Monday, April 20, 2015

Last Call For 20 Years Later

Some 20 years after Timothy McVeigh attacked the Alfred P, Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, America has clearly forgotten that our domestic terrorism problem remains, and has forgotten at our peril.

Officers Brandon Paudert and Bill Evans never saw it coming. 
The white minivan pulled over on Interstate 40 near West Memphis, Ark., in 2010 came back registered to a church in Ohio. Inside the vehicle were a Bible and some documents quoting Scripture. 
Minutes later, Evans lay dying in the ditch and Paudert was sprawled on the roadway, their bodies tattered by two dozen bullets from an AK-47. 
The killers: members of the sovereign citizen movement, which the officers had never heard of. 
“They didn’t realize that there are people at war with this country who are not international terrorists,” said Bob Paudert, then West Memphis police chief and father of one of the slain officers. 
“These people are willing to kill and be killed for their beliefs. And they are more dangerous to us in law enforcement than international terrorists.”

But today, Republicans will attack you for even mentioning right-wing terrorist groups. All domestic terrorists are somehow radical 60's liberals. Cliven Bundy?  Who's that?  Sovereign citizen movement? White supremacist groups?  All liberals, you see.  Or they don't exist at all.  We certainly don't need to spend taxpayer money harassing these kind people.

Domestic terrorism used to be a major focus for police and federal agents, especially after the Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people 20 years ago Sunday. 
But the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, led to a dramatic change: Law enforcement shifted its focus from domestic to foreign terrorism. 
And today, while the number of violent incidents committed by domestic extremists is actually increasing, the holes in the net to catch them are growing larger, The Kansas City Star found in a one-year investigation. 
A network of centers set up to detect and deter terrorism has done little of either, while at the same time federal funding to train law enforcement officers has been slashed. 
Authorities and others are beginning to raise the alarm — the same one raised after Oklahoma City. 
“Domestic terrorism was the focus after the Oklahoma City bombing,” said Daryl Johnson, a former senior analyst with the Department of Homeland Security. “Then when 9/11 happened, it became way too focused on al-Qaida and its affiliates.” 
Now, in a period of increasing extremism, the domestic danger is greater than ever, Johnson said. 
Our leaders don’t seem too concerned about the threat from within,” he said. “My fear is that there will be some kind of mass-casualty attack, with more people dying needlessly at the hands of domestic extremists. That’s what keeps me awake at night.”

Nope, these guys are all patriots who hate Obama and the federal government, just like the God-fearing, rock-ribbed salt of the earth Republican voters in the heartland.  The ties these movements have to hate groups, both old and new?  Slander, lies, fantasy.  Obama's your only real enemy.

And 20 years later, very little has changed other than these groups have gotten worse, and we've done nothing to stop them.

Another Milepost On The Road To Oblivion

Here in Cincy the talk over the weekend involved a "victory over those evil Mooslem types" up in John Boehner country as students at a high school up in Mason were bullied out of an exercise in religious tolerance, mainly because the religion in question wasn't Christianity.

A group of Muslim students organized a one day challenge to their fellow students to wear a hijab to school for a day in order to promote religious understanding of Muslim culture, and if you know anything about the northern suburbs of Cincinnati (which is John Boehner's district up all the way up to Dayton), you know damn well "religious understanding of Muslim anything" sure as hell doesn't exist there.

What started out as a cultural awareness effort by Mason High School Muslim students this week morphed into a fierce 48-hour debate about prejudice, freedom and religion in public schools.

By the end, Mason High School canceled the "Covered Girl Challenge," and principal Mindy McCarty-Stewart sent an apology to district families. The challenge was student-sponsored and voluntary, meant to combat stereotypes students may face when wearing head coverings, McCarty-Stewart wrote.

"As word spread beyond our school community ... we received many strong messages that made me reconsider the event's ability to meet its objectives," she wrote. "I now realize that as adults we should have given our students better guidance."

Even afterward, though, the episode and arguments illustrate the fault lines in Greater Cincinnati - and the U.S. - over where cultural awareness ends and promoting a religion begins. And where avoiding controversy ends and turns into bigotry.

When the right-wing hatemongers got wind of this, the students found themselves as targets, with the blogs claiming that the school was "forcing all female students to wear hijabs" and attacking the student group for perpetuating human rights violations against Muslim women. By Thursday, the principal had canceled the April planned event completely.

Intense criticism has prompted an Ohio high school's principal to cancel a student event in which girls would celebrate diversity by spending a day wearing a Muslim headscarf.

Mason High School Mindy McCarty-Stewart also issued an apology in an email Thursday to district families, saying the intent of the April 23 student-led event was meant to be positive, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported.

"I now realize that as adults we should have given our students better guidance. After much consideration and after talking with the student event organizers, we have canceled the event," she said.

The reality is that this event happened  without too much trouble at other schools and universities in the US, and again it wasn't a problem even when it happened at high schools in the Midwest.

Somehow, Mason, Ohio became a firestorm.

I wonder why.

Reminder: The Voting Rights Act Is Still Dead

The NY Times editorial board rips into Chief Justice John Roberts over the 2013 decision that destroyed the Voting Rights Act's "preclearance" formula because the racism of voter suppression simply didn't exist anymore.  The truth is far more insidious.

A comprehensive new study by a historian of the Voting Rights Act provides a fresh trove of empirical evidence to refute that assertion. The study by J. Morgan Kousser, a professor of history and social science at the California Institute of Technology, examines more than 4,100 voting-rights cases, Justice Department inquiries, settlements and changes to laws in response to the threat of lawsuits around the country where the final result favored minority voters.

It found that from 1957 until 2013, more than 90 percent of these legal “events” occurred in jurisdictions that were required to preclear their voting changes. The study also provides evidence that the number of successful voting-rights suits has gone down in recent years, not because there is less discrimination, but because several Supreme Court decisions have made them harder to win.

Mr. Kousser acknowledges that the law’s formula, created without the benefit of years of data, was a “blunt tool” that focused on voter turnout and clearly discriminatory practices like literacy tests. Still, he says, the statistics show that for almost a half century it “succeeded in accurately homing in on the counties where the vast majority of violations would take place.”

Members of Congress had seen some of this data in 2006 when, by a near-unanimous vote, they reauthorized the Voting Rights Act for 25 years. In fact, the legislative record contained more than 15,000 pages of evidence documenting the continuation of ever-evolving racially discriminatory voting practices, particularly in the areas covered by the preclearance requirement.

But the Roberts opinion showed no interest in actual data. Nor did it seem to matter that the law was already adapting to current conditions: Every one of the more than 200 jurisdictions that asked to be removed from the preclearance list was successful, because each showed it was not discriminating.

Instead, the court said the coverage formula had to be struck down because it failed to target precisely all areas with voting rights violations in the country.

Quite literally Roberts struck down the formula because it was "antiquated" to the point of reverse discrimination, even though Congress had approved the formula just seven years before.  The same Republicans who had no problem with it in 2007 of course would never vote to fix the formula in 2015.

I can't imagine what's different now about America than 1957 to 2007, can you?


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