Category: History

Since 9/11, racists and rightwing nutballs kill more Americans than do jihadists

In the 14 years since Al Qaeda carried out attacks on New York and the Pentagon, extremists have regularly executed smaller lethal assaults in the United States, explaining their motives in online manifestoes or social media rants.

But the breakdown of extremist ideologies behind those attacks may come as a surprise. Since Sept. 11, 2001, nearly twice as many people have been killed by white supremacists, antigovernment fanatics and other non-Muslim extremists than by radical Muslims: 48 have been killed by extremists who are not Muslim, including the recent mass killing in Charleston, S.C., compared with 26 by self-proclaimed jihadists…

The slaying of nine African-Americans in a Charleston church last week, with an avowed white supremacist charged with their murders, was a particularly savage case.

But it is only the latest in a string of lethal attacks by people espousing racial hatred, hostility to government and theories such as those of the “sovereign citizen” movement, which denies the legitimacy of most statutory law. The assaults have taken the lives of police officers, members of racial or religious minorities and random civilians…

If such numbers are new to the public, they are familiar to police officers. A survey to be published this week asked 382 police and sheriff’s departments nationwide to rank the three biggest threats from violent extremism in their jurisdiction. About 74 percent listed antigovernment violence, while 39 percent listed “Al Qaeda-inspired” violence, according to the researchers, Charles Kurzman of the University of North Carolina and David Schanzer of Duke University…

“Law enforcement agencies around the country have told us the threat from Muslim extremists is not as great as the threat from right-wing extremists,” said Dr. Kurzman…

…What about mass killings in which no ideological motive is evident, such as those at a Colorado movie theater and a Connecticut elementary school in 2012? The criteria used by New America and most other research groups exclude such attacks, which have cost more lives than those clearly tied to ideology…

Some Muslim advocates complain that when the perpetrator of an attack is not Muslim, news media commentators quickly focus on the question of mental illness. “With non-Muslims, the media bends over backward to identify some psychological traits that may have pushed them over the edge,” said Abdul Cader Asmal, a retired physician and a longtime spokesman for Muslims in Boston. “Whereas if it’s a Muslim, the assumption is that they must have done it because of their religion.”

On several occasions since President Obama took office, efforts by government agencies to conduct research on right-wing extremism have run into resistance from Republicans, who suspected an attempt to smear conservatives…

The contentious question of biased perceptions of terrorist threats dates back at least two decades, to the truck bombing that tore apart the federal building in Oklahoma City in April 1995. Some early news media speculation about the attack assumed that it had been carried out by Muslim militants. The arrest of Timothy J. McVeigh, an antigovernment extremist, quickly put an end to such theories.

The bombing, which killed 168 people, including 19 children, remains the second-deadliest terrorist attack in American history, though its toll was dwarfed by the roughly 3,000 killed on Sept 11.

An American tradition. If you’re white, you’re right. Attackers must either be foreigners or mentally “different”.

Couldn’t be your cranky uncle who whines about too much government – every waking hour. Eh?

Pic of the Day

Black cop aids shithead
Click to enlargeAP/Rob Godfrey

South Carolina’s director of public safety, Leroy Smith, helps a man wearing a Nazi t-shirt up the stairs at a KKK white supremacist rally after it appeared he was suffering from heat exhaustion

Leroy Smith, the first Black man hired as Director of Public Safety in South Carlina – a former Florida state trooper – was not above helping an unidentified protester showing signs of heat exhaustion while wearing a black, swastika-blazoned T-shirt. A solid by-the-book cop doing his job with grace and care – even though he’s come to the aid of a miserable low-life racist who believes that Black folks like Leroy Smith should not have the right to vote or hold the job he has.

Gotta love it.

Nosferatu Lives

It reads like the script from one of his horror films; a stolen head, burnt black candles and satanic symbols – but this week they became elements of Berlin police department’s latest case.

The head in question belonged to Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau, the director of the iconic early-20th-Century Dracula film adaptation ‘Nosferatu – a Symphony of Horror’, taken from his grave near the German capital.

And officers have have already turned their attention to Germany’s darker sects as they search for those who took the well-preserved body part from a grave site often scrawled with pentangles and other symbols of devil worship.

Murnau’s ‘Nosferatu’ was and remains one of the most important milestones in cinema.

Based upon Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel ‘Dracula’, it told the story of Count Orlok of the undead, and its moody scenes and clever camera angles influenced generations of fans and filmakers alike.

But death was at the heart of the movie and death has continued to stir the passions of vampire lovers ever since it was made in 1922.

Indeed, his own death in 1931 aged 41 was enough to elicit some fascination of its own: openly homosexual, he was engaging in oral sex with his 14-year-old Filipino houseboy on the Pacific Coast Highway at Santa Barbara when he lost concentration and slammed into a telegraph pole.

His corpse was embalmed and placed in a metal coffin, and the following year it was shipped to Germany for burial in Stahnsdorf’s south-west cemetery.

And down the years the lovers of the undead – goths, ghouls and living vampires who get their sexual thrills from the drinking of human blood – have made the pilgrimage to the grave of Murnau to pay their respects to a man…

Stahnsdorf cemetery warden Olaf Ihlefeldt found the head missing as he slid the lid of the coffin away while investigating minor damage he had spotted on mausoleum number 22.

‘The body is still in pretty good condition,’ he said.

Murnau’s head was still recognisable and had its hair and teeth, he added, ‘the last time I saw it‘.

RTFA for tidbits and collateral tales of Satanism, vampire cults and other slightly disturbing religious rationales for often-demented, sometimes fanciful behavior.

Good enough for today’s TV series.

I must admit when my parents convinced the head librarian of our neighborhood Carnegie Library that I – 8-years-old – had exhausted the offerings for teens and pre-teens and required an adult library card, I almost blew it when the first book I went to borrow was Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”.

Murnau’s “Nosferatu” has long been my favorite silent film. If you require a soundtrack, try the version by Werner Herzog, “Nosferatu the Vampyre”, starring Klaus Kinski and Isabelle Adjani.

Woo hoo!

Robert Frank – The man who saw America

Trolley -- New Orleans
Click to enlarge — “Trolley — New Orleans” 1955

The photo, part of Frank’s groundbreaking volume ‘‘The Americans,’’ was taken four days after an encounter with the police in Arkansas that darkened his artistic viewpoint…

Frank says he was most drawn to blacks: the bare-chested boy in the back of a convertible; the woman relaxing beside a field in sunny Carolina cotton country; the dignified men outside the funeral of a South Carolina undertaker, who uncannily bring to mind the day President Obama eulogized Clementa Pinckney. At first, the South was to him ‘‘very exotic — a life I knew nothing about.’’ Then, in November 1955, Frank was traversing the Arkansas side of the Mississippi River, ‘‘just whistling my song and driving on,’’ as he says, when a patrol car pulled him over outside McGehee. The policemen’s report noted that Frank needed a bath and that ‘‘subject talked with a foreign accent.’’ Also suspicious were the contents of the car: cameras, foreign liquor. Frank was on his way to photograph oil refineries in Louisiana. ‘‘Are you a Commie?’’ he was asked.

Ten weeks earlier, Emmett Till was murdered a hundred miles away. ‘‘In Arkansas,’’ Frank recalls, ‘‘the cops pulled me in. They locked me in a cell. I thought, Jesus Christ, nobody knows I’m here. They can do anything. They were primitive.’’ Across the room, Frank could see ‘‘a young black girl sitting there watching. Very wonderful face. You see in her eyes she’s thinking, What are they gonna do?’’ Because his camera had been confiscated, Frank considers the girl his missing ‘‘Americans’’ photograph. Around midnight a policeman told Frank he had 10 minutes to get across the river. ‘‘That trip I got to like black people so much more than white people.’’

RTFA. It’s long and interesting as anything you may find in the NY TIMES Magazine. Which means “very” interesting. I piss and moan about the politics of the TIMES, sometimes. That’s an editorial fault. That’s the fault of owners who like to stay on the side of the American State Department regardless of issue or history.

They have some of the best journalists in the country. Not as often as they used to – but, in the digital age that’s a problem to be expected.

A simple way to end gerrymandering — which Congress made illegal in 1967

Years back, a law professor told me that when she teaches a class on the drawing of legislative districts, she leaves the issue of multi-member districts for last because it solves all the problems too well and makes the rest of the material uninteresting.

I was reminded of that when I read Kim Soffen’s Upshot column about the way geography rather than gerrymandering disadvantages Democrats in Florida when it comes to the US House of Representatives.

Everything she writes is true. Given the concentration of the state’s Democratic Party voters in high-density, deeply blue areas around Miami, it is extremely “natural” to draw a map that has a heavy GOP tilt.

But even though every state in the union does it this way, it’s not a law of nature that you have to allocate Florida’s 27 House seats by dividing the state into 27 equal population slices. You could easily treat the state as one 27-member district whose members are elected proportionately. That’s how they do it in Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, and many other countries that prefer not to be beset by highly politicized district boundary questions. A really big state like California or Texas you might want to split into two or three multi-member districts…

The point, however, is that how to create a fair system, in which the number of seats in a legislature that a party receives is proportional to the number of votes it receives, is a solved problem.

The trouble for the United States is a deeply misguided 1967 law that banned multi-member districts. The government’s concern was that a state like Georgia might say, “We’ll just elect all 14 of our House members at large,” and that way no African Americans would get elected. Of course this concern doesn’t apply to a proportional system, which, if anything, would have the opposite result — you could ensure that black and Latino members would get elected without needing to resort to funny-looking majority-minority district boundaries. So the problem of holding fair elections in Florida isn’t unsolvable, but it will take an act of Congress to fix — which is almost as bad.

Doing anything up to and beyond reason to keep the 2 useless parties in power gets you into quandaries like this. There are a few folks in Congress with the gumption to introduce legislation to correct this. Maybe – as we sneak up on the next census – there may be a for-real attempt to sort out democracy.

Who knows? Maybe even lose the silliness of the Electoral College designed to protect white men who also were major land owners/slave owners.

Nice piece of writing from @mattyglesias.

First victims of the A-Bomb were American — UPDATED

The explosion was seen nearly 200 miles away, the shock waves felt practically 100 miles away, and 70 years later, America’s first atomic bomb test – code-named Trinity – still reverberates in the tiny towns and secluded hamlets that ring the edges of the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico…

New Mexicans and their families who lived downwind of the Trinity fallout zone say the U.S. government should be held accountable for poor health, high rates of cancer, and early death like downwinders at other nuclear sites in Utah, Nevada and Arizona. However, with little to no medical proof definitively linking their illnesses and the blast, a rapidly aging and dying population, and little support from Congress, the hope for compensation, or even an apology, may take another generation to materialize.

Their story began…70 years ago. On the early morning of July 16, 1945, there was a bright flash and massive explosion at the Alamagordo Air Base at White Sands. The first test of an atomic weapon had occurred. However, officials were quick to cover up what had happened. The Associated Press reported that “a remotely located ammunition magazine containing a considerable amount of high explosives and pyrotechnics exploded.”

The AP also reported that “weather conditions affecting the content of the gas shells exploded by the blast may make it desirable for the Army to temporarily evacuate a few civilians from their homes.”

According to a Centers for Disease Control report, those civilians were never warned nor evacuated. Many locals reported “a white substance like flour” that fell for days. The night after the test, it rained; the water was collected in cisterns by locals and consumed later on.

“There have been plenty of people who’ve said: ‘why didn’t you move away?’” said Tina Cordova, a cofounder of the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium. “We didn’t know, first of all, we were at risk of anything. And by the time we knew were all so overexposed.”

Cordova is recovering from thyroid cancer and says her father passed away nearly two years ago after a long cancer battle that ended with heavy facial surgery…

Cordova has been conducting surveys and compiling the medical histories of every downwinder she can find. The file is huge…

Under the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) of 1990, uranium mill workers, miners, transporters, and on-site workers in states across the West are all eligible for compensation. In Nevada, Utah and Arizona, downwinders and on-site workers at nuclear test sites — including those working at White Sands Missile Range — are also eligible. However, New Mexican downwinders are not covered. They hope New Mexico Senator Tom Udall will make it right.

New Mexicans have been left out for a long time,” Udall said. “We hope there will be a situation where justice comes to this case and people be compensated and they will get that apology from the United States of America.”

Sometimes I have to wonder why our government, especially military types, beancounters in Congress, take pride in being such miserable, low-life human beings. We are the wealthiest nation on Earth. Our government will drop billions on some of the most useless, backwards hardware, politics, agencies and other foolishness. But, when it comes it compensating ordinary folks who “probably” had their lives ruined by criminal behavior by official decisions – perish the thought we give someone the benefit of the doubt.

Contemptible behavior. Disgusting. Another example to the rest of the world how little this powerful nation actually cares about our own citizens – much less the population of workers and farmers, citizens of this planet outside our borders.

Most folks in New Mexico who study history beyond batting averages for the Albuquerque Isotopes know this story. RTFA for tales of just a few of the individuals and families destroyed by the side effects of that test.

UPDATE: NM Senator Tom Udall is battling with Senate blivets and backwards chickenhawks to aid Tularosa downwinders.

Apartheid Israel closes TV station on Palestinian identity

Israel has ordered a six-month closure of Palestine 48, a new Palestinian television channel funded by the Palestinian Authority and catering to Palestinian citizens of Israel.

“I will not allow for Israel’s sovereignty to be harmed or for the Palestinian Authority to gain a foothold in Israeli territory,” said Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who on Thursday signed an order claiming that the channel did not have the authorisation to operate in Israel.

So much for freedom of thought in Israel.

Mirroring the outrage expressed by a number of Palestinian lawmakers in Israel, Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation President Riad al-Hassan said the move against the channel – which is broadcast through the Palestinian company PalSat – was “illegal” and that it would be contested in the supreme court…

Creators say the channel has been no stranger to controversy, even in the choice of its name. Palestine 48 – or P48 – refers to the some 700,000 people who fled or were forcibly evicted from their homes in the context of the 1948 war with Israel, and whose descendants in recent years have balanced their identities as Israeli citizens and Palestinian nationals.

Their stories have begun to shed light on long-suppressed national narratives. P48 director Firas Abdelrahman said he was especially proud of programmes that would have examined the ways families were, and continue to be, shaped by the protracted conflict.

“We have stories which we are just thirsting to tell, and Palestinians are also eager to discover and learn about themselves,” Abdelrahman said…

The director’s own family tree traces back to al-Shajara village. After years wandering the world, Abdelrahman ended up in Ramallah, where he envisioned the P48 channel as a way of strengthening Palestinians’ connections with their homeland. The Palestinian Authority funds the channel, though producers say it maintains political independence…

Israel is home to more than 1.5 million Palestinians, most of whom speak Hebrew and have citizenship, but who also say they are treated as second-class citizens and given inferior access to education, healthcare and job opportunities compared to their Jewish neighbours.

RTFA. Lots more information about all the processes involved.

The battle against apartheid, the fight against an imperial nation with allies that historically ranged from Boer South Africa to the United States, has more similarities than contextual differences with the American civil rights movement. Throw in a little taste of Jim Crow days in failed Confederate states and you’re getting close to culture as it is experienced by Israelis of Palestinian origins.

Stupid pic of the day

I hope this photo isn’t representative of more than an isolated little turd on the Oklahoma landscape. A racist greeting for President Obama visiting Oklahoma to review policies that give us one of the most imprisoned societies on Earth. We have 5% of the planet’s population and 25% of the imprisoned.

Most of the international news services picked this up – so, the whole world will see this pic and presume they’re witnessing another example of racist America as widespread as it was back in official Jim Crow days – instead of a small clot of bigots celebrating their backwardness.

For that’s been my experience with OK. I spent a small piece of time representing a software company headquartered in Oklahoma. Small, though they had at the time a 40% market share in their niche. Nice BBQ at sales meetings.

Good folks in my extended family grew up in OK farm country. And I have a Norteño buddy who retired and left Santa Fe to a farm he bought in OK. Tells me he has great neighbors with no hangups over his Hispanic life and style.

Nope, my hope is these nutballs are just a small blob of bigotry, folks with a rats nest instead of brains.