Trans Activist CeCe McDonald Was Released From Prison Monday Yea, Right on!

From The Nation:

Steven Hsieh
on January 13, 2014

CeCe McDonald, a transgender woman imprisoned for fatally stabbing a man who attacked her, was released early from a Minnesota men’s prison today, BuzzFeed reports.

McDonald, who became an international symbol for the transgender rights movement, served nineteen months of a forty-one-month sentence.

“CeCe is doing well. She is in great spirits. She is happy to be free,” said Roxanne Anderson of the Trans Youth Support Network, who was in the car that picked McDonald up.

“This is a day to celebrate, and to honor CeCe for all she’s done from the day of her arrest to draw attention to the systemic violence women of color, and particularly LGBT women of color face everyday,” ACLU staff attorney Chase Strangio told The Nation. “Her message from the start was not to sensationalize the story, but to bring attention to the issue.”

On June 5, 2011, McDonald was walking with friends to a grocery store when four white people accosted her group, all black, with racist and transphobic epithets. A fight broke out, in which McDonald was sliced in the face with glass. She stabbed Dean Schmitz, 47, in the chest with a pair of scissors, which she claimed was an act of self-defense. Schimtz died at the scene.

Originally charged with second-degree murder, which carries up to forty years in prison, McDonald took a plea bargain in May 2012 with the reduced charge of second-degree manslaughter. She was sentenced to three-and-a-half years at Minnesota Correctional Facility-–St. Cloud, a men’s prison, in June.

Transgender rights activists around the world rallied behind McDonald. Supporters held several demonstrations to protest her incarceration and Minnesota’s decision to send her to a men’s prison. Orange Is the New Black star Laverne Cox, a vocal McDonald supporter, is producing a film about her case.

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See Also:

Raw Story: Trans activists celebrate as CeCe McDonald is released from prison

Feministing: Photo of the day: CeCe McDonald released from prison

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That West Virginia chemical spill? It’s likely a bigger scandal than Bridgegate

From The Guardian UK:

Sadly, the West Virginia spill just isn’t as interesting for the media and public as the Chris Christie revenge conspiracy. It should be, Monday 13 January 2014

If we called West Virginia 4-methylcyclohexane-methanol leak “Watergate”, do you think the political press would pay more attention?

Hours of cable news time and thousands of words have been spent in search of what “Bridgegate” means for Chris Christie. An equal and opposite amount of energy has been poured into an examination of what the Christie situation means for Obama.

Meanwhile, in West Virginia, there are 300,000 people without useable water, and an unknown number who may fall ill because the warning to avoid the tainted supply came seven hours after the leak was discovered – and perhaps weeks after it happened. (Neighbors of the plant have told reporters they detected the chemical’s odor in December.)

Complaining about desperate news coverage is to call foul on a game that is actually just playing by a different set of rules. I know that. I know, too, that there’s no organized conspiracy, nor even any vague ill will, involved in how it came to be that Bridgegate continues to attract punditry while West Virginia only generates the kind of sympathetic-if-distant coverage we usually grant far-off and not too devastating natural disasters.

Bridgegate is just sexier; it features big personalities and a bold storyline. It gives reporters a chance to show off a range of pop culture references (The Sopranos, Bruce, assorted other Twitticisms!). It is taking place in the literal backyard of most national political reporters. It has very little to do with policy, or numbers, or science. Perhaps best of all, to opine about Bridgegate is to engage in a punditry wager with little or no cost, since 2016 is so very far away. Write that it’s the end of Christie’s career! Write that he’ll be fine! No one is keeping score (truth be told, even when people keep score in punditry, nothing bad happens to the losers).

Journalists can further excuse their myopia about the lane closure controversy with the notion that they’re just giving the public what they want. The story is “breaking through” because everyone can identify with those poor stuck commuters: “Traffic is a huge deal,” as one writer put it. That may be the case, but don’t even more people drink water?

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How Big Money Keeps Populism at Bay

From Alternet:

When the 1 percent funds national campaigns, the reality of populism is in question.

By Thomas Ferguson, Paul Jorgensen, Jie Chen
January 8, 2014

Did the ball that dropped in Times Square at midnight on January 1 really signal a new political era?

Headlines in the major media proclaim that a wave of “populism” is building. Inequality and the minimum wage are suddenly front-burner political issues. Cities like New York and Boston have just elected progressive mayors with strong ties to unions and are now being touted  as liberal laboratories for testing the limits of the grudging free-market conservatism and neo-liberalism that have been the sun and moon of our political system for decades.

Even the atmosphere within the DC Beltway is subtly altering. The steady decline of the deficit is turning the tables on the massively funded campaign to cut Social Security and Medicare. In December 2013, the corporate-oriented Democratic policy group Third Way launched a campaign in the Wall Street Journal to smear Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and other Democratic politicians who favor raising Social Security benefits. It backfired ignominiously.

Progressive groups mounted a powerful counterattack. Within days politicians started tumbling off the centrist bandwagon, and the president of the Center for American Progress, perhaps the most important of all the corporate-funded, centrist Democratic think tanks (with perhaps the best ties to the White House) spoke out against efforts to short-circuit discussions of inequality and whether the rich were paying their fair share of taxes.

With evidence like this, you don’t need a weatherman to tell you that political winds are shifting. But we are old enough to remember Nixon attorney general John Mitchell’s famous admonition to “watch what we do, not what we say.” For sure, the new mayors of Boston and New York genuinely hope to usher in real, progressive change in their cities, yet the larger national context gives us pause.

Reality Check

Three facts are crucial in understanding what is happening. Firstly, the national Democratic Party is in deep trouble as it faces the 2014 Congressional elections. The strong media framing of “populist” tendencies reflects a prior White House determination signaled by the President himself to move left to reenergize voters turned off by the serial disasters of 2013, including the economy’s continuing doldrums, public revulsion against surveillance, and the healthcare rollout debacle. Not for nothing has John Podesta, Bill Clinton’s one-time chief of staff and the key figure in the Center for American Progress, returned to the White House, even as he was being touted as Hillary Clinton’s likely adviser on handling inequality as a political issue.

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Feds probing Chris Christie for using Sandy relief money to fund ads during campaign

From Raw Story:

By David Edwards
Monday, January 13, 2014

Federal inspectors are investigating whether New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), who was forced to fire two top aides over the George Washington Bridge scandal last week, misused relief funds from superstorm Sandy to make commercials with his family that aired just as he was running for re-election.

On Sunday night, CNN broke the news that Department of Housing and Urban Development inspector general auditors were examining the $25 million that Christie used for a marketing campaign that was supposed to help promote tourism at the Jersey Shore.

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) told CNN that he sent the department a letter requesting the investigation after learning that New Jersey had chosen the advertising company that bid $2 million more than the next highest bid. However, the company with the lower bid did not propose featuring Christie and his family in ads.

Democrats had argued that the advertisements that ran in the months leading up to last November’s election gave Christie an unfair advantage over his opponent, state Sen. Barbara Buono (D).

“This was money that could have directly been used for Sandy recovery,” Pallone told CNN. “And, as you know, many of my constituents still haven’t gotten the money that is owed them to rebuild their homes or raise their homes or to help.”

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