Last week, the judge presiding over George Zimmerman’s trial for the alleged murder of Trayvon Martin revoked Zimmerman’s bond because he failed to disclose $200,000 donated to him through a website. Earlier today, his legal team released a statement claiming that Zimmerman should be allowed to post a new bond because “in all other regards, Mr. Zimmerman has been forthright and cooperative.” The statement also suggests that part of the blame for Zimmerman’s misstatements rests on the many activists who worked to ensure that Zimmerman’s guilt or innocence would be evaluated by a court of law:
The audio recordings of Mr. Zimmerman’s phone conversations while in jail make it clear that Mr. Zimmerman knew a significant sum had been raised by his original fundraising website. We feel the failure to disclose these funds was caused by fear, mistrust, and confusion. The gravity of this mistake has been distinctly illustrated, and Mr. Zimmerman understands that this mistake has undermined his credibility, which he will have to work to repair.
At the point of the bond hearing, Mr. Zimmerman had been driven from his home and neighborhood, could not go to work, his wife could not go back to a finish her nursing degree, his mother and father had been driven from their home, and he had been thrust into the national spotlight as a racist murderer by factions acting with their own agendas. None of those allegations have been supported by the discovery released to date, yet the hatred continues.
Zimmerman was originally released on a $150,000 bond. It’s not clear yet whether the judge will allow him to pay a higher bond in the wake of his misstatements to the court.
Last week, the Clay and Pinellas County Supervisors of Elections’ offices told ThinkProgress that they had already removed names from the voter rolls on the basis of not responding within 30 days to letters demanding proof of citizenship. But after the Justice Department demanded Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) end his extensive purge of registered voters from the rolls because it was in violation of federal law, all 67 county supervisors announced they would suspend the illegal removals.
But what of the 14 voters in Pinellas County and the one voter in Clay County who had already been purged?
According to spokeswomen for both offices, the voters in question have all been reinstated. The data processing manager for Clay County noted that the one woman removed from the rolls had already been restored. It turned out she provided documentation to the office over the weekend proving her citizenship — yet another piece of evidence that the Scott administration’s list of “sure-fire non-citizens” was riddled with a gigantic number of errors.
While the decision by the county supervisors to halt the purge and reinstate the improperly removed voters represents a victory for the right to vote, the Scott administration has still not announced whether it will defy the Department of Justice and continue to purge voter rolls.
The usual caveats apply, but I was interested to read through this study out of Indiana University which tracked children’s television viewing habits over a year and found that both white and African-American girls and African-American boys’ saw their self esteem take a television-related hit, while white boys felt better about themselves.
The study’s based on a couple of central ideas, all of which I found to be useful clarifications of ideas I use to explain the impact of media on people of all ages. First, there’s a homogenizing effect of television, which establishes common expectations for which jobs, bodies, and standards of living: “common features of the television landscape pervade all forms of program- ming. Cultivation theory offers an explanation for how white collar jobs, the thin ideal, power, and wealth may come to be perceived as commonplace and easily achievable.” In other words, the fact that television characters have what seem like the same three or four occupations creates a kind of closure. There’s a tricky balance to be achieved here: “research demonstrates that upward comparisons can actually be beneficial to people when they are led to believe that attainment of the depicted achievements is possible.” But if it’s actually harder than portrayed to achieve any of the conditions portrayed on television in real life, that could produce poor self-esteem if someone thinks the failure is theirs, not the media’s. And boys, more than girls, are the beneficiaries of positive messages about what to aspire to. Finally, “Milkie (1999) argues that viewers struggle to avoid self-evaluations with media messages because the mass media alter societal ideas about what is normative. If children believe that others (e.g., peers, family) use such mes- sages to evaluate them, White girls and Black children cannot simply ignore mass media messages as a comparative referent.” Read more
But in court last week, one of Walker’s closest confidants contradicted the Governor’s claim that he’s been fully cooperative with the investigation, which has already claimed three of Walker’s former staffers and associates. The probe is aimed at locating government officials who engaged in a range of criminal activities while employed by Walker when he was Milwaukee County executive.
Tim Russell, an old Walker adviser who has himself been charged with felony embezzlement, told a local reporter that Walker has not been cooperative with the corruption probe. In fact, Russell’s information shows that Walker has been ‘stonewalling’ investigators. Esquire offers more detail:
The most significant turn of events came last week, on May 31, just as Walker and Barrett were preparing to debate that night, when Daniel Bice, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter who’s been an absolute bulldog on this investigation, published a damaging piece in which Bice said that, contrary to Walker’s repeated insistence that he had called for the John Doe investigation himself, the investigators on the case opened the investigation themselves after two years of stonewalling by Walker and his administration. Bice’s story was based on a document filed with the court in the Russell case. [...]
Tim Russell’s lawyer — and, therefore, Tim Russell — had made public damaging information about Scott Walker and undermined the whole ethical basis of the governor’s response to charges that he had misused his public office for private gain. It is not unreasonable to assume that this either was a warning shot — take care of me or you’re going down, too — or evidence that Russell already has rolled.
Russell’s might have “rolled,” as Esquire phrases it, because he knows it will lead to a significantly less harsh sentence for himself. But in light of the fact that tomorrow is Wisconsin’s recall election, the potential consequences are only growing for Scott Walker.
According to an analysis from Citizens for Tax Justice, 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney would save himself $5 million in taxes in 2013 by winning November’s election (assuming he could get his tax plan enacted into law).
Under his plan, Romney’s tax rate would fall from its current 14.7 percent to 13.1 percent, while under Obama’s tax plan, Romney would pay a 34.3 percent rate. The difference in these rates means about $5 million for Romney’s tax bill. The Associated Press laid out what causes that divide:
Romney wants to lower current tax rates for everyone by 20 percent. This benefits the wealthy most: Dropping the highest bracket from 35 percent to 28 percent, for example, yields a much bigger savings for those at the top than lowering the 15 percent bracket to 12 percent brings for taxpayers in that group.
Romney also would eliminate the much-despised alternative minimum tax, which hits the rich and some middle-class taxpayers, too. He wants to repeal Obama’s health care law and its taxes.
Emboldened by a recently enacted constitutional amendment prohibiting civil unions and same-sex marriage, North Carolina’s Republican party adopted a platform yesterday that condones discrimination on the basis of “sexual orientation.” The platform’s Article Ill: Individual Liberty states:
Government should treat all citizens impartially, without regard to wealth, race, ethnicity, disability, religion, sex, political affiliation or national origin. We oppose all forms of invidious discrimination. Sexual orientation is not an appropriate category.
The document also argues that “The ideal environment for raising children is a two-parent family with a mother and father who are married and committed to that life-long relationship” and opposes “adoption by same sex couples.”
Currently, the state does not have a ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. (HT: Progressive Pulse)
America’s largest wireless service provider plans to cut 1,700 jobs by offering its technicians and call center employees buyouts. Verizon Communications announced last week that it would reduce its nationwide workforce by 1 percent, and if enough workers don’t accept the buyouts, it will resort to involuntary layoffs.
Verizon paid chief executive Lowell C. McAdam more than $22.5 million in 2011, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of executive compensation. The company has paid its top five executives more than $350 million in the last five years, according to the Communications Workers of America, the union that deals most directly with Verizon:
More than half of McAdam’s compensation package came from “Performance Awards,” according to the WSJ analysis. In 2011, the company’s shareholders saw an 18.8 percent increase in the value of their returns. Workers, however, have not shared in those gains. Verizon eliminated 26,000 jobs over a two-year period in 2008 and 2009 — including 16,000 jobs in 2009 alone — and laid off roughly 13,000 more in 2010.
At the same time, Verizon has demanded sizable concessions from workers in its negotiations with unions, asking for the elimination of the company’s pension plan, increases in health care premiums, and extra leeway to outsource jobs, according to a release from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.
GOP Staffer Who Suggested Hurling Acid At Female Democratic Senators Resigns |
Jay Townsend, the GOP communications director for Rep. Nan Hayworth’s re-election campaign who said “let’s hurl some acid at those female Democratic senators” resigned today. According to The Hill, Hayworth released a statement saying, “Jay Townsend has offered, and I have accepted, his resignation from his position with my campaign. [...] Now let’s return to talking about issues that really matter to families: job creation, spending restraint and economic development.” This is a shift from Hayworth’s initial defense of Townsend’s right to speak freely as a private citizen.
While it may be easy to dismiss negative attack ads as a pox on both houses during presidential elections, a new memo written by Kantar Media’s Elizabeth Wilder shows that Republicans are once again far out-spending Democrats on negative ads.
More than 63,000 general election ads were aired nationwide between April 10 and May 24, with just over half of them positive. But if you break down those numbers by party affiliation, the numbers tell another story. Democratic presidential advertisers, led by the Obama campaign itself, aired more than 25,000 positive ads compared to just 10,844 negative ones, good for a 70% positive ad rate. Meanwhile, Republican advertisers — the largest of which have been outside groups like Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS — have released just 7,584 positive ads compared to more than 20,000 negative ones. Take a look:
Perhaps Karl Rove isn’t on Kantar Media’s mailing list, because just this week, Rove’s SuperPAC American Crossroads released a negative ad attacking President Obama for his negative ads.
Florida voters are not the only ones who should be worried about whether their state has erroneously purged them from the list of eligible voters; the state of Texas also has a voter purge policy that erroneously targets eligible voters. The Houston Chronicle reports that, in a two year period, 300,000 eligible voters were warned that they may be removed from Texas voter rolls. Texas voter registration rates are already among the lowest in the nation, and one out of every 10 Texas voters’ registration is currently suspended. The almost 1.5 million voters who are suspended could be purged if they fail to vote in two consecutive general elections.
Texas has responded to state and federal laws that require voter rolls be reviewed to remove duplicates and ineligible voters by creating an error riddled process:
[A]cross Texas, such “removals” rely on outdated computer programs, faulty procedures and voter responses to generic form letters, often resulting in the wrong people being sent cancellation notices, including new homeowners, college students, Texans who work abroad and folks with common names, a Chronicle review of cancellations shows….
[E]ach year thousands of voters receive requests to verify voter information or be cancelled because they share the same name as a voter who died, got convicted of a crime or claimed to be a non-citizen to avoid jury duty. Those voters receive form letters generated by workers in county election offices that “therefore may be more subject to error,” said Rich Parsons, a spokesman for the Secretary of State in emailed responses to the newspaper. Voters who fail to respond to form letters – or never receive them – get dropped.
In the two years between November 2008 and November 2010, over 300,000 valid voters were warned that they may be removed from Texas voter rolls. Eligible voters were threatened with removal most often because they failed to respond to generic form letters or because they were mistaken for someone else, which is even more worrisome given that there is a high incidence of voters sharing a name in Texas, particularly among Hispanics. Across Texas, 21% of voters who received purge letters later proved that they were eligible to vote.
Tomorrow, Californians will vote on a ballot measure that would raise the state’s cigarette tax by one dollar a pack.
There has been a contentious fight over the measure, known as Proposition 29 or the California Cancer Research Act. On one side, big tobacco has framed the proposal as another high tax to fuel a useless bureaucracy, while anti-smoking advocates point out its myriad health and revenue benefits that would help with California’s constant budget woes.
Here are the top eight facts you should know before tomorrow’s vote:
1. California has one of the lowest taxes on cigarettes in the country,ranking 33rd (PDF) in the nation with an 87 cent tax per pack. The bill would raise that by one dollar to $1.87 per pack.
2. California’s tobacco tax would still be 16th in the nation. Should the proposition pass tomorrow, California would still rank relatively low on tobacco taxes. This is particularly odd for a state with one of the lowest rates of smoking in the country.
3. Big money is pouring in from big tobacco. Tobacco companies have apparently spent almost $50 million to fight the bill. Around $30 million of that came from just Philip Morris (Marlboro) and RJ Reynolds (Camel).
4. The state legislature has voted down a tobacco tax more than 30 times in 30 years. Legislators often rely on big tobacco for political funding, which may explain why they have not supported a cigarette tax in the last 30 years. In 2006, California voters also shot down a similar tobacco tax after big tobacco shelled out $67 million to run a campaign against the tax.
5. The proposition would raise $810 million in much-needed tax revenue for a state with serious budget shortfalls. The California Legislative Analyst’s offiice highlights the staggering amount of revenue the bill would bring in: “We estimate that the increase in cigarette excise taxes required by this measure would raise about $615 million in 2012‑13 (partial-year effect) andabout $810 million in 2013‑14 (the first full-year impact).”
6. Health groups support Proposition 29,including the “American Cancer Society, which contributed $8.4 million, the Lance Armstrong Foundation, which gave $1.5 million, the American Heart Association, which gave $550,149, Michael Bloomberg, who contributed $500,000 and the American Lung Association, which gave $415,986.
7. Advocates’ money is only a quarter of Big Tobacco’s. The big money from these supporters is only equal to about a quarter of what big tobacco companies have spent to influence the election. That money may not be enough, especially since big tobacco could still spend more.
8. Big tobacco is hiding its influence. The two big cigarette producers have made ads that are supposed to “educate” the public about the measure, with their names hidden at the bottom of the page. Here is one from Phillip Morris and here is one from RJ Reynolds. They also produced this scary ad that shows a “doctor” explaining the harm of the measure, but ignoring the fact that she is being paid by the people who make cancer-causing tobacco products:
Tomorrow’s vote is likely to be a toss up, despite the fact that cigarette taxes have proven an extremely effective way to encourage people to quit smoking. While originally the proposal had 62 percent support, with Big Tobacco increasingly pushing its agenda, that number is now down to just 50 percent.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has been vigorously campaigning against the military spending sequester, $600 billion in cuts triggered after Congress failed to agree on a debt reduction plan. The New York Times reported that Graham — on a tour against the sequester in his home state — is even willing to defy a pledge against tax hikes organized by anti-tax advocate and conservative power-broker Grover Norquist. The Times reported:
Mr. Graham said the sentiment for raising revenues by closing tax loopholes or imposing higher fees on items like federal oil leases is expanding in his party.
Asked about the “no new taxes” pledge almost all Republicans have signed, he shrugged: “I’ve crossed the Rubicon on that.”
But recently, the position Graham espoused on his South Carolina tour gained traction among other Republicans keen on preserving high defense spending. Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA), the House Armed Services chair who forcefully opposes any military cuts, said this winter he would support tax hikes to avoid sequestration.
Democrats have been pushing the tack for a while. In March, Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) pointed out that a “vote to extend the Bush tax cuts in their entirety would, in essence, be the vote to lock in sequestration” by cutting down on revenue to offset government debt. The Times report today pointed out that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is unlikely to allow sequestration to be averted without a debt reduction package that includes increased government revenue. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) was more blunt speaking to the Times, noting that the Republicans that supported last August’s Budget Control Act — 28 in the Senate and 174 in the House — were given the choice of automatically-triggered military spending cuts or tax increases. Van Hollen said:
The consistent pattern here is they have chosen to defend special interest tax breaks over defense spending. They made that choice.