No Comment


riotcartoon

Gun ownership, police and white privilege in a post racial America


Hypocrisy in power is an amazing thing; not everyone can see it.  Police and armed citizens are a good start and a toxic mix.  As shown here constantly police who confront armed white citizens usually take a more professional and more restrained approach than they do when confronted with citizens of color, armed or not.  This is a decent collage of experiences that have occurred lately in America

Police Actually Do Show Restraint—When They’re Facing Armed White Guys

What is going on in the minds of some cops that frequently prompts empathy for armed white men but unleashes lethal fury on unarmed African-American men?

As a ceaseless flat line of tragedies snuffs out the lives of young brothers, one peculiar parallel trend emerges: For every unarmed black man who dies at the hands of white police officers, it seems as if there’s one armed white man who survives such an encounter.

In a way, that flies in the face of a popular national narrative that police officers are having some trouble restraining their trigger-happy selves. The excessive use of force by police is at the core of that discussion: Recently, for example, the Justice Department applauded the Seattle Police Department’s implementation of mandatory “de-escalation training” program for new officers. The force used “must be both reasonable and necessary,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta in a statement last week. “[T]his training will provide valuable guidance to officers when they make split-second decisions about when and how to use force.”

The problem, however, is that we assume that cops have a restraint problem. But judging from a growing number of confrontations between police and armed white guys, it’s reasonable to conclude the killings of African-American men and women may have another cause. And in the rush to a future full of body cameras, training, diversity hiring and other essential tools for modern law enforcement, we should probably find out what it takes to change that.

Michael Wilcox, 27, prone on the ground, unharmed

Michael Wilcox, 27, prone on the ground, unharmed

Going viral recently is a body-cam-captured video of rookie New Richmond, Ohio, cop Jesse Kidder talking down a young, armed and white 27-year old Michael Wilcox, who is accused of killing his fiancee and best friend hours before. Wilcox challenged Kidder to “shoot me!”

Kidder did not. He reasoned Wilcox into a peaceful arrest, earning himself all sorts of national props for showing “great restraint and maturity.” And who knows? Maybe policing in the post-Ferguson world made Kidder rethink the situation.

And maybe it didn’t. Instead, Wilcox ended up joining the pantheon of armed and dangerous white dudes who stayed alive even after police have identified them as homicidal suspects on killing rampages. One unfortunate week might find us gripped in national outrage over the untimely and unjustified deaths of Freddie Gray in Baltimore or Eric Harris in Tulsa; but, highlighted less are numerous confrontations between cops and rather dangerous white guys with guns who have already massacred people or are about to commit domestic terrorism.

This raises deeply disturbing but necessary questions that hint at a need for more than just a “de-escalation” program. What exactly is going on in the minds of some cops that frequently prompts empathy for armed white men but unleashes lethal fury on unarmed black men?    

Eric Fein, Fugitive survivalist and accused cop killer Eric Frein was finally captured last night in the Pocono Mountains after 48 days evading law enforcement

Take Eric Fein, for example, a white 31-year old sitting comfortably in jail on charges of killing one Pennsylvania state trooper in September and wounding another before forcing state police into a 48-day manhunt. Or still-alive 41-year old Ryan Giroux, a white supremacist who is accused of killing one person and injuring five in March during a shooting rampage in Mesa, Ariz. Cops finally caught up with him and took him into custody after Tasing him. And let’s not even get started on the jaw-dropping actions of Adam Kokesh, a gun-rights activist who not only loaded a shotgun across the street from White House grounds, but also videotaped and posted the whole thing online.

 James Holmes' Class of 2006  Westview High School photo

James Holmes’ Class of 2006 Westview High School photo

Perhaps one of the more notorious armed white guys involved in mass murder is James Holmes of Aurora, Colo., who, even after allegedly slaughtering a dozen people and injuring 70 in a movie theater shooting in 2012, managed to survive the police response and is on trial.

In almost half of all active-shooter situations, police didn’t even kill the shooter. According to aSeptember 2013 FBI briefing on a study of 160 mass-casualty, “active shooter” incidents between 2000 and 2013, most ended once the perpetrator stopped shooting, either because he fled or took his own life.

Curiously, the FBI details every demographic, geographic and casualty-type of data in its compelling 47-page study, even telling us that only six of the shooters were female, but fails to disclose one critical shooter characteristic: race.

The Congressional Research Service, however, did some leg work for its own March 2013 paper“Public Mass Shootings in the United States.” Despite an annoying lack of data, that study did conclude that the “the gunmen generally acted alone, were usually white and male.” Of the 81 shooters in this report, 41 died by suicide and 10 at the hands of law enforcement.

Police restraint is employed frequently when officers run up against gun-carrying white dudes engaged in all forms of villainy. Yet, we’ve seen unarmed and ultimately innocent black men and black women find themselves either badly hurt or dead just for looking suspicious or being in the wrong place at a particular wrong time.

Most frightening is the issue of why. There’s never really a clear answer for that beyond our 400-year knowledge of state-sanctioned violence against African Americans. White officers, in particular, would never admit to any subconscious bias pegging black men as subhuman.

What recent studies do show is that public perceptions of black people do not help.  When white people aren’t generally associating black people with criminal activity, they are viewing people of a darker hue as otherworldly.  The Sentencing Project’s 2014 “Race and Punishment” study shows that most whites support criminal punishment for blacks and Latinos because they perceive people of color as most likely to commit crimes.

Meanwhile, the Religion News Service’s “2012American National Election Study” and Associated Press polling showed that most whites still harbor a view of blacks as less hardworking and less intelligent.

But an even more recent and troubling study, published in November 2014 in the journal Social, Psychological & Personality Science, appears to offer some insight. Researchers determined that white attitudes have shifted dramatically over generations, from once perceiving blacks as “three fifths of a human” to now being “superhuman.”

Respondents in surveys were more likely to link terms such as “ghost, paranormal, spirit, wizard, supernatural, magic, mystical” to pictures of black people than they were to ascribe those qualities to whites, who were linked to more “human words”  such as “person, individual, humanity, people, civilian, mankind, citizen.” The authors of the study worried that “[p]erhaps people assume that Blacks possess extra (i.e., superhuman) strength which enables them to endure violence more easily than other humans.”

Perhaps, for reasons still unknown, there are white police officers who think that brothers are faster than bullets and speeding trains.  Maybe—and we don’t know—an armed white guy receives more lenience because there’s a chance he could be exercising his rights as a “citizen.”  For now, all we have is instinct, polls and a growing list of sad stories.

We’re not getting better at dealing with our differences, we’re getting worse and it’s hurting us as a civilization, as a country.  The inability to deal with this problem could lead to the destruction of America in the ways we experienced during the days preceding the Civil War.  Do we really wanna’ go there America?

 

Terror in Chapel Hill, NC


From left 23-year-old Deah Shaddy Barakat, his wife, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19

From left 23-year-old Deah Shaddy Barakat, his wife, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19

The lives of three Muslims living in Chapel Hill were taken early last week by someone it was claimed was angry about parking spaces in the community the victims and the killer shared but in reality has turned into a debate whether the murder was religiously motivated.  Deah Barakat, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha his wife and her sister Razan Abu-Salha were each shot, some reports have said, execution style in the head in their residence by Craig Stephen Hicks also of Chapel Hill.

46 year old Craig Stephen Hicks

46 year old Craig Stephen Hicks

Shortly after killing the three, Hicks turned himself into Chapel Hill police and no other person has been sought in connection with this crime.  Hicks had been known for causing problems with his neighbors but was also a self avowed atheist, some would have you believe vehemently so, who disliked all religions and made his displeasure known on his Facebook page. In one of his posts he said,  ‘I hate Islam just as much as christianity, but they have the right to worship in this country just as much as any others do’ giving one the impression he was tolerant of Muslims and Christians but it was that hatred of Islam that drove him to kill Barakat and the two Abu-Salha sisters.   A lot of anger has risen in Muslim communities across America about the absence of the term “terrorist” to describe Hicks’ actions.  In a time when violence by so-called Muslims, who some would say are marginally Muslim at best, are quickly and universally called terrorists and have their actions condemned as such, Muslims decried the reticence of media to do the same for this crime.  the 3's silhouetteIt appears, regardless of the label given Hicks or his crime, people of all faiths and colors expressed their sorrow and revulsion for the murders while the district attorney charged Hicks with three counts of 1st degree murder which is a capital offense in the state of North Carolina.  Whether the office will seek the death penalty remains to be seen, but it is applicable for the charge.  However, there is still that nagging issue of whether Hicks was motivated by hate in the killings; the families of the victims have insisted as have others in the Muslim community that the victims’ death were racially motivated and the FBI has said it’s conducting an investigation to determine if that’s the case.  parking
The larger American community however, seems to take umbrage at the notion that Hicks was inspired by hate, instead clinging to the narrative put forth by the police the night of the killing that it was a neighborly dispute over parking spaces that drove Hicks over the edge.  At a time when news about Islam is overwhelmingly negative and spoken of in terms of violence and terrorism by Muslims against others most Americans cannot conceive of themselves as terrorists. Even at the beginning of Obama’s first term in office when Homeland Security talked about the threat of homegrown terrorism unrelated to Islam there was so much opposition to the notion such an idea existed that the Department was forced to

“step(ped) back for the past two years from conducting its own intelligence and analysis of home-grown extremism, according to current and former department officials, even though law enforcement and civil rights experts have warned of rising extremist threats.

The department has cut the number of personnel studying domestic terrorism unrelated to Islam, canceled numerous state and local law enforcement briefings, and held up dissemination of nearly a dozen reports on extremist groups, the officials and others said.

The decision to reduce the department’s role was provoked by conservative criticism”

It is entirely likely it is the same sentiment that causes many people including those in the media and law enforcement not to label this act as terrorism but a look at the facts may reveal otherwise.

Hicks stated on his Facebook account he “hated Islam”; indeed some of his posts seem to be imaginary conversations he is having with his victims:

Of course I want religion to go away. I don’t deny your right to believe whatever you’d like; but I have the right to point out its ignorant and dangerous for as long as your baseless superstitions keep killing people

When it comes to insults, your religion started this, not me. If your religion kept its big mouth shut, so would I

Hicks’ adult daughter “disowned” him because of, as she put it, his disrespect for people of other faiths. The victims were aware of Hicks’ complaints in the community and made sure to avoid the parking spaces he contested even to the point of sending detailed maps and instructions to friends visiting them of where they could park and where not to.  The towing company responsible for the compound refused to take Hicks’ calls any more because he was so persistent and annoying and finally on the day of the murders the disputed parking places were empty, there were no cars parked there to cause Hicks to loose it and kill.

shahadaClearly the victims were Muslims, the two sisters wore clothing indicative of their faith and thus much more easy to discern as opposed to others who may or may not be of a particular religious persuasion; they were easy targets for him.  The couple, in their brief life together, had complained to family and friends of Hicks’ intimidating behavior, flashing his handgun at them whenever he spoke to them about parking in the complex. And speaking of handguns, and while they are a part of the American fabric, Hicks had his fair share and didn’t mind letting people know.  Neighbors were aware he carried a gun and the victims clearly felt threatened by him. Indeed, some might say Hicks fit the profile of the type Homeland Security mentioned in their analysis of homespun terrorism that raised so much ire among the Right. While some may say this act of cold blooded murder was done by the neighborhood curmudgeon over parking spaces the motivation behind it was far more sinister and hate filled than that.  Hicks’ neighbors, perhaps ALL of them living in the complex did everything they could to ameliorate his concerns until those concerns became excessive, vengeful, murderous and focused on the three Muslim victims.

However something must be said about who were these three young people so brutally slain by Hicks. They were all model citizens of this country AND Muslim. They excelled in their academic careers, the husband Deah was studying at UNC’s School of Dentistry soon to be joined there by his wife and the sister Razan Abu-Salha was a student at NC State.  That university has gone on to establish a scholarship in their name because

“Deah, Yusor and Razan exemplified the best of N.C. State and will forever serve as role models for our student body, (NCSU Chancelor Randy) Woodson said in a statement. Each was not only an outstanding student, but individually and as a family lived their lives bringing joy to others, helping those in need and making the world a better place.

They did that….making a world a better place….by feeding the homeless in Raleigh and Durham, North Carolina and were involved in building an interfaith Habitat for Humanity home in Wake County. At the time of his death, Deah Barakat was trying to raise $20,000 through a YouCaring.com website (nando.com/xk) to pay for a trip to Turkey to provide dental care for Syrian refugees a dangerous proposition in today’s times.  They were fully engaged in American society as Americans and as Muslims and they were the best this country has to offer but were killed because of the hatred Hicks had towards Muslims who he felt started something with him.  Let’s not let media off the hook.  Today’s America is full of venomous hatred that permeates the ‘net and airwaves.  Every breath one takes they inhale America’s dislike for Muslims and Islam. Even the President of the United States gets called on the carpet for not quickly enough using the word “terrorist” to describe any act of violence against Americans that may happen at the hands of brown skinned people with funny sounding names.  Hicks’ antennae were acutely tuned to this atmosphere; he was conditioned to act the only way America knows how, with violent rage.  Media refuses to call him on it because he doesn’t fit the profile just like homespun extremism is not a narrative we are willing to entertain as a Nation.  As a result three of our brightest are dead. Hear what Yusor AbuSalha had to say about her short life as she talks to her former teacher here.  America is less a country because these three bright, intelligent people are no longer with us.

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.

Did you know the latest American hostage held by ISIS is a Muslim


Peter Kassig, an American is also an American Muslim who went to Syria to HELP Syrians not fight them and he is the latest hostage of the terror group ISIS to be threatened with death.  In a letter to his parents he talks about how he is at peace with his religion and his decisions he made that took him to Syria but also that he is afraid of the uncertainty of death at the hands of this terror group.  Is there anyone who still thinks the group has anything to do with Islam?  It kills its native sons from all over the world; sounds more fascist than Islamist.

Another one of those driving while black posts that has a surprising ending


Police misconduct against ANY citizen of America usually gets swept under the rug…….and even when its recorded for all the world to see it gets ignored, given the proverbial blind eye.  In the case of  Marcus Jeter who thought all was well after he left from his first encounter with police…..left with their permission, he’s lucky to be alive while the police have been charged with official misconduct and related charges.  The police abuse was captured by the police’s own dashboard cameras yet the same police in preparation for their court case want to dismiss their own evidence!!

Jeter is lucky to be alive….and his case is one of those rare examples where police are being held accountable for their egregious behavior.

Even on the receiving end of illegal behavior the results are not the same if you’re black


Don’t think so?  Ask Ray Allen.  ray allenHis house was broken into recently while he and his family were still living there.  This wasn’t an ordinary break-in, it happened in the middle of the night and the intruders walked into the bedroom where Allen’s wife and children were sleeping discussing, in loud enough voices to wake Ms. Allen, the items of the house. It appears Allen was not home at the time, and a startled Ms. Allen called the police after they ran away.  The perpetrators were caught, but officials decided NOT to file charges against the seven people who broke into the Allen residence.  In today’s America, where people are demonstrating with their lives the inequities of justice for people of color who commit crimes, it also appears there’s a difference when people of color are victims of crimes committed by whites.  Ray Allen was not happy officials didn’t charge the young men for breaking into his house and made it a point to express his displeasure with this decision, enough so that charges were filed at Allen’s request.    The people who broke into Allen’s home were young white men.  This is not the time for racial disparity in administering justice, if you didn’t know that already.

Another reason to oppose the current government of Egypt


…they are engaging in fratricide in ways that call to mind some of the world’s worst dictatorships.

Egyptian security forces intentionally killed at least 817 protesters during last August’s Rabaa massacre, in a premeditated attack equal to or worse than China’s Tiananmen Square killings in 1989, Human RightsWatch (HRW) has argued in a report.

The 195-page investigation based on interviews with 122 survivors and witnesses has found Egypt‘s police and army “systematically and deliberately killed largely unarmed protesters on political grounds” in actions that “likely amounted to crimes against humanity”.

The report recommends that several senior individuals within Egypt’s security apparatus be investigated and, where appropriate, held to account for their role in the planning of both the Rabaa massacre and others that occurred last summer – including Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, Egypt’s then defence minister and new president. As head of the army at the time, Sisi had overall responsibility for the army’s role at Rabaa, and has publicly acknowledged spending “very many long days to discuss all the details”.

 

In other words, the current President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi is a war criminal who encouraged his army to commit crimes against humanity on several occasions!! In an extreme example of chutzpah, this government of war criminals went on to declare the party they ousted and enforced that coup with murder of its citizens, the Sisi regime went on to criminalize the Muslim Brotherhood, calling it a terrorist organization and sentencing close to 200 members of that group with death for “taking part in a deadly attack on a police station”.  What’s important to remember is this is the government which slaughters its citizens in much the same way the Israelis slaughtered people of Gaza that is negotiating on behalf of those Palestinians.  To renew the saying, ‘ it’s the fox guarding the chickens’……

The “specialness” of Israel


Israel claimed Hamas used the civilians of Gaza as human shields for their rocket attacks when it fact it turns out Israeli forces used Palestinians in that way.  Here is the story and eye witness accounts of what happened.

The article below describes how US officials have enabled the Israeli regime to commit and get away with war crimes and are as accountable as the very Israelis who are responsible for the Gaza massacre.  Unfortunately, American administrations are quick to hurl accusations of illegality towards members of the international community but are almost never willing to prosecute its own for illegal acts. In the case of Israel, even when there is compelling evidence that crimes were committed such an acknowledgment is never forthcoming from an American administration.  The ramifications of that are severe for America…..making it as much a pariah state as the one it enables.

 

Dueling tweets


These two tweets ran across one another in the net-o-sphere

Right

 

Left

…and here’s the skinny

The number of Americans who have been killed by Islamic extremists in the United States since September 2001 is just 21 — less than two per year — and none of them on airplanes. Statistically speaking, you’re several times more likely to be fatally attacked on an American schoolyard: in just the year and a half since the December 2012 Sandy Hook attack, 28 people have been killed in US school shootings. And meanwhile, right-wing extremists — virtually all of them white — have killed 37 people since 2001.

The truth about Gaza’s tunnels


A thing or two about “terror tunnels”

SAMI KISHAWI

When I visited family in Gaza City in 2011, they reluctantly agreed to take me to see some of the tunnels that had been constructed in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.

At the time, there were an estimated 1,200 to 1,500 tunnels criss-crossing their ways underneath Gaza’s border with Egypt. Designed to outsmart the blockade that had essentially cut the coastal territory off from the world since 2006, the tunnels instantly grew in popularity. They were seen as a source of relief. The food, construction materials, and even animals that Israel had banned from entering the Strip was finding another way in.

As Israel and the Egyptian government cooperated to keep even the most basic necessities out of the Gaza Strip, smugglers went to work. In just three to ten minutes, a runner could smuggle anything he wanted from one of the tunnel to the other. Many requests were bold — new cars, tunnel-kfc deliveryhealthy sheep, a family who had waited too long at the border — and some were ridiculous — a family meal from KFC, and why not a wife — but they all got through. So is the quick-witted brilliance of the Palestinian under occupation.

With the popularity grew attention, and the Israeli and Egyptian governments agreed to handle the threatening illusion of freedom with force. Egyptian armed forces demolished any tunnel they uncovered. The Israeli military launched air strikes even during periods of rest with the same purpose in mind.

Since then, the number of tunnels in Gaza has certainly grown. It is a bafflingly elaborate system, and although few people will ever be able to conceptually grasp the full extensiveness of the tunnel network, a quick look at the tunnels themselves reveal just how much time and effort goes into them.tunnel-bride

As I stood at the mouth of a tunnel used primarily to shuttle fish from an Egyptian port, one smuggler gave me a brief rundown of how the tunnels are built and, in some cases, destroyed. Curiously, he had no qualms about me taking photographs. Israel knew everything there was to know about his tunnels, he informed me. The one that smuggled fish and other small food goods had been hit six times already, prompting him to reinforce the interior of his tunnel with steel plates. Three years later, I am unsure if his tunnels still exist.

This is what the tunnels were built for in the first place, and for the most part, this is what they continue to be used for. Israel knowingly targets them, claiming them to be security concerns when all the tunnels really do is relieve a bit of the pressure that people in Gaza have had to face for almost a decade now.

There are other tunnels that are used to connect opposite ends of the Gaza Strip without exposure to Israeli weaponry. These tunnels are used by Palestinian government leaders who constantly have to duck Israeli assassination attempts as well as resistance fighters who are legally entitled to resist their occupier. Never forget this last part, I am always told.

These very same tunnels were the ones used to keep Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit alive when he was captured and taken as a prisoner of war on June 25, 2006. Shalit would later be swapped in a prisoner exchange with the Israeli government.

Lately, however, new tunnels have been uncovered in the northern Gaza Strip that are being used in the defense of Palestine. As part of the Israeli military’s egregious public relations campaign, Israel has officially dubbed them “terror tunnels,” carrying absolutely no context whatsoever.

tunnel-sheepTo Israel, every tunnel — be it one that brings food into an impoverished Gaza Strip where over half of the population depends on food aid or one that delivers sheep to a Khan Younis farmer who lost his other farm animals to a prior Israeli incursion — is a “terror tunnel”. The phrase alone has given Israel the impunity it feels it needs to enact vengeance against the Gaza’s population. After all, “terror tunnels” was the pretext for Israel’s repeated bombardment of the Shuja’iyya neighborhood or the Jabalya Refugee Camp, where hundreds including many children were massacred and thousands displaced.

“Terror tunnels” is also why entire city blocks were wiped off the map, or why every single building in Beit Hanoun is either damaged or demolished, or why Eid Al-Fitr wasn’t celebrated in Gaza. “Terror tunnels” is Israel’s attempt at justifying war crimes and human rights abuses in the Strip, which are increasingly being investigated by the United Nations and other international observers.

Israel’s media strategists and spokespeople have been trained to bring up the “terror tunnels” as often as possible. In some cases, they even present the tunnels with unsubstantiated claims that they were built to ‘massacre’ Israelis.

The message they give is that Palestinians are popping out of the ground like groundhogs, and that Israel is simply hammering them back into the ground. Israel is, in essence, basing its invasion of the Gaza Strip on a hypothetical. But Gaza is all too familiar with this. Each Israeli major military offensive on the Gaza Strip has been announced as a necessary defensive maneuver to keep Israel from being wiped off of the map. Meanwhile, Israel wipes Gaza off the map.

Incidentally, one such “terror tunnel” made its way onto cameras yesterday when Hamas fighters filmed their infiltration of the Nahal Oz military base in southern Israel. Five Israeli soldiers were reported killed.

In another “terror tunnel” story that happened today, three Israeli soldiers fell into a booby-trapped tunnel entrance in the southern Gaza Strip.

While the Israeli government continues to purport the idea that the tunnels are meant to target thousands of Israelis, we are left with the very obvious: every single military assault carried out by Palestinian fighters that has used an infiltrating tunnel has only ever targeted Israeli soldiers. In other words, armed tunnel activity is targeting armed and active combatants, not civilians or noncombatants. Maybe Israel can learn a thing or two.

Meanwhile, the death toll in Gaza has just exceeded 1,300. Most of the dead, according to the United Nations, are civilians, with over 250 children.

Israel, who says that it acts solely in self-defense, is enacting on Gaza the kind of destruction and misery that it projects to the world as its greatest fear.

Israel, whose spokespeople say it acts “as surgically as is humanly possible,” has no regard for civilians in the Gaza Strip.

Israel, with its seemingly endless supply of advanced and pinpoint-accurate weaponry, has demolished entire neighborhoods and taken so many lives in search of tunnel entrances no larger than two meters in width.

Who Broke the Ceasefire?


By Max Blumenthal, Allison Deger

A beleaguered looking President Barack Obama appeared before the Washington press corps Friday to lash into Hamas for supposedly violating the 72-hour humanitarian cease-fire that his Secretary of State John Kerry and the United Nations had labored so tirelessly to secure.

“I have unequivocally condemned Hamas and the Palestinian factions that were responsible for killing two Israeli soldiers and abducting a third minutes after a cease-fire was announced,” Obama said.

But evidence supporting Obama’s claim of Hamas responsibility has been difficult to come by. Indeed, even the Israeli Army news desk was unable to provide AlterNet with a clear narrative or substantial evidence regarding the incident in question. Moreover, accounts published in Arabic by Hamas’s military wing along with details provided by the PLO indicate that the killing of two soldiers and disappearance of another actually occurred before the cease-fire went into effect — when Israel was assaulting Rafah.

“Today at 9:30, terrorists executed an attack from which two soldiers were killed and an additional is now missing and therefore he is suspected to have been abducted,” an Israeli army spokesperson told AlterNet. The army spokesperson went on to state that Hamas and the army “exchanged shelling,” yet they were unable to provide details on the source of the Palestinian fire. “They used several forms of fire simultaneously,” was all the spokesperson could divulge.

“I cannot confirm at the moment as we are still looking into it, but it may have been live bullets and a suicide belt,” which killed the soldiers, the army spokesperson said.

When asked why the army did not have a solid account of the events that broke the promised 72-hour cease-fire, the army spokesperson maintained, “There were terrorists and they attacked the soldiers, two soldiers didn’t just drop dead.”

Tweets from Gaza contradict official US-Israeli claims

The PLO and Palestinian Authority both insisted to AlterNet that Hamas fighters engaged Israeli soldiers inside Gaza well before the cease-fire took effect – and during an Israeli assault on Rafah leading up to the 8am cease-fire.

“They aborted the cease-fire from the beginning,” said Nabil Shaath from the PLO’s Central Committee.

A veteran negotiator, Shaath has become the de facto liaison between the PLO and Hamas. He confirmed to AlterNet that PA President Mahmoud Abbas received a briefing from Hamas this morning on the incident near Rafah. Shaath’s account reflects details provided directly by Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip.

According to Shaath, at 6am Hamas fighters engaged Israeli forces in Rafah. He maintained that it was then — almost two hours before the cease-fire went into effect — that the two Israeli soldiers were killed and the other went missing.

Shaath’s account was supported by dispatches published before the cease-fire went into effect by the official Twitter account of Hamas’s Qassam Brigades military wing. In a tweet published at 7:34 a.m. on August 1, the Qassam Brigades stated, “At 7 a.m. a group [of Hamas fighters] clashed with [Israeli] forces east of Rafah and caused many injuries and death to them.”

In a separate tweet published at 6:22 a.m. on the say day, the Qassam Brigades declared, “At 6:30 a.m., a group of the Qassam infiltrated behind enemy lines at east Rafah and bombed a house that the enemy had taken as a stronghold with a Tandem missile after the enemies bombed the whole area.”

The following day, Qassam Brigades reiterated its description of the incident in an official statement: “The clashes began at 7.00am, before the proposed truce was in effect, while the enemy launched its attack on civilians at 10 a.m, blatantly violating the truce in aims of finding a missing soldier.”

Qassam Brigades added that it had “no knowledge regarding the soldier missing in action [Lt. Hadar Goldin] or his location or the circumstances of his disappearance” — a departure from previous instances when it trumpeted claims that it had captured Israeli troops. Despite the denial, Obama vehemently demanded that Hamas unconditionally release Goldin.

The cease-fire was first violated at 8:30 a.m., according to Shaath, when the Israeli army destroyed 19 buildings in an operation to demolish tunnels. “Destroying tunnels is destroying houses,” Shaath said, noting that the cease-fire allowed hostile Israeli forces to continue to operate inside the Gaza Strip, making violence almost inevitable. “We do not accept a cease-fire that allows the invader to attack and murder,” he declared.

Conflicting claims and evidence ignored

In announcing the brief cease-fire, Kerry said its terms authorized Israeli forces to carry out“defensive” operations against tunnels. He seemed unaware of the ramifications of such an agreement, or what Israel’s attacks on tunnels actually entailed. A glimpse at Human Rights Watch’s bracing report on the Israeli army’s brutal assault on Rafah in 2004, “Razing Rafah,” which it conducted under the auspices of anti-tunnel operations, would have offered a glimpse of what was to come. (American activist Rachel Corrie was killed by an Israeli bulldozer during the 2003 attack on Rafah).

Following the incident in Rafah that left two Israeli soldiers dead and one presumed missing, Kerry immediately declared that Hamas had committed an “outrageous violation of the cease-fire.” White House Press Secretary Joshua Earnest echoed Kerry by accusing Hamas of “a barbaric violation of the cease-fire agreement.”

But sources offer starkly conflicting accounts of the incident in question. The Israeli army claimed to AlterNet that Lt. Hadar Goldin went missing at 9:30 a.m., an hour and a half after the cease-fire was declared. Yet Obama claimed that the attack occurred “minutes after the cease-fire began.” For their part, Qassam reported engaging and killing Israeli soldiers well before 8 a.m.

So when did the incident actually occur? And why was Obama’s information so dramatically different from details the Israeli army was furnishing journalists with?

More importantly, why was the Obama administration so quick to jump to conclusions?

Framing Hamas, driving the death toll

Perhaps the answer was credulousness or sheer laziness, with its diplomatic corps and intelligence services neglecting to examine sensitive details from sources on the ground. But the more likely explanation is that Washington has sought to frame Hamas as the aggressor to enable Israel to intensify military operations disproportionately directed against a besieged civilian population.

Since violence escalated in mid-July, the Obama administration has demonstrated a disturbing pattern of legitimizing suspect Israeli claims about Hamas’s malevolence and bad faith. In each case, the administration provided political cover for disproportionate Israeli violence, deepening the damage to civilian life in the West Bank and Gaza. And in each case, Washington’s claims were ultimately discredited — but only after Israel had ratcheted the violence up to a frightening new stage.

The first case of irresponsible enabling by the Obama administration occurred in the immediate wake of the kidnapping of three Israeli teens in the occupied West Bank on June 12. It was on June 15, before evidence was made public about the kidnapping suspects’ identities, that Kerry pointed the finger at Hamas, suggesting that the organization’s leadership had authorized the crime. His words helped justify Operation Brother’s Keeper, an army rampage through the West Bank in which thousands of Palestinian homes were raided, over 500 were arrested without charges, and 6 civilians were killed.

A month later, Israeli Police Spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld finally admitted what was widely known and had been extensively documented: Hamas leadership had no role in or advance knowledge of the kidnappings. But by then, the damage to the West Bank had already been done. Kerry has yet to retract his demonstrably false and damaging claim.

The next case of Obama administration enabling came on July 15 as the military regime of Egypt – a ferocious antagonist of the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas – introduced a cease-fire proposal developed in intimate collaboration with Israel that would not have lifted the 8-year-long siege of Gaza. Hamas had not been consulted on the proposal or even briefed on its details, exposing it as a hollow document conceived as a ruse to frame the Palestinian faction as rejectionists. Kerry brought the Israeli-Egyptian scheme to its fulfillment when he launched into an indignant condemnation of Hamas for rejecting the Egyptian proposal, accusing the group of “purposely playing politics.”

Kerry’s statement was a political boon to Netanyahu, providing the Prime Minister with all the cover he sought to initiate and expand ground invasion of Gaza. Hamas’s refusal to accept the proposal “gives Israel full legitimacy to expand the operation to protect our people,” Netanyahu declared on July 15.

Human catastrophe with no end in sight

Some thousand civilian deaths later, with morgues filled with the bodies of children and the UN no longer able to care for the 25% of the Gaza Strip forced to flee from sectors of the Gaza Strip that resemble post-apocalyptic moonscapes, the Obama administration was at it again. As before, they blamed Hamas without the benefit of anything remotely resembling substantial evidence.

In turn, Washington provided political legitimacy to military operations aimed at an occupied and vulnerable civilian population with nowhere to flee, allowing the killing to continue unabated. Following the collapse of the cease-fire, Israel bombarded Rafah with US-supplied F-16’s and tank artillery, decimating the center of the city and killing over 70. At the time of publication, the death toll is rapidly rising.

Meanwhile, the talks scheduled to take place in Egypt over the next 72 hours seem to have fallen into shambles.

Obama has described the scenes of human misery pouring out of the Gaza Strip as “heartbreaking.” If only he and his administration had demanded evidence before enabling Israeli aggression, he might have been able to forgo the empty displays of hand-wringing. More importantly, hundreds of innocent lives might have been spared from a marauding army operating behind a shroud of impunity.

Islam and the West-A history shrouded in mystery


It shouldn’t be……Islam has been a constant in the western world just as much as Christianity and the European empires of England, France and Spain, yet far too many people don’t know that about the Islamic religion.  I’ve posted on this blog before the lecture of one American Muslim scholar, Jerald Dirks that relates historical documents about Islam and Muslim interaction with Europeans and indigenous people of North America that dates anything written by contemporary historical scholars.  Here again I post his lecture

Now comes word of the reasons why Thomas Jefferson possessed an English copy of the Quran, which leads me to wonder has anyone asked themselves why would he want one?

Long before Europeans governed Muslim colonies, interest in Islam and its cultures ran high in Europe. Part of the reason was political. Three Muslim empires dominated large parts of Asia: the Ottomans in Anatolia, the Mediterranean and Arabia; the Safavids in Persia; and the Mughals in India.

These Muslim dynasties were not just powerful but were also admired for their refined arts and culture — music, poetry, gardens, ceramics and textiles. Moreover, books in Arabic offered knowledge of many fields to those who learned the language. Not just the sciences and philosophy but even Arabic literature enticed European translators. Thus, in 1704 a Frenchman first translated the “1001 Nights,” whose tales soon became an enduring classic of European as well as of Arabic letters.

Above all else, the religion of Islam itself seemed an especially compelling field of inquiry to a variety of European scholars and thinkers. How had a handful of Muslims emerged from the Arabian Peninsula in the seventh century to conquer so much of the known world? This was one of the great questions of world history, as both the French Enlightenment philosopher Voltaire and the English historian Edward Gibbon agreed. In addition, philosophers and freethinking Christians deemed the central tenet of Islam, the unity of God, more rational than the mystery of the Christian Trinity. Thus, many different Europeans attributed singular importance to Islam and the language of its revelation, Arabic.

George Bush today


Jewish Bible InstituteImagine, we elected this man as president twice!  He couldn’t bring on the apocalypse as president so he’s trying to do it as an ex-president?

Next week, former President George W. Bush is scheduled to keynote a fundraiser in Irving, Texas, for the Messianic Jewish Bible Institute, a group that trains people in the United States, Israel, and around the world to convince Jews to accept Jesus as the Messiah. The organization’s goal: to “restore” Israel and the Jews and bring about about the second coming of Christ.

Bush would not be able to engage in such activity as president because it certainly be viewed as a violation of the First Amendment separation of church and state rights but pursuing such an agenda as a private citizen can only make one ask is this the true George W. Bush?  But isn’t this what Christianity believes, that no one can be saved unless they accept Jesus as their savior?  In that regard Bush is doing nothing more than what his religion demands.  The notion that people aren’t good enough as they already are however, is an idea that has to be abandoned if we are to live as citizens of America.

Terrorism rears its ugly head again


This time it was in a mall in New Jersey state.  We were fortunate no one was killed except the terrorist, but he leaves behind a thousand or more on the scene people who will never be the same and a society that is losing this war of attrition on its collective psyche finds itself unnerved again at how unsafe ordinary activity has become.

shoopA 20 year old young white man using his brother’s firearm decided to terrorize the citizens at Westfield Garden State Plaza because, some say, he wanted to die.  What’s troublesome is the way in which he chose suicide….by scaring, frightening, terrorizing Americans.  He probably didn’t consider himself a terrorist; most white people don’t and that begs the question why don’t they?  I think I found the answer

They (white males) didn’t start out mad. No, they were driven crazy by the sense that the world had spun so far off its axis that there was no hope of righting it. Underneath that sense of victimhood, that sense that the corporations and the government were coconspirators in perpetrating the great fleecing of the American common man, lay a defining despair in making things right. And under that despair lay their tragic flaw, a deep and abiding faith in America, in its institutions and its ideals….. they believed that if they worked hard and lived right, they, too, could share in the American Dream. When it is revealed that no matter what you do, no matter how hard you work, that dreams are for Disneyland, then they morph into a tragic American Everymen, defeated by circumstances instead of rising above them.

In the near–ghost towns of America’s factory cities, white workers seethe into their beers, wondering where it all went wrong—and how it all went to hell so fast. Perhaps more menacingly, some of these obedient men have now been replaced by violent men, who lash out at their spouses, while their sons learn their lessons well, as they drive through suburban neighborhoods looking for immigrants to beat up, and even to kill…..

The white working class and the white middle class have rarely been so close emotionally as they are today; together they have drifted away from unions, from big government, from the Democratic Party, into the further reaches of the right wing. Together they listen to Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh. And together they watched Brad Pitt initiate Ed Norton into “Fight Club,” searching for something— anything—that would feel authentic, that would feel real. Middle-and working-class white men—well, they just are beginning to actually understand each other.

Add to this mix belief by far too many that Democrats, government and America’s first black President are intent on taking away their guns along with their  money and redistributing their wealth to those who don’t deserve….to those who they fear…..to Americans who they consider a threat to their very existence, then you can see why and how America’s white males strike out in ways that are reminiscent of terrorism. Yet because we don’t label these acts of murder and mayhem what they are, there is no need on the part of anyone to denounce them…far from it.  In fact to do so with an emphasis on the method of terrorism has been vehemently opposed by people on the right because it strikes too close to their notions of gun control.  So we are stuck in a cycle of violence, some say it is as American as apple pie, and terrorism and has been the case for most of our existence as a Nation, our biggest threat is ourselves.

 

What is offensive about this picture?


snorestop-hed-2013Evidently some in America don’t like the imagery of an American soldier hugging a niqaabi clad woman in this snorestop advertisement that’s appearing in California.  Too many of us are still in the business of deciding for others who they can and cannot mate with.  Perhaps that is the discontent many have with Obama; the thought that a white woman would actually have sex with an African man and produce a child that would be as competitive in the western world as any  white child is too fearful a thought for some.

America is too culturally diverse today to have such limitations placed on people and their choices. There are Americans embracing Islam and Muslim women/men are marrying them and many of them are in the US military. Neither act, accepting a religious belief and being American or in the service of your country  is mutually exclusive unless you’re a bigot who believes in really antiquated notions of racial superiority being diluted with co-mingling.

Meet the players behind the picture

Don’t think for one minute these people are serious about their jobs


113th CongressBecause they aren’t!!  I’m not being facetious, I’m serious.  The Republican controlled House, the Party currently running and ruining the show in Washington is NOT serious about governance, compromise, bipartisanship, ANYTHING except collecting their paycheck.  The party dedicated to reducing the budget, cutting entitlements, waste, fraud and everything else is one of the biggest loafers, welfare recipients to drain the government coffers and they do so by merely showing up for work and doing absolutely N-O-T-H-I-N-G. Remember this?  It was a year ago we brought you the work calendar for the House of Representatives which showed members of that body working a total of 126 days for all of 2013.  That’s a little over 4 months out of the year! Four!  Luckily they were scheduled to work two weeks in September and two weeks before the debt extension deadline but the week of the deadline date itself they were scheduled to be off!! They’ve gone and done one better for 2014.  Next year they’ve lopped off 13 days from their work schedule and will only work 113 days next year.  That’s less than 4 months out of the year. Take a look for yourself house-schedule-2014Last year I wrote

They (members of the House) 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.

Jed Lewison, writing for Daily Kos put up an interesting graphic comparing the congressional work schedule with that of the average American and the comparison is stark.  If you think there’s anyone in Congress who is a champion of your rights and values, unless you’re a crook, thief or Wall Street banker you should disinvest yourself of that notion right now.  Like anyone else who gets away with murder, or robbery, members of Congress are quite content to do as little as possible for as much as they can get! workcalendaranimated3second

This man deserves his props


Jason R. ThigpenI don’t know him, but I like what he’s written

After discussing it with my wife and family, I’ve decided to run as a Democrat rather than a Republican. I simply cannot stand with a Party where its most extreme element promote hate and division amongst people. Nothing about my platform has, nor will it change. The government shutdown was simply the straw that broke the camels back. I guess being an American just isn’t good enough anymore and I refuse to be part of an extremist movement in the GOP that only appears to thrive on fear and hate mongering of anyone and everyone who doesn’t walk their line. We’ve received some wonderful support by numerous leaders and members within the NC GOP, as the vast majority of Republicans are wonderful, hard-working people that don’t agree with those radical nut-jobs either but unfortunately the extremists in the party, with their ‘burn it all down’ philosophy, appear to be the ones turning out the majority of voters in the primaries and mid-term elections. And I want the people to know there is a choice.

Jason R. Thigpen

The new face of terrorism


Paul Anthony CianciaNo one yet is calling  Paul Anthony Ciancia, 23, a terrorist even though he walked into Los Angeles airport and shot three people, killing one, and the reason he’s not being called one is he cannot be directly tied to Islam or Muslims but that’s what he is.

We in America have politicized crime…only Muslims can be terrorists like only white homophobic men/women can commit hate crimes and in making this statement have diminished the criminal activity of the likes of Ciancia.  Everyone breathes a sigh of relief, Muslims, who won’t be blamed for this assault on America,  government and law enforcement officials, who won’t have to answer questions of how did this murderer escape their scrutiny that billions of dollars in their budgets is supposed to protect us from and perhaps even the general public, glad to be spared the hand wringing, woe and fear that attacks said to target their way of life brings …everyone except the innocent victims of Ciancia’s murderous, terrorist rampage…… all because we failed to use one word to describe him. Fix this America!