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Archive for the ‘Current Events’ Category

An exceedingly bad idea

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According to Forbes, Starbucks plans to begin encouraging baristas to engage in conversations about race with customers:

I tend to agree with the sentiments of Jessica Roy with New York magazine:

… there’s nothing a kid just trying to put himself through school wants more than to engage caffeine-starved rich people in fraught social discourse.

Written by Jeremy

March 17th, 2015 at 4:20 pm

Report: Police misconduct in Ferguson

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I can’t say that I’m surprised by the news that, according to a recently completed Justice Department report, city of Ferguson, Mo., police engaged in racially-driven profiling apparently with the goal of ramping up citations and arresting black folks, which, as a happy consequence, helped boost the city’s coffers. After all, next to sales tax, traffic and court fines are the largest source of revenue for the city, according to the report. The city will likely either settle with the Justice Department or face civil litigation.

A police force that is disproportionately white “protecting and serving” a population that is 63 percent black makes perfect sense if the aim is to keep the city’s bank accounts in the black, so to speak:

Blacks accounted for 86 percent of traffic stops in 2013 but make up 63 percent of the population, according to the most recent data published by the Missouri attorney general. And once they were stopped, black drivers were twice as likely to be searched, even though searches of white drivers were more likely to turn up contraband.

For people in Ferguson who cannot afford to pay their tickets, routine traffic stops can become yearslong ordeals, with repeated imprisonments because of mounting fines. Such fines are the city’s second-largest source of revenue after sales tax. Federal investigators say that has provided a financial incentive to continue law enforcement policies that unfairly target African-Americans.

At least as disturbing, or possibly more so, is what seems to be happening in Clanton, Ala., where the city is accused in a lawsuit of essentially running an old-time debtors’ prison to foster a kind of revolving door culture in which poor people continually get locked up or have to remain in jail because they can’t afford to pay the fines, with bail amounts allegedly based solely on the crime, not on a defendant’s “individual circumstances:”

“If Clanton’s bail system indeed fixes bond amounts based solely on the arrest charge, and does not take individual circumstances into account, the court should find this system to be unconstitutional. Not only are such schemes offensive to equal protection principles, they also constitute bad policy,” the Justice Department argued in the filing. …

Friday’s (Feb. 13) Justice Department filing argues that setting fixed dollar values on bail for certain crimes is unfair to poor people who may not be able to pay, and therefore remain in jail while others accused of the same crime, but who have money to pay bail, are free while they await a decision on their case.

“Bail practices that are indifferent to an individual’s ability to pay are incompatible with our Constitution and contrary to our values,” said Attorney General Eric Holder.

A lawyer for Clanton didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.

Since 1966, the federal court system has required judges to consider a variety of factors in setting bail or bond amounts–most important the level of danger a defendant poses or their likelihood they will flee. State court systems vary widely, and the Justice Department argues in its court filing that a number of different bail systems are acceptable, but that one which sets specific dollar charges for specific crimes without regard to a defendant’s ability to pay isn’t.

Written by Jeremy

March 2nd, 2015 at 10:35 pm

‘American Sniper’ bungles recent history

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Zack Beauchamp writes that the Clint Eastwood-directed movie “American Sniper,” which seems to have garnered gushing reviews from many of the right-of-center folks on my Facebook feed, not only gets history wrong, but it does a “disservice” to viewers, and much worse, Iraq War veterans and their families. As Beauchamp notes, the movie falsely gives the impression that the Iraq War was fought as a direct result of Sept. 11, 2001:

From the get-go, Chris Kyle’s military career is all about responding to terrorism. Kyle joins up after al-Qaeda bombs the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. We see him and his wife Taya’s stunned reactions to 9/11.

And then, bam. Kyle’s at war in Iraq. The film does not contain, as best I can tell, a single reference to George W. Bush, Saddam Hussein, or weapons of mass destruction. There’s no Dick Cheney, no Colin Powell at the UN, no anti-war protests. The film implies that the Iraq War was a deliberate response to 9/11.

In fact, the Bush administration premised its 2003 Iraq invasion primarily on the alleged threat of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. As National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice memorably put it, “we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.” The Bush administration repeatedly asserted that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was actively developing nuclear weapons and other programs it might use against the United States. Bush and some his top advisers had come into office, before 9/11 even occurred, believing that Saddam was a threat and discussing possible ways to remove him.

The war, in other words, was not actually about 9/11. And, crucially, the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction that were the basis of the war turned out not to exist.

It’s not just that American Sniper weirdly excises all of this history; it’s that the film replaces it with the implication that 9/11 gave America little choice but to invade Iraq, that the 2003 US invasion was something that happened to us, not something we chose to do. Chris Kyle repeatedly explains that he’s fighting to protect his family, again suggesting that the invasion was a necessary preemptive defense against Iraqi terrorists, when no such threat actually existed.

Nationalism. Portraying most Iraqis as “savages.” An overly simplistic, black and white worldview in which the hero must defeat the terrorists at all costs with no time or need to fret about gray areas in combat and diplomacy. Revisionist history. Sounds like a perfect Clint Eastwood joint. By all means, we should honor the service of the real man on which the movie is based, but mucking up history that wasn’t all that long ago isn’t the way to do it or honor other soldiers who sacrificed equally for the nation. 

But I can’t say that I expected much more from Eastwood, an NRA nut who, just 2 1/2 years ago, was having an extended conversation with an empty chair. In a bit of last-minute double irony, the war hero who was “untouchable” in Iraq, as The New York Times described Chris Kyle, was killed at a shooting range in Texas on a trip trying to help his friend recover from PTSD.

Written by Jeremy

January 22nd, 2015 at 9:08 pm

Fox News embarrasses itself; what else is new

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You mean Fox News invited a guest to go on national TV and let him spill some unchallenged, baseless claims about how Muslims are supposedly taking over a fair city in merry old England? Say it ain’t so?

A commentator named Steven Emerson apparently went on the air and said that Birmingham, England, was a “totally Muslim city,” and anchor Jeanine Pirro, apparently not one to be one-upped in the conspiracy theory category, said, “It sounds like a caliphate within a particular country.” Sort of like a mini-caliphate corroding free British society from within, I guess:

Notice how Pirro disingenuously just breezes through reading the lines like a spoiler child having to admit failure. Bad acting can’t mask insincerity.

Written by Jeremy

January 19th, 2015 at 5:30 pm

Tom Tomorrow on police unaccountability

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Credit: Tom Tomorrow

Credit: Tom Tomorrow

Written by Jeremy

January 16th, 2015 at 5:52 pm

Religion in its most sincere, unfiltered form

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Religion poisons everything, not the least of which is humanity itself:

These are obscene images. They depict two men thrown from the roof of a building as a crowd watches them fall to their deaths, and they purport to show the Islamic State (or ISIS) carrying out public executions before an audience in Iraq’s Nineveh province.

From Twitter

From Twitter

The two victims’ alleged crimes? They are believed to be gay. In another photo, woman accused of being an adulterer is stoned to death, and two men charged with thievery are bound to crucifixes. Victims are commonly crucified, sometimes after they have been killed, in ISIS public executions.

In these photos, ISIS members in black facemasks appear to shoot the crucified men from behind at point blank range as an audience of who appear to be local Iraqis looks on.

ISIS-affiliated social media feeds began spreading the images Thursday. Those accounts linked to a justpasteit.com file attributed to the “Information Office of the mandate of Nineveh,” an apparent propaganda arm tied to Islamic state press releases. The public executions appear to have taken place in Mosul, the capital of the Islamic State and Iraq’s second largest city sits in Nineveh province.

In areas of Iraq and Syria where ISIS has taken over, public executions are common. They have been a staple of the group’s puritanical interpretation of Islamic law since before it took control of Mosul and declared itself the Calpihate, or Islamic State.

In “Profiling the Islamic State” Charles Lister of the Brookings Institute’s Doha Center writes about ISIS’ version of Islamic governance:

“The implementation of a strict form of sharia law is clearly central to IS’s governance,” he writes. “This includes imposing the hudud (fixed Islamic punishments for serious crimes); enforcing attendance of the five daily prayers; banning drugs, alcohol, and tobacco; controlling personal appearance, including clothing; forbidding gambling, non-Islamic music, and gender mixing; and ordering the destruction of religious shrines, among other rules.”

Public executions in ISIS controlled areas enforce the group’s version of Sharia Law and serve to terrorize locals into strict obedience. Elsewhere, ISIS has used the tactic to intimidate its rivals.

Death is shown in high resolution—the killing carefully composed inside the frame. These images belong to a deliberate social media and information strategy. Like all good Internet propaganda the images are made to be readily “shareable” and appear to have been released with the intent that they travel to a broader audience. It worked. Obscene and merciless, it’s a reflection of the state of life under ISIS rule.

From In Graphic Photos and On Twitter, ISIS Members Record and Tout Executions of Gay Men.

If you haven’t read enough, here’s a report of more monstrosities conducted on the basis of passages in the Koran and the hadith.

Written by Jeremy

January 16th, 2015 at 5:50 pm

That about covers it

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Richard Haynes, with Brother Richard’s Life Without Faith blog, has called the likes of MSNBC, Sky News and CNN “cowards” and “hypocrites” for failing to have the balls to show the Charlie Hebdo cartoons.

That about sums it up.

As you can see from the video below, even as the woman is railing against the media’s decision not to show the images they say we should be offended by, Sky News’ cameraman angles the screen away from the main part of the magazine cover, and the segment is then interrupted by the anchorwoman, who apologizes to anyone who may have been offended, thus proving the woman’s point:

Perhaps the levels of disgrace approached these heights back during the Danish cartoon controversy from 2005, but the media’s response to the Charlie Hebdo cartoons, namely that of MSNBC, NPR, the New York Times and CNN, all of whom have refused to show even the most recent, less controversial cover of Muhammad shedding a tear, has been nothing short of pathetic.

To those outlets, Joe Concha has this unapologetic message:

You just rewarded the objective of terrorists everywhere: Intimidation wins, Sharia Law rules, First Amendment loses, expression is silenced.

Charlie Hebdo

Hitch on censorship

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Hitch’s commentary on the censorship of controversial cartoons is still relevant today:

AT&T foretells technological future

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AT&T can hardly take credit for all of these innovations, but this ad campaign from 1993-94 was amazingly prescient:

Here is a detailed look at some other early Internet ad campaigns. Today marks the 20th anniversary of the first banner ad online.

Written by Jeremy

October 27th, 2014 at 5:18 pm

CNN-bola

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Anderson Cooper had the gall today to say CNN isn’t trying to stir up fear with its almost continuous coverage of this Ebola stupidity, but instead, the station is “spreading information.”

Thousands dead in West Africa. Meh. Who cares? A handful of Americans threatened: Time to put the entire CNN machine on the case!

Bullshit.

Written by Jeremy

October 17th, 2014 at 12:09 am

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