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Another black life lost to police bullets, unarmed, ignored, and forgotten

Sun, 07/26/2015 - 16:00
Charly There is a lot of press and attention right now over the death of 28-year-old Sandra Bland.  She was young, she was pretty, it's easy to splash her photo onto a story or a Facebook post, pleasant and inviting before the violent arrest that led to her incarceration and death, dark and seemingly dead-eyed in her mugshot.

We can watch the footage of her arrest for a lane change, a change that was instigated by Officer Encinia's excessive speed, and see how it's quickly escalates from "Could you please put out your cigarette?" to "Get out of the car, now—I'll light you up."  We can shake our heads at how he tells her she is under arrest while she's still in the car, but then on the police report claims she was arrested ... for resisting arrest?

It's easy to empathize with Bland. It's easy to feel how she still had promise, starting a new job in a new city. Except for her argumentativeness while being arrested for something she should never have been arrested for, she's very nearly a "model victim."  Perfectly pulled from central casting to generate the maximum in sympathy.

But not all fatal victims of police violence are so perfect, so shiny and neat. Some of them may have a record. Some of them may have been immigrants with dreams of one day becoming an actor, "like Marlon Brando." Some of them may be homeless and display signs of mental instability. Some of them may have fought back against police after they were called because of a "robbery." Some of them are Charly "Africa" Keunang, originally from Cameroon and may have died in broad daylight under police guns with dozens of bystanders watching and several filming.

While they held him pinned to the ground, one officer screamed, "He has my gun!" Three officers then opened fire, ultimately hitting Charly six times, according to the autopsy.

But Charly didn't have his gun. Charly never had his gun. Charly couldn't even reach his gun from where he was pinned on the ground. Yet Charly is still dead, and exactly why that is—and why hardly any of us even know about it—is discussed below.

Sanders, Clinton, and the Democratic Party should thank #BlackLivesMatter

Sun, 07/26/2015 - 14:00
They'll both learn the lesson and be better candidates for it. This has been a very good week for the Democratic Party and for its two leading presidential candidates. And no, I’m not kidding. Right now, the consensus is that—for Bernie Sanders at least—the protests carried out at Netroots Nation a week ago by #BlackLivesMatter activists represented a "very bad weekend." But there's more to a week than a weekend. When we look back, say, a year from now, our assessment will be quite different.

As Jamelle Bouie rightly put it, what happened in Phoenix was "more than a food fight." It brought to light a tension—really, an open wound—that already existed within the progressive movement, even if some of us couldn't or wouldn't see it until last weekend. The contentious interactions between Sanders and those who demanded he address racial injustice separately and independent from economic injustice only brought that wound to light, those interactions did not create it. Furthermore, Phoenix was absolutely necessary in order to begin to repair the wound, to heal it in a way that strengthens the progressive movement’s ability to lead this country toward substantial progress on both of these vitally important issues. What connects them, of course, is the fundamental principle of progressive politics: the fight against injustice of every kind, the fight to build a more just society.

Now let’s be clear about one thing. At Netroots Nation, Bernie Sanders missed a real opportunity. However, now the spotlight is shining even more brightly on him as he seeks to convince the African-American voters he needs to win over that he truly understands what needs to be done about racial injustice.

And look what has happened since Phoenix. The day after his Saturday fiasco at Netroots Nation, Sanders went to Texas—the state where Sandra Bland was arrested for no good reason and ultimately died in police custody—and spoke forcefully on the matter. Then, two days later, he was the first presidential candidate to release an official statement about what happened to Bland, one in which he condemned the "outrageous police behavior" that took place and called for "real police reform."

Please follow beyond the fold for more.

A first step in criminal justice reform

Sun, 07/26/2015 - 12:00
Police in Pittsburgh during 2009 G20 meeting. I am sick to death of the daily stories of another person being shot, maimed, or killed while in police custody. I am tired of a policing society whose morals stem from the belief that some military opponents are enemy combatants entitled to no protection under the Geneva Convention and subject to tortures that had been heartily condemned when our leadership was rational.

Because—think about it—many of those donning combat gear to "police" a non-violent protest wore the same gear while fighting a war that abided by no ethical rules of combat. A war whose civilian leadership was the most morally corrupt our nation has ever known and that allowed that corruption to permeate throughout the ranks.

All of the dangers we railed against prior to the passage of the Orwellian-named Patriot Act have come to pass. We now live in a police state that has been legalized and reaches into every street in America. Yes, it is terrible that the state listens in to our every communication; worse is the attitude that they have a right to do that listening.

But even worse than that, and more deadly, is the attitude that those whom we pay to serve and protect feel entitled to demand our subservience. They demand our respect and instant compliance with their commands, legal or not, and our overt display of obsequiousness.

And if they are juiced, their demands can easily be accompanied by a hair trigger and followed by a physical expression of rage.

18-year-olds to fight and die for your country, but you have to be 21 to have a beer

Sun, 07/26/2015 - 10:00
beer steins My son and I are in the process of planning a trip to Germany next year. I want to take him so I can show him where I was stationed, where I pulled border duty at OP Alpha, now a museum. In the planning process, two questions came up. The first was whether he could drive in Germany as he would have his U.S. driver's license by then. The answer to that question was no, he would need to be 18 years old to drive in Germany. He then asked what the drinking age was in Germany.
  • At 14 - minors are allowed to consume and possess undistilled (fermented) alcoholic beverages, such as beer and wine, as long as they are in the company by a Custodial Person. (§ 9 JuSchG (2) Sub-Clause 1, No. 2)
  • At 16 - minors are allowed to consume and possess undistilled (fermented) alcoholic beverages, such as beer and wine without their parents or a legal guardian. (§ 9 JuSchG (1) 2.)
  • At 18 - having become adults, people are allowed access to distilled spirits, beverages containing distilled spirits, and food products containing non-negligible amounts of distilled spirits. (§ 9 JuSchG (1) 1.)
He was surprised that he could drink legally in Germany before he could drive. I have often wondered if we have approached the drinking age in the United States the wrong way. We are constantly bombarded with ads about drinking, always with the fine print that says, "Enjoy in moderation." The ads are aimed at the youth of America—just look at the Bud Light "Up for Whatever" campaign below and you can see that it is not aimed at the over-40 crowd.

Breaking the silence on Afro-Cuban history

Sun, 07/26/2015 - 08:00
Members of the Cuban military remain at attention after raising the flag at the Cuban Embassy in Washington July 20, 2015 Members of the Cuban military remain at attention after raising the flag at the Cuban Embassy in Washington July 20, 2015 The news of the re-opening of Cuba's embassy in the U.S., and America's embassy in Cuba, was covered worldwide this past week, garnering particular interest in the Caribbean and Latin America, and in Cuban-American communities in the U.S., in stories like this: Cuba opens Washington embassy, urges end to embargo:
The Cuban flag was raised over Havana’s embassy in Washington on Monday for the first time in 54 years as the United States and Cuba formally restored relations, opening a new chapter of engagement between the former Cold War foes.

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez presided over the reinauguration of the embassy, a milestone in the diplomatic thaw that began with an announcement by U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro on Dec. 17.

Underscoring differences that remain between the United States and Communist-ruled Cuba, Rodriguez seized the opportunity to urge Obama to use executive powers to do more to dismantle the economic embargo, the main stumbling block to full normalization of ties. For its part, the Obama administration pressed Havana for improvement on human rights.

But even with continuing friction, the reopening of embassies in each others' capitals provided the most concrete symbols yet of what has been achieved after more than two years of negotiations between governments that had long shunned each other.

Watching the symbolic event, which has been a long time coming, I couldn't help but notice the three young men chosen to raise the Cuban flag, and I feel sure that their selection was purposeful, making a Cuban statement about who Cubans are racially.

Cubans are very aware of U.S. racial strife, historically and in the present day, and Fidel Castro has had a very particular relationship with the African-American community.

Follow me below for more.

Abbreviated Pundit Round-up

Sun, 07/26/2015 - 06:36
Passenger Pigeons Pigeons. Roosting. These happen to be passenger pigeons, which are sadly extinct. Too bad some political attitudes haven't changed since these birds were around. Timothy Egan on... oh, what else? The adults patrolling the playpen of Republican politics are appalled that we’ve become a society where it’s O.K. to make fun of veterans, to call anyone who isn’t rich a loser, to cast an entire group of newly arrived strivers as rapists and shiftless criminals.

Somewhere, we crossed a line — from our mothers’ modesty to strutting braggadocio, from dutiful decorum to smashing all the china in the room, from respecting a base set of facts to a trumpeting of willful ignorance.

Yes, how did we get to a point where up to one-fourth of the party of Lincoln, Eisenhower and Reagan now aligns itself with Donald Trump?

Deliberately. That's how. Deliberately. Trump is a byproduct of all the toxic elements Republicans have thrown into their brew over the last decade or so — from birtherism to race-based hatred of immigrants, from nihilists who shut down government to elected officials who shout “You lie!” at their commander in chief.

It was fine when all this crossing-of-the-line was directed at President Obama or other Democrats. But now that the ugliness is intramural, Trump has forced party leaders to decry something they have not only tolerated, but encouraged.

Damn straight. One might even say... "ditto," were one inclined to agree that the problem afflicting the Republican Party is entirely, completely, and satisfyingly one of ugly, mean-spirited pigeons swarming home to roost. Oh, and just one good example... “All of our veterans, particularly P.O.W.s, deserve our respect and admiration,” said Jeb Bush. The Republican National Committee was quick to lay down a similar principle, saying, “There is no place in our country for comments that disparage those who have served honorably.”

No place except a presidential campaign, that being the 2004 attempt to destroy the honorable Vietnam service of candidate John Kerry. Where was Bush’s “respect and admiration” when his brother was benefiting from a multimillion-dollar smear of a Navy veteran with a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart?

There is nothing that Trump is doing that hasn't become not just accepted, but demanded, in his party. Nothing he's doing that hasn't already become standard Republican operating procedures from talk radio to the Senate floor. Trump isn't some renegade going against the tide. He's just surfing.

Come on in, let's see what's up on the pundit pages today...

Open thread: Another black life lost, a zombie lie and having a beer

Sat, 07/25/2015 - 22:00

What's coming up on Sunday Kos ...

  • Reaction by some Liberals at Netroots Nation to Black Lives Matter disappointing, by Egberto Willies
  • Sanders, Clinton, and the Democratic Party should thank #BlackLivesMatter, by Ian Reifowitz
  • Another black life lost to police bullets, unarmed, ignored and forgotten, by Frank Vyan Walton
  • A first step in criminal justice reform, by Susan Grigsby
  • The Ice Age zombie lie rises again, by DarkSyde
  • Breaking the silence on Afro-Cuban history, by Denise Oliver Velez
  • 18-year-olds to fight and die for your country, but you have to be 21 to have a beer, by Mark E Andersen

Primary care has actually improved for Michigan Medicaid patients under Obamacare

Sat, 07/25/2015 - 20:00
 Health-care reform advocates march in the streets outside of a meeting of America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), an industry trade group. Remember this gem from House Speaker John Boehner when he was forced to acknowledge that Obamacare had covered a lot of people?
"Giving people Medicaid insurance is almost like giving them nothing, because you can't find a doctor that will see Medicaid patients, Boehner added. "And so where do they end up? The same place they used to end up, in the emergency room." Plenty of evidence argues otherwise, including a a study from the Commonwealth Fund of people who had coverage through the law in both private plans and Medicaid and were having no problem finding a primary care doctor. But here's more: a brand-new study out of Michigan to test access for new Medicaid patients. Guess what they discovered?
"It is noteworthy that Medicaid appointment availability in Michigan increased rather than decreased during a period when approximately 350,000 adults entered the Medicaid system and the number of primary care providers likely remained stable," concluded the authors. Yep, it got easier for Medicaid recipients to get an appointment with a primary care doctor after expansion. Specifically, they "found that appointment availability increased 6 percentage points for new Medicaid patients and decreased 2 percentage points for new privately insured patients, compared to availability before the expansion. Wait times remained stable, at 1–2 weeks for both groups."

So there you go. In Michigan, at least, new Medicaid patients and existing Medicaid patients are having no issues getting access to a doctor when they need to. That's just one state, but this survey just adds to the evidence we already have seen that Obamacare is increasing access not just to insurance coverage, but to actual health care.

This week in the war on workers: Turning teachers into robots

Sat, 07/25/2015 - 17:55
Teacher oversees students taking a test. Teacher Amy Berard describes her experience under a creepy, creepy, creepy instructional model in Lawrence, Massachusetts:
"Give him a warning," said the voice through the earpiece I was wearing. I did as instructed, speaking in the emotionless monotone I’d been coached to use. But the student, a sixth grader with some impulsivity issues and whose trust I’d spent months working to gain, was excited and spoke out of turn again. "Tell him he has a detention," my earpiece commanded. At which point the boy stood up and pointed to the back of the room, where the three classroom "coaches" huddled around a walkie talkie. "Miss: don’t listen to them! You be you. Talk to me! I’m a person! Be a person, Miss. Be you!" [...]

If you’re not familiar with No Nonsense Nurturing or NNN, let’s just say that there is more nonsense than nurturing. The approach starts from the view that urban students, like my Lawrence, MA middle schoolers, benefit from a robotic style of teaching that treats, and disciplines, all students the same. This translated into the specific instruction that forbade us from speaking to our students in full sentences. Instead, we were to communicate with them using precise directions. As my students entered the room, I was supposed to say: "In seats, zero talking, page 6 questions, 1-4." But I don’t even talk to my dog like that. Constant narration of what the students are doing is also key to the NNN teaching style. "Noel is is finishing question 3. Marjorie is sitting silently. Alfredo is on page 6."

Oddly enough, the Lawrence schools ultimately decided Berard was not the right fit.

Continue reading for more of the week's labor news.

Chris Christie buys $250,000 of ad time on Fox News to remind viewers he's still running

Sat, 07/25/2015 - 14:00
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie speaks during a news conference in Trenton, New Jersey March 28, 2014. On Thursday a law firm hired by Christie, a potential Republican 2016 contender for the White House, released a report clearing him of wrongdoing in Remember me? You'd better, punks. Huh, who would have thought that the Republican Party putting Fox News in charge of how their presidential debates will run would turn into a giant money funnel for the network.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is reportedly purchasing $250,000 of advertising time on Fox News in an attempt to help secure a place at the network's August 6 debate. [...]

The Times' Jeremy Peters notes of Christie's ad buy, "Because Fox will use the candidates' standing in national polls to whittle down a field of 16 Republican candidates, the exposure that comes from a national cable television buy is extremely valuable. And while Mr. Christie's standing in the top 10 is fairly sturdy -- but not guaranteed -- this ad buy is aimed to help buttress his standing."

Christie is indeed not "guaranteed" a slot in the top ten. Despite his insistence on running for president he has been an invisible candidate, not even making a news dent large enough to garner regular Donald Trump insults. It's not clear that a Fox ad buy will boost those numbers, but it might at least shore them up by reminding his few supporters that yes, he is actually still running for president.

View from the left—the Black Lives Matter movement and 2016

Sat, 07/25/2015 - 13:00
Demonstrators protest outside of the Baltimore Police Department's Western District police station during a rally for Freddie Gray, in Baltimore, April 21, 2015. Hundreds of demonstrators gathered in Baltimore on Tuesday to protest the death of the 27-yea We are watching something fascinating—the maturing of an impassioned and unapologetic movement unfolding in the midst of a presidential election cycle.

Black Lives Matter activists officially introduced themselves into the 2016 arena when they interrupted former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley and then Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders at the Netroots Nation conference in Arizona last weekend. Neither O'Malley nor Sanders fared well, but Sanders, who has grown accustomed to rather large and adoring crowds, really missed the moment.

Sanders threatened to leave the stage as demonstrators demanded that he repeat the name of Sandra Bland, a black woman who died in a Texas jail cell this month. Then he canceled a series of meetings he had scheduled with some of the activists following his appearance — something they found out only when campaign manager Jeff Weaver showed up in Sanders’s stead. By midweek Sanders was tweeting out responses to the recently released Sandra Bland video.

It would be very hard to imagine a white middle class woman being treated in the same way as Sandra Bland was.

— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) July 22, 2015

Clinton, who did not attend the Netroots Nation conference, has not done much better with the emerging movement. While appearing at black church last month just five miles away from the cite of the Ferguson protests, she used the phrase "all lives matter"—words many Black Lives Matter activists find an offensive trivialization of the unique violence black Americans face.

But part of what makes this emerging movement so exciting is that we are watching it go through an evolution that other progressive movements have gone through in recent years. It's a maturation of activists outside the Beltway taking back their voice from the inside-the-Beltway crowd, no matter what their party affiliation or whom they claim to speak for.

Head below the fold for more on the emerging movement.

GOP's favorability rating plummets in first half of 2015

Sat, 07/25/2015 - 10:01
Graph showing GOP favorability rating plummeting to just 32 percent. Ever since the GOP took control of Congress, the party's favorability rating has nosedived, sliding nine points since the beginning of the year, according to Pew Research Center. Just 32 percent of Americans have a favorable view of Republicans, while 60 percent view them unfavorably. (Democrats presently have a 48-47 percent favorable to unfavorable rating.)
The Democratic Party has often held an edge over the GOP in favorability in recent years, but its advantage had narrowed following the Republicans’ midterm victory last fall. Today, the gap is as wide as it has been in more than two years.

Republicans, in particular, are now more critical of their own party than they were a few months ago. About two-thirds (68%) express a favorable opinion of their party, the lowest share in more than two years. Six months ago, 86% of Republicans viewed the GOP positively.

A majority of Americans view the GOP as "more extreme" than Democrats. Democrats also win the empathy/honesty contest by double digits.
By 53% to 31%, the Democratic Party is viewed as “more concerned with the needs of people like me.” And the Democrats hold a 16-point lead on governing in an honest and ethical way (45% to 29%). This survey took place July 14-20. Just a guess that the Trump effect isn't even in full relief yet.  

Obama points to accomplishments of Wall Street reform in weekly address

Sat, 07/25/2015 - 09:00

It’s been seven years since the worst financial crisis in generations spread from Wall Street to Main Street – a crisis that cost millions of Americans their jobs, their homes, their life savings. It was a crisis that cost all of us. It was a reminder that we’re in this together – all of us. Five years ago this week, President Obama told listeners in his weekly address this morning, Wall Street reform was enacted, and that has been a very good thing for America. A second Great Depression was prevented, and we've been digging ourselves out slowly ever since. He ticked off a list of accomplishments, even as he acknowledged "we still have work to do":
  • 13 million jobs have been created over the past 64 months
  • Housing market is healthier
  • Stock market has more than doubled
  • The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has put "nearly $11 billion back in the pockets of more than 26 million consumers who’ve been cheated."
  • Crackdown on payday lenders on military bases was enacted last week

The reforms haven't come easy, the president said, nor will future necessary regulation of Wall Street:

We’ve had to overcome fierce lobbying campaigns from the special interests and their allies in Congress. In fact, they're still trying everything to attack everything this reform accomplishes—from hiding rollbacks of key protections in unrelated bills, to blocking the financial cops on the beat from doing their job. And they continue to claim this Wall Street reform is somehow bad for business. But that doesn’t explain 13 million new jobs and a stock market near record highs. This law is only bad for business if your business model depends on recklessness that threatens our economy or irresponsibility that threatens working families. To read the transcript in full, check below the fold or visit the White House website.

This week in science: the deafening silence

Sat, 07/25/2015 - 08:00

New Horizons continues to beam back images of Pluto and its moons, reviving US fascination with space exploration. And just how economical was this deep space adventure?

Just to put NASA's cost efficiency into context: $700 million is less than a tenth of the amount Microsoft wrote off after its takeover of Nokia. Apple could fund fifteen New Horizons missions with just the profit from its last three months. And AT&T's proposed takeover of DirecTV is close to 70 times more expensive than the humble Pluto probe. Of course, anyone that's been paying attention to celebrated astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson will know that NASA has a history of delivering outstanding return on investment ... And if you share Tyson's sense that NASA can and should receive greater funding, now is a fine time to get in touch with your own democratic representative and urge him or her to help support the next US excursion into space. One good place to start would be to lock down funding for New Horizons beyond Pluto. The little spacecraft can be retasked to snap images and gather data of some of the most mysterious and interesting bodies in the outer solar system: Kuiper Belt Objects. Now is the time and New Horizons is the probe: odds are we will not pass this way again for at least two or three decades.
  • Kepler spies a near twin of Earth orbiting a star that's nearly a twin of our sun and its in the Goldilocks zone. And speaking of funding, wouldn't it be swell if we could've paid for something like the terrestrial planet finder? Ahh but cutting Paris Hilton's income and estate taxes was considered a far greater priority by the likes of this conservative Congress.
  • It's a snake, it's a lizard, it's a snake and a lizard!
  • Have you ever heard of beautiful, glistening, hair ice? Well neither have I, until now. And what mysteries it held in its alien-looking coife may have been solved.
  • I guess creepy eccentric zillionaires are occasionally good for something: You could say that the silence has been deafening. Since its beginnings more than half a century ago, the dedicated search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) has failed to detect the presence of alien civilizations. But at London’s Royal Society today (20 July), Russian billionaire Yuri Milner announced a shot in the arm for SETI: a US$100-million decadal project to provide the most comprehensive hunt for alien communications so far.

Abbreviated Pundit Round-up: Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, and always Donald Trump

Sat, 07/25/2015 - 06:30
screenshot describing Kenyan tweeters NPR: Kenyans like to tweet.

A lot.

The report "How Africa Tweets" says Nairobi is "the most active East African city on Twitter.

Dana Milbank: This is the essence of Walker’s appeal — and why he is so dangerous. He is not as outrageous as Donald Trump and Sen.Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), but his technique of scapegoating unions for the nation’s ills is no less demagogic. Sixty-five years ago, another man from Wisconsin made himself a national reputation by frightening the country about the menace of communists, though the actual danger they represented was negligible. Scott Walker is not Joe McCarthy, but his technique is similar: He suggests that the nation’s ills can be cured by fighting labor unions (foremost among the “big government special interests” hurting America), even though unions represent just 11 percent of the American workforce and have been at a low ebb. More politics and policy below the fold.