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Mike Pence Will Never Be The Nominee

So Mike Pence, governor if Indiana is thinking of running for president. This tells me that his political instincts spectacularly suck.

I’m sure everyone knows that he signed a ‘Religious Freedom Restoration Act’ (or RFRA) last week. We already have a federal RFRA, but that one doesn’t go far enough for Indiana republican legislators. It doesn’t allow business to discriminate against (for example) the LGBT community because of their religious beliefs. This law not only empowers businesses to refuse to serve, hire, rent to, and a whole slew of other things to a member of the LGBT community, but it also shields them from being sued if they do.

A little context: there was a law suit in New Mexico (who has its own RFRA) called Elane Photography v Willock. That was a case where a same sex couple sued a photography studio for refusing to photograph their wedding. The New Mexico RFRA protects a business from being sued by the government over their "free exercise" of their religion. The defendants tried to use the New Mexico RFRA as a defense, but New Mexico’s state supreme court ruled that RFRA didn’t apply since the government wasn’t a party in the suit. Indiana decided they weren’t going to make that mistake, so their RFRA includes language that bars someone who was discriminated against from suing the bigot that did the discriminating.

Why did I start this post off by saying that Mike Pence’s political instincts suck? Because a poll taken earlier this month has 40% of republicans supporting marriage equality. While that’s not a majority yet, the context is really important; two years that number was 27%. The tide is turning, and it’s turning fast. The republican presidential primaries don’t start for another eight months, and the general election is almost a year and a half away. What do you think the numbers are going to look like then?

Mike Pence is pandering to that charming republican base that the world is leaving behind. You don’t have to be a forward thinker to see that’s a bad idea. All you have to do is to look at the polls for today. But beyond that, the thing that really makes Pence a political idiot, is the fact that he hasn’t noticed that the only candidate who is officially in the race right now, is playing to the same base. So if no other republican comes into the primary by making a play for the dinosaur base, Pence is going to be splitting that vote with Cruz. That base represents roughly 24% of us. It’s that 24% that approved of Bush until the bitter end. The 24% that thought Sarah Palin was awesome even after it was clear that she didn’t know anything, and that English may well be her second language.

As if making a play for the base, when the only candidate in the race is going after those same people isn’t dumb enough, he hasn’t noticed something really relevant about recent history. No republican has successfully pivoted from the base to the middle for the general election. Mitt Romney certainly didn’t do it. His pivot turned into a spin, which turned into a face plant. McCain couldn’t pull it off either. He got a bigger ass kicking in the general than Romney got. That "bomb, bomb, bomb bomb Iran" idiocy wasn’t forgotten by the general electorate who were tired of war.

George W Bush didn’t run as a whackadoodle in the primary but then again, he didn’t have to. He had the Bush name. That’s something I will never understand either. Poppy is not a popular president among republicans. They never talk about his awesomeness. So why the hell would you vote for the idiot (it was clear he was an idiot in the primaries) son of a president you don’t hold in high esteem? And now they have to pretend like the son’s presidency didn’t happen either. W is persona non grata at the conventions and everywhere else. And now they’re thinking about voting for the brother and son of the two presidents they have to pretend never existed? How long do they think they can keep this up? I think that one hundred years from now, when republicans are still only acknowledging Ronald Reagan as their awesome president, someone is going to notice there’s something wrong with them.

But I digress. My point is that this mythological pivot from the whackadoodle right to the middle has never been pulled off. Anyone who thinks they can do it, isn’t playing the smart odds.

Signing RFRA was the dumbest thing he could have done at the very time he’s thinking about a presidential run. The legislature is going to have to go back to eliminate the really fucked up language in Indiana’s RFRA, and Pence is going to have to sign the amended version. Yes, they will try and save face by claiming that they basically changed some punctuation marks, but that won’t matter. The base will know.

Every move he made this week was a mistake. Running for president after this will be an eve bigger mistake. He royally screwed up because he has no political instincts to speak of.          

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My Wallet Is Anti Apartheid

I’ve been boycotting Israeli products for a few years now, because I wasn’t confused about Bibi’s thoughts regarding a two state solution, or any solution that creates a Palestine. But now that he’s finally done everyone the courtesy of articulating his position that he will never support a Palestinian state, he’s made the situation far less ambiguous for everyone all around the world.

Europe is going to have to decide if they’re going to impose sanctions on Israel, or if they’re fine with the Palestinians remaining second class citizens in perpetuity. They’ve always said that they would support Israel as long as Israel was sitting at the negotiation table. Israel, of course hasn’t entered the building where the table is located for years, but Bibi has finally made it clear that as long as he’s the prime minister, it never will.

The US is going to have to decide what we’re going to do, especially by the time the next UN shindig takes place. Do we support Israel under any circumstances, and with no hope of peace ever happening in that region, or do we act in our own self interest? Remember when we were hearing the "they hate us for our freedom" bullshit? They never hated us for our freedom. That was a childish and simplistic thing to say. To the extent that "they" hate us, it’s probably much more about our incessant involvement in the region from installing The Shah in Iran to supporting and then killing Saddam, to enabling Israel in their efforts drive every single Palestinian out of their homes so that Israel can have the whole pie to themselves.

Personally, I’ve always been opposed to apartheid so my Jewiness isn’t really a factor in my human rights stance. I’m still against apartheid. Bibi’s admission makes things far less nuanced and confusing for anyone wasn’t sure who the "bad guys" are in this situation. Under Netanyahu’s leadership, Israel will always be an apartheid state. It’s pretty straight forward. Either you believe that Palestinians deserve to be second class citizens, getting everything they deserve and Israel is nothing but awesome sauce, or you’re against the oppression of anyone, regardless of who the oppressors are.

So if your wallet wants to join my wallet in not supporting apartheid, you should join me in boycotting Israeli products. Here are some major ones;

  • SodaStream Cuisinart makes a soda machine that costs less and doesn’t require those pesky proprietary cartridges.
  • Sabra hummus – avoiding this should be easy. Trader Joe’s has great hummus that costs less and doesn’t drive anyone out of their homeland.
  • Tribe hummas – see above solution.
  • Ahava beauty products.
  • Hewlett Packard
  • Motorola
  • Moroccan oil – sorry ladies, but look into Euphora.

That’s obviously just a partial list. To ensure that you don’t inadvertently support Israeli apartheid, you can download an app called Buycott. It’s available for both iPhone and Android. All you have to do is use the app to scan the barcode of any product you’re thinking about buying. The app will help you to avoid supporting a myriad of different things so it’s not just limited to identifying products that support Israeli apartheid. It will identify Koch industries products, environmentally disastrous products, and a whole slew of other causes that are important to you.

I know what you’re thinking; but Bibi took it all back today and said that he would consider a two state solution. That is, in fact, what he said. That’s when you include a couple of data points in determining whether he was being honest two days ago, or if he’s being honest today. For example, there was that video he put out on election day when he was pooping his pants over the possibility of losing the election. You know, the one where he said,

"Arab voters are heading to the polling stations in droves!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!",

and urged his supporters to come out and vote. Was he excited because Israeli citizens who are Arab were voting, so turnout was going to be awesome? Or was he sounding alarm bells because Israeli second class citizens who are Arab were voting and that would be bad?

You decide.

Has he reached out anytime in your memory to open talks with Abbas? Or do his actions line up with his statement about never allowing a two state solution?

You decide.

I have and surprisingly, trusting my lying eyes is ultimately the direction that made more sense to me.

So until I see evidence of an earnest attempt on Israel’s part to reach an agreement, my wallet and I will be sure not to support Israeli apartheid. 

     

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Did Obama Threaten Germany? Really?

I came across a seriously disturbing story by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept today. In it, he says that the Vice Chancellor of Germany (Sigmar Gabriel) told him that the Obama administration threatened to stop sharing intelligence with Germany if they decided to give Edward Snowden asylum. From the article;

Afterward, however, when I pressed the vice chancellor (who is also head of the Social Democratic Party, as well as the country’s economy and energy minister) as to why the German government could not and would not offer Snowden asylum — which, under international law, negates the asylee’s status as a fugitive — he told me that the U.S. government had aggressively threatened the Germans that if they did so, they would be “cut off” from all intelligence sharing. That would mean, if the threat were carried out, that the Americans would literally allow the German population to remain vulnerable to a brewing attack discovered by the Americans by withholding that information from their government.

We’re threatening our allies now?

More importantly, we’re threatening our allies over one person now? I thought that charging Snowden with the espionage act was outrageous and completely inapplicable. Edward Snowden did not steal classified information and hand it off to our enemies. Nor did his information injure the United States in any way that they’ve been able to demonstrate. So far, in every single court case where mass surveillance has been challenged, the government has provided precisely no evidence of injury. In fact, when the president came out and announced that the program was going to undergo significant review and reform, he made Snowden a whistleblower. If what Snowden revealed caused the program to be reviewed and modified, he is the very definition of a whistleblower.

But I digress. I generally believe that Obama has been good on foreign policy. He intensified the sanctions against Iran enough to the point where they agreed to negotiate. He’s doing some serious damage to Russia’s economy as well, making it less likely that Putin will have the ability to take Ukraine. He played Putin like a fiddle over the Syria situation by making him deal with Assad’s biological weapons. He made a completely correct calculation when he decided to fly into our frenemies’ airspace to get Bin Laden, who they had been protecting for years. He’s done some things I disagree with like creating future terrorists with the widespread use of drones in Pakistan, and not doing a damned thing to reign in Israel’s massive land grabs but hey, who agrees with anyone all the time?

But this threatening Germany over Snowden thing is inexplicable. I literally can’t see the rationale behind it. What’s the upside? You finally get Snowden and put him in prison? And for that, you’re willing to threaten a powerful ally? This makes no sense to me.

If we’re going to threaten to withhold intelligence from an ally, how about we look at Ireland or Switzerland, where giant piles of money are being stashed by US corporations and rich asshats. I mean, if they weren’t our allies, they may not be able to afford to shelter all that money, since they would have to put more money into their own defense. So why not threaten an ally over trillions of dollars instead of over one whistleblower? If we got that money, we could finally pay for Bush’s wars or fund job creation and education programs. If we got Edward Snowden we could……..stop future whistleblowers from letting us know what our government is doing to us?

I want to find this story hard to believe, despite this administration’s vicious crackdown on whistleblowers because the endgame doesn’t make sense to me. Greenwald doesn’t seem to entirely believe it’s true either. He ends the piece by saying;

Nonetheless, one of two things is true: 1) the U.S. actually threatened Germany that it would refrain from notifying them of terrorist plots against German citizens and thus deliberately leave them vulnerable to violent attacks, or 2) some combination of high officials from the U.S. and/or German governments are invoking such fictitious threats in order to manipulate and scare the German public into believing that asylum for Snowden will endanger their lives. Both are obviously noteworthy, though it’s hard to say which is worse.

I agree. This is really disturbing, and a great cause for concern since this would make the Obama administration bigger international bullies than the Bush administration were. 

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Tom Cotton, YOU Don’t Understand Our Constitutional System

So I learned something new yesterday that I thought I’d share with you. Remember the stupid Tom Cotton letter? You know, the condescending one he addressed to The Islamic Public Of Iran? You know, the one that started with,

"It has come to our attention while observing your nuclear negotiations with our government that you may not fully understand our constitutional system…".

The one that then goes on to say,

"Anything not approved by Congress is a mere executive agreement. The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.”

Well, in a delicious twist of irony, it appears that nothing Tom Cotton said in his dumbass letter is true. Nothing, except maybe the spelling of his name in his signature. The president can negotiate and bind this deal without a single member of congress weighing in, and it cannot be undone by the next president. So if you’re keeping score, that would be the trifecta of wrong on the part of the whackadoodle freshman senator from Arkansas.

I learned that there are three kinds of international agreements. From the article;

"…..these forms of international agreements include: “treaties,” which receive the approval of two-thirds or more of the Senate; “congressional-executive agreements,” which receive the authorization or approval of a majority of both houses of Congress; and “sole executive agreements,” which are concluded by the President on his own constitutional authority without formal congressional or senatorial participation."

Naturally, I did some more research since one source is never going to cut it for me. I found some background information on FindLaw. The constitution doesn’t exactly make a distinction between treaties and agreements (of either flavor), but Thomas Jefferson did broach the subject in a report he prepared for George Washington while he (Jefferson) was Secretary Of State. Here are his words;

"Considering the value of the interests we have at stake and considering the smallness of difference between foreign and native tonnage on French vessels alone, it might perhaps be thought advisable to make the sacrifice asked, and especially if it can be so done as to give no title to other the most favored nations to claim it. If the act should put French vessels on the footing of those of natives, and declare it to be in consideration of the favors granted us by the arrets of December 1787, and December 7, 1788 (and perhaps this would satisfy them), no nation could then demand the same favor without offering an equivalent compensation. It might strengthen, too, the tenure by which those arrets are held, which must be precarious so long as they are gratuitous.

It is desirable in many instances to exchange mutual advantages by legislative acts rather than by treaty, because the former, though understood to be in consideration of each other, and therefore greatly respected, yet when they become too inconvenient can be dropped at the will of either party; whereas stipulations by treaty are forever irrevocable but by joint consent, let a change of circumstances render them ever so burdensome."

In the first fifty years of the US’s independence, sixty treaties were made compared to twenty-seven executive agreements. When WWII started, the count was at eight hundred treaties and twelve hundred executive agreements. For the period between 1940 and 1989, there were seven hundred and fifty-nine treaties and thirteen thousand and sixteen executive agreements. In 1989, the US was party to eight hundred and ninety treaties and five thousand one hundred and seventeen executive agreements made by Saint Ronny of Republican Mythology.

I know what you’re thinking at this point; those are just numbers so what kind of executive agreements are we talking about? Good question. The peace agreement with Vietnam in 1973 was an executive agreement. The "Destroyers for Bases Agreement of 1940" was an executive agreement that FDR signed. He gave the UK fifty overage destroyers in exchange for 99-year leases on certain British naval bases in the Atlantic. The Status Of Forces Agreement with Iraq that George W Bush made didn’t require a congressional vote, so that was an executive agreement. So these aren’t insignificant agreements.

I found a myriad of court cases that uphold the authority of executive agreements. You can find those pretty easily if you’re interested in doing some more research. The Supreme Court has upheld the validity of executive agreements several times, starting with United States v Belmont in 1937. There’s Dames & Moore v. Regan, and Weinberger v. Rossi, and several more similar SCOTUS decisions. Those are just a few of many, but you get the point.

So to recap:

  • Executive agreements have been made without the approval of congress, starting with our first president.
  • These executive agreements have been pretty substantial agreements to do everything from establishing peace, to trading arms, to defining the length of a US occupation.
  • The Supreme Court has been upholding the authority of these agreements over and over again for decades.
  • Tom Cotton and his forty-six republican peers in congress are complete idiots, who should avail themselves of the large staff they each possess to do the type of research I managed to do with just me, my computer, and my tired eyes.

This stupid letter of Tim Cotton’s is going to do the opposite of what he intended for it to do. Instead of derailing these talks with Iran and humiliating President Obama, he has strengthened the resolve of both our president and the Iranians who have been publicly mocking Cotton. And he is once and for all going to prove the "three dimensional chess" credit that Obama has been getting getting for six years now.      

 

 

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Protesting With A Gun

You probably know by now that two police officers in Ferguson were shot during a protest last night.

Congratulations shooter, you just made it really easy for the cops, the right wing, and everyone else who is anti-democracy to demonize the protestors. You have made the cops the victims, and you’ve undermined every single thing the protestors have been doing for the past nine months.

Two shots. That’s all it took to wipe out the tiny, tiny gains that were made in Ferguson.

Two shots. That’s all it took to make the citizens of Ferguson as guilty as the cops who targeted people based on who they are.

Two shots. That’s all it took to turn the victims of the racism in Ferguson into punks who must we policed more closely.

Two shots. That’s all it took to justify every can of tear gas and every piece of riot gear that any police department across the country decides to use in order to deal with protestors.

This shooter made things worse for everyone who lives in or around Ferguson. The cops, the residents, and the Department of Justice, who’s there to right the wrongs done there.

When a cop uses excessive force, or is caught committing a crime, it’s always an isolated incident, attributed to one bad apple. When one person among the thousands of protestors in Ferguson over the past nine months shoots cops, all protestors are violent criminals and must be treated as such.

There is a different standard for those with less power, and there always has been That’s just a fact. That’s a fact that Martin King Luther Jr knew all too well, which is why he insisted on nonviolence. I cannot believe that someone would take shots at police officers five days after the fiftieth anniversary of Bloody Sunday. The events that took place on that bridge would have been seen very differently, had a single one of those cops been harmed in any way by a protestor.

When you are an oppressed minority, you have to be exponentially better than the people oppressing you. You have to be patient, you have to be peaceful, and you have to be professorial because it is your job to educate everyone else on your own oppression. I know it sucks, but it is the job of the oppressed to turn members of the oppressing class into allies. That is the only way to end the oppression. It’s never worked any other way, anywhere in time or space.

The moment any single member of that oppressed group acts out violently, that entire group is viewed as deserving of that oppression.

What happened last night was awful. It was awful for the two cops who may or may not have been part of the problem in Ferguson. It was awful for the people fighting for equality in Ferguson, and it was awful for all black people all across the country because they must all now apologize profusely and in perpetuity for what the shooter did.

"What happened last night was a pure ambush. This was not someone who was trying to bring healing to Ferguson, this was a damn punk." – Eric Holder

Let the requisite apologizing begin. 

 

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Republican Contempt For The Constitution

In case you missed it yesterday, forty-seven republicans in the senate sent a letter to the Ayatollah of Iran, letting him know that Obama’s word in the negotiations is basically meaningless. Think I’m being hyperbolic? See for yourself;

It has come to our attention while observing your nuclear negotiations with our government that you may not fully understand our constitutional system.  Thus, we are writing to bring to your attention two features of our Constitution—the power to make binding international agreements and the different character of federal offices—which you should seriously consider as negotiations progress.
 
We hope this letter enriches your knowledge of our constitutional system and promotes mutual understanding and clarity as nuclear negotiations progress.
 
First, under our Constitution, while the president negotiates international agreements, Congress plays the significant role of ratifying them.  In the case of a treaty, the Senate must ratify it by a two-thirds vote.  A so-called congressional-executive agreement requires a majority vote in both the House and the Senate (which, because of procedural rules, effectively means a three-fifths vote in the Senate).  Anything not approved by Congress is a mere executive agreement.
 

Second, the offices of our Constitution have different characteristics.  For example, the president may serve only two 4-year terms, whereas senators may serve an unlimited number of 6-year terms.  As applied today, for instance, President Obama will leave office in January 2017, while most of us will remain in office well beyond then—perhaps decades.

What these two constitutional provisions mean is that we will consider any agreement regarding your nuclear-weapons program that is not approved by the Congress as nothing more than an executive agreement between President Obama and Ayatollah Khamenei.  The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.

Here’s the thing; congress’ role with regard to foreign treaties, is to vote on a deal after the president has done the negotiating. Congress does not enter into treaties with foreign countries. And it’s unprecedented for congress to step in to halt a treaty. This has literally never happened before.

These idiots think they stuck it to the black guy but what they actually did, was take another step toward turning the US into the clown car of developed countries. Step one was with the perpetual government shutdowns over deciding whether to pay for the spending they already approved (and spent). That was nice. Those headlines all around the world that basically said, "WTF, United States?" were awesome. So was the downgrading of our credit rating. So now what they’ve done, in addition to letting the world know that we don’t take our debt all that seriously, is to tell the world that we don’t take our president all that seriously and neither should they.

I’ve never witnessed this level of disrespect for the office of the presidency. Not even when it was deserved in 2000, when the president was selected by the Supreme Court (it’s a fact, look it up), rather than duly elected by the citizens of the United States. No one in congress threw a temper tantrum to subvert the powers of the executive branch, just because the presidency wasn’t legitimately won by that occupant of the oval office. I didn’t see this level of disrespect when congress passed The Boland Amendment explicitly banning president Reagan from "overthrowing the government of Nicaragua or provoking a war between Nicaragua and Honduras". Reagan flat out ignored that law and went ahead and did as he pleased anyway, and that congress never undermined him the way this congress is undermining President Obama.

These were legitimately questionable presidencies and still, congress respected the authority given to the president by the constitution. Why? Well for one, I don’t think it ever occurred to them to so thoroughly crap on the constitution, the way this congress has.

But more importantly, I want to believe that there was some thought given to precedent. This moronic republican congress is utterly incapable of calculating the ramifications of their actions. President Obama has less than two years left in office so shitting on him in public doesn’t have much of an upside if you really think about it. It is well within congress’ power not to ratify any deal Obama makes with Iran. From the constitution;

He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur…..

All they had to do, was to wait for their turn to vote on any deal Obama may have made with Iran. This letter wasn’t about killing the treaty. It was about undermining Obama. They weren’t afraid that Obama was going to make a bad deal, as their leader President Netanyahu warned. They were afraid that he was going to make a really good deal that was going to neutralize this bogeyman they love so much, for good. But they actually did way more than that. They permanently undermined the executive branch. They diminished not only this president, but all future presidents, as well as all future congresses.

They literally turned the United States government into the laughing stock of the world. They turned themselves into a joke.

Read me now, quote me later; they insured that President Obama will have an approval rating greater than or equal to the 68% that President Clinton had when he left office. I’ll go a step further so that you don’t have to wait nearly two years to see if I know what the hell I’m talking about; by summer, President Obama’s approval rating is going to be around 50%. These morons in congress have ensured that President Obama will be seen as one of the most beloved presidents in history. Why? Because the American people don’t like to see their president picked on by congress or anyone else. We’ve seen this movie before with Bill Clinton. On December 18, 1998, the house spent the whole day debating the impeachment of President Clinton. On December 19, 1998, the house approved two articles of impeachment. On December 19 – 20, 1998, Gallup reports the highest approval rating of the Clinton presidency at 73%.

My prediction isn’t wishful thinking, or rectally generated. I usually have a basis I can point to when I embark on the fool’s errand of making predictions!

Here’s another thing that congress didn’t take into account; sanctions against Iran. We alone, can’t successfully damage Iran with our sanctions. We have partners all around the world that joined us in squeezing Iran hard enough to get them to the negotiating table. I suspect that more than a few of our allies in these sanctions is going to question whether going along with the US still seems like a good idea. The sanctions that Obama negotiated had their desired effect; getting Iran to the negotiating table. If our congress is saying that we won’t be sitting on the other side of that table, under any circumstances, I don’t see why our allies would continue with the sanctions.

There is literally no upside for congressional republicans or the American people at large, in what those forty-seven idiotic senators did yesterday. They accomplished nothing for themselves, for you, or for the rest of the world. And if they get to their goal of starting a war with Iran, it’s going to be your kids that fight it.

Elections have consequences. This last election had nothing but negative consequences for all of us, regardless of party affiliation.

 

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O’Reilly Is Just A Fox News Commentator

That’s what defenders of Fox News kept saying when we all learned that Bill O’Reilly is an undeniable bullshit factory. Because O’Reilly is a commentator, he shouldn’t be held to the same standards that Fox News insisted Brian Williams be held to. That’s what the Fox News zombies kept telling me. Now right off the bat, without the delicious piece of information I’m about to share with you, what the O’Reilly defenders are telling us is that commentators don’t need to be truthful. While that’s an interesting perspective that makes your cable news viewing choices much easier to make, it’s a ridiculous point. Why would anyone listen to a commentator who is full of shit? Does that sound reasonable to anyone? Here’s the thing about making a disingenuous argument: you sound like a stupid asshole. But okay, that’s the line the stupid assholes decided to go with and stick to.

So ostensibly, the implication is that the news division of Fox News has higher standards and employs rigorous journalistic practices while deciding what to report, right? Not so much, but you already knew where this is going. I think it’s pretty safe to say that if you’re reading this, you follow American politics pretty closely so I’m going to throw out a headline (just the headline) and let you, the non-journalists decide if the story that goes with the headline is even plausible.

REPORT: OBAMA THREATENED TO SHOOT DOWN ISRAELI PLANES

Ummmm this sounds more absurd on its face, than;

REPORT: OBAMA THREATENED TO SHOOT DOWN BRITISH PLANES

would sound. See, American politicians are still allowed to talk shit about the UK. But Israel is some sort of holy grail. The headline is fucking preposterous on its face. Obama threatened Bibi, and we didn’t get a press conference from Bibi that was simulcast all around the world? Please spare me this fantastical assertion. And yet, here it is right there on the Fox Nation website. The headline alone is ridiculous enough, but here’s what the article says;

"A Kuwaiti newspaper is reporting that President Obama, angered at Israeli plans to strike Iran nuclear facilities in 2014, threatened to shoot down Israeli planes before they could reach their targets.

The paper, Al Jarida, cites only anonymous sources and just a handful of other publications have followed the story. But according to israelnationalnews.com, the Arabic newspaper quoted "well-placed" sources as saying Benjamin Netanyahu and two top aides "had decided to carry out air strikes against Iran’s nuclear program after consultations with top security commanders."

So they have an unsourced story from a random Kuwaiti newspaper. What to do, what to do? Do you adhere to journalistic standards and find two sources to confirm the story before printing it? Do you call the person who wrote the story to have a chat with them about what they wrote? 

Not if you’re fucking Fox News. If you’re Fox News, you publish the story right after you’re done peeing yourself a little, cause you’re so happy. But since this is Fox News we’re talking about, printing this unverified, absurd-on-its-face story isn’t enough. No, if you’re Fox News you do a little segment on TV, about how the white house is denying that President Obama ever threatened to shoot down Israeli planes. You don’t include anything in your "news" piece about how tenuous the unsourced story from a random publication was in the first place. No, you just repeat the original article and report that administration denied the allegations.

Please spare me the "Bill O’Reilly is only a commentator and therefore allowed to fabricate stories to his little heart’s content, but the rest of the network is totally legitimate" nonsense. You’re done, Fox News viewers. You can no longer claim that you’re interested in factual reporting. You’re clearly making a choice to stay stupid and hateful.

At this point, you’re probably wondering why I bothered to write this, "no duh" piece. I obviously didn’t write it to inform you of something you didn’t know. I wrote it so that anytime someone links to a Fox News article, I could link straight back to this piece to shut them down. Not that I wasn’t always able to do quick searches to rebut their insistence that Fox is a legitimate news source, but now that we have the most preposterous, grandaddy of all Fox bullshit to point at, I don’t need to bother with the individual searches to rebut individual points. I will waste no more time debunking Fox. They’re in the same category as breitbart, daily caller, (the comically named) reason, and the national review. They crossed the bullshit threshold that makes them unworthy of even clicking on their links.         

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The Evidence Of Ferguson’s Racism

Everyone is probably aware that the Department Of Justice’s report into the situation in Ferguson was released yesterday. If you regularly read this blog or follow me on social media, you probably surmised that my lack of comment was due to the fact that I was reading the whole report. That would have been a correct assumption. Rather than write a narrative, explaining my reaction to the report, I’m going to do something different. I’m going to give you the evidence (not the conclusions) that the report was based on in bullet points.

This is all of the evidence, so you can draw your own conclusions before reading mine at the end of this piece.

This is all going to be verbatim from the report. This report is full of individual anecdotal evidence. I am only going to post data because we all know how I feel about anecdotal evidence. You can read the whole report if you want more information.

FERGUSON LAW ENFORCEMENT EFFORTS ARE FOCUSED ON GENERATING REVENUE

 City officials have consistently set maximizing revenue as the priority for Ferguson’s law enforcement activity. Ferguson generates a significant and increasing amount of revenue from the enforcement of code provisions. Of the $11.07 million in general fund revenue the City collected in fiscal year 2010, $1.38 million came from fines and fees collected by the court; similarly, in fiscal year 2011, the City’s general fund revenue of $11.44 million included $1.41 million from fines and fees. In its budget for fiscal year 2012, however, the City predicted that revenue from municipal fines and fees would increase over 30% from the previous year’s amount to $1.92 million; the court exceeded that target, collecting $2.11 million. In its budget for fiscal year 2013, the City budgeted for fines and fees to yield $2.11 million; the court exceeded that target as well, collecting $2.46 million. For 2014, the City budgeted for the municipal court to generate $2.63 million in revenue. The City has not yet made public the actual revenue collected that year, although budget documents forecasted lower revenue than was budgeted. Nonetheless, for fiscal year 2015, the City’s budget anticipates fine and fee revenues to account for $3.09 million of a projected $13.26 million in general fund revenues. 

Officers sometimes write six, eight, or, in at least one instance, fourteen citations for a single encounter. Indeed, officers told us that some compete to see who can issue the largest number of citations during a single stop.

The City has been aware for years of concerns about the impact its focus on revenue has had on lawful police action and the fair administration of justice in Ferguson. It has disregarded those concernseven concerns raised from within the City governmentto avoid disturbing the court’s ability to optimize revenue generation. In 2012, a Ferguson City Council member wrote to other City officials in opposition to Judge Brockmeyer’s reappointment, stating that “[the Judge] does not listen to the testimony, does not review the reports or the criminal history of defendants, and doesn’t let all the pertinent witnesses testify before rendering a verdict.” The Council member then addressed the concern that “switching judges would/could lead to loss of revenue,” arguing that even if such a switch did “lead to a slight loss, I think it’s more important that cases are being handled properly and fairly.” The City Manager acknowledged mixed reviews of the Judge’s work but urged that the Judge be reappointed, noting that [i]t goes without saying the City cannot afford to lose any efficiency in our Courts, nor experience any decrease in our Fines and Forfeitures.”

Ferguson’s Police Practices

FPD Engages in a Pattern of Unconstitutional Stops and Arrests in Violation of the Fourth Amendment

FPD’s approach to law enforcement has led officers to conduct stops and arrests that violate the Constitution. We identified several elements to this pattern of misconduct. Frequently, officers stop people without reasonable suspicion or arrest them without probable cause. Officers rely heavily on the municipal Failure to Complycharge, which appears to be facially unconstitutional in part, and is frequently abused in practice. FPD also relies on a system of officer-generated arrest orders called “wanteds” that circumvents the warrant system and poses a significant risk of abuse. The data show, moreover, that FPD misconduct in the area of stops and arrests disproportionately impacts African Americans.

Good supervision would correct improper arrests by an officer before they became routine. But in Ferguson, the same dynamics that lead officers to make unlawful stops and arrests cause supervisors to conduct only perfunctory review of officers’ actions—when they conduct any review at all. FPD supervisors are more concerned with the number of citations and arrests officers produce than whether those citations and arrests are lawful or promote public safety. Internal communications among command staff reveal that FPD for years has failed to ensure even that officers write their reports and first-line supervisors approve them. In 2010, a senior police official complained to supervisors that every week reports go unwritten, and hundreds of reports remain unapproved. “It is time for you to hold your officers accountable,” he urged them. In 2014, the official had the same complaint, remarking on 600 reports that had not been approved over a six-month period. Another supervisor remarked that coding errors in the new records management system is set up “to hide, do away with, or just forget reports,” creating a heavy administrative burden for supervisors who discover incomplete reports months after they are created. In practice, not all arrests are given incident numbers, meaning supervisors may never know to review them. These systemic deficiencies in oversight are consistent with an approach to law enforcement in which productivity and revenue generation, rather than lawful policing, are the priority. Thus, even as commanders exhort line supervisors to more closely supervise officer activity, they perpetuate the dynamics that discourage meaningful supervision.

FPD Engages in a Pattern of First Amendment Violations

FPD’s approach to enforcement results in violations of individuals’ First Amendment rights. FPD arrests people for a variety of protected conduct: people are punished for talking back to officers, recording public police activities, and lawfully protesting perceived injustices.

In Ferguson, however, officers frequently make enforcement decisions based on what subjects say, or how they say it. Just as officers reflexively resort to arrest immediately upon noncompliance with their orders, whether lawful or not, they are quick to overreact to challenges and verbal slights. These incidents—sometimes called “contempt of cop” cases—are propelled by officers’ belief that arrest is an appropriate response to disrespect. These arrests are typically charged as a Failure to Comply, Disorderly Conduct, Interference with Officer, or Resisting Arrest.

FPD officers also routinely infringe on the public’s First Amendment rights by preventing people from recording their activities.

In Ferguson, however, officers claim without any factual support that the use of camera phones endangers officer safety. Sometimes, officers offer no rationale at all. Our conversations with community members and review of FPD records found numerous violations of the right to record police activity.

The Ferguson Police Department’s infringement of individuals’ freedom of speech and right to record has been highlighted in recent months in the context of large-scale public protest. In November 2014, a federal judge entered a consent order prohibiting Ferguson officers from interfering with individuals’ rights to lawfully and peacefully record public police activities. That same month, the City settled another suit alleging that it had abused its loitering ordinance, Mun. Code § 29-89, to arrest people who were protesting peacefully on public sidewalks.

Despite these lawsuits, it appears that FPD continues to interfere with individuals’ rights to protest and record police activities. On February 9, 2015, several individuals were protesting outside the Ferguson police station on the six-month anniversary of Michael Brown’s death. According to protesters, and consistent with several video recordings from that evening, the protesters stood peacefully in the police department’s parking lot, on the sidewalks in front of it, and across the street. Video footage shows that two FPD vehicles abruptly accelerated from the police parking lot into the street. An officer announced, “everybody here’s going to jail,” causing the protesters to run. Video shows that as one man recorded the police arresting others, he was arrested for interfering with police action. Officers pushed him to the ground, began handcuffing him, and announced, stop resisting or you’re going to get tased.” It appears from the video, however, that the man was neither interfering nor resisting. A protester in a wheelchair who was live streaming the protest was also arrested. Another officer moved several people with cameras away from the scene of the arrests, warning them against interfering and urging them to back up or else be arrested for Failure to Obey. The sergeant shouted at those filming that they would be arrested for Manner of Walking if they did not back away out of the street, even though it appears from the video recordings that the protesters and those recording were on the sidewalk at most, if not all, times. Six people were arrested during this incident. It appears that officers’ escalation of this incident was unnecessary and in response to derogatory comments written in chalk on the FPD parking lot asphalt and on a police vehicle.  

FPD Engages in a Pattern of Excessive Force in Violation of the Fourth Amendment

FPD engages in a pattern of excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment.
Many officers are quick to escalate encounters with subjects they perceive to be disobeying their orders or resisting arrest. They have come to rely on ECWs, specifically Tasers®, where less force
or no force at allwould do. They also release canines on unarmed subjects unreasonably and before attempting to use force less likely to cause injury. Some incidents of excessive force result from stops or arrests that have no basis in law. Others are punitive and retaliatory. In addition, FPD records suggest a tendency to use unnecessary force against vulnerable groups such as people with mental health conditions or cognitive disabilities, and juvenile students. Furthermore, as discussed in greater detail in Part III.C. of this report, Ferguson’s pattern of using excessive force disproportionately harms African-American members of the community. The overwhelming majority of forcealmost 90%is used against African Americans.

Finally, FPD does not perform any comprehensive review of force incidents sufficient to detect patterns of misconduct by a particular officer or unit, or patterns regarding a particular type of force. Indeed, FPD does not keep records in a manner that would allow for such a review. Within FPD’s paper storage system, the two-page use-of-force reports (which are usually handwritten) are kept separately from all other documentation, including ECW and pursuit forms for the same incidents. Offense reports are attached to some use-of-force reports but not others. Some use-of-force reports have been removed from FPD’s set of force files because the incidents became the subjects of an internal investigation or a lawsuit. As a consequence, when FPD provided us what it considers to be its force fileswhich, as described above, we have reason to believe do not capture all actual force incidentsa majority of those files were missing a critical document, such as an offense report, ECW report, or the use-of-force report itself. We had to make repeated requests for documents to construct force files amenable to fair review. There were some documents that FPD was unable to locate, even after repeated requests.

With its records incomplete and scattered, the department is unable to implement an early intervention system to identify officers who tend to use excessive force or the need for more training or better equipmentgoals explicitly set out by FPD policy. It appears that no annual review of force incidents is conducted, as required by FPD General Order 410.07; indeed, a meaningful annual audit would be impossible. These recordkeeping problems also explain why Chief Jackson told us he could not remember ever imposing discipline for an improper use of force or ordering further training based on force problems.

Ferguson’sMunicipalCourtPractices

The Ferguson municipal court handles most charges brought by FPD, and does so not with the primary goal of administering justice or protecting the rights of the accused, but of maximizing revenue. The impact that revenue concerns have on court operations undermines the court’s role as a fair and impartial judicial body.20 Our investigation has uncovered substantial evidence that the court’s procedures are constitutionally deficient and function to impede a person’s ability to challenge or resolve a municipal charge, resulting in unnecessarily prolonged cases and an increased likelihood of running afoul of court requirements. At the same time, the court imposes severe penalties when a defendant fails to meet court requirements, including added fines and fees and arrest warrants that are unnecessary and run counter to public safety. These practices both reflect and reinforce an approach to law enforcement in Ferguson that violates the Constitution and undermines police legitimacy and community trust.

Ferguson’s municipal court practices combine to cause significant harm to many individuals who have cases pending before the court. Our investigation has found overwhelming evidence of minor municipal code violations resulting in multiple arrests, jail time, and payments that exceed the cost of the original ticket many times over. One woman, discussed above, received two parking tickets for a single violation in 2007 that then totaled $151 plus fees. Over seven years later, she still owed Ferguson $541after already paying $550 in fines and fees, having multiple arrest warrants issued against her, and being arrested and jailed on several occasions. Another woman told us that when she went to court to try to pay $100 on a $600 outstanding balance, the Court Clerk refused to take the partial payment, even though the woman explained that she was a single mother and could not afford to pay more that month. A 90-year- old man had a warrant issued for his arrest after he failed to timely pay the five citations FPD issued to him during a single traffic stop in 2013. An 83-year-old man had a warrant issued against him when he failed to timely resolve his Derelict Auto violation. A 67-year-old woman told us she was stopped and arrested by a Ferguson police officer for an outstanding warrant for failure to pay a trash-removal citation. She did not know about the warrant until her arrest, and the court ultimately charged her $1,000 in fines, which she continues to pay off in $100 monthly increments despite being on a limited, fixed income. We have heard similar stories from dozens of other individuals and have reviewed court records documenting many additional instances of similarly harsh penalties, often for relatively minor violations.

Our review of police and court records suggests that much of the harm of Ferguson’s law enforcement practices in recent years is attributable to the court’s routine use of arrest warrants to secure collection and compliance when a person misses a required court appearance or payment. In a case involving a moving violation, procedural failures also result in the suspension of the defendant’s license. And, until recently, the court regularly imposed a separate Failure to Appear charge for missed appearances and payments; that charge resulted in an additional fine in the amount of $75.50, plus $26.50 in court costs. See Ferguson Mun. Code § 13-58 (repealed Sept. 23, 2014). During the last three years, the court imposed roughly one Failure to Appear charge per every two citations or summonses issued by FPD. Since at least 2010, the court has collected more revenue for Failure to Appear charges than for any other charge. This includes $442,901 in fines for Failure to Appear violations in 2013, which comprised 24% of the total revenue the court collected that year. While the City Council repealed the Failure to Appear ordinance in September 2014, many people continue to owe fines and fees stemming from that charge.

Ferguson Law Enforcement Practices Disproportionately Harm Ferguson’s African-American Residents and Are Driven in Part by Racial Bias

Ferguson’s police and municipal court practices disproportionately harm African Americans. Further, our investigation found substantial evidence that this harm stems in part from intentional discrimination in violation of the Constitution.

  • African Americans experience disparate impact in nearly every aspect of Ferguson’s law enforcement system. Despite making up 67% of the population, African Americans accounted for 85% of FPD’s traffic stops, 90% of FPD’s citations, and 93% of FPD’s arrests from 2012 to 2014. Other statistical disparities, set forth in detail below, show that in Ferguson:
  • African Americans are 2.07 times more likely to be searched during a vehicular stop but are 26% less likely to have contraband found on them during a search. They are 2.00 times more likely to receive a citation and 2.37 times more likely to be arrested following a vehicular stop.
  • African Americans have force used against them at disproportionately high rates, accounting for 88% of all cases from 2010 to August 2014 in which an FPD officer reported using force. In all 14 uses of force involving a canine bite for which we have information about the race of the person bitten, the person was African American.
  • African Americans are more likely to receive multiple citations during a single incident, receiving four or more citations on 73 occasions between October 2012 and July 2014, whereas non-African Americans received four or more citations only twice during that period.
  • African Americans account for 95% of Manner of Walking charges; 94% of all Fail to Comply charges; 92% of all Resisting Arrest charges; 92% of all Peace Disturbance charges; and 89% of all Failure to Obey charges.38
  • African Americans account for 96% of known arrests made exclusively because of an outstanding municipal warrant.
  • African Americans are 68% less likely than others to have their cases dismissed by the Municipal Judge, and in 2013 African Americans accounted for 92% of cases in which an arrest warrant was issued.

The racially disparate impact of Ferguson’s practices is driven, at least in part, by intentional discrimination in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Racial bias and stereotyping is evident from the facts, taken together. This evidence includes: the consistency and magnitude of the racial disparities throughout Ferguson’s police and court enforcement actions; the selection and execution of police and court practices that disproportionately harm African Americans and do little to promote public safety; the persistent exercise of discretion to the detriment of African Americans; the apparent consideration of race in assessing threat; and the historical opposition to having African Americans live in Ferguson, which lingers among some today. We have also found explicit racial bias in the communications of police and court supervisors and that some officials apply racial stereotypes, rather than facts, to explain the harm African Americans experience due to Ferguson’s approach to law enforcement. “Determining whether invidious discriminatory purpose was a motivating factor demands a sensitive inquiry into such circumstantial and direct evidence of intent as may be available.” Vill. of Arlington Heights v. Metro. Hous. Dev. Corp., 429 U.S. 252, 266 (1977). Based on this evidence as a whole, we have found that Ferguson’s law enforcement activities stem in part from a discriminatory purpose and thus deny African Americans equal protection of the laws in violation of the Constitution.

Ferguson’s Law Enforcement Actions Impose a Disparate Impact on African Americans that Violates Federal Law

African Americans are disproportionately represented at nearly every stage of Ferguson law enforcement, from initial police contact to final disposition of a case in municipal court. While FPD’s data collection and retention practices are deficient in many respects, the data that is collected by FPD is sufficient to allow for meaningful and reliable analysis of racial disparities. This datacollected directly by police and court officialsreveals racial disparities that are substantial and consistent across a wide range of police and court enforcement actions.

African Americans experience the harms of the disparities identified below as part of a comprehensive municipal justice system that, at each juncture, enforces the law more harshly against black people than others. The disparate impact of Ferguson’s enforcement actions is compounding: at each point in the enforcement process there is a higher likelihood that an African American will be subjected to harsher treatment; accordingly, as the adverse consequences imposed by Ferguson grow more and more severe, those consequences are imposed more and more disproportionately against African Americans. Thus, while 85% of FPD’s vehicle stops are of African Americans, 90% of FPD’s citations are issued to African Americans, and 92% of all warrants are issued in cases against African Americans. Strikingly, available data shows that of those subjected to one of the most severe actions this system routinely imposesactual arrest for an outstanding municipal warrant96% are African American.

FPD reported 11,610 vehicle stops between October 2012 and October 2014. African Americans accounted for 85%, or 9,875, of those stops, despite making up only 67% of the population. White individuals made up 15%, or 1,735, of stops during that period, despite representing 29% of the population. These differences indicate that FPD traffic stop practices may disparately impact black drivers.39 Even setting aside the question of whether there are racial disparities in FPD’s traffic stop practices, however, the data collected during those stops reliably shows statistically significant racial disparities in the outcomes people receive after being stopped. Unlike with vehicle stops, assessing the disparate impact of post-stop outcomessuch as the rate at which stops result in citations, searches, or arrestsis not dependent on population data or on assumptions about differential offending rates by race; instead, the enforcement actions imposed against stopped black drivers are compared directly to the enforcement actions imposed against stopped white drivers.

In Ferguson, traffic stops of black drivers are more likely to lead to searches, citations, and arrests than are stops of white drivers. Black people are significantly more likely to be searched during a traffic stop than white people. From October 2012 to October 2014, 11% of stopped black drivers were searched, whereas only 5% of stopped white drivers were searched.

Despite being searched at higher rates, African Americans are 26% less likely to have contraband found on them than whites: 24% of searches of African Americans resulted in a contraband finding, whereas 30% of searches of whites resulted in a contraband finding. This disparity exists even after controlling for the type of search conducted, whether a search incident to arrest, a consent search, or a search predicated on reasonable suspicion. The lower rate at which officers find contraband when searching African Americans indicates either that officers’ suspicion of criminal wrongdoing is less likely to be accurate when interacting with African Americans or that officers are more likely to search African Americans without any suspicion of criminal wrongdoing. Either explanation suggests bias, whether explicit or implicit.40 This lower hit rate for African Americans also underscores that this disparate enforcement practice is ineffective.

Other, more subtle indicators likewise show meaningful disparities in FPD’s search practices: of the 31 Terry stop searches FPD conducted during this period between October 2012 to October 2014, 30 were of black individuals; of the 103 times FPD asked both the driver and passenger to exit a vehicle during a search, the searched individuals were black in 95 cases; and, while only one search of a white person lasted more than half an hour (1% of all searches of white drivers), 59 searches of African Americans lasted that long (5% of all searches of black drivers).

Of all stopped black drivers, 91%, or 8,987, received citations, while 87%, or 1,501, of all stopped white drivers received a citation.41 891 stopped black drivers10% of all stopped black driverswere arrested as a result of the stop, whereas only 63 stopped white drivers4% of all stopped white driverswere arrested. This disparity is explainable in large part by the high number of black individuals arrested for outstanding municipal warrants issued for missed court payments and appearances. As we discuss below, African Americans are more likely to have warrants issued against them than whites and are more likely to be arrested for an outstanding warrant than their white counterparts. Notably, on 14 occasions FPD listed the only reason for an arrest following a traffic stop as “resisting arrest.” In all 14 of those cases, the person arrested was black.

These disparities in the outcomes that result from traffic stops remain even after regression analysis is used to control for non-race-based variables, including driver age; gender; the assignment of the officer making the stop; disparities in officer behavior; and the stated reason the stop was initiated. Upon accounting for differences in those variables, African Americans remained 2.07 times more likely to be searched; 2.00 times more likely to receive a citation; and 2.37 times more likely to be arrested than other stopped individuals. Each of these disparities is statistically significant and would occur by chance less than one time in 1,000.42 The odds of these disparities occurring by chance together are significantly lower still.

Disparate Impact of FPD’s Multiple Citation Practices

The substantial racial disparities that exist within the data collected from traffic stops are consistent with the disparities found throughout FPD’s practices. As discussed above, our investigation found that FPD officers frequently make discretionary choices to issue multiple citations during a single incident. Setting aside the fact that, in some cases, citations are redundant and impose duplicative penalties for the same offense, the issuance of multiples citations also disproportionately impacts African Americans. In 2013, for instance, more than 50% of all African Americans cited received multiple citations during a single encounter with FPD, whereas only 26% of non-African Americans did. Specifically, 26% of African Americans receiving a citation received two citations at once, whereas only 17% of white individuals received two citations at once. Those disparities are even greater for incidents that resulted in more than two citations: 15% of African Americans cited received three citations at the same time, whereas 6% of cited whites received three citations; and while 10% of cited African Americans received four or more citations at once, only 3% of cited whites received that many during a single incident. Each of these disparities is statistically significant, and would occur by chance less than one time in 1,000. Indeed, related data from an overlapping time period shows that, between October 2012 to July 2014, 38 black individuals received four citations during a single incident, compared with only two white individuals; and while 35 black individuals received five or more citations at once, not a single white person did.43

Disparate Impact of Other FPD Charging Practices

From October 2012 to July 2014, African Americans accounted for 85%, or 30,525, of the 35,871 total charges brought by FPDincluding traffic citations, summonses, and arrests. Non-African Americans accounted for 15%, or 5,346, of all charges brought during that period.44 These rates vary somewhat across different offenses. For example, African Americans represent a relatively low proportion of those charged with Driving While Intoxicated and Speeding on State Roads or Highways. With respect to speeding offenses for all roads, African Americans account for 72% of citations based on radar or laser, but 80% of citations based on other or unspecified methods. Thus, as evaluated by radar, African Americans violate the law at lower rates than as evaluated by FPD officers. Indeed, controlling for other factors, the disparity in speeding tickets between African Americans and non-African Americans is 48% larger when citations are issued not on the basis of radar or laser, but by some other method, such as the officer’s own visual assessment. This difference is statistically significant.

Data on charges issued by FPD from 2011-2013 shows that, for numerous municipal offenses for which FPD officers have a high degree of discretion in charging, African Americans are disproportionately represented relative to their representation in Ferguson’s population. While African Americans make up 67% of Ferguson’s population, they make up 95% of Manner of Walking in Roadway charges; 94% of Failure to Comply charges; 92% of Resisting Arrest charges; 92% of Peace Disturbance charges; and 89% of Failure to Obey charges. Because these non-traffic offenses are more likely to be brought against persons who actually live in Ferguson than are vehicle stops, census data here does provide a useful benchmark for whether a pattern of racially disparate policing appears to exist. These disparities mean that African Americans in Ferguson bear the overwhelming burden of FPD’s pattern of unlawful stops, searches, and arrests with respect to these highly discretionary ordinances.

Disparate Impact of FPD Arrests for Outstanding Warrants

FPD records show that once a warrant issues, racial disparities in FPD’s warrant execution practices make it exceedingly more likely for a black individual with an outstanding warrant to be arrested than a white individual with an outstanding warrant. Arrest data captured by FPD often fails to identify when a person is arrested solely on account of an outstanding warrant. Nonetheless, the data FPD collects during traffic stops pursuant to Missouri state requirements does capture information regarding when arrests are made for no other reason than that an arrest warrant was pending. Based upon that data, from October 2012 to October 2014, FPD arrested 460 individuals exclusively because the person had an outstanding arrest warrant. Of those 460 people arrested, 443, or 96%, were black. That African Americans are disproportionately impacted by FPD’s warrant execution practices is also reflected in the fact that, during the roughly six-month period from April to September 2014, African Americans accounted for 96% of those booked into the Ferguson City Jail at least in part because they were arrested for an outstanding municipal warrant.

Disparate Impact of Court Practices

In light of the opaque court procedures previously discussed, the likelihood of running afoul of a court requirement increases when a case lasts for a longer period of time and results in more court encounters. Court cases involving black individuals typically last longer than those involving white individuals. Of the 2,369 charges filed against white defendants in 2011, over 63% were closed after six months. By contrast, only 34% of the 10,984 charges against black defendants were closed within that time period. 10% of black defendants, however, resolved their case between six months and a year from when it was filed, while 9% of white defendants required that much time to secure resolution. And, while 17% of black defendants resolved their charge over a year after it was brought against them, only 9% of white defendants required that much time. Each of these cases was ultimately resolved, in most instances by satisfying debts owed to the court; but this data shows substantial disparities between blacks and whites regarding how long it took to do so.

On average, African Americans are also more likely to have a high number of “events” occur before a case is resolved. The court’s records track all activities that occur in a case—from payments and court appearances to continuances and Failure to Appear charges. 11% of cases involving African Americans had three “events,” whereas 10% of cases involving white defendants had three events. 14% of cases involving black defendants had four to five events, compared with 9% of cases involving white defendants. Those disparities increase as the recorded number of events per case increases. Data show that there are ten or more events in 17% of cases involving black defendants but only 5% of cases involving white defendants. Given that an “event” can represent a variety of different kinds of occurrences, these particular disparities are perhaps less probative; nonetheless, they strongly suggest that black defendants have, on average, more encounters with the court during a single case than their white peers.

Given the figures above, it is perhaps unsurprising that the municipal court’s practice of issuing warrants to compel fine payments following a missed court appearance or missed payment has a disparate impact on black defendants. 92% of all warrants issued in 2013 were issued in cases involving an African-American defendant. This figure is disproportionate to the representation of African Americans in the court’s docket. Although the proportion of court cases involving black defendants has increased in recent years81% of all cases filed in 2009, compared with 85% of all cases filed in 2013that proportion remains substantially below the proportion of warrants issued to African Americans.

That analysis suggests that there may be racial disparities in the court’s fine assessment practices. In analyzing the initial fines assessed for those ten offenses for each year from 2011-201330 data points in totalthe average fine assessment was higher for African Americans than others in 26 of the 30 data points. For example, among the 53 Failure to Obey charges brought in 2013 that did not lead to added Failure to Appear fines44 of which involved an African-American defendantAfrican Americans were assessed an average fine of $206, whereas the average fine for others was $147. The magnitude of racial disparities in fine amounts varied across the 30 yearly offense averages analyzed, but those disparities consistently disfavored African Americans.

Further, an evaluation of dismissal rates throughout the life of a case shows that, on average, an African-American defendant is 68% less likely than other defendants to have a case dismissed. In addition to cases that are “Dismissed,” court records also show cases that are “Voided” altogether. There are only roughly 400 cases listed as Voided from 2011-2013, but the data that is available for that relatively small number of Voided cases shows that African Americans are three times less likely to receive the Voided outcome than others.

Ferguson’s Law Enforcement Practices Are Motivated in Part by Discriminatory Intent in Violation of the Fourteenth Amendment and Other Federal Laws

Direct Evidence of Racial Bias

Our investigation uncovered direct evidence of racial bias in the communications of influential Ferguson decision makers. In email messages and during interviews, several court and law enforcement personnel expressed discriminatory views and intolerance with regard to race, religion, and national origin. The content of these communications is unequivocally derogatory, dehumanizing, and demonstrative of impermissible bias.

We have discovered evidence of racial bias in emails sent by Ferguson officials, all of whom are current employees, almost without exception through their official City of Ferguson email accounts, and apparently sent during work hours. These email exchanges involved several police and court supervisors, including FPD supervisors and commanders. The following emails are illustrative:

  • A November 2008 email stated that President Barack Obama would not be President for very long because “what black man holds a steady job for four years.
  • A March 2010 email mocked African Americans through speech and familial stereotypes, using a story involving child support. One line from the email read: “I be so glad that dis be my last child support payment! Month after month, year after year, all dose payments!”
  • An April 2011 email depicted President Barack Obama as a chimpanzee.
  • A May 2011 email stated: “An African-American woman in New Orleans was admitted into the hospital for a pregnancy termination. Two weeks later she received a check for $5,000. She phoned the hospital to ask who it was from. The hospital said, ‘Crimestoppers.’”
  • A June 2011 email described a man seeking to obtain “welfare” for his dogs because they are “mixed in color, unemployed, lazy, can’t speak English and have no frigging clue who their Daddies are.”
  • An October 2011 email included a photo of a bare-chested group of dancing women, apparently in Africa, with the caption, “Michelle Obama’s High School Reunion.
  • A December 2011 email included jokes that are based on offensive stereotypes about Muslims.
Our review of documents revealed many additional email communications that exhibited racial or ethnic bias, as well as other forms of bias. Our investigation has not revealed any indication that any officer or court clerk engaged in these communications was ever disciplined. Nor did we see a single instance in which a police or court recipient of such an email asked that the sender refrain from sending such emails, or any indication that these emails were reported as inappropriate. Instead, the emails were usually forwarded along to others.49

 

Critically, each of these email exchanges involved supervisors of FPD’s patrol and court operations.50 FPD patrol supervisors are responsible for holding officers accountable to governing laws, including the Constitution, and helping to ensure that officers treat all people equally under the law, regardless of race or any other protected characteristic. The racial animus and stereotypes expressed by these supervisors suggest that they are unlikely to hold an officer accountable for discriminatory conduct or to take any steps to discourage the development or perpetuation of racial stereotypes among officers.

Similarly, court supervisors have significant influence and discretion in managing the court’s operations and in processing individual cases. As discussed in Parts I and III.B of this report, our investigation has found that a number of court rules and procedures are interpreted and applied entirely at the discretion of the court clerks. These include: whether to require a court appearance for certain offenses; whether to grant continuances or other procedural requests; whether to accept partial payment of an owed fine; whether to cancel a warrant without a bond payment; and whether to provide individuals with documentation enabling them to have a suspended driver’s license reinstated before the full fine owed has been paid off. Court clerks are also largely responsible for setting bond amounts. The evidence we found thus shows not only racial bias, but racial bias by those with considerable influence over the outcome of any given court case.

Evidence of Racial Stereotyping

Several Ferguson officials told us during our investigation that it is a lack of “personal responsibility” among African-American members of the Ferguson community that causes African Americans to experience disproportionate harm under Ferguson’s approach to law enforcement. Our investigation suggests that this explanation is at odd with the facts. While there are people of all races who may lack personal responsibility, the harm of Ferguson’s approach to law enforcement is largely due to the myriad systemic deficiencies discussed above. Our investigation revealed African Americans making extraordinary efforts to pay off expensive tickets for minor, often unfairly charged, violations, despite systemic obstacles to resolving those tickets. While our investigation did not indicate that African Americans are disproportionately irresponsible, it did reveal that, as the above emails reflect, some Ferguson decision makers hold negative stereotypes about African Americans, and lack of personal responsibility is one of them. Application of this stereotype furthers the disproportionate impact of Ferguson’s police and court practices. It causes court and police decision makers to discredit African Americans’ explanations for not being able to pay tickets and allows officials to disown the harms of Ferguson’s law enforcement practices.

I know that was a lot to read, but I distilled the important parts out of a 105 page report. But I will keep my comments short. This report does a good job of illustrating not only the racism, but it also cuts off the "but blacks commit more crimes" argument that racists so love.

I included all of the information regarding how much the city relies on fining the shit out of people to generate revenue because that should enrage any true "small government" conservative. I included the process information about multiple citations turning into arrest warrants to demonstrate that once a black person gets pulled over or stopped by a police officer in Ferguson, they’re going to have the albatross of the legal system around their necks for years. Once you get into Ferguson’s "justice" system, you shouldn’t ever expect to get out especially if you’re black. You should expect to spend a significant percentage of your income trying to get out, but even a parking ticket is going to be a long and expensive process to deal with.

Remember my two first pieces of the year about privilege and institutional racism? I said that all of the things I went over, when put together, create a cascading effect. Well, Ferguson is cascading on steroids.

This city’s justice system is literally rotten to the corps. From the budget planning, to the cops on the street, to (it appears) every single person who works in the courthouse. No wonder Darren Wilson saw a demon where a 19 year old boy was. In Ferguson, all black residents are demons.   

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Secretary Of State Emailgate

So a story about Hillary Clinton broke over the weekend that I didn’t comment on or post. I waited to chime in because frankly, I had more questions than I had a basis upon which to form an opinion. That hasn’t changed. I’m still flummoxed by what is going on here, but we did get some more information that I want to comment on.

In case you missed the story, Hillary apparently used a personal email address for all of her communications as Secretary Of State. She didn’t even have an official government email account. Wtf? I mean seriously, wtf? Is there no HR department to coordinate with IT to set up an email account? Did Hillary not know that she, of all people will never be able to get away with anything, ever in her life? Other than the fact that this was deliberately done (by the administration) in order to hide communications, nothing else about this makes sense to me. Why would someone who is potentially going to run for president leave themselves so open for accusations of corruption?

I don’t know. But the new information is that the New York Times left out some very relevant context in this story. The first important piece of information the Times left out, is something that Michael Tomansky from The Daily Beast discovered when he reached out to the State Department for clarification on something in the Times piece. The Times piece referenced "new regulations" at State, but they didn’t disclose when the new regulations went into effect. Tomansky got an answer to that question. From his piece:

A senior State Department official emailed me to say that “in October 2014, a Department-wide notice was sent out which explained each employee’s responsibilities for records management. Consistent with 2013 NARA guidance, it included instructions that generally employees should not use personal email for the transaction of government business, but that in the very limited circumstances when it is necessary, all records must be forwarded to a government account or otherwise preserved in the Department’s electronic records systems.”

Okay, that’s a pretty big piece of information to omit. This piece of information is so relevant, that it completely contradicts the title of the Times piece:

Hillary Clinton Used Personal Email Account at State Dept., Possibly Breaking Rules

Ummmm, no. You can’t break a rule that didn’t take effect until after you left your position.

The second piece of information left out of the Times piece is that Colin Powell also used a personal email account. John Kerry is the first secretary of state to (ostensibly) primarily use his State Department email account. Context is important, and leaving it out in this case was done to make it seem as if Hillary was being extra, super shady and behaving in an unprecedented way. She clearly wasn’t.

Before you assume that this piece is a defense of Hillary, let me stop you. Let me repeat; the only reason to use personal email accounts to conduct government business, is to hide things. She knew what she was doing and why she was doing it, just as Colin Powell (and probably all of their predecessors) did. And while they didn’t break any laws or departmental rules, they did behave in a nefarious way by hiding things from the public.

To be clear, this isn’t being done to hide things from us. This practice is designed to hide things from history. These communications can be classified so that we don’t see them anytime soon. Insuring that they’re not archived at all, means there’s no chance that they will be declassified in the future.

No, Hillary didn’t technically do anything wrong, but that doesn’t mean she wasn’t wrong. And for the life of me, I can’t figure out why she would take the extra step of not getting a State Department email address at all.

The Times piece should have been about the record keeping practices at the State Department. But since the "reporter" decided to do a hack hit piece in Hillary, we will once again be having the wrong conversation.

So close to informative journalism, and yet so far away.

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