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Some Wells Fargo customers who opened their accounts in Florida or South Carolina are getting an unpleasant surprise when they open the monthly statement they receive in the mail: At least some of the statement pages inside don’t belong to them. What’s more, it turns that some of their own potentially sensitive account information has been mailed to someone else. Wells Fargo spokeswoman Aimee Worsley wouldn’t say how many customers were affected, but a South Carolina newspaper put the number at 30,000. The misdirected information didn’t include PINs, but it did include other personal information: names, addresses, transaction details and balance information. The biggest concern, Worsley says, is that some customers who receive direct deposit of their wages or benefits may have had their Social Security numbers compromised, since some organizations use that number to identify payees.
The economy seems to be recovering. Here’s the evidence.
[…] The good news comes in construction. This month, housing starts smashed expectations, jumping 15 percent. The biggest boost comes from the building of multifamily units, like apartment buildings. The pace of single-family home building is improving, too, increasing year-on-year and reversing a downward trend this month. The jump in construction means both an increased willingness to invest on business’ part and a probable uptick in hiring for construction workers.
Second, consumers. They aren’t confident, to be sure. A Thomson Reuters and University of Michigan poll of consumer sentiment released last week found that consumers’ “expectations of the future” are at the lowest point in three decades—lower than during the depths of the financial crisis and the period after Sept. 11.
Still, all that gloom has not stopped people from hitting the mall. Retail sales climbed strongly from August to September, with an upward revision for the summer months, too. Americans spent 7.9 percent more this September than last September. What are we buying? More of everything. But we are really picking up cars. Auto sales hit an annual sales pace of 13.1 million vehicles last month, up a whopping 10 percent.
Next, jobs. The overall picture is bleak, of course: Any of America’s 20 million un- or underemployed workers would be happy to tell you that. But fewer people are applying for initial jobless benefits, implying that the overall unemployment rate might drop soon. Industrial production also seems to be firming up. The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, for instance, reported that its business activity index climbed from -17.5 in September (recession!) to 8.7 in October (expansion!).
All of these individual data points indicate that the economy is doing better, if not particularly well. It could, of course, be nothing more than noise. A slew of bad numbers in November and December could erase the gains of August, September, and October. But at the very least, the data indicate we are backing away from a double-dip, not crashing headlong into it.
The most important numbers show signs of life as well. Gross domestic product, measured monthly, has started picking up after stalling in the spring. Macroeconomic Advisers calculates that overall production climbed 0.4 percent in August and 0.9 percent in July. “The two-month increase more than reversed a 1.0 [percent] decline over the prior two months,” it notes. That means a healthier pace of GDP growth, too: a not-good but nonrecessionary 2.7 percent per year in the third quarter.
Unfortunately, the United States cannot stay on this better-if-not-great course alone. If European leaders don’t do something to figure out how to deal with the sovereign-debt euro crisis, this return to recovery could end quickly. And even if Europe does heal itself and we manage to slog through, the economy will not really feel better for awhile. We need years of strong growth to reduce unemployment, cure the cyclical and structural unemployment crises, and reduce households’ crushing levels of debt.
Jacqueline Siegel paces the floor of her unfinished 7,200-square-foot ballroom. The former beauty queen, with platinum-blond hair, blue eye shadow and a white minidress, clacks along the plywood construction boards in her high heels trailed by a small entourage of helpers and staff.
“This is the grand hall,” she says, opening her arms to a space the size of a concert hall and surrounded by balconies. “It will fit 500 people comfortably, probably more. The problem with our place now is that when we have parties with, like, 400 people, it gets too crowded.”
The Siegels’ dream home, called “Versailles,” after its French inspiration, is still a work in progress. Its steel-and-wood frame rises from the tropical suburbs of Orlando, Fla., like a skeleton from the Jurassic age of real estate. Ms. Siegel shows off the future bowling alley, indoor relaxing pools, five kitchens, 23 bathrooms, 13 bedrooms, two elevators, two movie theaters (one for kids and one for adults, each modeled after a French opera theater), 20-car garage and wine cellar built for 20,000 bottles.
At 90,000 square feet, the Siegels’ Versailles is believed to be the largest private home in America. (The Vanderbilt family’s Biltmore house in North Carolina is bigger at 135,000 square feet, but it’s now a hotel and tourist attraction). The Siegels’ home is so big that they bought 10 Segways to get around—one for each of their eight
After touring the house, Ms. Siegel walks out to the deck, with its Olympic-size pool, future rock grotto, three hot tubs and 80-foot waterfall overlooking Lake Butler. Her eyes well up with tears.
Versailles was supposed to be done by now. The Siegels were supposed to be living their dream life—throwing charity balls and getting spa treatments downstairs after a long flight on their Gulfstream. The home was the culmination of David Siegel’s Horatio Alger story, from TV repairman to chief executive and owner of America’s largest time-share company, Westgate Resorts, with more than $1 billion in annual revenue and $200 million in profits.
Yet today, Versailles sits half-finished and up for sale. The privately owned Westgate Resorts was battered by the 2008 credit crunch and real-estate crash. It had about $1 billion in debt—much of it co-signed by the Siegels.
The banks that had loans on Versailles gave the Siegels an ultimatum: Either pay off the loans or sell the house. So it’s now on the market for $75 million, or $100 million if the buyer wants it finished.
The Siegels’ Versailles may be the nation’s most extravagant monument to the debt-fueled, status-crazed real-estate binge of the past decade. Like many Americans, the Siegels borrowed too much, spent too much and bet that values could only go higher. Even in the age of excess, Versailles was excessive.
“I was cocky and I didn’t care what the house would cost because I couldn’t spend all the money I was making,” Mr. Siegel says.
IT’S a puzzle: one dispossessed group after another — blacks, women, Hispanics and gays — has been gradually accepted in the United States, granted equal rights and brought into the mainstream.
At the same time, in economic terms, the United States has gone from being a comparatively egalitarian society to one of the most unequal democracies in the world.
The two shifts are each huge and hugely important: one shows a steady march toward democratic inclusion, the other toward a tolerance of economic stratification that would have been unthinkable a generation ago.
The United States prides itself on the belief that “anyone can be president,” and what better example than Barack Obama, son of a black Kenyan immigrant and a white American mother — neither of them rich.
And yet more than half the presidents over the past 110 years attended Harvard, Yale or Princeton and graduates of Harvard and Yale have had a lock on the White House for the last 23 years, across four presidencies. Thus we have become both more inclusive and more elitist.
It’s a surprising contradiction. Is the confluence of these two movements a mere historical accident? Or are the two trends related?
Other nations seem to face the same challenge: either inclusive, or economically just. Europe has maintained much more economic equality but is struggling greatly with inclusiveness and discrimination, and is far less open to minorities than is the United States.
European countries have done a better job of protecting workers’ salaries and rights but have been reluctant to extend the benefits of their generous welfare state to new immigrants who look and act differently from them. Could America’s lost enthusiasm for income redistribution and progressive taxation be in part a reaction to sharing resources with traditionally excluded groups?
“I do think there is a trade-off between inclusion and equality,” said Gary Becker, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago and a Nobel laureate. “I think if you are a German worker you are better off than your American equivalent, but if you are an immigrant, you are better off in the U.S.”
PROFESSOR Becker, a celebrated free-market conservative, wrote his Ph.D. dissertation (and first book, “The Economics of Discrimination”) to demonstrate that racial discrimination was economically inefficient. American business leaders seem to have learned that there is no money to be made in exclusion: bringing in each new group has simply created new consumers to court. If you can capture nearly three-quarters of the economy’s growth — as the top 1 percent did between 2002 and 2006 — it may not be worth worrying about gay marriage or skin color.
“I think we have become more meritocratic — educational attainment has become increasingly predictive of economic success,” Professor Becker said. But with educational attainment going increasingly to the children of the affluent and educated, we appear to be developing a self-perpetuating elite that reaps a greater and greater share of financial rewards. It is a hard-working elite, and more diverse than the old white male Anglo-Saxon establishment — but nonetheless claims a larger share of the national income than was the case 50 years ago, when blacks, Jews and women were largely shut out of powerful institutions.
Inequality and inclusion are both as American as apple pie, says Jerome Karabel, a professor of sociology at the University of California, Berkeley, and author of “The Chosen,” about the history of admission to Harvard, Yale and Princeton. “I don’t think any advanced democracy is as obsessed with equality of opportunity or as relatively unconcerned with equality of condition,” he says. “As long as everyone has a chance to compete, we shouldn’t worry about equality. Equality of condition is seen as undesirable, even un-American.”
The long history of racial discrimination represented an embarrassing contradiction — and a serious threat — to our national story of equal opportunity. With Jim Crow laws firmly in place it was hard to seriously argue that everyone had an equal chance. Civil rights leaders like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were able to use this tradition to draw support to their causes. “Given our culture of equality of opportunity, these kinds of rights-based arguments are almost impossible to refute,” Professor Karabel said. “Even in today’s conservative political climate, opponents of gay rights are losing ground.”
I have three:
- A more progressive tax system.
- Free universal public education–as much and as long as people want–to increase the supply of educated and workers and decrease the education premium to create a more equal pretax distribution of income.
- More public investment to speed economic growth.
As Kaldor’s Facts Fall, Occupy Wall Street Rises: Over the past two decades — and especially since about 2000 — the share of national income that flows into wages and other kinds of worker compensation has been plummeting…. In 1990, about 63 percent of business income in the U.S. took the form of wages and other types of labor compensation, according to data compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. By 2005, that figure had dropped to 61 percent. And by the middle of this year, it had fallen to 58 percent…. The difference from 1990 to today — about 5 percentage points or so of private-sector income — amounts to more than $500 billion a year….
Why the drop? Part of the reason is that the advanced economies have been shifting toward certain types of services and advanced manufacturing that have lower shares of labor income. But that explains only a small part of the decline…. The two primary drivers are globalization and technological change. From 1980 to 2005, as the world became more integrated, the effective labor supply available on a global basis expanded….
Over the next decade, the global pool of labor is likely to expand rapidly…. Unless we are somehow going to cut ourselves off from the world, though, we face the prospect of a continued downward trend in the labor share. The trite response to this reality is to call for more education and better training for workers, and more investments in research and development as well as infrastructure. It’s true that all such actions would help. But they take time, and even then they would probably only take some of the edge off the decline, not fundamentally reverse it.
No wonder the frustrated Wall Street protesters lack any specific proposals for change: We are effectively missing $500 billion a year in wages, and no one has a credible set of ideas that would bring it back.
That education and investment are long-run policies and that income distributions are very hard things to move by policy may make them “trite”. But they are still worth doing.
The major goal of Project: No One Leaves is to mobilize as many resources as possible to protect those going through foreclosure and keep them in their homes as long as possible in order to give them maximum bargaining power against the banks. For those focused on “weapons of the weak,” this moment — with banks and creditors using state power to conduct massive amounts of foreclosures, thus impoverishing poor neighborhoods through a financialized rationality — is a crucial opportunity for resistance. From the webpage:
Post-Foreclosure Eviction Defense. We mobilize tenants and former homeowners living in recently or about to be foreclosed homes (bank tenants) to stop evictions, protect Springfield’s housing and communities, and mobilize bank tenants to fight back against major lending institutions and banks that are tearing our communities apart.
Their model, a two-step process known as the Sword and the Shield, works:
“The Sword”. Encouraging residents to stay in their homes, and to make their stories public, we organize blockades, vigils and other public actions to exert public pressure on the banks. The sword works together with:
“The Shield”: We inform bank tenants of their rights and work with legal services & progressive lawyers, to use aggressive post-foreclosure eviction defense to get eviction cases dismissed, win large move-out settlements (if it makes sense for that family/person), and force the banks to reconsider foreclosure evictions.
They use public action through blockades, protests, and marches, along with smart legal advice on how to maximizelegal resistance to forced removal. Beyond the fact that this is a major space for resistance, it is also a great way to mobilize people. And as JW Mason notes, there is power in having a clear opponent as well as a special type of bargaining power people might not realize they have:
Homeowners who still have title have a lot to lose and are understandably anxious to meet whatever conditions the lender or servicer sets. But once the foreclosure has happened, the homeowner, paradoxically, is in a stronger negotiating position; if they’re going to have to leave anyway, they have nothing to lose by dragging the process out, while for the bank, delay and bad publicity can be costly. So the idea is to help people in this situation organize to put pressure — both in court and through protest or civil disobedience — on the banks to agree to let them stay on as tenants more or less permanently, at a market rent.
But there’s another important thing about No One Leaves: They’re angry. The focus isn’t just on the legal rights of people facing foreclosure, or their real chance to stay in their homes if they organize and stick together, it’s on fighting the banks. There’s a very clear sense that this is not just a problem to be solved, but that the banks are the enemy. Iwas especially struck by one middle-aged guy who’d lost the home he’d lived in for some 20 years to foreclosure. “At this point, I don’t even care if I get to stay,” he said. “Look, I know I’m probably going to have to leave eventually. I just want to make this as slow, and expensive, and painful, for Bank of America as I can.” Everyone in the room cheered.
[…] You can read the entire speech here, or better yet, watch it:
“Corporate education reform” refers to a specific set of policy proposals currently driving education policy at the state and federal level. These proposals include:
- increased test-based evaluation of students, teachers, and schools of education.
- elimination or weakening of tenure and seniority rights.
- an end to pay for experience or advanced degrees.
- closing schools deemed low performing and their replacement by publicly funded, but privately run charters.
- replacing governance by local school boards with various forms of mayoral and state takeover or private management.
- vouchers and tax credit subsidies for private school tuition.
- increases in class size, sometimes tied to the firing of 5-10% of the teaching staff.
- implementation of common core standards and something called “college and career readiness” as a standard for high school graduation.
These proposals are being promoted by reams of foundation reports, well-funded think tanks, a proliferation of astroturf political groups, and canned legislation from the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Counsel (ALEC).
Together these strategies use the testing regime that is the main engine of corporate reform to extend the narrow standardization of curricula and scripted classroom practice that we’ve seen underNCLB, and to drill down even further into the fabric of schooling to transform the teaching profession and create a less experienced, less secure, less stable and less expensive professional staff. Where NCLB used test scores to impose sanctions on schools and sometimes students (e.g., grade retention, diploma denial), test-based sanctions are increasingly targeted at teachers.
A larger corporate reform goal, in addition to changing the way schools and classrooms function, is reflected in the attacks on collective bargaining and teacher unions and in the permanent crisis of school funding across the country. These policies undermine public education and facilitate its replacement by a market-based system that would do for schooling what the market has done for health care, housing, and employment: produce fabulous profits and opportunities for a few and unequal outcomes and access for the many.
The same corporate elites and politicians who accept no accountability for having created the most unequal distribution of wealth in the history of the planet—and an economy that threatens the health and well-being of hundreds of millions—want to hold teachers accountable for their students’ test scores. They even want to use similar instruments to do it.
Standardized tests have been disguising class and race privilege as merit for decades. They’ve become the credit default swaps of the education world. Few people understand how either really works. Both encourage a focus on short-term gains over long-term goals. And both drive bad behavior on the part of those in charge. Yet these deeply flawed tests have become the primary policy instruments used to shrink public space, impose sanctions on teachers and close or punish schools. And if the corporate reformers havetheir way, their schemes to evaluate teachers andthe schools of education they came from on the basis of yet another new generation of standardized tests, it will make the testing plague unleashed by NCLB pale by comparison.
Let’s look for a minute at what corporate reformers have actually achieved when it comes to addressing the real problems of public education:
First, they over-reached and chose the wrong target. They didn’t go after funding inequity, poverty, reform faddism, consultant profiteering, massive teacher turnover, politicized bureaucratic management, or the overuse and misuse of testing.
Instead, they went after collective bargaining, teacher tenure, and seniority. And they went after the universal public and democratic character of public schools.
Look again at the proposals the corporate reformers have made prominent features of school reform efforts in every state: rapid expansion of charters, closing low performing schools, more testing, elimination of tenure and seniority for teachers, and test-based teacher evaluation. If every one of these policies were fully implemented in every state tomorrow, it would do absolutely nothing to close academic achievement gaps, increase high school graduation rates, or expand access to college. There is no evidence tying any of these proposals to better outcomes for large numbers of kids over time. The greatest gains in reducing gaps in achievement and opportunity have been made during periods when concentrated poverty has been dispersed through efforts at integration, or during economic growth for the black middle class and other communities, or where significant new investments in school funding have occurred.
In these tough times, some wealthy school districts are offering bounties or contracting private companies to identify illegally enrolled, low-income students. The students are expelled while their parents face far greater consequences, including jail time.
The New York Times:
Banks are turning down mortgage applications from homeowners who signed leases permitting gas companies to drill on their land. In the last decade, more than a million such leases have been signed. The New York Times looks into concerns that homeowners are facing new foreclosure threats.
An experimental vaccine, called TG4010, given together with chemotherapy resulted in significantly more progression free survival in patients with advanced lung cancer compared to those on chemotherapy alone, researchers from the Université de Strasbourg in Strasbourg, France, reported in the journal The Lancet Oncology. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer worldwide with non-small-cell-lung cancer (NSCLC) accounting for about 80% of lung cancer cases. Almost half of NSCLC patients are diagnosed when the disease is at an advanced stage and chemotherapy is currently their only treatment option.
According to a publication Online First in The Lancet Oncology, a phase 2 trial revealed that compared with chemotherapy alone combining standard platinum-based chemotherapy with the new cancer vaccine TG4010 enhances the effect of chemotherapy and slows down the progression of advanced non-small-cell-lung cancer (NSCLC).
In advanced lung cancer and numerous other cancers tumor cells alter the MUC1 protein and produce these cells in excess. For example, approximately 60% of MUC1 is over expressed in NSCLCs. TG4010, a unique vaccine therapy, has been developed to stimulate immune response against MUC1 and activate the body’s natural immune system to attack and destroy cancer cells.
For the phase 2 trial Elisabeth Quoix and team examined 148 patients from 23 centers across France, Germany, Poland and Hungary with advanced NSCLC, whose tumors expressed MUC1 but who had not received prior chemotherapy (chemotherapy naïve patients).
Researchers divided the patients into two groups:
- The combination group – patients received TG4014 in combination with cisplatin and gemcitabine
- The control group patients received only chemotherapy
The researchers reported that six months after therapy began:
- 43% of patients in the combination group were progression free
- 35% in the control group
The scientists also reported that tumor response was considerably higher in the combination group compared with those who only received chemotherapy.
Remarkably, researchers also discovered at the start of the study that the combination therapy proved particularly beneficial to a subgroup of patients with a normal number of triple-positive CD16+CD56+CD69+ lymphocytes, which are activated natural killer cells that can suppress or intensify immune responses.
The findings suggest, for the first time, that CD16+CD56+CD69+ lymphocytes levels in the blood prior to treatment could predict the efficacy and safety of the TG4010 vaccine and serve as a biomarker to help identify those patients who are likely to benefit from immunotherapy.
Overall, the TG4010 vaccine was generally well tolerated. Both groups experienced similar numbers of adverse events, such as anemia, thrombocytopenia (abnormally low number of blood platelets), and neutropenia (low white blood cell count) although more patients in the combination group reported fever, abdominal pain, and injection site pain. 52% of patients in the combination group compared with 47% of patients in the control group.
In a final statement the authors conclude:
“These observations point to the importance of patients’ biological status as a predictor for success of therapeutic vaccination, and suggest that analysis of biological parameters should be part of the clinical developments in cancer immunology.”
The Justice Department is right to defend as essential the century-old ban on direct corporate contributions to political candidates for federal office. In a brief to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, the lawyers challenge a wrongheaded ruling by Judge James Cacheris of Virginia, arguing that the ban serves the government’s strong interest in preventing political corruption.
In the Citizens United case, the Supreme Court said corporations and other organizations could make unlimited independent expenditures in political campaigns. But the court said it was not overturning the ban on direct corporate contributions to candidates’ campaigns.
Flouting that precedent, Judge Cacheris ruled that the “logic” of “Citizens United requires that corporations and individuals be afforded equal rights to political speech, unqualified.” He also flouted a 2003 Supreme Court case upholding the ban on direct corporate donations. Judge Cacheris has no basis for rejecting those two decisions, which bind the lower courts until the Supreme Court overturns them.
As the government contends, he was wrong in ruling that contributions from corporations “pose no greater risk of corruption or its appearance” than those from individuals if they stay within the $2,500 limit that individuals are allowed to donate. A corporation is “easy and inexpensive to form,” the government’s brief says, and it can create “a web of subsidiaries and affiliates” and “multiply its capacity to make contributions.”
Without the ban on direct corporate donations, individuals could easily get around their contribution limits by funneling money through corporate entities. That would blow an even bigger hole through crucial campaign finance laws.
The once-a-decade process of redrawing Congressional districts is moving from the smoke-filled back room to the courtroom. Lawsuits related to redistricting have been filed in more than half the states, asking judges to decide issues that include whether the new maps take partisan gerrymandering too far or discriminate against minority voters.
In some states, courts are being asked to draw the new maps themselves. Courts have begun the process in Nevada, where the Republican governor, Brian Sandoval, vetoed maps drawn by the Democratic-controlled Legislature, and in Minnesota, where the Democratic governor, Mark Dayton, vetoed maps drawn by the Republican-controlled Legislature. Courts are also taking the lead inColorado and New Mexico, where legislatures were unable to reach agreements on what the new maps should look like.
States that have drawn new districts are already facing a flurry of legal challenges, giving the courts, once again, a major role in drawing districts that could help determine the balance of power in Congress for the next decade. The maps that many states have drawn so far are expected to help Republicans maintain the gains they made in the 2010 elections, largely by allowing them to tweak the boundaries to make politically mixed districts lean more toward Republicans.
New maps favoring Democrats in Maryland and Republicans in Utah were signed into law last week, and even before the ink was dry, lawsuits were being threatened in both states. Lawsuits related to the redistricting process have already been filed in 28 states so far, said Justin Levitt, a professor at Loyola Law School who studies redistricting and whose Web site tracks the cases.
“The sheer volume of litigation is pretty amazing,” said Professor Levitt, adding that with cases resolved in six states, active cases remain in 22 states, dealing with Congressional redistricting in 16 and with the districts of state lawmakers and other districts in the rest. “Every 10 years, redistricting litigation joins death and taxes as a virtual certainty.”
In a new development this year, Texas, one of several states with a history of discrimination that must get approval for its new districts under the Voting Rights Act, chose to go straight to federal court instead of simply asking the Justice Department to sign off on its new maps, as has been done in the past. This is the first time since the Voting Rights Act passed in 1965 that a Democratic administration is in the White House at the time of redistricting. […]
Republicans are largely driving the redistricting process this year, since their sweeping gains last November in state legislatures and governors’ mansions across the country gave them the power to unilaterally draw four times as many Congressional districts as the Democrats can. In many states, the Republicans are using that power to help them hold on to the dozens of seats they picked up from the Democrats in last year’s elections, often by tweaking their contours to add more Republican voters to those districts.
The newly drawn districts will probably not give the Republicans a net gain of many seats, according to a forecast by David Wasserman, the House editor of the Cook Political Report. But the changes will help them hold on to many of the gains they made last year by giving many swing districts now held by Republicans an extra cushion of Republican voters. “Republicans are shoring up dozens of otherwise vulnerable freshmen and endangered members — and that’s a huge advantage heading into 2012,” Mr. Wasserman said.
Professor Levitt put it another way. “If 2010 was a wave election,” he said, “then right now they’re furiously building a sea wall to stop the retreat of that wave.”
The lawsuits are the latest stage of a process that sets off frantic political jockeying every decade as incumbents try to protect themselves.
In Rust Belt states that are losing seats because their population growth lagged the rest of the nation’s, a game of political musical chairs is being played, in which incumbents try to make sure they still have a seat to run for when the redistricting music stops. In states gaining seats, mainly in the Sun Belt, the parties in power try to solidify their positions. […]
Many of the e-mails show that Republicans were trying to gauge what percentage of the voters in the new districts voted for Senator John McCain in the 2008 presidential election, to measure how strongly Republican they are.
In Texas, Republicans are accused of diluting the Hispanic vote, which tends to favor Democrats, to create as many Republican districts as possible. It is just the opposite in Nevada, where Democrats in the Legislature were accused of proposing a redistricting plan that divided the Hispanic vote among more districts in order to create as many Democratic seats as possible.
Nevada, which has two Republican members of Congress and one Democrat, is gaining a seat. Democrats there drew a map that would have given them three Democratic-leaning seats — in part by dividing Hispanic voters among several districts. Mr. Sandoval, a Republican, vetoed their plan in May, complaining that no district had a Hispanic majority.
“With Hispanics accounting for 46 percent of the total population growth in our state over the last 10 years, this transparent effort to avoid creating even one additional district where this community would be likely to elect its candidate of choice is simply not acceptable,” he wrote.
The power of creative cartography is clear in two states: Illinois and North Carolina. In Illinois, which is losing a seat and where Democrats controlled the redistricting process, the new map is likely to favor 11 Democrats and 7 Republicans, according to a forecast by the Cook Political Report — a reversal from the current delegation, which has 11 Republicans and 8 Democrats.
In North Carolina, where Republicans won control of the legislature, and thus the redistricting process, for the first time since Reconstruction, the new map will probably help elect 9 to 10 Republicans, the forecast found — a reversal for a delegation that now has 7 Democrats and 6 Republicans.
The state many people are watching this year is California, where, thanks to a voter-approved initiative, the district lines were drawn by an independent commission. While lines were often drawn to protect incumbents in both parties — leading to odd districts that some people joked were contiguous only at low tide — the new lines are expected to be much more competitive, although Democrats are seen as likely to gain a couple of seats.
The challenge the new maps pose for some incumbents has drawn criticism from officials in both parties. A lawsuit filed by Republicans charges that the maps violate the Voting Rights Act by eliminating some majority black districts in south Los Angeles.
Kathay Feng, the executive director of California Common Cause, who helped lead the fight for the independent commission, said the lawsuit was a cynical attempt to get a more favorable map. “This is night and day from what we had before, which was a dog-and-pony show where the Legislature pretended to have negotiations,” Ms. Feng said. “What they really did was to entrench themselves.”
Via the New York Times:
Thousands of other inmates in the Texas prison system have been eating fewer meals since April after officials stopped serving lunch on the weekends in some prisons as a way to cut food-service costs. About 23,000 inmates in 36 prisons are eating two meals a day on Saturdays and Sundays instead of three. A meal the system calls brunch is usually served between 5 and 7 a.m., followed by dinner between 4 and 6:30 p.m.
The meal reductions are part of an effort to trim $2.8 million in food-related expenses from the 2011 fiscal year budget of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, the state prison agency. Other cuts the agency has made to its food service include replacing carton milk with powdered milk and using sliced bread instead of hamburger and hot dog buns.
Prison administrators said that the cuts were made in response to the state’s multibillion-dollar budget shortfall in 2011, and that the weekend lunches were eliminated in consultation with the agency’s health officials and dietitians. Michelle Lyons, an agency spokeswoman, said that inmates with health problems who have been prescribed a therapeutic diet continue to receive three meals per day.
Prison riots can start over something as trivial as a stolen toothbrush, or yes, food. This is why most prisons have decent food and make sure inmates get three square meals a day. So I guess in Texas’ case, they’re prepared to just shoot first and ask questions later, since riots don’t appear to be on their list of concerns.
Also, I’m curious to know whether these cuts were made in Texas private prisons, or the state-run prisons. It seems that the private prisons cost the state a pretty penny, and several were closed in 2011 as part of the budget process.However, others remain open for business as usual.
Texas Governor Rick Perry is a favorite of the private prison industry. After they bankrolled his 2010 re-election bid in large numbers, he tried to take control of the prison decision-making process along with some Republican buddies.
A flurry of privatization bills were introduced by Republican lawmakers during the regular, biannual legislative session, but all of them fizzled out. And then in June, as the Legislature scrambled to put together a budget during a special session, the plan resurfaced in two different pieces of legislation. First, an amendment was attached by a GOP lawmaker to an unrelated bill that would have transferred the authority for the state’s prison health care board to Perry by giving him the power to appoint the majority of the committee members. That proposal, which was jettisoned after it came to light, would have effectively given the governor’s office the power to unilaterally make sweeping changes to the system.
“There was no evidence that it could be done cheaper,” says state Rep. Jerry Madden, a Republican, who chairs the House corrections subcommittee and worked to have the language removed. A second proposal, a few days later, would have explicitly granted the corrections agency the power to solicit bids for prison health care services but not mandated it.
Earlier, Perry’s office had floated another proposal that seemed designed to please the private-prison industry. It sought to eliminate the independence of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards and fold it, along with two other public-safety commissions, into a single agency. The governor’s office justified the move, which ultimately fell short, as a spending measure, a chance to eliminate bureaucratic redundancies. But critics saw a pattern.
“One of the things that the commission has always wanted is to have control over the private prisons,” says Ana Yanez-Correa, executive director of the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, which monitors prison reform in the Lone Star State. “Obviously [the governor’s office] didn’t like that, so this session they tried to dilute the power of the commission by merging it with two other entities.”
And, as expected, lawmakers have a retort for critics, too:
State Senator John Whitmire, a Democrat and chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee whose outrage over last meals on death row led to the end of the practice last month, said the reductions were not a major concern to him. “If they don’t like the menu,” he said, “don’t come there in the first place.”
I wonder how those private prison companies would feel about that?
[ Lots of specifics…]
Sum Up on How to Get a Protest Permit
1. Determine if you need a permit. If you are staying on the sidewalk or on a public plaza and you don’t have a huge crowd, you probably do not need a permit. If you will interfere with the normal flow of traffic, you will need a permit. If you plan to hold a large event in a park or plaza, you most likely need a permit.
2. Find the municipal code online and read the pertinent parts. Search on applicable words and scan the entire Table of Contents.
3. If an application is required, find it online or go in person and get it and study it. Figure out your answers.
4. Call the municipality and say you want a permit. Ask about the process.
5. Fill out the application, go to the meeting with the officials in charge of permits, and follow through on what they tell you.
6. If you are denied a permit, find out how to appeal and decide if you want to do that.
7. Try to find a local lawyer to assist you, if needed.
James Fallows, The Atlantic:
From the wrapup last night on the PBS NewsHour, with emphasis added:
Democrats in the U.S. Senate moved on to the next piece of President Obama’s jobs bill today. It’s a $60 billion investment in infrastructure projects, like roads and bridges. The initial piece of the broken-up jobs bill, a measure to boost the hiring of teachers and first-responders,failed last night. All Republicans and a few moderate Democrats opposed it.
Please see previous items here and here for elaboration on why the story would have been truer to reality if it had indicated:
— that the bill was blocked from coming to an up-down vote, rather than that it “failed”;
— that it received 50 votes, but that was not enough (even including a potential tie-breaking vote by Vice President Biden) because it was being subjected yet again to a Republican filibuster threat;
— that the “opposition” from moderate Democrats made no difference, as all Senators understood, since unified GOP opposition ensured that the filibuster could not be broken; and
— that, as much as a sign of Democratic “failure,” this was another sign of success of an explicit Republican strategy to oppose whatever the Administration puts forward.
Obviously this was a telegraphic two-sentence summary that couldn’t cover everything. But could it have signaled awareness of those underlying realities within the same space? Sure. Here’s something of the same length that, like the original, leaves out nuance but is in my view truer to what is going on.
Old: The initial piece of the broken-up jobs bill, a measure to boost the hiring of teachers and first-responders, failed last night. All Republicans and a few moderate Democrats opposed it.
New: The initial piece of the broken-up jobs bill, to boost hiring of teachers and first-responders, was blocked by filibuster. All Republicans and a few Democrats opposed its coming to a vote.
New: The initial piece of the broken-up jobs bill, for hiring of teachers and first-responders, was blocked by filibuster. 50 Democrats supported it, but that was not enough to bring it to a vote.
Again the point is that the in countless ways the mainstream press has internalized and “normalized” the historically unprecedented idea that the Senate minority will block everything by filibuster. You can celebrate this new strategy if you think the Administration’s policy should indeed be blocked and the president thwarted. You can lament it if you feel the reverse or are merely concerned about “dysfunction.” But the media should not lose sight of the fact that this is a deliberate strategy, that it is historically unusual, and that it is a change in Senate practice so marked as to represent a de facto amendment to the Constitution.
Let me stipulate, sincerely, that the NewsHour is the best, sanest, and most thorough part of mainstream TV news. So I’m saying that “even” the PBS NewsHour can without realizing it convey the wrong idea. Just as “even” the NY Times had a “jobs bill fails” headline. We look to them both to set the right example.
Part of the reason economic policymakers have failed to properly address the poor economy is because the nation’s news media has not properly covered the unemployment crisis. For example, at the beginning of August, when Washington, DC was debating the debt ceiling crisis, the national debt dominated the airwaves. While it was appropriate for the media then to be covering the deficit due to the debt ceiling debate at the time, there was a stunning lack of coverage of the jobs crisis. A ThinkProgress review of the media coverage of the last week of July found that the word “debt” was mentioned more than 7,000 times on MSNBC, CNN, and Fox News, and “unemployed” was only mentioned 75 times:
Yet now, things have changed. With the debt ceiling debates behind the country and thanks partly to the pressure being brought upon politicians and the media by the 99 Percent Movement and the occupations taking place all over the country, it looks as if the press is finally focusing on the jobs crisis and the behavior of Wall Street instead. A ThinkProgress review of the same three networks between Oct. 10 and Oct. 16 finds that the word “debt” only netted 398 mentions, while “occupy” grabbed 1,278, Wall Street netted 2,378, and jobs got 2,738:
When Occupy Wall Street started last month, a wide variety of news outlets complained that the protesters would not accomplish anything or that they did not have clear goals. It now appears that the resulting 99 Percent Movement has scored at least one victory: successfully re-framing media coverage onto the jobs crisis and real economy rather than trumped-up fears about the national debt or deficit.
Yesterday, radio host Thom Hartmann challenged guest Pat Buchanan over his recent writing about minorities and test scores. Hartmann said that “a lot of people are taking what you’re saying as code for inferior genes” and twice pressed Buchanan to disavow that theory. Buchanan did not, instead claiming that he doesn’t “know anything” about the topic.
From The Thom Hartmann Program:
HARTMANN: A lot of people are taking what you’re saying as code for inferior genes. Please tell me that’s not what you’re talking about.
BUCHANAN: Well look, I’m not — don’t know anything about what genetics or something like that. What I’m saying is, is these are the test scores and we haven’t been able to —
HARTMANN: So do you disavow that?
HARTMANN: Do you disavow that idea, that concept —
BUCHANAN: Well, I don’t know anything about being — look. The Coleman Report —
HARTMANN: I mean, you’re being quoted over on —
BUCHANAN: The Coleman Report, and I think I’ve got in my book, the Coleman Report said what a child brings to school is far more important than what he finds in schools, in other words, heredity and home environment, nature and nurture. Do I know the differences, or what percentages, or this and that, of course not. I’m not going to get into that. I’m saying is here’s the test scores now, and this is the problem, and in our future, quite frankly, Hispanic Americans, and African Americans, because of test scores, because of the dropout rate is fifty percent, they’re going to be in the service economy and the rest of us are going to be up there in the knowledge industry and that doesn’t make for a united America.
While Buchanan didn’t disavow the idea, he’s written about the matter throughout his career and was forced to clarify a controversial memo regarding the subject he wrote to President Nixon.
The Boston Globe reported in a January 1992 article that as a White House aide, Buchanan “suggested in a memo to President Nixon that efforts to integrate the U.S. might only result in ‘perpetual friction’ because blacks and the poor may be genetically inferior to middle-class whites.”
At the time of the report, Buchanan was running for president and under criticism for his history of controversial racial statements. The Globe reported that “Buchanan said yesterday he does not believe blacks are genetically inferior to whites and did not have that belief in the past. Buchanan said he sent the memo to Nixon as a routine matter of intellectual curiosity.”
The Globe wrote of Buchanan’s memo:
The memo to Nixon was prompted by the September 1971 issue of The Atlantic, in which author Richard Herrnstein argued that the devotion of government resources to compensatory education and other anti-poverty programs would not result in a more equitable society. The more that government removed social barriers, Herrnstein wrote, the more that genetically blessed individuals would rise to the top of a caste system based on merit.
“Basically, it demonstrates that heredity, rather than environment, determines intelligence – and that the more we proceed to provide everyone with a `good environment,’ surely the more heredity will become the dominant factor – in their intelligence, and thus in their success and social standing,” Buchanan wrote to Nixon. ” It is almost the iron law of intelligence that is being propounded here – based on heredity.
“The importance of this article is difficult to understate. If correct, then all our efforts and expenditures not only for `compensatory education’ but to provide an `equal chance at the starting line’ are guaranteeing that we wind up with the intelligent ones coming in first. And every study we have shows blacks 15 IQ points below whites on the average.”
Buchanan also warned Nixon that, as Herrnstein noted, the ultimate conclusion of the thesis – that some groups or races are inherently superior to others – carried “rather frightful” political implications.
Rupert Murdoch and his sons, Lachlan and James, came out on top after a shareholders’ vote on Friday following News Corp.’s annual meeting in Los Angeles. They were all re-elected to News Corp.’s board of directors, along with the other remaining members. News Corp. declined to reveal the tally, but said the results would be filed with the SEC next week. While several shareholders had openly called for Murdoch’s ouster, they knew the odds were against them. Murdoch’s family controls 40 percent of voting stock and a close ally holds an additional 7 percent. In order for the family to be dismissed from the board, nearly every other shareholder in the company would have had to vote against them.
The presidential candidate said the Obama administration had indicated earlier they were working to have a status of forces agreement with Iraq that would keep a larger sum of troops in Iraq “for some extended period of time” or until the United States could hand off operations to the Iraqi military.
“Either they failed to do it, either by virtue of ineptitude, or they decided that it wasn’t that important – politically or otherwise,” Romney told reporters at his New Hampshire campaign headquarters.
Obama announced Friday that almost all of the 39,000 remaining troops in Iraq will return by December 31, making good on a 2008 campaign pledge to end the war.
Soon after the president made the announcement, Romney’s campaign responded with a statement questioning Obama’s decision as a “naked political calculation.”
Romney didn’t outline his recommendations for troop withdrawal, but argued the president was removing troops too soon.
“I believe that you listen to the commanders on the ground and understand from them what the timetable is to transition entirely to the Iraqi military,” Romney said.
[NOTE: CNN FAILED to report that this was an agreement signed by President Bush]
h/t Hal Ashby
President Obama will lay out his own plans this week to spur jobs in light of not getting cooperation from Congress.
Mr. Obama will kick off his new offensive in Las Vegas, ground zero of the housing bust, by promoting new rules for federally guaranteed mortgages so that more homeowners, those with little or no equity in their homes, can refinance and avert foreclosure.
And Wednesday in Denver, the official said, Mr. Obama will announce policy changes to ease college graduates’ repayment of federal loans, seeking to alleviate the financial concerns of students considering college at a time when states are raising tuition.
The “We Can’t Wait” campaign follows the refusal of House Republican leaders to put the president’s jobs plan to a vote.
Recently, the Obama campaign reached the milestone of having one million donors. To celebrate, they put together a web page full of all kinds of data on those one million people – including the number of donors per state.
New York Magazine took that information and made a “money map” (which really should be called a “donor map”), listing the number of donors per capita in each state.
The map includes 5 shades of blue – which sometimes makes it difficult to decipher. But overall, it matches a lot of assumptions about what the 2012 election will look like. The two lightest shades of blue are mostly states where President Obama will be least competitive. The two darkest are states he’ll likely win. And the middle shade generally includes the battlegrounds.
If so, there’s some good news and bad news. First of all though, we need to acknowledge that the small populations of Montana and Alaska likely skewed their results.
In terms of bad news – its all about Ohio. It falls in with states like South Carolina and Texas in the second lightest shade. Also joining Ohio is Indiana – a state Obama won in 2008 but not many expect him to take again.
By way of good news – Colorado stands out big time in its dark blueness.
But there’s also some good news in the swing states. Mostly they’re the typical bunch – including states like Pennsylvania, Florida and Michigan. But check out Arizona and Georgia! Obama lost both of them in 2008 (he won all of the other middle blue shaded states). If they’re really up for grabs, things could get very interesting.
For comparison purposes, here’s the 2008 electoral map.
An elderly black woman in Tennessee can’t vote because she can’t produce her marriage certificate. Threatening letters blanket black neighborhoods warning that creditors and police officers will check would-be voters at the polls, or that elections are taking place on the wrong day. Thirty-eight states have instituted new rules prohibiting same-day registration and early voting on Sundays. All of this is happening as part of an effort to eradicate a problem that is statistically rarer than heavy-metal bands with exploding drummers: vote fraud.
Many commentators have remarked on the unavoidable historical memories these images provoke: They are so clearly reminiscent ofthe Jim Crow era. So why shouldn’t the proponents of draconian new voting laws have to answer for their ugly history?
Proponents of reforming the voting process seem blind to the fact that all of these seemingly neutral reforms hit poor and minority voters out of all proportion. (The Brennan Center for Justice estimates that while about 12 percent of Americans don’t have a government-issued photo ID, the figure for African-Americans is closer to 25 percent, and in some Southern states perhaps higher.) The reason minorities are so much harder hit by these seemingly benign laws has its roots in the tragic legacy of race in this country. They still work because that old black man, born into Jim Crow in 1940, may have had no birth certificate because he was not born in a hospital because of poverty or discrimination. Names may have been misspelled on African-American birth certificates because illiterate midwives sometimes gave erroneous names.
It’s true that the most egregious methods of minority vote suppression from the 19th century—the poll tax, the literacy test, the white primary—have disappeared. And we know (and can take some solace in the knowledge) that the worst of these indignities have not been recycled in the 21st century, in part because of the protections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. But a look at the history of voting rights in this country shows that the current state efforts to suppress minority voting—from erecting barriers to registration and early voting to voter ID laws—look an awful lot like methods pioneered by the white supremacists from another era that achieved the similar results.
One device that was particularly effective was to require voters to register periodically and to make the registration process more elaborate than might seem necessary. (These rules were then often relaxed for white voters.) Residency requirements, both within and outside the South, had the same, intended, effect of simply keeping people off the rolls. Under one law passed in Indiana in 1917, for example, the applicant had to specify the material his house was made of, his nearest neighbor’s full name, and other proofs of residency. And of course then, as now, misinformation about registration and voting requirements, directed to some constituents and not to others, was a popular device for selective disfranchisement.
At first glance, it’s hard to argue with the goal of reducing corruption and fraud in the election process. Even those who oppose the new provisions would agree that voter fraud is a bad thing. But as Ari Berman recently reminded us (again), there is no evidence for widespread vote fraud, despite Bush administration efforts to find some:
After taking power, the Bush administration declared war on voter fraud, making it a “top priority” for federal prosecutors. In 2006, the Justice Department fired two U.S. attorneys who refused to pursue trumped-up cases of voter fraud in New Mexico and Washington, and Karl Rove called illegal voting “an enormous and growing problem. …[Yet] a major probe by the Justice Department between 2002 and 2007 failed to prosecute a single person for going to the polls and impersonating an eligible voter, which the anti-fraud laws are supposedly designed to stop. … A much-hyped investigation in Wisconsin, meanwhile, led to the prosecution of only .0007 percent of the local electorate for alleged voter fraud.
In short, if we want to fight imaginary problems, we’d be better off going after the scourge of exploding drummers.
Even more remarkable than the similarities of the techniques being used to suppress minority voting today is that the reasons for introducing all of these new rules echo the pretextual rationales of the Jim Crow era. These are the very same justifications white southerners offered for their disfranchisement efforts more than a century ago. As historian C. Vann Woodward put it in Origins of the New South, “Repugnance for corrupt elections was put forward everywhere as the primary reason for disfranchisement.” The call for the Australian ballot—the secret ballot that would effectively disfranchise the more than half of African-American men who could not read in 1900 (not to mention the 20 percent of whites who would lose the vote if the tests were fairly administered)—was a call for a fair ballot, one free of the influence and corruption that it was thought would inevitably follow from allowing the uneducated to vote. Reformers concerned with fraud instituted the secret ballot in 38 states in the final 12 years of the 19th century—with northern whites as worried about immigrant “hordes” and the “inferior” races of new possessions in the Caribbean and Pacific as southern whites were about African-Americans.
Of course, back then such claims were deeply bound up with white supremacy and the corrupt practices of white politicians jockeying for black or immigrant votes. And the anti-fraud rationale went hand-in-hand with explicit and open calls for white supremacy. No longer is it politically palatable to declare, as a Virginian who did at the turn of the 20th century, that one intends “to disfranchise every negro that [one can] … and as few white people as possible.” Now we simply have conservatives like Paul Weyrich elliptically telling evangelicals in 1980: “I don’t want everybody to vote.”
Not only are the stated “anti-fraud” justifications for this new crop of voter restrictions the same as they were in 1890, but the underlying goal of these restrictions is also unchanged: to shape an electorate that will vote for particular kinds of politicians. In a country with hugely shifting demographics, that problem is as urgent as it was a century ago for so-called “reformers.” In the Jim Crow era, the impulse for disenfranchisement came from the Democratic Party, which used new restrictions on black voters to become the Solid South. Today, it is the Republican Party capitalizing on the remnants of Jim Crow to restrict the votes of the poor and minority communities most likely to vote for Democrats. It is the same impulse we see when Rick Santorum says that if Republicans could only eliminate single mothers, more Republicans will be elected. It’s a way of saying some voters simply count more than others. The Constitution is quite clear, at least where race is concerned, that the opposite is true.
Voting is a right, and when the state erects barriers to the exercise of fundamental rights, the means should match the stated ends. In the case of vote fraud we are attempting to eradicate a problem that doesn’t exist with horribly expensive measures that will not fix it. In the process we are enshrining a revived Jim Crow.
[…] Fortunately, Sessions’ amendment failed in the Senate, which led him to a second tirade in the Senate well:
This program is not being run honestly, effectively, or fairly. It is deeply disappointing and extremely telling that the Democrat-led Senate voted down even this modest effort to address the almost shameless mishandling of taxpayer funds. We’re in a fiscal crisis that is already killing jobs, and these bills just increase spending—and destroy confidence—that much more.
It’s time for President Obama to adopt the ‘Solyndra Rule.’ Before the president puts forward a single tax-hike proposal he must first put all of his effort into stripping the egregious spending waste from every corner of the federal budget.”
The last election was barely over when airwaves began humming with messages blasting lawmakers for the next one. Many of the ads don’t count as political spending under federal rules because they’re appearing so long before November 2012, and they don’t urge an explicit vote. This helps independent associations such as American Future Fund keep their tax-exempt status as groups whose primary activity can’t be political campaigning.
The early barrage means incumbents in Congress and President Barack Obama are stuck in “permanent warfare,” said Thomas Mann, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a Washington research group, in an interview. The amounts of money surged since court rulings wiped out limits on corporate contributions and as government requirements for disclosing donors eroded.
“We have seen the virtual collapse of the regulatory system governing campaign finance in this country,” said Mann, who co-edited the 2000 book, “The Permanent Campaign and Its Future.” Today’s environment of unlimited, undisclosed and uncounted funding amounts to a new reality that “flows against everything we’ve been trying to do to not allow large concentrations of money to dominate our politics,” he said.
Campaigns ‘Don’t End’
In Nebraska, the state Democratic Party came to Nelson’s defense, airing spots starting in July in which the senator discussed economic and health-care issues. The state Republican Party filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, alleging that a transfer of funds from a national Democratic committee to help pay for the ads violated a limit on the amount a party can spend in coordination with its candidate. Nelson argued otherwise.
The attack ads started earlier this time than in his two previous runs for the Senate, said Nelson, 70, a former two-term governor, in an interview. Campaigns “don’t end anymore,” he said. Whether the ads count as election-related under federal campaign-accounting rules or not, he views them as political messages from special-interest groups using money from anonymous donors, he said.
“It’s the new system, and you have to accept that that’s what it is,” Nelson said.
The outside groups operate independently of individual candidates’ campaigns and of the Democratic and Republican parties. At the same time, they are often set up and run by people with close ties to the political organizations.
Spending reported to the FEC by independent committees rose four-fold to $305 million during the 2009-2010 election cycle from the 2005-2006 period, about half of it from secret donors. That was almost a 10th of the total of $3.7 billion spent on the election, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington nonprofit that tracks data reported to the campaign monitoring agency.
That amount may understate the organizations’ impact on the last election by 50 percent or more. Media purchases by independent groups exceeded $450 million, estimated Kenneth Goldstein, president of Arlington, Virginia-based Campaign Media Analysis Group, a unit the advertising company WPP Plc. The total may have been as high as $560 million, according to the Campaign Finance Institute, a Washington nonprofit.
The figures differ because a significant portion of these groups’ ad purchases didn’t count as political under the rules of the FEC. The agency requires that independent committees report as campaign spending those ads that explicitly urge a vote for or against a particular candidate. They also have to disclose buying commercials that identify a candidate and run within 60 days of a general election or within 30 days of a primary. This means many ads about policy issues that are critical of candidates don’t have to be reported.
The flood of secret cash buying politically oriented advertising will only increase and will lead to scandal, said the Committee for Economic Development, a group of business leaders and university professors, in a report last month. Spending normally jumps in a presidential election year.
‘Most Expensive Campaign’
“This will be the most expensive campaign in American history,” said Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. The independent groups “are going to be funded at greater levels than the candidates’ own campaign committees. That means the candidates’ voices, particularly in campaigns for Congress, are going to be drowned out.”
The fundraising goals of two of the biggest committees backing Republicans have surged. Crossroads GPS and its sister group, American Crossroads, doubled their initial target to $240 million, after raising $71 million last year. The organizations were founded by Karl Rove, the White House political adviser to President George W. Bush, and Ed Gillespie, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee.
While it’s too soon to project the impact on voting in 2012, research shows negative commercials have staying power, said John Petrocik, a political science professor at the University of Missouri in Columbia. Attack ads now, he said, are “creating a backdrop, a drumbeat that is simply going to get louder.”
“That’s your long-range artillery, the preparatory barrage that’s raising the salience of something you are going to come back to,” Petrocik said. “People are going to remember it because it’s been around so long.”
The independent groups say the broadcast messages are part of their mission to inform voters about public issues or hold elected officials accountable. For example, Crossroads GPS, organized as a tax-free “social welfare” group under the U.S. tax code, said its mission is educating Americans on “critical economic and legislative issues,” according to its website.
Many of the ads this year have been by nonprofits that back Republicans, including the Crossroads groups, the Iowa-based American Future Fund and 60 Plus Association, an advocate for the elderly that favors privatizing Social Security, ending traditional Medicare and repealing the estate tax.
Some tax-exempt groups that favor Democrats have broadcast ads attacking Republican House members this year. Washington- based Americans United for Change aired a television spot in April criticizing Republican Representative Chip Cravaack of Minnesota for voting “to end Medicare.”
In July during the debt ceiling debate, Moveon.org Civic Action ran radio ads in three Republican districts. With a siren in the background, the spot depicted the members “holed up” inside, “holding the economy hostage.”
“By expenditures, we can see conservative groups are ahead,” said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics. “By news reports, we hear that conservative groups are in fact way ahead.
“But in the end we don’t really know,” Krumholz said. “We just know that there’s spending happening now, aimed at elections, and a lot of it will never be reported.”
Crossroads GPS, American Future Fund, Americans United and Moveon.org Civic Action are all set up as tax-exempt “social welfare organizations” under Section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which also supports conservative candidates, is a tax-free nonprofit trade association under Section 501(c)(6). Groups in both categories can raise unlimited amounts from companies, unions and individuals without identifying donors.
American Crossroads is covered by a different provision of the tax code, Section 527, applying to tax-exempt political organizations. It is now known as a super PAC, for political action committee, and can accept unlimited donations from any source. Super PACs have to disclose the names of donors to the FEC. Supporters of Obama and several Republican presidential candidates also started super PACs.
While Crossroads GPS founder Rove declined to be interviewed for this story, he appeared on Fox television in June to discuss the start of a $20 million ad campaign on Obama’s economic record. The messages blamed the president for increases in unemployment, national debt and gasoline prices.
Interviewer Juan Williams asked Rove whether the group’s supporters could ‘live with” a Republican nominee like Representative Michelle Bachmann of Minnesota.
‘Primary Activity’ Rule
“Look, we’re focused on doing what we can to hold the Republican House, to create a Republican Senate and to replace President Obama,” Rove said. Primary voters will pick the nominee, he said. “It’s our job to lay the foundation for a Republican victory in the fall of 2012.”
Jonathan Collegio, a spokesman for Crossroads GPS, said Rove’s comment doesn’t conflict with the group’s tax-exempt status. Rove “informally advises” American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS and was responding to a political question, Collegio said.
Nonprofits under Sections 501(c)(4) and 501(c)(6) can’t have political campaigning as their “primary activity,” according to the tax code.
To keep its tax-exempt status and avoid penalties, Crossroads GPS needs to spend more than half its resources on “issue and policy advocacy” that isn’t “political intervention” under IRS rules, according to an Oct. 10, 2010, legal memo prepared for the organization by Tom Josefiak, a former FEC chairman. Crossroads GPS intends to allocate “much more” than that to “a sustained advocacy effort in furtherance of its ‘social welfare’ purpose,” according to the memo, which Crossroads GPS provided to Bloomberg.
The IRS declines to say what it does to enforce the rule. In September, the campaign watchdog groups Democracy 21 and Campaign Legal Center asked the IRS to investigate the tax- exempt status of four groups that can accept unlimited donations without naming the givers. They include Crossroads GPS and Priorities USA, run by former Obama aides to back his re- election.
“These groups have little if anything to do with promoting social welfare and everything to do with electing and defeating candidates,” said Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21. Spokesmen for the groups dismissed the complaint as frivolous.
Nebraska’s Nelson was one of five Democratic senators whom Crossroads GPS targeted with TV ads in July. The messages criticized the lawmakers for “reckless spending.”
The state’s airwaves also carried ads in July on the same issue, sponsored by the Concerned Women for America Legislative Action Committee. A social welfare group under the tax code, the committee opposes abortion and same-sex marriage and didn’t report any campaign spending in 2010. The TV spots pitched “Spenditol” in a parody of drug advertising.
“Call Senator Ben Nelson,” the announcer said at the end. “Tell him to stop spending it all.”
The goal was to influence the budget debate, said Penny Nance, the president of the group, based in Washington. She said she could see why Nelson might view the $250,000 ad buy as political. The senator is vulnerable, she said, and his vote Oct. 12 against Obama’s jobs bill may have been a sign “he paid attention.”
The rallies targeting Nelson in August took place in Lincoln, Omaha and North Platte under the sponsorship of the state chapter of Americans for Prosperity, another social welfare group under the tax code. Americans for Prosperity, whose sister foundation’s chairman is billionaire David Koch, reported spending $1.2 million to support Republican congressional candidates last year.
‘Where’s Ben Nelson?’
“Where’s Ben Nelson?” was the rallies’ theme. The senator was making appearances throughout the state, often before members of civic groups, according to his office. Americans for Prosperity wanted a chance to confront Nelson in a public forum, said spokesman Mike Friend.
In Missouri and Massachusetts, the League of Women Voters aired messages in April criticizing votes on clean-air legislation by Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill and Republican Senator Scott Brown. The League, another social welfare group under the tax code, describes itself as nonpartisan and has been active since 1920.
“Shouldn’t Claire McCaskill protect the people and not the polluters?” asked the narrator in an April television spot. A little girl wearing an oxygen mask scribbled black all over a drawing.
Rebuke on Environment
It was a rebuke for a vote by the 58-year-old first-term senator to bar the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating carbon dioxide or methane for two years. Brown, 42, voted for a different amendment to block the EPA on climate change. Both senators declined to be interviewed, and both face re-election next year.
The Massachusetts Republican party filed a complaint with the FEC saying the ad should have been reported as political because it was an “attempt to distort” Brown’s record “to encourage voters to defeat his re-election.”
The messages were “accountability” ads, not political, said Elisabeth MacNamara, president of the League, in an interview. “We are interested in protecting the Clean Air Act, and that is our only goal,” she said.
In North Dakota, former Democratic Representative Earl Pomeroy attributes his defeat in 2010 to advertising attacks a year before the election. In November 2009, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and60 Plus Association, which reported spending $7.1 million last year backing Republicans, aired commercials criticizing his vote for the national health-care overhaul.
“Running into a saturation blizzard of attack ads one year before the election was something I had not encountered before,” Pomeroy, who served nine terms, said in an interview. “It played a material role in damaging my poll numbers, which aided in the recruitment of a top-tier challenger.”
The Chamber of Commerce TV spot accused Pomeroy of voting “yes” to new taxes, spending and regulations that could cost the state jobs. It urged viewers to call the congressman and tell him “he should have said no to Washington and yes to North Dakota.”
The Chamber aired similar ads targeting other vulnerable Democrats in 2009. The campaign helped turn constituents against them, Bruce Josten, the Chamber’s top lobbyist, said in an interview shortly after the 2010 vote. “They stayed with us” on the health-care bill, he said, referring to voters. “And that carried through to the midterm elections.”
The 60 Plus ad showed citizens telling Pomeroy, “you have betrayed us” and added that “North Dakota seniors won’t forget.”
North Dakota Vote
The Chamber and 60 Plus each paid more than $350,000 for ads in North Dakota in the month after the House vote, according to Wayne Kranzler, Pomeroy’s media buyer in Bismarck. Neither group reported the spending to the government election agency, and neither would comment.
Last November, Republican Rick Berg beat Pomeroy by 55 percent to 45 percent. Though he spent more than Berg, Pomeroy couldn’t counter the flood of early negative ads, he said.
“By the time the campaign started,” Pomeroy said, “I was thoroughly damaged goods.”
[…] The right keeps assuming that there is some sort of large natural constituency out there waiting to be mobilized against these protests. They dream of finding the magic words that will stop the protesters and protect their beloved one percent, but there aren’t any magic words. There isn’t a talking point out there that can derail Occupy Wall Street.
The exploited class is rising up to seek justice, and whether Bill Maher realizes it or not, he perfectly explained why Occupy Wall Street is going to win.
As midnight approached in New York City’s Washington Square Park on Saturday, 14 occupiers sat in the center of an empty fountain playing Woody Guthrie songs. “If you would like to remain in the park past midnight, you will be subject to arrest,” a policeman had just broadcast through a bullhorn, sending thousands who’d come for a political rally fleeing. Backed by some 100 riot cops in face shields, an exhausted-looking community affairs officer moved in to try to talk reason. “We marched with you guys; we treated you with respect,” he said, pointing out that some officers had been on duty since 3 a.m. “We understand your cause. We understand your voice. We understand what you are saying. But all we want is for you to vacate the park.”
“This is political,” said a man in black glasses, between drags on a cigarette.
“C’mon guys,” the officer pleaded. “Why get arrested?”
The New York City Police Department has dealt with a heavy dose of criticism for the way that it has handled the Occupy Wall Street protests, with an unprovoked pepper spraying, questionablylegal arrests, and a dressing down by a US Marine at Times Square all caught on videotape. But in the interactions with police that I have witnessed and the conversations I’ve had with officers, a more nuanced picture has emerged: one of overworked rank-and-file cops torn between following orders and sympathizing with the movement and its goals.
“We are all in this together,” says an off-duty cop—let’s call him Jim—who described himself to me as a 99 percenter and supporter of the occupation. Jim says he believes that most of his fellow officers feel the same. “We have no problems with what goes on there,” he says.
Jim has stubble, thinning hair, and circles under his eyes. He’s been posted to Occupy Wall Street since Day One, and all the mandatory overtime is wearing him down. “I’m really working hard for this,” he says. “I’m getting yelled at, I’m getting cursed out; I’d rather be at home with my family right now.”
And yet he understands that the same group that’s squaring off against him at Zuccotti isfighting for his future. A 10-year NYPD veteran who helped escort people out of the Twin Towers on 9/11, Jim has seen his retirement fund cut in half by a declining stock market, from $40,000 to $20,000. He worries that his kids won’t be able to afford college or find jobs. And he’s frustrated about not being able to talk about it openly. “We’re getting lost in the shuffle,” he says, pointing out that other public-sector unions, unlike his own, have backed OWS. “We are in a union as well, and we are not rich.”
Sure, there are things at Zuccotti Park that Jim doesn’t like. The anti-war placards and all the other non-economic messages strike him as distractions. He doesn’t like the mushy demands, or the handful of occupiers who are needlessly confrontational. But every group has its bad seeds, police included, he says: Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna, the officer in the infamous pepper spray video, is just “one guy.”
Whether Jim really represents NYPD attitudes toward Occupy Wall Street is hard to say. Of a dozen or so officers I’ve approached this week, only a few would talk to me. Some brusquely shooed me away; others politely referred me to the force’s Department of Community Affairs, explaining that they aren’t allowed to talk to the press.
A cop eating a hamburger next to me late one night at a smelly, protester-packed McDonald’s told me she was wiped out but supported the movement’s goals, as did another officer I overheard chatting with a demonstrator on a crowded sidewalk. On the other hand, I barely avoided being arrested on the night of the arrests in Washington Square Park—some of the officers clearly wanted to cuff me or turn off my camera.
And it seems like every time the police are learning to get along with the occupiers, they overreact in one way or another. On Tuesday night, it was the arrest of well-known feminist author Naomi Wolf, who was hauled off in plastic zip cuffs for doing nothing more than standing on a sidewalk in an evening gown in front of a Huffington Post event in SoHo, where she—and Gov. Andrew Cuomo—were invited guests.
Angry at police for barring anti-Cuomo protesters from assembling there, Wolf occupied the sidewalk herself in solidarity. She was tossed in a police van and hauled off to a “faeces- or blood-smeared cell,” she later wrote. The protesters responded by marching on a nearby police station, the same one where I’d interviewed Jim, to demand her release.
When they got there, they found that the police had calmed down. A community affairs officerused the “people’s mic,” a method of group communication devised by the protesters, to announce that Wolf had been released. Then the occupiers asked him for a “temperature check” on whether they should go back to Zuccotti. Adopting their hand signal for “yes,” the officer held his hands up in the air and wiggled his fingers.
Some supporters of Occupy Wall Street have worked hard to reach out to the police. On Monday, I found John de Clef Piñeiro, a former high-ranking New York Housing Authority official, standing on the steps of Zuccotti Park in a sharp pinstriped suit and holding a large sign directed at the men in blue. “Your pay, job security, and pensions are at risk, just like ours,” it said. “We are not the enemy.” Piñeiro told me he’d been to the park four times with the sign. “If I can prevent someone from getting maced in the face because the police realize they are part of the 99percent, I have accomplished something.”
A few blocks away, near the 9/11 memorial, I found a young officer who was more on the fence about Occupy Wall Street. As far as he was concerned, protesting inequality was about as useful as protesting the bad weather. “I think it’s a waste of time,” he said. “I don’t think anything is going to change.” He quipped that the occupiers might more productively spend their time looking for jobs. But then he softened his tone. “I don’t really know what they’re all about,” he admitted with a friendly smile. “Now that you mention it, maybe I’ll go home and read up on it.”
A close look at Federal Election Commission reports filed by Herman Cain’s campaign show payments totaling more than $100,000 to Cain’s own company.
On how he learned to love the ‘goddam hippies’—and why their protests aren’t going to end.
[…] Democracy means rule by the people—however rough-edged, however blunted by representative government, however imperfect. But everywhere, the people feel as if someone else is now ruling them—and see no way to regain control. In Europe, you see millions unemployed because of a financial crisis that began thousands of miles away in the U.S. real-estate market—and grim austerity being imposed to save a currency union that never truly won mass democratic support in the first place. In the U.S., the hefty majority for sweeping reform behind Barack Obama’s victory in 2008 has been stopped in its tracks by slightly more than half of one House in the Congress and by a historically unprecedented filibuster in the Senate. Even when it is perfectly clear what the onlypolitically viable, long-term solution is to our debt crisis—a mix of defense and entitlement cuts and tax increases—it is beyond our democratically elected leaders to reach a deal. In fact, one major party has gone on record declaring that it would risk national default rather than cede a millimeter on taxes. […]
he revolts in the West require nothing of the courage displayed by Egyptians or Syrians or Tunisians standing up to tanks and bullets and torture. But they have a similar dynamic. They have occupied public spaces in the center of cities, as if to reclaim ownership of a society they feel has been privatized into nonexistence. This is not Protest Wall Street; it is Occupy It. It does not march through; it stops and sits and waits—as if the genie of Tahrir Square could not be kept bottled up in Egypt for very long. The very act is empowering, a form of theater as well as politics. But the theater works only when it reflects underlying truths—truths that cut through cultural divides. Because this is not the 1960s. These are not the children of the affluent acting out for sexual and personal liberation. They are the children of the golden years of hyped-up, unregulated, lightly taxed capitalism—now facing the same unemployment and austerity as the rest of the world.
And that’s why polls have shown unusual support for the basic complaints of the hippies. The Occupy movement has, according to recent polling, significantly more general support than the Tea Party, and its specific demands are highly popular. Huge majorities agree that corporate special interests have too much clout in Washington, that inequality has gotten out of control, that taxes can and should be raised on the successful, that the gamblers of Wall Street deserve some direct comeuppance for the wreckage they have bestowed on the rest of us. Polling data do not show a salient cultural split between blue-collar whites and the countercultural drum circles in dozens of cities around America. And the facts are behind the majority position. Social and economic inequality is higher than it has been since the 1920s, and is showing no signs of declining.
Sure, multinational corporations have rescued millions from poverty in the developing world in the last decade. But they have also outsourced more and more blue- and white-collar jobs away from the West, pioneered technological innovation that has made entire professions—remember travel agents? librarians? secretaries?—redundant, and rewarded the brilliant and driven at the expense of the middle class and the job security it once enjoyed. Even great Western products like the iPhone now actually employ more Chinese than Americans in their manufacturing. People rightly wonder how they can ever master these powerful forces again. And, yes, the income numbers are staggering by any measure. From the late 1940s to the early 1970s, the median American household saw its income double. Since then: a screeching halt, or barely a 5 percent rise in incomes for the less-affluent 90 percent of Americans. But between 1979 and 2007, the top 1 percent saw their incomes soar by 281 percent. Add to that the collapse in home values, and soaring costs for health insurance and college, and it becomes remarkable that we haven’t seen much more unrest. I believe the man who posted the following statement online: “I work 3 jobs. None which provide health insurance. My son is on Medicaid. We are onW.I.C. We’re 1 paycheck from disaster. I am the 99 percent.” Do we not all know someone like him?
Add to this what can only be called an “accountability deficit.” The financial sector and its deregulated leverage binge in the Clinton and Bush years greatly benefited the top 1 percent. Much of this, we now know, was based on obscure mathematical formulas no one fully understood at best and were direct scams against their own customers at worst. What was Wall Street’s response? A furious attempt to resist any new regulation, a refusal to take full responsibility for the mess, and eager participation in a bailout paid for in part by their victims. Do we really need to understand why some have reached a snapping point—now that Wall Street is lobbying to repeal the one reform that reined it in, Dodd-Frank? In Europe, the same arrogant dynamic prevailed. Government elites merrily agreed to the euro, and then promptly violated all the rules designed to make it work—especially if it meant keeping spending under control. Large pluralities were opposed to this—majorities in some countries—and yet the European project continued its inexorable path to an unsustainable present. And who now pays the price? Not the elites. Largely the young, the poor, and, yes, the increasinglydesperate middle class.
There is simply a limit beyond which economic inequality threatens democratic life, when the majority suspect that a tiny minority has fixed the system beyond repair through the existing institutions, and when the powerful minority begins to think of its own interests as distinct from the interests of its compatriots. That moment is one of real danger, especially when those elites can move themselves and their money more easily across the planet than ever before, and it is a sign of responsibility, not irresponsibility, to focus on it. Among the oldest authorities insisting on just such an issue was Aristotle, whose emphasis on the middle classes as the core strength of a viable democracy remains as true today as it was thousands of years ago. And Aristotle was not a hippie. Nor were Disraeli or Bismarck, two 19th-century conservatives who deployed government to prevent their countries from splitting into alienated haves and have-nots, and fearful of real radicals who could come along to exploit the gap.
What we’re seeing today, I suspect, is a natural swing back against the excesses of the last 30 years of roller-coaster, globalizing capitalism and those who are still trying to co-opt the spoils. It’s not so much a matter of left or right, but of balance. I supported the Reagan reform as a counterweight to liberalism’s overreach in the 1960s and 1970s. But for the same reason, I find Occupy Wall Street strikingly relevant today. Tax revenues, after all, haven’t been this low in half a century; tax rates remain well below what they were under that radical, Eisenhower. And the only way we will achieve serious cuts in entitlements—the other half of the equation for fiscal balance—is if people believe that everyone is sacrificing something. That includes the rich. That isn’t ideology. It’s common sense.
In that respect, these goddam hippies are not as radical as they might seem. They are asking for a return to an older America that the Greatest Generation would have instantly recognized and approved of—fiscally sound, socially balanced, politically stable. Behind the patchouli and nose rings is an argument: that we have to be in this cycle of transformative, destabilizing world history together, or we will fall apart. We can achieve this civilly … or, at some point, violence, as in Greece or, worse, Libya, could unfold.
And so Obama’s promise is finally achieved without Obama—which was the point in the first place, remember? We are the ones we’ve been waiting for, as he put it.
[…] But what about the political point, that Obama and the Democrats will turn off moderates and independents if they get too close to Occupy Wall Street? A study sponsored by Third Way this year found that moderates are more skeptical than liberals about government and less likely to believe it’s up to the government to shrink the income gap. Based on reams of polling data, the study also found that nearly half the country calls itself “moderate” and no Democrat has won the presidency since 1980 without winning at least 60 percent of the moderate vote. The group concludes it would be more effective to link Republicans with the Tea Party, which is very unpopular with moderates.
In fact, a series of recent polls show that fewer than three in ten people have a favorable view of the tea party. An alignment with Occupy Wall Street, by contrast, looks like an attractive bet for now. New polls from Time, Reuters, and NBC News-Wall Street Journal suggest Americans see the movement in a positive light.
Another new poll, from National Journal, finds that 68 percent of Americans support the 5 percent tax surcharge on millionaires that Democrats and Obama have proposed to pay for their jobs bill. An even higher proportion of independents, 71 percent, were in favor of it. Another interesting factoid comes from Occupy Wall Street, which says 70 percent of visitors to its website are politically independent.
Most independents have turned away from Obama since 2008. Elaine Kamarck, a Democratic strategist and Kennedy School professor who co-authored the Third Way study, says it will be hard for Obama to win them back, but “there’s no evidence that they’re different economically than anybody else. So they would respond to a strong economic message.” Same goes for moderates. “You can’t go wrong in this economy if you’ve got some sensible, easy to understand protections for the middle class,” she says.
Republicans are providing frequent grist to make Obama’s job easier. In last week’s debate, Herman Cain stood by his statement that “If you don’t have a job, and you’re not rich, blame yourself” – not Wall Street or big banks. And Mitt Romney recently told the Las Vegas Review Journal, serving the foreclosure capital of America, that to help housing, “don’t try and stop the foreclosure process. Let it run its course and hit the bottom, allow investors to buy the homes, put renters in, fix the homes up and let it turn around and come back up.” Obama strategist David Axelrod boiled that down to a 5-second sound bite on the CBS Early Show: “Mitt Romney thinks we need more and faster foreclosures.”
Romney has also had greater success than Obama with the Wall Street money guys. The Center for Responsive Politics found that the former Massachusetts governor has raised nearly twice as much as the president from what it calls theFIRE sector – finance, insurance and real estate. And as the New York Times has noted, Goldman Sachs employees gave Obama more than $1 million in the 2008 campaign, but the score so far this time is Romney $350,000, Obama $45,000.
That’s hardly surprising, considering that Obama has been accusing Republicans of wanting to let the financial world return to “the good old days before the financial crisis, when Wall Street was writing its own rules.” But such rhetoric hasn’t stopped the president from turning to Wall Street bundlers to finance his reelection machine.
Chris Hedges on OWS (H/T AdLib)
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, caught embellishing his “compelling” family history by the Washington Post, has corrected the bio page on his senate website. It now reads: “Marco was born in Miami in 1971 to Cuban exiles who first arrived in the United States in 1956.” [That was BEFORE Castro]
The more I think about the Rubio scandal, the more I am troubled by it. It’s not just that having lived in the Soviet Union for a quarter century, I find it offensive when people falsely claim themselves or their families to have been victims of Communist oppression. I am really concerned about the “Palinization” of the political right. MORE>>>
The Big Picture:
According to a Global Investment Strategy Special Report, the Occupy Wall Street movement symbolizes the fact that political extremism is rapidly becoming mainstream.
But is it really extremism?
Consider the following, from BCA:
The Occupy Wall Street movement is rooted in the secular decline of the American middle class. Judging from the GINI coefficient, the distribution of income is more unequal in the U.S. than OECD countries in general. Moreover, real wage growth in the U.S. has stagnated since 2000, while education and healthcare costs have soared. High education costs have serious social repercussions since they are a strong drag on upward class mobility.
While it is currently impossible to boil down the Occupy Wall Street movement to a single issue, it is a symptom of deepening social strife, political polarization and spreading discontent in the U.S. These are ingredients that, if left unchecked, can lead to potentially radical shifts in policy made to score political points with the extremes, rather than to address underlying economic problems. Both the extreme right and left of the political spectrum will be energized by genuine social discontent – which can nonetheless translate into completely opposing policy preferences – leading to further political polarization. If the clash between left and right intensifies, policy making will become even more difficult. This would mean a heightened political and policy risk premium on equity prices among all G7 markets.
[NOTE: This was the site from which I found this outstanding COMMENTS POLICY:]
Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data, ability to repeat discredited memes, and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Also, be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor even implied. Any irrelevancies you can mention will also be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.
[…] After two decades on the bench, he remains a legal outlier even on the conservative court. The results he reaches are often radical, and where his ideas come from even more so.
He favors cutting back the authority of the federal government and letting states “decide for themselves how to safeguard the health and welfare of their citizens.”
He believes that “the Constitution left religion to the states” and that the First Amendment’s prohibition against Congress’s enacting laws on the establishment of religion “was intended to protect” the right of states to do as they please.
He wants to roll back what most Americans consider racial progress because the “Constitution abhors classifications based on race” and even when the government uses them to solve problems and confer benefits, “it demeans us all.”
Extreme as those views are, the most extreme part of Justice Thomas’s record is not what he decides, but how. Justice Antonin Scalia told a biographer of Justice Thomas, Ken Foskett, that Justice Thomas “doesn’t believe in stare decisis, period.”
Even to conservatives like Justice Scalia — an originalist, claiming to interpret the Constitution as the framers understood it — stare decisis, or following legal precedents, is integral to Supreme Court law. In guiding the court, that principle favors gradual over sweeping change. It is indispensable in assuring court rulings that are not whims of politics.
That’s not the Thomas approach. In pushing the court to reconsider what he has called “wrong turns” in the law, he has argued that “the ultimate precedent is the Constitution.” But since the Constitution is not “a catalogue of answers,” as the conservative scholar Alexander Bickel explained in 1962, Justice Thomas’s brand of originalism means substituting his personal views of the Constitution for those of earlier courts.
Of course, overruling precedent is the only way the Supreme Court can correct mistakes, as when Brown v. Board of Education overturned Plessy v. Ferguson in declaring segregation unconstitutional. Plessy and other discredited decisions are reminders that the court’s rulings in one era cannot be shielded from scrutiny in another.
Almost all justices recognize the need to balance respect for earlier rulings with openness to revising the law as norms of society and facts change. To do that, the court must reason its way to answers — and precedents embody that reasoning.
JUSTICE LEWIS POWELL JR., a Nixon appointee to the court, wrotethat stare decisis was necessary for maintaining the court’s “legitimacy.” Disregard for precedent, he argued, leads the public to see the court as “composed of unelected judges free to write their policy views into law.”
Since Justice Thomas has been on the bench, his opposing view about precedent has seeped into the broader political debate. Others on the court have also become more willing to override or twist the meaning of precedent in critical areas.
In 2007, for example, the court decided in a 5-to-4 vote that public school systems could no longer take account of a student’s race in trying to achieve integration. The court’s conservative majority turned the meaning of Brown v. Board of Education upside down in barring communities from voluntarily fulfilling Brown’s promise to end segregation. In 2010, in the Citizens United case, the court’s conservatives swept aside decades of established precedents in ruling that government may not restrict corporate and union donations to political campaigns.
This year, in a 5-to-4 vote, in AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion, the conservatives upheld the arbitration clause in a customer contract requiring the signer to waive the right to take part in a class-action suit. In a show of rank activism, the court went far beyond the question it was asked to decide when it suggested that all businesses can shut down class actions by relying on arbitration clauses in consumer contracts.
In each of these cases, Justice Thomas voted with the majority but filed separate opinions because, as he wrote in the Citizens United case, the majority’s “constitutional analysis does not go far enough.” In that case, he said the court should have struck down all donor disclosure requirements in campaign laws.
His idiosyncratic approach has made him a solo dissenter almost twice as often as any other justice on the court. Last term, he dissentedwhen the court struck down on First Amendment grounds a California statute that banned the sale of violent video games to children. He concluded that the court was wrong because the framers “could not possibly have understood ‘the freedom of speech’ to include an unqualified right to speak to minors,” yet cited no legal evidence from the nation’s founding.
The scholars Lee Epstein and Andrew Martin found in a recent studythat Justice Thomas, while a steadfast conservative vote, has rarely been the swing vote in a major case. But that does not mean he has had no impact. He has spent 20 years advancing a judicial philosophy that rejects restraint in decision making and fidelity to legal precedent. His disregard for essential principles has surely added to public cynicism about how Supreme Court law is made.
Crooks and Liars:
- A Time Warner employee died after a manager told a co-worker to stop performing CPR and take care of customers.
- A new report shows that wage theft is widespread in the low-wage economy. Not surprisingly, new reports of wage theft are coming from Walmart.
- Occupy Wall Street and labor are moving towards working together more closely.
- It appears that the union boycott of Huffington Post is over.
- Workers in Alabama are engaging in wildcat strikes in response to harsh treatment of immigrants.
- A new report shows that fixing crumbling infrastructure would be an easy fix to the on-going jobs crisis in the U.S.
- Traditional pensions have proven to be more cost-effective in New York City than 401(k) plans.
- The Department of Labor has launched a new web ap to connect the unemployed with jobs.
- Watch the panel between AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis on the Future of Work and New Ways to Build Power.
- Courts in Massachusetts have effectively ruled foreclosure sales in the state unconstitutional.
Dave Weigel, Slate:
The RNC and NRCC have settled on a tried-and-true revanchist attack on Occupy Wall Street. It’s copied from the playbook that Democrats used so very effectively to prevent the Tea Party from ever winning anything.
1) Find video or photos of some activists making some sort of ethnic attacks. (In the Tea Party fight, this played out as isolated racist signs.)
2) Get a group with some credibility to condemn the attacks — and more importantly,demand that the activists condemn them. (See: The NAACP.)
3) Force a discussion: Is this movement racist? (See: Oh, any episode of a cable news show.)
The fight this time: Anti-semitism! On Tuesday and Wednesday, the RNC and NRCC tried their damndest to argue that Occupiers are inhabiting anti-Semites. The crown jewel of the effort is one of those videos that makes liberal use of shaky video and pounding music.
This follows on the anti-Occupiers nabbing some particularly slow and lumbering prey: They got the ADL to demand that “organizers, participants and supporters” condemn anti-Semitism. (Press release later that day: “ADL Says Susan Sarandon Should Apologize For Referring To Pope Benedict XVI As ‘A Nazi’.”)
There is a problem: The movement isn’t anti-Semitic. It started in New York. Its ideological hero is Naomi Klein. This is a movement studded with liberal Jews! Here’s one video that’s gotten less play than the one of the irate anti-Semitic dipshit with the “Nazi bankers” sign: The Kol Nidre in New York, at the Occupy camp.
Is it just totally nuts to worry about anti-Semitism here? Well, no. This is a protest against the banking industry. The chairman of the Fed is Jewish. The president of Goldman Sachs is Jewish. The Secretary of the Treasury is Jewish.* If “anti-Semitism is the socialism of fools,” there’s a hell of a risk that people could get foolish about this.
But… err… they’re not getting foolish about it. Like the Tea Party, Occupy Wall Street is acting more as a safety valve preventing a slide into extremism than a transmitter enablinga slide into extremism. It takes a while for negative narratives about movements to show up in polls, but right now, the solid popularity of Occupy Wall Street suggests that voters understand this.
*My mistake! Geithner, like me, has a European name that sounds but isn’t Jewish. Which proves my point!**
**No, it doesn’t.
American Jewish Committee:
[…] Individuals holding up signs, like one person in New York’s Zucotti Park whose handmade sign states “Google: Jewish Billionaires,” have been few, and have frequently been countered by other OWS participants.
Furthermore, a poster promoted by “Occupy Together,” points to kindred “Occupy” activity in cities across the globe, and specifically lists Tel Aviv.
While the potential for increased anti-Semitic and anti-Israel activity associated with OWS is a concern that requires careful monitoring, and will be an ongoing focus of AJC attention, some recent complaints from partisan quarters and in the media alleging widespread anti-Semitism are unfair. They attempt to paint the episodic incident as routine and ignore both the repudiation in instances of anti-Semitism, as well as the hospitable environment for Jews. Yom Kippur and Sukkot were both celebrated at OWS.
Still, one anti-Semitic sign is too many. We live in a world where an image or moment can be captured by a cell phone camera and put on the Internet within minutes. A picture may be the equivalent of a thousand words, but it should not be taken as reflecting the ideas of thousands of participants.
AND IN OTHER NEWS…
(WARNING: Tearjerker Alert) Two for one: Great Dane and her guide dog need a new home
A FRIENDLY great Dane who suffered a condition that left her without eyes needs a new home – but the new owner would also have to take her guide dog.
Staff at a rehoming centre in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, issued a plea to canine lovers who can foster both blind Lily and her best pal Maddison, also a great Dane.
The pair have been inseparable since Lily lost her sight five years ago.
Vets were forced to remove both of Lily’s her eyes after she suffered from entropion, which meant her eyelashes grew into her eyeballs.
How to: No tangle extension cord storage
You know what to do. Occupy or support the Occupiers.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Do what you can, with what you have, where you are. -Theodore Roosevelt