At Loretta Lynch’s Confirmation Hearing, Senators Air Holder Grievances

At Loretta Lynch's Confirmation Hearing, Senators Air Holder Grievances

Outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder has rattled plenty of senators. On Wednesday, Loretta Lynch, President Obama’s nominee to replace him, sat before the Senate Judiciary Committee for an hours-long confirmation hearing full of the usual political posturing from both parties. It also functioned as an airing of the ill will Republican members of Congress have toward Holder.

Lynch, a U.S. attorney for Brooklyn, has sought to distance herself from Holder and she continued in that vein on Wednesday. She unflappably portrayed herself as a disciplined public servant with much less interest in the progressive politicking that Holder took up.

A quick check-off list of her stances on hot-button topics: Lynch called the death penalty an “effective penalty;” and said that Obama’s latest executive action on immigration was founded in a “reasonable” legal rationale. She considers waterboarding torture, “and therefore illegal.” She called the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs “certainly constitutional and effective,” and said “few things have pained” her more than “reports of tension and division” between police officers and the communities they serve. 

And she was game to play along when Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas pointedly asked her: “You’re not Eric Holder, are you?” “No, I’m not,” Lynch replied.

“Attorney General Holder’s record is heavy on our minds,” Cornyn continued. “And I agree with the chairman about his concerns when the attorney general refers to himself as the president’s wingman, suggesting that he does not exercise independent legal judgment, as the chief law-enforcement officer for the country. You wouldn’t consider yourself to be a political arm of the White House as attorney general, would you?” Cornyn continued.

“No, senator, that would be an inapporpriate use of the—” Lynch said, before Cornyn cut her off. 

“I will be Loretta Lynch,” she later said, when Cornyn asked her how she planned not to be Holder. 

If confirmed Lynch will be the first black woman to hold the position. 

Marissa Alexander Released; Now on House Arrest

Marissa Alexander Released; Now on House Arrest

After serving three years in jail, 34-year-old Marissa Alexander went home yesterday and is now on house arrest. A judge denied the prosecutor’s request for an additional two-year sentence in the case of the Florida mother who in 2010, and nine days after giving birth, fired a gun near her abusive husband and allegedly his children. Alexander subsequently used Florida’s “stand your ground” law as her defense. No one was injured but a jury, MSNBC reports, convicted her in 12 minutes. Alexander was initially sentenced to Florida’s minimum, 20 years, and could’ve faced 60 years in prison. The outcome for Alexander, an African-American woman, provided a stark contrast to that of George Zimmerman, a white Hispanic male, who in a 2013 trial also used the “stand your ground” law in, ultimately, a successful defense in the killing of unarmed 17-year-old African-American, Trayvon Martin. Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, passed in 2005, has been widely criticized for excusing vigilantiism and uneven application but it remains on the books.

Alexander read a prepared statement as she left the Duval County courthouse yesterday. It said in part:

“Today, after the sentence given by Judge Daniel, my family and I will be able to move on with our lives. Although the journey has been long and there’s been many difficult moments, I could not have arrived here, where I am today, without the thoughts, many thoughts and many prayers of so many people who voiced their support and encouragement. Words can never express my gratitude for those who stood beside me, including my children and family. I am also grateful that Judge Daniel approached this case with such care and diligence.”

Alexander’s estranged husband, Rico Gray, according to First Coast News, “said he is happy that the case is over and that everyone can move forward — especially the children. [He] is happy that she has finally accepted responsibility [but] has concerns about whether she is really remorseful.”

For the next two years Alexander will be monitored by ankle bracelet. Supporters, according to News4Jax, have raised money to cover the associated fees and local pastors are offering a job in one of their ministries.

Jordan-IS Prisoner Swap, Marissa Alexander Leaves Prison, Measles Outbreak

Jordan-IS Prisoner Swap, Marissa Alexander Leaves Prison, Measles Outbreak

Here’s what I’m reading up on this morning: 

TAGS: Morning Rush

In Albuquerque, a DA Faces Intimidation for Charging Cops Who’ve Killed

In Albuquerque, a DA Faces Intimidation for Charging Cops Who've Killed

In the last four years, Albuquerque police have pulled their guns on people at least 37 times, and killed at least 23 people among them. The shootings added up: Albuquerque has a fatal police shootings rate that’s eight times that of New York City’s. Until two weeks ago, when Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg filed murder charges over a March 2014 fatal police shooting, no police officer had ever been criminally charged.

A new New Yorker article by Rachel Aviv examines the faceless web of power which protects police officers who kill people while on the job, and intimidates and possibly retaliates against those who seek justice or accountability. Aviv also reports on recruitment pressures in Albuquerque which forced the police department to ease up on their hiring standards, and accept those who, Aviv implies, otherwise would not belong on the police force. In the wake of Tamir Rice’s death at the hands of a Cleveland police officer who was rejected from another police department, Aviv’s reporting underscores the point that unleashing questionably qualified police officers into the community can be fatal.

Tucked deep in the story is Aviv’s account of the personal and professional price DA Brandenburg is paying for going after those police officers:

Last October, Kari Brandenburg told a police-union attorney that she was leaning toward filing murder charges against the officers who shot Boyd. Within weeks, Brandenburg found herself the target of an investigation by the Albuquerque Police Department. Her twenty-six-year-old son, who was addicted to heroin, had stolen thousands of dollars of his friends’ belongings, and Brandenburg had offered to reimburse them. In late November, an Albuquerque detective gave the state attorney general an investigative file that he said showed that Brandenburg had bribed and intimidated witnesses. In a recording of a conversation between officers working on the case, a detective with the Criminal Intelligence Unit acknowledged that the evidence against Brandenburg appeared insubstantial. He said, “There might be charges—they’re super-weak—it’s probably not gonna go anywhere, but it’s gonna destroy a career.”

The whole story is an infuriating, but not altogether shocking story, of political pressure and unchecked police power. It comes as the Albuquerque police department embarks on sweeping reforms mandated by the Justice Department.

Read the rest of the New Yorker story.

Following Ferguson: Did Your News Media Do A Good Job?

Following Ferguson: Did Your News Media Do A Good Job?

“I remember August 9th like it was 10 seconds ago,” St. Louis reporter Kenya Vaughn said to a Washington, D.C., audience yesterday. “I was going about my everyday business of social media-watching…and I saw a man holding a sign on Instagram that said, ‘The Ferguson police department just murdered my unarmed son.’ And I was like, ‘Ferguson, Ferguson!? Down the street, Ferguson!? Is this real?’” With that Vaughn sets the frame (11:00) for a truly excellent two-hour panel filmed at the National Press Club by C-Span on how news media covers race following the killings of Mike Brown and Eric Garner. The accounting comes at a time when #blacklivesmatter protests make race and racism a topical, mainstream conversation even as newsrooms have long been criticized for not hiring nor depicting diverse sources and talk-show guests. “Media can not cover race when it is unwilling to look at its own shops,” panelist Roland Martin says (32:26).

In addition to Kenya Vaughn, web editor at The St. Louis American and Roland Martin, host of NewsOne Now, panelists include: Paul Farhi, media reporter, The Washington Post; April Ryan, White House correspondent, Urban Radio Networks; Jeff Johnson, journalist, formerly* BET News; Athena Jones, general assignment reporter, CNN; and Gilbert Bailon, editor, St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The panel is wide-ranging and worth the listen. How well does news media cover race or racism in your town?

(h/t Journal-isms)


* Post has been updated since publication to reflect Johnson’s affiliation.

Winter Storm Juno, Cosby Accused Yet Again, Benadryl Linked to Dementia

Winter Storm Juno, Cosby Accused Yet Again, Benadryl Linked to Dementia

Here’s some of what I’m reading up on this morning: 

  • Astronomers say this exoplanet has rings 200 times the size of Saturn. 
TAGS: Morning Rush

Winter Storm Juno, Syriza Takes Greece, SAG Awards

Winter Storm Juno, Syriza Takes Greece, SAG Awards

Here’s what I’m reading up on this morning: 

  • The SAG Awards illustrate the need for racial diversity in Hollywood. 

*Post has been updated to reflect that Winter Storm Juno may be the most severe snow storm in New York City history, not in East Coast history. 

TAGS: Morning Rush

Melissa Harris-Perry: “Be Very Afraid” of Race Case Before Supreme Court

Melissa Harris-Perry:

“Housing discrimination” doesn’t make for sexy headlines. It’s a mouthful. But where groups of people live and why (or, why not) is ground zero in everyday battles for better schools and community health, easier transportation to jobs, fair lending, safety from violence—basically everything. As a result the housing discrimination case now before the Supreme Court led off this weekend’s “Melissa Harris-Perry Show.” She and her guests break down the stakes, the debate, how the Fair Housing Act is supposed to work and the implications if Roberts’ SCOTUS dismantles one of President Johnson’s key civil rights laws. “Be very afraid,” MSNBC host Harris-Perry says.

Watch the intro video above as well as extra segments on the current fair housing debate and implications of a SCOTUS decision. But the best way to understand how yesterday’s baked-in residential segregation affects the lives and outcomes of everyone, today? Listen to sports commentator Bomani Jones, at the height of the Donald Sterling scandal, explain the “real racism” of the longtime NBA owner who was also a much sued landlord (4:32-8:58).

Black Workers With Advanced Degrees, White Workers With B.A.’s Make Roughly the Same

Black Workers With Advanced Degrees, White Workers With B.A.'s Make Roughly the Same

You’ve heard of the racial wealth gap, the racial employment gap, and surely also about racial job callback disparities. Today, the Bureau of Labor Statistics offers an updated look at another dynamic of our racialized economy: the racial income gap.

As in: In 2014, while white workers 25 years or older with at least an undergrad degree took home median earnings of $1,219 per week, similarly aged and educated Latino workers made $1,007, and Asian workers made $1,328 per week. Black workers with at least a college degree, meanwhile, posted median earnings of $970 per week.

The racial income gap is so pronounced that black workers with an advanced degree made $1,149—roughly the same as white workers who had only a bachelor’s degree ($1,132).

For more on what this kind of economic inequality means for the country, read Kai Wright’s in-depth look at young black men’s struggle for employment. As Wright wrote last June, “This is an inequity that grows from tangled roots—historic labor market discrimination, ongoing residential segregation, stubborn racial biases among employers. But it’s also one with consequences that stretch out beyond the men themselves, and that will linger long past today’s troubled economy.”

(h/t Catherine Rampell)

ICYMI: Watch Queer and Trans Activists of Color Shut Down San Francisco’s Historic Castro

San Francisco’s Castro district is known as one of the historic centers of America’s gay community. But for generations, it’s remained fiercely white. This dynamic was a centerpiece of filmmaker Marlon Riggs’s iconic 1989 documentary “Tongues Untied,” which examined how black gay men related to one another. And it’s still relevant today.

That past and present is the reason why the Castro became ground zero for queer and transgender activists who have been active in the Black Lives Matter movement. On January 17, the group marched through the heart of the Castro as part of 96 hours of actions taken to #ReclaimMLK last weekend. 

“As the Black Lives Matter movement gains strength nationwide, the larger LGBT community and our allies can no longer stand on the sidelines,” the collective of activists wrote in a statement to Colorlines. “The assault on Black lives is an LGBT issue. The average life expectancy of a Black transgender woman is 35 years. In 2013, the National Coalition of Anti-Violence programs reported that 72 percent of hate crimes were against trans women, 89 percent of whom were transgender women of color.”

Here’s video from last weekend’s action:

The Race Case Before the Roberts’ Supreme Court

The Race Case Before the Roberts' Supreme Court

For the third time in less than four years the Supreme Court is reviewing one particular case, Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project, Inc. Experts say that’s curious. “It is unusual for the Court to agree to hear a case when the law is clearly settled. It’s even more unusual to agree to hear the issue three years in a row,” U-C Berkeley law professor Ian Haney López tells ProPublica. What’s being decided is the point at which the law can intervene in accusations of housing discrimination: when evidence proves intentional racism or when the evidence proves discriminatory outcome. The importance of this decision, now before a Roberts court with a history of hollowing out key civil rights gains and turning corporations into people, can’t be overstated. It could potentially gut the 1968 Fair Housing Act—passed days after King’s assassination—and has broad impact on everything from communities’ ability to fight predatory lending to the continuation of segregated schooling.

The court’s decision is expected before July 2015. Follow developments and read up on the background of this Texas case on SCOTUSblog

(h/t ProPublica)

Saudi Arabia’s Changes at the Throne, Rubio 2016, East Coast Prepares for Winter Storm

Saudi Arabia's Changes at the Throne, Rubio 2016, East Coast Prepares for Winter Storm

Here’s what I’m reading up on this morning:

TAGS: Morning Rush

Black McDonald’s Workers Fired ‘To Get the Ghetto Out,’ Lawsuit Alleges

Black McDonald's Workers Fired 'To Get the Ghetto Out,' Lawsuit Alleges

This morning 10 former McDonald’s employees filed a federal civil lawsuit alleging that they were fired from their jobs this past May because there were “too many black people” in the Virginia McDonald’s stores where they worked.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia, alleges that 15 black employees were fired in McDonald’s locations in South Boston and Clarksville, Va., after the franchise operator Soweva took over the stores in 2013. Soon after assuming management, the lawsuit alleges, Soweva owner Michael Simon complained that “the ratio was off in each of the stories,” and that restaurants were “too dark.” Black workers were called “bitch,” “ghetto,” and “ratchet,” and Latino workers were called “dirty Mexicans,” the lawsuit alleges. 

Nine of the plaintiffs are black, one is Latino, and they’ve worked a combined half century at McDonald’s restaurants. They also allege that in addition to racial harassment, management made anti-gay comments and sexually harassed workers.

“All of a sudden, they let me go, for no other reason than I ‘didn’t fit the profile’ they wanted at the store,” plaintiff Willie Betts, a cook at the South Boston McDonald’s, said in a statement. “I had no idea what they meant by the right profile until I saw everyone else that they fired as well. I worked at McDonald’s for almost five years, I was on time every day at four o’clock in the morning to open the store, and I never had a disciplinary write-up. They took away the only source of income I have to support my family.”  

If workers prevail, the lawsuit could have lasting impacts on the effort to hold major corporations responsible for what they’ve long contended are the labor practices of their franchise owners, Al Jazeera America reports. This past July, a landmark National Labor Relations Board ruling determined that McDonald’s should be considered a “joint employer” alongside franchise operators which run its stores. McDonald’s Corporate has claimed that they are not liable for their franchise operators’ labor practices.

The workers are supported by the NAACP and Fight for 15, a union-backed worker organizing group fighting for higher wages in fast food restaurants.

Romney and Bush to Meet, Darren Wilson Dodges DOJ Charges, Sundance Kicks Off

Romney and Bush to Meet, Darren Wilson Dodges DOJ Charges, Sundance Kicks Off

Here’s what I’m reading up on this morning: 

TAGS: Morning Rush

DOJ Memo: No Civil Rights Charges Brought Against Darren Wilson

DOJ Memo: No Civil Rights Charges Brought Against Darren Wilson

The Department of Justice is reportedly preparing a memo recommending that no civil rights charges be brought against Darren Wilson. Anonymous sources, The New York Times reports, say that the completed investigation “found no evidence” to support charges against the white police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown on August 9 2014. Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Brown’s family, has withheld comment until the Justice Department issues a formal decision.

The DOJ’s “pattern or practice” investigation into the majority white Ferguson police department continues. The force faces allegations of excessive force and discriminatory traffic stops.

Read more at The New York Times.

Clergy Stage a Die-in at Congressional Cafeteria for Black Lives Matter

Clergy Stage a Die-in at Congressional Cafeteria for Black Lives Matter

Christian, Muslim and Jewish clergy and people of faith staged a die-in at the congressional cafeteria in Washington, D.C. to protest the killings of unarmed black people. Over at WaPo, Wesley Lowery explains how the die-in kicked off:

The Longworth Building cafeteria, a heavily trafficked lunch spot on Capitol Hill, was bustling around 12:30 p.m. when two to three dozen clergy members let out a cry of “Black Lives Matter” and lay down on the floor in front of the cash registers.

In a statement issued by Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice and Auburn Seminary, which organized the action, Jewish, Christian and Muslims came together to call attention to Black Lives Matter’s demands.

Middle Collegiate Church’s Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis, who participated in the die-in, made clear that black women matter, too: “As we mourn the deaths of unarmed Black men killed at the hands of law enforcement, let us speak the names of Aura Rosser, killed in Ann Arbor, Michigan, when police responded to a domestic quarrel in her home, and Sharon Mosley killed in front of her 3-year-old child at a Walmart in Georgia while being apprehended by police for alleged shoplifting.”

Participants laid down for four-and-a-half minutes to represent the four-and-a-half hours Michael Brown’s body was left on the ground after he was killed by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in August.

This isn’t Bend the Arc’s first action around Black Lives Matter—the group worked with others* to organize rallies in 15 cities on the first night of Chanukah in December. 

*This post has been updated to reflect that Bend the Arc worked with other groups to organize the Chanukah protests. 

The Spanish Language Version of the SOTU is Unbelievably Bad

The Spanish Language Version of the SOTU is Unbelievably Bad

The Spanish language version of the GOP’s response to Obama’s State of the Union raised some eyebrows: Carlos Curbelo (R-Florida) made some tweaks to remarks made by Joni Ernst (R-Iowa). But at least Curbelo presented it in actual Spanish—which is more than can be said for the White House’s own Spanish language subtitles of the president’s speech.

As Latino Rebels points out, it was pretty bad:

Not only was the translation of the speech clunky at times (expected), but the subtitles, oh the subtitles. Any Spanish speaker who really was looking forward to watching this speech would have been greatly disappointed and confused. Want proof? Here is an actual clip from tonight with the actual subtitles flying past the video. If you were a Spanish speed reader, you might have understood it, when the translation actually made sense. We guess. Just watch. And laugh. Then shake your head and realize that when it comes to communicating in Spanish, neither Democrats nor Republicans have gotten it.

Over at HuffPo, Roque Planas breaks down some especially terrible moments that were utterly lost in translation, which were usually made in ALL CAPS that were distracting in and of themselves.

I’d add one more:

01-21-14-sotu-1.jpgThe screen read, “FAMILIAS. POD EEMSZ HACERLO.” I’m guessing it was meant to read, “Familias. Podemos hacerlo,” which would translate to “Families. We can do it.” I’m still over here trying to figure out where EEMSZ even came from—which is a word in neither English nor Spanish. 

Should Birmingham Police Be Allowed to Pepper Spray Students?

Should Birmingham Police Be Allowed to Pepper Spray Students?

In a trial that began yesterday, eight Birmingham students are suing their local police department after being pepper sprayed by police working at their four high schools. One tenth grade girl, “K.B.” according to a 2012 court order, was sprayed when she allegedly could not stop crying, or “calm down,” after “a fellow student harassed her with lewd comments because she was pregnant.” Other students had committed minor infractions like fighting or were being or had been detained by local police acting as “school resource officers.” No criminal charges have been lodged against any of the students, according to plaintiff attorneys with the SPLC which reports:

From 2006 to 2011, police in Birmingham public schools - whose students are predominantly African American - used chemical weapons on about 300 students and in the vicinity of 1,250. By contrast, in the neighboring, largely suburban Jefferson County schools, chemical spray was used just once during that same period.

An attorney for the police argues for the schools’ violent atmosphere to be taken into account, as well as the fact that police are trained on how and when to use pepper spray. The SPLC wants a stop to the use of pepper spraying in schools or mandatory training and appropriate school supervision of police officers.

Learn more about this school discipline case on

Dream Defender Phillip Agnew on Occupy, the Police and His 5-Year Dream

Dream Defender Phillip Agnew on Occupy, the Police and His 5-Year Dream

Check out In These Times’ new Q&A with 29-year-old Phillip Agnew, one of the young leaders behind the Garner-Brown protests that many are calling a “new civil rights movement.” Agnew co-founded Florida-based Dream Defenders in 2012 in reaction to the killing of Trayvon Martin and has been organizing for racial justice ever since. Here, Agnew shares his views on Occupy, #BlackLivesMatter, ending policing in schools and what success looks like in 5 years:

I want to see us move from protest to resistance to full revolution. Constructing and building our own economy and systems and schools. I want to see community control of our food and [access] to food that enhances our bodies and our minds. And to see true self-determination for every person in this country, and that does include white people. But it means balance. Right now, black people, brown people, poor people don’t have any rights to their lives and their destinies. I’d like to see the government not engage in wars where we perpetuate an economic system that ruins democracy around the world. That’s not a five-year goal; that’s probably a lifetime goal. And I’d like to see the prison-industrial complex end. In five years, I’d like to see a good majority of states around this country closing jails, and police departments looking completely different—being governed by the people.

And ICYMI, Revolt has a handy stats sheet on 38 of today’s other leaders, too. The youngest is 19 years old.

(h/t In These Times)

These Memes Basically Sum Up Last Night’s State of the Union

There are a few ways to relive last night’s State of the Union Address. You can read the transcript, you can watch it on YouTube, or you can re-live some of its best (and worst) moments on social media. Behold:

Did Barack say…About 8 years ago… Y’all have no CHILL. #ColdWorld #ThatVETOPower #rp @bella_miel

A video posted by suezette (@suezette) on

(h/t The Grio)

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