Technology Shines Light on Police Brutality

Police officers have been murdering citizens in perpetuity. What’s new is that now we know about it because of technology.

Today in South Carolina, Police Officer Michael Thomas Slager has been charged with murder. It wasn’t clear at first whether the officer would be charged for the death of Walter Scott. On Saturday, Slager pulled Scott over while driving in North Charleston. Something happened during the confrontation and Scott took off running. Slager fired a volley of bullets into Scott’s back and Scott died.

Then a horrific video surfaced showing the murder and Slager was charged. There is no doubt that had this crime not be caught on video, Slager would likely not be charged with a crime. Now Slager, 33, faces a death sentence or life in prison.

Technology is pulling back the curtain on government brutality of its citizens, particularly those of color. That has been the story for centuries. Those who don’t want progress, conservatives, have always been against technology because they know what they do can’t survive the light of day. Once the People see that the police, like the military, are a cudgel conservatives use to crush people who challenge them or don’t fit into their plan.

It’s not as-if this is some nefarious plot being perpetrated by a few people, this is systemic racism and brutality that is a by-product of capitalism, greed and the quest for power. Conservatives want police officers like Slager out there brutalizing brown people. It’s a way to ensure that those people stay where they are, poor, working for low wages or dead.

(H/T) Washington Post

Vox Misses the Point of the Indiana Religious “Freedom” Law

I like Vox, but this story about a law professor’s opinion of Indiana’s so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act only goes to show the professor’s lack of political acumen.

The gist of the story is that University of Virginia Law Professor Douglas Laycock thinks everyone’s got the Indiana law all wrong. It’s really all about protecting minority religious groups who are oppressed by the majority. It’s a good thing.

Even if some folks would seek to use these sorts of laws to justify discrimination, Laycock said that will usually fail. And he said that even though the Indiana law goes further than other similar laws in other states, and federally, by expanding the religious protection to businesses, that’s not a big deal either.

Laycock said that sure with businesses that are run by a single family, they might make a claim to a right to discriminate, but not a large corporation. Hobby Lobby, a company whose annual sales are more than $3 billion a year, won a case at the Supreme Court that allowed them to discriminate against women by denying them access to contraception. The company argued that it violated its religious rights to offer health insurance to its employees that covers contraception. How again did we end up with a system in which employers get to choose employee health insurance coverage?

Laycock said that Hobby Lobby won that case because the company is a “closely held” family company, with more than 500 stores across the country and thousands of employees. Laycock’s argument is that this sort of discrimination is and will be rare.

“As soon as you take in outside shareholders, that becomes untenable as a practical matter,” Laycock said. “They don’t want to sacrifice profit for your religious concerns. There are very few corporate claims and it’s not likely, to the extent there are any, that they’re going to win many. Hobby Lobby is a very special context. It is closely held by one family.”

Of course every argument that Laycock is making is shockingly ignorant, because he’s missing the larger point of these sorts of laws, but regarding his blind faith in the power of shareholders, allow me …

Most businesses are not large corporations with shareholders. The butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker are more often than not, family owned businesses. It is certainly not beyond the realm of possibility that these closely held family business would seek a religious exemption under this law for the purpose of discrimination. Now it’s very true that this business owner might fail in court, but it is these laws that provide aid and comfort to the bigot.

And that right there is the only reason these laws exist. Republicans like Indiana Governor Mike Pence, I doubt he personally even cares about gay marriage. Maybe he does, but what I do know for a fact is that Pence likes getting elected.

The only way to do that is to lie. If Republicans told voters about the issues that the party really cares about, they’d never break 20 percent in any election in any district.

No the GOP can’t tell voters that if they get their votes they’ll cut taxes on the rich, deregulate industries, leaving huge budget deficits, dirty drinking water and smoke smuggered skies.

To win elections, Republican politicians have to talk about social issues. They’re going to end abortion. They’re going to prevent gay people from getting married. They’re going to pass laws to protect your perceived right to discriminate against gay people, or whoever you don’t like.

There’s no other way to get people to vote against their own economic self-interest, you have to lie to them.

And the lie is the tall tale that these sort of “religious freedom” laws will allow businesses to discriminate. The message Gov. Pence is sending bigoted Indiana citizens and business owners is that if you want to discriminate against gays, he’s got their back.

But the reality, as Laycock accurately tells Vox is that the ability of a person, or a business, to seek a religious exemption to discriminate using these sorts of laws is extremely limited. Most cases, but not all, do side against the bigot.

Pence doesn’t care though. When this law proves to be ineffective at protecting bigotry, Pence can just blame activist judges for trampling the rights of god-fearing Christians who just got to hate.

So don’t be fooled, like Mr. Laycock is, regarding the point of these laws, which is to get Republicans elected by creating a culture of divisiveness, fear and hate. While Pence’s supporters are angrily moaning about how the fags are ruining everything, Pence and his Republican party comrades are doing everything they can to shift wealth in Indiana up to the rich.

A Pro Life Liberal

It is possible to be a pro-life liberal. One can both think that fewer abortions is a good thing, and believe that it’s not up to the government to decide what a woman can do with her body.

Therefore, I can believe that we as a nation can look at the number of abortions each year and craft ways to reduce that number. If there are x number of abortions every year by teenagers, what could be done to reduce that number? Sex education. Access to contraception.

A nation that lifts its women up is a stronger nation than one that holds women down.

I can also believe that it’s not the role of government to decide what to do with her body. And to give the government the authority to decide the fate of every conception is the antithesis of the notion of small government.

While we as a nation can justly look at planned parenting and work towards reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies, that’s within the norm of modern society. But to enshrine one religion’s belief that life begins at conception and to force that belief onto all of us, that’s just fucking crazy. That’s old world crazy shit.

The Day the GOP Officially Jumped the Proverbial Shark

Ever since 1980, when we elected Ronald Reagan, an actor, to be the president of the United States, this nation has been in a slow-motion tailspin. A once fairly solid economy and banking system setup after the Great Depression has been destroyed by a million little cuts. Once strong labor organizations have been systematically dismantled. And our political process has devolved into a sideshow of partisan bickering and one-upsmanship. To use a cliche, the United States is a Banana Republic.

The latest example of this devolution is a letter signed by 47 Republican senators to the leaders of Iran for the sole purpose of undermining a sitting president during negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program. It’s possible that something like this has happened before, but I’ve not found any example. The letter tells the world that whatever this president, or future presidents, do is only valid while said president is in office. Any agreements made by the president can and will be nullified by future presidents and Congress. The letter is telling the world what we already know, that our government is in fact, a joke. That we, the United States of America, can not be taken seriously.

Had Democrats sent such a letter to a foreign adversary while a Republican president was negotiating with them, the Republican party would be in a complete freakout mode and demanding resignations and possibly charges of treason.

While this will no doubt severely harm the signatories of this letter to Iran when, or if, they seek reelection, the real issue is how this action shows what a sham government the United State has become. And the reason we have this sort of government, is because one of the two political parties has been taken over by those who actually view our government as the enemy. The Republican party is comprised, particularly the younger generation members, of those who are actively working to destroy our republic and the government. They are waging a full-blown assault on the Constitution and american voters.

Some have tried to argue that this is treason, but that’s not entirely accurate because these men and women were elected and campaigned on a platform of hating America. The problem isn’t that these men and women are traitors, which they are, it’s that our democracy has been captured by a few very wealthy billionaires while the vast majority of voters sit on the sidelines. The politics of cynicism has worked. Most Americans truly believe that all politicians are crooked and that the government exists only to harm them rather than to help them.

This all started in 1979 and over the last 30 years the campaign to destroy democracy in America and to replace it with a government sold to the highest bidder has worked. The government is run by a bunch liars, thieves and charlatans. The government often does do more harm than good, just look at the Iraq war, No Child Left Behind and the government’s inability to prevent the Great Recession. Our government is broken. Our political process is broken. And the only way to fix it is for American voters to stand up and do something about it. Until that happens, we will be left with a boom and bust economy racked with savings and loan meltdowns, hedge fund meltdowns and more Great Recessions. We’ll continue to wage unnecessary wars to benefit the war profiteers while corporations spill their oil all over our waterways and towns, often with giant balls of fire that burn for days.

We get the government we deserve, and right now, we deserve this dysfunctional government that sends letters to our enemies and passes bills to monitor every woman’s utterance from conception to birth. It is a sorry state of affairs and one that will not be ended by apathy, but rather engagement.

Republicans “Unveil” Economic Plan

Marco Rubio

Marco Rubio

Republican senators Marco Rubio and Mike Lee have unveiled, or unearthed, the GOP’s plan for economic growth. It’s the same plan they’ve had for more than 30 years. Give tax cuts to the rich, bankrupt the country, and watch as the free hand of the market strangles the life out of the middle class and poor folks.

It’s more of what George H. W. Bush called voodoo economics. The theory is that if millionaires and billionaires had more money from not paying taxes that they would then invest more in their businesses, which would in turn hire more workers. It’s total bullshit and anyone who has even taken a causal interest in economics will tell you the same thing.

There’s absolutely zero connection between the individual tax rates of billionaires and the decisions of corporations. And in fact, one would be hard pressed to find any causal relationship between the tax bill of corporations and whether they hire more employees.

You’ll never be in a meeting in which there’s a discussion about hiring more workers if only the CEOs personal income tax burden were lower. Businesses hire more people when there is an increase demand for their products or services. And so it doesn’t take a doctorate in economics to understand that the best way to increase economic activity is to put money into the hands of people who will actually spend it on products and services offered by corporations.

Trickle down economics is like a venereal, give me a shot of penicillin ’cause it burns when I pee.

Republicans Cave

Republicans buckled under Democratic opposition Tuesday.

After weeks of hemming and hawing, House Republican leadership acquiesced to Democrat’s firm stand that the House pass a “clean” Department of Homeland Security funding bill.

House Speaker John Boehner brought the bill, without provisions to undo President Obama’s immigration executive orders, up for a vote Tuesday. It passed with a majority Democrat support. Less than a third of Republicans, 75 in total, voted to fund the Department of Homeland Security without the anti-immigration measures.

By allowing this bill to pass, Boehner has further alienated the conservative wing in the House who have been eager to take him out politically.

Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) voted against the bill. The Washington Post quoted Mulvaney saying, “I think we are going to be much more willing to judge our leadership by their actions than their words going forward.”

Dems to Call GOP Bluff on DHS Funding

It looks like the Democrats are going to call the Republican bluff regarding funding of the Department of Homeland Security.

The Republicans in the House passed a DHS funding bill that includes provisions to stop President Obama’s immigration executive orders.

House Republicans told the Senate that if a bill comes out of the Senate that does not include the immigration reform riders, the bill will not pass the House, and the Department of Homeland Security will be shut down.

Well Senate Republicans are sending the House a clean funding bill without the immigration issues attached to it. So now it’s up to the House GOP whether they are going to do what they have been threatening, which is to shoot the proverbial hostage.

Of course if one were to ask a Republican member of congress who is holding DHS funding hostage, it’s the Senate Democrats who filibustered the original House bill, thus forcing Senate Republicans to strip out the immigration language. That’s the same argument a terrorist would make if a government didn’t cough up the money they asked for. “We had to kill the hostage because our demands were not met. So it’s not our fault we killed the hostage.”

Now House Republicans are talking about a short-term bill to fund DHS for a few weeks and to go into conference with the Senate to iron out the legislative differences. Democrats aren’t inclined to support a stop-gap spending bill, so it really does look like the GOP might have to shoot this hostage when it’s over.

If they do, let’s hope there’s no major event requiring DHS support, like a terrorist attack.

(h/t HuffingtonPost)

Governor Scott Walker Says His Experience Crushing Labor Unions has Prepared Him to Take on Global Terrorism

Speaking at a conservative conference this week, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker said that he has the experience to be president, and that his experience busting up labor unions in particular makes him especially qualified to battle global terrorism.

“If I can take on 100,000 protesters,” he said, “I can do the same across the world.”

The protesters Walker is referring to were teachers, firefighters, police officers and a few Green Bay Packers football players.

The terrorists on the other hand have taken over large swaths of Iraq and Syria. They have brutally murdered hundreds, if not thousands of people. The terrorists sometimes video record the murders and publish them on the Internet and in some cases the videos get rebroadcast on Fox News. That one Fox News is publishing shows a man being burned alive.

In 2011, when Walker was working to break the back of government-sector organized labor, at one point nearly a 1,000 protesters slept in the Madison, Wisconsin capitol rotunda. With signs like, “Kill the bill,” I’m sure those sleeping bags were quite intimidating.

Those sleepy protesters eventually would lose many of their rights to bargain collectively. Gov. Scott Walker didn’t just win the battles, he won the war against government workers organizing. So watch out global terrorist network of well-armed brutal murderers, if Scott Walker becomes the next president of the United States, don’t even consider organizing. Walker will peg your raises at no more than the consumer price index, so don’t even ask.

Politics, partisanship, media and hyperbole

Partisan politics is nothing new. In the spring of 1856, Congressman Preston Brooks, of South Carolina, nearly killed Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts.

Brooks beat Sumner with a cane on the senate floor because of a speech Sumner gave two days earlier. In that speech Sumner accused South Carolina Senator Andrew Butler of being a pimp for slavery. Butler was Brooks’ cousin, and so in retaliation of Sumner’s speech called “The Crime Against Kansas“, Brooks violently beat the unarmed senator on the senate floor nearly to death. It would be three years before Sumner would return to the Senate, having suffered severe head trauma and what’s now known as post-traumatic stress disorder.

The violence did not stop Sumner. He returned to deliver another speech 1860 denouncing the barbarism of slavery.

While much of today’s partisan rancor largely plays out on websites, in newspapers and on cable TV. Violence does happen. The assassination of Dr. George Tiller in 2009 by an anti-abortion zealot is an example of a far right-wing element of the Republican party and conservative movement using violence to achieve what it can not do so politically. Dr. Tiller was shot in the head in front of his family while at church.

Just this week, cable TV show host Bill O’Reilly has threatened several reporters for pointing out inconsistencies in his past statements about O’Reilly’s alleged time spent in war zones. O’Reilly said that David Corn of Mother Jones should be in the “kill zone” for what he and David Schulman have reported. O’Reilly also directly threatened a New York Times reporter for even reporting on Corn’s story.

While O’Reilly likes to talk tough, he’s actually not going to do anything to either of these journalists. He’s a blowhard. But what O’Reilly’s comments do is that they provide a safe haven for unstable people who watch his show and who own guns. To these people, O’Reilly is saying, “It’s OK to kill these journalists, because they’re scum.”

In 2014, 61 journalists have been reportedly murdered in the line of duty in 2014. Fortunately no journalists were confirmed murdered in the United States in 2014.

Modern media plays a role in this vitriol and hyperbolic behavior. Website and cable TV stations pick a side. For instance, MSNBC is for liberals and Fox News is for conservatives. CNN is a like fish flapping around on the deck of a boat, it’s difficult to tell what they’re doing.

O’Reilly is the big dog on cable news. His show is by far the most watched show of all of the cable news shows. For example on Feb. 24, O’Reilly’s show “The Factor” attracted just over 2.8 million viewers. His nearest “competitor” in that timeslot was Chris Hayes. On MSNBC, “All in w/ Chris Hayes” garnered approximately 638,000 viewers. In fact, Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC show was closet to O’Reilly of any show not on Fox News, and she didn’t even pull in 850,000 viewers. That’s about 2 million less than O’Reilly.

While 3 million people sitting down every night to watch O’Reilly’s cable show is amazing, that number represents less than 1 percent of nation’s population. In contrast NBC Nightly News draws more than 10 million viewers a night. But even that is just 3 percent of the population.

What that means for folks like O’Reilly is that there’s no motivation to be civilized, measured with their words or to pursue honest and truthful discourse. Fox News has figured out the formula, which is to pander to a certain sliver of the population that’s largely incapable of critical thinking and is generally pretty ignorant. That audience isn’t looking for honest and measured political discourse, they’re looking for exciting hosts that say the crazy stuff that’s rattling around in their own heads.

That strategy works. Fox News is by far the most watched cable news channel. It’s not even close. This success gives those who watch Fox News the false security that they’re part of the majority, or at least a majority.

The same can be said for political news websites. They don’t need 40 million readers an hour to make money, a few thousand an hour is all that’s needed to sell ads. Aside from doing the right thing, there’s little motivation to be civil, professional or courteous, there’s money in being a flame-thrower. Unfortunately there’s a cost to our society, our democracy and our political process when voters retreat to their media silos to shake their heads in agreement to the talking head on the TV yelling about this or that.