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Forum Post: The Debate: Independence or Partisanship

Posted 7 months ago on March 29, 2014, 2:15 p.m. EST by LeoYo (5909)
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The Debate: Independence or Partisanship

Saturday, 29 March 2014 10:47
By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers , Truthout | Op-Ed

http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/22722-the-debate-independence-or-partisanship

Finally there is a much-needed debate about the relationship that people who are working for progressive change should have with the Democratic Party. This is a debate that has existed at the edges, in email discussions and private conversations, but is now moving to center stage.

The current debate began with an article in Harper's, "Nothing Left," by Adolph Reed, criticizing how the Democratic Party has limited the agenda of the left. It was followed by articles by historian Mike Konczal, writing in The New Republic, and Harold Meyerson, writing in the Democratic Party-leaning American Prospect, who took the view that the "left" needs to work within the Democratic Party. Richard Eskow of Campaign for America's Future, also a Democratic Party-leaning group, published two articles. The first said this debate was long overdue and concluded the left must not limit itself to the Democratic Party agenda. The second seemed to put aside differences on partisanship and urged us to get to the work of building a movement. In this article he also provided excellent responses to Konczal and Meyerson.

With Senator Bernie Sanders considering a presidential run and asking people to share their thoughts on whether he should run as an independent or a Democrat, the debate over partisanship is going to grow. We view this as an important opportunity to help many Americans realize that we need to escape from the two-party trap, as we try to do through our daily movement news and resource website, PopularResistance.org.

Just as King made the immorality of racism unacceptable, we must take a moral stand against putting the interests of money before the necessities of the people.

Movements Broaden the Agenda by Taking an Uncompromising Stand

Popular Resistance sees its job as not adapting to political limitations but building a movement that puts our issues on the political agenda. We must build a mass movement that is independent of the two parties, especially the Democratic Party, because their agenda is too corrupted by the "rule of money." We recognize that what is considered to be politically acceptable does not challenge the current system and therefore fails to actually solve the problems we face.

We adopt the view of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who did not ally with either party. King said, "I feel someone must remain in the position of non-alignment, so that he can look objectively at both parties and be the conscience of both - not the servant or master of either." Just as King faced two parties dominated by segregationists when he was fighting Jim Crow segregation, we face two parties dominated by mega-corporate power when we are fighting the domination of government by big business interests. Just as King made the immorality of racism unacceptable, we must take a moral stand against putting the interests of money before the necessities of the people.

The obscenity of tax cuts for the wealthy and big corporations - which has occurred at every level of government - while cutting necessary public services is not just a misplacement of priorities, but immoral decisions. A child going hungry while the already-wealthy hoard more wealth is one of the many immoral outcomes of these decisions. We need to explain these choices and be the conscience of a political system that is off track and of elected officials who put increasing the wealth of their campaign donors ahead of the necessities of their constituents.

The rule of money has become so deep in US government that the menu at the political table is very limited. The real solutions to the multiple economic and environmental crises we face are supported by the majority of the public but are not allowed in the political discussion. It is not our job as activists to limit ourselves to the choices allowed by this corrupt system, but to expand the choices. Occupy's greatest impact was to put issues on the political agenda that were not on it.

Where Is Our Power In The Electoral System?

US democracy has developed into a rigged electoral system - a "managed democracy." People who want real change will not get it by selecting between two preapproved candidates who are both supported by the money of transnational corporations, Wall Street banks and other big-business interests. The most important aspects of political participation are outside of this managed democracy, but this does not mean we cannot impact the electoral system and use it to build a mass movement.

There is power in putting forward new issues that gain electoral support and thereby force issues onto the agenda.

The mistake made after the 2000 election was the knee-jerk reaction of the liberal intelligentsia, which is aligned with the Democratic Party, to blame Ralph Nader for Al Gore's loss to George W. Bush. They did not want to look in the mirror and see the faults of their party under the Clinton-Gore leadership that moved it further into the grasp of Wall Street, the insurance industry and other big-business interests. Gore lost primarily because he was a terrible candidate who could not win his home state or Clinton's and who put forward a corporate agenda rather than a populist, progressive agenda. He was the classic Republican-lite that turned off voters who wanted someone who took their concerns seriously.

If there had been an honest appraisal, more on the left would have realized that we need to embrace an alternative to the Democratic Party and should not fear undermining corporate Democrats. US history has demonstrated that people can influence the direction of the country by standing for what they believe in – whether or not you win the election. Third parties have changed the political direction of the country even without winning elections by putting new issues on the political agenda. This history is missed in the debate on electoral strategy. There is power in putting forward new issues that gain electoral support and thereby force issues onto the agenda.

This history is long. We can go back to the most divisive issue in US history, slavery, to see the impact non-winning candidates played in changing the political discourse. From the nation's founding, the issue of abolition was off the political agenda in Congress and slavery became the most valuable business in the nation. Neither party would discuss abolition until the westward expansion began, and then the debate was about expanding slavery, not ending it.

The history of third parties … has impacted a wide array of issues including the eight hour work day, ending child labor, collective bargaining and New Deal policies.

There had been an abolition movement from before the Revolution; indeed Vermont abolished slavery in its Constitution in 1777. Frustrated by abolition being off the agenda, abolitionists began running for office in the Liberty Party in 1840. Former President Martin Van Buren ran against slavery in 1848 under the Free Soil Party. While receiving no Electoral College votes, he won enough votes in New York for the election to go to slave-holding Whig Zachary Taylor. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 pushed many Whigs and some Democrats into the Free Soil Party. The abolitionists were called spoilers, but they did not back away. They continued to run, show electoral support and grow. By 1854, the Free Soilers, former Whigs and anti-slavery activists formed the Republican Party. Abraham Lincoln was the first Republican presidential candidate, winning a four-way race with 39.7 percent of the vote. It was the refusal to back down on the issue of slavery that led to their ultimate success.

The history of third parties since then has affected a wide array of issues, including the eight-hour work day, ending child labor, collective bargaining and New Deal policies. All of these were rooted in campaigns that never won the presidency, but third parties put them on the agenda, showed political support and forced one of the two major parties to adopt their views. This has consistently been the way progressives have put issues that were "off the political agenda" onto the agenda through electoral politics.

The lesson for the two parties is that when a movement shows electoral support in third-party campaigns, it has two choices. First, it can follow the path of the Whigs and resist the movement and become extinct. Second, it can adopt the issues of the movement by advocating for them and grow. Either path serves the movement's goal of creating transformative change.

These parties did not act in the electoral sphere only but were tied to mass movements. Today, we see the development of a mass movement for social, economic and environmental justice that is rooted in the unfair economy created by big finance capitalism and the corrupt government ruled by money and not the people. And, we are beginning to see the signs of electoral efforts coming out of that movement. Some notable examples are the socialist Sawant campaign for the City Council in Seattle, labor activists breaking from the Democratic Party in Ohio and, at least rhetorically, the Democratic mayoral campaigns in New York and Boston. These local campaigns show the beginnings of an electoral impact from the movement for economic, social and environmental justice.

Growing percentages of Americans are turned off by the two major parties with a record 46 percent defining themselves as independents.

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[-] 4 points by LeoYo (5909) 7 months ago

The Potential Presidential Campaign of Bernie Sanders

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is wrestling with whether he should run for president and, if so, whether he should do so in the Democratic Party or independently of it. The socialist-turned-independent candidate is facing a challenging decision in our rigged electoral system. In truth, insurgent Democrats and third-party candidates have a very hard electoral path in this managed democracy. On balance, we come out in favor of running independently of the two parties.

Sanders is right to recognize that a major purpose of his campaign is to help build a mass movement. That movement is already growing, so Sanders should realize he is joining an effort at movement building, not starting the effort. And, people in the movement and growing percentages of Americans are turned off by the two major parties, with a record 46 percent defining themselves as independents. This number has grown by almost 10 percent in one year.

The strength of candidates begins with their credibility - are they who they say they are? Sanders' political career began in 1971, when he ran and lost several campaigns for senate and governor with the Liberty Union Party, which opposed the Vietnam War. He won the mayoralty of Burlington, Vermont, as a Socialist in 1981. He won the mayor's race four times, the final time defeating a candidate endorsed by both Democrats and Republicans. He won a seat in Congress in 1988 as an independent, and, among other things, he co-founded the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Sanders won his current seat in the US Senate in 2005.

For 43 years, Sanders has sought electoral office as a non-Democrat. For him to suddenly shift to the Democratic Party would raise questions about his integrity as a candidate. Rather than someone with principles who criticizes the corruption of the Democratic Party, many will see him as a political opportunist who will change his political stripes to run for office. While he can try to explain this away out of political necessity, the question will linger - can he be trusted?

Would this self-sacrifice of his integrity be worth it? The chances of winning a Democratic primary are almost nil. The system is stacked against him as it is for any insurgent who challenges the foundation of the Democrats' funding in Wall Street and big business.

To be successful, Sanders should run as an Independent who seeks to work with multiple existing third parties and create parties or ballot lines in states where there is not an existing third party.

How does running as a Democrat play out? First, as we have seen in other primaries, candidates will be asked in debates, "Will you support whoever is the Democratic nominee?" This is a deadly question for a critic of the Democratic Party. If Sanders says yes, he will have lost all of his integrity in the eyes of voters. The likely nominee at this stage is Hillary Clinton - who, since leaving the State Department, has made more than $1 million in speeches to Wall Street and investor interests, at a price of $200,000 minimum per speech. She has tacked to the militarist right of President Obama on Iran, Russia, Syria and Israel. Sanders will be endorsing someone who can fairly be described as a Wall Street militarist. His role in the election will be to run in the primaries, keep progressives, independents and radicals in the party for his campaign and then endorse a Wall Street Democrat. He will undermine the building of a movement by pulling people into the Democratic Party.

If he answers that he will not necessarily support the Democratic nominee, then he risks being excluded from debates. This has happened before, and with Sanders' more than 40-year history of not being a Democrat, partisans have more than enough ammunition to keep him out of debates. If this is the path that is taken, Sanders' voice will be muted.

Finally, running as a Democrat means that his voice will be heard only in the primaries not in the general election. Most Americans, who are not closely tied to either party, do not pay attention to the primary season but get involved in elections only when the nominations are complete. His message will be heard by partisans, not by the broader public.

The two big barriers to third-party runs are ballot access and inclusion in the debates. Ballot access takes up most of the time, money and volunteer energy of third-party candidates. To be successful at this, Sanders should run as an independent who seeks to work with multiple existing third parties and create parties or ballot lines in states where there is not an existing third party. He should make this strategy clear at the outset and note the positive value of uniting opposition to the Democrats and Republicans. The Green Party, with an agenda consistent with Sanders, will be on the ballot in half the states by 2016, including some big challenges like California, Texas, New York and Florida. There are also state-level progressive parties whose nomination Sanders also should seek, as well as smaller national parties, such as the Justice Party or the various socialist parties. If he is nominated by a coalition of parties, Sanders would have to get on the ballot in only 20 or so more states. Sanders could make a show of unity against the two parties by holding a unity convention perhaps on Labor Day to show his support for working people.

Whether on militarism, Wall Street, the environment or other issues that are being faced, Obama has sided with big business interests rather than the people.

The presidential debates are another challenge. Sanders has an advantage in that he is starting as a US senator with some national name recognition. Because polls are in large part about name recognition, he should immediately do better in polls than most third-party candidates. If he can unite multiple parties, that will add to his support, media attention and name recognition. With all of this, he will have the credibility to raise tens of millions of dollars, which will ensure he is taken seriously. In recent elections, there has been a growing awareness of the unfairness of the private corporation that sponsors presidential debates. This corporation, co-chaired by former leaders of the Republican and Democratic Parties and funded by big-business interests, has worked hard to keep third-party candidates out. The combination of Sanders' credibility and the movement challenging the Commission on Presidential Debates makes it possible to overcome this challenge as well.

If Sanders can overcome these two obstacles he will have an opportunity to put forward an independent progressive agenda that challenges the "rule of money" and foreign policy based on militarism in ways that are essential to building a mass movement. And, if he is successful in raising these issues and garnering a significant percentage of the vote, it will be possible to build on this and create an ongoing third party, perhaps uniting the various parties that supported him, in a longer-term, more formal way.

The Unique Opportunity of the Moment

There is a unique opportunity to build an independent mass movement. Many progressive Democrats have learned that the best their party can produce, Barack Obama, is unsatisfactory. Whether on militarism, Wall Street, the environment or other issues that are being faced, Obama has sided with big-business interests rather than the people. Americans have seen the bipartisans in Congress ally against their interests and in support of big business or the security state repeatedly in recent years.

In addition to record numbers of Americans defining themselves as independents, a record number of Americans want a third party, according to a 2013 poll. Sixty percent say the Democratic and Republicans parties do such a poor job of representing the American people that a third major party is needed. Indeed, a new low of 26 percent believe the two major parties adequately represent Americans. And, a 2012 poll found that 68 percent of voters said they would "definitely vote for" or "consider voting for" a third-party candidate. These are polls unlike any we have seen before.

At the same time, people's movements are growing, creating a new national consensus. The Occupy encampments were a popular revolt against the system, challenging Wall Street domination of the economy and political system and calling for systemic change. Since the encampment phase has ended, the movement has actually grown, with mass protests against poverty wages, extreme energy extraction, tuition and debt of college students and the wealth divide among other issues. This is a moment to put these issues on the agenda and the electoral process should be used as part of that effort.

This article was first published on Truthout and any reprint or reproduction on any other website must acknowledge Truthout as the original site of publication.

[-] 5 points by LeoYo (5909) 6 months ago

Six Reasons Sen. Bernie Sanders Should Run for President

Monday, 14 April 2014 10:08
By Kevin Mathews, Care2 | Op-Ed

http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/23083-six-reasons-sen-bernie-sanders-should-run-for-president

Last month, Bernie Sanders, the Independent senator from Vermont, said that, although he had not yet taken any real steps, he was “prepared to run for president of the United States.”

Although pundits believe that he’s a long shot for the nation’s top office, I still hope he makes an honest go at it. It is critical for Americans to hear his progressive views to understand the actual problems we face. Facing no competition, presumed left nominee Hillary Clinton could otherwise coast on centrist stances. With Sanders speaking candidly, a genuine debate could emerge that would force Clinton to adopt a more liberal agenda.

Here are six political opinions that Sanders has articulated in recent months that we’d love to see our next leader pursue:

  1. He Wants Money Out of Politics

While many in politics are wary of the Supreme Court’s damaging Citizens United decision, Sanders is actually trying to have its effects reversed by proposing a constitutional amendment. He has similarly been saddened by the more recent McCutcheon vs. FEC decision granting America’s wealthiest individuals even more power of elections, criticizing its supposed connection to the First Amendment. “Freedom of speech, in my view, does not mean the freedom to buy the United States government,” Sanders said.

  1. He’s Pushing for Legitimate Health Care Reform

While most liberals are trying to polish the mess that is Obamacare, Sanders isn’t afraid to call it the “disaster” that it is. “Even if all of those problems were corrected tomorrow and if the Affordable Care Act did all that it was supposed to do, it would only be a modest step forward to dealing with the dysfunction of the American health care system,” he said. Instead, Sanders is advocating for actual reform: single-payer health care. If the fight to bring health care to the masses is this difficult anyway, why not try to provide a system that actually helps?

  1. He Stands Up for Veterans

Congress seemingly has no qualms about writing blank checks to the defense department to engage in questionable wars, yet suddenly when the troops come home, politicians decide that there is no money to cover their expenses. This week, when conservatives tried to stop funding for veterans’ clinics, Sanders called out their hypocrisy. “If you think it’s too expensive, then don’t send them off to war,” Sanders said. “Taking care of veterans is a cost of the war. They already paid for it.”

  1. He Sees Wealth Inequality for What It Is

“Income inequality is the great moral issue of our time,” Sanders told his constituents. Citing the massive gap between this country’s wealthy and poor, and the fact that the bottom 60 percent of Americans owns only 2.3 percent of the wealth, he calls for economic reforms to help tip back this staggering inequity. For starters, he supports raising the minimum wage, particularly when the most profitable corporations in the world, like Walmart, are paying their employees substandard rates and having the government supplement these workers with welfare programs.

  1. He’s Against Government Surveillance

Sanders has come out as one of Congress’s staunchest opponents of the NSA, arguing that the United States cannot be considered a “free” society if the government is recording your phone calls and tracking your emails. When he asked the NSA specifically whether they have monitored members of Congress, the NSA almost hilariously told him that they couldn’t verify that for him as it would violate his privacy. Sanders supports clemency for Edward Snowden, valuing the truth he exposed to the world.

  1. He Understands Imminent Danger

While everyone is in a tizzy over the threat of “terrorism,” Sanders has his priorities straight. In an interview about how big business is killing the globe, he said, “Global warming is a far more serious problem than al Qaeda.” As he sees it, there is a chance of terrorism killing some of us, but there is a certainty of climate change eventually killing all of us. The fact that we can devote so much effort to eradicating a potential threat while outright ignoring a more concrete threat is ridiculous.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 4 points by wickerman (62) 5 months ago

Is he going to run?

[-] 5 points by LeoYo (5909) 7 months ago

The Real Vice-President of the United States Is Wall Street Thursday, 03 April 2014 09:56

By Nomi Prins, Nation Books | Book Excerpt

http://www.truth-out.org/progressivepicks/item/22861-the-real-vice-president-of-the-united-states-is-wall-street

In "All the Presidents' Bankers: The Hidden Alliances That Drive American Power," Wall Street journalist (and former Goldman Sachs executive) Nomi Prins writes a painstakingly researched history of the financial industry's collusion with the White House to create a self-serving United States financial policy. Get the book directly from Truthout by clicking here.

Prins' book uses short passages to weave together in understandable terms a longterm relationship between economic and political power that has remained unchallenged. Yes, there were occasional periods when Wall Street did not receive everything that it wanted from the White House (such as in the New Deal). However, adding up the ledger of government policy toward Wall Street results in a decisive victory for the financial titans.

Robert Reich writes of "All the Presidents' Bankers,"The relationship between Washington and Wall Street isn't really a revolving door. It's a merry-go-round. And, as Prins shows, the merriest of all are the bankers and financiers that get rich off the relationship, using their public offices and access to build private wealth and power."

The following is an excerpt from "All the Presidents' Bankers" that focuses on how the financial industry barons are not legally held accountable by the federal government.

The Justice Department Goes Soft on Bankers

Many congressional hearings and investigations have probed the bankers' practices since the crisis that began in 2007. Similar to the Pujo hearings after the Panic of 1907, though, they have resulted in nothing material against the bankers with the strongest political alliances. And unlike the impact of the 1932–1933 Pecora Commission hearings, no substantive regulatory act has passed to significantly alter their behavior. Though banks would end up paying various fines and legal settlements, that amounted to fractions of pennies on the dollar relative to their immense asset bases. Their structure and influence remained unaltered.

As of September 1, 2013, the SEC reported it had levied just $1.53 billion in fines and $1.2 billion in penalties, disgorgement, and other money relief against the big banks for their multitrillion-dollar global Ponzi scheme—or as the SEC put it, "addressing misconduct that led to or arose from the financial crisis." Goldman paid a $550 million fine from the SEC for a similar allegation. The firm admitted no guilt for the related activities. Bank of America paid a $150 million fine without admitting any guilt for misleading shareholders regarding its payment of Merrill Lynch's bonuses when it took over the firm. JPMorgan Chase eventually settled the London Whale probe with a $1.02 billion fine, greater than the fines it paid the government for all of its housing-related infractions. Though the firm admitted that it had violated banking rules by not properly monitoring trading operations, that kind of admission was akin to copping a misdemeanor plea while facing a major felony.

On August 1, 2013, a federal judge approved a $590 million settlement by Citigroup in a shareholder lawsuit accusing the bank of hiding billions of dollars of toxic mortgage assets. On that same day, a jury found former Goldman Sachs banker Fabrice Tourre liable for his role in the Abacus deal, which lost some investors $1 billion. The ruling was dubbed a major victory for the SEC. "We are obviously gratified by the jury's verdict and appreciate their hard work," lead SEC lawyer Matthew Martens said.

The Justice Department chose not to criminally prosecute the chairmen from Goldman or JPMorgan Chase (both of whom ranked in the top twenty for Obama's career campaign contributors) or from anywhere else for creating faulty CDOs, trading against them, dumping them on less knowledgeable investors, or otherwise speculating with capital supposedly siphoned off for more productive and less risky purposes.

Similarly, the Justice Department punted on prosecuting Jon Corzine, the former governor of New Jersey and a top-tier bundler for Obama. Steering his firm MF Global into an abyss, Corzine had bet more than $6 billion on European sovereign debt. The $1 billion MF Global "mistake," the multibillion-dollar losses on bets made by Chase, the CDOs chosen by the firm's biggest hedge fund clients that had been set up to fail—these were apparently just minor events in the scheme of making money and maintaining alliances. On October 31, 2011, MF Global filed Chapter 11, with $41 billion in assets and $39.7 billion in debt, the eighth largest bankruptcy in US history. Four days before the collapse, Corzine sent an email to an employee "to strategize how they could use customer segregated funds [and get JPMorgan Chase] to clear MF Global's trades more quickly." He avoided criminal fraud charges.

The general response of Obama and his cabinet toward Wall Street criminality and the sheer unsavoriness of its leaders showed the degree to which nothing had changed and the lack of commitment to reform. If nothing changes fundamentally in the banking landscape, more and larger crises are a given. The most powerful banks are bigger, more interconnected, and more reliant on cheap money and federal largesse than ever. Their leaders are unrepentant and unaccountable. Their political alliances require nothing of them anymore except some fines that can be easily re-earned.

Copyright of Nomi Prins.

[-] 5 points by LeoYo (5909) 7 months ago

Supreme Court Ruling Gives Wealthy Individuals More Influence Over Elections

Thursday, 03 April 2014 11:07
By Jaisal Noor, The Real News Network | Video Interview

http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/22870-supreme-court-ruling-gives-wealthy-individuals-more-influence-over-elections

TRANSCRIPT:

JAISAL NOOR, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Jaisal Noor in Baltimore.

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court struck down overall campaign contribution limits for donors giving to candidates and parties. The closely watched McCutcheon decision found the limits violated the First Amendment rights of donors. The court was split on ideological lines in the decision. Writing in dissent, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote, quote, "If the court in Citizens United opened a door, today's decision ... [we fear will] open a floodgate."

Now joining us to discuss this Jennifer Bevan-Dangel. She's the executive director of Common Cause Maryland.

Thank you so much for joining us, Jennifer.

JENNIFER BEVAN-DANGEL, EXEC. DIR., COMMON CAUSE MARYLAND: My pleasure.

NOOR: So, Jennifer, just start off by giving us your reaction to the impact this decision will have on the country and Maryland.

BEVAN-DANGEL: We're very concerned. "Floodgates" is certainly the best word for it, and especially here in Maryland. At the federal level, losing these aggregate limits will definitely impact Congress and how fundraising is done. But in Maryland, where our aggregate limit is currently just $10,000, losing that cap on overall political contributions is going to drastically change the face of politics in the state.

NOOR: And so, that reference that we just made was made to Citizens United. And this court has shown over the past several years that it's going to keep, you know, cutting down these campaign contribution limits. What else can be done? 'Cause we're not going to get change through this current court. It's going to keep, if anything, people fear, striking down more limits.

BEVAN-DANGEL: The Court continues to take us in the wrong direction. And you're right: the one limit we have left is the individual limits, which could potentially be next. And what has to happen is that Congress has to act or the states have to call for a convention to get a new amendment on the Constitution making it clear that political spending is not a protected speech, that it's a way to influence and buy power in our political system.

NOOR: Now, both political parties haven't really taken this on and challenged it. And, in fact, in McCutcheon, the Republican Party was one of the plaintiffs on the Alabama activist McCutcheon's side. So this has to happen outside of the two-party system, essentially.

BEVAN-DANGEL: It really does. And that's why it does help that we have the avenue of a convention, where the states can call for reform if Congress won't take action, because Congress has shown that it's gridlocked and that it can't respond to the very pressing problems that we're facing.

But the people have to continue to be vocal. This is a case that will just cut back the people's voice in our system even further. And we just have to continue to stand up and cry for change.

NOOR: And so, from some of the experts I've spoken to, they've said this route, this route of doing a constitutional convention, is more of a long-term strategy. What else can be done on the short-term to challenge these practices? And can states pass laws that will limit spending in federal elections and in state and local elections?

BEVAN-DANGEL: The [incompr.] their hands are tied, unfortunately. And within hours of the decision coming out [incompr.] the federal limits, within hours several states had proactively said, we will be eradicating our own state limits, because the decision is so clear that they just feel there's no constitutional basis for these aggregate limits. So the states are already accepting the Supreme Court's position and taking down their limits.

The one thing states can push for is greater disclosure and more immediate disclosure of political spending. Here in Maryland, candidates, except during the election year, only filed annual reports. So one step we might need to take is to require much more frequent reporting, so that the citizens can see if one individual is starting to put a lot of money into a lot of different bank accounts.

NOOR: And, finally, who is going to benefit from this decision?

BEVAN-DANGEL: The people who benefit will be that fraction of a 1 percent of wealthy individuals in this country who have the money to spend on elections. It's like playing the stock market for very wealthy individuals. They just play the campaign market. And they can invest in as many races as they want at any level that they want, and there's now nothing holding them back.

NOOR: Jennifer Bevan-Dangel, thank you so much for joining us.

BEVAN-DANGEL: Thank you.

NOOR: Jennifer is the executive director of Common Cause Maryland.

You can follow us on Twitter @therealnews, Tweet me questions and comments @jaisalnoor. You can go to TheRealNews.com for all of our coverage on campaign contributions and Citizens United.

Thank you so much for joining us.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 5 points by Ache4Change (3158) 7 months ago

Bernie Sanders on this extremely serious matter -

http://www.nationofchange.org/sen-bernie-sanders-supreme-court-undermines-democracy-allowing-billionaires-buy-elections-1396538404 & also see -

http://www.nationofchange.org/how-supreme-court-just-legalized-money-laundering-rich-campaign-donors-1396536391 .

This diabolical Supreme Court decision by what can only be described as 'Corporate Activist Judges', is utterly unbelievable and clearly makes a totally mockery of the US Constitution & - so much for lawyers!

Thank you for your post. Never Give Up Exposing The Corporate Coup! Occupy Democracy! Solidarity.

[Removed]

[-] 0 points by shoozTroll (17632) 7 months ago

And the Koch brothers say: " Who needs a Constitution when you own the SCOTUS?"

Adleson, the Waltons and Pope and such heartily agree.

[-] 6 points by Ache4Change (3158) 7 months ago

Consider that - 'As the 2014 election season gets underway, the Supreme Court has struck down a long-standing limit on how much donors can give to federal candidates, political parties and political action committees in a two-year election cycle. Without any aggregate limit, a donor can now give millions directly to candidates and parties. The 5-to-4 decision in the McCutcheon v. FEC case - is being described as the “next Citizens United,” referring to the 2010 ruling that opened the floodgates for unlimited corporate spending on U.S. elections.' from the first link above.

The likes of the Kochs, the Waltons, Sheldon Adelson and other such American Oligarchs as well as the Corporate, 1% Capture of the SCOTUS - now means that US Democracy is an utter sham, which fools no one other than the most indoctrinated or ignorant. Also see -

http://www.nationofchange.org/mccutcheon-and-vicious-cycle-concentrated-wealth-and-political-power-1396622890 &

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/03/supreme-court-mccutcheon-citizens-united

OWS and just about every other anarchist, left, liberal or vaguely progressive group, has to now organise around this and it is very reasonable to wish fatal accidents upon Roberts, Scalia and Thomas etc. - for their dereliction of duty, if not outright traitorous behaviour, which shows such contempt for Americans.

Never Give Up Fighting For Democracy! Occupy The Issues And Solidarity!

[-] 0 points by shoozTroll (17632) 6 months ago

Yes, but of course you are much more likely to find it ignored here.

[-] 3 points by Ache4Change (3158) 6 months ago

Ignored here or otherwise, Marching On The Supreme Court - as suggested by bw, is a logical next step for OWS or for any citizens who truly believes that the US Constitution was written for the real people as opposed to the 'corporations' and that corporate lawyers, were absolutely NOT what the founding fathers had in mind when they wrote it. Also fyi -

http://www.nationofchange.org/our-highest-court-former-lobbyist-guts-campaign-finance-reform-1396706780

http://www.nationofchange.org/mccutcheon-and-vicious-cycle-concentrated-wealth-and-political-power-1396622890

http://www.nationofchange.org/eight-headlines-mainstream-media-doesn-t-have-courage-print-1396884374#

Never Give Up Exposing The Real Issues! Occupy The Agenda And Solidarity!

[-] 1 points by shoozTroll (17632) 6 months ago

EDIT

I got voted down, just for posting links to reactions, including an official one from Occupy.

Notice if you would, how few of those around here who claim to be occupiers commented at all.

Nope.

They are who were voting me down.

Very telling.

You can look here, if you like.

https://occupywallst.org/forum/bernie-reacts-to-the-koch-support-of-the-scotus/

[-] 3 points by Ache4Change (3158) 6 months ago

It is really very difficult to imagine that anyone who is sympathetic to OWS could possibly support the 'McCutcheon' decision and I would recommend this to you courtesy of shadz66 -

''McCutcheon Should Become A Rallying Cry for A Campaign to ‘End the Rule of Money’'', by K. Zeese and M. Flowers : http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article38198.htm

It is an excellent article that all with any OWS sympathies should read. Also try to consider this piece by Nomi Prins - http://www.nationofchange.org/jp-morgan-jamie-dimon-1397396453

Never Give Up On The 99%! Occupy The Agenda! Solidarity.

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[-] 5 points by Ache4Change (3158) 6 months ago

Marching On The Supreme Court is a 'pretty tame response'? Has it ever been tried? What would you suggest? Btw, it's been going on longer than just 'decades' - http://www.nationofchange.org/four-eras-slavery-benefit-corporations-1397485725 We only have our numbers on our side - and 'they' know it, which is why they work so hard to keeping us all divided and fooled. Never Give Up On The 99%! Occupy The Supreme Court & Solidarity!

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[-] 5 points by Ache4Change (3158) 6 months ago

I think I prefer your 'lower profile methods' lol because these days we can not count on the legislature to police itself as they all have their snouts in the trough. My own suggestions would be along these lines - http://www.alternet.org/activism/mccutcheon-should-become-rallying-cry-campaign-end-rule-money Never Give Up! Occupy Wall Street!

Also consider - http://www.nationofchange.org/open-letter-governor-massachusetts-his-support-authority-supreme-court-make-its-mccutcheon-ruling-13 - 'To “respect” authority in the abuse of its power is to align oneself with and further enable that same abuse. Experience shows that contesting that authority, especially in the case of the Supreme Court, has the effect of curbing it.' Solidarity.

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[-] 2 points by Ache4Change (3158) 6 months ago

Things are more out of hand then we may realise. If our rights to peacefully protest are curtailed any further, here's why your statement may well be justified - http://www.nationofchange.org/crime-peaceful-protest-1398778948 by Chris Hedges. It's not possible to read that without both shuddering and fuming.

Never Give Up The 99% Struggle! Occupy Resistance! Solidarity.

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[-] 6 points by Ache4Change (3158) 6 months ago

This forum is under surveillance so you should not allude to violence so readily. I'm sorry if I provoked you to do so. I thought that Cecily McMillan's story was important and instructive and I certainly don't associate it with 'criminal behaviour'. Maybe I have misunderstood you and http://justiceforcecily.com/ is closer to the matter at hand. Never Give Up Standing Up To Injustice! Only Occupy Peaceful Protest!

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[-] 5 points by Ache4Change (3158) 6 months ago

No. I admit nothing of the sort. I posted an Occupy related story to you by Chris Hedges, who is a true supporter of many left, liberal & progressive issues. He's been sympathetic to OWS before there was an OWS! I really don't appreciate your comments so I'll refrain from replying to you in future and I'll ask and thank you now for doing the same.

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[-] 5 points by shadz66 (19985) 6 months ago

kay LoonDog, you can rest assured that I don't need any other identities to deal with your ass, lol ! I get back home and go to log on, only to see you calling my name on ''Recent Comments'', as yet again you go attention seeking from me !! Well you have certainly got my attention now, here and elsewhere !!!

So I'll see your parDisan ass on another thread that you've kindly revived but reading here now, I may as well echo A4C :

ne quid nimis ...

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[-] 1 points by shoozTroll (17632) 6 months ago

They attacked you instead.

It kept the SCOTUS decision in the background.

I do believe, that was the point of those attacks.

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[-] 1 points by shoozTroll (17632) 6 months ago

Here's a bunch of it in a nut shell.

http://truth-out.org/news/item/22980-thom-hartmann-there-has-not-been-a-legitimately-elected-republican

I like Thom. Like you and I, he understands the damage libe(R)tarians have done.

He writes good books too...........:)

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[-] 1 points by shoozTroll (17632) 6 months ago

That would be not only be treason, but pre-meditated murder.

Kinda like GM did over a 57 cent part change, that only would have brought it to the spec that they made for it.

The folks that make these kinds of decisions should subject to law.

Back in the day, Ford did it with the Pinto.

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[-] 1 points by shoozTroll (17632) 6 months ago

Welp, at least it didn't blow up.

I once mangled a days worth of axle tubes, that were far out of spec., that a supervisor wanted to build.

He tried to tell me that one bolt would hold the brake assembly on, just fine.

Fuck' em.

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[-] 1 points by shoozTroll (17632) 6 months ago

It was the flange at the end of the axle tube that was way out of spec.

Where I worked, the baking plate is what the brake assembly is attached to, and that is bolted to the axle flange.

Different manufacturers may use different terminology, but that's how it works at Ford.

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[-] 0 points by shoozTroll (17632) 6 months ago

It might be worth another read. Thom likes to point out the treason of the (R)epelican'ts.

Nixon was particularly egregious.

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[-] 1 points by shoozTroll (17632) 6 months ago

He was very much a crook, in more ways than one.

I can remember my father wondering why he voted for him, upon discovering just how much of crook he was.

[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5909) 6 months ago

Political Ties of Top Billers for Medicare

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/political-ties-top-billers-medicare-053637053.html

The New York Times By FRANCES ROBLES and ERIC LIPTON 6 hours ago

Correction Appended

MIAMI — Two Florida doctors who received the nation’s highest Medicare reimbursements in 2012 are both major contributors to Democratic Party causes, and they have turned to the political system in recent years to defend themselves against suspicions that they may have submitted fraudulent or excessive charges to the federal government.

The pattern of large Medicare payments and six-figure political donations shows up among several of the doctors whose payment records were released for the first time this week by the Department of Health and Human Services. For years, the department refused to make the data public, and finally did so only after being sued by The Wall Street Journal.

Topping the list is Dr. Salomon E. Melgen, 59, an ophthalmologist from North Palm Beach, Fla., who received $21 million in Medicare reimbursements in 2012 alone. The doctor billed a bulk of his reimbursements for Lucentis, a medication used to treat macular degeneration made by a company that pays generous rebates to its doctors.

Dr. Melgen’s firm donated more than $700,000 to Majority PAC, a super PAC run by former aides to the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada. The super PAC then spent $600,000 to help re-elect Senator Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, who is a close friend of Dr. Melgen’s. Last year, Mr. Menendez himself became a target of investigation after the senator intervened on behalf of Dr. Melgen with federal officials and took flights on his private jet.

Another physician, Dr. Asad Qamar, an interventional cardiologist in Ocala, Fla., has sent at least $250,000 in donations over the last decade to the political campaigns of President Obama and other prominent Democrats; he has become the target of scrutiny related to cardiovascular treatment centers he runs in Central Florida.

Dr. Qamar was paid more than $18 million in 2012, making him and Dr. Melgen by far the largest payment recipients nationwide, according to the data. A pathologist from New Jersey received the third largest Medicare reimbursement, $12.6 million.

In an interview on Wednesday, Dr. Qamar said any questions about his Medicare bills were unjustified.

“Just looking at the sheer volume of work and billings from a single physician is not a sign of wrongdoing,” Dr. Qamar said, noting that his practice handles cardiac procedures in its outpatient clinics that would be done inside a hospital in many other states, which he said explained the large billable amounts.

The state of Florida was home to many of the physicians who received the largest payments, 28 out of the top 100. California, with a much larger population, was second, with 10 of the top 100.

Doctors in Florida have been frequent targets of Medicare fraud investigations, based on irregular patterns of bills or extremely high bills.

Just last month, two Florida medical clinic owners were sentenced on charges of Medicare fraud, both in cases involving more than $20 million in fraudulent payments. In addition, the Halifax Hospital Medical Center in Daytona Beach, Fla., agreed to pay the government $85 million to resolve allegations that it had billed Medicare for care based on referrals from doctors who had a financial relationship with the institution, a forbidden practice.

Dr. Melgen appeared on investigators’ radar when a Medicare contractor noticed that he, a single practitioner, was billing for Lucentis at a significantly higher rate than his peers, Justice Department lawyers wrote in response to a suit the doctor filed against the Health and Human Services Department.

Each vial of the medication comes with up to four times the amount that a patient requires. Investigators said the doctor was using one vial to treat three or four patients, and billing as if he had purchased a new vial each time. The doctor would be reimbursed $6,000 to $8,000 for a vial that cost him $2,000.

The investigation concluded that in 2007 and 2008 alone, he overbilled by $9 million, which he was forced to pay back.

The doctor, federal lawyers said, “seeks to game the system by seeking reimbursement of three to four times its actual costs.”

Dr. Melgen hired the former head of the Justice Department’s Medicare fraud task force, Kirk Ogrosky, to defend him. In a lawsuit that sought to recover the $9 million, Mr. Ogrosky argued that Dr. Melgen’s billing practice was not illegal and that even if the doctor had not spread the medication out, the government would not have saved any money.

As the dispute dragged on, the doctor reached out to his longtime friend, Mr. Menendez, for help. Mr. Menendez’s aides acknowledged that the senator called the Medicare director at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services in 2009 and brought it up at a meeting with the acting administrator in 2012. Now both Dr. Melgen and Mr. Menendez find themselves under federal scrutiny. F.B.I. agents have raided Dr. Melgen’s clinics twice.

“At all times, Dr. Melgen billed in conformity with Medicare rules,” Mr. Ogrosky said in a statement. “While the amounts in the CMS data release appear large, the vast majority reflect the cost of drugs. The facts are that doctors receive 6 percent above what they pay for drugs, the amount billed by physicians is set by law, and drug companies set the price of drugs, not doctors.”

He declined to discuss the doctor’s relationship with the senator or his campaign contributions.

Dr. Qamar and his Institute of Cardiovascular Excellence in Ocala, Fla., have for at least the last 16 months been subject to what is known as a “prepayment review,” he said on Wednesday. Medicare officials typically take this step, which requires a detailed examination of all Medicare bills before they authorize payment, after they have detected patterns that lead them to suspect there may have been inappropriate or excessive bills.

The money paid to Dr. Qamar in 2012 — $18.2 million — is much more than to any other cardiologist in the United States. The second-highest total is listed as $4.5 million, paid to Dr. Ashish Pal of Davenport, Fla.

Dr. Pal said in an interview on Wednesday that his billing was entirely appropriate and fair, although he acknowledged it was high because he has multiple cardiology-related specialties, and because he works in an outpatient setting and bills the government for facility fees.

Dr. Qamar said his payments were high because his practice, which has 150 employees and a caseload of 23,000 patients, routinely handles complicated procedures like opening blocked arteries in the legs of older patients, which normally would be billed by a hospital.

Dr. Qamar has sent more than $100,000 to the Democratic National Committee and other state-based branches of the Democratic Party around the United States, and has donated to President Obama’s presidential campaigns and groups with ties to Mr. Obama, federal records show. He has also made donations to congressional candidates — almost all of them Democrats — from Nevada, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Iowa and Florida, among other states, the records show.

At the same time some of those donations were being made, the prominent law and lobbying firm Greenberg Traurig — and a former Justice Department official and Capitol Hill aide from the firm named Gregory W. Kehoe — helped Mr. Qamar contact more than a dozen members of Congress asking them to help him address why he was subject to such intense scrutiny from Medicare auditors.

The political donations, Dr. Qamar said, are unrelated to the Medicare scrutiny, but he acknowledged he had reached out to lawmakers in Congress to persuade the federal government to back down.

“The auditors put an astronomical burden on us, in terms of manpower,” he said. “I would just hope there is some end to it.”

Both Dr. Qamar and Dr. Melgen are still certified to receive Medicare payments, although Dr. Melgen at one point was suspended from the Medicare program, which accounts for 70 percent of his practice. He has been reinstated. And an official at the Department of Health and Human Services declined to comment on either physician or to confirm that they were a subject of special scrutiny.

The New Jersey pathologist ranked third among doctors nationwide in terms of Medicare billing, Dr. Michael C. McGinnis, is the medical director of the Pathology Corporation of America in Wrightstown, N.J., which performs analytical work on medical specimens for other doctors, perhaps explaining his high ranking on the list. Dr. McGinnis could not be reached for comment.

Frances Robles reported from Miami, and Eric Lipton from Washington. Michael Strickland contributed research.

Correction: April 9, 2014, Wednesday

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: An earlier version of this article misidentified a political action committee to which Dr. Salomon E. Melgen contributed more than $700,000. It was Majority PAC, a super PAC run by former aides to the Senate majority leader Harry Reid, not the political action committee of Senator Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat.

[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5909) 7 months ago

Should GM Get the Death Penalty for 57 Cent Premeditated Murder? Thursday, 03 April 2014 14:47

By The Daily Take, The Thom Hartmann Program | Op-Ed

http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/22883-shouldnt-gm-get-the-death-penalty-for-57-cent-premeditated-murder

Mary Barra, chief executive of General Motors, testifies during a Commerce, Science, and Transportation subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, April 2, 2104. During the hearing, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.)said the company had a "culture of cover-up" that allowed an employee to lie under oath and discouraged quick action on fixing a car defect linked to 13 deaths. (Photo: Doug Mills / The New York Times) Executives at General Motors have answered the age-old question of how much is a life worth.

A life is worth 57 cents.

Earlier this week, newly installed General Motors CEO Mary Barra was on Capitol Hill, testifying before Congress about GM's recall of nearly 2.6 million vehicles because of a faulty ignition switch, a problem that has caused the deaths of at least 13 people.

But more importantly, Barra was answering questions about why GM knew about the ignition switch problem a full decade ago, but chose not to make fixes that would have saved American lives.

At a news conference after her testimony before a House subcommittee, Barra told reporters that, "I think we in the past had more of a cost culture."

In other words, GM cared more about profit margins than peoples' lives.

And at least with the ignition switch debacle, that appears to be the case.

When General Motors first learned about the ignition switch problem, executives and engineers got together to discuss how the company would respond.

According to GM, company engineers got together in 2005, and proposed solutions to the ignition switch problem, which included installing a small new piece of metal called a "switch indent plunger".

But, statements in 2005 GM internal documents show that the company's executives decided not to fix the ignition switch problem because that small new piece of metal was too expensive and an unacceptable cost.

So, how much did the ignition switch piece that GM executives chose not to fix cost?

57 cents.

That's right, according to testimony from House Democrat Diana DeGette of Colorado, the piece that needed to be installed in the faulty cars, the "switch indent plunger," cost only 57 cents.

When asked about that number, GM spokesman Jim Cain said that, "Presumably it is based on documents in evidence, so I won't dispute it either."

So, rather than go out and spend 57 cents per car, or a little over $1.48 million to fix all of its cars with the ignition switch problem, GM essentially performed a cost-benefit analysis, and found that fixing the vehicles, and saving American lives, wasn't worth losing that $1.48 million.

To put that in perspective, GM's net income in 2013 was $3.8 billion.

So, the ignition switch fix would have only cost .0003 percent of the company's 2013 net income.

As Michael Moore put it, "GM has a legal and fiduciary responsibility to its shareholders to make the biggest profits that it can. And if their top people crunch the numbers and can show that they will save more money by NOT fixing or replacing the part, then that is what they are going to damn well do."

Even Daily Show host Jon Stewart was outraged by GM's actions, saying that, "For God's sake, even if you're strapped for cash, GM, you could have found at least that much in the seats of the cars you're fixing. The thing would have paid for itself."

The GM debacle represents a huge problem with corporate America today - a lack of any real accountability.

As Donna Smith, executive director of Health Care for All Colorado, and an owner of a recalled GM vehicle put it, "The GM recall represents once again how dishonest and greedy many, if not most, US corporations have become."

The whole notion of "corporate responsibility" has been thrown out the window, and been replaced with the mentality that profits are king.

Many corporations are willing to do just about anything to protect their profits and bottom-line, even if that means "accepting" that a few people might die as a result, whether in a car crash, an oil-rig explosion, or a suicide after a home is foreclosed on.

And even worse, they know that nothing will happen in the way of punishment.

Sure, they might face a fine or two, and have to settle a couple lawsuits, but at the end of the day, those are just the costs of doing business and piling on the profits. In many cases, they're even all or partly tax-deductible, so you and I end up paying for it.

Those fines and lawsuit settlements are built into the risks that American corporations are willing to take.

But it's time for that to change, and to put accountability back into the game.

It's time to bring back the corporate death penalty.

As I chronicle in my book "Unequal Protection," throughout most of the 19th century an average of 2000 corporations a year got the corporate death penalty. They were dissolved, their assets sold off at auction, and their stockholders and managers left out in the cold.

We've done this before, and we should do it again. Corporations shouldn't be able to commit massive crimes - from environmental crimes to banking crimes to defective product crimes - and get away with just a slap on the wrist.

And they certainly shouldn't be able to choose making a profit over protecting human lives.

Until there's the real threat of substantial punishment, like losing the right to do business in America, corporations will continue to play fast-and-loose with the lives and livelihoods of the American people, and Americans will continue to suffer.

Let's make sure that no one else ever has to lose a loved one because a car company thought that installing a 57 cent piece of metal was less important than being a good corporate member of the community.

This article was first published on Truthout and any reprint or reproduction on any other website must acknowledge Truthout as the original site of publication.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 7 months ago

Since corporations are now people too, the death penalty should be sought for any corporations guilty of murder.

[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5909) 7 months ago

The New Citizens United: Supreme Court Strikes Down Political Spending Limits for Rich Donors

Wednesday, 02 April 2014 16:52
By Mike Ludwig, Truthout | Report

http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/22857-the-new-citizens-united-supreme-court-strikes-down-political-spending-limits-for-rich-donors

Demonstrations were held across the country Wednesday as the Supreme Court continued chipping away at federal campaign finance reforms with a 5-4 ruling striking down the federal cap on the total amount of money an individual donor can spend supporting candidates and political parties during a two-year election cycle.

The ruling, which split the high court along ideological lines, eliminates the aggregate the cap on the total amount of money an individual can donate to candidates and party fundraising committees during an election season, which was set at $123,200 for 2013 and 2014. That cap was so high that only a several hundred mega-rich donors reached it during the last election cycle.

Campaign finance watchdogs now estimate that a single wealthy donor could spread up to $3.6 million among candidates, party committees and some political action groups affiliated with a single party during a single election cycle. A single donor could theoretically spend twice that amount by supporting candidates and committees from both parties, according to the Sunlight Foundation.

Conservatives are hailing the ruling as a victory for free speech. Liberals and progressives say the ruling will only increase the corrupting influence that ultra-rich donors can have on politicians, dealing yet another fundamental blow to the legitimacy of American democracy. Activists organized about 140 demonstrations and events in 38 states to protest the ruling and call for legislative action.

The ruling is not as sweeping as the Supreme Court's infamous 2010 Citizens United decision, which removed caps on the amount of money that corporations and unions can spend influencing federal elections and unleashed a tidal wave of corporate campaign cash that made the 2012 elections by far the most expensive in history.

But the ruling - one of several rulings under Chief Justice John Roberts that have eroded federal and state campaign finance laws in recent years - surely will increase the ability of rich Americans to impact elections.

The ruling also could inflate the power of joint fundraising committees, which take large donations from donors and funnel the cash to candidates and party committees with full knowledge of who signed the original check.

"Eliminating these limits will now allow a single politician to solicit, and a single donor to give, up to $3.6 million through the use of joint fundraising committees," said Michael Walden, president of the Brennan Center for Justice. "Following the Citizens United decision, this will further inundate a political system already flush with cash, marginalize average voters, and elevate those who can afford to buy political access."

Wednesday's ruling in McCutcheon vs. Federal Election Commission does not touch limits on the amount of money an individual can give to a single federal candidate, which currently is set at $2,600.

Free Speech or Plutocracy?

The majority opinion, delivered by Roberts, claims these limits on individual donations will keep political corruption in check. The Roberts opinion, which was supported by the court's conservative justices, argues that the cap on the total amount and individual can spend during an election cycle can prevent a donor from giving to as many candidates as he or she chooses, which violates free speech rights under the First Amendment.

Like the Citizens United ruling, the majority opinion views political speech and the money spent by wealthy donors to support candidates and influence elections as one and the same.

"Contributing money to a candidate is an exercise of an individual’s right to participate in the electoral process through both political expression and political association," Roberts wrote for the majority. " ... The Government may no more restrict how many candidates or causes a donor may support than it may tell a newspaper how many candidates it may endorse."

Writing for the four dissenting justices on the liberal side of the bench, Justice Stephen Breyer argued that the ruling created a "loophole" allowing rich donors to donate millions to candidates and parties, and, coupled with the Citizens United ruling, "eviscerates our Nation’s campaign finance laws, leaving a remnant incapable of dealing with the grave problems of democratic legitimacy that those laws were intended to resolve."

The case was brought before the court by the national Republican Party and Shaun McCutcheon; a wealthy businessman from Alabama who argued the cap on aggregate donations violated his First Amendment rights by prevented him from donating to Republican candidates he wanted to support in recent elections.

"Today, the court made clear that restraints on the political speech of those whose views you don't like must fail; free speech is the right of all Americans and not a revocable grant from the government of the day," said Dan Backer, the lead political counsel for McCutcheon and the Republican Party.

Campaign finance reformers, however, said the ruling is not a victory for free speech. It's a victory for the plutocracy.

"No matter what five Supreme Court justices say, the First Amendment was never intended to provide a giant megaphone for the wealthiest to use to shout down the rest of us," said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, a progressive watchdog group that supports campaign finance reforms. "Our only hope of overturning this McCutcheon travesty - along with Citizens United - is if millions of Americans band together in saying 'Enough!' to plutocracy."

Growing Grass-Roots Momentum

For several years, a broad grass-roots movement has pushed to overturn Citizens United, either through legislation or amending the Constitution to declare that money spent influencing elections is not the same as free speech. Activists also are pushing for federal legislation that would amplify the impact of small political donations made by average Americans.

Jonah Minkoff-Zern, an activist with Public Citizen who helped organize protests in response to the McCutcheon decision, said the ruling would only spark more grassroots momentum.

"The rallies are a way for us to say, this is not going to be a dark day in history but a day of organizing hope and a call for change," Minkoff-Zern told Truthout.

In recent years, lawmakers in at least 16 states have passed resolutions calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. Minkhoff-Zern said at least 150 members of Congress have signed on in support of similar resolutions.

Copyright, Truthout.

[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5909) 7 months ago

Chris Hedges | Fighting the Militarized State

Monday, 31 March 2014 09:07
By Chris Hedges, Truthdig | Op-Ed

http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/22784-chris-hedges-fighting-the-militarized-state

The Barack Obama administration, determined to thwart the attempt by other plaintiffs and myself to have the courts void a law that permits the military to arrest U.S. citizens, strip them of due process and indefinitely detain them, has filed a detailed brief with the Supreme Court asking the justices to refuse to accept our petition to hear our appeal. We will respond within 10 days.

“The administration’s unstated goal appears to be to get court to agree that [the administration] has the authority to use the military to detain U.S. citizens,” Bruce Afran, one of two attorneys handling the case, said when I spoke with him Sunday. “It appears to be asking the court to go against nearly 150 years of repeated decisions in which the court has refused to give the military such power. No court in U.S. history has ever recognized the right of the government to use the military to detain citizens. It would be very easy for the government to state in the brief that citizens and permanent residents are not within the scope of this law. But once again, it will not do this. It says the opposite. It argues that the activities of the plaintiffs do not fall within the scope of the law, but it clearly is reserving for itself the right to use the statute to detain U.S. citizens indefinitely.”

The lawsuit, Hedges v. Obama, challenges Section 1021(b)(2) of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). It was signed into law the last day of 2011. Afran and fellow attorney Carl Mayer filed the lawsuit in January 2012. I was later joined by co-plaintiffs Noam Chomsky, Daniel Ellsberg, journalist Alexa O’Brien, Tangerine Bolen, Icelandic parliamentarian Birgitta Jonsdottir and Occupy London activist Kai Wargalla.

U.S. District Judge Katherine B. Forrest of the Southern District of New York, in a rare act of courage on the American bench today, declared Section 1021(b)(2) unconstitutional. The Obama administration immediately asked Forrest to lift her injunction and thereby put the law back into effect until it could appeal her decision. She rebuffed the government’s request. The government went to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit to ask it to stay the district court’s injunction until the government’s appeal could be heard. The 2nd Circuit consented to the request. The law went back on the books.

Afran, Mayer and I expected the Obama administration to appeal, but we did not expect the government to mount such an aggressive response to Judge Forrest’s ruling. The law had to be restored because, our attorneys and I suspect, the administration well might be holding U.S. citizens who are dual nationals in some of our black sites. If Forrest’s ruling was allowed to stand, the administration would be in contempt of court if it was detaining U.S. citizens under the statute. This suspicion was buttressed during the trial. Government attorneys, when asked by the judge, refused to say whether or not the government was already using the law.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit overturned Forrest’s ruling last July. It cited the Supreme Court ruling in Clapper v. Amnesty International, another case in which I was a plaintiff. The Clapper v. Amnesty International case challenged the secret wiretapping of U.S. citizens under the FISA Amendments Act of 2008. The Supreme Court in Clapper v. Amnesty International ruled that our concern about government surveillance was “speculation.” It said we were required to prove to the court that the FISA Act would be used to monitor those we interviewed. But we could never offer the court proof of anyone being monitored because the government does not disclose whom it is targeting. It was only later, because of Edward Snowden, that we discovered that not only were those we interviewed being monitored but so was everyone else, including ourselves. The 2nd Circuit relied on the spurious Supreme Court ruling to say that because we could not show the indefinite-detention law was about to be used against us we could not challenge it.

After the Obama administration won its appeal in the 2nd Circuit we petitioned the Supreme Court in what is known as a certiorari, or cert, to hear our appeal. The Supreme Court takes between 80 and 100 cases a year from about 8,000 requests. The court is likely to make a decision in a few months.

The government, whose open defiance of the Constitution is brazen, has tacked back and forth before the courts as to why we have no right to bring the suit. It has, throughout the case, contradicted itself. In its current brief, for example, it claims that we as plaintiffs have nothing to fear from the indefinite-detention law. This assertion is at odds with the refusal by the government attorneys in the Southern District Court of New York to provide assurances that my co-plaintiffs and I would not be affected by the law. The government brief charges that because none of us has been threatened with imminent arrest we have no credible fear and no right to bring the case. But anyone arrested under this law would disappear into a black hole. A seized person would not have access to a lawyer or the courts. By the time you were detained under this provision all avenues of judicial appeal would be closed.

The brief also says that the Authorization for Use of Military Force Act (AUMF) already gives the president power to take such actions. This is a gross misinterpretation of the limited powers authorized under the AUMF. It also raises the question of why, if that statute does give the state this power, as the lawyers claim, the government would need to pass a new law as it did when it approved the AUMF.

The brief argues that journalists are already protected under Article 79 of Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions. This protocol calls for journalists to be treated as civilians. But this last assurance has no legal weight. The United States never ratified Additional Protocol I. Finally, the government attorneys selectively use the case Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, which permits the detention of a U.S. citizen only if he or she is an enemy combatant engaged in an active armed conflict with U.S. forces. They cite the Hamdi case to argue that the government has the legal authority to order the military to detain U.S. citizens who “substantially support” a terrorist group.

The government in the brief makes it plain that all of us can be subject to this law:

Petitioners further assert that at the initial hearing in the district court, the government declined to offer assurances that they would not be detained under any circumstances. Pet. 14, 34-38. But no legal principle requires the government to provide litigants with such advance assurances or otherwise to delineate the bounds of its authority—particularly in the context of armed conflict—in response to speculative fears of harm asserted in litigation.

“The brief argues that the government reserves the right to use the military to detain and indefinitely hold journalists under this law, although the 2nd Circuit stated that the law did not apply to U.S. citizens,” Mayer told me Sunday. “We have already seen journalists such as [you] and Laura Poitras detained and denied access to a lawyer and due process. This law will make legal any such detentions. It will permit the military, on American soil, to throw journalists and activists in a military prison without trial or due process.”

If Section 1021(b)(2) is not struck down by the Supreme Court it will effectively overturn nearly 150 years of case law that repeatedly holds that the military has no jurisdiction over civilians. A U.S. citizen charged by the government with “substantially supporting” al-Qaida, the Taliban or those in the nebulous category of “associated forces” will be lawfully subject to extraordinary rendition on U.S. soil. Arrested citizens will languish in military jails, in the language of Section 1021(b)(2), until “the end of hostilities.”

This obliteration of the right to due process and a fair hearing in a court of law, along with the mass surveillance that has abolished our right to privacy, will be the legal foundation of our militarized, corporate state. Judge Forrest warned in her 112-page opinion that whole categories of Americans could, under this law, be subject to seizure by the military. She drew parallels between Section 1021(b)(2) and Korematsu v. United States, the 1944 Supreme Court ruling that supported the government’s use of the military to detain 110,00 Japanese-Americans in internment camps during World War II. Our case offers the court an opportunity, as several lawyers have pointed out, to not only protect almost 150 years of domestic law that forbids the military to carry out domestic policing but to repudiate the shameful Korematsu decision.

Once arbitrary and indefinite detention by the military is lawful, the government will use it. If we do not win this case, all those deemed to be hostile or critical of the state, including some Muslims, journalists, dissidents and activists, will find themselves under threat.

[-] 4 points by LeoYo (5909) 7 months ago

I spent 20 years as a foreign correspondent, 15 of them with The New York Times. I interviewed numerous individuals deemed by the U.S. government to be terrorists and traveled with armed groups, including units of al-Qaida, labeled as terrorist organizations. When I reported the statements and activities of these individuals and groups, U.S. officialdom often made little distinction between them and me. This was true during the wars in Central America. It was true in the Middle East. And it was true when I covered global terrorism. There was no law at the time that permitted the government, because of my work as a reporter, to order the military to seize and detain me. Now there is. This law, if it is not struck down, will essentially replace our civilian judiciary with a military one. Those targeted under this law will not be warned beforehand that they will be arrested. They will not have a chance to get a lawyer. They will not see the inside of a courtroom. They will simply vanish.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5909) 7 months ago

Party of the rich: In Congress, it's the Democrats

http://news.yahoo.com/party-rich-congress-democrats-040228270--election.html

Associated Press By STEPHEN OHLEMACHER 8 hours ago

.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans are the party of the rich, right? It's a label that has stuck for decades, and you're hearing it again as Democrats complain about GOP opposition to raising the minimum wage and extending unemployment benefits.

But in Congress, the wealthiest among us are more likely to be represented by a Democrat than a Republican. Of the 10 richest House districts, only two have Republican congressmen. Democrats claim the top six, sprinkled along the East and West coasts. Most are in overwhelmingly Democratic states like New York and California.

The richest: New York's 12th Congressional District, which includes Manhattan's Upper East Side, as well as parts of Queens and Brooklyn. Democrat Carolyn Maloney is in her 11th term representing the district.

Per capita income in Maloney's district is $75,479. That's more than $75,000 a year for every man, woman and child. The next highest income district, which runs along the southern California coast, comes in at $61,273. Democrat Henry Waxman is in his 20th term representing the Los Angeles-area district.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi's San Francisco district comes in at No. 8.

Across the country, Democratic House districts have an average per capita income of $27,893. That's about $1,000 higher than the average income in Republican districts. The difference is relatively small because Democrats also represent a lot of poor districts, putting the average in the middle.

Democrats say the "party of the rich" label is more about policies than constituents.

During the 2012 presidential election, Republican nominee Mitt Romney declared, "We're not the party of the rich. We're the party of the people who want to get rich."

The famously wealthy Romney also uttered a more famous quote about the 47 percent of Americans who pay no federal income tax.

"My job is not to worry about those people," Romney said in a secretly taped speech at a private fundraiser. "I'll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."

In the election, Romney carried only one income group: people making $100,000 or more, according to exit polls. But when it comes to Congress, the rich districts like their Democrats.

The 10 richest House districts:


New York 12

Rep. Carolyn Maloney, Democrat

Per capita income: $75,479


California 33

Rep. Henry Waxman, Democrat

Per capita income: $61,273


New York 10

Rep. Jerry Nadler, Democrat

Per capita income: $56,138


California 18

Rep. Anna Eshoo, Democrat

Per capita income: $ 54,182


Connecticut 4

Rep. Jim Himes, Democrat

Per capita income: $50,732


Virginia 8

Rep. Jim Moran, Democrat

Per capita income: $50,210


New Jersey 7

Rep. Leonard Lance, Republican

Per capita income: $48,556


California 12

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Democrat

Per capita income: $48,523


New York 3

Rep. Steve Israel, Democrat

Per capita income: $47,991


Virginia 10

Rep. Frank Wolf, Republican

Per capita income: $47,281


Source: Census Bureau.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 7 months ago

Sen. Bernie Sanders: Supreme Court Undermines Democracy by Allowing Billionaires To "Buy Elections"

Friday, 04 April 2014 11:29
By Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! | Video Interview

http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/22900-sen-bernie-sanders-supreme-court-undermines-democracy-by-allowing-billionaires-to-buy-elections

As the 2014 election season gets underway, the Supreme Court has struck down a long-standing limit on how much donors can give to federal candidates, political parties and political action committees in a two-year election cycle. Without any aggregate limit, a donor can now give millions directly to candidates and parties. The 5-to-4 decision in the McCutcheon v. FEC case is being described as the "next Citizens United," referring to the 2010 ruling that opened the floodgates for unlimited corporate spending on U.S. elections. We speak to Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont about Wednesday’s landmark decision and his fight to remove big money from the electoral process. We also discuss Sanders’ potential presidential run in 2016, which he says he is considering "not because I wake up in the morning with a burning desire to be president … but [because] I happen to believe there are such enormous issues out there that I just don’t want to see swept under the rug."

TRANSCRIPT:

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: As the 2014 election season gets underway, the Supreme Court has issued a major ruling on campaign finance in a case described by many as "the next Citizens United." In a 5-to-4 vote Wednesday, the court’s conservative justices eliminated a long-standing limit on how much donors can give in total to federal candidates, party committees and political action committees in a two-year election cycle. Without any aggregate limit, a donor can now give millions of dollars directly to candidates and parties.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion, quote, "There is no right more basic in our democracy than the right to participate in electing our political leaders. ... Money in politics may at times seem repugnant to some, but so too does much of what the First Amendment vigorously protects."

In an unusual dissent from the bench, Justice Stephen Breyer said the decision, quote, "eviscerates our nation’s campaign finance laws, leaving a remnant incapable of dealing with the grave problems of democratic legitimacy that those laws were intended to resolve." Judge Breyer went on to say, quote, "If the court in Citizens United opened a door, today’s decision may well open a floodgate."

Meanwhile, Justice Clarence Thomas said he agreed with the majority opinion, but he wrote separately to say he would have gone further and wiped away all contribution limits.

For more, we go to Capitol Hill, where we’re joined by Senator Bernie Sanders, independent senator from Vermont. Last year he introduced a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United ruling that allowed unrestricted, secret campaign spending. Sanders was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006 after serving 16 years in the House of Representatives. He’s the longest-serving independent member of Congress in American history.

Senator Sanders, welcome back to Democracy Now! Can you first share your response to the Supreme Court decision?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: It was a disastrous decision, following on the footsteps of Citizens United. And, Amy, in my view, you know, what the justices, the right-wing justices, are talking about is freedom of speech for billionaires and large corporations to own American democracy. At a time when we already have enormous income and wealth inequality in this country, what the justices are saying is that these very same people can now basically purchase the United States government, can spend unlimited sums of money on elections. And I think that is a disaster for the foundations of American democracy.

AMY GOODMAN: Could you pass a law that says contributions must be made transparent, and sooner than they are now?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Yeah, you could pass that law. In fact, there’s been a bill around that we didn’t get Republican support for. It’s called the DISCLOSE Act. But that doesn’t go far enough. I mean, in the real world, this is what’s going on. In the real world, you have families like the Koch brothers, and you saw the spectacle in Las Vegas last week of Sheldon Adelson. And these people are prepared. These people, Amy, have billions of dollars. The Koch brothers are worth $80 billion. For them to pop a few billion dollars into the political process, for Sheldon Adelson to call prospective Republican nominees for the presidency to come before him to hear what they have to say so maybe he can anoint them with his hundreds of millions of dollars, is just an outrage to the struggles that people have undertaken in this country for democracy.

And, by the way, if you listen carefully—and you just mentioned this—what Judge Thomas was talking about—and this is where the Republicans want to go; make no mistakes about it—they say, "This is not enough. What we want," what Judge Thomas and the Republican Party want, "eventually, is to lift all limitations," so the Koch brothers or Adelson can pour millions of dollars directly into every right-wing candidate in this country.

AMY GOODMAN: On Wednesday morning, Republican House Speaker John Boehner praised the Supreme Court decision as a victory for freedom of speech. This is what he said.

SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: What I think this means is that freedom of speech is being upheld. You all have the freedom to write what you want to write. Donors ought to have the freedom to give what they want to give. This was—remember, all this goes back to this bizarre McCain-Feingold bill that was passed that has distorted the political process in ways that no one—no one who voted for it ever believed in. Some of us understood what was going to happen. And when you—it’s pushing all this money outside the party structure into all these other various forms. And I’m all for freedom. Congratulations.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 7 months ago

AMY GOODMAN: House Speaker John Boehner. Senator Sanders, your response?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Well, my response is that Boehner is right, in a sense. He’s talking about freedom for a few hundred of the wealthiest people in this country. If you go up to the average person and say, "Guess what! We’ve given you more freedom. Previously, you could only spend $125,000 in direct contributions to candidates; now you have the freedom to spend $4 or $5 million." People will look at you like you are crazy. This is freedom for a handful of the wealthiest people in this country to undermine American democracy and to buy elections. That is, to my mind, not what democracy is supposed to be about.

And let me add this, Amy, because I think a lot of people, you know, have concerns about the economy, healthcare, the environment. They say, "Well, this is really not all that important." They’re wrong. Understand what these folks want, most of the people who are contributing, the billionaires who are contributing into the political process. Take a look at what the Koch brothers’ agenda is about. It is to end Social Security—privatize it, cut it—end Medicare as we know it, end Medicaid, cut federal aid to education, do away with the Environmental Protection Agency so these guys can pollute and pollute and pollute. This is a decision that will impact every American’s life, giving more power to the very, very wealthy and, in my view, moving this country away from a democratic form of society into an oligarchic form of society.

AMY GOODMAN: How does this McCutcheon decision compare to Citizens United?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: It’s a bad decision, not as bad, in my view, as Citizens United. What Citizens United—you know, what this decision says is, "OK, you can now spend $5 million in direct contributions to candidates." That’s really bad. What Citizens United says is, "Hey, you can go into your corporate treasury. You can spend hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars."

Just one last point on that. Both Obama and Mitt Romney spent a little over a billion dollars in their campaigns. I suspect that in the next presidential campaign the Koch brothers—themselves—will spend a billion dollars to elect the candidate of their choice.

AMY GOODMAN: So, Senator Sanders, what are you planning to do about this?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Well, I think we’ve got to move forward in a couple of directions. I think the first point that we have to move—direction that we have to move in is to overturn Citizens United. And that requires a constitutional amendment. There are now many, many hundreds of cities and towns throughout the country who have gone on record in supporting overturning Citizens United. I think there are something like 16 or 17 states that have done that.

Here’s the point, Amy, on this one, and it’s an interesting point: I do not believe that this is simply a progressive-versus-conservative issue. I think you’ve got a lot of ordinary conservatives out there who say, "You know what? We didn’t fight and die in war to preserve democracy so that a handful of billionaires can control the political process." I think we can put together a strong coalition. I think we’ve got to focus on that. Groups like Public Citizen are already doing a great job.

Second thing we’ve got to do—longer-term, but equally important—we need to move to public funding of elections—doing exactly the opposite of what Boehner was talking about. Boehner talks about freedom for billionaires to be able to buy elections. Our job is to say to these billionaires, "Sorry, you’re not going to buy elections." Everybody in this country, whether you have a lot of money or not, should have the opportunity to run for office.

AMY GOODMAN: What about your plans in 2016, Senator Sanders? Are you considering running for president of the United States?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Well, what I have said, Amy, is that I am considering running it—running for president. It’s a long way from Election Day and very long time before I have to make that decision. The reason that I made that—that I said that is not because I wake up in the morning with a burning desire to be president. That really is not the case. But I happen to believe that there are such enormous issues out there that I just don’t want to see swept under the rug. The middle class in this country is disappearing. We have more people living in poverty than ever before. The gap between the very, very rich, everybody else, is growing wider. The scientific community tells us that climate change is the great environmental crisis facing our planet, that we need bold and aggressive action to reverse greenhouse gas emissions. Real unemployment today is 12 percent; it’s not 6.8 percent. We need to create millions of jobs. We need to be deal with the issue. You and I have been talking about election reform, constitutional amendment. This is a critical moment in American history, and the same old, same old is not really good enough. So, I’m going to be going around the country talking to people and see what kind of support there is for a strong progressive agenda.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, apparently, a lot of pressure was brought on Senator Elizabeth Warren not to run, from the Hillary Clinton camp—I can’t say campaign, because she hasn’t announced. Are you feeling any of that kind of pressure?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: No, I’m not. And, you know, I have a lot of respect for Elizabeth. She’s doing a great job in the Senate. But the issue to me is to make sure that the needs of working families, the needs of the middle class, the needs of lower-income people get a fair shot, that they are being heard, that the ideas that we need to transform American society are getting out there.

AMY GOODMAN: The minimum wage? President Obama’s push for $10.10?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Well, I hope very much—I think, obviously, we’ve got to go higher than that, but $10.10 is a good start, will take many, many millions of people out of poverty. We also have to deal with the tip wage situation, where you have waiters and waitresses making just a few dollars an hour. So, if we’re talking about lowering the number of people who are living in poverty, giving people a little bit of dignity, we’ve got to start by at least raising the minimum wage to $10.10. Got to go further than that. But probably equally important, we need a massive jobs program in this country to create millions of jobs. We can do that by rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, by transforming our energy system away from fossil fuel to energy efficiency and sustainable energy.

AMY GOODMAN: And Obamacare—your state, Vermont, is going toward a kind of single-payer plan in the next few years.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: That is right. I am a strong advocate of a Medicare-for-all, single-payer program. I think we should all take a deep breath and ask why it is that the United States of America is the only major country on Earth that doesn’t guarantee healthcare for all people as a right. And yet, with tens of millions of people uninsured, we end up spending almost twice as much per capita on healthcare as do the people of any other country. So, I do believe that healthcare is a right. I believe a Medicare-for-all, single-payer is the way to go. I hope my state of Vermont will lead the nation in that direction. And if we do it well, I suspect that other states will follow.

AMY GOODMAN: And finally, NSA surveillance, your stance, from the USA PATRIOT Act to what has been exposed until now?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: I voted against the USA PATRIOT Act on two occasions. I feared very much what in fact is happening. I think you have agencies like the NSA, CIA, for that matter, who are pretty much out of control and, under the guise of fighting terrorism, have taken a giant step in undermining constitutional rights and the privacy rights of the American people. I think there is no excuse for capturing the phone calls and filing the phone calls of virtually every American, no excuse, to my mind, for getting into the emails and visiting the websites that people are watching. You know, yes, of course, we have to be vigorous in protecting this country against terrorism. But I think there’s no question in my mind that the intelligence agencies have gone far beyond where they should be going.

AMY GOODMAN: Senator Bernie Sanders, I know you have to leave. Thank you so much for joining us, speaking to us from the Rotunda in Washington, D.C. This is Democracy Now! Senator Sanders is the independent senator from Vermont. Last year he introduced a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United ruling that allowed unrestricted, secret campaign money. He is the long-serving independent member of Congress in U.S. history.

When we come back, we’ll go to a Mother Jones reporter to talk about just who Shaun McCutcheon is. The Supreme Court decision was called McCutcheon v. FEC. We’ll speak with Andy Kroll. Stay with us.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 6 months ago

Social Movement and Electoral Movements, Not One or the Other

Saturday, 12 April 2014 09:13
By Michael Trudeau, Truthout | Op-Ed

http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/23029-social-movement-and-electoral-movements-not-one-or-the-other

A recent ZNet article by Bill Fletcher and Ted Glick - who was a main proponent of a so-called safe-states strategy for the Green Party in 2004 - proposes that Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, an independent and self-described democratic socialist, should run for president in 2016 as a Democrat.

On the left, it has long been argued whether electoral politics can have any lasting effect on positive societal change or whether activists should instead focus solely on building social movements. In the latter camp, commentators such as Patrick Barrett, writing in Truthout, argue that a run for president by Bernie Sanders, for example, would be a huge waste of time and resources, and some even call for boycotts of elections. Why? The "social-movement-only" proponents argue that electoral politics is counterproductive because it undercuts social movements by diverting too much energy to elections. The argument goes that even electoral movements independent of the two-party system, such as the Green Party, weaken popular movements by pacifying them and quickly devolve into duopoly politics as usual.

The boycott argument goes that US elections are completely undemocratic, that voters are invited to choose between various representatives of the same corporatocracy. Boycott proponents have forgotten, though, that some parties exist to challenge that very corporatocracy. Boycotters are welcome to try to convince Democrat and Republican lawmakers that they have no need to worry about alternative parties threatening their rule. Maybe then these politicians would stop routinely passing bipartisan legislation meant to thwart the advancement of alternative parties - just as Obama did in concert with Republicans on April 3 by eliminating public funding of party primaries and conventions, a ban that disproportionally affects minor parties that do not rely on wealthy donors and corporate funding. The fact is, the duopoly sees the threat of alternative parties and works hard to curb it.

What are these social-movement-only activists - who sometimes scorn independent parties such as the Greens - picturing when they pose the argument that electoral politics are a nuisance and counterproductive? What is their vision for social change? Do social-movement-only proponents still believe that people such as Rahm Emanuel, George Bush, Scott Walker, Chris Christie, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, etc., give a damn about their movements and issues? Do they still believe that the more progressive Democratic politicians will be able to deliver on these issues even if they do agree? Why do these activists think these politicians will enact policies their movement advocates? If the politicians do enact such policies, what makes these activists think the legislation would be anything but meager, incremental and placating? Remember to whom you're appealing for change. When, in recent times, has lobbying these politicians resulted in the kinds of foundational changes fought for by committed activists and desired by most of the American public? Isn't that exactly the problem that nearly all Americans recognize to be true, that politicians do not act in service to people?

Social-movement-only activists who disdain electoral movements must be envisioning a kind of utopian revolution in which all these bad guys in government simply step down, and all the noble and peaceful revolutionaries take their places or, more utopian yet, these altruistic revolutionaries democratically decide to abolish the entire idea of governance. What else could they be envisioning for revolutionary change? Don't revolutionary movements with no electoral option almost always devolve into chaos and violence, especially when confronted with hostile police resistance, as has happened and will surely continue to happen in the United States? Don't revolutionary movements with no electoral option end up getting one of various corporate, oligarchic spokespersons, as has occurred in Ukraine?

Wouldn't a better strategy be to elect activists to government so that they can fight for social changes on their own behalf and on yours and bring popular movements into the halls of government?

A peaceful, coherent, organized, sustained, democratic revolution is probably impossible in the United States. There are police-state measures in place to see to that, such as laws limiting public assembly and efforts to sow chaos - and these measures are backed by corporate governance willing to get violent. It is time that social-movement-only activists acknowledge that no desirable foundational change is possible in the United States until there are a number of popular movements afoot, plus 25 million or so people voting for a radical noncorporate party in the presidential elections, plus noncorporate candidates winning councils, state legislatures, and then seats in Congress, ensuring these social movements have the political legitimacy that should already be rightfully theirs.

Not voting Democrat is key. This is the vital flaw of the Glick and Fletcher argument, the "progressive Democrat" argument. When activists commit to an independent alternative such as the Green Party or Socialist Alternative, they are voting their activism and they are voting against corporate governance - and they are building something new in the process. Movements do not die when we vote our activism. Green and Socialist Alternative candidates and members are activists. The movement for a $15-per-hour minimum wage, for example, is growing thanks in no small part to Kshama Sawant's victory in Seattle; it's not dying because of her victory, contrary to the logic of social-movement-only advocates. Imagine if Ralph Nader had magically won the presidential election in 2008. The antiwar movement would not have died as it did under Obama - no, it would have grown. Imagine if Jill Stein had won a good chunk of the popular vote in 2012; the forgive-student-debt and single-payer and Occupy movements and many others would have continued to grow. Under Green mayor Gayle McLaughlin in Richmond, California, the effort to use eminent domain to subvert the big banks on their faulty mortgages is not dying because of McLaughlin's reelection in 2010; it's spreading.

Social-movement-only activists are correct that these movements have a tendency to fizzle out when they reach electoral politics, but that is because in recent history most of these movements have ultimately been funneled into the Democratic Party, by electing or appealing to Democrats. What else should we expect when we allow a corporate party to become the umbrella organization for noncorporate, grassroots activism?

That is why few Greens had hope for the prospect of a Dennis Kucinich presidency and certainly no hope for an Obama presidency. That's why Greens will reject Senator Bernie Sanders as a Democrat in 2016 for president - but may very well fight for him if he wishes to join the Greens. Movements grow inalternative parties with or without election wins - runs by the likes of Ralph Nader and Jill Stein have increased awareness and the will to fight on a host of major issues like NAFTA and now the TPP, not made us "cynical and disillusioned," as critics oddly claim. In the view of electoral activists, it is the cynics who think that voting and electoral politics have no value. The cynics believe this because they are not involved in alternative party-building, or perhaps because they fight for critical issues only to support Democrats at the polls.

Social movements die in the Democratic Party, but they grow in independent, alternative parties. Social-only activists would do well to recognize that we are in this fight together and to lend a hand. We need their help, and if our shared goal is a democratic transformation of undemocratic institutions, then they need ours. In the meantime, rhetoric about shunning elections only discourages newcomers and will leave the left further marginalized. Much to the pleasure of our corporate governors, it undermines what electoral activists are accomplishing.

Copyright, Truthout.

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