Ruth Conniff

The Supreme Court gets to decide if Republicans can cheat to win elections

The Republican Party and rightwing groups have worked for years to solidify their hold on power at every level of government by cheating young people, minorities, and other likely Democratic voters out of their right to have their votes count.

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Give Your Values This Holiday Season: Buy Mexican

Still shopping for holiday gifts? Here’s an idea: buy something from Mexico. How about a piece of gorgeous handmade embroidery? Filigreed gold earrings? Or a bottle of the trendiest spirit of the season, mezcal?  While you’re at it, you can give a helping hand to the victims of Mexico’s massive earthquakes, and a stiff pushback to the ugly, anti-Mexican rhetoric of Donald Trump.

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Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker Started a War Against Teachers - Now Education Could Decide a Key Battleground Election

Tony Evers, Wisconsin’s state superintendent of public instruction announced on Wednesday, August 23 that he plans to run for governor against Scott Walker. In his speech declaring his candidacy, he promised to invest in children, public schools, and the middle class, and declared that he will heal the political divide exploited by Scott Walker and Donald Trump.

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Why the Arguments for Privatizing Public Schools Fall Flat

This animated video by Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Mark Fiore looks at school privatization through the eyes of little Timmy, a kindergartener who likes his public school.

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FBI Raids of Charter School Operators Jump

There’s been a flood of local news stories in recent months about FBI raids on charter schools all over the country.

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Scathing Report Finds School Privatization Hurts Poor Kids

This article originally appeared at The Progressive, and is reprinted here with their permission. This report was made possible by a generous grant from the Voqal Fund.

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Threat of Benefit Cuts in Wisconsin Prompts Wave of Sudden Retirements

On Friday night, the eve of a massive rally in Madison, Wisconsin, against Governor Scott Walker's union-busting "budget repair bill," a few state employees gathered for a hasty retirement party at Jenna's, a downtown bar directly across from the Capitol building.

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The Bailout Is a Fraud That Could Bring Down Obama

Goldman Sachs reports better-than-expected profits this quarter. Wells Fargo cleared record profits last week. The President, understandably, points to signs of hope and encourages Americans to be optimistic about the economy. But when do we move from healthy confidence to a confidence game? The banks are reporting profits thanks to massive infusions of taxpayer bailout funds. It's simply silly to be lulled by cheery-sounding reports when the institutions are actually insolvent. At some point we have to take a clear-eyed look at the massive failure of our financial system. Ignoring it won't make it go away.

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Torturers in the White House: Why Is This Story Being Ignored?

The biggest news of the last week went virtually uncovered by the mainstream, print media. ABC News first reported last Wednesday that top Bush Administration officials, including Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, John Ashcroft, and George Tenet, Colin Powell, and Donald Rumsfeld met to discuss which particular torture techniques should be used against Al Qaeda suspects in U.S. custody.

The group signed off on specific techniques, including sleep deprivation, slapping, pushing, and waterboarding, and gave instruction "so detailed … some of the interrogation sessions were almost choreographed, down to the number of times CIA agents could use a specific tactic."

If John McCain is seriously considering Condoleezza Rice as a running mate, the former POW should keep in mind that Rice not only condoned torture, but chaired the National Security Council's "Principals Committee" meetings to plan the details of torture of prisoners in U.S. custody.

Then-Attorney General John Ashcroft was so troubled by the meetings, he was moved to object: "Why are we discussing this in the White House?" he asked, according to ABC. "History will not judge this kindly."

On Friday, ABC added this blockbuster: Bush himself was aware of the meetings. Unlike Ashcroft, he had no compunctions. There was nothing "startling" about the revelations that his top advisers were directing the waterboarding of individual prisoners, Bush told ABC's Martha Raddatz. "And yes, I'm aware our national security team met on this issue and I approved," Bush said.

Why is this not bigger news?

Remember when the nation was brought to a virtual standstill over Bill Clinton's affair with a White House intern?

We now have confirmation that the President of the United States gave the OK for his national security team to violate international law and plot the sordid details of torture. The Democrats in Congress should be raising the roof.

House Judiciary Committee Chair John Conyers, to his credit, has suggested subpoenaing the members of the Principals Committee, calling their actions "a stain on our democracy."

Conyers also threatened last week to subpoena John Yoo, the former Justice Department lawyer whose recently declassified 2003 torture memos attempted to give legal cover to practices such as waterboarding.

Such techniques, as long as their sole purpose wasn't sadism, were acceptable, Yoo wrote. Being a sadist was presumably necessary but not sufficient qualification for employment in the Bush White House.

In his new book The Terror Presidency, Yoo's colleague Jack Goldsmith writes about his evolution from friend and supporter of the officials who brought us to this pass to a conscientious objector to their illegal and morally corrupt practices.

Back when he worked for Rumsfeld at the Pentagon, Goldsmith wrote a memo warning that Bush Administration officials could be indicted by the International Criminal Court for their actions in the war on terror.

After he went to work for Justice, Goldsmith began standing up to the torture cabal at the White House -- to his enduring discomfort. In one incident, recounted in his book and in a September profile by Jeffrey Rosen of the New York Times Magazine, he knocked heads with Dick Cheney's advisor (now his chief of staff) David Addington. Goldsmith delivered the bad news that terror suspects were, in fact, covered by the Fourth Geneva Convention against torture of civilians: "'The president has already decided that terrorists do not receive Geneva Convention protections,'" Addington replied angrily, according to Goldsmith. 'You cannot question his decision.'"

Goldsmith also criticized the torture memos for their "extremely broad and unnecessary analysis of the President's Commander-in-Chief power" and for their extremely loose definition of torture as limited to causing a level of pain akin to organ failure.

Pointing out that the Administration was violating the War Crimes Act of 1996, the Geneva Conventions, and the Uniform Code of Military Justice, Goldmith withdrew Yoo's torture memos -- and promptly resigned his post.

Even after losing that flimsy legal cover, Bush and the other members of the Principals Committee appear unrepentant and undeterred.

Goldsmith, who now teaches law at Harvard, is no civil libertarian, but like John Ashcroft and John McCain, he has spoken out against executive lawlessness. No doubt he would have plenty to tell the House Judiciary Committee.

And perhaps the International Criminal Court as well.

Elizabeth Edwards Interview: "The Candidate Who's Best for Women in This Race is My Husband"

Eizabeth Edwards is one of those rare creatures in politics -- a real human being. As she campaigns for her husband, John Edwards, she is winning audiences with her warm, straight-shooting style. She keeps a frenetic schedule, even after the bad news about her breast cancer returning. In May, she spoke to reporters in Madison, Wisconsin, before delivering a speech to a bipartisan group of women in politics. Looking sharp and relaxed in a black pantsuit, she paused to comment wryly to a photographer crouched in front of her, "That is the worst possible angle for a woman, you know. You may take those pictures, but you may not run them."

She dispatched questions about her decision to continue campaigning. "I don't think people who have actually been through these situations are surprised that we would want to live our lives to the fullest, and not give up the things that are important to us," she said. She tied her own diagnosis to the issue of health care generally, which remains people's number-one concern on the campaign trail, she said. "It would be hard to be selfish, eating bon bons with my feet on an ottoman, clicking the remote," rather than trying to do something about the "pain that is out there."

The campaign, she said, "is about the thousands of women who face the same diagnosis I face, but don't have the same access to care. Giving up on campaigning, on trying to make a difference, would be like giving up on them."

Aside from questions about her health, the topic she was pressed to address most was Hillary Clinton. Edwards talks a lot about breaking barriers as part of a generation of female attorneys who had to prove that women could do as well as the guys in previously all-male law firms. So now the delicate job of explaining why women should vote against her fellow barrier-breaking female attorney falls to her. As an advocate for women's issues and women's equal rights, how can she justify seeking votes for her husband, instead of the first likely female nominee for President? "In my opinion, the candidate who's best for women in this race is my husband," she said, citing his universal health care plan, his pledge to end poverty (a predominantly female problem, she reminded reporters), and his determination to fight for equal pay.

In her speech to the group Wisconsin Women in Government, Edwards made an interesting comment that could be interpreted as a sidelong swipe at Hillary. Speaking of Woodrow Wilson's First Lady, Edith Wilson, who is sometimes called the United States' first woman President because she filled in for her husband after he had a stroke, she noted, "She was against women voting." It turned out, Edwards said, "what she wanted was not for women to have power, but for Edith Wilson to have power."

In her book, Saving Graces, Edwards writes frankly about her grief after the death of her teenaged son, Wade; her decision, later in life, to have more children; her battle with breast cancer; and the communities of friends, well-wishers, and even an online support group of fellow sufferers who have sustained her. The book is heartbreaking in parts, and also unexpectedly funny -- as when she talks about telling her young children, Jack and Emma Claire, about her cancer diagnosis:

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