Saturday, June 30, 2012

Insight into the Politics in Paraguay and Honduras

This article provides insights into the domestic and international politics of Paraguay and Honduras, with the common overarching imperialist theme. Should imperialism be ignored simply because it is common knowledge or should facts guide one's assessment? Interestingly, Obama has avoided facing the present ground reality in Honduras (which the U.S. government help create through supporting a coup in Honduras in 2009) , and the U.S. government supports the abrupt transfer of power in Paraguay last week. The former Paraguayan President, Lugo, was left leaning, and his removal from power brought the Paraguayan right back to power. Prior to the election of Lugo in 2008, the Paraguayan right held a grip on power for 61 years. In Alberta, which is known for its tar sands, the Alberta right has held a grip on power for 41 years and counting. The Alberta electoral system favors significantly minority and special interests over the interests of the people.

Latin America: How the US Has Allied with the Forces of Reaction
Honduras three years ago created a new template of the US backing coups to compensate for lost influence on the continent
By Mark Weisbrot (The Guardian)

It was three years ago this week that the Honduran military launched an assault on the home of President Mel Zelaya, kidnapped him, and flew him out of the country. The Obama administration, according to its own conversations with the press, knew about the coup in advance. But the first statement from the White House – unlike those from the rest of the world – did not condemn the coup.

That sent a message to the Honduran dictatorship, and to the diplomatic community: the US government supported this coup and would do what it could to make sure it succeeded. And that is exactly what ensued. Unlike Washington and its few remaining rightwing allies in the hemisphere, most of Latin America saw the coup as a threat to democracy in the region and, indeed, to their own governments.

"It would be enough for someone to stage a civilian coup, backed by the armed forces, or simply a civilian one and later justify it by convoking elections," Argentine President Cristina Fernández told South American leaders. "And then democratic guarantees would truly be fiction."

For that reason, South America refused to recognize the Honduran "elections" held six months later under the dictatorship. But Washington wanted the coup regime legitimized. The Obama administration blocked the Organization of American States (OAS) from taking action to restore democracy before "elections" were held.

"We have intelligence reports that say that after Zelaya, I'm next," said President Rafael Correa of Ecuador, after the Honduran coup. This turned out to be correct: in September of 2010, a rebellion by police held Correa hostage in a hospital until he was freed, after a prolonged shootout between the police and loyal troops of the armed forces. It was another attempted coup against a social-democratic president in Latin America.

Last week, Cristina Fernández' warning against a "civilian coup" proved prescient in Paraguay. The country's left president, Fernando Lugo, was ousted by the Congress in an "impeachment trial" in which he was given less than 24 hours notice and two hours to defend himself. All 12 foreign ministers from the Union of South American Nations, including Brazil and Argentina, travelled to Paraguay on Thursday to tell the rightwing opposition that this clear violation of due process was also a violation of UNASUR's democracy clause. Brazil's president Dilma Rouseff suggested that the coup government should be kicked out of UNASUR and MERCOSUR, the southern cone regional trading bloc.

But the Paraguayan right, which had one-party rule for 61 years until Lugo's election, was determined to return to their ignominious past. And they knew that they had one ally in the hemisphere they could count on.

"As a general matter, we haven't called this a coup because the processes were followed," said US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland on 26 June. And, as if to remind the world of Washington's strategy with the Honduran coup, she added:

"You know that they're supposed to have elections in 2013, which need to go forward. So I think we will refrain from further comment until we see how we come out of the OAS meeting."

Of course, she knew that the OAS meeting would not resolve anything, because the US and its allies can kill anything there – as they did earlier this week. The conclusion is obvious: any rightwing faction, military or civilian, that can overthrow a democratically elected, left-of-center government, will get support from the United States government. Since the US government is the richest and most powerful country in the hemisphere and the world, this counts for a lot.

Meanwhile, Honduras since the 2009 coup has turned into a nightmare, with the highest homicide rate in the world. Political repression is among the worst in the hemisphere: journalists, opposition activists, campesinos fighting for land reform, and LGBT activists have been murdered with impunity. This week, 84 members of the US Congress sent a letter to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urging US action against murders of LGBT activists and community members in Honduras. In March, 94 member of Congress asked her "to suspend US assistance to the Honduran military and police given the credible allegations of widespread, serious violations of human rights attributed to the security forces".

The Obama administration has so far ignored these pleas from Congress, and the international media has given them scant attention. Ironically, this is not so much because Honduras is unimportant, but because it is important: the US has a military base there and would like to keep the country as its property.

But the hemisphere and the world have changed. The US has lost most of its influence in the vast majority of the Americas over the past decade. It is only a matter of time before even poor countries like Honduras and Paraguay gain their rights to democracy and self-determination.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Is Romney More Suited to be U.S. President than Obama?

Based on Romney's private sector business experience, is he more suited to be U.S. President than Obama?

Luzimar Serviss, FDA Senior Researcher with a PhD in Economics shares her opinion on this question:

On the statement that Mitt Romney would be the ideal president based on his experience running a private firm, my opinion is: not necessarily.

The ability to make money for oneself or successfully run a business does not automatically grant a candidate the ability to successfully run a country. Obviously, it does not hurt to understand the functioning of the economy and the markets but even so it’s a large step from analyzing economic issues from a firm’s perspective to generalizing this knowledge for the entire economy.

Ultimately what a president requires is vision of what needs to be done to guide the economy to prosperity; such as creating jobs, conducting tax reforms, reducing inequality and promoting democratic process with a set of well structured policies to achieve these goals. It is not required that the president himself elaborate on them. There are experts, economists, finance professionals and policy makers, whose job it is to put the president’s ideas and visions into practical terms and implement them. From the president is required the commitment to successfully run the country and the ability to put the right people in the right position to make things happen.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Paraguay Parliamentary Coup D'etat?

The abruptness of Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo's removal raises questions about the soundness of the Paraguay Constitution and motives of the Paraguay Parliament. Fernando Lugo was removed from office within 24 hours after an impeachment vote of 39-4. Interestingly, the Canadian Prime Minister Harper who has a poor record when it comes to democracy--recent robo-call scandal involving over 31,000 election complaints, closure of federal democracy agency, and erosion of Canadian democratic processes through for example Bill C-38, was quick to acknowledge the new president, Mr. Franco. In constrast, secretary-general of the Organisation of American States, Jose Miguel Insulza called Lugo's removal a "disrespect for due process" and that the removal did not fulfill all the precepts for right to legitimate defense. President Lugo's lawyers were given a mere 2 hours to defend Lugo before the Paraguayan Senate. Mr. Lugo was elected in 2008 with strong popular support. All South American countries and UNASUR (Union of South American Nations) have refused to accept the illegitimate government in Asuncion, Paraguay.

Commentary on Lugo's ouster from The Australian:

PARAGUAY'S ousted leader Fernando Lugo has accused legislators of carrying out a "parliamentary coup d'etat" to force him from power, as international protests mounted over his abrupt removal.

In his first public appearance since his impeachment on Saturday over a deadly land dispute this month, Mr Lugo again blasted congress for its snap decision but said he would nevertheless accept it in the name of peace.

"Lugo has not been dismissed; democracy has been dismissed. They have not respected the popular will," the ousted leader said yesterday in an unexpected appearance at a street protest attended by about 500 people in the capital, Asuncion.

He called his impeachment "unjust" and called for "peaceful" demonstrations in the impoverished, landlocked South American nation. "There was a parliamentary coup d'etat... the arguments for impeachment had no value," the former leader said after entering the studio of TV Publica, scene of the protest, for a brief news conference.

In a 39-4 vote, legislators found Mr Lugo, 61, guilty of performing his duties badly during the armed clash on June 15 that claimed the lives of six police and 11 squatters on a privately held farm.

His vice-president, Federico Franco, was quickly sworn in to cheers in the congress as Paraguay's new leader.

Extremely popular at the time of his election in 2008, Mr Lugo - a former priest saw his reputation in the predominantly Catholic country nosedive after claims he fathered children while under a vow of chastity.

Mr Lugo acknowledged it would be "very difficult" to return to power, but said there should be no more violence, adding: "Peacefully, the democratic process will continue, with more strength."

Mr Franco told Agence France Presse he hoped Mr Lugo would help him stem the international outcry over the change in power. "Right now, I'm trying to speak with president Lugo. I'm going to do it. I think his presence as a Paraguayan is very important to give an international image, because right now we need a legally constituted government," he said.

Mr Franco said he planned to ask Mr Lugo "to help us prevent Paraguay from receiving an absolutely unjust, unnecessary and unpopular punishment".

No foreign government recognised Paraguay's new leadership.

The secretary-general of the Organisation of American States, Jose Miguel Insulza, called the snap impeachment a "disrespect to due process". Mr Insulza said the Americas had once again witnessed "a summary judgment that, while formally in keeping with the law, did not appear to fulfill all the legal precepts of the right to a legitimate defence".

Mr Franco defended the ouster of his predecessor as being in compliance with the constitution, and he insisted "there was no coup. There are no soldiers in the street."

But he acknowledged he was concerned about the international reaction. "We will make our best efforts to get in touch with neighbouring countries to try to demonstrate our clear commitment to democracy," he said.

Mr Franco met with Vatican envoy Agustin Arietti and with German ambassador Dirk Niebel, who said Berlin viewed the ousting as "a normal change of government, not by means of elections, but a normal process".

Mr Lugo's lawyers had just two hours to present a case on his behalf in the Senate impeachment trial. The furious responses to the ousting came not just from leftist allies such as Bolivia, Nicaragua and Venezuela. Argentinian President Cristina Kirchner took to her Twitter account to repeat that "Argentina will not validate the coup in Paraguay".

"It's a travesty of justice and an affront to the rule of law to remove a president in 24 hours, with no guarantees to defend himself," said the executive secretary of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Santiago Canton.

The first major international event the new government had been expected to attend is a Mercosur summit in Argentina this week. But Mr Franco said he would not go if his presence would make matters worse.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

U.S. Supreme Court Further Erodes American Democracy

Following the Citizens United ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court reverses a 1912 Montana State law which bans corporations from making political expenditures that support or oppose a candidate or a political party. Four of the nine U.S. Supreme Court judges dissented, making the reversal a 5 to 4 ruling.

The FDA supports the ban of corporations and labor organizations from making political expenditures that support or oppose a candidate or party. The rational is that elections (and democracy) are about people; corporations are not people; and corporations are not allowed to vote. Individuals who are part of corporations and labor organizations are allowed to make political expenditures and make political speech. To treat corporations and labor organizations as people infringes on the rule of the people.

Ironically, the U.S. Supreme Court professes to be protecting freedom of speech, and yet by allowing unlimited expenditures by corporations and labor organizations, the resulting corporate speech dilutes and overshadows political speech by most Americans. The greater potential for political corruption through allowing corporate political expenditure is a secondary argument.

Cite as: 567 U. S. ____ (2012)
Per Curiam
No. 11–1179. Decided June 25, 2012

A Montana state law provides that a “corporation may not make . . . an expenditure in connection with a candidate or a political committee that supports or opposes a candidate or a political party.” Mont. Code Ann. §13–35–227(1) (2011). The Montana Supreme Court rejected petitioners’ claim that this statute violates the First Amendment. 2011 MT 328, 363 Mont. 220, 271 P. 3d 1. In Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, this Court struck down a similar federal law, holding that “political speech does not lose First Amendment protectionsimply because its source is a corporation.” 558 U. S. ___, ___ (2010) (slip op., at 26) (internal quotation marks omitted). The question presented in this case is whether the holding of Citizens United applies to the Montana state law. There can be no serious doubt that it does. See U. S. Const., Art. VI, cl. 2. Montana’s arguments in support of the judgment below either were already rejected in Citizens United, or fail to meaningfully distinguish that case.

The petition for certiorari is granted. The judgment of the Supreme Court of Montana is reversed.

It is so ordered.

Cite as: 567 U. S. ____ (2012)
BREYER, J., dissenting
No. 11–1179. Decided June 25, 2012

In Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the Court concluded that “independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.” 558 U. S. ___, ___ (2010) (slip op., at 42). I disagree with the Court’s hold-ing for the reasons expressed in Justice Stevens’ dissent in that case. As Justice Stevens explained, “technically independent expenditures can be corrupting in much the same way as direct contributions.” Id., at ___ (slip op., at67–68). Indeed, Justice Stevens recounted a “substantial body of evidence” suggesting that “[m]any corporate independent expenditures . . . had become essentially interchangeable with direct contributions in their capacity to generate quid pro quo arrangements.” Id., at ___ (slip op.,at 64–65).

Moreover, even if I were to accept Citizens United, this Court’s legal conclusion should not bar the Montana Supreme Court’s finding, made on the record before it, that independent expenditures by corporations did in fact lead to corruption or the appearance of corruption in Montana. Given the history and political landscape in Montana, that court concluded that the State had a compelling interest in limiting independent expenditures by corporations. 2011 MT 328, ¶¶ 36–37, 363 Mont. 220, 235–236, 271 P. 3d 1, 36–37. Thus, Montana’s experience, like considerable experience elsewhere since the Court’s decision in Citizens United, casts grave doubt on the Court’s supposition that independent expenditures do not corrupt or appear to do so.

Were the matter up to me, I would vote to grant the petition for certiorari in order to reconsider Citizens United or, at least, its application in this case. But given the Court’s per curiam disposition, I do not see a significant possibility of reconsideration. Consequently, I vote instead to deny the petition.


From Reuters, by James Vicini:

".... In that case the court split 5-4 along conservative-liberal ideological lines to rule that corporations had a constitutional free-speech right to spend freely to support or oppose political candidates in federal elections, a ruling sharply criticized by President Barack Obama.

That decision triggered a massive increase in campaign spending that affected the elections for Congress in 2010 and has reshaped the political races ahead of the November 6 U.S. presidential and congressional votes.

The Montana Supreme Court upheld the state law, ruling the 2010 decision did not control the outcome because Montana's law was different and justified by the state's interest in preventing corporate corruption and influence in politics.

The state court cited Montana's history when the voter-approved law was adopted in 1912, with mining and other corporate spending resulting in political corruption.

Attorneys for the three corporations appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that Montana was bound by the 2010 ruling and that it applied to state as well as federal elections.

James Bopp, lead attorney for the corporations, said when he filed the appeal, "If Montana can ban core political speech because of Montana's unique characteristics, free speech will be seriously harmed. Speakers will be silenced because of corruption by others over a century ago...."

From the Independent Record (Montana) by Charles S. Johnson:

".... Some Montana officials denounced the ruling, calling it a “blow to democracy” and vowing to fight it in the future.

“Our fight is far from over,” said U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., who has introduced a bill to amend the Constitution to say corporations aren’t people. “My constitutional amendment would right this wrong once and for all, and today's announcement makes me more determined than ever to get it done."

“I am very disappointed in what the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision means for state and local elections in Montana– and for our entire nation,” added state Attorney General Steve Bullock, who unsuccessfully defended Montana’s law. Bullock, a Democrat, is running for governor.

Yet the only Republican member of Montana’s congressional delegation, Rep. Denny Rehberg, essentially praised the ruling as an upholding of free speech rights.

“Free speech, including political speech, is guaranteed by the First Amendment no matter what state you live in,” he said. “For Montanans, this means free speech is protected equally if you are a member of a labor union, a private business or a political party....

It called the U.S. Supreme Court’s reversal of the Montana Supreme Court “a resounding rejection of Gov.(Brian) Schweitzer and Attorney General Bullock’s indefensible attacks on Montanans’ God-given right of free political speech.”

It asked both Schweitzer and Bullock to resign immediately.

Schweitzer scoffed at the request, and asked what would be next: Cuban leader Fidel Castro or the leader of North Korea calling for Montana’s governor to resign?

The Montana governor blasted the U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

“It will go a long ways to creating a system where corporate money and large moneyed interests will own all of our government, from the White House to the courthouse,” Schweitzer said. “What they’re saying is dirty, secret, corporate, foreign money can now pour in to Montana elections in the same way it does in Washington,D.C.”

Schweitzer said the ruling will help the push for a constitutional amendment declaring that corporations aren’t people and aren’t entitled to free speech.

Baucus said the decision is “a dangerous blow to democracy.”

“One hundred years ago, Montanans stood up and said elections belong to us, not to the Copper Kings,” he said. “And today we say the same thing. Our elections are not for sale to corporations.”

A Montana group says it has qualified an initiative for the November ballot, Initiative 166, which is a policy statement declaring corporations aren’t human beings with constitutional rights and that money isn’t speech.

It is a non-binding measure telling Montana’s congressional delegation to support a federal constitutional amendment to nullify the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in the Citizens United case that removed restrictions on political speech for corporations and unions."

Citizens United vs. FEC

Monday, June 25, 2012

Example of Resistence to Change by the Canadian Government

Here is a transparent example of irrational resistance to change by the Canadian federal government. The cause of the resistance is unclear. Though it may be attributable to conflicting ideological agendas. The federal government through the Conservative Party of Canada has a record of muzzling Canadian scientists and targeting opposition elements such as environmental groups and even labeling them as radical.

In an updated study by the Center for Law and Democracy based out of Nova Scotia, Canada ranks 51st in the world for freedom of information process. Countries such as Angola, Colombia, and Niger rank higher than Canada in public access to information. The Centre uses matrix calculations of current processes to determine its scores and rankings.

Since the adoption of the Canadian access to information legislation on July 1st, 1983, Canada has fallen behind the standard set by other countries for access to information. The Canadian public has to pay $5.00 to get access to information and face lengthy wait times for only some of the information it had requested. 

"In October 2009, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson [from the Conservative Party] rejected a House of Commons committee's call to update the access law, saying it was a strong piece of legislation" (CBC News Calgary, June 23, 2012). 

The federal Conservatives say they have plans to update the access to information legislation. According to some sources, the updates would be marginal (CBC News Calgary, June 23, 2012).

Clearly, updating Canada's access to information is not a priority or of relative interest to Canada's conservative government. Access to information is an important part of democracy by creating a means for accountability.

Canada languishes in world rankings for government openness

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Political Scientist Acknowledges Field's Shortcomings

Jacqueline Stevens a Northwestern university political science professor gives a fairly pragmatic critique of political science as a predictor of future political events. She suggests that political science should limit itself to political history and theory, and graduate research centered on collection of demographic, political, and economic data. Her point is taken. Predicting political events based on statistical models is unreliable due to numerous variables and unknown variables. It seems unreasonable to expect a political academic to know what is going on the ground in Egypt from the confines of his office thousands of miles away, or is it?

Unfortunately, Stevens limits her argument to academic political scientists, while not considering non-academic political scientists who work on the ground. Perhaps, the elitist aspect of some academia has detached it from reality. Being paid mouthpieces for government ideology, for example, does not help either. It demonstrates a lack of objectivity. Take the FOCAL group which is comprised of Canadian academics at the trough of Canadian tax dollars while these academics push the Canadian government's ideological agenda. 

Political Scientists Are Lousy Forecasters
Jacqueline Stevens

DESPERATE “Action Alerts” land in my in-box. They’re from the American Political Science Association and colleagues, many of whom fear grave “threats” to our discipline. As a defense, they’ve supplied “talking points” we can use to tell Congressional representatives that political science is a “critical part of our national science agenda.”

Political scientists are defensive these days because in May the House passed an amendment to a bill eliminating National Science Foundation grants for political scientists. Soon the Senate may vote on similar legislation. Colleagues, especially those who have received N.S.F. grants, will loathe me for saying this, but just this once I’m sympathetic with the anti-intellectual Republicans behind this amendment. Why? The bill incited a national conversation about a subject that has troubled me for decades: the government — disproportionately — supports research that is amenable to statistical analyses and models even though everyone knows the clean equations mask messy realities that contrived data sets and assumptions don’t, and can’t, capture.

It’s an open secret in my discipline: in terms of accurate political predictions (the field’s benchmark for what counts as science), my colleagues have failed spectacularly and wasted colossal amounts of time and money. The most obvious example may be political scientists’ insistence, during the cold war, that the Soviet Union would persist as a nuclear threat to the United States. In 1993, in the journal International Security, for example, the cold war historian John Lewis Gaddis wrote that the demise of the Soviet Union was “of such importance that no approach to the study of international relations claiming both foresight and competence should have failed to see it coming.” And yet, he noted, “None actually did so.” Careers were made, prizes awarded and millions of research dollars distributed to international relations experts, even though Nancy Reagan’s astrologer may have had superior forecasting skills.

Political prognosticators fare just as poorly on domestic politics. In a peer-reviewed journal, the political scientist Morris P. Fiorina wrote that “we seem to have settled into a persistent pattern of divided government” — of Republican presidents and Democratic Congresses. Professor Fiorina’s ideas, which synced nicely with the conventional wisdom at the time, appeared in an article in 1992 — just before the Democrat Bill Clinton’s presidential victory and the Republican 1994 takeover of the House.

Alas, little has changed. Did any prominent N.S.F.-financed researchers predict that an organization like Al Qaeda would change global and domestic politics for at least a generation? Nope. Or that the Arab Spring would overthrow leaders in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia? No, again. What about proposals for research into questions that might favor Democratic politics and that political scientists seeking N.S.F. financing do not ask — perhaps, one colleague suggests, because N.S.F. program officers discourage them? Why are my colleagues kowtowing to Congress for research money that comes with ideological strings attached?

The political scientist Ted Hopf wrote in a 1993 article that experts failed to anticipate the Soviet Union’s collapse largely because the military establishment played such a big role in setting the government’s financing priorities. “Directed by this logic of the cold war, research dollars flowed from private foundations, government agencies and military individual bureaucracies.” Now, nearly 20 years later, the A.P.S.A. Web site trumpets my colleagues’ collaboration with the government, “most notably in the area of defense,” as a reason to retain political science N.S.F. financing.

Many of today’s peer-reviewed studies offer trivial confirmations of the obvious and policy documents filled with egregious, dangerous errors. My colleagues now point to research by the political scientists and N.S.F. grant recipients James D. Fearon and David D. Laitin that claims that civil wars result from weak states, and are not caused by ethnic grievances. Numerous scholars have, however, convincingly criticized Professors Fearon and Laitin’s work. In 2011 Lars-Erik Cederman, Nils B. Weidmann and Kristian Skrede Gleditsch wrote in the American Political Science Review that “rejecting ‘messy’ factors, like grievances and inequalities,” which are hard to quantify, “may lead to more elegant models that can be more easily tested, but the fact remains that some of the most intractable and damaging conflict processes in the contemporary world, including Sudan and the former Yugoslavia, are largely about political and economic injustice,” an observation that policy makers could glean from a subscription to this newspaper and that nonetheless is more astute than the insights offered by Professors Fearon and Laitin.

How do we know that these examples aren’t atypical cherries picked by a political theorist munching sour grapes? Because in the 1980s, the political psychologist Philip E. Tetlock began systematically quizzing 284 political experts — most of whom were political science Ph.D.’s — on dozens of basic questions, like whether a country would go to war, leave NATO or change its boundaries or a political leader would remain in office. His book “Expert Political Judgment: How Good Is It? How Can We Know?” won the A.P.S.A.’s prize for the best book published on government, politics or international affairs.

Professor Tetlock’s main finding? Chimps randomly throwing darts at the possible outcomes would have done almost as well as the experts.

These results wouldn’t surprise the guru of the scientific method, Karl Popper, whose 1934 book “The Logic of Scientific Discovery” remains the cornerstone of the scientific method. Yet Mr. Popper himself scoffed at the pretensions of the social sciences: “Long-term prophecies can be derived from scientific conditional predictions only if they apply to systems which can be described as well-isolated, stationary, and recurrent. These systems are very rare in nature; and modern society is not one of them.”

Government can — and should — assist political scientists, especially those who use history and theory to explain shifting political contexts, challenge our intuitions and help us see beyond daily newspaper headlines. Research aimed at political prediction is doomed to fail. At least if the idea is to predict more accurately than a dart-throwing chimp.

To shield research from disciplinary biases of the moment, the government should finance scholars through a lottery: anyone with a political science Ph.D. and a defensible budget could apply for grants at different financing levels. And of course government needs to finance graduate student studies and thorough demographic, political and economic data collection. I look forward to seeing what happens to my discipline and politics more generally once we stop mistaking probability studies and statistical significance for knowledge.

Jacqueline Stevens is a professor of political science at Northwestern University and the author, most recently, of “States Without Nations: Citizenship for Mortals.”

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Insight into the U.S. Economy and Increasing Inequality

In this RT interview of U.S. economist Richard Wolff, broad issues of the U.S. economy are looked at, namely the increasing inequality in terms of income and economic opportunity, and the shortcomings of laissez-faire capitalism in terms of balancing self-interest and collective interest. Wolff cites the example of numerous American companies having moved operations and Americans jobs abroad, and these same companies not reinvesting in the U.S. economy like for example the German corporate sector does. Viewers may want to consider how Romney and Obama address inequality and laissez-faire economics. Also, Americans may want to consider how to create a fair playing field for economic competition. Plutocracy is rule of the rich and wealthy through a system of governance which favors the rich and wealthy.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Insight into Romney's Knack for Fund-raising

The US federal electoral system has no campaign expenditure limit for privately funded candidates. McCain and Obama in 2008 were privately funded candidates in the general election, with McCain raising around $333 million and Obama raising around $800 million. In 2008 publicly funded candidates had an expenditure limit of $88.45 million.

The US federal electoral system favors candidates who are better at fund-raising, and with no expenditure limit for privately funded candidates, there is no ceiling on what these candidates can raise. Although there is an individual contribution limit of $2,500 to candidates and $5,000 to political committees (in a calendar year), there is no contribution limit for Super PACs. Super PACs cannot contribute to candidates, parties and other PACs, but they can participate in political activity independent of candidates' and parties' campaigns. Super PACs can receive unlimited contributions from individuals, corporations, labor organizations and other groups.

The article below by Michael Barbaro of the NY Times presents evidence that Romney is out fund-raising Obama. The contributions of $50,000 mentioned below are through Super PACs which independently support the Republicans and/or $46,200 to all candidates per individual contributor, and/or $70,800 to all (non-super PAC) committees and parties per individual contributor. (The Federal Election Commission deems a contribution to a vice-Presidential candidate a contribution to the corresponding Presidential candidate.) Does the better fund-raiser make the better President?

Romney’s Personal Touch Pays Off With Campaign Donors

Mitt Romney biggest donors and fund-raisers are descending on Utah’s exclusive Deer Valley resort this weekend for what invitees are calling Republicanpalooza: a two-day retreat featuring Karl Rove, Condoleezza Rice, Jeb Bush and John McCain.

But the highlight for the 700 guests, who either contributed $50,000 or raised $250,000 for the campaign, will be unfettered access to Mr. Romney himself, who will deliver a speech and mingle at a cookout beside the ski jumps at Olympic Park.

Mr. Romney, who survived a prolonged and cash-draining Republican primary process, has accomplished what many once thought impossible: he is keeping pace with President Obama’s vaunted fund-raising operation, which demolished records four years ago.

To a remarkable degree, interviews with donors, fund-raisers and staff members show, that financial haul has hinged on Mr. Romney’s clout in the business world and his relentless personal cultivation of contributors, a political ritual for which Mr. Obama has shown little enthusiasm and Mr.McCain, the last Republican presidential nominee, displayed outright disdain.

Mr. Romney has repeatedly invited top-flight donors to his home on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire for intimate gatherings where he serves cookies baked by his wife, Ann. He has spent hours meeting one-on-one with wealthy would-be backers from Cincinnati to Los Angeles who remain on the fence. And he has held seminars on issues that animate supporters, like Israel, education and energy.

The result: an infusion of high-dollar donations, which account for the vast majority of Mr. Romney’s campaign contributions and helped him out-raise Mr. Obama over the past two months, a symbolic and psychological milestone that set off alarms within the Democratic political world.

On Thursday, new campaign finance reports showed that in May Mr. Romney and the Republican National Committee, fueled by big donors, raised about $78 million for the candidate, in contrast to $60 million from Mr. Obama’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee.

Mr. Romney, it turns out, is a thoroughbred fund-raiser. After spending years as a private equity executive talking the wealthy into parting with their money, he has had little trouble persuading contributors, especially entrepreneurs, to invest in his vision of a Romney White House that is pro-business and antitax.

“He has a tremendous aptitude for this,” said Woody Johnson, owner of the New York Jets and one of Mr. Romney’s earliest financial bakers.

The campaign’s reliance, however, on wealthy donors and its refusal to disclose the identity of his bundlers, as the Obama campaign has done, has drawn criticism from advocates of campaign finance reform, and reinforced Mr. Romney’s image as a candidate whose greatest appeal is with America’s elite.

Not long ago, Mr. Romney visited the Park Avenue office of Kenneth G. Langone, a co-founder of the Home Depot who had called for Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey to run for president this year. After an hour, Mr. Romney had won over his fellow businessman.

“I didn’t look or talk to him any differently than a guy coming in here pitching me on a start-up company,” Mr. Langone said. “They are exactly the same. I am investing in a person.”

Mr. Obama, of course, is an adroit fund-raiser, whose team pioneered — and still dominates — Web-based outreach to small donors. He has used the mechanisms of incumbency to his advantage, inviting donors to state dinners and appointing them to his Jobs Council. But the president’s discomfort with stroking donors is well known, prompting some to complain that he can be chilly and inattentive.

Democrats express grudging admiration for Mr. Romney’s fund-raising prowess. “He has shown a great ability to listen to his donors and show he is engaged with them,” said Robert Zimmerman, a Democratic National Committee member and an Obama fund-raiser. “The fund — raising strategy is about building relationships, not just about raising money.”

Now, as top-tier donors and bundlers like Mr. Langone reach their legal limits, Mr. Romney is pursuing a new breed of donors — midlevel millionaires far from the corners of finance, who run dry cleaning chains and small industrial companies and share the candidate’s small-government ideology.

The campaign recently held a conference call for 30 car dealership owners in which Mr. Romney’s fund-raising chief emphasized the importance of family-owned businesses. The dealers have since become a reliable source of donations.

Sprawling campaigns have long struggled to keep up with the demands of their donors, many of whom feel entitled to instant responses to questions and requests for access.

The Romney campaign, by contrast, has flooded them with communications. There are daily and weekly conference calls, many featuring senior campaign members who offer updates on strategy and policy, and a software system that encourages friendly competition by allowing donors to monitor giving from friends whom they recruited. Several supporters recalled receiving all-hours phone calls and e-mails from Spencer Zwick, Mr. Romney’s fund-raising chief, who has a 24-hour rule: all messages are returned within a day.

“I keep hearing from people who are shocked at the follow up and follow through,” said Jack Oliver, who oversaw fund-raising for George W. Bush’s presidential campaigns and is close to the Romney campaign.

It is the attention from Mr. Romney, however, that has left the deepest impression on donors, who said they felt like extended members of the family, much in the way Mr. Bush embraced contributors. Mr. Bush became famed for immersing donors in his Texas life during retreats in Austin and following up with handwritten thank yous.

“This is the Bush operation on steroids,” said Anthony Scaramucci, a New York financier who has raised more than $1 million for Mr. Romney.

Mr. Scaramucci said he relished his time at Mr. Romney’s house in New Hampshire, where the candidate gave a slide show about campaign strategy and spoke with guests on a deck overlooking the lake. “People love being able to say they went to Romney’s house,” Mr. Scaramucci said. “It’s an attractive magnetron for the campaign.”

The campaign has organized much of its outreach around issues that energize contributors, like Israel. In May, it held a daylong series of policy discussions with donors at Mr. Romney’s headquarters in Boston, ending with an appearance by the candidate himself.

Philip Rosen, a Romney donor active in Jewish causes, said the presence of the candidate “shows he cares personally, which is something we know, but it’s important to see. For those who did not have a personal relationship with him, it’s essential.”

There is a harder edge to the operation, whose corporate-style punctiliousness and accountability is an extension of the candidate himself. Fund-raisers who repeatedly miss goals are quietly but firmly eased out of state chairmanships, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The campaign has been criticized for tying donations of $50,000 or more to guest packages for the Republican National Convention.

Mr. Johnson, the Jets owner, played down the issue.

“I don’t have the feeling at all that any of this gets you any special access to anything untoward,” he said.

Mr. Romney has bolstered outreach to smaller donors, online and through lotteries to have lunch with him and his wife. But such donors will not be invited to Utah this weekend, where Mr. Rove and Fred Barnes, executive editor of The Weekly Standard, will host a panel on the news media’s role in presidential politics, and Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Meg Whitman, the chief executive of Hewlett-Packard, will discuss the government’s impact on the economy.

Ray Washburne, a Romney fund-raiser attending the retreat, said the campaign had proved deft at “making donors feel like they are inside players.”

“We feel very appreciated,” he said.

Double-duty for US Political Contributions

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Perspectives on Greece's Democracy and Economy

Luzimar Serviss responds to the article "Greece as Victim" by Paul Krugman. Luzimar is a FDA senior researcher who has a PhD in Economics and professional experience in economics. Serviss challenges Krugman's analysis on Greece in which Krugman blames EU officials for Greece's economic failings. Serviss says that Greece needs responsible government rather than protectionism, and needs to allow the markets to take their course (similar to the stance of the German government).

A Greek Tragedy?
By Luzimar Serviss

For a country that is considered the birth place of democracy, Greece has become anything but a democracy. Politically, the county is living an outbreak of extremist violence and corruption. The recent elections did not provide much hope, with a central-right party victory complemented by a parliament of neo-nazis and ultra-leftists. Economically, poverty and despair prevail as a result of an inefficient, populist and corrupt government.

Now, to state that Greece is a victim of the EU is an overly simplistic analysis from a political and economic perspective. The suggestion that Greece needs a larger government, is on the verge of bizarre and can only be attributed to an excessively paternalist economic position which is only understandable coming from the “dollar area - also known as United States”.

To be part of the EU a country needs to apply for membership –a voluntary action– and must fulfill the Community’s economic and political requirements to be accepted. When Greece joined in 1981 it accepted the “full package” that is being part of the European Union and also adopting the Euro. An opt-out from the single market was not a possibility as it was for England and Denmark. Greece then accepted the European Community’s rule of law and to comply with the single market’s requirements.

Greece’s current situation shows that the rule of law, democracy and human rights obligations is not maintained nor is the commitment to maintain the economic reform policy. While there are provisions to grant emergency loans to member states, it’s not clear if the EU will and at what extent, rescue Greece. On the other hand, there are no provisions to expel a country that is not complying with the E.U. and the Single Market’s regulations.

Note that by being part of the EU, members are deprived of traditional tools used by governments to address their problems: reducing interest rates, expanding the money supply, and devaluating the exchange rate, hoping to boost domestic demand and moderating the recession. Whatever the solution will be, it is time to allow markets to take their course and promote government responsibility, not protectionism.

Greece as Victim
By Paul Krugman, June 17 2012, NY Times

Ever since Greece hit the skids, we’ve heard a lot about what’s wrong with everything Greek. Some of the accusations are true, some are false — but all of them are beside the point. Yes, there are big failings in Greece’s economy, its politics and no doubt its society. But those failings aren’t what caused the crisis that is tearing Greece apart, and threatens to spread across Europe.

No, the origins of this disaster lie farther north, in Brussels, Frankfurt and Berlin, where officials created a deeply — perhaps fatally — flawed monetary system, then compounded the problems of that system by substituting moralizing for analysis. And the solution to the crisis, if there is one, will have to come from the same places.

So, about those Greek failings: Greece does indeed have a lot of corruption and a lot of tax evasion, and the Greek government has had a habit of living beyond its means. Beyond that, Greek labor productivity is low by European standards — about 25 percent below the European Union average. It’s worth noting, however, that labor productivity in, say, Mississippi is similarly low by American standards — and by about the same margin.

On the other hand, many things you hear about Greece just aren’t true. The Greeks aren’t lazy — on the contrary, they work longer hours than almost anyone else in Europe, and much longer hours than the Germans in particular. Nor does Greece have a runaway welfare state, as conservatives like to claim; social expenditure as a percentage of G.D.P., the standard measure of the size of the welfare state, is substantially lower in Greece than in, say, Sweden or Germany, countries that have so far weathered the European crisis pretty well.

So how did Greece get into so much trouble? Blame the euro.

Fifteen years ago Greece was no paradise, but it wasn’t in crisis either. Unemployment was high but not catastrophic, and the nation more or less paid its way on world markets, earning enough from exports, tourism, shipping and other sources to more or less pay for its imports.

Then Greece joined the euro, and a terrible thing happened: people started believing that it was a safe place to invest. Foreign money poured into Greece, some but not all of it financing government deficits; the economy boomed; inflation rose; and Greece became increasingly uncompetitive.

To be sure, the Greeks squandered much if not most of the money that came flooding in, but then so did everyone else who got caught up in the euro bubble.

And then the bubble burst, at which point the fundamental flaws in the whole euro system became all too apparent.

Ask yourself, why does the dollar area — also known as the United States of America — more or less work, without the kind of severe regional crises now afflicting Europe? The answer is that we have a strong central government, and the activities of this government in effect provide automatic bailouts to states that get in trouble.

Consider, for example, what would be happening to Florida right now, in the aftermath of its huge housing bubble, if the state had to come up with the money for Social Security and Medicare out of its own suddenly reduced revenues. Luckily for Florida, Washington rather than Tallahassee is picking up the tab, which means that Florida is in effect receiving a bailout on a scale no European nation could dream of.

Or consider an older example, the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s, which was largely a Texas affair. Taxpayers ended up paying a huge sum to clean up the mess — but the vast majority of those taxpayers were in states other than Texas. Again, the state received an automatic bailout on a scale inconceivable in modern Europe.

So Greece, although not without sin, is mainly in trouble thanks to the arrogance of European officials, mostly from richer countries, who convinced themselves that they could make a single currency work without a single government. And these same officials have made the situation even worse by insisting, in the teeth of the evidence, that all the currency’s troubles were caused by irresponsible behavior on the part of those Southern Europeans, and that everything would work out if only people were willing to suffer some more.

Which brings us to Sunday’s Greek election, which ended up settling nothing. The governing coalition may have managed to stay in power, although even that’s not clear (the junior partner in the coalition is threatening to defect). But the Greeks can’t solve this crisis anyway.

The only way the euro might — might — be saved is if the Germans and the European Central Bank realize that they’re the ones who need to change their behavior, spending more and, yes, accepting higher inflation. If not — well, Greece will basically go down in history as the victim of other people’s hubris.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Citizens United versus Federal Election Commission Decision


appeal from the united states district court for the district of columbia

No. 08–205. Argued March 24, 2009—Reargued September 9, 2009––Decided January 21, 2010

As amended by §203 of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA), federal law prohibits corporations and unions from using their general treasury funds to make independent expenditures for speech that is an “electioneering communication” or for speech that expressly advocates the election or defeat of a candidate. 2 U. S. C. §441b. An electioneering communication is “any broadcast, cable, or satellite communication” that “refers to a clearly identified candidate for Federal office” and is made within 30 days of a primary election, §434(f)(3)(A), and that is “publicly distributed,” 11 CFR §100.29(a)(2), which in “the case of a candidate for nomination for President … means” that the communication “[c]an be received by 50,000 or more persons in a State where a primary election … is being held within 30 days,” §100.29(b)(3)(ii). Corporations and unions may establish a political action committee (PAC) for express advocacy or electioneering communications purposes. 2 U. S. C. §441b(b)(2). In McConnell v. Federal Election Comm’n , 540 U. S. 93 , this Court upheld limits on electioneering communications in a facial challenge, relying on the holding in Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce , 494 U. S. 652 , that political speech may be banned based on the speaker’s corporate identity.
          In January 2008, appellant Citizens United, a nonprofit corporation, released a documentary (hereinafter Hillary ) critical of then-Senator Hillary Clinton, a candidate for her party’s Presidential nomination. Anticipating that it would make Hillary available on cable television through video-on-demand within 30 days of primary elections, Citizens United produced television ads to run on broadcast and cable television. Concerned about possible civil and criminal penalties for violating §441b, it sought declaratory and injunctive relief, arguing that (1) §441b is unconstitutional as applied to Hillary; and (2) BCRA’s disclaimer, disclosure, and reporting requirements, BCRA §§201 and 311, were unconstitutional as applied to Hillary and the ads. The District Court denied Citizens United a preliminary injunction and granted appellee Federal Election Commission (FEC) summary judgment.
     1. Because the question whether §441b applies to Hillary cannot be resolved on other, narrower grounds without chilling political speech, this Court must consider the continuing effect of the speech suppression upheld in Austin . Pp. 5–20.
          (a) Citizen United’s narrower arguments—that Hillary is not an “electioneering communication” covered by §441b because it is not “publicly distributed” under 11 CFR §100.29(a)(2); that §441b may not be applied to Hillary under Federal Election Comm’n v. Wisconsin Right to Life, Inc. , 551 U. S. 449 (WRTL), which found §441b unconstitutional as applied to speech that was not “express advocacy or its functional equivalent,” id., at 481 (opinion of R oberts , C. J.), determining that a communication “is the functional equivalent of express advocacy only if [it] is susceptible of no reasonable interpretation other than as an appeal to vote for or against a specific candidate,” id. , at 469–470; that §441b should be invalidated as applied to movies shown through video-on-demand because this delivery system has a lower risk of distorting the political process than do television ads; and that there should be an exception to §441b’s ban for nonprofit corporate political speech funded overwhelming by individuals—are not sustainable under a fair reading of the statute. Pp. 5–12.
          (b) Thus, this case cannot be resolved on a narrower ground without chilling political speech, speech that is central to the First Amendment ’s meaning and purpose. Citizens United did not waive this challenge to Austin when it stipulated to dismissing the facial challenge below, since (1) even if such a challenge could be waived, this Court may reconsider Austin and §441b’s facial validity here because the District Court “passed upon” the issue, Lebron v. National Railroad Passenger Corporation , 513 U. S. 374 ; (2) throughout the litigation, Citizens United has asserted a claim that the FEC has violated its right to free speech; and (3) the parties cannot enter into a stipulation that prevents the Court from considering remedies necessary to resolve a claim that has been preserved. Because Citizen United’s narrower arguments are not sustainable, this Court must, in an exercise of its judicial responsibility, consider §441b’s facial validity. Any other course would prolong the substantial, nationwide chilling effect caused by §441b’s corporate expenditure ban. This conclusion is further supported by the following: (1) the uncertainty caused by the Government’s litigating position; (2) substantial time would be required to clarify §441b’s application on the points raised by the Government’s position in order to avoid any chilling effect caused by an improper interpretation; and (3) because speech itself is of primary importance to the integrity of the election process, any speech arguably within the reach of rules created for regulating political speech is chilled. The regulatory scheme at issue may not be a prior restraint in the strict sense. However, given its complexity and the deference courts show to administrative determinations, a speaker wishing to avoid criminal liability threats and the heavy costs of defending against FEC enforcement must ask a governmental agency for prior permission to speak. The restrictions thus function as the equivalent of a prior restraint, giving the FEC power analogous to the type of government practices that the First Amendment was drawn to prohibit. The ongoing chill on speech makes it necessary to invoke the earlier precedents that a statute that chills speech can and must be invalidated where its facial invalidity has been demonstrated. Pp. 12–20.
     2.  Austin is overruled, and thus provides no basis for allowing the Government to limit corporate independent expenditures. Hence, §441b’s restrictions on such expenditures are invalid and cannot be applied to Hillary. Given this conclusion, the part of McConnell that upheld BCRA §203’s extension of §441b’s restrictions on independent corporate expenditures is also overruled. Pp. 20–51.
          (a) Although the First Amendment provides that “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech,” §441b’s prohibition on corporate independent expenditures is an outright ban on speech, backed by criminal sanctions. It is a ban notwithstanding the fact that a PAC created by a corporation can still speak, for a PAC is a separate association from the corporation. Because speech is an essential mechanism of democracy—it is the means to hold officials accountable to the people—political speech must prevail against laws that would suppress it by design or inadvertence. Laws burdening such speech are subject to strict scrutiny, which requires the Government to prove that the restriction “furthers a compelling interest and is narrowly tailored to achieve that interest.” WRTL, 551 U. S., at 464. This language provides a sufficient framework for protecting the interests in this case. Premised on mistrust of governmental power, the First Amendment stands against attempts to disfavor certain subjects or viewpoints or to distinguish among different speakers, which may be a means to control content. The Government may also commit a constitutional wrong when by law it identifies certain preferred speakers. There is no basis for the proposition that, in the political speech context, the Government may impose restrictions on certain disfavored speakers. Both history and logic lead to this conclusion. Pp. 20–25.
          (b) The Court has recognized that the First Amendment applies to corporations, e.g., First Nat. Bank of Boston v. Bellotti , 435 U. S. 765 , and extended this protection to the context of political speech, see, e.g., NAACP v. Button , 371 U. S. 415 . Addressing challenges to the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, the Buckley Court upheld limits on direct contributions to candidates, 18 U. S. C. §608(b), recognizing a governmental interest in preventing quid pro quo corruption. 424 U. S., at 25–26. However, the Court invalidated §608(e)’s expenditure ban, which applied to individuals, corporations, and unions, because it “fail[ed] to serve any substantial governmental interest in stemming the reality or appearance of corruption in the electoral process,” id. , at 47–48. While Buckley did not consider a separate ban on corporate and union independent expenditures found in §610, had that provision been challenged in Buckley ’s wake, it could not have been squared with the precedent’s reasoning and analysis. The Buckley Court did not invoke the overbreadth doctrine to suggest that §608(e)’s expenditure ban would have been constitutional had it applied to corporations and unions but not individuals. Notwithstanding this precedent, Congress soon recodified §610’s corporate and union expenditure ban at 2 U. S. C. §441b, the provision at issue. Less than two years after Buckley, Bellotti reaffirmed the First Amendment principle that the Government lacks the power to restrict political speech based on the speaker’s corporate identity. 435 U.S., at 784–785. Thus the law stood until Austin upheld a corporate independent expenditure restriction, bypassing Buckley and Bellotti by recognizing a new governmental interest in preventing “the corrosive and distorting effects of immense aggregations of [corporate] wealth … that have little or no correlation to the public’s support for the corporation’s political ideas.” 494 U. S., at 660. Pp. 25–32.
          (c) This Court is confronted with conflicting lines of precedent: a pre- Austin line forbidding speech restrictions based on the speaker’s corporate identity and a post- Austin line permitting them. Neither Austin ’s antidistortion rationale nor the Government’s other justifications support §441b’s restrictions. Pp. 32–47.
               (1) The First Amendment prohibits Congress from fining or jailing citizens, or associations of citizens, for engaging in political speech, but Austin ’s antidistortion rationale would permit the Government to ban political speech because the speaker is an association with a corporate form. Political speech is “indispensable to decisionmaking in a democracy, and this is no less true because the speech comes from a corporation.” Bellotti, supra, at 777 (footnote omitted). This protection is inconsistent with Austin ’s rationale, which is meant to prevent corporations from obtaining “ ‘an unfair advantage in the political marketplace’ ” by using “ ‘resources amassed in the economic marketplace.’ ” 494 U. S., at 659. First Amendment protections do not depend on the speaker’s “financial ability to engage in public discussion.” Buckley , supra, at 49. These conclusions were reaffirmed when the Court invalidated a BCRA provision that increased the cap on contributions to one candidate if the opponent made certain expenditures from personal funds. Davis v. Federal Election Comm’n , 554 U. S. ___, ___. Distinguishing wealthy individuals from corporations based on the latter’s special advantages of, e.g., limited liability, does not suffice to allow laws prohibiting speech. It is irrelevant for First Amendment purposes that corporate funds may “have little or no correlation to the public’s support for the corporation’s political ideas.” Austin, supra, at 660. All speakers, including individuals and the media, use money amassed from the economic marketplace to fund their speech, and the First Amendment protects the resulting speech. Under the antidistortion rationale, Congress could also ban political speech of media corporations. Although currently exempt from §441b, they accumulate wealth with the help of their corporate form, may have aggregations of wealth, and may express views “hav[ing] little or no correlation to the public’s support” for those views. Differential treatment of media corporations and other corporations cannot be squared with the First Amendment , and there is no support for the view that the Amendment’s original meaning would permit suppressing media corporations’ political speech. Austin interferes with the “open marketplace” of ideas protected by the First Amendment . New York State Bd. of Elections v. Lopez Torres , 552 U. S. 196 . Its censorship is vast in its reach, suppressing the speech of both for-profit and nonprofit, both small and large, corporations. Pp. 32–40.
               (2) This reasoning also shows the invalidity of the Government’s other arguments. It reasons that corporate political speech can be banned to prevent corruption or its appearance. The Buckley Court found this rationale “sufficiently important” to allow contribution limits but refused to extend that reasoning to expenditure limits, 424 U.S., at 25, and the Court does not do so here. While a single Bellotti footnote purported to leave the question open, 435 U. S., at 788, n. 26, this Court now concludes that independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption. That speakers may have influence over or access to elected officials does not mean that those officials are corrupt. And the appearance of influence or access will not cause the electorate to lose faith in this democracy. Caperton v. A. T. Massey Coal Co. , 556 U. S. ___, distinguished. Pp. 40–45.
               (3) The Government’s asserted interest in protecting shareholders from being compelled to fund corporate speech, like the antidistortion rationale, would allow the Government to ban political speech even of media corporations. The statute is underinclusive; it only protects a dissenting shareholder’s interests in certain media for 30 or 60 days before an election when such interests would be implicated in any media at any time. It is also overinclusive because it covers all corporations, including those with one shareholder. P. 46.
                    (4) Because §441b is not limited to corporations or associations created in foreign countries or funded predominately by foreign shareholders, it would be overbroad even if the Court were to recognize a compelling governmental interest in limiting foreign influence over the Nation’s political process. Pp. 46–47.
          (d) The relevant factors in deciding whether to adhere to stare decisis, beyond workability—the precedent’s antiquity, the reliance interests at stake, and whether the decision was well reasoned—counsel in favor of abandoning Austin, which itself contravened the precedents of Buckley and Bellotti. As already explained, Austin was not well reasoned. It is also undermined by experience since its announcement. Political speech is so ingrained in this country’s culture that speakers find ways around campaign finance laws. Rapid changes in technology—and the creative dynamic inherent in the concept of free expression—counsel against upholding a law that restricts political speech in certain media or by certain speakers. In addition, no serious reliance issues are at stake. Thus, due consideration leads to the conclusion that Austin should be overruled. The Court returns to the principle established in Buckley and Bellotti that the Government may not suppress political speech based on the speaker’s corporate identity. No sufficient governmental interest justifies limits on the political speech of nonprofit or for-profit corporations. Pp. 47–50.
     3. BCRA §§201 and 311 are valid as applied to the ads for Hillary and to the movie itself. Pp. 50–57.
          (a) Disclaimer and disclosure requirements may burden the ability to speak, but they “impose no ceiling on campaign-related activities,” Buckley , 424 U. S., at 64, or “ ‘ “prevent anyone from speaking,” ’ ” McConnell , supra , at 201. The Buckley Court explained that disclosure can be justified by a governmental interest in providing “the electorate with information” about election-related spending sources. The McConnell Court applied this interest in rejecting facial challenges to §§201 and 311. 540 U. S., at 196. However, the Court acknowledged that as-applied challenges would be available if a group could show a “ ‘reasonable probability’ ” that disclosing its contributors’ names would “ ‘subject them to threats, harassment, or reprisals from either Government officials or private parties.’ ” Id., at 198. Pp. 50–52.
          (b) The disclaimer and disclosure requirements are valid as applied to Citizens United’s ads. They fall within BCRA’s “electioneering communication” definition: They referred to then-Senator Clinton by name shortly before a primary and contained pejorative references to her candidacy. Section 311 disclaimers provide information to the electorate, McConnell, supra, at 196, and “insure that the voters are fully informed” about who is speaking, Buckley , supra , at 76. At the very least, they avoid confusion by making clear that the ads are not funded by a candidate or political party. Citizens United’s arguments that §311 is underinclusive because it requires disclaimers for broadcast advertisements but not for print or Internet advertising and that §311 decreases the quantity and effectiveness of the group’s speech were rejected in McConnell. This Court also rejects their contention that §201’s disclosure requirements must be confined to speech that is the functional equivalent of express advocacy under WRTL’ s test for restrictions on independent expenditures, 551 U. S., at 469–476 (opinion of R oberts , C.J.). Disclosure is the less-restrictive alternative to more comprehensive speech regulations. Such requirements have been upheld in Buckley and McConnell. Citizens United’s argument that no informational interest justifies applying §201 to its ads is similar to the argument this Court rejected with regard to disclaimers. Citizens United finally claims that disclosure requirements can chill donations by exposing donors to retaliation, but offers no evidence that its members face the type of threats, harassment, or reprisals that might make §201 unconstitutional as applied. Pp. 52–55.
          (c) For these same reasons, this Court affirms the application of the §§201 and 311 disclaimer and disclosure requirements to Hillary . Pp. 55–56.

Reversed in part, affirmed in part, and remanded.
     Kennedy, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Roberts, C. J., and Scalia and Alito, JJ., joined, in which Thomas, J., joined as to all but Part IV, and in which Stevens, Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomayor, JJ., joined as to Part IV. Roberts, C. J., filed a concurring opinion, in which Alito, J., joined. Scalia, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which Alito, J., joined, and in which Thomas, J., joined in part. Stevens, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, in which Ginsburg, Breyer , and Sotomayor, JJ., joined. Thomas, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part.

Justice Kennedy Opinion of the Court

Justice Roberts Concurring

Justice Scalia Concurring

Justice Stevens Concurring and Dissenting in Part

Justice Thomas Concurring and Dissenting in Part

Monday, June 18, 2012

Concept of War under Scrutiny

In this brief FDA Q&A, Dr. Arthur Clark, Professor of Medicine and founding member of the University of Calgary Institute for Peace Studies answers three fundamental questions about war. These questions are in response to Dr. Clark's speech on the Iran/Israel nuclear problem which is linked below. Dr. Clark challenges the validity of war at its root. Yet, the issue arises as to whether or not humanity as a collective can agree to move beyond war. Dr. Clark would likely respond that it is a matter individual and collective perspective and will.


How can war be a cancer since war has been around for over two thousands, and yet war has not wiped out humanity?

Dr. Clark:

Cancer has presumably been around for longer than warfare and also has not wiped out humanity. It just makes a lot of people miserable and blots out a lot of possibilities, without actually extinguishing the species. A metaphor or analogy is used to emphasize certain similarities between two things, not to assert their identity. “Language is a virus” not because you find actual nucleic acids in a word or a paragraph, but because language spreads through a population and so does a virus. Cancer causes untold sorrow and often death to its victims and so does warfare. Cancer extinguishes dreams that the victims had had, and so does warfare. A difference might be that there is no publicly funded system that promotes cancer. The tobacco industry, for example, does not survive on funding provided by the national government.


How do you respond to the reality that in nature, animals exist in a battle of life and death; this struggle could be equated to a form of war, and therefore war is a natural occurrence?

Dr. Clark:

Murder, rape, genocide, and other forms of violence can also be called “natural occurrences,” but that does not address the question of whether we prefer to bring them under control. Whether an occurrence is “natural” or “unnatural” says little and sometimes nothing about whether it is wise or desirable or useful or good. Humans are a unique species with a unique range of options and a large part of what they do is “unnatural” in some sense of that word. Warfare as practiced by humans is one example. When I try to think of species that have come up with the means of driving themselves and many other species to extinction through all-out war, I come up with only one. In producing the non-biodegradable stuff that accelerates environmental deterioration, humans take that unnatural prize as well. But humans also have a uniquely large capacity for cooperation, self-awareness, curiosity, gratitude, generosity, imagination, and reverence. That too is within our menu of natural options. Even if we choose to think of war as a “natural occurrence,” why pick that one over other natural options that are savagely undermined by warfare.


How do you respond to the notion that war strengthens the human species by keeping the human population in control and weeding out weakness in the species?

Dr. Clark:

Mike Tyson was stronger than Albert Einstein ever was. Put in a ring with Mike Tyson and ignoring the space/time issues that make that impossible, and assuming each of the contenders is at his or her physical peak, any of the following contenders would be destroyed: Albert Einstein, Gandhi, Jesus of Nazareth, Martin Luther King Jr., Stephen Hawking, William Shakespeare, Marcel Proust, and just about anybody else who has contributed anything of lasting value to the human experience. Quite aside from the death toll it causes directly, war weakens the human species by causing paraplegia, amputation, blindness, post-traumatic seizures and psychological incapacitation, domestic violence, and suicide among survivors. That's just the beginning of a list of the ways that war weakens the human species. War causes a massive hemorrhage of human resources into the means of maintaining the capacity for making war, and thus makes impossible the exploration of the outer limits of human potential. It weeds out countless luminous human options. It destroys opportunities for love and for creative growth. It extinguishes and ravages lives for which no perpetrator of war is competent to know the value. As for keeping the population under control, the term “baby boomers” suggests boom and bust cycles in population growth associated with warfare. The phrase “keeping the population in control” may be treacherously misleading. The map is not the territory.

More By Dr. Clark: FDA Podcast on Iran/Israel Nuclear Problem

Saturday, June 16, 2012

2012 Mexican Presidential Election

With the Mexican Presidential Election approaching, below Maria Elena Enríquez, FDA Researcher with a background in political science and international relations and Mexican citizen, shares her opinion on the Mexican election. Based on her research and opinion, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the candidate for Party of Democratic Revolution, focuses on austerity, job creation, and economic growth, while Peña Nieto and the PRI Party are linked to authoritarianism and organized crime, and incumbent Josefina Vazquez Mota and the PAN party are criticized for Mexico's economic and social decline and failure to meet the people's expectations.

2012 Mexican Election

Mexico’s future course will be defined on July 1st. With less than two weeks until the Presidential election, the Partido Acción Nacional (PAN, National Action Party), the political party in power, is struggling to keep power.

The situation is complicated. Twelve years ago the PAN’s (right-wing party) election triumph, represented a new direction after a long hegemony of the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI, Institutional Revolutionary Party), the same party that today is favored to win the presidential elections again. The democratic transition in Mexico began with a very fragile citizenship (due to social and economic pressures) but with high expectations, which never really came to be realized, and, therefore, today the citizens seems to have a desire to punish the party that they had brought to power 12 years ago.

The PAN administration certainly did not have an easy job, but still they do not appear to have worked strongly enough to build off their public support so that it responds to voters’ expectations. This was already perceived in the beginning of their second presidential period, in which Felipe Calderón, the Mexican president, won the elections with only 0.56% advantage over the candidate of the Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD, Party of the Democratic Revolution, Andrés Manuel López Obrador;) who is running again for the presidency this year.

During the past years, there hasn’t been economic growth (Mexico has an annual growth rate of less than 2% and poor job creation) and both social insecurity as well as inequality has deepened. As a result, the people perceive that Mexico situation has worsen. Although it is difficult to objectify the social decline, this is a fundamental factor that will affect voting.

The PRI took advantage of this situation, winning back the majority of seats in the House of Representatives, as well as several States, in some of the elections that have taken place since the PAN won the presidency. The PRI today rules two thirds of the State legislatures.

There are currently four parties running for the presidential elections. The PRI, with Enrique Pena Nieto; the PAN, with Josefina Vazquez Mota; the PRD, with Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, and the Nueva Alianza, with Gabriel Quadri.

Some citizens see the PRI as the experienced party; their way of doing politics is the way they are familiar with, and the way it is necessary to deal with the current problems. Also, the PRI nominated a young and strategic candidate for the Presidential election: the governor of the Estado de México (the most important state after Mexico City) who was already very popular.

But one month ago everything began to change. Peña Nieto was not well received and confronted by the students of the Universidad Iberoamericana, where he had been invited to participate in a conference. He was questioned about delicate situations that happened during his term as governor of the Estado de Mexico, as well as other subjects, such as media manipulation. After several allegations that the situation had been orchestrated by the other parties, and even calling it a plot; 131 students published a video on social media showing that they were students at that university and that they had acted on their beliefs and nothing more. Some media covered these events and students from all over the country began supporting a movement called “Yo soy #132” (I am #132), in which, most of them, protest against media manipulation favoring the PRI’s return to power. Some of the movement followers have openly declared they do not support any specific party, while some others have declared they support the left party’s candidate, López Obrador.

In order to present their proposals, the four candidates have held two presidential debates. Both had similar formats, in which the four candidates continued with their known proposals, the same old speeches, empty of innovative proposals and that didn’t cause any major impact in the citizens’ preferences; rather it consolidated them. What certainly stood out from the last debate is that the fight is now between two candidates, Enrique Peña Nieto y Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who now has advantage over the PAN candidate, Josefina Vázquez Mota, before second in the polls.

López Obrador, taking advantage of the situation against Peña Nieto, and aware of his mistakes in the past elections, appeared calm in the debates and gave moderated speeches aimed at all sectors of the country, inviting them to join his campaign against “the corruption and privileges of the regime”. He promises government austerity and, in order to fight insecurity, he promises to alleviate poverty generating jobs and economic growth. He is the only candidate to reveal his proposed cabinet, which would feature well-known personalities such as the writer Elena Poniatowska in the Ministry of Culture (which would be a new Ministry), Marcelo Ebrard in the Ministry of the Interior and Cuautémoc Cárdenas in Pemex (Mexican Petroleums).

On the other hand, Peña Nieto promises an inclusive Mexico without poverty. He also promises to promote major citizen participation and to take advantage of the neighboring countries for greater integration of production in order to compete with the rest of the world and also promises to have a safer border. The fact is that after the article published by the English paper The Guardian, which cited documents that prove the largest Mexican network (Televisa) supports his campaign by favouring him in the media and attacking other candidates; and after an investigation of two former governors of his party for ties to drug trafficking, his own party has began questioning if their candidate is suitable for the Presidency.

Third in polls, the PAN candidate Josefina Vázquez Mota, with nothing to lose, was the most aggressive candidate in the last debate. Her proposals, primarily for family and women, were not strong, but she accused the PRI for supporting a return to authoritarianism and complicity with organized crime and the PRD of supporting populism and resentment/envy.

According to the polls, 20 percent of Mexicans are undecided. The fourth party, Nueva Alianza party candidate, is targeting this segment of voters. 

It should be noted that Nueva Alianza is a small party created by the Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación (SNTE, National Union of Education Workers), the largest trade union in Latin America, led by Elba Esther Gordillo, the controversial former general secretary of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), and that it is a party that has no real chance of winning the elections but are only pursuing a 2% of the votes needed for the party to maintain its party registration.

With no possibility of winning, Quadri states that if given the strategic voters (those more interested in preventing a party from winning than voting their beliefs), the votes will used to support structural reforms the country needs in fiscal, education and energy. He has been presented as a people's candidate and has been particularly proactive in environmental, cultural and technological proposals. He promises the creation of a Coasts and Seas Agency, as well as an economic free trade agreement with China to promote foreign investment and technology exchange, and affirms that the only way to create equal economic opportunity is a better educational system, which he would finance by reallocating fuel subsidies to education.

With days before the election, a favorite candidate seen a decline in his support, fueled by student protests and biased media allegations. These developments have benefited the left candidate, who is now in second place. Dropping to third place is the incumbent ruling party, despite the strong performance of Josefina Vazquez Mota during the last debate. According to recent surveys, voter preference is 37.7% PRI, 23.2% PRD, 22.5% PAN and 2.2% NA.

It is important to note that none of the candidates has talked about the thousands of victims of the war against the organized crime or the problems Mexican law faces today in terms of credibility, fairness, and equal application. The country needs, no doubt, effective institutions and regulations as well as creative public policies.

Whoever wins the July 1st elections will need to show that he or she has the proper credentials to exercise a competent and efficient government, helping to build a more participatory and transparent democracy.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Both Romney and Obama offer Americans Status Quo

With Obama and Romney entrenched in the status quo, the 2012 US Presidential Election will offer Americans more mediocrity. One source of the US mediocrity is the indirectly legislated two-party federal system, in which other political voices and ideas are sidelined. Shortly, the FDA will be releasing an electoral fairness audit on the US federal electoral system. This report will show clearly advances and shortcomings of the US federal electoral system, and where reforms are necessary.

What can Americans do about the mediocrity? The US federal electoral system needs an overhaul in order to create a multi-party system and fair electoral finance laws. By improving the multi-party aspect of the electoral system and the competitiveness of the elections, the US electorate will have improved and increased choice as to who governs the country.

This article illustrates the mediocrity of the Republicans and Democrats: different or same face, and nothing changes (for the better)(status quo); no inspiration. Interestingly, Obama has dropped his "change" rhetoric from 2008. He must assume that Americans are not stupid enough to be fooled by that again:

Obama, Romney give dueling speeches on economy
By Tom Cohen, CNN
updated 5:01 PM EDT, Thu June 14, 2012

In dueling speeches that sought to frame the economic debate for their election showdown in November, President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney on Thursday offered differing visions for how to restore strong growth while telling separate Ohio crowds that the other's policies have failed.

The president and the former Massachusetts governor both emphasized particular themes of community in their campaign speeches in a battleground state hit hard by the 2008 recession and its aftermath.

Romney, speaking at a factory in the Cincinnati area minutes before Obama's speech in Cleveland, focused on what he called the president's failure to deliver promised economic growth so far in his first term.

"Talk is cheap," Romney, the certain Republican nominee, said of the incumbent Democratic president. "Action speaks very loud, and if you want to see the results of his economic policies, look around Ohio and the country."

He encouraged voters to ask their friends and neighbors if they are better off since Obama became president, predicting that small business owners, bankers, unemployed college graduates and others will answer no.

Obama, meanwhile, emphasized the election is about a choice for the direction of the country, saying Romney "and his allies in Congress" advocate the same economic policies of tax cuts and deregulation that brought the recent recession.

He cited in particular the refusal by congressional Republicans to accept any kind of tax increase on the wealthy, saying that stance prevented a comprehensive deficit reduction agreement last year.

"The only thing that can break the stalemate is you," Obama said to cheers. "This November is your chance to render a verdict on the debate over how to grow the economy, how to create good jobs, how to pay down our deficit."

The nearly simultaneous addresses reflected what polls have consistently shown -- the economy is the top issue in the November presidential election -- and both campaigns continued their high-stakes efforts to seize the advantage on it.

Obama has been rocked by bad economic news in recent weeks, including a tepid May jobs report and Thursday's news that first-time unemployment claims rose slightly last week.

Last Friday, the president provided fuel to Romney's repeated claims that he is out of touch and his policies have been ineffective by telling reporters that compared to the public sector, the private sector "is doing fine."

Obama clarifies: Economy 'not doing fine'

A new Romney campaign ad Thursday replays the president uttering the phrase several times while highlighting the nation's economic woes by flashing on-screen text: "23.2 million Americans are unemployed," "40 straight months over 8% unemployment" and "middle-class struggles deepen under Obama."

The spot is the first negative ad against Obama by the Romney camp so far in the general election campaign, although super-PACs backing Romney have run attack ads against the president.

Obama tried to play down the rough patch, telling the raucous Cuyahoga Community College crowd that the campaign will be long and tough.

"Over the next five months, this election will take many twists and many turns, polls will go up and polls will go down, there will be no shortage of gaffes and controversies that keep both campaigns busy and give the press something to write about," he said, adding with a smile that "you may have heard I recently made my own unique contribution to that process."

As the audience laughed, Obama added: "It wasn't the first time. It won't be the last."

He summed up the Republican campaign as an attack against his presidency, saying the "scary voice" in television and Romney himself will "tell you the economy is bad, that it is all my fault, that I can't fix it because I think government is always the answer or because I didn't make a lot of money in the private sector and don't understand it, or because I am in over my head, or because I think everybody is doing just fine."

"That may be their plan to win the election but it is not a plan to create jobs," Obama said. "It is not a plan to grow the economy."

He cited the ravages of the recession on the economy and highlighted progress made by his administration, being careful to note that people are still hurting and more needs to happen. At the same time, Obama offered his oft-repeated call for a balanced approach to economic growth and deficit reduction that raises taxes on the wealthy and holds down spending while ensuring that critical areas for future growth such as education, clean energy and infrastructure development get needed money.

In his speech, Romney also stuck with his stump themes, saying Obama blew his chance to fix the economy and now it is time for change.

"My experience in thinking about people who I want to have work for me, whether it's my doctor or the person that's going to be painting the house, I want to make sure they did a good job the first time and if they didn't, I want someone who can do a better job," Romney said.

A survey released Thursday showed that more Americans blame former President George W. Bush than Obama for the continuing economic problems that began in the previous administration.

According to the Gallup poll, 68% of respondents said Bush deserves either a great deal or a moderate amount of blame, compared with 31% who said the former president deserves not much or no blame at all.

In the survey, 52% said Obama deserves blame, with 48% saying he isn't to blame for current economic conditions.

Another poll shows independent voters are dissatisfied with the economic plans of both candidates.

According to the Washington Post/ABC News survey released Wednesday, 54% of independents have an unfavorable view of Obama's plan for the economy, and 47% view Romney's economic plan unfavorably. It says 38% view Obama's plan favorably, compared with 35% who feel the same about Romney's plan.

The survey showing negative marks for each candidate's economic plan reflected strong racial divides among Americans.

White voters were split on Romney's plan, with 42% viewing it favorably and 42% viewing it unfavorably. Minority voters were far less positive, with 68% of black voters and 48% of Latino voters viewing the Republican candidate's plan unfavorably. Both groups gave much higher marks to Obama -- 81% of black voters and 59% of Latino voters had a favorable view of the Democrat incumbent's plan.

Romney's policies reflect the GOP goal of shrinking government and cutting taxes to reduce the mounting federal deficit and national debt. Led by conservatives, Republicans argue such steps will boost economic growth to bring in more revenue -- despite the tax cuts -- and shrink the deficit.

Obama calls for ending Bush-era tax cuts for families making more than $250,000 a year as well as tax breaks for the oil industry and others to increase revenue, while also holding down spending and seeking long-term entitlement reforms.

Both parties and presidential campaigns have been guilty of making dubious claims about the other as the campaign rhetoric has heated up.

Bill Adair, the editor of the Pulitzer Prize winning web site, said his recent fact-checks of the candidates have rated nearly all of their claims to be half-truths.

"The campaigns are cherry-picking statistics that don't tell a full story," Adair said.

Kathleen Hall Jamieson with the Annenberg Center for Public Policy said ad distortions from both candidates in both parties are typical of a campaign that has "specialized in taking words out of context."

Jamieson's office launched its own fact-checking site,, to police campaign ads for their distortions. The web site features a montage of television spots that are guilty of using a wide array of deceptive techniques.

"The danger is people hear the sound bite repeated in ads, see it repeated in the news, and lose track of the original context," Jamieson said. "It becomes the reality and in the process, there's a serious deception."