Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Last Call For Holder The Line

I know it seems like this place is rapidly turning into the 24-hour Ferguson protest blog, but frankly it's news and I feel like running stories on it, and things need to be said.  Attorney General Eric Holder had some things to say today too in an op-ed in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch entitled "A message to the people of Ferguson".

The full resources of the Department of Justice have been committed to the investigation into Michael Brown’s death. This inquiry will take time to complete, but we have already taken significant steps. Approximately 40 FBI agents and some of the Civil Rights Division’s most experienced prosecutors have been deployed to lead this process, with the assistance of the United States Attorney in St. Louis. Hundreds of people have already been interviewed in connection with this matter. On Monday, at my direction, a team of federal medical examiners conducted an independent autopsy.

We understand the need for an independent investigation, and we hope that the independence and thoroughness of our investigation will bring some measure of calm to the tensions in Ferguson. In order to begin the healing process, however, we must first see an end to the acts of violence in the streets of Ferguson. Although these acts have been committed by a very small minority — and, in many cases, by individuals from outside Ferguson — they seriously undermine, rather than advance, the cause of justice. And they interrupt the deeper conversation that the legitimate demonstrators are trying to advance.

The Justice Department will defend the right of protesters to peacefully demonstrate and for the media to cover a story that must be told. But violence cannot be condoned. I urge the citizens of Ferguson who have been peacefully exercising their First Amendment rights to join with law enforcement in condemning the actions of looters, vandals and others seeking to inflame tensions and sow discord.

Law enforcement has a role to play in reducing tensions, as well. As the brother of a retired law enforcement officer, I know firsthand that our men and women in uniform perform their duties in the face of tremendous threats and significant personal risk. They put their lives on the line every day, and they often have to make split-second decisions.

At the same time, good law enforcement requires forging bonds of trust between the police and the public. This trust is all-important, but it is also fragile. It requires that force be used in appropriate ways. Enforcement priorities and arrest patterns must not lead to disparate treatment under the law, even if such treatment is unintended. And police forces should reflect the diversity of the communities they serve.

I'm glad to see Eric Holder openly say that he's backing the people of Ferguson here, and that regardless of the outcome of the shooting of Michael Brown, the Ferguson PD and St. Louis County PD have a lot of work to do to earn back the trust of the people.

For some that will never happen.  There just isn't anything that can make this 100% right again.  But they have to go ahead and do it regardless because it's the right thing to do.

And yes, I wouldn't mind seeing both departments taken over by the feds.  They've lost the trust of whom they serve, and that's enough to pull the plug and reform them wholesale.

Cops Talk Shop, Cops Talk Shock

Former LAPD officer and professor of homeland security Sunil Dutta explains that cops aren't murderers, but boy you will fear and respect them or they will end you.

Working the street, I can’t even count how many times I withstood curses, screaming tantrums, aggressive and menacing encroachments on my safety zone, and outright challenges to my authority. In the vast majority of such encounters, I was able to peacefully resolve the situation without using force. Cops deploy their training and their intuition creatively, and I wielded every trick in my arsenal, including verbal judo, humor, warnings and ostentatious displays of the lethal (and nonlethal) hardware resting in my duty belt. One time, for instance, my partner and I faced a belligerent man who had doused his car with gallons of gas and was about to create a firebomb at a busy mall filled with holiday shoppers. The potential for serious harm to the bystanders would have justified deadly force. Instead, I distracted him with a hook about his family and loved ones, and he disengaged without hurting anyone. Every day cops show similar restraint and resolve incidents that could easily end up in serious injuries or worse.

Sometimes, though, no amount of persuasion or warnings work on a belligerent person; that’s when cops have to use force, and the results can be tragic. We are still learning what transpired between Officer Darren Wilson and Brown, but in most cases it’s less ambiguous — and officers are rarely at fault. When they use force, they are defending their, or the public’s, safety.

Even though it might sound harsh and impolitic, here is the bottom line: if you don’t want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you. Don’t argue with me, don’t call me names, don’t tell me that I can’t stop you, don’t say I’m a racist pig, don’t threaten that you’ll sue me and take away my badge. Don’t scream at me that you pay my salary, and don’t even think of aggressively walking towards me. Most field stops are complete in minutes. How difficult is it to cooperate for that long?

Believe me when I say that 98% of cops believe the same as Dutta here does.  They are police officers, and you are not.  When they tell you to do something, you do it or else, regardless of what that may be.

So when these guys swing their weight around and go after black men and women and Latino men and women, they expect obedience, respect and fear.  If you are black or brown and the President of the United States, for that matter, and a cop like Dutta pulls you over, it's because he knows he has 100% of the power in the encounter.  It's because he knows he has the power to take your life if he sees fit.  You only continue to draw breath because he allows it.

So yes, black fathers and Latino fathers have "The Talk".  That you assume all cops are Officer Dutta, and you do 100% of what they say, or they will end you.

How difficult is it to cooperate for "that long"?  For a black man, "that long" is his entire lifespan.

Or that lifespan may end.

The Division Hell

Pew Research has unsurprisingly found major racial divisions in how blacks and whites view the case of Michael Brown, the man shot and killed by police in Ferguson, Missouri nine days ago.  The disagreements are very telling nationwide:

Blacks More Likely than Whites to Say Brown’s Shooting Raises Racial Issues

Some 80% of blacks say the case raises important issues about race, while a plurality of whites, 47%, say "Race is getting more attention than it deserves."  That actually doesn't surprise me in the least and I'm honestly shocked it's not a full-blown majority of whites who feel this way.

As far as the police response is concerned:

Whites Divided in Views of Police Response to Ferguson Shooting

Nearly twice as many blacks, 65%, as whites, 33%, believe the police response in Ferguson has gone too far.   Perhaps it's because black America is actually paying attention to the story: 54% of blacks say they are following this story very closely, where only 25% of whites are.

After last night's police response where both MSNBC's Chris Hayes and CNN's Jake Tapper and Don Lemon were on the ground in Ferguson and tear gassed, maybe these numbers will change.

For his part, Chris Hayes suggested that maybe police should charge Officer Darren Wilson with the shooting of Michael Brown, but that's just going to happen.


Monday, August 18, 2014

Last Call For The Response On Ferguson

President Obama spoke this afternoon about the situation in Ferguson, Missouri.

Earlier this afternoon, I spoke with Governor Nixon as well as Senators Roy Blunt and Claire McCaskill. I also met with Attorney General Eric Holder.

The Justice Department has opened an independent federal civil rights investigation into the death of Michael Brown. They are on the ground and along with the FBI, they are devoting substantial resources to that investigation.

The attorney general himself will be traveling to Ferguson on Wednesday to meet with the FBI agents and DOJ personnel conducting the federal criminal investigation and he will receive an update from them on their progress.

He will also be meeting with other leaders in the community who’s support is so critical to bringing about peace and calm in Ferguson.

Ronald Davis, the director of the DOJ’s Office of Community- oriented Policing Services, or COPS, is also traveling to Ferguson tomorrow to work with police officials on the ground. We’ve also had experts from the DOJ’s community relations service, working in Ferguson since the days after the shooting to foster conversations among the local stake holders and reduce tensions among the community.

So, let me close just saying a few words about the tensions there. We have all seen images of protesters and law enforcement in the streets. It’s clear that the vast majority of people are peacefully protesting. What’s also clear is that a small minority of individuals are not.

While I understand the passions and the anger that arise over the death of Michael Brown, giving into that anger by looting or carrying guns, and even attacking the police only serves to raise tensions and stir chaos. It undermines rather than advancing justice.

So, three distinct avenues of attack on this, the investigation, AG Holder on the ground, and COPS director Ron Davis on the ground.  This of course was just not enough for some but at this point, it will never be enough.

Meanwhile, I'll let John Oliver take it away, saying what needs to be said.

Giant Brass Ones, Indeed

Meanwhile, in Cleveland...

A billboard depicting part of the male anatomy is sparking controversy on Cleveland's west side. 
"It's totally inappropriate," said John Sumlin as he passed by the sign, near Pearl and State Roads, Friday afternoon. 
The picture is seen under the words "DOES ANYONE IN CONGRESS HAVE A SET OF THESE." The opposite side of the sign shows an unflattering caricature of President Obama and reads, "IMPEACHMENT NOW." 
"Sometimes you've got to put things out there in order to make a point and get people to turn their heads," said Nancy Sysack, who owns the sign. "There's more graphic stuff in the art museum."

Republicans are betting that they can get away without impeaching like their rabid base insists.  This would mean that the GOP was going to stand up to the crazies that control their party.  Of course that's not happening.

You created the monster.  You live with the monster.

Six Of One, Half-Dozen Bullet Wounds In The Other

The NY Times has released the results of the private autopsy requested by the family of slain Ferguson resident Michael Brown, and it shows uncommon brutality, if not a full-blown execution, as he was shot at least six times.

One of the bullets entered the top of Mr. Brown’s skull, suggesting his head was bent forward when it struck him and caused a fatal injury, according to Dr. Michael M. Baden, the former chief medical examiner for the City of New York, who flew to Missouri on Sunday at the family’s request to conduct the separate autopsy. It was likely the last of bullets to hit him, he said.

Mr. Brown, 18, was also shot four times in the right arm, he said, adding that all the bullets were fired into his front.

The bullets did not appear to have been shot from very close range because no gunpowder was present on his body. However, that determination could change if it turns out that there is gunshot residue on Mr. Brown’s clothing, to which Dr. Baden did not have access.

Six shots, including two in the head.  The amateur CSI clowns on the right are claiming this exonerates Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, as it somehow "proves" Brown was charging the officer.  But Brown was supposedly shot as he was allegedly going for Wilson's gun while in the back of Wilson's police cruiser, and yet there are no indications he was shot at close range.

The story keeps changing, and people wonder why nobody believes the Ferguson cops besides the loonies on the right looking to justify Brown's murder.

Meanwhile, Gov. Jay Nixon has called the National Guard on the people of Ferguson.

Gov. Jay Nixon signed an executive order deploying the U.S. state militia, saying demonstrators had thrown Molotov cocktails and shot at police as well as a civilian, a description of the night's events diverging widely from some eyewitness accounts.

“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," Nixon said in a statement on his website.

Exactly who does Nixon mean here?  Organized individuals from outside the state?  Does he mean the media, who were threatened with violence yet again if they kept recording for the world to see?  Because it looks like to me that the cops fired unprovoked.

A midnight curfew was imposed for the second night in the tense St. Louis suburb hit by racially charged demonstrations, violence and looting since Michael Brown, 18, was shot to death on Aug. 9 by white police officer Darren Wilson.

At around dusk on Sunday, hundreds of protesters in Ferguson including families with young children fled to safety after police wearing gas masks and body armor fired tear gas and smoke canisters to scatter them hours ahead of the curfew.

"The smoke bombs were completely unprovoked," said Anthony Ellis, 45. "It (the protest) was led by kids on bikes. Next you know they're saying, 'Go home, Go home!'"

And now the National Guard will show up.  Will they bring actual tanks, I wonder?

All to protect a cop who executed an unarmed man.



Sunday, August 17, 2014

Last Call For The Unleashed Dogs

Here's a collection of tweets from Ferguson, Missouri tonight where cops have once again used armored vehicles, tear gas, and now sound projectors to break up the crowd hours before curfew (h/t Little Green Footballs)

This is America, and the people of Ferguson are trapped in hell.

Shooting Stars Get Engaged

The WNBA's Brittney Griner has been one of the most dominant players on the court for the Phoenix Mercury over the last two seasons, and she made a lot of waves announcing she was gay when joining the league.

Now Griner and her girlfirend and fellow WNBA player Glory Johnson have announced their engagement, in a reminder that the world of sports has always been a catalyst for social change.

Griner, a star player for the Phoenix Mercury, wrote on the post: “Last Night was a Night to Remember I became the happiest person on this earth! (almost pass out but when that one word came out I came back to life) Me and my baby @missvol25 are in it for Life!”

Johnson, who plays for the Tulsa Shock, later posted a photo on her Instagram account showing Griner lying down with a ring resting on her shoulder.

Griner and Johnson haven't said publicly when or where they plan to get married. Arizona and Oklahoma have gay marriage bans that are being contested in court. Oklahoma's ban has been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court after anappeals court ruled in July it was unconstitutional.

The 6-foot-8 Griner announced she was gay in April 2013, shortly after finishing a stellar career at Baylor. At the time of her announcement, Griner told Sports Illustrated that going public with her sexuality was something she had to do.

Something tells me Griner and Johnson aren't going to have to wait long to have their marriage in either Arizona or Oklahoma as the Supreme Court will almost certainly take up the issue this fall, with a prospective ruling next June at the latest.

Congratulations are of course in order.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Sundown Town

Ferguson, Missouri is now under curfew as things are decidedly getting worse.

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon announced an order declaring a state of emergency and a curfew to be in effect in Ferguson, Missouri in order to curtail looting in the wake of protests over the shooting of an unarmed black teenager, one week ago.

The curfew will be in effect from midnight to 5 a.m., said Captain Ron Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol.

"The eyes of the world are watching. This is the test of whether a community, this community, any community, can break the cycle of fear, distrust and violence, and replace them with peace, strength and, ultimately, justice," Nixon said in remarks made at a church near Ferguson.

After another night of racially charged protests and looting in Ferguson, the governor had said he was going to meet with local and state law enforcement on Saturday to craft a plan aimed at quelling further violence. 
That plan, apparently, resulted in the establishment of the curfew.

"It was a rough time last night. There was a lot of looting and there were a lot of people arming themselves in their storefront to guard their businesses," said Al Nothum, a spokesman for the Missouri Highway Patrol earlier in the day.

That's nice.  Nixon's choices have been terrible at every turn in this situation, and he's only making things worse now.  Military hardware on the streets, a dead teenager, a refusal to defend the city from looters and now curfew?

Nixon's 2016 chances are laughable.

In Missouri, Nixon faces a Republican-dominated state legislature and said the key to success is personal relationships — fostered by walks on farms or watching college sports together, he said. Nixon, a term-limited governor, signaled that he’s aiming to stay in the political arena after his time in Jefferson City concludes.

“I enjoy being in public service,” he said. “I think I understand folks and think I have some skills and some ability to get things done. I don’t spend as much time in self-promotion as some. My shoulders have not been hurt from patting myself on the back as much as some politicians, but I gotta tell ya, we roll up the sleeves and get work done.”

Asked whether he could imagine himself coming to Washington, Nixon added, “I’m not going to rule things out,” but noted he’s still focused on a range of issues in the statehouse.

You're not going anywhere.


Friday, August 15, 2014

Last Call For Gov. Rick Perry's 2016 Hopes

Thanks for playing 2016 GOP Clown Car, Texas GOP Gov. Rick Perry!  Last time we checked on the 2016 hopeful, he was having some serious problems with a grand jury convened in April over a veto that slashed funding for the state's anti-corruption office, the Public Integrity Unit, because it was headed by a Democrat.

Rick Perry—Republican Texas governor, failed 2012 presidential candidate, and potential 2016 retread contender—is battling legal trouble at home, thanks to his controversial veto that demolished the state office tasked with investigating political scandals. On Monday, a Texas judge convened a grand jury to probe Perry's decision last year to ax funding for the state's Public Integrity Unit. The special prosecutor investigating the case, Michael McCrum, has not filed any charges. But earlier this month he said, "I cannot elaborate on what exactly is concerning me, but I can tell you I am very concerned about certain aspects of what happened here."

Perry's troubles started when he attempted to to displace the government official in charge of the Public Integrity Unit, a state-funded watchdog agency that investigates charges of public corruption. The unit is led by whoever is serving as the Travis County district attorney, who is based in Austin. The current DA is Rosemary Lehmberg, a Democrat. Last April, she was arrested for drunk driving.

After Lehmberg's arrest, Perry called for her resignation, claiming that the public could no longer place its trust in an official who herself ran afoul of the law. But the governor has no direct control over her job, a locally elected position, and a grand jury rejected a former opponent's attempt to have Lehmberg removed from office. For her part, Lehmberg refused to resign, though she said she won't run for reelection in 2016. That wasn't enough for Perry. With Lehmberg holding on to her job, the governor decided to cut off the $7.5 million (over two years) in state funding for the watchdog unit with a line-item veto. "Despite the otherwise good work the Public Integrity Unit's employees," a Perry statement said after the veto, "I cannot in good conscience support continued State funding for an office with statewide jurisdiction at a time when the person charged with ultimate responsibility of that unit has lost the public's confidence."

 Well, four months later, the other shoe dropped.  On Rick Perry's head.

A Travis County grand jury today indicted Gov. Rick Perry on two charges related to his effort last year to force District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg to resign after her drunken driving arrest.

Grand jurors charged Perry, 63, with abuse of official capacity, a first-degree felony, and coercion of a public official.

The indictments stemmed from Perry’s threat last summer to withhold $7.2 million in state money from Lehmberg’s office unless she step down – a threat he later carried out by vetoing an appropriation in the state budget. The money was earmarked for the state’s Public Integrity Unit, which is housed in Lehmberg’s office. Perry’s veto forced Travis County taxpayers to partially fund the office, but several prosecutors and staff lost their jobs or had to be reassigned.

Lehmberg supporters said Perry’s actions constituted political retribution; Many Republicans have said the Public Integrity Unit has unfairly targeted their party for prosecutions. The Travis County District Attorney’s office has for decades been led by Democrats, including Lehmberg.

Had Lehmberg resigned, Perry would have named her replacement.

Travis County deputies arrested and charged Lehmberg with DWI in April 2013. She later pled guilty and was sentenced to 45 days in jail – an usually harsh sentence for a first-time drunken driving charge. She later prevailed in a civil lawsuit to remove her from office.

Remember, that's a first-degree felony if he's convicted.  And his 2016 career?  Done.

Bye, Rick.

The Bridges Just Got Burned In Ferguson

Thursday night the sense of relief in Ferguson, Missouri, the St. Louis suburb (where the police shooting of unarmed Michael Brown on Saturday unleashed a wave of community protests and police responded with massive overreaction with military gear and vehicles) was palpable.  President Obama called up Gov. Jay Nixon and they had a little chat.  The result was that the Ferguson PD and St. Louis County PD were taken off security for the city and it was turned over to Capt. Ron Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol.

County police in riot gear and armored tanks gave way to state troopers walking side-by-side with thousands of protesters as the St. Louis suburb where an unarmed black teen was shot by a city police officer overwhelmingly avoided violence Thursday after nearly a week of unrest and mounting public tension. 
The dramatic shift came after Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon assigned oversight of the protests to the state Highway Patrol, stripping local police from the St. Louis County Police Department of their authority after four days of clashes with furious crowds protesting the weekend death of 18-year-old Michael Brown. 
"All they did was look at us and shoot tear gas," said Pedro Smith, 41, who has participated in the nightly protests. "This is totally different. Now we're being treated with respect."

That was Thursday.  On Friday, that respect vanished as the Ferguson PD released the name of the officer responsible for the fatal shooting.

Police have announced the name of the officer who shot and killed an unarmed teen in Ferguson, Missouri -- an incident that led to days of clashes in the streets of the St. Louis suburb. 
Darren Wilson was revealed today as the officer who shot Michael Brown, 18. Officials have moved the six-year police veteran and his family from the town as a safety precaution. 
Wilson does not have any history of disciplinary action, Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson said.

Which is what people expected.  Then the Ferguson cops played their trump card.

Jackson also noted that Wilson was "treated for an injury." When he announced Wilson's name, they handed out copies of a police report relating to a convenience store "strong arm" robbery that took place in the area shortly before Brown's fatal shooting, showing that the police see the two events as connected. 
"After viewing Brown and reviewing this video, I was able to confirm that Brown is the primary suspect in this incident," the police report about the convenience store robbery stated.

So suddenly, Mike Brown became a "primary robbery suspect".  Possibly dangerous, too.  Now he's not an "unarmed black man" but a "black criminal."  Instant justification for his murder.  No mention of the robbery was made in the last five days.  This is the first we're hearing of it.  It's such an egregious cover-up that it would be laughable if it weren't for the fact that Mike Brown is dead as a result, and the fact that the Ferguson PD has framed black men for crimes before.

But the usual narrative is now complete.  Mike Brown was just another "black thug", a "rabid animal" who deserved death by cop. Officer Darren Wilson is a hero, and he'll almost certainly be back on the job soon. I have no hope that he'll face justice.  Not in America.

We're all just animals who haven't been put down yet.

GOP Minority Outreach, Barmy Miller Edition

Republicans have finally gotten to the point where they just don't give a damn if anyone black or brown votes for them anymore.  Remember our old friend, Alaska GOP senate hopeful Joe Miller?  Turns out his fascist, reporter-arresting instincts are just as finely honed when it comes to Latino voters.

An inflammatory mailer sent to Anchorage, Alaska residents over the weekend by an anti-immigrant, Tea-party backed Republican primary Senate candidate features shirtless, tattooed men making gang signs with their hands, and a message that condemns the Democrat primary opponent for wanting “20 million illegals” to vote. Candidate Joe Miller’s mailer comes at a time when he’s a distant third in Republican primary polls and his state’s three Republican Senate candidates are emphasizing immigration to win their party’s nomination ahead of next week’s GOP primary election. 
Tying the issue of immigration reform and gun rights, the mailer quotes Miller as saying, “And if 20 million illegals vote, you can kiss the 2nd amendment goodbye. I am the only candidate who favors the Voter ID.” The back of the mailer features photos of “Miller firing a handgun and teaching shooting to a boy and girl identified as his children,” the Alaska Dispatch News stated.

During a heated televised debate over the weekend, Miller defended his mailer, stating, “There’s a clear correlation, and the clear correlation is this: If you end up granting amnesty to those who don’t value gun rights, who have not been raised in an environment where the Second Amendment is cherished — is considered to be a God-given right — the reality is over a generation or two, the likelihood is very strong that the Second Amendment will not be here.” The Alaska Dispatch News reported that Miller stated, “We have violent thugs coming across our border and doing violent things.”

To recap, the gun happy guy who had his private security goons beat a reporter who asked too many questions about Miller's nasty, secessionist past and compared our border to the good old days of East Germany, after declaring his election loss ax example of fraud thinks undocumented immigrants are "thugs".

Oh, and here's the mailer:

joe miller ad

"Latinos are all criminals, and I'm going to shoot them because MURICA and EAGLE and FREEDOM.  Vote for me!  BANG BANG BANG BANG!"

Can't figure out why this guy's in distant third in the GOP primary polling, gosh.
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