Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Darren Wilson May Be Not Guilty, but the System Isn't.


McCulloch speaks, and Ferguson riots. Who could have predicted?

Almost the nicest thing that could be said about Robert McCulloch's announcement and press conference last night that revealed there would be no indictment of officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown was that it was "tone-deaf." I saw it beyond tone-deaf, and as it unfolded, I was overcome by the stupidity and senselessness of choosing to release the grand jury decision at 8 o'clock at night, when it would be that much harder to control the outcome, which was as devastating as it was preventable. Releasing it at seven in the morning without McColloch's rambling, self-serving monologue and giving the local population, mostly trapped at work all day, a chance to process it before cocktail hour might have been more sensible. Ya think!??

Although I can't always rely on Andrew Sullivan's politics, I often check in on his blog during events like this. And he put together a thoughtful piece, even if its title, "Finding the System Guilty," doesn't amount to a breakthrough insight. Read it; it's short and mostly quoting others.

Yes, it's all about the systems, the multiple sets of systems that we've built out of our tortured history of race, race relations, and law enforcement in the wake of hundreds of years of slavery, Jim Crow laws, and attempts to cure them with civil rights legislation.

I say this from my safe perch of white privilege in a small Northern California wine town far from the battle lines drawn all across our country. Matters of race are barely a blip here compared to Detroit, Memphis, Cleveland, St. Louis and any other place where white cops and people of color collide, though we have our own occasional local tragedies that fade after a few protests and curbside memorials.

My sense of this is that a set of systems that has white cops patrolling streets in towns with large black populations creates an unending stream of petty stops for petty crimes leading to petty fines and short incarcerations -- all which are partly aimed at raising funds to pay for the next rounds of petty stops -- until, ad nauseum, we've run our black population repeatedly through the law-enforcement ringer leaving them stressed and brimming with rage and resentment.

It was this that officer Wilson saw in Michael Brown's eyes when he said, "The only way I can describe it, it looks like a demon, that's how angry he looked."

In the end, Darren Wilson looks like a typical cop who chose lethal force against an unarmed, young black man who was obviously engaged in a set of worst practices for anyone who doesn't want to get shot. But beyond that quick take, the reality is that we've built this world, and tragedies like this one are baked into the cake. I don't know what we can do to take this world apart and put it back together in such a way that we can make this outcome as rare as it is commonplace in today's America.

Wait, maybe I do know what it would take: more will than we've got. Wish I was wrong.

Getting rid of these would be a start. Not gonna happen...

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The "OMG Life Is So Fair!" Chart


Okay, maybe not.


Which reminds us that Rick Santorum stated out loud the default Republican position on income inequality:


Here's how we "celebrate success" in "small towns across America":

Celebrating success in small-town Florida.

Funny how Santorum's idea of success requires failure. "But that's how it always has been, and hopefully, and I do say that, there always will be." Don't sugarcoat it, Rick.

The Republicans are only as successful as their ability to convince white working-class people that the reason they are failing is because blacks and immigrants are taking their jobs and getting welfare and healthcare from their taxes. It's not true, but that's the key to the political dynamic at play these days.

Horrible.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Republicans Prove That Obama Is Right About Immigration Move


Obama in winter: He may be down, but don't underestimate him.
He's quite adept at making Republicans do damage to themselves.

How do we know that Barack Obama is making the right decision regarding immigration? It's because the very threat of doing it sends the GOP into hyperdrive to Moonsville. Could Tom Coburn prove that Obama knows what he's doing? Let's look (first 1:40 is enough):


If the Republicans want to threaten violence -- to fight immigration reform through fear-mongering -- then Barack Obama is clearly about to do the right thing. (h/t Talking Points Memo)

Kos at Daily Kos has an odd but possibly spot-on analysis of this action at this moment in time, that the GOP strategy of condemning the process instead of the man won't work:
It's clear at this point that people are pretty much sick of the president. His professorial style comes off as aloof and disengaged, and years of broken promises have erased virtually all of his early goodwill. Whether it's his emphatic pre-election promises to tackle immigration in his first year, unlike all those other promise-breaking presidents, or the years of pressure it took to move him on gay rights, to the continued fight to get him to do the right thing on the Keystone XL pipeline. (Not to mention civil rights abuses, NSA, lack of progress on labor, etc, etc, etc.)
Kos then flags two polls that 1) show people don't support Obama taking action, and 2) show people support the actual action. Typical. Back to Kos:
So Americans support the policy—overwhelmingly!—but ugh, Obama taking action is obnoxious. That's not a sign of a president with any goodwill left.
The good news is that no one gives a shit about process in the end. Quick, what was the vote on the Social Security Act? Don't ask me, and who cares? It's great law, and no one who takes advantage of it cares whether it was "bipartisan" or not. What about the Patriot Act? That was bipartisan so inherently good, right? What about the Iraq War authorization vote? So goodly bipartisan, so must be good policy, right?
Fact is, whatever it is that Obama announces today will be a step in the right direction, since anything that slows the pace of deportation is a step in the right direction. It is popular policy, it is politically popular. That won't stop the xenophobic wing from kicking and screaming and braying about DIKTATOR OBUMMER, but their approach betrays their position: they won't argue against keeping families together, they'll argue process, and they'll argue Obama.
They'll "argue Obama." That's what the GOP has been doing for years, nothing more, nothing less. And while I don't put Obama as far behind the eight ball as Kos does -- I feel when all is said and done, he'll build a pretty solid legacy -- I do see that the president has a pretty mixed set of failures that make even his most ardent supporters quite weary by this time.

Still, I think bold actions like his pending executive order tonight will awaken his supporters, corral a lot of Asians and Hispanics into Democratic ranks, and rattle the cages -- or clown car -- occupied by the Republican 2016 hopefuls. And that's a good thing.

Fun fact, as shown in this Slate article:
Here’s the statement from the House Appropriations Committee, the powerful, GOP-controlled panel that writes the spending bills that keep the government’s lights on (emphasis mine):
The primary agency for implementing the president’s new immigration executive order is the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This agency is entirely self-funded through the fees it collects on various immigration applications. Congress does not appropriate funds for any of its operations, including the issuance of immigration status or work permits, with the exception of the ‘E-Verify’ program. Therefore, the appropriations process cannot be used to “defund” the agency. The agency has the ability to continue to collect and use fees to continue current operations, and to expand operations as under a new executive order, without needing legislative approval by the Appropriations Committee or the Congress, even under a continuing resolution or a government shutdown.
In short, not only can’t Republicans kill Obama’s plan with the scalpel (a specific spending bill), there’s not a lot they can do with an ax (a government shutdown) either. The silver lining for GOP leadership, though, is the announcement may take the steam out of their more right-wing colleagues who want a full shutdown to remain on the table.
Isn't that rich? The GOP can jump up and down and scream, but there's little they can actually do. They will not look good. The louder they scream, the more they alienate voters they desperately seek to win over.

The more ballistic they become the more the Democrats win. I agree that Obama might get tarnished short-term, but that kind of tarnish often disappears when, post-presidency, a former president's legacy gets burnished with time. Think Clinton. And Obama's got time to do a lot of things as a lame duck. He's not done, period.

What do beltway insiders think? Let's go to WaPo, which always reflects conventional wisdom that is seldom wise:
For Republicans the roiling debate over the president’s decision is not only a fight with the White House, but a test of whether they can contain some of the unhelpful passions among their swelling majorities in both chambers. The task is keeping on-message and away from the controversial and sometimes offensive comments that have traditionally hindered attempts to bolster support for the party among Hispanics.
Coupled with the desire to avoid the heated rhetoric is an effort to avert another showdown over government funding, weeks after the GOP made gains in the midterm elections and a year after a 16-day shutdown significantly damaged the party’s brand.
[...]
Many conservative lawmakers, however, are shrugging off those pleas from leadership. Furious with the president, they are planning a series of immediate and hard-line actions that could have sweeping consequences. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) said Wednesday that Obama’s executive action should be met with a refusal to vote on any more of his nominees, and on Thursday compared the action to the ancient Catiline conspiracy, a plot to overthrow the Roman Republic.
Yep, that's the problem. A hot head like Ted Cruz see this as the very thing to burnish his brand, and he won't be able to contain himself. This moment was made for the likes of him. What really concerns GOP leadership is that other nut cases will try to out-Cruz Cruz. That will be when it all falls apart.

The only way Republicans can come through this undamaged is if they collectively decide to let Obama off the hook. Not gonna happen.

Sen. Ted Cruz: Will a Texas GOP Cuban-American wreck Republican dreams
of attracting more Hispanic voters? Please, please, please...

Let the fireworks begin!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

When Tech Goes Stupid, It Really Goes Stupid, Uber-Style


Uber has gone all-in with obnoxious holy-shit-what-happened-to-them bullshit. I like crowd-based, let's-share-the-work-and-keep-the-profits-so-citizens-prosper stuff, like airbnb, blablacar (UK and Europe), and Uber, Lyft, and ride-sharing here in the U.S. sounded good even though as a wine-country rural small town resident I don't see much of it.

But to hear how the CEO of Uber has made both a fool of himself and a villain as well, I'm pretty disgusted. Read first the newzz:
Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has responded to the controversy caused by Uber Exec Emil Michael suggesting the company should dig up dirt on journalists who criticize it, including PandoDaily’s editor Sarah Lacy.
In a tweetstorm, he said that “Emil’s comments at the recent dinner party were terrible and do not represent the company…His remarks showed a lack of leadership, a lack of humanity, and a departure from our values and ideals” He went on to say how Uber needs to instead tell the story of progress and regain consumers’ trust. “I will do everything in my power towards the goal of earning that trust.”
Kalanick stopped short of firing Michael publicly, though, which might have gone a lot farther than just words to repair the situation.
Here's Sarah Lacy responding:
Today, in his horrifying scoop, Smith writes about the the lengths that at least one Uber executive, Emil Michael, was willing to go to discredit anyone– particularly a woman– who may try to question how Uber operates.
Ruining her life? Manufacturing lies? Going after her family? Apparently it’s all part of what Uber has described as its “political campaign” to build a $30 billion (and counting) tech company. A campaign that David Plouffe was hired to “run,” that’s looking more like a pathetic version of play acting House of Cards than a real campaign run by a real political professional. Because step one of an illegal smear campaign against a woman is: Don’t brag about it to a journalist at a party.
The woman in question? The woman that this Uber executive has vowed to go to nearly any lengths to ruin, to bully into silence? Me.
Fucked up.

(thanks, Atrios)
 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

A Teacher Speaks the Truth About Education Reform


Read this from Ian Altman, a Georgia teacher, and published in the WaPo. Good stuff.

Hey Dems: Get a Backbone.


These guys just voted more Republicans in. Why?
Democrats didn't make a persuasive case.

David Dayen in the FT says what we should already have known: What Democrats used to support -- but are too war-weary to push anymore -- is what America wants and is a road back to power and productivity:
2001
 In the aftermath of the midterms, where voters displayed unusual anxiety over their economic plight — exit polls found that 70 percent believe the nation was on the wrong track economically, and that two-thirds think the economy is rigged in favor of the wealthy — our nation’s pundits made the bold decision to actually find out what’s irking everyone so much. In doing so, they hit on a fact of life that’s been staring us in the face for over four decades: Americans aren’t getting adequate pay for what they produce.
The kicker is that those 70 percent of Americans who believe the system is rigged against them just voted to put more Republicans in power, thus handing the reins over to the party of the rich. Democrats, though, can't just throw their hands in the air. They need to support the policies that would fix the inequities. Eventually -- we have to trust that this will happen -- the white working class that doesn't understand this disconnect will get educated to what they need and which party is prepared to give it to them.

Come on, Dems, get populist. Populist policies are popular!

Dayen has a great policy list in the article. Read it.
n the aftermath of the midterms, where voters displayed unusual anxiety over their economic plight — exit polls found that 70 percent believe the nation was on the wrong track economically, and that two-thirds think the economy is rigged in favor of the wealthy — our nation’s pundits made the bold decision to actually find out what’s irking everyone so much. In doing so, they hit on a fact of life that’s been staring us in the face for over four decades: Americans aren’t getting adequate pay for what they produce. - See more at: http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Columns/2014/11/14/So-So-Society-Democrats-Have-Forgotten-What-Made-Them-Great#sthash.HVbjRue4.dpuf
n the aftermath of the midterms, where voters displayed unusual anxiety over their economic plight — exit polls found that 70 percent believe the nation was on the wrong track economically, and that two-thirds think the economy is rigged in favor of the wealthy — our nation’s pundits made the bold decision to actually find out what’s irking everyone so much. In doing so, they hit on a fact of life that’s been staring us in the face for over four decades: Americans aren’t getting adequate pay for what they produce. - See more at: http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Columns/2014/11/14/So-So-Society-Democrats-Have-Forgotten-What-Made-Them-Great#sthash.HVbjRue4.dpuf
n the aftermath of the midterms, where voters displayed unusual anxiety over their economic plight — exit polls found that 70 percent believe the nation was on the wrong track economically, and that two-thirds think the economy is rigged in favor of the wealthy — our nation’s pundits made the bold decision to actually find out what’s irking everyone so much. In doing so, they hit on a fact of life that’s been staring us in the face for over four decades: Americans aren’t getting adequate pay for what they produce. - See more at: http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Columns/2014/11/14/So-So-Society-Democrats-Have-Forgotten-What-Made-Them-Great#sthash.HVbjRue4.dpuf
n the aftermath of the midterms, where voters displayed unusual anxiety over their economic plight — exit polls found that 70 percent believe the nation was on the wrong track economically, and that two-thirds think the economy is rigged in favor of the wealthy — our nation’s pundits made the bold decision to actually find out what’s irking everyone so much. In doing so, they hit on a fact of life that’s been staring us in the face for over four decades: Americans aren’t getting adequate pay for what they produce. - See more at: http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Columns/2014/11/14/So-So-Society-Democrats-Have-Forgotten-What-Made-Them-Great#sthash.HVbjRue4.dpuf
n the aftermath of the midterms, where voters displayed unusual anxiety over their economic plight — exit polls found that 70 percent believe the nation was on the wrong track economically, and that two-thirds think the economy is rigged in favor of the wealthy — our nation’s pundits made the bold decision to actually find out what’s irking everyone so much. In doing so, they hit on a fact of life that’s been staring us in the face for over four decades: Americans aren’t getting adequate pay for what they produce. - See more at: http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Columns/2014/11/14/So-So-Society-Democrats-Have-Forgotten-What-Made-Them-Great#sthash.HVbjRue4.dpuf

Liberals: Notice, Despite the Flailing, You Are Winning.


Same-sex marriage in the rear-view mirror? Looks like it.

A big, bad midterm election disaster just took place, and liberalism took it on the chin. Or, maybe not. I didn't see much liberalism around much of the nation, at least any that was at stake. The Republican victory went virtually unchallenged by the Democrats, from my point of view. Alison Lundergan Grimes wouldn't admit to voting for Barack Obama, a noted centrist, by the way. That's not liberalism taking it on the chin. That's milque-toast Dems acting trรจs squirrelly.

The point is that white fear of flying in the early 21st century does not spell the end of liberalism. I'd make the claim that the exact opposite is happening, like a slow-motion un-crashing of a train.

It's conservatism in its death throes we're witnessing.

Witness this:
  • Same-sex marriage, a decade ago a successful Karl-Rove wedge issue, will soon be the law of the land. Oh, Religious Right, where is thy sting?
  • Hobby Lobby is not the stupidest Supreme Court decision in history. That spot may always be claimed by Bush v. Gore. But flipping out because someone wants to give away birth control for free (dudes, it was the insurance companies that wanted it because pregnancy is expensive, duh) is no way to win friends and influence people, as in half of them, as in women. It also has the perverse feature of making religion look petty and stupid. (Alito said in his decision that religious beliefs don't need to be rational to trump laws of the land. He said what??) Not good in the long run for conservatism because it makes liberalism look rational, which it is. People are bound to catch on.
  • Denying science, whether it's climate or biology, isn't a long-term strategy for appealing to the masses. Yes, it works short-term. Eventually, though, people catch on. When it's only the conservatives saying, "I'm not a scientist," while the rest of the world is working together to attempt to mitigate climate change, conservatives end up looking idiotic and desperate.
  • Same with evolution. Everyone accepts that viruses and bacteria mutate and change into more dangerous germs, yet religious conservatives maintain that God made us just the way we are. Which is it? Oh yeah, I forgot God made exceptions for germs. They're living things, but they get to mutate. Man, not so much. Gimme a break.
  • Yes, science will win. Derp has a sell-by date.
  • When our infrastructure is in tatters, people will get irritable at the side of the debate that wouldn't let government "be the solution." That's not the liberals, by the way.
  • When it's a Democratic woman that is the first to be president, the conservative freakout won't look good on their resumes. And her priorities are going to be her priorities.
  • About income inequality? Did you ever think about the underlying story of Hunger Games? The rich assholes in the capital don't get to live like that forever while the poor masses remain poor while serving the rich. It's called revolution, bitches. Could Hunger Games be radicalizing a whole generation? Who knows? But it doesn't make conservatives fighting on behalf of the JOB CREATORS look like the good guys.
  • Healthcare, OMG, healthcare. Obamacare sort of has a Pottery Barn kind of rule (there is no Pottery Barn rule, but follow me on this one). After Obamacare -- whether it works or the GOP somehow squelches it -- we're going to have to fix it. If Obamacare "broke" healthcare, then fixing healthcare doesn't mean we're going back to how bad it was before. Fixing it will involve examining how a good healthcare system should work. What if that examination leads to single-payer or a mere expansion of Medicare to include everyone. Yeah, there might be a temporary return to the bad old days, but we won't stay there. Advantage: liberals.
  • Social Security, what to do? Cut it? Leave it the same? Expand it? So far, the tea-partiers have been fooled into thinking the conservatives want to preserve Social Security and Medicare. When they get that it's the other way around -- maybe after the GOP gains control for one whole election cycle, including the presidency -- the liberals will get credit for "saving' it.
  • Lastly, when the Supreme Court shows its true political colors with a handful of toxic decisions -- Citizens United and Hobby Lobby are already in the bag -- then the circle will be unbroken. After all, it won't have been the liberal justices that brought these decisions to fruition, it will have been the Five Conservative Catholic Males who done it.
This all doesn't coming crashing down at once, but from my view the artifice that is the conservative movement doesn't need a Wile E. Coyote moment. It'll be a slow-moving landslide, not an avalanche. But it will bring down the conservative structure for several generations at least.

It starts with the immigration issue when Barack Obama sets millions of undocumented immigrants free of the chains that have bound them in fear. Conservative will howl and flail, and Hispanics and Asians will trend strongly Democratic for days to come. That will lead to more flailing by White Christian Males and their freaked out subservient wives.

Eventually, the party's over and the Party's over. Fox News will have actually hastened the day. When you keep a lot of people in the dark, you don't let them see what's coming until it's hit them.

Thanks Fox News!

(Liberal blogger salivating some more...)

Sharia law bad! Biblical law good! Constitutional? My ass...

This is going to take a while is all.