Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Just When I Thought I Was Out, They Pull Me Back In.

I don't wish to belabor the point. Bill Maher does not wish to belabor the point. But some on our team do.

Under the  headline "Anatomy of a 2014 Villain:: Bill Maher" Salon assistant editor Joanna Rothkopf decries the "yelling match" Maher and Sam Harris allegedly had with Ben Affleck and Nicholas Kristoff over Islam and offers the advice "It might be too much to wish that he’d learn from his mistakes. But maybe this time around he’ll pick the right New Year’s resolution: “Be less of a bigot.”

Rothkopf argues Maher "blurs the lines between comedy and outright prejudice. He speaks often about freedom of speech, to the point where he even defended Donald Sterling’s right to privacy after his racist remarks were publicized."   She writes "that's why he's featured here," though Maher's remarks about Islam- including those so exorcising Rothkopf- have been far more commentary than comedy.

Evidently, among Maher's offenses is tweeting "Isis- 'one of thousands of Islamic militant groups' (NYTimes) beheads another. But by all means lets keep pretending all religions are alike."  Offering no counter to Maher's assertion, Rothkopf merely quotes Muslim scholar Reza Aslan, who claims "Islam doesn’t promote violence or peace. Islam is just a religion, and like every religion in the world, it depends on what you bring to it. If you’re a violent person, your Islam, your Judaism, your Christianity, your Hinduism, is going to be violent.”

That might come as a surprise to the roughly 80% of Pakistani Muslims who would support stoning for adultery or the approximately two-thirds the death penalty for individuals who convert from Islam.  While varying among nations, Muslims in the most volatile region(s) of the world support sanctions for deviating from the faith in numbers which would be unimaginable for adherents of the other two major western religions, Christianity or Judaism, anywhere.

Reality can be confronted (and effective policy generated) only when acknowledged. In an article in the quarterly of the hawkish Middle Eastern Forum, Timothy Furnish concedes

Islamic civilization is not a historical anomaly in its sanction of decapitation. The Roman Empire beheaded citizens (such as the Christian Saint Paul) while they crucified non-citizens (such as Jesus Christ). French revolutionaries employed the guillotine to decapitate opponents. 

Still, he points out

Nevertheless, Islam is the only major world religion today that is cited by both state and non-state actors to legitimize beheadings. And two major aspects of decapitation in an Islamic context should be noted: first, the practice has both Qur'anic and historical sanction. It is not the product of a fabricated tradition. Second, in contradiction to the assertions of apologists, both Muslim and non-Muslim, these beheadings are not simply a brutal method of drawing attention to the Islamist political agenda and weakening opponents' will to fight. Zarqawi and other Islamists who practice decapitation believe that God has ordained them to obliterate their enemies in this manner. Islam is, for this determined minority of Muslims, anything but a "religion of peace."

"Maher's panel," Joanna Rothkopf maintains, "featured Sam Harris, Nicholas Kristof and Michael Steele, (and) devolved into a yelling match. " She really ought to get out more.   As the video below indicates, the argument was nothing like a "yelling match" but really quite restrained, given that the intertwined topics were politics and religion, subjects traditionally best avoided by people wishing to avoid discord. (Not coincidentally, they are my favorite topics.)

A writer based in Brooklyn, Rothkopf on her "about.me" page explains "my left eye is bigger than my right" and describes herself as a "sometimes performer." It is no excuse.

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Monday, December 29, 2014

Left Unsaid

Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani still is blaming current New York City mayor Bill DeBlasio for the ambush murder of police officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos. As a former public official and individual of some sophistication, he does not say "DeBlasio is responsible for the murder of the two police officers."  Rather, he hides (video below) behind

At this point, I have to say he's bringing it on himself. He should have apologized, not for the murder. He's not responsible for the murder. He was elected by the people and he shouldn't resign.But he did create an atmosphere of anti-police bias- and feeling for a long, long time. He did it when he ran as a candidate then he continued it into being mayor... 

"He's got to say I'm sorry," Giuliani added, and Digby observes

Giuliani is a very typical white, wingnut authoritarian who sees absolutely nothing wrong with harassing innocent citizens of color. Anyone who questions it is an un-American cop-hater. And for the past few days, he and others like him have been pontificating virtually unopposed on television.

It is difficult- and highly dangerous- while the attention of the American people is turned to the ambush killing of police officers to be heard saying "but as to the underlying problem...." Nevertheless, though not a wingnut, the ex-mayor is an authoritarian.

There is a common thread among the conservatives criticizing Mayor DeBlasio, and it's not racism. Or at least it's not blatant racism..

After police officers turned their backs nine days ago to the mayor when he entered a hospital to pay his respects to the families of the murder victims, Sergeants Benevolent Association President Ed Mullins stated “It is your failed policies and actions that enabled this tragedy to occur. I only hope and pray that more of these ambushes and executions do not happen again.”  The statement from Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch read “That blood on the hands starts on the steps of City Hall in the office of the mayor.  When these funerals are over, those responsible will be called on the carpet and held accountable.”

(Outside the Ramos funeral, police officers, hundreds of them, demonstrated their disgust with DeBlasio; as shown in the photo, below, from Sharon Stapleton/Reuters. But contrary to most reports, they did not turn their backs on the Mayor. They turned their backs to a video of him delivering the eulogy.  Big difference.)

On the day of the funeral for Officer Ramos, former (Republican) New York Governor George Pataki twitted "Sickened by these barbaric acts, which sadly are a predictable outcome of divisive anti-cop rhetoric of eric holder & mayor deblasio."  It appears no one has asked the New York Republican why he does not give Eric Holder the respect of calling him Attorney General Eric Holder, nor what barbaric acts he was referring to, given that the murder of the two police officers constituted one incident.  Accuracy optional.

While on vacation, Bill O'Reily called in to his own show to call for the resignation of Deblasio, whom he claimed has "disgraced the officer of mayor of New York City." He called DeBlasio a "far left individual, who is incompetent" and "has been anti-police his whole career." Worst yet, he is, according to O'Reilly, a good friend of Al Sharpton.

Something is missing... something. It is an example of how he has "created(d) an atmosphere of anti-police bias," why "he has blood on his hands," what "the divisive anti-cop rhetoric" is, or how he always "has been anti-police."

It is clear, however, that it is far less anything the Mayor has done or threatened to do than with what he has said.  That would be DeBlasio's remarks on December 3 that

Chirlane and I have had to talk to Dante for years about the dangers that he may face. A good young man, law-abiding young man who would never think to do anything wrong. And yet, because of a history that still hangs over us, the dangers he may face, we’ve had to literally train him—as families have all over this city for decades—in how to take special care in any encounter he has with the police officers who are there to protect him.

And that painful sense of contradiction that our young people see first, that our police are here to protect us, and we honor that, and at the same time, there’s a history we have to overcome, because for so many of our young people, there’s a fear. And for so many of our families, there’s a fear. So I’ve had to worry over the years. Chirlane’s had to worry. Is Dante safe each night?

There are so many families in this city who feel that each and every night. Is my child safe? And not just from some of the painful realities—crime and violence in some of our neighborhoods—but is safe from the very people they want to have faith in as their protectors. That’s the reality.

At the conclusion of the segment (beginning approximately 4:20), Giuliani took a stab at it. But he did not acknowledge that circumstances have changed in the 50 years since he was a boy or that blacks have a particular reason to be wary of the police.

Nor would he mention the words "black" or "white" or the remarks by Mayor DeBlasio which apparently exorcised him.  There is a determination among the Mayor's critics, who consider the comments about Dante to be a swipe at the police, to cite those comments themselves.

One of the greatest journalists of American history would sign off his half-hour news broadcast by stating "courage" (video below). He had a lot of it, but the detractors of the mayor of New York City, some vociferous and even nasty, have so very little.

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Sunday, December 28, 2014

Worthy Contestants

Raw Story reports (with video, below)

Young Turks host Cenk Uygur named St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch his show’s “Jerk of the Year” winner on Wednesday, saying that McCulloch earned the moniker for a lack of effort in securing an indictment against Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson for shooting and killing Michael Brown.

“If someone seeks justice, then great — at least that’s what we want. We don’t need a result that we want or demand or think is going to happen,” Uygur argued. “We just want a fair system — we want a shot. And what McCulloch did was, he robbed Michael Brown and his family and that entire community of a fair chance to see if Officer Wilson had actually done it.”

Uygur accused McCulloch of acting as a surrogate defense attorney for Wilson in front of a grand jury, citing the prosecutor’s admission that he knowingly let lying witnesses testify before the jurors, as well as the discovery that McCulloch’s team gave jurors the wrong instructions regarding a state statute regarding lethal force that was declared unconstitutional.

The most notorious of the unreliable witnesses McCulloch brought before the Clayton County grand jury was witness #40, whom the Prosecutor admitted "clearly wasn't present when this occurred. She recounted a statement that was right out of the newspaper about Wilson's actions, and right down the line with Wilson's actions. Even though I'm sure she was nowhere near the place."

Clearly not credible,  The Smoking Gun noted

As she testified, McElroy admitted that her sworn account of the Brown-Wilson confrontation was likely peppered with details of the incident she had read online. But she remained adamant about having been on Canfield Drive and seeing Brown “going after the officer like a football player” before being shot to death.

McElroy’s last two journal entries for August 9 read like an after-the-fact summary of the account she gave to federal investigators on October 22 and the Ferguson grand jury the following afternoon. It is so obvious that the notebook entries were not contemporaneous creations that investigators should have checked to see if the ink had dried.

The opening entry in McElroy’s journal on the day Brown died declared, “Well Im gonna take my random drive to Florisant. Need to understand the Black race better so I stop calling Blacks Niggers and Start calling them People.” A commendable goal, indeed.

But McCulloch faces stiff competition in one of his subordinates, Assistant District Attorney Kathy Alizadeh.  In 1979 Missouri enacted a law permitting a police officer unlimited force to arrest a fleeing suspect. However, in 1985 statutes such as this were found unconstitutional and struck down, rendering the Missouri law null and void.  On November 21, Alizadeh told the grand jury

Previously in the very beginning of this process I printed out a statute for you that was, the statute in Missouri for the use of force to affect an arrest. So if you all want to get those out. What we have discovered and we have been going along with this, doing our research, is that the statute in the state of Missouri does not comply with the case law. This doesn’t sound probably unfamiliar with you that the law is codified in the written form in the books and they’re called statutes, but courts interpret those statutes.

And so the statute for the use of force to affect an arrest in the state of Missouri does not comply with Missouri supreme, I’m sorry, United States supreme court cases.

So the statue I gave you, if you want to fold that in half just so that you know don’t necessarily rely on that because there is a portion of that that doesn’t comply with the law.

When asked its significance, another assistant D.A. responded "We don't want to get into a law class."

Lawrence O'Donnell commented

But that is not the worst, most unprofessional aspect of ADA Kathy Alizadeh’s presentation to the Grand Jury about this law. The very worst part of it is that she never, ever explained to the Grand Jury what was incorrect about the unconstitutional statute that she had given them and left with them as one of their official papers for weeks and weeks and weeks.

You will not find another legal proceeding in which jurors and Grand jurors are simply handed a law, and then weeks later handed a correction to that law; and then the Grand jurors are simply left to figure out the difference in the laws.. by themselves. That is actually something you would do in a law class – figure it out by yourself.

Robert McCulloch could have been objective, presenting all credible- not necessarily reliable, merely credible- witnesses to the grand jury so it could make an informed decision. However, while most prosecutors sway a grand jury toward handing down an indictment, he swayed them in the opposite direction. His office distorted the grand jury process so as to prejudice the panel to obtain a predetermined result, as prosecutors usually do, though in the opposite direction. His assistant was a willing, apparent enthusiastic, co-conspirator in the process.

You don't get much lower for an attorney than deliberately misleading a grand jury and then, when asked about it, offering false, patronizing assurance: "Just don't worry about that."   There are many individuals- Chris Christie comes to mind, though he should be a regular entrant- who merit consideration for jerk of the year. This year, members of the Clayton County Prosecutors Office should not be ignored.

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Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Constitutional Right You Never Noticed

It was bad enough when President George W. Bush in October, 2001 declared "We cannot let the terrorists achieve the objective of frightening our nation to the point where we don't conduct business or people don't shop." Yes, that will show the terrorists: they won't even notice the body searches at airports, massive government spying on domestic and international communications, or a war that takes 3,000-4,000 young American lives. Only our Sears purchases.

Shopping. That must have been the eleventh amendment mysteriously missing from the U.S. Constitution. But so is going to the movie of our choice, for Newswer reports

After Sony's U-turn on releasing The Interview, the controversial movie played in 331 independent cinemas across America on Christmas Day, often to sellout crowds. Many moviegoers made it clear they were there to take a political stand, with one ticket seller in California dressed as "Uncle Sam-ty Claus," the New York Times reports. "We are taking a stand for freedom," the manager of the Cinema Village East in Manhattan tells the AP. "We want to show the world that Americans will not be told what we can or cannot watch. Personally, I am not afraid." 

We may not demand improved police-community relations so that lives are not needlessly taken, appropriations for weapons systems even the Pentagon doesn't want,  nor increased wages commensurate as productivity climbs, but we must be allowed to watch a comedy about assassinating a foreign leader. Freedom, apparently.

Also, awesomeness.  After release of the Senate intelligence committee on torture, Fox News host Andrea Tantaros on a panel  (video, below; cartoon with John Brennan, Dick Cheney,Michael Hayden, and Tanataros at bottom, from Matt Bors) ranted

And look, I agree with you. The United States of America is awesome. But we've had this discussion. We've closed the book on it and we've stopped doing it. And the reason they want to have this discussion is not to show how awesome we are. This Administration wants this discussion to show how we're not awesome.

That was awesome. However,although movie fans in 331 theaters were given the opportunity to pay to see a movie on Christmas, earlier this year the Justice Integrity Project noted

The United States experienced a major decline in press freedom over the past year according to the new annual study announced Feb. 11 by Reporters Without Borders. The world's largest press freedom group announced also sharp declines in the rank of the Central African Republic and Guatemala, and "marked improvements" for Ecuador, Bolivia and South Africa.

In America's largest city, reporters get roughed up by guys in uniform for photographing arrests. Ghana, South Africa, and Uruguay allow the press more freedom than does the U.S. government. But we get to watch movies. Awesome.

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Friday, December 26, 2014

Not About Pro Football Or Sexual Preference.

There may be no better time to ponder something insignificant than the day after Christmas. Or at least that's the excuse here.

For Politico, however, it was Christmas Eve when Jennifer Epstein wrote

In all, Obama has gone to services on about 6 percent of the Sundays of his presidency and just once on Christmas Day, in 2011, which also happened to be a Sunday. George W. Bush, by contrast, went to church on close to 30 percent of Sundays during his eight years in office.

But to hear his people tell it,  there does seem to be a spiritual (whatever that means) side to the President.    Epstein adds

“The president’s faith has deepened in the second term; he’s said as much,” said Joshua DuBois, a longtime spiritual adviser to Obama who led the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships during the president’s first term.

“The president’s Christian faith is not connected to or dependent upon anyone else’s beliefs about him, any particular policy issue, any moment in the news cycle or anything else,” DuBois said. “The president’s faith existed long before the While House and will continue after he closes the door to the White House for the last time”....

But the president embraces his faith in other ways, people who see this private side of him say.

DuBois, an ordained Pentecostal minister, and Joel Hunter, a Florida megachurch pastor, are Obama’s two closest religious advisers. A larger circle — which includes evangelical activist Jim Wallis and civil rights movement leader Joseph Lowery, among others — marks the president’s birthday each year, and many in the same group attend the Easter Prayer Breakfast and other White House events throughout the year. Keeping up a practice that DuBois began during the 2008 campaign, they also send Obama daily devotionals — prayers, poems and other messages — that he reads on his BlackBerry.

“Reading scripture every day yields a certain amount of personal growth, and he’s done this every day for years,” Hunter said. At prayer breakfasts and other gatherings, Hunter has seen “a man who really enjoys talking about his faith” and who “seems at home.”

Someone reportedly so devoted to his faith ("religion" is so 20th century) would be expected to attend a church more often than 19 times in the roughly 308 weeks he has been in office. However,

the key reason the president doesn’t go to church more often, DuBois and others close to him said, is because he worries that his presence detracts from other worshipers’ experience.

Obama found out how difficult it would be for him to go to church before he even became president, when he and his family were swarmed by well-wishers and photo-takers at Washington’s Nineteenth Street Baptist Church, one of the nation’s oldest black churches, on the Sunday before his 2009 inauguration.

“When folks see the line forming outside, a lot of folks who don’t attend that congregation go in,” DuBois said. “It displaces a lot of people who are members of that church or at least interrupts them.”

We've heard this before.  A few days after Senator Obama was elected president, Jordy (not the Jordy below) Yaeger noted "President Bush is widely known for his religious beliefs, but for eight years has not frequented a local church, at times citing security concerns. Ronald Reagan also did not attend a church regularly, saying that after the attempt on his life it was too great a risk."

The security angle is a good reason for a President, though Time'sAmy Sullivan in November, 2008 suggested five churches in the District the Obamas might attend and one other (Memorial Chapel at Fort Myer) in which "the First Family wouldn't have to worry about security because it's already on an Army base" (and whose members are racially diverse and "focused on service").

But if security is the reason the Obamas eschew Sunday morning worship, the President's wife, did not get the memo.  Epstein inadvertently lets us in on the secret, explaining

“We try to go to church as much as possible, but when the kids get older, you know, Sunday is some kind of practice, rehearsal, birthday party, you know. So getting us all together on a Sunday is becoming more difficult now that the girls are getting older,” first lady Michelle Obama said in an interview on “Live with Kelly and Michael” timed to the annual White House Easter Egg Roll this year.

There you have it. The Obamas don't go to church because it simply isn't important enough (to them or to her), as it is with many American families. But as Jerry Seinfeld would have put it (videos below), "not that there's anything wrong with that."   Among churchgoers, there are liberals and conservatives; Democrats and Republicans; vegetarians and carnivores; devout believers, agnostics, and even some atheists. Among non-churchgoers, there are the same.

It's easy to understand why Obama's camp would not want to be straight with the American people as to why the President's family isn't regularly in the pews on the Lord's Day. Going to church is not synonymous with believing in God, nor is avoiding church synonymous with not believing in a supreme being. But it is not by coincidence there has not been a president, nor a current member of the U.S. Congress, who has admitted being an atheist. The opportunity for political exploitation is boundless.

There is one thing that would be more dangerous for Barack Obama- who may be as devout as his advisers maintain he is- to state than that he has questions about the existence of God.  It is Michelle, not Barack, who complained that it is difficult to make it to church on Sunday. If Mr. Obama went unaccompanied by his wife, tails would wag. Conservatives who now are concerned that the President doesn't go to a regular worship service would lose their minds if he went without his wife. Imagine speculation from The National Enquirer- and that's not the worst of the supermarket tabloid rags.

If America is to have an honest conversation about race, it ought to have one about religious faith, also. Don't hold your breath waiting for either.

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Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Spirit

And now, in what should become a Christmas tradition:

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Christmas Daydream

The charge against the government funding bill was led by Senator Elizabeth Warren. Recognizing that repeal of the swaps push-out provision in Dodd-Frank- thus allowing banks to trade derivatives with the taxpayers on the hook for losses- would endanger the national economy, she noted

You know, it was literally never introduced in the Senate. It had no hearings. There was no discussion about this. And let's keep in mind about this provision, this is a provision that Citigroup lobbyists literally wrote. And then, just to make sure that everybody got the point, Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JPMorgan, personally made phone calls to House members to push for this change.

Fresh off her unsuccessful effort to save Wall Street from itself, and the American people  from greed unhinged, Warren now is fighting the nomination of Antonio Weiss to be Under Secretary for Domestic Finance at the Treasury Department.  Speaking at the "Managing the Economy" conference, the Senator explained Weiss has "spent the past twenty years at the investment bank Lazard" and

He has focused on international corporate mergers and companies buying and selling each other. It may be interesting, challenging work, but it does not sufficiently qualify him to oversee consumer protection and domestic regulatory functions at the Treasury that are a critical part of the job. In addition to his lack of basic qualifications, Mr. Weiss was part of the Burger King inversion deal that moved the U.S. company to Canada as part of a merger that would cut down on its tax obligations. Also note that Mr. Weiss’s friends at Lazard are giving him a golden parachute valued at about $20 millionas he goes into government service. For me, this is one spin of the revolving door too many. Enough is enough. The response to these concerns has been, well, let’s just say, loud.

Author and journalist H.A. Goodman, summarizing the first effort but not the latter, recently argued in The Hill  "America needs a president who isn’t intimidated by Wall Street. We need a president willing to save Wall Street from itself and save the American people from another future filled with economic catastrophes and bailouts."

Needs, yes; will get, probably not.  It is common wisdom inside and outside the Beltway that Elizabeth Warren will not run for President in 2016. That (near) assumption is probably valid, given there is a glide path to the Democratic nomination for Hillary Clinton.  Assuming Clinton announces for the nomination and does not meet any major obstacles, Warren, Clinton acolyte Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (heaven forbid), and, probably, former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley will sit it out.

The prevailing belief is that the latter three individuals will decline to run because- and only because- it is a doomed effort. Warren, however, is more interested in the Senate, where she has staked out a justified claim as a leader in financial issues.

One can never know for sure what lurks in the heart, or mind, of another individual. But this week we got an idea in the case of the Massachusetts senator, and it's not to  remain a Massachusetts senator forever.  An advisory panel of HHS has recommended the Blood Products Advisory Panel of the Food and Drug Administration loosen its rule for accepting blood donations by gay men. Adopted in 1983, the regulation prohibits donations by any homosexual male (and yes; "homosexual male" is a legitimate term, not unlike "heterosexual male") who has had sex even once since 1977.  The HHS panel, however, believes that blood may be taken if the guy hasn't had sex with another man within the past year.

However, "a coalition of 80 senators and House members spearheaded by the Massachusetts senator," reports Mother Jones, has sent a letter (note: "MSM" is "men having sex with men") to the Secretary of HHS in which it cites a need to "embrace science" (thus annoying the GOP) and argues

Our current blood donation policy prevents many healthy gay and bisexual men from donation blood for their entire lives. The ACBTSA's proposed policy change would, in practice, leave that lifetime ban in place for the vast majority of MSM, even those who are healthy and low-risk. Both policies are discriminatory, and both approaches are unacceptable. Low-risk individuals who wish to donate blood and help to save lives should not be categorically excluded because of outdated stereotypes.

Mrs. Warren (photo below from Faith Ninnivagi/AP and not of Warren celebrating another unfortunate Patriots touchdown) has been critical of HHS policy for over a year, so the letter Mother Jones says she "spearheaded" does not mean she will run for President in 2016. Or wants to. Or even that it's a legitimate basis for a blog post. Still, support for same-sex marriage, among national Democrats, is so 2013. It's old hat and these members of Congress realize it is time to move beyond that to other issues affecting the gay community.

But the Christmas season, it is said, is a time for hope (and all other seasons?). Senator Warren's leadership in this area, outside her area of (unmatched) expertise, suggests that she is thinking beyond Massachusetts and beyond the economics of banking. Some day, in some far off universe, there may be a president from the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.

                                                     MERRY CHRISTMAS

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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

He's Having A Jolly Good Time

"When you start a sentence with 'this is probably racist,' you should stop right there."

Priceless. And that was Cenk Uygur's reaction to Rush Limbaugh after the latter on Tuesday commented

One of the e-mails that leaked in the hack of Sony, Amy Pascal, the cochairman of Sony Pictures, in an e-mail thread back and forth, I forget who it was, she suggested that when Daniel Craig's run as James Bond is over -- and this is it, this is contractually his last film -- she suggested a new James Bond.  I'm not sure how you pronounce the guy's name.  Idris Elba is what it looks like.  Idris Elba, which is -- I can't say African-American, 'cause he's British.  African English.  African Brit.  He's black. He's from Great Britain. He was on The Wire, and he was in a British cop drama, procedural called Luther. 

Do you watch Luther?  Luther on Netflix?  I have it, I just didn't watch it.  Here's the thing, though.  James Bond is a fictional character, obviously.  James Bond was invented, created by Ian Fleming, a former spy, MI6, and James Bond is a total concept put together by Ian Fleming.  He was white and Scottish, period.  That is who James Bond is.  But now Sony is suggesting that the next James Bond should be Idris Elba, a black Briton rather than a white from Scotland.  But that's not who James Bond is, and I know it's racist to probably even point this out. 

But the franchise needs to get with it, right?  The franchise needs to get hip. The franchise needs to get with the 21st century.  That's right.  We had 50 years of white Bonds because Bond is white. Bond was never black.  Ian Fleming never created a black Brit to play James Bond.  The character was always white. He was always Scottish.  He always drank vodka shaken not stirred and all that. 

Okay, so we're not supposed to have a problem with this.  I mean, it's the movies.  Come on, we've had 50 years of white James Bonds.  We need to spread it out.  We need to be equal.  We need to be fair about this.  Okay, fine, let's play a little game.  (interruption) Jay-Z's favorite drink?  How would I know what Jay-Z's favorite drink is?  Ah, what would that be, Cristal?  Yeah. 

How about in the movie about the Obamas, 'cause there's gonna be one, how about George Clooney play Obama and Kate Hudson play Michelle (My Belle) Obama?  How would that do?  I mean, if we're gonna do this, let's imagine it.  Nelson Mandela movie, Idris Elba played Nelson Mandela and Nelson Mandela was black.  The movies can do whatever. Kelsey Grammer as Nelson Mandela. How about that?  We're just playing here, ladies and gentlemen. 

Al Sharpton.  There will be a movie, The Al Sharpton Story.  Who do we get to play Al Sharpton?  'Cause they need two or three of 'em at various -- how about Rob Reiner to play the early Al Sharpton with the bullhorn and megaphone and all that.  General Colin Powell, Colonel Colin Powell.  You know there's gonna be a series of TV documentaries or movies. Who will it be?  How about George C. Scott.  He played Patton.  I know he's dead, but what does that matter?  We could reproduce him cinemagraphically. 

How about, let's see, let's see, Condoleezza Rice?  We do a movie on Condoleezza Rice. You might be thinking that we would have Halle Berry.  No, no, no.  Scarlett Johansson. Scarlett Johansson, all she's have to do is take some piano lessons, she's got it. Scarlett Johansson is Condoleezza Rice. Michael Sam.  You know there's gonna a movie on Michael Sam.  And if Idris Elba is going to play James Bond and if that's a natural hit and that's the only way we can go and then let's see, how about Hugh Grant as Michael Sam? ...

They did it with Whitney Houston.  There was a movie in 1947 called The Bishop's wife, and it was remade for Whitney Houston called The Preacher's Wife.  Sometimes a story is just a story, but we can always make it better. We can always be more fair.  We can always be more equal about it.  So, fine and dandy.  George Clooney and Kate Hudson as Barack and Michelle Obama, and you can have Idris Elba as James Bond.

You might wonder why someone says "I know it's racist to probably even point this out" and then goes and points it out.  You'd almost think he was egging his audience on, especially as he mentions Nelson Mandela, Jay-Z, Al Sharpton, Michael Sam and, of course, Michelle Obama. To Rush's credit, he did mention one Republican, Mushroom Cloud Condoleezza Rice, and neglected to mention one of the right's favorite boogeymen, "AlSharptonJesseJackson."

Rush's apparent failure to recognize the difference between real people and imaginary characters understandably is pivotal for Uygur (as seen in the video below), Raw Story noting

“If they think they’ll get good box office returns, and he’d make a great Bond and they’d make more money — hey, Rush, we’d call that capitalism, isn’t it?” Uygur said. “I know it bothers your racist ass — that’s probably why you won’t go see the movie. But the rest of us are not like you, and we might enjoy things ‘shaken, not stirred’ at Bond.”

Limbaugh brought up the issue on his radio show earlier in the day, arguing that Bond, the fictional British spy, “was white and Scottish, period"...

“The question is, why does it bother Rush so much?” Uygur asked, before alluding to conservative reactions to the idea that Santa Claus could be Black.

“I hate to break the news to you, but Santa’s also fictional — we can make him anything we like,” Uygur said. “Yes, normally he was drawn up as a jolly fat guy who’s white. You can make him a skinny Asian if you like.”

That is the obvious takeaway from a critique of a guy who deploys race-baiting roughly as often as he changes his underwear.  (Limbaugh is on only 4-5 days a week so he'd have to do his race thing more than once a day. Most weeks, he meets his quota.)

But though he downplays it, Limbaugh states also

Now, admittedly, all these characters I've mentioned are real-life characters, and James Bond has never lived, per se, he's a fictional character.  But he was white and Scottish.  Oh, I know they're doing it with comic books.  There's now the African-American version of Annie, of Captain America coming up.

The talk show host knows why Sony is doing what Sony is doing- and it has nothing to do with a cultural sensibility Limbaugh and his acolytes would often refer to as "political correctness." He acknowledges "But the franchise needs to get with it, right?  The franchise needs to get hip. The franchise needs to get with the 21st century.  That's right."

He won't admit it, of course, because corporations can do no wrong, but he knows "the franchise needs to get with the 21st century" because its potential customers, ultimately the source of most of its profit, demand it. Sony's consideration of a black James Bond is predicated on economic considerations.  This Limbaugh dares not state explicitly because the interests of the 1% are his primary motivation. Meanwhile, he feeds his followers red meat, tossing out the names of prominent black people.

In an otherwise excellent piece in Salon, professor and author Sophia A. McClennen writes "There seems little doubt that nuance, subtle thinking and critical insight are well beyond the grasp of Rush Limbaugh."   It may seem so because on the right, the market is stronger for outrageousness and simplicity than for nuance, subtle thinking, or critical insight. Limbaugh's effort, is, as McClennon colorfully puts it, "to spit bile at his fellow citizens, constantly hurling invectives at those with whom he disagrees."

But Limbaugh never actually criticizes Sony for its decision. He knows it's money that motivates the company and he will never, ever question that motive.  The rest- albeit racially incendiary- is largely a smokescreen.

                                           MERRY CHRISTMAS

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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

He Did Not End Racism, Eliminate World Poverty, And Establish Global Peace. He's A Failure.

"I'm not a doctor but I play one on today" actor/doctor Chris Robinson memorably admitted while promoting Vicks Formula 44 on television in 1984.

One could hardly criticize him Dick Morris if one day he similarly admitted "I'm not an ignoramus but I play one in the media."  The former political consultant now writes a weekly column for The New York Post and is a talk show host in Philadelphia. His hatred for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama-eclipsed not even by Rush Limbaugh-* recently was on display in an interview reported on conservative media outlet Newsmax.

So, too, was his dubious approach to race relations.  Morris spoke to John Bachman of Newsmax TV about the killing by police of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and of Eric Garner in Staten Island, NY.   He stated "that atomization — that breaking apart of our country" was worsened "by the unfortunate fact that there will never be a trial in Ferguson, Missouri."  After expressing deep concern about America's racial divide, Morris responded to the ambush and execution of two New York City police officers by arguing "these kinds of retaliation can be expected, unfortunately."

Gunman Ismaaily Brinsley had shot his girlfriend (who, judging by her name, probably is black) earlier that day. Still, Morris (and Fox News) bought Brinsley's line that he had murdered the police officers as revenge for the killing of Brown and of Garner.  Sometimes conservatism means never having to question the word of a murderer.

But Dick's real aim, as it usually is, was to attack President Obama. He thus claimed "Obama cannot persist in this policy of atomizing the country into blacks, Latinos, gays, single white women and environmentalists, and then saying he's going to appeal to those special-interest groups as special groups."

The man in the Oval Office is a hater, I tell you! Following Garner's death, President Obama explained

And I say that as somebody who believes that law enforcement has an incredibly difficult job; that every man or woman in uniform are putting their lives at risk to protect us; that they have the right to come home, just like we do from our jobs; that there’s real crime out there that they’ve got to tackle day in and day out -- but that they’re only going to be able to do their job effectively if everybody has confidence in the system.

And right now, unfortunately, we are seeing too many instances where people just do not have confidence that folks are being treated fairly. And in some cases, those may be misperceptions; but in some cases, that’s a reality. And it is incumbent upon all of us, as Americans, regardless of race, region, faith, that we recognize this is an American problem, and not just a black problem or a brown problem or a Native American problem.

Yep, he's always busy dividing Americans by race and ethnicity. So, too, does he pander to gay people, such as waiting till a plurality of the nation- including his running mate, the Vice-President, in a public way- supported same-sex marriage before he himself stated it was O.K.  And then there is the radical environmentalist who has been noncommittal about a pipeline carrying the dirtiest oil in the world through the mid-section of the country- where it threatens a critical aquifer- to the Gulf Coast so that mainland China can have cheap oil.

You just can't get more beholden to special-interest groups than that, apparently.

Even this, however, is secondary to the real bur on Dick's saddle.  It's difficult to maintain with a straight face that race relations have deteriorated because of the election of Barack Obama, who was to have united the country, but against whom the right, in its concern about race relations, voted against.  (If that's hard to follow, it's because the right's argument makes no sense.) But with no apparent sense of shame, Morris contends "There was a feeling that by electing an African-American president, we would establish that the U.S. had overcome racism and put our unfortunate past behind us, and now this belies that."

It is not by coincidence that the right does not say who possessed this "feeling."  It certainly was not the left- liberals, progressives, or whomever- which always has noted that racism is embedded deep in the American psyche, and which never claimed or believed that one election would wipe it out. Rather it is conservatives who retroactively determined that Barack Obama's election was supposed to eliminate racial hostility and disparity.  There would at least have been a shred of intellectual honesty had conservatives advanced this theory of racial harmony before the election. But that would have encouraged individuals (centrists, primarily) to vote for Obama and, anyway, they would have been laughed out of the figurative political arena.

But no, the theory gained currency only after the election, the better to establish an extraordinarily high standard for this president, or any president, to meet.  Had Obama cleared that bar,he would have been a true miracle worker, at which point conservatives would have accused him of posing as Jesus Christ.

But give Dick Morris credit for consistency. His website currently blares "Join Me For Lunch: Your Money Is NOT Safe In The Bank Or Your Pension."  That is the same tonic he was selling on WPHT AM 1210 in Philadelphia on October 15 at the moment when the Dow Jones Average (during a tumultuous day, as seen below) was at, or very close to, 16,100.   Don't wait till dinner! Get out of the market, now! he warned. Today, it is at 18,033.74.

*Totally true- though unlike Limbaugh, he is right occasionally.

                                            MERRY CHRISTMAS
                                            (and Happy Chanukah)

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Monday, December 22, 2014

A Little Context, Please

We await Steven Colbert's debut on The Late Show, currently "The Late Show with David Letterman," hosted by the man who was funny 35 years ago.  Shtick gets  old.

Colbert received a lot of encomiums, generally justified, for the finale of "The Colbert Report." Particularly aroused was Time's James Poniewozik, who wrote 

.... his final Colbert Report was both a sweet ending and a perfect summation of the show’s spirit — smart and surreal, sly and sincere. The finale nodded to the massive creation that Colbert wrought over nine years, and — as he flew off with Santa, a unicorn Abraham Lincoln, and Alex Trebek — promised something different to come....

But the plaintive strains of “Holland, 1945″ by Neutral Milk Hotel — a favorite band of the honest-to-God Colbert — clued us in to the bittersweetness of this see-you-later. Right up to the end, Stephen Colbert did not break character. But the rest of us can be forgiven if we broke down a little, saying goodbye to America’s greatest, most genuine phony.

That is enough to make any man or woman weep. Still, the last episode was characteristically sound.s a week. Especially fitting was, as Poniewozik put it, the "grand, punchy sing-along of 'We’ll Meet Again,' with a celebrity cast of dozens that demands DVR rewinding" (video immediately below- obviously).

But as appropriate and even heart-rending as the song was, the segment could have been even better.   Nowhere did we learn that "We'll Meet Again" was originally, and most famously, sung by Dame Vera Lynn, who was born Vera Margaret Welch on March 20, 1917. According to Wikipedia, she

is best known for her 1939 recording of the popular song "We'll Meet Again", written by Ross Parker and Hughie Charles; the nostalgic lyrics ("We'll meet again, don't know where, don't know when, but I know we'll meet again some sunny day") were very popular during the war and made the song one of its emblematic hits. During the Phoney War, the Daily Express asked British servicemen to name their favourite musical performers: Vera Lynn came out on top and as a result became known as 'the Forces' Sweetheart'.

In 1941, during the darkest days of the Second World War, Lynn began her own radio programme, Sincerely Yours, sending messages to British troops serving abroad. She and her quartet performed songs most requested by the soldiers. Lynn also visited hospitals to interview new mothers and send personal messages to their husbands overseas.

If Dame Vera Lynn had survived, she would now be 97. Oops! She is still alive, It seems in 2009 the largely apolitical DVL

became the oldest living artist to make it into No. 1 in the British album chart, at the age of 92, passing such veterans of music as American jazz trumpeter Louis Armstrong and French singer Charles Aznavour. Her collection We'll Meet Again: The Very Best of Vera Lynn entered the chart at number 20 on 30 August, and then climbed to number 2 the following week, before reaching the top position, outselling both the Arctic Monkeys and the Beatles. In its third week the album went gold with sales of over 100,000.

In August 2014, Lynn was one of 200 public figures who were signatories to a letter to The Guardian opposing Scottish independence in the run-up to September's referendum on that issue.

Certainly some acknowledgement could have been made of the individual who made this nostalgic and sentimental song famous (as in the video below; current photo beneath that), especially because the song was a favorite of soldiers going off to war and bidding farewell to sweethearts and family, in some cases not to return.

With the recent release of an album of wartime songs marking the tenth anniversary of the  D-Day landings, Dame Vera has become the oldest living artist to have a record in the UK Top 49. So notified,the 97-year-old singer responded "I am delighted of course. It is wonderful to hear these songs again that were at the top of the charts so long ago, and it's warming to think that everyone else is listening to them too."  Listening to them but, at least in one case, neglecting to give proper credit.

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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Will There Be A Tuesday, September 5?

On Thursday, against the wishes of every Republican on the council, Democratic members of the Louisville, Kentucky City Council voted to raise gradually the minimum wage from the federal minimum of $7.25 per hour to $9.00 per hour. Once Democratic Mayor Greg Fischer signs the measure, Louisville will become the 12th city this year to raise its minimum wage, while twenty-two states and the D.C. (as the map below indicates) have minimums above $7.25.    Think Progress' Alan Pyke notes

Democratic politicians have latched onto $10.10 in recent years as a symbolic illustration of how working people have been left behind in recent decades. About a year after the Congressional Progressive Caucus proposed a $10.10 minimum wage, President Obama raised his own target from $9 to $10.10.

Evidently, the President evolved. He does a lot of that. He could do more. Entrepreneur and venture capitalist Nick Hanauer, notorious as a traitor to his class, writes

President Obama could raise the overtime threshold to $69,000—enough to cover the same 65 percent of salaried workers that it covered 40 years ago—and with no prior congressional approval. Because unlike the minimum wage, the overtime threshold is set through the Department of Labor’s existing regulatory authority.

Just think about it: With the stroke of his pen, President Obama could force your employer to pay you time-and-a-half for every hour you work over 40 hours a week. And if corporate America didn’t want to pay you time-and-a-half, they would need to hire hundreds of thousands of additional workers to pick up the slack—slashing the unemployment rate and forcing up wages. That’s 10.4 million middle-class Americans with more money in your pocket or more time to spend with your friends and family.

But the Obama administration could go even further. Many millions of Americans are currently exempt from the overtime rules—teachers, federal employees, doctors, computer professionals, etc.—and corporate leaders are lobbying hard to expand “computer professional” to mean just about anybody who uses a computer. Which is almost everybody. But were the Labor Department instead to narrow these exemptions, millions more Americans would receive the overtime pay they deserve.

In "The Judgement," the finale of The Fugitive, Lloyd Chandler (J.D. Cannon) agrees to clear Dr. Richard Kimble of the murder of the latter's wife.  The dramatic conversation begins at 3:52 of the video below (best part, though, from 5:37 to conclusion) and ends with Lt. Gerard saying "You can keep that man alive. But you won't, will you?"

A minute later, witness Chandler agrees to testify, and so keep Kimble alive. With tens  of millions of Americans working overtime, many for no additional pay, President Obama can take a major step toward ending the decline of the middle class and arresting the nation's slide toward a servant society. But he won't, will he?

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Friday, December 19, 2014

Hillary Clinton, Psychic

In late October, Alex Seitz-Wald wrote

Immigration activists repeatedly interrupted former secretary of state Hillary Clinton Thursday as she campaigned here for Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, who is running for governor as a Democrat....

So-called DREAMers, young, undocumented immigrants, have become a semi-regular thorn in Clinton’s side, heckling her at several events in recent months as she’s campaigned for Democrats and promoted her book. But Thursday’s interruptions were the largest yet, involving at least a dozen protesters affiliated with the group United We Dream interrupting her speech at least four times.

Mrs. Clinton explained to the crowd that as a U.S. Senator she had sponsored the DREAM Act, which passed the House but was stymied as the Senate failed to gain cloture.  But the bill became the basis of an executive order, issued by President Obama in June, 2012, which prohibited the deportation (upon meeting certain criteria) of young people brought illegally to the USA as children. (photo, from Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images, from the announcement by the man smart enough, among few others, to recognize the slippery slope he likely had created.)

It has escaped the attention of practically everyone that the former First Lady and Senator evidently has been ahead of the times on another aspect of immigration policy.  Politico reports

The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that Arizona must offer driver’s licenses to thousands of young immigrants who entered the United States illegally but were protected from deportation by a presidential order in 2012, The Associated Press reports.

In a 6-3 decision, justices denied Gov. Jan Brewer’s request for a stay on a circuit court ruling. Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas said they would have granted the stay.

The ruling upheld a previous decision from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that ordered a stop to Brewer’s executive action that would have kept 20,000 from getting licenses. The judge hasn’t yet ruled on the circuit court’s order, and it’s unknown when that would happen, AP reports.

It seems the- or a- battle over illegal immigrants being afforded drivers' licenses is an old one, or at least seven years old. For it was in late October, 2007, during a debate among Democratic presidential hopefuls, that this exchange took place:

MR. RUSSERT: Thank you, Brian.

Senator Clinton, Governor of New York Eliot Spitzer has proposed giving driver's licenses to illegal immigrants. You told the Nashua, New Hampshire editorial board it makes a lot of sense. Why does it make a lot of sense to give an illegal immigrant a driver's license?

SEN. CLINTON: Well, what Governor Spitzer is trying to do is fill the vacuum left by the failure of this administration to bring about comprehensive immigration reform. We know in New York we have several million at any one time who are in New York illegally. They are undocumented workers. They are driving on our roads. The possibility of them having an accident that harms themselves or others is just a matter of the odds. It's probability. So what Governor Spitzer is trying to do is to fill the vacuum.

I believe we need to get back to comprehensive immigration reform because no state, no matter how well-intentioned, can fill this gap.

There needs to be federal action on immigration reform.

MR. RUSSERT: Does anyone here believe an illegal immigrant should not have a driver's license?

REP. KUCINICH: Believe what?

MR. RUSSERT: An illegal immigrant should not have a driver's license.

SEN. DODD: This is a privilege. And look, I'm as forthright and progressive on immigration policy as anyone here, but we're dealing with a serious problem here, we need to have people come forward. The idea that we're going to extend this privilege here of a driver's license, I think, is troublesome. And I think the American people are reacting to it.

We need to deal with security on our borders, we need to deal with the attraction that draws people here, we need to deal fairly with those who are here; but this is a privilege. Talk about health care, I have a different opinion. That affects the public health of all of us. But a license is a privilege, and that ought not to be extended, in my view.

MR. WILLIAMS: Who else? Senator --

SEN. CLINTON: I just want to add, I did not say that it should be done, but I certainly recognize why Governor Spitzer is trying to do it. And we have failed --

SEN. DODD: Wait a minute. No, no, no. You said yes, you thought it made sense to do it.

` SEN. CLINTON: No, I didn't, Chris. But the point is, what are we going to do with all these illegal immigrants who are (driving ?) -- (inaudible)?

SEN. DODD: Well, that's a legitimate issue. But driver's license goes too far, in my view.

SEN. CLINTON: Well, you may say that, but what is the identification if somebody runs into you today who is an undocumented worker --

SEN. DODD: There's ways of dealing with that.

SEN. CLINTON: Well, but --

SEN. DODD: This is a privilege, not a right.

SEN. CLINTON: Well, what Governor Spitzer has agreed to do is to have three different licenses; one that provides identification for actually going onto airplanes and other kinds of security issues, another which is an ordinary driver's license, and then a special card that identifies the people who would be on the road.

SEN. DODD: That's a bureaucratic nightmare.

SEN. CLINTON: So it's not the full privilege.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Clinton, I just want to make sure what I heard. Do you, the New York Senator Hillary Clinton, support the New York governor's plan to give illegal immigrants a driver's license? You told the Nashua, New Hampshire, paper it made a lot of sense.


MR. RUSSERT: Do you support his plan?

SEN. CLINTON: You know, Tim, this is where everybody plays gotcha. It makes a lot of sense. What is the governor supposed to do? He is dealing with a serious problem. We have failed, and George Bush has failed.

Do I think this is the best thing for any governor to do? No. But do I understand the sense of real desperation, trying to get a handle on this? Remember, in New York we want to know who's in New York. We want people to come out of the shadows. He's making an honest effort to do it. We should have passed immigration reform.

It should not be lost to history that Hillary Clinton, before hit at this debate with the question of drivers' licenses, had been the overwhelming front-runner and prohibitive favorite for the Democratic nomination for president. In the wake of the controversy Clinton's response engendered, she still was a strong, but not prohibitive, favorite.   And (warning: cliche ahead) the rest is history. There will be no Democratic criticism of a court ruling which is consistent with Clinton's apparent position in 2007.

Governor Jan Brewer's administration had requested the stay from the US Supreme Court because if he state prevails in its appeal to the High Court, the licenses would have to be pulled. Good luck trying to do that.

Good luck, too, if the case ends up before the High Court, given that it was corporatist Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is amusingly often referred to as the Court's "swing" vote, who denied the stay. Speculation would have it that Kennedy, hostile to practically everything progressive except same-sex marriage, would vote to uphold the ruling from the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals. The majority opinion, if it comes to pass, would be a fascinating read, particularly that thing about driving being a privilege, not a right.

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Fear Of The Vote

Rush Limbaugh sounds nostalgic for the good old days. But don't believe him, although on Tuesday he longingly stated of European immigrants to the USA in the 1920s

Now, they wanted to be.  They wanted to become Americans.  They had to learn English. They learned American custom.  They became acquainted with American holidays.  They studied for citizenship.  All of this they wanted.  And it took that many years to assimilate.  

Don't believe him, because Rush added "There's not a person I know that wants to deport, try to round up 15 or 20 million people and send 'em packing.  It isn't practical.  It isn't going to happen."  So he wants illegal immigrants to remain but argues "these people" (who apparently are the "anti-American left")

don't want these people to ever be self-reliant.  They want these people to be voting as dependent incompetents.  The political powers that be that are trying to make this happen see a wave of potential registered voters who are unskilled and uneducated and will never be self-reliant. Therefore they are always going to need support from government.  They are seeking dutiful, respectful, appreciative dependents. 

This consistent with the immigration position Limbaugh has taken in the past, as well as the obsession he and most other conservatives have with vote fraud that doesn't exist.  Rush does not toe the Chamber of Commerce line. He doesn't want illegal immigrants to remain so they can mow his lawn or bus his table at a fine restaurant, or even because they would depress the wage scale, though that would be a collateral benefit.

They may stay as long as they don't vote (photo, below, of line at Florida polling place in 2012, from the official student newspaper of St. Petersburg College).  Beholden to psychological projection, Rush believes Democrats want "amnesty" merely to gain a whole raft of new voters, rather than because of a humanitarian impulse and instinct to help the downtrodden.

The Repub Party already has lost the political battle over illegal immigration.   That was displayed during campaign 2012 when GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney urged illegal immigrants to "self-deport" and in response to the firestorm which erupted, Republicans barely defended their candidate or themselves. Following a near-disaster at the polls that November, the GOP attempted an "autopsy" which suggested the Party "reboot" itself in an effort to woo Hispanics and others. After the President's recent executive order on immigration, a lot of huffing and puffing ensued but as Dana Milbank wrote at the time

There will be more spluttering and stomping and shouting about Obama’s illegal and unconstitutional activities, but pay no attention. In the immigration stare-down, Republicans have already blinked. Unwilling to squander their new majority and public support by risking a government shutdown, they are quickly falling in line behind symbolic protests.

Rush Limbaugh, clothing his opposition as realism, opposes deporting illegal immigrants, As with the restoration of diplomatic relations with Cuba announced Wednesday, the GOP has lost the political war and therefore has nothing positive to recommend and no policy except to oppose Barack Obama.

And so it is now that Rush Limbaugh says keep 'em here, but don't allow them to assimilate and become citizens. If they aren't afforded the rights and privileges of Americans, including the right to vote, they can stay as long as they want,  There is a reason the title of Limbaugh's segment is "Conservatives Don't Hate Immigrants!" They don't hate immigrants. They hate voters.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Sensitive Souls

On Monday, Talking Points Memo reported

A Cleveland police union has demanded that the Cleveland Browns football team apologize for a player who wore a T-shirt before Sunday's game protesting the police shootings of two black people.

Browns wide receiver Andrew Hawkins wore a shirt reading "Justice for Tamir Rice And John Crawford III" during pre-game warmups. Rice, who was just 12 years old, died last month after a Cleveland police officer shot him when he mistook the boy's toy gun for a real weapon. Crawford, 22, was shot dead by police in August at an area Wal-Mart while he was holding an air rifle.

Cleveland Police Patrolman Union President Jeff Follmer sent local TV station WEWS a statement after Sunday's game that called for an apology from the NFL team.

"It's pretty pathetic when athletes think they know the law," the statement read, as quoted by WEWS. "They should stick to what they know best on the field. The Cleveland Police protect and serve the Browns stadium and the Browns organization owes us an apology."

Perhaps we're getting overly sensitive, even- dare I say- politically correct.  Fortunately, the Browns' organization that night, in one of their few wise moves over the past 15 years, defended their "players' rights to project their support and bring awareness to issues that are important to them if done so in a responsible manner."  Extra credit: the team knew not to cite a right to "free speech," for the First Amendment applies to government but not to private entities.

Before the Browns' response was widely reported, Digby commented

The only right way to deal with this is to say nothing. This self-righteous defensiveness just exposes them as the kind of thin-skinned, unprofessional authorities with little regard for citizens' constitutional rights that has people up in arms in the first place. Failing to treat the police with the respect they believe they deserve is not against the law. At least not yet. 

At least not yet.  A year ago, the Huffington Post had recalled

In June, for instance, a 20-year-old man named David Castellani was allegedly hit, clubbed and kicked by a group of five police officers outside an Atlantic City nightclub, CNN reports. Castellani, whose family has filed a lawsuit against Atlantic City police, also alleges that a sixth police officer allowed his police dog to attack him.

"It's definitely the worst thing that's ever happened to me in my life," the college student told the outlet of the incident, which was captured on surveillance video. (Watch it below.)

According to Philly.com, K-9 officer Sterling Wheaten, one of the police officers allegedly involved in the attack, has been the "subject of more than a dozen internal affairs investigations and 21 civilian complaints of misconduct." He has also been sued on several occasions for alleged assault or the use of "excessive force," the report notes.

In December, Wheaten was found guilty of assaulting a 39-year-old man in 2008. The court determined that Wheaten should pay him $250,000 in compensatory damages,Philly.com writes.

As the video above indicates, Castellani evidently was assaulted because he was yelling at police after he was removed from a casino for being underage.  (He was charged with resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, and aggravated assault on a canine and in turn filed a suit of his own).

There are at least two morals to this story.  White men are not immune to violent overreaction by police departments. Additionally, the the police-community relationship has been deteriorating for quite some time, but under the radar, brought to the fore only by the killing of Michael Brown Jr. by then-police officer Darren Wilson.  As horrid as the loss of life of young (disproportionately black) men has been, it is little more than the tip of a larger problem, one highlighted by the personal offense taken by Cleveland police to a small, largely symbolic, and tasteful protest of the death of a twelve-year old boy.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

He's A Real Grown-Up

Don't invite Elizabeth Warren and Lindsey Graham to the same party. In one (video, below) of three speeches on the floor of the Senate opposing the bank bailout provision (co-sponsored by Citibank) in the "cromnibus" spending bill, the Massachusetts senator

slammed large financial institutions and their reach into Washington, singling out Citigroup in particular. She ticked off former Citigroup employees who have found work in the Obama administration and with past presidents, railed against Citigroup’s influence in Washington and vowed to devote her service to breaking up the big banks to dilute the influence of companies like Citigroup.

But more than anything, she blamed Citigroup for inserting a provision in the spending deal that would roll back regulations of the Dodd-Frank bill for trading some derivatives and other securities.

“Think about this kind of power. A financial institution has become so big and so powerful that it can hold the entire country hostage. That alone is a reason enough for us break them up. Enough is enough,” Warren said. “Enough is enough with Citigroup passing 11th hour deregulatory provisions that nobody takes ownership over but that everybody comes to regret. Enough is enough.”

Confused about the nature, and function, of government, Graham responded to Warren by claiming "Dodd-Frank was an incredible overreach, increased a lot of costs to banking without protecting the consumer. It was a liberal's dream of allowing an unregulated body to, basically, control loans throughout the country."

Declaring  "Extremism comes in all sizes, colors and sexes" ("all sexes?"), the South Carolina Republican characterized Warren's warning as "extremism in a very blatant form."  He maintained "If you follow the lead of the senator of Massachusetts … people are not going to believe you are mature enough to run the place.  Don’t follow her lead. She’s the problem.”

Citigroup has been bailed out at least four times in 80+ years by the federal government and has had to ante up $7 billion for selling toxic financial products leading up to the economic meltdown. But it gets a pass from Graham, who believes Warren is "the problem" because she is not "mature enough."

Or at least not as mature as Senator Graham, who in mid-September contended the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant is

intending to come here. So, I will not let this president suggest to the American people we can outsource our security and this is not about our safety. There is no way in hell you can form an army on the ground to go into Syria, to destroy ISIL without a substantial American component. And to destroy ISIL, you have to kill or capture their leaders, take the territory they hold back, cut off their financing and destroy their capability to regenerate.

This is a war we’re fighting, it is not a counterterrorism operation! This is not Somalia; this is not Yemen; this is a turning point in the war on terror. Our strategy will fail yet again. This president needs to rise to the occasion before we all get killed back here at home.

It's a dangerous world. Since Senator Graham's hysterical remarks, there have been (by Wikipedia's reckoning) 32 terrorist attacks worldwide, taking a total of 607 lives. ISIL has been responsible for three of those attacks and 60 deaths, less than 10% of the total by the group the Senator believes may kill us all "back here at home." Bypassing Columbia and Charleston, ISIS has struck in Iraq all three of those times.

Yet, Elizabeth Warren is the one lacking maturity. It can now be revealed: contrary to popular belief, Barret Eugene "Barry" Hansen did not himself write the creative, yet notorious, hit (video below) he sang under the nom de plume "Dr. Demento" in 1966.  The songwriter, who never has chosen to take proper credit for his autobiographical song, was the now-Senator from South Carolina, Lindsey Graham.

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An American, Technically

The Daily Beast notes Justice Samuel Alito’s wife, Martha-Ann, once again unwitting made herself the internet’s Main Character on Tuesda...