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Business Insider story: What Dorian Johnson said about the Brown shooting

One of the main ways in which the media lie is simply to leave out relevant information. Here’s an example: a Business Insider account, posted at http://www.businessinsider.com/eye-witness-account-of-michael-browns-shooting-2014-8 (accessed 8/26/14) that was based on an MSNBC story. See if you can spot the key fact that was left out.


This Is The Version Of The Ferguson, Missouri Shooting That Police Don’t Want You To Hear

A police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, shot and killed an unarmed, black 18-year-old named Michael Brown on Saturday, sparking riots and protests in the St. Louis suburb. At least 50 people were arrested in three days.

Details have been hazy about the shooting, but two competing stories have emerged. St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar says Brown assaulted the officer first, and then the two began to struggle with the officer’s gun.

The police version is at odds with another story, corroborated by multiple witnesses, including 22-year-old Dorian Johnson, Brown’s friend who was “within arm’s reach” of Brown when the first shot was fired. Johnson spoke to MSNBC last night and gave his account. Here’s a summary of his version of the events. (Police have reportedly refused to interview Johnson.)

On Saturday afternoon, somewhere between 1:40 p.m. and 2:00 p.m., Johnson says he saw Brown walking on the street and went to talk to him. As the two caught up, they headed back to Johnson’s house. When they were a 1-minute walk away, they went to cross the street. As they walked in the middle of the road — jaywalking — a police car drove up. The officer told the two to go on the sidewalk, according to Johnson.

“His exact words were get the f—k on the sidewalk,” Johnson told MSNBC.

Johnson told the officer they were almost at their destination. Thinking the officer was giving them leave, they began walking again. Instead of driving away, the officer switched his police truck in reverse, tires screeching, and nearly hit the two, according to Johnson.

At that point, Johnson said, he and Brown were in line with the officer’s side door. The officer asked them what the two had said and then tried to push his door open, according to Johnson. Because the two were so close to the door, Johnson says the door hit Brown and closed. The officer then allegedly grabbed Brown by the neck.

Brown then tried to pull away to avoid being choked, Johnson says.

“They’re not wrestling so much as his arm went from his throat to now clenched on his shirt … It’s like tug of war. He’s trying to pull him in. He’s pulling away, that’s when I heard, ‘I’m gonna shoot you,’” Johnson said.

The two realized the officer had pulled out a hand gun and pointed it at Brown. The officer repeated, “I’ll shoot.” Seconds later, the first shot went off. Johnson says the officer let go after he shot Brown.

Brown and Johnson then ran towards a line of three cars on the side of the street. Johnson went behind the first, but Brown ran past. Brown yelled “Keep running, bro!” But by the time he got to the third car, the officer shot Brown in the back, according to Johnson.

Johnson says Brown stopped, put his hands up, turned around, and yelled he didn’t have a gun.

The officer allegedly shot several more times, Brown fell to the ground, and Johnson ran to his apartment.

“It was just horrible to watch … It was definitely like being shot like an animal,” Johnson told local news station KSDK.

The account of another eyewitness, Piaget Crenshaw, 19, seems to match Johnson’s.

The St. Louis County police department have opened its investigation of the incident. Meanwhile, the FBI has announced that it will open a parallel civil rights investigation of the shooting.


So that’s the version police don’t want you to hear, right? That’s the account of Dorian Johnson, whom police “have reportedly refused to interview,” right?

Johnson, of course, was Brown’s accomplice in the robbery/assault that Brown committed at a convenience story within 10 minutes prior to the shooting. Does the story mention this, oh, slightly relevant fact? No, it doesn’t.

Obviously, it should have been corrected once Johnson’s role was known, and appended-to when it became known that Johnson previously served jail time for lying to police. This is the Web, after all, where you can post corrections with the original stories. (I accessed this version of the story on August 26.)  But even the original story should have evidenced skepticism toward a “friend” of Michael Brown and his account of the altercation in which Brown was shot. A real journalist would take the word neither of the police nor of Brown’s friend.


The Court of Memes: Why people believe fake facts

[Continuing our series on deception in politics and public policy.]

A meme, as it’s called by experts in communications theory, is an idea that spreads in the manner of a virus from one person to the next. You may be familiar with the use of the term to describe a particular sort of meme, a graphic commentary of the type often posted on Facebook.

People can be infected with false memes as they are infected with viruses. How many of us believe that 97 percent of scientists believe in Global Warming theory, or that Columbus was warned he might sail off the edge of the world, or that the United States was responsible for wiping out most of the American Indians and taking their land, or that Thomas Jefferson, who was in favor of slavery, probably fathered one or more children with Sally Hemmings? All false memes.

After the death of the great actor/comedian Robin Williams, one TV tribute included a section from one of his performances in which he made fun of Sarah Palin for saying she could see Russia from her house. Dan Harris, a resident leftist at ABC News, recently, on a news boradcast, made fun of Palin for saying she could see Russia from her house. One estimate was that 87 percent of Obama voters in 2008 thought that Palin made that remark, which was actually made by the “Sarah Palin” character on Saturday Night Live.

In the worlds of politics and public policy, false memes often have very real effects, providing the basis for bad laws that hurt people, or twisting people’s view of history to make them easier prey for extremist politicians.


As I write this, the radio in my office is carrying news from Read all »

Labor Watch: The United Auto Workers on the Skids? Defeat in Chattanooga, a 25 percent dues hike, Michigan Right to Work, and promotions for failed leaders

The United Auto Workers on the Skids?
Defeat in Chattanooga, a 25 percent dues hike, Michigan Right to Work, and promotions for failed leaders [PDF here.]

By F. Vincent Vernuccio

Summary: It’s been a long, slow slide for the United Auto Workers, which hit its peak in the early 1950s. Defeated in a critical unionization election in the South and facing a critical change in state law in its home base in Michigan, the UAW has responded to the challenge by raising dues and by staying the course on policy and leadership.  

Things have not gone well at Solidarity House recently, and may be getting worse.

When the headquarters of the United Auto Workers was dedicated on June 9, 1951, news accounts called it “America’s most up-to-date union headquarters . . . Streamlined and spacious but not plush, the four story brick and sandstone structure is nestled among swank hotel apartment houses overlooking the Detroit river.” It was said that the union’s “nerve center” would be “the envy of many top industry executives.”

The UAW was riding high, and it seemed appropriate that the UAW headquarters’ three-acre site had once been the estate of the late Edsel Ford, the son of Henry Ford and himself the president of Ford Motor Company.
The website Detroit1701, which celebrates the city’s history, describes the headquarters Read all »

Can You Say “Dark Money Super PAC”?

Last November, when the American Federation of Teachers wanted to slip a cool half-million into a last-second ad buy to support Marty Walsh’s Democratic candidacy for mayor of Boston, it had a New Jersey union front group (One New Jersey) hurriedly concoct a Boston union front group (One Boston). Now both front groups have agreed to pay $30,000 to settle a dispute with the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance for five different violations: failure to organize as a PAC, failure to disclose finance activity accurately, contributions made in a manner intended to disguise the true source of the contributions, receipt of contributions not raised in accordance with campaign law, and use of wire transfers. Still, it worked: Walsh won.

This is a classic case of the way unions and other left-wing pressure groups operate to influence elections. The only anomaly: the union groups paid for a positive ad, rather than the usual attack ad. That may be explained by One Boston’s indication that it sought to influence “Women 50+,” who may be more susceptible to positive ads than negative ones.

To illustrate the way these scams work, we provide a bit more background on the groups involved.  One Boston is the kind of pop-up mystery group the Left often creates at the last minute in an election. Its life spanned only October 23, 2013, to January 7, 2014, but the big checks it cut for ads immediately raised the local media’s eyebrows and made them wonder what this strange beast was. Later, when the truth came out, the CommonWealth Magazine website sketched a portrait of One Boston:

The group parachuted into the mayoral race from nowhere. It listed a two-family home in Roslindale as its headquarters. Its committee chair and treasurer, Jocelyn Hutt, was a political ghost: She was an infrequent voter whose name didn’t appear in state or federal campaign finance databases.

Legally, One Boston was a 501(c)(4) or “social welfare” nonprofit. It disclosed only one donor, another 501(c)(4), One New Jersey, which in turn is a mysterious group. You can tell from One New Jersey’s website that it lives to excoriate New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), but who or what is behind it is opaque.

It has no IRS tax filings available on Guidestar.org, but it does have a single IRS tax filing available on the Foundation Center’s site, and on that form you can find three names: Steve DeMicco, Brad Lawrence, and Steve Rosenthal—the President, Secretary, and Treasurer, respectively. Those names make it possible to peel back some of the mystery.

Rosenthal, as his Wikipedia entry notes, “is a longtime labor and political strategist.” His résumé includes founding America Coming Together, “a voter mobilization project aimed at defeating incumbent Republican president George W. Bush” that was “one of the largest voter mobilization campaigns in Democratic history.” He also spent seven years as political director of the AFL-CIO, where he was credited with “transforming” organized labor’s campaign operation into the nation’s “most effective.”

His One New Jersey colleagues DeMicco and Lawrence are also behind-the-scenes operatives who’ve worked together in Jersey politics since at least 1979. Their P.R. firm Message and Media has won the last three Newark mayoral elections and is one of the state’s most prominent political outfits, helping elect governors, senators, and representatives, often using union money to buy the air time for ads.

Message and Media also produced One Boston’s ad, but everyone kept mum about who had supplied the half-million needed for that. It was weeks after Walsh’s victory before the AFT confessed to the Boston Globe that its coffers had underwritten the ads.

The final background data:  every outside group that spent money to elect Walsh was revealed as union-backed, including SEIU entities, American Working Families PAC, Working America, etc. In fact, David Bernstein of Boston magazine estimated that more than 80% of all money for Walsh—both “inside” his official campaign and pouring in from outside groups—came from labor bosses.

The outside spending set a record for such money in Massachusetts, and the mayor’s race also set a record as the state’s most expensive municipal race ever. Why were labor bosses so keen to see Walsh beat Connolly? As the Boston Globe explains, Connolly “had several high-profile spats with the Boston Teachers Union in his six years” on the city council.

The Globe found that Walsh’s union backers poured $2.5 million via independent expenditures on his behalf, or about double the $1.3 million in outside support that Connolly received. To further clarify the two candidate’s critical difference: Connolly’s outside support came exclusively from national education reform groups.

Presumably the AFT will pay the $30,000 fine, even though it’s not named in the court documents, especially given that One Boston no longer exists. As Mike Antonucci of the indispensable Education Intelligence Agency blog jokes,

AFT believed $500K was a good investment to get Walsh elected. Another $30K or so might just be considered a gratuity.

Actually, it’s a cheap gratuity – $30,000 on $500,000 means the AFT is only leaving a 6% tip.

A Culture of Lies

[Continuing our series on deception in politics and public policy.]

If you’re politically knowledgeable and not crazy, living in Washington, D.C. is tough.

As a D.C. resident, I’m surrounded by people who are ignorant and/or out of their minds, who believe the talking-points version of Progressivism that they are fed by most of the news media.

In just the past few days, at social occasions, I’ve overheard comments along the lines of the following:

  • “The Republicans in the South today are just the old segregationist Democrats. That’s because of the Nixon Southern Strategy.”
  • “After Hobby Lobby, women’s right to birth control is threatened.”
  • “Photo ID laws are an attempt to keep people from voting. Vote fraud isn’t a real problem in this country.”

In reality, Republicans in the South trace their roots to the (relatively) anti-segregationist wing of the Democratic Party of the 1950s/1960s, while the so-called Nixon Southern Strategy was never implemented. Hobby Lobby has nothing to do with anyone’s right to birth control, merely with whether people who don’t believe in abortifacients can be forced to pay for them in violation of a law signed by President Clinton. Voter ID laws, such as the ones in Canada, Mexico, and Nelson Mandela’s South Africa, protect people’s rights by preventing the fraudulent cancellation of their votes; that’s one reason that most people of all ethnicities support them. And voter fraud is so common that, before it became Politically Correct to claim that such fraud isn’t a problem, political reporters like me, covering political conventions and the like, used to sit around until 2 a.m. sharing stories about it. (My first scoop as a young reporter was when I caught a local mayor rigging an election.)

Mythology is the common currency of the Left. Read all »

The Feds Are Not Here to Help You

College costs too much, everyone agrees, and so numerous federal officials (from both parties) keep offering new ways to “help” with this problem. As usual, the government answer is to throw more money at it, even when “it” includes some of the wealthiest nonprofits in the nation.

As a recent discussion at the American Enterprise Institute makes clear, the federal schemes are destined to fail and backfire, wasting taxpayers’ and students’ money—because one of the biggest causes of the problem is the federal government’s expensive entanglement in higher ed.

The history of college costs reveals the federal government’s harm. In the past 35 years college costs have risen 1,120%, Bloomberg news calculates. College costs rose even faster than health care costs (which also received significant government subsidies). Those government dollars—over $80 billion a year—not only encouraged colleges to keep raising prices but also discouraged families from saving for higher education.

Consider these statistics from “Dollars, Cents, and Nonsense: The Harmful Effects of Federal Student Aid,” a new study presented at the AEI panel by lead author Richard Vedder. From 1960 to 1977, 18 years that saw little federal involvement in paying for college, the average percentage of household income put into saving accounts for college tuition was around 8.7%. In the next 18 years, 1978 to 1995, with only moderate federal spending on education, the saving percentage per household was 7.4%, a decline of 17%. Then from 1996 to 2013, the bottom dropped out as the savings percentage plunged an additional 50% to 3.7%—just as federal aid programs quickly grew large.

But, some insist, colleges are just raising prices because they need the money. Not exactly: The colleges who enjoy the richest endowments have the highest sticker prices. And here is a bit of wealth inequality you’re unlikely to hear a college professor denounce: the richest 1% of colleges possess 51% of all the endowments. In addition, while the Ford or Koch foundations are legally required to give away 5% of their endowments every year, colleges have no requirement to share their wealth. (AEI’s Alex Pollock joked that perhaps we need a “wealth tax” on the richest 1% of college endowments.)

Nor have college costs risen because colleges are getting better. Studies suggest that the hours students attend classes and study has dropped by nearly 50% since 1960. Measures of knowledge gained in college aren’t easy to come by, but repeated reports from the Intercollegiate Studies Institute find college students’ ignorance of even simple facts (like the three branches of government) to be poor and declining.

Vedder’s bottom line at the AEI discussion will shock parents and students repaying loans: After taking inflation into account, college prices today would be 59% cheaper if the government had not poured so many billions of tax dollars into “helping” with college.

The conclusion to the study Vedder led says it all:

In a perfect world, all federal programs would be abolished. But democratic political processes are imperfect. A realistic solution would drastically downsize the federal programs, making them more progressive (helping lower-income students more than upper-income students) and smaller. By returning the programs to what they were early in their history—modest but useful financial support to truly needy students—it will moderate tuition price inflation and reverse the decline in academic standards. It will contribute to returning the nation to fiscal responsibility while improving the nation’s higher-education system. In short, it is the right thing to do.

Here’s one more reform idea that came up at AEI: Since colleges benefit the most from student loans, they ought to share in the losses of their students’ defaults. That would be sobering for college administrators, who have helped place $1.2 trillion of current debt on the backs of their students, with almost 15% of borrowers defaulting on their loans within three years of graduation.

William Digges is a 2014 Henry Haller Intern at CRC who attends the Heights School.

Deadly Policies: Activist groups are hindering immigration law enforcement across the nation

Deadly Policies: Activist groups are hindering immigration law enforcement across the nation

By Michael Volpe, Organization Trends, August 2014 (PDF here)

County sheriffs in charge of the nation’s jails are increasingly reluctant to respect the federal government’s requests to detain suspected undocumented immigrants. The official requests, known as “detainers,” are issued by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which is a branch of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). In most jails, the processing of new inmates involves running their fi ngerprints through a federal database to ascertain their immigration status. DHS flags detainees suspected of being in the U.S. illegally and sends out detainer documents that local sheriffs have traditionally treated as warrants requiring them to keep the individuals in custody. But many local officials these days won’t keep illegal immigrants under lock and key, waiting until ICE retrieves them for possible removal from the U.S. Jailers used to think of immigration detainers as mandatory, but several key court decisions have made clear to local law enforcement that the detainers are mere requests by ICE.

Although detainers have been around for a long time, their use has proliferated under an ICE program known as Secure Communities. That program consists of a computer software system that connects federal agencies like ICE, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Internal Revenue Service with local police departments. In jurisdictions that participate in the program, it facilitates access to data on individuals booked in local prisons. Left-wing activists complain that Secure Communities has led to the proliferation of arrests for minor offenses like speeding, because when local police book suspects, they share the booking information with ICE.

Detainers are valid for up to two days (excluding weekends and holidays) and exhort jailers to keep in custody illegal immigrants who are otherwise scheduled for release, so ICE can claim them and process them for deportation. If ICE does not take custody after 48 hours, the local law enforcement agency is required to release the individual.

Read all »

1998 wasn’t what you think, and why you shouldn’t take advice from your opponent

[Continuing our series on deception in politics and public policy.]

About 35-40 percent of Americans lean to the Left. Of those, only 18-23 percent are liberals. And, of those, only 5-10 percent are Obama-style leftists (Progressives, i.e., liberals who, unlike traditional, JFK-type liberals, do not believe in limits on the power of politicians and bureaucrats). Despite their status as members of a small ideological minority, activitists on the Left dominate politics at the national level, controlling the executive branch of the federal government as well as the Senate, while the “Republican-controlled” House is dominated by RINOs who are justly ridiculed as hapless.

How can this be? Here’s how:

A key to strategy is tricking your opponent into taking action that is against his or her own interest.

For example, you might trick your opponent as to your capabilities and weaknesses. Sun Tzu, as the presumed author of The Art of War, advised, “Appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak.” If you are successful in this regard, your enemy will attack you where you are strong rather than where you are weak.

The Left may be disasters when it comes to running domestic policy and foreign policy, but they’re great at politics, especially this aspect of political strategy.

From the Demographic Doom that supposedly faces Republicans (so-called “minorities” growing so fast that Republicans may soon become extinct) to Karl Rove’s claim that Tea Party candidates do less well than RINOs in November, the Left and their Republican enablers use bogeymen to scare the GOP away from following strategies that would bring then political success. (In future columns, I’ll analyze those concepts, the Demographic Doom and the supposed relative incompetence of Tea Partiers.)

Currently, Republicans in Washington are panicking over the I-word, impeachment. Now, impeachment-and-removal Read all »

Earnest but Inhumane

Over at PhilanthropyDaily.com, I have a piece on a trendy bit of philanthropic foolishness known as “Effective Altruism.” In part it’s a movement of earnest young people out to prove P.J. O’Rourke’s dictum, “Earnestness is stupidity sent to college.” But the more disturbing part is its intellectual guru, Peter Singer, the Princeton “philosopher” best known for justifying infanticide and bestiality.

I admit that

Anyone who observes the parallels between Singer and the Nazis isn’t necessarily calling Singer – himself a descendant of Jewish victims of the Holocaust – and his followers Nazis. But the similarities in the two ideologies surely require Singer’s allies to address the questions raised. Yet as far as I can tell after searches of major Effective Altruism sites, no one even mentions Singer’s notorious views on, say, infanticide and bestiality, either to justify those views or to distance their own views from Singer’s. As usual in the philanthropy world, silence camouflages ideology and prevents honest debate.

Read the whole article here.

Steyer and Koch: The Big-Oil Goliath[s]  

In an interview with Politico April 22, hedge fund tycoon Tom Steyer argued that “I think there are real distinctions between the Koch brothers and us.” Perhaps this is true, but there is at least one thing Tom Steyer and the supposedly infamous Koch brothers have in common: they are all big oil billionaires.

Chris Lehane, a former Clinton White House opposition researcher who is now senior advisor to Steyer’s super PAC, NextGen Climate, says this about the Koch brothers: “We are never going to have as much money, but all we need is enough for David’s slingshot to fire through, and to fire fast and to fire quick to be able to reach the big oil Goliath.” (It must not have occurred to Lehane that he mucked up the analogy — one of the Koch brothers is named David. -ed.)

How ironic. Steyer’s own $1.6 billion fortune happened to come from a 26-year stretch at his hedge fund, Farallon, where he speculated in fossil fuels.

He was Farallon’s senior partner until December 31, 2012 when he resigned to take up environmental activism full-time.

A report from the Daily Caller on June 20 reveals that:

According to SEC filings for the first quarter of 2013, Farallon has invested more than $300 million in companies that develop onshore and offshore U.S. assets and pipelines … Farallon also holds about $33.8 million in Dryships, Inc. which owns and operates 10 offshore deepwater drilling units.”

The Koch brothers have an approximate combined net worth of $68 billion. They presently run Koch Industries, which was started by their father, and it is the second largest private company in the United States. Petroleum refining is one of their major industries.

All things considered, therefore, the Koch brothers and Steyer ought to be equally culpable –in the eyes of environmentalists– regarding involvement in fossil fuels.

According to March 2014 SEC filings, Farallon is a new investor in EP Energy which produces oil and natural gas. Outside of the United States, Farallon is the primary stock holder of Whitehaven Coal in Australia. The new Whitehaven mine at Maules Creek is expected to run for 30 years and is to begin production in 2015.

Farallon’s present investment in fossil fuels is not in question. Yet, the fact that environmentalist Steyer could criticize others invested in fossil fuels when he himself has only just completely divested from oil and natural gas is absurd.

It was only in July 2013 that Steyer began to dump energy holdings from his Farallon portfolio. As Kimberley Strassel of the Wall Street Journal wrote in April 2014:

“Mr. Steyer had spent months fighting Keystone, attending anti-coal rallies and urging colleges to divest from ‘fossil fuels,’ before the press noted that his money was still parked at Farallon, still profiting from Kinder Morgan pipelines and coal projects. It was only then, last July, that Mr. Steyer issued a press release saying he’d directed his money be moved to a fund that didn’t invest in ‘tar sands’ or ‘coal’ and pledged this process would be complete by the end of 2013.”

This July 2013 pledge did not apply to Steyer’s investments in oil or natural gas. There was no more information provided by Steyer or Farallon regarding the rest of Steyer’s divestment process until this summer. Heather Wong, a spokeswoman of Steyer’s super PAC NextGen Climate, promised in early June that “as of this month [Steyer] will be divested out of fossil fuels altogether.”

Throughout the past year, Steyer has taken it upon himself to attack those who profit from fossil fuels. In particular, Steyer has criticized the actions of the “big oil Goliath” Koch brothers. As Steyer explained in a March interview with Men’s Journal “[Koch is] taking the most incredible risk that I’ve ever seen someone take, of going down in history as just an evil – just a famously evil – person!”

At the time of this interview, Steyer was still profiting from oil and natural gas investments at Farallon.

-Maria Girard (Henry Haller Intern)