The media is now hammering on U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s recent misreporting of the facts of a case involving the EPA. It was a glaring error, indeed. As reported by the Associated Press:
The mistake in Scalia’s opinion concerned one section of about a page and a half in which he contended that the EPA was again asking for the authority to weigh costs against benefits in determining how large a reduction in emissions it mandates… Scalia went on to say the case “is not the first time EPA has sought to convert the Clean Air Act into a mandate for cost-effective regulation.” He cited as authority the high court’s 2001 decision in Whitman v. American Trucking Associations, in which the court said that such an analysis was not allowed under a section of the landmark anti-pollution law. The author was Scalia. The problem is that it was the trucking group, not the EPA, that wanted the agency to use a cost-benefit analysis.
Scalia’s recent gaffe pales in comparison to Scalia’s repeated claim that he decides cases based on “textual originalism.” Scalia’s purported theory was was shown to be incoherent and self-serving in a comprehensive article by Judge Richard Posner of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. In that article, Posner makes an airtight case that Scalia has bungled the legal analysis of dozens of cases. According to Posner, “originalism” is essentially a reckless embodiment of the confirmation bias. Judge Posner’s critique goes even further, however, accusing Justice Scalia of repeated disingenuous interpretations of the cases in order to attempt to lend credence to his pet theory.
I appreciate that the news media has caught Justice Scalia on a slipshod piece of writing. If only the media would now take the time to look at Scalia’s much larger and much more dangerous claim that he is dutifully following the directives of the nation’s Founders when he is actually carrying water for the Chamber of Commerce.
I just learned about another excellent organization dedicated to restoring the democracy: WOLFPAC. Here’s the mission:
Our Ultimate Goal:
To restore true, representative democracy in the United States by pressuring our State Representatives to pass a much needed 28th Amendment to our Constitution which would end corporate personhood and publicly finance all elections in our country. There are only 2 ways to amend the Constitution. (1) Go through our federal government (2) Go through our State Legislators via an amendments convention of the states.
Wolf PAC believes that we can no longer count on our federal government to do what is in the best interest of the American people due to the unfettered amount of money they receive from outside organizations to fund their campaigns. We point to the failure of the Disclose Act as rock solid evidence that this would be a total waste of our time, effort, and money. We also point to the recent decision by the US Supreme Court to not even hear a case filed by Montana claiming it did not have to abide by Citizens United, as proof that state legislation is not a sufficient measure to solve this problem. We believe that we have no choice but to put an amendment in the hands of our State Legislators, who are not, at this moment in time, completely blinded by the influence of money and might actually do what 87% of the country wants…take away the massive influence that money has over our political process.
Another point that echoes my own greatest concern. How many issue should we focus on? Answer: One.
Step 5: Demand
Make every election in the United States from now until this problem is solved a one issue election. If the influence of money in politics is at the root of all other issues in our country we must start voting like it. We will inform the public by running television commercials, radio ads, social media, internet ads, and using the media platform of the largest online news show in the world, The Young Turks. As we get more and more states to call for a convention with the purpose of getting the influence of money out of our election process we will identify these states on our interactive map so that the public can click on each state and read the legislation themselves.
Here is the “Elevator Pitch”:
Wolf PAC “Elevator Pitch” – Memorize it!
(if you say something out loud 7 times it sticks)
We have determined that we need an amendment to our Constitution to reduce the massive influence money has over our political process because nothing else will be strong enough. Montana already tried State Legislation and that didn’t work (The Supreme Court overruled them) We don’t want a Supreme Court ruling that can be overturned depending on who is sitting on the bench. Once you realize that an amendment is needed to restore a Free and Fair election system in the US then it’s a simple equation; there are only two ways to get an amendment, one is through Congress, but they are literally the source of the problem so that’s not a realistic option. The only other way to do it is to call for an amendments convention.
It’s important to remember that a convention would only be a place to propose ideas or amendments somewhere other than Congress. Anything proposed would still need to go out of that convention and be ratified by 75% of our State Governments. Our Founding Fathers put this avenue of a convention into our Constitution specifically in case there came a time when our federal government ever became unresponsive to the will of the people. Welcome to 2014, that is exactly where we are. We must ensure that elections are free from the corrupting influence of money, and fair enough so that any citizen can run for office.
I’m overwhelmed by the large number of folks who have taken the time to write “happy birthday” to a guy who rants so much on FB. My page is here – all readers of DI are welcome to send me a Friend Request. Thank you so very much. It is fun to think that I’ve just completed an ellipse around the sun. That’s a long way to travel. It’s great to be alive and it’s great to have a wide open future. I’ve got a lot I’d still like to accomplish and I’m not slowing down.
OK, since you haven’t tuned me out yet, here’s my birthday fantasy: All of us should make a LOT of noise in the coming year, making it our quest to CONSTANTLY remind politicians that we can’t have any meaningful discussion on ANYTHING at all until we ban private money from the campaign system. Thanks to the warped values of the Supreme Court majority, this will need to be a Constitutional change, so it’s time to get started. Therefore, please write and call your federal and state representatives and insist that they need to take steps to implement clean elections and to undo the damage of Citizen’s United and its progeny.
I keep thinking back to what I was taught in grade school about why the United States was supposedly special. Back then, it wasn’t because we had a big military or because Americans were somehow born special. It was because the founders crafted a system that made it possible for the governed to have a significant voice in their own government. We celebrated that with a national holiday, the Fourth of July. That dream is mostly gone now–we can see the steady stream of government actions where big money thwarts the will of the people–and it’s time to get things back on track. Please join any good organization that makes this quest part of its mission. Common Cause, Public Citizen and Represent.us are possibilities.
Together, let’s shame our politicians into doing what they need to do in order that our national conversation and our national priorities are shaped by good ideas and not by money, certainly not by the big money of an elitist few.
Is this too much to ask for my birthday, that this country practices what it preaches?
Many politicians would claim that college shouldn’t be free and that, in fact, the federal government, which is now a direct provider of many college loans, should pile interest onto student loans. I have two things I’d suggest in response, both of which speak to the systemic corruption of the United States Federal Government:
A mere $62.6 billion dollars! According to new Department of Education data, that’s how much tuition public colleges collected from undergraduates in 2012 across the entire United States. And I’m not being facetious with the word mere, either. The New America Foundation says that the federal government spent a whole $69 billion in 2013 on its hodgepodge of financial aid programs, such as Pell Grants for low-income students, tax breaks, work study funding. And that doesn’t even include loans.
This is yet another blatant broken promise by Obama. He promised that he would be a champion of net neutrality, yet picked a Commissioner who sold out consumers and innovators in order to enrich telecoms. Tim Wu explains at the New Yorker:
The new rule gives broadband providers what they’ve wanted for about a decade now: the right to speed up some traffic and degrade others. (With broadband, there is no such thing as accelerating some traffic without degrading other traffic.) We take it for granted that bloggers, start-ups, or nonprofits on an open Internet reach their audiences roughly the same way as everyone else. Now they won’t. They’ll be behind in the queue, watching as companies that can pay tolls to the cable companies speed ahead. The motivation is not complicated. The broadband carriers want to make more money for doing what they already do. Never mind that American carriers already charge some of the world’s highest prices, around sixty dollars or more per month for broadband, a service that costs less than five dollars to provide. To put it mildly, the cable and telephone companies don’t need more money.
Here’s another somber announcement about our so-called democracy, which is on life support: If you want to convince your elected representative to spend time with you, to listen to your concerns, you need to hand him or her LOTS OF MONEY.
Last month, Matea Gold of The Washington Post reported on a pair of political science graduate students who released a study confirming that money does equal access in Washington. Joshua Kalla and David Broockman drafted two form letters asking 191 members of Congress for a meeting to discuss a certain piece of legislation. One email said “active political donors” would be present; the second email said only that a group of “local constituents” would be at the meeting.
One guess as to which emails got the most response. Yes, more than five times as many legislators or their chiefs of staff offered to set up meetings with active donors than with local constituents. Why is it not corruption when the selling of access to our public officials upends the very core of representative government? When money talks and you have none, how can you believe in democracy?
Susan Crawford, Former Special Assistant to President Obama on Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy, urges that the internet is too important to be left to the private market.
- for more than 77% of Americans, their only choice for a high capacity connection is their local cable monopoly.
- Residents of Stockholm pay about 30 bucks a month for gigabit access. That’s something we can’t even imagine in the United States. Residents of Seoul and Japan and Hong Kong other Northern European countries have access to internet service 100 times faster than that in the U.S.
- Twenty states have passed laws saying, “Cities don’t have the choice to [build their own public internet options].” These laws have been rammed through by incumbents happy with the way things are. One thing that needs to happen is we need to block these state laws so that cities can make these decision for themselves. FCC Chairman Wheeler has announced that this would be a good direction to investigate.
From Free Press, the Comcast-Time-Warner Cable merger will be bad for you.
Free Press research shows that the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger would create a media behemoth with unmatched power to raise prices, squash competition and reshape the future of the Internet. If the merger is approved, all kinds of bad stuff will happen. (Click the thumbnails in the article (here, here and here) to get the full scoop.) First off, Comcast will be the largest pay-TV provider in 104 markets encompassing 65 percent of the U.S. population. Wait, it gets worse: Comcast’s service area will cover almost two-thirds of the U.S., and it will be the only broadband provider that can deliver Internet and pay-TV services to nearly four out of every 10 U.S. homes. (See the company’s reach.) And to top it all off Comcast will control half of the truly high-speed U.S. Internet market, half of the TV/Internet-bundle market and a third of the pay-TV market.
Truly, we should stop celebrating the Fourth of July until we see meaningful reform.
Inequality is what has turned Washington into a protection racket for the one percent. It buys all those goodies from government: Tax breaks. Tax havens (which allow corporations and the rich to park their money in a no-tax zone). Loopholes. Favors like carried interest. And so on. As Paul Krugman writes in his New York Review of Books essay on Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century, “We now know both that the United States has a much more unequal distribution of income than other advanced countries and that much of this difference in outcomes can be attributed directly to government action.”
Recently, researchers at Connecticut’s Trinity College ploughed through the data and concluded that the US Senate is responsive to the policy preferences of the rich, ignoring the poor. And now there’s that big study coming out in the fall from scholars at Princeton and Northwestern universities, based on data collected between 1981 and 2002. Their conclusion: “America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened… The preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.” Instead, policy tends “to tilt towards the wishes of corporations and business and professional associations.”
Oh, and if you’re wondering why your elected representative won’t pay attention to you and your ideas . . .
“Last month, Matea Gold of The Washington Post reported on a pair of political science graduate students who released a study confirming that money does equal access in Washington. Joshua Kalla and David Broockman drafted two form letters asking 191 members of Congress for a meeting to discuss a certain piece of legislation. One email said “active political donors” would be present; the second email said only that a group of “local constituents” would be at the meeting.
One guess as to which emails got the most response. Yes, more than five times as many legislators or their chiefs of staff offered to set up meetings with active donors than with local constituents. Why is it not corruption when the selling of access to our public officials upends the very core of representative government? When money talks and you have none, how can you believe in democracy?”