I’m sure some of you have read Jennifer Gonnerman’s extraordinary story about Kalief Browder, who was arrested and on the most threadbare of evidence charged with a minor theft. He was held at Riker’s Island, sometimes in solitary confinement and sometimes subject to horrible abuse, for three years without trial.
There’s no way for this story to have a happy ending, but there could be better and worse ones. You’ve probably anticipated that Browder’s case falls into the latter category:
Last Monday, Prestia, who had filed a lawsuit on Browder’s behalf against the city, noticed that Browder had put up a couple of odd posts on Facebook. When Prestia sent him a text message, asking what was going on, Browder insisted he was O.K. “Are you sure everything is cool?” Prestia wrote. Browder replied: “Yea I’m alright thanks man.” The two spoke on Wednesday, and Browder did seem fine. On Saturday afternoon, Prestia got a call from Browder’s mother: he had committed suicide.
Almost everything wrong with American criminal justice in one story: ginning up baseless charges based on particularly unreliable eyewitness testimony; prisons being run as torture camps; not only denials of basic due process rights but a hopelessly clogged system that relies on the vast majority of the accused to waive their right to a public trial and has various means of punishing people who won’t play ball. And, remember, this is a story of New York City — this is not just a red state phenomenon by any means.
The Nobel Prize winner — and prospective presidential candidate — is seen around the world as a beacon of hope for Burma, but the Rohingya crisis has cast a dark shadow over her democratic credentials. As thousands of Rohingya flee to Burma’s democratic neighbors — Indonesia, Malaysia, and even earthquake-ravaged Nepal — the international community cannot ignore their persecution. They have suffered violent pogroms from Buddhist extremists. Their many successfully-run businesses have been burned. The government has barricaded them into concentration camps, where they are in dire need of food, water, and medical help. Aid groups that have been trying to help them face being banned from the country. Meanwhile, Aung San Suu Kyi’s response to this — the greatest human rights issue facing her country — is shocking.
In 2012, she said she “didn’t know” if the Rohingya could be citizens. In doing so she aligned herself with the government’s official policy that the Rohingya don’t exist. In fact, Burmese officials threatened to boycott the recent regional conference to address the migrant crisis if the other participants so much as used the word “Rohingya.” This is in spite of the fact that the Rohingya have lived in Burma for centuries — some scholars say they are indigenous people of the Rakhine state.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s more recent comments are no redeemer: “If I speak up for human rights, [the Rohingya] will only suffer. There will be more blood.” Why the evasiveness? Aung San Suu Kyi is courting the country’s Buddhist majority, among whom hatred for the Rohingya is rampant.
The real lesson here for western readers is that heroes don’t exist and that the entire idea of heroism should be eliminated. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be disappointed in her–we obviously should be sad that she is so indifferent to human rights violations against a minority–but it does mean that people exist in their place and time, have prejudices, and generally are flawed human beings. That Aung San Suu Kyi bravely stood up to the Myanmar military regime for so long in no way automatically means we should expect she cares about the rights of minorities, as we are discovering. The more interesting question is what it says about us that we would expect to her to hold our positions on this matter? Western liberals found her a useful way to project their values on idealized figure from the developing world, something far easier to do when the subject is under long-term house arrest by an awful regime. But that she would be more than willing to sacrifice minorities to win support from the majority population, is this surprising at all?
This doesn’t excuse her lack of interest in minority rights. I just don’t think it’s remotely surprising.
Noam Scheiber’s dissection of how labor so successfully torpedoed the Trans Pacific Partnership in the House (thus far anyway, again I’m still suspicious this passes somehow) shows how labor can still win today. First, it is united and pushes very hard on erstwhile allies that are ready to abandon it. Second, it crafts alliances with other liberal groups, including environmentalists.
This time around, not only did the firefighters make a considerable investment — producing ads and paying to broadcast them in five congressional districts — but Mr. Schaitberger personally led the effort within the A.F.L-C.I.O. executive council to freeze all donations to members of Congress by the political action committees of the federation and affiliated unions until after the vote on trade promotion authority. (Mr. Schaitberger, who developed the motion, credits Mr. Trumka with helping create almost unanimous support for it.)
Mr. Schaitberger acknowledged some apprehension within the labor movement about denying money even to longtime congressional allies, but he argued that it had been the most effective way to persuade friendly members of Congress to pressure wavering Democratic lawmakers. “We wanted to encourage those members to use their influence, their passion for our position, to move some of their colleagues,” he said.
Even labor’s opponents marveled at the cohesion unions brought to the fight. John Murphy, senior vice president for international policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said he was mystified by the position of the Service Employees International Union, which represents two million workers.
“None of these workers are in any way negatively affected by competition with imports,” said Mr. Murphy. “Yet S.E.I.U. will be there, showing solidarity.”
The across-the-board mobilization by labor unions reflected two pivotal developments since the late 1990s. First was the dawning realization that even public sector workers who appear to be insulated from global competition could ultimately feel its dislocating effects. Mr. Schaitberger said the firefighters had learned all too well that deindustrialization leads to urban decay and declining property values, which can increase demand for public services while it drains cities of the revenue to pay for them.
More recently, the public sector unions, under increasing assault from Republicans in Congress and in several big states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana, found that the rapid decline of industrial unions had left them politically vulnerable as well.
It’s not like unity, solidarity with other unions in situations that don’t directly affect your members’ jobs, and alliance-building with other progressives is always that easy to replicate. But this is a clear way forward and I hope organized labor can build on it.
My former home of Georgetown, Texas is set to become the first city in the United States to be entirely powered by wind and solar energy. It’s remarkable how Texas has become the national leader on renewable energy. Of course, it’s not for some sort of political principle. Rather, Texas is gigantic with seemingly endless open, windy spaces in the western part of the state and the state has its own electricity grid to send that energy to the populated areas farther east. But Georgetown is a deeply Republican place. It’s not as crazy as, say, the Houston suburbs, but it’s quite conservative. Yet this is city that is pioneering the nation’s hopeful energy future.
Fox News covers “Game of Thrones”: People think the White Walkers are evil just because they’re white!
This is easily the goofiest thing I’ve written in some time, and it may have been for an audience of one — i.e. people who watch as much Fox News as I do and obsess over Game of Thrones — but here you go:
On “Fox & Friends” this morning, co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck was outraged by those criticizing Stannis Baratheon’s decision to sacrifice his daughter, Agamemnon-and-Iphigenia-style, to the Lord of Light. “There’s only one true god and his name is R’hllor,” she said, adding that “it’s a leader’s job to make the difficult decisions, and he should be applauded for doing so.”
“Of course,” co-host Steve Doocy said, “the real issue here is the troops. If Stannis had cut and run, they would have starved, and now they at least have a chance to die brave deaths while laying siege to Winterfell.”
“Some people would rather the troops starve than die honorably,” Hasselbeck said. “If Stannis tried to return to Castle Black, Shireen still might have died, and even if she didn’t, Jon Snow just let a bunch of Wildlings across the border. It’s not like she would have been safe there!”
“I think we should talk about that,” co-host Brian Kilmeade said. “Who is Jon Snow to be offering all these Wildlings amnesty?”
“No one’s talking about the rate of Wildling-on-Wildling crime, either,” Doocy added. “It’s high — much higher than in the White Walker community.”
Kilmeade agreed, arguing that “some critics” are bashing the White Walkers just because they’re white. “We don’t really know anything about them,” he said, “but we do know that, unlike the Wildlings, they’re not using precious resources that could be going to the troops. I’m not saying we should start a #WhiteWalkersMatter campaign or anything, but I’m not saying we shouldn’t either.”
I will do your divorce for Blackhawks SCF Game 6 Tix
If you’ve been waiting to pull the trigger on a divorce I’m happy to help you with the filing and make sure everything is on the up and up. All I ask in exchange is that we attend game 6 together to discuss the details. From there I will handle everything else.
Lower level seats are going for in excess of $2500 apiece. A messy divorce could cost you millions. This is an amazing chance at an excellent value.
Contact me via email and let me know where your seats are. I’d consider any other kind of legal work you need done.*
*Willing to discuss the Trans-Pacific Partnership for a small additional fee
Caroline Kennedy provides the worst possible argument for supporting the Trans Pacific Partnership: that her father supported free trade.
Serving as the U.S. ambassador to Japan has given me a chance to experience first-hand how our country is perceived in Asia. It has been a deeply moving experience to see how much the American dream still matters from 7,000 miles away.
The people of this region are eager for American involvement of all kinds—they cherish the free expression that we sometimes take for granted, their workers are seeking the kinds of hard-won protections the U.S. labor movement has gained, entrepreneurs are eager to innovate and young people are desperate to connect with us on a free and open internet that protects intellectual property and cybersecurity.
With assistance from the United States, Japan and other nations, developing countries throughout Asia are working to educate girls and young women and to protect their environments so future generations can reduce the risk of natural disasters and live sustainably.
This is a dynamic region that, right now, is at peace. It is also growing, presenting enormous economic opportunities for Americans. With a continued focus on President Barack Obama’s “rebalance to Asia,” we can keep it that way for generations to come.
A vitally important part of that strategy is the Trans Pacific Partnership. This ambitious, 12-nation trade agreement, now in the final stages of negotiation, has the potential to knit the United States and our allies into the world’s strongest, most prosperous partnership.
Yet, there are some who are reluctant to change the status quo and embrace the future. This is nothing new. But there is a proud Democratic free-trade tradition that we should not forget. For my father, President John F. Kennedy, expanding trade was integral to America’s prosperity and security. As he told Congress on January 11, 1962, when asking for a precursor to the same authority President Obama is requesting today, “Our decision could well affect the unity of the West, the course of the Cold War, and the economic growth of our Nation for a generation to come.”
It’s followed with a standard defense of the TPP and reminding us that Ted Kennedy also supported free trade, which is probably the worst policy position he consistently held.
And let’s think of the upshot of this. Should Democrats today then also support other Kennedy policies? Perhaps we should arm Cuban exiles to overthrow the Castro regime in a half-baked invasion plan. Or provided arms and advisers to Latin American nations to bust their unions in the name of development. Or move the nation significantly ahead toward a pointless war in southeast Asia. Or drag our feet on civil rights. Or this:
My dad, JFK, brought us to the brink of nuclear annihilation, and today's Democrats should do the same
— the beverage hunk (@pareene) June 12, 2015
Kennedy insults us with this argument. Regardless of where you stand on the issue, appealing to a mythical Democrat of the past is pathetic. Given that Caroline Kennedy is Obama’s ambassador to Japan, one has to wonder whether the administration didn’t ask her to openly appeal to the Kennedy myth to promote this specific policy. Never mind whether JFK would have actually supported the thing. I mean, our whole judicial system is based on trying to figure out whether James Madison would have approved of violent video games. But resorting to cheap nostalgia to a president mythologized all out of proportion to his actual accomplishments is really a ridiculous argument to make.
If there is a reason for Democrats to support the Trans Pacific Partnership, it sure isn’t because JFK’s daughter says he would have supported it too.
In conclusion, Caroline Kennedy deserved to be appointed to Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat in 2009 because of her lineage.
Sure you are getting tired of me promoting various Out of Sight related events. But I’d stop if every reader bought my book, as well as copies for their families and friends. In lieu of that, I was on Jay Ackroyd’s show Virtually Speaking last night for a full hour. In the last 5 minutes, we discussed what made LGM so awesome, i.e. a bunch of loud mouth writers and a great commenting community. So that can be an extra benefit for you to listen to me talk about outsourcing, the global race to the bottom, the capitalist war on the world’s workers, the decline of the American middle class, and other of my favorite uplifting topics.
I was also on the Rick Smith Show today discussing the defeat of Trade Adjustment Assistance in the House and what the victory means for the larger anti-Trans Pacific Partnership movement. So check that out too.
I’ve always been fascinated by Left Forum, the annual New York gathering of the far left on panels with the reputation for a) being hijacked by real odd ducks and b) consistently having more presenters than audience members given the ratio of panels to conference attendees is like 2:1 because no panels are rejected. Now I really do have to go just to witness this. Amber Frost:
At its worst, however, Left Forum is Comic Con for Marxists—Commie Con, if you will—and an absolute shitshow of nerds and social rejects. There are bitter old codgers that will harangue you about a thirty-some-years-old internecine grudge, and there are politically unsophisticated kids with Che Guevara t-shirts and Adbusters subscriptions. There are sanctimonious Trotskyists, ridiculous Maoist Third-Worldists, condescending horizontalist anarchists, smug social democrats and a glut of ardent adherents to similarly esoteric ideological traditions, all competing for the title of Most Insufferable Anti-Capitalist. Left Forum is notorious for grueling Q&A sessions, often with nary a “Q” to be found. People like to demonstrate how many books they’ve read (or worse, have written and self-published) in embarrassing displays of pretension and/or machismo, and cynicism is frequently substituted for insight.
But the grumps and the brats, the blowhards and the sectarians, the narcissists and the pessimists—all of these people are bearable to me, some even charming. No, the worst part of Left Forum is the crackpots, the paranoiacs, the hysterics, and all the other truly dysfunctional personalities attracted by the conference’s most infamous policy: no panel submission will be rejected.
That’s right: If you pay your registration fee and fill out the proper forms, you get a room and a table and a spot on the schedule. So in addition to all those experienced and intelligent rabble-rousers, Left Forum is a home for 9/11 Truthers, those who would save us from the terrors of “mandatory fluoridation,” and the generally batshit and/or pathologically anti-social. No one is required to observe their lectures, but they wander into other people’s and there is something truly dispiriting about not being able to distinguish self-identified radicals from the parodies of us imagined by the right wing.
In fairness, I’ve also heard very good things about it in that there are a lot of great people there to meet, even if you have to wade through the conspiracy theorists and the last 20 hardcore Stalinists in the United States.
But live tweeting this sounds like the reason I was put on this planet. Really, the worst part of all of this is the idea of not rejecting panels. My revolution rejects lots of things. Being inclusive is one thing. Having no standards is not a project I can support.
After the stunningly large defeat of Trade Adjustment Assistance in the House, a move promoted by Democrats to torpedo fast track of the TPP, what is next? Time to turn to a real reporter. Dayen:
Here are the options now in the House:
Pass TAA on a re-vote. Speaker John Boehner set this up for a vote next week, where they will try to persuade more Democrats and Republicans. Republican support topped out at 93 (votes started moving away from TAA once it was clear it wouldn’t pass), meaning that 124 Democrats would need to give their support. That’s a very tall order, especially now that it’s clearly the only thing standing between the President and his trade authority. Democratic groups, which demanded a no vote on TAA, will surely continue to whip the vote on their side.
Pass a separate standalone fast track bill. Just the threat of this, leaving Democrats with the President’s trade authority in place and no TAA, might be enough to get TAA passed. But it shouldn’t be. Just because 219 members voted for fast track on a meaningless vote today doesn’t mean they would be there on a standalone vote. Also, there is no way the Senate would concur on a fast-track trade bill without TAA: that would lose too many Democratic votes to pass. So this seems like an idle threat. Mitch McConnell could pass fast track with a promise to pass TAA later, but he’s already done that gambit once, getting fast track forward with a promise of a vote on reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank. That promise has been broken, and there’s no reason for Senators to believe McConnell again.
Make changes to TAA or fast track to get enough Democrats on board: This is what Pelosi was intimating, but it’s hard to see how that could plausibly occur. They would have to get any changes agreed to by the House and the Senate, which opens the process up to a lot of messiness. And even if all the issues with TAA were dispensed with – no paying for the assistance with Medicare cuts, no exemptions for public employees, etc. – the bill has now become the impediment to more corporate-written trade deals that set regulatory caps and facilitate job loss, and liberal Democrats know it. As Rep. Keith Ellison, co-chair of the Progressive Caucus, told the Huffington Post, “You can’t take the politics out of politics.”
Give Democrats something they want: Nancy Pelosi’s Dear Colleague letter makes this clear: “The prospects for passage (of fast track) will greatly increase with the passage of a robust highway bill.” This means that, if Republicans vote for more infrastructure spending, Pelosi would be likely to supply the votes for trade. But it’s not clear whether this is coming from Pelosi only, or if it would have buy-in from her caucus. She might be making a deal her caucus hasn’t empowered her to make. Plus, that would involve Republicans in the House and Senate agreeing to fund more infrastructure, and nobody knows where the money would come from.
I feel labor has been burned so many times by corporate Democrats that something bad will end up happening. But none of these options seem particularly likely. I imagine the full blitz from Obama will be on for the next week, but it’s already been turned on full blast and Democrats have overwhelmingly rejected it. Combined with Republicans who won’t vote for anything Obama wants and maybe there really isn’t a way forward. In any case, as Dayen states, this may well at least slow this bill down until the calendar turns and then we are in primary season. So maybe this was indeed a major victory.