As evidenced by the events unfolding in Ferguson, MO over the past 10 days, there's a lot wrong with America. Some of the problems are within the president's authority to fix. Thomas Frank joined me in the last half-hour of today's show to talk about the three he outlined in his latest piece at Salon, "How to Wreck the GOP in 3 Easy Steps."
Of course, his suggestions would only wreck the GOP's chances of taking over the Senate in November, and bolster the Democrats', and make the country better for those of us struggling to get through each month.
This action by President Obama would also probably help to quell the unrest in Ferguson, MO and fend off similar future demonstrations of frustration and anger that will undoubtedly pop up around the nation. But as long as the needs of hurting citizens are ignored, the more we'll see people taking to the streets.
Attorney General Eric Holder is headed to Ferguson today. This morning, his open letter to the citizens of that town appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Although he sounded some of the right notes, he also proved to be as tone-deaf as MO Gov. Jay Nixon with proclamations like this:
In order to begin the healing process, however, we must first see an end to the acts of violence in the streets of Ferguson.
There's a reason the chant "No Justice, No Peace" has resonated so clearly with so many. He's got it backwards..
I began the show today by reading that letter, then recounting my own horrible experience with law enforcement both recently and a few years ago when I was not only arrested for trying to ask my then-congressman a question at an event that was supposed to be a "town hall meeting," then being sprayed with pepper foam while in the custody of the Broward County jail.
I told that story again because of an Op-Ed published in yesterday's Washington Post, written by Sunil Dutta, identified as "a professor of homeland security at Colorado Tech University, has been an officer with the Los Angeles Police Department for 17 years."
Aside from the sickening realizion that "homeland security" is a course of study at at least one American university, the content of Mr. Dutta's editorial underscored the need to revisit the "authority" granted to those who wear badges and carry guns.
It begins benignly enough
A teenager is fatally shot by a police officer; the police are accused of being bloodthirsty, trigger-happy murderers; riots erupt. This, we are led to believe, is the way of things in America. It is also a terrible calumny (a false and slanderous statement.) ; cops are not murderers. No officer goes out in the field wishing to shoot anyone, armed or unarmed. And while they’re unlikely to defend it quite as loudly during a time of national angst like this one, people who work in law enforcement know they are legally vested with the authority to detain suspects — an authority that must sometimes be enforced. Regardless of what happened with Mike Brown, in the overwhelming majority of cases it is not the cops, but the people they stop, who can prevent detentions from turning into tragedies.
But then descends into a state of power crazed madness
Even though it might sound harsh and impolitic, here is the bottom line: if you don’t want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you. Don’t argue with me, don’t call me names, don’t tell me that I can’t stop you, don’t say I’m a racist pig, don’t threaten that you’ll sue me and take away my badge. Don’t scream at me that you pay my salary, and don’t even think of aggressively walking towards me. Most field stops are complete in minutes. How difficult is it to cooperate for that long?
But if you believe (or know) that the cop stopping you is violating your rights or is acting like a bully, I guarantee that the situation will not become easier if you show your anger and resentment. Worse, initiating a physical confrontation is a sure recipe for getting hurt. Police are legally permitted to use deadly force when they assess a serious threat to their or someone else’s life. Save your anger for later, and channel it appropriately. Do what the officer tells you to and it will end safely for both of you. We have a justice system in which you are presumed innocent; if a cop can do his or her job unmolested, that system can run its course. Later, you can ask for a supervisor, lodge a complaint or contact civil rights organizations if you believe your rights were violated. Feel free to sue the police! Just don’t challenge a cop during a stop.
As I learned the hard way, innocent citizens who are brutalized by power drunk megalomaniacs often have no recourse. I didn't.
Susie Madrak, managing editor of Crooks & Liars, joins me every Wednesday morning. Today, she sent along a video that every manly man should watch. It's a great lesson to authority figures everywhere who might wield some modicum of power to show how to use it in a positive way.
And finally, a big "You Go Girl" to Mo'ne Davis, the first girl ever to pitch a shut out in the Little League World Series. She takes the mound again tonight.
I'll be drinking lots of fluids and downing some chicken soup today in a quest to rid myself of this summer cold and will be back tomorrow with author Sasha Abramsky and Congressman Alan Grayson, Radio or Not!
...the more they stay the same.
The photographer who shot that iconic photo at the top of the page was arrested last night in Ferguson, MO. Scott Olsen, a photojournalist for Getty Images, has brought the reality of what's happening in Ferguson to the rest of the world via his amazing photos, many of which can be seen here.
Apparently, the police didn't want Olsen doing his job where he was standing- as if they wanted him to do his job at all..
Scott Olsen wasn't the only member of the media arrested last night. We know of at least two others.
Intercept reporter Ryan Devereaux was arrested this morning while on the ground covering the protests in Ferguson, Mo. According to St. Louis Post-Dispatch photographer David Carson, who witnessed the apprehension, Ryan and a German reporter he was with were both taken into custody by members of a police tactical team. They were handcuffed and placed in a wagon, and Carson was told they were being taken to St. Louis County jail.
Update: Johnson and his colleagues did not take the “proper action.” Ryan spent the night in St. Louis County Jail, where he remains this morning. According to officials there, he is due to be released without charge—the initial pretext for his detention was “failure to disperse”—within the hour. Ryan and Lukas Hermsmeier, a reporter for the German newspaper De Bild, were both apprehended last night—and shot with beanbags and rubber bullets—while attempting to return to their car after a night of reporting. When they were shot at, they had their hands raised in the air and were shouting, “Press! Press! Press!”
Second Update: Ryan has been released. And a correction: While the situation is still not entirely clear, I believe now that both Ryan and Hermsmeier were hit with beanbags, but not rubber bullets as reported above. Also, I’ve updated the post and the headline to reflect the fact that Ryan was in fact arrested and jailed overnight, not merely detained.
Ryan Devereaux's Twitter stream from last night tells the story of a police force in over their heads and seemingly out of control.
APC just rolled by this young man, commando cop on top of the vehicle leveling a large gun at nobody in particular pic.twitter.com/4X14u2Fu4B
— Ryan Devereaux (@rdevro) August 19, 2014
Police on megaphone: "If you are standing still or standing in the street you may be subject to arrest"
— Ryan Devereaux (@rdevro) August 19, 2014
Police flooding the area, gas in the air. Had to warn cops with guns drawn that they were approaching journos seeking cover in a car wash — Ryan Devereaux (@rdevro) August 19, 2014
Police just pushed into the remaining crowd. At least four people arrested. pic.twitter.com/NQOOmEn0ad
— Ryan Devereaux (@rdevro) August 19, 2014
Police have informed us there is a "public safety issue." Unclear if they're referring to the suffocating cloud of tear gas they unleashed. — Ryan Devereaux (@rdevro) August 19, 2014
So much smoke in this neighborhood right now, seems like the police succeeded in clearing out the rest of the demonstrators
— Ryan Devereaux (@rdevro) August 19, 2014
That was Ryan Devereaux's last tweet last night. This morning, he tweeted this:
Out of jail. Too many still in there. Phone is dying, be back soon.
— Ryan Devereaux (@rdevro) August 19, 2014
Aside from the Twitter play-by-play accounts, you might be wondering what year this was.
When I heard that Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon was sending in the National Guard, the first place my mind went was back to Richard Nixon and Kent State. In his 2008 book Nixonland, Rick Perlstein wrote about the rise of the militarized police.
Rick has a new book out, The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan, and he joined me on the show this morning to talk about it. (Since I only got the book yesterday, I haven't had time to read it. Rick promised to return after I do for another conversation.) Obviously, we spoke about the parallels between the two eras.
And in hour two, GottaLaff joined in for our weekly segment, the Gliberal Goddesses. Obviously there was much to talk about today, most of it Ferguson related. But I had a few things to get off my chest too...
Now I'm battling the beginnings of a cold/fluish kind of thing. So it's off to get some rest. Tomorrow, Susie Madrak and Thomas Frank join me... Radio or Not!
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Last night, the peace in Ferguson, MO was once again shattered by a standoff between police and protesters. According to the police, provocateurs in the crowd fired guns and threw Molotov cocktails at the line of police. According to protesters (as well as media representatives on my show today), the aggression came from the uniformed force of power attempting to disperse the crowd.
I'd call the actions of the Ferguson PD and Mayor, of the Missouri Governor and the rest of the "powers-that-be" a "comedy of errors" except there's nothing remotely funny about what's going on in Ferguson - from the moment Michael Brown was stopped for walking down the middle of the street to this morning when Governor Jay Nixon called in the National Guard. Nothing.
After one night of peaceful protest during which police in shirt sleeves walked and talked with protesters, the police seem to have done everything wrong.
From bringing out the heavy artillery to arresting journalists to firing tear gas to imposing a curfew to holding the name of the killer cop to releasing the convenience store surveillance video to bringing out the military gear again... and let's not forget, for one of their own shooting an unarmed teenager walking down the street in the first place, I blame the people charged with keeping the peace and protecting the community for the mess they created and keep compounding with each dim witted move.
As for all the military firepower, we no longer have to wonder who's to blame. Congressman Alan Grayson actually foresaw this problem and tried to prevent it from happening.
On June 19, 2014, Congressman Grayson introduced an amendment to the Defense Appropriations Act of 2015 that reads as follows:
None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to transfer aircraft (including unmanned aerial vehicles), armored vehicles, grenade launchers, silencers, toxicological agents (including chemical agents, biological agents, and associated equipment), launch vehicles, guided missiles, ballistic missiles, rockets, torpedoes, bombs, mines, or nuclear weapons (as identified for demilitarization purposes outlined in Department of Defense Manual 4160.28) through the Department of Defense Excess Personal Property Program established pursuant to section 1033 of Public Law 104-201, the "National Defense Authorization Act For Fiscal Year 1997".
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.
As Howie Klein explained to us this morning during our weekly segment, The Steve Israel Hour sponsored by Little Debbie, Congressman Grayson had lined up more than enough Republican votes to join with Democrats to pass the amendment. Unfortunately, all but 43 Democrats inexplicably voted against his bill that would have prevented the military equipment going to local police departments!
Howie followed the money, and found that the only member of Congress seeking re-election in November with over a million dollars in contributions from the military industrial complex (two others aren't returning) - Pete Visclosky (D-IN) - was responsible for killing the bill!
— Howie Klein (@downwithtyranny) August 18, 2014
Although Howie broke that news on the show this morning and will soon follow it up with at post at Down With Tyranny, he has written about the sickening reality that is the militarization of our police departments here and here.
After the news from Talk Radio News Service's Justin Duckham who spent the weekend in Ferguson and filed this report, I spoke with the two members of We Act Radio's media team - Seth Jackson and Peter Callahan - who are still there covering the events in Ferguson. Find their live stream at Credo Mobile's Youtube page, or via WeActRadio.com.
And finally, we bid buh-bye to David Gregory! I had to invite my old "Fools on the Hill" cohort and fellow Nicole -- Nicole Belle, that is -- back on the show to tell him him not to let the door hit him on the ass on his way out of Meet the Press. David Gregory won't be missed. Sadly, his replacement is Chuck Todd, who's not very different from his predecessor.
Maybe NBC might want to find someone who doesn't have two first names, or is an actual journalist. What a concept!
I'll be back tomorrow with author Rick Perlstein and @GottaLaff too... Radio or Not!
Last night, two fine reporters were arrested (after being brutalized) along with as many paddy wagons as they could find to fill.
From Josè Diaz-Balart at messnbc:
And from today.
One print passage I read was too meaningful to hoard. From Ryan Grim. Via Lucian.
One of our reporters, Ryan Reilly, was arrested this evening in Ferguson, Mo., along with a Washington Post reporter, because that's the kind of thing that happens now, apparently. He is there covering the protests in response to the killing of Michael Brown. Below is a statement we put out condemning the arrest, and here's our report on it. Meanwhile, both of our reporters there are now stranded at the police station, a long way from their rental car. If anybody on this list lives in the St. Louis area and feels like giving them a lift, shoot me a note.
We are relieved Ryan Reilly and Wesley Lowery are safe, but we are disturbed by their arrest and assault.
Ryan was working on his laptop in a McDonald's near the protests in Ferguson, MO, when police barged in, armed with high-powered weapons, and began clearing the restaurant. Ryan photographed the intrusion, and police demanded his ID in response. Ryan, as is his right, declined to provide it. He proceeded to pack up his belongings, but was subsequently arrested for not packing up fast enough. Both Ryan and Wesley were assaulted.
In 1955, a contest was announced in the Los Angeles Police Department's internal magazine, BEAT. The contest involved devising a motto for the Los Angeles Police Academy. The motto needed to be something that would succinctly express the ideals to which those who serve as Los Angeles Police Officers are dedicated.
The winning entry, "to protect and to serve", was submitted by Officer Joseph S. Dorobek and served as the LAPD academy's motto until, by City Council action, it became the official motto of the entire Los Angeles Police Department in 1963. It continues to appear on the Department's patrol cars as a symbol of commitment to service.
"To protect and to serve" has become one of the most recognizable phrases in law enforcement. Throughout its almost 50 years of use, it has come to embody the spirit, dedication, and professionalism of the Officers of the Los Angeles Police Department.
Unfortunately for the people of Los Angeles in general, and Ezell Ford and his family in particular, they didn't live up to that motto Monday evening, when the 24-year old black man, described by his family as "mentally challenged" was shot dead by police.
The shooting occurred about 8:20 p.m. Monday after an officer conducted "an investigative stop" in the 200 block of West 65th Street, according to an LAPD news release. During the stop, a "struggle ensued" and the officer shot the person, whom police did not identify.
Family members identified the man as 24-year-old Ezell Ford, who they described as "mentally challenged." His mother, Tritobia Ford, told KTLA her son was complying with officers' orders, and that the shooting was unjustified.
Her son, she said, was lying on the ground Monday night when he was shot in the back. He later died at an area hospital.
"My heart is so heavy because my family is close," she said.
Now, some friends and family members are taking to Facebook organize a protest rally at 3 p.m. Sunday at LAPD's headquarters.
At the end of that LA Times article, one statistic stood out:
There have been at least 303 people killed in officer-involved shootings since 2007, according to The Times' Homicide Report database.
The eyes of the nation, and law enforcement decked out in para-military gear, have descended on Ferguson, MO, where unrest continues for a third day following the police-shooting death of 18-year old Michael Brown.
Aside from the horrific eyewitness accounts (which have reportedly not yet been heard by police!) the images of armored vehicles manned by machine gun-toting, camouflage and combat gear-wearing
police officers soldiers are scaring citizens.
I shared a few passages on the show this morning from an article by Paul Szoldra in Business Insider titled, "This Is The Terrifying Result Of The Militarization Of Police," who likened the presence and artillery to his time in the Afghanistan war theater.
While serving as a U.S. Marine on patrol in Afghanistan, we wore desert camouflage to blend in with our surroundings, carried rifles to shoot back when under enemy attack, and drove around in armored vehicles to ward off roadside bombs.
We looked intimidating, but all of our vehicles and equipment had a clear purpose for combat against enemy forces. So why is this same gear being used on our city streets?
On Saturday, a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown, an unarmed black man. In the days that have followed, the town with a population of about 21,000 has seen massive protests in response to the shooting, as some witnesses said Brown had his hands up when he was killed.
Putting aside what started the protests for a moment, it's worth discussing the police response to the outrage. In photos taken Monday, we are shown a heavily armed SWAT team.
They have short-barreled 5.56-mm rifles based on the military M4 carbine, with scopes that can accurately hit a target out to 500 meters. On their side they carry pistols. On their front, over their body armor, they carry at least four to six extra magazines, loaded with 30 rounds each.
The St. Louis County Police, of which the Ferguson Police Dept is part, uses that same "Serve and Protect" motto, as seen on one of their cars.
Serve and protect? These days it seems as if our police are doing neither. Something must change, and fast.
Susie Madrak of Crooks & Liars joined me on the show this morning, as she does every Wednesday. We spoke a bit about the tragic loss of Robin Williams and the shameful behavior of those who dare call him a coward or criticize his family for how they deal with their loss. We spoke about the sickening actions of those charged with serving and protecting their communities. And then, because we really, really needed it, we spoke about a wonderful story - that of a 13-year old leading her team into the Little League World Series. Yes, I said her team...
And finally, if you were driving on the Long Island Expressway this morning, chances are you had to be rescued from your submerged car!
More than two months worth of rain fell in two hours in New York's Long Island suburbs on Wednesday, causing flash flooding and swamping cars on major roads that were turned into rivers during the morning rush hour.
A total of 13.26 inches (33 cm) was measured at Long Island's MacArthur Airport in Islip, setting a preliminary statewide record for the most rainfall in one area in a 24-hour period, said Christopher Vaccaro, spokesman for the National Weather Service. The last such record of 11.6 inches (29 cm) was set in August 2011 in a Tannersville village during tropical storm Irene.
Parts of major commuter routes including the Long Island Expressway, the Seaford Oyster Bay Expressway, the Sunrise Highway and other roadways were closed due to flooding, police said. A train station parking lot was covered with at least two feet (61 cm) of water and multiple cars had been submerged up to their windows. Fire department boats were being deployed for rescue operations, according to National Weather Service reports.
I had already planned to talk with Desi Doyen of the Green News Report on the show this morning, only to be surprised - as was the NY/NJ area- by the massive downpour. We had already planned to talk about "Rapidly Warming Arctic Leading to Deadly Extreme Weather Events" before we knew we'd be having yet another one of those extreme weather events this morning!
And then there's that pesky, deadly methane we're starting to hear so much about.
Lots of people ignored James Hanson's dire warning of what will happen if the oil from Canada's tar sands is exploited as "game over for climate". Perhaps his vernacular wasn't strong enough or clear enough.
So this time, Desi and I spoke about the words of caution from Dr. Jason Box, climatologist and professor of glaciology at the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland who has been studying the Arctic for decades. He tweeted his warning, strongly and succinctly:
If even a small fraction of Arctic sea floor carbon is released to the atmosphere, we're f'd.
— Jason Box (@climate_ice) July 29, 2014
Read more about what prompted that tweet and the science behind it here. If the world hasn't imploded on us by then, I'll be back tomorrow... with Harry Shearer talking Nixon's the One, and another "No More Bullshit Minute" with Stephen Goldstein too... Radio or Not!
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