TPM News

Ryan Lizza's New Yorker piece on Michele Bachmann, which focuses on the Tea Party candidate's influences, is the current talk of the political world. The article delves deep into Bachmann's ideological roots, showcasing a number of books and films by her favorite far-right Christian thinkers. Here are a few of the highlights from Bachmann's reading list.

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Just because a new bit of science or technology exists to solve a problem, should we use it without question?

Even if it offers to solve a heinous crime, the answer is "no" if its use is mandated by badly-crafted law, and violates the spirit of the Fourth Amendment, says a recently-issued California state appeals court opinion.

First District Justice J. Anthony Kline said that a California law that requires the police to collect and store the DNA of anyone they arrest violates the right of individuals to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.

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Japanese thinkers are often celebrated for their inventiveness, and their love of the absurd.

So perhaps you could be forgiven for suppressing a laugh for reading an article about scientists in Japan making a breakthrough by 'curing' infertile vermin.

But it's no laughing matter -- in fact the researchers are being hailed for their remarkable achievement in bringing the world one step closer to a potential fertility treatment for men.

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The chart below shows the percentage of adjusted gross income (AGI) that different income groups of Americans pay in federal income tax. We chose the top categories ($500,000 to $1,000,000, and over $1,000,000) and matched them up with the some middle class numbers ($30,000 to $40,000, and $50,000 to $60,000). The data in these sets comes from IRS Publication 1304.

As you can see, there are two major points: one, the overall percentage both groups pay in federal income taxes has fallen over the last twenty years or so, and two, when Congress makes a major income tax policy change, it affects the top earners much more than other groups.

Adjusted gross income is defined as income minus adjustments, meaning after deductions. Of course in addition to federal income taxes there are employee contributions to Social Security, which are usually 6.2% of earnings (but are 4.2% in 2011 because of the payroll tax deduction) up to $106,800, which subsequently has a greater effect on the income below that limit than above. There's also Medicare withholding, which is 1.45% of earnings, and since both are set rates, they by nature have greater effect the less you earn.

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This is a big week in Wisconsin -- the culmination of months of protests, campaigning, legislative battling and litigation, since Republican Gov. Scott Walker began an ultimately successful push to strip public employee unions of their collective bargaining rights. On Tuesday, voters will head to polls in six state Senate recalls, where Republican incumbents are all facing stiff Democratic challenges, with the possibility that Dems could flip control of the chamber and end one-party GOP rule after just seven months. And the vote will be closely watched nationally, read as a referendum on the wider anti-union push that other GOP governors have also undertaken.

The state Senate currently has a 19-14 Republican majority, with Democrats needing to gain at least a net three seats to gain control on the senate. (And even this would not be the end of it -- they hope to recall Walker some time next year.) All in all, this is the closest this country's system of government can get to a snap parliamentary election, with control of the chamber up for grabs.

Back in July, Democratic state Sen. Dave Hansen easily won re-election in his recall race against a very flawed GOP challenger, after the party's originally recruited candidate failed to collect enough valid petition signatures to get onto the ballot. Next week, two Democratic incumbents will be on the ballot in their own recalls, so even if Democrats pick up as many as four seats Tuesday, it would not be known for certain whether they have gained the chamber until after another week.

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How important is warning about encroaching sharia to the modern conservative electorate? Judging by attacks Tea Party favorite Herman Cain has suffered since reaching out to American Muslims, pretty darn important.

Since shifting gears from his role as the campaign's pied-piper of sharia to the guy who may actually preach at a mosque someday soon, Cain has suffered the slings and arrows of his supporters and prominent voices on the anti-sharia right. He's also been lauded by some supporters, but it seems clear that, in aggregate, the new more tolerant Cain has not gone over well.

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Senator John Kerry (D-MA), appearing on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday, blamed Republicans and in particular Tea Party intransigence for the unprecedented S&P downgrade of U.S. credit from AAA to AA+.

"I believe this is without question the Tea Party downgrade," he said. "This is the Tea Party downgrade because a minority of people in the House of Representatives countered the will of even many of Republicans in the United States Senate who were prepared to do a bigger deal."

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It's a staple of business management books that the Chinese character for "crisis" also stands for "opportunity." Despite the fact that this isn't actually true, it has also filtered into the political discourse. The S&P downgrade presents a classic crisis/opportunity situation, namely: will political leaders use this moment to bridge their differences and agree on a credible plan that involves both spending cuts and additional revenues? Or will they simply use it as a chance to say, "I told you so!" and slag off the other side? So far the signs are mixed.

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Mystery solved! The person who donated $1 million to a pro-Romney group through a barely existent company, W Spann LLC, has outed himself after campaign watchdogs demanded a federal investigation.

Ed Conard, a former executive at Bain Capital, which Romney co-founded, told Politico on Friday that he had funneled the money to Super PAC Restore Our Future on the advice of his lawyers.

"I am the individual who formed and funded W Spann LLC," he said in a statement. "I authorized W Spann LLC's contribution to Restore Our Future PAC. I did so after consulting prominent legal counsel regarding the transaction, and based on my understanding that the contribution would comply with applicable laws. To address questions raised by the media concerning the contribution, I will request that Restore Our Future PAC amend its public reports to disclose me as the donor associated with this contribution."

Watchdog groups like the Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21 asked federal and state officials to look into the matter, claiming that the use of shell companies to conceal contributors violated laws prohibiting donors from giving money indirectly through another person. Democratic officials, as well as presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, condemned the donation in recent days.

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