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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Tucker Carlson is very, very upset

by digby
TUCKER CARLSON: The demagoguery around this is really nauseating I will say, echoing George Will’s comments. We’ve always made exceptions for religious minorities. Quakers can become conscientious objectors. So you have a country where religious minorities get to choose which wars they fight in, but not whether to serve cupcakes at a wedding that would violate their religious principles? That’s insane!

And I have to say, all the talk of tolerance that a lot of us took at face value in the ’90s and even last decade — ‘Why can’t we all just get along, you accept me, I’ll accept you,’ — they didn’t mean it at all. These are absolutists, these are jihadis, people who want to make you obey, that don’t brook any opposition to their world view at all. They will crush you.

As one of my editors, one the smartest people in the office Jim Antle said, ‘Today’s social liberals are very much like the stereotype of yesterday’s social conservatives. They set the societal norms, and anyone who deviates from them is punished.’ That is not tolerance! That’s authoritarianism.
Boo fucking hoo.

Here's an example of conservative tolerance from just last week:
Whiny little self-righteous bitch. “Appalling?” And with such an ironic name, too… Spitalnick? Ironic because you just know she has extreme dick-fright; no chance has this girl ever had a pearl necklace. Spoogeneck? I don’t think so. More like LabiaFace.
That was Tucker Carlson's brother talking about Bill de Blasio's press secretary. Here's what the very sensitive and tolerant Tucker said about that:
In response to a request for comment from BuzzFeed News, Tucker Carlson said, “I just talked to my brother about his response, and he assures me he meant it in the nicest way.”
I ask you: is there anything more pathetic than mean, hypocritical, powerful wingnut conservatives whining about liberal intolerance? Suck it up. It's embarrassing.

A surprising statistic

by digby

I did not know this:

As it turns out, with a first-dimension score of -0.391 based upon her entire service in Congress, Hillary Clinton was the 11th most liberal member of the Senate in each of the 107th, 108th, 109th, and 110th Congresses. That places her slightly to the left of Pat Leahy (-0.386), Barbara Mikulski (-0.385) and Dick Durbin (-0.385); clearly to the left of Joe Biden (-0.331) and Harry Reid (-0.289); and well to the left of moderate Democrats like Jon Tester (-0.230), Blanche Lincoln (-0.173), and Claire McCaskill (-0.154).

Some more numbers from the 110th Congress, to further help put things in perspective:

Most liberal Dem
1 Sanders -0.523
11 CLINTON -0.391
Median Dem 33 Biden -0.331
Most conservative Dem 51 B. Nelson -0.035
Most liberal Rep 52 Specter 0.061
Median Rep 76 McConnell 0.409
Most conservative Rep 101 Coburn 0.809

Oh, and a certain junior Senator from Illinois, Obama I think his name was? At -0.367, he ranked 23rd in the 110th Congress.

Comparing votes is hardly a perfect way to measure ideology, but it is by far the best method available to bring a measure of quantitative rigor to this inherently subjective topic, and political scientists and statisticians have long relied on DW-NOMINATE for insights about politics and voting behavior. (Nate Silver and FiveThirtyEight.com make extensive use of it to power their own results, for example.)

That's from this post, which discusses at some length how this scoring is done. I don't know that any of it means much --- the Democratic Party doesn't start off very liberal after all --- but perhaps it's instructive as a starting point.

Losing wars that aren't wars

by digby

I was wondering when somebody was going to write this:
Pardon my cynicism, but the “war on terror” (aka “war on violent extremism”) is reminding me more and more of the disastrous U.S. “war on drugs.” That latter campaign, we now know, has been a costly and counter-productive debacle. The United States has spent hundreds of billions of dollars trying to interdict drug shipments, eradicate poppy and coca fields in foreign countries, and round up drug dealers and users here at home, with hardly any lasting or meaningful successes. Narcotics producers just relocate to new areas or develop new products, and smugglers find new routes to bring drugs into the United States, leaving the level of drug abuse largely unchanged. After four decades, the main achievement of the war on drugs was giving the “Land of the Free” the world’s largest prison population.

Similarly, the broad U.S. effort to address the threat from al Qaeda and its like-minded successors seems to be lurching from failure to failure. Indeed, the entire U.S. approach to the greater Middle East has been a costly series of missteps, which is why some of us have called for a fundamental rethinking of the whole U.S. approach. The GOP would like to blame the current mess on U.S. President Barack Obama, but U.S. Middle East policy is a bipartisan cock-up going back more than 20 years.

I would suggest it goes back even further to the neoconservatism obsession with rogue states in the 1980s which blinded them to the threats from non-state actors.

The author of the piece, Stephen walt, outlines all the similarities between the two failed "wars" that don't make sense, but his last one really gets to the problem:

The final reason for recurring failure is the tendency to rely on the same people, no matter what their past track records have been. We’ve seen a revolving door of (unsuccessful) Middle East peace negotiators who then spend their retirements giving advice on how future peace negotiations should be conducted. We’ve got a CIA director who’s been centrally involved in U.S. counterterrorism policy since the early 1990s, and who continues to enjoy the president’s confidence despite a dodgy relationship with the truth and a conspicuous lack of policy success. We’ve got famous generals who were better at self-promotion than at winning wars, yet whose advice on what to do today is still eagerly sought. And of course we’ve got a large community of hawkish pundits offering up the same bellicose advice, with no acknowledgement of how disastrously their past recommendations have fared. The result is that U.S. policy continues to run on the same familiar tracks, and with more or less the same unhappy results.

Just like the war on drugs.
And there's little reason to believe there's any prospect of change. If you read James Risen's new book you'll know that all the incentives go the other way.

Watch This Guy's Brilliant Anti-fraking Demo

by Spocko

This is the most straight-forward and powerful video I've seen in awhile.

It's from a hearing on shipping fracking wastewater to a well in Sioux County Nebraska.

The lack of slickness helps. The crappy camerawork adds to the authenticity. I'd like my friends at various non-profits and activists to watch this to see what was done right.
  • The speaker knew his audience. Not only the commissioners, but the people in the room and in the community. He was not an outsider. He looked like them, dressed like them and talked like them.
  • He addressed the concerns of both sides before his demo
  • He made a powerful visual case with common items people knew
  • He made an emotional appeal and had an intellectual back up.  This is for the people who say they only decide based on "facts," to rationalize their emotional decision.

So many great things in one short video, and I'm glad that Bold Nebraska used it to get people to sign their petition, Don't Frak our Water.

After I watched the video, I read some comments at Reddit and in the YouTube section.  I searched Google News to see how the story got picked up by the local and national media.

What was fascinating to me was to see all the methods that the oil and gas companies used to get their way. The local media pointed out a few of the methods before hand.  One paper took to the opinion pages to call out the other methods.  But what I also want to point out is how successful actions like this still get pushed back without some additional media strategic thinking.

The old line, "They are playing chess while we play checkers." comes to mind. But since my 7 year old nephew destroys me at chess, "The horsie moves in an L Uncle Spocko!" and I haven't played checkers for 23 years, instead I'll say,

 "They are writing a long form TV show, while we are writing a weekly episodic drama, with stand alone episodes, with no character or season arcs."

The take away?  Even a kick ass viral video with popular support can be deflected because of how corporations use the media's own methods and journalist's own self identification to dilute powerful actions and videos.

I recently was advising a friend about a damning piece of email from a public official. I implored her to think 3 steps ahead of the announcement before sending it out to the media.

MSM attempt to tell the back story of viral media but often in the process activists are discredited. Companies know this, that is why they have all their very serious experts, lawyers and economists lined up for the press.

The press can say they are telling "both sides" but really they are making sure that the company under attack gets a second or third bite at the messaging apple.

I told my friend the importance of getting the last word in on a story. "Be sure to ask to comment on the response of the official!" I implored her with my human emotion.  Meanwhile my Vulcan background envisioned and prepped for the next scene.

What was also interesting was how Greg Awtry, the publisher of the closest big paper, the Star-Herald, responded. He knows his audience too, instead of attacking the oil and gas corporations for rigging the game or pressuring the governor to pack the Nebraska Oil & Gas Conservation Commission with oil men, he blames government.  Yes, the procedural tricks to keep the hearings off the record, and not subject to popular control are 'government,' but it takes some smart lobbyists to get those laws passed in the first place.

But at least he can say he was outraged. This is western Nebraska and the "get government out of my face," is strong. He can't acknowledge the role of government in protecting people, even when they are the best bet to stop the corporate destruction of the people's water supply.

What I'm looking forward to is just how this viral video can be used beyond the first pop, beyond the media's "on the other hand" stories.

Right now the lobbyists are circling the money wagons to explain to the politicians why they should ignore the public and can't stop this anyway.

QOTD: Rand Paul

by digby

From avideotaped interview in 2013.

“I don’t think I’ve ever used the word gay rights, because I don’t really believe in rights based on your behavior.” 
As Daily Kos's Laura Clawson quipped:

Says the man who has all sorts of rights based on his "behavior" of being married to a woman.

What's the matter with Arizona?

by digby

And I'm not talking about John McCain:
Arizona’s Republican governor has vetoed a controversial bill that would have barred the release of the names of police officers involved in lethal shootings. The bill, which had broad support in the state legislature, was inspired by two incidents in which unarmed suspects were killed by police.[...]

That the bill even reached the governor’s desk reflects a sentiment in Arizona, and perhaps across America, that the real problem with police shootings is the threat posed to the safety and reputations of officers by those angered by such incidents. This threat, Smith argued, became especially clear in Arizona over the last year or so.

“This was the genesis of two cases in Arizona,” Smith told the House committee.

In both cases a police officer in Arizona shot and killed an unarmed person of color under questionable circumstances. And yet, the bill’s passage suggests, the lesson state legislators drew from those killings was that it was the police who needed more protection.
Maybe the police could offer their fellows protection? Like they are supposed to offer all the citizens? As in, it's their job?

I don't think police officers should be targets. But then neither should anyone else.

Is there another state in the union that has to depend on its super conservative governor to rein in the ultra-right wing legislature?

Karl Rove Jr.

by digby

Read this story about the Karl Rove of Missouri --- and Ted Cruz's campaign consultant. (He's worked for Huckabee and Perry also.) You may have heard about the suicide of a Missouri politician a month or so ago because of rumors and innuendos. This guy is widely held to be partly responsible:
Will Kraus, a candidate for Missouri secretary of state, is certain.

Jeff Roe is still his guy.

“I plan to continue to use Jeff and Axiom Strategies,” the Lee’s Summit Republican said last week. “They’ve done a great job for me.”

It’s been more than a month since Roe, a well-known and often-feared campaign consultant, helped produce a mocking radio commercial in the Missouri governor’s race. The ad, aired in Kansas City and other markets, suggested state auditor and GOP candidate Tom Schweich was a “bug” and compared him with bumbling TV character Barney Fife.

Days after the spot aired, Schweich took his own life.

Some of Schweich’s friends quickly concluded the ad played a role in the suicide and accused Roe of bullying the candidate. Former U.S. Sen. Jack Danforth urged Republicans to walk away from Roe, a request he repeated last week.

“We should disassociate ourselves from anyone who conducts this sort of campaign,” he said in an email.

But nothing suggests candidates are taking Danforth’s advice, or that Schweich’s death dented Roe’s multimillion-dollar Kansas City-based political enterprise in any significant way.

Roe — who declined to comment for this story — remains the chief campaign strategist for Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who announced his presidential bid last week. Roe’s companies maintain longstanding connections with Republican U.S. Reps. Sam Graves of Missouri and Kevin Yoder of Kansas, as well as more than two dozen other candidates for federal office.
Some colleagues said Axiom’s client roster remains intact because candidates believe Roe shouldn’t be held responsible for Schweich’s suicide. They said that the anti-Schweich radio ad, while tough, wasn’t unusually aggressive or fundamentally unfair, and that suicide is almost always an act without a clear motive.

At the same time, the 60-second spot was aimed primarily at Schweich’s appearance and personality, not his positions on issues. For weeks Schweich’s allies have said the ad wasn’t meant to convince voters, but rather to rattle the sometimes high-strung state auditor.
Controversy has defined Roe’s career.

In 2006, he ran TV ads chastising a disabled candidate for working for an adult publication. She actually sold ads for a company that owned that magazine and others.

He connected former Kansas City Mayor Kay Barnes with “San Francisco values” during her unsuccessful effort to oust Graves.

He’s hired operatives to track opponents with video cameras, leading some to complain of unnecessary provocation and to file complaints with police. His deep research into his opponents’ personal records is legendary. He’s been accused of orchestrating a lawsuit to gain access to a candidate’s personal papers.

In 2014, a Roe mailer Photoshopped a candidate “in the classic Marlon Brando Godfather pose and likened him to a mobster,” according to The Dallas Morning News.

He was part of a long-running feud with former U.S. Sen. Kit Bond that eventually entangled both men in the controversy over fired U.S. attorneys during the George W. Bush administration.

Candidates have been known to hire Roe just to keep him from working for the other side.

Roe has never apologized for his approach.

“These are not prom-queen elections,” he has said. “Who’s elected, what their values are, all that determines the direction of the nation.”

He’s been paid by the payday loan industry and the Missouri Republican Party. He ran the unsuccessful campaign for the Jackson County health research sales tax.

He's a real pip.

The article says that he might become a problem for Cruz as Republicans might use him to degrade Cruz's reputation. I suppose it's possible in these days of social media rage but these are Republicans we're talking about, so I have a feeling that no matter how piously they declare they are above such tactics the guy who actually employs them will be more respected by the base.



The Matrix refinanced: Changing a human being into revenue

by Tom Sullivan

Jeff Bryant's alarming post at Salon details some of the financial services sector's inventive, new schemes for funding education. Wall Street already saw K-12 schools as "the last honeypot," a steady, recession-proof, government-guaranteed stream of public tax dollars just waiting to be tapped by charter schools. It first had to convince states to increase competition – meaning eliminating teachers and other public employees standing between investors and their money.

One could argue that the right's small government, low taxes mantra always had as its goal eliminating the "creeping socialism" of government providing education and other public services on a not-for-profit basis. (What, no middle-man markup?) "Starving the beast" was never about the size of government, but about eliminating public-sector competitors and making sure the right people take a percentage of vital services funded at taxpayer expense.

Since the collapse of the housing market, the giant pool of money is looking for other places to invest. So it's out with the NINA loans and the CDOs and in with the SLABS, CABS, PPPs, and ISAs. Jeff Bryant writes:

It’s not hard to see the allure of SLABS [student loan asset-backed securities]. Student loans seem to be an endless stream of revenue as colleges and universities continue to increase tuition, economic conditions and employment transience feed the unemployed back into continuing education, and political leaders urge everyone to attend college. The income stream is nearly guaranteed to pay off because the loans are next to impossible to discharge in bankruptcy.

A Huffington Post article by Chris Kirkham states, SLABS offer “seemingly unlimited growth potential at virtually zero risk. The burden of college loan repayment falls entirely on students’ backs, shielding corporations from the consequences of default.”

Remember when mortgage-backed securities were a guaranteed, sure thing? There's much more here: ‘capital appreciation bonds’ (CABs) for financing public schools, “public-private partnerships (P3s) where developers provide capital to build schools they then lease to universities (as happens with K-12 charters). Don't get me started on P3s.

The ultimate solution in the private edu-debt sphere emerged recently when conservative ex-governor of Indiana, now president of Purdue University, Mitch Daniels proposed to the U.S. Congress that, “Instead of taking out a traditional college loan, students would have the option of finding an investor – possibly a Purdue alum – to finance their degree in exchange for a share of their future income.”

If you read that and said out loud, "indentured servitude," so did I. Daniels' (and others') first swing at these Income Share Arrangements (ISAs) whiffed, Bryant explains. But?

But like what so often happens, quirky proposals from conservatives that appear like blips on the outer edge of the crazy radar, actually have a huge think tank machinery behind them. As a report from an Indiana news outlet explains, the financial vehicles Daniels alluded to are what’s known in the biz as Income Share Arrangements (ISAs). The reporter sourced the concept of ISAs to 1955 and University of Chicago economist Milton Friedman, the god of right-wing privatization advocates.

Beth Akers, a fellow with centrist think tank Brookings, has argued ISAs should “play a role” in financing student loan debt. She posits that the central problem with higher education is there is “almost no incentive” for students to choose schools and courses of study that pay off down the road in terms of lucrative salaries. A broad market for ISAs could change that by enabling students to “collateralize their financing with future earnings, just as home buyers collateralize their mortgage with the house itself.”

Except here, humans themselves are the collateral. This financial Matrix bypasses all the intermediate messiness of productive capitalism. Why should "job creators" bother with the inefficiency of trading in actual products and services when, by plugging them into a matrix of derivatives, you can change a human being into revenue?

Cue Laurence Fishburne. I didn't give the Wachowskis enough credit.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Mr Mainstream

by digby

I'm sure everyone in the beltway is frantically reassuring one another that he can't possibly mean it. Because he's a grown-up and a moderate. Deep down. Really.

The new servant economy Part XXIV

by digby

Hermit aristocrats:

Katherine van Ekert isn’t a shut-in, exactly, but there are only two things she ever has to run errands for any more: trash bags and saline solution. For those, she must leave her San Francisco apartment and walk two blocks to the drug store, “so woe is my life,” she tells me. (She realizes her dry humor about #firstworldproblems may not translate, and clarifies later: “Honestly, this is all tongue in cheek. We’re not spoiled brats.”) Everything else is done by app. Her husband’s office contracts with Washio. Groceries come from Instacart. “I live on Amazon,” she says, buying everything from curry leaves to a jogging suit for her dog, complete with hoodie.

She’s so partial to these services, in fact, that she’s running one of her own: A veterinarian by trade, she’s a co-founder of VetPronto, which sends an on-call vet to your house. It’s one of a half-dozen on-demand services in the current batch at Y Combinator, the startup factory, including a marijuana delivery app called Meadow (“You laugh, but they’re going to be rich,” she says). She took a look at her current cliens — they skew late 20s to late 30s, and work in high-paying jobs: “The kinds of people who use a lot of on demand services and hang out on Yelp a lot ”

Basically, people a lot like herself. That’s the common wisdom: the apps are created by the urban young for the needs of urban young. The potential of delivery with a swipe of the finger is exciting for van Ekert, who grew up without such services in Sydney and recently arrived in wired San Francisco. “I’m just milking this city for all it’s worth,” she says. “I was talking to my father on Skype the other day. He asked, ‘Don’t you miss a casual stroll to the shop?’ Everything we do now is time-limited, and you do everything with intention. There’s not time to stroll anywhere.”

Suddenly, for people like van Ekert, the end of chores is here. After hours, you’re free from dirty laundry and dishes. (TaskRabbit’s ad rolls by me on a bus: “Buy yourself time — literally.”)

So here’s the big question. What does she, or you, or any of us do with all this time we’re buying? Binge on Netflix shows? Go for a run? Van Ekert’s answer: “It’s more to dedicate more time to working.”

That's from a fascinating story at Medium about how young rich net nerds are no longer living as part of the wider world and instead are outsourcing all of the chores normal people do. It's basically high-tech feudalism although some of the people who now employ humans called "Alfreds" to manage their apps for them (for real) did have a few tiny misgivings about whether those servants and the servants they manage might not be paid all that well. (But hey, it's better than nothing, amirite?)

I will say this: if it's all about work and nothing but work I think a really good idea for an internet business in the next couple of decades will be something that deals with midlife crisis. It's going to hit these people like a ton of bricks.

Also too,this:

That’s the other side of this, the gender one. The errands being served up by the on-demand economy — cooking, cleaning, laundry, groceries, runs to the post office — all were all once, and in many places still are, the jobs of stay-at-home mothers. Even now, when women outnumber men in the formal workplace, they continue to bear the brunt of that invisible domestic work, often for many, many hours a week. So women — those who can afford it, at least — have the most to win from passing that load on to somebody else.

So it’s not a surprise that 60 percent of Alfred’s clients are female. One mother I know told me she has no time to cook while wrangling two kids under two, so she uses EAT24. Uber is an easy way to get out of the house with an infant, another told me, saying the driver helped her strap the baby seat into the black sedan.

The invisible work handed off by some women simply becomes visible — oftentimes for other, less wealthy women. Despite the name, 75 percent of “Alfreds” are women.

There's nothing new about poor women serving rich women. There is something new about those rich women working outside the home. More work for women everywhere!


Maybe if she had a union ...

by digby

This is a sad reality for low wage workers. As "at will" employees they only have freedom of speech in the abstract:
Shanna Tippen was another hourly worker at the bottom of the nation’s economy, looking forward to a 25 cent bump in the Arkansas minimum wage that would make it easier for her to buy diapers for her grandson. When I wrote about her in the Post last month, she said the minimum wage hike would bring her a bit of financial relief, but it wouldn’t lift her above the poverty line.

She called me the other day to say she didn’t get to enjoy the 25-cent hike for long. After the story came out, she says she was fired from her job for talking to the Post.
Tippen says she was fired by her boss, hotel manager Herry Patel. Earlier that day, Patel had called the Post to express frustration that he had been quoted giving his opinion about the minimum wage hike. (He objected to it.)

It was soon after, Tippen says, that Patel found her in the lobby and fired her.

“He said I was stupid and dumb for talking to [the Post],” Tippen said. “He cussed me and asked me why you wrote the article. I said, ‘Because he’s a reporter; that’s what he does.’ He said, 'it was wrong for me to talk to you.'"

She'd worked there for two years and is now unemployed and searching for another job.

This is what liberty means for millions of workers in America. They have the same rights as their employers in the abstract but in order to exercise them they have to be willing to enjoy the "freedom" of starvation.

The Village's dumbest moment of the week

by digby

Mob mentality

by digby

Evidently, the denizens of the right wing fever swamps have convinced themselves that Harry Reid's accident was actually a beat-down by the mafia. I'm not kidding. It seems to have started at Powerline:
A friend of mine was in Las Vegas a week or two ago. He talked to a number of people there about Reid's accident, and didn't find anyone who believed the elastic exercise band story. The common assumption was that the incident resulted, in some fashion, from Reid's relationship with organized crime. The principal rumor my friend heard was that Reid had promised to obtain some benefit for a group of mobsters. He met with them on New Year's Day, and broke the bad news that he hadn't been able to deliver what he promised. When the mobsters complained, Reid (according to the rumor) made a comment that they considered disrespectful, and one of them beat him up.

Everyone knows that the Reid family has gotten rich, even though Reid has spent his entire career as a public employee. It is known that a considerable part of his fortune came from being cut in on sweetheart Las Vegas land deals that included at least one person associated with organized crime as a principal. Was the Senate Majority Leader in the pocket of the Mafia? That seems like a question worth exploring, and yet, to my knowledge, not a single investigative reporter has chosen to look into the matter, even with the obvious clue of Reid's face in front of them.
Somebody needs to cancel his Netflix subscription and take a breather. Life isn't a movie.

Yglesias at Vox breaks all this down, explaining that Reid's fortune is easily explained and has been thoroughly investigated by numerous newspapers. (He's worth something like 6.8 million which is what the million dollars he had when he started his political career would have likely returned over three decades.) He also explains that "the mob" has not really been a factor in Las Vegas for a very long time.

And most importantly he explains how these exercise band accidents happen:
According to the Schmidt Firm PLLC, a personal injury litigation firm, "Resistance bands (or 'exercise bands') have become one of the most popular types of exercise equipment in the United States. Unfortunately, dozens of people have been severely injured when the bands unexpectedly broke or released, snapped backward at the user, and caused eye injuries, vision loss, hand injuries, and more."

A November 2014 New York Post article reported on a lawsuit filed by a woman who claims to have been partially blinded in a band-snapping incident at her gym.

Carolyn Williams at LiveStrong wrote in 2013 that "with proper care and attention, [resistance bands] are useful for a variety of upper and lower body exercises and can last for several months. However, if you don't care for or tether them properly, they can snap."

No kidding.

Now factor in the fact that Harry Reid is 75 years old. It's a wonder he didn't kill himself with one of those things.

It's typically stupid and sick for the right wing fever swamps to engage in something this absurd. But I thought this guy was a little bit less of a nut than this:

I guess not.

Jesus wasn't a bigot

by digby

This is a great piece in The Atlantic explaining why Indiana's new discrimination law is so egregious. It starts like this:
No one, I think, would ever have denied that Maurice Bessinger was a man of faith.

And he wasn’t particularly a “still, small voice” man either; he wanted everybody in earshot to know that slavery had been God’s will, that desegregation was Satan’s work, and the federal government was the Antichrist. God wanted only whites to eat at Bessinger’s six Piggie Park barbecue joints; so His servant Maurice took that fight all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which in 1968 decided that his religious freedom argument was “patently frivolous.”

Until the day he died, however, Bessinger insisted that he and God were right. His last fight was to preserve the Confederate flag as a symbol of South Carolina. “I want to be known as a hard-working, Christian man that loves God and wants to further (God’s) work throughout the world as I have been doing throughout the last 25 years,” he told his hometown newspaper in 2000.

Growing up in the pre-civil-rights South, I knew a lot of folks like Maurice Bessinger. I didn’t like them much, but I didn’t doubt their sincerity. Why wouldn’t they believe racism was God’s will? We white Southerners heard that message on weekends from the pulpit, on school days from our segregated schools, and every day from our governments. When Richard and Mildred Loving left Virginia to be married, a state trial judge convicted them of violating the Racial Integrity Act. That judge wrote that “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents … The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.”
This law is particularly egregious not just because of it's timing. Despite the media's bizarre inability to explain why this law is different from earlier ones,  it's egregious because it contains some highly unusual features:
[T]he Indiana statute has two features the federal RFRA—and most state RFRAs—do not. First, the Indiana law explicitly allows any for-profit business to assert a right to “the free exercise of religion.” The federal RFRA doesn’t contain such language, and neither does any of the state RFRAs except South Carolina’s; in fact, Louisiana and Pennsylvania, explicitly exclude for-profit businesses from the protection of their RFRAs.

The new Indiana statute also contains this odd language: “A person whose exercise of religion has been substantially burdened, or is likely to be substantially burdened, by a violation of this chapter may assert the violation or impending violation as a claim or defense in a judicial or administrative proceeding, regardless of whether the state or any other governmental entity is a party to the proceeding.” (My italics.) Neither the federal RFRA, nor 18 of the 19 state statutes cited by the Post, says anything like this; only the Texas RFRA, passed in 1999, contains similar language.

What these words mean is, first, that the Indiana statute explicitly recognizes that a for-profit corporation has “free exercise” rights matching those of individuals or churches. A lot of legal thinkers thought that idea was outlandish until last year’s decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, in which the Court’s five conservatives interpreted the federal RFRA to give some corporate employers a religious veto over their employees’ statutory right to contraceptive coverage.

Second, the Indiana statute explicitly makes a business’s “free exercise” right a defense against a private lawsuit by another person, rather than simply against actions brought by government. Why does this matter? Well, there’s a lot of evidence that the new wave of “religious freedom” legislation was impelled, at least in part, by a panic over a New Mexico state-court decision, Elane Photography v. Willock. In that case, a same-sex couple sued a professional photography studio that refused to photograph the couple’s wedding. New Mexico law bars discrimination in “public accommodations” on the basis of sexual orientation. The studio said that New Mexico’s RFRA nonetheless barred the suit; but the state’s Supreme Court held that the RFRA did not apply “because the government is not a party.”

Remarkably enough, soon after, language found its way into the Indiana statute to make sure that no Indiana court could ever make a similar decision. Democrats also offered the Republican legislative majority a chance to amend the new act to say that it did not permit businesses to discriminate; they voted that amendment down.
Mike Pence's embarrassing performance on This Week notwithstanding, I'm sure the wingnuts in Indiana knew exactly what they were doing. I'd go even further and speculate they had some help from some of the heavy hitters in the conservative legal circles who developed this "religious liberty" concept. This is how they do it.

The furious backlash may just work to roll this one back.

Another norm bites the dust #POWs

by digby

I wrote about the right's conditional love for American troops this morning at Salon. I recounted the history of Limbaugh and the like and his loathing for "phony soldiers" -- you know, soldiers who criticize war. And then:
It shouldn’t, therefore, be surprising that while these right-wingers are reverent toward the uniform and the flag (to the point where they are even willing to defend them torturing prisoners in order to ”blow off steam”) they are equally quick to announce that the prisoner of war Bowe Bergdahl should have been left in the hands of the Taliban. One would think that the idea of leaving an American who had been tortured for five years by a ruthless enemy to rot would strike them as at least slightly unpatriotic, but apparently his alleged desertion and political thought crimes are so abhorrent that the U.S. government should abandon its tradition (as well as its legal and moral obligation) to exchange prisoners of war going all the way back to George Washington.

It’s not hard to imagine that if the president had been named Bush and the prisoner had left behind a diary proclaiming his love for Rush Limbaugh the right wing that today insists that Bergdahl is a traitor would be throwing parades in his honor, deserter or not. He was, after all, held for nearly five years by the enemy, something that would probably be seen as heroic if it weren’t for his hippie-dippy beliefs. If we have learned anything by now it’s that for all their pompous flag-waving, the right only supports some of the troops. The government should probably take a poll among them before deciding which soldiers are worthy of the nation’s concern.
Mainly I'm concerned about the idea that yet another norm is being discarded in the name of the GWOT, in this case the norm going all the way back to George Washington that says we will exchange prisoners of war. Also too this ridiculous idea idea that these specific middle aged men who've been held prisoner for a decade for the last decade are uniquely dangerous. Unless Guantanamo has been teaching its prisoners advanced military strategy it's highly doubtful those guys present more of a danger than the thousands of battle-hardened Taliban soldiers who have been receiving training day in and day out on the battlefield. How silly.

There more here...


Treachery with a smile on its face

by Tom Sullivan

The Bush administration's infamous torture memos were not the first legal documents to use the color of law to whitewash moral obscenities. Jim Crow had etched that tradition deep into the national culture over a century earlier.

Jim Crow may be gone, but the tradition persists in the branding of legal initiatives that purport to do one thing but in fact do the opposite. And in laws advertised as defending one American principle while violating others. And in using the color of law, as Bush and Cheney did, to justify the illegal and the immoral. Whether it is "election integrity" measures meant to limit ballot access or "religious freedom" as justification for discrimination, treachery with a smile on its face has become standard operating procedure where many of this country's laws are made.

Like a wicked, little boy who stomps a cat's tail then smiles sweetly — Who, me? — lawmakers figure you can fool some of the people some of the time with such legislation. Then they dare us to stop them.

Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act isn't the first of the new, flag-draped attempts at putting "those people," however defined, back in their places. But it is egregious enough that prominent people are calling bullshit.

"There’s something very dangerous happening in states across the country," writes Apple CEO Tim Cook in today's Washington Post. Cook condemns "a wave of legislation" designed to sanction discrimination under color of law:

These bills rationalize injustice by pretending to defend something many of us hold dear. They go against the very principles our nation was founded on, and they have the potential to undo decades of progress toward greater equality.

America’s business community recognized a long time ago that discrimination, in all its forms, is bad for business. At Apple, we are in business to empower and enrich our customers’ lives. We strive to do business in a way that is just and fair. That’s why, on behalf of Apple, I’m standing up to oppose this new wave of legislation — wherever it emerges. I’m writing in the hopes that many more will join this movement. From North Carolina to Nevada, these bills under consideration truly will hurt jobs, growth and the economic vibrancy of parts of the country where a 21st-century economy was once welcomed with open arms.

Cook concludes, "This isn’t a political issue. It isn’t a religious issue." That's putting it mildly. And far too politely. It is a moral issue.

My only real complaint with Cook's op-ed is that he argues discrimination is bad for business. That may be. But completely beside the point. These efforts to resurrect and slap a smiley face on Jim Crow are evil.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Chatting with McJoan

by digby

That is I will be chatting with Joan McCarter on Blogtalk radio Virtually Speaking tonight at 6PDT:

They like him they really like him

by digby

Oh heck, since I've been surveying the GOP presidential candidates today, why not take a look at old Ted, too:

Glenn Beck wants listeners to pray for him. Mark Levin says Fox News is out to get him. Hugh Hewitt calls him an “intellectual leader.” Rush Limbaugh thinks his campaign launch was “masterful.” Laura Ingraham hails him as “Reaganesque.” Erick Erickson considers him a “good friend.”

Ted Cruz may be trailing in the polls and strapped for cash, but the first declared candidate of the 2016 race is winning in at least one key contest — the conservative talk-show primary.
Story Continued Below

Tens of millions of listeners — and potential GOP primary voters — tune in each week to the biggest right-wing radio hosts, who hold forth on the merits and demerits of the various 2016 Republican hopefuls as keenly as they spit invective about Barack Obama and the Democrats. Many of them are big fans of the Texas senator, if not outright supporters. Most are holding their cards close, refusing to hug any candidate too tightly, be it in the spirit of equanimity or out of fear of alienating some listeners.

But nearly all the kings and queens of the conservative airwaves express admiration for a man almost universally despised by his Senate colleagues and dismissed by the mainstream media: Cruz. And they are equally clear about who they do not like: Mushy “progressives” like Jeb Bush and Chris Christie.

They represent the id of the GOP. It's hard to know just how much influence they'll have but it's fairly sure that it's one constituency the presidential aspirants would rather have on their side in a primary than against them ...


Libertarian integrity

by digby

This is just getting pathetic. Pence acting like a rank amateur worthy of Sharron Angle on This Week, Scott Walker flip-flopping like a dying fish and now Rand Paul letting his libertarian facade drop and acting like he's Pat Robertson:

At a prayer breakfast in Washington, D.C. on Thursday morning, Rand Paul practiced pandering. The senator from Kentucky will announce that he is running for president in less than two weeks, and it seems the pressure to be all things to all people is resulting in the breakdown of his political brand, with the latest example being his newly articulated position on marriage.

He conceded to the evangelical crowd, which included Dr. Jerry Johnson, CEO of the National Religious Broadcasters, that there is a "moral crisis in our country" and more specifically, "a moral crisis that allows people to think that there would be some sort of other marriage" in addition to heterosexual, or "traditional," marriage.

To solve the crisis, Paul called for a religious revival and lost himself.

"We need another Great Awakening with tent revivals of thousands of people saying 'reform or see what's going to happen if we don't reform,'" Paul said, adding that Washington has a responsibility to help, too. "There is a role for us trying to figure out a thing like marriage." After all, he said, "The First Amendment says keep government out of religion, not religion out of government."

Paul's position on gay marriage has long been to leave it up to the states and keep the federal government out of it.

In an interview with The Daily Beast's Editor-in-Chief John Avlon at SXSW earlier this month, Paul admitted he was a "traditionalist, born in 1963, okay. You know, marriage was between a man and a woman and still sort of a conservative position that I hold, personally."

As a lawmaker, however, he felt that "the law does have to treat people equally, though, and so the idea that the law can or should be neutral is something that I do find important."

When Paul acts or speaks inconsistently, his campaign responds by pretending like it did not happen.

"Senator Paul believes marriage is an issue that should be dealt with at the state level,” political adviser Doug Stafford told The Daily Beast. “Nothing about his position has changed." Stafford later added: "Senator Paul does not want his guns or his marriage registered in Washington. He has said this repeatedly and consistently. Marriage is not a federal issue. It is an issue for state and local governments to deal with."

Thursday's statement, then, would seem to suggest to anyone with eyes and ears and basic critical thinking skills that the Senator has had a change of heart.

Stafford did not respond to a request to clarify what Paul meant by "moral crisis" or who the "us" he was referring to when he said "there is a role for us trying to figure out a thing like marriage." But in the video of Paul's comment, obtained by CBN News' David Brody, it seems clear Paul is implying that the crisis can be averted with the help of both the federal government and the evangelical activist community. He says "The one thing i would say is - and this is given as free advice - don't always look to Washington. The moral crisis we have in our country, there is a role for us trying to figure out things like marriage, but theres also a moral crisis that allows people to think that there would be some sort of other marriage. and so um really there's a role outside and inside government…"
This is the guy everyone says is in the race to move the Party away from its traditional base of social conservatives and military hawks by educating a new generation about libertarian principles. How's that going?

Sunday funnies

by digby

Also too, this:

Fiorina said that she had two prong plan for boosting the economy by reforming the federal government.

“One, zero-based budgeting so we actually know where money is being spent, and we’re talking about the whole budget and not just the rate of increase,” she remarked. “And two, pay for performance in our civil service.”

“We have — how many Inspector General reports do we need to read that say, you know, you can watch porn all day long and get paid exactly the same way as somebody who’s trying to do their job?”

H/t to Bradblog
More Scott Walker brilliance

by digby

How many gaffes and clumsy errors before he becomes Rick Perry? He was in New Hampshire this week telling everyone who will listen that he's against amnesty for undocumented workers.  Except when he was saying he wasn't.  It's got the right wing a little perturbed.  Here's Allahpundit at Hot Air:
So, to recap: The Wall Street Journal claimed yesterday that Walker told an audience of New Hampshire Republicans that he supported a path to citizenship, which was — supposedly — a flip-flop from what Walker’s been telling reporters lately about opposing “amnesty.” Except that it’s not a flip-flop, as I tried to explain. Walker’s supported a path to citizenship for nearly 15 years. As recently as this month, when asked by Chris Wallace if he can imagine a path to citizenship if illegals paid a penalty first, he replied, “I believe there’s a way you can do that.” No flip-flop!

This, however, is a flip-flop:
“Gov. Walker has been very clear that he does not support amnesty and believes that border security must be established and the rule of law must be followed,” [Walker spokesman Kirsten] Kukowski said. “His position has not changed, he does not support citizenship for illegal immigrants, and this story line is false.”
That’s the statement Walker’s team put out yesterday afternoon as buzz built among righties over the WSJ story. Walker told Wallace a few weeks ago that he’d changed his mind on the need for border security; now, under fire over immigration again, he’s changed his mind on the rest of the issue and abandoned a path to citizenship too. No amnesty of any sort for illegals!

But wait. Here’s New Hampshire Republican Party chair Jennifer Horn, who was at the event described by the Journal:
“I specifically asked a follow-up question on the immigration reform issue, where he very clearly identified he was advocating a path for legal status but not citizenship,” Horn said in an interview with The Associated Press…

In the half-hour discussion, Walker called for securing the border and allowing for more visas for high-skilled workers. He also said it was unreasonable to deport millions of immigrants in the country illegally, preferring a system that allowed them to pay back taxes and achieve legal status over time, according to Horn.

“The governor was very specific that he was not advocating for citizenship for illegal immigrants,” Horn said.
Aha! So the Journal was wrong — Walker supports giving illegals a path to legal status not not full-fledged citizenship. Or is Horn lying to cover for him? The WSJ says three different people at the event confirmed that Walker talked about citizenship, not just legalization. How did all three of them get it wrong? And if Horn’s telling the truth, where does that leave us in terms of Walker’s “evolution” on this issue?

Confused, obviously.

He concludes:
If you’re going to pander to a key voting bloc, choose one and pander your ass off. Don’t try this ridiculous straddle where you try to make amnesty fans and border hawks happy by splitting the baby and supporting legalization but not citizenship. Trying to please everyone usually means pleasing no one.

Actually, there’s another punchline here. Assuming Horn is right and that Walker’s new position is legalization without citizenship, that means he’s engaging in the same sort of amnesty pander as — ta da — his chief rival, Jeb Bush. Remember, Jeb also claims that he opposes citizenship for adult illegals (although not for DREAMers), which is his own crude attempt to blunt attacks on his immigration position from the right. No one believes that Bush 45 would hold the line on that once in office, though; Jeb saying he opposes citizenship is exactly as credible as Obama saying in 2008 that he opposes gay marriage. If in fact Scott Walker’s new position is what Horn says, i.e. pro-legalization but anti-citizenship, then I suspect he came to that position for no better reason than that it’s also Jeb’s position, which means the issue will be more or less neutralized if the race eventually turns into a “Bush versus Walker” one-on-one.

And if instead Jeb flames out and Marco Rubio supplants him as the great establishment hope, Walker can then argue that Rubio’s more of an amnesty fan than he himself is. After all, Rubio’s Gang of Eight bill endorsed a path to citizenship. And Scott Walker very deeply opposes such things, don’tcha know.

Exit question I’d never thought I’d ask: Among Bush, Christie, Walker, and Rubio, the establishment’s fab four, is Rubio actually the most trustworthy on immigration? Good lord
I'm on record believing that Rubio makes the most sense for the GOP, so I'd say this is probably a good sign for him. The Kochs already love him. The prospect of the youthful Hispanic male against the senior white lady could make make grassroots conservatives overlook a whole bunch of unpleasant little details like his earlier immigration stance if Walker and Bush turn out not to have the charisma everyone in the beltway inexplicably believes they have.


Pensive Pence

by digby

If there has ever been a more unctuously sanctimonious politician than the hard-core right winger Mike Pence, I'd love to know who it might be.  The man's perpetually furrowed brow and insistence on his own purity and righteousness seems to have convinced many Villagers that he's a mainstream politician, a moderate even.   He's been mentioned many times as one of the most promising of the dark horse candidates for president, largely because of his undeserved reputation for compassion. (He decided to take free money for Medicaid once so ...) Today he may have smudged that image a bit with his truly terrible performance on This Week trying to defend his state's decision to explicitly legalize discrimination against gay people.

The thing is that he's not unusual. If they were to ask any of the GOP presidential candidates about this issue it's hard to imagine any of them taking a different stand than Pence. Considering just how vehement the opposition to Indiana's new law (shared by numerous other states...) at this point in time, and the media's shocked reaction it seems to me this would be an excellent thing for Democratic activists to take up if the press fails.

Ask your favorite Republican candidate if they support Indiana's new law. And then watch them try to dance on the head of a pin.


Who's afraid of Elizabeth Warren?

by Tom Sullivan

"It will not work," Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren said bluntly after reports last week that some Wall Street banks may withhold campaign donations from congressional Democrats over tensions with her:

"They want a showy way to tell Democrats across the country to be scared of speaking out, to be timid about standing up, and to stay away from fighting for what’s right," Warren wrote. "... I’m not going to stop talking about the unprecedented grasp that Citigroup has on our government’s economic policymaking apparatus ... And I’m not going to pretend the work of financial reform is done, when the so-called 'too big to fail' banks are even bigger now than they were in 2008."

It's that intensity, the appearance that Warren cannot be bought and is in the Senate more to represent the little guys than herself that has the effort to draft Warren for president hard at work in Des Moines, Iowa (funded by Moveon.org and and Democracy for America):

Toria Pinter, a law student who is on medical leave, said that she was drawn to Warren because of the senator's vocal call to lower the interest rates on student loans. Pinter said people should not misconstrue this campaign as anti-Clinton effort, but rather a pro-Warren movement.

"The campaign is not about Clinton," she said. "That's not what we are here to talk about. We are here to talk about Warren and how important she is to us. Because she embodies the ideals and issues that are important to us at the end of the day."

[Blair Lawton, Iowa Field Director for the Run Warren Run campaign] said even if Warren decides not to run, he believes there are some long-term benefits from this campaign including "putting a big investment into the progressive community.

Meanwhile back in Washington, D.C. (cue theme from The Empire Strikes Back), Republicans are pushing back on Warren, reports Politico:

Republicans are deploying a new taunt to needle Democrats they say refuse to consider even modest changes to financial oversight laws: Why are you so afraid of Elizabeth Warren?

It’s part of an effort by the GOP to portray Democrats as being completely inflexible when it comes to changes to the 2010 Dodd-Frank law because they are running scared from the populist wing of the party that views Warren, the most outspoken Wall Street critic in Congress, as their champion.

In an appearance at the American Bankers Association conference, House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) joked that they might need extra help when lobbying Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Warren: “May the force be with you.”

Reading through the rest of the article about what changes Big Bidness wants to to see in Dodd-Frank, one comes away asking whether Congress would show the same level of effort and concern over the needs and wants of less well-heeled and less well-connected constituents. Which explains why volunteers are busting their tails for Warren in Des Moines.

Who knows what words Republican old boys are actually using in D.C. to cast Democrats as inflexible or "running scared" or weak-kneed by asking "Why are you so afraid of Elizabeth Warren?" But that strikes my ear as, "What are you afraid of, a girl?"

With any luck, someone will catch one on tape saying explicitly what they really think.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Saturday Night at the Movies
People they do bad things: Serena and Ride the Pink Horse

By Dennis Hartley

Off the rails: Cooper and Lawrence in Serena

It’s a damn shame to see a good cast wasted. Such is the case with Danish director Susanne Bier’s curiously off-putting period melodrama Serena, which gets inextricably bogged down somewhere between torrid soap opera and watered-down Shakespearean tragedy. It appears Bier, despite having several acclaimed films to her credit (including 2011 Academy Award winner for Best Foreign Language Film, In a Better World), may have nodded off at the wheel this time out.

The story is set during the Great Depression. Bradley Cooper stars as George Pemberton, a burgeoning lumber baron who is carving (well, more like chopping) out an empire from the rugged woodlands of North Carolina. Being one of the most eligible bachelors in the holler, George is ever on the lookout for a wife. One day, while he’s out shootin’ at some food, he spots the eponymous protagonist/future missus (Jennifer Lawrence), who literally comes riding into frame on a white horse; confident, mysterious and purty as all get-out. Serena, as it turns out, is no shrinking violet. In fact, she is so headstrong that George’s second-hand man (David Dencik) takes an immediate disliking to her, especially after she muscles her way into hubby’s business. She’s also a sociopath, which becomes apparent as she morphs into a backwoods Lady Macbeth.

The machinations that ensue in Christopher Kyle’s muddled screenplay (adapted from the 2008 novel by Ron Rash) are at once so underdeveloped and over-the-top that, coupled with the somewhat histrionic performances, the film just misses qualifying as an “instant camp classic” (Fifty Shades of Grey is the one to beat this year). There are a few steamy, pseudo-explicit moments with Cooper and Lawrence that may make you sit up straight and pay attention, but as the bard himself said…two or three inspired hump scenes alone do not a good melodrama make.

If you prefer your dark tales of avarice and deception served up with a more palpable sense of style and atmosphere, you might fare better with Ride the Pink Horse a forgotten film noir gem that has just been reissued on Blu-ray by the Criterion Collection. Previously unavailable for home viewing (save for the occasional airing on Turner Classic Movies), the 1947 crime drama was the second directorial effort from actor Robert Montgomery (his debut, an adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s Phillip Marlowe mystery Lady in the Lake, came out the same year). Ben Hecht and Charles Lederer adapted the screenplay from the 1946 book by Dorothy B. Hughes (Hughes also penned In a Lonely Place, the source novel for Nicholas Ray’s classic 1950 noir).

Montgomery casts himself as a poker-faced, no-nonsense customer named Gagin (no first name is ever mentioned). Gagin rolls into a sleepy New Mexico burg, where the locals are gearing up for an annual fiesta blowout. Gagin, however, has but one thing on his mind: putting the squeeze on the mobster (Fred Clark) who killed his best friend. Gagin’s plan is to hit this professional blackmailer where it’ll hurt him the most…in his wallet. Much to his chagrin, a wily G-man (Art Smith) already has his mark staked out…and has taken a pretty good educated guess as to what Gagin is up to. This setup sounds conventional by noir standards; what ensues is anything but.

Ride the Pink Horse is unique in that it skirts several genres. In its most obvious guise, it fits right into the “disillusioned vet” subgenre of the classic post-war noir cycle, alongside films like Act of Violence, Thieves' Highway , The Blue Dahlia and High Wall. It also works as a character study, as well as a “fish out of water” culture-clash drama. The insular Gagin unexpectedly develops a surrogate family bond with a big-hearted carousel owner (Thomas Gomez, whose performance earned him an Oscar nom for Best Actor in a Supporting Role) and a taciturn, semi-mystic teenage Indian girl (Wanda Hendrix) who inexplicably gloms onto Gagin. Montgomery skillfully mines the irony from the cultural contrasts, in a manner uncannily presaging John Huston’s 1982 film adaptation of Malcom Lowry’s Under the Volcano (which, weirdly enough, was published in 1947, the same year that Ride the Pink Horse was released!). Criterion’s restored print really sparkles, highlighting Russell Metty’s atmospheric, beautifully composed cinematography. Extras include an insightful commentary track by two noir experts. Genre fans will not be disappointed.


Funny headline 'o the day

by digby

I know. It's a cheap joke. I just couldn't resist.

He received an award from the CIA Officers Memorial Foundation:
Every winter for the past several years, the CIA Officers Memorial Foundation has held a glittering dinner around Washington attended by hundreds of top intelligence and corporate officials. The stated purpose of the event, where the cost of sponsor tables ranges from $12,000 to $100,000, is to help raise money for the spouses and children of agency operatives killed in the line of battle since the September 11, 2011 terrorist attacks. But it also serves as an annual reunion of sorts for top intelligence officials and the corporate chieftains of America’s biggest military contractors.

This year’s off-the-record event, officially the Ambassador Richard M. Helms Award Ceremony, named for a Cold War-era CIA director, honored former President George W. Bush, an odd choice, it would seem, given all the trouble his administration caused the CIA (and NSA) during its eight years in office.

Whatever its accomplishments in Afghanistan and Iraq--or theaters unknown--the CIA seemed constantly in hot water under the Bush administration, from its failure to disrupt the 9/11 plot, to its false reports on Saddam Hussein’s nonexistent weapons of mass destruction to justify the 2003 invasion of Iraq, to its use of torture on detainees under White House guidance. And more.

But all that was forgiven, apparently, when the former president was honored at the foundation’s hitherto unreported March 4 dinner at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Tyson’s Corner, Virginia, a few miles down the road from the spy agency’s headquarters in Langley.
They don't publicize this little ceremony. It's only for rich people. And spies. Which is nice.

This isn't the only one of these spook-fests. There's also Spy Prom, which I wrote about last year for Salon. (Poppy's on the board of that one.) They honored Leon Panetta last year.

When bigotry costs you

by digby

Evidently a lot of Indiana businesses are upset that the state government just legalized discrimination. It's bad for business:

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff has made good on a threat tweeted Wednesday evening, warning that the $4 billion company would “dramatically reduce” its investment in Indiana in response to a religious freedom law that critics say is a “license to discriminate” against LGBT individuals.

On Thursday, just hours after Gov. Mike Pence signed the legislation, Benioff announced his firm was “canceling all programs” that require its customers or employees to travel to Indiana, saying he would not subject them to discrimination.

Indiana is the first state to enact such a change this year among about a dozen where such proposals have been introduced. The measure would prohibit state and local laws that “substantially burden” the ability of people — including businesses and associations — to refuse services to individuals based on their religious beliefs.

Benioff says that goal puts Indiana law at odds with Salesforce philosophy.
“We are forced to dramatically reduce our investment in Indiana based on our employee’s and customer’s outrage over the Religious Freedom Bill,” he tweeted.

He is also calling on other technology company CEO’s to take similar action.

Salesforce is a 16-year-old cloud computing company headquartered in San Francisco. It was among a number of businesses, including the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and local employers including Alcoa, Cummins, and Eli Lilly & Co., that spoke out against the bill.

Update: Also Thursday, San Francisco mayor Ed Lee banned all all taxpayer funded travel for city workers to the state of Indiana.

That won't stop Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson of impeachment, US Attorney and NRA fame from signing one of these monstrosities if it comes across his desk.

A rare indictment for a taser assault

by digby

They did manage to indict this police officer, so that's something. We'll have to see if a jury thinks he's guilty:
A federal grand jury has indicted a former Independence police officer who used a stun gun last fall to subdue a 17-year-old driver who nearly died during the encounter.

The four-count indictment unsealed Friday stems from an FBI investigation into whether Timothy N. Runnels used excessive force after he pulled over Bryce Masters of Independence on Sept. 14 at East Southside Boulevard and Main Street.

The indictment charges Runnels with two counts of deprivation of Masters’ constitutional rights, based on force Runnels allegedly used, and two counts of obstruction of justice for allegedly making a false report and giving false statements afterward to investigators.

Runnels entered not guilty pleas during his first court appearance late Friday afternoon. His attorney, J.R. Hobbs, said Runnels denies the allegations.
The indictment said Runnels continuously deployed the stun gun while Masters was on the ground and not posing a threat to the officer, and that Runnels deliberately dropped Masters headfirst onto the ground while the nonthreatening teen was handcuffed.

It also said Runnels knowingly filed a false police report and omitted details to Independence police about the force he used.

Masters and his parents sat in the back of the courtroom during the brief court hearing. Masters’ father is a Kansas City police officer.

In a written statement released after the hearing, the Masters family said it has a unique perspective of what police officers face each day. Bryce Masters was not treated in a reasonable manner by a law enforcement officer, they said.

“This was evident during the traffic stop itself, the nebulous reasons for the contact, and by the lack of adequate medical care thereafter,” the statement said. “Bryce was exercising his right to politely ask questions regarding his detention.”

The family said the teen did not have a warrant for his arrest, and the car he was driving was properly registered to his parents and did not have a warrant associated with it.

That contradicts what Independence police said shortly after the incident, when officials announced the car’s license plate was associated with a woman wanted on an arrest warrant.

At that time, Independence police also said Masters refused to comply with Runnels’ demand to exit the vehicle, and that Masters physically braced himself to prevent the officer from pulling him out.

They also said Runnels reported detecting the odor of marijuana coming from the vehicle.

Masters used his iPhone to record the encounter, according to a court document that police filed to request a search warrant for the car.

After Masters refused to exit the car, the officer used his stun gun, handcuffed Masters and told him to move to the curb. When he didn’t comply, Runnels dragged him there.

A witness recorded a portion of the incident on a cellphone.

Masters sustained brain damage after he went into cardiac arrest. Doctors placed him into a medically induced coma that included lowering his core body temperature. Since then, Masters has received physical therapy.

Daniel Haus, the attorney for Masters, said Masters is a senior at Truman High School in Independence, although the incident set back his studies. His condition is improving, Haus said.

If convicted, Runnels would face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each of the two constitutional rights violations. He would face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on the other counts.

This behavior happens every day. POlice do not believe that using a taser is a form of brutality and that they can get away with using it indiscriminately to force citizens to submit and respect. If there hadn't been a camera showing that he dropped the kind on his head deliberately it's very unlikely they would have indicted this officer. He would have claimed that the kid resisted arrest, had "excited delirium" with super-human strength which made it impossible to subdue him any other way.

There is apparently a lot of video and most of it has not been released to the public (but was presumably shown to the Grand Jury.) This is some witness footage filmed after the stop:

But several witnesses told a different story, that Runnels yanked Bryce out the car when he started recording, handcuffing him and dropping him on his face on the sidewalk, which sent him into convulsions, causing his heart to stop.

One witness who began recording after the incident captured Runnels standing over Masters’ limp body with his foot on him as if to prevent the handcuffed teen from standing up and sprinting away. At no time during the 3:20 video did Runnels seem concerned for Masters’ “medical emergency.”

You can see the convulsions in the beginning. The officer actually nudged him with his foot a couple of times as if to see if he was still alive. And then he wandered away. Neither of the cops in that scene showed even the slightest concern that there was a teen-age boy in handcuffs lying unconscious on the sidewalk.

h/t to @tarkloon