Monday, June 20, 2011

Last Call

Over the weekend both the progressive Netroots Nation blogger conference and the conservative Right Online blogger conference were held in Minneapolis.  Andrew Breitbart crashed Netroots Nation in order to pick a fight, and got one.  But far more interesting was the effort by Cheryl Contee of Jack & Jill Politics and Elon James White of This Week In Blackness to go undercover -- "incognegro" -- at the Right Online festivities, posing as black conservatives.

If there's one piece you read about what went on in Minneapolis this weekend, this is it.

Overall, I can say without hesitation that it’s pretty intense being a black conservative. You certainly stick out like a sore thumb and the alternating suspicion and desire one feels directed towards you is something you have to process constantly. One 30-something black NN speaker who will go unnamed told me that a much older white Right Online attendee actually propositioned her in the Hilton elevator despite the difference in their ages and her obviously differing political views.

I can see how older conservatives deal with it having grown up in a world where maybe that was more normal. But as a post-segregation baby, it was more than I would want to deal with regularly. At Netroots Nation, the white people are a little more accustomed to people from varying backgrounds of varying colors and are thus more relaxed in our presence.

Both Elon and I were glad to return to Netroots Nation — a warmer environment where there was real diversity that increases each year with hard work from the Netroots team and the board. It’s clear that Right Online and the right in general is still very much in token mode. It was easy therefore for two black progressives to become wolves in sheep’s clothing to see behind the curtain.

What we saw there is a movement desperate to re-invigorate itself and willing to throw just a ton of money at the increasing problem of a shrinking base. I’ll tell you what — if I was the GOP, I’d be supporting Obamacare. Because they’ll want those seniors and boomers to live as long as possible because once they stop voting and a new generation takes its place, conservatives will either need to update its tune or risk dying. It’s going to take more than just teaching 60 year olds “blogging 101″ and “twitter 101″ to remain relevant in a rapidly changing society with new challenges that our founders just didn’t anticipate and for which we will need to generate new solutions.

I believe in a two party and even a multi-party democracy. So I’d like to see Republicans try harder and more successfully to moderate and adjust to welcome people from other backgrounds into their party.

We were not there to start trouble but to listen. I hope this post and my experience gives the right some insights on how to start doing just that.

That's a fair assessment by Cheryl, after all as much as Michelle Malkin, Glenn Beck, or Andrew Breitbart piss me off with their views (and skews) they're all human, they're all Americans, and they all have equal right to be part of our political process.  I don't agree with the methods and means they use to constantly exclude others who disagree with them from that same political process, and that's where I have the majority of my issues with shock conservatives like this.

Do yourself a huge favor and read the whole account.  Having been "the only black face in the room" countless number of times, I can absolutely relate to Cheryl's moments of fear, but she also provides moments of hope as well.

Playing Both Sides Of The Game

Seems our "progressive" friend Jane Hamsher isn't above taking lucre from the GOPQuelle surprise!  Dana Houle follows the money trail:

Jeff Cosgrove, managing director of the CommonSense Media online advertising network, which has clients in both parties, said a growing number of campaigns book ads in connection with television appearances or other public events.
“These things aren’t necessarily as organic as you would think,” Cosgrove said. “They seem to be often premeditated.” [Emphasis added]

That's from this Washington Post article from Sunday on Michele Bachmann and the issue of "money blurts", when politicians say controversial things on purpose in order to raise money.  Remember Joe "You Lie!" Wilson insulting President Obama during his address to Congress two years ago?  Wilson raised a million bucks for his re-election campaign, and so did his Democratic opponent, Rob Miller, off a half-second outburst.  Bachmann has made a fundraising career off "money blurts" like that.

But the other issue is CommonSense Media.  Dana Houle discovers who's in charge of this "money blurt" outfit:

If you follow the link to CommonSense Media and then click on the About page you find this:

Oh my.  CommonSense Media is led by Jane Hamsher.  And they have clients in both parties.

How terribly, terribly interesting that is, as well as explaining quite a bit about Hamsher herself.  What champion of the progressive left directs advertising to help Republicans unseat Democrats?

I for one would very much like to know who these clients in "both parties" are, especially the GOP.

It's About Suppression, Part 3

Jugding by the amount of right-wing screaming about E.J. Dionne's latest column on GOP efforts to suppress voting at the state level, he must have hit a real nerve.

An attack on the right to vote is underway across the country through laws designed to make it more difficult to cast a ballot. If this were happening in an emerging democracy, we’d condemn it as election-rigging. But it’s happening here, so there’s barely a whimper.

The laws are being passed in the name of preventing “voter fraud.” But study after study has shown that fraud by voters is not a major problem — and is less of a problem than how hard many states make it for people to vote in the first place. Some of the new laws, notably those limiting the number of days for early voting, have little plausible connection to battling fraud.

These statutes are not neutral. Their greatest impact will be to reduce turnout among African Americans, Latinos and the young. It is no accident that these groups were key to Barack Obama’s victory in 2008 — or that the laws in question are being enacted in states where Republicans control state governments.

Again, think of what this would look like to a dispassionate observer. A party wins an election, as the GOP did in 2010. Then it changes the election laws in ways that benefit itself. In a democracy, the electorate is supposed to pick the politicians. With these laws, politicians are shaping their electorates.

He's absolutely correct.  The GOP is using census redistricting and voter ID laws to maintain political power at the expense of voters.  How do you know Dionne is on to something?  Because the attacks on him from the right have nothing to do with the substantive issues he presents.  Example:  the National Review:

Today, 505 days before Election Day 2012, E. J. declares in his Post column that, should the Republicans oust the Obama administration on November 6 of next year, it will be because of a nefarious plot to deny citizens their right to vote by requiring said voters to demonstrate that they are who they claim to be.

Did someone say these people were getting desperate?

Ann Althouse plays the "soft bigotry of low expectations" card:

[Dionne] himself propagates racism in the form of an assumption that black people have trouble performing the simplest task.

Bryan Preston at Pajamas Media goes right to the ACORN and NBPP lies:

Having ACORN and similar leftist groups screw up the works with thousands and thousands of fraudulent registrations? Not a problem, to E. J. Dionne. Rampant vote brokering, as has been repeatedly uncovered in South Texas? Not a problem. Having the Black Panthers stand around with weapons to intimidate voters right outside polling places? Not a problem in Dionne’s world.

The Voter ID laws don't even address these issues...if these issues even existed, having being debunked again and again.  Given Dionne's premise, this is the best the right can come up with.  Conspiracy!  ACORN!  Black Panthers!  Racist!  The same garbage they shout every time.

They've got nothing and they know it.

Too Big To Try

The Supreme Court today came down like a hammer on the massive Wal-Mart sexual discrimination suit.

The Supreme Court put the brakes on a massive job discrimination lawsuit against mega-retailer Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., saying sweeping class-action status that could potentially involve hundreds of thousands of current and former female workers was simply too large.

The ruling Monday was a big victory for the nation's largest private employer, and the business community at large.

The high-profile case– perhaps the most closely watched of the high court's term– is among the most important dealing with corporate versus worker rights that the justices have ever heard, and could eventually impact nearly every private employer, large and small.

The court decided three issues involving the case of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v Dukes (full opinion here, PDF).  First, the court decided 9-0 that the class action suit violated Wal-Mart's right to defend itself against the claim, second, 5-4 (Roberts, Alito, Thomas, Scalia, Kennedy for) that the class action suit itself was too general and broad, and third, 9-0 that the back pay granted by the 9th Circuit was in violation of federal law based on the previous two issues.

It's that second issue that sets a new standard for what a class-action suit can entail.  Justice Scalia writes:

The crux of this case is commonality—the rule requiring a plaintiff to show that “there are questions of law or fact common to the class.” Rule 23(a)(2).5 That language is easy to misread, since “[a]ny competently crafted class complaint literally raises common ‘questions.’ ” Nagareda,Class Certification in the Age of Aggregate Proof, 84 N. Y. U. L. Rev. 97, 131–132 (2009). For example: Do all of us plaintiffs indeed work for Wal-Mart? Do our managers have discretion over pay? Is that an unlawful em-ployment practice? What remedies should we get? Reciting these questions is not sufficient to obtain class certification. Commonality requires the plaintiff to demonstrate that the class members “have suffered the same injury,” Falcon, supra, at 157. This does not mean merely that they have all suffered a violation of the same pro-vision of law. Title VII, for example, can be violated in many ways—by intentional discrimination, or by hiring and promotion criteria that result in disparate impact, and by the use of these practices on the part of many different superiors in a single company. Quite obviously,the mere claim by employees of the same company that they have suffered a Title VII injury, or even a disparate-impact Title VII injury, gives no cause to believe that all their claims can productively be litigated at once. Their claims must depend upon a common contention—for example, the assertion of discriminatory bias on the part of the same supervisor. That common contention, moreover, must be of such a nature that it is capable of class wide resolution—which means that determination of its truth or falsity will resolve an issue that is central to the validity of each one of the claims in one stroke.

In other words, the class action case against Wal-Mart's corporate culture of gender discrimination was thrown out by the Supreme Court because it was just too broad.  Discrimination cases must have a common human violator, not a corporation, in order to qualify for class-action status.

In other words, SCOTUS just basically threw a wrench in every corporate class-action discrimination suit in the country.  It's interesting to note that the same court who gave corporations near-human entity status to exercise free speech through unlimited campaign donations in Citizens United has just ruled that corporations must receive special protections as a collective entity against discrimination lawsuits.  Carrie Lukas at the National Review concurs:

This is good news for anyone concerned about our already-suffering economy, since a decision to allow this case to continue would have fundamentally changed the definition of what constitutes a class for litigation purposes and opened the flood gates for other class-action suits, which distract businesses from their missions and drain resources away from productive uses, such as hiring workers.

Of course, we know that's a lie.  Businesses are sitting on record amounts of cash right now, but they're not hiring.  If the National Review is right here, then this decision alone should drop the unemployment rate by a significant amount, yes?

John Nichols at The Nation has the opposite opinion:

When the Supreme Court says that the nation's largest private employer cannot be taken to task for discriminating against its current former employees because that discrimination appears to have taken place on a massive scale, it is signaling that that the justices have made a ominous choice not just with regard to business but with regard to civil society and democracy. They will protect corporations before they protect workers and citizens.

Corporations are people when it comes to giving money, they are special legal entities when it comes to being named in large discrimination cases.  Funny how that works.

The Jack Attack Is Back

Joe Sonka notes that Jack Conway's bid for reelection to the post of state Attorney General is finally showing signs of life.

Amanda Van Benschoten reports this morning that Conway has easily doubled his fundraising totals since the last report just before the primary, passing $400,000 and almost catching up to P'Pool. If Conway can match his fundraising, it will still be a close race, but he should have the edge. Especially if the Williams campaign continues to look like a giant drag on the rest of the GOP slate down ticket. He's also hired an actual campaign manager, Melissa Wideman, who'll be starting full-time in July, is competent, and isn't you know who. Factor in the happy happy cn|2 poll from earlier this month and things don't look nearly as bleak for Conway, who had been taking on the look of a burnt out and unenthusiastic zombie candidate. (also, it's pronounced 'pee pool', and I believe is French)

And yes, his GOP opponent is named P'Pool.  I have no idea if that's Klingon or what.

The notion that local Republicans are a giant anchor in the 2011 state races in Kentucky is very interesting.  Then again, in 2007, scandal cost the Republicans the Governor's mansion when Ernie Fletcher ran afoul of hiring laws and that was a drag on all the other races for the GOP.

We'll see if Williams is equally as toxic.  Judging by the numbers, it seems to be that Dinosaur Steve is sufficiently Republican enough to win anyway.

Something Nice For A Change

SALT LAKE CITY – A private investigator says he has tracked down a homeless Utah man and delivered some good news: He's inherited a lot of money.
David Lundberg said he found Max Melitzer pushing a shopping cart filled with personal possessions in a Salt Lake City park Saturday afternoon.
Lundberg declined to disclose how much money Melitzer will be receiving, but said the man's brother who died of cancer last year left him a "significant" amount in his will.
"He'll no longer be living on the street or in abandoned storage sheds," he told The Associated Press. "He'll be able to have a normal life, and be able to have a home, provide for himself, and purchase clothing, food and health care."
It's just nice to know this stuff still happens.   Someone cared enough to follow through, and it will forever change someone's life.  I hope Melitzer makes the most of his second chance so the story has a happy ending.

In Which Bon Is Utterly Shocked

It shows you what I know.  Until today, I thought there was no way a police officer could interrogate a minor and avoid informing them of their rights.  Or speak with them when their parents are not present, let alone legal representation.  Or that principals and school staff would assist police in getting information by participating in the interrogation process, ganging up on the child and omitting important information.  I realize the Miranda warning is required to be read only once a person is officially detained and in custody.  However, a child who has not yet been educated on how the law works (and thirteen falls safely in there) would not realize the distinction.  In an act of good faith, children should be dealt with in the most ethical and cautious fashion possible.

Now I know better.  And I truly feel sick.

This case, involving a 13-year-old North Carolina boy identified only as J.D.B., will likely change police practices across the country. Experts say that police questioning, particularly in school, can no longer be presumed to be legally permissible without advising a youngster of his or her rights.
J.D.B., a special-education seventh grader, was pulled out of his classroom by a uniformed officer and escorted to a conference room where he faced a police investigator, the assistant principal and two other school officials.
For more than half an hour, the investigator interrogated J.D.B. about a string of local burglaries. The boy's legal guardian, his grandmother, was never contacted, and he was not given a Miranda warning — the warnings routinely given by police to criminal suspects once they are taken into custody.
My greatest shock is that this is even a topic of discussion.  If I had a child in the public school system, I would completely expect to be notified before my child was interviewed for any reason, and that any decent police officer would tell that child they had rights in this situation.  Kids are taught police officers are their friends, and in a child's mind there is not a choice when bullied by the power school staff and police hold in their minds.  This is disgusting.

But it is unclear how Thursday's decision will affect the way police interact with student-suspects. "In many places, there's a routine practice of trying to contact a parent," said Saltzburg (a professor of criminal law at George Washington University). "But in many [other] instances, if the parent is not available, the police have good reason not to want to delay, and in some instances, the fact is that they don't want the parent present. And unless the law requires the parent to be present, they will proceed with an interrogation."
The police are your friend, my ass.  I realize they have a job to do, but they are supposed to uphold the law and take the ethical path.  Children (legal minors) should not have to face this level of betrayal by those they have been conditioned to trust.  Move along, Citizen.  There is nothing to see here. 

Telling It Like It Is

Jon Stewart lets FOX News and Chris Wallace have it right between the eyes.

"Honestly, I think you want to be a political player," Wallace insisted.
"You can't understand because of world you live in that there is not a designed ideological agenda on my part to affect partisan change. Because that's the soup you swim in. I appreciate that. I understand that. It reminds me of, you know, you know, ideological regimes. They can't understand that there is free media other places. Because they receive marching orders."
"I don't think the viewers are the least bit disappointed with us," Wallace said. "Our viewers think finally we're getting somebody to tell the other side of the story."

"Who are the most consistently misinformed media viewers?" Stewart asked. "The most consistently misinformed? Fox viewers. Consistently. Every poll."

"I'm just trying to understand you," Wallace claimed.

"Is that really true? Here is the thing that surprises me about that. I've existed in this country forever. There have been people like this who satirized the political process," Stewart explained.

"I'm sitting here talking to Jon Stewart. I'm trying to get it. Understand you and what I believe to be true: there is as much bias on the other side as you subscribe to Fox and why you go easy on that."

"I think there is, probably a liberal bias that exists in the media because of the medium in which it exists. The majority of people working in it probably hold liberal view points, but I don't think they are as relentlessly activist as the conservative movement that has risen up over the last 40 years," Stewart said. "Do you get me?"

"Well, you know what? When you come back we can explore this some more," Wallace concluded.

Do watch the whole thing, it's fascinating.  Wallace has no clue what to do here, he's completely stunned by the fact that Stewart wasn't totally shut down by the mere mention that Stewart might have a liberal viewpoint.  Anyone else in the Village would have gone out of their way to prove that "for the love of God you can't call me a liberal!" and would have spent the entire interview kissing Wallace's ass.

And it's a devastating critique of our journalism in 2011 that the best explanation of the modern media moment and how it is nothing more than ideological propaganda is coming from the mouth of a goddamn late-night comedian.

We deserve what we get, apparently.  Steve Benen by the way backs up Stewart's claim that FOX viewers are the most "consistently misinformed" here.

So How's Clarence Thomas Doing?

You know, while Anthony Weiner was busy getting drilled out of Congress, at the time he was asking uncomfortable questions about Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and his massive conflict of interest problems.  Now, finally, the Village may be starting to pay attention to the Thomas story and his continuing ethical challenges with folks like Harlan Crow.

Mr. Crow, 61, manages the real estate and investment businesses founded by his late father, Trammell Crow, once the largest landlord in the United States. The Crow family portfolio is worth hundreds of millions of dollars and includes investments in hotels, medical facilities, public equities and hedge funds.

A friend of the Bush family, Mr. Crow is a trustee of the George Bush Presidential Library Foundation and has donated close to $5 million to Republican campaigns and conservative groups. Among his contributions were $100,000 to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, the group formed to attack the Vietnam War record of Senator John Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential candidate, and $500,000 to an organization that ran advertisements urging the confirmation of President George W. Bush’s nominees to the Supreme Court.

Mr. Crow has not personally been a party to Supreme Court litigation, but his companies have been involved in federal court cases, including four that went to the appellate level. And he has served on the boards of two conservative organizations involved in filing supporting briefs in cases before the Supreme Court. One of them, the American Enterprise Institute, with Mr. Crow as a trustee, gave Justice Thomas a bust of Lincoln valued at $15,000 and praised his jurisprudence at an awards gala in 2001.

The institute’s Project on Fair Representation later filed briefs in several cases, and in 2006 the project brought a lawsuit challenging federal voting rights laws, a case in which Justice Thomas filed a lone dissent, embracing the project’s arguments. The project director, an institute fellow named Edward Blum, said the institute supported his research but did not finance the brief filings or the Texas suit, which was litigated pro bono by a former clerk of Justice Thomas’s. 

It gets worse from there.   Harlan Crow has made an awful lot of donations to Clarence Thomas's pet projects, and in turn Thomas has just happened to side with Crow and his friends on more than a few occasions.

But the real problem is how the Supreme Court is exempt from many of the same ethics rules that apply to federal judges.

The justices are not bound by the federal judiciary’s conduct code, because it is enforced by a committee of judges who rank below the justices. Even so, Justices Breyer and Anthony M. Kennedy said in testimony before Congress in April that the justices followed the code.

Beyond the code, the justices must comply with laws applying to all federal officials that prohibit conflicts of interest and require disclosure of gifts. Justice Thomas’s gift acceptances drew attention in 2004, when The Los Angeles Times reported that he had accumulated gifts totaling $42,200 in the previous six years — far more than any of the other justices.

So we have to simply take their word for it.  And Clarence Thomas keeps taking gifts.  Soon after Anthony Weiner started raising a stink about this, his career ended precipitously.  It seems somebody finally senses a real story here.


Greek Fire, Part 34

We're not quite in full panic mode in Europe yet, but we're close.

A year after European officials bailed out Greece, investors say the region’s banks haven’t raised sufficient capital or cut loans enough to withstand the contagion that may follow a default.

While European lenders reduced their risk tied to Greece by 30 percent to $136.3 billion last year by not renewing loans, writing down the value of debt and shifting it off their books, they still have almost $2 trillion linked to Portugal, Ireland, Spain and Italy, figures from the Bank for International Settlements show, leaving them vulnerable if the crisis spreads.

“The Greek debt situation certainly has the potential to create havoc with the European banking system,” said Neil Phillips, a fund manager at BlueBay Asset Management Plc in London, which oversees about $45 billion. “A Greek default and the ramifications of that would be too ghastly for Europe and the European banking system to contemplate right now.” 

It's gotten to the point where the ECB is now considering halfway measures just to buy time.

European governments weighed withholding half of Greece’s next 12 billion-euro ($17.2 billion) aid payment, seeking to keep the country solvent while maintaining pressure on the government to slash the debt that pitched the euro area into crisis.

Euro-area finance ministers may authorize only a 6 billion- euro loan to tide Greece through bond redemptions in July, while further aid hinges on Greek budget cuts, Belgian Finance Minister Didier Reynders said.

“We will in any case try to release the necessary funds for the short term,” Reynders told reporters before a meeting of euro-area finance ministers in Luxembourg that began late yesterday. 

Greece's government is on the brink and the Greek people aren't going to be the ones that and left with the bag, looks like.  That means European banks are on the hook, and that's going to cause some rather interesting chain reactions down the road.

I can't get over the distinct feeling that nobody in Euroland seems to have any idea how to fix this disaster, either.


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