Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each new year find you a better [person]. ~Benjamin Franklin
Over the past year the news has been pretty intense. The fifteen most viewed posts here on the Fifth Column reflect that intensity:
Mussolini once described fascism this way: The definition of fascism is The marriage of corporation and state .
Are we there yet? I’d say we are as close as we can get and still be called a “Democracy”.
In a wide-ranging interview before he prepares to leave the House of Representatives, Hudson Valley Congressman John Hall warned that the nation could quickly descend into Fascism if more is not done to curb the influence of corporate money in politics.
Speaking about the Citizen’s United decision, which allowed unregulated flow of cash into campaign coffers, Hall said, “I learned when I was in social studies class in school that corporate ownership or corporate control of government is called Fascism. So that’s really the question— is that the destination if this court decision goes unchecked?”
Hall said that the flow of corporate dollars is why he and the Democrats lost control of Congress.
“The country was bought,” he said. “The extremist, most recent two appointees to the Supreme Court, who claimed in their confirmation hearings before the Senate that they would not be activist judges, made a very activist decision in that it overturned more than a century of precedent. And as a result there were millions of extra dollars thrown into this race.”
The extra money floating around, he said, compounded the Democrats weaknesses on the economy, unemployment and the mortgage crisis. And he said that for of the accomplishments of the lame duck Congress, their failure to pass the Disclose Act—which would have at least forced corporations to reveal who they were donating to—stood out a black mark on the session.
“We are talking about supposedly wholesome names like Revere America, American Crossroads, Americans for Apple Pie and Motherhood—if somebody hasn’t trademarked that one I probably should. The fact is you can call it anything and the money could be coming from BP or Aramco or any corporation domestic or foreign,” Congressman Hall said. More…
Six out of 10 Americans hope that President Obama’s policies will succeed — a percentage that has dropped measurably from last year — but the public is roughly split when it comes to whether they think those policies will in fact be successful, according to a CNN/Opinion Research poll conducted Dec. 17-20.
Sixty-one percent want Obama’s program to succeed while 27 percent hope his policies fail. Nine percent have mixed feelings and 3 percent have no opinion. Last December, 71 percent hoped Obama’s policies would succeed compared to 22 percent who wanted them to fail. In March 2009, 86 percent wanted those policies to succeed and 11 percent hoped they would fail. The remainder had mixed opinions.
When it comes to what Americans believe will happen (putting aside whether or not they want Obama’s policies to succeed), 47 percent predict failure while 44 percent say they will succeed. Six percent have mixed opinions and 2 percent are undecided.
CNN polling director Keating Holland called the 61 percent who are in Obama’s corner “a fairly robust number” but singled out as significant the size of the drop-off in the number of those hoping for his success as well as the fact that a plurality predicts his policies will likely fail.
The CNN poll said that one factor working in Obama’s favor is that whether Americans approve of the job he is doing or not, 73 percent approve of the president as a person.
Fifty-one percent of those surveyed said it was good for the country that the GOP had taken control of the House while 42 percent said it was bad, with 4 percent answering “neither” and 2 percent undecided. More…
Failed U.S. Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell said Thursday that accusations she misspent campaign funds are politically motivated and stoked by disgruntled former campaign workers.
The Delaware Republican appeared on several network morning shows to defend herself a day after The Associated Press reported federal authorities have launched a criminal probe to determine whether she broke the law by using campaign money to pay personal expenses.
“There’s been no impermissible use of campaign funds whatsoever,” O’Donnell told ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
O’Donnell, the tea party favorite who scored a surprise primary victory before losing in the general election, suggested the accusations are driven by political establishments on the right and left, including Joe Biden. He represented Delaware in the Senate for decades before he became vice president.
“You have to look at this whole thug-politic tactic for what it is,” she said Thursday.
O’Donnell said she found it suspicious that she, her campaign staff and her lawyer have not been informed of a federal investigation.
Former Florida Rep. Joe Scarborough says he would consider running for office again but, for the time being, thinks he’s better off right where he is.
“We have more influence doing the show,” said Scarborough, who hosts MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and is a columnist for POLITICO. “There are 435 members of Congress. There’s one ‘Morning Joe’ show.”
But that could change. “An absence of leadership” could draw him back to elective office, he said in an interview with Parade magazine published Thursday. “The same thing that had me run the first time, in 1994, when I felt the country was veering off dangerously in the wrong direction.”
Scarborough represented Florida in the House from 1995 to 2001 but resigned just months into his fourth term to spend time with his family. His wife “always tells people, ‘He’s not going to be able to run for anything because I’m not going to let him start a campaign,’” he said.
“Look what’s happened to Barack Obama over the last two years or George Bush for eight. It’s a blood sport. But at some point, I may feel the need to run for office again.” More…
There are daily attempts to control and influence content in the interests of the state and corporations: attempts in which money talks.
They are the online equivalent of enclosure riots: the rick-burning, fence-toppling protests by English peasants losing their rights to the land. When MasterCard, Visa, Paypal and Amazon tried to shut WikiLeaks out of the cyber-commons, an army of hackers responded by trying to smash their way into these great estates and pull down their fences.
In the Wikileaks punch-up the commoners appear to have the upper hand. But it’s just one battle. There’s a wider cyberwar being fought, of which you hear much less. And in most cases the landlords, with the help of a mercenary army, are winning.
I’m not talking here about threats to net neutrality and the danger of a two-tier internet developing, though these are real. I’m talking about the daily attempts to control and influence content in the interests of the state and corporations: attempts in which money talks.
The weapon used by both state and corporate players is a technique known as astroturfing. An astroturf campaign is one that mimics spontaneous grassroots mobilizations, but which has in reality been organized. Anyone writing a comment piece in Mandarin critical of the Chinese government, for example, is likely to be bombarded with abuse by people purporting to be ordinary citizens, upset by the slurs against their country.
But many of them aren’t upset: they are members of the 50 Cent Party, so-called because one Chinese government agency pays 5 mao (half a yuan) for every post its tame commenters write. Teams of these sock-puppets are hired by party leaders to drown out critical voices and derail intelligent debates. More…
This is perhaps the silliest news story of the day. But…if this study is valid, it explains a lot!
Political opinions are considered choices, and in Western democracies the right to choose one’s opinions — freedom of conscience — is considered sacrosanct.
But recent studies suggest that our brains and genes may be a major determining factor in the views we hold.
A study at University College London in the UK has found that conservatives’ brains have larger amygdalas than the brains of liberals. Amygdalas are responsible for fear and other “primitive” emotions. At the same time, conservatives’ brains were also found to have a smaller anterior cingulate — the part of the brain responsible for courage and optimism.
If the study is confirmed, it could give us the first medical explanation for why conservatives tend to be more receptive to threats of terrorism, for example, than liberals. And it may help to explain why conservatives like to plan based on the worst-case scenario, while liberals tend towards rosier outlooks.
“It is very significant because it does suggest there is something about political attitudes that are either encoded in our brain structure through our experience or that our brain structure in some way determines or results in our political attitudes,” Geraint Rees, the neurologist who carried out the study, told the media. More…
When the accusations about Delaware Tea Party Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell’s alleged campaign finance abuses first surfaced, I wondered why the Feds ignored them. So, this comes as good news…
Federal authorities have opened a criminal investigation of Delaware Republican Christine O’Donnell to determine if the former Senate candidate broke the law by using campaign money to pay personal expenses, according to a person with knowledge of the investigation.
The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to protect the identity of a client who has been questioned as part of the probe. The case, which has been assigned to two federal prosecutors and two FBI agents in Delaware, has not been brought before a grand jury.
Matt Moran, O’Donnell’s former campaign manager, did not immediately respond Wednesday to questions from The AP. He said earlier this month that the campaign had not been contacted about any investigation and criticized what he called “lies and false-attack rumors.”
The U.S. Attorney’s office has confirmed that it is reviewing a complaint about O’Donnell’s campaign spending filed by a watchdog group, but officials in the office and the FBI declined to say whether a criminal investigation was underway.
O’Donnell, who set a state record by raising more than $7.3 million in a tea party-fueled campaign this year, has long been dogged by questions about her finances.
At least two former campaign workers have alleged that she routinely used political contributions to pay her personal expenses in recent years as she ran for the Senate three consecutive times, starting in 2006. The Washington-based watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics (CREW) filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission making similar allegations and asked Delaware’s federal prosecutor to investigate.
O’Donnell’s campaign has denied wrongdoing, but acknowledged she had paid part of her rent at times with campaign money, arguing that her house doubled as a campaign headquarters. More…