A separate survey from IHS Markit released last week showed that the economic bloc's PMI had surged to a record high over November.
Volkswagen AG's (VLKAY) luxury brand, Audi is being investigated for irregularities related to emission levels of carbon dioxide in some automatic-transmission vehicles.
Toyota Motor Corporation (TM) has agreed to settle a U.S. truck lawsuit by paying roughly $3.4 billion.
Cirrus Logic, Skechers, Valeo SA ADR, H Lundbeck AS and Quanta Services highlighted as Zacks Bull and Bear of the Day
Cirrus Logic, Skechers, Valeo SA ADR, H Lundbeck AS and Quanta Services highlighted as Zacks Bull and Bear of the Day
Here are 12 facts I found most interesting (or funny!), and relevant to this U.S. election of 2016.
[This column was originally published by Truthdig.com] The highlight of the third and, thankfully, final presidential debate last Wednesday came roughly at the midway point, when Donald Trump refused to say that he would accept the results of November's election. Since then, Trump has doubled down on his position, declaring he would accept the outcome only if he wins and invoking the example of the contested presidential vote in 2000 to reinforce his right not to concede. His rationale--articulated with increasing vigor as his poll numbers have plummeted--is that the vote is "rigged" as a result of electoral irregularities. Like most of the loathsome rhetoric he's spewed since announcing his candidacy back in June 2015, Trump's pre-emptive refusal to recognize the election's outcome is an incendiary mix of personal pathology and magical thinking, racism and xenophobia, facts and legal distortion. In a column published in July, I discussed the Republican standard-bearer's personality, as analyzed by several leading mental-health experts who have followed his career closely. Their view is that Trump is a malignant narcissist--that he suffers from a well-defined psychological disorder marked by an exaggerated sense of self-importance and entitlement, an overinflated belief in the quality of his achievements and talent, a preoccupation with fantasies about success and power, and a lack of empathy for others. As a narcissist, Trump cannot countenance actual defeat or even the possibility of losing in an election that hasn't happened yet. His signature axiom is that he's a "winner." Hence, if he fails, it must be the fault of a rigged system--and the deceit and/or stupidity of those responsible for his undoing. The scapegoats in Trump's confabulated thinking include not only powerful forces such as the mainstream media and the Clinton campaign but also some of the nation's most vulnerable populations, particularly black and Hispanic voters. Such voters, he has charged--with allusions to inner-city neighborhoods in Philadelphia and elsewhere--will cast multiple ballots with fake or no identification documents. Illegal aliens, he's added, will beat a path en masse to polling booths around the country, while hordes of dead people who have not been purged from voting rolls somehow will manage to resurrect themselves and pull their levers or punch their chads for Hillary. In reality, of course, in-person voter-identification fraud virtually is nonexistent. A comprehensive 2014 study conducted by professor Justin Levitt of Loyola Law School Los Angeles found only 31 incidents of polling-place ID impersonation anywhere in the country since 2000. The total number of ballots cast nationwide, in general and primary elections during the 14-year period Levitt reviewed, exceeded 1 billion. The Bush administration reached similar findings regarding the incidence of in-person fraud in a five-year Justice Department probe completed in 2007. Much the same can be said for postmortem balloting. Dead men don't wear plaid, as comedian Steve Martin taught us in one of his funniest movies, and they don't vote, either. Nor do the living impersonate the dead in order to cast ballots, at least in any appreciable numbers. As Levitt concluded in another study, this one funded by the Brennan Center for Justice based in New York City, nearly all allegations of dead people voting have stemmed from mismatched death records and voter rolls, with ballots cast by living individuals whose names matched or were similar to the names of people who had passed away. Nonetheless, millions of Trump supporters have bought into their leader's lunacy. According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released last Friday, only half of Republicans are prepared to accept Clinton as their commander in chief if she is elected. Worse, nearly 70 percent of GOP respondents indicated that a Clinton victory would come about because of illegal voting or vote rigging. It would be a different situation if Trump had decided to take up the mantle of Bernie Sanders and educate the nation about the many ways our electoral process actually is rigged. But he hasn't--and he can't--because he's part of the very rigging he condemns. Although he's long fulminated in public about the stranglehold big-money donors have on other, less-wealthy candidates, Trump has been an active fundraiser in his own right. According to the Washington Post, through the end of September the Trump campaign, its affiliated committees and super PACs had amassed a war chest of $712 million--less than the $1.1 billion raised by and on behalf of Clinton but still a staggering sum. The reason the system is rigged, as Sanders told us time and again throughout the primaries, is that our campaign-finance laws have opened the floodgates to corruption. Fueled by growing economic inequality and a series of pro-corporate Supreme Court decisions, beginning with Buckley v. Valeo in 1976 and extending to Citizens United v. FEC in 2010 and McCutcheon v. FEC in 2014, money dominates our electoral process as never before, at both the state and national levels. The oligarchy wields undue influence--whether in the form of billionaire candidates like Trump or billionaire surrogates like Clinton. At the same time, with its 2013 ruling in Shelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court has gutted the Voting Rights Act, accelerating already-existing suppression techniques such as voter ID, racial gerrymandering and restrictions on early voting and same-day registration. Far from telling the truth about such tactics, Trump has been a fervent advocate for them. In an August rally in North Carolina, a state with arguably the most onerous record of suppression in the aftermath of the Shelby case, Trump told supporters that without voter ID, fraud would be rampant and people would head to the polls "15 times" for Clinton. Fortunately, Trump's threat not to concede electoral defeat is empty. Although the loser in American presidential elections typically concedes as soon as the results are clear, there is no legal requirement mandating formal capitulation. Nor is there any legal basis for demanding a national recount of the vote. As we were reminded in 2000, when Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore outpolled the Republican George W. Bush, the popular vote doesn't determine the outcome of presidential elections. Under Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution, the presidency is determined by the vote of the states' representatives to the Electoral College. The candidate receiving the highest number of electoral votes becomes the president, as tallied in a joint session of Congress in January. The Electoral Count Act of 1887, as subsequently amended over the decades, gives the states 35 days (known as the "safe-harbor" period) after the presidential election to certify their respective slates of electors to Congress. Any challenges to the selection of electors or to popular vote counts must be made at the state level--and resolved within the safe-harbor time frame for each state's electors to be recognized by Congress. What threw the 2000 presidential election into doubt was the razor-thin margin of the popular vote count in Florida, which then had 25 electoral votes. Given the overall closeness of the national race between Gore and Bush, the winner of Florida would carry the Electoral College and gain the presidency. After the election, Gore filed suit in Florida to contest its certification of the election in Bush's favor. The state's supreme court ordered a recount. But before the recount could be completed, the U.S. Supreme Court stepped in and halted the process, effectively giving Florida to the GOP in its notorious Bush v. Gore decision. As a result of the court's ruling, Bush won the Electoral College by a score of 271-266 (with one abstention). The only way Trump realistically could hope to mimic the litigation and delays of 2000 would be for him to challenge the results in a state in which the popular vote was uncertain and whose electoral votes would be decisive in the overall Electoral College totals. The chances of that happening, however, are slim to none--and growing dimmer with the release of each new opinion poll. Unless lighting strikes and the ground shakes, Trump's political career is drawing to an embarrassing close. Progressives should bid him a fond farewell, even as they gear up to face off against the Clinton administration and whatever new demagogue comes along to fill Trump's shoes on the right. -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
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Фондовые индексы Западной Европы завершили с незначительными изменениями торги в пятницу и завершили неделю ростом.
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Вряд ли кто-то слышал ранее имена Wheego и Valeo, но эти компании, возможно, заработают имя на рынке машин с автопилотом. Калифорнийские власти недавно, как сообщает ресурс The Wall Street Journal, предоставили каждой из них разрешение на тестирование одного автономного автомобиля на дорогах общего пользования. Трафик на 405 автостраде близ Лос-Анджелеса (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
IRELAND’S Atlantic coast is sheep-rearing and pilgrim country. The drive to Tuam, a modest town of 9,550 residents, reveals mostly lush fields, low hills, stone walls and mist. Yet this unlikely spot has a hi-tech industrial side. Off Tuam’s main road a bunch of warehouses contains some 400 software engineers, researchers and artificial-intelligence experts, drawn from 35 countries. Next door is a manufacturing plant employing 650 people churning out circuit boards, cameras and sensors for driverless cars. The set-up in Tuam is operated by Valeo, a French car-parts firm with a market value of €12 billion ($13.4 billion), which brought in €500m in sales last year from producing 100m such products globally. Tuam is “our biggest R&D centre for surround cameras, with huge production capacity”, says Jacques Aschenbroich, the firm’s CEO. Tuam has also become Valeo’s global mother plant, overseeing its sensor factories in Hungary, Mexico and China. What possessed the French firm to keep such operations in a spot so far from customers such as BMW, Range Rover and Google, away from big pools of labour, and a lengthy drive from Dublin? History is one answer: in...
The Citizens United ruling "opened the door" for unlimited election spending by corporations, but most of this spending has "ended up being funneled through the groups that have become known as super PACs". While critics predicted that the ruling would "bring about a new era of corporate influence in politics" allowing companies and businesspeople to "buy elections" to promote their financial interests, as of 2016, in fact large corporations still play a "negligible role" in presidential election spending. Instead large expenditures, usually through "Super PACS," have come from "a small group of billionaires", based largely on ideology. This has shifted power "away from the political parties and toward the ... donors themselves. In part, this explains the large number and variety of candidates fielded by the Republicans in 2016." The ability of individuals to spend unlimited sums was first affirmed by the Supreme Court, however, not in Citizens United, but in Buckley v. Valeo, decided in 1976. Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission has often been credited for the creation of "super PACs", political action committees which make no financial contributions to candidates or parties, and so can accept unlimited contributions from individuals, corporations and unions. Certainly, the holding in Citizens United helped affirm the legal basis for super PACs by deciding that, for purposes of establishing a "compelling government interest" of corruption sufficient to justify government limitations on political speech, "independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption". However, it took another decision, by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Speechnow.org v. Federal Election Commission, to actually authorize the creation of super PACs. While Citizens United held that corporations and unions could make independent expenditures, a separate provision of the Federal Election Campaign Act, at least as long interpreted by the Federal Election Commission, held that individuals could not contribute to a common fund without it becoming a PAC. PACs, in turn, were not allowed to accept corporate or union contributions of any size or to accept individual contributions in excess of $5,000. In Speechnow.org, the D.C. Circuit, sitting en banc, held 9–0 that in light of Citizens United, such restrictions on the sources and size of contributions could not apply to an organization that made only independent expenditures in support of or opposition to a candidate, but not contributions to a candidate's campaign. Citizens United and SpeechNOW left their imprint on the 2012 United States presidential election, in which single individuals contributed large sums to "super PACs" supporting particular candidates. Sheldon Adelson, the gambling entrepreneur, gave approximately fifteen million dollars to support Newt Gingrich. Foster Friess, a Wyoming financier, donated almost two million dollars to Rick Santorum’s super PAC. Karl Rove organized super PACs that spent over $300 million in support of Republicans during the 2012 elections. In addition to indirectly providing support for the creation of super PACs, Citizens United allowed incorporated 501(c)(4) public advocacy groups (such as the National Rifle Association, the Sierra Club, and the group Citizens United itself) and trade associations to make expenditures in political races. Such groups may not, under the tax code, have a primary purpose of engaging in electoral advocacy. These organizations must disclose their expenditures, but unlike super PACs they do not have to include the names of their donors in their FEC filings. A number of partisan organizations such as Karl Rove's influential conservative Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies and the liberal 21st Century Colorado have since registered as tax-exempt 501(c)(4) groups (defined as groups promoting "social welfare") and engaged in substantial political spending. This has led to claims of large secret donations, and questions about whether such groups should be required to disclose their donors. Historically, such non-profits have not been required to disclose their donors or names of members. See National Association for the Advancement of Colored People v. Alabama. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citizens_United_v._FEC
Lawrence Lessig pushed public funding and voucher programs at a discussion on campaign finance this week. (AP Photo/Jim Cole) By: Ashley Balcerzak Lawrence Lessig's plea to members of Congress wasn't exactly diplomatic: "End the humiliation that is your life, the embarrassment that is our representative democracy." The Harvard law professor was referring to the outsize role fundraising plays in lawmakers' schedules, and surveys showing that the most people believe the current system keeps them from being heard. And Lessig thinks politicians aren't talking about it enough. "As a Democrat who desperately wants to see Hillary Clinton elected, what I fear is that there's not enough of a recognition in this campaign about that frustration," Lessig said to a packed bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Caucus discussion Thursday on Capitol Hill. Lessig himself tried and failed to reach the position Clinton secured as Democratic nominee for president. He ran his short-lived campaign on a campaign finance overhaul plan, promising to step down as soon as the package passed. Two months later, Lessig dropped out; his poll numbers never rose high enough for him to be included on the Democratic debate stage. Two years earlier, he'd formed a super PAC called Mayday PAC that spent $7.6 million to support candidates that backed changing how campaigns are funded. It didn't work out well: Only one of the candidates won -- a House member who had a safe seat to begin with. Lessig continues to push his "plan to save democracy." He proposed a voucher system, where taxpayers would get a $50 tax refund and use it to donate to congressional candidates who agreed to opt in to the program: If they accepted the vouchers, the only other funds they could take would be individual contributions of $100 or less. Lessig also pushes for matching public funds for campaigns that forgo PAC money. "It would change the business model of fundraising," Lessig said. Where Lessig sees transformative possibilities, some conservative First Amendment advocates aren't so enthused. Imposing limits and restrictions on campaign financing denies people opportunities to exercise their democratic rights, said Joel Gora, Brooklyn Law School professor who worked on the Buckley v. Valeo Supreme Court case that struck down major campaign finance restrictions. "I think vouchers are a great idea, but without limiting the resources or amount of money of any group," Gora said. "If you want to have subsidies, we deregulation types like to say, 'Have floors without ceilings.'" Others worry about how far the government control would extend. "When the government is handing out a lot of money to campaigns, it will have an interest that the money isn't misused and that comes with a lot of risk over the long run," said David Keating, president of the conservative Center for Competitive Politics, a nonprofit that advocates for less donor disclosure and higher -- or no -- limits. "They might want to start controlling what the candidates are allowed to say, like maybe they'll say there are too many negative ads." One of the attendees, Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Penn.), wanted to hear Lessig's thoughts on his reform plan before he had to rush off to call donors (yes, he went there). Boyle said 85 percent of his spending went to TV advertising, so he wanted a bill to give free TV time for candidates that qualify. "The challenge that you face is the Supreme Court has made it incredibly difficult to regulate the demand side," Lessig said. "I'm not sure there is a constitutional power to do much of that." While the government can regulate the broadcast industry's use of airwaves in the public interest, it does not have that same authority over cable and the internet. "And let's face it, broadcast ads are going the way of the telegraph," Keating said. "More people are consuming their news and videos online, so if you mandated free broadcast time it will be totally irrelevant in the not-too-distant future." The caucus cofounder, Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.) plugged the constitutional amendment he's proposed to eliminate PACs and super PACs, leaving individuals and public financing as the only ways to support or oppose someone running for public office. McNerney's caucus co-chair, however, didn't seem optimistic about the chances of the reform proposals. "We have bitched and complained about this system for so long...but unless there's a scandal, nothing will happen," said Rep. Walter Jones, Jr. (R-N.C.). Lessig said the public couldn't wait for another Watergate to push for changes. "There's no crime here in what they're doing, and if what you need is crime to get change, I'm afraid you won't get change," Lessig said. -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
WASHINGTON ― The campaign finance reform organization Every Voice made its first endorsement in a presidential election on Friday, backing Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Every Voice, which used to be known as Public Campaign Action Fund, has endorsed candidates from both parties in congressional and state elections in the past, but never before has it inserted itself into a presidential race. David Donnelly, CEO of Every Voice, told The Huffington Post the group is endorsing Clinton because of her platform to reform campaign finance. Clinton’s reform platform includes support for legislation to create a public campaign financing system for congressional elections, disclosure legislation or, in the meantime, executive orders or actions to increase transparency of independent money, and appointing judges who support reform principles. She has also promised to propose a constitutional amendment overturning Supreme Court decisions deregulating campaign finance, including the 2010 Citizens United ruling. “If you look at all the different aspects of what’s wrong in our campaign finance system, there’s no one silver bullet policy that addresses all those different things,” Donnelly said. “You need a comprehensive approach to tackle the myriad of problems and she does that. “She does it by addressing increased participation through a small donor matching system,” Donnelly continued. “She does it through either through a constitutional amendment or appointing judges who will help to revisit the decisions in this area. She does it through more transparency and better administration of campaign finance laws. She really has covered the waterfront in terms of the breadth of her policies.” Republican nominee Donald Trump routinely bashes the role of donors and special interests in politics, but has so far offered no policies or solutions. Instead, the Republican Party platform calls for the repeal of many existing campaign money limits. Every Voice has in the past spent money directly to help elect candidates for the House and Senate. The reform group will work to get Clinton elected, Donnelly said, but he wouldn’t elaborate. Recent history is filled with presidents who have promised to reform campaign finance in some form or another and failed to deliver. President Jimmy Carter promised to fix the campaign finance landscape after the Supreme Court’s historic 1976 Buckley v. Valeo ruling limited what the government could do to control election spending. He failed to act quickly and was ultimately rebuffed by a disinterested Congress. In 1992, President Bill Clinton ran on a platform in support of reducing political action committee spending. While Clinton met with members of Congress early in his administration, there was no consensus for reform and other issues quickly took precedence. President Barack Obama famously ran on overturning the normal order of special interest favors in Washington. His administration has instead seen the near complete breakdown of normal order on campaign finance. He launched a new era of big money in elections by becoming the first nominee in a presidential election to turn down public funding for the general election in 2008. During the 2012 election, both Obama and GOP opponent Mitt Romney raised and spent over $1 billion. The Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling ― no fault of his own ― unwound certain limits on corporate election spending and led to skyrocketing spending from nonprofits and the creation of super PACs. The Federal Election Commission, never the most operational agency, broke down amid deep ideological division. And despite pressure from numerous activist groups and their members, Obama has not signed an executive order to increase disclosure of independent spending or appointed commissioners to the Securities and Exchange Commission in favor of a rule requiring publicly traded corporations to disclose their election spending. Clinton comes into the role of campaign finance reform proponent with suspicion from some quarters. She will likely raise more than $1 billion by Election Day and relies on super PACs to a greater degree than Obama did in 2012. Her fundraising from billionaires, lobbyists and corporate executives was one of the biggest criticisms of her during her primary fight with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) ― whose campaign finance proposals were nearly identical to Clinton’s. Donnelly, a veteran of many of these reform fights, is well aware of the history and promises. He said Every Voice’s endorsement is not “a blank check.” Clinton, he noted, “has long participated in” the campaign finance system, but “we need to see political leaders who will stand firmly on the side of voters for far-reaching reform, even as they work within the current rules.” “We’re very explicit in this statement that while we are fully 100-percent supportive in getting Hillary Clinton elected and helping to advance her platform ― which is our platform― in the next administration, we also won’t shy away from holding her accountable for falling short,” Donnelly said. He pointed to Clinton’s promise to introduce a campaign finance-related constitutional amendment within the first 30 days of her administration as a “pretty clear and pretty hard-and-fast pledge.” Every Voice’s endorsement is not entirely about Clinton and her platform. The group’s involvement at the presidential level is also driven by what Donnelly called the exclusionary rhetoric of Trump. “American democracy is one of inclusion,” Donnelly said. “It is the march towards expanding and broadening the franchise and expanding the role of everyday Americans in the decisions that impact our lives, and his language about religious groups is worse than dog-whistle politics. Outwardly using rhetoric that is racist and xenophobic and misogynistic compels us to say that this is not a leader of American democracy that we want to see have power in the White House. It’s broader than money in politics.” Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S. -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
* Gemalto and Valeo partner to turn smartphones into a secure car keys Source text for Eikon: Further company coverage: (Gdynia Newsroom)
There have been so many nicknames for Donald Drumpf this year. My favorite is "Apocalypse Cheeto." But it occurs to me that none of them captures the essence of the man's aesthetic, his appeal, or his cultural significance. So I propose a new one: the Troll King. Donald Drumpf is the Twitter troll of candidates. Which would be funny, except that internet trolls are actually not funny. Aristotle said that the danger for a democracy is demagoguery, but he was wrong. The danger for our democracy at the moment is the tyranny of the loud. Back in the mid-1990s, at the dawn of the age of online communities, one of the earliest successful virtual communities was MediaMoo, operated out of the Media Lab at MIT. It was intoxicating; there were famous stories of people losing track of their real lives because of the fascination of their virtual existence (the popular solution: hit "reset password" then bang your head on the keyboard.) Around that time, though, a problem began to appear. MediaMOO was a relentlessly democratic and libertarian community. But as one of its founders said to me in the mid-90s, it suffered from "the tyranny of the loud." A few participants dominated the conversation, bullied others, and simply spent so much time flooding the tubes with noise that others were not heard or simply gave up and were driven away. Sound familiar? Today this is the standard observation about any insufficiently moderated online forum. The voices that define the discourse are not the smartest, or the most committed, or the most thoughtful, they are the loudest. And some kinds of voices are inherently louder than others. Invective and provocation are louder than reasoned dialogue. They are also easier - the transaction costs involved in flooding the airwaves with noise are much lower than the costs of actually saying something. And of course, on the internet no one knows you are a dog. This is all very old hat, but it is by no means a problem that has been solved: witness among myriad other examples actress and comedienne Leslie Jones' decision to quit Twitter. What the people who attempt to design these virtual environments forget is that free discussion depends on regulation and self-control. (So do free and competitive markets, for that matter, but that's another discussion.) Roberts Rules of Order, the rules of a town meeting, asking students to raise their hands--these are not restrictions that exist to silence dissenters, they exist to ensure that dissenters can be heard at all. They are ways of preventing the Tyranny of the Loud. In the early days of free speech doctrine, Alexander Miekeljohn understood this point very well. He said that the goal of free speech is not to maximize the ability of persons to speak, it is to maximize the number of different voices that people hear. In today's environment that idea has given way to narcissistic relativism: no one can limit my voice because it is mine, and no one's opinions are better than mine. Anyone who says otherwise is an elitist or politically correct, and if someone else is not being heard that just shows that they are a big loser. It is difficult to avoid slipping into some kind of vulgar Freudianism here, with the obvious insistence on the prerogative to force one's deepest id onto everyone around...There are deep reasons for the correlation between trolls and bros, just ask a gamer. Roger Ailes more than anyone understood that this could drive new forms of media. The Tea Party movement--remember Santelli's (probably scripted) rant that started it all?--is only one example of politics reduced to organized screaming. Even our courts have embraced the ideal of trollish virtues. The Supreme Court has repeatedly adopted the idiotic assumption that the way to ensure all voices are heard is to have no limits on speaking. Anyone who has worked in politics, or communications, or advertising, or--well, The World--knows this is nonsense. That was the fundamental mistake of the famous case Buckley v Valeo forty years ago, and repeated again in Citizens United. Aside from giving corporations more rights than actual citizens, the Court keeps saying that the act of spending money equates to speech. That's absurd. Spending money is not speaking, spending money is a way to make speech louder. That was the point of rules about campaign finance: to limit the use of money to turn the volume knob up to 11. But under the leadership of the late lamented Justice Antonin Scalia our highest court has declared a constitutional principle that louder is better. Internet trolls didn't invent this ethos in media, politics, and law, they are just its apotheosis. And Drump if their king, the internet troll as President. Trump is very, very loud. He does not debate, he drowns out. He does not campaign, he provokes and then mocks the reaction. Drumpf is a walking comments section without an article. We probably can't fix the Internet. But we absolutely have to do something about our politics, or else the experiment of American republicanism will end with the tyranny of the loud. If it has not already. -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
[This column was originally published by Truthdig.com] Chances are if you were asked to name the most influential conservative Supreme Court justice of the last 60 years, you'd nominate the late Antonin Scalia. And you'd have any number of compelling reasons to do so. Whether you liked him or loathed him, Scalia was a jurisprudential giant, pioneer of the "originalist" theory of constitutional interpretation, consistent backer of business interests, and the author of the 2008 landmark majority decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, which recognized an individual right to bear arms under the Second Amendment. His death in February left a vacancy that has become a hot-button issue in the runup to the November election. But for all of Scalia's impact--and notwithstanding the political shivers and convulsions his demise has sparked--I have another contender, or at least a close runner-up, in mind: the late Lewis F. Powell Jr. "Lewis F. Powell Jr.?" you might ask, with just a trace of skepticism. "Wasn't he the one-time corporate lawyer whom New York Times columnist Linda Greenhouse eulogized in her 1998 obituary as a 'voice of moderation and civility' during his 15-year tenure on the court?" Yes, that guy. But while Powell has been widely commemorated by Greenhouse and others as both a centrist, a lifelong Democrat and a judicial workhorse, writing more than 500 opinions, his most significant contribution to American legal history was made in secret, some five months before his January 1972 elevation to the bench, and it was anything but moderate. On Aug. 23, 1971, Powell penned a confidential 6,400-word memorandum and sent it off to his friend and Richmond, Va., neighbor, Eugene Sydnor Jr., then-chairman of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce education committee and head of the now-defunct Southern Department Stores chain. The memo, titled "Attack on American Free Enterprise System," was breathtaking in its scope and ambition, and far more right-wing than anything Scalia ever wrote. It was, as writer Steven Higgs noted in a 2012 article published by CounterPunch, "A Call to Arms for Class War: From the Top Down." Back in 1971, when the memo was prepared, Powell was a well-connected partner in the Richmond-based law firm of Hutton, Williams, Gay, Powell and Gibson and sat on the boards of 11 major corporations, including the tobacco giant Philip Morris. He also had served as chairman of the Richmond School Board from 1952 to '61 and as president of the American Bar Association from 1964 to '65. In 1969, he declined a nomination to the Supreme Court offered by President Nixon, preferring to remain in legal practice, through which he reportedly had amassed a personal fortune. Powell and other business leaders of the era were convinced that American capitalism was in the throes of an existential crisis. A liberal Congress had forced Nixon to create the Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupation and Health Administration. At the same time, consumers were making headway against corporate abuse, both in the courts and legislatively. And the anti-war and the black and brown civil rights movements were all gathering steam and scaring the bejesus out of the corporate oligarchy. "No thoughtful person can question that the American economic system is under broad attack," Powell began his analysis. "There always have been some who opposed the American system, and preferred socialism or some form of statism (communism or fascism)." "But now what concerns us," he continued, "is quite new in the history of America. We are not dealing with sporadic or isolated attacks from a relatively few extremists or even from the minority socialist cadre. Rather, the assault on the enterprise system is broadly based and consistently pursued. It is gaining momentum and converts." In particular, Powell identified college campuses as hotbeds of dangerous zealotry, fueled by charismatic Marxist professors such as Herbert Marcuse of the University of California, San Diego, along with inspiring New Left lawyers like William Kunstler and Ralph Nader. Together, these "spokesmen" (the male noun being used throughout) were succeeding not only in "radicalizing thousands of the young," but in Powell's view also winning over "respectable liberals and social reformers. It is the sum total of their views and influence which could indeed fatally weaken or destroy the system." Sounding like an inverted caricature of Vladimir Lenin, who in his seminal pamphlet "What is to be Done?" pondered how the Russian Bolsheviks might seize power, Powell asked directly in the memo, "What specifically should be done?" to awaken the business community from its torpor, spur it to counter the New Left and reassert its political and legal hegemony. The first step, he reasoned, was "for businessmen to confront this problem [the threat to the system] as a primary responsibility of corporate management." In addition, resources and unity would be required. "Strength," Powell wrote, "lies in organization, in careful long-range planning and implementation, in consistency of action over an indefinite period of years, in the scale of financing available only through joint effort, and the political power available only through united action and national organizations." Deepening his call to action, Powell urged the Chamber of Commerce and other business entities to redouble their lobbying efforts and to "recruit" lawyers of "the greatest skill" to represent business interests before the Supreme Court, which under the stewardship of Chief Justice Earl Warren had moved steadily leftward. Powell wrote: "Under our constitutional system ... the judiciary may be the most important instrument for social, economic and political change." Apparently stirred by the urgency of the hour, Powell accepted Nixon's second invitation to join the Supreme Court, tendered in October 1971. He was confirmed by the full Senate two months later by a vote of 89-1, with the sole "nay" ballot cast by Democrat Fred Harris of Oklahoma, a maverick populist, who asserted that Powell was an "elitist" who lacked compassion for "little people." Powell took his seat the next January. Powell's memo, although circulated and discussed within the Chamber and in wider business consortia, never came to light during his confirmation hearings, despite supposedly thorough vetting by the FBI. In fact, it came to public notice only in September 1972, when it was leaked to syndicated columnist Jack Anderson, who devoted two pieces that month to the memo, describing it as "a blueprint for an assault by big business on its critics." Powell's views, Anderson argued, "were so militant that [the memo] raises a question about his fitness to decide any case involving business interests." Anderson's warnings fell largely on deaf ears. During his Supreme Court career (1972-1987)--a time when the panel was in transition from its liberal Warren epoch to its conservative reorientation under the leadership of Chief Justice William Rehnquist--Powell provided a reliable vote for corporate causes. He was especially instrumental in helping to orchestrate the court's pro-corporate reconstruction of the First Amendment in the area of campaign finance law, which culminated years later in the 2010 Citizens United decision. He joined the court's seminal 1976 ruling in Buckley v. Valeo, which equated money, in the form of campaign expenditures, with political speech. And he was the author of the 1978 majority opinion in First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti, which held that corporations have a First Amendment right to support state ballot initiatives. But it is the secret memo that has proved to be Powell's most important and lasting legacy. Although he was not the only corporate leader to sound the counterrevolutionary alarm in the early '70s, his admonition for concerted action bore fruit almost immediately with the formation in 1972 of the Business Roundtable, the highly influential lobbying organization that within five years expanded its exclusive membership to include 113 of the top Fortune 200 corporations. Combined, those companies accounted for nearly half the output of the American economy. The Roundtable was followed by a succession of new political think tanks and right-wing public interest law firms. These included the Heritage, Charles Koch, Castle Rock, Scaife, Lynde and Harry Bradley, and Olin foundations, among many others, as well as the Pacific Legal Foundation, the Cato Institute, the Federalist Society and, above all, the Chamber of Commerce National Litigation Center. Established in 1977, the Chamber's Litigation Center has grown into the most formidable advocacy group regularly appearing before the Supreme Court. According to the Center for Constitutional Accountability, the Chamber has notched a gaudy 69-percent winning record since John Roberts' installation as chief justice in 2006. Together with its sister organizations, the Chamber has helped make the Roberts Court the most pro-business high tribunal since the 1930s.. Now, however, with Scalia departed and three sitting justices (Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Anthony Kennedy and Stephen Breyer) at least 80 years old and nearing inevitable retirement, the transformation of American law wrought by the institutions that Powell envisioned more than five decades ago is potentially at risk. The next president--whether Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump--will have a historic opportunity to remake the nation's most powerful legal body. And while it may be safe to assume that any of the right-wing federal and state judges Trump thus far has floated to replace Scalia and fill any other vacancies would only further Powell's designs for a corporate court, it cannot be assumed that Clinton, with her longstanding ties to Wall Street, would appoint progressives just because she's a Democrat. In all likelihood, if elected, Clinton would try to fill Scalia's spot with President Obama's current Supreme Court pick--District of Columbia Circuit Court Judge Merrick Garland. Like Powell in his time, Garland is considered by most legal observers to be a moderate, with a reputation for collegiality. Now, I am not suggesting that Garland has a skeleton in his closet on the order of Powell's secret memo, or that he wouldn't move the court incrementally to the left if he were to succeed Scalia. What I am saying is that neither he nor anyone else who might be tabbed by Clinton would merit a free pass simply on the basis of party affiliation or status in legal circles. And that's precisely the point of revisiting the Powell memo and calling attention to its meaning for the Supreme Court today. No matter who is selected to sit on the Supreme Court or by whom, the public deserves a full accounting of any nominee's views and affiliations, along with exacting standards of accountability and transparency. There should be no more nonsense like the blind spots that accompanied Powell, or the ham-fisted inanity offered by John Roberts at his 2005 Senate confirmation hearing, in which he compared justices to baseball umpires calling balls and strikes. Nor should there be any more refusals, a la Justice Samuel Alito at his 2006 hearing, in which he declined to articulate his actual positions on critical constitutional questions. The time for such evasions and legalistic parsing is over. There's simply too much at stake. -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.