Saturday Morning Lite

Syria War Room, by Steve Sack

Syria War Room, by Steve Sack

Good Morning!!

 

I don’t know about you, but I really missed JJ’s Friday Night Lite post last night, so I thought I’d start out Sky Dancing’s Saturday with some political cartoons. I hope you enjoy these — courtesy of Cagle Post.

A few more on Syria:

 

Assad Chemicals by Steve Sack

Assad Chemicals by Steve Sack

 

Assad Chemical Weapons, by Mike Keefe

Assad Chemical Weapons, by Mike Keefe

 

Syria Plan by Rick McKee

Syria Plan by Rick McKee

 

The Anti-War Left by Eric Allie

The Anti-War Left by Eric Allie

 

Syria and Affleck by John Cole

Syria and Affleck by John Cole

 

Cameron's Failure, by Rainer Hatchfeld

Cameron’s Failure, by Rainer Hatchfeld

 

March on Washington 50th Anniversary:

 

I Have A Dream Anniversary, by Nate Beeler

I Have A Dream Anniversary, by Nate Beeler

 

MLK Nightmare by Jeff Darcy

MLK Nightmare by Jeff Darcy

 

Dreamer, by Adam Zyglis

Dreamer, by Adam Zyglis

 

Labor Day and Income Inequality

 

Fast Food Minimum Wage, by Jimmy Margulies

Fast Food Minimum Wage, by Jimmy Margulies

 

Labor Day Jobs, by Jeff Parker

Labor Day Jobs, by Jeff Parker

 

NFL Concussion Lawsuit

 

NFL Concussion Lawsuit, by Bruce Plante

NFL Concussion Lawsuit, by Bruce Plante

 

Immigration Reform

 

Immigration Reform, by Mike Lukovich

Immigration Reform, by Mike Lukovich

 

I hope everyone has a wonderful Labor Day weekend!! And if you’re not out on the beach or doing something else more exciting, please post links to the stories you’re following today in the comment thread.


Live Blog: SOS Kerry’s Speech on Action In Syria

US-SYRIA-POLITICS-KERRY“That was a War Speech” says WAPO about a previous Kerry Presser.

It’s difficult to find a single sentence in Secretary of State John Kerry’s forceful and at points emotional press conference on Syria that did not sound like a direct case for imminent U.S. military action against Syria. It was, from the first paragraph to the 15th,a war speech.

That doesn’t mean that full-on war is coming; the Obama administration appears poised for a limited campaign of offshore strikes, probably cruise missiles and possible aircraft strikes. President Obama has long signaled that he has no interest in a full, open-ended or ground-based intervention, and there’s no reason to believe his calculus has changed. But Kerry’s language and tone were unmistakable. He was making the case for, and signaling that the United States planned to pursue, military action against another country. As my colleagues Karen DeYoung and Anne Gearan wrote, “Kerry left little doubt that the decision for the United States is not whether to take military action, but when.”

Kerry made the moral case for attacking Syria. He described what’s happening in Syria as “the indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of women and children and innocent bystanders by chemical weapons,” which he called “a moral obscenity” and “inexcusable.”

Kerry made the international norms case for striking Syria. “All peoples and all nations who believe in the cause of our common humanity must stand up to assure that there is accountability for the use of chemical weapons so that it never happens again,” he said. The argument here is that punishing Assad’s use of chemical weapons matters “beyond the conflict in Syria itself,” because the world wants to deter future military actors from using chemical weapons.

Kerry hinted at international coalition-building, saying that he’d spoken “with foreign ministers from around the world.” He later said that “information [about the attack] is being compiled and reviewed together with our partners.”

The United States is not going to win approval from the United Nations Security Council, where Russia has consistently opposed even milquetoast resolutions condemning Assad. But Kerry still made a point of gesturing toward the institution it’s about to bypass, saying, “At every turn, the Syrian regime has failed to cooperate with the U.N. investigation, using it only to stall and to stymie the important effort to bring to light what happened in Damascus in the dead of night.” He accused Assad of blocking U.N. inspectors and “systemically destroying evidence.”

Kerry was mindful that the hyped up case for war against Iraq and the results of previous US engagement in countries like Egypt, Libya an Afghanistan have not been good.  Yet, Kerry made it clear that the US was ready to take some kind of action today.

France appears ready to join the US.

BREAKING NEWS: Secretary of State John F. Kerry says the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad made preparations three days before last week’s chemical weapons attack on the outskirts of Damascus and fired the rockets from regime-controlled areas. This story will be updated shortly.

LONDON – French President Francois Hollande said Friday that his country is prepared to act in Syria despite Britain’s surprise rejection of military action, potentially making a nation that turned its back on Washington during the war in Iraq the primary U.S. ally in a possible strike against Syrian forces.

The Guardian characterizes the speech as “polarizing for world leaders.”

As the US moves towards military intervention in the Syrian conflict, world leaders have issued a string of belicose statements, with Iran and Russiastanding alongside the Assad regime against a western alliance led by the US, UK, France and Australia.

In their toughest terms to date, David Cameron and US secretary of state, John Kerry, spoke of the undeniable and “asbolutely abhorrent” and use of chemical weapons in Syria. In response, the Assad regime and Iran warned that foreign military intervention in Syria would result in a conflict that would engulf the region.

Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman, Abbas Araqchi, intimated that Tehran would respond, should the west strike.

“We want to strongly warn against any military attack in Syria. There will definitely be perilous consequences for the region,” Araqchi told a news conference. “These complications and consequences will not be restricted to Syria. It will engulf the whole region.”

Walid al-Moallem, Syria’s foreign minister, also vowed that the regime would defend itself using all means available in the event of a US-led assault.

“I challenge those who accuse our forces of using these weapons to come forward with the evidence,” he told reporters at a press conference in Damascus. “We have the means to defend ourselves, and we will surprise everyone.”

Shia Iran is Syria’s closest ally and has accused an alliance of militant Sunni Islamists, Israel and western powers of trying to use the conflict to take over the region.

The rhetoric from the Shia camp came a day after Kerry gave the strongest indication to date that the US intends to take military action against the Assad regime. On Monday, Kerry said President Bashar al-Assad‘s forces had committed a moral obscenity against his own people.

“Make no mistake,” Kerry said. “President Obama believes there must be accountability for those who would use the world’s most heinous weapon against the world’s most vulnerable people. Nothing today is more serious, and nothing is receiving more serious scrutiny.”

Full transcript here at WAPO.

President Obama will ensure that the United States of America makes our own decisions on our own timelines, based on our values and our interests. Now, we know that after a decade of conflict, the American people are tired of war. Believe me, I am, too.

But fatigue does not absolve us of our responsibility. Just longing for peace does not necessarily bring it about. And history would judge us all extraordinarily harshly if we turned a blind eye to a dictator’s wanton use of weapons of mass destruction against all warnings, against all common understanding of decency, these things we do know.

We also know that we have a president that does what he says that he will do. And he has said, very clearly, that whatever decision he makes in Syria it will bear no resemblance to Afghanistan, Iraq or even Libya. It will not involve any boots on the ground. It will not be open ended. And it will not assume responsibility for a civil war that is already well underway.

The president has been clear: Any action that he might decide to take will be limited and (sic) tailored response to ensure that, a despots brutal and flagrant use of chemical weapons is held accountable. And ultimately, ultimately we are committed — we remain committed, we believe it’s — the primary objective is (sic) to have a diplomatic process that can resolve this through negotiation, because we know there is no ultimate military solution.

It has to be political.

It has to happen at the negotiating table.

And we are deeply committed to getting there.

So that is what we know. That is what the leaders of Congress now know. And that’s what the American people need to know. And that is, at the core of the decisions that must now be made for the security of our country, and for the promise of a planet, where the world’s most heinous weapons must never again be used against the world’s most vulnerable people.

What do you think?


Friday Reads

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Good Morning!!!

Since it’s the beginning of the Labor Day weekend, I thought I’d start out with some Labor News.  There are so many jobs these days that don’t really pay a living wage in the US that it’s really astounding.  Fast Food Workers are among the lowest paid in the country.

Fast-food workers went on strike and protested outside McDonald’s, Burger King and other restaurants in 60 U.S. cities on Thursday, in the largest protest of an almost year-long campaign to raise service sector wages.

Rallies were held in cities from New York to Oakland and stretched into the South, historically difficult territory for organized labor.

The striking workers say they want to unionize without retaliation in order to collectively bargain for a “living wage.”

They are demanding $15 an hour, more than twice the federal minimum of $7.25. The median wage for front-line fast-food workers is $8.94 per hour, according to an analysis of government data by the National Employment Law Project (NELP), an advocacy group for lower-wage workers.

“It’s almost impossible to get by (alone),” said McDonald’s worker Rita Jennings, 37, who was among about 100 protesters who marched in downtown Detroit Thursday. “You have to live with somebody to make it.”

Rush Limbaugh was all agog and demagogue about the striking workers

LIMBAUGH: If you want a “living wage,” if you don’t like what fast food restaurants pay, then do something else. It’s just that simple. Go to a trade school. Go to another business. Start your own business. Maybe the work that you are capable of isn’t yet worth $15 an hour at a fast-food restaurant. Maybe the consumer doesn’t want to pay $10 for a Big Mac so that people working at McDonald’s make $15 an hour. It’s not just a one-way strata.

You don’t just sit there and double what the employees at McDonald’s make and keep the prices the same. Now, you may think this is obvious, folks, and you may think, “Come on, Rush,” you’d be amazed at how many people do not understand the push-pull in economics. You’d be amazed at the number of people who have taken economics courses who think that the truth about headaches is that the boss is a cheap skinflint and wants his employees to starve and wants to screw his customers.

That’s the basis of their understanding, and they go from there, and they are applauded by left-wing Democrat politicians for holding that belief, and they’re encouraged to have it. Now, to those of you who, like Sean from San Diego, are sympathetic to this demand for the minimum wage at Mickey D’s to go from $7.15 or $7.25 an hour to $15, let me ask you this: When you buy a meal, do you make sure that you’re paying a fair price for it?

When you walk in there, do you ask the employee, “Look, am I paying enough here so that you can get a livable wage? When you go in and buy a Big Mac or a Quarter Pounder with cheese or a double Quarter Pounder with cheese, do you look at the price is and say, “Are you sure that this costs enough that you can make a livable wage?” Or do you just get a little upset when you think it’s a little too expensive?

Limbaugh was lecturing fast workers on getting a better job as he sat in his mansion with no clue what it is like to work and survive on minimum wage. Limbaugh’s lecture was centered around a couple of the Republicans favorite falsehoods. Rush was pretending that there are better jobs out there for minimum wage workers.

Some happy news for married GLBT workers!  The IRS and the US Treasury will recognize your marriage.  You get the standard marriage deduction!!

The U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) today ruled that same-sex couples, legally married in jurisdictions that recognize their marriages, will be treated as married for federal tax purposes. The ruling applies regardless of whether the couple lives in a jurisdiction that recognizes same-sex marriage or a jurisdiction that does not recognize same-sex marriage.

The ruling implements federal tax aspects of the June 26th Supreme Court decision invalidating a key provision of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act.

“Today’s ruling provides certainty and clear, coherent tax filing guidance for all legally married same-sex couples nationwide. It provides access to benefits, responsibilities and protections under federal tax law that all Americans deserve,” said Secretary Jacob J. Lew. “This ruling also assures legally married same-sex couples that they can move freely throughout the country knowing that their federal filing status will not change.”

Under the ruling, same sex couples will be treated as married for all federal tax purposes, including income and gift and estate taxes. The ruling applies to all federal tax provisions where marriage is a factor, including filing status, claiming personal and dependency exemptions, taking the standard deduction, employee benefits, contributing to an IRA, and claiming the earned income tax credit or child tax credit.

I joined the Sisterhood of the Pink Shoes this weekend.  Meanwhile, the real sister with the pink shoes is doing really well in the fundraising arena.

In the six weeks following her headline-grabbing filibuster, Wendy Davis raised $1.2 million — nearly 40 percent of it from outside Texas. Davis drew national attention following the filibuster against an abortion-restriction bill that helped shut down the Texas Senate and prompted Gov. Rick Perry to call lawmakers back into another special session. In the wake of Davis’ new-found fame, Davis has been urged by some Democrats to run for governor next year. She says she will announce her political plans — whether to run for reelection as a senator from Fort Worth or as a Democrat for governor — in a few weeks.

Martin Luther King was fighting for working folks when he was assassinated.  We’ve already said that no Republicans showed up to commemorate the March on Washington.  Where were they?  

So what was did they do instead? Well, Boehner was in Jackson Hole, Wyo., and had no public events scheduled, but he has been headlining GOP fundraisers all this month, so it’s a fairly safe to assume that he was raising cash at the time. Cantor, meanwhile was touring an oil field in North Dakota. The Grand Forks Herald reports:

Cantor, hosted by Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., met with energy industry and community leaders at a crew camp in Williston, toured a drilling site and other oilfield locations in the Bakken and met with North Dakota Petroleum Council members in Watford City.

Cantor praised North Dakota’s approach to energy development and said the country needs to follow the state’s example and adopt a national energy policy.

“I hope to be able to tell the president that there’s a lot for him to learn here as far as energy production here in America,” Cantor said. “North Dakota seems to have gotten it right.”

The North Dakota Petroleum Council, by the way, is a lobby group that represents the state’s oil and gas industry. That’s what Cantor was doing on the day of the march.

Here’s a little bit of News on New Orleans 8 years after Katrina.

Now optimism is rising as a rebounding city approaches the 300th anniversary of its 1718 founding.

“The city is a much better place than it was eight years ago. The biggest challenge we have is blight,” Landrieu said, adding that 10,000 blighted properties have been removed from the cityscape.

A thriving downtown and newly vibrant neighborhoods contrast starkly with the city’s appearance eight years ago. When Katrina hit, thousands of people who couldn’t escape New Orleans in time were trapped in homes as levees broke and floodwaters rose. Helicopters plucked the desperate from rooftops as chaos spread. The damaged Superdome became a refuge of misery for thousands as tempatures and tempers soared.

Days afterward then-President George W. Bush promised the nation’s full attention. But federal authorities were sharply criticized for their early response and local and state authorities as well. And though billions of federal dollars have helped to rebuild a strengthened levee system, many locals remain bitter with the Army Corps of Engineers for the failure of the levees.

Landrieu said he’s intent on moving forward.

“I think that we have successfully done the most important thing, which was to think about building the city back the way she should have always been and not the way she was,” he said.

Landrieu said rebuilding has even meant re-organizing government operations, streamlining finances, curbing waste and fraud and reorganizing the city’s education system – even adding new fire and police stations, parks and libraries.

The weird thing about the blight is that it’s in areas that you wouldn’t necessarily expect to have ramshackled buildings and over grown lots.  Every time I go from my home near the Mississippi River towards the Lake I see blight on the way.  It pops up in the newer suburban areas as well as older neighborhoods.  There are still a lot of eye sores and it appears it’s going to take a long time for many of them to be torn down or restored.  Thankfully, the historic parts of the city appear to be well on the mend.  Unfortunately, the infrastructure is so gone in many areas that the blight will remain for some time.

That’s my offering today!  What’s on your reading and blogging list?


I remember 8 years ago

humvee1Today is the 8th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. It is a day that changed my life completely.  At first, I didn’t want to leave my home. They had given us so many warnings before for hurricanes that really hadn’t come to anything I thought I might be able to ride it out; but something inside me knew this would be different.  So I loaded up my two labs and my cat, a big pink futon, and a badly packed suitcase and headed for a Lake Charles hotel room with some other Ph.D students from my program. I spent Sunday until Wednesday hunkered in.

I couldn’t think straight about what to grab or pack.  I tried to cover the Steinway up with a tarp and hoped for the best.  I brought weird stuff. I packed all my jazz fest t-shirts and some boxer shorts.  I packed a silk skirt and some really impractical black pumps.  I forgot so much that it wasn’t even funny.  I just remember looking at everything before I left and thinking that just a few things wouldn’t cut it so might as well leave it all. Now, I think I would have the presence to grab a few practical things and meaningful items.  But, not then.   The drive was also indescribable.  It was hours and hours of bumper to bumper traffic heading west on the I-10.  I had tried to grab a few neighbors that I knew didn’t have cars too.  Some folks were still determined to ride it out.

I slept on the futon between two beds for two nights with my dogs and cat, trying to get as much information as possible from a live broadcast from the TV and the internet.  I thought that I would be able to head back, until I heard the news that the levees had broken and water was filling up the city.  It was at that point we made plans to head to Texas to drop one student at the Dallas Bus Stop and the other at the Dallas Airport.  I was headed to Omaha to stay with a friend and to give my children huge hugs.  I spent weeks on the couch just watching Anderson Cooper and wondering if my home was okay.  When I finally met Anderson and hung with him several times over the next few years it was always like seeing an old friend.  He was a constant fixture in my life for what seemed like an eternity.

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I finally made it back the first week of October to a scene of indescribable, utter devastation, with no electricity nearly anywhere, massive clean up efforts, and a very empty city.  My home was mostly okay.  That meant I served as refuge for folks for nearly two years afterwards.  The only place that was pretty unlivable for awhile was my bedroom because the roof had come off my neighbor’s house and taken out the window and my bed.  It took me a few weeks to get all the electricity in the house.  I lived with the sound of AM radio.  For the first week, my only company was the Washington State National Guard.

There were no birds, no bugs, no sounds.  Everything was pitch black at night.

Later in the month, I spent nights in bars with returning friends whose stories of staying or leaving were often unbelievable.  You can hear some stories here at the Survivor’s Stories project by NPR.  Many, many of my friends have left and never returned. More than a few are still here but have become quite changed.  I have to say that many of them have had problems with drugs and booze since then so they’ve been lost in a completely different way.

It’s also been a year since our last big hurricane and the passing of Karma, who was the last of my two labs who made the great trek out of the city with me.  It is just Miles and me now that took that huge journey.

You learn a lot about people when you find yourself in the position of possibly losing everything.  I remember being offered money by folks in Dallas an in Lake Charles.  Every one in Omaha wanted to do something big to for any one of us that popped up there. It was lucky because it good cold fast and I hand nothing to wear.  I took my Red Cross Debit Card and bought clothes.  Friends and family sent me boxes of things at my friend’s house too.  I came home with care packages stuffed with cleaning things, food and clothes.   I really needed all of them by the time I finally opened my front door.  The hurricane had shaken all kinds of dust out of the old place.

I remember the Ford Dealer in Dallas looked at my car when I was wondering if it would make it all the way to Omaha and didn’t charge me a dime.  A GI in the waiting room took care of my dogs while I held Miles in my arm.  A woman asked if there was anything at all that I needed.  I also remember a Sugerland Trooper that pulled me over because I hadn’t decreased my speed since we were trying to figure out how to get to the busstop who announce to me that “This is Texas and we do things differently here than in Louisiana”.  All I could say was “Believe me, I am not messing with Texas. I am dropping her off at the bus stop, and her off at the airport and I am heading north to my family as soon as possible”.  All I thought at the time was he could keep this god awful place.  I just wanted to hug my kids and see my little house in New Orleans again.

This city is still in the throes of recovery.  There are parts that are still empty.  There are parts that probably will never be the same.  My part of town is now hip and cool and gentrifying.  The house prices have been increasing rapidly since the Hurricane and the population is changing.   So, there is good and bad.  Just like everything.  However, you can still tell us “old timers” because all we still ask is  “How you making out?”  and that always implies “after Katrina” .

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Thursday Reads: Civil Rights Struggle, Syria Intervention, NYPD Spying, Boston Bombing, and “League of Denial”

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Good Morning!!

I’ve got so much news for you this morning, I don’t know if I’ll have room in a reasonable-length post, so I’ll get right to it. I’ll begin with some stories on yesterday’s 50th anniversary of the March On Washington.

PBS had an amazing interview with Rep John Lewis in which he recounted his memories of that day in 1963 and the speech he gave as a youthful leader in the Civil Rights Movement: ‘I Felt That We Had to Be Tough’: John Lewis Remembers the March on Washington. I hope you’ll read the whole thing, but here’s a brief excerpt:

REP. JOHN LEWIS, D-Ga.: On that day, I was blessed.

I felt like I had been tracked down by some force or some spirit. I will never forget when A. Philip Randolph said, “I now present to you young John Lewis, the national chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.”

And I went to the podium. I looked to my right. I saw many, many young people, staffers from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, volunteers. Then I looked to my left. I saw all these young people up in the trees, trying to get a better view of the podium.

Then I looked straight ahead. And I saw so many people with their feet in the water trying to cool off. And then I said to myself, this is it, and I went for it.

On meeting with President Kennedy before the March, and how the podium and the crowd came to be so diverse:

He [JFK] didn’t like the idea of a March on Washington.

When we met with him, A. Philip Randolph spoke up in his baritone voice we met with the president. And he said, “Mr. President, the black masses are restless. And we are going to march on Washington.”

And you could tell by the movement of President Kennedy — he started moving and twisting in his chair. And he said, in effect, that if you bring all these people to Washington, won’t it be violence and chaos and disorder?

Mr. Randolph responded and said, “Mr. President, there’s been orderly, peaceful, nonviolent protests.”

And President Kennedy said, in so many words, I think we are going to have problems. So we left that meeting with President Kennedy. We came out on the lawn at the White House and spoke to the media and said, we had a meaningful and productive meeting with the president of the United States. And we told him we’re going to March on Washington.

And a few days later, July 2, 1963, the six of us met in New York City at the old Roosevelt Hotel. And in that meeting, we made a decision to invite four major white religious and labor leaders to join us in issuing the call for the March on Washington.

American folk singer and activist Pete Seeger (left) adopted and helped popularize "We Shall Overcome" by teaching the song at rallies and protests. Here he sings with activists in Greenwood, Miss., in 1963. (NPR)

American folk singer and activist Pete Seeger (left) adopted and helped popularize “We Shall Overcome” by teaching the song at rallies and protests. Here he sings with activists in Greenwood, Miss., in 1963. (NPR)

NPR had a wonderful story yesterday about the history of the Civil Rights Movement’s signature song: The Inspiring Force Of ‘We Shall Overcome’.

It is not a marching song. It is not necessarily defiant. It is a promise: “We shall overcome someday. Deep in my heart, I do believe.”

It has been a civil rights song for 50 years now, heard not just in the U.S. but in North Korea, in Beirut, in Tiananmen Square, in South Africa’s Soweto Township. But “We Shall Overcome” began as a folk song, a work song. Slaves in the fields would sing, ‘I’ll be all right someday.’ It became known in the churches. A Methodist minister, Charles Albert Tindley, published a version in 1901: “I’ll Overcome Someday.”

The first political use came in 1945 in Charleston, S.C. There was a strike against the American Tobacco Co. The workers wanted a raise; they were making 45 cents an hour. They marched and sang together on the picket line, “We will overcome, and we will win our rights someday.”

There’s much more about how the song was passed from group to group and changed over time. Please give it a listen–it’s only about 8 minutes long, but really fascinating.

Not a single Republican appeared at yesterday’s commemoration of the March on Washington and Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech. George W. Bush and his father George H.W. Bush couldn’t come because of health issues, but John Boehner and Eric Cantor are presumably in good health, but they refused offers to make speeches at the event, according to Roll Call.

That wasn’t a wise choice, said Julian Bond, a renowned civil rights activist, in an interview with MSNBC on Wednesday afternoon.

“What’s really telling, I think, is the podium behind me, just count at the end of the day how many Republicans will be there,” Bond told news anchor Alex Wagner. “They asked senior President Bush to come, he was ill. They asked junior Bush, he said he had to stay with his father.

“They asked a long list of Republicans to come,” Bond continued, “and to a man and woman they said ‘no.’ And that they would turn their backs on this event was telling of them, and the fact that they seem to want to get black votes, they’re not gonna get ‘em this way.” [….]

Cantor’s decision to turn down the invitation to speak is especially striking given his stated commitment to passing a rewrite of the Voting Rights Act in the 113th Congress, and the many opportunities he has taken over the past several weeks to publicly reflect on the experience of traveling with Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., to Selma, Ala.

Sadly, Dr. King’s dream of peace has not made much progress in the past 50 years. And now the U.S. and its allies are considering another military intervention–in Syria.

Fortunately, the UK is now hesitating. NYT: Britain to Wait on Weapons Report Ahead of Syria Strikes.

Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain, who runs a coalition government, is facing political difficulties from legislators mindful of the experience in Iraq, when assurances from Prime Minister Tony Blair and President George W. Bush that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction proved inaccurate and a false pretext for war.

Mr. Cameron bowed on Wednesday to pressure from the opposition Labour Party and to some within his own coalition who want to allow United Nations weapons inspectors a chance to report their findings and for the United Nations Security Council to make one more effort to give a more solid legal backing to military action against Damascus.

At BBC News, Nick Robinson explains why Cameron “buckled.”

If you think that NSA domestic spying is invasive, you should take a look at what the NYPD has been up to since 9/11. Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman of the AP have a new book out called Enemies Within: Inside the NYPD’s Secret Spying Unit and bin Laden’s Final Plot Against America. There’s an excerpt at New York Magazine: The NYPD Division of Un-American Activities. It’s long, but a very important story. Please give it a read if you can.

Yesterday Apuzzo and Goldman published a related shocking story at AP: NYPD designates mosques as terrorism organizations.

The New York Police Department has secretly labeled entire mosques as terrorist organizations, a designation that allows police to use informants to record sermons and spy on imams, often without specific evidence of criminal wrongdoing.

Designating an entire mosque as a terrorism enterprise means that anyone who attends prayer services there is a potential subject of an investigation and fair game for surveillance.

Since the 9/11 attacks, the NYPD has opened at least a dozen “terrorism enterprise investigations” into mosques, according to interviews and confidential police documents. The TEI, as it is known, is a police tool intended to help investigate terrorist cells and the like.

Many TEIs stretch for years, allowing surveillance to continue even though the NYPD has never criminally charged a mosque or Islamic organization with operating as a terrorism enterprise.

The documents show in detail how, in its hunt for terrorists, the NYPD investigated countless innocent New York Muslims and put information about them in secret police files. As a tactic, opening an enterprise investigation on a mosque is so potentially invasive that while the NYPD conducted at least a dozen, the FBI never did one, according to interviews with federal law enforcement officials.

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Boston Magazine has published more photos from “Behind the Scenes of The Hunt for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.”  Above is a photo of Tsarnaev exiting the boat in which he hid for hours as law enforcement searched all over Watertown for him. See more photos at the link.

In more hopeful news, one long-hospitalized survivor of the bombings was given the go-ahead to return home to California yesterday: Boston Marathon bomb survivor John Odom set to return home to Torrance (Daily Breeze News).

Nearly five months after a bomb almost took his life at the Boston Marathon, John Odom of Torrance was cleared by doctors on Wednesday to finally come home.

Odom’s wife, Karen, who has never left her husband’s side, has been chronicling her husband’s long recovery on Facebook, called it a “monumental” day.

“It’s official, John is released to go home!!!” she posted on the John Odom Support Page. “Although his recovery is nowhere near complete, there is no medical or physical reason he can’t fly home and continue his recovery in California. We are hoping to be home the end of next week, a few days shy of 5 months since we left on that now famous 4 day trip.”

“Famous” is one way to put it. The couple could have never imagined the journey they’ve been on since April 15.

Read the rest of this moving story at the link.

On October 8th and 15th, NPR’s Frontline plans to show League of Denial,a two-part two-part investigation examining whether — as thousands of former players allege — the NFL has covered up the risks of football on the brain.” The documentary has so far been produced in partnership with ESPN, but last week the sports channel backed out of the collaboration presumably because of pressure from the NFL. From The New Republic: ESPN Quit Its Concussions Investigation With ‘Frontline’ Under Curious Circumstances.

“Frontline,” the prestigious, multiple-Emmy-winning investigative news show produced by Boston’s PBS member station, announced late Thursday afternoon that a 15-month-old partnership with ESPN in which they published a series of pieces exploring how the National Football League has (and has not) accounted for the relationship between playing football, head trauma, and brain damage, had come to an end. Dating back to last November, “Frontline” had run articles on its site featuring the work of Steve Fainaru and Mark Fainaru-Wada, ESPN staffers (and brothers) even as these articles appeared at espn.com and as the brothers did segments for ESPN’s award-winning investigative series “Outside the Lines.” The end result—in addition to abook that the brothers are publishing in October—was to be a “Frontline” documentary, League of Denial (also the book’s title).

According to “Frontline,” the documentary will premiere this season on October 8 and 15, but, “from now on, at ESPN’s request, we will no longer use their logos and collaboration credit on these sites and on our upcoming film.” Executive producer David Fanning and deputy executive producer Raney Aronson expressed their “regret” and credited ESPN with “a productive partnership.” They added, “The film is still being edited and has not been seen by ESPN news executives, although we were on schedule to share it with them for their editorial input.”

Aronson told me late Thursday that ESPN contacted “Frontline” last Friday to request that it remove ESPN’s logo from its website, citing the technicality that it was a “trademark issue.” It wasn’t until Monday, after the latest collaboration was published on “Frontline”’s website and aired on “OTL,” that ESPN also requested that language describing collaboration not be used, and that it became clear the collaboration itself was coming to an end.

The circumstances are indeed mysterious. Perhaps it was over-cautiousness on ESPN’s part or perhaps indirect pressure from the League. If you’re interested in this important story, go read Marc Tracy’s piece at TNR.

A couple more useful links on this story:

PBS: Questions Over NFL Doctor Cloud League’s Concussion Case

Bill Littlefield at NPR’s Only a Game: ESPN And Frontline Part Ways Over ‘League Of Denial’

The authors of the book League of Denial will continue their involvement with the Frontline presentation.

I’m running out of space, so I’ll end there, and add a few more links in the comments. Now what stories are you following today? Please share your links in the thread below.


The Real Moochers: America’s Bailed Out and Subsidized CEOs

27economix-participation-2007-blog480Any one that has spent much time in private sector job can probably discuss how demoralizing the place can be even when you’re doing something you love.  The guy above you always takes credit for what you do right and blames you for what goes wrong.  You get shoved into a salaried position so they can avoid paying you more and better and overtime.  The expectations are always for more than a 40 hour work week even you when you have little to do for a time period. The benefits are bad and getting worse.  Then they were you out physically, emotionally, and every which way possible which explains a lot of the graph and the rise in disability.  American Management and corporations treat workers about that same way they treat machines.  They wear them out and throw them away when they are no longer functional.   No amount of consumerable junk eventually replaces having to go to a job that destroys both your physical and mental health.  So, part of the weirdness of the labor markets these days is that people are just dropping out of the labor force. 

If the decline stemmed largely from an aging work force, it would be much less worrisome. But the initial wave of baby-boomer retirements plays only a small role in the drop; the labor force participation rate has fallen almost as sharply for people aged 25 to 54 as it has for the overall adult population.

As the report notes, economists are not entirely sure what has caused the shift. One factor seems to be the so-called skills gap — the slow growth in educational attainment in recent decades, even as the economy has become more technologically advanced.

A second factor is most likely the weak economic growth of the past 13 years: the 2000-1 dot-com bust, the mediocre expansion that followed, the financial crisis that began in 2007 and the disappointing recovery of the last few years.

Another cause may be the rise in the number of workers on disability. The report cites a study by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco to argue that disability is helping cause the decline in work. That’s probably right, although it is worth remembering that the growth of the ranks of the disabled may be more of an effect of the jobs slump than a cause.

Either way, the decline in labor force participation almost certainly receives too little attention. Each month, small changes in the unemployment rate receive great scrutiny. We often overlook just how flawed a measure of the job market that rate has become over the last 13 years.

So, the news continues to be pretty glum for American workers even though there are more unemployed going back to work.  Their wages will not keep them in a middle class standard of living.  Changes are some health problem will devastate their finances.  Extremely rich people are pouring tons of money into creating untrue memes about social security, medicare, and the size of the government debt.  Let’s not even discuss the fact that we have direct evidence that Keynesian stimulus works and government spending has been coming down rapidly under the Obama administration.  Truth and data must be for suckers like us.

Meanwhile, here’s a disturbing set of studies that really should grab some attention.  “Nearly 40 percent of the CEOs on the highest-paid lists from the past 20 years were eventually “bailed out, booted, or busted.” These are the folks grabbing huge salaries for supposedly stellar performance.

But our analysis reveals widespread poor performance within America’s elite CEO circles. Chief executives performing poorly — and blatantly so — have consistently populated the ranks of our nation’s top-paid CEOs over the last two decades.

The report’s key finding: nearly 40 percent of the CEOs on these highest-paid lists were eventually “bailed out, booted, or busted.”

  • The Bailed Out: CEOs whose firms either ceased to exist or received taxpayer bailouts after the 2008 financial crash held 22 percent of the slots in our sample. Richard Fuld of Lehman Brothers enjoyed one of Corporate America’s largest 25 paychecks for eight consecutive years — until his firm went belly up in 2008.
  • The Booted: Not counting those on the bailed out list, another 8 percent of our sample was made up of CEOs who wound up losing their jobs involuntarily. Despite their poor performance, the “booted” CEOs jumped out the escape hatch with golden parachutes valued at $48 million on average.
  •  The Busted: CEOs who led corporations that ended up paying significant fraud-related fines or settlements comprised an additional 8 percent of the sample. One CEO had to pay a penalty out of his own pocket for stock option back-dating. The other companies shelled out payments that totaled over $100 million per firm.

The ink has dryed on Dodd-Frank.  Yet, we have not had the most basic requirements to rein in out-of-control CEO pay implemented.

  • CEO-worker pay ratio disclosure: Three years after President Barack Obama signed the Dodd-Frank legislation, the SEC has still not implemented this commonsense transparency measure. The reform would discourage both large pay disparities that can harm employee morale and productivity and excessive executive pay levels that can encourage excessively risky behavior.

  • Pay restrictions on executives of large financial institutions: Within nine months of the enactment of the 2010 Dodd-Frank law, regulators were supposed to have issued guidelines that prohibit large financial institutions from granting incentive-based compensation that “encourages inappropriate risks.” Regulators are still dragging their feet on this modest reform.

  • Limiting the deductibility of executive compensation: At a time when Congress is debating sharp cuts to essential public services, corporations are able to avoid paying their fair share of taxes by deducting unlimited amounts from their IRS bill for the cost of executive compensation. Two bills, the Stop Subsidizing Multimillion Dollar Corporate Bonuses Act (S.1746) and the Income Equity Act (H.R. 199) would fix this outrageous loophole and significantly reduce taxpayer subsidies for excessive CEO pay.

Couple these concepts with this item.  “Taxpayer Dollars Paid A Third Of Richest Corporate CEOs”.  Cleary, there is something wrong with this picture.

“Financial bailouts offer just one example of how a significant number of America’s CEO pay leaders owe much of their good fortune to America’s taxpayers,” reads the report. “Government contracts offer another.”

IPS has been publishing annual reports on executive compensation since 1993, tracking the 25 highest-paid CEOs each year and analyzing trends in payouts. Of the 500 total company listings, 103 were banks that received government bailouts under the Troubled Asset Relief Program, while another 62 were among the nation’s most prolific government contractors.

Many of the companies appeared multiple times on the annual top 25 list, with Bank of America appearing 18 times, Citigroup appearing 15 times, while Morgan Stanley and American Express each secured 12 slots. JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon has landed on the list twice since the bank received $10 billion under TARP, and American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault has appeared three times since his company accepted $3.4 billion in bailout money. Goldman Sachs received $10 billion under TARP, and made the list seven times in the past two decades, once after receiving its bailout. Washington Mutual and Lehman Brothers, both of which failed in 2008, also appeared on the list, with Leman making eight appearances before filing for bankruptcy.

Aren’t you glad that Looter Larry is on his way to Fed Chair now?

About 12 percent of the 500 CEOs listed comprised executives who ran firms that did extensive business with the federal government. IBM landed on the top CEO pay list 11 times, securing about $11 billion in total government contracts during those years, while General Electric appeared on the annual list eight times, with $16.5 billion in contracts. GE also has a large banking wing, which issued more than $70 billion in debt guaranteed by the federal government at the height of the financial crisis, making it one of the biggest beneficiaries of the bank rescue.

“Approximately 4 percent of GE’s annual revenues come from sales to the U.S. government, primarily work to support the U.S. military,” GE spokesman Seth Martin told HuffPost. Martin emphasized that none of its government-backed debt defaulted, and that the company paid taxpayers $2.3 billion in guarantee fees as part of the program.

Major government contractor United Technologies has appeared on the annual highest-paid CEO list six times, bringing in $32.8 billion in government business, while Lockheed Martin has scored five appearances, generating a total of $125 billion from government contracts from those years.

All these companies argue that they have to pay these sums to CEOS to attract and retain their services.  However, look at the performances of CEOS when the economy isn’t going swimmingly.  They fail and bring enormous harm to taxpayers, the labor market, and our economy.  It’s easy to manage a company in a recovering economy when all you are doing is sitting on cheap money and letting some customers come in to an under-stocked, under-employed, and low service providing company while working your remaining employees to death and disability.

Executive pay has steadily increased relative to average worker pay for several decades, but has exploded since 1993. That year, CEOs of companies in the S&P 500 Index made an average of 195 times as much their average worker. By 2012, that ratio had ballooned to 354 to 1.

Even corporations that do not do business with the government or receive bailouts receive subsidies for CEO pay. All companies are currently able to deduct unlimited amounts in CEO pay from their federal tax bills, so long as the pay takes the form of “performance-based” compensation such as bonuses or stock payments.

It’s just hard for me to continue to blog about these issues because they are so pervasive and not even the smallest of remedies are implemented.


Wednesday Wonk: Not Ready to Make Nice, March on Washington, and the Achy Breaky Patriarchy

1268899_212689705572726_66084798_oFasten your seat belts, newsjunkies. I’m feeling very much like Natalie Maines in her song/video, “Not Ready to Make Nice.”

I have a couple questions for us as a society.

To the right [via NYC Light Brigade]: The night before the 50th anniversary celebrations of the March on Washington, the NYC Light Brigade travelled to DC to shed light on Dr. Martin Luther King’s message to End Militarism, and contrast that with the current administration’s drone warfare policy which has resulted in the death of untold civilians throughout the world.

For what exactly are we marching and showing solidarity for this 28th of August in the year 2013?

I know it’s terribly disturbing-of-all-things-party-unity, which is all the more reason why I must ask you all to think seriously about what happens to a feminist dream deferred?

What feminist dream, you ask?

Let’s go with the Hollie McNish spoken word poem I shared with y’all a couple months ago. To refresh, here’s both the transcript and video (scroll down for the latter)… I know it’s long, but it’s worth it (especially if you just scroll down, click play, and listen for yourself):

Poem: Reverse:

I would love to reverse things for a day
A short break for those who say its all ok
I’d have an MTV where every male celebrity was dancing on a pole in pants
While all the female, fully clothed, stood back, just singing
As they can, cos that’s their talent
For just one day
The women’s lifestyle section of the magazine rack stands would
See a sea of choice of topics
Not just cooking, home or looking grand
But politics and sport and art, design and science, top shelf porn perhaps
And watch as men look all forlorn and wonder why their lifestyle section is full of naked pouting men on cover
Licking gadgets in their underwear
For just one day I swear I’d scream
To see young male celebrities standing on tv next 2 50 year old female copresenters
Watching as this token eye candy giggles politely at everything she says
I said for just one day I would pay to see a newspaper take a double spread about what the president eats for tea
ten pages to talk about David Camerons choice of socks and hand cream
While focusing on Kate Middletons degree and how she feel about personal freedom
Next to images of Price Williams top ten jackets worn this Summer
For just one day I’d read the sports pages and undercover news reporting without watching as men gawp at 18 year old tits while I’m trying to make the point that women can be more than this
And page three licks should be in specialist magazines not newspapers anyone can grab and read and
For just one day I wonder what would happen
If there were airbrushed half dressed posed male teens on the front of every women’s magazine and airbrushed half dressed posed male teens on the front of every mans magazine
And airbrushed half dressed posed male teens on the front of every shop window
And airbrushed half dressed posed male teens on the front of every tv screen
And loads of fully dressed women in photos everywhere
Cameras staring at their faces in shoulder shots, their wrinkles photoshopped deeper like every male magazine man feature
For just one day
Music award ceremonies would award
Rihanna for her singing
And think about not giving awards to Chris brown
And women with amazing voices would be awarded for their amazing voices and they would show their amazing voices on stage by singing
And Men with amazing voices would be awarded for their amazing voices and they would show their amazing voices on stage by singing whilst also shaking their crotch and pretending to shag the floor, snogging other men with amazing voices while dancing around poles in gold stringed jock straps and swimming trunks
And lunging forward
And bending over with cameras pointed at their arses
For just one day I’d go to parties where the women, like the men, dressed for the weather and walked the high street to the club in coats and jumpers as the rain and snow fell down
For just one day
And for just one day
I might those men around me say:
For fuck sake,
I don’t like gay porn so why do I have to watch naked fucking men all day
I might hear those men say
Is it really ok to show two men in g strings pretending to fuck one another in a dance routine on X factor at 7 oclock in front of my sons
And I might hear those men say
Is it not enough that he is an amazing singer or rapper or songwriter and musician, why does have to wear a flashing crocodile toothed jock strap everytime he performs on stage
And I might hear those men say
Maybe, I might hear those men say,
Ok, I get it,
You’re not just on your period.
Perhaps you have a point.
Maybe you’re not just jealous of her tits
Maybe there’s more to this than you being annoyed by the way women are portrayed in the media.
And for just one day
I might wake up and not worry about my daughter growing up to be a women in this place where newspapers prey on teenage tits and tell me this is all ok
For just one day.
I’d like to see what those men who mock me say
If everything was the other way around.

So, what happens to this feminist dream deferred exactly?

If you guessed the Miley Cyrus[-Robin Thicke] Twerk performance at the VMAs on Sunday night, ding ding ding, you’d be correct.

I swear to Durga, I was just here on Sky Dancing not but a few weeks ago posting up women-powered parodies of Robin Thicke’s Blurred BS and his even more ridiculous claims to be the founder of a new feminist movement.

Let’s revisit Hollie McNish for a second, though — specifically:

Licking gadgets in their underwear

And bending over with cameras pointed at their arses

Ponder the entire poem and those two lines in particular, spoken by McNish nearly a year ago.

Compare to present-day Twerkgate, pretty much obsessed with Miley Cyrus and not-so-much Robin Thicke’s longstanding nonsense.

Then read this sexologist’s two cents on the 2013 MTV VMA’s:

Dear Society,

If you think a woman in a tan vinyl bra and underwear, grabbing her crotch and grinding up on a dance partner is raunchy, trashy, and offensive but you don’t think her dance partner is raunchy, trashy, or offensive as he sings a song about “blurred” lines of consent and propagating rape culture, then you may want to reevaluate your acceptance of double standards and your belief in stereotypes about how men vs. women “should” and are “allowed” to behave.
Sincerely,

Dr. Jill

Any questions?

(Hint: The problem starts with a P ends with a Y and rhymes with Achy Breaky….and don’t even get me started on those creepy Vanity Fair photos her father Billy Ray Cyrus posed for with daughter Miley…if that doesn’t say Father failure, I don’t know what else much will.)

Now, let’s take a look at another late August milestone/anniversary, August 26, 1970 [via Haymarket Books]:

1185746_595393833844199_827582056_nThe Women’s Strike for Equality was a National strike which took place in the US on August 26, 1970—the 50th anniversary of the passing of the Nineteenth Amendment. The rally was sponsored by the National Organization for Women (NOW). Defying mounted police, almost 50,000 marched down NY City’s Fifth Avenue. Dutch women marched on the US embassy in Amsterdam to show support, while French feminists demonstrated at the Arc de Triomphe, carrying a banner that read, “More Unknown Than the Unknown Soldier: His Wife.”

The strike primarily focused on equal opportunity in the workforce, political rights for women, and social equality in relationships such as marriage. It also addressed the right to have an abortion and free childcare.

In the words of the late Dr. King himself:

All we say to America is, “Be true to what you said on paper.”

When is America going to be true to what it said on paper? All men created equal and a more perfect union?

Right now, in the year 2013, our Texas khaleesi Wendy Davis is collecting our signatures in support of Equal Pay for Equal Work.

So, I ask of you, why are we still in the same eternal battle? Women’s rights vs. War?

Alice Paul and Herstory, anyone?:

National Woman’s Party:

Alice Paul was chair of a major committee (congressional) of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) within a year, in her mid-twenties, but a year later (1913) Alice Paul and others withdrew from the NAWSA to form the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage. This organization evolved into the National Woman’s Party in 1917, and Alice Paul’s leadership was key to this organization’s founding and future.

Alice Paul and Militancy:

In England, Alice Paul had taken part in more radical protests for woman suffrage, including participating in the hunger strikes. She brought back this sense of militancy, and back in the U.S. she organized protests and rallies and ended up imprisoned three times.

[…]

Equal Rights Amendment (ERA):

After the 1920 victory for the federal amendment, Paul became involved in the struggle to introduce and pass an Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). The Equal Rights Amendment was finally passed in Congress in 1970 and sent to the states to ratify. However, the number of states necessary never ratified within the specified time limit and the Amendment failed.

Alice Paul and Peace:

Paul also was active in the Peace movement, stating at the outbreak of World War II that if women had helped to end World War I, the second war would not have been necessary.

And, in the direct words of the Iron Jawed Angel herself:

Mr. President how long must women wait to get their liberty? Let us have the rights we deserve.

Women’s Liberation Now.

Not World War III.

What is going on in Syria is harrowing.

There’s also a humanitarian crisis right here in these United States of America.

In the words of the late Coretta Scott King:

If American women would increase their voting turnout by ten percent, I think we would see an end to all of the budget cuts in programs benefiting women and children.

In the words of Dr. Dorothy Height (from her memoir Open Wide the Freedom Gates, p. 200-1):

As economic pressures tightened, the black woman found herself trapped in a triple bind of racism, sexism, and poverty.

America, be true to what you said on paper. And, connect some dots already.

If it’s not Miley’s buttcheek, it’s Rihanna. If it’s not Rihanna, it’s Britney. If it’s not Britney, it’s Janet Jackson’s tit.

If it’s not Janet Jackson, it’s Honey Boo Boo Child and her mom or whatever their names are. (I thought we loved those very same characters in Little Miss Sunshine, but I guess that was only for Hollywood’s benefit.)
If it’s not the Honey Boo Boos, it’s the entire Real Housewives franchise cast of Bravo TV trying to keep up with those evil Kardashian women… (But, never ever Ryan Seacrest…)

Or, it’s Paula Dean:1234979_435679589881967_1417955754_nI’ve tried to connect some dots and vignettes here for you, that I think present a social and political commentary/context for discussing what we should be marching for–I’m going to stop here, because if I haven’t made my point clear by now, you’re probably not reading anymore anyway 😉

Also, I want to stop just short of offering my explicit answers so you can fill in the blank(s) yourself, below in the comments:

Today I march/pledge my solidarity for                                                               .

And, with that I’m going to turn the soapbox over to you Sky Dancers. Do your thing!

Sisterhood…Solidarity, forever.

Oh, and… Hillary 2016: