Category Archives: Civil Liberties

11 things corporate media won’t tell you about Timothy Caughman — the unarmed Black man stabbed to death by a white supremacist

Thanks for humanizing the “victim” 

Timothy Caughman was killed for being Black. He was 66.

A canner, who supported himself by gathering and redeeming bottles and cans, Caughman was doing his job–sorting through recycling–when a 28-year- old army veteran, James Harris Jackson, pulled out a 26-inch mini-sword and repeatedly stabbed him in the chest and back Monday night in Manhattan’s Hell’s kitchen neighborhood. Caughman died at a hospital.

Wednesday, Jackson turned himself in, telling police that he traveled from Maryland to New York City on Friday in order to “target male blacks,” according to Assistant Chief William Aubry of Manhattan South Detectives. “The reason why he picked New York,” said Aubry, “is because it is the media capital of the world… He wanted to make a statement.” The New York Post reports that “Jackson identifies as a white supremacist and told police he penned a manifesto about his racist views,” which included a plan “about an imminent attack on blacks in New York.” He was particularly disturbed by Black men who were in romantic relationships with white women.

So, to recap, a self-identified white supremacist fatally stabbed an unarmed man because he was Black.

Yet, much of the mainstream media coverage has turned a story about the murder of an unarmed Black men into an investigation into the character of an unarmed Black man, as Adam Johnson points out at FAIR. The Daily News and New York Post reported on Caughman’s utterly unrelated and irrelevant arrest record. Even more remarkably, The Daily News thought it was appropriate to remind readers that, “In December 2014, Ismaaiyl Brinsley traveled to the city from Baltimore and assassinated Police Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, who were in the car near Myrtle and Tompkins Avenues in Bedford-Stuyvesant. Brinsley had made anti-police statements on social media prior to the murders.” Though tragic, a murder that took place over two years ago doesn’t seem germane. Johnson suggests,

 This is a bizarre journalistic choice that appears to be some kind of attempt at “balancing” the coverage, suggesting that there could be a bit of score-settling going on: Yes, this black man was senselessly murdered by a white supremacist, but some other black guy killed cops two-and-a-half years ago, so….
To be fair, there is another angle here. Both crimes were committed by men who traveled from the state of Maryland to New York City. So there’s that.
Another important thing, according to the Daily News and New York Post, is that Caughman lived in transitional housing.

This isn’t the first time the media has tasked itself with scrutinizing and smearing the character of an unarmed Black murder victim. See: Michael “no angel” Brown, Freddie “he caused his own injuries (which he didn’t)” Gray, Trayvon “he smoked pot once and gave the middle finger in a photo once” Martin. The punishment for having once smoked pot is not, actually, execution at the hands of someone who failed the police entrance exam, beats his girlfriends and volunteers as a neighborhood watchman.

Curiously, the same media which is so quick to the judge victims, finds itself capable of extraordinary empathy and understanding when the perpetrator is white. Consider, for example, the story of Brock Turner, who was sentenced to six months (of which he’d serve three) for assault with intent to rape an intoxicated woman and sexually penetrating an unconscious person with a foreign object. While some were disturbed by the rape and the light sentence, The Washington Post, worried that Turner’s promising swimming career would be disrupted by the conviction. The article, whose headline read, “All-American swimmer found guilty of sexually assaulting unconscious woman on Stanford campus,” featured a fresh-faced posed photo of Turner, not the traditional mugshot. and not his mug shot.

Caughman happened to be a collector of autographs, a passionate consumer of pop culture and a huge fan of Shari Headley, so outlets have also picked up the human interest angle of the story, which, though preferable, still manages to incorporate the irrelevant information from the smear-based reports. Even an additional article in The Daily News, whose headline reads, “New Yorker who was fatally stabbed by Maryland man loved meeting Hollywood stars,” includes the fact that he lived in transitional housing. Because so little information has been released about Caughman, even places like The Hollywood Reporter, included this irrelevant tidbit in its seemingly harmless listicle: “Timothy Caughman Stabbed To Death: 5 Things About The Innocent NYC Man.” The fourth thing you need to know, apparently, is that Caughman,

lived in transitional housing. Timothy resided in a transitional housing facility on W. 36th street, sources told New York Daily News. Transitional housing is a place for homeless people to stay, generally after they have suffered a crisis.

Curiously, the same media which is so quick to the judge victims, finds itself capable of extraordinary empathy and understanding when the perpetrator is white. Consider, for example, the story of Brock Turner, who was sentenced to six months (of which he’d serve three) for assault with intent to rape an intoxicated woman and sexually penetrating an unconscious person with a foreign object. While some were disturbed by the rape and the light sentence, The Washington Post, worried that Turner’s promising swimming career would be disrupted by the conviction. The article, whose headline read, “All-American swimmer found guilty of sexually assaulting unconscious woman on Stanford campus,” featured a fresh-faced posed photo of Turner, not the traditional mugshot. and not his mug shot.

Caughman happened to be a collector of autographs, a passionate consumer of pop culture and a huge fan of Shari Headley, so outlets have also picked up the human interest angle of the story, which, though preferable, still manages to incorporate the irrelevant information from the smear-based reports. Even an additional article in The Daily News, whose headline reads, “New Yorker who was fatally stabbed by Maryland man loved meeting Hollywood stars,” includes the fact that he lived in transitional housing. Because so little information has been released about Caughman, even places like The Hollywood Reporter, included this irrelevant tidbit in its seemingly harmless listicle: “Timothy Caughman Stabbed To Death: 5 Things About The Innocent NYC Man.” The fourth thing you need to know, apparently, is that Caughman, lived in transitional housing. Timothy resided in a transitional housing facility on W. 36th street, sources told New York Daily News. Transitional housing is a place for homeless people to stay, generally after they have suffered a crisis.

Posted by the NON-Conformist

Noam Chomsky: Trump could stage a ‘false flag’ terror attack and ‘change the country instantly’

Author and political philosopher Noam Chomsky sounded a dire warning on Monday in an interview with AlterNet’s Jan Frel, saying that President Donald Trump could stage a “false flag” terror attack in an effort to consolidate his power and strip Americans of their constitutional rights.

Chomsky warned that eventually the people who voted for Trump will realize that his “promises are built on sand” and begin to lose faith in his presidency, at which point Trump will need someone to scapegoat, so he will say, “‘Well, I’m sorry, I can’t bring your jobs back because these bad people are preventing it.’ And the typical scapegoating goes to vulnerable people: immigrants, terrorists, Muslims and elitists, whoever it may be. And that can turn out to be very ugly.”

“I think that we shouldn’t put aside the possibility that there would be some kind of staged or alleged terrorist act, which can change the country instantly,” Chomsky said.

Chomsky — who has called Trump a “con man” who will drag civilization “down to the utter depths of barbarism” — also said that much of the world is amused at the outrage many Americans feel about Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

“I mean whatever the Russians may have been doing, let’s take the most extreme charges, that barely registers in the balance against what the U.S. does constantly,” he said. “Even in Russia. So for example, the U.S. intervened radically to support [Boris] Yeltsin in 1991 when he was engaged in a power play trying to take power from the Parliament, Clinton strongly supported him. In 1996, when Yeltsin was running, the Clinton administration openly and strongly supported them, and not only verbally, but with tactics and loans and so on.”

“All of that goes way beyond what the Russians are charged with, and of course that is a minor aspect of U.S. interference in elections abroad,” said Chomsky, adding that the U.S. operates under a philosophy of “If we don’t like the election, you can just overthrow the country.”

The White House is reportedly in turmoil after the collapse of the administration’s healthcare law, which was withdrawn before it could come to a vote on Friday. While the president’s poll numbers are at historic lows, Trump’s supporters are still largely loyal to the man they voted for.

By David Furguson

Posted by the NON-Conformist

Where Free Speech Ends, Ignorance Begins

At the risk of sounding like a geezer complaining about “these kids today,” back in my college days, when it came to points of view we were unhesitatingly exposed to literature, teachers and on-campus speakers covering the ideological waterfront.

In one instance, the student body was addressed by civil rights activist and comedian Dick Gregory, radical Irish activist Bernadette Devlin and the conservative writer and critic Russell Kirk — all in the course of a week or so.

Such variety was a common occurrence, and freewheeling, open discussion was encouraged. We didn’t always like or agree with a lot of what we heard or read — from time to time there were vehement protests — but all of it was invaluable. None of us were harmed in the making of our education.

So I was appalled other day when I read about the attempt by Republican Arkansas legislator Kim Hendren to ban from that state’s public schools all books written by the great radical historian Howard Zinn, including his seminal “A People’s History of the United States,” a truthful, lacerating look at the heroes and villains of America — especially the oligarchs and kleptocrats who once again have their heels on the necks of the poor and middle class.

But I also was deeply troubled by the incident at Vermont’s Middlebury College on March 2, when controversial social scientist Charles Murray was invited by a conservative student group and attempted to speak on campus. Here’s what happened, according to the Associated Press:

“Hundreds of students chanted as Murray began to speak Thursday, forcing the college to move the lecture to an undisclosed location. Murray’s talk was live-streamed to the original venue, but protesters drowned it out. The topic, he said, was the divergence of the country’s culture into a new upper class separated from mainstream America.

“Afterward, a group of protesters surrounded Murray, professor Allison Stanger and college administrator Bill Burger as they were leaving, he said. The protesters became violent, with one pulling Stanger’s hair, twisting her neck, the college said.

“After Murray and the two Middlebury staff members got into a car to leave, protesters banged on the windows, climbed onto the hood and rocked the vehicle, the college and Murray said.”

Professor Stanger, by the way, went to the ER and was subsequently diagnosed with concussion. She’s a respected political scientist at Middlebury and a fellow at the progressive New America, and was there the other night because the conservative student group had asked her to provide a counterpoint to Murray’s speech, to interview him from the stage after his prepared remarks. She had prepared some tough, challenging questions.

Many of Charles Murray’s opinions are indeed odious and his research highly questionable, He was co-author of “The Bell Curve,” a notorious book that seemed to link race and IQ. He describes himself as a libertarian, but the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) calls him a white nationalist and reports:

“According to Murray, the relative differences between the white and black populations of the United States, as well as those between men and women, have nothing to do with discrimination or historical and structural disadvantages, but rather stem from genetic differences between the groups… Murray’s attempts to link social inequality to genes are based on the work of explicitly racist scientists.”

At the beginning of Murray’s attempt to speak at Middlebury, students turned their backs to him and chanted in protest. I probably would have done the same. But to not let him speak and to allow the protests to lead to violence is inexcusable. I realize that this raises all sorts of questions about freedom of speech and academic liberty, the nature of dissent and when and if political violence is ever justified, but looking at what happened coolly — and admittedly, from a distance — it seems clear that this went far beyond the boundaries of civil discourse that especially today must be defended against the barbarians who already have run roughshod, pushing through the gates and seizing the reins of power and governance.

Professor Stanger said it best herself. She wrote:

“To people who wish to spin this story as one about what’s wrong with elite colleges and universities, you are mistaken. Please instead consider this as a metaphor for what is wrong with our country, and on that, Charles Murray and I would agree. This was the saddest day of my life. We have got to do better by those who feel and are marginalized. Our 230-year constitutional democracy depends on it, especially when our current President is blind to the evils he has unleashed. We must all realize the precious inheritance we have as fellow Americans and defend the Constitution against all its enemies, both foreign and domestic. That is why I do not regret my involvement in the event with Dr. Murray.”

And then she quoted James Baldwin: “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

I can be as guilty as the next person about tuning out and trying to ignore the voice of someone with whom I vehemently disagree. I know, too, that this indeed is a time to speak out against the ignorance and despotism sweeping our nation. Further, I realize that the religious, racial and homophobic hate crimes that have been on the upswing since Donald Trump’s candidacy and election — and increased in 2016 for the second year in a row according to the Southern Poverty Law Center — far exceed in numbers and intensity any violence or brutishness that has occurred on college campuses. No question that they’re more frightening and dangerous.

But, in the words of Andrew Sullivan, “Universities are the sanctuary cities of reason. If reason must be subordinate to ideology even there, our experiment in self-government is over.”

Two sides of the same coin: whether the Trump White House or those who would physically attack a college professor. Their unthinking, unyielding enslavement to a single viewpoint is fatal.

Ignorance begets ignorance and hate begets hate. And like a virus, each can infect without regard to race, gender, creed or political perspective. At a time when those in charge are fueling a pandemic of intolerance we must make sure not to succumb ourselves.

By Michael Winship / Moyers & Company

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Police Use of Force against People with Mental Illness, Children in Schools

People with mental illness are 16 times more likely to be killed during a police encounter than other civilians, according to a report covered by Democracy Now! in September 2016. The Treatment Advocacy Center published its report, titled “Overlooked in the Undercounted: The Role of Mental Illness in Fatal Law Enforcement Encounters,” in December 2015. The report’s authors wrote, “Given the prevalence of mental illness in police shootings, reducing encounters between on-duty law enforcement and individuals with the most severe psychiatric diseases may represent the single most immediate, practical strategy for reducing fatal police shootings in the United States.

Nermeen Shaikh and Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! interviewed John Snook, one of the study’s co-authors and the director of the Treatment Advocacy Center, after the death of Alfred Olango in El Cajon, California, in September 2016. El Cajon Police responding to a call for emergency psychiatric aid shot Olango several times, and he died in hospital later the same day. The Democracy Now! report described Olango’s death as “just the most recent in a string of police shootings of primarily men of color with mental illness or disability,” linking it with an incident the week before, in Charlotte, North Carolina, in which police shot and killed Keith Scott, a 43-year-old father who reportedly had suffered a traumatic brain injury in 2015, and a July incident in North Miami in which a police officer contended that he mistakenly shot an African-American behavioral therapist, Charles Kinsey, when he was aiming for Arnaldo Rios Soto, a 26-year-old autistic man.

Snook described the Olango incident as “a nightmare scenario for families with a loved one who has a mental illness, and for law enforcement themselves” before asking, “When someone is having a medical emergency, why are we requiring law enforcement to step in?” Making the point that law enforcement officers are not trained as mental health professionals, Snook added that we need to “get away from this situation where we wait until someone is in a crisis before we provide care.”

Meanwhile, additional news stories—including Rebecca Klein’s reporting for the Huffington Post and the Hechinger Report in August 2016—document the frequency with which school-based law enforcement officers have used Tasers on children. Klein reports that, since 2011, there are at least 84 documented instances of “school-based police officers using Tasers against K-12 students.” All the students were 12-19 years old when the incidents occurred. They were hit by Taser or stun guns used by school-based police officers, who are sometimes called school resource officers. According to Klein, the figure is “a gross underestimation because not every incident is reported, and no state or federal organization track how often children are zapped at schools.”

The numbers of police officers in schools have gone up since the Columbine High School shooting in 1999. New “tough on crime” and zero tolerance policies were also implemented after the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, when the Obama administration funded a program to hire one thousand school resource officers and counselors. Klein reports that “in 1997 only 10 percent of public schools had police officers; in 2014, 30 percent did.”

As Regis Duvignau of RT News reports, just over a month into the 2016-17 school year, four students have already been tasered by school-based officers, including two girls from a Florida high school who were fighting. In that case, RT News reports, a sheriff later explained that the Taser was “the safest way” to break up the fight.

From Project Censored

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Government failure to act means gender pay gap will remain, say MPs

The gender pay gap is likely to persist for more than a generation in the UK after the government rejected proposals to encourage flexible working and help women back into the workforce, MPs have said.

Without ministers putting their weight behind measures needed to end the “pay penalty” suffered by millions of women, the government will fail to meet its target of closing the gap within the next couple of decades, said the cross-party women and equalities committee.

The group made 17 recommendations last March, but most of them were rejected in the government’s response in January. The MPs had called for measures including three months’ paid paternity leave and devising industrial strategies for low-paid jobs carried out by women in industries such care, cleaning and retail.

Theresa May highlighted the need to close the gender pay gap in her Conservative party conference speech last year and has since told private and voluntary sector organisations employing more than 250 people they will need to report their gender pay and gender bonus gaps. The regulations, which come into effect in April, will affect about 11 million employees.

Conservative MP Maria Miller, who chairs the committee, said it was clear ministers had set their sights on reducing the pay gap between men and women, but would fail if they continued to ignore evidence to help achieve its goal.

She said the pay audit introduced by David Cameron was only the start and should be supplemented with concrete support in the workplace, adding: “The government says there is no place for a gender pay gap in modern Britain and has restated its pledge to end the pay gap within a generation.

“But without effectively tackling the key issues of flexible working, sharing unpaid caring responsibilities, and supporting women aged over 40 back into the workforce, the gender pay gap will not be eliminated.

“We made practical, evidence-based recommendations to address these issues. They were widely supported by a range of stakeholders including businesses, academics and unions. It is deeply disappointing that our recommendations have not been taken on board by government.”

Women earn 18% less than men on average, according to research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies. The gap is closest among 20- to 30-year-olds, but balloons after women have children as mothers miss out on pay rises and promotions.

Responding to the committee’s comments, Frances O’Grady – general secretary of trade union umbrella body the TUC, said: “The government needs to up its game and tackle the root causes of the gender pay gap – not ignore them.

“This means removing the barriers that stop women getting better-paid jobs, and helping parents to share out caring responsibilities more equally. Ministers need to stop dragging their heels and challenge workplace discrimination full on.”

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According to a study by consultancy PwC, published on Tuesday, Britain has a higher proportion of working women than most countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development ranking of rich nations.

But the UK has failed to close the pay gap at the same pace as the average for the OECD and has a only a small proportion in full-time work, leaving it in 13th place behind the Nordic countries, Poland and Canada. However, it is ahead of France, Germany, the US, Japan and Italy.

The report, based on data from 2015, concluded that Germany was acting more slowly than the UK to close the gender pay gap and may take more than a century at the current pace. Britain is on track to take 41 years to close its gap.

Moves to match Sweden’s female work participation rate would boost GDP by £170bn, the report said. Top of the list of gender pay offenders was the financial services industry, which has a 34% pay gap, followed by the energy, utilities and manufacturing industries – where few women rise to senior positions.

A government spokesperson said: “We are committed to tackling the gender pay gap and our policies, which aim to balance the needs of employees and businesses while addressing this gap, are working.

“We now have the lowest gender pay gap on record, around 60,000 people a year are taking advantage of flexible working arrangements and the introduction of shared parental leave gives parents extra flexibility and we will continue to evaluate this as it beds in. We’re also supporting women over 40 in the workplace through the National Careers Service.

“But we know there’s more to do. That’s why we are requiring employers to publish their gender pay and gender bonus gap for the first time from April and we are giving working parents of three- and four-year-olds up to 30 hours of free childcare from September.”

By Phillip Inman/TheGuardian

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Eight Policies That Prevent Police Brutality

Civilian deaths at the hands of law enforcement officers have become so routine in the US that it risks becoming predictable. This has resulted in a growing movement of fearful, outraged citizens concerned with police violence–including the increasing militarization of police departments. However, a new report suggests that curbing police violence is quite possible, if police departments and local officials commit to it.

In the aftermath of the Ferguson protests, a citizen’s group—known as Campaign Zero (CZ)—came together to research and recommend solutions to end police brutality. In their “Police Use of Force Project,” Campaign Zero identified eight policies that greatly decrease the likelihood of police violence:

Require officers to de-escalate situations before resorting to force.
Limit the kinds of force that can be used to respond to specific forms of resistance.
Restrict chokeholds.
Require officers to give verbal warning before using force.
Prohibit officers from shooting at moving vehicles.
Require officers to exhaust all alternatives to deadly force.
Require officers to stop colleagues from exercising excessive force.
Require comprehensive reporting on use of force.
Researchers examined 91 of the 100 largest cities to see if police departments were using these policies, and found that none of the departments utilized all eight. The lowest rates of police killings were associated with those departments that implemented four or more policies—only about a third of the country’s largest departments. If all the policies were enforced, it’s estimated police killings would drop by 72%.

Why then are implementation rates so low? Historical precedence is partly to blame. In some cases, police unions claim that the policies would endanger officers. However, research findings show the opposite: better regulation of use of force is better for police, too—with the numbers of officers assaulted or killed in the line of duty decreasing in proportion to the number of policies adopted. It’s time to call for the implementation of “Use of Force” policies in every city and community across the country.

From/Projectcensored

Posted by The NON-Conformist

The Silencing of Coretta Scott King Is an Act of Systemic Racism

On Tuesday night, during debate about the nomination of Jeff Sessions for Attorney General, Republican extremists silenced Senator Elizabeth Warren as she was discussing Sessions’s record. They did not object to the facts she cited. They refused to hear them.

This is what systemic racism looks like in America.

As part of her remarks, Senator Warren read from Coretta Scott King’s 1986 letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee opposing the nomination of Sessions to a federal judgeship. The letter was never entered into the record by then-Judiciary Committee Chairman Strom Thurmond.

Mrs. King’s words, however, were based on facts she had observed about Sessions’s beliefs and conduct. She knew, for example, that as US Attorney Sessions had tried to prosecute one of her late husband’s pallbearers for helping elderly citizens vote in Alabama. Mrs. King knew that her husband had died for standing up to men like Jeff Sessions. She wasn’t attacking his character or pretending to know what was in his heart. She had witnessed the heart of his policy.

Senator Sessions, and anyone else who has a history of supporting systemic racism, cannot be protected from the truth of their own record. We need to have a grownup conversation about race in America and the ways it shows up in the heart of policies.

Refusing to restore the Voting Rights Act is systemic racism. As King wrote in 1986, “Mr. Sessions has used the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens in the district he now seeks to serve as a federal judge.”

More recently, Sessions opposed restoring and updating section 4 of the Voting Rights Act after the Shelby County v. Holder Supreme Court decision. He sat idly by as the Supreme Court and politicians dismantled and attacked voting rights. As a US Attorney in Alabama, he unjustly prosecuted voting rights advocates who worked closely with Martin Luther King, Jr. This baseless, politically motivated case ended in unanimous acquittal of these defenders of civil rights. “A person who has exhibited so much hostility to the enforcement of those laws, and thus, to the exercise of those rights by Black people should not be elevated to the federal bench,” King wrote.

His support to repeal health care access, which impacts 3 million African Americans, is systemic racism. His refusal to support living wages to the 54 percent of African Americans who make less than living wages is systemic racism. Scapegoating Muslim refugees and mobilizing a deportation force is systemic racism. Senator Sessions has a clear record of promoting xenophobia and religious bigotry; his former aid, Stephen Miller, who learned political extremism in my home state of North Carolina, is reported to be the chief author of Trump’s Muslim ban. Sessions has defended the legitimacy of religious tests in immigration policy that could be used to ban immigration by Muslims.

None of this is an attack on Senator Sessions’s character. Senator Warren knows as well as Mrs. King did that Jeff Sessions can smile and be cordial. But his whole political career has been about defending systemic racism. This fact cannot be silenced in our public discourse.

Racial inequality persists in America not because of men in white robes but because of the policies supported by men like Jeff Sessions. Gutting public education in the name of “choice” is systemic racism and has been since Brown v. Board of Education. Using dog whistles to attack so-called “entitlement” programs, which actually serve more white people than black or brown people, is systemic racism. Promoting “law and order” policies that target poor black and brown people for mass incarceration is systemic racism. Talking about voter fraud and crime-ridden communities while plotting voter suppression is systemic racism.

If Senate rules allow this truth to be shut down then the Senate rules are wrong. While many extremist leaders continue to try to hide the truth of their embrace of systemic racism, we as moral activists will not be silenced. We are called to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God. We will show up. We will sit in. We will cry out. We will not stand down. Those politicians who believe in a moral agenda for this nation must do the same.

By Dr. William J. Barber II/TheNation

Posted by The NON-Conformist