Sunday Reads: Fox News “Wish I was in the Land of Cossacks”

ac14a7229d8f045ee5b45e676e83785bGood Morning

Actually the title of this post is referring to a couple of news items from the past week. You may have missed this little nugget of love that was spread about on Fox News…it is a whooper when you think about it. See what the Daily Banter had to say about it: Fox News Channel Host Wishes Vladimir Putin Could Be “Head of the United States”

For the longest time, Fox News hosts throughout the broadcast day were crushing badly for Pooty-Poot and his hairless man-rack. But when protests in Ukraine disintegrated into a not-so-subtle Russian incursion and attempted annexation of the country, Fox News kept its unrequited passion to itself — not knowing whether its audience would regard Putin as a hero or a throwback Soviet-era invader.

And then a Malaysia Airlines flight was blown out of the sky, most likely using a Russian-made Buk surface-to-air launcher. If, in the aftermath of that tragedy, Fox News hosts were still carrying a torch for Putin, you’d have to read very carefully to find any signs of love. Mostly, the network was unwilling to directly blame Putin, referring to the missile launch as coming from pro-Russia rebels inside Ukraine.

That was July — just over a month ago. A lifetime in modern news media time, and even longer in internet time.

dec272e86cfb1f423b55fff2dfd32edfBut on Wednesday, Fox News reignited its affection for Putin — and, incongruously, on the same day when the Pentagon appears to have confirmed Russian forces and a Russian missile launch inside Ukraine. On “The Five,” and following a monologue about ISIS by talking troll Greg Gutfeld, panelist Kimberly Guilfoyle suggested that Putin take over the United States for 48 hours.

“Can I just make a special request in the magic lamp? Can we get like Netanyahu, or like Putin in for 48 hours, you know, head of the United States?”

Can I make a quick observation? What the fuck is wrong with these people. Bob Cesca continues,

There’s no gray area there. Putin for (Temporary) President. Guilfoyle’s 48 hour term is more than enough time for Putin to shoot down a few more passenger airliners; invite the Russian military into one or more states; imprison at least several thousand gay people; seize control of the internet; censor journalism; dissolve PBS and replace it with RT.

Vladimir Putin, a foreign-born former KGB agent operating under the pre-1990 communist Soviet regime, is Fox News Channel’s magic bullet for solving America’s problems. The same network that literally branded patriotism told us that Putin should take over the country for a while. The network that’s encouraging Speaker Boehner’s lawsuit against President Obama for his alleged abuse of executive power thinks despotic Putin would be a better alternative. Wrap your head around that one. Executive overreach is impeachable, but let’s bring in Vladimir Putin to fix things. I’m sure he’d totally get congressional permission for everything.

Nyet.

c8b0077a0e50bc8fe7c9d94ff9a78726By the way, Fox News wouldn’t have mentioned such an idea without knowing full well that Fox News loyalists would suck it down like water — viewers who only know that Putin is “tough,” without knowing what treachery is associated with that toughness. Oh, and they also know he hates the gays. I suppose that alone is enough to sell them on Putin.

The myth that seems to have permeated the far-right is that being a badass is the end-all of leadership, irrespective of who or what is on the receiving end of that badassery. But they can count on one thing: Putin will spend his two days as President of the United States doing a hell of a lot more than signing a stack of executive orders. One of his actions would surely be to indefinitely extend his 48 hour term. And that’d be the least objectionable thing.

Wow, the shit these people say is unfuckingbelievable! What gets me confused is how these right-wing politicians that go on Fox News…who are so anti-communist, can promote these statements.

Although, anything is possible. Ben Carson: No, I’m Not Sorry I Compared U.S. To Nazi Germany

The topic was broached and reported on in a profile of Carson in The Washington Post.

“You can’t dance around it,” Carson told The Washington Post’s Ben Terris. “If people look at what I said and were not political about it, they’d have to agree. Most people in Germany didn’t agree with what Hitler was doing…Exactly the same thing can happen in this country if we are not willing to stand up for what we believe in.”

3d3118fccabd994a2e78506634ab19c3You may remember the other comparisons to Nazi Germany Carson has made earlier this year.

In February Carson suggested that liberals could turn the country into Nazi Germany.

“There comes a time when people with values simply have to stand up,” he said according to The Huffington Post. “Think about Nazi Germany. Most of those people did not believe in what Hitler was doing. But what did they speak up? Did they stand up for what they believe in/ They did not, and you saw what happened.”

A month later, Carson went there again, saying that American society today is very similar to Nazi Germany.

“I mean, [our society is] very much like Nazi Germany,” the retired neurosurgeon said in an interview with Breitbart News. “And I know you’re not supposed to say ‘Nazi Germany,’ but I don’t care about political correctness. You know, you had a government using its tools to intimidate the population. We now live in a society where people are afraid to say what they actually believe.”

He went on to list the “PC police” politicians and news that, together, “stifle people’s conversation.”

“The reason that is so horrible is because the only way that you have harmon and reach consensus is by talking. But if, in fact, people are afraid to talk, you never reach consensus,” Carson said. “And instead you grow further and further apart. And that’s exactly what’s happening, creating a horrible schism that will destroy our nation if we don’t fix it.”

I will say this, Russia is no putting on one hell of a show: Participants perform during the Spasskaya Tower international… News Photo 454386736 | Getty Images

454386736

Participants perform during the Spasskaya Tower international military and music Festival on Red Square in Moscow on August 30, 2014. The festival itself will be held from August 30, to September 7. AFP PHOTO/KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV (Photo credit should read KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images)

1f6c549aa7ab7f5ae3ce43d072f69f9fNot all countries are participating however, 3 Countries Boycott Kremlin Music Fest Over Ukraine | News | The Moscow Times

More pretty pictures here: ‘Spasskaya Tower’ International Military Orchestra Music Festival – ‘Spasskaya Tower’ International Military Orchestra Music Festival | The Economic Times

Next up, this link should be read to the tune of “Dixie.” Cushing and Gettysburg  : Lawyers, Guns & Money

President Obama is granting Lt. Alonzo Cushing, who played a critical role in repelling Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg, the Medal of Honor. It’s pretty amazing he didn’t already have it since had Pickett taken the hill, it’s possible at least the war would have ended differently. Personally, I tend to not believe the world changes that much with an individual event, but I’ll grant the possibility. Certainly defeating the Confederates at Gettysburg did kill their chance of moving the war into the North and forcing a peace, something that would have kept millions of people in slavery for who knows how long. Decades at a minimum. Possibly until the present, who can tell.

2a73789f0221b539d529df55eacd9245Speaking of such things, I happened to visit Gettysburg last week. I had a great time. It was super cool to visit the key spots of the battle, try to imagine all the dead on the huge field that the location of Pickett’s Charge, below Little Round Top, and around the battlefield. Much credit goes to the National Park Service for not only emphasizing slavery as the core reason of the war but for enforcing that interpretation. What do I mean by that? For a very long time, the main attraction at the Gettysburg Visitor Center was the cyclorama of Pickett’s Charge. A cyclorama was a Gilded Age entertainment that tried to bring a scene to life through a 360-degree painting. These were a huge hit in France and were imported to the U.S. A cyclorama painter was hired to do one of Pickett’s Charge and people love it. It was a huge reason why people went to the site. You can still see it today and it’s OK. It’s cool as a Gilded Age relic. As something of value outside of that, it’s pretty silly, what with the sound and light show that goes along with it.

[...]

Now in order to see the cyclorama, you have to sit through the 15 minute film intrepreting the battle for you. Morgan Freeman narrates the video and it says in no uncertain terms that slavery was the cause of the war, which is great. I’m sure there’s a lot of people who hate that (one of the first people I saw there was a guy wearing a Stonewall Jackson t-shirt, which in my world is like wearing a Himmler t-shirt), but it was very well done, really expressing the complexity of the situation too. I also discovered that I find discussion of military maneuvers so incredibly 8c2b44b5bf7a7503a4ace593cbb5669fboring that even Morgan Freeman can’t make me care. Anyway, the exhibits in the Visitor Center are good throughout, combining the old guns that are crack for American white men who like to wear camo as casual wear with real historical interpretation.

I don’t think I would compare Stonewall Jackson to Himmler, read the comments on the LG&M post to get more thoughts on that,  but the obvious use of the shirt to prove that the wearer was a redneck asshole…that I could agree with wholeheartedly.

On Friday we had to drive down to Atlanta, and I thought about the Civil War…like I usually do while on the roads around Georgia.

Let me explain. When you drive South from Banjoville to Atlanta and pass each exit along I75, exits with names that you remember from key battles in the Atlanta Campaign. As you pass these battlefields of a war that took place one hundred and fifty years ago it makes you think about what that war was all about….and just how far we have come.

Foggy Memories Obscure Forebears of Ferguson Unrest | WhoWhatWhy

Life magazine cover about the Newark Riots.

Collective amnesia about past eruptions of racial conflict has left Americans with a false sense that what happened in Ferguson is somehow new. But the only thing new is the technology. The attitudes on display are sadly familiar.Forty-seven years ago, the African-American population of New Jersey’s largest city took to the streets after a violent encounter between white police officers and an unarmed black man. While the body count in Newark—26 people dead and 1,500 injured—was far greater than in the recent disturbances in Ferguson, Missouri, the parallels between the two tragedies are too clear to be ignored.

It is a long read…go to the link.

6f6dd392ab7b6b6f7ef977001a72fba7At the Black Agenda Report: Justice Dept Refuses For 20 Years To Comply With Federal Law Requiring It To Gather National Police Brutality Stats | Black Agenda Report

A BA Radio Commentary by Bruce A. Dixon

We’re all supposed to be impressed with the fact that Attorney General Eric Holder parachuted into Ferguson MO the other day to wrap his arms around the local top black cop and get briefed on the pending federal investigation into the police killing of Michael Brown. But we shouldn’t be.

For the last 20 years, since 1994, Violent Crime Control & Law Enforcement Act obligates the Department of Justice to collect statistics on the extent of brutality and excessive force used by police officers, and to make those findings available to the public. 20 years down the road no such stats exist, because the Justice Departments of the Clinton, the Bush and the Obama administrations have all simply ignored the law and refuse even to try to gather the information. Let me say this again: the Clinton Justice Department defied the law and refused to gather national stats on police misconduct. The Bush Justice Department thumbed its nose at the law and also refused to gather national stats on police misconduct, and now the first black attorney general, who sometimes even utters the phrase “mass incarceration”, which he recently discovered, selected by the first black president who says if he had a son, his son could be Trayvon Martin – Eric Holder and Barack Obama have likewise shown no interest whatsoever in fulfilling their legal duty when it comes to assembling a national database of police misconduct.

38edfbffac1abc590ed79f30782a1514This should not surprise the president’s apologists, who will surely counsel us that he has to be president of all the people, including the police. Everybody knows black and brown people are the disproportionate targets of police violence, so enforcing laws which particularly benefit black and brown communities are something we must not expect. Perhaps after the president leaves office, they’ll tell us, he’ll speak out more forcefully on this. Maybe the “My Brothers Keeper” initiative can get some charitable dollars to organizations like , or PUSH or the Urban League to help more of our young boys to pull their pants up so they won’t get beat down.

Let’s get real. The Republicans haven’t stopped Obama and Holder from doing this, they stopped themselves. Like every cop on the beat, the Obama administration chooses which laws to enforce, which ones to bend and in what direction, and which ones to ignore. Obama’s DOJ has resurrected the century old Espionage Act, not to prosecute spies, but to threaten and to imprison whistleblowers who tell the truth to reporters, and to journalists themselves if they do not reveal their sources with decades in prison, like Chelsea Manning, and on so-called “secret evidence.” So when you think about it, it’s entirely logical that a president and attorney general who place such a high priority on protecting their torturers, their bankster friends, and the official wrongdoers of past and future administrations should want to protect the police from scrutiny as well.

e1570c2c92d44f377261b92b0fc77b4bIt’s time to shed some illusions, not just about this president but about the whole political class that claims he or any president can be “held accountable.” Barack Obama and his Justice Department are no more interested in justice than the administrations of ten presidents before him, and uncritical black and brown support has made this president less accountable to black and brown people than any in living memory.

I had to quote that op/ed in full because it seemed so powerful, and so telling of the point I was trying to make. One hundred and fifty years, even with a black president, where have we come to? Those Newark riots where almost fifty years ago…Civil Rights Act…fifty years ago too. And still the question I keep repeating, where have we come to…progress? Perhaps, compared to slavery. But from my view, living in a redneck Southern town, the hate is thick and packs a powerful punch in the gut to hear it practiced out-loud, so nonchalant…

Anyway, I am rambling. It is 4:13 am and I will move on.

At least 5 current Ferguson officers apart from Brown shooter figure in lawsuits – The Washington Post

eb723ae4541bdedae7fe578ccc456d12Federal investigators are focused on one Ferguson, Mo., police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black teenager, but at least five other police officers and one former officer in the town’s 53-member department have been named in civil rights lawsuits alleging the use of excessive force.

In four federal lawsuits, including one that is on appeal, and more than a half-dozen investigations over the past decade, colleagues of Darren Wilson’s have separately contested a variety of allegations, including killing a mentally ill man with a Taser, pistol-whipping a child, choking and hog-tying a child and beating a man who was later charged with destroying city property because his blood spilled on officers’ clothes.

One officer has faced three internal affairs probes and two lawsuits over claims he violated civil rights and used excessive force while working at a previous police department in the mid-2000s. That department demoted him after finding credible evidence to support one of the complaints, and he subsequently was hired by the Ferguson force.

Police officials from outside Ferguson and plaintiffs’ lawyers say the nature of such cases suggests there is a systemic problem within the Ferguson police force. Department of Justice officials said they are considering a broader probe into whether there is a pattern of using excessive force that routinely violates people’s civil rights.

[...]

In all but one of the cases, the victims were black. Among the officers involved in the cases, one is African American.

1d8be145f4cf0d58e7d5f0100bb11e35Damn.

More at the link.

With all the abusive news stories about cops (Oklahoma Police Daniel Holtzclaw Rape Sexual Abuse Arrest | Mediaite)

Oklahoma City police officer Daniel Holtzclaw has been arrested for raping or sexually abusing eight different women, all of whom are African-American, under the threat that he would arrest them if they did not comply.

 

…you would think this cop would get off easy: Cleveland Cop Under Fire for Helping Browns Fan with His Beer Bong | Mediaite

A Cleveland police officer got in trouble this week; not for shooting anyone, not for any shocking assault video, but for actually being a bro. This cop was caught on camera holding up a beer bong so a Browns tailgater could use it properly.

Here’s the picture in question:

Seriously, that looks more like a PR photo to me.

This post is getting long, so quickly…here are the rest of today’s links:

18a5e2229d815483f4bf2380406eb0d4

Russian Poster Design by Vladimir and Georgii Stenberg

From a fuckwad Former Judge: Rape is All the Woman’s Fault for Drinking So Much | Care2 Causes

And according to the dipshits at the NFL: Is The NFL’s New Policy On Domestic Violence A Publicity Stunt? | Care2 Causes

Wide receiver Josh Gordon’s offense?

Smoking marijuana.

Let me get this straight. Violently assaulting a woman equates to a two game suspension, but failing a drug test amounts to an entire year on the bench?

No matter where your moral compass stands on smoking pot, I think we can all agree that beating your girlfriend up so badly she is hospitalized with 18 broken bones in the face, a broken nose, a cracked rib and a ruptured liver is a far worse crime.

Perhaps not too surprisingly, just a few days after the fallout of this decision, which was stacked on top of the prior controversy regarding Rice’s lenient suspension, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has come out with a lengthy statement on how the NFL can do better.

We allowed our standards to fall below where they should be and lost an important opportunity to emphasize our strong stance on a critical issue and the effective programs we have in place. My disciplinary decision led the public to question our sincerity, our commitment, and whether we understood the toll that domestic violence inflicts on so many families. I take responsibility both for the decision and for ensuring that our actions in the future properly reflect our values. I didn’t get it right. Simply put, we have to do better. And we will.

Russian Poster Design by Vladimir and Georgii Stenberg

Russian Poster Design by Vladimir and Georgii Stenberg

In addition to admitting fault, Goodell has, effective immediately, instituted a revamped domestic violence policy which punishes first time offenders with a six game suspension and second time offenders with a ban from the NFL for at least a year, after which an individual can petition for reinstatement.

Assholes.

Here is a post about teachers….Happy Labor Day, Mom | The Nation

And one about us bombing Iraq: US jets target IS positions in Iraq – Middle East – Al Jazeera English

We will end with a feel good story: Little League Win Lifts District Marred by Violence – NYTimes.com

People showed up and plopped down lawn chairs, sitting there just so they could feel like a part of the event, even if they could not see anything. The neighborhood’s residents were glad for their team, for their boys and for themselves. They brought cakes. They rode bikes. They hugged.

This was a homey neighborhood celebration on the city’s South Side, a departure for an area known for gun violence.

Chicago finally had its chance on Wednesday to welcome home the Jackie Robinson West Little League team that won the United States championship on Saturday. The rolling celebration started with a rally at the team’s home park and worked its way into the city center. Residents lined up for 70 blocks along Halsted Street, waiting for their heroes.

It was the kind of celebration you would expect in small-town America. As politicians lined up to talk with a few thousand fans at a rally on the team’s field, the parade route already had a classroom of day care students standing in yellow shirts on 95th and Halsted. A half-dozen women in wheelchairs waited at 81st Street in front of the Naomi and Sylvester Smith Senior Living Center. Hundreds of students packed in at 79th Street near St. Sabina Academy. On 76th, there were more children in front of a learning center.

Photo

The celebration for the Jackie Robinson West Little League squad began with a rally at the team’s home park and worked its way to Millennium Park downtown. Credit Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

Terrence J. Lavin, an Illinois appeals court justice, grew up in the area playing Little League. Now, he said, he deals daily with “guns, gangs and drugs.” On Wednesday, he was not delivering speeches, but instead was at 87th Street in what he considers his neighborhood.

“There aren’t many parades down Halsted Street,” he said. “None in my memory. Remember when President Obama said that Trayvon Martin could be his son? There are thousands of Chicagoans, white and black, thinking that about these amazing kids.”

“They are medicine for a municipality dulled into a sort of crime stupor because of all the shootings,” he said. “We are better than that. And these kids are a living, breathing symbol of that.”

Oh, and on that note…hope you have a good day.


Lazy Saturday Reads: Escape into Minecraft, Ferguson Updates, and Other News

cow reading

Good Day!!

I’m taking it slow this morning, so I’m glad JJ posted all those great cartoons last night. It’s been a long couple of weeks for news junkies, and I’m tired. I’ve been doing so much reading on line that reading books as a distraction isn’t that appealing.

Lately I’ve been  by escaping by playing Minecraft for hours at a time. I’m really glad now that I started playing it with my nephews a couple of years ago. Lots of people think it’s just a game for kids, but I really enjoy it.

When I play by myself, I like to just explore a world, go mining, and build houses in different environments. The possibilities are endless. The game is completely open-ended. When I first bought the game, I thought it was pretty expensive–I think it was $29. But once you buy it, you never have to pay for anything else. There are continuous updates, and the game keeps getting more interesting, sophisticated, and challenging.

Here’s a bit of recent Minecraft news to give you a sense of what it’s all about.

From CNet: Minecraft players build working hard drives.

Players of the popular open-world building game Minecraft, created by Markus “Notch” Persson in 2009, continue to push the game beyond any reasonable realm of everyday understanding. These players have built working components of computers within simulations running on computers.

Two such users have now revealed functioning hard drives built inside Minecraft that can read and write data. The first, created by Reddit and Imgur user smellystring can store 1KB of data, while a second, larger unit created by The0JJcan store 4KB of data.

That means it’s only a matter of time before things start going the way of “Terminator” or “The Matrix,” or at least to the point where we’re building virtual simulations of fully functioning computers that obey the laws of the physical world.

Read how they did it at the link. You can watch a video about it at Polygon.

Teachers have tapped into the popularity of Minecraft with kids and are using it in the classroom. Wired reports: New Minecraft Mod Teaches You Code as You Play.

Like many nine-year-olds, Stanley Strum spends a lot of time building things inMinecraft, the immersive game that lets your create your own mini-universe. The game has many tools. But Stanley is one of many players taking the game a step further by building entirely new features into the game. And, more than that, he’s also learning how to code.

He’s doing this with a tweak to the Minecraft game, called LearnToMod. Modifications like this, called “mods,” are a big part of the game’s runaway success. But this particular mod helps kids learn to create their own mods. For example, Strum built a teleporter that whisks him to a random location within the game world. Another lesson teaches kids to write the code to create a special bow that shoots arrows that become “portals” between different locations in the game, allowing them to reach spaces that would otherwise be quite difficult to access. It’s like being able to create your own cheat codes.

Strum is one of 150 students who are now tinkering with LearnToMod, an educational add-on teaches you the basics of programming while creating tricks and tools that you can use within the Minecraft. The mod will be available to the general public in October, and its creators hope it will help turn Minecraft into a kind of gateway drug for computer programming.

“Kids are already spending ridiculous amounts of hours on Minecraft,” says Stephen Foster, the co-founder of ThoughtSTEM, the company that’s built the LearnToMod module. “So we thought this would be a good way to help them learn skills.”

Fully functioning hard drive built inside Minecraft world

Fully functioning hard drive built inside Minecraft world

That’s great. I just hope adults don’t ruin the best part of Minecraft, which is that you can use it to express your own individuality and imagination.

Here’s a story from Fortune from Aug. 1: The new way to learn? Brick by brick.

“Minecraft is often referred to as ‘what LEGO should have done online,’” said Peter Warman, video game analyst at research firm Newzoo. “Now Minecraft has become a LEGO set itself, drawing so much time from kids and youngsters that it is seriously competing with the physical LEGO bricks. And it’s not just kids and young teens that play the game. Of the millions of Minecraft Pocket Edition players, 60% is older than 20 and one-third is female.”

“The game’s success can be attributed to the freedom of expression and the ability to build anything you can imagine,” said Carl Manneh, CEO of Mojang. “It gives people a way to visualize anything they can imagine. When you have a creative software like that, people tend to want to share it with friends. That’s really helped us in spreading the word about the game.”

When New York City teacher Joel Levin saw this explosion of popularity among his students, he decided to blog about the game. After all, kids weren’t just playing this game across multiple platforms, they were also spending countless hours perusing the 50 million-plus Minecraft videos on YouTube.

The educator had spent the past decade trying to incorporate video games into his classroom curriculum as a way to engage students and make learning more relevant to today’s generation. Levin said he was blown away at the range of possibilities that Minecraft offered, from building challenges, to having kids do research online and report back on what they learned, to exploring digital citizenship by building communities in the game that serves as virtual microcosms to high school.

“Teachers from all over the world started contacting me,” said Levin. Eventually, Levin was put in touch with Mojang. “I was able to open a dialogue with teachers and programmers in Finland, which is at the forefront of the world in education.” Levin partnered with Santeri Koivisto, a teacher in Finland, to formalize a company, TeacherGaming.

cow reading2

Back to the real world (reluctantly) for some Ferguson updates.

Last night The New York Times posted a piece on how police shootings are judged to be justified or not, Key Factor in Police Shootings: ‘Reasonable Fear’.

Each time police officers draw their weapons, they step out of everyday law enforcement and into a rigidly defined world where written rules, hours of training and Supreme Court decisions dictate not merely when a gun can be fired, but where it is aimed, how many rounds should be squeezed off and when the shooting should stop.

The Ferguson, Mo., police officer who fatally shot an unarmed African-American teenager two weeks ago, setting off protest and riots, was bound by 12 pages of police department regulations, known as General Order 410.00, that govern officers’ use of force. Whether he followed them will play a central role in deliberations by a St. Louis County grand jury over whether the officer, Darren Wilson, should be charged with a crime in the shooting.

But as sweeping as restrictions on the use of weapons may be, deciding whether an officer acted correctly in firing at a suspect is not cut and dried. A host of outside factors, from the officer’s perception of a threat to the suspect’s behavior and even his size, can emerge as mitigating or damning.

Read the rest at the link. It’s really troubling to me that police shootings are evaluated based on the officers emotional reactions–whether he (or she) was in fear of his life. That’s far too subjective and there’s no way to prove what the cop was thinking at the time.

The other problem I’m having with all this justification of Wilson’s actions is that he didn’t really need to stop Mike Brown and Dorian Johnson in the first place. The stop was pure harassment–part of a demonstrable pattern of targeting of Ferguson’s Black citizens in order to fill the city’s coffers.

Once Wilson had made the mistake of aggressively engaging with Brown and Brown and Johnson began running away, Wilson should have remained in his car and called for backup. Presumably the Justice Department will be looking carefully at these aspects of the case.

hamster reading

For the past couple of couple of days, there’s been a lot of attention to a crowdfunding campaign established to raise money for Darren Wilson–even though he hasn’t been arrested or charged with anything. The site has been called out for posting ugly racist comments from the people who are donating; yesterday the site began deleting the worst of those comments, and now they have shut off comments completely. I guess it was too much work to keep deleting them one at a time. From NBC News, 

Created on Monday on the site GoFundMe, the campaign had raised over $225,000 as of midday Friday in support of Wilson, who shot and killed unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown on Aug. 9. More than 5,600 people have pledged toward a goal of $250,000. Many donors added remarks while making their donations, some of which were incendiary. GoFundMe responded early Friday on Twitter saying the “comments posted in violation of GoFundMe’s terms have been removed.”

 According to the page, it was “created to support Officer Darren Wilson of the Ferguson Police Department. We stand behind Officer Darren Wilson and his family during this trying time in their lives. All proceeds will be sent directly to Darren Wilson and his family for any financial needs they may have including legal fees.”

Please note that Wilson is still receiving his full paycheck of more than $45,000 a year. Little Green Footballs has been following the story closely, and blogger Lawhawk decided to find out who is really behind the Wilson GoFundMe campaign. He found that “the funds going to a 501(c)(3) charity, meaning donations are tax exempt.” And guess who’s behind the “charity?” From The Wire: Non-Profit Run by a Missouri Police Union Is Now Handling Fundraising for Darren Wilson.

The GoFundMe crowdsourcing fundraiser for the Ferguson police officer who killed Michael Brown has been taken over by Shield of Hope, a charity run by the local police union. Since Shield of Hope is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, all donations from here on out will now be tax deductible. The original fundraiser had raised over $235,000 before passing on the torch to Shield of Hope. The new Shield of Hope-run page has raised over $11,000 on its own.

Originally called the Fraternal Order Of Police Lodge 15 Charitable Foundation, Shield of Hope was founded in late 2011. (The name was changed shortly after.) According to a filing with the Missouri Secretary of State’s office, the charity’s board of directors include the Ferguson Police Department’s Public Relations Officer Timothy Zoll, Missouri State Rep. Jeffrey Roorda (a former police officer), and Florissant City Council member Joe Eagan.

brazilian pig reading

So quite a few of those now-excised racist comments must have been coming from law-enforcement types in Missouri {{shudder}} Read more about these folks at the LGF link.

The Washington Post has another interesting article on segregation in St. Louis, In St. Louis, Delmar Boulevard is the line that divides a city by race and perspective.

To get a sense of the fracture that cuts this city in two, drive along Delmar Boulevard, a major four-lane road that runs east to west. Hit the brakes when you see an Aldi grocery store and put your finger on the blinker. Decide which world to enter.

In the blocks to the immediate south: Tudor homes, wine bars, a racquet club, a furniture store selling sofas for $6,000. The neighborhood, according to U.S. Census data, is 70 percent white.

In the blocks to the immediate north: knocked-over street signs, collapsing houses, fluttering trash, tree-bare streets with weeds blooming from the sidewalk. The neighborhood is 99 percent black.

The geography of almost every U.S. city reveals at least some degree of segregation, but in St. Louis, the break between races — and privilege — is particularly drastic, so defined that those on both sides speak often about a precise boundary. The Delmar Divide, they call it, and it stands as a symbol of the disconnect that for years has bred grievances and frustrations, emotions that exploded into public view on the streets of the majority-black suburb of Ferguson after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager. Ferguson is north of Delmar; the suburb of Crestwood, where the officer lives, is south.

As for how St. Louis residents see the Michael Brown shooting,

Even the way people perceive the Aug. 9 shooting and the street protests that have followed is influenced by geography.

“I’m one of those people that feels sorry for the officer,” said Paul Ruppel, 41, a white business owner who lives just to the south of the divide. “For the most part, I believe the police of St. Louis are doing a great job.”

Said Alvonia Crayton, an African American woman who lives just to the north of Delmar: “My reaction is, what took them so long? Michael Brown was basically the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

The article is well worth a read.

Links to some interesting stories that are mostly positive

LA Times, Ferguson protests prove transformative for many, by Matt Pearce.

Huffington Post, Ferguson: The Untold Story, by Arianna Huffington.

Poynter, HuffPost’s Ferguson Fellow: ‘This is huge for me’, by Benjamin Mullin.

NPR, Is There Such A Thing As A ‘Good Psychopath’? by Linton Weeks.

The Atlantic, What an Introvert Sounds Like, by Olga Khazan.

The Atlantic, Your Gut Bacteria Want You to Eat a Cupcake.

The Paris Review, Mocha Dick, and Other News.

More on Mocha Dick from The Atlantic, The Whale That Inspired Moby Dick Swims Again.

Feministing, Fatal Hypothesis: How Belief in a Just World is Killing Us, by Katherine Cross.

Want some schadenfreude? Read this from TPM, Cubs Cut Workers’ Hours Too Avoid O-Care Mandate, Then Disaster Struck.

Bwaaaahahahahahah!

Bonus Cat Video

Hot Water. Simon’s Cat

 

What stories are you following today? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and have a great weekend!


Wednesday Reads: You like chicken. Order that.

3e5baafcd1a0acc0135766e49746d593Good Morning

Today’s post will focus on discrimination, hate and hate crimes. Whether it is outright racism… unquestionable prejudice…probable intolerance or a hint of bigotry with a touch of “that just ain’t right” sexism.

First up however, a quick look at what is going on in Ferguson:

Another Night Of Unrest During Tenth Night Of Protests In Ferguson

After nine nights of unrest met with tear gas, riot gear and a National Guard presence, Tuesday night in Ferguson, Missouri began peacefully. But by midnight central time, tensions began to rise.

Many protesters marched along West Florissant Avenue, chanting “no justice no peace,” and “hands up, don’t shoot,” while others loitered looking on. Police were not enforcing Capt. Ron Johnson’s rule forcing protesters to keep moving or risk removal.

While people were relieved at the initial lack of confrontation Tuesday night, everyone recognized how fragile the situation was and that it could turn instantly.

I really don’t know what happened overnight, but Holder did make a statement about the situation.

Eric Holder Pens Message to Ferguson Ahead of Wednesday’s Visit

Attorney General Eric Holder will visit Ferguson, Missouri on Wednesday to get briefed by local authorities on the situation there following the fatal shooting of 18-year-old unarmed Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson. But before he arrives, Holder has written a message to the people of Ferguson for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

“At a time when so much may seem uncertain, the people of Ferguson can have confidence that the Justice Department intends to learn — in a fair and thorough manner — exactly what happened,” Holder writes.

He says he plans to “meet personally with community leaders, FBI investigators and federal prosecutors from the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to receive detailed briefings on the status of this case” while in Ferguson tomorrow.

Holder urges an “end to the acts of violence in the streets of Ferguson,” saying that “they seriously undermine, rather than advance, the cause of justice.” He also vows that the Justice Department will “defend the right of protesters to peacefully demonstrate and for the media to cover a story that must be told.”

Here’s some thoughts regarding Holder’s statement and his plans to go to Ferguson:

Wall Street Journal editor: Eric Holder should tell Ferguson protesters to ‘pull up their pants’

Yeah, go and read what Wall Street Journal editorial board member Jason Riley had to say…

…Holder was there as part of President Barack Obama’s efforts to play “race-healer-in-chief.”

“These looters and rioters do not need to hear from the attorney general that criticism of Obama is race-based,” Riley told host Bret Bauer. “What they need to hear from this Black man in this position — the nation’s leading law enforcement official — is that they need to stay out of trouble with the law. They need to pull up their pants and finish school and take care of their kids. That is the message they need to hear.”

Riley is African-American, and he is not the only black man who is making outrageous statements like this. Check this out, – Tea Party Leader: Black ‘Thugs’ Do Not Deserve Due Process (VIDEO)

Then you have reaction to the statement made by Missouri Gov. Nixon, from John Marshall at TPM: Is That an Editing Error?

I want to be very clear on the point I’m about to make so that I’m not misunderstood. Gov. Nixon of Missouri put out a statement this evening on the situation in Ferguson. Much of it is boilerplate that wouldn’t surprise or inspire you. (I’m reprinting it in its entirety at the end of this post.) The gist is that to move forward peace needs to be restored in Ferguson and there needs to be justice in the case of the precipitating event – the death of Michael Brown. (There is a separate controversy over Nixon’s decision not to appoint a special prosecutor – which I think is a mistake.) But in the key line – the part two of his statement he says that “a vigorous prosecution must now be pursued.”

Now, let me be clear. This is not remotely to suggest that the facts will not show that a prosecution is in order. Based on what we know publicly, it seems very likely that there should be. But let’s not let the justified outrage at what’s transpired obscure a simple fact. There’s a great deal we in the public do not know about what happened. This goes without saying. There will be sworn witness statements, forensic evidence about Brown and Wilson and a lot else. Indeed, it’s one of the significant problems in this saga that so little information has been released. But there’s a process: a full investigation and then a decision by a prosecutor. That hasn’t happened yet.

It’s an entirely different matter for members of the public to demand a prosecution. But this is the Governor of the state, the elected official who has ultimate responsibility for carrying out the laws of the state. It’s simply crazy for him to be saying there has to be a prosecution. It’s so inappropriate that I think it’s highly likely that this is actually an editing error – or someone doing the writing who just didn’t grasp the significance of the word choice.

But even if that’s the case, the principle is so basic and important that it’s important to note: the Governor shouldn’t be publicly assuming that Wilson must be prosecuted or that a prosecution must happen for justice to be served.

BTW, Getty released a statement as well…regarding their photojournalist who was arrested Monday night. Statement from Pancho Bernasconi, VP, News, on the arrest of Getty Images staff photographer Scott Olson in Ferguson | Getty Images Press Room | Latest company news, media announcements and information

We at Getty Images stand firmly behind our colleague Scott Olson and the right to report from Ferguson. Getty Images is working to secure his release as soon as possible.  

We strongly object to his arrest and are committed to ensuring he is able to resume his important work of capturing some of the most iconic images of this news story.

Now we get to the other stories making news that touch on the subject of this post. Hate.

Read the rest of this entry »


Tuesday Reads: Ferguson Updates

ferguson photos

Good Morning!!

I can’t stop thinking about the events in Ferguson, Missouri, and flashing back to similar iconic events in the 1960s. How far have we really come since the days of the Civil Rights Movement? Clearly, racism is alive and well in 2014, particularly in police departments around the country–and not just in the South. Will the disease of racism ever be wiped out in this country, or can we only hope to control it through great effort–with laws, education, organizing, and public demonstrations?

Ferguson citizens were forced to live through another night of chaos last night, and I’m convinced at this point that deliberate police actions are making things much worse. The man in charge, Captain Ron Johnson of the Missouri State Police is clearly being used as a pawn. He was set up to fail, and at this point he is simply putting a friendly face on an ugly show of force intended to intimidate protesters and media alike. And he’s lying to make excuses for what has basically become a nightly police riot. I’ve been watching the live feed from Ferguson night after night, and I have yet to see any evidence of protesters throwing Molotov cocktails or attacking police (UPDATE: Dakinikat says there is one in the NYT video at this link.

Perhaps we’d know more about what is happening on the ground if new helicopters could fly over Ferguson, but police have ordered them not to, saying that only police helicopter can do so. Reporters and news photographers have been arrested and threatened with being maced or shot. Yesterday, as everyone here knows, police in St. Louis arrested 90-year-old Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein. From The Independent UK:

Hedy Epstein, a 90-year-old survivor of the Holocaust, was reportedly among those arrested during protests in downtown St Louis as tensions flared over the death of black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson.

Eight protesters were arrested for “failure to disperse” on Monday after marching from the Kiener Plaza to the Wainwright building where Governor Jay Nixon has an office, St Louis police confirmed on Twitter.

Ms Epstein was pictured being led away in handcuffs during demonstrations against the National Guard’s presence on the streets where clashes between protesters and authorities have been the most severe.

Ms Epstein, a resident of St Louis, is a political activist and speaker widely known for her vocal support of the Free Gaza Movement.

“I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I didn’t think I would have to do it when I was ninety,” Ms Epstein told The Nation as she was led away by police. “We need to stand up today so that people won’t have to do this when they’re 90.”

Yes, the protests have spread to St. Louis proper now, and people are gathering in many other cities to show solidarity with Ferguson. Also arrested yesterday was Getty Images photojournalist Scott Olson, who is responsible for many of the most dramatic photos from Ferguson since the protests began.

King and Ghandi, Robert Templeton

King and Ghandi, Robert Templeton

But I want to return to the subject of racism and dishonesty in the Ferguson Police Department. I think most people who have been paying attention to this story will agree that the Ferguson cops cannot be trusted at this point. Some history, from Michael Daly at The Daily Beast: Missouri Cops’ License to Kill.

The death of 18-year-old Michael Brown is not the first time an officer supervised by Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson has killed an unarmed man….

Back in 2000, two unarmed young men were shot and killed in a Jack in the Box parking lot in the suburban town of Berkeley adjacent to Ferguson by a pair of officers assigned to a county-wide drug task force where Jackson was deputy commander.

Early reports suggested that a vehicle occupied by Earl Murray and Ronald Beasley moved toward Officers Robert Piekutowski and Keith Kierzkowski, causing them to fear being pinned against another car.

Jackson, then a lieutenant with the St. Louis County Police, told reporters, “I am convinced that the officers were in fear of their lives, that they were in immediate danger.” ….

Subsequently, investigators decided that the car occupied by the two men had not in fact begun to move in their direction when the fatal shots were fired. The officers insisted they were in fear for their lives nonetheless, essentially arguing that the car was itself a deadly weapon pointed their way. That was enough for the shooting to be ruled justified under Missouri state law. The cops were not indicted.

Read more about it at the link. It’s high time Jackson was removed as Ferguson Police Chief.

Civil Rights Movement, Camille Shumann

Civil Rights Movement, Camille Shumann

And then there was the “other Michael Brown.” From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

Michael Brown, 23, of Troy, Mo., who was shot and killed along with a friend in October 2005.

Authorities said that Lincoln County sheriff’s Deputy Nic Forler fired through the back window of a pickup, killing Brown and the driver, Tyler Teasley, 22. No one in the truck was armed.

Police said Forler tried to stop Teasley’s truck for speeding but was led on a short chase. When the truck finally stopped, Forler pulled behind it, got out of his patrol car and stood between the vehicles.

Witnesses said Teasley was “freaking out” because he had been drinking, there was alcohol in the car and several passengers were under 21. In his panic, they said, Teasley left the truck in neutral. As the truck rolled backward, Forler fired the fatal shots that struck both victims in the head.

Family and friends demonstrated regularly outside the sheriff’s office. Forler was dismissed from the force and charged with involuntary manslaughter.

In a trial in 2007, moved to Boone County because of the controversy caused in Lincoln County, Forler testified that he believed Teasley was trying to run him over, and he feared for his life. The jury took only three hours to find Forler not guilty.

Read the Post-Dispatch article to learn about two more such incidents in Missouri.

Now let’s take a look at the case that Ferguson Chief Jackson has been building in order to blame Michael Brown for his own death. According to Jackson, Brown committed a “strong-arm robbery” at a gas station convenience store shortly before he was accosted by Officer Darren Wilson, who shot and killed the unarmed teenager. But did that really happen? I don’t think so.

A couple of days ago people from Ferguson began posting on Twitter that the owners of the store denied reporting any robbery. Then KSDK learned from the owners’ attorney that they never reported any robbery involving Michael Brown and that perhaps a customer had called 911. But did that even happen?

I can’t prove it, but I think what may have happened is that police took surveillance videos from a number of locations and just happened to find the video of Brown in buying cigars. A Ferguson resident on Twitter told me yesterday that the store owners are saying the Ferguson police didn’t pick up the store video until last Friday, not too long before Jackson gave his press conference. And the St. Louis News confirms the tweeter was right.

The owner[s] of the store dispute the claim that they or an employee called 911, saying a customer inside the store made the call.  They also say St. Louis County issues the warrants for the hard drive of surveillance video Friday.

When asked how Ferguson police ended up with the video that the Ferguson police chief issued Friday morning.  The attorney said during the course of Ferguson’s investigation they came to the store and asked to review the tape. But it wasn’t until Friday that St. Louis County investigators issued a warrant for the video many of you have already seen.

Therefore, there is no way that Darren Wilson could have known anything about the “robbery” or that Michael Brown was a suspect.

Civil Rights Line, Janie McGee

Civil Rights Line, Janie McGee

A couple of days ago, Joy Reid of The Grio and MSNBC posted on Twitter that the store video appeared to show that Brown had actually paid for the cigars he took from the store.

Then last night Crooks and Liars put up a detailed post about it, Ferguson Cops Busted? New Video Seems To Show Brown Paying For Cigarillos (Video), by John Prager. Crooks and Liars doesn’t allow copy and paste anymore, so you’ll need to go to the link to read the article, but Prager it looks like Brown buys some cigarillos, then tries to by more, but doesn’t have enough money and so replaces them. Brown did reach across the counter, and that may be why the clerk tried to confront him.

Here’s the video.

Will the Ferguson police get away with murder once again? I think it’s likely unless the DOJ finds that the shooting of Michael Brown is a Civil Rights case. U.S. News today posted an article quoting attorneys who have defended police shooters, Police Attorneys: Brown Head Wounds Not Fatal to Officer’s Defense.

Pathologists said they found a bullet wound at the apex of the 6-foot-4 Brown’s head and what appeared to be a bullet entry above his right eye that continued downward into his jaw and then shoulder. The wounds appear to show Brown was not standing upright at the time he was shot.

“Just because he was shot somewhere near the top of his head, I don’t think that’s indicative of anything at this point,” says New Orleans attorney Eric Hessler, who defended officers involved in the 2005 post-Hurricane Katrina shooting deaths of two people on the Danziger Bridge and another person outside a convention center.

“There are scenarios that I can envision where a police officer would be justified in using deadly force in that situation,” Hessler says of the Brown case. “It depends on what the individual was doing while he was shot.”

Several officers were convicted of crimes in the post-Katrina cases, but the bridge shooting verdicts were vacated and the case is not resolved.

Attorney James Culleton, who defended New York City police officers who shot and killed unarmed black men Amadou Diallo in 1999 and Sean Bell in 2006, agrees with Hessler that the bullet trajectory isn’t necessarily game-changing.

“If the person is facing you, he’s charging at you, he could have put down his head,” Culleton says. “His head could have just slumped like he was falling forward. It doesn’t mean it’s devastating [evidence].”

We’ll have to wait and see. For now, it’s high time for Chief Jackson to be fired and for Darren Wilson to be arrested. This murderer is still receiving his salary!

civil-rights-museum-m

I’ll end with some recent headlines about Ferguson.

LA Times: Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson becomes an international incident.

Reuters: U.S. police come under gunfire, arrest 31 in Missouri racial unrest.

The Guardian: Ferguson: 31 arrested as huge show of force fails to quell unrest.

WaPo: Ferguson protesters: The peaceful, the elders, the looters, and the ‘militants’

NYT: Not Just Ferguson: National Guard Has a Long History With Civil Unrest.

Business Insider Australia: Police Captain Blames ‘A Lot’ Of The Press For ‘Glamorizing’ Ferguson Protests.

The Daily Mail: ‘He’s quiet and respectful': Second friend of cop who shot dead Michael Brown comes to his defense as ‘more than a dozen people have backed up Ferguson officer’s story’.

WaPo: Holder headed to Ferguson on Wednesday, will oversee federal response to shooting.

Jonathan Capehart: Probe into Michael Brown shooting goes to pot.

What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and have a terrific Tuesday.


Thursday Reads: Ferguson, Missouri is a War Zone

Ferguson2

Good Morning!!

I spent most of the day and night yesterday following the shocking events in Ferguson, Missouri. As I read articles and tweets and studied violent images of police dressed as soldiers and riding in military vehicles, I had repeated flashbacks to the Civil Rights era. Except in those days, police weren’t outfitted with surplus military equipment provided by the Federal government. Back then, the cops had to resort to fire hoses to force people off the streets; but in Ferguson, St. Louis police are equipped with MRAPs (mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles) and LRADs (long-range acoustic devices).

Ferguson isn’t a large city, and reporters on the ground estimated the size of the “crowd” at somewhere between 150 and 250 people, who were largely protesting peacefully by holding their hands in the air and chanting “Hands up. Don’t shoot.” It’s long past time for Missouri Governor Jay Nixon (a Democrat) to step in and tell the cops to calm down and put away their military toys. If he won’t take action, then President Obama should instruct Attorney General Holder to do it.

The protests follow the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown by a still-unnamed Ferguson policeman last Saturday afternoon. Brown “had no criminal background,” according to KDSK.com. Police claim that Brown struggled with the officer and tried to grab his gun. But that makes no sense. Why did the officer choose to stop Brown as he peacefully walked down the street with a friend? That friend, Dorian Johnson tells a different version of events.

From USA Today: Witness to Michael Brown shooting comes forward.

Dorian Johnson said he was standing inches from Brown when the shooting occurred around 1:40 p.m. Saturday. He gave his account of the shooting to KSDK-TV.

“The officer is approaching us and as he pulled up on the side of us, he didn’t say freeze, halt or anything like we were committing a crime. He said, ‘Get the F on the sidewalk.’

After Johnson said the officer thrust open the door of his patrol car, hitting the pair, Johnson said the officer grabbed Brown around the neck and tried to pull him through the window. He said Brown never tried to reach for the officer’s weapon.

“The second time he says, ‘I’ll shoot,’ a second later the gun went off and he let go,” Johnson said. “That’s how we were able to run at the same time. The first car I see, I ducked behind for because I fear for my life. I’m scared. I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t understand why this officer is shooting his weapon at us.”

According to Johnson, the officer pursued Brown and fired another shot. which struck Brown in the back. He said Brown turned and faced the officer with his hands raised.

“My friend started to tell the officer that he was unarmed and that he could stop shooting (him),” Johnson said. “Before he could get his second sentence out, the officer fired several more shots into his head and chest area. He fell dramatically into the fatal position. I did not hear once he yell freeze, stop or halt. it was just horrible to watch.”

Unfortunately for the officer who killed Brown, two more witnesses have now come forward. From CNN:

While Michael Brown appeared to tussle with an officer before he was shot dead, he didn’t enter the police cruiser as authorities claim he did, two witnesses told CNN.

The women’s accounts corroborate that of a previous witness, all three of whom said the officer fatally shot the unarmed teen.

Police have said the black 18-year-old died in a dangerous struggle after trying to grab the officer’s weapon. Not so, say the witnesses.

“It looked as if Michael was pushing off and the cop was trying to pull him in,” Tiffany Mitchell told CNN on Wednesday night.

Mitchell had driven to Ferguson to pick up another woman Piaget Crenshaw. The two women witnessed the shooting from two different angles–Mitchell from her car and Crenshaw from a building nearby.

Neither woman, who gave their statements to St. Louis County police, say they saw Brown enter the vehicle.

Instead, a shot went off, then the teen broke free, and the officer got out of the vehicle in pursuit, the women said.

“I saw the police chase him … down the street and shoot him down,” Crenshaw said. Brown ran about 20 feet.

“Michael jerks his body, as if he’s been hit,” Mitchell said.

Then he faced the officer and put his hands in the air, but the officer kept firing, both women said. He sank to the pavement.

The protests in Ferguson, a town in which the population is 2/3 black but the political leadership and police force are overwhelmingly white, are largely driven by the fact that police will not name the shooter or released the results of Brown’s autopsy, despite Missouri’s sunshine law.

August 13, 2014: A device deployed by police goes off in the street as police and protesters clash in Ferguson, Mo. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

August 13, 2014: A device deployed by police goes off in the street as police and protesters clash in Ferguson, Mo. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

From The New York Times: Anonymity in Missouri Police Shooting Fuels Frustration.

FERGUSON, Mo. — In the five days since an unarmed young black man was fatally shot by a police officer here, the selective release of information about the shooting, and especially the anonymity granted to the officer, has stoked frustrations in this largely African-American community north of St. Louis, where residents describe increasingly tense relations with the police.

The police chief, Thomas Jackson, has repeatedly declined to identify the officer, who has been put on administrative leave. But on Wednesday, the chief did offer a new detail about the shooting, which has kindled nights of racial unrest and an unyielding police response with tear gas, rubber bullets and arrests.

Jackson claims there have been threats against the police officer and he needs protection. So why not simply arrest him for murder and send his family to a safer location? Instead, Wilson called in law enforcement support from St. Louis and enabled an incredible overreaction to largely peaceful protests. From the Times article:

On Wednesday night, scores of police officers in riot gear and in armored trucks showed up to disperse protesters who had gathered on the streets near the scene of the shooting. Some officers perched atop the vehicles with their guns trained on the crowds while protesters chanted, “Hands up, don’t shoot.” A police spokesman said that some demonstrators had thrown Molotov cocktails at officers and that some had tried to set fires. The police used tear gas on demonstrators, and some protesters said rubber bullets had been fired at them. Police said one officer appeared to have suffered a broken ankle after being hit by a brick.

The police made more than 10 arrests. Among those arrested was Antonio French, a St. Louis alderman, who had been documenting the protests on social media, his wife said on Twitter.

Two reporters covering the protests also said they had been arrested inside a McDonald’s for trespassing and later released without charges or an explanation. The reporters, Wesley Lowery of The Washington Post and Ryan J. Reilly of The Huffington Post, both said they had been handled roughly by the police.

If you don’t read anything else on the events in Ferguson, read this article and look at the photos.

ferguson_5-600x390

More recommended stories:

Mashable: Ferguson or Iraq? Photos Unmask the Militarization of America’s Police.

As America scaled back its presence in Afghanistan and Iraq in 2012, military gear — amphibious tanks, weapons, uniforms and drones — spilled into local police arsenals. In June, an ACLU report warned of the “excessive militarization” of local law enforcement. “This has the effect of terrifying people, destroying communities and actually undermining public safety,” Kara Dansky, ACLU senior counsel, told Mashable in June.

The photos below show the heavily armed Ferguson police officers, dressed in camouflaged uniforms. They are set side-by-side with images of U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

One of the photo comparisons below. Which was taken in Ferguson and which in Iraq?

Militarization of Police 02

 

NBC News: Michael Brown Killing: Missouri Governor to Visit as Unrest Grows in Ferguson.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said he would visit the St. Louis suburbs Thursday after police fired tear gas to break up crowds in a fourth night of civil unrest over the police killing of an unarmed black teenager.

Sixteen people were arrested, including two reporters, on Wednesday night in the suburb of Ferguson, and police said that two officers were injured, one hit by a brick, NBC affiliate KSDK reported….

Nixon said in a statement that the worsening situation in Ferguson was “deeply troubling.” He canceled a planned visit to the state fair. “While we all respect the solemn responsibility of our law enforcement officers to protect the public, we must also safeguard the rights of Missourians to peaceably assemble and the rights of the press to report on matters of public concern,” he said.

Too little, too late, IMHO.

The Baltimore Sun: Riots in Ferguson and what they mean, by Leonard Pitts.

To believe that this carnage — the windows smashed, the buildings torched, the tear gas wafting — is all about the killing of Michael Brown is to miss the point….

Because, again, this is not just about Brown. It’s about Eric Garner, choked to death in a confrontation with New York City Police. It’s about Jordan Davis, shot to death in Jacksonville, Florida, because he played his music too loud. It’s about Trayvon Martin, shot to death in Sanford, Florida, because a self-appointed neighborhood guardian judged him a thug. It’s about Oscar Grant, shot by a police officer in an Oakland, California, subway station as cellphone cameras watched. It’s about Amadou Diallo, executed in that vestibule and Abner Louima, sodomized with that broomstick. It’s about Rodney King.

And it is about the bitter sense of siege that lives in African-American men, a sense that it is perpetually open season on us.

And that too few people outside of African America really notice, much less care. People who look like you are every day deprived of health, wealth, freedom, opportunity, education, the benefit of the doubt, the presumption of innocence, life itself — and when you try to say this, even when you document it with academic studies and buttress it with witness testimony, people don’t want to hear it, people dismiss you, deny you, lecture you about white victimhood, chastise you for playing a so-called “race card.”

They choke off avenues of protest, prizing silence over justice, mistaking silence for peace. And never mind that sometimes, silence simmers like water in a closed pot on a high flame….the anger we see in Ferguson did not spring from nowhere, nor arrive, fully-formed, when Michael Brown was shot. It is the anger of people who are, as Fannie Lou Hamer famously said, sick and tired of being sick and tired.

Silence imposed on pain cannot indefinitely endure. People who are hurting will always, eventually, make themselves heard.

The only problem with Pitts’ column is that there haven’t been any actual “riots” in Ferguson yet–unless you count what the police are doing as rioting.

Riverfront Times: Watch Police in Ferguson Arrest, Tear Gas Journalists [VIDEO]

Police actions against press seem to be part of the reason Governor Jay Nixon finally decided to cut his Missouri State Fair trip short. The governor says he’ll arrive in St. Louis County Thursday morning to manage what’s increasingly becoming a volatile, violent and devastating time in St. Louis history.

SWAT officers arrested Wesley Lowery, a political reporter at TheWashington Post, and Ryan Reilly, a Huffington Post justice reporter, shortly before 7 p.m. while clearing out a McDonalds near the protests where they were working. The reporters say police asked for their identification and eventually arrested them when they weren’t leaving quickly enough.

The journalists say they were arrested without being read their Miranda writes and eventually released with nothing — no charges, no police report, no names of arresting officers. The Los Angeles Times says police only released them after their reporter alerted the chief of Ferguson Police (His response: “Oh, god,”), who then called St. Louis County Police.

Late last night, police in Ferguson also tried to order the media to shut off their cameras, and they attacked journalists from Al Jazeera and confiscated their equipment. 

Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill decided last night that it was time for her to take some action, since Governor Nixon wasn’t doing it. She will meet with Eric Holder today to discuss the Ferguson situation.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) says she has a phone call planned with Attorney General Eric Holder on Thursday to discuss the situation in Ferguson, Mo., where an apparently unarmed black teenager was fatally shot by a police officer last weekend.

Amid clashes in the St. Louis suburb Wednesday night, the senator tweeted that she’s been working the phones to try to deescalate the “tense and unacceptable situation.” ….

Holder and White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett briefed President Obama Wednesday and the president will receive another briefing Thursday.

I’ll have to end there, because this post is getting way too long. I’ll post more important links in the comments. I’ll leave it to you Sky Dancers to update me on the rest of the news. I’ve been too focuses on Ferguson to pay attention to anything else. See you in the comment thread.


Thursday Reads: Towards a More Perfect Union

89bad68b6f44a9a951532fb3e7b9e709Good Morning!!

Today’s beautiful messages and images can be found here. 
The reactionary and wildly creative decisions coming out of the Supreme Court are already having ramifications across the country where women, minorities, and the GLBT community are having to fight for their very basic rights.  Interestingly enough, we are learning about which corporations want to be citizens and which corporations want to exist for the sole benefits of their owners.

The Hobby Lobby decision is already creating chaos as Notorious RBG and many of us have discussed.

This week, in the Hobby Lobby case, the Supreme Court ruled that a religious employer could not be required to provide employees with certain types of contraception. That decision is beginning to reverberate: A group of faith leaders is urging the Obama administration to include a religious exemption in a forthcoming LGBT anti-discrimination action.

Their call, in a letter sent to the White House Tuesday, attempts to capitalize on the Supreme Court case by arguing that it shows the administration must show more deference to the prerogatives of religion.

“We are asking that an extension of protection for one group not come at the expense of faith communities whose religious identity and beliefs motivate them to serve those in need,” the letter states.

The Hobby Lobby decision has been welcomed by religious-right groups who accuse Obama of waging a war on religion. But Tuesday’s letter is different: It comes from a group of faith leaders who are generally friendly to the administration, many of whom have closely advised the White House on issues like immigration reform. The letter was organized by Michael Wear, who worked in the Obama White House and directed faith outreach for the president’s 2012 campaign. Signers include two members of Catholics for Obama and three former members of the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

“This is not an antagonistic letter by any means,” Wear told me. But in the wake of Hobby Lobby, he said, “the administration does have a decision to make whether they want to recalibrate their approach to some of these issues.”

This decision is controversial and will remain controversial.  It changes how the government can approach the court’s favored religion and possibly e6556dea50ee218bf572e8a948f0c6fbother religions.

The first source of controversy is the collapse of a national consensus on a key element of religious liberty: accommodation. Throughout American history, there has been widespread agreement that in our religiously diverse and widely devout country, it is good for the government to accommodate religious exercise. We have disagreed about particular accommodations (may a Muslim police officer wear a beard, despite police department policy?), and especially about whether religious accommodations should be ordered by judges or crafted by legislators. But we have generally agreed that our nation benefits when we help rather than burden those with religious obligations. That consensus seems, quite suddenly, to have evaporated.

A second source of controversy is that many people view the Hobby Lobby case as concerning not just reproductive rights but also, indirectly, rights for gays and lesbians. Advocates for same-sex marriage have long insisted that their own marriages need not threaten anyone else’s, but citizens with religious objections to same-sex marriage wonder whether that is entirely true: Will a small-business owner be sued, for instance, for declining to provide services to a same-sex couple? Conversely, and understandably, gay and lesbian couples wonder why they do not deserve the same protections from discrimination granted to racial and other minorities. For both sides, Hobby Lobby was merely a prelude to this dawning conflict.

The third source of controversy is a change in our views of the marketplace itself. The marketplace was once seen as place to put aside our culture wars and engage in the great American tradition of buying and selling. The shopping mall has even been called the “American agora.” But today the market itself has become a site of cultural conflict. Hobby Lobby is one of many companies that seek to express faith commitments at work as well as at home and that don’t see the workplace as a thing apart from religion. Many companies preach and practice values, religious and otherwise, that are unrelated to market considerations. CVS, for example, recently announced that it would stop selling tobacco products, regardless of how that decision might affect its bottom line.

A country that cannot even agree on the idea of religious accommodation, let alone on what terms, is unlikely to agree on what to do next

37ecdedb3879c2702b8ada00d9bf4bc4Here’s another group of “patriotic, gawd-fearing” amuricans shouting down children and mothers fleeing violence in our neighbor countries.  I just continue to find this to be the most appalling story I’ve heard in some time.  The Border Patrol, ICE, and every one involved–but these horrible xenophobes–were just following our laws as written.  Perhaps, they should know our laws just a little bit better themselves.

The national controversy over a surge of Central American immigrants illegally crossing the U.S. border established a new battleground this week in a Southern California small town where angry crowds thwarted detained migrants from entering their community.

In a faceoff Tuesday with three buses carrying the migrants behind screened-off windows, the demonstrators chanted “Go back home!” and “USA” and successfully forced the coaches to leave Murrieta, CNN affiliate KFMB reported.

The buses instead took the 140 or so undocumented immigrants to U.S. processing centers at least 80 miles away, in the San Diego and El Centro areas, federal officials say.

Counter-protesters squared off with the demonstrators, and a shouting match erupted over the nation’s immigration system, which recently has been overwhelmed with a tide of Central American minors illegally entering the United States alone or with other children.

A mix of poverty, violence and smugglers’ false promises is prompting the Central American inflow.

Unlike undocumented Mexican migrants, who are often immediately deported, the U.S. government detains and processes the Central Americans, who are eventually released and given a month to report to immigration offices. Many never show up and join the nation’s 11 million undocumented population, says the National Border Patrol Council, the union representing Border Patrol agents.

The Latin American immigrants rejected by Murrieta protesters were initially held in Texas, where U.S. facilities are so overflowing that detainees are sent to other states for processing.

The government doesn’t have the room to shelter the children with adults: there’s only one family immigration detention center, in Pennsylvania. To assist the unaccompanied children, President Barack Obama’s administration opened shelters last month on three military bases because federal facilities more designed for adults were overrun with minors.

Tuesday’s busloads of detained Central American immigrants didn’t include any unaccompanied minors, said Murrieta Police Chief Sean Hadden, who put the number of protesters at 125. The children on the buses were apparently in the company of relatives or other adults, said an official with the National Border Patrol Council.

Meanwhile, yet another corporation has decided that open carry of assault weapons in their stores may not create the most hospitable environment for 160de714ce5483a893b2a0855cd10f17employees or shoppers.  Target has joined other companies asking customers to leave their guns at home,

The leadership team has been weighing a complex issue, and I want to be sure everyone understands our thoughts and ultimate decision.

As you’ve likely seen in the media, there has been a debate about whether guests in communities that permit “open carry” should be allowed to bring firearms into Target stores. Our approach has always been to follow local laws, and of course, we will continue to do so. But starting today we will also respectfully request that guests not bring firearms to Target – even in communities where it is permitted by law.

We’ve listened carefully to the nuances of this debate and respect the protected rights of everyone involved. In return, we are asking for help in fulfilling our goal to create an atmosphere that is safe and inviting for our guests and team members.

This is a complicated issue, but it boils down to a simple belief: Bringing firearms to Target creates an environment that is at odds with the family-friendly shopping and work experience we strive to create.

 

Meanwhile, over in Georgia, the new flout your gun every where has lead to just what you’d expect.9a8299e4e8603fc41c832090da0b07bc

Valdosta Police Chief Brian Childress summed the incident up for the newspaper.

“Essentially, it involved one customer with a gun on his hip when a second customer entered with a gun on his hip,” Childress said.

According to the Daily Times, the first man, Ronald Williams, approached the second man in the store and demanded to see his identification and firearms license. Williams also pulled his gun from his holster, without pointing it at the second man. The second man responded by saying that he was not obligated to show any permits or identification — then he paid for his purchase, left the store, and called the police.

Police responded to the call around 3 p.m. Tuesday, and Williams was arrested on a charge of disorderly conduct for pulling his gun in the store.

Tuesday was also the day that Georgia’s so-called “guns everywhere” law went into effect, allowing residents to carry guns into bars, nightclubs, classrooms, and certain government buildings. Among other things, the law also prohibits police from demanding to see the weapons permit of someone seen carrying a gun. Childress mentioned that last point when talking to the Daily Times about Tuesday’s incident.

“This is an example of my concern with the new gun law that people will take the law into their own hands which we will not tolerate,” Childress said.

fd42681438f5b1673a8e22dbcd1cd448I wanted to share a mass shooting that happened on Bourbon Street last weekend. A beautiful young woman has lost her life in the senseless violence. Another has a lot of damage to her mouth, gums and teeth. All of this happened because one young man got into an argument and his anger and his gun led to indiscriminate firing into the crowd.  A total of 10 innocent bystanders were shot.

One of the 10 victims of the weekend shooting on New Orleans’ famed Bourbon Street died Wednesday.

According to the coroner’s office, Brittany Thomas, 21, of Hammond, La., died from her injuries. She is the only victim of the shooting to die.

Thomas had been in critical condition since the early Sunday morning shooting when two gunmen sprayed the crowd with bullets.

Three others were reported in stable condition after Sunday’s shooting: a 35-year-old man from Mississippi, a 19-year-old Arkansas woman and an 18-year-old New Orleans man.

Interim LSU Hospital spokeswoman Siona LaFrance said Wednesday a 21-year-old Australian woman was released from the hospital.

On Sunday, police said nine people were injured in the shooting. Then Monday, they said a person who came into the police department Sunday afternoon also was injured in the violence.

Other victims, not hospitalized, included two New Orleans-area men; a teenage girl and a woman from Alabama; and a Florida man.

The young Australian woman has a Facebook page where you can help her defray the cost of reconstruction. As of writing this, I understand that the “person” of interest has surrendered to the police.  His face has been plastered every where for about a day and half.

The shooting took place about 2:45 a.m. Sunday on Bourbon Street and involved “two young men, both armed with firearms, who chose to settle a dispute between themselves without care for anyone else,” Police Supt. Ronal W. Serpas told reporters. They exchanged gunfire, hitting bystanders, he said. Bourbon Street, a hot spot for tourists, is full of bars, restaurants and shops.

e324b3893dc5ef5b70eb6a1b8d52474dThis young man’s callous regard for life should land him in jail for a very long time.  We’ll see what happens.  The suspect is a young white man and the dead girl is a young black woman.

According to the New Orleans Police Department, two men are sought in the shooting that spawned from an argument between them.

“While everyone else was running away, I was running toward the gunfire,” Minsky said. “And, I don’t know, being a curious guy — that’s what I wanted to do  — see what was going on basically.”

Minsky described the ordeal as “surreal,” saying he’d never seen multiple people get shot.

“There was a lot of blood, I can tell you that much, you know. And I actually stepped in a pool of blood and didn’t realize it until I was walking toward the person shot in the face,” Minksey said. “That kind of freaked me out a little bit.”

The victim shot in the face was Amy Matthews from Australia. The bullet struck her in her cheek and knocked out all but 10 teeth she told an Australian newspaper. She was released from the hospital this week.

In one of several photos Minsky took on his cellphone, Matthews is seen sitting on a sidewalk on Bourbon Street as a crowd of people attempted to help her, including two U.S. marines.

 

He also captured an image of an unresponsive woman lying in the middle of the 700 block of Bourbon Street.

During the chaotic moments after the shooting, Minsky said there weren’t many screams in the Vieux Carré.

“There was just a lot of people running around and trying to help each other,” he said. “The person that was shot in the face was probably the person getting the most attention at that immediate moment. But as far as the screams and commotion, I mean, yeah, there are people running and screaming but that all died down after the gunshots ended.”

I can’t believe that this is what the founders– many of whom I am a direct descendant of–planned for our union. How could they have envision this kind of hateful chaos empowered by the Supreme Court who represents the voice of reason, law, and constitutionality, and the House of Representatives which is supposed to be the voice of the people..  I do not find any of these events to be consistent with their dreams and plans for a more perfect union where no one religion would dictate the lives of others,  where all were considered equal before the law, and every one had the ability to pursue life and liberty.


Friday Reads: Bigots Among Us

images (36)Good Morning!

I have read the most horrifying stories this week.  It makes me wonder if a good portion of humanity has a death wish. I’m going to share a variety of links that I’ve found; and a lot of them aren’t the most uplifting, I’m afraid.

Knowledge is power.  Ignorance may be bliss to the holder but not to the folks around them. There is no lack of headlines in the area of bigotry and intolerance. This is truly discouraging to those of us that care passionately about social justice.

Crime rates have been falling recently but our incarceration rates are not. There’s a huge study out on the economic costs of our prison society and its images (37)findings are not pretty.  We’re spending billionaires of dollars locking up the poor, the uneducated, and the mentally ill in a distinctly racist way.

While crime rates have fallen 45 percent since 1990, the memo said that the incarceration rate is now at a “historically unprecedented level,” jumping 222 percent between 1980 and 2012. An African-American man who never graduated from high school has a 70 percent likelihood of being imprisoned by his mid-30s; for similarly educated white men, the rate is about 15 percent. And the United States imprisons at a rate six times greater than most peer nations, including those of the European Union, Japan, Israel, and Mexico.

The U.S. Department of Justice announced rules last month that would give the Obama administration wider latitude to extend clemency or reduce sentences for drug-related prisoners who don’t present a threat to public safety. In addition, the U.S. Sentencing Commission voted unanimously in April to reduce sentencing guidelines for certain nonviolent criminals, a move now before Congress that could go into effect Nov. 1 if lawmakers don’t take any further action.


Ronald S. Sullivan Jr.
 is a clinical professor of law and director of the Criminal Justice Institute at Harvard Law School. The program focuses on criminal practice, education, and research, and hosts a teaching clinic for third-year law students to represent indigent criminal defendants in local and juvenile courts. Sullivan spoke with the Gazette about racial and national sentencing disparities, the economic and social costs of mass incarceration, and the sentencing reforms now under consideration.

GAZETTE: According to the memo, while the overall crime rate fell 45 percent between 1990 and 2012, the rate of imprisonment has spiked 222 percent between 1980 and 2012. What’s behind this disparity? Is that strictly the result of policy decisions like mandatory minimum sentencing, repeat-offender laws, and the growth in for-profit prisons? Or are other factors at work?

SULLIVAN: That’s certainly a big piece of it. … policy decisions in respect of mandatory minimums drive the huge incarceration rate. But there are other factors as well. What those factors are is the subject of a lot of academic debate nowadays. And to be honest, we’re not exactly sure what it is. We do know that on a per-capita basis the U.S. incarcerates more people than any country in the world, including Rwanda, Russia, Cuba, all of the places one does not associate with a robust tradition of liberty. And that’s in many ways shocking.

The theory would be … with the high rates of incarceration that the crime rate would go down and then that would be followed by less incarceration because there just wouldn’t be as many crimes committed. But those numbers have gone in opposite directions. Mandatory minimums simply don’t explain all of it. Part of it, at least I think, has to do with selective law enforcement — the over-policing of certain neighborhoods, particularly minority neighborhoods and poor neighborhoods. That is to say, if police are there and looking for crimes, and over-police certain neighborhoods, you’re going to produce more defendants in particular areas. And if the populations are drawn from poor populations, they’re unable to afford to be released on bail, they’re unable to afford good lawyers, and studies show that if you’re not released on bail you tend to stay in jail after sentencing. An unfortunate reality of the United States is that far too often the justice you receive is a function of how much money you have.

The prison-industrial complex is also an important factor. It doesn’t take an economist to know that if … you make your money by people going into prison, then there’s going to be higher incarceration rates. So I think that certainly plays a role as well.

GAZETTE: What are the areas of debate among scholars?

SULLIVAN: One explanation has to do with the United States’ articulated goals of punishment. Back in the ’70s and before, rehabilitation was an articulated goal of the criminal justice system. The Supreme Court has said clearly now rehabilitation is no longer a penological goal. We look at incapacitation, we look at deterrence, and we look at retribution as goals that the penal system serves. When you take rehabilitation out of the mix, then that de-incentivizes the system from having shorter sentences because there’s no longer an affirmative goal of reintegrating people meaningfully back into the community. That’s one of the things that scholars argue drive up the incarceration rate.

The other has to do with our system of elected judges in most states. Judges who are elected, the argument runs, respond to democratic pressures. We live in a political economy where people think that more and harsher punishment is better, even though most competent data suggests that longer sentences, after a certain point … make people worse as opposed to making them better. But you have democratically elected judges who respond to the will of the people, and if that will is for longer sentences, no matter how misinformed, then judges oftentimes acquiesce to those pressures.

The other issue has to do with legislators. It, again, has to do with the political economy in which we live. With this mantra of being “tough on crime,” legislators essentially race to see who can draft legislation with the harshest, longest penalties. I think that legislators don’t believe that prosecutors will attempt to enforce the most harsh provisions of particular laws, and in that sense, from the vantage point of the legislator, it’s sort of a win-win situation: They can get the political credit for drafting an incredibly harsh law, but not really have to deal with the effects because the notion is the prosecutor will sort it out and will recommend a fair sentence. That assumption, though, just hasn’t really been borne out in reality.

GAZETTE: The current incarceration gap between white men and African-American men is particularly striking. Does that figure surprise you, and what accounts for this gap? Is access to justice a factor?

SULLIVAN: The figure does not surprise me, and it is unfortunate that the figure does not surprise me. The figure reaffirms that race insinuates itself into almost every aspect of our life still, and it has a particular salience in the criminal justice system. … Here we see the effect of over-policing much more dramatically. In our culture, unfortunately … blackness is seen as a proxy for criminality. So the same or similar conduct engaged in by a person of color is seen through a lens that views that conduct as criminal, where others simply are not taxed in the same way.

The debate over the use of lethal injections and the drugs used for state executions continues.   Three newspapers–including the UK Guardian–have sued to 8706624f946740fb5bfd634de4b31b58make public the source of drugs for these injections. Most states are trying to make that information private.  Many of the recent botched executions came from simple druggists compounding the formulations because many of the major drug manufacturers–especially those in Europe–refuse to do so.  Should the formulation and the source of death penalty drugs be kept from the public?

The growing secrecy adopted by death penalty states to hide the source of their lethal injection drugs used in executions is being challenged in a new lawsuit in Missouri, which argues that the American people have a right to know how the ultimate punishment is being carried out in their name.

The legal challenge, brought by the Guardian, Associated Press and the three largest Missouri newspapers, calls on state judges to intervene to put a stop to the creeping secrecy that has taken hold in the state in common with many other death penalty jurisdictions. The lawsuit argues that under the first amendment of the US constitution the public has a right of access to know “the type, quality and source of drugs used by a state to execute an individual in the name of the people”.

It is believed to be the first time that the first amendment right of access has been used to challenge secrecy in the application of the death penalty. Deborah Denno, an expert in execution methods at Fordham University law school in New York, said that more and more states were turning to secrecy as a way of hiding basic flaws in their procedures.

“If states were doing things properly they wouldn’t have a problem releasing information – they are imposing a veil of secrecy to hide incompetence.” “This is like the government building bridges, and trying to hide the identity of the company that makes the bolts,” said Richard Dieter of the Death Penalty Information Center. “Those involved in public service should expect public scrutiny in order to root out problems, particular when the state is carrying out the most intimate act possible – killing people.”

A Guardian survey has identified at least 13 states that have changed their rules to withhold from the public all information relating to how they get hold of lethal drugs. They include several of the most active death penalty states including Texas, which has executed seven prisoners so far this year, Florida (five), Missouri (four) and Oklahoma (three). Attention has been drawn to the secrecy issue by the botched execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma on 29 April in which the prisoner took 43 minutes to die, apparently in great pain, from an untested cocktail of drugs whose source was not made public.

Lockett’s lawyers had argued in advance that he might be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment as a result of the lack of information surrounding the drugs, but the state supreme court allowed the procedure to go ahead having come under intense pressure from local politicians, some of whom threatened to impeach judges.

In the wake of the events in Oklahoma, in which the prisoner writhed and groaned over a prolonged period, the state has agreed to pause for six months before carrying out any further judicial killings to give time for an internal investigation to be completed. President Obama described the Lockett execution “deeply troubling” and has asked US attorney general Eric Holder to review the way the death penalty is conducted.

Until last year, Missouri which is now executing prisoners at a rate of one a month, was open about where it obtained its lethal injection chemicals. But like many death penalty states, its drug supplies have dwindled as a result of a European-led pharmaceutical boycott, and in a desperate move to try to find new suppliers it has shrouded their identity in secrecy. In October, the state changed its so-called “black hood law” that had historically been used to guard the identity of those directly involved in the death process.

The department of corrections expanded the definition of its execution team to include pharmacies and “individuals who prescribe, compound, prepare, or otherwise supply the chemicals for use in the lethal injection procedure”. Six inmates have been executed by Missouri since the new secrecy rules came in –they went to their deaths entirely ignorant of the source or quality of the drugs used to kill them. All that is known is that the pentobarbital that Missouri deploys in executions probably came from a compounding pharmacy – an outlet that makes up small batches of the drug to order in the absence of stringent regulation.

We continue to see GLBT civil rights characterized by the right as an attack on their religious rights and their homobigoted behavior and language The-Birth-of-a-Nationwrapped up as a first amendment issue. How does the right play the victim card in a debate about limiting the rights of others?  It is doing the same things with women’s reproductive rights.

While Religious Right leaders are quick to equate criticism as an attack on their freedom of speech and religion, some of them are all too happy to limit the free speech or religious liberty of the people they disagree with. That includes the Benham brothers.

In the flurry of public appearances in the wake of the HGTV cancellation, the Benhams and their right-wing fans have portrayed themselves as committed to the principle that everyone in America should have a chance to express themselves.  On the O’Reilly Factor, David Benham denounced the gay agenda for seeking “to silence those that disagree with it, and it begins with Christians.” Jason warned that “when an idea seeks to silence any other idea that may disagree with that, then we have ourselves a problem on hand.”

But as blogger Jeremy Hooper recently pointed out, back in November 2004, David, Jason, and Flip Benham were all part of a group of about 15 people who went to a Charlotte, North Carolina city council meeting to complain about the gay pride celebration that had taken place in a city park six months earlier. They were among a group of people who had gone to the Pride event to, in Jason’s words, “tell them that Jesus loves you just the way you are, but he refuses to leave you that way.” But the Benhams and their friends were appalled at what they saw. “This is filth, this is vile and should not be allowed in our City,” said David. Jason urged city council members to reject future permits for Pride celebrations – and seemingly for any LGBT-themed event:

They have a right to apply for this permit, but you have a right and responsibility to deny it. I [implore] you not to be governed by the fear in which you feel. If you deny them this permit you will open a can of worms but you in your leadership position have to take that responsibility and you have to not allow the fear of making this homosexual community mad. You have to accept that responsibility and deny them every permit that they ask for.

In the words of Charlotte Pride organizers, “The Benham brothers once tried to silence us. They failed.”

Some Benham fans, like the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer, say flat-out that the First Amendment’s religious liberty protections were only meant for Christians and don’t apply to Muslims, Mormons or other minority faiths. Back when many self-proclaimed “religious liberty” advocates were opposing efforts by Muslims in New York to build a community center – which critics gave the inaccurate and inflammatory name of “Ground Zero Mosque” – David Benham and his father Flip were among them. According to the Anti-Defamation League, David participated in protests against the Center, calling it a “den of iniquity” and labeling Muslims “the enemy” that was attacking America.

In these public debates, “Christian” as used by Religious Right leaders often doesn’t really apply to all Christians, but only to a subset of Christians who share their right-wing politics. Other Christians don’t count.  The Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins, who has bemoaned “cultural elites” who want to “silence” and “bully” people like the Benhams, recently said that pro-gay-equality Christians don’t deserve the same legal protections as he does because “true religious freedom” applies only to those with religious views that align with those of the political Right.

We’ve seen a lot of this coming from Governor Bobby Jindal who is a bully that insists that GLBT rights activists are bullies. 

Gov. Bobby Jindal’s commencement speech at Liberty University was a masterpiece in this type of dishonest projection. Posing as a champion of free speech and freedom of religion, he actually made a chilling argument in favor of stripping both of those freedoms away from ordinary Americans, businesses and anyone who might disagree with turning this country into a theocratic state. He started by defending Hobby Lobby for trying to strip contraception coverage out of their employees’ own healthcare plans. “Under the Obama regime,” he argued, “you have protection under the First Amendment as an individual, but the instant you start a business, you lose those protections. And that brings us to the second front in this silent war: the attack on our freedom of association as people of faith.”

It’s all nonsense, of course. In fact, Hobby Lobby’s intention here is to reduce religious freedom by forcing their employees to adhere to certain religious rules in order to get the benefits they already earned. ( They have a history of trying to impose their religious dogma on non-believers through other means as well.) The only people in any real danger of losing freedom are women, who are in danger of losing their freedom to use their insurance benefits in a way that fits their personal beliefs.

But Jindal was just warming up, claiming the “Obama administration” was gunning to decide “who can preach the Gospel.” This outrageous conspiracy theory was justified, in his opinion, by supposed other attacks on “free speech,” namely that TV networks are reluctant to house the opinions of open bigots. “The left no longer wants to debate. They simply want to silence us,” he said of Phil Robertson from Duck Dynasty, who was never silenced and has, to this date, been allowed to say any fool thing he wants. But he was briefly suspended from A&E, leading conservatives to decide that “free speech” means you have a right to your own TV show.

All of this has gotten me interested in again in White Supremacist movements.  I really believe that most of these Southern Republicans fall squarely 67294811_blossoms_241543binto the neoconfederate mold and aren’t that far off the KKK tree.

White supremacy is referenced in relation to specific news events as well. For example, the murder rampage by the neo-Nazi Frazier Glenn Miller, the recent weeks-long debate between pundits Ta-Nehisi Coates and Jonathan Chait about “black pathology”; birtherism; stand-your-ground laws; and the open embrace of the symbols and rhetoric of the old slave-holding Confederacy by the Republican Party have been framed and discussed in terms of white supremacy.

Conservatives and progressive often use the phrase “white supremacy” in divergent ways. Conservatives use the phrase in the service of a dishonest “colorblind” agenda, evoking extreme images of KKK members and Nazis as the exclusive and only examples of white racism in American life and politics. Conservatives use extreme caricatures of white supremacy in order to deflect and protect themselves from charges that the contemporary Republican Party is a white identity organization fueled by white racial resentment. Liberals, progressives and anti-racists use the phrase “white supremacy” to describe the overt and subtle racist practices of movement conservatism in the post-Civil Rights era, and how American society is still structured around maintaining and protecting white privilege. This analysis is largely correct: however, it often conflates concepts such as racism, white privilege, and white supremacy with one another. Language does political work. In the age of Obama, the phrase “white supremacy” is often used in political discussions like an imprecise shotgun blast or a blockbuster bomb. If the Common Good and American democracy are to be protected—countering how the right wing has used the politics of white racial resentment, racial manipulation, and hate to mobilize its voters in support of a plutocratic agenda—a more precise weapon is needed. A necessary first step in that direction requires the development of a more detailed and transparent exploration of the concept known as “white supremacy.”

tumblr_m643ofO3Mw1r194ulo2_1280One of the sure signs to me of either a racist or a misogynist or a homophobic bigot is that they all insist they have no problem women, racial minorities, and/or gay people.  The believe they are the victims by being forced to deal with any one else in terms other than their own choosing. Therein lies the problem.  Here’s a perfect example from Kristen Powers writing at USA Today.   You can’t call out bigotry without being called a bully obsessed with political correctness.  Then, you’re told that the real victims are white conservative christians.

Each week seems to bring another incident. Last week it was David and Jason Benham, whose pending HGTV show was canceled after the mob unearthed old remarks the brothers made about their Christian beliefs on homosexuality. People can’t have a house-flipping show unless they believe and say the “right” things in their life off the set? In this world, the conservative Tom Selleck never would have been Magnum, P.I.

This week, a trail-blazing woman was felled in the new tradition of commencement shaming. International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde withdrew from delivering the commencement speech at Smith College following protests from students and faculty who hate the IMF. According to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, this trend is growing. In the 21 years leading up to 2009, there were 21 incidents of an invited guest not speaking because of protests. Yet, in the past five-and-a-half years, there have been 39 cancellations.

Don’t bother trying to make sense of what beliefs are permitted and which ones will get you strung up in the town square. Our ideological overlords have created a minefield of inconsistency. While criticizing Islam is intolerant, insulting Christianity is sport. Ayaan Hirsi Ali is persona non grata at Brandeis University for attacking the prophet Mohammed. But Richard Dawkins describes the Old Testament God as “a misogynistic … sadomasochistic … malevolent bully” and the mob yawns. Bill Maher calls the same God a “psychotic mass murderer” and there are no boycott demands of the high-profile liberals who traffic his HBO show.

The self-serving capriciousness is crazy. In March, University of California-Santa Barbara women’s studies professor Mireille Miller-Young attacked a 16-year-old holding an anti-abortion sign in the campus’ “free speech zone” (formerly known as America). Though she was charged with theft, battery and vandalism, Miller-Young remains unrepentant and still has her job. But Mozilla’s Brendan Eich gave a private donation to an anti-gay marriage initiative six years ago and was ordered to recant his beliefs. When he wouldn’t, he was forced to resign from the company he helped found.

Got that? A college educator with the right opinions can attack a high school student and keep her job. A corporate executive with the wrong opinions loses his for making a campaign donation. Something is very wrong here.

The right seems to be really confused about the first amendment, which clearly deals with the relationship between the federal government, religion, the press, and the people’s free speech.  The same idiots that scream that Hobby Lobby can deny its employees contraception and say that businesses should be able to refuse to serve GLBTs will shout out a corporation that says they don’t want to be known for bigotry of any kind.  They also misunderstand the protection given to University professors when it comes to academic freedom.  Companies have to comply with the law.  They do not have to keep employees that don’t represent their corporate values.  PERIOD.

Anyway, it just amazes me that this intense amount of uncivil bigotry and hatred seemed to have burbled up again after all these years.  All it took was an African American President and a few powerful women–namely Hillary Clinton–to bring the crazy out.

I just wanted to mention that most of these silent film images come from “Birth of  a Nation” but one comes from “Broken Blossoms” also known as the “Yellow Man and the Girl”.  Both of these films were directed by DW Griffith around 1919. Both movies starred Lillian Gish and were received differently by white audiences than by the racial minorities they also depicted.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?