more affluent — that is, middle class — peers. But when the poor kids are black or Hispanic, that means racial and ethnic integration in the schools. Despite all the babble about a postracial America, that has been off the table for a long time.
If you really want to improve the education of poor children, you have to get them away from learning environments that are smothered by poverty. This is being done in some places, with impressive results. An important study conducted by the Century Foundation in Montgomery County, Md., showed that low-income students who happened to be enrolled in affluent elementary schools did much better than similarly low-income students in higher-poverty schools in the county.
It’s difficult, but there are ways to sidestep the politics. What I think is a shame is that we have to do all of this humiliating dancing around the perennially uncomfortable issue of race. We pretend that no one’s a racist anymore, but it’s easier to talk about pornography in polite company than racial integration. Everybody’s in favor of helping poor black kids do better in school, but the consensus is that those efforts are best confined to the kids’ own poor black neighborhoods.
Rather than destroying HIV, a proposed treatment would embrace its infectious abilities, sending the virus into competition with a harmless, stripped-down version of itself.
Dubbed therapeutic interfering particles, or TIPs, these engineered viral scraps would ride with HIV as it spreads from person to person. By out-competing HIV for cellular resources, the TIPs might slow its progression and lower infection rates.
“A virus can’t replicate without a host, and similarly TIPs can’t replicate without HIV. It would piggyback on the virus,” said biophysicist and virologist Leor Weinberger of the University of California, San Diego, who modeled the epidemiology of TIPs in a study March 17 in PLoS Computational Biology. “It’s basically a virus of a virus.”
Approximately 33 million people now carry HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, which infects immune system cells that defend against disease. The virus gradually destroys them, taking away the body’s ability to protect itself. Without treatment, HIV infection leads to AIDS in about 10 years. Death follows soon after as common diseases overcome the body.
Arizona, the nation’s leader in over-the-top immigration laws, has pulled back. Its Republican-controlled Senate rejected five anti-immigration bills in one day last week. It was a startling rebuke to the Senate president, the architect of the state’s go-it-alone approach to enforcement. Other states weighing similar crackdowns should take note.
The reversal has to do with money, of course. The bills were dead once the state’s business lobby weighed in against them. Sixty chief executives signed a letter to the Legislature saying the harsh immigration measures were having “unintended consequences” — boycotts, lost jobs, canceled contracts, publicity so bad that businesses with Arizona in their names were suffering — even one based in Brooklyn. The chief executive of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Glenn Hamer, said the reaction to Arizona’s extremism had already cost the state $15 million to $150 million in lost tourism revenue.
While it is a relief to see Arizona realizing that bigotry is bad for business, it is not the end of harsh, shortsighted laws. Other legislatures were already striving to follow Arizona’s model. There is still a federal vacuum on immigration reform that allows state mischief to thrive. And it’s important to note that none of the objections by Arizona’s businesses had anything to do with the strong moral arguments against xenophobic anti-immigration bills.
(DAILY SHOW VIDEO)
Radley Balko | Cato Institute: Fellows
Radley Balko is a senior editor at Reason magazine, where he works as an investigative reporter covering criminal justice and civil liberties. Balko’s work on paramilitary raids and the overuse of SWAT teams was featured in The New York Times, has been praised by outlets ranging from Human Events to the Daily Kos, and was cited by Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer’s dissent in the case Hudson v. Michigan. Balko is also credited with bringing national attention to the case of Cory Maye, a black man who prior to Balko’s work was on death row in Mississippi for shooting and killing a white police officer during a raid on Maye’s home. Balko’s Reason feature on Maye was also cited in an opinion by the Mississippi State Supreme Court. National Journal also profiled Balko’s coverage of the case. Balko’s November 2007 investigative report on Mississippi medical examiner Steven Hayne won second place in the investigative reporting category for the 2007 Los Angeles Press Club awards.
Balko was formerly a policy analyst with the Cato Institute. He has been a columnist for FoxNews.com and has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Playboy, Time, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Slate, Forbes, ESPN, the National Post, Worth and numerous other publications. Balko has also appeared on the BBC, CNN, CNBC, Fox News Channel, MSNBC and NPR.
Balko publishes the personal blog, TheAgitator.com. He graduated from Indiana University with a degree in journalism and political science.
The Newspaper Guild is urging its 26,000 members to stop providing free content to the Huffington Post website. The Guild said, “Working for free does not benefit workers and undermines quality journalism.” The Huffington Post relies on a mix of paid professional journalists and unpaid bloggers. The site’s labor practices have come under increasing scrutiny since its $315 million merger with AOL.
[Today is the 5th Anniversary of Twitter]
The Political Right Wing has been irresponsibly stirring up hate by preying upon the naive and fearful. Here we document the results of this phenomenon – as literally seen daily on Twitter.
It’s called Hate Speech and there is a lot of it from the “Tea Party” followers and other Right Wing extremists. Much of it is written thinking that only other haters will read it. This corrosive speech needs to be exposed before the actors can heed their better natures and stop. And for a civilized society to remain so.
So, meet your fellows who would yell “FIRE!” in a crowded theater. Folks who have not yet learned that, with freedom, comes responsibility.
“The core principle that has to be upheld here is that when the entire international community, almost unanimously, says that there is a potential humanitarian crisis about to take place, that a leader who has lost his legitimacy decides to turn his military on his own people, that we can’t simply stand by with empty words, that we have to take some sort of action. I think it’s also important to note that the way that the U.S. took leadership and managed this process ensures international legitimacy and ensures that our partners, members of the international coalition, are bearing the burden of following through on the mission as well. Because, as you know, in the past there have been times when the United States acted unilaterally or did not have full international support, and as a consequence typically it was the United States military that ended up bearing the entire burden,” President Obama said about Libya at a press conference in Chile today.
Crucially, Obama also took a tacit shot at Bush, comparing his own multilateral approach favorably to the former president’s:
“In the past there have been times when the United States acted unilaterally or did not have full international support, and as a consequence typically it was the United States military that ended up bearing the entire burden.”
The first day of Operation Odyssey Dawn had a price tag that was well over $100 million for the U.S. in missiles alone. And the U.S. military, which remains in the lead now in its third day, has pumped millions more into air- and sea-launched strikes targeting air-defense sites and ground-force positions along Libya’s coastline.
The ultimate total that the United States spends will hinge on the length and scope of the strikes as well as on the contributions of its coalition allies. But Todd Harrison, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, said on Monday that the U.S. costs could “easily pass the $1 billion mark on this operation, regardless of how well things go.”
An American-led military campaign to destroy Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s air defenses and establish a no-fly zone over Libya has nearly accomplished its initial objectives, and the United States is moving swiftly to hand command to allies in Europe, American officials said Monday.
Nate Silver 538:
Support for Mr. Obama on the Libya question is a little bit less partisan than his overall numbers. For instance, 27 percent of Republicans support his actions in Libya thus far, as compared to the 15 percent who approve of his performance overall in Gallup polling. But Mr. Obama’s approval on Libya is 73 percent among Democrats, as compared to 81 percent overall. (Then again, one could be surprised that there is not more partisan mixing, since Democrats traditionally take more dovish positions and conservatives more hawkish ones.)
Despite these initial readings being decent for Mr. Obama, I would argue that these are not terrific numbers for him for a couple of reasons.
First, support for military interventions tend to be highest at the outset — the so-called rally-around-the-flag-effect — before declining until and unless some concrete objective is achieved. An important caveat is that the Libyan situation has evolved so quickly that we may still be midway through the rally phase. But if 50 percent approval is as good as the numbers get for Mr. Obama at the peak, overall support may turn negative unless Mr. el-Qaddafi is ousted fairly quickly.
Second, and this is a bit of an educated guess, but I suspect that Mr. Obama is more susceptible to a decline in support from liberals and Democrats on this question than he is likely to benefit from an increase in support among Republicans and conservatives. Reactions from prominent left-leaning bloggers and editors, like Josh Marshall, have been cautious — but generally skeptical and pessimistic. Some liberals, also, are not opposed to the action in Libya per se, but dislike the fact that Mr. Obama did not consult Congress before agreeing to participate in the allied action. (Some conservatives, undoubtedly, are in this camp as well.)
Finally, some of the scholarship suggests that support for military actions tends to be more tentative when the public is fatigued by other foreign entanglements, as they may be on Iraq and Afghanistan. Although they haven’t received much attention, recent polls suggest that Americans are growing continually more skeptical of the war effort in Afghanistan, with as much as a 2:1 majority concluding that the war is no longer worth fighting.
Democrats in the Senate face steep odds in 2012. They are defending more than 20 seats against an energized Republican party, which only needs to pick up four seats to win the majority. Five Democratic incumbents are retiring from the Senate, making their seats instantly more vulnerable to Republicans.
In short, Senate Democrats can’t afford to make any mistakes.
Which makes the scandal in Missouri over Senator Claire McCaskill’s private plane the kind of unforced error that could come back to haunt the national party in the days after the 2012 election.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee released this video criticizing Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri:
Right Wing Watch’s Kyle Mantyla catches potential presidential candidate Mike Huckabee saying that he wishes the world was ruled by “people with a biblical worldview” who could bring “equality” to the world. Huckabee made the comments during an appearance at Statesville Christian School in North Carolina yesterday:
He said that the kind of “biblical worldview” taught at SCS was in the direction of unmitigated equality. “I’d love the world to be lead by people who have a biblical worldview,” he said.
“Wouldn’t it be an exciting thing to have leaders who believe all of us are equal?” he later asked …
Huckabee said Sunday that he has been asked many times if it is difficult to be a Christian and a politician/elected official.
“I always answer that actually it’s a lot easier to be a Christian,” he said. “I wake up every day knowing what I believe.”
In statehouses across the country, Republican lawmakers are raising the specter of “voter fraud” to push through legislation that would dramatically restrict the voting rights of college students, rural voters, senior citizens, the disabled and the homeless. As part of their larger effort to silence Main Street, conservatives are pushing through new photo identification laws that would exclude millions from voting, depress Hispanic voter turnout by as much as 10 percent, and cost taxpayers millions of dollars. In the next few months, a new set of election laws could make going to the polls and registering to vote significantly more difficult — in some cases even barring groups of citizens from voting in the communities where they live.
The 14-member panel unanimously awarded Q2 Data and Research the $510,000 contract but not before engaging in pointed partisan discourse about the other bidder and Mac Donald’s ties to UC Berkeley professor Bruce Cain, a Democrat who drew lines for his party in the 1980s.
“With three of the four present Republican members dissenting, the commission disqualified the only other bidder, the Rose Institute at Claremont McKenna College in Southern Californai, late Saturday on the grounds that it failed to fully disclose 10 years’ worth of donors.”
The panel sought the names to assess potential partisan influence and conflicts of interest.
Rose Institute director Douglas Johnson is a Republican, and the college is widely viewed as right-leaning, although its bid documents stated that at no time “have the Institute or its team members engaged in any partisan activities or made political contributions that disqualify them “…”
Every decade following the decennial census, states and local governments must equalize the populations of their political districts. California voters, in a series of ballot measures, stripped state legislators of the job and assigned the task for the first time to an independent panel.
The commission must adopt new district boundaries by Aug. 15 for Congress and the California Senate, Assembly and Board of Equalization.
President Obama is facing criticism that crosses the political divide for not seeking Congressional authorization before ordering the American military to join in attacks of Libyan air defenses and government forces.
On Monday, Mr. Obama sent Congress a two-page letter saying that as commander in chief, he had constitutional authority to authorize the strikes, which were undertaken with French, British and other allies. He wrote that the strikes would be limited in scope and duration, and that preventing a humanitarian disaster in Libya was in the best interest of American foreign policy and national security goals.
The White House also noted that Mr. Obama had met with Congressional leaders to consult about the Libya situation on Friday. On March 1, the Senate unanimously approved a resolution calling for the United Nations Security Council to impose a no-fly zone over Libya. The Security Council approved such a measure Thursday night.
Critics say the merits of the operation and its legality under international law are matters separate from the domestic legal question of who — the president or Congress — has the authority to decide whether the United States will take part in combat.
Most legal scholars agree that the nation’s founders intended to separate the power to decide to initiate a war from the power to carry it out. But ever since the Korean War, presidents of both parties have ordered military action without Congressional authorization.
The divergence between presidential practice for the past 60 years and the text and history of the Constitution makes it hard to say whether such action is lawful, scholars say. “There’s no more dramatic example of the ‘living Constitution’ than in this area,” said David Golove, a New York University law professor.
Still, as a presidential candidate who promoted his background as an instructor of constitutional law, Mr. Obama appeared to adopt a more limited view of executive power when he answered a question about whether a president could order the bombing of Iranian nuclear sites without a use-of-force authorization from Congress.
In 1973, lawmakers enacted the War Powers Resolution, which directed presidents to get Congressional authorization to send troops into hostilities except in an emergency; in that case troops must be withdrawn after 60 or 90 days unless Congress gave retroactive approval.
Still, presidents continued to send the military into action without prior Congressional approval — both with United Nations authorization, as when George Bush intervened in Somalia in 1992, and without it, as when Bill Clinton ordered the bombing in Kosovo in 1999.
Representative Dennis J. Kucinich, Democrat of Ohio, said Monday that even though previous presidents had sidestepped Congress, Mr. Obama’s decision was still a “serious” abuse.
“It needs to be pointed out that what he is doing is outside the Constitution,” Mr. Kucinich said. “If he is relying on precedent, then he ought to say so. But he’s got to square that with his own understanding of the Constitution prior to becoming president.”
On Saturday, Kucinich suggested that the president’s Libya policy — a policy that’s in keeping with a decision by the UN Security Council — is an impeachable offense.
“And I’m raising the question as to whether or not it’s an impeachable offense. It would appear on its face to be an impeachable offense.”
This could actually be more bizarre than his lawsuit against the congressional cafeteria because he bit into an olive with a pit.
Now, the policy itself is open for debate. Other than the hypocrisy of how we intend to pay for it, I haven’t really decided whether this was a wise decision. But declaring this whole thing to be an impeachable offense, despite our commitment to the UN Security Council, just makes Kucinich look like an attention whore.
Exhibit A for the White House: A Senate resolution that passed March 1, which denounced Khaddafy’s atrocities. The White House says the U.N. resolution authorizing force in Libya incorporates it.
The resolution was incorporated unanimously and calls for a “no-fly zone.”
The resolution “urges the United Nations Security Council to take such further action as may be necessary to protect civilians in Libya from attack, including the possible imposition of a no-fly zone over Libyan territory.”
Still, the resolution was non-binding and does not have the weight or legal standing of a declaration of war.
Full text of the resolution below. The lead sponsor was New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez (D). Co-sponsors included: Sens. Mark Kirk (R-IL), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Bob Casey (D-PA), Ben Cardin (D-MD).
The New Jersey delegation, remember, has particular interest in Libya and Khaddafy because of Khadaffy’s suspected involvement in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988 that killed 270 Americans, including 38 from New Jersey.
Mr. Pawlenty, the former governor of Minnesota, has become the first of the big-time Republican contenders to officially jump into the 2012 presidential campaign with an announcement on Facebook on Monday. The move to form an exploratory committee is almost a technicality for Mr. Pawlenty, who has been a candidate in almost every way for months.
1. Money… 2. Visibility. ..3. Message…4. Fiscal Discipline. .. 5. Tactics. ..
The Federal Reserve will publish new details about its emergency lending to banks during the 2008 financial crisis after the Supreme Court on Monday rejected an industry appeal for secrecy.
The Fed said it would release detailed information soon about its main emergency aid program, the so-called discount window, breaking a policy of confidentiality that dates to its founding in 1913. The Fed was required by Congress to publish similar data about its other lending programs last year.
“The board will fully comply with the court’s decisions and is preparing to make the information available,” David Skidmore, a Fed spokesman, said.
The disclosures could embarrass some of the nation’s largest banks, which are eager to focus public attention on their renewed profitability, by returning a spotlight to the extent of their dependence on federal aid during the crisis. It also signaled a victory for Bloomberg News, which first requested the data in 2008.
The Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear a Republican lawsuit challenging limits on party spending.
The lawsuit, brought by former Rep. Joseph Cao (R-La.) and the Republican National Committee against the Federal Election Commission, argued that a rule limiting the amount that parties could spend in coordination with its candidates violated their First Amendment rights. The suit was part of a sustained assault on campaign finance restrictions by conservatives.
Election law experts had considered it likely that the court would at least agree to hear the case, given that its conservative majority has been skeptical of rules restricting the flow of money into politics, as borne out most significantly in its sweeping 5-4 decision last year in a case called Citizens United v. FEC allowing corporations to fund election ads.
More recently, though, the court had refused to hear another case brought by the RNC challenging the prohibition on unlimited contributions to parties – the so-called soft money ban.
The ham-handed self-serving greediness playing out in the background of Governor Scott Walker’s attempt to make Wisconsin into the central battle zone in the Koch Brothers’ attempt to end collective bargaining in this country, roared to the forefront Sunday night when the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported that the supposedly financially imperiled state had enough money to hire State Senator Randy Hopper’s mistress.
Valerie Cass, a former Republican legislative staffer, was hired Feb. 7 as a communications specialist with the state Department of Regulation and Licensing. She is being paid $20.35 per hour. The job is considered a temporary post.
A lot of things in Wisconsin – especially those pertaining to one of Governor Walker’s State Senate henchmen – appear to be temporary:
His estranged wife, Alysia, issued a statement to WTMJ-TV (Channel 4) accusing Hopper, 45, of beginning an affair with Cass, 26, last year. He filed for divorce in August.
NOW that a Wisconsin judge has temporarily blocked a state law that would strip public employee unions of most collective bargaining rights, it’s worth stepping back to place these events in larger historical context.
Republicans in Wisconsin are seeking to reverse civic traditions that for more than a century have been among the most celebrated achievements not just of their state, but of their own party as well.
The turmoil in Wisconsin is not only about bargaining rights or the pension payments of public employees. It is about transparency and openness. It is about neighborliness, decency and mutual respect. Joe McCarthy forgot these lessons of good government, and so, I fear, has Mr. Walker. Wisconsin’s citizens have not.
In a replay of the recent political upheaval in Wisconsin, Indiana state government remains at a five-week standstill with the departure of 39 House Democrats who remain holed up in Illinois. In this instance, they are protesting of a Republican agenda they characterize as unfair to the state’s middle class and a threat to future business development.
While walkouts are not uncommon among Indiana state legislators, what makes the current situation unique – and different from the one in Wisconsin – is that Democrats are protesting the entire Republican agenda, not any single bill. As a result, lawmakers don’t appear to know where to start to find compromise. In addition, hotter-than-usual rhetoric fueled by a mounting sense of political uncertainty in the Hoosier State is making the situation more volatile.
The standoff, which has no sign of abating on either side, may lead to a government shutdown if the Democrats do not return by April 29, the last day in session and the final opportunity legislators have to approve a state budget, due June 30.
The Obama administration will introduce its first statement calling for the United Nations’ top human rights body to combat discrimination against gays and lesbians around the world, completing a U.S. reversal from years of ambiguity on the subject during the presidency of George W. Bush.
The U.S. declaration will be made Tuesday at the Geneva-based Human Rights Council and has the support of more than 80 countries. Although it is not in the form of binding resolution, the American push for U.N. action has helped win over a handful of new countries to the cause. A resolution could be brought to a vote later this year.
The issue of gay rights has polarized nations at the U.N. for years. And despite growing acceptance for homosexuality in Western nations and parts of Latin America, lawyers say there is still a gap in human rights treaties for the protection of gays against discrimination and mistreatment.
A study using census data from nine countries shows that religion there is set for extinction, say researchers.
The study found a steady rise in those claiming no religious affiliation.
The team’s mathematical model attempts to account for the interplay between the number of religious respondents and the social motives behind being one.
The result, reported at the American Physical Society meeting in Dallas, US, indicates that religion will all but die out altogether in those countries.
AND IN OTHER NEWS…
Of course, I’ve already tipped my hand and so you already know that my sympathies lie with these comments more so than with Mr. Marshall’s (which is not to say I discount Mr. Marshall’s concerns about getting mired in another foreign entanglement – not by any means). But notice how neither Mr. Marshall nor his opponent attacks the other, calls the other un-American or unpatriotic. There’s no kicking of hippies’ shins here, nor was the term “baby killer” invoked; there’s just an honest discussion about an extremely difficult situation.
And I think that’s because as prone as we liberals are to snipe and in-fight, we really do respect the very idea of dissent, debate and honest disagreement. Especially over the most difficult issues we face, like the decision whether to launch Tomahawk missiles and drop bombs on another country. We don’t view our country the way we view a football team – to be blindly supported and rooted for, even when it loses the damn Rose Bowl 45-to-9 … But I digress. Instead, we actually appreciate the enormous weight of the decisions the country faces, and we recognize that our leaders, Republicans and Democrats alike, don’t always make the right decisions.
So while I tend to support the intervention in Libya – for now – I will always appreciate the fact that we on the left don’t blindly cheer for every military action our country takes.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
In a controversy, the instant we feel anger, we have already ceased striving for truth and have begun striving for ourselves
~~Abraham Joshua Heschel