Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Private Prison Companies in America - Who's Accountable?

A PTS crash killed two guards & a prisoner in Georgia
 in 2009; the driver allegedly fell asleep at the wheel
It's been over a month since I last blogged about my personal reflections on an NYPD prisoner transport van I saw parked on West 83rd street in Manhattan on a scorching summer day years ago when I lived in New York City.

Sadly, a joint investigation by The New York Times and The Marshall Project released back on July 6th reveals that being stuck in a stuffy NYPD van for a few hours pales in comparison to the nightmare of for-profit prison transports.

Deaths involving people being transported across vast distances by vehicles operated by companies like Prisoner Transportation Services of America have been making headlines for years; like the crash shown in the photo above that took place at 1:24am back on August 4, 2009 in Greene County, Georgia which killed two guards and a prisoner - none of the prisoners were secured by seat belts.

But as more and more local municipalities and states began outsourcing prisoner transport to for-profit companies in response to shrinking tax revenue in the wake of the Great Recession in 2008, the number of incidents including accidents, rapes, beatings, denial of food and medical care, escapes and deaths taking place have exploded - leaving serious questions about the absence of concrete government oversight of an industry that largely operates in the shadows.    

Denise Issacs died in a PTS van in 2014
Kudos to The Marshall Project and The New York Times for devoting resources to investigating the handful of companies that now handle the transportation of suspects, detainees and prisoners for at least 25 different states in America.

Including the state of Kentucky where 54-year-old Denise Issacs (pictured left) was shackled into a prisoner transport van back in 2014 with other male and female occupants to be transported over 900 miles away to Florida over parole violations related to $1,200 in items she allegedly shoplifted from a store.

Her parole violation?

She failed to pay about $600 in court fees and complete 200 hours of community service - she was found dead in the van when the guards stopped at a Taco Bell in Miami.

That van was also operated by Prisoner Transportation Services of America.

Since the release of the results of The Marshall Project investigation, over the past few weeks, various programs on NPR have devoted segments to this issue.

Yesterday The Leonard Lopate Show ran a segment interviewing Eli Hager and Alysia Santo, the reporters who wrote The New York Times story and conducted extensive research into prisoner transport vans.

During the segment, Roberta Blake, a woman who was transported from California to Alabama over a rental car that she'd returned, spoke about her harrowing two week journey in which she was the lone woman chained in the back of a van with dangerous convicted felons - seriously, if you've got about 30 minutes click the link and listen to her story.

Reporter Shane Bauer in his CCA uniform
It's shocking that this is happening in 21st century America both outside and inside of the prison-industrial complex that incarcerates and warehouses people for profit.

By the way, if you want to take a look at what's happening inside of for-profit prisons run by companies like the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), be sure and check out the expose published in the July/August 2016 issue of Mother Jones written by Shane Bauer.

His searing article titled "My Four Months As a Prison Guard", chronicles his effort to go undercover to work as a prison guard at the Winn Correctional Center in rural Winnfield, Louisiana.

Obviously it's cutting edge journalism, but as a writer I have to say that one of the most disturbing aspects is that it almost reads like a movie or an HBO series - but it's real.

The things he describes are happening to real people, right now as you read these words; here in the "greatest Democracy in the world".

Listening to Roberta Blake's interview or reading Shane Bauer's article, I'm left wondering where's the oversight? And who is accountable for what's happening in this dark corner of the American landscape?

Monday, July 25, 2016

Shaky Start For the DNC & Star Trek: Beyond

Out: DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz 
Well I just listened to Minnesota Democratic Senator Al Franken deliver his remarks on the stage of the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia to the Democratic convention.

It was nice to hear some humor injected into this affair after the controversy that dominated domestic headlines over the weekend.

Franken's funny Trump jabs seemed to help thaw the tense atmosphere in the room; and now comedian Sarah Silverman is at the podium helping to bridge the gap between Bernie supporters and Hillary supporters.

Especially after she just told the faction of Bernie supporters in the hall tonight that they're being "ridiculous" for chanting Bernie's name whenever Hillary's name is mentioned or one of the speakers pledges support for her.

Hey, we're Democrats, it might've been a bit of a messy start but we'll get there; Paul Simon singing "Bridge Over Troubled Water" is truly appropriate.

It was my niece's birthday over the weekend and she came down from Park Slope, Brooklyn to spend a couple days at my mom's condo as my older sister (said niece's mom) is down at the Democratic National Convention in Philly.

I'm proud to say that my sister was selected as one of the 1,900 delegates for the Bernie Sanders campaign who are attending the convention.

It's unfortunate that the start of the DNC was overshadowed by the bizarre accusations that two of Russia's security agencies (the K.G.B and G.R.U) hacked Democratic party servers to gain access to thousands of highly controversial emails posted on the WikiLeaks Website that revealed DNC Chair and Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and some other party officials were clearly biased in favor of Hillary Clinton and held Bernie Sanders in contempt.

But I'm hoping to get some interesting perspectives from inside the convention from my sister which I'll share on the blog after I get a chance to touch base with her.  

For now I'll keep this entry brief as I want to listen to the rest of the convention coverage on WNYC, but I did want to share a quick observation on a critical issue that I'm hoping to hear addressed at this convention this week - gun control.

Zachary Quinto, Sophia Boutella & Karl Urban in Star Trek: Beyond
On Saturday evening I took my niece and my mom to see the new release Star Trek: Beyond as a birthday gift.

We saw it in IMAX 3-D and as an old-school Star Trek fan, let me just say that it was well worth the extra few bucks to truly appreciate the special effects.

No spoilers or anything, but if you're a sci fi fan you don't want to miss a chance to see a nasty space attack on the Enterprise on the big screen.

If you want to geek out, you really have to see the massive Starbase Yorktown on the big screen; what an amazing vision of the future that blends technology, architecture and art.

The film has a solid plot, impressive special effects and an excellent cast, but what I really loved is the vision of a multi-ethnic, "multi-alien" and tolerant society for the future.

As I watched the crowd scenes when the Enterprise crew visited Yorktown, including the wordless visual introduction of Sulu's non-traditional family (I'm guessing you've heard about the controversy surrounding the revelation that Sulu is gay) it genuinely lifted my spirits after last week's toxic display of hatred, bigotry and divisiveness at the Republican National Convention.

But one thing I noticed when we entered the theater, was the fully-armed police officer carefully patrolling the lobby entrance; bullet-proof vest, weapon the whole nine yards.

I had my niece and mom with me so I was happy to see that there was a visual security presence at the theater given some of the irrational mass shootings that have taken place in movie theaters across the nation.

But part of me was also saddened as I can remember going to movies in the summer in the 70's and 80's with my friends when we only worried about getting good seats or having enough money left over for candy and popcorn.

We never even thought about someone entering the theater with a gun to shoot complete strangers.

So I'm really hoping to see some serious discussion on commitment to passing sensible gun control measures this week at the Democratic convention; that's something the city of Philadelphia, and many other communities around this nation (including Fort Meyers, Florida) could really use.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

North Miami Cop Shoots An Unarmed Black Therapist

Turkish police arresting civilians
A few minutes ago I was listening to an NPR News report on The Takeaway about the climate of fear now permeating the city of Istanbul, Turkey in the wake of the failed coup attempt just days ago.

According to various media reports authorities have arrested tens of thousands of people suspected of taking part in the coup from all walks of life, soldiers, policemen, judges, teachers, government employees and civilians; many of whom had no part in the coup.

The NPR reporter interviewed a Turkish man who expressed apprehension about being shot by policemen in the street merely because they might suspect him of something he didn't do.

As an African-American man I have sympathy for that Turkish man who I'll probably never meet, as I know what it's like to live in apprehension when you see a police vehicle approaching even though you've done nothing wrong.

For far too many law enforcement professionals in this country, right or wrong seems to matter less than skin color, and like millions of other men and boys who look like me, I've had to come to terms with the understanding that American police officers will actually shoot people who share my physical characteristics with a loaded handgun for pretty much anything.

Innocent unarmed men and boys of color in America have been shot by cops for sitting, standing, driving, walking, running, talking, biking, shopping and listening to music.

Charles Kinsey recounts incident from the hospital
In the latest example of panicked, knee-jerk reactions by police, an African-American behavioral therapist was shot in the leg while laying on the ground with his hands up.  

As The Miami Herald reported, Charles Kinsey went outside the MacTown Panther Group Home where he works to retrieve a 23-year-old autistic man who left the facility unattended and sat down in the street to play with a small toy truck.

Kinsey was seated on the ground trying to talk to the man when an as yet-unnamed North Miami police officers pulled up and allegedly ordered the men to put their hands up.

In what's become an all-too familiar scenario in America, Kinsey fully complied with the officer's instructions and was lying on the ground with his hands up in the in air when the officer shot him in the leg with an assault rifle.  

Before being shot, Kinsey told the officer "Sir, there's no need for firearms." but the officer shot him anyway.

After the cops approached Kinsey, flipped him over and handcuffed him, he asked the cop why he shot him and the cop's response? "I don't know."

North Miami Asst. Chief Neal Cuevas
According to the Herald, North Miami PD Assistant Chief Neal Cuevas claims the officers had been responding to a 911 call about a man with a gun about to kill himself.

But even if that's true (and we don't know at this point because the police have released no reports on the incident to the public) is it normal for a police officer to point a loaded assault weapon at a mentally disturbed person allegedly trying to take his own life?

According to a CNN report of the incident, Kinsey shouted to the cop, "All he has is a toy truck. I am a behavioral therapist at a group home!"

Despite explaining exactly what was going on, the cop shot him. Did this officer see Kinsey laying on the ground with his hands up and "fear for his safety"? In broad daylight?

It's just fortunate that neither Kinsey or the autistic man he was trying to help weren't killed.

What's interesting is that opportunistic reactionary conservatives like Chris Christie or Donald Trump have been quick to publicly condemn members of Black Lives Matter, or other peaceful protesters for peacefully speaking out against this kind of excessive use of police force.

So where's that outraged public condemnation now that an innocent unarmed black behavioral therapist has been shot with an assault rifle while he was laying on the ground with his hands in the air complying with police instructions?

As that trigger happy cop said,  "I don't know." 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Court of Chris Christie: Day Two At the RNC

Christie plays prosecutor & judge Tuesday night 
I know it's traditional to come up with clever creative ways to energize enthusiastic crowds at political conventions, but it was pretty remarkable to see New Jersey Governor Chris Christie conduct a "mock trial" of Hillary Clinton at last night's RNC event in Cleveland.

As the New York Times reported earlier today, Christie's claims were rife with wild exaggerations, factual inaccuracies and plain old falsehoods.

Was it meant to be somewhat tongue-in-cheek? Sure.

But there was something disturbingly misogynistic about the whole episode that served to reinforce the image of the Republican party as hostile to women in general; particularly when you couple that with nationwide Republican legislative pushes for oppressively restrictive anti-abortion measures and their unprecedented smear campaign against groups like Planned Parenthood that provide critical healthcare services to millions of women.

Recently-concluded lengthy investigations by multiple Congressional committees and the F.B.I. determined that no crimes, intentional or otherwise, were committed because of Clinton's decision to use a private email server.

Yet Christie encouraged the hostile crowd to repeatedly chant "Guilty!" - as if by the mere expression of their hostility towards Clinton they had uncovered some kind of evidence that Congressional staff and federal investigators had somehow missed.

But on another level, it also seemed to not so subtly tap into the undercurrent of irrational anti-government rancor that flows through the Republican party like toxic sludge.

Anti-government zealot Cliven Bundy
The fringe wingnuts who align themselves with the sovereign citizens movement, "patriot" organizations, or groups associated with guys like rancher Cliven Bundy and his son Ammon Bundy who occupy federal lands in defiance of government authority, are drawn to the disturbing "Lock her up!" chants that echoed through the convention hall last night.

Was Christie was intentionally using his "mock trial" to try to tap into the mindset of groups who want to take the law into their own hands, establish their own shadow courts and operate outside the legal system?

Individuals using the cloak of anti-government fervor can come with horrific consequences as in the case of sovereign citizen sympathizer Ryon Lenelle Travis of Detroit.

Christie may have once been a federal prosecutor, but he sunk to a new career low with his episode last night in Cleveland; it's remarkable to see someone who once had such promise as a moderate conservative now reduced to schilling for the Republican party to whip up hostility, fear and anger and cultivate a dangerous mob mindset.

Fear-meister Rudy Giuliani handed the baton to Christie and he ran with it.

Frankly Christie has got some real cojones standing up and putting anyone on "trial" considering that Federal Judge Susan Wigenton recently ruled that Bridgegate trials will be staring this fall and he's already put New Jersey tax payers on the hook for more than $10 million in legal fees related to his role in the scandal - fees paid to a law firm with whom the Governor has deep personal ties.

The hypocrisy of Christie criticizing Hillary Clinton for using a private email server as Secretary of State is funny considering the flagrantly deceptive efforts he and his lawyers went through to hide the cell phone he was using as governor when the Bridgegate scandal was unfolding.

It's hard to decide which speaker on the stage of day two of the RNC convention seemed more detached from reality last night, Dr. Ben Carson telling the crowd that Hillary Clinton is an admirer of Satan, or the court of Chris Christie?

The jury is still out on that one.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Chachi Jumps the Shark: Opening Night At the RNC

Trump & wife before overt plagiarizing of FLOTUS speech
The opening night of the 2016 Republican National Convention had all the elements of the kind of crass reality TV show culture for which Donald Trump has become so famous.

There were an odd assortment of real-life characters on stage who at various times wept, accused, screamed, yelled and lied.

The GOP Clown Car finally came to a screeching halt at the circus.

But let's be fair.

Give the Republicans credit for adding some racial diversity to their opening night lineup.

To bolster the RNC's opening night "Make America Safe Again" theme, they trotted out the frequently unhinged African-American Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke, Jr.

This peculiar Democrat-turned rabid Trump supporter has vowed to "do everything I can" to get Trump into the White House and has a clear message for the numerous members of the Republican party who fear that a Trump presidential bid will destroy what party unity that's left, and threaten the GOP majorities in the House and Senate:

"Anyone who thinks Trump will wreck the GOP is delusional." We'll see soon enough Sheriff!

The outspoken law enforcement officer, a frequent critic of President Obama, also called the charges filed against the Baltimore PD officers responsible for breaking Freddie Gray's neck and killing him the product of a "malicious" prosecutor - which is exactly what many Americans would call cops who intentionally use a "rough ride" in a police van to purposefully abuse someone in custody then end up killing him.

Sheriff Clarke also described the Black Lives Matter protest movement as "anarchy" (so much for 1st Amendment rights!) and defended Donald Trump for saying a federal judge born in Indiana would be unable to rule fairly in a court case against Trump's sham university because his Mexican heritage would bias him against Trump.

Rudy Giuliani inflames the hysteria Monday night
Speaking of law and out of order, former New York City Mayor and resident paranoid fear-meister Rudy Giuliani also took the stage and proceeded to tear into one of the most bizarre public speeches he's ever given.

This morning long-time New York political observer and WNYC radio host Brian Lehrer observed that he'd never seen Giuliani talk publicly like that before.

It was like Giuliani was possessed by some kind of bizarre determination to convince the audience that the Apocalypse was upon us as he yelled hysterically into the microphone like he thought the thing wasn't working, insisting to the cheering throngs that:

"The vast majority of Americans today do not feel safe. They fear for their children and they fear for themselves."

Which of course completely contradicts F.B.I data on crime statistics as well as extensive research by the Brennan Center for Justice that shows crime rates in America (including killings of police officers) are at a 30 year low.

Clint babbles to an empty chair at the 2012 RNC
Now obviously we're all entitled to our own personal political views, and the right to express them, but there's always something slightly unsettling about famous actors who bring their unvarnished political beliefs into the public arena.

I've enjoyed films that Clint Eastwood has acted in and directed for years, but I'm not sure I'll ever look at him in quite the same way after his bizarre onstage tirade against an empty chair on the stage of the 2012 Republican National Convention.

For me it's somewhat jarring to listen to an actor I've always known through the lens of popular entertainment profess political views that veer to the fringes of the far right.

In the history of American politics, there has never been a presidential candidate of a major party who is viewed as unfavorably as Donald Trump; according to the results of a recent poll of 1,000 people conducted by the Washington Post and ABC News, Trump has a 70% unfavorable rating among Americans, which climbs to a remarkable 89% unfavorable rating with Hispanics.

So it's hardly surprising that the people Trump described as "winners" who would be speaking at the RNC on his behalf, including former Indiana coach Bobby Knight, former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka and NFL quarterbacks Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger, have all backed out.

From Chachi to right wing nut bag?
Enter actor and former teen heart throb Scott Baio, who might not even have been on Trump's bucket list of potential speakers save for a recent random encounter.

Apparently Baio was at a Trump fundraiser when The Donald asked him to speak at the convention in Cleveland.

According to an article on Philly.com, Baio, who endorsed Trump back in March, has said he backs Trump because he wants someone "to go into Washington and blow it up." 

Growing up in the 1970's as I did, actor Scott Baio went from playing the cute wisecracking sidekick to Fonzi on 'Happy Days', known as Chachi Arcola, to a guy who has become intoxicated by Trump's delusional xenophobic hate speech.

Et tu Chachi?

Last night I listened to a number of the opening speeches at the RNC, including Scott Baio's brief remarks to an enthusiastic audience.

Baio earned a public rebuke from MSNBC's Tamron Hall for his toxic Twitter comments about Hillary Clinton; now say anything you want about her policies, fine, but using the c-word to refer to a former Senator, Secretary of State and First Lady, or any woman for that matter is wrong - especially in the public arena.

Baio panders to Republicans in Cleveland 
Last night the once-dreamy television veteran was less inflammatory in front of a national prime time audience, but just as partisan - and looking decidedly less cool than he used to look standing next to Fonzi with a mouthful of perfectly shaped teeth.

He assured the conservative crowd that he trusts Trump with his family's lives, I have no idea what that means but I wouldn't want Trump babysitting either of my two nieces.

True to his newfound identity as an enlightened conservative firebrand, Baio shared his definition of what it means to be an American, saying it "doesn't mean getting free stuff." 

Which I assume includes the millions of American GI's who returned home after WWII and were given free college education under the GI Bill?

Or the billions in taxpayer-funded corporate subsidies regularly dolled out to the defense, agricultural or petrochemical industries?

 Was Baio's uninformed opinionating as toxic as Giuliani's fear-mongering?

No, but it's a sad state of affairs when Chachi resorts to simplistic toxic Republican code-speak to demean and slander millions of Americans.

We all know how that worked out for Mitt "47%" Romney

Monday, July 18, 2016

Sunday Bloody Sunday In Baton Rouge

Baton Rouge PD officer Markell Morris
Yet another shocking act of terror committed by another disturbed lone gunman armed with an assault rifle and a twisted personal agenda.

Another bloody consequence of the almost unrestricted access to firearms in America.

On Saturday I had to work so yesterday, Sunday, was my one day off - but it didn't really feel like a day off.

The news that a disgruntled former Marine murdered three law enforcement officers on Sunday morning left me feeling numb.

While Gavin Long left a slew of social media posts that offer a glimpse into his anger and frustration over the killing of Alton Sterling by two Baton Rouge PD officers, his violent response cannot simply be pinned on a legitimate protest movement.

Long's incomprehensible decision to shoot six members of the law enforcement community took the lives of three innocent people and forever altered the lives of family, friends and associates who knew them.

His actions on Sunday morning didn't vindicate anyone, or right a wrong, it marked him as a ruthless killer, dishonored his service in the Marine Corps, and did a disservice to the millions of people who are using peaceful means to demand an end to the disproportional use of deadly force against people of color by some members of the police community.

His actions also undermine the legitimate protest movement against police brutality and excessive use of force and the apparent unwillingness of local, municipal and state justice systems to hold officers who use unjustified force accountable for their actions - just today we learn that a fourth Baltimore PD officer was acquitted of the heinous death of Freddie Gray while in the custody of the BPD.

Baton Rouge police killer Gavin Long 
What was going on in the mind of Gavin Long?

Since this just happened yesterday, results from the investigation will take time obviously, but knowing that he was a decorated Marine begs the question: 

Did undiagnosed, or untreated, Post Traumatic  Stress Disorder from his time as a Marine serving abroad in Iraq play a part?

Some of his associations certainly raise questions.

He's allegedly been linked to anti-government "sovereign citizen" groups that refuse to pay taxes or recognize the authority of police or courts; not unlike another paranoid ex-soldier who took the lives of innocent people, convicted Oklahoma bomber Timothy McVeigh.
CNN reports that an email linked to the shooter Gavin Long shows he was associated with a group called 'Freedom From Covert Harassment and Surveillance'. 

The group's mission statement describes their elusive purpose to help people who've been, "Marginalized and abused by...Remote Brain Experimentation, Remote Neural Monitoring, of an entire humans body.

Despite Long's fragile mental state and association with fringe groups prone to a radically distorted view of reality, conservatives have been quick to use the demented act of a single individual to try and score cheap political points on the eve of the start of the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

Why? Open carry activist outside the convention
Trump immediately took to Twitter to blame the actions of an unbalanced lone gunman to try and cast blame for the incident on President Obama, childishly admonishing a two-term president with a law degree from Harvard for not having "a clue." 

The Republican candidate tried to fan the flames of hysteria by suggesting the "our country is a divided crime scene, and it will only get worse!"

Sage observations from the presumptive GOP nominee for the White House.

Trump's divisive Twitter posts made no mention of how Gavin Long was able to acquire at least two assault rifles and a hand gun in the first place; and carry them across state lines from Missouri to Louisiana.

No, Trump's political advisers likely encouraged him to "go Benghazi" and try and seize on a frustrated and dismayed American populace by trying to make the post-shooting narrative about the president and Hillary Clinton, in part to appease the NRA by not making the issue about the loaded assault rifle that Long used to kill three police officers and wound three others.

According to the latest statistics from the Gun Violence Archive, this (latest) heinous act in Baton Rouge is one of 29,113 gun incidents in the United States in 2016, and one of 7,503 deaths caused by guns this year.

The outrage over this incident is shared by most Americans, including the family of Alton Sterling who was gunned down on video recently by two members of the Baton Rouge PD, but the fiery rhetoric by some conservatives has been toxic and divisive.

I'm listening to NPR's coverage of the Republican convention and earlier they mentioned that a group of armed militia types were seen marching outside the convention center in single file, and Republican Governor John Kasich ignored a call from Cleveland's largest police union to place a temporary ban on Ohio's open-carry laws during the RNC event - he said there was nothing he could do about it even though he's the governor.

So Republican open carry activists are walking around public places in downtown Cleveland with loaded weapons; it's a reflection of a distorted view of reality in which Trump and his supporters seem to exist.

No question that recent high profile incidents of violence have shocked us all.

But the Brennan Center for Justice reports that crime rates in America are at a 30 year low, meanwhile inside the Quicken Loans Arena, the theme of tonight's RNC event?

"Make America Safe Again."

Friday, July 15, 2016

Gingrich Uses Nice Tragedy To Fan Muslim Hatred

The body of a young victim in Nice
A trip to my local after work last evening to cool off with a drink and unwind morphed into a sobering experience when I received a news alert on my iPhone via the New York Times about the horrific act of terror that took place in Nice, France.

I asked the bartender to switch one of the flat screen TVs mounted on the wall over the bar from the golf highlights no one was really paying attention to over to CNN so we could all watch the first reports of  yet more innocent people being killed.

The lighthearted conversation was quickly replaced by a sour mood as the gathered patrons began to express frustration and anger over the actions of those who would use terror to take the lives of innocent strangers using barbaric acts meant to shock and seize the attention of global media.

Once again this latest mass killing was carefully and diabolically timed to dominate headlines heading into a summer holiday weekend; and we're left to ponder the aftermath.

At least 84 people (including 10 children) reported killed, including a father and son from Texas, and more than two hundred injured; including at least three students from UCLA.

What makes this heinous act even worse are the deplorable attempts by prominent Republicans and conservative media figures to use this tragedy to once again vilify all Muslim refugees.

Gingrich calls for Muslim "tests"
As you've likely heard, former House Speaker and presidential candidate Newt Gringrich is making headlines for comments he made during a Fox News interview with Sean Hannity in which he suggested that America needs to begin implementing some kind of religious litmus test for all people of Muslim faith to determine if they profess a belief in Sharia Law.

A test? How would that even work?

According to estimates by the Pew Research Center, there were approximately 3.3 million Muslim-Americans in this country as of 2015; the very idea that the U.S. is somehow going to "test" the beliefs of of more than 3 millions American citizens is ludicrous.

And as President Obama said in a statement, Gingrich's "test" idea is "repugnant" to the very ideals of the Constitutional protections afforded to all citizens; including the freedom of religion and the freedom of expression.

Did Gingrich call for "testing" Christians after 20-year-old Adam Lanza gunned down 20 people in Sandy Hook Elementary back in 2012?

I certainly can't recall conservatives calling for a Christian "test" after 21-year-old Dylan Roof shot and killed nine people at a Bible study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina on June 17 last year.

Orlando shooter Omar Mateen - Born in New York
As Justin Salhani observed this morning in an article on ThinkProgress.org, none of the perpetrators of the recent string of high profile terrorist acts in France and Belgium were Muslim refugees; they were legal citizens of those respective countries.

Just consider the horrific mas killings we've seen across the United States recently, including in Charleston, Orlando, San Bernadino and most recently in Dallas.

They were all committed by unbalanced American psychopaths who had easy access to guns - they were all Americans born right here in America.

None of them were Muslim refugees, in fact there's no evidence any Muslim refugee has been arrested for plotting to kill Americans at all - in fact as Vox.com reported, 80% of terrorist attacks in the United States since 9/11 have been committed by Americans.

Governments around the world, not just in American and Europe, have enough to deal with to try and figure out a practical and effective long-term strategy to deal with the global threat posed by people who've been radicalized by groups like ISIS, Al Qaeda and Boko Haram that pervert the Koran to justify barbaric acts of violence and cruelty.

Newt Gingrich calling for the establishment of some kind of thought police in America is not the solution, and creating some kind of "American Taliban" is anathema to the principles on which this country was founded.