Politics News

America’s war on Black girls: Why McKinney police violence isn’t about “one bad apple”

America's war on Black girls: Why McKinney police violence isn't about "one bad apple"

(Credit: MSNBC)

SALON

Many have been quick to dismiss or make excuses for the shocking video out of Texas. Here’s the truth of the matter

In just over two months, we will commemorate the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, a natural disaster that ravaged communities along the Gulf Coast. This tragedy was made infinitely worse not only by decades of governmental neglect and far-ranging poverty, but also by the fact that so many Black people could not swim.

That nearly 60 percent of Black people cannot swim is directly attributable to decades of segregated pool facilities in this country. While that problem ostensibly went away with the desegregation efforts of the mid-20th century, de facto segregation of pool facilities persists to this day, because community pools are now largely private amenities in suburban neighborhoods that many Black youth don’t have access to.

This is the backdrop of the troubling and traumatizing incident that occurred in McKinney, Texas, a suburb of Dallas, over the weekend, when 19-year-old Tatiana Rose threw a pool party and invited several friends to use the community pool in her neighborhood. Many of those friends were Black, and many of those Black friends also live in the neighborhood. At some point, as Tatiana says in a video interview, two white adult women began yelling at her and her friends to “go back where they came from,” “back to section 8 housing,” and calling them “black fuckers.” When a 14-year-old girl responded, the women further ridiculed her, prompting Tatiana to tell the adults that the girl was 14 and their comments were inappropriate. According to Tatiana’s account, the white women then approached her; one “hit her in the face” and the other began participating in the attack.

According to reports, multiple calls came into police. At least one call came from either Tatiana, her mother (who was present) or her friends, reporting that these white women had attacked the partygoers. Other calls came in from residents who reported that many Black children who were unauthorized to be there were there and fighting. Apparently, the party got larger and some children jumped over the fence to get to the party.

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Segregationists never went away: We just call them “small-government conservatives” now

Segregationists never went away: We just call them "small-government conservatives" now

Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly (Credit: Reuters/Micah Walter/AP/Douglas C. Pizac)

SALON

Black freedom & opportunity in America has always required the very federal intervention the right wants to destroy

The continuing decline of public sector jobs at local, state, and federal levels is having an abysmal economic impact on African Americans, for whom steady, stable government employment opportunities have provided a sure path into the middle class. The New York Times reported yesterday that “roughly one in five black adults works for the government, teaching school, delivering mail, driving buses, processing criminal justice and managing large staffs.” Because Black people hold a disproportionate number of government jobs, cutbacks that affect everyone hit Black communities even harder.

In many ways that goes without saying. When America sneezes, Black America gets the flu. But I want to suggest that something even more sinister animates this swift pivot in the country away from an investment in public goods and services. It is not simply that Black people are victims of a numbers game. Rather, there has been a wholesale P.R. campaign on the part of those on the right to associate all public goods and services, from public schools to public assistance, with the bodies of undeserving people of color, particularly Blacks and Latinos.

Any discussion of welfare or public assistance in this country is rife with dog whistles from the right toward the lower elements of their base, who in Pavlovian fashion, respond to code words about welfare and public assistance by conjuring images of the undeserving Black and Brown poor. In his new book “How Propaganda Works,” Yale philosopher Jason Stanley argues that while a “liberal democratic culture… does not tolerate explicit degradation of its citizens,” there are “apparently innocent words that have the feature of slurs, namely that whenever the words occur in a sentence, they convey the problematic content. The word welfare …conveys a problematic social meaning.” I am suggesting that the word “public” in our political discourse is becoming just such a tool of political propaganda as well.

While we don’t explicitly degrade public institutions, those institutions are, in practice, seen as less valuable, worthy, rigorous, and prestigious. In places as disparate as New York City and Tuscaloosa, Alabama, the problem of severe segregation in public schools has been well-documented. When economic means permit, white families tend not to educate their children in racially diverse schools. Public schools are viewed as cauldrons of poor learning and social dysfunction; and white people, whenever possible, exercise the prerogative to keep their children out of these environments. That seems reasonable, but it is unreasonable to except that other people’s children should have to learn in these kinds of environments either. The current circus that is the education reform debate in this country demonstrates a point that Stanley makes: “The usurpation of liberal democratic language to disguise an antidemocratic managerial society is at the basis of the American public school system as it was restructured between 1910 and 1920.” In other words, we have a publicly stated belief in the importance of good public education to our democracy, but this masks a variety of ways in which public schools become tools of social control; and, in this moment in particular, that perpetuates the creation of a Black and Brown underclass.

The tough reality about integration is white bodies are tethered to economic resources. Schools that have large populations of white children are not failing schools. When white gentrifiers move into urban areas, they seemingly bring nice restaurants, better policing, and better schools with them. The narrative attached to Black bodies is the opposite. The presence of Black bodies are seen as a drain on resources, particularly since the presence of Black people in neighborhoods tends to make those neighborhoods less desirable, driving down property values. One recent expose about racist housing practices in Brooklyn demonstrated that white people routinely ask not to live in places with too many Black people.

To the extent that our Civil Rights-era narrations of the racial divide persist, it seems that neither Black people nor white people ever invested fully in the idea of integration. Black communities in some respects fared better under segregation, because there were Black-owned business, students taught by Black teachers who believed in their inherent capability to learn, and more class integration within Black neighborhoods. Still, this was an inherently limited universe for many Black people. Thus, they aspired to white institutions and to racial integration in some ways as a means of access to a fairer redistribution of resources. Separate, Civil Rights era activists concluded, was inherently unequal.

Meanwhile, white people both then and now never fully bought into the idea of racial integration either. Beyond sentiment and rhetoric, we have only to look at the idea of racial integration in practice.  If schooling, housing, and worship practices in the 21st century are any indicator, we are as segregated as ever, and that has everything to do with a continuing practice among white Americans to segregate where they live, raise families and send their children to school. While many young white gentrifiers tell themselves they are chasing culture and diversity, in many ways, they are simply re-segregating neighborhoods, by shifting the color of who lives there from Brown to white. What gentrifiers seem not to have figured out is that they are being eaten alive by their own system, because their white bodies drive up property values and then price them out of the very neighborhoods they want to live in.

Moreover, white people continue to suggest that it is Black people who are self-segregating. They ask, “Why are all the Black kids sitting together in the cafeteria?” Or as one severely misguided senior professor at Duke University recently suggested, Black people’s choice of ethnic names is evidence of a lack of desire to fully integrate or assimilate into the mainstream of American society.

I am pointing to these practices in this larger argument about the way the notion of “public” has become a tool of propaganda in order to suggest a couple of things: One, racialized practices and racism still occur even when there is no identifiable racial discourse being deployed. And, two, these examples suggests that racialized bodies are tethered to material resources. So when the right argues that we privatize each and every facet of American life, this is at base about an attempt to segregate resources. But it is not accounted for by a purely Marxist analysis, which would suggest that this was about class and not race. In this country, our class structure is tethered to a racialized hierarchy, in which Black people in particular exist as a perpetual underclass.

A hallmark of American democracy has been an investment in a robust form of public life, good public schools, sufficient public services, active participation in our democracy. But we are a country where a significant segment of our citizenry has always been perfectly willing to erode long-held democratic principles in service of maintaining a racial hierarchy. The Civil War is only the most extreme example.

As those on the right bellyache about the cultures of poverty that cause Black folks to rely too heavily on government, no one ever seems to admit that there has never been any possibility of Black freedom or equal opportunity in this country without strong federal government intervention. Black people have a long history of working in government because the federal government was the first place to call for mass desegregation of employment opportunities.  In fact, the first March on Washington Movement, begun in 1941 by Pullman Porter A. Philip Randolph, was designed to force Franklin D. Roosevelt to desegregate federal employment in all federal agencies and among those who had federal contracts. In 1942, FDR obliged Randolph rather than risk a march on Washington, by creating the Fair Employment Practice Committee (FEPC).

Combatting racial segregation, and the racialized segregation of resources, has only happened in this country with strong federal intervention. So when the right continues to weaken federal government on all matters related to the social safety net, they deliberately rollback the pathways by which African Americans have procured access to middle class.

In 2013, the median net wealth for a white family was $142,000. The median net wealth for a Black family was $11,000. Black families have lost more than half their collective net wealth since 2008. As we are continually confronted with the stark and continuing reality of a rapidly disappearing Black middle class, while politicians continue to speak in “efficient” terms about the need to shrink government, it’s hard not to conclude that this was the goal all along.

Supreme Court’s grand ruse ends: Finally, Americans see the justices for the political hacks they are

Supreme Court's grand ruse ends: Finally, Americans see the justices for the political hacks they are

John Roberts at his confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill, Sept. 13, 2005 (Credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)

SALON

It’s great that we’re no longer pretending the Supreme Court is immune to politics

Cue up the sad David Brooks violin playing softly in the corner of a dark alley at 3 a.m., because Americans have no faith in powerful institutions anymore. One of those institutions would be the marbled shrine atop our third branch of American government, the Supreme Court. A new Associated Press poll shows that “only 1 person in 10 is highly confident that the justices will rely on objective interpretations of the [Affordable Care Act] rather than their personal opinions” in the Court’s impending King v. Burwell decision.

To us, that 10 percent figure seems way too high. As far as we can tell, it’s not 1 in 10 Americans who view our Supreme Court as a neutral collection of jurists who just want to call “balls and strikes,” but 1 American total: Chief Justice John Roberts. And maybe even not him?

The American people, the always trusty American people, have the Supreme Court’s number here. As with so many cases about why the American people have lost trust in a powerful institution, we can look to some of the powerful institution’s recent actions, going back at least to Bush v. Gore through Citizens United and Hobby Lobby and whatever primetime hit job comes next.

That next hit job may come soon in King v. Burwell, which, if ruled for the plaintiffs, would invalidate premium subsidies for those who’ve purchased individual health insurance plans on federally facilitated exchanges. The expected decision based on tea-leaf readings coming out of oral arguments was 5-4 or 6-3 in favor of upholding the subsidies, which tells you a lot about how weak the case is. But there is another possible outcome: 5-4 to strike down the subsidies, because the Supreme Court is ruled by a five-member majority of conservative justices who think that the Affordable Care Act is dumb.

The last time a legal challenge to Obamacare of this breadth made it to the Supreme Court, four justices voted not just to strike down the individual mandate but the entire law as well, because they believed that the law was dumb. They didn’t like it! Get rid of it! John Roberts originally sided with them but then, to the consternation of his conservative colleagues, switched his vote because such a hackish decision would have made the Supreme Court look too hackish. Roberts contented himself merely to gut the hell out of the Medicaid expansion and force the Obama administration to acknowledge that the individual mandate is a tax.

Very few Court watchers are basing their predictions of the King decision on the merits of the case, and rightly so. If it was being decided on the merits of the case, everyone would be betting that it would be upheld 9-0. Does anyone think that’s going to happen? No. It will all come down to how John Roberts, and perhaps Anthony Kennedy, feel about managing the politics. They want to screw over Obamacare but yeeeesh, would that backfire on the Court and conservatives? Would that make life more difficult for the Republican party heading into 2016? On the other hand: Would John Roberts ever eat lunch in Conservative This Town again if he sided with The Libruls to uphold a core component of Obamacare? It’s all about finding the right balance of these competing political considerations. The Democratic and Republican parties rightly recognize the nature of the situation here and have spent months trying to get inside John Roberts’ head. It is what it is.

Let’s consider a more generous version of what’s happened to the Supreme Court of late: that it’s merely followed the broader trend in American politics towards polarization. Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg might be looking at the same piece of legislation before them but seeing something completely different, so divergent have the liberal and conservative worldviews become. And these are justices who were appointed a generation ago. The next round of justices will have made their careers during this time of high-stakes judicial polarization.

That next round of justices may come very soon, since several Supreme Court justices are approximately one million years old. As Ian Millhiser writes at Think Progress, Rick Perry correctly emphasized the importance of the next presidential election in a speech this weekend:

“Something I want you all to think about is that the next president of the United States, whoever that individual may be, could choose up to three, maybe even four members of the Supreme Court,” Perry told the South Carolina audience. So this election “isn’t about who’s going to be the president of the United States for just the next four years. This could be about individuals who have an impact on you, your children, and even our grandchildren. That’s the weight of what this election is really about.”

I hate the “you have to vote in the next election because of the Supreme Court!” argument. I hate it because it lets the candidates off the hook: they can offer nothing whatsoever to voters and then rely on SCOTUS fearmongering to get out the vote. I also hate it because it’s a very credible argument. There is never going to be another David Souter, or a justice who gets confirmed and then has an ideological shift on the bench. This next presidential election will also be an election for the next generation of the Supreme Court, and it’s no tragedy that most Americans understand this cynical reality.

SCARBOROUGH’S SAD “APOLOGY”

MSNBC Screen Capture

SALON

Morning Joe’s namesake is a very busy and important man who can’t be bothered to get things right the first time

Last week, MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough went on TV and said something false. Reacting to the inflammatory (and often dubious) allegations in Peter Schweizer’s new book, Clinton Cash, Scarborough posited that the government of Algeria made donations to the Clinton Foundation as a way to buy its way off the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism. “The Clinton Foundation takes the check, and then just, out of nowhere the State Department then decides, well, they are going to take Algeria off the list,” Scarborough said. As Politifact and (my former employer) Media Matters pointed out, such an arrangement would have been impossible, given that Algeria has never been on the State Department’s list of terrorism sponsors.

So Scarborough was wrong. And today on Morning Joe, he offered a sneering, sarcastic “apology” to Politifact for having the temerity to point out how wrong he was.

I’m struggling to recall an instance in which a pundit has so self-indulgently wallowed in his own arrogance and sense of entitlement. Everyone gets something wrong every now and then, and the proper thing to do when those things happen is to correct the record, apologize, and move on. For Scarborough, though, the act of correction is an assault on the misbegotten pride he feels in hosting a low-rated and unwatchable morning news program.

First things first: Joe Scarborough seems to believe that because he puts on an “ad-libbed” show that lasts many hours, he enjoys some leeway when it comes to just making shit up. “Last week, in the course of this three-hour, ad-libbed show, I suggested Algeria may have been giving unreported donations to the Clinton Foundation in an effort to change their status on the State Department’s terror list.” Here’s a thought: maybe put a little more planning into what you say on cable news every day. “I do a long show that I put little to no forethought into” is not a justification for getting things wrong: it’s an admission that your show’s format is bad and should be changed to minimize these sorts of errors.

Scarborough also faulted Politifact for not noting that before he launched into this made-up nonsense about Algeria, he offered a disclaimer that he didn’t know what he was talking about. “Now, never mind that I prefaced my statement by saying that all the specifics may not be perfectly lined up. These are the realities, after all, of all of us doing a three-hour rolling conversation without teleprompters or scripts, the very things that every other news show in America is chained to but we aren’t. But still I prefaced my remark, but that prefaced remark mattered little to the Clinton arm of Politifact.” Yes, how dare Politifact not do Joe Scarborough the courtesy of highlighting his admission that he was talking out his ass.

Having begged off any sort of responsibility for the things he says on his own program, Scarborough then lashed out at Politifact, claiming that they were just picking nits (which, of course, absolves Scarborough from any blame).

VIDEO

SCARBOROUGH: So Politifact, let me get this straight. The Clinton Foundation was taking the money, hold on, not to get off the terror list. They were throwing them money at the same time they wanted to the State Department to get them off a list for their gross human rights abuses towards women. I hope I’ve cleared that up. Because I’ve got more. Have I cleared that part up? Because I don’t want to get it wrong! And any time Politifact calls me out on a footnote, I promise I’m going to come out here and let you know that instead of talking about the Clinton Foundation getting money to possibly get Algeria off the terror list, it would possibly be to whitewash gross human rights violations against women. I’m glad I got that off my chest.

Politifact actually noted all of that in their correction of Scarborough – they had a whole section of the fact-check headlined “Human rights violations hamper relations.” But this isn’t a dispute over a “footnote,” as Scarborough’s weaselly, sarcastic rebuttal put it. Inclusion on the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terror is not a small thing. Once the U.S. government identifies a country as a sponsor of terrorism, they’re immediately subject to a whole host of economic sanctions. If, as Scarborough had posited, the Clinton Foundation had been part of a quid pro quo scheme to let Algeria buy its way off that list and out of those sanctions, that would have been a massive scandal.

But whatever, Scarborough was just “ad-libbing,” so it’s no big deal. It’s not Joe Scarborough’s responsibility to be right the first time; it’s Politifact’s responsibility to cut him as much slack as he needs because “Morning Joe” isn’t about facts, it’s about “conversation.”

And that leads to the most important question: why does “Morning Joe” still exist? Scarborough is clearly very proud of the ad-libbed, thrown-together format that permits him and his pundit pals to make stuff up in a consequence-free environment, but nobody actually watches the show. Its ratings are abysmal, and yet it soldiers on as a monument to Joe Scarborough’s insufferable arrogance.

– 

It’s Elizabeth Warren’s party now! How to remake it in the liberal heroine’s image

Elizabeth Warren, Barack Obama | (Credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque/Yuri Gripas/photo montage by Salon)

I’ll just say, I hope she runs in 2016…

Salon

If they’re smart, liberals could use Warren’s new power to make the changes to the party that are so badly needed

Despite being so notoriously difficult to get right, predictions are part of the pundit’s stock-in-trade. So once you’ve got some grains of salt ready to toss into the mix, please indulge me for a moment as I make one of my own.

Here it goes: Twenty years from now, assuming climate change has not yet ended the world as we know it, most American liberals won’t think of this fall as the time when Republicans finally retook control of the U.S. Senate. And they won’t think of it as the brief pause that separated the era of Barack Obama from that of Hillary Clinton. Instead, when the liberals of our near future look back on the current moment, they’ll remember it as the hour when the Democratic Party began to move decisively to the left, thanks in no small part to the continued ascendance of Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Pessimist that I am, I’ll readily grant that this is very optimistic. In fits and starts, the party’s been moving leftward for a number of years now, and I’ve little doubt that the midterm blowout will be cited by some as proof that Democrats must become even more centrist. Yet unlike the talk surrounding a historically ignored election, which will dissipate quickly (especially if I’m right about the return of government-by-crisis), the opportunity raised by the Democratic Party’s recent decision to make Warren part of its Senate leadership has the potential to be far more enduring. But only if liberal activists know what to do with it.

At this point, it’s not entirely clear what the folks nominally in charge of this infamously disorganized party are trying to do by elevating Warren. Because the former Harvard Law professor has been prominent in liberal circles since the launch of her brainchild, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, it can be easy to forget that she’s only been in Congress for a couple of years. And coming as it does after a truly disastrous midterm showing, this seeming vote of confidence from Democratic bigwigs has the risk of being a “glass cliff” situation. My former colleague Brian Beutler, for example, has guessed that Senate Dem leadership may have opted to bring Warren into the fold because they’ll need a popular spokeswoman to deliver the next two years’ worth of bad news to the “professional left.”

Still, even if Warren’s promotion isn’t motivated entirely or primarily by idealism and generosity, it could nevertheless be a major turning point for activists looking to push the Democratic Party in a more left-wing direction. After many years of kvetching about their paltry influence — and following decade after decade of enviously watching the conservative movement refashion the GOP in its own image — lefty ideologues and organizers now have the chance to turn Warren into a kind of trojan horse for a resurgent politics of economic populism (or, as it used to be called, liberalism). And if they adapt and adhere to the script used many years ago by visionary right-wingers, who famously responded to an electoral drubbing in 1964 by staying the course and propelling a true believer to the White House less than 20 years later, it just might work.

It’s not a perfect analogy, I admit. There are fundamental, irresolvable differences between liberals and conservatives, and they extend well beyond ideology and into the realms of psychology and sociology. (Liberals are less hierarchically minded, more demographically diverse.) Further, in spite of all the mythology about conservative movement turning the GOP into the “party of ideas,” the fact is that the men (and women, but mostly men) who transformed the party of Lincoln into the chief vehicle of the Reagan Revolution spent much more time talking about and organizing around what they were against — taxes, the welfare state, the civil rights movement, feminism, LGBT equality, the separation of church and state, etc. — than what they were for. And while there are certainly some recent Supreme Court decisions they’d like to see reversed, a politics centered around a return to the glorious past is, for liberals, not really an option.

But notwithstanding all of that, I still think the conservative example offers activist liberals unhappy with the Obama record –which is most of them — some valuable lessons.

For one, if left-wing troublemakers want to make Sen. Warren a Goldwater of their own, they’ll have to ignore the 2016 presidential race as much as possible. That doesn’t simply mean giving up on the lost cause of forcing Wall Street favorite Hillary Clinton to reinvent herself as a true progressive. And it certainly doesn’t mean wasting resources on a quixotic primary challenge, which in the present circumstances will do little more than help Clinton get back in the swing of triangulation. Instead, it means building institutional support from the bottom up by creating funding networks and community spaces outside of the Democratic Party’s reach, so lefties can feel personally invested in their cause without having D.C. grandees step in and tell them to be “serious.” That’s what right-wing activists did through churches, think tanks and mailing lists; and the often successful Internet-based organizing from people at Daily Kos and the Blue America PAC has already offered a hint of how those on the left can do it again.

For another, the conservative precedent suggests that even if policy is overrated when it comes to deciding the outcome of elections, it’s extremely important to be in control of the policymaking apparatus for the time that comes next. Our political culture may pay an inordinate amount of lip service to the idea that policy is a translated version of the people’s will, but the reality is that most partisans and politicians choose their policy views by following where their party leads them, not the other way around. Conservative dominance over the grants, scholarships and think tanks that comprised the GOP’s policymaking infrastructure was integral to the dramatic lurch to the right the party platform experienced between 1960 and 1976 (before Reagan’s coronation, you’ll note). And as the Tea Party’s recent takeover of influential right-wing policy shops like Cato and Heritage shows, the value of this approach has not over time been diminished. As Grover Norquist, one of the leading right-wing activists of his generation, noted in 2012, controlling the GOP policymaking machine made it so all conservatives needed in a Republican president was the ability to use a pen.

Last but not least, the success of right-wing activists from the past and present indicates that there can be long-term benefits in a short-term stint as the minority. To be clear, it’d be taking things too far to say that it’s a good thing Democrats now only control the White House. As the last four years have taught us, the powers of the imperial presidency don’t seem to extend very far into the realm of the domestic (at least not yet). So having a majority in Congress is vital, still. At the same time, there’s value, to a degree, in having a party with ideological coherence — increasingly so, I’d argue, in an era of institutional failure and partisan polarization. Most of the Democrats dissolved in the red tides of ’10 and ’14 were “blue dog” conservatives, and while their absence has stripped Democrats of control over Congress, it’s offered lefties within their ranks the chance to redecorate, as it were, now that the majority times have ended.

Perhaps more than anything else, though, what lefty activists should learn from their right-wing counterparts is this: In a dysfunctional two-party system such as ours, in which voters are perpetually unhappy and ready for any excuse to throw the bums out and start all over, it’s only a matter of time until the losers of yesterday are once again ascendant. And as the GOP has shown in the years since its back-to-back wipeouts in ’06 and ’08, responding to electoral defeat by moderating is no longer necessary, while moving further away from the center is no longer a death sentence. Now that they have a political superstar and ideological true believer as their behind-the-scenes agent, lefty activists with an eye on the long term have a chance to, in the words of Warren, “frame the issues for the next few elections” and ultimately make the Democratic Party truly progressive.

10 insane, fear-mongering GOP lies this election cycle

No attribution

Salon

Whether they’re attacking Obama or Michelle Nunn, Republicans are resorting to some of their dirtiest tactics

Halloween has come and gone, but the Republican Party is offering up its own scares, pulling out its worst scaremongering tactics to try to use fear to get voters to the polls for their candidates. AlterNet has rounded up 10 of the worst fear-mongering lies.

Halloween has come and gone, but the Republican Party is offering up its own scares, pulling out its worst scaremongering tactics to try to use fear to get voters to the polls for their candidates. AlterNet has rounded up 10 of the worst fear-mongering lies.

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1. Michelle Nunn Is Pro-Terrorist Because She Worked With A Muslim Charity: In Georgia’s remarkably close Senate race, GOP nominee David Perdue ran a smear commercial claiming her charity was linked to terrorists because of its work with the Islamic Relief USA. Poltifact found the claim so outlandish it gave it one of its coveted “Pants on Fire” ratings.

2. Obama Cut A Secret Deal To Bring Ebola To The United States: Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) had this revelation on Sean Hannity’s radio show: “I can’t help but believe, just based on the way we’ve got all these nebulous excuses why not to have a travel ban, this president, I guarantee you, we’re going to find out, he has cut a deal with African leaders. They’re going to bring people in.”

3. ISIS Is Coming Over The Border Due To Discovered Prayer Rugs That Are Actually Adidas Jerseys: Texas Lt. Governor David Dewhurst claimed that ISIS prayer rugs were recently found at the border, signaling a possible invasion. The prayer rugs turned out to be Adidas jerseys.

4. Sexual Assault Is A Result Of Taking The Bible Out Of Schools: Jody Hice, the GOP nominee for Georgia’s 10th congressional district, which is currently represented by extremistRep. Paul Broun (R-GA), warned that if we don’t stop taking prayer out of public school, we’ll see more of the kind of sexual assault that took place at Penn State.

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5. ISIS Will Send Ebola-Infected Fighters To The U.S.: Topping Gohmert and Dewhurst, Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA) went as far as to say that ISIS will weaponize Ebola suicide bombs. “Think about the job they could do, the harm they could inflict on the American people by bringing this deadly disease into our cities, into schools, into our towns, and into our homes. Horrible, horrible,” he said.

6. Arm Yourself, Just In case The Government Tries To Take Away Your Guns: Iowa Senate GOP candidate Joni Ernst warned that she carries her pistol just in case the government tries to confiscate it: “I have a beautiful little Smith & Wesson, 9 millimeter, and it goes with me virtually everywhere. But I do believe in the right to carry, and I believe in the right to defend myself and my family — whether it’s from an intruder, or whether it’s from the government, should they decide that my rights are no longer important.”

7. If You Vote For Democrats, They’ll Let Loose Violent African-American Inmates: In Nebraska’s second congressional district, Republicans are running a Willie Horton-esque ad that implies Democrats were responsible for a mentally ill violent inmate being released and then going on a murder spree. The ad juxtaposes the Democratic candidate with the African American inmate.

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8. Obama Is Going To Import Terrorists Into Our Neighborhoods: The RNC cut an adwarning of Obama’s “plans to bring terrorists from Guantanamo to our country,” implying that under any successful executive action somehow terrorist suspects will be walking American neighborhoods rather than be sitting in maximum-security prisons.

9. Equal Pay Laws Would Scare Employers And Put Women Out Of Work:Monica Wehby, running for Oregon’s Senate seat, said that she opposed equal pay laws for women because it would “make it more difficult to hire women, because of the fear of lawsuits. They would tend to steer away.”

10. Social Programs Are Leading To Suicide: Rep. Don Young (R-AK) said that government social programs are leading to a rise in suicides due to corresponding decline in support from family and friends. He eventually apologized.

What’s scarier, these lies or the fact the GOP thinks Americans will fall for them?

The right’s sham Christianity: How an attack on John Kasich exposes the fraud

The right's sham Christianity: How an attack on John Kasich exposes the fraud

Gov. John Kasich (OH-R) | (Credit: AP/Tony Dejak)

Salon

Ohio’s GOP governor was the darling of the right — until he sought to help poor people, in the name of Christ

Could Republican Gov. John Kasich run for president? According to the Washington Post, he’s poised to, and he certainly seems to be among the better options out there, with the other obvious choices either clearly deranged (Ted Cruz) or totally uninterested (Mitt Romney). But conservatives have not been roundly pleased with Kasich, in part because he is evidently something of a committed Christian.

Last year, Kasich fought doggedly to expand Medicaid coverage in Ohio, extending healthcare to some 275,000 poor people. When queried as to why a conservative would push for expanded coverage, Kasich explained his reasoning thus:

“I had a conversation with one of the members of the legislature the other day. I said, ‘I respect the fact that you believe in small government. I do, too. I also know that you’re a person of faith.  Now, when you die and get to the meeting with St. Peter, he’s probably not going to ask you much about what you did about keeping government small. But he is going to ask you what you did for the poor. You better have a good answer.’  ”

Conservative critics did not have a good answer. If Kasich’s challenge required a faith-based, well-reasoned critique of Medicaid to defend Republican animus, that wasn’t what it received. Instead, Kasich’s right-wing opponents produced a series of attacks that seemed straight out of the Richard Dawkins school of rhetoric. At RedState, for instance, Jason Hart complained that “Kasich leaned heavily on his Christian faith to push the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” and glossed over Kasich’s explanation of his Christian reasoning as: “anyone who opposes Medicaid expansion will have to answer for their opposition when they die.”

Of course, Kasich didn’t suggest that anyone who opposes Medicaid expansion will have to answer for such at the pearly gates; he merely pointed out that, at this point in time, Medicaid expansion is the only option for extending healthcare coverage to poor people in Ohio, making it the most sensible Christian option. Were there other options – that is, if Republicans had some small-government program that resulted in equal or better coverage – Kasich’s argument would fall out in favor of that. But as it stands no such substitute exists. It’s notable that misrepresenting Kasich’s Christian defense of Medicaid expansion remains a popular smear. Consider the National Review’s Avik Roy:

Roy’s lie is as glib as it is lazy, suggesting two simultaneous pathologies: first, that conservatives have mostly given up on an actual faith-based critique of extending healthcare coverage to poor people; second, that unless Christianity is acting as a helpful crutch to prop up libertarian fiscal policies, it’s more or less a joke.

True to form, the Wall Street Journal had an absolute field day making fun of Kasich’s Christian reasoning. “Believe it or not, there are still a few disciples with faith in an ObamaCare higher power,” the article titled “Medicaid and the Apostle Kasich” opens, and the faith-themed snark just rolls on from there. Both theologically tone-deaf and redolent with Hitchensian disdain of Christian thought, the piece sneers that Kasich “really must feel like he’s guided by the Holy Spirit” (perish the thought!), and sniffs that Kasich’s “government-as-thy-brother’s-keeper riff needs some moral fine-tuning.” But the most damning line is the last: “Republicans get a vote before St. Peter does.”

It seems this is where Kasich and his critics depart: For the governor, and for any faithful Christian, Christian ethics precede party politics. For some time the line from Christian politicians like Paul Ryan has been that their faith inspires their political affiliation, not vice versa. But the response of various conservative venues to a Christian argument that, while theologically orthodox and sensible, nonetheless reverses a cherished partisan position, suggests another situation of priorities.

Kasich’s sin is to present a vision of fiscal conservatism that is limited rather than necessitated by Christian ethics. His argument, despite what Roy, Hart and the Wall Street Journal would present, is actually sophisticated: He points out that Christian doctrine directly requires the consideration of the poor ahead of the interests of profit. It is not that Christian doctrine has traditionally held that any profit from business is wrong (though more radical strands have moved in that direction), but that excess wealth has generally been viewed by Christian authorities as acceptable only insofar as the needs of the most vulnerable have been met. This is foundational, ancient Christian teaching, ranging from the earliest church fathers to the medieval scholars and into the modern day.

Naturally, Kasich’s critics don’t bother to attempt a reversal on theological grounds. Instead they suggest, pace Hart, that there is some small-government solution directly at hand that Kasich has ignored. Yet they have roundly failed to produce it. If you could link to a policy proposal that better accomplishes the goal of ensuring the poor healthcare coverage, why sneer about “hating Jesus” instead?

Because, it seems, the comedy of Christian sentiment opposed to conservative dogma is rote among right-wingers. Conservatives are smart to saturate airwaves with turf wars over social issues, wherein they’re more than happy to prop up Christian views; but Christian voters should be wary of the swiftness and viciousness with which conservatives seem prepared to dismiss even perfectly solid Christian reasoning altogether when it no longer suits them. If party policy is that the interests of the GOP precede the interests of the Prince of Peace, there’s not much room for negotiation.

Russell Brand absolutely demolishes Fox News over Ferguson coverage

Russell Brand absolutely demolishes Fox News over Ferguson coverage

Russell Brand (Credit: AP/Ellis O’Brien) 

Say what you will about Russell Brand but that fact is, every now and then he makes salient points on his video program.  This is just one example…

Salon

On the latest episode of his Web series, the British comedian takes Fox to task for its one-sidedness

Russell Brand eviscerated Fox News’ coverage of the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, on Thursday, blasting the network for its one-sidedness.

“It’s so outrageous,” Brand said on the latest episode of  his show, “The Trews.”

“It’s almost art.”

Brand criticized Fox News for its nearly unanimous support of Darren Wilson, the white Ferguson police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown earlier this month, and for its deeply negative attitude toward protesters in the Missouri city.

“I think what’s interesting about Fox News’ coverage is the complete evisceration of any compassion in the argument,” Brand said. “Pain and suffering is the lifeblood of their channel. There’s no one so disadvantaged, so oppressed, that Fox News can’t get some mileage out of exploiting or condemning them.”

Beginning his takedown, Brand homed in on Greg Gutfeld’s comments on “Red Eye,” where the host said that “the media, like humanity, can only handle two sides to a story, and they almost always flock to one side — and it’s David, never Goliath.”

Cutting in, Brand cannily responded: “Yeah … When you look at the Bible, you think, ‘Hang on here! Should we revise this clearly allegorical story about David and Goliath? What about Goliath — the hapless, lovable giant?’ No, you don’t — Goliath is clearly there to demonstrate oppressive power, isn’t he?”

Brand continued his assault on Gutfield, playing a segment where Gutfield called the overwhelming support for Brown whom the “Red Eye” host deemed the “underdog” the result of “decades of pop culture, deeming what’s cool and what isn’t.”

Interjecting, Brand offered his rebuttal.

“It’s not ‘cool’ to stick up for the people of Ferguson, who after a century of oppression and the only limited success of the civil rights movement, have decided that after the killing of an unarmed man to protest. They’re doing it because they like some of their trainers,” Brand said, referring to expensive athletic shoes.

Brand also took aim at Fox News contributor Jason L. Riley, author of the book “Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder for Blacks to Succeed.” Riley, who consistently has attempted to explain black crime as a pathological deficiency, recently lambasted President Barack Obama for his comments that “black crime stems from poverty, or a racist criminal justice system, which is nonsense!”

Brand wouldn’t stand for it.

“That’s outrageous,” Brand said. “Of course there’s an economic aspect to the argument. Of course there’s a social aspect. You can’t just bring out the author of the book ‘We Deserve to Be Shot’ to bring out arguments just so Fox News can keep being as they are.”

He continued: “People don’t just spontaneously have an attitude toward the criminal justice system …Like the same way you might not have an attitude to your dishwasher. If your dishwasher doesn’t do anything except wash the dishes, you won’t just suddenly wonder one day, ‘You know, it’s really unjust the way that dishwasher keeps shooting unarmed black men!’”

Watch the whole clip here:

NYPD drags a 48-year-old naked woman from her apartment as neighbors protest and tape arrest

NYPD drags a 48-year-old naked woman from her apartment as neighbors protest and tape arrest

NYPD outside of the United Nations General Assembly Building | AP

A friend emailed me today and asked me why hadn’t I reported some of the malicious treatment by police officers against alleged “perpetrators” in recent weeks.  I think I wrote back saying that I have in fact reported on police violence in the past but wanted to stick to the tagline of this blog: Sorting out the crazies.

The truth of the matter (and my friend touched on this in his email) I probably didn’t want to offend the readers of this political blog with stories of police misconduct across the nation.  Perhaps there’s even a deeper reason…

So, I have decided to include some of the police misconduct craziness going on across the country (especially in the northeast) perpetrated by poorly trained, unprofessional cops everywhere.   (H/t: LTL)

Hence, the following story:

Salon

Disturbing video captures the NYPD arresting a woman as she shouts that she needs her oxygen. The woman was dragged naked from her Brownsville, Brooklyn apartment by NYPD.

Denise Stewart, a 48-year-old Brooklyn woman was dragged by NYPD from her apartment and arrested in the late hours of July 13, New York Daily News reported. The grandmother had just taken a shower and was only wearing a towel and pair of underpants when NYPD pounded on her door.

The NYPD officers were responding to a domestic violence 911-call made from the Brownsville apartment building. However, according to the Daily News, they did not know the apartment number. After hearing shouts from Stewart’s apartment they banged on the door at 11:45 PM. According to the Daily News, Stewart told the police they had the wrong apartment and attempted to close the door. Denise Stewart was then dragged by the NYPD cops into the hallway.

Neighbors captured part of the arrest on video, which shows male officers struggling to subdue the woman, and Stewart calling for her oxygen.

“For approximately two minutes and 20 seconds, Stewart was bare-breasted in the hallway as additional police officers tramped up the stairs and through the hallway, glancing at her as they passed by,” the Daily News reported. Eventually a female officer covered her with a towel.

Shouts of “Oxygen, get my oxygen” can be heard int he video.

“Ok, ok,” a police officer says, and leaves the frame.

“Her asthma! Her asthma! Her asthma,” shouted bystanders.

Stewart, who has asthma, fainted during the arrest, according to the Daily News.

The NYPD arrested Denise Stewart and charged her with assaulting a police officer — she bit an officer’s finger during the scuffle. Denise Stewart’s 20-year-old daughter Diamond Stewart was arrested and charged with acting in a manner injurious to a child, resisting arrest and criminal possession of a weapon. Stewarts’s 24-year-old son Kirkland Stewart was charged with resisting arrest.

Stewart’s 12-year-old daughter was also taken into custody. According to the police, the 12-year-old had injuries on her face and claimed that her mother and sister hit her with a belt. The 12-year-old daughter later resisted arrest, and allegedly kicked out a police van window, cutting an officer’s chin. She was charged with criminal mischief, criminal possession of a weapon and assaulting a police officer.

Denise Stewart’s lawyer, Amy Rameau, was told by a Legal Aid lawyer that the original 911 call came from a different apartment at the Kings Highway address. The NYPD allegedly arrived at Stewart’s apartment by mistake.

“They manhandled [Stewart] and behaved in a deplorable manner,” Rameau said. “She feels completely mortified. This is about human dignity.”

Rameau also explained that the Administration for Children’s Services investigated and found no evidence of neglect.

 

Related Stories:

HOMICIDE: Medical examiner says NYPD chokehold killed Staten Island dad Eric Garner

Video shows cop apparently putting arm around neck of seven-months pregnant Brooklyn woman

Neocons never learn: Why their new warmongering is so shameless

Neocons never learn: Why their new warmongering is so shameless

U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) (Credit: Reuters/Samantha Sais)

Salon

The same hawks who suckered us into war with Iraq are at it again. It’s time they be held accountable

This article originally appeared on The Globalist.

In the history books, the U.S. Republicans will never live down the fact that they “Iranified” Iraq, disrupting thousands of years of calibrating regional balance. That country long served as a buffer state for one purpose only — to suppress the implosion of the region. True, the Democrats who backed the invasion aren’t much better, because they were swayed by the idiotic “patriotic” fervor of 2003.

But at least they seem to recognize the error, even if it should have been visible at the time: Any U.S. leaders who take an action that, historically speaking, must inevitably hand Iraq to Iran and restore Iran as the dominant regional power needs to have their heads examined.

It is well known that John McCain, the former U.S. presidential candidate and prisoner of war, likes to pour oil into any fire he sees. It is in his nature to do so. The question is why we let him do so without at least first forcing him to pay penance for his past sins of warmongering.

BOMB, BOMB, BOMB

The senior senator from Arizona now wants to take his pyromaniac style of foreign policy into Iraq once more, echoing his “bomb, bomb, bomb” spirit of a decade ago. In that, he is guided not by any sense of patriotism, but by all the impetuousness of an anarchist that he can muster.

McCain is not only one of the chief propellants of the American pyromania that destroyed Iraq, but also one of the most senior still holding political office.

The most basic fact of the matter is this: Anybody who was out to topple Saddam Hussein — and thereby turn all of Iraq into a powder keg — at best showed complete ignorance of the history of the region.

A deep-seated sense of religiously fueled enmity throughout the ages has shaped life in West Asia for ages. Shiites and Sunnis, when pitted against each other, and then presented with an opportunity, have always been inclined to make a blood sport out of the pursuit of the other.

The crucial role that Iraq has traditionally played in that kind of highly combustible environment was that it served as a satellite buffer state that essentially separated the Levant and Asia Minor from Iran/Persia, providing a check on the expansion of empires from either direction.

Internally divided due to shifting borders and occupiers from repeated conquests, Iraq has often stood at the crossroads between large Western Sunni powers and the Shia Persian power to the east.

Even before the rise of Islam and its factions, the area was the dividing zone between western and eastern empires. Even Rome sometimes held Mesopotamia, during its long-running struggle with what is now Iran.

However, with the Cheney/Bush/McCain clan’s resolutely amateurish move into Iraq, that crucial buffer disappeared and turned itself into a wall of fire.

Their collective amateurishness is only superseded by the ahistorical U.S. foreign policy-making in the region.

THE UK GOVERNMENT FAILED

The whole Iraq episode and the current conundrum also show what a terrible ally the United Kingdom has been for the United States over the past decade or so.

True, the post-Empire UK has long made it a habit of punching above its weight class, usually by acting as America’s sidekick. But for all the immense ambitions that this points to, traditionally the UK government has at least usually been mindful of history.

To be sure, the British Foreign Office had enough smart people who knew about Iraq’s historic role inside the Muslim world as a buffer state — to keep religious emotions from exploding.

Evidently, Tony Blair was so eager to please his American master that this most critical advice was suppressed. Even if the American ally had been unprepared or unwilling to listen, it would have been all the more incumbent on the UK to speak out loud.

That is what good allies do. In fact, that is what Germany and its then-Chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, did at the time, when he warned the U.S. government publicly of an ill-advised “adventure.”

Which is exactly how this all turned out to be. But that public courage, of course, didn’t keep Schroeder from becoming the U.S. political establishment’s favorite bête noire. Yes, it is true that once he left office, he made some distasteful career choices.

But that does not in any sense invalidate the character he displayed while in office, when he warned the Americans of the inferno(s) to come.

Tony Blair, meanwhile, the snake-charming, bomb-throwing sidekick to George Bush, is still in the good graces of many Americans. The only promising step of sorts toward penitence that Blair has made since then is that he has converted to Catholicism.

While that is very unusual for a (former) British leader, he is at least on the right track. He has much to atone for. It will take a long line of Catholic priests to hear all the confessions Mr. Blair still needs to make.

On the U.S. side of the disaster initiated in 2003, however, it seems that all such confessions of guilt will go entirely unspoken. If the recent round of cheerleading for re-invasion is any indication, McCain and friends are not only unrepentant but still actively in denial that they ever made any mistake in the first place.