Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Finance Report for Fake Local Control: How A Right-Wing Idealogue Pays Off Local "Democrats"

Now that the Mayor's office and right-wing multimillionaire Rex Sinquefield have thrown local control activists under the bus and are pushing for a new ballot initiative that would actually decrease accountability and transparency, it might be worth taking a closer look at some of the campaign finance reports for Rex's front group, A Safer Missouri. Rex, if you recall, wants to gut state government and shift the tax burden to the poor, and local "Democrats" who get paid by him conveniently stay quiet on these disastrous ideas, just like they did when Rex pushed a statewide ballot initiative to get rid of the earnings tax. How many local "Democrats" need to be on the payroll of a right-wing ideologue with crazy ideas before St. Louis residents start to worry about our City's future?

First things first for documenting the atrocities: the astroturf local control group is called A Safer Missouri. Only one person has ever donated to the group: Rex Sinquefield.

And who benefits from the amazing generosity of Rex, who graciously took time out of his busy schedule of trying to privatize everything in Missouri to magically start caring about this issue last year? Why, St. Louis "Democrats" of course! One of the biggest beneficiaries was Martin Casas, former President of the St. Louis Young Dems and a current candidate for the Missouri House of Representatives. Casas, if you recall, previously said that he had no position on the disastrous Everything Tax, which should be enough to disqualify anyone from calling themselves a Democrat, asked people to sign a petition from the right-wing front group United for Missouri while working for Rex, and also claimed that he had "no idea" if signing up for A Safer Missouri would help build Rex's email list:

In light of how much Casas was paid by Rex, it's pretty hard to believe this claim was true. And how much was that? Casas got close to a cool $20,000 from Rex Sinquefield in 2011 according to the most recent campaign report:

And this is all in addition to the fact that Casas's wife is also on Rex's payroll, through a different organization.

Another local principled "Democrat" who benefited from Sinquefield's kindheartedness was Gregg Christian, Democratic Committeeman in the 15th Ward. Here's A Safer Missouri's payment to Christian's company Gladius Communications for "graphic design:"

Was Gladius responsible for this beautiful logo? Cause I'd say that's worth about $4,000 just by itself:

Another local Democrat paid off in this campaign is Nancy Rice, but she's paid by Rex for a lot of things (she works for Pelopidas) so I won't bother to document the cash for this situation.

Every politician who has ever taken money from ideologues has claimed that the money has *nothing* to do with their future votes. Yet we know our democracy is broken because the uber-wealthy have far too much influence on our laws via their donations. If St. Louisans are really worried about Democracy being for sale, we're going to have to start paying better attention to what's happening locally. Having "Democrats" in office isn't any better than Republicans, if they're all getting paid by the same people.

Steelman: Brunner is Trying to Buy the Election

Whoa! I actually agreed with Sarah Steelman on something! Here's what she had to say at the GOP Senate primary debate that John Brunner was afraid to attend:
Oh well I say it’s due to his tv ads and the fact that he’s basically trying to buy this election. The 30 second ads or he’d be here tonight participating in a debate where he could actually get questions from the audience and share his views of the country’s problems are. I also note that he’s got a lot of money to spend. He made the decision he wants to invest a lot of his money in buying this race. The way I look at it, that’s what’s wrong with politics today.
h/t Caitlin Legacki

Monday, January 30, 2012

John Brunner Listened To The Debate He Was Too Scared To Attend

Todd Akin and Sarah Steelman debated today in the contest for the GOP nomination for the Senate race. I really don't know what crazy things they said, because the real action was over at the Twitter hashtag #wheresbrunner, which was making fun of the fact that St. Louis businessman John Brunner was skipping yet another debate. The guy is pretty clearly not yet ready for primetime, and he prefers to spend boatloads of money on advertisements versus having to talk to germy people.

There were a lot of funny tweets, but this one was my favorite:

To make matters worse, it turns out that Brunner was actually listening to the debate while it was going on! Here's a message from Monte Schisler, the News Director at KRZK/KOMC in Branson:

In other words, it's not like he had something better to do; he really was just afraid to be subjected to the questions! How in the world does this guy expect to be a Senator?

Update: Confirmation that Brunner listened online to the debate:
He said he couldn’t attend the Conversation with the Candidates due to his schedule, but HometownDailyNews.com has confirmed that St. Louis businessman John Brunner listened to the event online.

Roorda Says Only "Cop Haters" Could Be Opposed to Rex's Phony Local Control Ballot Initiative

To review, last year, activists working for local control of the St. Louis police department teamed up with the Mayor's office and other opportunistic local Democrats to try to get a bill passed through the Missouri legislature. Mayor Slay and the other opportunists, of course, used this as yet another opportunity to get paid by multimillionaire Rex Sinquefield who, just like every other entity that donates huge amounts of money to politicians, obviously doesn't want anything in return. I agreed with the St. Louis American on this: though I was suspicious of the group working with Rex, I ultimately thought local control was a good thing because the activists endorsed the idea and it could get St. Louis closer to a system with increased transparency and accountability.

However, the bill failed last year thanks to the incompetent GOP legislature, and when it returned as a ballot initiative, it was in a mutated form that discarded the original reasons for supporting it. The whole point of local control was to bring accountability and transparency, not to just shift from one opaque, unaccountable board to another. But the new ballot initiative pushed by Rex, Mayor Slay, and the other "Democrats", but not the actual activists, actually takes a step backwards on accountability and transparency, because what it actually does is prevent the creation of a civilian review board, and puts all of the power in the hands of a board appointed by the Mayor. Don't take my word for it: read the op-ed by Brenda Jones, executive director of the of the ACLU of Eastern Missouri.

But to give you a sense of how nasty the "Democrats" are who are doing Rex'$ bidding, check out this quote from Jeff Roorda saying that only "cop haters" could oppose the Rex Sinquefield phony local control ballot initiative:
Let’s not get distracted by cop haters that are trying to drive a wedge, when we’re coming to the table trying to find a way to make this department work better,” Roorda said. “Civilian review boards do not work. They’ve never worked anywhere they’ve been tried. They’ve got one function, and one function alone, and that’s to drive a wedge between the police department and the community.”
Yep. Only "cop haters" could possibly agree with the ACLU about having accountability and transparency be a part of the law. Or maybe it's just, you know, people who want accountability and transparency.

Saturday, January 28, 2012


Question: if you are an organization created by a multimillionaire for the sole purpose of doing that multimillionaire's bidding, does it really count as "momentum" when that guy gives you more money? Apparently it does according the the Let Voters Decide "coalition", who received a donation from Rex Sinquefield, the only guy in the state who actually believes it'd be a good idea to gut state government and shift the tax burden to the poor and middle class by eliminating income tax and shifting exclusively to a sales tax. Check out this hilarious headline from the "coalition" referring to Rex's new donations of $1.2 million dollars:

In light of this genius idea, I've decided to start off every day with some extra "momentum" by giving myself $20. Look out world! I've got momentum!

CNN's Dana Loesch Says She Hates The Media And Is Trying To Change It From Within

Ever wonder what a frequently frothing-at-the-mouth serial liar (aka "a Briebart editor") thinks about getting airtime from the mainstream media? Well, you're about to find out, because Dana Loesch explained on air that she "hates" the media and is trying to "change it from within" via "liberty evangelism."

Loesch, possibly bitter from being excluded from CNN's South Carolina debate, but nevertheless given the incredible honor of appearing on Blog Talk Radio with her fellow Breitbart editors to analyze the debate, was responding to a question about whether John King should have started the debate by asking Gingrich about allegations from his ex-wife. Here's what she had to say:

Loesch went on to say that Gingrich shared some of the blame for having an affair.

So basically, Loesch gets free publicity from CNN, gets paid by them, and in return tells right-wingers how much she hates them.

Meet The New Chairman of The AP Board of Directors

The Gateway Journalism Review reports that Mary Junck was named the new AP Board Chairman. Apparently, she's been on the board for 10 years and has been the vice chair for 3 years.

Junck is also the CEO of Lee Enterprises, which owns the Post-Dispatch. I happen to think there are a lot of things to like about the Post-Dispatch, but the upper management of Lee Enterprises is certainly not one of them. Bill McClellan, in an especially courageous column, wrote about Lee laying off employees while Junck took in a salary of $833,000. McClellan suggested that Junck must be "too big to fail," and he said he wished he could say the same about some of his colleagues.

But what really convinced me of just how cold-heated Lee is, beyond the typical "management makes a lot of money while firing employees right and left" story, was the way Lee Enterprises explicitly promised health care to employees who agreed to an early retirement deal, and then went back on their promise. This heartless decision led to gut-wrenching stories like this from Show Me Progress:

I admit I don't much about the AP Board. Maybe they were already ruthless. Or maybe they don't have much influence on how cynically newspaper owners act. But I have to say I'm not very encouraged by this news.

h/t ForwardSTL.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Future of St. Louis Decided Behind Closed Doors And Mostly Without Citizen Input

A few days ago, new plans for the Arch grounds were presented. I followed the discussion on Twitter, and the vast majority of people were hugely disappointed in the presentation and the process. Major parts of the plan that won the design competition were left out, now that "they had looked at the details." And it sounded like they were not open to suggestions from the community. And what makes this especially depressing is that St. Louis has a fantastic community of hyper-informed urbanists who have impressive and thought-out ideas for making the city better.

I highly recommend reading a larger summary of the presentation at NextSTL. One of the biggest disappointments is that the urbanists were hoping for a design that greatly improved the connections between the downtown and the riverfront. The original design was already somewhat limited on that front, but was even further scaled back into a "hobbit hole" as was explained nicely at the Count on Downtown blog. The Mississippi River should be a major attraction of the city; instead it is for the most part buried behind ugly concrete and kept separate from the downtown.

Just another example, in my opinion, of how the people in power in St. Louis make decisions that effect everyone largely in secret and in a manner completely closed off to community input. Good ideas are not allowed to trickle up and become successes, because they are not even given attention. It's not a meritocracy; it's a powertocracy, and everyone suffers as a result.

GIGLI Still Attacking Ed Martin Even After He Switched Contests

As we know, the St. Louis Tea Party split up because some of the members supported Ed Martin and others supported ultimate GOP insider Ann Wagner. But even after yesterday's hilarious news that Martin decided, yet again, to switch campaigns, looks like the Ann Wagner splinter group known as GIGLI is still ragging on poor Ed. Here's what they tweeted yesterday:

And here's what the post says:
But Missouri should be asking a couple of questions of Mr. Martin:

First, why has he never attempted to mount a campaign in his home district? Missouri District 1 has been struggling, strangling under Democrat control since 1949. The people in his own neighborhood are drowning under the weight of increased unemployment, and he chooses to step out on them to represent others.

Second, can we expect him to stay in the Attorney General's race if another, shinier candidate steps into the ring?

Local Control Activists Thrown Under the Bus

This was an amazing story in the Political Eye that I had not seen before (but see the update):
As for the activists, they had been on the side of local control all along. Not because they love and trust this mayor, which they do even less than the coppers love and trust him, but because they see city control of the city police as a stepping stone towards citizen overview of a police force that has done much to test public trust in its authority to impound, confiscate, arrest and use lethal force. Whether this is reasonable thinking or not, activists have believed that mayoral control of the city police would be a meaningful step towards a Civilian Review Board. Activists believe civilian review is needed because the police department has a proven, poor track record of cracking down on its own. Even federal investigators, who were expected to bring down a host of white shirts along with the petty operator Greg Shepard in the towing scam, have let down the public where there seemed to be obvious, widespread corruption in the department.

This incredible, tentative coalition is officially quitsville. The POA and Mayor Slay have sided with Sinquefield on his local control ballot initiative, and the activists have turned against them. On the face of it, it would be difficult to imagine local control activists siding with any group that includes Slay, the coppers and Sinquefield, but they have specific reasons for their opposition that were outlined in a suit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri.

Please read the whole thing if you haven't already. It offers some important insights into St. Louis City politics.

One thing not mentioned in this article is that several St. Louis City Democrats were paid substantial sums of money by Rex Sinquefield to work on this issue. These same Democrats are supportive of Rex's plans to inch ever closer towards privatizing education, and turn a blind eye to his insane policy suggestions (backed by millions of dollars) like the everything tax.

Update: There was a nice op-ed in the Post-Dispatch about this by Brenda Jones of the ACLU.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Mayor Slay Sends Education Advisor to Koch-Funded Public Education Bashing Session Moderated By Gateway Pundit

(Image from JD Wilson)

How's this for absolutely un-freakin-believable? Robbyn Wahby, Mayor Slay's education adviser and wife of City Democrats Chair Brian Wahby, was on a "School Choice" panel put on last night by the Koch Brothers-funded Americans For Prosperity. The event was moderated by Gateway "race-baiting extraordinaire" Pundit. Her fellow panelists included Dana "drop trou and urinate on dead Afghanis" Loesch and Dick Morris. Yes, that Dick Morris.

The event was a teachers union-bashing propaganda festival, with words of wisdom like this:

And this:
Dana Loesch says that part of that reform must involve reforming the teachers unions and the way they work. She related a personal story about a young energetic teacher who was very popular in her high school. This teacher used lots of applied learning (hands on) and was a great teacher. The union came in and told her to "tone it down" because she was angering the older, less energetic teachers who had already established the "proper" way to teach. Putting the kibosh in new ways to teach and maligning fresh young teachers has long been practiced in teachers unions across the country. For those teachers, all the talk of "the children" is just that, talk. They care nothing about the children, they care only for their cushy jobs and sweet pension
And afterward, Robbyn Wahby told the extremists to be more vocal about supporting the Mayor's policies:
At the end of the panel discussion, they wrapped up with a few final thoughts. Robbyn Wahby reminds us that any good idea is twice as likely to succeed with good support systems. If we have ideas we want implemented or we feel the mayors office is promoting good choices in education, we can support that effort by making it known we support it and doing things that promote the choice.
Reasonable people can disagree about issues like school choice. But there is absolutely no excuse for the Mayor's office to be coordinating with unapologetic right-wing ideologues who categorically do not have the best interests of the vast majority of city residents in mind. Mayor Slay is already known for having taken over $100,000 in donations from Rex Sinquefield, the man who wants to privatize education in Missouri. And he's been caught playing footsie with the tea party before. If he plans on running for reelection again in 2013, maybe he should start thinking about how to appeal to the 99% rather than the 1%ers like Rex and the funders of Americans for Prosperity.

Twitter Reactions To Ed Martin Bailing From Another Election

Ed Martin, for the 2nd time this year, decided to switch elections after it became obvious that he was going to be destroyed by his opponent(s). He's now, hilariously, running for Attorney General. Here are a few of the reactions from Twitter to Email Ed's announcement:

My take: of course this shows pretty clearly that Ed Martin is a thoroughly unserious opportunist and, as the Beacon suggested, was not very good at raising money for his Congressional race. This, along with his history of well-documented unethical behavior, should be enough for moderates and independents to laugh off his election for Attorney General.

Though Martin will probably lose all credibility among sane people across Missouri during this election, and also quite a few Republicans, I actually can see why it's a smart move for him. The issue is that a certain group of Republicans refuse to believe plain facts when they come from anyone other than their trusted authority figures. So when Russ Carnahan says "No, I actually never agreed to that debate Ed Martin said I chickened out of," they call him a liar. But, when a Republican like Ann Wagner, and the GOP establishment figures who support her say, "No, I actually never agree to that debate Ed Martin said I chickened out of," all of a sudden they start taking the claim seriously. And likewise when Ed Martin's ethical problems are pointed out by conservatives, there's a group of people who believe it who wouldn't have if it had come from some other source.

And let's keep in mind what Martin really wants. He's a guy who loves to blather on endlessly about basically everything. He's going to be doing that anyway. So how nice would it be for him if he could be paid to blather on endlessly about politics? Being a politician or a perpetual political candidate is one way of doing this. Switching to a race where he's no longer being slammed and exposed by Republicans allows him to retain a base of supporters who will pay him to blather, even if he loses badly. So, despite the fact that he's amazingly managed to lose even more dignity with this decision, he's also wisely preserving a base of people willing to make sure he doesn't have to work at a real job.

One final note: of course, Martin's BFF Jake Wagman thinks that Martin will be "far more competitive" in his new race. One thing we can be relatively sure of is that Martin will be guaranteed endlessly positive coverage from Wagman, just like he received when he ran against Representative Carnahan. Such is the state of the world when our media shifts further away from informing readers and towards trying to entertain them with the wacky Jersey Shore antics.

Update: this tweet from Michelle reminded me of the funny pic from Sean at Fired Up Missouri:

Update #2: As an example of how Ed's clown show has alienated many of the non-die hard fans, consider this post by Jerry Berger where Berger refers to Martin as "unsteady Eddy." In Martin's contest against Russ Carnahan, Berger was in the bag for Martin. Now he's mocking him.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Turner Report Catches KOMU Pushing Right-Wing Propaganda as Fact

Kudos to the Turner Report for calling out Columbia KOMU after KOMU pushed a story saying that Missouri ranked 47th on the American Legislative Exchange Council's ranking of the national schools. KOMU failed to do any basic research on what ALEC actually is, and instead just accepted the ranking as fact. However, ALEC is not some independent ranking agency, but rather an extremely partisan, agenda-driven organization that literally allows corporations to buy in and have legislation written and then passed off to state lawmakers. Here's the Nation's description of the group:
ALEC’s model legislation reflects long-term goals…making it harder to hold the economically and politically powerful to account. Corporate donors retain veto power over the language, which is developed by the secretive task forces. The task forces cover issues from education to health policy. ALEC’s priorities for the 2011 session included bills to privatize education, break unions, deregulate major industries, pass voter ID laws and more.
You can read more about ALEC's pernicious influence in Missouri at Progress Missouri.

This story reminds me of a recent incident where St. Louis Public Radio used a report from a restaurant front group to criticize the state's minimum wage. I don't know how long this trend has been going on, but it seems to me like the Right is getting better at pushing bad information to news outlets who uncritically report it as "fact" without bothering to research the groups.

Tentatively Agreeing With PETA in Their Argument With Wash U

The RFT reported on an argument between PETA and Washington University over the fact that Wash U is one of the few schools that still uses live cats and ferrets for their training with incubation tubes. The argument seems to be over whether the use of live animals is important for this training, with both sides offering different opinions, but I have some reasons for thinking PETA is probably right on this. Namely, I'm very skeptical that the American Heart Association would specifically state that they don't "endorse" the procedure and many other schools would choose not to use it if they really thought that it was a crucial component of training. The dominant mindset in much of society is that it's OK to use most non-human animals merely as a means to our ends, so it seems to me very unlikely that these other institutions would be willing to put their reputation at risk by doing something that impaired their training and potentially harmed babies.

Doing animal experimentation that benefits human health and well-being is a tricky ethical question,in my opinion, but using animals for training in a way that doesn't even improve human life is definitely a mistake.

Activist Calendar Back Up And Running

For those who don't remember, the reason this blog has the title "St. Louis Activist Hub," is because it was originally used only to post a weekly calendar of St. Louis activism events. I later was sucked into actual blogging when Andrew Breitbart and local right-wingers tried to destroy the lives of two innocent men. But after launching the site ForwardSTL which highlights a wide variety of progressive opinions in St. Louis, it seemed more appropriate to house the calendar there. However, a variety of technical issues made us change over ForwardSTL to a Tumblir site, and the calendar originally didn't go with it.

Anyway, the good news is that the St. Louis Activist Calendar is back up and running and some changes to Google and Facebook calendars are making it easier post more events. As always, I'm amazed at how much really cool stuff is happening in St. Louis.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Rifle Crosshair Stickers Placed On Democrats' Office Doors

According to Jason Hancock, reporter for the Kansas City Star in Jefferson City, someone placed stickers with the image of a rifle crosshair on the door of several Missouri Democratic Senators:
Hancock added that the Capitol Police and the State Highway patrol had been notified about the incident.

Follow his Twitter account for the latest developments.

Update: Here's what State Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal had to say about it:

Update X2: The Columbia Tribune has a full story about it. An excerpt:
Orange stickers with an image of rifle crosshairs were found Tuesday on the office doors of several Democratic state Senators, prompting an investigation by the Capitol Police Department, Senate Administrator Jim Howerton said.

“We are taking all the precautions we can,” Howerton said.

The stickers were on the doors of all four Democratic women in the Senate — Jolie Justus and Kiki Curls, both of Kansas City, and Maria Chapelle-Nadal and Robin Wright-Jones, both of St. Louis, Justus said.

“If anyone thinks this was a prank, it is not a prank,” Justus said after discussing the discovery of the stickers on the Senate floor. “You don’t joke about someone’s personal safety.”

A sticker also was found on the door of Sen. Victor Callahan, D-Kansas City and the Democrats’ floor leader.

Update X3: Here's a photo of one of the stickers on a Senator's nameplate, courtesy of reporter Sherman Fabes:

Press Release: The Need for EV Charging Infrastructure in St. Louis

Press release:

With 3 New EV Charging Station Installations, Microgrid Energy Prepares St. Louis for Influx of Electric Vehicles

Unveiling of several new electric vehicles at Detroit Auto Show highlights need for EV charging infrastructure here in St. Louis

Saint Louis – Already responsible for installing the first networked electric vehicle (EV) charging station in the St. Louis area, Microgrid Energy is working to prepare the Gateway City for the influx of electric vehicles set to hit the market.

“As we’ve seen from the recent Detroit Auto Show, nearly every major automaker is preparing to bring at least one electric vehicle to the market in the near future,” said Rick Hunter, Microgrid CEO. “Cities across the nation are installing infrastructure to support the new wave of vehicles and St. Louis will be no exception. Microgrid Energy is proud to be at the front lines, bringing EV charging stations to St. Louis and helping promote the use of cleaner, more fuel efficient vehicles.”

The company’s most recent work includes installing three new EV charging stations in St. Louis; partnering with the St. Louis Science Center on an electric vehicle educational exhibit; and exhibiting EV charging technology at upcoming the St. Louis Auto Show.

In 2011, Microgrid installed the St. Louis region’s first networked EV charging station at the St. Charles headquarters of Novus International, Inc. Microgrid also installed an EV charging station at the iconic Moonrise Hotel in the Delmar Loop and at the headquarters of electric utility Ameren.

In the last few months, Microgrid has installed EV charging stations at the Anheuser Busch Employee Credit Union in Soulard, the Laurel Apartments on Washington Avenue, and the Missouri Botanical Garden. Each of these charging stations is available for public use.

Additionally, Microgrid was asked by the St. Louis Science Center to help outfit their traveling educational exhibit that educates school children on electric vehicles and EV charging. The exhibit is transported via an electric-powered truck – called EVie – on which Microgrid also installed solar panels. The truck already results in reduced carbon emissions, and those emissions are further reduced through the use of solar power.

Electric vehicle charging will also be showcased at the upcoming St. Louis Auto Show as part of the very popular EcoCity. Microgrid will provide EV charging stations that will charge the electric vehicles that visitors can actually test drive inside the show, taking place January 26-29 at America’s Center.

Background on Microgrid’s EV Charging Station Installations

· Laurel Apartments: two Coulomb ChargePoint CT2003, which are wall-mounted charging stations capable of each charging one vehicle at a time, both at 240V fast charge.

· Anheuser Busch Employee Credit Union: a Coulomb ChargePoint CT-2021, which is a bollard-mounted charging station capable of charging two vehicles at a time, both at 240V fast charge.

· St. Louis Science Center: Electric-powered truck – called EVie – on which Microgrid also installed solar panels.

· St. Louis Auto Show 2012: EV charging stations in the Eco City area of the show, where alternative fuel vehicles and the entire new wave of green automobiles will be highlighted.


Friday, January 20, 2012

Correcting Roll Call: No, Carnahan was Not "Tipping His Hand"

Roll Call reported today, based on a KMOX story, that Russ Carnahan might have tipped his hand about running in the 1st Congressional District against Lacy Clay. Roll Call says that a Carnahan aide said that he'd be running "in the district he lives in," which would currently mean running against Clay. However, they actually left out a key part of the quote (which was included in the KMOX story); the full quote was: “Umm, I’m not trying to be flippant but he will run in the district he lives in.”

The "I'm not trying to be flippant" is a clue that the aide knew that the question wasn't actually being answered. According to Missouri law, Carnahan could move to a new district and run there, so "running where he lives" doesn't really mean much. And this has been confirmed in quotes from Carnahan's office who said that the quote was misinterpreted. Roll call also cites an anonymous "Missouri Democratic source" as saying that Carnahan has been "sniffing around the 1st District for a long time." I wouldn't be surprised if he's exploring his options, but please keep in mind that both Antonio French and the St. Louis American have pointed out that there are St. Louis political operatives who have a vested interest in pushing for a primary fight.

I suppose it's possible that saying he'd run "where he lives" is a way of testing out some messaging he would use if he decided to run against Clay, but reading too much into a quote from an aide who was clearly instructed not to reveal his decision would be a mistake.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

CNN's Dana Loesch Pushes Old, Debunked National Enquirer Rumors of Obama Affair

After news broke that ABC would be airing an interview with Newt Gingrich's ex-wife, disgraced CNN "political analyst" Dana Loesch decided this would be the perfect time to start pushing completely empty "Obama affair" rumors that originated in the National Enquirer. Here's what Loesch was tweeting:

The link from Loesch's "lets talk this" tweet goes to a conspiracy mongering nonsensical post that claims that "Hilary Clinton knew about" an "Obama affair" during the 2008 campaign but decided not to say anything because she needed a favor from him. The evidence for this claim? Absolutely none: just the author stating, "According to online reports..." with no link.

And the premise that there's an affair is based entirely on a National Enquirer article that didn't even claim there was an affair. Yes, I know, the Enquirer actually got one right with the John Edwards story, but in this case, the Enquirer uses a second-hand account that, even if all the details are true, doesn't show anything. The only claim is that Obama was at a hotel at roughly the same time as Vera Baker, a major funraiser and confidant. The rumors, which actually trace back to 2004, were pretty thoroughly debunked by Media Matters as nothing more than unsubstantiated rumor after the Enquirer story broke:
So, to sum up: the story is rehashed rumors about events that supposedly took place in 2004 but which no one has substantiated with anything remotely resembling credible evidence. They have been flatly denied by the woman supposedly involved. And the only thing new here are the rumors about a video that no one is claiming (even anonymously) to have seen.
Yet here Loesch is pushing the story on Twitter, and on Big Journalism, where she wrote:
Does this mean we’ll also start hearing about Vera Baker from broadcast media?

CNN, the "Cable News Network," continues to be an embarrasment to the word "news."

OccupySTL to Protest Lowes

From an email:
[Join OccupySTL] this Sunday, January 22nd in Solidarity with the boycott of Lowes by the Council for American-Islamic Relations(CAIR: http://www.cair.com/) and Occupy Saint Louis (OSL: http://www.occupystl.org/) to protest Lowes bowing to pressure from southern hate-groups to divest millions of ad-dollars from the TLC program All-American Muslim, which was the first major offering on network television of a positive portrayal of the everyday lives of average American Muslims in Detroit....

Occupy Saint Louis Outreach is requesting that all recipients stand in Solidarity with our picket outside the Kirkwood Lowes, to join our mobilization and forward this message to further allies in the struggle against bigotry, xenophobia, and discrimination and ignorance so we all can show that the political forces of the 1% and the politics of division and hate will not be allowed to single out any-one population in our community. We implore you to spread the word and invite you to join us on the picket lines this Sunday, January 22nd.

You can read their full statement on Lowes here.

Breitbart Blogger Dr. Gina Loudon Diagnoses Loesch With "Combatative Personality Disorder"

Back when Dana Loesch and the St. Louis Tea Party broke up, I wrote about how a local conservative activist asked Loesch where her career would be without the tea party. The question was phrased in an innocent way, but Loesch called the person ignorant, blocked her, and basically suggested that her career had nothing to do with being a tea partier.

When this person mentioned the incident on Facebook, Breitbart blogger and frequent Fox News guest Gina Loudon, who was previously pushed out of the tea party by Loesch, had some interesting things to say about Loesch.

First, here was the initial comment from facebook:
Ok, for those of you who know what this is about...I am sorry and you probably know more than I do but I have gotten a couple of emails about something I supposedly wrote and I am at a loss as to what they are talking about. So I will tell my story. The St. Louis Tea Party organizers had a meeting and there was an argument. Dana Loesch decided to leave the STLTP. That is her choice BUT she posted something on Facebook about leaving as if the Tea Party no longer existed because she has left it. I would quote her exact words but she seems to have unfriended me. Hmmm....I read her remarks and thought they were a tad petulant. I posted that she had a lot to thank the St. Louis Tea Party for since she probably wouldn't be on the radio or TV if it wasn't for them. She then wrote a nasty remark back to me accusing me of being ignorant. And as is usual with her, she was sarcastic and wrote, "Thank you." Once again, I would post the whole answer and my statement but she unfriended me so I can't. I just wrote back "You are welcome." That was the end of it as far as I was concerned.

I did write to another insider of the Tea Party that it sounded like people just took their toys and went home. I posted that publicly to him but I don't feel the need to mention him.

Bill Hennessy wrote a much classier email thanking Dana Loesch for her service. Hmmm...so publicly he took the high road while she whined and was nasty on Facebook plus she went on Glover to plead her case...

In my life, I have found that no organization or company ever falls apart just because one person leaves it. I find it ashame that one person left and showed her dirty laundry to everyone else.

It is my belief, that the Tea Party was started to fight liberals and to keep our country free. None of us, will ever agree about who is the best person for the job but we should never lose sight of the original objective. And furthermore, no one person should be bigger than the movement. When someone thinks that they are so important that the movement can't exist without it, then they are no longer of service to the movement.
And here's how Gina Loudon responded:

Please note, I did *not* get this screenshot from the person who wrote the initial comment, so there's no need for idiotic Loesch fans to harrass that person like they did last time.

This Blog Has Been Confiscated By Rupert Murdoch

In case I haven't mentioned it, SOPA really blows.

Update: KSDK reports on the protest.

Missouri Veteran Says Loesch "Doesn't Understand the Ethos of the American Soldier"

Bungalow Bill, a Missouri conservative blogger from the Springfield area, was not impressed with Dana Loesch's comments that she was giving the marines who urinated on dead Afghans "1 million cool points" and would "drop trou and do it herself." Here's what he had to say:
Ms. Loesch, as a former member of the United States military, I remember a painting on the walls of my training facility. The painting had a caption under it that said the American servicemen doesn't love war, but when called upon, they are ready to fight and they do fight respecting humanity. Throughout history, our military has always treated its own first who were injured on the battle field and then our allies. The humane nature of our soldiers than search battlefields for our enemy and we offer them lifesaving humane medical treatments. It is not in our nature to go pissing on the dead. Nor would we tolerate it Ms. Loesch if our enemies pissed on our dead.

Ms. Loesch obviously doesn't understand the ethos of the American solider, and what these men did was disrespect a long heritage of outstanding service in decades of tradition. These Marines don't deserve a million cool points Dana.

They are an embarrassment to their uniform considering the ethos of the uniform and the tradition of the uniform. I am afraid that too many liberals are discounting the value of life with their abortion desires, and I am afraid that too many neocons like Loesch are discounting the value of life with their promotion of wars. What happens to society when life is no longer of value, well, we can look at history for that. Many dictators recorded in history have performed many despicable acts because they discounted the value of a life based on ethnicity, religion, or other criteria.
He even goes on to compare her to Keith Olbermann.

h/t P.J.

Obama Stands Up To Oil Companies With Keystone Tar Sands Pipeline Decision

President Obama's administration stood up to oil companies today by rejecting the Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline. If you're not familiar with the problems of the pipeline and the pile of lies used to prop up the idea, click here for details.

I know a large group of students in the St. Louis area have been incredibly active on this issue (two of whom are pictured above), even traveling to D.C. to take part in national protests, so congratulations to them and the environmental movement for a major victory.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Washington University Warned International Students Not To Participate in Occupy

A friend sent me this link of a message sent to international students at Washington Unviersity about the Occupy movement:

The Occupy Protests and Illegal Activities: Implications for International Students

The Occupy Wall Street protests that began in September have since spread throughout the United States and around the world. St. Louis even has a small Occupy movement centered around Kiener Plaza, with support coming from students from local campuses, including Washington University. The Occupy protests, both here in St. Louis and elsewhere, have mostly complied with local laws and ordinances. However, the number of arrests for Occupy-related crimes has increased in recent weeks as local governments and police agencies seek to enforce laws and, in many cases, quell the protests.

The Occupy protests may appeal to students for several reasons. It may be that the goals of the movement resonate with students. On the other hand, students may view the movement with curiosity. Students may even see the protests as a way to experience the American political process firsthand. In our view, however, the decision to participate in the Occupy Protests must not be taken lightly.

In order to participate, one must accept the possibility of arrest. Even in St. Louis, Occupy Protest-related arrests have been made. Arrests can have severe consequences for American students. However, international students face an even greater level of risk. International students who are arrested may face long term immigration consequences, including the loss of immigration status and even deportation, depending on the circumstances.

And, with news coverage of the Occupy Protests being broadcast around the world in a 24-7 newscycle and on the internet, an international student may face problems back home. Governments, and even perspective employers, may access information from online sources regarding activites that would viewed negatively in the home country. For example, background checks increasingly rely on information from online sources.

For more information on visa regulations and the consequences of an arrest, please consult an advisor in the OISS.

Now, the letter makes some valid points and I don't think this message was intended to be threatening for the sake of shutting down political opinions, but it does seem to me to strongly discourage international students from participating and to do so in a way that doesn't really make clear what things would and would not be problematic. Obviously, getting arrested is a problem for people here on a visa. However, there could be ways of participating that don't, as the letter claims, carry, "the possibility of arrest."

I've noticed first-hand that a lot of international students were pretty disturbed by this letter, and have been especially afraid of getting involved in any sort of political activity (specifically citing the letter as a reason). This seems like a real shame for academia, a place that is supposed to encourage free thinking.

What Does the State Supreme Court Decision Mean For Carnahan?

The Missouri Supreme Court ruled today that the Missouri House would have to start from scratch on their state senate redistricting and that a lower court would have to revisit a previous decision to leave the new U.S. House districts intact. It's pretty chaotic since the election cycle is starting up and filing deadlines are approaching, but in general it seems like this might be good, though not perfect, news for Representative Russ Carnahan.

Most people had previously assumed that Rep. Carnahan would be stuck with bad pair of options under the current map, passed by a veto proof majority when three Missouri House Democrats sold their souls to Republicans. Carnahan could either run in Congressman Lacy Clay's safe Democratic district, thus setting up a potentially bitter primary fight, or he could run in the new 2nd District which leans Republican. This dilemma has been the subject of previous discussion on this blog.

However, this court decision potentially changes the dynamics of Carnahan's choice. Though many politicos suggested that the judge might rule that a strange "teardrop" in the Kansas City area would need to be changed but not mess with Carnahan's district, the decision in fact cites the new 3rd District (which contains some previous Carnahan territory) as being problematic in addition to the 5th District in the Kansas City area. Here's the language from the summary of the ruling:
The applicable standard of review for a court in reviewing an article III, section 45 claim is the language of the constitution itself: whether the General Assembly divided Missouri into districts of “contiguous territory as compact and as nearly equal in population as may be. As long as the districts comply with these constitutional requirements, the circuit court shall respect the political determinations of the General Assembly and allow for minimal and practical deviations required to preserve the integrity of the existing lines of our various political subdivisions. Yet the duty to draw district lines of a contiguous territory as compact and as nearly equal in population as may be is one that is mandatory and objective, not subjective.

Here, Plaintiffs have alleged that various districts, and the Map as a whole, violate the compactness requirement of article III, section 45. Districts 3 and 5 are alleged to be particularly suspect, as can be confirmed by any rational and objective consideration of their boundaries. However, it is a question of fact, yet to be tried, whether those districts are “as compact and nearly equal in population as may be.” Mo. Const. art. III, sec. 45 (emphasis added).
I'm not a lawyer, but this language doesn't seem particularly strong to me. So it seems that while this makes it likely that the boundaries of the 3rd district will change (which will change the dynamics of Carnahan's decision, for better or worse), it doesn't make it a foregone conclusion.

Furthermore, the Supreme Court did rule against the claims that the new maps should be changed because they unfairly stacked the deck against Democrats. Now, they probably did stack the deck against Democrats, but unfortunately (and undemocratically if you ask me) this in itself isn't something the courts can legally take action on. From the Beacon's analysis:
But the Supreme Court said that Green was correct in dismissing some arguments -- such as the assertion that the new 3rd was crafted to curb the congressional influence of the St. Louis area and that it unfairly targeted Democrats. The critics contended that the new map leaves the statewide congressional delegation skewed improperly toward Republicans by protecting the six GOP incumbents.

The court stated in its opinion that the U.S. Supreme Court's "inability to state a clear standard" regarding gerrymandering has made it difficult for the state Supreme Court to make a ruling on that argument.

So there's nothing forcing the lower courts to make the districts more friendly to Carnahan. On the other hand, the Supreme Court seemed to think that the 3rd and the 5th districts would need to be redrawn. Given that the last boundary drawings were done by a hyper-partisan crowd doing whatever they could to maximizing Republican chances, any possible changes will most likely result in a somewhat better map for Carnahan. I already think he should run in the 2nd against Ann Wagner or Ed Martin, but if that district shifts a little more Democrat then the decision hopefully becomes a lot easier.

Activist Hub Highlights From 2011

I'm only about three weeks late doing this, but hey, why not? Here's a summary of some of my favorite posts from 2011.

The two stories I am most proud of are my debunking of right-wing smears that were used to try to damage important St. Louis institutions. The first smear campaign was the tea party claim that “union thugs” from SEIU ruthlessly assaulted a conservative black man outside of Russ Carnahan’s townhall. I carefully documented the flaws in their story as well as outright conspiracy theories (such as the claim that Obama “sent thugs to silence dissent”), and was vindicated when a jury took only 40 minutes to reach a “not guilty” verdict for the former SEIU employees. I was fortunate to also be able to contribute an op-ed to the Post-Dispatch on this topic (and on the next one).

The other smear was a campaign by Dana Loesch and Andrew Breitbart to claim that UMSL and UMKC professors were “advocating violence” in their labor studies class. I worked with bloggers at Crooks and Liars and Media Matters to conclusively prove that Loesch and Breitbart were lying. Furthermore, a student from the class sent me exclusive video showing tea party members trying to provoke students to “take a swing” at him and, together with my friend Kevin, I was able to interview three students from the class who further debunked the claims from Breitbart and Loesch..

I also wrote a Post-Dispatch op-ed questioning the rush from some city officials to badmouth the earnings tax immediately after its overwhelming victory in the city elections. And I used a Sunshine Law request to demonstrate that city officials (who previously refused to answer questions on this topic) met with the Downtown Partnership to discuss the removal of Occupy St. Louis.

Furthermore, I broke the news of the breakup of Dana Loesch with the St. Louis tea party after I was forwarded leaked emails of their bitter email exchanges. I had previously thoroughly documented the infighting that resulted from Missouri’s Second District election, all the way from the first Big Government article attacking Ed Martin.

Finally, there were a couple stories that didn't get much attention, but that I think are good examples of how blogging can improve on mainstream reporting. I noted St. Louis Public Radio using a restaurant front group story to attack the minimum wage by doing a little background research on the group, caught the New York Times misleadingly presenting professors opinions as if they approved of James O’Keefe’s tactics by getting comments from the professors, and offered a critique of the Breitbart/Loesch style of “journalism” when asked by the Washington University Student Newspaper.

I was also asked to be a guest three times on KDHX's Collateral Damage, which was a really fun experience.

I'd like to thank Brian, Cathy, Luella, Kevin, Bunnie, Peggy, Mark and all of the other great contributors for adding their thoughts, and give a major shoutout to Gloria and Stacy for doing an amazing job at ForwardSTL, and Sean at ProgressMO for help with a lot of things. What I've always really been interested in is building a stronger online progressive community, and I think that is happening, albeit slowly.

2012 is off to an interesting start, with my story on Loesch's disgraceful comments about corpse desecration being picked up by Politico, Huffington Post, Media Matters, Think Progress, Mother Jones, the Riverfront Times, and the Washington Post, among others. Hopefully this blog can continue to push back against egregious conduct and extremism, and more importantly will help bring people together with shared values. Thanks very much to all my readers for their support.

Thanks to the Riverfront Times!

I found out earlier today that this blog was named a finalist for Best Political Blog in St. Louis. I'm proud to be in the company of Occasional Planet, PoliticMo, the Beacon Backroom, and even the St. Louis Tea Party blog. Thanks to whoever nominated this blog, to the other writers, and to the RFT for putting it on. Some of my favorite local blogs are also listed under "Best Neighborhood Blog" and "Best Architecture Blog," so I hope you check them all out.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Breitbart Repeats A Despicable and Debunked Smear About Me From CNN's Dana Loesch

Andrew Breitbart tried to smear me earlier today via Twitter while pestering reporter Mediaite Tommy Christopher:

The claim that I'm a "stalker" is stupid enough, since I criticize Loesch for her dishonest tactics and extreme antics, which are all part of her public persona. When you make a living as a "political analyst," your politics and the way you go about promoting them are fair game. But the claim that I'm "stalking" the "Loesch family" is just a despicable smear. And it's one that I already conclusive debunked the last time they tried it. From my post back when Breitbart came to town:
Finally, and probably most despicably of all. Loesch accuses me of "stalking her children:"

When I ask her what evidence she has for this obnoxious claims, she responds, "you've clicked on the site where my children are at." Based on conversations with other tea partiers, I know that this obnoxious claim from Loesch comes from the fact that one time, after Loesch tweeted a link to her Mommy blog from her political twitter account, I linked to that post in one of my blog posts. You can read my post here.

Now, I have to admit, the post is somewhat petty by my usual standards (though it would be typical fare from Breitbart bloggers or the tea party). I took her post demanding that people pay her if they want her to mention their products and used it as an opportunity to remind people of the legitimate political story that Loesch shut out and attacked Ed Martin's GOP primary opponent after Martin gave thousands of dollars to Chris Loesch's business.

Though it is a serious ethical problem that Loesch refused to disclose this conflict of interest while cheering Martin's campaign, I admit the connection between that and her post claiming she requires money for product endorsements is a little bit of a stretch. However, that post I linked too was not at all about her children and was entirely about her patriotic desire to make money via endorsements, so to use this to claim that I'm "stalking her children" is absolutely despicable. The claim that someone involved other people's children is a serious allegation and not something to be tossed out as a cheap attempt to silence critics or demonize opponents.

It's pretty amazing that CNN allows their name to be dragged into the mud and slime by paying Loesch as a "political analyst."
By the way, I debunked multiple disgraceful smears from the CNN "political analyst" in that post, including her calling me "racist."

Update: Looks like Breitbart also smeared me on the "Victory Sessions" radio program. He says that I "tried to take away business" from Loesch's husband. First, as noted above, I was reporting on a legitimate political story where Dana Loesch had viciously attacked a conservative Republican primary candidate after that candidate's less conservative opponent paid $5,000 to Loesch's husband's business to make an advertisement, and she did so without ever acknowledging this potential conflict of interest. You don't need to take my word that the story is newsworthy; here's RFT reporter (and now Editor) Chad Garrison responding after Chris Loesch had attacked him for covering it:
According to Chris, I should never have never followed Shriver's story, because he got the ownership of Shock City wrong. To me, though, the story is newsworthy despite the error in Shriver's piece.

Dana Loesch is a quasi-public figure who last week got in a rather public pissing match with G.O.P. candidate John Wayne Tucker over allegations that she has intentionally kept him off her radio show while at the same time inviting Martin onto the program.

The fact that Martin's campaign had paid her husband's studio $2,500 shortly before he appeared on Dana's talk show seemed interesting to me.
So the story was newsworthy even if it was Loesch's husband, rather than Loesch who owned the studio because it still created a potential conflict of interest. Now, you might ask why I got the ownership of Shock City Music wrong. Well, that's because Loesch referred to the studio as her "family business" and repeatedly used it to claim that she was a "small business owner."

Listen to Breitbart's attempts to "silence free speech" as he would say, here:

Especially hilarious (and typical Breitbart) is the fact that he says he won't use the word "stalker," but then uses it on Twitter shortly afterward. What a class act!