Sandra Bland’s Rights Violated Before She Died

When Sandra Bland was pulled over, harassed by Texas State Trooper Brian Encinia, and subsequently arrested before winding up dead in a Texas jail cell, her rights had been violated repeatedly.

The Texas Standard has a question and answer story detailing the numerous times Encinia violated Bland’s rights and should have deescalated the situation rather cranking up the stress and anxiety.

Sandra Bland’s Mother: “This Means War”

Sandra Bland and mother Geneva Reed-Veal

Sandra Bland and mother Geneva Reed-Veal

Sandra Bland’s mother had to say good-bye to her daughter Tuesday. As a parent, the utter pain and destruction losing a child is unimaginable, and despite that, Bland’s mother vowed to fight for justice.

“This means war,” Geneva Reed-Veal said memorializing her daughter at Johnson Phillip All Faiths Church on Prairie View A&M’s campus in Texas.

According to the Dallas Morning News, Reed-Veal said that when her daughter left for Texas she said she was going to “stop all the injustices in the South.”

Bland’s death just might be the catalyst for real change in terms of police brutality and violence against black people.

Reed-Veal said that “something occurred that is going to change the world.”

Eric Garner being choked to death by a police officer caught on video, changed nothing. Freddie Gray’s death in Baltimore did result in six police officers charged, it’s far too early to tell whether that case will result in any substantive change. Michael Brown, 18, was unarmed and gunned down in broad daylight in Ferguson. Tamir Rice, 12, was shot and killed by a police officer within 2 seconds of the police officer approaching the young boy who had a pellet gun. There are more cases, like the man who was shot in the back while unarmed and running from a police officer. The list goes on, but none of these incidents ever rises to the level of a full-blown Department of Justice review of all of these police departments, and to have that review result in an improved police department.

Maybe Bland’s death will be the one that will result in real and substantive change to how we staff and manage our police departments.

Donald Trump is Amazing

Donald Trump

Donald Trump

Donald Trump is amazing. I’ve been watching, writing about and engaged in politics on some level for more than 20 years and I’ve never seen anyone like him. Trump is an unvarnished egotistical salesmen and he knows exactly what he’s doing.

Here is Trump’s plan. Say crazy stuff every day, get tons of press coverage (free advertising) and just blast away at his Republican opponents.

His most recent shenanigans involve Senator Lindsey Graham of South Caroline and Senator John McCain of Arizona. Trump called Graham an idiot before giving out the senator’s personal cell phone number on live TV. Trump said he gave out Graham’s phone number because it was “fun.” He said that he and his crew had a good laugh and got tons of press coverage to boot. As for McCain, Trump said that McCain wasn’t a hero because he got caught in Vietnam. McCain was captured by the North Vietnamese and tortured for five years as a prisoner of war. Trump avoided the Vietnam war with five deferments.

All over Twitter and Facebook, everyone is laughing at Trump and calling him an asshole, but as far as Trump is concerned, if people talking about him, that’s all that matters. And he’s right.

To get on the stage for the national Republican party debates, a candidate must rank in the top 10 on national polls. So it doesn’t matter if Trump is doing well in Iowa or New Hampshire, all he has to do is be in the top 10. Well, he’s got that locked up because most polls are showing Trump in the number 1 or number 2 spot. So he’s in the debates, that’s for certain.

Once he’s on the stage, watch out Republican candidates, Trump has no reason to play nice, he’s going to go for the throat and the other candidates are scared.

I don’t know if his strategy will get Trump the Republican nomination, but I think it will get him pretty far along in the process. Trump will probably gracefully bow out of the race at some point – not really.

Elizabeth Warren Takes on Primerica President Peter Schneider

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Senate Democrats want to pass a law that makes it illegal for investment bankers to put their own self-interest ahead of their clients. The GOP hates it and so they invited Primerica President Peter Schneider to testify and Sen. Elizabeth Warren made him look like an idiot.

If the GOP has its way, companies like Primerica can continue to manipulate clients into actions which benefit Primerica but is a loser for the client.

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.