Last Updated: Friday, 1:57 p.m.
U.S. Chamber Of Commerce Undefeated at the U.S. Supreme Court This Term
From Huffington Post: “The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is undefeated at the Supreme Court this term, continuing to improve its success in securing business-friendly judgments since Chief Justice John Roberts took the bench in 2005. The Constitutional Accountability Center, a left-leaning think tank and law firm, reported its findings on Thursday, noting that this term, which began in October and will likely conclude by the end of June, could be the chamber’s “first ‘perfect’ term before the Supreme Court since at least 1994.” This term’s “string of seven straight victories brings the chamber’s overall win/loss rate before the Roberts Court up to 68 percent (60 of 88 cases),” wrote Neil Weare, the center’s litigation counsel and Supreme Court fellow. […] The health care cases, likely to be decided next week, may yet spoil the chamber’s perfect season. The chamber took no position on the individual mandate’s constitutionality, but did urge the justices to strike down the entire law if they decide to void the mandate. That position, however, found little support among the justices during oral argument in March.”
The State of Poverty in America
From the American Prospect: “In the bottom tier are 20.5 million people—6.7 percent of the population—who are in deep poverty, with an income less than half the poverty line (below $9,000 for a family of three). Some 6 million people out of those 20.5 million have no income at all other than food stamps. These dire facts tempt one to believe that there may be some truth to President Ronald Reagan’s often-quoted declaration that “we fought a war against poverty and poverty won.” But that is not the case. Our public policies have been remarkably successful. Starting with the Social Security Act of 1935, continuing with the burst of activity in the 1960s, and on from there, we have made great progress. […] All in all, our various public policies kept a remarkable 40 million people from falling into poverty in 2010—about half because of Social Security and half due to” other programs. […] Why didn’t it fall further? The economics have been working against us for four decades, exacerbated by trends in family composition. Well–paying industrial jobs disappeared to other countries and to automation. The economy grew, but the fruits of the growth went exclusively to those at the top. Other jobs replaced the ones lost, but most of the new jobs paid much less. The wage of the median-paying job barely grew—by one measure going up only about 7 percent over the 38 years from 1973 to 2011. Half the jobs in the country now pay less than $33,000 a year, and a quarter pay less than the poverty line of $22,000 for a family of four. We have become a low-wage economy to a far greater extent than we realize. […] The percentage of people in deep poverty has doubled since 1976. A major reason for this rise is the near death of cash assistance for families with children. Welfare has shrunk from 14 million recipients (too many, in my view) before the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families law (TANF) was enacted in 1996 to 4.2 million today, just 1.5 percent of the population. […] There’s a gigantic problem here, however: We look to be headed to a future of too many low-wage jobs. Wages in China, India, and other emerging economies may be rising, but we can’t foresee any substantial increase in the prevailing wage for many millions of American jobs. That means we better start talking about wage supplements that are much bigger than the Earned Income Tax Credit. We need a dose of reality about the future of the American paycheck.” The full story.
Religious Freedom as a License to Discriminate
From the ACLU’s Alicia Gay: “The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has designated the fourteen days from June 21to July 4 as its “fortnight for freedom,” during which time the bishops will make claims, as they have in the past, that their faith, and indeed the entire state of religious liberty in this nation, is under attack. Don’t be fooled. Certainly, the “fortnight” was designed as a publicity opportunity to highlight the bishops’ opposition to the Obama administration’s rule that would ensure that all new health insurance plans — except those held by churches and other houses of worship — would include coverage for birth control. We’ve also seen arguments from the bishops and others that religious freedom justifies publically funded agencies denying loving homes to children in foster care simply because the would-be adoptive parents are gay or lesbian; hospitals denying a woman life-saving care if it meant ending her pregnancy; contractors imposing religious restrictions on taxpayer-funded services for victims of human trafficking ; public schools allowing guidance counselors to turn away students in crisis if they disapprove of their sexual orientation ; any employer refusing to cover any health care service in their employees’ health insurance plans ; and hotels and restaurants refusing to serve same-sex couples . But we know that’s not what true religious freedom is. Religious freedom is one of our most treasured liberties, and includes two complementary protections: the right to religious belief and expression, and protection from religious favoritism by the government. These dual protections work hand-in-hand, allowing religious liberty to thrive, safeguarding both religion and government from the undue influences of the other. This means we have the right to a government that neither promotes nor disparages religion generally, nor any faith, in particular. We have the absolute right to believe whatever we want about God, faith, and religion. We have the right to act on our religious beliefs, unless those actions harm others. True religious liberty protects the rights of all of us to practice our faith. It does not, however, give anyone, including the bishops, the right to impose their beliefs on others. It is not, in essence, a pass to discriminate.
Anonymous Comments and Basic Instincts
From Adweek: At social news site BuzzFeed, community moderator Ryan Broderick is the sole individual tasked with combing through nearly 22,000 user comments per month. Broderick interacts constantly with BuzzFeed’s regulars to keep them from causing too much trouble, but tensions inevitably abound. “The Trayvon Martin period was a rough couple of weeks,” Broderick said, referring to racially charged posts. Broderick sees online participation split into two very different worlds. “There is a social realm where things are rationally sorted and then there’s the anonymous place that brings out a person’s base instincts. It can become a frothing, bubbling cauldron of insanity,” he said. “Yet, you need that animalistic part of yourself. I think of it almost like your sex drive.” So with so much potential for offensive behavior, why allow commenting in the first place? Both Isaf and Broderick believe that open and anonymous commenting is quite powerful when it works. Sometimes, even great ideas are born among the shouters. “We’ve seen comments where people spend a couple of hours researching and writing. I’ve watched a discussion on abortion that had 50 people taking part with 200 comments without a single attack,” Isaf said. “You can’t get rid of the anonymous areas of the Internet,” Broderick said. “Making the collaborative spirit of our commenters positive is the most important part of my job. Anonymity can do amazing, extremely creative things if you believe in it.” The full story.
Is Joking About Obama’s Blackness Permissible?
“I shouldn’t make fun of the blacks. President Obama is a personal friend of mine. He was over to the house yesterday, but the mop broke.” That as the joke Don Rickles brought, without a mop, to a tribute to Shirley MacLaine at the American Film Institute last week. The Hollywood Reporter: “The black-tie crowd, gathered to celebrate MacLaine, the 40th recipient of the AFI’s Life Achievement Award, alternately gasped at the 86-year-old comic’s put-downs and then found themselves laughing and applauding.”
Which got Gawker’s Drew Magary thinking: “This is an old joke. A really, really old-as-shit joke, one that Rickles has told millions of times, usually with Sammy Davis Jr. as the butt of it and not the President. It’s not a good joke (it doesn’t even make sense), and I suppose you could find it offensive. But come on, it’s Don Rickles. It’s Don Rickles’ job to be a complete asshole to everyone. That’s his thing. That’s what the back room at Circus Circus has been paying him to do for decades. Getting mad at Don Rickles for hurling ancient insults at people is like getting mad at Obama for being a Muslim. But the whole episode does beg the question: Is it possible, at all, for a white person to make a decent black joke about the POTUS? I’m not one of those people who subscribes to the idea that certain groups of people can’t make jokes about other groups of people. That’s crap. You can get away with making fun of anyone so long as A) You’re funny, and B) You’re willing to also make fun of yourself. Placing imaginary barriers on humor when it comes to sensitive topics like race or someone who recently died is for arrogant pricks who think they deserve to be the arbiters of what constitutes good taste.”
What About Romney’s Whiteness?
“Politico,” the Media Wire reports, “has suspended its White House correspondent, Joe Williams, for remarks he made on Martin Bashir’s MSNBC show Thursday. Williams’ “comment about Governor Romney earlier today on MSNBC fell short of our standards for fairness and judgment in an especially unfortunate way,” Politico editors John Harris and Jim VandeHei wrote in a memo to staff. Here are the remarks in question:
“It’s very interesting that he does so many appearances on Fox & Friends. And it’s unscripted. It’s the only time they let Mitt off the leash, so to speak. But it also points out a larger problem he’s got to solve if he wants to be successful come this fall: Romney is very, very comfortable, it seems, with people who are like him. That’s one of the reasons why he seems so stiff and awkward in some town hall settings, why he can’t relate to people other than that. But when he comes on Fox & Friends, they’re like him. They’re white folks who are very much relaxed in their own company.”
Here’s the video:
So: was he being racist?
Heckling the President, Cont’d.
From Media Matters: “Unfortunately, the casual tone of Oval Office disrespect that’s become a hallmark of the right-wing media has found some pockets of acceptance, and even imitation, within the mainstream press. Yes, the press universally condemned the Daily Caller’s classless attempt to upstage the president mid-sentence. But you can spot mainstream bouts of derogatory chatter that would have been unlikely when a Republican was in the White House. (Yes, it was Time’s Mark Halperin who called Obama a “dick” on national television.) Much like with the Clinton presidency, there has been a consuming effort by the conservative media (and the Republican Party) to delegitimize the current Democratic presidency. The difference this time, thanks to the shifting media landscape, is that right-wing name-calling has been ramped up and a runaway lack of civility is now worn like a badge of conservative honor. Recall that following Obama’s 2010 State of the Union Address, conservative media players responded to the president’s policy-heavy speech by calling him a “grating,” “flippant,” “arrogant” “jerk” who’s “cocky” and can’t hide his “fake sincerity.” This, of course, after Glenn Beck strolled onto the set of Fox & Friends in July of 2009 and announced the President of the United States was a “racist” with a “deep-seated hatred for white people.” [… ] You probably can’t even count the number of insults and smears that have been hurled at Obama by the GOP press, although Sally Kohn recently did a nice job of highlight some of the more vile broadsides:
- “We’re now governed by people who do not like the country” — Rush Limbaugh re: President Obama
- President Obama wants to “destroy capitalism” — Hermann Cain
- President Obama “certainly isn’t one of us” — John Hinderaker
- President Obama “doesn’t put America first” — John Hawkins
- Questioning President Obama’s patriotism — David Limbaugh
- President Obama is “ruling” the US according to the dreams of his “philandering, inebriated African socialist” Kenyan father — Dinesh D’Souza
- President Obama was “born in Kenya and raised in Indonesia” — Donald Trump
Ban College Football: A Debate
From Intelligence Squared, a fascinating debate. Watch the full match:
Ban College Football from Intelligence Squared U.S. Debates and Intelligence Squared U.S. Debates on FORA.tv
Press Freedom Worldwide
From Reporters Without Borders: “This year’s index sees many changes in the rankings, changes that reflect a year that was incredibly rich in developments, especially in the Arab world,” Reporters Without Borders said today as it released its 10th annual press freedom index. “Many media paid dearly for their coverage of democratic aspirations or opposition movements. Control of news and information continued to tempt governments and to be a question of survival for totalitarian and repressive regimes. The past year also highlighted the leading role played by netizens in producing and disseminating news. “Crackdown was the word of the year in 2011. Never has freedom of information been so closely associated with democracy. Never have journalists, through their reporting, vexed the enemies of freedom so much. Never have acts of censorship and physical attacks on journalists seemed so numerous. The equation is simple: the absence or suppression of civil liberties leads necessarily to the suppression of media freedom. Dictatorships fear and ban information, especially when it may undermine them. “It is no surprise that the same trio of countries, Eritrea, Turkmenistan and North Korea, absolute dictatorships that permit no civil liberties, again occupy the last three places in the index. This year, they are immediately preceded at the bottom by Syria, Iran and China, three countries that seem to have lost contact with reality as they have been sucked into an insane spiral of terror, and by Bahrain and Vietnam, quintessential oppressive regimes. Other countries such as Uganda and Belarus have also become much more repressive. “This year’s index finds the same group of countries at its head, countries such as Finland, Norway and Netherlands that respect basic freedoms. This serves as a reminder that media independence can only be maintained in strong democracies and that democracy needs media freedom. It is worth noting the entry of Cape Verde and Namibia into the top twenty, two African countries where no attempts to obstruct the media were reported in 2011.” The full post.
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