Monday, April 27, 2015

Why Blacks Running From Cops Is Entirely Logical -- and So Common

An excerpt from the book "On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City" and an interview with author Alice Goffmann.

By Neeraja Viswanathan

Michael Brown. Walter Scott. Eric Harris. Freddie Gray.

As the list of victims of police violence grows longer, the public outcry is getting louder. Not because this is a new phenomenon, but because so many communities have seen the police act as an occupying force for so long.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City, by Alice Goffmann, chronicling the six years she spent immersed in the Philadelphia neighborhood of “6th Street.” 

Documenting interactions between the police and her roommates, friends and neighbors, Goffmann shows us a community living under the shadow of mass incarcerations and police violence, trapped by the vagaries and technicalities of the criminal justice system, where minor infractions can result in a lifetime on the run. In the “fugitive world,” running not only becomes a way of life; it’s the science and art of survival.

I had a conversation with Goffmann, speaking from her office at the sociology department at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, earlier this week. The following is edited for clarity.

6th Street isn’t poorest, or most crime-ridden neighborhood in Philadelphia—it’s a mixed income neighborhood, with some middle class families. Yet, according to your book, you saw the police detaining or arresting someone within that four block radius, with a few exceptions, every single day.

It’s a fact in America that in these poorer communities—and in largely African-American neighborhoods like the one I was in—you’re much more likely encounter a police officer. The level of police presence is  just off the charts compared to similar white neighborhoods. So you have the increased likelihood of interaction, and the high probability that that interaction will not be good. 

Even if there’s no arrest, there can still be a detention, a search, whatever, and who knows how long that’s going to last? It means you won’t be home to dinner tonight. Maybe not even tomorrow. It makes you not only fearful of police contact, but also of the places where the police might go to find you—your girlfriend’s house, your kid’s school, your place of employment.

You noted that your assumptions behind the project changed very quickly, from the idea that only felony offenders were marginalized, to the idea of a “fugitive” subclass that’s far more complex.

Definitely. When we began, we were focusing on the impact of mass incarceration on a community. It was based on a lot of quantitative research, and the image that we had from this research was that: first you were free, then you were charged with a felony and hauled off to jail, and after you got out came all the financial, emotional, political pressures of being a felon. That was the model: free, prison, felon. But that just wasn’t what I was seeing. I was seeing a lot of non-felons—people with low-level warrants, on probation or parole, with traffic fines or custody support issues, in halfway houses or rehab—living like fugitives, under the radar.

These low-level warrants in particular are a huge issue with police interactions.

When I was writing this book, we didn’t know was how many people had low level warrants; we just weren’t collecting that data nationally. We now know that there’s about 2 million warrants that have been reported voluntarily to the database, and leaving a huge number that haven’t been reported. 

About 60% of these warrants are not for new crimes, but for technical violations of parole, unpaid court fees, unpaid child support, traffic fines, curfew violations, court fees. And it’s this group of people that are terrified. If they’re stopped by the cops, any of these reasons is enough to bring them in, to get them trapped into the system again.

It goes well beyond being guilty, or even just running from the cops. There’s this story in your book where this young man wants to get a state I.D. during the time he’s clean (i.e. free of warrants). But he just sits there—this big tough guy—and he can’t bring himself to go in.

If you’re part of this class, it means you don’t go to the hospital when you’re sick. You’re wary of visiting friends in the hospital, or attending their funerals. Driving your kid to school can be daunting. You don’t have a driver’s license or I.D. Most of the time, you can’t seek legal employment. You can’t get help from the government. It comes from, partly, growing up in a neighborhood where you’ve watched your uncles and brothers go to jail, and your aunts and mom entangled in the court system without ever getting free.

You note that women in particular face a great deal of police pressure to inform or cooperate in some fashion.

In a poll I did of the women [living in the four block radius of 6th Street], 67% said that they’d been pressured by the police to provide information on a male family member or partner in the last 3 years. If you’ve got a low-level warrant or some probation issue, you can be violated by authorities if you don’t inform when asked. So you’re really talking about a policing system that hinges on turning families against each other and sowing a lot of suspicion and distrust. It’s very ironic that people blame the breakdown of black family life on the number of black men behind bars when the policing strategies that put them there are exactly about breaking those family bonds.

It seems like once you have a family member in trouble, you could be in trouble by association.

In terms of public policy, we’re having the opposite effect that we want to see. We should be encouraging people to go work, to go to the hospital when they’re sick, to get a proper I.D. We should be making those paths stronger and easier to follow. Now we have a system where, to avoid staying out of jail, you have to avoid your friends, your family, your job. All of those are pressure points that can be used by the police to get to you.

And as long as we have a policing model that’s based on arrest counts and convictions, as long as there’s a legal right to bring in people for things like court fees or traffic fines or technical violations of parole, your ‘re creating a class of people who are arrestable on sight—a fugitive class. And then the people who don’t have these legal entanglements but are still worried that something might come up, are this secondary “maybe” fugitive class.

What’s amazing is how this subculture is almost completely based around the criminal justice system. Almost all social interactions have adapted to it.

Once you have so many young men in a neighborhood coming of age not at school or work, but in court, in probation hearings, in jail, then the whole round of social life—dating, friendship, family—it actually all gets moved into those institutions. So your first time visiting your boyfriend in jail is a big day. Supporting your husband on his court date is how you show your devotion to him. Standing in front of your house while it’s being raided by police looking for your son is what a good mother does. It’s not about checking tests, going to soccer practice or parent-teacher conferences. It’s going to fight for the freedom of your children.

And running--from the police, from the legal system-- is central to all this, from a very early age.

I know this guy driving his 11 year old brother to school in his girlfriend’s car when he got stopped. Turns out that the car was stolen, so the cops charged the guy with receiving stolen property. And then they charged the 11 year old with accessory to receiving stolen property, and gave him 3 years of probation. So from now on this 11 year old is in legal jeopardy. Any less-than-positive encounter with the police could mean a violation of his probation, and send him straight to juvenile hall for the entire three years. He could be out past curfew, or sitting on the stoop with his brother’s friends, or asked to inform—anything could lead to a violation.

So now his older brother sits him down and teaches him the basics of running. How to spot undercover officers and cars. How to negotiate a stop without escalating it. How to find a hiding place. Teaching his little brother to do this becomes what being a big brother is all about.

There’s a lot of violence in your book, but what’s surprising is how much forgiveness and reconciliation there is. You would think that some of the transgressions, like informing on someone and sending them to jail, would damage a relationship beyond repair but your book had numerous examples of rebuilding and re-bonding.

There’s clearly a lot of love for family. But it’s also about resistance—against a system that is incredibly destructive. It’s amazing how people fight to preserve family or forgive friends who have informed or testified against them. In this neighborhood, it’s understood that you can be placed in a position where you’ll have to choose your freedom over someone else’s. Any one of us likes to think that in that position we’d be honorable or selfless, but we don’t know. For most of us that’s a hypothetical. But there are families making this choice over and over and then trying to come back together.

It sounds like it becomes a survival instinct to run from the police, even after seeing something like the Walter Scott shooting in South Carolina.

It’s going to continue so long as the police act like an occupying force in some of these neighborhoods. When the police see and treat young black men with low-levels of schooling as the enemy, and when being a good police officer means putting as many of these men behind bars as possible, it becomes possible to justify any amount of violence and psychological pressure.

Now, this was definitely not my experience growing up in a largely white, middle-class neighborhood. And in college—we had campus police whose sole role was to prevent us from being arrested by the city police. They’d break up fights, help people home when they’re drunk, or to the hospital when they’re too drunk. But they’re not raiding parties or doing stop and frisks or looking to make as many busts as possible. If they were, a good percentage of the kids I went to school with would have records. And almost no one does.

But the level of scrutiny on the police has increased dramatically since your book came out last year.

What’s been great about that is that we are now, finally, getting the data about what’s happening—not just the Justice Reports, but first-hand observations and journalists actively investigating these incidents. We’re finally getting the numbers on the unauthorized use of force by the police in Philadelphia and other cities, which we never tracked before. It’s really important.

It makes a huge difference when you’re watching a video of the interaction.

Well, now people are actively recording their lives, and this is what it’s showing. But it’s been a change that’s a long time in coming. The public debate had been about federal sentencing reform, marijuana law reform, curtailing stop-and-frisks—really trying to reform sentencing and end the drug war. But policing wasn’t really part of the conversation until Ferguson happened. Now there’s this incredible, African American led protest movement, mostly working class people, that’s telling the public—showing the public—what’s been happening. It’s an amazing moment to be involved.

Do you think the protests around police violence will lead to real change?

The question is: how much are we going to make of this moment? You see the right and left coming together on these issues and asking for bipartisan reform. But are we really going to see an overhaul of the criminal justice system? Or will we see moderate reforms that still leave a lot of racial disparity, police violence and the highest per capita incarcerated population in the world?

After my time on 6th street, seeing how hard people tried to find and keep jobs, seeing how many kids have records for the same things that go unchecked on college campuses, it makes it harder to believe in the U.S. as a place of opportunity that doesn’t discriminate, no matter what color you are. 

So this reform and protest movement is really trying to hold us accountable to these ideals and meet them better than we have been. And that’s pretty exciting.

Read “The Art of Running,” excerpted from On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City, below:

Learning the Art of Running in “On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City”
by Alice Goffmann

A young man concerned that the police will take him into custody comes to see danger and risk in the mundane doings of everyday life. To survive outside prison, he learns to hesitate when others walk casually forward, to see what others fail to notice, to fear what others trust or take for granted.

One of the first things that such a man develops is a heightened awareness of police officers—what they look like, how they move, where and when they are likely to appear. He learns the models of their undercover cars, the ways they hold their bodies and the cut of their hair, the timing and location of their typical routes. His awareness of the police never seems to leave him; he sees them sitting in plain clothes at the mall food court with their children; he spots them in his rear view mirror coming up behind him on the highway, from ten cars and three lanes away. Sometimes he finds that his body anticipates their arrival with sweat and a quickened heartbeat before his mind consciously registers any sign of their appearance.

When I first met Mike, I thought his awareness of the police was a special gift, unique to him. Then I realized Chuck also seemed to know when the police were coming. So did Alex. When they sensed the police were near, they did what other young men in the neighborhood did: they ran and hid.

Chuck put the strategy concisely to his twelve-year-old brother, Tim:

If you hear the law coming, you merk on [run away from] them niggas. You don’t be having time to think okay, what do I got on me, what they going to want from me. No, you hear them coming, that’s it, you gone. Period. ’Cause whoever they looking for, even if it’s not you, nine times out of ten they’ll probably book you.

Tim was still learning how to run from the police, and his beginner missteps furnished a good deal of amusement for his older brothers and their friends.

Late one night, a white friend of mine from school dropped off Reggie and a friend of his at my apartment. Chuck and Mike phoned me to announce that Tim, who was eleven at the time, had spotted my friend’s car and taken off down the street, yelling, “It’s a undercover! It’s a undercover!”

“Nigga, that’s Alice’s girlfriend.” Mike laughed. “She was drinking with us last night.”

If a successful escape means learning how to identify the police, it also requires learning how to run. 

Chuck, Mike, and their friends spent many evenings honing this skill by running after each other and chasing each other in cars. The stated reason would be that one had taken something from the other: a CD, a five-dollar bill from a pocket, a small bag of weed. Reggie and his friends also ran away from their girlfriends on foot or by car.

One night, I was standing outside Ronny’s house with Reggie and Reggie’s friend, an eighteen-year-old young man who lived across the street. In the middle of the conversation, Reggie’s friend jumped in his car and took off. Reggie explained that he was on the run from his girlfriend, who we then saw getting into another car after him. Reggie explained that she wanted him to be in the house with her, but that he was refusing, wanting instead to go out to the bar. This pursuit lasted the entire evening, with the man’s girlfriend enlisting her friends and relatives to provide information about his whereabouts, and the man doing the same. Around one in the  morning, I heard that she’d caught him going into the beer store and dragged him back home.

It wasn’t always clear to me whether these chases were games or more serious pursuits, and some appeared more serious than others. Regardless of the meaning that people ascribed to them at the time or afterward, these chases improved young men’s skill and speed at getting  away. In running from each other, from their girlfriends, and in a few cases their mothers, Reggie and his friends learned how to navigate the alleyways, weave through traffic, and identify local residents willing to hide them for a little while.

During the first year and a half I spent on 6th Street, I watched young men running and hiding from the police on 111 occasions, an average of more than once every five days.

Those who interact rarely with the police may assume that running away after a police stop is futile. Worse, it could lead to increased charges or to violence. While the second part is true, the first is not. In my first eighteen months on 6th Street, I observed a young man running after he had been stopped on 41 different occasions. Of these, 8 involved men fleeing their houses during raids; 23 involved men running after being stopped while on foot (including running after the police had approached a group of people of whom the man was a part); 6 involved car chases; and 2 involved a combination of car and foot chases, where the chase began by car and continued with the man getting out and running.

In 24 of these cases, the man got away. In 17 of the 24, the police didn’t appear to know who the man was and couldn’t bring any charges against him after he had fled. Even in cases where the police subsequently charged him with fleeing or other crimes, the successful getaway allowed the man to stay out of jail longer than he might have if he’d simply permitted the police to cuff him and take him in.

A successful escape can be a solitary act, but oftentimes it is a collective accomplishment. A young man relies on his friends, relatives, and neighbors to alert him when they see the police coming, and to pass along information about where the police have been or where and when they might appear next. When the police make inquiries, these friends and neighbors feign ignorance or feed the police misinformation. They may also help to conceal incriminating objects and provide safe houses where a young man can hide.
Running wasn’t always the smartest thing to do when the cops came, but the urge to run was so ingrained that sometimes it was hard to stand still.

When the police came for Reggie, they blocked off the alleyway on both ends simultaneously, using at least five cars that I could count from where I was standing, and then ran into Reggie’s mother’s house. Chuck, Anthony, and two other guys were outside, trapped. Chuck and these two young men were clean, but Anthony had the warrant for failure to appear. As the police dragged Reggie out of his house, laid him on the ground, and searched him, one guy whispered to Anthony to be calm and stay still. Anthony kept quiet as Reggie was cuffed and placed in the squad car, but then he started whispering that he thought Reggie was looking at him funny, and might say something to the police. Anthony started sweating and twitching his hands; the two young men and I whispered again to him to chill. One said, “Be easy. He’s not looking at you.”

We stood there, and time dragged on. When the police started searching the ground for whatever Reggie may have tossed before getting into the squad car, Anthony couldn’t seem to take it anymore. 

He started mumbling his concerns, and then he took off up the alley. One of the officers went after him, causing the other young man standing next to him to shake his head in frustrated disappointment.

Anthony’s running caused the other officer to put the two young men still standing there up against the car, search them, and run their names; luckily, they came back clean. Then two more cop cars came up the alley, sirens on. About five minutes after they finished searching the young men, one of the guys got a text from a friend up the street. He silently handed me the phone so I could read it:

Anthony just got booked. They beat the shit out of him.

At the time of this incident, Chuck had recently begun allowing Anthony to sleep in the basement of his mother’s house, on the floor next to his bed. So it was Chuck’s house that Anthony phoned first from the police station. Miss Linda picked up and began yelling at him immediately.

“You fucking stupid, Anthony! Nobody bothering you, nobody looking at you. What the fuck did you run for? You a nut. You a fucking nut. You deserve to get locked up. Dumb-ass nigga. Call your sister, don’t call my phone. And when you come home, you can find somewhere else to stay.”

Excerpt from On the Run by Alice Goffmann. On the Run copyright © 2014 by The University of Chicago. Originally published in hardcover by The University of Chicago Press. First trade paperback edition published April 7, 2014, by Picador/Farrar, Straus and Giroux. All rights reserved.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

What's Behind Michael Dyson's Over The Top Takedown Of Cornel West?

Hoping to salvage Obama’s legacy and his own reputation, Michael Eric Dyson is lashing out at their most relentless African-American critic.

By Max Blumenthal

As the Obama era sputters to an end, new social movements are erupting in rebellion against a bankrupted bipartisan order that has doomed Americans to record levels of economic inequality, warehoused black bodies in a rapidly privatizing prison system, torn thousands of migrant families apart, outsourced unionized jobs to China and spread a dystopian assassination program across the far reaches of the globe. 

Activists confronting militarization on the US-Mexico border and organizers protesting lethal police violence under the banner of Black Lives Matter are sharing tactics with their counterparts from the Palestinian-led BDS (boycott, divest, sanctions) movement challenging Israeli apartheid on university campuses. 

The personal and intellectual cross-pollination between these variegated struggles is producing the most exciting surge of grassroots mobilization I have witnessed in my adult life. Not everyone is happy about it, however, and it’s not hard to understand why.

The structure under-girding movements like Black Lives Matter is intentionally non-hierarchical, making them difficult for institutional liberal political entities to co-opt or control. Organizers eschew a programmatic agenda that demands alliances of convenience with entrenched power, resorting instead to divestment drives, civil disobedience and Situationist-style urban disruptions. With their populist sensibility, they are capturing the sense of betrayal that is mounting among millenials, and they show little appetite for electoral contests that fail to answer the crisis. “I decided it is possible I’ll never vote for another American president for as long as I live,” the Ferguson-based rapper and activist Tef Poe has said about his past support for Obama.

Organized with little regard for the imperatives of the Democratic Party, and often aligned against them, the wave of grassroots mobilization is increasingly viewed as a wild beast that must be tamed. The condescending rants delivered against Black Lives Matter activists by Oprah Winfrey and Al Sharpton are salutary examples of the irritation spreading within established Democratic circles.

Few public intellectuals have positioned themselves at the nexus of these emerging movements as firmly as Cornel West has. Earlier this month, I joined him on a panel at Princeton University to support a group of students and faculty seeking to pressure the school into divesting from companies involved in human rights abuses in occupied Palestinian territory. His presence boosted the morale of the young student activists who had suddenly fallen under attack by powerful pro-Israel forces. 

Days later, West joined veteran human rights activist Larry Hamm at Bethany Baptist Church in Newark for a discussion on local efforts against police brutality. It was in places like this, away from the national limelight, where West gathered his vital energy and his righteous anger.

West’s investment in grassroots struggles ignored and even undermined by the Democratic Party has thrown him in direct conflict with the president and his supporters. He has been particularly withering in his criticisms of high profile African-American intellectuals and activists who have served as Obama’s loyal defenders. 

In an August 2013 episode of the radio show he hosted at the time with Tavis Smiley, West mocked Sharpton as “the bonafide house negro of the Obama plantation.” He then let loose on his former friend and understudy, Michael Eric Dyson, describing him and Sharpton as White House tools “who’ve really prostituted themselves intellectually in a very ugly and vicious way.”

The stage was set for an epic response from Dyson, the Georgetown University professor of sociology, frequent MSNBC contributor, and committed Obama ally. Dyson’s counter-attack arrived on April 19 in The New Republic with an essay that read more like a diatribe, and which seemed unusually disproportionate, not only because it clocked in at 9309 words. 

Re-purposing attacks on West by Leon Wieseltier and by Larry Summers, Dyson excoriated his one-time mentor as “a scold, a curmudgeonly and bitter critic who has grown long in the tooth but sharp in the tongue when lashing one-time colleagues and allies.” (He would later accuse West of "assaulting Black people.") The malevolent thrust of the piece was encapsulated in its title: “The Ghost of Cornel West.” Dyson had condemned West as politically irrelevant and intellectually exhausted — a dead man walking. Back in the early 1990's, West served on Dyson’s dissertation committee, helping earn him admission to Princeton’s school of religion. Two decades later, Dyson authored West's obituary.

Much of Dyson’s harangue was comprised of complaints about West’s unnecessarily ornery tone. Dyson went to great lengths to demonstrate that West’s experiments in spoken word poetry and acting were cringe-worthy, and he wrote miles to prove that West was not, in fact, a Biblical prophet. But these details of what Dyson described as West’s “rise and fall” were at best peripheral to his real grievances. The fact is, if West had not taken on Obama so forcefully, Dyson would not have tried so hard to take him out.

Having spent much of the past seven years slathering praise on Obama to an almost embarrassing degree, Dyson was unable to find any space in TNR to acknowledge the president’s shortcomings. Refusing to concede the sincerity of West’s criticisms, he dismissed them instead as the product of personal pathology, casting West as a jilted lover who “felt spurned and was embittered” by Obama. 

Dyson went on to belittle West’s arrest in Ferguson alongside 49 others at a Moral Monday protest as a “highly staged and camera-ready gesture of civil disobedience.” At no point did Dyson recognize West’s outspoken opposition to the Obama-backed decimation of the Gaza Strip, his rejection of Obama’s drive to pass the secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade deal, or his condemnation of the administration’s embrace of drone warfare. According to Dyson, West’s opposition to the president’s agenda could only be guided by an irrational madness.

While West engages with a panoply of urgent, interconnected human rights issues driving activism around the country, from mass incarceration (he authored the foreword to Michelle Alexander's groundbreaking "The New Jim Crow") to Palestine, Dyson has kept at a convenient arm's length from any cause that might conflict with White House imperatives. BDS might be sweeping American campuses, but Dyson has been largely silent on Israel's endless occupation. Dyson carps about character assassination, but he is reticent on drone assassinations. Since Obama entered the Oval Office, Dyson has had much more to say about Nas than the NSA.

There was a fleeting moment when Dyson’s language on Obama tracked closely with West’s. It was back in March 2010, at Tavis Smiley’s “We Count!”  convention, an experience he briefly alluded to in TNR, but which he failed to convey in detail. Before an audience of thousands, at a roundtable filled with civil rights icons from Jesse Jackson to Louis Farrakhan to West, Dyson launched into an impassioned sermon accusing Obama of abandoning black America. “Why is it that to deal with black folk, we are persona non grata?..” Dyson boomed. “You bailed out the notorious AIG, you bailed them out. You bailed out General Motors but you can’t bail out African American people who put together dimes and nickels…to make sure that you could get up in the White House?” 

As West gestured his enthusiastic approval and the crowd roared, Dyson ratcheted up his rhetoric: “You think Obama is Moses. He is not Moses, he is Pharaoh!” All of a sudden, Dyson’s audience turned against him, groaning its disapproval. With his confidence visibly shaken, he quickly qualified his comments: “I’m not doggin’ [Obama], I’m talking about his office!”

In the months and years that followed his dramatic We Count! appearance, Dyson registered at least 19 visits to the White House. He became a fixture on MSNBC, delivering regular punditry on the Comcast-owned network that was functioning as the outsourced public relations arm of the Obama administration. By Obama’s second term, Dyson was filling in for MSNBC host Ed Schultz, rattling off teleprompted scripts about Republican wingnuttery while hailing Obama’s National Security Advisor Susan Rice as “one of the most brilliant minds alive.” Following the publication of his TNR essay on West, he has begun trumpeting the book he is writing on Obama.

"You know, I got like 17 books in," Dyson boasted to Ebony. "I gotta make my first like my last and my last like my first."

In the twilight of the Obama era, Dyson has become a political prisoner trapped within the stultifying confines set by the president, his party, and network executives with little patience for dissent. He has linked his reputation to Obama’s legacy to an inextricable degree, prompting him to defend them both against their most relentless critic. Dressed up as a high-minded scholarly critique, his attack on West was ultimately an exercise in self-justification.

Max Blumenthal is a senior writer for AlterNet, and the award-winning author of Goliath and Republican Gomorrah. Find him on Twitter at @MaxBlumenthal

Friday, April 24, 2015

President Obama dings MSNBC's TPP coverage

Ed Schultz delivers a passionate commentary on the dangers the TPP poses to American workers, a reaction to President Obama’s most recent comments on the trade deal. Sen. Bernie Sanders joins the conversation.


Thursday, April 23, 2015

Why Is MSNBC Stonewalling On Hosts Tax Issues?

It’s been a while now since reports about the millions MSNBC host Al Sharpton owes in taxes, and just a few days ago, reports revealed that another MSNBC host, Melissa Harris-Perry, also owes a lot of money to the IRS.

But that’s not all, according to a new report from National Review. TourĂ©, one of the hosts of The Cycle, reportedly owes over $59,000 in taxes, while Mgr. Editor and former host Joy Reid reportedly owes roughly $5,000.

MSNBC did not respond to National Review (though they note reps for the above two hosts said they’re currently resolving their tax issues), but Washington Post media reporter Erik Wemple tried to get comment from the cable network too. He didn’t receive one and wasn’t happy about it:
In the collective ethic of MSNBC, there can be no excuse for tax delinquency.
And there’s even less of an excuse for MSNBC’s non-response to all this news. National Review fetched no response from the network. When the Erik Wemple Blog knocked today, the network again clammed up. A spokeswoman offered to go off-record with an explanation of things. We responded that we weren’t interested in spin that we couldn’t publish. Is it that hard for MSNBC to take a simple stand in favor of our common civic obligations?
For the record, Mediaite also reached out to MSNBC and similarly received no comment.
You can read Wemple’s full post here.
[image via screengrab]

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Jimmy Kimmel Makes Stoners Look Like Idiots on 4/20

To celebrate 4/20 yesterday, Jimmy Kimmel sent his Pop Pot Quiz correspondent out onto Venice Beach to ask some stoners questions about both the U.S. government and marijuana.

You will just have to watch the video to see how they did…

Watch video below, via ABC:

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Hillary is playing progressives for fools: Why you shouldn’t believe her populist talk on trade

Hillary Clinton is allegedly still making up her mind about TPP. Does anyone really believe this?

Last week, congressional Democrats and Republicans reached a deal to give the Obama administration Trade Promotion Authority, which would give the administration more leeway to negotiate trade treaties, like the 12 country Trans Pacific Partnership, with less congressional interference. It’s being billed as the first big fight within the Democratic presidential primary, pitting labor groups, environmentalists and other progressive activists against the more New Democrat, “corporate-friendly” wing of the party.

Since the great battles within the Democratic presidential primary will most likely be played out within the Hillary Clinton campaign, not among various competitive candidates, all eyes turned to the former secretary of state for her position on TPP. Her campaign’s spokesperson, Nick Merrill, issued a statement last Friday saying Clinton had not made up her mind yet:
A statement from her spokesperson, Nick Merrill, Friday afternoon struck a delicate balance. “Hillary Clinton believes that any new trade measure has to pass two tests: First, it should put us in a position to protect American workers, raise wages and create more good jobs at home. Second, it must also strengthen our national security. We should be willing to walk away from any outcome that falls short of these tests,” Merrill said.
“The goal is greater prosperity and security for American families, not trade for trade’s sake. She will be watching closely to see what is being done to crack down on currency manipulation, improve labor rights, protect the environment and health, promote transparency, and open new opportunities for our small businesses to export overseas. As she warned in her book, “Hard Choices,” we shouldn’t be giving special rights to corporations at the expense of workers and consumers,” Clinton’s spokesperson continued.
Uh-huh. So, here’s a question: If Clinton does eventually come out against TPP, why would anyone in their right mind believe that? If candidate Clinton says that as president, she would either withdraw from or renegotiate TPP, how naive would you possibly have to be to believe that she would follow through with that?

Within hours of Merrill’s statement, IBT reporter David Sirota dug up a Clinton statement from 2012 swooning over TPP. You know all that stuff about labor and environmental protections that Clinton says she’s going to keep a close eye on? In 2012, she referred to TPP as the “gold standard” there.
In November 2012, the then-secretary of state declared that “we need to keep upping our game both bilaterally and with partners across the region through agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership or TPP. … This TPP sets the gold standard in trade agreements to open free, transparent, fair trade, the kind of environment that has the rule of law and a level playing field. And when negotiated, this agreement will cover 40 percent of the world’s total trade and build in strong protections for workers and the environment.”
You could argue that Clinton was only saying that in her official capacity as secretary of state, serving at the pleasure of the Obama administration. That in her heart of hearts, she was always mighty suspicious of this gargantuan trade deal. Perhaps her campaign will try to run with that excuse.

So what does Clinton believe deep down? The best way to decide how Hillary Clinton really feels about trade deals is to delve into her history. Hillary was a consistent supporter of the North American Free Trade Agreement from the time her husband pushed it through upon entering office through the early 2000s. Only when she launched her first presidential bid, in 2007, did she begin to argue that NAFTA “has not lived up to its promises.”

Both Clinton and then-Sen. Barack Obama made suckers out of progressive primary voters when it came to trade issues in the 2008 election. Each promised to renegotiate NAFTA if they became president. This was a big deal ahead of the Ohio primary, where trade agreements have served the working-class economy poorly.

Clinton won the primary safely thanks in part to “NAFTAgate.” In the days ahead of the vote, you see, a Canadian government memo leaked, revealing a meeting Obama campaign economist Austan Goolsbee conducted with a Canadian government official. Goolsbee reassured the Canadians that Obama’s anti-NAFTA rhetoric was just for the sake of “political positioning,” and that they had no reason to worry otherwise. The Obama campaign tried to deny the story, but that didn’t work so well.

The kicker here is that a couple days after Clinton won the primary, a report came out that Clinton’s team had told the Canadians more or less the same thing: that Clinton’s rhetoric about wanting to renegotiate NAFTA should be taken “with a grain of salt.”

As we know, Obama became president of the United States and appointed Clinton his secretary of state. The two of them combined spent approximately zero seconds working to renegotiate NAFTA, but they did push forward on new, bigger, more opaque trade agreements.

If Hillary Clinton comes out against TPP, or promises to renegotiate TPP to make it perfect and great for workers (should it reach the finish line), there’s little reason to digest it as anything other than pandering. The only interesting aspect of her public statements on TPP — and trade deals in general — is political: what hedged language she’ll settle on to secure access to labor unions’ campaign cash ATM's, and how low labor sets its bar because it’s a captive interest of the Democratic Party and has nowhere else to go.

Jim Newell covers politics and media for Salon.

Monday, April 20, 2015

It ate our brains

Police Cadet Quits Academy, Reports Cops After Witnessing Homeless Man Being Beaten By Officers

Notorious Albuquerque, NM police department reaches an all new low