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Obama's Favorability Rating Hits A Three-Year High

Obama's Favorability Rating Hits A Three-Year High | The Middle Ground | Scoop.it

(Business Insider)

 

President Barack Obama's favorability rating has climbed after re-election to its highest point in years, mirroring his uptick in approval rating after winning re-election.Obama's favorability has reached 58 percent in a Gallup poll released over the weekend, his best mark since a July 2009 reading found him at 66 percent. Overall, he has lost 10 points of favorability since first being elected in 2008 — and 20 points since his inauguration.

 

At its low point, the president's approval rating had ticked below 50 percent in late 2010.

 

The favorability measure is another step in what appears to be a well-rounded post-election bump for the president. Last Monday, Obama's approval rating in the Rasmussen daily tracking poll hit 54 percent, its highest in more than three years.

 

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Young Conservatives Group Pressures GOP on Gay Marriage - Washington Wire - WSJ

Young Conservatives Group Pressures GOP on Gay Marriage - Washington Wire - WSJ | The Middle Ground | Scoop.it
A new effort is being launched to try to persuade the Republican Party to drop its opposition to same-sex marriage from the party’s platform, a steep climb that would require overcoming social conservatives who have dominated the GOP’s position on the issue.

 

By  LAURA MECKLER

8:15 am ET
Apr 16, 2014

 

A new effort is being launched to try to persuade the Republican Party to drop its opposition to same-sex marriage from the party’s platform, a steep climb that would require overcoming social conservatives who have dominated the GOP’s position on the issue.

The effort, called Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry, is a project ofFreedom to Marry, which is campaigning to win over Republicans to the issue in hopes of building a broader national consensus in favor of gay marriage rights.

Backers include GOP strategist Margaret Hoover as well as Abby Hunstman and Meghan McCain, both daughters of prominent Republicans.

The effort, which hopes to raise and spend $1 million over the next three years, plans to travel to four states that stage early presidential primary contests to make its case to Republicans. They want the party to delete several passages declaring marriage to be a man and a woman and related passages and instead adopt a statement taking no position on gay marriage rights but celebrating the value of marriage as a “fundamental, personal freedom.”

The proposed language further states: “We recognize that there are diverse and sincerely held views on civil marriage within the Party… [we] commit our party to respect for all families and fairness and freedom for all Americans.”

Evan Wolfson, who heads Freedom to Marry, said the effort would include staff to organize supporters, travel for supporters to attend GOP meetings, polling and possibly TV ads. He added that the overall effort is part of a larger strategy to influence the Supreme Court, which is likely to consider one of several cases challenging the constitutionality of gay marriage bans over the next few years.

“We are absolutely working in every way we can to show America is ready for the freedom to marry, and that includes, increasingly, Republicans,” he said.

The move would have some degree of precedent. Last weekend, the Republican Party in Nevada voted to strip opposition to gay marriage, as well as abortion, from the state party platform.

The Republican Party platform is written by a committee of delegates to the quadrennial national convention. Sean Spicer, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee, declined to guess how the effort would go over inside the GOP.

“It’s up to the delegates to affirm our platform every four years,” he said. “The principles of the platform that was passed in Tampa remains the platform we operate by and will until the next convention.”

Support for same-sex marriage has grown nationally in recent years, particularly among young people. A recent Pew Research Center poll found six in 10 young Republicans support gay and lesbian marriage rights. In the aftermath of the 2012 presidential election, the Republican National Committee commissioned a report on how the party can grow its appeal. It concluded that the party’s position on gay rights may be a barrier for many younger voters.

“We do not have to agree on every issue, but we do need to make sure young people do not see the Party as totally intolerant of alternative points of view,” it said. “For many younger voters, these issues are a gateway into whether the Party is a place they want to be.”

But soon after that report was issued, in April 2013, the Republican National Committee overwhelmingly approved a resolution reaffirming its opposition to gay marriage.

Also in response to the RNC report, more than a dozen conservative leaders warnedthat social conservatives would abandon the party if the GOP does not maintain its opposition to same-sex marriage.

“We respectfully warn GOP Leadership that an abandonment of its principles will necessarily result in the abandonment of our constituents to their support,” they said in a letter.

Steve Duprey, a Republican committeeman from New Hampshire who said he was one of the few to oppose the 2013 resolution, welcomed the Freedom to Marry effort and said the discussion is good for his party. “Regardless of how it turns out, it shows we’re open to talking about it,” he said.

But he said there is currently “overwhelming support for the platform as it exists” and that changing the language would be “a very heavy lift.”

In an earlier interview about the party’s position on the issue, Rich Galen, a GOP strategist who supports gay marriage, said the platform is among the hardest things to change and predicted the GOP’s official stance on marriage would not change in his lifetime.

“Political party platforms always appeal to the edges,” he said. “Those are often the most ideologically driven.”

 

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Protest or Celebrate the McCutcheon Ruling and Get Big Money Out of Politics

Protest or Celebrate the McCutcheon Ruling and Get Big Money Out of Politics | The Middle Ground | Scoop.it

Overturn McCutcheon andCitizens United

Attend a Meeting With Your Member of Congress During the April Recess

 

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission.

McCutcheon pretty much did for individuals what Citizens United did for corporations. Specifically, those who can afford to do so can directly contribute nearly $6 million per election cycle to a single party and its candidates.

Members of Congress will be heading home for April recess from April 12 to April 27. We want to make sure they hear our outrage at McCutcheon and the further erosion of our democracy. We want their support for a constitutional amendment and the Government By the People Act. We will be working with you to set up meetings with your legislators around the country.

Sign up if you would like attend a meeting near you. We will provide you with information so that you are prepared for the meeting and let you know when the meeting is scheduled.

 

Sign up at

http://action.citizen.org/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=12458&tag=DIFPInDistrictApr2014PFAW

 

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Despite Rise in Spills, Hazardous Cargo Rides Rails in Secret

Despite Rise in Spills, Hazardous Cargo Rides Rails in Secret | The Middle Ground | Scoop.it
As alarmed communities complain about dangerous cargo running on the tracks through their towns, new rules for handling such cargo are set to take effect.


By JAD MOUAWAD

APRIL 15, 2014


Jodi Ross, town manager in Westford, Mass., did not expect she would be threatened with arrest after she and her fire chief went onto the railroad tracks to find out why a train carrying liquid petroleum gas derailed on a bridge in February.

But as they reached the accident site northwest of Boston, a manager for Pan Am Railways called the police, claiming she was trespassing on rail property. The cars were eventually put back on the tracks safely, but the incident underlined a reality for local officials dealing with railroads.

“They don’t have to tell us a thing,” Ms. Ross said. “It’s a very arrogant attitude.”


Read more at

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/16/business/despite-spills-hazards-ride-the-rails-in-secret.html?_r=1


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Leaked Report: CIA Lied, Lied, Lied to Conceal 'Brutal' Torture

Leaked Report: CIA Lied, Lied, Lied to Conceal 'Brutal' Torture | The Middle Ground | Scoop.it

Published on Friday, April 11, 2014 by Common Dreams


Key findings of classified Senate report, obtained by McClatchy, shed light on CIA concealment of atrocities

 

- Sarah Lazare, staff writer

 

Key findings of a still-classified Senate Intelligence Committee investigative report reveal that the CIA lied to lawmakers, the media, and the U.S. public about widespread torture as it concealed the brutality of its interrogation methods and the number of people subjected to them.

 

This is according to a Thursday report from McClatchy News Service, which obtained 20 main conclusions (PDF) of the 6,300-page Senate Intelligence Committee report on the CIA's detention and interrogation program. These conclusions are entirely new to the public record.

 

Read more at

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2014/04/11-3

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Declassify: The Importance of Releasing the CIA Torture Report

Declassify: The Importance of Releasing the CIA Torture Report | The Middle Ground | Scoop.it
Unless a Senate committee votes to release the 6,300-page document, the Bush Administration's illegal, ineffective interrogation policies are bound to return.


CONOR FRIEDERSDORF

APR 3 2014, 7:24 AM ET


Today the Senate Intelligence Committee will hold a momentous vote. The subject: what Americans are allowed to know about crimes perpetrated in our names.

After the September 11 terrorist attacks, the Bush Administration empowered the CIA to torture human prisoners. This was done in secret, without any due process. In some ways, the people involved were like 15th-century Spanish inquisitors: They tortured because they thought that it was the right thing to do, which won't save them from being remembered by history as agents of moral depravity. Under domestic and international law, these torturers should be in jail. Instead, they're lobbying to hide the extent of their unlawful acts from the public.

This subterfuge is cowardly and indefensible. Some Americans believe that it isn't torture to blindfold a prisoner, strap him to a board, gag him, and force water into his nasal cavity until his lungs fill with water, inducing the experience of drowning. Even they should recognize the public's interest in determining the efficacy of whatever interrogation methods were used to prevent terrorist attacks.


Read more at

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/04/declassify-the-importance-of-releasing-the-cia-torture-report/360069/



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M. R. RAO's comment, April 12, 8:16 AM
Torturers did wrong deeds,, and acts which is against international laws. Now, they want to escape from the jaws of law. They need to be punished
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Delays in Effort to Refocus C.I.A. From Drone War

Delays in Effort to Refocus C.I.A. From Drone War | The Middle Ground | Scoop.it
Despite avowals about the need to refocus the agency on its original missions of analysis, intelligence collecting and espionage, the paramilitary operations have proven hard to give up.


By MARK MAZZETTI APRIL 5, 2014


WASHINGTON — In the skies above Yemen, the Pentagon’s armed droneshave stopped flying, a result of the ban on American military drone strikes imposed by the government there after a number of botched operations in recent years killed Yemeni civilians. But the Central Intelligence Agency’s drone war in Yemen continues.


In Pakistan, the C.I.A. remains in charge of drone operations, and may continue to be long after American troops have left Afghanistan.


And in Jordan, it is the C.I.A. rather than the Pentagon that is running a program to arm and train Syrian rebels — a concession to the Jordanian government, which will not allow an overt military presence in the country.


Just over a year ago John O. Brennan, the C.I.A.’s newly nominated director, said at his confirmation hearing that it was time to refocus an agency that had become largely a paramilitary organization after the Sept. 11 attacks toward more traditional roles carrying out espionage, intelligence collection and analysis. And in a speech last May in which he sought to redefine American policy toward terrorism, President Obama expanded on that theme, announcing new procedures for drone operations, which White House officials said would gradually become the responsibility of the Pentagon.

But change has come slowly to the C.I.A.


Read more at

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/06/world/delays-in-effort-to-refocus-cia-from-drone-war.html?_r=1


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Fair Elections Now | Campaign Finance Reform - Common Cause

Common Cause

 

Members of Congress spend too much time fundraising and too little time working to solve the country's problems. Instead of focusing on jobs, health care, or wars and political upheaval across the Middle East, they spend hours each day begging for campaign contributions from the lobbyists and special interests they’re supposed to oversee in Washington. It’s no surprise that special interests and wealthy donors have enormous influence in Washington. -


See more at:

http://www.commoncause.org/site/pp.asp?c=dkLNK1MQIwG&b=4773857#sthash.EdZ43zpE.dpuf



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I-1329 partners with businesses to limit corporate campaign contributions

I-1329 partners with businesses to limit corporate campaign contributions | The Middle Ground | Scoop.it
Just as the Supreme Court ruled to remove another limitation to campaign contributions, a new Washington initiate is gaining momentum to do the opposite.

 

by ALISON MORROW / KING 5

Posted on April 3, 2014 at 11:25 PM


Just as the Supreme Court ruled to remove another limitation to campaign contributions, a new Washington initiative is gaining momentum to do the opposite.

 

I-1329 aims to “get big money out of politics” and will partner with small and medium-sized businesses across the state to gather signatures for a petition focusing on November’s general election.

 

Zeeks Pizza in Issaquah has one of the petition boxes, available for customers to learn more and sign in support of the initiative.

Its owner, Senator Mark Mullet (D-Issaquah), calls his pizzeria a fitting site for the petition.

 

“I don’t have a lot of extra money floating around. I can’t hire a lobbyist to go to Olympia for me and argue on my behalf,” he said. “Small business owners in particular I think would rather not have large businesses controlling the dialogue.”

 

Read more and watch the news piece at

http://www.king5.com/news/local/I-1329-partners-with-businesses-to-limit-corporate-campaign-contributions-253857951.html

 

(Thanks to @WAmend2014 for bringing this to my attention via Twitter.)



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Republicans, NAACP join forces to prevent 'medical desert' in coastal NC

Republicans, NAACP join forces to prevent 'medical desert' in coastal NC | The Middle Ground | Scoop.it
Rural Republicans team with North Carolina NAACP to try to save rural hospital. US Dept. of Justice rules hospital corporation Vidant Health must go to arbitration before closing hospital, per Civil Rights Act complaint

 

By Eric Byler · April 04, 2014


What you are looking at here is a "coming together," as Rev. Dr. William Barber likes to put it, of black and white, conservative Republicans and the historically progressive NAACP, and, an immensely powerful corporation agreeing to work together with some of the poorest, least powerful people in our country.


If there were at times you didn't believe this was possible, don't feel bad. I didn't. As I filmed the March 25 prayer vigil, I remember feeling deep compassion, almost pity for these people in a hopeless situation. "Prayer changes things," the Deacon said, and the Mayor nodded his head. The sun was setting. It was the hospital's darkest hour — just a week before it was scheduled to be closed and then demolished.

 

But a dawn awaited just beyond the horizon, and this time, it brought with it incredible news. The next day, a settlement was announced (see below), and it was made official in the signing ceremony you see in the photo above: Dr. David Herman, president and CEO of Vidant Health, Inc, signs the agreement mediated by the US Dept. of Justice at the request of the North Carolina NAACP to keep Vidant Pungo Hospital open.


Read more at watch Story Of America videos at

http://www.storyofamerica.org/belhaven1


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U.S. confirms warrantless searches of Americans

U.S. confirms warrantless searches of Americans | The Middle Ground | Scoop.it
The Obama administration has conducted warrantless searches of Americans' communications as part of the National Security Agency's surveillance operations that target foreigners located outside of the U.S.


AP 11:53 a.m. EDT April 2, 2014


WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration has conducted warrantless searches of Americans' communications as part of the National Security Agency's surveillance operations that target foreigners located outside of the U.S., the administration's top intelligence official confirmed in a letter to Congress disclosed Tuesday.


These searches were authorized by a secret surveillance court in 2011, but it was unclear until Tuesday whether any such searches on Americans had been conducted.


The recent acknowledgement of warrantless searches on Americans offers more insight into U.S. government surveillance operations put in place after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The government has broadly interpreted these laws to allow for the collection of communications of innocent Americans, practices the Obama administration maintains are legal. But President Obama has promised to review some of these programs to determine whether the government should be conducting this type of surveillance at all.


Read more at

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2014/04/01/us-confirms-warrantless-searches-nsa/7176749/


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CIA misled Congress over interrogation program: report

CIA misled Congress over interrogation program: report | The Middle Ground | Scoop.it

Posted: 3/31/2014 11:44:08 EDT


A damning Senate report concluded that the CIA misled Congress and the American public by downplaying the severity of its interrogations and overstating intelligence gleaned from the sessions, The Washington Post said Monday.

Several officials familiar with the classified 6,300-page document, years in the making, said it detailed the brutality of an enhanced interrogation program that yielded little actionable intelligence beyond what was already obtained from detainees before they were subjected to the objectionable techniques.

"The CIA described (its program) repeatedly both to the Department of Justice and eventually to Congress as getting unique, otherwise unobtainable intelligence that helped disrupt terrorist plots and save thousands of lives," a US official briefed on the document told the daily.

"Was that actually true? The answer is no."

Officials also spoke of the abuses undertaken within the vast system of secret detention sites to which terror suspects were taken and interrogated.

The abuse often took place under brutal conditions, including the previously undisclosed method of repeatedly dunking suspects in ice water -- until President Barack Obama ordered the system dismantled in 2009.

Classified files reviewed by the Senate Intelligence Committee's investigators, who put together the report, showed that CIA employees left the agency's secret black site in Thailand, disturbed by the abuses that were being administered there.

Officials at CIA headquarters ordered the harsh interrogation techniques to continue "even after analysts were convinced that prisoners had no more information to give," the Post said.

The records were said to make it clear that the CIA obtaining key intelligence against al-Qaeda, including information that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden in 2011, had little to do with the so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques."

One official said nearly the entirety of valuable threat-related information from al-Qaeda operative Abu Zubaida, captured in Pakistan in 2002, was obtained during questioning by an FBI agent while Zubaida was in hospital in Pakistan -- before he was interrogated by the CIA, whose agents waterboarded him 83 times.

The explosive account comes as Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein pushes to get parts of the report declassified and made public.

Her committee is expected to vote Thursday on whether to send the report's executive summary and key conclusions and recommendations, a total of about 400 pages, to the White House for declassification.

Committee staffers spent countless hours pouring over more than six million pages of documents in collating what has become one of the most comprehensive oversight projects in congressional history.

Their report has caused a deep rift between the intelligence agencies and the Senate panel tasked with conducting oversight of the spy activities, with each side accusing the other of potentially criminal violations related to accessing computer systems used during the investigation.

 

Copyright (2014) AFP. All rights reserved.


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Democracy vs. Oligarchy

Democracy vs. Oligarchy | The Middle Ground | Scoop.it
The great political struggle we now face is whether the United States retains its democratic heritage or whether we move toward an oligarchic form of society where the real political power rests with a handful of billionaires, not ordinary Americans....

 

Sen. Bernie Sanders 

Independent U.S. Senator from Vermont

Posted: 03/31/2014 6:01 pm EDT Updated: 03/31/2014 6:59 pm EDT

 

In his 1943 painting "Freedom of Speech," Norman Rockwell illustrated American democracy in action by depicting a man speaking up at a town meeting. A framed poster of Rockwell's painting hangs proudly on a wall in my Senate office in Burlington, Vt.

 

Since 1990, when I was first elected to Congress, I have held hundreds of town meetings in almost every community in Vermont. Just this past Sunday I held a town meeting in Middlebury, Vt., with a video connection to meetings in three other towns. At these town meetings I listen to what my constituents have to say, answer questions and give a rundown of what I'm working on and what's going on in Washington.

 

This process -- an elected official meeting with ordinary citizens -- is called "democracy."

 

Ironically, at the same time as I was holding town meetings in Vermont, a handful of prospective 2016 Republican presidential candidates (Jeb Bush, John Kasich, Chris Christie and Scott Walker) trekked to Las Vegas to audition for the support of Sheldon Adelson, the multibillionaire casino tycoon who spent at least $93 million underwriting conservative candidates in the last election cycle. Those candidates were in Las Vegas for the sole purpose of attempting to win hundreds of millions from him for their presidential campaigns.

 

Read more and watch Senator Sanders address Congress via embedded YouTube video at

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rep-bernie-sanders/democracy-vs-oligarchy_b_5065514.html

 

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Monica S Mcfeeters's curator insight, April 3, 11:18 AM

It cannot be said better than this:


The great political struggle we now face is whether the United States retains its democratic heritage or whether we move toward an oligarchic form of society where the real political power rests with a handful of billionaires, not ordinary Americans....

 

Sen. Bernie Sanders 

Independent U.S. Senator from Vermont

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Inequality For All: Q & A with Robert Reich - YouTube

This presentation was designed and produced by faculty and students of the Broadcast and Electronic Communication Arts (BECA) department at San Francisco Sta...
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New Data Illustrate Local Impact of Tax Credits for Working Families

New Data Illustrate Local Impact of Tax Credits for Working Families | The Middle Ground | Scoop.it

Jane R. Williams and Elizabeth Kneebone | April 15, 2014 11:22am

 

This Tax Day we want to draw your attention to newly-released resources that demonstrate the widespread impact of federal tax policies targeted to low- and moderate-income working families, particularly the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC).

 

New IRS data for Tax Year 2012, now available through our EITC Interactive, show that in 2012, 26.2 million filers received the EITC, claiming an average credit of $2,359. Almost 60 percent (15.7 million) of EITC filers also went on to receive the refundable portion of the Child Tax Credit, claiming an additional $1,266 on average.

 

These refundable tax credits not only encourage and support work but also offer an effective poverty alleviation tool. As we wrote earlier this year, according to the Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM), nationally the poverty rate would have been 3 percentage points higher in 2012 without the EITC and the refundable portion of the CTC. For children, the impact of these credits was even greater, effectively lowering the child poverty rate by 6.7 percentage points.

 

Read more at

http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/the-avenue/posts/2014/04/15-data-tax-credits-working-families

 

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Where have all the moderates gone? Politics as 'gladiatorial combat'

Where have all the moderates gone? Politics as 'gladiatorial combat' | The Middle Ground | Scoop.it

By Ryan Menezes

April 14, 2014, 10:00 a.m.

 

Barry Glassner first detailed how politicians use fear-mongering in his 1999 book “The Culture of Fear.” He wrote of politicians claiming America was on the decline, like those who coined the term “super-predators” to describe young American men with suppressed rage who would grow up to ruin the country if not reared early.

Fear-mongering has never declined, Glassner said Sunday at the Festival of Books, but it did change. When Glassner’s book was republished for its 10-year anniversary, its cover carried the phrase “Updated for our post-9/11 world.” 

 

At a panel titled “Out of Focus: Politics, the Media and Perspective,” Glassner, now the president of Lewis &  Clark College in Portland, pointed to the tonal shift after the terrorist attacks. No longer was America home to a sick society. Rather the discourse was now about how great the country was and how jealous others must be to attack it. The enemies changed from domestic to foreign.


Read more at
http://www.latimes.com/books/jacketcopy/la-et-jc-politics-media-panel-20140413,0,4396741.story#ixzz2z4M2pb40

 

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North Dakota struggling to deal with radioactive fracking waste

North Dakota struggling to deal with radioactive fracking waste | The Middle Ground | Scoop.it
Environmental regulators and North Dakota state officials have expressed concern that the state has failed to adequately adjust to the state’s sudden influx of crude oil output, a worry highlighted by the recent discovery of abandoned radioactive waste.


Published time: April 16, 2014 03:49


Environmental regulators and North Dakota state officials have expressed concern that the state has failed to adequately adjust to the state’s sudden influx of crude oil output, a worry highlighted by the recent discovery of abandoned radioactive waste.

Last month, the North Dakota Health Department announced that a large pile of oil filter socks –radioactive nets that are used to strain liquid during the oil production process – had been found at an old gas station in Noonan, a small town in the northwestern region of the state.


Read more at

http://rt.com/usa/north-dakota-radioactive-waste-fracking-784/



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No Taxation Without Representation

Money in politics means taxation without representation. We already have a tax day — It’s time for a representation day.
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Fighting the Militarized State: Chris Hedges

Fighting the Militarized State: Chris Hedges | The Middle Ground | Scoop.it
The government has asked the Supreme Court not to hear my appeal that challenges the right of the military to arrest U.S. citizens, strip them of due process and hold them indefinitely.
- 2014/03/30


By Chris Hedges


The Barack Obama administration, determined to thwart the attempt by other plaintiffs and myself to have the courts void a law that permits the military to arrest U.S. citizens, strip them of due process and indefinitely detain them, has filed a detailed brief with the Supreme Court asking the justices to refuse to accept our petition to hear our appeal. We will respond within 10 days.

“The administration’s unstated goal appears to be to get court to agree that [the administration] has the authority to use the military to detain U.S. citizens,” Bruce Afran, one of two attorneys handling the case, said when I spoke with him Sunday. “It appears to be asking the court to go against nearly 150 years of repeated decisions in which the court has refused to give the military such power. No court in U.S. history has ever recognized the right of the government to use the military to detain citizens. It would be very easy for the government to state in the brief that citizens and permanent residents are not within the scope of this law. But once again, it will not do this. It says the opposite. It argues that the activities of the plaintiffs do not fall within the scope of the law, but it clearly is reserving for itself the right to use the statute to detain U.S. citizens indefinitely.”

The lawsuit, Hedges v. Obama, challenges Section 1021(b)(2) of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). It was signed into law the last day of 2011. Afran and fellow attorney Carl Mayer filed the lawsuit in January 2012. I was later joined by co-plaintiffs Noam Chomsky, Daniel Ellsberg, journalist Alexa O’BrienTangerine Bolen, Icelandic parliamentarian Birgitta Jonsdottir and Occupy London activist Kai Wargalla.

U.S. District Judge Katherine B. Forrest of the Southern District of New York, in a rare act of courage on the American bench today, declared Section 1021(b)(2) unconstitutional. The Obama administration immediately asked Forrest to lift her injunction and thereby put the law back into effect until it could appeal her decision. She rebuffed the government’s request. The government went to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit to ask it to stay the district court’s injunction until the government’s appeal could be heard. The 2nd Circuit consented to the request. The law went back on the books.


Afran, Mayer and I expected the Obama administration to appeal, but we did not expect the government to mount such an aggressive response to Judge Forrest’s ruling. The law had to be restored because, our attorneys and I suspect, the administration well might be holding U.S. citizens who are dual nationals in some of our black sites. If Forrest’s ruling was allowed to stand, the administration would be in contempt of court if it was detaining U.S. citizens under the statute. This suspicion was buttressed during the trial. Government attorneys, when asked by the judge, refused to say whether or not the government was already using the law.


Read more at

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/fighting_the_militarized_state_20140330


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McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission - Free & Equal

McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission - Free & Equal | The Middle Ground | Scoop.it

By Christina Tobin on April 4, 2014 in Christina's Blog


How far can the U.S. Supreme Court go serving the interests of the political elite before it all backfires?


The Court’s decision (http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/13pdf/12-536_e1pf.pdf) today, removing the limit on the amount of money an individual can donate to political campaigns, is so outrageous (though unsurprising after Citizens United) that it is bound to cause people to lose even more faith in their government and the political process.

In a way, this is one of the best things that could have happened this election season for independents, who do not have the money of big corporate lobbyists behind them, because they will stand out as honest candidates who represent the people.

Our mission at Free & Equal is to level the playing field and provide information on all candidates, without bias. Money can buy newspaper ads, commercials, and billboards. Money can buy campaign staffers and handlers, but it can’t buy votes.  The people still have the power of the vote. All voters need are honest candidates and access to information about them.

With this new decision Free & Equal is more important now than ever.  We must become a household name by November so that voters can get information about all the candidates, their positions on issues and their campaign finances.


Spread the word.



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Misleading Anti-Obamacare Ad in Michigan

Misleading Anti-Obamacare Ad in Michigan | The Middle Ground | Scoop.it

Posted on March 31, 2014 | Updated on April 1, 2014


Americans for Prosperity’s latest anecdotal TV ad attacking the Affordable Care Act features a Michigan mom who says her family’s “new plan is not affordable at all” and that the law is “destroying the middle class.” In fact, her case is an example of how middle-class families can benefit from the law — if they choose to do so.

 

The ad, which features Shannon Wendt of Michigan, leaves the false impression that the family obtained its costly new insurance plan through the federal exchange set up by the new law. But that’s not the case. The family’s “new plan” is a temporary plan that does not meet the ACA requirements. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan offered the plan to customers who had their old policies canceled but did not want to purchase insurance on the exchange. It turns out that Wendt found a cheaper, subsidized plan on the exchange, but declined to accept it because she did not want her children on the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

 

That’s her right, of course, but the ad is misleading because it fails to disclose that the Wendt family opted to pay more for insurance rather than accept the conditions that came with obtaining a cheaper, subsidized health plan on the exchange.

 

Read more at

http://www.factcheck.org/2014/03/misleading-anti-obamacare-ad-in-michigan/

 


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McCutcheon, and the Vicious Cycle of Concentrated Wealth and Political Power

McCutcheon, and the Vicious Cycle of Concentrated Wealth and Political Power | The Middle Ground | Scoop.it

Published on Friday, April 4, 2014 by RobertReich.org

 

If wealth and income weren’t already so concentrated in the hands of a few, the shameful “McCutcheon” decision by the five Republican appointees to the Supreme Court wouldn’t be as dangerous. But by taking “Citizen’s United” one step further and effectively eviscerating campaign finance laws, the Court has issued an invitation to oligarchy.


Almost limitless political donations coupled with America’s dramatically widening inequality create a vicious cycle in which the wealthy buy votes that lower their taxes, give them bailouts and subsidies, and deregulate their businesses – thereby making them even wealthier and capable of buying even more votes. Corruption breeds more corruption.


That the richest four hundred Americans now have more wealth than the poorest 150 million Americans put together, the wealthiest 1 percent own over 35 percent of the nation’s private assets, and 95 percent of all the economic gains since the start of the recovery in 2009 have gone to the top 1 percent — all of this is cause for worry, and not just because it means the middle class lacks the purchasing power necessary to get the economy out of first gear.

 

It is also worrisome because such great concentrations of wealth so readily compound themselves through politics, rigging the game in their favor and against everyone else. “McCutcheon” merely accelerates this vicious cycle.

 

As Thomas Piketty shows in his monumental “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” this was the pattern in advanced economies through much of the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. And it is coming to be the pattern once again.

 

Picketty is pessimistic that much can be done to reverse it (his sweeping economic data suggest that slow growth will almost automatically concentrate great wealth in a relatively few hands). But he disregards the political upheavals and reforms that such wealth concentrations often inspire — such as America’s populist revolts of the 1890s followed by the progressive era, or the German socialist movement in the 1870s followed by Otto von Bismarck’s creation of the first welfare state.

 

In America of the late nineteenth century, the lackeys of robber barons literally deposited sacks of money on the desks of pliant legislators, prompting the great jurist Louis Brandeis to note that the nation had a choice: “We can have a democracy or we can have great wealth in the hands of a few,” he said. “But we cannot have both.”

 

Soon thereafter America made the choice. Public outrage gave birth to the nation’s first campaign finance laws, along with the first progressive income tax. The trusts were broken up and regulations imposed to bar impure food and drugs. Several states enacted America’s first labor protections, including the 40-hour workweek.

 

The question is when do we reach another tipping point, and what happens then?  

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Week In Politics: Money In Campaigns And Health Care Numbers

Week In Politics: Money In Campaigns And Health Care Numbers | The Middle Ground | Scoop.it
Regular political commentators, E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post and David Brooks of The New York Times, discuss the Supreme Court campaign finance ruling and health care enrollment numbers.


Copyright © 2014 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

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Mega-Donors Are Now More Important Than Most Politicians

Mega-Donors Are Now More Important Than Most Politicians | The Middle Ground | Scoop.it
In the post-McCutcheon world, the 0.1 percent are far more important than most candidates. The press needs to treat them that way and subject their views to scrutiny.


PETER BEINART APR 4 2014, 12:17 PM ET


Quick: Name a senator who served between the Civil War and World War I. Struggling? Now name a tycoon who bought senators during the same period. J.P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller ... it’s easier.


And for good reason. The tycoons mattered more. Gilded Age industrialists—who had amassed levels of wealth unseen in American history—frequently dominated the politicians who enjoyed putative power to write the laws. In 1896, when corporations could give directly to political candidates, pro-corporate Republican presidential candidate William McKinley raised $16 million to populist Democrat William Jennings Bryan’s $600,000. “All questions in a democracy,” declared McKinley’s campaign manager, Mark Hanna, are “questions of money.”  


The Roberts Court seems to agree. The astonishing concentration of wealth among America’s super-rich, combined with a Supreme Court determined to tear down the barriers between their millions and our elections, is once again shifting the balance of power between politicians and donors. You could see it during last weekend’s “Sheldon primary,” when four major presidential contenders flocked to Las Vegas to court one man. When Chris Christie, not known for backing down from a fight, used a phrase (“occupied territories”) that Adelson disliked, he quickly apologized. And with good reason. Adelson, who probably spent north of $100 million in the 2012 election, can single-handedly sustain a presidential candidacy, or wreck one. He’s certainly wields more influence over American politics than most members of the United States Senate.


Read more at

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/04/mega-donors-are-now-more-important-than-most-politicians/360192/



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Coffee Party USA's curator insight, April 5, 8:46 AM

Absolutely. The press has an obligation, now more than ever, to expose Big Money and the power these people wield over our politicians and over us. (CP Curator, Greg R.)


"Big donors will likely fund all this publicity unpleasant. Most would rather shape public policy in private. But the press has an obligation to follow power, to explain how our political system actually works, not to hew to a civics-class fantasy that less and less resembles reality. Since the Roberts Court is dismantling the legal obstacles that prevent America’s 0.1 percent from purchasing politicians, the press should erect cultural obstacles in their place. Our best hope now is massive scrutiny, and, hopefully, some measure of shame."

Greg Russak's curator insight, April 5, 9:10 AM

We need a Fourth Estate who actually does their job, and part of that job is MASSIVE AND UNRELENTING SCRUTINY of rich and powerful people whenever they choose to wield their wealth AS power over our public institutions and elected leaders.

 

"Big donors will likely fund all this publicity unpleasant. Most would rather shape public policy in private. But the press has an obligation to follow power, to explain how our political system actually works, not to hew to a civics-class fantasy that less and less resembles reality. Since the Roberts Court is dismantling the legal obstacles that prevent America’s 0.1 percent from purchasing politicians, the press should erect cultural obstacles in their place. Our best hope now is massive scrutiny, and, hopefully, some measure of shame."

 

Take action. Add your voice, and help move our political system back in our favor instead of those with lots of money.

 

http://unitedrepublic.actionkit.com/event/cosponsor/9815/

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The Republican Who Saved Civil Rights

The Republican Who Saved Civil Rights | The Middle Ground | Scoop.it

By TODD S. PURDUM

 

March 31, 2014


The placid town of Piqua, Ohio, sits in the state’s west-central section, barely half-an-hour’s ride from the Dayton bicycle shop where Orville and Wilbur Wright helped prove that man could fly. Its name comes from the Shawnee Indian phrase “Othath-He-Waugh-Pe-Qua,” meaning “He has risen from the ashes!” and its best-known homegrown product is probably the Mills Brothers, the close harmony African-American singing ensemble that thrived from the Great Depression through the Vietnam War. The modern municipality incorporates a community once known as Rossville, which became the first free-black enclave in the region after a local slave owner’s death in 1833.


Today, Piqua is represented in Congress by the Honorable John Boehner, the speaker of the House of Representatives, who has shown himself politically unwilling (or at least unable) to protect gay men and lesbians from employment discrimination, to address the need for comprehensive immigration reform or simply to keep the government up and running in the face of the tea party’s caprice last fall.


Fifty years ago, the congressman from Piqua was an equally conservative fellow — but an altogether different man. His name was Bill McCulloch, and at the height of John F. Kennedy’s effort to pass the first comprehensive federal civil rights law since Reconstruction, it was McCulloch — a now forgotten figure — who rose above mere partisanship to give first Kennedy, and then Lyndon B. Johnson, the power to pass the single most important law of the 20th century.



Read more: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/03/the-movers-behind-the-civil-rights-act-105216.html#ixzz2xn1IOrmm

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Bush Health Secretary Louis Sullivan Is One Republican Who Supports Obamacare

Bush Health Secretary Louis Sullivan Is One Republican Who Supports Obamacare | The Middle Ground | Scoop.it
Sullivan is especially dismayed that so many Republican governors have refused to expand the Medicaid program to bring more low-incomes individuals and families into coverage, as the Affordable Care Act makes possible....


Wendell Potter 

Posted: 03/31/2014 11:57 am EDT Updated: 03/31/2014 11:59 am EDT


The Republican leadership's intense opposition to the Affordable Care Act clearly baffles -- and disappoints -- one of the party's most admired figures, former Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Louis W. Sullivan.

Speaking at the opening session of the Association of Health Care Journalists 2014 conference in Denver last Thursday, Sullivan, the former president of the Morehouse School of Medicine who served as HHS Secretary during the George H. W. Bush administration, noted that many of the major provisions of the Affordable Care Act are based on the reform proposals he and other Republicans crafted more than two decades ago.

"Many of the features of the Affordable Care Act are part of what we proposed back in 1991," he said, mentioning in particular the individual mandate. That provision -- the requirement that Americans enroll in a private health insurance plan if they are not eligible for a government program like Medicare or Medicaid -- is among the most vilified by today's GOP.

"If they were supportive of it then, why are they so opposed to it now?" he asked.


Read more at

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/wendell-potter/bush-health-secretary-lou_b_5063071.html



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