Is it time for racial profiling?


Group photoIn an era of collective punishment where we’ve seen how the acts of one person are enough to draw calls for punishing everyone that emotionally, physically, religiously, ideologically  identifies with a heinous perpetrator maybe it IS time to profile young white men. David Sirota asks that question then shoots it down because as he points out ‘white men as a subgroup are in such a privileged position in our society that they are the one group that our political system avoids demographically profiling or analytically aggregating in any real way‘ but after the Newton shooting tragedy if we believe in the 2nd amendment instead of assaulting that privilege/right given us by the founding fathers  perhaps we should put aside talk of “gun control” and look at who commits such catastrophic crimes of mass murder that involve guns. Sirota’s column is a thought provoking read

Yesterday, during a cable news discussion of gun violence and the Newtown school shooting, I dared mention a taboo truism. During a conversation on MSNBC’s “Up With Chris Hayes,” I said that because most of the mass shootings in America come at the hands of white men, there would likely be political opposition to initiatives that propose to use those facts to profile the demographic group to which these killers belong. I suggested that’s the case because as opposed to people of color or, say, Muslims, white men as a subgroup are in such a privileged position in our society that they are the one group that our political system avoids demographically profiling or analytically aggregating in any real way. Indeed, unlike other demographic, white guys as a group are never thought to be an acceptable topic for any kind of critical discussion whatsoever, even when there is ample reason to open up such a discussion.

My comment was in response to U.S. Rep. James Langevin (D) floating the idea of employing the Secret Service for such profiling, and I theorized that because the profiling would inherently target white guys, the political response to such an idea might be similar to the Republican response to the 2009 Homeland Security report looking, in part, at the threat of right-wing terrorism. As you might recall, the same GOP that openly supports profiling — and demonizing — Muslims essentially claimed that the DHS report was unacceptable because its focus on white male terrorist groups allegedly stereotyped (read: offensively profiled) conservatives.

For making this point, I quickly became the day’s villain in the right-wing media. From the Daily Caller, to Fox News, to Breitbart, to Glenn Beck’s the Blaze, to all the right-wing blogs and Twitter feeds that echo those outlets’ agitprop, I was attacked for “injecting divisive racial politics” into the post-Newtown discussion (this is a particularly ironic attack coming from Breitbart – the same website that manufactured the Shirley Sherrod fiasco).

The conservative response to my statement, though, is the real news here.

Let’s review: Any honest observer should be able to admit that if the gunmen in these mass shootings mostly had, say, Muslim names or were mostly, say, African-American men, the country right now wouldn’t be confused about the causes of the violence, and wouldn’t be asking broad questions. There would probably be few queries or calls for reflection, and mostly definitive declarations blaming the bloodshed squarely on Islamic fundamentalism or black nationalism, respectively. Additionally, we would almost certainly hear demands that the government intensify the extant profiling systems already aimed at those groups.

Yet, because the the perpetrators in question in these shootings are white men and not ethnic or religious minorities, nobody is talking about demographic profiling them as a group. The discussion, instead, revolves around everything from gun control, to mental health services, to violence in entertainment — everything, that is, except trying to understanding why the composite of these killers is so similar across so many different massacres. This, even though there are plenty of reasons for that topic to be at least a part of the conversation.

Recounting the truth of these double standards is, of course, boringly mundane, which means my comment on television summarizing them is an equally boring and mundane statement of the obvious. However, as evidenced by the aggressive attempt to turn those comments into controversial headline-grabbing news over the weekend, the conservative movement has exposed its desperation — specifically, its desperation to preserve its White Victimization Mythology.

In this mythology, the white man as a single demographic subgroup can never be seen as a perpetrator and must always be portrayed as the unfairly persecuted scapegoat. In this mythology, to even reference an undeniable truth about how white privilege operates on a political level (in this case, to prevent a government profiling system of potential security threats even though such a system exists for other groups) is to be guilty of both “injecting divisive racial politics” and somehow painting one’s “opponents as racist” — even when nobody called any individual a racist.

In this mythology, in short, to mention truths about societal double standards — truths that are inconvenient or embarrassing to white people — is to be targeted for attack by the right-wing media machine.

Of course, just as I didn’t make such an argument yesterday on MSNBC, I’m not right now arguing for a system of demographically profiling white guys as a means of stopping mass murderers (that’s right, the headline at Beck’s website, the Blaze, is categorically lying by insisting I did make such an argument, when the MSNBC video proves that’s not even close to true). After all, broad demographic profiling is not only grotesquely bigoted in how it unduly stereotypes whole groups, it also doesn’t actually work as a security measure and runs the risk of becoming yet another Big Brother-ish monster (this is especially true when a lawmaker is forwarding the idea of deploying a quasi-military apparatus like the Secret Service).

Additionally, I’m not saying we should avoid the complex discussion about myriad issues (gun control, mental health, violence in Hollywood products, etc.) that we are having in the aftermath of the Connecticut tragedy. On the contrary, I believe it is good news that those nuanced conversations — rather than simplistic calls for punitive measures against a demographic group — are able to happen, and it’s particularly good news that they are persisting in the face of pro-gun extremists’ best effort to polarize the conversation.

But the point here is that those tempered and nuanced conversations are only able to happen because the demographic at the center of it all is white guys. That is the one group in America that gets to avoid being referred to in aggregate negative terms (and gets to avoid being unduly profiled by this nation’s security apparatus), which means we are defaulting to a much more dispassionate and sane conversation — one that treats the perpetrators as deranged individuals, rather than typical and thus stereotype-justifying representatives of an entire demographic.

While such fair treatment should be the norm for all citizens, the double standard at work makes clear it is still a special privilege for a select white few. That’s the issue at the heart of my comment on MSNBC — and it is a pressing problem no matter how much the conservative media machine wants to pretend it isn’t.

Advertisements

“….with liberty and justice for all” unless you’re an American Muslim


kafka-justice-for-muslims

If you thought DWB, ‘driving while black’ was bad for those American citizens who are of African descent, you can expect if you are a Muslim you will not receive any justice under the American judicial system.  In fact it is SO bad for American Muslims the New York Times’ Andrew Rosenthal asserts in an oped entitled ‘Liberty and Justice for non Muslims‘,

Since the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, genuine concerns about national security as well as politicking and fear have led to a shift in the balance between civil liberties and law enforcement. That much is indisputable, and widely discussed. Yet it’s rarely acknowledged that the attacks have also led to what’s essentially a separate justice system for Muslims. In this system, the principle of due process is twisted and selectively applied, if it is applied at all.

he then concentrates on special detention centers, due process and the lack thereof as it applies to Muslim defendants and extra judicial surveillance by government law agencies.

It is unfortunate to witness that in the second term of a “progressive” president we have seen the steady, unabated encroachment of the exclusion of due process for Muslim Americans.  This dates to the Clinton administration’s special administrative measures, SAM, which ended calls, letters and visits with anyone except attorneys and sharply limited contact with family members.  Bush introduced the dreaded Patriot Act which further muddied the waters and made due process even harder for people who came under government scrutiny by expanding government’s role in the rather nefarious and broadly defined “terrorism prosecutions”.  Glen Greenwald has  adroitly gone on to show how charges of “terrorism” make it a cinch for the government to win against defendants so charged

…when someone is accused of terrorism, the rules governing trials and law completely change. All sorts of things that the state is normally barred from doing on the grounds that it is unjust suddenly become permissible when someone faces terrorism charges. Indeed, so “prejudicial” are these special rules of “justice” for terrorism cases that anyone convicted under these rules is, by definition, treated unfairly if terrorism is inapplicable.

…It’s a separate system of justice so intrinsically unjust and unfair – designed to ensure that Muslims accused of “terrorism” have basically no chance of acquittal…

It is hard to overstate the centrality of the term “terrorism” when it comes to state power, policy and law. It is the term that launches wars and sustains the US posture of endless war..

Yet this term, arguably in the abstract and certainly as applied, has no fixed meaning. It’s just a manipulative slogan legitimizing all forms of American violence against Muslims…it’s the overarching foundation for a completely separate system of justice for Muslims that is in exactly the same category as the most shameful episodes of US history.

President Obama’s National Defense Authorization Act, NDAA, another heinous piece of legislation all but ensures that American citizens can be held indefinitely without legal recourse for as long as the “controlling legal authority” outside of the judiciary deems appropriate.  It strips a citizen’s access to due process and isolates him to a labyrinthine parallel system of government restrictions that can go on in perpetuity.  This is the kind of system people fled from before the formation of this country and until very recently it is this kind of randomness that has escaped us, but now it seems to be much more common than not.

If there’s any doubt about that ask Saadiq Long, an American Muslim and Air Force veteran with no criminal record who was denied the possibility of returning to America because he was placed, unbeknownst to him, on the dreaded no-fly list.  He lived and worked in the Middle East for America’s allies in places like Egypt and  Qatar, both of them countries of stability that have managed to avoid or eliminated, you choose the term, radicalism that has plagued the area, and it’s pretty safe to say that Long had too.  So it was, although because of recent history should not have been, a surprise that he was told he could not fly back to America from Qatar. Publicity and the advocacy of lawyers and civil rights groups, notably among them the Council of American Islamic Relations were able to secure a remedy for him…..seven months after initially being told he could not fly into American air space. Even now, Long does not know why he was told he could not fly back in April, 2012.  Unfortunately, his troubles  did not end there.

In a recently held press conference, Long claims the FBI has harassed him since his return to Oklahoma that led to a dramatic standoff between him and federal agents in front of his hometown police department.  Long claims reason given by one of the agents for the standoff which ended with guns being drawn on Long and his party, was Long’s refusal to speak with the FBI without legal counsel being present.  Had he agreed to meet with agents without a lawyer, so goes the theory, none of the dramatic, heart stopping action of the encounter would have taken place; but isn’t it a right of American citizens to have a lawyer present when talking to law enforcement officials? Evidently that right does not exist if you are an American Muslim, and why should it, if over the past decade an enormous amount of legal maneuvering has made it possible for what was formally known as rights to due process available to ALL citizens are now being denied people of the Islamic faith.  Common knowledge and wisdom about a person’s rights to legal access and the necessity thereof seem to be irrelevant and inapplicable to America’s Muslims, and this seems to be continuing into the second term of America’s latest progressive president who happens to have been a constitutional professor.

America must stop this decline into the illegal abyss because if it’s possible to make this step with one group of American citizens it can extend to each and every one of us; once precedent is accepted it becomes the rule of law and there is very little likelihood of retreat from the abuses that will arise thereof.   I hope that EVERY American can see the disadvantage of remaining silent as this happens to a very disliked, despised group of Americans and support them even if it’s to keep the same abuses from happening to them.  Wake up America, please.

The Cooked Up War on Christmas


FoxFireEvery year at this time we get inundated with news stories about the war on Christmas and how some body, most likely foreign, dark or un-Christian, or some institution, such as a state or local government, judges or courts, have joined forces with satan to deny Christians their God given right to celebrate Christmas.  FoxNews is one of many leaders in this false narrative that lawmakers are encroaching upon Christian values with political godlessness….it gets the attention and indignation of a lot of folks and it’s good for ratings/subscriptions, etc even when it is NOT true.  This kind of story is a seasonal one, much like hurricane coverage that takes place every year from late summer to late fall along the eastern seaboard of America, or which school has the number one college football or basketball team that’s debated on the airwaves, ironically enough around Christmas time to the advent of March Madness.

warThe difference however in this type of story is the rather sinister appeal it has to certain segments of society that seize upon this news to demagogue issues of immigration and diversity within the landscape of America.  Is it really worth getting angry, excited over someone who says “happy holidays” instead of Merry Christmas?  Some bemoan the fact that such difference in language takes away from the religious nature of the holidays, as if celebrating Christmas is only religious if it’s done by EVERYBODY instead of an individual and their family and friends.  This time of year Christians feel put upon, denigrated, assaulted by the actions of governments, judiciary, and individuals which most likely contributes to a siege mentality instead of a celebratory one and media pundits with an agenda usually centered around political power and or financial prosperity are too eager to exploit such apprehension at this time of year.  Instead of asking who or what is waging a war on Christmas, Americans should be saying ‘enough’ to divisiveness.  Do Jews think it necessary for people to wish them a Happy Hanukah or are Muslims insisting that non-Muslims wish them Eid Mubarak in order for them to feel as if they have really celebrated their religious holiday?

America has become a country of over 300 million people, many of whom do not celebrate Christmas, who should be, must be able20329437_SS to coexist with their Christian brethren who do celebrate during this time of year, and vice versa. Doing so doesn’t diminish the value of either party to the American fabric nor does it adversely impact  the festiveness of any group’s religious holidays.  Why can’t we get that America?!?!?  Perhaps during this time of year, people should turn off the denizens of the public airwaves who want to incite animus between people of different faiths and backgrounds.  This time of year  is stressful enough, with all the crowded shopping centers and streets and the anxiety that comes with breaking the routine in ways that are reserved for only this time of  year.    Instead of worrying about one’s reply to “Merry Christmas”, maybe we ought to be happy that we are able to go out and about and immerse  ourselves in the spirit of Christmas without the worry of whether we will be  shot  in the  mall of our choice.

It appears to me that people who focus on the differences of their fellow citizens during a time that’s supposed to celebrate the birth of the founder of present day western ethos are the true disbelievers in the message of a loving Christ, choosing to point to the sins of their detractors to the point of inciting public discord.  It’s troubling that there aren’t a lot of people who don’t get that.

Your Congress at work for you


The House Majority leader, Eric Cantor, R-Virginia,who we don’t have a lot positive to say about,  released the work schedule for 2013 for House of Representative members of Congress and guess what? They are scheduled to work for only 126 days for a yearly salary of $174000. That’s almost half the number of days the average American works for a whole lot more money.  In other words, they work half as long as we do and get paid more…..and that’s if you’re just a normal member of Congress.  Cantor gets $19,000 more or $193,000 and the Speaker of the House, John Boehner gets $223,000 yearly….all to obfuscate and obstruct Obama’s legislative agenda to the detriment of the country.  There ought to be a law against getting paid to destroy America and her institutions.

1-3a24b4ed6f

Why are these people celebrating?


palestinians-celebrate-the-uns-upgrade-on-thursday-of-the-palestinian-authoritys-status-to-nonOstensibly, Palestinians think they have a right to celebrate because the UN endorsed the idea of an independent Palestine, ‘giving sweeping international backing to their demands for sovereignty over lands Israel occupied in 1967.’ While we’re happy Palestinians have some sense of optimism about that prospect the truth is the present Israeli government as well as the American one have no intentions of honoring that worldwide consensus and have even begun to scuttle it with the announcement of even more settlements in the ‘occupied territories’…..which have now become known as ‘disputed territories’ as if ownership was ever in doubt.

There is no mystery to the Palestinian/Israeli conflict; it is not some complicated, alien entanglement whose answer lies in an esoteric application of laws, resolutions and formulae.  The solution boils down to the willingness of an Israeli government to honor international law and UN resolutions or have the international community impose its  will upon the Israelis even up to and including the imposition it made upon the likes of Saddam Hussein and the Taliban.  Obviously, the former is preferred.

If you want to know another perspective about this conflict, Miko Peled a veteran of the Israeli Defense Force and son of zionism who recognizes the perils of the Israeli position had an hours long lecture on the topic, an excerpt of which  appears below.