Thursday Reads: The American Dream

The American Dream - post-war abundance

The American Dream – post-war abundance

Good Morning!!

What is the American Dream? Is it prosperity for everyone? Is it access to nature and a clean environment? Is it a good job, a house, a family? Is it a good education and the chance to be upwardly mobile? Is it a better future for your children and grandchildren? Is whatever it once was dead? Is it even worth talking about?

This morning there’s a Washington Post op-ed in which Elizabeth Warren and Bill de Blasio describe their vision of “How to revive the American Dream.”

In this land of big dreams, there was never a dream bigger or more important than the one so deeply rooted in our values that it became known as the American Dream. Across generations, Americans shared the belief that hard work would bring opportunity and a better life. America wasn’t perfect, but we invested in our kids and put in place policies to build a strong middle class.

We don’t do that anymore, and the result is clear: The rich get richer, while everyone else falls behind. The game is rigged, and the people who rigged it want it to stay that way. They claim that if we act to improve the economic well-being of hard-working Americans — whether by increasing the minimum wage, reining in lawbreakers on Wall Street or doing practically anything else — we will threaten economic growth.

They are wrong.

That thinking is backward. A growing body of research — including work done by Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and the Roosevelt Institute — shows clearly that an increasing disparity between rich and poor, cronyism and an economic system that works only for those at the top are bad for the middle class and bad for our economy.


Warren and de Blasio are correct that the dream went terribly wrong after Ronald Reagan became president.

When the economy works for everyone, consumers have money to spend at businesses, and when businesses have more customers, they build more factories, hire more workers and sell more products — and the economy grows. For decades, our economy was built around this core understanding. We made big investments in the things that would create opportunities for everyone: public schools and universities; roads and bridges and power grids; research that spurred new industries, technologies — and jobs — here in the United States. We supported strong unions that pushed for better wages and working conditions, seeing those unions improve lives both for their members and for workers everywhere.

And it worked. From the 1930s to the late 1970s, as gross domestic product went up, wages increased more or less across the board. As the economic pie got bigger, pretty much everyone was getting a little more. That was how the United States built a great middle class.

Then in the early 1980s, a new theory swept the country. Its disciples claimed that if government policies took care of the rich and powerful, wealth would trickle down for everyone else. Trickle-down believers cut taxes sharply for those at the top and pushed for “deregulation” that hobbled the cops on Wall Street and let the most powerful corporations far too often do as they pleased.


All very true. But how do we return to fairness and prosperity for everyone, not just the wealthy few? Warren and de Blasio offer a familiar list of government policies that could turn things around–read them at the link–but they don’t explain how to accomplish these goals in the age of Citizens United, a Republican-controlled congress, and a Supreme Court that favors the rights of corporations over those of individuals. How do we get past the hopelessness and inertia and get Americans to get out and vote for candidates who will stand up for the bottom 99%? How do we even find those candidates?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m basically an optimist and I always have hope for change. But how do we get there from here?

I do think there are some positives signs.

Hillary Clinton is beginning to convince some folks that she’s really a separate person from her husband–a more liberal candidate than he was in the 1990s. In fact Bill Clinton might be more liberal now too. Despite what the Villagers preach, people can change and grow and develop new ideas an opinions. Imagine that Chris Cillizza!

American dream Tbird

One journalist who seems to be catching on is Charles Pierce. Here’s what he had to say yesterday: One Of These Is Not Like The Others: Two Clintons, No Waiting.

For all the noise about e-mails and honoraria, and all the passive-aggressive nostalgia for the Great Penis Chase of the 1990’s, something very interesting has been going on with Rodham Clinton’s campaign since she announced its official launch….

All during her husband’s administration, HRC was considered to be the more progressive of the two. She supported the accommodations he made to get re-elected, some of which were pretty damned ghastly. She also was one of the most vocal in defense of that administration against the organized ratfking that sought to destroy it. (The only mistake she made, as Calvin Trillin pointed out at the time was that she referred to a “vast right-wing conspiracy” rather than a creepy little cabal.) I once had a long conversation with a former Clinton lawyer. He told me that, if there were 1000 people in a room, and 999 thought Bill Clinton was a direct descendant of Jesus Christ, and one of them thought he was the spawn of Satan, Clinton would seek out that one person and spend the rest of the night and all the following day trying to change that person’s mind. That is not something anyone ever has said about Ms. Rodham Clinton. The edges of her triangulations are all sharp ones.

All of this is to point out that not only is the whole “two for the price of one” trope beloved of people whose politics came of age in the 1990’s outdated and inadequate, but so is the political strategy of the first Clinton Administration. Clinton herself seems to be acknowledging this political reality. She started talking on economics like Elizabeth Warren. Her speech on criminal justice reform was aimed at excesses many of which have roots in her husband’s law-and-order compromises in the mid-1990’s. (So, it should be noted, do many of the Patriot Act’s more controversial provisions.) For the moment, I choose to believe this is not merely a bow to political expedience, but something genuine and, if progressives are smart, infinitely exploitable.


Most of them will never get it, but maybe, just maybe Hillary can get her message out to the people who count–voters–and get them fired up enough to go to the polls in November 2016.

I also think it’s a good sign that Bernie Sanders has decided to run for president. No, he has no chance in hell of getting the nomination, but he might be able to get the media to publicize some of his ideas. He could also be a foil for Hillary, giving her an opportunity to draw attention to her more innovative and liberal ideas. Some of the latest news about Bernie’s efforts:

Reuters: Why socialist Bernie Sanders may just shake up the 2016 presidential race, by Robert Borosage.

Sanders is a funhouse mirror image of Clinton. She has universal name recognition (by her first name), unlimited funds, national campaign experience and a powerhouse political operation. He has scant name recognition, paltry funds, no national campaign experience and hasn’t begun to build a campaign staff. With a net-worth ranking among the lowest in the Senate, Sanders can be an authentic populist — the real deal. As one supporter said, he is the candidate of the “12-hour filibuster and the $12 haircut.”

Sanders’s announcement was treated with respect by a press corps eager for any kind of race on the Democratic side. Pundits dismiss his chances in part because Clinton is expected to raise a billion dollars or more for her campaign. Sanders hopes to raise $50 million.

But Sanders is likely to do far more than exceed low expectations. His candidacy could have a dramatic effect in building an already growing populist movement inside and outside the Democratic Party.

As Sanders made clear in his announcement, his focus will be on the central challenges facing this country: an economy that does not work for the vast majority of its citizens and a politics corrupted by big money and entrenched interests.

Sanders refuses to take part in politicians’ usual, incessant pursuit of large donations. So he is a political rarity: Someone free to speak forcefully to the often insidious connection between the two.


Will people pay attention? I think it’s possible. So does David Horsey of the LA Times: Bernie Sanders’ ‘socialism’ may have mainstream appeal.

Finally, conservatives have a real socialist to go crazy about. Instead of concocting dark fairytales about how Barack Obama, a very conventional liberal Democrat, is a secret Marxist who wants to destroy the American way of life, they can shriek about Bernie Sanders, the independent Vermont senator who has never shied away from the socialist label.

Sanders is now the first person to challenge Hillary Rodham Clinton in the race to win the 2016 Democratic Party presidential nomination. Clinton, though, is not his real adversary, Sanders says. He refuses to make disparaging comments about Clinton and insists he has never run an attack ad in any campaign and will not do so against her. Sanders wants to take on the billionaires, not Hillary.

Nobody gives the 73-year-old Sanders a chance of stopping the Clinton political juggernaut, but some think he could make it veer to the left. If the Vermonter gets traction in debates and primaries with his unabashedly progressive positions, Clinton might be forced to match at least some of his rhetoric. Would that be a bad thing for Democrats? Not if enough beleaguered middle class voters get a chance to consider what Sanders’ version of “socialism” entails and like what they see.

Go to the LA Times link to read Horsey’s list of Sanders’ ideas that could interest voters.


Sam Stein at Huffington Post: Bernie Sanders Raises $3 Million In Four Days.

With the help of a crew of former aides to President Barack Obama, Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) campaign has raised $3 million in four days for his presidential campaign — a dramatic indication that he won’t be confined simply to a long-shot role in the Democratic primary.

Sanders, who is running for president as a Democrat, announced on Wednesday that he has retained the services of the firm Revolution Messaging to run digital ads and online fundraising. The staffers with the firm who will be working on Sanders’ campaign include Revolution Messaging’s founder, Scott Goodstein, who ran the 2008 Obama campaign’s social media and mobile programs; Arun Chaudhary, who was the first official White House videographer; Shauna Daly, who served as deputy research director on Obama’s 2008 campaign; and Walker Hamilton, who was a lead programmer for that campaign.

“Like a lot of Obama supporters, we were looking for a candidate with a track record of doing the right thing — even if it meant taking on Wall Street billionaires and other powerful interests. A candidate who could inspire a movement,” said Goodstein. “Bernie Sanders is that candidate.”

Due to his long-standing criticism of the influence of big-money interests on government, Sanders has strong online and grassroots appeal, which he hopes to leverage to raise the money needed to fund a presidential campaign. And so far, the strategy looks savvy. The campaign has received roughly 75,000 contributions, and the average amount is $43. According to a campaign adviser, 99.4 percent of the donations have been $250 or less, and 185,000 supporters have signed up on the website

Not bad.

What do you think? What does the American Dream represent for you?

As always, this is an open thread. Post your thoughts and links on any topic in the comment thread and have a terrific Thursday!

Thursday Reads: Corporate Media Enables Victim Blaming in Death of Freddie Gray

View of East Baltimore from Amtrak train (credit Dave Troy

View of East Baltimore from Amtrak train (credit Dave Troy

Good Morning!!

The victim-blaming flew thick and fast last night after The Washington Post published a self-serving leak from an anonymous Baltimore murderer policeman. According to the Post report, Freddie Gray severed his own spinal cord, crushed his own voice box and gave himself severe brain injuries in order to get back at the cops who beat him, dragged him to a police van as he screamed in agony and left him unbelted during a long “rough ride” to the police station.

From the WaPo story:

A prisoner sharing a police transport van with Freddie Gray told investigators that he could hear Gray “banging against the walls” of the vehicle and believed that he “was intentionally trying to injure himself,” according to a police document obtained by The Washington Post.

The prisoner, who is currently in jail, was separated from Gray by a metal partition and could not see him. His statement is contained in an application for a search warrant, which is sealed by the court. The Post was given the document under the condition that the prisoner not be named because the person who provided it feared for the inmate’s safety.

The document, written by a Baltimore police investigator, offers the first glimpse of what might have happened inside the van. It is not clear whether any additional evidence backs up the prisoner’s version, which is just one piece of a much larger probe.

Gray was found unconscious in the wagon when it arrived at a police station on April 12. The 25-year-old had suffered a spinal injury and died a week later, touching off waves of protests across Baltimore, capped by a riot Monday in which hundreds of angry residents torched buildings, looted stores and pelted police officers with rocks.

Abandoned row houses, Perlman Place, Baltimore

Abandoned row houses, Perlman Place, Baltimore

That solves that mystery then, right?

Um . . . . no. That tall tale is just likely to inflame more anger and protests.

Watch this CNN video of the Freddie Gray arrest posted at Slate if you can handle it. It shows police lifting and pushing Gray into the van because he can’t move at least one of his legs. Several times Gray screams in agony as police lift him into the van and leave him unbelted despite his injuries.

A second bystander-filmed video of Freddie Gray’s April 12 arrest in Baltimore—after which he was hospitalized and died—appears to show Gray in substantial pain before being put into a police vehicle.

Initial video of Gray’s arrest also appeared to depict him in pain as an onlooker shouted that Gray’s leg was broken….both videos—and witness reports that Gray was struck and “bent up” by the officers who arrested him—seem to suggest the possibility that he was injured before being put into the van.

Have I told you lately how much I despise the Washington Post? At least they did publish this piece by Michael E. Miller this morning:

Those stories that Freddie Gray had a pre-existing spinal injury are totally bogus.

One thing is certain…Freddie Gray did not have a pre-existing spinal injury.

Yet, that was the story circulating on a handful of conservative Web sites Tuesday. In an “exclusive” quoting anonymous sources, the Web site The Fourth Estate reported that “Freddie Gray’s life-ending injuries to his spine may have possibly been the result of spinal and neck surgery that he allegedly received a week before he was arrested, not from rough [sic] excessively rough treatment or abuse from police.” The site claimed his injury was from a car accident….

“If this is true, then it is possible that Gray’s spinal injury resulting from his encounter with the Baltimore Police was not the result of rough-handling or abuse, but rather a freak accident that occurred when Gray should have been at home resting, not selling drugs,” the site reported right above images of documents pertaining to a civil lawsuit involving Gray.

“The police didn’t mistreat him at all; he mistreated himself,” the report concluded.

Abandoned row houses in Baltimore

Abandoned row houses in Baltimore


But the images on the Fourth Estate actually relate to Gray’s lead paint lawsuit, the Baltimore Sun revealed. An attorney representing the Gray family confirmed that the case concerned lead paint, not a spinal cord injury a week before Freddie Gray’s arrest.

“We have no information or evidence at this point to indicate that there is a prior pre-existing spinal injury,” said Jason Downs, an attorney representing one of Gray’s relatives, told the Sun. “It’s a rumor.”

And yet that rumor might have caused real damage in a country already polarized on the subject of race and the police. The story quickly spread to several other Web sites, such as Free Republic and the Conservative Tree House, which called Gray’s supposedly pre-existing injury “a potential game changing discovery. A site called New York City Guns ran the headline “Dead Baltimore Drug Dealer Had Spinal Surgery DAYS Before He Collapsed in Police Van (Rioters Say ‘OOPS’).”

F**king a$$holes! I’m so sick of this garbage from so-called “conservatives.”

From this morning’s Baltimore Sun: The truth about Freddie Gray’s ‘pre-existing injury from car accident.’

Paperwork was filed in December allowing Gray and his sister, Fredericka to each collect an $18,000 payment from Peachtree Settlement Funding, records show. In exchange, Peachtree would have received a $108,439 annuity that was scheduled to be paid in $602 monthly installments between 2024 and 2039.

In her documents, Fredericka Gray checked “other” when asked to describe the type of accident. She also said that the date of the accident was “94/99” and that she was a minor when the case was settled.

In his documents, Freddie Gray checked “work injury, medical malpractice and auto accident” as the type of accident. When asked to explain, he also wrote something that is unreadable. He also wrote something unreadable when asked if he was a minor when the case was settled.

Baltimore, Md -- 12/2/11 -- The rear of a vacant house, marked with "X" on the left, where a 13-year-old girl was raped in October. The house at 825 N. Caroline was owned by the city for years and last year the city transferred it through a swap with a developer.  Kim Hairston [The Baltimore Sun ]

Baltimore, Md — 12/2/11 — The rear of a vacant house, marked with “X” on the left, where a 13-year-old girl was raped in October. The house at 825 N. Caroline was owned by the city for years and last year the city transferred it through a swap with a developer. Kim Hairston [The Baltimore Sun ]

Gray’s attorney says there is no evidence he had any kind of preexisting injury and there was no car accident.

As children, Gray and his two sisters were found to have damaging lead levels in their blood, which led to educational, behavioral and medical problems, according to a lawsuit they filed in 2008 against the owner of a Sandtown-Winchester home the family rented for four years.

While the property owner countered in the suit that other factors could have contributed to the children’s deficits — including poverty and their mother’s drug use — the case was settled before going to trial in 2010. The terms of the settlement are not public.

Even the Free Republic has now withdrawn their story on the rumors, according to the Sun article. But that won’t stop Fox News and other right wing sources from spreading the lies.

Now two important articles about the real roots of the riots that broke out in Baltimore on Monday.

TPM Cafe:

The Role The Police Played In Sparking The Baltimore Violence, by Lawrence Brown.

Lazy Saturday Afternoon Reads: Pi Day Edition


Good Afternoon!!

I’m no mathematician, but when something happens only once in a lifetime, I figure could be worth paying attention to. From MassLive: Pi Day 2015: 3.141592653 comes around for 1st time in 100 years.

Pi Day is a holiday, not a federal one, mind you, that celebrates pi, the mathematical constant that’s calculated by dividing the circumference of a circle by its diameter.

This year, Pi Day (named for the first three numbers of the mathematical constant and first officially celebrated in 1988 in San Francisco) has special significance – at 53 seconds after 9:26 a.m. and p.m. (9:26:53), the date and the time will represent the first 10 digits of pi – 3.141592653 (some argue that 9:26:54 is a more accurate time, since the 11th digit is 5, so the 3 should be rounded up.)

So what is Pi anyway?

The concept of pi – essential in calculations ranging from classical geometry to the most advanced physics and cosmology – dates to Egyptian pyramid builders of the 26th century BC. The constant was first represented by the Greek letter in 1706.

Pi was calculated out to 2,576,980,377,524 decimal places on April 29, 2009 at theCenter for Computational Sciences at the University of Tsukuba in Japan. It took more than 29 hours and 13.5 terabytes of computer capacity.


According to the article, lots of colleges mark the day, and M.I.T. even times their acceptance letters to go out on Pi Day. And get this: Albert Einstein was born on March 14.

I’ll let a real math whiz explain why Pi is important. From The New Yorker:

Why Pi Matters, by Steven Strogatz.

Why do mathematicians care so much about pi? Is it some kind of weird circle fixation? Hardly. The beauty of pi, in part, is that it puts infinity within reach. Even young children get this. The digits of pi never end and never show a pattern. They go on forever, seemingly at random—except that they can’t possibly be random, because they embody the order inherent in a perfect circle. This tension between order and randomness is one of the most tantalizing aspects of pi.

Pi touches infinity in other ways. For example, there are astonishing formulas in which an endless procession of smaller and smaller numbers adds up to pi. One of the earliest such infinite series to be discovered says that pi equals four times the sum 1 – + – + – + ⋯. The appearance of this formula alone is cause for celebration. It connects all odd numbers to pi, thereby also linking number theory to circles and geometry. In this way, pi joins two seemingly separate mathematical universes, like a cosmic wormhole.

But there’s still more to pi. After all, other famous irrational numbers, like e (the base of natural logarithms) and the square root of two, bridge different areas of mathematics, and they, too, have never-ending, seemingly random sequences of digits.

Infinite beauty of Pi

What distinguishes pi from all other numbers is its connection to cycles. For those of us interested in the applications of mathematics to the real world, this makes pi indispensable. Whenever we think about rhythms—processes that repeat periodically, with a fixed tempo, like a pulsing heart or a planet orbiting the sun—we inevitably encounter pi. There it is in the formula for a Fourier series:


That series is an all-encompassing representation of any process, x(t), that repeats every T units of time. The building blocks of the formula are pi and the sine and cosine functions from trigonometry. Through the Fourier series, pi appears in the math that describes the gentle breathing of a baby and the circadian rhythms of sleep and wakefulness that govern our bodies. When structural engineers need to design buildings to withstand earthquakes, pi always shows up in their calculations. Pi is inescapable because cycles are the temporal cousins of circles; they are to time as circles are to space. Pi is at the heart of both.

For this reason, pi is intimately associated with waves, from the ebb and flow of the ocean’s tides to the electromagnetic waves that let us communicate wirelessly. At a deeper level, pi appears in both the statement of Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle and the Schrödinger wave equation, which capture the fundamental behavior of atoms and subatomic particles. In short, pi is woven into our descriptions of the innermost workings of the universe.

Pi Day

From the Guardian: Pi Day 2015: meet the man who invented π, by Gareth Ffowc Roberts.

In 1706, William Jones – a self-taught mathematician and one of Anglesey’s most famous sons – published his seminal work, Synopsis palmariorum matheseos, roughly translated as A summary of achievements in mathematics.

It is a work of great historical interest because it is where the symbol π appears for the first time in scientific literature to denote the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter.

Jones realised that the decimal 3.141592 … never ends and that it cannot be expressed precisely. “The exact proportion between the diameter and the circumference can never be expressed in numbers,” he wrote. That was why he recognised that it needed its own symbol to represent it.

It is thought that he chose π either because it is first letter of the word for periphery (περιφέρεια) or because it is the first letter of the word for perimeter (περίμετρος). (Or because of both).

The symbol π was popularised in 1737 by the Swiss mathematician Leonhard Euler (1707–83), but it wasn’t until as late as 1934 that the symbol was adopted universally. By now, π is instantly recognised by school pupils worldwide, but few know that its history can be traced back to a small village in the heart of Anglesey.

Read more about Jones at the Guardian link.

And now, sadly, we must move on from the sublime to the ridiculous, our pathetic corporate media and their sick obsession with Bill and Hillary Clinton.


We’re all sick and tired of being sick and tired of the media’s insane hatred of the Clintons, and Hillary isn’t even running yet. What is it that causes these pathetic excuses for reporters and editors to hate these two people so much? Under Bill Clinton the U.S. economy was strong and healthy, and times were good for the middle class.

Before Clinton, we went through eight years of “Reaganomics” that left us with huge economic problems and four years of Jimmy Carter malaise.  Since then the economy has been in a shambles. Since Clinton, the economy has only been good for the ultra-rich, and we’ve been mired in two wars in the Middle East, and Republicans are trying to get us involved in a third war with Iran.

What was so terrible about peace and prosperity that the media, the GOP, and the Emoprog libertarians just couldn’t tolerate and don’t want to repeat?

If you’re thinking there a huge double standard in the media coverage of the Clintons vs. Republicans who held the same positions, you’re not imagining things. Over at Media Matters, Eric Boehlert has published a series of great pieces on this disparity.

The Clintons And Another Media Guttural Roar

Offering up some advice to the political press corps as it prepares to cover the 2016 presidential campaign, New York Times columnist Frank Bruni recently stressed that reporters and pundits ought to take a deep breath when big stories broke; to not immediately promote stumbles and campaign missteps to be more urgent and damaging than they really are.

“We may wish certain snags were roadblocks and certain missteps collapses, because we think they should be or they’re sexier that way,” wrote Bruni.

That was in his February 28 column. Four days later Bruni abandoned his own advice.

Pouncing on the controversy surrounding which email account Hillary Clinton used while serving as secretary of state, Bruni tossed his counsel for caution to the wind and treated the email development as an instant game changer and even wondered if the revelation indicated Clinton had a political “death wish.”


But that fits the long-running pattern of the D.C. media’s Clinton treatment: Over-eager journalists hungry for scandal can’t even abide by the advice they dispensed four days prior. Or maybe Bruni simply meant that his advice of caution was supposed to apply only to Republican candidates. Because it’s certainly not being applied to Hillary and the email kerfuffle coverage.

Instead, “The media and politicos and Twitterati immediately responded with all the measured cautious skepticism we’ve come to expect in response to any implication of a Clinton Scandal,” noted Wonkette. “That is to say, none.”

Just look how the very excitable Ron Fournier at National Journal rushed in after the email story broke and announced Clinton should probably just forget about the whole running-for-president thing. Why preemptively abandon an historic run? Because she may reveal herself to be “seedy,” “sanctimonious,” “self-important,” and “slick.” This, after Fournier denounced Bill and Hillary Clinton two weeks ago for their “stupid” and “sleazy” actions.

Why can’t these people see how ridiculously over-the-top they are when it comes to Hillary and Bill? How do they treat similar behavior by Republicans? Boehlert reported on March 10:

FLASHBACK: When Millions Of Lost Bush White House Emails (From Private Accounts) Triggered A Media Shrug.

Even for a Republican White House that was badly stumbling through George W. Bush’s sixth year in office, the revelation on April 12, 2007 was shocking. Responding to congressional demands for emails in connection with its investigation into the partisan firing of eight U.S. attorneys, the White House announced that as many asfive million emails, covering a two-year span, had been lost.

The emails had been run through private accounts controlled by the Republican National Committee and were only supposed to be used for dealing with non-administration political campaign work to avoid violating ethics laws. Yet congressional investigators already had evidence private emails had been used for government business, including to discuss the firing of one of the U.S. attorneys. The RNC accounts were used by 22 White House staffers, including then-Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, who reportedly used his RNC email for 95 percent of his communications.


As the Washington Post reported, “Under federal law, the White House is required to maintain records, including e-mails, involving presidential decision- making and deliberations.” But suddenly millions of the private RNC emails had gone missing; emails that were seen as potentially crucial evidence by Congressional investigators.

The White House email story broke on a Wednesday. Yet on that Sunday’s Meet The Press, Face The Nation, and Fox News Sunday, the topic of millions of missing White House emails did not come up. At all. (The story did get covered on ABC’s This Week.)

By comparison, not only did every network Sunday news show this week cover the story about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton emails, but they were drowning in commentary. Between Meet the Press, Face The Nation, This Week, and Fox News Sunday, Clinton’s “email” or “emails” were referenced more than 100 times on the programs, according to Nexis transcripts. Talk about saturation coverage.

Indeed, the commentary for the last week truly has been relentless, with the Beltway press barely pausing to catch its breath before unloading yet another round of “analysis,” most of which provides little insight but does allow journalists to vent about the Clintons.

And what about Colin Powell? And what about announced presidential candidate Jeb Bush? Boehlert wrote on March 11:

Pi pie

Two Names The Press Omits From Email Coverage: Colin Powell And Jeb Bush.

As the press demands answers regarding which private emails Clinton handed over to the State Department and which ones she withheld because she deemed them to be personal in nature, many journalists fail to include relevant information about prominent Republicans who have engaged in similar use of private email accounts while in office, specifically former Secretary of State Colin Powell and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

By omitting references to Powell and Bush and how they handled private emails while in office, the press robs news consumers of key information. It’s also material that deflates the overheated suspicions of a wide-ranging Clinton cover-up.

Appearing on ABCs This Week on Sunday, Powell was asked how he responded to the State Department request last year that all former secretaries hand over emails from their time in office. Powell confirmed that he had used private email while secretary but that he didn’t hand over any emails to the State Department because his private emails were all gone.

“I don’t have any to turn over,” he explained. “I did not keep a cache of them. I did not print them off. I do not have thousands of pages somewhere in my personal files.”  Powell’s revelation is important because it puts into perspective the email protocol of a former secretary of state. By his own account, Powell’s emails, unlike Clinton’s, include his regular communications with foreign dignitaries. What was he emailing them in the lead-up to the war in Iraq? We’ll never know.

To date however, both the New York Times and the Washington Post have largely downplayed references to the fact that Powell’s private, secretary of state emails are all gone.

We simply have no “Fourth Estate” any longer. The media simply reports whatever fits their “narratives” from the 1980s and 2008 and ignores everything that doesn’t fit.

I know there is much more happening today. What Saturday reads would you recommend?

Saturday Afternoon Reads: Bloody Sunday, March 7, 1965

Two Minute Warning, photo by Spider Martin.  Selma "marchers facing a line of state troopers in Selma moments before police beat the protestors on March 7, 1965." The day became known as Bloody Sunday. Courtesy Tracy Martin (NPR)

Two Minute Warning, photo by Spider Martin.
Selma “marchers facing a line of state troopers in Selma moments before police beat the protestors on March 7, 1965.
Courtesy Tracy Martin (NPR)

Good Afternoon!!

Today is the anniversary of Bloody Sunday, March 7, 1965 in Selma, Alabama. From USA Today, Bloody Sunday commemoration commences in Selma.

SELMA, Ala. — They have come from coast to coast to commemorate a solemn moment in civil rights history, but also to renew their commitment to a fight that many say isn’t finished.

Tens of thousands of Americans are gathering here on Saturday to mark the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, when marchers attempting to walk from Selma to Montgomery to demand an end to discriminatory polling practices were viciously attacked by police.

It took two more attempts for marchers — led by John Lewis and Hosea Williams — to successfully complete their roughly 50-mile trip to Montgomery. But their determination — and the searing images of the violence during that first march — shook the nation’s collective conscience and helped usher in the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965….

Participants began arriving Thursday for a five-day commemoration that will reach its apex today when President Obama will speak from the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where the marchers were bloodied by state troopers and sheriff’s posse armed with tear gas and clubs.

The photo at the top of the page is from NPR’s Code Switch blog: Photographer Helped Expose Brutality Of Selma’s ‘Bloody Sunday’. You can also listen to a brief report at that link. From the transcript:

This month Selma, Ala., will mark the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday.” That’s the day police beat demonstrators attempting to march to Montgomery in support of voting rights. Some of the most iconic images of that day were captured by a white photographer — the late Spider Martin.

Spider Martin’s real introduction to the civil rights movement came on a late night at home in February 1965. He was 25, a photographer for The Birmingham News. He explains in a video from 1987 that he got the call because he was the youngest staff member and no one else wanted to go. That assignment would lead to his most famous work.

“About midnight I get this phone call from the chief photographer and he says ‘Spider, we need to get you to go down to Marion, Ala.’ Says there’s been a church burned and there’d been a black man who was protesting killed. He was shot with a shotgun. His name was Jimmie Lee Jackson.” ….

Jackson’s killing helped spur the Selma-to-Montgomery voting rights marches a few weeks later. Martin was in Selma for Bloody Sunday when state troopers attacked protesters. Holding a camera made him just as much a target. He recounted in an interview with Alabama Public Television, what happened when a police officer saw him.

“He walks over to me and, blow! Hits me right here in the back of the head,” he said. “I still got a dent in my head and I still have nerve damage there. I go down on my knees and I’m like seeing stars and there’s tear gas everywhere. And then he grabs me by the shirt and he looks straight in my eyes and he just dropped me and said, ‘scuse me. Thought you was a nigger.'”

Martin kept covering the marchers until they reached Montgomery two-and-a-half weeks later.

See more of Martin’s photographs of the Selma march at the NPR link and at

The New York Daily News has a wonderful gallery of photos of the events leading up to the Selma to Montgomery march, which began on March 21, and concluded on March 25, 1965. Here are two of the photos. Please click on the link to see more.


Feb. 7, 1965, African Americans stand in line to attempt to register to take a literacy test in order to register to vote in Selma, AL

Feb. 7, 1965, African Americans stand in line to attempt to register to take a literacy test in order to register to vote in Selma, AL


March 1, 1965, Registrar Carl Golson shakes finger in MLK's face saying that voter registration in Lowndes Cty is none of his business.

March 1, 1965, Registrar Carl Golson shakes finger in MLK’s face saying that voter registration in Lowndes Cty is none of his business.


At The Nation, The Almanac column has reprinted an article by George B. Leonard published 50 years ago on March 10: Midnight Plane to Alabama.

Fifty years ago today, Alabama State Troopers attacked voting-rights demonstrators on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma. Events moved quickly after that, with President Lyndon Johnson delivering his “We Shall Overcome” address before Congress and calling for a voting-rights bill just over a week later. But in early May, The Nation circled back to that moment on the bridge, with an essay by the California writer George B. Leonard, who watched footage of the assault at home. Shocked and appalled by what he saw, Leonard (originally from the South) took a plane to Selma to be there for whatever would happen next.His essay, “Midnight Plane to Alabama,” appeared in The Nation of May 10, 1965.

The pictures were not particularly good. With the cameras rather far removed from the action and the skies partly overcast everything that happened took on the quality of an old newsreel. Yet this very quality, vague and half-silhouetted, gave the scene the vehemence and immediacy of a dream. The TV screen showed a column of Negroes striding along a highway. A force of Alabama state troopers blocked their way. As the Negroes drew to a halt, a toneless voice drawled an order from a loudspeaker. In the interests of “public safety” the marchers were being told to turn back. A few moments passed, measured out in silence, as some of the troopers covered their faces with gas masks. There was a lurching movement on the left side of the screen, a heavy phalanx of troopers charged straight into the column, bowling the marchers over. A shrill cry of terror, unlike any sound that had passed through a TV set, rose up as the troopers lumbered forward, stumbling sometimes on the fallen bodies. The scene cut to charging horses, their hoofs flashing over the fallen. Another quick cut, a cloud of tear gas billowed over the highway. Periodically the top of a helmeted head emerged from the cloud, followed by a club on the upswing. The club and the head would disappear into the cloud of gas and another club would bob up and down. Unhuman. No other word can describe the motions. The picture shifted quickly to a Negro church. The bleeding, broken and unconscious passed across the screen, some of them limping alone, others supported on either side, still others carried in arms or on stretchers. It was at this point that my wife, sobbing, turned and walked away, saying, “I can’t look any more.”

Alabama state troopers attack protesters in Selma, March 7, 1965

Alabama state troopers attack protesters in Selma, March 7, 1965


How far have we come in 50 years?

Just this week, the Department of Justice released a report that enumerates shocking civil rights violations by police and city officials in Ferguson, Missouri. Following the killing of black teenager Michael Brown by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, there were demonstrations during which Ferguson and St. Louis police and Missouri state troopers used military war surplus equipment and blatantly unconstitutional policies in their efforts to shut down the protests.

Riot police stand guard as demonstrators protest the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri August 13, 2014. Credit: REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

Riot police stand guard as demonstrators protest the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri August 13, 2014. Credit: REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

In the past year, we’ve seen incident after incident of black men and boys being shot and killed by police around the country.

America’s prisons are used as weapons in a virtual race war. African Americans are “incarcerated at U.S. prisons are at nearly six times the rate of whites.” and they are much more likely to be receive the death penalty.

Most concerning of all, the conservatives on the Supreme Court succeeded in greatly weakening the Voting Rights Act by invalidating the most important part of the law, which required nine states to get federal approval before they made any changes in voting laws. Following that decision, Republican states rushed to impose limits on voting that unfairly targeted minorities.

From NBC News:  50 Years Past Selma, Historic Town Makes Slow March Toward Change.

When thousands gather this weekend in Selma, Alabama, to mark the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,” some will likely conclude that the town that changed America has not seemed to make much progress of its own.

The majority of registered voters in Selma are now black — along with most of the city, whites having fled in the decades since their African-American neighbors gained access to the ballot box. More than half the businesses in Selma are black-owned.

But Selma is a poor city in one of the poorest states in the country. The typical resident earns about half the state’s median income of $43,000, and over 40 percent of its citizens live below the poverty line, more than twice the state average. According to the most recent data, 10 percent of Selma residents are unemployed — one of the highest rates in Alabama — compared to six percent statewide….

“The people who received less benefit from the movement are the ones who did the most,” said Andrew Young, a lieutenant of Martin Luther King Jr.’s who was among those marching on March 4, 1965. “That’s always bothered me.”

“The farmers who let us stay in their homes, who bonded us out of jail, are old guys now. They still own land but they can’t make a living on the land.”

Ferguson, MO, August 13, 2014. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Ferguson, MO, August 13, 2014. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

From Mother Jones, 50 Years Ago Today, “Bloody Sunday” Catalyzed The Civil Rights Movement. Are We Backsliding? Please go read the article–there are more great photos. Here’s the final paragraph:

“It is perversely ironic to commemorate the past without demonstrating the courage of that past in the present,” NAACP president Cornell Brooks told The Atlantic‘s Russell Berman last week. “In other words we can’t really give gold medals to those who marched from Selma to Montgomery without giving a committee vote to the legislation that protects the right to vote today.”

One more relevant piece from Alternet dated December 15, 2014, How Runaway Economic Inequality and Racism Are Linked to Police Killings. A brief excerpt:

Why are white cops shooting unarmed black men?

On one level the story is simple: racism. Too many police officers fear people of color in the neighborhoods they patrol, and are likely to over-react with force during encounters. The local courts also engage in discrimination by failing to indict the killers, even when captured on video, as in the brutal police slaying of Eric Garner in Staten Island, NY. Both the policing and the court system obviously reflect the polarization of our communities, and our inability to escape the legacy of slavery, more than 150 years after emancipation.

But racism only accounts for part of the story. We also must understand how judicial racism and even police violence are deeply connected to the financialization of the economy and runaway inequality.

It is not by accident that America has become both the most unequal developed nation in the world, and the nation with the largest prison population. We’re number one in police killings, incarceration and inequality—not Russia, not China. Our national self-image so steeped in the idea of freedom has not caught up with these ugly realities.

Racism is has been with us for centuries, but something very new happened in America around 1980 that set the stage for these police killings. Something very big is transforming us into the first democratic police state in human history.

“Around 1980…” What happened in 1980? Ronald Reagan was elected. It was the beginning of the Republican “revolution” against freedom, modernity and an inclusive America.

Ronald Reagan kicks off his 1980 presidential campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi.

Ronald Reagan kicks off his 1980 presidential campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi.

Do you recall where Reagan chose to begin his campaign for the presidency? Here’s a column by the late William Rasberry, published on the occasion of Reagan’s death, Reagan’s Race Legacy.

I might have let this period of national mourning pass without a sour note. But I was in Mississippi when I heard the news of his death, and it came just one day after a white Mississippi newspaper editor proudly handed me a copy of the Philadelphia, Miss., paper, the Neshoba Democrat.

Philadelphia, county seat of Mississippi’s Neshoba County, is famous for a couple of things. That is where three civil rights workers — Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman — were murdered in 1964. And that is where, in 1980, Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan chose to launch his election campaign, with a ringing endorsement of “states’ rights.”

It was bitter symbolism for black Americans (though surely not just for black Americans). Countless observers have noted that Reagan took the Republican Party from virtual irrelevance to the ascendancy it now enjoys. The essence of that transformation, we shouldn’t forget, is the party’s successful wooing of the race-exploiting Southern Democrats formerly known as Dixiecrats. And Reagan’s Philadelphia appearance was an important bouquet in that courtship.

I don’t accuse Reagan of racism, though while he served, I did note what seemed to be his indifference to the concerns of black Americans — issues ranging from civil rights enforcement and attacks on “welfare queens” to his refusal to act seriously against the apartheid regime in South Africa. He gets full credit from me for the good things he did — including presiding over the end of international communism. But he also legitimized, by his broad wink at it, racial indifference — and worse….in some ways, including racially, he left us a more divided nation, in part by making division seem legitimate.

That’s the legacy of Philadelphia.

Even Reagan probably would be amazed by what the Republican Party has become today, but he certainly enabled it.

You can watch coverage of today’s events in Selma on C-Span. President Obama and Representative John Lewis will appear at around 2:30PM.

From Reuters: Obama to make call to action in Selma anniversary visit.

U.S. President Barack Obama will call on Americans to carry forward the spirit of the Civil Rights Movement on Saturday during a visit to Selma, Alabama, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a march that sparked the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Obama, the first black U.S. president, will deliver remarks at the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where police and state troopers beat and used tear gas against peaceful marchers who were advocating against racial discrimination at the voting booth….

“Selma is not just about commemorating the past. It’s about honoring the legends who helped change this country through your actions today, in the here and now,” he told a town hall-style meeting.

“Selma is now. Selma is about the courage of ordinary people doing extraordinary things because they believe they can change the country, that they can shape our nation’s destiny. Selma is about each of us asking ourselves what we can do to make America better.” ….

Obama condemned the Missouri city of Ferguson on Friday for “oppressive and abusive” actions against black residents that were revealed in a U.S. Justice Department report accusing police and court officials of racial bias.

We have a very long way to go.

This is an open thread. Please share your thoughts on this post and other stories you’re following in the comment thread and have a terrific weekend.

Wednesday Reads: Leftovers

10626215_914005625301082_5872656109029350996_oGood Morning

This is just going to be a link dump, I am not feeling quite up to the task of writing a post today, maybe it is the frustrating tiresome week…I don’t know. It gets exhausting spending so many hours snowbound with a man who is your total polar political opposite.

Anyway, for now I hope you find the following links interesting.

There has been quite a lot of “talk” about Patty Arquette’s backstage comments regarding various groups and their need to support Woman’s Rights.

See these two articles, or op/eds from Reality Check:

First: Patricia Arquette’s Spectacular Intersectionality Fail by Andrea Grimes

Intersectionality – Geek Feminism Wiki

(I had to look it up…good thing Grimes put up a link.)

And secondly: The Road to Structural Erasure Is Paved With Well-Intentioned White Ladies #ABLC by Imani Gandy

Then this later response by Gandy: The Funny Thing About Privilege #ABLC

il_fullxfull.711228862_qyjdGive all those a read and then take a look at this:

Patricia Arquette responds to Oscars feminism controversy, and Hillary Clinton supports her – People – News – The Independent

I am glad Hillary backed up Arquette…

Hillary Clinton: It’s Time For Wage Equality ‘Once And For All’

Hillary Clinton lamented the number of women in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math at a Silicon Valley women’s conference on Tuesday, and called for more action to close the wage gap.

il_fullxfull.561770561_764v“Sixty percent of college graduates are now women, yet they earn only 18 percent of computer science degrees. That’s actually less than half of what it was in the 1980s, when women earned 38 percent of those degrees. We’re going backwards in a field that’s supposed to be all about going forward,” Clinton said in a keynote address at Lead On Conference for Women in Santa Clara, California, for which she was reportedly paid a whopping $300,000.

The former secretary of state addressed an overwhelmingly friendly crowd made up of many employees from Silicon Valley’s biggest tech companies, including Intel, Oracle and Cisco. Introduced as a “modern day suffragette,” Clinton empathized with the audience by noting the difficulties women still face in male-dominated Silicon Valley.

“You bump your heads on the glass ceilings that persist in the tech industry today,” she told the attendees.

Clinton framed the need to empower women as beneficial to America’s economy as a whole, and in so doing paid deference to one of Apple, Inc.’s biggest slogans.

il_fullxfull.686180167_1uhx“There are lasting consequences for them, their families, and our economy,” she said of women left out of the STEM fields. “We cannot afford to leave all that talent sitting on that sidelines. To borrow a familiar phrase, it’s time to think different.”

In advocating for closing the pay gap, Clinton also endorsed the impassioned plea for wage equality made by Patricia Arquette in her Oscars acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actress.

This is what she said:

“Up and down the ladder many women are paid less for the same work, which is why we all cheered at Patricia Arquette’s speech at the Oscars — because she’s right, it’s time to have wage equality once and for all,” Clinton said.

Damn right. I made some comments on the first post written by Imani Gandy, after that I just got tired of the whole thing. So tired of fighting for every little bit of something that is right and is deserved.  Fuck it.

The rest of the links, coming at ya:

il_fullxfull.709423135_2htbAnother look at Clinton’s speech: SANTA CLARA, Calif.: Clinton to women: It can still feel like 1955 out there | Elections | McClatchy DC

Which is the most sexist national anthem? | News | The Guardian

Italy and Turkey are the sexist…US is in the orange range…

Roman Polanski Appears in Court in Extradition Hearing –

I wonder if he will ever face justice.

SHOCKING New Poll Shows Majority Of GOP Total Idiots | Wonkette

Brace yourselves for some stunning, shocking, jaw-dropping, too-amazing-to-believe-yet-totally-believable news! According to a new poll from PPP, the Republican Party is overflowing with morons. It’s true. In fact, it’s SCIENCE! Or MATH! Or some kind of liberal hoax thing!

Let’s nerdsplore how goddamned dumb Republicans are, shall we?


evolutionIf you think that’s depressing, well, OK, you’re right, it is depressing. But it gets worse:


global warmingDidn’t Republicans used to more or less accept that basic science was real, scientifically speaking? Yes, but that’s before the entire party adopted the official “I’m not a scientist” platform, thanks to Fox News teaching the “controversy.”

il_fullxfull.376007480_9tx5Hey, but you know…they do love them some fetuses! At least until they are born: Republican lawmaker: It’s OK for children to die in the name of God –

In a deeply religious section of Idaho, a Republican state representative says that the state has no right to protect children from their parents who refuse them needed medical treatment in favor of faith healing.

“Children do die,” says Rep. Christy Perry. And it’s fine with her if Idaho children die in the name of God. Perry’s district includes many followers of a religious cult, Followers of Christ, that eschews medicine. She says that the sect’s members are more comfortable confronting death when it happens to their children.

“I’m not trying to sound callous, but [people calling for reform] want to act as if death is an anomaly. But it’s not. It’s a way of life,” she says.

Oh boy…

1532077_714422388592741_973356611_oAgain, I am so sick of this shit. And I really don’t feel like arguing about it.

An Italian cemetery may provide clues on cholera’s

The site contains victims of the cholera epidemic that swept the world in the 1850s, said Clark Spencer Larsen, professor of anthropology at Ohio State University and one of the leaders of the excavation team.

Archaeologists and their students have spent the past four summers painstakingly excavating remains in a special section of the cemetery used for cholera victims. About 20 to 30 skeletons have been excavated during each of the past four field seasons.

Finding traces of the pathogen that caused cholera among the human remains could reveal details about how people lived – and died – in this region of Europe. “To our knowledge, these are the best preserved remains of cholera victims of this time period ever found,” Larsen said. “We’re very excited about what we may be able to learn.”

il_fullxfull.726272341_bd6nOn the move: The impact of economic migration – Al Jazeera English

Urbanisation is rapidly picking up pace. We hit the tipping point in 2009, when there were more people living in urban areas than in rural ones.

The United Nations believes an additional 2.5bn people will live in urban areas by 2050, which is only 35 years away.

Many of the rural poor come to the cities and end up living in sub-standard housing. It is estimated that 863 million people now live in slums. And China alone, according to the UN, will need to spend $6.8tn over the next two decades just to integrate rural workers.

Counting the Cost examines the challenges of economic migration.

Al Jazeera’s Adrian Brown reports from China; and Dr Babatunde Osotimehin, the executive director of the United Nations Population Fund, joins us from New York to discuss migration and the issues behind it.


Mysterious East Coast flooding caused by ‘unprecented’ surge in sea level – The Washington Post

Here’s a Satirical Take on the 40 Things the News Wants You to Be Afraid Of – Truthdig

5 Lessons Fat Albert Should Have Taught Bill Cosby |

Sicilian mafioso who lived incognito in Britain for 20 years to be extradited | World news | The Guardian

New Research Into Indo-European Languages – Archaeology Magazine

Brilliant Fireball Wows Skywatchers, Rattles Windows In Florida

and this last link:

Where Do Sesame Seeds Come From, Anyway?

Let’s treat this as an open thread…what are you reading about today?

Friday Reads: A Sign of the Overlord Apocalypse

Good Morning!old store

It’s been since at least November since I’ve had some time to myself when I wasn’t completely in need of tons of sleep so I’m enjoying spending some time in bed with my feet up getting my reads on.  There’s not been a lot that’s intrigued me but it beats designing and updating an on line International Finance Class, believe me.  So, imagine my sheer joy when I found out that Walmart broke down and upped its wages.

There are several reasons the America’s #1 corporation and chain store made the leap.  It was probably a combination of fear of unionization and the incredible employee turnover rate.  It really costs to hire and train new workers so upping the salary is really the required move for that one.  There’s a lot of analysis on the deed so I’d thought I’d take a look at it.  First up, Joe Pinsker at The Atlantic discusses the move.

The CEO of Walmart announced earlier today that all of the company’s employees will, starting in April, be paid at least $9 an hour, nearly $2 more than the federal minimum wage. That’s still far short of the $15 per hour pushed for by OUR Walmart, a union-like group of Walmart workers. Still, it’s a change for a company that has stubbornly opposed such a raise for years.

Walmart’s CEO framed the raise as an act of corporate benevolence, but the reason his company will inch closer to paying all its employees fair wages has little to do with goodwill (few business decisions do). If Walmart has determined that it’ll need to start paying higher wages to stay competitive, then other retailers might arrive at the same conclusion. This isn’t an isolated act of corporate social responsibility—it’s a response to the current realities of labor economics that will likely inform the behavior of other American employers.

1922_Detroit_storeThis is a pretty good sign that the economy is doing well enough that workers are beginning to be able to trade up to better jobs.  It’s the best sign that I’ve seen yet that the economy has really started to recover from the financial crisis. 

Some companies have set even higher wage floors more in line with living wage expectations. Most recently, for example, Aetna set its floor for US workers at $16 an hour, twice the current federal minimum wage.

Higher wages are exactly what the financial doctors have ordered to cure America’s ailing economy. According to the Economic Policy Institute, it would take a wage growth of at least 3.5% to 4% for workers to feel the impact of the recovery. In 2014, the average hourly pay went up by just 1.7%.

“Raising wages among low-wage workers shifts income into the pockets of workers and families that are highly likely to quickly spend every additional dollar they earn,” says David Cooper, economic analyst at the Economic Policy Institute.

“So even though some businesses have to pay their workers more, they see more customers coming through the door because now there’s additional dollars rippling out through local economies in a way that doesn’t really happen if those dollars just go back into the bank accounts of corporate shareholders.”

It’s taken awhile for the plight of low income workers to attract any kind of attention from decision makers despite the huge amount of media attention focused on income inequality and the general lack of demand at stores that cater to the majority of Americans.  Sooner or later, something had to give.  It certainly wasn’t going to be any Republican-led legislature.

So what has changed? The simple answer is that the world for employers is very different with a 5.7 percent unemployment rate (the January level) than it was five years ago, at 9.8 percent. Finding qualified workers is harder for employers now than it was then, and their workers are at risk of jumping ship if they don’t receive pay increases or other improvements. Apart from pay, Walmart executives said in their conference call with reporters that they were revising their employee scheduling policies so that workers could have more predictability in their work schedules and more easily get time off when they needed it, such as for a doctor’s appointment.

The giant question now is not whether there will be some meaningful wage gains in 2015; beyond the anecdotal evidence from Walmart and Aetna, the collapse in oil prices means even modest pay increases will translate into quite large inflation-adjusted raises. The question is whether wage gains will be strong enough to create a virtuous cycle in which rising pay for the workers at the bottom three-quarters of the income scale, who are most likely to spend the money and get it circulating through the economy, will spur more investment and hiring.

To the degree their logic was, “We think we’re going to need to raise wages this much in the next couple of years anyway to retain good workers and maximize profitability, so we may as well get ahead of the curve and get a public relations bump out of it and announce the plans in a big splashy way,” that would be the best news for American workers. Because that would imply that it won’t just be Walmart workers getting a raise in 2015.

Other news this week is not as good.  We continue to see people justify their bigotry through religious beliefs. Judges around the country aren’t buying it but the justification is popping up in some really odd places including a pediatrician who wouldn’t accept a 6 day old as a patient because her parents are lesbians. 160376_large

Sitting in the pediatrician’s office with their 6-day-old daughter, the two moms couldn’t wait to meet the doctor they had picked out months before.

The Roseville pediatrician — one of many they had interviewed — seemed the perfect fit: She took a holistic approach to treating children. She used natural oils and probiotics. And she knew they were lesbians.

But as Jami and Krista Contreras sat in the exam room, waiting to be seen for their newborn’s first checkup, another pediatrician entered the room and delivered a major blow: The doctor they were hoping for had a change of heart. After “much prayer,” she decided that she couldn’t treat their baby because they are lesbians.

Doctor’s letter: Why she wouldn’t care for baby with 2 moms

“I was completely dumbfounded,” recalled Krista Contreras, the baby’s biological mother. “We just looked at each other and said, ‘Did we hear that correctly?’ …. When we tell people about it, they don’t believe us. They say, ‘(Doctors) can’t do that. That’s not legal.’ And we say, ‘Yes it is.'”

The Contrerases of Oak Park are going public with their story to raise awareness about the discrimination that the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community continues to face. There is no federal or Michigan law that explicitly prohibits discrimination against LGBT individuals.

For months, the couple kept quiet about what happened to them and their baby — Bay Windsor Contreras — at Eastlake Pediatrics last October.

But the pain and frustration wouldn’t go away. So they broke their silence.

“We want people to know that this is happening to families. This is really happening,” said Jami Contreras, 30, who was blindsided that fall day in the doctor’s office. “It was embarrassing. It was humiliating … It’s just wrong.”

Old shops and stores in N.J (10)A judge in Washington state has made a meaningful decision on a Florist that refused service to a gay couple seeking flowers for their wedding.  The bottom line is that religion is not an excuse to refuse public accommodation under the law.

Benton County Superior Court Judge Alex Ekstrom rejected arguments from the owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland that her actions were protected by her freedoms of speech and religion. While religious beliefs are protected by the First Amendment, actions based on those beliefs aren’t necessarily protected, he said.

“For over 135 years, the Supreme Court has held that laws may prohibit religiously motivated action, as opposed to belief,” Ekstrom wrote. “The Courts have confirmed the power of the Legislative Branch to prohibit conduct it deems discriminatory, even where the motivation for that conduct is grounded in religious belief.”

Barronelle Stutzman, the owner of Arlene’s Flowers, sold flowers for years to customer Robert Ingersoll. She knew he was gay and that the flowers were for his partner, Curt Freed.

After Washington state legalized same-sex marriage in 2012, Ingersoll went to the shop the following spring to ask Stutzman to do the flowers for his wedding. At the time, floral arrangements for weddings made up about 3 percent of her business.

She placed her hands on his and told him she couldn’t, “because of my relationship with Jesus Christ,” she said in a deposition. As a Southern Baptist, she believed only in opposite-sex marriages.

046618-unley-supermarket-grocery-storePeople use just about anything to justify bigotry but religion seems to be a source of refuge for a huge part of the hate-based discrimination.  You may want to take a look at a new documentary called “Hate in America” if you’d like to hear more about all the issues every one has with bigots.

For more than 30 years, Emmy-winning journalist, documentary filmmaker, and Al Jazeera America anchor Tony Harris has reported on senseless and vicious acts of violence, many fueled by intolerance, fear and hate. In the new Investigation Discovery one-hour special HATE IN AMERICA, Harris partners with The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a non-profit that has been tracking hate groups across the country since 1971, and NBC News’ award-winning production arm Peacock Productions, to examine the current realities of intolerance in America.

According to the SPLC, more than 900 active hate groups currently exist across the United States, from neo-Nazis to anti-government militias, targeting entire classes of people for their race, religion, and sexuality, among other immutable characteristics. Largely propagated by anger and fear over the nation’s ailing economy and the diminishing white majority, that number has been on the rise for over a decade.

Traveling to communities torn apart by violence, Harris pulls back the curtain on what drives modern-day hate, and comes face to face with its victims to examine HATE IN AMERICA.

HATE IN AMERICA premieres on Investigation Discovery on Monday, February 23, at 8/7c.

I’ve often wondered why my attitude towards shopping has changed over time.  I used to love going to the big stores downtown and the clerks all seemed so cheery and glamorous.  The buildings were vast and had huge tall ceilings supported by ornate columns.  The window decorations were incredible during the holidays and they were up such a short period that you had to rush down there just to catch them. It was fun to walk from store to store and each store had its on personality and personalities.  This is so different from today’s megastore where every one is rude and seems to only care about low priced junk. The aisles are tight and packed with crap and the crap is hard to find.  There is very little help and only cashiers in far off places.

I used to think I started disliking stores and shopping just because I’d worked so much retail in high school and college. But, I still love to hit little antique stores in quaint places and will take hours staring down some bargain. I figured I’d just burned out on the entire store experience from those years. But, I still love hopping around the big stores in NYC and I used to love hitting the Maison Blanche in downtown New Orleans when I first moved here.  So much of the things I enjoyed about shopping as a customer are gone.  Also, when I was small, even retail store owners and employees had civilized work hours.  Now, all I can think about it how grumpy every one looks and how junky the merchandise has become since they work night and day on every day imaginable. I’ve taken to ordering a lot of stuff on line just to avoid the overall experience of the ugly buildings, merchandise and people.  The thought of going to a Walmart stresses me out. It’s something I avoid if I can.  So, I don’t know.  What happened?

Whatever happened to a fun day at a store?  Oh, well.  Everything changes and now it’s just all about returning profits to a few at the inconvenience and dismay of the many.

So, those are the two interrelated topics that I’ve been investigating this week.  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Tuesday Reads


Good Morning!!

Tonight President Obama will give his sixth State of the Union Address. Yesterday, Dakinikat wrote about Obama’s proposal to increase taxes on the wealthy to benefit the middle class. Obviously that isn’t going to pass muster with our Republican Congress, but maybe it will at least embarrass some members just a little bit. We’ll have a live blog tonight during the speech, and I hope you’ll join us.

Here are a few stories to check out before tonight.

From The Washington Post: Obama will give State of Union address against backdrop of deep partisan divide. Author David Nakamura seems concerned that the president isn’t interested in being “conciliatory” toward Republicans.

The president will enter the House chamber Tuesday night for his sixth State of the Union address riding a wave of confidence driven by an improving economy and brightening public approval ratings. And he seems as defiant as ever.

Although Obama has vetoed just two bills in his six years, the White House has threatened to veto five measures from Congress this month alone — including legislation that would authorize the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline, tie funding of the Department of Homeland Security to a rollback of Obama’s executive actions on immigration, and impose new economic sanctions on Iran.

Obama vowed in a private meeting with Democrats last week that he will play “offense” during the final two years of his presidency, building on the aggressive executive actions he laid out over the past two months. The legislative proposals he has previewed — including a plan for free community college and a revamping of the tax code — have been based firmly on his terms, drawing objections from Republicans.

The nerve of this guy! He tried to reach across the aisle for years, and now he’s given up the ghost. Shocking.

Joni Ernst is not the next Sarah Palin.

And Tuesday night, she’ll get the chance to prove it.

The SOTU will be followed by a Republican response by newly elected Iowa Senator Joni Ernst. Will she castrate a hog during her presentation? Ben Jacobs at The Daily Beast writes:

Ernst, the gun totin’, hog castrating freshman Republican senator from Iowa will give her party’s response to the State of the Union—a tricky, high-profile task that have landed many before her at the bad end of a punchline.

But the prime time address not only gives Ernst a chance to show off her Iowa charm, it gives her the opportunity to shed the comparison to Sarah Palin that she attracted as she campaigned through the Hawkeye State’s 99 counties last year as a populist conservative.

Once called an “onion of crazy” by Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schutz (D-Fla.), the Iowa senator first gained national attention in a crowded, if undistinguished, primary field with an television ad about castrating hogs. She followed that up with another advertisement that featured her in safety glasses firing away at a target while the voiceover boasted that she kept “more than lipstick in her purse.”


CNN notes that recent responses to the SOTU have not gone well and asks “Is the State of the Union response cursed?”

“It’s almost like the kiss of death to get picked to do the Republican response,” said Elaine Kamarck, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. “It represents an amazing opportunity to catapult yourself into the national conversation, but the risk is huge and the success rate has been minimal at best in recent years.”

 Republicans couldn’t have been more excited to spotlight their Indian-American wunderkind Bobby Jindal, Louisiana’s governor, in response to the first black President’s address to a joint session of Congress. But all party bigwigs and critics alike were talking about the next day was Jindal’s awkward delivery, not his prospects for higher office — and certainly not GOP diversity.

It was a moment reminiscent of then-Gov. Tim Kaine’s (D-Virginia) 2006 response, when he was outdone by his own eyebrows.

And then a parched Marco Rubio took a not-so-subtle sip of water, eyes still piercing into the camera. Forget that he had delivered the first-ever bilingual rebuttal, drowned out by Rubio and his infamous water bottle.

Rubio quickly bounced back from that moment, raising more than $100,000 through his PAC by selling “RUBIO” branded water bottles. And his political fortunes are still fairly intact.

And superstitious politicos beware.

Virigina Gov. Bob McDonnell gave a rousing response straight from the Virginia state legislature in 2010. Five years later, and he’s about to start a two-year stint in federal prison over corruption charges.

Even last year’s speaker, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers was accused by a former staffer of ethics violations, though that investigation died out pretty quickly.

Maybe it’s just that today’s Republicans are a sorry bunch of losers channeling the Koch brothers?


Speaking of losers, Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise had the nerve to discuss Martin Luther King’s legacy yesterday. From The Hill: Scalise praises MLK amid controversies.

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) on Monday praised the legacy of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. amid controversy over his speech to a white supremacist group while he served as a Louisiana state legislator…

“As we reflect upon the life of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., today, we also recognize how our nation has been strengthened by his legacy,” Scalise said in a statement.

“Dr. King challenged our country to fulfill the promises of liberty, equality, and justice prescribed in the founding of our great nation. Leading by example, he stressed the teachings of tolerance, service, and love, regardless of race, color, or creed. Today, his writings and speeches continue to empower and inspire those who seek liberty, equality, and justice,” Scalise continued.

Scalise made no mention of any events he planned to attend to commemorate the holiday.

Scalise’s comments stood out, however, given that the holiday coincides with multiple race-related controversies over his career prior to entering Congress.

For one, Scalise opposed making King’s birthday a state holiday in 2004 while he served in the Louisiana Legislature, as well as making it a school holiday in 1999.

The Hill also reported last week that Scalise voted against a resolution in the Louisiana Legislature apologizing for slavery. He later supported a version that only expressed “regret” for slavery.

“Why are you asking me to apologize for something I didn’t do and had no part of?” Scalise said, according to minutes of a 1996 Louisiana House committee meeting obtained by The Hill. “I am not going to apologize for what somebody else did.”

And, as reported in late December, Scalise in 2002 spoke before the European-American Unity and Rights Organization founded by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.

Why is this man still serving as House Majority Whip?

Manhattan newsstand

Yesterday Think Progress noted that Scalise isn’t the only opponent the Martin Luther King holiday who still remains in power.

The Ferocious Fight Against The MLK National Holiday​

After King’s assassination in 1968, Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) introduced the first Congressional legislation to create a federal Martin Luther King Day holiday. In the years that followed, Congress held congressional hearings during which hostile witnesses said “violence was exactly what [King] wanted,” and that King formed a “common front” with the “virulently racist Nation of Islam.”

More than 15 years later, Congress finally enacted such a law. The bill, signed by President Ronald Reagan, passed in the Senate on a 78-22 vote and in the House of Representatives by a 338 to 90 margin. The most vocal opponents included the late Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC), who mounted a 16-day filibuster of the proposal and smeared King as a Communist.

Voting with Helms against the King holiday were four men who remain in the Senate today: Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Banking Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Armed Services Chairman John McCain (R-AZ). Shelby and McCain were in the House at the time. House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) and House Judiciary Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) also voted against the proposal. McCain apologized in 2008 for being too slow “to give greatness its due,” and Hatch wrote in 2007 that the vote was “one of the worst decisions” he has made as a senator.

Read more of the sorry history of the MLK holiday at the link.


Jezebel had a fascinating, though heartbreaking, story by Anna Merlen about the archaeological excavation of the graves of young boys at the Dozier School in Florida. We’ve written about this story here in the past. Merlen interviewed Dr. Erin Kimmerle, an associate professor at the University of South Florida, one of the leaders of the project.

‘They Were Truly Gone’: Solving the Mysteries of the Dozier School

The Dozier School was located in the tiny town of Marianna, West of Tallahassee and thirty minutes or so from the Georgia line. It opened in 1900 as the Florida State Reform School, and despite years of reports of serious abuse and mistreatment, it remained open for over 100 years.At least 98 people died there over the years, two staff members and 96 boys aged six to 18. Men who were once Dozier residents recounted brutal beatings they received in the White House, a small outbuilding on the school grounds whose walls remain spattered with what looks like blood. More than one survivor has called the building “a torture chamber.”

A group of men who were sent to the school in the 1950s and ’60s have banded together to tell their stories: they call themselves the White House Boys. The Tampa Bay Times has done the best coverage of the Dozier School, including an investigation in 2009 that uncovered squalid conditions, staff neglect and mistreatment from 1900 to the present day, depicting the school, as they put it, as “a place of abuse and neglect, of falsified records, bloody noses and broken bones.” [….]

Dr. Erin Kimmerle is a forensic anthropologist, an associate professor at the University of South Florida and a leader of the team excavating Dozier. (Before coming to USF, she worked as the Chief Anthropologist at the Hague, analyzing mass graves in Bosnia and Croatia.) Along with two colleagues (Antoinette Jackson and Christian Wells) and a crew of graduate students, Kimmerle has been excavating Boot Hill, the burial ground at Dozier, as well as the surrounding area and trying, through DNA testing, to return the boys’ remains to their families for a proper burial.

In January of 2014, the team exhumed 55 bodies—five more than they expected to find, 24 more than official records said were buried there. There are still many questions: how many boys lie buried under the Dozier grounds, their bodies slowly entwining with the roots of the mulberry trees around them? How did they die? And who do we hold accountable for the 100 years of suffering the Dozier school inflicted?

The interview is extremely interesting and informative. I highly recommend it.


Here’s another sad Florida story that I’ve been following. Two young sisters were arrested and charged with murder after the older girl shot and killed her 16-year-old brother on January 5.

According to the initial incident report, the girls’ father is a truck driver and their parents left them alone with their brother and a 3-year-old sister while the mother accompanied the father on a trip. The 15-year-old told police that on the day of the shooting, her brother locked her in a room with just a blanket and a bucket to use as a toilet.

According to police, she said that while her brother slept, her younger sister helped her escape the room and the 15-year-old went outside and used a knife to cut the foam around the window air conditioning unit in the window of her parents’ locked bedroom. In the bedroom, she told police, she found a handgun, loaded it, and then went into the living room where her brother was sleeping and shot him.

The arrest report says the girls then packed some things, put their 3-year-old sister in a bedroom, and walked to a nearby Dollar Store, where they called a friend, who later called police. The girls told them that the 15-year-old was routinely locked in the room her brother had kept her in.

The sisters’ parents were arrested and charged with child neglect and according to the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office are still behind bars. According to their arrest report, the mother told police the 15-year-old was locked in the room about four times a week, and the father said the longest she was locked up was 20 days. In a search of the house, police found notes written by the parents asking the girl to explain why she should be let out of the room.

It turned out that there was a long history of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse in this family. The older girl had reported that her uncle was abusing her, and he is now serving a life sentence for the crimes. In addition, the mother had caught the brother raping the 1-year old, and had told authorities, but nothing was done about it.

Police say the girls will be tried as juveniles for second degree murder. Shouldn’t this killing be viewed as self-defense though? This case has also exposed a problem with laws about incest. Acccording to CBS News, Experts: Fla. sibling shooting exposes “incest loophole.”

In 2010, the children’s aunt went to police when she found a memory stick belonging to her husband with video of him sexually molesting the oldest sister. The uncle was eventually convicted and is serving life in prison.

And the abuse did not stop there. The family began locking the girl in a room – once for 20 days – and reportedly pulled her from school due to “behavioral issues.” And among the reports released by the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office is a heavily redacted document that suggests that in 2011, when the older sister would have been 11 or 12, her mother found the girl and her brother having sex in the house. But, according to the incident report, “the case was closed as unfounded and no criminal acts were disclosed.”

“We treat sexual abuse of children in the family as a social and psychological problem and not as a crime – and it is a crime,” says Grier Weeks, the executive director of the National Association to Protect Children.

Incest is still treated more lightly by law enforcement in most states in the U.S.

According to Daphne Young of Child Help, a non-profit organization devoted to the prevention and treatment of child abuse, 68 percent of child sex abuse victims are abused by a family member. Jennifer Marsh of the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) says that 40 percent of the people who call the National Sex Abuse hotline say incest is their primary or secondary reason for seeking help.

And yet, perpetrators who sexually abuse family members can be subject to lower penalties than they would be had they assaulted a neighbor or stranger. In Washington State, for example, the Special Sex Offender Sentencing Alternative Law allows an offender to receive a lighter sentence if he or she had “an established relationship with, or connection to, the victim.”

Weeks calls this “the incest loophole,” and finds it mind-boggling: “The toll on a child [abused by a family member] is devastating. She was not protected by the very people who should have loved and protected her.”

Read more at the link.

This post has gotten way too long, so I’ll just leave you with a recommendation to read a long piece at The NY Review of Books on the Citizens United decision: The Supreme Court’s Billion-Dollar Mistake, by David Cole.

What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a terrific Tuesday!