Saturday, February 11, 2012

How is the Occupy Movement Worse Than The NYPD - NYPD Must Pay $15 Million for Illegally Arresting 22,000

How is the Occupy Movement Worse Than The NYPD - NYPD Must Pay $15 Million for Illegally Arresting 22,000

For almost 30 years — from 1983 to 2012 — the New York Police Department went about arresting people under laws that state and federal courts had long declared unconstitutional, cuffing and booking almost 22,000 people. In 2010, federal judge Shira A. Scheindlin finally held them in contempt of court. Yesterday, she signed an order approving what is effectively their punishment: a $15 million class-action settlement that could generate individual payments of as much as $5,000.

Those arrested were forced to defend themselves in court and even served jail time for completely lawful behavior. The class action settlement also requires the city to help the courts vacate and seal all convictions stemming from the illegal arrests.

“NYPD used these void laws over the past few decades to target people based on poverty, race and sexual orientation,” said J. McGregor Smyth, an attorney from the Bronx Defenders and a lead attorney for the class. “We are happy that the city has finally taken responsibilities for these abuses, agreeing to pay meaningful damages to its victims and to stop its unconstitutional practices once and for all.”

The three unconstitutional laws under which the NYPD made the illegal arrests prohibited people from loitering to panhandle, to search for sex partners or to wait in a bus or train station. Federal and state courts struck down all three of those laws between 1983 and 1993 as violating First Amendment rights, according to The New York Times.

As NYPD officers continued illegally arresting people under the unconstitutional laws, the department made efforts to stop them. It increased communication and training, disciplined some of the officers and conducted an internal investigation, according to The New York Times. However, Judge Scheindlin found the NYPD in contempt of court because, she wrote, they were not proactive about preventing the problem.

“Nearly every measure that the city has undertaken,” she wrote, according to The New York Times, “has been at the direction of the court, the prodding of plaintiffs, and/or under threat of sanctions.”
Most of the violence committed around the Occupy movement has been by police against people exercising their first amendment rights. While some of the OWS folks have behaved badly, they have a ways to go to catch up with the NYPD and several other police departments who are acting like Russian police who have acted against protesters for freedom in Russia.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Why Should the Government Enforce Catholic Church Beliefs?

Why Should the Government Enforce Catholic Church Beliefs?
Catholic dogma holds that artificial contraception is against the law of God. The bishops have the right—a right guaranteed under the First Amendment—to preach that doctrine to the faithful. They have a right to preach it to everybody. Take out ads. Pass out leaflets. Put up billboards in the front yard.

The problem here is that they’re trying to get the government to do their work for them. They’ve lost the war at home, and they’re now demanding help from the outside....

The churches themselves don’t have to provide contraceptive coverage. Neither do organizations that are closely tied to a religion’s doctrinal mission. We are talking about places like hospitals and universities that rely heavily on government money and hire people from outside the faith.

It is the same old, conservatives believe in small government until they find some personal dogma they want to shove down everyone's throat.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Occupying Corporations: How to Cut Corporate Power and Return it To The People

Occupying Corporations: How to Cut Corporate Power and Return it To The People

“Corporations are people, my friend.” Mitt Romney at Iowa State Fair

Corporations are obviously not people.  But Romney is accurate in the sense that corporations have hijacked most of the rights of people while evading the responsibilities. An important part of the social justice agenda is democratizing corporations.  This means we must radically change the laws so people can be in charge of corporations.  We must strip them of corporate personhood and cut them down to size so democracy can work.  People are taking action so democracy can regulate the size, scope and actions of corporations.

One of the most basic roles of society is to protect the people from harm.  The massive size of many international corporations makes democratic control over them nearly impossible.

Corporate crime is widespread.  The New York Times, ProPublica and others have revealed Wall Street giants like JPMorgan, Citigroup, Bank of America and Goldman Sachs have been charged with fraud many times only to get off by paying hundreds of millions.  Professors at University of Virginia have documented hundreds of corporations which have been found guilty or pled guilty in federal courts.

Corporate abuse is even more widespread.  For example, Corporate Accountability International named six to its Corporate Hall of Shame, including: Koch Industries for spending over $50 million to fund climate change denial; Monsanto for mass producing cancer causing chemicals; Chevron for dumping more than 18 billion gallons of toxic waste into the Ecuadorian Amazon; Exxon Mobil for being the worst polluter; Blackwater (now Xe) for killing unarmed Iraqi civilians and hiring paramilitaries; and Halliburton, the nation’s leading war profiteer.
Making corporations responsible to democracy of the people is challenging considering Wal-Mart, the world’s biggest corporation, does more business itself annually than all but two dozen of the two hundred plus countries in the world.   Without dramatic changes, how can we expect people in small or even big countries to force corporations like Wal-Mart, Royal Dutch Shell, Exxon Mobil, BP, Toyota or Chevron to live by the same rules all the people have to?

Justice demands we make sure corporations do not harm people.  Democracy must require that they operate for the common good.

In order to cut corporations down to size, the people must strip corporations of the special artificial legal protections they have created for themselves.

The story of how corporations took the full rights of legal persons in one of the great perverse tragedies in legal history. Corporations have worked the courts mercilessly since 1819 to take a wide variety of constitutional rights that were designed to cover only people.  For example, the Fourteenth Amendment was passed in 1868 to make sure all citizens, particularly freed slaves and people of color, had full rights.  There was no mention of protecting corporations. But corporations jumped on this opportunity resulting in a questionable Supreme Court decision that granted them legal personhood.  At roughly the same time, the Supreme Court approved “separate but equal” racial segregation.  Thus in thirty years, African Americans lost their legal personhood, while corporations acquired theirs.

Corporations now claim: 1st amendment free speech rights to advertise and influence elections: 4th amendment search and seizure rights to resist subpoenas and challenges to their criminal actions; 5th amendment rights to due process; 14th amendment rights to due process where corporations took the rights of former slaves and used them for corporate protection; plus rights under the Commerce and Contracts clauses of the constitution.

The most recent corporate judicial takeover of constitutional rights is the 2010 Supreme Court decision in Citizens United versus the Federal Election Commission.  The court ruled that corporations are protected by the First Amendment so they can use their money to influence elections.

Because of the bad Supreme Court decisions, it takes a constitutional amendment by the people to change the laws back.  An amendment requires two-thirds of both houses of Congress to agree then three-quarters of the states must vote to ratify.  This will take real work.  But despite the growing size and unrestricted power of corporations, people are fighting back.

Dozens of groups are working to reverse Citizens United and restore limits on corporate election advocacy.  In January 2011, groups delivered petitions signed by over 750,000 people calling on Congress to amend the Constitution and reverse the decision.  More than 350 local events were held in late January 2012 to challenge the Citizens United decision.

Groups challenging this injustice include Code Pink, Common Cause, Free Speech for People,, Move to Amend, National Lawyers Guild, POCLAD, Public Citizen, People for American Way, The Center for Media and Democracy, and Women’s League for Peace and Freedom. 

Many groups are asking for a broad constitutional amendment that makes it clear that corporations are not people and should not be given any constitutional rights.  Representatives Ted Deutsch of Florida, Jim McGovern of Massachusetts and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont have sponsored bills in Congress to start the process for a constitutional amendment to make it clear that corporations are not people, are not entitled to the rights of people, and cannot contribute to political campaigns.

There are also many energetic actions at the state level.  People for the American Way list organizational efforts in nearly all 50 states to end corporate influence in elections or amend the constitution.

Massive corporations now rule the earth.  But they are recent arrivals which can and should be dispatched.  It is time for people to again take control.  The legal fiction of corporate personhood and the constitutional rights taken by corporations must cease.  Join the efforts to cut them down to size and restore the right of the people to govern.
It is always a good laugh to hear a conservative Republican say they stand for freedom or liberty. They are owned and operated by corporate masters who could care less about their personal liberty. Try fighting a corporation in court that has done you wrong. It will be corporate lawyers versus the little guy. You may actually grow old and die before they pay you for harm they have done you or your family. Complain about you right to privacy. Sure government intrusion has grown since 9-11, but corporations now regularly claim the right to spy on your every click and exchange information with other corporations. And you can always find a conservative or libertarian say that "private" entities have the right to do that - heck they may even go to the bother of offering up some bs about natural law.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Conservative Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White (R) Convicted Of Voter Fraud

Conservative Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White (R) Convicted Of Voter Fraud

Though President Ronald Reagan called the right to vote the “crown jewel of American liberties,” many Republicans around the country have begun demanding increased voting restrictions in the name of fighting “voter fraud.” Though actual cases of voting fraud are so rare that a voter is much more likely to be struck by lightning than to commit fraud at the polls, one Republican official in Indiana has proved that lightning can strike himself.

Yesterday, a jury found Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White (R) guilty on six felony counts of voter fraud, theft, and perjury. The conviction cost White his job, though he plans to ask the judge to reduce the charges to misdemeanors and hopes to perhaps regain the position.

In a statement, Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) announced White’s deputy will take over on an interim basis:

    I have chosen not to make a permanent appointment today out of respect for the judge’s authority to lessen the verdict to a misdemeanor and reinstate the elected office holder… If the felony convictions are not altered, I anticipate making a permanent appointment quickly.

But a second court case could ultimately give the job to Democrat Vop Osili, who lost to White in November 2010. A judge’s December 2011 ruling — currently on hold, pending appeal — held that due to the voter fraud charges, White’s election was invalid. Should that ruling survive the appeals process, Osili would assume the office.

Ironically, White’s now-removed 2010 campaign website listed election integrity as among his top concerns, and promised he would “protect and defend Indiana’s Voter ID law to ensure our elections are fair and protect the most basic and precious right and responsibility of our democracy-voting.”

Voter fraud is very rare. You have a better chance of being struck by lightening. yet is has been conservatives who have made a big deal out of restrictive voter ID laws. Maybe it was to help them resist their own devious ideas about committing actual fraud.

Lies, Damned Lies, and Politics

The important point to make here is that all these bogus numbers are coming from seemingly authoritative sources — Fox News, which is a big organization, the WSJ editorial page, the American Enterprise Institute. You could not imagine a similar level of statistical dishonesty from, say, The Nation, or Washington Monthly, or EPI.

This is what I mean when I say that the left and right aren’t symmetric. People of all persuasions lie; but the right has a whole institutional structure of lying that has no counterpart on the left.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Eric Cantor (R-VA) is Proud to Stand Up for Conservative Values Like Corruption. Be a Patriot Tell Congress to Impeach Eric Cantor (R-VA)

Eric Cantor (R-VA) is Proud to Stand Up for Conservative Values Like Corruption. Be a Patriot Tell Congress to Impeach Eric Cantor (R-VA)

During his State of the Union address, President Obama said “send me a bill that bans insider trading by members of Congress; I will sign it tomorrow. Let’s limit any elected official from owning stocks in industries they impact.” The remark stemmed from a 60 Minutes investigation showing that House Financial Services Chairman Spencer Bachus (R-AL) profited from information he received in private briefings during the economic crisis of 2008.

The Senate, in a rare display of bipartisanship, opened debate on an insider trading ban by a vote of 93-2. However, the bill has since become bogged down under a sea of unrelated amendments.

Over in the House, meanwhile, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) — who reportedly blocked Bachus from bringing up a ban on congressional insider trading in committee — wants to expand the legislation to include bans on other sorts of transactions, such as land deals. UCLA Law Prof. Stephen Bainbridge notes that this is likely an attempt by Cantor to kill the bill by making it so overly broad that no one will vote for it:

    [Cantor's] now trying to extend the STOCK Act “so it includes land deals and other types of transactions and not just stock trades.” Classic taking a good idea too far. The problem is insider trading in stocks, not insider trading in land deals. Cantor obviously hopes that including a vast array of economic activity within the bill, exposing members of Congress to disclosure obligations and other restrictions, as well as increasing their liability exposure, will make the bill sufficiently unpopular so as to prevent its passage.

The Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act has picked up 273 co-sponsors, after languishing for months with nearly no interest.
Like many conservatives Cantor thinks he is clever and real Americans are idiots. He might be partially right. Cantor campaigned on doing the right and moral things for the USA. So far all he has done is block economic progress to make President Obama look bad and to keep Washington in the hands of special interests. Maybe Cantor is delusional, imagining himself Rush Limbaugh's hand maiden.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Has Anyone Seen a Real Pro Life Conservative - Republican Fanatics Sentence Women to Death

Has Anyone Seen a Real Pro Life Conservative - Republican Fanatics Sentence Women to Death

The nation's leading breast-cancer charity, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, which has spent nearly $2 billion over the past 30 years for breast cancer education, health services, research, and advocacy, has announced that it will end its longtime partnership with the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. The announcement has sparked bitter debate among representatives from all concerned parties, highlighting the ongoing debate over abortion.

Planned Parenthood, currently the largest provider of reproductive health services in the United States, is widely known for helping women to obtain abortions and contraceptives. But those services, despite their high profile, account for only 38 percent (PDF) of the organization's work. And though Republicans often portray Planned Parenthood as strictly an abortion provider, using the phrase to incite anger among pro-life constituents and gain support for cuts to federal funding -- it comes largely through the Title X and Medicaid programs -- the fact is that the organization devotes most of its money and manpower to screening for breast, cervical, and testicular cancers; treating menopause; testing for sexually transmitted diseases; and more.

The money provided by Susan G. Komen for the Cure went to just a fraction -- about 19 according to one report -- of Planned Parenthood's more than 85 affiliates. And it was all -- roughly $680,000 last year and $580,000 the year before that -- used for breast-cancer screening and other breast-health services for low-income, uninsured, and under-insured women.

    "It's hard to understand how an organization with whom we share a mission of saving women's lives could have bowed to this kind of bullying."

Koman has been criticized in the past for donating to Planned Parenthood and the official response has always been that, despite the controversy surrounding some of its programs, the organization was the only one working to provide breast-health services to women in need in dozens of communities around the United States.

So why the sudden change?

Cutting funds to Planned Parenthood is the result of a newly adopted policy to block grants to organizations currently under investigation by any local, state, or federal authorities, Koman spokeswoman Leslie Aun told the Associated Press. A statement released Tuesday evening added: "While it is regrettable when changes in priorities and policies affect any of our grantees, such as a long-standing partner like Planned Parenthood, we must continue to evolve to best meet the needs of the women we serve and most fully advance our mission."

The key factor behind Komen's decision, Aun told the Associated Press, is not ongoing protests of Planned Parenthood -- the Alliance Defense Fund was quick to praise Komen "for seeing the contradiction between its lifesaving work and its relationship with an abortionist that has ended millions of lives" -- but an audit launched by Rep. Cliff Stearns, chairman of the Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, to determine whether public money had been spent on abortions over the last decade.

When launched way back in late September, Stearns' review was described as the first-ever oversight on taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood. But his motivations have been questioned repeatedly. Rep. Henry Waxman called out (PDF) Stearns: "Your fervent ideological opposition to Planned Parenthood does not justify launching this intrusive investigation." And Cecile Richards, the president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA), has said that investigation was politically motivated; Stearns must bow to the demands of Florida's 6th congressional district, a largely Republican area of North Central Florida that includes parts of Ocala and Gainesville.

Perhaps best known for his position overseeing the investigation into the Solyndra loan guarantee, Stearns has spent more than 20 years in Congress. Over such a long period, his political opponents inevitably called him a number of negative things. Among them, "bully" might be the easiest to print.

"It's hard to understand how an organization with whom we share a mission of saving women's lives could have bowed to this kind of bullying. It's really hurtful," Richards told the Associated Press. More than confused, Richard was shocked to learn about decision in a phone call this past December. She called it "incredibly surprising" that Komen's president, Elizabeth Thompson, was unwilling to have a discussion about the quick shift.

According to Jezebel's Erin Gloria Ryan, however, the influence of another key player in the Komen organization goes a long way in explaining its decision to defund: Karen Handel, who ran for governor of Georgia in 2010 and lost, despite an endorsement by none other than Sarah Palin, has been Komen's senior vice president for public policy since April 2011. On her campaign blog (fire up the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine because, curiously, these pages don't exist anymore), Handel wrote: "I will be a pro-life governor who will work tirelessly to promote a culture of life in Georgia. ... I believe that each and every unborn child has inherent dignity, that every abortion is a tragedy, and that government has a role, along with the faith community, in encouraging women to choose life in even the most difficult of circumstances. ...since I am pro-life, I do not support the mission of Planned Parenthood."

Handel even "promised to eliminate funding for breast and cervical cancer screenings provided by" Planned Parenthood, according to Jezebel.

Some of those affected are still figuring out how to respond to Komen's decision. "We're kind of reeling," Patrick Hurd, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Virginia, told the Associated Press. "It sounds almost trite ... but cancer doesn't care if you're pro-choice, anti-choice, progressive, conservative. Victims of cancer could care less about people's politics." And Hurd knows. Not just as the suit overseeing his organization's operations in one region, but as the husband of Betsi Hurd, a veteran of many Koman fundraising races and a current breast cancer patient.

Since Planned Parenthood refers women, who have expressed a desire to have an abortion, to clinics that perform them - to conservative fanatics that means they are somehow guilty of something. Conservatives seem to think PP should act like the fundamentalists in Iran, chain women to a bed and force government health care decisions on them. In the mean time these same conservatives - who for some inexplicable reason call themselves pro life, are sentencing women to the pain, suffering and death of cancer.

What Caused This Year’s Deficit? Hint: It Wasn’t an Obama 'Spending Binge'

Monday, January 30, 2012

How anti-tax zealots fail to see the connection between reasonable taxes and the overall health of society

How anti-tax zealots fail to see the connection between reasonable taxes and the overall health of society

TAXES and regulation will occupy center stage in the presidential contest.

One debate, for example, will focus on whether tax cuts for the wealthiest families should expire as scheduled at year-end — an issue that could gain traction now that Mitt Romney, the possible Republican nominee, has disclosed that he and his wife paid an effective federal rate of just 13.9 percent on their huge 2010 income. And on the regulation side, there will be attempts to repeal rules like the recently adopted Environmental Protection Agency standards that limit highly toxic mercury emissions.

Surveys indicate that most voters now favor higher taxes on the rich. But many wealthy people are determined to hang on to their tax cuts, and because recent changes in campaign finance law have greatly increased their political leverage, they may prevail. If so, however, it could prove a hollow victory.

Beyond some point, there seems to be little gain in satisfaction from bolstering your private spending. When mansions grow to 15,000 square feet from 10,000, for instance, the primary effect is merely to raise the bar that defines an adequate home among the superwealthy.

By contrast, higher spending on many forms of public consumption would produce clear gains in satisfaction for the wealthy. It’s reasonable to assume, for example, that driving on well-maintained roads is safer and less stressful than driving on pothole-ridden ones.

But that raises an obvious question: If wealthy taxpayers would be happier to drive slightly less expensive vehicles on better roads, why are so many of them vehemently opposed to the higher taxes needed for improved infrastructure?

One possible explanation is that they suffer from a simple cognitive illusion when they think about how higher taxes would affect them.

If you pay higher taxes, you obviously have less money to spend on what you want. So the prospect of a tax increase naturally inclines people to think that they’ll be less able to satisfy their desires.

But once incomes rise beyond a modest absolute threshold, many of the things that people want are what economists call positional goods. These may be things that are inherently in short supply, like gorgeous waterfront property; or things whose value depends heavily on context, like precious stones or sure-footed sports cars. Because positional goods are in short supply, they go to the highest bidders. The tendency to overlook that fact distorts how people think about the effects of higher taxes.

The cognitive illusion occurs because most financial setbacks that people experience in life stem from events that affect them alone. They may suffer health emergencies, for instance, or problems at work. Marriages may fail, jewelry may be stolen, and floods may damage homes. In each case, the effect is to limit the ability to bid for positional goods.

Because an overwhelming majority of financial setbacks occur for such idiosyncratic reasons, it’s natural to think that the income decline from higher taxes would have similar effects. But a tax increase is different. It affects all participants in the bidding for positional goods. And because it leaves everyone with less to spend, it has essentially no effect on the outcomes of those contests. The same paintings and the same marina slips end up in the same hands as before.

Context shapes demand not just for the wealthy, but also for consumers further down the income scale. As Adam Smith observed more than two centuries ago, for example, a linen shirt is not, strictly speaking, a necessity of life. The wealthiest ancient Greeks, for example, lived satisfying lives without any linen at all. But Smith noted that in 18th-century Scotland, even the lowliest laborer couldn’t appear in public without shame unless he owned a linen shirt, “the want of which would be supposed to denote that disgraceful degree of poverty, which, it is presumed, nobody can well fall into without extreme bad conduct.”

If what people feel they need depends on what others spend, the same cognitive illusion that affects wealthy Americans’ attitudes toward taxes creates a more general bias against government. Opponents of workplace safety regulation, for example, often denounce the lower wages made necessary by its cost. For families already struggling to make ends meet, that objection resonates.

But safety regulation requires an across-the-board decline in wages, which is much less painful than one that occurs in isolation. Once absolute incomes exceed a certain threshold, lower wages are easily tolerated when they don’t entail relative disadvantage. Additional safety, bought collectively, entails a less onerous sacrifice than it does when an individual buys it for himself.

The tax and regulatory issues in the coming election are clearly important. Millions of workers will retire over the next two decades, so spending cuts alone can’t eliminate deficits. We need additional revenue, too. And as population density increases, we can’t prevent dangerous environmental spillovers without intelligent regulation.

It would be one thing if lobbying against taxes and regulation brought wealthy Americans a world more to their liking. But if their goal is to buy a home with a more spectacular view, for example, they will be disappointed. There are only so many such homes to go around, and they’ll be bought by the very same people as before, since everyone will be bidding more.

So when the anti-tax wealthy make campaign contributions, they are buying only the deeper potholes and dirtier air that inevitably result when tax revenue is low. (reprinted here for educational purposes)

** People that hate taxes generally have an anti-American agenda. 1. They want a free ride( anti-tax conservatives like Grover Norquist for instance, formerly a far left socialist is a leech on society 2. They want all the infrastructure taxes pay for but do not want to pay their sahre. 3. They say if you want to pay higher taxes go ahead. Though they will continue to use what other tax payers paid for. 4. Right-wing conservative Republicans do not see the connection betwen paying for things like basic science resrch, their own health and the economic opportunites created by that research. 5. Low taxes equals poor education. No society in the history of the world has maintained its technological or economic edge by letting its public primary education and university system fall behind other nations. Another reason to say without doubt that anti-taxers are anti-America.