Monday, July 29, 2013

"The Three Hateful Amigos: The GOP's Idea Of Latino Outreach"

Cuéntame created the following satire about three Republicans who made obnoxious, ignorant comments about immigrants, including Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX),  Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) and Rep. Steve King (R-IA). Watch this "preview" of "The Three Hateful Amigos: The GOP's Idea of Latino Outreach":

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Paul Krugman: GOP Panics At Prospect Of Obamacare Success

Paul Krugman cites reports that, contrary to GOP fear mongering, insurance premiums in California and New York are lowering as Obamacare takes effect (the same is true in other states). According to recent reports, however, some Republicans are threatening to hold government financing hostage unless the new health care law is stripped of funding. The prospect of the success of Obamacare, Krugman contends, induces panic in Republicans, since it will repudiate the party's philosophy. Due to that, the GOP may place in jeopardy the country's economic stability and the health of its citizens:

...even as Republican politicians seem ready to go on the offensive, there’s a palpable sense of anxiety, even despair, among conservative pundits and analysts. Better-informed people on the right seem, finally, to be facing up to a horrible truth: Health care reform, President Obama’s signature policy achievement, is probably going to work.

And the good news about Obamacare is, I’d argue, what’s driving the Republican Party’s intensified extremism. Successful health reform wouldn’t just be a victory for a president conservatives loathe, it would be an object demonstration of the falseness of right-wing ideology. So Republicans are being driven into a last, desperate effort to head this thing off at the pass. reform will help millions of Americans who were previously either too sick or too poor to get the coverage they needed, and also offer a great deal of reassurance to millions more who currently have insurance but fear losing it; it will provide these benefits at the expense of a much smaller number of other Americans, mostly the very well off. It is, if you like, a plan to comfort the afflicted while (slightly) afflicting the comfortable.

And the prospect that such a plan might succeed is anathema to a party whose whole philosophy is built around doing just the opposite, of taking from the “takers” and giving to the “job creators,” known to the rest of us as the “rich.” Hence the brinkmanship.

So will Republicans actually take us to the brink? If they do, it will be crucial to understand why they would do such a thing, when their own leaders have admitted that confrontations over the budget inflict substantial harm on the economy. It won’t be because they fear the budget deficit, which is coming down fast. Nor will it be because they sincerely believe that spending cuts produce prosperity.

No, Republicans may be willing to risk economic and financial crisis solely in order to deny essential health care and financial security to millions of their fellow Americans. Let’s hear it for their noble cause!

Fox Host Incredulous That Muslim Scholar Wrote About Jesus

In an interview, Fox News host Lauren Green was incredulous that religious scholar Reza Aslan, a Muslim, would write a book about Christianity, "Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth." Aslan tried to explain that the topic interests him as a scholar and that it's also his job as an academic to write about religion. Green then read from a column, "Liberal Media Love New Jesus Book 'Zealot,' Fail to Mention Author is Muslim," by John S. Dickerson, who wrote that Aslan is “an educated Muslim” with an “opinion” about Jesus. Again, Aslan explained as patiently as possible that he is an historian with a doctorate who didn't write an "opinion," but an "academic work of history." Aslan's corrections eluded the Fox host, who returned to his religion repeatedly. Watch:

GREEN: This is an interesting book. Now I want to clarify, you’re a Muslim, so why did you write a book about the founder of Christianity?

ASLAN: Well to be clear, I am a scholar of religions with four degrees — including one in the New Testament, and fluency in biblical Greek, who has been studying the origins of Christianity for two decades — who also just happens to be a Muslim. So it’s not that I’m just some Muslim writing about Jesus, I am an expert with a Ph.D in the history of religions…

GREEN: But it still begs the question why would you be interested in the founder of Christianity?

ASLAN: Because it’s my job as an academic. I am a professor of religion, including the New Testament. That’s what I do for a living, actually.

Stop Hillary PAC Suggests Clinton Victory Would Induce Suicidal Thoughts

The Stop Hillary PAC's Facebook page posted an image (above) suggesting that a Clinton presidency would induce suicidal thoughts. Apparently the group feels that their mental health hinges on defeating Clinton:

The Stop Hillary PAC, which just unveiled its leadership team earlier this week, posted the image on July 18. The top half of the image includes a photo of the former New York senator and first lady next to the caption "Hillary Clinton 2016," while the bottom half shows Stewie Griffin — the precocious baby in the hit animated comedy "Family Guy" — holding a gun in his mouth.

Garrett Marquis, a spokesperson for the Stop Hillary PAC, told [Talking Points Memo] by phone that the group hasn't received any pushback over the image.

“We’ve gotten some funny exchanges," Marquis said. "The reality is it’s a cartoon. It’s not a cartoon that we created.”

He added: “The underlying message is that if it’s another two, four, eight years of Hillary Clinton, we need to do something about that now. The serious issue is Hillary Clinton, and the machine that backs Bill and Hillary Clinton.”

Charles Koch: If You Earn Over $34,000, You're The One Percent

Charles Koch (right) and his brother, David Koch, are billionaire right-wing activists first brought to widespread attention in Jane Mayer's New Yorker article, "Covert Operations" (Aug. 3, 2010), must reading for readers of this blog. The Charles Koch Foundation produced the video below, "Economic Freedom in 60 Seconds," whose message is, "If you earn over $34,000, you are one of the wealthiest one percent in the world"–compared, that is, to the poorest ten percent. In an interview on the Thom Hartmann show, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) explains, “Charles Koch was comparing American workers: ‘We’re not doing so bad. Compared to Sub-Saharan Africa, you’re doing really well. Compared to desperate Third World countries. What are you complaining about in America?’ And that is now the line of the Republicans: that we are being now compared not to Finland, not to Denmark, not to First World countries, but to people in the Third or Fourth World. So there is a war against working families.” Watch as Charles Koch tells you how wealthy you are–and why you should stop griping about income inequality:

Justice Ginsburg: Voter ID Laws Were Predictable After Gutting Of VRA

Following the Supreme Court's unfortunate gutting of the Voting Rights Act, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who dissented from the 5-4 decision, said that "one really could have predicted" that Southern states would try to pass tougher voting requirements, including voter ID laws:

Ginsburg said in an interview with The Associated Press that Texas’ decision to implement its voter ID law hours after the court struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act last month was powerful evidence of an ongoing need to keep states with a history of voting discrimination from making changes in the way they hold elections without getting advance approval from Washington.

The Justice Department said Thursday it would try to bring Texas and other places back under the advance approval requirement through a part of the law that was not challenged.

“The notion that because the Voting Rights Act had been so tremendously effective we had to stop it didn’t make any sense to me,” Ginsburg said in a wide-ranging interview late Wednesday in her office at the court. “And one really could have predicted what was going to happen.”

...She spoke a day before Attorney General Eric Holder said the Obama administration will open a new front in the battle for voter protections in response to the court’s decision.

Holder said the first move would be to ask a federal court in San Antonio to require Texas to obtain advance approval before putting in place future political redistricting or other voting changes.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Pepper-Spraying Cop Seeks Worker's Comp For "Psychiatric Injury"

John Pike, former police officer shown above nonchalantly pepper spraying UC Davis students sitting peacefully at an Occupy protest, is appealing for worker's compensation due to "psychiatric injury" resulting from the November 2011 event:

John Pike has a settlement conference set for Aug. 13 in Sacramento, according to the state Department of Industrial Relations’ website.

Pike was fired in July 2012, eight months after a task force investigation found that his action was unwarranted.

Online videos of him and another officer casually dousing demonstrators with pepper spray went viral, sparking outrage at UC Davis leaders. The images became a rallying symbol for the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Hackers posted Pike’s information online. He received scores of threats that led an Alameda County Court judge to rule against releasing the names of other officers at the scene.

This week, a state appeals court ruled news organizations are entitled to know the names of a dozen University of California police officers who were interviewed about the use of pepper spray on demonstrators at UC Davis.

Roberts Packs FISA Court With Pro-Surveillance Conservatives

The 11-member Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) Court has been passing classified surveillance laws based solely on Justice Department arguments, without appeal. Chief Justice John G. Roberts has assigned all of the FISA judges; of his choices, 10 out of 11 were appointed by Republican presidents. Critics contend that Republicans, as well as former federal employees, are likely to be sympathetic to increased government domestic surveillance:

Ten of the court’s 11 judges — all assigned by Chief Justice Roberts — were appointed to the bench by Republican presidents; six once worked for the federal government. Since the chief justice began making assignments in 2005, 86 percent of his choices have been Republican appointees, and 50 percent have been former executive branch officials.

...While the positions taken by individual judges on the court are classified, academic studies have shown that judges appointed by Republicans since Reagan have been more likely than their colleagues to rule in favor of the government in non-FISA cases over people claiming civil liberties violations. Even more important, according to some critics of the court, is the court’s increasing proportion of judges who have a background in the executive branch.

Senator [Richard] Blumenthal [D-CT], citing his own experience as a United States attorney and a state prosecutor, said judges who used to be executive branch lawyers were more likely to share a “get the bad guys” mind-set and defer to the Justice Department if executive branch officials told them that new surveillance powers were justified.

...Representative Steve Cohen, Democrat of Tennessee, who has filed a bill that would let Congressional leaders pick eight of the court’s members, said it was time for the court to have a more diverse membership.

“They all seem to have some type of a pretty conservative bent,” he said. “I don’t think that is what the Congress envisioned when giving the chief justice that authority. Maybe they didn’t think about the ramifications of giving that much power to one person.”

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Remembering JJ Cale

JJ Cale, guitarist, songwriter and prime exemplar of the "Tulsa sound," a mix of blues, country, rockabilly and jazz, passed away on Friday. His songs were covered by many artists, including Eric Clapton, who had hits with "Cocaine" and "After Midnight." Above, Cale and Clapton perform "After Midnight" and "Call Me The Breeze," another Cale composition, at the Crossroads Guitar Festival, Dallas, 2004, to benefit Clapton's drug treatment center in Antigua. Clapton called Cale "one of the masters of the last three decades of music"; as a measure of his respect, Clapton declines Cale's signal (00:36) that he should join him in front of the stage.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

RNC Chair Priebus: GOP Not Embracing "Tolerance"

Interviewing Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus, David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network expressed fears that the GOP might become more "tolerant" as part of its image adjustment following the 2012 election loss. "Evangelicals start to grab the Excedrin bottles," said Brody, "when they hear ‘tolerance’ because they think, ‘Oh no, the GOP is changing and the whole gay marriage situation.'" Priebus reassured Brody, "I don’t know if I’ve used the word ‘tolerance,’ I don’t really care for that word myself. ...I just think it has another meaning politically..." So what does the GOP stand for? According to Priebus, "...our party believes that marriage is between one man and one woman. ...our principles have to be draped in the concepts of grace, love and respect, and that’s not code language, that’s the New Testament." To sum up, the Republicans believe in grace, love, respect–and no tolerance for gays. Watch:

Transcript via Right Wing Watch.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

House GOP Pushing Huge Cuts To EPA, Wildlife, Arts

House Republicans recently passed a farm bill that includes subsidies for agribusinesses and the wealthy and does not include food stamps. The House GOP has also unveiled a draft bill calling for massive cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency, wildlife and the arts. The party is motivated in part by the goal of stopping the implementation of agreed-upon cuts to the military budget:

The proposal reflects the GOP’s opening salvo in what is shaping up to be an ugly battle to keep the government open when funding expires on September 30. Republicans are demanding a swath of new cuts to domestic programs, in part to protect the military budget from long-term spending reductions that the two sides agreed to in 2011.

Under the GOP’s draft spending bill, the EPA in particular takes a huge blow: its budget is cut by a whopping 34 percent, or $2.8 billion, bringing the new level to $5.5 billion. Other programs that take a hit include the National Park Service (9 percent cut), the Fish and Wildlife Service (27 percent cut) and the U.S. Geological Survey (9 percent cut).

...The Smithsonian Institution and National Gallery of Art each face a 19 percent cut, while the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities are cut by nearly half (or $71 million).

The draft proposal is set to be considered Tuesday by the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and Environment before it faces a full committee hearing. Democrats say the cuts are unacceptable and are gearing up to make the case against them.

Interior Subcommittee Chairman Mike Simpson (R-ID) hinted that Republicans will continue pushing for massive domestic cuts until Congress tackles “mandatory spending,” which includes safety-net programs like Social Security and Medicare.

Image: Clay Bennett, Chattanooga Times Free Press

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Krugman: GOP Inflicts More Suffering On The Miserable

Paul Krugman asserts, "Something terrible has happened to the soul of the Republican Party" in its readiness to inflict "further suffering on the already miserable." Specifically, he looks at the "monstrous farm bill" passed by the House, which includes subsidies that benefit agribusinesses and the wealthy and eliminates food stamps that benefit the poor. Krugman considers GOP hypocrisy and callousness in his commentary, "Hunger Games, U.S.A.":

To fully appreciate what just went down, listen to the rhetoric conservatives often use to justify eliminating safety-net programs. It goes something like this: “You’re personally free to help the poor. But the government has no right to take people’s money” — frequently, at this point, they add the words “at the point of a gun” — “and force them to give it to the poor.”

It is, however, apparently perfectly O.K. to take people’s money at the point of a gun and force them to give it to agribusinesses and the wealthy.

Now, some enemies of food stamps don’t quote libertarian philosophy; they quote the Bible instead. Representative Stephen Fincher of Tennessee, for example, cited the New Testament: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” Sure enough, it turns out that Mr. Fincher has personally received millions in farm subsidies.

...So what’s going on here? Is it just racism? No doubt the old racist canards — like Ronald Reagan’s image of the “strapping young buck” using food stamps to buy a T-bone steak — still have some traction. But these days almost half of food stamp recipients are non-Hispanic whites; in Tennessee, home of the Bible-quoting Mr. Fincher, the number is 63 percent. So it’s not all about race.

What is it about, then? Somehow, one of our nation’s two great parties has become infected by an almost pathological meanspiritedness, a contempt for what CNBC’s Rick Santelli, in the famous rant that launched the Tea Party, called “losers.” If you’re an American, and you’re down on your luck, these people don’t want to help; they want to give you an extra kick. I don’t fully understand it, but it’s a terrible thing to behold.

Hannity Asks If Obama Identifies With Trayvon Martin Due To Drugs

Following President Obama's thoughtful and heartfelt remarks on race relations in America, right wing media figures immediately responded by portraying him as a "race baiter," among other distortions. Sean Hannity twisted Obama's statement, "Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago," which referred to racial profiling. He asked if the President identified with Martin because "he smoked pot and he did a little blow," in the process maligning the deceased 17-year-old. Listen:

Boehner: Judge Congress By "How Many Laws We Repeal"

Whatever happened to the Republicans' supposed concern with "jobs, jobs, jobs"? It's hardly part of their rhetoric any more, as the GOP is preoccupied with endless votes to repeal Obamacare and bills that restrict women's right to choose. Bob Schieffer questioned House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) on "Face the Nation" about today's historically unpopular, unproductive Congress. Boehner presented his do-nothing party's real purpose: "We ought to be judged on how many laws we repeal." Watch:

BOEHNER: Well, Bob, we should not be judged on how many new laws we create. We ought to be judged on how many laws that we repeal. We’ve got more laws than the administration could ever enforce. And so we don’t do commemorative bills on the floor. We don’t do all that nonsense. We deal with what the American people want us to deal with. Unpopular? Yes. Why? We’re in a divided government. We’re fighting for what we believe in. Sometimes, you know, the American people don’t like this mess.

PA GOP Chair Admits Voter ID Law Hurt Obama

In June 2012, Pennsylvania Republican House leader Mike Turzai commented on the real intent of voter ID laws, stating that they will "allow Governor Romney to win." Now Pennsylvania GOP chairman Rob Gleason has admitted in an interview that the state's laws limited President Obama's victory margin in the presidential election: "We probably had a better election. Think about this, we cut Obama by five percent, which was big. A lot of people lost sight of that. He won, he beat McCain by 10 percent, he only beat Romney by five percent. I think that probably voter ID helped a bit in that." Watch Gleason implicitly comment on the sole purpose of this law, voter suppression:

President Obama: "Trayvon Martin Could Have Been Me"

In thoughtful remarks on race relations following the George Zimmerman verdict, President Obama considered the common experience among African-American men of being racially profiled, stating, “Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago.” Regarding "Stand Your Ground" laws, Obama asked whether giving license to shoot even if there's a way to retreat contributes to community peace and security. He questioned how the law would have been applied if the situation were reversed in Trayvon Martin's case: "... if Trayvon Martin was of age and armed, could he have stood his ground on that sidewalk? And do we actually think that he would have been justified in shooting Mr. Zimmerman who had followed him in a car because he felt threatened? And if the answer to that question is at least ambiguous, then it seems to me that we might want to examine those kinds of laws." Watch Obama's remarks in their entirety:

Transcript of President Obama's remarks.

Gov. Scott: "Stand Your Ground" Law Will Keep State Safe

After resisting, Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) met with protesters holding a sit-in outside his office following the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the death of Trayvon Martin. The protesters demanded the repeal of Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law, which permits people to use deadly force when they feel threatened, even if retreat is possible. Less than 24 hours after the meeting, Scott rejected calls for the law's elimination. Instead, he cited two actions he has taken: speaking to Trayvon Martin's mother and calling for a day of prayer on Sunday, July 21. Speaking to reporters, Scott explained why he won't also request a special legislative session to repeal the law: "I support the Stand Your Ground Law. I think it's the right law for our state... It's going to help keep our state safe." Watch:

"Claes Oldenburg: The Street and The Store" At MOMA

In 1956, Claes Oldenburg moved from Chicago to New York's East Village and created art that reflected the neighborhood's grittiness–a period captured in "Claes Oldenburg: The Street and The Store" at the Museum of Modern Art. During his "Street" period, he used cardboard, chicken wire, burlap and newspaper to create purposely crude signs, cars, apartments, guns and ghoulish street characters. In 1961, Oldenburg maintained a studio and storefront that he called "The Store," from which he sold papier-maché and plaster food, clothes, cigarettes and advertising signs. In addition to these objects, the exhibit contains Oldenburg's first sewn and stuffed cloth and foam rubber soft sculptures, including an 11-foot ice cream cone and a hamburger as large as a couch (shown above, with along with various signs). The sculptures reflect Pop art's celebration of everyday objects and commercialism. Oldenburg saw his street art as a raw alternative to the sculptures found in museums. Ironically, his formerly gritty East Village is rapidly gentrifying and his art has moved from his former urban storefront to major museums.

“Claes Oldenburg: The Street and the Store” will run through Aug. 5 at the Museum of Modern Art, 11 West 53rd Street, NYC; (212) 708-9400,

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Joan Osborne

Joan Osborne covered "(Love Is Like A) Heatwave," the 1963 Martha and the Vandellas hit composed by the Holland-Dozier-Holland Motown songwriting team. The performance is part of the "Standing in the Shadows of Motown" documentary (2002) on the Funk Brothers, veteran Motown studio musicians shown here backing Osborne. "Heatwave" is a fitting song for the current steamy conditions on the sidewalks of NYC.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

NRA's Chris Cox: "Stand Your Ground" Is A Human Right

The shooting death of Trayon Martin by George Zimmerman has led to calls to repeal "Stand Your Ground" laws, which enable people to shoot to kill when they feel themselves in danger and impose no duty to retreat or mitigate the situation if possible. "Stand Your Ground" has been pushed by the NRA and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

"Stand Your Ground" has been criticized by, among others, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, veteran police chief John F. Timoney and Attorney General Eric Holder, who told an NAACP national conference on Tuesday, "There has always been a legal defense for using deadly force if – and the 'if' is important – no safe retreat is available. But we must examine laws that take this further by eliminating the common sense and age-old requirement that people who feel threatened have a duty to retreat, outside their home, if they can do so safely. By allowing and perhaps encouraging violent situations to escalate in public, such laws undermine public safety."

In response, Chris W. Cox (above), executive director of the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action, said that "Stand Your Ground" represents a "human right": "The attorney general fails to understand that self-defense is not a concept, it’s a fundamental human right. To send a message that legitimate self-defense is to blame is unconscionable, and demonstrates once again that this administration will exploit tragedies to push their political agenda."

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Artist's Image Of Martin Luther King In Hoodie Goes Viral

An image of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in a hoodie has gone viral, linking the death of Trayvon Martin, who was wearing a hoodie the night he was killed, with the civil rights movement, racial profiling and gun violence. Artist Nikkolas Smith created the image, titled "April 4th, 1968," the date of King's assassination; it appeared on a web site of gun control posters. Smith commented, "I created this image when George Zimmerman first killed Trayvon Martin. There was this whole national outcry, a hoodie movement and everybody was rocking their hoods and everything. Just trying to get that message out there about what is considered suspicious. Is my black skin considered suspicious?” After Zimmerman was acquitted, former Obama adviser Van Jones tweeted the image and asked his followers to retweet it.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Mayor Bloomberg: Eliminate "Shoot First" Laws

In the wake of the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the death of Trayvon Martin, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, co-chair of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, renewed calls for repealing "shoot first" or "Stand Your Ground" laws in Florida and elsewhere:

“Sadly, all the facts in this tragic case will probably never be known,” Bloomberg said in a statement.

“But one fact has long been crystal clear: ‘shoot-first’ laws like those in Florida can inspire dangerous vigilantism and protect those who act recklessly with guns. Such laws – drafted by gun lobby extremists in Washington – encourage deadly confrontations by enabling people to shoot first and argue ‘justifiable homicide’ later.”

He added, “Last year, I joined a broad coalition of civic leaders to shine a light on the impact of ‘shoot-first’ laws and work to eliminate them, in Florida and wherever they have been passed. We will continue that work – and the tragic death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed child attempting to walk home from the store, will continue to drive our efforts.”

The phrase “shoot first” is used by critics of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” laws, which allows people to use deadly force if they have reason to believe they’re facing bodily injury.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Melissa Harris-Perry: No Safe Place For Black Children

Following George Zimmerman's acquittal on murder charges in the death of Trayvon Martin, Melissa Harris-Perry explained the vulnerability that African-American parents feel in terms of their children being profiled and victimized. Watch:

HARRIS-PERRY: Here are your choices as an African-American parent. We live in such a racially segregated country that trying to do the best thing for your kids, you think, ok, we’ll go live in the black neighborhood.We’ll live in a predominately African-American community. One of the things we know is that those communities are often plagued with crime that takes the lives of African-American children. It is the reality that most young black men, 17, 18, who die in this country from gunshot wounds, from violence die at the hands of other African-American men. So here you want to live in this community, but then you think maybe I can’t. So then maybe you move to a community like the one where Trayvon Martin’s father was living. Where you have the gated community. You feel safe to let your kid walk over at seven o’clock to the 7-11, and pick up some candy during the game. The idea that that community too is not safe, because they can be profiled and potentially victimized by violence by those who will see them as not belonging there. I don’t know that I can express, but I want to try that it begins to feel like there is no place that you can be, no choice that you can make, no home that you can buy, no place where you can put your kid in school where it is safe. And I think this is what Newtown families felt when their little beautiful children sitting in their own elementary school were gunned down, and they said whoa, wait a second, what is happening in a country where you can’t be safe in an elementary school? But I think that is a feeling that is so familiar and brought home by this case for so many of us: that there is no safe place to be.

A Stunning Acquittal

The acquittal of George Zimmerman on both murder and manslaughter charges is absolutely stunning. Zimmerman was told by a police dispatcher not to follow Trayvon Martin, 17, who was doing nothing more than walking home and owed no one an explanation of his presence. Instead of following the dispatcher's counsel, Zimmerman left his vehicle armed with a gun and chased and confronted Martin, who had to be fearful of–and ready to defend himself against–a strange man following him. In the ensuing altercation, Zimmerman shot Martin, who was armed with Skittles and iced tea and who committed the offense of wearing a hoodie.

Zimmerman‘s profanity-laced statement to the dispatcher, “Punks… They always get away,” certainly demonstrated hostility toward, and racial profiling of, Martin. One can only wonder what the verdict would have been had an older, armed black man shot an unarmed white teen who was walking home. Once again, black parents have been given reason to fear for the lives of their children.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

House Republicans Refuse To Govern

In a speech delivered on October 7, 1948, President Truman lambasted the Republican "do nothing" Congress. With their refusal to do anything constructive this week regarding immigration and food stamps, the Republican House is carrying on this disgraceful tradition. A New York Times editorial, "In The House, A Refusal To Govern" considered the party's obstructionism, extremism and contempt for the least fortunate:

On two crucial issues this week, the extremists who dominate the Republican majority in the House of Representatives made it clear how little interest they have in the future prosperity of their country, or its reputation for fairness and decency.

The House will refuse to consider a comprehensive immigration bill that could lead to citizenship for millions of immigrants, Republican leaders said on Wednesday, and will slowly and casually consider a few border-security measures that have no chance of passing on their own.

And, on Thursday, the House passed a farm bill that stripped out the food stamp program, breaking a pact that for decades has protected the nutrition needs of low-income Americans. It was the first time since 1973 that food stamps haven’t been part of a farm bill, and it reflected the contempt of the far right for anyone desperate enough to rely on the government for help to buy groceries.

These actions show how far the House has retreated from the national mainstream into a cave of indifference and ignorance. House members don’t want to know that millions of Americans remain hungry (in an economy held back by their own austerity ideology), and they don’t want to deal with the desperation of immigrant families who want nothing more than a chance to work and feed themselves without fear of deportation...

...A refusal to even to sit at a bargaining table is another way of refusing to govern. The nation’s founders created two chambers for a reason, but Republicans, in their blind fury to harm the least fortunate, are forgetting even those fundamental national values.

Sen. Bernie Sanders: Koch Brothers "At War With Working Families"

Speaking on The Thom Hartmann Show, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said that Charles and David Koch, billionaire right-wing activists, are "literally at war with working families." He outlined their vision: "These guys want to bring us back to the 1920s, when workers had no Social Security, no health care, no right to form unions... We are moving in that direction where the billionaire class, the top one percent controls the economic and political life of this country." Sanders referred to the Charles Koch Foundation video stating that those who earn over $34,000 are in the top one percent–compared to the world's most impoverished nations. He also cited Charles Koch's statement that scrapping the minimum wage would help poor people. Watch Sen. Sanders now, since you won't see him invited to tomorrow's Sunday talk shows:

How The New Ohio Budget Affects Your Vagina

Surrounded by six male officials, Ohio Gov. John Kasich (left) signed a state budget that includes severe restrictions on women's access to an abortion. In the following satirical video, Cleveland comedian Mike Polk Jr., playing Kasich, explains to "Stacy" the hoops she has to jump through before undergoing the procedure. "Kasich" states that the new requirements are the result of "Old, white Republican men helping Ohio's women decide what to do with their vaginas since we egregiously gerrymandered the state in 2010." After "Stacy" surrenders and gives birth, she tells "Kasich," "I can't afford to feed this baby." "Kasich" leaves abruptly, muttering, "That's not our problem." Watch:

(h/t: Best of the Left Podcast)

Sarah Slamen Finishes Her Pro-Choice Testimony

Sarah Slamen, who was disrupted and ejected by Sen. Jane Nelson (R) while delivering fiery pro-choice remarks in front of a Texas state Senate committee, finished her testimony on Lawrence O'Donnell's show. She explained that she reached her "breaking point" after hearing women who have had abortions described as "murderers, killers, insinuating that we're promiscuous"–and hearing the criticism of a woman who movingly testified about her decision to have an abortion after learning that her unborn child would have spina bifida. Slamen also explained that as a privileged middle class white woman who was able to attend the hearings, she had to speak for "Women with two and three jobs, the 20 percent of women who might be living in the rural communities of Texas who can't get to the capitol, caregivers, they can't get to the hearings and stand up for their rights, and it's obvious that all the Republicans on that committee don't care about the right to their health care either." Watch:

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Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Of Monsters and Men

Of Monsters and Men rocked the Glastonbury 2013 Festival with their performance of "Little Talks," whose lyrics actually form a poignant depiction of old age.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Texas Woman Ejected After Slamming GOP Senators

The Texas women's uprising continues. Sarah Slamen, who Tweets as @victorianprude, testified on Monday in front of the Texas Senate committee against the draconian anti-abortion bill that was the subject of Sen. Wendy Davis's (D) heroic filibuster–a bill that the Texas House passed today. Slamen discarded her speech about the ways in which the new law will be a financial boon for Gov. Rick Perry's (R) sister. Instead, she castigated the Republican senators themselves: “Thank you for being you, Texas legislature. You have radicalized hundreds of thousands of us, and no matter what you do for the next 22 days, women and their allies are coming for you. Let’s start down the line. Senator Campbell, you’re an ophthalmologist. So I won’t be making you the expert on reproductive health. We can give you all the children with chlamydia and herpes in their eyes, since we don’t have sex ed in this state.” For her fiery testimony, Slamen was disrupted by Sen. Jane Nelson (R) and forcibly removed from the chamber. Watch the following two videos showing Slamen's remarks, her ejection and the applause she received outside the committee chamber:

Pat Robertson Speaks For The American Taliban

After the Supreme Court repealed DOMA, Pat Robertson employed the religious right's despicable practice of using the Bible to justify hatred of gays, citing passages referring to homosexuality as an "abomination" punishable through stoning. Following this appalling image, Robertson makes a particularly telling statement: "...the Bible didn't talk about civil rights; it talked about this was an offense against God... Which is going to take precedence, the Supreme Court of the United States or the holy word of God?" Robertson is calling for nothing less than a theocracy, in which religious doctrine takes precedence over the rule of law. In so doing, he proves that the religious right is the American Taliban. Watch:

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

FISA Court Secretly Expands NSA Powers

The New York Times reports that the 11-member Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA court) is practically a parallel Supreme Court, passing laws unknown to the public; hearing only from one side of a case, the government; and providing the National Security Agency (NSA) with tremendously expanded access to Americans' metadata:

In more than a dozen classified rulings, the nation’s surveillance court has created a secret body of law giving the National Security Agency the power to amass vast collections of data on Americans while pursuing not only terrorism suspects, but also people possibly involved in nuclear proliferation, espionage and cyberattacks, officials say.

The rulings, some nearly 100 pages long, reveal that the court has taken on a much more expansive role by regularly assessing broad constitutional questions and establishing important judicial precedents, with almost no public scrutiny, according to current and former officials familiar with the court’s classified decisions.

The 11-member Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, known as the FISA court, was once mostly focused on approving case-by-case wiretapping orders. But since major changes in legislation and greater judicial oversight of intelligence operations were instituted six years ago, it has quietly become almost a parallel Supreme Court, serving as the ultimate arbiter on surveillance issues and delivering opinions that will most likely shape intelligence practices for years to come, the officials said.

...Geoffrey R. Stone, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Chicago, said he was troubled by the idea that the court is creating a significant body of law without hearing from anyone outside the government, forgoing the adversarial system that is a staple of the American justice system. “That whole notion is missing in this process,” he said.

Image attribution:

Robert Reich: Immigration Reform Is Good For The Economy

In fewer than three minutes, Robert Reich dismantles three fear-mongering myths about immigration reform and the economy: immigration strains government safety net programs; new immigrants take jobs from native-born Americans, and we don't need new immigrants. Watch:

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Gov. Walker Quietly Signs Mandatory Ultrasound Bill

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (R) signed a bill that will require women to undergo ultrasounds before an abortion and will shut abortion clinics. Walker made sure not to attract attention; he didn't sign the bill in public and waited until this holiday weekend to do so. He issued a press release that listed the bill among 17 other signed measures and noted, “This bill improves a woman’s ability to make an informed choice that will protect her physical and mental health now and in the future”:

Gov. Scott Walker quietly signed a contentious Republican bill Friday that would require women seeking abortions to undergo an ultrasound and ban doctors who lack admitting privileges at nearby hospitals from performing the procedures.

Opponents contend legislators shouldn’t force women to undergo any medical procedure and the bill will force at least two abortion clinics where providers lack admitting privileges to shut their doors.

The Republican-controlled Legislature passed the bill in mid-June. Walker, a Republican, could have chosen to sign it at any time since then but decided to do it on Friday in the middle of the long 4th of July holiday weekend. The measure’s opponents accused him of trying to bury news of the signing.

Fox Host: Not Using God To Sell Beer Means "The Terrorists Have Won"

Fox and Friends expressed outrage that Samuel Adams Brewery quoted from the Declaration of Independence in a beer commercial without including the wording "endowed by their Creator." Samuel Adams explained that the Beer Institute Advertising Code states that beer commercials should not use religious themes. Fox host Jesse Waters objected, stating, “When political correctness takes over the beer advertising industry, the terrorists have won. I mean, this is absolutely outrageous. …Maybe the Tea Party’s being targeted here, guys.” Watch:

Oregon Legislature Approves Tuition-Free College Plan

Congress has allowed student loan interest rates to double from 6.8 percent from 3.4 percent, as Republicans resisted Democratic provisions to extend the lower rate for one year. As an alternative, the Oregon Legislature has approved a plan that would enable students to avoid crushing debt by attending college without tuition or loans and repaying the state later:

This week, the Oregon Legislature approved a plan that could allow students to attend state colleges without paying tuition or taking out traditional loans. Instead, they would commit a small percentage of their future incomes to repaying the state; those who earn very little would pay very little.

The proposal faces a series of procedural and practical hurdles and will not go into effect for at least a few years, but it could point to a new direction in the long-running debate over how to cope with the rising cost of higher education....

...Lawmakers held hearings on the plan, debated amendments, and passed it, with the final vote taking place Monday in the State Senate. The Legislature’s majorities are Democratic — as is the governor, John Kitzhaber — but the vote in both houses was unanimous. An aide to the governor said Mr. Kitzhaber was likely to sign the bill.

...The bill instructs the state’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission to design a pilot program, which would then require the Legislature’s approval. For now, only the broadest outlines are clear.

The idea calls for the state to provide some money to get the program running — how much would depend on how big the pilot is — but that in the future, payments from former students would sustain it. The plan’s supporters have estimated that for it to work, the state would have to take about 3 percent of a former student’s earnings for 20 years, in the case of someone who earned a bachelor’s degree.

Study: Biblical End-Time Believers Resist Climate Change Action

Sam Seder of the Majority Report discusses research by David C. Barker of the University of Pittsburgh and David H. Bearce of the University of Colorado, published in Political Research Quarterly, finding that belief in biblical end-times theology makes many Americans, particularly Republicans, resistant to curbing climate change. Seder cites Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL), who said in 2010 that we should not be concerned about climate change since "The Earth will end only when God declares it's time to be over." Shimkus is the chairman of the Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy. Watch:

(h/t: Best of the Left Podcast)

400 Parts In A Million: The World’s Biggest Experiment

In the following satirical video, MinuteEarth informs us of our progress in “the world’s largest uncontrolled experiment,” now that the concentration of carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere has reached 400 parts per million–and tells us how we can all play our part in increasing greenhouse gas emissions. Watch:

(h/t: Best of the Left Podcast)

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Remembering Bobby "Blue" Bland

Bobby "Blue" Bland, since the 1950s one of the most influential blues and soul singers, recently passed away. Listed among Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Singers, Bland above covered Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine When She's Gone" with his characteristic emotional directness. For more on Bobby "Blue" Bland, listen to the tribute on the St. James Infirmary music show, hosted by my good friend Michael Mand.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Brit Hume To GOP: Focus On White Voters, Not Hispanics

Despite the demographic threat to the GOP, Fox News anchor Brit Hume has joined Phyllis Schlafly in advising Republicans to focus on white voters, not Hispanics. Hume dismissed the notion that the party has to back immigration reform and "get right with the Hispanics." Watch:

HUME: And I am absolutely convinced that this trope that you’re hearing that says that if the Republicans don’t go for immigration reform much as the Senate has done, they’ll never win another presidential election. Oh, baloney. If you look at the statistics, you find there was one significant bloc of voters who turned out in smaller numbers this time in a major way — way below expectations, below even their '08 turnout — and that was white voters. Now, that doesn’t mean that if they turned out that Romney would have gotten them, all but it shows you that this Hispanic vote, which is I think now 8.5 percent of the electorate or something like that, is not nearly as important as, still, as the white vote, which is above 70 percent. So, if you look at it from an ethnic point of view, that addresses the question of whether you need to get right with the Hispanics.

Mitt Romney won 27 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2012, while Barack Obama won 71 percent.

Jane Mayer: PBS Affiliate Attempts To Placate David Koch

Jane Mayer has provided outstanding coverage in The New Yorker on Charles and David Koch, billionaire oil magnates and right-wing activists. Mayer recently reported on the extent to which WNET, the New York area affiliate of PBS, has tried not to offend David Koch. Since federal contributions to public television have diminished, it is increasingly dependent on wealthy donors like the Kochs. Before airing "Park Avenue," a documentary critical of the Kochs produced by the Independent Television Service (ITVS), WNET president Neil Shapiro called David Koch to tell him about the documentary and invite him to join an on-air discussion following the film or provide a written rebuttal. Following the airing of "Park Avenue," ITVS, under pressure from WNET, backed out of producing another critical documentary, "Citizen Koch." Despite these attempts to placate him, David Koch cancelled a large donation to WNET and resigned from its board of directors:

...spokespeople at WNET and PBS conceded that the decision to run the rebuttals was unprecedented. Indeed, it was like appending Letters to the Editor to a front-page article. ["Park Avenue" filmmaker Alex] Gibney asked me, “Why is WNET offering Mr. Koch special favors? And why did the station allow Koch to offer a critique of a film he hadn’t even seen? Money. Money talks.” He added that the Kochs’ willingness to issue a disclaimer without seeing the film “does not give me much confidence about how they might run the Tribune’s newspapers.”

...["Citizen Koch" filmmakers] Lessin and Deal began to suspect that ITVS was dragging out negotiations. But they kept editing the film, following notes that ITVS had given them. Deal said, “Although we made many changes, they never looked at the new cut. They just kind of stopped.” On April 15th, ITVS notified Lessin and Deal that it had “decided not to move forward with the project.” Lessin said, “We were in shock. We had a deal.”

Lessin and Deal a joint statement, “...ITVS backed out of the partnership because they came to fear the reaction our film would provoke. David Koch, whose political activities are featured in the film, happens to be a public-television funder and a trustee of both WNET and WGBH. This wasn’t a failed negotiation or a divergence of visions; it was censorship, pure and simple.” The filmmakers consider this an ironic turn: “It’s the very thing our film is about—public servants bowing to pressures, direct or indirect, from high-dollar donors.”

Illustration: Daniel Hertzberg

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Jane Mayer: Koch Pledge Tied To Congressional Climate Inaction

Jane Mayer, who wrote a groundbreaking 2010 New Yorker article about Charles and David Koch, now reveals that the two oil billionaires and right-wing activists have influenced members of Congress, mostly Republicans, to sign a pledge to block action on climate change. Mayer based her findings on a two-year study by the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University:

Fossil fuel magnates Charles and David Koch have, through Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group they back, succeeded in persuading many members of Congress to sign a little-known pledge in which they have promised to vote against legislation relating to climate change unless it is accompanied by an equivalent amount of tax cuts. Since most solutions to the problem of greenhouse-gas emissions require costs to the polluters and the public, the pledge essentially commits those who sign to it to vote against nearly any meaningful bill regarding global warning, and acts as yet another roadblock to action.

...Climate-change policy directly affects Koch Industries’s bottom line. Koch Industries, according to Environmental Protection Agency statistics cited in the study, is a major source of carbon-dioxide emissions, the kind of pollution that most scientists believe causes global warming. In 2011, according to the E.P.A.’s greenhouse-gas-reporting database, the company, which has oil refineries in three states, emitted over twenty-four million tons of carbon dioxide, as much as is typically emitted by five million cars.

Starting in 2008, a year after the Supreme Court ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency could regulate greenhouse gasses as a form of pollution, accelerating possible Congressional action on climate change, the Koch-funded nonprofit group, Americans for Prosperity, devised the “No Climate Tax” pledge. It has been, according to the study, a component of a remarkably successful campaign to prevent lawmakers from addressing climate change. Two successive efforts to control greenhouse-gas emissions by implementing cap-and-trade energy bills died in the Senate, the latter of which was specifically targeted by A.F.P.’s pledge. By now, four hundred and eleven current office holders nationwide have signed the pledge. Signatories include the entire Republican leadership in the House of Representatives, a third of the members of the House of Representatives as a whole, and a quarter of U.S. senators.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Fox News: Mr. Rogers Was An "Evil, Evil Man"

Could there have been a gentler, more encouraging children's television host than Mr. Rogers, who told youngsters that they were special? By boosting their self-esteem, presumably they would feel good about themselves, empathize with others and achieve their potential. According to Fox hosts, however, Mr. Rogers was an "evil, evil man" who "ruined a generation of kids" by giving them a sense of entitlement. Watch as they condemn Mr. Rogers for teaching kids self-confidence: