At approximately 10:40 p.m., Jack Amico, a supporter of Occupy Wall Street who had traveled to Chicago to take part in the anti-NATO demonstrations was allegedly injured by a Chicago police van.
Amico was one of as many as 1,000 demonstrators who had been marching through the financial district on Saturday night. The group stopped briefly near the intersection of W. Jackson Blvd. and LaSalle, the site of the the Chicago Board of Trade. By 10:40 p.m., the demonstration had moved further west along Jackson, near the bridge at South Wacker Drive. A large crowd of individuals were spread across the bridge when Chicago police van 6751 approached the with its blue lights on. Six individuals, some apparently recording video, block passage of the police vehicle as it chirps its siren. An individual near the middle of the crowd holds up both his hands and is bumped by the vehicle and appears to fall backwards.
It is unclear from video footage if the individual was run over by the van. However, a visibly shaken Natalie Wahlberg from Occupy Chicago, an eyewitness, explained near the scene that the police van suddenly accelerated and “pulled a man under.” As the van passes, three demonstrators can be seen slapping its back doors with their hands. As this is happening, a crowd of Occupy medical personal and bystanders rush to Amico’s aid who can be seen lying on the ground.
Several angles of the incident were recorded. Footage taken from the north side of Jackson shows a demonstrator being pushed by a police van and then moving out of the way. Conservative blogs have used this footage to claim that no one was injured and that supporters of the Occupy Movement have fabricated the incident. The individual being pushed by the van and stepping out of the way on the conservative blogs is not Jack Amico. Other angles show Amico being treated by Occupy medics and transported to an ambulance by Chicago police.
The victim was admitted to Northwestern Memorial Hospital and was treated and released into police custody during the night. According to @OWSBC, Jack Amico was released from police custody with no charges around 7:45 a.m. on Sunday, May 20, 2012.
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By Joseph Ax
NEW YORK, May 24 (Reuters) – Occupy Wall Street filed a federal lawsuit Thursday against New York City, claiming authorities destroyed $47,000 worth of books, computers and other equipment confiscated from the protesters’ encampment in lower Manhattan last fall.
Police conducted a surprise overnight raid at Zuccotti Park in November, clearing scores of protesters who had set up tents at the plaza near Wall Street and dealing a significant blow to the movement’s potency.
As part of the sweep, Occupy claims, police officers seized more than 3,000 books from the “People’s Library.” While some of the books were eventually returned, many were in unusable condition, while the rest were apparently destroyed, according to Occupy’s lawyer, Norman Siegel.
The lawsuit also questions whether the raid itself was constitutional, Siegel said.
Since the predawn sweep at Zuccotti, Occupy Wall Street has struggled to recapture the momentum of its fall campaign, when camps across the country inspired widespread protests against income inequality. The movement has faced funding problems in recent months as donations dried up.
A series of “May Day” demonstrations May 1 led to clashes with police from New York to Oakland, California, but a call for a general workers’ strike failed to materialize.
Occupy lawyers and members scheduled a news conference for Thursday morning to discuss the suit. The city’s law department and the NYPD did not immediately comment. (Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Doina Chiacu)
Remember the Occupy Movement? Since last November, when the NYPD closed the Zuccotti Park encampment in downtown Manhattan –the Movement’s birthplace and symbolic nexus—Occupy’s relevance has seriously dwindled, at least as measured by coverage in the mainstream media. We’re told that this erosion is due to Occupy’s own shortcomings—an inevitable outcome of its disjointed message and decentralized leadership.
While that may be the media’s take, the U.S. Government seems to have a different view.
If recent documents obtained by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) are any indication, the Occupy Movement continues to be monitored and curtailed in a nationwide, federally-orchestrated campaign, spearheaded by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
In response to repeated Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests by the Fund, made on behalf of filmmaker Michael Moore and the National Lawyers Guild, the DHS released a revealing set of documents in April. But the latest batch, made public on May 3rd, exposes the scale of the government’s “attention” to Occupy as never before.
The documents, many of which are partially blacked-out emails, demonstrate a surprising degree of coordination between the DHS’s National Operations Center (NOC) and local authorities in the monitoring of the Occupy movement. Cities implicated in this wide-scale snooping operation include New York, Oakland, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Denver, Boston, Portland, Detroit, El Paso, Houston, Dallas, Seattle, San Diego, and Los Angeles.
Interest in the Occupy protesters was not limited to DHS and local law enforcement authorities. The most recently released correspondence contains Occupy-related missives between the DHS and agencies at all levels of government, including the Mayor of Portland, regional NOC “fusion centers,” the General Services Administration (GSA), the Pentagon’s USNORTHCOM (Northern Command), and the White House. Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, Executive Director of the PCJF, contends that the variety and reach of the organizations involved point to the existence of a larger, more pervasive domestic surveillance network than previously suspected.
These documents show not only intense government monitoring and coordination in response to the Occupy Movement, but reveal a glimpse into the interior of a vast, tentacled, national intelligence and domestic spying network that the U.S. government operates against its own people. These heavily redacted documents don’t tell the full story. They are likely only a subset of responsive materials and the PCJF continues to fight for a complete release. They scratch the surface of a mass intelligence network including Fusion Centers, saturated with ‘anti-terrorism’ funding, that mobilizes thousands of local and federal officers and agents to investigate and monitor the social justice movement. (justiceonline.org)
As alarmist as Verheyden-Hilliard’s charge may sound, especially given the limited, bowdlerized nature of the source material, the texts made available contain disturbing evidence of insistent federal surveillance. In particular, the role of the “Fusion Centers,” a series of 72 federally-funded information hubs run by the NOC, raises questions about the government’s expansive definition of “Homeland Security.”
Created in the wake of 9/11, the Fusion Centers were founded to expedite the sharing of information among state and local law enforcement and the federal government, to monitor localized terrorist threats, and to sidestep the regulations and legislation preventing the CIA and the military from carrying out domestic surveillance (namely, the CIA ban on domestic spying and the Posse Comitatus Act).
Is nonviolent, albeit obstructive, citizen dissent truly an issue of national security? The DHS, for its part, is aware of the contentiousness of civilian monitoring. That’s why, in a White House-approved statement to CBS News included in the dossier, DHS Press Secretary Matthew Chandler asserts that
Any decisions on how to handle specifics (sic) situations are dealt with by local authorities in that location. . . DHS is not actively coordinating with local law enforcement agencies and/or city governments concerning the evictions of Occupy encampments writ large.
However, as a reading of the documents unmistakably demonstrates, this expedient PR nugget is far from the truth. In example after example, from its seeking of “public health and safety” grounds from the City of Portland for Occupy’s ejection from Terry Schrunk Plaza, to its facilitation of information sharing between the police departments of Chicago and Boston (following a 1500-person Occupy protest in Chicago), the DHS’s active ”coordinating” with local authorities is readily apparent. Other communiqués are even more explicit in revealing a national focus, such as the DHS’s preemptive coordination with the Pentagon about a port closure in Oakland, and its collection of identity and contact information of Occupy protesters arrested at a Bank of America in Dallas.
Those Pesky Amendments
The right to public assembly is a central component of the First Amendment. The Fourth Amendment is supposed to protect Americans from warrantless searches—with the definition of “search” expanded in 1967 to include electronic surveillance, following the Supreme Court’s ruling in Katz v. United States. Assuming the Occupy protesters refrain from violence—and the vast majority do, in accord with a stated tenet of the Occupy movement—the movement’s existence is constitutionally protected, or should be.
The DHS’s monitoring, documenting, and undermining of protesters may in fact violate the First Amendment. In a recent piece for Dissent Magazine, sociologist James B. Rule explains the fundamental importance of a movement like Occupy in the American political landscape.
This surveillance campaign against Occupy is bad news for American democracy. Occupy represents an authentic, utterly home-grown, grassroots movement. Taken as a whole, it is neither terrorist nor conspiratorial. Indeed, it is hard to think of another movement so cumbersomely public in its deliberations and processes. Occupy is noisy, disorderly, insubordinate, and often inconvenient for all concerned—statements that could equally well apply to democracy in general. But it should never be targeted as a threat to the well-being of the country—quite the contrary.
Accordingly, Rule calls for the White House to rein in the ever-expanding surveillance activity of the DHS—which he contends is motivated by its own funding interests, and which prioritizes security at the expense of civil liberties.
The resource-rich Department of Homeland Security and its allies no doubt see in the rise of the movement another opportunity to justify their own claims for public legitimacy. We can be sure that many in these agencies view any noisy dissent as tantamount to a threat to national security.
Nobody who cares about democracy wants to live in a world where simply engaging in vociferous protest qualifies any citizen to have his or her identity and life details archived by state security agencies. Specific, overt threats of civil disobedience or other law-breaking should be dealt with on a piecemeal basis—not by attempting to monitor everyone who might be moved to such actions, all the time. Meanwhile, the White House should issue clear directives that identification and tracking of lawful protesters will play no further role in any government response to this populist moment.
Optimistic as it may be, Rule’s appeal to the White House is a problematic one, given the ubiquitous influence of the DHS revealed by these documents. If the White House-approved press release is any indication, the Oval Office, while not directly authorizing the DHS’s initiatives, is certainly turning a blind eye to the Department’s focus on the Occupy movement as a potential terrorist threat. Federal surveillance of citizens in the Bush years, most visible in NSA warrantless wiretapping controversy, has apparently not ceased with Obama’s inauguration.
Which raises the question: Does Obama, as he claims, “stand with the 99 percent,” or with those who cannot stand them?
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By Kane X. Faucher
May 24, 2012
The Conspiracy Revealed: Jews, Freemasons,
Alain Goldschläger and Jacques Ch. Lemaire
Callawind Publications, 2012. 182 pgs.
From political policies to popular novels,
the perennial conspiracy mindset with respect to Jews, Freemasons and Illuminati
always seems to captivate a devout minority who give such dubious theories
their stamp of credulity. Just as effective propaganda or speculative fiction
will employ mixed modes of truth and lie to create a semi-plausible account,
the conspiracist will freely conflate reality with fantasy in such a way that
the former acts as proof of the claims of the latter.
Goldschläger and Lemaire make clear the
difference between true and false conspiracies, but also carefully situate
these on a continuum indicating the interpretative modes of conspiracy
For example, a true conspiracy would be the
assassination attempt on Hitler in the Wolfsschanze
where several members, including von Stauffenberg, had plotted for more than a
year and, after several aborted or failed attempts, finally actualized their
plot which resulted in failure. Padfield, author of a biography of Himmler,
leaves the extent of involvement of Goebbels and Himmler in this event in an
ambiguous light, and one may still be uncertain given the ‘palace intrigues’
during this early period of the Fuhrerdammerung.
False conspiracies would include George W.
Bush’s complicit foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks.
However, falsity is simply a departure
point for where conspiracy enters delirium: as a complete fiction. And this is
the domain where the authors guide us; specifically, the Judeo-Masonic
conspiracy. What marks the history of like conspiracy theories is their
ready-to-hand adoption by those seeking simple (yet flawed) answers to complex
questions. Various heightened anxieties become fuel for those in political
power to prop up these myths and thus present a totalizing solution that
ostensibly ‘resolves’ the populace’s anxieties.
The authors trace this perplexing and
fanatical process of using suspicion, ignorance and scapegoating in uniting
disparate belief systems as leverage for promoting hatred and violence. The
source of the problem – and one the authors claim will only continue – is one
part linguistic and another fundamentally psychological.
“Rebellious Doilies and Subversive Stitches”
By Kirsty Robinson
“Craft Hard Die Free”
By Anthea Black and Nicole Burisch
Extra/Ordinary: Craft and Contemporary Art
Maria Elena Buszek (ed.)
Duke University Press, 2011. 306 pgs.
What is craftivism? How have craft artists
performed a reclamation of those crafts such as embroidery, knitting and sewing
from the emblematic regime of women’s subjugation? Although history may be
quiet on the subject of craftivism in the 1970s and 1980s, the events of craft
activism were a rallying point for social justice, and one that has seen a
revival in today’s craftivism.
As Robinson indicates, the very history of
craft activism is imbricated with a variety of sociopolitical causes and the
successive developments of feminism, but it is an under-plumbed history.
Today’s craftivism suffers under the lens of media intent on focusing on the ‘feminine’
acts of knitting while ignoring the underlying messages inherent to craftivist
activity: knitting circles which critique the fragmentation of community,
handcraft as critique of globalization and sweatshop labour, radical response
to post-Fordist economies, and the reclamation of hitherto devalued domestic
For as long as radical knitting is viewed
as simply a spectacle, the content of these movements suffers grievous
In the article by Anthea Black and Nicole
Burisch, the need to re-evaluate curatorial practices with respect to craft
ought to be more flexible, and thus evade the corporate or commoditization of
craft art which would otherwise conceal or fail to register the more robust
political engagement craft art expresses. By not relegating politicized craft
art to merely the gallery space, more inclusive registers are required to
acknowledge the entirety of craftivist discourse, which includes taking into
account the significance of workshops, zines, websites and off-site events that
are vital components to understanding and assessing what craftivism means.
Phronesis as Professional Knowledge:
Practical Wisdom in the Professions
Elizabeth Anne Kinsella and Allan
Sense Publishers, 2012. 177 pgs.
A phronetic understanding of the world
leads invariably to the practical application of otherwise abstract theories
and knowledge, but also embodies a series of reflective practices. As a species
effect of economic pressures, we have seen the steady adoption of instrumental
rationality which now imbue even our own professional activities. Phronesis, by
its very definition as practical wisdom,
resists instrumentalization since that would be to abdicate the definition
Accustomed as we may be to the dialectic
between theory and praxis, what has long been under shadow since Aristotle has
been a more concerted effort to include our disposition in the “equation” of
As the editors of this volume point out,
phronesis points to a need for cultivating our professional judgment to ask
after what is good for our students, patients, clients and society as a whole
without (and here’s the tricky part) essentializing the ‘good.’ The volume
collects essays that investigate this concept of phronesis, from discerning
what can be salvaged from Aristotle’s use of the term, where phronesis is
situated in the context of episteme and techne, to appeals of integrating
phronetic practice in our everyday professional lives.
Given the disproportionate emphasis on
evaluating our professional worth on what actions we perform according to a
heavily evidence-based criteria for performance, whither reflection and judgment
which are so vital to our character and identity?
This book does not settle the aporia, but
it calls our attention to a much overlooked question that haunts our
Pilot UFO Sighting : US Airways Express Flight Crew Sees Mysterious Unidentified Object
According to authorities, what the crew witnessed remains a mystery. The aircraft with 34 passengers and three crew members landed safely.
Flight 4321, originating from Elmira-Corning Regional Airport, was about 500 feet above the ground in Philadelphia when the incident took place.
After landing in Philadelphia, the aircraft taxied to the gate, according to US Airways spokesman Liz Landau. Runway 17 was closed for about 30 minutes after the incident for investigation, the FAA said. Law enforcement authorities are investigating the incident.
The aircraft involved was a Bombardier Dash 8 twin engine plane operated for US Airways by Piedmont Airlines.
Editor’s note: Ruben Navarrette Jr. is a CNN.com contributor and a nationally syndicated columnist.
San Diego (CNN) — You’ve probably read those articles about how, in the United States, minorities are becoming the majority. That’s a polite way of describing what is really going on. Namely, that the U.S. population is becoming more Latino and less white. More than any other group, it is Latinos who are driving demographic changes.
Last week, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that, of all the babies born in the United States in 2011, more than half were members of minority groups. Latinos, Asians, African-Americans and other minorities accounted for 50.4% of births last year, marking the first time in U.S. history this has happened.
Immigration is a driving force. So is the fact that Latinos have higher birthrates because they tend to be younger and starting families. According to the report, Latinos have a median age of 27; with whites, it’s 42.
When I read these kinds of stories, I wince. Some people assume that making lawmakers, media and corporations aware of population trends will persuade them to see the value in diversity and cause them to reach out to nonwhite populations. In my experience, it doesn’t have that effect at all. People tend to do what they want to do the way they’ve always done it.
But what you can set your watch by is the backlash to these stories. It’s rooted in fear, but also in human nature. No one likes being told they’re being displaced or pushed aside, or that they’re not going to be as relevant as time goes on.
So when David Bostis, a senior research associate at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, tells CNN.com as he did recently: “The Republicans’ problem is that their voters are white, aging and dying off” and that “there will come a time when (Republicans) suffer catastrophic losses with the realization of the population changes,” it is bound to set off shock waves. And it did.
Conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh saw the CNN story as a threat, and he went ballistic.
“It is clear that this, and other similar stories like this, are meant to serve as a warning to Republicans and conservatives,” Limbaugh told his audience of millions.
“And the warning is: You are on the wrong side of history. And you are on the wrong side of demographics. You better do what the coming majority wants right now, or you’re gonna suffer the consequences. There is an implied threat in this story. You’re getting older. You’re white and you’re dying off. Pretty soon you’re gonna find out what it’s been like to not be you.”
“That’s the implication of the story,” Limbaugh insisted. “You’ve been the majority for all these decades, all these generations, but your time is coming when you’re gonna be the minorities and there’s gonna be people with majority power over you. So you better learn right. You better change your ways. You better get with the program so that everybody likes you.”
As is often the case when Limbaugh charges into matters of race and ethnicity, he has it all wrong. These aren’t threats. These are facts. And they’re presented not to pressure people to do “what the coming majority wants right now” as much as to highlight the value of doing the right thing by making our institutions more inclusive.
Stories like this are supposed to enlighten us and give us a heads up about what’s coming around the corner, so we can take advantage of the trend and not be overrun by it. Elected officials, media companies and the business communities can put off thinking about the future, but they can’t escape it.
Meanwhile, what people like Limbaugh seem to be trying to escape is a reckoning for what happened in the past. As he sees it, all this talk about changing demographics is tied to a larger criticism of the United States as having at times fallen short of its own principles of liberty, fairness and equality.
“Part of it is payback because this evil white majority has arranged things so they get all the spoils,” he said. “And then whatever they don’t want is what gets handed down. Those days are about over, and the big change is coming.”
What needs to change is this kind of thinking. It’s total nonsense. In nearly 25 years of writing about politics, race and ethnicity, I’ve never heard any member of a minority group talk about how they’re looking forward to “payback” once they’re in the majority. Not one.
What I do hear quite a bit is that people of color believe in the greatness of this country, and they want to help write the next chapter in ways that benefit them and their families. They want a seat at the table, not because they feel entitled but because they feel they have something unique and valuable to offer. And they don’t want to get even; they just want to get ahead.
What’s wrong with that? Nothing.
In fact, it’s in keeping with some of this country’s greatest traditions. Have no fear. The face of America is changing. But it’s heart and soul never will.
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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Ruben Navarrette Jr.
(CNN) — Even as the head of the Young Republicans at Samford University, Weathers Veazey didn’t have a lot of time for politics this primary season.
Immersed in tough pre-law classes at the conservative Baptist university in Birmingham, Alabama, she barely paid attention to the nonstop political ads that ran on TV during the state’s presidential primary.
“Classes are all-consuming for college students,” Veazey said. “We don’t have a lot of time to watch TV.”
What would have caught her attention? Ads sent directly to her smartphone. “I would definitely have clicked on an ad texted to me,” she said. “That’s a perfect way to reach college students. We always have our cellphones in our backpacks or in our hands.”
That’s what digital political guru Vincent Harris was counting on when he sent the campus conservative-themed text ads for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich before the Alabama primary. He says his ads typically said things like “Stop Obama’s War on Religion” or “Newt Gingrich: a Man of Faith.” Some were as simple as “Bulldogs for Gingrich,” with a clickable “Help the Campaign” button.
“In the industry, Yahoo will tell you that a 0.2 or 0.3% click-through rate for ads is considered successful,” Harris told CNN. “With the Samford campaign I created, those ads were getting a 4% click-through rate. That meant the people we needed to mobilize were seeing our message. It was an enormous success.”
Political advertising has gone mobile this election season, which means you’re likely to see more political ads texted to you, particularly if you live in a swing state.
“These are sophisticated online campaigns that consider mobile an essential element of what they are doing,” said Kate Kaye, who wrote the book “Campaign ’08: A Turning Point for Digital Media.” “The last time around it was much more of a — well, ‘novelty’ might not be the right word. They were much more in an experimental mode.”
In the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama’s digital team generated headlines when he announced his running mate via a text message. There was even more mobile organizing going on quietly behind the scenes, according to Kaye.
Obama’s digital team sent out early voting reminders to supporters’ phones. Texts pointed people to the nearest voter registration drive. His campaign even bought ad space in some swing states on 1-800-FREE411. That meant when people called requesting a number for the nearest pizza delivery, they first had to listen to an Obama ad.
Chris Newell, who ran mobile efforts for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential run, says its text-messaging campaign debuted two months before Obama’s did.
“While the Obama people run a sophisticated campaign now, we think they were sitting on the fence about texting until they saw Hillary pull out her phone at an event in New York, and there — live on TV — she told voters that’s how they could reach her now,” said Newell, who now runs ImpulsePay, a mobile payment site in the UK.
Newell admits the campaign was still learning back then how to most effectively use the technology. One important lesson, which still holds up today, is that the most effective texts help the campaign feel more personal.
“We learned, ‘Hello, will you please vote for me?’ wouldn’t work,” Newell said. “What does appeal is, ‘I need your help,’ or ‘Help get this message out,’ or ‘What do you think of this issue?’”
Newell said the text campaigns generated thousands of volunteers. He reports about 30% of the people who received the texts clicked on them.
Sometimes, though, old-fashioned technology can’t keep up with demand. Newell said the Clinton campaign once sent a text that asked people to join a conference call to discuss a certain issue. Thousands jammed up the lines, but the call only allowed 2,000 people in.
“The flip side is, politicians saw the power of this kind of advertising right there, and they saw this as an immediate way to mobilize thousands of volunteers,” he said. “They were sold.”
Zac Moffatt, digital director for presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, says mobile devices are now so powerful that he can do a lot more with a mobile campaign than he could back in 2008. He says 10% of Romney’s advertising budget was spent on digital efforts during the 2012 primary season.
“Screens are so much larger and we can send a much more dynamic message to people now,” said Moffatt. Romney was the only candidate in the 2012 primaries with a mobile-specific campaign site, he said. Moffatt also designed a mobile ad campaign to heavily target people involved in the Iowa caucuses.
“We sent these ads with a click-to-call button to find out where the closest caucus was,” he said.
“I think we use mobile a little bit differently than the other campaigns. We built the site for what we call the ‘Google moment of truth’ when people are using their phones to search for an answer about the campaign,” he added. “Our mobile site is really stripped down. It is simpler, but we think provides a better user experience.”
A spokeswoman for Obama’s re-election campaign says the campaign doesn’t discuss its mobile strategy. But Obama, who drew acclaim for his savvy use of digital media in 2008, is once again using mobile tools such as text messaging to communicate with supporters. People who download the Obama 2012 mobile app on their GPS-enabled devices if they opt in are essentially allowing the campaign to track their location, which could let strategists target messages to voters in certain areas.
But in 2012, voters don’t even need to opt into campaigns to receive these kinds of political texts. Technology is so advanced that campaigns can target anyone who has enabled geolocation services on their smartphone, and pinpoint their location within a three-yard radius, said Harris, who also ran digital operations for Texas Gov. Rick Perry during the 2012 primary campaigns.
Many people, he said, don’t even realize they’ve made their cell phone findable, although they’ve downloaded apps like Fandango or Yelp to help them locate the nearest movie or restaurant.
For a conservative client, Harris will target phones on conservative campuses, as he did with his Samford University campaign. Or if his candidate in Plano, Texas, wants to get his message out to one particular neighborhood, Harris will set the text to ping only phones in the local Panera restaurant at lunchtime, for example.
His latest trick? Target people who have downloaded apps that are philosophically in keeping with a conservative message. For the Perry campaign in Iowa, he sent an ad to everyone in the state who had downloaded a Bible app.
“Folks who got those texts were signing up to support Perry at a fantastic conversion rate,” said Harris, who heads Harris Media, a digital marketing firm. “That’s a very successful campaign, I can tell you.”
Overall, mobile outreach seems to be connecting with voters. After the 2010 midterm elections, a Pew Research Center poll found more than a quarter of the American adults they surveyed had used their mobile phones to learn more about, or even to participate in, the elections.
And as phones become more sophisticated, the number of people who learn about elections on their phones is sure to grow.
“There is no excuse as to why candidates are not doing this,” Harris said. “It’s that easy.”
Editor’s note: Gloria Borger is CNN’s chief political analyst, appearing regularly on shows such as “AC360°”, “The Situation Room,” “John King, USA” and “State of the Union.”
(CNN) — As the presidential campaign veers off onto the Bain Capital ramp, the predictable arguments ensue: Is the turn simply a political attack meant to distract from bad economic news? (So says Mitt Romney). Or is it an important, valid argument at the heart of the contest? (So says President Barack Obama.)
Distill all the arguments down to an essential core, and they’re really about one thing: experience. As in, does past experience matter? Is it an indicator of future behavior? Or of your values? And if you behaved one way at another job in your past, what does that tell us about how you would behave as president? Finally, should your previous experience (or lack of it) in any way disqualify you from the presidency?
The arguments over experience are hardly new. In fact, back in the day when then-candidate Obama was a tad short on the experience side, Hillary Clinton made the case that she was the best-equipped to handle foreign policy disasters as president (See: ad with red phone ringing at 3 am.) Obama’s response: “I have shown the judgment to lead.”
Which seemed a fair enough retort. So let’s apply that standard to the Bain Capital fight: Romney’s job was to make money for investors. Bain Capital claims that revenues grew in 80% of the more than 350 companies in which it has invested. It also makes the case that the Obama campaign’s cause-and-effect simplification of the eventual failure of a paper company — such as Ampad — was completely overblown and unfair: Bain bought the company in 1992, and it grew. Its control ended in 1996, four years before it folded, although Bain did retain some stake in the company. And it folded, Bain says, because the marketplace changed.
It’s more Dunder Mifflin than Darth Vader.
And, um, where was the Romney judgment call in this episode?
Ex-Bain director talks income gap
Carville: Obama’s Bain ad is legitimate
Gergen surprised Obama attacking Bain
Obama attacks Romney’s business record
To be clear: This is a political campaign. Romney’s experience at Bain is certainly relevant. After all, Romney often brags about creating 100,000 jobs, so digging into what happened there under his watch is only natural. The problem with campaigns is that issues and events and results need to be either black or white — especially in 60-second spots that liken companies such as Bain to vultures.
None other than the president himself conceded that there’s some complexity here, as The Washington Post points out in an editorial, which says the president is trying to argue all sides. “I think there are a whole lot of folks who do good work in that area and there are times where they identify the capacity for the economy to create new jobs or new industries,” the president said at the NATO summit.
Indeed, this is a president who has friends in private equity, who raises money from private equity and is making a pitch to the same folks this time around. (Full disclosure: A member of my family works in private equity.) The issue, the president told us, is that the goal of “maximizing profits” is way different from what a president does, which is making sure that “everybody in the country has a fair shot.”
And Romney, he would argue, has no experience at doing that.
Understand this: It’s not really just about business. It’s about values. The president may be broader in his approach, but his ads argue a more simple point: that Romney doesn’t have the right values to be president; that he does bad things to good people.
It might be more lucrative for Obama’s re-election prospects to go after Romney’s actual record — as a less-than-outstanding job creator as Massachusetts governor. Or as a politician with “evolving” views on issues ranging from abortion to immigration. Or to remind independent voters that during the primaries Romney called himself “severely conservative,” whatever that means. Some of this is surely in the works.
And what about the Obama campaign starting to talk about its own record? Team Obama may want to turn this into a choice election, but when incumbents run for re-election they have to explain why they should be rehired. “The Obama people believe they can win this election by criticizing Romney,” says Bill Galston, a former Clinton administration domestic policy adviser. “But they’re going to lose this election if American people don’t think they have done a good job.”
One more thing: Obama’s consistent strength is that more than half of Americans really like him. They see him as in touch with their lives and their aspirations. And his poll numbers only increased last year, for instance, when he shared America’s disgust during the distasteful debate over extending the payroll tax cuts. House Republicans seemed in desperate need of day care; Obama was the adult in the room.
That’s what people want. When a president who wants to be transformational runs a campaign that wants to deliver transparent caricatures, there’s a downside. The candidate starts looking like all the other pols.
And nobody likes them.
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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Gloria Borger.
Watch Drew Griffin’s latest reporting on the investigation and an interview with Sen. Max Baucus tonight on “AC360″ at 8 ET.
Washington (CNN) — The Senate Finance Committee is launching an investigation to determine whether a charity intended to help disabled veterans deserves its tax-exempt status after doling out millions of dollars to a direct-mail company.
Sen. Max Baucus, D-Montana, chairman of the committee, announced the investigation into the Disabled Veterans National Foundation on Wednesday. He said the committee will seek to determine whether the foundation, the subject of a two-year CNN investigation, should keep its status as a 501(c)3 charity under Internal Revenue Service guidelines.
“Our veterans should never be used as pawns in a scheme to exploit the taxpayers,” Baucus said in a Wednesday news release announcing the investigation. “The tax exemption for charities exists to promote worthwhile causes like assistance to veterans, not to provide tax loopholes to abuse. DVNF has a responsibility to show it’s genuinely helping veterans and playing by the rules.”
CNN’s investigation into the foundation, part of “AC360′s” “Keeping Them Honest” series, played a major role in prompting the committee’s investigation, according to a committee staff member who did not want to be identified.
CNN found that the charity’s tax records and other documents showed that little of the nearly $56 million raised by the Disabled Veterans National Foundation over the past three years has gone to direct aid to veterans.
The group has paid nearly $61 million to Quadriga Art and its subsidiaries, one of the world’s largest direct-mail providers to charities and nonprofits, and its subsidiaries over the past three years, according to publicly available IRS 990 tax forms. The Disabled Veterans National Foundation still has a business relationship with Quadriga Art through 2013, with Quadriga Art saying the foundation has acquired nearly 2 million donors through its direct-mail program.
CharityWatch, the nation’s largest charity watchdog group, has given the Disabled Veterans National Foundation an “F” grade since 2010 because of the miniscule amount the charity actually spent on veterans — which CharityWatch estimates to be 2%.
In addition to its questionable finances, the Disabled Veterans National Foundation has provided massive amounts of unnecessary items to veterans aid groups, including candy, hand sanitizer and dress shoes — all surplus items that the charity receives at no cost.
In one instance, St. Benedict’s, a small veterans shelter in Birmingham, Alabama, received an unsolicited shipment of goods that included 2,300 emergency blankets that were “heavily used” after last year’s devastating tornado, according to the shelter’s director. But the charity also sent St. Benedict’s more than 11,000 bags of coconut MM’s candy and more than 700 pairs of surplus Navy dress shoes, which the shelter’s president said he could not use.
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The Disabled Veterans National Foundation also claimed in its tax filings more than $838,000 in fair market value donations to another charity, although the bill of lading obtained by CNN showed that the donations — which included chefs’ coats and aprons — was valued at about $234,000.
CNN attempted to get a comment from the Disabled Veterans National Foundation for more than a year but received no replies to specific questions, even after submitting several questions in writing.
When approached by a CNN crew at the Veterans of Foreign Wars hall in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Disabled Veterans National Foundation President Precilla Wilkewitz rebuffed questions. Later, after being approached at a public event, Vice President Valerie Conley responded that “not all the funds” raised by the Disabled Veterans National Foundation go to fundraising.
‘”The cost of fundraising is high, as you know,” she said. “And it has been for many veteran service organizations who use this kind of direct paying approach.”
On Wednesday, Wilkewitz released a statement saying the foundation “will happily answer the questions posed by the United States Senate Finance Committee and provide it with information that others have sadly, chosen to ignore.”
The Disabled Venterans National Foundation “has helped tens ouf thoustands of veterans with direct financial aid and supplies that have made a difference in their lives. Media reports about our activities have been plain wrong and we welcome the opportunity to set the record straight,” Wilkewitz said in the statement.
Two-thirds of the more than 30 veterans charities rated by CharityWatch were given a “D” or “F” grade based on the amount they spend on fundraising compared with actual donations, according to CharityWatch President Daniel Borochoff.
A small charity called the National Veterans Foundation, also connected to Quadriga Art, gets an “F” grade as well. Its officers say they have been trying to cancel a contract with Quadriga Art since August.
“It’s as if you’re looking at these ratios through a funhouse mirror,” Borochoff said of the National Veterans Foundation.
“It really ought to be reversed. It ought to be flipped. They ought to be giving 80 or 90% to helping veterans, not 12%. It’s pathetic.”
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