Monthly Archives: August 2015

Cheap Clothes Of Exploitation

At 6:45 p.m. on November 24, 2012, the fire alarm went off on the fourth floor of a nondescript building in the suburbs of Dhaka, Bangladesh. Inside, nearly 1,200 garment workers were on deadline, scrambling to complete an order. When the bells started ringing, they asked if they could leave. Their managers told them to go back to their machines.

Five minutes later, the floor filled with black smoke; screams could be heard from below. The building had no sprinklers or fire escapes. Workers tried to flee down an internal staircase, but the exits were locked. Those on the lower floors were trapped by boxes of yarn and clothes that had already been completed. The fire eventually engulfed the building, killing at least 112 people and injuring hundreds more. Some broke their backs and legs jumping from the windows.

Most of the workers inside the Tazreen garment factory were making clothing for Western brands: Dickies, Wal-Mart, Disney, all their logos showed up on labels pulled from the rubble. But Tazreen wasn’t yet another example of corporations failing to police conditions in their factories. It was an example of how doing so has become impossible.

These big retailers didn’t even know that the clothes they were selling was being made in Bangladesh.  Wal-Mart, for example, never actually placed an order with Tazreen. In fact, over a year before the fire, Wal-Mart inspected the factory and discovered that it was unsafe. By the time of the fire, it had banned its suppliers from using it.

So here’s how its products ended up at Tazreen anyway: Wal-Mart hired a megasupplier called Success Apparel to fill an order for shorts. Success hired another company, Simco, to carry out the work. Simco—without telling Success, much less Wal-Mart—sub-contracted 7 percent of the order to Tazreen’s parent company, the Tuba Group, which then assigned it to Tazreen. Two other sub- (or sub-sub-sub-) contractors also placed Wal-Mart orders at Tazreen, also without telling the company.

This is the nature of the fashion industry today.  It’s tempting to think that we can do something about this. Under scrutiny from environmental and human rights groups as well as consumers, some retailers have come under fire for being unaware of where their suppliers get materials, or of the conditions that laborers in their supply chain work under. But the truth is, many companies don’t know when their suppliers use subcontractors without their knowledge.  Some of these suppliers even put fake “Made In The USA” stamps on them, so that the ultimate seller and buyer at the end of the supply chain are BOTH fooled.

And on top of the Wal-marts and Nordstrum’s, you have new smaller retailers, who avoid brick-and-mortor stores and sell through direct marketing or the Internet.  These small companies simply do not know (or even care to ask) where their products are manufactured.  And even if they do ask, they lack the financial and political clout to know if they are being lied to.  They certainly don’t have the resources to conduct what is called “independent supply chain oversight.”  It takes a detective to figure out where these clothes and other products are actually made.

So if you are a mindful consumer of clothes, and even if you could determine where your clothes are made, what country of manufacture should you avoid?  Well, the biggest culprit countries are just those that you would expect: China, India, Vietnam, Bangladesh and Myanmar.  China, for example, has moved toward “equal rights”, but the clothing employ migrant workers — workers unprotected by China’s “equal rights” laws.  (By the way, the same holds true for the high tech industry, as Apple, Foxxcomm, and Samsung know all too well with the repeated suicides of Chinese workers).

As a result, rural migrant workers find themselves trapped in appalling working conditions.  There are reports of women who soil themselves as they work in order to meet production demands.  They earn extremely low wages – the average monthly salary including overtime is CNY 1,690 (about $160).  Migrant workers endure long working days, work seven days a week, many without an employment contract and face constant discrimination, not to mention sexual abuse and rape from their “overseers”. The women are housed in small cramped dormitories, up to 6 women per room.   There is no maternity leave, and with no childcare facilities and working weeks of more than 70 hours many are forced to send their children to live with family in the countryside.

And they also work in a communities that are sick.  In one Chinese industrial province, for example, a dye factory has polluted the local water supply, affecting all the workers who are housed there, regardless of whether they work in that dye factory or not.  And of course the factories themselves, as the Tazreen incident shows, are below and kind of reasonable building code.

But I’ll leave the rest to John Oliver who, if anything, understates the problem:

And remember that when you buy cheap but well-made clothing, there’s a reason why it’s so inexpensive.  It’s not because the seller loves you and wants to make you happy. It’s not because it was made in the USA (because US factory workers are unionized and cost $$$$).

It’s because at the other end of the supply chain is an oppressed woman, or young girl.

Sarah Palin Interviewing Donald Trump Will Be The Best Thing Ever

In fact, this Facebook post is pretty “best thing ever” too.

I guess Sarah now works for or at a network, or maybe a website, called One America News.  Whatever.  Remember, this woman could have been VP right now, but for the fact that America was, you know, reasonable.

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Sarah Palin still complaining about the “gotcha” questions.  She won’t ask any of The Donald like “What’s your favorite Bible verse” that he was asked the other day.  (That’s not a gotcha question by the way.  It’s an irrelevant one.  There’s a difference.  That Trump couldn’t name a Bible verse is HIS fault.)

And she’s still using “going rogue”.  That’s embarrassing for her.

For The Black Lives Matter Files

I suspect stories like this fly under the radar an awful lot, and nobody even knows about it:

A young black man arrested by police in Portsmouth, Virginia, on the same day that one of the city’s officers fatally shot an unarmed black 18-year-old, has been found dead in jail after spending almost four months behind bars without bail for stealing groceries worth $5.

Jamycheal Mitchell, who had mental health problems, was discovered lying on the floor of his cell by guards early last Wednesday, according to authorities. While his body is still awaiting an autopsy, senior prison officials said his death was not being treated as suspicious.

“As of right now it is deemed ‘natural causes’,” Natasha Perry, the master jail officer at the Hampton Roads regional jail in Portsmouth, said of his death in an interview. Perry said there were no obvious outward signs of injury to the 24-year-old’s body.

Mitchell’s family said they believed he starved to death after refusing meals and medication at the jail, where he was being held on misdemeanour charges of petty larceny and trespassing. A clerk at Portsmouth district court said Mitchell was accused of stealing a bottle of Mountain Dew, a Snickers bar and a Zebra Cake worth a total of $5 from a 7-Eleven.

Mitchell was a chain-smoker, had bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.  None of those things, however, should have caused his death of “natural causes” at the age of 24.

Setting aside, if possible, his death (which, I am sorry, IS suspicious) why the hell is a black man in jail, without bail, for four months, for stealing $5 worth of groceries?

Why Ben Shapiro Is An Ass (And Peggy Noonan Is A Liar)


This is so unbelievably bizarre.  Esquire even calls it “the dumbest response to the Virginia TV shooting”.  Shaprio (and, which posted this — Shapiro is the Editor) argues this:  After the Charleston shootings, he says, the “entire political and media establishment” blamed the Confederate flag.  So if they were consistent, he goes on, then we should blame Black Lives Matter and gay pride.

How do you break down lies so compactly mashed together?  No, nobody blamed the Confederate flag in the Charleston shootings.  In fact, there was no mention of the Confederate flag in the mainstream media for about a week afterwards (Shapiro seems to forget that we were all alive when the Charleston shootings happened a few months ago so his attempts to spin it are embarrassing).  However, to the extent that everyone attributed to the Charleston shooting to racism — well, the shooter himself said that was the reason (and the only reason)

And finally, we don’t blame the gun.  This is perhaps the most disingenuous argument coming from the right.  It is this stupid notion that the left blames the thing.  We don’t blame heroin when someone uses heroin, but we still ban it.  Because it is dangerous and some people will use it.  We control it because it is inherently dangerous in the wrong hands.  Is that so complicated?

They are sniffing glue or something at Breitbart.

RELATED ASS-DOM:  Peggy Noonan writes this in the Wall Street Journal — for real:

Something is going on, some tectonic plates are moving in interesting ways. My friend Cesar works the deli counter at my neighborhood grocery store. He is Dominican, an immigrant, early 50s, and listens most mornings to a local Hispanic radio station, La Mega, on 97.9 FM. Their morning show is the popular “El Vacilón de la Mañana,” and after the first GOP debate, Cesar told me, they opened the lines to call-ins, asking listeners (mostly Puerto Rican, Dominican, Mexican) for their impressions. More than half called in to say they were for Mr. Trump. Their praise, Cesar told me a few weeks ago, dumbfounded the hosts. I later spoke to one of them, who identified himself as D.J. New Era. He backed Cesar’s story. “We were very surprised,” at the Trump support, he said. Why? “It’s a Latin-based market!”

Stop the presses.  Peggy Noonan knows a guy who works at a deli who heard a radio show where some Latin people said they liked Trump.  MUST be a tectonic plate shift, right?

On Earth, however….

A new Gallup poll released Monday evening found that 65 percent of Hispanic voters say they have an unfavorable view of Trump, compared with 14 percent who view him favorably— yielding him a net favorable score of -51, well below any other presidential candidate.

UPDATE #2:  From the same Peggy Noonan article, there’s more evidence other than the Dominican Deli focus group…..

I’ve written before about an acquaintance—late 60s, northern Georgia, lives on Social Security, voted Obama in ’08, not partisan, watches Fox News, hates Wall Street and “the GOP establishment.” She continues to be so ardent for Mr. Trump that she not only watched his speech in Mobile, Ala., on live TV, she watched while excitedly texting with family members—middle-class, white, independent-minded—who were in the audience cheering. Is that “the Republican base”? I guess maybe it is, because she texted me Wednesday to say she’d just registered Republican. I asked if she’d ever been one before. Reply: “No, never!!!”

That’s interesting, Peggy.  One problem: there is no party registration in Georgia.  Make stuff up much?

Steve Benen weighs in:

And 43 years ago, everyone Pauline Kael knew just couldn’t wait to vote for McGovern.
Look, I’m willing to take Noonan at her word. Let’s say she really does have occasional chats with the guy behind her local deli counter. Let’s also say her – and Cesar’s – characterization of the callers to the local radio station are accurate. While we’re at it, let’s go ahead and assume that the conservative pundit just happens to keep meeting immigrants out in the world who share her ideology.
Even if we concede all of this, the mistake is assuming it matters. Noonan is extrapolating from her personal experiences, which may feel persuasive on an individual level, but which is a poor way of understanding Americans’ attitudes in general.
A more sensible approach requires more reliable research methods. As luck would have it, we have these things called “polls,” and the independent polling of late suggests Noonan’s personal experiences are inconsistent with broad national trends.
Trump is many things, but increasingly popular with Latino voters and immigrant communities isn’t one of them.

Rollercoasters Go Up Too

So after a huge “crash” at the beginning of the week, the Dow flies up 619 points yesterday, and today (as 11:18am), it was up almost 280 points.



So here’s the question: will all the GOP politicians and pundits who blamed Obama for “Black Monday” give him credit for the recovery of yesterday and today?

Don’t hold your breath.

Kentucky County Clerk Still Defying Court Order

Citing her Christian faith and constitutional right to religious liberty, Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis refused to issue a marriage license to William Smith Jr. and James Yates after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized marriage this summer.

She was taken to court.

U.S. District Judge David Bunning ordered Davis to issue marriage licenses two weeks ago. He later delayed that ruling until Aug. 31 or until the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling.

Yesterday, the appeals court ruled; it denied Davis’ appeal.

So guess what happened this morning?

9:45 a.m.

William Smith Jr. and James Yates strode Thursday morning into their county clerk’s office for their third attempt to get a marriage license. The office of Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis once again denied them, despite an order from a federal appeals court issued hours earlier that upheld a judge’s directive to issue the licenses.


10:20 a.m.

William Smith Jr. and James Yates walked out of the clerk’s office, shaking their heads in bewilderment . . . they were turned away again.

“They just don’t like gay people, they don’t want us to get married,” Yates said. “And they’d rather burn the earth and not let straight people in Rowan County get married either.”

A deputy clerk in Davis’ office told Smith and Yates that the office believes Bunning’s delay remains in effect until Aug. 31. He refused to give his name or give them a license.

These religious hicks.

Gun Problem? Us?

“We don’t have a gun problem. We have a criminal problem. We have a society that thinks it’s completely permissible to shirk responsibility. We have people who have no problem with what Planned Parenthood does in terms of fetal parts harvesting. We don’t teach a respect for life. We glorify violence in movie, music, film and books. This is what our society is. This is Frankenstein’s monster. This is what society has created. It is a reflection of us.”

Fox news pundit Dana Lausch

“This isn’t a gun problem, this is a mental problem… It’s not a question of the laws, it’s really the people.”

GOP Presidential candidate Donald Trump

I’m not quite sure why these arguments are still in the air.  Other countries have everything that we have — mental illness, “violent” video games and movies, etc.  Yet they don’t have all these murders and suicides due to handguns.  What do they have that we don’t have?  Gun control.

This isn’t rocket science.

The Onion, from 2014. You can guess the reference.

‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens

Jorge Ramos Commits A Heinous Act Of Journalism

So Trump gave another news conference last night that was an exercise in rudeness.

Basically what happened was this:

Jorge Ramos, the Univision anchor and journalist, extensively squabbled with Donald Trump twice in testy exchanges at a news conference before his rally here Tuesday, with a security officer at one point ejecting Ramos from the event.

“Go back to Univision,” Trump told Ramos early in their first back-and-forth. Ramos had attempted to engage with Trump on his positions, though he had not been called upon, standing and lobbing concerns about Trump’s plan at the candidate.

“Sit down. Sit down. Sit down,” Trump said.


Ramos did return, but the ensuing exchange was far from polite.

“Here’s the problem with your immigration plan. It’s full of empty promises,” Ramos said, when allowed back into the press room.

He charged that Trump’s agenda to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants and to stop giving automatic citizenship to their children born on U.S. soil was unrealistic, but Trump defended his plan as simple and possible. He reminded Ramos of his $500 million lawsuit against Univision and told him, “I have a bigger heart than you do.”

After Trump said Wednesday that Ramos was “ranting and raving like a mad man.”

American journalists are wringing their hands over what Ramos said and did, saying that he was not engaging in journalism, but advocacy.  This is silly, and I agree with Greenwald as to why:

Here we find, yet again, the enforcement of unwritten, very recent, distinctively corporatized rules of supposed “neutrality” and faux objectivity which all Real Journalists must obey, upon pain of being expelled from the profession. A Good Journalist must pretend they have no opinions, feign utter indifference to the outcome of political debates, never take any sides, be utterly devoid of any human connection to or passion for the issues they cover, and most of all, have no role to play whatsoever in opposing even the most extreme injustices.

Thus: you do not call torture “torture” if the U.S. government falsely denies that it is; you do not say that the chronic shooting of unarmed black citizens by the police is a major problem since not everyone agrees that it is; and you do not object when a major presidential candidate stokes dangerous nativist resentments while demanding mass deportation of millions of people. These are the strictures that have utterly neutered American journalism, drained it of its vitality and core purpose, and ensured that it does little other than serve those who wield the greatest power and have the highest interest in preserving the status quo.

What is more noble for a journalist to do: confront a dangerous, powerful billionaire-demagogue spouting hatemongering nonsense about mass deportation, or sitting by quietly and pretending to have no opinions on any of it and that “both sides” are equally deserving of respect and have equal claims to validity? As Ramos put it simply, in what should not even need to be said: “I’m a reporter. My job is to ask questions. What’s ‘totally out of line’ is to eject a reporter from a press conference for asking questions.”

Being neutral and unaggressive is how they get things past journalists.

Terrible Live Shooting On TV This Morning

Troubling video (not bloody, but shocking)

Both the reporter and the cameraman are dead.


During an interview on CNN, General Manager Jeffrey Marks confirmed that today was Parker’s last day with the station. Marks also said that Ward’s fiancee Melissa Ott was in the control room during the broadcast, and saw the shooting happen live. From the video shot by the cameraman (as he died), a frame may have caught the shooter. 11935115_10156061166125093_4992410002731105501_n 

This all happened at 7:45 a.m. today during a live interview in the town of Moneta, Virginia. A manhunt for the shooter is on. Let me state the obvious before everyone else does:

(1)  Yes, the only reason this is “news” is because it happened on TV.  But double murders happen all the time.
(2)  Yes, the victims are white, although honestly, when black people are shot and it is recorded, we pay attention then as well.
(3)  This would be a good time for the candidates to speak up about gun control.  Watch the GOP candidates say instead that this is a time for “prayers” so that they never have to address gun control.

UPDATE 10:25 a.m. — Shooter is apparently a disgruntled employee of the TV station.

UPDATE 10:40 a.m. — Suspect identified as Vester Lee Flanigan (or Lester Lee Flanigan?), a light-skinned black man, who is about 6’3″, 250lbs and driving a gray 2009 Ford Mustang with Virginia license plates WZE-8846.  Police are in pursuit on Interstate 81 In a related story, of local interest, the second guy in the local (Rockingham County NC) manhunt was caught last night.  So that happened.

UPDATE 11:25 a.m.  Ugh. This story gets worse and worse. The shooter (Flanigan) goes by the name of Bryce Williams. He was a reporter at the station. And he started sharing video of the shooting (from his vantage point) on his Twitter account (which has been shut down) and Facebook page (also shut down). The video is very graphic and people are very good about not posting (or viewing it).  I’ve seen it, but I won’t post or link to it.  You can see him walk up to her and draw his gun and aim it at her (image below).  Nobody notices.  He puts the gun down and steps back a step or two.  Another 3 or 4 seconds pass.  Suddenly he lifts the gun and fires.  Alison Parker is seen running off.  The screen goes black and you hear more shots.   You don’t actually see anyone get hit, but it is startling.


And more about the shooter now….  




UPDATE 11:55 a.m. – Not dead, but in critical condition.

UPDATE 2:00 p.m. – Okay.  Now confirmed dead.

And now a motive — or rather several of them — emerge:

In the 23-page document faxed to ABC News, the writer says “MY NAME IS BRYCE WILLIAMS” and his legal name is Vester Lee Flanagan II.” He writes what triggered today’s carnage was his reaction to the racism of the Charleston church shooting:

“Why did I do it? I put down a deposit for a gun on 6/19/15. The Church shooting in Charleston happened on 6/17/15…”

“What sent me over the top was the church shooting. And my hollow point bullets have the victims’ initials on them.”

It is unclear whose initials he is referring to. He continues, “As for Dylann Roof? You (deleted)! You want a race war (deleted)? BRING IT THEN YOU WHITE …(deleted)!!!” He said Jehovah spoke to him, telling him to act.

Later in the manifesto, the writer quotes the Virginia Tech mass killer, Seung Hui Cho, calls him “his boy,” and expresses admiration for the Columbine High School killers. “Also, I was influenced by Seung–Hui Cho. That’s my boy right there. He got NEARLY double the amount that Eric Harrisand Dylann Klebold got…just sayin.'”

In an often rambling letter to the authorities, and family and friends, he writes of a long list of grievances. In one part of the document, Williams calls it a “Suicide Note for Friends and Family.”

–He says has suffered racial discrimination, sexual harassment and bullying at work

–He says he has been attacked by black men and white females

–He talks about how he was attacked for being a gay, black man

“Yes, it will sound like I am angry…I am. And I have every right to be. But when I leave this Earth, the only emotion I want to feel is peace….”

“The church shooting was the tipping point…but my anger has been building steadily…I’ve been a human powder keg for a while…just waiting to go BOOM!!!!”

Failing The Bechdel Test

Know your memes, people.  If you don’t know what the Bechdel Test is, this is how wikipedia describes its:

The Bechdel test asks if a work of fiction features at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man. The requirement that the two women must be named is sometimes added.

The Bechdel test is used to demonstrate how one-dimensional women are depicted in fiction.

It is surprising how many movies, for example, fail the Bechdel Test.  The website is a user-edited database of some 4,500 films classified by whether or not they pass the test, with the added requirement that the women must be named characters. As of April 2015, it listed 58% of these films as passing all three of the test’s requirements, 10% as failing one, 22% as failing two, and 10% as failing all three.

Writer Charles Stross noted that about half of the films that do pass the test only do so because the women talk about marriage or babies.  This isn’t necessarily misogyny — even movies and TV aimed at women fail the Bechdel test more often than not (see, Sex and the City).

The phrase comes from the cartoonist Alison Bechdel, who, in a 1985 strip from her comic Dykes to Watch Out For, introduced the idea as a winking criticism of male-dominated movies:


(Actually, it should be called the Bechdel-Wallace test, as The Atlantic informs us today).

Why do I mention this?  Because someone new has failed the Bechdel test — a different Bechdel test.  Because Ms. Bechdel is also known for writing the graphic autobiographical novel, Fun Home (now a Broadway musical).  And it was assigned to incoming freshman at Duke University.  But there’s a problem:

….Duke University…  politely request[ed] that the incoming freshman class read Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, an award-winning graphic novel that has (as CNNputs it) “sexual themes and use of nudity.” That’s right, America: Use. Of. Nudity.

Fun Home is an autobiographical story about Bechdel’s childhood, with memories about growing up as a lesbian interlaced with memories about her occasionally abusive father and his (closeted) homosexuality. It’s has won numerous awards, the most prestigious of which is its inclusion in The A.V. Club’s list of the best comics of the ‘00s. Prestige aside, though, it does have sexual themes and use of nudity, so—according to The Duke Chronicle—a handful of the school’s incoming freshman have declared that they refuse to read it on the grounds that it is new and scary.

Or, as one such freshman put it on his Facebook: “I feel as if I would have to compromise my personal Christian moral beliefs to read it.” That same student said that Duke’s decision to put Fun Home on a recommended reading list was “insensitive to people with more conservative beliefs,” adding that it was “like Duke didn’t know we existed.” The Duke Chronicle quotes another student as acknowledging that it “discussed important topics,” but she “could not bring herself to view the images depicting nudity.” One guy explained that the sexual content is fine and that he “might have consented” to read it in print, but the fact that it has drawings of boobs or whatever “violates [his] conscience.” Another student even suggested that Fun Home shook her entire perception of Duke, saying that she asked herself what kind of school would do something as horrible as suggest that incoming students read an award-winning book about a woman’s struggles with sexual identity.

Apparently, some students want to go to a prestigious college and keep their mind closed to new ideas.  It’s the school’s responsibility to step up and teach them. Duke should challenge these beliefs head-on, rather than dismiss these refusals to read Fun Home as minor quibbles.

Those objecting Duke freshmen would be far better served, watching and listeningto the amazing Sydney Lucas sing ‘Ring of Keys’ from the Broadway show. They might just learn something.

GOP Hispanic Outreach

Hispanics deserve candidates and a party that will fight for their vote. In working to earn Hispanics’ trust, though, Republicans have to remember that it’s not just about what we say, but how we say it. Our principles are sound, but we have to be thoughtful in how we discuss them. Too often, a candidate’s tone can turn off voters, promote divisiveness, and feed mischaracterizations of our party. So if your tone isn’t welcoming and inclusive, you’re doing it wrong.


So, my fellow Republicans, it’s up to us to keep Democrats from taking Hispanic voters for granted. It’s up to Republicans to tell our story and offer a better way. And it’s up to every one of us to engage with Hispanic voters. If you’re not doing that now, get with it.

Reince Priebus, Chairman of the Republican National Committee, September 18, 2013.

Priebus, who just today called Trump a “net positive” for Republicans, isn’t the only one to pick up on this.  In 2004, George W. Bush won over 40 percent of the Latino vote. In 2012, Mitt Romney won 27 percent. Many leading Republican pundits (like Karl Rove) say that the Republican Party needs to win more Latino votes if it wants to win back the White House.

So how’s that going?

GOP Hispanic approval

The GOP frontrunner, by 11 points over the second placer, has a net -51 favorable-to-unfavorable.  What is killing The Donald, and by extension the GOP, is the immigration issue, and the almost daily slamming of “Mexican” immigrants.  You may wonder why, since immigrants don’t vote.

That’s true, but there are 3.3 million of these Latino eligible voters — and the majority of them are the children of immigrants. 57 percent of Latinos who’ll be eligible to vote for the first time in 2016, the study finds, have at least one immigrant parent.

By the way, the Dems are doing fine on this.

Democratic Hispanic approval

So obviously, this goes to the conventional wisdom that what is good for the GOP in the primaries is bad for them in the general.  Trump cannot win the Latino vote, and in fact, he may be energizing the Latino vote to come out and vote against him.

UPDATE:  File under “too little too late”….

Advocacy group National Hispanic Media Coalition says it was “quietly” contacted last week by the Trump Organization’s head of strategic development, proposing a peace-making meeting. Politico quotes coalition CEO Alex Nogales regarding three calls the advocacy group has received from the Trump camp—first, one threatening to sue, a second attempting to change what Trump had said about Mexicans and “the third time was ‘Let’s get together to talk so we can solve our differences.’”

Meet Campaign Zero

I, among others, have wondered aloud what the Black Lives Matter movement actually wanted beyond just being “listened to”.   After all, I argued, black people are dying, and while raging against the machine might feel cathartic, it is not actually going to result in concrete changes.  Hillary Clinton made this point as well when she met with BLM activists.  She wanted to know, as did I, what sort of concrete initiatives were they interested in?

I’m happy to see that BLM activists have now come up with exactly what everyone’s been asking for. It’s called Campaign Zero, and it even comes with its own nifty graphic:


Some of these demands are easy: police body cams, for example, have become widely supported on both right and left, and by both activists and police. Others are a little harder: independent investigations of police shootings and better representation of minorities on police forces aren’t universally supported, but they do have fairly wide backing already. And some are more difficult: it will be tough to wean police forces off their up-armored humvees and challenging to end the vogue for broken-windows policing.

That said, these are all specific and achievable goals. They even have a fact sheet here that tracks some of the presidential candidates and where they stand on each issue. But since most law enforcement activities are run at the state, city or county level, this kind of fact sheet needs to be done locally as well.

All in all, this is very good. BLM won’t get everything it wants—nobody ever does—but Campaign Zero should allow them to avoid the fate of Occupy Wall Street, which generated a ton of passion but never really offered any place to channel it. BLM has now done both, and has a good shot at making their issues important ones during the upcoming presidential campaign.

Whheeeee Again!

Nothing like listening to tens of thousands of dollars slip out of your 401(k) in a matter of minutes, which is what I was doing this morning.  The Dow dropped 1,082 points.  The “circuit breakers” — the 7% dropoff point where trading is automatically stopped (to prevent a crash) — were set to go at a drop of 1,157, which we didn’t quite reach.  But everything was down 6.5% within minutes of the opening bell.  It made Friday’s drop off look like an anthill.

The Dow rebounded so that right now — at 10:00 am (half an hour after opening) — we are down about 650 points (around 4%).

And now it is 511 down (10:06 am EDT).  Here’s the 5-day so you can see the dramatic fall this morning.


This was not unexpected.  China virtually lost all its gains from the past year last night (it went down 8.5%).  China’s stock market is plummeting.  You know how people are about Greece being totally bankrupt?  Well, China has lost the equivalent of 15 Greeces in market capital…. just in the past three weeks!  I won’t get into the details, but basically, China’s stock market is based on debt, and the Chinese government has an monetary policy that has propped up its stock market falsely.  The Chinese government used monetary policy, state-owned banks, local governments, and other tools under its control to push internal investment. The result was a massive buildup in factories, highways, airports, real estate, and much more. Some of these investments were wise. Many weren’t. China has become famous for its profusion of empty stadiums, skyscrapers, and even cities. They were able to do this because the average Chinese investor is illiterate and has bought stocks on debt… because the communist government has told him to.  The result?  A stock market boom, that eventually ended up with a lot of overcapacity and bad debt.  In other words, the value of a Chinese company is not accurately reflected by its stock price, which is the only way a stock market can work.

Usually, when one market goes down, the other markets do as well, because of the multi-national aspect of the world economy.  But the crash now has less to do with the Chinese market than fears of Chinese political upheaval.  If the Chinese economy goes really south, and factories close and people lose their life savings, the people will uprise like they did with the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.  This is bad news for many multinational companies.  So many of our high tech products and clothes are made in China (despite the human rights abuses and the deplorable rape factories and slave labor factories).  So political unrest in China gives rise to unpredictability, and that’s why our market struggles.

Analysts are saying to ride this out, which is what most of us with 401(k)s are doing, since we have no choice.

Crude oil hit a new low this morning, too —  $38.13 a barrel.  That’s due to OPEC nations like Saudi Arabia pumping oil into the economy, and U.S. fracking which is at an all-time production high (and why Oklahoma has so many earthquakes). What does that mean to you?

(1)  Don’t be surprised to see gas prices fall below $2.00

(2)  Don’t be surprised to see this economic slump last a while.

UPDATE:  As of 10:22 am EDT, Dow is down only 316 points (or 1.9%).  Could be people taking advantage of low stocks from earlier.  In any event, volatility seems to have slowed down and things are settling down.  The hit wasn’t that bad…… so far.

UPDATE #2:  Still around 2% down, so…. no biggie really.  Thought I would share this chart with the admonition not to panic. Why not?  The drop pales in comparison to all the gains the market has made over the past decade.



UPDATE #3:   Dow started tanking toward the end of the day.  It closed down 566.47, or 3.58%.  Not the worst day ever.  Comparable to Friday.

Rollercoaster DOWN On Wall Street

Wheeeee!  Dow dropped over 500 today (and over 300 yesterday).  Let’s look at the past six weeks:


Nice little dip there at the end, huh?

What’s going on?  It’s China.  It’s always China.  They are having hard economic times.  So everybody feels it.  The people I feel sorriest for are the Chinese workers making our Apple and Samsung products, as well as our fashionable women’s clothes.  (Actually, the conditions for Chinese workers in Apple and Samsung are getting marginally better).  Those people are going to be working 24/7 under forced labor.  And their kids.

Tensions In The Koreas

This is ugly:

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has ordered front-line military units to enter “a wartime state” after an exchange of fire with South Korea, his country’s state-run Korean Central News Agency reported Friday.

The announcement, employing bellicose language typical of North Korea, adds to the edgy situation in the region.

The two sides traded artillery fire over their heavily fortified border on Thursday afternoon, according to the South Korean Defense Ministry.

Two shells came from the North Korean side, the ministry said, and South Korea fired dozens of shells in response.

No casualties were reported from the exchange of fire.

I know it doesn’t sound like much, but North Korea is freaking crazy.  Well, Kim Jung Un is.  Last week, he put North Korea on its own unique time zone.  (North Koreans already have their own calendar. Instead of counting from the birth of Christ, they count from the birth of founding leader, Kim Il Sung. Kim was born in 1912 — known in North Korea as Juche 1, making this year Juche 104.)  And he’s got nukes (maybe).

Both North and South Korea are blaring propaganda messages over loudspeakers at each other.  Which is better than the alternative, I suppose.

This all comes as the United States and South Korea are engaged in joint military exercises.

Military analysts are saying this “military theater” rather than actual military engagement, and that Kim Jung Un has the most to lose from an actual military engagement.  That’s good — I hope HE knows that.

I see scattered reports that North Korea is having Internet problems….

… but nothing in the mainstream news.  Maybe we’re messing with North Korea.  Or maybe the change in time zones is screwing them up in a Y2K kind of way.

Tensions are always high when it comes to North Korea, but this is a little unnerving.

This Tweet Poses An Interesting Question Re: Ashley Madison

The problem of course is…. what if you are able to search the database, and you find your spouse, knowing that there are millions of fraudulent accounts there?  I guess it warrants a conversation, at a minimum, with your spouse.  But he can still deny it.  And THEN where are you?

But then again, if you have to ask the question, there is probably something wrong with your marriage to begin with.  Lack of trust ruins relationships (or, at least, the quality of them).  And lack of trust can come from (a) you being overly suspicious (statistics vary, but affairs are well over 33% of all marriages) or (b) your spouse doing things to warrant your distrust.  Or both.

Either way, would-be spouse-sleuths might want to consider that delving into Ashley Madison might be a symptom of the problem, i.e., your suspicion — without evidence — is causing marital discord.  Because just by looking, you create distrust.  And that’s not good.  Now, if you have some reason (other than your “gut”) and/or distrust already exists, then you might want to check it out.

But in the end, I don’t see any good coming from it.

P.S.  It’s also worth noting that many websites and ads purporting to have a searchable Ashley Madison database are actually virus-laden hacks themselves.

An Observation

Isn’t it amusing that conservatives claim to love America, but want to wave the Confederate flag which was used by several states in its war against America?

Isn’t it amusing how conservatives claim to love the Constitution, but when it is explained to them what it says, they want to change it?

The Dishonest Attack On Shaun King

shaunkingI saw this story bubbling a couple days ago, and even the mainstream media was touching it.  Certainly, Fox was.  It has to do with the race of a #BlackLivesMatter activist named Shaun King.  In the blogosphere, Breitbart “News” seems to have launched a virulent attack Shaun King, alleging that he’s been lying about his heritage like Rachel Dolezal, and is actually white, not black.

Here’s Shaun King’s response to this mess, posted at Daily Kos, and it’s a damned shame that he even had to write this: Race, Love, Hate, and Me: A Distinctly American Story. I won’t quote from this; just go and read it.

Shame on the mainstream journalists who fell for yet another creepy hit piece from right wing blogs they should have known better than to trust as sources. How many times do they need to get burned before they learn this lesson?

Welcome To The Post-Citizens United World

Ready for this?

In the early presidential fundraising returns, half the $388 million contributed so far came from fewer than 400 families, with 62 donors giving at least $1 million. As the Huffington Post’s Paul Blumenthal put it, “For the first time in more than a century, the majority of funding for a presidential election is coming in six-figure or larger checks from corporations and the wealthiest Americans.”

Trumps Reaction To Hate Crime — He Hits A New Low

This turns my stomach:

The homeless man was lying on the ground, shaking, when police arrived early Wednesday. His face was soaked, apparently with urine, his nose broken, his chest and arms battered.

Police said two brothers from South Boston ambushed the 58-year-old as he slept outside of a Dorchester MBTA stop, and targeted him because he is Hispanic. One of the brothers said he was inspired in part by GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump.


Trump, told of the alleged assault, said “it would be a shame . . . I will say that people who are following me are very passionate. They love this country and they want this country to be great again. They are passionate.”

Those ellipses might mean anything, but one thing is clear — Trump’s pivot from discussion of a hate crime to the passion of those who follow him, is nothing short of sick.  No, Donald Trump isn’t explicitly saying it’s okay to beat people up because of how they look (but at least two men have interpreted it that way).  The correct thing to do is to tell them, and the rest of his followers, that that interpretation is unequivocally wrong.  Instead he frames the abhorrent crim as a moderately regrettable downside of his movement’s “passion.”

UPDATE — Over 24 hours later since he was first asked….

Ashley Madison Claims Its First “Celebrity” Victim

I’m not going to say who it was, although it is someone already “disgraced”.  And I put “celebrity” in quotes, because this guy is more of a reality show star, than an actual celebrity.

There is a certain schadenfreude at this “family values” guy being revealed as someone who cheats on his wife through Ashley Madison, but I think the bigger story is that his name was leaked at all.  The lesson to be learned from the Ashley Madison leak is NOT “don’t cheat on your spouse” (although you shouldn’t) — the lesson to be learned is be very careful what you put online.  No more secrets.

UPDATE:  Okay, since he has fessed up, I’m talking about this guy, who, in a statement today, calls himself the “biggest hypocrite ever”.

Does BLM Want To Change Minds Or Change The Law?

Last week I gave a full-throated defense of myself and others who had taken issue with the tactics of Black Lives Matter.  This came in the wake of a Seattle political event involving Bernie Sanders, where two BLM activists took the stage as Sanders started speaking, and effectively hijacked the agenda (as well as hijacking Sanders).  Sander never got to speak.  In my previous post, I said it was not a good idea to attack people who are normally allied with your position, as you need to engage in coalition-building in order to effect meaningful change.

I attributed it to a generation gap within the civil rights movement.  The New York Times thinks so too.

Now BLM protesters, true to their word, are going after other candidates as well.  They attempted to do the same thing at a Hillary Clinton event, but were blocked by the Secret Service.  To her credit, Clinton met privately with the BLM protesters.  BLM made a video of the meeting and released it yesterday.

The disconnect was obvious, as CNN explains (emphases mine):

The activists filmed the encounter and released the video in twoparts on Monday night. The Clinton campaign also provided CNN with a transcript of the exchange.

The activists, led by Daunasia Yancey, founder of Black Lives Matter in Boston, pressed Clinton on her family’s role in promoting “white supremacist violence against communities of color.”

Clinton acknowledged during the conversation that laws put into place by her husband, former President Bill Clinton, did not work out as planned.

“I do think that there was a different set of concerns back in the ’80s and the early ’90s. And now I believe that we have to look at the world as it is today and try and figure out what will work now,” she said. “And that’s what I’m trying to figure out and that’s what I intend to do as president.”

But Clinton also told the protesters that she was “not sure” she agreed with the activists that her husband’s policies were racist.

“I do think that a lot of what was tried and how it was implemented has not produced the kinds of outcomes that any of us would want,” she said. “But I also believe that there are systemic issues of race and justice that go deeper than any particular law.”

The activists did not appear to be won over by their conversation with Clinton.

Yancey told reporters earlier this month that she never heard “a reflection on (Clinton’s) part in perpetuating white supremacist violence” and that Clinton “gave the answer she wanted to give.”

Two of the activists shared their disappointment with Clinton’s response on CNN on Tuesday.

“Her policy response — if it’s not addressing the anti-blackness inherent in some of the previous polices, we’re just going to see that thread continue,” Yancey said. “And that’s what we’re looking to hear. What’s shifted? What’s changed for Hillary Clinton that’s going to make us believe that she’s going to take this country in a different direction in terms of race?”

Specifically, what Clinton didn’t seem to appreciate the insinuation. “Respectfully, if that is your position, then I will talk only to white people about how we are going to deal with the very real problems,”

I don’t understand this need of BLM to get people like Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders to admit things they shouldn’t admit to.  Neither Bill nor Hillary Clinton were promoting white supremacist violence.  Period.  They just weren’t.  You can make the argument that was an unintended consequence of flawed policies, but to say that the Clintons were promoting white supremacy?  Simply crazy.  And good for Hillary (and Bernie) for standing their ground on that.

Over at Balloon Juice, Betty Cracker gets annoyed:

It seemed to me that the BLM Boston reps who met with Hillary were more interested in getting her to own up to her role in advocating for Bill Clinton’s anti-crime policies than discussing policymaking going forward. One of the activists, Daunasia Yancy, expressed disappointment that she didn’t hear “a reflection on (Clinton’s) part in perpetuating white supremacist violence.”

While I admire Yancy’s commitment, the mom in me found it impossible to resist the urge to face-palm when I read that comment. Clinton is a candidate for president, and you expect her to reflect on her personal role in “perpetuating white supremacist violence”? Lots of luck with that. Here is Clinton’s response to BLM’s opening salvo about systemic racism:

“Your analysis is totally fair. It’s historically fair. It’s psychologically fair. It’s economically fair. But you’re going to have to come together as a movement and say, ‘Here’s what we want done about it.’”

That didn’t sit well with one of the activists, Julius Jones, who basically accused Clinton of whitesplaining (not in so many words, but that was the gist) at the beginning of the second video, which can be seen here. And Clinton got a tad snippy in return.

Here’s a rough, edited-for-length transcript of the exchange referred to above:

JONES: “If you don’t tell black people what we need to do, then we won’t tell you all what you need to do.”

CLINTON: “I’m not telling you, I’m just telling you to tell me.”

JONES: “This is and has always been a white problem of violence. There’s not much that we can do to stop the violence against us.”

CLINTON: “If that is your position, then I will talk with only to white people about how we are going to deal with very real problems.”

JONES: “What you just said was a form of victim-blaming. You were saying what the Black Lives Matter movement needs to do to is change white hearts is to…”

CLINTON: “I don’t believe you change hearts. I believe you change laws, you change allocation of resources, you change the way systems operate…you’re not going to change every heart. You’re not…you may change some hearts, but if that’s all that happens, we’ll be back here in 10 years having the same conversation.”

It’s worth watching both videos, which unfold not unlike some of the discussions seen here and elsewhere.

But BLM Boston has been slamming HRC on Twitter ever since the videos were released last night.


BLM Boston has its agenda — they are idealists. Hillary Clinton has hers — she is a pragmatist. What did you think?

Spot on.  I think that is part of the disconnect.  Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are politicians.  They FIX things.  You certainly understand (and I think Clinton and Sanders understand) the anxiety and desperation of the BLM protesters they encounter.  But that just can’t be all there is to the movement, can it?  Like me, John Cole hopes not, but he doesn’t know what else to do:

[I]t’s not difficult to fear the same thing happening to BLM that happened to OWS [Occupy Wall Street]. Granted, the movements are not the same. Economic inequality lacks the urgent life or death reality that face the black community, as their lives really are at risk for just doing what white people like me do every day and don’t think twice about it. Things like driving to the grocery store, or walking down the street, or going to the pool, or, well, basically anything seems to be excuse enough to shoot a black person these days. So there is an urgency that separates the two movements.

There are also similarities- mostly structural, in that a decentralized organic movement like this has all kinds of different actors with different ideals and different attitudes towards what is productive and what is not. There is no rigid leadership structure, and were there one, it would probably kill the movement anyway. People who follow protest movements are in a much better position to discuss this than I am, so I will just stop there.

But one key similarity that OWS and BLM have in common that continues to lead to these uncomfortable Jerry Maguire/Rod Tidwell “Help me help you” moments such as the most recent video….  Economic inequality and racial inequality are such large foundations of what this country is and what we are made of that no one really knows where to start in a way that will succeed. It’s just that entrenched in our society, and the issues of racial and economic inequality are concomitantly inexorably intertwined yet disparate issues. This is, after all, a nation that was literally built on the backs of slaves, yet race is not the key reason that so much economic inequality exists.


So while we may have reached a tipping point with the populace screaming for change, the deck is so stacked against us in favor of those already with institutional and economic power that really, it’s difficult to figure out where to go and what to do, and screaming for change becomes just screaming. This is not a bug, this is by design.


So we’re back at the beginning. How do you harness the energy of movements like BLM and make actual, tangible, immediate things happen? And how do you stop people from yelling at each other when they are basically on the same side to focus the rage where it belongs- into real plans of action? If you know, you’re smarter than me. And, apparently, the Clinton, Sanders, and O’Malley campaigns.

When you read of the account in Vanity Fair, you can see this is a contest of idealism versus pragmatism, with Clinton pushing the latter:

In a move that recalled some of the criticism of the Occupy Wall Street movement, Clinton pressed the activists to come up with specific demands. She pointed to the civil-rights movement, the gay-rights movement, and the women’s-rights movements as examples of progress achieved through a detailed road map of lawsuits and actions. “You can get lip service from as many white people you can pack into Yankee Stadium and a million more like it who are going to say, ‘We get it, we get it. We are going to be nicer,’” she said. “That’s not enough, at least in my book.”

The BLM protester seems to get that.

In a second video, Jones appears to respond to Clinton’s answer by taking issue with the recommendation, arguing that the issues the Black Lives Matter movement is working on—incarceration, police use of force, systemic inequalities in the justice system—are not ones that can be fixed by actions on the part of black people. “I say this as respectfully as I can: if you don’t tell black people what we need to do, then we won’t tell you all what you need to do,” Jones said. “This is and has always been a white problem of violence.”

I genuinely don’t think Clinton was telling Yancey, Jones, and the other activists that they need to come up with policy to rescue themselves from white supremacy (although I understand why Jones interpreted it that way, and I almost certainly would have done the same in the moment); I think she was saying, “Design the policy you want to see, because my role is a policymaker.”

This is the schism that I have noticed.

I can certainly understand Clinton’s response:

Clinton didn’t seem to appreciate the insinuation. “Respectfully, if that is your position, then I will talk only to white people about how we are going to deal with the very real problems,” she said. “Look, I don’t believe you change hearts. I believe you change laws, you change allocation of resources, you change the way systems operate. You’re not going to change every heart. You’re not.”

“But at the end of the day, we can do a whole lot to change some hearts and change some systems and create more opportunities for people who deserve to have them to live up to their own God-given potential,” Clinton continued. “You can keep the movement going, which you have started, and through it you may actually change some hearts. But if that’s all that happens, we’ll be back here in 10 years having the same conversation.”

It seems to me — and of course, I’m a white man and haven’t lived with this problem every day — that BLM isn’t set on what it wants, other than to identify the problem and make sure everyone knows what the problem is.  But some of us (me, the Clintons, Sanders) are already there, and have already been there for…. decades.  We want to SOLVE it, and I’m not sure BLM knows or cares or, most likely, believes that (perhaps they are too pessimistic to think that a solution is real or that the sincerity is real).  So then what is the next step for pragmatists?

Changes, turn and face the strain.

UPDATE:  More voices to add to the mix.  The subject is Bill Clinton’s 1994 “Tough On Crime” bill.  David Lind at Vox:

But when one activist associates the bill with a project of “white supremacist violence,” Clinton buckles. She takes it as a statement about intent: that laws like the 1994 crime bill were deliberately passed out of malice toward black communities. And so she counters that she and her husband were deeply concerned about black victims of crime, and were simply acting out of a desire to protect them…

The problem is that the conversation isn’t clear whether “extension of white supremacist violence” is about the intent of these policies or their consequences. This is a common problem with discussion of racism: Structural racism isn’t about feelings in individuals’ hearts, it’s about systems and outcomes. But it’s easy to slip from talking about systems to talking about people, and that’s what happened here.

Personally, I think the intent simply doesn’t matter. Clinton herself said, “You don’t change hearts. You change laws.” What matters is the external reality, not the feelings of the people who create it; caring about people will not save you from making policy choices that will hurt them.

In other words, iintent doesn’t matter — if law has a bad effect to black people, it is racist even if the intentions are good.

At Mother Jones, Kevin Drum has the response:

Lind suggests that intent doesn’t matter. Something is racist if it has racist consequences. But I think you have to be pretty careful about that. Lind is right that, whether racially inspired or not, it’s important to face structural racism clearly and work relentlessly to overcome it. Nonetheless, intent does matter. Calling someone racist does nothing except make matters worse unless they really do have racist intent.

My point exactly.

So was the 1994 crime bill racist in intent? No. Lots of black leaders, including black mayors who faced rising crime rates daily, supported it. Violent crime really was a huge problem—and it really was especially severe in black communities. Nobody at the time knew that lead might be the culprit for this, so they simply had to address it as best they could given what they believed. So they did. The 1994 crime bill was not a white supremacist project. It was a crime bill.

At the end of her piece, Lind argues that Hillary Clinton “doesn’t need to show she’s changed her heart. But she does need to show that she has learned, and changed her mind.” This puzzles me. Hillary has defended her support of the 1994 crime bill given what she knew at the time, but she has also proposed criminal justice reforms that make it clear she has learned and has changed her mind. If those reforms are insufficient, fine. Fight for more. But both Clintons have made it clear that their views on crime have changed. There’s simply no excuse for pretending that either one of them was involved in a conspiracy of “white supremacist violence” against black communities.

I am not sure why it is so important for BLM to have politicians label themselves as racist.  It escapes me because doing so will not save one black live.


Ashley Madison Hackers Release Names

The Impact Team, the name of the group that hacked the Ashley Madison website (a site owned by Avid Life Media), has released the names, addresses and phone numbers — as well as a four-digit code that could be either partial credit card numbers or just user numbers — of the 37 million users of the cheat-on-your-spouse website.

But don’t rush to a website and start looking for cheaters in your social circles.  The data is available on the Dark Web, which is part of the Internet not readily available to just anybody. Basically, it requires software and technical knowledge that I don’t have, but the information is available, and some genius tech nerdos are probably poring through the leaked names at this very moment.

Who knows?  Maybe sometime soon you’ll be able to download all 9.7 gigs of information.  But before you get giddy — yeah, it does have the makings of some sort of modern fable in which wannabe cheaters get their comeuppance — just a standard reminder that if you download it and look through it for people you might know, there’s no turning back from that. And somewhere out there, there’s a database of stuff you do that you would prefer not get out there.

Here’s the announcement of the leak, which sets forth the particular objections of the hackers:


This sounds like someone who was caught using Ashley Madison, and was pissed that they did not do enough to keep his account secret.

I don’t know the site, although when I read that it has 37 million users, I was astounded.  Then again, if the hackers are correct, that 37 million may be “fake”.  Who knows?

But it makes little difference what the site is for.  Revealing names and phone numbers and private information is a pretty serious felony.  And it should be.  This would be true whether the hacked site is or Ashley Madison.

I wonder how many marriages are going to be damaged as a result of this.  Probably not very many, as long as it stays on the Dark Web.  I wonder if that will happen.

It seems there is some truth to the assertion that Avid Life Media was lax about cyber security:

Senior staff at Ashley Madison, the hacked extramarital dating site, were raising concerns over its security procedures as recently as June, just a month before the site was attacked.

Internal documents leaked as part of the attack show concerns over “a lack of security awareness across the organisation” being raised by one vice president.

This news story is messed up in about ten different ways.

Trump’s Lawyers Found A Loophole In The Fourteenth Amendment


But Trump insisted he and his lawyers have found some disturbing holes in the amendment, which unequivocally states that anyone born in the United States is in fact an American citizen.

The Fourteenth Amendment is a few paragraphs long, but I’ll just cut and paste Section One, the relevant section for this discussion.  Actually, only the first sentence is relevant, so I will make that bold.

Amendment XIV
Section 1.

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

You do not need a law degree to make sense of the first sentence.  If you are born in the United States, you are a citizen of the United States.  That’s what it says.  It’s in English.

Now, this presents a problem for Trump and those who hate the idea of “anchor babies”, i.e., a pregnant Mexican woman takes a step across the U.S.-Mexico border into Texas, drops her baby out, and bam, that new baby is a U.S. citizen — and since it is heartless to separate the baby from the parents, they get to stay too.

Except that isn’t true.  The baby is a citizen.  The parents are not.   They have to jump through legal hurdles which can take as much as 31 years.  So the “anchor” isn’t really much of an anchor.

But even if the concern is about the child and not the parents, the argument of conservatives is this: we didn’t have the anchor baby issue back when the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified (July 1868, three years after the end of the civil war).  That clause was in there so that freed slaves would automatically become American citizens.

Yes, that may have been the overriding intent, but who is to say that was the only intent?  After all, whoever wrote the Fourteenth Amendment could have just as easily written, “All those held in indentured servitude prior to this Amendment are now citizens of the United States”.  But it wasn’t written that way.  It was written for going forward.

Besides, how come that argument doesn’t work for the Second Amendment?  Clearly, the founders who wrote the Second Amendment were only familiar with flintlocks, not AK-47s.  Do conservatives really want to go down the “original intent” road?

About Men’s Rights Advocates

I think men have certain limited issues that need to be addressed in the political arena (paternity leave, paternity rights with respect to child custody, for example), but to suggest that men are getting the short end of the stick in society is just plain silly, and tone deaf to real problems.  When I hear about “men’s rights” advocacy groups, my reaction to that is about the same as when I hear “white’s rights” advocacy groups.

But I kept an open mind as I read this article about men’s rights advocates.  And you know what?  These guys are just as abhorrent as I originally thought.  Now I just see them in three dimensions as opposed to two.

RELATED: Congrats to  Lt. Kristen Griest and Capt. Shaye Haver, who graduate today from Ranger School in Ft. Benning, Georgia.  These are the first two women to make the grueling cut. The intense, 62-day training course includes running at least five miles several times a week, swimming for miles in a combat uniform, a 15-mile march carrying a 65-pound pack, and an astonishing number of pushups in two minutes. Women had been historically excluded from Ranger school because it was thought they lacked the strength and stamina to complete the program, but these women proved otherwise.

Their class was initially comprised of 380 men and 19 women.  94 male members made it through (24.7% of all the men who started).  And these two women (10.5% of all the women who started)


RIP Julian Bond

Yet another person that #blacklivesmatter could learn from (but won’t).  This man was a legend.  He moved from militancy to a moire pragmatic (but equally passionate) means of reform.  He died at the age of 75 this weekend.

Here is the NY Times obit, and here is President Obama’s statement:

Statement by the President on the Passing of Julian Bond

Julian Bond was a hero and, I’m privileged to say, a friend. Justice and equality was the mission that spanned his life – from his leadership of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, to his founding role with the Southern Poverty Law Center, to his pioneering service in the Georgia legislature and his steady hand at the helm of the NAACP. Michelle and I have benefited from his example, his counsel, and his friendship – and we offer our prayers and sympathies to his wife, Pamela, and his children.

Julian Bond helped change this country for the better. And what better way to be remembered than that.

Speaking of coalition-building, here is Bond six years ago speaking at the Human Rights Campaign, connecting the dots:

Quote Of The Day: Blind To Self Edition

From Florida, relating to efforts to ban The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime from a high school curriculum:

But Sue Gee, one of the parents who complained about the book, feels that Curious Case is an affront to her faith and that its casual use of swear words would be harmful to students.

I am not interested in having books banned,” said Gee, a former primary school teacher. “But to have that language and to take the name of Christ in vain — I don’t go for that. As a Christian, and as a female, I was offended.

Translation:  I am interested in having books banned.

Latest Fox Poll Must Be Giving The GOP Establishment Headaches

Stat geek Nate Silver had an excellent piece the other day explaining why the polls today are to be taken with a grain of salt.  In a nutshell, he writes, they are not good predictors of who the nominee will actually be, for many reasons:

  • They contemplate a vote today, but we’re currently 174 days from the Iowa caucuses.
  • They contemplate a national primary, but states vote one at a time or in small groups.
  • They contemplate a race with 17 candidates, but several candidates will drop out before Iowa and several more will drop out before the other states vote.
  • They contemplate a winner-take-all vote, but most states are not winner-take-all.
  • They contemplate a vote among all Republican-leaning registered voters or adults, but in fact only a small fraction of them will turn out for primaries and caucuses.

And that makes a lot of sense.  It’s also supported by historical evidence.  Going back at least 5 elections cycles, whoever has been leading for the non-incumbent party at this point in the process did not end of as the nominee of that party (e.g., Richard Gephart, Michelle Bachmann, etc.).

However, check out the results of the lastest Fox News poll:

Haperin notes that the anti-establishment vote is 52%, compared to 23% for “establishment” votes.  That says something, and you know that the GOP establishment (and the Bush camp) is concerned.

Now, I maintain that Trump will not be the nominee, nor Cruz, Carson, or Fiorina.  But this poll suggests that the anti-establishment sentiment is strong and pervasive, such that they may not turn out to vote in the general election if the nominee is establishment.  This all bodes well for Clinton.

Since I’m talking GOP nominees, I’ll take a dip in the Trump crazy well, which I have been avoiding lately for my sanity.  Let’s see:

(1)  Trump came out with an actual policy proposal regarding immigration.  Essentially, he wants to end birthright citizenship (i.e., if you are physically born within the US borders, you are an American citizen).  Ending birthright citizenship is basically what the Supreme Court advocated in the Dred Scott decision and which the 14th Amendment overruled.  Oh, and he’s going to make Mexico pay for the wall by threatening them with economic sanctions which will costs Mexico far less than the wall.  And also, mass deportation, although he won’t say how he’ll pay for it.  And my favorite, he will pass a law forcing businesses to “hire Americans first”.  And bake cakes for gays?  No.

(2)  Speaking of Trump’s immigration policy, it was the thing behind the world’s greatest unintentionally funny wingnut tweet:

(3)  Now that we’ve removed Saddam and made Iraq into an ally, Trump would take over Iraq’s oil fields (because that’s what friends so).  And he would give the revenue from those oil fields to wounded veterans.  Seriously.  It’s sort of…. institutionalized pillaging, I guess.

(4)  Trump has jury duty today.  The media is going insane.

(5)  An old Trump quote resurfaced and is quietly making the rounds: “I have black guys counting my money. … I hate it. The only guys I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes all day.” – Donald Trump, 1991. Here are 46 other Trump-isms, via Politico.  

Whatever Happened To Jim Bakker?

Jim Bakker was a smarmy, sex-scandal embroiled, 1980s TV evangelist fraudster and ex-con who fleeced his followers for decades with his then-wife Tammy Faye Bakker.  He was one of the many TV evangelist fraudsters in the 1980s.  It was the cool thing in the 1980s — shoulder pads and being a TV evangelist fraudster.

One day, the feds caught up with Bakker and he cried.


And he later went to trial and was found guilty.

Jim Bakker prison

And Tammy left him.  And he did his time.  And then he admitted he was wrong in a book with a very unimaginative title.


And then he took a long road to recovery.  So I hope he’s not out there doing that televangelist huckstering.

Naaah.  He’s just selling buckets of potato soup to elderly people so they will have food to eat when the Lord comes and smites the world for all the abortions and gay marrying we’re doing.

P.S.  The son of Jim and Tammy is in the religion biz as well.  But he’s actually kinda awesome.

Straight Outta Beating Up Women

I’m looking forward to seeing the N.W.A. bio-pic “Straight Outta Compton”, but I’m not surprised that the former N.W.A. members deal with the misogyny issue by, well, not acknowledging it.  Ice Cube recently was asked about it and he said that he doesn’t understand why “upstanding ladies” would come to the defense of the “bitches” and “hos” referred to in the group’s rap music.  Sadly, I think that misses the point, since the music talks about murdering and raping “bitches” and “hos”.  I think even “upstanding ladies” would agree with me: that’s still not okay.  And let’s not forget that Dr. Dre virtually ended the career of Dee Barnes (“Pump the jam, pump it up”) after beating her to a bloody pulp.

I expect the movie to say important things, and it certainly is timely given the national focus on police violence and race.  But my understanding is that women barely appear in the movie except as mothers, wives, and you guessed it, hos — which is misogynistic in its own way (the film’s producers include Dr. Dre and Ice Cube).  Too bad.  It almost makes me wish that they would put an asterisk in the corner of the screen along with statistics about domestic violence, particularly violence perpetrated against black women.

Even The Gun Nuts Don’t Want A Piece Of This

A few days ago, I mentioned the presence of armed white people — the Oath Keepers — present on the streets of Ferguson during the racial tensions.  They were there, they said, the protect a reporter from the ultra-right wing website, InfoWars.

Except now we learn that Infowars denies knowing these guys or what they’re doing.

Maybe that’s true, maybe not.  But many gun nuts are thinking this is a bad idea.  A typical example… from the blog “BEARING ARMS, Guns & Patriots Saving Liberty and Lives“:

It seems quite clear that the four white Oath Keepers self-deployed to a black neighborhood in which there is considerable racial tension, in what many regard as nothing more or less than a show of force. They interjected themselves into a community where they were neither wanted nor requested, and raised tensions instead of assuaging them as the prior group of Oath Keepers did in December of 2014.

Our continuing fight to not only retain but reassert our Second Amendment rights after years of abuse at the hands of an increasingly statist government is one that requires a deft touch, and I’m proud to say that the vast majority of gun owners clearly understand this. As a result, we’re attracting more shooters, across wider cultural lines.


And we’ll continue to create a more inclusive “gun culture 2.0″ as long as we act intelligently.

I don’t know anything about the individual Oath Keepers involved in this most recent appearance of the Oath Keepers in Ferguson, but then again, their intentions and pedigrees are all but irrelevant. The public perception of what they were doing, and why they were there, is what matters.

They did us no favors.

Of course, that blogger (if you read further) is only concerned about the reputation of the pro-gun crowd and not the fact that people might get, you know, killed.

But…. it’s progress.  Right?

Pissing On Your Best Friend

Earlier this week, I got in — not one but two — debates with good progressive friends about the wisdom of the BLM movement shutting down Bernie Sanders speaking at a Social Security and Medicaid event last Saturday in Seattle.  It’s a lot of ground to cover, but I read something by Hamilton Nolan (whoever he is) at Gawker that gets me 66% of the way there.  So I am going to piggyback on his essay to explain my take:

On Saturday, Bernie Sanders was scheduled to speak to a crowd of thousands of supporters in a Seattle park. He never did; the event was shut down after a handful of protesters disrupted it in the name of “Black Lives Matter.” This was remarkably dumb.

Some caveats up front: 1) “Black Lives Matter,” like “Occupy,” is not a formal group with strict membership requirements. It is a banner, an overarching cause, a general proclamation of a set of political beliefs that can be picked up by anyone who cares to invoke its name. The actions of a few people should not, therefore, be used to try to tarnish that entire cause.

Yup.  And part of the problem in the debates about “what BLM did” is that there is no centralized BLM leadership.  When you think “BLM”, think “Tea Party”, but with a different set of goals.  When I use “BLM” in this post, I am referring to those who say and believe that what happened in Seattle speaks for all BLM movement supporters, even though I do not concede that to be true.  *I* am a BLM movement supporter, one of many who disagree with the tactics in Seatlle.

2) There are already plenty of conspiracy theories circulating in lefty circles about the group of protesters who disrupted the event, and their true motivations, and what they hoped to accomplish. I do not want to dive into a sea of unprovable suppositions, or overgeneralize about a broad cause. There have already been many tortured op-eds by progressives trying to painstakingly reconcile what happened. The fact is that this is not the first time that Bernie Sanders has been driven from the stage by Black Lives Matter protesters.

Agreed.  The background of the protesters at the event is interesting.  One of them was definitely once a Sarah Palin supporter, but what that means NOW, if anything, can only be guessed at.  For the purposes of what I am saying, I will consider the background of the protesters to be irrelevant.

I simply want to talk about the wisdom of doing this.

It is stupid, don’t do it.

Is “Black Lives Matter,” drawing attention as it does to institutional racism, racist police practices, and other pervasive instances of racism in American society, a legitimate cause? Of course it is. It is perfectly appropriate for BLM to wave its banner in rallies, in protest marches, and in city halls. It is appropriate to wave its banner in neighborhoods, in meeting halls, in the media, and in the streets. It is even, I would argue, appropriate for protesters to stand up and raise their voices and be disruptive at campaign rallies for political candidates who are acting to reinforce and support the sort of racism that they are campaigning against.

One of the criticisms that gets pushed against people like me who were critical of BLM is that we’re trying to get black protesters to “be nice” and “not make waves” and not “shake up the status quo”.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Direct action is not only a valid tactic, but in many instances, a necessary tactic.  My gripe is not against direct action — it is against misdirected action

Donald Trump, the leading Republican presidential candidate, who spits venom about “illegals” pouring into America to rape innocent women, could use a good Black Lives Matter protest. Almost every Republican presidential candidate, in fact—who stumble over themselves competing to build a bigger wall on the border and who unerringly back the police state in word and deed—could use a good Black Lives matter protest. As could most Republican senators, and state governors, and a host of mayors and city council members and sheriffs.

But Bernie Sanders?

Let me stop again here and blunt what some might be thinking.  I am not a Bernie Sanders supporter.  I like much if not most of what he says.  But I don’t think an 80 year old socialist can be an effective leader in this ultra-divided political climate.  He would be a great king, but this is a democracy where compromise is actually necessary.  I also doubt his bona fides on foreign policy.  And a number of other reasons.  So don’t tag me with “You’re in Bernie’s camp” assumption.  You would be wrong.

Nor do I think Sander’s campaign is above reproach.  He has many critics on the left for a number of reasons.  The unbelievably awesome Larry Lessig, for example, is critical of Sanders, saying that Sanders has not put campaign finance reform at the top of his agenda.  Like Lessig,  I believe that you can’t solve the major problems of this country (including racial problems) without changing the way we elect people.  And I’m excited about a possible Lessig campaign.  But you don’t see Lessig, or other Sanders critics, storming the stage and shouting at Sanders like it is a Jerry Springer show.

Bernie Sanders? Bernie Sanders, of all presidential candidates, is the one that you choose to target on the issue of America’s structural racism? Bernie Sanders is the most progressive serious presidential candidate, and the most liberal, and the most vocal and wise on the issue of America’s entrenched and widening economic inequality. And should the Black Lives Matter movement care about economic inequality? Of course. The average white household in America has 16 times the wealth of the average black household. No group in America suffers from our nation’s economic inequality more than black people. Further, closing the racial wealth gap is probably the single most effective thing that any politician could do to help advance the cause of ending structural racism in America. This is because promoting progressive economic policies that work against the extreme concentration of wealth in small groups of people is something that politicians can actually do that has actual real world effects on racial inequality. “Giving nice speeches” is an example of a thing that politicians can do that tends to have little if any real world effect on racial inequality. I guarantee you that there are Democratic (and even some Republican) presidential candidates who are far more polished and smooth politicians than Bernie Sanders who are capable of giving speeches on race in America that sound far more pleasing and life-affirming to listen to than anything that Bernie Sanders says in his own plainspoken growl. And those candidates, who are heavily influenced by Wall Street donors, will go on to do very little to close the racial wealth gap in America, unlike Bernie Sanders.

So the question is: do you want someone who will do the things that will actually address the issues you care about? Or do you want to be pandered to better?

Many on the left find it hard to come out and say “this was stupid,” because they support both Bernie Sanders and the Black Lives Matter movement. That is a misperception of the political landscape. Believing that a small group of angry young protesters did something that was not well thought out need not make you feel guilty or racist; rash and counterproductive things are what young people do. Screaming Bernie Sanders offstage is dumb because you support Black Lives Matter. For those perceptive enough to separate pretty slogans from actual policy prescriptions, it is clear that Bernie Sanders is the candidate most aligned with the group’s values. Stifling his voice only helps his opponents.

Go shout at someone who deserves it.

Here’s where I have a little pushback of my own for the Gawker opinion piece.  While it is true that Sanders is, of all the candidate, the one most likely to be the best friend of the BLM movement, it is clear that the BLM movement doesn’t see it that way.  The Gawker pieces doesn’t seem to understand this point.  So I’ll address it.

The Seattle protesters (and perhaps the ones at Netroots) claim not to be interested in partisan politics.  In fact, the Seattle protesters claim that that “white supremacist liberals” are actually the cause of the problem.

If that is indeed the position of ALL of BLM (and again, it isn’t, because BLM is just an umbrella name to describe a movement, rather than an actual organization), then BLM is in serious trouble.  It is not liberals who can be blamed for the black people dying at the hands of law enforcement.  Progressive policies are not the root cause of this (and tellingly, no BLMed can point to one), nor are progressives guilty by reason of complacency.

Especially and including Sanders.  Sanders had incorporated a searing critique of entrenched racism into his regular stump speech.  He addressed the SCLC (MLK’s organization) talking about Sandra Bland and the need for officers to wear police cameras.  When he addressed the national conference of the Urban League on August 7, Sanders rattled off the names of Brand, Brown, Boyd, Garner, Scott, Gray and Rice and presented his own standards. “Violence and brutality of any kind, particularly at the hands of law enforcement sworn to protect and serve their communities, is unacceptable and must not be tolerated, he said. “We must reform our criminal justice system. Black lives do matter, and we must value black lives.”

All this was BEFORE last weekend.  His reward was a public scolding by Seattle activists who prevented him from speaking at a Social Security rally, one of whom demanded the crowd “join us now in holding Bernie Sanders accountable for his actions.”  What would those actions be?  It wasn’t explained then or since.  Maybe that’s because the people who supported the Seattle protests were too busy congratulating themselves and taking victory laps, while the rest of us shook our heads in embarrassment and disbelief.

It’s possible that the Seattle protesters didn’t know about Sanders’ statements over the past few weeks, but if so, then the organization that prides itself on using the new social media of the Internet to “spread the word” and organize encountered a massive fail.

Even if they had known, my understanding is that the Seattle protesters didn’t care about Sanders’ civil rights past (going back 50 years) or his recent statements about black lives.  The BLM, I’m told, doesn’t care about partisan politics.

Which is all well and good, but then its focus on candidates of the 2016 election seems counterproductive to even its OWN mission.  In any event, I don’t think they should care about partisan politics either.  If a Republican candidate had the same background and positions as Sanders, he/she should be welcomed into the BLM fold as well.  Being am equal-opportunity troll still means you are a troll (See Trump, Donald)  (UPDATE:  Speaking of Trump, he just held a short press conference. He said Bernie Sanders was “weak” when he allowed #BlackLivesMatter protesters to take the microphone at his rally… and actually threatened to physically fight them if they tried to do the same thing to him.  Attention BLMers: you want to impress me?  Don’t take your fight to Sanders who offers the path of least resistance because he’s on your side.  Take it to Trump)

As an aside, yet ANOTHER defense offered by those who support the Seattle protests — and it is a common theme running through the larger debate — is that “white people” shouldn’t be telling “black people” how to run “their” movement.

This is absurd for a number of reasons.  The first is, many people don’t see it as a movement refined to people of color.  As Kennedy once said:

“The rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened.”

It’s not “my” movement?  Bullshit.  Besides, if the people doing the killing are white, and I am white, and what they do reflects upon me (and apparently it does), then I’m not going to remain silent when I see a movement destined to fail.

Furthermore, I’m not criticizing the movement “as a white man”.  The criticisms I have a color-neutral, and one way you know that is because my exact same criticism of BLM has been said by Oprah Winfrey and Al Sharpton, who became, as a result, pariahs within the BLM movement (more on that in a moment).

To suggest that my criticisms come because of my whiteness denies a central tenant of a belief that BLMers themselves hold — that I am a beneficiary of white privilege (I acknowledge that I am a beneficiary of a racist system, but that does not mean I cause or support it).  I don’t check my color, and I am not conscious of it when I open my mouth to opine.  However, it is helpful to the BLM movement that I am portrayed that way, and they will take advantage of liberal white guilt to advance that theory that all whites are racist.  But it simply isn’t true.  I know when I am being condescending on a racial basis — that it “feels” that way to a black person doesn’t make it so.

So returning the the point, who then can the finger be pointed when it comes to racial injustice?  Go to the conservative blogs whenever a unarmed black person gets shot by white policemen.  If they are talking about it at all, it is in defense of the police.  The opposite is true of the progressive blogs.  Compare the new media versions of the right and the left on the subject of racial homicides.  Hell, compare the old media.

BLM supporters are quick to point out that racism is different now.  It isn’t hoods and Civil War flags.  No it isn’t.  That’s too obvious.  But that doesn’t mean it is mainstream progressive thought either. LISTEN to what is said on the very very white Fox News.  None of them have hoods either.

Can progressives be taken to task for failing to fix the problem?  Sure.  For example, Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper Initiative (or rather, the expansion of his My Brother’s Keeper Initiative) seems like weak tea to many, and I tend to agree.  But failure to fix the problem is not the same as being at the root cause of the problem.  BLMers seem to not know the difference.

So what is BLM’s problem with me and Oprah and Sharpton?  Not hard to answer.  We’re the older generation.  And THAT, I insist, is really what this schism is about.  Not progressive left against BLM, but rather, old (experienced) activists and younger ones.  If I sound condescending in my criticisms to a young black BLM activist, my condescension is rooted in my experience, not my skin color.

One defender of BLM said that he had been involved in social activism for 7 years, so he’s not a neophyte.  Seven years is good, but it’s not 37.  And as other BLM activists have blatantly admitted, proudly, they don’t care about the past.  MLK was then, this is now.

Each generation needs to find its own voice, so you certainly can understand where BLM comes from.  If I grew up with black parents who were (probably) liberal and followers of Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton, and I came of age in world where young black people got shot and nobody seemed to care, I too might reject the world and politics of my parents (not just leftie politics, but the racist political system altogether) and start from scratch.  So I get that.

But black lives matter.  They matter more than white peoples’ feelings (as we often hear), but guess what?  They matter more than black peoples’ feelings, too.  I don’t care that “this ain’t your daddy’s revolution” as many BLM signs and websites like to say.  Fidelity to being “now” — and using social media, and being leaderless, and being angry, and upturning the apple cart, and yada yada yada — that don’t mean shit if doesn’t yield change.

And the problem with BLM is that they waste time reinventing the wheel –thinking that their “new” brand of movement will get things done.  In the meantime, black lives are at stake.  But for some reason, it is more important to close their ears to (or even piss on) natural allies than to be pragmatic about ACTUAL change.

Not that the BLM cares about history, but the phenomenon of self-marginalization isn’t new.  In the 1960s, you had a split between the militant Malcolm X and Martin Luther King.  Both engaged in direct action, so that factor is a wash.  But who was the white power structure more afraid of — (a) Malcolm X and his threat to take democracy into black hands “by any means necessary”, or (b) Martin Luther King with his progressive coalition taking direct action (coupled with his ability to work within the system he was engaging)?

Martin Luther King was the threat.

Why?  Because for all his talk and perceived militancy, Malcolm X had no method, no program, no “means” that would actually bring about long-lasting change.  King, on the other hand, had shown he could move mountains.  And when he crossed Pettus bridge on his way to Selma, it wasn’t just King and the SCLC; it was preachers and volunteers of every religion and race.  (The only person to die in the march to Selma was a white woman).

But BLM doesn’t seem to care about that.  “Coalition politics is sooooo 60 years ago, and we’ve got hashtags now!”  So old farts like Oprah and me, we can sit on the side.  That’s seriously what is going on today.

It’s too bad.  Because social media is great for getting people to look at stuff.  A black girl in Houston gets kneed in the back by a white cop at a pool party in Houston.  Some guy with a cellphone records it.  Bam!!  People all over the world know about it before the day is over.  That’s powerful and an incredible tool to harness.

But one need only look to the Occupy movement to see the shortcomings of relying just on that.  At the end of the day, almost no financial reform came when Occupy took the tents down.  Only one very low level guy has been prosecuted for the intentional financial crimes that resulted in a catastrophic worldwide depression that saw the USA alone lose trillions in net worth, and saw hundreds of thousands of Americans lose their hopes for retirement, or a house, etc.  The best tthat can be said of the Occupy movement is that “income inequality” is a phrase people know, and it is sorta kinda a campaign issue in 2016.

Perhaps that was all the Occupy intended to do, so I won’t say it is a “failure”.  But one thing is certain — by design or by accident, Occupy had no Act Two.

BLM is going the way of Occupy in that they think that simply exposing the problem is the same as fixing it.  Unfortunately, people are aware of the race problem already.  The mainstream media didn’t cover financial shenanigans because it wasn’t sexy and it was hard to understand, but they DO cover race wars.  So the American public is aware of the problem (even conservatives who deny it is a problem are aware of the issue).  At best, you’re either preaching to choir, or just annoying people who will resist you.  At worst, you are annoying your allies.

So BLM needs an Act Two and a way to bring about change.  But they are stuck in Malcolm X mode, engaging in divisive politics that marginalizes themselves, and specifically rejecting coalition movements   That’s unfortunate.

I could probably write another post on what BLM should be doing, but that would take too long.  The thumbnail version is this: act more locally.  Police units operate and the city, county and municipal level.  That’s where the rubber needs to meet the road.  National politics and politicians can only do so much.

So demand “audits” or “report cards” from every police department.  Have specific benchmarks that every law enforcement entity needs to meet.  Some criteria might relate to hiring practices (i.e., does the racial make-up of the police officers reflect that of the population they serve), police distribution (i.e., do minority policemen police minority neighborhoods), data collection (i.e., is information gathered relating to the race of people stopped, frisked, detained, as well as the race of the cop), police training (i.e., prevailing model that is taught — self-protection model vs “protect and serve the public” model), police continuing education, views on use of cameras (not only by police but the public recording the police) and so on.  Require local police departments to issue annual reports on these and other factors.  Form joint legislative-citizen committees to address shortcomings that surface from these reports.  Write and pass local legislation to correct flaws in the system (I, for one, think that government should not be permitted to negotiate with police unions on any issue mentioned above).  And so on.

And if direct action is needed, BLM needs to take direct action at the local level against whatever entity is obstructing it.  But don’t marginalize.  BLM needs to understand, for example, how other groups — say, groups concerned about gun control, or groups concerned about income inequality — have issues that bear directly on the issues that concern BLM.  And bring them in.  Don’t piss them off and shut them out.

That’s what BLM needs to do, at a minimum.

That is, if it cares about black lives.

“Keep your eyes on the prize.”

– Folk song from 1950s and 1960s civil rights movement


LOOSE THREADS AND AFTERTHOUGHTS:  I thought I would update this post to address a few items I didn’t touch.  Some of them, I think, are obvious, but I seem to keep reading the same thing so….

(1)  “The Seattle protest exposed the white supremacist liberalism that exists.”  Nope.  It really didn’t.  Apparently, some people think that if you boo a rude black person who is stealing the mic, you are booing because the person is black.  Which of course isn’t true.  They were booing because it was rude.  Flashback:

[Kanye] West had said that he was “rude” for interrupting her acceptance speech for Best Female Video. “It was just very rude, period,” West said to Leno. “I’d like to apologize to her in person.”

The people who criticized Kanye weren’t being racist, were they?

Furthermore, go back to the video.  When the protesters call for 4½ minutes of silence for Michael Brown (to symbolize the 4½ hours his body lay on a Ferguson street), the rally organizers raised their hands in support, as did many in the audience.  Yes, there were catcalls and even some slurs (there are always are a few in every crowd).  But to say that it exposed liberal racism?  Based on what?

This isn’t to say that there isn’t white progressive racism.  There is.  Some of it is blatant but exists in small pockets (Yes, certain counties in West Virginia, I am looking at you).  Some of it comes in more subtle forms, like those who insist that they are “colorblind:” and “don’t see race”. That, of course, is its own kind of racism.   Of course, those people exist within all political camps (personally, I have seen more people on the right espouse themselves as “colorblind” than those on the left, but that might just be my experience).  But as I state in the main body of my essay, the forces opposed to what BLM seeks to do are on the right.  And if they visit rallies of THOSE candidates, they will see the racism.  Sanders was an easy target because he was close to the protesters philosophically.  Getting him to condemn racism in BLM language wasn’t like leading a horse to water and forcing him to drink — it was like approaching a horse already drinking from the water.

(2)  “Who cares what the Seattle protesters did?  They were successful, weren’t they?”  Nope.  I’ve already discussed how Sanders had already spoken about the black lives matter before the Seattle protest.  But more than that, some people claim that by focusing on economic injustice, Sanders was avoiding the issue of racial injustice.  That’s simply not true.  Sanders understands, as apparently many BLM supporters do not, that you cannot achieve sweeping revolutionary racial changes unless you address economic injustice.  Race and class are inextricably tied together.

Take two real world examples:  A rich and famous former athlete kills two people in Brentwood, California.  He gets due process of a trial (several trials actually), and retains the best lawyers.  He’s found not guilty.  Compare that to a a guy in Staten Island, New York, who allegedly tried to sell a cigarette on a sidewalk.  He was summarily executed by police who compress his neck and chest until he could no longer breathe.  No trial, no lawyers, no due process guaranteed by the Constitution.  Since both guys were black, you can’t point your fingers at racism.  It has to do with class.

Now, I certainly understand why protesters in the BLM movement would not like it if a presidential candidate (or someone like me) brings up the topic of economic injustice within a dialogue about racial injustice.  It certainly appears like an attempt to skirt the race issue (or even sweep it under the table).  Perhaps that might be considered a “gaffe” by failing to talk about race, instead of economy, to people upset exclusively about race (and who don’t see the economic connection).  But I maintain… unless you are looking for bandaid approaches rather than long term permanent solutions, you need to understand how class and economics play a part in racial injustice.  There are many good books on this issue.

(3)  Black people don’t know what all white people think.  Does this even need to be said?  Any sentence that begins with “White people think that….” is just as prejudiced as a sentence that begins with “Black people think that….”.  I know what a broad brush is, and it is a broad brush no matter who wields it.  It doesn’t help a race movement to make broad-brush statements about someone else’s race.

This is entirely different from pointing out a structure or a political system which benefits one race over another.  That is true and supportable.

So one can say that white people benefit from the current legal and political systems to the detriment of people of color.  But don’t say that all white people want to preserve a system which endows them with white privilege.  That’s simply untrue, and people of color don’t get to ascribe my motives any more than I can accurately ascribe theirs.

In a related vein, don’t claim that the white people at the Sanders event were “inconvenienced”.  That’s spin. Some of them waited a long time to see/hear Sanders.  Some of them wanted to know what he would say.  But in the long run, who cares?  Or “hurt feelings”.  Again, that’s probably not true.  But who cares?  The criticisms against BLM are because BLM is shooting itself in the foot.

(4)  Stop with the ridiculous false comparisons.  Yes, being shot by police is worse than interrupting a political event.  So is dying from breast cancer.  Should the Koman people interrupt a BLM event because dying from breast cancer is worse than a rally?

(5)  What to do, what to do.  Hopefully, the Sanders incident was just a setback for BLM.  Hopefully, they will rethink their broader strategy.  But one should not disparage their efforts completely.  Direct action against those who deny there is a problem (or who take the position that people of color are the problem) will always help.  I don’t mean to turn anyone off to BLM.  They should be a part of YOUR coalition,even if they reject coalition politics.  In that vein, let me point to other organizations worthy of your time and consideration.  Some have been around for a long time.  For example, the Stolen Lives Project and the October 22 Coalition (to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation).

The latter has many local chapters (here’s the one for Greensboro NC) and his calling for a National Day of Protest on October 24.  The event has a wide range of endorsers — from Eve Ensler to Cindy Sheehan (I mention them, because they are white), from the mother of Tamir Rice to the Cornel West.  A coalition.


GOP 2016 Race Shorts


Let’s get one thing clear, because I don’t think this is the first time it is going to come up.

Regardless of whether you think it was good or bad, the withdrawal of troops from Iraq was Bush’s idea, not Obama’s.  I say this because Jeb was on the campaign trail yesterday spewing nonsense:

The former Florida governor asserted that the Islamic State’s takeover of large swaths of Iraq in 2014 was a direct consequence of the “fatal error” of Obama’s decision to withdraw U.S. forces from the country in 2011 after the eight-year U.S. military occupation. He claimed the withdrawal squandered the “success, brilliant, heroic and costly,” of the 2007 U.S. troop surge. He said Clinton “stood by as the hard-won victory by American and allied forces was thrown away.”

Bzzzzzt!  Wrong!  Thanks for playing!  It was Jeb’s brother who set the withdrawal date of Dec. 31, 2011, in an agreement that he signed with the Iraqi government in 2008.  And that withdrawal had already begun by the time Obama took office in January 2009.

So be careful of this lie.


Planned Parenthood is on the chopping block for selling fetal tissue (that would otherwise become medical waste) to medical researchers so that we can cure disease.  All the GOP candidates are lining up to condemn Planned Parenthood, including Dr. Ben Carson, the retired neurosurgeon who is rising in the GOP field:

Carson, formerly director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University medical school, said the benefits of fetal research have been “overpromised” and “under-delivered.”

He called it “disturbing” that some people don’t even realize the “callousness with which we are treating human life.”

Carson has explained that, at 17 weeks, a fetus is “clearly a human being.”

The problem is…. apparently Dr. Carson was not so put off the idea when he was conducting fetal tissue research. (And by the way, did you ever think we would have a candidate running for president who actually conducted medical research on fetal tissue?  Let’s just pause and contemplate that).  Oh, and the age of the fetal tissue he conducted research on?  17 weeks and…. wait for it…. 9 weeks.

Today, Carson said he did not support a ban on fetal tissue research.  He was asked to explain the apparent contradiction.

In an interview with the Washington Post, Carson called the revelation “desperate,” and ignorant of the way medical research was carried out.

“You have to look at the intent,” Carson said before beginning a campaign swing through New Hampshire. “To willfully ignore evidence that you have for some ideological reason is wrong. If you’re killing babies and taking the tissue, that’s a very different thing than taking a dead specimen and keeping a record of it.”

Carson went on to give a rather dishwater-y “not my department” response to his earlier use of fetal tissue:

“Bear this in mind about pathologists,” said Carson. “Regardless of what their ideology is, when they receive tissue, they prepare the tissue. They label it. They mark how it got there. Regardless of whether it’s from a fetus or someone who’s 150 years old, they bank them in tissue blocks. Other people doing comparative research need to have a basis. When pathologists receive specimen, their job is to prepare the specimen. They have no job opining on where the tissue came from.”

Taken together, it sounds like Carson is fine with fetal tissue research as long as…(I’m guessing)… the fetus dies a natural death?  Of course, that inquiry was never made when he was doing research, and/or he didn’t seem to care.

And let’s be clear — he didn’t merely “prepare the specimen” back in 1992 — he authored the research paper, so he has (arguably) some accountability for the material used in his research, including where it came from.

I don’t think this odd and murky bit of hypocrisy is going to sink Carson’s campaign (which will sink someday), but I thought it was interesting.


This guy is a Republican?  Sure he would have been A LONG TIME AGO, but not in this political climate.




Get some popcorn

QOTD – Trump Edition

“I do whine because I want to win, and I’m not happy about not winning, and I am a whiner, and I keep whining and whining until I win”

– Trump on CNN this morning.

Number of points he gets for owning up to this: Zero.

Can you imagine what would happen to our political system if the most persistent whiners got elected?

State Of The GOP Race

The debate didn’t hurt Trump like may Republicans thought it might.  By luck or design, Trump has figured out that the way to appeal to the GOP base is to be an asshole.  Seriously.  That demographic likes people who “speak their own mind” (the polite way to put it) regardless of the fact that he doesn’t have any concrete policies, or even evidentiary support for the crap he says.

The good democrats are saying nothing against Trump.  He is a dream opponent because, while he may get as much as 30 or even 40% of the GOP vote, he’s virtually toast in a matchup with any Democrat.

And he’s already straining the other candidates.  Rick Perry told his South Carolina staff that he can’t pay them, and he understands it if they want to find work elsewhere.  Ouch.  And South Carolina, being the third major primary/caucus is an important state.

So the question of last month becomes the question of this month… when will the defying-political-gravity magic of Donald Trump come to an end?  In WaPo, Paul Waldmen writes “Bad news, Republicans: Donald Trump is practically bulletproof”:

This time, he’s gone too far. That’s what Republicans said after Donald Trump insulted John McCain over his military record, people lined up to criticize Trump and the party’s leaders hoped this ridiculous (if entertaining) political reality show could finally be wound down. But it didn’t turn out that way, and now they’re saying it all over again, after Trump sparred with Fox News’s Megyn Kelly during Thursday’s debate, then continued to throw insults at her all weekend. As The Post’s Philip Rucker and Robert Costa wrote yesterday, “Republican leaders who have watched Donald Trump’s summer surge with alarm now believe that his presidential candidacy has been contained and may begin to collapse because of his repeated attacks on a Fox News Channel star and his refusal to pledge his loyalty to the eventual GOP nominee.”

Perhaps they really believe that in their hearts. Or perhaps they hope that if they tell themselves and the rest of the world it’s true, then it will come to pass.


Nevertheless, the poll showed Trump still at the top with 23 percent support among Republicans. Don’t be surprised if the other polls we see in the next few days show his support essentially unchanged. I suspect that the people who are behind him don’t care if he threatens to run as an independent or if he insults women, just like they didn’t care that he jabbed at McCain and said we ought to deport 11 million people. It’s a feature, not a bug.

If this were an ordinary Republican presidential primary campaign — one obvious front-runner, five or six other candidates taking long-shot bids, a predictable arc in which a challenger emerges to that front-runner and is eventually vanquished — the presence of a character like Trump might not make much of a difference. In a year like that, he might still have managed to get support from the same one out of five primary voters who are backing him now, but it wouldn’t have put him at the front of the pack and made him the center of the campaign. After a while, he probably would have gotten bored and dropped out.

But by the time that happens, the party will have spent months tying itself in knots. The voters Trump represents will be only more convinced that their party is, in the words Trump himself might use, a bunch of total losers. The GOP’s image is already hurting, not only among voters in general but also among its own partisans; according to a recent Pew Research Center poll, 32 percent of Americans have a favorable view of the Republican Party, and only 68 percent of Republicans view it favorably (86 percent of Democrats have a favorable view of their party).

In other words, when/if Trump actually crashes and burns, and even assuming he doesn’t run third party, the damage he’s done to the remaining field will remain.  Trump supporters are enthusiastic and don’t care about party loyalty.  (Cruz, by the way, is blatantly positioning himself to be the beneficiary of any Trump fallout).

Over at his site, Nate Silver does a great job of explaining how Trump could be leading in the polls, but losing the nomination.  The problem with national polls of GOP voters is that they measure something not at all related to the real world in five ways:

However, the “election” these polls describe is hypothetical in at least five ways:

  • They contemplate a vote today, but we’re currently 174 days from the Iowa caucuses.
  • They contemplate a national primary, but states vote one at a time or in small groups.
  • They contemplate a race with 17 candidates, but several candidates will drop out before Iowa and several more will drop out before the other states vote.
  • They contemplate a winner-take-all vote, but most states are not winner-take-all.
  • They contemplate a vote among all Republican-leaning registered voters or adults, but in fact only a small fraction of them will turn out for primaries and caucuses.

This is why it’s exasperating that the mainstream media has become obsessed with how Trump is performing in these polls.

Silver writes that these polls are helpful, and you shouldn’t dismiss them altogether, but they don’t take into account what he calls “indicators” — outside factors that influence how an election turns out.  In this case, endorsements and support from party elites is one type of indicator, Sliver says.  And as for the polls themselves, you need to look at name recognition and media attention each candidate is receiving.  And maybe most importantly, you need to look at the individual voter enthusiasm, as well as second-choice preferences, because candidates are going to drop out between now and the time people actually vote.

As for Trump himself, Silver rejects that he has tapped into some sort of new populism, or even that he is the most popular candidate:

It’s possible that many GOP voters are thinking about the race in just that way now. First, they ask themselves whether they would vote for Trump; if not, they then choose among the 16 other candidates. The neat thing about this is that you can overwhelmingly lose the majority in the referendum — 75 percent of Republicans are not voting for Trump — and yet still hold the plurality so long as the “no” vote is divided among a sufficient number of alternatives.

Silver says it is possible that Trump will remain high and even win in Iowa and New Hampshire.  But maybe not.  But he concludes:

Our emphatic prediction is simply that Trump will not win the nomination. It’s not even clear that he’s trying to do so.

Has Ferguson Gotten Better?

One year after the arrest and killing of Michael Brown, a young unarmed black man, Ferguson seems to be in deeper trouble than ever.  Several investigations, including one by the DOJ, found that the police officer did not act improperly in the shooting of Michael Brown.  BUT the DOJ found that the police department was ethically un-diverse (compared to the general population) and was systematically targeting the minority community for everything from major offenses to traffic violations.  One year on, political leaders have changed or been replaced, but

A year after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown sparked a firestorm in Ferguson, the city is still pumping out thousands of new arrest warrants and jailing people over minor offenses, according to an exclusive CNNMoney analysis.

This practice continues despite a scathing report from the Department of Justice in March that found that Ferguson’s police department and municipal court were unconstitutionally targeting low-income and minority residents with tickets and fines for minor offenses — often in pursuit of revenue. The report noted that there were more than 16,000 people (residents and non-residents alike) with outstanding arrest warrants as of the end of last year, equivalent to around 75% of the town’s population.

While the police were the ones giving out the tickets, the DOJ slammed the city’s court for using arrest warrants to squeeze money out of the people least able to afford the fines. Even though there need to be repercussions for people who break the law and ignore their tickets, the DOJ says jail time is far too harsh a punishment for infractions that rarely pose a major threat to public safety.

But in the wake of the DOJ report, CNNMoney found that Ferguson is still at it. The city has issued more than 2,300 new arrest warrants so far this year and thousands of older warrants continue to haunt people — even as neighboring municipalities are wiping out old tickets or warrants entirely.

The court clerk fired over racist emails that surfaced during the DOJ investigation has a new job with another Missouri court… six miles away from Ferguson.  That’s not progress either.

And this weekend saw violence as well as a shooting.  However, reports suggest that a black man was shooting directly at police cars, and police shot back and seriously wounded him.  If those are the actual facts, I don’t think that can be pinned on police.  People like that…. #nothelping.

But according to news reports, little has changed within the police department.  And it doesn’t look like their tactics have changed much.  On the radio, I heard someone describe the protests this week compared to those from one year ago.  He said, “One year ago it was like 1955; this weekend it was like 1965”.  Meaning… much more chaos.

And speaking of #nothelping, this happened….

As St. Louis County Police stage mass arrests of black protesters for suspicion of possessing weapons, tonight in Ferguson, Missouri, the extreme right wing militia Oath Keepers are stalking the streets openly carrying assault rifles.


Why were they there?  They were sent by conspiracy lunatic Alex Jones to protect his “reporters.”  To get a sense of what these guys are about… see the guy in the picture above?  Watch him in the video below:

The race problem meets the rightwing extremism problem.  This has disaster written all over it.

UPDATE:  I read over at Mother Jones this:

During the same time last year, Oath Keeper members took it upon themselves to guard the city’s rooftops with assault rifles. Police officials eventually ordered the group to leave, saying their presence was inciting fear and suspicion in an already tense situation. However, no members were arrested.

I did not know they were there last year as well.  However, I wonder what the police would have done last year (or this year) if it was an armed black militant group on the streets for the same reason.  Would the police simply have “ordered” them to leave…. with no arrests?

Megyn Kelly – Donald Trump Dust

I really dislike Megyn Kelly.  I think her politics are terrible, and she doesn’t carry even the semblance of being “fair and balanced”.  But she was an excellent moderator and while I don’t think that questions about “elect-ability”  are the best questions for a presidential debate, she treated everyone equally.  And even for a conservative, she’s better and smarter than the network she is on.

Donald Trump whined like a schoolyard kid about how “unfair” Kelly was to him in the debates, and made sexist remarks about her all weekend.  Kelly took the high road when she returned to work yesterday:

The part I like best?  The last sentence and the emphasis on “the news”.  Nicely done.

I Doubt This Is True….

… but this is already the strangest political cycle and Trump is already the strangest political candidate.  In any other year, with any other candidate, I wouldn’t even give this story the time of day.  But…. well…. I don’t know….

According to four sources with knowledge of the situation, editors and writers at the outlet have privately complained since at least last year that the company’s top management was allowing Trump to turn Breitbart into his own fan website — using it to hype his political prospects and attack his enemies. One current editor called the water-carrying “despicable” and “embarrassing,” and said he was told by an executive last year that the company had a financial arrangement with Trump. A second Breitbart staffer said he had heard a similar description of the site’s relationship with the billionaire but didn’t know the details; and a third source at the company said he knew of several instances when managers had overruled editors at Trump’s behest. Additionally, a conservative communications operative who works closely with Breitbart described conversations in which “multiple writers and editors” said Trump was paying for the ability to shape coverage, and added that one staffer claimed to have seen documentation of the “pay for play.”

All four sources spoke on condition of anonymity so as not to jeopardize their jobs; and none knew exactly how Trump’s alleged arrangement with the privately held company worked.

Emphasis mine.

Bernie Sanders, #BlackLivesMatter, and The Difference Between Activism and Flaming

A Tough Weekend For Black Lives Matter, says the headline of an article in today’s Atlantic.  And why?  Two things: (1) an officer-involved shooting of a black youth by cops in Ferguson, Missouri at the end of a day of otherwise peaceful protests, and (2) a demonstration at a Bernie Sanders rally in Seattle on Saturday.

The first one was a setback because the youth was reportedly shooting at police cars.  I have little to say about this because it happened late last night, and I’m sure we don’t know all of the facts (also, the first facts that come out of these things are often wrong).  However, if it is true that some black kid was shooting at police cars and they had legal justification to shoot back — yeah, that’s a setback form BLM.  Not, of course, because they condoned or incited the shooting, but it mars the day and the movement as a whole, and gives credence to the BLM haters who say (often in racist tones) that the blacks are at fault and there is no racism problem with law enforcement in that town.  (The DOJ believes differently, but never mind that, right?)

The second matter is, to me, actually troubling.  I’ll let CNN report what happened:

Seconds after Sanders took the stage, a dozen protesters from the city’s Black Lives Matter chapter jumped barricades around the stage and grabbed the microphone from the senator. Holding a banner that said “Smash Racism,” two of the protesters—Marissa Janae Johnson and Mara Jacqeline Willaford, the co-founders of the chapter—began to address the crowd.

“My name is Marissa Janae Johnson, co-founder of Black Lives Matter Seattle,” she said to sustained boos from an audience that had waited an hour and a half to hear Sanders. “I was going to tell Bernie how racist this city is, filled with its progressives, but you already did it for me, thank you.

“You are never going to hear Bernie speak if I don’t hear silence now,” said Johnson, adding later, “Now that you’ve covered yourself in your white supremacist liberalism, I will formally welcome Bernie Sanders to Seattle.”

To sustained boos from the audience that assembled to see Sanders, Johnson demanded that the senator take action on saving black lives and called on him to release his plans to reform policing. “Bernie Sanders, would you please come over here,” she said. Johnson and Willaford demanded—and eventually won—a four-and-a-half-minute-long moment of silence in honor of Michael Brown, the unarmed black teenager who was killed by an officer in Ferguson, Missouri, a year ago on Sunday. Sanders stood just feet away off stage, chatting with his wife, Jane, and the three aides that came to Seattle with him. Sanders’ aides said the senator had no plans of leaving during the protests, but once Johnson did not appear willing to give up the mic after the moment of silence, organizers effectively shut down the event.

Sanders released a statement in response to the interruption by Johnson and Willaford. “I am disappointed that two people disrupted a rally attended by thousands at which I was invited to speak about fighting to protect Social Security and Medicare,” it read. “I was especially disappointed because on criminal justice reform and the need to fight racism there is no other candidate for president who will fight harder than me.” (The emphasis is mine).

The Atlantic article goes on to opine, “this sort of activism strikes me as a self-inflicted blow to Black Lives Matter.”  Me too.  They did it in part by painting all of Bernie’s audience as “covering themselves in white supremacist liberalism.”

Fox Is Breaking Up With Trump And He’s Not Taking It Well

It’s pretty clear that the Fox moderators were coming down pretty hard on Trump, and although he got the most speaking time, he wasn’t really asked much on policy.  Instead, he was put on defensive (more than the others) about his elect-ability and tone.

After the debate, Trump complained that the moderators asked him “unfair” questions, and criticized Fox’s Megyn Kelly for a question she asked about his comments toward women.  Even Trump competitor Lindsay Graham agreed that the moderators engaged “more of an inquisition” when it came to Trump.

And following the debate, pollster Frank Luntz compiled a focus group of Republicans on Fox, who generally showed disfavor to Trump.  It seems obvious that Roger Ailes instructed the Fox people to go after Trump, something Megyn Kelly clearly was ready to do.

At the Intelligencer, a reporter writes:

Campaign lawyer Michael Cohentweeted that it was a “total setup” designed to “lower #Trump2016 high poll numbers.” Another Trump adviser told me that the debate was “vicious” and a “hit job.”

Trump took to Twitter last night to vent:

This is the kind of schism I enjoy.  What happens when the right wing go-to news channel attacks the most popular right-wing candidate?  This is rather unprecedented.  Ultimately, Trump is going to lose, and Fox will go on.  But is Fox News alienating some of its viewers in the process?  And where will they go for their news and information?

Another Lazy Jon Stewart Tribute

I call this lazy, because I’m not writing it.  I just liked what The Rude Pundit said in a couple of paragraphs:

Stewart was never our crusader. If he was going to change things, it would be on a small scale, by bringing attention to issues like veterans’ rights and 9/11 responders’ health. He was our pressure valve, but his Daily Show wasn’t meant to be cathartic, even though sometimes it was. It was meant to make you angry, really fucking angry, that shit was going this way. The problem was, as it always has been, that people are notoriously difficult to move to action. The best comparison the Rude Pundit can come up with is Bertolt Brecht, the German playwright. Brecht wanted his plays to enrage people into action at the injustices of the world, not just enjoy a nice time at the theatre. The problem was that the masses never left Mother Courage calling for an end to war. And people left Threepenny Opera humming “Mack the Knife,” not ready to attack the capitalist pigs. So, of course, Stewart was, as he professed, just a comedian. Except when he wasn’t.

Despite what he keeps telling us, “Jon Stewart” is dead after tonight, as much as “Stephen Colbert” died when that host’s host moved on to the great network in the sky. Whatever Stewart does after, his persona of Daily Show host is gone. What we lose in that is perhaps more deep than the humor, incisive and broad, and the social critique. We lose a way to frame the world, even if that frame was in opposition to Stewart’s obvious positions. We lose a way of understanding how we are being manipulated. By then end of his run, Stewart had earned our trust. He went from the smart-ass brother to the father a generation wished they had. “Jon Stewart” is dead. We shall never see his like again.

I thought Stewart’s final monologue, coming toward the end of his final show last night, was something akin to Eisenhower’s “military-industrial complex” farewell speech in the sense that it was surprising and timeless and should be listened to.  Speaking for the last time at (to?) his old friend, Camera Three, Stewart talked openly (and un-bleeped) about bullshit.  It was an optimistic speech and a perfect summation of what Stewart has been doing these few years – exposing bullshit in the media and in politics.  He broke down the types of bullshit and urged us to be vigilant.  He’s telling us to do for ourselves what we have relied on him to do.  Maybe it is time we flew from the nest.  Watch this:

Here’s a “rough transcript” that appeared on Twitter last night:



UPDATE:  Writing about Stewart’s monologue, the New York Times uses the actual word “bullshit” — rare.

GOP Debate Wrapup

Well, I didn’t think I was going to see either debate yesterday, but I was able to hear most of the Junior Varsity debate, and I saw all of the Big Boy Pants debate.

My running Tweet commentary is below, under the fold.

As for the first debate, Fiorina seemed like the clear winner to me.  Apparently, I was not the only one to think that.  Almost universal consensus on that.  Of course, her “victory” was and is going to be overshadowed by the Big Boy Pants debate.

I don’t think there was a clear “winner” of the main debate.  I think the Fox News moderators, much to my surprise, did a pretty good job trying to knock the candidates off of their canned talking points.  They weren’t successful at it, but at least they tried, and were not afraid to get confrontational with the candidates.  Especially Trump (who has been asking for it).  I could have done without so many questions on “electability” — those are about the horserace, not about what they would do as president.  But otherwise, not bad.

I have a better read on why Trump is appealing — he was the only one who was genuine.  Again, he just answered the question, and it didn’t sound like a rote, slightly modified, stump speech.  The problem for Trump is that when he applies the #nofilter, he’s pretty abhorrent.  He thinks that asking him NOT to call women “fat pigs” is “political correctness”.  I would call it respectful.  I think his sort of frankness is refreshing, but I don’t see him climbing in the GOP polls.  He may have topped out.

Others, like Huckabee, were simply revolting in their views.  Carson, too.  Their brand of religiosity simply isn’t going to get them the nomination, and it certainly won’t result in a victory over Hillary.  The truth is, I didn’t see much of a threat from any of the candidates.  I didn’t think, “Uh oh.  THAT person might actually give Hillary a problem”.  Except Fiorina, actually.

I am sure it did not escape notice, but Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal boldly announced that he would immediately break the law upon assuming office:
“Planned Parenthood had better hope that Hillary Clinton wins this election, because I guarantee you that under President Jindal, January 2017, the Department of Justice and the IRS and everybody else that we can send from the federal government will be going into Planned Parenthood.”
In the spin room later, he said he’d put OSHA and the EPA on them as well. Even Richard Nixon was more discreet about his beliefs that the president could use the executive branch agencies for political purposes.  If this were a debate between Jindel and two other people, Jindel would be slammed by now.  But so much happened last night, it just got lost in the soup.

Kasich was goofy.  Rand Paul was petulant.  Walker looked a little out of his league.  Most everybody else treaded water.

So, if I had to guess, I would say Trump and Walker probably lost a little ground.  Christie too. Rubio gained a bit of ground. Bush stayed even. The rest probably will stay about where they are, which is so low that it hardly matters if they gained or lost a percentage point. Someone will drop off the top ten — Kasich, I expect — and Carly Fiorina will be on the big stage next time.

What was largely missing from the debate was Hillary-bashing.  There was some, but not a lot.  Almost no mention of the email “scandal”, and Benghazi wasn’t mentioned at all.  It is strange: when you turn on Fox News, they all act like Hillary is up to her neck in scandal and she probably won’t win the Democratic nomination, but there was no sign of such schadenfreude last night — everyone assumed she would be the nominee.

Much attention was given to Republican issues — abortion, etc.  Some foreign policy re: Iran.  But almost nothing on climate change or income inequality.  The usual crap about “big government” and too much taxes.

And Lindsay Graham is fucking scary.  Dude will get us into World War III sure as I’m sitting here.

Anyway, the tweets …

Good Sports

If you’ve watched the Daily Show in the past couple years, you know that Jon Stewart has taken pot shots at Arbys.  This ad appeared on the Daily Show last night.

Nate Silver Places Trump’s Chances of Being GOP Nominee at 2%

Nate Silver writes that in order to become the GOP nominee for the 2016 election, Trump must jump the “Six Stage of Doom”:

Stage 1: Free-for-all

When it happens: This is the stage we’re in now; it will continue through the next couple of months.
Potential threat to Trump: Increased attention to other GOP candidates.

Stage 2: Heightened scrutiny

When it happens: Mid-November or thereabouts, as voters up their level of attention to the campaign
Potential threat to Trump: Polling support doesn’t translate to likely, more-informed voters.

Stage 3: Iowa and New Hampshire

When it happens: Feb. 1 and Feb. 9, based on the provisional calendar.
Potential threat to Trump: Middling performance in one or both states, either in an absolute sense or relative to polls.

Stage 4: Winnowing

When it happens: mid-February through mid-March
Potential threat to Trump: Other candidates drop out, and remaining ones surpass Trump.

Stage 5: Delegate accumulation

When it happens: mid-March through final primaries in June
Potential threats to Trump: Poor organization in caucus states, poor understanding of delegate rules, no support from superdelegates.

Stage 6: Endgame

When it happens: June through Republican National Convention, July 18-21
Potential threat to Trump: The Republican Party does everything in its power to deny him the nomination.

The full article is a fun and informed read, but Silver got to his 2% by assuming that Trump has a 50% chance of being knocked out at each stage, meaning, for example, that Trump only has a 6.25% chance of making it through the “Winnowing” stage.

Good Television Night For Political Comedy

At 11:00 pm EDT, we say goodbye to Jon Stewart.  End of an era really.  The Will Rogers of the modern era.  There are and will be others in the political comedy arena, but none as astute as Stewart.

I won’t indulge in a Stewart retrospective.  Others are doing that, and much better than I could.  I’ll just showcase two great Stewart moments.  The first is when Steve Carrell, who started on the Daily Show, came back in 2005 to plug his movie “The 40 Year Old Virgin”.  He and Stewart were in sync, and what happened was comedy magic:

And then here’s Stewart in 2008, doing what he does best — pitting Republican talking heads against themselves:

And for more comedy, the Fox News GOP debates.  The first official GOP presidential debate here at 9:00 PM EDT with the top ten tier of GOP candidates. But there is also the kiddie table forum at 5:00 EDT with the remaining seven.

Sadly, I was hoping to liveblog one if not both of the debates, but I will be busy.  I recommend you follow the live tweets of Patton Oswalt or, for more serious analysis, the folks at Political Animal

And here’s some tie-based data from 2012 — make of it what you will.


Obama Calls Out The Iraq War Prevaricators

President Obama’s speech on the Iran nuke deal was a classic. He made a convincing argument for supporting the agreement and provides a plausible overview of what will happen if Congress doesn’t approve it.

But he also talked about those opposing the deal, pointing out that these people are the same ones who got us into a costly and pointless war in Iraq.  In other words, when it comes to foreign policy, why should we listen to those who failed at it?  It was a nice “drop the mic” moment:

Between now and the congressional vote in September, you are going to hear a lot of arguments against this deal, backed by tens of millions of dollars in advertising. And if the rhetoric in these ads and the accompanying commentary sounds familiar, it should, for many of the same people who argued for the war in Iraq are now making the case against the Iran nuclear deal.

Now, when I ran for president eight years ago as a candidate who had opposed the decision to go to war in Iraq, I said that America didn’t just have to end that war. We had to end the mindset that got us there in the first place.

It was a mindset characterized by a preference for military action over diplomacy, a mindset that put a premium on unilateral U.S. action over the painstaking work of building international consensus, a mindset that exaggerated threats beyond what the intelligence supported.

Leaders did not level with the American people about the costs of war, insisting that we could easily impose our will on a part of the world with a profoundly different culture and history.

And, of course, those calling for war labeled themselves strong and decisive while dismissing those who disagreed as weak, even appeasers of a malevolent adversary.

More than a decade later, we still live with the consequences of the decision to invade Iraq. Our troops achieved every mission they were given, but thousands of lives were lost, tens of thousands wounded. That doesn’t count the lives lost among Iraqis. Nearly a trillion dollars was spent.

Today, Iraq remains gripped by sectarian conflict, and the emergence of al-Qaida in Iraq has now evolved into ISIL. And ironically, the single greatest beneficiary in the region of that war was the Islamic Republic of Iran, which saw its strategic position strengthened by the removal of its long-standing enemy, Saddam Hussein.


I recognize that resorting to force may be tempting in the face of the rhetoric and behavior that emanates from parts of Iran. It is offensive. It is incendiary. We do take it seriously.

But superpowers should not act impulsively in response to taunts or even provocations that can be addressed short of war. Just because Iranian hardliners chant “Death to America” does not mean that that’s what all Iranians believe. In fact, it’s those…

In fact, it’s those hardliners who are most comfortable with the status quo. It’s those hardliners chanting “Death to America” who have been most opposed to the deal. They’re making common cause with the Republican Caucus.

The full text and the video of the speech is here.

The Effect of The Video Releases On Public Opinion of Planned Parenthood

It appears that the video releases which show Planned Parenthood employees talking about the legal things they do could not be spun in a way to make Planned Parenthood look bad.  In other words, Operation Defund Planned Parenthood is a fail. Yougov, a right-wing polling firm, has found that people’s opinions of PP have barely changed due to the videos.



Not surprisingly, those with a negative view of PP are misinformed about the organization. Asked what services they associate with Planned Parenthood – and given up to three choices – the opponents of Planned Parenthood overwhelmingly think of it as an abortion provider.  For supporters, the image is quite different.  More cite the organization’s role in providing contraception, sex education and pregnancy testing than see it as an abortion provider.



Also not surprising — there are large gender and political differences in how Americans see Planned Parenthood.  Women have positive views while men are divided.  Democrats are overwhelmingly favorable; Republicans are not.  Young adults have very different views from senior citizens.

The video seems not to have moved many people and the overall opinion of abortion is similar to what it was two years ago.  Americans are almost evenly divided on whether it should be generally legal or generally illegal, though most who say it should be legal want some restrictions, and most of those who want it illegal believe it should be available at least in a few cases. Women (22%) are nearly twice as likely as men (12%) to say abortion should always be legal.  And while seven in ten Republicans say abortion should be illegal, most Republicans also say it should at least be permitted in special circumstances.


So it is like I said the other day — in the scheme of things, the landscape hasn’t changed when it comes to abortion rights.

Facepalm Quote Of The Day

“We have no problem with the girls sitting on the bench. We don’t care who sits on the bench with the teams, that goes for anybody … to sit on the bench.”

– National Travel Basketball Association president John Whitely, after telling the boys’ basketball team, the Charlottesville Cavaliers, that they could no longer participate in the tournament because ten-year-old Kymora Johnson — a girl — was on their team… after they had already won five games in the tournament.


Today’s Movie Theater Shooting

And the winner is…. Anitoch, Tennessee’s Carmike Hickory 8 Theaters

The movie was:  Mad Max
The shooter is: Dead (shot by police)
Shooter characteristics:  White male, age 51
Shooter weapons: pepper spray, gun, hatchet, surgical mask and 2 backpacks (possible bombs?)
# of victims:  0 dead, 3 treated for pepper spray, 1 with bruises from hatchet
Motive: TBD
Is he crazy?:  TBD
Expected right-wing reaction: “If only more people in the theater had guns….”

Set the clock back to zero.  Start another count to the next shooting….

Fifth Circuit Strikes Down Texas Voter ID Laws

Oh, well.  Nice try, Texas — trying to prevent minorities from voting.  Among other things, the State of Texas tried to impose Voter ID laws because (they said) illegal immigrants were voting.  Of course, there was no evidence of this.  Just the opppsite — illegal immigrants (as the Fifth Circuit noted) try to AVOID government officials since the last thing they want to do is get caught.  So they’re not going to show up at the ballot box.

Texas’ new voter ID law would have hurt poor people.  21.4% of people making under $20,000 did not have a valid ID to vote. The Justice Department had argued that the Texas law, considered one of the toughest voter ID measures in the country, would prevent as many as 600,000 voters from casting a ballot because they lacked one of seven forms of approved ID.

This is a remarkable case, because the U.S. Supreme Court actually raised the standard regarding voter ID laws.  To win, the Justice Department could not just show a “discriminatory effect”, but rather, a “discriminatory intent”.  And apparently, the DOJ succeeded here.

The full opinion is below the fold.

Good Ol’ Boys Shooting At The U.S. Military

For the second day in a row, shots were reportedly fired Wednesday near a Mississippi military facility where part of the “Jade Helm 15” training exercise was expected to take place.

Soldiers training at Camp Shelby in Hattiesburg reported shots fired into the air around 8 a.m. local time, according to a news release obtained by local TV station WJTV. The release noted that the shots were reportedly fired in the same location where two soldiers reported being fired upon on Tuesday.

Authorities said the suspect in Wednesday’s incident was a white male driving a maroon pick-up truck, according to WJTV. The news release noted that is the same suspect description given in Tuesday’s shooting. The news release described Camp Shelby as being in a “heightened state of alert.” Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) said in a statement that he’s in communication with the head of the state’s Department of Public Safety to locate and arrest the suspect, according to WJTV. “The soldiers at Camp Shelby and across the state can and should take appropriate steps to defend themselves as necessary,” Bryant said in the statement. “This is one of the reasons I signed an executive order directing certain National Guard personnel to be armed.”

UPDATE:  They got him maybe. He fits the description.