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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Yes there is a red and blue America

by digby

Barack was wrong about that:

A more complete analysis shows that being male, low-income, less well educated, Southern, white and Republican are related to reporting a lower level of offense at the Confederate flag. In contrast, being younger, non-Southern, Democrat and white are associated with reporting a lower level of offense at the gay pride flag.

And that explains:

... the initial hesitation of Republican presidential candidates to support removing the Confederate battle flag from the capitol grounds in South Carolina. Only once nine people were murdered during Bible study in a prominent Charleston AME church did the candidates respond to national public opinion, which is strongly weighted against the flag, and call for its removal.

Hey you can't really blame them too much. It wasn't all that long ago that many liberals' favorite candidate was campaigning by saying that he wanted the guys with confederate flags on their trucks to vote for him too. Indeed, it took until an African American ran for president that the Democrats stopped furiously strategizing how to get back those confederate men. For a long time they seemed to be the Holy Grail to every national politician.


Can Real Americans be terrorists?

by digby

Gawker caught this from terrorist hating (well, except for those nice Irish boys in the IRA) Congressman Peter King:

On ABC’s This Week Sunday, King explained that since jihadis have killed a terrifying total of 28 people in the USA since 9/11, and non-jihadi terror attacks have killed a negligible 48, radical Islam is definitely the far greater threat:

Every murder is horrible … There is no comparison between these white supremacists and an internationally coordinated movement which, if the attacks were not stopped, we could have thousands and thousands of deaths.

King was frankly disgusted by the comparison, because come on, people, everyone knows Muslims are far scarier than rightwing guys with large weapons caches and their own weird dreams of inflicting mass casualties:

“Everything should be investigated, everything should be stopped,” King said. “But to compare these deranged white supremacists with an organized international terrorist movement, that’s The New York Times at its worst.”

Obviously. Because Islamic terrorists are organized and want to kill us all — in increments of 28 per decade, more if possible — while white supremacists are by definition deranged lone nuts who have no organizational ties whatsoever, and more importantly, speako the English.

The people who were killed in the Boston bombing are waaaay more dead than those who were killed in the Charleston massacre. That's just a fact.

This also flies in the face of what every terrorist "expert" has been telling us about the threat in America --- "lone wolf" attacks. They aren't invading and they aren't staging massive attacks like 9/11. The threat is from some loser who reads something on the internet and builds a bomb or shoots someone. That's a terrible thing but it's no more threatening than Dylann Roof and his personal jihad.

Peter King is showing his little white slip and it isn't pretty.


No this Supreme Court is not "just right"

by digby

Polling on the Court's decisions last week is interesting

Democrats are more apt to say they back the ruling on the 2010 health care law sometimes referred to as Obamacare -- 79% back it -- than they are to support the same-sex marriage decision, of which 70% favor. Among Republicans, 54% said they oppose the ruling on health care, while 59% oppose the ruling on same-sex marriage, not a statistically-significant difference. Among independents, 63% support each ruling.

The 37% of Americans who say they see the Court as too liberal is the highest share to say so in CNN polling dating back to 1993. Fewer, 20%, say they feel the Court is too conservative and 40% see it as about right.

In a CNN/ORC poll in 2012, just after the Court issued its first ruling upholding part of the health care law, 30% said they felt the Court was too liberal, 22% that it was too conservative.

Republicans are most apt in the new poll to say the Court's ideology is too far to the left: 69% see the Court as too liberal. That's up from 2012, when 59% of Republicans called it too liberal.

Among Democrats, 34% now say they see the Court as too conservative and 15% too liberal, 49% say the Court is about right. In 2012, just 6% of Democrats described the Court as too liberal, but the share calling it too conservative was about the same at 35%.

Anthony Kennedy and John Roberts aren't 100% batshit insane in every single case but that doesn't mean the court isn't waaaay too conservative. It's anything but "just about right."

Wake up Democrats.

Oh, what's the point

by digby

The next time some right wing gun nut starts handwringing about how anti-gun proliferation activists don't care about "black on black" crime show them this:

With all that "black on black" crime you'd think they'd want to all arm themselves to the teeth.

Of course, they also know that they are already likely to get shot by police whether they have a gun or not so they may figure it's not a good option all the way around.


Electro-shock for fun and profit

by digby

There is so much wrong with this I don't even know where to start:

For the price of a $5 raffle ticket, Van Meter is offering its residents a change to use a police taser on a city official.

City hall is selling the tickets as part of a public safety fundraiser. The raffle winner will get the chance to taser or spare City Administrator Jake Anderson or Councilman Bob Lacy at the Van Meter Fire Association Street Dance July 18.

"I volunteered to be tased," Anderson said.

A police officer will assist with the tasing, with the proceeds going to help the department purchase a second squad car, add speed radar and possibly expand its six-member part-time and reserve force.

Anderson said the idea came up during a meeting with police about funding.

"The joke was sort of, yeah, let's tase the administrators. They make all the friends," Anderson said. "I was like, yeah, that's funny. Do you think you could raise some money?"

Lacy volunteered to add a little competition, and Anderson was glad.

"I didn't want there to be a 100 percent chance I'd be tased," he said.

Anderson said he's never been tased before, adding, "I imagine it will hurt."

Police Chief Bill Daggart, a former Waukee officer, admitted he's never been tased either. But he hopes to purchase tasers for Van Meter's department once they've raised the $5,000 to $10,000 desired to expand the force.

"A taser reduces suspect-officer physical confrontations immensely," Daggart said.

The police department is also raffling gift cards for Sportsman's Warehouse valued at prices equal to a number of firearms, including a Ruger AR556 Patrol Rifle.

Daggart said the desire to expand the force isn't the result of any crime increase in the town of roughly 1,100 residents. Van Meter is hoping to attract a data storage industry from companies such as Microsoft or Facebook.

Though the city has a patch of land suitable for that industry, those companies often require specific response times from police and fire services.

"It's not a crime issue as much as it is a growth issue, "Daggart said. "It's a way we can compete with Omaha and West Des Moines."

A poster created by the police department that advertises the raffle reads, "It is taser time!!!" adding that citizens can "vote to taser Jake or Bob." The bottom of the poster reads, "Don't tase me bro!!!!!"

And for 50 bucks, you can waterboard the mayor! Fun!!!!

I sure hope the public officials get a full cardiac work-up and take some strong downers and pin killers before they submit because tasering can kill you if you get too "excited". Or have an underlying condition. Or they shoot you full of electricity in the chest. Or you fall and hit your head or knock out your teeth when your muscles all seize up and you fall to the ground.

Best take some precautions. Unfortunately, the people who get tasered for mouthing off or failing to submit to an order quite quickly enough don't have a chance to get a medical evaluation before they are shot through with electricity, but that's their tough luck.

The Christian right at war with itself

by digby

I wrote about that at Salon this morning. It could portend yet another fault line in the GOP coalition:

As Scott Eric Kaufman reported on this site, Ted Cruz went on the “Today” show yesterday and laid out his belief that the real victims of discrimination in this country are evangelical protestants, because the Supreme Court is unrepresentative of “flyover country” and the people who live there. The justices are a bunch of east coast Catholics and Jews, you see, and they just don’t have any respect for Real Americans. Cruz thinks all that untrammeled Catholic and Jewish power needs to be stopped. “There are no protestants, no evangelicals, on the Court,” he said. “They think our views are parochial and don’t deserve to be respected. What a crazy system to have the most important issues of our day decided by unelected lawyers.”

Oddly, this comment echoes Justice Scalia’s unhinged rant in his Obergefell dissent which Cruz turns back on Scalia himself. Scalia wrote:
“[T]o allow the policy question of same-sex marriage to be considered and resolved by a select, patrician, highly unrepresentative panel of nine is to violate a principle even more fundamental than no taxation without representation: no social transformation without representation.”
You’ll notice that when the justice said that the Court was out of touch because it was composed of a bunch of Ivy league-educated elites (like Ted Cruz, by the way) he didn’t say anything about evangelicals and protestants. He is, after all, a very famous Catholic who prides himself on his social conservatism. It’s unlikely that he meant to implicate his own religion in that “otherness.”
If Cruz is speaking for anyone but himself, this marks an interesting shift in the religious right and one that could be consequential. The alliance between conservative Catholics and evangelical Christians has been one of the most fruitful political collaborations in our history. And it was, for all of its pursuit of noxious public policy, a rather weird demonstration of American progress.

Read on. The history of this partnership is pretty interesting and the fraying of it right now has very little to do with theology and everything to do with politics.


Them boys ain't goin' gentle into that good Knight

by Tom Sullivan

You knew it was coming as soon as calls to remove Confederate battle flags caught fire across the South starting in Columbia, SC:

The Ku Klux Klan has been approved to hold a protest rally at the Statehouse next month against removing the Confederate battle flag, with the group calling accused mass murderer Dylann Roof a “young warrior.”

The Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan applied for the permit last week to hold a rally for 100 to 200 people on July 18 on the north side of the Statehouse.

If you are holding your breath for Fox News' Griff Jenkins to cover the Klan rally live just to remind us all that racism is dead and only racists and race baiters say otherwise, don't.

Actually, this Klan group hails from North Carolina:

Calling itself the “Largest Klan in America,” the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan are based in Pelham, N.C., according to the group’s website.

A man identifying himself as the “great titan” of the N.C. chapter of the Loyal White Knights left a message with The State saying his group is holding the demonstration because “to us they are erasing white history and white culture right out of the history books. That’s why they want to take that flag down.”

Violent insurrection ending in what Southerners in other circumstances call an ass whuppin' (followed by decades of Jim Crow, domestic terrorism, and thousands of lynchings) is the heritage some here are most proud of and remember with Confederate battle flags. Of 400 years of history on these shores, the 4 years of violent treason are the ones by which some Southerners still define themselves. This makes them a very special breed of 1%-er. As John Fugelsang put it in the video I linked to the other day, it is "a heritage of quitting America because you want to start your own country to keep people as pets."

South Carolina state senator Paul Thurmond (yes, son of the famous Dixiecrat/Republican) spoke to WBUR in Boston about his speech outlining his decision to support removing the flag from the state capital grounds. Thurmond thinks it is the right thing to do. It is "a symbol of hatred that needs to be brought down.” Thurmond is worried about his safety.

The boys were out over the weekend celebrating their heritage with Confederate flags flown from the backs of their pickup trucks. At my SC hotel last night, a guy just finishing fixing a flat on his truck stuck a Confederate flag onto the left rear, as in this picture a friend shot in Marion, NC.

A reporter in Asheville spoke with an eighteen year-old kid doing the same:

We were talking about the reaction he's gotten flying the battle flag, and Billingsley said it's been overwhelmingly positive — lots of honks, thumbs-up, and more than 600 likes on a Facebook page.

"I've only had one negative, and it was a colored looking at me," Billingsley said. "He made it look racist, but it's really him being racist by judging me for flying it."

Congratulations, Fox News. Mission accomplished. Mr. "I know you are, but what am I?" is America's future.

Thurmond is probably right to worry about his safety, judging by the driving prowess the Southern Pride faction showed over the weekend in Dalton, GA:

Monday, June 29, 2015

You're all weak, I tell you, weak!

by digby

So NBC dumped Trump (the Miss Universe pageant anyway --- he'd already resigned from Apprentice) because of his Ann Coulter inspired "Mexicans are rapists" comments. Here's his response:
As of today, Donald J. Trump is no longer affiliated with NBC. Mr. Trump stands by his statements on illegal immigration, which are accurate. NBC is weak, and like everybody else is trying to be politically correct--- that is why our country is in serious trouble.

"We must have strong borders and not let illegal immigrants enter the United States. As has been stated continuously in the press, people are pouring across our borders unabated. Public reports routinely state great amounts of crime are being committed by illegal immigrants. This must be stopped and it must be stopped now. Long ago I told NBC that I would not being doing The Apprentice because I am running for President in order to Make our Country Great Again.

"If NBC is so weak and so foolish to not understand the serious illegal immigration problem in the United States, coupled with the horrendous and unfair trade deals we are making with Mexico, then their contract violating closure of Miss Universe/Miss USA will be determined in court. Furthermore, they will stand behind lying Brian Williams, but won't stand behind people that tell it like it is, as unpleasant as that may be."

I don't often agree with Allahpundit, but we're on the same page with this one:

Not only will Trump pay no price with populists for having long associated with a network as reviled on the right as NBC, he’ll actually get a bump in the polls now that they’ve declared him persona non grata. Everyone wins — NBC gets bouquets from SJWs for cutting him loose, Trump gets to revel in being the media’s new public enemy number one, and the media itself gets a sweet little gotcha to pester the other candidates with this week. The only loser, as usual, is the Republican voter.

Exit question: Odds that Trump will actually be leading the GOP field by the time of the first debate in early August? I’d say 50/50.

He upped it to 60-40 after Trump's statement came out.

I'm not sure the Republican voters think they are losers though. They seem to like this stuff.

Thank you daddy

by digby

Here's the most insincere, paternalistic commentary you will see all day from none other than Rick Perry responding to the Supreme Court refusing to force women's clinics in Texas to close pending ongoing litigation:

Seriously, because he's "worried" about their health. So he thinks they should go to back alley butchers and bleed to death instead.

This whole line is such blatant bullshit I can't believe they don't burst into laughter whenever they try to sell it. He's saying what men have been telling women for millennia: you can believe me or you can believe your lying eyes. (It's for your own good. Now get in there and make my dinner.)


Amid all the progress we are still barbarians

by digby

Ian Millhiser on today's death penalty decision authored by a real sick piece of work by the name of Samuel Alito:

At oral arguments, Alito was openly contemptuous of the work of death penalty opponents — many of whom work for companies that manufacture drugs that various states would like to use in their execution protocols. The reason why Oklahoma was in court seeking the ability to use a painkiller of questionable reliability in its executions is because many drug companies have refused to sell their products to states if those states intend to use them to kill a human being. During arguments in this case, Alito labeled this effort a “guerrilla war against the death penalty.”

As a legal matter, it is not at all clear why the actions of drug companies have any relevance whatsoever to a constitutional challenge to the death penalty. Drug companies are private actors, not government actors, so they are free to sell or not to sell whatever they choose so long as they comply with the law. Alito’s opinion, however, effectively punishes these drug companies for their opposition to the death penalty by holding that, should the companies continue to make their more reliable drug unavailable, then executions will just move forward with less reliable painkillers.

They key paragraph in Alito’s opinion is a declaration that, no matter what happens, there must always be a way to execute inmates:

Our decisions in this area have been animated in part by the recognition that because it is settled that capital punishment is constitutional, “[i]t necessarily follows that there must be a [constitutional] means of carrying it out.” And because some risk of pain is inherent in any method of execution, we have held that the Constitution does not require the avoidance of all risk of pain. After all, while most humans wish to die a painless death, many do not have that good fortune. Holding that the Eighth Amendment demands the elimination of essentially all risk of pain would effectively outlaw the death penalty altogether.

Ordinarily, lawsuits claiming that a particular method of punishment is unconstitutionally cruel and unusual limit their focus to a narrow question — whether the specific method used by the state is cruel and unusual or not. With this one paragraph, Alito turns that analysis on its head. Now, there must always be a method of execution available to the state. And if the only method available inflicts cruel and unusual amounts of pain on an inmate, that’s not the Court’s problem.

As a final blow to anti-death penalty advocates, Alito effectively drafts them into the task of determining how their clients should be killed. Alito reaches his conclusion, at least in part, “based on petitioners’ failure to satisfy their burden of establishing that any risk of harm was substantial when compared to a known and available alternative method of execution.” In other words, a lawyer challenging a particular method of execution must name another, alternative method that can be used instead. Needless to say, this places attorneys who have an obligation to represent the interests of their client in a serious ethical bind.

We have a court majority that literally says that the death penalty is inviolate and it doesn't matter how it's done as long as it is done. Not only that it's up to the lawyers who handle death penalty cases to pick which method they want the state to use to kill their clients. It's so sick I can't wrap my mind around it.

I'm going to guess that the only hope for this lies in some application of "religious liberty" in the future in which anyone who isn't a total cretin, from the corporate reps to the lawyers to the public officials, will claim that it violates their religious beliefs to participate in the premeditated killing of a human being who is in custody and presents no threat to them.

And even that probably won't work on the blood-thirsty Alito. But maybe some other willing executioners will be persuaded.


Casting out Coulter

by digby

I wrote about the weird career of Ann Coulter at Salon today:

Ten years ago, Ann Coulter was featured on the cover of Time magazine with an article entitled “Ms. Right.” At the time she was a very big presence in the political media but the article pushed her into the realm of popular culture; thus, she became more than just a political bomb thrower. She’d always had the looks and the confidence, and now she had the imprimatur of the mainstream media. Coulter became a full-fledged star.

The article caused a tremendous stir. After all, Coulter was among the most flamboyant of the newer, edgier breed of right-wing provocateurs. In 2000, she had won the Media Research Center-presented “Conservative Journalist of the Year” award, and the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute gave her its annual conservative leadership award “for her unfailing dedication to truth, freedom and conservative values and for being an exemplar, in word and deed, of what a true leader is.” It seemed as if she and her incendiary polemics were everywhere, from daily personal appearances on television, her weekly newspaper columns and a series of books that were extremely popular among right-wingers.

From 1998 to 2005, when the magazine cover appeared, she had published a series of books — “High Crimes and Misdemeanors: The Case Against Bill Clinton,” “Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right,” “Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism,” and a collection of her columns, called “How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must): The World According to Ann Coulter” — all of which were very successful. The theme of these books is obvious from the titles. She was famous for her cleverness in hating and baiting liberals. And in those heady days of conservative apotheosis, with sex scandals, stolen elections, terrorist attacks, unnecessary wars and liberalism on the run as never before, Coulter was the most deliciously vicious of all the haters. Among her famous quotes of the era were:
  • The “backbone of the Democratic Party” is a “typical fat, implacable welfare recipient.”
  • “My libertarian friends are probably getting a little upset now but I think that’s because they never appreciate the benefits of local fascism.”
  • “If you don’t hate Clinton and the people who labored to keep him in office, you don’t love your country.”
  • “We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity”
  • “Congress could pass a law tomorrow requiring that all aliens from Arabic countries leave… We should require passports to fly domestically. Passports can be forged, but they can also be checked with the home country in case of any suspicious-looking swarthy males.”
And one of her most memorable (to me at least) was this one:
“We need to execute people like John Walker [Lindh] in order to physically intimidate liberals, by making them realize that they can be killed, too. Otherwise, they will turn out to be outright traitors,”
Coulter later clarified what she meant;
“When I said we should ‘execute’ John Walker Lindh, I mis-spoke. What I meant to say was ‘We should burn John Walker Lindh alive and televise it on prime-time network TV’. My apologies for any misunderstanding that might have occurred.”
If that reminds you of certain fundamentalists operating today in the Middle East, you wouldn’t be alone.

It goes on to discuss the fact that she has fallen from grace in recent years ...

Now *this* is brave

by digby

Right wingers (and some others) are always claiming that Islam is to blame for all the violence in the middle east and elsewhere. And, to be sure, many of these terrorists and extremists think they are following some pre-modern religious instruction. But this is really about human beings, regardless of their religion. And here you see the reality of it played out on that bloody beach in Tunisia:
Images obtained by Sky News showed gunman Seifeddine Rezgui shortly after he began shooting, walking through the surf at Sousse with a Kalashnikov rifle at his side.

Some have been critical of the men shown standing on the beach behind the gunman, described as “horrified onlookers” by the Mail Online, with one commentator saying: “I count nine men standing or walking behind him why didn’t they all attack him?”

But John Yeoman, who was on holiday with his wife at a neighbouring resort when the shooting began, tweeted: “Those in the background formed a human shield to protect another hotel. they are not watching they saved many lives.”

When they flew into Manchester to be repatriated, Mr Yeoman's wife met another holidaymaker who had been on the beach during the shootings.

This man told her that he and his girlfriend were on the beach on Friday when the attack started. A hotel chef came running towards them, telling them to run for their lives.

“He was the one who told them that the line of people they could see ahead of them were staff from the hotel,” Mrs Yeoman said.

“He said to this couple that they were telling the gunman ‘you’ll have to get past us and we’re Muslims’. Obviously I don’t know the exact words but that was pretty much what they were saying.

“They’d actually made a human barricade – ‘you’re not going to get past us, you’ll have to kill us.’"

She said when she then saw the picture in media reports, it seemed obvious that the photographer had captured the moment described by the other holidaymaker.

Mrs Yeoman said the extreme bravery of the staff “makes you have a little more faith in humanity” and disproves any suggestion that Muslims are all violent extremists.

“Everyone seems to think ‘it’s the Muslims, it’s the Muslims’, but it is not, it is not their way,” she said. “There are no words to express how grateful we are to them [the staff].”

Another Briton, Ian Symes, wrote to Mr Yeoman: “I’m with you - was on beach at Palm marina - whilst we were running to hide, hotel staff were running out to help, very brave.”

Now the gun nuts would say they should have all been armed and run out onto the beach spraying bullets. And maybe they would have succeeded in bringing the guy down before he had a chance to hit so many people. Or maybe not. Maybe they would have hit some people themselves. Or each other. More guns, more bullets.

But one thing we do know is that this guy had a gun and regardless of whether or not others had been armed, his determination to kill people meant that some number of people would be killed. Gun proliferation advocates are fine with that. They believe guns are wonderful tools and toys at best and at worst just part of nature, something that exists and which we must embrace lest someone else use them against us. Some of the rest of us think that such lethal weapons are a man-made catastrophe.

But regardless of all that, I think we should all be able to agree that those who formed a human shield to stop that homicidal maniac are indeed very, very brave.


QOTD: Cruz

by digby

He's very upset:

“The Court injected itself into politics...what a crazy system to have the most important issues of our day decided by unelected lawyers.”

He has a point:

Back in late 2000, Ted Cruz found himself with one of the hottest tickets in town.

As a former clerk to Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, Mr. Cruz, a junior aide on George W. Bush’s presidential campaign, had scored a seat inside the Supreme Court for the oral arguments in Bush v. Gore, which would decide the election.

That was completely different, of course.

The problem now is that evangelicals and protestants are being discriminated against because there aren't any of them on the court. It's just a bunch of Jews and Catholics and you know how they are.

There was a time not so long ago that the conservative evangelicals happily allowed the conservative Catholic intelligentsia carry their water for them. After all, there was a long tradition of intellectual religious thought in the Catholic Church that made for good conservative legal cred and so they pushed Alito, Scalia, Roberts, Kennedy and Thomas to the court with the understanding that they would be good on their issues.

Now they feel there is something "different" about them and that the court is just too full of all these big city Catholic and Jewish lawyers. Evangelicals are now victims of discrimination.

You knew that was going to happen, right?


The Fast Track Battle is not the TPP War

by Gaius Publius

"This is your captain speaking. Do not abandon ship."

It would be easy to be deflated after the recent loss of the Fast Track battle. Our 2008 Democratic hero and Corporatist in Chief has managed to shove a Fast Track bill down congressional throats — which were, I must say, mainly eager recipients.

But the battle is not the war, as explained above, and it's always true that if you fail to fight to the end, you will always lose. On the other hand, this is what sometimes happens when you do play hard to the end:

On the last play of the game, Auburn returned a missed field goal 100 yards to upset number one Alabama 34-28 in the 2013 Iron Bowl.

There's no way they win if the Auburn players are checked out during that field goal attempt.

Meteor Blades, keeper of the progressive flame at Daily Kos these days, has this to say (my emphasis throughout):
Some progressives threw up their hands Tuesday after the Senate voted for closing debate on fast-track trade legislation. It's all over, they said: The nearly completed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement is certain to pass now.

Not so fast.

Although the Senate will undoubtedly approve fast-track legislation today—the trade promotion authority bill only needs 51 votes—the despair and talk of surrender on the TPP shouldn't be on anyone's agenda. Certainly, it's true that blocking that agreement will be exceedingly tough. But it is by no means impossible.
As evidence, he quotes George Zornick in The Nation, who lists a number of reasons to be optimistic that TPP could fail, especially in the House. Here's the schedule and the possibilities:
Sometime in the late summer or early fall, the Obama administration will finally release the full TPP text, after the president signs it. After 90 days, Congress can vote on it.

Without question, fast track makes the TPP much more likely to pass. No amendments can gum up the process or chase off support, and we already can easily see there are 50 votes in the Senate based on the fast-track votes. But the House remains no sure thing for the TPP. Fast track twice passed by only two votes.

When the TPP actually comes out, there will be some really ugly details that are likely to enrage liberals and solidify opposition among Democrats. For months the White House has been dodging some criticisms of the TPP by stressing that the text isn’t final, but that will no longer be an option.

The unknown details of the TPP, incidentally, are what Hillary Clinton cites for not yet having an official position on the trade deal. If the Democrat base gets truly riled up when the details do come out, she may end up opposing the deal. This would give cover for every congressional Democrat to do the same.

Members of the House will also be in the thick of their reelection campaign this fall, and increased progressive activism and actual primary challengers will no doubt make a TPP vote even harder. ...
Again, there's more at the link.

At the risk of overdoing the sports metaphors, the only way to win is to play. And the only way to play is — block to the whistle, tackle to the ground, play to the end of the game. This game is not over.

(A version of this piece appeared at Down With Tyranny. GP article archive here. My TPP archive here.)



Great balls of jello

by Tom Sullivan

Frank Rich takes aim at the gutlessness of the GOP's 2016 presidential hopefuls:

Say this about the Old Confederacy: At least its leaders had the courage of their own bad convictions. Today’s neo-Confederate GOP politicians, vying for primary votes in Dixie 150 years after Appomattox, proved themselves to be laughable cowards. Confronted with the simplest of questions – should a state capitol display a flag that stands for slavery, racism, and treason? – they hedged (all of them), spouted gibberish (Ted Cruz), or went into hiding (Rand Paul). If they’d been the Rebel generals in the Civil War, it would have been over in a week.

This was, Rich writes, "the second time in three months we’ve seen GOP presidential contenders unwilling to stand up to the unreconstructed bigots still infesting their party’s base." In April, they had caved or hedged over “religious freedom” bills passed to sanction discrimination against gay families. They then retreated faster than Lee at Gettysburg after civil rights groups and the NCAA condemned Indiana's version, and influential CEOs objected to the states dissing their customers.

Seems like only yesterday that Gov. Bobby Jindal and his legislative tigers were lying down like the Siegfried and Roy cats before the once enfant terrible, Grover Norquist. They wrote asking his and Americans for Tax Reform's permission to sorta kinda raise state taxes after Republican economic dogma had driven Louisiana's balance sheet (like Kansas' before it) deep into the red.*

But boy howdy, whichever of these bowls of jello survives being a debate contestant on the RNC's "Who Wants To Be The Next War President," you can be sure we will be treated to months of tough-sounding ads telling us that only he (it will be a he) has the balls to protect Uh-murca from the jihadis' long, curved knives.

* Meanwhile in Minnesota, Gov. Mark Dayton's Democratic leadership led the state to the top of CNBC's list of best states for business in 2015.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Service cats

by digby

They have a job to do and they do it well:

Like the characters played by the actor who inspired his name, Pacino was no scaredy cat. The brown tabby had prowled the streets of Los Angeles, a drifter scraping for his next meal.

After the cat was turned in at an L.A. County animal services shelter, there was little hope that Pacino would be adopted. He was too distrustful, too fierce, too mean.

Then Melya Kaplan came along, looking for a cat with grit, street smarts and attitude.

Several hours after the customers and merchants have gone home and the lights are dim, the cats start their patrol in the Los Angeles Flower Market June 25, 2015. The Working Cats program is using unsocialized "feral" cats in a program to keep rodents away from the market.

The Working Cats program is using community cats in a program to rid the Los Angeles Flower Market of rodents. The cats dont kill the rodents they manage to repel them by their scent.
The 10-pound, 6-ounce cat would become the nighttime warden at the Original L.A. Flower Market, making sure rodents and other vermin didn't get out of hand. He's part of a group of tough cats recruited by an animal rights nonprofit to find homes in places that could use their hard-scrabble qualities. Along with another cat named DeNiro, Pacino would prowl the Italian side of the flower market. Of course.

"Mother Nature doesn't make mistakes," said Kaplan, executive director of Voice for the Animals. "We probably just haven't found a purpose for it yet."

As part of the Working Cats program, street cats like Pacino are rescued from animal shelters and sent to locations ranging from police stations, like the LAPD's Wilshire and Foothill divisions, to private homes, businesses and schools. Over the years, the program has placed about 500 cats in nearly 50 locations.

Kaplan, a frequent customer of the market, developed the program in 1999 when Carl Jones, a market employee, told her about the rats in the workplace. Exterminators would spray the warehouse with poison, but the vermin remained. Every so often, a customer would spot a pair of beady eyes hidden in the row of flowers.

"Anytime you heard a customer scream, you generally knew the rats were to blame. And then I had to stop what I was doing and go chase the little thing away," said Jones, who has worked at the market for 15 years. "It definitely wasn't the highlight of my job."

Scott Yamabe, executive vice president of the Original L.A Flower Market, said the facility had battled rats since the beginning of the 20th century. All kinds of things were tried to get rid of the rats, but the results were always the same: nibbled-on flowers.

"The rodents even chewed through the wooden refrigerator doors where we kept the flowers," said Yamabe. "Those rats were too smart. We really needed help."

About 15 years ago, Kaplan made a proposition to Yamabe. She would deliver three cats to the flower market to get rid of the rats. And if they could not take care of the rodents, she would take them back.

The market currently has 15 cats, and Jones and Yamabe said they do not see any rats.

Kaplan attributes the program's success to the simple fact that adding a predator to an environment will scare away its prey. Once rodents smell a cat on the prowl, they go somewhere else, she said.

"It's not anything new. People used to have barn cats or church cats to keep out rodents," Kaplan said. "We just brought [it] to the city, and it seems to be really working."

There are no rats where I live, that's for sure:


TBTL: Too big to lose

by digby

I'm sure you've been reading a lot about the Greek situation. (If you haven't this Krugman piece will get you up to speed.) It should be another very interesting week.

Sure, they've been dealing with 25% unemployment for 7 years now but the New York Times has found the real victims in this whole horrid odyssey:

For investors around the world looking at Greece, there was but one question Sunday: What is going to happen when the markets open on Monday?

That question is particularly acute for the hedge fund investors — including luminaries like David Einhorn and John Paulson — who have collectively poured more than 10 billion euros into Greek government bonds, bank stocks and a slew of other investments.

This weekend, Nicholas L. Papapolitis, a corporate lawyer here, was working around the clock comforting and cajoling his frantic hedge fund clients.

“People are freaking out,” said the 32-year-old Mr. Papapolitis, his eyes red and his voice hoarse. “They have made some really big bets on Greece.

But there is no getting around the truth of the matter, he said. Without a deal with its European creditors, the country will default and Greek stocks and bonds will tank when the markets open.
The humanity. Won't someone think of the hedge fund managers? These are people on whom we depend to gamble huge amounts of money for the greater good.  I'm afraid these bets are Too Big To Lose.


The boys and girls who cry dildoes

by digby

Vox has a rundown of the hilarious CNN "bunch of dildoes and buttplugs" flub yesterday which, if you haven't heard about it, needs to be seen to be believed:

Yes, folks, they actually worked up a terrorist scare over a gay pride parody flag with dildoes and butt plugs. (It doesn't seem to have occurred to even one of them that ISIS is not exactly a friend to the gay community and isn't likely to join their pride parade but whatever ...)

Anyway, Vox does point out an important point about all this underneath the absurdity:
Mistakes happen — we at Vox have made our own — but the way that CNN covered this is a bit concerning, and not for the error so much as for the fear-mongering.

The network spent several minutes telling Londoners that ISIS was in their midst, frequently reminding viewers of last week's bloody terror attacks in Tunisia and Kuwait. They portrayed the London gay pride rally as sullied by violent Islamist extremism. And they displayed on screen, for long stretches, the image of a totally innocent gay pride supporter, repeatedly suggesting that this man is in fact a terrorist.

CNN does not normally confuse ISIS flags with satirical dildo flags. This was clearly their JV team making a flub. But that flub was totally consistent with the network's approach to terrorism, which for years has over-hyped threats, blasting viewers with hysterical warnings of imminent and omnipresent danger. It is a network whose terrorism coverage has been not just clumsy and irresponsible but cynical, exploiting people's earnest fears and the bloodshed of real victims in order to create a more titillating TV viewing experience.

In many ways, the CNN team responsible for this bit was just following normal protocol: over-hyping threats is, for the network, part of the daily routine. It just so happened that they went a little more overboard than usual here and got caught doing it. Usually, the act is not quite so obvious, and it's not at all funny.

The Islamic terrorism fear-mongering on television is way out of proportion to the threat of it in the US. And it's done with this underlying implication that they are not only coming to "kill us all" as Lindsay Graham put it, but that we are under a serious threat of ISIS taking over the country. Why else would this threat be taken as something we must pull out all the stops to confront when we can't even get background checks for the kind of gun violence that we live with routinely? Mass killing is dangerous to individuals regardless of the motivation. The people who were killed in the Boston bombing are no more dead than those who were killed in Charleston.

ISIS is not going to take over America. It's not going to take over Europe either. They can kill people with terrorist attacks, absolutely. And we should be concerned with that. And they can cause global havoc, no doubt about it. But since we are so blase about the 30,000 people who die each year from guns and don't seem to see the necessity to roll up the constitution to stop those who kill for any other political ideologies, maybe our media could dial down the threat mongering a little bit. Lindsay Graham is going to have a heart attack.

Jerk 'O the Day

by digby

A true statesman in action:

What the Bible tells us about marriage

by digby

As we listen to all these preachers, politicians and Christian laypeople drone on and on and on about how their religious beliefs are being violated because the Bible says marriage is between one man and one woman and legalizing gay marriage is a form of discrimination against Christians, read this piece by Juan Cole about what the Bible actually says about marriage. Hint: there's not a thing about gays and a whole lot about plural marriage. Lots and lots. And about wives being sex slaves who belong to their husbands. It's scary.

He concludes with this:

[As for Biblical marriage],you can do that in all kinds of imaginative ways– take two wives and someone else’s sex slave as Abraham did, or 300 sex slaves as Solomon did (not to mention the 700 wives), or your brother’s widow in addition to your own wife. And remember, if your sex slave runs away because you’re cruel to the person, the Bible (Philemon) says that other people have the duty to return the slave to you, i.e. basically imposes the duty of trafficking slaves back to sadistic sex maniacs who exploit them. But if the owner is nice and a good Christian, he might consider letting the sex slave go. But he doesn’t have to.

Oh, and for all this blathering all morning on the various shows from people like Cokie Roberts about how marriage is the only natural way to live (thus making unmarried people into some kind of freaks) I'd just point out that (as far as we know) Jesus was a single guy. But who cares about him? After all, when Scalia said "ask a hippie" it's really just another way of asking WWJD.

Mr. Robot Will Scratch The Corporate Justice Itch in Your Brain  

by Spocko

The pilot of Mr. Robot is the most interesting TV show I've seen all year. (Watch it free at USA's site here)

 It has the potential to become as enlightening (and predictive) about how our current computer-connected corporate power elite function as Person of Interest did when dealing with the ramification of widespread surveillance and the morality (or lack of) in our detection and execution of possible terrorists.

My recap has spoilers, some you could tell from watching the extended trailer. Here's the marketing blurb.
In MR. ROBOT, Elliot, a cyber-security engineer by day and vigilante hacker by night, is recruited by a mysterious underground group to destroy the firm he's paid to protect. Elliot must decide how far he'll go to expose the forces he believes are running (and ruining) the world.
The opening scene takes place in a urban coffee shop. Elliot, the lead character, is describing to the shop's owner why he ending up finding the 100 terabytes of child pornography the owner had that was serving 400,000 users. We don't see a single computer screen or keyboard during this, just Elliot and the owner.

 It all started because he liked the fast wi-fi in the shop.
 "It was so good it scratched that part of my mind that doesn't allow good to exist without conditions."  -Elliot, Mr. Robot, S01E01
Elliot has a curious mind. "What's the catch?" he wonders. So he digs. First figuring out what is hinky, then how was it done technically. This is about solving an interesting puzzle, which is a critical thing to understand about many hackers.

Then comes the human puzzle solving side which is more important that people realize. (BTW, in the industry they call lying to people to get the information you want "social engineering" because that sounds like something you go to college to learn. Calling it plain old lying sounds like any shlub could do it. )

His actions, upon finding the porn, reveal part of his moral code. He isn't going to blackmail the owner. Money doesn't drive him. He's going to the police.

The opening scene's hero/villain morality play was designed to be fairly cut and dried. Serving up child porn is widely condemned as immoral and is illegal. The villain is unrepentant and has few obvious allies. He was caught off guard, was unprepared and didn't instantly retaliate.  A clear cut win for our hero.

Evil Corp Is Made of People! PEOPLE!

Still, on the subway home Elliot knows he destroyed a man's life in 3 minutes. That is where he first encounters the mysterious Mr. Robot (Christian Slater) who looks and sounds a bit like a drunk homeless person.

Next we see Elliot at his job in the cyber security firm. (Cyber? Really? 1990's much?) He has an internal monologue about the company whose computers he defends from external attacks. He calls them Evil Corp. They sound like BofAGoldman MonsantoJPMorganChase and use the Enron crooked E as their logo--nice touch.

At work we meet his childhood friend, Angela, who is the new account manager on Evil Corp, Gideon, the boss and Angela's boyfriend who also works there.

Angela wants to know why Elliott didn't come to her party the night before, he says he was working, but the scene cuts to him standing outside the bar afraid to come in.  His social anxiety around other people overwhelms him, even though he clearly has feelings for Angela.

If Your Password is Lame, Do You Deserve Protection?

While Angela and the boss meet to discuss the ongoing computer attacks on Evil Corp, Elliott slips out to see his therapist. It sounds like it is court ordered, which gives us an idea of a back story involving hallucinations.  He describes how he uses his ability to read people to figure out their passwords. No fancy hacking tools, just close observation and understanding human habits.

During the session we learn more about his view of people, "I look for the worst in them."  But we also learn of  his desire to help and protect the people who have helped or befriended him.

He proceeds to use his knowledge of his therapist's password to read her email and Facebook posts. She went through a devastating divorce and is now dating "losers" she meets on e-Harmony.  He uses this information to find out that the guy she is currently dating is cheating on his wife. He does this by stalking the therapist, then lying to the guy in person and on the phone.

 Once again, we are given a craven individual Elliott defeats. It's a fairly clear moral code case, but still it's creepy.

He can tell himself he's doing this because he wants to help her. That, "people put all sorts of stuff on Facebook" and "she shouldn't have such an easily guessable password." But these are all rationalizations. Doing something "for the greater good" as he sees it, justifies his lying, stalking and threatening

Elliott is called into work by Amanda during a massive late night attack on Evil Corp that is big enough to warrant Gideon and Elliott hopping on the corporate jet and going to the data center.

Elliott saves the day, but there is a mysterious message left for whomever fixed this problem. When he returns he again meets Mr. Robot in the subway who promises answers about the message.  Elliott, curious, decides to go with him to an old building in Coney Island.

Slater explains that Elliott has been selected and introduces him to the gang (A black man! A woman! Yay casting director!) He lays out some of his philosophy and mentions a big project they are all working on.

I'm not sure I buy the story given by Mr. Robot, it has a generic, "Get back at the rich bastards who hurt my family" feeling that appeals to Elliott's sense of justice.  (Elliott's own father was harmed by a corporation, but he couldn't prove it.)

Maybe Mr. Robot, like Elliott, knows how to read people and offers them what they want.  Elliott is painfully lonely and this is a group of like minds he can talk to in real life.  (There is a stunningly shot scene of Elliott huddled in a small space between his bed and the dresser crying about his loneliness.)

Elliott is still not certain he wants to join this crew, so he prepares to turn them in after revisiting the Coney Island site. There he hears more of Mr. Robot's reasons for doing what he is doing, and his plan. He wants to take down Evil Corp because they own 70% of consumer debt.  If done right the group could erase all people's debt and mortgages and create "the single biggest incident of wealth redistribution in history."

 Elliott reminds Mr. Robot of how bad the last financial crisis was and how framing the jerky CTO at Evil Corp won't accomplish much. Mr. Robot explains:
"You don't take down a conglomerate by shooting it in the heart, they don't have hearts. You take them down limb by limb."
The next day Elliott is at work where Angela is explaining what happened to Evil Corp's CTO, the FBI and US Cyber Command. Elliott is getting ready to expose the Mr. Robot gang when Evil Corp's CTO has Angela kicked off the account.  Elliott, upset at how she was treated, changes his mind and provides the FBI and Cyber command with the info that frames Evil Corp's CTO.

A few weeks go by and still no news of any arrest, meanwhile Angela is distant from Elliott. She explains that she was embarrassed by what happened and doesn't want to talk about it. In the future he should let her fail, "Even if I'm losing, let me lose, okay?"

This exchange is very important. The character that he wants to protect, doesn't want the protection. She wants to deal with the situation herself and move on. She doesn't want the experience taken out of her hands by someone who thinks he knows what is best for her. I'm glad they are showing an important female character doing this.

Mr. Robot sees a huge problem with how wealth is distributed in our country, but it is Elliott's personal relationship with Angela, who is in debt, that helps him justify a larger action.

Dealing with the big issues reminded me of some of the people who I met and worked with during Occupy Wall Street. So much of that was about first pointing out income inequality.  Think about the phrase: The 99% vs. the 1%. This is an accepted concept now, but it represents a major mental metaphor shift for the country.

However, the mainstream media, used to finding, elevating and then destroying leaders that challenge the status quo was frustrated. They needed individual humans with backstories and motivations to focus on, otherwise it's too abstract.

With no humans, but an interesting idea, the media asked, "So what are you going to do about it?" This is where the show Mr. Robot picks up. It provides humans and a plan to do something about it.
So, really, what is to be done? Worried about massive student loan debt, and want to stick it to the corporate jerks who hurt your friends? You could blow up the entire system, but are there other alternatives?
One of the post Occupy Wall Street groups that I like is "Rolling Jubilee" They buy debt for pennies on the dollar and then forgive it. That is the kind of lateral thinking and problem solving that should be explored and encouraged. 
As the show ends Elliott is brought into the inner sanctum of the men who "really run the world."

These people have a powerful world view and the ability to enforce it on entire governments. They can make it seem "right," and even the best choice, to starve Greek children and crush a generation of students with debt. The only alternate they present if things aren't done their way is the the world will burn, for everyone.

For dramatic purposes crashing Evil Corp from the inside makes for exciting TV. But the reasons why they would want to do it, as well as alternatives to the status quo, makes it thoughtful.

Following the end of Season 2 of House of Cards my friend Joel and I discussed the importance of  how our nation's storytellers write about the economy. What models and metaphors do they have in their heads? Ones articulated by Elisabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders or Jamie Dimon? 

I don't know where the rest of the series is going. They just got renewed for a second season. My hope is that the writer/ creator Sam Esmail* keeps intelligently digging into the characters and ramification of the story line he lays out in the first episode.

*Hey Sam. If you want to talk about the economy for the second season with Bernie Sanders or Elisabeth Warren I can totally set you up, I know people who know people. You don't even need to hack my email to contact me! I'm spockosbrain at gmail. 

A welcome moment of decency

by digby

Via Mother Jones:

For months at a time, desperate Central American mothers and their children seeking asylum in the United States encounter little access to legal counsel, inadequate health care, and even alleged extortion and sexual assault by guards in detention facilities.

On Wednesday, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson offered some hope, announcing reforms that could allow the release of hundreds of women and children on bond if they've successfully shown a "credible or reasonable" reason for seeking relief.

The changes came a week after Johnson visited a detention center in Karnes City, Texas, one of three facilities that house families that have illegally crossed into the United States from places like El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. On a recent trip with other House Democrats, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) described it as a "jail camp." In late May, Lofgren et al. wrote a letter to Johnson calling for an end to family detention facilities.

"In short, once a family has established eligibility for asylum or other relief under our laws, long-term detention is an inefficient use of our resources and should be discontinued," Johnson said in a statement.

I'm sure most of those mothers are rapists and criminals so we'd better lock our doors.

Speaking of which, have any reporters asked the other GOP candidates whether they agree with Donald Trump about immigration and his characterization of immigrants? they should. Trump is in second place now. Somebody must like what he's got to say.


The best convention speech you'll never hear

by Tom Sullivan

Perhaps America does have a reckoning coming. If so, it will not be the fiery one predicted by conservative ministers and pundits in the wake of last week's Supreme Court rulings on Obamacare and same-sex marriage. But perhaps a reckoning nonetheless.

Popping up now and again since his 1988 presidential campaign collapsed, Gary Hart is not remembered for his speeches. The former Colorado senator's presidential aspirations, like so many others', died in the glare of public scrutiny. In a Time magazine extract from his upcoming "The Republic of Conscience," Hart gives the best convention speech we will never hear.

Hart has had a lot of time to watch what has happened to the republic he hoped to lead. Distanced from the Village bubble, he offers a blistering indictment of systemic corruption in Washington that is now so ubiquitous as to be invisible. The army of lobbyists. The rise of the consultant class. The revolving doors. Campaigns as a billion-dollar industry. Rentier capitalism. "[S]pecial interest stalls in the halls of Congress." The abandonment of "the common good and the interests of the commonwealth." All of it is an outcome, Hart believes, "our founders would not recognize and would deplore." Hart writes:

On a more personal level, how can public service be promoted as an ideal to young people when this sewer corrupts our Republic? At this point in early twenty-first-century America, the greatest service our nation’s young people could provide is to lead an army of outraged young Americans armed with brooms on a crusade to sweep out the rascals and rid our capital of the money changers, rent seekers, revolving door dancers, and special interest deal makers and power brokers and send them back home to make an honest living, that is, if they still remember how to do so.

What angers truly patriotic Americans is that this entire Augean stable is legal. Even worse, recent Supreme Court decisions placing corporations under the First Amendment protection of free speech for political purposes compounds the tragedy of American democracy. For all practical political purposes, the government of the United States is for sale to the highest bidder.

Yet, a Washington media enamored of its own savviness and protective of "access" greets legalized corruption with a shrug and a "So what?" Hart continues:

Restoration of the Republic of Conscience requires reduction and eventual elimination of the integrity deficit. Virtue, the disinterestedness of our elected officials, must replace political careerism and special interests. The national interest, what is best for our country and coming generations, must replace struggles for power, bitter partisanship, and ideological rigidity. This is not dreamy idealism; it is an idealism rooted in the original purpose of this nation.

Don't hold your breath or expect to stay up late to hear this as a convention speech. Hart may be just a voice crying out in the wilderness.

Then again, perhaps we are on the cusp of a different kind of reckoning. Since the Trayvon Martin shooting and all the other deaths of young, black men at the hands of police — recorded in living color — law enforcement in America may finally be emerging from its bunker. Those videos have shown us all, and police themselves, what policing has become. Training police for a "warrior mentality" may be giving way to a new emphasis on de-escalating encounters that too often needlessly became deadly. And what do you know? “If we just started to treat people with dignity and respect, things would go much better.”

A century and a half after the end of the Civil War, reflection following the Charleston church shootings has ripped the false history away from Southern myths surrounding the war and the Confederate battle flag. Again, don't hold your breath, but with Confederate flags coming down from prominent places across the South, perhaps a reckoning with secession, slavery, and a nation's institutional racism is finally beginning.

If we can be honest enough with ourselves to tackle that, perhaps this country can look itself in the mirror and see that, as Hart writes, "today’s American Republic is massively corrupt," and maybe even do something about it.

Gay people can now get married in all 50 states. Who ever thought that would happen?

Saturday, June 27, 2015

SCOTUS Night at the Movies: Stonewall Uprising & Sicko revisited

By Dennis Hartley

Stonewall rioters on the night of June 28, 1969

The White House on the night of June 26, 2015

What an extraordinary week it has been for tangible progressive change. The Confederate flag came down, and the Rainbow flag went up. 6 million Americans let out a collective sigh of relief when they learned they weren’t going to lose their AHCA coverage after all. All I can say is, the nine men and women of the Supreme Court certainly earned their $4700 paychecks for this week…and a drink on me (well, some of them get a drink on me). Fuck it, I feel magnanimous. Give my man Scalia a shot of pure applesauce. On me.

However, before we get wrapped up in patting ourselves on the back for this “overnight” paradigm shift toward the light, let us not forget that such things don’t just spontaneously occur without somebody having made a sacrifice, or at the very least, raised a little fuss:

It isn’t nice to block the doorway
It isn’t nice to go to jail
There are nicer ways to do it
But the nice ways always fail

-Malvina Reynolds

In the wee hours of June 28, 1969 the NYPD raided a Mafia-owned Greenwich Village dive called the Stonewall Inn, a popular gay bar on Christopher Street. As one of those policemen recalls in the documentary, Stonewall Uprising, the officers were given “…no instructions except-put them out of business.”  Hard as it might be for younger readers to fathom, despite the relative headway that had occurred in the civil rights movement for other American minorities by that time, the systemic persecution of sexual minorities was still par for the course as the 60s drew to a close. There were more laws against homosexuality than you could count. The LGBT community was well-accustomed to this type of roust; the police had no reason to believe that this wouldn’t be another ho-hum roundup of law-breaking sexual deviants. This night, however, was to be different. As the policeman continues, “This time they said: We’re not going, and that’s that.”

Exactly how this spontaneous act of civil disobedience transmogrified into a game-changer in the struggle for gay rights makes for a fascinating history lesson and an absorbing film. Filmmakers Kate Davis and David Heilbroner take an Errol Morris approach to their subject. Participants give an intimate recount of the event and how it changed their lives, while the several nights of rioting (from initial spark to escalation and immediate aftermath) are effectively recreated using a mixture of extant film footage and photographs (of which, unfortunately, very little exists) with dramatic reenactments.

Davis and Heilbroner also take a look back at how life was for the “homophile” community (as they were referred to by the media at the time). It was, shall we say, less than idyllic. In the pre-Stonewall days, gays and lesbians were, as one interviewee says, the “twilight” people; forced into the shadows by societal disdain and authoritarian persecution. As I watched the film, I had to pinch myself as a reminder that this was happening in America, in my lifetime (you, know, that whole land of the “free” thingie).

Perhaps not so surprising are the recollections that the media wrote off the incident as an aberration; little more than a spirited melee between “Greenwich Village youths” and the cops (“Homo Nest Raided, Queen Bees Are Stinging Mad”, the N.Y. Sunday News headline chuckled the following day). I think this film is an important reminder that when it comes to civil rights, America is not out of the woods. Not just for the LGBT community; the incident in Charleston is a grim reminder that we’ve got lots of work to do. Stonewall might seem like ancient history, but its lessons are on today’s fresh sheet.

Back in July of 2007, when Obamacare (or even an Obama administration) was still but a gluten-free, tree-huggin’ lib’rul socialist wish fantasy, Digby and I put up a double post on Michael Moore’s documentary, Sicko. 2007 wasn’t that long ago, but when you consider all of the jiggery pokery that “our friends across the aisle” have spewed forth to obstruct the Affordable Health Care Act, it feels like eons. And I don’t think I have to remind you how bleak and hopeless it all seemed at the time. As I wrote in my review:

Our favorite cuddly corn-fed agitprop filmmaker is back to stir up some doo-doo, spark national debate and make pinko-hatin’ ‘murcan “patriots” twitch and shout…you have likely gleaned that I am referring to documentary maestro Michael Moore’s meditation on the current state of the U.S. health care system, Sicko.

...The film proceeds to delve into other complexities contributing to the overall ill health of our current system; such as the monopolistic power and greed of the pharmaceutical companies, the lobbyist graft, and (perhaps most depressing of all) the compassionless bureaucracy of a privatized health “coverage” system that focuses first and foremost on profit, rather than on actual individual need.

…Moore makes his point quite succinctly-the need for health care is a basic human need. It should never hinge on economic, political or ideological factors. As one of his astute interviewees observes, it is a right, not a privilege.

Here was some of Digby’s take (as usual, she nails it on the socio-political angle):

Sicko is a surprisingly affecting movie, with its cast of people who you cannot look at and say they are dirty hippies, or losers or people who should have known better. They are regular Americans- hard working people who had the bad luck to get sick. And the amazing thing is that they were almost all insured. (The stories of the uninsured are so horrific that you almost have to laugh at the idea that our system could be considered superior to the worst third world country by anyone)

This movie is perhaps the opening salvo in a new movement for guaranteed national health care. I hope so. We don't need to reinvent the wheel. There are a variety of health care systems out there that work better than ours does for less money. All we have to do is be willing to set aside our misplaced pride and admit that this isn't working and we need to do something about it. There are experiments all over the globe with universal care --- we can pick among them and find something that's right for us. Even business is getting ready to jump on board because these costs are starting to kill them too.

Absolutely goddam right…we didn’t need to reinvent the wheel, yet we got it rolling (well, at least Obamacare is a start in the right direction). And hopefully, the SCOTUS decision will force the obstructionists to pack up their tire spikes and go home for good.