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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Black Men: Beware Of Police Officers

It’s one of the best-known lines of any English-language poet — Robert Burns’ reflection on the upper-class church lady who doesn’t realize there’s a louse crawling around on her bonnet. “O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us, To see oursels as ithers see us!”

I had an opportunity to see how others see us while vacationing in Italy when news broke of the grand jury’s decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson for killing teenager Michael Brown. Across Europe, the news coverage was nonstop. And it wasn’t pretty.

For most Europeans, the failure of the grand jury to indict, and resulting riots in Ferguson and other cities, was just further proof that a country that brags of its human rights record has itself a serious, continuing problem with racism. On German television, a special program on racism in America opened with the chilling observation: “For half a century, the land of the free has been trying to overcome racism and discrimination — with doubtful results.” French Justice Minister Christiane Taubira summed up her impressions on Twitter: “Racial profiling, social exclusion, territorial segregation, cultural marginalization, firearms, fear, fatal cocktail.”

Of course, nobody enjoyed rubbing our nose in it more than Russia. After years of our condemning the Russian government for its denial of basic human rights, this was their chance to get even. Russia’s foreign ministry, which dubbed the unrest a “color revolution,” cited the riots as evidence of “systematic shortcomings of American democracy.”

It’s uncomfortable to hear such criticism, especially from nations that are hardly paragons of virtue. Yet, they are right! We do have a lingering problem with racism in this country. We might as well admit it, and we’d better start dealing with it. We saw it in Los Angeles with Rodney King. We saw it in Sanford, Florida, with Trayvon Martin. We saw it in Ferguson with Michael Brown. And now we see it, once again, on Staten Island, with Eric Garner. Add to these cases that no doubt go unreported every day nationwide.

As shocking as the grand jury’s decision in Ferguson might be, the Staten Island grand jury’s decision not to indict is even worse — because they were presented with so much more evidence. Starting with a video of the entire incident, on which Garner can be heard repeatedly warning “I can’t breathe,” as Officer Daniel Pantaleo locks him in a chokehold while four or five other police officers hold him down, face pressed into the sidewalk. They then leave him lying there for more than five minutes — handcuffed, not breathing, without administering any aid — until an ambulance arrives. And there’s no doubt how he died. The medical examiner ruled that Garner’s death was a homicide caused by the chokehold — the use of which is banned under New York Police Department rules.

Yet, despite such clear evidence of police abuse, the grand jury refused to indict Pantaleo, who thereby joined Darren Wilson as the latest white police officers to kill an unarmed black man and get away with it. Garner, meanwhile, joined Michael Brown as two of their latest victims, neither of whom deserved to die. Michael Brown’s crime? Walking down the street in Ferguson. Eric Garner’s crime? Allegedly selling loose cigarettes on the streets of Staten Island without a license. Would a young white man have been killed by police for such minor offenses?

Hopefully, the back-to-back deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner will serve as the two-by-four between the eyes necessary to wake all of us up to the need to confront the issue of race head-on — and not forget about it until the next headline-grabbing event. Yes, we’ve made a lot of progress since the days of Jim Crow. But the evidence of continuing racial discrimination is overwhelming: in racial profiling of young blacks by law enforcement, in the disproportionate number of blacks in prison, in a lack of representation in elective office and executive suites and in court decisions upholding restrictions on voting rights.

President Obama should take the lead by appointing a National Commission on Racism to hold hearings around the country, study the problem and make recommendations for action at the federal, state and local level. We can no longer accept a reality where an African-American occupies the Oval Office, yet a young black man can’t walk down the street without being stopped and questioned — merely because he’s black. It sounds harsh to say it, but it’s true. More than anyone else today, black men have much to fear when confronted by white cops.

Bill Press is host of a nationally syndicated radio show, the host of Full Court Press, and the author of a new book, The Obama Hate Machine, which is available in bookstores now. You can hear “The Bill Press Show” at his website: billpressshow.com. His email address is: bill@billpress.com.

Photo: Tony Webster via Flickr

Do You Trust Your Government On Ebola?

As I write this column, two health care workers in Dallas have come down with Ebola after treating Thomas Eric Duncan, who traveled from West Africa and died from the disease. By the time you read it, there will most likely be more cases.

Still, there’s no need for panic. I repeat; there’s no need for panic. It’s important to keep what’s happening with the Ebola virus in perspective. Even with the latest news from Dallas, that makes a total of three Ebola cases outside of West Africa: a nurse in Spain and two nurses in the United States, all three health care workers exposed to the virus while performing their jobs. Meanwhile, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 480,000 people die in the United States each year from cigarette smoking; 88,000 die of alcohol-related deaths. More people will die of the flu this year than from Ebola.

Did I mention? There’s no need for panic. But there is cause for concern, after watching the CDC respond to the first cases of Ebola in this country. So far they surely don’t inspire confidence that they know what they’re doing and are handling the situation well enough to prevent a potential crisis from escalating into a real one. It looks like they’re making it up as they go along.

At the Texas Presbyterian Health Hospital in Dallas, where health professionals were operating under close supervision of the CDC, it’s been one blunder after another. First, when Mr. Duncan initially visited Texas Presbyterian’s ER, they sent him home, even after telling them he had just come from Liberia. First breach of protocol. When he returned to the hospital, nurses were given only partially secure protective gear to wear. Second breach of protocol. And before she came down with the disease, nurse Amber Vinson, who was supposedly under observation and self-monitoring, was allowed to fly to Cleveland to visit family. Third breach of protocol.

After the fact, in each case, Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC, readily admitted “mistakes were made” — in not immediately sending a SWAT team to Dallas, in not issuing tough guidelines on gear and in monitoring persons exposed to the disease. But that begs the question: Why didn’t they get it right in the first place? Clearly, even though the Ebola virus has ravaged West Africa since 1976, health authorities were not prepared for its appearance in the United States — and failed to take it seriously until it did.

For years, health officials have warned the CDC that their guidelines for protective gear were too lax. Sean G. Kaufman, who oversaw infection control at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta while it treated the first two American Ebola patients, called them “absolutely irresponsible and dead wrong.” Finally, based on what happened in Dallas, CDC has issued new guidelines in the last week, but they are still not as strict as guidelines used every day by Doctors Without Borders, who’ve been fighting Ebola in Africa for decades. Unlike Doctors Without Borders, for example, CDC has not required, until now, that a supervisor be present every time health care workers don and take off protective gear, to watch out for mistakes.

Meanwhile, the nation’s nurses have received little, if any, training for handling Ebola patients. One nurse at a local hospital told me her team of nurses had received zero training. A nurse from Chicago said her entire training consisted of watching a five-minute online video, with no actual practice donning and removing protective garb. At Dallas, according to National Nurses United, “There was no advance preparedness on what to do with the patient. There was no protocol. There was no system.”

And, of course, there’s still no vaccine for Ebola, for one very good reason: Follow the money. As noted in a recent column by The New Yorker’s James Surowiecki, pharmaceutical companies are most interested in diseases that affect wealthier people who can pay a lot. “When a disease’s victims are both poor and not very numerous, that’s a double whammy,” writes Surowiecki. “On both scores, a drug for Ebola looks like a bad investment: so far, the disease has appeared only in poor countries and has affected a relatively small number of people.”

The series of blunders in Dallas, which is unnerving, to say the least, comes on top of a string of missteps: from cooking the books at the V.A. to letting a man scale the fence and get all the way inside the White House. Do you still trust your government to prevent an outbreak of Ebola?

Bill Press is host of a nationally syndicated radio show and the author of a new book, The Obama Hate Machine, which is available in bookstores now. You can hear The Bill Press Show at his website, billpressshow.com. His email address is bill@billpress.com.

AFP Photo/Nicholas Kamm

First Test Of The Post-Gridlock Congress

It’s nothing short of a miracle: The fact that, after three years of lurching from one fiscal crisis to another, a badly divided Congress, in the waning days of 2013, was able to come together and agree on a budget with strong bipartisan support. True, in terms of substance, it wasn’t much of a deal. But the fact that, given all we’ve been through, they were able to reach any deal at all was itself a big deal.

That agreement was only struck, of course, because Speaker John Boehner — in even more of a miracle — finally summoned enough nerve to stand up to the minority Tea Party members of his own caucus. Not only that, he defied those extremist, anti-any-deal-Obama-would-sign know-nothings — and politically survived! Suddenly, congressional watchers — from President Obama on down — felt a flutter of hope in their hearts. If Congress, with Boehner’s new-found courage, could reach a budget deal in 2013, just imagine all the other unresolved issues they might be able to agree on in 2014. In a flight of optimism before leaving for Hawaii, President Obama told us White House reporters that he even predicted that 2014 would be a “breakthrough” year.

We’ll find out soon enough, when Congress meets its first real test after returning to town: legislation to raise the federal minimum wage, which has been stuck at $7.25 per hour since 2009, under legislation signed by President George W. Bush. The fact that almost 28 million American workers still struggle with a full-time job paying only $7.25 an hour is a national disgrace. At that rate, they take home only $15,080 per year, well below the federal poverty level of $23,550 for a family of four.

Nobody can support a family at that level, and everybody knows it. Thirteen states raised their minimum wage as of January 1, making a total of 21 states now paying more than the federal minimum. As many as 11 states and the District of Columbia are expected to follow in 2014, according to the National Employment Law Project. In November, Gallup found that more than three-quarters of Americans support an increase in the minimum wage, including 70 percent of moderates, 64 percent of Independents, and 57 percent of Republicans.

Building on that support, President Obama and congressional Democrats propose raising the minimum wage to $10.10, or $21,000 per year, by 2016 and, for the first time, get the minimum wage out of partisan politics by indexing it to inflation in the future. That’s still too low, of course. A minimum wage of $15.00, or $31,200 a year, would make more sense. But even that modest advance to $10.10 is opposed by House Republicans, every one of whom voted in March against a measure to raise the minimum wage after dragging out the long-discredited myth that any increase in the minimum wage is bad for the economy. “When you raise the price of employment, guess what happens? You get less of it,” said Speaker John Boehner.

On this issue, the vast majority of economists agree, Boehner and House Republicans are dead wrong. Despite their Chicken-Little warnings, the minimum wage has been raised dozens of times over the years with no measurable loss in jobs or economic growth. This time around, the Economic Policy Institute estimates that raising the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour would add $35 billion in greater wages for 27.8 million workers through 2016, putting more money into pockets of consumers to stimulate the economy, and creating 85,000 new jobs.

An increase in the minimum wage is also one direct way to tackle the growing problem of income inequality, which newly installed mayor of New York City Bill de Blasio made the centerpiece of his campaign and which President Obama has called the “defining challenge” of our time. Indeed, it’s harder and harder to defend not raising the minimum wage when you realize that, according to economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez, 95 percent of income gains in this country since 2009 have gone to the top 1 percent, while lower and middle-class wages have remained stagnant.

We may, in fact, have the whole minimum wage argument backwards. Consider. The AFL-CIO calculates the average worker wage at $19.77 per hour, while Mario J. Gabelli, founder of Gabelli Asset Management, makes $33,158 an hour and Charif Souki, CEO of Cheniere Energy, pockets $27,653 an hour. To tackle income inequality, what we really need in this country is not a minimum wage, but a maximum wage!

Bill Press is the host of a nationally-syndicated radio show and his latest book, The Obama Hate Machine, is available in bookstores now. You can hear The Bill Press Show at his website: billpressshow.com. His email address is bill@billpress.com

Photo: Medill DC via Flickr

Welcome To The “I Hate Obama Book Club”

The following is an excerpt from Bill Press’ new book, “The Obama Hate Machine,” published by Thomas Dunne Books.

The American landscape, unfortunately, is peppered with presidential libraries, most of which are not worth the time or money for a visit. Each president gets one.

But with Barack Obama, it’s going to be different. He will become the first former president to require two presidential libraries: one to house the personal papers and historical record of America’s first African-American president; the second to house the mountain of Obama hate books that have been published during his time in office.

Who says President Obama hasn’t helped grow the economy? Just ask conservative imprints Regnery Publishing or Encounter Books .

The Daily Beast‘s John Avlon was the first to track down the anti-Obama literature in detail. By his count, there were five books attacking Obama published even before he reached the White House. By year three of his presidency, a staggering sixty-seven books, at a minimum, had been published that demonized Barack Obama — far more than either Bill Clinton or George W. Bush had to contend with — and the number keeps growing.

Even though throwing mud at Bill Clinton was a favorite pastime of the far right, keeping Regnery and other publishers busy, only eleven anti-Clinton books had been published by his two-year anniversary.

George Bush got off even easier. According to Avlon, only five anti-Dubya books had hit the shelves by the same time in his presidency. Only in 2004, after his contentious reelection campaign, did the number of anti- Bush books reach forty-six.

Granted, some of these anti-Obama books can be dismissed as nutty screeds written by crazies nobody ever heard of and self- ublished through services like CreateSpace. But most were in fact released by mainstream publishing houses. And the list of authors includes a former attorney general of the United States, a former ambassador to the United Nations, a former Speaker of the House, a former Ohio secretary of state, prominent conservative commentators, and at least four top national radio and TV talk- show hosts: Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Michael Savage, and Laura Ingraham.

Together, they command a broad audience. And together, in print as on the airwaves, they have decided that the only way to bring down President Obama is not to challenge his policies but to undermine his personal credibility. In their warped world, Obama is not just wrong on the economy; he is a Marxist-socialist Manchurian candidate channeling the radical, antiimperial politics of his father and grandfather.

With such a flood of hate literature— its lies duly repeated and promoted on radio, cable television, and online— it’s no surprise that so many Americans are willing to believe demonstrably false things about Barack Obama. As this book goes to print, 25 percent of all Americans, and 41 percent of all Republicans, believe Obama was not born in the United States. One of every five Americans still believes he is a Muslim, and a whopping 55 percent are convinced he’s a socialist. “I read it in a book, I saw it on television, so it must be true.”

But, as with all the other arms of the Hate Obama Machine, the hate Obama literature differs both in quantity and intensity. It’s not a handful; it’s an avalanche. It’s not thoughtful political dissent; it’s a wave of ugly personal attacks— as evidenced by even a quick glance through each of the anti- Obama titles.

Don’t worry. You don’t have to read them all. I’ve skimmed them for you. (Click here to see the list of 67 anti-Obama books in full, including six that take a more traditionally populist — and less right-wing — tone.)

Here’s a quick look at some of my favorites:

10. Cullen, Mike. Whiny Little Bitch: The Excuse-Filled Presidency of Barack Obama.
Publisher: Quite Right Books, June 2010.

Between the Covers: The title says it all. Don’t expect much from this book, and you won’t be disappointed. Even one sympathetic reviewer had to acknowledge that it’s no “in- depth” account of the Obama administration. It’s a thin book, full of thin and stale criticisms of Obama’s messianic complex, his slighting of allies, his being too hard on Wall Street, his surrounding himself with cronies, his race baiting, etc., etc. Cullen proves there’s an audience for any anti-Obama drivel, no matter how shallow.

18. Geller, Pamela and Robert Spencer. The Post-American Presidency: The Obama Administration’s War on America.
Publisher: Threshold Editions, July 2010.

Between the Covers: If you truly believe that Barack Obama is “the most radical individual ever to occupy the White House,” this is the book for you. Geller and Spencer sound yet another call to arms to Americans concerned about Obama’s plot to destroy our free- market system and nationalize major segments of our economy. Billed as “the true patriot’s handbook,” Geller’s book urges conservatives to rise up and stop Obama in his tracks, while there is still any America left to defend.

51. O’Leary, Brad. The Audacity of Deceit: Barack Obama’s War on American Values.
Publisher: WND Books, September 2008.

Between the Covers: Lucky for Barack Obama I didn’t read this book before the 2008 election, or I would never have voted for him. How could anyone other than an outright Communist vote for him after Brad O’Leary told you what his real agenda was. No kidding. Few people realized that Barack Obama had these seven top goals: to raise the top tax rate to 60 percent; to grant citizenship to twelve million illegal immigrants; to appoint Supreme Court justices who would overturn the Second Amendment; to take 25 percent of farmland out of production; to transfer care of children under five from parents to government; to set up new government agency to decide which medical procedures seniors qualify for; and to make it easier for more Democrats to get elected by allowing felons to vote. Of course, that may have been a good way to scare people. But it didn’t work. And, needless to say, not one of O’Leary’s predictions has come true.

 

 

Boehner's Self-Destruction

OK, enough already. I don’t want to hear any more whining from Democrats about how hard it’s going to be for President Obama to win re-election in 2012. Because the political landscape has just shifted dramatically.

Of course, it’s not going to be any walk in the park for Obama and Democrats. It never is, for either party. But, even with John Boehner caving in on payroll tax cuts, the political equation has experienced nothing less than a historic, seismic shift. And Democrats now enjoy a huge advantage. Think about it.

Ever since Ronald Reagan, Republicans marketed themselves as the party of tax cuts. In fact, 274 Republicans in Congress signed a pledge never, never, never to vote to raise taxes on anybody. But, once asked to cut taxes for the middle class, Republicans were willing to throw that pledge right out the window.

By initially refusing to allow members of the House to vote on the Senate plan to extend payroll taxes for two months – a plan co-sponsored by Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell and approved by 89 members of the Senate, including 39 Republicans – Boehner effectively announced to 160 million American wage-earners: We changed our minds. Forget all that stuff we said about never raising taxes. Forget our pledge to Grover Norquist. Effective Jan. 1, Republicans were ready and willing to raise taxes on every American who draws a paycheck.

For working-class families, especially, that would have been bad news. It would have meant $40 less, every paycheck: money to put food on the table, gas in the tank, or clothes on the backs of kids. One thousand dollars less in disposable income for 2012. Paying a minimum $1,000 more in taxes. And for the American economy, billions of dollars less in consumer spending, demand for products, sales tax revenue, and walk-in traffic for small businesses.

Politically, as Karl Rove declared, that was suicidal for Republicans. Because, for the first time in decades, it was the Republican Party raising taxes and the Democratic Party, under Barack Obama, trying to cut them. And this wasn’t the first time. In 2009, as part of the stimulus, Obama gave 95 percent of Americans a tax cut. In 2011, he gave every American wage-earner a one-year, two percent cut in their payroll tax. And for 2012 Obama wanted to extend and expand that payroll tax cut – but was blocked from doing so by John Boehner and House Republicans – until they caved in.

Boehner’s rejection of the bipartisan Senate proposal not only put him at odds with Democrats, it angered fellow Republicans, starting with Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell. Echoing comments by McConnell and other Republican senators, John McCain said failure of House Republicans to extend payroll tax cuts for at least two months would not only hurt 160 million Americans, it “hurts the Republican Party.”

The reason Republican Senators were so upset was because they realized that, overnight, thanks to John Boehner, the Republican Party had surrendered its No. 1 issue. Suddenly, Democrats, not Republicans, were seen as the party of tax cuts. For Boehner to allow that to happen, as Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal complained, was monumentally stupid. Everybody knows Republicans in the House are determined to be against anything President Obama is for, but in this case, argues the Journal, “Republicans have thoroughly botched the politics.”

And not only on this issue. Ever since Sept. 11, the Republican Party has also sold itself as tough on terrorism. But no longer. It was Barack Obama who gave the orders to track down and kill Osama bin Laden, after George W. Bush abandoned the hunt. It was Barack Obama who led an international coalition against Moammar Gadhafi. And it was Barack Obama who, very quietly, dispatched U.S. drones to kill Anwar al-Awlaki and scores of other al-Qaida leaders. So now Democrats are also the party of national security, the party that keeps America safe.

Bottom line: Under the inept leadership of Mitch McConnell in the Senate and John Boehner in the House, Republicans have ceded the ground to Democrats on two key issues: tax cuts and national security. Meanwhile, the economy continues to improve.

That clearly puts 2012 in a whole new light. As The Wall Street Journal lamented: “We wonder if they might end up re-electing the president before the 2012 campaign even begins in earnest.”

Merry Christmas!