The death of SOPA (5×8 – 1/20/12)

Avatar power, why don’t you know your tax bracket; lights, camera, outrage; how a political party went broke; and what’s in the Cougar name?

It’s Gary Eichten Day in Minnesota, as you probably know if you’ve taken any steps at all in the last 24 hours to keep me employed at Minnesota Public Radio. Posting will be fairly light today because I want to attend the large staff event being held during Midday and afterward that honors Eichten. So, you can make life easy by forwarding NewsCut-worthy items you spy today to me at and I will post them.


Maybe you can change things by changing your avatar on social networks. Earlier this week, the Internet waged a campaign against SOPA, the legislation that seeks to crack down on copyright infringement online, by giving broad powers to authorities to shut pieces of the Internet down without due process and with collateral damage (See background here).

The campaign — an Internet strike — appears to be working. ProPublica, which tracks congressional support for the legislation on its SOPA Operate Update site, provides this snapshot of the effect of the campaign. Sponsors and supporters of the legislation are jumping off:


The backlash, according to Dan Nguyen of ProPublica, was bipartisan. Since it provided the graphic yesterday, ProPublica says 21 more opponents of the legislation have surfaced. Two more previous supporters have switched sides.

Curiously, even lawmakers getting campaign contribution from media companies are lining up against the bill, although the lawmakers who get the most media money are solidly in favor of it. At the link above, you can monitor the breakdown and sort by contributions, age, state etc.

Last night, all the Republican candidates for president came out against the legislation.


Is Mitt Romney’s tax bracket really that low? The New York Times says most Americans overestimate the tax bracket their in, calculating that they’re in a higher taxpayer bracket than the 15-percent Romney guesses he’s in.

They’re probably wrong, the Times says:

But the truth is that most households probably pay a lower rate than Mr. Romney. It is impossible to know for sure, given that he has yet to release his tax return. What is clear, though, is that a large majority of American households — about two out of every three — pays less than 15 percent of income to the federal government, through either income taxes or payroll taxes.

Most households pay less than 15 percent because of tax breaks, like the exclusion for health insurance, and because marginal rates apply to only a small part of a taxpayer’s income. On the first $70,000 of a couple’s taxable income, the federal income tax rate is 13.7 percent.


Theater and politics are close cousins. That much was clear from last night’s debate in South Carolina, where the issue of Gingrich’s divorce from his first wife — is there any bigger issue facing the nation — took center stage, offering Gingrich the opportunity to blast the news media for asking the questions.

What can we learn from this? There are more points to be made by campaigning against CNN than PBS.

Just a few hours before last night’s political highlight, Gingrich sat down with PBS Newshour’s Gwen Ifill and got the same question he’d get a few hours later.

GWEN IFILL: How about your ex-wife? Is that about hurt feelings? There have been so many questions today about Marianne Gingrich raising these questions about you. Is that hurt feelings?

NEWT GINGRICH: My only position, I’m not going to say anything negative about Marianne.

My daughters have both written a letter to ABC News saying it was totally inappropriate. They are prepared to talk on the record. And anybody who wants any detailed conversation can talk to Kathy and Jackie. I’m not going to discuss it.

GWEN IFILL: I understand that you were just asked about it at a rally in a kind of circular way.

Someone asked about what they should do about their feelings about your baggage, your background, your mistakes, as you put it.

NEWT GINGRICH: Sure. I gave him the same answer I give everyone, which is I have made mistakes in my life. I have had to seek forgiveness and reconciliation with God.

I am a 68-year-old grandfather. I have a great marriage with Callista. I am very close to my daughters and my son-in-laws. We are very close to our grandchildren. People have to look and decide.

Watch Gingrich to NewsHour: I Have Momentum to Beat ‘Liberal’ Romney on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.

Now fast-forward to the bright lights of a political spectacle…

What was the guy doing who holds the office the candidates in South Carolina covet?


The Minnesota Republican Party is broke and MPR reporters Tom Scheck and Catharine Richert have figured out why. They’ve unveiled their investigation into the party’s finances today. Party officials were providing numbers about the party’s finances to its members, that didn’t match reality. It also showed the lawyer in the spotlight during the Coleman-Franken recount, made over $1 milliion.

The party also had cozy financial relationships with elected officials on the state payroll, who would be hired for “consulting” work for additional cash.

Find their investigation here. It’s today’s required reading.


In Utah, the students at a soon-to-open high school voted to nickname their teams the “Cougars.” Cougars are prevalent in Utah, it’s also the name of one of the most popular college teams in the state. But it’s also a word hijacked by a popular TV show about older women trying to score with younger men.

Parents said they were uncomfortable with the idea of their daughters on teams called the Cougars, so the school board in Draper, Utah overruled the vote and imposed the name Chargers instead.

That, as one might expect, introduced an entirely new debate.

“Why would the board even offer “Cougars” as a potential mascot choice if it wasn’t prepared to accept it?”Cameron Smith at Prep Rally writes. “That lack of logic is positively baffling. Surely everyone could have saved themselves a lot of face if they simply had not allowed prospective students to choose to be the Cougars in the first place.”

Bonus: Your daily Gary.

Update: Earlier this week I wrote in this space about the death of a young man on I-694 in Maplewood. We did not know his name. Now we do. Here’s his obituary. Be sure to read the guestbook.


The Comedy Central satirists Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are making news in this political season. Stewart has a super PAC, and Colbert is mimicking a run for office. Today’s Question: How do you see the role of satire in our political discourse?


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: The Daily Show and The Colbert Report have carved out a niche in using humor and satire to bring us the news. At one point in time, political humor was seen as just humor. Now it’s seen as a reliable truth vehicle that is part of our culture and influences how we talk about news and politics. Stewart and Colbert, however, are not alone in the world. Political humor is used in almost every country and in almost every type of government. Why is the use of humor important? How do other cultures use humor in their discourse?

Second hour: The worldwide diabetes epidemic is taking a huge toll in Minnesota. One-third of all adults in the state either have diabetes or are pre-diabetic, with blood glucose levels that are higher than normal. Researchers from the University of Minnesota joins Midmorning to discuss the scope of the disease, it’s impact, and the most promising avenues of research.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: Walter Mondale at the Fitzgerald Theatre (recorded last night)

Second hour: Cathy Wurzer hosts a listener call-in with Gary Eichten.

Science Friday (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: A look at the growing movement to get climate change denial into classrooms..

Second hour: New energy projects to tap hot rocks and reap offshore wind.

  • chris h


    One also has to wonder how it will be impacted by Megaupload case. A web site was shut down and people were arrested with existing laws.

    Why do we need SOPA/PIPA then?

  • Jim!!!
  • Jim Shapiro

    Re School Mascot names:

    Perhaps those parents in Utah would prefer “The Polygamists”.

  • MikeB

    A very, very good report from Tom Scheck and Catharine Richert. A story where the reader actually learns what happened. Appreciate the written version on the web site.

  • Kassie

    The whole cougar thing doesn’t even make sense. I could see if it were a bunch of middle aged women at the school wanting to call themselves cougars, but since cougars aren’t a desirable thing to be for 15-18 year olds, nor is it something they could actually call themselves because you need to be a least 40 to be one, they clearly didn’t have those intentions.

    And I went to Morris, so I was a cougar. Cougars are great. I’ve also been a Pirate and a Gopher. Pirates are the best because you can just wear an eye patch. Gophers are just dumb. Who wants to be a gopher?

  • Michele

    Tom Scheck and Catherine Richert’s report is excellent journalism. It’s really hard to understand how the Republicans can actually believe they are the party of fiscal restraint. They can’t even control their own spending.

    Regarding SOPA/PIPA, the turn around in Congressional support for these bills has been amazing. Equally noteworthy: both Sen. Franken nor Sen. Klobuchar continue to co-sponsor the PIPA legislation. Frankens aid told me Franken thinks the bill is a jobs killer. What about an internet killer? Neither office had a response to that…

  • kennedy

    Spending is a good indicator for election results. I would expect to see upcoming close races swing toward the democrats, unless they are running out of money too.

  • Jeanne

    Thank you for posting the link to the obituary of the young man who committed suicide earlier this week. Anyone who has been personal experience with a friend or family member committing suicide knows it is nothing but heartbreaking. And to assume that people who do this are selfish is nothing more than an uninformed conclusion. Selfishness assumes an overblown ego is involved and this couldn’t be further from the truth. If the solutions to this problem were simple, we would never have to read another sad account such as this one.

  • John P II

    Ironically the NYT article is pointing out the widespread confusion between “marginal tax rates” (or “brackets”) with “actual percentage of income paid in taxes.” Much of the confusion is caused by the media using terms like “rates” and “brackets” in ambiguous ways, and the financial services industry’s interest in overstating tax burdens. The NYT article wisely avoids the use of “brackets” in their story.

    I liked Gwen Ifils’s interview with Newt; she’s my favorite journalist on TV today. I think she just got a different response in a totally different setting.

  • Bought and Paid for by the DD Horn of plenty

    Cougars? what about the images that the name “Trojans” conjure up?

  • Jim Shapiro


    “Selfishness assumes an overblown ego is involved and this couldn’t be further from the truth.”

    Sometimes, but in a less simplistic, more realistic world, “selfishness” indicates a behavior that focuses on the benefit of the individual, to the exclusion – and often detriment – of others.

    Malice need not be a component, but ignorance frequently is.

    When one is in extreme pain, selfishness is the understandable norm.

    Precisely because solutions are not simple, anyone who is considering committing suicide needs not only love, compassion, a change in their life circumstances and medical help,

    but also the awareness of the reality of what their suicide will do to others who care about them, and who they presumably care about.