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Ferguson police extend pattern of bungling

Ferguson police extend pattern of bungling

08/15/14 10:31PM

Rachel Maddow reviews the remarkable developments in the past day in Ferguson, Missouri and the case of the police shooting death of Michael Brown, including the bungled, mishandling of information released by the local police chief. watch

Friday's Mini-Report, 8.15.14

08/15/14 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* Failing to inspire confidence: "The law enforcement official overseeing security in Ferguson said Friday he was not notified before the Ferguson Police Department announced that Michael Brown was a suspect in a robbery the day he was killed."
 
* When I heard chatter about this one earlier, I honestly thought it was some awful joke. Apparently, it's real: "Police in Ferguson, Missouri, once charged a man with destruction of property for bleeding on their uniforms while four of them allegedly beat him."
 
* Inching towards war? "NATO and Ukraine said that a column of military vehicles crossed into Ukraine from Russia Thursday night, and Ukraine later said that most of them had been destroyed by artillery fire. It was not clear whether Russian soldiers or rebel separatists were driving the vehicles."
 
* Boko Haram: "Nigeria's Boko Haram militant group kidnapped 100 people earlier this month but most were freed by security forces from neighboring Chad, a Nigerian security official and a local self-defense member said Friday."
 
* Ebola: "West Africa's deadly Ebola epidemic is probably much worse than the world realizes, with health centers on the front lines warning that the actual numbers of deaths and illnesses are significantly higher than the official estimates, the World Health Organization said."
 
* Sensible scrutiny: "The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee will look into the program that provides Pentagon surplus to local police before the full Senate considers the next defense authorization."
 
* On a related note, this is a fascinating interactive map: "Mapping the Spread of the Military's Surplus Gear."
 
* I guess this was predictable?" Gun sales spiked in the region around Ferguson, Missouri, this week, as police face off with protesters in what until Thursday night was an around-the-clock stand-off many analogized to a war zone."
Standing in the parking lot of a gas station which was burned during rioting, Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson announces the name of the Ferguson police officer responsible for the August 9, shooting death of teenager Michael Brown on August 15, 2014

Jaywalking?

08/15/14 04:28PM

When Thomas Jackson, the police chief of Ferguson, Missouri, talked to reporters this morning, it was mostly to give information about Michael Brown, not the shooting that killed Michael Brown. Jackson shared the name of the officer who shot the unarmed teen, Darren Wilson, but also released details about Brown allegedly stealing cigars from a convenience store shortly before his death.
 
But something didn't seem quite right. Earlier in the week, the police chief also said Brown had not been stopped by police because of any criminal activity. So, if Wilson had no idea Brown was accused of stealing cigars just minutes before their encounter, why was the teenager approached in the first place? For jaywalking.
...Darren Wilson, the officer who stopped Brown, wasn't even aware that Brown was a suspect in the robbery, Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson said Friday afternoon. He initially stopped Brown and his friend, Dorian Johnson, because the pair was walking in the middle of the street, Jackson said.
The chief specifically told reporters this afternoon that Brown and his friend were approached "because they were walking down the middle of the street, blocking traffic."
 
This is what Brown's friend, Dorian Johnson, has said all along. It seemed odd to think a police officer would approach two robbery suspects by telling them to get back on the sidewalk, but that's not what happened -- they were told to go to the sidewalk because they were jaywalking. The officer didn't know anything about what transpired at the convenience store just minutes prior.
 
So why would the Ferguson police department release the information about Brown and the cigars to the public if it was unrelated to Saturday's shooting and the ensuing chaos? Because, Jackson said, he was responding to a FOIA request.
 
On the one hand, if it's good for the local police to make themselves available to journalists. On the other, I'm not sure Chief Jackson is making things better right now.
Sen. Lindsey Graham speaks during a campaign stop at American Legion Post 20 on Wednesday, April 23, 2014, in Greenwood, S.C.

Lindsey Graham demands more ISIS fear mongering

08/15/14 03:34PM

Earlier this week, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) laid down a marker: if President Obama "does not go on the offensive" against ISIS, Americans should blame the president in the event of a domestic attack. Yesterday, the Republican senator was a little more specific about his expectations.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) late Thursday accused President Obama of ignoring the threat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an extremist group, poses to the U.S. homeland.
 
"I'm disappointed in the commander in chief for not addressing the threat that [ISIS] presents to the United States," said Graham on Fox News's "On the Record." "Not leveling with the American people that the threat we face is not just in Iraq and Syria, but these people intend to attack us here at home and he has no strategy to deal with that.
 
"That's what the intelligence community is telling me and every other member of Congress," he continued. "These people intend to hit us here."
Now, when Graham says he's "disappointed" that Obama hasn't "addressed" the ISIS threat, he doesn't mean as a matter of national-security. It's not as if the intelligence community has tried to warn the president, only to be dismissed with indifference and a casual "You've covered your ass, now."
 
Rather, the South Carolina lawmaker is being more literal: he wants Obama to address the issue by telling the public that ISIS is a bunch of terrorists that would like to kill Americans. In other words, Lindsey Graham is "disappointed" that the president hasn't scared the bejesus out of Americans.
 
And why, pray tell, does Graham want that? Only he can say for sure, of course, but it appears that the senator wants the U.S. to engage militarily in Syria and Iraq, and if Obama tells the public, "ISIS wants to kill us," then maybe Americans will support more war in the Middle East.
 
But Graham's complaints suffer from a few basic flaws.
Image: Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson announces the name of the officer involved in the shooting of Michael Brown as officer Darren Wilson, in Ferguson, Missouri

Ferguson police release new information in Brown case

08/15/14 12:51PM

Thomas Jackson, the police chief of Ferguson, Missouri, held a press conference this morning to release additional information about recent developments, including the name of the officer who shot and killed Michael Brown last weekend. We now know the officer's name is Darren Wilson, a six-year veteran of the force, and Jackson said he had not faced disciplinary action during his career.
 
What's more, the local chief said Michael Brown, the unarmed teen killed by Wilson, was suspected of allegedly stealing cigars from convenience store and having an altercation with the store's clerk. Trymaine Lee and Michele Richinick published this msnbc report:
According to the police report ... video surveillance allegedly showed Brown and his friend, Dorian Johnson, in an altercation with a store employee on Aug. 9. Brown and Johnson grabbed cigars from the store and behind the counter, the police report said. Before they left the store, the employee attempted to stop Brown from taking the merchandise, according to the report. Brown grabbed the employee by the shirt and pushed him into a display rack in the store, the report said, and Brown and Johnson left the store with the cigars.
 
The report released Friday does not appear to shed light on the details of Brown's death, and it is unclear how the officer could have been certain of Brown's involvement in the robbery earlier that morning.
The NBC News report added that a 911 call about the robbery came in at 11:51 a.m. A minute later, dispatchers gave a description of the suspect. Police confronted Brown at 12:01 p.m. and by 12:04 p.m., a second officer arrived at the scene and the accused was killed. A pdf copy of the incident report is available online here.
 
Also note, Dorian Johnson's attorney confirmed to msnbc that Brown had taken cigars from the convenience store. That, however, sheds no light on what transpired minutes later when the accused was shot.
 
Indeed, at this point, the local police department appears to have released a lot more information about the alleged robbery than the shooting itself.

Friday's Campaign Round-Up, 8.15.14

08/15/14 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items that won't necessarily generate a post of their own, but may be of interest to political observers:
 
* Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D) filed suit this week to prevent today's primary election in parts of Hawaii affected by last week's storms. A state judge yesterday ruled against her.
 
* Yesterday was the legal deadline to challenge Mississippi's Republican Senate primary, held in June. State Sen. Chris McDaniel (R) filed the paperwork before the deadline passed.
 
* Though the Associated Press called the GOP primary in Wisconsin's 6th congressional district this week, it later changed its mind. The race is now "too close to call."
 
* Zell Miller, Georgia's former Democratic governor and senator, effectively became a Republican during the Bush/Cheney era, but yesterday he threw his support to Democratic Senate candidate Michelle Nunn -- his first endorsement of a Democrat in 12 years. Ed Kilgore, an expert in Georgia politics, explained Miller's motivations.
 
* The Republican establishment is generally focused on Senate races this year, confident that the GOP will have no trouble keeping the House, but Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS nevertheless just invested $3.1 million to go after five Democratic House incumbents.
 
* In case Iowa Senate hopeful Joni Ernst (R) didn't seem quite far-right enough, note that she recently characterized Medicaid recipients as people "who have no personal responsibility for their health and no accountability for the care provided."
A sign at an Affordable Care Act outreach event in Los Angeles, California, September 28, 2013.

'Without this plan, I would probably be in the ground'

08/15/14 11:09AM

A few months ago, we were introduced to a Philadelphia-area man named Dean Angstadt who was certain he hated the Affordable Care Act. But when he ran into health trouble, a friend convinced him to give "Obamacare" a try.
 
Angstadt found a good plan that fit his budget, and which wouldn't penalize his pre-existing condition. Soon after, he had life-saving valve-replacement heart surgery. Had he not reconsidered his opposition to the ACA, Angstadt later said, he "probably would have ended up falling over dead."
 
There's a lot of that going around. Politico today noted reactions to the health care law in House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy's (R) California district.
William McKenzie is one of McCarthy's constituents who says he loves the law. The 31-year-old unemployed oil refinery worker hadn't had insurance coverage for at least a decade when he was diagnosed as HIV positive in December. A few weeks later, on Jan. 1, Medicaid became available to him under the Obamacare expansion.
 
"Without this plan, I would probably be in the ground," McKenzie said after a recent appointment at a community health center in Bakersfield. Medicaid pays for his $113 tests to measure his viral levels and the $1,200 monthly cost of antiretroviral medications.
 
"It's real. It doesn't get more real than that," he said. "Without these meds, I don't know how my health would be."
This basic truth -- the Affordable Care Act is literally a life-saver for many Americans -- comes into sharper focus all the time.
People show their support during a rally for comprehensive immigration reform on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C., April 10, 2013.

GOP leaders throw support to anti-immigration measures

08/15/14 10:26AM

Just two weeks ago, House Republicans ignored their own leaders and rejected their own party's border bill. Left with no choice, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told far-right extremists they could craft their own legislation and the chamber would approve it, no matter what.
 
The result wasn't pretty. Right-wing lawmakers largely ignored the humanitarian crisis the bill was originally intended to address, and instead targeted President Obama's DACA. The top Republican goal became the deportation of Dream Act kids.
 
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) said the Republican Party's policy could effectively be described in three words: "Deport 'em all."
 
The proposals were, by any fair measure, a joke that included far-right provisions that GOP leaders had themselves rejected a few days prior. No one, including proponents, expected the House package to actually go anywhere legislatively. But as Sahil Kapur reported, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has decided to read from the right-wing script.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is calling for a Senate vote on House-passed GOP legislation to end deportation relief for young undocumented immigrants and strip the president's authority to grant it to anyone else.
 
"The President seems to have forgotten that he does not possess the authority to re-write our immigration laws and that, on the contrary, the Constitution requires that he take care that the laws be faithfully executed," the Kentucky Republican said in a statement first reported by the conservative website Breitbart.com and provided to TPM. "The House has passed two bills to address the humanitarian crisis on our southern border, and the Senate should vote on them. That's why I began the process of putting them on the Senate's legislative calendar shortly before the current recess, and I urge Majority Leader [Harry] Reid to schedule a vote on these bills as soon as the Senate returns."
I'm guessing the senior senator from Kentucky hasn't read the report about how Obama is using his powers the same way Republican presidents have.
 
Remember, McConnell isn't focusing on migrant children who recently fled Central America; he wants action on measures to deport Dream Act kids. We're talking about youngsters who've been here for years and who see the United States as the only home they've ever known.
 
As of yesterday, what's the difference between McConnell's position and that of Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas)? There isn't a difference. Greg Sargent calls it the party of "maximum deportations," and the Senate's top GOP leader is now fully on board.
Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., arrives early to talk with reporters during the Colorado Republican election night party at the Doubletree Hotel in Greenwood Village, Colo., Nov. 2, 2010.

Colorado's Coffman struggles to remember birth control

08/15/14 09:31AM

Everyone experiences "brain freeze" moments. We know what we want to say, but for whatever reason, the synapses just don't cooperate the way we'd like.
 
When it happens to politicians in public, though, it seems so much worse.
 
Perhaps the most famous recent example came with Texas Gov. Rick Perry's (R) "oops" during a presidential candidates' debate in 2011, but there are others. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R), for example, experienced a terribly awkward moment in a 2010 gubernatorial debate. One of my personal favorites was in 2008, when then-South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R), a surrogate for the McCain/Palin campaign, was asked to name a difference on economic policy between McCain and George W. Bush.
 
"Yeah. I mean, for instance, take, you know -- take, for instance, the issue of -- I'm drawing a blank, and I hate it when I do that, particularly on television," Sanford said at the time.
 
Yesterday, it happened again. This time, the victim was Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), who has a record of remembering specific talking points, but who forgot an important phrase this week.
During Thursday's kickoff debate between U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman and Democratic challenger Andrew Romanoff, Coffman experienced a moment he'd probably rather forget. But helpful Democrats are doing their best to make sure that doesn't happen. During the debate, when asked about women's reproductive rights and health care, Coffman struggled find the right words.
He really did.
Captain Ron Johnson, of the Missouri State Highway Patrol (R) listens to protesters complaints about the death of Michael Brown across the street from a burned down Quik Trip gas station on West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson, Missouri, August 14, 2014.

Preventing the next Ferguson

08/15/14 08:43AM

When a preventable problem occurs, it's only natural for policymakers to at least consider possible solutions. And this week, one of the questions on the minds of many is simple: How we can prevent the next Ferguson?
 
While much of the work, in the St. Louis area and elsewhere, will fall on local and state officials, many federal policymakers this week have decided they have a role to play in this conversation, too.
Civil rights leaders have cited Ferguson as evidence of a need for a renewed focus on the part of Obama and Congress on addressing racial inequality, while others have seized on the use of military tactics and weaponry by police as an issue that Washington must tackle.
 
A senior Senate Democratic aide was deferential to the White House on strategies for possible legislative actions in the wake of Ferguson, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a former police officer, issued a statement signaling the Senate would be paying attention.
In the U.S. House, three Democratic lawmakers -- House Judiciary Committee members John Conyers (D-Mich.), Bobby Scott (D-Va.), and Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) -- formally requested congressional scrutiny on police violence.
 
Around the same time, Democratic Rep. Hank Johnson of Georgia announced new legislation, called the "Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act," which would "prevent the transfer of certain military-grade equipment from the Department of Defense to local law enforcement agencies. That includes some automatic weapons, armored vehicles, armored drones, silencers and flash-bang or stun grenades."
 
Johnson said the bill would be unveiled next month when Congress returns from its August recess. It's too soon to say how many co-sponsors it will have.
 
What's more, while at this point only Democrats have called for specific congressional action, there's at least the possibility that the measures may get bipartisan backing once lawmakers return to work.
 
The good news is, policymakers have a menu of options to choose from.

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