In the USA...
Chris Matthews: GOP using ‘Cold War CIA tactics’ to bring down U.S. government
By Eric W. Dolan
Tuesday, February 19, 2013 19:17 EST
MSNBC host Chris Matthews tore into the Republican Party on his show Tuesday night, comparing their anti-government attitude to CIA-led coups during the Cold War.
“If they didn’t like a government somewhere — Guatemala, Iran, the Dominican Republic, Chile — they just brought it down,” he said. “Guess what, Republicans are now using the same tactic here at home. If they don’t like who we’ve elected president, they find some way to undermine the government, discredit its leaders, whatever it takes to destroy it.”
“We are using in this country the same old Cold War CIA tactics to destabilize our own country,” Matthews continued. “Look at the impact of the constant threats to shut down the government on public confidence. It’s all in the ratings. It’s making people forever nervous about the basic ability of America to even have a running government. Is that patriotic? I don’t think so.”
The liberal MSNBC host alleged that while President Barack Obama was attempting to keep the government running, Republicans were hoping to gain political points by refusing to compromise and crash the government.
Maddow: Regular Americans routinely ask tougher questions than whiny Beltway media
By David Ferguson
Wednesday, February 20, 2013 10:05 EST
On Tuesday night’s edition of “The Rachel Maddow Show,” host Rachel Maddow examined the gap between what average Americans are concerned about and what the Beltway press corps is concerned about, and how these concerns are reflected in the kinds of questions they ask when given access to politicians.
Parents magazine hosted an online town hall meeting with Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday, asking Biden questions submitted by readers through the magazine’s Facebook page. Maddow played a video clip of some of the questions.
“Does it make sense to provide armed guards for our schools like those that are provided for government buildings?” asked one reader. “Do you believe that banning certain weapons and high capacity magazines will mean that law-abiding citizens will then become more of a target to criminals?” asked another, followed by, “Should parents who don’t have guns in their homes demand to know which of their children’s friends are gun owners?”
In the video, Biden seemed surprised that these were the kinds of questions readers were asking. Maddow echoed his surprise, saying that usually articles in Parents have titles like “Is home birth for you?” and “Is ‘Clean your plate’ a recipe for obesity?”
But most people, she said, are going to save up their most important questions for a sitting vice president rather than asking him, “Should I clean my plate?”
“People are going to ask him hard questions,” Maddow said. “Even in that non-journalism-based, Facebook-moderated forum.”
But on the other end of the spectrum, she continued, this past weekend, President Barack Obama spend some time in Florida and went golfing with some friends, including pro golfing legend Tiger Woods.
However, “The White House press corps is very angry about this weekend,” she noted, because they weren’t allowed to watch the game. The pool reporters who generally track the president’s every move were kept away from the golf game, while one single reporter, a writer from Golf Digest, was allowed to observe.
Reporters were furious. ABC’s Ann Compton called it “a disgrace.” Ed Henry of Fox News said that a mood of “extreme frustration” gripped the press corps. Politico accused the president of being “strangely fearful” of them.
Maddow went on to say that the president and vice president have both gone out of their way to make themselves available to questions from ordinary citizens, who have asked in town hall meetings about the Democratic Party’s stance on Internet freedom, about tax deductions for homeowners and how to prevent abuse of software patents.
Those substantive questions about real policy issues came from people at a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” session with President Obama and from questions submitted to the president via Twitter, not from paid journalists who are charged with covering the White House.
“The professional press corps plays an important role,” said Maddow, “no matter how you feel about the Beltway media.”
But, she said, there is something important there, which you see in the gaps between the kinds of questions asked by Beltway media types and the kinds of questions ordinary people ask of people in power when they get the chance, which seem to come, in Maddow’s words, “from totally different universes.”
Politico led the pack of angry press corps dissenters in the wake of the golf trip to Florida, but media critic Greg Mitchell pointed out that when Politico‘s Mike Allen has had access to President George W. Bush during the 2008 election, he asked questions like, “All right. Mr. President, who does the better impression, Will Ferrell of you, or Dana Carvey of your father?” and “Now, Mr. President, you and the First Lady appeared on American Idol’s charity show, ‘Idol Gives Back.’ And I wonder who do you think is going to win? Syesha, David Cook, or David Archuleta?”
Former Powell chief of staff ‘damn sure the Bush administration cooked the books’ on Iraq
By Stephen C. Webster
Tuesday, February 19, 2013 12:40 EST
Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, said Monday on MSNBC that he’s “damn sure the Bush administration cooked the books” when it came to pushing for the invasion of Iraq.
Wilkerson was speaking to host Ed Schultz about the Republican filibuster of Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel, but transitioned into a plug for MSNBC’s new documentary “Hubris: Selling the Iraq War,” which aired Monday night.
The documentary featured never-before-seen memos by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, composed in November, 2001, clearly showing he and aides workshopping ideas for selling the invasion of Iraq. “US discovers Saddam connection to Sept. 11 attack or to anthrax attacks?” one possibility reads. “Dispute over WMD inspections? Start now thinking about inspection demands.”
Another memo instructed administration officials to, “Focus on WMD,” then worked down the list going from “building momentum for regime change” to “Surprise, speed, shock and risk,” and ending with emphasizing the importance of “who would rule afterwards,” without a single mention of efforts to win the peace following the invasion.
In the film Wilkerson recalls how Powell, who gave a key speech to the United Nations presenting fabricated evidence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, seemed to acknowledge there were no weapons in the country. “He said, ‘I wonder what will happen when we put 500,000 troops into Iraq and comb the country from one end to the other and find nothing,’” Wilkerson explained.
“Do you believe the Bush administration cooked the books to sell the war in Iraq?” Schultz asked him.
“I didn’t know it at the time, and I fault myself for that,” he said. “I’ll go to my grave with that mass failing on my part. But yes, in retrospect, having done all the research and work that my students have done, plus myself, I’m damn sure that the Bush administration cooked the books.”
The Christian Science Monitor -
Unanimous juries for criminal convictions? Supreme Court declines case.
By Warren Richey, Staff writer / February 19, 2013 at 4:08 pm EST
The US Supreme Court declined on Tuesday to take up a case examining whether the Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial requires that juries in criminal cases reach their verdicts unanimously.
Two states, Louisiana and Oregon, permit convictions on less than unanimous jury verdicts. In both states a defendant can be convicted by an 11-to-1 or 10-to-2 vote.
All other states and the federal government require that jurors reach a verdict unanimously.
Lawyers urging the high court to take up their case alleged that the jury process in Louisiana is a vestige of a Jim Crow-era policy that sought to undermine African-American participation in the criminal justice system.
The petitioning lawyers also charged that the system undercuts the reliability of jury verdicts. They note that Louisiana’s Jefferson Parish, where their case was tried, has the fourth highest rate of wrongful convictions in the country. Neighboring Orleans Parish has the highest rate.
The root cause of these failures is Louisiana’s embrace of non-unanimous verdicts – “a practice that stultifies the time-honored method of ensuring careful review of the prosecution’s case in the jury room,” Stanford Law Professor Jeffrey Fisher wrote in his brief urging the court to confront the issue.
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Officials in Louisiana deny that their non-unanimous jury system perpetuates racist policies or shoddy justice.
“Petitioner asks this court to reverse a matter settled by this Court forty years ago and a settled matter of state law for over 100 years,” assistant district attorney for Jefferson Parish, Terry Boudreaux, wrote in his brief to the court.
The issue arose in the case of Corey Miller, a New Orleans rapper, who was convicted of second-degree murder in the 2002 shooting death of 16-year-old Steve Thomas at a nightclub. The crime scene was crowded and confused, with conflicting testimony about who the shooter was or might have been. Prosecutors charged Mr. Miller, put him on trial for second-degree murder, and the jury voted 10 to 2 to convict.
Miller was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The US Supreme Court ruled in 1972 that the Constitution does not bar states from adopting less-than-unanimous jury verdicts. The nine justices split 4 to 4 on the issue. Justice Lewis Powell broke the tie, siding with the justices supporting non-unanimous juries at the state level.
At that time only Louisiana and Oregon embraced the idea, and they remain today – 40 years later – the only two states with such a system.
Fisher urged the justices to reconsider the 1972 decision and reverse it.
Mr. Boudreaux, the assistant district attorney, said in his own brief that the Supreme Court has been asked repeatedly to take up the same issue and has repeatedly refused. He said the court declined twice in 2008, once in 2009, and twice in 2011.
“The Sixth Amendment provides for a right to a trial by jury. The Tenth Amendment reserved to the States the authority to define that right. Louisiana has done so in a way which has been recognized by this Court as respecting due process and equal protection. This Court’s precedents refute petitioner’s claim. It should be denied,” Boudreaux wrote.
Miller’s lawyers sought to link Louisiana’s non-unanimous jury law to the state’s past history of racist policies by citing comments made at a state constitutional convention in 1898. The convention was designed to “establish the supremacy of the white race,” Fisher wrote.
Prosecutors dispute that Louisiana’s non-unanimous jury law is aimed at suppressing the rights of blacks. They said the constitutional convention in 1898 was related to voting rights, not juries at criminal trials.
“The comments should not be taken out of context and forcibly grafted onto the issue herein,” Boudreaux wrote.
Fisher countered: “The state contends that this abhorrent purpose animated only the grandfather clause and literacy test that came out of the convention. But the State offers no reason why the nonunanimity rule does not share the same taint.”
“Public discourse of the [late 1800s] era viewed black votes in jury rooms with the same kind of derision as black votes at the ballot box,” Fisher wrote in his brief. He cited an 1873 letter to a newspaper complaining: “If a Negro be on trial for any crime, [a black juror] becomes at once his earnest champion, and a hung jury is the usual result.”
Fisher said the racial effects of the jury rule continue to be felt in Louisiana. Prosecutors in Jefferson Parish seek to remove African Americans from a prospective jury panel more than three times the rate that whites are challenged, he said.
As a result, 80 percent of guilty verdicts in Jefferson Parish can be handed down with no African American votes in favor of conviction, Fisher said.
The case was Miller v. Louisiana (12-162).
The Sequester Cuts are the Latest Crime in the Republican War on America
Feb. 19th, 2013
In criminal law, intent is when a person proposes and anticipates certain consequences they foresee will happen if their series of acts or omissions continue, and desire it to happen, and generally informs a bad human being, or a criminal. Most Americans would like to believe their politicians are not criminals, or would not intentionally commit acts they know harm the people or government, and yet Republicans have made it clear for the past two years they have every intention of damaging the economy and the people they are elected to serve. As the dreaded sequester cuts and the certain damage to the economy, jobs, and most Americans loom large, Republicans have revealed that the harm their sequester cuts were intended to cause is part of their plan that defines them as criminals, enemies of the state and the American people.
Despite the devastation the Republican cuts will wreak on the economy and the people, another Republican joined leading Congressional Republicans in categorically stating the GOP intends on allowing the cuts to occur and are reveling in the prospects of another recession and increased poverty. Republican Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) said, “Let me be very clear, these spending cuts are going to go through on March 1st ….The Republican Party is not in any way going to trade spending cuts for a tax increase. When you take a look at the total dollars there are better ways to do this, but the cuts are going to occur.” Barrasso echoed Ayn Rand devotee and failed vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan who said, “House Republicans twice passed legislation replacing the sequester with smarter cuts,” that include denying 600,000 poor children food stamps and Medicaid coverage, end food assistance for 1.8 million adults including Meals on Wheels, and healthcare for disabled Americans. In Republican parlance, smarter means more damage to Americans; particularly those Ryan considers “takers” that his running mate Willard Romney enumerated at 47% of the population who want “free stuff.”
Thus far, Republicans have not offered any proposals to offset the sequester cuts, and have rejected two different proposals from Democrats that achieve greater deficit reduction, create jobs, and contain revenue that Republicans reject on principle, and their message to the President, and the people, is that they have no intention of stopping the sequester damage. The GOP’s backdoor austerity program has been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt to impede growth, destroy a million jobs, and send the economy into a recession, and it is their sole intention to see it come to pass. It is tempting to cite aversion to revenue that is their raison d’être in government, and it plays a role, but it is their aversion to the American people, especially those in need, that drives their Draconian intent to increase poverty and cull the takers from the population with slow-death starvation, untreated infirmities, and job-killing austerity.
Republicans claim their adherence to cutting programs affecting 98% of the population is due to out-of-control spending, but spending is already at historically low levels, and if the sequester goes into effect, food safety, education, law enforcement, safety net programs, and economic growth will be, and already has been, dramatically impacted which is the GOP’s intent. They have also laid the groundwork to blame their economic malfeasance on the President, and not their wont to create hardship on the population. In fact, Republicans’ only plan to avoid the sequester cuts is voiding the defense cuts and replacing them with more domestic cuts including those already in the sequester.
According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, allowing the automatic sequester cuts, regardless how they are apportioned, will subtract 0.6 % from gross domestic product growth and eliminate a minimum 750,000 jobs in 2013 alone. Conversely, eliminating the sequester, Budget Control Act cuts, in conjunction with the fiscal cliff’s tax increase on the extremely wealthy will boost real GDP by about 2¼% by the end of 2013. Still, Republicans are resolute to allow the sequester and impose deeper cuts the CBO did not include in the dire warning of defunding the economy in a deliberate, pre-meditated assault on America and the people. In fact, their abhorrence of new revenue to reduce the falling deficit, and stimulate the economy, informs more than just their wont to protect the richest 1% of income earners, it informs their hatred of the people.
America’s infrastructure is crumbling, people need jobs and a raise in the minimum wage, education funding is deplorable, and more Americans are living in poverty as a result of the GOP’s inaction. Republicans know spending creates jobs, boosts the economy, and yet their strategy is allowing sequester cuts to decimate the economy and the people instead of even considering new revenue. They are culling the population with cuts that affect Ryan’s “takers” and Romney’s 47%, and when they have starved children, seniors, Veterans, and killed off disabled Americans, they will replace them with the middle class their policies are decimating to protect the rich.
Intentionally taking the life out of the economy and the people is not to prevent President Obama from winning a second term, it is solely to create economic distress and it is not just because they abhor revenue; they abhor America. Their refusal to invest in jobs, the decrepit infrastructure, or lift a finger to continue economic recovery puts them in league with America’s enemies because their actions are intentional, they know the consequence, and desire it to happen. With the damage Republicans intend imposing on the economy with job-killing sequester cuts, and the severe austerity calculated to decimate the American people, Republicans are not saying “so be it,” they are saying “bring it on.”
John Boehner Calls Eliminating Food for 1.7 Million Americans ‘Common Sense Cuts’
By: Jason Easley
Feb. 19th, 2013
John Boehner won’t tell you this, but the “common sense cuts” he referred to that would avoid the sequester, will eliminate food for 1.7 million Americans.
In a statement responding to President Obama’s call for a balanced approach to avoiding the sequester, Speaker Boehner said, “Today the president advanced an argument Republicans have been making for a year: his sequester is the wrong way to cut spending. That’s why the House has twice passed legislation to replace it with common sense cuts and reforms that won’t threaten public safety, national security, or our economy. But once again, the president offered no credible plan that can pass Congress – only more calls for higher taxes. Just last month, the president got his higher taxes on the wealthy, and he’s already back for more. The American people understand that the revenue debate is now closed. We should close loopholes and carve-outs in the tax code, but that revenue should be used to lower rates across the board. Tax reform is a once-in-a generation opportunity to boost job creation in America. It should not be squandered to enable more Washington spending. Spending is the problem, spending must be the focus.”
While it is technically true that the twice passed cuts that won’t jeopardize public safety or national security, Boehner didn’t mention what his cuts really do.
The cuts that the House has passed twice would end funding for the Meals on Wheels program. Meals on Wheels serves up to 1.7 million seniors with food security issues. According to Meals on Wheels, “1 in 7 Seniors is threatened by hunger. 8.3 million Seniors faced the threat of hunger in 2010. This reflects a 78% increase since 2001 – and a 34% increase since the start of the recession in 2007. The threat of hunger for seniors increased in 44 states since 2007.”
John Boehner isn’t the only member of House leadership to support cutting food for seniors. On December 20, 2012, Majority Leader Eric Cantor called them, “common sense spending reforms.” On Sunday, Paul Ryan called ending funding for food assistance and also throwing 600,000 children off food stamps and Medicaid, “smarter cuts.”
The fact that Boehner, Cantor, and Ryan all agree that these spending cuts are common sense demonstrates that this is the stated policy of the House Republican caucus. The House leadership, much like history’s most infamous dictators, believes that denying food and medical care to children and senior citizens is good policy.
This is what President Obama has to deal with as his opposition. There can be no middle ground for Obama when Republicans are advocating for starving kids and seniors.
There is nothing common sense about cutting aid to vulnerable people during a time of economic hardship, but to Boehner, Cantor, and Ryan, children and seniors are “takers.”
Speaker Boehner doesn’t want to tell you the truth, but it is time for you to tell him something.
Boehner has been quite active on twitter lately, so send him the message @SpeakerBoehner that there is nothing “common sense” about taking food and medical care away from seniors and children so that the wealthy can avoid paying a tiny bit more in taxes.
Speaker Boehner and his fellow House Republicans need to understand that the American people know what they are up to, and they aren’t going to get away with it.
February 19, 2013
With Cutbacks Days Away, Obama Tries to Pressure G.O.P.
By JACKIE CALMES
WASHINGTON — Days away from another fiscal crisis and with Congress on vacation, President Obama began marshaling the powers of the presidency on Tuesday to try to shame Republicans into a compromise that could avoid further self-inflicted job losses and damage to the fragile recovery. But so far, Republicans were declining to engage.
To turn up the pressure on the absent lawmakers, Mr. Obama warned in calamitous terms of the costs to military readiness, domestic investments and vital services if a “meat-cleaver” approach of indiscriminate, across-the-board spending cuts takes effect on March 1. Surrounding him in a White House auditorium were solemn, uniformed emergency responders, invited to illustrate the sort of critical services at risk.
The president plans to keep up the pressure through next week for an alternative deficit-reduction deal that includes both spending cuts and new revenues through closing tax loopholes. He will have daily events underscoring the potential ramifications of the automatic cuts, aides said, and next week will travel outside Washington to take his case to the public, as he did late last year in another fiscal fight on which he prevailed.
On Wednesday, Mr. Obama will be interviewed by television anchors from eight cities to emphasize the harm that the impending cuts could do locally.
In stern tones, Mr. Obama said that the automatic cuts, known in budget terms as a sequester, would “affect our responsibility to respond to threats in unstable parts of the world” and “add thousands of Americans to the unemployment rolls.”
He framed the debate in the way that he hopes will force Republicans into accepting some higher tax revenues, something they so far refuse to do.
“Republicans in Congress face a simple choice,” Mr. Obama said. “Are they willing to compromise to protect vital investments in education and health care and national security and all the jobs that depend on them, or would they rather put hundreds of thousands of jobs and our entire economy at risk just to protect a few special-interest tax loopholes that benefit only the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations?”
Mr. Obama once again finds himself in a budget showdown with the opposing party, and numerous polls show his position to be more popular than Republican calls for spending cuts only, including cuts in Medicare. Mr. Obama and senior aides hardly disguised their sense of political advantage.
Still, the president’s leverage might in fact be limited, since by all appearances he seems to want a deal far more than Republicans do. As the leader of the nation, Mr. Obama is eager to see an end to the repeated evidence of Washington dysfunction, or what he referred to again on Tuesday as the cycle of “manufactured crisis.” And with his legacy ultimately at stake, he needs to lift the fiscal uncertainty that since 2011 has held down economic growth.
Despite the risks of an impasse for Republicans, those who control the House have all but forfeited this battle to Mr. Obama and seem poised to let the automatic cuts take effect. Many Republicans, particularly newer members elected with Tea Party support, have pushed party leaders to accept the sequester and lock in the spending cuts rather than compromise. The leaders seem to have decided to wage battle later this spring in the larger fight over the annual federal budget.
Contributing to Republican calculations is the fact that at least in the short term, an impasse over the sequester is not as potentially catastrophic as the threats that loomed in past partisan showdowns, like a full shutdown of government or the nation’s first-ever default on its global debt obligations.
The potential impact is potentially hazardous nonetheless, both economically and politically. As Mr. Obama noted, the prospect of the sequester has already affected military deployments and hiring by military contractors, and threatens layoffs of teachers, air traffic controllers and researchers, among others.
Hours after the president’s remarks, economic forecasters at Macroeconomic Advisers, based in St. Louis, projected that sequestration would reduce the firm’s forecast of growth this year by nearly a quarter, 0.6 percent, and cost roughly 700,000 civilian and military jobs through 2014, with heightened unemployment lingering for several years.
“By far the preferable policy,” the analysis said, “is a credible long-term plan to shrink the deficit more slowly through some combination of revenue increases within broad tax reform” as well as “more carefully considered cuts” in spending programs, including Medicare and Medicaid. That prescription for both long-term spending reductions and revenue increases, as an alternative to immediate deep spending cuts that inhibit job growth, generally tracks Mr. Obama’s approach.
He has proposed $1.5 trillion in spending cuts over 10 years and revenue increases that would build on the roughly $2.5 trillion over the decade that he and Congress have agreed to in the past two years.
The total, $4 trillion, is the minimum reduction that many economists say is necessary to stabilize the growth of the nation’s debt at a time when the population is aging and health care costs are rising, driving projected costs to entitlement programs to unsustainable levels.
That approach mixing spending cuts and increased revenues got another endorsement on Tuesday when the chairmen of Mr. Obama’s 2010 debt-reduction commission — former Senator Alan K. Simpson, a Republican, and Erskine B. Bowles, a Democrat and former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton — released a revised fiscal plan that would reduce annual deficits by $2.4 trillion in a decade through spending cuts, including in Medicare and Social Security benefits, and an overhaul of the tax system.
But Republicans say they will not consider additional tax increases since Mr. Obama in January won more than $600 billion over 10 years in higher revenues from the wealthiest taxpayers. “The revenue debate is now closed,” SpeakerJohn A. Boehnersaid in a statement reacting to the president’s remarks.
February 19, 2013
Justices Take Case on Overall Limit to Political Donations
By ADAM LIPTAK
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to hear a challenge to federal campaign contribution limits, setting the stage for what may turn out to be the most important federal campaign finance case since the court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United, which struck down limits on independent campaign spending by corporations and unions.
The latest case is an attack on the other main pillar of federal campaign finance regulation: limits on contributions made directly to political candidates and some political committees.
“In Citizens United, the court resisted tinkering with the rules for contribution limits,” said Richard L. Hasen, an expert on election law at the University of California, Irvine. “This could be the start of chipping away at contribution limits.”
The central question is in one way modest and in another ambitious. It challenges only aggregate limits — overall caps on contributions to several candidates or committees — and does not directly attack the more familiar basic limits on contributions to individual candidates or committees. Should the court agree that those overall limits are unconstitutional, however, its decision could represent a fundamental reassessment of a basic distinction established in Buckley v. Valeo in 1976, which said contributions may be regulated more strictly than expenditures because of their potential for corruption.
The case was brought by Shaun McCutcheon, an Alabama man, and the Republican National Committee. Mr. McCutcheon said he was prepared to abide by contribution limits to individual candidates and groups, which are currently $2,500 per election to federal candidates, $30,800 per year to national party committees, $10,000 per year to state party committees and $5,000 per year to other political committees. But he said he objected to separate overall two-year limits, currently $46,200 for contributions to candidates and $70,800 for contributions to groups, arguing that they were unjustified and too low.
He said he had made contributions to 16 federal candidates in recent elections and had wanted to give money to 12 more. He said he had also wanted to give $25,000 to each of three political committees established by the Republican Party. Each set of contributions would have put him over the overall limits.
In September, a special three-judge federal court in Washington upheld the overall limits, saying they were justified by the need to prevent the circumvention of the basic limits.
“Although we acknowledge the constitutional line between political speech and political contributions grows increasingly difficult to discern,” Judge Janice Rogers Brown wrote for the court, “we decline plaintiffs’ invitation to anticipate the Supreme Court’s agenda.”
In June, in a brief, unsigned 5-to-4 decision, the Supreme Court affirmed the Citizens United ruling, summarily reversing a decision of the Montana Supreme Court that had upheld a state law limiting independent political spending by corporations.
“The question presented in this case is whether the holding of Citizens United applies to the Montana state law,” the opinion said. “There can be no serious doubt that it does.” Montana’s arguments, the opinion continued, “either were already rejected in Citizens United, or fail to meaningfully distinguish that case.”
In 2006, in Randall v. Sorell, the Supreme Court struck down Vermont’s contribution limits, the lowest in the nation, as unconstitutional. Individuals and political parties were not allowed to contribute more than $400 to a candidate for statewide office over a two-year election cycle, including primaries. In a brief concurrence, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said there was no reason to address the continuing validity of Buckley v. Valeo in that case, suggesting that a later case might present the question directly.
The latest case, McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, No. 12-536, may be that case.
The court also issued a pair of Fourth Amendment decisions on Tuesday.
In one of them, the court ruled, 6 to 3, that the police may not stop and detain people without probable cause in connection with a search warrant once they had left the premises being searched.
The case, Bailey v. United States, No. 11-770, concerned Chunon Bailey, a New York man who left an apartment in 2005 as it was about to be searched. The police had a warrant to look for a gun, which they ultimately found. They also followed Mr. Bailey’s car for about a mile before stopping, handcuffing and searching him.
Mr. Bailey was later convicted of gun and drug charges. He asked lower courts to suppress evidence from the stop — statements he made and a key linking him to the apartment — but they refused, relying on Michigan v. Summers, a 1981 Supreme Court decision allowing the detention of people in the immediate vicinity of the place to be searched.
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the majority, said none of the interests justifying the detention of people at the scene had allowed Mr. Bailey to be detained. People far from the scene cannot endanger officers conducting the search or disrupt it, he said. Nor could the interest in “preventing flight” be stretched, he wrote, to “justify, for instance, detaining a suspect who is 10 miles away, ready to board a plane.”
Justice Kennedy added that a detention in public gave rise to a different sort of indignity than one inside a home.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Antonin Scalia, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan joined the majority opinion.
In a second, unanimous ruling, the court decided the first of two cases concerning dog sniffs on its docket this term, Florida v. Harris, No. 11-817.
The case concerned a man, Clayton Harris, who was pulled over in 2006 near Bristol, Fla., for driving with an expired license plate. A police dog named Aldo alerted his human partner to contraband in Mr. Harris’s pickup truck.
Based on the alert, the officer searched the truck and found ingredients for making methamphetamine.
The Florida Supreme Court suppressed the evidence, saying that prosecutors had not adequately established the reliability of Aldo’s nose through comprehensive documentation of his performance in earlier searches. Justice Kagan said the dog’s substantial training and certification sufficed.
“A sniff is up to snuff when it meets that test,” she wrote.
The case was argued in October on the same day as Florida v. Jardines, No. 11-564, concerning dog sniffs outside a home, and there was reason to think the two cases would be decided together. But the justices apparently found the question in the second case harder.
February 19, 2013
It Takes a B.A. to Find a Job as a File Clerk
By CATHERINE RAMPELL
ATLANTA —The college degree is becoming the new high school diploma: the new minimum requirement, albeit an expensive one, for getting even the lowest-level job.
Consider the 45-person law firm of Busch, Slipakoff & Schuh here in Atlanta, a place that has seen tremendous growth in the college-educated population. Like other employers across the country, the firm hires only people with a bachelor’s degree, even for jobs that do not require college-level skills.
This prerequisite applies to everyone, including the receptionist, paralegals, administrative assistants and file clerks. Even the office “runner” — the in-house courier who, for $10 an hour, ferries documents back and forth between the courthouse and the office — went to a four-year school.
“College graduates are just more career-oriented,” said Adam Slipakoff, the firm’s managing partner. “Going to college means they are making a real commitment to their futures. They’re not just looking for a paycheck.”
Economists have referred to this phenomenon as “degree inflation,” and it has been steadily infiltrating America’s job market. Across industries and geographic areas, many other jobs that didn’t used to require a diploma — positions like dental hygienists, cargo agents, clerks and claims adjusters — are increasingly requiring one, according to Burning Glass, a company that analyzes job ads from more than 20,000 online sources, including major job boards and small- to midsize-employer sites.
This up-credentialing is pushing the less educated even further down the food chain, and it helps explain why the unemployment rate for workers with no more than a high school diploma is more than twice that for workers with a bachelor’s degree: 8.1 percent versus 3.7 percent.
Some jobs, like those in supply chain management and logistics, have become more technical, and so require more advanced skills today than they did in the past. But more broadly, because so many people are going to college now, those who do not graduate are often assumed to be unambitious or less capable.
Plus, it’s a buyer’s market for employers.
“When you get 800 résumés for every job ad, you need to weed them out somehow,” said Suzanne Manzagol, executive recruiter at Cardinal Recruiting Group, which does headhunting for administrative positions at Busch, Slipakoff & Schuh and other firms in the Atlanta area.
Of all the metropolitan areas in the United States, Atlanta has had one of the largest inflows of college graduates in the last five years, according to an analysis of census data by William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution. In 2012, 39 percent of job postings for secretaries and administrative assistants in the Atlanta metro area requested a bachelor’s degree, up from 28 percent in 2007, according to Burning Glass.
“When I started recruiting in ’06, you didn’t need a college degree, but there weren’t that many candidates,” Ms. Manzagol said.
Even if they are not exactly applying the knowledge they gained in their political science, finance and fashion marketing classes, the young graduates employed by Busch, Slipakoff & Schuh say they are grateful for even the rotest of rote office work they have been given.
“It sure beats washing cars,” said Landon Crider, 24, the firm’s soft-spoken runner.
He would know: he spent several years, while at Georgia State and in the months after graduation, scrubbing sedans at Enterprise Rent-a-Car. Before joining the law firm, he was turned down for a promotion to rental agent at Enterprise — a position that also required a bachelor’s degree — because the company said he didn’t have enough sales experience.
His college-educated colleagues had similarly limited opportunities, working at Ruby Tuesday or behind a retail counter while waiting for a better job to open up.
“I am over $100,000 in student loan debt right now,” said Megan Parker, who earns $37,000 as the firm’s receptionist. She graduated from the Art Institute of Atlanta in 2011 with a degree in fashion and retail management, and spent months waiting on “bridezillas” at a couture boutique, among other stores, while churning out office-job applications.
“I will probably never see the end of that bill, but I’m not really thinking about it right now,” she said. “You know, this is a really great place to work.”
The risk with hiring college graduates for jobs they are supremely overqualified for is, of course, that they will leave as soon as they find something better, particularly as the economy improves.
Mr. Slipakoff said his firm had little turnover, though, largely because of its rapid expansion. The company has grown to more than 30 lawyers from five in 2008, plus a support staff of about 15, and promotions have abounded.
“They expect you to grow, and they want you to grow,” said Ashley Atkinson, who graduated from Georgia Southern University in 2009 with a general studies degree. “You’re not stuck here under some glass ceiling.”
Within a year of being hired as a file clerk, around Halloween 2011, Ms. Atkinson was promoted twice to positions in marketing and office management. Mr. Crider, the runner, was given additional work last month, helping with copying and billing claims. He said he was taking the opportunity to learn more about the legal industry, since he plans to apply to law school next year.
The firm’s greatest success story is Laura Burnett, who in less than a year went from being a file clerk to being the firm’s paralegal for the litigation group. The partners were so impressed with her filing wizardry that they figured she could handle it.
“They gave me a raise, too,” said Ms. Burnett, a 2011 graduate of the University of West Georgia.
The typical paralegal position, which has traditionally offered a path to a well-paying job for less educated workers, requires no more than an associate degree, according to the Labor Department’s occupational handbook, but the job is still a step up from filing. Of the three daughters in her family, Ms. Burnett reckons that she has the best job. One sister, a fellow West Georgia graduate, is processing insurance claims; another, who dropped out of college, is one of the many degree-less young people who still cannot find work.
Besides the promotional pipelines it creates, setting a floor of college attainment also creates more office camaraderie, said Mr. Slipakoff, who handles most of the firm’s hiring and is especially partial to his fellow University of Florida graduates. There is a lot of trash-talking of each other’s college football teams, for example. And this year the office’s Christmas tree ornaments were a colorful menagerie of college mascots — Gators, Blue Devils, Yellow Jackets, Wolves, Eagles, Tigers, Panthers — in which just about every staffer’s school was represented.
“You know, if we had someone here with just a G.E.D. or something, I can see how they might feel slighted by the social atmosphere here,” he says. “There really is something sort of cohesive or binding about the fact that all of us went to college.”