RICH BULEY: Zinke doesn’t have what it takes

Labor Day’s passage means it’s time for the campaign season to heat up. Already, a Missoulian editorial has called out Republican candidates Steve Daines and Ryan Zinke for sending out deceptive and misleading campaign mailings.

Zinke also made news with the headline, “U.S. House Candidates Won’t Debate in Billings After Zinke Backs Out.”. The article details how Zinke agreed to a statewide televised debate with Democratic candidate John Lewis to be held in Billings on September 29th. With Zinke refusing to face the voters, there will be no debate in Billings for he first time in decades.

Zinke then had the chutzpah to claim that it was Lewis’ fault for Zinke’s broken promise, when it was Zinke who stated that Sept. 29th was the only date he had open. By the way, Lewis is still committed to the 29th.

Zinke has centered his whole campaign around his past of being a Navy Seal. In his campaign literature he has stated, “Leadership takes guts, internal fortitude, and honor.” Okay, let’s break that down. Zinke doesn’t have the guts or internal fortitude to face the voters and set forth his views. How can voters believe that Zinke has guts in politics when he won’t even face questions? And, how about honor? Honor means keeping your word. Zinke picked the date, confirmed the date and then backed out. Even worse, he lied about it being Lewis’ fault. Is that Zinke’s idea of honor? Zinke has shown himself to be the opposite of what he himself considers to be a leader.

 

RICH BULEY: Daines represents the Koch brothers

This year’s Senate race in Montana is shaping up to be one of the most critical in a long time. It is a race that may very well decide control of the U.S. Senate and the direction of the United States.

On one side is the Democratic candidate, Butte math teacher Amanda Curtis. She will represent the 99% of Montanans who are not billionaires. On the other side is Republican Steve Daines who will represent the Koch Brothers, the fourth and fifth wealthiest individuals in America.

Why do I say that Daines will be representing the Kochs? As always, one needs to follow the money. The Koch brothers, who are each worth $36 billion founded and funded a Super PAC known as Americans for Prosperity. Americans for Prosperity intends to spend $125 million on elections this year. The PAC has already run ads for Daines in Montana. Daines is prominently featured on their website. Here he is on their website, with the bizarre headline “Thank Daines for choosing to lead.” Why is that bizarre? Because it was about Daines following the GOP House leadership in wasting time voting 50 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act. That’s what AFP considers leadership to be? Still don’t think Daines is tight with AFP and the Kochs? Daines’ Montana state director was just named the director for AFP Montana.

So, you may be asking yourself, “OK, but do the Kochs really control the Republican Senators? I’m glad you asked because the answer is a resounding, “Damn right!” Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell recently spoke at a secret  gathering of the 1% organized by the Koch brothers. Unknown to McConnell, his talk with the rich donors was secretly recorded. In his talk, he promised the 1% that if the Republicans gained a majority in the Senate, they would get rid of financial regulations so big banks can rip us of even more. He promised that he wouldn’t even ALLOW DEBATE on increasing the minimum wage or on reforming student loans.

It wasn’t just McConnell playing the toadie to the billionaires. Republican Senatorial candidates from Iowa, Arkansas, and Colorado were recorded giving their undying gratitude and loyalty to AFP for making their careers. There can be no doubt as to the purpose of the gathering since it was titled, “The Senate: a window of policy opportunity for principled leaders”.

There can be no doubt that a vote for Steve Daines is a vote for the oligarchy. If Daines wins and the Republicans control the Senate, the Senate will be run by Charles and David Koch for their benefit, not yours.

RICH BULEY: Assisted suicide?

This morning, I was struck by quite a coincidence of timing. There was  a guest editorial about assisted suicide not being the answer. Just yesterday I watched a video of St. Louis police officers assisting a black man’s suicide wish. Or at least I hope it was, rather than another murder.

It seems that an obviously mentally stressed man walked into a convenience store, stole 2 sodas, walked down the street, placed the sodas on the ground and waited for the police to show up. Two police showed up, jumped out their vehicle and drew their guns. The black man started calmly walking towards the cops saying, “Go ahead and shoot me.” Four seconds after the police arrived, they granted the man his wish and shot him 9 or 10 times. The initial statement from the Police Chief alleged that the man charged the officers with a knife in an overhead grip, getting within 3 or 4 feet of the officers. When the citizen video came out, though, the police were forced to admit the man had his hands at his side, did not charge, and did not come that close. The policemen were both carrying tasers.

RICH BULEY: A little racial tension in Missouri?

Sometimes politicians slip up and allow their real selves to be exposed. Take for example, the city councilman from Poplar Bluffs, MO., who apologized for putting racist photos on his Facebook page. Of course, he said he didn’t mean to offend anybody, explaining, “At one time I was a very active Republican, very opposed to Obama.” So, apparently he and other Republicans opposed to Obama figured the best way to oppose Obama was to post racist photos on Facebook. And, apparently they posted the racist photos because race was why they were very opposed to Obama.

Then, when some of the smarter Republicans in Missouri didn’t think it was a very good idea for the true feelings of Republicans to be exposed, got the councilman to then apologize to the Republican Party saying, in direct contradiction to his original apology, “Anything I have said, that I have referred to the activity because I was a Republican, that is not true.”

It is hard to believe there is some racial tension in Missouri these days, isn’t it?

RICH BULEY: Police are not making me feel safer

The New York Times has published a very cool map of military gear purchased by every county in the United States. It is quite interesting to see what local law enforcement agencies around the U.S. are loading up with. In Montana, the most common item is assault rifles. Missoula County received 38 assault rifles. Flathead County got a $658,000 mine resistant vehicle. Of course, with the white supremacists up there, maybe they really need one.

Urban areas are more armed and love the big ticket items like armored vehicles, helicopters and planes. Miami-Dade County, Florida not only got 242 assault rifles and 5 grenade launchers, they have 4 mine resistant vehicles, 2 other armored vehicles and 2 helicopters. Grenade launchers appear to be quite popular throughout Florida for some reason. Maricopa County, Arizona, home of the infamous sheriff, Joe Araipo and the city of Phoenix, has gone big with 4 mine resistant vehicles, 7 other armored vehicles, 5 helicopters and 2 planes.

Not only does the U.S. spend as much on “defense” as all other countries combined, many of our local police are armed more heavily than a lot of actual armies. I don’t know why, but I don’t feel safer.

RICH BULEY: Reaganomics and debt

I’ve written before (here and here) about the failure that is Reaganomics and “trickle down”. A little discussed aspect, though is its horrendous effect on higher education. Look what has happened to the rise in tuition compared to inflation since Reagannomics began in 1980:

One of the basic responsibilities of government is education. But, with the tax cut fever of the last 30 years, support for education has decreased so tuition has risen. This, in turn, has resulted in students going further into debt to finance their education. However, since median incomes have declined over the same period of time, those with student loan debt are increasingly unable to pay.

As  income falls, and debt increases, there is only one result possible and that is about half of all student loans are in default. The problem that then arises is that while workers are paying off their student loans, they have less money to put into the economy which slows economic growth, and they cannot acquire assets or savings. That means that when these people retire, they may have very few assets which will then require more burden on the next generation to support them.

 

RICH BULEY: What do the police need with this stuff?

A few days ago I wrote about the militarization of local police through a program known as 1033, in which the Department of Defense gives surplus equipment to local law enforcement agencies. A website, Muckrock, has obtained information about the specific items procured by local agencies.

Unfortunately, the list is not broken down into specific agencies, but by state. There is some interesting browsing there. For example, Alabama got about 50 “extreme cold” parks and pants, obviously a high priority in Alabama. Georgia obtained 200 bayonets. What in the world is a local police force going to do with bayonets, attack San Juan Hill? Also obtained was $384,000 worth of electrical wire, for the Christmas display, maybe? Tennessee received enough musical instruments to start their own marching band, including 5 tubas and 5 euphoniums. They also got 14 paintball guns.

Many local agencies, including Montana went for big ticket items like semi tractor trailers,a bulldozer, dump trucks, excavators, and road graders. I’ve got to say, I’ve never seen a policeman driving a dump truck. Where does all this heavy machinery go? Also, one agency received one bayonet and scabbard. I’m guessing that is on someone’s wall or something.

RICH BULEY: Police apparently above the law

Well, you learn something new every day. Today I learned that tear gas is a chemical agent banned in war by treaty signed by the U.S. Yet, somehow, it is widely used by police departments against U.S. citizens, like peaceful protestors in Ferguson, MO.

That’s right, it is against international law for the Army to use tear gas against a foe in an actual war, but police departments in the U.S. and other countries use it against their own citizens. This is truly bizarre.

We know that the police in Ferguson not only shot tear gas at protestors and journalists, but they also shot rubber bullets, significantly injuring people like the female pastor who was calmly saying, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.”. The question I haven’t seen answered anywhere is: when does the investigation of the felony assault charges against the police begin? If any citizen had shot rubber bullets or chemical weapons at the police, do you think that he would get a free pass? Just because a person is wearing camo, a helmet, and a gas mask doesn’t give him immunity.

RICH BULEY: Welcome to Fallujah

Welcome to Fallujah, U.S.A., or as it is sometimes known, Ferguson, MO. The internet is awash with stories of reporters being arrested for the crime of being in a McDonalds, reporters being targeted with tear gas, and  unprovoked attacks upon peaceful protestors in residential neighborhoods.

But, the difference between Fallujah and Ferguson is that the U.S. Army wasn’t as heavily armed. Since 1996, The Department of Defense has transferred $4.3 billion worth of military equipment to local law enforcement agencies. The program started as part of the “War on Drugs”. It has, inevitably, turned into the “War on Citizens”. We saw the use of combat gear in New York and Oakland to combat the peaceful protestors of Occupy Wall Street. Soon, the outrage faded, no changes were made, and now we have new outrages.

The problem is that in the United States we have the right to protest, we have the right to peaceably assemble, we have the right to speech and a free press. Those rights don’t exist in a war zone. Because local police departments are being equipped as combat troops and see themselves as combat troops, they see their role as defeating an enemy. Unfortunately, their proper role is to serve and protect the citizens and their rights. So, when a police officer is caught on tape yelling, “Bring it, all you f***ing animals, Bring it!”, I can’t blame the officer. He was reacting to the situation in which he was placed by others.

The similarities between the Occupy demonstrations and Ferguson are striking. There really was no violence until the police showed up in their military gear and initiated the violence. To what end, though? A lot of police departments and local governments should look at Missoula for guidance. Here, no one felt the need to disperse the Occupy protestors from the courthouse lawn and, eventually, they just went away.