Newt Gingrich continues to lead in all the national polls but we are starting to get the first signs that his incredible surge over the past two months is starting to fade. Over the past week Gingrich has been dropping steadily in the Gallup national[...]
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The findings in DOJ's investigation of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office didn't surprise many local longtime critics of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, many of whom said Thursday that his departure would be the only way to put a stop to his office's deep-seated bias.
What set this investigation of the MCSO apart from other pattern and practice investigations, according to DOJ's Tom Perez, is that the issues go to the "highest levels of the organization."
Perez wouldn't take the bait when asked by several different reporters on Thursday whether Arpaio needed to step aside, in order for adequate change to take place, only saying that the feds would "work with Sheriff Arpaio and his leadership" to resolve the civil rights abuses.
But given Arpaio's previous resistance to the federal probe (he once declared that the feds should be thanking him instead of declaring "war on Arizona" -- which led to DOJ filing suit to obtain records relevant to their investigation), it's unclear if cooperation is even a possibility.
Critics certainly don't see Arpaio undergoing any sort of conversion. While the report is likely to bring Arpaio under even more scrutiny, his opponents in Arizona don't see the results as particularly surprising. For the most part, they see the solution to the problems acknowledged by the DOJ as cut and dry: Arpaio has to go.
Randy Parraz of Citizens For A Better Arizona, the group behind the successful ouster of Senate president Russell Pearce (R), had been working to get rid of Arpaio even before the DOJ's report. He told TPM that the report is a "good development, it's not to the answer to what we want to happen."
He said his group will be "broadening our campaign" and talking to elected officials, school boards, city councils and others to push for Arpaio's ouster. Parraz also pointed to an attempt by Arpaio opponents on Wednesday to pressure the Board of Supervisors to file a resolution to oust him over allegations that he botched a number of sex-crime investigations.
"This is definitely a step in the right direction," Parraz said, but "it's not a guarantee," adding that the people of Arizona can't trust the federal government to solve the Arpaio problem.
Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) said that "there is a certain level of validation" from this investigation for people who have been criticizing Arpaio for years, but something has to change.
"There's so much politically at stake here, even if you support Arpaio you should support public safety first and look at this objectively," Grijalva said. "If you do that, regardless of where you fall on the issue of immigration, which has been his national profile, we're talking about public safety in his community, Maricopa County, that it is not happening the way it should be."
Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox called on Arpaio to resign, because, she said, "I truly think that is the only way to resolve this. The findings vindicate what the community has been saying was going on. When you terrorize this community - and cavalierly do it - and put yourself above the rule of law, the United States of America will not stand for it."
According to the Arizona Republic, Maricopa County Sheriff candidate Mike Stauffer said that this confirms what he has known for years about the "unconstitutional practices" of Arpaio. "The federal government has taken a step to giving Arizona help in correcting almost 19 years of criminal behavior by Arpaio. However, we cannot rely solely on the federal government to provide relief. We must continue to use the democratic process to remove Arpaio from office."
And Petra Falcon, the executive director of Promise Arizona in Action, told the Republic that "the Justice Department has decided to rebuke Arpaio, another lawmaker with an anti-immigrant streak. Promise Arizona in Action believes today's actions against Arpaio are greatly justified."
David Leibowitz, a media and political consultant in East Valley, AZ, was also unsurprised. "Racial profiling? Political retribution? That's the same stuff we've been hearing for years here in Arizona. This looks like "same old, same old," perhaps with louder volume," he told TPM.
"Will he resign? Hell no," Leibowitz continued. "Instead, I believe he'll label this a political witchhunt by the Obama Administration and a DOJ that has little to no credibility after Fast and Furious. Will he survive? Yes, I imagine he will. I think Joe Arpaio will be the Sheriff of Maricopa County for as long as he wants. Why do I believe that? Because his bedrock ideas (that you shouldn't live better in jail than you do on the street) resonate with most Valley residents, and he tends to pick on people (criminals, illegal immigrants) who aren't widely loved here in Maricopa County."
The DOJ's report on the MCSO makes clear that "Arpaio's own actions have helped nurture MCSO's culture of bias." They claim he has "promoted a culture of bias in his organization and clearly communicated to his officers that biased policing would not only be tolerated, but encouraged."
But it's not only discriminatory policing that the feds were worried about. The report also found that MCSO deputies "have sought to silence individuals who have publicly spoken out and participated in protected demonstrations" against Arpaio's policies under "the direction of Sheriff Arpaio and his command staff."
They recount a July 29, 2010 incident in which an immigration rights organizer (nicknamed "C.C.") participated in a peaceful protest against MCSO. Deputies arrested the individual and released them later that night. When C.C. showed up to watch a protest the next day, six deputies approached and arrested him even though he was "simply standing with his hands by his side at the time." As the incident unfolded, "Sheriff Arpaio posted a series of approving messages on a social networking site," according to the report. Charges were dropped a few days later because there was no probable cause for the arrest.
In some cases, the feds found that MCSO leadership had also directed deputies to bring false criminal charges against MCSO critics.
"The fact that all of the charges were subsequently dismissed strongly suggests the 'chilling effect was [the] but-for cause' of the police action," the feds write. "Moreover, much maliciously motivated charges would have the effect of silencing a person of ordinary firmness from engaging in further protected speech." They found that MCSO officials "have committed a series of retaliatory actions" which are "designed to chill the exercise of protected First Amendment activities."
There's already been some immediate consequences for Arpaio: DHS and ICE cut off the MCSO's access to the Secure Communities program on Thursday and ended an agreement that lets them detain illegal immigrants after their initial arrest.
But it's still unclear what precisely the next steps are at the federal level. Federal officials disclosed their findings to the MCSO just this morning and the office hasn't responded in the media so far. DOJ's letter gives Arpaio and his deputies until close-of-business on Jan. 4 to let them know whether they are interested in having a "constructive" dialogue.
"If MCSO is not interested or if we deem that MCSO is not engaged in good-faith efforts to achieve compliance by voluntary means, we are prepared to file a civil action to compel compliance," DOJ's Perez wrote in a letter to the Maricopa County attorney.
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Chris Wallace admitted his statement here on Fox's Your World With Neil Cavuto probably wasn't going to sit too well with Ron Paul supporters, but when asked what would happen if Paul actually manages to win the upcoming Iowa caucus, Wallace gave us what is sure to be the standard line from our Villagers in the media if Ron Paul were actually to pull out a win in Iowa.
WALLACE: Well, and the Ron Paul people aren?t going to like me saying this, but, to a certain degree, it will discredit the Iowa caucuses because, rightly or wrongly, I think most of the Republican establishment thinks he is not going to end up as the nominee. So, therefore, Iowa won?t count and it will go on.
While I agree with Wallace that it's not likely that Ron Paul is going to end up being the Republican nominee, I do find some humor in the fact our Villagers in the media are probably going to place a lot of undeserved weight on the Iowa caucus, that is not known for having a good track record with picking a presidential candidate, if one of the other frontrunners would win the early race.
If Paul ends up winning Iowa, as a whole lot of them in our corporate media have acknowledged is possible, I'm sure we have a lot more segments like this one, where they're saying Iowa doesn't mean anything to look forward to.
In the wake of a devastating Department of Justice report, critics of notorious Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio say the only way to reform the department is for Arpaio to go. [...]
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Our departure from Iraq, after nine years, 4500 deaths and trillions of dollars, comes not with a bang but a whimper of exhaustion and relief.
?Iraq will be tested in the days ahead,? says Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, ?by terrorism, and by those who would seek to divide, by economic and social issues, by the demands of democracy itself.?
No senior Iraqi official attends the ceremony of departure, marked by muted wishful thinking that contrasts with U.S. arrival of ?shock and awe? to find Saddam Hussein?s phantom nuclear arsenal.
What we leave behind is a dead tyrant and a fractured, fragile nation.
At this moment, it?s fitting to recall what Robert Byrd warned in 2002 before the Senate voted to authorize the invasion:
"We may not always be able to avoid war, particularly if it is thrust upon us, but Congress must not attempt to give away the authority to determine when war is to be declared. We must not allow any president to unleash the dogs of war at his own discretion and or an unlimited period of time.
"Yet that is what we are being asked to do. The judgment of history will not be kind to us if we take this step.?
In 2007, with the war seemingly lost, George W. launched a Surge of more troops and more money, under the counterinsurgency leadership of Gen. David Petraeus, which stabilized Iraq enough to make possible today?s departure if not in victory, at least without dishonor.
Most of us who opposed the war when it started, including Barack Obama, also resisted the Surge, but it worked well enough to make this day possible.
As we leave Iraq, there is enough sadness, guilt and regret to go around, but what?s important to remember is that ?wars of choice? are costly in blood, treasure and American morality.
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During an appearance at New York University on Wednesday, Google CEO Eric Schmidt was asked to respond to a 200,000-person petition calling on the Internet giant to leave the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Google, whose official motto is “Don’t Be Evil,” officially disagrees with the right-wing lobbying behemoth on climate change, Internet regulation, intellectual property rights, LGBT rights, privacy rights, net neutrality, and women’s rights, yet continues to fund the Chamber’s radical agenda. The new activist organization SumOfUs has launched the Google Quit The Chamber campaign to get Google to act consistent with its supposed values.
Admitting that he knew about the petition effort, Schmidt said that the “Chamber of Commerce has helped us in some areas.” As an example, the Chamber helped him in a dispute over meeting the Chinese prime minister. He said this work was “representing good American values.” With a chuckle, Schmidt said that Google will “see what happens” with the SumOfUs petition:
There are plenty of things we disagree with them on. But I’ll let the petition continue (chuckle), and see what happens.
“Where is Eric Schmidt’s moral compass?” SumOfUs President Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman responded in a statement to ThinkProgress. “The Chamber of Commerce represents the opposite of ‘good American values’ ?- not to mention Google’s values. Hundreds of thousands of Google users have made it clear that the Chamber of Commerce’s wars on internet freedom, LGBT and women’s rights, the climate, financial reform, good jobs, and much more are morally incompatible with our own values and with the values of Google’s employees. We call on Eric Schmidt to clarify exactly which ‘good American values’ he believes the Chamber of Commerce represents — and to get Google out of the Chamber immediately. The Chamber’s policies are, frankly, evil. Google, abide by your own principles and don’t be evil.”
Tonight, Iowa hosts the last GOP presidential debate before the first caucuses on Jan. 3. A question going into the debate is how Mitt Romney will treat green jobs while he is in the Hawkeye state, given his past statement that green jobs are “illusory.”
Although Iowa leads in wind energy, investors remain uncertain about wind’s future growth, as the federal tax credit for renewable energy is set to expire after Dec. 31. Yesterday, at a Senate Finance subcommittee hearing, senators and business leaders convened to discuss the future of these clean energy tax credits. Even Sen. John Thune (R-SD) recognized at the hearing that ?American businesses need greater certainty.?
The Iowa wind industry supports more than 2,300 jobs and a payroll of $70 million in the state. During a recent visit to a wind facility in West Branch, Iowa run by Acciona Windpower North America, the CEO Joe Baker discussed the job creation benefits to the area with the Center for American Progress:
Before we came to this facility, it had been abandoned. And West Branch, Iowa is a relatively small town. It?s close to Iowa City, where the University of Iowa is, but we were able to bring over 100 good-paying technical and professional jobs to the area, improving the economy in West Branch, specifically — a number of our employees live in West Branch and a number of our employees live in the Iowa City area as well.
The clean energy sector has provided some relief in a rough economy, averaging a growth rate of 8.3 percent between 2003-10, nearly double the growth rate of the overall economy. Yet that hasn?t stopped Romney from attacking this growing industry. Earlier in the campaign season, Romney attacked green jobs in an Orange County Register op-ed, calling them “illusory” jobs created in Finland, not the U.S. In addition to Iowa, he also ignores the reality of 64,000 clean energy jobs in his home state Massachusetts.
In 2011, it may still be novel for same-sex couples to be not just parents, but grandparents, and surely it will soon be more commonplace. In the meantime, watch as these two dads celebrate the news that they are about to be grandfathers:
A nice year-end supercut, designed to be a comment on movies themselves:
There is something weird about the way the movie year is stacked, a dismal beginning in the early months, wild rides in the middle, and a rush of almost overwhelming quality and sometimes, bliss, towards the end. The nominations lists that have come out over the past couple of days have been disconcerting, but I do think they speak to the fact that we had a lot of truly enjoyable movies and television this year. Watching this, I’m struck by how much fun I had even at movies that I didn’t think were spectacular. There’s a fair bit of dreck out there. But a lot to be grateful for.
In the aftermath of the recession, states across the country have cut their budgets, in turn forcing cities and towns in those states to make their own drastic cuts. Different towns have made different decisions, with some closing libraries, un-paving roads, closing schools, and even attempting to decriminalize domestic violence, all in efforts to save money.
In November, Highland Park, Michigan decided it could no longer afford to pay the electric bill and shut off its street lights. And despite the fact that such a move saves little money and could jeopardize public safety, New Paris, Ohio is following suit, announcing this week that it too will shut off its street lights when it ends its contract with a local electrical company at the end of the month, as WDTN reports:
Officials say the village’s funding from the state has been slashed by 25-percent and another 25-percent will be cut next year.
So to try to make ends meet, the village is preparing to end its contract with Dayton Power and Light at the end of the month.
That would save more than $17,000, but leaders fear it could also cost villagers in safety.
Towns and cities across Ohio have felt the crunch from Gov. John Kasich’s (R) budget cuts, and decisions like the one New Paris made could have been avoided had Kasich and his Republican colleagues not preserved millions in benefits for the rich and corporations. Ohio Republicans cut the state’s estate tax, lowered its income tax in a way that benefited those with incomes over $200,000, and preserved multiple special interest tax breaks to benefit corporations.
None of that, of course, has brought the job creation and prosperity Kasich promised upon taking office. Instead, he’s decided to uphold his duty to protect public safety by leaving prison guard towers empty and forcing local towns like New Paris to black out their streets.