noise of rain
Wisconsin's state supreme court has declined to hear an appeal of the lower court's ruling blocking implementation of the state's new voter ID law, sending the case back to the state court of appeals.
The decision means the photo ID requirement will remain blocked even as recall elections against Gov. Scott Walker and five other Republicans near. The primary election for the recalls is May 8 followed by a June 5 general election.
Separate Dane County circuit court judges issued temporary and permanent injunctions last month blocking the law before Wisconsin's April 3 primary election, deeming the law an unconstitutional impairment to the right to vote.
That's very good news for Democrats for the recall. But they still need help. Please make a $5 donation to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin to help them get every eligible voter to the polls for the recall.
- Sunday's comic was No you don't! by Matt Wuerker.
- "Bully": Getting past "boys will be boys," by Laura Clawson
- A book review of Chris Mooney's The Republican Brain on Science, by DarkSyde
- The Contorted Contours of the Commerce Power According To The Radical Roberts Court, by Armando
- The cruel stupidity that is economic austerity, by Laurence Lewis
- A raft for racists: The National Review?from Buckley through Derbyshire and beyond, Denise Oliver Velez
- Ann Romney: Allow others the choices that you made, by Dante Atkins
As the money race for the general election heats up, President Obama's campaign reports raising $53 million in March, picking up pace from the month before.
The possibility of a Kucinich run here [Washington state] "horrified" state Democratic Party Chairman Dwight Pelz, who has repeatedly discouraged the idea.
"Dennis Kucinich has to decide what his legacy is going to be. Will he be remembered as a principled member of Congress or the narcissist who lost two Congressional races in two states the same year?" Pelz said.
Sheldon Adelson, a wealthy casino owner who has spent millions to boost the presidential campaign of Newt Gingrich, has donated $5 million with his wife to a super PAC for House Republican candidates, according to campaign filings released Sunday.
The Adelsons made their donations in February to the Congressional Leadership Fund, which was formed last year to be "focused solely and exclusively" on maintaining the GOP majority in the House.
Tim Tebow has work to do if he's going to win over New York sports fans.
The new backup quarterback for the Jets was booed at Yankee Stadium on Sunday night when he was shown on the giant video board -- even though he was wearing a Yankees cap.
? blow job vs. blowjob... all of which should come in handy considering how often "family value" Republicans manage to get caught up in sex scandals.
? porno vs. porn
? phone-sex vs. phone sex
? girl next door vs. girl-next-door
? cover babe vs. coverbabe
In each of these examples, Hustler prefers the latter usage. On occasion, the magazine would update its stylebook. For example, it now uses ?hos? rather than ?ho?s.?
Projected decline in total federal spending (relative to GDP), 2011-2023, under the Ryan budget plan unanimously supported by House Republicans (according to the Congressional Budget Office?s March 2012 report). Federal spending would fall from 22.5% of GDP in 2011 to 17.25% in 2023 (and to 15.5% in 2050, of which 10.75% would be for Social Security and Medicare).
Fraction of Americans who say the Republican Party is ?generally more supportive of reducing the size and scope of the federal government? (according to the Pew Research Center?s April 2012 Knowledge Survey; 25% say the Democratic Party is more supportive of reducing the size and scope of government and 22% say they don?t know).
And political science in one number:
Google Scholar citations of Benjamin Page and Robert Shapiro?s The Rational Public.
Justice Department officials have had some tough words for Sheriff Joe Arpaio in recent months. They've accused him of civil rights abuses, threatened him with a lawsuit and leaked angry letters saying that they've run out of patience with him.
But amid it all, some of the very people the Justice Department claims to speak for in their civil rights probe of the Arizona lawman have told TPM they have little faith the federal government will come through for them. Not even a massive lawsuit, they said, will ease their skepticism.
"We've been frustrated with the pace of it from the beginning," said Salvador Reza, a longtime immigrant rights activist in Phoenix. "Even if they file a civil rights lawsuit, you're still talking about months, years."
Reza was one of the people whose case was highlighted in a report released by the DOJ's Civil Rights Division in December.
The report identified him only by the pseudonym "C.C.," but it said he was arrested without cause by Arpaio's deputies in July 2010 as retaliation for organizing protests against the sheriff.
Investigators with the civil rights division began looking into Arpaio's office in 2008 under then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey. The probe started after DOJ received complaints that the sheriff's office was abusing the civil rights of Latinos in the Phoenix area, in part because swarms of deputies were being sent into heavily Latino areas on what Arpaio called "crime suppression operations."
In the four years since, federal investigators have been in contact with various Latino leaders and victims of the alleged abuses. They have also been spotted at court hearings on other matters in which Arpaio and his allies have taken the witness stand.
But while officials in Washington, D.C., continue to talk about what should be done, the Latinos living in Arpaio's Maricopa County say nothing much has changed since the investigation began. Immigration raids are continuing. Racial profiling is still rampant, they said. They still see the effects of the sheriff's alleged abuses on a daily basis.
"For us on the ground, we see the discrimination and the abuse of power," said Randy Parraz, a community organizer and immigrant rights activist. "All of these people who are in power and can hold him accountable haven't done it."
Last year, Parraz organized the successful recall election of then-state Senate President Russell Pearce, the primary sponsor of Arizona's tough immigration law known as SB 1070.
This year, Parraz is trying to win at the ballot box again. He and his group, Citizens for a Better Arizona, are registering voters and searching for a challenger to stop Arpaio from winning a sixth term in November.
"We're not sitting back waiting on the federal government on this," Parraz said. "They move at a pace that's not conducive to the situation."
Ever since Justice Department officials publicly accused Arpaio of civil rights violations in December, they have been trying to convince him to voluntarily make sweeping changes to his office. The negotiations have not gone well.
Each side has expressed frustration with the other. Arpaio and his attorneys complained that Justice Department officials have not given them enough evidence of the alleged abuses. In turn, DOJ officials have said Arpaio is dragging his feet and simply trying to delay the inevitable.
Throughout it, DOJ officials have continued to threaten Arpaio with a massive civil rights lawsuit if he refuses to change. The latest threat came last week, but so far no lawsuit has been filed.
Alongside the civil investigation, the Justice Department is also running a criminal probe that has been going on for years. The probe is said to be looking at many of the same issues as the civil probe but with a number of other allegations also in the mix. It reportedly includes allegations that Arpaio targeted his fellow government officials in Maricopa County with criminal investigations because he saw them as political enemies.
One of Arpaio's close allies, a former prosecutor who teamed up with Arpaio for the crusade, was disbarred last week because of it. In its ruling, the disciplinary panel behind the punishment said Arpaio and ex-prosecutor Andrew Thomas had likely committed crimes in the process.
Despite that, the Justice Department has yet to act in its own criminal probe.
Latino activist and former Arizona lawmaker Alfredo Gutierrez said he believes one of the reasons the federal government has delayed taking action for years is because it helped facilitate Arpaio's abuses in the first place.
The Department of Homeland Security, he notes, originally gave the sheriff's office the authority to arrest people for immigration violations under a program known as 287(g). With lax oversight, he said, Arpaio was allowed to use the authority to target Latinos in the Phoenix area.
"They were complicit," he said. "This administration, the Department of Homeland Security were complicit."
In December, the government revoked Arpaio's federal immigration powers after the civil rights report was released, but for Gutierrez it was too late. The damage was already done.
Now, he believes the Obama administration is moving forward with cases against the sheriff because the president needs to win the Latino vote in November. Like other Latino leaders, Gutierrez said the cases have been too slow coming and will likely take too long to resolve.
"I doubt that they can take actions to reignite hope in our community," Gutierrez said.
Whether the cases will come at all is still to be seen.
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During another typically intelligent panel discussion on Chris Hayes' show on MSNBC this Sunday on the Republicans and Mitt Romney out there demagoguing President Obama asking Congress to pass the "Buffett Rule" so that millionaires and billionaires are not exploiting tax loopholes that allow them to pay far less of a percentage of their income in taxes compared to average working class citizens out there, David Cay Johnston brought up something I apparently missed earlier this year that he had reported on in January -- the fact that Mitt Romney was allowed to give his sons $100 million as a gift tax free, thanks to a tax loophole on "carried interest."
When the Romney campaign disclosed in December that the couple?s five sons had a $100 million trust fund, I suspected that, in setting up the fund, the Romneys used a tax strategy that allows some very rich people to avoid paying gift taxes. But it was impossible to know if this was the case without seeing their tax returns going back years.
So when Mitt Romney released the family?s 2010 tax return last week, I went looking. I found a hint on pages 132 and 134 of the return. It showed that the value of property placed that year into another family trust, the Ann D. Romney Blind Trust, was, for tax purposes, zero. The Ann Romney trust is not the same trust as the one that holds the Romney sons? $100 million, but I wondered if the Romneys used the same approach in prior years when it came to valuing property placed into the sons? trust.
Reuters emailed the Romney campaign spokeswoman to ask how much the Romneys paid in gift taxes on assets put into the sons? trust over the last 17 years. The spokeswoman, citing Brad Malt, the Romney family tax lawyer, answered: none.
The idea that someone could pay zero gift taxes on contributions to a $100 million trust fund may surprise people who have heard arguments that the wealthy are overburdened by gift and estate taxes. But the Romneys? gift-tax avoidance strategy is perfectly legal. Read on...
Johnston posted a video explaining the loophole in his post at Reuters which you can watch below the fold.
Kevin Drum at Mother Jones flagged this interview with Johnston on CNN in January as well where he was discussing the same column at Reuters -- Mitt Romney's Kids Pay an Even Lower Tax Rate Than He Does:
As we all know, much of Mitt Romney's wealth is derived from "carried interest," a share of the profits from investments that Bain Capital made while he was CEO. This income is taxed at the same 15 percent rate as ordinary capital gains, which is why Romney's tax rate is so low.
But it turns out there's another interesting tidbit about carried interest that I've never heard of before: It's a great way of passing along a huge inheritance to your kids without paying any taxes. David Cay Johnston explains:
Johnston: The Romneys gave $100 million to their sons and paid not one penny of gift tax. They were able to take assets they have that are producing enormous income and, under the law, give that money to their children and not pay any taxes on it.
Sambolin: Is that something you specifically found in what has been released to you?
Johnston: Yes. I have suspected this and written about it in my column that this is what happened, and last night, Brad Malt, the attorney for the Romneys, confirmed to Reuters that we were correct. They have not paid a penny of gift tax. That's because Congress allows a very tiny group of people?the Romneys by their income are in the top 1 percent of the top 1 percent?to not count as having any value the real source of their income, something called carried interest, if they give it to their children.
As he noted, "Welcome to the wonderful world of estate planning for the super wealthy." The segment above from Up With Chris Hayes showed Romney out on the campaign trail saying President Obama was trying to "divide America" by asking that the rich like himself pay their fair share in taxes. As their panel of David Cay Johnston, Betsey Stevenson, Tom Perriello and Heather McGhee noted later in the program, that division does not have a fifty/fifty split, since the ones Romney is carrying water for are only the super rich in America and the upper 1 percent.
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Gallup first daily tracking poll of the presidential race has Mitt Romney up over President Obama by 2 points. That puts the TPM PollTracker Average at Romney 47.7% to Obama 44.1%. [...]
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Photos from inside North Korea of the birthday celebration for the country's late founder, Kim Il Sung, who would have turned 100 yesterday. [...]
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