Mojo - November 2011

What Does the Occupy Oakland Strike Have to do With 1946?

| Wed Nov. 2, 2011 1:06 AM EDT

When the acrid fog of flash-bang grenades and tear gas cleared on last week's violent clash between protesters and police in Oakland, the city emerged as a new focal point of the worldwide Occupy movement. On Wednesday, thousands are expected to flood downtown and march on the Port of Oakland—the country's fifth-largest—in a massive daylong protest and general strike. It's an impressive escalation from a patchy idea first tossed out just days ago at a General Assembly meeting in Frank Ogawa Plaza, the scene of last week's showdown. This is collective action on speed, and while most (not all) Occupy protesters are calling for a peaceful protest, city officials are preparing for trouble, just in case.

So can you really organize a citywide general strike in one week? Local Occupiers like to point out that Oakland hosted a general strike in 1946, and are using the city's claim to history as a rallying cry. So what worked then, and what would it take to pull it off again?

Fred Glass, a professor of labor history at City College of San Francisco, recently went on local public radio show KQED to discuss optimal conditions for brewing up a general strike. His recipe calls for four conditions: widespread anger among the working class, a "spark" to kick things off, someone willing to stick their neck out and call for a general strike, and an organizing structure. In Oakland today, the first is largely a given and Occupy Oakland has provided the latter two. If school teachers and port workers don't show up for work en masse on Wednesday, the injury suffered by Iraq vet-turned-activist Scott Olsen last week could be credited as the spark that drew mainstream sympathy to the local Occupy movement.

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Glenn Beck's Favorite Gold Company Charged With Fraud

| Tue Nov. 1, 2011 7:02 PM EDT
Glenn Beck shills for Goldline in 2010.

Goldline International, the California precious metals retailer promoted by Glenn Beck and other right-wing radio hosts, was formally charged with 19 criminal counts—including grand theft by false pretenses, false advertising, and conspiracy—on Tuesday by the Santa Monica City Attorney's Office. The criminal complaint also implicates Goldline CEO Mark Albarian, along with two other company executives and two salespeople.

The charges detailed in the complaint support what MoJo's Stephanie Mencimer first reported in 2010: Using aggressive telemarketing tactics, Goldline employees routinely pressured customers to purchase expensive coins with mark-ups so steep that it was very unlikely the consumer would ever make his money back. The company racked up a long list of complaints with the Federal Trade Commission, and at one point was sanctioned by the state of Missouri. But Beck and other endorsers (including liberal talker Ed Schultz) lent an air of legitimacy to the whole operation, sowing fears of a total economic collapse to help make the pitch for Swiss Francs. Beck's pitch went a step further, arguing that in the event of a total financial meltdown, the government would confiscate gold bullion—meaning you should invest your money in coins instead. 

You can check out the full complaint here:

 

 

The charges today are the culmination of a yearlong investigation from the city attorney's office. Each of the counts carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison or a $10,000 fine.

Update: Brian Ross gets the company's response:

"The company will vigorously contest the allegations," Brian Crumbaker, Goldline's Executive Vice President, said in a statement emailed to ABC News early Wednesday. "We believe Goldline has industry best-practices in customer disclosures enabling the most informed decisions."

Open Letter from Oakland Police Union: "We Are Confused"

| Tue Nov. 1, 2011 6:46 PM EDT

On the eve of a planned general strike in Oakland, the city's 645-member police union is blasting Mayor Jean Quan for "mixed messages" about the #occupyoakland tent city and tomorrow's labor protest. The strike is expected to draw thousands to downtown Oakland and its industrial port, hot on the heels of last week's violent clash between protesters and police. Facing down furious accusations of police brutality and blame for an Iraq war veteran's serious injury, Oakland police say they're part of the 99%, too, and they just want the mayor to make up her mind. Full letter:

AN OPEN LETTER TO THE CITIZENS OF OAKLAND FROM THE OAKLAND POLICE OFFICERS’ ASSOCIATION

1 November 2011 – Oakland, Ca.

We represent the 645 police officers who work hard every day to protect the citizens of Oakland. We, too, are the 99% fighting for better working conditions, fair treatment and the ability to provide a living for our children and families. We are severely understaffed with many City beats remaining unprotected by police during the day and evening hours.

As your police officers, we are confused.

On Tuesday, October 25th, we were ordered by Mayor Quan to clear out the encampments at Frank Ogawa Plaza and to keep protesters out of the Plaza. We performed the job that the Mayor’s Administration asked us to do, being fully aware that past protests in Oakland have resulted in rioting, violence and destruction of property.

Then, on Wednesday, October 26th, the Mayor allowed protesters back in – to camp out at the very place they were evacuated from the day before.

To add to the confusion, the Administration issued a memo on Friday, October 28th to all City workers in support of the “Stop Work” strike scheduled for Wednesday, giving all employees, except for police officers, permission to take the day off.

That’s hundreds of City workers encouraged to take off work to participate in the protest against “the establishment.” But aren’t the Mayor and her Administration part of the establishment they are paying City employees to protest? Is it the City’s intention to have City employees on both sides of a skirmish line?

It is all very confusing to us.

Meanwhile, a message has been sent to all police officers: Everyone, including those who have the day off, must show up for work on Wednesday. This is also being paid for by Oakland taxpayers. Last week’s events alone cost Oakland taxpayers over $1 million.

The Mayor and her Administration are beefing up police presence for Wednesday’s work strike they are encouraging and even “staffing,” spending hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars for additional police presence – at a time when the Mayor is also asking Oakland residents to vote on an $80 parcel tax to bail out the City’s failing finances.

All of these mixed messages are confusing.

The Weekly Standard Doesn't Get That "Friend" And "Policy Adviser" Aren't The Same Thing

| Tue Nov. 1, 2011 6:17 PM EDT

Although the Weekly Standard has taken the militant background of Mitt Romney's Middle East Policy Adviser Walid Phares a little more seriously than National Review, it nonetheless feels the need to draw a false equivalence between Phares and President Barack Obama's former University of Chicago colleague Rashid Khalidi:

Barack Obama and Columbia University professor Rashid Khalidi both taught at the University of Chicago in the ’90s, and at a farewell dinner for Khalidi in 2003, Obama warmly praised Khalidi’s advice, which took the form of “consistent reminders to me of my own blind spots and my own biases.” Since the Los Angeles Times never released its videotape of the event, we may never know Obama’s blind spots or the enlightenment on offer from his friend and colleague Khalidi​—​a PLO spokesman in Beirut during the Lebanese civil wars.

The Standard attacks former CIA Official Paul Pillar, quoted in my piece, for not acknowledging Khalidi when he told me that he could not "think of any earlier instance of a [possible presidential] adviser having held a comparable formal position with a foreign organization." The unsigned Standard editorial then absurdly goes on to criticize Pillar for erasing Khalidi from his memory. The problem is that Phares not only has an official position as an adviser to the Romney campaign but also, according to one of Phares' longtime associates, was promised a high-level job making policy in the Middle East should Romney become president. Neither the Romney campaign nor Phares' defender Mario Loyola chose to dispute that account.

The Weekly Standard, meanwhile, can't say that Khalidi and Obama were ever more than friends. Khalidi never held any sort of official position with the Obama campaign, and Obama's policy towards Israel has been as consistently one-sided as previous American presidents. It's as though the Standard couldn't bring itself to acknowledge Phares' problematic background without also taking a completely gratuitous shot at the Obama administration for the crime of being friends with someone with pro-Palestinian views and indulging in a little random score-settling with Pillar for past criticism of the Bush administration.  

The editorial unintentionally reinforces the double-standard at play here. Phares' militant past and official role as a Romney adviser draws the most mild of rebukes, while Obama's friendly relationship with Khalidi provokes hysterical speculation about Obama's "true feelings" about Israel and Palestine, as though he doesn't have an actual record on the issue to evaluate. Observe the Standard's consternation over Obama's friendship with Khalidi, and try to imagine the teeth-gnashing rage towards Obama from conservatives had he actually appointed an adviser who played a role in PLO comparable to the one Phares played in the Lebanese Forces during Lebanon's civil war.  

Kentucky Governor's Race Devolves Into Debate Over Hinduism

| Tue Nov. 1, 2011 3:19 PM EDT
Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear (D) prays to his false horse god.

You would think that securing $43 million in tax credits for a to-scale replica of Noah's Ark would be enough to protect Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear (D) from allegations that he's secretly some sort of America-hating pagan who takes his policy proposals straight from the malaria-infested mouth of the great swamp god, Mordu. You would be wrong. Beshear, who is heavily favored to win re-election this November, is taking heat from his Republican opponent for participating in a Hindu "ground blessing" ceremony last weekend at a groundbreaking for a new Indian-owned Elizabethtown factory. Here's how Republican Senate president and gubernatorial nominee David Williams put it:

He's there participating with Hindu priests, participating in a religious ceremony. They can say what they want to. He's sitting down there with his legs crossed, participating in Hindu prayers with a dot on his forehead with incense burning around him. I don't know what the man was thinking...

If I'm a Christian, I don't participate in Jewish prayers. I'm glad they do that. I don't participate in Hindu prayers. I don't participate in Muslim prayers. I don't do that. To get down and get involved and participate in prayers to these polytheistic situations, where you have these Hindu gods that they are praying to, doesn't appear to me to be in line with what a governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky ought to be doing...

Yet between his not being pro-life and his support for gambling and now getting down and doing Hindu prayers to these Hindu gods, I think his grandfathers wouldn't be very pleased with Steve Beshear.

Williams, per the Lexington Herald-Leader, went on to dismiss charges that he was demeaning Hinduism by referring to it as "idolatry," telling the paper that if anyone had offended Hindus, it was Beshear. Kentucky politicians have a proud—and bipartisan—history of making absurd allegations about their opponents' faith. Last fall, Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway accused Sen. Rand Paul of worshipping the false-God* Aqua Buddha (a nod to a prank Paul had played in college).

(h/t Eric Kleefeld)

*His assertion, not mine.

It Begins: Pro-Perry Group Runs First Super-PAC Ads of 2012

| Tue Nov. 1, 2011 2:26 PM EDT
Mike Toomey (left) and Texas Governor Rick Perry go way back.

Things could be going better for Rick Perry's presidential campaign. He probably wishes he hadn't gone into a total free-fall in the national polls (and in Iowa), for instance. Maybe he regrets giving a speech in New Hampshire on Friday in which he sounded like he'd just shotgunned a bottle of Robitussin. But there's a reason Republicans still believe he has a shot to beat Mitt Romney: The Texas governor has a lot of money in the bank, and just as importantly, he's got a lot of friends with a lot of money in the bank.

Perry has not one but two super-PACs working on his behalf—dark money groups that can accept unlimited donations (including from corporate sources)—the most notable of which is Make Us Great Again, founded by Perry's former chief of staff and long-time friend, Austin mega-lobbyist Mike Toomey. Make Us Great Again has a goal of raising and spending $55 million on Perry's behalf during the primaries alone, which is a lot. And now it's on the air with its first set of television ads—making it the first super PAC to hit airwaves during the Republican primary:

We're betting they won't be the last.

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The Elizabeth Warren–Scott Brown Proxy War

| Tue Nov. 1, 2011 11:29 AM EDT
Harvard Professor Elizabeth Warren is expected to win the Democratic nomination to challenge Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.)

Next year's Massachusetts Senate race, between Republican Sen. Scott Brown and Democratic Harvard professor Elizabeth Warren, is shaping up to be one of the most-expensive, most-watched races of the cycle. As we've noted previously, at least one recent poll gave Warren, the architect of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a slight lead over Brown, who helped to gut some of the key provisions of last year's financial reform bill. Brown has $10 million in the bank; Warren raised $3 million in just her first six weeks as a candidate.

But for now, the race is something of a proxy war. Warren doesn't mention Scott Brown by name during her stump speech, choosing instead to cast her candidacy as a campaign against Washington inaction in the face of income inequality and crumbling infrastructure. Brown, for his part, has said he won't start campaigning until after New Year's. But in their absence, their surrogates are gearing up for a fight.

In God We Trust. In Congress, Not So Much.

| Tue Nov. 1, 2011 10:15 AM EDT

The US House of Representatives will work only 109 days next year, so you'd think members might want to cram as much work as they into what's left of 2011 to deal with many critical national issues, like addressing massive unemployment. Instead, Republican lawmakers are thinking more about "Job's Creator." Today, House members will vote on a non-binding resolution reaffirming "In God We Trust" as the national motto.

In January, prayer caucus member Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.), introduced a resolution to reaffirm the motto after President Obama made the serious faux pas of saying in a speech in Indonesia that the national motto was "e pluribus unum," or "out of many, one." The prayer caucus members were outraged and demanded that Obama issue a correction to the speech, but the White House ignored them. Hence today's vote on Forbes' resolution. Forbes and his colleagues believe that "In God We Trust" is under assault by godless atheists who want the phrase scrubbed from everything from US currency to national monuments to public schools. They are bent on defending the motto from "rogue court challenges" and lefties like Obama.

The Senate passed its own resolution in 2006, on the 50th anniversary of the phrase's official dedication as the nation's motto. The House resolution, which will have absolutely no effect on anything whatsoever, declares that "if religion and morality are taken out of the marketplace of ideas, the very freedom on which the United States was founded cannot be secured."

House Democrats aren't especially fond of the measure, which they consider a pretty big waste of time. In March, Democrats on the Judiciary committee wrote in a committee report:

Instead of addressing any of these critical issues, and instead of working to help American families keep a roof over their heads and food on their tables, we are debating whether or not to affirm and proliferate a motto that was adopted in 1956 and that is not imperiled in any respect... Without question, the Judiciary Committee has many important and time-sensitive matters within its purview. The majority, however, seems intent on diverting the committee's time, resources and attention to a measure that has no force of law, only reaffirms existing law and further injects the hand of government into the private religious lives of the American people.

There's also some irony in the Republicans taking up this resolution: When Republicans assumed the majority this year, they banned most of these sort of worthless commemorative resolutions because they considered them a waste of time. As the Washington Post reports, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor even refused to move forward any resolution honoring the military and intelligence folks who killed Osama bin Laden. When the Post asked Cantor this week whether the "In God We Trust" resolution might be one of those waste-of-time symbolic gestures the GOP was trying to get rid of, his office declined to comment.

 

When Does A Lynching Matter? When It's "High-Tech."

| Tue Nov. 1, 2011 10:10 AM EDT
Herman Cain

Shortly after Politico broke the news of Herman Cain being accused of sexual harassment while head of the National Restaurant Association, the American Spectator's Jeffrey Lord declared the whole affair "High Tech Lynching: The Sequel Starring Herman Cain."

This is been the general line from Cain supporters since the allegations surfaced—despite the fact that the incidents occurred years ago and involved financial settlements, Politico is guilty of holding a "high-tech lynching" merely by revealing their existence. Lord in particular offers a wonderful example of the right's selective interest in anti-black racism: its tendency for shrieking hyperbole when a black conservative is involved and callous indifference when the "wrong kind" of black person is not. Or as Rush Limbaugh put it, this is "an unconscionable, racially stereotypical attack on an independent, self-reliant conservative black because for him that behavior is not allowed." Because the last thing Limbaugh wants is to portray black people in a stereotypical fashion

Here, for example, is Lord calling former USDA Official Shirley Sherrod (who was fired after a selectively edited video from Andrew Breitbart cast her as an anti-white racist) a "liar" for saying that her relative Bobby Hall was lynched by Claude Screws, the sheriff of Baker County, Georgia. You see, Screws didn't kill Hall with a rope, he and his colleagues merely beat him to death with blunt objects and fists while he was handcuffed.

It's also possible that she knew the truth and chose to embellish it, changing a brutal and fatal beating to a lynching. Anyone who has lived in the American South (as my family once did) and is familiar with American history knows well the dread behind stories of lynch mobs and the Klan. What difference is there between a savage murder by fist and blackjack -- and by dangling rope? Obviously, in the practical sense, none. But in the heyday -- a very long time -- of the Klan, there were frequent (and failed) attempts to pass federal anti-lynching laws. None to pass federal "anti-black jack" or "anti-fisticuffs" laws.

In case I really need to explain this, actual anti-lynching legislation referred to "an assemblage composed of three or more persons acting in concert for the purpose of depriving any person of his life without authority of law as a punishment for or to prevent the commission of some actual or supposed public offense," because it wouldn't have made much sense to write a law prohibiting the extrajudicial killing of black people only if a rope is involved.

So just so we're clear, Lord thinks that the "liberal" Politico reporting on two settlements related to sexual harassment allegations in Cain's past is "a high-tech lynching." But the actual lynching of Bobby Hall isn't a real lynching, because it involved cops beating him to death instead of reporting unfavorable allegations from his past.

The term "high tech lynching" was first used by then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas to dismiss allegations of sexual harassment against him as the work of a racist conspiracy. Its reintroduction into the American political conversation as a term associated not with something resembling the actual horrors of Jim Crow—from which it draws its moral weight—but with the cynicism of conservatives willing to acknowledge the existence of systemic racism only when one of their own could be a victim, seems fitting.  As with "reverse racism," when a conservative says "high-tech lynching," it signals that something bad is happening to someone you're actually supposed to care about. It identifies the bad kind of racism, as opposed to the kind that liberals make up.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for November 1, 2011

Tue Nov. 1, 2011 5:57 AM EDT

A young boy leans over a wall trying to get the attention of Lt. Col. Jayson Allen as he hands out school supplies to a group of children October 14, 2011, in Laghman province, Afghanistan. Allen is the Laghman Provincial Reconstruction Team commander. The PRT traveled to the village of Deh E Ziarat to meet with the village elder and the people to talk about their community. (US Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Ryan Crane)