Thursday, June 18, 2015

South Carolina and Our Twisted Normal

A vigil at the Morris Brown AME Church in Charleston, SC (Time)
In echoes of 1963 Birmingham, a white terrorist entered a church and killed nine people last night in Charleston, South Carolina. As we try to understand acts that are impossible to comprehend, we neglect to see that the attitudes motivating Dylann Roof are not isolated to one sick individual. There is a systemic problem we have refused to address that creates an environment in which someone like Dylann Storm Roof can operate.

As we decry Roof's donning of racist flags from Apartheid-era South Africa and Rhodesia, we ignore the fact that the Confederate flag - a treasonous symbol harking back to a time when blacks were owned as property - flies every day at the South Carolina State House.

As we bemoan the senseless act of violence, made possible by Storm's access to guns, we brush aside the fact that the morning paper in Charleston with the headline "Church attack kills 9" also contained an ad for a local gun shop, inviting local ladies to come and enjoy some shooting.

We try to ignore our past, despite the fact that there are not-so-subtle signs of it all over the country, particularly in South Carolina. Very few would look back on legalized segregation in this country fondly, but one of them is immortalized with a statue in Columbia, South Carolina.

We ask ourselves why things like this happen, but days later we go back to "normal" A normal where the Confederate flag will still be flown at the SC State House. A normal where the ATP Gun Shop and Range will still be advertising their deadly wares. A normal where, eventually, this will happen again. Until we take a good, long look in the mirror and try to figure out how to fix the entire system we will continue to repeat history, to horrific results.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

DOJ Not Bringing Civil Rights Charges in Michael Brown Case

Attorney General Eric Holder (Huffington Post)
After no indictment was handed down in Missouri in the case of Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson for killing Michael Brown, many people turned to Washington. A hope existed that Attorney General Eric Holder's comments about his own experience with America's police would help guide the Department of Justice toward bringing civil rights charges against Wilson. This was misguided for many reasons.

The most glaring problem with thinking this was a possibility was the case of Trayvon Martin. The circumstances following Martin's death at the hands of overzealous neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman could be seen as more favorable for a civil rights charge, especially considering that Zimmerman was not a police officer.

Eric Holder's Department of Justice, however, did not bring charges against Zimmerman, citing insufficient evidence. If the DOJ decided not to pursue a case against Zimmerman, there was little doubt that Wilson's case would be any different.

Looking even beyond the homicides of young black men in America, Eric Holder has promoted extrajudicial killings overseas of American citizens. His Department of Justice advocated for the killing of U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, a Muslim cleric living in Yemen who was accused of aiding terrorism against the United States. Moves like that erode our protections as citizens against overzealous American state actors, the very same charge levied by many towards Darren Wilson.

Eric Holder is not a savior, in fact his time as Attorney General has been marred by statements and actions that diminish American justice rather than uphold and strengthen it. Holder leads the United States Department of Justice, the very embodiment of the system that many rail against during protests against police brutality. Holder may be able to verbalize the concerns many in America have about our country's policing, but that does not mean he will act against it.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

#JeSuisCharlie is About Freedom of Speech, Not Its Content

A collection of "I Am  Charlie" sayings in various languages (CNN)
A few days out from the terror attack at Charlie Hebdo in response to that magazine's satirical cartoons, we've seen the emergence of the Hot Take express based on the social media movement around #JeSuisCharlie. Translated from French, the hashtag means "I Am Charlie" and was posted as a sign of solidarity with both the victims of the attack and freedom of expression.

That didn't seem to sit right with some people. Rather than seeing the movement for what it is - a gesture of support for the right to publish whatever one wants - some saw it as support of the content of Charlie Hebdo. Simply put, that's a shortsighted view of those who came out in support of Charlie Hebdo after their staff was brutally murdered for publishing uncouth cartoons.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Media Should Not Help Stifle Freedom of Expression

Parisians coming together after Tuesday's terrorist attack (Ian Bremmer's Twitter)
There are no words that can sum up the evil visited upon the 12 victims in Paris today, sparked by satirical cartoons lampooning Islam. Those who use violence against innocents to try to prove a point simply lack the intelligence and rational thought to achieve their ends any other way.

And so it is with the these terrorists. They were so offended (on behalf of a supposedly omnipotent and all-powerful being) that they decided to kill the people responsible for publishing a cartoon and anyone who got in their way. The response throughout the day once the news became widespread is yet more evidence that the pen can and will outlast the sword.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

A Time to Come Together, Not Apart

A memorial for PO Liu and PO Ramos in Brooklyn. (Source)
Last night's assassination of Police Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos was a tragedy. There is no other way to describe it. Two men simply doing their job gunned down in cold blood as they sat in their cruiser. The killer furthered his cowardly act by turning the gun on himself, escaping the responsibility of answering for his actions. Any sane individual mourns with the city of New York and the NYPD over this senseless tragedy.

A moment like this should unite a city that has already seen such unrest the past few weeks. Unfortunately, pundits, politicians and others who gain from division have jumped on the opportunity to politicize this. Long Island Congressman Peter King (who has previously supported cop-killers) has used this tragedy to point the finger at people like Bill de Blasio and President Barack Obama for their "cop bashing," suggesting some kind of link between yesterday's killer and the president of the United States.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Jake Tapper's Defensiveness Highlights Cable News Shortcomings

This evening a friend of the blog called out CNN The Lead reporter Jake Tapper, on a point about terrorists killing other Muslims in the name of Islam. The following was the last paragraph in a blog post on The Lead's blog about online terrorist chatter regarding Malaysia Airlines Flight 370:
"But there's been a very strong push back from some of these jihadist forums that there were Muslims on board, an so taking down an airplane that killed Muslims was at its core an act not supported by Islam," said Jones.
This is a classic bullshit argument by terrorist organizations like Al Qaida, who claim that killing co-religionists goes against Islam and, thus, against their murderous dogma. It is well known that Al Qaida actually murders more Muslims than any other group of people in their terrorist acts, which Nihar called out to Tapper.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Attorney General Eric Holder Must Go

Attorney General Eric Holder (Source: NBC News)
In what has proven an incredibly disappointing tenure by Attorney General Eric Holder, in which he, among other things, claimed that "due process" was not "judicial process," the last straw may have (hopefully) just seen the light of day. NBC News is reporting that Holder personally approved the secret seizure of Fox News reporter James Rosen's private emails.

Unlike the AP case, where Holder has stated that he recused himself because he had been interviewed by the FBI for the investigation, this Fox News case shows how far the Obama administration will go in its quest to control information. That the administration went beyond finding the source of the leak, which was intelligence analyst Stephen Kim, and tracked Rosen's movements to of the State Department to prove he was meeting with Kim.