Archive for June, 2012

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How to Sweep Dark Money Out of Politics | Mother Jones


 

Justice John Paul Stevens had seen a lot of precedent overturned by the time the Supreme Court ruled on Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission in January 2010. Appointed to the court by Gerald Ford after a career as a distinguished Republican jurist, he’d been there for contentious cases on abortion, the death penalty, Gitmo, you name it. But none had prepared him for the way the court’s new conservative majority, led by John Roberts, seized on an obscure campaign finance case expected to produce a narrow ruling and used it to shred nearly four decades of federal law.

The majority opinion in Citizens United takes up 57 pages, but it’s pretty efficiently boiled down as follows: (1) Money is speech; (2) corporations are people; (3) therefore, under the First Amendment, the government can’t stop corporations from spending money on politics pretty much however they choose.

Stevens penned an impassioned 90-page dissent lambasting the "glittering generality" of this construction. "Although they make enormous contributions to our society, corporations are not actually members of it," he wrote. "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."

Stevens wasn’t the only one appalled. Citizens United set off a torrent of outrage, culminating in the high drama of the president (a constitutional law professor, lest we forget) condemning the court in the State of the Union for opening "the floodgates for special interests—including foreign corporations—to spend without limit in our elections." Anger spanned the political spectrum (80 percent were opposed shortly after the ruling, 65 percent "strongly") and helped spark the Occupy movement.

The right "recognizes something that few on the left recognize: that campaign finance law underlies all other substantive law."

But Americans’ disgust didn’t stop the bagmen, on both sides of the aisle, from seizing the opportunity. Just ask Dan Maffei, a Democrat in upstate New York’s 25th District who led Ann Marie Buerkle, a pro-life activist with scant political experience, by 12 points two weeks before the election. Then Karl Rove’s American Crossroads buried him with $400,000 worth of attack ads—and Buerkle won by a mere 648 votes.

So how to put elections back in the hands of voters? Here are the four options:

Constitutional amendment: Okay, it takes two-thirds majorities in both houses of Congress and ratification by three-fourths of the state legislatures. Nevertheless, we did just that to bring about Prohibition in 1919 and then to overturn it in 1933, and to lower the voting age to 18 in 1971. That last one wrapped in a mere five months; then again, the 27th Amendment, which regulated congressional raises, was in the works for 203 years. And recall the Equal Rights Amendment: "Men and women shall have equal rights throughout the United States." No-brainer, right? The ERA passed Congress in a landslide in ’72 (354 to 24 in the House, 84 to 8 in the Senate). It was endorsed by Richard Nixon, included in the Republican Party platform, and ratified by 30 state legislatures within another year. And then Phyllis "Stop Unisex Bathrooms!" Schlafly whipped up a major froth, got enough culture war firebrands elected to state legislatures, and stopped it cold.

So yes, it’s technically possible to pass an amendment clarifying that corporations are not quite the same as people and money is not quite the same as speech. (Several organizations, including People for the American Way and a new outfit called Move to Amend, are pushing for this.) But there’s also a lot of dark-money groups waiting to underwrite a Schlafly-like play.

SCOTUS deathwatch: How about waiting for a conservative justice or two to die while Democrats hold the White House and the Senate? Yeeaah. Absent the plot devices of a John Grisham thriller, don’t hold your breath. Then again, know who’s been the master of this kind of waiting game? The folks who brought you Citizens United. When he started flooding the docket with anti-campaign-finance-regulation cases in the 1980s, conservative lawyer James Bopp Jr. was facing a hostile court. But he kept at it until the majority shifted—and slammed the ball he’d teed up.

Let the sun shine in: In the nearer term, there’s the option the Roberts court expressly invited in Citizens United—full-monty disclosure. Not long after the ruling, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) introduced the DISCLOSE Act with 114 cosponsors, just two of them Republicans. It would have banned most secret donations, forced companies to report their giving to shareholders, and shut foreign corporations out of electioneering. The bill’s life was brief and full of ironies (among the clauses tacked on in the House was one exempting the NRA); it passed the House in an anemic 219-206 vote—36 Dems voted nay—and died, as all good legislation must, when the Senate fell one vote short (RIP Ted Kennedy) of a filibuster-proof 60 votes. Van Hollen has reintroduced the legislation, and with Sen. John McCain back in the reform business, it might just stand a chance.

But Congress is not the only game in town. Court after court has come down squarely on the side of disclosure, and in May, the DC court of appeals ruled that nonprofits like Rove’s Crossroads GPS and the US Chamber of Commerce must reveal their donors’ names. In another promising step, the IRS has made noises about revoking the tax exemption of dark-money groups.

Taxpayer-financed campaigns: No one likes big money in politics—least of all, perhaps, members of Congress who toil in the Hill’s drab call centers, dialing donors to beg for cash. That’s why public financing was key to the post-Watergate reforms, and until billionaire Steve Forbes opted out in 1996, every major presidential candidate took it. But the system failed to keep up with the cost of elections; this year, candidates could hope to get about $90 million in public financing, whereas Obama expects to raise up to $1 billion. Nevertheless, public financing can still make a big difference in down-ballot races, from the statehouse all the way to obscure but critical judicial elections. And keep in mind, today’s state legislator is tomorrow’s US senator.

As the rich get richer, throwing six-figure sums at presidential campaigns is just like tipping for good service.

In the end, all these avenues need to be pursued, and here’s why: As Paul S. Ryan of the Campaign Legal Center told MoJo‘s Andy Kroll, the right "recognizes something that few on the left recognize: that campaign finance law underlies all other substantive law." In other words, no matter what you care about—climate change, abortion, taxes, net neutrality—it all comes back to who pays for our elections. Need a more selfish reason? Because the 1 percent have bent the system to their advantage, America’s median household income—your income—is $40,000 lower than it would have been had incomes continued to keep pace with economic growth. Conversely, as the rich get richer, throwing six-figure sums at presidential campaigns is just like tipping for good service. Snake, meet tail.

So yes, we might agree with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), no stranger to campaign rainmaking, that Citizens United is the court’s worst decision since it upheld segregation in Plessy v. Ferguson. But bad law is not without redress—if voters shame reluctant representatives into getting off the dark-money teat. "At bottom," wrote Justice Stevens, the court’s opinion is "a rejection of the common sense of the American people, who have recognized a need to prevent corporations from undermining self-government since the founding…While American democracy is imperfect, few outside the majority of this Court would have thought its flaws included a dearth of corporate money in politics."

Ready to explore for yourself? Here’s choose-your-own adventure guide to the options, with plenty of links to more resources.

<p>Sadly, in order to play, you must have javascript enabled.</p>

61

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  • Jacqueline D. Reyes06/17/2012 09:28 AM

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  • RudyTwoShoes06/17/2012 09:55 AMin reply to Jacqueline D. Reyes

    This is a scam/spam link and has been flagged.

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  • RudyTwoShoes06/17/2012 09:58 AM

    "Corporations are people and money is speech" yet corporations can commit fraud, slander and treason without prosecution.  We the People need the same freedom and access (and most certainly the same level of freedom from taxation, the ability to purchase a Toyota directly from Japan without import tax and the ability to purchase drugs, food and anything from Canada or anyplace we want).

    Free trade and free "speech" for everyone.

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  • Ronnie Waters06/17/2012 06:37 PMin reply to RudyTwoShoes

    This is the only intelligent point made here.  Thanks Rudy

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  • Won WordYesterday 05:23 AMin reply to RudyTwoShoes

    One upon a time, corporations received the death penalty for egregious acts. 200 years ago, corporate charters could be–and were–revoked by the state. When was the last time that happened?

    Two+ perfect candidates: BP for their flagrant disregard for personnel and environmental safety, and JP Morgan/Bank of America/Wells Fargo for their engineered destruction of the economy.

    Revoke their charters, see off their assets to pay for cleaning their messes, and prosecute their officers. Done and done.

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  • melinda_jobsYesterday 10:56 AMin reply to RudyTwoShoes

    corporation are about "protection their bottom line" with all causes or by any mean.   

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  • slave2libertyYesterday 12:08 PMin reply to melinda_jobs

    And you’re not about protecting your bottom line?

    "all causes or by any  mean" – wow, that’s amazing – i didn’t realize that all corporations and all people whom they consist of use any and all means necessary to protect what is rightfully theirs (money or right to associate).

    If this is true, then why am i not tripping on dead bodies in the streets daily, or receiving a visit from Guido of ABC Corporation, and being told i have to buy their products, or else? Seems like, you demagogue just a little.

    Ironically, i have been visited on occasion from Guido of the State apparatus, telling me how much soda i can drink, how much salt i can put on my steak, what type of bicycle helmet to wear, and how much of my own money is rigthfully some else’s who makes less than me, or that i must pay for programs which encourage ILLEGAL immigration (or straight out amnesty), so that Democrats can increase their voter rolls.

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  • slave2libertyYesterday 11:54 AMin reply to RudyTwoShoes

    So, is it really as simple as lefists make it out – that corporations deserve no protections which are afforded to the individuals whom they consist of?

    Should a corporation not be afforded protections against illegal search and seizure? Or taxation without representation? Or freedom of political speech?

    On the flip-side – if corporations (a collection of individuals) are  not to be held to the same laws as the individuals, what laws are they accountable to? In other words – what legal parameters are their actions judged against?

    Me thinks, that the ONLY reason leftists get their panties in a bunch on this issue, is because they don’t like the resulting effectiveness that occurs by having many people pooling their resources to speak out against the left’s beloved statists.

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  • Phoenix WomanYesterday 01:24 PMin reply to slave2liberty

    "Many people"?  Nah, just a handful of very rich people who have used the brainwashing techniques of Fred Bernays, coupled with skillful and amoral "Southern Strategy" manipulation of race hatreds cloaked in the mantle of deficit hawkery ( http://my.firedoglake.com/phoe….

    In the meantime, the left is outgunned and outfinanced by these new high-tech feudal overlords whose butts you love kissing for the tiny crumbs they give you.

    Why not skip the parasitical overlords and go for economic democracy instead? You know, where the people who do the work — not commissars, not boards of directors, not third-generation trustafarians whose cosseted lives are so different from ours that they think Ayn Rand’s flatterings of them as the master race are sober truth — actually get the proceeds therefrom.

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  • FromtheGreatWhiteNorth06/17/2012 10:57 AM

    The cynicism embodied by Citizens United defies belief. The notion that corporations are citizens is so offensive. Once again, we privitize profits (bought politicians) and social risk (prosecution for illegal actives = fine. Just add it to the price). We might be able to have a conversation about things when a ‘corporation’ is jailed for malfeasance (e.g., suspended from doing ANY business for the length of the sentence). Those of us older feel helpless. Those of us younger feel nothing – they’re excluded forever.

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  • talktoo06/17/2012 04:12 PMin reply to FromtheGreatWhiteNorth

    ..or buried in Arlington

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  • Won WordYesterday 05:28 AMin reply to talktoo

    As a former servicemember, I council young people to avoid military service like the plague. Patton had it right: let "the other poor dumb bastard die for his country."

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  • Steven DeeringYesterday 07:05 AMin reply to FromtheGreatWhiteNorth

    I couldn’t agree more.

    Lately, I seem to be getting into more arguments with friends/family/coworkers about immigrants and minorities being the problem ("They get free health care, food stamps!") as if they have any political clout. Meanwhile, corporations are handed subsidies after posting historic revenues. Why? Because, job creators. Or something. It is really confusing… But then I look at Florida and see a voter purge to combat nonexistent fraud and it becomes slightly clearer.

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  • slave2libertyYesterday 12:39 PMin reply to Steven Deering

    Those are some great ethics you live by – if they don’t have political "clout", then just let them do as they want, taking resources from LEGAL citizens, making the rule of law arbitrary, ignoring US sovereignty, and giving politicians fiat power to ignore immigration policy.

    Regardless of your accomodations and lack of principle, the truth is, ILLEGAL aliens have plenty of political clout which is aimed at undermining US Sovereignty. You never heard of MALDEF, The Congressional Hispanic Caucus, The National Council of La Raza (THE race!), or MECHA?

    As for the specious attacks on Florida and every municpality for attempting to ensure the integrity of our election system, it seems that you would prefer to look the other way as long as those illegal votes sway in your favor.

    Do you honestly believe that there should be no auditing or oversight of the voter records? That people should be able to vote in multiple districts (as is sometimes the case with college students, by accident), or that widowers should be able to mail in their deceased partner’s ballot? Or that ILLEGAL aliens should be able to vote?

    Besides, if there is no fraud (or…

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  • Phoenix WomanYesterday 01:31 PMin reply to slave2liberty

    If "illegal aliens" had clout, they wouldn’t be working starvation wages. 

    Which is of course why, contrary to your protestations, Republicans love the current situation:  You use undocumented workers as a club with which to force documented workers to accept starvation wages, too.

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  • dustime806/17/2012 12:45 PM

    The (misnomer) dark money makes me almost laugh at those who chose the word to cover the correct term "corruption" in the money used by corporate America they launder into political donations. I guess this falls under the term political correctness which is another corruption to cover up unfettered mis-use of power by elected officials voted into office. We are allowing our country to be pilfered and destroyed by powers within and think nothing of it. People seem more interested in their next stash of marijuana or legalization of this crap than the direction America is headed. What do you think? Mother Jones, am I wrong here?

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  • Won WordYesterday 05:31 AMin reply to dustime8

    People seem more interested in their next stash of marijuana or legalization of this crap whatever entertainment garbage is on TeeVee than the direction America is headed.

    Fixed it for you.

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  • Steven DeeringYesterday 07:07 AMin reply to dustime8

    I think Orwell would have really enjoyed the pizza = vegetable idea.

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  • Marc Grober06/17/2012 01:37 PM

    No mention of Montana’s perspective?  For shame…..

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  • William06/17/2012 01:59 PM

    Speaking as a 10th and 12th generation Yankee gun-owner, and 6th generation college grad who was born a Republican, I think it will take a class war to return our legislative system to some semblance of moral equity.  Our Supreme Court is dominated by people who simply don’t have any skin in our national game, except to make themselves and their cronies rich and powerful.  We need term limits on Supreme Court seats, perhaps 14 years, so that no president could appoint more than one, under normal circumstances, and we need a list of qualifying prerequisites, including having at least either a graduate degree not only in law, but also in American History with several juried publications, and service in uniform in combat whenever other Americans are deployed in combat, otherwise demanding public service in uniform at low pay for at least 4 years.  Scalia is a cowbird whose loyalties are to wealth and the Vatican, and Alito is right in there with him.  Thomas’s qualifications are so minimal they could be stenciled on the head of a pin, and Roberts is most qualified to be a billionaire’s chauffeur.

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  • B E Pratt06/17/2012 08:30 PMin reply to William

    While term limits is an intriguing idea, the whole idea behind appointment for life was to keep politics out of the Supreme Court. It worked very well up until recently. It used to be that when a Justice was appointed, one never really knew what they would do until some decisions came down. You could guess fairly well, but you could never be sure.

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  • Won WordYesterday 05:37 AMin reply to William

    How about setting congressional, presidential and SCOTUS salaries to minimum wage, with no benefits, such as healthcare and pensions, just like the majority of Americans? Any raise they vote themselves must be matched by an equivallent dollar increase in minimum wage.

    Yeah, I know. Happy fantasy.

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  • DebbieSmith195606/17/2012 03:58 PM

    American election laws set very specific limits to the size of donations that individuals and Political Action Committees may make to Presidential campaigns. Unfortunately, as shown here, it is very difficult to track the trail of a donation as funds are moved from one PAC to another to ensure that the limits are being followed:

    http://viableopposition.blogsp…

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  • tiredoftea06/17/2012 04:15 PM

    Another victory for the right, activist judges, of the right temperament, at the SCOTUS level. Wake up Dems! You have lost most of the battles and the war. Will your convictions and backbone ever show up?

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  • Won WordYesterday 05:38 AMin reply to tiredoftea

    Dems have no spine, and Repubs have no heart.

    Such is the way of the world.

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  • DTaggert06/17/2012 04:36 PM

    I’m still wondering what makes the 1st amendment so difficult to understand:

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech…”

    No law, means exactly nothing. Congress can’t do anything at all regulating what we talk about or how we choose to say. We can talk individually, anonymously, using any media, including those not known at the time.

    We can choose to talk as a member of a group – a neighborhood association, a professional organization, as a Tea Partier, as a stockholder in a corporation.

    Even the states have a very limited ability to control speech due to the incorporation doctrine that started with the 14th amendment.

    This freedom of speech allowed the Tea Party movement to spring up spontaneously and conclusively stop the slide of this country toward collectivism, so now, free speech is being viscously attacked

    Citizens United merely affirmed the first amendment. The Supreme Court ruled that “Congress shall make no law” meant exactly what it says. It doesn’t matter if you speak anonymousl­y, it doesn’t matter if you choose to speak as a member of…

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  • middleclassman106/17/2012 05:28 PMin reply to DTaggert

    the tea party did not spring up spontaniously, it was created by the likes of the koch brothers who deceived some gullible citizens that their lives would somehow be better by taking our country back for the rich and greedy.

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  • mcsandbergYesterday 04:17 AMin reply to middleclassman1

    I have personal experience with the Tea Party. I was at the very first one that we had in Denver and I can assure you – the Tea Party movement is real, and it happened long before we got any professional help! You had to be there to appreciate the incredible enthusiasm and determination to get this country back on track. Check out http://www.lloydmarcus.com/ to see just how genuine the Tea Party is!

    The Tea Party is the result of lots of people reading the classics of liberty – Atlas Shrugged, The Road to Serfdom and others are always among Amazon.com best sellers. The people I meet at the Tea Parties are far from ignorant. Some have even read Von Mises "Human Action"!

    You can ONLY pick up 63 house seats, 6 house seats and most incredibly 695 state house seats with a true grass roots movement.

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  • Won WordYesterday 05:41 AMin reply to mcsandberg

    Ayn Rand’s work is as much a "classic of liberty" as "Grapes of Wrath" is about the benefits of unregulated Agriculture, "The Jungle" is about the benefits of unregulated meat packing, and "Uncle Tom’s Cabin" a classic of liberty of plantation owners.

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  • mcsandbergYesterday 06:04 AMin reply to Won Word

    Atlas Shrugged is a description of a country moving from liberty to collectivism. The reason its so compelling, is that its based on what Ms. Rand observed as Russia turned into the USSR. So, its very much a classic of liberty. Its the novel that introduces people to the library of liberty. Most of the Tea Partiers I’ve talked to mention it as the book that explained what’s happening to this country.

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How to Sweep Dark Money Out of Politics | Mother Jones

Conservative Darling Ayn Rand Died Loving Government Handouts – Culture – GOOD


Of the welfare state, the conservative philosopher and author Ayn Rand once wrote, “Morally and economically, the welfare state creates an ever accelerating downward pull.” As it turns out, however, toward the end of her life, Rand ended up relying quite heavily on its help.

According to the new book An Oral History of Ayn Rand, faced with lung cancer after a life spent smoking, and without the wealth needed to combat that cancer, Rand adopted an assumed name to seek government funds for her treatment.

An interview with Evva Pryror, a social worker and consultant to Miss Rand’s law firm of Ernst, Cane, Gitlin and Winick verified that on Miss Rand’s behalf she secured Rand’s Social Security and Medicare payments which Ayn received under the name of Ann O’Connor (husband Frank O’Connor).

As Pryor said, “Doctors cost a lot more money than books earn and she could be totally wiped out” without the aid of these two government programs. Ayn took the bail out even though Ayn “despised government interference and felt that people should and could live independently… She didn’t feel that an individual should take help.”

This calls to mind another famous Rand quote: “A building has integrity just like a man. And just as seldom.”

photo via Wikimedia Commons

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MagneticMan
Ayn Rand was a Futurist, Visionary. The Truth is…I am sure she understood in the context of the Universe that everything about life should be free. Food, Shelter, Clothing and a roof over your head. Unfortunatly we live in an over popuated world. I am sure she also believed in Compassion, Love and the persuit of Happiness. Another unfortunate thing is we live in a world where Governmental Overlords think they have the right (Which they do not) to interfare in all areas of everyones life. But soon the Tyrannical Dictators will soon have to turn in their Keys, for they have been bad Stewards over things that do not belong to them!!!

Sunday, November 20, 2011, 9:19:09 PM

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MagneticMan
Ayn Rand was a Futurist, Visionary. The Truth is…I am sure she understood in the context of the Universe that everything about life should be free. Food, Shelter, Clothing and a roof over your head. Unfortunatly we live in an over popuated world. I am sure she also believed in Compassion, Love and the persuit of Happiness. Another unfortunate thing is we live in a world where Governmentla Overlords think they have the right (Which they do not) to interfare is all areas of everyones life. But soon the Tyrannical Dictators will soon have to turn in their Keys, for they have been bad Stewards over things that do not belong to them!!!

Sunday, November 20, 2011, 9:17:49 PM

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sreekunjmandapam
Old age ailments and compulsion changes human’s lifelong perception. Ayan rand’s contribution is too great to be undermined by such petty compulsion of life

Thursday, February 03, 2011, 12:05:29 PM

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Guest
@Liberals Cann All Leave Then
WHAT? I CAN’T HEAR YOUR ORIGINAL THOUGHTS OVER THE WHINING ABOUT PEOPLE WHINING.  COULD YOU TURN OFF THE RHETORIC SO I COULD HEAR YOU?  HELLO? Aw crap, he just keeps *talking*

Thursday, February 03, 2011, 5:13:56 AM

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Liberals Cann All Leave Then
If, as many liberal commenters believe, that one cannot use a government road if they decry the taxes that paid for it, then all liberals who whine and cry about the United States policies, such as immigration, can follow their own advice and leave to another country. Goodbye. Either leave or stop being hypocrites, whining and crying about others when you yourself do the very same thing. Although, I profoundly believe that it is anathema to a liberal not to whine and cry.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011, 3:11:34 PM

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Mr. MRS
I can’t say I blame her for trying to get her money’s worth. OK, I’m being facetious. Whether she liked it or not, she still had to pay taxes by force of the law of the land.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011, 9:40:21 AM

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The Guest
@John Galt: Any proof about her legal name? I prefer a long form birth certificate which I can view with my own eyes and touch with my own fingers. Otherwise, I’ll continue to believe the rumor about her being born in Great Britain.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011, 1:28:25 AM

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Linda
@JohnHarrington:
So if you diagree with the politics / government of the country you live in, your only option is to flee the country, otherwise you are a hypocrite?

Tuesday, February 01, 2011, 1:20:44 AM

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Brandino
I would like to note, however, that this is a common argument made against libertarians.  Somehow, the argument goes, we are hypocrites for benefiting from government programs.  This is a pretty simplistic argument.  It is not at all inconsistent to decry government healthcare and simultaneously accept government healthcare benefits.  If the government totally socialized healthcare, and I got sick, then I would use government doctors because the only alternative is death.  I would rather use private insurance in a capitalist healthcare market, but the government’s monopoly would make that impossible.  Anyway, as a tax payer, I would be paying twice for healthcare if I sought private insurance and rejected the government handout.
This same line of argument applies to roads, socialized retirement programs (social security), police, firefighters, public schools, etc.  When you break it down, the situation proceeds thusly:
Step 1: We socialize X (where X can be education, healthcare, roads, etc.)Step 2: Since we can force people to pay for socialist X whether they want to or not, we drive all other producers of X out of business (sometimes leaving premium markets remaining at dramatically higher prices: think private schools)Step 3: Now, the only X that is reasonably available is socializedStep 4: Even staunch liberty-loving people are forced to buy X from the government (remember, if they are still paying taxes it is a sale, not a handout)Step 5: Self-righteous progressive statists sneer and giggle at the marvelous hypocrisy of those backwards libertarians
So, Rand’s acceptance of government healthcare benefits and social security is not surprising or against her credo.  In a perfect world, she would be able to get affordable insurance after the age of 65 in a free market.  Likewise, she would not have a chunk of her income confiscated every year for social security, and she would have had the right to invest her savings as she saw fit.

Monday, January 31, 2011, 8:01:49 PM

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John Galt
Her real name was Ann O’Connor and her pen name was Ayn Rand.  She wouldn’t have been allowed to file under Ayn Rand if she tried.  Her birth name was Alissa Rosenbaum, from the USSR, and was never legally Ayn Rand.

Monday, January 31, 2011, 4:59:45 PM

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JohnHarrington
“Are you a hypocrite if you drive on a government road when you advocate the privatization of roads?”
Yes, you are.
If I believed, as did Ayn, that taxation was slavery, I would not participate in it at ALL.  I would flee across the border to whatever tax haven I could find where taxation was either nonexistent or at least minimized as much as possible.
Anyone who truly believes that taxation is slavery and who remains within a country that is taxing its citizens is not only a hypocrite, but, as a beneficiary of “slavery”, they are immoral.

Monday, January 31, 2011, 3:28:49 PM

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Mike in SF
Well we could start by attacking her “philosophy” as being nothing but bad retreads of other people’s ideas.
Then we could go on to the fact that her books are awful and unreadable as fiction. They’re just political polemics dressed up as novels, and she seems to love having her male characters rape women. What’s that about?
Then we can progress to this. It’s completely hypocritical to rail against the state with one side of your mouth and then take the state’s aid from the other. Utterly hypocritical. If you can’t see that, you’re silly (or Rep. Michelle Bachmann).
She was entitled to claim Medicare and social security, just like everyone else, but claiming this wasn’t hypocrisy is stupid. Clearly she didn’t want people to find out, since she used her married name and not her pen name.

Monday, January 31, 2011, 3:18:20 PM

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danp
Ragnard, the fact that Rand saw the need to use a fake name tell you all you need to know. She didn’t think it was consistent with her values.

Monday, January 31, 2011, 10:44:42 AM

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Guest
“Government hasn’t made the cost of healthcare astronomical – business and the profit motive has. Fact. Single payer would have helped – but you didn’t support that, did you?”
BS.  Health insurance companies’ profit margins run about 3%.  It’s one of the lowest of any industry in America.  The only way the government can lower costs significantly is by fixing prices, which can only have the effect of lowering the quantity and quality of the care provided.  That means waiting lists, death panels, and careless doctors who are pissed off that they went to school for 8 years to make a measley $50,000/year.

Monday, January 31, 2011, 10:42:59 AM

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RagnarD1776
I agree Ayn Rand was not a hypocrite.  The government owns and operates about 99.9% of the roads, highways, bridges and other such vehicle infrastructure.  Are you a hypocrite if you drive on a government road when you advocate the privatization of roads?  Are you a hypocrite when you go on public television or public radio to advocate the abolishment of these government programs?  The answer is no you are trying to change a system within the system.  The government takes 30% of your money regulates your health care and health insurance as to raise the price of the good or service and then when you want back a little bit of the money it stole from you calls you a hypocrite.  I think those opposed to Ayn Rand don’t have anything philosophical to attack her with so they make stuff up and come up with the lamest arguments and rumors.  Try attacking a premise of Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism.

Monday, January 31, 2011, 10:21:52 AM

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Guest
STEVO: here’s a memo for you.
Government hasn’t made the cost of healthcare astronomical – business and the profit motive has. Fact. Single payer would have helped – but you didn’t support that, did you?

Monday, January 31, 2011, 8:51:00 AM

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Guest
this is like Hemingway blowing his brains.

Monday, January 31, 2011, 8:48:53 AM

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Guest
Actually, she wasn’t a hypocrite, and if you had a f’n clue you wouldn’t have to make such a fool out of yourself.  Rand thought that state-funded redistribution programs were essentially theft (she was right), and as such, a person has the full right to take advantage of those programs that they paid into, in the same way that a victim of a robbery has the right to have what was stolen returned to them.

Monday, January 31, 2011, 8:02:57 AM

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Eric
Remember she had to pay an onslaught of approximately 50% of her earned income to yearly taxes. So, of course she needed some assistance at the end of her life. Stop the welfare state and those of us that actually work get to keep more of their earned income.

Monday, January 31, 2011, 6:22:07 AM

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amelia815
I’m sure Rand had some great ideals about independence of a person, but in the end, one has to rely on one’s government to a degree, at least. I live in Canada and while we have a lot of socialized programs, like our health care, I seek not to abuse our system and use it when I have a cold. No doctor can do anything for a cold. I fight it out with teas and honey and lemon, and that’s that. Socialized systems can work when you have a reasonably educated populace that knows better than to abuse it.

Monday, January 31, 2011, 4:50:20 AM

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malefico
If she wasn’t a hypocrite then why did she apply under another name?

Monday, January 31, 2011, 2:43:11 AM

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Guest
If the U.S. is a socialized state, then what in Christ’s name is a well-functioning welfare state like Finland called? Ignorance is apparently not bliss, it’s jackassery to the highest degree.

Sunday, January 30, 2011, 4:39:05 PM

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stevo
when you live in a socialized state like the us, you can’t afford healthcare because government has made the cost astronomical.

Sunday, January 30, 2011, 2:10:58 PM

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Guest
Ayn Rand was in no way a hypocrite. See http://www.newclarion.com/2011/01/sanction-of-theft/ for more refutation than this garbage deserves.

Sunday, January 30, 2011, 12:26:39 PM

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Guest
What a hypercritical woman.  She has ably illustrated the need for the welfare state, but just because of politics she could not acknowledge its positive effects.  Just like the current Con\Dem government – bringing the nation to it’s feet just to say that there values are better than other parties.  Shame on her and on them.

Sunday, January 30, 2011, 4:35:10 AM

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Right-To-Work Laws: A GOP Assault on Unions – Salem-News.Com


Labor leaders say that allowing workers to opt out of paying any money to the union that represents them weakens unions’ finances, bargaining clout, and political power.

Graphic by McClatchy Newspapers

Graphic by McClatchy Newspapers

(SAN FRANCISCO) – In February this year, Indiana became the 23rd state to enact a right-to-work law (RTW), the only RTW law passed in the last decade. Republicans generally favor RTW laws while unions and Democrats do not. RTW laws are geographical too. RTW states are clustered in the Southeast, covering every state from Virginia to Florida and west to Texas, and then north through the Great Plains to the Dakotas and into the Rockies. The West Coast and Midwest-to-Northeast Rust Belt, both traditional union strongholds, have remained non-RTW states. RTW states generally vote Republican while non-RTW states generally vote Democrat.

RTW is also a potent political symbol, causing serious adverse financial consequences for unions. The Democratic Party receives significant support from organized labor, who supply a great deal of the money, grass roots political organization, and voting base in support of the party. Thus, RTW is not only an assault on unions, but also on the Democratic Party, who rely on labor for support.

Section 14(b) of theTaft-Hartley amendments to the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C §141, permits a state to pass laws that prohibit unions from requiring a worker to pay dues, even when the worker is covered by a union-negotiated collective bargaining agreement. Thus, workers in RTW states have less incentive to join a union and to pay union dues and, as a result, unions have less clout vis-à-vis corporations. In other words, RTW laws prohibit union contracts at private sector workplaces from requiring employees to pay any dues or other fees to the union. In states without such laws, workers at unionized workplaces generally have to pay such dues or fees.

RTW laws tend to diminish union power and influence. Labor leaders say that allowing workers to opt out of paying any money to the union that represents them weakens unions’ finances, bargaining clout, and political power.

According to Steven Greenhouse of the New York Times (www.nytimes.com/2012/01/03/business/gathering-storm-over-right-to-work-in-indiana.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&ref=business), Henry Farber, a labor economist at Princeton, said RTW laws, by allowing “free riders,” shrink union treasuries. (RTW advocates say such employees have been forced into unions, but organized labor calls them "free riders.") One study found that the portion of free riders in RTW states ranged from 9 percent in Georgia to 39 percent in South Dakota.

Greenhouse cites another study by David T. Ellwood, the dean of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, and Glenn A. Fine, a former Justice Department official, who found that in the five years after states enacted RTW laws, the number of unionization drives dropped by 28 percent, and in the following five years by an added 12 percent. Organizing wins fell by 46 percent in the first five years and 30 percent the next five. Over all, they found, RTW laws, beyond other factors, caused union membership to drop 5 percent to 10 percent.

Proponents of RTW laws claim that states with such laws grow faster and their citizens are better off. But with their faster growing populations, RTW states had unemployment rates averaging 8 percent in April of 2011, just below the 8.2 percent average in non-RTW states.

In The Compensation Penalty of "Right-To-Work" Laws by the Economic Policy Institute (www.epi.org/page/-/old/briefingpapers/BriefingPaper299.pdf?nocdn=1), economists Elise Gould and Heidi Shierholz examined the differences in compensation between RTW and non-RTW states. (The Economic Policy Institute is a labor-backed research center.) Controlling for the demographic and job characteristics of workers as well as state-level economic conditions and cost-of-living differences across states, they found that in 2009 wages were 3.2 percent lower in RTW states versus non-RTW – about $1,500 less annually for a full-time, year-round worker; the rate of employer-sponsored health insurance was 2.6 percentage points lower in RTW states compared with non-RTW states; the rate of employer-sponsored pensions was 4.8 percentage points lower in RTW states. And, in 2008, the rate of workplace deaths was 57 precent higher in RTW states than non-RTW states, while the 2009, poverty rate in RTW states averaged 15 percent, considerably above the 12.8 percent average for non-RTW states.

Gould and Shierholz concluded, "RTW legislation misleadingly sounds like a positive change in this weak economy, in reality the opportunity it gives workers is only that to work for lower wages and fewer benefits. For legislators dedicated to making policy on the basis of economic fact rather than ideological passion, our findings indicate that, contrary to the rhetoric of RTW proponents, the data show that workers in “right-to-work” states have lower compensation – both union and nonunion workers alike."

And according to Gordon Lafer (www.epi.org/publication/working-hard-indiana-bad-tortured-uphill), an economist at the University of Oregon’s Labor Education and Research Center, there is no evidence that RTW laws have any positive impact on employment or bringing back manufacturing jobs. Commenting on Oklahoma’s passage of a RTW law in 2001, Lafer, noted that rather than increasing job opportunities, the state saw companies relocate out of Oklahoma. In high-tech industries and those service industries "dependent on consumer spending in the local economy" the laws appear to have actually damaged growth. At the end of the decade, 50,000 fewer Oklahoma residents had jobs in manufacturing. Perhaps most damning, Lafer could find no evidence that the legislation had a positive impact on employment rates.

In May 8, 2011, Senator Jim DeMint (R. SC) introduced the National Right-to-Work Act S-504), a bill to preserve and protect the free choice of individual employees to form, join, or assist labor organizations, or to refrain from such activities. S-504 has no chance of passage in the Senate and even if it did, President Obama would likely veto it. However, if the Republicans retake the White House and Senate, and retain the House, you can bet a National RTW Act will be high on the Republican to do list.

Why do we need unions anyway? Because they are essential for America. Unions are the only large-scale movement left in America that persistently acts as a countervailing balance against corporate power. They act in the economic interests of the middle class. But the decline of unions over the past few decades has left corporations and the rich with essentially no powerful opposition. You may take issue with a particular union’s position on an issue, but remember they are the only real organized check on the power of the business community in this country. RTW laws are anti-union, pro-business

___________________________________

Salem-News.com writer Ralph E. Stone was born in Massachusetts. He is a graduate of both Middlebury College and Suffolk Law School. We are very fortunate to have this writer’s talents in this troubling world; Ralph has an eye for detail that others miss. As is the case with many Salem-News.com writers, Ralph is an American Veteran who served in war. Ralph served his nation after college as a U.S. Army officer during the Vietnam war. After Vietnam, he went on to have a career with the Federal Trade Commission as an Attorney specializing in Consumer and Antitrust Law. Over the years, Ralph has traveled extensively with his wife Judi, taking in data from all over the world, which today adds to his collective knowledge about extremely important subjects like the economy and taxation. You can send Ralph an email at this address stonere@earthlink.net

——————————-

Right-To-Work Laws: A GOP Assault on Unions – Salem-News.Com

AIG ex-CEO Greenberg eyes reversing NY fraud case | Reuters


 

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Former American International Group (AIG) CEO Maurice Greenberg testifies before a House Oversight and Government Reform hearing on “The Collapse and Federal Rescue of A.I.G. and What It Means for the U.S. Economy” on Capitol Hill in Washington April 2, 2009. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Former American International Group (AIG) CEO Maurice Greenberg testifies before a House Oversight and Government Reform hearing on “The Collapse and Federal Rescue of A.I.G. and What It Means for the U.S. Economy” on Capitol Hill in Washington April 2, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

By Jonathan Stempel

Mon May 14, 2012 6:03pm EDT

(Reuters) – Former American International Group Inc Chief Executive Maurice "Hank" Greenberg said New York’s attorney general should be barred from invoking a 91-year-old state law in a fraud case over two suspect reinsurance transactions.

Greenberg and co-defendant Howard Smith, AIG’s former chief financial officer, sought permission on Monday to appeal to the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, a May 8 appellate ruling letting Attorney General Eric Schneiderman pursue civil fraud claims against them under the state’s Martin Act.

That ruling by the Manhattan appeals court cleared the way for the 7-year-old case to go to trial.

Investigators claim a transaction with General Re Corp, a unit of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc, helped AIG inflate loss reserves by $500 million without transferring risk, while a transaction with Capco Reinsurance Co helped AIG hide more $200 million of losses. Both transactions took place more than a decade ago.

Unlike under federal law, the Martin Act does not require investigators to prove intent in order to prevail on a securities fraud claim.

According to David Boies, a lawyer for Greenberg, a key issue is whether Schneiderman may use the Martin Act "to pursue a de facto securities class action" on behalf of shareholders, despite conflicting federal laws designed to promote "uniformity and certainty" in regulating securities.

In a court filing, Greenberg and Smith said that power would make "every executive of a New York company or a company with shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange potentially liable – personally – for substantial damages for misstatements" by their companies, even absent proof of intent or reliance.

Granting such power would have "far-reaching implications for New York’s continuing role as an economic and financial capital," they added.

James Freedland, a spokesman for Schneiderman, said: "We are confident that their latest attempt to reverse decades of settled law to escape responsibility for their misconduct will be rejected."

Greenberg and Smith were first sued in 2005 by Eliot Spitzer, then New York’s attorney general. Spitzer’s successors Andrew Cuomo and Schneiderman have continued to pursue the case.

Greenberg, 87, left New York-based AIG in March 2005 after nearly four decades at the insurer’s helm.

AIG’s transaction with General Re led to five convictions and two guilty pleas of former officials of those companies. A federal appeals court threw out the convictions in August and a new trial has been scheduled for January 2013. Buffett was not accused of wrongdoing.

The U.S. government still owns 61 percent of AIG, following $182.3 billion of taxpayer-funded bailouts.

Greenberg’s company, Starr International Co, once AIG’s largest shareholder, has sued the government for $25 billion over the bailouts, which it has called unconstitutional.

The case is New York v. Greenberg et al, New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, 1st Department, No. 5297.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; editing by Andre Grenon)

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AIG ex-CEO Greenberg eyes reversing NY fraud case | Reuters

Road to Nowhere: Federal Transportation Infrastructure Policy – Council on Foreign Relations


Progress Report and Scorecard

Road to Nowhere: Federal Transportation Infrastructure Policy - road-to-nowhere-federal-transportation-infrastructure-policy

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Overview

In his blog post, CFR Senior Fellow and Renewing America Director Edward Alden introduces the Renewing America Progress Report and Scorecard series, which is intended to highlight—in both a visually compelling fashion and in a more detailed narrative—the challenges the United States faces in rebuilding the foundations of its economic strength.

The first installment of the series, "Road to Nowhere: Federal Transportation Infrastructure Policy," provides a critical assessment of federal transportation policy.

Just a generation ago, the United States invested heavily to create one of the world’s best transportation infrastructure networks. But now, with real investment stagnating even as much of the infrastructure is reaching the end of its useful life, global economic competitors are leaving the United States behind. Along with a description of major policy initiatives, the report analyzes what’s needed to get U.S. transportation infrastructure back on track.

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Heckler calls CEO a crook to his face


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