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“Correcting The Record Of Strategic Disinformation”: We Have The Most Conservative Supreme Court In Decades

In recent years, the United States Supreme Court has turned corporate treasuries into campaign slush funds for CEOs, demolished campaign finance laws, aided and abetted pay discrimination, made it much harder for consumers and workers to file class action lawsuits against corporations that have cheated them, and kindly delivered the White House to one lucky Republican from Texas.

Study after study has found that the Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts and his predecessor William Rehnquist has swerved hard to the right, systematically favoring corporate interests over workers, consumers and voters — to a shocking extent.

So why does a plurality of Americans still think that the Supreme Court leans to the left?

A new poll from Public Policy Polling finds that 36 percent of Americans believe the Supreme Court is “too liberal,” compared with just 30 percent who find it “too conservative” and 29 percent who think it’s ideologically “about right.” The poll highlights a problem that has long plagued progressives who care about the courts: while the Supreme Court and lower federal courts continue to drive to the right, many Americans, strangely, have come to believe that the courts tilt to the left.

This misperception of the federal judiciary, and especially the Supreme Court, is no fluke. It is the residue of more than a half-century of propaganda by the right labeling the Supreme Court a bastion of runaway liberal judicial activists who supersede the will of the people to impose their own views on innocent Americans. This campaign began with “massive resistance” to landmark civil rights and civil liberties decisions of the Warren Court, most notably Brown v. Board of Education (1954), which desegregated the schools and prompted an “impeach Earl Warren” movement; Engel v. Vitale (1962), which struck down compulsory prayer in the schools and was blamed for the moral downfall of America; and Miranda v. Arizona (1966), which gave people basic rights in encounters with the police and was decried as “pro-criminal.” The campaign against the Court intensified with the response to Roe v. Wade (1973), which recognized the reproductive rights of women as a matter of constitutional privacy but has been depicted ever since by the right as the epitome of illegitimate judicial activism.

The movement to turn the clock back on civil rights and civil liberties in the courts has continued for decades and been bolstered by the Chamber of Commerce and big business, which want to see the federal judiciary enshrine new constitutional rights for corporations while dismantling public regulation.

In recent decades, right-wing leaders have worked in popular culture to attack the courts as a liberal peril while successfully organizing to dominate and control legal institutions to create courts that no longer look out for the rights of all Americans. They have set up law schools and legal societies to promote corporate and right-wing commitments, have promoted the appointment of reactionary judges and Justices, blocked the appointment of even moderate jurists, and defined a legal agenda that subordinates individual rights to government power and public regulation to corporate power. Right-wing success in remaking the judiciary in the image of the Republican Party has not led conservatives to curb their bitter attack on “liberal judicial activism,” a fantasy that is several decades out of date but indispensable to this smoke-and-mirrors operation.

Without mass education by progressives to reclaim the public narrative about the courts, popular illusions about the nature of our right-wing judiciary will persist. A perfect example of public confusion is the reaction to the Supreme Court’s narrow decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act. Chief Justice Roberts’ decisive vote to uphold the law was hailed on the left and seen as a stunning betrayal on the right. But what got little attention was how conservative the logic of the decision to uphold the ACA really was. While the final outcome was good news for progressives, Roberts’ opinion laid the groundwork for severely restricting the ability of the federal government to solve national problems under the Commerce Clause — harkening back to the gilded-age Lochner Era, when the Supreme Court routinely struck down regulatory protections for ordinary Americans.

The left needs to wake up. PPP found that less than half of Democrats recognized the conservative leaning of the Supreme Court. As the Supreme Court’s blockbuster decisions on marriage equality, voting rights and affirmative action come down this spring we may have some reasons to celebrate and others to mourn. But we will doubtless be reminded again that Supreme Court decisions often have much less to do with evolving legal theory than with which president appointed the Justices. Conservatives know this and liberals need to wake up to it as well.

Four decades into conservative control of the Supreme Court (through the Burger, Rehnquist and Roberts Courts), and well into President Obama’s second term, conservatives still promote the absurd story that the Supreme Court and judiciary are “liberal.” We must do everything we can to correct the record and dispel the lingering false impressions left by decades of strategic disinformation.


By: Michael B. Keegan, The Huffington Post, May 24, 2013



May 26, 2013 Posted by | Federal Judiciary | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Memorial Day Deserves Better”: Between The Holiday Sales, Give Thought To Those Who Gave Their Last Full Measure Of Devotion

The observance of the 150th anniversary of the establishment of the Bureau of Colored Troops in the District occurred this week, only a few days before Memorial Day. It seems fitting that the sesquicentennial of the Colored Troops Bureau falls close to the day originally set aside to remember those killed in the Civil War.

More than 180,000 African American soldiers and sailors served in the Union Army and Navy. Nearly 68,000 died.

Those African American service members were honored Wednesday at a wreath-laying ceremony and a program at the African American Civil War Memorial and Museum on Vermont Avenue NW.

The event, organized by the museum’s founder and director, Frank Smith, was well-attended and inspirational but low-key. There was not even a cameo appearance by Mayor Vincent Gray or a member of the D.C. Council. If any D.C. elected official sent a representative to the commemoration, the gesture went unannounced and unnoticed.

Those “colored troops” deserved better from this city. After all, the 28th Regiment of U.S. Colored Troops and soldiers with Company E, 4th U.S. Colored Infantry, were among the units assigned to the defense of Washington during the Civil War.

Paid less than their white Union comrades, those black soldiers and sailors courageously fought in nearly 500 engagements, including, according to military records, 39 major battles.

My great-grandfather, Isaiah King of New Bedford, Mass., was one of the black Union soldiers. He enlisted at 16 and was assigned to Company D of the 5th Massachusetts Cavalry in 1864. He participated in the Siege of Petersburg that year. His unit, according to official records, was among the first Union regiments to enter Richmond on April 3, 1865.

The African American troops fought to keep the Union together and to free their enslaved brothers and sisters in the South. They volunteered to fight at a time when the country that sent them off to war did not treat them as equals.

In a speech urging President Abraham Lincoln to allow freed blacks to fight in the Union Army, the famed 19th-century black abolitionist and civil rights leader Frederick Douglass said: “Once let the black man get upon his person the brass letters U.S., let him get an eagle on his button, and a musket on his shoulder, and bullets in his pocket; and there is no power on the earth . . . which can deny that he has earned the right to citizenship.”

Those black soldiers and sailors served, fought and died years before the 15th Amendment, granting African American men the right to vote, was ratified in 1870 — a right that, in reality, went unfulfilled for nearly a century.

But that is not what this weekend is all about.

This is the time to honor those Americans, regardless of race, religion, gender, national origin or sexual orientation, who have given their all in service to our nation.

“The blood of heroes never dies,” Moina Michael wrote in a 1915 poem.

The fallen from the Civil War, World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and all of the conflicts in between deserve a moment of respect. This ought to be a time when the living set aside their daily cares, albeit temporarily, to remember and honor those who made the supreme sacrifice.

Think of those boys who walked off farms and away from families to take up arms on behalf of a nation fighting to keep from falling apart.

Think of kids loaded on planes and ships and sent to foreign lands to fight in defense of their country’s interests. Think of the families left with only memories — and graves to decorate.

Doing that may be easier said than done.

Holiday observers will be competing against events such as Best Buy’s “Memorial Day Kickoff to Summer Event,”Home Depot’s “Memorial Day Savings” and “Marlo’s Memorial Day Sale — Furniture 50% Off Entire Store.”

The choice: Attend a Memorial Day parade or visit a cemetery to remember our fallen, or navigate to and get Memorial Day sales and “extra discounts on top of already low prices from hundreds of stores including: Macy’s, JCPenney, Home Depot, Target, Walgreens, DressBarn, and BabiesRUs.”

It may be all Memorial Day can do to get a word in edgewise.

In between the holiday sales and tips on how to enjoy a three-day weekend, give some thought to those in our country’s history who gave their last full measure of devotion.

That’s what this Army veteran will do.


By: Colbert I. King, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, May 24, 2013

May 26, 2013 Posted by | Civil War, Memorial Day | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“This Is Not 2009”: Democrats Have No Reason To Prematurely Throw Up Their Hands About 2014 Midterm Elections

With the scent of scandal encircling the White House, some Republicans are already licking their chops over the 2014 midterm elections, while some Democrats are pre-emptively licking their wounds.

Not so fast, folks. Retract those tongues.

While it is impossible to predict what might drive voter attitudes in an election 18 months away, there are quite a few signs that 2014 will be nothing like 2010, which produced tremendous success for Republicans.

First, the electorate is less conservative.

In May 2009, the Tea Party had just begun to flex its muscle and feel its power on a national level. Now, the movement has lost momentum.

An April 2012 Associated Press report included a finding from Theda Skocpol, a Harvard professor, that the number of Tea Party groups had fallen from about 1,000 to about 600. And a Washington Post/ABC News poll released this week found that the portion of people saying they strongly support the Tea Party, just 10 percent, was the lowest they had recorded since 2011.

Furthermore, according to a Gallup poll released Friday, the shares of Americans describing themselves as economic conservatives and social conservatives are down by more than a tenth since 2009, after having risen sharply following Barack Obama’s election a year earlier.

The portion of Republicans who said their position on economic issues was conservative — the Republican Trojan Horse for a retrograde social agenda — has seen little movement since 2009, dropping just five percentage points, from 75 percent to 70 percent.

(On the other hand, the share of Democrats who describe their positions on social issues as liberal has increased, from 45 percent to 50 percent.)

Speaking of economic issues, the economy is experiencing a resurgence, at least in some quarters.

In May 2009, the United States economy was nearing the end of the Great Recession. The unemployment rate had risen to 9.4 percent from 5.5 percent the previous year. People were losing their homes to foreclosures in record numbers. The Dow Jones industrial average had fallen to about 8,500 from more than 13,000 the previous May. And the deficit tripled from the 2008 fiscal year to the 2009 fiscal year, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

This had Americans rightfully worried and near-panicked about their economic prospects.

Now the economic picture couldn’t be more different.

The unemployment rate has dropped to 7.5 percent. The Dow is above 15,000 and continuing to set records. The housing sector is rebounding — “Sales of previously owned homes reached the highest level in more than three years, with the share of foreclosure purchases shrinking, as the housing market continued its rebound last month,” according to a report Thursday in The Wall Street Journal.

And the deficit is shrinking faster than expected, according to a report released last week by the budget office. The report found that if current laws are unchanged, “Relative to the size of the economy, the deficit this year — at 4.0 percent of gross domestic product (G.D.P.) — will be less than half as large as the shortfall in 2009, which was 10.1 percent of G.D.P.”

This takes almost all of the air out of the Republicans’ economic argument.

Lastly, legislative unease has become about what Republicans haven’t done, rather than what Democrats have done.

By May of 2009, President Obama had already signed the huge — though many still believe not huge enough — stimulus package, Chrysler and General Motors were in need of a bailout and the ball was rolling on the president’s historic health care law.

Conservatives were railing against what they saw as an unprecedented, ominous and ultimately ruinous expansion of government, driven by the president and made possible by a Congress controlled by Democrats.

Now, the tables have turned. Two of the most glaring legislative failures this year have ostensibly been the work of obstinate Republicans: the failure to avoid the sequester and the failure to pass expanded gun background checks legislation. According to that recent Washington Post/ABC News poll, most Americans still disapprove of the sequester’s automatic spending cuts, and according to a Pew Research Center poll released Thursday, 81 percent of Americans still favor the passage of a bill expanding background checks.

The next hurdle will be immigration reform. But Republicans may find a way to derail that legislation, too.

The signs look positive for Democrats this spring. This is not to say that they should prematurely lift their glasses, only that they have no reason to prematurely throw up their hands.

By: Charles M. Blow, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, May 24, 2013

May 26, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Full Speed Ahead”: Republican Overreach Is Coming Soon

A number of people have asked whether the Republicans will overreach in their reaction to the current collection of scandal-ish controversies (by the way, someone really needs to come up with a name that encompasses them all). The answer to that question is, of course they will. Try to remember who we’re talking about here. Overreaching is their thing. Congress will be going home this weekend, and I’ll bet the Republicans are going to come back from their recess reassured that their constituents really, really want them to pursue Barack Obama to the ends of the earth. I’ll explain why in a moment, but in the meantime the National Journal has details on their strategy:

Congressional Republicans head into next week’s Memorial Day recess armed with a strategy designed to keep the controversies that have consumed Washington in the news back home.

Both House and Senate Republicans will focus on the Internal Revenue Service targeting conservative groups for extra scrutiny as well as the still-open questions about Benghazi. And more and more, they’ll try to tie them together into a made-for-2014 narrative of an unaccountable and out-of-control government.

In interviews on local television and radio programs and with newspapers, Senate Republicans plan to talk about the Obama administration’s “credibility gap.” They’ll throw into the mix Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’s request that health industry officials help fund “Obamacare,” a move Republicans call a “shakedown” of the companies she regulates, according to a Senate GOP leadership aide.

Lawmakers will argue that a “lack of details, stonewalling,” and what they call an “ever-changing White House narrative” on both Benghazi and the IRS have led to a trust deficit with the public, a sentiment reflected in recent polls, the aide said.

Part of the aim is to get voters to question how they can trust the administration, and the IRS more specifically, to enforce key provisions of Obama’s health care law after improperly targeting Americans.

This fits into Republicans’ emerging scandal-riding midterm election strategy—one that the GOP’s congressional campaign committees think can blend easily into their anti-Obamacare message to help the party take the Senate in 2014.

When they return from this recess, Republicans are going to be more sure than ever that they’re doing the right thing. Think about what a member of Congress does when he’s home. He’ll be doing those media interviews with friendly talk-radio hosts, for whom outrage is the bread and butter of their programming. He might do a couple of town meetings, and who comes to those? People who like him already (i.e. the Republican base, who will tell him to keep up the scandal-mongering) and people who are pissed off about something. But right now, the people who think the scandal thing is going too far aren’t really pissed off, they’re just kind of disappointed. So they won’t be so inclined to show up. And then the representative will just go around town talking to folks, and once again the ones he’s most likely to hear from are his supporters who want to tell him to stick it to that no-good socialist in the White House.

After a few days of that, he’ll come back to Washington thinking, “Wow, my constituents are really fired up about this stuff. Full speed ahead!”


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, May 14, 2013

May 26, 2013 Posted by | Politics, Republicans | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The (c) Stands For Cha-Ching”: The IRS Went After Small Fish, But Let The Big Ones Get Away

“Please provide copies of all your current web pages, including your blog posts. Please provide copies of all your newsletters, bulletins, flyers or any other media or literature you have disseminated to your members or others. Please provide copies of stories and articles that have been published about you.”

That’s the Internal Revenue Service calling.

Or, more precisely, sending questionnaires. They went out to scores of Tea Party groups that were seeking tax-exempt status as “social welfare” organizations.

The organizations were targeted for special scrutiny because they had the words “Tea Party” or “Patriot” in their titles. Some questionnaires even requested the names of all donors and the amounts of each contribution.

It was a political abuse of power aimed, ironically, at groups who are pretending not to be political just to get a juicy tax break.

IRS supervisors were wrong to single out local Tea Parties when there’s a host of flagrant, big-time violators controlled by supporters of both major political parties.

The gimmick of choice is Section 501(c)(4) of the revenue code. Groups receiving that golden designation are allowed to collect unlimited contributions without paying taxes.

They’re not banned from political involvement, but by law they’re supposed to be “primarily engaged” in activities promoting “social welfare” and “the common good” — not partisan politics.

It’s a total farce.

Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS spent untold millions of dollars on behalf of Republican candidates while attacking Democrats during the last election cycle. On the other side, Priorities USA spent a fortune helping Democratic candidates while trashing Republicans.

Both rabidly partisan organizations enjoy tax-exempt status under Section 501(c)(4). They claim to run strictly “issue” advertisements that aren’t really political, which is a hoot.

What’s not so hilarious is that the IRS sidestepped these heavyweight scammers to go after small-time outfits such as the Liberty Township Tea Party in Ohio.

Initially, the tax agency suggested that the crackdown was an isolated operation by agents in its Cincinnati office. However, in recent days it was revealed that a few IRS officials in Washington were aware of the targeting campaign in early 2010, and that similar inquiries of conservative groups had been conducted in other states.

A Treasury inspector general’s report issued last week criticized IRS managers who didn’t stop employees from focusing on conservative groups that were seeking 501(c)(4) designations.

President Obama said the actions described in the report “are intolerable and inexcusable.” He didn’t use the word “stupid,” but it applies.

There’s no sign that the president knew about the IRS targeting campaign, which began a few years ago while the agency was led by Douglas Shulman, an appointee of President George W. Bush.

Owing his job to a Republican, Shulman seems an unlikely instigator of an IRS campaign against conservative groups. No evidence has surfaced that he was aware of it.

After Shulman completed his term last November, IRS Deputy Commissioner Steven Miller became acting commissioner. Six months earlier, Miller had been briefed about some cases involving increased scrutiny of Tea Party-affiliated groups.

However, in letters to Congress, Miller, who’s been with the tax agency almost 25 years, didn’t mention the existence of the Tea Party cases. He resigned on Wednesday at Obama’s request.

The FBI and Justice Department are rightly investigating to see whether the IRS broke any laws by zeroing in on the tax-exempt applications of conservative groups.

Congress will hold long hearings, brimming with outrage.

No such pious fervor exists for investigating and exposing the fraudulent status of large groups like Crossroads GPS and Priorities USA, which collectively take in hundreds of millions of dollars.

They’re not “social welfare” organizations worthy of a tax exemption. They’re wealthy partisan advocacy machines with purely political missions — to promote their candidates, and to influence voters.

They are prized by both parties as safe and bottomless repositories for huge campaign donations, which is why you don’t see congressional leaders declaring war on the 501(c)(4) charade.

The c stands for “cha-ching.”


By: Carl Hiaasen, The National Memo, May 22, 2013

May 26, 2013 Posted by | Internal Revenue Service | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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