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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

“Dead Man’s Switch”: Is Edward Snowden Blackmailing America?

Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian journalist who has spent the last several weeks disseminating Edward Snowden’s revelations about National Security Agency eavesdropping practices, caused a stir this weekend with an interview he gave to Argentina’s La Nación.

“Snowden has enough information to cause more damage to the U.S. government in one single minute than any other person has ever had in the history of the United States,” Greenwald told La Nación‘s Alberto Armendariz (my translation). He goes on to talk about how Snowden has to avoid landing in the custody of the “vengeful” U.S. at all costs, how Russia is a good place for him for now, and how Snowden’s objective is letting the world know how the NSA is violating privacy rights. Snowden is not out to destroy the U.S., Greenwald says. If Snowden dies, however, Greenwald adds, watch out:

He has already distributed thousands of documents and made sure that various people around the world have his complete archive. If something happens to him, these documents would be made public. This is his insurance policy. The U.S. government should be on its knees everyday praying that nothing happens to Snowden, because if anything should happen, all the information will be revealed and this would be its worst nightmare. [La Nación, my translation]

In an interview with The Associated Press, Greenwald elaborated on what Snowden is sitting on: “In order to take documents with him that proved that what he was saying was true he had to take ones that included very sensitive, detailed blueprints of how the NSA does what they do.” These documents, Greenwald added, “would allow somebody who read them to know exactly how the NSA does what it does, which would in turn allow them to evade that surveillance or replicate it.”

Greenwald’s interview with La Nación reached the U.S. largely through a Reuters article that reported the quotes in English. Greenwald was annoyed enough by this act of translational journalism that he responded in a blog post at The Guardian:

Like everything in the matter of these NSA leaks, this interview is being wildly distorted to attract attention away from the revelations themselves. It’s particularly being seized on to attack Edward Snowden and, secondarily, me, for supposedly “blackmailing” and “threatening” the US government. That is just absurd. That Snowden has created some sort of “dead man’s switch” — whereby documents get released in the event that he is killed by the US government — was previously reported weeks ago, and Snowden himself has strongly implied much the same thing….

That has nothing to do with me: I don’t have access to those “insurance” documents and have no role in whatever dead man switch he’s arranged. I’m reporting what documents he says he has and what precautions he says he has taken to protect himself from what he perceives to be the threat to his well-being. That’s not a threat. Those are facts…. The only people who would claim any of this was a “threat” or “blackmail” are people with serious problems of reading comprehension or honesty, or both. [Guardian]

That explanation didn’t impress Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein, who said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Monday that the comments from Greenwald (or “that reporter”, as he calls him) about the U.S. getting on its knees are “out of line.” Despite the considerable respect he has for The Guardian, Bernstein added, “that’s an awful statement, and the tone in which he made it.”

It’s one thing to say that Mr. Snowden possesses some information that could be harmful, and that could be part of the calculation that everybody makes here. It’s another to make that kind of an aggressive, non-reportorial statement [that] a reporter has no business making. [Bernstein on Morning Joe]

That, too, prompted a response from Greenwald: “I realize Carl Bernstein hasn’t done any actual reporting for a couple decades now, but he should nonetheless take the time to read what he’s opining on.” Reuters gave “a complete distortion of what I actually said,” Greenwald told Politico. “The point I made is the opposite one: That Snowden has been as responsible as a whistleblower can be in ensuring that only information the public should know is revealed.”

Let me get this straight, said Elaine Radford at The Inquisitr. Snowden is sitting on the documents that would cause the worst damage to the U.S. in its entire history, and he’ll unleash them if anything happens to him — nice government there, pity if anything should happen to it — but it’s not blackmail?

First, “considering that the United States wouldn’t go on its knees to Nazis, Nikita Khrushchev, or Osama bin Laden, Greenwald seemed to be expecting a bit much,” Radford said. Second, if he’s trying to make Snowden more sympathetic to Americans, asking America to get on its knees is pretty counterproductive — “most of us think we settled that one sometime around 1776.” But the big point, is “I don’t see how you can take the claim as anything other than a threat of blackmail.”

Like any other reporter, Greenwald is entitled to report what his source has claimed. Greenwald may even have a duty to report it if Snowden is in fact trying to blackmail the United States into dropping its criminal case against him. That in itself seems perilously close to the crime of extortion to me….

The Snowden “worst damage” dead man’s switch threat seems to suggest that Snowden has plans to destroy America by some sort of hacker attack or release of harmful information if he doesn’t get his way. You know, I don’t want to hang a guy because a reporter gave a bad interview. But c’mon. If the Snowden “worst damage” comment actually reflects how Edward Snowden thinks, it’s way past time to stop calling this man any kind of hero. [Inquisitr]

 

By: Peter Weber, Senior Editor, The Week, July 15, 2013

July 16, 2013 Posted by | National Security | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Extortion Politics: A New Form Of Governing

Josh Marshall made an interesting point in passing yesterday, asking whether conservative Republicans could achieve massive spending cuts through “old-fashioned majority votes.” Josh answered his own question: “Of course not.” The cuts on the table were only made possible by Republicans “threatening the health” of the United States.

I think this arguably one of the more important realizations to take away from the current political landscape. Republicans aren’t just radicalized, aren’t just pursuing an extreme agenda, and aren’t just allergic to compromise. The congressional GOP is also changing the very nature of governing in ways with no modern precedent.

Welcome to the normalization of extortion politics.

Consider, for example, the Republican decision to reject any and all nominees to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, regardless of merit, unless and until Democrats accepted changes to the agency’s structure. Traditionally, if the GOP wanted to alter the powers of the CFPB, it would write legislation, send it to committee, bring it to the floor, send it to the other chamber, etc. But that takes time and effort, and in a divided government, this “old fashioned” approach to policymaking probably wouldn’t produce the desired result.

Instead, we see the latest in a series of extortion strategies: Republicans will force Democrats to accept changes to the agency, or Republicans won’t allow the agency to function. Jonathan Cohn wrote a good piece on this a couple of weeks ago, noting the frequency with which this strategy is utilized.

Republican threats to block nominees to the consumer board are at peace with their opposition to Don Berwick, Obama’s first choice to run the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services; to Peter Diamond, whom Obama tapped to sit on the Federal Reserve Board; and most recently to John Bryson, Obama’s nominee to take over the Commerce Department. It’s nothing short of a power grab by the Republican Party — an effort to achieve, through the confirmation process, what they could not achieve through legislation. And it seems unprecedented, at least in modern times.

Republicans effectively tell the administration, over and over again, that the normal system of American governance can continue … just as soon as Democrats agree to policy changes the GOP can’t otherwise pass.

The traditional American model would tell Republicans to win an election. If that doesn’t work, Republicans should work with rivals to pass legislation that moves them closer to their goal. In 2011, the GOP has decided these old-school norms are of no value. Why bother with them when Republicans can force through policy changes by way of a series of hostage strategies? Why should the legislative branch use its powers through legislative action when extortion is more effective?

It’s offensive when it comes to nominees like CFPB nominee Richard Cordray, but using the full faith and credit of the United States to force through desired policy changes takes this dynamic to a very different level. And since it’s working, this will be repeated and establishes a new precedent.

Indeed, it’s a reminder that of all the qualities Republicans lack — wisdom, humility, shame, integrity — it’s their nonexistent appreciation for limits that’s arguably the scariest.

By: Steve Benen, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly-Political Animal, July 31, 2011

August 1, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Congress, Conservatives, Consumers, Democracy, Democrats, Elections, GOP, Government, Ideologues, Ideology, Lawmakers, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing, Teaparty, Voters | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Boehner The Extortionist: “Give Us Trillions In Cuts In Medicare and Medicaid Or We Blow Up The Economy”

Stripped of its politician’s gloss, this is the message that House Speaker John Boehner delivered to Wall Street Monday in discussing the price Republicans demand for raising the debt ceiling.

Boehner portrays himself as a reluctant extortionist: “It’s true that allowing America to default would be irresponsible.” But he told the barons of Wall Street he has no choice. The Tea Party made him do it: “Washington’s arrogance has triggered a political rebellion in our country. And it would be more irresponsible to raise the debt ceiling without simultaneously taking dramatic steps to reduce spending and reform the budget process.”

Notice the Speaker’s phrasing. He curses deficits and debt but he isn’t focused on them. He is focused on “our spending addiction.” “Everything is on the table,” he says, “with the exception of tax hikes.”

And even that is a half-truth, since Boehner and his party have also no appetite for real cuts in the defense budget. Boehner isn’t pushing to get out of Iraq and Afghanistan and roll back the costly U.S. global police role. In the budget that Boehner pushed through the House, Republicans voted to give the Pentagon back most of the relatively nominal defense cuts that Defense Secretary Robert Gates had projected over the next years. And many harshly censored the president for suggesting that another $400 billion in cuts might be chipped out of the more than $8 trillion the Pentagon will spend over the next 12 years.

So if tax hikes aren’t allowed—even though the wealthiest Americans are now paying a lower effective tax rate than their chauffeurs—and defense cuts are off the table, how does Boehner propose to get “trillions” in spending cuts? Medicare and Medicaid get the ax. Or as Boehner puts it in politician speak, “Everything on the table” includes “honest conversations about how best to preserve Medicare.”

The budget math is inescapable. The federal government, as Paul Krugman puts it, is basically an insurance system for our retirement years that also has an army. About half of the government’s spending is in retirement programs—Social Security, Medicare, much of Medicaid and other insurance programs. Defense is half of the rest. All of the rest of government —public health, environmental protection, the IRS, the FBI and Justice Department, education, Pell grants, roads, health research, R&D—consumes the last fourth. When Republicans take taxes and defense off the table, and call for trillions in spending cuts and you have no choice but to go after Medicare, Medicaid and/or Social Security.

Which of course is what they are doing. The House budget cuts nearly $800 billion out of Medicaid over the next five years—and ends Medicare as we know it.

There is a bitter irony to this. The current deficits stem largely from three sources—the Bush tax cuts, the two wars that were fought on the tab, and the Great Recession that cratered tax revenues and lifted spending on everything from unemployment to food stamps to the recovery spending. Boehner argues that “adding nearly a trillion to our national debt—money borrowed mostly from foreign investors—caused a further erosion of economic confidence in America.” But he ignores the trillions added to the debt by the Bush tax cuts, the wars and the Great Recession, focusing only on the Obama recovery spending, which made the smallest contribution of all of these to the deficits. And, he rules out reversing the top-end tax cuts or cutting the military spending to address the deficits that they helped to create. (And if we actually adopt his policies, he’s likely to extend the Great Recession as well).

Boehner argues that adopting his position would show that Washington is “starting to get the message” from the American people. But Boehner isn’t hearing what most Americans are saying. Americans are concerned about deficits, and they are certain that government wastes significant portions of their money. They also oppose the billions squandered on subsidies and tax breaks for Big Oil, Big Pharma, Agribusiness and the like—tax breaks that Republicans defend, arguing that repealing them constitutes a tax increase.

In fact, the vast majority of Americans don’t agree with Boehner’s priorities. The Campaign for America’s Future, which I help direct, has started an American Majority campaign to remind the media of this fact. Three quarters oppose cutting Medicare to help balance the budget. Two thirds oppose raising the retirement age. Three fourths oppose cutting state funding for Medicaid. Over 60 percent favor raising taxes on those making over $250,000 to help reduce the deficit. A growing majority think defense cuts ought to be on the table.

Boehner wants to extort his cuts now—at a time when the economy is struggling, and the country is suffering from mass unemployment. With interest rates near record lows, the construction industry idle and our infrastructure in deadly state of disrepair, the country would be well advised to use this occasion to invest in rebuilding the country, and put workers back to work.

Instead, Boehner offered Wall Streeters a shower of conservative shibboleths, stuck randomly like pieces of lint on a serge suit. “The massive borrowing and spending by the Treasury Department crowded out private investment by American businesses of all sizes,” he argued to what must have been a bemused audience well aware that with interest rates low, and business sitting on trillions in capital waiting for demand to pick up, the only “crowding out” comes from ideology displacing reality in Boehner’s head..

Boehner argues that business people crave stability. Even the mere threat of tax hikes causes them to retreat from investments they might otherwise make. Regulatory changes are similarly disruptive:

“For job creators, the ‘promise’ of a large new initiative coming out of Washington is more like a threat. It freezes them. Instead of investing in new employees or new equipment, they make the logical decision to stand pat.” Sadly, Boehner didn’t explain why the threat to blow up the economy if he can’t get trillions in unidentified spending cuts doesn’t constitute the “promise” of a large new initiative coming out of Washington.”

What happens now? Boehner’s position is untenable. He is holding a hostage—the economy—that he dare not shoot. He is demanding trillions in cuts from programs that he dare not name. He is looking for a back room negotiation in which he can get the president to give him cover in enacting cuts that are unpopular to the American people and likely to be ruinous to the economy. If the president falls for it, Republicans make progress in dismantling the Medicare program that they have always opposed, and the president takes the rap for the bad economy.

What’s to be done? Jonathan Chait gets it right. The president—and the country—would benefit from an open discussion, not a backroom negotiation. The president needs to call Boehner out. What are the trillions in cuts that he wants as the price for letting the economy go free? If he lays them out, as in passage of the House budget plan that ends Medicare as we know it, the President can show Americans why they are unacceptable, and use the bully pulpit to take the case to the country. If Boehner isn’t prepared to lay out his cuts, call his bluff. Surely he can’t long threaten to cripple the economy if he doesn’t get cuts that he isn’t prepared to define.

One thing Boehner says rings true. Americans are sick of the arrogance in Washington. But it is hard to imagine a more arrogant politician than one threatening to blow up the economy if he doesn’t get his way.

By: Robert Borosage, CommonDreams.org, May 10, 2011

May 11, 2011 Posted by | Budget, Businesses, Congress, Conservatives, Corporations, Debt Ceiling, Deficits, Economic Recovery, Economy, GOP, Government Shut Down, Jobs, Lawmakers, Medicaid, Medicare, Pentagon, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing, Social Security, States, Taxes, Tea Party, Wall Street | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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