Daily Archive: 12/02/2014

Dec 02 2014


A nation crippled by fear: Why America’s reaction to Ferguson, Tamir Rice and ISIS are all connected

Marcy Wheeler, Salon

Tuesday, Dec 2, 2014 06:58 AM EST

White people in this country are afraid — and it’s the key to understanding race relations and our foreign policy.

What was so striking about Obama insisting that there’s never an excuse for violence was not just the contrast with his resumption of his predecessor’s violence in the Middle East, a resumption of policies that have resoundingly failed.

It’s that the president decried violence even as various parts of government rolled out what looked like a counterinsurgency strategy in Ferguson. The Saint Louis area and, in the following days, groups around the country rebelled – most people, peacefully – against the serial, banal violence of cops directed against African-American sons. In Ferguson especially, the fears sown in the weeks before the verdict provided the excuse to roll out state instruments of violence that may well have exacerbated the violence after the verdict – and certainly didn’t contain it. Sure, technically the government is supposed to have a monopoly on violence – which is why Darren Wilson got away with shooting an unarmed black teenager without being charged. But of late, the legitimacy of the state’s violence has become increasingly fragile. The state’s excuses for violence, both overseas and in localities across America, are increasingly dubious. The legitimacy of their excuses was further undermined last week when it became clear Cleveland cops shot a 12-year-old boy, Tamir Rice, wielding a toy gun.

In his speech after the Darren Wilson news, Obama might better have spoken about fear, not violence.

Because fear incited by provocative videos posted online likely explains why Americans ignored the resurgence of violence in Iraq until a few Americans were killed (and ignore the frequent beheadings carried out by our allies the Saudis).  “As long as ISIS is beheading Americans there’s no way the president can stand up and say that Syria isn’t our problem,” Drew reported a source asserting.

And whatever else you think of Darren Wilson’s testimony – which conflicted in some ways with what he reportedly said immediately after the shooting – he used the language of fear and dehumanization to justify the killing. The big black teenager he shot, Mike Brown, was like “Hulk Hogan,” Wilson said. “It looks like a demon,” Wilson described Brown’s face. Brown “made like a grunting” before Wilson fired the fatal shots. “[T]he only other option I thought I had was my gun,” Wilson explained to the grand jury to explain why he started shooting Brown. As for 12-year-old Rice, he and his toy gun elicited a response from a caller for this reason: He was “scaring the s___ out of people.”

Dec 02 2014

A Rather Tenuous Grasp

File this one under yet another failure of supposed elites who turn out to know very little about the subjects they’re “professional experts” in.

St. Louis Police Claim It’s Their ‘First Amendment’ Rights Not To Protect Football Players Who Supported Protestors

Mike Masnick, Tech Dirt

Tue, Dec 2nd 2014 9:33am

It’s been pretty obvious that law enforcement in the St. Louis area has a rather tenuous grasp on the concept of the First Amendment. Obviously, they’ve done a fairly terrible job recognizing the right to “peaceably assemble” for quite some time, even having a court declare its “5 second rule” approach unconstitutional. They’ve also ignored the freedom of the press by repeatedly arresting journalists. And, remember, the local prosecutor has claimed that it was really all those people speaking out on social media who were to blame.

But it appears that the misunderstanding of the First Amendment has been taken to new, and even more ridiculous levels, following a brief show of support for the protestors by some players for the St. Louis Rams (the local NFL football franchise for you non-sportsball people). The Rams’ wide receivers decided to all put their hands up — the “hands up, don’t shoot” gesture — in support of Michael Brown and the protestors. It’s a small, but meaningful gesture, showing they supported the protestors. And it shouldn’t have been taken as anything more than that.

Instead, the St. Louis County police decided to respond… by suggesting that, because of this, the police would no longer protect the Rams.

As many have noted, this certainly sounds like Roorda saying that it’s the police’s “First Amendment” rights to look the other way should any threats come to the team or the stadium.

Of course, that’s not how the First Amendment actually works. It’s quite the opposite. As Sally Jenkins at the Washington Post points out, the reality is exactly the opposite. The First Amendment protects the public from government officials (including the police) from taking actions based on expression of members of the public. If anything, Roorda’s implied threat violates the First Amendment, suggesting that the government will punish people for their expression.

Of course, the First Amendment now also protects the press digging into Jeff Roorda’s own background and reporting what they find. Like the time he was reprimanded for trying “to ‘cover’ for another police officer filing a report that contained false statements.” Or how he’s against body cameras because they “sometimes don’t reflect exactly what happened” and saying that “cameras have been bad for law enforcement” because “it causes second guessing by the courts and the media.” Roorda has also defended an officer who a surveillance video showed was assaulting a handcuffed suspect, claiming the officer was “only defending himself” and saying he was doing “as he’s trained to do.”

In fact, we actually wrote about that last story and posted the video.

As we noted at the time, Roorda then lied about what’s in the video. Roorda claimed that the officer was crouched down and the suspect started moving forward at him. But the video shows no such thing. Roorda further claimed that such videos should only be used when it helps the police view of things.

Meanwhile, the St. Louis County Police still seem to think that their First Amendment rights include pretending that the Rams apologized to them when they did not.

Dec 02 2014

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Trevor Timm: Obama’s Ferguson response will leave assault rifles and vehicles of war on American streets

On Monday, one week after the American criminal justice system failed Michael Brown, US attorney general Eric Holder and President Obama had eloquent and powerful words for those in Ferguson and across the country who have been protesting the killing of another unarmed black teenager by a white cop, along with the militarization of this country’s local police forces. Yet on the same day, with the White House grabbing the opportunity to put forth a substantive plan for changing the relationship between law enforcement and the people it is sworn to protect, the Obama administration indicated that hardly anything might change at all.

Holder, in a speech at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, warned that if distrust between police and American citizens doesn’t change, it could “threaten the entire nation”. And Obama, in Washington, tried to assuade his many critics by saying, “There have been commissions before, there have been task forces, there have been conversations – and nothing happens. What I try to describe to people is why this time will be different.”

Why, then, as the White House finally released its report on the militarization of police, did it largely defend the variety of federal programs that funnel billions of dollars of weaponry and high-tech surveillance gear to local police every year? The report offered (pdf) four milquetoast recommendations that included giving local police more money for body cameras and sensitivity training, while leaving every program – including the controversial Defense Department initiative known as 1033 that has sent assault rifles and armored mine-resistant vehicles to local cops – almost completely intact.

Khalil Gibran Muhammad: The revolution will be live-tweeted: why #BlackLivesMatter is the new model for civil rights

The events of the past few months, now simply referred to as Ferguson, have touched off nationwide protests of a scale not seen in a half-century. From billboards to T-shirts, protest banners and news headlines – all emblazoned with the words #BlackLivesMatter – we are witnessing the makings of a social movement of the 21st century kind. The revolution that Gil Scot Heron famously said, “would not be televised”, is today, in fact, recorded and tweeted.

The Godfather of Rap and soulful Black Power poet and musician could never have imagined that a hashtag would be the rallying cry of a new generation’s quest for racial justice in the United States of America. [..]

Black Power has given way to #BlackLivesMatter, the devolution of a movement for resources and recognition to a fight to exist, free of state-sanctioned violence. This is the “rearest of rear-guard positions one can imagine,” historian Andy Seal writes at his blog, “petitioning for the right not to die prematurely, a mark of retreat from the larger hopes and assertive agendas” of the 1960s and 1970s.

Or could it be that this is the wrong way to look at it? What if this moment is also a return to first principles: the necessary assertion of the humanity of black life by the democratic crowd beyond the legal fictions of equality

Sen. Bernie Sanders: An Economic Agenda for America: 12 Steps Forward

The American people must make a fundamental decision. Do we continue the 40-year decline of our middle class and the growing gap between the very rich and everyone else, or do we fight for a progressive economic agenda that creates jobs, raises wages, protects the environment and provides health care for all? Are we prepared to take on the enormous economic and political power of the billionaire class, or do we continue to slide into economic and political oligarchy? These are the most important questions of our time, and how we answer them will determine the future of our country.

The long-term deterioration of the middle class, accelerated by the Wall Street crash of 2008, has not been pretty. Today, we have more wealth and income inequality than any major country on earth. We have one of the highest childhood poverty rates and we are the only country in the industrialized world which does not guarantee health care for all. We once led the world in terms of the percentage of our people who graduated college, but we are now in 12th place. Our infrastructure, once the envy of the world, is collapsing.

Dean Baker: The Paid Vacation Route to Full Employment

The economics profession has hit a roadblock in terms of being able to design policies that can help the economy. On the one hand we have many prominent economists, like Paul Krugman and Larry Summers, who say the problem is that we don’t have enough demand to get us back to full employment. There is a simple remedy in this story; get the government to spend more money on items like infrastructure, education, and clean energy. [..]

The other side of the professional divide in economics doesn’t have much to offer on full employment because they say we are already there. The argument goes that people have dropped out of the labor force because they would rather not work at the wage their skills command in the market. In this story, we may want to find ways to educate or train people so they have more skills, but unemployment is not really a problem in today’s economy.

The notion that seven million people (the drop in population adjusted employment since the start of the recession) just decided they don’t feel like working, doesn’t pass the laugh test outside of economic departments and corporate boardrooms. This leaves us stuck with a policy prescription — more stimulus — that has zero political prospect any time in the foreseeable future.

Richard Brodsky: Shut It Down: Boehner as Moderate

It’s a sign of how far right the Republican Party has moved that John Boehner is the standard bearer for moderate Republicans. But there’s a new meaning to the word “moderate” that illuminates the new political reality for the GOP and for the country. [..]

Boehner is making no secret of his willingness to throw his weight around to stop what he believes are self-destructive political tactics. His Tea Party wing doesn’t disagree with his policies, they’re infuriated by what looks like civil conversations with Obama and reluctance to use his new majority to slowly redefine the Federal government. Now, if you believe that American liberty and economic prosperity are endangered solely by the Federal government it’s foolish to do anything but shut it down, no matter how unpopular that may be with swing voters. After all you don’t get revolutions by increment, you have to change the paradigm. But the political cost of a shutdown has Wall Street and big donors scared. They’re banking on Boehner to keep tactics out of the headlines.

Dave Johnson: Is the Democratic Party Relevant Anymore?

Many Democrats examining what happened in the 2014 midterms are asking, “What did the voters want?” But the right question is why only 36.4 percent of potential voters bothered to register and vote? Obviously Democrats did not give those voters a good enough reason to take the trouble. Is the Democratic Party relevant anymore? [..]

Democrats were considered the majority party from the time of Roosevelt’s New Deal until the 1980s. All they had to do to win was to get a high-enough voter turnout. Democratic operations were more about getting out the vote (GOTV) than giving people reasons to vote for Democrats instead of Republicans. They just assumed most people agreed with them — because most people agreed with them. But that time has passed.

Dec 02 2014

The Breakfast Club (Take It To The Streets)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover  we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

Sen. Joseph McCarthy is censured; Scientists demonstrate the world’s first artificially-created, self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction; Enron files for Chapter 11 protection; Colombian drug lord is shot and killed.

Breakfast Tunes

Dec 02 2014

On This Day In History December 2

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

December 2 is the 336th day of the year (337th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 29 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 2001, Enron filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in a New York court, sparking one of the largest corporate scandals in U.S. history.

An energy-trading company based in Houston, Texas, Enron was formed in 1985 as the merger of two gas companies, Houston Natural Gas and Internorth. Under chairman and CEO Kenneth Lay, Enron rose as high as number seven on Fortune magazine’s list of the top 500 U.S. companies. In 2000, the company employed 21,000 people and posted revenue of $111 billion. Over the next year, however, Enron’s stock price began a dramatic slide, dropping from $90.75 in August 2000 to $0.26 by closing on November 30, 2001.

As prices fell, Lay sold large amounts of his Enron stock, while simultaneously encouraging Enron employees to buy more shares and assuring them that the company was on the rebound. Employees saw their retirement savings accounts wiped out as Enron’s stock price continued to plummet. After another energy company, Dynegy, canceled a planned $8.4 billion buy-out in late November, Enron filed for bankruptcy. By the end of the year, Enron’s collapse had cost investors billions of dollars, wiped out some 5,600 jobs and liquidated almost $2.1 billion in pension plans.

Accounting practices

Enron had created offshore entities, units which may be used for planning and avoidance of taxes, raising the profitability of a business. This provided ownership and management with full freedom of currency movement and the anonymity that allowed the company to hide losses. These entities made Enron look more profitable than it actually was, and created a dangerous spiral, in which each quarter, corporate officers would have to perform more and more contorted financial deception to create the illusion of billions in profits while the company was actually losing money. This practice drove up their stock price to new levels, at which point the executives began to work on insider information and trade millions of dollars worth of Enron stock. The executives and insiders at Enron knew about the offshore accounts that were hiding losses for the company; however, the investors knew nothing of this. Chief Financial Officer Andrew Fastow led the team which created the off-books companies, and manipulated the deals to provide himself, his family, and his friends with hundreds of millions of dollars in guaranteed revenue, at the expense of the corporation for which he worked and its stockholders.

In 1999, Enron launched EnronOnline, an Internet-based trading operation, which was used by virtually every energy company in the United States. Enron president and chief operating officer Jeffrey Skilling began advocating a novel idea: the company didn’t really need any “assets.” By pushing the company’s aggressive investment strategy, he helped make Enron the biggest wholesaler of gas and electricity, trading over $27 billion per quarter. The firm’s figures, however, had to be accepted at face value. Under Skilling, Enron adopted mark to market accounting, in which anticipated future profits from any deal were tabulated as if real today. Thus, Enron could record gains from what over time might turn out to be losses, as the company’s fiscal health became secondary to manipulating its stock price on Wall Street during the Tech boom. But when a company’s success is measured by agreeable financial statements emerging from a black box, a term Skilling himself admitted, actual balance sheets prove inconvenient. Indeed, Enron’s unscrupulous actions were often gambles to keep the deception going and so push up the stock price, which was posted daily in the company elevator. An advancing number meant a continued infusion of investor capital on which debt-ridden Enron in large part subsisted. Its fall would collapse the house of cards. Under pressure to maintain the illusion, Skilling verbally attacked Wall Street Analyst Richard Grubman, who questioned Enron’s unusual accounting practice during a recorded conference call. When Grubman complained that Enron was the only company that could not release a balance sheet along with its earnings statements, Skilling replied “Well, thank you very much, we appreciate that . . . asshole.” Though the comment was met with dismay and astonishment by press and public, it became an inside joke among many Enron employees, mocking Grubman for his perceived meddling rather than Skilling’s lack of tact. When asked during his trial, Skilling wholeheartedly admitted that industrial dominance and abuse was a global problem: “Oh yes, yes sure, it is.”

Dec 02 2014

TDS/TCR (No Justice, No Peace)


Laying Pipe

What did you think I meant?

Smoking is bad for you

The real news, Stephen’s rare 2 part interview with Jon Stewart, and this week’s guests below.