DEFEND, NOT DEFUND: The conservative war on NPR has always had an air of unreality. For all the talk of liberal bias, NPR provides a platform for thoughtful conservatives, who regularly appear on its programs. It also serves rural and often conservative communities where NPR news programs are frequently the steadiest sources of international, national and regional news.
But NPR is an independent source of information, not spin. And that’s got the Republican House majority trying to zero out its funding. To help make “the case,” James O’Keefe (the conservative henchman who went after ACORN and Planned Parenthood) surfaced a video that featured NPR’s chief fundraiser Ron Schiller making negative comments about conservatives while seemingly hustling for money from Muslim donors who were supposed advocates of Sharia law.
Schiller’s words caused an immediate outcry, leading NPR president and CEO Vivian Schiller (no relation) to step down. But here’s where the unreal part comes in: O’Keefe’s short video was edited to create a false impression of much of what NPR’s fundraisers said. Even Scott Baker, a conservative analyst and editor in chief of Glenn Beck’s website The Blaze, said after viewing O’Keefe’s entire two-hour tape that it had been inappropriately edited. Indeed, explained Baker, the complete tape of the NPR executives actually made them “seem to be fairly balanced people.”
Let’s hope members of Congress will take note of this fact, and of the petitions delivered to Capitol Hill by Free Press, MoveOn and Credo Action, signed by more than 1 million Americans, that urge Congress to “defend, not defund” NPR. As Free Press’s Josh Stearns argues, “Federal funding for public broadcasting is a down payment on democracy and a vital investment in jobs and economic prosperity.” JOHN NICHOLS
TAXING THE WEALTHIEST: On March 16, Democratic Representative Jan Schakowsky introduced the Fairness in Taxation Act, which seeks to establish new tax brackets for Americans whose are millionaires and billionaires.
Under the current tax schema, people who make $379,150 or more a year are taxed at 35 percent, a rate that doesn’t budge for those who make millions—or billions—more. The Fairness in Taxation Act would tax those whose income is $1–10 million at 45 percent, $10–20 million at 46 percent, $20–100 mil- lion at 47 percent, $100 million–$1 billion at 48 percent, and $1 billion and up at 49 percent. To put that in perspective, for the majority of Reagan’s time in office, top earners were taxed at a rate of 50 percent.
If enacted, this bill would raise more than $78 billion. Schakowsky, a member of President Obama’s fiscal commission, says, “This isn’t about punishment or revenge. It’s about fairness. We can choose to cut education, job creation and healthcare, or we can choose to ask those who can contribute more to do so.” KATE MURPHY
CROWLEY SPEAKS UP, RESIGNS: The “maximum custody” of Pfc. Bradley Manning, the alleged WikiLeaks source—who has been held in solitary confinement at Quantico, often in shackles, with limited access to books and writing materials, forced to sleep naked, denied the use of his prescription eyeglasses—is “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid.” Who says? Former Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs P.J. Crowley, a retired Air Force colonel who was a special assistant to President Bill Clinton for national security affairs, who made the comment in his capacity as spokesman for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Asked about the Defense Department “torturing a prisoner in a military brig,” Crowley offered his condemnation of the Pentagon’s tactics. Shortly after, President Obama was asked to comment. He had to make a choice and, unfortunately, he chose to side with the Defense Department, saying he had checked with the Pentagon on “whether or not the procedures that have been taken in terms of his confinement are appropriate and are meeting our basic standards. They assured me that they are.”
Three days later, Crowley resigned from his post. But he did not do so without reinforcing his point. “The exercise of power in today’s challenging times and relentless media environment must be prudent and consistent with our laws and values,” declared Crowley. JOHN NICHOLS
ARIZONA V. ARIZONA: Arizona’s legislature is considering its most extreme anti-immigrant legislative package yet—SB1611. Following on the heels of SB1070 (the “show your papers” bill, signed into law last year) and SB1308 and SB1309 (the proposed “anchor baby” bills), the “Immigration Omnibus” bill would require proof of citizenship to enroll in K-12 public or private schools, as well as community colleges and universities and even home schooling. If passed, the bill would also ban undocumented immigrants from buying or registering a vehicle; merely operating one now makes them criminals.
Though SB1070 was answered by a nationwide boycott of Arizona, increasingly politically pungent measures like SB1611 have largely been met with quiet north of the southwestern frontera. It’s no surprise then that a part of Arizona is now calling for secession—from Arizona.
In late February, a group of attorneys in Pima County formed Start Our State, a political committee dedicated to promoting southern Arizona’s secession from the state. Start Our State hopes to recruit neighboring counties and put separation on the ballot in 2012. With roughly 1 million people— a third of whom are Hispanic—politically moderate Pima County is more populous than many states. It includes parts of Arizona’s 8th Congressional District (represented by Gabrielle Giffords, recovering from the January mass shooting) as well as Tucson.
Founders Pete Hormel and Paul Eckerstrom, a former state Democratic Party chair, say the secession movement has gained traction as pushback against Arizona’s extremist state legislature. They also note that through its nativist agenda, Arizona’s right-wing legislature is, in effect, seceding from the United States, becoming increasingly out of step with its own citizens as well as the rest of the country. Complete with a Facebook page, Hormel and Eckerstrom’s quixotic quest calls for the still-sane section of Arizona to form a more perfect portion and to “restore our region’s credibility as a place welcoming to others, open to commerce, and friendly to its neighbors.” Viva Baja Arizona? MOLLY O’TOOLE