Nel's New Day

December 4, 2014

Conservatives Blame Police Killings on Big Government

Some conservatives have joined progressives in decrying the lack of an indictment for a police officer who killed a 43-year-old Staten Island man with a chokehold. Last July, Daniel Pantaleo joined other police officers in taking down Eric Garner while he was standing on the street. Within minutes Garner was dead, as a video of the tragedy shows. After the grand jury released its decision not to indict Pantaleo, people across the country filled streets in protest.

Conservatives objection, however, comes from their belief that big government is responsible for Garner’s death. Without high cigarette taxes in New York, Garner would not have died, according to Lawrence McQuillan in the Washington Times:

“[E]very vote for higher taxes gives police increased authority to exert more force on citizens in more situations. Higher excise taxes inevitably lead to more violent clashes between police and smugglers…. Eliminating punitive cigarette taxes would shrink the underground market and help redirect police resources to combating real crimes of force and violence, rather than empowering police to employ violence in the name of tax collection.”

Those who question such taxes fail to understand the benefits of a law that gives people a better quality of life through reducing smoking. Libertarians argue that these taxes are an undemocratic intrusion into private lives. Yet McQuillan’s logic requires the elimination of all taxes because they use police resources “to employ violence in the name of tax collection.” He fails to understand that no taxes means no government services—including police.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), potential presidential candidate, followed the same distorted line of reasoning last night when he appeared on Chris Matthews MSNBC program, Hard Ball. After expressing initial dismay about the video of Garner crying out “I can’t breathe” multiple times, Rand concluded:

“I think it’s also important to know that some politician put a tax of $5.85 on a pack of cigarettes. So they’ve driven cigarettes underground by making them so expensive. But then some politician also had to direct the police to say, ‘Hey, we want you arresting people for selling a loose cigarette.’ And for someone to die over breaking that law, there really is no excuse for it. But I do blame the politicians.”

Rand ignored the fact that Garner died because a police officer violated NYPD rules by putting Garner in a chokehold and holding his head against the ground.

It’s not the first time that Rand has exonerated police action by blaming “politicians” and “the war on drugs.” In a Time op-ed piece published after the grand jury failed to indict Darren Wilson for the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson (MO), Rand wrote:

“Escaping the poverty trap will require all of us to relearn that not only are we our brother’s keeper, we are our own keeper. While a hand-up can be part of the plan, if the plan doesn’t include the self-discovery of education, work, and the self-esteem that comes with work, the cycle of poverty will continue.”

According to Rand, Brown was responsible for his own death because he failed to participate in “self-discovery.” Nowhere did Rand mention that Brown was only one month away from attending a vocational education school after having graduated from high school—those pieces of “education” and “work.”

Rand also got his information wrong. According to his op-ed, “In Ferguson, the precipitating crime was not drugs, but theft.” Much of the information released before the grand jury proved that Wilson didn’t know that Brown had participated in an alleged crime. Brown’s crime was jaywalking.

According to conservatives, the killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner had nothing to do with racism: it was only because of the liberals’ insistence on the “nanny state.” Without taxes and handouts, the poor would disappear, and the police would have no need to kill those who they are employed to protect.

Yet conservatives ignore the problem of police across the United States who evidence racial prejudice in their community. Five officers in Montgomery County (OH) are being investigated but are still being paid, three of them remaining on the job, for such text messages as “I hate n*ggers. That is all” and “What do apples and black people have in common? They both hang from trees.”

Brown and Garner aren’t the only black men recently killed by white officers. John Crawford is dead after he shopped in Walmart and picked up a toy gun; Darrien Hunt was killed with multiple shots in his back for carrying a toy sword; and 12-year-old Tamir Rice was killed in Cleveland because he openly carried a toy gun—legal in Ohio.

According to footage, Rice was shot within two seconds of the police officer’s pulling up in his car. The killer, Timothy Loehmann, had been judged unfit for police work two years ago by his then-employer, Independence (OH), that cited his “dismal” handgun performance. An investigation into Cleveland’s police division for the past 18 months revealed that officers “carelessly fire their weapons, placing themselves, subjects, and bystanders at unwarranted risk of serious injury or death.” Two examples were police shooting an unarmed hit-and-run suspect in the neck and firing 24 rounds in a residential neighborhood, hitting 14 parked cars and another six hits of houses. A police chase two years ago used at least 62 vehicles and 137 bullets to kill two unarmed black suspects, each sustaining over 20 gunshot wounds.

Last spring, a police officer, 47-year-old Frank Phillips, was photographed choking a drunken student at an end-of-the-year party at the University of Tennessee. Two other police officers handcuffed the man. Within hours of the photo being published in the UK Daily Mail, Phillips was fired, and the officers handcuffing him were placed on leave. The choked man is white and still alive.

Ethan Couch is still alive after he killed four people and injured two others in a drunken joy ride. He is now safe in an upscale rehab facility and facing another nine years of rehabilitation and probation. Kevin Miner, who kicked an officer and broke his hand when found hiding in a stranger’s basement, was arrested with no one shot or otherwise hurt. Cliven Bundy is considered a hero after he organized an army in Nevada that threatened government officials with high-powered weapons. All these men are white. White people are inconvenienced; black people are killed. Much more information is available at hashtag #CrimingWhileWhite where white people are recording their easy escapes from police action after committing crimes.

Satirist Andy Borowitz has a solution for the grand jury lack of indictment: supply them with eyes. Dorrinson is a mythical senator used in several of Borowitz’s columns. In this one he said:

“Body cameras are an important part of the solution. But I strongly believe that if you take video evidence and add eyes, the combination would be unstoppable.” [In response to the request for working brains:] “Yes, in a perfect world, all grand juries would have brains. But progress is an incremental thing. Let’s start with eyes and eventually work our way up to brains.”

Even former RNC chair Michael Steele understands the problem in the United States when white police officers can kill black people with impunity although evidence shows that the police are in the wrong. He said that “a black man’s life is not worth a ham sandwich” to grand juries and the prosecutors who are hired to fight for an indictment.

Those who are convinced that there was no racial motivation in no indictment in the Garner case should imagine the response from Fox and other far-right sources if the police officer had been black and the victim a wealthy white man.

March 22, 2013

GOP Issues Autopsy for Last Year’s Election

Since the GOP lost the presidency, the Senate, and the popular vote for the House, there has been much gnashing of teeth and agonizing over why the intelligent people of the United States would not elect Republicans. The  initial GOP strategy has been to pay for a study that would explain what the rest of us all know—that the anti-immigrant, anti-gay, anti-minority, anti-woman party caters only to wealthy white men, probably mostly old.

Earlier this week, the “Growth and Opportunity Project,” aka “autopsy,” was released with much fanfare by Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus. Prepared by a five-member Republican National Committee panel, the 100-page report based on 52,000 contacts with voters, party consultants, and elected officials was designed also as a roadmap. In his introduction of the conclusions, Priebus said, “As it makes clear, there’s no one reason we lost. Our message was weak; our ground game was insufficient; we weren’t inclusive; we were behind in both data and digital; our primary and debate process needed improvement.”

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Some of the recommendations don’t sound at all like the GOP. It calls on legislators to “embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform.” Of course, the GOP definition of “reform” isn’t always rooted in reality.

Priebus said the RNC has committed $10 million to reach out to minority communities, but he said nothing about “self deportation” and “the most sweeping voting restrictions since Jim Crow.” Another area where Priebus will send money is the RNC technological infrastructure: Republicans are convinced that the only reason that the Democrats did so well in the last election was its massive database.

What will probably upset rank-and-file Republicans? Priebus praised Sen. Rob Portman’s (R-OH) accepting marriage equality, saying, “I think it’s about being decent. I think it’s about dignity and respect, that nobody deserves to have their dignity diminished, or people don’t deserve to be disrespected.” No other GOP legislator is following Priebus’ lead, and this position is guaranteed to alienate the far right.

The document stated that “third-party groups that promote purity are hurting our electoral prospects.” There were no names, but it sounds like increased tension with the far-right wing, including the Club for Growth.

Imagine current GOP legislators agreeing with this paragraph from the report! I can just hear the screaming about “socialist warfare.”

“We have to blow the whistle at corporate malfeasance and attack corporate welfare. We should speak out when a company liquidates itself and its executives receive bonuses but rank-and-file workers are left unemployed. We should speak out when CEOs receive tens of millions of dollars in retirement packages but middle-class workers have not had a meaningful raise in years.”

In an interview with politico.com, Priebus said,

“[O]ur party has divorced itself from the American culture … [We] would make fun of the president for going on ‘The View’ — and you’ve heard me say these things — … you know, talking hoops for half an hour on ESPN.  That’s where a lot of America is at, and I think we’ve got to get with it …”

The message didn’t trickle down. Every year President Obama appears on ESPN’s March Madness to share picks for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) led the hue and cry that the president should be working on the budget and claimed President Obama’s act was “a shocking failure of leadership.” Scalise was followed by a YouTube video from the House Republican conference; other Republicans, including House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), went on social media to demand a new budget that they would ignore.

Speaking of leadership, the House went home today, having accomplished almost nothing except passing the continuing resolution that should have been taken care of last year. That chamber is scheduled to meet 126 days this year, an average of 2.4 days each week. That gives them 239 days off for the year. During their brief sessions, the only bills of substance, usually denying women and other people rights, are ones that have no chance of passing the Senate.

The report admits that minorities don’t feel respected by the GOP but doesn’t bother to explore why. Lots of recommendations about having a presence in black churches (who’s going to do that?!), hiring minority outreach directors, etc. but no substance. The states just continue to present bills to restrict minority and poor voters. Republicans still have a strong history of believing the president is a Muslim born outside the United States.

Even Republicans understand the problems of voter laws in GOP-controlled states. Michael Steele, who held Priebus’ job during the GOP’s highly successful win in 2010, said,  “How does Reince Priebus reconcile his approach and his agreement with voter registration policies that many in the black community view as anti-black, racist, whatever the term happens to be.”

These lines from the report show that the five people who prepared it are still pretty clueless:

“Our candidates and office holders need to do a better job talking in normal, people-oriented terms”

“Establish an RNC Celebrity Task Force of personalities in the entertainment industry … as a way to attract younger voters.”

“There have been too many debates [in the last two Republican presidential primary races.”

“RNC must rebuild a nationwide database of Hispanic leaders” and “The RNC should develop a nationwide database of African American leaders” and “APA [Asian and Pacific Islander] leaders.” (This just occurred to them?)

“We should speak out when CEOs receive tens of millions of dollars in retirement packages but middle-class workers have not had a meaningful raise in years.” (But not do anything about it?)

“Eight of the 10 states with the lowest unemployment in America have Republican governors.” (Skipping the fact that 7 of the 10 states with the highest unemployment in America also have Republican governors–GA, SC, MI, MS, NJ, NC and NV. GA and NJ weren’t in the bottom 10 four years ago, and 7 of the 8 states with the lowest employment were there four years ago.)

“Instead of connecting with voters’ concerns, we too often sound like bookkeepers. We need to do a better job connecting people to our policies.”

Republicans should “encourage governors to embrace diversity in hiring and appointments to the judiciary, boards and commissions.” (Some people call this affirmative action that conservatives are suing institutions because they use it.

“Women need to hear what our motive is–why it is that we want to create a better future for our families and how our policies will affect the lives of their loved ones.” (Does that include GOP opposition to reproductive freedom, insurance coverage for contraception, the Lily Ledbetter Act, and the Violence Against Women?)

“We can’t expect to address these demographic groups if we know nothing about them.” (This is a new idea?)

The autopsy does have some specific plans. Chapter 43: Friends and Allies (Third Party Groups), Section 1:1 Define the D’s Early and Track ‘Em (page 54):

“Well-funded conservative groups should seek to hire activists to track Democrat incumbents and candidates with video cameras constantly recording their every movement, utterance, and action. Within the applicable legal constraints, we need to create our own video content, bank it, and release it when it suits our candidates’ needs.

“An allied group dedicated solely to research to establish a private archive and public website that does nothing but post inappropriate Democrat utterances and act as a clearinghouse for information on Democrats would serve as an effective vehicle for affecting the public issue debate.”

So one of the answers to winning elections is to stalk opposing candidates.

As Dan Berger pointed out, the report doesn’t overcome the White Vote strategy that prevents the GOP from changing because the party needs the racism, sexism, nativism, religious bigotry, and homophobia for its constituents. Republicans can’t change strategies because, in opposition to their core principles, they would have to embrace social and economic equality.

The Right believes that “property rights” are absolute and sacrosanct; that the free market system is based on the unfettered transfer of property (and the right to gouge people as much as anyone desires); and that market forces must not be interfered with–regardless of their accompanying deleterious economic, social and political effects.

The current GOP party is providing an embarrassing richness of ideas that will sink the ideas–and possibly the entire party. More about that in the next few days.

 

April 9, 2012

Women Aren’t Caterpillars

The war continues. Mitt Romney keeps saying that women are interested in the economy. Finally I agree with him. But he, like all other Republican conservatives, try to separate the economy from their legislation against women in the economy.

The most recent example is Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signing the bill that rolls back the state Equal Pay Law that offered protection from discrimination based on race, age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, etc.—and gender. Glenn Grothman, co-sponsor of the bill, thinks that women don’t need money the way that men do. “You could argue that money is more important for men. I think a guy in their first job, maybe because they expect to be a breadwinner someday, may be a little more money-conscious.” He’s overlooked the fact that 40 percent of women voters aren’t married.

Male conservative legislators opposing providing birth control for women use that key word “dependency,” a handy-dandy term showing how bad the safety net is. According to Michael Steele, former RNC chairman, government should not support women because then it would take over the role of husband and father. (Yes, I’m still shaking my head over that argument. Read it for yourself!) This follows Sen. Jim DeMint’s claim that the president wants to make people more dependent so that they will vote Democratic. According to Santorum and Steele, men who don’t have women dependent on them won’t be responsible to their children, their wives, and even themselves.

Mitt Romney has said “the issue that women care most about is the economy. They’re concerned about high gasoline prices, the cost of getting to and from work.” Romney doesn’t understand that women without birth control may not have jobs because they will be pregnant and then responsible for babies. The same with getting an education, useful in raising their wages and improving the economy. Women are also worried about whether they can live on their wages, even more of a problem if Republicans pass laws allowing men to be paid more than women.

Republicans have always had trouble getting women to vote for them; their recent actions are making this worse. Last week’s USA Today/Gallup Poll of voters in 12 swing states showed President Obama leading women by 18 percentage points—up 20 points from a month ago.

Both political parties hope that their sins will be forgotten by Election Day so that they can persuade voters with a fresh slate. The Republicans keep repeating their anti-women legislation. Last year, the first three votes of the triumphant Tea Party swarm in Congress were anti-abortion. This year, they continued to arguing about whether birth control should be covered as health care, a discussion that they consider more important than the eminent demise of the transportation authorization bill. Most women have noted Rick Santorum’s complaint that birth control allows lifestyles that are not “how things are supposed to be.” Of course, there’s also the infamous House committee panel on birth control with only men. Women are also concerned because of the Republicans’ determination to defund Planned Parenthood.

Where in the nation are women the worst off? In the states where they lack affordable hgher education, reproductive health care, and representation in Congress. And by coincidence in the South. Approximately 20 percent of women live in poverty in Mississippi, Oklahoma, Arkansas, West Virginia, and Kentucky. West Virginia is the only state in the nation that doesn’t give women the right to breast-feed in either public or private places. The state also joins Arkansas in having a median income under $30,000. One-fourth of the population in both Arkansas and Oklahoma lack health insurance.

Missouri is following Arizona’s lead with its bill that permits employees to deny insurance coverage for birth control pills unless employees prove that the pills are used for a “medical need.” The Missouri House passed a bill permitting health care workers from participating in anything that conflicts with their conscience.

National Review columnist John Derbyshire has a new book, The Case Against Women’s Suffrage, that declares the United States would be a better country if women could not vote. It’s  “bad for conservatism” and therefore “bad for society.” Countries that rank the highest in the World Economic Forum’s gender gap index (aka the most gender equality) tend to also rank the highest on the U.N.’s Human Development Index. Possibly conservativism and gender inequality is “bad for society.”

RNC Chairman Reince Priebus has tried to diffuse the Republican problem with women by pointing out that the war on women is as mythical as a war on caterpillars. As David Sarasohn pointed out today in his column in The Oregonian, “In most states, caterpillars don’t vote.” Women comprise over half the number of people in the United States, and they vote at a higher rate than men do.

While male Republicans claim there is no war on women, that it’s all about religious freedom, female Republicans know this is a war on women’s rights. If high-profile Republican women such as Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) are angry at their party for attacking women, it stands to reason that conservative women across the nation are also angry. President Obama said that women are not a special interest group. Women are half of the American population, and any party that attacks them risks political extinction.

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