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EUGENE ROBINSON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaMcDonnell(Photo: Gage Skidmore)How far would you go to stay out of jail? Would you publicly humiliate your wife of 38 years, portraying her as some kind of shrieking harridan? Would you put the innermost secrets of your marriage on display, inviting voyeurs to rummage at will?

For Robert McDonnell, the former Virginia governor on trial for alleged corruption, the answers appear to be: "As far as necessary," "Hey, why not?" and "Sounds like a plan."

McDonnell's testimony this week in a Richmond federal courtroom about his wife Maureen's psychological turmoil has been both cringe-worthy and compelling. It has been clear for some time that McDonnell's strategy for winning acquittal amounted to what could be called the "crazy wife" defense. But only when he took the stand did it become apparent how thoroughly he intended to humiliate the "soul mate" he still claims to love.

McDonnell disclosed Thursday that he moved out of the family's home shortly before the trial began. "I knew there was no way I could go home after a day in court and have to rehash the day's events with my wife," he testified.

I guess not. Anyone who said such things in public about his or her spouse would be advised to clear out.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

handsup(Photo: Light Brigading)

In the August 19 Washington Post, Los Angeles police officer Sunil Dutta wrote an op-ed entitled: "I'm a cop. If you don't want to get hurt, don't challenge me." The sub-headline was, "It's not the police, but the people they stop, who can prevent a detention from turning into a tragedy."

The authoritarian belligerence of that statement says volumes about why so many police officers are so dangerous to the public whom they are supposed to be serving. Such a stance presumes that a law enforcement official has absolute powers to stop and detain any person in any fashion at anytime. It reflects the presumptuousness of power and assumes a right to use of force against anyone who contests being detained in a democracy.

Truthout Senior Editor and Lead Writer William Rivers Pitt also took note of Dutta's menacing tone in a recent fundraising e-mail for Truthout and BuzzFlash. Pitt noted, "that mindset, combined with unimaginably lethal weapons, is a threat to the very fabric of our democracy."

Clearly, the precipitating factor for Dutta's warning to citizens is the widespread dismay over the murder of Mike Brown and the use of unnecessary militarized police force in Ferguson, along with the revulsion among many at the bellicose swagger, use of brute force and wave of arrests by police in that city.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaKKK(Photo: Ras67)From the What-Is-Not-Surprising-About-This Department: USA Today is reporting that a local chapter of the Missouri Ku Klux Klan is holding a fundraiser for the Ferguson police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen. "All money will go to the cop who did his job against the Negro criminal," according to New Empire Knights of the KKK.

Will there be a white sheet washing contest; a how-many-crosses-can-you-burn in a given time frame contest; a cross-construction competition; an AK-47 raffle?

"We are setting up a reward/fund for the police officer who shot this thug," the Klan group said in an email. "He is a hero! We need more white cops who are anti-Zog and willing to put Jewish controlled black thugs in their place. Most cops are cowards and do nothing while 90% of interracial crime is black (and non-white) on white."

According to USA Today, "Darren Wilson, the officer involved in the Aug. 9 shooting, has been a police officer for six years, four with Ferguson Police Department, and has never had any disciplinary action taken against him. There's no indication Wilson supports the KKK's efforts."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AND TRUTHOUT

domviol(Photo: Jeanne Menjoulet & Cle)Boston Globe reporter Yvonne Abraham wrote a shocking article this month revealing the horrifying extent of domestic violence in the Boston area:

It is all there in the police reports, set out in mundane, relentless detail. Globe data visualization reporter Gabriel Florit analyzed more than four years of reports on domestic violence between intimate partners in Boston, up to April 2014....

The reports are a critical record of the evil enacted in homes across the city. Laid end to end, they reveal the massive scale of the problem. And not just its vastness, but its pervasiveness. The potential for violence saturates every minute of a victim’s day.... You can imagine the moments that exploded, at breakfasts and dinners, in kitchens and living rooms. You can see inside the homes where abusers lurk every day, reaching for whatever object is nearby to impose their will.

What is even more dismaying is that the Globe analysis is only of domestic violence incidents reported to the police. Beyond the dots on a map that the Globe posted of the reported domestic violence, Abraham cautions, "lie countless others to whose homes police never come, because the people who would have made the calls were too embarrassed or afraid. Or because they got so used to torment they couldn’t see it for what it was. Or because their abusers promised to make things better, giving a glimpse of what made them attractive in the first place."

Furthermore, many of the police reports analyzed by the Globe are initial calls for help. Many women, due to threats or dependency, later decide to drop charges, only further to be caught up in the cycle of physical and psychological terror.

Clearly the silent epidemic of abuse is not subsiding - if the Boston area is an indicator.  

Wednesday, 20 August 2014 06:44

House Committee: No Benghazi Scandal

2014.8.20.Benghazi.BFRep. Trey Gowdy (R - South Carolina) meets with the other appointed majority members of the Benghazi Select Committee. (Photo: Caleb Smith / Flickr)

WALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

The House Select Committee on Intelligence, following almost a two-year intense investigation, unanimously determined there is no basis for what has become known as the Benghazi Scandal.

The Committee consists of 12 Republicans and 9 Democrats.

The pretend-scandal began September 11, 2012, when terrorists raided the U.S. consulate, and killed the ambassador and three others.

Although there was confusion, and the Obama administration didn't have all the facts when it began to inform the American people about the events and the causes, there was no evidence of anything even remotely linked to a scandal. However, as expected, the blathering mouths of the extreme right-wing media pundits and politicians, and those who blindly parrot their "talking points" in bars, on front porches, and hunting lodges, kept caterwauling about scandal.

2014.8.20.Berkowitz.BFMove America Forward marches on Washington DC. (Screen grab via Move America Forward / YouTube)

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Move America Forward, the pro-Iraq War group that backed George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq to the hilt, has, since its founding in 2004, claimed that it's all about supporting the troops. However, according to a new report by ProPublica, Move America Forward "has repeatedly misled donors and inflated its charitable accomplishments, while funneling millions of dollars in revenue to the men behind the group and their political consulting firms."

Kim Barker's investigative piece titled "Pro-Troop Charity Misleads Donors While Lining Political Consultants' Pockets," details some of the ethically-challenged practices Move America Forward has used in its fundraising appeals, and how a chunk of the money it has raised has gone, not to support the troops, but to lining the pockets of Republican Party-oriented political consulting firms and Political Action Committees.

Move America Forward (MAF), which claims to be "the nation's largest grassroots pro-troop organization," was the brainchild of Howard Kaloogian, a former California State Assemblyman, and Melanie Morgan, the co-host of a morning drive program on right-wing talk radio in the San Francisco Bay Area. Russo Marsh & Rogers, a Sacramento, California-based public relations outfit with longtime close ties to the Republican Party, helped the group get off the ground. Sal Russo, the Russo of Russo Marsh & Rogers, a longtime GOP political consultant," is listed on the 10-year-old charity's tax returns as chief strategist."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUTunlearnracism(Photo: Light Brigading)

On August 18, the Pew Center for the People & the Press released a poll that reveals "stark racial divisions in reactions to Ferguson police shooting":

Blacks and whites have sharply different reactions to the police shooting of an unarmed teen in Ferguson, Mo., and the protests and violence that followed. Blacks are about twice as likely as whites to say that the shooting of Michael Brown "raises important issues about race that need to be discussed." Wide racial differences also are evident in opinions about of whether local police went too far in the aftermath of Brown's death, and in confidence in the investigations into the shooting.

The new national survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted Aug. 14-17 among 1,000 adults, finds that the public overall is divided over whether Brown's shooting raises important issues about race or whether the issue of race is getting more attention than it deserves: 44% think the case does raise important issues about race that require discussion, while 40% say the issue of race is getting more attention than it deserves.

By about four-to-one (80% to 18%), African Americans say the shooting in Ferguson raises important issues about race that merit discussion. By contrast, whites, by 47% to 37%, say the issue of race is getting more attention than it deserves.

In a summary of the poll, Pew recalls that in its survey after Trayvon Martin was gunned down by George Zimmerman, "60% of whites said race received more attention in that case than it deserved." 

Years ago, I heard a speaker discuss how the history of the United States cannot be viewed through a focused lens unless one considers the legacy of slavery, the suppressive humiliating period of Reconstruction, the plantation ghettos of cities in the north and south, and the criminalization of being a black male. All of these require an open racism among many whites and a sub-conscious racial bias among many persons who think of themselves as liberals.

EUGENE ROBINSON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaFireThisTime(Photo: Fir0002)The fire this time is about invisibility. Our society expects the police to keep unemployed, poorly educated African-American men out of sight and out of mind. When they suddenly take center stage, illuminated by the flash and flicker of Molotov cocktails, we feign surprise.

The proximate cause of the rioting in Ferguson, Mo., is the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was stopped, a witness has said, by a white policeman for walking in the street rather than on the sidewalk. Officer Darren Wilson shot Brown at least six times, according to a private autopsy and, reportedly, one conducted by the county medical examiner. Two of those bullets struck him in the head.

There we have the familiar narrative: another unarmed black man unjustly killed. Brown thus joins a long, sad list -- Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, etc. -- that seems to have no end.

This storyline is unassailable. Anyone who thinks race is not a factor in these fatal encounters should have to cite examples of unarmed young white men being killed by trigger-happy police or self-appointed vigilantes. Names and dates, please.

But the violence in Ferguson tells of a deeper, more fundamental narrative about what African-Americans have done, and what has been done to them, in the decades since the urban riots of the 1960s -- the fire last time.

AKIRA WATTS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaDontShoot(Photo: Erinmiran)It's not terribly controversial to note that, in recent years, increased funding to police, across the country has led to what can only be termed a militarization of police activities. And this militarization just doesn't seem to go all that well. The recent debacle in Ferguson, Missouri is just the latest example. There was tear gas, there were arbitrary detentions of journalists, there was a freaking no fly zone. Things finally ended when the governor of Missouri stepped in to order the local police to stand down.

You could call this an isolated incident where things spiraled, very quickly, out of control. You would be wrong. While response to the (mostly) peaceful protests following the shooting of an unarmed, African American, 18 year old was noteworthy for its almost cartoonish excess, similar police actions are not uncommon. A similar, if less excessive, police response occurred in Albuquerque, NM, as protesters marched against APD's killing of an unarmed, mentally ill, homeless man who was in the process of surrendering. These protests, while again, not 100% peaceful, were met with disproportionate force. (And, as a cherry atop the whole thing, the APD wrapped up the night by killing yet another person who may or may not have had a weapon. The APD has an impulse control issue.)

But beyond the excessive reactions to public protest, let's take a quick look at the actions that people are actually protesting. It seems as though every few days, yet another incident in which a police officer kills a civilian. Often they're minorities. Often they're mentally ill. Rarely does the police action result in much more than a suspension with, of course, pay. And that tends to get people a little worked up, worked up enough to take to the streets, where they are met with police departments exercising their usual restraint.


MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

lafolleteProgressive icon, "Fighting Bob" La Follette (Photo: WikipedAllan J. Lichtman, a professor of history at American University, claims a new study confirms - to adapt Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address - "that government of the people, by the people, for the people" is perishing from the United States.

In an August 12 blog entry posted on "The Hill," Lichtman writes:

The new study, with the jaw-clenching title of "Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens," is forthcoming in the fall 2014 edition of Perspectives on Politics. Its authors, Martin Gilens of Princeton University and Benjamin Page of Northwestern University, examined survey data on 1,779 national policy issues for which they could gauge the preferences of average citizens, economic elites, mass-based interest groups and business-dominated interest groups. They used statistical methods to determine the influence of each of these four groups on policy outcomes, including both policies that are adopted and rejected.

The analysts found that when controlling for the power of economic elites and organized interest groups, the influence of ordinary Americans registers at a "non-significant, near-zero level." The analysts further discovered that rich individuals and business-dominated interest groups dominate the policymaking process. The mass-based interest groups had minimal influence compared to the business-based interest groups.

The study also debunks the notion that the policy preferences of business and the rich reflect the views of common citizens. They found to the contrary that such preferences often sharply diverge and when they do, the economic elites and business interests almost always win and the ordinary Americans lose.

The authors also say that given limitations to tapping into the full power elite in America and their policy preferences, "the real world impact of elites upon public policy may be still greater" than their findings indicate.

Lichtman warns that unless voters who are less affluent become more organized on behalf of issues benefiting them - and vote in larger percentages as compared to the wealthy - the rein of the plutocracy will become even more firmly entrenched.
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