Friday Reads

We’re closing in on a long weekend.   It’s Independence Day!  Do you know where your constitutional rights are?  The first amendment right to keep the government from institutionalizing one religious viewpoint appears to be under systematic assault these days by the Republican Party.  How can we stop candidates like Michelle Bachmann who create their own American history and distort our laws and civil rights in the process?  Here’s Jonathan Chait’s suggestion.

The Michele Bachmann surge (confirmed most recently by the latest PPP poll) suggests the question is not whether Bachmann is a legitimate contender for the Republican nomination but what it will take to stop her from winning. As I’ll explain, I do think Bachmann can be stopped. But the general advance of conservatism within the Republican Party over the last three decades has been a repeated pattern of the unthinkable becoming thinkable, and the trend has sharply accelerated over the last two years. Moderation simply lacks any legitimacy within the GOP. It exists, but — unlike the Democratic Party, where moderation is a frequent boast — it’s undertaken almost entirely in secret. Since Barack Obama’s inauguration, virtually every quarrel within the Republican Party between moderates and maximalist partisans has been resolved in favor of the latter. Bachmann has positioned herself as a mainstream, serious figure who has also outflanked the other as-yet announced candidates. They will have a hard time attacking her without seeming to attack conservatism itself.

So, what could defeat her? One thing could be the entry of another candidate who can match her conservatism while appearing more electable. Rick Perry is the leading candidate here. Paul Ryan would be another.

A second possibility is that Republican insiders could spill the beans on why she so freaks them out.

I have no idea why any of them think that Rick Perry or Paul Ryan are batshit crazy lite.  Maybe it’s because they aren’t vagina impaired or probably because they kiss up to cults instead of joining them.  But wait, Perry belongs to a similar religious cult and Ryan is in the Ayn Rand cult, so, we’re back to vajayjay of doom explanation.   Frankly, the entire party seems bat shit crazy these days. So, we’re still stuck between bat shit crazy and totally worthless.  (Sigh.)

Another stranger than truth bit of news these days is Steven Colbert and his “SuperPac”.  A “SuperPac is”a political group that can legally accept unlimited contributions from people, corporations, and unions to campaign for candidates and causes”.

Because Colbert’s group will not give any money directly to candidates — instead airing independent ads to support them — Colbert can take donations of any size.

He forced the FEC to make this decision by planning to operate as a real political group, not a parody.

“If we’d viewed this as a funny request, that would have been a lot easier,” Commissioner Ellen Weintraub, a George W. Bush nominee, told Colbert at today’s hearing.

In the end, the commission voted 5-1 to approve Colbert’s PAC according to guidelines under consideration at today’s hearing.

Colbert had sought guidance from the FEC on how to handle air-time and help from Viacom, Comedy Central’s parent company — and this is the area in which his SuperPAC has forced precedents with implications for other media companies, like Fox News.

The FEC ruled today that Viacom can fund Colbert’s group, without limit, as long as it only helps out with ads that air during his show …

I’m wondering if this is giving Scalia, Thomas and the rest of the Neanderthal SCOTUS Beastie Boys nightime heart burn?  Whoops!  No hearts!! Some analysts believe that what Colbert is actually doing is exposing holes in campaign finance law.

“I think Colbert is trying to dramatize problems in the campaign finance world in the way that he dramatizes other things,” said longtime campaign finance reform advocate Fred Wertheimer, a longtime advocate for stricter campaign finance rules who is president of Democracy 21. “But nevertheless, the proposals here would potentially open gaping disclosure loopholes in the campaign finance laws.”

Wertheimer is so concerned about what Colbert is doing, in fact, that Democracy 21 has joined with the Campaign Legal Center, another advocacy group, to petition the FEC to reject his request because it could result in the “radical evisceration” of campaign finance rules.

If Colbert gets his way before the FEC, it could blur the lines between political money and media to an unprecedented extent.

For instance, it might enable Fox News pundit-politicians such as Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee to use the network’s resources to boost their own political committees, assert Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center in their FEC filing. It concludes: “Mr. Colbert’s ultimate goals here may be comedic, but the commission should not play the straight man at the expense of the law.”

Colbert’s PAC bit started as a parody of the PAC started by former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty to lay the foundation for his presidential campaign. But after lawyers for Comedy Central’s parent company Viacom expressed reservations about Colbert using their corporate resources — in the form of his eponymous late-night faux news show — to promote the PAC, the bit morphed into a riff on how corporations like Viacom can spend cash on politics, thanks to the 2010 high court decision in a case called Citizens United v. FEC.

The Gawker’s John Cook has an interesting piece up on “Roger Ailes’ Secret Nixon-Era Blueprint for Fox News”.   He had me at “secret Nixon-Era” blueprint.  Nothing from Nixon people even shocks me any more.  Is there such a thing as group paranoia?

Republican media strategist Roger Ailes launched Fox News Channel in 1996, ostensibly as a “fair and balanced” counterpoint to what he regarded as the liberal establishment media. But according to a remarkable document buried deep within the Richard Nixon Presidential Library, the intellectual forerunner for Fox News was a nakedly partisan 1970 plot by Ailes and other Nixon aides to circumvent the “prejudices of network news” and deliver “pro-administration” stories to heartland television viewers.

The memo—called, simply enough, “A Plan For Putting the GOP on TV News”— is included in a 318-page cache of documents detailing Ailes’ work for both the Nixon and George H.W. Bush administrations that we obtained from the Nixon and Bush presidential libraries. Through his firms REA Productions and Ailes Communications, Inc., Ailes served as paid consultant to both presidents in the 1970s and 1990s, offering detailed and shrewd advice ranging from what ties to wear to how to keep the pressure up on Saddam Hussein in the run-up to the first Gulf War.

The documents—drawn mostly from the papers of Nixon chief of staff and felon H.R. Haldeman and Bush chief of staff John Sununu—reveal Ailes to be a tireless television producer and joyful propagandist. He was a forceful advocate for the power of television to shape the political narrative, and he reveled in the minutiae constructing political spectacles—stage-managing, for instance, the lighting of the White House Christmas tree with painstaking care. He frequently floated ideas for creating staged events and strategies for manipulating the mainstream media into favorable coverage, and used his contacts at the networks to sniff out the emergence of threatening narratives and offer advice on how to snuff them out—warning Bush, for example, to lay off the golf as war in the Middle East approached because journalists were starting to talk. There are also occasional references to dirty political tricks, as well as some positions that seem at odds with the Tea Party politics of present-day Fox News: Ailes supported government regulation of political campaign ads on television, including strict limits on spending. He also advised Nixon to address high school students, a move that caused his network to shriek about “indoctrination” when Obama did it more than 30 years later.

It’s a long strange read that’s just perfect for a celebration of America!

Well, one democratic senator has a job plan.  I wonder if any one will discuss it?

A bill to create construction jobs and fund new highway infrastructure. A clean-energy jobs program. Reforming the immigration system for high-skilled workers. And a variety of tax cuts and credits.

None are new ideas, but they’re all part of Senate Democrats’ jobs agenda Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) laid out in greater detail Thursday as he portrayed his party as proactively trying to spur economic growth and accused the GOP of deliberately trying to undermine the recovery for political gain.

“We have now been playing entirely on the Republicans‘ field for six months and the recovery has only slowed. We have seen enough to know that their approach is not working,” said Schumer, who heads policy and messaging for Senate Democrats, in a speech to the Economic Policy Institute in Washington.

“And we need to start asking ourselves an uncomfortable question — are Republicans slowing down the recovery on purpose for political gain in 2012? … [N]ow it is becoming clear that insisting on a slash-and-burn approach may be part of this plan — it has a double benefit for Republicans: It is ideologically tidy and it undermines the economic recovery, which they think only helps them in 2012.”

Republicans have scoffed at that notion, arguing that Democrats’ solution to the broken economy is tax increases and a continuation of failed stimulus spending. This week, the GOP renewed its push for a constitutional amendment that would require the government to balance its budget each year.

I can’t believe the Republicans are trying that balanced budget crap again.  It’s absolutely the worst thing in the world to do and it’s one of the reasons that states’ economies have caused this recovery to be the worst on record.  They are actively making it worse by crippling state budgets and services.  A balanced budget amendment means that governments get to spend like crazy when tax revenues come in which is precisely when you don’t need it because it’s inflationary.  It also stops governments from deficit spending when they have to and should during a recession.  It causes governments to make recessions longer and more painful.  Just like now!  People like Mitch McConnell shouldn’t be making economic policy decisions based on faith-based Voodoo Economics.  He and other Republicans have basically made a living of telling people complete untruths about economic and financial theory.  Remember, even Ronald Reagan’s economic team has called all this stuff insanity!

Okay, one MORE economics story and then I’ll leave you to firecrackers, beer and the grill.  It’s not much of a surprise, but it’s an academic study that pretty much shows what we’ve thought for some time.

Economists at Northeastern University have found that the current economic recovery in the United States has been unusually skewed in favor of corporate profits and against increased wages for workers.

In their newly released study, the Northeastern economists found that since the recovery began in June 2009 following a deep 18-month recession, “corporate profits captured 88 percent of the growth in real national income while aggregate wages and salaries accounted for only slightly more than 1 percent” of that growth.

The study, “The ‘Jobless and Wageless Recovery’ From the Great Recession of 2007-2009,” said it was “unprecedented” for American workers to receive such a tiny share of national income growth during a recovery.

According to the study, between the second quarter of 2009, when the recovery began, and the fourth quarter of 2010, national income rose by $528 billion, with $464 billion of that growth going to pretax corporate profits, while just $7 billion went to aggregate wages and salaries, after accounting for inflation.

The share of income growth going to employee compensation was far lower than in the four other economic recoveries that have occurred over the last three decades, the study found.

“The lack of any net job growth in the current recovery combined with stagnant real hourly and weekly wages is responsible for this unique, devastating outcome,” wrote the report’s authors, Andrew Sum, Ishwar Khatiwada, Joseph McLaughlin and Sheila Palma.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, average real hourly earnings for all employees actually declined by 1.1 percent from June 2009, when the recovery began, to May 2011, the month for which the most recent earnings numbers are available.

Yup, we’re all poorer and the one per cent is richer.  But then, you knew that!

So, here’s the firecrackers!   Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Prosser was videotaped by a news crew basically ripping a mic away from a reporter trying to ask him a question.  Be sure to go watch the video!

Grabbing the microphone – and the spotlight. Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser did both when FOX6’s Mike Lowe attempted to speak with him about the serious allegations of a physical altercation with Justice Anne Walsh Bradley on Thursday.

Six of Wisconsin’s Supreme Court Justices witnessed an alleged physical altercation between Prosser and Bradley in Bradley’s chambers on June 13th.

The basic story is that Prosser was upset about Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson’s decision to delay release of the high court’s opinion in the collective bargaining case.

The story was leaked, presumably by the Justices themselves, to both liberal and conservative publications. Both cited unnamed sources. But Bradley was quoted as saying Prosser placed her in a choke-hold. Prosser has since denied that.

On Thursday, when FOX’s Mike Lowe asked Justice Prosser about the alleged incident, he grabbed the FOX6 microphone and then gave it back. Prosser did not answer any of Mike Lowe’s questions.

You can watch his odd behavior as captured by the Fox News 6 reporter.  Four of the justices who witnessed the altercation refused to comment and said the matter was under review by the judicial commission and that the sheriff was investigating the situation too.  Prosser never said anything but the body language says a lot.

Hope your long weekend will go great and that you have a few minutes to spend with us!  I understand Wonk’s got a great Hillary post coming up for us tomorrow!   Our Secretary of State is out there putting the world’s women and children first again!  You’ll want to read it for sure!  I’ve stocked up on bacon wrapped filets, Abita Amber, and corn on the cob. Just a little fun down here on the bayou!

So, what’s on your reading and blogging list today?