Friday, February 27, 2015

Homan Square - Chicago PD 'Black Site' - CPD Or CIA?

Gated entrance of Chicago PD's Homan Square facility
I heard a pretty disturbing story about the Chicago Police Department on the Democracy Now show on public radio as I was driving home from Princeton late last night after having dinner with a friend.

Two days ago the British newspaper The Guardian reported that the Chicago PD have been operating a secret interrogation facility on the city's west side inside a large building that used to be a Sears & Roebuck warehouse.

Aside from some small blue and white signs on the gate outside, there's really nothing to distinguish the Homan Square facility as a police station. Statements from the Chicago Police Department insist the building serves as both an 'Evidence and Recovered Property' location and a site where SWAT teams, organized crime task force members, and other shadowy police investigation units operate out of.

But according to multiple reports from defense attorneys and individuals who've been held there, at least part of the facility is used to interrogate suspects for periods that can last anywhere from 12 and 24 hours without access to lawyers, Miranda rights, telephones or even basic police procedures that officially log and keep track of when a person is detained and where he or she is at any given time.

Homan Square detainee Brian Jacob Church 
During the Democracy Now program, I heard an audio clip of an interview with Brian Jacob Church (pictured left), identified as one of "NATO Three", three individuals arrested for allegedly plotting to use Molotov cocktails in protest of the 2012 NATO summit.

Church said Chicago police officers brought him to Homan Square and kept him shackled to a bench for 17 hours. His ankles were chained together with cuffs and his wrist was kept handcuffed to a metal bar on the bench behind him.

When he asked to use a phone to contact his lawyers, police told him he would have no phone access until he told them what they wanted to know.

According to The Guardian, article, Church claims that “Homan Square is definitely an unusual place,” Church told the Guardian on Friday. “It brings to mind the interrogation facilities they use in the Middle East. The CIA calls them black sites. It’s a domestic black site. When you go in, no one knows what’s happened to you.”
  
What allegedly has happened inside Homan Square includes unauthorized interrogations, beatings and at least one known death of a detainee under mysterious circumstances.

The Chicago Tribune reported detainee John Hubbard was found unconscious in an interrogation room; the medical examiner ruled he'd died of a heroin overdose. 

First Defense Legal Aid attorney Eliza Solowiej says one of her clients was taken away from a police station and brought to Homan Square for several hours; she later found him at a hospital with head injuries he suffered at the hands of CPD officers at Homan Square.

Minors are taken there as well.

The Guardian also reports attorney Julia Bartmes went to Homan Square demanding to see a fifteen year-old client who'd been in the facility for hours; police refused to grant her access and the juvenile was later dropped off at his home by police after almost 13 hours in custody being interrogated without a parent, legal guardian or his attorney present - he was never charged.
 
Did the CPD take a page from the CIA playbook to conduct secret interrogations outside the purview of legal oversight?

The story is just breaking, so there's a lot we don't know about Homan Square, but we do know the vast majority of suspects taken there are young men of color; people who already suffer disproportionately from the use of excessive force at the hands of police.

The legal, ethical and moral implications of the CPD intentionally creating a police facility where Constitutional protections do not apply is disturbing on a number of levels; and it's not only a huge setback to building trust between Chicago police and the poor urban communities they serve - it's an affront to the rule of law in America and another blatant example of unchecked police authority.

'Domestic Black Sites'? And our politicians have the nerve to call out Russia and China for domestic human rights abuses? 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Symbolic Senate's Symbolic Pipeline Bill Rejected

Syncrude tar sands oil production facility in Canada
There's a laundry list of challenges still facing the 99% of Americans existing in an economy that's recovered for some but not all.

So one might reasonably expect that our Republican friends in Washington would use their new legislative majority in the House and Senate to demonstrate an ability to actually solve real issues that affect real Americans by tackling something like education, infrastructure or tax reform.

But no, it seems they're perfectly content to continue functioning as a purely symbolic legislative body, drafting symbolic legislation that has no chance of being passed, but quenches the insatiable ideological thirst of it's most extremist constituents - and nurses their deep-seated hatred of the President. 

Not surprisingly, the very first piece of legislation the Republican controlled Senate sent to the President to sign earlier yesterday was a largely symbolic bill to approve the Keystone XL pipeline.

What do you expect from the same political party that's voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act more than 50 times?

The President is on record opposing Keystone XL, he said he would veto any bill authorizing it and yesterday he did just that.

Do Republicans on Capitol Hill extract some kind of moral or ideological victory in these pointless exercises in symbolic legislation that will never pass?

Maybe, but any way you dress it up it's still a waste of taxpayer time and money.

Climate change-denying Republican Congressman have restricted their rationale for supporting the Keystone XL pipeline project to a series of debunked bullet-point arguments that don't hold water.

For example, the GOP touts Keystone XL as a feather in the cap for American "energy independence". But the truth is the whole point of building the pipeline to transport the low grade Canadian tar sands crude oil across the middle of the US is to get it to coastal port facilities in Texas where it can be loaded onto tankers, shipped overseas and sold in foreign countries.

I've honestly lost count of how many indignant Republicans I've seen (or read) in interviews claiming it will create "thousands" of American jobs, but that's been proven to be a misleading twist of fact.

While the actual construction of the 1,700 mile steel pipeline stretching from Canada to Texas will create temporary construction jobs, those jobs will disappear once the pipeline is completed.

In actuality, according to a government report, Keystone XL will only create about 35 full-time jobs. Is that worth the unforeseen environmental impact? Most Americans don't think so. 

With the new Republican majority in Congress devolving back into creating manufactured crises and threatening the security of the nation by not funding the Department of Homeland Security, most mainstream media coverage tends to frame the Keystone XL pipeline debate in an exclusively political context.

But the potential environmental impact of the pipeline offers a much more compelling reason to ditch the project once and for all.

Canadian tar sands oil is a thick, viscous sludge. To pump it through pipelines requires chemical additives that make it even more potentially toxic. The Website TarSandsFreeNE.org offers four reasons why tar sands is highly dangerous:

It is acidic. Tar sands diluted bitumen normally has organic acid concentrations up to 20 times higher than conventional crude oil, and contains up to 10 times more sulfur.

It is hot.
Tar sands diluted bitumen flowing through pipelines creates friction, which raises the material’s temperature and amplifies its corrosive qualities.

It is abrasive.
Tar sands diluted bitumen has suspended in its mixture abrasive materials like quartz and pyrite and particles.


It is viscous.
Tar sands diluted bitumen is 40 to 70 times more viscous than North American conventional crude oil. This high viscosity requires tar sands pipelines to operate at higher pressures than conventional pipelines.
 

Even TransCanada, the company that wants to build Keystone XL, has NO idea how the mix of toxic sludge would impact the environment should there be a catastrophic leak resulting in a spill.

The scary part for Americans is that some parts of the proposed pipeline route would actually pass directly over the massive Ogallala aquifer, one of the largest underground freshwater sources on the planet - and the source of drinking water for municipal drinking wells and farms that stretch across eight mid-western states.

Farms that account for a quarter of the nation's farmland.

A pipe leak of Canadian tar sands oil into the Ogallala aquifer would be an unimaginable ecological disaster for the nation; why risk that for 35 permanent jobs and millions of gallons of oil that's not even going to be sold in the US?

Tar sands oil clouds the Kalamazoo River in Michigan
Remember the disaster that  happened back on July 26, 2010 when an underground pipe near Marshall, Michigan carrying tar sands oil to refinery facilities in Detroit ruptured?

Five years later over a million gallons of oil has been painstakingly removed from the Kalamazoo River at a cost of almost a billion dollars; and there's still tens of thousands of gallons of oil sludge that's settled into the sediment at the bottom of the river that needs to be dredged out.

Try to imagine that happening over a pristine irreplaceable water source like the Ogallala aquifer. 

The risk of creating an even bigger market for Canadian tar sands is an environmental risk that unites Canadians and Americans on both sides of the border.

See Keystone XL is just one of two proposed pipelines in North America. A company called Kinder-Morgan wants to build a proposed pipeline project that would stretch across Western Canada, bringing tar sands crude to west coast Canadian ports where it would be loaded onto tankers to be shipped - and put delicate natural resources like the Salish Sea at risk.

You won't hear many Republicans mention the Ogallala aquifer or the Salish Sea.

According to an online article on EarthJustice.org, the Salish Sea "recognizes the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Haro Strait, the Strait of Georgia, and Puget Sound as a single marine ecosystem."

Click the link above if you want to read a revealing Earth Justice article about how the Tulalip Tribe and other Native American tribes are engaged in a peaceful grass roots campaign to oppose the construction of the tar sands pipeline.

The potential impact to the Fraser River and other parts of the incredible Salish Sea ecosystem which has been interwoven with their way of life for centuries is a sobering reminder of why tar sands oil should be left right where it is; in the ground.



Monday, February 23, 2015

'The Prediction Box', The Money Drop & Other Oscar Observations

Octavia Spencer being grilled about NPH's prediction box
One could've watched the massive director's cut of Peter Jackson's 'Return of the King', watched the ten minute credits, and still caught the best picture presentation at the Oscar's last night, but overall I thought it was a pretty decent Academy Awards.

I was happy to see Eddie Redmayne win Best Actor for 'The Theory of Everything'; his on-screen physical transformation playing professor Stephen Hawking was simply brilliant.

I was also happy to see director Pawel Pawlikowski win the Best Foreign Film Oscar for his brilliant 'Ida'- the cinematography is simply stunning, one of the most beautifully shot films I've ever seen.
Over the course of the night there was some good drama and heartfelt speeches (Patricia Arquette's speech calling for equal pay for women rocked) and Neil Patrick Harris was marginally amusing as the host; that is if you don't count some of the jokes he was forced to use that dropped like bombs. 

He's no Billy Crystal mind you, but he did have his moments. 

He wasted no time taking on the fact that every single one of the evening's actor nominees this year was white right off the bat with a pretty funny line that helped to ease tension inside the room, acknowledge an awkward truth and move on: “Tonight we celebrate Hollywood’s best and whitest, sorry … brightest.” Ouch.

Overall I think the Academy did a decent job of balancing out the lack of diversity in the nominated actor categories with a fairly steady presence of African-American and Latina (Jennifer Lopez anyway...) actors and actresses on stage to announce nominees and give out awards.

Kerry Washington, Idris Elba, David Olyelowo, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Viola Davis, Eddie Murphy and Octavia Spencer all made stage appearances to announce award nominees and hand out coveted golden statues to the winners.

Common and John Legend gave an impressive performance of 'Glory', the original song from 'Selma', then took home an Oscar for it and touched on suppression of voting rights and mass incarceration in America during a spirited acceptance speech that drew cheers; and likely made some squirm. 

Throughout the evening it seemed to me the camera spent an awful lot of time on the black folk who were in the audience, which is cool and all; but there seemed to be a few moments that came off as forced or a bit awkward.

First off: Neil Patrick Harris' ongoing site gag about his personal Oscar predictions. Harris spent what I felt was a lot of screen time announcing that he'd made his own predictions for the Oscars which were supposedly closely guarded by the same accounting firm that tabulates and secures the Oscar ballots.

Neil Patrick Harris introduces his Oscar prediction box on stage
He spent a lot of time setting the joke up, then theatrically pointed to his predictions carefully secured inside a locked plexi-glass box sitting on the stage (pictured left).

Now I'm not sure how appropriate it is for a major awards show host to offer predictions, but that was fine.

But then he picked out Octavia Spencer in the crowd and jokingly tasked her with "watching the box" for the duration of the evening.

Okay, it was sort of funny at first. Harris is quick on his feet and knows how to work a crowd, but then he kept coming back to these seemingly unscripted interludes with Spencer where he'd ask if she was still watching the box; which of course was sitting right on the stage in front of the entire audience.

At one point he turned to best supporting actor nominee Robert Duvall and asked if he was watching the box; the Tango-loving Oscar winner simply stared at Harris without comment.

Duvall's expression seemed to suggest what many in the audience and watching at home were thinking, "Neil could you possibly make the Oscars any slower?" He did.

MSNBC's Janet Mock said of Harris' conversations with Spencer:
“It is not fun to check in with a black woman only in the context of her performing a duty for you,” and: “It is not ‘reaching’ to point out that the dynamic [between] a white host (NPH) treating a black actress (Octavia Spencer) like the Oscars help.”

At some point his repeated conversations with Spencer sort of seemed like the Academy was intentionally reaching for more camera time with people of color to mask the fact that their nominees were the least diverse in 20 years.

Remember, the Academy hires scores of writers to create the dialog that the host and all the presenters say over the course of the evening. 

John Travolta's caressing Idina Menzel's face was described as "creepy"
So I think the choice was the Academy's and not something Harris simply decided to do on his own.

When he finally did read his "predictions" at the end of the night, it was clear they'd been crafted to build on moments that were intentionally staged throughout the evening; including John Travolta creepily caressing singer Idina Menzel's face (pictured left) while profusely apologizing for famously bungling her name while introducing her at last year's Oscars.

Harris had more than a few awkward moments with the black entertainers in the room. At the start of the awards he noted that 'American Sniper' had grossed more than the other Oscar nominated films combined.

To illustrate it he gestured to half the crowd and told them they represented the other film's collective gross; then he turned to the other side where Oprah Winfrey was sitting and said 'American Sniper's' box office take was represented by Oprah.

As the audience sort of gasped at the obviously klutzy dig on Oprah's body weight, he cheekily added, "Because she's so RICH!" The joke fell really flat but Oprah was a sport about it and pretended to be amused.

If a cricket had chirped, I wouldn't have been surprised.

Back when Billy Crystal hosted the Oscars, he usually took some shots at various people sitting in the audience, but they were good-natured jabs for the most part; like a roast or something and he went around the room.

But Harris wasn't doing that to other actors in the audience, he only seemed to do it to the black attendees, so it came off flat and inappropriate given the obvious tension hanging over the room over the 'Selma' snub.

Speaking of obvious tension, WTF was actor/director Sean Penn thinking of with his "Who gave this son of bitch his green card?" comment before announcing that Mexican director Alejandro Inarritu had won Best Picture for 'Birdman'?

Harris also hit another remarkable low point when he approached actor David Oyelowo seated in the audience and asked him to stand up. As UK's 'The Guardian' described it on their Website:

"Then Harris asked Oyelowo to recite the punchline of a joke about a remake of Annie, starring Jamie Foxx and Quvenzhané Wallis Рwithout apparent consideration that it might be inappropriate to ask a black actor to mock a film with black stars at an event that is sorely lacking in black attendees and nominees."

That was really awkward. I mean, Oyelowo is this refined, classy, esteemed theater actor who's cut his teeth on the London stage, and you're asking him to read the punchline of a stupid joke about a movie that bombed that he had nothing to do with?

The last thing that struck me as strange was Harris making obvious jokes about Oprah Winfrey and Eddie Murphy's enormous net worth.

Even after he used the lame joke about Oprah being rich I mentioned above, he introduced Eddie Murphy as one of the most successful box office earners in Hollywood history and snidely commented that, "He doesn't need this."

As if actors make a decision to appear as presenters at the Oscars only to promote themselves and make money; I'm sure some might.

But why make the comments about Oprah's and Eddie's net worth?

Pretty much everyone in that room knows how much they're worth. Murphy's 35 film roles have earned box office revenues of almost $6 billion, placing him in the top ten actors in Hollywood history in terms of box office.

But again, everyone in the room knows that, so why say it?

Does Oprah being one of the wealthiest women in the world or Eddie's net worth somehow let the Academy off the hook for it's lack diversity in casting choices?

It does not, and it struck me as rather tacky to mention it given the wide range of topics the writers who penned the script for the 2015 Oscars could have talked about.

You don't drop the money at an affair like that; it's just low rent.

On the whole, I don't blame Neil Patrick Harris for the crappy script the writers gave him.

But after a successful hosting of the Tony Awards, he decided to host the Big One and like a quarterback who throws an interception at the last minute of a Super Bowl, Harris gets the blame for dropping the ball.

With that I'm calling it a blog and heading to my comfy chair to watch some Netflix before I turn in.

I was up pretty late last night watching the Oscars.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Oscar Oversights & A Bridge Over Troubled Waters

Stanley Kubrick. Brilliant, cutting-edge film. No Oscar.
At tonight's Academy Awards, one of the more controversial topics of discussion that will take place on stage and off (and amongst those in the audience tonight), is director Ava DuVernay and lead actor David Oyelowo not being nominated for the film ‘Selma’ - despite the film being nominated for best picture.

Now Oscar snubs are by NO means limited to African-American directors and actors, or films that explore the black American historical experience.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences (AMPAS) is historically equal opportunity when it comes to slighting actors, directors and producers on Oscar night.

‘Shakespeare in Love’ winning best picture over ‘Saving Private Ryan’ and ‘Elizabeth’ in 1998? 

How about the travesty of Stanley Kubrick's brilliant 'A Clockwork Orange' winning no Academy Award at all in 1971 when 'The French Connection' won best picture? 

Francis Ford Coppola loosing best director for ‘The Godfather’ in 1972 to Bob Fosse for 'Cabaret' ? Really? 

I’m far from the only person still simmering over Gwenyth Paltrow winning best actress for ‘Shakespeare in Love’ over Cate Blanchett in ‘Elizabeth’ in 1998. Those are just a few of the numerous glaring examples of the Academy being way out of step.

But ‘Selma’ being snubbed this year takes on a greater significance in light of the focus on the film industry continuing to lag behind television in terms of people of ethnic diversity and women in general being cast in leading or support roles, or having opportunities behind the camera, in the writer's room or in the executive suites of the top entertainment companies.

This year’s actor nominees are the least ethnically diverse in 20 years, but the media spotlight on ‘Selma’ has also brought new attention to a different kind of oversight. One that's much easier to correct.

KKK members march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in 1979  [Corbis Images]
The fact that the historic 1965 marches across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Alabama that led to the passage of the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act took place over a bridge named for a Grand Dragon of the Alabama Ku Klux Klan who was also a Confederate general during the Civil War, seems out of step with current social and historical consciousness.

With the 50th anniversary of the Selma marches bringing this historic event back into the spotlight, in part because of the nation-wide Republican effort to restrict voter rights, a group of students are now leading efforts to rename the Alabama bridge that has become such an important symbol for civil rights and meaningful social change in America.

You can add your voice to this call for change by signing the online petition at Change.org that will be sent to the National Parks Service, the governor of Alabama and the mayor of Selma.

Renaming a bridge won't miraculously right past wrongs, or put an immediate halt to Republican efforts to disenfranchise millions of eligible citizens from their right to vote.

But it is an opportunity to honor the legacy of those who fought and sacrificed for the right of all Americans to freely participate in the Democratic process.

US Attorney Nicholas Katzenbach confronts George Wallace
It's also an opportunity for the state of Alabama to evolve its image beyond the legacy of Governor George Wallace defiantly standing on the steps of the University of Alabama (pictured left) in an effort to prevent African-Americans Vivian Malone and James Hood from enrolling as full-time students in June of 1963. 

Meaningful change rarely happens overnight, or as quickly as many of us would like it to. More often significant progress takes place in small, incremental steps; the kind that can lead to more lasting systematic shifts.

The kinds of changes that history and an evolving American cultural landscape compels both the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences and the state of Alabama to make.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Social Media's Magic - Rudy Questions Obama's Love For America

The reach, power and value of social media may be debated in some circles even as it evolves, but the tangible impact it's had on grass roots progressive issues like wage inequality in this country is not in question.

The announcement that Walmart will increase wages for a half million workers, alter the way it currently haphazardly schedules employee hours and actively seek to overhaul it's brand as a crappy employer that systematically underpays it's workers, owes much to the various social media campaigns that have relentlessly targeted the nation's biggest employer for years.

Just think about the past few holiday shopping seasons.

News about Walmart's own employees (and supporters) picketing the stores around the nation over wages and worker's rights, or disturbing stories about the numbers of Walmart employees forced to seek public assistance benefits and food stamps, have made bigger headlines than news about holiday spending at the stores themselves - and the brand has suffered.

Walmart's decision to spend over a billion dollars to restructure it's employment policies and revamp it's image is a huge statement that could serve as a major influence on other large US companies finally moving to increase lower and middle class wages after years of record corporate profits.

Economic policies paid for by US taxpayers, including huge bailouts to banks and allowing companies to borrow at zero interest have pumped enormous amounts of money into the system and allowed American corporations to stockpile massive cash reserves overseas ($1.45 trillion and counting by spring of 2013...) without paying Uncle Sam his share, or worse; using it to expand hiring here at home.

Does Walmart deserve a measure of credit for making the decision to start paying it's workers more than the federal minimum wage? Sure. But if not for the relentless social media campaigns calling Walmart out, it never would have happened.

Plus I'd venture that Walmart execs recognized the long-term strategic risk of the company inadvertently serving as the spark for a resurgence in pro-labor union movements; which it wants no part of in it's stores.

Besides, a billion dollars is a drop in the bucket for a company like Walmart, even if they did anticipate the need to raise wages collectively across the board, kudos to social media for helping to make it happen sooner.

Social media is also proving to be an effective counterweight against the juggernaut of right-wing media channeled through mainstream media outlets like Fox News.

Limbaugh looses ground
As Time's Brian Rosenwald reported yesterday, social media is also having a tangible impact on the grass roots public backlash against hate speech broadcast on public radio airwaves.

His excellent analysis shows how multiple social media campaigns against Rush Limbaugh are steadily eroding his sponsors as well as the radio stations willing to broadcast his show.    


Rush doesn't like it, but the Constitution (like social media) is a complex creature that does not serve one master.

In the same way Limbaugh uses the 1st Amendment as a license to justify his using radio as a platform to spread his misogynist, racist, homophobic beliefs; millions of people are now using online petitions, e-mail campaigns and other online sources to raise awareness of what he says on the air.

In doing so they're making it increasingly uncomfortable for companies that sponsor his show to be associated with the kind of content he creates.

And like Walmart's recognition that it had become THE poster-company for greed, wage inequality and unfair treatment of workers, the cost to the brands of the companies that sponsor Limbaugh's show are starting to outweigh any increased market share or sales volume those commercials may have reaped.

America's authority on who loves America?
Finally I had to follow up my blog yesterday about Dinseh D'Souza's empty political rhetoric after hearing about another ignorant comment made about the president based not on any kind of fact or policy; but on his race.

Over the years it's been interesting watching Rudy Giuliani's metamorphosis from a politically centrist right-leaning mayor of a major northeastern urban city, to the divisive, quasi-delusional right-wing figurehead he's become.

As Justin Baragona reported on PoliticusUSA earlier today, when Giuliani stands up in a pricey Manhattan restaurant in front of a group of well-heeled Republican donors and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and says things like, "I do not believe that the president loves America. He doesn't love you. And he doesn't love me. He wasn't brought up in the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country." as he did last night, I'm not sure whether to laugh or just feel sorry for him.

Anyone who suggests that the same president who authorized US Special Forces to track down and kill Osama Bin Laden, risked his political legacy to fight for all Americans to have reasonable access to health care and is presiding over one of the most sustained periods of job creation on record does not love his country is not firing bullets out of the business end of the barrel.

The whole "He wasn't brought up in the way you were brought up" reeks of a weak attempt at the kind of coded racism that fuels the Republican Southern Strategy.

Worse it's classless and totally unprovable.

I lived in NYC for 15 years and though I frequently disagreed with Giuliani as a mayor, (particularly on heavy-handed police tactics) I generally respected him as a leader and you always knew where he stood on the issues.

So it's sad to see him relegated to appearances on Fox News to toss low ball cheap-shots at the president from the safety of the sidelines of the political arena where he once wielded influence.

A guy who once lead the greatest city in the world now reduced to referencing debunked birther theories and dredging up Dinesh D'Souza's discredited cornball ideas about Obama's issues with "colonialism" shaping his foreign policy decisions? Sad.

As Mitt Romney learned, in this day and age what's said in a closed-door dinner filled with wealthy Republican backers will be breaking on social media within hours.

Rudy should have known it wasn't just 60 Republicans in the room when he questioned the president's love for his country, there were millions of us listening - and holding Hizzoner accountable for what he said.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Dinesh D'Souza Gets "Ghetto" On President Obama

Conservative commentator Dinesh DSouza
Author Dinesh D'Souza is once again making media headlines for yet another in a long string of dimwitted, racially-tinged comments about President Obama.

As Olivia Kittel of Media Matters reported earlier today, in response to Obama being interviewed on BuzzFeed recently to promote the upcoming deadline to sign up for health care, D'Souza took to Twitter to post a photo of the media savvy President taking a selfie with the following comment: 
"YOU CAN TAKE THE BOY OUT OF THE GHETTO...Watch this vulgar man show his stuff, while America cowers in embarrassment." (Those are his CAPS not mine by the way)

So what does any of that have to do with the Affordable Care Act? Not much, but D'Souza has never been one to let little things like logic, sense, readability or truth get in the way of his fiery conservative prose.

His latest 93-word Tweet is vintage D'Souza (see example below) and pretty much manages to sum up the kind of intellectually void claptrap he writes that makes him such a revered intellectual demi-god among conservative Republicans.

The conservative Indian-American author, commentator and Fox News darling has been peddling his delusional mix of unhinged political opinion, bigotry and right-wing propaganda since his days at Dartmouth College, where he took pleasure using his position as an editor for the monthly student publication The Prospect and as a writer on the Dartmouth Review as a platform for his homophobia, racism and intolerance for virtually anything that falls outside of the spectrum of Anglo-Christian, politically conservative and heterosexual.

D'Souzas's entrenched cultural elitism likely stems from his relatively privileged upbringing in Mumbai, India where he was born to parents who were Catholics; his father was an executive for Johnson & Johnson and his mother was a housewife.

His K-12 education in Mumbai's elite Catholic schools (and his father's influence) served as a springboard for him to study abroad in America; in of all places - Arizona, the land of Barry Goldwater and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio; same guy who harasses immigrants on the taxpayer dime, sued the president and sentences inmates to restricted diets of bread and water for relatively minor infractions.  

So if you consider where he comes from and how he was educated, his Ann Coulter-ish brand of predictable conservatism based on demeaning others actually makes sense.

Sad and pathetic yes, but it makes sense.

D'Souza's November 26, 2013 Tweet
D'Souza seemed to discover his purpose in the wake of the election of President Obama in 2008 as the Republican Party morphed into a breeding ground for right-wing conservative extremism.

The anger-filled Tea Party movement bankrolled by Charles and David Koch became an all-inclusive cesspool of bigoted, misogynist, obstructionist, fear-pandering reactionary philosophy - and D'Souza leaped right in.

He's been there ever since, gleefully yanking the chains of right-wing Obama haters by creating content that demeans the President because of his race; like the Thanksgiving Tweet D'Souza released on November 26, 2013 as millions around the globe struggled to make sense of the death of an innocent black teenager.

Just like the offensive Tweet above, his latest Tweet using words like "ghetto" and "vulgar" to describe the leader of the free world is basically the intellectual equivalent of "Obama has cooties", but again, that's who Dinesh D'souza really is when you get beyond the critically-panned books and paid speaking appearances at conservative think-tanks.

Frankly, a moralizing hypocritical wannabe-Christian theologian who cheated on his wife and is a convicted felon has a lot of gall calling anyone "ghetto" - let alone the President.

      

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Sweet Home Alabama: Morally Superior Judge & Suspicious Black Guys Wearing 'Toboggans'

Defiant Alabama State Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore
It would hardly be fair to label every single person in the state of Alabama as politically right of center, but are some folks there taking the state motto "We Defend Our Rights" just a bit too far?
 
The feisty conservative state Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore certainly gets my vote as this week's George Lincoln Rockwell Award winner for his stubborn refusal to abide by the Supreme Court's ruling affirming the right of same sex couples in Alabama to legally marry.

Justice Moore threw the state's court system into confusion by issuing a contradictory directive to Alabama probate judges to refuse to issue marriage licences to same sex couples.

This morning on Fox News (where else?) Moore told host Chris Wallace he had a moral duty to oppose the ruling of the highest court in the nation if they tried to alter "organic law."

His contradiction of the high court's ruling based on his own religious beliefs and personal opposition to members of Alabama's LGBT community having equal rights to marriage, once again places the controversial judge in a position of putting himself above the law.

Moore made headlines back in 2009 as an Etowah County judge when he balked at taking down a 24" by 18" plaque of the Ten Commandments that was mounted on the wall of his court.

When he won a seat on the state Supreme Court, he thumbed his nose at critics (including a state ethics panel...) by having a 4-foot tall monument to the Ten Commandments that weighed over two tons placed in the rotunda of the Supreme Court - in the dead of night.

"Ole' Roy" is not alone in his defiance of the separation of church and state (one of the core principles of the Constitution), many conservatives in the state have rallied around him and the Alabama Ku Klux Klan has publicly endorsed his position, so he's got that going for him.

The moral hypocrisy of preachy self righteous conservatives like Moore never ceases to amaze, they constantly rail against government intrusion and the abstract idea of "Big Government", yet seem obsessed with using the power of the courts and government's legislative reach to restrict the personal private choices of LGBT citizens and women making reproductive decisions for their own health. 

Situational ethics at it's finest.

A remarkable case of police brutality in Alabama also made headlines this past week.

Madison City PD Officer Eric Parker
Madison, Alabama police officer Eric Parker (pictured left) became the target of internal police and FBI investigations after he violently threw a man named Sureshbhai Patel, an Indian citizen visiting the country to help take care of his grandson, down on the ground, partially paralyzing him on Friday February 6th.

Patel's crime? Actually, nothing beyond apparently having dark skin and possibly arousing officer Parker's suspicions that the frail-looking 57 year-old foreigner was some kind of terrorist menacing the neighborhood.
 
Patel was outside the home of his son Chirag Patel, an engineer who recently purchased a home in a suburban Madison, Alabama neighborhood.

According to a story posted on RT.com, a local resident apparently saw Patel taking a morning walk in the neighborhood and called the Madison City Police Department to report a suspicious looking man the caller described as:"...a skinny black guy, he's got a toboggan on, he's really skinny."

Yes, a 'toboggan'.

Now obviously Patel is Indian and therefore Asian and not black; and by 'toboggan' we can only assume the concerned caller was referring to a turban or head covering Patel was wearing on his head in accordance with his beliefs.

When officer Parker and a police trainee named Andrew Slaughter arrived on the scene to confront the "skinny black guy" wearing a "toboggan", they found and approached Patel and tried to question him. But Patel spoke no English, pointing at his son's home and indicating through hand gestures that he was simply walking.

57 year-old Sureshbhai Patel after Officer Parker's assault
When officers tried to search Patel he became defensive and apparently put his hands in his pockets and tried to pull away; so Parker slammed the grandfather to the ground.

In doing so, Parker caused severe injuries to the innocent man's neck, leaving him on the ground unable to move; instead of being arrested Patel was taken to the hospital where he required cervical fusion and still suffers from paralysis to one of his legs.

Last week Syed Akbaruddin, a spokesman for India's Ministry of External Affairs was quoted in a statement as saying:  
“We are extremely disturbed; this is a matter of concern for us; and India and the US ‒ as open, pluralist societies ‒ need to address these issues and find ways in a mature manner so that these are aberrations, and are not the norm,” 

"Not the norm" is a wish shared by many Americans as excessive and violent physical overreaction by some members of American law enforcement to extremely minor or, in the case of Patel, non-existent crimes is an ongoing problem highlighted in the past year by the tragic deaths of Eric Garner (selling loose cigarettes), 12 year-old child Tamir Rice (playing with a plastic gun) and Akai Gurley in Brooklyn; who was shot simply for walking in the darkened stairwell of his own building because the elevator didn't work.

Hank Sherrod, an attorney retained by the Patel family to file a lawsuit against the Madison City Police Department, hit it on head in a statement he made to the Associated Press: "I think skin color made him more likely to be a victim of police power."

Officer Parker was arrested and released on bail, charged with third-degree assault in the case, which is under investigation; it remains to be seen if Patel will regain the full use of his legs.

In the wake of diplomatic pressure brought by the Indian government, MCPD fired Officer Parker.

In the area of New Jersey where I live (including the apartment complex where I work), there are a number of families from India and Pakistan who live and work in the area.

It's quite common for them to have one or both parents visit, or live with the family to help take care of young children and it's not unusual to drive through upscale neighborhoods and see older Indian or Pakistani people walking in the afternoons or evenings.

What made that resident of the Alabama neighborhood pick up the phone and call the Madison City Police Department when they saw Sureshbhai Patel taking a stroll? What made Officer Parker get so belligerent and physically violent with a 57 year-old foreigner who clearly didn't speak English?

Maybe it's the same kind of cultural zeitgeist that made Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill suggest that recently proposed legislation to restore provisions of the 1965 Voter Rights Act to ensure that Americans are not discriminated against when they exercise their right to cast a vote, should not apply to the state of Alabama.

Despite the fact that the Republican legislators in the state of Alabama quickly passed voter suppression laws almost immediately after the Supreme Courts ruling in Shelby County v. Holder that disenfranchised thousands of mostly black Alabama voters in the 2014 elections last year, in an interview with ThinkProgress.org in Washington, DC recently, Secretary of State Merrill insisted voter suppression was a thing of the past and that people need to "move on."

This despite widespread evidence of intentional voter suppression in the state, like redistricting or the fact that African-American voters in Evergreen, Alabama were systematically photographed by unknown persons as they went to the polls to cast votes in 2014 in a blatant effort at intimidation.

'Sweet Home Alabama' indeed.