Saturday Catchup 2010-05-08

Perceptions: Let’s start with a game. It's called 'Imagine.' Playing is simple: Take recent happenings in the news, scenes where white people are the main actors and imagine they were black folks or other people of color instead. The object of the game is to predict the public reaction to events or incidents in the news if the persons who are driving the action were of color rather than white. Whoever gains the most insight into the workings of race in America wins. -- Imagine if the Tea Party Was Black by Tim Wise (Ephphatha Poetry 2010-04-22). An effective antidote to the mainstream media's habitual, mindless racism.

Give Arizona back to Mexico: "When conservatives...think of racial profiling, they seem to think of a straw man. The image is something like an evil officer out of the Jim Crow South, full of 'prejudice' (itself a fairly silly and inaccurate way to describe racism), enacting his hatred by stopping black people or Latinos arbitrarily. Although it is arbitrary and unfair in terms of who gets targeted, racial profiling also fits into a set of structures guiding police behavior. If cops want to stop someone, they'll be able to cite some legitimate-sounding suspicion, whether it is actually legitimate or not. Profiling doesn't need to feel like profiling to the police, and they don't need to be secret Klansmen to enforce racial discrimination. It shows up way before you get to that point, among ordinary officers who probably just think they're doing their duty." -- E-mail reveals Arizona law was designed to maximize harassment by Gabriel Winant (Salon 2010-05-03).

Can you say putz?: "Joe Lieberman's latest exercise in demagoguery -- his plan to strip citizenship rights from Americans allegedly involved in terrorism -- has been quickly and incisively condemned (as "madness" by Andrew Sullivan, among others). But like Arizona's dangerous, unconstitutional immigration law, it seems likely to garner support from a majority or substantial minority of Americans who will assume that they won't be victimized by it -- that it will only target other people, namely presumptively guilty terrorists. In fact, Lieberman's proposal, combined with an obscure network of federal laws enabling the executive branch to designate individuals and groups as terrorists, with no due process, would put millions of innocent Americans at risk of arbitrarily losing their citizenship." -- Joe Lieberman Means You by Wendy Kaminer (The Atlantic 2010-05-05).

Coffee break:

Or go to YouTube.

What, me worry?: "The roots of mass apathy are found in the profound divide between liberals, who are mostly white and well educated, and our disenfranchised working class, whose sons and daughters, because they cannot get decent jobs with benefits, have few options besides the military. Liberals, whose children are more often to be found in elite colleges than the Marine Corps, did not fight the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994 and the dismantling of our manufacturing base. They did nothing when the Democrats gutted welfare two years later and stood by as our banks were turned over to Wall Street speculators. They signed on, by supporting the Clinton and Obama Democrats, for the corporate rape carried out in the name of globalization and endless war, and they ignored the plight of the poor. And for this reason the poor have little interest in the moral protestations of liberals. We have lost all credibility. We are justly hated for our tacit complicity in the corporate assault on workers and their families. Our passivity has resulted, however, in much more than imperial adventurism and a permanent underclass. A slow-motion coup by a corporate state has cemented into place a neofeudalism in which there are only masters and serfs. And the process is one that cannot be reversed through the traditional mechanisms of electoral politics." -- No One Cares by Chris Hedges (truthdig 2010-06-03).

Our fragile polity: The decline in Congressional oversight stems from a complete break from the historical perception within Congress itself that first and foremost it is a separate branch of government. Once upon a time, very powerful Democratic chairmen would have no trouble going after Democratic or Republican administration wrongdoing. And, at least as importantly, they were aggressive at preserving their power in the Congress to access information from the Executive branch. But now they've become so deferential -- both Democrats and Republicans -- to the executive branch, especially when it comes to national security, that it's appalling. The fundamental problem is that Congress doesn't have the same sense of itself that it used to -- certainly not when brash leaders like Lyndon Baines Johnson were in charge. They took their power really seriously and they were not afraid to use it. -- Congressional Oversight Crippled By Institutional Anemia, Reformer Says by Dan Froomkin (Huffington Post 2010-05-05).

What Jed Bartlet would do: How Hollywood Presidents Would Solve America’s Problems by Peter Baker (New York Times 2010-04-30).

"Britain needs change" was the refrain of the hotly contested election in the U.K. this week. But did that mean changing the name of the Isle of Man to "the Isle of Men, Women, Children and Some Animals?" That is just one of the questions posed by the Official Monster Raving Loony Party, a lampoon of the British political scene that has been running for nearly three decades. While the big parties cross swords over deficits and immigration, Loony proposals include knighthood for Ozzy Osbourne, adding the Loch Ness Monster to the endangered-species list and creating a 99-pence coin (to end the nuisance of carrying pennies). -- In the Longest-Running Joke In Politics, Life Imitates Farce -- Britain's Loony Party Feuds Over Bookies And Term Limits; Glue and Chocolate by Paul Sonne and Alistair MacDonald (Wall Street Journal 2010-05-06).

And speaking of jokes, lets hope Paul Campos is right that, if she is nominated to be one of the Supremes, Elena Kagan will be laughed out of town: The Next Harriet Miers? by Paul Campos (DailyBeast 2010-05-01).

Freedom of the press has declined for the eighth year in a row, according to Freedom House’s annual report. And while the media has focused on the lack of media freedoms in such suspect locales as China and Venezuela, they’ve virtually ignored the U.S. position – No. 24 (PDF).

Foxhole humor: Here is a swell video by some U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan doing an affectionate send-up of Lady Gaga:

Or watch it on YouTube.

Time to pack in AfPak: The pilots waging America’s undeclared drone war in Pakistan could be liable to criminal prosecution for “war crimes,” a prominent law professor told a Congressional panel Wednesday. Well, no wonder. The CIA has been allowed to use drones to attack a broader range of targets, according to the L.A.Times. Previously, drones were only able to fire on enemies on an approved list a few dozen times a year, but now they are able to attack several times a week. Danger Room reminds us that once upon a time, the CIA had to know a militant’s name before putting him up for a robotic targeted killing. Now, if the guy acts like a guerrilla, it’s enough to call in a drone strike; it’s another sign of that a once-limited, once-covert program to off senior terrorist leaders has morphed into a full-scale -- if undeclared -- war in Pakistan. And finally, less well known, but perhaps equally dubious, is the State Department’s counter-narcotics air force, staffed by mercenaries.-- Drone Pilots Could Be Tried for ‘War Crimes,’ Law Prof Says by Nathan Hodge (Danger Room 2010-04-28)

At least "Pakistan is not an ungovernable Somalia. The numbers tell the story. At least 55% of Pakistan's 170 million-strong population are Punjabis. There's no evidence they are about to embrace Talibanistan; they are essentially Shi'ites, Sufis or a mix of both. Around 50 million are Sindhis - faithful followers of the late Benazir Bhutto and her husband, now President Asif Ali Zardari's centrist and overwhelmingly secular Pakistan People's Party. Talibanistan fanatics in these two provinces -- amounting to 85% of Pakistan's population, with a heavy concentration of the urban middle class -- are an infinitesimal minority. The Pakistan-based Taliban -- subdivided in roughly three major groups, amounting to less than 10,000 fighters with no air force, no Predator drones, no tanks and no heavily weaponized vehicles -- are concentrated in the Pashtun tribal areas, in some districts of North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), and some very localized, small parts of Punjab." Although, wait until we're done with it. -- The myth of Talibanistan by Pepe Escobar (Asia Times 2010-05-01).

Activism: The New York Times reported on a lesser-known Big Apple tradition –- one that has nothing to do with hot dogs, Broadway or spitting obscenities at strangers. For the last 330 Wednesdays, a group of elderly women (and a couple of elderly men) have met on 5th Avenue to protest the American presence in Iraq and Afghanistan. The demonstrations began Jan. 14, 2004 and are still going strong. -- Badass Anti-War Grannies Still At It, After 330 Straight Weeks by Byard Duncan (AlterNet 2010-05-07).

This has been around a while, but despite the poor quality of the picture it's still fun to watch Marty Robbins' reaction to Merle Haggard's impersonation of him:
Or go to YouTube.

Serpico Redux: Two years ago, a police officer in a Brooklyn precinct became gravely concerned about how the public was being served. To document his concerns, he began carrying around a digital sound recorder, secretly recording his colleagues and superiors. He recorded precinct roll calls; his precinct commander and other supervisors; street encounters; small talk and stationhouse banter; in all, he surreptitiously recorded hundreds of hours of cops talking about their jobs. Made without the knowledge or approval of the NYPD, the tapes provide an unprecedented portrait of what it's like to work as a cop in New York City. They reveal that precinct bosses threaten street cops if they don't make their quotas of arrests and stop-and-frisks, but also tell them not to take certain robbery reports in order to manipulate crime statistics. The tapes also refer to command officers calling crime victims directly to intimidate them about their complaints. -- The NYPD Tapes: Inside Bed-Stuy's 81st Precinct by Graham Rayman (Village Voice 2010-05-04)

It's reassuring that even in the noughts a mainstream band could still upset the fuzz. Rock and roll!:

Or go to YouTube.

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