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January 26, 2010

Dworkin on the "appalling" Citizens United decision

Ronald Dworkin has a great essay about the Citizens United decision in the New York Review of Books. 

Here's a taste.

On the most generous understanding the decision displays the five justices’ instinctive favoritism of corporate interests. But some commentators, including The New York Times, have suggested a darker interpretation. The five justices may have assumed that allowing corporations to spend freely against candidates would favor Republicans; perhaps they overruled long-established laws and precedents out of partisan zeal. If so, their decision would stand beside the Court’s 2000 decision in Bush v. Gore as an unprincipled political act with terrible consequences for the nation.

We should notice not just the bad consequences of the decision, however, but the poor quality of the arguments Justice Kennedy offered to defend it. The conservative justices savaged canons of judicial restraint they themselves have long praised. Chief Justice Roberts takes every opportunity to repeat what he said, under oath, in his Senate nomination hearings: that the Supreme Court should avoid declaring any statute unconstitutional unless it cannot decide the case before it in any other way. Now consider how shamelessly he and the other Justices who voted with the majority ignored that constraint in their haste to declare the Act unconstitutional in time for the coming mid-term elections.

Read the rest here.

January 25, 2010

Strange Bedfellows: Why the AFL-CIO teamed up with Citizens United

In my latest piece for Working In These Times, I examine the AFL-CIO's decision to throw in its lot with the conservative Citizens United to challenge campaign finance restrictions on corporate political advertising by corporations. Prediction: This won't end well for labor.

October 16, 2009

Health reform: More details emerge on White House-DSCC-industry alliance

Ben Smith has an interesting story in Politico about the alliance between the White House, high-ranking senate Dems, and health care industry lobbyists; a pact that launched a thousand TV spots:

At a meeting last April with corporate lobbyists, aides to President Barack Obama and Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) helped set in motion a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign, primarily financed by industry groups, that has played a key role in bolstering public support for health care reform.

The role Baucus’s chief of staff, Jon Selib, and deputy White House chief of staff Jim Messina played in launching the groups was part of a successful effort by Democrats to enlist traditional enemies of health care reform to their side. No quid pro quo was involved, they insist, as do the lobbyists themselves.

Two groups were created in that meeting: Americans for Quality Stable Health Care and Healthy Economy Now. These groups have since run millions of dollars worth of ads advancing the president's health care reform agenda. The pharmaceutical trade group PhRMA is the largest single contributor to the $24 million project, according to Smith.

A lot of people wondered why the White House gave the Senate Finance Committee the lead role in crafting health care reform legislation. The Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP) would have been a more obvious choice.

I doubt it's a coincidence that Finance Chair Max Baucus's chief of staff, Jon Selib, played a key role in creating the coalition that steered millions of industry dollars into the push for reform. The White House swears there was no quid pro quo. But it goes without saying that if industry is paying to pass reform, industry expects a say in what kind of reform we get. Nobody every has to say "I'll pay for your ads if you kill the pubic option" or anything blunt like that. 

March 14, 2009

"FRED" is the new "enemy combatant"

Our go-to guy for all things GTMO, the Talking Dog, reacts to yesterday's announcement that the prisoners at Guantanamo will no longer be designated "enemy combatants."

No more enemy combatants means no more holding people indefinitely without legal rights or trials based on scant evidence of tenuous connections to terrorism, right? Sadly, no.

TD explains:

But no... instead, as Scotusblog reports here, the main effect of the change(TM) is to change the nomenclature, and the hypothetical doctrinal bases ("derived from international law rather than from inherent Presidential power")... but ... the policy is... largely the same as that in the Bush Administration. And that policy is, quite literally, an "enemy combatant" (now to be called... something else) is anyone we say had any relation to anyone whatsoever that we say is bad. And the truly sad thing is... I'm not even making that up!

The old Bush administration legal theory said that the president had constitutional power to designate people as enemy combatants. That theory has been rejected.

Luckily for fans of indefinite detention, there's another theory whereby international law can designate people as some other thing, using more or less the same criteria as the president used to designate enemy combatants.

The Talking Dog estimates that 100% of the people who used to be enemy combatants will end up being called some other thing--with no substantive change in their legal rights. If they're looking for a snappy new name, TD suggests "Foreign Renditioned Enemy Detainee," or "FRED."

September 26, 2008

McCain wins debate, Dewey beats Truman

Mccain_wins_debate_ad McCain ads say he won the debate. This is an official McCain web ad that got released prematurely, according to WaPo campaign blogger Chris Cillizza.

September 12, 2008

Palin championed aerial hunting of wolves

As governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin teamed up with lobbyist for the hunting industry to champion the aerial hunting of wolves an bears. In 2007, she spent $400,000 of taxpayer's money to propagandize the public about the benefits of shooting wildlife with air supremacy:

The controversy over Palin's promotion of predator control goes beyond animal rights activists recoiling at the thought of picking off wolves from airplanes. A raft of scientists has argued that Palin has provided little evidence that the current program of systematically killing wolves, estimated at a population of 7,000 to 11,000, will result in more moose for hunters. State estimates of moose populations have come under scrutiny. Some wildlife biologists say predator control advocates don't even understand what wolves eat.

State officials stand by their scientific findings on predator control. "Several times over the past several years, our science has been challenged in court," says Bruce Bartley, a spokesman for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. "In every instance it has prevailed." [Salon]

Now an environmental group is taking Palin to task for her record on aerial hunting. Be warned, the ad is graphic, disturbing, and factual:

Aerial hunting is an affront to honorable hunters and animal lovers because it's unsportsmanlike and pseudoscientific.

August 01, 2008

McCain ad experiments with this "irony" thing that the young people enjoy

The take home message is a little incongruous: Barack Obama is the confident, vital, handsome, and universally beloved candidate. Therefore, vote for John McCain.

July 12, 2008

Could we raise $250,000?

Could Al Qaeda?

Just checking...

According to one Bush Pioneer and Homeland Security Council Member, a mere quarter of a million dollars towards the GW Bush library is all it costs to gain high-level access to the federal government of the United States of America.

A lobbyist with close ties to the White House is offering access to key figures in George W Bush’s administration in return for six-figure donations to the private library being set up to commemorate Bush’s presidency.

Stephen Payne, who claims to have raised more than $1m for the president’s Republican party in recent years, said he would arrange meetings with Dick Cheney, the vice-president, Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state, and other senior officials in return for a payment of $250,000 (£126,000) towards the library in Texas.

Payne, who has accompanied Bush and Cheney on several foreign trips, also said he would try to secure a meeting with the president himself. [ST]

That's less, I would guess, than an ad during the Super Bowl. In fact, it's less than a tenth of the 2007 price for a premium Super Bowl slot.

May 19, 2008

McCain: Pro-life. Not Just Recently. Never Wavering.

A mailer from the McCain campaign dated January 2, 2008. The big print bills John McCain as "Pro-Life."

That headline's good, clear copywriting, and basically accurate.

McCain is on the record for embryonic stem cell research, which some extremists might consider a strike against his pro-life cred. McCain also had a very public dustup with the National Right to Life Committee a while back, but that was over those pesky campaign finance laws he used to care about, not reproductive rights.

As Nancy Keenan of NARAL told NPR earlier this year, McCain's record on reproductive choice is consistently poor:

"He voted against family planning, he voted against the freedom of access to clinic entrances — that was about violence against women in clinics," Keenan says, adding, "He voted against funding for teen pregnancy-prevention programs, and making sure that abstinence only was medically accurate. This is very, very extreme." [NPR]

McCain has voted on abortion and reproductive rights 119 times since 1983 and sided against choice 115 times, according to this NARAL fact sheet.

The tagline protests a little too much, though: "Not just recently. Always. Unwavering." (Click on image to enlarge.)


May 10, 2008

McCain's Mother's Day ad: 27 bottles of scotch at the club

John McCain and his mother discuss the weekend Johnnie was born, lo these many years ago. His mom says the Boys at the Club bought 27 bottles of scotch to celebrate the blessed event.

Now I've got the song stuck in my head: 27 bottles of Scotch at the club, 27 bottles of Scotch, take one down, pass it around...

[HT: Sadly, No]