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“Your Support For Brutality Or Your Life”: Plainly An Effort To Extort The Public For Support Of Police Brutality

In the latest and most open demonstration that some law enforcement officers are prone to go on strike if their tactics are challenged, two unnamed Baltimore cops blandly told CNN that citizens of the city had to choose between safety from criminals and safety from the police, per a report from Brooke Baldwin and Dana Ford:

Forty-two people were killed in Baltimore in May, making it the deadliest month there since 1972.

When asked what’s behind that number, a Baltimore police officer gave an alarming answer. Basically, he said, the good guys are letting the bad guys win.

“The criminal element feels as though that we’re not going to run the risk of chasing them if they are armed with a gun, and they’re using this opportunity to settle old beefs, or scores, with people that they have conflict with,” the officer said. “I think the public really, really sees that they asked for a softer, less aggressive police department, and we have given them that, and now they are realizing that their way of thinking does not work.”

In other words, prosecuting cops for killing Freddie Gray means criminals will run wild. Look in the other direction if some thugs wind up dead under murky circumstances, or you can kiss police protection good-bye.

I know we should not assume these two anonymous cops speak for their colleagues, but if so, they better speak up. This is pretty plainly an effort to extort support for brutality at the end of a gun–not a police service revolver, of course, but the gun hypothetically wielded by the “bad guys” because the “good guys” insist to do their job their way–laws be damned–or not at all.

Aside from the inherently poisonous nature of such demands, there’s not much question these officers are trying to stir up a public backlash against the elected officials, prosecutors and ultimately judges who are supposed to supervise their behavior. And there’s no question this is going to create a huge temptation for conservative politicians–maybe in Maryland, but more likely in far distance locations–to bring back the race-baiting law-n-order politics of the 1960s and 1970s.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, June 10, 2015

June 11, 2015 Posted by | Law Enforcement, Police Abuse, Police Brutality | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“What I Learned From Beau Biden”: Our Politics Of Recrimination Does A Profound Disservice To How Much All Of Us Care About Family

Between now and the 2016 election, we need to have a searching national debate over family values.

It will not be about whether we as a country are for them. We are. What’s required is a grounded and candid discussion about what those words actually mean.

Note that I did not follow the convention of putting quotation marks around family values. That punctuation is appropriate only when the phrase is defined in a narrow, partisan way, aimed at claiming that some large number of Americans don’t believe in family responsibility or love.

I will be haunted for a long time by last Saturday’s funeral for Beau Biden, the vice president’s son, who died of cancer at the age of 46. I suspect anyone who watched or listened to the eulogies feels this way, and I hope especially that staunch social conservatives give some of their attention to hearing the tributes. Beau Biden’s sister, Ashley, and his brother, Hunter, spoke with a power and an authenticity about love, devotion, and connection that said more about how irreplaceable family solidarity is than a thousand speeches or sermons.

And President Obama captured rather precisely what family is about when he described what he called “the Biden family rule.” Its components: “If you have to ask for help, it’s too late. It meant you were never alone; you don’t even have to ask, because someone is always there for you when you need them.”

I certainly don’t pretend that social conservatives who experience these eulogies will suddenly convert to liberalism or be transformed into supporters of Obama or Joe Biden. What the Biden funeral brought home is that the feelings and convictions that very nearly all of us — left, right, center, and apolitical — have about the bonds between parents and children, brothers and sisters, truly transcend our day-to-day arguments. We so often wage political war around the family that we forget how broadly shared our reverence for it is.

This helps explain the paradox of the gay marriage issue: Our opinions on it have changed in large part because of ties of family and friendship. A Pew survey released this week found that now 57 percent of Americans favor allowing same-sex marriage, while 39 percent oppose it. Just five years ago, only 42 percent of Americans supported same-sex marriage, while 48 percent opposed it.

The key to this long-term shift is deeply personal. The number of Americans who know that someone they care about is gay or lesbian has skyrocketed over the decades, and risen a lot even in recent years. Pew found that the proportion of Americans who know someone who is homosexual has gone to 88 percent, from 61 percent in 1993. Among those who know many people who are gay or lesbian, 73 percent support same-sex marriage. Among those who know no gays or lesbians, 59 percent are opposed.

These numbers underscore again that so many of the issues related to family are more complicated (and less about ideology) than the angry, direct-mail style of discourse we are accustomed to on these matters would suggest.

Yet you don’t have to be right wing to worry that the family in the United States faces severe stresses and challenges. It would be genuinely useful if the 2016 campaign focused on practical measures that would help parents do their jobs.

Discussions of how policies on taxes, child care, family leave, wages, and criminal justice affect the family’s well-being (and specific proposals in each area) would be so much more constructive than polemics that cast one part of our population as immoral enemies of family life and the other as narrow-minded bigots. A politics of recrimination does a profound disservice to how much all of us care about family.

In 2007, after a Democratic presidential debate, I was approached in the spin room by Beau Biden, then Delaware’s attorney general. He wanted to talk about how well his dad performed, and his father had, indeed, done very well that night on the stage. But Beau Biden was most animated (and spoke at much greater length) when he turned to describing what an extraordinary father Joe Biden had been.

This fact about a politician certainly didn’t require anyone to vote for him. But it always helped explain to me why I feel as I do about Joe Biden and also why our discussions of family life need to recognize that love and commitment go way beyond politics. Family is too precious to let it divide us.

 

By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, June 10, 2015

June 11, 2015 Posted by | Beau Biden, Family Values, Politics | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Federal Lands Don’t Belong To The States”: Federal Lands Do Have An Owner, The People Of The United States

The federal government owns large chunks of the West. It owns 65 percent of Utah, 69 percent of Alaska, and 83 percent of Nevada. Some Westerners see unfairness in that. They should not.

Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska recently slipped an item into a non-binding budget resolution, calling on the federal government to dispose of all its land other than the national parks and monuments. That would put U.S. national forests and wildlife refuges — from the Arctic to the Everglades — up for grabs. The Senate narrowly passed it.

Three years ago, Utah’s Republican governor, Gary Herbert, demanded that the federal government turn millions of its acres over to his state. Just like that.

Thing is, the land is not Utah’s to take. Federal lands do have an owner, the people of the United States. Those acres belong as much to residents of New Jersey and Ohio as they do to the folks in Salt Lake City.

Has anyone asked you whether you want to give away federal land? Me, neither.

Some insist that the laws creating the Western states required the federal government to hand over much of the land it retained. Not so, says University of Utah law professor Robert Keiter.

On the contrary. The Utah Enabling Act stated that the inhabitants of the proposed state had to “forever disclaim all right and title to the unappropriated public lands lying within the boundaries thereof.” That sounds pretty straightforward.

The property clause of the U.S. Constitution and subsequent Supreme Court cases hold that the U.S. keeps public lands in trust for all Americans. The government may keep, sell or give away the land — as well as decide what may be done on it.

Even if the federal government were obligated to unload that land, Keiter writes, “that obligation does not require the federal government to give land to the states.”

Sales of federally owned land should go to the highest bidder, with the proceeds dropped in the U.S. Treasury. If the state of Utah cares to participate in the auction, good luck to it.

In reality, the federal government has, over the years, disposed of many millions of its acres — some sold, some given to homesteaders, some handed to the states.

Western states didn’t care about this mostly parched land until the feds started building huge irrigation projects in the 1920s. Many states, including Utah, actually refused offers of public lands because they didn’t want to lose federal reclamation funds, mineral revenue, and highway money.

Federal ownership does have its advantages. About 330 million acres of federal lands are used for grazing cattle and sheep. Ranchers last year paid only $18.5 million in fees to use that land, whereas the feds appropriated $144 million for the grazing programs, according to a Center for Biological Diversity study.

“Had the federal government charged the average private forage market rate for non-irrigated lands in the western states,” the study says, “grazing receipts would have been on average $261 million, greatly exceeding annual appropriations.”

The oil and gas industries operating on public lands currently enjoy discounted royalty rates, courtesy of the U.S. taxpayer. We really ought to be charging them market rates.

Ronald Reagan famously said of the Panama Canal, “We built it. We paid for it. It’s ours.”

How did the federal government originally obtain title to the Western lands? Through treaties with France, Britain, and Mexico.

So American taxpayers did indeed pay for that land and made it more fruitful. That’s why it’s ours, all of ours.

 

By: Froma Harrop, The National Memo, June 11, 2015

June 11, 2015 Posted by | Federal Government, Property Clause, Public Lands | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“His Problems Go Deeper”: Chris Christie Is No John McCain

It’s no surprise that Chris Christie has adopted the straight-talk strategy that carried John McCain to a huge upset victory over George W. Bush in the 2000 New Hampshire primary and helped him win the Republican presidential nomination in 2008. It’s a natural fit given the New Jersey governor’s blunt, outspoken personality.

Yet McCain was in first or second place in polls of New Hampshire at this point both times he ran. Christie is in single digits, and as far back as ninth in one poll of the large Republican pack.

There’s a reason it’s not working. There’s no way to break this gently: Chris Christie is no John McCain.

In McCain, the Arizona senator, you had a bona fide Vietnam War hero who had spent more than five years as a prisoner of war. You had a presidential candidate whose candor on the 2000 trail was startling, sometimes charming and occasionally quite personal.

When a voter in rural New Hampshire complained about substandard medical facilities, McCain said that was the price for the voter’s choice to live in a gorgeous setting instead of a more populated area. When another New Hampshire voter worried aloud about whether his child would be able to get a factory job, McCain advised him to aim higher for his child. He undercut his own anti-abortion position when a reporter asked if he’d forbid an abortion for his teenage daughter if she became pregnant — saying he’d discourage that but the final decision would be hers. When the predictable furor erupted, he did not kick the press off the bus.

With McCain, you also had politician who was publicly and continually remorseful about his role in a campaign finance scandal, who then became passionate about breaking the connection between money and influence. This defining ethics challenge came in 1987. That’s the year McCain and four other senators asked federal regulators to drop charges against the Lincoln Savings and Loan chaired by Charles Keating Jr., a donor to all their campaigns.

Taxpayers were on the hook for a $3 billion bailout when Lincoln S&L collapsed in 1989. McCain called his intervention on behalf of Keating “the worst mistake of my life.” A decade later he made campaign finance reform the centerpiece of his first presidential campaign.

Bridgegate has been Christie’s defining ethics challenge. The massively disruptive four-day traffic jam on the Fort Lee approach to the George Washington Bridge was engineered by his aides in 2013 as political revenge against a Democratic mayor who did not support him for re-election that year. For nearly a week, their fake “traffic study” turned 30-minute commutes into three and four hours. The New York Times offered a sampling of who was trapped in the crippling gridlock: first responders in police cars and ambulances; buses of kids headed to the first day of school; a longtime unemployed man who was late for his first day at a new job, and a woman who couldn’t reach the hospital in time for her husband’s stem-cell transplant.

Christie said he had been “blindsided” by the plot. He said he was embarrassed and humiliated and apologized to “the people of New Jersey” and “the people of Fort Lee.” He also denied creating an atmosphere that led to such behavior and maintained that “I am not a bully.” If he had followed the McCain model, Christie would have then become a highly visible national advocate for good government, political civility and excellence in public service. He might have started an organization to that effect, or joined one. Alternatively, perhaps he would have launched or lent his name to an anti-bullying organization.

Unlike McCain, Christie does not have a heroic personal biography to cushion problems. He does have a long, mixed, and controversial record as governor. He also has a long trail of viral videos that show him insulting and shouting at people who disagree with his policies. That image was a boon for his popularity and his fundraising for his party. He used to revel in it. Now, not so much. Now he is trying to morph into a policy truthteller on entitlements, taxes, and national security.

“Real. Honest. Direct. Tell It Like It Is.” According to National Journal, that’s the banner that advertised Christie’s recent appearance at The Village Trestle tavern in Goffstown, New Hampshire. But there’s a difference between confrontational straight talk and the McCain 2000 brand of straight talk. Christie, belatedly realizing that the first kind is not presidential, is trying to transition to the latter. But his problems go deeper than that, as do his differences from McCain.

 

By: Jill Lawrence, The National Memo, June 11, 2015

June 11, 2015 Posted by | Chris Christie, GOP Presidential Candidates, John McCain | , , , , , | 2 Comments

   

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