Monday, June 30, 2014

Justice Ginsburg Writes Blistering Dissent To Supreme Court Contraception Ruling

In the latest example of conservative judicial activism, five men on the Supreme Court have ruled that "for-profit corporations controlled by religious families" have the right not to provide insurance coverage for birth control and emergency contraception under the Affordable Care Act. In effect, such "corporate persons" as Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties can now decide whether female employees receive the new birth control benefits. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in a blistering dissent, wrote, "a decision of startling breadth," would allow corporations to opt out of almost any law that they find "incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs." Mother Jones has chosen seven more key quotes from Ginsburg's dissent:

• "The exemption sought by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga would…deny legions of women who do not hold their employers' beliefs access to contraceptive coverage"

• "Religious organizations exist to foster the interests of persons subscribing to the same religious faith. Not so of for-profit corporations. Workers who sustain the operations of those corporations commonly are not drawn from one religious community."

• "Any decision to use contraceptives made by a woman covered under Hobby Lobby's or Conestoga's plan will not be propelled by the Government, it will be the woman's autonomous choice, informed by the physician she consults."

• "It bears note in this regard that the cost of an IUD is nearly equivalent to a month's full-time pay for workers earning the minimum wage."

• "Would the exemption…extend to employers with religiously grounded objections to blood transfusions (Jehovah's Witnesses); antidepressants (Scientologists); medications derived from pigs, including anesthesia, intravenous fluids, and pills coated with gelatin (certain Muslims, Jews, and Hindus); and vaccinations[?]…Not much help there for the lower courts bound by today's decision."

• "Approving some religious claims while deeming others unworthy of accommodation could be 'perceived as favoring one religion over another,' the very 'risk the [Constitution's] Establishment Clause was designed to preclude."

• "The court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield."

Read Justice Ginsburg's 35-page dissent.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Vanden Heuvel To Kristol: Go Enlist In The Iraqi Army

On an ABC News panel today, Katrina Vanden Heuvel, editor of The Nation, challenged neoconservative Bill Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, about his past and present advocacy of military action in Iraq, stating, “There’s no military solution to Iraq, and I have to say, sitting next to Bill Kristol, man — I mean, the architects of catastrophe that have cost this country trillions of dollars, thousands of lives — there should be accountability. If there are no regrets for the failed assumptions that have so grievously wounded this nation — I don’t know what happened to our politics and media accountability, but we need it, Bill. Because this country should not go back to war. We don’t need armchair warriors, and if you feel so strongly, you should, with all due respect, enlist in the Iraqi Army.” Kristol objected, “That’s a very cute line.” Vanden Heuvel responded, “But it’s real! Millions of Iraqis have been displaced… What we have done to that country is a crime.” Watch:

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: The Who Live

Last week, we listened to Eddie Cochran perform his "Summertime Blues" in 1959. In 1969, The Who, above, played the song at the Woodstock Festival (at another concert, singer Roger Daltrey said that it was "the only song we do by another composer"). In listening to both, we hear the changes that rock underwent in a decade. In the Cochran version, the focus was on the singer and the band's purpose was to serve as backup. With The Who, the individual musicians also stood out. The guitar emerged as a solo instrument, and technology tremendously boosted the music's amplification. There's something to be said about the powerful impact of such changes–and something also to be said about Cochran's more stripped-down, basic sound.

McConnell's Fix For Working Families: A Crib In The Home Office

While Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and led a filibuster against a minimum wage increase, he's attempting to show struggling families that he cares with his Working Parents Home Office Act. The bill gives parents who have a baby crib in their home office a tax deduction. “These are just the kinds of things that could make a difference in people’s lives now,” McConnell said.

Image: Shutterstock

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Cheney: Stop Complaining About My Iraq War Claims

Speaking to Jonathan Karl on ABC's "This Week," Dick Cheney dismissed criticisms of his past misconceived claims about the war in Iraq. Karl cited Cheney's statements about the "benefits to the region," being "greeted as liberators" and "the last throes...of the insurgency." Considering Rand Paul's criticism that "those clamoring for military action now are the same people who made every false assumption imaginable about the cost, challenge and purpose of the Iraq War," Cheney said, "I was a strong supporter then of going into Iraq, I'm a strong supporter now. Everybody knows what my position is. There's nothing to be argued about there. But if we spend our time debating what happened 11 or 12 years ago, we're going to miss the threat that is growing and that we do face. Rand Paul, with all due respect, is basically an isolationist. He doesn't believe we ought to be involved in that part of the world." Watch Cheney tell us to stop talking about his deadly errors and to get set for more military invasions:

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Ralph Reed: Opposing Gay Marriage Is "A Winner" For GOP

In an interview on Bloomberg TV, Faith & Freedom Coalition chairman Ralph Reed announced an election strategy for Republicans that's "definitely a winner": opposing gay marriage. Further, "'s a winner in ways that would surprise a lot of people." It certainly would, given the fact that a record-high 59 percent support gay marriage, according to Washington Post-ABC polling. Nevertheless, Reed believes he's hit on something that will enable the Republicans to come out ahead in the 2014 elections. Watch:

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Fox's Judith Miller: Stop Criticizing Iraq War Boosters Like Cheney

Fox News contributor Judith Miller is the former New York Times reporter whose articles provided false information from discredited Iraqi politician Ahmed Chalabi about Iraqi WMD–reports that bolstered the Bush administration's case for war. In a mea culpa published in 2004, the Times wrote, "Looking back, we wish we had been more aggressive in re-examining the claims as new evidence emerged — or failed to emerge." During an appearance on Fox, Miller advanced the self-serving argument that the media is too critical of those who pushed for the invasion. She said that the media "loves to beat up on who was responsible for the Iraq War and who is to blame for the current controversy, the current crisis." She advised the media to listen to the advice about Iraq offered by those who were completely wrong about it: "What the media should be doing is encouraging everyone who has a view of what to do now in Iraq to come forward and discuss it rationally. But they're doing the opposite. They're trying to shut down people like Dick Cheney, Liz Cheney, all of the 'neoconservatives' who brought us this war. It's not helpful." Watch:

Monday, June 23, 2014

Video: "Runaway CEO Pay in 30 Seconds"

The Economic Policy Institute has produced a report, "CEO Pay Continues to Rise as Typical Workers Are Paid Less." CEOs averaged $15.2 million in 2013 compensation. How much more did they earn than the average worker? A video embedded in the report, "Runaway CEO Pay in 30 Seconds," provides the answer. Watch:

NY Times: "The Koch Cycle Of Endless Cash"

In an editorial, "The Koch Cycle of Endless Cash," the New York Times focuses on the right-wing activists Charles and David Koch using their billions to "lobby Congress against any limits on their ability to buy elections." So first the Kochs purchase politicians to do their bidding, then purchase lobbyists to enable them to continue doing so by blocking campaign finance reform. The editorial points out the workings of the corrupt oligarchy under which we live:

Koch Companies Public Sector, part of the industrial group owned by a well-known pair of conservative brothers, has hired a big-name firm to lobby Congress on campaign-finance issues, according to a registration form filed a few weeks ago. The form doesn’t say what those issues are, but there are several bills in the House that would reduce the role of anonymous big money in campaigns, and restrict the kinds of super PACs and nonprofit groups that the Koch brothers and others have inflated with cash.

The Senate is also planning to vote this year on a constitutional amendment that would overrule recent Supreme Court rulings and allow Congress and the states to limit donations to candidates, as well as spending on behalf of candidates. Clearly, it’s vital to the Kochs and others like them to prevent such limits from being enacted; their network raised $400 million in 2012, and it has been extremely active again this year. To that end, they have done something ordinary citizens cannot do: They hired the lobbying firm of a well-known former senator, Don Nickles, Republican of Oklahoma, to press their interests. Mr. Nickles started his firm a few months after leaving the Senate in 2005, and he takes in up to $8 million a year from big firms like Exxon Mobil, General Motors and Walmart.

...This is a perfect illustration of the cumulative power of cash in today’s Washington. Members of Congress get elected with substantial help from check writers like the Kochs and others. Once there, they do the bidding of former members paid by the Kochs to preserve their business interests and fight off campaign-finance reforms.

Illustration: Victor Juhasz

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Eddie Cochran Live

Eddie Cochran performed his composition, "Summertime Blues," an anthem of teenage frustration, at the Town Hall Party music show, Los Angeles, 1959. Considering Cochran's strong vocals and guitar playing, music journalist Bruce Eder wrote that he was “rock’s first high-energy guitar hero, the forerunner to Pete Townshend, Jimmy Page, Duane Allman and, at least in terms of dexterity, Jimi Hendrix.” The life of this rock and roll pioneer was tragically cut short at 21 in a taxi crash at the end of a 1960 tour in Britain, where he had a devoted following. For more on Cochran, read the bio from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and watch documentaries produced in 1982 and 2001.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Gov. Rick Perry Likens Homosexuality To Alcoholism

In the following interview, Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) proves that if he's trying to look smarter by wearing those glasses, he's best advised to not open his mouth. Speaking at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, Perry compared homosexuality to alcoholism when asked whether the former was a disorder. Perry, who is considering another presidential run, said, "Whether or not you feel compelled to follow a particular lifestyle or not, you have the ability to decide not to do that. I may have the genetic coding that I'm inclined to be an alcoholic, but I have the desire not to do that, and I look at the homosexual issue the same way." One wonders why it is incumbent upon a politician to comment on a sexual orientation. Further, if there is a "homosexual issue," is there also a "heterosexual issue"? And what makes Perry, who confuses a sexual orientation with a "lifestyle," an expert on these matters? Watch:

Obama's Emotional Plea To End Gun Violence In America

Hours after another deadly school shooting, this time in Oregon, President Obama, speaking at a White House Q&A with Tumblr founder David Karp, expressed frustration about the gun massacres that are now a regular part of American life and the fact that no regulations were passed following the Sandy Hook massacre. Obama said, "The fact that 20 six-year-olds were gunned down in the most violent fashion possible and this town couldn't do anything about it was stunning to me. ...The United States does not have a monopoly on crazy people. It's not the only country that has psychosis. And yet we kill each other in these mass shootings at rates that are exponentially higher than anyplace else. Well, what's the difference? The difference is that these guys can stack up a bunch of ammunition in their houses, and that's sort of par for the course. The country has to do some soul searching about this. This is becoming the norm and we take it for granted in ways that, as a parent, are terrifying to me." Watch:

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Maddow: Stop Seeking Advice From Iraq War Backers

Rachel Maddow expresses frustration over the fact that Sen. John McCain and others who strongly backed the war in Iraq are now sought after by the media for their "expertise" on the disastrous situation that they created. Maddow states, "We take people who were so provably, terribly wrong and bring them back and treat them like experts on the very subject they have been so wrong about. It is maddening!" Yet she sees hope in the fact that some media outlets have pushed back against this trend, citing as an example Salon's article, "Stop treating war buffoons as experts." Watch:

She let's the media have it by ewillies

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Fox Finally Finds A Non-"Bombshell" Benghazi Story

Since 2013, Fox News has run Benghazi reports that they've called "bombshells." Now that U.S. Special Operations Forces have captured Ahmed Abu Khattala, suspected leader of the Benghazi attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in 2012, suddenly Fox isn't referring to this report as a "bombshell." Instead, Fox is wondering about the "timing" of the arrest. Media Matters has compiled a video montage of two years of Fox "bombshell" Benghazi reports, followed by today's distinctly lukewarm announcement, with one announcer concluding, "Good news there, I guess." Is Fox actually unhappy about today's news? Does it have anything to do with the fact that President Obama approved the Special Operations mission? Watch:

Map: All the Countries John McCain Has Wanted to Attack

Now that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is still maintaining a hawkish stance on Iraq, it's worth taking another look at the map above that Mother Jones published in Sept. 2013, when McCain called for an aerial assault on Syria. It shows the countries that McCain "has been eager to bomb, invade, or destabilize." Mother Jones stated, "Over the last two decades, McCain has rarely missed an opportunity to call for the escalation of an international conflict. Since the mid-1990s, he's pushed for regime change in more than a half-dozen countries—occasionally with disastrous consequences." In addition to Syria and Iraq, Mother Jones cited the following countries where McCain called for "military action and foreign entanglements": Afghanistan, Libya, Kosovo, Nigeria, Bosnia, North Korea, Iran, Georgia, Russia, Sudan and Mali. In addition, the following chart shows the "Number of times McCain called for military intervention in each world region":

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Brzezinski And Stein Have A Heated Argument With McCain On Iraq

In a heated discussion with MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski and Ben Stein, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) criticized President Obama for not leaving a "residual force" in a deteriorating Iraq, as we have  in other countries–none of which are as currently volatile as Iraq. In addition, we should, according to McCain, have residual forces in Afghanistan  indefinitely. McCain had no answer to Brzezinski's questions regarding the wisdom of invading Iraq: "What about going in in the first place? And what about churning the hate? What about taking the Sunnis out of leadership positions in 2003? What about the fact that there might have been some parts of this that are on the previous administration that could be relitigated as well?" He also didn't specify the limits of our military involvement, nor answer to the fact that we didn't leave behind a self-sufficient, stable Iraqi government and military–among the goals of the ill-advised war that he supported. Watch:

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: The Animals Live

The Animals were one of the British Invasion bands that brought the blues back to the U.S. Above, Eric Burdon, among rock's great vocalists, sang the classic "House of the Rising Sun" at Montego Bay, Jamaica, 1964. Alan Price, who was key to the band's sound, played a passionate organ solo.

Vanden Heuvel Counters Gigot On Minimum Wage

Speaking on ABC's This Week, Wall Street Journal editor Paul Gigot (right) argued that a low minimum wage teaches workers not to want low-wage jobs. He also predicted that Seattle's new $15 an hour minimum wage would price workers out of the job market. Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor and publisher of The Nation, explained that putting more money in the pockets of struggling workers is the ultimate job creator, since they are most likely to spend and stimulate the economy. She also said that, due to productivity gains, the minimum wage should be $22 an hour. On an ethical note, vanden Heuvel asked, "Morally, what does it say about America if you're an American, and you work full time, and you live in poverty? It's a broken economic system." Watch:

Thursday, June 12, 2014

"Objectified": Short Film About Street Harassment Of Women

In Tiye Rose Hood's (left) short film "Objectified," women speak about their experience of street harassment and their feelings of discomfort and intimidation. Most insightful is Dr. Sheila Tully, an anthropologist, who states, "Harrassment of any kind is always about power. This is a culture that also denigrates women. I don't think it's anything innate in men. I think it's the way that we're really trained within the culture." Tully recalls being cursed at when she and her friends didn't respond to a man in the street, concluding, "A lot of times, men don't really think about it. It's just what you do. It's just being a guy. And they don't see it as being a jerk guy. And it's possible to be a nicer guy." Watch:

(h/t: Best of the Left Podcast)

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

E.J. Dionne: "Why The Rush To Rancor Over Bowe Bergdahl?"

Considering the Bowe Bergdahl controversy, E.J. Dionne recounts Republican flip-flops on his rescue, including that of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ); the "rush to rancor" before all the facts are in, and the denial of responsibility to armed service members, a stance criticized by Gen. Stanley McChrystal:

...what’s truly astounding is how many Republicans raced to turn Obama’s commitment to bringing home a POW into an outrage. It tells us something that so many GOP politicians first tweeted warmly about the good news, only to take their tweets down and replace them with the party line that we never negotiate with terrorists, that Obama had endangered the nation, etc.

Four months ago, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said he could support the kind of trade Obama made to get Bergdahl back. When it happened, McCain declared, “I would have not made this deal.” McCain is a national hero who spent more than five years in captivity during the Vietnam War. He may have let his unhappiness with Obama’s overall Afghanistan policy get the best of him.

And there is no defense for the rush to judgment on Bergdahl’s own behavior. Those who served with him and are angry with him because they believe he walked away from his base have every right to challenge what Bergdahl did and insist upon accountability. But why can’t commentators safe in their studios and offices have the decency to withhold their verdicts until all the facts are in? Bergdahl volunteered to fight for his country. This should at least earn him the chance to explain himself before the pundit mob descends.

...retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the former commander of our forces in Afghanistan...offered the sanest and most balanced take on this controversy I have heard.

“I think the key thing in a case like Sgt. Bergdahl’s is you first understand there’s a responsibility to our service members, and that’s very clear-cut and nobody should argue about that,” McChrystal said. “We know we have a responsibility to get them or their remains, and we go to great efforts to do that.

“And then, there’s a responsibility on individuals, service members, back toward their nation and their comrades, and we should demand that and we should check into that. But we as a nation, instead of politicizing something like this, we as a nation, should look at it and say: Okay, [it’s a] complex problem, how do we handle this in a way that brings us together? Because it actually makes us look weaker to our allies, it makes us look confused to our foes, and if we were very united on something like this and we just said: ‘America doesn’t leave its people but we do have a high standard,’ then I think we’d come out better.”

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Cantor Loss Will Make GOP More Anti-Immigration Than Ever

Beyond the shock of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's (R-VA)  primary loss of to David Brat, a little-known Tea Party professor, one conclusion is clear: Republicans will be more opposed to immigration reform than ever. Daily Kos put it correctly: "Republicans had already deep-sixed any immigration legislation; now, they'll blast it into outer space and compete Hunger Games-style to see who can be the most anti-immigrant loudmouth of them all." Indeed, immigration was the focus of the race, with both candidates trying to come across as more anti-reform than the other. Apparently, Brat convinced the electorate that Cantor was too "liberal" on the issue:

Cantor had previously supported a "Dream Act"-like proposal to provide a path to citizenship for children who were brought to the United States illegally. "One of the great founding principles of our country was that children would not be punished for the mistakes of their parents," Cantor said in a speech a year ago. "It is time to provide an opportunity for legal residence and citizenship for those who were brought to this country as children and who know no other home."

In his long-shot campaign, Brat attacked Cantor on that stance. "Eric Cantor is saying we should bring more folks into the country, increase the labor supply - and by doing so, lower wage rates for the working person," Brat charged.

To protect his right flank on immigration, Cantor sent out mailers saying he led the fight against President Obama's “amnesty” -- that is, comprehensive immigration reform that had passed the Senate a year ago.

But as Tuesday's Virginia primary proved, that ultimately wasn't enough.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Climate Change Denial A Must For GOP Presidential Run

MSNBC's Chris Hayes traces Sen. Marco Rubio's (R-FL) flip-flop on climate change and its link to human activity. Back in in 2007, Rubio accepted the veracity of the world scientific consensus and advocated energy diversification; now that he's contemplating a Republican run, he's a climate change denier. Rubio's devolution on climate change reflects that of Chris Christie and the rest of the party. Climate change denial is clearly a prerequisite for a GOP presidential run. Watch:

(h/t: Best of the Left Podcast)

"Only Lovers Left Alive," Directed By Jim Jarmusch

The setting of "Only Lovers Left Alive" is natural for director Jim Jarmusch, with his predilection for characters drawn to the nighttime and the underground. Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton) are married vampires who, naturally, only come out at night. They're also a world-weary couple who seek to maintain interest in life after thousands of years. It's especially a struggle for Adam, a depressed musician tired of the ways of the "zombies," the regular humans, who are despoiling the planet and don't appreciate the arts of the past. The more resilient Eve lives in Tangier, procures her blood from Elizabethan dramatist Christopher Marlowe and is able to speed read literature from all ages and languages. She agrees to join Adam in his crowded, creepy mansion in a desolate section of Detroit. Driving around at night, they visit a former grand movie house that is now a parking lot, a symbol of the cultural malaise Adam sees all around him. In contrast, Adam's home, in which he composes jarring rock instrumentals, is filled with photos of Franz Kafka, Buster Keaton, Mark Twain, Robert Johnson and others who, while not necessarily vampires, share the couple's artistic predilections.

Adam purchases his blood in canisters supplied by a corrupt hospital researcher, but Eve's mischievous vampire sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska), on a visit, forces the couple to relocate to Tangier after she gets her blood the old fashioned way, by biting into the necks of victims. Abroad, they must grapple with the loss of their blood supply after Marlowe finally dies and the blood has been contaminated, another sign of the wreckage of the planet's resources by the "zombies."

Jarmusch's "undead" characters, in their refined sensibility and malaise, certainly are elitists with a Manichean view of the world. "Only Lovers Left Alive," however, provides a wholly original updating of the vampire mythology by a director known for his startling takes on various film genres.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Big Joe Turner Live

Songwriter Doc Pomus said, “Rock and roll would have never happened without him." Pomus was referring to Big Joe Turner, the "Boss of the Blues," who mixed R&B, boogie woogie and rock 'n' roll. Above, Turner, who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, sang "Shake, Rattle and Roll" at The Apollo Theater, Harlem, in 1954. Bill Haley & His Comets' cover of the song, which omitted the suggestive lyrics, was a hit that same year.

Friday, June 6, 2014

"The Oppressed Majority": French Short Film Shows Man Subject To Sexism

In "The Oppressed Majority," a short film directed by French filmmaker Eleonore Pourriat, sex roles are reversed to the detriment of the male main character in a female-chauvinist society. He is insulted, patronized, treated as a sex object, subject to threats and aggression and blamed when he protests. Watch:

"The Normal Heart" By Larry Kramer

In HBO's powerful filmed version of "The Normal Heart," the autobiographical play by Larry Kramer, Ned Weeks (Mark Ruffalo), is a gay rights activist who rails against everyone who denied, ignored or didn't shout loud enough about the AIDS crisis as it ravaged New York City's gay community in the 1980s. No one escaped Ned's–or Kramer's–wrath: politicians such as NYC Mayor Ed Koch and President Ronald Reagan, who found it politically expedient to ignore a virus killing gays; fellow members of the Gay Men's Health Crisis, who weren't militant enough; the gay community, which wasn't ready to adopt necessary precautions–a point also stressed by Dr. Emma Brookner (Julia Roberts). Ned suffers a personal loss with the harrowing illness and death of his lover, Felix (Matt Bomer), a New York Times reporter, and wrangles with his brother (Alfred Molina), who won't accept him as fully normal. Larry Kramer was known as a rabble-rouser and a kvetch–and, given the horrors of AIDS pandemic and the disgracefully inadequate response to it, he was exactly what the times needed. He's still a fighter, as shown in the interview above.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Median CEO Pay Crossed $10 Million in 2013

In this era of income inequality, many are working hard but not getting ahead. Many are among the working poor. Then there are those who can't relate at all to these struggling workers. Consider the fact that the median CEO pay in 2013 crossed $10 million for the first time. CEOs typically make 257 times the average worker's wage. Is it any wonder that income inequality is the highest since 1928–and that the U.S. has the worst income inequality in the developed world? The Associated Press has the details:

They're the $10 million men and women.

Propelled by a soaring stock market, the median pay package for a CEO rose above eight figures for the first time last year. The head of a Standard & Poor's 500 company earned a record $10.5 million, an increase of 8.8 percent from $9.6 million in 2012, according to an Associated Press/Equilar pay study.

Last year was the fourth straight that CEO compensation rose following a decline during the Great Recession. The median CEO pay package climbed more than 50 percent over that stretch. A chief executive now makes about 257 times the average worker's salary, up sharply from 181 times in 2009.

...The 8.8 percent increase in total pay that CEOs got last year dwarfed the average raise U.S. workers received. The Bureau of Labor Statistics said average weekly wages for U.S. workers rose 1.3 percent in 2013. At that rate an employee would have to work 257 years to make what a typical S&P 500 CEO makes in a year.

"There's this unbalanced approach, where there's all this energy put into how to reward executives, but little energy being put into ensuring the rest of the workforce is engaged, productive and paid appropriately," says Richard Clayton, research director at Change to Win Investment Group, which works with labor union-affiliated pension funds.

Photo: Shutterstock

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Joseph E. Stiglitz: Let's Stop Subsidizing Tax Dodgers

Bill Moyers interviewed Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, who criticized the tax rate paid by the one percent and corporations that hold and invest money abroad. He called for a progressive tax code that would help create jobs instead of just benefiting the wealthy, who use their wealth to promote the current regressive code: “We have a tax system that reflects not the interest of the middle. We have a tax system that reflects the interest of the one percent… What I want to do is create a tax system that has incentives to create jobs. And if you tell a corporation, ‘Look, if you don’t create jobs, you’re taking out of our system, you’re not putting anything back, you’re going to pay a high tax. But if you put back into our system by investing, then you can get your tax rate down.’ That seems to me common sense, particularly in a time like today, when 20 million Americans need a full-time job and can’t get one.” Watch:

Monday, June 2, 2014

Short Film "Fort Greene" Set In Gentrifying Brooklyn Neighborhood

The short film "Fort Greene" is set in a neighborhood experiencing the gentrification affecting much of Brooklyn and, for that matter, NYC in general. Within that context, we see the pattern of new residents and stores moving in and causing economic pressure on original residents. Writer/director Jordan Thomas, who plays the character Jacob, wrote that the film is "...set in the heart of a rapidly-gentrifying Brooklyn neighborhood and chronicles the events surrounding a mysterious shoplifting incident at a high-end clothing store two doors down from Ralph's bodega, the unofficial neighborhood Town Square. In 2013, the film premiered at New Voices in Black Cinema and then played at Art of Brooklyn Film Festival, Beacon Independent Film Festival, Crown Heights Film Festival, and Philadelphia Film Festival. It also aired on Philly Film Fest On-demand/Comcast." In the powerful closing scene, a physical confrontation leads to a subtle, non-verbal compromise. Watch:

Sunday, June 1, 2014

NY Times: The Secret Shame Of The Death Penalty

The botched Oklahoma execution of convicted murderer and rapist Clayton Lockett cast new doubt on the lethal injection as a method of carrying out the death penalty. Now another convicted rapist and murderer, Russell Bucklew of Missouri, has been granted a stay after doctors found that a congenital disorder would cause him to hemorrhage, choke and suffocate. In an editorial, "The Secret Shame of the Death Penalty," the New York Times argues that lethal injection is not an alternative that enables the state to kill in a "civilized" manner:

Lethal injection has already come under increased scrutiny following multiple botched executions, most recently Oklahoma’s appalling 43-minute torture of Clayton Lockett last month. Multiple legal challenges to the procedure have centered on whether states may keep secret the drug protocols they use and the shady compounding pharmacies that make them.

But Missouri is now tasked with finding a way to kill Mr. Bucklew that doesn’t hurt too much. At least state officials let him live until the Supreme Court ruled on the case, a courtesy they did not extend to another death-row inmate, Herbert Smulls, in January.

Welcome to the macabre absurdity of the modern American death penalty. Of course, death by lethal injection became the standard method only because earlier methods — from hanging to the firing squad to the electric chair — were deemed too “barbaric,” not because the state was taking a human life, but because the method of execution offended the sensitivities of the public in whose name the killing is carried out.

By now, it is clear that lethal injection is no less problematic than all the other methods, and that there is no reason to continue using it. But capital punishment does not operate in the land of reason or logic; it operates in a perpetual state of secrecy and shame.

In most cases, it is conducted late at night, behind closed doors, and as antiseptically as possible. Were it to be done otherwise, Americans would recoil in horror, as they did after the debacle in Oklahoma. Mr. Bucklew’s unusual case shows that death-penalty supporters can’t have it both ways. If they want the United States to remain a global outlier by killing its citizens, they must accept that there are no clean executions.

Image: Nate Beeler, The Washington Examiner