Saturday, December 31, 2011

US AG Holder’s Voting Rights Gamble - The Supreme Court Voter ID Showdown

During 2011, this blog published many articles about the GOP's push to pass legislation requiring one of a very limited selection of government-issued photo IDs (like a driver’s license, passport or gun permit) to vote.

The new laws require specific identification not carried by a disproportionate portion of certain demographic groups that tend to vote Democratic. These groups include Blacks, Hispanics, the poor, seniors, and the young.

Because such laws do have a disproportionate on certain demographic groups, the U.S. Department of Justice, last Friday, blocked South Carolina's new voter photo ID law. It is widely thought the Justice Dept. will move to also block Texas' new voter photo ID law in the coming weeks.

Two of our articles looked at the pending show down down between the U.S. Department of Justice and the conservative leaning justices on the Supreme Court of the United States overt the voter photo ID laws and possibly the 1965 Voting Rights Act, itself:

On Friday, Slate published an article that also looks at the pending USDOJ v. SCOTUS showdown:

On the Friday before Christmas Day, the Department of Justice formally objected to a new South Carolina law requiring voters to produce an approved form of photo ID in order to vote. That move already has drawn cheers from the left and jeers from the right. The DoJ said South Carolina could not show that its new law would not have an adverse impact on racial minorities, who are less likely to have acceptable forms of identification.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley denounced the DoJ decision blocking the law under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act: “It is outrageous, and we plan to look at every possible option to get this terrible, clearly political decision overturned so we can protect the integrity of our electoral process and our 10th Amendment rights.” The state’s attorney general vowed to fight the DoJ move in court, and thanks to an odd quirk in the law, the issue could get fast-tracked to the Supreme Court, which could well use it to strike down the Voting Rights Act provision as unconstitutional before the 2012 elections.

The current dispute has an eerie echo. More than 45 years ago in 1966, South Carolina also went to the Supreme Court to complain that Section 5 unconstitutionally intruded on its sovereignty. Under the 1965 Act, states with a history of racial discrimination like South Carolina could not make changes in its voting rules—from major changes like redistricting to changes as minor as moving a polling place across the street—without getting the permission of either the U.S. Department of Justice or a three-judge court in Washington, D.C. The state had to show the law was not enacted with the purpose, or effect, of making minority voters worse off than they already were.

... In its 1966 South Carolina v. Katzenbach decision, the Supreme Court said the law requiring “preclearance” of voting changes, while an extreme intrusion on states’ rights, was necessary because lesser measures—like federal government suits over each discriminatory voting practice—had not worked. ... Today, Some conservatives argue that Section 5 is no longer constitutional, because the states subject to preclearance don’t present a special danger of racial discrimination.

... If South Carolina argues in court [in 2012] that it is unconstitutional to require it to submit its voter ID law for federal approval, and the three-judge court rejects that argument, it is hard to imagine the Supreme Court conservatives refusing to hear that case.

... Why did the Obama DoJ deny preclearance, knowing it could well set up this massive confrontation and potentially lead to the downfall of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act? There are both principled and political reasons.

First of all, it was the right thing to do. As the DoJ letter explains, South Carolina presented no evidence that its law was necessary to prevent voter fraud, and the evidence was uncontested that minority voters were less likely to have ID

Second, if the Court is going to strike down Section 5, it might be politically better for this to happen before the 2012 elections, so that Obama can run against a Supreme Court, and the possibility that a President Romney could appoint a young version of Justice Scalia to take a retiring Justice Kennedy’s seat on the court, solidifying the court’s conservative majority for a generation.

It’s a gamble, both legally and politically, and no one knows for sure how it will turn out. But South Carolina may fare much better before the Roberts court this spring than it did before the Warren court in 1966.

Read the full article @ Slate.

Voter Photo ID Related Stories:

Keeping Students From the Polls

Among the findings of the latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Dec. 7-11, 2011:
"There is a sharp difference by age when it comes to the word liberal – while 61% of people under age 30 react positively, just 34% of those age 65 and older say the same. By contrast, reactions to the word conservative are almost identical across all age groups."
In 2008, enthusiasm about Obama’s message of “hope” and “change” toward more liberal (progressive) ideals drew college students and other young adults to volunteer for political groups, to register to vote and to head to the polls on Election Day. In 2008, nearly 70 percent of voters 29 and younger voted for Obama — the highest share of youth votes ever to go to any one candidate, according to exit polls. (note: for the Nov. 2012 election, those young 2008 voters will be age 34 and younger.)

In a national survey of Americans, ages 18-29, conducted by Harvard’s Institute of Politics in March 2011, 80 percent said they have a Facebook account. Among college students, 90 percent use the account. Facebook friend statuses were second only to major national newspapers in sources that young adults said they would be interested in turning to for information about the 2012 campaign.

Republican state lawmakers in seven states, including Texas, have passed strict laws requiring one of a very limited selection of government-issued photo IDs (like a driver’s license or a passport) to vote. Many college and university students carry only their student ID cards and don’t have one of the newly required voting IDs. Many of those new photo ID laws have been interpreted as prohibiting out-of-state driver’s licenses from being used for voting, which will further restrict the states' "non-resident" students for voting.

It’s all part of a widespread Republican effort to restrict the voting rights of demographic groups that tend to vote Democratic. Blacks, Hispanics, the poor and the young, who are more likely to support President Obama, are disproportionately represented in the 21 million people without government IDs. On Friday, the Justice Department, finally taking action against these abuses, blocked the new voter ID law in South Carolina.

Republicans usually don’t want to acknowledge that their purpose is to turn away voters, especially when race is involved, so they invented an explanation, claiming that stricter ID laws are necessary to prevent voter fraud. In fact, there is almost no voter fraud in America to prevent.

"I don't want everybody to vote," Paul Weyrich, co-founder of the billionaire-funded Heritage Foundation, Moral Majority, American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and other conservative organizations, said while addressing a conservative Republican audience. "Our leverage in the elections goes up as the voting populace goes down," he added after he denigrated those who seek "good government" through maximum, informed voter participation as people who suffer from the "goo goo syndrome." Weyrich was also a co-founder of the Council for National Policy, a strategy-formulating organization for social conservatives; co-publisher of the magazine Conservative Digest; and national chairman of Coalitions for America, an association of conservative activist organizations.

William O’Brien, the speaker of the New Hampshire State House, told a Tea Party group earlier this year that students are “foolish” and tend to “vote their feelings” because they lack life experience.

“Voting as a liberal,” he said, “that’s what kids do.” And that’s why, he said, he supported measures to prohibit students from voting from their college addresses and to end same-day registration.

New Hampshire Republicans even tried to pass a bill that would have kept students who previously lived elsewhere from voting in the state; fortunately, the measure failed, as did the others Mr. O’Brien favored.

Many students have taken advantage of Election Day registration laws, which is one reason Maine Republicans passed a law eliminating the practice. Voters restored it last month, but Republican lawmakers there are already trying new ways to restrict voting. The secretary of state said he was investigating students who are registered to vote in the state but pay out-of-state tuition.

Wisconsin once made it easy for students to vote, making it one of the leading states in turnout of younger voters in 2004 and 2008. When Republicans swept into power there last year, they undid all of that, imposing requirements that invalidated the use of virtually all college ID cards in voter registration. Colleges are scrambling to change their cards to add signatures and expiration dates, but it’s not clear whether the state will let them.

Imposing these restrictions to win an election will embitter a generation of students in its first encounter with the machinery of democracy.


Friday, December 30, 2011

‘Progressive’ Is The Most Positively Viewed Political Label in America

Why are Republicans always calling President Obama a socialist -- everybody hates socialists, even liberals, even Occupy Wall Streeters. The socialist name calling, echoed without challenge by the main stream press, seems to be working, too. Americans perceive Barack Obama as furthest away from their own political viewpoint, according to a just released Gallup poll.

It is no accident that Republicans picked the "socialist" moniker to pin to Pres. Obama's coat tails. Socialism is a negative for most Americans with six-in-ten (60%) saying they have a negative reaction to the word. Socialism is the most politically polarizing of the most common political monikers – the reaction is almost universally negative among conservatives.

These are among the findings of the latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Dec. 7-11, 2011.

Both of the ideological descriptions used most frequently in American politics – conservative and liberal – receive more positive than negative reactions from the American public. But the positives for conservative (62%) are higher than for liberal (50%).

This conservative v. liberal gap mainly reflects the balance of what people call themselves; more people consistently call themselves conservative than liberal in public opinion polling, even though surveys consistently show a majority of Americans favor liberal (progressive) policies and programs, including, for example, Social Security, Medicare, and everyone paying their fair share to support public transportation systems and public education. Those who think of themselves as politically “moderate” give similarly positive assessments to both words.

As many Democratic strategists have argued, the term progressive receives a far more positive reaction from the American public than the term liberal (67% vs 50%), though the difference is primarily among Republicans.

Last year the Republican National Committee urged fundraisers to stoke fear by calling President Obama, and Democrats in general, "socialists."

Democrats dubbed the GOP fundraising plan, contained in a private GOP document, "RNC Fear-Gate." The document layed out a full "strategy-of-fear" and included unflattering caricatures of House minority leaded Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. A copy of the document was left at the hotel that hosted the retreat, and a source provided it to Politico.

RNC member Donna Lou Gosney of West Virginia said, "You have to identify something and label it so you can talk about it and 'socialism' is a good scare word."

More Americans consistently call themselves conservative than liberal in public opinion polling because many have been conditioned by conservative messaging, largely echoed unchallenged by the main stream media, to view the word "liberal" negatively. The main stream media also does not challenge the conservative messaging meme that Americans are predominately right of center in their political views. Fox News, for example, continually pushes the right-wing talking point that "America is a center-right country."

In fact, on issue after issue, polls are clear that Americans favor progressive policies:

Republicans Slash Public Education To Fuel Private 'For Profit' Corporate Schools

The 2011 Texas Legislature slashed the state's funding of public K-12 schools, colleges and universities. The real motivation for underfunding public education is to replace our low cost public system of education available to every citizen with a high cost private 'for profit' education system.

Huffington Post

While for-profit colleges do indeed educate more low-income and minority students than other institutions, this is in large part because support for the traditional alternative, community college, has failed to keep pace with demand.

Though no one maintains a comprehensive list of state funding for community colleges, state and local support for community colleges on a per-student basis declined by 5 percent in 2009 from a decade earlier, according to Department of Education statistics compiled by the Delta Project, a nonprofit research group that studies higher education spending. The total subsidies provided to students by community colleges, including funding from public sources and other outside support, fell by 10 percent over the last decade, on a per-student basis.

The Obama administration has significantly boosted funding for Pell Grants, which are available to low-income students. Over the last three years of the program, the federal government has more than doubled spending on Pell grants, budgeting $20 billion more this year than in the 2007-08 school year. For-profit colleges have captured an outsized share of this pool -- roughly 25 percent -- despite educating only 12 percent of college students nationwide, according to the most recent federal data.

Had the $7.5 billion that for-profit institutions received via Pell Grants during the 2009-2010 school year gone instead to fund community college systems nationwide, that money could have created capacity for an additional 629,000 community college students, The Huffington Post calculated, using available estimates for the average expenditure per student. That would represent a 20 percent increase in the number of full-time community college students currently enrolled nationwide.

At California's community colleges -- the nation's largest system of higher education, serving a quarter of community college students nationwide -- an estimated 200,000 students will be turned away from classes next school year, according to the state community college chancellor's office, following state cutbacks of nearly 20 percent across the entire system. That amounts to more than 7 percent of the entire state's community college student body, and that does not count those who gave up on plans to enroll due to the difficulties of securing classes.

After accounting for inflation, California is now spending the same amount on community colleges that it did six years ago, despite adding more than 175,000 students in that period, a nearly 20 percent increase. On a per-student basis, the state is spending less this year than it was 15 years ago.

The for-profit college programs that have been absorbing the resulting overflow of students are on average more than five times as expensive as their community college counterparts, according to a Senate report that examined such schools nationally. While only about one in five students at community colleges takes out loans to finance their tuition, four of five students at for-profit two- and four-year schools sign off on loans, according to Department of Education data.

Because of the high costs and high debt loads, students at for-profit colleges are responsible for about 45 percent of all student loan defaults.

In the eyes of public education advocates, for-profit colleges are the inevitable, opportunistic outgrowth of a society that simultaneously rewards those with greater education while it eliminates traditional support for public campuses.

"The economy is essentially telling people that you have to get some kind of post-secondary degree or credential," said Anthony Carnevale, director of Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce. "So the demand is growing very fast, and our ability to fund this function is crashing. It's not just declining, it's crashing. The public sector is basically getting out of the business, so the costs are shifting to the individual students."

Read the full article @ Huffington Post

Friday, December 23, 2011

USDOJ Blocks South Carolina Voter Photo ID Law

The Justice Department on Friday rejected South Carolina's law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls, saying it makes it harder for minorities to cast ballots. South Carolina's law, which is almost identical to Texas' voter photo ID law, was the first voter ID law to be refused by the Obama administration. The Justice Department must approve changes to South Carolina's election laws under the federal Voting Rights Act because of the state's past failure to protect the voting rights of blacks. Texas, also covered by the Voting Rights Act, may soon receive a similar letter in response to it's preclrearance request. (USDOJ's letter to SC at the bottom of this post)

Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez said South Carolina's law didn't meet the burden under the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which outlawed discriminatory practices preventing blacks from voting. Perez said tens of thousands of minorities in South Carolina might not be able to cast ballots under South Carolina's law because they don't have the right photo ID.

South Carolina's new voter ID law requires people casting ballots to show poll workers a state-issued driver's license or ID card; a U.S. military ID or a U.S. passport.

South Carolina is among five states that passed laws this year requiring some form of ID at the polls, while such laws were already on the books in Indiana and Georgia, whose law received approval from President George W. Bush's Justice Department. Indiana's law, passed in 2005, was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2008. This USDOJ decision places the federal government squarely in opposition to the types of voter ID requirements that have swept through mostly Republican-controlled state legislatures.

“Put differently, although non-white voters comprised 30.4% of the state’s registered voters, they constituted 34.2% of registered voters who did not have the requisite DMV-issued identification to vote,” Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez, who heads the Civil Rights Division, wrote in the letter to South Carolina. “Non-white voters were therefore disproportionally represented, to a significant degree, in the group of registered voters who, under the proposed law, would be rendered ineligible to go to the polls and participate in the election.”

Perez wrote that the number of minority citizens whose exercise of the francise could be adversely affected by the proposed requirements “runs in the tens of thousands.” He wrote that the state had “failed entirely to address the disparity between the proportions of white and non-white registered voters who lack DMV-issued identification.”

Because Justice Department lawyers reached the conclusion that South Carolina’s voter ID law would have the effect of suppressing minority voter turnout, they found it was unnecessary to examine whether that was the intent of the legislators who voted for the law. Cases based on intent to discriminate are usually more difficult to prove even though they don’t require the government to prove the effect was discriminatory.

The Texas Secretary of State filed the the state's request for preclearance in July, but the USDOJ determined in September that it needed more information. Specifically the USDOJ requested the racial breakdown and counties of residence of the estimated 605,576 registered voters who do not have a state-issued license or photo ID, and how many of them have Spanish surnames. It requested the same information for registered voters who do have valid IDs.

The Texas Secretary of State (TXSOS) had initially told the DOJ that 605,576 registered Texas voters do not appear to have a Texas driver’s license or personal ID card. The SOS report indicates that in 27 of Texas' 254 counties, at least 10 percent of the registered voters might be unable to cast ballots. In Presidio County in Southwest Texas as many as 25.9% of registered voters might not have the required photo ID, which will block as many as 1,313 out of the 5,066 registered voters in that county from casting ballots in any election.

The Texas Democratic Party followed up with its own letter and spreadsheet to the USDOJ showing that in at least 46 Texas counties, over half the voters who do not have one of the required photo ID's are Hispanic. The Texas Democratic Party and various organizations staunchly opposed SB14 on the grounds it will disenfranchise elderly and minority voters.

Although most Americans have government-issued photo ID, studies show that as many as 11-12% of eligible voters nationwide do not; the percentage is even higher for seniors, people of color, people with disabilities, low-income voters, and students. Last month, the Brennan Center for Justice issued a report on its research that shows as many as 11% of eligible voters nationwide do not hold a government issue photo ID. With 18.8 million voting age citizens in Texas, as counted by the 2010 U.S. census, as many as 2.1 million (11 percent) registered and unregistered voting age citizens in Texas possibly do not hold a Texas driver’s license, personal ID card or other government issued photo ID document.

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson said he would fight the Justice Department in federal court. He said the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a similar law in Indiana several years ago. "Nothing in this act stops people from voting," Wilson said. The ball is now in Wilson's court;

If the state does nothing, the voter photo ID provisions of the law is nullified.

Alternatively, Wilson can advise the state to provide new data to the USDOJ (the state told USDOJ 55 days into the 60 day review period that the data they originally turned over was flawed) and ask for reconsideration. Or, Wilson can advise the state legislature to pass a different law with less restrictive identification requirements. Or, Wilson can appeal the decision through the courts. The Supreme Court upheld Indiana’s voter ID law in 2008, so the state may think it has a good chance to win on appeal, though the question of racial disparity wasn’t the focus of SCOTUS’s 2008 decision.

USDOJ officials are still reviewing Texas' ID law. The USDOJ likely will send a rejection letter to Texas in mid-January at the end of the current 60 day clock on its Texas preclearance decision. Since the laws and issues are so similar between TX and SC, the Tx letter is likely to say much the same thing as today's SC letter.

It is widely expected that South Carolina (and Texas) will take the USDOJ's preclearance rejection to the three judge court in DC, with direct appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. It is also expected that South Carolina (and Texas) will argue that Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act is unconstitutional — an issue that has been simmering in other VRA cases.

South Carolina (and Texas) likely will seek expedited review of the USDOJ's rejection in the DC court as well as in the Supreme Court, on grounds that the states want to use their new voter photo ID laws in the 2012 election. That would put the VRA constitutionality question raised in the voter photo ID case before the Supreme Court at about the same time SCOTUS will be considering the constitutionality of the San Antonio court's redrawing of Texas' House, Senate and Congressional district maps. This would give the conservative activist Supreme Court Justices a chance to not only weaken section 5 of the Voting Rights Act as unconstitutional before the 2012 election, but to strike it down all together.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

How Freedom Became Tyranny

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 20th December 2011

Freedom: who could object? Yet this word is now used to justify a thousand forms of exploitation. Throughout the rightwing press and blogosphere, among think tanks and governments, the word excuses every assault on the lives of the poor, every form of inequality and intrusion to which the 1% subject us. How did libertarianism, once a noble impulse, become synonymous with injustice?

In the name of freedom – freedom from regulation – the banks were permitted to wreck the economy. In the name of freedom, taxes for the super-rich are cut. In the name of freedom, companies lobby to drop the minimum wage and raise working hours. In the same cause, US insurers lobby Congress to thwart effective public healthcare; the government rips up our planning laws; big business trashes the biosphere. This is the freedom of the powerful to exploit the weak, the rich to exploit the poor.

Cartoon by Barry Deutsch @ Lefty Cartoons

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Seasons Greetings With A Christmas Carol

As a holiday offering to all our readers we offer old radio broadcasts and a 1935 British movie of "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens.

Here are the 1938 and 1939 Campbell Playhouse radio broadcast productions of "A Christmas Carol" featuring Orson Welles and Lionel Barrymore. [Mercury Theatre Info]

1938 version featuring Orson Welles as Scrooge. Play starts at 5:30 minutes [MP3]

1939 version featuring Lionel Barrymore as Scrooge (My favorite) Play starts at 3:00 minutes [MP3]

Seymour Hicks plays the title role in the first sound version of the Dickens classic about the miser who's visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve. This British import is notable for being the only adaptation of this story with an invisible Marley's Ghost and its Expressionistic cinematography. This is the uncut 78 minute version from the Internet Archive.

Bill Maher:

New Rule: Someone needs to explain to the Republicans that Ebenezer Scrooge is supposed to be the bad guy. And before conservatives start whining about another "War on Christmas", they must admit they hate everything about Christmas. Because brotherhood, good will toward men, and especially charity make their skin crawl.

Now this week, Michele Bachmann proposed cutting huge holes in the federal safety net, demonstrating a total misunderstanding of the concept of a net. Here's what she said.

MICHELE BACHMANN (11/7/2011): Self-reliance means if anyone will not work, neither should he eat.
Merry Christmas to you too, crazy lady. Yeah, that's the first thing I think whenever self-reliance comes up: punishment by starvation.

Honestly, who could hear that statement, and not think of Scrooge, who in A Christmas Carol, suggests that if the poor don't want to go to the workhouse, they should get on with dying as a service to population control. Now if Herman Cain said that at a Republican debate, he would get a standing ovation. And say what you want about Ebenezer Scrooge, he never shoved Bob Cratchit's head into his groin and said, "Look, you want Christmas off or not?"

Newt Gingrich refers to Obama as the "Food Stamp President", because Obama doesn't want children to starve to death, fuckin' commie.

Mitt Romney says we should let all the people about to lose their homes, lose them. And they can just become renters. Ownership society? Meet "No pets, no waterbeds". Mitt said the same thing a few years ago when the automobile industry was tottering: "Let it die".

I find it ironic that Republicans have such disdain for the lazy, and yet their solution to every problem is "do nothing".

Their answer to wealth inequality? Do nothing.

Health care? Do nothing.

Climate change? Nothing.

Racism? Doesn't exist.

For a group of people so head over heels in love with self-reliance, they sure do recommend a lot of sitting on their ass.

If A Christmas Carol was performed by the Tea Party Dramatic Society, it would be a cautionary tale about how the hero, Scrooge, a blameless job creator, is turned into a socialist through the corrupting influence of Tiny Tim. And the play would end with a simple plaintive question from Mr. Scrooge: "Just how much of my wealth does Mr. Tim think he's entitled to?"

And that is the great Republican fallacy of this election, that our economic problems are due not to Wall Street's gambling, but because too many Americans are lazy. But there are 16 million unemployed, and we only created 80,000 jobs last month. The problem isn't laziness, it's math.

But this is where the Republican Party is now.

In favor of people dying, because they don't have health insurance.

In favor of letting people go unfed if they won't work.

And if they want to work, but are Mexicans, in favor of putting up a fence that electrocutes them.

Even Scrooge is thinking, "Look, I hate the poor, but I'm not a fucking psychopath."

But that's where this party is. It simply has no bottom...
Bill Maher Video:

Ayn Rand And The Politics Of Selfishness And Greed

Alternet / by Bruce E. Levine | December 15, 2011

How Ayn Rand Seduced Generations of Young Men and Helped Make the U.S. Into a Selfish, Greedy Nation. Thanks in part to Rand, the United States is one of the most uncaring nations in the industrialized world.

Ayn Rand’s “philosophy” is nearly perfect in its immorality, which makes the size of her audience all the more ominous and symptomatic as we enter a curious new phase in our society....To justify and extol human greed and egotism is to my mind not only immoral, but evil.— Gore Vidal, 1961

Only rarely in U.S. history do writers transform us to become a more caring or less caring nation. In the 1850s, Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896) was a strong force in making the United States a more humane nation, one that would abolish slavery of African Americans.

A century later, Ayn Rand (1905-1982) helped make the United States into one of the most uncaring nations in the industrialized world, a neo-Dickensian society where healthcare is only for those who can afford it, and where young people are coerced into huge student-loan debt that cannot be discharged in bankruptcy.

Rand’s impact has been widespread and deep. At the iceberg’s visible tip is the influence she’s had over major political figures who have shaped American society. In the 1950s, Ayn Rand read aloud drafts of what was later to become Atlas Shrugged to her “Collective,” Rand’s ironic nickname for her inner circle of young individualists, which included Alan Greenspan, who would serve as chairman of the Federal Reserve Board from 1987 to 2006.

In 1966, Ronald Reagan wrote in a personal letter, “Am an admirer of Ayn Rand.” Today, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) credits Rand for inspiring him to go into politics, and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) calls Atlas Shrugged his “foundation book.” Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) says Ayn Rand had a major influence on him, and his son Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is an even bigger fan. A short list of other Rand fans includes Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas; Christopher Cox, chairman of the Security and Exchange Commission in George W. Bush’s second administration; and former South Carolina governor Mark Sanford.

But Rand’s impact on U.S. society and culture goes even deeper.

The Seduction of Nathan Blumenthal

Ayn Rand’s books such as The Virtue of Selfishness and her philosophy that celebrates self-interest and disdains altruism may well be, as Vidal assessed, “nearly perfect in its immorality.” But is Vidal right about evil? Charles Manson, who himself did not kill anyone, is the personification of evil for many of us because of his psychological success at exploiting the vulnerabilities of young people and seducing them to murder. What should we call Ayn Rand’s psychological ability to exploit the vulnerabilities of millions of young people so as to influence them not to care about anyone besides themselves?

While Greenspan (tagged “A.G.” by Rand) was the most famous name that would emerge from Rand’s Collective, the second most well-known name to emerge from the Collective was Nathaniel Branden, psychotherapist, author and “self-esteem” advocate. Before he was Nathaniel Branden, he was Nathan Blumenthal, a 14-year-old who read Rand’s The Fountainhead again and again. He later would say, “I felt hypnotized.” He describes how Rand gave him a sense that he could be powerful, that he could be a hero. He wrote one letter to his idol Rand, then a second. To his amazement, she telephoned him, and at age 20, Nathan received an invitation to Ayn Rand’s home. Shortly after, Nathan Blumenthal announced to the world that he was incorporating Rand in his new name: Nathaniel Branden. And in 1955, with Rand approaching her 50th birthday and Branden his 25th, and both in dissatisfying marriages, Ayn bedded Nathaniel.

What followed sounds straight out of Hollywood, but Rand was straight out of Hollywood, having worked for Cecil B. DeMille. Rand convened a meeting with Nathaniel, his wife Barbara (also a Collective member), and Rand’s own husband Frank. To Branden's astonishment, Rand convinced both spouses that a time-structured affair—she and Branden were to have one afternoon and one evening a week together—was “reasonable.” Within the Collective, Rand is purported to have never lost an argument. On his trysts at Rand’s New York City apartment, Branden would sometimes shake hands with Frank before he exited. Later, all discovered that Rand’s sweet but passive husband would leave for a bar, where he began his self-destructive affair with alcohol.

Continue reading at Alternet

Friday, December 16, 2011

Texas Political Parties Agree to April 3rd Primary

Updated Friday December 16, 2011 @ 3:15pm - Court signs order for April 3rd primary

Texas Democrats and Republicans agreed to move the unified primary election from March 6th to April 3rd, avoiding the costs and confusion of holding a two-part primary across a two month span. In his filing for a redistricting map stay with the SCOTUS, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott asked for bifurcated primary with most races being held in March, but other races being moved to May. AG Abbott's bifurcated primary idea turned out to be very unpopular with most other Republicans in Texas.

The three judge federal district court panel in San Antonio asked the parties to try to work something out after a day-long hearing Tuesday over what to do in the absence of legal maps for legislative and congressional races. Some wanted to split the primaries — leaving the presidential and other statewide elections alone and moving only the contests that needed maps. But that's an expensive and complicated proposition, doubling costs of elections for counties and for the state, and endangering the precinct elections needed before the state political parties can hold their early summer conventions.

Today, The United States District Court for the Western District of Texas in San Antonio accepted the deal reached by the Democratic and Republican parties, and signed an order for a single primary for all federal, state and local offices — including for POTUS — to be held on Tuesday April 3, 2012:

January 31, 2012 - If changes in county election precinct boundaries are necessary to give effect to a redistricting plan, each commissioners court shall order the changes on or before January 31, 2012, as described in Texas Election Code § 42.032. The requirements of Texas Election Code § 42.036 are suspended for an order of a commissioner’s court adopted to comply with this section of this Court’s Order.

February 1, 2012 - New residency deadline for candidates seeking election to the Texas House and Texas Senate. (There is no residency requirement for Congress).

February 1, 2012, 6:00 p.m. - New deadline of court-ordered reopened filing period, in which candidates for all offices have the opportunity to amend, withdraw or file a new application for the ballot.

February 3, 2012 - New deadline for Democratic and Republican county executive committees to conduct drawing for candidate order on ballot.

April 3, 2012 - Date of the 2012 General Primary Election.

April 12, 2012 - The deadline for county chairs to submit canvassed returns for statewide and district offices to the state party chair.

April 14 or April 21, 2012 - Date of County and Senatorial District Conventions, as determined by the State Chair of each political party.

June 5, 2012 - Date of the 2012 General Primary Runoff Election.

Earlier this week the San Antonio Court signed an order for new election filing deadlines:

  • The filing deadline for all federal, state, county, and local offices is extended until Monday, December 19, at 6 p.m. (local time). The order provides that the filing period will be reopened at a later date after legislative and congressional maps are done to let additional candidates file or let existing candidates amend or withdraw their applications.
  • Any currently filed candidate may withdraw his or her application and obtain a full refund of the filing fee.
  • Candidates may continue to file for state house, state senate, and congressional seats. To file, candidates need only to list their lawful residence as of the date of the application and the district they want to run in. Candidates may chose either the state’s map or the court-drawn interim map. Candidates will have an opportunity to amend their applications at a later date.
  • The requirement in the Texas Election Code that party rule changes be filed with the Texas Secretary of State on or before the 30th day before precinct conventions is suspended for the 2012 cycle.

Texas voters will be left out of the multi-state March 6th Super Tuesday election event. The three federal courts looking at different aspects of Texas redistricting — including the U.S. Supreme Court — have scheduled hearings on the different versions of the redistricting maps next month.

U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas in San Antonio - Court Order - Case 5:11 Cv 00360 OLG JES XR Document 563:

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Acrimony Among Republicans Over Bifurcated Vs Delayed Unified Primary

Acrimony among elected Republican officials, the statewide Republican Party leadership and Attorney General Greg Abbott spilled into public Thursday as a bitter fight over whether to split the state's primary elections rages on.

That dispute was partially responsible for the cancellation of a planned mediation session between Republican and Democratic Party officials, which was supposed to take place Thursday in Austin.

Instead, several sources said, the political parties engaged in informal negotiations via phone calls and email messages that were focused on when the state's primary election should be rescheduled and if it should be split.

Three sources indicated the talks had centered on moving March 6 primary elections to early April so courts and county election officials would have enough time to enact whatever changes the U.S. Supreme Court may order to the interim redistricting maps for the 2012 election.

Political observers say they believe Texas Gov. Rick Perry is among the GOP officials pushing for a split primary behind the scenes, so that the Republican presidential primary nominating contest still happens on March 6th.

Read the full story @

Pew: GOP Base Critical of Party’s Washington Leadership

Public discontent with Congress has reached record levels, and the implications for incumbents in next year's elections could be stark, according to the the latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Dec. 7-11.

Two-in-three voters say most members of Congress should be voted out of office in 2012 - the highest on record.

And the number who say their own member should be replaced matches the all-time high recorded in 2010, when fully 58 members of Congress lost reelection bids - the most in any election since 1948.

The Republican Party is taking more of the blame than the Democrats for a do-nothing Congress.

A record-high 50% say that the current Congress has accomplished less than other recent Congresses, and by nearly two-to-one (40% to 23%) more blame Republican leaders than Democratic leaders for this.

By wide margins, the GOP is seen as the party that is more extreme in its positions, less willing to work with the other side to get things done, and less honest and ethical in the way it governs.

And for the first time in over two years, the Democratic Party has gained the edge as the party better able to manage the federal government.

The poll also found that when asked directly about the belief that sparked the 99 Percent Movement — that the rich have too much power and influence in this country — Americans of all political stripes largely agree.

Wide majorities of Democrats, independents, and even Republicans, in fact, think the rich are too powerful, and a majority also thinks our economic system unfairly favors the wealthy, as the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent highlighted:

Roughly three-quarters of the public (77%) say that they think there is too much power in the hands of a few rich people and large corporations in the United States. In a 1941 Gallup poll, six-in-ten (60%) Americans expressed this view. About nine-in-ten (91%) Democrats and eight-in-ten (80%) of independents assert that power is too concentrated among the rich and large corporations, but this view is shared by a much narrower majority (53%) of Republicans.

Reflecting a parallel sentiment, 61% of Americans now say the economic system in this country unfairly favors the wealthy and just 36% say the system is generally fair to most Americans. About three-quarters (76%) of Democrats and 61% of independents say the economic system is tilted in favor of the wealthy; a majority (58%) of Republicans say that the system is generally fair to most Americans.

In addition, Americans also have a skeptical view of Wall Street. A slim majority — 51 percent — thinks Wall Street hurts the economy more than it helps, including 60 percent of Democrats and 54 percent of independents. Just 36 percent think Wall Street helps more than it hurts.

Read the full report for more details.

Texas Dems Enlist Young People To Get Out The Vote In 2012 By Anthony Gutierrez and Rebecca Acuña, the Texas Democratic Party

Our community is under attack by right-wing extremists. We’re willing to bet, albeit not $10,000, that you’ve had enough of the hostility and hateful rhetoric coming from the Republican Party towards Latinos. But you have the power to stop these constant attacks on our families.

The Texas Democratic Party is proud to launch the Promesa Project to reach out to our fellow Latinos and ask them to take the reins to change our state. Based on simple math, we know we have the power to change the political landscape in Texas.

There are 3.8 million eligible Latino voters in Texas, and one out of every four eligible voters in Texas is Latino. We know that on every issue that’s important to Latinos, Democrats are better. We also know that there’s no one better to carry out that message than young Latinos themselves.

Research has shown that young Latinos, many of whom are the first in their families to attend college, are increasingly the trusted sources of political information in their families and social circles. A study earlier this year also found that the Internet had surpassed television as the main sources of news for people under 30.

How it Works

The Promesa Project is an innovative program that will use a combination of online and grassroots techniques to recruit young Latinos as the Party’s messengers to their families and social networks. On, individuals will be able to give us their “promesa” that they will talk to their family and friends about voting Democratic.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Democrats Seek Federal Law Against Election Fraud

The Wash­ing­ton Post

Mary­land Sen. Ben­jamin L. Cardin (D) on Wednes­day said tricks designed to sup­press voter turnout, espe­cially those of his­tor­i­cally dis­en­fran­chised minori­ties, require Con­gress to pass an update to the nation’s 50-year-old voting-rights legislation.

Cardin said he would file a bill Wednes­day to make it a fed­eral offense to pro­duce or use fraud­u­lent elec­tion mate­r­ial to try to mis­lead or dis­cour­age vot­ing within 90 days of an election. For one, Cardin said the bill would allow pros­e­cu­tors nation­wide to guard against the kind of robo­calls that a Mary­land jury this month decided were intended to sup­press black voter turnout in the state’s 2010 guber­na­to­r­ial race.

For­mer Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich’s ® cam­paign man­ager, Paul E. Schurick, was found guilty of four counts of elec­tion law vio­la­tions stem­ming from order­ing the calls, which told vot­ers in Prince George’s County and in Bal­ti­more to “relax” and to not bother going to the polls. The auto­mated call said Demo­c­ra­tic can­di­date Gov. Mar­tin O’Malley and Pres­i­dent Obama had already been suc­cess­ful. Schurick is sched­uled to be sen­tenced Feb. 16, and faces poten­tial jail time.

Cardin noted that the Office of the Mary­land State Pros­e­cu­tor could only pur­sue the case because of a 2006 change to state law. He and co-sponsor New York Sen. Charles Schumer (D), said a sim­i­lar tool is needed in the hands of pros­e­cu­tors nation­wide. Their “Decep­tive Prac­tices and Voter Intim­i­da­tion Pre­ven­tion Act of 2011” would cre­ate a process for civil com­plaints as well as crim­i­nal penal­ties of up to five years in prison.

At a Capi­tol Hill news con­fer­ence, Cardin and Schumer were flanked by plac­ards show­ing exam­ples of what they said were increas­ingly sophis­ti­cated attempts to sup­press and intim­i­date voters. One showed a fab­ri­cated “sam­ple Demo­c­ra­tic bal­lot” from Maryland’s pre­vi­ous guber­na­to­r­ial elec­tion, when paid cam­paign work­ers for Ehrlich and then Lt. Gov. Michael Steele cir­cu­lated a flyer before the 2006 elec­tion that sug­gested the Repub­li­can can­di­dates were the pre­ferred choices of Democrats.

One from Mil­wau­kee sug­gested erro­neously that any­one who had been found guilty of even a traf­fic vio­la­tion was not allowed to vote in an upcom­ing elec­tion. And another showed a flyer seem­ingly pro­duced by a local elec­tion board ask­ing Repub­li­cans to vote on Tues­day, and Democ­rats to vote on Wednesday.

This should make anyone’s blood boil,” Schumer said, adding that “Democracy’s days are num­bered” if the prac­tices are not curbed. Cardin added that in an age of so many fledg­ling democ­ra­cies seek­ing to take root around the world, the United States must “lead by exam­ple” in pro­tect­ing cit­i­zens’ right to vote.

Read the full story @ The Wash­ing­ton Post.

San Antonio Court Signs Order On New Election Filing Deadlines

Michael Li's Texas Redistricting Blog:

The San Antonio panel has signed the proposed order on election deadlines reflecting the deal announced on the record yesterday by lawyers for the Democratic and Republican parties.

More changes will be forthcoming as the parties continue to negotiate over a primary date, but, for now, here’s what’s changed:

  • The filing deadline for all federal, state, county, and local offices is extended until Monday, December 19, at 6 p.m. (local time). The order provides that the filing period will be reopened at a later date after legislative and congressional maps are done to let additional candidates file or let existing candidates amend or withdraw their applications.
  • Any currently filed candidate may withdraw his or her application and obtain a full refund of the filing fee.
  • Candidates may continue to file for state house, state senate, and congressional seats. To file, candidates need only to list their lawful residence as of the date of the application and the district they want to run in. Candidates may chose either the state’s map or the court-drawn interim map. Candidates will have an opportunity to amend their applications at a later date.
  • The court will determine residency requirements at a later date,
  • The court will set a date in the future by which commissioners courts must redraw precinct boundaries if required by the ultimate congressional and legislative district lines.
  • The requirement in the Texas Election Code that party rule changes be filed with the Texas Secretary of State on or before the 30th day before precinct conventions is suspended for the 2012 cycle.

Here’s the signed order:

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Video: Attorney General Holder Speaks On Voting Rights At The LBJ Library

Attorney General Eric Holder speaking on voting rights at the Lyndon B. Johnson Library in Austin, Texas - Dec. 13, 2011 - Part 1
Video by David Barrow

Attorney General Eric Holder speaking on voting rights at the Lyndon B. Johnson Library in Austin, Texas - Dec. 13, 2011 - Part 2
Video by David Barrow

On March 15, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson calls on Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act. Pres. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law on August 6, 1965, establishing federal Department of Justice oversight of election laws passed by certain southern states with a history of discrimination.

The LBJ Library Archive
Texas Tribune: The warning from U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder was polite but firm: The U.S. Department of Justice will not stand idly by if it feels Texas intends to halt or reverse gains for minority voting rights.

That was the message Holder delivered on the University of Texas campus at the library of President Lyndon B. Johnson, who signed the Voting Rights Act in 1965. Holder spoke just as Texas is squaring off with federal government over two major political voting issues: redistricting and voter ID.

Holder said that the redistricting maps legislators drew this year show that gains made under the Voting Rights Act are being challenged by a Legislature intent on protecting incumbents rather than on having candidates compete for votes.

Maps the Republican-dominated Legislature drew, he said, fail to reflect the burgeoning Hispanic growth in Texas, as indicated by the 2010 U.S. Census.

“We intend to argue vigorously at trial that this was the kind of discrimination that Section Five [of the Act] was intended to block,” Holder said, referring to the current federal litigation over the redistricting maps.

A panel of federal judges in San Antonio redrew maps for legislative and congressional districts in Texas, but the U.S. Supreme Court blocked those, at least temporarily, last week. The maps that will be used in next year’s elections are still uncertain, and it is unclear whether the issue will be decided before the scheduled primary elections in March.

Texas’ voter ID law, which requires that voters furnish a state-issued photo ID before casting a ballot, is scheduled to take effect Jan. 1. That date could be in jeopardy, though, because the Justice Department has the authority to review election laws passed in states with a history of racial segregation and discrimination. In Texas, Democrats argue the voter ID law will disenfranchise minorities, the elderly and students, while Republicans and other proponents say it will stamp out voter fraud.

Read the full story @ The Texas Tribune

Attorney General Holder Speaks On Voting Rights At The LBJ Library

It's no coincidence that Attorney General Eric Holder chose the Lyndon B. Johnson Library in Austin, Texas, as the site of a forceful speech on voting rights. President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act (VRA) into law on August 6, 1965, establishing federal Department of Justice oversight of election laws passed by certain southern states with a history of discrimination.

States that must request pre-clearance from the federal DOJ for any change to election laws or districts. More about the Voting Rights Act:

In the wake of violence and civil rights protests, the Johnson Administration drafted the VRA to enforce the 14th and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, aiming to eliminate various Jim Crow election law strategies to prevent blacks and other minorities from voting. On July 27, 2006, President George W. Bush signed a bill extending the Voting Rights Act for another 25 years.

Before the VRA, many states had poll taxes, literacy tests and a whole array of so called "Jim Crow" schemes and gimmicks encoded in legal statutes to make sure that whites of a certain status were the only ones "qualified" to vote.

The VRA not only forbids state laws that are intended to specifically target minority voters -- it also forbids state laws that have a greater impact on minority voters than on others.

Declaring that protecting ballot access for all eligible voters “must be viewed not only as a legal issue but as a moral imperative,” Attorney General Holder tonight urged Americans to “call on our political parties to resist the temptation to suppress certain votes in the hope of attaining electoral success and, instead, achieve success by appealing to more voters.”

The speech by Mr. Holder comes as the Justice Department’s civil rights division is scrutinizing a series of new state voting laws that were enacted — largely by Republican officials — in the name of fighting fraud. This year, more than a dozen states enacted new voting restrictions. For example, eight — Alabama, Kansas, Mississippi, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin — imposed new laws requiring voters to present one of a very limited selection of dated and non-expired government issued photo ID cards that millions of American citizens do not possess.

In major metropolitan areas it is the norm for the working poor to use public transportation. Hence, it is very common for that group of citizens to not have a car and not need a driver's license. A state issued picture ID has never been something that most of these people felt a need to have. For these people Getting a State Issued Photo ID is not as easy. Some of the obstacles are: taking time off work to go to Department of Motor Vehicles office and transportation costs to get to the DMV can be hard on a poor person's budget. They must obtain their state certified birth certificate and other identity documents before traveling to the nearest DMV, which typically have long waiting lines. Many older citizens have no birth certificate on record because they were born at home before issuance of birth certificates was required. Court costs to obtain a birth certificate are generally around $200. This cost to vote imposed on millions of American citizens who do not own or drive a car is a new variation on an old evil: the poll tax. Previously voters were able to use other forms of identification, like bank statements, utility bills, military veteran cards, student ID and Social Security cards.

ACLU Files Lawsuit Challenging Wisconsin’s Voter Photo ID Law As Unconstitutional

Billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch finally got their way in 2011. After their decades of funding the American Legislative Exchange Council the collaboration between multinational corporations and conservative state legislators, the project began finally to yield the intended result.

ALEC has been organizing, promoting, and encouraging its legislative associates in every state of the Union to enact its rigid voter photo ID legislation. This year, ALEC's model voter photo ID legislation was signed into law by Kansas, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Texas and South Carolina. ALEC's model voter photo ID legislation was initially enacted Georgia and Indiana.

The voter photo ID legislation specifies voters must present one of a very limited selection of dated and non-expired government issued photo ID cards that millions of American citizens do not possess. Citizens, who do not drive and never board a plane, and therefore lack identification required to vote, must obtain their certified birth certificate and other identity documents and travel to a state Driver's License Office to obtain a voter identification card. Acquiring the identity documents needed to obtain a voting identity document and taking time off work to travel to the nearest Driver's License Office, which typically have long waiting lines, can cost tens to hundreds of dollars. This cost to vote imposed on millions of American citizens who do not own or drive a car is a new variation on an old evil: the poll tax.

“For nearly a century, there were Jim Crow laws in place that discouraged people of color from voting, says Wade Henderson, the president and CEO of the Leadership Council on Civil and Human Rights. “Today, there are different laws, but the objective is the same—to prevent millions from exercising their right to vote."

ACLU Press Release:

MILWAUKEE, Wis. – The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Wisconsin and the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty today filed a federal lawsuit charging that Wisconsin’s voter ID law is unconstitutional and will deprive citizens of their basic right to vote. The lawsuit is the only active federal challenge against a voter ID law, the most common type of legislation that is part of a nationwide attack on the right to vote.

Fact Check Your News

Annenberg Political Fact Check
A project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, it is a nonpartisan, nonprofit "consumer advocate" for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics. It monitors “the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews, and news releases.”

Annenberg Flack Check
This new Annenberg site fights fact-mangling site through humor and quick turnarounds without further propagating the underlying deception.

Columbia Journalism Review
The campaign desk site mission: “to encourage and stimulate excellence in journalism in the service of a free society. It is both a watchdog and a friend of the press in all its forms, from newspapers to magazines to radio, television, and the Web…CJR examines day-to-day press performance as well as the forces that affect that performance.”

Open Secrets
The site of The Center for Responsive Politics calls itself: "Your Guide to the Money in U.S. elections" – the “guide to money’s influence on U.S. elections and public policy.”

PolitiFact is “A scorecard separating fact from fiction. A project of the St. Petersburg Times and Congressional Quarterly, it helps find the truth in the presidential campaign. “Every day, reporters and researchers from the Times and CQ will analyze the candidates' speeches, TV ads and interviews and determine whether the claims are accurate.”

Real Clear Politics
“An independent political site that culls and publishes the best commentary, news, polling data, and links to important resources.” Updated daily.

A website for validating or debunking urban legends, Internet rumor, email hoaxes, and other such stories of uncertain or questionable origin.

Washington Post Fact Checker A permanent Post feature, it uses the one to four “Pinocchio” system to evaluate statements and claims.

Hat tip to Beverly Bandler for this fact check list

Pew: Newspapers Continue To Decline

After two dreadful years, most sectors of the industry saw revenue begin to recover in some, but not all sectors of the industry, according to a new Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism report. With some notable exceptions, cutbacks in newsrooms eased. And while still more talk than action, some experiments with new revenue models began to show signs of blossoming.

Among the major sectors, only newspapers suffered continued revenue declines last year—an unmistakable sign that the structural economic problems facing newspapers are more severe than those of other media. When the final tallies are in, we estimate 1,000 to 1,500 more newsroom jobs will have been lost—meaning newspaper newsrooms are 30% smaller than in 2000.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Driving People To Vote Against There Own Self-Interest And Moral Standards

In a startling admission from a major Tea Party champion, former Fox News host Glenn Beck said Friday that race may be a motivating factor in the Tea Party’s opposition to President Obama.
BECK: And I issued a challenge to Tea Party members. … [Gingrich] is a progressive. … If you have a big government progressive, or a big government progressive in Obama, one in Newt Gingrich, one in Obama, ask yourself this, Tea Party: is it about Obama’s race? Because that’s what it appears to be to me. If you’re against him but you’re for this guy, it must be about race.

The comment is striking coming from Beck, who organized major Tea Party events and strongly defended the movement against charges of racism.

While racism may be part of the motivating factor in the Tea Party’s opposition to President Obama, the other more significant factor may be the anti-Obama, anti-Democrat, and other fear-mongering against "the they" who plot to destroy America. Fear-mongering waged by Glenn Beck, Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, all of Conservative talk radio, and other conservative propaganda mills supported by conservative billionaires.

Propaganda is a form of communication that is aimed at influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position so as to benefit oneself or one's group. As opposed to impartially providing information, propaganda, in its most basic sense, presents information primarily to influence an audience. Propaganda is often biased, with facts selectively presented (thus possibly lying by omission) to encourage a particular synthesis, or uses loaded messages to produce an emotional rather than rational response to the information presented. The desired result is a change of the attitude toward the subject in the target audience to further a political, or other type of agenda. Propaganda can be used as a form of political warfare.

The next article down in this news blog is about conservative columnist David Frum, who was speechwriter for former President George W. Bush, blasting Fox News for delivering an “alternative knowledge system,” otherwise know as propaganda.


David Frum: Fox News Creates Alternative (False) News

Raw Story By David Edwards

Conservative columnist David Frum, who was speechwriter for former President George W. Bush, blasted Fox News on Sunday for creating an “alternative knowledge system.”

In an article published by New York Magazine in late November, Frum had argued that conservative media like Fox News and talk radio “immerse their audience in a total environment of pseudo-facts and pretend information.”

Watch this video from CNN’s Reliable Sources,
broadcast Dec. 11, 2011.

In an appearance on CNN Sunday, Frum cited claims made on Fox News that President Barack Obama was proposing a “new Christmas tree tax,” something that was found by both The Florida Times-Union and PolitiFact Oregon to be not true.

“It fed into a story about this Muslim-y kind of president trying to destroy a Christian holiday,” Frum explained to CNN’s Howard Kurtz. “To make this a ground for a cultural conflict, to create a sense in large numbers of people they are being persecuted and attacked at a time when the country is in so much trouble, that’s how this thing is fed.”

“The question is what is the impact on the viewer?” he continued. “And we know, for example, that people that watch a lot of Fox come away knowing a lot less about important world events. That’s a correlation that we know.”

Recent polling appears to back up Frum’s assertion.

Fairleigh Dickinson University found last month that “some outlets, especially Fox News, lead people to be even less informed than those who say they don’t watch any news at all.”

“For example, people who watch Fox News, the most popular of the 24-hour cable news networks, are 18-points less likely to know that Egyptians overthrew their government than those who watch no news at all (after controlling for other news sources, partisanship, education and other demographic factors),” they wrote. “Fox News watchers are also 6-points less likely to know that Syrians have not yet overthrown their government than those who watch no news.”

Sunday, December 11, 2011

New GOP Data Shows No Need For Strict Voter Photo ID

The Repub­li­can National Lawyers Asso­ci­a­tion (RNLA) in an attempt to dis­credit a NAACP report this week on the lack of voter fraud evi­dence has bol­stered the view that there is no need for voter ID laws, imposed by many states. The RNLA pro­duced data show­ing 46 states and var­i­ous con­vic­tions for voter fraud. Pre­sum­ably by their absence, 4 states and the Dis­trict of Colum­bia had no convictions.

View­ing the data for the period 2000–2010, the report by its own account shows there is no link between voter fraud in states and the need for stricter voter ID laws. The data shows that dur­ing the entire 10 year period, 21 states had only 1 or 2 con­vic­tions for some form of voter irreg­u­lar­ity. And some of these 21 states have the strictest form of voter ID laws based on a find­ing of 2 or less con­vic­tions in ten years. Five states had a total of three con­vic­tions over a ten year period. Rhode Island had 4 con­vic­tions for the same 10 years. Tak­ing a close look at the RNLA data shows 30 states, includ­ing the Dis­trict of Colum­bia had 3 or less voter fraud con­vic­tions for a 10 year period.

Voter ID laws enacted now in over half the states, require vot­ers to present some form of iden­ti­fi­ca­tion as a require­ment to vote. Four­teen states require a gov­ern­ment issued photo ID when vot­ing in per­son. At the time of reg­is­ter­ing to vote, other states like Kansas and Alabama fur­ther demand proof of cit­i­zen­ship beyond the fed­eral legal require­ment that cit­i­zens swear they are cit­i­zens. Kansas had one con­vic­tion for voter fraud in ten years; Alabama had three con­vic­tions in the same time period. Dur­ing the 2011 leg­isla­tive ses­sion, five states — Wis­con­sin, Texas, Ten­nessee, Alabama and South Car­olina — joined Geor­gia and Indi­ana by enact­ing the strictest form of photo ID require­ment for vot­ers, and most of these newest changes will first come into effect for the 2012 elections.

The RNLA says the voter ID laws are needed to pre­vent against dou­ble vot­ing, non-citizen vot­ing, fic­ti­tious voter reg­is­tra­tion and voter imper­son­ation. To hear Repub­li­cans tell the tale, one would think there has been mas­sive voter/election fraud neces­si­tat­ing the need for stricter voter ID laws across the coun­try. Now the Repub­li­cans’ own data dis­pels their ram­pant voter fraud myth. A closer scrutiny of the RNLA data shows voter fraud has no cor­re­la­tion to need­ing strict voter ID laws.

Full Arti­cle: OpE­d­News – Arti­cle: New GOP Data Shows No Need For Voter ID.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Twitter and the Campaign

The political conversation on Twitter is markedly different than that on blogs -- and both are decidedly different than the political narrative presented by the mainstream press, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism that analyzed more than 20 million tweets, the online conversation and traditional news coverage about the campaign from May 2 through November 27.

The study finds that campaign discourse on Twitter tended to be more opinionated and often more negative about candidates than on blogs and in the news. The Twitter conversation about a candidate was also more likely to change from week to week than on blogs.

The study also updates the tone and amount of attention to each candidate in news coverage overall, in an elite sub-sample of national news outlets, and in the political blogosphere. The work is part of a new ongoing analysis of the race for president conducted by PEJ that will continue through the election, tracking the amount of attention paid to the candidates in different media platforms and the tone of that attention.

Read the full report for more details on these subjects:

See also Pew's report on The Media Primary: How News Media and Blogs Have Eyed the Presidential Contenders during the First Phase of the 2012 Race

Friday, December 9, 2011

SCOTUS Grants Stay On Lower Courts' Redrawn Redistricting Maps

Developing Story...

The Supreme Court of the United States late today threw a wrench into Texas' Democratic and Republican Primary Election and County Convention schedule.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott's applications for stay of the lower courts' redrawn redistricting maps presented to Justice Scalia and by him referred to the Court are granted until the court hears oral arguments:

It is ordered that the orders issued by the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas on November 23, 2011, in case Nos. 5:11-CV-360, and 5:11-CV-788, and the order of November 26, 2011, in case No. 5:11-CV-360, are hereby stayed pending further order of the Court.

The stay blocks the court-drawn maps for legislative and congressional districts in Texas, telling the lawyers involved to be ready for oral arguments on Monday, January 9, 2012.

The state asked the court for a stay on maps for congressional, Texas House and Texas Senate maps. The court's order asks for briefs from the lawyers by December 21, replies by January 3.

Candidates are already filing for office, working against a Thursday, December 15 deadline. Since the stay leaves no defined districts for which to file, that deadline is probably now meaningless, at least for the congressional and state legislative candidates. The current district maps could be replaced with different district maps, if they are redrawn after the Supreme Court rules.

In its request for a stay, the state suggested the congressional and legislative primaries could be delayed from March 6 to May 22. The other primaries — for President, U.S. Senate, and so on — will remain in March. Texas could decide to have split primary elections, or possibly to move the entire election to May 22. The Democratic and Republican county and senate district conventions, originally scheduled for late March, as follow up to the election on March 6, will also have to be rescheduled to possibly early to mid May 2012. Moving the county and senate district conventions to mid May would in turn impact the Democratic Party's state convention scheduled to start on July 8, 2012.

More analysis @ SCOTUSblog

Order of the court:


The applications for stay presented to Justice Scalia and by him referred to the Court are granted, and it is ordered that the orders issued by the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas on November 23, 2011, in case Nos. 5:11-CV-360, and 5:11-CV-788, and the order of November 26, 2011, in case No. 5:11-CV-360, are hereby stayed pending further order of the Court. In addition, the applications for stay are treated as jurisdictional statements, and in each case probable jurisdiction is noted. The cases are consolidated and a total of one hour is allotted for oral argument. The briefs of appellants and appellees, not to exceed 15,000 words, are to be filed simultaneously with the Clerk and served upon opposing counsel on or before 2 p.m., Wednesday, December 21, 2011. Reply briefs, not to exceed 15,000 words, are to be filed simultaneously with the Clerk and served upon opposing counsel on or before 2 p.m., Tuesday, January 3, 2012. The cases are set for oral argument on Monday, January 9, 2012, at 1 p.m.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Words That Don't Work

by George Lakoff, Nation of Change

Progressives had some fun last week with Frank Luntz, who told the Republican Governors’ Association that he was scared to death of the Occupy movement and recommended language to combat what the movement had achieved. But the progressive critics mostly just laughed, said his language wouldn’t work, and assumed that if Luntz was scared, everything was hunky-dory. Just keep on saying the words Luntz doesn’t like: capitalism, tax the rich, etc.

It’s a trap.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Think Rick Perry's Collapsing Campaign is Funny? The Joke's On You, Texas

by Forrest Wilder, The Texas Observer

Rick Perry's presidential campaign is collapsing faster than a $10 tent in a hurricane. ... Perry’s unexpectedly rapid demise should prompt, if nothing else, some self-reflection. What’s the matter with Texas? I’ll take a stab at it.

First, there’s no real opposition. Texas is now a one-party state, which is admittedly not news. (Some wags call it a two-party state: the Republican Party and the tea party). The Democrats are disorganized, dispirited, and seemingly incapable or unwilling to capitalize on the untapped potential of Latino voters in parts of the state like Houston and the Rio Grande Valley. They don’t put much effort into encouraging many young Latinos to vote.

Also, there are few authentically independent institutions in Texas—partisan or not—to push back against the free-market and religious fundamentalism of the state GOP. Vibrant grassroots coalitions could energize a moribund system and keep politicians on their toes. Plus, they’re just good for morale. In the absence of opposition, Perry and his allies in right-wing groups like Empower Texans can toe a hard line without consequence. Witness how they rammed through a brutal state budget that gouged $4 billion out of public schools. Where was the mass mobilization against those cuts? In California, Ohio and Wisconsin right-wing governors have faced the wrath of people in the streets and in the voting booth. There was too little of that in Texas.

But then it’s easy to suffer from hangdog-ness here. Hard to get jazzed about participating in the democratic process when you sense that the game is rigged. Perry is the product of a political system controlled by a small group of special interests and billionaires. He’s their man. Entrenched business interests appreciate the Texas Enterprise Fund grants, the rubber-stamped permits to pollute, the cheer-leading for dream schemes like the Trans-Texas Corridor and mandatory HPV vaccinations. If Perry’s a joke, then the joke’s on us.

Read the full article @ The Texas Observer