Archive for so much for democracy

The Supreme Thwart: SCOTUS "re-created legalized bribery"

FacebookTwitterRedditDiggStumbleUponTumblrLinkedInPinterestEmailShare

democracy gone, legalized bribery

Apparently "legalized bribery" is fine with the Roberts Supreme Court. As you can see by my previous post Billionaires and Supreme Court undermine our "1st Amendment right not to be drowned out", this appalling decision makes me furious and more than a little worried. In the post I wrote:

Think it was bad before? You ain't seen nothin' yet. You thought Sheldon Adelson and the ass-kissing at Jewish Mingle were obscene? Billionaires like him are just getting started. Super PACs are morphing into Super Duper PACs, Mingles will become orgies, and the kajillions of TV ads will turn into mini-series sponsored by Deep Pockets, Inc.

Despite the TV "news" media's skimpy reporting on this very important topic-- instead running wall-to-wall speculation about the horrific Fort Hood killer-- the Los Angeles Times gave ample coverage to the legalized bribery that is now law. Here are a few takes on what came down yesterday, or as I like to call it, The Supreme Thwart of democracy as we knew it.

First, excerpts from the L.A. Times front pager:

The decision, McCutcheon vs. Federal Election Commission, also shows again the impact of President George W. Bush's two appointees: Roberts and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.

Or to put it another way, elections matter. Continuing...

Fred Wertheimer, a veteran champion of campaign finance reform, said the court was on a "march to destroy the nation's campaign finance laws enacted to prevent corruption."

The decision "re-created the system of legalized bribery today that existed during the Watergate days," said Wertheimer, president of the nonprofit group Democracy 21.

Michael Waldman, president of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School, said neither the Founding Fathers nor most Americans "want government beholden to narrow elite interests."

Republicans call that hand-wringing.

Moving on to an editorial titled, "Really, justices? Even more money in politics?"

The campaign reform group Democracy 21 notes that after Wednesday's decision, a presidential nominee could form a joint fundraising committee and solicit a contribution of as much as $1,199,600 from a single donor for the election cycle. Does anyone doubt that the person who signed that check would expect special consideration from the candidate who solicited it?

Roberts was untroubled by the idea that mega-donors would receive special treatment in exchange for their largesse.

How nice for Roberts that he can sleep well at night knowing that the imbalance of power in this country is causing democracy to go the way of Chris Christie's political career.

Finally, there was an op-ed written by Jessica A. Levinson, an associate clinical professor at Loyola Law School-Los Angeles and vice president of the Los Angeles Ethics Commission:

And how many people were handcuffed by these limits? Well, fewer than 600 donors, or 0.0000019% of Americans, gave the maximum amount under those oh-so-restrictive limits, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. [...]

Disclosure may be the only way we can regulate the political money trail in the near future. [...]

Where does McCutcheon leave us? It leaves people like me who believe it is both legal and good policy to limit the influence of money in politics in an existential crisis. [...]

Our current system essentially limits only direct contributions from donors to candidates and political committees. But independent organizations receive and dispense vast sums related to candidate campaigns, and many do not have to disclose the donors of this dark money.

The base contribution limits could be the next restriction on the chopping block.

And then she called for more transparency. And how about more justice... and different Justices?

money talks democracy has no voice

FacebookTwitterRedditDiggStumbleUponTumblrLinkedInPinterestEmailShare

Stew of corruption: Just add politicians, cash, and simmer.

FacebookTwitterRedditDiggStumbleUponTumblrLinkedInPinterestEmailShare

culture of corruption

Last night, Rachel Maddow did a segment on several recent corruption scandals involving state level politicians, in this case Democrats. It was pretty jaw-dropping. Included in her report was the arrest yesterday of California State Sen. Leland Yee:

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

This morning, I came across this Los Angeles Times article about Yee and noticed this:

Democrat Derek Cressman, one of Yee's opponents in the secretary of state race, called his arrest a "wake-up call."

"We are clearly beyond the point of looking at one bad apple and instead looking at a corrupt institution in the California Senate," Cressman said. "The constant begging for campaign cash clearly has a corrosive effect on a person's soul and the only solution is to get big money out of our politics once and for all."

Then I saw this Los Angeles Times editorial:

This page has been firm in its opposition to the NRA's abject disdain of the public good in pursuing its warped view of the 2nd Amendment's right to bear arms and its bullying approach to the political process. But the blame for this national insanity should not be placed entirely on the NRA. Politicians respond to the group's pressure out of fear, knowing that their jobs often depend on low-turnout, one-party primaries in which fringe passions are amplified.

In other words, if politicians don't respond to the NRA's bullying, they can kiss their donations good-bye, and some other extremist will win the cash... and the day.

Thank you Supreme Court and Citizens United, for turning campaign finance laws on their heads, for allowing super PACs and billionaires to call the shots and buy our elections, and for giving toxic organizations like the NRA the leeway to exert their influence on election outcomes. The result? More corruption and less democracy.

FacebookTwitterRedditDiggStumbleUponTumblrLinkedInPinterestEmailShare

WI GOP State Senator not "willing to defend them anymore... There is no massive voter fraud."

FacebookTwitterRedditDiggStumbleUponTumblrLinkedInPinterestEmailShare

doonesbury jim crow voter suppression single panel WI GOP state senator

tweet voter suppression

Link

Per The Cap Times, WI GOP State Senator Dale Schultz was on on The Devil’s Advocates radio show discussing voter suppression, specifically bills that cut back on early voting. Schultz's own party, the party o' dirty tricks, has been doing whatever it can to make voting harder, because when turnout is high, it usually translates into Democratic wins.

So of course, rather than fighting for victories in the good old fashioned, all-American, patriotic, apple pie honest way, Republicans resort to cheating, because they know they'd never win by approaching elections, you know, fairly.

Democracy, schmemocracy. Endlessly long, discouraging lines rule!

This isn't the first time WI GOP State Senator Dale Schultz has bucked his own party. See: GOP State Sen. Dale Schultz Slams Walker, Calls Union-Busting "Classic Overreach". Now he's expressing his disdain and distaste for the way they're obstructing Wisconsinites from voting.

Schultz:

“I began this session thinking that there was some lack of faith in our voting process and we maybe needed to address it. But I have come to the conclusion that this is far less noble...

"We are not encouraging voting, we are not making voting easier in any way shape or form by these bills...

"I don't see how you can claim to be improving things by actually reducing hours... but maybe this is Never Never Land, who knows?

"It’s just, I think, sad when a political party — my political party — has so lost faith in its ideas that it’s pouring all of its energy into election mechanics. And again, I’m a guy who understands and appreciates what we should be doing in order to make sure every vote counts, every vote is legitimate. But that fact is, it ought to be abundantly clear to everybody in this state that there is no massive voter fraud.

"The only thing that we do have in this state is we have long lines of people who want to vote. And it seems to me that we should be doing everything we can to make it easier, to help these people get their votes counted. And that we should be pitching as political parties our ideas for improving things in the future, rather than mucking around in the mechanics and making it more confrontational at our voting sites and trying to suppress the vote...

“I am not willing to defend them [his colleagues] anymore. I’m just not and I’m embarrassed by this...

"[Voter suppression is] plain wrong...

"It is all predicated on some belief there is a massive fraud or irregularities, something my colleagues have been hot on the trail of for three years and have failed miserably at demonstrating.”

And that concludes another episode of "Republicans eating their own."

eating their own

FacebookTwitterRedditDiggStumbleUponTumblrLinkedInPinterestEmailShare

Seventh grade student spoke out, got kicked out. "My school is run by fear."

FacebookTwitterRedditDiggStumbleUponTumblrLinkedInPinterestEmailShare

Maia Wu student speaks out, kicked out of school

Having taught all grade levels in a couple of school districts, and having been a huge student advocate at those schools, when I hear about a story that starts out with this, I listen:

"My name is Maia Wu. I am 13 years old, in the 8th grade and I'm student body president of my school carrying a 4.0 GPA.... As a 7th grade student, I couldn't understand what there was to fear. ... I stood up for I believed was right... I decided to step up and help students shake off their fear and find their voices. The administration didn't seem to like this too much. I guess you could say this is where things fell apart."

That sure got my attention.

Now it's time for you to give Maia Wu some attention. (Added: She was "too outspoken" about a decision to build a fence around the school without parents and students being told first. The video explains everything, please watch, you won't be sorry.)

What happened here is an outrage and it's time to publicize her story as widely as possible. The district is all that really mattered to the district, certainly not the students, not the parents, not fairness, not open, honest, civil discourse.

Please share this post.

Via Maia Wu:

On January 17, 2014, my mom received a letter informing her that our permit to attend school has been revoked. My brother, sister, and I were kicked out of school. This is my open letter in response to the letter we received.

I was kicked out because my mom asked questions that needed to be asked.

I was kicked out because I am a free-thinker and can think for myself.

I was kicked out because I am not afraid to be heard.

I have a vision of a school that will embrace student voice and student participation in civic matters. I want to learn in an environment that welcomes free-thinkers and welcomes opposing view points as a positive means to perpetuate the democratic process.

If this is the current environment, we will produce children who live in fear of authority and not have the ability to think for themselves and will only use ideals given by higher authorities rather than trying to formalize their own.

This is the number one threat to democracy in our country. I am 13 years old, not afraid to let my voice be heard and all I wish is to return back to my school.

Wow.

But come on, Maia, protest? Peacefully? Moms attempting to communicate? Kids "think for themselves"? Don't you realize this is today's America? We are no longer encouraged to do those things here. Oh, but I kid. Sort of.

Here are a few excerpts. Transcript via EdWeek.org:

I decided to step up and help students shake off their fear and find their voices. The administration didn't seem to like this too much. I guess you could say this is where things fell apart....

Based on these flimsy, weak and ridiculous points, my brother, sister and I had our permits revoked, which essentially meant we were kicked out of our school. When we first found out, we had an overwhelming amount of support from teachers, students, friends, and family. We also immediately set up a meeting in order to organize our appeal. We were told to wait five days. The fifth day rolled along and there was no letter. My mother called the district at 4:00pm but was told the specific person we were looking for was in a meeting. She then called again at 4:40, that person was still in the meeting. Finally, at 4: 58 she called, and was told that that person had gone home. On Chinese New Year's Eve, we finally received the letter denying our permit, and our last day being the following day, Chinese New Year's. Not only had we been strung along until the last minute, but kicked out on Chinese New Year Day. That's comparable to kicking a child out on Christmas.

The letter they wrote and their revocation can easily be seen as childish retaliation to a parent standing up for her first amendment rights. My mother is a responsible, caring responsible adult who the principal and the school district is trying to paint as a deranged woman who doesn't seem to have a clue about anything. If my mother and I are guilty of fighting for our rights as American citizens and guilty of wanting America to be America, so be it. Monterey Highlands and Alhambra Unified School District are obsessed with control and are no longer thinking about students when they make choices such as revoking permits from children like my siblings and I.

I have a vision of a school that will embrace student voice and student participation in civic matters.  I want to learn in an environment that welcomes free-thinkers and welcomes opposing view points as a positive means to perpetuate the democratic process.  If this is the current environment, we will produce children who live in fear of authority and not have the ability to think for themselves and will only use ideals given by higher authorities rather than trying to formalize their own. This is the number one threat to democracy in our country. I am 13 years old, not afraid to let my voice be heard and wish to return back to my school.

These words were spoken by one remarkable seventh grader. Maia is clearly brilliant, reasonable, and rational, certainly more reasonable and rational than the "adults" in charge. You'd think any school would be honored to support and encourage Maia, her voice, and her family.

Those so-called educators could learn a lot from that 13-year-old.

FacebookTwitterRedditDiggStumbleUponTumblrLinkedInPinterestEmailShare

"Poof goes the middle class"

FacebookTwitterRedditDiggStumbleUponTumblrLinkedInPinterestEmailShare

middle class out of vogue

Today's Los Angeles Times letters to the editor, because our voices matter:

Re "Poof goes the middle class," Opinion, Oct. 23

Thanks to Doyle McManus for his timely review of Tyler Cowen's book, "Average Is Over." The trends crippling the middle class that Cowen writes about have been in the making since the 1970s. It took the Great Recession to finally bring this research the recognition it deserves.

Americans today instinctively know that something is wrong, thus the high percentage who tell pollsters the country is going in the wrong direction. But I think few understand that their economic world has changed forever.

What is really needed now is a rebuilding of the middle-class labor force to educate and train (or retrain) workers for well-paying, non-exportable jobs such as nursing, plumbing and high-tech manufacturing. The German labor model may be worth exploring. In Germany, government, private business and labor unions collaborate in a nationwide apprentice training system.

Unfortunately, most U.S. politicians are stuck with the bromides of the past. Someone needs to tell Americans that the world economy has changed and they need to change with it. However, they are going to need lots of help; otherwise, "poof goes the middle class."

Carl Martz

Redlands

***

We shouldn't forget that this country's once sizable middle class emerged under uniquely favorable circumstances.

Not long after World War II, our newfound affluence — which gave rise to the middle class — overshadowed that of other developed countries, where war had wreaked industrial devastation. In addition, our wealthier citizens were taxed heavily, which funded massive government investment in public infrastructure, thereby spurring prosperity for all.

These huge advantages eventually eroded as our economic competitors regained their industrial footing. Outsourcing, automation and tax cuts decimated our middle-class jobs.

Sustaining a middle class seems a lost cause. We're left with the challenge of downsizing cherished but unrealistic expectations. As McManus suggests, that wouldn't be easy even if Washington weren't so dysfunctional.

The middle-class dream was nice while it lasted.

Betty Turner

Sherman Oaks

***

McManus paints a sobering picture of the future of the United States if current trends continue, pointing out that increasing inequality "leads to lower economic growth, more poverty, more fragile families and, as a result, less happiness."

More important, great inequality poses a threat to the ideals and foundations of our democratic system.

A year before he died, President Franklin D. Roosevelt said, "The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little." We have been here before.

Theodore Roosevelt warned us 113 years ago that "ruin in its worst form is inevitable if our national life brings us nothing better than swollen fortunes for the few and the triumph in both politics and business of a sordid and selfish materialism."

We made the reforms necessary then for the country to prosper; we should do so again.

Jonathan Hubbell

FacebookTwitterRedditDiggStumbleUponTumblrLinkedInPinterestEmailShare

Nightmare on First St! US might look very different in 2014 thanks to conservative Supreme Court justices

FacebookTwitterRedditDiggStumbleUponTumblrLinkedInPinterestEmailShare

nightmare on first street Supreme Court of the United States
1 First Street, NE
Washington, DC 20543

There were two articles in Sunday's Los Angeles Times that had me reaching for two bottles: Pepto Bismol and Jose Cuervo Gold. Both articles were about how the U.S. Supreme Court could very well steer to the right on social issues, one (written by Eric J. Segall) referring to that scenario as "a liberal nightmare."

He's not kidding; We should all be more than a little queasy at the prospects of impending major SCOTUS decisions further eroding what's left of democracy.

First an overview by David G. Savage of what we're up against when the Supreme Court begins its term on Monday:

supreme court cases

Savage describes this as "a clear opportunity to shift the law to the right on touchstone social issues such as abortion, contraception and religion, as well as the political controversy over campaign funding."

Worrisome much?

The Citizens United ruling has already been a windfall for fundraisers. And now the Supreme Court appears poised to allow more of the wealthy few to buy elections. Please read those links, because you will be and have been impacted by the outcome of bad decisions like CU as well as what's next on the agenda:

In other cases due to be heard this fall, the justices are likely to uphold state bans on college affirmative action and block most housing bias claims that allege an unfair impact on blacks and Latinos.

They may also give states more authority to restrict and regulate abortion.

On to the op-ed by Eric J. Segall, a law professor at Georgia State University and the author of "Supreme Myths: Why the Supreme Court Is Not a Court and Its Justices Are Not Judges." He begins his post with the chilling warning, "When the dust settles, if the conservative justices hold sway, Americans could find themselves living in a different country."

He then reminds us that the Citizens United decision "granted corporations and unions the same rights as private individuals to make independent political expenditures." What it did not do is address "the important distinction made in Buckley between groups or individuals giving money directly to a candidate or campaign versus the independent expenditures." My link above explains that in more detail. In short:

[C]onservative amicus briefs are urging the court to abolish that distinction and invoke the 1st Amendment to prohibit the regulation of campaign contributions... [T]his case could be the knockout punch that limits legislative efforts to reduce the corrosive effects of money on political campaigns.

And you thought all that influence the top 1% (coughKochBrotherscough) was bad now. Just wait.

On to the separation of church and state... or what's left of it:

The relationship between government and religious liberty is also at issue this term.... [Conservatives]... want the court to broadly hold that government endorsements of religion never violate the 1st Amendment's establishment clause unless the government is actually coercing religion. Such a finding would create a "coercion test," long the wish of Justice Antonin Scalia, which would allow the government to place religious symbols on public property without limitation and permit overtly Christian (or any other religious) prayers at legislative sessions without any judicial check.

He notes that if Justice Kennedy veers right on this one, "the wall between church and state, a wall that Scalia doesn't think exists, will be dramatically lowered."

gulpNext up: a big, sloppy French kiss-in-waiting to the GOP:

Souter and O'Connor are now gone, and Justices Scalia and Clarence Thomas have repeatedly urged the court to abandon the "undue burden" standard and replace it with a reasonableness test that would give lawmakers much more discretion to restrict abortions... Kennedy is again the key. Although it is unlikely he would vote to overturn Roe vs. Wade, if he turns right even a little bit, the ability of women to obtain safe and affordable abortions might be severely threatened.

Segall ties it all up with a very ugly bow:

Depending on how [Kennedy] votes, this country might look very different at the end of June 2014.

To those of you who continue to believe that elections don't matter, think again. It is the president who chooses Supreme Court justices, so stop whining and get yourselves to the ballot box. And while you're at it, help get out the vote wherever and how ever you can.

Unless, of course, rulings like the ones discussed in this post don't matter to you.

nightmare

FacebookTwitterRedditDiggStumbleUponTumblrLinkedInPinterestEmailShare

Supreme Court appears poised to allow more of the wealthy few to buy elections

FacebookTwitterRedditDiggStumbleUponTumblrLinkedInPinterestEmailShare

citizens united cartoon smaller

The conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court may very well allow the wealthy few to have even more opportunities to drown out the rest of us.

Yes, again.

More big donors with more money than most of us will see in our lifetimes may get legal permission to pour more of their more money into more political fights and more candidates.

Most of us can't afford to donate huge sums of cash to buy elections, which means the very rich will have even more influence and control over financing campaigns and corporate causes, and therefore, have more say than we do about our lives.

This anti-democratic practice changed our election system for the worse and is destroying what's left of democracy and equal rights. The Supremes' 2010 Citizens United ruling got the ball rolling, and now there's this little bombshell via the Los Angeles Times:

In what may be Act 2 in the decline and fall of campaign funding laws, the Supreme Court appears poised to lift the lid on the total amount the wealthy can give directly to all candidates and political parties.

Increasingly, the money that funds election races for Congress and the presidency comes from a small sliver of the very rich, what the Sunlight Foundation called the "elite class that serves as gatekeepers of public office in the United States." The nonpartisan group has tracked how a growing share of election money comes from the top 1% of the wealthiest Americans.

In the first major case of its new term, the court could give those donors even more clout with lawmakers and their parties. The issue is whether federal limits, not on contributions to individual races but on how much a donor can give to all candidates for Congress or party committees in a particular election cycle, violate the right of free speech.

The current law allows the rich to give millions to super PACs and other groups that pay for "independent" election ads. What they cannot do is give more than $48,600 total to all members of Congress or more than $74,600 to various party committees.

Those restrictions may end.

Guess who's behind the challenge. Just. Guess.

On Oct. 8, the Supreme Court will take up an appeal from the Republican National Committee, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Alabama businessman Shaun McCutcheon, who say contributions should be treated as "core political speech."

tadaa3McConnell is facing a primary challenge from a conservative tea partier and is also up against Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, who has been leading him in the polls. So of course he's desperate to do something, anything, to change that.

If SCOTUS decides in his favor, then both political parties could each donate up to $3.6 million which "could be funneled by party leaders into a close race or races, tipping the balance of power in Congress."

Lee Drutman, a researcher at the Sunlight Foundation, said, "The data shows there are more big donors on the right than on the left."

No matter who has the most money to donate, this much is true: Money should be kept out of politics. We need a level playing field so we can have fair elections. All this monetary power and influence by a very few ends up corrupting our candidates and ultimately, the lawmakers and laws that affect every single American.

citizens united dollars are not citizens smaller

FacebookTwitterRedditDiggStumbleUponTumblrLinkedInPinterestEmailShare