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“Cop Killers Serve No Cause”: It’s Getting To The Point Where No Lives Matter

How can anyone ever explain this to Mason?

He’s only 4 months old, so that moment still lies years in the future. Still, at some point, too soon, he will ask the inevitable questions, and someone will have to tell him how his dad was shot to death for being a police officer in Baton Rouge.

Montrell Jackson was not the only cop killed Sunday, nor the only one who left a child behind. Officer Matthew Gerald and Sheriff’s Deputy Brad Garafolo also had kids. And it’s likely that in killing five police officers earlier this month, a sniper in Dallas robbed multiple children of their fathers, too.

So there are a lot of people having painful discussions with a lot of kids just now. But Mason’s father was the only one of these eight dead cops with the maddening and paradoxical distinction of being an African-American man killed in protest of police violence against African-American people. He left a Facebook post that gave a glimpse into how frustrating it was, living on both sides of that line — being both black and a cop and therefore, doubly distrusted.

“I swear to God,” he wrote, “I love this city but I wonder if this city loves me. In uniform I get nasty hateful looks and out of uniform some consider me a threat.”

“Please,” he pleaded, “don’t let hate infect your heart.”

Nine days later, he was dead.

Counting two New York City policemen murdered in 2014, this makes at least 10 cops randomly killed in the last two years by people ostensibly fighting police brutality. But those madmen could hardly be bigger traitors to that cause.

One is reminded of something Martin Luther King said the night before his assassination, when he explained “the problem with a little violence.” Namely, it changes the discussion, makes itself the focus. King had been protesting on behalf of striking sanitation workers in Memphis when unruly young people turned his march into a riot. “Now … we’ve got to march again,” he said, “in order to put the issue where it is supposed to be.”

These cop killers leave us a similar dilemma. Instead of discussing the violence of police, we are now required to discuss violence against police and to say the obvious: These killers serve no cause, nor does any cause justify what they did. They are just punk cowards with guns who have changed the subject, thereby giving aid and comfort to those who’d rather not confront the issue in the first place.

But if we don’t, then what? One often hears men like Rudy Giuliani and Bill O’Reilly express contempt for the Black Lives Matter movement of protest and civil disobedience; one is less likely to hear either of them specify what other means of protest they would suggest for people whose concerns about racially biased and extralegal policing have been otherwise ignored for decades by government and media. If not Black Lives Matter, then what? Patient silence? Acceptance of the status quo?

That isn’t going to happen, and the sooner the nation understands this, the sooner it moves forward. Sadly, that move, whenever it comes, will be too late for Mason and dozens of others left newly fatherless, sonless, brotherless, husbandless and bereft. Still, we have to move. The alternative is to remain stuck in this place of incoherence, fear, racial resentment … and rage. Always rage.

But rage doesn’t think, rage doesn’t love, rage doesn’t build, rage doesn’t care. Rage only rends and destroys.

We have to be better than that. We have no choice but to be better than that. We owe it to Mason to be better than that. He deserves a country better than this mad one in which his father died, and life is poured out like water.

Jocelyn Jackson, Montrell’s sister, put it best in an interview with the Washington Post. “It’s getting to the point where no lives matter,” she said.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist, The Miami Herald; The National Memo, July 21, 2016

July 24, 2016 Posted by | Gun Deaths, Law Enforcement, Police Brutality, Police Shootings | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Bandwagon Effect”: How Trump’s Dog Whistles Work

The headline from an article by Jill Colvin and Matthew Daly caught my eye: Trump: ‘A Lot Of People’ Feel That Black Lives Matter Is ‘Inherently Racist.” Here’s the context:

Trump also had harsh words for the Black Lives Matters movement, which has organized some of the protests. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a Trump adviser, labeled the group “inherently racist” over the weekend in an interview with CBS News.

“When you say black lives matter, that’s inherently racist,” Giuliani said. “Black lives matter. White lives matter. Asian lives matter. Hispanic lives matter. That’s anti-American and it’s racist.”

Asked whether he agreed with Giuliani’s assessment, Trump said the group’s name is “divisive.”

“A lot of people agree with that. A lot of people feel that it is inherently racist. And it’s a very divisive term,” he said. “Because all lives matter. It’s a very, very divisive term.”

We could talk about the racism being expressed by both Giuliani and Trump in that exchange. But the framing of Trump’s statement is something he does very often; “A lot of people agree with that. A lot of people feel…” It is a logical fallacy called argumentum ad populum.

…a fallacious argument that concludes that a proposition is true because many or most people believe it: “If many believe so, it is so.”

We sometimes call this the “bandwagon effect” captured by the Chinese proverb, “three men make a tiger.”

“Three men make a tiger” refers to an individual’s tendency to accept absurd information as long as it is repeated by enough people. It refers to the idea that if an unfounded premise or urban legend is mentioned and repeated by many individuals, the premise will be erroneously accepted as the truth.

Jenna Jones noticed Trump’s attachment to this fallacy about a month ago and documented how he used it to spread his conspiracy theories. For example, when he was asked to explain a statement about how President Obama doesn’t understand Muslim terrorists, he said this:

“Well,” Trump said on the “Today Show” Monday morning, “there are a lot of people that think maybe he doesn’t want to get it. A lot of people think maybe he doesn’t want to know about it. I happen to think that he just doesn’t know what he’s doing, but there are many people that think maybe he doesn’t want to get it. He doesn’t want to see what’s really happening. And that could be.”

Here’s what he said in an attempt to insinuate that the Clintons were involved in the death of Vince Foster:

“I don’t bring [Foster’s death] up because I don’t know enough to really discuss it,” Trump said in an interview with The Post in May. “I will say there are people who continue to bring it up because they think it was absolutely a murder. I don’t do that because I don’t think it’s fair.”

Jones points out that this is how Trump maneuvers in order to be able to backtrack when circumstances require him to do so.

Trump frequently couches his most controversial comments this way, which allows him to share a controversial idea, piece of tabloid gossip or conspiracy theory without technically embracing it. If the comment turns out to be popular, Trump will often drop the distancing qualifier — “people think” or “some say.” If the opposite happens, Trump can claim that he never said the thing he is accused of saying, equating it to retweeting someone else’s thoughts on Twitter.

What is important to remember is the part about why he does it in the first place. It is a way for Trump to give a wink and a nod to white supremacists and conspiracy theorists to say, “I hear you, I’m with you.” That is his way of doing dog whistle politics.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, July 12, 2016

July 13, 2016 Posted by | Black Lives Matter, Donald Trump, Racism | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Counter To The Facts”: Pushing For Mosque Surveillance, Fox News Is Fighting The Last War

Reaching for one of its favorite War on Terror talking points, Fox News is leading a charge in the wake of the Orlando gun massacre to push for surveillance of mosques in America. Convinced that a pressing response to the attack on a gay nightclub is for law enforcement to keep close tabs on Muslims at prayer, Fox News continues to hype the initiative as a solution to pending terror threats in the United States — and specifically, to stem the tide of ISIS recruitment in America.

But there’s no indication domestic mosque surveillance uncovers useful terror information. Just ask the New York Police Department, whose extensive, post-9/11 Muslim surveillance program turned out to be a “failure by any reasonable standard,” according to the Cato Institute.

And now with ISIS focusing its recruitment online and hoping for self-radicalization among converts, the notion that law enforcement can round up ISIS sympathizers meeting and plotting inside American mosques runs counter to the facts.

Nonetheless, Fox News is pushing for the divisive, Bush-era tactic to be revived and embraced. “How stupid is it to pull police officers out of the mosques? Absolutely stupid,” Rudy Giuliani complained on Fox News this week, while Greg Gutfeld compared Islam to biker gangs and suggested both needed to be watched closely to head off crime sprees.

Not surprisingly, Fox News is echoing allegations often made by members of the Republican Party about how mosques are a breeding ground for homegrown terrorism and need to be spied on.

“I want surveillance of certain mosques if that’s OK,” Republican Party presumptive nominee Donald Trump told a crowd in Birmingham, Ala. last November. That same week Trump announced he’d “strongly consider” shutting down mosques in the U.S. Trump raised the idea again earlier this week at a rally in Atlanta, saying, “We have to maybe check, respectfully, the mosques and we have to check other places because this is a problem that, if we don’t solve it, it’s going to eat our country alive.”

For years, New York Republican Congressman Peter King, with the help of Fox News, led an anti-mosque crusade, complete with congressional hearings that were denounced as being McCarthy-like.

Today’s endorsement of mosque surveillance represents Fox News’ long-running attempt to collectively criminalize Islam in America and to often portray Muslims as would-be terrorists. (Recall the open hysteria Fox News helped foment in its opposition to the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” in 2011.)

But Fox News’ advocacy for mosque surveillance, and its suggestion that it would help ferret out dangerous ISIS sympathizers, runs counter to recent events and counter to research that indicates those handful of American Muslims who embrace deadly violence are mostly self-radicalized and they become that way online, not by listening to sermons from radical Imams in U.S. mosques.

In the wake of recent terror attacks in Boston, San Bernardino and Orlando, there were no findings that the bombers and gunmen were radicalized in their local mosques or planned their attacks there; that the mosques were in any way directly connected to the acts of violence. There were no sweeping indictments made by law enforcement.

In fact in Boston, bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev had been threatened with expulsion from his mosque after he angrily interrupted a speaker who compared Prophet Muhammad with Dr. Martin Luther King. “The congregation shouted him out of the mosque,”said a spokesman for the mosque.

And that fits what researchers have been reporting in recent years.

Last December, George Washington University’s Program on Extremism issued a report, “ISIS in America: From Retweets to Raqqa.” It showed “how social media plays a crucial role in the radicalization and, at times, mobilization of U.S.-based ISIS sympathizers,” according to the university.

Key points from the report included:

  • “Several thousand Americans consume ISIS propaganda online creating what has been described as a ‘radicalization echo chamber.’ “
  • “Twitter is ‘by far the platform of choice’ for American activists to connect. Other routes include Facebook, Google+ and Tumblr, along with messaging services like ‘Kik, Telegram, surespot, and the dark web.’”

Additionally, the report noted that jihadist radicalization in the United States is “significantly smaller” than in most European countries, in part because of fewer “radicalizing agents” in America, such as “radical mosques, extremist preachers, and recruiting networks.”

Also last year, Scott Atran, co-founder of the Center for the Resolution of Intractable Conflict at Oxford University, reported his research indicated, “More than 80 per cent who join the Islamic State do so through peer-to-peer relationships, mostly with friends and sometimes family. Very few join in mosques or through recruitment by anonymous strangers.”

The Associated Press reported that Atran told a meeting of the United Nations’ Security Council’s counter-terrorism committee that “radicalization rarely occurs in mosques.”

Meanwhile, a 2010 study by researchers at Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that the number of radicalized Muslims in the U.S. was relatively low and that Muslim-American communities effectively prevent radicalization.

Rather than being a spawning ground for extremism, there are indications mosques are actively working to thwart it. That same 2010 study found “48 of the 120 Muslims suspected of plotting domestic terrorist attacks since Sept. 11, 2001, were turned in by fellow Muslims, including parents, mosque members and even a Facebook friend,” The New York Times reported.

Last year, the Times examined ISIS’ recruiting efforts in the United States and detailed one example of a local Imam dissuading a possible convert named Amir:

Amir then had some long talks with Imam Magid, who pointed him to passages in the Quran that forbid killing other Muslims, innocent women and children. Amir concluded that the Islamic State was only sowing chaos and hatred, which the Prophet Muhammad abhorred.

That kind of pushback against extremism from mosque leaders might be one reason why the NYPD’s massive surveillance program produced so little useful information. The operation, which remained secret for years, not only infiltrated mosques, but assigned detectives to map out entire Muslim communities, as well as track Muslims’ daily activities, and investigate college students.

The goal was to “sniff out would-be terrorists before they could launch attacks,” according to the Cato Institute.

Fox News likes to pretend it was an intelligence success, which is why it must be resuscitated. “We broke so many, so many plots by eavesdropping on these radical mosques,” Fox News’ Bo Dietl claimed last year.

In fact, the exact opposite was true.

“In more than six years of spying on Muslim neighborhoods, eavesdropping on conversations and cataloguing mosques, the New York Police Department’s secret Demographics Unit never generated a lead or triggered a terrorism investigation, the department acknowledged in court testimony unsealed late Monday,” the Associated Press reported.

Correct. Six years of mosque surveillance in New York City in the wake of 9/11 did not produce a single lead or trigger one terrorism investigation for the NYPD.

But now Fox News thinks in an age of online recruiting, snooping on U.S. mosques is the answer to unearthing terror threats?

 

By: Eric Boehlert, Media Matters for America, June 16, 2016

June 20, 2016 Posted by | American Muslims, Fox News, Orlando Shootings, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Unwrapping Falwell’s Trump Endorsement”: Trump “Reminds Me So Much Of My Father”

On the surface, the political dynamic is baffling. Jerry Falwell Jr., the son of a legendary right-wing TV preacher and the head of one of the nation’s largest evangelical universities, threw his official political support behind Donald Trump – a secular, thrice-married casino owner who’s never really demonstrated any interest in, or knowledge of, matters of faith.

And yet, here we are. Falwell has not only offered a spirited (no pun intended) endorsement to the Republican frontrunner, he’s even gone so far as to say Trump “reminds me so much of my father.”

There’s a fair amount to a story like this one, but let’s start with a blast from the recent past.

In November 2007, another thrice-married New York Republican was running for president, who also had a secular track record of supporting abortion rights and gay rights. And yet, a high-profile televangelist – Christian Coalition president and Christian Broadcasting Network founder Pat Robertson – nevertheless threw his support to that GOP candidate, Rudy Giuliani.

Social conservative activists and leading religious right groups howled, for reasons that are probably obvious. Giuliani was the antithesis of everything evangelicals were looking for in a Republican presidential candidate, and yet, Robertson ignored his allies and threw in his lot with the secular, Catholic adulterer.

Why? Because Robertson’s priorities weren’t (and aren’t) at all similar to those of many other evangelical leaders: the “700 Club” host saw a Republican leading in the polls; he wanted a seat at the table with a man he perceived as a future president; and so Robertson followed the prevailing political winds.

With the benefit of hindsight, we know this was a poor bet – Giuliani failed spectacularly as a candidate, earning exactly zero delegates – but it was a reminder that Robertson is a partisan first and a culture-war ideologue second, while other prominent social conservatives reverse the two.

And Robertson isn’t the only social conservative who thinks this way.

In the current GOP race, prominent political evangelical leaders effectively limited their top choices to five Republican presidential hopefuls: Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, and Ben Carson. Trump was an afterthought.

Cruz emerged as the religious right movement’s standard bearer, but like Robertson eight years ago, that didn’t stop Jerry Falwell Jr. from going his own way.

Of course, there’s also the larger question of why Falwell’s fellow evangelicals would even consider Trump in the first place. We can’t say with certainty whether the Liberty University president has partisan or electoral motivations, but that’s a separate question from what other social conservatives are thinking as they, too, rally behind Trump.

The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent published a good piece on this last week.

Instead, Trump’s success among evangelical voters may be rooted in the fact that, more than any other GOP candidate, Trump is able to speak to their sense of being under siege. Trump somehow conveys that he understands on a gut level that both Christianity and the country at large are under siege, and what’s more, he is not constrained by politically correct niceties from saying so and proposing drastic measures to reverse this slide into chaos and godlessness.

I recently talked to Robert Jones, the CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute, who has been studying evangelical opinion for many years. His research has led him to believe that Trump is very good at speaking to evangelicals’ sense of a lost, mythical golden age in America that predates the political and cultural turmoil of the 1960s.

In other words, we’re talking about a group of voters – largely white, older, social conservatives – who hear Trump vowing to “make America great again,” and believe him, without much regard for his ignorance about religion, his messy personal life, or his previous policy positions.

If a secular, thrice-married casino owner who uses phrases like “Two Corinthians” is eager to champion a vision of a bygone era, these evangelicals appear to care more about the message than the messenger.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, January 26, 2016

January 27, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Evangelicals, Jerry Falwell Jr | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Stew Of Resentment And Hatred”: Republicans Say Obama Has Been Historically Divisive. That’s Very, Very Revealing

There’s no doubt that when historians assess the Obama presidency, they will pay a great deal of attention to the deep political divisions within the country, and how those divisions shaped political events. There are racial divisions, class divisions, and, most of all, political divisions. Within Congress, for instance, the parties have been moving apart for the last 40 years, as fewer and fewer moderates get elected and the median of both parties moves toward the edge. But the reality is that while Democrats have moved left, Republicans have been moving right much more sharply — a fact not only established by political science but evident to anyone remotely familiar with Capitol Hill.

Yet Republicans are sure that the fault for all this — long-term trends and recent developments alike — can be laid at the feet of Barack Obama, who is terribly, appallingly, despicably divisive.

If we are divided, it’s only because Obama has divided us. “We have not seen such a divisive figure in modern American history” as Barack Obama, Marco Rubio said in 2012. Four years later, his opinion hasn’t changed; last week he tweeted, “This president has been the single most divisive political figure this country has had over the last decade.” After Obama’s recent State of the Union address, Ted Cruz fumed, “He lectures us on civility yet has been one of the most divisive presidents in American history.” Or as one Republican congressman said last week, “There probably has not been a more racially-divisive, economic-divisive president in the White House since we had presidents who supported slavery.” You won’t find too many Republicans who would disagree.

Yet if you spend some time investigating what evidence Republicans offer when they call Obama divisive, what you find is not actually evidence at all, but their own skewed interpretations of events. “He says ‘It’s my way or the highway’ on legislation!”, they charge — although he doesn’t actually say that. It’s just that he has a different legislative agenda than they do. “He crammed ObamaCare down our throats!” — this is a sentence that has been written and spoken a thousand times (just Google it for yourself). Back on Planet Earth, the Affordable Care Act spent over a year going through endless hearings, floor speeches, and debates, and in the end passed the House and Senate and was signed by the president, which you may recall is how a bill becomes a law.

Here’s the truth: You might like Barack Obama or you might not; you might think he has been a good president or a bad one. But the idea that blame for the political divisions we confront lies solely or even primarily at his door is positively deranged.

Let’s just remind ourselves of how Republicans have treated Obama over his seven years in office, with a few of the greatest hits. You can start right on the day of his inauguration, when congressional Republicans gathered for a dinner at which they decided that rather than seek areas of cooperation with the new president, they would employ a strategy of maximum confrontation and obstruction in order to deny him any legislative victories.

They followed through on this plan. As Mitch McConnell explained proudly in 2010, “Our top political priority over the next two years should be to deny Barack Obama a second term.”

At Obama’s speech in front of Congress in 2009, a Republican member of the House, acting like a drunk frat boy in a comedy club, decided to heckle him, shouting “You lie!” In the time since, conservative Republicans have regularly acted as though Obama is presumptuous for even acting like the president; they’ve suggested things like not inviting him to deliver the SOTU, or depriving him of the use of Air Force One.

And then there’s the question of how they explain it when Obama does things they don’t like. Before you protest that Obama himself sometimes questions his opponents’ motives, it’s important to realize that when he does so, it’s in a narrow way focused on the issue at hand — they really want to cut taxes for the wealthy, they don’t think women ought to have access to abortion, they’re too eager to start a new war, and so on — to explain their behavior at a particular moment. What he doesn’t do, and what he has never done, is accuse them of hating their country. But this is something Republicans have done constantly — not once or twice, not a dozen times or even a hundred, but constantly for seven years.

“I do not believe that the president loves America,” said Rudy Giuliani last year, in a statement notable only for being a tad more explicit than the way Republicans usually talk about this question.”He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country.” Often they will argue that the policies they disagree with are part of a secret plan of Obama’s to hamper, diminish, or even destroy the country. Among the things said in the last debate by Marco Rubio — supposedly the reasonable establishment candidate — were that Obama “believes that America is an arrogant global power that needs to be cut down to size,” that when elected in 2008 he “didn’t want to fix America,” that he “doesn’t believe in the Constitution,” and that he “doesn’t believe in the free enterprise system.”

In fact, any time you hear a Republican begin a sentence with “Barack Obama believes…” it’s an absolute guarantee that what follows will be an utter lie about how Obama doesn’t accept the basic values nearly all Americans agree on, that his ideas are alien and threatening. As Newt Gingrich said in 2010, “What if he is so outside our comprehension, that only if you understand Kenyan, anticolonial behavior, can you begin to piece together [his actions]? That is the most accurate, predictive model for his behavior.”

Their voters believe it — indeed, many if not most of them believe that Obama is not American at all. A recent poll by the Democratic firm PPP found that only 29 percent of Republicans would grant that the president is an American citizen. A majority of Republicans also believe he is a Muslim; in other words, that when he goes to church or talks about his Christian beliefs, he’s just lying. Polls have shown similar findings for much of his presidency. A poll by the same firm just after the 2012 election showed 49 percent of Republicans saying ACORN stole the election for Obama (which would have been quite a feat, since the organization ceased to exist in 2010).

They don’t get these ideas from nowhere. They get them from the leading lights of the GOP, the politicians and media figures who tell them day in and day out that Obama hates them and hates America, and that he is a black nationalist whose policy proposals are about exacting reparations from whites for imaginary racial sins of the past.

If you’re even a marginally aware conservative, you’ve been marinating for seven years in this toxic stew of resentment and hatred. So no one should be surprised that this year Republican voters are angry. But that’s Obama’s fault too, of course — you might have heard many of them blame the fact that their party has been taken over by a xenophobic blowhard on, you guessed it, Barack Obama.

Yes, it was terribly poor manners of him to make them hate him so, to bring out such ugliness in Republicans. But what choice did they have? And this is the best explanation for their argument that Obama is so terribly divisive: it’s projection. They’re blaming him for their own shortcomings, their own misdeeds, the political divisions that they have worked so hard to exacerbate.

“It’s one of the few regrets of my presidency,” Obama said in his State of the Union address this year, “that the rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better. I have no doubt a president with the gifts of Lincoln or Roosevelt might have better bridged the divide.” Maybe, but probably not.

Obama could have invited more Republicans to play golf with him, or invested more time trying to convince them that the Affordable Care Act was a good idea. But would those things — or anything he might have done — really changed how they acted? The party who wouldn’t work with him on any legislation, who shut down the government, who vilified him from the moment he took office, who literally made him show his birth certificate to prove he’s an American? Not a chance.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Week, January 19, 2016

January 22, 2016 Posted by | Congress, GOP, Racism, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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