"Seasons Greetings"? No "Merry Christmas"?! Fox "News" is gonna be furious.
P.S. A few selected thoughts of mine on the events in Ferguson this evening, from throughout the night on Twitter, follow below...
w/ Brad & Desi
BARCODED BALLOTS AND BALLOT MARKING DEVICES
BMDs pose a new threat to democracy in all 50 states...
VIDEO: 'Rise of the Tea Bags'
Brad interviews American patriots...
'Democracy's Gold Standard'
Hand-marked, hand-counted ballots...
GOP Voter Registration Fraud Scandal 2012...
The Secret Koch Brothers Tapes...
|MORE BRAD BLOG 'SPECIAL COVERAGE' PAGES...|
"Seasons Greetings"? No "Merry Christmas"?! Fox "News" is gonna be furious.
P.S. A few selected thoughts of mine on the events in Ferguson this evening, from throughout the night on Twitter, follow below...
Election officials in St. Louis County, Missouri were repeatedly warned by local Election Integrity advocates that a plan to supply enough paper ballots for only 15% of the electorate at polling places on Election Day there would not be enough, according to emails obtained by The BRAD BLOG.
The emails, sent well before Election Day, expressed concern and doubt about "enough paper ballots at every polling place on November 4th to cover all of the voters who would like to have one," as one of advocates wrote to the Democratic Director of Elections in St. Louis County.
The warnings were ignored, the missives suggest, and, as reported by local media, the result was a widespread shortage of paper ballots on Election Day 2014 at sites throughout the county, including in the embattled city of Ferguson, MO. Throughout the county, the shortage of ballots resulted in long lines and voters who were turned away or forced to vote on 100% unverifiable touch-screen systems which the county has long encouraged voters to use. Some precincts were required to stay open at least an hour after the normal closing time in order to accommodate those who were in line to vote before the close of polls at 7pm local time.
St. Louis Public Radio reported the day after the election that "unexpected demand for paper ballots caused a shortage at about 95 polling places throughout the county Tuesday. That's more than 20 percent of the county's 444 balloting sites."
"The paper shortage," they explained, "was the biggest unexpected problem on Election Day."
But, in truth, it wasn't unexpected at all, at least according to emails we reviewed to and from the county's chief election official, suggesting that the Board of Elections simply ignored the clear warnings they had received from local Election Integrity experts...
It's been happening for years now. On the day after elections like last Tuesday's, media figures begin navel gazing to figure out how pre-election polls, created by dozens of independent pollsters using dozens of different methodologies, could all find the same thing but turn out to be so wrong once the election results are in.
The presumption is that the results are always right, and if they don't match the pre-election polling, its the polling that must be wrong, as opposed to the election results.
On Wednesday morning, after Tuesday's mid-term election surprise in which Republicans reportedly won handily in race after race despite pre-election polls almost unanimously predicting much closer races or outright Democratic victories, FiveThirtyEight statistics guru Nate Silver declared "The Polls Were Skewed Toward Democrats".
His analysis of aggregated averages from dozens of different pollsters and polls this year found that the performance of Democrats was overestimated by approximately 4 percentage points in Senate races and 3.4 points in gubernatorial contests. Silver's assessment relies on a "simple average of all polls released in the final three weeks of the campaign," as compared to the (unofficial and almost entirely unverified) election results reported on Tuesday night. He doesn't suggest there was anything nefarious in the polling bias towards Dems this year, simply that the pollsters got it wrong for a number of speculative reasons.
Citing the fact that nearly all of the polls suggested Democrats would do much better than they ultimately did, when compared to the reported election results, Silver asserts it wasn't that the polls were more wrong that usual, per se, but that almost all of them were wrong in a way that appears to have overestimated Democratic performance on Election Day.
"This year's polls were not especially inaccurate," he explains. "Between gubernatorial and Senate races, the average poll missed the final result by an average of about 5 percentage points --- well in line with the recent average. The problem is that almost all of the misses were in the same direction."
Silver is much smarter than I when it comes to numbers; I'm happy to presume he has the basic math right. But he seems to have a blind spot in his presumption that the pre-election polls were wrong and the election results were right. That, despite the lack of verification of virtually any of the results from Tuesday night, despite myriad and widespread if almost completely ignored problems and failures at polls across the country that day, and despite systematic voter suppression and dirty tricks that almost certainly resulted in election results (verified or otherwise) that were skewed toward Republicans...
After several conversations with the poll workers as to why I would not vote on unverifiable machines, I said I was prepared to sit here and wait for the ballots that were "in route".
They had already broken down the stands for the paper voting and there were 5 other people in the last of the line when at 8:10, a worker showed up with the ballots. Karma win!
Not sure what that means politically, but we like the "Karma win!" St. Louis County has been notoriously terrible at forcing voters to use 100% unverifiable touch-screen systems over the years, even though all Missouri voters are allowed to vote on paper ballots --- if they know to ask one.
Good work, Carey! Thank you for fighting for a verifiable vote --- especially in Missouri and particularly in Ferguson!
UPDATE 7:09p PT: A family member of ours from St. Louis County, MO calls to say that paper ballots ran out in many locations, and that voters are still in line two hours after polls have closed. If you were in line as of poll close at 7p CT, you are still allowed to vote. Keep waiting, St. Louis voters!
UPDATE 12:44a PT: A few more strange details about all of this, reported by local media today, seem worth noting here for now...
Earlier this week I wrote about Charlie Grapski's attempt to get at the Ferguson and St. Louis County Police Department's documentation on Officer Darren Wilson's killing of Michael Brown via a long string of public records requests under the Missouri Sunshine Act law.
On this week's BradCast on KPFK/Pacifica Radio, I spoke with Grapski, who heads up PhotographyIsNotACrime.com's new Opens Records Project, concerning his tireless efforts to obtain the real Incident Report and other documentation of Brown's shooting from either department --- if such documentation actually exists, as is required by law.
Grapski explains that, based on some pretty solid evidence he's received in response to his open records requests to date, he believes "it's more likely than not" that an actual Incident Report of the event was created by the police, but that "they have withheld it." If so, that would amount to a criminal cover-up and a very serious violation of the law. Listen to my full conversation with him for much more.
Also this week, an update to our interview last week with Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) regarding his legislation to demilitarize the police: The President has announced a task force to review the Pentagon's 1033 program that has transferred billions in surplus arms and other military equipment to local police around the nation. We also covered the latest maddening news in the story of U.S. District Court Judge Mark Fuller --- who presided over the
trial political prosecution of former AL Gov. Don Siegelman (D) --- as the George W. Bush lifetime appointee to the federal bench attempts to avoid his own prosecution all together after having been recently arrested on charges of beating his wife bloody in an Atlanta hotel room.
Plus: The latest on the GOP's Photo ID voting battle in WI; Rick Perry's latest "oops"; the newly published, secretly-recorded audio tapes revealing, once again, how the Republicans and the Koch Brothers now have a death-grip on democracy; and, as usual, the latest Green News Report with the lovely Desi Doyen, and a few other things.
Lots of news, muck-raking and trouble-making in just under 58 minutes. Please enjoy!...
Download MP3 or listen online below...
As noted previously, I am originally from (and embarrassed for) St. Louis County, MO. Recently, I spoke to a family member for the first time since the mess blew up in Ferguson, and she told me that, while troubled by it, she was willing to "wait until all the information came out" before passing judgment one way or another.
But, as I explained, there is no need to wait. Judgment may already be passed. No matter we may later learn, the police in Ferguson and St. Louis County broke the law and violated their own written policies by not detailing what happened in an Incident Report after Ferguson Police officer Darren Wilson gunned down Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American teenager, in the middle of the street more than two weeks ago.
That, pretty much, tells you all you need to know in order to pass judgment. Whatever happened during that tragic afternoon, the local police immediately began either covering it up or lying about it. How else to explain the lack of an Incident Report, which must be filed after any such incident?
After the shooting, many wondered why the police hadn't released their Incident Report of the event to the public. After all, they released a full report, and surveillance video, from a convenience store incident where they allege Brown had shoplifted some cigars just minutes prior to his killing. So, where was the Incident Report describing the matter in which Wilson shot Brown dead just minutes later during an unrelated confrontation on the street? We now know there was no such report, at least according to the documents finally released by the police themselves. The laughably terse "Incident Report" eventually released by the St. Louis County Police (the Ferguson Police never released one of their own), includes little more than a date and an address where the shooting occurred, but no other information about what actually happened.
Moreover, dates on the few documents released make it fairly plain that the Incident Report released to the public, bereft of actual information about the, ya know, incident, was filed some two weeks after the actual killing.
In a long, detailed and meticulously-documented post at PhotographyIsNotACrime.com (PINAC) on Monday, Charlie Grapski outlines a string of public records requests he filed with Ferguson and St. Louis County police in an attempt to get at the Incident Report (and other documents) related to Brown's shooting.
The upshot: there were no contemporaneous reports of the incident at best, or, more nefariously, there was an Incident Report, but the local police have since destroyed it, or are otherwise covering the entire affair up by not releasing it to the public and lying about it...
In response to concerns about the militarization of local police, which America has seen on shameful display in Ferguson, MO following the police killing of Michael Brown, President Obama indicated during a presser last Monday that there could be some change coming.
"There is a big difference between our military and our local law enforcement, and we don't want those line blurred," he said about the horses which long ago left the barn. "That would be contrary to our traditions."
He added: "I think that there will be some bi-partisan interest in re-examining some of those programs."
On Saturday, Obama announced an official review of the Pentagon's "1033 Program" which, since 1990, has transferred, for free, some $4 billion worth of surplus military equipment, such as Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles, armored Humvees, high-caliber weapons, aircraft, armed drones and silencers, to local law enforcement agencies around the country. As CNN has just reported:
The decision follows public criticism of the use of such assets recently in Ferguson, Missouri.
The review will touch on several points, including
-- Whether such programs and funding are appropriate;
-- Whether state and local enforcement agencies have the necessary training and guidance after getting such equipment;
-- Whether the federal government is sufficiently auditing the use of equipment obtained through federal programs and funding.
White House staff --- including members of the Domestic Policy Council, the National Security Council, the Office of Management and Budget --- will lead the review in coordination with Congress, according to the official.
Reuters adds that "relevant U.S. agencies including the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Justice and Treasury," will also participate in the review.
Last week, we reported on the small, but seemingly growing bi-partisan support for re-thinking the federal militarization of local law enforcement agencies. The rightwing New American, citing some of our coverage, has more on the bi-partisan calls for reform, noting that the "SWAT Lobby" (yes, apparently there's a "SWAT Lobby") is now working to defend the program.
On this week's BradCast we interviewed Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA), a proponent of blocking the transfer of this kind of militarized equipment and for including accountability measures for the billions of dollars worth of equipment which has already been given to local agencies.
"My main hope is to stop the flow of this military grade equipment to local law enforcement agencies throughout America," Johnson told us during the interview on KPFK/Pacifica Radio. "We've been flooding the streets with this surplus military weaponry, and I think the situation in Ferguson exemplifies what happens when you have too much powerful equipment in the hands of folks who don't have the judgment or the training to utilize it properly." (Full interview here.)
The latest version of Johnson's "Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act" [PDF] is here. The Congressman had begun work on the legislation long before Ferguson erupted, but is finally receiving recognition for that effort. Now, it seems, he and other proponents may have some support from the White House. But, we'll see. These "reviews" have a way of disappearing into the ether. Legislation like Johnson's, on the other hand, is what is needed to really make a difference in this shameful practice, which has, in truth, become little more than a way around the long-standing Posse Comitatus Act (1878) which expressly limited the use of federal military personnel to enforce local and state laws.
I was joined on this week's KPFK/Pacifica Radio BradCast by Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA), to discuss his "Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act" [PDF] which he plans to introduce when the U.S. House returns from their endless recess in September.
He's been at work on the bill long before the local "RoboCops" hit the streets when Ferguson, Missouri blew up recently after the police killing of Michael Brown. As Johnson described the legislation in his March 2014 USA Today op-ed, presciently headlined "Small town American shouldn't resemble a war zone", the bill would "ban MRAPs, other armored personnel carriers, drones, assault weapons and aircraft" from being transferred to local police departments under the Pentagon's "1033 Program" and "ensure that the Department of Defense undertakes an annual accounting of what's been transferred, by whom and to whom to prevent military items from being auctioned on eBay or sold to friends."
"My main hope is to stop the flow of this military grade equipment to local law enforcement agencies throughout America," Johnson told me during our interview today. "We've been flooding the streets with this surplus military weaponry, and I think the situation in Ferguson exemplifies what happens when you have too much powerful equipment in the hands of folks who don't have the judgment or the training to utilize it properly."
But has the horse already left the barn on this issue? And does the Congressman stand a chance of getting his bill through our broken U.S. Congress, even with some apparent bi-partisan support for curbing police militarization from folks like Republican 2016 Presidential hopeful Sen. Rand Paul, who recently called for the same in a Time magazine op-ed? You'll have to listen below to hear Johnson's thoughts on those questions.
After the Congressman left, I discussed a few other related items, such as the voter registration drive now taking place in Ferguson, and took a bunch of calls on all of the above, including at least one amazing one, in which the caller named "Al" insisted that "minorities are in worse shape than they've ever been" in this country. He says that "since 1965 we have been going down hill as a nation." Hmm... I wonder what might have happened during that year to make him feel that way?
I hope you'll enjoy this week's program...
Download MP3 or listen online below...
Encouraging more participation in the democratic process in a community that feels alienated from political power - hence the demonstrations - seems like an obviously good idea; and one that's particularly compelling because it's so simple. Voting is an alternative to protesting in the streets.
And yet, the executive director of the Missouri Republican Party, Matt Wills, denounced the plan.
Mr. Wills told the right-wing website Breitbart: "If that's not fanning the political flames, I don't know what is. I think it's not only disgusting but completely inappropriate."
On another right-wing site, Red State, Dan McLaughlin also argued that there was something indecent about the registration drive. Ferguson presents an opportunity for "Right and Left" to find "common ground," he wrote. But "the minute you turn your energies into just another effort to register Democratic voters and fire up the Democratic base in advance of an election," he argued, "the harder you make it to keep the common ground from vanishing in the fog."
Who said anything about "register[ing] Democratic voters"?
"Voter registration for #Ferguson residents is at the QT & the crime scene. SIGN UP. Get on the juries, choose your leaders," tweeted attorney and activist @ReignOfApril. "Voter Registration is a brilliant way to honor #MichaelBrown's memory. It's a positive reaction to horrible situation," wrote @Koursey in reply.
While the city of Ferguson is two-thirds African-American, the vast majority of their police force and almost all local elected officials are not.
"Though whites make up just 29% of the city's residents," reports MSNBC's Zachary Roth, "five of Ferguson's six city council members are white, as is Mayor James Knowles. And six of the local school board's seven members are white."
"We warned people about these kinds of things," John Gaskin of the Missouri NAACP told Roth. "Who hires the police officers? The police chief. Who hires the police chief? The mayor. Who hires the mayor? Who elects the council folks?"
As the Times' Lapidos goes on to note, "Mr. Sharpton did not say that the residents of Ferguson should vote for Democrats; he said they should vote, full stop." She adds: "Isn't it telling that both Mr. Wills and Mr. McLaughlin make no distinction between voter registration and Democratic registration?"
For the record, Ferguson's local elections are nonpartisan.
(Separately, kudos to the Times' Lapidos for describing those two websites for what they are, "right-wing", rather than usual "conservative". It must not have been easy to get that past the Times' editors, even though it's completely accurate. Or maybe the paper has changed their previously unhelpful style rules under their new Executive Editor Dean Baquet, along with this one. Either way, truth in reporting there is accurate, a great change of pace and far more helpful to the electorate.)
The "streets" did not "flare up". The cops in Ferguson flared it up, perhaps, according to pretty much all of the live coverage we followed for hours last night on TV, on the web and, most crucially, on Twitter.
No clue what "problem" Fire Boy above thought he was trying to solve with his 9/11 Wars souvenir, but you can bet it hasn't been solved.
We recently wrote a "Tale of Two Protests" comparing the mostly peaceful protesters of Ferguson, MO following the police shooting of unarmed African-American teen Michael Brown, to the threatening armed protests by supporters of scofflaw rancher Cliven Bundy in Bunkerville, NV earlier this year.
Where the amped-up, Hollywoodized, militarization of the police in Ferguson has resulted, largely, in making the cops look like clowns and idiots for their over-aggressive tactics and firepower (see the front page of today's St. Louis Post-Dispatch above for just the latest example of that buffoonery, here's more), the amped-up, Hollywoodized, militarization of the so-called "Tea Party" "patriot" protesters in Bunkerville and their semi-automatic rifles trained on the heads of law enforcement officials, succeeded in little more than making those protesters look like clowns and idiots. It also offered an apparently compelling reason as to why law enforcement "needs" to arm up in response to such deadly, direct threats.
Meanwhile, over at his own blog today, Patrick Blanchfield offers a related observation of the shameful differences between the nation's treatment of a rancher who stole more than a million dollars from the federal government in Bunkerville, versus the kid in Ferguson who was shot at least six times by a police officer after having, allegedly, taking a handful of cigars from a convenience store. And its additionally embarrassing.
[An updated version of this article has now been published by Salon. Updates to the version posted here, following the weekend's developments in Ferguson, are posted at the end of the article.]
On Wednesday night, I had snarked on Twitter about the lack of so-called "Tea Party" "patriots" --- like those brave boys and girls who, earlier this year, pointed their big assault-rifles at federal officials to protect the "right" of a scofflaw rancher in Nevada to illegally graze his cattle for free on land that he did not own --- failing to show up to protect the actual rights and freedoms of so many being denied them by actual Big Government Tyranny in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri.
Some Rightwingers, like libertarian Justin Raimondo of Antiwar.com shot back at me (figuratively) on Twitter, arguing that "The Bundy patriots didn't take BS from the cops. They stood and fought," adding that the Ferguson protesters were facing the "same fight" and, had those protesters only brought guns with them, the police would have backed down. Or something.
"Would the cops be murdering blacks in #Ferguson if the people were armed? No," Raimondo told me, as if he just arrived in the U.S. from some other planet. "Armed resistance tends to discourage aggression," he insisted, between some silly ad hominem bluster in which he charged me with "worship[ing]" the government, and "lov[ing] the state that murders blacks" (also of being a "loser" with a "fat ass" or some such, but that's even easier to laugh at).
And then something changed on the streets of Ferguson Thursday night, which made Raimondo's comments seem even more transparently silly.
After the fully-militarized police were pulled away, ordered by the Missouri Governor to be replaced by grown-ups who marched with the protesters, calm and even jubilance returned to the previously tear gas-filled streets of Ferguson, MO. The contrast on Thursday night from the days prior couldn't have been more stark, according to virtually everyone on the ground there. It was the police, not the protesters, who had exacerbated roiling racial tensions, arrested reporters and needlessly filled the streets with panic and tear gas in the days prior, just as assuredly as it was a Ferguson cop who killed Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American teen who was supposedly stopped for nothing more than alleged "Jay Walking".
It was peaceful citizens, with their empty hands in the air --- not pretend "patriots" aiming long guns at the buffoonish, intimidating, embarrassing, jungle-camouflaged-in-exurban-streets cops --- who may ultimately be seen as the ones who helped begin a national rollback of the absurd militarization, perhaps better described as "Hollywoodization," of our nation's law enforcement organizations.
It was not armed resistance, but peaceful resistance that may have brought about real, if tenuous, change in Ferguson, and maybe even the rest of the country...
It's not enough that the police are killing unarmed African-Americans in Ferguson, Missouri. Now they're arresting journalists like Huffington Post's Ryan Reilly and Washington Post's Wesley Lowery for sitting in a McDonald's to recharge their cell phones while writing up their coverage of the protests and militarized police riots in response to the police killing of Michael Brown.
Read Reilly's account of his arrest here ("They essentially acted as a military force), and Lowery's here ("'My hands are behind my back,' I said. 'I’m not resisting. I’m not resisting.' At which point one officer said: 'You’re resisting. Stop resisting.'")
Here's a statement sent out tonight by HuffPo's Washington bureau chief Ryan Grim following the arrest, and subsequent release of Reilly and Lowery...
"Ryan was working on his laptop in a McDonald's near the protests in Ferguson, MO, when police barged in, armed with high-powered weapons, and began clearing the restaurant. Ryan photographed the intrusion, and police demanded his ID in response. Ryan, as is his right, declined to provide it. He proceeded to pack up his belongings, but was subsequently arrested for not packing up fast enough. Both Ryan and Wesley were assaulted.
"Compared to some others who have come into contact with the police department, they came out relatively unscathed, but that in no way excuses the false arrest or the militant aggression toward these journalists. Ryan, who has reported multiple times from Guantanamo Bay, said that the police resembled soldiers more than officers, and treated those inside the McDonald's as 'enemy combatants.' Police militarization has been among the most consequential and unnoticed developments of our time, and it is now beginning to affect press freedom."
With all due respect to Grim, and I have much, while "police militarization" has, indeed, been among the most consequential developments of our time, it has not gone "unnoticed" and it has been "affect[ing] press freedom" for quite some time. The BRAD BLOG burned quite a few late-night pixels in a whole bunch of stories back in 2011 during the hey-day of the Occupy Movement trying to make exactly that point loud and clear, and again in 2012 when journalists were being arrested for their coverage. (And, certainly, years earlier than that as well.)
At the time, we also noted that the pretend patriots of the "Tea Party" movement didn't seem to give a damn about any of it, which still rings true today, as we echoed tonight on Twitter while we catching up with the evening's ongoing madness in #Ferguson...
Just a quick thanks to all those Bundy Ranch "patriots" for coming down to #Ferguson and standing up to Big Govt Tyranny.
— Brad Friedman (@TheBradBlog) August 14, 2014
But I'm certain the "patriots" will be arriving anytime now to help restore liberty to the citizens of Ferguson, unless they're home polishing their big manly rifles so they can help "protect our American rights and freedoms"...
Missouri's Democratic Governor Jay Nixon had an opportunity to encourage people to quit smoking. He didn't take it. In fact, he actually made the choice to help encourage people to continue smoking, despite the fact the deadly habit kills nearly half a million people in the U.S. alone each year.
On Monday, the Governor vetoed Senate Bill 841. While the legislation would have restricted the sale of nicotine vaping products such as e-cigarettes to minors, and required sellers to receive a license from the state, it also exempted the non-lethal devices and products --- which are quickly becoming very popular as a method to quit smoking --- from existing laws and taxes levied against harmful tobacco products.
"This bill appears to be nothing more than a thinly disguised and cynical attempt to exempt e-cigarettes from taxes and regulations protecting public health," Nixon said in his veto message.
This sort of dangerous short-sightedness, unfortunately, is not unusual for Democrats, of late. It also flies in the face of both science and common sense...
Hey! Great news! Just in time to practice up your hacking skills before the 2014 mid-term elections, you can now buy your very own ES&S iVotronic touch-screen voting system from eBay!...
Yes, the very same voting systems that are so incredibly sensitive and vulnerable to tampering (and which have failed so often in so many states and in so many elections) that both election officials and Elections Systems & Software, Inc. (ES&S) have long attempted to keep them out of the hands of the public, can now be yours for just $499.99 or "Best Offer" via eBay! And that includes Free Shipping!
And, oh, look! One of them is already sold!...
A Few Great Blogs
· Baghdad Burning
· Brilliant at Breakfast
· Crooks and Liars
· Dan Froomkin
· Fired Up! Missouri
· Freedom's Phoenix
· Freeway Blogger
· Glenn Greenwald
· Huffington Post
· Jesus' General
· Juan Cole
· Washington Monthly
· Media Matters
· Nashua Advocate
· Oliver Willis
· RAW STORY
· Sanoma State's
Project Censored Sites:
· Daily Censored
· Media Freedom
· Project Censored
· Scholars & Rogues
· Skippy the Bush Kangaroo
· Talking Points Memo
· Think Progress
· Tom Tomorrow
· TV Newser
· Ben Sargent
· Bill Deore
· Bob Gorrell
· Cagle's Index
· Chan Lowe
· Don Wright
· Doug Marlette
· Glenn McCoy
· Jeff Danziger
· Joel Pett
· Mike Luckovich
· Non Sequitur
· Not Banned Yet
· Pat Oliphant
· Paul Conrad
· Ted Rall
· This Modern World
· Thomas Burns
· Tom Toles
· Tony Auth
· Stuart Carlson
Or by Snail Mail
Make check out to...
7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594
Los Angeles, CA 90028