Sunday, March 2, 2014
The Supreme Court will rule soon in McCutcheon v. FEC, which could further increase the influence of big money in elections. But McCutcheon is just the latest in a long string of cases weakening campaign finance rules. Since Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito joined the Court in 2005 and 2006 respectively, five decisions have significantly reshaped the legal landscape dictating how much big money can flow into political races. Here is some background on what the Court did, how it affected American elections, and what could happen next.
2007: Federal Election Commission (FEC) v. Wisconsin Right to Life, Inc.
- The SCOTUS Ruling:The
Court struck down a law regulating sham issue ads — television advertisements that clearly target specific candidates, but avoid regulation by posing as "issue" ads. For example, an advertisement referring to a candidate by name close to the election, but instead of
explicitly advocating voting for or against the candidate, tells the viewer to “call Rep. Smith and tell him to stop corporate polluters.”
- The Majority Opinion:Chief Justice Roberts on the continued regulation of issue ads: “Enough is enough. Issue ads like WRTL’s are by no means equivalent to contributions, and the quid-pro-quocorruption interest cannot justify regulating them.”
- The Dissenting Opinion:Justice
Souter: “Neither Congress’s decisions nor our own have understood the
corrupting influence of money in politics as being limited to outright
bribery or discrete quid pro quo; campaign finance reform has instead consistently focused on the more pervasive distortion of electoral institutions by concentrated wealth, on the special access and guaranteed favor that sap the representative integrity of American government and defy public confidence in its institutions.”
- The Result:
By rejecting Congress’s decision to regulate political spending, the Court encouraged the creation of more and more political ads that circumvent campaign finance law by leaving out “magic words” such as “vote for” or “vote against.” As any voter who lives in a battleground
state knows, these ads now dominate many elections, often funded by shadowy groups that do not reveal their donors.
- The SCOTUS Ruling:The Court struck down the so-called “Millionaire’s Amendment,”
which had permitted congressional candidates facing wealthy opponents who spent more than $350,000 of their own money on the race to raise larger contributions until they achieved parity with their wealthy opponents.
- The Majority Opinion:Justice Alito:
“While [the law] does not impose a cap on a candidate's expenditure of
personal funds, it imposes an unprecedented penalty on any candidate who
robustly exercises that First Amendment right.”
- The Dissenting Opinion:Justice Stevens: The law “does not impose any burden whatsoever on the self-funding candidate’s freedom to speak, it does not violate the First Amendment, and . . . it does no more than diminish the unequal strength of the self-funding candidate.”
- The Result:Opponents
of extremely wealthy candidates are left without an effective way to
overcome their significant financial disadvantage. By striking down the “Millionaire’s Amendment,” the Court helped to ensure that Congress would continue to be dominated by the very wealthy, a state of affairs recently described by the Center for Responsive Politics.
- The SCOTUS Ruling:The
Court opened the door to allow unions and corporations, including
for-profit corporations, to spend unlimited amounts on elections, as long as that money is not given directly to or used in coordination with a candidate.
- The Majority Opinion: Justice Kennedy: “Ingratiation and access, in any event, are not corruption. . . .” “The appearance of influence or access, furthermore, will not cause the electorate to lose faith in our democracy.”
- The Dissenting Opinion:
Justice Stevens: “In the context of election to public office, the distinction between corporate and human speakers is significant. Although they make enormous contributions to our society, corporations are not actually members of it. They cannot vote or run for office. Because they may be managed and controlled by nonresidents, their interests may conflict in fundamental respects with the interests of eligible voters. The financial resources, legal structure, and
instrumental orientation of corporations raise legitimate concerns about their role in the electoral process. Our lawmakers have a compelling constitutional basis, if not also a democratic duty, to take measures designed to guard against the potentially deleterious effects of corporate spending in local and national races.”
- The Result: The Citizens United
decision laid the groundwork for the creation of Super PACs, or
independent political groups that can take in and spend unlimited sums.
These groups, paired with newly unrestrained corporations and unions,
have contributed to astronomical growth in independent political spending. Outside groups spent more than $1 billion dollars on the 2012 election, which is more than
the total outside spending reported to the Federal Election Commission
from 1980 to 2010. Outside spending in Senate races alone went from
about $18 million in 2008 to about $260 million in 2012. Much of this money remains untraceable, as groups have taken advantage of loopholes in the election law and tax code to hide the identities of spenders.
- The SCOTUS Ruling:The Court struck down part of an Arizona program that provided public funds to candidates who agreed to only raise very small contributions from the public and to abide by campaign expenditure limits. Specifically, the program could no longer provide additional money to these candidates if they faced big-spending opponents.
- The Majority Opinion:Chief Justice Roberts: “Laws like Arizona’s matching funds provision that inhibit robust and wide-open political debate without sufficient justification cannot stand.”
- The Dissenting Opinion: Justice Kagan: “Some people might call [it] chutzpah” that those who challenged the law claim that it “violated theirFirst Amendment rights by disbursing funds to otherspeakers, even though they could have received (but chose to spurn) the same financial assistance.”
- The Result:Public funding programs can no longer provide candidates with additional funds if they are vastly outspent by their opponents.
- SCOTUS Ruling:The Court struck down a Montana ban on corporate political spending and refused to reconsider Citizens Unitedeven as outside spending skyrocketed. The Court rejected the evidence relied upon by the Montana Supreme Court that outside spending can cause corruption and the appearance of corruption.
- The Majority Opinion: Per Curiam: “The question presented in this case is whether the holding of Citizens United applies to the Montana state law. There can be no serious doubt that it does.”
- The Dissenting Opinion:Justice Breyer: “Montana’s experience, like considerable experience elsewhere since the Court's decision in Citizens United, casts grave doubt on the Court’s supposition that independent expenditures do not corrupt or appear to do so.”
- The Result:By
doubling down on its conclusion that corporate election spending may
not be limited, the Court blocked future efforts to regulate outside money at the state level.
- What’s At Stake: At issue in McCutcheonare aggregate contribution limits — the amount one contributor can give in federal elections to all candidates, political parties, and PACs, combined. Under these limits, no donor can give more than $48,600 to all candidates and $74,600 to parties and PACs in one federal election cycle (two years).
- What Could Happen:McCutcheonthreatens
to exponentially worsen the political spending arms race — and to
create risks of government corruption unlike anything the country has
seen since the Gilded Age. If the Court strikes down aggregate contribution limits, one politician could use joint fundraising committees to directly solicit more than $3.5 million from a single donor in an election cycle. That’s more than 70 times the median annual family income
in America. For an ordinary American to raise and spend this amount would take a lifetime. Striking down aggregate limits would also effectively render individual contribution limits meaningless, since many candidates could collect money to funnel toward a single
politician. As a result, far more money will flow into an American political system already flush with cash.
Saturday, March 1, 2014
"NYPD Police Officer Efrain Rojas, Shield No. 23404, Assaults an American Citizen Legally VideoTaping Police activity & it's Caught On Camera!"
District Attorney Kenneth Thompson can prosecute Officer Rojas under NYS Penal Law section 210.10, just based on the report filed and the video. Section 210.10 is a class E Felony. Rojas must be terminated if found guilty.
Kings County District Attorney's Office
350 Jay St. Brooklyn, New York 11201-2908
Ask for: ADA Charles Guria
718.250.2600 / 718-250-2000
ADA Charles Guria runs the Rackets Division.
The Rackets Division consists of multiple bureaus that share resources and information in order to successfully investigate and prosecute serious and complex crimes in the areas of organized crime, criminal misconduct by public officials and police officers, gang-related activity, major frauds, arson, narcotics and tax revenue crimes.
The bureaus in the Rackets Division are: Civil Rights and Police Integrity Bureau, Major Frauds and Arson Bureau, Money Laundering and Revenue Crimes Bureau, Organized Crime Bureau and Political Corruption Investigation Bureau.
Recording While Black and Contempt of Cop are not crimes just yet, but I think NYC Politicians are
working on it, because Photography Is Not A Crime unless you are photography the Cops of course.
Yet the Department of Justice sees no reason to intervene.
Visit http://themarginalzone.wordpress.com for updates on this case and others.
Here is what Police Officer Efrain Rojas Shield No. 23404, says happened:
Deponent states that, at the above time and place, inside of a Transit Station on the 3 and 4 platform train, which was public, deponent was issuing a lawful summons to an individual and that deponent observed defendant in very close proximity to the deponent and deponent's partner while issuing the summons and that deponent continued to repeatedly ask defendant to step back and that defendant repeatedly refused to do so.
Deponent further requested the defendant to leave said train station and defendant refused to do so, deponent escorted defendant out the above mentioned location and informed defendant that defendant can not come back into said station, defendant continued to film deponent and closely follow deponent back into said train station.
Deponent further states that, at the above time and place, defendant did resist a lawful arrest by crossing defendants' arm across defendant's chest while deponent attempted to place defendant in handcuffs.
Rep. Josh Miller, recipient of significant government assistance, opposes Medicaid expansion in Arkansas and is a typical hypocritical douchebag, I mean Republican!
"O wad some Power the giftie gie us To see oursels as ithers see us!"
Miller is of interest because he's a well-known beneficiary of federal government support himself.
Miller, 33, was on an alcohol-fueled drive with a friend about 11 years ago (he can't remember who was driving) when their pickup plunged off a ravine near Choctaw. He was rescued, but suffered a broken neck and was paralyzed. Miller was uninsured. What young, fit man needs health insurance, he thought then. (He had some reason to know better. Not long before, he'd broken his hand in a fight and had to refuse the recommended surgery to fix the injuries properly because he was uninsured.)
Months of hospitalization and rehabilitation followed, including a long stretch in intensive care at St. Vincent Infirmary. There was a $1 million bill. Medicaid paid most of it. Miller was placed on disability and checks began. In time, between Medicaid and Medicare, all his health costs were covered by the federal government. For that reason, he need not be among the 82 Arkansas legislators (61 percent of the body) who enjoy heavily subsidized and comprehensive state employee health insurance.
Health insurance isn't Miller's only government benefit. Another federal Medicaid program for which he qualifies provides daily personal care assistance.
Between the government-paid trauma care, ongoing Medicare and Medicaid coverage, government-provided personal assistant and his own grit, Miller has made a full life. He manages a rental property business (some government-subsidized renters are among his tenants) and serves as a legislator.
My question: How could someone who's received — and continues to receive — significant public assistance oppose health insurance for the working poor? Isn't Miller himself a shining example of how government help can encourage productive citizens?
Miller sees it differently. He said some who qualify for the private option aren't working hard enough. He claims many want health insurance just so they can get prescription drugs to abuse. He draws distinctions with government help for catastrophic occurrences such as he suffered. He falls back, too, on a developing defense from private option holdouts that they prefer an alternative that wouldn't end coverage for the 100,000 people currently signed up, at least until next year. This is disingenuous. He and other opponents have made clear that they want to strip Obamacare from government root and branch. Here's how Miller boiled his opposition down:
"My problem is two things," Miller said. "One, we are giving it to able-bodied folks who can work ... and two, how do we pay for it?"
Lucky for Josh Miller, such thinking didn't prevail when Congress — over Republican opposition — created the programs that sustain him.
A coldly rational person might say a cook in a fast-food restaurant, working long hours at low pay to feed a family, looks more deserving than an uninsured person injured on a drunken joy ride. I would not. No one should be pre-judged on a subjective merit test for health care. We are all God's children — all residents of a country Republicans like to call exceptional, despite its lack of universal health care.
Apart from the core philosophical difference — Miller opposes an expansion of government expenditures; I don't — Miller's position seems to boil down to the belief that some needy people are more deserving than others.
Let's go and ask Rep. Miller if the taxes he has paid or may pay in the future will even come close to paying for all of the government benefits he has and will receive?
His attitude is "I've got mine. Good luck getting yours!" He's just a lower-life scumbag!
William D. Harasym
Friday, February 28, 2014
The F-35 is the most expensive weapons program in history, with a total cost of $1.5 trillion.
The F-35 program has been plagued by cost overruns and delays, has been grounded twice, and even has been criticized by those within the Pentagon.
The $1.5 trillion that will be spent on this wasteful Pentagon program is an enormous sum. It is equivalent to the cost of the sequester.
Join our broad coalition
as we work to build support at the grassroots to pressure our lawmakers
to rethink their commitment to this costly weapons program.
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
AlterNet / February 20, 2014 / By Aaron Cantú
that law enforcement officers kill one black American roughly every 28 hours. Should you choose to invoke any of the rights detailed below, you must do so while remaining hyperaware of how you are perceived by police based on your race and other class-indicative factors, and then proceed with caution. Unfortunately, that's nothing new for people of color.
A cop has no right to detain you without reasonable suspicion. “Reasonable suspicion” is a murky standard that isn’t as definitive as hard evidence, but requires more than a hunch, as Flex Your Rights explains:
A combination of particular facts, even if each is individually insignificant, can form the basis of reasonable suspicion. For example, police may have reasonable suspicion to detain someone who fits a description of a criminal suspect, a suspect who drops a suspicious object after seeing police, or a suspect in a high crime area who runs after seeing police.
Often, the police won’t inform you of your right not to consent to a search. Sometimes people will consent to a search even when they’re holding weed, either because they don’t know they can say no or because they’re worried about the officer’s reaction. “The most powerful trick police use to make marijuana arrests on the street is to ask citizens to empty their pockets. Of course, this ‘ask’ generally sounds like a command when police shout, ‘What's in your pockets? What do you got?’ Silverman of Flex Your Rights says. He also says the vast majority of people stopped will comply with a search regardless of what they have on them out of intimidation or confusion.
search,’” advises the New York City Civil Liberties Union website. An officer may still illegally search you even if you say no, but at least you’ll protect your rights if you have to go to court.
This one follows the same legal guidelines of refusing a body search: unless the officer has a warrant, you do not need to give him/her permission to search your car. Calmly inform him/her that you are aware of your rights and that he/she cannot search your vehicle. However, an officer can still order you out of your car if he/she wishes to do so, and you should comply if they do. Once you are out of the vehicle, the officer may threaten you with false consequences if you continue to refuse a search.
Withouta warrant, you never have to open your door for police. No matter how hard they bang or how many times they smash their pointer against your doorbell, you can leave them out in the cold. Just say no. Someone should have told that to former UNC basketball player Will Graves before he willfully allowed police to enter his coach’s home last December, which the athlete was renting while he completed his studies. When the cops came snooping at his door on a tip from a meter reader at a utility company, Graves allowed the cops to enter (probably out of fear), and for his courteousness he was cited (fortunately not arrested) for being in possession of a couple of
One way cops can claim to have “reasonable suspicion” to search your body, car or home is to say they smell marijuana. This is a difficult assertion to guard against since it’s your word against theirs. More than a few people have gone down after a search because a cop claimed to catch a whiff of weed. The “smell” provision overwhelmingly favors the police in most drug cases.
“If police say they smell marijuana…[a]ll you can really do is say,
'Officer, I have nothing to hide, but I don’t consent to any searches.'
If they search you anyway and something is found, you’ll need an
attorney to help you fight the charges. Unfortunately, police sometimes
use tricks like this to circumvent your constitutional rights and
there’s no perfect way to handle the situation. Of course, they are most
likely to do this if they are suspicious of you for some reason, so do
your best to stay calm.”
an independent journalist based in Brooklyn. Follow him on Twitter @aaronmiguel_
Keystone PipeLIES Exposedfrom Center for Media and Democracy
Keystone PipeLIES Exposed from Center for Media and Democracy on Vimeo.
This film, produced by the Center for Media and Democracy, debunks the
claims of proponents of the Keystone XL pipeline regarding jobs, energy
security, gas prices, safety, and climate change. More information
about this film and research project, "Keystone PipeLIES Exposed," at pipeliesexposed.org.
Monday, February 24, 2014
more about ourselves and the way we think. There are no right or wrong
answers, it merely tests the balance between the left and right
hemispheres of the brain. The brain test doesn't measure knowledge like a
brain training game does, and it is not designed for brain development,
however it does tell us a lot about our brains; the result reveals to
users how much they use the left and right hemispheres of the brain.
Simply complete the quiz to get the result.
Sunday, February 23, 2014
Associate News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D.
on February 23, 2014
patients who believe their doctors are critical of their weight are
more likely to attempt to get fit but less likely to succeed, according
to a new study by Johns Hopkins researchers.
“Negative encounters can prompt a weight loss attempt, but our study
shows they do not translate into success,” says study leader Kimberly A.
Gudzune, M.D., M.P.H., an assistant professor in the Division of
General Internal Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of
“Ideally, we need to talk about weight loss without making patients
feel they are being judged. It’s a fine line to walk, but if we can do
it with sensitivity, a lot of patients would benefit.”
Prior to the study, the researchers suspected that negative attitudes
and weight stigma may be limiting the effectiveness of advice from
primary care providers to their obese patients.
To test this idea, the researchers conducted a national
Internet-based survey of 600 adults with a body mass index of 25 or more
who see their primary care doctors on a regular basis. One of the
questions was, “In the last 12 months, did you ever feel that this
doctor judged you because of your weight?” Twenty one percent of
participants said yes.
Furthermore, 96 percent of those who felt judged said they attempted
to lose weight in the previous year, compared to 84 percent who did not.
However, only 14 percent of those who felt judged and who also
discussed weight loss with their doctor lost 10 percent or more of their
body weight, while 20 percent who did not feel judged and also
discussed weight loss shed a similar amount.
Overall, just two-thirds of participants reported that their doctors talked about weight loss.
“Many doctors avoid the conversation because they don’t want to make
anyone feel bad, worrying they’ll create a rift with their patients if
they even bring it up. But that is not in the patients’ best interest in
terms of their long-term health,” Gudzune says.
Gudzune, whose own practice focuses on obesity, believes that doctors
should be trained in ways to bring up the topic while also making the
patient feel understood and supported.
She says that it helps to start with smaller weight loss goals, such
as a 10 percent reduction. A larger long-term goal of 70 or 100 pounds,
for example, can be a setup for frustration and failure when tackled all
“We don’t want to overwhelm them,” she says. “If we are their
advocates in this process — and not their critics — we can really help
patients to be healthier through weight loss.”
Other Johns Hopkins researchers who contributed to this study include
Wendy L. Bennett, M.D., M.P.H.; Lisa A. Cooper, M.D., M.P.H.; and Sara
N. Bleich, Ph.D.
The study is published in the journal Preventive Medicine.
Source: Johns Hopkins
Obese man and his doctor photo by shutterstock.