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Why Killer Cops Walk Free”: It’s Time To Try To Rebuild The Trust Between Police And The Communities They’re Sworn To Protect

When I was a white, I viewed the police as a friend.  But now that I’m a minority, my view has changed.

I know that to many I still look like a white guy. However, since I’m of Arab heritage and Muslim, I morphed into a minority in the post-9/11 world. After all, white people aren’t racially profiled nor called to answer for the worst of their community. Only minorities are. Thus, I’m a minority, and I view the police through that prism.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t consider the police an enemy. I just no longer give them the benefit of the doubt. When I hear their version of the facts, I now require corroborating evidence. And I can just as easily believe the version of events proffered by a defendant or other witnesses.

Being a minority, I have also become much more sensitive to the fact that the police can kill you without good reason. And while exact numbers are hard to come by, recent estimates are that the police have killed about 400 people per year over the last decade.  Our police kill more people each year than those killed by gun violence in countries like the United Kingdom, Germany and Australia.

I would predict that few have issues with the police shooting dangerous criminals who are truly threatening them or the public at large.  Regardless if we are white or a minority, we want the police to protect us. In fact, we pay them to do just that.

But the problem arises when we see the police kill a person in circumstances that shock our conscience. In these instances, our sense of right and wrong demands that the police officer be held criminally responsible for his actions.

However, this happens very infrequently. Why? In large part, this is due to a 1989 U.S. Supreme Court decision that held a police officer can legally use deadly force if the officer has an “objectively reasonable fear” that someone will be killed or suffer serious bodily injury. This ruling, by design, insulates police officers from criminal liability because of the unique, life-threatening challenges of being in law enforcement.

In fact, many legal experts believe that Darren Wilson, the police officer who reportedly shot Michael Brown, will not be convicted of a crime. Indeed, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon acknowledged that Wilson might not even be charged with one.

The Brown case would be far from the most outrageous incident involving a police officer not being criminally charged for killing an unarmed person. In 2012, for example, Brian Claunch, a wheelchair-bound double amputee living in a group home in Houston, became unruly. After the cops arrived, Claunch, who had a history of mental illness, verbally threatened them from his wheelchair and waved a shiny object—a ballpoint pen. After Claunch refused to drop the pen, one of the officers shot him in the head, killing him.

Is it shocking the officer wasn’t charged? Yes. Unexpected? No. As The Texas Observer noted, between 2007 and 2012, Houston police officers shot and killed 109 people and injured another 111. How many of these shootings were deemed unjustified? Zero.

Claunch was white. I mention his race only because white people should, too, be concerned with being shot by law enforcement. In fact, the police have killed more whites than black people in recent years. But those numbers don’t paint the full picture. On a percentage basis, blacks are being shot and killed by the police in much higher numbers.

For example, as Mother Jones noted, between 2004 and 2008, Oakland police officers shot 37 people. How many were black? All of them. And even though in 40 percent of the cases the suspect was unarmed, not one police officer was charged with a crime. And Oakland is not unique here—similar numbers can be found in other big cities.

Consequently, few will be surprised that a recent poll found blacks and whites view the police differently. While 56 percent of whites had a great deal of confidence in the police, only 37 percent of blacks felt the same way.

Still, Americans overall are apparently viewing the police in more negative terms. A 2009 Gallup poll found that 63 percent of Americans viewed the police as honest and ethical. (The peak being 68 percent in 2001 shortly after 9/11.)  But a Gallup poll conducted at the end of 2013 found that number has now fallen to 54 percent, the lowest number since the 1990s.

What may be legal might not always be right.  While the police may walk away scot-free, we still remember what they did. And I would predict that if we see more cases like Michael Brown or Eric Garner—the unarmed man killed in July after NYPD officers placed him in an illegal chokehold—the more negatively the police will be viewed by everyone going forward.

This poses a very real policing problem. Police officials will tell you that one of the most important components in combatting crime is building relationships within the community they are policing. How can the police do that if the community views them as dishonest, or even dangerous?

A good move toward rebuilding trust would be affixing cameras to police officers so that the public can see the events that lead to the use of deadly force. Police could also do more community relationship building by interacting with minority communities now—not after there is an incident. And if a police officer is clearly at fault, police chiefs should not blindly defend that person.

Ironically, while relations between the police and minority communities might be strained, we now share something in common: Neither of us wants to be defined by our worst examples.

 

By: Dean Obeidallah, The Daily Beast, August 26, 2014

August 29, 2014 Posted by | Law Enforcement, Minorities, Race and Ethnicity | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Rand Paul’s Fair-Weather Compassion”: How An Ideology Can Cause Terrible Misery

If you haven’t seen the video or photos yet, trust me, you will. Rand Paul in blue scrubs and hiking boots, bringing sight to the blind in an operating room in Guatemala — could there be a more perfect visual for a White House hopeful? And that’s before we even get to the metaphors about restoring vision and fixing problems.

A flattering segment on NBC’s Meet the Press was just the start of extracting the gold from this rich political vein. Campaign ads inevitably will feature video of the senator-surgeon performing the pro bono eye operations, as will a Citizens United documentary about Paul. The conservative group sent a camera crew and a drone to shoot footage him in action in Guatemala.

Let’s stipulate that whatever you think of Paul’s views or the political entourage he brought along, the Kentucky Republican transformed lives on that trip. It was a wonderfully compassionate volunteer act — and that’s where things get complicated.

Paul has been working steadily to create his personal brand of compassionate conservatism, and it’s more substantive than outreach. His causes include restoring voting rights to felons, reforming drug sentencing laws and — after Ferguson — demilitarizing the police. He is a champion of charter schools, which many black parents are seeking out for their children. He has proposed economic incentives to try to revive Detroit. He and Democratic senator Cory Booker are pushing legislation to make it easier for people to create new lives — including expunging or sealing convictions for some juveniles and lifting bans on post-prison food stamps and welfare benefits for some offenders.

All of that is broadly appealing. It’s also consistent with libertarian and conservative principles such as more personal choice, less government intrusion, lower taxes and — in the case of the prison and sentencing reforms — saving government money by reducing recidivism and prison populations. The emphasis is on the “conservative” part of the phrase.

The man who invented the brand and rode it all the way to the White House, George W. Bush, focused on the compassion part. To the dismay of conservatives, he enlarged the federal role in education (he called it “the civil rights issue of our time” and signed the No Child Left Behind Act) and spent a bundle of borrowed money to fight AIDS in Africa, launch a Medicare prescription drug program and try to impose democracy on Iraq.

What you might call fair-weather compassion — compassion that’s limited to policies that cut spending or, at the very least, don’t cost more — is a conservative hallmark in the post-Bush era. But Paul trumped his colleagues and won plaudits from groups like FreedomWorks with a 2013 budget that would have balanced in a lightning-fast five years. It repealed the Affordable Care Act and killed the departments of Commerce, Education, Energy, and Housing and Urban Development. It also privatized Medicare, allowed private Social Security accounts, and shifted Medicaid and food stamps — designed to grow and shrink depending on need — to a system of capped grants to the states. “Gut” was the liberal verb of choice.

Paul’s 2011 budget blueprint would have phased out all foreign aid. “This would cause misery for millions of people on AIDS treatment. It would betray hundreds of thousands of children receiving … malaria treatment,” former Bush aide Michael Gerson said last weekend on NBC after the Paul-in-Guatemala segment aired. “This is a perfect case of how a person can have good intentions but how an ideology can cause terrible misery.”

The ACA, with its premium subsidies and Medicaid expansion, is designed to help just the types of people Paul served in Guatemala. In fact, more than 290,000 newly eligible people had signed up for Medicaid in his home state by mid-April. Yet last year Paul was willing to shut down the government in an attempt to defund the law.

Paul did not release a budget this year, and he said in May that he is “not sure” that Kentucky’s ACA insurance marketplace (Kynect) should be dismantled. Is he giving himself some room to maneuver? Unclear. He continues to favor repeal of the entire ACA and seems most concerned about its impact on local hospitals. One had to lay off 50 people due to the law, he said, so “now we’ve got more people in the wagon, and less people pulling the wagon.”

What he said was debatable — CNHI News Service reported that the hospital, T.J. Samson in Glasgow, is expected to do better financially under the new health law than it did under previous policies. Beyond that, does Paul really want to snatch Medicaid away from nearly 300,000 of his least fortunate constituents? The answer to that question will help determine whether those compassionate images from Guatemala are merely images, or something more.

 

By: Jill Lawrence, The National Memo, August 28, 2014

August 29, 2014 Posted by | Compassionate Conservatism, Rand Paul | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Leading From Behind, And Proud Of It”: America May Just Need To Get Over Its Own Sense Of Paternalism

Egypt and the UAE went forward with air strikes against Islamists in Libya without informing the United States. They did this presumably because they are concerned with the growing influence of Islamist extremists in their region of the world. No doubt their concerns don’t exist in a vacuum; the whole world is watching as Islamists garner more control in Iraq and Syria. Apparently America is supposed to be upset about the move because we should have been informed. The thought is that we’ve provided some of the weaponry, so we should have a say. There’s also the uncomfortable truth that America may just need to get over its own sense of paternalism if we really want to stay out of conflict.

Poll after poll shows an American populace that does not favor intervention overseas. It’s become quite clear since the downturn of the economy that we have enough to work on here at home without getting into multibillion-dollar conflicts. So we don’t want to intervene, but we don’t want to be left out either. The favorite saying of what I would call war hawks is that this is what happens when America “leads from behind.”

Well, here’s my question: Why do we have to lead at all?

I would argue that at this point and time we are in no position to lead anyone. We have record -low unemployment, the middle class that once defined the American dream is dissipating, and we have social issues bubbling under the surface that we should probably start to address. We have serious infrastructure needs that need to be met, and plenty of ingrown homeland-security challenges I’m positive our military could focus on (not to mention millions of families who would be grateful not to send off their loved ones into dubious wars).

I understand that America has serious political interests in the Middle East beyond oil. I understand that leaving the area completely is a pipe dream, largely because leaving Israel to its own devices at this point would be like leaving a kid in the desert to fend for herself. That said, isn’t that kind of what Americans did when we declared independence? Or when we fought our incredibly deadly civil war? What if the superpower of the time got involved in our own now-infamous civil conflict? What if we were not allowed to fight it out but were forced to form ourselves under the influence of a foreign culture that no one understood?

That is what we have been doing in the Middle East, and it is time to stop. It is time to let regional powers figure out their own regional conflicts, and it is time for America to begin addressing our own. We have thousands of people trying to get into our country because the situation below our border is so dire, partially for reasons that are well within our control (e.g., the drug war). Maybe we don’t see that problem as just as much of a threat as those in the Middle East, but we should. As we have seen with the latest incident at the Texas border, we can only ignore our neighbors for so long as we toil along overseas.

The interests are strong, and the history is thick, but I, for one, am happy that Egypt and the UAE made a unilateral decision without us. I am happy that Egypt orchestrated the Israeli/Palestinian ceasefire. I am glad that we are starting to “lead from behind” in the rest of the world, because maybe that means we can lead our own country.

 

By: Courtney McKinney, The Huffington Post Blog, August 28, 2014

 

 

August 29, 2014 Posted by | Foreign Policy, Middle East | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Will The Voters Listen?”: The Tape Doesn’t Lie; Mitch McConnell Is Serious About Another Shutdown

One week ago, when Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) gave an interview vowing that a Republican Senate majority would attach partisan riders to spending bills in an effort to blackmail President Obama into rolling back his agenda — a tactic that would almost certainly lead to another government shutdown — his campaign tried to walk back his remarks.

“Evidently Alison Lundergan Grimes’ interpretation of how the U.S. Senate works is that senators must rubber-stamp President Obama’s agenda or the government shuts down,” McConnell spokeswoman Allison Moore said in response to the Democratic candidate’s critique of McConnell’s strategy. “Unlike Grimes’ commitment to the Obama agenda, Senator McConnell will fight for Kentucky priorities whether the president is interested in them or not.”

But new audio obtained by The Nation confirms that McConnell meant exactly what he said. In a June 15 speech to a Republican donor conference led by Charles and David Koch, McConnell was secretly recorded laying out largely the same case that he pitched to Politico last week:

So in the House and Senate, we own the budget. So what does that mean? That means that we can pass the spending bill. And I assure you that in the spending bill, we will be pushing back against this bureaucracy by doing what’s called placing riders in the bill. No money can be spent to do this or to do that. We’re going to go after them on health care, on financial services, on the Environmental Protection Agency, across the board (inaudible). All across the federal government, we’re going to go after it.

To be clear: If Republicans load must-pass appropriations bills with riders to undo the Affordable Care Act, the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, or any other key Democratic achievements, President Obama will veto them. Unless Republicans relent, the government will shut down. McConnell’s campaign (and some impartial observers like Bloomberg View columnist Jonathan Bernstein) may claim that that isn’t the minority leader’s intent, but without the shutdown threat, Republicans would have no leverage to “go after” the Democratic agenda.

McConnell had plenty else to say at the Koch gathering (for example, he remarked that “the worst day of my political life was when President George W. Bush signed McCain-Feingold into law,” suggesting that campaign finance reform outranks 9/11 on his list of disasters). But the promise of more congressional brinksmanship will likely prove to be the key takeaway, given the obvious political implications.

Nobody should be surprised that McConnell is eager to escalate a confrontation with the White House. After all, he’s far from the only Republican to promise it. Earlier this week, Marco Rubio made similar remarks with regard to immigration. Over in the House, startlingly influential Rep. Steve King (R-IA) did the same.

Republicans are being quite honest about what the GOP would do with control of Congress. At this point, the only question is whether voters will listen.

 

By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, August 27, 2014

 

August 29, 2014 Posted by | Government Shut Down, Mitch Mc Connell, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Policies And Attitudes, That’s Just How They Roll”: Why Republicans Can’t Solve Their Problem With Women Voters

I’ll give Republicans credit for this: they keep trying to figure out why their party remains unappealing to large and important groups of voters. They’ve been mulling over their problem with Latino voters for some time, and now Politico has gotten a hold of a study commissioned by some GOP bigwigs to figure out why women keep giving more of their votes to Democrats:

But in Washington, Republican policies have failed to sway women — in fact, they appear to have turned women off. For example, the focus groups and polls found that women “believe that ‘enforcing equal pay for equal work’ is the policy that would ‘help women the most.'”

“Republicans who openly deny the legitimacy of the issue will be seen as out of touch with women’s life experiences,” the report warned, hinting at GOP opposition to pay-equity legislation. It’s the policy item independents and Democrats believe will help women the most.

The groups suggest a three-pronged approach to turning around their relationship with women. First, they suggest the GOP “neutralize the Democrats'” attack that Republicans don’t support fairness for women. They suggest Republican lawmakers criticize Democrats for “growing government programs that encourage dependency rather than opportunities to get ahead.” That message tested better than explaining that the GOP supports a number of policies that could help fairness for women.

The last time a Republican presidential candidate won a majority of women’s votes was 1988, and it’s hard to see it happening again soon unless there’s a huge blowout. While it’s all well and good to investigate the issue to try to understand it in as much detail as possible, I have some bad news for Republicans: This isn’t a problem they’re going to be able to solve.

That’s because both their policies and their attitudes are working against them. It isn’t just that Republicans oppose reproductive rights, though that doesn’t help. And it isn’t just that they oppose mandating contraceptive coverage in insurance, though that doesn’t help either. It’s that when they articulate those policy positions and others like them, they can’t keep themselves from doing so in the most hostile, contemptuous ways imaginable. That doesn’t apply to all of them, of course; maybe not even most of them. But any debate about an issue affecting women in particular is 100-percent guaranteed to feature at least a few prominent conservatives, including those who have their own radio and television programs, saying loudly that the women who disagree with the Republican position are sluts and whores. That’s just how they roll.

Karl Rove can say to his compatriots, “Let’s ease up on the ‘legitimate rape’ stuff, fellas,” but unfortunately for him and the other people who spend time thinking about the GOP’s challenges, a party can’t speak with one voice. Whenever a discussion starts about an issue like equal pay, everybody gets to weigh in, from the most sober senator to the most rabid Tea Partier to the most hateful talk radio host. And since we now have a highly developed outrage industrial complex, the appalling comments will be repeated and distributed, ensuring that everyone hears them. And even when they aren’t being outright offensive, Republicans are more likely to communicate their believe in condescending, outdated gender norms.

All of which means that the idea that Republicans are none too friendly to women is constantly reinforced, in ways both substantive and emotional. If you’re a woman, you’re not happy when the Republican party blocks equal pay legislation. But when you then hear some of them try to argue that the wage gap isn’t really a problem in the first place, and maybe you should just be staying at home with your kids anyway, well that’s going to really piss you off. And having a bunch of GOP bros tell you that they’re the real pro-women party because they don’t want people to depend on government isn’t going to go too far to change that.

Now take all that, and imagine what the atmosphere will be like if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee in 2016. There will be a tsunami of misogynistic hate directed at Clinton, which we know because she’s always generated a particularly ugly brand of male sexual panic in conservatives. If she’s actually threatening to become president, it’ll be worse than ever. In the face of that, the Republicans who try to argue that their party has something to offer women voters are going to get laughed right out of the voting booth.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, August 28, 2014

August 29, 2014 Posted by | Republicans, War On Women, Womens Rights | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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