Daily Archive: 08/19/2014

Aug 19 2014

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

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Dennis J. Kucinich: Militarized Police and the Threat to Democracy

As a former big city mayor of a racially diverse city, Cleveland, Ohio, I can understand the cross currents sweeping through Ferguson, Missouri.

We are at a moment of national crisis in the way our domestic law enforcement is being conducted. The killing of an unarmed civilian by a law enforcement officer is, sadly, not unique. But the police response to the protests has provided a powerful cautionary moment for America. The militarization of local police has led to the arrival today in Ferguson of the actual military, the National Guard. [..]

An unarmed, African-American teenager was shot and killed by a policeman. As people protested, the Ferguson police response evoked images of an occupying army come home.

The show of military-style force in an American city has created a huge backlash because the underlying concerns for justice have not been addressed. Moreover, Americans don’t want armies patrolling their streets, attempting to stifle public dissent.

There is something deep in the American psyche which resents and resists military-style force in our neighborhoods. The hard-edged military pose of armored vehicles, heavy duty weaponry, and sound cannons, which can permanently damage hearing, may seem like modern crowd control to some law enforcement officials. But to the people in the community who are on the receiving end, it is an escalation of violence, in real terms and by the law.

Dean Baker: Robert Rubin and Martin Feldstein Discover Bubbles

Last week Martin Feldstein and Robert Rubin made their case for the gold medal in the economic policy category of the “show no shame” contest. Their entry took the form of a joint op-ed in the Wall Street Journal warning that the Fed needs to take seriously the risk of asset bubbles growing in financial markets.

Those familiar with Feldstein and Rubin will instantly appreciate the bold audacity of this entry. They are, respectively, the leading intellectual lights of the Republican and Democratic Party economic policy establishments. [..]

Given their enormous stature, Feldstein and Rubin undoubtedly expected their joint bubble warning to have considerable weight in economic policy circles. Of course this raises the obvious question, why couldn’t Feldstein and Rubin have joined hands to issue this sort of bubble warning 10 years ago in 2004 about the housing bubble? If they used their influence to get a column about the dangers of the housing bubble in the Wall Street Journal in the summer of 2004 it might have saved the country and the world an enormous amount of pain.

John Nichols: Defend Journalism That Speaks Truth to Power: From Ferguson to Washington

“A popular government, without popular information, or the mean of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy; or perhaps both,” declared James Madison, the author and champion of the Bill of Rights. “Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”

This is still the essential truth of an American experiment that can only be advanced toward the equal and inclusive justice that did not exist in Madison’s time by a broadly informed and broadly engaged citizenry. When journalists are harassed, intimidated, threatened and detained, the basic premise of democracy-that the great mass of people, armed with information and perspective, and empowered to act upon it, will set right that which is made wrong by oligarchs-is assaulted. [..]

What is at stake is a free and open society; and it is not enough that the most egregious wrongs have been identified and decried. The culture, the climate, in which those wrongs occur so frequently, must change. It must change because the journalism that goes to places like Ferguson, the gets behind the façade of institutions like the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency, that demands accountability from street cops and presidents, is much more than an exercise in information gathering. It is the vital link that gives citizens the information they need to bend the arc of history toward justice. There is no middle ground in this regard. Americans are either going to defend speak-truth-to-power journalism and vibrant democracy-as part of a broad reassertion of First Amendment rights-or they are going to have to settle for propaganda and oligarchy.

David Cay Johnston: Highest earners making less, Social Security data show

The news should create common cause for custodians and CEOs to push for economic growth

It is getting much harder to earn big bucks in America, my new analysis of official wage data shows. [..]

Now why should the typical worker care about this trifecta of bad news for high earners? After all, just one worker in about 4,100 makes this kind of money. What does it possibly matter to ordinary Americans that bosses who make as much in a year as they may earn for a lifetime of labor are squeezed a bit?

It matters because falling pay at the top can become a powerful tool for change. U.S. representatives and senators may not care much what a typical constituent thinks, but they do care about what the highest-paid Americans think, because they donate to campaigns.

If those at the top come to see that they share the travails of most other Americans, it increases the prospect of government policy changes that will grow our economy. We need to invest in the future of America for our economy can grow, which will make everyone, from custodians to CEOs, better off.

Alex S. Vitale: How to End Militarized Policing

We can undo the policies facilitating police violence in Ferguson.

In the last week, the ACLU, Color of Change and even libertarian Senator Rand Paul have demanded that militarized policing in the United States be dialed back. While it is essential that major reductions in the high-tech military presence of police be enacted, real changes in the way communities of color are policed require much deeper shifts in the core mission and function of American police. [..]

Ultimately, what underlies most of these militarized forms of policing is a cynical politics of race that has perverted criminal justice policies; they are no longer about crime or justice, but instead the management of poor and non-white populations through ever-more-punitive practices. Michelle Alexander, in The New Jim Crow, describes how modern criminal justice policy was driven by a Republican effort to appeal to white voters in the South and then by Democrats hoping to inoculate themselves against charges (i.e., the notorious Willie Horton smear) of being soft on crime.

Eugene Robinson: The Ones Left Behind

The fire this time is about invisibility. Our society expects the police to keep unemployed, poorly educated African-American men out of sight and out of mind. When they suddenly take center stage, illuminated by the flash and flicker of Molotov cocktails, we feign surprise.

The proximate cause of the rioting in Ferguson, Mo., is the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was stopped, a witness has said, by a white policeman for walking in the street rather than on the sidewalk. Officer Darren Wilson shot Brown at least six times, according to a private autopsy and, reportedly, one conducted by the county medical examiner. Two of those bullets struck him in the head.

There we have the familiar narrative: another unarmed black man unjustly killed. Brown thus joins a long, sad list-Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, etc.-that seems to have no end.

This storyline is unassailable. Anyone who thinks race is not a factor in these fatal encounters should have to cite examples of unarmed young white men being killed by trigger-happy police or self-appointed vigilantes. Names and dates, please.

Aug 19 2014

Another Night in Occupied USA

And not in a good way, last night the Police started rioting in Ferguson.

Again.

At 8:30, 3 and a half hours before curfew justified (supposedly) by reports of a Molotov Cocktail thrown that nobody can independently verify because the ‘free’ Press was penned up and corralled away from the scene and those who attempted to evade their Police ‘escorts’ (for their own safety and protection of course) were arrested.

Again.

What’s new is that they called in the National Guard and all the government spokespeople are blaming it on anarchists and outside agitators because the Police would never, ever lie.

Ever.

Missouri Governor to Deploy National Guard to Ferguson

By ALAN BLINDER and TANZINA VEGA, The New York Times

AUG. 18, 2014

Gov. Jay Nixon announced early Monday that he would deploy the Missouri National Guard to this St. Louis suburb, ratcheting up efforts to quell unrest that has paralyzed the city since an unarmed black teenager was killed by a white police officer.



“Tonight, a day of hope, prayers and peaceful protests was marred by the violent criminal acts of an organized and growing number of individuals, many from outside the community and state, whose actions are putting the residents and businesses of Ferguson at risk,” Mr. Nixon said.



On Sunday night, hours before the start of a second day of a mandatory curfew that the governor had ordered, police officers came under assault from gunfire and firebombs and responded with their largest show of force so far.

Using a barrage of tear gas and smoke canisters, and firing rubber bullets and deploying hundreds of officers in riot gear to sweep the streets of protesters, the law enforcement officials had the situation largely under control by the time the curfew began at midnight.

Protesters said that the police acted without provocation. But at a news conference about an hour into the curfew, Ronald S. Johnson, the Missouri State Highway Patrol captain brought in by the governor to take over security here, blamed “premeditated criminal acts” that were intended to provoke the police.

Missouri national guard to be deployed at Ferguson protests

Jon Swaine and Rory Carroll, The Guardian

Monday 18 August 2014 09.59 EDT

Police launched their first barrage of gas and smoke at about 9pm on Sunday after fearing an advance on their command post – in a mall parking lot just south of the centre of the clashes – by a largely peaceful protest march, according to Johnson. He said several molotov cocktails were thrown by those taking part in the march, which included children.

This was sharply disputed. “You need to pull these officers back,” Renita Lamkin, an episcopal pastor who has been trying to control the protests, told a police chief by phone, as teargas fell on the march. “There were no molotov cocktails,” she said.

An unrelated shooting about 20 minutes later outside a branch of McDonald’s prompted a stampede of people down West Florissant Avenue, the main road where conflict has flared since Brown was killed. Almost immediately, police deployed more gas and smoke grenades.



Protesters said they had no intention of backing down. “This is a revo-fucking-lution,” said DeAndre Smith, a 30-year-old barber. “Plain and simple, this is the revolution. The one everybody was waiting on. It happened like this. It’s the gain in culture by a people who want respect. African American people in this country.

“I been out here since day one. I was on the frontline. Mike Brown was the straw that broke the camel’s back. That’s when we said this is enough. That’s it.”

Following a standoff at the petrol station, police sent remaining demonstrators scrambling into side streets by speeding at them in armoured Swat trucks, firing yet more gas and smoke at people running away. The trucks continued driving up and down the main street doing this until it was cleared. As some reached a branch of Domino’s pizza, there were two more bursts of gunshots.

In Dellwood, just north of Ferguson, several people were injured when a crowd fled in their cars from a grocery store that was apparently being looted when police arrived. The injured were taken to hospital. There were still more than 40 minutes to go before the second five-hour long nightly curfew ordered by Nixon came into effect.

In Ferguson the violence of the state created the violence of the street

Gary Younge, The Guardian

Monday 18 August 2014 09.30 ED

In 1966, Martin Luther King started to campaign against segregation in Chicago only to find his efforts thwarted by violent mobs and a scheming mayor. Marginalised by the city’s establishment, he could feel that non-violence both as a strategy and as a principle was eroding among his supporters. “I need some help in getting this method across,” he said. “A lot of people have lost faith in the establishment … They’ve lost faith in the democratic process. They’ve lost faith in non-violence … [T]hose who make this peaceful revolution impossible will make a violent revolution inevitable, and we’ve got to get this over, I need help. I need some victories, I need concessions.”

He never got them. The next year there were more than 150 riots across the country, from Minneapolis to Tampa.

As the situation escalates in the St Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri, where police recently shot an unarmed black man as he walked down the street, many are clearly losing faith. As the first day of curfew drew to a close, hundreds of police in riot gear swept through the streets, using tear gas, smoke canisters and rubber bullets against an increasingly agitated crowd. Earlier this morning the governor, Jay Nixon, deployed the national guard.



As I wrote after the riots in London three years ago: “Insisting on the criminality of those involved, as though that alone explains their motivations and the context is irrelevant, is fatuous. To stress criminality does not deny the political nature of what took place, it simply chooses to only partially describe it. They were looting, not shoplifting, and challenging the police for control of the streets, not stealing [policemen’s] hubcaps. When a group of people join forces to flout both law and social convention, they are acting politically.”

For good reason, the nature of such rebellions troubles many. They attract opportunists, macho-men and thrill-seekers as well as the righteously indignant and politically militant. Resistance to occupation is often romanticised but never pretty. And Ferguson – a mostly black town under curfew in which the entire political power structure is white, with a militarised police force that killed a black child – was under occupation.



People ask: what could violent protest possibly achieve? It is a good question. But it only has any validity if they also question the nature of the “peace” preceding it. Those who call for calm must question how calm anyone can be in the knowledge that their son, brother or lover could be shot in such a way.

People have a right to resist occupation, even if we don’t necessarily agree with every method they use to do so.

Aug 19 2014

The Breakfast Club 8-19-2014

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Everyone’s welcome here, no special handshake required. Just check your meta at the door.

Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpg

This Day in History

Aug 19 2014

On This Day In History August 19

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

August 19 is the 231st day of the year (232nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 134 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1909, the first race is held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, now the home of the world’s most famous motor racing competition, the Indianapolis 500.

The rectangular two-and-a-half-mile track linked four turns, each exactly 440 yards from start to finish, by two long and two short straight sections. In that first five-mile race on August 19, 1909, 12,000 spectators watched Austrian engineer Louis Schwitzer win with an average speed of 57.4 miles per hour. The track’s surface of crushed rock and tar proved a disaster, breaking up in a number of places and causing the deaths of two drivers, two mechanics and two spectators.

The surface was soon replaced with 3.2 million paving bricks, laid in a bed of sand and fixed with mortar. Dubbed “The Brickyard,” the speedway reopened in December 1909. In 1911, low attendance led the track’s owners to make a crucial decision: Instead of shorter races, they resolved to focus on a single, longer event each year, for a much larger prize. That May 30 marked the debut of the Indy 500–a grueling 500-mile race that was an immediate hit with audiences and drew press attention from all over the country. Driver Ray Haroun won the purse of $14,250, with an average speed of 74.59 mph and a total time of 6 hours and 42 minutes.

Aug 19 2014

“Take the ‘F*cking Toys’ Away from the Police”

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Ferguson, MO and Police Militarization

My one disagreement with John, the cops shouldn’t get these “toys” back no matter how well they might behave.

Aug 19 2014

Amnesty International Arrives In Ferguson

In an unprecedented move, Amnesty International has sent a group of thirteen observers to observe the situation in Ferguson, MO in the aftermath of the shooting of an unarmed, black teenager, Michael Brown by a white police officer.

Amnesty decided to send a delegation to the city last week – a day after Amnesty International USA’s Executive Director Steven Hawkins sent a letter to law enforcement officials there (pdf) expressing “deep concern” about Brown’s death and the way in which the police responded to protesters in the following days.

On Saturday, Hawkins criticized Nixon’s decision to impose a mandatory midnight-to-5 a.m. curfew on Ferguson. Nixon on Monday rescinded the curfew, following another night of violence on Sunday and his decision to deploy the Guard. [..]

Jasmine Heiss, an Washington-based campaigner for Amnesty International, was part of the delegation that traveled to Ferguson. Her previous deployment? Palestine.

“What was unprecedented and is unprecedented,” Heiss said of Ferguson, “is the scope of Amnesty’s] mission.” Amnesty’s response in Ferguson, she added, was more akin to the organization’s work during the [2013 protests in Turkey than it was to any previous action the group has taken in the United States.

Amnesty is now calling for a full investigation of police tactics in Ferguson

Amnesty International USA is calling for:

   A prompt, thorough, independent and impartial investigation into the shooting of Michael Brown. Brown’s family must be kept informed throughout the investigation. Under international law, police officers suspected of having committed unlawful acts must be held to account through effective investigation, and where warranted, prosecuted.

   All police departments involved in policing the ongoing protests in Ferguson in response to Michael Brown’s death must act in accordance with international human rights standards. Any human rights abuses in connection with the policing of protests must be independently and impartially investigated, and those responsible held accountable.

   A thorough review of all trainings, policies and procedures with regards to the use of force and the policing of protests should be undertaken.

“Moving forward, we must seize this moment to bring about a wide-ranging review of all trainings, policies and procedures with regard to the use of force and the policing of protests in Ferguson and around the country,” added Hawkins. “This is a moment for people around the country – and around the world – to join the Ferguson community in raising concerns about race and policing, and about the impact of militarization on our fundamental right to peacefully assemble.”

Amnesty’s Executive Director, Stephen Hawkins spoke with Democracy Now‘s Amy Goodman about the protests and the police tactics



The transcript can be read here.