Campaign Finance

Some are Red, Some are Blue — But ALL are Green

Ever wonder who’s being bought out by who when you’re looking at legislators?  Well, wonder no more.  Nicholas Rubin, 16 year old kid developed an app for that!  It’s available at ALLAREGREEN.com for download.  Once installed in the browser of your choice, hover your mouse over name and popup will open. It contains total contributions, small donations of ≤ $200, and industry breakdown from the last full election cycle. For small donations, highlights percentages as follows: ≤5%5-10%≥10% and provides rank #__ for the top 50 members of Congress.  You can also click on the name in the popup to get the latest 2014 contribution data on opensecrets.org. Click on  or  to see which campaign finance reform bills each member of Congress supports on reform.to.  Click on the small donor percentage for a ranked list of all members of Congress.

Pelosi“Exactly one hundred years ago, in Harper’s Weekly, Louis Brandeis made the frequently quoted statement that “sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.” Brandeis’s preceding sentence in the article may be less well known, but it is equally important: “Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases.” I created Greenhouse to shine light on a social and industrial disease of today: the undue influence of money in our Congress. This influence is everywhere, even if it is hidden. I aim to expose and publicize that disease through technology that puts important data where it is most useful, on websites where people read about the actions, or inaction, of members of Congress every day.

BoehnerIt is my hope that providing increased transparency around the amount and source of funding of our elected representatives may play a small role in educating citizens and promoting change. If you use the extension when reading about a Congressional vote on energy policy, for example, maybe you’ll discover that a sponsor of a bill has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the oil and gas industry. Or maybe you’ll learn that the top donors to a member of Congress who opposes tort reform are lawyers and law firms. I use the totals from the last full election cycle (generally 2011-12 for Representatives and 2007-12 for Senators) because it is the most complete. I also provide access to the most up-to-date 2014 data on OpenSecrets.org by clicking on the name of the member of Congress in the popup. Data in the popup will be updated later in this election cycle as 2014 contributions are more complete. Special thanks to OpenSecrets.org for providing access to the data.

The motto of Greenhouse is: “Some are red. Some are blue. All are green.” What it signifies is that the influence of money on our government isn’t a partisan issue. Whether Democrat or Republican, we should all want a political system that is independent of the influence of big money and not dependent on endless cycles of fundraising from special interests. The United States of America was founded to serve individuals, not big interests or big industries. Yet every year we seem to move further and further away from our Founders’ vision.

I plan to continue to refine this resource and expand it into other areas. If you have any feedback or ideas, please send them to me using the form below. I look forward to hearing from you. And feel free to spread the word using the Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus icons above!

Even though I am only 16 years old, not quite old enough to vote, I am old enough to know that our political system desperately needs fixing. I hope that this tool is one step in that direction.”

Thanks ….

Koch Bros Pursuing Election Domination

The Washington’s Post’s “The Fix” blog posted charts that show, clear as day, how the Koch brothers’ Americans For Prosperity is absolutely dominating the airwaves in states with competitive U.S. Senate races.

No wonder Nate Silver’s predictions are giving Republicans the edge!

AFP01

A companion chart for the most competitive House races tells a very similar story.

AFP02

The Koch brothers’ primary political organization is outspending both the Democratic Senate and House PACs by more than 2-to-1!  The Koch Brothers and their allies (Exxon Mobil, Monsanto, and others) spend their money to make America safe for corporate polluters, to let big banks run amok with the financial systems and to protect gains for the 1% at the expense of the rest of us.  This kind of spending by billionaire funded organizations on demonstrably negative ads should make it infinitely clear that we need to get the dark money out of our politics.

Those negative attack ads are just that.  They tell you absolutely zip-point-nothing about the candidate they’re supporting.  Instead, they tell half-truths and out-right lies to demean our Democratic candidates to influence how you’ll vote.  Do a bit of reading. Research a couple of topics.  Learn to spot the lies.  Read their platform, because that will tell you exactly what they intend to do once elected.

Until we can get that money out, it’s extremely important that you don’t just sit back on your couch and let this election pass by.  You need to make sure you understand the issues and what’s at stake.  You may not be able to contribute $$$ to any given campaign, but there is one thing you can do.  You can get up off your couch, head to the polls and vote, bot for selection of an effective Democratic candidate during the Primary election, and then again for a Democratic candidate for the Nevada House seats.

I work those polls each year.  I’ll look forward to seeing you show up to cast your ballot.

Cleaning Up Campaign Finance to Save the Environment

The assault on our democracy is a bigger problem than the temporary closure of national parks.

By Michael Brune

Michael Brune

America’s best idea is in trouble, and I don’t mean our national parks. Yes, our parks were closed, which was a crushing disappointment for millions of would-be visitors and an economic gut-punch for neighboring communities — to the tune of $76 million dollars a day.

But what’s really under attack is something even older than our national park system: our democracy.

Image courtesy of Oil Change International

How did we reach a point where one fraction of one party that controls one chamber of Congress would drive our government into the ground if it doesn’t get everything its members want? ‘This shutdown is like a firefighter standing on the hose to stop the rest of the company from putting out a blaze until he gets a million-dollar raise — all while the building burns.

We didn’t get here by accident. It’s the result of a systematic attack on basic democratic principles by a handful of people who have no interest in a functioning democracy. While there is no excuse, there is an explanation.

It starts with big money. The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision opened the floodgates for a tidal wave of corrupting corporate money into our system. But where is the money coming from and where is it going?

Huge amounts are from polluter-backed groups, which spent more than $270 million on television ads in just two months of the 2012 election — and that explains why Congress has taken more than 300 votes attacking clean air and water. The same people who are poisoning our democracy are also determined to poison our environment. It’s no surprise that 80 percent of Americans agree that political money is preventing our most important challenges from being addressed.

At the same time, special interest groups are spending millions to keep anyone who disagrees with them away from the polls and out of office. No sooner did the Supreme Court gut a key part of the Voting Rights Act, that state houses with Republican majorities pushed through suppressive legislation to keep young people, seniors, students, and people of color away from the polls. It’s no coincidence that those are the same citizens who have voted against them.

These challenges have led the Sierra Club to team up with the NAACP, Communications Workers of America, and Greenpeace to form the Democracy Initiative. Our goal is to build a movement to halt the corrupting influence of corporate money in politics, prevent the manipulation and suppression of voters, and address other obstacles to significant reform.

Challenges to our democracy might get even worse. We’re fighting a frightening Supreme Court challenge to campaign finance limits that would allow individuals to write million dollar checks to buy influence, brought to the court by Shaun McCutcheon — a coal company CEO.

Only about 1,200 people came close to reaching the spending limits McCutcheon wants overturned — and a good number of them are oil, gas, and coal executives, from the sectors that directly contributed $40 million in 2012. Give them free rein to write whatever size of a check they want, and we’ll see that number skyrocket.

The faster that money pours in, the quicker the voices of ordinary Americans are drowned out. We can’t let that happen. And we won’t. They may have millions of dollars, but we have millions of people. And, thanks to efforts like the Democracy Initiative, we are organizing and coming together to make sure our voices are heard.

If we want to see more shutdowns and debt crises, then we should maintain the status quo. If we want more attacks on our air, water, and climate, then all we need to do is turn away in disgust at the political posturing. But if we want to restore a democracy that works for Americans and will preserve a healthy planet for future generations, it’s time to stand up and fight back.


Michael Brune is the executive director of the Sierra Club, the largest grassroots environmental organization in the United States. SierraClub.org. Image courtesy of Oil Change International. Distributed via OtherWords (OtherWords.org)

Fair Elections — RIP

The Supreme Court’s Shelby ruling aids a Republican plan to win more elections without winning support from more voters.

— by Emily Schwartz Greco and William A. Collins

imageVoting rights are under attack again — this time it’s the Supreme Court’s turn.

The majority’s ruling in the Shelby County vs. Holder case gutted key Voting Rights Act provisions at a time when minority access to the polls faces new obstacles.

As Justice Ruth Ginsburg explained and proved in her dissent, the law is working well but remains necessary. She likened the ruling to “throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.”

But not everyone is peeved. The decision cheered up any Republican leaders who remained sour that their hospitality to the far-right fringe came back to bite them last November.

In what’s turning into a tradition, tea-partying enthusiasts forced rabid Senate candidates onto the ballot in 2012. Some of them lost what might have been easy wins when they turned out to be too radical for the general public.

Then there’s the White House. Despite spending a record $1.2 billion to win the presidency, Mitt Romney and the GOP blew that race.

Yes, the GOP did hang onto its majority in the House of Representatives. But Republicans now only have a 33-seat edge on the competition in that chamber, down from the 49-seat margin they enjoyed before the 2012 elections.

Now, you might guess these great leaders would move swiftly to rebrand the GOP to appeal to more voters. Or distance their party from those vote-repelling tea partiers. Well, guess again. They’ve settled on a different strategy: cheating.

An earlier Supreme Court ruling helped make this new approach possible. Remember that Citizens United decision? It allowed corporations for the first time to buy directly into elections with unlimited contributions.

The Republicans found out in November, when Romney outspent Barack Obama by more than $100 million, that it will take more than gobs of corporate cash to win big.

But money is only one GOP angle. Another is fraud. No, no, not that Republicans will vote twice or anything so pedestrian.

Instead, they accuse poor people of voting fraudulently, and thereupon get legislatures to pass laws making voting a serious hassle if you’re not part of the in-group with a government-issued photo ID. Republican operatives are also fond of flyers and announcements that threaten insecure new citizens and poorly educated voters with arrest if their papers are not exactly in order.

Another voting deterrence tool is inconvenience. Other nations — and many states — have long worked to increase polling places, lengthen voting hours, stimulate mail balloting, and simplify procedures.

Contrarily, numerous Republican-controlled states are seeking to reverse all those trends. The GOP’s theory is simple enough: We know who poorer, less mobile people tend to vote for, and it isn’t us. Hey, let’s make it as hard for them to vote as we can.

Yet another tactic is gerrymandering. State legislatures normally draw boundaries not only for their own districts but for Congress as well. In some states, lawmakers exert this power mainly to protect their own personal seats.

Ginsburg calls these tactics “second-generation barriers to minority voting.” Thanks to that shiny new Supreme Court ruling, they’re now easier to pull off.

Now the Republican Party, wherever it’s in charge, is going further. It’s crowding Democratic voters, especially around urban centers, into a few contorted pockets. This practice spreads the Republican voters around, helping the GOP accumulate additional “safe” legislative and congressional seats.

The GOP’s creative redistricting explains why President Obama won Wisconsin by more than 200,000 votes while Democrats only carried three of the state’s eight congressional districts.

There’s more. Coming soon to a gerrymandered state near you: an attack on presidential elections.

Here’s how this trick works: Each state gets to determine how its own electoral votes will be allocated — either by a statewide “winner-take-all” system or by congressional district. Republican-gerrymandered states are moving quickly to distribute their electoral votes by congressional district.

Isn’t that convenient? Even if the Republican Party doesn’t need any more help from the Supreme Court, our democracy sure does.


Emily Schwartz Greco is the managing editor of OtherWords, a non-profit national editorial service run by the Institute for Policy Studies. OtherWords columnist William A. Collins is a former state representative and a former mayor of Norwalk, Connecticut. OtherWords.org  Photo credit to Denver Post Blog

This Week in Review

By Sen. Bernie Sanders

Republican filibusters in the Senate on Monday and Tuesday blocked a bill to disclose which corporations are bankrolling which candidates and causes.  Another Republic filibuster on Thursday blocked a bill to provide tax breaks for businesses that bring jobs back to the United States from low-wage countries like China.  Years of inaction by Congress and the White House on climate change are said by scientists to have contributed to this summer’s severe drought. Federal disaster declarations were proclaimed Wednesday in parts of  eight states. And Capitol Hill gridlock could have serious consequences on another front as Congress begins to come to grips with year-end deadlines looming on taxes and spending cuts.  Sen. Bernie Sanders on Wednesday laid out his views on how to lower deficits without hurting working families in a major speech on The Truth About Deficits.

The Truth About Deficits
Unless Congress acts by the end of this year, $1.2 trillion in mandatory cuts – half from the military, half from domestic programs – will automatically kick in under what the Washington wonks call sequestration. Unless Congress acts by the end of this year, all of the Bush-era tax cuts will expire. Unless Congress acts by the end of the year, the Social Security payroll tax holiday will end.  With all those balls up in the air, Congress is beginning to get serious about finding alternatives. In a major Senate speech on Wednesday, Sanders spelled out his priorities.  He detailed how big budget surpluses built up by President Bill Clinton were turned into big deficits under President George W. Bush. He also talked about fair ways to deal with deficits without hurting the poor, the sick and the elderly. “I hope that the road we go down in terms of deficit reduction is one that is fair to working families and the middle class, and that means asking the wealthiest people and the largest corporations in this country to start paying their fair share of taxes.”

Watch Part 1 »
Watch Part 2 »

Jobs Filibuster 

Senate Republicans on Thursday killed a measure that would encourage companies to bring overseas jobs back to the United States. Sanders said the legislation would have eliminated a tax deduction that companies can use when they move jobs overseas and would create a new tax break for companies that bring jobs back to America.

Watch Current TV »

Campaign Spending Filibuster
Senate Republicans on both Monday and Tuesday blocked consideration of a bill to increase transparency in campaign spending by corporations and others.  The bill would have required disclosure of anyone who donates $10,000 or more to independent groups. Sanders urged the Senate to pass the legislation that was a response to the disastrous 5-4 Supreme Court Citizens United decision, which lifted limits on campaign spending by corporations and wealthy individuals.

Watch the speech »

USPS
House leaders signaled they won’t take up a Senate-passed bill to reform the U.S. Postal Service. While press reports portray a Postal Service in dire financial straits, the fact is that revenue from selling stamps and other products exceeded the costs of delivering mail by $200 million during the first quarter of this year. Yes, the USPS needs to be modernized to meet changing needs in the era of e-mail. Sanders helped write a Senate bill that passed in April which would do that. It also would revise a law that makes the Postal Service sock billions of dollars away for future retiree health benefits in a fund that already is so flush it can provide benefits for decades to come.

Do We Need the Disclose Act or a Constitutional Amendment?

Democrats in Congress have been desperately trying to bring at least some transparency to this new avalanche of corporate spending we’ve been experiencing in our elections. They’ve been trying to pass legislation such that if corporations, millionaires and billionaires want to spend billions to cover up Mitt Romney’s lies — then at least, we the voters, should know where that money is coming from. In 2010 — Democrats in the House of Representatives passed the DISCLOSE Act, which would have done just that. Unfortunately — the DISCLOSE Act laws were filibustered that year by the Republican minority in the Senate.

So, Democrats in the Senate are now trying it again. On Tuesday, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and eight other Senate Democrats proposed a new, watered-down DISCLOSE Act, hoping that the latest, more corporate-friendly legislation may attract some Republicans supporters. But is this really the strategy Progressives should be using to get corporate money out of our politics. Or do we need to be bolder and push for a Constitutional Amendment that once and for all says corporations are not people, and money is property – not speech?

Legal Maximum Donation is $78,500?

Mitt Romney is already selling tickets to his “Presidential Inaugural retreat.” In case you think I’m kidding, I’ve included the letter from Romney’s campaign to big donors.

Yesterday, at a private fundraising event, he said the Department of Housing and Urban Development “might not be around.” And the Department of Education would, at the least, be “a heck of a lot smaller” such that you could probably fit it inside a thimble.  Cut education for children and put struggling veterans back on the streets? No wonder he’s not sharing the details with the American public.  He claims to want to “lead” this nation … but he’s unwilling to share his super-secret plans for America … that is, unless you’re one of his high-dollar donors.  The only thing he’s shared with the general public thus far is that he wants to repeal “Obamacare” and he endorses Rep. Paul Ryan’s Path to Poverty budget that would turn Medicare into a declining value voucher system, turn Medicaid into a block grant program, and pretty much gut that safety net that Romney’s “not worried about.”

As Democrats, we don’t believe in that kind of politics. We’re fighting to re-elect President Obama and Democrats up and down the ticket who will keep fighting for the middle class.

Given what Mr. Romney told his high-dollar donors in Florida this week, we can only imagine what Romney would tell his high-dollar donors at his “Presidential Inaugural retreat.”  It might be considered wonderful news for them, but you could probably safely bet your last dollar it won’t be good news for the vast numbers of ordinary Americans.  And if you’re a woman, well … the writing is already on the wall as to what the GOP thinks about us and the envy they’ve displayed in regulating our bodily functions.  All one needs to do is look at the bills GOP-dominated legislatures are passing in Arizona (where women are now considered pregnant before they’re pregnant and where women of child-bearing age are subject to monthly sonograms to ensure that each and every fetus is brought to full term) and in Wisconsin (where they’ve now repealed equal pay for equal work law at the state level).

Help us make sure the GOP is denied the Presidency as well as majorities in either house of Congress by supporting President Obama and down-ticket Democrats.  If you can’t afford to make a donation to the Obama Campaign, but you have some shoe-leather to walk door-to-door, or you’re willing to work a phone bank, we can use your help as the fall campaign unfolds.  Check out our Contacts list and get in touch with a representative from your County.

—-ROMNEY FUNDRAISING EMAIL—–

From: Richard Stormont

Subject: Governor Romney for President

this is very important for the future of our country. Please read it to the end.
___

The campaign is now moving into its next phase with the formation of “Romney Victory.” This is a joint fundraising committee established between Romney for President, the RNC and a number of battleground fund states. Romney Victory will make it easy for a donor to make one contribution to fund various committees focused on the election. The legal maximum that an individual can donate to Romney Victory is $75,800. The campaign is asking people who are able to make a $50,000 contribution to do so today and become a “Founding Member” of Romney Victory. These donors will be invited to a special retreat with Governor Romney in late June in California and will have preferred status at the first Presidential Inaugural retreat as well as yet to be determined access at the Republican National Convention in Tampa in August.

As for our Georgia efforts, Governor Romney will be returning to Atlanta on June 11th to participate in two Romney Victory fundraising events.

The first event will be a reception which will be 1K per person/2K per couple to attend and 10K per couple to get a photo with Governor Romney. 10K represents a maxed out couple, giving $2500 each to both the primary and general election. Please keep in mind that while we are now accepting general election funds, we are still raising primary dollars. Contributions made to Romney Victory will first go toward the primary election account and then once an individual has reached their $2500 limit, the general election account. We are forming a host committee for this event, asking each host to raise 25K. There will be a private reception for the host committee with the Governor prior to the event.

The second event on the 11th will be a private dinner at a home in Buckhead that is being co-chaired by Tom Bell, Fred Cooper, Bernie Marcus and Jeffrey Sprecher. This dinner will be for “Founding Members” of Romney Victory who contribute 50K.

On April 27th, Spencer Zwick, Governor Romney’s national finance chairman, will be in Atlanta to participate in a lunch with the host committee and co-chairs for the June 11th events.

We have two months to make the June 11th events a success and I am confident that we can do it.

We know there have been a number of people who have been standing on the sidelines waiting for a nominee to be selected. It is now clear who the nominee will be and we will be making every effort to reach out to all those who have yet to give as well as those who previously supported another candidate. We now all need to unify in our efforts to retire President OBAMA in November.

Please let me know that you will be participating in this critical phase of the future of our country. I would like to request that you take a moment and reply back to me as soon as possible as to whether you would like to serve on the Host Committee for the June 11th reception and/or if you are interested in participating in the private dinner on June 11th?

The future of our country is at stake.

Under the Reading Lamp — 4/3/2012

BANKING


When Bankers Rule the World

David Korten, Op-Ed: “The tell-all defection of Greg Smith, a former Goldman Sachs executive, provided an insider’s view of the moral corruption of the Wall Street banks that control of much of America’s economy and politics. Smith confirms what insightful observers have known for years: the business purpose of Wall Street bankers is to maximize their personal financial take without regard to the consequences for others.”


Fed Policy and Inflation Risk

Martin Feldstein, Op-Ed: “During the past four years, the United States Federal Reserve has added enormous liquidity to the US commercial banking system, and thus to the American economy. Many observers worry that this liquidity will lead in the future to a rapid increase in the volume of bank credit, causing a brisk rise in the money supply – and of the subsequent rate of inflation.”

CIVIL RIGHTS


Chris Hedges | Someone You Love: Coming to a Gulag Near You

Chris Hedges, Truthdig Op-Ed: “The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), signed into law by President Barack Obama last Dec. 31, puts into the hands of people with no discernible understanding of legitimate dissent the power to use the military to deny due process to all deemed to be terrorists, or terrorist sympathizers, and hold them indefinitely in military detention.”

ECONOMY


Robert Reich | Whose Recovery?

Robert Reich, Op-Ed: According to an analysis of tax returns by Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Pikkety, the top 1 percent pocketed 93 percent of the gains in 2010. 37 percent of the gains went to the top one-tenth of one percent. No one below the richest 10 percent saw any gain at all. In fact, most of the bottom 90 percent have lost ground. Their average adjusted gross income was $29,840 in 2010.


Desolation Row: Five Pictures of the Future in a Paul Ryan/Mitt Romney America

Richard (RJ) Eskow, Op-Ed: The Romney/Ryan America of tomorrow is more like the science-fiction worlds of H.G. Wells’ Time Machine or Fritz Lang’s Metropolis than it is like the United States, as we know it. The privileged few would be even wealthier than they are today, while the rest of us struggle to survive in a dystonic world of disease, deprivation, and fear. That’s not lefty rhetoric, either. All you have to do is read the budget. What did Romney say about Ryan’s budget? “He is setting the right tone for finally getting spending and entitlements under control.”

ELECTION REFORM


Conservative Wisconsinites Call For Greater Transparency In Outside Election Spending

Scott Keyes, Video Report: With the election just two months away, outside spending groups are already scrambling to pour money into ads both for and against Walker. However, because of a quirk in Wisconsin campaign law, these groups can spend unlimited funds without disclosing where their money is coming from. ThinkProgress spoke with attendees last weekend at the Americans For Prosperity Defending the American Dream Summit in Milwaukee.

ENERGY


A New Energy Third World in North America?

Michael T. Klare, Op-Ed: Eager to escape ever-stronger environmental restrictions and dying oil fields at home, the energy giants were naturally drawn to the economically and environmentally wide-open producing areas of the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America — the Third World — where oil deposits were plentiful, governments compliant, and environmental regulations few or nonexistent.


Steve Horn | Unpacking the Shale Gas LNG Export Boom

Steve Horn, News Analysis: “While the North American shale gas boom continues full-steam ahead, so too does another boom receiving less of the spotlight: the LNG export boom. LNG, shorthand for liquefied natural gas, is gas that’s been condensed into a liquid form by chilling it to approximately −162 °C (−260 °F). That gas is placed in LNG tankers, also known as ‘trains,’ then shipped off to lucrative global markets.”

ENVIRONMENTAL


Jim Hightower | Congress Opts to Keep Poisoning Children

Jim Hightower, Op-Ed: “Yes, we certainly need to cut unnecessary and frivolous federal spending, because…well, because it’s unnecessary and frivolous. So Congress has targeted unnecessary oil subsidies and frivolous tax giveaways to billionaires, right? Uh…no. Instead, our learned solons have chosen to whack the Lead Poisoning Prevention Program.”


FDA Rejects Monumental BPA Ban

Mike Barrett, News Report: BPA has been shown to prompt hyperactivity and depression in young girls, while also being linked to breast cancer in more than 130 studies. Infertility and fertility defects are also caused by BPA exposure. The chemical is used so widely that it has been found in the urine of nearly 93 percent of Americans, with one study finding that eating canned soup can spike urinary bisphenol-A levels by 1,200 percent compared to fresh soup.


Anthony Gucciardi | BPA Makers to Gross $8 Billion Thanks to FDA Rejecting Ban

Anthony Gucciardi, News Report: “Producers of toxic BPA are now boasting $8 billion in sales for 2012 thanks to the FDA rejecting a potential ban on the cancer-linked chemical on March 30th. According to GlobalData, manufacturers will produce 4.7 million metric tons of BPA this year to be dispersed into the daily lives of millions worldwide.”


Illegal Ocean Dumping Persists Despite DOJ Crackdown

Ronnie Greene, News Report: “Under federal and international law, ships must properly dispose of oily wastewater and sludge by passing the waste through an oil-water separator on board, or burning sludge in an incinerator. The ship’s crew must record each transfer or disposal in an ‘Oil Record Book.’ When dumping occurs in international waters, U.S. authorities cannot prosecute the actual pollution because it lies outside their jurisdiction.”


Extreme Weather is the New Normal

Stephen Leahy, News Analysis: “A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), released Mar. 28, provides solid evidence that record-breaking weather events are increasing in number and becoming more extreme. And if current rates of greenhouse gas emissions are maintained, these events will reach dangerous new levels over the coming century.”


Anthony Gucciardi | Stealth GMOs Rapidly Consuming Global Food Supply

Anthony Gucciardi, News Analysis: “Obviously there is no room for GMOs in truly healthy food products, which is why it is truly vital that you understand the nature of GMOs and how they are oftentimes hidden in commercial food products. It may very well shock you to know just how prevalent GMOs are within the food supply. It’s truly amazing that modified products continue to go unlabeled despite being linked to organ damage — among a barrage of other conditions — in a prominent review of 19 studies.”

HEALTHCARE


The Best, Most Revealing Reporting on Our Healthcare System

Blair Hickman and Cora Currier, News Analysis: As we wait for the Supreme Court to issue its verdict on the health-care reform law, we rounded up some of the most revealing reporting on the issues. They’re grouped roughly into articles on high costs and those on insurance. The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, and Reuters are some publications who have given their opinion on the subject matter.


Romney Would Lower Health Costs By Asking Patients To Pay More For Their Benefits

Igor Volsky, News Analysis: “Republicans like to claim that exposing people to the true cost of health care — that is, putting more skin in the game — would discourage overtutilizaiton of care and force health care beneficiaries to act more like consumers, shop around, and select the best deal for a given service or treatment. The theory sounds good, but there is very limited evidence that it actually works. After all, insurers have been shifting individuals into high-deductible plans for some time now, but premiums and prices continue to increase. ”

IDEOLOGY


Five Preposterous but Persistent Conservative Myths

Paul Buchheit , Op-Ed: “With the mainstream media in the hands of the mostly conservative wealthy, it’s difficult for average Americans to learn the truth about critical issues. The following five conservative claims are examples of mythical beliefs that fall apart in the presence of inconvenient facts.”


Koch-Funded Reason Institute Trivializes Severity of Bullying Young People Experience

Zack Ford, News Report: Despite acknowledging the technology young people have access to, he completely ignores the significant impact that cyberbullying now has on young people. Last year, the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project found that nine out of ten have witnessed the cyberbullying of their peers. A similar Associated Press-MTV poll found that about half of young people regularly encounter discriminatory slang in their online communications, and 54 percent of them think it’s okay to use such language in their circle of friends because “I know we don’t mean it.”

INTERNET GAMBLING


Robert Reich | Turning America Into a Giant Casino

Robert Reich, Op-Ed: “Organized gambling is a scam. And it particularly preys upon people with lower incomes – who assume they can’t make it big any other way, who often find it hardest to assess the odds, and whose families can least afford to lose the money. Yet America is now opening the floodgates. Organized gambling is a scam. And it particularly preys upon people with lower incomes – who assume they can’t make it big any other way, who often find it hardest to assess the odds, and whose families can least afford to lose the money.”

SUPREME COURT


Robert Scheer | Five Hypocrites and One Bad Plan

Robert Scheer, Truthdig Op-Ed: “The Supreme Court is so full of it. The entire institution, as well as its sanctimonious judges themselves, reeks of a time-honored hypocrisy steeped in the arrogance that justice is served by unaccountable elitism. My problem is not with the Republicans who dominate the court questioning the obviously flawed individual mandate for the purchasing of private-sector health insurance but rather with their zeal to limit federal power only when it threatens to help the most vulnerable.”


Jokes from Justice Scalia Mask Grim Reality of American Health Care

Wendell Potter, News Analysis: “Since Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia clearly isn’t going to take the time to actually read the health care reform law before he decides whether or not it’s constitutional, maybe he and a couple of his buddies on the High Court can catch a screening of ‘The Hunger Games’, the movie about children battling each other to the death in a futuristic America, renamed Panem.”


Dean Baker | The Supreme Scream: Obamacare After the Court Ruling

Dean Baker, Op-Ed: “The conventional wisdom following the oral arguments before the Supreme Court last week is that, at the least, the health insurance mandate portion of the Affordable Care Act is going down. Many observers thought it likely that the Republican-controlled court would strike down the entire bill. Either way, it will be necessary to do some serious rethinking of health care policy.”


The Right’s Stealthy Coup

E.J. Dionne Jr., Op-Ed: “Last week’s Supreme Court oral arguments on health care were the most dramatic example of how radical tea partyism has displaced mainstream conservative thinking. It’s not just that the law’s individual mandate was, until very recently, a conservative idea. Even conservative legal analysts were insisting it was impossible to imagine the court declaring the health-care mandate unconstitutional, given its past decisions.”

Under the Reading Lamp — 2/8/2012


The Great Carbon Bubble

image03Bill McKibben, Op-Ed: “It’s no secret where this denialism comes from: the fossil fuel industry pays for it. (Of the 16 authors of the Journal article, for instance, five had had ties to Exxon.) Writers from Ross Gelbspan to Naomi Oreskes have made this case with such overwhelming power that no one even really tries denying it any more. The open question is why the industry persists in denial in the face of an endless body of fact showing climate change is the greatest danger we’ve ever faced.”


Right-Wing Media Aren’t Concerned About Helping the Poor, but They Sure Want to Help the Rich

image07News Analysis: As income disparities continue to increase, and the effective tax rate paid by the rich remains at historic lows, right-wing media figures work hard to make sure none of that changes. They routinely attack the poor and programs designed to assist them, while simultaneously extolling the rich and defending them against any attempt to get them to pay their fair share of taxes.


BP Made $3 Million an Hour In 2011, While Spill Victims Continued to Suffer

image01Rebecca Leber, News Report: “BP’s 2010 Gulf of Mexico spill is still affecting the lives of many Americans, particularly the tens of thousands that have not settled lawsuits with the company. Yet the company has bounced back from the billions it lost in the wake of the spill. BP announced today that its 2011 profit totaled $26 billion, a 114 percent jump from the year before, when the company’s ‘failure of supervision and accountability’ caused the worst oil spill in U.S. history.”


The Downward Mobility of the American Middle Class, and Why Mitt Romney Doesn’t Know

image06Robert Reich, Op-Ed: January’s increase in hiring is good news, but it masks a bigger and more disturbing story – the continuing downward mobility of the American middle class. Mitt Romney says he’s not concerned about the very poor because they have safety nets to protect them. He says he’s concerned about the middle class. Romney doesn’t seem to realize how much of the middle class is becoming poor.


Report Finds Millions of Families Three Months From Poverty

image05Susannah Nesmith, News Report: According to America’s Youngest Outcasts, a report by the National Center on Family Homelessness, 1.6 million children in the United States were homeless at some point in 2010, the most recent statistics available. During the recession, from 2007 to 2010, child homelessness spiked 38 percent nationwide. According to the 2011 Council on Homelessness report, Florida’s public school districts identified over 49,000 Florida school-age children as homeless during the 2009-2010 school year.


Debt, Toll Roads, and Patents

image11Dean Baker, Op-Ed: It’s budget time, again. This means that the deficit hawks will be out in force warning us about the devastating debt burden that we are passing on to our children. So that this Halloween fright gang doesn’t needlessly cause any kids to lose sleep, here’s what parents can tell their children. First, it is important to tell your kids that the national debt is not in any way a measure of intergenerational transfers from the young to the old. Debt is also an asset to the people who own the bonds.


Meet the Obscure Federal Regulator Who’s Not Helping Homeowners

image04Cora Currier, News Analysis: Last week, ProPublica and NPR raised questions about a risky investment strategy at Freddie Mac that would pay off if homeowners stayed trapped in expensive mortgages. It’s just the latest example of how government-owned Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae have frustrated many by not putting homeowners first. Fannie and Freddie are required to help homeowners while earning profits so they can pay back the taxpayers who bailed them out.


The Citizens United Catastrophe

image02E.J. Dionne Jr., Op-Ed: We have seen the world created by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, and it doesn’t work. Oh, yes, it works nicely for the wealthiest and most powerful people in the country, especially if they want to shroud their efforts to influence politics behind shell corporations. It just doesn’t happen to work if you think we are a democracy and not a plutocracy.


Offshore Everywhere

image08Tom Engelhardt, Op-Ed: “Think of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden as a harbinger of and model for what’s to come. It was an operation enveloped in a cloak of secrecy. There was no consultation with the “ally” on whose territory the raid was to occur. It involved combat by an elite special operations unit backed by drones and other high-tech weaponry and supported by the CIA. A national boundary was crossed without either permission or any declaration of hostilities.”


Save the Babies

image09Jim Hightower, Op-Ed: “After 20 years of delay forced by lobbyists for utilities, the Environmental Protection Agency finally came out in December with regulations to control the mercury emissions from power plants. Hallelujah — save the babies! But wait, the lovers of the unborn aren’t celebrating this move to stop industry from doing gratuitous damage to children’s IQs. Far from it. GOP lawmakers are now howling to overturn the EPA’s mercury regulations.”


The Battle for Vermont’s Health

image10Wendell Potter, News Analysis: “Health insurers were not able to stop the state’s drive last year toward a single-payer health care system, which insurers have spent millions to scare Americans into believing would be the worst thing ever. Despite the ceaseless spin, Vermont lawmakers last May demonstrated they could not be bought nor intimidated when they became the first in the nation to pass a bill that will probably establish a single-payer beachhead in the U.S.”


California’s Gay Marriage Ban Ruled Unconstitutional – Again

image12Mike Ludwig, Truthout: “A federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld a federal judge’s ruling that California’s Proposition 8 ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional, setting the stage for a potential Supreme Court showdown that could set a national precedent on same-sex marriage.”

Opponents of Proposition 8, a voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage, react after news of the ban being knocked down in court, outside the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, February 7, 2012. (Photo: Jim Wilson / The New York Times)

Under the Reading Lamp — 1/22/2012


Does US Senate Commit Treason with NDAA Bill?

Jeanine Molloff, Op-Ed: “December 1st, 2011, the US Senate accomplished the unthinkable–with the nearly unanimous passage of the National Defense Authorization Bill of 2012–they committed treason. Written and planned in secret by the Senate Armed Services Committee, the newly minted NDAA contains three sections which collectively sanctions indefinite detention of alleged terrorists or ‘terrorist sympathizers’–anywhere in the world including the US– and designates the military the duty to arrest, imprison and interrogate without benefit of counsel,’ accused civilians here on Main Street.”


After ‘Citizens United’: The Attack of the Super PACs

John Nichols and Robert W. McChesney, Op-Ed: “Citizens United’s easing of restrictions on corporate and individual spending, especially by organizations not under the control of candidates, has led to the proliferation of “Super PACs.” These shadowy groups do not have to abide by the $2,500 limit on donations to actual campaigns, and they can easily avoid rules for reporting sources of contributions. For instance, Super PACs have established nonprofit arms that are permitted to shield contributors’ identities as long as they spend no more than 50 percent of their money on electoral politics.”


Corporate Rule Is Not Inevitable

Sarah van Gelder, Op-Ed: “You may remember that there was a time when apartheid in South Africa seemed unstoppable. Sure, there were international boycotts of South African businesses, banks, and tourist attractions. There were heroic activists in South Africa, who were going to prison and even dying for freedom. But the conventional wisdom remained that these were principled gestures with little chance of upending the entrenched system of white rule. ‘Be patient,’ activists were told. ‘Don’t expect too much against powerful interests with a lot of money invested in the status quo.’”


A Credit Union to Bail out People, Not Big Banks

Judith Scherr, News Report: The Occupy Movement condemns the banks’ role in predatory lending and the foreclosure crisis, the high-interest student loans they say enriches the bankers and impoverishes college students, bank investments in private prisons and more. But protesting isn’t enough for Occupy San Francisco activist Brian McKeown. He says a bank should be a transparent institution whose mission is to help people. And so, with like-minded partners, McKeown is putting together a plan for the People’s Reserve Credit Union (PRCU).


Boehner Threatens to Hold Payroll Tax Holiday Hostage to Approval of Keystone XL

Zack Ford, Video Report: On Fox News Sunday this morning, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) told Chris Wallace that “We’re going to do everything we can to make sure the Keystone Pipeline is approved.” When Wallace pressed him whether Republican leadership would make the pipeline a condition for extending the payroll tax holiday, Boehner admitted, “We may,” adding (several times) that “All options are on the table.” Proponents of the pipeline have dwarfed opponents in lobbying spending, inflated the actual effect it will have on job creation, and spread various myths designed tocircumvent its environmental impact.


Bernie Sanders: We Must Stop This Corporate Takeover of American Democracy

Bernie Sanders, Op-Ed: “Two years ago, the United States supreme court betrayed our Constitution and those who fought to ensure that its protections are enjoyed equally by all persons regardless of religion, race or gender by engaging in an unabashed power-grab on behalf of corporate America. In its now infamous decision in the Citizens United case, five justices declared that corporations must be treated as if they are actual people under the Constitution when it comes to spending money to influence our elections, allowing them for the first time to draw on the corporate checkbook – in any amount and at any time – to run ads explicitly for or against specific candidates.”


How the Republicans on the FEC Are Making Citizens United Even Worse

Josh Israel, News Analysis: “Three Republican appointees to the Federal Election Commission may be as responsible as anyone for the lack of transparency of post-Citizens United political spending. Two years ago, when the Supreme Court issued its Citizens United ruling, one bright spot was that the majority explicitly endorsed the constitutionality and necessity of disclosure rules that inform voters who paid for the political ads they see. ‘Disclosure is the less-restrictive alternative to more comprehensive speech regulations,’ they affirmed.”


The Green Economy, Boon or Menace?

Emilio Godoy, News Report: In its study “Who Will Control the Green Economy?”, published Dec. 15, 2011, the ETC Group argues that the development of a green economy will primarily benefit large corporations, unless changes are made to the current models of production and consumption of goods and services and international governance. It reveals that large transnational corporations in the energy, pharmaceutical, food and chemical industries are already forming alliances to exploit biomass and grab control of natural resources like land and water.


Christopher Petrella | Death, Taxes, and Alcatraz

Christopher Petrella, Op-Ed: “Please allow me to introduce some figures that I believe will convincingly demonstrate the scope and depth of our predicament. Although the United States represents less than 5% of the world’s population, we harbor over 25% of those incarcerated. In fact, we’ve incarcerated more people in absolute terms than China, whose population is four times the larger. Despite these sobering figures, few thinkers, however—even those of avowedly ‘progressive’ persuasion— have sharply critiqued the well-worn diptych of ‘crime and punishment.’”


Bad Bankers, Bad Fraud Deals, And The President’s ‘Great Gatsby’ Problem

Richard (RJ) Eskow, Op-Ed: “Investigate the Banks!” Today a coalition of progressive groups handed in a petition with more than 360,000 signatures that demanded exactly that. It calls on the Obama administration to stop pushing a cushy fraud settlement for bankers, to pursue a fair deal for shafted homeowners, and to let criminal investigations against Wall Street crooks proceed. Yet White House officials are still aggressively pushing the very same cushy deal on foreclosure fraud that inspired the petition.


How Payday Lenders Make Billions By Fleecing Americans In Poverty

Tanya Somanader, News Report: “As a growing number of Americans slip out of the middle-class into economic insecurity, they are increasingly vulnerable to predatory lending schemes like the payday loan. Each year, about 12 million Americans incur long-term debt by taking out a short-term loan that’s intended to cover a borrowers’ expenses until they receive their next paycheck. Payday lending takes ‘unfair advantage of lower-income borrowers,’ with most taking out nine repeat loans per year with an interest rate as high as 400 percent.”


Robert Reich | Amend 2012

Robert Reich, Video Presentation: Thanks to the Supreme Court and Citizens United, the same big corporations and billionaires that destroyed our economy and caused millions of us to lose our jobs and homes, are spending obscene amounts to drown out our voices in elections and take over our government. But together, “We the People” can set things right. Stand with Robert Reich and join the movement for a constitutional amendment today.


Kucinich Announces Constitutional Amendment to Publicly Finance Federal Elections

Dennis Kucinich, Op-Ed: On the eve of the second anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling known as Citizens United, which opened the floodgate of unlimited, shadowy corporate spending in public elections, Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) has introduced H. J. Res. 100, a constitutional amendment to rescue American democracy from corporate money’s corrupting influence.