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Race, Repentance and Reparations in America

Huffingon Post Politics - Mon, 2014-08-18 21:42
What is happening today in Ferguson, Missouri, had it roots hundreds of years ago, and nothing less than pulling out those roots will heal the situation today. America needs to reconcile with our racial history -- seeking genuine atonement and making meaningful amends. Until such time, tortured race relations will continue to plague us with more and more tragic results.

It's interesting that we even use the phrase "race relations," given how little we register that this is even about a relationship. The relationship between blacks and whites as groups in America is psychologically and emotionally dysfunctional, to say the least, and until this is dealt with on the level of the cause and not just effects, we will continue to play out over and over again the cycle of violence at its core.

It's difficult to deal emotionally with the history of slavery in America, which is why many whites have chosen not to. Yet it's imperative that we do, because until we see clearly the line of development leading from slavery to the Civil War to the Ku Klux Klan to the civil rights movement to "benign neglect" to the "prison-industrial complex," America will continue to misunderstand the real problem. This is not just about how many bullets were shot into Michael Brown. The shots that matter most here are way, way too many to count.

Slavery existed in slave owning states in America beginning in the 1600s, increased significantly with the expansion of the cotton industry in the early 1800s, and did not end until the passage of the 13th Amendment in 1865. When finally freed, the slave population in America at that time was somewhere around 4 million.

But the legacy of the Civil War did not end at Appomattox. The stroke of a presidential signature on the Emancipation Proclamation, even an amendment to the Constitution, could end the evil of an external institution but not the pathology that produced it. External remedies do not of themselves address internal causes. Slavery ended but the racism that gave rise to it did not, only burrowing more deeply into the fabric of Southern society after the Civil War.

During the Reconstruction Era from 1865 to 1877, with federal troops stationed throughout their states, a vanquished South had to come to terms with the fact that they had lost the war. With Lincoln's assassination, gone was the voice proclaiming "malice towards none, and charity for all." Bitterness over having had to go through what they went through to win the war was the main emotional tone of the North, and the humiliation of defeat was the main emotional tone of the South.

With their painful defeat came the eradication of the South's primary economic engine, all social and political privilege, and an entire way of life. In addition, carpetbaggers descended from the North to loot, manipulate, and take whatever advantage possible of an already devastated population. Had Lincoln lived, things might have gone very differently. But he did not.

Many in the South, not surprisingly, then turned their rage at having lost the war against the people whom they saw as its cause. The last thing certain Southerners were ready to do was concede true equality of social status to blacks. And thus began an era of white supremacy in the American South, which was almost as ugly as slavery itself.

If slavery marked Phase 1 of America's black-white relationship, then the reign of white supremacy after the Civil War marked Phase 2.

Former slave owners had not necessarily awakened to the deep humanity of African-Americans; they simply could no longer own them. Their sense of entitlement and the violence it spawned simply morphed into new forms. Groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, founded in the 1860s, began a wave of terror in which lynching -- hangings carried out by angry mobs -- of black Americans as well as of whites seeking to help them became common. Once federal troops were withdrawn from the Southern states in 1877 and White Supremacists regained control of Southern State legislatures, blacks were routinely intimidated and attacked to prevent their voting in state and federal elections. Violence around elections became normal, with lynching reaching a peak in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. During the period between 1890 and1908, southern legislatures passed new constitutions and electoral rules to disfranchise most blacks and many poor whites. They enacted a series of segregation and Jim Crow laws to enforce second-class status against blacks.

The horrors of institutionalized white supremacy were ultimately met and repudiated by the rise of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement during the 1960s. Their struggle, of course, was not easy, and Dr. King received both professionally and personally the full force of supremacist rage. From the lynching of integration rights workers, to police brutality, to church bombings, and ultimately the murder of Dr. King, the white supremacist movement did not go down quietly. Love is the only force that is powerful enough to overcome hate, and Dr. King displayed that love with the full force of his being. His non-violent message struck the heart of a nation, ultimately awakening America to the need for federal civil rights legislation. And it came to pass.

A cursory reading of history might lead one to think, "So then it was all handled, right?" But unfortunately the answer is no. The monster of racism clearly has many heads, and every time one has been bitten off, another one has arisen. The hot violence of slavery was replaced by the burrowing violence of white supremacy, which was then replaced by the cold violence of benign neglect.

Thus began Phase 3 of our tortured race relationship. "Benign neglect" is a phrase first articulated by Daniel Patrick Moynihan when he was Urban Affairs Advisor to President Richard Nixon, arguing that the drama of the Civil Rights movement should be followed by a period of more or less quiet in the relationship between blacks and whites. It was not necessarily a proactively racist sentiment on Moynihan's part, or even on Nixon's. But it was an abandonment of a healing process nevertheless, and in that sense at least a passive betrayal of the relationship. To say to a formerly enslaved population, "Be glad! You're not slaves anymore, and you're not going to be routinely lynched or kept from voting!" -- while good, indeed very good -- was still not restitution. And nothing short of restitution will constitute a real amends and redeem the soul of America. It wasn't enough that slaves in America were freed. The question remains: What were they freed to?

Civil rights legislation, with its signature Voting Rights Act, was extremely important in integrating African-Americans into the voting pool. But of itself it did little to integrate African-Americans into America's economy. And people who are left out economically are left out, period. The era of race relations post-civil rights movement has paralleled the advancement of American society in general, in which a relatively small part of our population -- blacks, as well as whites -- has done very well, while the majority has hardly moved forward at all. "Blacks go to Harvard; blacks get rich; see, a black man became president!" is now the mantra used to justify a continuation of a policy of benign neglect. The fact that geniuses can make it in America doesn't of itself mean that social justice exists in America. Not everyone is a genius, but everyone should matter.

Yes, it is true -- and very much to be celebrated -- that blacks have opportunities in America today unheard of 50 years ago, but that of itself does not constitute full economic justice. The poor in America are all benignly neglected now. As long as 1 percent of our people control 40 percent of our wealth and 60 percent of our people live on 2.3 percent of our wealth, economic justice for the majority of Americans of any color isn't even on the short list of our national priorities.

One in five American children live in poverty today, making us the second highest child poverty rate in the advanced world. Among black children, however, the poverty rate hovers at 40 percent. A black male has a one in three lifetime probability of incarceration in the United States, lending credence to Michelle Alexander's description of America's "cradle to prison pipeline." These problems are not discreet and newly formed; they are the continuation, the legacies, of a situation that began in the 1600s and still plagues us today. It's not as though the situation finally erupted into violence on the streets of Ferguson. The situation erupts into violence in the hearts of black mothers and fathers all over America every day, as they teach their children -- particularly their sons -- how to behave in order to avoid the unequal application of criminal justice in America. For America has fallen into a terrible pattern in the area of race, as in so many others: don't heal the disease, just suppress or seek to eradicate the systems. The message communicated by most governmental action is this: "Don't keep blacks down, necessarily -- just don't lift them up. The geniuses among them will make their way. If and when they complain or act out, we have police and prisons to show 'em who's boss."

Yet heal the disease we must. And the most significant healing of any societal woe emerges from justice done. Blacks in America have been trained to ask for so little, as though God knows, we've done enough. We've done enough, white America..? What, in the name of God, have we done? We spend millions on anti-poverty programs and billions on prisons. In fact, we haven't even apologized. It's much easier for someone to forgive you when you've had the courtesy to apologize, and much easier for them to get over it if you've had the decency to fix the problem.

We need to apologize, and we need to make genuine amends. America needs to pay long overdue war reparations, and until we do, we will not move forward in any meaningful way. America needs more than forgiveness; we need genuine repentance, and restitution for our national sins.

In the 1990s, Bill Clinton suggested we have a "national conversation about race," suggesting perhaps that if we talk about it enough then maybe the problem will go away. But it's difficult to have an authentic conversation when half of the people involved in the dialogue have over two hundred years of understandable rage to express. There are situations in life -- and race in America is one of them -- where talk without action does not heal a wound, but only exacerbates it. Whites and blacks have a relationship in America, but it is an unequal one. One side owes something to the other, and until the debt is paid, the relationship will remain unhealed. The very mention of actually paying something back to people we enslaved for two hundred fifty years is still not on the table, not really. And until it is, then America will not be free.

America spends over $600 billion a year on defense. Over $1 trillion has been spent on the Iraq War, seen now to have been the biggest foreign policy blunder in America's history. Yet no one ever asked if we "could afford it." So it should not be considered unreasonable to suggest that America put $500 billion toward a Reparations Plan For African Americans. Not piecemeal things, like Affirmative Action. But the real deal -- in a big way -- with the emotional, economic and social magnitude it deserves. Incremental changes often add up to no fundamental change at all.

Reparations are not a radical idea; they're considered a basic tenet of social and political policy throughout the world. Why should America not pay reparations to the descendants of slaves who were brought to America against their will, used as slaves to build the Southern economy into a huge economic force, and then freed into a culture of further violence perpetrated against them? It's not as though all that's over now; if anything, the problem has grown within the cells and psyches of every generation since. America will continue to waste money on relatively limited fixes, until we buck up and pay this debt in a real way once and for all. Millions are indeed wasted if the billions we owe here are not paid. A Reparations Plan would provide a massive investment in educational and economic opportunities for African Americans -- rendered as payment for a long overdue debt. Until that debt is paid, the cycle of violence that began in the 1600s and continues to this day will continue to haunt our psyche and disrupt our social good. It is time for America to atone for our past in both word and deed, and to heal our weary soul.

Marianne Williamson is a best-selling author and lecturer.


What Happened When A Student Told Her Campus Health Center She Was Sexually Assaulted

Huffingon Post Politics - Mon, 2014-08-18 21:30
NEW YORK -- Pace University forced the victim of an alleged sexual assault into an investigation, found the alleged rapist not responsible without saying why, and then attempted to require both students to attend a program on alcohol and date rape, a complaint filed with the Education Department claims.

The student who filed the complaint, and who asked to remain anonymous due to the private nature of her experience, received word in July that the department's Office for Civil Rights would look into her grievance.

The Pace case underscores how complicated it is to investigate sex crimes on campuses and why victims might choose their own privacy over punishment of their aggressor. Those who work with the victims argue they should have that choice -- one apparently denied the student at Pace.

A survey of 236 colleges and universities, released in July by Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), found that more than 40 percent of those schools had not conducted a single investigation of sexual assault in the last five years. At the time, the American Council on Education, the main lobbying group for higher education, noted that victims aren't always cooperative or willing to seek punishment.

Others suggest that forcing an investigation on a reluctant victim can even be harmful.

"Imagine someone overriding your wishes, talking to every single person in your social circle [about an alleged sexual assault]," said Laura Dunn, founder of the survivor advocacy group SurvJustice. "How could you stay on campus? You have no autonomy, no privacy."

The Pace student said she had no intention of reporting the Feb. 14, 2014, incident, but did disclose it to a doctor at the New York university's health center on Feb. 27 when she went to get tested for sexually transmitted infections. The doctor fetched another colleague, who agreed they needed to inform campus security, who would in turn have to start an investigation, the student said.

"I said I don't want an investigation, don't want the police involved at all, don't want an in-school investigation, but they told me it had to happen," the student said to The Huffington Post. "I did not want to report my rapist, because it is a very miserable and tedious process in which the victim rarely gets justice."

Neena Chaudhry, senior counsel at the National Women's Law Center, points to the problem here: that the student didn't know that by talking to the doctor about the alleged assault, she had "reported" to the university.

"What the Office for Civil Rights makes clear is it's important for schools to tell everyone in the community who has to report and who doesn't have to report, so student survivors know at the outset," Chaudhry said.

After Pace University staff talked to the student in an exam room for two hours -- she didn't feel she could leave -- the student agreed to cooperate, figuring that if it had to happen, the investigation might as well be done right, according to the complaint. She submitted a written account of her version of events the following day, and the university issued a no-contact order between the two students involved.

The university took a little over a month to investigate the case, during which time the reported victim was never interviewed in person by the investigators, the complaint states.

"The Title IX investigators never met with me, not once," the student said. "They never told me how they questioned people or which of my friends they questioned. But they ended up with the conclusion there wasn't enough evidence to really punish him."

On March 31, Marijo Russell-O'Grady, Pace's dean of students, told the reported victim and the accused assailant that the school was dropping the charges, according to a copy of the decision letter obtained by HuffPost. The reported victim said she never received an explanation why the school was finding him not responsible. Pace did determine that both students should be required to attend training on alcohol and substance abuse and on date rape.

Russell-O'Grady later told the female student in an April 23 email, obtained by HuffPost, that she "should never be forced to report." The dean promised to follow up with the Title IX coordinator. She did not return a request for further comment from HuffPost.

Scott Trent, a Pace spokesman, declined to comment on the details of this case. But Trent said Monday, "If any employee becomes aware of an instance or claim of sexual assault, it will be investigated."

"That's a matter of policy, and that's done for public safety reasons," Trent told HuffPost in a phone conversation. "Certainly, if there's a sexual predator on campus, that's something that could impact the greater campus community. Even if someone who was alleged to be a victim of sexual assault didn't want an investigation, an investigation would take place for that reason."

Trent described the school's sexual assault investigations as "very thorough" and said that each party in a case is given the option to appeal the final decision. He pointed to Pace's extensive sexual assault policy for additional information.

Indeed, research shows that serial offenders commit an outsized share of sexual assaults on college campuses.

Chaudhry said that when survivors don't want to pursue punishment for their attackers, schools should carefully evaluate whether they need to do an investigation regardless. If the school has reason to believe that the accused may be a repeat offender or if the offense poses a threat to the larger campus, Chaudhry said, it may be appropriate to go forward without the victim's cooperation. But the key is letting victims know before they tell a school employee, "so then people can make choices on what they want," she said.

Dunn, who recently served on an Education Department committee helping to draft new regulations under the Clery Act, added that sometimes colleges don't know what the federal campus safety law actually mandates.

"A lot of schools think under the Clery Act that they're required not just to keep the statistic but to investigate, and that is wrong," said Dunn. "And under Clery, health centers are exempt [from reporting requirements]. They are supposed to essentially be confidential sources [for students]."

Colleges are required to disclose to both the accused and the alleged victim the outcome of any investigation, Chaudhry said. "Realistically, part of that should be some explanation of why they found what they found," she said.

The reported victim at Pace was able to get out of the educational training after she appealed. But having been pushed into an investigation she didn't want, which caused more anxiety and stress than it was worth, the student said she decided to transfer to another school and file a federal complaint against Pace.

"Basically at the very end, there's no way I can ever return to [Pace]," she said. "I've lost my faith in the school completely."

Hedy Epstein, 90-Year-Old Holocaust Survivor, Arrested During Michael Brown Protest

Huffingon Post Politics - Mon, 2014-08-18 20:45
Hedy Epstein, a 90-year-old Holocaust survivor was arrested on Monday during unrest over the death of Michael Brown, KMOV reports.

Epstein, who aided Allied forces in the Nuremberg trials, was placed under arrest in downtown St. Louis, Missouri "for failing to disperse" during a protest of Governor Jay Nixon's decision to call in National Guard into Ferguson. 8 others were also arrested.

"I've been doing this since I was a teenager. I didn't think I would have to do it when I was ninety," Epstein told The Nation during her arrest. "We need to stand up today so that people won't have to do this when they're ninety."

Epstein is currently an activist and a vocal supporter of the Free Gaza Movement.

Tensions rose in Ferguson on Monday night after Missouri Governor Jay Nixon announced that the National Guard had been called in to help run the command center while police handled the protests.

Several people were arrested as protests ramped up, including Scott Olson, a photographer working for Getty Images.

President Obama addressed reporters on Monday and condemned the arrest of journalists covering Ferguson in the days since Michael Brown was shot and killed. He said he would be monitoring the National Guard presence to make sure it is "used in a limited and appropriate way."

"There is no excuse for excessive force by police," Obama said.

Here's a photo of Epstein's arrest:

Hedy Epstein, a 90 y.o. Holocaust survivor, was among the those arrested for blocking Nixon office bldg. #Ferguson pic.twitter.com/s4y68zFFrF

— Steven Hsieh 謝章仁 (@stevenjhsieh) August 18, 2014

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article reported that Epstein was arrested in Ferguson. She was arrested in St. Louis.

The Survivor: How Eric Holder outlasted his (many) critics

Huffingon Post Politics - Mon, 2014-08-18 20:31
But there’s another explanation, and according to the two dozen current and former Obama administration officials and confidants of both men I’ve spoken with in recent weeks, it may well be the main reason the first black president of the United States has stood so firmly behind the first black attorney general of the United States: Holder has been willing to say the things Obama couldn’t or wouldn’t say about race.

“He’s a race man,” says Charles Ogletree, a longtime friend of Holder’s who taught and mentored Obama and his wife, Michelle, as Harvard Law School students in the 1980s.

Ferguson Tense Ahead Of First Night With National Guard Troops In Town

Huffingon Post Politics - Mon, 2014-08-18 19:44
FERGUSON, Mo. -- Police moved aggressively Monday evening to prevent the kind of chaos that ensued the previous night, when protesters threw molotov cocktails at officers who responded with tear gas to clear the streets.

Midday Monday, the QuikTrip -- the burned-down gas station that had become a meeting place for protesters -- was shut down and made off-limits to everyone, including journalists, who had used it for live interviews. Officers told protesters to keep moving if they wanted to demonstrate and said they could not linger in large groups. One officer told The Huffington Post the order came from the governor's office. A spokesman for Gov. Jay Nixon (D) did not return a request for comment.

Around 4 p.m., people were cleared from the McDonald's restaurant on West Florissant Avenue and were told it was closing -- far earlier than on previous days. On Sunday night, protesters seeking refuge from tear gas broke into the McDonald's.

Traffic on West Florissant was severely restricted. One officer told The Huffington Post the street was open only to local traffic.

Protesters, however, continued to gather outside the McDonald's. Shortly after 5 p.m., officers told them to move to an empty parking lot across the street. They were warned that if they didn't listen, they would be arrested.

Malik Shabazz, with the group Black Lawyers for Justice, got on the bullhorn and tried to calm the angry crowd, saying it was too early in the day to fight with police, and not to let the demonstration end in arrests. The crowd, for the most part, went with him to the new parking lot, although the protest had lost its fizzle by then.

Police officers reportedly arrested news photographer Scott Olson of Getty Images on West Florissant Avenue Monday evening.

Getty Images photographer arrested #Ferguson pic.twitter.com/ScOaHO8bjY

— Ryan J. Reilly (@ryanjreilly) August 18, 2014

Last Wednesday, Ferguson police officers arrested Ryan Reilly of The Huffington Post and Wes Lowery of The Washington Post.

There also was a protest in downtown St. Louis on Monday afternoon. According to the St. Louis Metropolitan Police, eight protesters were "peacefully arrested" for "failure to disperse."

See below for the latest in Ferguson:

Ferguson Is Everytown, U.S.A.

Huffingon Post Politics - Mon, 2014-08-18 19:41
The tragic killing of college-bound teenager Michael Brown has raised questions about the frequency with which police kill unarmed black men in America. The answer, unfortunately, is far too often.

Just three months ago, on a warm April afternoon, a white police officer shot and killed Dontre Hamilton, a 31-year-old black man, in downtown Milwaukee's Red Arrow Park. According to the Milwaukee police chief, the officer was "defending himself in a violent situation." But the eyewitness report of a Starbucks barista paints a very different picture.

According to the barista, Hamilton had been sleeping on the concrete sidewalk next to Starbucks when two police officers approached him, asked him questions, and left after determining that he was doing nothing wrong. But an hour or so later, she heard yelling. Looking out the Starbucks window, she saw a different white police officer standing up against Hamilton, "who was holding the officer's own baton in a defense posture." The officer "lunged" at Hamilton in an attempt to get the baton, but failed. The barista watched in horror as the officer stood 10 feet away from Hamilton, pulled out a gun, and shot Hamilton 10 times in quick succession without issuing any verbal warnings. The barista reports that she never saw Hamilton hit the officer with the baton.

The tragic killing of Hamilton bears a striking -- and deeply troubling -- resemblance to the killing of Michael Brown, who was shot by an officer six times, including twice in the head, after being stopped for walking down the middle of a street. Including Hamilton and Brown, at least six black men were shot and killed by police since April in circumstances that suggest the unjustified use of excessive force and possible racial profiling.

In July, Eric Garner was killed in New York by officers who placed him in a chokehold -- a banned tactic -- and slammed his head into a sidewalk during an attempt to arrest him for allegedly selling illegal cigarettes.

In early August, police in Beavercreek, Ohio, fatally shot John Crawford III in a Walmart, where Crawford had been holding a BB gun that he had picked up on a store shelf.

Just days after the killing of Brown, Ezell Ford was killed by police on a Los Angeles sidewalk during an investigative stop. While police contend that officers opened fire after a "struggle," Ford's mother reports that he was lying on the ground complying with the officers' order when he was shot three times in the back.

And the very next day, pressman Dante Parker was killed in Victorville, California, after being repeatedly shocked with a stun gun by police attempting to arrest him as a suspect in a nearby robbery. Apparently, police suspected him because he was riding a bicycle, and the robbery suspect was reported to have fled on a bike.

The stories of these six people make one thing painfully clear: The killing of black men in incidents that begin as investigatory police stops are anything but unusual in America. In this sense, Ferguson is Everytown, U.S.A.

There is a reason for this. More than 240 years of slavery and 90 years of legal segregation in this country have created a legacy of racialized policing. Killings and beatings lie at one end of a spectrum in which black people ­-- and young black men in particular -- are routinely stigmatized, humiliated, and harassed as targets for police stops, frisks, and searches, even when they are doing nothing wrong.

The numbers show the reality.

Studies of Rhode Island traffic stops and New York pedestrian stops confirm that police stop blacks at higher rates than whites. Even more troubling is that the New York study determined that a neighborhood's racial composition was the main factor for determining NYPD stop rates, above and beyond the "role of crime, social conditions, or the allocation of police resources." In other words, New York cops targeted blacks because of their race -- not because they happened to live in a dangerous place or in an area flooded by police.

Data from Ferguson mirror these racial disparities. Last year, blacks not only accounted for 86 percent of stops, 92 percent of searches, and 93 percent of arrests by Ferguson police, the state attorney general's office calculated that blacks were overrepresented in these encounters in light of their population figures. Even more damning is the fact that although police were twice as likely to search blacks than whites after initiating a stop, whites were far more likely to be found with contraband.

It is not a leap to conclude that the same biases that cause those racial disparities also make it more likely that black men will die during the course of police arrests. According to the Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, although black men made up only 27.8 percent of all persons arrested from 2003-2009, they made up 31.8 percent of all persons who died in the course of arrest, and the majority of these deaths were homicides.

Why does racialized policing persist despite the end of slavery and Jim Crow? While explicit racial bias may be less prominent today (albeit anything but eliminated), implicit racial biases plague all of us, including those charged with keeping our streets safe. A large body of compelling research has demonstrated how these unconscious, automatically activated, and pervasive mental processes translate into action with devastating consequences for black people.

In particular, researchers have well-documented shooter bias. One video game study simulated the nearly instantaneous decisions made by police officers to shoot armed individuals and to refrain from shooting the unarmed. The study revealed that participants were more likely to shoot black people than white people in error.

Both explicit and implicit biases lead far too often to the killing of black men in police-civilian encounters. And they undergird the daily indignity and humiliation experienced by blacks who are stopped, questioned, and searched by police when they have done nothing wrong.

Police are sworn to serve and protect everyone equally, not disproportionately stop and harass only certain communities. Rather than express surprise and shock during a summer where six black men have been killed by police in highly questionable circumstances, it is up to us to do something.

The single most important first step is to provide accountability -- including through the Attorney General's issuance of a comprehensive ban on racial profiling. Accountability will advance justice for past harms and pave the way forward for a future in which we are closer to the promise of equal justice for all.

Perry Case Complicates Boehner's Lawsuit

Huffingon Post Politics - Mon, 2014-08-18 19:21

The indictment of Governor Rick Perry of Texas and his subsequent court case are about to complicate things politically for John Boehner. No matter the actual outcome of Perry's case, the arguments made by Perry and his supporters are going to provide an easy equivalence with Boehner's plans to sue President Obama -- an equivalence that would not have existed had Perry not been indicted.

Perry is making the claim that the entire thing is just a partisan witchhunt, driven by out-of-control Democrats in the liberal enclave of Austin. He may succeed in convincing the public of this -- and it remains to be seen whether this will help or hurt Perry among Republican primary voters in the upcoming presidential contest. So far, he has signaled that he's going to wear it as a Republican badge of honor -- standing up to liberals trying to tear him down in the courts. Here is Perry's lawyer, summing up this defense:

The facts of this case conclude that the governor's veto was lawful, appropriate and well within the authority of the office of the governor. Today's action, which violates the separation of powers outlined in the Texas Constitution, is nothing more than an effort to weaken the constitutional authority granted to the office of Texas governor, and sets a dangerous precedent by allowing a grand jury to punish the exercise of a lawful and constitutional authority afforded to the Texas governor.

He is arguing that the voters entrusted Perry with executive powers, which Perry then faithfully exercised, and that the case against him is nothing more than Democrats fighting a partisan battle that they already lost at the ballot box.

Now, I should explicitly point out that I have no idea what the actual facts are and until a jury hears the case, it is impossible to know whether the indictment was partisan overreach or not. I'm not going to argue the facts of the case here, to put this another way -- we'll all have plenty of time to do so as the case makes its way through the legal system in the months to come. I'm instead focusing only on the politics of the case.

Perry and his defenders are going to be making the case for strong executive power, which (they will say) is supposed to be executed without the interference of the courts. That's Perry's argument in a nutshell, and so far he has not been shy about strongly making this argument himself.

But this is going to become a major political stumbling block for House Republicans when John Boehner actually files his own lawsuit against President Obama. Because they'll be arguing that, in Texas, the executive should be allowed to execute his powers without interference from the courts; while at the same time arguing that on the national level the courts should indeed interfere with the executive attempting to exercise his powers. The parallels are going to be obvious to all, in fact.

Again, the facts of both cases won't even really enter into the discussion much, because while one party thinks the Texas case is weak, the other party is going to say the same thing about Boehner's case. The real argument, in both cases, is: Should this be the way politics works? At what point should political arguments be handled by the justice system? Perry's case is all about politics from beginning to end. Boehner's case will be too.

Republicans were counting on Boehner's case to whip their base voters into a frenzy, right before the midterm elections. They were all set to pronounce the righteousness of their position, using the justice system to rein in an otherwise-unchecked president. That's going to be a lot tougher a sell now, especially since it is scheduled to happen after weeks and weeks of discussing the merits of the case against Perry. Republicans will be denouncing using the justice system against an executive in purely partisan fashion, and then they'll have to start arguing that John Boehner has every right to use the justice system against an executive in purely partisan fashion. The turnabout will be so dramatic it might induce whiplash.

To the casual observer of politics, the two cases are going to sound an awful lot alike. Some Democrats, perhaps realizing this, have already expressed doubts about the case against Perry. The woman at the heart of the case isn't exactly a "poster child" character, since video exists of her drunk driving arrest, which doesn't exactly inspire confidence in her personality. To defend the case against Perry means also having to defend her, which is why some Democrats are already backing away from this one.

But Republicans won't be able to back away so easily from Boehner's case. This isn't some squabble in one faraway state; this is national politics. The speaker of the House will be suing the president of the country, which can't be written off as some sort of parochial affair. House Republicans are already on the record, having voted to proceed with the lawsuit right before the August break. For some Republicans, the lawsuit won't even go far enough -- Boehner is already walking a tightrope with Republicans who want to see him impeach Obama. Boehner won't be able to back down, to put this another way.

But now the argument for suing Obama is going to get more complicated than anyone could have foreseen. Perry's case is going to prepare the ground with the public, and provide Democrats with an easy response: "How is this case any different than Perry's?" Republicans are going to be arguing one thing for Perry, and the exact opposite for Obama. This is going to become more and more obvious to all concerned, in fact.

The best Boehner can hope for, at this point, is that Perry's case moves very, very slowly. Maybe everyone will forget about it if there is no breaking news from Austin in the next month or so. My guess, however, is that Democrats will be more than ready to remind everyone of the similarities between the two cases, and how Republicans are taking positions in the two which are completely contradictory. The Perry case -- again, no matter how it turns out -- has certainly made it a lot more politically complicated for Boehner to move forward with his lawsuit.


Chris Weigant blogs at:

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Getty Photographer Scott Olson Arrested At Ferguson Protest (UPDATED)

Huffingon Post Politics - Mon, 2014-08-18 19:02
A photographer for Getty Images was arrested Monday during protests in Ferguson, Missouri, several eyewitnesses reported.

HuffPost's Ryan J. Reilly captured a photo of photojournalist Scott Olson's arrest, which took place across the street from the press area:

Getty Images photographer arrested #Ferguson pic.twitter.com/ScOaHO8bjY

— Ryan J. Reilly (@ryanjreilly) August 18, 2014

Getty later confirmed Olson's arrest to NBC News.

In an Instagram video posted by journalist Amy K. Nelson, Olson said he was arrested because police "said the media is required to be in a certain area."

It's not Olson's first brush with the law while on the job. In 2012, Olson was one of several journalists injured while covering protests at a Chicago NATO summit. Olson was bloodied after being hit on the head with a police baton.

In a Saturday interview with NPR's "All Things Considered," Olson detailed his experiences covering the protests over the death of Michael Brown, the unarmed African American teenager killed by a Ferguson police officer on August 9. In the interview, Olson, a former Marine, said he was shocked by how heavily armed Ferguson's police squads were.

"Most of these protesters are peaceful," he said. "If you have several people there trying to disrupt the protest, you're not going to shoot at them with a rifle. Not in a crowd like that."

CNN's Don Lemon, also reporting from Ferguson, was pushed by police while he was filming a live shot Monday evening. Watch the video:

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UPDATE: 9:58p.m. on Aug. 18 -- Scott Olson was released from police custody.

Scott Olson just released. He said “I want to be able to do my job as a member of the media and not be arrested for just doing my job”

— Pancho Bernasconi (@DailyLuca) August 19, 2014

Below, a gallery of Olson's photos from Ferguson:

Russia: Agreement Reached On Humanitarian Aid To Ukraine But Not On Ceasefire

Huffingon Post Politics - Mon, 2014-08-18 03:40

(Adds quotes context)

BERLIN, Aug 18 (Reuters) - Russia on Monday said all objections to it sending a humanitarian convoy to Ukraine had been resolved but said no progress had been made in Berlin talks toward a ceasefire between government and rebel forces in the east of the country.

Following the talks between Russia, Germany, France and Ukraine on Sunday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said "finally, all questions have been resolved ... related to the Russian initiative to send 300 trucks with humanitarian aid."

"Everything has been agreed with Ukraine and the International Committee of the Red Cross," he said at a news conference in Berlin.

Russia and Ukraine have been at loggerheads over a convoy of 280 Russian trucks carrying water, food and medicine.

It has been parked for days in Russia near the border amid objections from Kiev, which believes the convoy could be a Trojan Horse for Russia to get weapons to the rebels - a notion that Moscow has dismissed as absurd.

Lavrov described the situation in east Ukraine as a "humanitarian catastrophe" and said a ceasefire was needed as civilians had been under bombardment from the Ukrainian advance.

"We are not able to report on positive results on reaching a ceasefire and on (a start to) the political process (to resolve the conflict)," he told journalists.

The four-month-old conflict in Ukraine's Russian-speaking east has reached a critical phase, with Kiev and Western governments watching nervously to see if Russia will use troops massed along its border to intervene in support of the increasingly besieged pro-Russian rebels.

Russian has repeatedly said it has no plans to invade and Lavrov again denied Moscow is helping the rebels. He defended the military buildup on Russia's border, saying: "We must be alert ... when several kilometers from our border a real war is underway." (Reporting by Alissa de Carbonnel and Katya Golubkova in MOSCOW and Stephen Brown in BERLIN; Editing by Toby Chopra)

The Percentage Of Americans Who Can't Afford Food Hasn't Budged Since The Recession Peaked

Huffingon Post Politics - Mon, 2014-08-18 00:05
On a recent night last week, dinner for Jill Taormina and her family was Totino’s Pizza Rolls with a side of canned pears. There was no other food on the table.

“I’d rather make a roast with potatoes in the Crock-Pot. My kids like to eat healthy," said Taormina, who lives with her daughters, Angela, 12, and Madeline, 16. "But the price of meat and produce is outrageous.”

Money has been tight lately for the 34-year-old single mom, who lives in Atwater, Ohio. She supports her family on a fixed income of $1,700 a month, the combined total of her disability insurance and child support. After paying her electric, gas and cell phone bills and making payments on her car, her car insurance and her homeowner’s insurance, Taormina said, there’s scant cash left over for groceries.

“I can only afford to spend about $100 a month on groceries,” Taormina said. “I coupon as much as I can, but it’s just not enough.”

More than five years into an economic recovery, with unemployment falling and the stock market at record highs, millions of Americans like Taormina still can't afford basic nutrition, according to a blockbuster study released Monday by the relief charity Feeding America. The 160-page report, titled Hunger in America 2014, claims to be the largest, most comprehensive study of hunger in the U.S. ever conducted. It took four years to produce and involved interviews with 60,000 people whose households are served by the charity.

The group's report is full of shocking statistics:

  • Feeding America provides food for 15.5 million households, or 46.5 million people nationwide.

  • More than 12 million households are forced to eat unhealthy food because they can’t afford better-quality groceries. They risk adverse health effects that can make their financial plight worse.

  • 66 percent of households said they’ve had to choose between paying for food and paying for medicine or medical care. Thirty-one percent said they had to make that choice every month.

  • 69 percent of households that rely on food charities to survive have been forced to choose between paying for utilities and paying for food.

JoAnne Schielzo's family falls into the last category. The 46-year-old mother supports her five children and her husband on the $1,200 monthly paychecks from her job at the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission. Even though Schielzo is already borrowing against her pension to be able to afford groceries and utilities, it's not always enough. Once, her family’s electricity was shut off when she defaulted on the payment.

“I’ll take a pension loan and hang onto it as long as I can, just paying the bare minimum,” said Schielzo, who lives in Bergen County, New Jersey. “But it’s not always enough to pay the bills.”

Feeding America did not interview people who use food programs outside of its own network. The USDA said last year there were 49 million Americans who lack consistent access to enough food, suggesting there are millions in the U.S. experiencing hunger who aren't using food pantries or soup kitchens served by the organization.

The USDA since 1995 has been measuring food insecurity, which means not always being able to eat enough nutritious food to support a healthy life. Over the years there have been small dips and rises in the number of people in the U.S. who are food insecure, but it has stayed fairly steady from 1995 to 2008, hovering between 10 and 12 percent of Americans.

The figure spiked when the recession hit, however, rising from 11.1 percent in 2007 to 14.6 percent in 2008. Since that jump, the number of hungry Americans nationwide has stayed at about the same level, even though unemployment recently dropped.

Rising employment is supposed to be an indicator that food insecurity will fall. But a June report from the USDA may have the answer for why so many people in the U.S. still struggle to eat three healthy meals a day: Higher-than-average inflation and the rising cost of food relative to other goods and services offset the changes lower unemployment would have made.

In other words, even when more people get jobs, those jobs don’t always pay enough for them to afford to eat.

“If food prices go up, families are more constrained, and they’re more likely to be food insecure,” said USDA economist Christian Gregory, who co-authored the report.

The number of people struggling to eat in the U.S. has stayed high since the recession ended, even as unemployment has gone down. (Credit: USDA)

Since 2007, the price of food has increased by an average of 2.8 percent every year, according to USDA data. The agency projects it will increase as much as 3.5 percent this year. That’s higher than normal inflation, which has gone up an average of 2.1 percent a year over the same period (2007-2013), according to data provided to HuffPost by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Meanwhile, wages have stagnated. According to a recent report from the Economic Policy Institute, a labor-focused think tank, wages fell during the recession and the recovery for workers toiling in the bottom 70 percent of the wage distribution, despite increases in productivity.

And even though the number of employed Americans has increased in recent months, new jobs aren't showing up everywhere in the country.

“Unemployment is still a huge issue down here,” said Susan Fuller of Brother’s Keeper Ministries, a food pantry in Poplarville, Mississippi. Fuller said the pantry's client base has more than tripled since 2009.

Among the 60,000 people who responded to Feeding America's survey, the median household income was just $9,175 a year. That's far below the federal poverty threshold, which is $18,222 for a family of three, according to the U.S. Census Bureau data for 2013.

Of the 15.5 million households served by Feeding America, just over half receive monthly food stamps. Of those, about 54 percent say their food stamps only last two weeks or less. Congress recently cut $800 million per year in funding for the program, which millions of Americans rely on to help them afford food. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated those cuts, which were signed into law by President Obama in February, will reduce benefits for 850,000 households across the country.

“This report clearly makes a case for the importance of federal nutrition programs,” Fraser said. “They are the first line of defense for someone who lives at risk of hunger.”

(Top photo by photographer Benjamin Lehman, based in Canton, Ohio.)

Ferguson Police Fire Tear Gas At Protesters Hours Before Curfew (UPDATE)

Huffingon Post Politics - Sun, 2014-08-17 23:50
FERGUSON, Mo. -- Police cleared Ferguson of protesters hours before a state-imposed curfew was set to take effect, throwing tear gas at individuals who were out in the streets over the death of Michael Brown, the unarmed black teenager shot and killed by police officer Darren Wilson on August 9.

What had started out as a loud, party-like gathering -- with protesters honking horns, dancing and yelling -- quickly dissolved into chaos as the midnight curfew approached. Police, equipped with armored vehicles, shields and gas masks, fired tear gas down Ferguson's West Florissant Avenue.

In a press conference early Monday morning, Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson, who is now in charge of security in Ferguson, said officers were commanded to throw tear gas after members of the crowd began throwing molotov cocktails at the police. There were also reports of gunfire and businesses being broken into, with workers at a McDonald's reportedly locking themselves in a back room when the vandalism started.

According to Johnson, there were seven or eight people arrested in the protests, and at least two people were injured. He deliberately distinguished between peaceful individuals who came out to rally and people committed to "premeditated criminal acts."

Gov. Jay Nixon (D) announced early Monday morning that he had signed an executive order sending National Guard troops to Ferguson.

"Given these deliberate, coordinated and intensifying violent attacks on lives and property in Ferguson, I am directing the highly capable men and women of the Missouri National Guard...in restoring peace and order to this community," he said in a statement.

Among those hit with tear gas Sunday was an 8-year-old boy. His mother declined to give an interview, but the crowd rallied immediately around him, attempting to get him water.

Whoa. This kid was just hit with tear gas. Mom is freaking out. #Ferguson pic.twitter.com/5SHrdZvFqV

— Amanda Terkel (@aterkel) August 18, 2014

Cassandra Roberts from Richmond Heights, Missouri, came out Sunday night because she thought it was going to be peaceful and she would be able to march in solidarity without any problem.

She said she knew there was a problem when she started seeing everyone running. She went down on her knees and raised her hands in a "don't shoot" motion, but she quickly realized there was a bigger issue and she was being tear-gassed.

"I literally see these little things like, bop bop bop, and smoke is coming up. I got so choked up," said Roberts. "I couldn't even gather myself. I was so mixed up in the smoke. ... It took one of the McDonald's employees to pull me up out of the smoke. My eyes were wide open and I couldn't see a thing. They had to throw milk and water in my eyes. I didn't come down here for this."

Candice Dotson and her 11-year-old son were going back to their car when they were caught up in the beginning confrontations. She wanted to go home, she said, because the crowd was starting to get rowdy, but she never expected to be tear-gassed.

"It was horrible. There were little bitty kids in strollers. He's okay, but he's scared out of his mind," she told The Huffington Post.

Thursday was supposed to be the first day of school for the Ferguson-Florissant School District, but it announced that it was cancelling classes for the week due to the continuing unrest.

Although the streets were largely cleared well before it was time for curfew, residents were supposed to be off the streets of Ferguson from midnight until 5 a.m., for the second night in a row. The Huffington Post, however, saw at least four people walking the street get handcuffed by police for being out during that time.

Police handcuff a kid out past curfew. Four people taken in. On W Florissant #Ferguson pic.twitter.com/8SOHXz1TCO

— Amanda Terkel (@aterkel) August 18, 2014

The first curfew, imposed by Gov. Jay Nixon (D) on Saturday, was broken by several protesters. One person was shot and seven were arrested during demonstrations early Sunday.

This piece was updated with additional information.

Police Threaten To Shoot, Mace Reporters In Ferguson

Huffingon Post Politics - Sun, 2014-08-17 23:36
Police turned on journalists in Ferguson once again on Sunday night, briefly detaining three reporters and threatening to shoot and mace others.

Relations between the police and the people covering the turmoil that has erupted following the killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown by policeman Darren Wilson have been severely strained all week.

In the most chilling incident on Sunday, police threatened to shoot Mustafa Hussein, a reporter who was filming for local Argus Radio.

"Get the fuck out of here! You get that light off or you're getting shot with this!" the police shouted. The threat was captured on a livestream and was tweeted widely.

POLICE threaten to shoot KARG! #Ferguson #MikeBrown https://t.co/Ygvts7JJQT

— Argus Radio (@ArgusRadio) August 18, 2014

Here's a full clip. #Ferguson cop threatens journalist at gunpoint, then "Captain Todd" refuses to name the officer. https://t.co/6k8ibPWOAG

— Parker Higgins (@xor) August 18, 2014

Cop to press on the corner of Chambers and Florissant "Get out of here or I will shoot you"

— Alex Wroblewski (@alexwroblewski) August 18, 2014

Other reporters were threatened with mace.

Police getting mad when media goes up past their line. Tells us we'll get maced next time we do that. #Ferguson

— Amanda Terkel (@aterkel) August 18, 2014

If you walk about 100 feet from OK'ed press area you find yourself lit up by a spotlight and a squad of police on hair trigger.

— Christopher Hayes (@chrislhayes) August 18, 2014

At least three journalists were briefly arrested.

I have been arrested and am being walked away from the area

— Rob Crilly (@robcrilly) August 18, 2014

Why Rick Perry Will be Convicted

Huffingon Post Politics - Sun, 2014-08-17 23:29
If the court of public opinion has an impact on a jury's decisions, Texas Governor Rick Perry may have a chance of beating his indictments. While poorly informed Democrats like Obama advisor David Axelrod call the indictments "sketchy," Perry's advisors have him concentrating on defending his constitutional authority to exercise the line item budget veto.

Except that's not what this case is about.

Perry is accused of using his veto authority to coerce a publicly elected official into leaving office. And when the veto threat, and later the actual exercise of the veto didn't work, he may have tried a bit of bribery, which is why he is facing criminal charges.

Not because he exercised his constitutional veto authority.

Some of the media appear to have adopted the Perry narrative that he wanted to get rid of an irresponsible Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg because she had been arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol. Lehmberg, whose blood alcohol level was about three times above legal limits, was recorded on video as drunk and belligerent during booking. Perry is arguing he eliminated the $7.5 million dollar budget that Lehmberg managed for the Public Integrity Unit (PIU) because she was no longer responsible enough to run the operation.

But the governor probably had another motive.

The PIU had been investigating the Cancer Research and Prevention Institute (CPRIT), a $3 billion dollar taxpayer funded project that awarded research and investment grants to startups targeting cancer cures. The entire scientific review team, including Nobel Laureate scientists, resigned because they said millions were handed out through political favoritism. Investigations by Texas newspapers indicated much of the money was ending up in projects proposed by campaign donors and supporters of Governor Perry. In fact, one of the executives of CPRIT was indicted in the PIU investigation for awarding an $11 million dollar grant to a company without the proposal undergoing any type of review.

Perry might have been the next target.

The same cronyism appeared to be at work in two other large taxpayer accounts called the Emerging Technology Fund (ETF), and the Texas Enterprise Fund, (TEF), which were supposed to be used to help technology startups and assist companies wanting to move to Texas. In total, the governor and his appointees had purview over about $19 billion and where they wanted it invested.

Why not make sure your contributors get some of that sweetness?

If Perry were able to get Lehmberg to resign, he'd have the authority to appoint her replacement. We can assume that would have been a Republican, and that any investigations might have stuttered to a halt. The D.A., however, refused, and began to field threats from the governor's office that the PIU budget was to be zeroed out via line item veto. But the exercise of the veto is not what got Perry indicted.

First, he used the veto to threaten a public officeholder. This is abuse of the power of his office. Presidents and governors frequently use the possibility of vetoes to change the course of legislation. But that is considerably different than trying to force an elected officeholder to resign. What Perry did, if true, can be politely called blackmail, and, when he sent emissaries to urge Lehmberg to quit even after his veto, he may have indulged in bribery. According to sources close to the grand jury, Perry dispatched two of his staffers and one high-profile Democrat to tell Lehmberg if she left her office the governor would reinstate the PIU budget. One report indicates there may have been a quid pro quo of a new, more lucrative job for the D.A., which is why this case has nothing to do with his right to use the veto.

But that's where Perry will focus his public defense.

Of course, he will also continue his argument this is another manifestation of partisan politics in Austin. That claim is as misleading as his veto rhetoric. There wasn't a single Democrat involved in the investigation and indictment. In fact, Perry appointed the presiding judge in the case, Billy Ray Stubblefield of the 3rd Judicial District. Stubblefield named retired Judge Bert Richardson of Bexar County (San Antonio) to handle the grand jury investigation, and Richardson picked Mike McCrum to be the special prosecutor in the case. McCrum, who withdrew his name from consideration for U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas, had the support of the two Republican Texas U.S. Senators and the state's Democratic officeholders, which hardly makes him a Democratic Party hack. (A Washington gridlock over the confirmation process in the U.S. Senate caused him to withdraw.)

That all makes it hard to sell the partisan attack narrative that reporters are spreading for Perry.

The idea that he was concerned about Lehmberg's drunk driving is also fatuous nonsense. Two other Texas D.A.s were arrested for DUI during Perry's tenure in office and he spoke not a discouraging word about their indiscretions. Kaufman County D.A. Rick Harrison drove the wrong way into traffic and was found guilty of drunk driving in 2009 and in 2003 Terry McEachern, D.A. of Swisher County, was convicted of a DUI. Perry said nothing. It's probably only coincidental that both of those individuals were Republicans and did not oversee an investigative unit responsible for keeping elected officials honest in the capitol.

The indictments, however, have not left the Texas governor chastened. During his six-minute news conference after they were handed down, he threatened retaliation for the people involved in getting him into this mess, which is probably another form of official abuse he has promised to deliver to his fellow Texans. His central complaint was that the legal and grand jury investigative process was being used to settle political differences and that wasn't something we did in America, which is a startling irony for anyone who knows how Rick Perry first won statewide public office in Texas.

When Perry ran for Texas agriculture commissioner in 1990, he benefitted from a federal investigation of his opponent's office, which had been facilitated by his campaign manager Karl Rove. Rove worked with an FBI agent to investigate Democrat Jim Hightower and two of his senior staffers at a time when Perry was challenging Hightower for the agriculture commissioner's job. The FBI, in fact, served search warrants at Hightower's state office on the day he was out of town announcing his reelection plans.

Perry had been a Democrat and Rove had convinced him to change parties. Rove ran Perry's winning campaign while also constantly leaking information on the federal investigation to reporters. Hightower escaped indictment but the two senior administrators of his office were convicted of raising campaign money for the Democrat during after hours while traveling on state business. One long-time Austin political operative said that if that were a crime, it was "something that only happened about 1000 times a day in Texas."

Consequently, Perry is demonstrably incorrect that Texans don't use the legal system to settle political scores. Instead, we often turn it into a form of tragicomedy. The PIU has prosecuted seventeen officeholders since it was created; thirteen were Democrats. And it will be no minor irony that Perry, who came into statewide office as the result of a grand jury investigation, might just end his carer as an outcome of the same process.

Also at: Texas to the World

Michael Brown Was Shot Six Times, Autopsy Reveals

Huffingon Post Politics - Sun, 2014-08-17 23:16
FERGUSON, Mo. — Michael Brown, the unarmed black teenager who was killed by a police officer, sparking protests around the nation, was shot at least six times, including twice in the head, a preliminary private autopsy performed on Sunday found.

Autopsy Shows Michael Brown Was Shot At Least 6 Times: Report

Huffingon Post Politics - Sun, 2014-08-17 23:15
NEW YORK (AP) — An unarmed black teenager killed by a white officer in Missouri was shot at least six times, including twice in the head, a preliminary private autopsy has found.

The New York Times reported (http://nyti.ms/1mZThz0 ) that the autopsy by Dr. Michael Baden, a former New York City chief medical examiner, found that one of the bullets entered the top of Michael Brown's skull, suggesting that his head was bent forward when he suffered a fatal injury.

Baden said it was likely the last of bullets to hit Brown, 18, whose death has spurred a week of rancorous protests in Ferguson, in suburban St. Louis.

Police have said little about the encounter between Brown and the officer, except to say that it involved a scuffle in which the officer was injured and Brown was shot. Witnesses say the teenager had his hands in the air as the officer fired multiple rounds.

Baden told the Times that Brown was also shot four times in the right arm and that all the bullets were fired into his front. The newspaper said the bullets did not appear to have come from very close range because there was no gunpowder on his body.

That determination could change if there were residue on Brown's clothing, which Baden did not examine, the newspaper said.

Some of the bullets entered and exited Brown several times, the newspaper said, including one that caused at least five wounds. It said one shattered his right eye, went through his face, left through his jaw and re-entered his collarbone. The last two shots in the head would have stopped him in his tracks and were likely the last fired, the Times said.

Baden told the newspaper Brown would not have survived even if he had been taken to a hospital immediately.

Baden did not return a message left by The Associated Press earlier Sunday.

Earlier Sunday, Attorney General Eric Holder ordered a federal medical examiner to perform another autopsy on Brown, citing the "extraordinary circumstances" surrounding his death and a request by Brown's family.


Information from: The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com

NAACP'S Net Failure in Ferguson

Huffingon Post Politics - Sun, 2014-08-17 23:04
How the Civil Rights Organization's hypocritical stance on Net Neutrality Hurts Activism in Ferguson

The shooting of teenager Mike Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri has mutated from a tragic local killing to a national crisis. The Ferguson police, operating with incompetence worthy of the film Police Academy and the aggression of an occupying army have turned a possible criminal act by a cop into a human rights crisis in America's heartland. Activists and organizations from Al Sharpton and the ACLU to new NAACP president Cornell Brooks descended upon the town to express outrage, call for justice and fight for solutions. While it helps for many of these civil rights organizations to be at ground zero, what would really make a big impact on Ferguson and other cities in racial strife should happen back in Washington DC. If the NAACP and other civil rights organizations really care about justice, accountability and activism, they'll change their bizarre stance on net neutrality. We would never know what was going on in Ferguson without a free and open Internet and for some reason the NAACP is fighting to shut that down.

Let's step back a few weeks. On July 18, Michael Brown was still alive, Darren Williams was patrolling the streets like a white Eddie Walker, and the most important national story out of the St. Louis metro area was whether Michael Sam could make the Tony Dungy All-Star squad. What escaped the attention of all but a few tech media was that on that day the NAACP, the National Action Network, the Urban League, 100 Black Men, the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators, the Council of Korean Americans, Rainbow PUSH and about a dozen other civil rights organizations filed a brief to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) basically begging to end net neutrality.

What does net neutrality have to do with Ferguson, Missouri? Everything. Net neutrality means all content on the Internet has to be treated equally. So your Mom's blog about her Florida vacation loads at the same rate as when you binge watch House of Cards. In January, the U.S. appeals court ruled that big Internet service providers like Verizon and Comcast could charge different rates to different content providers online. Which means now an ISP could charge Netflix or Twitter more to make them run "faster" and content providers who aren't willing to pay may load content slower, or lose the ability entirely. This is not just some doomsday conspiracy theory either. Everyone from Amazon, Ebay, Linked In, Kickstarter, Google and even Twitter have warned the FCC that ending net neutrality will block content, stifle debate, harm citizen journalism and pretty much screw up the Internet.

Which brings us back to Ferguson. Local and national civil rights groups were dependent on hashtag activism and social media to know what was really going on during those first violent nights of protest. While many cable networks covered the unrest like it was the "No Church in the Wild" video, the real story on the ground was reported on Twitter and Vine by Ferguson Alderman Antonio French, Yamiche Alcindor at USA Today, Wesley Lowery at Washington Post, or Ryan Reilly at The Huffington Post. Not to mention organizations that dared to livestream from Ferguson in the face of police harassment. This all happened in realtime, information, fact-checking and oversight provided almost instantaneously by equally supported tweets, vines, posts and livestreams. If net neutrality ends we could see an end to that type of reporting and information. Imagine if AT&T ran Twitter slower than Verizon? Would civil rights groups have known Ferguson police were using tear gas while claiming they were only using smoke bombs? What if Time Warner didn't carry livestreams for nonprofit sites? What if some content was simply blocked by Comcast, do we ever find out what happened to journalists who were harassed by cops? Would America be better served by getting spoon-fed information about riots from a local police department that has lied, defied FOIA requests and isn't even trusted by the Department of Justice? When threats to Internet freedom happened in Turkey, Americans were up in arms. The fact that we're possibly months away from the same fate here should scare the apathy out of everyone in this country who is concerned about when the next three Ferguson's might happen.

This all begs the question, why would the nation's oldest, most influential civil rights organization side with Comcast, CenturyLink and Verizon over the tools of modern activism like Reddit, Tumbler, Facebook, and Twitter? Do they really believe the big telecoms will play fair on the information superhighway? Probably not, but a few million dollars in donations from AT&T has a way of changing even the most dedicated social justice organization. Let's not pretend the NAACP can't be bought. Just ask Donald Sterling. Telecom lobbyists know that the FCC listens to minority rights organizations, so with a few well-publicized donations here and there, Big Telecom knows some civil rights groups will fall all over themselves to destroy the Internet, the great equalizer in the battle for social justice.

There are literally dozens of things that will be coming in the aftermath of the Mike Brown shooting in Ferguson. More civil rights lawsuits than you can count, a new police chief, and serious federal level discussions about the militarization of police. The NAACP will play a large role in those discussions and other organizations will follow their lead. No one can ignore the role the Internet plays in shining a light on the horrific tragedies perpetuated by Ferguson Missouri cops as they goose-step over the U.S. Constitution. Without a free and open Internet this would not happen. If these civil rights organizations truly care about the future of justice in this country, they MUST change their stance on net neutrality. To do otherwise is to admit that corporate dollars mean more than constitutional rights.

Dr. Jason Johnson is a Professor of Political Science at Hiram College, Director of the "Politics Of..." Education Program and a frequent guest on Al Jazeera, MSNBC , CNN and Fox.

Group Rallies In Support Of Darren Wilson, Police Officer Who Shot Michael Brown

Huffingon Post Politics - Sun, 2014-08-17 22:30
ST. LOUIS, Mo. -- Frustrated with the national coverage of protests surrounding the death of Michael Brown, the unarmed black teen who was fatally shot by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, a few dozen people showed up in downtown St. Louis on Sunday afternoon to show solidarity with the officer who killed the 18-year-old.

Since officer Darren Wilson shot Brown on Aug. 9, there have been nightly protests in Ferguson. But the counterprotesters said they wanted the country to know that not everyone supported the Ferguson demonstrations, and wanted Wilson and his family to know that there were people who backed them.

The protesters gathered outside KSDK-TV, a local station that they said has been biased in its coverage of the controversy.

Word of the Wilson rally spread via Facebook, according to the attendees, who were overwhelmingly white. For a $7 donation, there were pro-Wilson T-shirts, and all 55 of them sold out quickly.

Still, the rally was significantly smaller than the protests around Brown's death. The Wilson supporters said they were worried about the officer's family and for the most part had little sympathy for individuals claiming that there are problems with police behavior in Ferguson.

"If you do what the police tell you do -- if you're not doing anything wrong, and the cops ask you to do something, then you're not going to have nothing to worry about," said Michael Bates, 33.

When asked why the pro-Wilson rally didn't have many African-American attendees, John Newshaw, a retired St. Louis County police officer, said, "This sounds wrong, but I don't think the black community understands the system. Again, there's a process. They're screaming about, why isn't he [Wilson] arrested, why isn't he in jail? Well, without the investigation being done, you can't go and apply for a warrant."

Counter protesters sign card supporting Darren Wilson #Ferguson pic.twitter.com/6SjBalhiJz

— Amanda Terkel (@aterkel) August 18, 2014

Newshaw criticized the Missouri Highway Patrol for "doing exactly what the violent protesters want" and trying to use more communication and less force.

"They're going to keep pushing the envelope," he said of demonstrators who've gotten violent during protests in Ferguson. "There's no reason to stop. ... It's as simple as training your dog. If you don't tell them stop biting, guess what, he's going to continue to bite."

Couple dozen people (almost all white) rally to support Darren Wilson. #Ferguson pic.twitter.com/phBEkA7kTb

— Amanda Terkel (@aterkel) August 18, 2014

The Brown killing has touched a chord with many in the African-American community and beyond that goes further than the shooting. Although a majority of Ferguson residents are black, the power structure there is still white. Ferguson's mayor and police chief are both white, as are six of the city's seven council members. (The seventh is Latino.) And just three members of Ferguson's 53-person police force are black. A 2013 report found a major racial disparity in stops and searches in Ferguson, with black individuals twice as likely to get arrested.

But Bates said he was frustrated that the issue was becoming a "race thing," saying that was besides the point.

Asked to interview a woman protestor out here. (Shown in the background.) She identified herself as Darren Wilson. pic.twitter.com/IIEpL5Xv1l

— Ryan J. Reilly (@ryanjreilly) August 17, 2014

"If everyone just stopped with the racism thing, it'd all just go away and everything would go to court and come out with the way the law is supposed to do it. Rioting and everything in the streets doesn't get anything done," he said.

The Missouri Highway Patrol, which is now in charge of security in Ferguson, declared a second curfew for Sunday night, in effect from midnight until 5:00 am CDT Monday morning. One person was shot and seven people were arrested in the early hours of Sunday morning, while the first curfew was in effect.

Ohio State Trustees Won't Reinstate Popular Band Director

Huffingon Post Politics - Sun, 2014-08-17 22:28
CINCINNATI (AP) -- Ohio State trustees have decided against reinstating the university's marching band director, who was fired after an investigation showed he knew about, but failed to stop, a sexualized band culture.

Board Chairman Jeffrey Wadsworth wrote Friday to Jonathan Waters' attorney, saying the board "stands firmly" behind the findings of a university investigation and President Michael Drake's decision to oust him.

Waters, who had led the band since 2012, had written to the board asking for a chance to return to his job, citing what he called flaws in the university probe and his positive performance review weeks before he was terminated. His elaborate halftime shows drawn on iPads revolutionized the field and prompted millions of fan views on YouTube.

He wanted the board to take up the matter at its next meeting this month. Wadsworth's letter to attorney David Axelrod said the board won't review the case.

"We consider the matter closed and we are moving forward as a university," the letter said.

Axelrod said Saturday that he's very disappointed by the board's response.

"It's just human decency that they should let someone who has done so much for the university to at least get a chance to be heard," he said.

Axelrod said Waters is still focused on getting his job back and litigation challenging a "deeply flawed" investigation is a possible option.

Ohio State spokesman Gary Lewis said Saturday that the university stands behind the investigation and has taken steps to move forward.

Waters was fired July 24 after a two-month Office of University Compliance and Integrity probe concluded he didn't stop a band culture of rituals that included students marching in their underwear, playing groping games on buses, and tagging sexually explicit nicknames on members based on suggestive stunts mimicking orgasms, sex toys or body parts.

The board had stated earlier that trustees "unequivocally support" Drake's decision, and Buckeye football great Archie Griffin, as leader of the university's alumni association, also backed Drake.

Drake said in Columbus on Wednesday that he stood by the firing and saw little chance Waters would be reinstated. He has said he is protecting students' right to a safe and welcoming environment.

The university has released Waters' personnel file, which included praise for his "courageous" efforts to tackle band traditions, but the traditions being referenced weren't named.


Associated Press writer Julie Carr Smyth in Columbus contributed to this report.


Contact the reporter at http://www.twitter.com/dansewell

Shrum-Frum Debate Clinton/Obama and Cops/Minorities

Huffingon Post Politics - Sun, 2014-08-17 21:02


By Mark Green

Maliki out-Abadi in; Gregory out-Todd in; Sterling out-Ballmer in. In a week of strife, Bob Shrum and David Frum debate two other enduring clashes: was Hillary's comment on Obama's "not doing stupid 'stuff'" nasty or innocent (she thinks the latter); how should cops patrol minority communities after Brown/Garner?

On Hillary/Barack/Iraq. The Host recalls saying well-intentioned things which ended up looking awful in cold, hard print (details in memoir). So what about the Obama-Friedman and Clinton-Goldberg foreign policy interviews, respectively, in the Times and Atlantic? Was Hillary being conversational or strategic?

As for the politics of the exchange, Bob thinks her comments were "meh" since "they were straightforward and honest comments she'd already made in her book," Hard Choices. He wonders why this brouhaha since others in her shoes -- Humprey-LBJ, GHWBush-Reagan, Gore-Clinton -- also put some distance between them and their presidents, albeit later in the cycle.

David is also non-plussed by her interview because it was largely a reflection that "Obama's turned out to be a left-wing president" and Hillary's a bit more interventionist than he is, like on arming Syrian rebels against Assad (which she thinks could have frustrated ISIS while Obama thinks that's "horseshit.") Frum speculates that her position isn't likely to win her many votes in Democratic primaries but does reflect the opinion of general election voters who want America to project strong leadership.

Bob disagrees. "Obama's doing what the public wants" after the calamities of our Iraq and Afghanistan occupations... though ironically his overall foreign policy rating is only in the mid-thirties; here the whole is less than the sum of its parts. He dismisses the possibility that Hillary's views have created much of a space for a McGovern-Dean-like anti-war candidate. "Republicans may hope that she runs as a full-throated interventionist in 2016 but she won't," and, he adds, she'll be more of an economic populist than most now assume.

Last on the policy content of the dueling Times-Atlantic interviews: Frum denounces Obama for allowing ISIS a toe-hold in Iraq and creating an Iran-Iraq alliance "with us getting nothing in return." But the original sin, counters Bob, were the decade-long occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan based on "a bodyguard of lies" about WMDs and 9/11.

David is asked about why the bi-partisan ethic that "politics ends at the water's edge" (see Reagan in Grenada, Bush initially in Afghanistan) has vanished with POTUS 44 as Republicans seem to race to cable news green rooms to denounce any move he makes during international conflicts. "I'll agree to the myth about the 'water's edge' consensus," says a scornful Frum, "but not really in my lifetime. Maybe sometime in the 1880s."

We also play what-if/sliding doors history discussing if there had been no Iraqi invasion and occupation. Assuming Saddam survived, would the U.S. now be better off... would Iraqis? Saddam or ISIS? Pick your poison. But, at the least, Saddam was not expansionist and as a secular Sunni leader stood in the way of a radical Islamic crescent in the region, now inflamed by the Shia Iraqi leadership. Talk about unintended consequences.

On police-minorities after Brown/Garner. Unlike their debate over HRC-BHO and "who lost Iraq?", Shrum-Frum largely concur on the racial turmoil in Ferguson, Missouri and NYC after the Brown and Garner deaths.

Bob lauds Obama's comments that urge calm but decry both the violence of looters and the periodic violence of police against young minority males. He thinks that the Left-Right denunciations of the para-militarization of law enforcement in the first few nights in Ferguson reflect a growing consensus on how to handle these fraught racial confrontations.

Frum agrees, but adds that police departments deserve some slack because there is an arms race where they confront citizens with murderous weapons because of the NRA. "I love the tradition of the unarmed Bobbies [in Canada and England] but that's now unrealistic in these communities."

Shrum thinks that the greater violence in Missouri may owe to the racial reputation of that police force as compared to what de Blasio and Bratton are trying to do in NYC, while Frum cautions against dropping "Broken Windows" policing because its goal was to get cops out of their cars and engage citizens in policing too. He notes that that's the opposite of the militarization all are now condemning.

Quick Takes on Koch Bros, Impeachment, Robin Williams

  • Given their hard-right politics and historic spending in elections, should nonprofit civic groups -- involving the arts, health care, education -- reject "tainted" big Koch Bros contributions? Our rhyming panel thinks not because that would further the polarization of our society and deny good works for people in need. Adds Frum: "would this rule only apply to bad Republican donors?"

  • Is the talk of Impeachment real or ridiculous? Again, Schrum-Frum agree that GOP operatives think the prospect is self-wounding given the backlash to a similar push against President Clinton in 1999. Problem is, some leaders like Palin and Huckabee are talking it up and a majority of Republicans, stirred up by right-wing talk radio and TV, want it. "I'm worried that it could end up like the debt ceiling fight," frets Frum, which went on too long because of base politics.

  • Memories of Robin Williams. Bob recalls when he hosted a Ted Kennedy fundraiser in 1982 and grabbed the senator's remarks and read the first paragraph, forcing Kennedy to begin his comments, "as I was saying..." David lauds the national conversation about depression as an organic illness that can strike anyone and that causes so many other problems that go unacknowledged.

Mark Green is the creator and host of Both Sides Now.

You can follow him on Twitter @markjgreen

Send all comments to Bothsidesradio.com, where you can also listen to prior shows.

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Lousy Work: Will it Break Through as a Political Issue?

Huffingon Post Politics - Sun, 2014-08-17 19:34
For decades, the increasing precariousness of work has been a source of mass frustration for tens of millions of Americans. But the issue has been largely below the political radar.

Politicians ritually invoke good jobs at good wages, yet presidents have been unwilling to name, much less remedy, the deep economic forces that are turning payroll jobs into what I've termed "The Task Rabbit Economy" -- a collection of ad hoc gigs with no benefits, no job security, no career paths, and no employer reciprocity for worker diligence.

But there are signs that maybe this issue is starting to break through.

One manifestation of job insecurity is extremes of inequality as corporations, banks, and hedge funds capture more than their share of the economy's productive output at the expense of workers. The Occupy movement gave that super-elite a name: The One Percent.

Thomas Piketty's renowned book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, documented the intensification of inequality. A fairly technical piece of statistical work became a bestseller because it articulated unspoken frustrations.

After six years of prodding from a labor movement for which President Obama delivered precious little, the president at last began issuing executive orders requiring government contractors to be minimally decent employers.

Obama nominated a leading academic expert on the precarious economy, David Weil, to be the top Labor Department official in charge of wage and hour enforcement. Thanks to the hardball of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Weil miraculously managed to get confirmed, and is starting to use his office to crack down on such abuses of disguising permanent jobs as temps.

Local organizing to dramatically raise the minimum wage reaped some local victories with wages set as high as $15 an hour in places like Seattle, and is beginning to resemble a mass movement.

Now the New York Times has weighed in, with a superb series on precarious work.

The Times addressed the fact that it's becoming normal for workers not to know their schedules more than a few days in advance. The lead piece shamed Starbucks, which prides itself on being a good employer, to enforce its own nominal policy of giving employees decent notice of the hours they are expected to work.

The Times' Sunday article addressed the increasing number of workers in the so called "sharing economy" -- the Task Rabbits and people who offer cut-rate rides via Uber and Lyft, and dozens more web chore-matching services. The dirty little secret of the vaunted flexibility is that you can't make a living at it, or have enough predictability in your life to raise a family.

The shift in labor markets, from an economy where regular payroll employment is the norm, to one where more of us are performing odd jobs, or have regular jobs with indeterminate schedules, ought to be the top domestic political issue. There should be an emergent political consciousness that regular people are getting screwed solely so that greater profits can go to corporations, executive, and private equity speculators.

Are we on the cusp of a breakthrough, where this issue bursts into public consciousness and cannot be ignored, the way the civil rights movement finally broke through in the late 1950s?

The mass frustration is surely there. What's missing is a mainstream national leader who will make this cause a prime election issue.

Why do politicians address these widely felt injustices mainly at the level of platitude? Because the remedies would require a transformation of who runs the economy, and of how we regulate labor markets.

Three decades ago, corporations in retailing and other service industries faced essentially the same variation in the need for staffing over days or weeks. But they didn't expect their employees to bear all of the cost. Unemployment insurance covered far more of the cost of genuinely seasonal work such as construction.

Though the Times series cites use of new computer technology that makes it easier for employers to monitor fluctuating demand for services and to reduce ever more employees to on-call status, this shift is mainly not about new technology; it's about a power shift.

As I wrote in a profile of one of the nation's most effective unions, Local 6 of the Hotel and Restaurant Employees in New York, the hotel industry, which has fluctuating customer demand, would just love to reduce most workers to on-call status -- come in if we need you. But as the union points out, its people have lives. Most of them have kids. So thanks to the union's power, most of its members are paid for a standard workweek and the burden is on management, not on individual employees, to figure out how to maximize productive consistentcy with common decency.

Here's another idea. How about a $20-dollar-an-hour minimum wage for any worker who's on-call status. That would make management think twice.

How about a full employment economy, so that more people have real jobs and fewer have to freelance as task rabbits and Uber drivers?

How about serious criminal penalties for employers who steal wages by pretending that regular employees are contract workers and permanent workers are temps?

The candidate who ran on that platform would have the grateful support of tens of millions of forgotten Americans, and the contempt of Wall Street. Which would you rather have?

Can you imagine, say, Hillary Clinton making these issues the centerpiece of her campaign? I sure hope so. If not, we need somebody else.

Robert Kuttner's latest book is Debtors' Prison: The Politics of Austerity Versus Possibility. He is co-editor of The American Prospect, a professor at Brandeis University's Heller School, and a senior Fellow at Demos.