The Navy decided not to use a cardboard cutout of a Muslim woman for target practice, reports the Virginian-Pilot, which first published a photo of the target last week. The hijab-wearing, gun-toting woman was part of a new training range for Navy Seals at Virginia Beach. Both her image and the Quran verse on the wall behind her have been removed after the Council on American-Islamic Relations wrote a letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Friday, stating the target “sends a negative and counterproductive message to trainees and to the Muslim-majority nations to which they may be deployed.”
The New York Police Department has put out a “police advisory” flyer warning cops and residents to look out for two “professional agitators,” a Harlem couple who film officers stopping and frisking young New Yorkers of color.
DNAinfo reports that Matthew Swaye, 35, and his partner Christina Gonzalez, 25, came across the poster, complete with mugshots and the official seal of the NYPD’s intelligence division, taped to a podium in the 30th precinct’s public hearing room while attending a precinct council meeting. The flyer listed the home address of the couple and warned:
Be aware that the subjects are known professional agitators that live at [home address]. Above subjects mo is that they video tape officers performing routine stops and post on youtube. Subjects purpose is to portray officers in a negative way and too deter officers from conducting there responsibilities. Above subjects also deter officers from being safe and tactical by causing unnecessary distractions. Do not feed into subjects propaganda.
Swaye and Gonzalez have been arrested several times in the past year for civil disobedience. Swaye was detained at a stop-and-frisk protest in Harlem, along with a a group of advocates including Cornel West. Gonzalez was arrested at a Father’s Day stop-and-frisk march and, on a separate occasion, spent a few days at Rikers on a contempt charge after refusing to apologize for calling conservative Brooklyn Judge John H. Wilson a “white racist pig.”
The couple post videos on a YouTube channel showing NYPD officers conducting stop-and-frisks and assaulting demonstrators. Swaye explained, “We see ourselves as peace activists. The mug shots were for civil disobedience. They have us here like we robbed a bank.”
Another person attending the meeting told DNAinfo, “I thought: ‘Why isn’t anyone arresting them? When you see something like that, you think there’s a reward out for the person on the flyer.”
According to DNAinfo, the New York Civil Liberties Union recorded 7,550 total stops in the 30th precinct last year, 3,987 which involved a frisk, ranking it 38th in total number of frisks city-wide. On June 20, the NYPD invited reporters to a press conference and demo of an updated stop-and-frisk program after coming under fire for the racially-skewed practice.
Economic inequality has shot upwards since 1979, as the top one percent of income earners went from earning ten times as much as the bottom 90 percent to earning 20 times as much. And the top 0.1 percent and 0.01 percent have pulled away to far more dramatic heights. In his new book Twilight of the Elites, MSNBC host Chris Hayes argues this change in the country’s economic landscape is one of the key causes of the breakdown of American meritocracy:
CHRIS HAYES: The argument that I make in the book is that inequality is bad because of what it does to the people at the top of the social pyramid. That it actually makes the people at the top of the social pyramid worse… It just is impossible, in practical terms, to separate equality of opportunity from equality of outcome. The latter subverts the former almost as what I call in the book a kind of iron law.
Hayes recently sat down with ThinkProgress to discuss the book and its implications. Watch it:
The narrative core of his thesis carries personal significance for Hayes: When he was eleven, Hayes entered Hunter College, an extremely selective high school in Manhattan. The school prides itself on determining admission with a single test, irrespective of an applicant?s parents, income, essays, or connections. ?An almost nobly austere vision of meritocracy,? as Hayes puts it.
Yet students applying to Hunter arrive at the test with vastly different advantages in terms of their parenting, their family?s economic resources, their community?s resources, and the quality of their previous education. Even more telling is the test prep industry that has grown up to ready prospective students for admission — assuming they can afford the cost of the prep courses. ?The majority of students getting in now are products of the test prep industry,? according to Hayes? interviews. The lesson is that economic inequality inevitably destroys the American vision of an equal and meritocratic starting line.
I was on the road yesterday when Anderson Cooper, in response to an Entertainment Weekly cover story about celebrities who are coming out in increasingly casual ways, came out in an email to Andrew Sullivan. Gawker publisher Nick Denton, reflecting what seem to be sour grapes about not getting the story himself, has already complained that Cooper didn’t make a big enough deal of his coming out, as if a long and thoughtful email to the biggest blog at a major publication doesn’t constitute a significant enough event.
Celebrities’ lives are funny things: we enter them midstream and assume we know an enormous amount about these people who create selves they put out for our consumption, whether it’s old-school rooting for Rosie O’Donnell to find the right guy or the entire sector of the magazine industry that’s supported by speculation about what it means to Jennifer Aniston that she’s divorced. That intense attention and sense of ownership creates an opportunity for stars to either make major news events out of their lives or for them to slip new relationships or new information about themselves seamlessly into the news cycle. Cooper could have as easily just taken his boyfriend to an Oscar party or walked the red carpet with him and acted as if everyone already knew he was gay, as if the proper name of the person he’s seeing is the news, and not the fact that the person he’s seeing is a man.
There’s no question that we’re still at a point where the availability of out, happy, successful, and clearly-identifiable gay role models is important to young people, and where coming out is still changing hearts and minds by forcing people to confront whether they really feel differently about people like Cooper now that audiences know they’re gay. But I wonder if we’d be a lot better off with more casual celebrity coming-out stories that build room for flexibility and growth into the narrative. It would be awfully nice if people like Cynthia Nixon or Lindsay Lohan could go from relationships with men to relationships with women and have the news be the specific person rather than their gender. For some people, coming out is the stating of an immutable fact about themselves. For others, it’s a matter of a specific relationship. Not all coming out stories are the same, and the same formula of magazine covers and talk show sit-downs, won’t make sense for all people in the public eye. Knowing that there are famous, successful gay people among us is a first step. Recognizing that their experiences, as with the experiences of civilians, aren’t all identical is second, and critically important.
The Fourth of July is one of those days when politicians love to surround themselves with military veterans. They march with them in parades, they rub elbows with them at the podium, they stand with them to say the Pledge of Allegiance and they confirm their patriotism by giving everyone the impression that they would do as much for veterans as for members of their own family. And afterwards they ignore them until the next suitable holiday for paying attention comes along.
One arena in which veterans are often forgotten is the job front. The Obama administration has been making an above-average effort in this. It has been doubly difficult because, despite the Great Recession having been officially over for three years, the economy still sucks. And it sucks especially bad for post-Sept. 11 veterans. As of May, their unemployment rate was 4 percentage points above the official rate of 8.2 percent, a figure which itself vastly understates the joblessness problem.
The latest effort to do something about it comes from the $20 million in job-training grants for 11,000 homeless veterans announced this week by the Department of Labor. The 90 grants are being awarded through the DOL's Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program for programs designed to help veterans succeed in civilian jobs. These are second- and third-year grants. In June, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis announced the awarding of 64 first-year grants totaling $15 million to train 8,600 veterans.
But that's only one element of the administration's efforts on this front.
In early June, on the heels of a government report, Military Skills for America?s Future: Leveraging Military Service and Experience to Put Veterans and Military Spouses Back to Work, President Obama announced that the Department of Defense would set up a Military Credentialing and Licensing Task Force so veterans and service members can gain civilian occupational credentials and licenses. As many as 126,000 service members will get the opportunity to gain machinist, logistics, welding and engineering certifications for high-demand manufacturing jobs. Attention will also focus on getting service members and veterans credentialed for jobs as first responders and in health care, information technology, transportation and logistics.
As the president said at the time: Many returning veterans with advanced skills ?don?t get hired simply because they don?t have the civilian licenses or certifications that a lot of companies require.?
At the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) website, Kate O'Gorman explained with an example of how the current circumstances work against many veterans:
Consider Eric Smith, who told his story before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. As a Navy Corpsman, he was responsible for a 20+ bed intensive care unit and clearly had valuable technical and leadership skills that any civilian employer would be thrilled to have on their team. Yet when he left the Navy, Eric struggled to find work as a Certified Nursing Assistant because he lacked the certification that signaled to civilian employers that he had these skills. This experience is echoed by thousands of veterans who struggle to find work. Many lack a civilian certification to do the same jobs they did in the military. Others simply struggle to explain their military skills to a civilian employer.Another administration program initiated last August is Joining Forces. It's a two-year, $120 million program of tax cuts and persuasion to put 100,000 out-of-work veterans into jobs by 2013. Persuading businesses to step up are first lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, the vice president's wife. So far, 70,000 veterans and military spouses have been hired at more than 1,600 companies who have pledged to do their part in Joining Forces.
It's easy to see this isn't enough. The lackluster economy?which is what sent many young people into the military in the first place?continues to be the biggest problem. But experts say that too many employers don't understand the capabilities of returning service members. They can't figure how how the military training and experience meshes with civilian work. They sometimes can't even figure out their résumés. So they don't hire them. With more troops now returning from overseas duty and leaving the military, additional pressure will be put on a struggling labor market.
Other issues have an impact, too. Since businesses must legally hold jobs open for called-up employees who are National Guardsmen or in the Reserves, and those groups were pushed into extended tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, that pinched some employers. Ted Daywalt, who runs VetJobs.com in Georgia, told The New York Times last December: ?Nearly 65 to 70 percent of employers will not now hire National Guard and Reserve. They can?t run their business with someone being taken away for 12 months.? That kind of discrimination is illegal, but a sharp employer can get around it.
There is also a reluctance to hire veterans for fear of potential off-kilter behavior from post-traumatic stress disorder, something that affects a large percentage of veterans to some extent or another. According to Invisible Wounds, a study by IAVA, some 20 percent of returning veterans has some level of PTSD.
What's best about the White House's approach in matters of matching veterans with proper jobs paying decent wages is that all the eggs aren't in one basket. The administration keeps experimenting, trying out new methods to make a difference. Not focusing on one particular group to the exclusion of others. That's a formula designed by people determined to produce real results, not just window-dressing.
Ultimately, however, the only way the situation will really improve for veterans is when it improves across the board for Americans.
In his first interview since being held in contempt by the House of Representatives, Attorney General Eric Holder charges that he has been turned into a symbol by the Republican Party, as a means to attack the President. In doing so, he veers close to[...]
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Barack Obama: 48 (48)Last Thursday was as big and momentous a news day as you could possibly imagine. A massive piece of legislation that stands to reshape America's relationship with health insurance hung in the balance?and in a move that surprised many, was upheld as constitutional by the Supreme Court. It was all the political world could talk about for days, before and especially after.
Mitt Romney: 45 (45)
Undecided: 6 (7)
Yet what effect did the ruling have on the presidential race? At least as far as Daily Kos & SEIU's topline polling is concerned, absolutely none. Last week, Barack Obama led Mitt Romney 48-45. This week, Barack Obama leads Mitt Romney... 48-45. Not much to see here at all!
We did see an interesting shift on our voter enthusiasm question, though. Though we normally ask it every other week, we included it this week so that we could have a direct basis for comparison. Before the ruling came down, 62% of Republicans said they were "very excited" to vote this fall while only 54% of Democrats did. After, "very excited" Republicans dropped to just 51% while Democrats increased to 58%.
That didn't translate into a change in the Obama-Romney head-to-head, but it defies the conventional wisdom that the Supreme Court's ruling would fire up Republican voters. In fact, it appears to have done just the opposite, though it's worth keeping your eye on that question to see if it's a momentary bump or the start of a trend.
P.S. As always, our approval and favorability numbers can be found on our weekly trends page.
The Energy Report: Things have been pretty hectic on the global economic and financial fronts lately and the energy markets seem to be defying the expectations and predictions of many analysts. What’s your take . . . → Read More: Falling Oil Prices Offer Great Stock Buying Opportunities: Byron King
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The country is fairly evenly divided on the Supreme Court's ruling upholding the Affordable Care Act. According to a Pew Research poll 40 percent of people disapprove of the ruling, while 36 percent approve. Not surprisingly there is a huge partisan[...]
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Michigan's Gov. Rick Snyder (R) has vetoed a set of bills passed by his state's Republican-controlled legislature, which aimed to crack down on alleged voter fraud. Snyder said in voiding the measures that they could cause confusion among voters.
One measure would have required voters to reaffirm that they are U.S. citizens, and would have instituted photo-ID requirements for voters receiving an absentee ballot at a local government office. Another would have required training for people, companies and organizations participating in voter registration. The Grand Rapids Press reports that Republicans in the legislature argued that the measures were needed to combat voter fraud, while Democrats charged that the bills would unfairly target poor, minority and elderly people who favor the Democratic Party.
In his veto message, Snyder criticized the bills' own mechanisms as confusing -- that if a voter failed to check a specific citizenship box on their application, they would still be given a ballot, but it would not be counted unless they came back to affirm their eligibility.
Snyder declared: "Voting rights are precious and we need to work especially hard to make it possible for people to vote."
Today I am returning to you Enrolled Senate Bills 754 and 803 without signature. Enrolled Senate Bill 754 precludes voter registration groups from receiving and delivering registration applications until at least on member of their organization has received training by the secretary of state or local clerk. I commend the Secretary of State for working with the legislature on improving our voter registration rules and I am supportive of the concept of training individuals involved in voter registration. The language in Enrolled Senate Bill 754 pertaining to the registration of third party voter registration organizations, and at the timing and training of those entities, may cause confusion with regard to ongoing voter registration efforts. While our current Secretary of State would be very proactive on offering training, it is important to ensure that future officials provide proper training.
Enrolled Senate Bill 803 requires voters to affirm their citizenship by checking a box before their ballot is counted. I am concerned that Enrolled Senate Bill 803 could create voter confusion among absentee voters. I appreciate the issue of ensuring that voters are properly qualified including the requirement that they are US citizens. An alternative would be to simply include US citizen in the voter's opening declarative statement on the application.
Voting rights are precious and we need to work especially hard to make it possible for people to vote. I look forward to working with you and the Secretary of State to address the issues above so we can implement improvements to our system.