Saturday, August 31, 2013

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Jerron "Blind Boy" Paxton Live

Sitting by the Central Park Reflecting Pool, Jerron "Blind Boy" Paxton, 24, multi-instrumentalist and master of American acoustic music, performed the traditional folk song "Mole in the Ground." Read about this remarkable musician in the Acoustic, Folk and Country Blues web site, and listen to more of his music on the St. James Infirmary music show, hosted by my good friend Michael Mand.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Republican Leaders Turn Down Chance To Speak At Washington March

Republican leaders, including John Boehner, Eric Cantor, John McCain and Jeb Bush, declined invitations to speak at today's 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington. One does wonder, of course, what they could possibly say at such an event. Today's Republicans, after all, are taking advantage of the Supreme Court's unfortunate gutting of the Voting Rights Act in order to suppress the vote of African Americans, among other Democratic-leaning voters. Still, it is a measure of what today's Republican Party has become that their leadership chose not to speak at a commemoration of one of the most important events in American history:

That wasn’t a wise choice, said Julian Bond, a renowned civil rights activist, in an interview with MSNBC on Wednesday afternoon.

“What’s really telling, I think, is the podium behind me, just count at the end of the day how many Republicans will be there,” Bond told news anchor Alex Wagner. “They asked senior President Bush to come, he was ill. They asked junior Bush, he said he had to stay with his father.

“They asked a long list of Republicans to come,” Bond continued, “and to a man and woman they said ‘no.’ And that they would turn their backs on this event was telling of them, and the fact that they seem to want to get black votes, they’re not gonna get ‘em this way.”

...“This was truly a bipartisan outreach effort,” said a spokesperson for the event in an email statement to CQ Roll Call. “All members of congress were invited to attend and the Republican leadership was invited to speak. Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s office was very helpful in trying to find someone to speak at the event. Making this commemoration bi-partisan was especially important to members of the King family, too.”

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Supporters Of Canadian-Born Cruz Don't Question His Presidential Eligibility

Despite the fact that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), a Tea Party favorite, was born in Canada, his supporters don't question his eligibility to run for president. These same supporters questioned President Obama's eligibility due to the false information that he was born in Kenya. Interviews with Cruz supporters reveal the flimsiness of their double standard. One said, “As far as I’m concerned, Canada is not really foreign soil"; another cited pure partisanship, stating, “Republicans and Democrats...always look at it with a different way.” Watch:

Colin Powell: Voter Suppression Will "Backfire" On GOP

Speaking on "Face The Nation" today, Former Secretary of State Colin Powell warned the Republican Party that voter suppression tactics are "going to backfire." He questioned GOP contentions of voter fraud and said that in an increasingly diverse country, preventing voting will not bring the Republicans new supporters. Watch:

POWELL: "...they claim there is widespread abuse and voter fraud, but nothing documented, nothing substantiates that. There isn’t widespread abuse. And so these kinds of procedures that are being put in place to slow the process down and make it likely that fewer Hispanics and African-Americans might vote, I think, are going to backfire because these people are going to come out and do what they have to do in order to vote. And I encourage that... Here’s what I say to my Republican friends: The country is becoming more diverse. Asian-Americans, Hispanic-Americans and African-Americans are going to constitute a majority of the population in another generation. You say you want to reach out, you say you want to have a new message, you say you want to see if you can bring some of these voters to the Republican side. This is not the way to do it. The way to do it is to make it easier for them to vote. And then give them something to vote for that they can believe in. It’s not enough just to say, we have to have a new message. We have to have a new substance to that new message.”

"The Target": One Family's Experience Of Stop-And-Frisk

Federal Judge Shira A. Scheindlin recently rejected the New York Police Department's stop-and-frisk practices, and the New York City Council overrode Mayor Michael Bloomberg's veto of the Community Safety Act, which increases oversight of the police. The following video, "The Target," from VideoNation, movingly depicts the injustice of the NYPD's stop-and-frisk policies as experienced by Keeshan, 18, a black male college student from Brooklyn, and his concerned mother, Cynthia, who is trying to counsel him to stay calm whenever he's stopped. Watch:

Government Hands Off My Obamacare!

We're all familiar with the Tea Party signs expressing the sentiment, "Government Hands Off My Medicare!" Writing in the Huffington Post, Jason Cherkis reports (see also Paul Krugman's comments) on a similar misunderstanding with this telling anecdote at the Kentucky State Fair:

A middle-aged man in a red golf shirt shuffles up to a small folding table with gold trim, in a booth adorned with a flotilla of helium balloons, where government workers at the Kentucky State Fair are hawking the virtues of Kynect, the state’s health benefit exchange established by Obamacare.

The man is impressed. "This beats Obamacare I hope," he mutters to one of the workers.

Many Louisiana Republicans Blame Obama For Katrina Response

A Public Policy Polling survey has found that substantial numbers of Louisiana Republicans blame President Obama for the poor response to Hurricane Katrina, while a plurality are not sure whether Bush (shown surveying the damage from Air Force One) or Obama was more responsible:

Twenty-eight percent said they think former President George W. Bush, who was in office at the time, was more responsible for the poor federal response, while 29 percent said Obama, who was still a freshman U.S. Senator when the storm battered the Gulf Coast in 2005, was more responsible. Nearly half of Louisiana Republicans — 44 percent — said they aren't sure who to blame.

Bush was criticized heavily when he did not immediately return to Washington from his vacation in Texas after the storm had reached landfall. The government was also slow to provide relief aid and Michael Brown, then-director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), admitted in a televised interview that he learned that many of the storm's victims at the New Orleans Convention Center were without food and water well after the situation had been reported in the press.

Brown's handling of the response ultimately led to his resignation, but Bush offered an infamous endorsement of the FEMA chief only days before he stepped down.

"Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job," Bush said.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Court Strikes Down Arizona's Defunding Of Planned Parenthood

On July 30, a federal judge struck down an Indiana law that would have prevented Medicaid recipients from accessing health care at Planned Parenthood clinics. Continuing this positive trend, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a District Court ruling that Arizona Republican Gov. Jan Brewer's (left) administration cannot effectively defund Planned Parenthood, since it would block Medicaid recipients from their right to freely choose their health care provider:

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a U.S. District Court ruling that will prevent Arizona Governor Jan Brewer’s administration from effectively defunding Planned Parenthood. In their opinion, the panel of judges held that the Arizona law (HB 2800) violates the Medicaid Act’s requirement that Medicaid recipients are free to choose their provider “by precluding Medicaid patients from using medical providers concededly qualified to perform family planning services to patients in Arizona generally, solely on the basis that those providers separately perform privately funded, legal abortions.” The law would have prevented Arizona patients from having access to preventative care — including cancer screenings, STI tests, and birth control — at a Planned Parenthood health center.

Arizona contended that the statutory term “qualified” was “too vague for the court to enforce.” The court disagreed, noting that in the Medicaid Act, “‘qualified’ is tethered to an objective benchmark: ‘qualified to perform the service or services required.’” The court stated the requirements for determining the qualifications are “no different from the sorts of qualification or expertise that courts routinely make in various contexts,” refuting Arizona’s claim that it can unilaterally decide who is and who is not qualified to provide family planning services. “Read as Arizona suggests,” the court argued, “the free-choice-of-provider requirement would be self-eviserating” because a state could label any exclusionary rule — like the availability of legally performed abortions on the premises — as a qualification.

Rep. Lewis At March On Washington: "Fix The Voting Rights Act"

Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), veteran civil rights leader who had his skull fractured in the 1960s struggle for voting rights, criticized the Supreme Court when it struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act. Since then, as dissenting Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg observed, Southern states have been passing laws suppressing the vote. Speaking today at the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington, Lewis made an impassioned plea to renew the fight for voting rights, stating, "I am not going to stand by and let the Supreme Court take the right to vote away from us. ...We must say to the Congress, ‘Fix the Voting Rights Act.’" Watch:

LEWIS: I am not going to stand by and let the Supreme Court take the right to vote away from us. You cannot stand by. You cannot sit down. You've got have to stand up, speak up, speak out and get in the way. Make some noise. The vote is precious. It is almost sacred. It is the most powerful non-violent tool we have in a democratic society and we’ve got to use it. Back in 1963 we hadn't heard of the Internet, we didn’t have a cellular telephone, iPad, iPod, but we used what we had to bring about a non-violent revolution. And I said to all of the young people, you must get out there and push and pull and make America what America should be for all of us. We must say to the Congress, ‘Fix the Voting Rights Act.’

New York City Council Overrides Bloomberg Veto Of Policing Bills

Federal Judge Shira A. Scheindlin recently ruled that the New York Police Department's stop-and-frisk practices violate the constitutional rights of blacks and Hispanics in NYC and amount to racial profiling. In a second blow to the policing policies of Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, the City Council overrode the mayor's veto of the Community Safety Act, which increases oversight of the NYPD through two bills:

More than two years in the making, the CSA is made up of a pair of bills, one that will create an independent inspector general position to monitor and review NYPD policies and practices, and make non-binding recommendations to the mayor and police commissioner; and another that will expand the categories of individuals who will be protected against profiling by the department. Currently, the department is banned from profiling based on race, ethnicity, religion and national origin. This second bill will extend protection based on age, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, immigration status, disability and housing status, and allow individuals to bring discrimination claims against the department if they believe they’ve been unfairly profiled.

...“No one on this floor is anti-NYPD, we’re anti policies that aren’t working,” Council Member Jumaane Williams said before the general session vote. “This is about civil rights.”

AP Photo: Seth Wenig

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Wilson Pickett Live

Passionate soul pioneer Wilson Pickett belted out one of his signature songs, "In The Midnight Hour," at the 13-hour Atlantic Records 40th Anniversary Concert, Madison Square Garden, May 14, 1988. "Wicked Pickett" was backed by the Blues Brothers Band.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Obamacare Opponent Perry Seeks $100 Million Of Its Funds

Though Republicans railed against President Obama's stimulus package, quite a few of them used stimulus funds in their home states. Among them was Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Perry's hypocrisy continues. Perry has called Obamacare a "monstrosity," stated that he won't implement it and criticized Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius for supporting it during a trip to Texas. Despite his opposition, Perry is now negotiating for $100 million in Obamacare funds:

Gov. Rick Perry wants to kill Obamacare dead, but Texas health officials are in talks with the Obama administration about accepting an estimated $100 million available through the health law to care for the elderly and disabled, POLITICO has learned.

Perry health aides are negotiating with the Obama administration on the terms of an optional Obamacare program that would allow Texas to claim stepped-up Medicaid funding for the care of people with disabilities.

The so-called Community First Choice program aims to enhance the quality of services available to the disabled and elderly in their homes or communities. Similar approaches have had bipartisan support around the country. About 12,000 Texans are expected to benefit in the first year of the program.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Ginia Bellafante On Bloomberg: "A Mayor Who Puts Wall Street First"

When Occupy Wall Street marched to the Upper East Side of Manhattan to protest at the homes of Rupert Murdoch, David Koch and other one percenters, NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg objected to the "bashing" of Wall Street billionaires. That's the same social strata that crashed the economy, was bailed out by taxpayers and enjoyed fat bonuses. New York Times writer Ginia Bellafante's (left) assessment of the Bloomberg era, "A Mayor Who Puts Wall Street First," considers the mayor's defense of the economic elite, the city's growing economic inequality under his tenure and his elevation of an artisan class catering to the rich:

No mayor in New York’s history has done more to consolidate the city’s identity with Wall Street. ...he was one of the country’s most impassioned and nurturing supporters of Wall Street during its most ethically unhinged hour.

...This was apparent in the way his police force greeted the arrival of Occupy Wall Street, with Mace and pointless arrests, ultimately clearing Zuccotti Park, where the protesters had encamped, with the aid of sirens and riot gear, as if Manhattan had been taken over by the Shining Path.

A political figure rarely afraid of expressing reproach — someone whose administration stigmatized fat people, poor teenage mothers, members of the teachers’ union — Mr. Bloomberg seems to imagine that any impulse short of adulation will shoo Wall Street away. Several weeks ago he publicly denounced Eliot Spitzer, not for his domestic failings but for his wish to curtail the worst instincts of the banks and to maximize their utilitarian value. (“This is our industry,” the mayor said. “We’d appreciate it if someone recognized that this is our tax base.”)

...Wall Street has benefited under Mayor Bloomberg much more than other industries, as evidenced by the pronounced inequality felt all over the country and experienced most dramatically here. is easy to envision that we might have arrived at a better place with someone who had paid more visceral attention to inequity than with someone who felt the need to sue the City Council to block a measure mandating a living wage (the suit was thrown out of court).

...Mayor Bloomberg, who did nothing to elevate the status of teachers, an exercise that might have helped draw the most talented to that profession, has done a lot to elevate the status of people who make things, or rather the people who make the right things intended to be sold to the right MacBook-carrying-Martha’s Vineyard-vacationing people.

Sen. Bernie Sanders Slams GOP Global Warming Deniers

After listening to Republican senators cast doubt on global warming at a Senate environmental subcommittee, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) pointed out that the vast preponderance of scientists agree that it is real and man-made–and that ignoring it will have catastrophic effects on national security, the economy and the environment. Sanders commented, “This truly is an Alice-In-Wonderland hearing. Within this little room, we are clearly living in two separate planets. Whether the differences are influenced by the fact that the Koch brothers, Exxon Mobil, the petroleum industry and the fossil fuel industry is pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into think tanks trying to confuse the American people or we’re just dealing with politics here, I really don’t know... The United States needs to do what we do best: lead the world in a new direction.” Sanders advocated moving from fossil fuel to alternative, sustainable energy. Watch:

Monday, August 19, 2013

TN Republican Tells Girl Her Dad Will Be Deported As Tea Partiers Cheer

During the Republican presidential debates, the audience cheered at the prospect of letting the uninsured die and booed a gay soldier serving in Iraq. The same ugliness was on display at a Tennessee town meeting as Republican Rep. Scott DesJarlais (right) told frightened Josie Molina, 11, that her father will have to be deported–which prompted the mostly Tea Party crowd to erupt in cheers. According to the Progressive Populist, "Josie’s father is currently in deportation proceedings and she is undergoing therapy to deal with the anxiety." In a trembling voice, Josie asked, "Mr. DesJarlais, I have papers, but I have a dad who’s undocumented. What can I do to have him stay with me?” DesJarlais replied, “Thank you for being here and thank you for coming forward and speaking… But the answer still kind of remains the same, that we have laws and we need to follow those laws and that’s where we’re at.” Applause and whoops of glee followed. Watch:

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Alabama GOP Considers Removing Pro Gay Marriage Member

The Alabama Republican Party is considering an amendment to its bylaws removing any steering committee member who disagrees with the 2012 Republican National Convention platform. The proposal was prompted by outrage at Alabama College Republicans Chairwoman Stephanie Petelos' comments supporting gay marriage and by her "liking" a Facebook page, the “Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry." So much for the Republican "big tent":

Some Party leaders reacted strongly to Petelos’ statements, moving to have her removed from the Party’s steering committee, a position she holds as a result of being elected chair of the Alabama College Republicans.

A verbal agreement was reached between Party leaders and Petelos in which she agreed to not speak publicly in support of gay marriage in her official capacity as College Republicans chair. In return, the Party leaders said they would drop the issue. But the ALGOP bylaws committee went a step further and proposed a written agreement that instructed Petelos to never speak publicly against any part of the Party’s platform. She declined to sign it.

Some members of the Party’s steering committee and executive committee feel like the issue is unresolved.

“I feel like as a member of the Steering Committee and leadership, that you have a higher duty to support the party’s platform in your official capacity,” said Don Wallace, President of the Alabama Republican Assembly and Past Vice-Chairman of ALGOP. “When the College Republican Chairwoman made official statements in conflict with the party platform’s support for traditional marriage...I believe that requires action by the Republican Party on both procedural and moral grounds.”

...The amendment will be voted on by the Alabama Republican Party executive committee at the Party’s summer meeting on Aug. 24.

"I, You, We" At The Whitney Museum

"I, You, We" at the Whitney Museum displays art from the 1980s and the early 1990s reflecting the period's cultural and social turmoil, especially as it affected New York City. Paintings, posters, photos and sculptures portray the age of Reagan and growing economic inequality, the city's gentrification and displacement of longtime residents (see Anton van Dalen's "Luxury City," 1986, above) the AIDS crisis and identity politics. This was a period when activist art collectives placed posters throughout the city reflecting their concerns. On poster, "SOS Tompkins Square Park," is an artifact of the August 1988 riots following a curfew imposed in that East Village park. A series, "We Are Not Afraid" (1981), was ubiquitous throughout the subway system during a period of high crime. Photos reflecting the AIDS epidemic are particularly wrenching. "I, You, We" reminds us of upheavals that took place not long ago and the creative response they inspired.

“I, You, We” runs through September 1 at the Whitney Museum of American Art, 945 Madison Avenue, at 75th Street, NYC; (212) 570-3600;

Bloomberg: Fingerprint NYC Public Housing Residents

Following a federal judge's rejection of the NYPD's stop-and-frisk tactics, NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg has another crime-fighting idea that impinges on the civil liberties of minorities: fingerprint the city's 620,000 public housing residents. Stating that 5 percent of the city's population lives in public housing while 20 percent of the crime takes place there, the mayor commented on his weekly radio show, “The people that live [in public housing], most of them, want more police protection. They want more people. If you have strangers walking in the halls of your apartment building, don’t you want somebody to stop and say: ‘Who are you, why are you here?' ...What we really should have is fingerprinting to get in, and of course there’s an allegation that some of these apartments aren’t occupied by the people who originally have the lease.” Public housing residents were angered; one commented, "Why? For what? We live here all these years. This is not jail." Watch:

Gingrich: Republicans Have "Zero" Health Care Ideas

Speaking at the Republican National Committee's summer meeting in Boston, former House Speaker New Gingrich criticized his party for developing "zero" alternatives to Obamacare, which the GOP has tried to repeal 40 times:

“I would bet for most of you, you go home in the next two weeks while your members of Congress are home and you look at them in the eye and you say, ‘What is your positive replacement for Obamacare?’ and they will have zero answer. We are caught up right now in a culture – and you see it every single day – where as long as we are negative, as long as we are vicious, as long as we can tear down our opponent, we don’t have to worry, so we don’t.

“This is a very deep problem,” he added. “I’m being totally candid with you.”

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Paul Krugman: GOP Misleads Public About Deficit Decline

Paul Krugman has long advocated stimulus and employment over deficit cutting and austerity to revive the economy. Regardless, as reported by the Congressional Budget Office, the deficit is declining under Obama–yet the majority of the public, according to a Google consumer survey, asserts the opposite. Krugman argues in "Moment of Truthiness" that this is due to Republican dishonesty and cowed pundits:

The outright falsehoods, you won’t be surprised to learn, tend to be politically motivated... Thus Eric Cantor, the second-ranking Republican in the House, declared on Fox News that we have a “growing deficit,” while Senator Rand Paul told Bloomberg Businessweek that we’re running “a trillion-dollar deficit every year.”

...Still, aren’t there umpires for this sort of thing — trusted, nonpartisan authorities who can and will call out purveyors of falsehood? Once upon a time, I think, there were. But these days the partisan divide runs very deep, and even those who try to play umpire seem afraid to call out falsehood. Incredibly, the fact-checking site PolitiFact rated Mr. Cantor’s flatly false statement as “half true.”

Now, Washington still does have some “wise men,” people who are treated with special deference by the news media. But when it comes to the issue of the deficit, the supposed wise men turn out to be part of the problem. People like Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, the co-chairmen of President Obama’s deficit commission, did a lot to feed public anxiety about the deficit when it was high. Their report was ominously titled “The Moment of Truth.” So have they changed their tune as the deficit has come down? No — so it’s no surprise that the narrative of runaway deficits remains even though the budget reality has completely changed.

Put it all together, and it’s a discouraging picture. We have an ill-informed or misinformed electorate, politicians who gleefully add to the misinformation and watchdogs who are afraid to bark. And to the extent that there are widely respected, not-too-partisan players, they seem to be fostering, not fixing, the public’s false impressions.

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Billy Bragg Live

Billy Bragg performed "Way Over Yonder In A Minor Key" in the Bing Lounge, KINK.FM, Portland, April 2, 2013. Bragg arranged the music to Woody Guthrie's lyrics.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Rosanell Eaton, 92, Fights NC Voter Suppression

The Supreme Court's gutting of the Voting Rights Act has predictably resulted in moves by Republican-ruled Southern states to suppress the vote. Among these states is North Carolina, where Gov. Pat McCrory signed a bill that requires a voter ID, among other measures to deny voting rights to minorities, the young and the poor. The North Carolina NAACP has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Rosanell Eaton, a 92-year-old black woman who had to pass racist "literacy tests" to vote under the Jim Crow laws of the past. After voting for 70 years, Eaton could be disenfranchised since the name on her birth certificate doesn't match the one on her driver’s license or voter registration card. During one of the "Moral Mondays" protests against Republican rule in North Carolina, Eaton gave a passionate speech. Watch:

Video: The Devastating Effects of Mandatory Minimum Sentences

Attorney General Eric Holder announced a new policy to ease strict federal mandatory minimum drug-related sentences that started under President Reagan in 1986. In the following video, RT America focuses on the devastation wrought by such sentences in the case of Karen Garrison's twin sons, Lamont and Lawrence, both of whom were top students at Howard University with dreams of attending law school. As Julie Stewart, founder of Families Against Mandatory Minimums explains, "When somebody goes to prison, the entire family goes to prison." Watch:

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Atty. Gen. Holder Moves To Ease Federal Drug Sentences

Speaking at the annual meeting of the American Bar Association on Monday, Attorney General Eric Holder announced a new policy to ease federal prison overcrowding, lower taxpayer spending on prisons and ease unjustly long, "draconian" sentences. The administration will tell federal prosecutors that they may not list amounts of illegal substances when indicting low-level, non-violent drug suspects, thus avoiding strict federal mandatory minimum sentences. Watch Holder make his case:

HOLDER: Too many Americans go to too many prisons for far too long and for no truly good law enforcement reason, and in recent years, black male offenders have received sentences nearly 20 percent longer than those imposed on white males convicted of similar crimes. This isn't just unacceptable; it is shameful. We will start by fundamentally rethinking the notion of mandatory minimum sentences for drug-related crimes. Some statutes that mandate inflexible sentences–and this is regardless of the individual conduct that is at issue in a particular case–reduce the discretion available to prosecutors, judges and to juries because they often times generate unfairly long sentences, they breed disrespect for the system. When applied indiscriminately, they do not serve public safety. This is why I have today mandated a modification of the Justice Department's charging policies so that certain low-level, non-violent drug offenders who have no ties to large-scale organizations, gangs or cartels will no longer be charged with offenses that impose draconian mandatory minimum sentences.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Federal Judge Rules Against NYPD's Stop-And-Frisk Tactics

Federal Judge Shira A. Scheindlin (left) ruled Monday that the New York Police Department's stop-and-frisk practices violate the constitutional rights of blacks and Hispanics in NYC and amount to a "policy of indirect racial profiling." The Supreme Court ruled in 1968 that stop-and-frisk is constitutional under certain circumstances; Judge Scheindlin, while not ordering an end to stop-and-frisk, rejected the NYPD's tactics and called for monitoring and reform:

In her 195-page decision, Judge Scheindlin concluded that the stops, which soared in number over the last decade as crime continued to decline, demonstrated a widespread disregard for the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures by the government, as well as the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause.

...“I also conclude that the city’s highest officials have turned a blind eye to the evidence that officers are conducting stops in a racially discriminatory manner,” she wrote, citing statements that Mr. Bloomberg and the police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, have made in defending the policy.

Judge Scheindlin ordered a number of remedies, including a pilot program in which officers in at least five precincts across the city will wear cameras on their bodies to record street encounters. She also ordered a “joint remedial process” — in essence, a series of community meetings — to solicit public comments on how to reform the department’s tactics.

...The judge found that the New York police were too quick to deem as suspicious behavior what was perfectly innocent, in effect watering down the legal standard required for a stop.

“Blacks are likely targeted for stops based on a lesser degree of objectively founded suspicion than whites,” she wrote.

...She emphasized what she called the “human toll of unconstitutional stops,” noting that some of the plaintiffs testified that their encounters with the police left them feeling that they did not belong in certain areas of the city. She characterized each stop as “a demeaning and humiliating experience.”

Grieving Mother Explains Need For Obamacare

Prior to a town hall meeting with North Carolina Republican Rep. Patrick McHenry (right), who has repeatedly voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, grieving mother Leslie Boyd said that had "Obamacare" existed sooner, her son might have received the care he needed for his "pre-existing condition." Starting in 2014, the health reform law prevents insurers from discriminating against those already beset by illness. Boyd explained, "My son had a pre-existing condition, a birth defect. And without that birth defect he probably would have been able to get insurance. But that birth defect prevented him from getting insurance and without it he could not get the care he needed. And so he got colon cancer and they caught it after it had already spread, so he died." Watch:

"The Attack," Directed By Ziad Doueiri

"The Attack," directed by Lebanese filmmaker Ziad Doueiri, opens with Palestinian surgeon Amin (Ali Suliman) receiving an award for his work as a surgeon in Tel Aviv, where the film was made. Assimilated and successful, Amin can't imagine that his wife, Siham (Reymonde Amsellem), is at that moment planning to blow herself up in one of the city's restaurants during a children's birthday party. Amin is interrogated by an Israeli police captain (Uri Gavriel) as a possible suspect, yet he is appalled and bewildered by his wife's terrorist act. He sets off for the West Bank to find out who brainwashed her to become a suicide bomber. At the same time, he is tormented by another mystery: who is this woman with whom he lived, and how is it that he had no inkling of her secret life? Amin is also subject to suspicions held against him by both Israelis and Palestinians. In a reflection of the director's statement that the film is neither anti-Palestinian nor anti-Israeli, Amin has tried to hew a neutral course as a healer in a land riven by violence. His wife's act poignantly forces him to reconsider the conflict that surrounds him and reveals the precariousness of his former assumptions.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Pat Robertson Is Cool With Transgender Identity

Surprisingly, televangelist Pat Robertson, in answer to a viewer's question, expressed understanding for the transgender identity, stating, "I think there are men who are in a woman's body. It's very rare. But it's true -- or women that are in men's bodies -- and that they want a sex change. That is a very permanent thing, believe me, when you have certain body parts amputated and you have shot up with various kinds of hormones. It's a radical procedure. I don't think there's any sin associated with that. I don't condemn somebody for doing that... It's not for you to decide or to judge." Well, that's progress. Perhaps Robertson can now stop making hateful comments about gays. Watch:

"Fruitvale Station," Directed By Ryan Coogler

"Fruitvale Station," the powerful debut film of director Ryan Coogler, 27, depicts the true story of the shooting death of Oscar Grant III (Michael B. Jordan), a 22-year-old black man, by a white Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer, Johannes Mehserle, in Oakland, CA on New Year's Eve, 2009. The film reconstructs the last day of Grant's life as he dotes on his daughter, Tatiana; reassures her mother, Sophina (Melonie Diaz), about his loyalty; shops for his mother Wanda's (Octavia Spencer) birthday party and tries to get his job back at a supermarket. Grant is not idealized; he lost his job due to lateness, was incarcerated for selling drugs and has strayed in the past from Sophina. Both Sophina and Wanda want him to be responsible, and Grant is struggling to get his life in order. The film, though, hurtles toward its tragic climax as Grant, after celebrating the new year in San Francisco with friends, is challenged to a fight by a white thug on a BART train. Following the melee, the police at the station are shown grabbing the black–but not the white–youths from the train. On the platform, Grant is shot in the back by the officer, who claimed that he mistook his Taser for his gun. Grant died and the officer was fired and served 11 months for involuntary manslaughter; many in Oakland were angered by the verdict. One recalls the death of Trayvon Martin when watching this deeply affecting, tragic account, which calls into question whether justice is delivered when the needless death of a young black man is under consideration.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

NYPD To Stop Storing Stop-And-Frisk Data On Innocent New Yorkers

The Bloomberg administration has settled a lawsuit filed by the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) by agreeing to stop the NYPD from maintaining a database of New Yorkers who were stopped and frisked yet cleared of wrongdoing. A lead plaintiff, Clive Lino, a black man who has been stopped at least 13 times, said, "It is a relief to know that my personal information will be cleared from the stop-and-frisk database. It is humiliating enough to be stopped and frisked for no reason; having your name and address kept in a police database only prolongs the indignity of it." While the resolution of the stop-and-frisk practice remains unsettled, this is a positive step:

The lawsuit, Lino v. City of New York, was filed in May 2010 on behalf of hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers whose personal information is kept in the NYPD stop-and-frisk database even though state laws require that all police records of their stop-and-frisk encounters be sealed and not be available to any public or private agency once their cases are dismissed.

...The lead plaintiffs, Clive Lino and Daryl Khan, are New York City residents who have been stopped and frisked by police officers, issued summonses, and subsequently cleared of any wrongdoing.

During a stop-and-frisk encounter in the Bronx in April 2009, NYPD officers threw Lino against a wall, frisked him, handcuffed him and searched his pockets. The police officers issued him summonses for spitting in public and possessing an open container. Both were dismissed.

...Khan, a freelance journalist who covered the NYPD for more than a decade, was riding his bike at the corner of Tompkins Avenue and Park Avenue in Brooklyn on Oct. 7, 2009 when two police officers in an unmarked van pulled him over. The officers pulled him from his bike, threw him against a wall and searched his pockets against his will. He was issued a summons for disorderly conduct and one for riding his bike on the sidewalk. Both were dismissed.

"Essentially, I was in an NYPD database for riding my bike," said Khan, who has never been arrested and has no criminal record. "As someone who has covered the NYPD as a journalist, I know that good police work is done in this city without a sprawling database of innocent people’s information."

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Ella Fitzgerald Live

Ella Fitzgerald, the "First Lady of Song," performed the George Gershwin composition  "Summertime" on a Brazilian TV special, 1968.

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Koch Brothers' Amazing Climate Change Denial Machine

We recently viewed the toxic cloud over Detroit, courtesy of oil barons Charles and David Koch. As shown in the video above by Australian filmmaker Taki Oldham, the two right-wing billionaire activists want to ensure that they can continue despoiling the environment through funding fraudulent climate-change denial "research" that also denies the vast consensus of climate scientists. After watching the video, check these links provided by Crooks and Liars:

Global Warming deniers -- the Koch Brothers, with Koch PAC are the fourth largest lobbyist in the oil and gas industry, funding $67,042,064 to groups denying climate change science since 1997. And emits over 300 million tons of greenhouse gases a year...

Woody Allen's "Blue Jasmine"

In Woody Allen's "Blue Jasmine," Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) has fallen from her Park Avenue lifestyle after her philandering husband Hal (Alec Baldwin) is jailed for financial fraud. Jasmine travels to San Francisco to live with her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) in a relatively downscale neighborhood. Popping pills and swilling vodka, the anxious Jasmine tries getting her life in order working as a receptionist, aiming to be an interior designer and starting a love affair under false pretenses. She also has a tense relationship with Ginger's uneducated boyfriend Chili (Bobby Cannavale); clearly Allen is paying homage to "A Streetcar Named Desire." Through flashbacks, Jasmine's passive complicity in her husband's crimes is gradually uncovered, a theme that recalls speculation about Ruth Madoff. While taking into account these moral issues, the film poignantly depicts Jasmine's downfall.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Rep. Grayson: “It’s Pathetic How Far Our Labor Standards Have Fallen”

Appearing on John Fugelsang’s “Viewpoint,” Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) spoke about raising the minimum wage and stated, “It’s pathetic to see how far our labor standards have fallen behind other countries. I want America to be number one. Not number one in number of foreign countries occupied or…number of people incarcerated. I want America to be number one in wages, benefits, health care and life expectancy.” Grayson compared the situation of American workers to those in Australia and Germany and spoke about the Republicans' dedication to denying health care to the vulnerable. Watch:

Richard Kim: GOP Relies On Racial Gerrymandering

What is the GOP's response to the demographic threat it faces? Instead of modifying their policies or attempting to appeal to broader segments of the population, the party now relies on carving out districts of white Republicans (plus voter suppression). After their electoral victories, the Republicans then pass reactionary bills. In "Fortress White America" (The Nation, 8/5/13), Richard Kim (left) describes this "precision racial gerrymandering" and the legislation that follows in North Carolina and Texas:

For the past two decades, the GOP has waged a crusade to redraw the political map so as to maximize the number of white voters in Republican-leaning districts, while lumping as many minority voters as possible into Democratic-leaning ones. The siege mentality is baked into the very DNA of the party, and it creates a perverse incentive structure in which only white voters matter. This precision racial gerrymandering has been frighteningly effective. In 2012, Democratic House candidates won 1.4 million more votes than Republicans, who nonetheless control 54 percent of the seats in that chamber. Similarly, while many Southern states have been getting bluer (and browner), Republicans have locked down Southern state legislatures by wildly disproportionate margins. In North Carolina, for example, registered Democrats outnumber Republicans 45 to 32 percent, and Mitt Romney squeaked out a two-point victory over Obama in 2012. Republicans, however, control the state Senate and House by almost 2-to-1 margins, their largest share ever.

And what have North Carolina Republicans done with this historic, veto-proof supermajority? They’ve cut unemployment benefits and Medicaid eligibility, gutted environmental regulations, and repealed the Earned Income Tax Credit and the 2009 Racial Justice Act, which allows death row prisoners to appeal their sentence if they can prove race was a factor in sentencing. If the GOP budget goes through, more programs will get the ax: early childhood education, pay for teachers and teachers’ aides, campaign financing, water safety, even the state income tax, which will be replaced by a regressive sales tax. Polling has shown that the majority of North Carolinians reject these measures, but enough voters who support them live in the white districts, where the GOP has retrenched. It’s a similar story in Texas, where a supermajority of Republicans has pushed through voter ID laws, rejected Medicaid expansion and cut school budgets. Yes, Texas State Senator Wendy Davis became famous for filibustering a bill that would in effect shut down the state’s abortion clinics, but the bill eventually passed, and its author, State Representative Jodie Laubenberg, hasn’t faced an opponent in the last three elections. Her district was drawn to be 67 percent white, a bleached electoral haven in a state that is majority-minority.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

A Koch Brothers Production: Toxic Cloud Over Detroit

The video above shows a massive toxic cloud billowing from the Detroit River, a result of the Koch brothers' illegal storage of petroleum coke. One appalled spectator asks, "Is that the petcoke? But can we breathe it?" Common Dreams provides the background:

MInd-boggling video of a billowing, high-carbon, high-sulfur cloud from the mountain of petroleum coke - waste from Canadian tar sands shipped from Alberta to Detroit, and the dirtiest potential energy source ever - illegally stored by the Koch brothers along the Detroit River. 

Produced by Marathon Refinery but owned by Koch Carbon, the pet-coke piles have for months been producing "fugitive dust" - ie: thick black crud - that blankets the homes of outraged residents and lawmakers; analysis shows the dust contains elevated levels of lead, sulfur, zinc and the likely carcinogenic vanadium

Environmental officials say the Koch Brothers broke the law by not getting a permit for their toxic dump, and they can't guarantee there won't be another "dust event," but not to worry: The Kochs reportedly plan to move the mess to some other poor beleaguered place. 

We await the day we can exercise our right, not just to free expression and clean air, but to the end of Koch power.

Nancy Pelosi Lambastes "Make-Matters-Worse Congress"

Recently, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said that Congress should be judged by "how many laws we repeal." Notably, the House wasted time futilely voting to repeal Obamacare 40 times, with their supposed focus on jobs forgotten. Before the August recess, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) sharply criticized Congress–specifically the Republican House–at a press conference, accurately calling it a "do-nothing Congress"that became a "make-matters-worse Congress." She looked at the problems ahead and said that Congress "should not leave." Watch:

PELOSI: How do you explain to the American people that today Congress will go into an August recess and after more than six months in this Congress, this Republican Congress, we still have no jobs bill, we have no budget bill, and we have the threat of shutting down government and not raising the debt ceiling without repealing the Affordable Care Act. This was a do-nothing Congress, and now it is gone to something worse. It's an aimless congress that is falling into chaos; it's a make-matters-worse Congress. We should not leave until we address the challenges that we face.

Koch Web Site Takes On Critics–Especially Jane Mayer

Last week, I wrote that Jane Mayer's New Yorker article, "Covert Operations" (Aug. 3, 2010), on Charles and David Koch, is "must reading for readers of this blog." Mayer's article first brought widespread attention to the two billionaires' right-wing activism. It turns out that the Kochs maintain a web site, (surely an oxymoron), which aggressively takes on media reports that criticize them, including "partisan left-wing political groups and their aligned bloggers and media outlets." Among all these "partisans," the Kochs feel particular animus against Mayer. That in itself is the ultimate recommendation to read Mayer's article (linked above and below–start reading!):

...Faced with news articles they consider flawed or biased, the brothers and their lieutenants don’t just send strongly worded letters to the editor in protest. Instead, the company takes the offensive, with detailed responses that oscillate between correcting, shaming and slamming journalists who’ve written unflattering stories about the company or the Kochs’ myriad political and philanthropic activities.

...If the Kochs have a Public Enemy No. 1 in the media, it is most assuredly Mayer, a writer for the New Yorker magazine. Mayer has been on the company’s radar since the New Yorker published her 10,000-word investigation of the Kochs’ philanthropic and political activities in August 2010.

The article, titled “Covert Operations,” detailed the Kochs’ financial support of a network of conservative-libertarian think tanks and organizations. The Kochs were so incensed by the article’s suggestion that their activities were “secretive” and designed for personal enrichment that the normally press-averse David Koch gave several interviews. In one, he denounced Mayer’s article as “hateful.” The New Yorker stood by its story.

...KochFacts now denounces Mayer even before her stories appear. In a posting May 18, the Web site predicted that a forthcoming Mayer article (about David Koch’s involvement in public television) “will be another attempt to smear us while advancing her partisan agenda.” But that was just a guess; as the anonymous author of the post admitted, “We don’t precisely know the content of her story.”

Ta-Nehisi Coates: How Can Obama Consider Appointing NYPD's Ray Kelly?

Ta-Nehisi Coates, a senior editor at The Atlantic, notes in "Raising the Wrong Profile" that as senator, Barack Obama stood firm against racial profiling. Coates is therefore baffled that President Obama is considering inviting New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly to serve as the Secretary of Homeland Security. Kelly, along with Mayor Michael Bloomberg, upholds the NYPD's stop-and-frisk program, which disproportionately targets young blacks and Hispanics, the vast majority of whom are innocent when stopped:

In 2003, State Senator Barack Obama spearheaded a bill through the Illinois legislature that sought to put the clamps on racial profiling. Obama called racial profiling “morally objectionable,” “bad police practice” and a method that mainly served to “humiliate individuals and foster contempt in communities of color.”

... That is why it is hard to comprehend the thinking that compelled the flirt with the possibility of inviting the New York City Police Commissioner, Ray Kelly, the proprietor of the largest local racial profiling operation in the country, into his cabinet.

...The N.Y.P.D.’s stop-and-frisk program has been well-covered in [The New York Times] and elsewhere. It is now public knowledge that the police department, each year, stops hundreds of thousands of citizens, largely black and Latino men, for reasons as thin and subjective as “furtive movements.” Very few of those stops lead to actual charges, much less arrests, and according to the commissioner that’s fine.

...It was President Obama who so poignantly drew the direct line between himself and Trayvon Martin.

It was candidate Obama who in 2008 pledged to “ban racial profiling” on a federal level and work to have it prohibited on the state level. It was candidate Obama who told black people that if they voted they would get a new kind of politics. And it was State Senator Obama who understood that profiling was the antithesis of such politics. Those of us raising our boys in the wake of Trayvon, or beneath the eye of the Demographics Unit, cannot fathom how the president could forget this.

Video: "Stop-And-Frisk: The High School Senior"

The New York Police Department's stop-and-frisk program disproportionately targets young blacks and Hispanics; the vast majority of those stopped are innocent, and claims that the program is effective in fighting crime are dubious. A recent trial examined the constitutionality of stop-and-frisk, but there's little consensus on solutions even if Judge Shira A. Scheindlin, who has criticized the program, rules against the Police Department. Communities United for Police Reform has launched a video series showing the impact of stop-and-frisk. Watch as Brooklyn high school senior Kasiem Walters shares his multiple experiences getting stopped and frisked:

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: John Mellencamp

John Mellencamp did full justice to the Robert Johnson blues classic, "Stones In My Passway," part of his recommended "Trouble No More" album. The performance, with fine slide guitar work by Andy York, took place at Live Farm Aid, Columbus, Ohio, 2003.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Scott Lemieux: Hard To Justify Bradley Manning's Prosecution

Bradley Manning was cleared of the most serious charge, knowingly "aiding the enemy," while convicted of most charges regarding his disclosures to Wikileaks. Scott Lemieux (left), assistant professor of political science at the College of Saint Rose, considers the Manning case in light of the Obama administration's war on whistleblowers, the implications of the charge of "aiding the enemy," Manning's harsh treatment in military custody and the fact that leakers are prosecuted while those who implemented policies of torture are not:

It is notable and welcome that the government could not convince [Colonel Denise] Lind, [the military judge who presided over the court-martial], that Manning was guilty of aiding the enemy under the Espionage Act. Since this charge rested on the theory that releasing any information the government would rather keep quiet is "aiding the enemy" by definition, the dangers of convicting Manning can hardly be overstated. The idea that transparency aids the enemy is the same theory behind prosecuting newspapers for publishing the Pentagon Papers. The dismissal of these unprecedented charges is an important victory against overbroad contstructions of the Espionage Act.

The belief that the soldier was not merely guilty of illegal leaks, but also a traitor, was presumably the reason for his gratuitously cruel treatment. This treatment should be remembered and cannot be defended whatever one thinks of the merits of the charges against Manning.

...The question of whether the charges were wise or appropriate in the first place is also less than settled. As Glenn Greenwald observed on CNN last night, leaks are the basis of investigative journalism, and are thus prosecuted very selectively. Absent evidence of concrete harm, it's hard to justify the prosecution of a whistleblower like Manning. The harsh prosecution of Manning is particularly hard to justify in light of the other priorities of the administration. Torture clearly violates federal law, and is a much more serious offense than leaking information—it harms the security interests and reputation of the United States to boot. Nonetheless, torture has gone systematically unprosecuted. It's very hard to square Bradley Manning facing decades in prison while the people who designed and implemented torture policies under the Bush administration walk free.