Heres a video that graphically, horribly demonstrates the almost criminal anti-science attitudes that utterly dominate one of our two major political parties.
Another awful Supreme Court decision today extends the Citizens United disaster and further erodes America’s political system by striking down aggregate limits on campaign contributions; according to the new ruling, wealthy individuals may now contribute as much as $3.6 million to a single politician.
The decision — written by Chief Justice John Roberts and joined by Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy and Samuel Alito — held that “aggregate limits are invalid under the First Amendment.” Justice Clarence Thomas concurred with the other conservative justices but penned a separate opinion arguing that campaign finance restrictions should be wiped out further.
The conservative justices argued that eliminating aggregate cont limits doesn’t give rise to “quid pro quo corruption” which the court recognized as a legitimate rationale for campaign finance restrictions in the landmark Buckley v. Valeo case in 1976.
“Spending large sums of money in connection with elections, but not in connection with an effort to control the exercise of an officeholder’s official duties, does not give rise to such quid pro quo corruption,” Roberts wrote in the ruling. “Nor does the possibility that an individual who spends large sums may garner ‘influence over or access to’ elected officials or political parties.”
The law currently permits individuals to spend no more than $2,600 per election per candidate, allowing for up to $5,200 for a primary and general election. The aggregate limit is $48,600 on contribution to candidates for an election cycle, and $74,600 on campaign committees. The Supreme Court ruling keeps the individual limits and eliminates the aggregate limits. Supporters of the law noted that without limits, a single donor could contribute as much as $3.6 million to a single politician between giving to candidates and committees.
[Live event concluded.]
Michele Bachmann (R-Mars) Says People Who Criticize the Koch Brothers Should Be Prosecuted Under the RICO Act
The latest Republican crackpot to come out in defense of the Koch brothers and their big, big far right money: the always fully-deranged Michele Bachmann.
Bachmann advocates using the RICO Act against people who criticize the Koch brothers.
I just thank God that there’s a billionaire or two on our side. All the billionaires seem to be on the radical left, so I’m glad that we have a couple on ours. I hope we get a few more that are willing that come out but realize also this is an intimidation movement, I’m sure that the donors on our side don’t like to have their names vilified and that’s what this is about, intimidating people from giving money to our cause, that’s it. There’s something called the RICO statute, the racketeering law, that should be applied against them for doing this.
Today we learn (via Buzzfeed’s Rosie Gray) that Qatari news network Al Jazeera offered Julian Assange more than a million dollars for access to the diplomatic cables Wikileaks acquired in 2010.
And that’s not all; they also offered sexual favors.
In “Ghosted,” a story by Andrew O’Hagan in the London Review of Books about his experience ghostwriting an autobiography of Assange that was never published, he alleges that Al Jazeera offered Assange $1.3 million in exchange for WikiLeaks data.
“That night, a guy from al-Jazeera was talking to the group,” O’Hagan wrote of a night in January 2011. “The group was usually just Sarah, who lived there, and Joseph Farrell, a pleasant twenty-something whizz kid who came and went. Another guy, an activist and academic from Canberra University, was drinking wine and talking about how to mobilise the world. It turned out that the guy from al-Jazeera was hoping to strike a deal with WikiLeaks - that’s to say, with Julian. He was offering $1.3 million to get access (via encryption keys) to the data. He also wanted to organise a conference in Qatar on press freedom.”
According to James Ball, a former WikiLeaks employee, another meeting with Al Jazeera executives took place in December 2010 in the office of Mark Stephens, then Assange’s lawyer. Ball and WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson represented Assange’s side, while two high-level Al Jazeera employees, one described as the “third-in-charge” and one introduced as the head of investigations, represented Al Jazeera, according to Ball.
According to Ball, the Al Jazeera executives offered to fly the pair to Doha and “make us comfortable.” They offered other things too: “I remember a remark along the lines of noting the women there were very lovely, and very friendly,” Ball said.
At the end, one of the executives asked the men, “What would it take to make you happy?” Ball said.
Just another example of how this libertarian/anarchist ideology corrupts everything it touches.
Our photo of the day comes from a Ukrainian website with tons of pictures from the extravagant mansion of former Prosecutor General Viktor Pshonka: Блог Євгена Чубука : Скарби Пшонки - фоторепортаж з будинку кривавого генпрокурора.
Yes, that’s Pshonka in the framed picture.
Here’s a video walk-through of Pshonka’s digs, proving once again that all the money in the world can’t buy good taste.
This article provides a brief but fascinating history of the corporate quest for civil (personhood) rights and how dangerous it is to our democracy. (I had no idea it goes all the way back to the end of the Civil War/beginning of the Gilded Age!)
Last week, The Wire creator David Simon told Bill Moyers that the legal doctrine that spending money on political campaigns is an act of political speech protected by the First Amendment poses the greatest threat to American democracy. “That to me was the nail in the coffin,” he said. “If the combination of the monetization of our elections and gerrymandering create a bicameral legislature that doesn’t in any way reflect the will of the American people, you’ve reached the end game for democracy.”
He’s right. Not only does money as speech allow those with the fattest wallets to drown out the voices of average citizens, as John Light points out, it also gives wealthy donors an effective veto over policies that enjoy majority support. But it’s important to understand the other ways that the expansion of civil rights for corporations can conflict with the public interest.
As Simon observed, the notion of corporate personhood isn’t inherently problematic. The concept that companies are “artificial persons” is necessary because you can’t enter into a contract with an inanimate object, and you can’t take an inanimate object to court if that contract is breached.
Problems arise when these soulless artificial persons demand constitutional rights that were designed to protect real, flesh-and-blood people. […]
By the way, if you enjoy looking at scanned historical documents, you can find a ton of them at the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) website. Here’s a link to four high resolution pages of the U.S. Constitution, which is where Wikipedia got their copies. If you prefer to have all four pages as a PDF, you can download it here (7MB).
Most of what you find at NARA should be in the public domain:
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Please note that a few images on other areas of our web site have been obtained from other organizations and that these are always credited. Permission to use these photographs should be obtained directly from those organizations.
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You know how the right wing has always despised New Jersey Governor Chris Christie as a RINO, someone who’s willing to make deals and compromises; in other words, a total loser?
Well, suddenly Christie is back in the good graces of the right, and all it took was a massive corruption scandal: Bridge-Gate: Why Conservatives Are Now Embracing Chris Christie.
After being snubbed last year, embattled New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) has been invited to speak next month at the Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC - the biggest conservative confab of the year.
Governor Christie, under intense pressure over the ongoing “Bridge-gate” scandal, was also embraced over the weekend by top Republicans appearing on Sunday talk shows. On ABC News, Rep. Paul Ryan (R) of Wisconsin called Christie a “fantastic governor.” And both he and Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) of Louisiana (appearing on CNN) said Christie should stay on as chairman of the Republican Governors Association.
Even some of the most conservative lights, who typically ridicule Christie as a “RINO” - a Republican in Name Only - have managed at times to come down on Christie’s side since Bridge-gate broke last month. Fox News host Sean Hannity has defended Christie’s use of hurricane Sandy relief money.
Just more evidence that the overriding principle driving the conservative movement in 2014 is a sort of base, mean-spirited contrarianism.
Very bad news for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie today, as former Port Authority official David Wildstein now says he has evidence Christie knew about the lane closings on the George Washington Bridge.
In a letter released by his lawyer, the official, David Wildstein, a high school friend of Mr. Christie’s who was appointed with the governor’s blessing at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which controls the bridge, described the order to close the lanes as “the Christie administration’s order” and said “evidence exists as well tying Mr. Christie to having knowledge of the lane closures, during the period when the lanes were closed, contrary to what the governor stated publicly in a two-hour press conference” three weeks ago.
Here’s the actual letter from Wildstein’s attorneys:
In his news conference last week, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said he had not seen aide David Wildstein (implicated in the GWB bridge-closing scandal) for “a long time.”
Well, it seems this was not true.
Gov. Chris Christie was with the official who arranged the closure of local lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge on Sept. 11, 2013 — the third day of the closures, and well after they had triggered outrage from local officials beset by heavy traffic.
It isn’t known what, if anything, Mr. Christie discussed with David Wildstein that day, when the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey official was among the delegation of Mr. Christie’s representatives who welcomed him to the site of the World Trade Center for the commemoration of the 12th anniversary of the terrorist attacks there.
Christie spokesman Colin Reed said, “Of course, Governor Christie attended the September 11th ceremony as he has done every year since he took office. He had numerous interactions with public officials that morning, including representatives of the Port Authority. They were all there for one reason - to pay tribute to the heroes of 9/11.”
Mr. Wildstein did not respond to a request for comment.
Also present with Mr. Christie that day were Bill Baroni, the authority’s deputy executive director, who was helping Mr. Wildstein manage the fallout from the closures among local officials, subpoenaed documents show. Also there was David Samson, the Port Authority chairman and close Christie ally, who has said he didn’t learn of the lane closures and traffic in Fort Lee, N.J., until an email from a New York port official ordered the lane closures reversed. Messrs. Samson and Baroni didn’t respond to requests for comment.