Sandra Bland: Arrest Video Edited

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On Tuesday, Texas Department of Public Safety released a video purportedly recorded from Texas State Trooper Brian Encinia. By Wednesday, video experts say that the video has clearly been edited.

Ben Norton has a good story detailing the various anomalies. What’s odd is that some of the edits appear after Bland’s arrest, so there might be a legit reason for these oddities in the video, but it’s highly suspicious.

I am Sandra

Sandra Bland, 28, died on July 13, 2015 while in police custody of Waller County, Texas.

Why Republicans Love Hating Gays

Republicans are not fighting for the sanctity of marriage or to preserve religious liberty when they blast away at gay marriage and marriage equality. They’re doing so for purely political reasons.

The problem for the GOP is that the party’s actual policies are unpalatable on their own when presented to voters. Most Americans favor higher taxes on the wealthy. Most Americans think that corporations shouldn’t destroy the environment to make a buck. Contrary to the conventional wisdom, Americans are actually pretty freaking liberal.

So in order to win national elections, for those politicians outside of carefully gerrymandered House districts, they have to talk about something besides their policy positions. Abortion is an old favorite, and it gets a certain segment of the population to rally behind even the most wretched of GOP candidates, like Michele Bachmann and Louie Gohmert. But abortion alone isn’t going to win a presidential race. Gay marriage has been the go-to issue for the Republican party for the last few years, albeit not particularly effective, but now the the Supreme Court has ruled it unconstitutional to deny marriage to same-sex couples, that issue has been neutered and that makes Republicans mad. Now what are they going to talk about as they charge full speed toward electoral obliteration next year?

I guess they can keep talking about how they’re going to repeal the Affordable Care Act – stripping millions of Americans of affordable health insurance. But I think that ship has sailed too, not because the Supreme Court has once again reaffirmed the health care law’s constitutionality. Voters I think have figured out that Republicans who claim that they’re going to repeal the Affordable Care Act are lying. The House has voted like 50 times to repeal the health care reform law and none of those bills has gone anywhere. And no one really expects any such bill to get around a presidential veto. People like having access to health care.

Maybe the GOP will just come to terms with the reality that sooner or later they’re going to have to tell voters what they’re actually going to do once elected. Who knows, maybe Republicans voters will demand that one day.

Really? This is the 21st Century Conservative Movement?

Chris Christie

Chris Christie

Maybe I’m just getting older. Maybe the conservative movement was always devoid of serious intellectual thinkers. But up until the late 1990s, the conservative wing of our political world included intelligent people like William F. Buckley and editorial writers like William Safire. There were always the Birchers, but there were intelligent men and women associated with the GOP who could make a cogent argument. Not today. In 2015, the intellectual giants have long abandoned the Republican party and conservative politics.

I can recall listening to conservatives make their case and thinking, “I totally disagree with what they’re saying, but I get where they’re coming from on this issue.”

There was a certain intellectual integrity to conservatives 20 years ago, but now the conservative arguments range from one argumentation fallacy after another. Just look at the conservative Supreme Court justices’ arguments opposing marriage equality. There is clearly no rational basis to deny gay couples the same protection under the law as straight people, so all that’s left are intellectually dishonest arguments that really make no sense whatsoever.

In his dissenting opinion on marriage equality, Justice Clarence Thomas somehow tried to equate allowing gay people the right to marry as tantamount to opposing inter-racial marriages. Of course, the opposite is true. Denying gay people the right to marry is exactly like denying people of different races the opportunity marry the one they love. While inter-racial marriages were criminal offenses, and with gay marriages we’re dealing with civil law, however the same equal protection under the law argument clearly applies to both situations.

And look at the conservative response to yet another blow in the “effort” to destroy the Affordable Care Act. The Supreme Court, once again, has ruled in support of the Affordable Care Act.

And because of that decision, conservatives are confusingly accusing Supreme Court judges of activism. In conservative circles if the court doesn’t strike down a law passed by Congress, it’s being an activist court. Which of course is exactly the opposite of what’s happening, so that’s yet another dumb idea.

The reason for this insane disconnect between current conservative ideas and logic is that the party has been exposed. For the last 50 or 60 years, the GOP has been the party of the rich, for the rich. They’ve pushed massive tax cuts, slashing the top tax bracket by more than 50 percent. They’ve pushed hard for deregulation of the banking industry, which has resulted in a boom and bust economy. That started with the savings and loan crisis in the 1980s, the hedge fund collapse and the most recent Great Recession. Thrown into the mix is the Enron and other similar corrupt corporations gaming the system and rigging markets.

So while they work to suppress worker wages, dismantle unions and gut as much federal and state regulations as possible, the working men and women are living on less money, with bigger bills, more debt and an unpredictable future.

And that’s the problem with the Republican party. They can’t talk about this stuff publicly, or they won’t even win House seats in Texas. So they have to lie. When Ted Cruz says that if he’s elected president he’ll repeal the Affordable Care Act on day 1 in office, he knows that’s bullshit. Cruz must know that the president can’t unilaterally just throw out laws passed by Congress. The president can lobby Congress to change the law or repeal the law, but Cruz knows that the president doesn’t have the authority he is claiming he will have if elected president. Cruz is banking on the fact that those people who are showing up to listen to him speak 18 months before general election, don’t care.

But that’s the only trick the GOP can do. They can throw red meat to their ignorant base that shows up to vote in primaries. While this looniness makes for funny news stories and hilarious Saturday Night Live skits, it’s not particularly useful in terms of honest political discourse. The frightening aspect of all of this nonsense is that some freak thing could happen during the general campaign and one of these stunningly inept GOP candidates could be president. Can anyone seriously imagine what a Chris Christie presidency would look like?

This is What Victory Looks Like

You’ll hear it over and over again, ignorant fools spouting, “It don’t matter who you vote for cuz they’re all crooks and liars.”

But as the last two presidencies clearly showcase, it does fucking matter who the president is. When George W. Bush was president, nearly 3,000 people were killed in a terrorist attack. We waged war against one nation as a direct result of that September 11 attack, and another was attacked just because Bush wanted to kick some ass, or oil, or daddy issues, it’s never been clear why we attacked Iraq. At the end of it all, tax cuts, deregulation and bad government cost the lives of thousands upon thousands of Americans, hundreds of thousands of other people caught in the crossfire, constitutional rights trampled and our entire economy crumbled to near utter collapse. Millions of people lost their jobs, their homes, their retirement, everything.

Now look back at Democratic President Barrack Obama. While many label him a wild-eyed socialist anti-colonial (which I think is supposed to be an insult, but I don’t get it) Kenyan, Obama has actually government just left of center. Had he been a true socialist, he wouldn’t have backed off from a true government run health program – expanding Medicare. No, as a pragmatist, Obama got what he could, the Affordable Care Act and now millions of people who couldn’t afford private health insurance, can now do so thanks to Obama. We also have marriage equality. The economy is rebounding quite nicely. The war in Iraq is over, however, the US is still dealing with the Bush’s policies that destabilized the Middle East and created a safe haven for terrorists. Osama bin Laden is dead. And the south is finally agreeing to give up the confederate flag, although I don’t think Obama had much to do with that, but he has spoken much more frank about race in the last few months, which has given progressives room to operate.

So, yes, it matters who you vote for. Don’t sit on the sidelines and bitch, volunteer for a candidate you like. Donate money to a party, candidate or group that you agree with on issues. And please, go vote.

Capitalist Trick 92: Protecting the Environment will Destroy Jobs and the Economy

It was telling, the reaction from Capitalist politicians to Pope Francis’ belief that human activity is a contributing factor in global climate change.

Capitalist presidential hopeful Jeb Bush blasted the pontiff for his misguided “theories.” Bush said that the Catholic church should stick to the Bible and leave the “economic” questions for the experts.

That right there, that says a lot about Bush, and Capitalist politicians, that they always frame protecting the environment in purely economic terms. One could easily see morals and just being a good world citizen as reason enough to not destroy the planet. Maybe one could be motivated by looking at the faces of her children as incentive to leave the planet better than she found it.

But the Capitalists can only view the world through a lens of greed. Yet, while it’s certainly true that if there were more regulations on fossil fuels, that pressure on the energy market would likely give openings for other renewable, and often currently more costly, energy sources.

So when Capitalist politicians speak about climate change, they aren’t doing so from a religious, moral or ethical framework, but rather the framework of protecting oil, coal and gas industries. They don’t want to see money Americans spend on energy going to non-fossil fuel sources and away from Exxon Mobil and BP.

And I can guarantee that if our energy markets became more diversified, with a heavy dose of renewables, the outcome would not take the form of complete economic annihilation for the US. Those sorts of predictions – if we tax carbon and regulate the fossil fuel industry more intensely – will be undoubtedly proven wrong. In fact, in this instance, I do think with a more level playing field between fossil fuels and renewables, the consumer would benefit, the planet would benefit and future generations would benefit. The only losers will be energy companies that are not embracing renewables.

Kalief Browder’s Heartbreaking Story of Torture, Abuse and Death

Kalief Browder, 22, of the Bronx. Photo Credit Zach Gross

Kalief Browder, 22, of the Bronx. Photo Credit Zach Gross

The New York City justice system killed Kalief Browder. Browder was innocent of the crime he was suspected of perpetrating – stealing a backpack. The young man spent three years in Rikers Island waiting for a trial, or to be released. Browder would do two of those years in solitary confinement. Video footage shows Browder knocked to the ground by a guard before he’s brutally beaten by a group of inmates. He was 16 years old when they arrested him for stealing that backpack. Those three brutalizing years in the custody of the New York City justice system destroyed this young man. On Sunday Kalief Browder, 22, hanged himself at his parents’ home in the Bronx.

This man is dead because of the actions taken by the New York City police department, prosecutor’s office, mayor’s office and those who run Rikers Island. These people that work in these agencies killed Kalief Browder.

The US Justice Department must immediately begin reviewing all police departments, prosecutors and prison systems across the country. Begin with the obvious problem areas, like Baltimore, Ferguson, St. Louis, NYPD, LAPD, Cincinnati, New Orleans. But don’t stop there, every department should be required to justify their decisions, particularly when those decisions result in an innocent man dying.

Browder was his parent’s child, he was their child, their son, and they deserve something for their loss and I would wish that that something be a systemic response to systemic police and prosecutorial abuse that is rampant in this nation. Police and prison systems are currently, and officially, out of control. And the only entity with the authority to get them under control is the Department of Justice. And there is no better person equipped to do just that than Loretta Lynch. The response needs to begin today.

Capitalist Trick 67: Voter Fraud Exists

Voter fraud doesn’t exist. It’s a myth. Yet, capitalists, via their conservative henchmen have created the impression that it’s real and it needs to be dealt with regardless of the cost in terms of dollars and the disenfranchisement of millions of voters across the country.

Justin Levitt, of Loyola Law School, researched reported instances of voter fraud. “Usually,” Levitt told the Washington Post, “only a tiny portion of the claimed illegality is substantiated — and most of the remainder is either nothing more than speculation or has been conclusively debunked.”

But that hasn’t stopped Republicans from passing voter ID laws and other measures to restrict access to the ballot box. And the facts haven’t done anything to convince Americans that it’s not a problem. A majority of voters support voter ID, because of compelling and glib arguments from folks like Rick Perry.

A federally indicted on corruption charges presidential candidate, Perry said that he had to show an ID to fly on an airplane, so why not to vote?

The difference is that flying on an airplane isn’t a constitutionally protected action, yet voting is. Perry’s argument is laughable in that it demonstrates his utter ignorance about the topic he’s talking about, not surprising. What is surprising is that a majority of Americans agree with him and as a result hundreds of thousands of voters are being disenfranchised under the ruse of a voter fraud epidemic.

And guess what, most of those voters are Democrats.

So why is this a capitalist’s trick and not a Republican trick? Because the Republican party is just the political wing of the capitalist movement. Republicans pass laws in favor of capitalists. The conservative movement convinces Americans that what those Republicans are doing is really for their benefit, not that of the capitalists. It’s a multi-pronged attack to make sure the wealth of the nation keeps flowing up to them and Americans don’t figure out that they’re getting played for chumps.

Capitalist Trick 14: Slash Their Own Taxes by More than 50 Percent

Capitalists hate two things: paying workers a living wage and paying taxes.

In response that hatred of taxes, the conservative movement has helped capitalists enjoy a top tax rate that is more than 50 percent lower than it was in 1950.

In 1950, the top tax rate was 91 percent. Now it’s 39.6 percent. Yes, the other tax brackets were lowered as well, but no one group benefited nearly as much as the wealthiest among us. A total 51.4 percent points was wiped off that top tax bracket. That’s a lot of money not going to education, roads, bridges, rail, scientific research and taking care of those who can’t care for themselves.

I wonder why income inequality is at an all-time high. Hmmm, I wonder why.

Federal Income Tax Brackets Adjusted for Inflation 1950

Federal Income Tax Brackets Adjusted for Inflation 1950

2013 Federal Income Tax Brackets

2013 Federal Income Tax Brackets

Capitalist Trick 23: Convince Workers Unions Suck

At some point in my lifetime, and I was born in 1972, capitalists pulled off an amazing feat. They convinced working class people to no longer bargain collectively for wages and benefits.

That victory alone could account for much of the flat or declining wages and benefits over the last 30 years.

Federal Income Tax Rates 1950

Federal Income Tax Rates 1950

Let’s rewind back to post-war America. In the 1950s, union membership was strong, income taxes on the wealthy were high, and the nation was prosperous. I realize that not everyone shared in the prosperity of that time, particularly those folks living under the oppression of Jim Crow.

As an aside, and also a major factor in income inequality, are tax rates. In 1950, if you made more than $200,000 a year, you paid taxes on income over that amount at 91 percent. Adjusted for inflation that would apply to someone making more than $1.9 million a year in income today. But now that top income tax rate caps out at 39.6 percent. Top earners have seen their taxes cut by more than 50 percent. And I’m not even going to get into the tax rate on capital gains, it’s a joke.

But back to organized labor. The conservative movement back in the early 1980s decided to wage a war on labor. While the capitalists hate paying taxes, they hate paying workers even more. So while jokers like Grover Norquist waged war on taxes, the conservative movement, socially was able to convince Americans that they’re better off negotiating their salary on their own. It worked. Union membership is at an all-time low, and wages and benefits for working class people have either remained flat or declined, while billionaires are doing very, very well.

Think about the economic engine of America. For the sake of argument, let’s say that our market on any given year generates $16 trillion. Put aside all of the complexities of the economy for a moment and let’s boil it down to the basics. There are two players: capitalists and workers. If the capitalists get 30 percent of the pie, workers get 70 percent. If workers get 70 percent of the pie, capitalists get 30 percent. The capitalists know that the if they can suppress wages, it’s takes a slice of the pie away from workers and puts into the hands of the capitalists. The best way to keep wages low is to force workers to fight individually for salary increases and better benefits.

I’ve had well over 30 jobs in my life, many of them included some sort of benefits package, but did I ever get to be involved in that benefits selection process? No. My employer told me that these are the benefits, I could either take the job or not, but there would not now, or ever, be an opportunity to negotiate a better package.

The same goes for salary. Most employer’s try to mandate raises. They’ll tell you that every year you get a raise and it’s probably going to be 3 or 4 percent – barely beating inflation. If you try to negotiate a higher salary based on the current economic environment and your skill set, you might get a raise, but they will fight you tooth and nail. That fight, that’s what employers are banking most people won’t want to start, and most don’t. That’s why they wanted to get rid of unions, because without a union, most workers just take what their employer gives them and that’s the end of it. If you don’t like it, tough, go find another job.

I’ve fought for raises and quit when I lost. I’ve never really ever gotten what I wanted for a salary. And the fight for money, inevitably leads to stress at work between you and your boss. It’s so much better, if workers are represented by a union who can negotiate on their behalf. Unions are not perfect, but they are better at extracting wealth from capitalists than workers are on their own. That’s why capitalists hate unions and workers should, but for some voodoo by the right, they don’t.

In 1950, approximately 32 percent of the workforce was in a union. Now it’s just above 12 percent. The war against labor is over. Who do you think won?

Federal Income Nominal Tax Rates
Federal Income Inflation Adjusted Tax Rates

Biker Gang, Not Thugs, Shoot up a Restaunt – 9 Dead

In America, if you’re black and you protest police brutality, the media calls you a thug. If you’re white and you shoot-up a restaurant, leaving nine people dead, you’re a member of a biker gang – not a thug.

In Texas today, a biker gang, or two biker gangs, got into a fight at a restaurant that ended up in a shootout killing nine people. But the media is happily referring to these murderers as members of a biker gang, not thugs. But a couple of weeks ago in Baltimore, black folks got riled up protesting decades of police brutality and burn down a couple buildings, and they’re “thugs.”

I don’t know what’s worse overt or latent racism. At least overt racism you can confront it head-on, but this latent racism that oozes from our society is insidious. If anything “political correctness” has made it even worse.

And something tells me Fox News isn’t going to dig into the biker gang world to expose the brutality and criminality that permeates that world. If they talk about it at all, it will be as a straight news story, no need to add commentary to this – that’s white people.