No! Poverty is not to be blamed for the murder of Michael Brown. Lack of opportunities did not take the life of Freddie Gray. The "absent black father" was not responsible for killing Walter Scott. Police officers, armed with the legal authority of the state and under the aegis of their departments, murdered those men.
In addition to changing the laws, we must also change the culture that allows police officers to think that they are a law unto themselves; that they are lords and masters of those whom they swore to serve and protect. To make that change we need outside agitation for sure; but even more importantly, we need those on the inside to make a stand against the lawbreakers in their midst.
Are there any Frank Serpicos to be found anywhere? Who will step forward? The problem is even worse than it was in the 1970s.
Today the Blue Wall of Silence endures in towns and cities across America. Whistleblowers in police departments — or as I like to call them, “lamp lighters,” after Paul Revere — are still turned into permanent pariahs. The complaint I continue to hear is that when they try to bring injustice to light they are told by government officials: “We can’t afford a scandal; it would undermine public confidence in our police.” That confidence, I dare say, is already seriously undermined. (Frank Serpico, October 23, 2014).
[Frank Serpico is a retired New York City Police Department officer who is famous for blowing the whistle on police corruption in the late 1960s and early 1970s, an act that prompted Mayor John V. Lindsay to appoint the landmark Knapp Commission to investigate the NYPD. Much of Serpico's fame came after the release of the 1973 film Serpico, which starred Al Pacino in the title role. (Wikipedia)]
I am pleased to report that all is not lost. There is some glimmer of hope. Bravery and honor are not only to be found in our history books. There are two examples of that which we need that should be getting a lot more publicity than they have thus far: Joe Crystal and David C. Couper. David C. Couper was Madison’s chief of police from 1972 to 1993 and is now an Episcopal priest in Wisconsin:
When I talk publicly about the problem of deadly force and disrespect, many white people look at me with puzzled eyes. They don’t know what I am talking about because, as it turns out, they have had little, if any, contact with police. Not so for those men and women of color in my audience. They know—and they know all too well. Recent discussions have helped us understand that “unconscious bias” is inherent in our species; what is needed is being able to identify and manage it. (A Police Chief's Call for Reform by David C. Couper)
One of the voices that stood out for me during the Baltimore Uprising for Justice was that of Joe Crystal. He was being interviewed by someone on MSNBC and my reaction was, “now you come forward?” Turned out I spoke too soon.
Joe Crystal had been doing the right thing even while he was a member of the Baltimore Police Department. He went up against his brethren in blue and in so doing, put his life on the line. BuzzFeed did an extensive piece on Crystal in what one of our members described as a "bloody awesome story." What he had to reveal was both "gripping and nauseating." You can read the whole sad account for yourself, but just one paragraph that captures a culture out of control...from top to bottom:
Crystal turned to the police union. He told Baltimore City Fraternal Order of Police president Bob Cherry about the harassment, and he said that Cherry told him the department “was blood in blood out, and that’s why [the violent crimes unit] was mad at me,” and maybe he should consider going to another department. (Cherry didn’t respond to interview requests for this story.) Crystal hoped to transfer out of his unit. He asked a sergeant, the old family friend, where he could go. As Crystal wrote in his journal, the sergeant told him that no supervisor wanted him because he was “a rat.” The sergeant then said, “You better pray to God you’re not the star witness against Gialamas, ‘cause your career is already fucked, but if you are the star witness against him you should just resign.” (Breaking Baltimore's Blue Wall of Silence, Buzzfeed)
Is there any help to be had anywhere? How about a lieutenant?
On the advice of another sergeant, Crystal met with the lieutenant in charge of a violent repeat offender squad about a possible transfer. The lieutenant told him, he wrote in his journal, that he didn’t want him on the squad because he had snitched. The lieutenant said, “’When you are on the VRO squad you have to do things in the gray area,’ and he did not think I could do that.”
We need more than two good men. We need hundreds of good men to make a difference. To change the culture from within. We thank Joe Crystal and David Couper for following in the grand tradition of Frank Serpico.
We all thought we knew some of the things the first black POTUS and FLOTUS would have to deal with in the very white White House. Most of us cannot wait to read the books that will be written by Michelle and Barack Obama after they have gathered their stuff and exited the WH. Mrs Obama gave us a glimpse of what life was like in those first years of the Obama presidency.
It was a candid, powerful, and emotional speech on the occasion of the graduation of the Tuskegee University Class of 2015.
Back when my husband first started campaigning for President, folks had all sorts of questions of me: What kind of First Lady would I be? What kinds of issues would I take on? Would I be more like Laura Bush, or Hillary Clinton, or Nancy Reagan? And the truth is, those same questions would have been posed to any candidate’s spouse. That’s just the way the process works. But, as potentially the first African American First Lady, I was also the focus of another set of questions and speculations; conversations sometimes rooted in the fears and misperceptions of others. Was I too loud, or too angry, or too emasculating? (Applause.) Or was I too soft, too much of a mom, not enough of a career woman?
Then there was the first time I was on a magazine cover -- it was a cartoon drawing of me with a huge afro and machine gun. Now, yeah, it was satire, but if I’m really being honest, it knocked me back a bit. It made me wonder, just how are people seeing me....
Or you might remember the on-stage celebratory fist bump between me and my husband after a primary win that was referred to as a “terrorist fist jab.” And over the years, folks have used plenty of interesting words to describe me. One said I exhibited “a little bit of uppity-ism.“ Another noted that I was one of my husband’s “cronies of color.” Cable news once charmingly referred to me as “Obama’s Baby Mama.”
About how she chose to navigate the manufactured pitfalls:
Now, some folks criticized my choices for not being bold enough. But these were my choices, my issues. And I decided to tackle them in the way that felt most authentic to me -- in a way that was both substantive and strategic, but also fun and, hopefully, inspiring.
So I immersed myself in the policy details. I worked with Congress on legislation, gave speeches to CEOs, military generals and Hollywood executives. But I also worked to ensure that my efforts would resonate with kids and families -- and that meant doing things in a creative and unconventional way. So, yeah, I planted a garden, and hula-hooped on the White House Lawn with kids. I did some Mom Dancing on TV. I celebrated military kids with Kermit the Frog. I asked folks across the country to wear their alma mater’s T-shirts for College Signing Day.
A powerful speech from a phenomenal woman.
Thank you, Mrs. Obama. You did us proud.
The Support the Dream Defenders group at Daily Kos has sent Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA") requests to 21 Red State governors or legislators on the topic of Medicaid Expansion. We have asked these governors and legislators to produce all documents showing what they are doing to ascertain how many people they are killing and bankrupting by failing to Expand Medicaid.
We have received seventeen responses so far.
The seventeenth response was quite a story in itself. So, let me tell you about it. There's this place in the Western portion of the United States called Wyoming, and it has a Governor who calls himself Matt Mead. The state has a very poor reputation for transparency when it comes to FOIA document requests (45th in the country), so we expected some pushback.
On March 10, 2015 the Office of Wyoming Governor Matt Mead received our FOIA requests. Seven days later, the Special Counsel for the Governor of Wyoming sent us the letter pictured below, with a final sentence that could have been, "These aren't the droids you're looking for."
What manner of gobbledygook is this: "The Office of the Governor is not the custodian of records that may be responsive to your request"? Well, if he thought his Jedi Mind Tricks would work on Support the Dream Defenders, he was mistaken. We sent a letter right back asking him, if the Office of the Governor didn't have records pertaining to the Office of the Governor, then who had them?
Thinking that perhaps his Jedi Mind Trick would work this time, the Governor's Special Counsel shot back:
Well, that was enough footsie for us, so we sent an immediate reply, which we like to call our "Lawsuit to follow" letter. In it, we explained that we wanted the documents in the Governor's office that are responsive to our requests, or we wanted a definitive, "No, we have no such records." We gave the Special Counsel seven days upon receipt of the letter to reply, or we would file suit in the District Court in Laramie, Wyoming.
Our group prepared the lawsuit, but it became moot when the Special Counsel lay down like an old bird dog:
As you can see, we finally got our response, and it is much as we expected: Governor Matt Mead cares nothing about the number of people he's killing and bankrupting. Our slightly hardball tactics not only garnered the response we wanted (and expected), but the Governor's Special Counsel reiterated his answer twice in that last paragraph:
The sweet smell of victory! It's like your opponent saying, "We surrender, and, oh, by the way, you know that we concede defeat, right?"
Alabama on Our Minds
Now, that was a nice chapter in this story, but we need your help to reach a happy ending in our book. We need a volunteer in Alabama to re-send an FOIA request to Governor Bentley. The state of Alabama has a residency requirement for FOIA requests, which means that we need a volunteer who lives in Alabama to send the request to his or her Governor. Do you have the time to help out 325,000 of your fellow Alabamians who would receive health care with a Medicaid Expansion? Please send me a private message or volunteer in the comments below. Thank you.
If there is one name that has been uttered more often than Freddie Gray's over the past week, it has been that of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. We know that the criminal, heartless Right Wing Media have been doing their darnedest to claim the civil rights icon as their own. They have been on a mission to remake Dr. King into their own image. That last sentence isn't even exactly true; they have been busy whittling down the man into a one-dimensional, wishy-washy, mealy-mouthed battering ram to be used against the very people for whom he fought.
Let's take a look at what the man actually preached ... and let's place his words in context and in the spirit in which they were intended.
What did Martin Luther King really say about riots as they have to do with political activism and civil rights (and not the results of ball games)?
I contend that the cry of "black power" is, at bottom, a reaction to the reluctance of white power to make the kind of changes necessary to make justice a reality for the Negro. I think that we've got to see that a riot is the language of the unheard. (Martin Luther King, Jr., "The Other America".)
In other words, no justice, no peace. It is an act of malice - intended to inflict serious psychological damage - to demand peace from the hurting and disenfranchised even as you dispense justice to only those who share your skin color and or socio-economic background.
After using the word "thug" to describe young rioters in Baltimore, Erin Burnett was asked, (paraphrasing as best as I can remember) "Then what do you call members of the police who broke Freddie Gray's spine?" To which Ms. Burnett replied, "I don't know what happened. I will wait on the courts to decide. You remember how that whole 'hands up don't shoot' was found to be a total lie."
Michael Brown and Freddie Gray are dead. Justice, some wise person said long ago, should not only be done, but also be seen to be done. There's no justice to be seen anywhere in these cases; primarily because journalists are very well adjusted to, and accepting of, these incidents of injustice happening again, and again, and again.
What if we were to apply this quote from Dr. King to American Law Enforcement Officers?
Violence is impractical because it is a descending spiral ending in destruction for all. It is immoral because it seeks to humiliate the opponent rather than win his understanding: It seeks to annihilate rather than convert. Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love. It destroys community and makes brotherhood impossible. It leaves society in monologue rather than dialogue. Violence ends up defeating itself. It creates bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers.
The police are the patriarchal formal leaders who have been foisted on our communities and invested with the power to slap us upside the heads if mothers won't do it; or eliminate us if and when they feel like it. Violence is the tactic used to whip us into shape. When the oppressed revolt, however briefly, against aggressive over-policing, they are castigated and condemned as "thugs." No winning for black folks.
What to do about this fucked-up state of affairs?
One awesome member of Support the Dream Defenders said this:
"In times of uncertainty and turmoil in the past, Americans have fought back in four principal ways: at the ballot box, by long-term populist appeals, with protests, and through legal action."
Protest is of the utmost importance right now. We applaud and support those who have taken to the streets to let their voices be heard, those gathered in New York, in Philadelphia, in Washington DC, in Chicago, in Ferguson, and in Baltimore.
As our young people and others of good conscience take to the street, we invite our friends to help us with the fight on the legal action front.
We need revolutionary changes to policing in this country. We do not claim that we have all the answers, but the Michael Brown Over-Policed Rights Act provides at least some of the answers.
As you may know, Support the Dream Defenders crowd-sourced the Michael Brown Over-Policed Rights Act at Daily Kos in the fall of 2014. Over 700 Kossacks supported our effort. Our finalized bill quickly gained the support of the NAACP and the ACLU. The NAACP forwarded our bill to members of Congress, and we distributed it to members of the Congressional Black Caucus and other progressive members of Congress. President Obama signed into law a small piece of our bill in December 2014. The Department of Justice included part of our bill in their recent report on Ferguson, Missouri. Our state version of the MBOPRA is currently in committee in the Kansas legislature. The final version of our law: Michael Brown Over-Policed Rights Act of 2015 (Federal)
Please contact your U.S. senators and representatives and ask them to support our Michael Brown Over-Policed Rights Act.
We sent Freedom of Information Act requests to every Red State governor or legislature who refused to Expand Medicaid. Thus far, eleven red state governors and one red state legislature have responded to our requests. Of the twelve total responses received, only one respondent admitted to having any documents, whatsoever, showing how many people he or she may be killing and bankrupting because that state refuses to Expand Medicaid.
That would be Texas.
Every other state is positively incurious about the number of people they may be killing or bankrupting in their home state. So, in a perverted way, Texas Governor Greg Abbott is at least ahead of them. He has an idea how many people he may be killing. In response to our FOIA requests, which asked for any documents showing what he has done to find out how many people may be dying because he refuses Medicaid Expansion, he provided a 75-page document.
1. More Dead Than We Expected.
The document was shocking to us. We knew that there was no good reason to refuse to Expand Medicaid, and we knew that it was a decision that would either save or cost a lot of lives. We didn't realize how many. You see, we have used a Harvard Study which indicates that between 1,840 and 3,035 will needlessly die in Texas every year without Expanded Medicaid. That Harvard Study, in pertinent part, provides as follows:
"In Texas, the largest state opting out of Medicaid expansion, 2,013,025 people who would otherwise have been insured will remain uninsured due to the opt-out decision. We estimate that Medicaid expansion in that state would have resulted in 184,192 fewer depression diagnoses, 62,610 fewer individuals suffering catastrophic medical expenditures, and between 1,840 and 3,035 fewer deaths."
This Harvard Study dealt with the entire nation; Greg Abbott had another study in his possession that dealt only with Texas, written by Texans, for Texans. The report, entitled Expanding Medicaid in Texas: Smart, Affordable and Fair, can be found in the files of the Governor of Texas and in its full PDF glory here. It provides as follows:
"Experience in other states indicates that failing to expand Medicaid would result in an estimated 8,400 premature deaths each year."
That's a lot of dead Texans each year. A lot of people who have diabetes but cannot afford medication; who have diabetes and don't know it; who have undiagnosed but treatable heart conditions, high blood pressure or cancers. That's a lot of potential pap smears and mammograms that Texans will not receive. "The state leads the nation in the rate of people without health insurance — roughly one in four Texans." With approximately one million Texans in the "Medicaid Gap," it probably shouldn't have been a surprise to us that as many as 8,400 will die annually, and before their time, because of Governor Abbott's failure to Expand Medicaid. It's as if you wiped Liberty City, Texas right off the map. Then did it again every year:
Kind of an ironic name--Liberty City--as it represents the deadly repercussions from Texas state government thumbing its nose at the Federal Government for no good reason, while the casualties pile up each year.
2. The Only Evidence of Death and Bankruptcy Abbott Has....
The only document Governor Abbott, a former Attorney General, has to help him decide how many people will die in his state each year without Medicaid Expansion indicates the number to be 8,400. He doesn't even have another document from some Koch-funded think tank claiming that only three people will die. The only information he has to make an informed decision about how many people he is bankrupting each year is that there will be approximately 62,610 of those woebegone folks.
The Governor has not afforded his people due diligence much less due process. A person accused of murder in Texas gets better treatment than the working poor.
The Rights Afforded to a Murder Defendant in Texas Versus the Rights Afforded to the Working Poor
On a side note, please consider this: You would think that a person fighting ObamaCare tooth and nail would be the first to step up to the plate and protest against it. Not Greg Abbott. Here's his just-released Income Tax Return for 2014. As you can see from the screengrab below, Abbott put his money where his wallet is:
3. The Other Document.
We also requested documents in the possession of Governor Greg Abbott that would show how many Texans without health insurance have received treatment in Texas hospitals during the last reporting period. The Governor provided an eight-page report from the Texas Department of Health and Human Services indicating that hospitals in the state lose billions of dollars annually because of the failure to Expand Medicaid.
In 2012, Texas hospitals spent $22.538 billion on health care provided to the uninsured in that state.
To give you some perspective on that, if Greg Abbott was going to pay for all those hospital charges with his own tax payments, and he paid $104 in taxes every year, it would take him two hundred and sixteen million, seven hundred and eleven thousand, five hundred and thirty-eight and one-half years to do it.
According to the report, uncompensated hospital charges in Texas rose from $17.51 billion in 2010 to $18.312 billion in 2011. It then jumped more than five billion to $22.538 billion in 2012. The picture will soon turn even bleaker, as the Federal Government may not be helping Texas out with those deficits in the future.
4. The Obama Administration Tightens the Pressure on Florida and Texas and Other Non-Medicaid Expanding Red States.
Every year, the Federal Government provides what amounts to massive block grants to states, which the states can then use to pay to hospitals that provide services to the uninsured. This has been provided as part of the Medicaid program. In this way, hospitals would receive direct payments from Medicaid for covered individuals, and they would receive the Medicaid "subsidy" or block grant money for uncovered individuals.
Those huge block grants--in the billions of dollars each year--will stop in 2015 and 2016 because of Medicaid Expansion.
The theory was this: Once Medicaid was expanded, there would be no need for the additional block grant subsidies for hospitals, as people would either have private insurance or be covered under the Expanded Medicaid. The second document we received from Governor Abbott described the situation succinctly:
Health Care Reform Impact. One of the supplemental Medicaid payments that greatly contributes to the Medicaid surplus is the Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) payment. The DSH program was created to compensate hospitals that give care to a disproportionate amount of low income and uninsured individuals with a lump sum payment. Health care reform will impact DSH payments starting in 2016. The assumption is that when the individual mandate takes effect, the need for supplemental payments to cover the uninsured is less. The ACA requires HHS to reduce DSH payments.
Of course, nobody counted on Republican governors and state legislatures allowing their citizens to die or to go bankrupt for no earthly reason.
Texas and Florida and other wanna-be new-confederate states like South Carolina want the Federal Government to continue paying their hospital buddies with these block grants; they don't want the Federal Government to help the people with Expanded Medicaid. The Obama Administration has said, "Not so fast!" It has let these states know that the money to reimburse hospitals for care to the poor and working poor is there to be had--as soon as the states Expand Medicaid. One source reported:
"The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services indicated to Texas officials Thursday that whether the state expands Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act would factor into the renewal of a multibillion-dollar Medicaid funding stream next year, according to state officials.
Federal officials requested a call with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, during which they outlined their position, Linda Edwards Gockel, a spokeswoman for the Texas health agency, said in an email to National Journal.
The call came the same day that Florida Gov. Rick Scott said he would sue the Obama administration, accusing CMS of pushing the state to expand Medicaid by leveraging $1 billion in federal Medicaid funding, which is up for renewal this summer and helps cover some uncompensated care.
CMS said in a letter to Florida this week that one of the three principles it would use to evaluate the program, known as the Low-Income Pool, was that 'uncompensated care pool funding should not pay for costs that would be covered in a Medicaid expansion.'
Texas's uncompensated-care funding pool, part of a broader Medicaid waiver, is coming up for renewal in September 2016. According to the Texas Hospital Association, the program provides more than $3 billion to Texas hospitals for uncompensated care."
Hypocritical Governors like Scott and Abbott and Haley want Federal money to pay to their buddies at the hospitals, but not a penny to provide Medicaid for their poor and working poor constituents.
5. Abbott's Growing a New Class of Citizen in Texas: The Health Care Bankrupt.
The Harvard Study quoted and linked above indicates that, because Governor Abbott refuses to Expand Medicaid in Texas, there will be 62,610 new bankrupts in Texas every year. Sure, many of those folks will be dead prematurely--an estimated 8,400 of them--but that leaves 54,210 every year to either file for bankruptcy or be harassed by hospital attorneys for the next forty years of their lives. That's like a Texas city the size of Victoria dying or going bankrupt every year.
All because Greg Abbott wants to be pure. Or, because Greg Abbott and his fellow travelers don't want the American people to see the Federal Government working and helping people, while at the same time reducing the deficit, creating jobs and straightening the heretofore explosive health care cost curve. Or, perhaps Abbott is just an asshole. I don't know the answer. I do know that the evidence at his disposal--there being no contradictory proof--is that he will kill approximately 8,400 Texans every year and bankrupt 62,610.
NOTE: This is a community diary, which could only be written because of the efforts and activism of a number of people who belong to the Support the Dream Defenders group at Daily Kos. Their contributions are always appreciated. I am proud that they let me work with them!
The Support the Dream Defenders group saw the cruelty of Red State governors and legislatures refusing to expand Medicaid. Thousands of people are needlessly in pain, filing for bankruptcy, and dying. Republicans have no sound moral or financial reason for blocking Medicaid expansion.
Note: This is a community diary with contributions from many members of the Support the Dream Defenders group.
1. WHAT WE ARE DOING.
We decided to turn the klieg lights on the governors and legislators - the culprits - by sending Freedom of Information Act requests to each state. Our purpose is to create a national story that is pre-packaged and ready to air by Rachel Maddow, Melissa Harris-Perry, or Al Jazeera America.
Most of the FOIA requests that we sent out went to the Republican governor of that specific state. In states with a Democratic governor, we sent the document requests to the state legislator who joyously boasted about blocking Medicaid Expansion to the media.
Our FOIA requests were simple. We requested the following documents:
1. All documents (i.e. evidence) that show what you, the Governor, have done to find out how many people you are killing because you Refuse to Expand Medicaid.
2. All documents that show what you, the Governor, have done to find out how many people you are bankrupting because you Refuse to Expand Medicaid.
3. A summary document showing how many people without health insurance have been to a hospital or clinic in your state over the last 12 months.
As you can see from the responses screengrabbed below, not a single one of these Governors cares enough to even try to find out how many people they are killing and/or bankrupting in their state. (To read these letters, it may help you to open each image in a new Tab and then zoom in on the text.)
Maine: Response from the Maine governor in the form of a letter stating that his office is doing nothing to find out how many people he is killing and bankrupting because of his refusal to Expand Medicaid:
Tennessee: Response from the Tennessee governor in the form of a letter stating that his office is doing nothing to find out how many people he is killing and bankrupting because of his refusal to Expand Medicaid:
Georgia: Response from the Georgia Governor in the form of a letter stating that his office is doing nothing to find out how many people he is killing and bankrupting because of his refusal to Expand Medicaid:
South Carolina: Response from the South Carolina Governor in the form of a letter stating that her office is doing nothing to find out how many people she is killing and bankrupting because of her refusal to Expand Medicaid:
Wisconsin: Response from Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker in the form of a letter stating that his office is doing nothing to find out how many people he is killing and bankrupting because of his refusal to Expand Medicaid:
Missouri: Response from the Missouri senate in the form of a letter stating that they are doing nothing to find out how many people they are killing and bankrupting because of their refusal to Expand Medicaid
Wyoming: And here's the outlier so far, Wyoming Governor Matt Mead's legal counsel apparently advised him to deny that the Office of the Governor of Wyoming is where you are to find records involving the Office of the Governor of Wyoming. In other words, the Office of the Governor of Wyoming does not have any records of the Office of the Governor of Wyoming. [Eye-roll.] We may have to sue the Governor of Wyoming!
Here are copies of all the return receipts for the FOIA requests that we have sent thus far:
As these responses continue to roll in, we will keep the daily kos community posted to what progress is being made. In the interim, it is time for some good news about Health Care!
2. OBAMACARE SAVES LIVES!
On March 25, President Barack Obama explained to the nation, in remarks intended to celebrate the fifth anniversary of ObamaCare, how this law is saving lives. That's not something we didn't already know. Only a Republican would suggest that health care has little or nothing to do with health.
What stood out from his remarks was his claim that 50,000 "preventable deaths" have not happened since enactment of the law. ObamaCare is working, and it is saving lives.
Of course, since the number sounded so reasonable given the millions who now have health care for the first time and the prevalence of high blood pressures, heart diseases, diabetes and cancers in the population, it could not possibly be true!
"That doesn't sound at all like the Death Panels we were told to look for," said every Republican who heard about the President's speech. Well, Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post did a fact check of that number and ended up giving the claim a ...
The "Geppetto Checkmark," of course, is exactly the opposite of a rating of "Pinocchio." About as truthful as you get.
Now, think about the number of people needlessly dying every year because Republican Governors and state legislatures refuse to Expand Medicaid. If we can fight back and force Republican governors to Expand Medicaid, we would see another eight million people getting health care, and save another 17,000 lives annually. And that, my friends, is a fight worth having.
h/t to nightcat for the excellent diary linked above and here.
"He may be a very nice man. But I haven't got the time to figure that out. All I know is, he's got a uniform and a gun and I have to relate to him that way. That's the only way to relate to him because one of us may have to die."
Some years ago, my then 13-year-old son went to a classmate's birthday party and was supposed to come home by 10 pm. He had promised that he'd get a ride with a friend's mom. 10:15, and he wasn't home. I am the type of mother that if my children are one minute late, I start worrying. I called him and he said the mom had left and he was still at the party. "Get your butt home," I ordered him. "Do you want me to come get you?" "No," he said, "I'll get a ride with John's (not his real name) mom.
Another half an hour went by, and then an hour, and now I am really furious ... and worried. It was around 12:00 pm when the doorbell rang. My heart threatened to jump out of my chest ... my son had a key. I opened the door and he was standing there with a cop. "What's happening?" I asked nervously. Even at thirteen my son was as tall as the burly cop. "Now, now," said the officer, "Let's go inside and talk about this." I ignored him and addressed my son, "What did you do?" He refused to look me in the eye and muttered something that I didn't understand.
"Let's go inside, Mrs. X," the cop insisted. We went inside. The officer took command of the situation, "Before we do anything, I want you to relax," he said. "Take a couple deep breaths. Your son may or may not have done something stupid tonight..." It turned out that my son and his older classmate took a cab and when it got to a block from the friend's home, he jumped out and ran without paying. The driver suspecting that my son was in on this, promptly locked the doors and drove to the precinct.
"You did what?" I exploded, as I lunged at him. "Now now, calm down," the cop said as he placed himself in front of my son - shielding him with his body - as he took me by the shoulders. At various times throughout our talk, the officer would actually push my son back behind him and it was almost comical to see him peering at me nervously from behind his protector. But this is the key part of the evening: said the officer with the beautiful turquoise eyes (as best as I can remember), "He is a boy and boys do stupid stuff. I swear it's in their DNA. I have two boys at home and they are the reason I have no hair (he was bald). Let me tell you, they have done worse. Much worse." He gave my son a good talking to, he gave me his card and had me promise to call him if I ever needed to talk, and he complimented me on the fact that my son was only concerned that I was going to be hurt and disappointed, and then he took his leave.
My son said that when the angry cab driver made his complaint, the protective cop was actually defending him (my son). The cop told the cab driver that my son had not run; that he had stayed in the cab and so could not be accused of doing anything wrong. And then he said, "Come on son, I'll take you home."
He was white (I expect that he still is).
That type of policing cannot be enacted in law; I know that. You are either that kind of person or you aren't, but the pendulum should not be swinging from one extreme to the other. There should be a livable medium.
I was blessed that evening. We live in Connecticut and not in Ferguson, Missouri.
Note: This is a community diary with contributions from many members of the Support the Dream Defenders group.
When using their Capital Punishment systems, Red State governors at a minimum know how many people they are killing, who they are killing, when they are killing them and how they are killing them. Should they know any less about the working poor they are killing? My God, shouldn't they at least try to find out?
Enter the Support the Dream Defenders group with our Let Our Poor People Live campaign. With our Freedom of Information Act requests, we aim to force these ignoble politicians to give an accounting for each life that they have allowed to fall by the wayside. To accomplish our goal, we are sending Freedom of Information Act requests to all of the opt-out governors with some Catch-22 questions, including a demand that they provide us with all of the documents showing what they, as Governors, are doing to discover how many people are dying, or potentially dying, because they have refused to Expand Medicaid.
You can join us as we track these FOIA requests going around the country. This is a United States Postal Service tracking tool that has been uploaded with twenty of our requests. If you click on the plus sign (+) on each of the letters that have already been "delivered," you can see where they went. For example, immediately below is a screenshot of the certified mail delivery last Tuesday of our Freedom of Information request to Governor Sam Brownback of Kansas:
And here is a link to help you track our final four FOIA requests. They are going to Mississippi, Wisconsin, Florida, and Virginia. As you can see, these were mailed out yesterday morning.
Once we have rounded up all the responses, we intend to send them off to the media. It will be interesting to see how these governors respond once the media begins asking the following questions: How many people are needlessly dying in your state because you will not Expand Medicaid? How many people have had to file for bankruptcy because you will not Expand Medicaid? What have you done to find out the answers to these questions?
While we have been working on the FOIA Project, we have marshaled some of the arguments for Medicaid Expansion. In the next two sections of the diary, we discuss some of the humanitarian and economic reasons for saving lives while saving your state from a future health care crisis.
1. The Humanitarian Argument.
A Harvard Study published in 2014 has indicated that as many as 17,000 people will die each year because Red State governors refuse to Expand Medicaid. This makes sense as the New York Times has noted that approximately eight million additional people would receive Medicaid if it were expanded in Republican-controlled states. Like the rest of the population, these folks suffer from heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, cancers and other ailments that could be treated. The Study authors noted,
Medicaid expansion in opt-out states would have resulted in 712,037 fewer persons screening positive for depression and 240,700 fewer individuals suffering catastrophic medical expenditures. Medicaid expansion in these states would have resulted in 422,553 more diabetics receiving medication for their illness, 195,492 more mammograms among women age 50-64 years and 443,677 more pap smears among women age 21-64. Expansion would have resulted in an additional 658,888 women in need of mammograms gaining insurance, as well as 3.1 million women who should receive regular pap smears.
As bad as that is, the problem's even bigger than that. It still doesn't tell the whole story. The eight million or so people who would be helped by Expanding Medicaid, many of whom have undiagnosed or untreated conditions, also have to deal with the pain caused by their ailments--sometimes on a daily basis--as well as deal with the fear that the next cough or lump or tremor will land them in the emergency room and then in bankruptcy court or worse.
A. How Democrats Respond to the Issue.
Bill Moyers is not mincing words about the situation. An article on his website by Joshua Holland is entitled, "Study Shows the Madness of States Refusing to Expand Medicaid." The article leads off with a report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Urban Institute that shows Republican-controlled states are missing out on $423 billion in federal health care money through 2022. But the article goes further to note other studies that show Texas leading the nation in percentage of uninsured, followed by Florida in third, and it links to the Harvard Study discussed above, which warns of up to 17,000 needless deaths each year.
Last Monday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest showed exasperation with Republicans for "literally prevent[ing] individuals in their states from getting badly needed health care coverage." In fact, his entire response to a question about ObamaCare is worth repeating, with the quote above highlighted near the bottom:
B. How Republicans Respond.
Another way to look at the humanitarian argument for Expanded Medicaid is to look at it through the eyes of a Republican. For that, we have enlisted Scott Walker of Wisconsin. He has taken a position on the issue that is literally comedic in its villainy. We'll let Snotty speak for himself:
Scott Walker bypassed historical villains, modern villains and book villains and, instead, plagiarized directly from a comedy villain--Judge Smails from Caddyshack:
JUDGE SMAILS: "I think you can still become a gentleman someday ... if you understand and abide by the rules of decent society. Danny, Danny. There's a lot of ... well, badness in the world today. I see it in court every day. I've sentenced boys younger than you to the gas chamber. I didn't want to do it. I felt I owed it to them."
How egregious can Republicans get? Again, let's think about that like a Republican would. Let's say, for example, you had a tough decision about whether to give half a million people health care or take it away from them. When it came time to make that decision, would you be smiling? Governor Pat McCrory of North Carolina would:
2. The Economic Argument.
Expanding Medicaid makes economic sense. Most people know that under ObamaCare, the states would pay nothing through 2016, and they would never have to pay more than ten percent of the costs. Additionally, there is an opt out provision if the state, for some reason, cannot pay its share of the costs.
States that have accepted Medicaid Expansion will not have to make up for the shortfall when the Federal Government stops paying hospitals and clinics for serving the uninsured. Those states have also seen increased economic activity, including jobs that will provide salaries which will be spent in the local economies. Their employee workforce will be healthier and stronger and more competitive.
A. Federal Funding of Hospitals and Clinics.
A huge economic problem will terrorize Red State governors and their tax-paying constituents in the very near future. That is, the Federal Government had been giving huge grants to states every year so that the states, in turn, could pass the money along to hospitals and clinics that provided care but received no payment from the uninsured. That stops in 2015.
With the Expansion of Medicaid, those grants should not be necessary. So, the program will be cancelled. A few Red State governors have had the temerity, while refusing to Expand Medicaid, to ask the Obama Administration to resume those payments. They have been told, "No." Instead, those governors have been told to Expand Medicaid and get the funding for their state's hospitals and clinics that way. South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley is already earmarking tens of millions of dollars of state funds to give to hospitals--while she ignores hundreds of millions of Federal dollars that would go to help the working poor in her state.
B. Job Growth.
Even Forbes magazine, a vociferous opponent of ObamaCare, has had to admit that Medicaid Expansion can be beneficial to the job market:
"States that agreed to expand coverage of Medicaid to more Americans under the Affordable Care Act have created more jobs than other areas of the country, according to a new report.
Fitch Ratings said 'healthcare and social assistance jobs grew over 30% faster between December 2013 and December 2014 for 24 states that implemented ACA expansion on Jan. 1, 2014 than those that did not.'”
C. The Vicious Circle.
Republican Governors are not only screwing their working poor constituents by Refusing to Expand Medicaid, but they are screwing them on the price of health care insurance coverage. Even if the working poor in a non-Expansion state could afford to pay any of the few dollars they earn over the federal poverty line on medical coverage, the price of that coverage goes up because Republican Governors Refused to Expand Medicaid.
It is a vicious circle that kills people, costs constituents more money, costs states more money and fails to create the jobs and economic activity that would come about with Medicaid Expansion in that Red State. Let's say you are single person in Texas making $7,500 per year based on two crappy part-time jobs, and you have high blood pressure and have already suffered a stroke. You have to spend the money on the bronze plan, even though you cannot afford it, and take whatever subsidy you can get. Republican Governors have ensured that folks like this are squeezed dry, and, as high-risk insureds, they will drive up the cost for everyone buying insurance in that state. Their effect on insurance rates would be more than cancelled out if all the healthy people in the "Medicaid Gap" were allowed to join. SeeWhy a State's Health Insurers Should Support Expanding Medicaid, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (September 2012).
You see, if Republican Governors Expanded Medicaid and added those millions of healthy potential working poor individuals to insurance pools in the state, the costs for everybody would almost certainly decrease. Thus, the working poor gets screwed on both sides from their Republican Governors.
Finally, with the Federal Government no longer directly reimbursing hospitals and clinics for their service to uninsured persons, the hospitals and clinics will cost-shift that expense to everybody else--or fire staff, cut hours or close down.
To give you some idea what states are missing out on, please consider this:
Now think about the billions of dollars and all that healthcare that Florida (Rick Scott) and Texas (Greg Abbott) are giving up every year.
The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, has made a difference in the lives of another 11.4 million Americans. Eleven million, four hundred thousand people can breathe easier today knowing that they will have access to quality care if and when needed. In fact, if you were to count all those with private health coverage, young adults allowed to stay on their parents policies, and those covered through the Medicaid Expansion Program, the number would be closer to 32 million. Thirty-two million? Wow! And still the number of insured could have been more. the number should have been more...much more, and someone(s) should be forced to explain what informed their decision to deliberately work to deny poor people health care coverage.
The right-wing think tank, Heritage Foundation, have been going out of their way to spread misinformation and disinformation about the ACA. Two experts, Stan Dorn and John Holahan of the Health Affairs Blog have taken a sledge hammer to the lies being told and in so doing managed to show the desperate obduracy of Republican Governors. Dorn and Holahan were able to cite figures which proved that not only are States deliberately and maliciously doing harm to their citizens, but that they are also shortsightedly cutting off their noses to spite their faces.
while a Medicaid expansion would increase that state’s Medicaid costs by about $2.5 billion from 2014 through 2022, it would also save Ohio $1.5 billion by reducing state spending on current programs in favor of the largely federally financed expansion. Such programs cover so-called “medically needy” adults, women with breast and cervical cancer, and adults who are waiting for disability determinations. At the same time, expansion would increase state revenue by as much as $2.8 billion, in part because of the economic activity galvanized by more than $31 billion in new federal Medicaid funds, but also because of prescription drug rebates and taxes on Medicaid managed care premiums. The overall result: at least $1.8 billion in net state budget gains.
Yes, refusing the Medicaid Expansion Program does not make for sound financial policy. Refusing to give poor people access to healthcare is a crime before God and man. Governors who have rejected the Medicaid Expansion Program should be forced to explain their actions. Actually, they should be forced to do a perp walk, but we'll settle for a walk of shame for the time being.
Just to remind ourselves of the harm that is being done to the least among by the most powerful among us, this is a list of the services offered under the Medicaid Expansion Program in my home state of Connecticut.
• Preventive Care
• Women’s Health Care
• Family Planning Services
• Maternity Care
• Hospital Stays
• Physical Therapy/Occupational Therapy/Speech Therapy
• Audiology Services
• Physical Rehabilitation
• Durable Medical Equipment
• Hearing Aids
• Orthotic and Prosthetic Devices
• Home Health Care
• Hospice Services
• Ambulatory Surgery
• Hospital Outpatient Care
• Laboratory Tests
• X-rays and other Radiology Services
• Vision Care
• Emergency Care
• Dental Services (through CT Dental Health Partnership)
• Behavioral Health Services (through CT Behavioral Health Partnership)
• Pharmacy (medications)
I am hoping that you read the above and that it made you mad. That you are so angry that some 17,000 people will die annually because of the wickedness of Republican Governors that you want to do something about it. I am hoping you will want to write a letter to the editor.
I have read the Department of Justice report on their non-indictment of Darren Wilson, and, quite frankly, I am very disappointed.
The report reads as if Bob McCulloch, the St. Louis county prosecutor, and his two subordinates prepared it. The whole report reads as if the investigators were more concerned with the well-being of the killer than they were about the teenager who was killed. Who was advocating for Michael Brown, I want to ask.
I must confess that I had a problem with Eric Holder, the Attorney General of the United States, announcing the findings of the investigation of the Ferguson Police Department and the non-indictment of Wilson all at the same time. It reminded me of the stunt pulled by Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson when he called the news conference to announce the name of the murderer. If you’ll recall, that was when we were flooded with news of a “strong-arm robbery,” and so the news media dutifully focused on that rather than on the killer-cop.
This is what I got from the attorney general: We will not be indicting Darren Wilson because we could not prove he was guilty of violating Michael Brown’s rights ... but look what we have done over here!
The reaction from those who have been fighting for Michael Brown has been swift.
“They’re trying to throw us a bone because we’ve been saying the police were racist, then it only took them 100-plus days to actually make a statement acknowledging that they were being racist,” Russell said.“I find it strange that the Justice Department has been found them to be operating with racial bias and that their stops and arrests are racially biased. But there are no civil rights charges against Darren Wilson. That sounds like the direct definition of a civil rights violation to me.”
“I know that Holder believes the standard is too difficult to meet, but in the end it comes down to the fact that an unarmed young man was shot dead in the street and we know this police department not only knowingly engaged in discriminatory practices but encouraged a culture of racism,” Roediger said. “The end result of that culture of racism was an unarmed man shot dead in the street should be sufficient to file charges.”
Apologists for the killer-cop have been popping champagne and gleefully pointing to the Attorney General's words. Especially this:
“It remains not only valid — but essential — to question how such a strong alternative version of events was able to take hold so swiftly, and be accepted so readily.”
Maybe, Mr. Holder, maybe it was the picture of the white guys by their truck throwing up their arms in the air to demonstrate what they were seeing unfolding before their eyes. Why would so many people make up that particular lie? Why would the report make such a big deal about Michael Brown not being shot in the back, suggesting that the killer-cop didn't fire at him while he was running away? All the early reports were that the killer fired shots as the teen fled.
But my biggest question to my attorney general is this: Why would you believe a word of what Darren Wilson said when you know the nature of the police department for which he worked? When you know that he failed to write a report immediately after the killing and only produced one after he saw the eyewitness accounts? When you know that his testimony was not challenged in the grand jury investigation? Why would you believe one single solitary word of his self-serving, carefully crafted lies?
The Police Department for which the killer-cop worked was a cesspit of racism and bigotry, coupled with unethical and unprofessional behavior. And here, I am not relying on the DOJ's report. For years the residents of the city have been telling everyone who'd listen about the oppressive yoke around their collective necks. But given your own findings, Mr. Holder, don't you think that every case of physical abuse or killing committed by members of that department should be automatically charged as civil rights violations? In my humble opinion, to do anything less is a travesty of justice.
Among the incidents of excessive force discovered by our comprehensive review, some resulted from stops or arrests that had no legal basis to begin with. Others were punitive or retaliatory in nature. The police department’s routine use of Tasers was found to be not merely unconstitutional, but abusive and dangerous. Records showed a disturbing history of using unnecessary force against people with mental illness. And our findings indicated that the overwhelming majority of force – almost 90 percent – is directed against African Americans.
Three years ago, February 26, 2012, to be exact, a 17-year-old young man left his home to go pick up snacks for himself and his younger brother. On his way back to his loved ones, he took a leisurely stroll home; he was talking on his cell phone, kicking at pebbles, just being a typical teenager walking through a neighborhood. He was in no particular hurry to get home.
He would not be allowed to get home that night ... or any other night. He was hunted down and murdered by a vigilante type who racially profiled him, confronted him, and then took his life.
This week, our last hope of seeing Trayvon's murderer pay for his crime was dashed when the Justice Department announced that Zimmerman will not face federal charges. Case closed.
The federal investigation sought to determine whether the evidence of the events that led to Martin’s death were sufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Zimmerman’s actions violated the federal criminal civil rights statutes, specifically Section 3631 of Title 42 of the U.S. Code or Section 249 of Title 18 of the U.S. Code, as well as other relevant federal criminal statutes. Section 3631 criminalizes willfully using force or threat of force to interfere with a person’s federally protected housing rights on account of that person’s race or color. Section 249 criminalizes willfully causing bodily injury to a person because of that person’s actual or perceived race. Courts define “willfully” to require proof that a defendant knew his acts were unlawful, and committed those acts in open defiance of the law. It is one of the highest standards of intent imposed by law.
Not enough evidence to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt, said Eric Holder's office.
"My client is relieved," said the murderer's attorney.
The mother of the murdered youth, Sybrina Fulton, had this to say:
"He took a life, carelessly and recklessly, and he shouldn't deserve to have his entire life walking around on the street free. I just believe that he should be held accountable for what he's done."
The Trayvon Effect
Despite the lack of accountability, I'd like to think that Trayvon didn't die in vain. His death has given birth to a new era of activism. We have been introduced to a slew of young, dynamic, passionate civil rights leaders. New organizations dedicated to the fight for justice and equality have sprung up all over the country. Had there not been a Trayvon, what happened to Michael Brown would be a one-paragraph story in a local newspaper. The #BlackLivesMatter movement had its genesis in the fight for justice for Trayvon.
On Daily Kos itself, it was the fight for justice for Trayvon which gave birth to our group, Support the Dream Defenders. It was brilliant members of our group who authored and crowd-sourced on Daily Kos the Michael Brown Over-Policed Rights Act which gained the approval of members of two prestigious civil rights organizations, the ACLU and the NAACP. The MBOPRA seeks to protect the civil rights of citizens and gives them avenues of redress when those rights are violated. The FOIA project seeks to force Republican governors to reverse their policy of refusing the Medicaid expansion and stop killing 17,000 people per year.
Thank you, Trayvon Martin. You have inspired us. We owe you a debt of gratitude, and in your name we continue the fight.
Dr. Fergie Reid from Virginia was the first black person to serve in the Virginia state assembly after reconstruction.
The times were hard and Dr. Reid was already active and a hero in his own right in the African American Community before he won the seat in his congressional district.
GOTV efforts and much hard work had to be accomplished for an African American to win a southern seat during the Jim Crow era, not to mention his activsim brought about the first black governor of Virginia. All of these firsts paved the way to electing a young senator to later become our first Black president not once but twice, President Barack Obama.
Dr. Reid was a surgeon in a MASH unit in Korea. This fine civil rights Icon not only served his country in the Navy but was also a trailblazer in the medical field by working as one of the first black surgeons at Bethesda Naval Hospital.
He will turn 90 in March and I believe this man derserves more recognition than he has received. He is a Civil Rights Icon and after 90 years still encouraging the GOTV.
Listen up my fellow Kogs and Kossacks, this idea of 90 for 90 in Virginia will work nationwide as written in this linked Article.from the Baltimore Post. If this tribute can register a quarter of a million voters in the Old Dominion, then Dr. Reid needs a long overdue major recognition and his lifetime achievements should be noted.
It’s the cusp of his 90th birthday, but civil rights icon Ferguson Reid is still gearing up for the long haul.
“We have the races in 2015, 2017, and 2019 to get the majority,” he tells me, referring to the off-year elections for control of Virginia’s state government. “And this election will determine whether or not we’re able to get a House majority for 2021.”
The Democratic political veteran seems happy and relaxed in our conversation, even as he acknowledges the challenges his party faces in Virginia. He shows an encyclopedic knowledge of his state’s history and its current crop of candidates, sounding upbeat about Democratic chances this fall despite the steep hill they need to climb in one chamber. Republicans rule the roost in the state House, where they’ve set up a firewall against Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe’s priorities. And thanks to a computer-drawn map that’s gerrymandered the Old Dominion to within an inch of her life, the Governor’s naysayers seem secure in their power – at least for now.
Dr. Reid is a walking political activist, and history lesson.
The article went on to say:
The 90 for 90's Project
“Voting is a great equalizer,” Fergie tells me, “because believe it or not, on Election Day our votes count as much as the Koch brothers’!”
There’s some joy in his voice as he observes the fact. And despite all of the decades he’s had to dwell on this truth, there’s wonder, too. He’ll never take this right for granted, he says, because freedom is not free, and neither is it eternal. What one Amendment allows, another can undo.
Activists in Virginia aren’t taking it for granted either. In honor of Fergie Reid’s 90th birthday on March 18, a massive voter registration drive is underway. The “90 for 90” project plans to register at least 90 voters in each of Virginia’s 2,550 precincts, to help commemorate Reid’s legacy.
- See more at: http://baltimorepostexaminer.com/...
This is such a great tribute that the 90 for 90 are doing. Who do we see about getting the well deserved Medal of Freedom awarded to this great man? There was only one Medger Evers, only one John Lewis and only one Dr. Ferguson Reid. Many think his time for such an award is long overdue and that includes me. He, by the way keeps up with some of we activists right here on Daily Kos.
glance at the electoral map reveals what a game-changer this could be. If the “90 for 90” project can register the 250,000 new voters it intends to – or even achieve half of that – it could lock out Republicans from the Electoral College for good. It’s hard to see the GOP winning an electoral college majority without Virginia. And their situation is even more tenuous with the Clintons’ family friend and firm ally Terry McAuliffe in the Governor’s mansion. The “90 for 90″ project logo “If Hillary wants to win Virginia,” Reid said, “Terry should get involved in the 2015 elections now.” The rationale is simple: Every dollar that is raised for Virginia’s 2015 off-year election, every voter who becomes registered, and every canvassing effort will fine-tune and strengthen a Democratic machine that will need to be in top form in an election where the Kochs and other GOP donors are expected to spend more than $1 billion.
This fine hero does not want recognition but he deserves it. He is a soft spoken man who is sharp as a tack so age cannot hold us back any longer. This man is more than willing to continue his quest for voting rights and getting out the vote at almost 90 years of age.
I spoke with him tonight and it was such an honor to actually speak to an icon of history.
We need to give flowers while people are living and not wait and pass honors on to family members.. Again I say, " What is the process of nominating the Presidential Freedom Award to an individual"?
I also have good news for Virginia Kossack Meetups. Dr. Reid is willing to speak to activists via conference call to help GOTV. He said it would be his joy. He is also willing to help any way he can in helping elect better and more democrats. He told me,
" We use our vote or we lose it, and the money people like the Koch people are trying to buy our democracy". What a statement.
Come on people...We have a country to save and a country about to become a Koch enterprise if we don't follow this man's advice and get busy. Please re read The Marti's diary and let's put some boots on the ground and expose the money machine for what it is. There is power in the vote and we stil have icons out there fighting for you, our children, and our children's children.