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Friday, November 28, 2014

Guess who's starting to worry about labor protests?

by digby

You know the Big Money Boyz have some concerns when they hire right wing PR firms to pull out the old lazy, dirty hippie tropes to get the rubes on the other side. I wrote a piece for Salon about the history of that moldy tactic and how it's being applied to today's Black Friday protests.

Just check this out first:

Read on to find out who's behind that puerile piece of garbage:

All that’s missing is a bunch of insults about the women having hair under their arms and the men smelling like pigs. Some things never get old. It’s quite clear that somebody has decided to tickle the right wing lizard brain and deploy it service of Big Business again. It worked pretty well every other time, after all.

You will not be surprised to learn that this video was made by a professional PR firm that’s been working on behalf of these corporations to push back the low wage worker’s movement for some time. Lee Fang at the Nation has the scoop:

TheNation.com has discovered that Worker Center Watch was registered by the former head lobbyist for Walmart. Parquet Public Affairs, a Florida-based government relations and crisis management firm for retailers and fast food companies, registered the Worker Center Watch website.

The firm is led by Joseph Kefauver, formerly the president of public affairs for Walmart and government relations director for Darden Restaurants. Throughout the year, Parquet executives have toured the country, giving lectures to business groups on how to combat the rise of what has been called “alt-labor.” At a presentation in October for the National Retail Federation, a trade group for companies like Nordstrom and Nike, Kefauver’s presentation listed protections against wage theft, a good minimum wage and mandated paid time off as the type of legislative demands influenced by the worker center protesters.

The presentation offered questions for the group, including: “How Aggressive Can We Be?” and “How do We Challenge the Social Justice Narrative?”

They could be honest and just announce they are a bunch of greedheads doing everything in their power to keep wages as low as possible so that they can keep more of the money for themselves. But that might not be quite enough to defeat “the Social Justice Narrative.” After all, that narrative in this instance merely says that people should be paid a decent wage and be treated like human beings in the workplace.

Go for it boys

by digby

Steve Benen caught a couple of news items indicating that the Republicans might tell the president he isn't welcome on Capitol Hill anymore and refuse to allow him to give the State of the Union speech:

Politico reported yesterday that congressional Republicans are weighing a variety of tactics to “address” their disgust over Obama’s immigration policy, and “GOP aides and lawmakers” are considering the idea of “refusing to invite the president to give his State of the Union address.”

Late last week, Breitbart News also ran a piece of its own on the subject: “Congress should indicate to President Obama that his presence is not welcome on Capitol Hill as long as his ‘executive amnesty’ remains in place. The gesture would, no doubt, be perceived as rude, but it is appropriate.”

There's nothing that says the president has to give the speech on the hill. For most of history they didn't, they just sent a report to congress. So, I think it would be fine if they refused the president like that. And even if he does give the speech as usual I'm fairly sure we can count on some shennanigans from the peanut gallery yelling at him or booing or something.

Either way, I hope the Republicans show their petulant immaturity for the whole country to see. It makes no difference to Obama --- he's still president regardless of what they do. But I have a sneaking suspicion that this behavior will not be a big hit with the country.

You do have to love the fact that Boehner and company have to figure out a way to let their freakshow have a tantrum so they won't shut down the government. And here I thought it was the liberals who were overly-indulgent with their children. just Jesus, give them all a bottle and put them to bed.



The #Ferguson #fail

by Tom Sullivan

Eugene Robinson this morning does more criticism of the #Ferguson #fail. Robinson calls out the police, for treating the citizens of Ferguson more like "subjects," and Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch for not acting like one:

The way McCulloch conducted the grand jury probe was anything but ordinary. Evidence is usually presented in the light most favorable to the prosecution; the idea is to seek an indictment and then figure out guilt or innocence later at trial. McCulloch presented both sides of the case in great detail, essentially asking grand jurors — not trial jurors — to be adjudicators of the facts. He put Brown on trial, not Wilson.

In his rambling, self-justifying news conference announcing the no-indictment decision, McCulloch made clear that he believed the eyewitnesses who supported Wilson’s version of events and disbelieved those who did not. Moreover, he questioned the motives of those who disputed Wilson’s story, as if they could not be relied on to participate in an honest search for the truth.

Indeed, during Ferguson grand jury eye witness testimony, prosecutors ask witnesses to back up and clarify where they were, what they saw, and how they saw it, etc. The questions weren't especially probing, but prosecutors at least challenged witnesses' stories somewhat. But not Officer Darren Wilson's account of events.

Two things stand out.

First, prosecutors made a point of asking witnesses (with variations) if after Michael Brown, wounded and bleeding, stopped running and turned to face Wilson, "Did you ever see Michael Brown charging at the officer?" Was he a threat at that point? Several said no. A couple said yes. (Including Witness 10, as Lawrence O'Donnell reported.) The jury believed the latter.

Second, prosecutors walked Wilson through his account, mostly just prompting him to continue. They asked few, if any, probing, challenging, or clarifying questions. His account went unchallenged.

The Guardian weighed in yesterday on the conduct of Ferguson-area officials in the aftermath of the Michael Brown shooting in The five leaders who failed Ferguson: St Louis County prosecuting attorney Bob McCulloch; Governor Jay Nixon of Missouri; Ferguson police chief Thomas Jackson; Ferguson mayor James Knowles and St Louis County police chief Jon Belmar. From the grand jury to the governor, these officials appear out of their depth.

I had to scratch my head to think if I'd even heard of Knowles in all this mess. Did I miss it or has he been MIA as his city burned? Jon Swaine writes:

Ferguson’s 35-year-old, part-time mayor was almost invisible as his city was engulfed by chaotic protests. Sometimes he popped up in TV interviews to defend the actions of the police. Since then he has proved unable to insert himself into the crisis in any meaningful way, choosing instead to make a series of unfortunate comments.

While other officials were conceding that they had a problem, Knowles told MSNBC in late August: “There’s not a racial divide in the city of Ferguson. That is the perspective of all residents in our city. Absolutely.” He would later say in November that he “absolutely” regretted the remarks, which were roundly dismissed by residents and protesters.

BTW: The photo atop Robinson's column shows a friend, a Navy vet from the local "Veterans For Peace" chapter, being carried away from a demonstration in front of City Hall in St. Louis. Police dislocated his shoulder during the arrest Wednesday. But he joined more than 100 other protesters for a Thanksgiving meal yesterday:

“You know how at halftime during a football game you get to rest,” he said. “You get that motivational speech. Then you come out stronger for the second half.”

Thursday, November 27, 2014


by digby

Some soup for you!

This is mexican pozole and if you haven't had it, you're missing out on life. This recipe is from Martha Stewart who while not exactly known for mexican cuisine, makes a tasty and easy soup:

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
8 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup tomato paste
3 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
4 cans (14.5 ounces each) reduced-sodium chicken broth
4 cans (15 ounces each) white hominy, drained (You can substitute corn if you prefer)
6 3/4 cups shredded cooked turkey meat (2 pounds)
Coarse salt and ground pepper
Assorted garnishes, such as diced avocado, thinly sliced radishes, and crumbled tortilla chips (optional)

Heat oil in a 5-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add onions; cook until translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add garlic, tomato paste, chili powder, and oregano; cook, stirring constantly, until evenly distributed.

Add 4 cups water, broth, and hominy. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to a simmer, and cook until fragrant, about 30 minutes.

Stir in chicken; season with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cook until heated through. (When freezing, cool completely before transferring to airtight containers.)

To serve, divide among bowls, and garnish as desired.

The hominy might pop in the microwave so heat it up on the stove.

Enjoy your food comas everyone!

"Unorthodox practices"

by digby

Also known as covering your ass:

When Ferguson, Mo., police officer Darren Wilson left the scene of the fatal shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown, the officer returned to the police station unescorted, washed blood off his hands and placed his recently fired pistol into an evidence bag himself.

Those actions, described in grand jury testimony, violated protocols for handling a crime scene and securing evidence, according to experts in policing procedures and Justice Department documents.

Wilson’s movements after the shooting were among a number of police actions in the aftermath of Brown’s death that experts said were unusual. The grand jury transcripts revealed, for example, that the officers who interviewed Wilson immediately after the shooting did not tape the conversations. The transcripts also showed that an investigator from the medical examiner’s office opted not to take measurements at the crime scene and arrived there believing that what happened between Brown and Wilson was “self-explanatory.’’

Nah, nothing suspicious in all that. Especially not taping the first interview. Because police never protect one another in those situations and allow one of their own to "tweak" his story later.

Oh Dad

by digby

I love this Buzzfeed gif-fest about the Obama daughters' obvious embarrassmnt at their Dad's silly jokes yesterday when he was giving the Turkey "amnesty."

Lulz. Teenagers ...

Don't worry your pretty little heads about the law

by digby

I don't know about you, but this seems really bad to me:

NBC host Lawrence O’Donnell blasted St. Louis County assistant district attorney Kathy Alizadeh on Wednesday for taking weeks to tell the grand jury in the Darren Wilson case she made a major mistake regarding police officers’ right to use legal force.

“With prosecutors like this, Darren Wilson never really needed a defense lawyer,” he said.

O’Donnell said that early on in the jurors’ deliberations, Alizadeh handed them a copy of a 1979 Missouri statute saying police were “justified in the use of such physical force as he or she reasonably believes is immediately necessary to effect the arrest or prevent the escape from custody.” However, he explained, the Supreme Court found those kinds of statutes to be unconstitutional six years later.

As the Daily Kos reported, the high court found in Tennessee v. Garner that “where the officer has probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a threat of serious physical harm, either to the officer or to others, it is not constitutionally unreasonable to prevent escape by using deadly force.”

But in handing the jurors the original statute, O’Donnell said, Alizadeh conveyed the message that Wilson did not feel his life needed to be in danger for him to be legally justified in shooting and killing 18-year-old Michael Brown on Aug. 9.

“She was taking the hurdle that Darren Wilson had to get over in his testimony, and flattening it,” O’Donnell argued. “She was making it impossible for Darren Wilson to fail in front of this grand jury.”

Consequently, he said, the jurors listened to Wilson’s testimony while still believing the statute was still in effect. Alizadeh did not correct her error until Nov. 21, telling them that “part of the case law” did not comply with the Supreme Court ruling.

Court records also show that, when one juror asked whether the high court’s decision overrode state laws, Alizadeh did not say yes, and instead gave a non-commital answer.

“As far as you need to know, just don’t worry about that,” Alizadeh told the juror. Alizadeh’s colleague, Sheila Whirley, added, “We don’t want to get into a law class.”

The worst part of Alizdeh’s actions, O’Donnell said, was that she did not explain how the Supreme Court decision struck the state statute down after letting jurors carry it with them for weeks.

“You will not find another legal proceeding in which jurors and grand jurors are simply handed a law, and then weeks later, handed a correction to that law,” he said. “Then the grand jurors are simply left to figure out the difference in the laws by themselves. That is, actually, something you would do in a law class.”

It's impossible to know if the jury believed in the end that it was reasonable for Wilson to feel in fear for his life, but when they heard his testimony they believed it didn't matter, that a cop could shoot down any suspect who was running away in order to arrest them.I don't know how that might have colored their perception but it strikes me as a big problem.

Food, food, food.

by digby

I wrote about food for Salon today. Why not?

An excerpt:

Stuffing is said to be Americans’ favorite dish of the Thanksgiving meal. It has been around in one form or another since Roman times, and there are as many versions in America as there are regions. From oyster to Southern cornbread to traditional sage to Hillary Clinton’s favorite “Pepperidge Farm white bread stuffing,” the only thing that’s changed about this dish is the fact that most Americans don’t actually use it to stuff the bird anymore due to the public health warnings about bacteria growing in the cavity. It’s too bad. Stuffing in the bird, soaking up all the juices, tastes really great. And yes, some people call it dressing instead of stuffing. They are probably from the South or from England, which changed the name to dressing during the Victorian era because the word stuffing was considered vulgar. (Expressing what type of meat you preferred must have made Thanksgiving a terrible trial for English visitors at the time. “I’d prefer a limb, thank you.”)

Virtually everyone serves mashed potatoes and gravy. These need no explanation. There was a time when this dish was served pretty much nightly on American dinner tables. There’s nothing particularly special about it except that it’s a delicious, perfect amalgamation of salt, fat and starch. Even the healthiest eater in your family can be seen sneaking spoonfuls of it directly from the leftover plate in the fridge. At 2 in the morning. Cold.

And then there is the traditional relish tray featuring celery and olives. What? You don’t serve a traditional olive and celery tray? Well, at one time it was considered the most special part of the meal. In fact, it was a delicacy from the 1700s all the way up until the 1970s. I know. Go figure.

Read on.

Thanksgiving proclamation

by digby

A lot of people have been commenting about what a crappy Thanksgiving this is with all the divisions and anger and polarization. Well, it's not the worst one we've ever had in that regard. In fact, Thanksgiving was declared a national holiday during what was arguably the lowest point in America's national life:

Washington, D.C.
October 3, 1863

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore.

Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.

I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President:

Abraham Lincoln

I know it's fashionable to believe that president's words don't matter. But damn...

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. Enjoy your family and friends even if they drive you crazy. It could be worse ...

I'll have a Black Friday without you

by Tom Sullivan

Traditional anti-consumerism boycotts of Black Friday have company this year.

In the wake of the grand jury decision not to charge Officer Darren Wilson in the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown, activists are encouraging black consumers to turn to economic activism and boycott the busiest shopping day of the year.

Under the title "No Justice, No Profit," the boycott aims to capitalize on the purchasing power of the black community, which Al Jazeera points out is about $1 trillion, and prove, in a language businesses will understand—money—that injustice doesn't come without consequence.

Dacia Polk of the Justice for Michael Brown Leadership Coalition explained the boycott to St. Louis Public Radio, saying:

"There will be no business as usual while those who are supposed to protect and serve us," she said. "Until this nation begins to place value on black lives, there will be no value placed on this business because black lives matter."
Protesters are urged to avoid large retailers and to support instead local, black-owned businesses. Hashtags: #BoycottBlackFriday, #BlackOutBlackFriday #HandsUpDontSpend, #NotOneDime, and #BrownFriday.

Walmart, the crown jewel of the low-wage economy, is still in the running for "worst corporation in the world." Again this year, the home of low, low wages faces Thanksgiving and Black Friday protests from community activists and its own employees — I'm sorry Associates:

OUR Walmart first burst onto the scene two years ago, when it used Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year, to launch an unprecedented, nationwide strike against Walmart. The group originally demanded that Walmart pay all employees a base salary of at least $25,000 per year, but has since joined with striking fast food workers in demanding at least $15 per hour.


As with OUR Walmart's first major action in 2012, this year's Black Friday protests will not be a typical strike. Many of those picketing Walmart — perhaps even most — will be outside supporters of the OUR Walmart campaign, not store employees themselves. Those employees who do walk off the job will likely do so for just one day. Yet OUR Walmart has said that their prior work stoppages are legally protected strikes, and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has agreed. Strikes over wages and working conditions, or over an alleged ULP (unfair labor practice), such as illegally retaliating against workers, are protected by federal law.

Besides fringe benefits like missing Thanksgiving and Christmas with families, Associates also miss meals:

This year’s protests by Walmart workers will kick off on Thanksgiving with a 24-hour fast by 12 protesters. The fast, which is protesting the hunger suffered by some Walmart workers who can’t afford food, will be staged outside a Los Angeles store.

One of the workers participating in the fast is Richard Reynoso, an overnight stocker at the Duarte, California store. Reynoso is one of those workers who cannot afford to purchase three meals a day. As a result, he only eats once a day on his lunch break.

“Sometimes all I have money for is a can of tuna and crackers,” he said.

But progressives need to be careful. Even as living wage advocates demand higher wages from big-box retailers, such protests can pit them against the very communities they hope to help. Those everyday low prices enable the Waltons' clientele in poorer neighborhoods to stretch their limited incomes. Perhaps a new slogan?

Walmart: We make poor affordable

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

On The Newsroom Who Pays the Price for Having Principles? Episode 3 Analysis
by Spocko

Episode 3 of The Newsroom deals with a Snowden-like leak to a TV journalist. I wonder, how would a mainstream TV network actually handle a story like this? Spoilers below.

ACN newsroom is raided by FBI to find leak source.

The big issues The Newsroom dealt with in episode three include:
  • US Government possibly charging a journalist with espionage
  • Snowden-like revelations about the government's role in riot deaths
  • Protecting the Snowden-like source's identity
  • A Bezos-like billionaires possibly buying a TV news network
This episode also had multiply eye rolling moments:
  • Awkward relationship conversations between several men and women.
  • An awkward business conversation between a rich nerd and old school news executive
Sorkin is criticized for how he writes women, but I'm going to say most of his relationship conversations in The Newsroom suck. I see those scenes as filler between the interesting issues and monologues, kind of like bad commercials for dating sites.

Of the interesting parts the Snowden-like revelations all seemed familiar. Then I figured out why. I had recently watched Citizenfour by Laura Poitras about the revelations of Snowden and the process. Go see the movie. It really is watching history unfold in real time. Plus you can see how the mainstream media really handled the Snowden story.

Watching the story unfold in Citzenfour makes it clear Snowden made the right choice going to Poitras, Greenwald and the Guardian. Even if he had a team like the ACN people backing him, you can see how they could get convinced to turn it all over to the government.

Sorkin is trying to show how a TV network might act if they got a Snowden-like story. It has all the components:
  • Idealistic young journalist who does the right thing
  • Cynical famous news anchor tried to reclaim his young idealistic self
  • Hyper-competent producer with integrity
  • Network news management backing the news--until the bill comes due
  • Corporate Lawyers lawyering.
  • A government bully who waves the "national security" flag at every turn
  • Snowden-like character pushing the timetable
At one point the network president talks about how scared Neal, the journalist who ran, was. When people with guns show up in a newsroom with warrants to take away your hard drives, that's scary. Threatening you with serious jail time is even scarier. I get a nosebleed just thinking about the stress Neal is under.

Eventually the high powered lawyers at the network negotiate a "ceasefire" with the deputy US Attorney General. Would any of the TV networks have stood up to the government in this scenario? Why or why not? And if they did, what would be the consequences?

The last part of the episode points out the problem of not having the kind of funding that enables you to do the right thing. If a principled parent corp can't protect you, then you need a rich backer who can.

But the entire concept of the TV newsrooms needing to make a profit, is also a big point I think Sorkin is making. To make a profit do you have to change your news or change your views on what is news?

The rich nerd backer they bring in to be the White Knight is clearly designed to bring up all the fears serious journalism people worry about. "How about a disaster channel? or a "Stalking Danny Glover" channel?" the Bezo-like character suggests to the network president.

But the current reality is that those crazy ideas are already being implemented, but the craziest idea is no longer even brought up. It's now the standard. News needs to make money. But what if the news division wasn't a profit center? Would removing the need to make money mean the advertisers and government can't push them around when it comes to news? What would/could networks do with that freedom that they aren't doing now?

ACN currently has a dream deal for good journalism. But in the real world those kind of dream deals exist for non-good too. For example, the one News Corp gives The New York Post. They get to lose 110 million dollars a year, EVERY YEAR.

What kind of journalism are they doing there? As part of a bigger company the network news division can be used as a money losing strategic asset to accomplish other corporate goals. That's how Murdoch used his at first.

It is not a given that no money pressures lead to the freedom to do the right thing. But if that freedom is combined with some principles, then the power can be directed.

What are those principles? A responsibility to tell the truth? Or a responsibility to increase quarterly profits? Can you do both, or does one need to take the back seat? Who decides?

Sorkin's fantasy network reminds us what pressures the TV networks face, what principles they say they believe in and explores how they might act when those principles are tested.

Photo credit. HBO's The Newroom
Karen Tumulty Pumpkin Cake

by digby

A few years back on Thanksgiving eve I ran this recipe for Pumpkin Cake and received a very nice note from journalist Karen Tumulty saying that she'd been tooling around the web for something to bake and tried it and liked it. Ever since then I've called it Karen Tumulty cake. And I run it every Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

It's easy even for non bakers and it really is very good.

For cake

* (3/4 cup) softened unsalted butter.
* 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour plus additional for dusting pan
* 2 teaspoons baking powder
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1 teaspoon cinnamon
* 3/4 teaspoon ground allspice
* 2 tablespoons crystalized ginger, finely chopped
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1 1/4 cups canned pumpkin
* 3/4 cup well-shaken buttermilk 
* 1 teaspoon vanilla
* 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
* 3 large eggs


* 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons well-shaken buttermilk
* 1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar, 
* 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
* a 10-inch nonstick bundt pan 

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter bundt pan generously.

Sift flour (2 1/4 cups), baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, and salt in a bowl. Whisk together pumpkin, 3/4 cup buttermilk, ginger and vanilla in another bowl.

Beat butter and granulated sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, add eggs and beat 1 minute. Reduce speed to low and add flour and pumpkin mixtures alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour mixture, just until smooth.

Spoon batter into pan, then bake until a wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool cake in pan 15 minutes, then invert rack over cake and reinvert cake onto rack. Cool 10 minutes more.


Whisk together buttermilk and confectioners sugar until smooth. Drizzle over warm cake, sprinkle with chopped walnuts (keep a little icing in reserve to drizzle lightly over walnuts) then cool cake completely. Icing will harden slightly.

Easy as pie (easier, actually.) 

Concerned Women of America are very concerned

by digby

As usual:
Earlier this year, conservative groups led by Concerned Women for America tried unsuccessfully to stop the House from approving a plan to move forward on the building of the National Women’s History Museum, claiming that the museum would be a “shrine to liberal ideology, abortion, and liberal advocates." Since then, that bill has been held up in the Senate by Republicans Tom Coburn and Mike Lee.

Now the coalition is resuming the fight after hearing that the new museum might be included in a public lands section of an upcoming defense budget. In a press release yesterday, CWA President Penny Nance claimed that the museum would “promote a skewed view of women on key issues like abortion, the free market, and feminism.” Nance also declared that the museum “would in fact be offensive to military members” by including exhibits mentioning people like feminist Bella Abzug, who advocated cuts in military spending.

In an op-ed for Brietbart News, Nance writes that she is against the “identity politics” of the museum in the first place, opposes it especially because she suspects (with no apparent evidence) that it would glorify “whiny” feminists instead of people like a female Peshmerga fighter who died fighting ISIS last month.
So the anti-feminist right loves women in combat these days. That's quite a change of position. Here's a litany of what they usually say when the subject comes up:
It is known that, by nature, women are weaker than men in regard to physical strenght and endurance. To hide this, military entry phyiscal requirements for women are greatly diminished in every country that allows women to serve. This of course means that, if a female soldier fights a male soldier in close quarters, she will inevitably succumb, just as a female martial arts practitioner tried to fight a male, equally trained, counterpart. While there are separate sport tournaments for women, this cannot be, obviously, replicated in war.

An official scientific study of the British Ministry of Defence, published in May 2002, stated that only the top 1% of the female soldiers match the strenght, endurance and military quality of the average male soldier. Furthermore, the study also noticed how mixed-sex units experienced a lesser level of espirt de corps and unit cohesion. Also, the Royal Armed Forces found out that women enrolled in co-ed basic training course suffered far more injuries - especially pelvis fractures - than men. An Army doctor was quoted as saying: "It is common sense that women are not as strong as men, and if you put them up against men they will suffer" and that "but if they are recruited to join the infantry and you put them into a combat situation they are obviously going to let the side down because they are not strong enough." Women were eight times as likely as men to be discharged from basic training due to overuse injuries.

Women also anatomically have specifical hygienic needs that may not be met in war situations, thus leading to illnesses and distress on their part. These illnesses include, but are not limited to, urinary tract infections and gynecological disorders. US Army regulations explicitly advise female soldiers to wash more often and with more water than men.

Female soldiers may deliberately get pregnant in order to avoid hazardous duty. If a man tried to render himself medically unsuitable for combat, he would be subjected to punishment. Aside from being morally questionable, this frequently used-trick can severely harm a unit's capability to operate by removing hardly replaceable skilled military personnel. For this reason, US Major General Anthony Cucolo, commander of the Northern Iraq zone, enacted in 2009 a policy prohibiting women from getting pregnant, allegedly with the threat of "court martial" and "jail time." However, he was soon forced to back down when four Democrat Senators and the Natonal Organization of Women fiercely attacked him on political correctness grounds. The general reduced the penalty to a mere and symbolical "admonishment".

Men's instinct of protection towards women is ill-suited to war: Lt. Col. Dave Grossman's famous book "On Killing" stated that the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) banned women from combat for a tactical reason: when women got killed, wounded or anyway under danger, male soldiers would completely lose control over themselves in an uncontrollable, protective, instinctual aggression, severely degrading the unit's combat effectiveness. In the same book, Lt. Col. Grossman also noticed that Islamic fighters rarely if ever surrender to female soldiers. The same happens in today's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where civilians and fighters alike aren't intimidated by women.

Israeli military historian Martin Van Creveld published a paper named "The Great Illusion: Women in Combat" where he explains, among many other arguments against women in combat, how hardly any "true" war around the world has been fought by women and that even legendary accounts of Soviet female soldiers are greatly inflated.

An "elephant in the room" of the US Military is the - alleged - rape rate of female soldiers: more than 30% of them - nearly one third, one out of three - experience some form of sexual harassment.This further gets out of control overseas, where a woman is far more likely to be raped by fellow soldiers than to be killed by enemy fire.

But hey, maybe those women Peshmergas as super women who don't have any of those "problems." In any case, I'd guess that feminists are very happy to give those female soldiers all the credit they deserve. I would also guess that unless it fit their political agenda, none of those "Concerned Women" would be quite so complimentary.

Mowing down demonstrators isn't a crime either?

by digby

Wait, what? I watched this footage of a car honking and running over protesters last night but I didn't hear what happened later:

Several protesters jumped on the hood of the driver's car and he eventually came to a stop. He was questioned by police, but the latest reports say he has not been arrested.

This is the same police department who accused the mayor of flashing gang signs, by the way...

What can possibly be the excuse that would allow allow this driver to get away with this. He could have killed someone. Unless he was having a heart attack at the time and lost control of the car it seems to me that he did an exceptionally dangerous thing that would land most of us in jail. I get impatient waiting for people who are jay walking. They often walk slowly, especially the elderly, and sometimes I have to wait through a couple of lights before I can turn. It hasn't occurred to me that I can just honk and run them over and face no consequences.

This Ferguson crisis is a real learning experience. Apparently some people in this country have a license to kill whenever they feel threatened --- or even inconvenienced. Who knew?


by digby


The officer’s testimony, delivered without the cross-examination of a trial in the earliest phase of the three-month inquiry, was the only direct account of the fatal encounter. It appeared to form the spine of a narrative that unfolded before the jurors over three months, buttressed, the prosecutors said, by the most credible witnesses, forensic evidence and three autopsies.

But the gentle questioning of Officer Wilson revealed in the transcripts, and the sharp challenges prosecutors made to witnesses whose accounts seemed to contradict his narrative, have led some to question whether the process was as objective as Mr. McCulloch claims.

Black bodies aren't weapons

by digby

I wrote a piece today for Salon about this bizarre right wing rope that Michael Brown wasn't unarmed. Because he was big. And he was black.

An excerpt:
In [Wilson's] telling, Brown’s body itself was a lethal weapon (I was afraid another punch “could be fatal”) and impervious to pain. He was even able to “bulk up” as he was running straight into gunfire. He seemed to think Michael Brown had supernatural powers.

This tracks with some very ugly historical caricatures of young black males: 
(photo courtesy the Jim Crow Museum of racist memorabilia) 

Charles H. Smith (1893), writing in the 1890s, claimed, “A bad negro is the most horrible creature upon the earth, the most brutal and merciless”(p. 181). Clifton R. Breckinridge (1900), a contemporary of Smith’s, said of the black race, “when it produces a brute, he is the worst and most insatiate brute that exists in human form” (p. 174). George T. Winston (1901), another “Negrophobic” writer, claimed:

When a knock is heard at the door [a White woman] shudders with nameless horror. The black brute is lurking in the dark, a monstrous beast, crazed with lust. His ferocity is almost demoniacal. A mad bull or tiger could scarcely be more brutal. A whole community is frenzied with horror, with the blind and furious rage for vengeance.(pp. 108-109)

Back in 1901, a writer described a “black brute” as almost “demoniacal”. Over a hundred years later, Officer Darren Wilson told the Grand Jury,”the only way I can describe it, it looks like a demon, that’s how angry he looked.”

Read on to see how the militarization of the police and stand your ground and a whole lot of other things have contributed in recent years to enabling these noxious stereotypes to continue.

Some things never change.

Just like a woman; the Weiss nomination pushback has begun

by Gaius Publius

This is an update to something I wrote recently. Elizabeth Warren is strongly opposed to Obama nominee Antonio Weiss for an under-secretary position at Treasury. She delineated her objections here (my emphases throughout):
Enough Is Enough: The President's Latest Wall Street Nominee

I believe President Obama deserves deference in picking his team, and I've generally tried to give him that. But enough is enough.

Last Wednesday, President Obama announced his nomination of Antonio Weiss to serve as Under Secretary for Domestic Finance at the Treasury Department. This is a position that oversees Dodd-Frank implementation and a wide range of banking and economic policymaking issues, including consumer protection.

So who is Antonio Weiss? He's the head of global investment banking for the financial giant Lazard. He has spent the last 20 years of his career at Lazard -- most of it advising on international mergers and acquisitions. ...

One of the biggest and most public corporate inversions last summer was the deal cut by Burger King to slash its tax bill by purchasing the Canadian company Tim Hortons and then "inverting" the American company to Canadian ownership. And Weiss was right there, working on Burger King's tax deal. ...

In recent years, President Obama has repeatedly turned to nominees with close Wall Street ties for high-level economic positions ... Enough is enough.
My comment was:
Weiss is Money-to-the-core — the billionaire's next nominee for Treasury — so he'll get Republican Yes votes. But he's Obama's nominee, so he'll draw Republican No's as well.

If the nomination fails, every Democratic No has joined with Warren and become an Open Rebellion candidate going forward. Voting No in a winning cause will take real courage — "I decline to follow the leader" courage — and every man and woman who does so deserves your praise and support. The crack in the Democratic caucus will widen and the insurgency will grow.
It will indeed take courage for a Democratic senator to oppose both Wall Street and the White House. Do you wonder what happens next? This.

The pushback has started

And now the pushback starts. On the pages of the NY Times Dealbook, editor Andrew Ross Sorkin writes:
Senator Elizabeth Warren’s Misplaced Rage at Obama’s Treasury Nominee
Less than 48 hours after President Obama nominated Antonio F. Weiss, a longtime adviser on mergers at the investment bank Lazard and a Democratic supporter, to become the under secretary of Treasury for domestic finance, Senator Elizabeth Warren denounced the appointment and said that she would vote against his confirmation. ...

She said she was furious that the president would nominate someone from Wall Street. “It’s time for the Obama administration to loosen the hold that Wall Street banks have over economic policy-making,” she wrote on The Huffington Post.
Specifically, she took Mr. Weiss to task for working as an adviser on Burger King’s merger with Tim Hortons, which will result in a combined company based in Canada, which she suggested should disqualify him.

It is rare to see such ferocious opposition to a nominee for a deputy position in the Treasury Department. It is rarer still when the objection comes from within the administration’s own party.

Yet Ms. Warren’s wrath is misdirected, and her understanding of the so-called inversion deal on which she bases much of her opposition appears misinformed. On these issues, as she might say, “Enough is enough.”
I'll let you read and decide for yourself if Sorkin's mitigation is mitigating enough, or if it even addresses the issues Warren raises. But as you do, also consider this, from the same article:
He [Weiss] has been a staunch supporter — and campaign donation bundler — for President Obama and is considered relatively progressive, especially by Wall Street standards.
Sorkin's piece contains a lot to unpackage. First, go back to my earlier piece or to Warren's and see if she accuses Weiss of the same things Sorkin defends him for, particularly regarding the Tim Hortons–Burger King inversion. In other words, does any of Sorkin's yes-but really matter? Or more importantly, does the new Tim Hortons–Burger King information mitigate Warren's main complaint, that:
In recent years, President Obama has repeatedly turned to nominees with close Wall Street ties for high-level economic positions.
I think the answer is no. Warren's charge stands as she expressed it. Obama is too close to Wall Street, and Weiss is a good friend of the "billionaire class" and no friend of the "little guy" or "the middle class," which he would need to be as head of the division that
oversees Dodd-Frank implementation and a wide range of banking and economic policymaking issues, including consumer protection.
As Warren said, Weiss is unqualified by background, both specific (his job history) and general (his industry).

"Just like a woman"

Second, there are "tells" in Sorkin's piece, many of them, that tell us Sorkin is not just reporting the news, but trying the "move the needle" in Weiss' direction. Can you spot them? Here are a few:
  1. Warren has "rage" (from the headline no less).
  2. She's "furious" and "ferocious".
  3. She's motivated by "wrath".
  4. She "reserves a special rage" for the Burger King deal (from an unquoted part).
  5. She's "to put it politely, mistaken".
So unpackaging — "to put it politely" white male Wall Street reporter and Dealbook editor Andrew Ross Sorkin paints Elizabeth Warren as overly emotional (filled with "rage" and "wrath") and a liar. Just like a woman it seems, except for the liar part. To put it politely.

If he had implied she was vindictive, he's have the liar part connected to the "fury" (think about it). By these standards, his other complaints — that Warren's objection is "symbolic" and a "campaign talking point" — seem almost tame, kitten-strong, weekday road dust of no special note.

It's not just the attack; it's the defense of Weiss

But something else should be screaming out at you, something you think I missed. No, I didn't miss it. Here, from the text above, is part of Sorkin's defense of Weiss. He's:

An Obama bundler, and
"Relatively" progressive "by Wall Street standards"

Talk about a "tell." If I were Sorkin, I'd shut up about the "bundler" part. Now the appointment just looks corrupt, like one more sleazy "thank you" deal. ("Is the cash all there? Great, here's your appointment. Now scoot.")

And about the second part, what does "progressive" even mean in an industry dominated by predators and a predator culture? That Weiss is kind to kittens so long as he's not at work, eating them? (OK, that's snark. They don't eat kittens on Wall Street; they destroy human lives, then invest in the wreckage. Big difference.)

In my book, that "praise" earns an immediate No, even before I read Warren's carefully argued piece.

So why did Sorkin write a defense of Weiss?

I can't peek into Andrew Ross Sorkin's heart. But if his goal is to get Weiss nominated, it plays out like this: 

1. Sorkin casts "doubt" on Warren's objections and provides to semi- or falsely-"progressive" Democrats a cover story for voting Yes. They can just point to the Sorkin article and say, "See? What he said."

2. Sorkin makes it obvious the New York Times supports the Weiss nomination. The Times is the "liberal" voice of the town that hosts the Wall Street casino and playground. Message: Both Money and New York mainstream "liberals" support Antonio Weiss. Don't get on the wrong side of that, Mr. and Ms. Senator.

3. He previews the kind of attack that could be waiting for any Mr. or Ms. Senator who does get on the wrong side of the nomination. Even men can be painted as rage-filled, or worse.

Do the statement above reflect Sorkin's motivation? Is he really carrying Wall Street water? Maybe not. But it's clear the other side is engaged and wants this nomination badly. Perhaps to them it's "symbolic" of something.

Watch this appointment

Again, watch this one. It will tell you a lot about Senate Democrats, the state of my fancifully-named "Open Rebellion" caucus — Will other Senate progressives go along, or toe the neoliberal line? — and perhaps reveal the role of Harry Reid going forward. I'm reading and hearing that all is not glassy-smooth across Senate Democratic waters, at least regarding the Weiss nomination. At The Nation they're calling what Warren is doing an "insurrection" and they say she's not alone in insurrecting.

About time, say I.

P.S. As an added treat, and apropos of nothing at all, this. Enjoy.

Or do you prefer Norah Jones?


"How you go to war"

by digby

“The most important” part of Rand Paul’s assessment of “questions of war,” the Kentucky senator told The Daily Beast this fall, is “how you go to war.”
No. Not really. The most important question is whether you should go to war, not how. Dotting all the i's and crossing all the t's is great but it cannot substitute for the right judgement. And assuming that's going to come from the US Senate is laughable.

The closest we've come in a very long time to the congress objecting to a president's desire to go to war was the proposed intervention into the civil war in Syria which, as it happened, the president didn't really want to do anyway. We don't know how it would have come out but the British voted against it and there was at least a rare chance that the US Congress might have gone that way too. Still, I doubt it. All they had to do was gin up the propaganda and there probably would have been enough support to back the president.

Prior to that, the last time there was a serious debate in congress (as opposed to a kabuki dance) was the resolution for the first Gulf war. It was a lively debate and the vote was close. But it passed and the war was a huge success and every presidential aspirant who made the call to vote against it was shut out of the nomination because of it. (It has been argued that the opposite happened to Hillary Clinton in 2008 --- her vote for the war worked against her although it doesn't seem to be hindering her at the moment.)

Let's just say that politicians are often fighting the last war vote but there's little reason to believe that they are likely to obstruct any war the president wants to fight. Yes, the opposing party always objects mightily when the president exercises his alleged unilateral power to wage a war. It makes for great political theatre. But when push comes to shove the likelihood that they would actually stop him is very, very slim.

Just so there's no confusion about the outcome of this particular process, Rand Paul's plan is to have congress declare war on ISIS:

In a draft of the resolution obtained by The Daily Beast, Paul states that “the organization referring to itself as the Islamic State has declared war on the United States and its allies” and that ISIS “presents a clear and present danger to United States diplomatic facilities in the region, including our embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, and consulate in Erbil, Iraq.”

The Obama administration has justified the bombing campaign against ISIS by claiming that it is enabled by the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force in Afghanistan, passed in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, and the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force in Iraq. Paul’s resolution would terminate the latter and place an expiration date on the former, one year after the passing of his resolution.

Perhaps most surprisingly, Paul’s resolution will allow for limited use of boots on the ground “as necessary for the protection or rescue of members of the United States Armed Forces or United States citizens from imminent danger [posed by ISIS]… for limited operations against high value targets,” and “as necessary for advisory and intelligence gathering operations.”

“No. 1: Always go to Congress. We can’t do things unilaterally. This used to be the president’s position in 2007, when he ran for office.”

In an interview with The Daily Beast in September, Paul said he was against the idea of U.S. forces on Middle East soil. “I don’t think there needs to be any American soldiers over there on the ground,” he said. “I don’t mind helping them through technical support, through sophisticated intelligence, drones, Air Force, etc.”

He added: “The people on the ground fighting these battles, going hand-to-hand with ISIS, need to be their fellow Arabs and those who, I think and hopefully do, represent civilized Islam.”

Doug Stafford, a senior aide to Paul, said the senator has not flip-flopped: “He doesn’t believe we should send a bunch of troops in to start a ground war. But he has always said we have an obligation to defend people in the region. The declaration is tailored to allow for this.”
So there you have it. But at least the "process" will have followed. And that's what counts.

Shift minions getting all uppity

by Tom Sullivan

So, what? Do these uppity, chronically stressed workers think The Economy exists to serve people instead of the other way around? Employees — I'm sorry, Associates — are supposed to genuflect and cross themselves at the sound of their master's voice, and ask how high when Job Creators says jump. What are those Left Coast socialists smoking?


Meet your new union reps: the statehouse and City Hall.

San Francisco’s new law, which its Board of Supervisors passed Tuesday by unanimous vote, will require any “formula retailer” (retail chain) with 20 or more locations worldwide that employs 20 or more people within the city to provide two weeks’ advance notice for any change in a worker’s schedule. An employer that alters working hours without two weeks’ notice — or fails to notify workers two weeks ahead of time that their schedules won’t change — will be required to provide additional “predictability pay.“ Property service contractors that provide janitorial or security services for these retailers will also need to abide by the new rule.

What's worse, these subversive notions have a way of spreading east from the Left Coast like viruses. Call out the dragoons.

Speaking of predictability, the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce is predictably miffed about the “Retail Workers Bill of Rights.” For struggling hourly workers, taking classes, caring for families, and raising children (and managing day care logistics) is something The Economy expects you to fit in between work shifts at multiple, part-time, low-paying, no-benefits service jobs where shift schedules vary a lot. But that's just the way it is and the way The Economy likes it. With labor unions weakened and workers disempowered, setting working conditions once governed by collective bargaining agreements now falls to local Democrats. That is, if you can find any that aren't Republican lite.

And go figure, labor-friendly measures such as the Retail Workers Bill of Rights are popular. HuffPost:

With Congressional Republicans opposing a minimum wage hike and other legislation aimed at low-wage work, labor unions and their progressive allies have found much more success on the local level. Despite the drubbing that Democrats took in the midterm elections earlier this month, binding ballot initiatives on the minimum wage passed easily in four red states. A measure that will require many employers to provide their workers with paid sick days also passed in Massachusetts.

Politico continues:

Increased unpredictability in work schedules is driven by technology. When store foot traffic had to be measured manually and work schedules were typed out, employers found it cumbersome to alter work schedules too frequently. But just as computers created vast new producer efficiencies through just-in-time store inventories, so, too, did they create vast new staffing efficiencies through just-in-time work scheduling. Trouble is, getting moved around at the click of a mouse is more disruptive to human beings than it is to refrigerators and automobiles.

"Efficiency" is like "shareholder value" that way. When they start hearing it, flesh-and-blood consumable resources better update their resumes, stock up on antacid, and learn to get by with even less sleep.

Earlier this year, 32-year-old Maria Fernandes of Newark, NJ died of asphyxiation while catnapping in her car between shifts of her four part-time jobs. The Economy did not attend her funeral.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

I'm not saying we won't get our hair mussed ...

by digby

Jesus. Panetta:
Panetta: “You never tell your enemy what the hell you’re going to do…It is important for our military leaders to know that they have to be able to use every possible option on the table in order to be able to succeed in that area.”

Building the GOP bench: no girls allowed

by digby

How surprising:

[A]ll 11 state lawmaking chambers that flipped to Republican control in this month’s elections –- six senates, five houses or assemblies — will be led by men. In 10 of the 11, the new Speaker or Senate President (or President Pro Tempore, depending on the state’s particular quirks) has been chosen; in the other, all the reported contenders are male.

But give the GOP some credit where it’s due. Republicans in Montana and Wisconsin have selected Debby Barnett and Mary Lazich to the top state senate posts, joining Susan Wagle of Kansas and Tonya Schuitmaker of Michigan to put women in charge of four of 35 Republican-controlled state senates next year. That’s 11 percent (for you women, who I hear are not so good at math); not great, but not as bad as it could be, considering that women make up just 15 percent of all GOP state senators in the country.

Women hold closer to 18 percent of all lower-chamber Republican seats, but there the boys are definitely in charge. Republicans will control 33 state houses and assemblies now, including five they’ve just taken over, and 10 more where they’ve just chosen a new Speaker. All 15 of those newly crowned leaders are men. It appears that the only female Republican Speaker in the country will be Beth Harwell of Tennessee — assuming she withstands a reported challenge. That’s one woman and 32 guys, a 3 percent/97 percent gender split.

Barring some possible late developments, it appears that men will hold the top post in 93 percent of all GOP-led house legislative chambers — the exact same percentage as before these elections, but now covering more than two-thirds of all the country’s lawmaking bodies.

There's a lot of talk about what a great "farm team" the Republicans have in the states compared to the Democrats. Maybe so. But they certainly aren't grooming any women for the big leagues.

Perhaps they subscribe to the Turkish president's belief that women need "equal respect rather than equality." That was, as Rick Perlstein reminded me, one of Phyllis Schlafly's main arguments for rejecting the Equal Rights Amendment. And Schlafly won that one. It looks as though she's still winning.

Ain't it the truth?

by digby

Troll 'o the day: An alien from another planet

by digby

The other creepy congressman named King:
“I think it would be very helpful if President Obama went and met with the police officer, or invited him to the White House and said, ‘You’ve gone through four months of smear and slander, and the least we can do is tell you that it’s unfortunate that it happened and thank you for doing your job,’” the New York Republican told Fox Business on Tuesday.

And maybe afterwards they could wave the confederate flag and sing Dixie.

I love the fact that he thinks the president should thank the officer for killing an unarmed teenager. Even Prosecutor McCullough had the decency to call the whole thing a tragedy and say that they should try to take steps that it never happens again.

These people are sick.

Rodney, Trayvon and Michael

by digby

I did a little meditation on Ferguson for Salon this morning. As I watched the broadcast last night and listened to the rambling statement of the prosecutor, it reminded me of an earlier incident:
I remember the night the Rodney King video first surfaced on Los Angeles television like it was yesterday.  In those days you didn’t see videos of police beatings unless a news camera happened to catch it  — video cameras were bulky items that people didn’t carry around with them. That footage of those police beating a man mercilessly, grainy and distant as it was, sent a shock wave though this city and in a very short period that shock wave was felt around the world. But at the time I think that most of white America probably either thought that this man must have “deserved” what he got or, if they were appalled by what they saw, believed the justice system could not ignore such vivid evidence and would have to punish these officers. Black America knew better, of course, but they too held out hope that the video proved what they had been saying for years. 
We all know how that turned out. 
It was one of those stunning events that makes you question some of your basic assumptions.  I thought we had decided as a society that we were not going to allow the police to beat suspects senseless. Yes, people had complained about it and I knew that it happened.  The streets of L.A. were hardly peaceful. But I thought that by the end of the 20th century if the police were caught doing it red-handed there was simply no way they could be exonerated. 
The day the verdict came back everyone in my office gathered around the TV in shock.  And as we looked outside the windows of our high rise building over the next few days we watched plumes of smoke all over South LA multiply by the hour until the mayor finally told everyone to go home and stay there as the city came under Martial Law. I watched Reginald Denny get beaten mercilessly on live TV. The 7-11 on the corner of an apartment I lived in for years was burned to the ground. It felt like L.A. was coming apart.
It didn’t.  
But it didn’t exactly come together either... 
read on ...

The police trial in the Rodney King case was thought to be a slam dunk --- and when it came back not guilty this city exploded. There was, obviously, a lot of pent-up rage that could no longer be contained. I think people thought if you can't even convict officers of abuse with a video tape showing the abuse then what's the point?

The Trayvon Martin case was initially like the Brown case--- they didn't even arrest George Zimmerman at first. But the prosecutors wisely decided to indict him and hold a trial to sort out the evidence in public and let the system work to best of its ability (which isn't all that great, but it's better than nothing.) Trayvon's parents deserved that. Certainly any unarmed citizen who is gunned down deserves that. When the verdict came down, a lot of people weren't happy. But they at least knew that the system hadn't been rigged by a prosecutor who didn't want to prosecute. It's not much, but it's something that both Rodney King and the Martin family got, as unsatisfying as it was.

Michael Brown's family and the community of Ferguson didn't even get that much.

We're going backwards, people.


Celebrating tragedy with snark and idiocy

by digby

Salon collected a few of the choicer wingnut tweets from last night. It's amazing how people's true colors, so to speak, come out at times like these. I must say that I'm a little shocked by Brit Hume joining in the fun. He's a wingnut but I didn't think nasty snark was his thing:

I don't know what "facts" or "science" they think we are supposed to accept but that's not really at issue here, is it?  There is "evidence" and testimony presented to a Grand Jury without any adversarial testing in a court of law by both sides  or a judge to determine its relevance and there is a decision not to indict.  This isn't CSI with some kind of forensic determination of guilt in the final scene.  But hey, it was a cute line by a couple of bigfoot conservatives who clearly have an ax to grind. Too bad they're full of shit.

Keep in mind that these people are celebrating the fact that someone who shot and killed an unarmed teenager whose alleged crime was jaywalking and stealing a box of cigarillos was not even indicted. Even if they thought the officer was justified it's a tragedy that it happened and a travesty that there was no public trial.  Decent people who think that this was a good decision should be decent enough to keep quiet about it right now. There's nothing to celebrate here.

And, by the way, I think that when it comes to criminal justice it's fairly clear on what side of the "libertarian" fence the Republicans will fall don't you? The only time they ever give a damn about police power is when it's federal or when somebody attempts to take a gun. Other than that they're with the cops all the way.  If you like authoritarian police power --- at least when it comes to killing unarmed citizens --- you'll love being in the GOP.

Enough is Enough: An "Open Rebellion Caucus" forms in the Senate

by Gaius Publius

As regular readers know, I've been a fan of an "Open Rebellion Caucus" among progressive office-holders and insiders — the principled and conscience-led — for a long time. For example, in a pre-election piece titled Are Democratic Leaders Already "Tea Partying" The Progressives? I noted at the end:
"Open Rebellion Caucus" ... a group that says No and openly defies corporate Democratic leadership. I believe I've seen one forming in the House already. Next time I'll give an example of a golden opportunity to form an Open Rebellion Caucus in the Senate, an opportunity that was not taken. Stay tuned. 
I'll come back to the situation in the House another time. That Senate "golden opportunity," which was lost, occurred in January 2013 when progressive Senators proposed strong filibuster reform — and voted for weak reform — because that's what the "bipartisan moderates" wanted. (Note: It's not the progressive loss that I'm calling out; it's the way pro-reform progressives voted.)

Why does Open Rebellion matter?

Why rebellion — progressive insurgency — against billionaire-controlled Democrats matters could become an essay in itself, and someday it will. But simply put, it matters for two main reasons. One, because conscience matters — yes, that — and two, because there are already cracks in all three layers of the progressive movement buried within the Democratic Party:

▪ Democratic voters have arguably rejected neoliberal, corporate, billionaire-serving Democrats in 2014. The country is ready for change, and the day Democrats offer one, they'll win elections by the bucketful.

▪ Democratic activists and writers are desperate for something better from their party. Their cris de coeur are private for now, said amongst themselves, and those cries are not cried by all. Nevertheless, a great many progressive voices and hands are done, have had it, with the Mark Warners and Pryors of the world, and very vocally so.

▪ Some Democratic insiders are similarly ready to rebel. There are pockets of donors, strategists and office-holders who "get it" — get that they can't be principled (that word again) and support the Geithners, the Pritzkers, and the Orszags. And if they can't support the Geithners, how can they support a White House that regularly coughs them out for consideration?

Cracks within all three groups are visible if you're looking for them. I spent a week in Washington recently, selectively and explicitly looking for them. The intra-party war within the first two groups isn't fully formed, yet, but it could be; the rumbles are loud enough. But among voters, the results appear to be in. When progressive policies are wildly popular as ballot measures, and corporate Democrats are rejected as "no solution at all," the crack in the base is wide as a canyon and deep as a fracking well.

Now that widening crack is spreading to office-holders.

The "Hell No" caucus targets billionaire-serving Democratic leaders

Our first look at office-holders who refuse to play "follow the neoliberal leader" starts in the Senate. POLITICO noted the formation of a "Hell No" caucus led by people like Sen. Jeff Merkley, but carefully couched it as an anti-Republican group (my emphasis everywhere):
Liberal ‘hell no’ caucus rises

The defeat of the Keystone XL pipeline in the Senate marked a major show of muscle for next year’s new hell-no caucus: liberals. ... [R]ed-state Democrats like Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Mark Begich of Alaska are on their way out, and liberals like Jeff Merkley, Bernie Sanders and Sheldon Whitehouse — with Elizabeth Warren leading the way on messaging — may cause as many headaches for Senate Republicans as tea partyers caused Democrats in the past four years. ...
Here's that "Hell No" caucus in action, but with a different target. Elizabeth Warren, writing recently at Huffington Post, has this to say about Antonio Weiss, an Obama nominee for a senior post at the Treasury Department. As you read, tell me who she's taking on, Republicans or her own billionaire-led party leaders:
Enough Is Enough: The President's Latest Wall Street Nominee

I believe President Obama deserves deference in picking his team, and I've generally tried to give him that. But enough is enough.

Last Wednesday, President Obama announced his nomination of Antonio Weiss to serve as Under Secretary for Domestic Finance at the Treasury Department. This is a position that oversees Dodd-Frank implementation and a wide range of banking and economic policymaking issues, including consumer protection.

So who is Antonio Weiss? He's the head of global investment banking for the financial giant Lazard. He has spent the last 20 years of his career at Lazard -- most of it advising on international mergers and acquisitions. ...
There's so much more in Warren's piece, and I'll come back to some of it. But she's taking on the (yes, neoliberal) president of her party, two weeks after an election in which her party lost the majority in her house of Congress to the hated Republicans, and one week after the Republicans said they would up their game against that very president. Has Warren joined the nominal enemy (Republicans), or has she taken the fight to the real enemy that controls both parties — the "billionaire class"?

Warren's indictment of Obama's appointment reads like this:
The second issue [with the Weiss nomination] is corporate inversions. Basically, a bunch of companies have decided that all the regular tax loopholes they get to exploit aren't enough, so they have begun taking advantage of an even bigger loophole that allows them to maintain their operations in America but claim foreign citizenship and cut their U.S. taxes even more. No one is fooled by the bland words "corporate inversion." These companies renounce their American citizenship and turn their backs on this country simply to boost their profits.

One of the biggest and most public corporate inversions last summer was the deal cut by Burger King to slash its tax bill by purchasing the Canadian company Tim Hortons and then "inverting" the American company to Canadian ownership. And Weiss was right there, working on Burger King's tax deal. Weiss' work wasn't unusual for Lazard. That firm has helped put together three of the last four major corporate inversions that have been announced in the U.S. And like those old Hair Club commercials used to say, Lazard isn't just the President of the Corporate Loopholes Club -- it's also a client. Lazard moved its own headquarters from the United States to Bermuda in 2005 to take advantage of a particularly slimy tax loophole that was closed shortly afterwards. Even the Treasury Department under the Bush administration found Lazard's practices objectionable.

The White House and Treasury have strongly denounced inversions, and rightly so. But they undercut their own position by advancing Mr. Weiss.
Notice the word "exploit" above. Warren, here and elsewhere, correctly sees the "billionaire class" as predators, and she's willing to call out the leaders of her party when those leaders advance predator interests.
[T]here's the larger, more general issue of Wall Street executives dominating the Obama administration, as well as the Democratic Party's, overall economic policymaking apparatus. I wrote about this problem a couple of months ago on The Huffington Post in more detail.

Here is what I wrote then:
Just look at the influence of one mega-bank -- Citigroup -- on our government. Starting with former Citigroup CEO Robert Rubin, three of the last four Treasury secretaries under Democratic presidents held high-paying jobs at Citigroup either before or after serving at Treasury -- and the fourth was offered, but declined, Citigroup's CEO position. Directors of the National Economic Council and Office of Management and Budget, the current Vice Chairman of the Federal Reserve and the U.S. trade representative, also pulled in millions from Citigroup. ...

Shortly before the [Eric] Cantor episode, another former member of Congress -- Democrat Melissa Bean -- took the same senior job at JPMorgan Chase previously held by Democrat Bill Daley before his recent service as White House Chief of Staff. Yes -- this is just a single position at JPMorgan Chase, evidently reserved for the latest politician ready to cash in on Wall Street. ...
In recent years, President Obama has repeatedly turned to nominees with close Wall Street ties for high-level economic positions. Jack Lew, who was a top Citigroup official, now serves as Treasury Secretary. The President's choice for Treasury's highest international position, Nathan Sheets, also comes from Citi. For the number two spot at the Federal Reserve, the President tapped Stanley Fischer, another former Citigroup executive. A Bank of America executive, Stefan Selig, was put in charge of international trade at the Commerce Department. The President's two recent picks for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission -- including his choice for Chairman -- are lawyers who have spent their careers representing big financial institutions.
Please do read the whole thing. The phrase "piling on" was invented for exercises like these. Notice that she makes "the President" personally responsible. She closes where she began, by referencing her only other No vote on an Obama nominee and implying strongly that Weiss will be treated the same:
Enough is enough.
Indeed. This is a fight to watch.

Will the "Hell No" caucus declare Open Rebellion against Weiss? Will they extend their reach?

Back in the POLITICO article, progressive Senators Merkley, Sanders and frequently-progressive Sen. Whitehouse were named as part of their fancifully named "Hell No" caucus — meaning "hell no" to Keystone and Republicans. But Keystone is a billionaire-led Democratic favorite as well, one which senators like "No-to-Reid" Claire McCaskill supports. Without really saying so, POLITICO has found the crack in the Democratic Senate. Will an Open Rebellion Caucus (my own fanciful naming) work to widen that crack?

I earnestly hope so. If you're in my camp, or just interested in watching this battle, here are three things to notice:

1. Watch what happens to the Weiss nomination. Especially, watch the vote. Weiss is Money-to-the-core — the billionaire's next nominee for Treasury — so he'll get Republican Yes votes. But he's Obama's nominee, so he'll draw Republican No's as well.

If the nomination fails, every Democratic No has joined with Warren and become an Open Rebellion candidate going forward. Voting No in a winning cause will take real courage — "I decline to follow the leader" courage — and every man and woman who does so deserves your praise and support. The crack in the Democratic caucus will widen and the insurgency will grow.

But if the nomination succeeds, Democratic No votes could be real or just for show ("It's safe to vote No, 'cause he's gonna pass anyway"). Any No vote in a losing cause is always suspect, because there's no way to tell who's sincere and who's been given "permission" to vote against the rest of the caucus "for the folks back home."

2. Watch what Harry Reid does. In my travels I heard a number of mixed reports about Harry Reid. Those opposed to or concerned about his past Senate leadership consider him unreliable — good on issues like TPP, but too willing to compromise elsewhere in order to "keep the caucus together." But I also spoke with several close observers who say that Reid-in-opposition — a Reid who no longer has to hold his majority together with anti-progressive decisions — may prove a strong progressive ally. 

Which Reid is the real one? Only the deep insiders know for sure. But if better-Reid is on the horizon, now is the time to show it — with deeds that can be seen and understood from outside the Beltway. Watch carefully. The Weiss nomination, if it moves through the lame duck Senate to conclusion, could make an interesting test of which Reid we'll have in the next two years — progressive-ally Reid, or party-first Reid.

I'm eager to see which Reid raises his head. A true progressive insurgency in the Senate, if it solidifies, will have to go forward through Reid or with Reid. Going through Reid is obviously the harder course. Going with Reid, in my opinion, will benefit both Reid and Democrats. Saying No to billionaires is the path back to the majority as I see it, and I believe the 2014 losses confirm that observation.

3. Watch the nomination of Loretta Lynch for Attorney General. If Elizabeth Warren thought Antonio Weiss was bad, consider Loretta Lynch. Yes, she'd be the first African-American woman Attorney General. She's also deep in the Eric Holder mold — no Wall Street crime is too criminal to prosecute. She's a "white shoes" lawyer who signed off on the white-washed HSBC settlement:
According to a Matt Taibbi blockbuster in Rolling Stone, HSBC, indirectly and directly, laundered hundreds of millions of dollars for entities that included Mexican drug cartels, Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Russian gangs, Iran, and North Korea.
"Money laundering" means "being a banker" for people who cut people's heads off (click; it's the Mexican cartels I'm talking about). I mentioned "conscience" above; this settlement is conscienceless. As the article notes, it was "an exclusively financial settlement without criminal prosecution." About Lynch as AG, lawyer Mike Papantonio says in the video below:
She's going to make the lives of Wall Street criminals a cake walk, not a perp walk.
Cake walk, not a perp walk. That's your next Attorney General unless our nascent, Warren-inspired "Open Rebellion Caucus" is willing to partner with other Democrats and Republicans to stop it. I will take courage for Democrats to do this — one of today's themes. Not only will they be partnering with the hated Republicans, they'll go against many prominent liberal cheerleaders.What will they do, act on the principle already demonstrated by Ms. Warren in the Weiss case, or ... fold?

Courage and conscience — who has it and who doesn't?

We live in times that test us. Sad that, but it can't be helped. I would not want to be a Clinton — a triangulating billionaire-serving Democrat — as the day's issues grow more stark and the bright lines more clear. And I'm not sure I'd want to be a party-loyal, on-the-fence progressive either. Yet that way victory lies, the way of courage.

Just look who won and who lost in the last set of fights. Marriage equality won — because gays went toe-to-toe with Obama and defied their own "triangulating" organizations, like Human Rights Campaign. Immigration reform is winning — because immigration activists pushed La Raza to call Obama the "deporter-in-chief" and he didn't like it.

Courage and conscience. Do progressive Senators have what it takes? Does Harry Reid have what it takes to support them? I can't wait to find out. Here's that Papantonio–Loretta Lynch video. It's short; enjoy!

By the way, Thom Hartmann's The Big Picture makes a great pre-MSNBC watch. Check it out when it returns to Free Speech TV. Just a thought.



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