Minimum Wage Debate Intensifies As Election Nears, Ferguson Shooting Appears Black and White and Ku Klux Klan Finds a New Way to Recruit

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With re-elections and elections on the minds of many political hopefuls and political veterans, the minimum wage debate continues to heat up among incumbents and their would be opponents. As Jim Kuhnhenn reports, Obama: ‘Revving’ up economy calls for higher wages, President Obama on Monday renewed his push for a minimum wage increase from Congress delivering the speech on behalf of Democrats opening their fall campaigns for midterm congressional elections. He told a union crowd in Milwaukee: “America deserves a raise. By almost every measure the American economy and American workers are better off than when I took office. The engines are revving a little louder.” The purpose of his pep talk was to help Democrats facing tough races and draw campaign contrasts with Republicans who maintain an increase would hurt small business and slow hiring. Despite no federal increase, 13 states raised their minimum wages at the beginning of this year and adding jobs faster than those that did not. Obama gave his Labor Day speech in Wisconsin where the fight over collective bargaining rights of public employees has taken center stage. The Republican Governor, Scott Walker, recently stripped most public sector union members of their ability to collectively bargain and faces a tight re-election campaign with Democrat Mary Burke with election over two months away. The White House is encouraging Democrats to talk about the recovery as they head into November mid-term elections. The numbers for August included more than 200,000 jobs created per month for six consecutive months, a six-year high in auto sales, second-quarter economic growth that exceeded expectations and an expanding manufacturing sector, unemployment rate stands at 6.2 percent, dropping 1.1 points over the past year, and the stock market has nearly tripled in five years. According to the liberal Economic Policy Institute, there are significant weakness in the labor market including the long term unemployed, lower labor participation and real hourly wages fell from the first half of 2013 to the first half of 2014 for all income groups, except for a 2-cent increase for the lowest income level. A new survey by Rutgers University found that Americans are more anxious about the economy now than right after the recession ended. Meanwhile, Biden, speaking at the annual Labor Day parade in Detroit, said: “A job’s about a lot more than a paycheck. It’s about your dignity, it’s about your place in the community, it’s about who you are. It’s about being able to look your kid in the eye and say, ‘Honey, it’s going to be OK.’ That’s what a job is about. You can’t do that unless you get a fair wage. If the middle class is doing fine, everybody does fine,” he said. “The wealthy get very wealthy, and the poor have a way up. Middle class … means you get to own your home. It means you get to send your kid to a decent school, that if they do well and they want to go to college, you can afford to send them to college. It means being able to take care of your parents if they get sick. it means maybe being able to save enough so you hope your kids never have to take care of you. The American people have not stopped dreaming. The American people have not walked away from what they believe they are entitled to. Just give them a chance — no handout, just give them a chance,” Biden said. “Once you give Americans a chance, they have never, never, never, never ever let their country down.” While the president and vice president talk about the minimum wage issue to people who deal with it everyday, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has decided two months ahead of the midterm elections to live on Illinois’ minimum wage which is $8.25 an hour, according to AOL, Why Is Gov. Pat Quinn Living Off Minimum Wage For A Week? In addition, he said $79 is what someone living on minimum wage has left over after expenses such as taxes and housing. This is ahead of a November referendum to increase the state’s minimum wage to $10 per hour. ​The governor, who WFLD reports made $177,000 last year, has been supporting an increase in the minimum wage. Other Democrats who also support this cause include Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Vice President Joe Biden and President Obama. Many believe this is election motivated, according to the Chicago Sun Times, a recent poll found 38 percent of voters in Illinois support Quinn for re-election while nearly 51 percent of voters say they support his Republican challenger. Eleven percent of voters remain undecided. Gallup’s poll last year found 76 would vote for a hike. His Republican opponent, Bruce Rauner is also in favor of an increase with “pro-business reforms” that the Chicago Tribune reports would include tort reform, worker’s compensation reform and a cut in taxes for businesses.

While candidates worry about re-election, McDonald’s. Wendy’s and other fast food restaurants are expected to be targeted with acts of civil disobedience on Thursday as labor organizers escalate their campaign to unionize the industry’s workers, Candice Choi reports, Civil disobedience expected in fast-food pay fight. Kendall Fells, an organizing director for Fast Food Forward, said workers in a couple of dozen cities were trained to peacefully engage in civil disobedience ahead of this week’s planned protests. A spokesman for the Service Employees International Union, which has been spearheading the protests, said home health care aides will join the actions in some locations. The “Fight for $15” campaign has gained national attention at a time when growing income disparities have become a hot political issue with many workers only making $7.25 per hour equating to $15,000 a year for 40 hours a week. Catherine Fisk, a professor of labor law at the University of California in Irvine, said, “The goal is to persuade workers that it doesn’t have to be this way. The goal is to persuade consumers that it doesn’t have to be this way. This is about getting attention to the issue.” The National Restaurant Association, in a statement, said that the fast food protests are attempts by unions “to boost their dwindling membership.” The industry lobbying group said it hopes organizers will be respectful to customers and workers during the protests this week. Several lawsuits claiming wage theft by McDonald’s and its franchises have been filed in three states on behalf of workers. McDonald’s Corp. has said it would investigate the claims.

As the fight for fair wages continues, another fight for racial equality continues in the suburb of Ferguson as many do not see a gray area in the shooting of Michael Brown. Jesse Washington reports, No gray area: Beliefs shape view of Brown killing, many Americans see the Michael Brown killing in Ferguson as black and white with no gray area with many convinced there was no justification for Wilson to kill Brown because he was unarmed and others see it as justified because Brown threatened Wilson. In a CBS News and New York Times poll, 64 percent said they didn’t know enough to say if the shooting was justified and only half said they paid attention to the case. About 100 Wilson backers nearly all white gathered outside Barney’s Sports Pub in St. Louis late last month carrying signs like “Heroes Have A Right To Protect Themselves,” while a multiracial group of about a dozen Brown supporters stood across the street. Passing drivers honked in support of one side or the other, screamed obscenities, or raised middle fingers out of windows, Washington reports. Lou Manza, chair of the psychology department at Lebanon Valley College in Pennsylvania, said in an email: “If one were to view a police officer pointing a gun at someone, and they also view police negatively, they may very well ignore whatever events precipitated the officer drawing his/her weapon, even though that action may have been entirely justifiable. On the other side, if one has a favorable view of police, they’re going to ignore the alleged assailant’s behavior, and simply assume that the police officer is correct, despite the fact that the officer may very well be wrong and unjustified in their actions. Confirmation bias is a subtle but strong effect and once a belief is established, it can be VERY difficult to change it.” The same can be said for others cases filled with racial controversy such as O.J. Simpson, Rodney King and Trayvon Martin where people loked at the same information and came to different conclusions.

Meanwhile, one of the most infamous and oldest hate groups in the country, the Ku Klux Klan, appears to have stepped up its recruitment using the hot top of immigration as its platform, according to an AOL report, Ku Klux Klan steps up recruitment, focuses on immigration. Multiple CNN affiliated report the Ku Klux Klan spreads its new message using flyers and candy stuff ziploc bags to attract recruits in the past couple of month around the U.S. including the Hamptons in New York and neighborhoods in South Carolina, Texas and Orange County, California. According to KTLA, the flyers include “SAVE OUR LAND. JOIN THE KLAN.” According to WHNS, the KKK hotline recording say, “Be a man, join the Klan. Illegal immigration is the story of America. Always remember: if it ain’t white, it ain’t right. White power.” Robert Jones, head of one of New York’s KKK chapters told the New York Times: “A lot of Americans are fed up with immigration right now. … This immigration problem… is destroying this place. I have never seen the Klan expanding the way it is now.” Despite those claims, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) says since the 1970s, the historically violent group has been “weakened” due to internal problems, court cases and from the government stepping in.

The Nationwide Aftermath of the Michael Brown Shooting

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U.S. President Barack Obama has orders the examination of federal programs and funding allowing state and local enforcement to purchase military hardware out of concern at how much equipment was used during the racial unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, according to a senior Obama administration official on Saturday, Steve Holland and Andrea Shalal report, Obama orders review of U.S. police use of military hardware. The review will be led by White House staff including the Domestic Policy Council, the National Security Council, the Office of Management and Budget, and relevant U.S. agencies including the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Justice and Treasury, and conducted in coordination with Congress. At the White House news conference Monday, Obama said he wanted to make sure police purchase equipment needed because there is “a big difference between our military and our local law enforcement and we don’t want those lines blurred.” A growing number of lawmakers have voiced concerned over the militarization of U.S. police forces through programs facilitated by the Pentagon, Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security. House of Representative lawmakers defeated a bill to halt the 1033 program, which allows the purchase of this equipment, 355-62 vote in June, however concerns about the handling of the crisis in Ferguson have revived the reform effort. The article reports: “The Pentagon has transferred more than $4 billion of equipment including armored vehicles, tents, rifles and night-vision goggles to local and state agencies since 2006, of which about 36 percent involved new equipment. Over the past year alone, the Pentagon said, it has transferred some 600 armored military trucks known as MRAPS that were built for the war in Iraq. In addition, the Department of Homeland Security has awarded more than $35 billion in grants over the past decade.” U.S. weapons makers have been eying other markets for years to drum up business for their products developed for the military to offset declines in U.S. and European military spending.

Back in Ferguson, Michael Brown Sr., the fathers of the unarmed black teenager shot to death by a police officer, asked Sunday for protests to pause on the day of his son’s funeral, Mollie Reilly reports, Michael Brown’s Father Asks For Pause In Protests On Day Of Son’s Funeral. He told BuzzFeed, “I would like for no protesting going on. We just want a moment of silence that whole day. Just out of respect for our son.” Saturday marked the two week anniversary of the shooting with Brown’s father telling KSHB regarding officer Darren Wilson, the man who shot Michael Brown: “We’re hurt. There’s no telling what he’s doing. He has his life, but our son is gone.” Harvard Law School Professor Charles Ogletree told NBC, “I think the first thing that needs to happen, you need to arrest Officer Wilson. He shot and killed a man, shot him multiple times. No one knows anything about him, no one knows why he did it.” The Christian Science Monitor points out not all agree that Wilson should be taken into custody as one law professor at Harvard was quoted as saying, “We should not arrest [Officer Darren Wilson] until there’s a substantial level of proof of criminality, even if it appeared that the police acted improperly.” Unfortunately, Missouri’s Defense of Jurisdiction statute fives police officers broad authority to use deadly force in cases when, “He or she reasonably believes that such deadly force is necessary to protect himself, when he reasonably believes that such use of deadly force is immediately necessary to effect the arrest” and when the subject “May otherwise endanger life or inflict serious physical injury unless arrested without delay.” The Business Insider points out that if Wilson is charged for Brown’s death, his attorney can invoke the law by arguing that he believed Brown posed a serious threat to his life. Wilson’s supporters have started fundraising campaigns for the officer including a GoFundMe page that has raised more than $230,000 and two Facebook pages in support of Wilson have almost 100,000 likes. CNN reports, “It may be until mid-October before the panel gets through all of the evidence. That’s so important to see as much evidence as they can. So if this officer … is charged, it may not happen until then.” Until then, Salon notes that the prosecution has two choices: first, “immediately press charges, issue a warrant for the officer’s arrest and arrest Officer Wilson.” Or it could hold back, then “present the case to a grand jury and see if the grand jury will find probable cause to indict the officer.” Regardless of whether Wilson is soon arrested, the grand jury would still have to find probable cause before he would be indicted. Michael Brown’s funeral is scheduled for Monday.

As for the man of the hour, Darren Wilson remains a bit of mystery yet many have rallied around the somewhat disgraced officer thanks to the less than fair media coverage of the officer. Wilson supporters agree the media is a perpetrator believing he has been misrepresented and maligned since the shooting of Michael Brown on Aug. 9, according to Matt Sledge, Darren Wilson Supporters Rally To Bash Media, Ferguson Protesters. Sharon, one of many people who only offered a first name or no name at all said, “It takes two sides to every story, and I think he has gotten such a bad rap.” A 12 person grand jury began considering whether to indict Wilson for his role in Brown’s death on Wednesday with some supporters expressing sympathy for Brown’s family, while few others, seemed to think the 18 year old should be spared the rush to judgement that Officer Wilson received. There has been three nights of peace in Ferguson following days of violent clashes with police and protestors directly following the shooting. While both black and white protestors have come out every night in Ferguson, no African Americans appeared to attend the pro-Wilson gathering. The Washington Post reported Wilson worked previously at a department that was disbanded by authorities over racial tension in Jennings, Missouri, three years ago when Wilson was a rookie cop. The newspaper described the department as “a mainly white department mired in controversy and notorious for its fraught relationship with residents, especially the African American majority… not an ideal place to learn how to police.” The city council decided that tensions between officers and black residents were so bad that everyone had to be fired to build a new, more credible department. Just days after Brown was killed, Kajieme Powell, another black man was fatally shot by police after allegedly stealing energy drinks and donuts from a convenience store. St. Louis Police said the man was armed with a knife, but raw video of the incident appears contradictory. Later last week, Lieutenant Ray Albers of the St. Ann Police was suspended after being filmed pointing a semi-automatic rifle at a protestor and threatening to kill him. On Aug. 22, St. Louis County officer Dan Page was removed from duty after a video of him making bigoted comments was released.

As Natasha Bach points out, Police Violence Has Been Going On Forever. No Wonder People Are Fed Up With It, the fact remains that the number of people killed by police annually is unknown, but we do know that five unarmed black men have been killed by police in the last month alone. Besides protestors protesting the Aug. 9 shooting of an unarmed teenager, Michael Brown, by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, they are voicing their anger at an old police problem namely the violence directed at black and brown people. Besides the Michael Brown and Kajieme Powell shooting, here are a few other instances of excessive force used by police nationwide from Bach’s report:

“The horrific beating of Rodney King by five police officers in Los Angeles in 1991 — and the subsequent acquittal of his assailants — sparked the L.A. riots of 1992, leading to 53 deaths, some at the hands of police. It was also a video introduction to police brutality for those in America who may have doubted its severity.

Twenty years later, a police beating or shooting has a decent chance of getting caught on camera — either the one on the phone in everybody’s hand or the surveillance camera pointing down at the street. The latter captured Kelly Thomas, a schizophrenic homeless man, being beaten to death by authorities in Fullerton, California, after being mistaken for a suspect in a series of car break-ins in the area. They, too, were acquitted.

Footage shows Oscar Grant being restrained by BART transit officers on the train platform in Oakland, California, following an altercation. Unarmed and lying on the platform, Grant was shot to death by James Mehserle, who claimed to have mistaken his gun for his taser. The alleged accidental death of Grant at the Fruitvale BART station was memorialized in last year’s film Fruitvale Station.

In June, Edgar Vargas Arzate was running from police in Santa Ana, California, near where Thomas was beaten, before surrendering in the front yard of a neighbor’s home. He was lying unarmed and face-down in the grass, but officers still savagely beat Arzate. When he was taken into custody, he was charged with assaulting an officer.

In July, Staten Island resident Eric Garner was suspected by the NYPD of selling untaxed cigarettes. When he refused arrest, an officer put the asthmatic man in a chokehold. Garner repeatedly screamed ‘I can’t breathe!’ and died soon after.”