Friday, August 15, 2014

The Militarization of America's Police Departments

When did this...

...become this?

...and this?

Militarized cops. It's been happening in big cities, small towns and tiny villages, thanks to a law that congress passed in the 90s. It's insanity. And we've seen the result again this week in tiny Ferguson, Missouri.

Militarized cops, tear gas, rubber bullets, arrests and assaults were all used against the citizens of Ferguson who were marching and demanding to know why yet another unarmed teenager was harassed and then murdered by police for walking in the street.

Reporters from the Washington Post  were arrested and violently removed from a McDonald's where they were sitting at tables writing their stories. Al Jazeera America reporters filming on the street were tear-gassed and had to flee, leaving their equipment in the street.

Aside from a handful of opportunists who were looting stores at other locations, these people, by the hundreds, were peacefully marching to demand answers. There was absolutely no need for war zone tactics, rubber bullets, tear gas, and violent arrests.

Now contrast that to what happened last spring at the Bundy ranch, when those white rednecks and Teabaggers "came to the aid" of that criminal rancher who refused to pay federal grazing fees.  At the Bundy ranch, those rednecks pointed loaded rifles and shotguns  at US marshals and police, who backed off.  Yet for some reason there was no riot gear, tear gas or bullets fired at any of them.  At Bundy, the cowardly cops knew how to mind their manners, step back and keep their big mouths shut.

This is what it looked like this week. Keep in mind this is not Baghdad or Beirut. This is in Ferguson, Missouri -- in the USA, where people allegedly still have the right to protest.

So exactly what happened that day when 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot? Ferguson police aren't talking.  Of course, conveniently, neither the patrol car nor the cop in it were furnished with a video camera.  But every eyewitness says the kid had his hands up when he was shot and killed by the cop.

But why are so many police departments suddenly loaded with millions of dollars of war zone equipment?

According to an article from The Guardian (October 2013):

America's streets are looking more and more like a war zone. Last week, in a small county in upstate New York with a population of roughly 120,000 people, county legislators approved the receipt of a 20-ton Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle, donated by the US Defense Department to the county sheriff.

Here's how it all happened. A little-known Pentagon program has been quietly militarizing American police forces for years. A total of $4.2bn worth of equipment has been distributed by the Defense Department to municipal law enforcement agencies, with a record $546m in 2012 alone.
In the fine print of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 1997, the "1033 program" was born. It allows the Defense Department to donate surplus military equipment to local police forces.
From the Huffington Post:

The main culprit was a 1994 law authorizing the Pentagon to donate surplus military equipment to local police departments. In the 17 years since, literally millions of pieces of equipment designed for use on a foreign battlefield have been handed over for use on U.S. streets, against U.S. citizens. Another law passed in 1997 further streamlined the process. As National Journal reported in 2000, in the first three years after the 1994 law alone, the Pentagon distributed 3,800 M-16s, 2,185 M-14s, 73 grenade launchers, and 112 armored personnel carriers to civilian police agencies across America. Domestic police agencies also got bayonets, tanks, helicopters and even airplanes.

Did you get that? Millions of pieces of equipment designed for use on a foreign battlefield have been handed over for use on US streets against US citizens.

We need to drastically cut military funding. If the military has so much "surplus" equipment that they can hand over hundreds of tanks, grenade launchers, planes and helicopters to every little town -- every tiny flyspeck on the map -- to be used against American citizens, then we're shoveling too many hundreds of billions to it.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Republican Jackass of the Week

So many from which to choose. So why choose? Here are five:

Republican Jackass of the Week #1 -- Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio).

This is the guy who can't stop talking about suing the President of the United States for the vague charge of "lawlessness," and for signing "too many executive orders."

As I've shown in this graph on the June 27th post, President Obama has signed fewer executive orders than any president in 50 years. Boehner was allegedly upset about the President delaying the employer madate portion of the Affordable Care Act -- after begging the President to do just that.

Now, after Boehner's House failed to solve the humanitarian crisis at our southern border, and after passing absolutely nothing and going off on a 6 week recess, Boehner actually said, "There are numerous steps the President can and should be taking right now without the need for congressional action."

Did you follow that logic? Congress asks the President to delay a portion of ObamaCare; President Obama delays that portion of ObamaCare on his own; Congress threatens to sue the President for overstepping his authority.

And now right after failing to pass funding for the immigration crisis, Congress asks the President to take action on his own.

John Boehner:  the weakest Speaker of the US House, presiding over the least productive Congresses in a row, and is once again our Republican Jackass of the Week.


Republican Jackass of the Week #2 -- Fox Noise.

After Fox's continuous hyping of an alleged Benghazi coverup/conspiracy for two years non-stop, guess what happened this week?

The House Intelligence Committee, led by Republicans, concluded that there was no deliberate wrongdoing by the Obama Administration during the 2012 attack on the US consulate in Benghazi. The report states that no one was deliberately misled, no military assets were withheld and no stand-down order was given to military forces.

That's the exact opposite of what Fox viewers have had drummed into their heads for two years.

No. Only Fox ignores the facts.
This Benghazi hoax has been the lead story on Fox Noise for all this time. Day after day, night after night, there have been lots of shrill, wild accusations made -- including 225 segments on the subject in the last two weeks alone according to Media Matters. But on the day this breaking news was released, guess how many times it was broadcast on Fox Noise?

Not once.

The Committee's report was finally grudgingly mentioned once on their air the next day. Yet another investigation will be launched in September by Republicans who just can't stop fishing for a non-existent scandal.

Fox Noise, foreign owned and Saudi financed, Republican Jackass of the Week.

(Can a broadcast company be a Jackass? You betcha! "Corporations are people too my friend.")


Republican Jackass #3 -- Representative Tom Marino (R-Pennsylvania).

During a grandstanding speech on the House floor, this Jackass claimed that when the Democrats ran the House, they never had the courage to do anything about immigration reform.

Nancy Pelosi, the former Democratic Speaker of the House, wouldn't hear of it. She actually walked across the floor, waved a finger at him and admonished him! (Of course some sources claimed she "chased him around the House floor" and "became unhinged." Watch the short video below. See for yourself if she became unhinged, or just slowly walked over to admonish him.)

She reminded him that "House Democrats had the courage to pass the Dream Act, and have the courage to stand up for what the American people want now: bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform."

As it turns out, Tom Marino's party once again failed to pass any immigration law and deserted Washington for a 6 week vacation.

Tom Marino, liar and Republican Jackass of the Week.


Republican Jackass #4 -- Representative Mo Brooks (R-Alabama)

Old southern white guy Mo Brooks thinks it's the Democratic Party that's racist!

How about that. The party that generally gets 95% of the black vote every election cycle, as well as an increasing majority of Hispanic votes, is racist.

Ron Fournier of the National Journal stated that "the fastest growing bloc in this country thinks the Republican party hates them," referring to Hispanics and Blacks in America. "Your party cannot be the party of the future beyond November if you're seen as the party of white people."

Polls have shown this clearly. And even the Republican party itself acknowledged its problem with women, gays, Hispanics and Blacks after its second big White House loss in November of 2012. They even held brainstorming meetings to figure out how to attract more diverse voters. The results have been published in their "Republican Autopsy Report" that came out right after President Obama's second electoral college landslide.

Having heard Fournier's statement, Mister Mo Brooks of Alabama claimed that "there's a war on whites being launched by the Democratic Party... claiming that whites hate everybody else."

(Hey, isn't there an unwritten rule stating that Republicans are always to incorrectly refer to it as "the Democrat Party"?)

See? The Democratic party, which has many millions of white, black and Hispanic voters is actually the racist party, not the Republicans, who are almost exclusively older white people.

Go back and read your own party's Autopsy Report. Learn something, Mo.

And enjoy being this week's Republican Jackass of the Week.


Republican Jackass #4 -- Steven Palazzo (R-Missouri).

Here's his quote from this week: "I find the best advice comes through meditating
on god's word. Please find a copy of the holy bible to help guide you in your decision-making."

He then had his staff deliver a bible to each of the 535 members of the House and Senate.

Hey Steve, breaking news:  the USA is a secular nation. Go ask the first high school student you can find. We don't write laws based on your bible any more than we base them on the Quran or any other cult's book. Do I really need to list the reasons this is so completely wrong?

Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said this action was inappropriate and exclusionary. "When it comes to religion, our nation is pluralistic and diverse. Rather than look to the bible or any other religious book to craft our nation's public policy, we would do well to examine another source instead, one that was actually created to guide governance. It's called the Constitution."

Steve Palazzo, Republican Jackass of the Week.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Republican Jackass of the Week

Jim Fouts (R), mayor of Warren, Michigan.

This entry from Think Progress says it all:

The city of Warren, Michigan, and its Republican mayor Jim Fouts are facing a federal lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union and two other groups after Fouts rejected a local man’s request to set up an atheist station in the city hall atrium, and equated the atheist cause to the Nazi party and the Ku Klux Klan.
Since 2009, Fouts has permitted “prayer stations” run by a local church group that distributes religious pamphlets, discusses religious beliefs with passersby, and prays with visitors to the city hall. When Freedom From Religion member Douglas Marshall submitted an application to city officials in April to set up a similar, yet secular, station for two days each week, it took Fouts less than two weeks to reject his proposal. When interviewed by the Associated Press, Fouts defended his decision, saying:

The city has certain values that I don’t believe are in general agreement with having an atheist station, nor in general agreement with having a Nazi station or Ku Klux Klan station. I cannot accept or will not allow a group that is disparaging of another group to have a station here.
No, we can't let that happen! The First Amendment certainly doesn't apply to Atheists, right? 
Mayor Fouts: Republican Jackass of the Week.


Bonus Republican Jackass of the Week: Former Massachusetts Governor and Failed Presidential Candidate Willard "Mitt" Romney (R).

Just this week it's been discovered that during his campaign back in 2012, before "taking all the swing states and winning in a landslide" according to Fox Noise, Willard mistook Democratic Strategist Donna Brazile for PBS news anchor Gwen Ifill.

Yes, he really did.

Oh my. Two prominent, influential black women who he's seen on the TV machine, and he can't tell them apart.
Gwen Ifill

Donna Brazile
"Hi Gwen," he reportedly said to Donna, according to a recent NY Times article.

"Poor thing; he didn't know," stated Donna.

And in case you forgot all those other famous foot-in-mouth moments courtesy of Willard Romney, let me gleefully remind you:

  • "corporations are people, my friend"
  • half the country ("that 47%) who are "takers" would never vote for him anyway
  • finding out he had undocumented Mexicans working on his own property and then stating, "I'm running for office for Pete's sake! I can't have illegals!"
  • he has "binders full of women"
  •  his five sons working on his presidential campaign were "equal to those serving in the US military"
  • refusing to release his tax returns
  • stashing millions in the Cayman Islands to avoid paying taxes
  • he wanted Mexicans to "self deport" even though his own grandfather came from Mexico and was welcomed here
I could go on and on...