Friday, October 31, 2014

Something I Agree With Rand Paul On: 'The GOP Sucks'

By John Amato



As our readers know, I'm no fan of Senator Rand Paul or his phony libertarian beliefs, but he did say something mildly entertaining and (at least partially) I can agree with.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) acknowledged Wednesday a problem that many Republicans admit only privately: their party brand “sucks.”
The weakness, Paul added, is particularly serious when it comes to appealing to black voters.
“Remember Domino’s Pizza? They admitted, ‘Hey, our pizza crust sucks.’ The Republican Party brand sucks and so people don’t want to be a Republican and for 80 years, African-Americans have had nothing to do with Republicans,” he said.
“Why? Because of a perception,” he said. “The problem is the perception is that no one in the Republican Party cares.”
“We’re also fighting 40 years of us doing a crappy job, of Republicans not trying at all for 40 years, so it’s a lot of overcoming,” he said. “You got to show up, you got to have something to say and really we just have to emphasize that we’re trying to do something different.”
Yes, the GOP brand sucks, on that we can agree, but it's always sucked much worse than Domino's Pizza every has and for a far longer time.

And blacks do not support the GOP, not because of a "perception problem," but a problem of reality staring them right in the face. Republicans need more than saying words that are not considered racist when talking with African Americans, but they also need real legislation that would improve their lives. Not "no new taxes" bullshit.

Look, he's entirely right that republicans need to reach out to minority communities, but that will never happen with the tea party xenophobes controlling the GOP.

I find it fascinating too that Rand Paul, the man who is against the Civil Right's Act and the ADA is trying to change Republican perception within the black community. Mostly he's just trying to make a pitch that sounds different to confused voters or others that don't focus on politics. Good luck with that.

Eric Frein Caught in Pennsylvania

Death penalty eyed for Eric Frein, suspect in Pa. trooper ambush, after arrest

Eric Frein, the suspect in the deadly ambush of a Pennsylvania state trooper, was taken into custody after a seven-week manhunt, the Pennsylvania State Police announced Thursday night.

Prosecutors will seek the death penalty for Frein, as he is facing multiple capital offenses:  first-degree murder, murder of a law enforcement official and first-degree attempted murder. Frein is also facing various other charges including two counts of possession of weapons of mass destruction after police found pipe bombs during their search.

U.S. Marshals arrested Frein in an airport hangar near Buck Hill, the same general area where they had been searching for him. They called him out and he surrendered without an incident. Frein was taken in good physical condition, officials said in a press conference late Wednesday night.

Police saw an individual they thought was Frein and they ordered him to surrender.

"He did not just give up because he was tired," state police Commissioner Frank Noonan said. "He gave up because he was caught."

Frein was held in the handcuffs of Trooper Bryon Dickson, the officer he allegedly killed
He was on the run for more than two months, eluding police consistently in wooded areas, which he was very familiar with. He also had plenty of places to hide in the wood as well, Noonan said.

Frein, 31, allegedly opened fire outside the Blooming Grove state police barracks on Sept. 12, killing Dickson, 38, and seriously wounding Trooper Alex Douglass, 31.

Frein belonged to a military re-enactor's group, playing the part of a Serbian solder. He had a small role in a 2007 movie about a concentration camp survivor and helped with props and historical references on a documentary about World War I.

The FBI named him to its 10 most wanted list.

Earlier this month, Pennsylvania State Police revealed information from a journal found in the woods in which Frein allegedly described shooting the state troopers. They also detailed campsites where Frein was believed to have hidden, cooking over small fires even as heavily armed police hunted him.

Police found pipe bomb booby traps and a gun resting against a tree, but had only had a handful of unconfirmed sightings of Frein.

"Got a shot around 11 p.m. and took it," Frein wrote on papers found by police. "He [Dickson] dropped. I was surprised at how quick."

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Chris Christie is sitting on $800 million meant for disaster relief

By















James Keady (foreground) confronts New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) at a public appearance on Oct. 29, 2014 [MSNBC]

A New Jersey activist and Hurricane Sandy survivor filmed during a confrontation with Gov. Chris Christie (R) on Wednesday accused his administration of short-changing a $1.1 billion federal relief package meant to help residents.

“Only 20 percent of those dollars have gotten to the people,” James Keady told MSNBC host Chris Hayes. “Of the $1.1 billion, $219 million has gone out. That means that the governor and his staff in Trenton are sitting on $800 million.”

According to Keady’s advocacy group, Finish The Job, Christie’s administration has mismanaged the Rehabilitation, Reconstruction, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) while boasting about its success in the public eye.

“Photo ops, Christie, President Obama, everybody walking on the beach, kumbaya, giving the hugs,” he said.

Keady faced off with Christie as the governor gave a speech in Belmar commemorating two years since the hurricane devastated New Jersey. Video of the encounter shows Keady standing in front of Christie bearing a sign saying, “Get Sandy families back in their homes,” prompting Christie to berate him from the stage.

“I’m glad you had your day to show off, but we’re the ones who are here to actually do the work,” Christie told him. “So turn around and get your 15 minutes of fame and then maybe take your jacket off and roll up your sleeves and do something for the people of this state.”

Christie later added that if he had 1,000 things to do during the day, dinner with Keady “would be 1,001,” and told him to “sit down and shut up.”

But Keady, who grew up in Belmar, rebuked Christie’s accusation that he did not “do the work” in his community.

“When the hurricane happened, I actually took a month off from work, dropped everything and volunteered to help clean out peoples’ homes,” James Keady told MSNBC host Chris Hayes. “It actually reached the point within a day or two [that] the borough gave me a borough dump truck running all the clean-up crews all over town.”

Keady also insisted his information was accurate as of Oct. 24.

“Unless $800 million went out the door in the last four days, it’s still sitting there,” he said of the RREM funds.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Philly Cop Is Caught on Video Threatening Teen for Looking at Him in the Eye

By David Edwards

The Philadelphia Police Department said over the weekend that it would discipline an officer who was caught on video threatening to “beat the shit” out of a teen.

In a video uploaded to Facebook earlier this month by Damaris Abercrombie, an officer is seen walking beside a group of teens.

“Hey, big man, you got a problem?” the officer asks one of the teens. “Because I notice you keep trying to make eye contact.”

“Keep fucking walking, and next time you look at me in my fucking eye, I’m going to beat the shit out of you,” the officer adds.

The video had been viewed over 85,000 times since being shared on Oct. 17.

A law enforcement source confirmed to WCAU that the officer was assigned to the 19th District.

“The video does not reflect well on the officer,” a police official who did not wish do be identified explained. “I have no doubt he had good reason to be exasperated but you have to maintain your professional demeanor.”

It was not immediately clear what disciplinary actions the officer would face.

Watch the video below from WCAU, broadcast Oct. 27, 2014.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Why does Chris Christie have to be such a dick about everything?

By

Daily Show host Jon Stewart wondered on Monday why New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) couldn’t show better bedside manner toward nurse Kaci Hickox after ordering her to be quarantined.

“Why does Christie have to be such a dick about everything?” Stewart asked. “He can’t just quarantine her. He has to be like, ‘Hey, you’re a doctor without a border — not anymore, get in the fucking room, you self-sacrificing angel of mercy piece of shit.’”

Hickox was placed under quarantine over the weekend after she returned from treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone. Despite saying she did not signs of catching the virus, Christie argued that in time she would “appreciate” the measure. But Hickox hired an attorney who revealed that she was put inside a tent without a shower and without a proper toilet. (On Monday, Christie announced that he would allow Hickox to complete her quarantine in Maine.)

“I gotta say, a tent with no heat, no shower, you shit in a box … [I] still think most New Yorkers would be like, ‘What’s the square footage?’” Stewart observed. “‘What’s the rent? Is there a broker’s fee?’”

Stewart also dipped into a Rod Serling-esque monologue to mock U.S. media outlets’ reporting of the concerns over Ebola, showing footage of a report from Ghana, which was just across the Ivory Coast from “Ebolaland.”

“Submitted for your approval: a nation gripped by fear of an outbreak,” Stewart said as the Twilight Zone theme played behind him. “And yet all this time, the real virus outbreak menacing them was fear.”

Watch Stewart’s commentary, as posted online on Monday, below.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Thanks for your Service = Silencing the Vets


[Note for TomDispatch Readers: Today’s piece is out of the ordinary, the sort of thing that’s largely untouchable in the mainstream. A former Army Ranger writes about why the endless “thank you"s for service in America’s wars ring hollow.  And that Ranger-turned-conscientious-objector, Rory Fanning, has quite an all-American odyssey to tell, which is exactly what he’s done in his new book Worth Fighting For: An Army Ranger’s Journey Out of the Military and Across America.  As far as I’m concerned, it’s a must read and, as it happens, for a $100 contribution to this site, you can be the first on your block to get a signed, personalized copy of it.

Just check out the offer at the TomDispatch donation page and while you’re at it, note that signed, personalized copies of my new book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World, are still available.  My thanks again to all of you -- it was a genuine outpouring of support -- who have already contributed! Tom]

More than a few times I’ve found myself in a crowd of Vietnam veterans, and more than a few times at least one of them was wearing a curious blue or yellow t-shirt.  Once that shirt undoubtedly fit a lean physique of the late 1970's or early 1980's, but by the time I saw it modeled, in the 2000's, it was getting mighty snug.  Still, they refused to part with it.  On it was some variation of the outline of a map of Vietnam with bit of grim humor superimposed: “Participant, Southeast Asia War Games, 1961-1975: Second Place.”

I was always struck by it.  These men of the “Me Generation” had come home to the sneers and backhanded comments of the men of the “Greatest Generation,” their fathers’ era.  They had supposedly been the first Americans to lose a war.  However, instead of the defensive apparel donned by some vets (“We were winning when I left”), they wore their loss for all to see, pride mingling with a sardonic sense of humor.

Today’s military is made up of still another generation, the Millennials, representatives of the 80 million Americans born between 1980 and 2000.  In fact, with nearly 43% of the active duty force age 25 or younger and roughly 66% of it 30 or under, it’s one of the most Millennial-centric organizations around.

As a whole, the Millennials have been regularly pilloried in the press for being the “Participation Trophy Generation.”  Coddled, self-centered, with delusions of grandeur, they’re inveterate narcissists with outlandish expectations and a runaway sense of entitlement.  They demand everything, they’re addicted to social media, fast Wi-Fi, and phablets, they cry when criticized, they want praise on tap, and refuse to wear anything but their hoodies and “fuck you flip-flops” like the face of their generation, the Ur-millennial: Mark Zuckerberg!

At least that’s the knock on them. Then again, when didn’t prior generations knock the current one?
The National Institutes of Health did determine people in their 20's have Narcissistic Personality Disorder three times more often than those 65 or older and a recent survey by Reason and pollster Rupe did find that those 18-24 are indeed in favor of participation trophies unlike older Americans who overwhelmingly favor winners-only prizes.  Still, it’s a little early to pass blanket judgment on an entire generation of whom the youngest members are only on the cusp of high school.  The Millennials may yet surprise even the most cantankerous coots. Time will tell.

The Millennial military, however, isn’t doing the generation any favors.  Despite its dismal record when it comes to winning wars and a recent magnification of its repeated failures in Iraq, today’s military seems to crave and demand that its soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen be thanked and lauded at every turn.  As a result, the Pentagon is involved in stage-managing all manner of participation-trophy spectacles to make certain they are -- from the ballpark to the NASCAR track to the Academy of Country Music's “An All-Star Salute to the Troops” concert at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas earlier this year.

And like those great enablers of the Millennial trophy kids, so-called helicopter parents, the American public regularly provides cheap praise and empty valorization for veterans, writes Rory Fanning in TomDispatch debut.  A veteran of the war in Afghanistan -- having served two tours with the 2nd Army Ranger Battalion before becoming a conscientious objector -- Fanning explores America’s thank-you-for-your-service culture, what vets are actually being thanked for, and why Rihanna’s hollow patriotism left him depressed.  His moving new book, Worth Fighting For: An Army Ranger’s Journey Out of the Military and Across America, captures his 3,000-mile trek through and encounter with this country, an unforced march meant to honor Pat Tillman and question the nature of our recent wars.

I don’t get to hang out with Vietnam vets as much as I used to, but late one night a year or two ago I found myself with a few of them in an almost deserted bar.  Having ducked out of the annual meeting of a veterans’ group, we ordered some beers from a Millennial-age waiter.  He asked if my 60-something compatriots were attending the nearby conference and they mumbled that they indeed were.  The waiter seemed to momentarily straighten up.  “Thank you for your service,” he solemnly intoned before bounding off to get the beers.  One of veterans -- a Marine who had seen his fair share of combat -- commented on how much he hated that phrase.  “They do it reflexively.  That’s how they’ve been raised,” I replied.  “I hope they wise up,” said another of the vets.  Time -- as with all things Millennial -- will tell. Nick Turse
Thank You for Your Valor, Thank You for Your Service, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You…
Still on the Thank-You Tour-of-Duty Circuit, 13 Years Later
By Rory Fanning
Last week, in a quiet indie bookstore on the north side of Chicago, I saw the latest issue of Rolling Stone resting on a chrome-colored plastic table a few feet from a barista brewing a vanilla latte.  A cold October rain fell outside. A friend of mine grabbed the issue and began flipping through it. Knowing that I was a veteran, he said, "Hey, did you see this?" pointing to a news story that seemed more like an ad.  It read in part:
"This Veterans Day, Bruce Springsteen, Eminem, Rihanna, Dave Grohl, and Metallica will be among numerous artists who will head to the National Mall in Washington D.C. on November 11th for 'The Concert For Valor,' an all-star event that will pay tribute to armed services."
"Concert For Valor? That sounds like something the North Korean government would organize," I said as I typed Concertforvalor.com into my MacBook Pro looking for more information.
The sucking sound from the espresso maker was drowning out a 10 year old Shins song. As I read, my heart sank, my shoulders slumped.
Special guests at the Concert for Valor were to include: Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, and Steven Spielberg.  The mission of the concert, according to a press release, was to “raise awareness” of veterans issues and “provide a national stage for ensuring that veterans and their families know that their fellow Americans’ gratitude is genuine.”
Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Michael Mullen were to serve in an advisory capacity, and Starbucks, HBO, and JPMorgan Chase were to pay for it all. "We are honored to play a small role to help raise awareness and support for our service men and women,” said HBO chairman Richard Plepler.
Though I couldn’t quite say why, that Concert for Valor ad felt tired and sad, despite the images of Rihanna singing full-throated into a gold microphone and James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett of Metallica wailing away on their guitars. I had gotten my own share of “thanks” from civilians when I was still a U.S. Army Ranger.  Who hadn’t?  It had been the endless theme of the post-9/11 era, how thankful other Americans were that we would do... well, what exactly, for them?  And here it was again.  I couldn’t help wondering: Would veterans somewhere actually feel the gratitude that Starbucks and HBO hoped to convey?
I went home and cooked dinner for my wife and little girl in a semi-depressed state, thinking about that word “valor” which was to be at the heart of the event and wondering about the Hall of Fame line-up of twenty-first century liberalism that was promoting it or planning to turn out to hail it: Rolling Stone, the magazine of Hunter S. Thompson and all things rock and roll; Bruce Springsteen, the billion-dollar working-class hero; Eminem, the white rapper who has sold more records than Elvis; Metallica, the crew who sued Napster and the metal band of choice for so many longhaired, disenfranchised youth of the 1980's and 1990's.  They were all going to say “thank you” - again.
Raising (Whose?) Awareness
Later that night, I sat down and Googled “vets honored.” Dozens and dozens of stories promptly queued up on my screen.  (Try it yourself.)  One of the first items I clicked on was the 50th anniversary celebration in Bangor, Maine, of the Gulf of Tonkin incident, the alleged Pearl Harbor of the Vietnam War.  Governor Paul LePage had spoken ringingly of the veterans of that war: “These men were just asked to go to a foreign land and protect our freedoms. And they weren’t treated with respect when they returned home. Now it’s time to acknowledge it.”
Vietnam, he insisted, was all about protecting freedom - such a simple and innocent explanation for such a long and horrific war. Lest you forget, the governor and those gathered in Bangor that day were celebrating a still-murky “incident” that touched off a massive American escalation of the war.  It was claimed that North Vietnamese patrol boats had twice attacked an American destroyer, though President Lyndon Johnson later suggested that the incident might even have involved shooting at "flying fish" or "whales." As for protecting freedom in Vietnam, tell the dead Vietnamese in America’s “free fire zones” about that.
No one, however, cared about such details.  The point was that eternal “thank you.”  If only, I thought, some inquisitive and valorous local reporter had asked the governor, “Treated with disrespect by whom?” And pointed out the mythology behind the idea that American civilians had mistreated GIs returning from Vietnam.  (Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the Veterans Administration, which denied returning soldiers proper healthcare, or the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion, organizations that weren’t eager to claim the country’s defeated veterans of a disastrous war as their own.)
When it came to thanks and “awareness raising,” no American war with a still living veteran seemed too distant to be ignored. Google told me, for example, that Upper Gwynedd, Pennsylvania, had recently celebrated its 12th annual “Multi-Cultural Day” by thanking its “forgotten Korean War Veterans.” According to a local newspaper report, included in the festivities were martial arts demonstrations and traditional Korean folk dancing.
The Korean War was the precursor to Vietnam, with similar results. As with the Gulf of Tonkin incident, the precipitating event of the war that North Korea ignited on June 25, 1950, remains open to question. Evidence suggests that, with U.S. approval, South Korea initiated a bombardment of North Korean villages in the days leading up to the invasion.
As in Vietnam, there, too, the U.S. supported a corrupt autocrat and used napalm on a mass scale. Millions died, including staggering numbers of civilians, and North Korea was left in rubble by war’s end.  Folk dancing was surely in short supply. As for protecting our freedoms in Korea, enough said.
These two ceremonies seemed to catch a particular mood (reflected in so many similar, if more up-to-date versions of the same). They might have benefited from a little “awareness raising” when it came to what the American military has actually been doing these last years, not to say decades, beyond our borders. They certainly summed up much of the frustration I was feeling with the Concert for Valor. Plenty of thank yous, for sure, but no history when it came to what the thanks were being offered for in, say, Iraq or Afghanistan, no statistics on taxpayer dollars spent or where they went, or on innocent lives lost and why.
Will the “Concert for Valor” mention the trillions of dollars rung up terrorizing Muslim countries for oil, the ratcheting up of the police and surveillance state in this country since 9/11, the hundreds of thousands of lives lost thanks to the wars of George W. Bush and Barack Obama? Is anyone going to dedicate a song to Chelsea Manning, or John Kiriakou, or Edward Snowden - two of them languishing in prison and one in exile - for their service to the American people? Will the Concert for Valor raise anyone’s awareness when it comes to the fact that, to this day, veterans lack proper medical attention, particularly for mental health issues, or that there is a veteran suicide every 80 minutes in this country? Let’s hope they find time in between drum solos, but myself, I’m not counting on it.
Thank Yous 
While Googling around, I noticed an allied story about President Obama christening a poetic sounding “American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial” on October 5th.  There, he wisely noted that “the U.S. should never rush into war.” As he spoke, however, the Air Force, the Navy, and Special Forces personnel (who wear boots that do touch the ground, even in Iraq), as well as the headquarters of “the Big Red One,” the Army’s 1st Infantry Division, were already involved in the latest war he had personally ordered in Iraq and Syria, while, of course, bypassing Congress.
Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you! Damn, I voted for Obama because he said he’d end our overseas wars. At least it’s not Bush sending the planes, drones, missiles, and troops back there, because if it were, I’d be mad.
Then there were the numerous stories about “Honor Flights” sponsored by Southwest Airlines that offered all World War II veterans and the terminally ill veterans of more recent wars a free trip to Washington to “reflect at their memorials” before they died. Honor flights turn out to be a particularly popular way to honor veterans. Local papers in Richfield, Utah, Des Moines, Iowa, Elgin, Illinois, Austin, Texas, Miami, Florida, and so on place by place across significant swaths of the country have run stories about dying hometown “heroes” who have participated in these flights, a kind of nothing-but-the-best-in-corporate-sponsorship for the last of the “Greatest Generation.”
“Welcome home” ceremonies, with flags, marching bands, heartfelt embraces, much weeping, and the usual babies and small children missed during tours of duty in our war zones are also easy to find. In the first couple of screens Google offered in response to the phrase “welcome home ceremony,” I found the usual thank-you celebrations for veterans returning from Afghanistan in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Ft. Sill, Oklahoma, and Saint Albans, Vermont, among other places. "We don't do enough for our veterans, for what they do for us, we hear the news, but to be up there in a field, and be shot at, and sometimes coming home disabled, we don't realize how lucky we are sometimes to have the people who have served their country," one of the Saint Albans attendees was typically quoted as saying.
“Do enough...?” In America, isn’t thank you plenty?
Oddly, it’s harder to find thank-you ceremonies for living vets involved in America’s numerous smaller interventions in places like the Dominican Republic, Lebanon, Grenada, Kosovo, Somalia, Libya, and various CIA-organized coups and proxy wars around the world, but I won’t be surprised if they, too, exist.  I was wondering, though: What about all those foreign soldiers we’ve trained to fight our wars for us in places like South Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan? Shouldn’t they be thanked as well? And how about members of the Afghan Mujahedeen that we armed and funded in the 1980's while they gave the Soviet Union its own “Vietnam” (and who are now fighting for al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or other extreme Islamist outfits)? Or what about the Indonesian troops we armed under the presidency of Gerald Ford, who committed possibly genocidal acts in East Timor in 1975?  Or has our capacity for thanks been used up in the service of American vets?
Since 9/11, those thank yous have been aimed at veterans with the regularity of the machine gun fire that may still haunt their dreams. Veterans have also been offered special consideration when it comes to applications for mostly menial jobs so that they can “utilize the skills” they learned in the military. While they continue to march in those welcome home parades and have concerts organized in their honor, the thank yous are in no short supply. The only question that never seems to come up is: What exactly are they being thanked for?
Heroes Who Afford Us Freedom
Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz has said of the upcoming Concert for Valor:
“The post-9/11 years have brought us the longest period of sustained warfare in our nation’s history. The less than one percent of Americans who volunteered to serve during this time have afforded the rest of us remarkable freedoms - but that freedom comes with a responsibility to understand their sacrifice, to honor them, and to appreciate the skills and experience they offer when they return home.”
It was crafty of Schultz to redirect that famed 1% label from the ultra rich, represented by CEOs like him, onto our “heroes.” At the concert, I hope Schultz has a chance to get more specific about those “remarkable freedoms.” Will he mention that the U.S. has the highest per capita prison population on the planet?  Does he include among those remarkable freedoms the guarantee that dogs, Tasers, tear gas, and riot police will be sent after you if you stay out past dark protesting the killing of an unarmed Black teenager by a representative of this country’s increasingly militarized police? Will the freedom to be too big to fail and so to have the right to melt down the economy and walk away without going to prison -- as Jamie Dimon, the CEO of Chase, did -- be mentioned? Do these remarkable freedoms include having every American phone call and email recorded and stored away by the NSA?
And what about that term “hero”? Many veterans reject it, and not just out of Gary Cooperesque modesty either. Most veterans who have seen combat, watched babies get torn apart, or their comrades die in their arms, or the most powerful army on Earth spend trillions of dollars fighting some of the poorest people in the world for 13 years feel anything but heroic.  But that certainly doesn’t stop the use of the term.  So why do we use it?  As journalist Cara Hoffman points out at Salon:
“‘[H]ero’ refers to a character, a protagonist, something in fiction, not to a person, and using this word can hurt the very people it’s meant to laud. While meant to create a sense of honor, it can also buy silence, prevent discourse, and benefit those in power more than those navigating the new terrain of home after combat. If you are a hero, part of your character is stoic sacrifice, silence. This makes it difficult for others to see you as flawed, human, vulnerable, or exploited.”
We use the term hero in part because it makes us feel good and in part because it shuts soldiers up (which, believe me, makes the rest of us feel better). Labeled as a hero, it’s also hard to think twice about putting your weapons down. Thank yous to heroes discourage dissent, which is one reason military bureaucrats feed off the term.
There are American soldiers stationed around the globe who think about filing conscientious objector status (as I once did), and I sometimes hear from some of them. 
They often grasp the way in which the militarized acts of imperial America are helping to create the very enemies they are then being told to kill. They understand that the trillions of dollars being wasted on war will never be spent on education, health care, or the development of clean energy here at home.  They know that they are fighting for American control over the flow of fossil fuels on this planet, the burning of which is warming our world and threatening human existence.
Then you have Bruce Springsteen and Metallica telling them “thank you” for wearing that uniform, that they are heroes, that whatever it is they’re doing in distant lands while we go about our lives here isn’t an issue.  There is even the possibility that, one day, you, the veteran, might be ushered onto that stage during a concert or onto the field during a ballgame for a very public thank you. The conflicted soldier thinks twice.
Valor
I’m back at that indie bookstore sitting at the same chrome-colored table trying to hash all this out, including my own experiences in the Army Rangers, and end on a positive note. The latest issue of Rolling Stone appears to have sold out. Out the window, the sun is peeking through a thick web of clouds.  They sell wine here, too. The sooner I finish this, the sooner I can start drinking. 
There is no question that we should honor people who fight for justice and liberty. Many veterans enlisted in the military thinking that they were indeed serving a noble cause, and it’s no lie to say that they fought with valor for their brothers and sisters to their left and right. Unfortunately, good intentions at this stage are no substitute for good politics. The war on terror is going into its 14th year.  If you really want to talk about “awareness raising,” it’s years past the time when anyone here should be able to pretend that our 18-year-olds are going off to kill and die for good reason. How about a couple of concerts to make that point?
Until then, I’m going to drink wine and try to enjoy the music over the sound of the espresso machine.
Rory Fanning walked across the United States for the Pat Tillman Foundation in 2008-2009, following two deployments to Afghanistan with the 2nd Army Ranger Battalion. Fanning became a conscientious objector after his second tour. He is the author of the new book Worth Fighting For: An Army Ranger’s Journey Out of the Military and Across America (Haymarket, 2014).
Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Rebecca Solnit's Men Explain Things to Me, and Tom Engelhardt's just published Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.
Copyright 2014 Rory Fanning

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Herman Cain Tells Stuart Varney That Half The Black Voters In Georgia Are 'Clueless'

By Heather

Way to help the GOP with that minority outreach program Herman. 



Former grifter presidential candidate turned right wing radio host Herman Cain did his best to piss off minority voters in his state of Georgia this week during an interview with Fox Business' Stuart Varney.

This isn't the first time Cain has made horribly racist statements about black voters and I'm sure it won't be the last.

Herman Cain Says Half The Black Voters In Georgia ‘Probably Are Clueless’:
On today’s Varney & Co, host Stuart Varney asked Herman Cain whether playing the “Ferguson” card would be “likely to increase the black vote in Georgia.” He was referring to a Georgia Democratic Party flyer invoking Ferguson to encourage voters to turn out. Varney was concerned, of course, that a big turnout of African American voters could be the deciding factor in electing Democrat Michelle Nunn, currently in a very tight Senate race.
Cain replied, “I don’t think so and here’s why. Many of my listeners are from Georgia, and I do have a lot of black listeners to my radio show. The good news is, a lot of black people are not that stupid, or they are not that ignorant to respond to something like that. It’s not 40 or 50% of the black population, because 40 or 50% probably are clueless other than party name and candidate.”
That’s quite an insult to African Americans. But Varney replied, “Herman Cain, always a pleasure, thanks for joining us today sir, appreciate it.”

Costco Will Close On Thanksgiving So Employees Can Be With Their Families

By karoli

See? It really isn't that hard to be decent. Support the companies who support their employees.
Costco Will Close On Thanksgiving So Employees Can Be With Their Families
Geez, Walmart. What's your excuse? If Costco can absorb the hit for letting all its employees have Thanksgiving Day off to be with their families, why can't you?

And why can't the other retailers who feed the insanity we call Black Friday? For many years now I've made a point of avoiding all of those nutty sales and only patronizing stores that are decent to their employees. I won't shop Walmart on general principles anyway, but there are many other retailers whose door will not be darkened by the likes of me on the Friday after Thanksgiving or any time during the holiday season, for that matter.

ThinkProgress:
Costco is among the companies that will choose to remain closed on Thanksgiving Day, a spokesperson confirmed to ThinkProgress. None of the nearly 127,000 people who work for the company will have to come in on the holiday.
In explaining why it decided to stay closed, the spokesperson said, “Our employees work especially hard during the holiday season and we simply believe that they deserve the opportunity to spend Thanksgiving with their families. Nothing more complicated than that.”
That makes at least five chain stores that have decided to resist the new trend of beginning Black Friday sales a day early, thus ensuring that a large number of employees will have to come to work.
Dillard’s, Burlington, REI, and American Girl all told ThinkProgress they will remain closed on the holiday, and Dillard’s explained that its decision was part of its “longstanding tradition of honoring of our customers’ and associates’ time with family.”
Other stores have let the holiday shopping craze creep into workers’ Thanksgiving meal time. Macy’s announced this year that it will open at 6 p.m. on the holiday, while Walmart will be open all day, requiring nearly 1 million people to show up to work. The trend really took off last year, with at least 12 major brands deciding to open on Thanksgiving itself and thus require at least some people to be at work during mealtime.

The Republican Party’s Electoral Philosophy: Cheating Wins

 
The explosion and enforcement of restrictive voter ID laws make this one thing very clear.

Photo Credit: Christopher Halloran / Shutterstock.com
 
Last week, the Supreme Court upheld a law that could disenfranchise 600,000 Texans. But the effects of the law won’t fall equally: African-Americans and Latinos are 305 percent and 195 percent less likely (respectively) to have the necessary forms of identification than whites. The Republican party is increasingly unpopular, and relies almost exclusively on white voters. The charts below show the 2008 if only white men voted and if only people of color voted (source).

Since 2008, people of color become a growing share of the voting population while the GOP has, if anything, moved further to the right. It has further alienated voters of color with racist attacks and laws. But as they say: if you can’t beat ‘em, make sure they don’t vote. Over the last four years the Republicans have gone through elaborate attempts to make sure populations that don’t support them don’t get a chance to vote.
 
Since 2006, Republicans have pushed through voter ID laws in 34 states.  Such laws did not exist before 2006, when Indiana passed the first voter ID law. The laws were ostensibly aimed at preventing voter fraud, but a News21 investigation finds only 2,068 instance of alleged fraud since 2000 (that is out of over 146 million voters). They estimate that there is one accusation of voter fraud for every 15 million voters. As Mother Jones notes, instances of voter fraud are more rare than UFO sightings. There have been only 13 instances of in-person voter fraud (the sorts that a voter ID law would reduce), while 47,000 people claim to have seen a UFO.
On the other hand, research by the Brennan Center for Justice finds that, “as many as 11 percent of eligible voters do not have government-issued photo ID.” Those who do not have ID are most likely to be “ seniors, people of color, people with disabilities, low-income voters, and students” — i.e.. people who vote Democratic (chart source).

There is now a large literature studying the effects of voter ID laws. James Avery and Mark Peffley find, “states with restrictive voter registration laws are much more likely to be biased toward upper-class turnout.” The GAO finds that voter ID laws reduce turnout among those between ages 18-23 and African-Americans (two key Democratic constituencies). A 2013 study finds that the proposal and passage of voter ID laws are “highly partisan, strategic, and racialized affairs.”

They write, “Our findings confirm that Democrats are justified in their concern that restrictive voter legislation takes aim along racial lines with strategic partisan intent.” [Italics in original] The authors also find that increases in low-income voter turnout triggered voter ID laws. A more recent study finds, “where elections are competitive, the furtherance of restrictive voter ID laws is a means of maintaining Republican support while curtailing Democratic electoral gains.”

That is, not all Republican legislatures propose voter ID laws — only those that face strong competition from Democrats. If Republicans are concerned about election integrity, why do they only pass voter ID laws when they’re about to lose an election?

 Because they’re cheaters.

Voter ID laws are also racially motivated. A recent study finds that voters are significantly more likely to support a voter ID law when they are shown pictures of black people voting than when shown white people voting. One voter ID group had a picture on their website showing a black inmate voting and a man wearing a mariachi outfit — clearly playing off racial stereotypes.

But this isn’t the only time Republicans have tried to leverage state-level advantages into federal gains. After the 2010 walloping, Republicans decided they would need to tilt the odds in their favor.

Using their control of state legislatures, they gerrymandered districts to ensure their victory. In 2012, Democrats actually had a larger share of the popular vote for the House of Representatives, while Republicans gained their largest House majority in 60 years. Cook Political Report noted, “House GOP Won 49 Percent of Votes, 54 Percent of Seats.”

How? They cheated.

Karl Rove came out and said it in an Op-Ed,writing, “He who controls redistricting can control Congress.” They won in districts that were drawn specifically to allow them to win. There were certainly other factors at play, but it’s hard to image Republicans winning as many seats without their nifty swindle.

As Tim Dickinson points out, this isn’t the end:
In a project with the explicit blessing of Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, a half-dozen Republican-dominated legislatures in states that swing blue in presidential elections have advanced proposals to abandon the winner-take-all standard in the Electoral College…Thanks to the GOP’s gerrymandering, such a change would all but guarantee that a Democratic presidential candidate in a big, diverse state like Michigan would lose the split of electoral votes even if he or she won in a popular landslide.
If Republicans have their way, we’ll eventually be back to the days of the poll tax and the literacy test, where the votes of blacks, youth and the poor simply don’t count. We’re already halfway there.

The Senate, with its antiquated system of two senators per state means that the largely rural, old, white and conservative Midwest and South have far more sway than liberal metropolitan areas. This gives Republicans a strong advantage in the Senate, something to remember if they win it this election.

Republicans have also made use of felony disenfranchisement to boost their electoral success. Some 5.85 million Americans are denied the vote due to felony disenfranchisement. Because of the racial bias in our criminal justice system and the war on drugs, a disproportionate share of these voters are black. One study finds that because felons are more likely to be poor and people of color, disenfranchisement benefits Republicans. The authors estimate that, “at least one Republican presidential victory would have been reversed if former felons had been allowed to vote.”

Further, they find that such laws may have impacted control of the Senate, and even more state and local elections. It’s no surprise that in Florida, a state where 10 percent of voters can’t vote because of a felony conviction, one of Rick Scott’s first moves as governor was to tighten rules for felons trying to gain voting rights.

To a large extent, the radicalism of the Tea Party and the Republican Party at-large is due to the fact that they don’t represent the population at large; they represent a primarily white and middle- to high-income voting bloc. And that’s how Republicans want to keep it; they know they can’t win in a fair race, so like Dick Dasterdly and Muttley, they set all sorts of obstacles in their opponents’ way.

Hopefully, much like Dick Dasterdly and Muttley, their plan will blow up in their faces: Voters will be so angry about Republican attempts to suppress the vote that they’ll turn out in even higher numbers. Sadly, convicted felons, undocumented immigrants and many citizens without ID will still be denied the vote.

In the movies, cheaters never win, for Republicans it’s been a successful electoral strategy for three decades running.

Sean McElwee is a writer and researcher of public policy. He blogs at seanamcelwee.com. Follow him on Twitter @seanmcelwee

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Looking into Rick Scott’s ‘unsavory’ past

Ghosts of Rick Scott’s past returns to haunt him, after Charlie Crist reminds the public of his shady financial past. Ed Schultz, Joy Reid, and Mike Papantonio discuss.


Christie takes a hard line on minimum wage

Hardball Roundtable—Jay Newton Small, David Corn and John Stanton—join Chris Matthews to discuss Chris Christie’s latest comments on not raising the minimum wage.