PEOPLE FOR BLOG

A New Meaning of "Yes"

Newt Gingrich, it seems, has learned a new word. The title of his talk tonight at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference is “Becoming the Party of Yes.”

The party of “yes”?

It’s a worthy goal, but the GOP has a long way to go to get there. Last year, Republican Senators went to unprecedented lengths to slow down legislation, even targeting bills that many in their own party ended up voting for. They’ve blocked Executive Branch nominees at a rate never before seen. They even forced a time consuming cloture vote on judicial nominee Barbara Keenan even though not a single Republican was willing to oppose her on her merits. And, for a while, GOP Senators decided that it was in the best interest of the country if they didn’t show up to work after lunch.

Gingrich himself isn’t known as a fan of cooperation. But maybe he’s as confused by the “party of yes” concept as Sarah Palin is about the “party of no.”
 

PFAW

O’Connor v. Citizens United

In the weeks since the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Citizens United, plenty of people (including, ahem, us) have spoke out against the decision. But one critic of the ruling brings a particularly distinguished resume.

Sandra Day O’Connor, in addition to being a former Associate Justice on the Supreme Court, has emerged as one of the most vocal and persistent critics of the ruling and of the dangerous effects of unlimited money in politics. Despite her conservative credentials, though, her stance shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. After all, she wrote one of the decisions that Chief Justice Roberts and co. so casually tossed aside.

And she hasn’t tried to sugar coat the situation:

In speeches and interviews since the 5-to-4 decision came down on Jan. 21, O'Connor has highlighted the decision's impact on precisely the political arena where its corrupting influence and corrosive effects on public trust could be deepest: the races judges themselves must run to keep their seats on state courts.

O'Connor's barnstorm tour deploring the ruling and defending judicial independence continued last week with an audience of law students, faculty, and judges in her home state of Arizona. Earlier, at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, she chastised the court majority for signaling "that the problem of campaign contributions in judicial elections might get considerably worse and quite soon."

She’s right, which might be why Americans across the political spectrum agree that the decision needs to be fixed.
 

PFAW

Supreme Court Gets Chance to Remove Roadblocks Keeping Disabled Veterans from Benefits

This spring, the Supreme Court will get another chance to show whether it values the rights of individuals to receive fair treatment from the American legal system.



The New York Times reports on a case before the Supreme Court that could allow the justices to roll back the most perverse consequences of their 2008 decision in Bowles v. Russell, which held that there is no excuse for missing certain court filing deadlines—even if you’ve been given the wrong information by a judge.


That decision is now being used to withhold benefits from disabled veterans like David L. Henderson, whose disability was the cause of his inability to meet a court deadline to file his notice of appeal. Henderson has been caught up for nearly a decade in what three federal appeals court judges have called a “Kafkaesque adjudicatory process.”



The Supreme Court will soon consider whether to hear an appeal from David L. Henderson, who was discharged from the military in 1952 after receiving a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia. He sought additional government help for his condition in 2001, and he was turned down in 2004.

Mr. Henderson, who served on the front lines in the Korean War, had 120 days to file an appeal, but it took him 135 days. He had a pretty good excuse.

His psychiatrist has said under oath that he is “incapable of rational thought or deliberate decision-making.” As a consequence, the psychiatrist added, “Mr. Henderson has been incapable of understanding and meeting deadlines.”


Bowles, the case that created the precedent for Henderson’s nightmarish treatment, split the Supreme Court 5-4. The court, if it hears Henderson’s case, has the chance with this case to stop the extreme consequences of its earlier decision and show that it is willing to protect the rights of individual Americans.
 

PFAW

Time for the GOP to Own up to Inciting the Tea Partiers

Tea Party activists, ginned up on Republican rhetoric about tyranny, socialism, and death panels, have been lashing out directly at Democrats across the country. On Capitol Hill, members of Congress faced slurs and one was even spat on. Around the country, death threats have poured in along with numerous reports of vandalism.

Given all that has happened over the past week, it’s incredible that some Republicans are trying to blame the victim. For instance, NRCC spokesman Andy Sere accused Rep. Tom Perriello of using a potentially life-threatening act of vandalism as a ‘cynical ploy to distract Virginians.’

Rep. Cantor upped the ante by accusing Democrats of ‘dangerously fanning the flames’ by supposedly politicizing the threats against them. He continued:

I'm not naive enough to think that letters, statements or press releases will prevent anyone disturbed enough to commit violence from acting. But I do know that such letters, statements and press releases can very easily fan the flames. By ratcheting up the rhetoric, some will only inflame these situations to dangerous levels. Enough is enough. It has to stop.           

But this is hypocritical nonsense. The GOP strategy on health care all along has been to whip Americans into a frenzy over “Obamacare” by using extreme rhetoric and imagery. In fact, Cantor is scheduled to be the featured speaker on a conference call later today organized by the S.T.O.P. Obama Tyranny National Coalition.

So rather than owning up to their rhetoric and the effect it’s had, all indications are that Republican leaders will continue to incite the Tea Partiers while looking the other way whenever things get out of hand.

PFAW

GOP Adopts Sophisticated “Take My Toys and Go Home” Strategy

In case you missed it, the GOP is not pleased about the passage of health care reform, and after careful consideration they’ve decided that the best strategy going forward is to stomp their feet harder and scream louder.

In legislative terms, that means that they’ve chosen to invoke an arcane Senate rule that requires unanimous consent for any committee meetings after 2 p.m. That’s right. GOP Senators are so angry that they won’t work after lunch.

In a statement, Senator Leahy explains what that means for the Judiciary Committee.

I have previously accommodated requests from Judiciary Committee Republicans to delay the Committee’s hearing to consider Professor [Goodwin] Liu’s nomination. I had intended to hold this hearing two weeks ago but, at the request of Republicans, delayed it until today. We had agreed, instead, to proceed to a hearing for Judge Robert Chatigny, a nominee to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, on March 10. Republicans then reversed themselves and asked for additional delay in connection with that March 10 hearing. I, again, accommodated them. Earlier this week I sought to move this afternoon’s hearing to the morning, into the two-hour window of time after the Senate convened, that would not be subject to this arcane objection. Republicans asked that we keep it scheduled for this afternoon because it worked better for the schedules of the Republican members of the Committee, and they had planned to participate this afternoon. Now, having objected to holding the hearing this morning, they object to it not being held this afternoon. They pulled the plug on our hearing and put up roadblocks to the Committee’s process for working to fill judicial vacancies.

And, like most Republican obstruction tactics, it quickly moves from being “annoying” to being “harmful for our nation.”

Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Sen. Claire McCaskill both complained that Republicans kept them from holding their hearings on budget requests for the military's Pacific and strategic and police training contracts in Afghanistan.

That, in a nutshell, is the political strategy of the GOP: prevent any effort to assist our armed forces or allow for a functioning judicial branch out of sheer petulance.

You stay classy, guys.
 

PFAW

The First Corporate Ad – An Avalanche Begins with One Flake

The ad below may not look like much, but it’s a sign of much greater – and troubling – things to come. It appears to be the very first political ad purchased with corporate money, all thanks to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United.

The ad ran in a handful of small Texas newspapers and was purchased by KDR Development Inc., a local real estate firm, to oppose a political enemy of the firm’s president, Larry Durrett.

Durrett, who also runs a chain of fast food franchises, told the Texas Tribune that his “businesses do better under conservative people.” Asked why he used corporate rather than personal money, Durrett said that he took “the money out of the pocket that's got some money in there.”

Apply the same logic to giant corporations, and you can see we have a massive problem on our hands. The Supreme Court gave Exxon the same right to spend a billion dollars as it gave Durrett to spend a few thousand.

Durrett’s modest ad buy is a warning to us all – the avalanche of corporate cash is coming. Click here to join our campaign for government by the people, not corporations.

PFAW

Former DOJ Official Discusses Impact of GOP Obstruction

On Tuesday, former Deputy Attorney General David Ogden spoke publicly for the first time since leaving the Justice Department.

Among other pressing issues, Ogden addressed the ongoing obstruction of key Obama nominees to the department, including Dawn Johnsen to head the Office of Legal Counsel and Chris Schroeder to head the Office of Legal Policy.
 
In Ogden’s words, “it causes problems for the department not to have key” positions filled.
 
Johnsen, whom Ogden called a “brilliant” lawyer, has been waiting for over a year for an up-down vote in the Senate. “It would make a big difference to have her in there,” said Ogden. “It’s just not right that it’s been held up so long.”
 
Johnsen was approved by the Judiciary Committee for a second time on March 4th and could be brought to the Senate floor in the coming weeks.
 
Click here to learn more about Johnsen’s outstanding qualifications and broad base of support. And click here to call on Senators to finally confirm her and let her get to work on the many pressing issues at Justice Department.
PFAW

As Health Care Reform Passes, New Poll Shows the Shocking Radicalism of Today's GOP

For years, the GOP has been pandering to extremists. The health care debate and the Obama presidency have brought out the most paranoid, conspiracy theory-driven fringe members of that extremist base including racists, anti-government activists and too many otherwise-normal Americans who have had their economic anxieties and fear of change exploited for the Right Wing's cynical politics.

John Avalon at the The Daily Beast reports that a new Harris poll shows the true fruit of the GOP's inciting fear and bigotry amongst its base:

On the heels of health care, a new Harris poll reveals Republican attitudes about Obama: Two-thirds think he's a socialist, 57 percent a Muslim—and 24 percent say "he may be the Antichrist."

To anyone who thinks the end of the health-care vote means a return to civility, wake up.

Obama Derangement Syndrome—pathological hatred of the president posing as patriotism—has infected the Republican Party. Here's new data to prove it:

  • 67 percent of Republicans (and 40 percent of Americans overall) believe that Obama is a socialist.

The belief that Obama is a “domestic enemy” is widely held—a sign of trouble yet to come.

  • 57 percent of Republicans (32 percent overall) believe that Obama is a Muslim
  • 45 percent of Republicans (25 percent overall) agree with the Birthers in their belief that Obama was "not born in the United States and so is not eligible to be president"
  • 38 percent of Republicans (20 percent overall) say that Obama is "doing many of the things that Hitler did"
  • Scariest of all, 24 percent of Republicans (14 percent overall) say that Obama "may be the Antichrist."

Read More >

PFAW

Landmark Health Care Bill Approved by House

A few minutes ago, the House of Representatives passed landmark health reform, perhaps the most important piece of domestic policy legislation in a generation.

The feat is all the more impressive given the scorched earth tactics the Right Wing has used to try to derail it.  Even yesterday, Democratic Congressmen faced racist and homophobic slurs for supporting the legislation, and this evening Congressman Bart Stupak (no friend to a woman's constitutional right to reproductive choice) was called a "baby killer" by a Republican Representative for supporting the bill.

But in the end, health care reform passed: a major accomplishment for Congress and an important plank of President Obama's platform realized.

The moral: standing up for your agenda pays off.  The GOP made clear that there was virtually nothing they wouldn't do to stop reform, but by powering through Republican obstruction, Democrats were able to score a major win for themselves and for the American people.

Now that this victory is under Congress's belt, we look forward to pushing past other instances of GOP obstruction.

PFAW

Right Wing Shocked, *Shocked* at Racist Slurs Aimed at Lawmakers

During protests against health care reform, anti-health care activists used racial and homophobic slurs against members of Congress, and one protester was arrested for spitting on Congressman John Lewis of Georgia.

Right Wing leaders have attempted to distance themselves from the incidents, but their denials would be more convincing if inflaming racial resentment weren't such a central strategy in their campaign against President Obama and his agenda.

As People For the American Way reported in "Right Wing Watch In Focus -- Right Plays the Race Card," incendiary racial rhetoric has long been a part of the Right's crusade against health care:

At first glance, health care reform would not seem as likely an issue for racial wedge politics. But racially charged arguments have been made alongside the by-now familiar charges of government takeovers, socialism, fascism, and death panels. Investors Business Daily and Fox Nation teamed up to portray health care reform as "affirmative action on steroids" and to suggest that reform is actually a back-door way to implement reparations for slavery:

The racial grievance industry under health care reform could be calling the shots in the emergency room, the operating room, the medical room, even medical school. As Terence Jeffrey, editor at large of Human Events puts it, not only our wealth, but also our health will be redistributed.

At the recent How to Take Back America conference organized by far-right doyenne Phyllis Schlafly and her heir-apparent,right-wing radio host and activist Janet Folger Porter, a panelist attacked health care reform saying it would amount to a reenactment of slavery by our first black president, this time with doctors being enslaved. Bishop Harry Jackson, the Religious Right's favorite African American minister, has denounced health care reform proposals that he claims would divert health care resources from wealthier to poorer Americans as "reverse classism."

Two academics, Marc Hetherington of Vanderbilt University and Jonathan Weiler of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, recently found an "extraordinarily strong correlation between racial resentment of blacks and opposition to health care reform," a relationship that did not exist during the Clinton health care debate.

If the GOP and the Right Wing want to be able to credibly disavow racism, they should stop associating so closely with those who peddle it.

PFAW

March for Immigration Reform This Weekend

Anyone interested in supporting comprehensive immigration reform should be sure to mark their calendars for the "March For America" this weekend.

If you make it to DC, you might be able to say hello to members of PFAWF's African American Ministers Leadership Council, who will be raising their voices for fair-minded immigration reform. 

PFAW

Senator Cardin on a Constitutional Amendment

In a hearing today entitled "We the People? Corporate Spending in American Elections after Citizens United,” the Senate Judiciary Committee discussed the impact of the Citizens United v. FEC and possible steps to repair the damage.  In addition to touching on legislative fixes, the question of a Constitutional Amendment came up, posed by Senator Benjamin Cardin on Maryland. 

Don't forget to sign our petition, calling for a Constitutional Amendment to restore government by the people.

UPDATE: YouTube has been having some problems with embedded videos. If you have trouble playing it, try double clicking the video to open it in YouTube in a new window.

PFAW

LA Times: Corporate Money Pours into Chamber of Commerce to Sway Elections Thanks to Supreme Court

Investigative reporter Tom Hamburger has an excellent article in today's Los Angeles Times on the tens of millions of dollars pouring into the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to defeat candidates who stand in the way of Big Business.

As Hamburger reports, the Chamber spent $144 million last year on advocacy and plans to spend substantially more this year. And those dollars will have more impact than ever thanks to the Supreme Court, which recently ruled 5-4 that giant corporations can directly oppose or support candidates for public office.

The article also explains how companies use the Chamber to do their dirty work while concealing their involvement:

Using trade associations such as the chamber as the vehicle for spending corporate money on politics has an extra appeal: These groups can take large contributions from companies and wealthy individuals in ways that will probably avoid public disclosure requirements.

The chamber has developed that into something of a specialty: Under a system pioneered by Donohue, corporations have contributed money to the chamber, which then produced issue ads targeting individual candidates without revealing the names of the businesses underwriting the ads.

And remember, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is not the national equivalent of your local community chamber of commerce, as the name might suggest. Instead, it's an extremely conservative advocacy group that does the bidding of a small group of companies that provide most of its funding:

The chamber says it represents 3 million companies that pay dues to the national chamber or a local affiliate, though internal documents suggest the organization's treasury is filled in substantial part by contributions from a couple dozen major corporations most affected by Washington policymakers.

The entire article is definitely worth reading. You can find it here.

PFAW

More evidence that in Virginia, the Radical Right's in charge

The Washington Post reported today that Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has sent a letter to the Commonwealth’s public colleges and universities asking them to rescind policies that ban discrimination against LGBT people, stating:

"It is my advice that the law and public policy of the Commonwealth of Virginia prohibit a college or university from including 'sexual orientation,' 'gender identity,' 'gender expression,' or like classification as a protected class within its non-discrimination policy absent specific authorization from the General Assembly."

Colleges that have included such language in their policies -- which include all of Virginia's leading schools -- have done so "without proper authority" and should "take appropriate actions to bring their policies in conformance with the law and public policy of Virginia," Cuccinelli wrote.

I posted last week on the new Virginia Governor's assault on LGBT Virginians, in his rush to carry out the agenda of the Religious Right. Clearly it's not just Gov. Bob McDonnell who poses a threat to Virginians’ rights. The Religious Right has spread its tentacles throughout the upper echelons of Virginia’s state government, and with its grip firmly on the levers of power, Virginians have a lot to be worried about.

More brutal evidence of the fact that elections matter... Progressives will have a lot of work to do fighting back the policies of McDonnell, Cuccinelli and right-wing state legislators in Virginia.

PFAW

A Committee Meeting Worth Sitting Through

Today, well over a year after she was originally nominated, the Senate Judiciary Committee once again approved the nomination of Dawn Johnsen to head the Office of Legal Counsel.

As with any Judiciary Committee meeting, there was the requisite huffing and puffing by Republican Senators who never met a nominee they didn't want to obstruct.  But anyone willing to sit through their tirades was treated to an energetic showing by Democrats who seem to have had enough of the delay and the baseless attacks.

A personal favorite is the remarks by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, who showcased the bipartisan support that Johnsen has received and thoroughly demolished the ridiculous claims that the recent OPR report somehow vindicated the Bush Administration OLC.

 

PFAW