Money in politics means taxation without representation. We already have a tax day — It’s time for a representation day.
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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.
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’Brien, Tangerine 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
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.
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
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?
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.
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.
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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.
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....
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.
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By Marcella Bombardieri | GLOBE STAFF MARCH 30, 2014
CAMBRIDGE — The mysterious visitor called himself Gary Host at first, then Grace Host, which he shortened for his made-up e-mail address to “ghost,” a joke apparently, perhaps signaling mischievousness — or menace. The intruder was lurking somewhere on the MIT campus, downloading academic journal articles by the hundreds of thousands. The interloper was eventually traced to a laptop under a box in a basement wiring closet. He was Aaron Swartz, a brilliant young programmer and political activist. The cascade of events that followed would culminate in tragedy: a Secret Service investigation, a federal prosecution, and ultimately Swartz’s suicide. But in the fall of 2010, the university faced a hard question: How big a threat was the “ghost” downloader? And a harder one: What should be done about him?
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Even in the nation's most culturally conservative region, attitudes are now evenly split on marriage equality.
MAR 10 2014, 7:00 AM ET
The Oscar-winning movie Dallas Buyers Club brought a vivid reminder of the harsh realities of what it was like to be a gay in the culturally conservative South of the mid-1980s. As someone born, churched, and educated in the South during that era, I remember that the idea of being gay or lesbian was simply dismissed, and the term “homosexuality” was reserved for hushed conversations about those sinful urban areas far north and west of the Mason-Dixon Line. While the film has been in theaters, however, the news has also been filled with contemporary coverage of a remarkable bevy of judicial decisions overturning bans on same-sex marriage in southern states such asVirginia, Kentucky, and Texas. While serving as the lead author of a recent study from the Public Religion Research Institute about attitudes about same-sex marriage, I was astounded at the shifts we found in southern attitudes over the past decade.
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In an appearance at International House, the Kentucky senator and likely GOP presidential candidate denounced government surveillance and secrecy, and promised to push for a Church Committee-style congressional panel to "watch the watchers."
By Barry Bergman, NewsCenter | March 20, 2014
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul came to UC Berkeley Wednesday to denounce government spying and secrecy, but his most resonant message may have been the Kentucky Republican’s willingness to venture into what some might consider enemy territory.
What he found at International House, though, was a highly sympathetic audience — thanks, presumably, to the first-come, first-served ticketing system used by the student-run Berkeley Forum, which sponsored the event in collaboration with the Berkeley College Republicans — some of whom wore T-shirts with slogans including “Stand with Rand” and “I ♥ Ron Paul,” Rand’s father, the former Texas congressman who was the Libertarian Party’s nominee for president in 1988, and who campaigned for the White House as a Republican in 2008 and again in 2012.
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Unless a Senate committee votes to release the 6,300-page document, the Bush Administration's illegal, ineffective interrogation policies are bound to return.
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.
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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.
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.
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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. -
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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
(Thanks to @WAmend2014 for bringing this to my attention via Twitter.)
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
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.
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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.
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....
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
By STEVEN YACCINO and LIZETTE ALVAREZMARCH 29, 2014
CINCINNATI — Pivotal swing states under Republican control are embracing significant new electoral restrictions on registering and voting that go beyond the voter identification requirements that have caused fierce partisan brawls.
The bills, laws and administrative rules — some of them tried before — shake up fundamental components of state election systems, including the days and times polls are open and the locations where people vote.
Republicans in Ohio and Wisconsin this winter pushed through measures limiting the time polls are open, in particular cutting into weekend voting favored by low-income voters and blacks, who sometimes caravan from churches to polls on the Sunday before election.
Democrats in North Carolina are scrambling to fight back against the nation’s most restrictive voting laws, passed by Republicans there last year. The measures, taken together, sharply reduce the number of early voting days and establish rules that make it more difficult for people to register to vote, cast provisional ballots or, in a few cases, vote absentee.
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REDDING, CA — Governments face many major decisions. Perhaps no governmental decision is more significant than how and whether a government will afford a guarantee of due process to people living in a country, and whether a government will uphold the concept of the rule of law that its existence relies upon. On March 20, 2014, I interviewed Dan Johnson, national director of PANDA (People Against the NDAA -http://pandaunite.org/ ), who presented at the Oh! Sushi restaurant in Monterey on the NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act) and indefinite detention. (Dan Johnson has previously spoken about the NDAA in Redding, CA in November 2013.) In the Monterey interview, Dan responded to questions that I had taken from Twitter, including a question from Alexa O'Brien, who is herself a plaintiff in the case of Hedges v. Obama ( as described at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hedges_... ). Dan's responses are shown below.
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Larry J. Sabato and Kyle Kondik, U.Va. Center for PoliticsMarch 20th, 2014
In our first ranking of the very large and very unsettled 2016 Republican presidential field back in April of last year, we decided to not even include the name of one of the brightest stars in the GOP universe: Jeb Bush. We just didn’t think, at the time, that the former Florida governor and brother and son of presidents was all that interested in running.
But during 2013 and into this new year, we’ve gotten the sense, like many others, that things might be changing. So much so that we now consider Bush the leader of the field if he decides to run.
There are several reasons, and one of the most important does not have much to do with Bush, at least on the surface: Chris Christie’s bridge scandal.
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