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.
From Governor Howard Dean:
Now, Republicans are pushing for well over $50 billion in cuts to the budget, which would result in the loss of 700,000 jobs nationwide according to leading economists. They won’t even consider cutting the $53 billion the Republicans have used to subsidize the oil industry or eliminating projects out of the defense budget that even the Pentagon says it doesn’t need and doesn’t want. Instead, they want cuts on everything from local law enforcement to community health centers, from food assistance to low-income women, infants, and children to rural development investment. And of course, they made it clear over and over again, that cutting Social Security benefits must be on the table.
Republicans have gone from being fiscally irresponsible to morally reprehensible in only a few short months. Their goal appears to be the death of civil society by a 1,000 cuts.
It’s time for Democrats to stand up and hold their ground. Republicans in Congress can’t balance the budget on the backs of the poor and middle class — there must be shared sacrifice.
Join me, and our partners at CREDO Action, in calling on Democrats in Congress to accept no new budget cuts while we continue to give tax breaks to people who make a million dollars a year.
About the Summer Organizer Program
This summer, Organizing for America will train a new team of summer organizers. We’re looking for a new generation of organizers — not only to help us win elections but also to help strengthen our democracy in communities across the country.
If you apply and are selected, you’ll be trained in the basic organizing principles that have helped to build and power this movement, and you’ll be assigned to a specific community where you’ll get to work organizing supporters.
Movements are built and sustained by ordinary people taking responsibility for organizing their fellow citizens to make their voices heard. We’re looking for individuals who are prepared to work to help support the President’s agenda — and lay the groundwork that will help us win a new set of elections.
- All summer organizer positions are volunteer and unpaid.
- The Summer Organizer Program requires a commitment from June 4 through August 6, 2011.
- If you would like to receive college credit for this program, please make arrangements with your school ahead of time.
- Applications must be submitted by midnight on April 18, 2011.
- For more information, visit our FAQ page.
Republican leaders in the Senate and House will not agree to tax increases in the guise of reform measures, according to a prominent conservative advocate for lower taxes.
Conservatives have grown increasingly worried that Republicans in Congress may accept a tax hike as part of a broader deal to reduce discretionary and entitlement spending.
But Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) have pledged to Americans for Tax Reform president Grover Norquist they will not support any deficit reduction package that increases taxes.
This promise will make it considerably tougher to get Democrats to agree to a broad deficit reduction package.
Google Inc. (GOOG) received questions from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in December about earnings in other countries that may have reduced the company’s tax bill, according to regulatory filings released today.
SEC officials asked Google for “disclosures to explain in greater detail the impact on your effective income tax rates and obligations of having proportionally higher earnings in countries where you have lower statutory tax rates,” according to a Dec. 2 letter.
The company responded to the requests for information, the filings show. The SEC said in a Feb. 3 letter that it had completed its review of Google’s filings, and has “no further comments at this time on the specific issues raised.”
The tax-cutting strategy, involving a pair of techniques known as the “Double Irish” and the “Dutch Sandwich,” helped cut the company’s income-tax rate to 2.4 percent on the profits it attributed to its foreign subsidiaries during the three-year period, filings show. The statutory corporate income tax rate in the U.S. is 35 percent.
U.S. multinational corporations had more than $1 trillion in profits stashed in overseas subsidiaries on which they had paid no U.S. income tax as of the end of 2009, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
In November, Wayne Carnall, the chief accountant of the SEC’s Corporation Finance Division, said the agency was examining tax disclosures made by public companies, particularly the portions that divide up foreign and domestic earnings and tax obligations, according to trade publication Tax Notes.
In a response to a question about its overseas earnings, Google said it couldn’t estimate the potential tax bill from repatriating earnings to the U.S., and said it has no plans to repatriate those earnings.
Economist Richard D. Wolff discusses that factors that led to the increasing personal debt of Americans and offers solutions.
Why did the 2009 stimulus package produce such meager results? Partly because the recession turned out to be worse than Obama’s team thought, and partly because they didn’t press for a big enough package even for the recession they thought we had. But another reason is that at the same time the feds were spending more money, state governments were cutting back. The chart below from CBPP tells the story. They have data for all but six states, and on average for 2012, “those 44 states plan to spend 9.4 percent less than their states spent before the recession, adjusted for inflation.” That’s not just less than last year, it’s less than 2008. That wiped out nearly the entire effect of the federal stimulus package.
The Cheat 16:
– General Electric made $10.3 billion in 2009, but received a $1.1 billion tax rebate.
– Forbes said about Bank of America in 2010: “How did they not pay any taxes on $4.4 billion in income?”
– Oil giant Exxon made a $45 billion profit in 2009, but paid no taxes in the United States.
– Citigroup had 4 quarters of billion-dollar profits in 2010, but paid no taxes.
– Wells Fargo made $12 billion but purchased Wachovia Bank to claim a $19 billion tax credit.
– Hewlett Packard’s U.S. income tax rate was 4.3% in 2008 and 2.3% in 2009.
– Verizon’s 10.5% tax rate, according to Forbes, is due to its partnership with Vodafone, the primary target in UK Uncut’s protests against tax evaders.
– Chevron’s tax rate was 1% in 2008.
– Boeing, which just won a $30 billion contract to build 179 airborne tankers, got $124 million back from the taxpayers in 2010.
– Over the past 5 years Amazon made $3.5 billion and paid taxes at the rate of 4.3%.
– Carnival Cruise Lines paid 1% in taxes on its $11.5 billion profit over the past 5 years.
– Koch Industries is not publicly traded, so their antics are kept private. But they benefit from taxpayer subsidies in ranching and logging.
– In 2008 CorporateWatch said Rupert Murdoch’s Newscorp paid “astoundingly low taxes” because of tax havens.
– Google “cut its taxes by $3.1 billion in the last three years by shifting its money around foreign countries.
– Merck, the second-largest drugmaker in the U.S., last year brought more than $9 billion from abroad without paying any U.S. tax.
– Pfizer, the largest drugmaker in the U.S., erased $10 billion in taxes with an “accounting treatment.”
From project Main Street:
Last week, we wrote about things the Republican governors of Maine, Michigan, and Florida are doing rather than creating jobs—corporate tax breaks, turning down money for rail projects, cutting education funding, and, in the especially sleazy case of Maine Gov. LePage, exempting himself from increased pension contributions for public employees.
ThinkProgress put together much more on similar initiatives in a dozen states. Some of the highlights:
PENNSYLVANIA: Gov. Tom Corbett (R) presented a budget last week that would cut taxes for corporations, while freezing teacher salaries, cutting dental care for Medicaid recipients, and eliminating more than half of the state’s universities. Yet the state has lots of revenue potential in northern Pennsylvania, where out-of-state energy companies’ “fracking” of natural gas has reaped them hundreds of millions of dollars in profits. Corbett has refused to tax these companies, many of which helped fund his gubernatorial campaign, and has instead opted to lay of more than 1,500 state workers.
SOUTH CAROLINA: Gov. Nikki Haley (R) has proposed ending the state’s corporate income tax, even while she calls for cutting physical education, K-12 schools, and Medicaid. Haley has received pushback from Republican colleagues: last week the legislature rejected her plan to force state employees to pay more for health insurance.
IOWA: Gov. Tom Branstad (R) began this year proposing a budget that included a $200 million tax cut on commercial property taxes and corporate income but would freeze spending on schools, cut $42 million to state universities and lay off “hundreds” of state workers. Since then, the Governor has already begun laying off state nursing home workers and frozen funding for mental health services. The budget is now moving through the politically divided legislature, where Republican-controlled House committees have gone even further, approving tax refunds for upper-income Iowans while cancelling infrastructure investments, eliminating preschool for 4-year-olds, closing Iowa workforce development offices, and making even deeper cuts to public universities.
Of the 1.3 million jobs created in the last 12 months, some 90 percent have gone to men, according to a report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Women have gained just 149,000 jobs.
There’s no question that the recession hit men particularly hard, with jobs slashed from traditionally male-dominated sectors like manufacturing and construction. Men have still lost more net jobs than women have since the start of the recession in December 2007, with men losing a net 4.9 million jobs, while women have lost 2.5 million jobs.
While you might expect men to recover more jobs since far more men were put out of work, there are some signs that things have gotten worse for women rather than better. Looking at the data since the end of the recession in July 2009, men have gained 600,000 jobs while women have lost 300,000 jobs.
Stimulus Spending Favors Male Workers
While government spending has gone toward investments in infrastructure like roads, there have been cuts in public education and other public-sector service jobs. Women make up some 57 percent of the public workforce, but between July 2009 and Feb. 2011, they lost a far higher proportion of the jobs. Nearly 80 percent of the public-sector jobs cut during that period were held by women, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
As unemployed women look for work, experts also point to cultural biases that may hinder their search. While anti-discrimination laws prohibit the practice, some employers may believe that male workers will clock longer hours or be more dedicated to their jobs.
The serious problems at the nuclear power plant in Japan have raised new doubts about the safety of nuclear energy. New exploration has yet to resume in the Gulf of Mexico after last year’s blowout of a BP oil well. And coal plants have been under a shadow because of their contribution to global warming.
Meanwhile, natural gas has overcome two of its biggest hurdles — volatile prices and questionable supplies. In large part because of new discoveries in the United States and abroad that have significantly increased known reserves, natural gas prices have been relatively low in the last two years.
“At the end of the day, when you look at the risk-reward equation, natural gas comes out as a winner,” said Lawrence J. Goldstein, an economist at the Energy Policy Research Foundation. “It’s a technical knockout.”
Many oil companies have anticipated this shift. At Royal Dutch Shell, natural gas production overtook its oil output in recent years. Exxon Mobil bought XTO Energy last year to raise its presence in the growing domestic shale gas market. It has also developed significant resources in Qatar, which holds the third-largest reserves of natural gas in the world, after Russia and Iran.
Huge new projects dedicated to liquefied natural gas — in which gas is frozen, compressed in liquid form for easier shipment, then returned to a gas state at import terminals — have been mushrooming [!] around the world.
Natural gas is not without problems. To unlock methane from hard shale rocks in the United States, energy companies use hydraulic fracturing, a method that has been criticized on the grounds of polluting water sources, including rivers and underground aquifers.
California did not adequately consider alternatives to its plan to create a cap-and-trade market for carbon emissions, a judge ruled on Monday, a setback for the most aggressive effort by a state to combat climate change.
The state’s regulator on climate change matters, the Air Resources Board, will need to consider other possibilities to meet state environmental law, said Judge Ernest Goldsmith of San Francisco Superior Court.
“A.R.B. seeks to create a fait accompli by premature establishment of a cap-and-trade program before alternatives can be exposed to public comment and properly evaluated by A.R.B. itself,” Judge Goldsmith ruled.
The plaintiffs in the case, the Association of Irritated Residents, had challenged the plan, arguing that it would inadvertently increase air pollution in some pockets of the state.
The Air Resources Board said it would appeal. Carbon trade was set to start in California in 2012.
The judge directed the plaintiffs to draft a formal order, or writ of mandate.
The plaintiffs hailed the decision.
“This ruling will compel A.R.B. to fully consider those of us most affected by its decisions, and not just move forward in its haste to make major polluters happy,” the group’s president, Tom Frantz, said in a statement.
The health-care reform law is, without a doubt, among the most consequential pieces of social policy passed since the Great Society. But it’s also a lot more incremental than many people realize. More modest, by far, than the health-care overhauls proposed by Presidents Clinton, Nixon, Johnson and Truman.
In 2019, once the law has been fully implemented for five years, it is expected to cover about two-thirds of the uninsured, to cost about 4 percent of what the health-care system spends in any given year and to cut the federal deficit by less than 1 percent. If you obtain insurance from your employer, Medicare, Medicaid or the veterans system — and that describes most Americans — you probably won’t notice the legislation at all.
Nevertheless, the Affordable Care Act, once it kicks in fully in 2014, is expected to do four things: provide coverage; remake a small slice of the private insurance market; pay for itself; and try to control costs. Let’s take them in order.
Proving just how deep and destructive the Great Recession has been, the Commonwealth Fund has released a new study on being both unemployed and uninsured. Another 9 million Americans have become uninsured as a result of the recession.
From the Urban Institute:
Opponents of health reform have made strong claims about the effect of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on jobs. Supporters of legislation to repeal the ACA, the so-called “Repealing the Job Destroying Health Care Law Act,” argue that the law will increase unemployment in an already fragile economy. The argument is that the requirement to provide health insurance or improve benefits will increase the costs of labor to employers. In cases where wages or other benefits can be reduced as an offset, firms can absorb the increased cost of providing health insurance and there should be no employment effects. But if wages cannot be cut because of collective bargaining agreements or the fact that wages are already close to minimum wage levels, the demand for labor, and thus employment, would likely fall. Those making the job destroying claims often cite a study released before the details of the reform legislation were known, which found a loss of as many as 1.6 million jobs. This view implies that repealing the ACA will increase employment.
This argument falls short for several reasons. First, the overall economic effects of the law are simply too small relative to the overall size of the economy to have much of an effect on employment. Second, there are many offsetting effects. The tax provisions in the law will reduce the demand for labor in many sectors and the Medicare cuts by themselves would reduce employment in the health sector, but the expansion of coverage through Medicaid and income-related subsidies in the exchanges would have the opposite effect on spending and employment. Third, the new law will not affect most firms, either because they already provide health insurance meeting the new federal standards, or they are exempt from the new requirements (firms with fewer than 50 workers). This paper draws heavily on an earlier paper that looked at the impact of health reform on the economy and employment but updates that effort. The basic conclusion is that the ACA will not have a noticeable effect on net levels of employment.
New Jersey has one of the most progressive education laws in the country — the Abbott v. Burke case produced several rulings requiring the state to equalize public education funding for all students, meaning that poor, urban districts must receive the same relative amount of funding as wealthy suburban districts. Abbott vs. Burke requirements have been characterized as “one of the most remarkable and successful efforts by any court in the nation to cut an educational break for kids from poor families and generally minority-dominated urban neighborhoods.” Today, a judge found that Gov. Chris Christie (R) violated Abbott v. Burke requirements when he slashed $820 million in state aid to schools last year, because the cuts were slanted too heavily towards poor districts.
As the article notes, Judge Doyne was appointed as a “special master” in this case, and so his finding today will go back to the state Supreme Court, which can choose to act on it. This seems likely to happen. “A special master’s report like this carries great weight with the higher court,” said David Sciarra, the executive director of the Education Law Center. “The evidence was exhaustive, detailed thorough and its conclusions are sobering about the impact of the funding cuts on students across the state, particularly poor students, regardless of where they live.”
Christie has not yet responded to the finding. If he is required by the state Supreme Court to find more funding to at-risk districts, perhaps the governor could reconsider some of his proposed tax cuts for corporations and millionaires.
U.S. airstrikes in Libya have brought renewed focus on the 1988 explosion of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. Some are making the argument that the U.S. could–and should–be getting revenge for this act a mere 22 years later.
Last night (3/21/11), one cable news host said this:
“Given the fact Americans died on that 747 over Lockerbie, I’m all for this mission…. I’m an American. You’re an American. We all have opinions. I have always believed that Qaddafi was a terrorist. Let’s look at the tape again of flight Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. Do you need any more evidence? Has Qaddafi ever proven his innocence?”
Another one said this:
“President Reagan bombed Libya in 1986 over a terrorist incident in Berlin where two American soldiers were killed. Two years later the Pan Am plane was blown up. So the USA owes Qaddafi payback. And you don’t kill Americans and get away with it, as President Reagan said.”
The first quote came from liberal MSNBC host Ed Schultz, the second from Fox‘s Bill O’Reilly.
Despite brutal and under-reported crackdowns by the Saleh regime, the pro-democracy movement in Yemen continues to soldier on, with widespread defections in the Yemeni military and in embassies across the world supporting the protesters.
This morning, MSNBC host Willie Geist hosted Roger Cressey, who he identified as a “former White House counter-terrorism official” and NBC News terrorism analyst, to talk about Yemen. Geist stated that reported plans by Yemeni president Ali Saleh to resign “scares a lot of people in the United States intelligence community.” Cressey said that “they should be scared” and said that if Saleh leaves, then our ability to battle terrorism will be “thrown up in the air.” He said that the Yemeni dictator was the “glue” that kept counter-terrorism efforts together and warned that his successor may not provide the same level of cooperation against Al Qaeda:
What is not disclosed about Cressey in this segment where he scaremongers about a post-Saleh Yemen is that he has multiple conflicts of interest with the current regime there. Cressey founded and was president of Good Harbor Consulting, a leading cybersecurity firm. Among the clients of Good Harbor Consulting is none other than the Yemeni government itself. The “National Security Committee of the Government of Yemen” hired Good Harbor Consulting staffer to provide “strategic security advice” for the Gulf 20 games. Meanwhile, another Good Harbor Consulting staff member served as a “senior advisor” to the Yemeni Government “at the Critical Infrastructure Protection & Counter Terrorism Workshop for the 20th Gulf Cup preparations in Aden Yemen.”
Additionally, Cressey was named last month as a Senior Vice President at Booz Allen Hamilton, one of Washington’s top defense-related contractors. In addition to netting literally billions of dollars in defense contracts over the past decade, Booz Allen Hamilton is one of the “principal implementers” of USAID contracts in Yemen related to agriculture investments.
It’s been nine years since the Bush administration implemented its highly-classified torture program, where government interrogators subjected “war on terror” detainees held at CIA prisons and at Guantanamo to brutal techniques in an effort, the public was told, to thwart pending terrorist attacks against the United States and its interests abroad.
While President Obama and Congressional lawmakers “look forward” and have failed to hold accountable those individuals who violated international and domestic human rights laws, new revelations continue to surface showing the extent of the previous administration’s war crimes and the lies upon which they were based.
Indeed, as Jason Leopold and Jeffrey Kaye report in this in-depth investigative report, the handwritten notes, obtained exclusively by Truthout, that were drafted by Dr. John Bruce Jessen, the psychologist who was under contract to the CIA and credited as being one of the architects of the so-called “enhanced interrogation” program, show that torture was used to “exploit” detainees and to get them to “collaborate” with government authorities.
The documents stand as the first pieces of hard evidence to surface that further explain the psychological aspects of Bush’s torture program and the rationale for subjecting detainees to so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques.” Jessen’s notes were provided to Truthout by retired Air Force Capt. Michael Kearns, a decorated veteran who previously held high-ranking positions within the Department of Defense, and is speaking publicly for the first time. Kearns, who worked closely with Jessen in developing a survival training program for military personnel that the torture program was based upon, said Jessen’s “duplicitous act is appalling to me and shall haunt me for the rest of my life.”
Supplementing this groundbreaking report is an exclusive, on-camera interview with Captain Kearns conducted by Jason Leopold. Truthout is also providing our readers with copies of Jessen’s notes that can be downloaded from the article page.
Billionaires Charles and David Koch of Koch Industries are funneling $5.6 million through the astroturf group FreedomWorks for an Ohio TV ad campaign starting March 18, 2011 that continues the attack on labor unions that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker started in February. FreedomWorks, a non-profit group heavily involved with organizing the Tea Party, does not disclose its corporate donors. The 30-second TV ad focuses on Ohio, but features discredited Fox News footage taken of an out-of-state protest, inserted in the ad order to depict Wisconsin union protesters as being aggressive. The ad blames unions for what it claims is a debt “crisis” in Ohio. It says, “We won in Wisconsin, but the fight must go on,” and urges viewers to call a phone number to “Thank Governor Kasich for leading the fight against Union corruption in Ohio.”The ad doesn’t mention that a Wisconsin judge temporarily blocked implementation of Governor Walker’s anti-union bill over a potential violation of open meetings laws incurred in the way the highly-contentious bill was pushed through Wisconsin’s legislature.
The majority of the money contributed by Koch Industries has gone to Republicans. A select few Democrats have also been recipients. These include the most conservative members of the Democratic caucus including Reps. Mike Ross, Jim Matheson, and Dan Boren. Others are those who support Koch priorities like defeating proposed Environmental Protection Agency regulations.
“The only decision I’ve made is I won’t run against my dad,” Paul said at an appearance in key primary state South Carolina on Monday.
Paul said that he would also visit Iowa and New Hampshire, because “I want the Tea Party to have an influence over who the nominee is in 2012.”
Criticizing Obama for not consulting Congress is one thing. It’s not as if this is some kind of unprecedented break with past practice or anything, but still. I get it.
But the “dithering” complaint? Give me a break. When did it suddenly become a personality defect to decline to intervene in a foreign rebellion the instant it broke out? Isn’t there anyone left who appreciates the fact that Obama still retains a few shreds of anti-interventionist instinct and moves in a deliberate fashion?
Then there’s the “why did he change his mind?” nonsense. Answer: because when events on the ground are moving fast, presidents change their minds. How? Usually by first holding a meeting and getting lots of input. Obama changed his mind last Tuesday in exactly the same way that every president since George Washington has changed his mind.
And then the “following, not leading” complaint. Look: if the only thing you actually care about is showing just how manly the United States can be, this makes sense. But that’s a pretty stupid justification. There’s just no reason why America should be required to take the leadership role in every military action around the globe.
Finally, there’s all the handwringing over why we’re intervening in Libya but not Bahrain or the Congo or Yemen. Please.
Look: I’m not really happy about the intervention in Libya. Like a lot of people, I’d like to know what our actual goals are. What’s more, I’m not sure it’ll be the cakewalk that Hillary Clinton and Nicolas Sarkozy seem to think, and I believe that for a variety of reasons the United States is best served by not giving anyone an excuse for thinking that the current round of rebellions in the Middle East are backed by American power and interests. It’s better for us to keep a pretty low profile right now.
But an awful lot of the criticism is just so unremittingly juvenile that I can hardly stand listening to it anymore. Time to grow up, people.
Transcript and video, PBS NEWSHOUR:
ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI, former U.S. national security adviser: They are, of course, all connected in a way, but also, of course, each of them has its own independent dimension.
Still, I think we’re dealing with a phenomenon which, if not handled correctly, can either plunge the region into increasing violence, disarray, or alternatively, after a period of time, begins to settle and evolve and stabilize. So, how we play it and how our friends play it, and how the international community plays it, and ultimately also how the Arab League plays it, is absolutely, critically important.
ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: Well, obviously, if you can’t intervene everywhere, you don’t conclude that you interfere nowhere. You have to make a judgment: What are the circumstances?
And in this particular case, once it became clear that there was a significant uprising in Libya, and once it became clear that Gadhafi was setting out to crush it, and to crush it absolutely brutally, not to respond to that would not only be morally dubious, but it would be, too, politically questionable, because its aftereffects would be felt in Bahrain, in Yemen, perhaps even in Egypt and elsewhere. We have Tunisia, Algeria and so forth.
Incredibly dull northern former moderate Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty is now a thrilling hard-right action film hero with a Southern accent. This is because he is running for president. He made it official yesterday. He released his newest, goofiest short film:
Can you distinguish molecules from atoms? Genes from genomes? Do you know what makes an experiment statistically significant? If not, do you care? Are you embarrassed by your scientific ignorance – or almost proud of it?
Scientists have been complaining for decades that, while they would be ashamed to admit knowing nothing about Jane Austen’s novels, literary colleagues can get away with total ignorance of relativity and quantum theory. As Larry Summers noted on his installation as Harvard University president in 2001, students rarely admit to never having read a Shakespeare play but find it “acceptable not to know a gene from a chromosome or the meaning of exponential growth”.
Tea party activist Virginia “Ginni” Thomas is joining the media, just not the “mainstream media” she’s described as dedicated to “gotcha journalism” and “lapdogs for the other side.”
The wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas will work as a special correspondent for The Daily Caller, the conservative news website announced Tuesday. “It is a privilege to join such a fast-growing platform with a capable, fun-loving team who are filling a niche that the dinosaur media has underserved,” Thomas said in a statement.
Tucker Carlson, the site’s co-founder and editor, told POLITICO that Thomas’s position will be part time, beginning in “days or weeks” and will focus on “identifying and interviewing people who might in the future become influential in politics or who are already influential but who you may not know about.”
Though Thomas has spent much of her career working as a congressional staffer and a political operative, her professional activity has drawn recent criticism from the left as she’s become an outspoken advocate for the tea party movement. She founded Liberty Central, a nonprofit group that attracted attention — and funding — in part because of Thomas’s husband’s high profile. Thomas stepped away from the group late last year, before launching a lobbying firm, Liberty Consulting.
Civil liberties advocates opposed to the government’s expanded wiretapping powers can fight another day after an appellate court on Monday reinstated a lawsuit challenging an eavesdropping law passed by Congress three years ago.
The decision could put the Obama administration in the uncomfortable position of having to argue in support of broad executive authority to conduct surveillance operations – a position that President Obama, as a presidential candidate, had once opposed.
In the lawsuit, one of the few remaining on the issue, the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups charged that the expanded surveillance powers granted by Congress in 2008 were unconstitutional and illegal.
The 2008 law passed by Congress, known as the FISA Amendments Act, followed a furious debate over the legality of then-President Bush’s secret eavesdropping program, and it gave intelligence agencies wide leeway to monitor international communications without direct court oversight.
Mr. Obama, then an Illinois senator and Democratic presidential candidate, opposed the broadening of executive power, but he angered some liberal supporters by reversing his position and voting for the measure.
The Justice Department, which could seek a re-hearing in the Second Circuit to prevent the case from returning to the district court, had no comment on Monday.
Snyder’s also earned the ire of the voters because of the perception that he’s targeting collective bargaining rights. 59% of folks in Michigan think that public employees should have the right to collective bargaining while only 32% are opposed, and 49% of voters even favor a state constitutional amendment to guarantee collective bargaining rights while 37% are opposed to such a measure. While union households are obviously the most supportive of collective bargaining, nonunion households support it by a 53/39 margin as well so the voters Snyder is antagonizing on this issue go beyond who you might expect.
As ThinkProgress previously explained, Michigan voters can amend the state constitution by petition and referendum. Just 10 percent of the electorate can place an amendment protecting collective bargaining on the ballot, and a simple majority of the electorate can turn it into law.
When a fire broke out at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory on March 25, 1911, overcrowded worktables, inadequate and locked fire exits, and narrow escape passageways created a fatal inferno for 146 of the women and girls who worked inside. In the aftermath of the fire, outraged New Yorkers, lead by the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (now Workers United) fought for crucial regulations that continue to protect us on the job to this day.
It’s not like we didn’t see it coming.
At the very start of this year, January 2, The New York Times warned us of the coming battle with a front-page story, “Public Workers Facing Outrage in Budget Crisis.” The Economist, in its January 8 issue, gave us, “The battle ahead: confronting the public-sector unions.” And the January Time Magazine, “Public Employees Become Public Enemy No. 1.”
That is, there is a plan at work here – let’s call it, “the Plan” – and that plan is designed to accomplish the following goals:
1. Defund the Democrats. This is perhaps the most transparent of the goals of the Plan, because Republicans have not been shy about pointing out how, in various states, labor union contributions of both time and money have supplied Democrats with critical support at election time. The actual numbers can be debated and most of the Republican claims of labor union dominance of the Democratic Party are overblown. The failure of Congress, even when Democrats controlled both the White House and both houses of Congress from 2008-2010, to enact any substantive federal labor law reform, is stark evidence of that. But labor generally comes back to the Democrats and Republicans, and other right-wingers recognize that disabling labor unions now will advance their legislative agenda in the long run.
2. Delegitimize Government. Once public-sector unions are destroyed or damaged and the wages and benefits of public employees are slashed, the ability of government to attract and retain qualified, dedicated employees – whether teachers, bus drivers, fire fighters or police – will deteriorate. The more that happens, the greater the pressure to turn over these and all other “public” services to for-profit private companies, a trend that is already in full swing.
3. Redefining the Middle Class Downward. Above all else, the attack on public employees and their unions is an effort to eliminate the one substratum of working people who still, to a large extent, maintain a truly “middle-class” existence, a life where the rent or mortgage payments may be paid, health coverage is maintained and retirement savings socked away in defined benefit pension plans, where it will actually still be available upon retirement.
It is this last motive about which the proponents of the Plan speak the least, but which is perhaps the most important. As long as some workers, those in the public sector, are still being paid decent salaries and benefits, there is an implicit message to all workers, including those in the private sector, that this type of compensation might be something which an adult worker could reasonably expect to attain. If the goal of a middle-class income for public employees can be painted as a mere utopian fantasy, workers in the private sector will lose that dream as well. In the end, it is this downward pressure on our standard of living that should have all of us concerned, and which should inspire all of us to stand next to public employees as they cling to the middle-class dream.
A conversation about unionization and higher education between Stanley Fish and Walter Benn Michaels, professor of English at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Within minutes of Daugaard’s announcement that he had signed the measure, abortion rights groups said they plan to file a lawsuit challenging the measure, which one said could create particular hardships for women who live in rural areas hundreds of miles from the state’s only abortion clinic in Sioux Falls.
Daugaard, who gave no interviews after signing the bill, said in a written statement that he had conferred with state attorneys who will defend the law in court and a sponsor who has pledged to raise private money to finance the state’s court fight. Officials have said estimated the cost of defending the law at $1.7 million to $4.5 million.
About half the states, including South Dakota, now have 24-hour waiting periods, but the state’s new law is the first of its kind in having a three-day waiting period and requiring women to seek counseling at pregnancy help centers, said Elizabeth Nash of the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports abortion rights.
“It would most certainly be a barrier to women who have to travel. South Dakota is a rural state,” Di Nicola said. “Many women who are seeking abortion care already have to take time off work, arrange for child care.”
Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota said they will ask a judge to strike down the measure as unconstitutional.
AND IN OTHER NEWS…
A UT Dallas researcher is examining how children evaluate information to solve problems and learn how to think critically, with the aim of combating misleading advertising aimed at young people.
“Given the difficulty that children and adults often have in problem solving, it is important to better understand the rudimentary development of problem-solving skills,” Mills said. “The results from this research will inform scientists and practitioners in education and child development regarding early developments in children’s problem-solving abilities. Determining some of the factors that may help children recognize that a source should be discounted should be useful in developing programs to combat misleading ads.”
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”