Conservative columnist is egregiously wrong

Conservative ideology is so often based on misrepresentation, half-truths, outright falsehoods, and appeals to mythical sky daddies (and where you find conservative ideology, you frequently find sexism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, and other forms of bigotry). From their claims that Trickle Down Economics is a reasonable economic concept for anyone who is not uber-wealthy, to their opposition to public assistance programs which keep millions of people from living in far worse poverty than they already are, to their claims that marriage equality will bring about the downfall of USAmerica, to their claims that trans women are really just men who want to attack girls and women in public restrooms, to their warmongering, to their…you get the point by now.

One topic I’ve found conservatives to be consistently wrong on?


Conservative columnist J. Kenneth Blackwell of The Washington Times is no exception. In a recent column, titled ‘Aborting Black America‘, Blackwell complains that the focus of the Black Lives Matter Movement is misplaced.

“Black lives matter” has become the slogan of anti-police protests across the nation, but the target of the protests is so misplaced that the motives of the so-called civil rights leaders behind the movement must be questioned. Do they really care about black lives? Or are they cynically exploiting isolated incidents, such as the death of Michael Brown, to inflame the black population and advance their own political interests?

Today, on the somber anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, it’s time for black leaders to face up to the real danger threatening black lives in America. It isn’t the police. According to an anti-police brutality organization, the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, 313 blacks were killed by “police, security guards and vigilantes” in 2013. It isn’t even black criminals, who, as Rudy Giuliani famously pointed out on “Meet the Press,” are responsible for 93 percent of violent deaths among blacks. Sources estimate that between 6,000 and 8,000 blacks are murdered each year.

Blackwell clearly doesn’t understand what the Black Lives Matter Movement is about. While not everyone in the movement shares exactly the same goals (imagine that), one of the primary objectives of the activists is the reform of the criminal justice system. Contained within that are other goals, such as:

  • greater accountability of police officers
  • a significant reduction in police brutality and the use of excessive force
  • a end to racist policies like Stop & Frisk, Broken Windows, and jump-outs
  • greater police transparency
  • sensitivity training of police officers in the hope that they base fewer of their decisions on unconscious stereotypes
  • an elimination of the wartime mentality adopted by many police departments across the country
  • an end to the 1033 program by which police departments acquire military-grade equipment
  • a retraining of USAmerica’s lawyers and judges so that they have a greater understanding of how racial biases against People of Color affect the outcome of courtroom decisions
  • a fairer approach to policing that doesn’t disproportionately target People of Color

(the above is not intended to be a comprehensive list)

Note that none of those goals are anti-police. Given the sheer number of people in the movement, there are bound to be some who are anti-police. Overall though, the Black Lives Matter Movement is not anti-police. Blackwell would know this if he actually researched the topic he’s discussing. If he did, he might turn up something like, oh, this:

I created #BlackLivesMatter with Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi, two of my sisters, as a call to action for Black people after 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was post-humously placed on trial for his own murder and the killer, George Zimmerman, was not held accountable for the crime he committed. It was a response to the anti-Black racism that permeates our society and also, unfortunately, our movements.

Black Lives Matter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise.  It is an affirmation of Black folks’ contributions to this society, our humanity, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.

Alicia Garza (pictured above) is one of three women who created the Black Lives Movement. She is also someone this blogger would like to meet one day.

Then of course, he trots out that tired, well-worn cliché of black-on-black violence (I notice he both conflates violence with murder and offers no sources for his 6,000-8,000 figure). It’s more of a myth than a cliché, actually. While it is true that 93-94% of Black victims were killed by Black offenders, 84% of white victims were killed by white offenders. Blackwell dishonestly focuses on black-on-black murders, possibly in an attempt to make it appear as if Black America has some unique problem, while ignoring the fact that murder is intraracial.

Not content to simply misinform his readers about violence and murder statistics in the African-American community, Blackwell decides to show he’s also ignorant about biology:

No, the greatest danger to blacks is found precisely where we ought to be safest: in our mothers’ wombs. In 2010, the most recent year for which statistics are available, 138,539 black babies were aborted.

That should read 138,539 black fetuses (or embryos depending on what stage of development they were in when the pregnancy was terminated). After all, babies are born. Yes, laypeople use the term baby interchangeably with fetus, but from a medical perspective, they are not the same thing. Within the womb of a pregnant woman, the correct term (after 8 weeks of gestation) is a fetus. Once they are born and exist outside the womb (and not infringing on the bodily autonomy of the pregnant woman), they are called newborns, infants, and yes, babies.

This is an image of a 4 week old embryo. Not a baby.
An image of a 20-week old fetus in 2D and 4D. Notice how it’s still in the womb? Not a baby.
Baby. See how this works?

Even Wikipedia gets it right:

An infant (from the Latin word infans, meaning “unable to speak” or “speechless”) is the very young offspring of a human or animal. When applied to humans, the term is usually considered synonymous with baby or bairn (Scotland), but the latter is commonly applied to the young of any animal. When a human child learns to walk, the term toddler may be used instead.

The term infant is typically applied to young children between the ages of 1 month and 12 months; however, definitions may vary between birth and 1 year of age, or even between birth and 2 years of age. A newborn is an infant who is only hours, days, or up to a few weeks old. In medical contexts, newborn or neonate (from Latin, neonatus, newborn) refers to an infant in the first 28 days after birth; the term applies to premature infants, postmature infants, and full term infants. Before birth, the term fetus is used.

Moving on, Blackwell says:

Thankfully, abortion is on the decline in America, down 3 percent between 2007 and 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Strikingly, the number of surgical abortion clinics has plummeted, from 2,176 in 1991 to 551 today. Nevertheless, the CDC report that in 2010, a staggering 765,651 abortions were performed in the United States. Black women continue to have the highest abortion rate of any ethnic group, with a gruesome 483 abortions for every 1,000 live births.

Note his use of the emotionally loaded term gruesome. He’s clearly pandering to his audience, a readership that likely agrees with his views on abortion. I wonder if he’s aware that onerous regulations placed upon abortion clinics by anti-choice politicians have been the reason these clinics have closed down? In Texas alone, more than 80% of abortion clinics have been forced to close in the last few years thanks to laws ostensibly meant to protect women and children, but which, in reality make their lives increasingly more difficult. Even if he knows about statistics like that, I imagine he’s happy. After all, we’re talking about someone opposed to abortion and who doesn’t care whether a woman wants to be pregnant or not. Oh, and if Blackwell is so concerned about African-American women terminating their pregnancies (which he really shouldn’t be, that’s a medical decision between the woman and her healthcare provider, it’s none of his goddamn business), then he should look into the reasons why Black women are seeking abortions.  According to a 2008 Guttmacher report:

This much is true: In the United States, the abortion rate for black women is almost five times that for white women. Antiabortion activists, including some African-American pastors, have been waging a campaign around this fact, falsely asserting that the disparity is the result of aggressive marketing by abortion providers to minority communities.

The Issues4Life Foundation, for example, is a faith-based organization that targets and works with African-American leaders toward achieving the goal of “zero African-American lives lost to abortion or biotechnology.” In April, Issues4Life wrote to the Congressional Black Caucus to denounce Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) and its “racist and eugenic goals.” The group blamed PPFA and abortion providers in general for the high abortion rate in the African-American community—deeming the situation the “Da[r]fur of America”—and called on Congress to withdraw federal family planning funds from all PPFA affiliates.

These activists are exploiting and distorting the facts to serve their antiabortion agenda. They ignore the fundamental reason women have abortions and the underlying problem of racial and ethnic disparities across an array of health indicators. The truth is that behind virtually every abortion is an unintended pregnancy. This applies to all women—black, white, Hispanic, Asian and Native American alike. Not surprisingly, the variation in abortion rates across racial and ethnic groups relates directly to the variation in the unintended pregnancy rates across those same groups.

Black women are not alone in having disproportionately high unintended pregnancy and abortion rates. The abortion rate among Hispanic women, for example, although not as high as the rate among black women, is double the rate among whites. Hispanics also have a higher level of unintended pregnancy than white women. Black women’s unintended pregnancy rates are the highest of all. These higher unintended pregnancy rates reflect the particular difficulties that many women in minority communities face in accessing high-quality contraceptive services and in using their chosen method of birth control consistently and effectively over long periods of time. Moreover, these realities must be seen in a larger context in which significant racial and ethnic disparities persist for a wide range of health outcomes, from diabetes to heart disease to breast and cervical cancer to sexually transmitted infections (STI), including HIV.

Holy factual information Batman!

Do you mean to tell me that if African-American women had greater and easier access to contraception the need for abortion services might not be so great? Someone let J. Kenneth Blackwell know so that he working tirelessly to ensure African-American women have access to affordable contraception, thereby reducing the number of abortions, something he is clearly worried about.

Blackwell continues with:

The bottom line? I’ll say it again: 138,539 black babies, nearly one baby in three, were killed in the womb in 2010. According to the CDC, between 2007 and 2010, innocent black babies were victimized in nearly 36 percent of the abortion deaths in the United States, though blacks represent only 12.8 percent of the population. Some say the abortion capital of America is New York City. According to LifeSiteNews, the city’s Department of Health reported that in 2012, more black babies were aborted (31,328) than born (24,758). That’s 55.9 percent of black babies killed before birth. Blacks represented 42.4 percent of all abortions.

He really is worried about the number of abortions African-American women are having. I wonder how much he actually cares about these fetuses though. Does he support paid maternity leave so that pregnant women can take time off after they give birth and not stress about a lack of income? Does he support universal child care so that new mothers can reenter the workforce and provide for their children while having the comfort of knowing that their child will be cared for? Does he support a robust social safety net so that low-income mothers who are jobless can provide for their children? Does he support vaccinations for children? There is far more to supporting women and children than whining about the termination of fetuses.

If I sound a bit callous with regard to fetuses, it is, to a degree, intentional. I support the right of all women to make their own decisions regarding their reproductive health. That means I support a woman who chooses to carry a fetus to term (in which case, I hope for the best for both the woman and her fetus) just as much as I support a woman who wants to end her pregnancy (in which case, I’m not concerned about a fetus). My primary concern (as should everyone else’s) is with the needs of the woman in the situation. She is an existing person. She has hopes, dreams, fears, desires, emotions, intelligence, and all the other markers of being a human person, which is something that a fetus does not have. True, a fetus is biologically human, but it is not a human person. None of the qualities of personhood apply to a fetus. Nor should they. When anti-abortion advocates call for fetal personhood measures they either don’t know or don’t care (I suspect the latter) that a living, breathing human being will be forced to carry a fetus to term. They don’t know or don’t care that such personhood measures mean that the needs and desires of the pregnant woman would become secondary to the “needs” and “desires” of a fetus. Since fetuses are not self-aware and have no needs and desires (not in the sense that an extant human being does), who is going to determine what is best for them? A bunch of male politicians (and a few female ones too) who think they have the right to determine the conduct of a pregnant woman?! I find that loathsome.

Now, where were we?

Legalized abortion is working out exactly as Margaret Sanger intended. Sanger, the founder of the nation’s largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood, was part of the eugenics movement back in the 1930s. Her goal was to use abortion to cull what she considered inferior races from the human gene pool. According to Sanger, “Colored people are like human weeds and are to be exterminated.” She opened her first abortion clinics in inner cities, and it’s no accident that even today, “79 percent of Planned Parenthood’s abortion facilities are located in black or minority neighborhoods.”

Searching for the source of the Margaret Sanger quote turns up a 2006 book (available on Amazon) called The Pivot of Civilization. Not having read the book, I can neither confirm nor deny that she actually said that. If she did, then yes, that’s pretty fucking racist.  If she didn’t then this would be another case of a conservative fabricating information to fit an agenda (or perhaps taking information out of context). That comment aside (because it isn’t relevant to whether or not African-American women should have access to abortion services), Blackwell’s comments sound eerily similar to remarks made by former USAmerican presidential candidate and all around asshole, Herman Cain (actively working to make the lives of other human beings worse is a textbook definition of an asshole to me, and Cain tries very hard to do that). In a 2011 interview on CBS’ Face the Nation, Cain said:

Schieffer: … you said that it was not Planned Parenthood, it was really planned genocide because you said Planned Parenthood was trying to put all these centers into the black communities because they wanted to kill black babies –

Herman Cain: Yes.

Scheiffer: — before they were born. Do you still stand by that?

Cain: I still stand by that.

Schieffer: Do you have any proof that that was the objective of Planned Parenthood?

Cain: If people go back and look at the history and look at Margaret Sanger’s own words, that’s exactly where that came from. Look up the history. So if you go back and look up the history — secondly, look at where most of them were built; 75 percent of those facilities were built in the black community — and Margaret Sanger’s own words, she didn’t use the word “genocide,” but she did talk about preventing the increasing number of poor blacks in this country by preventing black babies from being born.

Regarding the claims by Blackwell and Cain about the locations of past (or present) Planned Parenthood clinics, well, surprise, those claims are not true:

Cain also claimed that “75 percent of [clinics] were built in the black community.” But we found no evidence that that was true in Sanger’s time, and it’s not true today.

Sanger’s first clinic, opened in 1916, was in Brooklyn in a neighborhood called Brownsville, which was 80 percent to 85 percent Jewish in 1910 and 1920, according to author Wendell E. Pritchett’s “Brownsville, Brooklyn: Blacks, Jews & the Changing Face of the Ghetto.” Cathy Moran Hajo writes that the neighborhood was “populated largely by Italians and Eastern European Jews” in “Birth Control on Main Street: Organizing Clinics in the United States, 1916-1939.” She says that Sanger didn’t choose to open her first clinic in Harlem, where infant and mother mortality rates were similar to those of Brownsville.

In fact, early birth control clinics didn’t welcome black women with open arms, Hajo writes: “In the 1920s and early 1930s, African Americans had far more limited access to birth control than did white women. Not only did many clinics discriminate against black women, but the regions with the largest black populations had fewer clinics.”

Sanger opened a clinic in Harlem in 1930, and, as mentioned, the “Negro Project” began in the late 1930s.

That doesn’t support Cain’s implication that Sanger’s “objective was to put these centers in primarily black communities,” or that “75 percent” of clinics were in such neighborhoods. It should also be noted that these early clinics were focused on providing birth control, and Sanger herself warned of the dangers of abortion. “While there are cases where even the law recognizes an abortion as justifiable if recommended by a physician, I assert that the hundreds of thousands of abortions performed in America each year are a disgrace to civilization,” she wrote in her 1920 book “Woman and the New Race.”

Cain’s claim also isn’t true today. Tait Sye, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood, told us in an email that “73% of Planned Parenthood health centers are located in rural or medically underserved areas.” Not all of those would be predominately black communities.

Also, the Guttmacher Institute reported this year that 9 percent of abortion clinics in the U.S. are in neighborhoods in which 50 percent or more of the residents are black. That’s according to the group’s “census of all known abortion providers.”

Blackwell could have easily dug up this information rather than parroting more right-wing talking points, but well, he is a conservative asshole with an agenda. Let’s continue looking at that agenda:

We mustn’t forget that babies aren’t the only victims of abortion. Sadly, more and more of the mothers are suffering and dying as well. Though many people continue to deny it, the link between abortion and breast cancer has been amply documented, and this deadly consequence of abortion is plaguing greater and greater numbers of black women.

Oh golly, the dreaded link between breast cancer and abortion. Note that despite this “ample documentation”, Blackwell provides no credible source for this assertion. In point of fact, he is WRONG. There is no causal link between abortion and an increased risk of breast cancer. This is a flat-out lie. J. Blackwell could have found this out easily if he actually did his homework.

His article continues its descent into a feces filled toilet with the following distortion:

Sanger relied on black ministers to act as Judas goats leading their sisters to abortion mills. According to LifeSiteNews, Sanger wrote in 1939, “We do not want the word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population, and the minister is the man who can straighten that idea out if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.”

When placed within the correct context (rather than removed from it as Blackwell has done), one can easily see that Sanger had no intentions of “exterminating the Negro population”:

Sanger, who was arrested several times in her efforts to bring birth control to women in the United States, set up her first clinic in Brooklyn in 1916. In the late 1930s, she sought to bring clinics to black women in the South, in an effort that was called the “Negro Project.” Sanger wrote in 1939 letters to colleague Clarence James Gamble that she believed the project needed a black physician and black minister to gain the trust of the community:

Sanger, 1939: The minister’s work is also important and he should be trained, perhaps by the Federation as to our ideals and the goal that we hope to reach. We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.

Sanger says that a minister could debunk the notion, if it arose, that the clinics aimed to “exterminate the Negro population.” She didn’t say that she wanted to “exterminate” the black population. The Margaret Sanger Papers Project at New York University says that this quote has “gone viral on the Internet,” normally out of context, and it “doesn’t reflect the fact that Sanger recognized elements within the black community might mistakenly associate the Negro Project with racist sterilization campaigns in the Jim Crow south, unless clergy and other community leaders spread the word that the Project had a humanitarian aim.”

It goes on to characterize beliefs such as Cain’s as “extremist.” The project says: “No serious scholar and none of the dozens of black leaders who supported Sanger’s work have ever suggested that she tried to reduce the black population or set up black abortion mills, the implication in much of the extremist anti-choice material.”

Funny how removing the proper context transforms the quote to suit Blackwell’s needs. Such dishonesty on his part.

Blackwell concludes with:

Abortion is the greatest threat to black lives in America today. People who claim to represent the black community while also abetting the black holocaust — abortion — are hypocrites. Any “civil rights leader” who genuinely believes that “black lives matter” should be working to see that every black baby is accorded the very first civil right — the right to life.

As I said above, if he is so concerned with African-American women terminating their pregnancies, then he needs to support efforts to bring affordable contraception into the hands of the Black women who want and need it, rather than complaining about all the dead fetuses. In doing so, and in using distortion or outright lies to support his position, Blackwell demonstrates he has no interest in dealing with facts and reality. Which pretty much sums up the GOP.

Conservative columnist is egregiously wrong

Pop Culture Link Round Up 2.12.15

Chris Banner is a fan of Batman. That’s actually an understatement. ‘Obsessed with Batman’ is a better description of him (and I don’t mean this in a bad way; obsessions are not inherently bad, and Banner is harming no one with his).

You could call Chris Banner’s love of Batman a true passion. Well, it’s actually more of an obsession.

“I’ve got a problem,” he confessed. “Everything I have is a bat. All my tractors have bats; my trucks, bats. Socks, underwear, you name it. I’m bat.

From the boots to the bat-cave and a custom-built Batmobile, Banner has made his being Batman his third job. He even patrols his hometown of Valley Center, San Diego, as the Caped Crusader.

His ride, he built from scratch, stripping down a 1947 Ford Galaxy and rearranging its engine and radiator. The work took about a year to complete, and it includes a camera to help him back up, a custom-made dashboard, lights and a smoke machine.

“It’s all made of fiber glass,” Banner told NBC 7 Wednesday. “It’s 22-feet long, and it’s one heck of a machine to drive, especially when you’re Batman.”

The batty fanatic started collecting his favorite superhero’s gear after he got his first Robin costume at age 7. Now, he’s turned his love toward a good cause. He produces live Batman shows about 40 times a year, sometimes for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

“You know some of these kids only have so much time left, and to put a smile on their face, it makes them happy. It’s worth it to me,” he said. “Makes that whole day better so hopefully I got to a good place.”

Bringing light to the lives of children? That’s a really awesome thing for him to do. I tip my hat to you good sir.

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By way of This is Colossal, here are some images of some amazingly beautiful hand-made resin bangles infused with bark, leaves, flowers, plants and shells. These bangles and more are available for purchase at Faerie and Etsy.

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Oooh, a new album from Florence and the Machine will be available on June 2. Here’s a video of the first single, ‘What Kind of Man’ (warning, the video is NSFW):

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You may have been miffed by the palpable lack of a juicy Sophia-based plot in the second season of Orange Is the New Black, but fear not: OITNB is no longer the only TV series on which actress/trans activist Laverne Cox will appear. It’s just been announced that she’ll be co-starring as Cameron Wirth, a transgender attorney, in CBS’ next legal drama, Doubt (no relation to nuns). The role was allegedly written specifically for her. Wirth is described in The Hollywood Reporter as being as “competitive as she is compassionate. She’s fierce, funny and the fact that she’s experienced injustice first hand makes her fight all the harder for her clients.” Cox will appear alongside a yet-unannounced star, who’ll lead the show with her title-influencing doubts: this main character is another attorney who’s romantically involved with a client being charged for an act of brutality. The script will be penned by Grey’s Anatomy writers Tony Phelan and Joan Rater.

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How the hell did Patrick Bertoletti consume 444 wings in 30 minutes?! Seriously, where did he put all that food? I love wings as much as the next guy, but after about 15 wings, I’m full. Does he have a few extra stomachs?

If your planning on serving wings at your Super Bowl party on Sunday, don’t invite Patrick Bertoletti. We have a feeling he won’t be craving wings anytime soon. The Chicagoan, known by his competitive eating stage name as “Deep Dish” gobbled up 444 chicken wings in 30 minutes this afternoon at the 23rd annual Wing Bowl in Philadelphia. By doing so Bertoletti smashed the previous record of 363 wings set last year and barely edged out his rival (and prior record-holder) Molly Schuyler, who came in with 440 wings.

About 20,000 people gathered at Wells Fargo Arena to watch contestants duke it out in the grand battle to be the one true supreme wing champion. “I have the sweats but I feel a lot better because I know I don’t have to eat any more chicken wings,” Bertoletti exclaimed after his victory. In the last two minutes alone, Bertoletti consumed 50 wings by ripping apart the wings and stuffing the meat into his mouth. Bertoletti was still chewing for two minutes after the contest ended.

For that matter, how did Schulyer consume 440 wings?


Pop Culture Link Round Up 2.12.15

Bishop whines about not being able to force his beliefs upon others

Time and time again, we see religious officials whining about so-called threats to religious freedom. We often hear their cries of “our religious freedom is under attack” in cases where businesses discriminate against same-sex couples. But we can also hear their whining in cases like the following:

A federal appeals court has reversed lower-court victories by two western Pennsylvania Catholic dioceses and a private Christian college that challenged birth control coverage mandates as part of federal health care reforms.

The 3-0 ruling Wednesday by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel found that the reforms place “no substantial burden” on the religious groups and therefore don’t violate their First Amendment right to religious expression.

All three organizations are mulling whether to appeal to the entire 3rd Circuit Court or the U.S. Supreme Court.

You just know what’s coming next. You don’t need to rub my bald head to try and divine the response from religious officials:

“Such a ruling should cause deep concern for anyone who cares about any First Amendment rights, especially the right to teach and practice a religious faith,” Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik said in a statement. “This decision says that the church is no longer free to practice what we preach.”

As I said in the comment section of the article:

Oh, get over your religious privilege.
You do not have the right to impose your religious beliefs on others, no matter how much you believe otherwise, and your religious beliefs are not under siege. You’re mad that your religious privilege is lessening and more and more people are openly questioning and in many places, challenging, your religious beliefs. That’s what happens when all ideas are on the table and not prevented from being scrutinized.
Deal with it.

Bishop whines about not being able to force his beliefs upon others

The Fabulous Art of Jenny Frison

I just happened upon a post over at Bleeding Cool highlighting the alternate covers for Spider-Gwen #1. Among them was one image that really stuck out to me:

That alternate cover is by artist Jenny Frison. More of her lovely work can be found on her DeviantArt page. Here are a few more examples of her awesome art:

The Fabulous Art of Jenny Frison

Black people cannot even take out the trash without being harassed by police

I’ve worked in restaurants from the age of 16 on. In that time, I have performed mundane tasks such as scrubbing floors, sweeping, and mopping. I’ve also taken out the trash–a lot. I’m trying to imagine what it would be like to be arrested for trespassing while taking out the trash not once, not twice, but 62 times. I don’t know what that’s like, but unfortunately Earl Sampson of Miami Gardens, FL does:

Miami Gardens, Fla., convenience store owner Alex Saleh decided he’d try. He’d become vexed at what he saw as police harassment of his employees and even his customers.

So he installed surveillance cameras, with the specific intention of watching the detectives.

He’d become frustrated, you see, about the possibly not coincidental number of times that his employee, Earl Sampson, had been stopped and questioned by police officers — 258 times over a four-year period does seem a little like overkill. These included 100 searches and 56 jailings. As for convictions, well, they were only for marijuana possession.

Saleh told the Miami Herald it seemed odd that Sampson had been arrested 62 times for trespassing, when the vast majority of offenses were outside the very same Quickstop.

That would be the Quickstop where Sampson worked.

How the hell do you arrest someone for trespassing on the grounds of the business they work at? Could it be some racial bias on the part of the arresting officers? No, that can’t be it. If you ask a police officer, they’ll say “I’m not racist”, and we know they’ve examined their beliefs to ensure they hold no conscious or subconscious stereotypes about People of Color. It must be something else. That would be sarcasm, btw.

Earl Sampson is not the only Miami Gardens resident who has been harassed by the MGPD:

In the summer of 2010, a young black man was stopped and questioned by police on the streets of Miami Gardens, Florida. According to the report filled out by the officer, he was “wearing gray sweatpants, a red hoodie and black gloves” giving the police “just cause” to question him. In the report, he was labeled a “suspicious person.”

He was an 11-year-old boy on his way to football practice.

A Fusion investigation has found that he was just one of 56,922 people who were stopped and questioned by Miami Gardens Police Department (MGPD) between 2008 and 2013. That’s the equivalent of more than half of the city’s population.

Not one of them was arrested.

It was all part of the city’s sweeping “stop and frisk” style policy that may be unparalleled in the nation.

According to a review of 99,980 “field contact” reports, they were stopped, written up and often identified as “suspicious” — but just like the 11-year-old boy — the encounter was recorded in a public database, and they were let go.

Thousands more were arrested after being stopped by the police, raising the total number of people ensnared by the policy to 65,328 during the five-year period.

“I have never seen a police department that has taken the approach that every citizen in that city is a suspect. I’ve described it as New York City stop-and-frisk on steroids.” said Miami-Dade County Public Defender Carlos Martinez.

Last year, a Miami Herald report exposed how the MGPD repeatedly stopped and arrested employees and customers of a local convenience store including, Earl Sampson, who was stopped more than 200 times.

Fusion’s analysis of more than 30,000 pages of field contact reports, shows how aggressive and far-reaching the police actions were. Some residents were stopped, questioned and written up multiple times within minutes of each other, by different officers. Children were stopped by police in playgrounds. Senior citizens were stopped and questioned near their retirement home, including a 99-year-old man deemed to be “suspicious.” Officers even wrote a report identifying a five-year-old child as a “suspicious person.”

Fusion’s Investigation also found evidence that some field contact reports may have been falsified. There were many instances were multiple reports were filed just minutes apart – all claiming to stop the same person. Other reports claimed a person was stopped on the streets by police, when in fact, they were actually in jail at the time.

Two officers from the MGPD told Fusion that high-ranking department officials gave them orders to “bring in the numbers” by conducting stops and arrests. One officer said he was ordered to stop all black males between 15 and 30 years of age.

Nope. No racism or racial bias to see here folks. Just keep walking.

Black people cannot even take out the trash without being harassed by police

Atheism, Humanism, and the Chapel Hill murders

Mohammad Abu-Salha was an artist.

Deah Shaddy Barakat worked to raise money to help Syrian refugees in Turkey to have access to dental care.

Yusor Mohammed was a bridge-builder, who sought to bring women in her community together, all while working on advancing her education.

Early today, their lives were taken in a horrific act of violence committed by this man, Craig Stephen Hicks:

Police said “an ongoing neighbor dispute over parking” might have been a factor in the shootings Tuesday evening but said they weren’t dismissing the possibility of a hate crime.

The victims — a newlywed couple and the bride’s younger sister — were shot in the head, sources told CNN affiliate WRAL.

Their families have said they believe the shootings were motivated by hate, and the suspect had threatened the three before, said family spokeswoman Linda Sarsour. The nature of the previous threats was unclear.

All three of the victims, Deah Barakat, 23, Yusor Abu-Salha, 21, and Razan Abu-Salha, 19, were Muslim. And given their religion and comments the alleged shooter apparently left on a Facebook page, many social media users wondered what role the victims’ faith may have played.

The 46-year-old suspect, Craig Stephen Hicks, has been charged with murder.

According to Hicks’ Facebook page, he was an atheist. Not only that, he was also an anti-theist. He didn’t just NOT believe in god. He was actively opposed to theism. In addition to that, he was quite likely an anti-Muslim bigot:

The father of two of three students shot to death in Chapel Hill on Tuesday says the shooting was a “hate crime” based on the Muslim identity of the victims.

Chapel Hill police said Wednesday morning that a dispute about parking in the neighborhood of rented condominiums near Meadowmont may have led Craig Stephen Hicks to shoot his neighbors, Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, and his wife Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, and Abu-Salha’s sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, of Raleigh.

But the women’s father, Dr. Mohammad Abu-Salha, who has a psychiatry practice in Clayton, said regardless of the precise trigger Tuesday night, Hicks’ underlying animosity toward Barakat and Abu-Salha was based on their religion and culture. Abu-Salha said police told him Hicks shot the three inside their apartment.

“It was execution style, a bullet in every head,” Abu-Salha said Wednesday morning. “This was not a dispute over a parking space; this was a hate crime. This man had picked on my daughter and her husband a couple of times before, and he talked with them with his gun in his belt. And they were uncomfortable with him, but they did not know he would go this far.”

Abu-Salha said his daughter who lived next door to Hicks wore a Muslim head scarf and told her family a week ago that she had “a hateful neighbor.”

“Honest to God, she said, ‘He hates us for what we are and how we look,’” he said.

Barakat’s family held a press conference in Raleigh late Wednesday afternoon, urging people to celebrate the memories of their family members and urging authorities to treat their deaths as a hate crime.

While I accept that anger over parking spots may have played some role in his decision to kill three people, I don’t for a second believe it was the biggest motivating factor (unlike Richard the broken record Dawkins, who seems to think that repeating an assertion over and over makes it true). Absent any evidence that he suffered from a mental disorder, I’m also not going to attribute the murders to any hypothetical mental illness (unlike many people who are quick to label any action outside of normative behavior the result of a mental illness). Armchair internet psychiatric diagnoses help absolutely no one, and do nothing to advance our understanding of this horrible event. I think his anti-Muslim bigotry was the deciding factor here. And that worries me.

It worries me because there is a contingent of atheists in the online atheist/skeptical community who are anti-Muslim bigots. From pseudonymous online atheists to well-known non-believers like the asshole Sam Harris (who thinks you not only can, but should visually profile Muslims at airports; to the best of my knowledge he’s never explained how you can look at someone and determine they are Muslim, unless you’re assuming that Muslims all share certain physical characteristics, like say, skin color) and the repellent Pat Condell, anti-Muslim bigotry exists in the atheist community.


I am saying that the atheist community has a problem with anti-Muslim bigotry (just as it has a problem with homophobia, transphobia, misogyny, and ableism). How could it not? The atheist community is made up of people. People who are members of societies across the planet. Within these societies, anti-Muslim messages are propagated and absorbed by people. Some of these people are Christians. Some are Jews. Some are Scientologists. And some of them are atheists. As an atheist, I am appalled at the thought of sharing a community with bigots. I strongly oppose sexism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, and anti-Muslim bigotry (often referred to as Islamophobia). I want no part of any of that shit. But I’m not going to abandon the atheist community nor the atheist movement and let the bigoted assholes have their way. The world is becoming more multicultural and more diverse, and these people are clinging to regressive, discriminatory, oppressive ideas and viewpoints. These ideas and views contribute to ongoing pain and suffering of human beings in the world, and I oppose that.

People who know me know that as an atheist, I do not believe in Yahweh, Allah, Vishnu, Quetzalcoatl, Zeus, Hermes, Herakles, Ares, Thor, Isis, Osiris, or any of the other thousands of gods humanity has created. I think that religion contributes more to pain and suffering in the world than it alleviates, and I think the world would be better off without religion (I don’t however, think that religion is the root cause of evil in the world).

People who know me also know that I embrace the values of Humanism, a worldview that stresses the value and goodness of human beings, seeks rational, evidence based solutions to alleviating human suffering, and does not rely on authoritarian dictates from human beings masquerading as laws from a deity.

As I said following the murders of the Charlie Hebdo staff, I don’t think members of a group are obligated to denounce the horrific actions committed by other members of that group. Muslims are under no obligation to denounce the actions of the Charlie Hebdo terrorists. Nor am I under any obligation to denounce the actions of the Chapel Hill murderer. Just because you and a murderous asshole are part of the same community, it does not therefore follow that you endorse or condone the actions of said murderous asshole.


I do denounce the actions of Craig Hicks and the underlying hate that IMO was a significant factor in his decision to murder three innocent people. I do this in part to refute the idea that atheists live lives free of morality. I’m sure there will be no shortage of theists proclaiming that this is evidence that atheists are without morality. In my case (and in the case of many, many, many people I know) this is not the case. I also do this to establish what I, as an atheist and a Humanist, stand for and believe in. Unlike theists who often claim that a Christian who commits an act of violence isn’t a real Christian (which is the No True Scotsman Fallacy), I will not deny Hicks’ atheism. He is an atheist. I am an atheist. Like Hicks, I am also an anti-theist. I am opposed to religion. Period. But that’s pretty much it for the similarities between the two of us and I think it comes down to worldviews. While we both are atheists and anti-theists, I am also a Humanist. I do not condone, nor do I endorse violence as a solution to anything, and I find violence is only justified in a limited number of circumstances (such as self-defense). Moreover, unlike Craig Hicks, I am not an anti-Muslim bigot. My worldview includes a respect for the lives of other human beings. In addition, because of my worldview, I want to see less violence, less suffering, and less destruction in the world, not more.

I wrote this post knowing that some people think atheists are all like Craig Hicks: immoral deviants who stand for nothing…who believe in nothing…who have no respect for human life and worship only themselves. Nothing could be further from the truth. My post, this post by Daz, this post by PZ Myers, this post by Aron Ra, this post by Heina Dadabhoy, this post by Greta Christina, this post by Dana Hunter, this post by Ed Brayton, this post by Ophelia Benson, this post from the bloggers of Atheist Experience, this post by Richard Carrier, this post by Hemant Mehta, and this post by Rebecca Watson put the lie to that. I’m sure in the coming days, more atheists who oppose violence as a means of achieving any end will speak up and condemn the actions of the Chapel Hill murderer.

* * * *

Update 1: Another atheist has eloquently spoken out against the actions of Craig Hicks. You ought to go read what Jason Thibeault has to say.

Update 2: T. Kirabo also has something to say about the Chapel Hill murders over at Notes From an Apostate. Sadaf Ali, over at The Burning Bush, shares her thoughts on the horrific murders.

Atheism, Humanism, and the Chapel Hill murders

Marvel Studios went fishing and made a huge catch

After weeks of speculation, Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios have reached an agreement to share everyone’s friendly neighborhood wallcrawler.

It’s been talked about for a while now, but only as rumors. Would Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures reach some sort of agreement concerning Spider-Man-an agreement perhaps, that would allow the web-slinger to appear in Marvel Studios movies like The Avengers? That speculation, hoped for by many, has now become a reality, as an agreement has been made between both companies to share Spider-Man:

Sony Pictures Entertainment and Marvel Studios announced today that Sony is bringing Marvel into the amazing world of Spider-Man.

Under the deal, the new Spider-Man will first appear in a Marvel film from Marvel’s Cinematic Universe (MCU). Sony Pictures will thereafter release the next installment of its $4 billion Spider-Man franchise, on July 28, 2017, in a film that will be co-produced by Kevin Feige and his expert team at Marvel and Amy Pascal, who oversaw the franchise launch for the studio 13 years ago. Together, they will collaborate on a new creative direction for the web slinger. Sony Pictures will continue to finance, distribute, own and have final creative control of the Spider-Man films.

Marvel and Sony Pictures are also exploring opportunities to integrate characters from the MCU into future Spider-Man films.

Created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko back in the 1960s, Peter Parker, aka Spider-Man (the correct spelling of his name includes the hyphen), has become (arguably) Marvel Comics’ flagship hero. The character, known for the phrase “with great power comes great responsibility”, has been the subject of countless comic books, cartoons, coloring books, novels, records, and children’s books. The Spider-Man movies-5 in total, including the 3 directed by Sam Raimi and the 2 directed by Marc Webb-have grossed well over a billion dollars worldwide. Unfortunately for Marvel, because they licensed Spider-Man to Sony Pictures in 1999 (long before there was a Marvel Cinematic Universe-MCU for short), they haven’t been able to make use of the character (or any of his villains or supporting cast) in their movies. Much to their chagrin, I’m sure. One of the appeals of the Marvel Comics Universe (and the MCU) is the shared nature of their fictional world. Characters interact with one another on a regular basis. That was the basis (in part) for the creation of the Avengers. Not having access to their flagship character while building their shared universe had to be frustrating for Marvel Studios execs. With this new deal, Marvel Studios will now be able to expand their cinematic universe to include Spider-Man, and from the looks of the above press release, they’re already making plans.

If I had to guess, those plans include Spider-Man participating in Captain America 3, which will be based on Mark Millar and Steve McNiven’s 2007 comic book mini-series Civil War. The story centered around the creation, in the wake of a tragedy involving superheroes, of the Superhuman Registration Act. The SRA required all superhuman beings to register their abilities and identities to the federal government. Iron Man supported the SRA. Captain America opposed it. Spider-Man initially sided with Iron Man but eventually switched sides and joined with Captain America. A significant moment in the story occurred when Spider-Man revealed his secret identity before the eyes of the world. The three characters are incredibly important to the story and when Marvel Studios announced that Captain America 3 was going to be a cinematic version of Civil War, I wondered how they would fill the Spidey shaped hole in the story. While it’s not been confirmed by Marvel, I think it’s quite likely that Spider-Man’s first MCU appearance prior to his own movie will be in the third Captain America movie.

No matter where his first MCU appearance occurs, one thing is certain: Andrew Garfield will not be reprising his role as the wallcrawler. In fact, the studios are apparently looking to reboot the character again. According to Variety, Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures want the character back in high school, which means finding a younger actor to portray him.

Actors have yet to be approached, and sources say Sony is looking to hire a new director to replace “The Amazing Spider-Man” films’ Marc Webb before tapping a new Spidey. The studio also needs to figure out whether it wants to go with another Peter Parker or introduce another character that suits up as Spider-Man, including Miles Morales, whose father is African American and mother is Puerto Rican.

Sony has put the character, played by Tobey Maguire and Garfield, in Midtown High School before, but the plan is to spend more time in the setting and explore his awkward relationship with other students while fighting crime out of the classroom. Midtown is a major setting in the comicbooks, and Peter Parker also returns to the school to become a science teacher in storylines.

One of the side effects of the Sony Pictures/Marvel Studios deal is a reshuffling of the release dates for upcoming Marvel Studios movies:

Disney has even pushed back almost all of Marvel Studios’ slate of upcoming films to make room for Sony Pictures’ next Spider-Man film, starting with Thor: Ragnarok, which will relocate from July 28, 2017, to Nov. 3, 2017. That, in turn, will bump Black Panther to July 6, 2018, Captain Marvel to Nov. 2, 2018, and Inhumans to July 12, 2019. The two Avengers: Infinity War movies, however, are still slated to open on May 4, 2018, and May 3, 2019.

Despite the change in release dates (I’m particularly bummed about Captain Marvel and Black Panther being bumped), I am excited to finally see Spider-Man interact with the heroes of the MCU. Now, if only Marvel could somehow reach a similar deal with FOX over the rights to Fantastic Four and the X-Men…

Marvel Studios went fishing and made a huge catch

Police Behaving Badly 2.24.15

Cop “accidentally” shoots boy playing on balcony after pointing gun at him

A Baltimore County police officer shot a 14-year-old boy Monday night while moonlighting as an apartment complex security guard.

Police said two security guards were working off-duty at the Woodridge apartment complex who were investigating reports of people inside apartments that were under construction.

The officer who shot the teen told police that he saw someone come out on a balcony. He said he was pointing his weapon at the balcony, and it simply went off.

The officer “was pointing the weapon in the direction of the balcony” when “his weapon discharged accidentally,” the department said in a statement.

Either this officer is lying about what actually happened or they have never heard of one of the most important rules of firearm safety:

“Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target.”

Police spokesman Cpl. John Wachter said he did not have an updated condition of the teen Tuesday morning. Police have not yet identified the officer or the victim.

Wachter said police believe the teen had been “standing in the area of the sliding glass door for the balcony.” The officer who shot the teen was on a hill which put him slightly above eye-level with the balcony.

“Due to the weather and lighting conditions, it is not likely that the officer was able to determine how old the person was or even what gender the person was,” Wachter said.

The off-duty officer whose weapon “accidentally discharged,” has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation.

* * * *

Indian man partially paralyzed after being brutalized by Alabama cops

On January 31, Sureshbhai Patel arrived in the U.S. from his home state of Gujarat, India, for an extended visit with his son, Chirag, and daughter-in-law.

Chirag’s 17-month old son, Ayaan, was born prematurely and had been experiencing some developmental delays. Chirag, who worked full-time and was studying for his master’s degree in electrical engineering, had given up his classes to help his wife with the baby.

To help support his son, Sureshbhai Patel took time away from his farm in India to lend a hand.

It wasn’t the elder Patel’s first visit to the United States. The 57-year-old, who the family says was granted permanent resident status following his son’s 2012 citizenship, had also visited after Ayaan was born. However, it was Sureshbhai’s first visit to the family’s new home in a Madison subdivision off County Line Road.

Six days after his arrival, he was just getting settled in.  His son and daughter-in-law had prepared a spare bedroom for him and installed a flat screen television.

On February 6, Chirag Patel left for work at 7 a.m. A short time later, his father went out for a walk. He would not return.

At 9:42 a.m., Chirag received a message from an employee at Madison Hospital asking him to call the emergency room. He hurried to the hospital and found his father seriously injured.

Chirag says his father explained he was walking down the sidewalk on the family’s street when three Madison police officers approached and began questioning him. Sureshbhai, who speaks only a few English words, reportedly said “No English. Indian. Walking.” He claims he gave his son’s house number, pointing in the direction of the family’s home.

That’s when the Patel’s say one of the officers grabbed Sureshbhai’s arm, wrenched it behind his back and forced him to the ground. His face hit the ground. His neck was injured and he reported having no feeling in his arms or legs. He was rushed to Madison Hospital, then transferred to Huntsville Hospital.

His family says he underwent cervical fusion surgery the next day and has since regained some feeling in his arms and one leg, although he is still partially paralyzed. They say doctors expect recovery to take months.

As WHNT News 19 previously reported, Madison Police say officers did try to question Sureshbhai Patel while investigating a suspicious person call in the neighborhood. According to the caller, a strange man had been walking into driveways and looking in garages.

Investigators say, while police were trying to speak with Sureshbhai Patel, he put his hands in his pockets. When they tried to pat him down, he pulled away. That’s when police say the officer forced him to the ground and he was injured.

Oh dear, did they feel their “lives were in danger”, just bc he put his hands in his pockets? Fucking police and their brutal tactics.

* * * *

 Fearing for his safety, an NYPD cop tackles a woman wielding a lollipop

NYPD Detective Sekou Bourne is being accused of tackling and assaulting a woman because he thought that she had drugs. However, what the detective believed to be drugs was just a lollipop.

Jarnale Henry claims that the officer assaulted her in her Brooklyn apartment after he mistook her for a drug dealer.

Last April, Bourne was reportedly snooping around Jarnale’s apartment complex in search of drug dealers. At one point, Bourne was hanging around Jarnale’s apartment, so she asked him, “What do you want?” according to court documents.

According to Jarnale, the officer then became violent with her.

“He pushed me down … They knocked my lollipop to the ground. I fell on my leg, onto my whole right side,” Jarnale said.

In Court, Bourne said that the lollipop looked like it could be marijuana, and he also claimed that the way she said “what do you want” indicated that she was selling drugs.

“I thought it was a drug-related question. I thought she was asking me if I needed any drugs. That’s when I identified myself as a police officer,” Bourne said in court.

Bourne denies tackling her, but he says that she tripped on her own.

“She tripped and fell on her own. Then I got on top of her and began frisking her for my safety,” he said.

Bourne has a history of wrongly suspecting people of having drugs and assaulting them without any probable cause.

In addition to the accusations from Jarnale, Bourne is also being investigated for the assault of 17-year-old Marcel Hamer. In the case of Hamer, Bourne attacked him because he believed that the teenager was smoking marijuana, but it was just a cigarette.

No prejudiced views of Black people in his head. Nosiree.

* * * *

 LAPD shoots at teen with fake gun but hits 15-year-old bystander

At about 7:45 a.m. on Tuesday morning, two officers spotted a group gathered in an alley in the 7200 block of 10th Avenue in South Los Angeles, the L.A. Times reports. The officers saw a teenage boy pointing what they believed to be a gun at someone. The officers ordered the teen to put the gun down. When he did not respond, one officer opened fire, shooting a 15-year-old boy standing next to the teen in the back.

The 15-year-old was taken to a nearby hospital and later released. The teen with the fake gun was not injured, but could face charges for brandishing a fake weapon in front of a police officer. Police determined that the teens were all friends and hadn’t been fighting.

LAPD Cmdr. Smith called the shooting an “unfortunate situation” and said that “because of people bringing out replica weapons like that, it certainly could have been a terrible tragedy.”

The officers named have not been revealed yet, though both have been taken out of the field pending investigation.

Dear NRA,

Can we have that talk about gun violence that you keep putting off? That discussion needs to be ongoing and also needs to cover the glorification and fetishization of firearms by USAmericans.

* * * *

Deputy drags mentally ill woman through courthouse

“Stop! You’re hurting me!” 28-year-old Dasyl Jeanette Rios yells as a deputy drags her down the hallway of a courthouse in Broward County, Florida. “You’re fucking hurting me! I hate my life! I wish they would kill me already! Why do I have to be alive?”

Rios had just been declared mentally ill by the court, where she was being tried in a felony trespassing case. Officers told Rios to sit down on a bench, but when she refused after being told she could not say goodbye to her mother, Broward Deputy Christopher Johnson—a 27-year veteran of the department—grabbed her shackled feet and proceeded to pull her down the hall.

Chief Assistant Public Defender Lynn Desanti witnessed the incident, which left her deeply disturbed, according to WSVN, a Fort Lauderdale news station. “I could hear screaming, and I could see a deputy yelling at somebody, and all I could hear was, ‘If you don’t get up, I’m going to drag you,’” she said. “He dragged her all throughout the courthouse until she went to the holding cell.”

Desanti’s husband, attorney Bill Gelin, also witnessed the scene and filmed it on his phone. “They could have had a wheelchair. They could have had a stretcher. They could have had somebody with just the slightest bit of compassion,” he told WSVN. “This is really barbaric, and I’m just extremely disappointed. We all work together in the court system, particularly in the criminal justice system, and this just gives everybody a black eye.”

Why are we supposed to respect the authority of law enforcement officers when so many of them do not respect the rights of civilians?

Police Behaving Badly 2.24.15