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NY Times:

The Justice Department will open a broad civil rights investigation into the police practices in Ferguson, Mo., where a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager last month, officials said Wednesday.

The investigation, which is expected to be announced soon, is in addition to the F.B.I. civil rights investigation into the Aug. 9 shooting of teenager, Michael Brown, according to two government officials who were briefed on the plans.

NY Times:
Ethel Walker and her daughter Tasha pay $650 a month to rent a home in Ferguson, Mo., from an investment firm 1,800 miles away in Los Angeles. A few miles from the Walkers, Corey Bryant and his mother are renting a two-bedroom home in Ferguson from the same California firm.

Increasingly, the new landlord in Ferguson and in other close suburbs of St. Louis is an out-of-state investment firm that has been buying distressed homes to rent them out, a consequence of the foreclosures resulting from the financial crisis.

The Aug. 9 shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, by a white police officer in Ferguson put a spotlight on the racial divisions in the United States and the tactics used by the police. But some housing advocates said the incident should also focus attention on how towns like Ferguson are still reeling from the financial crisis and how that also has contributed to heightened tensions.

NY Times:
For decades, Florida has had a history of deadly, racially tinged police confrontations, many of them involving unarmed men, which have led to riots, protests and a steady undercurrent of rancor between minorities and the police. But in the past 20 years, not a single officer in Florida has been charged for using deadly force.

As a grand jury considers the case of Darren Wilson, the officer who shot and killed Michael Brown on Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Mo., Florida’s experience points to both local and national factors making it extraordinarily difficult to prosecute, let alone convict, law enforcement officials for killing someone in the line of duty. Police officers, who risk their lives daily, have the authority to use lethal force if they believe they or others are in danger. More often than not, across the country, that right — along with other factors — makes hurdling “beyond a reasonable doubt” a challenging task, prosecutors and defense lawyers said.

More politics and policy below the fold.

Radley Balko has a long but important read on Ferguson in the Washington Post:

Locals say the cops and court officers often come not only come from different zip codes, but from completely different cultures and lifestyles than the people whose fines and court fees fund their paychecks. “It was always apparent that police don’t usually have a lot in common with the towns where they work,” says Javad Khazaeli, whose firm Khazaeli Wyrsch represents municipal court clients pro bono. (Disclosure: Khazaeli is also a personal friend.) “But I think Ferguson really showed just how much that can be a problem.”
More commentary in bobswern's diary.

Chris Cillizza:

Our Senate model is moving in Democrats’ direction all of a sudden. Why?
Chris Geidner:
A federal judge broke ranks on Wednesday, ruling that Louisiana’s ban on same-sex couples’ marriages is constitutional.
The ruling, from U.S. District Court Judge Martin Feldman, is the first federal court ruling upholding a state’s ban since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal law defining marriage as only including opposite-sex couples in June 2013.

Feldman, appointed to the bench in 1983 by President Reagan, noted his departure from other judges, writing, “It would no doubt be celebrated to be in the company of the near-unanimity of the many other federal courts that have spoken to this pressing issue, if this Court were confident in the belief that those cases provide a correct guide.”
Nonetheless, Feldman concluded first that no “fundamental right” was at stake — “Public attitude might be becoming more diverse, but any right to same-sex marriage is not yet so entrenched as to be fundamental” — and that laws that distinguish based on sexual orientation are not subjected to heightened scrutiny. As such, only the lowest level of scrutiny — rational basis review — applied to the ban, meaning the state needed only to show a legitimate reason for barring same-sex couples from marrying.

Sean Sullivan:
Democratic nominee Chad Taylor dropped out of the race for U.S. Senate in Kansas on Wednesday, an 11th hour move that could clear the way for his party to rally behind and independent candidate and potentially change the math in the battle for the Senate majority.

Taylor, who raised little money and had not gained traction in the campaign, submitted a letter to the Kansas secretary of state's office that said he was withdrawing from the contest, without providing any further information. An e-mail to his spokesman seeking more information on why he bowed out was not immediately returned.

The move, which came on the last day for ballot changes, could clear the way for Democrats to rally behind Greg Orman, an independent candidate who has left the door open to caucusing with both parties if elected. Orman, who used to be a Democrat and a Republican, has been viewed as a more viable opponent against Sen. Pat Roberts (R), who polls show is vulnerable. Orman has raised a lot more money than Taylor.

David Frum:
That all sent a message, but only indirectly. The direct message came on Wednesday, in Tallinn, Estonia, in the sharpest language any U.S. president has used toward Russia since Ronald Reagan upbraided the Evil Empire. One by one, President Obama repudiated the lies Vladimir Putin has told about Ukraine: that the Ukrainians somehow provoked the invasion, that they are Nazis, that their freely elected government is somehow illegal. He rejected Russia’s claim that it has some sphere of influence in Ukraine, some right of veto over Ukrainian constitutional arrangements. And he forcefully assured Estonians—and all NATO’s new allies—that waging war on them meant waging war on the United States. “[T]he defense of Tallinn and Riga and Vilnius is just as important as the defense of Berlin and Paris and London," Obama said. "Article 5 is crystal clear. An attack on one is an attack on all. So if, in such a moment, you ever ask again, who'll come to help, you'll know the answer: the NATO alliance, including the armed forces of the United States of America, right here, present, now."

This is the ultimate commitment, given by the ultimate authority, in the very place where the commitment would be tested—and would have to be honored. There’s no turning back from that. Today, for the first time perhaps, Eastern Europeans have reason to believe it. And Vladimir Putin? His depredations have brought about the very result he claimed most to fear: a reanimated NATO rededicated to the defense of all its members, new and old, West and East, backed by the ultimate commitment of the United States.

In Tallinn, President Obama gave the most important speech about European security—and issued the most important pledge—of the post-Cold War era.

Jim Newell:
The brouhaha over President Obama’s “we don’t have a strategy yet” has got to be among the more embarrassing collective faintings from the political media in some time. It is being dubbed the gaffe to end all gaffes and the words that will be engraved on Obama’s gravestone. There’s ISIS out there in the Middle East, just killing everyone all willy-nilly, and the president has no strategy, because he plays golf and is weak. The Optics are bad, and so that justifies everything. Now audio of the president saying “we have no strategy” can be cut-and-pasted into any old Republican ad across the country, overlaid over any visual: footage of chaos in the Middle East, unemployment lines, domestic strife, whatever.

What did Obama say? In what context were these remarks made? ...

This impatience to smash everyone in ISIS right away with an awesome, star-spangled display of the latest advanced weaponry is producing criticism that, in most worlds, would be laughable. Yesterday State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki referred to Sotloff’s beheading as a “horrific terrorist act.” But she was criticized, mostly on the right, for refusing to describe it as an “act of war.” Yet another GAFFE.

Mostly on the right, and Chris Matthews, who speaks for Reagan Democrats everywhere.

Originally posted to Greg Dworkin on Thu Sep 04, 2014 at 04:28 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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