Saturday, August 23, 2014

Hands Up, Don't Shoot


Grayson's amendment to stop funding the over-militarization of local police forces never made it to the Senate. The House Republican leaders-- Boehner, Cantor and McCarthy-- teamed up with the House Democratic leaders-- Pelosi, Hoyer, Clyburn (along with Wasserman Schultz, Israel and Crowley)-- to urge their caucuses to vote against it. Only 62 Members of Congress had the wisdom and the guts to vote for it. Members who serve the interests of the Military-Industrial Complex Dwight Eisenhower warned the national about about over 6 decades ago, were the ones who killed the amendment. Recipients of the biggest legalistic bribes from the arms manufacturers and war contractors-- Pete Visclosky (D-IN- $1,025,000), Steny Hoyer (D-MD- $992,040) and Rodney Frelinghuysen IV (R-NJ- $948,606)-- led the charge against the amendment.

Had it gone to the Senate, we can be sure GOP militarists John McCain (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Susan Collins (R-ME) would have undermined it. It's another example of why we need to replace legislators who consistently disappoint and underperform. This cycle, Blue America is backing Shenna Bellows for the Maine Senate seat. Collins has already scarfed up $562,351 from weapons manufacturers and the war industries that so concerned Eisenhower. Bellows hasn't taken a cent from them. And Bellows says she would have sponsored a Senate version of the amendment Grayson tried to pass in the House.

Yesterday she sent her supporters an overall look at how she perceives the tragic developments around the shooting of Michael Brown. "My home in Manchester, Maine," she began, "is 1,345 miles from Ferguson, Missouri. This is where Michael Brown, an 18-year-old African American youth, was killed by a white police officer almost two weeks ago.

"But we are one nation, and the systemic oppression and persistent racial segregation that haunts so many communities in America are symptoms of an underlying sickness that haunts us all, no matter where we live."

In the aftermath of the shooting, reports from the ground tell us that the community and police organized-- the community organized friends and neighbors to protest while the police organized their weapons and dogs, turning Ferguson into a scene more akin to a war zone than a community expressing their grief.

In the 13 days that have passed since the shooting, communities of color and their supporters have marched in the streets, protested in the parks, written in magazines, and spoken out on social networks, demanding accountability and an end to the criminalization and murder of black youth.

Michael Brown is not the only recent victim of police violence against black men. John Crawford-- a 22-year-old in Ohio-- was recently killed at a Walmart. Eric Garner-- a 43-year-old in New York City-- was unarmed when he was recently killed in a chokehold by a white officer.

In my eight years as head of the ACLU of Maine, I saw this sickness manifest itself time and time again. The lives and liberties of communities of color have been deemed less valuable and less important by a society that has not yet decided to reconcile its traumatic history of racial oppression. And so we have tragedy and fear and anger and death.

The shooting of Michael Brown is one that touches us all. It is an issue of internet freedom, as we demand an open and free internet where such injustices can be brought to light by traditionally marginalized and silenced communities. It is an issue of community safety, as we seek to stem the flow of surplus military equipment to local law enforcement units as children play nearby. It is an issue of justice.

I support the calls for a full investigation of Michael Brown’s death. I support a new bill being introduced in the House of Representatives to demilitarize the police. I support Michael Brown’s friends and neighbors in their calls for justice, for without it, too many Americans cannot live in peace.

These are trying times, but they are ones from which we cannot shy away. This morning, the Organization for Black Struggle in St. Louis requested that those who stand with them in solidarity change their Facebook profile photos to a "Hands Up Don’t Shoot" photo.

I am privileged in that it is unlikely that I will ever have to truly assume this pose. But today, I offer my solidarity with those who call for justice in this matter. I invite you to join me in doing so as well.
Maine is the whitest state in the nation. Only 1.0% of the inhabitants are black. And many of them are recent immigrants from Somalia who aren't citizens yet. Shenna's response isn't about catering to a bloc of voters. It tells all Maine voters who she is though. I searched Collins' campaign website and her official Senate website and I couldn't find a word about "Ferguson." I did a google news search for statements she might have made about Michael Brown's death-- crickets. Susan Collins and Shenna Bellows are very different candidates with very different political agendas. Bellows has a progressive vision that includes justice and a vibrant, thriving middle class. Collins is-- and has always been-- a devoted conservative servant of the wealthy and powerful. Replacing Collins with Bellows would be politically cataclysmic-- in the best possible way. Please consider pitching in here.

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South Korea Found Guilty Of Illegal Dumping In U.S. Markets-- Who Could Have Guessed!


Last week, we looked at the continuing saga of NAFTA and other so-called "free trade" agreements on America's deteriorating standard of living. One of the most recent of those new agreements-- October, 2011-- was the Korea Trade Agreement. For all the knee-jerk obstructionism offered by congressional Republicans for any and all Obama proposals, the vote on this bill was very different. It passed 278-151, 219 Republicans and 59 mostly Big Business-owned conservative Dems voted for it, and 130 Democrats and 21 Republicans voting against it. The roster of Democrats on board for this destructive, anti-worker bill reads like a roster of the New Dem caucus:
Jim Clyburn (SC)
Jerry Connolly (VA)
Joe Crowley (NY)
Susan Davis (CA)
Norman Dicks (WA)
Colleen Hanabusa (HI)
Jim Himes (CT)
Jay Inslee (WA)
Ron Kind (WI)
Rick Larsen (WA)
Sean Patrick Maloney (NY)
Gregory Meeks (NY)
Jim Moran (VA)
Bill Owens (NY)
Jared Polis (CO)
Mike Quigley (IL)
Cedric Richmond (LA)
Steve Rothman (NJ)
Loretta Sanchez (CA)
Adam Schiff (CA)
Kurt Schrader (OR)
Allyson Schwartz (PA)
Terri Sewell (AL)
Adam Smith (WA)
Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL)
So how's it been going? Predictably terrible. Last year the Alliance for American Manufacturing reported that a year after implementation the "free frade" agreement with South Korea was proving as harmful as people feared it would be.

According to an analysis by the United Steelworkers (USW), U.S. car sales to South Korea increased by a mere 942 vehicles-- from 4,184 to 5,126.  Meanwhile South Korean companies sold more than 1.26 million cars in the U.S. in 2012 alone.

Imports of passenger vehicles from South Korea totaled $10.9 billion in 2012, up from $9 billion the year before-- a $1.9 billion increase, while U.S. exports increased a tiny $180 million to $546 million.

Overall, the total U.S. trade deficit with South Korea grew faster during the first nine months that the FTA was in place-- than during the entire year.

Bottom Line: There must be benefits to open trade. Unfortunately, it looks like the U.S. has gotten the short end of the stick. Issues like currency manipulation must be addressed.

It’s hard enough to open closed markets like those of South Korea and Japan. But allowing countries to manipulate currency makes it even harder.
But currency manipulation isn't the only instance where the South Korean are guilty of massive cheating that is costing American jobs. Yesterday, the International Trade Commission voted 5-0 found that South Korean companies are dumping Oil Country Tubular Goods (OCTG) into the U.S. market at prices below fair value and in deceptive ways designed to circumvent international trade laws. These pipes are made exclusively to be exported since Korea has no domestic oil drilling and therefore no domestic market for OCTG pipe.

Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing congratulated the ITC for their ruling. "Steelworkers and manufacturers have clearly suffered. We hope this decision will boost the prospects for steel jobs and companies in this important market serving America’s energy independence efforts. It’s a shame that so much damage has to be done before America’s workers and companies can secure a level playing field. That needs to change, and it’s one thing AAM will be working toward as we move forward… The vote is a big victory for American manufacturing. It will help level the playing field for our steelmakers and steelworkers, who were forced to play by a different set of rules against products that were heavily subsidized and priced below fair value. Unfair trade contributed to layoffs in places like Lorain, Ohio and idled plants in Bellville, Texas and McKeesport, Pennsylvania. The ITC’s ruling will give steelmakers and workers a fair chance to compete in a strong market for the steel tube used to extract oil and natural gas."

This victory comes in the wake of a very strong letter Sherrod Brown and 56 allies sent to Obama's mobster Secretary of Commerce, Penny Pritzker:
We write to express our concerns with the Commerce Department’s preliminary determination in the antidumping investigation of Oil Country Tubular Goods (OCTG) imports from Korea. This case has nationwide economic implications, and any final determination must be based on accurate data and objective methodologies. As the Department continues the investigation, we ask that you fully consider the domestic industry’s allegations and take action against any unfair dumping to the fullest extent of the law.

Steel produced for the U.S. energy market, such as OCTG, accounts for approximately ten percent of domestic steel production, and U.S. OCTG producers employ nearly 8,000 workers across the country. Each one of those jobs, in turn, supports another seven jobs in the OCTG supply chain. U.S. demand for OCTG products has been rising, but our U.S. producers are increasingly losing sales to foreign competitors.  Imports of OCTG have doubled since 2008 and increased by 61 percent thus far in 2014 compared to the previous year. By some measures imported OCTG products account for more than 50 percent of the pipes being used by companies drilling for gas and oil in the U.S.  One steel company has already reduced hours at three American facilities and idled another as a result of growing OCTG imports. We have been told that more reductions and layoffs could occur.

Korea has one of the world’s largest steel industries but no domestic OCTG market.  The result is that Korean producers are exporting an increasing volume of OCTG to the United States. We ask the Department to closely verify and further analyze the information submitted by the Korean producers to ensure its accuracy. We are concerned that certain information used for the preliminary determination did not fully reflect the costs of production and sales for the Korean producers, such as profit information based on lower valued pipe products and certain affiliation issues that may impact which sales are used as the basis for the dumping calculation. As this case proceeds, we urge you to ensure that the Department’s investigation is objective and accurate.

The discovery and production of shale gas in the United States is a strategic benefit for both America’s economic and energy security. Addressing unfairly traded imports is essential to ensuring that U.S. OCTG producers have a level playing field on which to compete. Strict and full enforcement of our trade laws is essential for the future of this important industry, its workers, and steel communities throughout the country.

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Friday, August 22, 2014

"A good day"? If it happened to Dilbert, it could happen to you! (But maybe not to me, I think?)


Plus Cartoon Alert: Duck Amuck this weekend!

DILBERT by Scott Adams -- August 13

Click to enlarge. And wait, there's more!

by Ken

Yesterday morning, I think it was, yes I'm pretty sure it was yesterday, or almost sure (it seems somehow longer ago), I had the strange but unmistakable sensation of having a good day. Felt OK, work was OK, no personal disasters that I was aware of were impending. (Non-personal disasters didn't count. That was maybe kind of the point.) So naturally I flashed back to Dilbert's recent good day.

Today I don't remember much more than what I just told you about that "good day" sensation -- what it was all about or what happened to it. I just remember that it felt nice while it was happening, for as long as it kept happening. So in memory of that brief shining moment (yes, there was that "bubble of optimism," definitely, just like Dilbert says!), and perhaps in a no-doubt-futile attempt to recapture and/or extend it, I dug the relevant Dilbert strips out.

DILBERT by Scott Adams -- August 14

[Click to enlarge.]

DILBERT by Scott Adams -- August 15

[Click to enlarge.]

Well, it was nice while it lasted, that good hour-or-so. Even if it was only in my mind.

Have a good day! (And I mean it. And you can tell because it doesn't cost me anything to wish you a sincerely good day.)


In connection with the splendid exhibition "What's Up, Doc? The Animation Art of Chuck Jones," which I mentioned here last month, running through January 19, this week's hour-long "Chuck Jones Matinee" (at 12:30 Saturday, 1 on Sunday; free with museum admission, but tickets are first-come, first-served unless you're a member, in which case you can reserve ahead) includes:

• the greatest cartoon ever made, Duck Amuck (1959), starring the hardest-working waterfowl in show business, Daffy Duck -- seriously, you'll finally understand what the easily misunderstood Daffy's life's work is all about.

• the best-known of all classical-music-related cartoons, What's Opera, Doc?

I'm actually not that crazy about What's Opera, Doc?, and while I won't mind seeing it again -- ini 35mm on a nice big screen -- it's for the sake of Duck Amuck that I'm going to try to get there Sunday (on Saturday I'll be "hiking the hills" of Freshkills Park, the immense new park being created on top of the old garbage landfill), even though I've seen it on the nice screen set up as part of the exhibition and I have it on DVD. I don't want to miss this chance to see it in a good 35mm print on a big screen. You should try to too.


Catching up with: Openly gay NBA center Jason Collins -- since coming out, his life is "exponentially better"


And we catch up with the St. Louis Rams' Michael Sam

Brooklyn Nets center Jason Collins, now 35, says he doesn't know yet what's in store for next season.

"[New York] is where the Stonewall riots happened. Flash-forward to when I entered a game and got a standing ovation when I took the court for my team. As a society we're on the right path."
-- Brooklyn Nets center Jason Collins,
to the Washington Blade's Michael K. Lavers

by Ken

In April 2013, I wrote a post called "Still-active NBA center Jason Collins comes out -- is this the 'breakthrough' we've been waiting for?" Looking back at the hullabaloo that surrounded Jason's self-outing in Sports Illustrated, it seems all the more unfortunate that it was such a big deal, because it has proved to be so small a deal for basketball. Jason wound up signing with the Brooklyn Nets and playing out the 2013-14 season, including the playoffs (at least as far into the playoffs as the Nets got), and as he tells Max Blau in an interview for the website Creative Loafing Atlanta:
There was a big media reaction with cameras for my first game. But after about two weeks, it died down. I would have a game and no one would ask me a question. It was literally back to business as usual. Female athletes have been doing this for years and are still playing. Male athletes have some catching up to do being out there. But that story can only be written about in so many ways before it goes back to being about the sport.
Basketball seems amazingly unchanged, or maybe not so amazingly, because really what was supposed to happen? The lurking fear -- or perhaps hope, on the part of people who really wanted it to be a problem -- was disaster in the locker room, the end of team cohesiveness. Which was probably always foolish. Can there really be a locker room anywhere in professional sports where players aren't aware that they're dressing with gay teammates?

It's too soon to say that basketball or any of the other big-time sports have definitively gotten past this ancient taboo, but what happened this season with Jason Collins seems to me nothing but good for basketball. And there's no question that it's been good for Jason.

The Washington Blade's Michael K. Lavers begins his newly published interview with Jason (actually conducted last month) this way:
Brooklyn Nets center Jason Collins was at an event in D.C. in June when someone approached him and said his story as the first openly gay man to actively play for a major professional sports team helped him repair his relationship with his mother.

“I’ve heard other stories along those same lines,” Collins told the Washington Blade last month during an interview. “It’s just really great to see when you have an impact.”

Collins said his life is “exponentially better” since he came out in a Sports Illustrated op-ed in April 2013.
Jason recalls the enthusiastic response of Nets fans:
Collins received a standing ovation from the fans inside the Barclays Center when he took the court during his first playoff game.

“The atmosphere was incredible,” he told the Blade. “Even my first game back during the regular season when I entered the game and getting a standing ovation from the crowd in Brooklyn is something that I will never forget. This amazing moment shows the character of the fans in Brooklyn.”
I don't think it's that hard to imagine how liberating it has been for Jason to live honestly with himself, his teammates, and the public. In the Creative Loafing Atlanta interview, asked by Max Blau about a local connection, he offers a poignant recollection of life in the closet:
In your article, you discuss how the 2011 NBA lockout was a catalyst for later coming out. You played for the Atlanta Hawks during that time. What role did Atlanta play in that process?

I lived Downtown one year and Midtown for two years. Midtown has a very cool LGBT environment. I was living in one of those apartment buildings and would always look out the window and think, "It sure looks like fun down there!" [laughs] I used to go running through Piedmont Park a lot. On the way back to where I lived, I'd go past restaurants and see LGBT people enjoying things like Sunday brunch. Seeing positive examples of people living their lives. It did help knowing that life might eventually be my life.
Jason is also crystal clear about the leg up on issues of inequality a person gets by being both black and gay:
Atlanta is a city with a vibrant LGBT community. But Georgia still has a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in place. Did you keep tabs on LGBT rights while you lived here? If so, how did you feel about it?

I was more than aware. I had a "Welcome to the South" moment. I was on the ninth green at the Chastain Park golf course in Buckhead and a Caucasian young man said the "n-word" to me. Not only was I aware of LGBT issues, but also racial [discrimination]. We've advanced a long way in this country from when my grandmother grew up in upstate Louisiana under Jim Crow laws. We still have a lot of work to do as far as overcoming racial issues. They're now going on in other parts of the country. It's going on in Missouri right now. That's part of the reason why I talk about being black and gay. There are constant reminders [of both] with regards to the equality in this country.
Jason has been doing a lot of traveling, and talking, and listening. He was happy to provide encouragement and advice to football defensive lineman Eric Sams, who went through his own highly publicized coming out in February before the NFL draft. The Blade's Michael Lavers writes:
Collins is among those with whom Sam spoke before coming out.

The Nets center told the Blade he was “very proud” of the acceptance speech the former University of Missouri defensive end gave when he accepted an award during ESPN’s annual ESPY Awards that took place in Los Angeles last month.

“I continue to tell him just how proud of him I am,” said Collins, noting he met Sam’s partner and his parents at the ESPY Awards. “It’s really cool to see how everything is progressing.”
As for his future in basketball, as a free agent again (the Nets don't seem to have much interest in bringing him back, but there are usually jobs in the NBA for role-playing big men, especially once the season is under way), Jason tells Max Blau:
I'm honestly stuck right now. I told myself I'd make a decision in mid-September about whether I want to keep playing or move on to other passions in my life. I'm still in shape if I decide to give basketball one more go.
In the Blade interview, Jason underscores his admiration for the female stars like Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova who helped pave the way for "out" athletes.
“With athletes like myself and Robbie Rogers and Michael Sam, we’re showing athletes that we’re adding a few pages to that playbook,” said Collins, noting male athletes often come out after they retire. “It’s something that female athletes have been doing for years, whether it be Martina Navratilova all the way up to Brittney Griner.”
"Right now," Jason tells Max Blau,
I'm really just enjoying my summer. I went to London for the first time for Wimbledon. I'm also enjoying my time going around the country talking about civil rights issues. I'm going out there and giving people a face, not just an abstract concept, to break down prejudices, misconceptions, and stereotypes.


USA Today caption: "Green Bay Packers quarterback Scott Tolzien (16) gets a pass away before getting hit by St. Louis Rams defensive end Michael Sam (96) during the second half at Edward Jones Dome."

One of the story lines of the NFL preseason has been the Rams' seventh-round draft choice's battle to make the team. As USA Today's Tom Pelissero reports today:
Halfway through the preseason, rookie defensive end Michael Sam's primary hurdle for making the St. Louis Rams' roster hasn't changed.

It's a numbers game with one of the NFL's most talented defensive lines, and Sam — the seventh-round draft pick from Missouri who is trying to become the league's first openly gay player — remains a third-stringer entering Saturday's third exhibition at Cleveland.

But when the final cuts come Aug. 30, former Rams vice president of player personnel Tony Softli believes Sam will survive — if he shows some versatility over the next two games to contribute on special teams.

"Michael Sam has shown enough rushing the passer — and that's what he is, he's a DPR, he's a designated pass rusher — that he can get off and beat a tackle on the upfield shoulder. He can spin and come underneath," Softli told USA TODAY Sports on Thursday.

"He's got to prove he can do it on special teams, and I think that's going to be his (way) to make this team."
But what's interesting here is that, apart from the reference to Sam "trying to become the league's first openly gay player," the discussion is entirely about football, as of course it should be.

The Washington Post's Mark Maske makes this point nicely in "For Michael Sam, a victory even if cut from St. Louis Rams roster":
Amid all of the attention, Sam’s story is now approaching the next watershed moment, one that surfaces questions that will resonate far beyond the St. Louis locker room: What if Sam doesn’t make the Rams roster? What happens if he is cut?

Like any seventh-round draft pick, Sam is far from a lock to start the season as one of the 53 names on the Rams’ active roster. His attempt to survive cut-down day is further complicated by the Rams’ talent-rich corps of defensive linemen, led by Robert Quinn and Chris Long. But while he may fall short of securing a roster spot when rosters are trimmed for the final time Aug. 30, from a certain perspective, Sam may have already succeeded. By turning a media frenzy into business-as-usual, by fixing the preseason narrative solely on Michael Sam the football player, both Sam and the Rams have already earned an important victory for sporting social rights.
Maske talked to an assortment of observes with "inside football" credentials, who agreed that coach Jeff Fisher and the Rams front office will make their roster decisions based entirely on football considerations. Which seems further evidence that at least in this matter, as we heard Jason Collins say at the top of this post: "As a society we're on the right path."

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Sometimes Bipartisanship Leads To A Plot Against The People Of This Country By The Beltway Political Elites


This diagram shows the ideological spectrum of the Members who supported the Grayson amendment on police demilitarization

George Bush demanded-- hysterically-- that Congress pass the TARP giveaway to banksters that came close to wrecking the economy. But it can't only be pinned on Bush; both Establishment Beltway parties were complicit in that catastrophic vote. Boehner voted for it and he was rewarded with the Speakership. Three Republicans were elected U.S. Senators: Blunt (MO), Kirk (IL) and Boozman (AR) and Mary Fallin was elected governor of Oklahoma. I bet virtually none of their constituents know they backed TARP. (Ironically 2 Democrats who voted against it-- cousins Tom and Mark Udall were elected to the Senate from New Mexico and Colorado.)Other Republicans were rewarded with other goodies for doing the wrong thing. Fred Upton (R-MI) was named chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Paul Ryan (R-WI) was rewarded with the chairmanship of the House Banking Committee. Hal Rogers (R-KY) walked away with the chairmanship of the House Appropriations Committee. Dave Camp (R-MI) was made chair of the Ways and Means Committee. John Kline (R-MN) was given the chair of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. Buck McKeon (R-CA) was given the chair of the House Armed Service Committee, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's (R-FL) pay off was the chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee. And two other big backers of Bush's legislation, Steve Israel (D-NY) and Pete Sessions (R-TX) became the heads, respectively, of the DCCC and the NRCC. (Sessions later was given the chair of the House Rules Committee). You see that pattern? Republican voters may have hated TARP but the congressmembers who voted for it and passed it were given control of the party caucus. It's the way DC works. And on the Democratic side, another crook, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, was eventually made head of the DNC and promised a "pathway" to the Speakership. Pelosi, Hoyer, Clyburn, Crowley… virtually the entire Democratic House leadership-- with the exception of Xavier Becerra (D-CA)-- voted for it too.

Who says Congress isn't bipartisan enough? More recently, as we've been writing (here, here, and here) Boehner and Pelosi both instructed their caucuses to vote against Grayson's amendment to put a stop to the militarization of local police forces. Grayson had lined up the 2 Blue Dogs-- Barrow and Matheson-- plus the 19 Republicans he needed to pass the amendment, certain his own party would back his attempt "to prohibit use of funds to transfer aircraft (including unmanned aerial vehicles), armored vehicles, grenade launchers, silencers, toxicological agents, launch vehicles, guided missiles, ballistic missiles, rockets, torpedoes, bombs, mines, or nuclear weapons." Military Industrial Complex whores Steny Hoyer ($992,040) and Pete Visclosky ($1,025,000) persuaded the increasingly persuadable Pelosi that Grayson's amendment was "a blunt instrument."

Writing this week for, Dr. Gabriela Lemus, executive director of Progressive Congress explained behaving as a nation at war with itself has been traumatizing for much of the country since the 1980s' so-called War on Drugs.
The confluence of the drug wars and the war on terror and its impact on local law enforcement has been a disaster. The devolving wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have meant finding alternative uses for surplus weapons or-- as I refer to it-- new toys for the boys. The 1033 Program, as it’s referred to, is named for a section of the National Defense Authorization Act-- a program first implemented in the early 1990s. It allows the Department of Defense to reissue billions of dollars of military equipment and sell it to domestic law enforcement forces particularly to elite units like SWAT Teams that have traditionally needed to fight the advanced weapons available to the narco-traffickers. Here’s the problem, if they have them, they will use them…

Even military veterans who went to Iraq and Afghanistan say that police in Ferguson were excessively armed. SUNY Plattsburgh professor Tom Nolan, a 27-year veteran of the Boston Police Department, wrote in an OpEd in DefenseOne this past June that police forces are increasingly militarizing and communities of color are hearing the message-- “You are the enemy.” As we have recently witnessed, this is a recipe for disaster.

Peaceful protesters are now angry protesters targeted with pepper spray, tear gas and rubber bullets. Journalists are now targets of the police and arrested for trying to do their jobs and cover the news. Michael Brown’s death and the evolving situation in Ferguson is a warning to us all. Our democracy is in peril lest we not pay heed.

We are witnessing a local law enforcement running amok and instead of protecting the safety and civil liberties of the residents, it has been employing tactics that violate the rights of citizens. Sadly, Ferguson is not alone-- there have been other incidents in New York, Los Angeles, and many others that haven’t gotten the attention of the media.

Law enforcement will continue to receive military equipment unless Congress puts a stop to it.  Yet, there is no agreement there either.  In the wake of this chaos, Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., distributed a letter to his congressional colleagues saying he plans to introduce the “Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act,” which would further monitor, limit or eliminate sales of military equipment. On the same day, U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin praised an announcement from the Department of Defense’s (DOD) Defense Logistics Agency to fully and permanently restore the DOD surplus equipment programs to benefit counties, school districts and rural fire departments.

How will it end?  Not well if cooler heads do not prevail. The militarization of our domestic law enforcement can only lead to more violence and the potential violation of human and civil rights with impunity.

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"You Snotty Little Bastard!… You Can't Handle The Truth!"


Is the tragedy of Ferguson serving as a national teaching moment? Maybe… at least for people open to learning. Nate Silver made a point the other day, for example, of how most police don't live in the cities they serve-- especially not white police serving in minority areas. In Ferguson, for example, "more than two-thirds of the civilian population is black. Only 11 percent of the police force is… Black and Hispanic officers are considerably more likely to reside in the cities they police than white ones." And Ferguson is anything but an outlier.
On average, among the 75 U.S. cities with the largest police forces, 60 percent of police officers reside outside the city limits. But the share varies radically from city to city… [O]nly 23 percent do so in Los Angeles. Just 12 percent of Washington police live in the District-- and only 7 percent of officers in Miami live within city limits.
Maybe that accounts for why so many minority residents feel the police are a heavily armed foreign occupying force, less interested in serving and protecting and more interested in oppressing and threatening. Then there are the questions of empathy and of accountability. Yishai Schwartz, writing for the New Republic, pokes around something that has plagued people trying to exercise their rights to assemble and protest for-- at least-- my entire life: an overwhelmingly ill-trained police force convinced they are above the law… and lawmakers who back up that notion despite a Constitution that does not. Schwatz's point was that the murderer in the Ferguson police uniform will never be convicted of anything. "In this case," he writes, "a combination of entrenched racial and occupational biases, and most importantly the details of Missouri law, all but ensures that a conviction is off the table."
In general, we presume innocence. But when we know that a killing has occurred and can definitively identify who committed the act, traditional common law demanded that our presumptions shift. We are supposed to presume guilt, and it is the shooter who must prove that his actions were justified. Unless the shooter is a policeman. And unless the victim is a black male. And unless the shooting happens in a state with self-defense laws like Missouri.

In any clash of witness testimony, police officers begin at huge advantage. Although the courts insist that juries give policemen no extra credence because of their badges as an “essential demand of fairness,” that’s not how jurors actually think or behave. Large percentages of potential jurors readily admit to giving police testimony extra weight, and many more likely act on this implicit bias. And in this case, the favoring of police testimony is compounded by another more pernicious bias: racial prejudice. Extensive research shows that Americans are far more likely to believe that African Americans-- and especially young black men-- have committed crimes and display violent behavior. It therefore won’t take very much to convince a jury that Officer Wilson was acting out of self-defense.

But these cultural biases are only part of the story of why a conviction will be near-impossible. The central reason is a recent trend in many states' criminal laws. Throughout history, claims of self-defense and compelling police activity have served as justifications for the use of deadly force. Most people intuitively understand that self-preservation is a basic right and that police must sometimes use violence to protect society and apprehend criminals. But generally, we expect situations of justified violence and legal killing to be the rare exception, and most people would probably imagine that policemen and citizens raising claims of justifiable homicide must meet a substantive burden of proof. But today, in states like Missouri, these justifications barely require any evidence at all.

…Within reason, legal protections for, and presumptions in favor of, policemen acting in the line of duty make sense. Society has chosen to give these men and women guns, after all. And if we expect these officers to put their lives on the line, we owe them some measure of trust and due deference. But trust cannot become a license to kill. We have a word for a situation where killing is the default, where violence is so expected that the burden is no longer on a killer to prove his actions are justified. That word is war. It has no place in suburban St. Louis.
And these underlying attitudes that give individual police officers license to shoot first and think later? Look no further than the conservative ideology that has poisoned the American Dream from the very first day when conservatives stampeded to support the British against the American revolutionaries. The same third of Americans who are knee-jerk Republicans today, were knee-jerk royalists in the late 1700s. They hated everything America stood for-- and they still do. Look no further than Republican Party spokesmodel Steve King (R-IA), one of the House Members who sets the GOP's policy on racism and bigotry inside Congress. King is a tenacious hatemonger steeped in ugly 19th Century racism. Predictably, he's become Congress' cheerleader-in-chief for murderer Darren Wilson. But… some of his best friends are Negroes. Maybe one of them should tell him that the entire Republican House Conference is a "Congressional White Caucus."
I've watched them pit us against each other for a long time. And by the way, it also should be said that someone like Lacy Clay, who's a member of the Congressional Black Caucus-- there is no 'Congressional White Caucus.' It is a self-segregated caucus and it is a caucus that they drive an agenda that's based on race. And they're always looking to place the race card. They're always looking to divide people down that line. And I have friends in that caucus. I get along with them personally, but their agenda is to play the race card. And we have a President who had a perfect opportunity to eliminate a lot of this friction in this country, and instead, he and his attorney general have been in a place where they've created friction rather than eliminated it.
Not every policeman thinks he's above the law. But I bet most do. They're the thugs from high school who went the sanctioned uniform route. The story of Oklahoma City police officer Daniel Holtzclaw's series of on-duty sexual assaults isn't unrelated to the murderous police officer in Ferguson. The police chief there called his rampage "disturbing."
Daniel Ken Holtzclaw, 27, a three-year veteran of the Oklahoma City Police Department, was arrested about 3 p.m. Thursday outside Gold’s Gym, 2301 W Memorial Road, on complaints of rape, forcible oral sodomy, sexual battery and indecent exposure. He was being held in the Oklahoma County jail in lieu of $5 million bail.

…Holtzclaw is accused of stopping women-- some as they walked through neighborhoods-- and threatening them with arrest, Citty said. Police said Holtzclaw forced women to expose themselves, fondled the women, and in at least one instance, had intercourse with a woman, Citty said.

Holtzclaw, an Enid native, worked the 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. shift at the Springlake Division, which predominately patrols the northeast part of Oklahoma City. Police said most incidents happened at the location of the stops, but some victims were taken to remote locations.

…Holtzclaw was one of four Oklahoma City police officers named in a wrongful-death lawsuit filed in the May 1, 2013, death of Clifton Armstrong, 38. The lawsuit was filed in January.
Velencia Maiden alleges that officers used excessive force in arresting her son. She also contends the police department inadequately investigates such complaints, fails to adequately train its officers on the use of force and allows a permissive atmosphere in which illegal and unconstitutional behavior toward citizens is tolerated and accepted. Maiden is seeking more than $75,000 in damages.
The pig mentality behind the Ferguson murder and the Oklahoma City rapes:

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Paul Ryan Vows That The GOP Suicide Mission Will Not Take Place Until AFTER November (When Its Too Late For Voters)


You probably saw the whole McConnell kerfuffle this week when he admitted the Republicans plan to shut down the government if they keep control of the House and win control of the Senate in November. Republicans with pretensions to national office and some aura of being part of the mainstream, were having coronaries. Paul Ryan, for example, when speaking to audiences that aren't all Republican, vowed that there would be no government shutdown-- at least not before the election. He hints strongly, though, that after the election, House Republicans will be on the same ruinous page as McConnell and Ted Cruz.
In his book, Ryan calls the 2013 shutdown a "suicide mission" for the House GOP, and on Wednesday he told CQ Roll Call he agreed that Republicans were easy to blame for the events that transpired.

But House Republicans won’t repeat that mistake this September, Ryan predicted: “We will pass a clean [continuing resolution], and if for some reason the Democrats don’t take that, then they will clearly have shut the government down … it will be patently obvious … that they are playing politics with this, and trying to trigger a shutdown so they can blame us, but we’re really blameless in this particular situation.”

Ryan’s confidence that his conference will cooperate in passing a stop-gap spending bill free of controversial policy riders-- "until Dec. 11 is what we’re thinking," said Ryan-- contradicts Democrats’ cries over the past few days that the GOP is spoiling for another shutdown that could cost them the election in November.

How insane is the Republican Party becoming? This George W. Bush quote-- in response to a question about John McCain in the 2008 election-- comes via The Right Perspective: "I probably won’t even vote for the guy," Bush told the group, according to two people present. "I had to endorse him. But I’d have endorsed Obama if they’d asked me."

Ryan, on the other hand, said he is so enthusiastic about the plutocrat that has been rejected several times by the American people that he would gladly drive Romney's bus in he chose to run (for president) again in 2016. "A lot of the things [Romney] said in the campaign, projections he made ... were true," he said. Ryan also added that he favors limiting the mortgage interest deduction to loans up to $500,000, something unlikely to go over well with the Republican base… to put it mildly.

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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Wall Street-- All Is Forgiven?


What better vehicle to declare Wall Street banksters no longer villains than the Wall Street Journal? And that's exactly what Patrick O'Conner did this morning. "As political villains go," he wrote, "Wall Street seems to be enjoying something of a reprieve." He claims "its image is on the mend" and that only about a third of Americans view Wall Street negatively.
No industry was more battered on the airwaves in 2012 than the financial-services sector. Candidates, parties and outside groups aired a total of more than 280,000 political ads that mentioned Wall Street, “Big Banks,” corporate “bailouts” or some other reference to the industry, according to a tally by Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group, which tracks advertising for campaigns and outside groups. Even when presidential ads are stripped out, the total spots eclipsed 200,000 airings.

That’s not the case this year. By mid-August, roughly 15,000 ads aired that referred to Wall Street or the financial-services industry, according to CMAG numbers, a sliver of the 2012 tally. The theme has only surfaced in 28 races, including a handful of governors’ races.

The 2008 financial crisis generated plenty of animus for big financial institutions, particularly those that received a piece of the roughly $430 billion the Treasury Department doled out as part of the Troubled Asset Relief Program. The parties seized on different messages, but disdain for Wall Street was a bipartisan crusade in the last two election cycles… The share of Americans who view the industry positively also edged up seven percentage points, to 21% from 14%.

That rehabilitation might be welcome news to the politicians who rely on big financial sector companies to fuel their fundraising. So far, banks, insurance companies and other financial-services firms are the top donors to the parties, candidates and outside groups, dishing out more than $281 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. That’s more money than the combination of lawyers, organized labor and the health-care sector donated.

…[Elizabeth Wilner:] “Political advertisers have practical reasons for letting up on some of their most generous donors. But since they’re hardly above whacking Wall Street if they perceive it as a way to win, the drop-off suggests that, at least for now, they don’t see it that way.”
So far this cycle, the Finance Sector has given $148,543,210 to candidates for Congress, $89,724,597 to Republicans and $58,739,217 to Democrats. Of this cycle's 15 politicians who have taken the most from the banksters, only one, Ro Khanna, is a non-incumbent. All 5 Democrats taking huge legalistic bribes from Wall Street are as crooked as their Republican counterparts and all 5 are conservative stooges for Big Business with the kind of clout Wall Street is eager to invest in.
John Boehner (R-OH)- Speaker- $2,664,676
Eric Cantor (R-VA)- oops- $1,848,125
Jeb Hensarling (R-TX)- Chair Financial Services Committee- $1,428,259
Paul Ryan (R-WI)- Chair, Banking Committee- $1,225,756
Kevin McCarthy (R-CA)- Majority Leader- $1,003,136
Joe Crowley (New Dem-NY)- Ways and Means Committee- $956,722
Jim Himes (New Dem-CT)- Financial Services Committee- $918,800
Scott Garrett (R-NJ)- Chair, subcommittee on Capital Markets- $912,363
Pat Tiberi (R-OH)- Chair, subcommittee on Revenue Measures $821,450
Ed Royce (R-CA)- Financial Services Committee- $821,218
Patrick Murphy (New Dem-FL)- Financial Services Committee $801,750
Steve Stivers (R-OH)- Financial Services Committee- $799,309
Steve Israel (Blue Dog-NY)- DCCC Chair, Appropriations Committee- $769,050
Pete Roskam (R-IL)- Ways and Means Committee- $702,149
Ro Khanna (CA)- bankster dream candidate to take out Mike Honda- $678,890
This morning Yves Smith reminded her readers that the settlements the Feds have been making with the banksters are about headlines, not about accountability, let alone Justice.
Over the last year, the Administration has entered into a series of bank settlements over various types of mortgage misconduct. The sudden rush to generate headlines from misdeeds that have been covered in the media in lurid detail during and after the crisis looks an awful lot like an effort to stem continuing criticism over the abject failure to punish banks and more important, their execs for blowing up the global economy for fun and profit, particularly since the Dems are at serious risk of losing control of the Senate in the Congressional midterms.

But as much as the media dutifully amplifies the multibillion headline value of these pacts, we’ve reminded readers again and again that all of these agreements have substantial non-cash portions which are ludicrously treated as if they have the same value as cold, hard cash. As we’ve reminded readers often, it’s critical to keep your eye on the real money, since the rest of the total is almost without exception things the bank would have done anyhow (or even better, giving banks credit for costs actually borne by others, like modifying mortgages that the bank merely services, meaning the bank gets a credit for a writedown imposed on an investor).
Tuesday the NY Times was barking up a similar tree. "Once again last month," reported William Cohan, "we were treated to the sorry spectacle of Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. holding a news conference to proclaim that a “too big to fail” bank had been brought to justice for its reprehensible behavior in the years leading up to the 2008 financial crisis. All things considered, it was fine theater with the obvious caveat that nothing even remotely close to justice had been served."
That Mr. Holder prefers large settlements to prosecutions is no surprise to anyone familiar with the so-called Holder Doctrine, which stems from his now-famous June 1999 memorandum-- when he was deputy attorney general-- that included the thought that big financial settlements may be preferable to criminal convictions because a criminal conviction often carries severe unintended consequences, like loss of jobs and the inability to continue as a going concern. (See Andersen, Arthur, for instance.)

That Mr. Holder, as attorney general, is following through on an idea that he proposed as a subordinate 15 years ago does not make his behavior any less infuriating. The fact is that by settling with the big Wall Street banks for billions of dollars-- money that comes out of their shareholders’ pockets-- Mr. Holder is allowing them to avoid the sunshine that Louis Brandeis wrote 100 years ago was the best disinfectant. Instead of shining the bright light on wrongdoing that took place at the Wall Street banks, Mr. Holder’s settlements allow them to cover it up permanently.

And that helps no one. The American people are deprived of knowing precisely how bad things got inside these banks in the years leading up to the financial crisis, and the banks, knowing they will be saved the humiliation caused by the public airing of a trove of emails and documents, will no doubt soon be repeating their callous and indifferent behavior.

Instead of the truth, we get from the Justice Department a heavily negotiated and sanitized “statement of facts” about what supposedly went wrong. In the case of JPMorgan, the statement of facts was 21 pages but contained little of substance beyond the fact that an unidentified whistle-blower at the bank tried to alert her superiors to her belief that shoddy mortgages were being packaged and sold as securities. Her warnings went unheeded and the mortgages were packaged and sold all the same.

The explicit details of the bank’s wrongdoing were contained in a civil complaint that Benjamin B. Wagner, the United States attorney for the Eastern District of California, had drafted and threatened to file publicly if JPMorgan didn’t settle. Fearing disclosure of the contents of the complaint, JPMorgan caved to Mr. Holder’s demands. The bottom line was JPMorgan paid the $13 billion, in cash and in-kind, and the American people were deprived of finding out exactly what the bank did wrong.
Funny that wasn't mentioned in today's Wall Street Journal article about how people don't hate the banksters as much any more and how crooked politicians (see list above) can breath easy and take bribes without worrying about blowback from enraged constituents defeating them at the polls. How many years ago was 60 Minutes talking about cases with prosecutorial merit. (Part 2 is up top.)

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From the "Is There Life After ----?" File: Former NY City Council Speaker Christine Quinn


Former Speaker Christine Quinn back on the steps of City Hall on Tuesday, looking relaxed and apparently sounding so too. "Life is good," she said.

"The former City Council speaker and failed Democratic mayoral candidate said she has passed the last several months enjoying time with her wife, Kim Catullo, and resting at the New Jersey shore."
-- from "Christine Quinn: 'Life is good',"
AM New York's Emily Ngo

by Ken

Probably there was a day when, pretty much en masse, her phone number was lost by erstwhile gladhanders throughout the five boroughs of NYC. And when she makes calls now to anyone but friends and relatives, she's probably not shocked when they aren't returned lickety-split. Nevertheless, all in all, there may be compensations to suddenly stepping -- or being pushed --- out of the limelight.

Since the City Council speakership is a relatively recent position, there isn't much in the way of history or precedents for its exes. And now with the advent of term limits, the process has been almost comically speeded up, so that the fall from power may not be that much more precipitous that the rise to it.

Not that the job carries immense power. Mostly it's exercising the option to make the mayor's life either easier or harder. But there's enough power -- what with stuff like heavy influence over committee assignments and chairmanships (which inevitably includes influence over the flow of money) as well as the legislative agenda that: (a) people covet the job, even knowing it can't be a long-term deal, and (b) other people covet access to the holder of the job.

Plus, at least in theory, there's the city-wide visibility to thrust the speaker into the thick of contention for higher office, meaning of course the mayoralty. Again, there isn't much precedent to fall back on, but there aren't a lot of other jobs toward which the Council speakership seems a likely stepping stone. And indeed, for a good part of the administration of "Mayor Mike" Bloomberg, Speaker Quinn's name topped most lists of possible successors in the event that Mayor Mike was ever pried out of City Hall. For the mayor that meant an impossibly difficult balancing act between remaining safely within the orbit of the mayor's benevolence and yet establishing herself as Not Mayor Mike.

In the end, as we know, that all didn't work out so well. And while this may just be me, I'm imagining that after the frenzy of those last few years, it must have come as more a relief than anything to escape back to the real world. I don't recall even heareing her name mentioned before yesterday, and for her, dramatic as the fall from the heights may have been, this may not be such a bad thing.

Where has Quinn been? According to AM New York's Emily Ngo, she said "she has passed the last several months enjoying time with her wife, Kim Catullo, and resting at the New Jersey shore." Mind you, I didn't see her brief public appearance yesterday, and I'm probably reading a certain amount into what I read about it, but it struck me that Quinn seemed, well, relaxed, which certainly wouldn't describe most of her time as speaker, in particular the last couple of years.
AM New York
Christine Quinn: 'Life is good'

By EMILY NGO August 19, 2014

Christine Quinn returned to the political spotlight Tuesday for the first time since her last City Council meeting in December, saying, "Life is good."

She led a news conference on the steps of City Hall about the newly formed Women's Equality Party and later said she was doing so at Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's request.

The former City Council speaker and failed Democratic mayoral candidate said she has passed the last several months enjoying time with her wife, Kim Catullo, and resting at the New Jersey shore.

"It feels great to be back. I got to see a bunch of friends I haven't seen in a while," Quinn said. "It's great to be here with such an important issue and to support such great candidates."
City Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Hollis Hills) greeted her mid-news conference with a "Welcome home!"

Quinn said she has stayed busy serving some nonprofit organizations boards, joking that she loves "torturing those poor executive directors. I think they all regret having ever asked me to be on the board. ... Life is good."

Prompted by reporters, she weighed in on recent local political news. She called successor, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, "brave" for going public with her HPV concerns and added that Mark-Viverito is compelling more women to get screened.

Quinn said she reimbursed taxpayers for political and personal use of her city-issued car and driver when she was in office. She would not say whether she believes Mayor Bill de Blasio should do so. De Blasio has faced criticism for sticking the city with his subway and out-of-town travel bills when he travels for business or with an NYPD-mandated escort.

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Latest Right Wing Excuse For Their Contemptible Racism: Unsubstantiated Claims That The Murderer Has An "Orbital Blowout Fracture of the Eye Socket"


Does this guy look like a racist to you?

I have to admit, I had never heard of Republican blogger Jim Hoft-- better known as "Gateway Pundit"-- until Media Matters dubbed him the Dumbest Man on the Internet. In 2010 they pointed out that his unique incompetence had been responsible for "almost every inane story that bubbles up in the conservative blogosphere."

"[E]ither willfully dishonest or staggeringly inept," Hoft "has proven that he has absolutely no vetting process for the sources he cites, and apparently has a hard time with basic reading comprehension." And, no one should be surprised that he's been at it again in regard to the tragedy in Ferguson. His latest clain even seeped into the DWT comment section. Republican KKK types want to believe the kind of wild stories Hoft propagates and this is the kind of thing that spreads from him to Drudge to Limbaugh to Fox to brothers-in-law and water coolers across the country. Charles Johnson, a former rightist who knows exactly how they operate, debunked Hoft's widely trumpeted "reporting." He was immediately suspicious about Hoft's anonymous sources for a struggle between murderer Darren Wilson and the unarmed 18 year old he pumped 6 bullets into.

Before being hustled out of town, Wilson had none of the symptoms of the orbital blowout fracture right-wingers are now claiming. "Also," notes Johnson, "no ambulance was called for Wilson, and no first aid was administered by other officers, which seems odd if he had indeed suffered this type of serious injury-- or any injury at all."
And there’s more evidence that Hoft is trying to pull a fast one again; here is the original image posted at the AAPOS site, showing a CT scan of a blowout fracture (on the left), compared to the image posted at Gateway Pundit by Hoft (on the right):

Notice the difference? In the version posted by Jim Hoft, the text at bottom right that says “UNIV OF IOWA” has been crudely erased. Caught you, Jim.

Was Hoft trying to mislead his readers into thinking this was the actual X-ray (or CT scan) of Darren Wilson? His text does not make it clear it wasn’t Wilson’s CT scan-- and the words “UNIV OF IOWA” have been blacked out, quite deliberately.

If Hoft’s intent was to mislead, it worked. All over Twitter and right wing blogs, the wingnuts are raving about “Darren Wilson’s X-ray” that shows a fractured eye socket-- but this is just a generic example image of an unknown person’s CT scan.

Time will tell if Wilson is going to claim he had this type of injury, but nobody should take Jim Hoft’s word for it.

And one more point while I’m at it; Hoft writes:
This comes from a source within the Prosecuting Attorney’s office and confirmed by the St. Louis County Police.
If that’s true, it’s highly disturbing that the St. Louis prosecutor’s office and the St. Louis County police department are leaking information to a far right hateblogger known for his unrelenting dishonesty, who uses a white supremacist hate group as a source.
Even other right-wing bloggers are questioning Hoft's veracity-- or at least his ability to get the story right.

Ferguson Republican Party meet-up

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Days Before The Florida Primary, A Judge Forced Prosecutor To Name "Co-conspirator A"-- No One Batted An Eye When It Turned Out To Be David Rivera


Conservative Culture of Corruption (congressional chapter)

A wonderful new word for conservative parasites popped into the colloquial dictionary last year: affluenza. I can't think of a better term to describe the self-entitlement that defines garden variety American conservativism/white supremacy. According to yesterday's New York Daily News, Frederick Couch, "father of the infamous affluenza-afflicted teen, who ducked jail time for a deadly drunken driving accident because his family said he was too rich to tell right from wrong, was busted Tuesday for pretending to be a cop."

People like this are attracted to power almost as much as they are to money. And we find more and more of them turning up in politics. We have, for example 4 conservative governor who have either been indicted or are under serious investigation and likely to be indicted-- all of whom harbor pretensions to be president: Chris Christie (R-NJ), Scott Walker (R-WI), Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) and Rick Perry (R-TX). Florida Governor Rick Scott isn't running for president but his criminality is in a league of its own. Crooked congressmen are even more common!

Many people have their fingers crossed that Staten Island Mafioso, Michael "Mikey Suits" Grimm, will win reelection in November from the inside of a prison cell. His has a long criminal career but is currently under indictment on the first 20 charges. He's still serving in the John Boehner's House of Representatives.

Now we're hearing the the hammer is finally coming down on crooked Miami Republican David Rivera, a former congressman who was defeated in 2012 and claims to be running again this cycle-- although his only FEC disclosure shows $139,873 in debt and a loan to himself of $11,000. According to the bane of Rivera's existence, Miami Herald ace investigative reporter Marc Caputo, one of the gangsters in Rivera's mob, Ana Allliegro had finally pleased guilty-- and ratted out Rivera, who was officially named as a target of a federal investigation on Tuesday. At the court appearance, he "was identified by a prosecutor who confirmed the Republican politician was 'Co-conspirator A' in an $81,000 campaign-finance scheme to prop up a little-known candidate who used the illegal cash to trash a rival of Rivera’s."
“Why do we keep not naming the co-conspirator?” U.S. District Judge Robert Scola asked Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Mulvihill. “We’re past that time.” Mulvihill pointed out that U.S. Justic Department policy forbids prosecutors from naming unindicted co-conspirators.

Rivera’s ties to the case have been reported by the Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald for years, but he had denied wrongdoing. Heading into the Tuesday GOP primary for Congressional District 26, Rivera had also denied being the target of any investigation.

But Judge Scola wanted Mulvihill to leave no doubt and directed him to name names.

About three minutes later, Mulvihill made the first of six direct mentions of Rivera, who is suspected of also helping Alliegro leave the United States for Nicaragua when she was supposed to be cooperating with prosecutors.

…The extraordinary scene that played out in federal court-- and the steady drip of information showing the prosecution’s arsenal of evidence-- underscores the strength of the case the government is trying to build against Rivera. At least five people, including Alliegro, could testify about Rivera’s alleged involvement.

…In the Sternad-Alliegro case, the prosecution indicated that Rivera was the mastermind. Mulvihill said that, after Alliegro met with Rivera, she then approached Sternad, an unknown Democrat running against Joe Garcia in the Democratic primary for the seat extending from Kendall to Key West.

Sternad, a hotel night-desk clerk, was raising five kids and was so financially strapped that he was on food stamps and took the bus to work.

Alliegro “told him that she had connections to provide the financing for his campaign. Since, as I told you, he was an extremely poor man, he agreed to accept it, took it as a lifesaver,” Mulvihill said.

Sternad used the money to rent a car, pay his cellphone bill, phone voters with pre-recorded calls and produce mailers, at least one of which attacked Garcia, who went on to beat Sternad and then Rivera.

During the primary campaign, the Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald noted Sternad’s suspicious campaign activities and pointed out his incomplete campaign-finance reports. Campaign vendors, three of whom had been used by Rivera in previous campaigns, told the Herald that Rivera was behind Sternad’s candidacy.

Alliegro helped Sternad fill out his campaign finance reports, where he lied about the source of the illegal campaign cash, claiming the expenditures were from personal loans from his own account.

Sternad was later indicted for his role in the conspiracy and was recently given a seven-month prison sentence.

Alliegro faced similar charges. She pleaded guilty to four counts of making a false statement, conspiring and making illegal campaign contributions.

“She always said she would not invoke the Fifth Amendment, and that she would tell the truth,” said one of Alliegro’s defense attorneys, Richard Klugh. “And she intends to do that if called upon.”

She faces a maximum five years in prison, though that penalty would likely be lower if she cooperates in the case against Rivera. Her sentencing has been scheduled for Sept. 10. The informal plea deal announced in court indicates Alliegro, who has been incarcerated for nearly six months, could spend as little as six more months under house arrest.

Had Alliegro fought the case, she could have faced far more time behind bars.
Rivera spent his entire political career as Marco Rubio's consiglieri and the two of them own a notorious Tallahassee party house together. The Florida Republican Party will do anything to make this go away as soon as possible in such a way that Rubio is kept out of it.

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The Party Of Greed And Selfishness Could Make A Come Back… Someday


Don't worry about the GOP. It has not been captured completely by neo-Nazis and Klansmen. Former Bush-Cheney Regime functionary David Frum wants to reassure everyone that "[t]he large donors who supported George W. Bush, John McCain, and Mitt Romney continue to hold sway within their party." Populism on the right, he asserts, has not taken over his beloved party of greed and selfishness. But the reassurance rings hollow when he starts getting into why the GOP will find itself increasingly unable to win presidential elections and gravely inhibited in its ability to govern effectively if it nevertheless somehow were to win.

He muses aloud about how long it will take the right-wing pup-tent party of Greed and Selfishness to overcome the three plagues it has brought on itself. "First, Republicans have come to rely more and more on the votes of the elderly, the most government-dependent segment of the population-- a serious complication for a party committed to reducing government. Second, the Republican donor class has grown more ideologically extreme, encouraging congressional Republicans to embrace ever more radical tactics. Third, the party’s internal processes have rigidified, in ways that dangerously inhibit its ability to adapt to changing circumstances." Frum goes on to, inadvertently, explain exactly why the Republican Party is, at its core-- the core at which he worships-- all about Greed and all about Selfishness while all the Tea Party hatred and bigotry are merely frills.
What boomers mean when they call themselves conservative is that they have begun to demand massive cutbacks to spending programs that do not directly benefit them. Seventy-five percent of Americans nearing retirement age in 2010 had less than $30,000 in their retirement accounts. Not surprisingly, then, boomers say they want no change at all to the Medicare and Social Security benefits they have begun to qualify for. They will even countenance tax increases on high earners to maintain those benefits. But compared with older Americans in the late 1980s, today’s aging boomers express less support for such fiscally liberal statements as “It is the responsibility of the government to take care of people who can’t take care of themselves.”

Boomers’ conservatism is founded on their apprehension that there’s not enough to go around-- and on their conviction that what little resources there are should accrue to them… [B]oomer conservatives fear that government in the age of Obama will serve somebody else’s interests at the expense of their own.

Republicans have responded to boomers’ fears by reinventing themselves as defenders of the fiscal status quo for older Americans-- and only older Americans. In 2005, Bush proposed bold reforms to Social Security, including privatization. But since 2008, the GOP has rejected changes to retirement programs that might in any way impinge on current beneficiaries. The various budget plans Republicans produced in the run-up to the 2012 election all exempted Americans over age 55 from any changes to either Social Security or Medicare.

…[G]enerational tension thrusts the Republican Party into an awkward spot. The elderly and disabled consume 41 percent of all federal spending. Any project to reduce federal spending while exempting such a huge budget category would require either drastic additional defense cuts or a desperate political struggle to concentrate all cuts on the comparatively meager federal programs for working-aged Americans and the young. The former necessity explains why the once internationalist Republican Party so willingly accepted the defense sequester of 2011. The latter explains why budgetary politics in the Obama years has grown so polarized: the GOP’s largest voting constituency has convinced itself that it cannot afford any compromise at all.

“Writing from the epicenter of progressive thought, San Francisco, I would call attention to the parallels of fascist Nazi Germany to its war on its ‘one percent,’ namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the ‘rich.’” So wrote the venture capitalist Tom Perkins in the Wall Street Journal in January 2014. By no means has Perkins been the only wealthy person to hear the tread of Brown Shirts on the march in the Obama years. In 2010, the financier Stephen Schwarzman equated Obama’s attempt to raise taxes on hedge funds with Adolf Hitler’s invasion of Poland, and in March 2014, Kenneth Langone, a co-founder of Home Depot, warned that liberal arguments about income inequality reminded him of Nazi pro-p-aganda. Although Schwarzman and Langone later apologized for their choices of words, the hyperbole revealed how threatened the nation’s richest citizens feel by the political tendencies of postcrisis America. As the party of opposition to Obama, the GOP has benefited from the resulting surge of funds from the frightened wealthy-- but that support has come at a heavy price.

During the worst economic crisis since the 1930s, and then through the long recovery that began in 2009, Republicans offered an economic message of fiscal and monetary austerity. Their donors feared that low interest rates and quantitative easing would generate inflation, so Republicans opposed those policies. Their donors feared that today’s big deficits would be repaid out of future higher taxes, so Republicans had to oppose stimulus spending on roads, bridges, and airports. They voted against extending unemployment benefits, emergency aid to states, and even the payroll tax holiday-- all measures Republicans have supported in the past.

As a Democrat presided over the slow recovery from a catastrophic slump, Republicans proved unable to capitalize on his struggles and find common cause with the jobless. During the 2012 election, Romney’s “47 percent” gaffe-- his private comment that almost half the country had sunk into hopeless dependency on the government-- proved so damaging because it was no gaffe at all. Wealthy Republicans had been talking that way all through the Obama years. The dependency idea formed the central theme of a speech that Representative Paul Ryan gave a year before he became Romney’s running mate, in which he argued that the United States was nearing a perilous “tipping point” that would be followed by “long-term economic decline as the number of makers diminishes and the number of takers grows.” The American Enterprise Institute even released a campaign-season cartoon video warning in Dr. Seuss–style verse that the grasping demands of the takers “took from the makers their makering pride.”

During the campaign, the radicalization of Republican donors propelled the party to advocate policies that were more extreme than anything seen since Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential campaign: draconian cuts in benefits for everybody except retirees and near retirees, plus big tax cuts for high earners. So radical was the Romney-Ryan budget plan that when a Democratic super PAC told a focus group what it entailed, the New York Times reported, “The respondents simply refused to believe any politician would do such a thing.”
Frum's delusions end with a grand one, namely that "a multiethnic, socially tolerant conservatism is waiting to take form." Just not this cycle. Or next.

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