Wednesday Reads: “Multicultural Affinity”

Well, hello…

Anyone know exactly what “multicultural affinity” means?

In advertising terms it is:

used to descibe the quality of people who are interested in and likely to respond well to multicultural content. referring to their affinity to the cultures they are interested in. based on affinity, not ethnicity.

According to my Facebook categories, I have African-American multicultural affinities.

They also say I’m “very liberal” …I wonder what gives them that idea?

The reason I came about this discovery was an article about Facebook ads targeting your political affiliation:

How to Change Facebook Ads Privacy Settings Targeting Your Politics – Thrillist

Unless you’ve managed to avoid your Facebook feed for the last year and half, no doubt you’ve learned a whole lot more about your friends’ and family’s political views than you ever cared to. And even if you’ve personally made a conscious effort to stay neutral or discreet about your leanings in the midst of the madness, the reality is that Facebook has a pretty good idea of your political preferences anyway.

That’s because included amongst the hordes of data Zuckerberg and Co. are constantly collecting about you in order to better serve up ads is an inference about how liberal, moderate, or conservative you might be. Here’s how to find out what you’ve been categorized as, and how to change it.

What I find interesting…is that on that political front, facebook does not have any sample ads for my “very liberal” political leanings:

 

But what is really funny….is that they have samples of ads for my African-American “multicultural affinity”:

 

Hmmmm, credit problems and burner phones? Okay….

But what is interesting is that Facebook has me “categorized” as a US soccer kind of person…not one who has an American Football affinity:

Damn, no sample ads for that either….but keep that tidbit of info handy because we will come back to it shortly.

Why does all this shit matter you may say?

New Facebook Multicultural Affinity Targeting: More Granular Segmenting Options for Brands – PerformicsPerformics

(Date on this link is from 12/2015)

The 2010 U.S. Census reported that Hispanics, African Americans and Asian Americans make up one-third of the U.S. population, and that number is growing rapidly. Reaching and personalizing to these audiences is an essential part of any brand’s marketing strategy. As such, Facebook recognized a need for more multicultural targeting across Facebook and Instagram.

According to Facebook, Multicultural Affinity is “the quality of people who are interested in and likely to respond well to multicultural content.” This new targeting solution enables advertisers to more effectively reach and engage people of varying traditions, beliefs, aesthetics, languages and musical tastes. The targeting is based on affinity, not ethnicity. Affinity can be described as “a relationship, like a marriage, as a natural liking, and as a similarity of characteristics.” This means that ads can be targeted to people with multicultural interests.

Three audiences have been broken out in Multicultural Affinity: Hispanic, African American and Asian American affinities:

You can go to the link to read about the three audiences, the point to this should be highlighted here, cough…cough:

This targeting is very concentrated and it may not be the best solution for every advertiser or every campaign. To drive the best results, this targeting should only be used with a specific goal to reach a specific audience. Conduct a test to see how Multicultural Affinity targeting performs against existing targeting to determine its effectiveness.

However when you look more into the real reason for the breakdown, you can see what the real target is used for:

Facebook Lets Advertisers Exclude Users by Race — ProPublica

Oh, look at the date on this, Oct. 28th, 2016

Facebook’s system allows advertisers to exclude black, Hispanic, and other “ethnic affinities” from seeing ads.

Imagine if, during the Jim Crow era, a newspaper offered advertisers the option of placing ads only in copies that went to white readers.

That’s basically what Facebook is doing nowadays.

The ubiquitous social network not only allows advertisers to target users by their interests or background, it also gives advertisers the ability to exclude specific groups it calls “Ethnic Affinities.” Ads that exclude people based on race, gender and other sensitive factors are prohibited by federal law in housing and employment.

You can see the actual name of this feature was called “Ethnic Affinity”:

The ad we purchased was targeted to Facebook members who were house hunting and excluded anyone with an “affinity” for African-American, Asian-American or Hispanic people. (Here’s the ad itself.)

When we showed Facebook’s racial exclusion options to a prominent civil rights lawyer John Relman, he gasped and said, “This is horrifying. This is massively illegal. This is about as blatant a violation of the federal Fair Housing Act as one can find.”

The Fair Housing Act of 1968 makes it illegal “to make, print, or publish, or cause to be made, printed, or published any notice, statement, or advertisement, with respect to the sale or rental of a dwelling that indicates any preference, limitation, or discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin.” Violators can face tens of thousands of dollars in fines.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 also prohibits the “printing or publication of notices or advertisements indicating prohibited preference, limitation, specification or discrimination” in employment recruitment.

Facebook’s business model is based on allowing advertisers to target specific groups — or, apparently to exclude specific groups — using huge reams of personal data the company has collected about its users. Facebook’s microtargeting is particularly helpful for advertisers looking to reach niche audiences, such as swing-state voters concerned about climate change. ProPublica recently offered a tool allowing users to see how Facebook is categorizing them. We found nearly 50,000 unique categories in which Facebook places its users.

Oh boy…go and read the whole thing, and then see the follow-up here:

Facebook (Still) Letting Housing Advertisers Exclude… — ProPublica

Yeah, the date here is Nov. 21st, 2017

After ProPublica revealed last year that Facebook advertisers could target housing ads to whites only, the company announced it had built a system to spot and reject discriminatory ads. We retested and found major omissions.

In February, Facebook said it would step up enforcementof its prohibition against discrimination in advertising for housing, employment or credit.

But our tests showed a significant lapse in the company’s monitoring of the rental market.

Last week, ProPublica bought dozens of rental housing ads on Facebook, but asked that they not be shown to certain categories of users, such as African Americansmothers of high school kids,people interested in wheelchair rampsJewsexpats from Argentina and Spanish speakers.

All of these groups are protected under the federal Fair Housing Act, which makes it illegal to publish any advertisement “with respect to the sale or rental of a dwelling that indicates any preference, limitation, or discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin.” Violators can face tens of thousands of dollars in fines.

Every single ad was approved within minutes.

The only ad that took longer than three minutes to be approved by Facebook sought to exclude potential renters “interested in Islam, Sunni Islam and Shia Islam.” It was approved after 22 minutes.

Under its own policies, Facebook should have flagged these ads, and prevented the posting of some of them. Its failure to do so revives questions about whether the company is in compliance with federal fair housing rules, as well as about its ability and commitment to police discriminatory advertising on the world’s largest social network.

Damn…that is surprising…ain’t it? (Snark is heavily insinuated here.)

Based on Facebook’s announcement, the ads purchased by ProPublica that were aimed at racial categories should have been rejected. The others should have prompted a screen to pop up asking for self-certification. We never encountered a self-certification screen, and none of our ads were rejected by Facebook.

“This was a failure in our enforcement and we’re disappointed that we fell short of our commitments,” Ami Vora, vice president of product management at Facebook, said in an emailed statement. “The rental housing ads purchased by ProPublica should have but did not trigger the extra review and certifications we put in place due to a technical failure.”

Vora added that Facebook’s anti-discrimination system had “successfully flagged millions of ads” in the credit, employment and housing categories and that Facebook will now begin requiring self-certification for ads in all categories that choose to exclude an audience segment. “Our systems continue to improve but we can do better,” Vora said.

About 37 percent of U.S. households rented in 2016, representing a 50-year high, according to the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. On average, renters earn about half as much as homeowners, and the percentage of families with children that rent rather than buy has increased sharply in the past decade, the study said. Minority renters have long faced pervasive housing discrimination. A 2013 study by HUD found that real estate agents show more units to whites than to African Americans, Asians and Latinos.

Gee…innit that the three categories of multicultural affinity?

Facebook has been under fire for other aspects of its automated ad buying system as well. Two months ago, the company disclosed that it had discovered $100,000 worth of divisive political ads placed by “inauthentic” Russian accounts. And in September, ProPublica reported that Facebook’s ad targeting system allowed buyers to reach people who identified themselves as “Jew haters” and other anti-Semitic categories. Facebook pledged to remove the offending categories and to hire thousands more employees to enforce its ad policies.

“We’re adding additional layers of review where people use potentially sensitive categories for targeting,” Facebook General Counsel Colin Stretch said during Senate testimony earlier this month.

After Stretch’s public statement, we wondered whether the ability to buy discriminatory housing ads had really been addressed. So we set out to buy an advertisement with the exact same targeting parameters as the ad we bought last year. The ad promoted a fictional apartment for rent and was targeted at people living in New York, ages 18–65, who were house hunting and likely to move. We asked Facebook not to show the ad to people categorized under the “multicultural affinity” of Hispanic, African American or Asian American.

(ProPublica generally forbids impersonation in news gathering. We felt in this instance that the public interest in Facebook’s ad system justified the brief posting of a fake ad for non-existent housing. We deleted each ad as soon as it was approved.)

The only changes from last year that we could identify in Facebook’s ad buying system was that the category called “Ethnic Affinity” had been renamed “Multicultural Affinity” and was no longer part of “Demographics.” It is now designated as part of “Behaviors.”

 

Go…yeah, go and see the actual screenshots of the ad placements. Remember that thing I mentioned up top about the soccer affinity?

Then we decided to test whether we could purchase housing ads that discriminated against other protected categories of people under the Fair Housing Act.

We placed ads that sought to exclude members of as many of the protected categories as we could find in Facebook’s self-service advertising portal. In addition to those mentioned above, we bought ads that were blocked from being shown to “soccer moms,” people interested in American sign languagegay menand Christians.

 

Just read the rest of the thread at the link, but wait there is more:

According to ProPublica, Facebook to Temporarily Block Advertisers From Excluding… — ProPublica

Uh…the date on this is Nov. 29th, 2017

The social network’s actions come after a ProPublica investigation revealed that Facebook failed to keep its promise to reject discriminatory housing ads.

Facebook said it would temporarily stop advertisers from being able to exclude viewers by race while it studies the use of its ad targeting system.

“Until we can better ensure that our tools will not be used inappropriately, we are disabling the option that permits advertisers to exclude multicultural affinity segments from the audience for their ads,” Facebook Sheryl Sandberg wrote in a letter to the Congressional Black Caucus.

ProPublica disclosed last week that Facebook was still allowing advertisers to buy housing ads that excluded audiences by race, despite its promises earlier this year to reject such ads. ProPublica also found that Facebook was not asking housing advertisers that blocked other sensitive audience categories — by religion, gender, or disability — to “self-certify” that their ads were compliant with anti-discrimination laws.

[…]

In her letter, Sandberg said the company will examine how advertisers are using its exclusion tool — “focusing particularly on potentially sensitive segments” such as ads that exclude LGBTQ communities or people with disabilities. “During this review, no advertisers will be able to create ads that exclude multicultural affinity groups,” Facebook Vice President Rob Goldman said in an emailed statement.

Goldman said the results of the audit would be shared with “groups focused on discrimination in ads,” and that Facebook would work with them to identify further improvements and publish the steps it will take.

Here are a few other articles on the matter:

Facebook disabling “multicultural affinity” group advertising tool – Axios

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said in a letter today to Congressional Black Caucus chairman Cedric Richmond that it is disabling a tool that allows advertisers to exclude “multicultural affinity” segments from their audiences. She also declared that Facebook is “determined to do better” on multicultural marketing.

Why it matters: Rep. Robin Kelly said in a press release earlier this month that Facebook’s “Ethnic Affinity” advertising option makes Facebook “complicit in promoting restrictive housing practices.” Sandberg said in her letter that Facebook would strengthen policies to prohibit discriminatory advertising, and that until Facebook can “better ensure that our tools will not be used inappropriately,” the tool is being disabled.

Show less
  • The “multicultural affinity” groups are groups of people “whose activities on Facebook suggest they may be interested in ads related to the African American, Hispanic American, or Asian American communities,” per Sandberg’s letter.
  • Rep. Kelly calledFacebook’s decision “a positive step forward,” and said she will “continue watching the issue closely.”
  • Rob Goldman, Vice President, Ads Growth & Solutions, said in a statement: “People, businesses and organizations around the world use Facebook to advertise. It’s important we make sure they use our tools responsibly. And a key part of this is working to stop ads that discriminate against people. We have guidelines to prevent this and other types of abuse, and we’ve strengthened how we enforce those guidelines over the years. We’ve also made mistakes and learned from them. ProPublica recently found that safeguards we put in place earlier this year were not as comprehensive as they should have been. This was a failure in our enforcement. We must do better.”

Facebook suspends ability to target ads by excluding racial groups | Article [AMP] | Reuters

Sandberg said in the letter that advertisers who use Facebook’s targeting options to include certain races for ads about housing, employment or credit will have to certify to Facebook that they are complying with Facebook’s anti-discrimination policy and with applicable law.

Sandberg defended race- and culture-based marketing in general, saying it was a common and legitimate practice in the ad industry to try to reach specific communities.

I take it, those ads for burner phones and credit problems are legitimate practices…reaching a specific community…the multicultural African-American affinity community.

Alright…now for the fucking funnies!

 

 

By the way…if Mueller is fired…protest marches are already planned. To find the closest one in your area, text Mueller to Resistbot at 50409…the location of the nearest immediate protest march will appear with all pertinent information.

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Filth are my politics, filth is my life! 🇺🇸🗑 #divine #divineforpresident #trump #filtharemypolitics #stateoftheunion #babsjohnson #johnwaters #pinkflamingos

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And now the cartoons:

 

 

 

And that’s all folks!

This is an open thread…


Sunday Afternoon Open Thread: From the Sublime to the Ridiculous

Good Afternoon!

Dakinikat clued me in about a terrific speech that First Lady Michelle Obama gave to at the Congressional Black Caucus Dinner last night.   She spoke movingly of the importance of voting rights as “the Civil Rights issue of our day.  Here is a bit of that.

You can watch the entire speech on YouTube.

From the WaPo:

Speaking in Washington at the foundation’s annual Phoenix dinner, the first lady likened turning out the vote to the civil rights struggles of previous eras.

“Make no mistake about it, this is the march of our time,” Obama told the audience at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. “Marching door-to-door registering people to vote, marching everyone you know to the polls every single election.” That effort, she said, “is the movement of our era — protecting that fundamental right, not just for this election but for the next generation and generations to come.”

Obama did not refer explicitly to voter-ID laws that that have been passed or proposed in states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida, but she warned against being dissuaded from voting.

“We cannot let anyone discourage us from casting our ballots,” she said. “We cannot let anyone make us feel unwelcome in the voting booth. It is up to us to make sure that in every election, every voice is heard and every vote is counted. That means making sure our laws preserve that right.”

On Face the Nation, Bill Clinton commented on the small portion of his income that Mitt Romney pays in taxes.

Former President Bill Clinton said low tax rates like the one paid by Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney aren’t helping the economic recovery, adding to Democratic criticism that Republicans disregard the needs of average Americans.

“I don’t think we can get out of this hole we’re in if people at that income level only pay 13, 14 percent,” Democrat Clinton said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” today. “It’d be interesting, I think, for the American people to see how the ordinary income years were treated, but apparently we’re not going to get to see that.”

That was a nice little dig. Here’s hoping Clinton keeps on throwing elbows right up till November 6.

Robert Gibbs worked on managing expectations for the first presidential debate on October 3. He told Fox News that Romney has a big advantage over poor President Obama.

“Mitt Romney I think has an advantage, because he’s been through 20 of these debates in the primaries over the last year,” Gibbs said Sunday on Fox News.

The Republican presidential nominee last took part in a debate on February 22, when CNN hosted a debate in Arizona. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas were also on stage with Romney.

“Having been through this much more recently than President Obama, I think he starts with an advantage,” Gibbs said.

Romney would be wise to have his surrogates do the same thing, but he’s probably too arrogant to say that Obama is a superior debater. Besides, I think the only reliable surrogate Romney has left is John Sununu, and he would most likely prefer being waterboarded to praising the president.

And now for the ridiculous…

This morning, RNC Chair Reince Priebus argued tried to convince George Stephanopoulos that the past week was a good one for Mitt Romney. Check out the double take Stephanopoulos does when he finally gets what Priebus is saying.

Bwaaaahahahahahahahha! From the New York Daily News:

As Mitt Romney tried Sunday to change the course of his campaign, the head of the GOP was looking backward, declaring the party’s nominee “had a good week” — and leaving many wondering what a bad week looks like.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus spun like a toy-store top when asked about the impact of a leaked video that caught Romney portraying 47% of Americans as moochers at a fund-raiser of wealthy GOP donors.

“It probably wasn’t the … best week in the campaign,” Priebus said when first asked about the gaffe on ABC’s “This Week.”

“I think we had a good week last week,” he said later, clinging to the belief that the 47% comments had a positive role in focusing the conversation on entitlement programs and spending. “We were able to frame up the debate last week in the sense of what future do we want.”

Wow, you have to be either really brave or incredibly stupid to go on national TV and try to sell that kind of bullsh&t.

So what have you up to today?


Thursday Reads: Obama and CBC, Judging Protesters, Net Neutrality, SCOTUS, and Sly Stone

Good Morning!! Let’s start out with a little fire and brimstone. Glen Ford had a rousing rant at the Black Agenda Report about Obama’s disgusting treatment of the CBC last weekend. Here’s just a sample:

…in the same week that he bowed down to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before the assembled nations of the world, in New York City, Obama took his church voice to the Congressional Black Caucus annual awards dinner to very pointedly demand that Blacks stop bugging their president about the economic catastrophe that has befallen them, and his own role in it. “Take off your bedroom slippers. Put on your marching shoes,” Obama hectored. “Shake it off. Stop complainin’. Stop grumblin’. Stop cryin’. We are going to press on. We have work to do.”

Black Caucus chairman Rep. Emanuel Cleaver had earlier told reporters, “If Bill Clinton had been in the White House and had failed to address this [Black unemployment] problem, we probably would be marching on the White House.” But Obama came to lay down the law: any marching that you might do will be for my re-election.

The well-oiled crowd cheered….

The Black Caucus, as a body, meekly murmured and mumbled as the administration transferred the equivalent of the U.S. gross domestic product to the banks while Black America disintegrated. Now, with Obama’s numbers falling, he has very publicly commanded them to shut up and perform what he believes is their only legitimate function: to get him re-elected. In the looming contest, he will again resort to Black-baiting whenever it is useful to shore up white support. In that – as with his foreign and domestic policies – Obama is no different than white corporate politicians. His one great distinction, is to have a core constituency that cares more for his security and dignity, than their own.

Sad but true.

In yesterday’s morning post, Minx highlighted the way so many “progressives” are criticizing Occupy Wall Street for all kinds of irrelevant reasons. Glenn Greenwald wrote a very good piece about it: What’s behind the scorn for the Wall Street protests? But I especially liked Kevin Gosztola’s piece at FDL.

Traditional media have characterized the plurality of voices and the number of issues the occupation is seeking to challenge as a weakness. Establishment media has been openly condescending. Ginia Bellafante’s report in the New York Times has generated significant attention for her focus on the fact that some “half-naked woman” who looks like Joni Mitchell to her is the leader of this movement of “rightly frustrated young people.” Bellafante accuses the protesters of lacking “cohesion” and “pantomiming progressivism rather than practice it knowledgeably.” NPR reiterated NYT’s focus on the “scattered nature of the movement” in its coverage of the occupation (and tellingly used a photo of a man holding a sign that reads “Satan Controls Wall St”). Local press have treated the occupiers as if they are a tribe or a group of nomads focusing on occupiers’ behavior instead of trying to understand the real reason why people are in the park.

Liberals have shown scorn, too, suggesting the occupation is not a “Main Street production” or that the protesters aren’t dressed properly and should wear suits cause the civil rights movement would not have won if they hadn’t worn decent clothing.

The latest show of contempt from a liberal comes from Mother Jones magazine. Lauren Ellis claims that the action, which “says it stands for the 99 percent of us,” lacks traction. She outlines why she thinks Zuccotti Park isn’t America’s Tahrir Square. She chastises them for failing to have one demand. She claims without a unified message police brutality has stolen the spotlight. She suggests the presence of members of Anonymous is holding the organizers back writing, “It’s hard to be taken seriously as accountability-seeking populists when you’re donning Guy Fawkes masks.” And, she concludes as a result of failing to get a cross-section of America to come out in the streets, this movement has been for “dreamers,” not “middle class American trying to make ends meet.”

First off, nobody in the last week can claim to be reporting on Occupy Wall Street and genuinely claim it isn’t gaining traction. Ellis conveniently leaves out the fact that Occupy Wall Street is inspiring other cities to get organized and hold similar assemblies/occupations. Second, if the protesters did have one demand, does Ellis really think that would improve media coverage? Wouldn’t pundits then be casting doubt on whether the one demand was the appropriate singular demand to be making? Third, so-called members of Anonymous are citizens like Ellis and have a right to participate in the protest. It is elitist for Ellis to suggest Occupy Wall Street should not be all-inclusive. And, finally, there is no evidence that just “dreamers” are getting involved. A union at the City University of New York, the Industrial Workers of the World, construction workers, 9/11 responders and now a postal workers and teachers union have shown interest in the occupation.

Gosztola is a young guy who replaced Emptywheel after she left FDL. He focuses on human rights issues, and he does a nice job.

It’s interesting that the progs keep comparing the Occupy Wall Street protesters to those in Civil Rights Movement of the ’50s and ’60s, claiming that protesters should wear suits! Obviously these “very serious” yuppie bloggers don’t recall the ’60s anti-war movement. I can just imagine their shock at some of the outfits we wore in those days.

The New York Times published an odd interpretation of the world-wide protest phenomenon that minimized demonstrations: As Scorn for Vote Grows, Protests Surge Around Globe, by Nicholas Kulish. Kulish explains the protests as disillusionment with voting. And why shouldn’t we all be turned off by voting when it gets us nothing but a bunch of corrupt, greedy a$$holes who stab taxpayers in the back repeatedly and suck up to the top 1%?

Not surprisingly, there is only one reference to the anti-Wall Street protests, and the organizers, Occupy Wall Street aren’t mentioned at all. Also not mentioned are the supportive protests beginning in other U.S. cities. And Kulish never mentioned Wisconsin at all!

Last week the FCC announced new net neutrality rules, and now lawsuits from both sides of the issue are starting.

Verizon and Metro PCS, both wireless carriers, had already made clear their intention to sue and were widely expected to be the first to do so. Instead, they were beaten to court by the activist group Free Press—one of the strongest supporters of network neutrality.

Free Press has asked a federal appeals court to review the FCC’s rules—not because it finds them too strong, but because it finds them too weak. The group particularly objects to the way in which wireless companies are exempted from most of the meaningful anti-discrimination policies in the rules. While wireless operators can’t block Internet sites outright, and can’t simply ban apps that compete with their own services, they can do just about anything else; wired operators can’t.

Free Press complains about the “decision to adopt one set of rules for broadband access via mobile platforms and a different set of rules for broadband access via fixed platforms.” The distinction, it says, is “arbitrary and capricious” and it violates the law.

In a statement, Free Press Policy Director Matt Wood said, “Our challenge will show that there is no evidence in the record to justify this arbitrary distinction between wired and wireless Internet access. The disparity that the FCC’s rules create is unjust and unjustified. And it’s especially problematic because of the increasing popularity of wireless, along with its increasing importance for younger demographics and diverse populations who rely on mobile devices as their primary means for getting online.

Here is a summary of the final FCC rules, from Connected Planet:

The FCC highlighted a total of four rules, which specify that:

— A person engaged in the provision of broadband Internet access service shall publicly disclose accurate information regarding the network management practices, performance and commercial terms of its broadband Internet access services sufficient for consumers to make informed choice regarding use of such services and for content, application, service and device providers to develop, market and maintain Internet offerings

— A person engaged in the provision of fixed broadband Internet access service . . . shall not block lawful content, applications, services or non-harmful devices, subject to reasonable network management.

— A person engaged in the provision of fixed broadband Internet access service . . . shall not unreasonably discriminate in transmitting lawful network traffic over a consumer’s broadband Internet access service.

— A person engaged in the provision of mobile broadband Internet access service, insofar as such person is so engaged, shall not block consumers from accessing lawful websites, subject to reasonable network management; nor shall such person block applications that compete with the provider’s voice or video telephony services, subject to reasonable network management.

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I’m sure you’ve heard that the Justice Department has asked the Supreme Court to rule on the health care law ASAP. Dalia Lithwick at Slate had an interesting article on the case: The Supreme Court is less interested in ruling on Obama’s health care law than you think.

Apparently the Obama administration believes that 2012 will not be crazy enough already. That would explain why it has decided not to appeal a ruling from a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals striking down the individual mandate at the heart of its health reform law. Instead of asking the full, 11-member court to hear the case, the administration has voluntarily cleared the path toward the Supreme Court as early as this spring. That means there could be a ruling by the end of June, just a few months before the election.

Right now the individual mandate has been upheld, by a 2-1 margin by the Sixth Circuit and struck down 2-1 at the 11th Circuit, while the Virginia lawsuit challenging the act was dismissed on procedural grounds at the Fourth Circuit. This split between the federal appeals courts almost demands that the high court agree to hear the case, as does the fact that it’s the Justice Department filing the appeal.

Lithwick discusses the opinions of other writers on why the administration is doing this now. Then she offers her own assessment:

I remain unsure that there just are five justices at the high court eager to have the court itself become an election-year issue. I don’t think Chief Justice John Roberts wants to borrow that kind of partisan trouble again so soon after Citizens United, the campaign-finance case that turned into an Obama talking point. And I am not certain that the short-term gain of striking down some or part of the ACA (embarrassing President Obama even to the point of affecting the election) is the kind of judicial end-game this court really cares about. Certainly there are one or two justices who might see striking down the ACA as a historic blow for freedom. But the long game at the court is measured in decades of slow doctrinal progress—as witnessed in the fight over handguns and the Second Amendment—and not in reviving the stalled federalism revolution just to score a point.

That’s why I suspect that even if there are five justices who believe the individual mandate is unconstitutional, there probably aren’t five votes to decide that question in this instant. Lyle Denniston over at Scotusblog reminds us that the court has a lot of options to forestall a showdown with the president. If the justices opt to consider the technical question raised at the Fourth Circuit—about who has legal standing to challenge the mandate in the first place—the court could dodge the constitutional question altogether until 2015, when the first penalties will be paid. It’s not so much a matter of the court having to decide whether to bring a gavel to a knife fight. It’s just that this isn’t really this court’s knife fight in the first place.

Roman Polanski is back in the news, because he supposedly “apologized” to the woman he raped when she was only 13.

In a documentary about his life, the Oscar-winning director, 78, admitted Samantha Geimer had been left scarred by his exploitation three decades ago. The Polish-French film maker publicly apologised for the first time for his “mistakes” that included the sexual attack on Mrs Geimer, now 47.

The director of Rosemary’s Baby and Chinatown admitted she was a “double victim” after being caught up in the subsequent media storm, forcing her to move to Hawaii for privacy.

The married mother-of-three successfully sued him and accepted a private apology in 2009, saying she had been left more traumatised by ensuing legal battles to bring him to justice than the assault itself.

Finally, here’s another celebrity story: According to the New York Post, 1960s rock star Sly Stone is homeless, living in a van in L.A.

Today, Sly Stone — one of the greatest figures in soul-music history — is homeless, his fortune stolen by a lethal combination of excess, substance abuse and financial mismanagement. He lays his head inside a white camper van ironically stamped with the words “Pleasure Way” on the side. The van is parked on a residential street in Crenshaw, the rough Los Angeles neighborhood where “Boyz n the Hood” was set. A retired couple makes sure he eats once a day, and Stone showers at their house. The couple’s son serves as his assistant and driver.

Inside the van, the former mastermind of Sly & the Family Stone, now 68, continues to record music with the help of a laptop computer.

“I like my small camper,” he says, his voice raspy with age and years of hard living. “I just do not want to return to a fixed home. I cannot stand being in one place. I must keep moving.”

It’s a pretty nice van, BTW. But the LA Times says if Stone is homeless, it’s his own choice.

If Sly Stone is homeless, it’s by choice and not necessity, according to sources close to the funk legend.

Stone’s attorney Robert Alan has supposedly rented a four-bedroom home in Woodland Hills for his client, one unnamed source told Showbiz411 exclusively. “He’s too paranoid to come inside,” another source told writer Roger Friedman. That person was described as a friend of the singer.

Though Alan wouldn’t comment on the rental house, Friedman said, the lawyer confirmed that Sly Stone documentarian Willem Alkema had paid the singer $5,000 upfront for a recent interview. (An additional $2,000, source unknown, was reportedly paid when the story was picked up.) Alkema, whom Friedman says is trying relaunch his documentary and could benefit from the publicity, co-wrote Sunday’s “Sly Stone Is Homeless and Living in a Van” article for the New York Post.

That’s not to say Stone hadn’t admitted struggling with drugs, nor that he isn’t in financial trouble of the maybe-a-$50-million-lawsuit-will-fix-it variety — he sued former manager Jerry Goldstein in early 2010, alleging fraud and the diversion of $20 million to $30 million in royalties.

I’m just glad to know that Sly is still with us. What a great band he had. I remember seeing Sly and the Family Stone at an outdoor concert at Harvard Stadium–I think it was in 1969. It was fabulous! So in honor of Sly and nostalgia…

So…. what are you reading and blogging about today?


Late Night: Obama’s Condescending Speech to the CBC

I know this was discussed on the morning post, but I thought I’d write a little more about Obama’s speech to the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) on Saturday. If it hadn’t been for the ending, it would have been a good speech. The CBC members probably would have been OK with it, even though Obama isn’t really “attacking the cycle of poverty” and making it easier for kids to go to college, and all the other claims he made. He managed to make it sound like he’s done a lot for the economy when he’s really just tinkered with things around the edges. So why did Obama have to patronize his black audience like this?

So I don’t know about you, CBC, but the future rewards those who press on. (Applause.) With patient and firm determination, I am going to press on for jobs. (Applause.) I’m going to press on for equality. (Applause.) I’m going to press on for the sake of our children. (Applause.) I’m going to press on for the sake of all those families who are struggling right now. I don’t have time to feel sorry for myself. I don’t have time to complain. I am going to press on. (Applause.)

I expect all of you to march with me and press on. (Applause.) Take off your bedroom slippers, put on your marching shoes. Shake it off. (Applause.) Stop complaining, stop grumbling, stop crying. We are going to press on. We’ve got work to do, CBC. (Applause.)

WTF?! How tone deaf is that? I think it’s incredibly insulting. In the previous paragraphs, Obama was talking about how hard people in the audience had fought for advancement for African Americans:

Throughout our history, change has often come slowly. Progress often takes time. We take a step forward, sometimes we take two steps back. Sometimes we get two steps forward and one step back. But it’s never a straight line. It’s never easy. And I never promised easy. Easy has never been promised to us. But we’ve had faith. We have had faith. We’ve had that good kind of crazy that says, you can’t stop marching. (Applause.)

Even when folks are hitting you over the head, you can’t stop marching. Even when they’re turning the hoses on you, you can’t stop. (Applause.) Even when somebody fires you for speaking out, you can’t stop. (Applause.) Even when it looks like there’s no way, you find a way — you can’t stop. (Applause.) Through the mud and the muck and the driving rain, we don’t stop. Because we know the rightness of our cause — widening the circle of opportunity, standing up for everybody’s opportunities, increasing each other’s prosperity. We know our cause is just. It’s a righteous cause.

So in the face of troopers and teargas, folks stood unafraid. Led somebody like John Lewis to wake up after getting beaten within an inch of his life on Sunday — he wakes up on Monday: We’re going to go march. (Applause.)

Dr. King once said: “Before we reach the majestic shores of the Promised Land, there is a frustrating and bewildering wilderness ahead. We must still face prodigious hilltops of opposition and gigantic mountains of resistance. But with patient and firm determination we will press on.” (Applause.)

But then Obama follows this with the “bedroom slippers” and “complaining” and “crying” accusations. This kind of thing gives me the sense that Obama is clueless when it comes to the black experience in America. It honestly makes me wonder if he unconsciously looks down on ordinary African Americans.

Of course Obama didn’t have the same experiences as many of the people he was talking to on Saturday. He attended only private schools and didn’t experience the kind of discrimination that most of them did. But he has read about the the Civil Rights era and he often speaks about it. Presumably, he has talked directly to some poor African Americans while campaigning. Why would he expect these people to like the tone of those final paragraphs in his speech?

Well there have been some negative reactions. As she has a couple of times recently, Maxine Waters took the lead.

From Politico:

“I don’t know who he was talking to, because we’re certainly not complaining,” said Waters, who has been critical of Obama in the past. “We are working. We support him and we are protecting that base because we want people to be enthusiastic about him when that election rolls around.” ….

Waters said she found some of the language Obama used “not appropriate” and said it “surprised me a little bit.”

“I found that language a bit curious because the president spoke to the Hispanic Caucus and certainly they are pushing him on immigration and despite the fact that he’s appointed [Justice Sonia] Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, he has an office for excellence in Hispanic education right in the White House, they’re still pushing him and he certainly didn’t tell them to stop complaining,” she said.

“And he never would say that to the gay and lesbian community who really pushed him on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Or even in a speech to AIPAC, he would never say to the Jewish community ‘stop complaining’ about Israel.”

According to MSNBC though,

…other members of the CBC, including its chairman, Missouri Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D), have had different reactions to the speech, which they defended as a rallying call to African American voters, whose large turnout in 2008 helped fuel Obama’s election, and whose 2012 turnout could be pivotal to the president’s reelection effort.

“The Congressional Black Caucus supports the president; we intend to be as strongly pushing his reelection as anybody in the country,” Cleaver said Monday morning on MSNBC.

“I was like most of the crowd there — incredibly enthusiastic by the fighting spirit the president was showing. I think the president is right-on-message,” Maryland Rep. Donna Edwards (D), another CBC member, said in a separate appearance on MSNBC. “I think it’s incredibly clear, the difference, like night and day, between Republicans, who want to give special breaks to the wealthiest in this country, and the president of the United States. And it’s important that we reelect him because we have to really get this country back…the president was on that message, and we’re going to be on that message, too, for 2012.”

Frankly, I’m also offended by the way the President takes on the tone of a preacher when he speaks to black audiences. But since I’m not black, I can’t speak to whether the audiences find it patronizing. To me it seems condescending.

There have been other times when I thought Obama was incredibly tone deaf when talking to African Americans; for example, the time he lectured Black fathers who don’t support their children.

Saying that too many black fathers are “missing from too many lives and too many homes,” Obama said these men “have abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men. And the foundations of our families are weaker because of it.”

Speaking at Chicago’s Apostolic Church of God, with his wife and two daughters in the audience, Obama said that more police on the street and job training programs are essential for a safe and sound society, “But we also need families to raise our children.”

The phenomenon of absentee fathers and single mothers certainly isn’t limited to African American families. Plenty of white men are deadbeat dads and worse.

I guess I just have a problem with stereotyping in general, and I’m particularly turned off by people in power who speak condescendingly to the rest of us. Again, I can’t speak for the CBC members, but I have to wonder if a lot of them didn’t feel like Maxine Waters did and feel a little bit resentful.


Rep. Maxine Waters: “We’re gettin’ tired, y’all.”

While President Obama was visiting small lily-white Midwestern towns that have managed to do pretty well during the economic crisis of the past three years, members of the Congressional Black Caucus have traveled around the country hosting job fairs. Yesterday they were in Detroit.

Fox News:

U.S. House Rep. Maxine Waters is asking black voters who are struggling with an unemployment rate nearly twice the national average to “unleash” her and other members of the Congressional Black Caucus on President Obama.

The California Democrat, speaking at a raucous town hall in Detroit hosted by the CBC on Tuesday, said she doesn’t want to attack the president from his base unless the base gives her the go-ahead.

“If we go after the president too hard, you’re going after us,” Waters said. “When you tell us it’s all right and you unleash us and you’re ready to have this conversation, we’re ready to have the conversation.”

Judging by the reaction of the audience, including someone yelling to Waters, “It’s all right,” the president will be hearing very soon from the congresswoman and her fellow caucus members.

Since Obama took office, he has resisted pressure from the CBC to create jobs programs specifically targeting blacks, saying that improving the entire economy will help all groups.

I’m not sure I understand why the CBC can’t lead on this issue rather than waiting to be “unleashed” by African American voters. Still, at least she’s talking about the dismal employment situation African Americans face.

On MSNBC, Andrea Mitchell asked Emanuel Cleaver (of “sugar coated Satan sandwich” fame) about President Obama’s promised jobs plan.

I guess Obama’s “jobs plan” isn’t an emergency, since Congress is so unlikely to pass it. I guess that’s why the President is going on vacation first and won’t give his latest “major speech” until after Labor Day.

Looking at that video of the CBC jobs fair reminds me of photos of lines during the Great Depression, but President Obama announced today that

“I don’t think we’re in danger of another recession, but we are in danger of not having a recovery that is fast enough to deal with a genuine unemployment crisis for a whole lot of folks out there.

And you know what an expert our fearless leader is on economic matters (snark). And to show that he’s not that worried, President Obama will soon be heading for Martha’s Vineyard for a 10-day vacation.

But wait, check this out from Gallup:

Oddly enough, it seems that Americans outside the beltway don’t agree with Mr. Obama’s assessment of the economy. And neither do quite a few real economists.

But the President is tired too, I guess. All those golf games, the weekends at Camp David, the fancy White House dinners and parties, the fundraisers, the campaign swing bus tour of the Midwest–it’s so exhausting. He needs a break. So unemployed people need to stop being so selfish and understand President Obama’s needs. He’ll get around to their problems someday.

Funny though, I don’t recall it taking him this long to bail out the banks, do you?

Here’s a longer version of Maxine Waters’ talk.


Deficit Debacle: Live Blog on the Murder of Middle Class America

Everything is on the table.  Except taxes.  WTF?

I’m watching Bernie Sanders trying defend our precious safety nets right now.  The debate over this horrible capitulation to right wing extremists is carried on CSPAN .  Sanders is reminding the president that all the polls call for shared sacrifice.  He’s saying the proposal is bad and unfair.  He’s just announced on the floor he will not vote for the package.  What were getting is sacrificed on the alter of greed. At least some one recognizes this.

They’re taking a senate quorum call right now.

Here’s some headlines for you to  think about.

From former Biden economic adviser Jared Bernstein: Lousy Negotiation skills are not the problem.

What did we just go through and what does it mean for our national politics, our fiscal and economic policy?

–First, a small but influential group of extreme conservatives are so intent on shrinking the federal government that they would credibly threaten national default;

–Second, Democrats, including the president, do not have a strategy to counteract such extremism, so they accepted a plan far less balanced than they would have liked—the final deal could well turn out to be $3 trillion in spending cuts over ten years, with no revenue increases to offset the cuts.

–Third, and perhaps most importantly, like every debate about the size of government, it’s impossible for normal people, if not the “experts,” to figure out what anyone is really talking about and therefore to judge the deal.

What does it mean to cut $3 trillion in government spending?  How will it affect retirement security?  Education? Jobs in the short run and investment over the long run?  Does it put us on a sustainable fiscal path.

We’re about to agree to cut $1 trillion from something called discretionary spending.  That probably sounds great to some folks and bad to others.  But what does it mean?

The President bragged on this very point last night, telling America that discretionary spending as a share of the economy will come down to its lowest level since Eisenhower.  As if we’ve all been walking around thinking, “if only we could get this budget category down to Ike levels, everything would fall into place.”

In fact, these cuts will hurt our ability to pursue what I view as most positive aspects of the President’s economic agenda—investment in infrastructure, clean energy, research, education.  They will pinch programs that are already budget constrained…programs that help low income people with child care, housing, and community services.  (One piece to watch for here—defense spending is also in this category, and is supposed to account for about one-third of the cuts…that helps, of course, take pressure of these other parts.)

Then, in part two of the deal, we unleash the gang-of-twelve who are assigned to come up with $1.5 trillion more in deficit savings.

They’ll be hitting the entitlements—Social Security, Mcare, Mcaid—and more defense, but if they deadlock—a non-trivial probability—automatic cuts ensue.

My thought is that the political game has become all important in this negotiation and no one is really thinking about the outcome.  The Teabots are insane so they can be discounted, but all of this fall-in by senators and representatives that know what’s going on has got to be the most painful thing I’ve ever watched.  Can’t some of them use their brains and consciences for a change instead of checking their labels and owner dog tags?

Paul Krugman: The President Surrenders

For the deal itself, given the available information, is a disaster, and not just for President Obama and his party. It will damage an already depressed economy; it will probably make America’s long-run deficit problem worse, not better; and most important, by demonstrating that raw extortion works and carries no political cost, it will take America a long way down the road to banana-republic status.

Start with the economics. We currently have a deeply depressed economy. We will almost certainly continue to have a depressed economy all through next year. And we will probably have a depressed economy through 2013 as well, if not beyond.

The worst thing you can do in these circumstances is slash government spending, since that will depress the economy even further. Pay no attention to those who invoke the confidence fairy, claiming that tough action on the budget will reassure businesses and consumers, leading them to spend more. It doesn’t work that way, a fact confirmed by many studies of the historical record.

Indeed, slashing spending while the economy is depressed won’t even help the budget situation much, and might well make it worse. On one side, interest rates on federal borrowing are currently very low, so spending cuts now will do little to reduce future interest costs. On the other side, making the economy weaker now will also hurt its long-run prospects, which will in turn reduce future revenue. So those demanding spending cuts now are like medieval doctors who treated the sick by bleeding them, and thereby made them even sicker.

And then there are the reported terms of the deal, which amount to an abject surrender on the part of the president. First, there will be big spending cuts, with no increase in revenue. Then a panel will make recommendations for further deficit reduction — and if these recommendations aren’t accepted, there will be more spending cuts.

They are killing any hope we have of a decent recovery.  We don’t have one now.  The US Manufacturing Index just fell to a two year low.  This is one of the first leading indicators to show a looming recession. One of the most telling signs this morning about this is that the stock market is going down and now there is a flight to safety.  Oddly enough, the flight to safety is to US Treasury bonds.

“We’ve turned from budget crisis to economic crisis,” said Paul Horrmann, a broker in New York at Tradition Asiel Securities Inc., an interdealer broker. “We’ve gone from worrying about a budget and default to the economy long term. Higher prices are bringing in buyers, not sellers.”

Still, what about the JOB crisis?

Kevin Drum at MOJO: Why the Debit Ceiling Deal Sucks

It’s a shit sandwich no matter how you look at it. And it’s a shit sandwich in at least two very specific ways: (1) It means we’ll continue to live in a fantasyland that says we don’t need any tax increases even though our population is aging and we’re plainly going to need higher revenues to support this demographic reality; and (2) we’ll continue to live in a fantasyland that says our problems are primarily caused by discretionary spending. This is, of course, exactly the opposite of reality, which means we’re going to screw the poor and do nothing serious about the long-term deficit. Nice work, adults.

Easy-to-Hate Debt-Ceiling Compromise Called “Sugar-Coated Satan Sandwich” By Some

Cuts to Social Security and Medicare are also possible within the plan. Representative Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, called the deal a “sugar-coated Satan sandwich,” which itself deserves $1.2 trillion.

We’re seriously f’d on this one folks.

Notable tweets:

daveweigel

I haven’t seen this many pissed off Democrats since the last time I saw some Democrats. #beenatoughyear
tbogg

Gene Sperling: Obama ‘didn’t give one inch’ : politico.com/news/stories/0… So Obama’s people say he owns this shit sandwich. Jesus. #Quitdigging

SatanSandwichSugar Coated
The moment I convinced President Obama of the virtues of austerity: bit.ly/nbv5C6 #FYEAH
ThePlumLineGSGreg Sargent

House Dem leaders NOT pressing Dems to vote for the debt deal, potentially complicating passage: http://wapo.st/o3wyDP

nytimes The New York Times
How the Debt Plan Would Work

Read this CBO letter to Congressional Leaders.  They’re putting discretionary funding caps on Social Security, Medicare, SCHIP, Medicaid, et.  Iraq and Afghanistan are exempt from spending caps.  This is AWFUL!!!  Worse than I thought … Please read this analysis from the CBO to congress!!!

House DEBATE and vote on package: running here at CSPAN. They are voting on the debate rules right now at 3:30 pm cst.  Progressive Caucus leaders talking right now saying they will not support the deal because it’s incredibly wrong and worse than the Reid Compromise.  Lynn Woolsey and Barbara Lee announcing they will vote no.


Please report on who you know is voting for or against below so we can keep track of who needs to face a real democrat in a primary,