Archive for National

Jul
21

Changing lanes [while black]

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Sandra Bland (via Facebook)

Sandra Bland (via Facebook)

Sandra Bland’s name featured prominently in the Black Lives Matter (#BLM) shutdown of the Netroots-Phoenix town hall on Saturday. Like the other black women mentioned, Bland died in police custody, in her case just a week earlier. Why? And how? The Los Angeles Times (emphasis mine):

According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, Bland failed to signal that she was changing lanes so a trooper pulled her over. The trooper was going to give her a written warning but Bland became argumentative and uncooperative, officials say.

The Chicago Tribune provides additional details:

Trooper Erik Burse, a department spokesman, said last week that Bland was going to be left off with a warning for a minor traffic violation, but was charged with assault on a public servant after she kicked the officer.

The trooper who stopped Bland has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation by the FBI and Texas Rangers for allegedly violating the department’s “courtesy policy.”

The stop escalated over a cigarette, according to the family’s lawyer, Cannon Lambert:

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Categories : National, News, Race
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Eliminating tenure is only one front in the effort to rationalize the academy. Writing for Al Jazeera, Mark LeVine looks beyond the Midas Cult’s effort to housetrain the academy:

For academics lucky enough to have tenure at an “R-1 research university” — one with “extensive” doctoral level graduate programs and support for faculty research as well as teaching — the erosion of traditional tenure protections is damaging because it threatens not only academic freedom but research and teaching that contribute hundreds of billions of dollars to U.S. GDP.

Undermining that investment would seem counter to the goal of turning every public resource into gold. Yet as we have seen with the astronomical amounts of money it is willing to throw at elections, the Midas Cult is willing to spend what it takes (and to sacrifice others) to stop the contagion of critical thinking that might threaten its dogma. Clearly, this is not about money. It is about ideology. Whatever the fiscal arguments for attacking the academy, it is not as if the cost of funding academics is that expensive (emphasis mine):

Indeed, upwards of a quarter of faculty with doctorates live below the poverty lineeight percentage points higher than the national average for all Americans. Think of this in the context of the American dream, where dedication and education are supposed to ensure a piece, however modest, of the American dream. If 10 years of intensive college and graduate study can’t even get a person a better salary than the average Walmart cashier, there is something profoundly wrong.

The Walmartization of higher education is of course part and parcel of the larger McDonaldization of American society, which devalues broad skill sets and critical thinking in favor of consumer-driven “choice” and a cheap and controllable workforce. As anthropologist Sarah Kendzior asks in perhaps the most viewed article in the history of Al Jazeera English, what does it mean when education has gone from being the great path out of poverty to being “a way into it”?

Cultists don’t need educated thinkers or researchers. Until education can be fully automated, all it needs is education delivery drones. And frankly, there is no reason cultists should have to pay for education in America anymore. As I wrote in 2011:

In the Atlantic’s “The Rise of the New Global Elite,” Chrystia Freeland describes the super-rich as “a nation unto themselves,” more connected to each other than to their countries or their neighbors. Freeland writes that “the business elite view themselves increasingly as a global community, distinguished by their unique talents and above such parochial concerns as national identity, or devoting ‘their’ taxes to paying down ‘our’ budget deficit.” Thomas Wilson, CEO of Allstate, explains that globalization means, “I can get [workers] anywhere in the world. It is a problem for America, but it is not necessarily a problem for American business …” Why should it be?

In a global economy driven more and more by bottom-line thinking, public education is just another community expense the elite would rather not bear, isn’t it? The rich can afford private schools for their children and have little need for educated workers in the multiple cities where they own houses. How much education do gardeners and waiters really need anyway?

Why should the global elite pay taxes to educate the children of those below their station? Why pay to educate workers when they can import them on H-1B or L-1 visas and pay them less than American workers? As Allstate’s CEO implied, their companies can easily set up shop in India, Indonesia or China. Globalization means multinational corporations can simply swoop in and exploit an educated workforce in countries that have already incurred the sunk costs of developing that resource. And multinationals get to pay those foreign workers less to boot. Whether here or abroad, why not just let somebody else pay taxes for educating other people’s children?

Besides, educated workers only get uppity, and whether they realize it or not, “permanent faculty … are in fact part of the laboring classes.” At least in the view of the Midas Cult. LeVine concludes:

The threats to academic freedom and shared governance posed by a system of largely contingent academic labor are obvious. If you’re treading water around the poverty line and have no guarantee of a job three months down the line, you are going to be very reluctant to teach any subject that might challenge students or the powers that be in your community, whether it’s science that is literally verboten to discuss — such as climate change in Wisconsin — “divisive” ethnic studies in Arizona or “anti-Semitic” Palestinian history almost anywhere.

Get some shuffle into it, Jackson. [timestamp 10:35].

Categories : Economy, National
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Jul
17

Catching up is hard to do

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One reason Donald Trump gets the attention he does is that he’s Donald Trump. He is already a household name. Becoming one as a presidential candidate takes a lot of money, shoe leather, and time. Bernie Sanders will need all three. The Washington Post explains:

A new Washington Post-ABC News national poll offers a fresh look at Clinton’s and Sanders’s standing among Democrats. The survey finds Clinton is overwhelmingly popular across the Democratic Party, but Sanders is a far-less-familiar pol and is weak among a handful of key voting blocs.

Overall, 82 percent of Democrats have a favorable view of Clinton, while 15 percent are unfavorable (a scant 3 percent have no opinion). Sanders’s favorable rating is 36 percent among Democrats, with even more offering no opinion of him. Nearly a quarter — 23 percent — give Sanders negative marks. That’s notable because, despite being better-known than Clinton, his negatives are eight percentage points higher than Clinton.

I assume the Post meant that to say “less-known than Clinton.”

While strong among liberal Democrats, Sanders is still weak with moderate and conservative Democrats, those without college degrees, and non-whites. A high percentage of those groups have no opinion of Sanders, while Hillary Clinton’s favorables are high, unfavorables are low, and virtually no Democrats have no opinion of her. She’s a household name.

That’s a tough, but not insurmountable hill to climb for a Clinton challenger like Sanders. Some little-known guy named Obama has some experience with that.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

Categories : Presidential Race
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Jul
15

Kafkaesque harassment

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Annie Kinsella: Who’s for Eva Braun here? Who wants to burn books? Who wants to spit on the Constitution of the United States of America, anybody? Now who’s for the Bill of Rights? Who thinks that freedom is a pretty darn good thing? Who thinks that we have to stand up to the kind of censorship that they had under Stalin?

Always loved that scene. What brings it to mind today?

Washington, D.C. ­– Academy and Pulitzer Prize Award-winning documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras sued the Department of Justice (DOJ) and U.S. transportation security agencies today demanding they release records documenting a six-year period in which she was searched, questioned, and often subjected to hours-long security screenings at U.S. and overseas airports on more than 50 occasions. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is representing Poitras in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security, DOJ, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

“I’m filing this lawsuit because the government uses the U.S. border to bypass the rule of law,” said Poitras. “This simply should not be tolerated in a democracy. I am also filing this suit in support of the countless other less high-profile people who have also been subjected to years of Kafkaesque harassment at the borders. We have a right to know how this system works and why we are targeted.”

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Categories : National
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AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka responding to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s announcement yesterday that he’s running for president:

Scott Walker is a national disgrace.

As CNN reports, Walker told the crowd in Waukesha, “Americans want to vote for something and for someone.” Walker qualifies.

Several outlets noted that Walker’s support for requiring photo identity cards for voting is a big applause line. This from an NBC news political correspondent:

There was more. The Castle Doctrine, drug testing for public assistance recipients, dismantling organized labor, etc. Many of Walker’s applause lines were retreads from the Reagan and George W. Bush administrations. Walker wants to rebuild the economy using the Laffer Curve and Reagan-era tax levels. It was a speech virtually ghostwritten by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) the way the Koch brothers-funded ALEC ghostwrites legislation in states across the country. During each pause, Walker nodded left and right like a bobblehead doll.

Walker campaign staffers were prepared for protesters, but none appeared MSNBC reported, “save for an airplane overhead that carried a sign reading ‘Scott Walker has a Koch problem,’ a reference to his relationship with conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch.”

The thing is, Scott Walker has a Scott Walker problem.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaoo.)

Categories : Presidential Race
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Jul
12

The last competent man in America

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Something noticed in watching Donald Trump’s interview with NBC News correspondent Katy Tur the other night: he rarely closes his lips except to make certain consonant sounds.

Perhaps it’s just to signal everyone that he’s not done talking, as if he ever is. According to Donald Trump, he gets the biggest crowds, he gets the most standing ovations, he gets great reviews, he’s made a lot of money, and he has great relations with other countries. Furthermore, we have leaders that don’t know what they’re doing, we have stupid negotiators, he knows how to negotiate, etc. He’s the last competent man in America.

“Trump makes demagoguery his campaign strategy” reads a later headline at All In with Chris Hayes. He’s an oratorical train wreck from which the public and the press cannot look away.

Two polls this week put Trump at the head of the Republican pack, and with a four-point lead over Jeb Bush in North Carolina.

GOP primary voters will love this guy. He can out-bluster Fox talking heads. When Tur cited Pew research data on illegal immigrants, that they commit less crime than others, Trump trumps with “You’re a very naive person” and “You don’t know what you’re talking about.” The Donald is right. The data is wrong. Full speed ahead.

Which was Dana Milbank’s point the other day. “Trump is the Republican Party,” he wrote:

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Jul
10

“This is our Selma!”

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On Monday at 8 a.m. EDT, the North Carolina NAACP chapter takes NC Gov. Pat McCrory and the cheerfully nicknamed VIVA voter suppression act to court:

On July 13, a federal court in Winston-Salem will hear North Carolina NAACP v. McCrory, our lawsuit to reverse North Carolina’s unconstitutional and immoral voter suppression law. North Carolina’s law is the first and the worst since the 2013 Shelby v. Holder decision that gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Our voting rights, gained because people stood up despite great consequences in Selma and across the South, have been compromised. Now we must march!

The outcome of this historic case in North Carolina will have an impact on voting rights across the nation. This is a battle for voting rights for all of us. We will not surrender the most fundamental right of a democracy: the right to vote. 
 Just like in Selma, we must march!

Join us in Winston-Salem on July 13 at 5:00 p.m. for a Mass Moral Monday March for Voting Rights.  

This is Our Selma!

Activists believe Winston-Salem was chosen as the venue for hearing the case because its small size. Few observers will get inside and no audio or video feed will be available. The NAACP will nonetheless hold a press conference at 8 a.m. at the courthouse, plus other events during the day, prior to the planned march led by Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP and leader of the weekly Moral Monday marches.

Republicans in the legislature appear nervous about the case. After hundreds of citizens spoke against the law at State Board of Elections forums held across the state, the legislature amended the law to loosen the ID requirements just weeks ahead of the July hearing. Think Progress:

[V]oters who lack the an ID will still be able to cast a ballot, but only if they sign an affidavit swearing they fall into one of the acceptable categories of reasons they couldn’t obtain a government photo ID: a lack of transportation, disability or illness, lost or stolen photo ID, a lack of a birth certificate or other documents to obtain a photo ID, work schedules or family responsibilities. The voter would also need to present an “alternate form of identification,” the last four digits of their Social Security number, and their date of birth.

That is, they swapped out some of the barricades against voting for hoops.

Yet the voter ID provision — which does not allow for the use of student IDs — is just one piece of the sweeping voting law overhaul that the state passed just weeks after the Supreme Court struck down a cornerstone of the Voting Rights Act. The law also eliminated same-day voter registration, cut a full week of early voting, barred voters from casting a ballot outside their home precinct, ended straight-ticket voting, and scrapped a program to pre-register high school students who would turn 18 by Election Day.

University of California law professor Richard Hasen, of Election Law Blog, described the law in 2013, saying:

It rolls into a single piece of legislation just about all of the tools we’ve seen legislatures use in recent years to try to make it harder for people to register and vote.

On Monday, we’ll see if we can’t roll it back.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Jul
08

Catapulting the propaganda

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Ted Cruz is bringing in some techsperts. POLITICO (we spell our name in all caps, see?) reports that the GOP’s scary clown has hired an analytics firm owned in part by the family of hedge fund manager Robert Mercer, who funds several Cruz-supporting, super PACs:

Cambridge Analytica is connected to a British firm called SCL Group, which provides governments, political groups and companies around the world with services ranging from military disinformation campaigns to social media branding and voter targeting.

So far, SCL’s political work has been mostly in the developing world — where it has boasted of its ability to help foment coups.

Their secret weapon? “Psychographics.” Makes you wonder why the GOP presidential field hasn’t already gay married Cambridge Analytica.

That last link takes you to a 2005 Slate story about SCL and how, in a pitch sounding “like a rejected plot twist from a mediocre Bond flick,” its “ops center” could spread disinformation through the media to stop a smallpox outbreak. Propaganda, you say? Nah!

“If your definition of propaganda is framing communications to do something that’s going to save lives, that’s fine,” says Mark Broughton, SCL’s public affairs director. “That’s not a word I would use for that.”

[snip]

If SCL weren’t so earnest, it might actually seem to be mocking itself, or perhaps George Orwell. As the end of the smallpox scenario, dramatic music fades out to a taped message urging people to “embrace” strategic communications, which it describes as “the most powerful weapon in the world.” And the company Web page offers some decidedly creepy asides. “The [ops center] can override all national radio and TV broadcasts in time of crisis,” it says, alluding to work the company has done in an unspecified Asian country.

Of course, Cambridge Analytica is not SCL Worldwide, and that sort of thing sounds so un-American.

Cambridge Analytica has also done campaign work for Republicans Sen. Thom Tillis and Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, as well as for the North Carolina Republican Party. And for Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, who would never advocate a coup.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

Categories : Presidential Race
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Jul
05

How is this still a thing?

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In Texas, they still think the Obama is planning to invade. Jade Helm 15 is coming. In Bastrop, Texas, some fear martial law and a white apocalypse. Using a variant of Fox News’ “some say” the county GOP chair tells the New York Times, “in the minds of some, he was raised by communists and mentored by terrorists.” Former mayor Terry Orr explains:

“People think the government is just not on the side of the white guy,” Orr said.

The current Bastrop mayor, Kenneth Kesselus, who also supports Jade Helm, agrees. Kesselus said the distrust is due in part to a sense that “things aren’t as good as they used to be,” especially economically. “The middle class is getting squeezed and they’ve got to take it out on somebody, and Obama is a great target.”

Others in town see the paranoia as “the logical outcome” (if the word even applies) of a political climate where “the state’s Republican leaders have eagerly stoked distrust of the federal government, and especially of Obama.”

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Categories : History, Race
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Jul
03

“Queen Bree”

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The Nightly Show
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Categories : National
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