Archive | Politics

First Gay Couples In Arizona Get Married, Gov. Jan Brewer Losing Her Shit by Dan Avery

Karen Bailey and Nelda Majors, who have been together for 58 years, became the first same-sex couple to get married in Arizona after a federal judge declared the state’s ban on marriage equality unconstitutional.

They met in college, where they lived in the same dorm, and started out as friends. But things blossomed a few months later: “I came back from spring break and told Nelda I loved her,” Bailey revealed to Why Marriage Matters Arizona, “It was all so new and amazing for me.”

Outside the Maricopa County Superior Court today, Majors, 76, said, “I have no words to express how I feel. It’s wonderful!”

Another couple—David Larance, 36, and Kevin Patterson, 31—married outside the county clerk’s office in downtown Phoenix. Patterson rushed straight from the gym when the verdict was announced and was so excited he forgot to bring a ring.

“I feel a lot of gratitude that this day finally came,” he told The Republic.

One Arizonan who’s not feeling gracious, however, is Governor Jan Brewer. (You know, the lady shook a pointed finger at President Obama on an airport tarmac with armed Secret Service only a few feet away.)

She’s furious that gay and lesbian couples have been allowed to marry in her state, now that Attorney General Tom Horne revealed he wouldn’t appeal today’s ruling.

arizona jan brwer

In a press release Brewer ranted that “the federal courts have again thwarted the will of the people” and eroded individual states’ rights.

It is not only disappointing, but also deeply troubling, that unelected federal judges can dictate the laws of individual states, create rights based on their personal policy preferences and supplant the will of the people in an area traditionally left to the states for more than 200 years.

As Justice Scalia opined, such action is tantamount to ‘an assertion of judicial supremacy over the people’ and is an image of the judiciary ‘that would have been unrecognizable to those who wrote and ratified our national charter.’

Brewer insisted that determining who can get married “is not the role of the judiciary.”

Perhaps she’s forgotten landmark cases like Loving v. Virginia? Or maybe it’s just more convenient to ignore them.

Regardless, congratulations to all the lucky couples today!

 

 

by Dan Avery, Logo TV

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‘Republican Lite’ Ro Khanna Severs Loyalties with Democrats in Campaign Mailer

Democratic Congressional challenger Ro Khanna seems determined to isolate the last of his Democratic supporters – and give new meaning to his moniker, ‘Republican lite.’

According to the San Jose Mercury News, Democrats nationwide are questioning Khanna’s loyalties after he released campaign mail criticizing his opponent, Congressman Mike Honda, for … consistently voting with fellow democrats on issues including the budget. Huh?

Even Howard Dean, a Honda supporter and founder of Democracy for America, voiced his confusion in a mass email on Wednesday: “As the former Chair of the Democratic National Committee, it’s obvious to me that Ro Khanna is campaigning like a Republican,” Dean wrote. “Real Democrats don’t use ‘liberal’ as an epithet or attack fellow Democrats for standing up for progressive values like making sure the wealthy pay their fair share in taxes.”

It’s no wonder every major Democrat here and across the U.S. – from President Barack Obama, Khanna’s former boss, to Gov. Jerry Brown and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi –endorsed Honda.

The only high-profile Democrat missing from Honda’s extensive endorsement list is Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who became Khanna’s highest-profile elected endorser back in April. Newsome is probably regretting it.

Not only is Khanna the choice of Republicans, including the homophobic former Congressman Ernie Konnyu and the Tea Party, but his latest mail piece proves he’s on the warpath against liberal values.

Sticking by Khanna is a no-win situation for Newsom, who has his sights set on higher statewide or national office. Now that Khanna has made his right-wing politics crystal clear, the Lieutenant Governor would be wise to withdraw his support.

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Krugman: Obama One of the Most Successful Presidents in American History

President Barack Obama may be facing some of his lowest approval ratings to date, but that isn’t stopping Paul Krugman from defending the president’s overall track record. In fact, the Nobel Prize-winning economist is arguing Obama is one of the most “successful presidents in American history.”

Krugman, who was once among the president’s more notable skeptics, made his case in a new feature for Rolling Stone aptly titled “In Defense of Obama,” in which he dismissed persistent attacks from Republicans and mounting disappointment expressed by Democrats with an outline of the Obama administration’s key achievements in several areas including healthcare, the environment, national security, and the economy.

It’s a tough time to be making that case. Americans are increasingly frustrated byObama’s handling of ISIS and continued unrest in Iraq. As for the economy, even Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) recently blamed Obama’s economic advisers for repeatedly failing ordinary Americans in favor of Wall Street.

But in a follow-up interview with ABC News, Krugman told Jonathan Karl the recent onslaught of criticism is unwarranted, noting Americans have experienced more “consequential” changes under Obama’s presidency than ever before.

“People who had this idea that Obama was going to bring a transformation of America, I thought were being naïve,” Krugman said in the interview. “But, by God, we got health reform, and we got a significant financial reform. We are getting the environmental action … it’s not everything you would have wanted, but it’s more than anyone else has done for decades.”

By Inae Oh, Mother Jones

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How To Fix The Supreme Court: Lessons From A Disenchanted Legal Scholar

Erwin Chemerinsky, the founding Dean of UC-Irvine School of Law and a renowned legal scholar, has some scathing words for the Supreme Court: It “has frequently failed, throughout American history, at its most important tasks, at its most important moments.”

This critique is contained in the progressive legal luminary’s new book, provocatively titled “The Case Against The Supreme Court.”

Chemerinsky tells TPM he wrote the book after realizing he had been “making excuses” for the Court over three decades of teaching it, and decided to make the case that it has often failed its duty to protect individual and minority rights against the passions of the majority.

His disenchantment is shared: The Court’s popularity with Americans is near an all-time low of 44 percent, down from 60 percent in the early 2000s. Forty-eight percent now disapprove of it, according to a Gallup poll last week.

Chemerinsky spoke to TPM about why the Supreme Court is broken and how to fix it. A lightly edited transcript follows.

Your book is called “The Case Against The Supreme Court.” That could be read as meaning you want to abolish the Supreme Court, but that’s not what you’re saying. What should be done with it?

I don’t believe we should eliminate the Supreme Court. I believe that the Supreme Court is essential to enforce the Constitution. But I do propose many reforms, ranging from a clear definition of the role of the Court, to merit selection of Supreme Court justices, to changing the confirmation process, to term limits for justices, to changing the way the Court communicates — like cameras in the Court, to applying the ethics rules that apply to lower court judges for Supreme Court justices, and also changing recusal policies in the Supreme Court.

You also argue that Supreme Court nominees should clearly express their views on constitutional issues like the right to an abortion, which they don’t do today.

All presidents through history have considered ideology in choosing who to appoint for the Court. It’s fully appropriate for the Senate to consider ideology. I think the Senate should insist as a condition for confirmation that all candidates answer certain questions about their views.

There are only two reasons I could think of to not ask somebody their views. One is that the views of the nominee don’t matter to what he or she is going to do on the bench. And that seems clearly wrong. If you put somebody on the Court who strongly opposes or strongly supports abortion rights, the odds are overwhelming that’s how he or she is going to vote. The other is the idea that it’s inappropriate to know somebody’s views before they deal with cases because that means they’re not longer impartial. But that seems wrong. We know how Antonin Scalia is going to vote on abortion, we know how Ruth Bader Ginsburg is going to vote on abortion, based on what they said in prior cases. The fact that we know somebody’s views is not disqualifying.

Of the changes you discuss in the book — merit selection of judges, making nominees express their views, 18-year term limits, broadcasting oral arguments — if you had to pick one change that’d best fix the Court, what would it be and why?

I would choose term limits for the justices. It’s also the hardest to bring about because I think it would take a constitutional amendment.

There are a couple of reasons why. Life expectancy has thankfully increased tremendously since 1787. Clarence Thomas was 43 when he went on the Court in 1991. If he remains until he’s 90 years old, the age which Justice [John Paul] Stevens stepped down, he’ll be a justice for 47 years. John Roberts and Elena Kagan were each 50 when they went on the Court. If they stay until they’re 90, they’ll be there 40 years. That’s too much power for any one person to hold for too long a period of time.

Also, too much now depends on the fortuity of timing with vacancies. Richard Nixon got four vacancies in four years; Jimmy Carter got no vacancies in four years. Eighteen-year term limits would mean a vacancy every two years — every president with the same ability to shape the composition of the Court.

You write that the Court has “sanctioned terrible injustices” throughout its history in ruling like Dred Scott to uphold slavery, Plessy v. Ferguson to validate racial segregation and when it upheld Japanese internment camps. Have you in your years as a legal scholar always felt this way about the Court?

I’ve always felt that those decisions have been tragically wrong. I think what I was doing implicitly in my teaching was making excuses in the Court. I tried to portray the Court’s Dred Scotts and Plessys as exceptions and that the Court overall has really succeeded. And it’s only in the last few years that I had this realization that the Court has often failed at its most important tasks at the most important times.

To what extent have the Roberts Court decisions, which you and many others have criticized, on issues like race and minority rights, factored into your dissatisfaction with the Supreme Court?

I think my criticism of the Court is much broader than the Roberts Court. I didn’t want to write the liberal case against the Supreme Court. In the first few chapters I criticize the Supreme Court on race, and at times of crisis, and the Lochner Era [an early 20th century period when it struck down minimum wage and federal child labor laws]. I think liberals and conservatives would agree that those decisions were wrong.

You have high praise for the Warren Court and its decisions for equality likeBrown v. Board of Education which overturned the doctrine of separate but equal. Was that the Supreme Court at its best, in your view? Has any other iteration of the Court matched it?

I think the Marshall Court was the best iteration of the Supreme Court. I think decisions likeMarbury v. Madison [which established judicial review] laid the foundations for all constitutional law. I applaud the Warren Court but as I argue, it didn’t do nearly enough in key areas like school desegregation and like in making sure that everyone tried for a crime has competent counsel.

What are the best three or four decisions the Court has made in its history?

That’s a great question. I’d certainly put Brown v. Board of Education there. I’d put Marbury v. Madison and McCulloch v. Maryland there. I’d put Gideon v. Wainwright. I’d put Baker v. Carrand Reynolds v. Sims.

And the worst?

Well, Dred Scott, Plessy v. Ferguson, Korematsu [which said Japanese internment camps were constitutional]. That’s a good hall of shame to start with.

What are the worst misconceptions about the Supreme Court in popular society? What does the general public most get wrong about it?

The belief that the justices are objective. The belief that the justices are just applying the law and not making law. The belief that the justices are just umpires. Supreme Court justices have tremendous discretion in the kind of cases that come before them. And I think people don’t recognize that.

Are all Supreme Court justices politically motivated?

I don’t think it’s political in the sense of Democrats versus Republicans. I think it is political in the sense of ideological. The ideology of justices matters enormously. Justices Ginsburg and Scalia so often disagree. It’s not that one is smarter. It’s not that one knows the Constitution better. It’s that their ideology is different.

 

SAHIL KAPUR, Talking Points Memo

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The Obama Hope and Change Index: 6 Years of Progress, By the Numbers

As Paul Krugman argues in his piece In Defense of Obama, this has not been a feel-good presidency. But it has been a consequential one. The policy victories Obama has delivered have been hard-fought, messy and politically fraught. The achievements may not be all that the president’s 2008 boosters hoped for, but change has come. Here, six years of progress, by the numbers:

Peak unemployment, October 2009: 10 percent
Unemployment rate now: 5.9 percent
Consecutive private sector job growth: 55 months
Private sector jobs created: 10.3 million
Federal deficit, 2009: 9.8 percent of GDP
Deficit in 2014: 2.8 percent of GDP
Average under Ronald Reagan: 4.2 percent of GDP
Average tax rate for highest earners 2008: 28.1 percent
Average tax rate for highest earners 2013: 33.6 percent
Banks regulated as too big to fail, 2009: 0
Banks regulated as “systemically important financial institutions” — a.k.a. too big to fail — 2014: 29
Billions returned to consumers by Consumer Financial Protection Bureau enforcement: $4.6 billion
Americans compensated for being swindled by banks, lenders and credit card companies: 15 million
Dow Jones close, inauguration day 2009: 7,949
Dow Jones yesterday: 16,719
Required MPG (miles per gallon) for cars when Obama took office: 27.5
Required MPG for light trucks/SUVs when Obama took office: 23
MPG requirement by 2016 for cars, light trucks/SUVs: 35.5
MPG required by 2025: 54.5
Gigawatts of wind power installed when Obama took office: 25
Gigawatts of wind power installed through end of 2013: 61
Peak summertime solar power generation June 2008: 128 gigawatt hours
Peak summertime solar power generation June 2014: 2,061 gigawatt hours
Coal burned in electrical generation 2008: 1 billion short tons
Coal burned in electrical generation 2013: 858 million short tons
Reduction: 14.2 percent
EPA-proposed CO2 reductions for power sector by 2030: 30 percent
Pell grant funding 2008-2009: $18 billion
Pell grant funding 2013-2014: $33 billion
Adults gaining insurance under first year of Obamacare: 10.3 million
As a percentage of the uninsured: 26
Annual cost for birth control prior to Obamacare: Up to $600
Annual cost for birth control under Obamacare-compliant policies: $0
Prescriptions now required to obtain emergency contraception: 0
2009 projection for Medicare going broke: 2017
2014 projection for Medicare going broke: 2030
Troops in Iraq, inauguration day 2009: 144,000
Troops in Iraq today: 1,600
Osama bin Ladens alive 2009: 1
Osama bin Ladens alive 2014: 0
Troops in Afghanistan, day, 2009: 34,400
Troops pledged in Afghanistan by end of 2014: 9,800
Guantánamo detainees inauguration day 2009: 242
Gitmo detainees today: 149
Crack vs. Powder cocaine-crime sentencing disparity when Obama took office: 100:1
Crack vs. Powder disparity today: 18:1
Drug offenders eligible to seek early release under new sentencing guidelines: 46,000
States with medical marijuana, 2009: 13
Jurisdictions with medical marijuana today: 23 states, plus Washington, D.C.
States with legal recreational pot 2009: 0
States with legal recreational pot today: 2
Jurisdictions with marijuana legalization on the ballot in 2014: Alaska, Oregon, Washington D.C.
States where gay marriage was legal inauguration day 2009: Massachusetts, Connecticut
States where gay marriage is legal: 24, plus Washington, D.C. (soon to be 30 plus D.C., following Supreme Court refusal to intervene)
Immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children now shielded from deportation: 800,000

By 

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Koret Foundation Sued by Widow Who Claims Board Members Uses Charity as “Personal Piggy Bank”

Jewish  Family and Children's Services

Anita Friedman Jewish Family and Children’s Services

President of Koret Foundation

Tad Taube, President of Koret Foundation

Partner of the San Francisco law firm Greene, Radovsky, Maloney, Share & Hennigh

Richard L. Greene, Partner of the San Francisco law firm Greene, Radovsky, Maloney, Share & Hennigh

Board Member and Silicon Valley Real Estate Investor Tad Taube, San Francisco Attorney Richard L. Greene, JFCS Director Anita Friedman, Other Board Members Shun the Poor, Bay Area, Jewish Causes—in Favor of Spending Foundation Resources on Conservative and Pet Projects at Half-Billion Dollar Charity

 

San Francisco—The Jewish community from San Francisco to Poland was rocked this week when the widow of Koret Foundation founder Joseph Koret filed a lawsuit against the Koret Foundation and its Board of Directors for conflicts of interest and self-dealing.  The lawsuit says the Koret Board is illegally funding pet projects that include right-wing conservative causes in the United States to wrongly spending $10 million to the Museum of the History of Polish Jews.

The lawsuit said the wrongdoing is being orchestrated by Koret Foundation President Tad Taube, a native of Poland and well-known right wing conservative Republican.  The suit also lays blame on Taube’s personal attorney and Board member Richard L. Greene of Greene Radovsky Maloney Share & Hennigh LLP and Anita Friedman, the executive director of director of Jewish Family and Children’s Services in San Francisco as well as board member Richard Atkinson, former president of the University of California; board member Michael J. Boskin, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution; and board member Abraham D. Sofaer, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution.

The suit filed October 7, 2014 in San Francisco Superior Court by Mrs. Koret alleges that under Taube’s direction the board has ignored the priorities established by her late husband to help the poor and assist Jewish causes in the Bay Area and Israel.

Instead, her suit claims, the Koret board is using foundation funds to promote programs closely affiliated with individual board members and is purposely confusing the public by putting signage that prominently features Taube’s name alongside the Koret Foundation name on buildings and grants for which the Koret Foundation is the principal funder.

“Defendants’ duty of loyalty to the Foundation has been corrupted by these directors’ close affiliations with many of the Foundation’s recent grants, resulting in tens of millions of dollars distributed due to self-interest,” according to the lawsuit.

The suit demands the removal of the Koret board members and calls for their replacement with the appointment of an independent board with a majority of Jewish directors.

“Taube says publicly that giving to the poor is “a bottomless pit.” Instead he has led the Koret Foundation by focusing its giving to organizations identified with him, creating a corporate culture of directors who rubber stamp his decisions as long as their favored organizations are also supported.  “In elevating their own and affiliated interests while ostensibly making decisions for the Koret Foundation, defendants are breaching duties of loyalty that require them to serve faithfully the interests of the Koret Foundation” the lawsuit claims.

“Alleviating suffering and misfortune were my husband’s top priorities,” said Mrs. Koret. “Joe and Stephanie’s money shouldn’t be used for Tad Taube’s pet projects in Poland or to help conservative economic and policy think tanks–not when so many in the Bay Area go to bed hungry every night and Jewish causes need support.”

Supporting her lawsuit is Joe and Stephanie Koret’s closest surviving family member, nephew Merv Brown of Walnut Creek, who worked with the Korets for decades.  He said about the suit:

“With all respect to Mr. Taube, if he wants to spend money on Poland, he should use his own money–not my uncle’s and my aunt’s–to assist his homeland. I am proud to stand with Susan Koret to support and endorse the directions and wishes of my family that their fortune be spent as Uncle Joe wished: to help the poor and Jews in Israel and the Bay Area.”

The San Jose Mercury News reported that: “Mrs. Koret is doing a favor for the entire Bay Area community with her lawsuit,” said longtime friend Julie Goodman. “She has a lot of courage. No one else has had the guts to take on Mr. Taube, who has used his power, plus his and the Koret Foundation’s money, to bully a lot of people and organizations into subservience.”

Mrs. Koret’s lawsuit alleges that others, including “philanthropic civic leaders and former and current staff members will support Mrs. Koret in her efforts to restore the Koret Foundation’s purpose and dignity free of the control of Mr. Taube.”

The lawsuit claims that, at Taube’s direction, the Koret Foundation has donated approximately $9 million to the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw, a pet project of Taube, who was born in Poland.  “

While the Polish Museum commemorates significant Jewish history, the diversion of Koret funds to Poland is not in keeping with my husband’s charitable mission…and in effect drains funds that could benefit the needy in communities in the Bay Area and Israel,” the lawsuit states.

Sam Singer of Singer Associates, Inc., who is acting as a spokesman for Mrs. Koret in the lawsuit, said the lawsuit will attempt to claw back the $9 million in money from Taube that was given to the Museum of the History of Polish Jews and return it to the Koret Foundation. The Museum of the History of Polish Jews is scheduled to open Oct. 28 in Warsaw. The Museum is reported facing financial difficulties, according to Polish media reports.

Mrs. Koret noted her husband was a native of Odessa, Russia, who immigrated to America, struggled growing up poor in the U.S., and then struck it rich later in life in clothing and real estate. He was deeply committed to humanitarian causes such as alleviating hunger,  and would “be deeply angered and offended by Tad Taube and the board’s strong support of conservative  causes and grants that divert money needed for the local community and Jewish causes.”

The lawsuit asks the court to prevent the spending down of the Foundation’s assets by Taube and the board members with whom he has surrounded himself and allow the appointment of a new, independent board to carry out its mission and save the Foundation.

Mrs. Koret was named a lifetime director and chairwoman of the Foundation prior to her husband’s death in 1982. She was entrusted by her late husband to carry out the family legacy of caring for the poor and supporting Jewish and community causes through the Koret Foundation, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit also recites that the board has rejected a series of Asian and African-American candidates for board membership, including their rejection last month of former Mayor Willie Brown as president of the Foundation.

Mrs. Koret said she has been marginalized as Taube, a Silicon Valley real estate investor, and his hand-picked supporters on the board steer donations toward causes in which they have affiliations.

Mrs. Koret said she filed the suit as a last resort after her efforts to diversify the board, get independent legal advice, confirm the perpetual nature of the Foundation and redirect funds back to her late husband’s mission were rebuffed.  She fears the Koret Foundation is facing destruction of its mission and eventual collapse unless changes are made.

She said in the last 12 months, Taube has undertaken three major real estate transactions:  the sale of the Foundation’s largest real estate asset; marketing of another Foundation property; and refinancing a significant loan on a third Foundation property. The collective value of the real estate involved in these transactions is several hundred million dollars, according to the lawsuit.

“Over Mrs. Koret’s objections, defendants approved engaging a broker associated with defendant Taube’s real estate businesses to sell, market and refinance the Foundation’s properties and split its commission with Taube Investments, without disclosing the percentage commission split.  This conduct violates state and federal law and is breach of fiduciary duty,” the lawsuit states.

The Foundation’s general counsel and Taube attorney Richard L. Greene, over Mrs. Koret’s objection, failed to advise that an independent appraisal or broker was needed to market the Foundation property and refinance the loan, even though the same broker associated with Taube’s businesses was engaged for both these real estate transactions, according to the suit.

“Greene’s conduct … may expose the Foundation to claims of self-dealing, is contrary to California professional rules for attorneys in avoiding conflicts of interest, and causes economic injury to the Foundation,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit alleges that Taube is a shameless self-promoter who has personally selected board members to rubber stamp his decisions in exchange for support of their own pet projects. Additionally, the suit says Taube established his own foundation, called Taube Philanthropies, but uses money and staff from the Koret Foundation to pay for and enhance joint projects of Taube Philanthropies and the Koret Foundation.   A review of the Koret Foundation’s public filings shows reported annual salaries and compensation of officers exceeded $1.9 million in 2011, while Taube Philanthropies showed no such expenses for the same period, according to the lawsuit.

Mrs. Koret’s lawsuit charges that out of the $64 million gifted by the Koret Foundation between 2010 and 2012, nearly 60 percent was spent on causes outside the stated mission of her husband, the late Joseph Koret.

The lawsuit claims conflicts of interest, self-dealing, and breaches of duty abound on the board:

  • The Koret Foundation’s Executive Director Jeffrey Farber provides no independent management, reaps a large salary and perks at the Foundation, has little involvement in grant-making and does only what Taube asks him to do.  Farber is also a member of the Taube Philanthropies board, creating a serious conflict of loyalty and duty.   His wife works for Koret Board member Anita Friedman at Jewish Family and Children’s Services, yet another conflict.

Koret Board Member Anita Friedman, director of Jewish Family and Children’s Services, JFCS, sits on the Taube Philanthropies board as a director. Friedman makes up to $380,000 per year as executive director of JFCS, which is a major recipient of Koret funds. During September’s Koret Foundation meeting, she oversaw and participated in a vote granting $1.2 million to the Shalom Hartman Institute, where she also sits on the board.

While JFCS and Shalom Hartman are worthwhile causes, Friedman has failed to recuse herself in any discussions of massive grants to entities where she is on the board or employed. Friedman sees no conflict in directing millions in additional funds to entities where she has other interests and has no inclination to resign her JFCS position. Friedman has voted against every initiative by Mrs. Koret over the past two years seeking to bring independence, balance and transparency to the Koret board.

  • Michael J. Boskin is a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, which has received millions from the Koret Foundation over the years. Earlier this month, the board approved another $280,000 grant to the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research where Boskin is also a Senior Fellow and former director. Since 1992, Koret has approved grants totaling $4.5 million to support SIEPR, and millions to Hoover through Stanford.

 

  • Abraham Sofaer is another interlocking director on the board of Taube Philanthropies, and is also a Senior Fellow Emeritus at the Hoover Institution, based at Stanford University.  From 2010-2012, the Koret Foundation’s funding to Hoover and Stanford of nearly $4 million was about equal to its total support of all social welfare causes in the Bay Area combined.

 

In the lawsuit, Taube, a member of the Board of Overseers and the Executive Committee of the Hoover Institution, is alleged to have misused Foundation money to pay consultants to write editorials opposing Obama administration policies and to attend trips in support of Hoover.

The lawsuit also alleges that Taube:

  • Reduced funds targeted for Koret Foundation grantees and increased funds to organizations that are his personal favorites.

 

  • Used Koret funds to pay millions of dollars to entities affiliated with him or his close associates to manage the Foundation’s real estate holdings.

 

  • Without board approval, commissioned and installed a life-size mural depicting himself and now hung inside the Koret Foundation’s new headquarters in San Francisco at a cost to the Foundation of $80,000.

 

  • Paid more than $75,000 in Foundation money for promotional materials about himself, including booklets and newspaper advertisements.

 

  • Subsidized the operating costs of Taube Philanthropies by using Koret staff and resources for joint grant projects, and used Koret Foundation resources for travel, marketing and personal expenses.

 

  • Terminated a $35,000 contract of an independent publisher of a book about the life of Joseph and Stephanie Koret, the founder’s first wife. Taube was reportedly angry that the book was not about him or his contributions.

 

  • Along with counsel and board member Richard L. Greene, discriminated against and ridiculed Mrs. Koret and prevented her from speaking with Foundation staff.

Mrs. Koret in her lawsuit pledges to maintain the priorities of her husband by broadening the Koret board to include community leaders while maintaining a majority of Jewish directors.  She is committed to maintaining support for the anchor institutions in the Bay Area that Koret has supported over many years and to prevent any continued diversion of funds to out of mission organization and countries.

 

Jewish  Family and Children's Services

SUED: Anita Friedman, Jewish Family and Children’s Services

Partner of the San Francisco law firm Greene, Radovsky, Maloney, Share & Hennigh

SUED: Richard L. Greene, Partner of the San Francisco law firm Greene, Radovsky, Maloney, Share & Hennigh

President of Koret Foundation

SUED: Tad Taube, President of Koret Foundation

 

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Republican Candidate Gets Purged From Voter Rolls In Arkansas Because Of GOP Voter Suppression Laws

The Republican Party is throwing a temper tantrum after one of their own candidates was purged from the Arkansas voter rolls, and they only have themselves to blame.

Leslie Rutledge is the GOP candidate in the race to become Arkansas’ next Attorney General. Well, she used to be anyway. As it turns out, the state constitution requires candidates for public office to be registered voters, but because of voter suppression laws passed by the GOP, Rutledge has not only been disqualified as a voter, she could be disqualified as a candidate because of it.

Republican candidate Leslie Rutledge via ThinkProgress

Republican candidate Leslie Rutledge via ThinkProgress

Pulaski County Clerk Larry Crane booted Rutledge’s name off the voter rolls because she failed to follow proper procedure. She failed to cancel previous registrations in Washington DC and Virginia before she moved to Pulaski County, where she failed to re-register to vote.

Of course, this caused Republicans to accuse Crane, a Democrat, of engaging in “dirty tricks,” but Crane says he was legally bound to remove Rutledge’s name from the rolls after receiving a letter about the issue of her registration.

Rutledge isn’t the only person in Arkansas to be tossed from the voter pool. Thousands of Arkansas voters have faced the same treatment. They’ve been thrown off the voter rolls, interrogated about their personal information, and had their legal vote discarded entirely due to restrictive anti-voting measures passed by Republicans. But because their own laws are affecting one of their own, only now are they upset. In fact, Republicans are so pissed that karma came back to bite them in the ass that they’re complaining about a tactic that they themselves have defended ruthlessly for months across the country. In short, they’re being hypocrites.

The chairman of the Republican National Lawyers Association decided to defend Rutledge by whining about her being “systematically removed from voter rolls within 90 days of a federal election.” He also claimed that Democrats were responsible for this voter suppression.

The fact is that it is a clear and unmistakable attempt at the most harmful kind of voter suppression in violation of federal law – removing a qualified female voter from the rolls notwithstanding her valid registration and actual votes in the last 4 elections in violation of her civil rights. Democrats should be embarrassed.

Democrats, however, are not the ones who have pushed voter suppression laws in states around the nation. The Republicans did that. Where were they when citizens who have been voting for decades were denied their right to vote because of the laws they themselves passed? Oh, that’s right, they didn’t give a damn because the laws they passed are supposed to target Democratic voters, not Republican voters.

But in this case, the voter suppression laws enacted by the GOP not only affected a Republican voter, it took down a Republican candidacy. And now they’re throwing a fit and accusing Democrats of voter suppression. Unfortunately for the GOP, Democrats are not to blame for their own misfortune. They already know who the true culprit is, all they have to do is look in a mirror.

 

Stephen Foster, Addicting Info

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GOP’s “Republicans Are People” Video Can’t Find Any – Uses Stock Photos

GOP media manipulator, Vinny Minchillo, is the mastermind of this crusade to remake the Republican image into one that embraces a human component. He tried to do the same thing a couple of years when for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. Now Minchillo has created a website called “Republicans Are People Too.” and posted a video there to make a case for that dubious proposition (video also posted below). But the text accompanying the video conveys only a determination to whine about the plight of the poor, mistreated Republican. He moans that…

“It isn’t easy being a Republican these days. [...] We love political discourse. We encourage political discourse. But when did “Republican” become a dirty word?”

Perhaps the answer to that question is: When Republicans started calling Democrats fascists, communists, moochers, whores, traitors, and devils.

Minchillo’s video is a simple production that seeks to enumerate a series of “regular” folks that he labels with a the hashtag “IAmARepublican.” It is a fairly comprehensive list of average Americans who are not generally associated with the exclusivity, racism, and intolerance of the Republican Party. It is no wonder that the GOP is yearning to attract more of the type of people in the video, because it is a cross-section of the nation that represents its diversity, a word that makes the right tremble. The video consists of a parade of alleged party members and asks “Did you know Republicans…”

Drive Priuses, recycle, listen to Spotify, put together IKEA furniture, are white, black, Hispanic, Asian, read the New York Times, use Macs, are grandmas, daughters, moms, are left-handed, are doctors, welders, teachers, donate to charity, enjoy gourmet cooking, shop at Trader Joe’s, like dogs, and cats, have tattoos, have tattoos and beardshave feelings, are people who care.

The problem with the argument that Minchillo is making is that the people claiming to be Republicans in his video are not actually Republicans. And by that I don’t simply mean that those types of persons are not Republican, which on the whole they are not. I mean that those specific people in the video are not. In fact, they were photos taken from stock image suppliers. A search for a random selection of the photos in the video found many of them in the iStockPhotowebsite’s library of images. The persons in the paragraph above that are links will lead you to the stock image page for each one.

So the video produced in order to convince everyone that Republicans are real people is populated by fakes. They are models pretending to be the characters that the video claims represent actual members of the Republican Party. And that’s about as real as it gets for the GOP.

This would be a hilarious aside to the pathetic PR that is constantly pushed by right-wing propagandists. But it is actually just another rung in their ladder of deception. It is reminiscent of the effort by Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign to persuade voters that “We’re Not Stupid.”When you have to mount an advertising blitz to sell the public on the notion that you’re not stupid, you have already lost the battle. And the same thing goes for a campaign to assert your people-ness. If the public doesn’t already know that you’re people, good luck trying to convince them.

 

Daily Kos

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Secret Recordings Inside The Federal Reserve Prompt Elizabeth Warren To Call For Investigation

Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) want to investigate the Federal Reserve’s relationships with the banks it oversees after the release of taped conversations between managers and a former bank examiner at the Fed.

The recordings were made surreptitiously by a former Fed employee named Carmen Segarra, who is trying to prove in court that she was fired in retaliation for her attempts to bring a cultural shift to the supervisory work of the powerful central bank. They include a reprimand from her boss that she is “arrogant,” that she should “have a sense of humility” about her work, and should be guided more by the consensus within her working group than by her own instincts as a 10-year veteran of regulatory compliance work in the banking industry.

Segarra says she began making the tapes after her own colleagues tried on multiple occasions to cajole her into changing her notes from meetings with Goldman Sachs executives because they didn’t want an official record of some of the executives’ comments about the bank’s willingness to bend the rules.

The tapes document the former examiner’s experience pushing for a tougher approach to Goldman Sachs and being rebuffed by members of the team who had been there much longer. The audio recordings, published last week by This American Life and Pro Publica, appear to indicate that the Federal Reserve Bank of New York continues to have too cozy a relationship with the private bankers it is supposed to supervise despite an internal 2009 report that documented serious problems with how the Fed ran its oversight division in the run-up to the financial crisis.

While the Fed “categorically rejects” that depiction of its work to protect the economy from the most dangerous forms of risk-taking that the financial sector engages in, it declined to participate in the radio story beyond a written statement.

On Friday, Warren said the recordings require action from Capitol Hill. “Congress must hold oversight hearings on the disturbing issues raised by today’s whistleblower report when it returns in November, because it’s our job to make sure our financial regulators are doing their jobs,” she said in a statement. “When regulators care more about protecting big banks from accountability than they do about protecting the American people from risky and illegal behavior on Wall Street, it threatens our whole economy.”

Brown, who serves on the Senate Banking Committee with Warren, backed her request in a statement of his own. “These allegations deserve a full and thorough investigation, and American taxpayers deserve regulators who will fight each day on their behalf,” the Ohio senator and frequent financial industry critic said.

Segarra’s allegations and the 2009 internal report cited by This American Life and Pro Publica paint a picture of what’s called “regulatory capture” at the Fed. That means that an independent oversight body has stopped acting on its intended motivations of protecting the public from misdeeds by the entities it regulates and started acting on behalf of those entities’ own interests. Regulatory capture is a subtle thing defined less by concrete facts and figures and more by the tone of meetings and the way friendships between regulators and businesses color the regulators’ actions and views. If capture takes hold and goes unchecked, the regulatory cops on the beat turn into enablers. In the radio segment based on Segarra’s tapes, host Ira Glass compares captured regulators to “a watchdog who licks the face of an intruder, and plays catch with the intruder, instead of barking at him.”

Regulatory capture is just one example of the many abstract cultural forces on Wall Street that create an environment where financial misdeeds can flourish, imperiling the real economy that employs everyone else in the business of making and selling goods and services. Surveys of industry insiders have repeatedly found worrying evidence of ethical lapses among people in the financial business, including outright disregard for the law. A quarter of those surveyed in 2013 said that they would knowingly break the law for financial gain. That number jumped to 38 percent for respondents who have worked in finance for less than a decade. The same survey also found that women are twice as likely to fear retaliation for whistleblowing as men.

Wall Street culture holds immense power over the world’s economic fortunes. The products that firms were creating and trading and gambling on in the run-up to the financial crisis were widely understood to be unrealistic, according to white collar crime expert William Black, but there was a cultural understanding that everybody was going to get rich if they kept up the charade. Black and other experts use the acronym “IBGYBG” — I’ll Be Gone, You’ll Be Gone — to describe the dominant mentality among the highly skilled and technically savvy financial professionals who got rich trading pieces of paper that later proved to be valueless. These critics argue that Wall Street professionals knew they’d be able to cash out big bonuses and walk away before the crisis hit.

For outsiders, the consequences of that culture of greed are both massive and ongoing. More than five years after the Great Recession officially ended, earnings have rebounded for the wealthiest people in the country, business is booming for banks, and working Americans continue to face a bad job market and flat earnings despite increased productivity.

 

Alan Pyke, Think Progress

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Elizabeth Warren: From 2003-2012 Big Companies Dedicated 91% of Profits to Shareholders not Workers

On Monday’s Late Show with David Letterman, Main Street warrior Senator Elizabeth Warren pre-gamed this week’s Senate Hearing by talking about ways in which the big banks cheated people out of insane amounts of money to make a profit.

“Yeah, I’m talking about actual law breaking,” Warren told Letterman. “And I’m talking about using every trick in the book.”

Warren discusses the ways in which big banks were not only loading up on profits, but also how they were loading up on risks:

“Now the big financial institutions that had both brought on this crisis and then had been bailed out by the American taxpayer… you might think that they would turn around and say ‘God, we’re really sorry about this what can we do to be helpful here.’ Instead, they started lobbying against any real change in financial reform. They spent more than a million dollars a day for more than a year lobbying against any real changes. you know what their number one target was? The idea of a new little consumer financial protection program. To have an agency in Washington that, unlike all those banking regulators that were looking out for the banks, an agency that would just begin to look out for people who get cheated on credit cards and mortgages.”

Wednesday in a Senate Banking Committee hearing on the increase in income inequality, Senator Warren read an excerpt of, “An Economy Doing Half Its Job,” a Harvard Business School survey released this month. The survey excerpt Warren reads outlines a “recent divergence of outcomes, with firms (especially larger firms) thriving and workers struggling.” It goes on to remark that this is not the norm for the US economy. “Historically, American companies and citizens have tended either to thrive together, as in the boom after World War II, or to suffer together, as during the Great Depression.”

Warren says there’s a simple explanation: Corporations no longer share their profits with workers. “Back in the 1980’s,” Warren quotes from research from Econ professor William Lazonick at UMass Lowell, “large corporations dedicated less than half of their corporate earnings to shareholders. The rest went to invest in their equipment and their employees. But from 2003 to 2012 those big companies dedicated 91 percent of their earnings to their shareholders.”

That’s not a shift in balance, that is a radical right turn towards greed.

Sarah Burris, Blue Nation Review

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South Bay Congressman stands up for Martins Beach

There is news today that Congressman Mike Honda has added his voice to the incredibly important issue of protecting access to Martins Beach in San Mateo County.(http://www.bizjournals.com/sanjose/news/2014/09/11/silicon-valley-congressman-rejects-vc-vinod.html )

The long time Congressman has not only urged the Governor to support SB 968, sponsored by Senator Jerry Hill and Senator Mark Stone, but he has also taken the dramatic step of filling out the California Coastal Commission’s survey (http://www.coastal.ca.gov/) to establish and document its history of public use.

A recent profile on the Congressman (http://www.sfgate.com/politics/article/Election-upset-seen-as-unlikely-against-veteran-5711840.php) has shown his love of fishing and the coast. But his release points out the long history of advocacy for open space

Congressman Honda has been a supporter of open spaces throughout his political career. He was instrumental in the planning and funding of the Mt. Umunhum reclamation project, including securing appropriations funding for the program. For over a decade, he worked to get the Army Corps of Engineers to fulfill its obligation to clean up Mt. Umunhum. After much time and effort, he secured $3.2 Million for the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District’s Almaden Air Force Station Environmental Assessment and Remediation project, which expedited the cleanup of the site to alleviate health and environmental impacts.

Congressman Honda also worked hard in the appropriations committee to secure $18.315 Million for the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration project. This project has begun to restore the health of the San Francisco Bay by creating the largest restored wetlands on the West Coast, providing extensive habitat for federally endangered species and migratory birds.

The Congressman states “protecting our open spaces and California’s sacred wilderness is more than sound policy—it’s our obligation…equal access to our state’s treasured assets is a core value—and one that should be afforded to all regardless of income.”

This record of service is impressive on its own, but when put against his opponents Mike Honda looks like John Muir:

Open space advocates say Honda’s stellar record stands in stark contrast to Khanna’s lack of record when it comes to working on behalf of regional open spaces. While serving on the San Mateo County Parks and Recreation Commission, one of his only stints in public service, Khanna missed 10 out of 23 meetings.

Lennie Roberts, a long time champion of open space and legislative advocate for Committee for Green Foothills, praised Honda’s work on behalf of area open space and added that she wished his opponent exhibited the same commitment to service, referring to Khanna’s poor attendance and lackluster effort on behalf of Measure A, a 2006 funding measure to benefit City and County parks in San Mateo County. 

In fact longtime San Mateo County environmental advocate Lennie Roberts said, “Congressman Honda is well known for his longstanding support of parks and open space preservation and access, and his record of unwavering service speaks for itself,” Roberts said. “If Ro Khanna had demonstrated even a small commitment to parks while serving on the San Mateo County Parks and Recreation Commission, perhaps we would have more funding for our needy parks.  Mr. Khanna missed nearly as many meetings of the Commission as he attended, missed the crucial vote to recommend placing the revenue measure on the ballot, and failed to step up and support our campaign to secure funding for City and County parks in San Mateo County. Frankly, it was disappointing.”

This does not surprise considering his continued embrace of republicans in general and the homophobic, tea party embracing Ernie Konnyu. http://www.sanfranciscosentinel.com/?p=173174 and http://www.sanfranciscosentinel.com/?p=173155, it seems this challenger is not who he pretends to be at all.

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It’s Official: President Obama Is The Best Economic President In Modern Times

In a new economic report, published by Forbes.com on September 6, 2014, clearly shows that President Obama is the best economic president in modern times. It’s not an opinion, it’s a fact, based on all of typical the economic indicators, including jobs, investments, growth and expansion, even the rate of inflation. In all of these areas President Obama’s record outperforms that of every other modern president, including conservative idol, Ronald Reagan.

Under President Obama’s leadership, the unemployment rate has now decreased to 6.1 percent, the lowest it’s been since 2007, when the economy began gushing jobs under the failed leadership of then president George W. Bush.

Typically, republicans have tried to detract from the president’s accomplishments. When it comes to the falling unemployment rate, they claim that it is somehow related to large numbers of people just dropping out of the workforce. This would almost be believable if the economy wasn’t creating new jobs at a rate that coincides perfectly with the falling employment rate, but it is. There have been six consecutive months with more than 200,000 new jobs created, with only a slight dip in that number in August. Additionally, there have been 63 straight months of economic expansion and more than two solid years of manufacturing expansion.

In order to satisfy Obama’s conservative critics, Forbes compared the economy under President Obama to that of Ronald Reagan, who the GOP often touts as the best economic president of our times. It’s no surprise to discover that even with many additional obstacles in his path, Forbes concluded that:

“President Obama’s administration has outperformed President Reagan’s in all commonly watched categories.”

In order to complete the analysis, Forbes interviewed Bob Deitrick, CEO of Polaris Financial Partners. The company’s newsletter is reported to be one of the most reliable authorities on economic performance in the country. Here’s what Deitrick had to say about President Obama’s job creation record, when compared to that of President Reagan.

“President Reagan has long been considered the best modern economic President. So we compared his performance dealing with the oil-induced recession of the 1980s with that of President Obama and his performance during this ‘Great Recession.’

As this unemployment chart shows, President Obama’s job creation kept unemployment from peaking at as high a level as President Reagan, and promoted people into the workforce faster than President Reagan.

President Obama has achieved a 6.1% unemployment rate in his 6th year, fully one year faster than President Reagan did. At this point in his presidency, President Reagan was still struggling with 7.1% unemployment, and he did not reach into the mid-low 6% range for another full year. So, despite today’s number, the Obama administration has still done considerably better at job creating and reducing unemployment than did the Reagan administration.

We forecast unemployment will fall to around 5.4% by summer, 2015. A rate President Reagan was unable to achieve during his two terms.”

According to Forbes, this is not only the best private sector job growth in modern history:

“This is the best private sector jobs creation performance in American History.”

Deitrick also made it clear that President Obama has not achieved this reduction in unemployment because of a shrinking workforce, but in spite of it.

“What’s now clear is that the Obama administration policies have outperformed the Reagan administration policies for job creation and unemployment reduction. Even though Reagan had the benefit of a growing Boomer class to ignite economic growth, while Obama has been forced to deal with a retiring workforce developing special needs. During the 8 years preceding Obama there was a net reduction in jobs in America. We now are rapidly moving toward higher, sustainable jobs growth.”

As a final note, President Obama has managed to outperform Ronald Reagan in all of these areas, while at the same time, reducing the national debt. On the other hand, Reagan greatly expanded the debt, and still failed to achieve in eight years, what President Obama has achieved in only six.

 

Author: Randa Morris, Addicting Info

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This May Be The Strongest Voting Rights Decision Since The Justices Hobbled The Voting Rights Act

Ohio’s attempt to reduce the number of days voters may cast an early ballot is unconstitutional and violates the Constitution and the Voting Rights Act (VRA), according to a decision handed down Thursday by a federal court in that state. Though the decision has a difficult road to travel before Ohio voters can be certain that it will stand — it will appeal to the Sixth Circuit, which has a conservative majority, and ultimately to the same Supreme Court that struck down a key provision of the VRA — Judge Peter Economus’ decision may be the strongest voting rights decision handed down since the justices’ attack on the VRA. Or, at least, it may be the strongest decision in the sense that it calls for a very strong shield to be erected around the right to vote. If his reasoning is ultimately upheld by a higher court, that would be a serious blow to efforts by many state lawmakers to enact laws restricting the franchise.

Much of Judge Economus’ opinion is devoted to explaining how limits on early voting disproportionately impact African-American voters. Many black churches, for example, conduct “Souls to the Polls” events that encourage churchgoers to vote after attending Sunday services — as an Ohio NAACP leader explained, “Sunday was a focal point also because many churches already provide transportation to take people to church, and carpools are also arranged so that everyone is together” — yet the new restrictions on early voting limit these churchgoers’ opportunities to vote on Sunday. Additionally, the new early voting schedule eliminates “Golden Week,” a period when voters can register and vote on the same day. The same NAACP leader testified that African-Americans are especially likely to take advantage of this period because “people in the African-American community in [his community] move frequently, especially since the 2008 recession.”

Empirical data also demonstrates that black voters are more likely to take advantage of early voting. Indeed, according to University of Florida Research Professor Daniel Smith, an expert witness who testified in this case, the rate of early voting in areas that are entirely African-American is more than twice the rate in areas that are entirely white. Additionally, Smith explained that “there is strong empirical evidence in Ohio that a greater proportion of blacks not only cast [early] ballots than whites but do so on early voting days that have been eliminated by” the new voting schedule.
This data matters because, under one of the provisions of the Voting Rights Act that was not struck down by the Roberts Court, “[n]o voting qualification or prerequisite to voting or standard, practice, or procedure shall be imposed or applied by any State or political subdivision in a manner which results in a denial or abridgement of the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color.” Moreover, as a precedent cited by Judge Economus explains, this provision of the VRA “does not require proof of discriminatory intent. Instead, a plaintiff need show only that the challenged action or requirement has a discriminatory effect on members of a protected group[.]”
The VRA prohibits laws that abridges black people’s right to vote. Restricting early voting abridges black people’s right to vote. Therefore it violates the VRA. Q.E.D.

Yet, while this is the strongest argument presented by Economus’ opinion, that doesn’t mean that it will be upheld on appeal. For one thing, as Sean Trende, a political analyst for the news site Real Clear Politics explained in expert testimony on behalf of the state, “’Ohio maintains one of the most expansive systems of early voting in the country,’ with an early-voting period twice the national median.” Though reducing the number of early voting days in Ohio reduces the opportunities for African-Americans to vote from its previous baseline, it is far from guaranteed that a Supreme Court which has been hostile to the Voting Rights Act in the recent past will hold that Ohio is required to maintain its prior baseline.

Indeed, just last month a George W. Bush-appointed judge in North Carolina refused to suspend cuts to early voting in that state, arguing that it was “speculative” to assume that black voters will not shift their voting patterns to other days when voting is allowed. This argument could resonate with a conservative Supreme Court.

Nevertheless, it this decision stands it will be a very important victory for voting rights. Among other things, as Attorney General Eric Holder noted in a press conference Thursday afternoon, Economus’ decision uses some of the “same legal reasoning that underlies the Department’s pending challenges to voting measures” to states like Texas and North Carolina, where lawmakers and state officials are aggressively taking advantage of the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down much of the VRA.

From Think Progress

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A Canadians View on the Disrespect of President Obama’s Presidency

There was a time not so long ago when Americans, regardless of their political stripes, rallied round their president. Once elected, the man who won the White House was no longer viewed as a republican or democrat, but the President of the United States. The oath of office was taken, the wagons were circled around the country’s borders and it was America versus the rest of the world with the president of all the people at the helm.

Suddenly President Barack Obama, with the potential to become an exceptional president has become the glaring exception to that unwritten, patriotic rule.

Four days before President Obama’s inauguration, before he officially took charge of the American government, Rush Limbaugh boasted publicly that he hoped the president would fail. Of course, when the president fails the country flounders. Wishing harm upon your country in order to further your own narrow political views is selfish, sinister and a tad treasonous as well.

Subsequently, during his State of the Union address, which is pretty much a pep rally for America, an unknown congressional representative from South Carolina, later identified as Joe Wilson, stopped the show when he called the President of the United States a liar. The president showed great restraint in ignoring this unprecedented insult and carried on with his speech. Speaker Nancy Pelosi was so stunned by the slur, she forgot to jump to her feet while clapping wildly, 30 or 40 times after that.

Last spring, President Obama took his wife Michelle to see a play in New York City and republicans attacked him over the cost of security for the excursion. The president can’t take his wife out to dinner and a show without being scrutinized by the political opposition? As history has proven, a president in a theatre without adequate security is a tragically bad idea.

Remember: “Apart from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?”

At some point, the treatment of President Obama went from offensive to ugly and then to downright dangerous.

The health-care debate, which looked more like extreme fighting in a mud pit than a national dialogue, revealed a very vulgar side of America. President Obama’s face appeared on protest signs white-faced and blood-mouthed in a satanic clown image. In other tasteless portrayals, people who disagreed with his position distorted his face to look like Hitler complete with mustache and swastika.

Odd, that burning the flag makes Americans crazy, but depicting the president as a clown and a maniacal fascist is accepted as part of the new rude America.

Maligning the image of the leader of the free world is one thing, putting the president’s life in peril is quite another. More than once, men with guns were videotaped at the health-care rallies where the president spoke. Again, history shows that letting men with guns get within range of a president has not served America well in the past.

And still the “birthers” are out there claiming Barack Obama was not born in the United States, although public documentation proves otherwise. Hawaii is definitely part of the United States, but the Panama Canal Zone where his electoral opponent Senator John McCain was born? Nobody’s sure.

Last month, a 44-year-old woman in Buffalo was quite taken by President Obama when she met him in a chicken wing restaurant called Duff’s. Did she say something about a pleasure and an honour to meet the man or utter encouraging words for the difficult job he is doing? No. Quote: “You’re a hottie with a smokin’ little body.”

Lady, that was the President of the United States you were addressing, not one of the Jonas Brothers! He’s your president for goodness sakes, not the guy driving the Zamboni at “Monster Trucks On Ice.” Maybe next it’ll be, “Take Your President To A Topless Bar Day.”

In President Barack Obama, Americans have a charismatic leader with a good and honest heart. Unlike his predecessor, he’s a very intelligent leader. And unlike that president’s predecessor, he’s a highly moral man.

In President Obama, Americans have the real deal, the whole package and a leader that citizens of almost every country around the world look to with great envy. Given the opportunity, Canadians would trade our leader, hell, most of our leaders for Obama in a heartbeat.

What America has in Obama is a head of state with vitality and insight and youth. Think about it, Barack Obama is a young Nelson Mandela. Mandela was the face of change and charity for all of Africa but he was too old to make it happen. The great things Obama might do for America and the world could go on for decades after he’s out of office.

America, you know not what you have.

The man is being challenged unfairly, characterized with vulgarity and treated with the kind of deep disrespect to which no previous president was subjected. It’s like the day after electing the first black man to be president, thereby electrifying the world with hope and joy, Americans sobered up and decided the bad old days were better.

President Obama may fail but it will not be a Richard Nixon default fraught with larceny and lies. President Obama, given a fair chance, will surely succeed but his triumph will never come with a Bill Clinton caveat – “if only he’d got control of that zipper.”

Please. Give the man a fair, fighting chance. This incivility toward the leader who won over Americans and gave hope to billions of people around the world that their lives could be enhanced by his example, just naturally has to stop.

Believe me, when Americans drive by the White House and see a sign on the lawn that reads: “No shirt. No shoes. No service,” they’ll realize this new national rudeness has gone way, way too far.

 

Egberto Willies, the Fifth Estate

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Federal Judge Richard Posner: The GOP Has Made Me Less Conservative

Judge Richard Posner, a conservative on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, has long been one of the nation’s most respected and admired legal thinkers on the right. But in an interview with NPR, he expressed exasperation at the modern Republican Party, and confessed that he has become “less conservative” as a result.

Posner expressed admiration for President Ronald Reagan and the economist Milton Friedman, two pillars of conservatism. But over the past 10 years, Posner said, “there’s been a real deterioration in conservative thinking. And that has to lead people to re-examine and modify their thinking.”

“I’ve become less conservative since the Republican Party started becoming goofy,” he said.

Posner, who was appointed to the appeals court by Reagan, speculated that the leaks about the deliberations over the national health care law — which are apparently designed to discredit Chief Justice John Roberts’ opinion upholding the law — would backfire. “I think these right-wingers who are blasting Roberts are making a very serious mistake,” he said.

“Because if you put [yourself] in his position … what’s he supposed to think? That he finds his allies to be a bunch of crackpots? Does that help the conservative movement? I mean, what would you do if you were Roberts? All the sudden you find out that the people you thought were your friends have turned against you, they despise you, they mistreat you, they leak to the press. What do you do? Do you become more conservative? Or do you say, ‘What am I doing with this crowd of lunatics?’ Right? Maybe you have to re-examine your position.”

In addition to his work as an appeals court judge, Posner is the author of more than three dozen books on subjects ranging from law and economics to aging and literature.

 

by NINA TOTENBERG, NPR

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Student Loan Crusader: How Elizabeth Warren Wants to Reduce Debt

As a first-term senator from Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren is advancing her fight for middle-class families with a legislative agenda focused on college affordability and student debt. “Rising student-loan debt is an economic emergency,” she says. “Forty million people are dealing with $1.2 trillion in outstanding student debt. It’s stopping young people from buying homes, from buying cars and from starting small businesses. We need to take action.”

Warren’s bills range from pie-in-the-sky progressive – she called for college loans to be issued at the same, nearly free, interest rates that Wall Street banks receive from the Fed – to soberly bipartisan. Her proposal to refinance outstanding student-loan debt at less than four percent interest (financed by a new minimum tax on America’s top earners) nearly cleared the Senate in June, and will return to the Senate floor for a new vote this fall. “This country invests in tax loopholes for billionaires,” she says. “And forces college students to pay for them through higher interest rates on their loans. That makes no sense at all.”

College affordability is not a new problem. Tuition costs are up 500 percent since 1985. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says the solution is that “not every­body needs to go to Yale.” That sounds cynical. But is there some pragmatism there? Is it time to admit that a traditional college education has become a luxury good?
Mitch McConnell’s idea that people should dream a little smaller is deeply flawed. And let me add: The problem is not limited to private universities. States used to pick up about three out of every four dollars it cost to educate someone at a public university. Now it’s about one in four. In America today, a young person needs more education after high school just to have a chance to make it in the middle class. Not a guarantee, just a chance to make it.

What can Congress do about it, on the front end, to rein in tuition?
One way is to force schools to have some skin in the game. I’ve co-sponsored a bill with Sen. Jack Reed [D-R.I.] that requires colleges with high student-loan defaults to pay back some of the federal student aid they use.

The major thrust of your work hasn’t been in trying to lower tuitions, but in making college cheaper to finance. Why is that the right approach?
Just the little slice of loans that were issued between 2007 and 2012 are projected to produce $66 billion in profits to the federal government. Think about that. The role of government has to be helping young people, instead of taxing them for making the effort. I would like [to set student loans] at the same rate that the government currently charges the financial institutions. I tried that last year [laughs].

Your latest proposal is to let people with outstanding student debt refinance loans at the same rate currently being offered to students.
Homeowners refinance their loans when interest rates go down. Businesses refinance their loans. But right now, there’s no way for students to be able to do that. I’ve proposed that we reduce the interest rate on the outstanding loan debt to the same rate Republicans and Democrats came together last year to set on new loans [3.86 percent]. For millions of borrowers, that would cut interest rates in half or more. Unfortunately, the federal government can’t just reduce the interest rate. It has already built those expected profits into the budget. So we propose stitching up tax loopholes that are available only to millionaires and billionaires, and requiring them to pay taxes at the same rate most American families pay. That would more than pay for the cost of reducing the interest rate on student loans.

What’s the status of that bill?
Every single Democrat supported it. Both Independents supported the bill. And even three Republicans voted to move it forward. But the rest of the Republicans filibustered.

We will be voting on it again in September. As a country, we can either invest in tax loopholes for billionaires or lower-cost student loans for young people who are trying to build a future. Billionaires or students: It’s a pretty stark choice.

From Rolling Stone, Tim Dickinson

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Ro Khanna Campaign Silent Following Homophobic Rant by Republican Supporter Ernie Konnyu: Editorial

 

Ro Khanna Campaign Silent

Ro Khanna Campaign Silent

Congressional candidate Ro Khanna should  immediately take action and publically denounce the support of homophobic former Congressman Ernie Konnyu, Khanna’s highest-profile Republican endorser.

Konnyu, a one-term Silicon Valley Congressman who was voted out of office following a sexual harassment scandal, made news last week for orchestrating Tea Party support for Khanna, who is hoping to unseat longtime U.S. Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose.

But this week Konnyu took his right-wing vitriol a step further, using Facebook to publically attack the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce PAC for supporting openly gay Campbell Mayor Evan Low in his State Assembly race against former Saratoga mayor Chuck Page.

Konnyu waged his attack last Friday on a Facebook comment by former Chamber CEO Jim Cunneen, calling it “sick” that the Chamber PAC would support “a liberal so left that he wants to change the law to allow blood donations by gays. This, even though the current law forbids it since such blood has a risk of transferring the deadly AIDS virus. Yes! Gay pride is worth more with Evan Low than our citizens’ lives.”

Despite Cunneen’s efforts to prevent Konnyu from doing more damage by “counting to 10 before posting on Facebook,” Konnyu instead redirected his attack on Cunneen. “I am wiser, more experienced, and a lot older than you,” he said.

The San Jose Inside blog broke the story Wednesday but so far we’ve heard nothing from the Khanna campaign. By contrast, following last week’s news about the Tea Party’s support, Khanna’s campaign immediately responded with a “with friends like these…” shake of the head.

Konnyu is becoming a tremendous liability for Khanna, and we’re shocked that Khanna hasn’t denounced Konnyu’s misguided statements and support.

Let’s face it; Khanna doesn’t have a shot at defeating Honda, a seven-term incumbent with a proven track record of fighting for civil rights and same-sex equality.  However, that’s no excuse not to stand up and speak out against this kind of discrimination and homophobia – in his district and on his endorsement list.

 

 

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Splunk Technology Co. To Occupy 270 Brannan St.–Groundbreaking Draws Mayor Lee, SKS Partners, Mitsui Fudosan America

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Mayor Ed Lee today joined SKS Partners, Mitsui Fudosan America and more than 50 dignitaries at a ceremony today to officially break ground on 270 Brannan St. – the new 213,000 gross sq. ft. office building located in the heart of San Francisco’s SOMA neighborhood.  The space is already 100 percent leased to machine data player Splunk, which has another leased office building within the block of the new development.

“Our City’s South of Market neighborhood is going through an exciting renaissance, transforming an underutilized warehouse district into a growing, modern mixed-use area with office space, housing and small businesses,” said Mayor Lee. “I am thrilled to break ground on the 270 Brannan St. office building with SKS Partners and Mitsui Fudosan America who are committed to working with the community to ensure this neighborhood thrives economically yet maintains its historic presence.”

The building is being developed as a joint venture between San Francisco’s SKS Partners and Mitsui Fudosan America. The building was designed by prominent local architect, Peter Pfau, and Charles Pankow Builders is the general contractor.

Splunk, the big data technology company, will occupy the building when it opens in Dec. 2015.

“270 Brannan is the realization of the City’s 2008 Eastern Neighborhoods plan, creating a new office building for the growing economy that respects the historical context of the South Beach neighborhood,” said Dan Kingsley and Paul Stein, the Managing Partners at SKS.

City planners have praised the design of 270 Brannan St. for incorporating the character and history of the neighborhood while meeting the needs of its tenants.

The building will include a 5,000 sq. ft. internal atrium which will connect the building’s five-story front section and seven-story rear section. The building is targeting LEED Platinum Certification by the US Green Building Council and has many environmentally-friendly features such as roof-top solar panels.  It also includes spaces for 52 bikes along with adjacent showers and lockers in its basement. Automobile parking is limited to 12 spots in the building’s underground garage.

The building’s design will feature a pattern of alternating aluminum curtain wall windows and terracotta cladding on its Brannan Street façade, consistent with the surrounding South End Historic District. The rear façade, which fronts on DeBoom Street, will feature terracotta cladding on the lower floors with a floor-to-ceiling glass curtain wall on the top two floors.

“This groundbreaking is happening during a truly important time for environmental responsibility, both locally and globally. We are making real and lasting investments to improve our city, while protecting our environment and creating new jobs,” said Yukio Yoshida, President of Mitsui Fudosan America. “This building is believed to be one of the first to feature more bike parking spaces than car parking stalls in the history of San Francisco real estate developments and that, in and of itself, is a huge indication that we are opening a new chapter in San Francisco’s history of progress.”

The new 270 Brannan St. is scheduled to open in December 2015.

For more information, visit www.270brannan.com

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The Gorilla Foundation Announces New Focus, Key Hires and Important Organizational Changes

KoKo gorilla

Koko gorilla

San Francisco–The Gorilla Foundation announced a series of important changes today, including anticipated new management positions, potential new Board members and a certain new focus, all designed to strengthen one of the world’s leading organizations for great ape understanding, care and conservation. “We have come to a crossroads in our Foundation’s history, and we have recognized the need to do more for the cause of the great apes through building global empathy for their preservation and care”

These improvements, made after an extensive internal review with the help of the Foundation’s Scientific Advisory Board, Governing Board and outside consultants, seek to balance the vital goals of caring for and protecting the gorillas (Koko and Ndume) while refocusing and reinvigorating the organization’s core mission of learning about gorillas through direct communication, and applying that knowledge to advance great ape conservation and prevent their extinction through education, compassionate care and empathy worldwide.

“We have come to a crossroads in our Foundation’s history, and we have recognized the need to do more for the cause of the great apes through building global empathy for their preservation and care,” said Dr. Penny Patterson, the lead researcher behind the Foundation’s groundbreaking “Project Koko,” which is to date the longest running interspecies communication project in history and the only one involving gorillas.

“Koko and her family have taught us so much over many decades and now, more than ever, we feel it is incumbent on this organization to share what we’ve learned with people across the globe, as a way to help put an end to poaching and build compassion for enhancing the care of gorillas and other great apes everywhere,” she said.

The Gorilla Foundation was founded in 1976 by Dr. Patterson, Ron Cohn and philanthropist Barbara Hiller to expand the groundbreaking and unique work of “Project Koko,” the first-ever project to study the linguistic capabilities of gorillas through sign language. Today, after decades of research and learning, Koko is able to use more than 1,000 signs, understands as many words of spoken English, and demonstrates the amazing ability to communicate her thoughts and express her feelings through sign language.

With the goal of protecting and honoring this legacy for generations to come, the Foundation’s leadership today announced, in addition to organizational changes, a series of goals and programs that are designed to make better use of what Koko and her family have taught us over the years. These include:

RESEARCH:

1. Gorilla Emotional Awareness Study (GEARS) will provide an analysis of Koko’s awareness of her emotions (introspection) and the emotions of others (empathy), in research made possible by her unique communication abilities.

2. Digital Data Archival of Project Koko for Future Crowd-Sourced Research will involve a partnership with a major university to digitize and preserve four decades of unique Gorilla Foundation data and archive it in a form that will facilitate analysis and collaboration.

EDUCATION:

3. Koko Signing App will allow the public to learn to sign with Koko and to understand her in videos designed to advance the public’s knowledge about gorillas and learn about their need for compassionate conservation.

4. Project Koko Interactive Database will be made available to scientific colleagues and great ape facilities so that they can make use of our direct experience and data, gained through years of communicating with gorillas.

CONSERVATION:

5. Publication of new book (with video), Michael’s Dream, about the remarkable life of Koko’s gorilla friend Michael, who, on several occasions, communicated (in sign language) his memory of witnessing his gorilla mother being killed by poachers in Africa. This was documented on video.

6. Wide Distribution of Koko’s Kitten & Michael’s Dream Books and Educational Curricula throughout Africa, to strengthen compassionate conservation values and support the preservation of endangered gorillas In their homelands. This builds on our successful distribution of Koko’s Kitten (and curriculum) to over 100,000 students in Cameroon.

CARE AND WELLNESS:

7. Enhancement of Koko & Ndume’s facilities to enrich their lives, expand their options for exploration and privacy, and create capacity for a larger gorilla family.

8. Gorilla Interspecies Communication Work/Play-Station will provide the gorillas with the use of interactive computer technology (including “tough tablets”) to allow them to have fun, express their preferences and have more control over their environment.

ORGANIZATIONAL INFRASTRUCTURE:

9. Expanding the Foundation’s Board of Directors to include more experts in our highly specialized field, as well as strategically selected business, finance and fundraising experts.

10. Developing a new executive team for leadership, fundraising and building strategic alliances.

These changes are being made as part of a focused process with three primary goals: 1) to ensure the care and protection of Koko and Ndume now and into the future and 2) to better apply the lessons learned by the Foundation to protect and enhance the lives of gorillas and other great apes worldwide, and 3) to allow our enlightening dialogues with Koko, Ndume and other gorillas to continue.

The Foundation’s leadership is tremendously appreciative of the contributions of its Board of Directors, Advisory Board, and its many consultants and colleagues, who were integral to the development of this new vision.

For more information about the Gorilla Foundation, visit www.koko.org.

 

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In Kansas Primaries Yesterday, The Kochs Lost. Badly. by

From The Daily Kos

The Kansas primaries yesterday taught us a great many things, but one lesson that we learned is that large money spending in races by Koch backed Americans for Prosperity and Kris Kobach backed Prairie Fire PACs backfired.

I’ll talk about the results in many races, but I want to highlight a few:

Kansas House District 122

R-J. Russell “Russ” Jennings     1,475     65%
R-Stan Rice     802     35%

Kansas House District 9

R-Kent L. Thompson     1,505     60%
R-Chad E. VanHouden     1,005     40%

Kansas House District 21

R-Barbara Bollier     1,777     59%
R-Neil Melton     1,215     41%

Kansas House District 19

R-Stephanie Clayton     2,322     68%
R-Jennifer Flood     1,107     32%

These numbers out of these Republican state Primaries should put a smile on the face of every moderate to progressive in Kansas and send a giant red flag up to the Kochs.  Why?

The Republican primary has long been the deciding ground for many races within Kansas.  In 2012, unhappy with the level of moderates in the Kansas Republican Party, Sam Brownback engaged in an effort to sweep them out by running primary opponents against them who would be lock step with his issues.   This campaign against moderates was largely successful, and we ended up with the current slate in the Kansas Statehouse.

Last night, however, the same tactic failed miserably.

Kris Kobach spent significantly in mail pieces and an ad campaign against Thompson and Russ Jennings.   He did so on the back of a single issue:  Kobach wanted Turn Gay Away legislation and they voted no.

But Kobach and Chamber of Commerce spending was all for naught, as the moderate Republican walked right through.    The real story of the night came out of Johnson County proper, where Stephanie Clayton – a moderate Republican who has been under fire, whipped her opponent, a hand picked Koch candidate who stood with them and against Stephanie on significant issues like Renewable Energy, education, etc.

Clayton faced a high money campaign against her, with mailpieces from Kansas Chamber of Commerce, Americans for Prosperity and door knocking campaigns going on to oust her from office.

What happened?   Clayton walked away with 68% of the vote in a clear rebuke of all the money spent.   Clayton couldn’t match AfP or Chamber in dollars, but her performance at the League of Women Voters and her ability to reach out to her constituents and explain the issues proved to be the ultimate trump card – and despite the big money spend, she was never in any real trouble it seems.

This is a huge rebuke of the way Koch, AfP and the Chamber of Commerce have done business in Kansas.

Numerous races in Kansas last night went much farther than they should have, and resulted in some odd moments.

Sam Brownback, facing a significant protest vote was ON VIDEO declaring that the reason why Pro-Pot Jennifer Winn garnered so much of the vote was because of Obama.  That’s right.   Obama caused people to vote for Jennifer Winn.

In Western Kansas, Tim Huelskamp went down to the wire, giving up 47% of the vote to “Not Tim Huelskamp” LaPolice in a primary.   People have written off District 1, but the momentum behind “Not Huelskamp” is in fact pretty real.   The question is, can Democrats capitalize on that?   We’re going to have to find out.

Margie Wakefield Had to have a wry smile as Lynn Jenkins found herself with a protest vote that also went over 20% – what makes that troubling for Lynn Jenkins is that Jenkins spent significant money in the last few weeks going up with ad buys in the Pittsburg/Joplin area and out of Topeka.   This was not an expected result, as most felt that Jenkins wouldn’t be sullied by the Brownback problem as part of the Republican leadership and unconnected with the Huelskamp fiasco, but she also couldn’t escape getting hit with some of the debris.

The one dark spot  For all the good news, there was one race in Kansas that had a pretty troubling result.  Kansas House District 30, Olathe Kansas had a potentially scary result in that Randy Powell, anti-choice, anti-gay minister managed to be one of the very few tea conservatives who cleared through the primary.   He’s in a district that is fairly divided and where a Democrat last ran with a micro-campaign netted 47% of the vote.

Randy Powell is one of those candidates that has a real shot to cause real damage in the state house, and Liz Dickinson’s campaign becomes much more important for Democrats to win and overturn.   Powell, who is openly committed to re-advancing Turn Gay Away legislation and ‘anything’ that can stop choice, birth control, etc. makes for a dangerous potential candidate.   The upside is that he won a divided Republican primary where the moderates split away and left him a thin margin win.

It is now pretty important that Democrats actually commit to helping Liz Dickinson win if we want to not just flip a house seat but we have a desire for sanity.

 

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Child Migrants Have Been Coming to America Alone Since Ellis Island

And no, we didn’t just send them packing.

It's hard to say exactly how many of Ellis Island's child migrants were unaccompanied, but Moreno says they were in the thousands.

It’s hard to say exactly how many of Ellis Island’s child migrants were unaccompanied, but a leading historian says they were in the several thousands. National Archives

An unaccompanied child migrant was the first person in line on opening day of the new immigration station at Ellis Island. Her name was Annie Moore, and that day, January 1, 1892, happened to be her 15th birthday. She had traveled with her two little brothers from Cork County, Ireland, and when they walked off the gangplank, she was awarded a certificate and a $10 gold coin for being the first to register. Today, a statue of Annie stands on the island, a testament to the courage of millions of children who passed through those same doors, often traveling without an older family member to help them along.

Of course, not everyone was lining up to give Annie and her fellow passengers a warm welcome. Alarmists painted immigrants—children included—as disease-riddenjob stealers bent on destroying the American way of life. And they’re still at it. On a CNN segment about the current crisis of child migrants from Central and South America, Michele Bachmann used the word “invaders” and warned of rape and other dangers posed to Americans by the influx. And last week, National Review scoffed at appeals to American ideals of compassion and charity, claiming Ellis Island officials had a strict send-’em-back policy when it came to children showing up alone.

Col. Helen Bastedo posted bond for 13-year-old Osman Louis, a Belgian stowaway, February 1921

Col. Helen Bastedo posted bond for 13-year-old Belgian stowaway Osman Louis, February 1921. Augustus Sherman/National Parks Service

That’s not true, according to Barry Moreno, a librarian at the Ellis Island Immigration Museum and author of the book Children of Ellis Island. The Immigration Act of 1907 did indeed declare that unaccompanied children under 16 were not permitted to enter in the normal fashion. But it didn’t send them packing, either. Instead, the act set up a system in which unaccompanied children—many of whom were orphans—were kept in detention awaiting a special inquiry with immigration inspectors to determine their fate. At these hearings, local missionaries, synagogues, immigrant aid societies, and private citizens would often step in and offer to take guardianship of the child, says Moreno.

In Annie’s case, her parents were waiting to receive her; they’d taken the same journey to New York three years before, looking for work. But according to Moreno, thousands of unaccompanied children came over without friends or family on the other side of the crossing, many of them stowaways. Moreno doesn’t know of an official count of how many children were naturalized this way, but he says it was fairly common. And he can point to at least one great success story, that of Henry Armetta, a 15-year-old stowaway from Palermo, Italy, who was sponsored by a local Italian man and went on to be an actor in films with Judy Garland and the Marx Brothers. “He’s one of the best known of the Ellis Island stowaways,” Moreno says.

Eight orphan children whose mothers were killed in a Russian pogrom. They were brought to Ellis Island in 1908. Augustus Sherman/National Parks Service

Other children journeyed to Ellis Island alone because they had lost their parents, often to war or famine, and had been sponsored by immigrant aid societies and other charities in America. The picture above shows eight Jewish children whose mothers had been killed in a Russian pogrom in 1905. The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society had obtained “bonds” to sponsor their immigration, and they arrived at Ellis Island in 1908. As Moreno notes in his book, thousands of orphans came over thanks to such bonds, and after landing, many would travel on “orphan trains” to farms and small towns where their patrons had arranged their stay.

New York, N.Y. Children's Colony, a school for refugee children administered by a Viennese. German refugee child, a devotee of Superman.

A German refugee child and Superman devotee at the New York City Children’s Colony, a school for refugee children run by Viennese immigrants  Marjory Collins/Library of Congress

Ellis Island officials made several efforts to care for children detained on the island—those with parents and those without—who could be there for weeks at a time. Around 1900 a playground was constructed there with a sandbox, swings, and slides. A group of about a dozen women known as “matrons” played games and sang songs with the children, many of whom they couldn’t easily communicate with due to language barriers. Later, a school room was created for them, and the Red Cross supplied a radio for the children to listen to.

And of course, many of those kids grew up to work tough jobs, start new businesses and create new jobs, and pass significant amounts of wealth down to some of the very folks clamoring to “send ‘em back” today.

From Mother Jones

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Iowa’s Ernst dabbles in nullification extremism

In 2010 and 2012, Republican primary voters nominated some pretty outrageous candidates who were so extreme, they alienated the American mainstream and helped deliver key victories to Democrats. The names are as familiar as they are infamous: Todd Akin, Sharron Angle, Richard Mourdock, Christine O’Donnell, et al.

There’s a sense that the GOP learned valuable lessons from these fiascos, and made a conscious, concerted effort to nominate fewer extremists for statewide contests in 2014

Iowa’s Joni Ernst is a notable exception.

As Rachel Maddow noted on her show last month, Ernst has said she would ban abortions and many forms of birth control; she would privatize Social Security and abolish the minimum wage; she would back an anti-gay amendment to the Constitution; she’s open to impeaching President Obama for unknown reason; and she believes there’s secret information that Saddam Hussein really did have weapons of mass destruction.

Yesterday, Ben Jacobs ran a report that’s arguably the more alarming revelation to date: the right-wing U.S. Senate candidate “appears to believe states can nullify federal laws.”

In a video obtained by The Daily Beast, Ernst said on September 13, 2013 at a forum held by the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition that Congress should not pass any laws “that the states would consider nullifying.”

“You know we have talked about this at the state legislature before, nullification. But, bottom line is, as U.S. Senator why should we be passing laws that the states are considering nullifying? Bottom line: our legislators at the federal level should not be passing those laws. We’re right … we’ve gone 200-plus years of federal legislators going against the Tenth Amendment’s states’ rights. We are way overstepping bounds as federal legislators. So, bottom line, no we should not be passing laws as federal legislators – as senators or congressman – that the states would even consider nullifying. Bottom line.”

Jacobs’ report added that Ernst, during her brief tenure as a state senator, hasn’t sponsored pro-nullification legislation, but she did back a resolution that says “the State of Iowa hereby claims sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States over all powers not otherwise enumerated and granted to the federal government by the Constitution of the United States.” It was introduced in response to “many federal mandates [that] are directly in violation of the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.”

I can appreciate why issues like nullification may seem esoteric to everyday concerns on the minds of Iowa voters, but it’s important to appreciate how this fits into a simple truth: the more the picture of Ernst comes into sharper focus, the more radical she appears.

In this case, Ernst didn’t explicitly call for the nullification of a specific law, but that’s not really the point – Ernst seems to have a general belief that states can nullify federal laws they don’t like, which puts the right-wing Iowan on the furthest fringes of modern American thought

To be clear, this is not in a legal gray area. This isn’t a judgment call. It’s not a question that could go either way if tested in the courts. Rather, the question of whether states can invalidate federal laws they don’t like was decided in the middle of the 19th century – in something called the Civil War – and it was a dispute the nullification crowd lost.

That a competitive U.S. Senate candidate is making comments like these, out loud and on purpose, is pretty scary, to put it mildly. We’re not talking about the usual Democrat-vs.-Republican, left-vs.-right debate; this is settled American law vs. looney tunes.

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Poll: Boehner’s pre-impeachment lawsuit is backfiring

If you think House Speaker John Boehner’s pre-impeachment lawsuit against President Obama for failing to implement Obamacare quickly enough makes him look like an obstructionist jackass who is more interested in political stunts than doing the right thing for the country,you’re not alone:

A majority of Americans view House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) lawsuit over President Obama’s delayed implementation of ObamaCare’s employer mandate as a “political stunt,” according to a new poll released Monday.The survey, commissioned by liberal advocacy group Americans United for Change, found that 51 percent of voters don’t believe the lawsuit is legitimate, versus just 41 percent who do.

Moreover, 56 percent say the lawsuit is wasteful spending, with just 36 percent saying it is a good use of taxpayer dollars.

Here’s the kicker:

The survey found that a plurality of Americans — 46 percent — say the suit makes them less likely to vote for Republicans in the upcoming midterm elections. By contrast, three in 10 say the suit makes them more likely to vote for the GOP.

And why is that? Perhaps because of this:

Some 58 percent of voters say the suit will not help improve the lives of people like them, and 63 percent say Congress should be more focused on taking action to create jobs.

On the one hand, these results are heartening, because it’s always good to know that a solid majority of the country hasn’t gone completely bonkers. On the other hand: Who the hell are the 37 percent of morons who wouldn’t rather see Congress focused on jobs instead of Boehner’s pre-impeachment lawsuit?\

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When Conservatives Engage in Islamophobia and Homophobia, and Then Evoke Nazi Analogies, Hitler Smiles Gleefully In Hell

 

2014-07-07-HERITAGEONE.jpg

Conservative media personalities from Glenn Beck to Rush Limbaugh, as well as lawmakers and think tanks like the Heritage Foundation, have done their best to create a revisionist historical narrative of the Holocaust, Third Reich, and Nazism.Saddam is another Hitler, therefore we must invade Iraq and engage in nation building through a decade of insurgent war. Liberals who admonish Bill O’Reilly are engaging in Nazi tactics by lying, even though politicians throughout history have lied and lying (although relevant) isn’t what allowed Hitler to engage in genocide or conquer Europe. Another great leap of logic is the talking point claiming Nazi Germany didn’t allow citizens gun ownership, so therefore anyone who advocates gun control is allowing another Nazi Germany.

Well, Hitler also had a German Shepherd and was a vegetarian, but that doesn’t make PETA a fascist organization or vegetarians Nazis. In addition, making childish leaps of logic is the hallmark of those who claim Islam is responsible for terrorism, even though George Bush never had a problem dancing with a Saudi prince and said verbatim after 9/11 that, “The enemy of America is not our many Muslim friends.” There are many other examples of conservatives mangling historical accuracy to further an extreme agenda, but these historically inaccurate analogies often begin with an altered definition of words. Altering words in the hopes of marginalizing and demonizing groups based on their identity, for example condemning someone for having a beard or labeling homosexuals asabnormal, is how Goebbels, Hitler, and the Nazis killed six million Jews and millions of other human beings-including homosexuals. According to the University of Minnesota, up to 63,000 men were convicted of homosexuality in the Third Reich and about 15,000 or more were murdered in concentration camps.

In order to legitimize a new, right-wing version of history (a history where the NRA would have overthrown Hitler), people like Glenn Beck in particular have worked hard to change the definition of words like, “racism.” Whereas the Willie Horton ads of years past once served a purpose for Republicans, today even mentioning something is racist is met with a similar response. To Glenn Beck, for example, racism is no longer minorities claiming persecution because of the color of their skin or ethnic background. Rather, racism according to many conservatives like Beck is having the audacity to claim someone is racist for making outlandish statements like, “Obama has a deep seeded hatred for white people or the white culture.”

Furthermore, Islamophobic diatribes from Bill O’Reilly like, “he absolutely looked like a Muslim… I stand by it” are also used by Republicans and conservatives to demonize, or marginalize a segment of the population. Apparently looking like a Muslim is a bad thing to the Fox News pundit, even though we’ve spent over a decade in two insurgent wars trying to help Muslims and engaging in nation building within two Muslim countries. Also, the LGBT community has never been immune to ignorant statements from conservatives, including Rick Perry’s recent gem (the same Rick Perry with the N-word at the entrance of his Texas ranch) when he stated, “I may have the genetic coding that I’m inclined to be an alcoholic, but I have the desire not to do that, and I look at the homosexual issue the same way.” As for the level of vitriol the LGBT community has faced for decades, conservatives have often times utilized religion to claim homosexuals could be “cured” from their homosexuality, as well as claiming for years that homosexuality was a sin.

The GOP’s level of homophobia is far more reminiscent of the Third Reich than any of the ridiculous analogies of liberals being fascist for wanting to make gay marriage legal or enact sensible gun legislation. According to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum, homosexuals were a targeted group in the Third Reich:

Hatred of homosexuals was determined by both party ideology and the personal obsessions of the leaders, and especially of Heinrich Himmler, the main originator of the plan to exterminate homosexuals. For Himmler and other Nazi ideologues, homosexuals — like Jews — were the incarnation of degeneracy. They saw Jews and homosexuals as outsiders and inferior human beings who threatened the purity of der Volk…They accused Jews and homosexuals of using the fact that they were different as a weapon against society.

No, Republicans are not Nazis. However, many in the GOP see homosexuals as “outsiders” and have often claimed a “homosexual agenda,” or conspiracy to further LGBT rights. As Republican National Committeeman Dave Agema posted on his Facebook page a little while back, “Part of the homosexual agenda is to get the public to affirm their filthy lifestyle.”

As for other types of fear mongering, a recent Heritage foundation conference exemplified a sad display of Islamophobia. During the panel discussion, American University Law student Saba Ahmed made the relevant point that most Muslims are good people, yet are labeled as threats by the media and lawmakers. Brigitte Gabriel, a panelist at the Heritage event, responded by using the following illogical and dangerous analogy:

“When you look throughout history, most Germans were peaceful, yet the Nazis drove the agenda and, as a result, 60 million died…”

“On Sept. 11, we had 2.3 million Arab Muslims in the United States. It took 19 hijackers, 19 radicals, to bring the United States to its knees… the peaceful majority were irrelevant.

What better way to combat prejudice and ignorance than focusing on 19 terrorists while completely marginalizing 2.3 million innocent human beings? Reducing all of WWII to less than three sentences was also classic.

The truth of the matter is that genocidal regimes are started through words and propaganda that marginalize a certain group; a minority of people who are blamed for the perceived or actual infractions of a few within their religion, race, or ethnic group. While Rutgers University Professor Emeritus Peter Golden has explained that anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are ”two ugly twins”, the fact that both hatreds begin with prejudice and dangerous leaps of logic (“the peaceful majority were irrelevant”) speaks volumes. Also, as explained by Edward Kissi inAuschwitz: Inside the Nazi State, genocides are enabled by fear, prejudice, and myth making:

Genocide happens through a combination of factors: 1) ethnic prejudice, racism, and other forms of hatred; 2) fear of the other; 3) extreme forms of nationalism; 4) radical and absurd ideas of social change; 5) myth-making–just simply the idea of creating mythologies around a group, constructing the group as the embodiment of all evil; and 6) the desire on the part of the state to engage in extreme propaganda against the group that motivates large numbers of people to go out and destroy that particular group.

Which political party in the United States engages in “fear of the other?” How do both political parties in the U.S. view the LGBT community, Muslims, illegal immigrants, and people on government assistance? Which political party furthered the myth that President Obama is a Kenyan with a forged birth certificate, or that the ACA will lead to death panels?

As Jasjit Singh of SALDEF eloquently penned in a recent article, ignorant statements hurt all Americans:

“They have fostered a climate of fear and hostility, which has threatened the safety and liberty of millions of Americans — Sikh, Muslim and otherwise. We must stand up, not just as Sikh Americans, but as Americans, to defend tolerance and acceptance. The beard is not a threat. It is our right.

The political goal of making a different group become the enemy and “the other” is what every Hitler analogy should revolve around, not the vapid uses of quotes from Nazis that could apply to all politicians.

With every accusation that links all Muslims with terrorism, gay people with some genetic abnormality, or allegations painting a political rival as a traitor (Anne Coulter’s book, example), Adolf Hitler smiles gleefully from a blazing inferno below.

 

H.A. Goodman, from Huffington Post

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Ten Reasons Women Are Losing While Gays Keep Winning

Even as gay equality becomes one of the fastest-advancing civil rights causes in history, reactionaries are still turning back the clock for women. Why?

The Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, among its many troubling consequences, is yet another entry in the latest disturbing trend of civil rights cases, in which gays win, and women lose.

Juxtapose Hobby Lobby with the recent fate of Arizona’s “Turn the Gays Away” bill. In Arizona, a religious exemption that would allow business owners to refuse to serve gay people died a fiery death. The issue was basically the same as inHobby Lobby: when businesses can discriminate on the basis of religion. Yet gays won, and women lost.

This has been going on for years. Consider: in 2004, being gay was a fireable offense in a majority of states and in the U.S. military. The first same-sex marriage case, in Massachusetts, had just been decided. It had only been a year since “sodomy” was illegal in 14 states. Gay politicians were few and far between; gay celebrities were closeted.

This week, a same-sex marriage ban was struck down in Kentucky, yet barely made the national news. Kentucky.

In the same 10 years, women’s autonomy to make their own healthcare decisions has been steadily eroded. Fifty-four abortion clinics have closed since 2010 alone, out of fewer than 800 nationwide. “Conscience clauses,” originally intended to allow doctors to refuse to perform abortions, have expanded to include entire health systems. Gag orders are in effect around the world. It hasn’t been this hard to get an abortion in 40 years.

Why is this happening? Why has the progress on LGBT equality been accompanied by regress on women’s equality? And can advocates for women take any lessons from advocates for LGBTs?

There are many possible answers to these questions. Here are my top 10.

1. Born This Way. In the 1970s and 1980s, gay liberation was about the liberation of sexual choice. “Homosexuality” was as much an act as an identity—as it still is today in some quarters of the Christian Right. Only in the 1990s did the mainstream LGBT movement (to the continuing consternation of radicals) start saying that gays are “born that way”—i.e., that sexual identity was a fundamental, and ultimately unchangeable, trait.

Abortion and contraception, however, are acts—as is the sexual act that brings them into necessity. And pro-choice activists have repeatedly failed to reframe them as issues of discrimination against women. Look at how Hobby Lobby went down: as long as women can purchase contraception elsewhere (act), who cares about the harm to their humanity (identity) that comes from an employer making decisions for them?

Unfortunately, even the name “pro-choice” reinforces that the movement is about acts and not identity: freedom of choice, not equality of status. This may be a noble goal, and it is one which many more left-wing LGBT activists still hope to pursue, but it is also one that plays badly at the polls—as the mainstream gay rights movement learned in the 1990s. ‘Thick’ liberation appeals to the left but alienates the center.  At present, many Americans oppose discrimination, but they’re okay with restricting personal freedoms. Sucks, but there it is.

2. Love is Love But Abortion Isn’t Childbirth. Together with the LGBT movement’s identity frame, it has successfully defined same-sex marriage in terms of universals to which everyone can (supposedly) relate: love, family, equality. The pro-choice/reproductive justice movement has not yet been able to do so. Yes, autonomy, freedom, and liberty are important, but the context in which those abstract values are enacted remains particular, not universal. Men cannot relate to being pregnant. Conservative women cannot relate to “choosing” to end a (prospective) life. And so far, there has not been a universalizable narrative in part because there is no …

3. Edie Windsor, by which I mean, poster children for the cause with compelling mainstream narratives. Personal stories have been shown, in several polls commissioned by the LGBT equality movement, to be the single most effective way to change minds and open hearts. The LGBT equality movement has many, from Ellen to Edie to Laverne Cox. The pro-choice movement? Not so much. Because of the continuing shame and stigma associated with abortion, and because abortion just is not that joyful, few women have shared their pro-choice journeys—and I can’t think of any who have done so as a redemptive celebration of life and freedom. Look what happened to Sandra Fluke, who was shamed as a slut for defending the right to control her body. (More on that below.) But even setting aside such outrageous rhetoric, abortion and contraception are just not as photogenic as weddings at City Hall. It’s easy to shame, stigmatize, other-ize. And shaming is a cycle: because women are ashamed to come forward, the stigma persists, shaming more women, etc.

4. Rights Lose. In addition to lacking compelling personal narratives, the “pro-choice” frame is itself a loser. This is why LGBT activists don’t use the term “gay rights” anymore: because no one likes them. In the nineties, “gay rights” came to mean “special rights,” which may be ridiculous, but which was a successful opposing frame. As with the act/identity dichotomy, “rights” also isn’t existential enough to persuade people. So LGBT activists changed their tune, shifting from rights-talk to love-talk, equality-talk, language about basic humanity. Gloria Steinem famously said that feminism is, at its core, humanism. But this message hasn’t trickled through. Many Americans still think reproductive justice is about the act of abortion, rather than the humanity of women.

5. It Pays to Have Dumb Enemies. Let’s face it: anti-gay zealots did themselves in.  Their cartoonish exaggerations of LGBT people, their closeted-gay leaders, their Bible-thumping—these play well to the base, but alienate moderates. So too the inability of all but a few conservatives to articulate a non-religious, non-bigoted-seeming objection to homosexuality. To be sure, there are wackos on the anti-choice side, with their photos of fetuses and extreme rhetoric. But the anti-choice mainstream has gotten much more sophisticated. They are putting women on the front lines (and unlike the “ex-gay” crowd, these women are only slightly creepy). They are winning incremental battles under the pretense of health regulations and parental consent. They are smart and methodical. And they don’t seem dumb, because…

6. Reasonable People (Including Women) Disagree. Arguably, reproductive freedom should not be controversial among small-l liberals.Whether a fetus is a “person” or not is a complex moral question, and since we can’t decide it as a society, it should be left up to the woman in whose body the fetus resides. But unfortunately, abortion remains controversial. It’s morally complicated, and it’s not discussed in polite company. I have no idea what celebrities or culture-makers think about it. (See: shame, above). Many people are ambivalent about it, including many ardent pro-choice activists. Think of the phrases “anti-abortion but pro-choice” or the view that abortions should be “safe, legal, and rare.” Can you think of reasonable analogues among LGBT activists? I can’t. And then there’s the brutal fact of how abortion is seen by its opponents. As loathsome as gay marriage may be to religious conservatives, at least it’s a perversion of marriage. Abortion is a kind of murder.

7. Capitalism. Because LGBT equality has been successfully framed in the context of discrimination and fairness, and because it has many privileged male champions, it has been easy for corporations to line up behind it, and reap the financial rewards of being seen as pro-gay. Sure, there are a few anti-gay outliers:Chick-Fil-A, Hobby Lobby, whatever. But this past month’s Pride festivities were like a showcase of Fortune 500 companies: banks, airlines, insurance companies. Meanwhile, I can’t think of a single A-list brand that is out, loud, and proud for reproductive freedom. That makes a big difference in terms of movement dollars and public awareness. Once again, more radical queers may bemoan the corporatization of the LGBT movement, but capitalism has a way of winning.

8. Feminism Has An Image Problem. If the pro-choice movement hasn’t been capitalist enough, it also hasn’t been grassroots enough. “Feminism” is now unfairly associated with a certain kind of privileged, coastal, irreligious white woman. For a variety of problematic reasons, it’s been disclaimed by celebrities and politicians who are obviously feminist in values but who aren’t “Feminist” by label. Most of this is unfair. But at the same time, the leadership of Planned Parenthood, NOW, and the other major mainstream organizations does tilt in that demographic direction. There is hope: younger organizations like Choice USA are more grounded in people of color, people of faith, and rural communities. And the majors are trying sincerely to catch up. But then there’s…

9. Religion. Contrary to the myth of “God vs. Gay,” progressive religious leaders have been instrumental in the LGBT equality movement from its very beginning. Like African-American civil rights leaders, they have made not just a neutral case but a positive moral case for equality. Where are the religious leaders preaching the gospel of bodily autonomy for women? Yes, there are excellent organizations like the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, Catholics for Choice, the National Council of Jewish Women, and many others. But in my experience, I haven’t seen the message trickle down into the pews.  Nor are faith leaders are central to the pro-choice movement as they seem to be in the LGBT movement. Just a few years ago, it seemed like the religious obsession with homosexuality was a curse. But it turned out to have been a blessing, because it provoked the ‘down-home’ moral conversations that changed people’s minds. Secular arguments about the separation of church and state may play well to the base. But they don’t move the middle.

10. Sexism. Finally, and maybe it should have been first, is sexism. Men, including gay men, have much more access to power and privilege than women do. And while masculinity may be threatened by effeminate gay men crossing gender boundaries, the threat is far more immediate when it’s your own wife or daughter. If women can control their own bodies … well, what about my wife! Meanwhile, since women aren’t really people entitled to make decisions for themselves, it’s okay to slut-shame Sandra Fluke, claim (as one GOP Senator recently did) that birth control is for “recreational behavior,” and decide for everyone that fetuses are people. “Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve” has been used as a weapon against gay people for some time. But Adam and Eve has been a weapon against women since the moment the myth was invented.

I, for one, am hopeful that Hobby Lobby becomes a rallying cry. I hope it gets liberals to vote this November, and gets moderates to rethink their positions. But there’s also a danger of continually playing to the base, and that is ignoring the tactics and strategies that appeal to the movable middle. For that reason, I also hope Hobby Lobby helps create a revitalized, intersectional, pragmatic, faith-affirming, message-savvy pro-choice, reproductive justice, gender justice movement.

Unlike the tidal wave of state restrictions on reproductive choice, Hobby Lobbytook place in the spotlight, on the national stage. It remains to be seen whether it also signals a change in direction.

Jay Michaelson, as originally published in the SF Bay Times

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