Dr. Martin Luther King in the raw


This speech, given in 1964 is the epitome of Dr. King’s style and appeal.  He covers all the bases in his inimitable style.  This is well worth the time to listen to in its entirety.

White is the default value


Montgomery County police edited this photo to cover a racial slur spray-painted onto the garage door of a home in Chevy Chase. (Montgomery County Police Department)

Montgomery County police edited this photo to cover a racial slur spray-painted onto the garage door of a home in Chevy Chase. (Montgomery County Police Department)

When I first saw this headline it made my blood boil and here’s why.  This slur was written on property owned by the n******….it IS their home, it’s where they belong, it would be where they would go when they go home, but the person or persons who wrote the epithet know that.  What they are saying to the African-American occupants of that house is they don’t belong wherever the racist authors say they don’t belong.  At the moment it’s the neighborhood……….and at some other point during their racist ire it might very well be any place in America because for most white people…..they belong everywhere and have an inalienable right to go wherever they want.  People of color on the other hand are not naturally assumed to have equal protection under the law….rather they must be given that right when, and, or if whites say they can have it.  American hasn’t changed……it’s only gotten worse.

John Boehner’s outrageous plan to help a foreign leader undermine Obama


When I first saw this headline, I tweeted how some members of America’s body politic love all of these foreign leaders rather than their own President and as they stand compared to Obama, these leaders, Putin and Netanyahu  are losers in the arena of policy vis-a-vis American interests.  That hasn’t stopped Speaker of the House, Joh n Boehner from doing an end round and bringing Netanyahu to town to upstage the American President.  America, love it or move to Israel…

Vox

House Speaker John Boehner has invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to a joint session of Congress in February, on the topic of Iran. On the surface, this might seem innocent enough. Israel is a close American ally. Surely he should be welcome in Congress, particularly to discuss an issue that concerns his country.

On the surface, Netanyahu’s speech will be about opposing Obama’s nuclear talks with Iran and supporting Republican-led sanctions meant to blow up those talks.

But there’s more than meets the eye here. Netanyahu is playing a game with US domestic politics to try to undermine and pressure Obama — and thus steer US foreign policy. Boehner wants to help him out. By reaching out to Netanyahu directly and setting up a visit without the knowledge of the White House, he is undermining not just Obama’s policies but his very leadership of US foreign policy. The fact that Netanyahu is once again meddling in American politics, and that a US political party is siding with a foreign country over their own president, is extremely unusual, and a major break with the way that foreign relations usually work.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Obama in the White House in March 2014 (Andrew Harrer-Pool/Getty)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Obama in the White House in March 2014 (Andrew Harrer-Pool/Getty)

Throughout Obama’s tenure, he has clashed with Netanyahu. That is no secret, and it’s nothing new for American and Israeli leaders to disagree, sometimes very publicly. But Netanyahu, beginning in May 2011, adopted a new strategy to try to deal with this: using domestic American politics as a way to try to push around Obama.

During a trip that month to Washington, Netanyahu publicly lectured Obama at a press conference and then gave a speech to Congress slamming the president. That speech, also hosted by Republicans, received many standing ovations for Netanyahu’s finger-wagging criticism of Obama.

At first it appeared that Netanyahu was merely trying to steer Obama’s foreign policy in a direction that he, Netanyahu, preferred. Obama wanted Netanyahu to freeze Israeli settlement growth in the West Bank, for example; Obama has also sought, in his second term, to reach a nuclear deal with Iran that Netanyahu earnestly believes is a bad idea.

Netanyahu’s first responsibility is to Israel’s national interests, not to Obama, so it makes sense that he would push for policies that he thinks are good for Israel.

But in 2011 Netanyahu started going a step further, and appeared to be working to actively remove Obama from power. During the 2012 election cycle, Netanyahu and his government were increasingly critical of Obama and supportive of Republicans, including presidential candidate Mitt Romney, for whom he at times appeared to be actively campaigning. Netanyahu’s criticisms of Obama were so pointed that some of Obama’s opponents cut a campaign ad out of them. It became a joke within Israel that Netanyahu saw himself not as the leader of a sovereign country, but as the Republican senator from Israel.

But trying to unseat a foreign leader is not a joke, especially when that foreign leader is funding your military and guaranteeing your nation’s security.

Netanyahu’s government ramped down this strategy after Obama won; he even gave Obama the world’s most awkward congratulations speech. But throughout Obama’s second term he has once again gradually escalated from trying to influence Obama to actively undermining both the president and his party. The new Israeli ambassador to the US for months would not even bother to meet with National Security Advisor Susan Rice, yet held many meetings with Republican fundraiser Sheldon Adelson. Israel’s foreign policy, in other words, was more focused on undermining the American leadership than working with it.

The Jerusalem skyline (MARCO LONGARI/AFP/Getty)

The Jerusalem skyline (MARCO LONGARI/AFP/Getty)

Republicans, aware that Americans are supportive of Israel, have urged on Netanyahu’s anti-Obama campaign since it began in 2011. Inviting him to speak to Congress that year was shrewd domestic politics, and it will be shrewd legislative politics next month when Netanyahu publicly supports the GOP’s sanctions efforts.

This makes sense within the narrow scope of domestic politics — if you can use something to convince voters your party and its policies are a better choice than your opponents, you use it, even if that something is a foreign head of state. But members of Congress are purportedly supposed to put their country before their party, and siding with a foreign leader over your own president doesn’t seem to do that. Neither does cheering a foreign leader when he lambasts the president of the United States.

More to the point, it was a really significant breach when some conservatives supported Netanyahu’s implicit lobbying on behalf of the Romney campaign. If a foreign country wants to unseat your president, that is generally considered an outrageous breach. But Netanyahu has been invited in, and with the 2016 presidential elections ramping up it appears likely he will be invited in once more to implicitly run against the Democrats.

This speaks, in a very real sense, to just how extreme political polarization has become in Washington.

This sort of practice is bad for America’s ability to conduct foreign policy

To be very clear, this is not just a breach of protocol: it’s a very real problem for American foreign policy. The Supreme Court has codified into law the idea that only the president is allowed to make foreign policy, and not Congress, because if there are two branches of government setting foreign policy then America effectively has two foreign policies.

The idea is that the US government needs to be a single unified entity on the world stage in order to conduct effective foreign policy. Letting the president and Congress independently set their own foreign policies would lead to chaos. It would be extremely confusing for foreign leaders, and foreign publics, who don’t always understand how domestic American politics work, and could very easily misread which of the two branches is actually setting the agenda. (This confusion, by the way, is exactly what some Republicans are hoping to create in Iran with new sanctions.)

This could also allow a foreign country to play those two branches off of each other. That’s in part what Netanyahu is attempting to do here, and it’s working. The Obama administration did not even find out about Netanyahu’s planned visit to Washington until Boehner announced it. The Republicans are attempting to run a foreign policy that’s separate from the actual, official US foreign policy.

One more anti-Obama speech from Netanyahu on the floor of Congress is not going to break US foreign policy, of course. But it’s troubling that Republicans are willing to breach such an important principle for some pretty modest short-term gains.

Muslim, the new black


I hope Muslim Americans study very well American history, because it’s about to repeat itself and Muslims will find themselves having to fight the same battles of equality fought by their African-American, Native-American, Asian American and Spanish speaking American brothers and sisters who have fought the entire length of this country’s existence.  What’s even more ironic is this fight is symbolically starting on the day after the country’s observance of Martin Luther King day who’s being honored because he gave his life with a bullet to the brain fighting for the rights of people of color to equality.  Everybody loves to quote Dr. King and memorialize him while at the same time completely  ignoring his calls for racial human rights and equality.  America is determined to go back down the road of bigotry and xenophobia and it has targeted its Muslim citizens.

It’s not an issue of who is Muslim…..they come in all shapes, sizes and colors…..it’s Islam and Muslims that many in America have set their sights on.  No where was that more apparent than during President Obama’s State of the Union Address.  A blogger at RH Reality Check was insightful enough to observe the Senate chamber’s reaction to a portion of Obama’s address.  The word “applause” appears at the points in his speech where members of Congress reacted positively to what the Prez said by clapping/applauding.

As Americans, we respect human dignity, even when we’re threatened, which is why I’ve prohibited torture, [applause] and worked to make sure our use of new technology like drones is properly constrained [applause]. It’s why we speak out against the deplorable anti-Semitism that has resurfaced in certain parts of the world [applause]. It’s why we continue to reject offensive stereotypes of Muslimsthe vast majority of whom share our commitment to peace[SILENCE]. That’s why we defend free speech, and advocate for political prisoners, and condemn the persecution of women, or religious minorities, or people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender [applause]. We do these things not only because they’re right, but because they make us safer [applause].

However, no one in Congress, Democrat or Republican seems to think that Muslims are interested in peace and Obama’s remarks fell flat on the deaf ears of America’s lawmakers.  That doesn’t bode well for America’s Muslims.  To add insult to injury, the Speaker of the House, John Boehner unilaterally and unbeknownst to the White House invited Israel’s warmonger Benjamin Netanyahu to talk about Iran and radical Islam…..which means Islam, which means Muslims, all Muslims those who are criminal and deranged beyond any hope as well as those who are law abiding contributing members to their societies……the ones Obama was referring to in his SOTU. Of course, Netanyahu has to demonize Muslims because he too is trying to exterminate them and he wants our help doing so….not that we’ve done very much to stop him, we just haven’t hastened his efforts.

Certainly all the talk about Islamophobia and the hysteria surrounding it takes place in an atmosphere generated by the tragedy in Paris, France surrounding the Charlie Habdo cartoons, and the demonstrations taking place in Germany and the geopolitics of the larger Middle East and it seems America is doomed to repeat its history of enslaving and persecuting a group of people based solely on an affiliation America does not like and it would appear most members of Congress have no problem with that.  This then is a part of our Nation’s character….it revels in xenophobia…..it embellishes it, embraces it, perpetuates it (FoxNews)  and it wants to legalize it, return America to it’s segregationist past, glory.  It won’t even stop at separate but equal, it wants to go beyond that to criminalize and expel.  African-Americans, some living today….have seen this propensity America has to its dark side; Asian-Americans and Native-Americans have too.  Muslim Americans might want to talk to them about how they survived the American juggernaut…..or at the very least, study and learn American history in order to prepare themselves.

FoxNews and its Muslim guests


I have often times said ANYONE who goes on FoxNews is a sadist who likes self-flagellation and any Muslim who goes there is literally physically attacked and abused.  It’s gotten so bad I can no longer look at that network’s programs so I was more than a bit intrigued to see this headline, 5 Times Muslim Guests Actually Got Their Points Across On Fox News.  I’ll let you take a look and see if the title is accurate.

 

 

This is still very much my reaction to FoxNewsFoxNews

Idaho Governor Butch Otter: “The Poor Are Genetically Inferior”


City World News

Butch OtterA former Butch Otter staffer leaked a partial audio transcript she secretly recorded at an informal meeting Otter held with his Chief of Staff and the Director of the Idaho Department of Health & Welfare. The lurid, rambling transcript reveals a Nazi-esque attitude toward Idaho’s poor.

Look, I hear that… David and I debate this… but the big difference between the rich and the poor… it’s genetics. Poor people are genetically inferior, but that’s okay… [unintelligible] Don’t jump my roost about it… I didn’t make up that fact. It’s going to have to be okay, because it’s not like we can kill them [laughter from Otter]. But we need to stop spending… you know, spending so much on the inferior… It’s going to raise taxes, hurt economy, if we don’t. [unintelligible] Poor people deserve to live. I’m not heartless… [unintelligible] strict guidelines. Thank God we have religion… [unintelligible] retail… The lesser obviously can’t take care of themselves without it. I represent the genetically inferior… [laughter from Otter].  I’m bringing them jobs… the call centers… The Kuna meat packing plant… [laughter from Otter]. Inferior need to work harder now and realize that big government isn’t here in Idaho. We have to make cuts and John and Stewy back me on this…[unintelligible] the people won’t be able to compete with the superior, but let’s keep the message that they can and everything will work fine.”

The staffer says the three men often get together to candidly discuss issues affecting the State. The staffer claims to have other recordings regarding Otter’s belief that gay people have a genetic flaw, his plan to eradicate wolves in Idaho and his desire to further criminalize marijuana laws.

Pope Francis on Charlie Hebdo: ‘You cannot insult the faith of others’


popeFrancisPope Francis is not your normal Catholic Pope; born in Argentina he does not have the Eurocentric  world view that has surrounded the Roman Catholic Church for so many centuries and he comes from a refreshing place in theology that emphasizes a lot more of the things people have in common, regardless of their faith.  What he had to say regarding the Charlie Habdo cartoons is indicative of a view that certainly puts him at odds with most of punditry

Calling freedom of expression a “fundamental” human right, the pope outlined why he believes there are limits to that right. If someone “says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch,” he joked, according to an Associated Press translation. “It’s normal. It’s normal. You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others.”

Despite joking about his mother, Francis also condemned violent retaliation. “One cannot offend, make war, kill in the name of one’s own religion — that is, in the name of God,” the pope said. “To kill in the name of God is an aberration.”

Francis was speaking in Italian aboard the papal plane, on the way from Sri Lanka to the Philippines. According to the National Catholic Reporter, the pope was responding to a question about freedom of speech and religion in general. But acknowledging that the reporter asking the question was French, Pope Francis indicated that his response applied specifically to the attacks. “Let’s go to Paris, let’s speak clearly,” he said, according to NCR.

“The Pope’s expression is in no way intended to be interpreted as a justification for the violence and terror that took place in Paris last week,” the Vatican press office said in a later statement, addressing Francis’s remarks. The statement adds, “the Pope’s free style of speech, especially in situations like the press conference must be taken a face value and not distorted or manipulated.”

“The Pope has spoken out clearly against the terror and violence that occurred in Paris and in other parts of the world,” the statement continues, “Violence begets violence.  Pope Francis has not advocated violence with his words on the flight.”

Days ago, Francis denounced the Charlie Hebdo attacks and the “deviant forms of religion” he said were behind them. “Religious fundamentalism, even before it eliminates human beings by perpetrating horrendous killings, eliminates God himself, turning him into a mere ideological pretext,” he said, according to the AP.

There is no God fearing sincere believer who would say anything different than what the Pope has said or what has been written in the pages of Miscellany101 but in this writer’s opinion it’s also unrealistic to expect people would not feel resentment towards those who use satire as a weapon to dehumanize or devalue one’s religious beliefs. The Pope believes that people have a responsibility to their fellow citizens and that satire and freedom of speech has limits  and unbridled free speech also has consequences.  It is a mature position and it takes a certain amount of courage to embrace it.

It’s always darkest before the dawn


Isabelle MaticWe’ve seen this phenomenon before where the worst news about Islam and the atrocities committed in its name are enough to get people to commit to finding out themselves about the religion and eventually accepting it.  It doesn’t seem to matter how heinous the crime and how erroneous the actions of those done in the name of Islam, people of faith and good intention are able to see through the filters of provocation and distortion and adopt Islam as their religion or understand criminal behavior has nothing to do with religion but rather with the followers of that religion.  It has happened again this time with a citizen of France and the massacre at the offices of Charlie Habdo as horrendous as they were did not deter Isabelle Matic a French director from accepting Islam.

French director Isabelle Matic has announced her decision to revert to Islam on her FaceBook account, making the unexpected announcement only a few days after Charlie Hebdo Paris attacks.

“Today, I passed through the first pillar of Islam. There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is His Prophet,” Matic said in a message posted on her Facebook page on January 11.

In another message, she described how she took the decision and its effect on her beliefs in freedom of expression.

“Between the massacre at the premises of Charlie Hebdo and other event that have followed: I became a Muslim,” Matic wrote.

“Am I still for freedom of expression for all and Charlie Hebdo in particular?! Yes,” Matic wrote yesterday.

“With regard to my position towards the caricatures of the Prophet, I will write you the text of the SMS that I received this morning from a mosque which agreed quite well with my thoughts since the beginning of the cartoons, well before I became a Muslim,” she added

“They are making fun of Muhammad and do not harm Muhammad. They are making fun of a character that they have imagined and to whom they have given a name. This man is not our Prophet,” she wrote.

“The Makkans laughed at Muhammad (worthy of praise) in the appellant Modamam (worthy of name calling). The prophet peace be upon him was smiling. Yes, he was smiling! And he said: They are making fun of Modamam and not me,” Matic wrote.

“The wisdom is the answer to provocations. And this is what our beloved Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be with him) has taught us.

 “So when Charlie Hebdo will be published insha ‘ Allah (God willing), do not pay attention. Do not respond to the provocation. And do not give them of importance,” she added.

It’s amazing the clarity she brings to her new found faith; too bad many Muslims who’ve lived long lives worshiping and studying the religious texts aren’t as clear headed as Matic is in such a short period of time. Perhaps she can contribute towards a more correct understanding and application of Islam by her fellow French Muslims.  Congratulations to her!

Cartoon world has double standard on freedom of speech issue


charlie habdoThe Daily Sabah

The attack on the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo once again has raised the question of freedom of speech and of the press. The cartoon world, shattered by the attack, seems to have double standards regarding the answer.

Charlie Hebdo was known for its cartoons that mocked the Prophet Muhammed, and other religious figures, in different contexts that triggered angry reactions from Muslim communities for years. The offices of the magazine were petrol-bombed in 2011 as a reaction against the drawings of the prophet.

The incidents were seen as attacks on freedom of speech in western media, and Charlie Hebdo has become the image that sets the limits of freedom of speech. The magazine has always continued its provocative stance.

However, in 2008, French cartoonist Maurice Sinet, also known as Siné, was fired from Charlie Hebdo, where he had been working for 20 years, for his “anti-Semitic” cartoons, which were mocking the relationship of former French President Sarkozy’s son with a wealthy Jewish woman. Siné sued the magazine Charlie Hebdo for defamation against those who accused him of being anti-Semitic.

Speaking to Daily Sabah, Carlos Latuff, a world renowned Brazilian cartoonist, said that there are double standards on the issue of freedom of speech. “It is an everlasting discussion, because what is freedom of speech and what is hate speech. Why are some subjects protected by freedom of speech and others not? Why can we mock some issues and cannot do so with others? Should Holocaust denial, for example, be included as freedom of speech or racial hatred? See for example, the treatment given by the Western mainstream media to Mohammed cartoons and the Holocaust cartoons.”

Carlos Latuff, who has also received attention after his latest cartoon, described the effects of Charlie Hebdo attack on Islam. Latuff portrayed two gunmen aiming and firing at a Charlie Hebdo building, but behind that shooting at mosques. Latuff says that Islam is also the victim of the attack.

“A real tragedy. Nobody should be punished for ideas. I never agreed with the editorial line of Charlie Hebdo, but also won’t support this kind of brutal reaction. No doubt, this is completely counterproductive and will backfire against Muslim communities all around Europe and abroad. The Zionists and right-wingers in general now have a good reason to bash Muslims and immigrants. Sure it will…change the lives of Muslims in Europe…changing for the worse.”

Latuff said the motive behind the urge to mock Islam in a way that insults the sensitivities of the religion remains unknown.

“Who knows? Hatred against Muslims, testing the limits of freedom of speech, mocking Muslims just for fun, who knows? However, The fact is that they died not for a good cause, what could be seen as noble, but for provoking Muslims and feeding the hatred against Islam.”

IN SOLIDARITY WITH A FREE PRESS: SOME MORE BLASPHEMOUS CARTOONS


Glen Greenwald

jesuischarlie

Defending free speech and free press rights, which typically means defending the right to disseminate the very ideas society finds most repellent, has been one of my principal passions for the last 20 years: previously as a lawyer and now as a journalist. So I consider it positive when large numbers of people loudly invoke this principle, as has been happening over the last 48 hours in response to the horrific attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris.

Usually, defending free speech rights is much more of a lonely task. For instance, the day before the Paris murders, I wrote an article about multiple cases where Muslims are being prosecuted and even imprisoned by western governments for their online political speech – assaults that have provoked relatively little protest, including from those free speech champions who have been so vocal this week.

 

I’ve previously covered cases where Muslims were imprisoned for many years in the U.S. for things like translating and posting “extremist” videosto the internet, writing scholarly articles in defense of Palestinian groups and expressing harsh criticism of Israel, and even including a Hezbollah channel in a cable package. That’s all well beyond the numerous cases ofjobs being lost or careers destroyed for expressing criticism of Israel or (much more dangerously and rarely) Judaism. I’m hoping this week’s celebration of free speech values will generate widespread opposition to all of these long-standing and growing infringements of core political rights in the west, not just some.

B6yh7dfIEAAC88hCentral to free speech activism has always been the distinction between defending the right to disseminate Idea X and agreeing with Idea X, one which only the most simple-minded among us are incapable of comprehending. One defends the right to express repellent ideas while being able to condemn the idea itself. There is no remote contradiction in that: the ACLU vigorously defends the right of neo-Nazis to march through a community filled with Holocaust survivors in Skokie, Illinois, but does not join the march; they instead vocally condemn the targeted ideas as grotesque while defending the right to express them.

But this week’s defense of free speech rights was so spirited that it gave rise to a brand new principle: to defend free speech, one not only defends the right to disseminate the speech, but embraces the content of the speech itself. Numerous writers thus demanded: to show “solidarity” with the murdered cartoonists, one should not merely condemn the attacks and defend the right of the cartoonists to publish, but should publish and even celebrate those cartoons. “The best response to Charlie Hebdo attack,”announced Slate’s editor Jacob Weisberg, “is to escalate blasphemous satire.”

Some of the cartoons published by Charlie Hebdo were not just offensive but bigoted, such as the one mocking the African sex slaves of Boko Haram as welfare queens (left). Others went far beyond maligning violence by extremists acting in the name of Islam, or even merely depicting Mohammed with degrading imagery (above, right), and instead contained a stream of mockery toward Muslims generally, who in France are not remotely powerful but are largely a marginalized and targeted immigrant population.

But no matter. Their cartoons were noble and should be celebrated – not just on free speech grounds but for their content. In a column entitled “The Blasphemy We Need,” The New York Times‘ Ross Douthat argued that “the right to blaspheme (and otherwise give offense) is essential to the liberal order” and “that kind of blasphemy [that provokes violence] is precisely the kind that needs to be defended, because it’s the kind that clearly serves a free society’s greater good.” New York Magazine‘s Jonathan Chait actually proclaimed that “one cannot defend the right [to blaspheme] without defending the practice.” Vox’s Matt Yglesias had a much more nuanced view but nonetheless concluded that “to blaspheme the Prophet transforms the publication of these cartoons from a pointless act to a courageous and even necessary one, while the observation that the world would do well without such provocations becomes a form of appeasement.”

To comport with this new principle for how one shows solidarity with free speech rights and a vibrant free press, we’re publishing some blasphemous and otherwise offensive cartoons about religion and their adherents:

And here are some not-remotely-blasphemous-or-bigoted yet very pointed and relevant cartoons by the brilliantly provocative Brazilian cartoonist Carlos Latuff (reprinted with permission):







Is it time for me to be celebrated for my brave and noble defense of free speech rights? Have I struck a potent blow for political liberty and demonstrated solidarity with free journalism by publishing blasphemous cartoons? If, as Salman Rushdie said, it’s vital that all religions be subjected to “fearless disrespect,” have I done my part to uphold western values?

When I first began to see these demands to publish these anti-Muslim cartoons, the cynic in me thought perhaps this was really just about sanctioning some types of offensive speech against some religions and their adherents, while shielding more favored groups. In particular, the west has spent years bombing, invading and occupying Muslim countries and killing, torturing and lawlessly imprisoning innocent Muslims, and anti-Muslim speech has been a vital driver in sustaining support for those policies.

So it’s the opposite of surprising to see large numbers of westerners celebrating anti-Muslim cartoons – not on free speech grounds but due to approval of the content. Defending free speech is always easy when you like the content of the ideas being targeted, or aren’t part of (or actively dislike) the group being maligned.

Indeed, it is self-evident that if a writer who specialized in overtly anti-black or anti-Semitic screeds had been murdered for their ideas, there would be no widespread calls to republish their trash in “solidarity” with their free speech rights. In fact, Douthat, Chait and Yglesias all took pains to expressly note that they were only calling for publication of such offensive ideas in the limited case where violence is threatened or perpetrated in response (by which they meant in practice, so far as I can tell: anti-Islam speech). Douthat even used italics to emphasize how limited his defense of blasphemy was: “that kind of blasphemy is precisely the kind that needs to be defended.”

One should acknowledge a valid point contained within the Douthat/Chait/Yglesias argument: when media outlets refrain from publishing material out of fear (rather than a desire to avoid publishing gratuitously offensive material), as several of the west’s leading outletsadmitted doing with these cartoons, that is genuinely troubling, an actual threat to a free press. But there are all kinds of pernicious taboos in the west that result in self-censorship or compelled suppression of political ideas, from prosecution and imprisonment to career destruction: why is violence by Muslims the most menacing one? (I’m not here talking about the question of whether media outlets should publish the cartoons because they’re newsworthy; my focus is on the demand they be published positively, with approval, as “solidarity”).

When we originally discussed publishing this article to make these points, our intention was to commission two or three cartoonists to create cartoons that mock Judaism and malign sacred figures to Jews the way Charlie Hebdo did to Muslims. But that idea was thwarted by the fact that no mainstream western cartoonist would dare put their name on an anti-Jewish cartoon, even if done for satire purposes, because doing so would instantly and permanently destroy their career, at least. Anti-Islam and anti-Muslim commentary (and cartoons) are a dime a dozen in western media outlets; the taboo that is at least as strong, if not more so, are anti-Jewish images and words. Why aren’t Douthat, Chait, Yglesias and their like-minded free speech crusaders calling for publication of anti-Semitic material in solidarity, or as a means of standing up to this repression? Yes, it’s true that outlets like The New York Times will in rare instances publishsuch depictions, but only to document hateful bigotry and condemn it – not to publish it in “solidarity” or because it deserves a serious and respectful airing.

With all due respect to the great cartoonist Ann Telnaes, it is simply not the case that Charlie Hebdo “were equal opportunity offenders.” Like Bill Maher, Sam Harris and other anti-Islam obsessives, mocking Judaism, Jews and/or Israel is something they will rarely (if ever) do. If forced, they can point to rare and isolated cases where they uttered some criticism of Judaism or Jews, but the vast bulk of their attacks are reserved for Islam and Muslims, not Judaism and Jews. Parody, free speech and secular atheism are the pretexts; anti-Muslim messaging is the primary goal and the outcome. And this messaging – this special affection for offensive anti-Islam speech – just so happens to coincide with, to feed, the militaristic foreign policy agenda of their governments and culture.

To see how true that is, consider the fact that Charlie Hebdo – the “equal opportunity” offenders and defenders of all types of offensive speech –fired one of their writers in 2009 for writing a sentence some said was anti-Semitic (the writer was then charged with a hate crime offense, and won a judgment against the magazine for unfair termination). Does that sound like “equal opportunity” offending?

Nor is it the case that threatening violence in response to offensive ideas is the exclusive province of extremists claiming to act in the name of Islam. Terrence McNally’s 1998 play “Corpus Christi,” depicting Jesus as gay, wasrepeatedly cancelled by theaters due to bomb threats. Larry Flynt wasparalyzed by an evangelical white supremacist who objected to Hustler‘s pornographic depiction of inter-racial couples. The Dixie Chicks weredeluged with death threats and needed massive security after they publicly criticized George Bush for the Iraq War, which finally forced them to apologize out of fear. Violence spurred by Jewish and Christian fanaticism is legion, from abortion doctors being murdered to gay bars being bombed to a 45-year-old brutal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza due in part to the religious belief (common in both the U.S. and Israel) that God decreed they shall own all the land. And that’s all independent of the systematic state violence in the west sustained, at least in part, by religioussectarianism.

The New York Times‘ David Brooks today claims that anti-Christian bias is so widespread in America – which has never elected a non-Christian president – that “the University of Illinois fired a professor who taught the Roman Catholic view on homosexuality.” He forgot to mention that the very same university just terminated its tenure contract with Professor Steven Salaita over tweets he posted during the Israeli attack on Gaza that the university judged to be excessively vituperative of Jewish leaders, and that the journalist Chris Hedges was just disinvited to speak at the University of Pennsylvania for the Thought Crime of drawing similarities between Israel and ISIS.

That is a real taboo – a repressed idea – as powerful and absolute as any in the United States, so much so that Brooks won’t even acknowledge its existence. It’s certainly more of a taboo in the U.S. than criticizing Muslims and Islam, criticism which is so frequently heard in mainstream circlesincluding the U.S. Congress – that one barely notices it any more.

This underscores the key point: there are all sorts of ways ideas and viewpoints are suppressed in the west. When those demanding publication of these anti-Islam cartoons start demanding the affirmative publication ofthose ideas as well, I’ll believe the sincerity of their very selective application of free speech principles. One can defend free speech without having to publish, let alone embrace, the offensive ideas being targeted. But if that’s not the case, let’s have equal application of this new principle.

 

Context


Cherif Kouachi , on the left and his brother Said

Cherif Kouachi , on the left and his brother Said

This is not an excuse it’s offered to show what made Cherif Kouachi and his brother do such a terrorist type attack on the soul of France.  It like most things that deal with the Middle East, has a history and Cherif Kouachi’s history began with Abu Ghraib; you know that awful part of American history we’d much rather forget and which has been sanitized by media because it was so inhumane and dastardly.  The pictures revealed weren’t even the tip of the iceberg; there were some far more brutal that dealt with rape and bestiality of prisoners…..men, women and children.  In fact they are so bad that the Obama administration has refused to release the remaining ones for fear they would inflame public passions and spark an international outcry.  Abu Ghraib is something we want to forget but the people of Iraq…..God bless them and those who went there like Cherif Kouachi aren’t probably going to forget anytime soon.  Oh forgive, no doubt, American largesse will make them but those like Cherif  who aren’t likely to partake in the purchased conspiracy of silence aren’t going to.

We have this illusion that we, America can do no wrong…that we are the beacon of light for civilization and if we do anything criminal it’s for a greater good or could never equal what others far more barbaric and uncivilized than us could do.  We’re good at setting up false equivalences, but Kouachi no doubt heard it all when he was in Mesopotamia in 2011 and he seethed.  We’ve written about France a lot here on the pages of Miscellany101 and how it’s false claims of liberty and equality are nothing more than sticks they used to beat secularism into their subjects…..Christian, Muslim or Jewish.  For Muslims however there has been a steady eroding of rights to practice their religion, especially for women, like nothing seen since the days surrounding World War II. That fact no doubt also had a lot to do with Cherif’s destructive anger; unemployed and living with or knowing women who might have felt hampered by their government to practice their religion was enough to make him teeter on the edge….until he saw these..

 

 

As you can see they vary in obscenity and many of you depending on your daily diet of murder, mayhem and pornography probably don’t find any of them offensive.  I remember back in the day when the crucifix was submerged in a bottle of what was said to be urine and many people in government were up in arms about that and wanted to cut funding to the arts.  No, it’s not the same thing as what happened in France, not even close, but it underscores the fact that people are entitled to have their religious figures, symbols respected.  Now lest you think I’m trying to make excuses, I tweeted before even seeing these cartoons ‘Did they have the right to publish the cartoons? Yes. Are they offensive? Yes! Should Muslims protest and create acts of violence? No!’…..and quite frankly I stand by that position but before you go off all high and mighty about the right to free speech, think about what you would do if someone willfully posted pictures of your beloved family member for all the world to see and claim to do it in the name of freedom of speech…..

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The NYPD in action


If you want to know why some people in New York City don’t like police look no farther.

This is an $80 toy


Black Ops revolverIt can be purchased in Wal Mart, or on line at Amazon, Ebay or other game sites and as far as I can tell anyone can buy it because it’s a toy, a part of the Black Ops game collection that features a lot of life like firearms….you know like the one Tamer Rice had when he was murdered. Rice’s toy was an air soft replica however.  Because of America’s fascination with firearms it is perfectly legal to purchase this toy and play with it.  Back in the day when cops and robbers wasn’t a lethal game, young boys commonly played with such toys and put them away when they were finished.  In today’s America we put young boys away, bury them, typically young black boys like Tamer Rice, after they have been killed by over zealous police who thought such guns were real.

Check out this youtube video that shows the toy in more detail and what it can do.  I think the background noise is appropriate and couldn’t come at a more foreboding time.  Don’t buy this toy for your children nor let them play with friends who have it. It could cost them their lives.

What goes around comes around


Robert P. McCulloch the Prosecuting Attorney for St. Louis County, Missouri,

Robert P. McCulloch the Prosecuting Attorney for St. Louis County, Missouri,

Sometimes things have a way of coming out and it’s never too late when they do.  It’s finally starting to come out that Bob McCulloch, the prosecuting attorney for St. Louis who was responsible for presenting the Grand Jury with information regarding the murder of Mike Brown and whether Darren Wilson should be indicted for it was grossly negligent in his duties.  As a result a juror on that panel has filed a law suit against McCulloch alleging

the prosecutor knowingly and deliberately misrepresented to the public how the grand jury felt about the evidence and whether or not Darren Wilson should have been charged. In the lawsuit the juror, suing in part for the opportunity to speak openly about the case without harm of criminal penalty, claims that she/he did indeed feel that Darren Wilson should’ve been charged with crimes, but that McCulloch, in his public statements about the case, suggested otherwise. The lawsuit also alleges that the entire grand jury process was prejudicially managed by McCulloch and that it often felt like slain Ferguson teenager Mike Brown was on trial instead of Darren Wilson.

Sandra McElroy Witness #40

Sandra McElroy
Witness #40

I wonder whether it was the fact that he allowed a witness,the one notably quoted by FoxNews repeatedly who said Mike Brown charged at Wilson before he was fatally shot, to testify before the grand jury even though he, McCulloch knew she was lying and wasn’t even there to witness the shooting.  Fortunately, the charges against McCulloch, some 58 of them are even more pointed than that.

 

An eleven page complaint was filed with the Office of the Chief Disciplinary Counsel as well claiming that the district attorney’s office among other things presented the grand jury with a legal instruction ruled unconstitutional for decades misplaced evidence related to key witness Dorian Johnson and failed to provide specific charges to the jury after ‘dumping’ on them thousands of pages of interviews and evidence the complainants cite as going above gross negligence.

McCulloch on the other hand seems unbowed even though he’s being served with the  federal lawsuit (brought by the juror) and the state bar complaint.  Maybe he’s just as confident as Darren Wilson that #whiteprivilege will allow him to get away with murder, too!

I like this WaPo writer’s humor


because it really underscores, in my mind at least, just how bad things have become here in post racial America

Trying to predict the gender and race of a member of Congress is like trying to predict who would win a basketball game between the 1996 Chicago Bulls and the 2015 New York Knicks. Which is to say: It is like trying to predict who would win in an arithmetic competition between you and a talking horse. Which is to say: It is like trying to guess how many jellybeans are in a glass jar that contains two jellybeans. Which is to say: It is easy.

Which is to say it’s overwhelmingly white men; 80% white men  who will do everything in their power to conserve and stay in power.  Then I read where “lawmakers” are starting to pushback on the assault to reproductive rights and become more assertive?!?! C’mon, who did they think they’re kidding? Do they think those 80% white guys give a damn about reproductive rights? Really?

 

More trouble at Shaikh Zayed masjid- Abu Dhabi


Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque at sunrise

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque at sunrise

Another American pop icon has gone and done it again, upsetting the sensitivities of Emiratis about their splendid mosque Shaikh Zayid mosque in Abu Dhabi.  The mosque or masjid is also the final resting place of the first leader of the United Arab Emirates, Shaikh Zayid bin al Nahyan the beloved leader of that country, which makes it even more special to the people of the UAE.  However, in an attempt to be a country of tolerance and acceptance the government of the UAE liberally allows people to visit the mosque; however, it seems too many of them of a western mentality take things a little too far according to some Emiratis. The latest one to raise their ire is Selena Gomez who raised her garments to expose her covered leg and uncovered ankle.

Selena Gomez caused fury online after posting this image on her Instagram account, showing her flashing her ankle while visiting Abu Dhabi's Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque  DailyMail

Selena Gomez caused fury online after posting this image on her Instagram account, showing her flashing her ankle while visiting Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
DailyMail

To almost everyone in the west that kind of exposure is no big deal, but it wasn’t done in the West it was done in the UAE where the standard of behavior and conduct is different.  We’ve written about this problem before but perhaps it’s time to take things up a notch with regards to what Emiratis should do which is don’t allow tourism at any of their masajid. (plural of mosque) Non-Muslims should be allowed to visit them, during the times of prayer and properly escorted, but they should not be the “destination” of people who want to ogle and have their pictures taken there.  Mosques are places of worship and people should attend them with that solemnity in mind; if they are not worshippers but want to visit them they should be accompanied at all times by people who work for the government who are there to insure the visitors follow UAE protocol until they leave the premises.  You’ve heard it from me Emiratis; don’t complain when the next pop star comes and disrespects your way of life at the Shaikh Zayed mosque.

A true civil servant


#endwhitesilenceThe man holding that sign is Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay and he caught a lot of flack for holding it in a Pittsburgh establishment on New Year’s eve because as the police union president for the PPD claims the chief is saying all Pittsburgh Police are racists.  This was the police chief’s reply

It appears my having been photographed with a sign supporting racial justice at work and “white silence” has offended some. If any of my PBP family was offended, I apologize. You are very important to me and I would never hurt you purposefully. Let me explain the back story:

I stopped at a coffee shop at First Night, and ran into the group seeking people of all races to join the discussion about racial inequality and injustice. We spoke for a few minutes about how implicit, or unconscious bias results in misunderstanding on all sides, and how the need is for dialogue to clear up misunderstanding. They asked for me to take a picture holding a sign.

The sign indicated my willingness to challenge racial problems in the workplace. I am so committed. If there are problems in the PBP related to racial injustice, I will take action to fix them.

To me, the term “white silence” simply means that we must be willing to speak up to address issues of racial injustice, poverty, etc. In my heart, I believe we all must come together as community to address real world problems; and I am willing to be a voice to bring community together.

I saw no indictment of police or anyone else in this sign, but I do apologize to any of you who felt I was not supporting you; that was not my intent.

The reality of U.S. policing is that our enforcement efforts have a disparate impact on communities of color. This is a statistical fact. You know, as well as I, the social factors driving this reality. The gross disparity in wealth and opportunity is evident in our city. Frustration and disorder are certain to follow. The predominant patterns of our city’s increased violence involves black victims as well as actors. If we are to address this violence, we must work together with our communities of color.

We, the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, need to acknowledge how this reality feels to those impacted communities. Crime and disorder take us to the disadvantaged communities, which are predominantly those of color. The disparities in police arrest and incarceration rates that follow are not by design, but they can feel that way to some people in those communities.

I know, because I have been there too. My own street drug enforcement efforts were well intended but had an impact I would not have consciously chosen. In retrospect, we should have been far more engaged with those in the communities where we were doing our high-impact, zero tolerance type policing; to obtain the consent of those we were policing.

We will be engaging in training to refine our policing efforts in the near future. In the mean time, simply approach your job mindfully, with a continued motivation to protect and serve.

Please beware also, race impacts how we view one another, and unconscious bias applies to how we deal with the public. It can also impact how we judge one another; I intend we will confront both through training.

I support your efforts to keep our communities safe, and will back your best efforts to do so. I trust and have faith in you. I also support efforts to improve and restore the communities’ perceptions of justice. The next time you see me engaging in discussions supporting social justice, please remember, we all all guardians of the constitution. This is the mission we all took an oath to uphold.

Please forgive me if I have offended, as that was not my intent. I will be visiting all of the Zones and work units in the coming couple weeks to allow opportunity for open discussion, and look forward to being able to talk these tough issues through.

In the mean time, thank you for your service!

 

I salute police chief McLay and assert police departments all over America need chiefs who are as dedicated to insuring proper policing for all citizens of a town or city.  I also applaud McLay for making himself available to the rank and file….not hiding in his office or ivory tower, to answer questions and concerns they may have!  I’d be happy to see my tax dollars go towards the salary of such a police officer; he appears to understand the meaning of being a civil servant.