Watch ‘Christian’ RWNJs Blame Texas Flood Victims For Living Among ‘Gays’ And ‘Witches’ (VIDEO)

Are these people really that dense…?

ADDICTING INFO

The catastrophic flooding taking over Texas as of late is, naturally, overwhelming. People are dying, homes are being destroyed, along with thousands and thousands of lives that will have to find a way to start over from damn near nothing, from whatever they could throw in the car as they fled the flood’s path, if they were even that lucky. And while people around the country are scrambling to figure out how to help, as well as rationally, scientifically what leads to such massive weather-related events, there are others, devoid of science, compassion and humanity who would simply rather view it as an opportunity to cast judgment, proselytize and blame it all on God’s hatred for witches and “teh gays.”

As even beer companies find a humane, moral bone in their corporate bodies (if only for the opportunity of amazing PR advertising), compelling them to halt production of the bubbly suds for a while in order to, instead, can water for those in desperate need, RWNJ and “Christian” radio host Bryan Fischer and his audience are busy sitting on their asses coming up with bunk “Christian” theories like blaming the LGBTQ community and nonbelievers for the devastation.

“Rebecca in College Station, Texas,” called in Thursday to offer her theory to Fischer, obviously filled with Christian love and concern for others. Rebecca pointed out to Fischer that the portions of Texas hardest hit and deepest underwater due to the rains and flooding, are areas “that are overrun with witchcraft and sodomy,” referring specifically to Austin and Houston, which also, she gladly points out, is run by a “sodomite mayor.”

On the other hand, Rebecca righteously points out, where she lives there was no such devastation despite her living in a valley, and she attributes that marvel to her area because “we kicked out abortion.” She also says they were spared because folks in her parts are especially conservative.

Rebecca concluded:

“If God is judging Texas, it’s because of the witchcraft and sodomy that we’ve allowed to run rampant.”

Rampant! Rebecca says if you go to areas like Austin and Houston “you can just see it.” It’s so RAMPANT. You can hardly drive a block without a couple of queer witches pouring KY potions all over themselves or casting spells of latex and leather. Rainbows blot out the skies and the moon shines like a purple triangle.

Fischer, of course, agrees, stating that, if one is going to attribute supernatural causes to the floods in Texas, what Rebecca is saying makes a lot of sense. It also make a lot of sense that thousands of dragons are evacuating bladders filled with the blood of virgins upon Texas if you look at it from a fantasy point of view. You could go on and on with various insanities if coming up with wild theories through any tin pan alley theory.

Fischer responds to Rebecca, though:

“If you’re going to attribute the flooding in Texas to some kind of supernatural cause, you can make a geographical connection between the flooding and the practice of the occult and witchcraft and the embrace of homosexuality. That’s where the disaster is being felt the wors[t].”

Fischer goes on to compare Austin and Houston to Sodom and Gomorrah, as readers likely expected, stating that the disasters that overwrought both cities was very centralized to those two cities for the most part, just like Austin and Houston, and everyone knows just how gay and magical Sodom and Gomorrah were – like Studio 54 on Viagra and MDMA combined, and all the “blow” you want. Fischer stated:

“[Natural disaster] just wiped out those two cities where homosexuality had been embraced [so] if you’re going to make a case that there is some supernatural origin to this natural disaster, that would probably be the place to look.”

Right. Forget help. Forget organizing aid. Just dismissively swat your hands at the Texas flooding victims as being gay, or Wiccan, and forget them, right after you shake your head at how gay and filled with witchery folks who live in cities are. Don’t even consider that those dying may be straight, devout Christians, themselves. That’s what they get for even living amongst or passing through cities containing gay folks and “witches,” right? Show them God’s love by judging them to hell and forgetting them in likely their greatest time of need.

The victims of the Great Texas Flood thank you kindly for your help, Mr. Fischer. You and your audience are certainly making all the difference for those devastated by this latest natural disaster.

10 things you need to know today: May 29, 2015

(AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

THE WEEK

1.Ex-House speaker Hastert accused of evading currency-reporting law
Former House speaker Dennis Hastert was indicted Thursday on charges that he tried to hide $3.5 million in hush money he allegedly paid someone to keep quiet about past misconduct. Hastert, 73, is accused of trying to mask nearly $1 million in bank withdrawals to avoid banking laws requiring banks to report cash transactions over $10,000. He also is accused of lying about the withdrawals to the FBI. Both counts carry up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Source: The Associated Press

2.FIFA’s embattled president, Sepp Blatter, faces reelection
FIFA officials are voting Friday on whether to give President Sepp Blatter a fifth term. Blatter has faced calls to resign since a corruption scandal erupted this week at the organization — soccer’s global governing body. He is expected to defeat his sole challenger, Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan, but Hussein gained support ahead of the vote. Blatter on Thursdayaddressed the scandal for the first since the Wednesday arrests of nine FIFA officials, denying blame. “We, or I, cannot monitor everyone all of the time,” Blatter said.

Source: BBC News, The New York Times

3.Pataki formally announces presidential bid
Former New York governor George Pataki, a moderate Republican, announced on Thursday that he would run for the White House in 2016. Pataki adds one more long-shot candidacy to an already crowded field, with more contenders expected to join the race soon. Pataki served for three terms, but has not held office since 2006. Lacking national name recognition, he polls behind a dozen GOP rivals. Announcing his candidacy with a swipe at Democrat Hillary Clinton for her high speaking fees. “She speaks for the middle class?” he said.

Source: Reuters

4.Volcanic eruption forces evacuation of small Japanese island
Japanese authorities ordered the evacuation of the small island of Kuchinoerabu on Friday after a volcano, Mount Shindake, erupted there. At least one person suffered minor burns from falling debris after the volcano sent rocks and black smoke into the sky, and a dense flow of rocks and hot gases toward the sea. The injured man and two others were airlifted out, and 133 others were evacuated by boats. Shindake also erupted last August, for the first time since 1980.

Source: The New York Times

5.Veterans overcharged for student loans to get refunds
The Department of Justice has arranged for military veterans who were illegally charged too much interest on student loans to receive up to $100,000 in refunds. Student loan service provider Navient Corp., formerly known as Sallie Mae, will begin issuing refunds in June. A total of $60 million has been set aside for 77,795 veterans overcharged when Navient violated a required 6 percent cap on interest rates for some loans. The average veteran will receive $770.

Source: The New York Times

6.Journal retracts high-profile study on gay-marriage views
The journal Science on Thursday retracted a December article on shifting attitudes toward same-sex marriage. The highly publicized study concluded that people’s attitudes toward gay marriage could be changed through brief face-to-face conversations. The study’s senior author, Columbia University political scientist Donald Green, asked for the retraction after his co-author, University of California graduate student Michael LaCour, declined to provide the raw data on which he based his conclusions. LaCour stood by his work.

Source: The New York Times

7.Christie changes his mind on Common Core education standards
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) announced Thursday that he was abandoning the Common Core program and calling for state education officials to develop new education standards. Christie once support the controversial Common Core, but said in the five years since its adoption it had created “confusion and frustration” for parents and created unanticipated new problems. “The truth is that it’s simply not working,” Christie said. “We need to do something different.”

Source: CBS News

8.N.C. governor vows to veto bill letting officials refuse to perform marriages
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) said Thursday that he would veto a newly passed bill that would let magistrate judges refuse to perform marriages due to their religious beliefs. The bill does not single out same-sex marriages, but opponents say it would result in discrimination against gay couples, who can marry in the state under federal court rulings. McCrory said he agrees with fellow Republicans “with sincerely held religious beliefs that marriage is between a man and a woman,” but that public officials must uphold their duties.

Source: Raleigh News & Observer

9. Dozens rescued from latest Texas floods
Emergency responders rescued dozens of people from continuing flash floods in Texas early Friday. Flood alerts stretch nearly 800 miles from southern Texas to central Missouri. Texas is facing its wettest May on record. At least 23 people have died in flooding and tornadoes caused by severe storms across Texas and Oklahoma in the past week. Another 14 were killed in northern Mexico. About 56,100 Texans remain without power.

Source: NBC News, CNN

10.National spelling bee crowns co-champions for second straight year 
The Scripps National Spelling Bee on Thursday ended in a tie for the second straight year. Before last year, the last tie was in 1962. This year’s winners — Vanya Shivashankar, 13, of Olathe, Kansas, and Gokul Venkatachalam, 14, of Chesterfield, Missouri — battled head to head for 30 minutes after the rest of the 285 contestants were eliminated. When Vanya correctly spelled “scherenschnitte” and Gokul spelled “nunatak,” the judges ran out of championship words and called a draw. Vanya was the first sibling of a former champ to win — her sister, Kavya, won in 2009.

Source: USA Today, CNN

Harold Maass

The Fake Clinton Scandals Are Back

AP Photo.

POLITICO

The right’s newest crusade has an old fake villain

Has Washington learned nothing from Whitewater? The Clintons have spent their entire political lives in the capital dogged by one fake scandal after another. And, as we’ve been reminded this week, the fake villain in many of their fake scandals always seems to be the same: Sidney Blumenthal.

By leaking emails between Blumenthal and Hillary Clinton to the New York Times, the House Select Committee on Benghazi majority staff evidently aimed to frame Blumenthal into a sinister narrative of Libyan intrigue, encouraging dark suspicions about his work for the Clinton Foundation and his relationship with the former Secretary of State. The fact that Blumenthalwas paid some $10,000 a month for working at the Clinton Foundation doesn’t change anything: This remains a fake scandal that will fail to turn up any real wrongdoing.

Having known Sid for nearly 40 years, I feel confident predicting that Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), the committee chair, will find nothing to substantiate the fantasies marketed by his staff to the Times, which set the stage for Blumenthal’s subpoena and deposition in a political show trial that will unfold sometime in the coming weeks. Sid passed along information that he thought might be useful to his friend, the secretary of state—someone he has known for nearly 30 years and with whom he worked closely in the Clinton administration.

As the emails illegally purloined from his computer by the Romanian hacker called “Guccifer” indicate, he kept that role separate from discussions about a Libyan relief project, which was intended to provide hospital beds and medicine. That project never got beyond the concept phase and remained entirely distinct from Blumenthal’s job at the foundation, which involved several projects—mostly concerned with President Clinton’s legacy. Certainly it was no crime for the foundation to pay him for that work.

Unfortunately, the Washington press corps tends toward exaggeration and worse when the subject is Sid—and, come to think of it, often when the subject is the Clintons, too. It was no surprise to see Karen Tumulty declare in The Washington Post that “Blumenthal had business interests in Libya,” as if he was making money there—when the reality is that he was never paid a penny and never asked the secretary for anything.

The Wall Street Journal editorial page went even further, demanding a Justice Department investigation of those alleged “business interests,” complete with a far-fetched theory that his emails to her were somehow “in violation of State rules,” while noting darkly that both “used private email addresses.”

The Journal editorialists, whose style harks back to their page’s decade-long Whitewater obsession, don’t specify what kind of email address Blumenthal, who is after all a private citizen, should have used. (Whether Hillary Clinton should have imitated her predecessors in using private email is a separate question that she has already addressed—and again, Blumenthal can’t be blamed for that.) But the Journal’s sinister, heavy-breathing tone, like so much coverage and commentary, remains unsupported by anything but speculation.

Meanwhile, nobody asks why the Republican Congressional leadership should feel entitled to squander millions of tax dollars on yet another Benghazi inquisition—despite last year’s exhaustive 2014 report by the House Permanent Subcommittee on Intelligence, which effectively dismissed all the crackpot conjecture about cover-ups and conspiracies, following several other lengthy official investigations. Rather than any perfidy on the part of Blumenthal or Clinton, this episode demonstrates how little the Washington press corps has learned over the past two decades from pursuing bogus scandals like Whitewater.

It is telling when reporters suggest, for instance, that Blumenthal represents a “paranoid” streak in Hillary Clinton’s thinking—as if the years of conniving against her and her husband by a network of right-wing adversaries never occurred.

The media appears to have forgotten how, during Blumenthal’s first summer working in the White House, ideological refugee David Brock told him about wealthy conservatives, notably Pittsburgh billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife, who were spending millions of dollars on a secretive scheme known as the “Arkansas Project” to destroy Clinton’s presidency—and how those same figures lurked behind the Whitewater investigation, Kenneth Starr’s Office of Independent Counsel and the media campaign to smear the Clintons as somehow culpable in the 1993 suicide of White House lawyer Vince Foster.

Sid recounted this partisan offensive in The Clinton Wars, his account of the Clinton administration’s struggle against Whitewater prosecutor Kenneth Starr and the entire constellation of forces determined to bring down a Democratic president they considered illegitimate. In that struggle, he served as a loyal partisan, defending Bill and Hillary Clinton and, as he and others in the White House believed, the Constitution of the United States.

When Bill Clinton first invited Blumenthal to join the White House staff, the newly re-elected president wasn’t hiring a hatchet man. Over the preceding decade, they had established a friendship based not on common animosities, but a shared interest in how to renew the Democratic Party and progressive politics. Blumenthal had introduced Clinton to Tony Blair, then the new leader of Britain’s Labor Party and future Prime Minister, whose outlook was strikingly similar. Bringing together social democratic leaders across Europe with the U.S. president in what became known as “the Third Way” movement was a substantial part of Sid’s portfolio as a special assistant to Clinton.

But Blumenthal’s years of reporting on the American right had prepared him for a less uplifting mission—to confront the ongoing plot against Clinton by right-wing lawyers, operatives, and financiers, which already was building toward a climax by then. When the unfolding crisis finally concluded in Clinton’s Senate impeachment trial, Sid became the target of House and Senate Republicans (and his old friend Christopher Hitchens), who tried to set him up for a perjury trap.

In the process he was “demonized” in the Washington media, later writing: “To the right wing, I was the focus of evil in the White House. To the scandal-beat press, as a former journalist, I was a traitor, a Lucifer-like figure who had leaped from grace to serve the devil.” He had committed no offense, but left public service with over $300,000 in legal bills.

Not everyone was pleased by impeachment’s denouement—and many still suffer from Clinton Derangement Syndrome. So Sid has emerged again as an almost fetishistic object of spite (and a convenient surrogate for attacks on Hillary Clinton). He evokes turbulent emotion on the editorial pages of the Journal, the New York Post, and kindred outlets, which depict him as a ruthless, manipulative schemer, constantly immersed in skullduggery on behalf of his powerful patrons.

Rather than a perpetrator of dirty tricks, however, Sid has been a victim—and not just of Guccifer. On the first day that he went to work in the White House in the summer of 1997, the Drudge Report gleefully published a false, defamatory, anonymously sourced post that accused him of abusing his wife Jackie, to whom he remains happily married after 39 years. (The main suspect in that ugly episode was, not incidentally, a political columnist for the Journal.)

While his critics and enemies never succeeded in bringing Blumenthal down, they have concocted an image of him that is strangely flat and clichéd. Blinded by animus, they have no realistic sense of who he is, what he has done, or why the Clintons might continue to value his friendship. He’s a bit more interesting and complicated than their imaginary hobgoblin.

A talented and industrious writer, Sid has authored several significant books on American politics and co-produced two movies, including Alex Gibney’s Oscar-winning documentary on the Bush administration’s torture policies, Taxi to the Dark Side. (Currently he is working on a four-volume series for Simon & Schuster about the political life of Abraham Lincoln.) Unafraid to dissent from the Clinton-bashing consensus among Washington elites, he indeed became a dedicated ally to Hillary and Bill, but not only to them—he has developed a substantial network of friends and contacts around the world. Familiar as he is with practical politics, what drives him is a commitment to liberal values and ideas.

“Sidney Blumenthal was not as billed,” acknowledged the late Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter in his 2000 memoir, recalling the day he deposed the presidential aide and longtime journalist in the impeachment trial of Bill Clinton. Specter, then a Republican, evidently intended a gruff compliment. Expecting a tense and combative witness—the “Sid Vicious” of tabloid headlines—he was surprised instead to find the White House aide and longtime journalist to be cooperative and even cordial.

Today it still seems rather simple-minded to define Sid, in the words of that Journal editorial, as an “opposition hit man.” And it is absurd to suggest, absent any evidence, that he committed some legal or ethical offense.

With another Clinton seeking the White House, an epidemic of derangement was sadly inevitable. Before November 2016, there will surely be more to come. But if there is indeed any scandal in this affair, it lies in the partisan abuse of power by Congressional Republicans, trying desperately to sustain a Benghazi investigation that should have ended many months ago.

Like the effort to frame Blumenthal during the impeachment trial, this too shall pass—and then fizzle away.

Joe Conason is the editor-in-chief of The National Memo

Whoops! A creationist museum supporter stumbled upon a major fossil find.

(University of Calgary)

THE WASHINGTON POST

Canadian Edgar Nernberg isn’t into the whole evolution thing. In fact, he’s on the board of directors of Big Valley’s Creation Science Museum, a place meant to rival local scientific institutions. Adhering to the most extreme form of religious creationism, the exhibits “prove” that the Earth is only around 6,000 years old, and that humans and dinosaurs co-existed.

Unfortunately, Nernberg just dug up a 60-million-year-old fish.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Local outlets report that the man is far from shaken by the bony fish, which he found while excavating a basement in Calgary.

Because here’s the thing: He just doesn’t believe they’re that old. And he’s quite the fossil lover.

“No, it hasn’t changed my mind. We all have the same evidence, and it’s just a matter of how you interpret it,” Nernberg told the Calgary Sun. “There’s no dates stamped on these things.”

No sir, no dates. Just, you know, isotopic dating, basic geology, really shoddy stuff like that. To be fair, I’m not any more capable of figuring out when a particular fossil is from than Nernberg is. I’d be one sorry paleontologist, given the opportunity. I’ve never even found a fossil, so he’s got me there. But the science of dating fossils is not shaky — at least not on the order of tens of millions of years of error — so this fossil and the rocks around it really do give new earth creationism the boot.

[Bill Nye the Science Guy annihilates creationists using emoji]

But this can go down as one of the best examples ever of why it’s downright impossible to convince someone who’s “opposed” to evolution that it’s a basic fact: If you think the very tenets of science are misguided, pretty much any evidence presented to you can be written off as fabricated or misinterpreted.

Even if you dig that evidence up with your own hands.

The scientific community is thrilled and grateful for the find, and the University of Calgary will unveil the five fossils on Thursday. These fish lived in a time just after the dinosaurs were wiped out, when other species were able to thrive in the giants’ absence. It’s an important point in Earth’s evolutionary history, because new species were popping up all over to make up for the ecological niches dinos left behind. Creatures from this era give us some breathtaking glimpses of evolution in progress. But it’s rare to find fossils of that age in Calgary, since most of the rocks are too old and yield dinosaurs instead.

Ironically, Nernberg’s contributions at the Creation Science Museum are almost certainly what scientists have to thank for the find. He’s an amateur fossil collector, and he knew the fish were special as soon as he spotted them.

“When the five fish fossils presented themselves to me in the excavator bucket, the first thing I said was you’re coming home with me, the second thing was I better call a paleontologist,” Nernberg said in a statement.

“Most people would have overlooked these. When these were uncovered, Edgar right away recognized them,” Darla Zelenitsky, paleontologist and assistant professor of geoscience at the University of Calgary, told the Sun. “He’s apparently interested in fossils, and that’s probably how he saw them. An ordinary person might have just seen blobs in the rock.”

Nernberg is reportedly seeking a cast of one of the fish so he can put it on display at the creationist museum.

Rachel Feltman

13 things you need to know about the fight over voting rights

VOX

The fight over voting rights is a highly partisan battle over how voting ought to work and which regulations are needed to make sure voting is accessible and fair.

BROWSE CONTENT

JENÉE DESMOND-HARRIS

GOP Should Run Scared As Bernie Sanders’ Appeal Expands Toward Traditional GOP Voters

Sen. Bernie Sanders | attribution: None

ADDICTING INFO

Republicans should start quaking in fear of Bernie Sanders, because his appeal is growing, and not just with young voters. Voters in his own age group are also drawn to him and his message. Sanders is 73, and the older generation currently makes up a large and critical piece of the Republican base. So the fact that he’s appealing to older people is not good news for Republicans.

Sanders is an independent from Vermont, however he caucuses with the Democrats and is running for the Democratic presidential nomination. According to an article in The New York Times, the people he’s appealing to are the people who remember a time when the top tax bracket was 90 percent, and the middle class thrived while the wealthy actually paid taxes.

Our top tax rate now is too low, with way too many loopholes, under the flawed and failed ideas of trickle-down economics. We don’t have a system that rewards work, it punishes work, and rewards greed. Back then, the system didn’t allow for the kind of greed we have today nearly as easily. Republicans want to make the top tax brackets even lower, though, on the lie that doing so will create well-paying jobs and make everyone prosper.

Another thing that’s oddly appealing to the older generation is the idea of free college at public universities. In fact, Sanders has declared that higher education should be a right. Of course, the right looks at that as “socialism,” despite the fact that other developed nations, like Denmark and Germany, have free university. Here, college is increasingly unaffordable and younger students are starting out their adult lives crippled with debt, in jobs that don’t help them pay for that debt.

Back when Sanders was young, many public colleges and universities offered education for free, or at very little cost, according toThe Times piece. You only had to pay good money to go to a private school.

Sanders’ message of tax the rich, redistribute wealth, and bring back a strong government that takes care of its people, tends to resonate with Millennials and the youngest Gen-Xers, who are still young enough to be idealistic. However, the older generation—the one that we expect to vote Republican—finds itself moved by Sanders’ evocations of times when things were better, thanks in part to a government that was strong enough to care about people.

Today’s Republicans try to invoke earlier times in the name of idealistic nostalgia, but they may fail when it comes to people who actually lived those times. These people remember when someone could actually retire after a long and productive life, and maybe have to tighten their belts a little, but didn’t face living in poverty, or having to continue working part-time. They remember when education was important to everyone. They remember when people were paid what they were worth, and when pay increased with productivity.

What they remember is what Sanders is appealing to. Republicans don’t want to take us back to the booming economy of the late ’40s, and the ’50s and ’60s. They want to take us back before the ’30s, when the rich could get richer without lifting a finger, and the plebes were more or less slaves to their bosses and their jobs, and often lived in squalor.

That’s not what Sanders has in mind. If he can appeal to enough of the older generation, as well as the younger generations, he’ll be unstoppable against any Republican candidate.

Editor of Leading Conservative Magazine Declares That “Some Black Lives Don’t Matter” to Activists

Not surprising…yet outrageous.

Mother Jones

Rich Lowry, editor of National Review magazine, has a plan for restoring stability to America’s currently troubled inner cities: Arrest and imprison more black people. It’s basically a long-running conservative argument, but can we get real for a minute about how he’s making it?

Here’s the profoundly cynical and callous way that he’s decided to tweak some social media language to argue in Politico that the #BlackLivesMatter movement is “a lie.” Its supporters, he suggests, are opportunistically anti-police and don’t otherwise care about inner city deaths that don’t make national news:

That high-octane trolling is accompanied by an equally cynical take on the underlying problem. Baltimore reportedly saw an uptick in murders in recent weeks, which Lowry blames on police “shrinking from doing their job” in the wake of upheaval over Freddie Gray’s death in police custody. The city’s “dangerous, overwhelmingly black neighborhoods,” he writes, “need disproportionate police attention, even if that attention is easily mischaracterized as racism. The alternative is a deadly chaos that destroys and blights the lives of poor blacks.”

Never mind that a rising awareness of policing problems in America may also have something to do with acute underlying socioeconomic ills, which, you know, destroy and blight the lives of poor blacks.

Lowry’s theme ignores the reality of what many Americans have found so outrageous about the cases that have drawn national media attention. Say, the fact that the white cop who instantly shot a 12-year-old black kid and then watched him bleed out on the pavement without providing any first aid still hasn’t been questioned by investigators six months after the killing. Or the fact that a black woman whose family called 911 in need of mental health assistance for her ended up dead from police use of force less than two hours later.

Perhaps Lowry should spend a little time watching these 13 videos from the past year that show mostly white cops killing mostly black men who were mostly unarmed. They are a kind of vivid, disturbing evidence that may well bring some different hashtags to mind.

MARK FOLLMAN ~ National Affairs Editor

Newspaper That Printed Letter Calling For Obama’s Execution: Oops!

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AP Photo | Jacquelyn Martin

That “oops” is so transparent…(ks)

TPM LIVEWIRE

The Daily Item, a newspaper based in Sunbury, Pennsylvania, ran a letter on Memorial Daytitled “What is a Ramadi?” in which a local man criticized Obama’s approach to the Islamic State terror group.

“To the families of those fallen heros whose blood lies on the sands of Iraq; don’t you think it might be time to rise up against an administration who has adequately demonstrated their gross incompetence?,” Lewisburg, Pennsylvania resident W. Richard Stover wrote. “I think the appropriate, and politically correct, term is regime change. Forgive me for being blunt, but throughout history this has previously been accompanied by execution by guillotine, firing squad, public hanging.”

The Daily Item’s editorial board wrote Thursday that while “no bells went off” when the editor who placed Stover’s letter in the opinion pages first read it, the reference to execution should have been removed.

“Nearly a decade of provocative and divisive rhetoric may have inured us to language that calls the president of the United States ‘the coward-in-chief’ and the disrespectful use of the president’s first name…But we should have recognized that the final two metaphorical paragraphs of the Ramadi letter were inescapably an incitement to have the chief executive of our government executed. They should have been deleted,” the editorial read.

The editorial board added that publishing the letter as is wrongly implied the newspaper found Stover’s call for the President’s execution to be acceptable.

“The Daily Item apologizes for our failure to catch and remove the inappropriate paragraphs in the letter directed at President Obama,” the editorial read. “We will strive to do better in the future.”

h/t Politico

CATHERINE THOMPSON

The White Protestant Roots of American Racism

The United States Capitol Building holds a fantastic piece of artwork titled The Apotheosis of Washington. The fresco was painted by Constantino Brumidi in 1865, taking 11 months. The painting was completed at the end of the Civil War, two years after the construction of the dome. It is 180 ft (55 m) above the rotunda floor, covering 4,664 square ft (433.3 m2). The figures in the painting measure up to 15 ft (4.6 m) tall.
Brumidi had previously worked in the Vatican under Pope Gregory XVI, yet worked on a Pagan masterpiece in the United States.
There are a number of different themed sections to the fresco, which highlight different aspects of America and the Greco-Roman gods who rule over them. | http://www.whiteartwork.com/the-apotheosis-of-washington/

The New Republic

The Apotheosis of Washington,” painted in 1865 by Constantino Brumidi, is a fresco of the first president of the United States ascending to the heavens. The goddesses of Victory and Liberty, along with 13 maidens who represent America’s original colonies, flank George Washington; here, he’s elevated to the status of a god (and it’s worth noting that “apotheosis” actually means “deification”). In the 150 years since Brumidi’s last brushstroke, the painting’s characters have borne silent witness to the machinations of the U.S. Congress from the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol Building. When the fresco was completed, four million black people called the United States home but were only that year able to enjoy even the most limited experience of citizenship when the Civil War ended and the Emancipation Proclamation began the process of ending slavery. Of course, Brumidi’s fresco only features white faces.

His painting illustrates the complexities of a nation inextricably informed by the religious ethics of its founders and those who continue to wield power today: Religious white men, ascending to fame on the strength of their ideals. Even those founding fathers—who identified primarily as deists—shared views that aligned with Christian theologies. American society is heavily informed by this religious foundation, specifically in terms of racial injustice, even as religious identification declines.

A recent poll conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute on police brutality showed that between December 2014 and April 2015 the percentage of white Americans who believed that police killings of black Americans were part of a broader pattern jumped from 35 percent to 43 percent. White evangelical Protestants, on the other hand, see the recent homicides as isolated incidents—62 percent of them said that police treat blacks and whites equally. This isn’t an accident of demographics; it springs from the religious framework that undergirds American societal values. To deny the ongoing influence of Protestant ethics is to be willfully ignorant.

The “Protestant work ethic” is a term coined by sociologist Max Weber, whose seminal work, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism,delineated how links made by theologians between religion, work, and capital laid the groundwork for capitalism. Calvinist theology holds that only an elect few are predestined for salvation from birth, while the rest are damned. The anxiety this produced compelled people to look for hints or signs that they were members of the elect; they believed that material success was among the most notable indicators of God’s favor. Doing the hard work of creating God’s kingdom on Earth through a secular vocation was considered a pathway to God’s grace. The opposite also held true: Just as material success indicated God’s grace, poverty was a sign that you’d been denied God’s grace. In this context, slaves could be both blamed for their own plight and have the legitimacy of their labor erased.

“When the Protestant work ethic was being developed here, many people who were in the country weren’t even considered people and that continues to inform how we think about work,” said Jennifer Harvey, a professor of religion at Drake University whose research includes the intersection of morality in the context of white supremacy. “It cannot see certain kinds of work and labor as real and therefore virtuous,” she continued. It’s easy to be outraged when something as tangible as a video of a man being executed by police surfaces, but more insidious forms of racism still permeate our views of what does and does not constitute valid work—even among those who don’t subscribe to Protestant ethics.

A survey of millennials conducted by MTV showed that only 30 percent of whites reported being raised in families that talked about race at all. Adifferent survey from PRRI in 2014 found that “[W]hile more than three-quarters (76 percent) of black Americans, and roughly six-in-ten Hispanics (62 percent) and Asian Americans (58 percent), say that one of the big problems facing the country is that not everyone is given an equal chance in life, only half (50 percent) of white Americans agree.” An even more comprehensive study of young Americans in 2012 showed that 56 percent of white millennials believe the government “paid too much attention to the problems of blacks and other minorities.” Considering the fact that so many white people were raised in families that erased race by not talking about it at all, it’s not hard to see how the government’s attention to other races could seem excessive.

Dr. Ray Winbush is the director of the Institute for Urban Research at Morgan State University, and he said that his work in Baltimore has recently increased his exposure to racial conceptions of work and goodness. “White people will say, ‘Why don’t you black people pull yourselves up by your bootstraps. This is America, everyone is free to do what they want,’” Winbush told me. “But what was the civil rights struggle of the 1960s if not the greatest self-help movement in American history?” Through the old lens of work as an act that contributes to building God’s kingdom on Earth in a very physical way, the work of political organizing can’t be recognized as a legitimate form of labor. Denying the labor of black Americans reinforces white supremacy.

“The Protestant work ethic that influenced the founding of this country included a belief that the more material wealth you have, the closer you are to God,” said Robin DiAngelo, a professor whose research focuses on how white people are socialized to collude with institutional racism. “So during slavery, we said, ‘You must do all the work but we will never allow that to pay off.’ Now we don’t give black people access to work. Then and now they have not been allowed to participate in wealth building or granted the morality we attach to wealth.” This historical entanglement of property and virtue continues to inform racial views. “Property among white Americans is seen as something to be treasured and revered,” said Winbush. “Black Americans do not view themselves as truly owning anything in America.”

DiAngelo noted that we sing “The Star Spangled Banner” at sporting events and don’t even flinch at “the land of the free” lyric written in 1814, a time when the country was home to millions of slaves. Winbush pointed to the black neighborhood of Greenwood in Tulsa, Oklahoma, that was burned to the ground in 1921 by white mobs enraged by the incredible prosperity blacks had created there. Black attempts to participate in the promise of America are met consistently with this kind of violence. Ethicist Katie Geneva Cannon has written at length about how the institutional denial of citizenship and freedom to black people essentially wrote out the possibility of them ever being seen as virtuous in white society. “The ‘rightness of whiteness’ counted more than the basic political and civil rights of any Black person… Institutional slavery ended, but the virulent and intractable hatred that supported it did not,” Cannon wrote in The Emergence of Black Feminist Consciousness. Through both erasure and ignorance, we continue to deny the virtue and legitimacy of black citizenship and labor.

As we abandon our explicit ties to religion, religious ethics still inform our views of race, prosperity, and even personhood. It’s easy to blame older white Protestant evangelicals for the country’s residual racial strife, even as it represents white America’s refusal to interrogate the source of our worldviews and our tremendous social and political capital.

What is troubling about the fresco in the rotunda is that it functions as a mirror: The Congress those white faces look down upon is 92 percent Christian and 80 percent white. George Washington and his cohort of virtuous states are enshrined above so, theoretically, we’ll forever remember the virtuous, godly work of “protecting freedom.” Meanwhile, the black human lives whose uncompensated work built America’s prosperity—and the Capitol building—with their blood, sweat, and tears are consistently forgotten.

Alana Massey

I’m a black ex-cop, and this is the real truth about race and policing

A protest in Cleveland, Ohio, after police officer Michael Brelo was acquitted for the shooting deaths of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams. | Ricky Rhodes, Getty Image

  VOX

On any given day, in any police department in the nation, 15 percent of officers will do the right thing no matter what is happening. Fifteen percent of officers will abuse their authority at every opportunity. The remaining 70 percent could go either way depending on whom they are working with.

That’s a theory from my friend K.L. Williams, who has trained thousands of officers around the country in use of force. Based on what I experienced as a black man serving in the St. Louis Police Department for five years, I agree with him. I worked with men and women who became cops for all the right reasons — they really wanted to help make their communities better. And I worked with people like the president of my police academy class, who sent out an email after President Obama won the 2008 election that included the statement, “I can’t believe I live in a country full of ni**er lovers!!!!!!!!” He patrolled the streets in St. Louis in a number of black communities with the authority to act under the color of law.

That remaining 70 percent of officers are highly susceptible to the culture in a given department. In the absence of any real effort to challenge department cultures, they become part of the problem. If their command ranks are racist or allow institutional racism to persist, or if a number of officers in their department are racist, they may end up doing terrible things.

About that 15 percent of officers who regularly abuse their power: they exert an outsize influence

It is not only white officers who abuse their authority. The effect of institutional racism is such that no matter what color the officer abusing the citizen is, in the vast majority of those cases of abuse that citizen will be black or brown. That is what is allowed.

And no matter what an officer has done to a black person, that officer can always cover himself in the running narrative of heroism, risk, and sacrifice that is available to a uniformed police officer by virtue of simply reporting for duty. Cleveland police officer Michael Brelo was recently acquitted of all charges against him in the shooting deaths of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, both black and unarmed. Thirteen Cleveland police officers fired 137 shots at them. Brelo, having reloaded at some point during the shooting, fired 49 of the 137 shots. He took his final 15 shots at them after all the other officers stopped firing (122 shots at that point) and, “fearing for his life,” he jumped onto the hood of the car and shot 15 times through the windshield.

Not only was this excessive, it was tactically asinine if Brelo believed they were armed and firing. But they weren’t armed, and they weren’t firing. Judge John O’Donnell acquitted Brelo under the rationale that because he couldn’t determine which shots actually killed Russell and Williams, no one is guilty. Let’s be clear: this is part of what the Department of Justice means when it describes a “pattern of unconstitutional policing and excessive force.”

Nevertheless, many Americans believe that police officers are generally good, noble heroes. A Gallup poll from last year asked Americans to rate the honesty and ethical standards of people in various fields: police officers ranked in the top five, just above members of the clergy. The profession — the endeavor — is noble. But this myth about the general goodness of cops obscures the truth of what needs to be done to fix the system. It makes it look like all we need to do is hire good people, rather than fix the entire system. Institutional racism runs throughout our criminal justice system. Its presence in police culture, though often flatly denied by the many police apologists that appear in the media now, has been central to the breakdown in police-community relationships for decades in spite of good people doing police work.

Here’s what I wish Americans understood about the men and women who serve in their police departments — and what needs to be done to make the system better for everyone.

1) There are officers who willfully violate the human rights of the people in the communities they serve

As a new officer with the St. Louis in the mid-1990s, I responded to a call for an “officer in need of aid.” I was partnered that day with a white female officer. When we got to the scene, it turned out that the officer was fine, and the aid call was canceled. He’d been in a foot pursuit chasing a suspect in an armed robbery and lost him.

The officer I was with asked him if he’d seen where the suspect went. The officer picked a house on the block we were on, and we went to it and knocked on the door. A young man about 18 years old answered the door, partially opening it and peering out at my partner and me. He was standing on crutches. My partner accused him of harboring a suspect. He denied it. He said that this was his family’s home and he was home alone.

My partner then forced the door the rest of the way open, grabbed him by his throat, and snatched him out of the house onto the front porch. She took him to the ledge of the porch and, still holding him by the throat, punched him hard in the face and then in the groin. My partner that day snatched an 18-year-old kid off crutches and assaulted him, simply for stating the fact that he was home alone.

I got the officer off of him. But because an aid call had gone out, several other officers had arrived on the scene. One of those officers, who was black, ascended the stairs and asked what was going on. My partner pointed to the young man, still lying on the porch, and said, “That son of a bitch just assaulted me.” The black officer then went up to the young man and told him to “get the fuck up, I’m taking you in for assaulting an officer.” The young man looked up at the officer and said, “Man … you see I can’t go.” His crutches lay not far from him.

The officer picked him up, cuffed him, and slammed him into the house, where he was able to prop himself up by leaning against it. The officer then told him again to get moving to the police car on the street because he was under arrest. The young man told him one last time, in a pleading tone that was somehow angry at the same time, “You see I can’t go!” The officer reached down and grabbed both the young man’s ankles and yanked up. This caused the young man to strike his head on the porch. The officer then dragged him to the police car. We then searched the house. No one was in it.

These kinds of scenes play themselves out everyday all over our country in black and brown communities. Beyond the many unarmed blacks killed by police, including recently Freddie Gray in Baltimore, other police abuses that don’t result in death foment resentment, distrust, and malice toward police in black and brown communities all over the country. Long before Darren Wilson shot and killed unarmed Michael Brown last August, there was a poisonous relationship between the Ferguson, Missouri, department and the community it claimed to serve. For example, in 2009 Henry Davis was stopped unlawfully in Ferguson, taken to the police station, and brutally beaten while in handcuffs. He was then charged for bleeding on the officers’ uniforms after they beat him.

2) The bad officers corrupt the departments they work for

About that 15 percent of officers who regularly abuse their power: a major problem is they exert an outsize influence on department culture and find support for their actions from ranking officers and police unions. Chicago is a prime example of this: the city has created a reparations fund for the hundreds of victims who were tortured by former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge and officers under his command from the 1970s to the early ‘90s.

The victims were electrically shocked, suffocated, and beaten into false confessions that resulted in many of them being convicted and serving time for crimes they didn’t commit.  One man, Darrell Cannon, spent 24 years in prison for a crime he confessed to but didn’t commit. He confessed when officers repeatedly appeared to load a shotgun and after doing so each time put it in his mouth and pulled the trigger. Other men received electric shocks until they confessed.

The torture was systematic, and the culture that allowed for it is systemic. I call your attention to the words “and officers under his command.” Police departments are generally a functioning closed community where people know who is doing what. How many officers  “under the command” of Commander Burge do you think didn’t know what was being done to these men? How many do you think were uncomfortable with the knowledge? Ultimately, though, they were okay with it. And Burge got four years in prison, and now receives his full taxpayer-funded pension.

3) The mainstream media helps sustain the narrative of heroism that even corrupt officers take refuge in

This is critical to understanding why police-community relations in black and brown communities across the country are as bad as they are. In this interview with Fox News, former New York City Police Commissioner Howard Safir never acknowledges the lived experience of thousands and thousands of blacks in New York, Baltimore, Ferguson, or anywhere in the country. In fact, he seems to be completely unaware of it. This allows him to leave viewers with the impression that the recent protests against police brutality are baseless, and that allegations of racism are “totally wrong — just not true.” The reality of police abuse is not limited to a number of “very small incidents” that have impacted black people nationwide, but generations of experienced and witnessed abuse.

The media is complicit in this myth-making: notice that the interviewer does not challenge Safir. She doesn’t point out, for example, the over $1 billion in settlementsthe NYPD has paid out over the last decade and a half for the misconduct of its officers. She doesn’t reference the numerous accounts of actual black or Hispanic NYPD officers who have been profiled and even assaulted without cause when they were out of uniform by white NYPD officers.

No matter what an officer has done to a black person, that officer can always cover himself in the running narrative of heroism

Instead she leads him with her questions to reference the heroism, selflessness, risk, and sacrifice that are a part of the endeavor that is law enforcement, but very clearly not always characteristic of police work in black and brown communities. The staging for this interview — US flag waving, somber-faced officers — is wash, rinse, and repeat with our national media.

When you take a job as a police officer, you do so voluntarily. You understand the risks associated with the work. But because you signed on to do a dangerous job does not mean you are then allowed to violate the human rights, civil rights, and civil liberties of the people you serve. It’s the opposite. You should protect those rights, and when you don’t you should be held accountable. That simple statement will be received by police apologists as “anti-cop.”  It is not.

4) Cameras provide the most objective record of police-citizen encounters available

When Walter Scott was killed by officer Michael Slager in South Carolina earlier this year, the initial police report put Scott in the wrong. It stated that Scott had gone for Slager’s Taser, and Slager was in fear for his life. If not for the video recording that later surfaced, the report would have likely been taken by many at face value. Instead we see that Slager shot Scott repeatedly and planted the Taser next to his body after the fact.

Every officer in the country should be wearing a body camera that remains activated throughout any interaction they have with the public while on duty. There is no reasonable expectation of privacy for officers when they are on duty and in service to the public. Citizens must also have the right to record police officers as they carry out their public service, provided that they are at a safe distance, based on the circumstances, and not interfering. Witnessing an interaction does not by itself constitute interference.

5) There are officers around the country who want to address institutional racism

The National Coalition of Law Enforcement Officers for Justice, Reform and Accountability is a new coalition of current and former law enforcement officers from around the nation. Its mission is to fight institutional racism in our criminal justice system and police culture, and to push for accountability for police officers that abuse their power.

Many of its members are already well-established advocates for criminal justice reform in their communities. It’s people like former Sergeant De Lacy Davis of New Jersey, who has worked to change police culture for years. It’s people like former LAPD Captain John Mutz, who is white, and who is committed to working to build a system where everyone is equally valued. His colleagues from the LAPD —former Sergeant Cheryl Dorsey, now a frequent CNN contributor (providing some much-needed perspective), and former officer Alex Salazar, who worked LAPD’s Rampart unit — are a part of this effort. Several  NYPD  officers, many of whom are founding members of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, the gold standard for black municipal police organizations, are a part of this group. Vernon Wells, Noel Leader, Julian Harper, and Cliff Hollingsworth, to name a few, are serious men with a serious record of standing up for their communities against police abuse. There’s also Rochelle Bilal, a former sergeant out of Philadelphia, Sam Costales out of New Mexico, former Federal Marshal Matthew Fogg, and many others.

These men and women are ready to reach out to the thousands of officers around the country who have been looking for a national law enforcement organization that works to remake police culture. The first priority is accountability — punishment — for officers who willfully abuse the rights and bodies of those they are sworn to serve. Training means absolutely nothing if officers don’t adhere to it and are not held accountable when they don’t. It is key to any meaningful reform.

Police abuse in black and brown communities is generations old. It is nothing new.

Racism is woven into the fabric of our nation.  At no time in our history has there been a national consensus that everyone should be equally valued in all areas of life. We are rooted in racism in spite of the better efforts of Americans of all races to change that.

Because of this legacy of racism, police abuse in black and brown communities is generations old. It is nothing new. It has become more visible to mainstream America largely because of the proliferation of personal recording devices, cellphone cameras, video recorders — they’re everywhere. We need police officers.  We also need them to be held accountable to the communities they serve.