Sunday, June 30, 2013

Harris-Perry Warns Gov. Perry About The Wendy Davis Express

In an open letter, MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry criticized Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) for his comments about Sen. Wendy Davis (D-TX) following her heroic filibuster of the Republicans' draconian SB5 anti-abortion bill. She warned Perry that Davis has hinted about gubernatorial ambitions, stating, "Right now there’s a lot of momentum behind the Wendy Davis Express. And it’s headed right for you." Watch:

You can also read a transcript of Harris-Perry's remarks.

Robert Reich: Economic Inequality Was Created

In the following animated video, Robert Reich states that economic inequality was created as a result of policy decisions that shifted power from the majority to the wealthiest. Reich surveys the changes in taxation, workers’ rights and corporate regulations, all of which were rigged by the powerful. Watch:

Reich invites us to learn more about economic inequality, including solutions, at

Jim DeMint: Women Want Forced Ultrasounds

Former Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) said on “Meet the Press” today that forced ultrasounds are gaining wider acceptance because they give women “the opportunity to see that there’s a real child.” Rachel Maddow countered that women aren’t getting an “opportunity”; instead, they’re mandated by the state to have an ultrasound–and figures like Wendy Davis stand for the majority of women who object to this procedure. DeMint stated that Davis is “forgetting about the thousands of women who want an informed choice" and "a free ultrasound.” Maddow informed him that it’s neither free nor a choice. Watch:

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Cenk Uygur: Bank Lobbyists Rewrite Financial Regulations

Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks commented on a New York Times article detailing how bank lobbyists did not wait for lawmakers to draft a bill to repeal broad parts of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial regulations. Instead, they rewrote it themselves. Further, Democratic and Republican  lawmakers who "supported the bills championed by Wall Street received twice as much in contributions from financial institutions compared with those who opposed them." One supporter, Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT), admitted, “It’s appalling, it’s disgusting, it’s wasteful and it opens the possibility of conflicts of interest and corruption. It’s unfortunately the world we live in.” Indeed, this story epitomizes our corrupt political system, which Uygur wants to fight through Wolf PAC. Watch:

(h/t: Best of the Left Podcast)

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Fischer: The New Yorker's Bert And Ernie Cover Promotes Child Abuse

The New Yorker's current cover, "Bert and Ernie's Moment of Joy" by Jack Hunter, shows the Sesame Street Muppets cuddling while watching news of the Supreme Court overturning DOMA. Bert and Ernie have long been rumored to be gay, though Sesame Street stated in 2011 that the two have no sexual orientation. Regardless, Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association decried the cover for depicting a "homosexual clinch on the couch" and condemned The New Yorker for "promoting child endangerment and...child abuse." Fischer based his comments on the repeatedly debunked study by Mark Regnerus, which claimed negative consequences for children of gay couples. Watch:

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Eddie Gomez Trio

The Eddie Gomez Trio–Gomez, bass; Stefan Karlsson, piano; Rodrigo Villanueva, drums–covered Miles Davis's "All Blues" in Mexico City, December 2010.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

NY Times: Victory For Marriage Equality, But The Struggle Continues

Following the Supreme Court's lamentable gutting of the Voting Rights Act on Tuesday, the Court ruled on Wednesday in favor of equal rights in two major gay marriage rulings. The Defense of Marriage Act, the very title of which is nonsensical, was struck down, and the way was cleared for same-sex marriage in California. In an editorial, the New York Times notes that the Court did not rule that marriage equality is the law of the land. There is indeed cause for celebration, but as long as there are gay couples living in states that deny them equal protection under the law, the struggle continues: many observers predicted, the Roberts court failed to deliver the larger verdict that the Constitution calls for in its equal protection clause: a broad ruling establishing a nationwide right of same-sex couples to wed. The court missed a historic chance to correct a longstanding injustice and left gay people in much of the country relegated to an inferior status that a growing majority of Americans knows is wrong.

The court may have believed that the country is not ready for such a sweeping approach. If so, it has overestimated the issue’s divisiveness and underestimated the human costs of further delay.

...Americans’ acceptance of same-sex marriage, and the legal and political support for it, have come very far, very fast in the four years since two prominent lawyers on opposite sides of the 2000 Bush v. Gore case, Theodore Olson and David Boies, filed the challenge to Proposition 8 that culminated on Wednesday.

But there are miles yet to travel on this civil rights journey. The new marriage rulings leave behind an unsupportable state-by-state patchwork that threatens valid marriages when state lines are crossed. Cases already in the pipeline could give the Supreme Court another chance to fully confront the harm to real people’s lives and establish marriage equality nationwide. Soon, we hope.

Heroic Wendy Davis Stands Up For Reproductive Rights

Under grueling conditions–no sitting, eating, drinking, using the restroom–Sen. Wendy Davis (D-TX) stood in the Texas Capitol and filibustered the Republicans' draconian SB5 anti-abortion bill. The bill did not pass; Davis was assisted by Sen. Leticia Van De Putte (D-TX) and cheering supporters. Gov. Rick Perry has called for another special session, and the bill will most likely be approved. In addition, thanks to the Supreme Court's gutting the Voting Rights Act, Texas is ready to redistrict-i.e., gerrymander–without oversight, putting Davis' Senate seat in danger. Regardless, Davis bravely stood up against one more Republican attempt to legislate away women's reproductive rights and galvanized supporters in Texas and across the nation. Watch RT America's compilation of her heroic feat:

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

John Lewis: Supreme Court "Stabbed The Voting Rights Act" In The Heart

In its latest manifestation of conservative judicial activism, the Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act. Without this provision designating sections of the country that cannot change their election laws without federal approval, the Act is effectively dead. The ruling is especially disheartening in view of Republican voter suppression efforts. In fact, Texas, one of the states monitored by Section 4, immediately announced that a previously blocked voter ID law would go into effect and that the state will no longer have to submit redistricting maps. No one could articulate the disappointment in this ill-conceived ruling better than Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), veteran civil rights leader who had his skull fractured in the 1960s struggle for voting rights. Listen to Lewis as he spoke to MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell:

LEWIS: I was disappointed because what I think what the court did today is stab the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in its very heart. It is a major setback. We may not have people being beaten today, maybe they're not being denied the right to participate, to register to vote, they're not being chased by police dogs or trampled by horses. But in the 11 states of the old Confederacy and even in some of the states outside of the South, there has been a systematic, deliberate attempt to take us back to another period. And these men that voted to strip the Voting Rights Act of its power, they never stood in unmovable lines, they never had to pass a so-called literacy test. It took us almost a hundred years to get where we are today. So, will it take another hundred years to fix it, to change it? I call upon my colleagues in the Congress to get it right, to fix it. 

Fox Host Defines Network's Strategy: "We'll Make Something Up"

Fox News host Bill Hemmer noted on Monday that the Supreme Court sent an affirmative action case back to the lower court and that the voting rights and gay marriage decisions weren't yet forthcoming. Senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano commented, "Well, they have to give us something to talk about the rest of the week." Hemmer then defined the entire Fox strategy in four words: "We'll make something up." How's that for pithiness? Watch:

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Plame, Wilson: Focus On Security And Privacy, Not Snowden

Outed former CIA agent Valerie Plame and her retired diplomat husband Joe Wilson warn in the Guardian that the NSA's "metastasized intelligence-industrial complex is ripe for abuse"–and that the focus on Edward Snowden is "a sideshow to the essential issues of national security versus constitutional guarantees of privacy, which his disclosures have surfaced in sharp relief":

Snowden will be hunted relentlessly and, when finally found, with glee, brought back to the US in handcuffs and severely punished. (If Private Bradley Manning's obscene conditions while incarcerated are any indication, it won't be pleasant for Snowden either, even while awaiting trial.) Snowden has already been the object of scorn and derision from the Washington establishment and mainstream media, but, once again, the focus is misplaced on the transiently shiny object. The relevant issue should be: what exactly is the US government doing in the people's name to "keep us safe" from terrorists?

Prism and other NSA data-mining programs might indeed be very effective in hunting and capturing actual terrorists, but we don't have enough information as a society to make that decision. Despite laudable efforts led by Senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall to bring this to the public's attention that were continually thwarted by the administration because everything about this program was deemed "too secret", Congress could not even exercise its oversight responsibilities. The intelligence community and their friends on the Hill do not have a right to interpret our rights absent such a discussion.

...We are now dealing with a vast intelligence-industrial complex that is largely unaccountable to its citizens. This alarming, unchecked growth of the intelligence sector and the increasingly heavy reliance on subcontractors to carry out core intelligence tasks – now estimated to account for approximately 60% of the intelligence budget – have intensified since the 9/11 attacks and what was, arguably, our regrettable over-reaction to them.

...On this spying business, officials from Director of National Intelligence James Clapper to self-important senators are, in effect, telling Americans not to worry: it's not that big a deal, and "trust us" because they're keeping US citizens safe. This position must be turned on its head and opened up to a genuine discussion about the necessary, dynamic tension between security and privacy. As it now stands, these programs are ripe for abuse unless we establish ground rules and barriers between authentic national security interests and potential political chicanery.

Greenwald Blasts Gregory Over "Criminalizing Journalism"

Glenn Greenwald, who wrote about Edward Snowden's revelations regarding NSA spying, objected to "Meet the Press" host David Gregory's question, "Why shouldn't you be charged with a crime?" Greenwald said that Gregory is making two false assumptions: that he "aided and abetted" Snowden and that "every investigative journalist in the United States who works with their sources, who receives classified information is a criminal." Watch:

GREGORY: To the extent that you have aided and abetted Snowden, even in his current movements, why shouldn't you, Mr. Greenwald be charged with a crime?

GREENWALD: I think it's pretty extraordinary that anybody who would call themselves a journalist would publicly muse about whether or not other journalists should be charged with felonies. The assumption in your question, David, is completely without evidence – the idea that I've aided and abetted him in any way. The scandal that arose in Washington before our stories began was about the fact that the Obama administration is trying to criminalize investigative journalism by going through the emails and phone records of AP reporters, accusing a Fox News journalist of the theory that you just embraced, being a co-conspirator in felonies for working with sources. If you want to embrace that theory, it means that every investigative journalist in the United States who works with their sources, who receives classified information is a criminal, and it's precisely those theories and precisely that climate that has become so menacing in the United States. It's why The New Yorker's Jane Mayer said investigative reporting has come to a standstill, her word, as a result of the theory that you just referenced.

GREGORY: Well the question of who's a journalist may be up to a debate with regard to what you are doing. Of course, anybody who's watching this understands I was asking a question, and that question has been raised by lawmakers as well. I'm not embracing anything, but obviously, I take your point.

Sam Seder: Privatization Brings Huge National Security Industry

Reflecting on the revelations of Edward Snowden, Sam Seder of the Majority Report considers one of the consequences of the privatization of national security. Among its other dangers, introducing the profit motive into national security involves lobbying firms working to increase the intelligence apparatus based on profit alone. Seder argues, "The supposed need for all this secrecy is created by those who are making a lot of money out of arguing the need for secrecy and building the apparatus." Those who believe in privatization under all circumstances should take heed. Under the name of "shrinking the government," we've constructed a huge national security industry. Watch:

(h/t: Best of the Left Podcast)

GOP Learns Nothing From Romney Loss

What conclusions have the Republicans drawn from Mitt Romney's loss, along with popular vote defeats in the past five out of six presidential elections? Republican lawmakers and activists contend that they need to communicate their ideas more clearly and less offensively. Beyond that, they see no need to change their actual policies, including those affecting immigrants, women and the economy:

House Republicans are rebelling against the key recommendation of a party-sanctioned post-mortem: embrace "comprehensive immigration reform" or suffer crippling losses among Hispanic voters in 2016 and beyond.

Widespread rejection of warnings from establishment Republicans goes beyond that, however. Many activists say the party simply needs to articulate its conservative principles more skillfully, without modifying any policies, even after losing the popular vote in five of the past six presidential elections.

Despite Romney's poor showing among female voters, House Republicans this past week invited renewed Democratic taunts of a "war against women" by passing the most restrictive abortion measure in years.

Despite corporate fears of the economic damage that would result from a default on U.S. obligations, GOP lawmakers are threatening to block an increase in the government's borrowing limit later this year if President Barack Obama won't accept spending cuts he staunchly opposes.

...Many Republicans say their biggest presidential problems involve tone and perceptions, not their stands on issues. If GOP Senate candidates avoid saying incendiary things, such as pregnancies don't result from "legitimate rape," the party's appealing economic message can break through and thrive, these Republicans say.

Image: Mike Peters

Saturday, June 22, 2013

"Ex-Gay" Group Leader Apologizes To LGBT Audience

Alan Chambers, president of the "ex-gay" group Exodus International, announced at the latter's 38th annual conference that the organization would disband following his and other leaders' conclusion that prayer and therapy cannot change or "cure" one's sexual orientation. Chambers and his group did tremendous harm disseminating the messages that homosexuality is a "sinful choice" and that one can "pray away the gay." The following two videos show Chambers apologizing to "ex-gay" survivors for the pain he caused, followed by their skeptical response to his plan to keep an undefined form of his organization alive. Watch:

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Van Morrison & John Lee Hooker

Van Morrison and John Lee Hooker performed "Gloria" at the Beacon Theater, NYC, 1989. Van Morrison composed the hit song in 1964 when he was with the band Them. For more John Lee Hooker collaborations that have appeared here, see his performances with The Rolling Stones and Bonnie Raitt.

Friday, June 21, 2013

CounterSpin: NYPD’s “Stop And Frisk” Is Ineffective In Recovering Guns

CounterSpin argues against conservative commentator George Will’s contention that the New York Police Department’s "stop and frisk” policy has successfully reduced gun violence. Citing an investigation by WNYC Radio, CounterSpin states that “stop and frisk,” in addition to being racist and unconstitutional, has not been effective in recovering illegal guns–and should not be adopted by other cities. Listen:

For more on stop and frisk's racial disparities and ineffectiveness, see an analysis by the New York Civil Liberties Union.

(h/t: Best of the Left Podcast)

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Fischer: Liberals Back Immigration Because Conservatives Outbreed Them

Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association uncovered the nefarious plot behind liberals' support for immigration reform: they're being out-bred by conservatives, so liberals want "amnesty" for "illegal aliens" in order to "import" future voters "to maintain numerical parity with conservatives." If, then, Republicans aren't the ones facing a demographic threat, why are they so dedicated to voter suppression? Regardless, watch Fischer tell us the consequences of conservatives having more sex than liberals:

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Gov. Bobby Jindal Tells Us What The Left Wants

Despite the fact that Mitt Romney lost the election, young voters are alienated from the Republicans, the party faces a demographic threat and the GOP won the House through gerrymandering, Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) writes that it's the left that is threatened, since "the American public is going to revolt against the nanny state and the leftward march of this president." Jindal tells us that this revolt is coming because the liberal vision for America is so unacceptable. If you lean left politically, see if you identify with what, according to Jindal, "the left wants":

...the left wants: The government to explode; to pay everyone; to hire everyone; they believe that money grows on trees; the earth is flat; the industrial age, factory-style government is a cool new thing; debts don’t have to be repaid; people of faith are ignorant and uneducated; unborn babies don’t matter; pornography is fine; traditional marriage is discriminatory; 32 oz. sodas are evil; red meat should be rationed; rich people are evil unless they are from Hollywood or are liberal Democrats; the Israelis are unreasonable; trans-fat must be stopped; kids trapped in failing schools should be patient; wild weather is a new thing; moral standards are passé; government run health care is high quality; the IRS should violate our constitutional rights; reporters should be spied on; Benghazi was handled well; the Second Amendment is outdated; and the First one has some problems too.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Federal Data: Blacks Targeted For Marijuana Arrests

According to federal data, blacks were almost four times more likely than whites in 2010 to be arrested for possessing marijuana, regardless of the fact that blacks and whites use the drug at similar rates. Despite a recent Pew Research Poll showing majority support for legalization, the U.S. continues to spend billions ($3.6 billion in 2010) enforcing marijuana laws and, in so doing, practicing racial bias:

...Drawn from police records from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, the report is the most comprehensive review of marijuana arrests by race and by county and is part of a report being released this week by the American Civil Liberties Union. Much of the data was also independently reviewed for The New York Times by researchers at Stanford University.

“We found that in virtually every county in the country, police have wasted taxpayer money enforcing marijuana laws in a racially biased manner,” said Ezekiel Edwards, the director of the A.C.L.U.’s Criminal Law Reform Project and the lead author of the report.

...Researchers said the growing racial disparities in marijuana arrests were especially striking because they were so consistent even across counties with large or small minority populations.

The A.C.L.U. report said that one possible reason that the racial disparity in arrests remained despite shifting state policies toward the drug is that police practices are slow to change. Federal programs like the Edward Byrne Justice Assistance Grant Program continue to provide incentives for racial profiling, the report said, by including arrest numbers in its performance measures when distributing hundreds of millions of dollars to local law enforcement each year.

Phillip Atiba Goff, a psychology professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, said that police departments, partly driven by a desire to increase their drug arrest statistics, can concentrate on minority or poorer neighborhoods to meet numerical goals, focusing on low-level offenses that are easier, quicker and cheaper than investigating serious felony crimes.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Lee Fang: Republicans Are Hypocrites On Obamacare

Lee Fang (left) writes in The Nation about the many Republicans who tried to repeal Obamacare 37 times and who regularly condemn it as a "monstrosity" and "socialistic," while hypocritically soliciting grant money from the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for their own districts. Fang examined letters produced by the Freedom of Information Act in which Republicans requested funds from a program they professed to despise:

As I reported here last September, Congressman Paul Ryan, who as Mitt Romney’s running mate in 2012 called for its repeal, sent a letter requesting ACA money for health clinics in his district two years earlier. The Nation has obtained documents revealing that at least twenty other Obamacare-bashing GOP lawmakers have similarly pleaded for ACA funds on behalf of constituents. Among them are Kristi Noem, a Republican lawmaker from South Dakota likely to run for the Senate next year, as well as Ohio Senator Rob Portman, who has been touted as a potential GOP presidential candidate in 2016.

In one of two letters sent by Portman to the Department of Health and Human Services, the senator requested ACA funds to help a federal health center in Cleveland, where the money could help “an additional 8,966 uninsured individuals” to receive
”essential services,” in his words. In Noem’s case, the congresswoman requested ACA funds to construct a community health center in Rapid City to provide primary services to the uninsured. Both Noem and Portman won office in 2010 campaigning vigorously against the law and have since worked to repeal it.

...The letter writers include GOP rank-and-file Congress members, leaders and committee chairs, all of whom have supported the repeal effort. David Valadao, for example, a freshman representative who campaigned last year on his opposition to Obamacare, requested funds in a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius two years ago for a program to improve “the general health” of the Fresno County area, which he then served as a California assemblyman. Congressman Jeff Denham, a two-term GOP lawmaker who won his seat with support from Tea Party activists, penned a letter recommending the same application for Fresno County. The county Department of Public Health won the grant. Valadao’s and Denham’s offices declined to comment.

E.J. Dionne: Libertarians Believe In A Dream That Will Never Be Tested

E.J. Dionne (left) reflects upon the question posed by Michael Lind in Salon: "If libertarians are correct in claiming that they understand how best to organize a modern society, how is it that not a single country in the world in the early twenty-first century is organized along libertarian lines?" Dionne argues that faith in libertarianism is based on the fact that it is a utopian theory that will never be tested. He provides several cogent reasons why in "Libertarianism's Achille's Heel":

Libertarians can keep holding up their dream of perfection because, as a practical matter, it will never be tried in full. Even many who say they are libertarians reject the idea when it gets too close to home.

The strongest political support for a broad anti-statist libertarianism now comes from the tea party. Yet tea party members, as the polls show, are older than the country as a whole. They say they want to shrink government in a big way but are uneasy about embracing this concept when reducing Social Security and Medicare comes up. Thus do the proposals to cut these programs being pushed by Republicans in Congress exempt the current generation of recipients. There’s no way Republicans are going to attack their own base.

But this inconsistency (or hypocrisy) contains a truth: We had something close to a small-government libertarian utopia in the late 19th century and we decided it didn’t work. We realized that many Americans would never be able to save enough for retirement and, later, that most of them would be unable to afford health insurance when they were old. Smaller government meant that too many people were poor and that monopolies were formed too easily.

And when the Great Depression engulfed us, government was helpless, largely handcuffed by this anti-government ideology until Franklin D. Roosevelt came along.

In fact, as Lind points out, most countries that we typically see as “free” and prosperous have governments that consume around 40 percent of their gross domestic product. They are better off for it. “Libertarians,” he writes, “seem to have persuaded themselves that there is no significant trade-off between less government and more national insecurity, more crime, more illiteracy and more infant and maternal mortality . . . .”

This matters to our current politics because too many politicians are making decisions on the basis of a grand, utopian theory that they never can — or will — put into practice. They then use this theory to avoid a candid conversation about the messy choices governance requires. And this is why we have gridlock.

"What Maisie Knew"

"What Maisie Knew," directed by Scott McGehee and David Siegel, is a contemporary adaptation of the 1897 Henry James novel. Instead of the British Gilded Age, the film is set mostly in the Soho section of Manhattan, where the marriage between Susanna (Julianne Moore), a foul-mouthed, aging rock singer, and Beale (Steve Coogan), an international art dealer who neglects his family, has fallen apart. While both profess their love for their 6-year-old daughter Maisie (Onata Aprile, in an outstanding performance), neither is mature enough for parenthood, and Maisie is kept awake by their nightly, bitter arguments. The father takes up with the family's nanny Margo (Joanna Vanderham) and the mother with a bartender (Alexander Skarsgård), both of whom eventually become surrogate parents for the child, and give her a measure of stability. Exactly what will be Maisie's familial situation in the future, however, is up to question. The adorable Maisie observes the turmoil with wide-eyes. Yet she seems well-adjusted in school, never throws a tantrum and never acts out, despite the fact that she has been brought up in a completely unstable home. One feels for Maisie, yet she has a sprightliness and aplomb that are unrealistic given her situation. The viewer is left wondering exactly what Maisie knew.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Faith and Freedom Coalition Conference: Most Bizarre Statements

Elizabeth Flock of US News compiled the most bizarre statements from speakers on Friday at the Faith and Freedom Coalition's annual conference, including Gov. Jeb Bush's (R-FL, shown left) comment, "Immigrants are more fertile." The speakers tried to motivate social conservatives to become active in upcoming elections at the Washington, DC, conference, entitled, "Road To Majority." Judge for yourself whether the following statements will appeal to the majority in a changing America:

• "We gotta put some salsa sauce on the Republican party." – Sam Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, calling for more Latino outreach by the Republican party. He also encouraged delegates to "just reach out and grab that brown hand."
• "Immigrants are more fertile." – former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, making the case for immigration reform
• "College campuses are indoctrination camps for the abortion industry." – Kate Obenshein, vice president of Young America's Foundation, in a panel on advancing the pro-life movement. She also called Planned Parenthood "barbarians."
• "We are at a tipping point the likes of which we have never seen in civilization." – Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., on government spending.
• "[Allen West] is a real American ... We should really take something from his gene pool and put it everywhere across this great country." – actor and conservative speaker John Ratzenberger, best known as "Cliff" from the TV show "Cheers," introducing West to the convention crowd.
• "We lost because Obama won crushing, lopsided majorities among Americans who are single, poor, irreligious ... There are people who are all three." – Michael Medved, conservative radio talk show host, on why Republicans lost the 2012 presidential election.

Sam Seder: Libertarians Live In A Fantasy World

Sam Seder of The Majority Report exposes the contradictions of libertarianism by asking a caller several simple questions about diarrhea, driving, building codes and fire departments. Watch:

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Gateway Trio

The Gateway Trio–John Abercrombie, guitar; Dave Holland, bass; Jack DeJohnette, drums–performed "Homecoming" at the Lugano Jazz Festival, Switzerland, 1994.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Matt Rothschild: Mass Spying Results From Patriot Act

Matt Rothschild, editor of The Progressive, comments on revelations that, under the Obama administration, not only is the NSA collecting the phone records of millions of Verizon customers, but it is also accessing user data from Google, Apple, Facebook and other Internet giants through the Prism program. He laments the loss of Fourth Amendment rights and finds that such sweeping domestic surveillance is the direct result of the Patriot Act, as predicted by the sole senator who voted against it, former Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI). Listen:

(h/t: Best of the Left Podcast)

Wisconsin Republicans Silence Democrats, Pass Ultrasound Bill

Republican state senators in Wisconsin showed how devoted they are to "small government" by passing a bill forcing women to undergo an ultrasound before being permitted to have an abortion. Gov. Scott Walker (R), who said he would sign the bill, commented, "I don't have any problem with ultrasound. I think most people think ultrasounds are just fine.” While Republicans passed the bill, Senate President Mike Ellis (R) cut off debate by repeatedly banging on his gavel and screaming at Democrats who objected, "The question before the house is not debatable! You're out of order! Sit down! You're not recognized!” Watch:

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Felon Writes Letter Thanking NRA For Enabling Him To Get Guns

The Hartford Courant published the following letter from a felon who thanked the National Rifle Association for its opposition to universal background checks:

As a lifelong career criminal, although I no longer enjoy the right to keep and bear arms, I'd like to take a moment to express my appreciation to the National Rifle Association for nonetheless protecting my ability to easily obtain them through its opposition to universal background checks.

Upon release in a few years from my current federal sentence on bank robbery and weapons charges, I fully anticipate being able to stop at a gun show on my way home to Connecticut -- where new laws have made it nearly impossible for a felon to readily purchase guns or ammunition -- in order to buy some with which to resume my criminal activities.

And so, a heartfelt thank you to the NRA and all those members of Congress voting with them. I, along with tens of thousands of other criminals, couldn't do what we do without you.

Gary W. Bornman,
The writer is an inmate at the federal "Supermax" prison in Florence, Colo.

Ingraham: Emergency Contraception Is A "Good Deal" For Pedophiles, Rapists

 Laura Ingraham argued on Fox and Friends that the Obama administration's dropping prior objections and complying with a court order to allow over-the-counter emergency contraception without age restrictions is "a good deal for pedophiles" and statutory rapists, and a symptom of "this brave new world of women’s equality and—quote—reproductive health." Watch:

INGRAHAM: It’s a good deal for pedophiles, a good deal for people who commit statutory rape against young girls. If mothers and fathers across this country hear this and they think, ‘Well, I guess my daughter or her boyfriend or her rapist can go out to a pharmacy and get a bunch of, you know, hormone pills to give a little girl.’ We don’t really know the long-term effect of a spiking or dropping a little girl’s — in many cases a young woman’s or a little girl’s hormonal levels. It’s outrageous! These girls can’t get their ears pierced, they can’t take an Advil at school without parental permission. Yet, they can go into a pharmacy in this brave new world of women’s equality and — quote — reproductive health and get a morning after pill. I think it empowers men who want to abuse women.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Video: One Week Of GOP Insults To Women

Wondering if the Republicans have changed their attitudes toward women or at least learned to curb their offensive comments since the electoral losses of the Republican Rape Caucus? EMILY's List has put together a video showing derogatory comments the Republicans have made regarding women in the workforce and sexual assault in the military over just the past seven days. Listen to what Republicans actually believe about women:

Paul Krugman: Republicans Reject Medicaid Expansion Out Of Spite

Why are a number of Republican-led states opting out of a federally financed expansion of Medicaid? It's a given that the GOP doesn't care about the poor; this action, however, hurts state budgets and will hurt the party politically. Paul Krugman explains that the Republicans are acting out of sheer spite against the most vulnerable:

A new study from the RAND Corporation, a nonpartisan research institution, examines the consequences if 14 states whose governors have declared their opposition to Medicaid expansion do, in fact, reject the expansion. The result, the study concluded, would be a huge financial hit: the rejectionist states would lose more than $8 billion a year in federal aid, and would also find themselves on the hook for roughly $1 billion more to cover the losses hospitals incur when treating the uninsured.

Meanwhile, Medicaid rejectionism will deny health coverage to roughly 3.6 million Americans, with essentially all of the victims living near or below the poverty line. And since past experience shows that Medicaid expansion is associated with significant declines in mortality, this would mean a lot of avoidable deaths: about 19,000 a year, the study estimated.

Just think about this for a minute. It’s one thing when politicians refuse to spend money helping the poor and vulnerable; that’s just business as usual. But here we have a case in which politicians are, in effect, spending large sums, in the form of rejected aid, not to help the poor but to hurt them.

...rejectionism won’t discredit health reform. What it might do, however, is drive home to lower-income voters — many of them nonwhite — just how little the G.O.P. cares about their well-being, and reinforce the already strong Democratic advantage among Latinos, in particular.

Rationally, in other words, Republicans should accept defeat on health care, at least for now, and move on. Instead, however, their spitefulness appears to override all other considerations. And millions of Americans will pay the price.

"Punk: Chaos To Couture" At Metropolitan Museum of Art

"Punk: Chaos To Couture" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art traces the punk aesthetic and its influence on high fashion. The exhibition is replete with multimedia representations from punk's two former centers, New York and London. There are videos of punk performances; a recreation of the London shop "Seditionaries," owned by designers Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren, and a recreation of the New York punk club CBGB's notoriously grungy and graffiti-laden bathroom. The fashion items most representative of punk culture are Westwood and McLaren's T-shirts, with political and sexual statements and images designed to shock. Following this look at the early days, the show surveys punk's influence on current couture–and here its message becomes muddled. Viewers examine dresses festooned with safety pins, rips, spikes, studs, chains, splatters of paint and, at times, political statements. These designs are created by the most prominent names in fashion. It's clear that, despite the museum's signage stating that the designers are revolutionaries, they've actually co-opted punk's rebelliousness and created expensive costumes enabling the wealthy to pose as renegades.

The following video takes a tour through the exhibit with comments from curator Andrew Bolton:

"Punk: Chaos To Couture" continues through April 14 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Ave. at 82nd St., NYC; (212) 535-7710,

Matt Rothschild: End The Failed And Racist War On Pot

Matt Rothschild, editor of The Progressive, cites the ACLU’s new report, “The War on Marijuana in Black and White,” which found that between 2001-2010, “blacks were almost four times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession, even though blacks and whites use marijuana at comparable rates.” What should we do about prosecutions that are both racially biased and a waste of resources? Rothschild agrees with the ACLU's call to end the failed war on marijuana and legalize possession. Listen:

See also my post, "NYCLU: Racial Bias, Soaring Marijuana Arrests In NYPD's Stop-And-Frisks."

Cenk Uygur: The Monsanto Protection Act's Bought Republican

Cenk Uygur of the Young Turks reviews the Monsanto Protection Act, which prevents federal judges from halting the sale of genetically modified crops even if deemed harmful. This outrageous bill was pushed, according to Mother Jones, by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), who has been paid off handsomely by GMO seed giant Monsanto and agribusiness PACS. Uygur cites other Republicans and Democrats who have shilled for Monsanto and provides an overview of our corrupt political system: "This is how you get the Monsanto Protection Act. You just go to Congress and you say, 'Who would like a legalized bribe?' And here's what you get: a lot of takers. Roy Blunt is at the head of that pack. That's how our government is bought every single day." Watch:

(h/t: Best of the Left Podcast)

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: The Mavericks

The Mavericks performed "Come Unto Me" at WFUV Studio, Fordham University, Bronx, NY.

Friday, June 7, 2013

NY Times: Obama Administration Has Lost All Credibility On Surveillance

Following revelations that the phone records of millions of Americans are being indiscriminately collected, the New York Times issued an editorial, "President Obama's Dragnet," criticizing the President for "overreaching in the use of his powers" and betraying his promises of "transparency and accountability." The editorial states that this abuse of power, based on the Patriot Act, vindicates those who argued against it:

Within hours of the disclosure that federal authorities routinely collect data on phone calls Americans make, regardless of whether they have any bearing on a counterterrorism investigation, the Obama administration issued the same platitude it has offered every time President Obama has been caught overreaching in the use of his powers: Terrorists are a real menace and you should just trust us to deal with them because we have internal mechanisms (that we are not going to tell you about) to make sure we do not violate your rights.

Those reassurances have never been persuasive — whether on secret warrants to scoop up a news agency’s phone records or secret orders to kill an American suspected of terrorism — especially coming from a president who once promised transparency and accountability.

The administration has now lost all credibility on this issue. Mr. Obama is proving the truism that the executive branch will use any power it is given and very likely abuse it. That is one reason we have long argued that the Patriot Act, enacted in the heat of fear after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks by members of Congress who mostly had not even read it, was reckless in its assignment of unnecessary and overbroad surveillance powers.

...Essentially, the administration is saying that without any individual suspicion of wrongdoing, the government is allowed to know whom Americans are calling every time they make a phone call, for how long they talk and from where.

...We are not questioning the legality under the Patriot Act of the court order disclosed by The Guardian. But we strongly object to using that power in this manner. It is the very sort of thing against which Mr. Obama once railed, when he said in 2007 that the surveillance policy of the George W. Bush administration “puts forward a false choice between the liberties we cherish and the security we provide.”

Thursday, June 6, 2013

NSA Receiving Millions Of Verizon Customers' Phone Records

Glenn Greenwald reveals in the Guardian that the Obama administration is continuing the Bush administration's secret collecting of phone records of millions of Americans. The Guardian received a copy of a top secret court order directing Verizon to present the National Security Agency with all the records of its customers for three months:

The document shows for the first time that under the Obama administration the communication records of millions of US citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk – regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing.

The secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (Fisa) granted the order to the FBI on April 25, giving the government unlimited authority to obtain the data for a specified three-month period ending on July 19.

Under the terms of the blanket order, the numbers of both parties on a call are handed over, as is location data, call duration, unique identifiers, and the time and duration of all calls. The contents of the conversation itself are not covered.

...Under the Bush administration, officials in security agencies had disclosed to reporters the large-scale collection of call records data by the NSA, but this is the first time significant and top-secret documents have revealed the continuation of the practice on a massive scale under President Obama.

...While the order itself does not include either the contents of messages or the personal information of the subscriber of any particular cell number, its collection would allow the NSA to build easily a comprehensive picture of who any individual contacted, how and when, and possibly from where, retrospectively.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

GOP Report: Party Damaged Among Young Voters

The College Republican National Committee has released a scathing report on the difficulties the GOP faced with young voters in the 2012 presidential election–and continues to face with this key demographic regarding both issues and image:

Titled the “Grand Old Party for a Brand New Generation,” the report is sharply critical of the GOP on several fronts. The study slams some Republicans’ almost singular focus on downsizing Big Government and cutting taxes; candidates’ use of offensive, polarizing rhetoric; and the party’s belly-flop efforts at messaging and outreach, even as the report presents a way forward and, at times, strikes an optimistic tone.

In the report, the young Republican activists acknowledge their party has suffered significant damage in recent years. A sampling of the critique on:

Gay marriage: “On the ‘open-minded’ issue … [w]e will face serious difficulty so long as the issue of gay marriage remains on the table.”

Hispanics: “Latino voters … tend to think the GOP couldn’t care less about them.”

Perception of the party’s economic stance: “We’ve become the party that will pat you on your back when you make it, but won’t offer you a hand to help you get there.”

Big reason for the image problem: The “outrageous statements made by errant Republican voices.”

Words that up-for-grabs voters associate with the GOP: “The responses were brutal: closed-minded, racist, rigid, old-fashioned.”

“[The] Republican Party has won the youth vote before and can absolutely win it again,” the report says, pointing to presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush who were competitive with that demographic. “But this will not occur without significant work to repair the damage done to the Republican brand among this age group over the last decade.”

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Jim Hightower: In Battling Corporate Greed, Tenacity Matters

Jim Hightower recalls major food corporations' pumping millions into the eventual defeat of California's Proposition 37, which would have required the labeling of foods containing genetically manipulated DNA. Despite the defeat, the anti-GMO, pro-labeling coalition persisted to the point that some of the same corporations, their greed exposed, are now talking about supporting a national labeling law. Listen:

(h/t: Best of the Left Podcast)

Sunday, June 2, 2013

NYCLU: Racial Bias, Soaring Marijuana Arrests In NYPD's Stop-And-Frisks

The New York Civil Liberties Union recently released an analysis of the NYPD's 2012 stop-and-frisk program that revealed its bias against young blacks and Latinos; the innocence of the vast majority of those stopped; its ineffectiveness in discovering illegal guns, and its contribution to NYC's soaring marijuana arrest rate:

“Despite the welcome decline in the overall number of stops, the NYPD last year still subjected hundreds of thousands of innocent people to humiliating, intimidating and unjustified stop-and-frisk encounters,” NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said. “With a 90-percent failure rate, the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk program remains a tremendous waste of resources, sows mistrust between police and the communities of color and routinely violates fundamental rights. The city’s next mayor must make a clean break from the Bloomberg administration’s ineffective and abusive stop-and-frisk regime.”

Last year, the NYPD stopped and interrogated people 532,911 times, a 448-percent increase in street stops since 2002 – when police recorded 97,296 stops during Mayor Bloomberg’s first year in office. Nine out of 10 of people stopped were innocent, meaning they were neither arrested nor ticketed. About 87 percent were black or Latino. White people accounted for only about 10 percent of stops.

...More than 26,000 people were stopped for alleged marijuana possession. More people were arrested for marijuana-possession offenses than for any other type of offense. Despite the NYPD’s repeated claim that its stop-and-frisk program is valuable because it targets guns, the facts show it is much more a marijuana arrest program. In 2012 the NYPD recovered 729 guns through the stop-and-frisk; by contrast, more than 5,000 people were arrested last year under the program for marijuana-possession offenses.

Photo: Copyright: Jeremy Sparig

Van Jones Warns Against "The Obama Tar Sands Pipeline"

In the following video, former Obama administration green jobs advisor Van Jones dismantles the myths surrounding the Keystone XL pipeline and, in reference to President Obama's possible approval of the project, states, “If he honestly believes that this pipeline, which will be a huge part of his legacy, is a good thing, he should call it the Obama Tar Sands Pipeline. But, if he has any pause in doing that, he shouldn't do it." Watch:

Also see Van Jones' written introduction to the video on the Daily Kos.

Cathie Adams: Grover Norquist's Beard Proves He's Converting To Islam

In 2011, Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy accused anti-tax activist Grover Norquist of helping the Muslim Brotherhood infiltrate the conservative movement. Now Cathie Adams (right), president of the Texas Eagle Forum and former chairman of the Republican Party of Texas, warned that despite the fact that "oftentimes we like what he says on economic issues," Norquist is “Trouble with a capital T” and is “showing signs of converting to Islam himself.” During a PowerPoint presentation posted by the Far North Dallas Tea Party on "Radical Islam and the Muslim Brotherhood," Adams referred to Norquist's marriage to a Muslim woman and offered her "evidence" for his secret conversion: "As you see, he has a beard." Listen:

GOP Rep: Student Loans Should Rise Since "Personal Responsibility Is Cool"

Speaking to "Daily Rundown" host Luke Russert, Rep. Luke Messer (R-IN) said that young people should support the Republicans' proposal to let student loan rates rise up to 8.5 percent in contrast to President Obama's wanting them to stay between 3 and 4 percent. Messer stated, “Republicans need to do a better job of explaining how our ideas apply to young people. Sometimes it sounds like he is selling ice cream and we’re selling spinach. I think personal responsibility is pretty cool. There is nothing out of date about freedom, and we need to have the policies that get this budget back in line, stop the explosive growth of spending. Spending that will be paid for by this generation. We’ve got to do a better job of explaining that.” Watch and judge whether Messer does "a better job of explaining" why the GOP's 8.5 percent proposal should appeal to students:

Bill Moyers: Justice For All Is A Lie

Bill Moyers calls justice for all a lie, stating, "Of the $100 billion spent annually on criminal justice in this country, only two to three percent goes to defend the poor. Of 97 countries, we rank 68th in access to and affordability of civil legal service." Moyers contrasts these figures with the $2.2 trillion for a war in Iraq based on fraud, the State Department's $3 billion over five years to protect the “gargantuan” new embassy in Baghdad and the billions raked in by corporations that pay no taxes. Despite all these excesses, “We can’t afford to defend the poor.” Listen:

(h/t: Best of the Left Podcast)

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Remembering Bob Brozman

I was sorry to learn about the recent death of Bob Brozman, guitarist, ethnomusicologist, songwriter and teacher. This "roving guitar anthropologist" started with the delta blues and mastered string instruments and musical traditions from around the world. Above, Brozman did a spirited cover of Robert Johnson's "Crossroads" in Brisbane, Australia, 2003.