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“So, Who’s Getting The Gigs?”: When The GOP Goes On A ‘Hiring Spree’

If you want to know where Congress is headed, it obviously makes sense to take a close look at elected lawmakers themselves.  But to understand how they intend to get there, you’ll need to understand who they’re hiring.

As Republicans get ready to take complete control of Capitol Hill, GOP officials are going on a “hiring spree,” especially in the Senate, where the new majority will have expanded staffs at both the leadership and committee level.

So, who’s getting the gigs? We can break them down into two broad groups of people. The first, as Anna Palmer reported the other day, are corporate lobbyists.

Lobbyists can come home again.

As Republicans take control of Congress, they are bringing in veteran influence peddlers to help them run the show. Nearly a dozen veteran K Streeters have been named as top staffers to GOP leaders or on key committees as lawmakers prepare to take the gavel in January.

And why would lobbyists leave better-paying jobs at K Street firms in order to tackle unglamorous work on Capitol Hill? Because as any good lobbyist knows, they can, when they’re done with their congressional work, return to K Street and demand even more money.

In the meantime, the line between corporate lobbyists and congressional Republicans has long been blurry, but the partnership will now be even stronger as the GOP takes over the Senate for the first time in eight years.

But they’re not the only ones getting new gigs in Congress. The other group includes Heritage Action staffers.

Heritage Action for America is losing three staffers, including its top House lobbyist, to a trio of newbies in the 114th Congress. […]

“One of the great roles of having a permanent 300-person institution is that people take what they learn here and spread that throughout the universe,” said Heritage Action for America’s CEO Michael Needham.

Depending on one’s perspective, that’s either very nice or very scary.

Regardless, taken together, staffing moves like these tell us something interesting about who’ll be doing the legislative legwork for the next couple of years.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, December 22, 2014

December 24, 2014 Posted by | Congress, GOP, Jobs | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“An Internalized Fear Of Black Males”: ‘Confirmation Bias’ Has Long History Of Helping Whites Demonize Blacks

Does “confirmation bias” influence the way whites think about police shootings of young men of color?

This bias is the tendency to interpret or remember information in a way that confirms what we already believe, and helps us to ignore new data. And it may explain the tension between white cops and black kids — and the public reaction to them — more than outright racism does.

Many of us think police must be in the right because we have internalized a fear of black males and assume that they are up to no good.

As Harvard sociologist Charles Ogletree has pointed out, “Ninety-nine percent of black people don’t commit crimes, yet we see the images of back people day in, day out, and the impression is that they’re all committing crimes.”

Young black males in recent years were at 21 times greater risk of being shot dead by police than their white counterparts, reports ProPublica, which analyzed federal data this year. It found that in “1,217 deadly police shootings from 2010 to 2012, blacks, age 15 to 19, were killed at a rate of 31.17 per million,” compared with 1.47 per million white males in that age range.

Roger J.R. Levesque of Indiana State University says that eyewitnesses to crimes generally report scenarios that are consistent with confirmation bias. Among the studies he cites is one in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology that found merely seeing a black face led subjects to be more likely to mistake objects for weapons.

In Ferguson, Mo., the white officer who fatally shot Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old, described Brown as demon-like. Would he have used such a word if the teenager had been white?

Confirmation bias undoubtedly helped the defense in the 2013 trial in the death of Trayvon Martin. Lawyers successfully “thuggized” the black teenager, who was walking home carrying candy and a bottle of tea when he was shot by a white neighborhood watch member. Martin had no criminal record, but the defense dug up some minor problems he had in school and made an animated video showing him attacking the white man who shot him. There was no actual evidence that the unarmed teenager started the fight. But jurors clearly bought that narrative.

Throughout U.S. history, confirmation bias has helped some white people use the image of the evil black man for their own ends. The “Willie Horton” TV ad caused a huge controversy when it ran during the 1988 presidential race between George H.W. Bush and Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis. The ad featured a fearsome-looking mug shot of a black convict who raped a woman while free under a Massachusetts prison furlough program backed by Dukakis. The ad was intended to picture Dukakis as soft on crime, and it worked.

Whites trying to escape punishment for their crimes sometimes find black men convenient scapegoats, because they are so readily seen as prone to crime. In 1989, a Boston white man, Charles Stuart, was shot in a black neighborhood in the city, along with his pregnant wife. He blamed a “black male.” His wife and son, who was delivered prematurely, later died.

News coverage was extremely sympathetic until evidence surfaced indicating that Stuart shot his wife and himself.

In 1994, Susan Smith, a South Carolina woman, claimed that a black man had hijacked her car and kidnapped her two young sons. For days, the news media gave around-the-clock coverage to a nationwide search for the black carjacker. But no such man exist. Smith had drowned her two sons by pushing her car into a lake with the boys inside. She had a wealthy boyfriend who allegedly was not interested in having a “ready-made” family.

It’s no wonder whites so easily accept the image of the evil black male. But this was not always so.

Early in the history of slavery in the Western Hemisphere, notes Audrey Smedley, now professor emeritus of anthropology at Virginia Commonwealth University, blacks were not set apart from other laborers. The first slaves the English used in the Caribbean were Irish. And there were more Irish slaves in the middle of the 17th century than any others.

At that time, Smedley writes, African slaves and European slaves “worked together, they played together … they lived together” and color didn’t “make much difference … because they were all in the same boat.”

One 17th century planter who wrote to the trustees of his company said, “Please don’t send us any more Irishmen. Send us some Africans, because the Africans are civilized and the Irish are not.”

But plantations grew ever larger and the African slave trade exploded. To justify the cruelty of lifetime slavery, the myth had to be manufactured that blacks — especially men — were subhuman and violent. That image stuck.

In the years since, those ideas too often have intensified. As Georgetown University professor Michael Eric Dyson points out, “More than 45 years ago, the Kerner Commission concluded that we lived in two societies, one white, one black, separate and still unequal.” And we still do. If we don’t resolve this gap, Dyson writes, “We are doomed to watch the same sparks reignite, whenever and wherever injustice meets desperation.”

Only when we realize the power of confirmation bias, and start looking at reality instead of stereotypes and misinformation, will things change.


By: Caryl Rivers, Journalism Professor at Boston University; Op-Ed Opinion, The Los Angeles Times, December 11, 2014

December 24, 2014 Posted by | Black Men, Confirmation Bias, Racism | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Wanna Play The Blame Game?”: Conservatives May Be Biting Off More Than They Can Chew

If conservatives really want to play the blame game over the murder of New York police officers, they may be biting off more than they can chew, as Kevin Drum suggests:

I assume this means we can blame Bill O’Reilly for his 28 episodes of invective against “Tiller the Baby Killer” that eventually ended in the murder of Wichita abortion provider George Tiller by anti-abortion activist Scott Roeder. We can blame conservative talk radio for fueling the anti-government hysteria that led Timothy McVeigh to bomb a federal building in Oklahoma City. We can blame the relentless xenophobia of Fox News for the bombing of an Islamic Center in Joplin or the massacre of Sikh worshippers by a white supremacist in Wisconsin. We can blame the NRA for the mass shootings in Newtown and Aurora. We can blame Republicans for stoking the anti-IRS paranoia that prompted Andrew Joseph Stack to crash a private plane into an IRS building in Austin, killing two people. We can blame the Christian Right for the anti-gay paranoia that led the Westboro Baptist Church to picket the funeral of Matthew Snyder, a US Marine killed in Iraq, with signs that carried their signature “God Hates Fags” slogan. We can blame Sean Hannity for his repeated support of Cliven Bundy’s “range war” against the BLM, which eventually motivated Jerad and Amanda Miller to kill five people in Las Vegas after participating in the Bundy standoff and declaring, “If they’re going to come bring violence to us, well, if that’s the language they want to speak, we’ll learn it.” And, of course, we can blame Rudy Giuliani and the entire conservative movement for their virtually unanimous indifference to the state-sanctioned police killings of black suspects over minor offenses in Ferguson and Staten Island, which apparently motivated the murder of the New York police officers on Saturday.

So no, conservatives shouldn’t “go there” in claiming that liberals who asked questions about the police killings in Missouri and New York and elsewhere were in some way responsible for this weekend’s tragedy. As Kevin concludes:

Maybe lots of people support lots of things, and we can’t twist that generalized support into blame for maniacs who decide to take up arms for their own demented reasons.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal, The Washington Monthly, December 22, 2014

December 24, 2014 Posted by | Conservatives, NYPD, Police Brutality | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Damn Ebenezer Cheney!”: The Ghost Of Christmas Past

All the hullaballoo over the United States government’s’ use of torture as an officially-sanctioned intelligence gathering process was bad enough. It brought back memories of a shameful period in American history. But when Dick Cheney reappeared to defend the practice of torture, it was the worst specter of Christmas past. He managed to rekindle one of my few regrets in nine years working on the Hill. Damn Ebenezer Cheney!

My great remorse from that period is that a Democratic House majority passed on an opportunity for a little justice. In late 2008, after the election of Barack Obama but before his inauguration, a group of Democratic staffers quietly drafted a policy memo trying to convince our bosses to introduce a Motion of Censure against President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and assorted others in the Bush Administration for their decision to invade Iraq. That decision cost the lives of 4,500 Americans, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and more than $1.5 trillion dollars. It threw the Middle East into what may be perpetual chaos. And, all of it was predicated on lies.

We tried to sell the idea of a Resolution of Censure — far short of impeachment and requiring only a majority vote in the House, but it never picked up any steam. Everyone, we were told, had pretty much turned the corner. Congress was occupied with getting ready for a new president and a new session. America was just plain “Bushed” by the events of the last Administration and simply wanted them all gone. Nothing happened.

So, as our memo predicted, “People who campaigned on accountability and said, ‘judge us by our performance,’ walked away from the most corrupt, inept, secretive and ideologically-driven White House in American history without ever once being held accountable.”

And only much later did it occur to me that we should have left President Bush out of it and pushed for the censure of the Cardinal Richelieu of the administration, Richard B. Cheney. No-one on earth could have had a problem with that. Cheney was so mean, even his friends didn’t like him.

The disappointment had faded a bit over time, but then the Dark Eminence of Iraq re-emerged, completely unrepentant, to defend the use of torture — even deny that waterboarding, starvation and anal feeding were torture, although the rest of the world is pretty clear about such practices. And, even though the United States prosecuted Japanese army officers for using identical tactics on U.S. military prisoners in the Philippines during World War II.

Cheney continues to insist that the U.S. gained valuable information from the use of torture, even though genuine intelligence professionals have revealed that any usable intel came before the waterboarding began. He continues to claim that waterboarding isn’t actually torture because the White House had a memo from its Attorney General’s Office attesting that whatever they wanted to do was pretty much okay. That memo, of course, was totally repudiated long ago.

But a stubborn refusal to admit any mistakes in judgment isn’t exactly new for Dick Cheney. He still insists that Saddam Hussein’s was in the process of developing WMD, including nuclear weapons, though the accusation has been thoroughly and authoritatively debunked. He still claims some sort of alliance existed between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda without the slightest indication or evidence, and despite the fact that a pact between a Sunni Muslim dictator and a stateless Wahhabi jihadist organization would have defied all logic.

The saving grace is history. When the history of the Bush Administration is finally written, Cheney won’t be allowed to just sit and growl at anyone who questions anything he did or said. History will not be intimidated. History may tell us whether George W. Bush was complicit in some of the most tragic, ill-advised and downright shameful decisions of his administration, or simply oblivious. But it will be very clear about the role of Dick Cheney.

Merry Christmas, Dick.


By: David Helfert, Professor of Political Communication, Johns Hopkins University; The Blog, The Huffington Post, December 22, 2014

December 24, 2014 Posted by | Bush-Cheney Administration, Christmas, Dick Cheney | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Who’s Been Naughty And Who’s Been Nice?”: A Few Suggestions To Help St. Nick Complete His List

He’s making a list, checking it twice, going to find out who’s naughty or nice . . .”

Santa Claus does not, of course, need any help in deciding among the deserving and undeserving this holiday season. But with Christmas only days away and the North Pole toy shop backed up with orders, here are, in the spirit of the season, a few suggestions to help St. Nick complete his lists so he and his reindeer can get on their way, and on time.

Naughty: Elizabeth Lauten, the Republican congressional communications director who dissed Sasha and Malia Obama for their clothes and facial expressions during the president’s pardoning of the Thanksgiving turkey.

Nice: The nation’s beautiful first daughters, who handle their unsought duties with grace, dignity and a maturity found lacking in many twice their ages.

Naughty: The 63.6 percent of Americans in our democracy who didn’t vote in 2014.

Nice: The 36.4 percent who chose to exercise that precious and fundamental right.

Naughty (worse than that): Police officers in Ferguson, Cleveland and Staten Island whose actions made sure a Missouri teenager, a 12-year-old Ohio boy with an air pistol and a New York father won’t be home — or anywhere else on this earth — on Christmas Day.

Nice: My multiracial neighbors and hundreds like them who lined 16th Street NW from the White House to Silver Spring in a candlelight vigil for justice for all people, including the victims who were united — as were the cops— by the color of their skin.

Naughty: The Ferguson protesters who resorted to vandalism and looting.

Nice: The Ferguson demonstrators who exercised their First Amendment rights within the law.

Naughty: The Beta Sigma chapter of the Delta Gamma sorority at the University of Maryland, which posted a photo featuring a sorority member posing with an alcohol-bottle and cupcake-laden 21st-birthday cake that, according to WTTG-TV (Channel 5), included the “N” word and “a sexual act that is performed on an African-American man.” Ouch. Naughty is not the word for the behavior of these flowers of America’s future.

Nice: The Howard University students who staged a powerful protest, which included their hands outstretched in a “Don’t Shoot” pose.

Naughty: The black offenders who make crime a serious problem in African American communities.

Nice: The African American cops, prosecutors, judges and black-dominated juries that are arresting, trying, convicting and sending to jail these offenders, hence putting a lie to the myth that “black-on-black” crime is tolerated or excused. Just as it is nonsense to bewail “white-on-white” crime because most white folks killed are done in by other white folks. Santa ought to reward the black, white, brown, etc., people, including police officers who risk their lives to protect us and who refuse to buy into the myth.

Naughty: Congressional Republicans, instigated by Maryland Rep. Andy Harris , who are trampling all over the D.C. Home Rule Act to block the city from implementing a democratically passed referendum to legalize marijuana. They deserve coal in their stockings.

Nice: The citizens who recognize when principle is at stake and are willing to step forward and stand up to the bullies on Capitol Hill. Those fine Americans deserve sugar plums or some such thing dancing above their heads.

If that weren’t enough, Santa’s got a little more to add on his lists.

Naughty: Those unreconstructed demagogues on the right who slander President Obama as a radical leftist out to destroy capitalism, even though he saved the auto industry, rescued Wall Street and has taken the lead in undermining Vladimir Putin and the Russian economy. Those Obama enemies deserve nothing if for no other reason than their ingratitude.

Naughty: Sony Pictures Entertainment executives who showed their true colors when it comes to race, and the hackers who are waging a cyberattack against the company. This is more of a thought than recognition of the deserving: Put the Sony Pictures execs and the hackers together in a cage and let them have at each other.

Nice: Objective and fearless journalists who bring truth and light to all who would draw near and listen or — as the case may be — read. Shower them fulsomely with your gifts, dear Santa.

Naughty: That Mr. Hyde, allegedly free of conscience, filled with darker impulses, depraved and a defiler of drugged women, known in some quarters as Bill Cosby.

Nice: The sociable, respectable and morally decent Dr. Jekyll, a.k.a. Bill Cosby, said by Camille, his wife of 50 years, to be “a kind man, a generous man, a funny man and a wonderful husband, father and friend.”

(Sorry, but your call, big fella.)

Merry Christmas, happy holidays and to all a good night.


By: Colbert King, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, December 19, 2014

December 24, 2014 Posted by | Christmas, Naughty and Nice, Santa Claus | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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