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Essay: The One Percent Court, by Bill Moyers and Bernard Weisberger


Essay: The One Percent Court

September 13, 2012

by Bill Moyers and Bernard Weisberger

A version of this essay will appear in an upcoming issue of The Nation, focusing on the Supreme Court. It will be available on newsstands Sept. 20, 2012.

Why a special issue of The Nation devoted to the Supreme Court? Because with partisan gridlock paralyzing both the president and Congress, the Court has more than ever become “the decider” — the most powerful branch of government, and one at the center of a controversy whose outcome may shape the course of democracy for generations to come.

By a paradox both historical and constitutional, the political appointees on the Roberts Court will never have to answer for their decisions to voters like you and me. Nor to the president or Congress: once they are confirmed, the Supreme Court’s justices, like all federal judges, serve for life or “good behavior.”

The Constitution’s framers meant to secure the Court against political pressure from the electorate and arbitrary dismissal of its members from on high by presidents dissatisfied with their decisions. As the third branch of the new national government — one whose powers were to be divided to block overreach by any one of them — the Court would be equal to the executive and legislative arms, even though the president appointed its members with the concurrence of the Senate.

That changed dramatically when John Marshall became the fourth chief justice in 1801, shortly before Thomas Jefferson took office. The two brilliant men were bitter rivals, members of opposing parties. Marshall was a Federalist, Jefferson a Republican (no kin to the present GOP). So the supposedly neutral Court has been thrown since its infancy onto the partisan battleground, where it remains today. In a landmark case in 1803, Marshall refused to apply a 1789 law giving Jefferson a power not strictly authorized in the Constitution and therefore “unconstitutional.” With that decision, the Court was no longer merely equal to the other two branches. It had become superior — the last word on how the Constitution should be interpreted — and its lifelong members would never risk their jobs, no matter how much they fell out of step with changing times and values.


Was free speech on mute during the conventions?

Was free speech on mute during the conventions?

By Ann O'Neill, CNN

updated 2:13 PM EDT, Sun September 9, 2012



On Tuesday, the first day of the Democratic convention, about 100 protesters blocked the intersection across the street from "the pen," demanding their free speech rights and entangling police in a two-hour standoff that ended peacefully when the skies opened up for the daily downpour.

"At least they gave us some entertainment," said a city worker overseeing the free speech area, which had to be one of the loneliest convention assignments. He passed the time reading a biography of Yogi Berra.

Such was the state of free speech here during last week's Democratic convention, and at the Republican convention the week before in Tampa, Florida.

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects the right to freely practice one's religion and publicly speak one's mind without government constraint or interference. It also gives citizens the right to assemble and to air their grievances to their government. But the law remains unsettled on whether the government has the power to say where.

The Supreme Court has established guidelines to measure whether speech restrictions pass constitutional muster. The restrictions must be neutral and not based on content, and they must be specific; they must serve a significant government interest, such as public safety; and they must provide for alternative means of communication.

The free speech zones are meant to be that alternative means of communication, but the Lawyers Guild advises clients to avoid them and use the public sidewalks.


Striking Teachers, Parents Join Forces to Oppose "Corporate" Education Model in Chicago

Striking Teachers, Parents Join Forces to Oppose "Corporate" Education Model in Chicago

watch: http://www.democracynow.org/2012/9/10/striking_teachers_parents_join_forces_to

To discuss the Chicago teachers’ strike, we’re joined by two guests: Phil Cantor, a teacher and strike captain at Chicago’s North-Grand High School and member of Teachers for Social Justice, and Rhoda Rae Gutierrez, the mother of two public school students in Chicago and a member of the grassroots group Parents 4 Teachers. [includes rush transcript]


Phil Cantor, has taught science for the last nine years. He currently teaches at North-Grand High School in Chicago. He is a strike captain at his school. Cantor is also part of the group Teachers for Social Justice.

Rhoda Rae Gutierrez, mother of two public school students in Chicago and a member of the grassroots group, Parents 4 Teachers. Her kids attend Coonley Elementary School.

Kashmir’s Melting Glaciers May Cut Ice With Sceptics


Kashmir’s Melting Glaciers May Cut Ice With Sceptics

By Athar Parvaiz

SRINAGAR, India, Aug 31 2012 (IPS) - Jowhar Ahmed, an air-conditioner dealer in Srinagar, is pleased at a spurt in business this summer caused by temperatures soaring over 35 degrees Celsius – unusual in this alpine valley ringed by snow-capped mountains.

“I sold more than 70 air-conditioners in just one month,” Ahmed, who runs the Oriental Sales electrical goods outlet, told IPS. To cope with the demand Ahmed and other dealers have begun stocking air-conditioners in Srinagar rather than book orders for later delivery.

That the weather is warming over Kashmir is not news for climate scientists who have shown in several studies that the glaciers in the vast Hindu Kush-Karakoram-Himalaya (HKKH) region – called the world’s ‘third pole’ – are melting and receding at an increasing pace.

In the latest of these studies, European scientists led by Andreas Kaab of the department of geosciences, University of Oslo, have shown that glacial melt is worse in the Kashmir Himalayas than in other regions of the HKKH.

Kaab’s findings, published in the Aug. 23 edition of ‘Nature’, suggest that Kashmir’s glaciers may be receding by as much as half-a-metre annually, presenting an immediate threat to the rivers that feed into the Indus basin.

“Glaciers are among the best indicators of terrestrial climate variability,” said Kaab in the study. “They contribute importantly to water resources in many mountainous regions and are a major contributor to global sea-level rise.”


Why a plank in the GOP platform: "No minimum wage for the Mariana Islands"? Ask Ralph Reed

Why would a plank in the official GOP platform say "No minimum wage for the Mariana Islands"? Ask Ralph Reed ... or read this latest essay from Bill Moyers and Michael Winship.

Ralph Reed in the Marianas Trenches

A plank in the GOP platform tells just one tale of Reed's heinous hypocrisy.

Ralph Reed in the Marianas Trenches

August 31, 2012

by Bill Moyers and Michael Winship

Entrance to garment factory on Saipan; Credit: WikiCommons

As the sun slowly sets over the Republican National Convention in Tampa, we settle back in the chairs that nice Mr. Eastwood just gave us and ponder some of the other oddities of the week. Like this item in the official GOP platform pointed out by Brad Plumer of The Washington Post:

No minimum wage for the Mariana Islands. “The Pacific territories should have flexibility to determine the minimum wage, which has seriously restricted progress in the private sector.”

This caught our attention (and thanks to colleague Theresa Riley for sending) because it once again reminds us of the sordid past of evangelical and political entrepreneur Ralph Reed who, as this week’s edition of Moyers & Company reports in detail, has emerged from the ashes of epic career fail to reestablish himself as a powerful figure in Republican politics.

As head of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, Reed boasts he’s building a political dynamo of five million members with a massive database, an annual budget of $100 million and full-time lobbyists in all fifty state capitals, a colossal effort aimed at putting in place a right-wing social agenda and identifying and establishing contact with what it estimates as 27 million conservative voters in America. As you can imagine, with clout like that, Reed and his coalition were in high cotton at the Tampa convention.


We Are Writing the Epilogue to the World We Knew

https://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/08/31#.UEDdtWWFSjo.facebookPublished on Friday, August 31, 2012 by Common Dreams

We Are Writing the Epilogue to the World We Knew

by John Atcheson

The data continue to roll in, and they are telling us we are in the process of bringing an end to the world we evolved in, and creating a new, harsher world. We will be forced to devote more and more of our resources trying to adapt to this new world, and less on development.

While politicians fiddle, the world burns. While the press plays he-said, she-said, the ice melts, the seas rise.

In 1990 we could have averted this disaster and saved money doing it. As late as 2010 we still had a shot at avoiding it. But now, the die is cast, the future foretold. What follows will be an epilogue to civilization, as we knew it.

Hyperbole? Let’s look at the facts.

Arctic sea ice hits lowest extent ever measured (and it’s still melting) – check.

.. much more..

Facing Grand Jury Intimidation: Fear, Silence and Solidarity


Facing Grand Jury Intimidation: Fear, Silence and Solidarity

Thursday, 30 August 2012 10:28
By Natasha Lennard, Truthout | Report

We've seen some pretty bold anti-authoritarian actions across the country in the last month. Police vehicles were vandalized in San Francisco, Oakland, Illinois and Milwaukee.

Anarchist redecorators visited courthouses, police substations, sports car dealerships and more. Banners dropped in New York, Atlanta, Vancouver, Seattle and elsewhere echoed their graffitied sentiments: "Fuck Grand Juries"; "Solidarity with Northwest Anarchists." Boldest of all, however (and the inspiration underpinning this spate), has been the action from a small group of anarchists in the Pacific Northwest: silence.

Two Portland-based activists, Leah-Lynn Plante and Dennison Williams, publicly announced late last month that they had been subpoenaed to appear in front of a federal grand jury in Seattle and that they would refuse to cooperate. During a grand jury hearing on August 2, Plante did just this - offering her name and birthdate only - and has been summoned to return for another hearing on August 30, where she again intends to say nothing. Meanwhile, it is believed a handful of other activists are fighting to quash subpoenas served to them with the shared intention of noncooperation.

Grand juries are among the blackest boxes in the federal judiciary system. Given their highly secretive nature, few people within - or outside - activist circles know what it means to be called to a grand jury and what it takes to resist.

"Our passion for freedom is stronger than their state prisons," Williams announced in a statement on behalf of himself and Plante about their intention to resist the grand jury, referencing the fact that by merely staying silent, the two could face considerable jail time, despite facing no criminal charges.


Angry white guy bemoans lack of angry white guys in Republican Party


THU AUG 30, 2012 AT 10:44 AM PDT

Angry white guy bemoans lack of angry white guys in Republican Party
byKaili Joy Gray

This week, Republicans are trying super hard at their convention to show that their party isn't made up mostly of angry white guys. Which is not going very well:

But they have delivered those speeches to a convention hall filled overwhelmingly with white faces, an awkward contrast that has been made more uncomfortable this week by a series of racial headaches that have intruded on the party’s efforts to project a new level of inclusiveness.

Astute political observer and one-third of the most infamous bipartisan traveling ménage à trois, Sen. Lindsey Graham, knows exactly what the Republican Party's problem really is:

“The demographics race we’re losing badly,” said Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.). “We’re not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term.”

Gosh, with that kind of racial sensitivity, it's hard to imagine how this recent poll is even possible:

While it was no surprise to see that President Obama snared 94 percent of African Americans surveyed, the presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney got nuthin’, zilch, niente, a big fat 0 percent.

At least Republicans can't make it worse.

Security at the RNC: George Orwell Meets a 'Call of Duty' Cityscape


Security at the RNC: George Orwell Meets a 'Call of Duty' Cityscape

By Conor Friedersdorf
Aug 28 2012, 7:00 AM ET100

At a defining civic event, the establishment is insulated by an army of police officers from protesters camping unseen on a far away corner.

Deep inside the Tampa Bay Times Forum, the impenetrable fortress where this year's Republican National Convention is being held, my colleagues and various GOP delegates assure me that the venue security I experienced is typical for events of this kind -- that it's been this way ever since 9/11. "This must be your first convention," they say. It is. As a newbie, it feels like an Orwellian police state, albeit one where the men in military fatigues carrying assault weapons are exceptionally polite. Convention veterans are inured to the layers of security checkpoints, the metal detectors, the bomb sniffing dogs, the concrete barricades, the chain link fences, and the virtual absence of protesters. I'll likely feel that way too after a few more days flashing my official credential, emblazoned with a holographic elephant raising its trunk in triumph. It's the new normal.

For now, however, I still find it striking that a community organizer turned president and a Republican Party constantly talking up limited government have collaborated to police and host a civic event literally held beneath multiple hovering police helicopters. Delegates and journalists are welcome, but citizen protesters are so far removed in their permanent camp that they might as well be in another city, save brief forays that bring them momentarily to the far periphery of the secure zone. They have the right to peaceably assemble... over there.

In past years I've always watched the political conventions on television. The atmosphere on the convention floor invariably appears to be festive, with delegates resplendent in red, white, and blue, a series of speeches by familiar figures extolling American values, and broadcast media invested in the notion that their job is to humanize the nominee. Sunday night, I watched from my hotel room as CNN broadcast its deep dive on Mitt Romney. The piece had all the trappings of even-handedness. Neither compliments nor criticisms were broadcast without some balancing statement. The unstated bias was toward narrative biography, as if looking deep into the candidate's past would reveal the true character of the man behind the HD image machine.

What feels different, experiencing the RNC here at the actual venue, is the inescapable, visceral awareness of the sprawling establishment that surrounds the nominee and his running-mate.


Six Budget Proposals Side-By-Side (Moyers & Company)

(good stuff)


Every spring in Washington, Republican and Democratic members submit their proposals for the following fiscal year’s budget to the House Budget Committee. The chart below contrasts “The Path to Prosperity” plan proposed by Republicans — championed by House Budget Committee chairman and vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, and approved by the House of Representatives on March 29 — with the Democratic Party budget submitted by the budget committee’s ranking member Chris Van Hollen. Also included are proposals across the political spectrum from other interest groups that have created alternative budgets, hoping that some of their ideas may make it into legislation.

This comparative budget chart focuses on programs that affect the nation‘s safety net — access for low-income families and the unemployed to jobs, food, housing and health care. Some of the proposals include actual amounts and percentages, listed by budget categories, while others only address priorities, so the comparisons may at times be a little difficult. Nonetheless, we thought highlighting them side-by-side would be interesting and useful, and you can click on each of the plans to read them in their entirety if you wish to dig deeper. If you would like to compare them with our current budget, check out this nice snapshot from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

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