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DMZ?

When you hear the exact same warning from people as divergent as Rand Paul and the CATO Institute, Glenn Greenwald and the ACLU, and even nonpolitical sources like Popular Mechanics, you suspect that you should take the problem seriously.

The problem? The escalating militarization of police departments across the country. Do police still protect citizens, or are they acting more like occupying forces? These people see the police action that is happening in Ferguson MO as frighteningly similar to military action like in Iraq or Afghanistan.

How did this happen? The recent escalation was caused by the post-911 “War on Terror”, which threw advanced military equipment at local police forces, including machine guns, silencers, flash-bang grenades, and even tanks and aircraft. But it had its roots in earlier faux wars, like the “War on Drugs”, the creation of SWAT teams and the introduction of military tactics to routine policing.

A side effect of this, as we are seeing in Ferguson is that police increasingly treat the media as an enemy. This is a recipe for tragedy.

Indeed, even other police chiefs have criticized the aggressive police response in Ferguson, saying “you always have to be careful to walk a fine line not to over-react. Sometimes a big show of force in the beginning may not be the proper way to deal with it.” “Suiting up in riot gear and tossing tear gas is probably the worst way to deal with civil unrest.”

Invariably, escalation on one side invariably leads to escalation on the other. Indeed, Palestinian citizens have been tweeting messages of support to the protestors in Ferguson, including tips on how to deal with tear gas.

There has been some political response, such as a bill to curb the transfer of surplus military equipment to local law enforcement agencies for free, but with arms manufacturers (who have lots of lobbyists) making lots of money from this, it is doubtful anything will happen.

Another problem is the almost complete lack of police accountability. A Wisconsin man whose handcuffed son was shot point-blank in the head by police in front of his wife and daughter reports that the officer who killed his son was cleared of any wrongdoing in 48 hours, without taking statements from eyewitnesses. He also found that “In 129 years since police and fire commissions were created in the state of Wisconsin, we could not find a single ruling by a police department, an inquest or a police commission that a shooting was unjustified.”

UPDATE: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has a powerful essay about what is going on, and what needs to be done: “The Coming Race War Won’t Be About Race”.

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Late Night Political Humor

“President Obama is planning to break up his vacation in Martha’s Vineyard by returning to D.C. for two days for meetings. Yeah, two days away from his family vacation – or as that’s also known, a ‘vacation’. If you’ve been on vacation, then you know.” – Jimmy Fallon

“President Obama’s approval rating is now at an all-time low. It’s so bad that last night he gave his daughter Sasha a ride to a friend’s house and she asked him to drop her off two blocks away.” – Seth Meyers

“A new poll found that President Obama’s approval rating has hit a new low of just 40 percent. Or as Obama put it, ’60 under par!’” – Jimmy Fallon

“Last week it was revealed the CIA has been spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is the committee that’s supposed to supervise the CIA. Who do these people think they are? Facebook?” – Jimmy Kimmel

“The Russian government said Edward Snowden can stay for three more years. Or as Obama put it, ‘Eh, that was gonna be his prison sentence, anyway.’” – Jimmy Fallon

“While speaking at an African leadership summit yesterday, Vice President Joe Biden accidentally referred to Africa as a country instead of a continent. To be fair, most of what he knows about Africa is based on ‘The Lion King’.” – Jimmy Fallon

“A Republican congressman has accused Democrats of waging a war on whites. As proof, he pointed to the recent bombing of the kale aisle at a Trader Joe’s.” – Conan O’Brien

“Officials from Hamas and Israel have agreed to a 72-hour cease-fire. Of course, we won’t have true peace in the Middle East until there’s a cease-fire that lasts longer than a mattress sale.” – Seth Meyers

“Welcome to those who are visiting LA. We’re going to have a good time in beautiful Los Angeles, which has just been named the 16th coolest city in America by Forbes magazine. We finally tied San Jose.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“You know what city Forbes says is the coolest? The No. 1 coolest city in America is Washington, D.C. How did that happen? Did Obama start smoking again?” – Jimmy Kimmel

“Forbes bases its rankings on factors like how many entertainment options a city has. Makes sense. In Washington, between Joe Biden and John Boehner alone, it’s like a nonstop Burning Man festival.” – Jimmy Kimmel

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Political Humor from Robin Williams

“Politics: ‘Poli’, a Latin word meaning ‘many’ and ‘tics’ meaning ‘bloodsucking creatures’.”

“Politicians are a lot like diapers. They should be changed frequently — and for the same reasons.”

“The Second Amendment: It says you have the right to bear arms, or the right to arm bears, whatever the hell you want to do!”

“You could talk about same-sex marriage, but people who have been married say, ‘It’s the same sex all the time.’”

(On Canada) “You are a big country. You are the kindest country in the world. You are like a really nice apartment over a meth lab.”

“If women ran the world we wouldn’t have wars, just intense negotiations every 28 days.”

“A woman would never make a nuclear bomb. They would never make a weapon that kills. They’d make a weapon that makes you feel bad for a while.”

“Obama, which is an old Kenyan word for Kennedy, God bless us.”

“Where did they get Sarah Palin? . . . Did Ronald Reagan have a kid with Posh Spice? It’s like she came from some reality show — ‘Project Running Mate’.”

(On George W. Bush) “People say satire is dead. It’s not dead; it’s alive and living in the White House.”

On the end of the George Bush presidency: “It’s the end of the reign of George the Second. The reign of error is over. America is officially out of rehab.”

(On immigration after Sept 11) “The Statue of Liberty is no longer saying, ‘Give me your poor, your tired, your huddled masses.’ She’s got a baseball bat and yelling, ‘You want a piece of me?’”

(On the American economy) “And you can’t blame the economy on [George W. Bush]. They say the economy is essentially sound because people are considering buying things. That’s like saying fat people are healthy because they might exercise.”

(On Osama bin Laden) “We can’t find him, but he’s a 6-foot-5 Arab on dialysis. Call me crazy, but look for a guy connected to his luggage.”

“My only hope is when those terrorists get to heaven, they meet up with the kind of virgins we had in Catholic school: Sister Mike Ditka from Our Mother of Eternal Retribution.”

“When the media ask George W. Bush a question, he answers, “Can I use a lifeline?”

“You’ll notice that Bush never speaks when Cheney is drinking water.”

“Having George W. Bush giving a lecture on business ethics is like having a leper give you a facial, it just doesn’t work!

[Thanks to Daniel Kurtzman at About.com]

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Obvious

About the time that Jonathan Saenz became the president of Texas Values, he was going through a divorce. But court documents from the divorce have now become public, which may explain why Saenz became one of the most active lobbyists against gay rights (endorsing gay conversion therapy and even siding against anti-gay bullying victims).

According to the court records, Saenz’ wife left him for a woman.

This would be hilarious, except that there are children involved, and Saenz has joint custody with his wife. You gotta feel sorry for those kids. Saenz has attempted multiple times to bar his ex-wife’s girlfriend from being in the presence of the children, but those attempts have all been unsuccessful.

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Cursed!

A state-of-the-union curse? Hundreds of microwaves from Walmart used to make health supplements out of tobacco? Snake oil? Corruption? Influence peddling? Affairs? Nut bags?

Indeed, in politics, truth is often stranger than any fiction.

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Revenge of the Brownshirts

Last week, I posted about governor Sam Brownback, and how his conservative revolution in Kansas has left the state a mess.

Well, this week a new poll is showing that support for Brownback’s challenger has surged, giving Democrat Paul Davis a 10-point lead.

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Who Ya Gonna Call?

Ruben Bolling
© Ruben Bolling

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Statute of Limitations

I guess it is official now. On a radio show on Sunday, former Veep Dick Cheney declared “They can’t blame George Bush anymore“. From now on, everything that goes wrong in this country is the fault of Barack Obama.

In fact, Cheney says that he traces “most” of the problems in Washington to the current administration, and added “I think he’s been a failure as a president.”

Now what I find really ironic is that Cheney says is the worst thing Obama has done is “dramatically cutting back the defense budget, year after year after year.” His evidence? “I just read a piece this morning in the Stars and Stripes that they’re getting ready to lay off 500 majors in the U.S. army. Not long ago they did the same thing with a large group of captains.” Even though we still spend more on our military than the next largest fifty countries combined.

And as some readers have pointed out, is Cheney just pretending to be ignorant of the fact that the budget for the military is set by Congress, not the president?

Also, Cheney seems to be still fighting the wars from 50 years ago, and doesn’t seem to understand that the world has changed. Sending a bunch of troops into Iraq after 9/11 and toppling Saddam Hussein seems to have made things much much worse there, not better. And hasn’t done much good in Afghanistan either.

Did Cheney and Bush manage to take out Osama bin Laden? I guess they needed more majors and captains.

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Second Amendment Silliness

Shannon Wheeler
© Shannon Wheeler

After all, the second amendment doesn’t specifically exclude nuclear weapons. So don’t I have a constitutionally guaranteed right to build one?

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First Amendment Follies

Jen Sorensen
© Jen Sorensen

Hey you, citizen, shut up!

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Late Night Political Humor

“Tonight is our 100th episode. To celebrate, people sent us flowers and a big cake – which I immediately passed on to Rob Ford and Chris Christie. We couldn’t have done it without them.” – Jimmy Fallon

“Of course, we’re not the only ones celebrating. President Obama turned 53 years old today. Obama blew out his candles and made a wish. But when he opened his eyes, he was still president.” – Jimmy Fallon

“It is our president’s birthday. It’s also the birthday of NASCAR champ Jeff Gordon. Jeff Gordon and President Obama are very different, of course. One’s a guy who spent his whole life turning left and is hated by NASCAR fans. And the other one? Jeff Gordon.” – Craig Ferguson

“Happy birthday to President Obama. He turned 53 today, if you believe the birth certificate.” – Seth Meyers

“Happy birthday to President Obama. He turned 53 today, according to his birth certificate. The truth is he’s actually 55 years old but Congress blocked his last two birthdays.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“President Obama is turning 53 while his face and hair are turning 68. Congratulations to all three of them.” – Seth Meyers

“Tonight President Obama blew out the candles on the gluten-free broccoli and carrot loaf from Michelle, and then cried himself to sleep. She did let him smell a piece of cake.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“Congress wanted to surprise President Obama on his birthday so they passed a bill.” – Seth Meyers

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Spotty Posts

I’ll be on the road for a week, so posts might be a bit spotty. Get out and enjoy the last month of summer!

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Late Night Political Humor

“Yesterday the House of Representatives voted to sue President Obama for abusing his executive powers. Experts are calling this a meaningless political stunt that’s a huge waste of taxpayer money, while Congress is saying, ‘Yep. That’s what we do.’” – Jimmy Fallon

“The House voted 225-201 to sue President Obama. That’s the bad news. The good news is that Congress actually passed something.” – Jimmy Fallon

“Congress is now getting ready to take a month off. From what?” – David Letterman

“Congress will take the whole month of August off. From what, exactly, I don’t know.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“Today marks the last day before Congress takes its summer recess. They’re taking five weeks off. Five weeks. I hope they can get used to doing nothing.” – Seth Meyers

“When Congress adjourns for the summer. It’s a tradition that dates back to a time when Congress actually did things.” – Bill Maher

“Members of Congress need to recharge their batteries for another year of gridlock.” – David Letterman

“Congress is about to head off on their August recess, which seems appropriate. Adults go on vacation, children go on recess.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“Sometimes you wonder about these guys in Congress. Are they there at all?” – David Letterman

“A new study says that Republicans are more religious than Democrats. But I don’t think that includes President Obama praying every day for his term to end.” – David Letterman

“Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg told reporters that despite her age she does not plan on retiring and is likely to remain on the court for a while – after which she was immediately traded to the New York Knicks.” – Seth Meyers

“North Korea has opened a summer camp where kids from around the world can swim, play volleyball, and learn about the country’s culture. It’s the first camp in history where kids tell ghost stories to feel safer.” – Jimmy Fallon

“I read that PETA is now saying they’ll pay off people’s water bills if they agree to go vegan for 30 days. Or in other words, you can get PETA to pay off your water bill if you can lie for 30 days.” – Jimmy Fallon

“Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is facing criticism for accidentally showing the phone numbers of his supporters in a new campaign commercial. In response, people said, ‘No biggie — I gave him a fake number, anyway.’” – Jimmy Fallon

“Right now, available only in San Francisco, is an app where you can get marijuana delivered right to your door. Whoever pairs this with a pizza delivery app probably will get the Nobel Prize.” – Jimmy Kimmel

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How’s that Working Out for Ya, Kansas?

In 2010, former ultra-conservative Senator Sam Brownback was elected governor of Kansas. Then, with massive help from the Koch brothers (who are headquartered in Wichita), he engineered a Tea Party takeover of the legislature, which became the most conservative state legislature in the nation by purging virtually all of their moderate Republicans (the Democrats having been long vanquished).

With hard right conservatives in full political control of the state (and declaring that the reason that the GOP lost the presidency in 2012 was because Romney and the Republicans were not conservative enough), they implemented the right-wing experiment to end all experiments. The GOP may have been unable to push their agenda at the national level, but, by God, they were going to show what they could do to establish their conservative utopia in Kansas!

So what happens when the right-wing conservative fringe gets complete, unfettered control to try things their way?

They did exactly what hard-line social conservatives have been saying they wanted to do: they slashed funding for education by the largest amount in the state’s history (including eliminating arts programs entirely), and waged war against teacher’s unions. They privatized Medicaid and refused the ACA Medicaid expansion, leaving a large swath of the poor without health insurance. They defunded Planned Parenthood and enacted one of the strongest anti-abortion laws in the country (declaring that life begins at fertilization, and requiring doctors to warn their patients that abortions can lead to breast cancer, which is false).

Brownback welcomed religion into the state government, even writing the words “JESUS + Mary” at the top of the anti-abortion bill when he signed it. They passed gun laws that declared that Kansas did not have to observe federal gun laws under its “sovereign” status, prohibited all county and city governments from regulating firearms and ammunition, and allowing schools to arm teachers and principals.

And they also did exactly what hard-line fiscal conservatives have been saying they wanted to do: They cut taxes. Well, they cut taxes for the rich, and actually raised taxes for the poorest 20%. Brownback hired Arthur Laffer as a consultant on tax policy (you may recall Laffer as Reagan’s lead proponent of supply-side, trickle down economics, now discredited). The legislature then passed a state budget that even many Republicans balked at because it was too austere, which converted a previous $500 million budget surplus into a stunning $267 million deficit (state governments cannot run a budget deficit, unlike the federal government).

Laffer told more than 200 people at a small-business forum in Kansas that there is a war among states over tax policy and that nowhere is that revolution more powerful than in Kansas. He said Kansas’ tax cuts and political shifts will produce “enormous prosperity” for the state.

So how are things going so far? Did the Koch brother’s libertarian dream pan out?

Well, the draconian spending cuts inhibited growth in the state. While other states have recovered from the Bush recession, the Kansas economy has lagged behind. In May, Moody’s Investors Service downgraded the bond rating for both the state and for its transportation department, citing “Kansas’ relatively sluggish recovery compared with its peers” and worrying about “an underfunded retirement system for which the state is not making required contributions.”

Not surprisingly, Brownback’s approval rating is so low he is in grave danger of losing re-election. Recently, more than 100 Republicans endorsed Brownback’s Democratic opponent for the governor’s seat, even though mass defections like this are rare in state politics.

Kansas is just the latest victim of the triumph of ideology over reality. Will we ever learn?

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The cure is worse than the disease

Adam Zyglis
© Adam Zyglis

The Republicans have still not given us their promised alternative to Obamacare. And it is very unlikely they ever will. In fact, I think about the only thing they have consistently promoted that is not already in the ACA is tort reform, which they claim will lower the cost of malpractice insurance to doctors by reducing frivolous lawsuits. Oh the hypocrisy.

UPDATE: Jon Stewart makes the same point:

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