Archive for militarized police

It’s the Economy, Stupid (and the Military Industrial Complex too)




There's no doubt that the spark that lit the fuse in Ferguson was the police shooting of Michael Brown. But you have to wonder how much anger was simmering, how much people were already hurting from decades of building racial tensions and the fact that so many of them are hurting financially.

I don't often agree with Chris Matthews, but he hit the nail on the head last night

The disturbing cell phone video of the other killing of a black man in Missouri by police bullets, this one on Tuesday, was released yesterday. We were told that this one was unquestionably justified (which I believe the video disproves- judge for yourself, but we warned, the video is graphic and very disturbing).

But  the reaction to that shooting was very different from the still-in-progress uproar and massive protests in response to the shooting death of Michael Brown some 9 days earlier, just two miles away.

Perhaps the way the authorities handled the moments following the shooting, when St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson crossed the police tape line to speak directly with the people in the crowd that gathered.

But the mayor did something unusual, as he recounted to Chris Hayes last night on All In (pertinent part comes in at 4:49)

St. Louis Mayor Slay (yes, that really is his ironic name) said

I sent some staff members out there to get a sense of what's going on in the crowd, talk to some of the people there, listen to their concerns. And one message that kept coming, over and over again by a number of those out there was "hey, we're out here protesting, but we could use a job. We need to be employed, we need to be able to support ourselves and our families." So, I had my workforce development director and his team out there. We signed up at least 85-90 people into programs that help them learn how to look for a job, and for job training programs as well.

Maybe the peace was kept in St. Louis because the people who turned out in dismay and disbelief after yet another young,black male was shot and killed by police thought that, this time, perhaps someone might be able to help them.

I don't know, and know that the video of that shooting is out, things might not be so peaceful tonight.

But one thing is apparent, people are hurting and need help.

Sasha Abramsky was on the show last year when his book The American Way of Poverty: How the Other Half Still Lives was first released. He joined me again today as the paperback is being released, and we discussed how the events in Ferguson have likely been exacerbated by the poor economic condition of so many of that town's citizens.

And finally, Congressman Alan Grayson joined me to talk about his efforts to prevent the type of militarized police situation we witnessed in Ferguson from becoming a reality.

On June 8, 2014, The New York Times published  "War Gear Flows to Police Departments," an article detailing the transfer of  thousands of pieces of "surplus military gear and equipment" to local police departments under the Department of Defense Excess Personal Property 1033 Program.

That article, in part, prompted the congressman to introduce an amendment to the DOD authorization act on June 19:

H.AMDT.918 (A052)
Amends: H.R.4870
Sponsor: Rep GraysonAlan [FL-9] (offered 6/19/2014)

An amendment to prohibit use of funds to transfer aircraft (including unmanned aerial vehicles), armored vehicles, grenade launchers, silencers, toxicological agents, launch vehicles, guided missiles, ballistic missiles, rockets, torpedoes, bombs, mines, or nuclear weapons through the DOD Excess Personal Property Program established pursuant to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1997.

Although Congressman Grayson had secured 19 Republican votes, assuring its passage if the Democrats stood with him and voted for the amendment, it failed by a vote of 62-355 in what he described on the show this morning as the worst any of his amendments has ever fared!

To hear the story of how this amendment was brought down by a so-called Democrat, just watch my conversation about it with Howie Klein from Monday's show:

It's enough to make you sick.

Just a few days after the amendment failed, the ACLU issued this excellent report that everyone should read, titled, "The War Comes Home."

Keep in mind that when "boys with toys" get overwhelmed, they often do really stupid things... like St. Ann Detective Corporal Ray Albers, aka Officer "Go Fuck Yourself" who should never be allowed near such weapons, let alone carry one on the streets of Ferguson, MO, where this video was shot.

Scary stuff...

I'll be back tomorrow to wrap up the week with Stephen Goldstein's "No More Bullshit Minute" and, from my musical archives, an interview with performance form Tori Amos... Radio or Not.


Ferguson or Fallujah?


Nicole Sandler Ferguson Fallujah























Two images are shown above. One is courtesy of  Cpl Mike Escobar, taken in Fallujah, Iraq in 2005.  The other taken by reporter/photographer Danny Wicentowski of St. Louis' Riverfront Times two days ago in Ferguson, MO. Can you tell which is which?

It's getting increasingly more difficult by the day to tell the difference. Americans' civil rights have eroded to the point where we have to question whether the First Amendment exists as anything more than a historical reference any longer.

In case anyone needs a refresher,

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances

Although there may be no written law establishing an official religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, the Supreme Court of the United States, just made it a whole lot easier for religious fanatics to impose their beliefs on the rest of us. There may be no law abridging the freedom of speech or of the press, but both have been seriously hampered in recent days, months and years, with no let-up in sight.

As for our "right of the people peaceably to assemble," that was excised from the Constitution - figuratively, anyway - when the peaceful Occupy Wall Street encampments were forcefully, forcibly and, in many cases, violently, destroyed and their occupants harassed, brutalized and arrested.

Finally, regarding our supposed right to petition the Government for a redress of grievances, all one need do is some research into the plight of whistleblowers in the US today.

Either we fix the First Amendment or we need to just scrap the whole thing once and for all and start over again.

As for those pictures at the top of the post, the first one was from Fallujah, the second from Ferguson. Perhaps we should just realize that there's not much difference any more. Maybe we should just call them Fergustan.

On the show today

After listening to Huffington Post reporter Ryan J. Reilly and Washington Post reporter tell the stories of their arrests last night on MSNBC,

I was joined by Joshua Holland, senior digital producer at to help navigate the madness.

Stephen Goldstein, author of the Dictionary of American Political Bullshit joined in for his weekly No More Bullshit Minute. In light of the day's news, today's Bullshit term of the day was "Justice."

And finally, it's always an honor and a pleasure to talk with Harry Shearer. From playing Derek Smalls on This is Spinal Tap, to a litany of characters including Mr. Burns, Smithers, Ned Flanders and more on The Simpsons, to more serious pursuits including blowing the lid off the reason New Orleans flooded from Hurricane Katrina by directing and narrating the documentary The Big Uneasy, and for so much more, Harry Shearer is one of our most talented American treasures.

I don't really need a reason to invite Harry on to the show, as I could easily talk with him for hours. But with the 40th anniversary of Richard Nixon's resignation just behind us, and the US premiere of Shearer's take on Richard Nixon in Nixon's the One - lifted directly from the transcripts of his Oval Office recordings - coming soon, it was a perfect time for another chat.

Unfortunately, we were sidetracked a bit by the mess in Fergustan, so Harry will come back on for another conversation when the show is ready to premiere over here.

Tomorrow, we'll wrap up our week with the return of Greg Palast. And for Flashback Friday, it's back to 2000 for my interview with Chrissie Hynde of Pretenders ... radio or not!