From The Atlantic:
After months of unremittingly dark tidings from Syria and Iraq, some slivers of hope are beginning to shine through. ISIS, the terrorist army that now calls itself the Islamic State, has in recent days suffered a series of military reversals.
The Mosul Dam, a vital asset, has been wrested back from ISIS control. In Amerli, a small town where residents held out against an ISIS onslaught for weeks on end, the siege has been broken. In both instances, Iraqi forces—regular and irregular—were backed by American air support.
And now, Iraqi soldiers are advancing on Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s hometown, where ISIS has for several weeks seemed solidly entrenched.
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From tamu Times, Texas A&M University:
Pundits who throw around the words “big government” usually point out the negatives of having too much government involvement in the economy, but a Texas A&M University researcher co-wrote a study that found government intervention ‑ when done correctly ‑ leads to more happiness and satisfaction in the lives of citizens.
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Gazprombank GPB (OJSC), a Russian bank targeted with sanctions by President Obama over the Ukraine crisis, has hired two former U.S. senators to lobby against those sanctions, according to a new disclosure filed with the Senate.
Gazprombank is controlled by Russia’s state-owned energy company Gazprom, the country’s largest gas producer; it supplies about a third of Europe’s natural gas.
In a filing submitted Friday and effective that day, former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., and former Senator John Breaux, D-La., are listed as the main lobbyists under the Gazprombank account for the firm Squire Patton Boggs, lobbying on “banking laws and regulations including applicable sanctions.”
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It has been a couple of decades since medical complications took my father from us. A friend who had lost his own father once asked me how long it had taken me to recover from the loss. I answered: "I'll let you know."
I still enjoy memories of our conversations.
It was a Monday evening in mid-July. My dad and I were talking about Watergate. Pretty much everybody was talking about Watergate in those days. Alexander Butterfield had just revealed that a secret recording system had documented a whole lot of conversations between President Nixon and his top aides.
Later that week, the President would refer to those who would "wallow in Watergate" rather than tending to the business of the nation. He was, of course, talking about folks like us. Rumors that he might resign were "poppycock." A country singer on Johnny Carson was asked what he had been doing of late. "I been wailerin in Watergate."
My dad and I were doing our share of wallowing, speculating whether the newly revealed tapes would bring down the President. In spite of John Dean's testimony, I doubted that Nixon himself had done anything criminal. If he had, he wouldn't have been foolish enough to say anything on tape.
"Nope. He's done," my Dad said. His reasoning was based on a simple observation. The initial reaction from the Nixon White House to the revelation of the tapes was a grim silence. John Dean and his family were reported to be gleeful.
One notable result of the slaying of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, comes from the deeply troubling ambiguity of the circumstances of that death.
On one side, we have witnesses. Most saw pieces of the confrontation.
On the other side, we have an anonymous caller to a radio station who calls herself "Josie." She provides a circuitous route to what may be the account of the officer, Darren Wilson. According that call, the officer reported an account of the shooting to the Ferguson Police Department, then repeated that account to his significant other who then told her friend, who is the “Josie” who called the radio station, who then broadcast her call.
The plain truth is we don't know what the plain truth is. Not for sure. The context of police mistreatment of the community does not tell us. The context of Michael Brown's character does not tell us.
It is possible we will know more as additional evidence comes in. It is also possible we will never know.
The frustration that comes with a lack of knowledge has provided some momentum to an already existing movement to provide police officers with body cameras and to insist on their use.
The Chief Deputy of the Oconee County, Georgia, Sheriff's Office writes a nationally read blog.
... in my experience, video clears more peace officers of false accusations than it catches those committing malevolent acts.
- Chief J. Lee Weems, July 8, 2013
Experience in Rialto, California is often used as a basis for proposals in other cities. It is the first actual study of the effect of video recordings. Police use of force is down 60%. Complaints against the police have dropped by 88%.
The police chief explains why police have grown to like the idea:
Mr. Farrar says officers have told him of cases when citizens arrived at a Rialto police station to file a complaint and the supervisor was able to retrieve and play on the spot the video of what had transpired. “The individuals left the station with basically no other things to say and have never come back,” he said.
- As reported in the New York Times, April 6, 2013
There are privacy concerns. We want some caution about images of victims and the most vulnerable of witnesses put where they might end up in public view.
But I am reminded of conversations from long ago with a father whom I miss more than can be expressed. We don't know who would be happy if we suddenly found that the entire Ferguson incident had been recorded on video.
Two private companies have contributed body cameras to the Ferguson police force. Officers are currently in training. News outlets report the officers are delighted at the opportunity to record their interactions with the public.
A St. Louis-area police officer has been fired after making what his chief called "very concerning and inappropriate" Facebook comments on the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, according to a city official.
"These protesters should be put down like a rabid dog the first night," Matthew Pappert, a police officer in the city of Glendale, wrote in one post, according to CNN affiliate KMOV. There were reportedly five inappropriate posts, KMOV said.
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From Paul Krugman:
a funny thing has happened: Health spending has slowed sharply, and it’s already well below projections made just a few years ago. The falloff has been especially pronounced in Medicare, which is spending $1,000 less per beneficiary than the Congressional Budget Office projected just four years ago.
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Seems like really great news. Want to bet that Republicans will turn it into an accusation about cutting Medicare?
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The most fundamental question about the Ferguson Police Department is seldom asked, even by the angriest of protesters.
Demonstrations do continue in Ferguson, a few miles from here. They are peaceful. The Missouri National Guard is gone. The controversy remains. What, exactly, happened in the altercation between the teenager and the officer?
Like an old Polaroid photo, the account of the police officer slowly comes into focus. The evidence so far does not contradict what we know of that account. But it is becoming an intellectual chore to reconcile the evidence with the unofficial/official story. Witness statements differ from each other just enough to be credible. Video evidence is indirect, starting just after the last shots were fired. New audio evidence could support more than one version, if it turns out to be the real thing.
The wider issue involves history that flows from structure. Statistics tell part of the story.
St. Louis County police are notably professional. There is only one organization in the world, the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, that accredits police departments. Only 7 percent of US police forces are able to get that accreditation. St. Louis County is one of those. That commission has a special award, the Tri-Arc Award. Only 6 police departments in the history of the world have ever gotten that award. The St. Louis County Police Department is one of those 6.
Every part of St. Louis County can get protection from that highly professional police department. So why do so many small municipalities have their own departments? Why the additional layer of protection?
Turns out the answer is money. Ferguson, and other little municipalities, don't really pay for their additional layer of police protection. The small police departments pay them. They bring in more money than they cost. They get that profit mostly from traffic fines. Court costs also generate revenue, since they are imposed on defendants. Defendants who can't pay are arrested and go to jail.
Ferguson has a population of a little more than 20,000. 32,975 arrest warrants were issued last year, mostly in traffic court. Ferguson issues more traffic tickets, and collects more fines, than there are residents in that small jurisdiction.
Traffic fines fall disproportionately on minorities and on poor people. At family gatherings, we sometimes talk about what detours to take to avoid time consuming random traffic stops that are not really so random.
When you travel through the northern part of St. Louis County, you will occasionally find yourself trying to get around a driver going exactly the speed limit or a little less. Cell phone users who imagine they are multitasking compose part of this small annoyance. Elderly drivers who compensate with care for a declining reaction time are also part of it.
Often the slow driver is a black commuter, keenly aware of which vehicle operators municipal police are likely to target. The police treatment that we expect to receive does affect what we do.
When the community sees itself as the natural prey of the police who are nominally assigned to protect, little reaction is possible that does not involve caution combined with resentment.
When the practical purpose of a department is more collection than protection, a few officers can see themselves as natural predators.
Nationally, the percentage of police officers accused by the public of excessive force is less than 1 percent. In Ferguson the rate is 13 percent. There is a multiplying effect in both of those rates. Some of those officers are accused of multiple instances of excessive force. For a few, there were accusations before coming to Ferguson, while they were with other police departments.
A friend of mine in another small municipal police department died from a heart attack a few months after my loved one and I were married. He looked forward to meeting her. I looked forward to introducing them. She and I attended his funeral.
He had introduced revisions in standards of conduct in his own department. He pushed for their enforcement. He was popular among his colleagues. I not only would like to believe that most area police officers have similar personal standards, I do in fact believe that.
The issue, the real issue, is not whether most police officers are professional. The issue is not even one of bad apples. The issue is structural.
Unless these small subdivisions, these little municipalities, are prohibited from using the police as profit centers, police professionals will face a hard struggle if they want a better answer to the most existential question. It is a question that especially applies to Ferguson, Missouri.
Why does this police department even exist?
Rick Perry - Analysis, Paralysis, and Accusation (4:43) - Click for Podcast
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Rick Perry's approach to border security is pure common sense. That is why it is so wrong.
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Michael J.W. Stickings quotes Chuck Todd on why the Republican Party is spiraling downward. It strikes me that the process is a little like the tide going out. Each wave advances a little less, then retreats a little farther. Each GOP victory has a smaller margin, each defeat is a little greater.
Conservative James Wigderson inadvertently illustrates the problem with demanding additional voter identification that lower income people often do not have. An election outcome may be determined by the suspicious loss of 110 ballots in Monroe, Wisconsin. No voter fraud is suspected.
Here's the thing: Pretty much every case of election stealing has come from backroom trickery. Fraud by individual voters doesn't happen for two reasons. It's too easy to get caught and it's too hard to steal an election that way. Why pry open a front door at noon when the back door is open every night? On the other hand, if your goal is to keep certain folks from voting, then demanding additional IDs they might not have will work just fine. By the way, James is a wonderful writer. The headline alone is worth clicking the link.
At News Corpse, Ted Nugent finds a black pastor who doesn't much care for black people. Pretty much defines much of paleo-conservatism for me. It isn't that they hate historically oppressed minorities. They just hate folks who are suspected of sympathizing with historically oppressed minorities.
Norman Rampart at Mad Mike's America is disturbed that President Obama sent more representatives to Michael Brown's funeral than to Margaret Thatcher. I dunno. Maybe it's because there was less tragedy in a longer life? A life in which every chance, including life itself, led to achievement? Just a guess.
Tommy Christopher, at the Daily Banter, asks why a black guy sitting down in a public area is tased and arrested for protesting that he has rights and has done nothing wrong. Tommy contrasts his treatment with another case, one accompanied by an uncomfortable difference. Arrested while sitting in a public area? How fast was I driving, officer?
The fact that most police officers try hard to be fair simply means that not every encounter will result in some degree of injustice. It's something, it's significant, but it isn't much. That siren behind you? Don't worry, you'll probably be safe ... this time.
At The Intersection of Madness and Reality, one police shooting involves either a murder followed by a cover up, or an amazing feat of marksmanship and sleight-of-hand by a suspect who died with hands cuffed behind his back. This was in the back seat of a sheriff's vehicle. He concealed a gun, then shot himself in the chest while cuffed from behind? Seriously?
Max's Dad suggests a tragic screwup when police bust in on opposite sides of a Wendy's robbery, firing toward the center. The incident loses it's comic aspect when a cameraman accompanying the police is killed by friendly fire.
- It is our choice. We can be offended when others make fun of our faith. Or we can be instructed by how others view the way we project ourselves and our image of God. Infidel 753 provides an old video of George Carlin as he reacts to God as maniac. I wouldn't threaten to hurt you forever and ever if I didn't love you. Now give me your money.
When my father was murdered by gangs in El Salvador when I was seven, I thought nothing could get worse.
But then the gangs started threatening me, too, and beating up my brothers. I couldn’t go to school because the gangs there would come after me, and I wasn’t safe at home because the other gangs there came after all of us. There was nothing the police would or could do.
I was constantly under threat, as were my siblings. So in June 2013, scared of this situation, we made the decision to go to the United States – to try to escape the violence. I was 14, and my brothers were nine and 12.
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From Raw Story:
Conservative TV host J.D. Hayworth hurried to cut off a guest on Thursday who was debunking the conservative argument that Central American immigrants are bringing infectious diseases into the U.S., Right Wing Watch reported.
“I actually think the threat of diseases coming into the United States from Central America is fairly remote,” Dr. Peter Hotez — who specializes in treating those types of diseases at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston — told a surprised Hayworth during an interview on Newsmax.
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The number of homeless veterans in the United States has fallen 33 percent since 2010, to just under 50,000 as of January. The number of homeless veterans sleeping in the street, as opposed to in shelters, fell even faster, down nearly 40 percent over the past four years.
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A detailed report commissioned by two major Republican groups — including one backed by Karl Rove — paints a dismal picture for Republicans, concluding female voters view the party as “intolerant,” “lacking in compassion” and “stuck in the past.”
Women are “barely receptive” to Republicans’ policies, and the party does “especially poorly” with women in the Northeast and Midwest, according to an internal Crossroads GPS and American Action Network report obtained by POLITICO.
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