Muslims and Police, What?

If you’ve been living under a rock (or aren’t American, though I suspect this is getting a lot of international attention) you might not know that America’s first Orange President has followed through on one of his more odious campaign promises by ordering a de facto partial ban on Muslim immigrants.

Partial because it applies only to certain countries. And how many of the 9-11 hijackers came for those countries? None…zero. Of course, some people noticed something curious about the Muslim countries excluded from that list, namely that they are countries in which Donald has business interests! Isn’t that special? Oh, and one more thing. People who already immigrated to the US legally are caught up in the web. Continue reading

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Trump Happened

So, Trump happened. I kept hoping I’d wake up from this nightmare, or some superhero would swoop in and save us, but no, this is the reality. Donald Trump is sitting in the Oval Office at the White House.

Now what?

I’m gay, but I’m also white and male and I earn a comfortable living (aside: I’m willing to bet most in the “Gays for Trump” camp fit that description as well), so I enjoy a certain amount of privilege. If I were to put my head down, stay quiet and not cause any trouble for the next few years, I’d probably be–relatively speaking–OK.

Fuck that.

It’s not good enough. It should never be good enough, not for me, not for you, not for anyone. I plan to use whatever privilege I have to support and protect those who need it. And when I run out of privilege, I’ll keep going. This time is going to be a true test of our character. I don’t know what the fighting is going to entail, but I suspect there will be a lot it. We can’t allow our country to get less equal, less safe or less free. America has always been a work in progress. Even 18 months ago, when the idea of President Trump was a joke to almost everyone (even Donald himself), no one thought this country was perfect. But we had just witnessed an era of progress, despite unprecedented obstructionism from our historically useless Congress, dominated by a radicalized Republican party. I was excited to keep that progress going!

But that progress is going to have to wait; that radicalized party is in control, and led by a monster. For now we’ll be fighting tooth and nail just to keep what we have, to not take too many steps back.

So the first thing I’m going to do–the first of many, but we have to start somewhere–is to attend the Chicago version of the Women’s March tomorrow (or today, it’s almost midnight as I type this). Of his many bad qualities, Donald’s attitude–and resulting behavior–toward women is probably the most appalling. He views women as objects, either to be obtained like trophies or as a means to an end. They’re certainly not equals. Even without him, the Republican party had been chipping away at women’s health for years and more recently began ramping up that assault, attempting to obliterate Planned Parenthood.

It’s a small thing, but tomorrow (today) I’ll stand with my sisters and send a message.

If you come for them, you come for me, too.

You Don’t Get It

There is a common refrain coming from supporters of the recent anti-LGBT laws like HB 2, that those protesting are ignorant, and simply reacting to spin and misinformation. That we don’t get it. In the address announcing his executive order, NC Governor Pat McCrory said:

 You know, after listening to people’s feedback for the past several weeks on this issue, I have come to the conclusion that there is a great deal of misinformation, misinterpretation, confusion, passion and frankly selective outrage and hypocrisy especially against the great state of North Carolina.

And people like this guy trolls Twitter for mentions of HB 2, posting memes abusing the likeness of legendary NFL referee Ed Hochuli:

Continue reading

To Boycott or Not to Boycott

boycott

With the recent passage of some pretty crappy laws in North Carolina and Mississippi, I’ve seen calls to boycott the states.

But is boycotting the right thing to do? Boycotts have mixed results in bringing about change. The reality is they don’t often substantially impact the target’s bottom line, but instead focus media attention and harm the target’s image, according to Northwestern University’s Brayden King. How much financial impact could individuals have boycotting a state? Even if you add in the various governments that have banned travel, how many of their state and municipal employees are really traveling to MS and NC on “non-essential” business anyway?

King notes that the study has one ironic conclusion: “Companies with poor reputations to begin with are less vulnerable to boycotts, because they have less to lose.”

Extend that to states, and I think North Carolina has more to lose than Mississippi, so a boycott may be more effective there. Indeed, we’ve seen NC getting more media attention, despite the belief of many (including myself) that MS passed a worse law.

Things start to heat up when companies and celebrities get involved. I’m not talking about releasing some empty statement about how they are “disappointed” with the law. I’m talking about PayPal canceling plans to open a new facility (which would have brought 400+ jobs) and Bruce Springsteen canceling a show in North Carolina. These are attention-grabbing headlines. Continue reading

Hate in the States

msprotest
Protest in Mississippi

As I type this, hundreds are gathered in Jackson, the capitol of Mississippi, protesting the state’s HB 1523, the preposterously-named “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act” and urging the governor to veto it. The fallout from North Carolina’s HB 2 (pdf) is still coming down. What the heck is going on?

While the recent successes for LGBT rights in the U.S.–particularly the Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court ruling–have caused many to let their guards down and celebrate victory, others have been urging us to stay vigilant. In his book “It’s Not Over“, author, activist  and radio host Michelangelo Signorile predicted a backlash, and warned us against “victory blindness”. It turns out, he was right.

We have seen a rash of anti-LGBT laws sweep the country, mostly at the state level and often under the guise of “religious freedom”. Let’s take a look at a few of the worst of them. Continue reading

Cleaning House

Sweeping broomIf you’re like me, you can hardly keep up with the deluge of reports of apparent police misconduct, often with fatal results.

The biggest case in the news right now is of course, that of Freddie Gray. Just today, Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced charges against 6 officers involved in the Gray incident. Those charges included false imprisonment, because her investigation concluded there was no justification for the arrest in the first place!

Recently a judge in Cook County, Illinois dismissed a case against a Chicago police detective who–while off duty–fired into a small crowd of people and killed an innocent bystander, Rekia Boyd. Of course the cop claimed that someone in the crowd had a gun…but no gun or evidence of a gun was found, and the intended target (who was injured but not killed) had a cell phone in his hand. Interestingly, the judge who tossed the case implied that the officer should have been charged with murder, a more serious crime than that he had been charged with.

Not long ago, most of us probably saw the incredibly disturbing video of North Charleston police officer Slager shooting a fleeing, unarmed Walter Scott in the back several times, then planting his taser next to the body.

I think what we are seeing is the inevitable result of the complete abdication of responsibility of police to police their own. I still believe many if not most police officers are basically good people. But as John Stuart Mill wrote, “Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.” We have seen that police will not keep their own house in order. In fact, those who try may find themselves punished instead of the bad guys! That leaves us–the rest of Society–no choice but to clean their house for them. The time has more than come.

Georgia Taking the Piss

Well damn, we can’t let our guards down for a minute. Not even long enough to take a leak, apparently. That Georgia “religious liberty” bill I mentioned recently was tabled? Not any more.

The Republican members of the committee considering the bill voted quickly on it while the Democratic member was on a bathroom break.

After several hours of deliberations at Monday’s committee meeting, however, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that Fort asked McKoon if he could pause work for a moment to use the bathroom. McKoon obliged, but while the Democrat hurried to the lavatory, the rest of the committee — which consisted entirely of Republicans once Fort left the room — quickly pulled the “religious liberty” bill off the table and began voting. A staffer alerted other Democrats who rushed to the scene, but the committee had already passed the bill by the time lawmakers arrived.

The bill will move to the full Senate for a vote.

Do we need to start a fund to provide Democratic lawmakers in … certain states … with stadium pals?

Potpourri

potpourri bowlJust some quick updates and tidbits worth mentioning:

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson failed to veto the AR law stopping municipalities from expanding anti-discrimination protection beyond what is contained in state law. After the veto deadline passed, Walmart, the state’s largest employer, said they were against it. Too little, too late.

And I apparently wrote too soon in my previous post on Arkansas, as a “religious freedom” bill was also working its slimy way through the legislature there. This was, of course, another law meant to allow people to discriminate against LGBT folks and hide behind a shield of “religion”. But there is good news! In this case, Walmart weighed in against it before it was too late, and (as if by magic) the next day the Senate panel considering the legislation rejected it.

Late last week, a similar bill in Georgia was tabled by a Senate committee there, after it was opposed by a very unlikely critic: former GA Attorney General (GA AG) Michael Bowers, who once (successfully) argued in favor of Georgia’s anti-sodomy law! Bowers released a statement saying “It is not just bad public policy; it is ill-conceived, unnecessary, mean-spirited and deserving of a swift death in the General Assembly.”

Here is another piece on the so-called “social science” attacking gay parenting making the rounds among conservatives, which makes reference to the post I recently re-blogged. It’s worth a read on its own merits.

Notice something different? After using the same theme on this site for a couple years, I decided to try changing it up. It should work well on computers, tablet and smartphones. How do you like the new look?

Uniform Code

Last night, another black male teenager was killed by police in the St. Louis area. This time, according to police, the teen was armed and fired at the officer. If that’s true–and once again, I believe all police shootings should be independently investigated–I can’t find fault with the officer for shooting. The fact that he fired 17 times tells me he’s probably not a good shot and should spend more time at the range, but that’s a different matter.

A fact in this story that will likely get overlooked–I may not have noticed it, if not for the tweet below–is that the officer was wearing his uniform while off duty and working private security gig.

And that’s a problem. Not that he was working another security job; I know cops don’t often make a lot of money (except at the Port Authority apparently, but that’s a topic for a separate post) and it’s fine putting their skills to work in another job. The problem is they do this in uniform. And it’s common.

In most cases, cops retain their police powers off duty, which is fine. But when you see an officer in uniform, how are you to know if they’re working in their official capacity or as hired help? The distinction is important! Are they enforcing the laws, or obeying the wishes of a private employer? As I stated in a previous post, you’re generally compelled to obey a police officer. Are his orders based on the law or the whims of his boss?

This is just another one of many things that should be fixed with policing in America.

On Police

I composed this entry weeks ago, and then sat on it instead of posting it. But I can’t really sit on this issue any more, now I that I see the story of John Crawford, a black man fatally shot by police in Ohio. The man was carrying a gun in a Walmart store, and police responded to a 911 call. The gun turned out to be toy, but it was apparently realistic looking from a distance. However, there are two considerations here: 1) Ohio is an open-carry state, meaning it was not against the law to carry a real gun in the store. In fact white people do it without getting shot. 2) It appears from the video that Mr. Crawford dropped the toy gun before being shot by police.

A grand jury failed to indict, and the city released a statement that “The officers followed accepted law enforcement training protocol in their response to the report of an active threat in the Wal-Mart store.” Apparently officers are trained to shoot black men after they drop their gun on the floor.

More information here and here. The video is…disturbing.

It sure seems like it.
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I’ve been stewing on this for while, composing parts of it in my head, and then forgetting most of them. Then as I was finishing up with work today, I saw the following tweet, and accompanying link from @redeyechicago:

And I’m sure most of the developed world heard about what happened in Ferguson, MO no long ago. And lo and behold, this tweet also popped into my timeline:

So it’s time to talk about police, I think. Police, or cops, are a necessary part of society, unless we want to live in anarchy. I want to be clear that I am not anti-cop. I appreciate the job is dangerous, challenging and often thankless. I appreciate that men and women are willing to put their lives on the line in service to society, often for sadly low pay (you don’t go into policing to get rich). And many cops are good people. I don’t say “most”, because I don’t know that to be true. I don’t that it isn’t true either; I lack facts either way. But it’s no secret that the power that comes with a badge and a gun can attract the wrong kind of people into the line of work. People like the guy in the first tweet above, if the allegations are true. And like many of the people I saw in action in Ferguson, MO.

And the whole thing in Ferguson started with a police officer fatally shooting an unarmed 18 year old boy. All the facts in that case have still not been revealed, so I am not going to try to pass judgement but it definitely doesn’t smell right to me. But Mike Brown is hardly the only person to be shot to death by police. In the US alone, more than 400 civilians were killed by police in 2011. In Australia there were 6, in Germany there were 6 and in England and Wales there were 2 for the same year.
Continue reading