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Please, We Need Your Support

By: Saturday October 25, 2014 10:45 am

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Firedoglake needs your support. FDL has bravely reported on, and supported, political causes, antiwar issues, immigration reform, Unions, environmental issues, KeystoneXL, fracking, Citizen United, Marijuana Legalization, LGBT issues, marriage equality, illegal surveillance, race issues, healthcare reforms, and whistleblowers. The increased security software, server services require your donation to keep FDL online. Please help us modernize the site and stay online

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It has been an honor to bring the newsmakers, authors and filmmakers to FDL each week so you can ask questions and to be heard. These are the people making the news, reporting the facts, and organizing protests, brought here to FDL to talk with you. We need your help, thank you.

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Buying the Vote: A History of Campaign Finance Reform – Book Salon Preview

By: Saturday October 25, 2014 10:10 am

Buying the Vote: A History of Campaign Finance Reform

Chat with Robert E. Mutch about his new book. Hosted by investigative reporter Greg Palast. Today at 5pm ET, 2pm PT.

Are corporations citizens? Is political inequality a necessary aspect of a democracy or something that must be stamped out? These are the questions that have been at the heart of the debate surrounding campaign finance reform for nearly half a century. But as Robert E. Mutch demonstrates in this fascinating book, these were not always controversial matters.

The tenets that corporations do not count as citizens, and that self-government functions best by reducing political inequality, were commonly heldup until the early years of the twentieth century, when Congress recognized the strength of these principles by prohibiting corporations from making campaign contributions, passing a disclosure law, and setting limits on campaign expenditures. But conservative opposition began to appear in the 1970s. Well represented on the Supreme Court, opponents of campaign finance reform won decisions granting First Amendment rights to corporations, and declaring the goal of reducing political inequality to be unconstitutional.

Buying the Vote analyzes the rise and decline of campaign finance reform by tracking the evolution of both the ways in which presidential campaigns have been funded since the late nineteenth century. Through close examinations of major Supreme Court decisions, Mutch shows how the Court has fashioned a new and profoundly inegalitarian definition of American democracy. Drawing on rarely studied archival materials on presidential campaign finance funds, Buying the Vote is an illuminating look at politics, money, and power in America.

Robert E. Mutch is an independent scholar who specializes in the history of campaign finance. (Oxford University Press)

Amtrak’s Suspicious Activity Reporting Guidelines & the White Privilege of Freedom of Travel

By: Saturday October 25, 2014 8:32 am

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) obtained a copy of guidelines for Amtrak customer service employees in Texas. The organization received it as a result of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, which it filed because individuals have been submitted reports indicating they were “wrongfully searched and arrested on Amtrak trains.” The company may also be using suspicious activity guidelines to target individuals in a civil asset forfeiture program.

Presumably, the guidelines are universally applied and utilized at various Amtrak train stations throughout the United States. The guidelines obtained are specifically for employees in Texas in the “southwest division.” But none of the guidelines are specific to Texas.

“Ticket Agents may come into contact with passengers and travelers whose conduct is questionable. Some individuals can have characteristics that may or may not be indicative of criminal activity, such as illegal drug trafficking,” the guidelines state [PDF]. “When taken alone certain characteristics are not illegal per se, however, one or more may form the basis for suspicious criminal activity.”

First off, the guidelines are contradictory. “Taken alone certain characteristics are not illegal per se.” Okay, agree. But, “one or…” Wait, but the guidelines say “alone certain characteristics are not illegal”?

Does an employee need to have witnessed more than one “characteristic” to report “suspicious activity” to the Amtrak Police and Security Department? (Of course, who wants to be the employee that took a chance and did not report the behavior?)

The list of “characteristics” to watch for include:

• Evasive path through train station

• Carrying little or no luggage

• Last minute reservation

• Traveling by an unusual itinerary (multi-changes in reservations)

• Carrying an unusually large amount of currency

• Purchase of tickets in cash

• Purchase tickets immediately prior to boarding

• Unusual nervousness of traveler

• Unusual calmness or straight ahead stare

• Looking around while making telephone call(s)

• Position among passengers disembarking (ahead of, or lagging behind passengers)

If a passenger is looking around while making telephone call(s) and happen to be unusually nervous, perhaps, that passenger is waiting for someone who is expected to join them on the trip. He or she is late, and the passenger is worried because the train is leaving the station soon.

If a passenger purchases tickets with cash immediately prior to boarding, it is likely the person has a busy work life like many Americans and did not get around to purchasing their ticket beforehand. They are using cash because they happen to have cash on them.

If they make a last minute reservation, have little to no luggage and only pay in cash, it is possible the passenger is poor. Maybe, the passenger is even homeless and managed to screw up some cash and is now trying to get somewhere they have been trying to go for a long time. [cont'd.]

Come Saturday Morning: This and That

By: Saturday October 25, 2014 6:45 am

The Chicago Sun Times used to be owned in part by Bruce Rauner. Apparently, it still is, as it certainly seems to act that way.

Pull Up a Chair — and putting your feet up

By: Saturday October 25, 2014 4:00 am

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Late Late Night FDL: Ghost Hunt

By: Friday October 24, 2014 10:00 pm

Muppet LabsGhost Hunt. It is not just Muppet Labs that are looking for ghosts. We all are. The ghost of our democracy. The ghost of our Constitution and its protections. The ghost of an independent press. The ghosts of elected officials enacting the will of the people. The ghost of the rule of law.

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Late Night: The Roundup

By: Friday October 24, 2014 8:00 pm

- Marcy Wheeler: “America’s great terrorist mystery: When our allies and enemies engage in the same ‘evil’”

- It seems ISIL militants are using chemical weapons in their fight against the Kurds

- Demonstrators in Hong Kong will poll folks to see whether they should stay or move out and accept the government’s plan for talks

Setting Up The Students

By: Friday October 24, 2014 6:36 pm

The high cost of college tuition and the worsening penalties for student debt raise the question “Should you go to college?”. Various disciplines are experiencing declines in enrollment, even areas like law schools. Where are the good jobs and is the training worth the expense?

Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) are still portrayed an in-demand career choice despite reputable studies to the contrary (Falling Behind? Boom, Bust, and the Global Race for Scientific Talent by Michael Teitelbaum). A virtual congressional hearing brought together a knowledgeable group concerned about this job market. The four experts in this hearing have well respected academic credentials on this topic and had a consistent message that increasing the number of H-1B high skill guestworker visas will harm the STEM job market.

Over Easy: FDL Is Friendships

By: Friday October 24, 2014 5:05 pm

The primary mission and purpose of Firedoglake is political commentary and activism from a left-leaning “progressive” point of view. But Firedoglake is other things to many of us, and one of the most important is friendship and a sense of community, a shared experience despite our differing circumstances and backgrounds.

Please donate $10 or more(!) today, so Over Easy (with eggs!) will continue to be a morning place for news, commentary, and friendships old and new!

Marc Andreessen Calls Snowden Traitor, Doesn’t Want Democracy

By: Friday October 24, 2014 3:50 pm

Though Silicon Valley and the tech industry is generally known as being more liberal than other economic sectors it is worth noting that it too has its share of plutocrat reactionaries. Though venture capitalist Tom Perkins became the face of the faction with his comparison of Occupy Wall Street to Nazis, a more relevant example would be Mark Andreessen who not only stands out as opposing measures to rein in wealth equality but has trumpeted his support for domestic surveillance programs.

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