Sunday, June 24, 2018

Alternet: We Now Have a Terrifying Militarized Law Enforcement System

Across the United States, law enforcement agencies have been gearing up as if they are fighting wars. Police departments are more and more becoming para-militarized. It’s a situation where the interest of government and law enforcement seems to be in protecting themselves and not its citizens. It’s sending the wrong message and it’s alienating Americans.

The "To Protect and to Serve" motto, first adopted by the LA Police Department,  has become ubiquitously the motto of law enforcement agencies across the United States. Some have modified the motto, as the Police Department in my hometown, which instead says, "To Protect With Honor and Serve With Pride."

But, in general, law enforcement has not lived up to that motto. An equally dangerous environment for police and citizens has evolved as a result of the preponderance of guns in our society. Unlike in times past, now when presented with combative encounters with civilians, a police officer’s first response is to aim for center mass -- shoot to kill and not disable -- just as the military trains its soldiers. In all, the result has created an already violent society living in an increasing climate of fear, and a deadly increase in extrajudicial killing, which has become racially motivated.

Moreover, in 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that in some cases police do not have a constitutional duty to protect someone.

And, of course, the election of Donald Trump has not helped the situation.

Last year, Trump overturned an Obama-era directive aimed at curtailing police agencies from obtaining surplus weapons and equipment from the military. The weapons transfer program, called the 1033 Program, was established by Congress in 1990, which has allowed local law enforcement agencies to acquire more than $5.4 billion in high-powered weapons, armored vehicles, and other military equipment previously used in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In some jurisdictions, the United States fails to comply with international standards for use of lethal force, and where.shooting to kill is accepted police practice.

There is a lot that needs to be reformed and changed in our country. At the top of the list are the issues of guns in our society, and the militarization and extrajudicial killings by law enforcement. These issues need to be addressed and resolved. But also the broader systemic racial and equal justice for all issues that are embedded in our systems of justice and law enforcement.

Police departments around the country should reject military weapons and other equipment. They should instead pursue partnerships with their communities. which is far more effective in reducing crime and de-escalating tensions than weapons of war.

By Ebony Slaughter-Johnson

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Raw Story: “They take your kids and you get nothing? Not even a slip of paper?”

Parents separated from their children at border crossings may never see their children again. Thats because there is no clear process for tracking parents and children. Inadequate record keeping makes it difficult to locate the child of a parent searching for their child’s whereabouts.

There are reports of parents who have been deported without their children.

However, Trump doesn’t care about the damage he has inflicted. He reluctantly signed an executive order yesterday reversing his policy that led to the separation of children from their families at the Southern border. The order now requires children to be incarcerated with their families while in detention. Trump, however, has shown no concern -- an alarming lack of compassion -- for the children who have been separated prior to his executive order with no apparent intention of ever reuniting those families.

Today, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said that Border Patrol agents have been instructed to stop sending parents with children to federal courthouses for prosecution,. An ICE official said, “We’re suspending prosecutions of adults who are members of family units until ICE can accelerate resource capability to allow us to maintain custody,” according to the Washington Post.

Erik Hanshew, an El Paso public defender, published an article for the Washington Post, in which he wrote, “This administration appears to have no infrastructure, policy or plan in place to deal with the destruction of families seeking refuge or a new life in our country.”   

And, Kenneth Wolfe, a spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families, said, “There will not be a grandfathering of existing cases.

In other words, regardless of Trump's executive order, there will not be efforts made to reunite children who have already been separated from their families because of Trump's Zero Tolerance Policy, and children currently in the unaccompanied children program will continue to be processed.

By Travis Gettys

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

WaPo: The facts about Trump's policy of separating families at the border

The Trump Administration has been mounting an aggressive defense in response to increasing bipartisan outrage of his zero-tolerance immigration policy. The policy requires that children be separated from parents and then imprisoned when border patrol agents catch them crossing the border illegally.

Trump’s indefensible policy is inhumane, cruel, and immoral. Border Patrol agents are forcefully removing children from parents. The children are housed in dog pound like enclosures. Children sleep on the floor, covered only with emergency thermal blankets that are made of an aluminum-like material.

There is one story of Marco Antonio Muñoz, whose three-year-old son was taken from him with physical force by a border patrol agent. Muñoz was later found in his jail cell in a pool of blood. Authorities ruled it a suicide. No one knows what has become of his three-year-old son. 

The outrage comes mostly from Democrats. But also from some key Republicans and former first ladies Michelle Obama, Laura Bush, Hilary Clinton, and Rosalynn Carter. Carter said that “the practice and policy today of removing children from their parents’ care at our border with Mexico is disgraceful and a shame to our country.”

First lady Melania Trump’s communications director, Stephanie Grisham, said, “Mrs. Trump hates to see children separated from their families. [She] hopes both sides of the aisle can finally come together to achieve successful immigration reform. [She] believes we need to be a country that follows all laws, but also a country that governs with heart.”

Glad our first lady feels that way, however, it would be more meaningful if Mrs. Trump expressed her feelings -- if in fact, they are her feelings -- in a televised statement, speaking directly to the American people.

Nevertheless, it’s more important that Americans know that Trump and his cohorts defense is loaded with lies and misconceptions.

The Washington Post fact-checked Trump’s and his administration’s statements. Here’s how Salvador Rizzo, fact checker for the Washington Post, ended his story:

The doublespeak coming from Trump and top administration officials on this issue is breathtaking, not only because of the sheer audacity of these claims but because they keep being repeated without evidence. Immigrant families are being separated at the border not because of Democrats and not because some law forces this result, as Trump insists. They’re being separated because the Trump administration, under its zero-tolerance policy, is choosing to prosecute border-crossing adults for any offenses.

This includes illegal-entry misdemeanors, which are being prosecuted at a rate not seen in previous administrations. Since the act of crossing itself is now being treated as an offense worthy of prosecution, any family that enters the United States illegally is likely to end up separated. Nielsen may choose not to call this a ‘family separation policy, but that’s precisely the effect it has.

Sessions, who otherwise owns up to what’s happening, has suggested the Flores settlement and a court ruling are forcing his hand. They’re not. At heart, this is an issue of prosecutorial discretion: his discretion.

The Trump administration owns this family-separation policy and their spin deserves Four Pinocchios.


By Salvador Rizzo

Monday, June 18, 2018

Father’s Day Under Trump: A Grotesque Exercise in the Destruction of Families

Donald Trump’s disturbing tendency to embrace dictators should alarm everyone, including his supporters, the Republican-led Congress, and those in the Justice System.

Trump has said that he would like Americans to “pay attention” to him, and treat him like the North Koreans treat their supreme leader Kim Jong-un. Following the Singapore summit, Kim Jong Un referred to Trump as America’s supreme leader.

Just like every dictator, Trump viciously attacks anyone who disagrees with him; Trump attacks justices who do not rule in his favor;Trump makes every effort to silence the press, calling anything that does not represent his view as “fake news”; and now, Trump is tearing immigrant families apart, imprisoning children and their families in separated facilities, and it’s all done to force Congress to fund his border wall. Former First Lady Laura Bush calls Trump’s policy “cruel and immoral.” But why isn’t George W Bush speaking out too?

And remember that cabinet meeting last June when Trump praised himself as the best legislator the United States ever had and then each of his cabinet members in turn dutifully lavished their praise on him.

Trump’s actions and words are appropriate for a dictator of a totalitarian government but they certainly are not appropriate for the president of a democracy.

It’s very clear that the morality and character of the man who occupies the White House, and the party he represents, does not represent what our country claims as its core values.

What is more alarming than Trump’s behavior is that it’s overlooked by a near majority of Americans and by Congress.

The United States once advanced democracies against dictators. But now under Trump, it’s doing just the opposite. 

The Hill wrote that according to a poll released Monday, “more Republicans view North Korean leader Kim Jong Un favorably than they do House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).”

This is Trump’s America. The U.S. Constitution designed to protect the country against a totalitarian government has failed.

The following is a story of what Trump’s America has become. It’s the story of Marco Antonio Muñoz, whose three-year-old son was taken from him with physical force by a border patrol agent. Muñoz was later found in his jail cell in a pool of blood. Authorities ruled it a suicide. No one knows what has become of his three-year-old son. His father is gone forever.

Here’s the story:

By William Rivers Pitt

Friday, June 15, 2018

NPR: Former Banker, Now Regulator, Wants To Allow Banks To Make Payday-Style Loans

The dismantling of regulations that Donald J. Trump claims is done in the name of “Making America Great Again,” all rapidly began the minute he became President of the United States.

In Trump’s first 100 days, he began to systematically dismantle consumer, labor, and environmental protections. Every deregulation only made a minority of Americans richer. I don’t know where the “Again” comes from, for the rich have always been rich and are becoming even richer under the presidency of Trump.

Back in January, Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s Director of the Office of Management and Budget and interim head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), “ ‘decided to back off from a planned crackdown on one of the financial sector's most blood-sucking industries’: payday lenders; a $50 billion industry that preys on people who live paycheck to paycheck out of necessity.” 

A payday loan is a small, short-term unsecured loan. It’s also called a payday advance, salary loan, payroll loan, small-dollar loan, short-term, or cash advance loan.

The borrower typically writes a post-dated personal check in the amount they wish to borrow plus a fee in exchange for cash.

Now, Joseph Otting, Comptroller of the Currency and former banking executive, is calling for the same deregulation as Mulvaney was advocating: to allow banks to make small, high-interest, short-term loans to consumers, such as loans made by payday lenders.

However, none of it is done for the benefit of consumers. The bottom line is that Trump and his administration will stop at nothing to put the interests of corporations and Wall Street ahead of the people who live on main street, USA.

Trump's economic agenda has nothing to do with protecting American families, and has everything to do with making the rich even richer.” Professor Robert Reich

By Chris Arnold

Every Day Is a Good Day Because Of Big Government Regulations

Published by the DailyKos sometime in 2004, published again in 2012, offers a day’s look at what all of us take for granted.

A Day in the Life of Joe Republican

Joe gets up at 6 a.m. and fills his coffeepot with water to prepare his morning coffee. The water is clean and good because some tree-hugging liberal fought for minimum water-quality standards.

With his first swallow of coffee, he takes his daily medication. His medications are safe to take because some stupid commie liberal fought to insure their safety and that they work as advertised.

All but $10 of his medications are paid for by his employer's medical plan because some liberal union workers fought their employers for paid medical insurance - now Joe gets it too.

He prepares his morning breakfast, bacon and eggs. Joe's bacon is safe to eat because some girly-man liberal fought for laws to regulate the meat packing industry.

In the morning shower, Joe reaches for his shampoo. His bottle is properly labeled with each ingredient and its amount in the total contents because some crybaby liberal fought for his right to know what he was putting on his body and how much it contained.

Joe dresses, walks outside and takes a deep breath. The air he breathes is clean because some environmentalist wacko liberal fought for laws to stop industries from polluting our air.

He walks to the subway station for his government-subsidized ride to work. It saves him considerable money in parking and transportation fees because some fancy-pants liberal fought for affordable public transportation, which gives everyone the opportunity to be a contributor.

Joe begins his work day.

He has a good job with excellent pay, medical benefits, retirement, paid holidays and vacation because some lazy liberal union members fought and died for these working standards. Joe's employer pays these standards because Joe's employer doesn't want his employees to call the union.

If Joe is hurt on the job or becomes unemployed, he'll get a worker compensation or unemployment check because some stupid liberal didn't think he should lose his home because of his temporary misfortune.

It's noontime and Joe needs to make a bank deposit so he can pay some bills. Joe's deposit is federally insured by the FDIC because some godless liberal wanted to protect Joe's money from unscrupulous bankers who ruined the banking system before the Great Depression.

Joe has to pay his Fannie Mae-underwritten mortgage and his below-market federal student loan because some elitist liberal decided that Joe and the government would be better off if he was educated and earned more money over his lifetime.

Joe is home from work. He plans to visit his father this evening at his farm home in the country.

He gets in his car for the drive. His car is among the safest in the world because some America-hating liberal fought for car safety standards. He arrives at his boyhood home.

His was the third generation to live in the house financed by Farmers' Home Administration because bankers didn't want to make rural loans. The house didn't have electricity until some big-government liberal stuck his nose where it didn't belong and demanded rural electrification.

He is happy to see his father, who is now retired. His father lives on Social Security and a union pension because some wine-drinking, cheese-eating liberal made sure he could take care of himself so Joe wouldn't have to.

Joe gets back in his car for the ride home, and turns on a radio talk show. The radio host keeps saying that liberals are bad and conservatives are good. He doesn't mention that the beloved Conservatives have fought against every protection and benefit Joe enjoys throughout his day.

Joe agrees: "We don't need those big-government liberals ruining our lives! After all, I'm a self-made man who believes everyone should take care of themselves, just like I have."

Pentagon spending and the endless war machine; a demand for investment in America (Video)

By Robert Reich

Regardless of the needs of struggling Americans, of the need to rebuild America’s infrastructure, the need to improve health care, education, and housing, or regardless of whether the World is in times of peace or times of war, the United States government’s military budget will not go down. It will continue to rise year after year.

There have been times when military funding has been reduced but it’s always been a short-lived modest reduction that effectively doesn’t last the budget cycle.

You see, the problem is the lure of more and more money and profit. That’s what accounts for the ability of the military to extract more and more of your tax dollars year after year. The United States Congress and those who have been hoodwinked into thinking that our military can’t do its job without more money, will not complain about the soaring costs of defense but will complain to high heaven if it intends on spending more money for health care or education.

The military is a cash cow for Congress and the defense industry.

So, promoting the military is the only reason for Donald Trump's national military parade, planned for on Veteran's Day, November 11, in Washington, D.C.

Professor Robert Reich writes, “The United States already spends more on the military than the next 10 countries combined. Our latest video explains why it's time to rein in Pentagon spending and Trump's endless war machine, and demand investment in America.

Here is his explanation for that:


Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Hill: Trump lavishes Kim with compliments after historic summit

Donald Trump’s praise of Kim Jong Un, and remark in which he said that North Korea has “great beaches, you see when they’re exploding the cannons into the ocean -- I thought wouldn’t that make a great condo… I explained, instead of doing that you could have the best hotels in the world,” and Trump’s encouragement that Kim should think of it from “a real estate perspective,” is troubling.

Trump’s remark leads to the thought that pursuing his business interest -- real estate -- might be one of his reasons -- the other being to undo everything that is Obama -- for pursuing the presidency in the first place.

We should never trust capitalist. They are always looking for what’s in it for themselves, where the pursuit of profit is greater than the needs of a country or its people.

The other disturbing part of Trump’s admiration for Kim Jong Un is that . . .  

Trump admires totalitarian strongmen: He praises the rulers of Saudi Arabia, loves Turkey’s anti-democratic strongman Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is proud of his “wonderful relationship” with China's autocratic President, Xi Jinping, congratulates thug Rodrigo Duterte on his brutality in the Philippines -- Trump even thought it would be a good idea to execute drug dealers as does Duterte -- and his affection for Russian strongman Vladimir Putin. And, now Trump bestows a new legitimacy on Kim Jong Un’s North Korea.  

However, on the other hand, Trump seems uncomfortable with America’s traditional friends, allies, and democracies. He gives “them the impression that multilateral deals and democracies are more of a hindrance than an asset for maintaining a rules-based system based on values, free trade, and trust.”

Some of the praise Trump has given Kim Jong Un:

Kim is “A worthy negotiator...a very worthy, very smart negotiator,” a very talented man who loves his country very much.

Trump said. Anybody that takes over a situation like he did at 26 years of age and is able to run it and run it tough. I don't say he was nice.

Very few people at that age – you can take one out of ten thousand probably couldn’t do it.

At the signing ceremony, Trump said that it was an "honor to meet Kim, and asserted that the two countries had developed a very special bond.

Although the Trump-Kim summit was a good thing in the short term, long term it may become problematic, more importantly, we all should be concerned of Trump’s motives, which may be self-serving in which he conflates capitalism with the achievement of world peace.

By Max Greenwood

Monday, June 11, 2018

Donald Trump, the Most Unfit POTUS Ever, Disgraced the United States at G-7 Summit

Steve Schmidt, a Republican public affairs strategist, is one of the few Republicans who has been extremely critical of Donald Trump. In January, for example, he tweeted of Trump’s staff: "They couldn't be more vile than if they were monkeys hurling their excrement at each other in a cage."

Revealing his disgust of Trump’s behavior at the G-7 summit, Schmidt tweeted: “TRUMP disgraced the Presidency and the United States at the G-7 summit. From his slovenly appearance to his unpreparedness, ignorance and arrogance, he beclowned himself. The Republican majority is filled with cowards who are servile supplicants to the most unfit POTUS ever.”

He also tweeted: “I think it’s time we give Vladimir Putin his due. He is clearly the greatest intelligence agent -- ever. He has engineered the unraveling of the western alliance, fidelity to democracy in the United States and the severing of the UK from the EU. It’s a remarkable achievement.”

It’s discouraging that other than Steve Schmidt, Senator John McCain, and Senator Jeff Flake, no other Republican has criticized Trump’s bizarre G-7 behavior.

McCain tweeted: “To our allies: bipartisan majorities of Americans remain pro-free trade, pro-globalization & supportive of alliances based on 70 years of shared values. Americans stand with you, even if our president doesn’t.

Senator Jeff Flake posted a tweet criticizing White House National Trade Council Director Peter Navarro for lashing out at Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau:Fellow Republicans, this is not who we are. This cannot be our party.” 

Yes. “The Republican majority is filled with cowards who are servile supplicants to the most unfit POTUS ever.” Their attitude is that Trump can do anything he wants to do. There are no consequences. They are enabling the destruction of our country for the sake of the Republican Party.

By Jacqueline Thomsen

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Dan Rather: The Hypocrisy Of The President

Among the many of Trump’s character flaws are his obsession with lying and his incredible hypocrisy.

Merriam-Webster defines hypocrisy as “the act or practice of pretending to be what one is not or to have principles or beliefs that one does not have.”

So, hypocrisy and lying are the opposite sides of the same coin. Both are forms of dishonesty with the intention to deceive and mislead. It’s a pretense made by fake people, like Donald Trump, who claim what is, in fact, the truth to be fake news.

Hypocrisy is often overlooked and shrugged off as inconsequential. 

But for a president, it is consequential. What he or she says, the truth told or not told, reveals his or her character. And the quality of that character is an indication of how much faith others can have in the country he or she represents.

Because our president, the man who is named Donald Trump, is a hypocrite and lacks the ability to tell the truth, he is inflicting long-term damage to our country. He has damaged the reputation of America’s leadership in the world, and international perceptions of the values America supposedly possesses.

Here’s Dan Rather: