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Archive for June 27th, 2014

McDaniel Ally Tied to Photo Scandal Dies

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 27th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

McDaniel Ally Tied to Photo Scandal Dies
A Chris McDaniel supporter arrested for his alleged connection to the photographing of Sen. Thad Cochran’s wife died Wednesday in an apparent suicide, the Clarion-Ledger newspaper in Mississippi reports. Mark Mayfield, a leader of the Mississippi Tea Party, was one of three men arrested on conspiracy charges after blogger Clayton Kelly allegedly photographed Cochran’s bedridden wife, Rose, at a nursing home where she suffers from progressive dementia. The photos were allegedly used for an anti-Cochran political video that was later taken down. Mayfield was found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound Friday at his Ridgeland home.

Obama pitches economic priorities in Minnesota

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 27th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Obama pitches economic priorities in Minnesota
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — President Barack Obama is pitching his ideas to boost the American middle class in Minnesota, a state that has already embraced a key component of the president’s economic agenda by raising its minimum wage.

Obama jokes about John Boehner’s lawsuit against him

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 27th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Obama jokes about John Boehner’s lawsuit against him
He minimizes the suit by pointing out that the GOP House speaker has yet to say what specific actions he’s challenging

WSJ May Not Understand The Laws Behind The Buffer Zone Cases, But It Hates Them

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 27th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

WSJ May Not Understand The Laws Behind The Buffer Zone Cases, But It Hates Them

Despite the fact that the Supreme Court struck down Massachusetts’ abortion clinic buffer zone law, the Wall Street Journal editorial board complained that the Court didn’t go further to disallow “other restrictions on abortion protests,” inaccurately describing the majority opinion in the process.

On June 26, the Court ruled in McCullen v. Coakley that Massachusetts’ buffer zone law violated the First Amendment because it was broader than necessary to achieve the Commonwealth’s goal of promoting public safety outside of reproductive health clinics, while simultaneously declining to strike down the constitutionality of buffer zones in general. A version of the law was passed in 2000 in response to years of violent and deadly incidents outside of abortion clinics nationally and directed at Massachusetts clinics in particular. The legislature amended the law in 2007 to further help police officers enforce the law by implementing a 35-foot buffer zone around clinic entrances that prohibit anyone not on clinic business — anti-choice protestors and pro-choice supporters alike — from entering and remaining. The Court ultimately found that, while buffer zones are not unconstitutional in and of themselves, Massachusetts’ law was not narrowly-tailored enough to support the legitimate interest in promoting public safety.

Joining and writing for the four liberal justices on the Court, Roberts limited his decision to the specific facts, and the specific petitioners in McCullen, as he struck down this specific buffer zone law. For Roberts, because the named plaintiff in this case was apparently a peaceful petitioner and not the “aggressive” type of “face-to-face” protestor who created “clashes” at the entrances of the health centers, the law regulated more speech than is allowed under the public safety rationale of constitutional buffer zones. But in a June 26 editorial, the Journal completely ignored the history of violence outside of abortion clinics across the country, and argued that Roberts “missed an opportunity to clean up one of the Court’s mistakes” by failing to overturn Hill v. Colorado, a 2000 case that upheld the constitutionality of a different buffer zone law. The editorial went on to argue that the decision in McCullen “leaves too much speech in future jeopardy” because state legislatures are still free to regulate speech outside of clinics within the bounds of the First Amendment. The Journal also inaccurately claimed that Roberts confirmed that the Massachusetts law was “directed at peaceful speakers”:

In McCullen v. Coakley, Chief Justice John Roberts writes that the law unconstitutionally restricts access to public sidewalks around abortion clinics in the name of “public safety” without “seriously addressing the problem through alternatives.” By regulating public streets, the state directly foreclosed access to places that “developed as venues for the exchange of ideas.” Restrictions must be based on misconduct, not directed at peaceful speakers.

So far, so good. The problem is that the Chief’s opinion goes on to engage in contortions arguing that the Massachusetts law really wasn’t trying to restrict the “content” of speech. That’s critical because it means the law isn’t subject to strict First Amendment scrutiny. It also means that while this Massachusetts law went too far, other restrictions on abortion protests might be allowable.


The fascinating question is why the Chief Justice refused to follow the logic of his own free-speech jurisprudence and overturn Hill v. Colorado. Perhaps he figured he would lose the four liberal Justices and thus the authority of a unanimous Court. Or perhaps he has been chastened by all of the liberal media critics who say he’s too eager to overturn precedents.

The reality is that he’s not eager enough, and thus the Court ends up with too many of these halfway decisions that reach the right outcome for what are often the wrong reasons. The First Amendment needs a more stalwart defender in the Chief Justice’s chair.

Liberals Champion Freedom of Speech — Except in Politics

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 27th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Liberals Champion Freedom of Speech — Except in Politics
Michael Barone, RealClearPolitics
I’m old enough to remember when American liberals cherished the freedom of speech guaranteed by the First Amendment. They celebrated especially the freedom accorded those with unpopular beliefs and protested attempts to squelch the expression of differing opinions. Today things are different. American liberals are not challenging the Supreme Court rulings extending First Amendment protection to nude dancers, flag burners and students wearing antiwar armbands. They are content to leave these as forms of protected free speech. But political speech is a whole other thing. Currently 43 Democratic…

Obama Hitting the Road on Female-Voter Empathy Tour
Alexis Simendinger, RealClearPolitics
President Obama has something on his mind — a message he plans to deliver in Minneapolis Thursday and Friday. It’s similar to an idea President George H.W. Bush shared in Pease, N.H., in January 1992. During a town-hall session — akin to the one Obama will hold in Minnesota this week — Bush said his White House mail helped him understand the worries of hardworking, everyday Americans. “Message: I care,” Bush said after answering questions about the economy, 35 million people without health coverage, and his efforts to be an “education president.” “When…

15 Most Annoying Expressions in Politics
Carl M. Cannon, RealClearPolitics
Irritating phrases and words are not confined to political circles, or solely to Washington, although here in the nation’s capital they burrow in and proliferate like obsolete, but entrenched, government programs. This is a call to arms to fight them—but only metaphorically. 15: “WAR ON [FILL IN THE BLANK]” Syria’s civil war has produced 2.5 million refugees and a death toll of 160,000, a tragedy that has galvanized neither major political party into action. So next time a Democrat brays about the so-called Republican “war on women” or a Republican…

Iraq and the Echoes of Vietnam
Steve Chapman, RealClearPolitics
A corrupt government that has alienated many of its people finds itself unable to overcome a growing insurgency in an endless civil war and expects a superpower on the other side of the globe to come to its rescue. That’s the story in Iraq today — which carries eerie echoes of the not-so-distant past. In June of 1964, as conditions deteriorated in South Vietnam, President Lyndon Johnson assured a journalist he was not about to get too far in or stay too far out. “We won’t abandon Saigon, and we don’t intend to send in U.S. troops,” he insisted. He was betting that U.S. military advisers…

Anger at secret e-borders legal bill

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 27th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Anger at secret e-borders legal bill
Ministers face calls to reveal the cost of a four-year legal battle with US defence giant Raytheon over e-borders.

VIDEO: Cameron ‘did not plan, want, expect this’
Nick Robinson says David Cameron is trying to “snatch some form of moral victory” in the Jean-Claude Juncker vote.

EU leaders offer Cameron hope
The leaders of Sweden and Germany offer encouragement to David Cameron after his defeat in a vote on the new European Commission president.

Seeking Divine Intervention, or at Least Some Lucky Shorts

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 27th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Seeking Divine Intervention, or at Least Some Lucky Shorts
Whether by wearing the same shorts during a winning streak or trusting in a talisman, fervent soccer fans in Brazil often believe match results are in their control.

Sinosphere Blog: Chinese Workers at Iraq Power Plant Said to be Headed to Safety
More than 1,000 Chinese workers at a power plant north of Baghdad were evacuated to the capital city after previous attempts to move them to safety had failed, reports say.

India: Pipeline Blast Kills at Least 15
A state-owned gas pipeline exploded and burst into flames, killing at least 15 people, destroying homes and forcing the evacuation of neighboring villages.

Martin Indyk, U.S. Mideast Envoy, Steps Down
Mr. Indyk led the yearlong American effort to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, the negotiations faltered.

DNA Evidence Overturns Conviction Of Florida Man Who Spent 28 Years On Death Row

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 27th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

DNA Evidence Overturns Conviction Of Florida Man Who Spent 28 Years On Death Row

While this doubtful conviction was ultimately thrown out, the events that led to Thursday’s Florida supreme court decision demonstrate just how difficult it is to attack an erroneous conviction even when that conviction is fatally undermined by DNA evidence.

The post DNA Evidence Overturns Conviction Of Florida Man Who Spent 28 Years On Death Row appeared first on ThinkProgress.

Paul Hildwin

CREDIT: AP Photo/Florida Department of Law Enforcement

In 1986, Paul Christopher Hildwin was one of two suspects in the murder of a Florida woman named Vronzettie Cox. The other suspect was Cox’s boyfriend, a man named William Haverty. Yet Hildwin was convicted in large part because of DNA evidence found at the crime scene — semen found in the victim’s underwear and saliva found in a nearby rag — which was recently discovered to belong to Haverty and not Hildwin. At the time of the trial, outdated scientific evidence falsely linked this semen and saliva to Hildwin.

Hildwin has now spent nearly three decades on death row for a crime that he most likely would not have been convicted of if the DNA evidence were available during his 1986 trial. On Thursday, the Florida Supreme Court acknowledged this reality, holding that “the totality of the evidence is of ‘such nature that it would probably produce an acquittal on retrial’ because the newly discovered DNA evidence ‘weakens the case against [the defendant] so as to give rise to a reasonable doubt as to his culpability.’”

At the time of Hildwin’s trial, the prosecutor’s theory was that the semen and salvia found at the scene of the crime belonged to a “nonsecretor” — a person who does not secrete blood into their other bodily fluids. Hildwin is a nonsecretor while Haverty is a secretor. After Hildwin’s conviction, however, this claim was disproven. Years later, DNA testing of the evidence left over from the trial proved that it belonged to Haverty and not Hildwin, undermining the prosecution’s case to such a degree that the state supreme court determined that a jury probably would not have convicted Hildwin.

Yet, while the doubtful conviction against Hildwin was ultimately thrown out — the state now has the option to retry Hildwin, if they choose — the events that led to Thursday’s Florida supreme court decision demonstrate just how difficult it is to attack an erroneous conviction, even when that conviction is fatally undermined by DNA evidence.

In 2006, after testing proved that the DNA evidence found near the victim did not belong to Hildwin, the state supreme court voted 4-3 not to overturn his conviction. Hildwin’s attorneys then had to return to court to earn him the right to compare the now-unidentified DNA to profiles in an FBI-maintained DNA database — and throughout this litigation Hildwin remained behind bars and on death row. Hildwin did not ultimately receive confirmation that the DNA evidence found on the scene belonged to Haverty until 2011, five years after the Florida Supreme Court denied his earlier request for a new trial. Thursday’s order came two-and-a-half years after he obtained this evidence proving that crucial DNA evidence actually belonged to the other suspect in Cox’s murder.

And, for all of this time, Hildwin has been on death row, serving time for a crime that he most likely could not have been convicted of if his jury had known in 1986 what we now know.

The post DNA Evidence Overturns Conviction Of Florida Man Who Spent 28 Years On Death Row appeared first on ThinkProgress.

The State Of Higher Education Looks Bleak In ‘Ivory Tower’

Priorities in higher education are backwards, but what can we do about them?

The post The State Of Higher Education Looks Bleak In ‘Ivory Tower’ appeared first on ThinkProgress.


CREDIT: Shutterstock

Ivory Tower, a new documentary about higher education and the student debt crisis, grapples with a lot of the popular collegiate questions of the day: What is the point of higher education? What purpose does it serve? Is college worth it?

The film raises a lot of questions. Does it offer any answers? The purpose of the documentary is to get people thinking about rapid systemic changes in higher education, and to be outraged by those changes. But it paints a very broad — and bleak — picture of the college experience.

Ivory Tower posits that college policies across America are dishearteningly backwards. To hear the film tell it, there’s not a professor in the country who cares as much about teaching as they do about personal research; obtaining a high national rank, not the best academics, is what faculty consider the greatest measure of an institution’s success; in an effort to attract students, schools funnel money into climbing walls, pools with tanning ledges, and sports teams to up their appeal — relying on tuition hikes to do so.

The statistic at the center of this debate — student loan debt currently exceeds $1 trillion — is irrefutable. But the rest of those claims are pretty suspect. There’s no mention of the fact that college graduates still earn 84% more than individuals with only a high school diploma to their name, just the vague accusation that college isn’t “worth it.” Ivory Tower doesn’t address student life outside the classroom at all: no time is spent on the extra-curricular activities, teams, clubs and volunteer organizations that are an integral part of the 4-year university experience. By cherry-picking the most extreme examples, Ivory Tower winds up with a blind spot: the average student’s college experience. Arizona State University, as always, is called out as the “party school” and thus stands in for all state schools; why not visit, say, University of Michigan? Or the University of Virginia? At the opposite end of the spectrum is Harvard, where Ivory Tower follows a student on a full scholarship who sees Harvard as his the ladder of opportunity out of an impoverished existence in an unsafe, inner-city neighborhood. The documentary undermines its mission by failing to get a representative sampling of America’s undergraduate population.

I spoke to the director of the film, Andrew Rossi, by phone. “[Student debt] has ushered in a wave of conversation about how unsustainable college and the rise in tuition has become,” he said. “And I felt that it would be valuable to go onto campuses and see what students are learning, how teachers are interacting with students, and try to return to the question of “’What is higher education really about?’”

“Unfortunately, there is a utilitarian view of education that is exclusively focused on as a pathway to getting a job,” he said. “It’s an instrumentalist approach.”

Ivory Tower blames our student debt crisis, in part, on a failing of government. “College in this country has been viewed as a public good, basically up until the late sixties and seventies,” he said, until “conservative governors like Ronald Reagan argued that the state should not be subsidizing intellectual curiosity… Tuition start[ed] to skyrocket as state funding plummet[ed].”

“I would like to see more people embrace the idea that higher ed is a good that contributes educated citizens to our democracy.”

But overhauling higher education is easier said than done, and Ivory Tower fails to offer any meaningful alternatives to college. One option the documentary presents is for ambitious teenagers to move to Silicon Valley to create a start-up, though that’s a choice that very few can afford to make. Online courses were another suggestion, but academic performance is low when students take those free classes, because human interaction between professor and peer is removed. Online classes do work when they are taken in conjunction with lessons in person, but that option still limits access to college education among people who cannot pay for instruction.

Anne Johnson, executive director of Generation Progress, a group committed to social issues that impact young Americans, provided some answers as to how we can tackle problems presented in the film. For instance, we can focus on attention on existing borrowers, and implement policies to alleviate their financial burden. The average student owes $30,000, 50 percent of them rely on their parents for money, and 1 in 8 students have defaulted on their loans. To provide some relief, lawmakers can implement an income-based replacement plan that allows students to pay back loans in proportion to their earned income. And we’re actually closer to reaching that goal, as Obama issued an executive order earlier this month, which caps student loan payments at 10 percent of an individual’s monthly income.

Johnson also pointed to refinancing student loans as a way to remove some of the burden from borrowers. A bill introduced by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) last March proposed a minimum tax on people whose income is $1 million or more. Revenue from the tax would, in turn, be channeled into debt refinancing and reduce the amount students have to pay back. Although the bill didn’t make it through Congress, it showed that some lawmakers are concerned with the student debt crisis, and want to create solutions to help borrowers.

Government intervention, it seems, is key — and Andrew Rossi agrees.

“We see in the film this great, proud tradition in American history of government intervening, with the Moral Act, to create the land grant universities in the 19th century, the GI Bill. The difficulty I think is that the political climate right now would not likely support that kind of legislation,” he said.

So while Ivory Tower does a good job identifying the issues in higher education, we have a long way to go before we see the change we need. The unsustainable race continues.

The post The State Of Higher Education Looks Bleak In ‘Ivory Tower’ appeared first on ThinkProgress.

Moral Mondays Has Managed to Go Beyond the Color Line—but Is That So Unprecedented?

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 27th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Moral Mondays Has Managed to Go Beyond the Color Line—but Is That So Unprecedented?
From: Melissa Harris-Perry

Moral Mondays may seem exceptional, but it is actually part of a long history of interracial political coalitions in the South. 

Will the Government Finally Regulate the Most Predatory Industry in America?
From: Zoë Carpenter

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is poised to issue regulations for businesses that offer small-dollar, short-term loans. Will they be strong enough?

The Ugly Truth About Your Shrimp Cocktail
From: Michelle Chen

Reports of enslavement and forced labor in Thailand’s $7.3 billion fishing-export industry reveal a clear link between illegal fishing, environmental degradation and human rights abuses.

D.C.’s Top Neocon Finds His Inner Hippie

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 27th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

D.C.’s Top Neocon Finds His Inner Hippie
Eleanor Clift, The Daily Beast
Arthur Brooks’ pursuit of the formula for happiness has some unlikely speakers talking to the American Enterprise Institute. Is the 1 percent really listening to his spiritual gurus?

Title lX: How a Good Law Went Wrong
Christina Hoff Sommers, Time
A weary wrestling coach once lamented that his sport had survived the Fall of Rome, only to be vanquished by Title IX. How did an honorable equity law turn into a scorched-earth campaign against men’s sports? This week is the 42nd anniversary of this famous piece of federal legislation so it’s an ideal time to consider what went wrong and how to set it right.

The Supreme Court’s Constitutional Folly
Jeffrey Toobin, The New Yorker
The Noel Canning decision was probably correct. All nine Justices agreed on the core issue, after all. In their view, the method by which President Barack Obama made recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board violated the Constitution. But think about what that means: President Obama will continue to struggle to staff and run his Administration. Republicans will continue to block and delay Presidential appointments at all levels.

The Scott Walker Smear Collapses
Jonathan Tobin, Commentary
Last week I wrote about the way the liberal mainstream media was trumpeting the rather slender evidence that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker was in trouble over campaign fundraising. But yesterday, the story collapsed when the prosecutor cited in the original story denied the governor was in any legal peril. Predictably, the same outlets that promoted the first story are now burying the sequel.

Supreme Court’s Powerful New Consensus
Neal Katyal, New York Times
WASHINGTON — FOR years, particularly after the 2000 election, talk about the Supreme Court has centered on its bitter 5-to-4 divisions. Yet it is worth reflecting on a remarkable achievement: The court has agreed unanimously in more than 66 percent of its cases this term (and that figure holds even if Monday’s remaining two cases, on the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive coverage and on public-sector unions, are not unanimous). The last year this happened was 1940.