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Flashback, 2000: At a military checkpoint on the side of a road in Lesotho, an officer pointed an automatic weapon at me, and asked for $20. I took out my business card, I handed it to him, and I told him that I worked with the US government and I didn’t need to give him $20. He pretended to read the card (he was obviously illiterate), he smiled, and with his machine gun, he then waived me back to my car. Perhaps he said “Have a nice day”; I don’t recall specifically.
Recently, before the U.S. announced and launched air attacks in Syria to destroy oil refineries in ISIS-controlled territory, Rep. Alan Grayson was invited onto Thom Hartmann's national TV show, to discuss alternatives. Thom Hartmann's view is that the United States is being baited into war. To support that view, Thom began the segment with testimony from an unusual witness: Osama Bin Laden, in a recording from ten years ago.
Osama Bin Laden : " easy to bait this administration.... All that we have to do is to send two mujahedeen to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written "Al Qaeda," in order to make generals race there, to cause America to suffer human, economic and political losses without their achieving anything of note other than some benefits for their private corporations.... We are continuing this policy in bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy, Allah willing, and nothing is too great for Allah.... Every dollar of Al Qaeda defeated a million dollars, by the permission of Allah, besides the loss of a huge number of jobs.... It is true that this shows that Al Qaeda has gained, but on the other hand it shows that the Bush Administration has also gained, something that anyone who looks at the size of the contracts acquired by the shady Bush Administration-linked mega-corporations like Halliburton and its kind, will be convinced . And it all shows that the real loser is you, it is the American economy."
Thom Hartmann: Flash forward ten years, and it looks like ISIS is the exact same script as Bin Laden did a decade ago. With the video beheading of another American journalist, the group is practically begging the Obama Administration to get involved in a two-front war in Iraq and Syria. After all, there is nothing better for a terrorist group to cut its chops in global jihad than duking it out with America, in the heart of the Middle East. So does this mean it is time to rethink America's role in fighting ISIS? And why aren't other Arab countries in the region taking on a bigger role, in the fight against a group that is more extreme even for Al Qaeda? Joining now for more on this is Congressman Alan Grayson, Representative of Florida's 9th District, a Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Congressman Grayson. Welcome back, it's always great to see you. You've sent letters to the U.S. Ambassadors of a number of Arab nations asking them to commit 5,000 troops as part of a multilateral force to fight ISIS. Do you want to walk us through this plan?
CongressmanAlan Grayson: Sure, I think that this is a regional problem that needs a regional solution. I don't think that every time we see something bad in the world, we should bomb it. This is a problem that is rooted in the Sunni/Shiite warfare in the Middle East. I've called upon the Sunni leaders in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, Oman, Yemen, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Algeria, and Morocco, all of them that have forces at their command, to attack ISIS and end the threat of Sunni fundamentalism, with their own forces.
Thom: Have you received any responses from governments to say yes or no?
Alan: Actually I haven't yet. . . . I think that these countries need to be prodded into defending themselves. I think Iraq had done an appallingly poor job of it. Their forces outnumber ISIS forces 100 to 1, and [yet> they constantly abandon the battlefield.] We'll see if the same thing is true elsewhere. I'm hoping that these countries will go ahead, band together, and eliminate these Sunni fundamentalist threats, but if Iraq won't defend its own territory, if these countries won't eliminate these radicals in their midst, then you have to wonder, Tom, why should we?
Thom: One of the countries, in fact, that you have asked to be a part of that multilateral coalition is Saudi Arabia, which according to many sources has been a major source of funding for ISIS. How can it be a reliable partner in a coalition?
Alan: Well, it's time to put up or shut up. We need to determine if these countries have any fight in them, and that still remains to be seen. We're giving them an opportunity to step up, and do the job that they're supposed to do. I'm concerned that what we're seeing in the Middle East is what the Right Wing here in America calls a "culture of dependence." They've developed a dependence upon the military-industrial complex to defend them> , when in fact they should be defending themselves. Iraq alone has $100 billion in oil money at its disposal every year. They have some of the best-equipped troops in the entire world. They should be defending themselves, and not relying on our money and our blood to defend them.
Thom: Last year, all the hawks were calling for us to bomb President Assad in Syria; now they're calling us to bomb ISIS in Syria, which is fighting Assad in Syria. How does that make any sense?
Alan: It just doesn't. This is a situation where we have few friends (if any) in the region. jump ahead to go to war, and essentially become the Shiite Air Force -- which would be what we would be doing if we attacked ISIS on a consistent basis. This makes no sense. When I was on national TV last year arguing that we should not militarily intervene in Syria, one of the announcers asked me, "Shouldn't we be helping the opposition in Syria?" I said: "Which ones? The anti-Semites or the Al Qaeda graduates?" Well now we see, a year later, that we have the Al Qaeda graduates taking the lead. That was ISIS.
Thom: I mentioned in my intro that ISIS is following the Bin Laden playbook with beheadings, and trying to drag America -- or draw us -- into a war. Do you think it is a fair analysis?
Alan: Yes, and a simple question is, what is best for America? It doesn't make sense for us at all to be involved in another land war in the Middle East -- our third one in a short period of time -- when we haven't even disengaged ourselves from the remaining two. Does that make any sense? Do we spend another $4 trillion? Do we have another quarter of a million US troops return with permanent brain abnormalities? Should we spill the blood, and kill, another 4,000 of our troops -- again? Does that make any sense? >
Thom: Not to me. The U.S. has a longstanding policy of not negotiating with terrorists (even though we did negotiate with terrorists to free Bowe Bergdahl). Do you think given these killings with Sotloff and Foley, and the other countries getting their hostages out by actually negotiating and paying ransoms, that we should rethink that negotiating policy?
Alan: No, I don't think we need to rethink it. I understand the urge that people have right now, including the President and including most Americans, for revenge against ISIS. But revenge is one thing, and war is quite another. I don't think we should be putting our money and our blood on the line in a situation where we have no friends and no strategic advantage. The fact is that this intervention, if it does take place, would violate every single rule in the rulebook of warfare (or at least Colin Powell has expressed it). We have no strategic interest, we have no strategic advantage, we would not be using a force that would essentially obliterate the enemy, everything short of nuclear weapons, I imagine. And additionally, we have no exit strategy. My goodness, we're in our thirteen year of war in Afghanistan. Don't we know the simple rule that if we're going to go in, we should know how we're going to get out?
Thom: What should that tell us about America's ability to nation-build, in that the countries that we have intervened in the last 13 years -- Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan -- they're all spiraling into chaos?
Alan: Well, what it should tell us is that these countries would be better off if they turned to their neighbors , and that is exactly what I'm suggesting. If you have an American soldier that goes to fight ISIS in the Middle East, what he's doing is becoming a target for an IED, a target for a sniper, whatever. If you have a Saudi soldier doing that, a Saudi soldier understands the local terrain, understands the local culture, understands the language and the religious practices, and he looks like the people he is trying to protect. That's the obvious solution to the problem , and we have to pull together and make it happen. The Saudis, the Kuwaitis, the UAE, and even the Iraqis don't want to shed their own blood, as long as they're confident that we will shed ours. That has to change.
Thom: I'm wondering if you've talked to anyone in the Administration, State, Defense? Any feedback on this?
Alan: No, they concede that they have no strategy . What I am trying to do is create one.
Thom: That's brilliant. Congressman Grayson, it's great to have you in Congress. Thanks for joining us tonight.
The November election now is less than six weeks away. With both Republicans and Democrats enthralled by the military-industrial complex, and forever war now the "conventional wisdom," it's more important than ever that a strong voice for peace remain in Congress. If peace matters to you, then it's time that you support your real representative in Congress, Rep.Alan Grayson. Alan Grayson is saying what you're thinking, and no one else has the courage to say. That's why we need him in Congress, and why you need to contribute to his campaign, our campaign, your campaign - today.
This is the only note that you will receive from a Democrat during this election season regarding abortion. The only one. Because I may well be the only Democratic candidate who is willing to undertake a mature conversation on this subject, and not just fling trite clichés in your general direction. So you might as well enjoy it, right?
A few months ago, I was reading the appropriations bill for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. (Yes, I actually read the bills. As Yogi Berra once said, “You can see a lot by just looking.”) I noticed something odd. Since 1976, federal appropriations bills often have forbidden the use of federal funds to pay for an abortion, except in cases of incest or rape. This is known as the Hyde Amendment, after its author Henry Hyde (R-IL). It was an anti-choice response to the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973.
So what was odd? That this appropriations bill forbade the use of federal funds to pay for an abortion, except in the case of rape only. Only rape. Not incest. (There also was a provision regarding the life of the mother.)
There isn’t a lot of time to goof around over appropriations bills. We generally see them with barely 24 hours’ notice. So I wrote a quick corrective amendment, to allow federal funds for abortions in cases of both incest and rape. Obviously, since I’m pro-choice, I regard that as far too narrow. However, in the Tea Party’s House, I didn’t think that I was going to win that battle that day. I just tried to correct an obvious error.
Why bother? I’ll tell you why. Because if you are the victim of incest, and while you are pregnant you end up in federal prison, you can’t just flag a taxi and drive over to the nearest Planned Parenthood clinic. Prison wardens frown on that.
So I walked across the street (something else that federal prisoners can’t do), and waited patiently until it was my turn to offer my amendment. I didn’t think that it was going to be a big deal.
Quite to my surprise, the GOP’s “floor manager” expressed bitter opposition to the very notion that incarcerated victims of incest might want to terminate their pregnancies. It was intolerable! It was despicable! Had I no respect for life itself???
Well, I lost that vote. That wasn’t one of the fifty or so floor amendments that I have pushed over the finish line during the past two years.
I felt bad about it, because I couldn’t stop thinking about those female prisoners. It was hard enough that they were being denied control over where their bodies were, but even worse that they were being denied control over what was in them. And control over your own body is the most fundamental human right of all.
Later that day the GOP floor manager, to his credit, came over to me and told me that I had made a good point, and that he would “fix it” next year. So why couldn’t he concede that point, and give me my amendment? Because politics, that’s why.
I was reminded of this recently because I looked at some video clips of my GOP opponent.
Here is her “reasoning”: When she was born, in North Carolina 57 years ago, abortion was a felony. (As it was in every state except New Jersey, where it was a misdemeanor.) North Carolina did not legalize abortion until 1970. She is concerned that if abortion had been legal in North Carolina when she was conceived, then she might have been aborted. “Therefore,” all abortion should be illegal, she says.
Philosophy majors will recognize this as a bizarro, twilight version of Immanuel Kant’s “Categorical Imperative.” Immanuel Kant might have made that argument, had he not been a great philosopher but rather, an idiot.
Anyway, in just six weeks, the voters in FL-9 will have a choice. They can vote for a candidate who feels some degree of concern about women who are the victims of incest, who are incarcerated, and who then are forced to bear, and then bear, the consequence of that incest. Or they can vote for a candidate who fears that she might be retroactively aborted, and then incorporates that fear into her political platform.
I seriously hope that they vote for me.
You can help to make that happen. If you think that this choice between the two of us is an important one – in other words, if you are pro-choice -- then you should hit that “CONTRIBUTE” link below.
The election is only six weeks away. So hit that button hard.
Rep. Alan Grayson
Right-wing cranks and fools haven’t come up with a “cure” yet for stupidity, greed, paranoia, bigotry, hypocrisy or even laziness. But they do think that they’ve come up with a “cure” for something that requires no cure: homosexuality. It’s called “conversion therapy,” and here’s how it “works”:
In one form of conversion therapy, they attach live electrodes to your genitalia, they start showing you gay porn, and then they turn on the juice.
In another form of conversion therapy, they feed you an emetic, they turn on that gay porn (is it OK to use the phrase “turn on” here?), and then they wait until the emetic takes hold, and you puke all over the floor.
Here’s another method: prayer. Or as they call it, “spiritual intervention.” They try to pray the gay away. The Religious Right has set up “counseling clinics” for gays, or rather against gays, that purport to “cure” homosexuality.
Who would be so stupid and cruel as to think that conversion therapy is a good idea? Or, more specifically, which spouse of which Member of Congress would be? That would be Rep. Michele Bachmann’s husband Marcus.
Marcus Bachmann who runs a Christian counseling clinic in Minnesota that indulges in conversion therapy.
And the U.S. of A. is not the only land in which you find such things. If you’re curious, you can look up the case of Pitcherskaia v. Immigration and Naturualization Service , 118 F.3d 641 (9th Cir. 1997), and see how it’s done in Mother Russia. There, gay students are beaten up – not only by other students, but also by the school principals. Gay students are incarcerated in mental institutions, and they are “treated” with shock therapy. When released, they are required to continue such “treatment” at outpatient clinics. Other attempted “cures” include hypnosis and sedatives. All of this came to light when Ms. Pitcherskaia, a lesbian, sought political refuge in the United States. Fortunately for her, she was not required to undergo “conversion therapy” with Marcus Bachmann as a condition of entry.
The American Psychiatric Association has unequivocally condemned any psychiatric “treatment” based on the assumption that homosexuality is a mental disorder. The Attorney General has written that “a growing scientific consensus accepts that sexual orientation is a characteristic that is immutable.” The World Health Organization has said that “sexual orientation by itself is not to be regarded as a disorder.” And yet in the United States, gay teenagers have been held in isolation for months, and forced to attend this “conversion therapy.”
Except in California. Thanks to Ted Lieu.
In 2012, State Senator Ted Lieu wrote a bill to prohibit conversation therapy for minors in California. That bill passed in the California Legislature, and was signed into law. Ted Lieu made California the first state to ban conversion therapy for minors, but hopefully not the last. That was a very important accomplishment.
Now Ted Lieu is running for Congress, and he needs your help. He is seeking the seat of Rep. Henry Waxman. Henry has served for 40 years in Congress, and yet he kept his seat last time with only 54% of the vote. It’s a difficult district, it’s a close race, and we need Ted Lieu in Congress.
And to give you an extra little nudge, Blue America PAC has extended its drawing for Ted Lieu contributors through noon tomorrow. One lucky contributor to Ted Lieu’s campaign will receive the RIAA-certified Quadruple Platinum Award for Fleetwood Mac’s album “The Dance.”
So I’m asking you to click below, and show your support for Ted Lieu. He had the guts to take on the Religious Right when it was the Religious Wrong, and he rescued countless children from the bigoted lie that their sexual identity was a “disease” that demanded a quack “cure.” Ted Lieu deserves our support.
Rep. Alan Grayson
Q. What do you and Fleetwood Mac have in common?
A. Possibly, the RIAA-certified Quadruple Platinum Award for Fleetwood Mac’s album “The Dance.”
OK, here is the deal. Howie Klein, impresario of the Blue America PAC, owns this gorgeous award, given in recognition of the fact that “The Dance” was – and is – the fifth best-selling live performance album of all time. With Fleetwood Mac playing “Rhiannon,” “Go Your Own Way,” “Don’t Stop” and other huge hits, who wouldn’t buy that album?
Howie Klein and Blue America PAC will chose one contributor who contributes any amount to Congressional candidate Ted Lieu’s campaign between now and noon on Wednesday, and that very lucky supporter will receive the Fleetwood Mac Quadruple Platinum Award. So click here, and help out.
Why Fleetwood Mac? Because Fleetwood Mac is awesome. You love Fleetwood Mac, that’s why.
Why should you help Ted Lieu? Because Ted Lieu has been an extremely effective California State Senator, and he is the Democratic candidate to replace retiring Rep. Henry Waxman in Congress. In his last month alone as a State Senator, here are a few of the things that Ted Lieu accomplished:
(1) Lieu passed a law to prevent the California State Government from cooperating with NSA domestic spying.
(2) Lieu helped foster children who are being “medicated” with psychotropic medications that haven’t even been tested on children.
(3) Lieu passed a law to target child sex traffickers for punishment.
Does Lieu need the help? Yes. In 2012 Waxman, a 40-year legend in Congress, won by only 9% of the vote.
So give Ted Lieu’s campaign a helping hand, and maybe this historic Quadruple Platinum Award will be yours.
This offer ends on Wednesday, at noon. But don’t stop thinking about tomorrow.
Rep. Alan Grayson
You're invited to an exclusive Progressive Democrats of America call with Rep. Alan Grayson to discuss the serious issues facing us and his plans to address them in Congress.
Tuesday, Sept. 9 at 9pm ET / 6pm PT. Call in: 605-562-3140 / Access Code 381072#
Please contact Mike Fox at MikeFox@PDAmerica.org to RSVP and to submit your questions.
Alan Grayson is the most outspoken member of Congress. He's a progressive champion, a lightning rod, and a great friend to PDA. He leads the fights to protect Social Security, to stop the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and much more.
Alan often joins us at our PDA Round Tables on Capitol Hill (the next one is coming up Weds. Sept. 17) and Progressive Central summits. He stands up against Tea Party kooks and corporate Dems alike. He keeps helping us grow as PDA and as the Progressive Movement.
We were proud to endorse Alan in 2012, and to help him with his stunning return to Congress. We backed him again in 2014, and we're committed to helping him win once again this November. Join PDA welcoming Rep. Alan Grayson to an entertaining, exciting, and inspirational call!
Conor, Andrea, Kimberly, Judy, Mike H, Jeanne, Janis, Mike F, and Deb
Your PDA National Team
It has been widely reported that I recognized, several months before the martial law scenes from Ferguson, Missouri, how problematic it is to put military weapons and equipment in the hands of police officers, and that I introduced and forced a vote on an amendment in the House to prevent that. It also has been widely reported that I lost that vote. We then saw the consequence of that sad outcome on our TV screens and computer screens. I want to share with you some of the points that I made when that amendment was under consideration. I will tell you what was said in opposition to my amendment. And then, in light of what we saw in Ferguson, I want you to tell me how you would have voted.
To have military weapons in the hands of the police is a blatant violation of Sir Robert Peel’s “Nine Principles of Policing,” which has been the gold standard of police conduct for two centuries. Here are those principles:
· To prevent crime and disorder, as an alternative to their repression by military force and severity of legal punishment.
· To recognise always that the power of the police to fulfil their functions and duties is dependent on public approval of their existence, actions and behaviour, and on their ability to secure and maintain public respect.
· To recognise always that to secure and maintain the respect and approval of the public means also the securing of the willing co-operation of the public in the task of securing observance of laws.
· To recognise always that the extent to which the co-operation of the public can be secured diminishes proportionately the necessity of the use of physical force and compulsion for achieving police objectives.
· To seek and preserve public favour, not by pandering to public opinion, but by constantly demonstrating absolutely impartial service to law, in complete independence of policy, and without regard to the justice or injustice of the substance of individual laws, by ready offering of individual service and friendship to all members of the public without regard to their wealth or social standing, by ready exercise of courtesy and friendly good humour , and by ready offering of individual sacrifice in protecting and preserving life.
· To use physical force only when the exercise of persuasion, advice and warning is found to be insufficient to obtain public co-operation to an extent necessary to secure observance of law or to restore order, and to use only the minimum degree of physical force which is necessary on any particular occasion for achieving a police objective.
· To maintain at all times a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and that the public are the police, the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.
· To recognise always the need for strict adherence to police-executive functions, and to refrain from even seeming to usurp the powers of the judiciary of avenging individuals or the State, and of authoritatively judging guilt and punishing the guilty.
· To recognise always that the test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, and not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with them.
With that in mind, I introduced an amendment to prevent any further distribution of armored vehicles, grenade launchers, silencers, toxicological agents, chemical agents, biological agents, launch vehicles, guided missiles, ballistic missiles, rockets, torpedoes, bombs, mines, and nuclear weapons by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) to police departments in the United States. The amendment did not restrict the distribution of guns or ammunition.
The purpose of my amendment was to address a growing problem throughout our country, which is the militarization of local law enforcement agencies, and the resulting friction between the police and the policed.
The New York Times had recently reported that police departments around the country had received thousands of pieces of camouflage and night-vision equipment and hundreds of silencers, armored cars, and aircraft directly from the Department of Defense. These are military weapons and materiel.
I thought, and I still think, that this is appalling. That is why my amendment tried to prohibit the Department of Defense from gifting military-grade equipment, such as aircraft—including drones—armored vehicles, grenade launchers, silencers, and bombs to local police departments. I believe that those weapons have no place in our streets, regardless of who may be deploying them.
As The New York Times article ‘‘War Gear Flows to Police Departments’’ explained:
“Police SWAT teams are now deployed tens of thousands of times each year, increasingly for routine jobs. Masked, heavily armed police officers in Louisiana raided a nightclub in 2006 as part of a liquor inspection. In Florida in 2010, officers in SWAT gear and with guns drawn carried out raids on barbershops that mostly led only to charges of ‘barbering without a license.’ One South Carolina sheriff’s department now takes a new tank that it received from the Department of Defense with a mounted .50-caliber gun to schools and community events. The department’s spokesman calls that tank a ‘conversation
Forgive me, but I just don’t think this is the way I want my America to be. I think that our police should act like public servants, not like warriors at war. My view of America is one where our streets are safe, and they don’t resemble a war zone, no matter who is deploying that equipment. We don’t want America to look like an occupied territory.
After I made these simple and brief points to my colleagues in the House, a certain distinguished gentleman from New Jersey then beat his chest about 9/11. I’d like to try to explain to you his argument that the 9/11 tragedy somehow justifies giving landmines, torpedoes and missiles to local police departments. But in order to explain it, I would have to understand it, and I just don’t.
Then an esteemed colleague from the Great State of Florida made this comforting point: He said that you can always find misuses of any equipment that is given to the police, but it is the responsibility of local communities to keep the police in check. In other words, tanks don’t kill civilians; it’s the tank occupants who kill the civilians. Which really begs the question: How is the community going to keep the police “in check” if it’s the police who have the tanks, the helicopters and the chemical weapons?
In response to these points, I invited any opponent of my amendment to cite a case – any case, at any time, in any place – where the police in any American community actually had ever used military weapons for a necessary and proper purpose. I asked them to identify any act of terrorism that was thwarted by handing to police officers helicopters that are militarized, handing them bombs, and handing them the military gear that you would expect to see only on the battlefield.
For that invitation, there were no takers.
I therefore pointed out that those weapons simply are not being used to defeat terrorism in our streets. Instead, they are being used to arrest barbers in Orlando, and to terrorize the general population.
And then I made a very important point, one which unfortunately was borne out very quickly in Ferguson, Missouri. I said that such weapons often are used by a majority to terrorize a minority.
Someone had to say it.
And I added that we all know of many cases— both recent and in the deep, dark past—where the police used their weapons improperly, and brutally. It used to be that they could only use billy clubs or guns that way. But now, they can use helicopters and bombs. And before long, I suppose, given the “anything goes” logic of the Defense Department’s Section 1033 program, the police will be able to deploy nuclear weapons.
That is not an America that I want to live in. And I’m not going anywhere else, any time soon.
In my finale, I pointed out that without my amendment, DoD is free to provide the police with weapons of mass destruction, deployed within our borders, with no strings attached. Unfortunately, no one in the House seemed concerned by that.
That was the sum and substance of the debate. I haven’t left anything out.
I’m a Democrat, and the Democrats are a minority in the House of Representatives. So for me to win, I have to attract Republican support. I did that. The strength of my arguments, or perhaps my wit and charm, enticed 19 Republican House Members to vote in favor of the Grayson Amendment. If you check, you will find that there are exceedingly few House Democratic amendments that win that kind of GOP support.
There are 199 Democrats in the House. 19 + 199 = 218, the magic number in the House of Representatives. 218 makes a majority.
Unfortunately, the House Democrats abandoned the Grayson Amendment in droves, and it went down to defeat. Hence Ferguson.
But that was then, and this is now. I want to know something else today – how you would have voted. What if you were in Congress? Would you have voted for the Grayson Amendment or against it?
At some point, I’ll share the results.
With that amendment, I was ahead of the new cycle, ahead of the crowd. But isn’t that what leaders are supposed to do? Lead?
Rep. Alan Grayson
Democracy for America (DFA), the largest membership group for Democrats, sent this note to its members on Sunday. DFA has named Rep. Alan Grayson it’s “#1 Hero in the House.” :
A true progressive leader is someone who anticipates a problem before it becomes a national crisis.
Thanks to Ferguson, Missouri, the entire country now knows that the militarization of our local police is a huge problem that threatens our safety and our freedoms.
Police militarization isn't news to Rep. Alan Grayson. He was already leading the fight against it in Congress, before it became national news.
In June, two months before Ferguson, he proposed an amendment that would have blocked the Pentagon from transferring military surplus to local police agencies. Had that amendment been in place a few years ago, St. Louis County police might not have had the armored vehicles and sniper rifles that they used to threaten peaceful protesters.
Alan Grayson's bold, progressive leadership on demilitarizing the police is just the latest example of why it is so important that we have him in Congress. Alan Grayson fights for our values when few others will. That makes him a hero -- and it makes him a right-wing target.
DFA is endorsing Alan Grayson because we cannot afford to lose an ally like him in Congress. Will you chip in $20 today to support this progressive leader?
Alan Grayson's leadership has repeatedly changed the conversation in Congress and won important progressive victories.
When he and Congressman Mark Takano joined forces to write a letter vowing they would never vote to cut Social Security, it sparked a revolt among House Democrats who successfully saved Social Security -- for now.
That kind of leadership is why Republicans desperately want to defeat him. In 2010, they beat Grayson during the Tea Party wave. But Grayson fought back in 2012 and won, thanks to his unashamed embrace of progressive values.
We can't let Tea Party extremists take down Grayson in 2014. He's asked DFA members for their help, and I hope you'll respond. From protecting and expanding Social Security, to fighting corporate power, to demilitarizing our police, and so much more, Alan Grayson is a leader we cannot afford to lose.
Alan Grayson has stood with us when we needed him the most. Now it's time for us to stand with him. Chip in $20 now to re-elect Alan Grayson to Congress.
Thank you for standing up for a progressive hero.
Charles Chamberlain, Executive Director
Democracy for America
Hey, there. Sorry that you haven’t heard from me for a while. I was a bit preoccupied by our Tuesday Florida Democratic primary – which we won by 49 points. Of course, I would have preferred to pontificate by e-mail, but I actually did lose a Democratic primary once, and I’m going to make sure that that never happens again.
The show must go on.
Since our last episode, a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri killed an unarmed African-American teenager. The police officer shot him somewhere between six and eleven times. According to some eyewitnesses, the victim, Michael Brown, was shot in the back. Then Brown turned around, with his hands up, and shouted “I don’t have a gun – stop shooting!” At which point the officer shot him shot several more times, and killed him.
Since I grew up in the Bronx, I have some general familiarity with that scenario. In 1978, a Bronx police officer was convicted of beating a Puerto Rican to death – while he was in custody.
In 1994, a young man in the Bronx was arrested for accidentally hitting a police car with his football. His brother expressed dismay to the officer about that arrest, crossing his arms across his chest. The officer then arrested the brother, for “disorderly conduct,” and literally choked the life out of him; the coroner listed the cause of death as “compression of his neck and chest.”
In 1996, a Bronx police officer frisked an African-American male, Nathaniel Gaines, on the “D” Train, and found that he was unarmed. One stop later, at 167th Street, overlooking the Grand Concourse on the southbound platform, one stop before Yankee Stadium, the officer ordered Gaines to disembark. The officer then shot at Gaines five times, including four times in the back, and killed him. Gaines was a veteran of the Persian Gulf War, he had no criminal record, and he had never been arrested.
In 1999, four Bronx police officers approached an unarmed Guinean immigrant named Amadou Diallo and ordered him to “show his hands.” Misunderstanding them, presumably because his native language was Fulfulde and not English, Diallo reached into his pocket and took out his wallet. The officers shot him 41 times, and killed him.
And in the meantime, in 1997, New York City police arrested Abner Louima, a Haitian-American, and then sodomized him with a broomstick. But that was in Brooklyn. My parents used to warn me about Brooklyn.
I could go on. Sadly, I could go on and on and on. But what is the point? Police brutality is a reality. And you can’t miss it, unless you literally close your eyes to it – which all-too-many people seem willing to do.
Let’s start with Fox News. When I listen to Fox News, I feel torn. I just can’t decide: Are they idiots, or are they fools? Are they nitwits, or are they imbeciles? Are they morons, or are they jerks? Are they blockheads, or are they boneheads? They report, and we decide.
Remember how you used to hear the phrase “clever like a fox”? Since Fox News, you don’t hear that anymore.
The primary Fox “talking point” regarding the killing of Michael Brown is that Brown may or may not have been in a convenience store earlier in the day, and that he may or may not have stolen some cigars from that store. Fox has been playing the convenience store video footage in an infinite loop. But there is little or no evidence that the officer knew of the store incident, or that he connected it to Brown.
And if he did, then so what? Even under sharia law, if you steal a few cigars, the worst that can happen is that you get your hand cut off. Not eleven shots from a high-caliber weapon.
The U.S. Supreme Court has held that our Constitution permits the death penalty only in cases of first-degree murder, and treason. Not cigar theft. If 11 bullet holes for stealing some cigars is not “cruel and unusual punishment,” then I don’t know what is. It’s definitely cruel, and I certainly hope that it remains unusual.
The other major Fox talking point is “why aren’t we talking about all of the black-on-black violence, and the black-on-white violence?” OK, let’s talk about that. I can give you dozens, if not hundreds, of examples of white police officers killing unarmed black men. I just gave you several from my younger days in the Bronx, alone. The Bronx represents well under one percent of the population of the United States, and my “younger days” were, sadly, quite a while ago.
Now, Fox News, give me an equal number of examples of black police officers killing unarmed black men. Also, give me a list of black police officers killing unarmed white men.
I’m waiting . . . .
Anyone who thought that electing our first American-American President would end racism in America must be sorely disappointed this week.
If you ask a sociologist for a definition of “the government,” he or she will not mention Social Security, or the fire department, or the public school system, or our national parks. The sociological definition of the “government” is the entity that has a monopoly on the legal use of force. In every nation on Planet Earth, only the military and the police have the legal right to exercise force, up to and including deadly force. And that makes it tragic when that force is used indiscriminately or – even worse – discriminately.
In 1969, the American psychologist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross published a book about how people facing death deal with death. She said that there are five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
When it comes to the reality of brutality by our peace officers, too many of us are still in that first stage: denial.
And if the killing of Michael Brown weren’t bad enough, then we had to watch military weapons deployed by those same “peace” officers on our city streets. But this note is long enough already, so I’ll save that subject for next time.
Rep. Alan Grayson
This op-ed appears on page 6A of today’s edition of USA Today:
Rep. Alan Grayson: American people say, 'No'
Alan Grayson, 8:03 p.m. EDT August 10, 2014
Who is right on military intervention in Iraq: President Obama, or the American people? I say that it's the people.
A recent Pew Research Center poll asked Americans, "Do you think the U.S. has a responsibility to do something about the violence in Iraq?" "No!" said 55%. Fewer than 40% said yes. Most Democrats, Republicans and independents are opposed.
We all know the history: U.S. soldiers invaded and occupied Iraq, looking for "WMDs" that weren't there. That 10-year war cost us the lives of 4,425 American soldiers, left roughly 250,000 with permanent brain abnormalities from IEDs, etc., and cost us $2 trillion — approximately 2.5% of our national net worth, accumulated over 200 years.
Isn't that enough?
We left when the government of Iraq refused to extend the Status of Forces Agreement. Now Iraqi leaders want our help again. But the U.S. military is not a yo-yo.
The stated "mission" of the Iraq War was to build up a million-man armed force to defend Iraq. We did that. That force is fed by $100 billion in oil money each year. Yet it has been defeated, again and again, by what one Arab official called "a few hundred psychopaths." Iraqi soldiers outnumber the Islamic State by more than 100 to 1, but they won't fight.
In one town, a band of ISIS fighters announced their approach with a devastatingly effective weapon: a bullhorn. Iraqi soldiers fled.
If the Iraqis won't defend themselves, then why should we? And when will we start solving our own problems?
This effort makes a mockery of the Powell Doctrine. No national security interest is threatened, we don't have a clear strategy, we're not using overwhelming force, and we have no way out.
We have to get past this bizarre notion that every time there's something in the world we don't like, we bomb it.
Mr. President, when it's our money, and it's our blood, then it's our decision. And now, the American people are saying "No!"
"Ain't gonna study war no more.
Gonna lay down my sword and shield.
Down by the riverside."
— Down By the Riverside (1918).
Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., is a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Rep. Alan Grayson