Politics

Why So Sneaky, Corporate America?

An interesting story this morning chronicles the fear corporations have of free speech -- their own: After a landmark Supreme Court ruling this year freed executives to spend unlimited corporate cash on campaigns, some predicted that businesses would flood television airwaves with pro-industry political ads -- but that just hasn't happened yet. Image-sensitive corporations are still trying to make sure that, if they jump into 2010 politicking, they do so as anonymously as possible, according to Republican political operatives and trade group leaders. ... companies have told their advisers and GOP fundraisers that they are interested in helping finance ads to spotlight proposed regulations and lawmakers they don't like. These companies include firms on Wall Street and in the energy sector opposed to stricter regulations as well as fast-food franchise owners fearful of being forced to unionize their shops. They just don't want to be singled out -- or have their corporate logo attached...

Defense and Deficit Hawkery.

When the House passed a defense authorization bill last week, the big news was that an amendment providing for the repeal of the ban on gays serving in the military was included. But there was something else notable about it too: the price tag. The bill came to $726 billion. In a break from the Bush years, it actually provides for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, instead of declaring those to be "emergency" spending, as though we didn't see it coming. But here's what I'd like to know: Where are all those "fiscal conservatives" who said that it just cost too darn much to extend unemployment benefits? That we have to live within our means, and stop borrowing money? That the government needs fiscal discipline? That the deficit is a time bomb that will obliterate us all? Where were they? Nowhere. They're quite happy to borrow hundreds of billions to spend on defense, because they just happen to like spending money on defense. They don't find unemployment benefits, or health care, or...

The Little Picture: Tension on the Korean Peninsula.

The South Korean naval vessel Cheonan , shown above in dry dock, was attacked on March 26 -- 46 sailors were killed. North Korea has denied any involvement, although an internationally coordinated investigation concluded that there was "overwhelming evidence" that the DPRK was responsible. (AFP/Google)

Why Deficit Hawks are Killing the Recovery.

Consumer spending is 70 percent of the American economy, so if consumers can’t or won’t spend we’re back in the soup. Yet the government just reported that consumer spending stalled in April – the first month consumers didn’t up their spending since last September. Instead, consumers boosted their savings, probably because they’re worried about the slow pace of job growth (next Friday’s report will likely show gains, but the number will continue to be tiny compared to the overall ranks of the jobless), as well as a lackluster “recovery.” They’re also still carrying enormous debt burdens. One in four homeowners is still underwater. And median wages are going nowhere. So what’s Congress doing to stoke the economy as consumers pull back? In a word, nothing. Democratic House leaders yesterday shrank their jobs bill to a droplet. They jettisoned proposed subsidies to help the unemployed buy health insurance, as well as higher matching funds for state-run health programs such as Medicaid...

Reproductive Care for Servicewomen.

The Senate Armed Services Committee approved an amendment that would repeal a ban on abortions for servicewomen even when those women paid with their own money. The amendment was introduced by Sen. Roland Burris and is now attached to the National Defense Authorization Act. The previous rule, which had been reversed by President Clinton with an executive order in 1993 but then reinstated by Congress two years later, according to the ACLU, required military women to go off base for abortion care. As RH Reality Check notes : In order for a woman fighting for our country, currently, to exercise her right to a safe and legal abortion, using her own money, she must first seek abortion care off of a United States military base (and, of course, if abortion is not legal in the country in which she is currently stationed, then what?), then she must request leave stating the reason for her leave and thirdly she must, of course, have the time and money to seek safe abortion care wherever she can...

The Television Justice System.

Adam Serwer talks with Law and Order producer René Balcer about the show's 20-year run: What inspired you to do the torture episode? These are issues I've been thinking about since I was 16. I lived in Canada, and I lived through a terrorist crisis [the Front de Libération du Qué in the 1960s], and I knew what it was like to have your civil liberties suspended. These were issues that concerned me. As far as the torture memos, that's an issue I've been talking about on Law & Order and Criminal Intent since 2005, 2004. KEEP READING...

Republicans for Foreign Law.

The Republican assault on the 14th Amendment puts the absolute lie to the idea that "originalism" as most Republicans understand it means fidelity to the text of the Constitution and the intent of its authors. The intent of the 14th Amendment was to end the practice of granting citizenship based on race -- no strict textual reading of the amendment would see a law denying citizenship to the native-born children of undocumented immigrants as constitutional. But there's been another amusing crack in the GOP's adherence to originalism: Their complaint that granting citizenship based on being born here is something unique. Indeed, Rand Paul told a Russian TV station that "We're the only country that I know that allows people to come in illegally, have a baby, and then that baby becomes a citizen. And I think that should stop also." He's not alone in making this argument. Glenn Beck has complained , "Why do we have automatic citizenship upon birth? ... Do you know? We're the only country...

The Road to Injustice.

Gershom Gorenberg on denying Palestinians equal access to public highways: The fight over Road 443 is representative of the history of Israel's occupation of the West Bank since 1967. The highway is mentioned in the first detailed proposal for Israeli settlement and annexation of parts of the West Bank. The road's expansion was approved as part of plans for settlement in the Jerusalem area. Route 443 can be seen as a long, narrow settlement in itself: a construction project designed to "create facts" and prevent an Israeli withdrawal. The project first violated Palestinians' property rights, then their freedom of movement. The Supreme Court, supposed guardian of human rights, has shown how weak it is when dealing with the politics of occupation. KEEP READING...

DADT Starts Its Long March Toward Death.

It's a bit startling how quickly this DADT legislation got moving. I have to admire the Democrats, who, in a rare fit of effective strategy, pulled the votes in the House and Senate Armed Services Committee out of what seemed to be an invisible hat. I can only assume that this was a tactic designed to deprive the Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats of the opportunity to rally forces of resistance. But there's still time to mount opposition, because it will not take effect until the Pentagon completes a review of its effect on military readiness. How exactly would we measure whether military readiness was, in fact, harmed? It's pretty clear that allowing gays to serve in the military would actually improve military readiness, rather than harm it, but even if it had a detrimental effect, is that a decent reason keep the policy in place? Why do we regard the efforts necessary to protect disfavored minority groups as a drain on our resources? After all, sexual assault in the military costs...

The War on Due Process.

Yesterday, the Senate approved the Defense Authorization bill funding the ongoing wars in Iraq in Afghanistan. While there's still debate before the bill heads to the president's desk, the bill currently authorizes * another war--against the civilian and military lawyers who represented Guantanamo Bay detainees accused of terrorism. If passed in its current form, the bill would subject these attorneys to investigation based on whether or not they "interfered with the operations of the Department of Defense at Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba." The amendment treats defense attorneys as being implicated by their decision to provide a zealous defense for their clients, even when they were ordered to do so. The presumption of guilt thrust onto Gitmo detainees has now been extended to their lawyers. Glenn Greenwald 's post today highlights how absurd this is. Since 2008, the government has lost nearly three-quarters of habeas challenges, meaning that courts decided, in the vast majority...

The Strange Journey of Jim Messina.

Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina is the Obama White House's fixer, handling any number of bedeviling problems and portfolios. As Marc Ambinder points out , he's been the administration's point person on changing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy and deserves considerable credit for managing the process through last night's votes. That's a fascinating turn, since in an earlier stage in his career, Messina was a Montana political operative who managed the 2002 re-election campaign of Sen. Max Baucus . The effort has become something of a legend in political circles because of the above advertisement, ostensibly a spot on student loans but in effect a case of gay-baiting. The ad knocked Baucus' opponent, Republican Mike Taylor , who was already trailing in the polls, right out of the race. A flier associated with the effort read, "At Mike Taylor's hair care schools, someone besides the customers got clipped." Yipes. When Taylor, whose name could not be removed from the ballot, got back...

Rand Paul vs. The Constitution.

Rand Paul stopped giving interviews to national media last week in an effort to stave off the avalanche of bad press following his attack on the 1964 Civil Rights Act outlawing segregation in businesses of public accommodation. He joined Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia and Minister Louis Farrakhan in being one of only three people ever to cancel a scheduled interview with Meet the Press . The idea, I suppose, was that by keeping Paul out of the national press the campaign might be able to avoid having to answer questions about some of his more controversial stances. The problem is that we have this series of tubes that allows communication across vast distances, which means even if you go on a Russian TV station to express your views, the rest of the media can still find out about it. In this instance, Paul expressed his disdain for the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which extends citizenship to anyone born on U.S. soil: The real problem, Paul said, is that the U.S. "shouldn't...

What Tyranny Looks Like.

Whenever I hear the right-wingers complaining about tyranny in Obama's America, I have to shake my head, because unlike the fantasies of victimization engaged in by the Oath Keepers and their ilk, there is actual despotism in the world. Take Thailand, where the army has crushed a peasant insurgency and is now going after the group's financiers: [ Prayudh Mahagitsiri ], along with 151 other businessmen, politicians, lawyers and other alleged financiers of "red shirt" protests, has seen his bank accounts frozen and been ordered to report details of all financial transactions since September to authorities. The aim, said an emergency decree signed by Gen. Anupong Paochinda , is to root out threats to "national security and the safety of citizens" and "get rid of this problem effectively and immediately." ... The government has given no evidence of misbehavior by Prayudh other than a long association with [Former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra ]. While the financial and political lines...

One Step Closer to Ending the Ban on Gays in the Military

The momentum continues : Congress has taken two big steps toward ending the "don't ask, don't tell" ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military. In quick succession Thursday, the Senate Armed Services Committee and the full House approved measures to repeal the 1993 law that allows gay people to serve in the armed services only if they hide their sexual orientation. ... The drive to end the ban still has a long way to go. The 234-194 House vote was an amendment to a defense spending bill that comes up for a final vote Friday. While the spending bill, which approves more than $700 billion in funds for military operations, enjoys wide support, some lawmakers vowed to vote against it if the "don't ask, don't tell" repeal was included. ... The full Senate is expected to take up the defense bill next month, and Republicans are threatening a filibuster if the change in policy toward gays remains in the legislation. Of course they are. But given the overwhelming public support...

The Localism Problem

We have a conceit in this country that the closer power gets to "the people," the more virtuous it is. Your local town council members are fine upstanding folks, your state legislature is still close enough to be "in touch," but those people up in Washington don't know or care a darn bit about you, and are probably on the take. The truth, however, is that Congress is probably less corrupt than at any point in our history. Real old-fashioned corruption, of the briefcase-full-of-cash kind, is extremely rare (though it still happens, as with William Jefferson , he of the $90,000 stuffed in the freezer). That isn't to say that malfeasance doesn't still occur, not to mention the many things that ought to be illegal but aren't, like taking campaign contributions from industries your committee regulates. But on the whole, today's member of Congress is far less likely to be corrupt than her counterpart of 100 years ago. It's nice to get a reminder now and then that the real brazen stuff is...

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