I have not written about the videotaped killing of Eric Garner by the New York Police Department--and their subsequent efforts to cover up the crime--because I did not want to contribute to the online necropolis of black and brown people unjustly killed by white American racism.

I have not watched the video of Eric Garner's death. I also would not have looked in the casket of Brother Emmett Till. I make that choice not because of a fear or disgust towards the corpse. My choice is also not one driven by some high-minded claim about a disgust at the spectacular pornography of death and its relationship to the black body.

I worry that to write about the killing of Eric Garner is to give the theft of his life power over me. I know that such a claim is intellectually specious. One cannot deny the fact of gravity because they choose to not think about it.

The naked reveal: meditations on black death are mentally and spiritually exhausting.

The "racism beat" can and does kill those who walk it. White supremacy extracts a high cost.

Moreover, what else is there left to say? Yet, the deed remains a tired repetition which still needs to be performed.

Black life is cheap in America. The historical irony is, of course, that the fluctuations in the value placed on black life, and the labor output it produced, were the basis of America's economy for centuries.

The blues sensibility of black folks has made us very comfortable with death and suffering. In many ways, we are numb to it. Our numbness does not mean that we do not feel hurt, pain, suffering, or anger at how violence against the black body is a routine fixture in American culture.

America was and remains a lynching society--where black bodies were once hung from trees, burned alive, cut apart, or otherwise brutalized by blood thirsty white mobs comprised of men, women, and children, now black people are shot dead by white cops and white street vigilantes.

Numbness here is a lack of surprise at how white racism kills innocent black and brown people, and how then the latter are made into criminals, and those who commit the heinous act are somehow "victims" of "reverse racism". The madness and insanity of colorblind racism in the post civil rights era is encapsulated by that process: America is so sick with white supremacy that calling white racists to account is somehow worse than the social evils they have committed.

White supremacy is a type of social insanity because through the deeply connected processes of the white racial frame, the White Gaze, and white privilege, it can invert and twist reality to suit the agenda of those who have, what George Lipsitz famously described as, a "possessive investment in whiteness".

Eric Garner's killing by the New York Police Department was videotaped. Like the decades-earlier Rodney King case, the visual reference should provide indisputable evidence of white on black police brutality. And as it did in the King case, white racist logic transforms the indisputable and obvious into doubt.

For example, Fox News lies and distorts in an effort to excuse-make for the killing of Eric Garner. The New York Daily News's Denis Hamill denies the obvious by suggesting that reckless and wanton criminal behavior by the police in black and brown communities can somehow be separated from institutional and interpersonal white racism. The online sewers of the Right-wing have instinctively defended Eric Garner's killing by the New York Police Department.

Once again, in the Right-wing media echo chamber authoritarian idealization and idolization of police authority combines with white racism to legitimate white on black murder. Because racism and conservatism are one and the same thing in the post civil rights era, there can be no other outcome.

The White Gaze is almost magical in its ability to commit acts of transmutation on the truth, twisting and distorting it, to serve the political, psychic, emotional, and social needs of whiteness.

The result? The truth-claims of black and brown folks about the reality that is white racism, as well as the contours of life in a white dominated society, are dismissed. Black and brown folks are made into the crazy ones, the overly sensitive, the reverse racists, grievance mongers, or "anti-white".

Eric Garner's slotting in the black necropolis was committed by the same logic that justified the murder of Trayvon Martin, Renisha McBrideJonathan Ferrell, Jordan Davis, and Kenneth Chamberlain Sr..

In the United States, the black body is a crime. The black body deserves punishment. The black body is somehow dangerous and especially provocative. To be in the black body means that you are de facto a criminal until proven innocent. The legal dictate of innocent until proven guilty is inverted. Black humanity is existential criminality.

In the White racial imagination, Eric Garner provoked his own killing, Trayvon Martin's iced tea and candy were deadly weapons, Renisha McBride should have been shot in the face because she knocked on a stranger's door, Jonathan Ferrell was a giant black beast who scared the police, and Jordan Davis was "disrespectful" and "uppity", his "loud" music constituting an assault and threat that should be met with lethal force by any "reasonable" person. Lynching victims were killed by the same white logic too. They transgressed white authority and white norms. In doing so, the black lynching victim committed a type of suicide.

Following the Rodney King trial, the philosopher Judith Butler struggled to make sense of how the White Gaze can legitimate white on black racial violence in the face of obvious photographic (and other) evidence that clearly shows the black and brown body as the victim and not the perpetrator of a crime.

She frames her confusion in the following way:

The defense attorneys for the police in the Rodney King case made the argument that the policemen were endangered, and that Rodney King was the source of that danger. The argument they made drew from many sources, comments he made, acts he refused to perform on command, and the highly publicized video recording taken on the spot and televised widely before and during the trial.

During the trial, the video was shown at the same time that the defense offered a commentary, and so we are left to presume that some convergence of word and picture produced the "evidence" for the jurors in the case. The video shows a man being brutally beaten, repeatedly, and without visible resistance; and so the question is, How could this video be used as evidence that the 'body being beaten was itself the source of danger, the threat of violence, and, further, that the beaten body of Rodney King bore an intention to injure, and to injure precisely those police who either wielded the baton against him or stood encircling him?

In the Simi Valley courtroom, what many took to be incontrovertible evidence against the police was presented instead to establish police vulnerability, that is, to support the contention that Rodney King was endangering the police. Later, a juror reported that she believed that Rodney King was in "total control” of the situation. How was this feat of interpretation achieved?

The visual representation of the black male body being beaten on the street by the policemen and their batons was taken up by that racist interpretive framework to construe King as the agent of violence, one whose agency is phantasmatically implied as the narrative precedent and antecedent to the frames that are shown. Watching King, the white paranoiac forms a sequence of narrative intelligibility that consolidates the racist figure of the black man: "He had threatened them, and now he is being justifiably restrained." "If they cease hitting him, he will release his violence, and now is being justifiably restrained." King's palm turned away from his body, held above his own head, is read not as self-protection but as the incipient moments of a physical threat.

Butler continues, detailing how reality and intelligibility are distorted by white racism and the white racial frame:

It is not, then, a question of negotiating between what is "seen," on the one hand, and a "reading" which is imposed upon the visual evidence, on the other.

In a sense, the problem is even worse: to the extent that there is a racist organization and disposition of the visible, it will work to circumscribe what qualifies as visual evidence, such that it is in some cases impossible to establish the "truth" of racist brutality through recourse to visual evidence. For when the visual is fully schematized by racism, the "visual evidence" to which one refers will always and only refute the conclusions based upon it; for it is possible within this racist episteme that no black person can seek recourse to the visible as the sure ground of evidence.

Consider that it was possible to draw a line of inference from the black male body motionless and beaten on the street to the conclusion that this very body was in "total control," rife with "dangerous intention.'' The visual field is not neutral to the question of race; it is itself a racial formation, an episteme, hegemonic, and forceful.

The white paranoiac gaze killed Eric Garner. The white paranoiac gaze is not a peripheral concept, one that only describes outliers or aberrant behavior. Rather, the white paranoiac gaze is part of a system of power relationships which legitimates and rationalizes white on black violence (institutional; cultural; economic; political; interpersonal). It is also a central element in the psychic wages of whiteness: the white paranoiac gaze sustains the lie that whiteness is innocent, noble, vulnerable, and benign.

Ultimately, the white paranoiac gaze's greatest power is how it helps to sustain the moral authority of whiteness over people of color. Eric Garner was killed in an act which exposes that lie. Unfortunately, as it has done innumerable times before, the white paranoiac gaze will find a way to justify his killing by the New York Police Department. Those white folks who are most invested in whiteness will nod their head in agreement and validation because somehow whiteness is always innocent and blackness is a dire threat.

White supremacy and the white racial frame are moral and perceptual sicknesses of the mind and soul--and those who are sick often feel that they are perfectly normal and healthy.

Reality can be cruel. White privilege protects them from the consequences of their shared lie.

How much longer can that fiction be sustained in 21st century America?

(Cross-posted from Tikkun Daily by David Harris-Gershon)

On the ground in Gaza, Israel’s war against Hamas has been devastating. Online and in the public sphere, a different sort of war has been taking place – a broad initiative to delegitimize those who raise questions about and critique Israel’s actions.

This initiative is being carried out both by so-called ‘pro-Israel’ individuals as well as student volunteers enlisted by Israel’s government in its ‘social media war.’ The result: those who merely express empathy for the suffering in Gaza, where over 1,100 people have been killed and 6,000 injured, are tainted as anti-Semitic or pro-Hamas, and those who offer dissenting opinions are labelled as enemies who seek Israel’s destruction.

The goal is to shut down dialogue and debate, something Jon Stewart nailed in a recent bit in which he attempts to discuss Israel, only to be shouted down as a self-hating Jew. It is not a new phenomenon or initiative, though it has become much more intense and widespread as emotions run high over the ongoing violence in Gaza and continued rocket attacks in Israel.

It seems to be affecting everyone who publicly offers critical opinions about Israel’s Gaza offensive, whether celebrities, journalists or anonymous individuals.

The horrible irony is that, as propagandists try to defame dissenters by slandering them as anti-Semitic, thus diluting its meaning, real anti-Semitism is rearing its head in Europe. Anti-semitism is still a real danger, and that danger is being made graver by those who are participating in this online initiative to falsely tar concerned voices as enemies of Israel.

                                                                  –§–

In the past three weeks, I have been targeted countless times with such accusations, both on Twitter and in comments to my articles. Yesterday, it reached such heights, with my views being distorted beyond recognition, that I was compelled to write an essay entitled, "Empathizing with Gaza does not make me anti-Semitic, nor pro-Hamas or anti-Israel. It makes me human." Responses to that artcle have been overwhelming.

The response has been so strong, in part, because of the vast numbers of people who have been on the receiving end of similar attacks. And that’s outside of Israel. Within it, as Etgar Keret writes in The New Yorker, efforts to silence and delegitimize dissenting voices on Gaza are intense in a society which overwhelmingly supports the military operation.

In the end, such attacks are not personal. In fact, they usually don’t even have much to do with the person being targeted. Instead, such incidents are really just efforts to dehumanize Palestinians and undermine their status as victims in a zero sum game.

I’m just the vehicle. We all are. But like many, I refuse to play this zero-sum game, in which one can be on only one side. Indeed, there is a ‘third way.’ A way to be invested in and care about both sides, viewing the conflict as one in which both sides can win.

Or lose.

My hope is that, in the end, it will be the former. And that’s why I write.

                                                                      –§–

David Harris-Gershon is author of the memoir What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?, published recently by Oneworld Publications.

Follow him on Twitter @David_EHG.

 

 

(Cross-posted from Tikkun Daily by Warren Blumenfeld

In scenes reminiscent of the PBS series "Upstairs, Downstairs," and "Downton Abbey," a luxury condominium complex in New York City's Upper West Side, according to an agreement reached between the developers and City government, when completed, will contain a door for use by wealthy residents only, and a separate door for lower-income tenants. In exchange for permission to build a bigger and taller building, the developers have agreed to include 55 affordable rent-regulated units.

Residents living in these more "affordable" apartments within high-end complexes throughout the City are usually restricted from availing themselves of amenities granted to wealthy occupants, including swimming pools, gyms, and tennis and basketball courts. Since traditionally in New York City the majority of renters and buyers paying market rates for housing are white and the majority of tenants living in rent-regulated units are people of color, these sorts of "agreements" promote legalized segregation based on skin color and the color of money.

No matter how utterly offensive we may consider this arrangement, it does not even begin to represent the enormous economic gap and segregation of communities in the United States today. While economic disparities plague all nations across the planet, nowhere are these disparities more extreme than in the United States. No other problem affects the security and the very survival of our nation and other nations across our ever-shrinking planet more than the income and resource gap between the rich and the poor.

From the time of our birth and throughout our lives, we are told and continually retold the tale of meritocracy. The story goes something like this: For those of us living in the United States, it matters not from which station of life we came. We each have been born into a system that guarantees us equal and equitable access of opportunity. Success is ours through hard work, study, and ambition, and by deferring gratification for later in life. Those who do not achieve success must accept personal responsibility. Maybe they did not try hard enough. Maybe they failed to scale any barriers that could have been placed in their way because they did not have the will, the fortitude, the intelligence, the character, or because they simply made bad choices.

Though this narrative stands as the foundation on which this country was constructed, many of us see it for the lie and the fabrication that it is. This ruling class tool, this form of hegemony serves the purpose of mitigating challenges to the inherent and inevitable inequities in "free market" Capitalism, and, therefore, not only perpetuates, but expands the ever-increasing gulf within the socioeconomic class structure.

In the United States, the top one percent of the population has accumulated an estimated 34.6 percent of the wealth, the next 9 percent an estimated 38.5 percent, and the remaining 90 percent of the nation a combined accumulation of only 26.9 percent.

In 2012, 46.5 million people (15.0 percent) in the United States lived below the poverty line, with 16.1 million (21.8 percent) children under the age of 18. Approximately 49.0 million lived in food insecure households (available food depleted before the end of the month), including 33.1 million adults and 15.9 million children.

The compensation of corporate CEOs has risen an astounding 725% between 1978 and 2011 while the average workers' salaries have increased a mere 5.7% over the same period. Today's official national minimum wage of $7.25 per hour equals $3.00lessaccounting for inflation compared to the minimum wage in 1968.

The top financial rewards went to only 400 people increasing their income between 1992 and 2007 by 392% while their average tax ratefellby 37%. These same 400 people accumulated more wealth than the lower 50% of the U.S. population combined.

A few individual families own 20, or 30, or 40, or more fast food franchises while paying their workers less than a living wage, as 26% of fast food employees are parents raising children, and 68% are the major wage earners for their families, and many of our people go hungry as Congress fights to eliminate the food stamp and school lunch safety nets. In reality, a McDonald's employee must work the equivalent of 930 years to match the salary that the CEO makes in a single year.

Some families have the privilege of purchasing two, or three, or four, or five, or even six homes that they occasionally visit depending on their current mood like the rest of us choose which pair of underwear to don for the day, and many of our people, including youth, go homeless.

Ultimately, no one really wins when millions of people have been shut out of the economy. No one wins when people don't have the money to spend on the goods and services in the stores owned and managed by the rich. No one wins when the upper 10 percent own approximately 73 percent of the nation's wealth, and only 85 of the wealthiest individuals own the equivalent of the lowest 3.5 billion (with a "B") people in the world. If this continues unabated, nationwide and worldwide economic disaster and political upheaval will inevitably ensue.

Returning to the example of the two-tiered (multi-tiered) New York City condominium structure, what we are witnessing is a postmodern version of the high-walled city center of Medieval times protecting the nobility from peasants and marauding bands, and the 20th-century gated communities meant to keep out thieves and bandits. These hermetically-sealed containers, nonetheless, eventually imprison us all.

(To read more pieces like this, sign up for Tikkun Daily’s free newsletter, sign up for Tikkun Magazine emails or visit us online. You can also like Tikkun on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.)

In times of grave and unprecedented national security crises, the United States Armed Forces demands strong, unyielding, and effective leadership. Nowhere is this more apparent than within the headquarters of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, where sterling leadership qualities and impeccable strength of character are the foremost job requirements. Unfortunately, the United States Air Force (USAF) Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III embodies a different principle altogether, namely an unwise ‘laissez-faire’ leadership approach that can be accurately summed up as follows: “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.” In more pedestrian terms: “gutless.”

How else to describe the fact that, despite the mountains of evidence regarding the slowly-simmering “frying pan” of searing religious repression frittering away at unit cohesion, morale, good order, and discipline within the Air Force, Welsh still seeks to find a “compromise” with the rabid dogs of fundamentalist Christian theocracy and extremist militancy regarding the watershed religious protections from chain-of-command proselytizing embodied by Air Force Instruction 1-1 (AFI 1-1)? Hello, Neville Chamberlain? By cowardly capitulating to the demands that the USAF amend AFI 1-1, Welsh will be opening the gates to the further degradation of the USAF’s collective integrity and character. As dangerously freighted as the Air Force already is with its universally tribal, adversarial, communal and ritualistic culture, the last thing it needs is to be yet further transformed into a stomping ground for free-range proselytizing, coercive religiosity, and fundamentalist Christian crusading.

The Air Force motto is “Aim High.” So, too, should the bar for exemplary leadership be set. Welsh’s refusal to apply any cognizable backbone to the defense of AFI 1-1 directly contradicts the subsequent Air Force Instruction 1-2 published on May 8, 2014, entitled “Commander’s Responsibilities” and signed by none other than Gen. Welsh himself. Among the various rules and regulations is item 3.2, which reads, in salient part: “A healthy climate ensures members are treated with dignity, respect, and inclusion, and does not tolerate harassment, assault, or unlawful discrimination of any kind.”

The bottom line of AFI 1-2 is that commanders have the responsibility to combat “unlawful discrimination” in all forms, clearly including religious discrimination. Commanders must foster inclusion, which includes religious diversity. Commanders must safeguard respect, foremost among which includes respect for religious beliefs and affiliations (or the lack thereof), religious and non-religious minorities, as well as sex & gender minorities. As was the case with the time, place and manner considerations of proselytizing as covered by AFI 1-1, AFI 1-2 should have decisively ended the “debate” about whether proselytizing and “witnessing” by commanders, supervisors, chaplains et al was allowed on USAF bases and installations.

Yet, seemingly, breath-taking negligence and ethical poverty still reign supreme among the Air Force top brass. Welsh appears impotently unwilling or unable to do anything to remediate it. Indeed, it is even alleged that Gen. Welsh’s own Number Two right hand, General Larry Spencer, the Vice Chief of Staff of the USAF, deliberately and defiantly keeps an oversized copy of the Christian Bible prominently displayed on his Pentagon office desk lest any of his hundreds of thousands of USAF subordinates doubt where his primary loyalty lies. Never mind that such an in-your-face, sectarian display violates the currently still-viable time, place and manner restrictions of AFI 1-1 concerning the promotion of one’s personal religious faith to those subordinate to them in rank. And the only person in the entire Air Force NOT subordinate in rank to Gen. Spencer is his boss, Gen. Welsh.

Witness further the narcissistic spectacle of Gen. Welsh patting himself on the back, crowing to the high heavens about how he’s “very happy with the ethical fabric of the United States Air Force.” This specious, self-congratulatory song and dance couldn’t be any more ill-timed, considering that under his watch numerous scandals have erupted, laying bare the internal decrepitude existing within the highest echelons of the Department of the Air Force.

“Do we have incidents? Absolutely,” Welsh coyly remarked about the appalling disgraces the world has witnessed under his watch. This past spring, 9 nuclear (yes, NUCLEAR) missile commanders were fired and dozens of officers were disciplined for cheating on a series of critical operational exams at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana. This shameful scenario at Malmstrom AFB included failed drug tests, failed inspections, and the unauthorized passing of answers to exams regarding the execution of emergency war orders. While Air Force leaders like Welsh lined up to formulaically denounce these violations of “basic Air Force values,” the damage had already been well done. The root causes of these failings? Pathetically low morale and a fatal failure in management.

Another “incident” was the case of Major General Michael Carey, Commander of the 20th Air Force and direct overseer of the Air Force’s entire fleet of Inter-Continental Ballistic (again, NUCLEAR) Missiles. Tasked with representing America’s military at a nuclear security conference in Russia, Carey instead went on a drunken bender – to the bemused disgust and pity, no doubt, of his “colleagues” in the Russian Armed Forces. Hey, we all make mistakes, no? Even commanders involved in high-stakes international nuclear diplomacy who occasionally have their fingers on the triggers of all-out nuclear warfare are entitled to a free pass every so often, right?

Welsh, apparently, likes to draw the line between “bad behavior” on the one hand, and “bad ethics” on the other. To take a glaring example of this stupidity, look at the hugely expanding catastrophe of sexual assault and rape within the Air Force. In Welsh’s opaque, clouded mind, this epidemic is a mere “trend” in unlawful activity, yet it should still be somehow disingenuously distinguished from a precipitous and systemic degradation of ethics within USAF? Are you serious, Gen. Welsh? Is it any wonder why Welsh has been ignominiously lambasted by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) for ignoring the plight of the Air Force’s countless sexual assault victims?

“[It’s] deeply troubling that he’s ‘very happy’ with the ethical conduct of his force,” commented Gillibrand, chair of the Senate Armed Services subcommittee on personnel. “You have to wonder when he will finally get it… I hope his cavalier attitude to this crisis is not reflective of his superiors’ position.”

As the saying goes, “a fish rots from the head down.” As we can plainly see there is indeed a severe crisis within the military, not from the bottom-up but from the top-down. Attempts to blame the lower-level officers and NCOs rather than to take bold and comprehensive ownership of the issue incontrovertibly establishes Welsh’s downright lack of professionalism and his universal complicity in the crisis. One can envision a parent blaming their out-of-control children for being uncontrollable, rather than pledging to improve their own poor parenting skills.

As I’ve grown fond of saying over the years especially in relation to the United States military’s leadership culture and doubly-so in relation to the commanders at the head of USAF, from the Air Force Academy to Headquarters USAF in the Pentagon: “Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is completely indistinguishable from malice.”

Enough is enough.

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation is up against well-funded extremist religious organizations. Your donations allow us to continue our fight in the courts and in the media to fight for separation of church and state in the U.S. military. Please make a fully tax-deductible donation today at helpbuildthewall.org.

Michael L. “Mikey” Weinstein, Esq. is founder and president of the six-time Nobel Peace Prize-nominated Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), an honor graduate of the Air Force Academy, and a former J.A.G. in the U.S. Air Force. He served as a White House counsel in the Reagan Administration and as the Committee Management Officer of the “Iran-Contra” Investigation. He is also the former General Counsel to H. Ross Perot and Perot Systems Corporation. His two sons, daughter-in-law, son-in law, and brother-in-law are also graduates of USAFA. In December 2012, Defense News named Mikey one of the 100 Most Influential People in U.S. Defense. He is the author of “With God On Our Side” (2006, St. Martin’s Press) and “No Snowflake in an Avalanche” (2012, Vireo).

 

 

 

Robert Wilbur and Martha Rosenberg

 

As the nation is horrified by another botched execution, a capital defense lawyer in Texas, legal scholar in New York and the former warden of San Quentin work against capital punishment.

 

 

There were only three people in the room: Jeanne Woodford, the chaplain and the man strapped to a gurney with tubes coming out of his arms. After hearing the man's last words, Woodford signaled the corrections officer who was "working the chemicals," which means in prison argot that he started infusions of lethal chemicals that flowed into the man on the gurney. As warden of California's San Quentin, Woodford presided over this high-tech ritual of punishment four times. After a stint as Executive Director of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, she threw in the towel to become Executive Director of Death Penalty Focus, the abolitionist organization that sponsored the 2012 SAFE referendum seeking to replace the death penalty with life without parole. Though the referendum failed to pass, Woodford is still hard at work in the movement to abolish capital punishment in California.

 

Meanwhile, across the continent, in the gentility of Fordham University's school of law, Arthur A. McGivney Professor Deborah W. Denno writes scholarly articles about "working the chemicals" that are published in the nation's leading law journals and quoted at death penalty hearings before the United States Supreme Court.

 

Until lately, the chemicals Denno wrote about were sodium thiopental, an ultra-short acting barbiturate that, given intravenously, is supposed to deliver almost instantaneous sleep so that the condemned person will be impervious to the rest of the evening's proceedings; pancuronium bromide, next on the menu, which is related to curare, plant extract poisons from Central and South America traditionally used on arrows which paralyze the body's skeletal muscles (including the muscles of breathing); and for the coup de grace, a jolt of potassium chloride, which stops the heart. This deadly mixture was known as Carson's Cocktail, so named after the Oklahoma pathologist, A. Jay Carson, MD, who concocted it as a "humane" alternative to the electric chair.

 

Since the early 1980s, the Carson Cocktail was the gold standard for dispatching society's sinners (and the innocent too, if recent exonerations are factored in). But since thiopental supplies have dried up because of the EU's resistance to the death penalty states embracing the death penalty have been forced by the courts to seek other drugs with results like this week's botched execution in Arizona. Now Professor Denno must address the ghoulish new and often secretive lethal chemicals in use even as states calls for bringing back the electric chair or firing squad.

 

In Texas, attorney Kathryn Kase despaired as the Lone Star State executed its 500th person since the resumption of the death penalty. Kase wears three hats. She is Executive Director of the Texas Defender Service, where she supervises a staff of ten lawyers. She is herself a courtroom lawyer specializing in death penalty cases. And she and her staff mentor Texas lawyers in need of capital litigation tactics.

 

Kase's organization was founded as a public-defender body with a focus on the death penalty, but not specifically an abolitionist organization dedicated to ending the death penalty. When she puts on her administrative hat, Kase must play hardball as a politico, convincing fellow politicians of the importance of the Texas Defender Service and wringing money out of the state government and foundations.

 

Woodford, Denno and Kase could not be more different in personality and background, yet all have thrust themselves into the battle against capital punishment. There was a time when working in capital punishment was considered men's work that was too gruesome for women. Not anymore.

 

Jeanne Woodford, whose manner is crisp and to-the-point, took a BA degree in criminology and worked her way up to the highest rank of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Woodford told us that she chose criminology because there were few women in the field and because she wanted to bring a more even-handed standard of justice to criminology as practiced in California.

 

Woodford is dismayed that, since the 1950s, penology has been dominated by a punitive rather than rehabilitative philosophy; people want their pound of flesh, even though punishment deepens sociopathic behavior, she says. Mere confinement accomplishes nothing and rehabilitation is essential whenever possible, says Woodford.

 

An unabashed abolitionist, Woodford says she is not "soft on crime" but as a "policy person" she finds no respectable evidence that the death penalty is a deterrent. By the time the legalities are done, it also costs more to execute a person than to incarcerate him or her for life she says. There is, she adds, a small element of the criminal population that it is so dangerous that it requires lifelong incarceration.

 

Woodford's demeanor is so crisp that we felt a little trepidation about asking her how she felt about overseeing the execution of four men when she was warden of San Quentin in light of her views on the death penalty. "That," Woodford replied, "Was a policy issue."

 

We asked Woodford what, specifically, changed her mind about capital punishment and she told us she has always opposed it on moral and practical grounds and that nothing has changed her opinion. Woodford says she sees hope that behavioral science is beginning to change peoples' minds about the issue.

 

One could not imagine a woman more different from Jeanne Woodford than Kathryn Kase. Funny, streetwise and a gifted lawyer, Kase started out as a journalist in San Antonio, Texas, got bored covering police court, and craved the action on the other side of the bar. Kase went to law school and moved to New York, where she worked for brief periods for private law firms. She then returned to Texas, where she says she found her calling in the Texas Defender Service, of which a more thankless labor could not be imagined.

 

By most accounts, Texas really needs Kase. By 2011, Texas governor Rick Perry had presided over more executions than any governor in modern history--234. The numbers continues to grow.

 

Speaking to Randi Hensley of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty in an internal memorandum, a Texas lawyer agreed. "Once guys get on death row in Texas, there's about a 90% chance they will die," said the lawyer: "There are no public defenders, no money, no experienced death penalty lawyers."

 

While the lawyer's observations are somewhat exaggerated, not by very much: organizations like the Texas Defender Service and the death penalty "clinic" at the University of Texas are so short staffed that they find themselves desperately filing appeals moments before the chemicals began to flow. Press reports of Texas executions have been chilling.

 

As Kathryn Kase dukes it out in the rough and tumble of Texas courthouses and the statehouse, Deborah Denno continues to highlight the cruelty of lethal injections in her academic work. Soft-spoken and poised, Denno says her turning point was the electrocution of Willie Francis, who walked the long road twice because the first execution was bungled.

 

When lethal injections supplanted the "hot squat" (the electric chair) as a more "humane" means of extinguishing human life, Deborah Denno made the cruelty of lethal injections her academic focus. Denno's work is invaluable in helping to paint for the public a complete picture of executions, from electrocution to the death gurney says Steve Hall, executive director of the Texas abolitionist group StandDown.

 

In a field once dominated by men, Kase, Denno and Woodford are bringing new passion to the fight against the death penalty along with a small pool of capital defenders like Judy Clarke and Maurie Levin. This week's shocking botched execution may bring more Americans to their side of the issue.

 

 

 

Robert Wilbur is a psychopharmacologist who also writes semi-popular articles on capital punishment, prison reform, and animal rights. Martha Rosenberg is a regular contributor to Alternet.

 

Jews Say: End the War on Gaza — No Aid to Apartheid Israel!

Statement of Jews for Palestinian Right of Return, July 22, 2014 (200 initial signers, endorsing allies forthcoming)

 

On July 12, 2014, Gaza civil society issued an urgent appeal for solidarity, asking: "How many of our lives are dispensable enough until the world takes action? How much of our blood is sufficient?"

As Jews of conscience, we answer by unequivocally condemning Israel's ongoing massacre in Gaza, whose victims include hundreds of civilians, children, entire families, the elderly, and the disabled. This latest toll adds to the thousands Israel has killed and maimed since its supposed withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005.

 

In response to this crisis, we urgently reaffirm our support for a ban on all military and other aid to Israel.

 

In 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. opposed the Vietnam War with his famous declaration: “For the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.”

 

Today, *we* cannot be silent as the “Jewish state" -- armed to the teeth by the U.S. and its allies -- wages yet another brutal war on the Palestinian people. Apartheid Israel does not speak for us, and we stand with Gaza as we stand with all of Palestine.

 

In the face of incessant pro-Israel propaganda, we heed Malcolm X's warning: “If you're not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.”

 

For Israel's relentless war on Gaza is no more an act of "self-defense" than such infamous massacres as Wounded Knee (1890), Guernica (1937), the Warsaw Ghetto (1942), Deir Yassin (1948), My Lai (1968), Soweto (1976), Sabra and Shatila (1982), or Lebanon (2006).

 

Rather, it is but the latest chapter in more than a century of Zionist colonialism, dispossession, ethnic cleaning, racism, and genocide -- including Israel's very establishment through the uprooting and displacement of over 750,000 Palestinians during the 1947-1948 Nakba. Indeed, eighty percent of the 1.8 million people sealed into Gaza are refugees.

 

Like any colonial regime, Israel uses resistance to such policies as an excuse to terrorize and collectively punish the indigenous population for its very existence. But scattered rockets, fired from Gaza into land stolen from Palestinians in the first place, are merely a response to this systemic injustice.

To confront the root cause of this violence, we call for the complete dismantling of Israel's apartheid regime, throughout historic Palestine -- from the River to the Sea. With that in mind, we embrace the 2005 Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, which demands:

 

* An end to Israeli military occupation of the 1967 territories 

 

* Full equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel 

 

* Right of return for Palestinian refugees, as affirmed by UN resolution 194

 

 Sign petition at http://chn.ge/1o76rOC

 

 Initial Signers (list in formation; organizations, schools and other affiliations shown for identification only; *Co-founder, Jews for Palestinian Right of Return) 

 

Avigail Abarbanel, Psychotherapist; editor, Beyond Tribal Loyalties: Personal Stories of Jewish Peace Activists (2012, Cambridge Scholars), Inverness, Scotland

Noa Abend, Boycott From Within

Stephen Aberle, Independent Jewish Voices; Vancouver, BC

Lisa Albrecht, Ph.D. Social Justice Program, University of Minnesota

Anya Achtenberg, novelist and poet; teacher; activist; International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network

Mike Alewitz, Associate Professor, Central CT State Unversity; Artistic Director, Labor Art & Mural Project

Zalman Amit, Distinguished Professor Emeritus; Author, Israeli Rejectionism

Anthony Arnove, International Socialist Organization

Gabriel Ash, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, Switzerland

Ted Auerbach, Brooklyn for Peace

Anna Baltzer, author and organizer

Ronnie Barkan, Co-founder, Boycott from Within, Tel-Aviv

Judith Bello, Administrative Committee, United National Antiwar Coalition

Lawrence Boxall, Independent Jewish Voices, Canada; Vancouver Ecosocialist Group

Linda Benedikt, writer Munich, Germany

Nora Barrows-Friedman, journalist; Oakland

Prof. Jonathan Beller, Humanities and Media Studies Graduate Program in Media Studies, Pratt Institute, Brooklyn

Medea Benjamin, co-founder, CODEPINK

Rica Bird, Joint Founder, Merseyside Jews for Peace and Justice

Audrey Bomse, Co-chair, National Lawyers Guild Palestine Subcommittee

Prof. Daniel Boyarin, Taubman Professor of Talmudic Culture, UC Berkeley

Lenni Brenner, Author, Zionism In The Age Of The Dictators

Elizabeth Block, Independent Jewish Voices, Toronto ON

Max Blumenthal, Author, Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel; and Senior Writer for Alternet.org

Mary P. Buchwald, Jewish Voice for Peace-New York

Monique Buckner, BDS South Africa

Maia Brown, Health and Human Rights Project-Seattle & Stop Veolia Seattle

Estee Chandler, Jewish Voice for Peace, Los Angeles

Rick Chertoff, L..A. Jews for Peace

Prof. Marjorie Cohn, Thomas Jefferson School of Law; past president, National Lawyers Guild

Ally Cohen, Ramallah, Palestine; International Solidarity Movement media coordinator

Ruben Rosenberg Colorni, Youth for Palestine, Netherlands

Mike Cushman, Convenor, Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods (UK)

Margaretta D'arcy, Irish actress, writer, playwright, and peace-activist

Natalie Zemon Davis, Historian

Warren Davis, labor and political activist, Philadelphia, PA

Eron Davidson, film maker

Judith Deutsch, Independent Jewish Voices Canada; Science for Peace

Roger Dittmann, Professor of Physics, Emeritus California State University, Fullerton; President, Scholars and Scientists without Borders Executive Council, World Federation of Scientific Workers

Gordon Doctorow, Ed.D., Canada

Mark Elf, Jews Sans Frontieres, London, UK

Hedy Epstein, Nazi Holocaust survivor and human rights activist; St. Louis, MO

Marla Erlien, New York NY

Shelley Ettinger, writer/activist, New York, NY

Inge Etzbach, Human Rights Activist, Café Palestina NY

Richard Falk, Professor of International Law, Emeritus, Princeton University; Former UN Special Rapporteur on Occupied Palestine, 2008-2014

Malkah B. Feldman, Jewish Voice for Peace and recent delegate to Palestine with American Jews For A Just Peace

Deborah Fink, Co-Founder, Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods UK

Joel Finkel, Jewish Voice for Peace-Chicago

Sylvia Finzi, JfjfP; Jüdische Stimme für gerechten Frieden in Nahost, EJJP. Germany)

Maxine Fookson, Pediatric Nurse Practitioner; Jewish Voice for Peace, Portland OR-

Richard Forer, Author, Breakthrough: Transforming Fear Into Compassion - A New Perspective on the Israel-Palestine

Sid Frankel, Associate Professor, University of Manitoba

Prof. Cynthia Franklin, Co-Editor, Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly, University of Hawai’i

Racheli Gai, Jewish Voice for Peace

Herb Gamberg, Independent Jewish Voices, Canada 

Ruth Gamberg, Independent Jewish Voices, Canada 

Lee Gargagliano, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network

Cheryl Gaster, social justice activist and human right lawyer, Toronto ON

Alisa Gayle-Deutsch, American/Canadian Musician and Anti-Israeli Apartheid Activist

Jack Gegenberg, Professor of Mathematics, University of New Brunswick, Fredericton NB

Prof. Terri Ginsberg, film and media scholar, New York

David Glick, psychotherapist; Jewish Voice for Peace

Sherna Berger Gluck, Emerita Professor, CSULB; Israel Divestment Campaign

Neta Golan, Ramallah, Palestine; Jews Against Genocide; Co-founder, International Solidarity Movement.

Tsilli Goldenberg, teacher, Jerusalem, Israel

Steve Goldfield, Ph.D.

Sue Goldstein, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, Canada

Marty Goodman, former Executive Board member, Transport Workers Union Local 100; Socialist Action

Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, Freeman Fellow, Fellowship of Reconciliation

Hector Grad, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, Spain

Prof. Jesse Greener, University of Laval

Cathy Gulkin, Filmmaker, Toronto ON

Ira Grupper, Bellarmine University, Louisville, KY

Jeff Halper, The Israeli Committee Against House demolitions (ICAHD)

Larry Haiven, Independent Jewish Voices Canada, Halifax

Evelyn Hecht-Galinski, publisher, Germany

Stanley Heller, The Struggle Video News TSVN

Shir Hever, Jewish Voice for Just Peace, Germany

Deborah Hrbek, media and civil rights lawyer, NLG-NYC

Dr. Tikva Honig-Parass, Jews for Palestinian Right of Return

Adam Horowitz, Co-Editor, Mondoweiss

Gilad Isaacs, Economist, Wits University.

Selma James, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network

Jake Javanshir, Independent Jewish Voices, Toronto

Riva Joffe, Jews Against Zionism

Val Jonas, attorney, Miami Beach

Sima Kahn, MD; President of the board, Kadima Reconstructionist Community

Yael Kahn, Israeli anti-apartheid activist

Michael Kalmanovitz, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (UK)

Dan Kaplan, AFT Local 1493

Susan Kaplan, J.D. National Lawyers Guild 

Danny Katch, activist and author

Bruce Katz, President, Palestinian and Jewish Unity (PAJU), Montreal, Canada

Lynn Kessler, Ph.D., MPH, psychologist/social justice activist

Janet Klecker, Sonomans for Justice & Peace for Palestine, Sonoma CA

Prof. David Klein, California State University, Northridge; USACBI

Emma Klein, Jewish Voice for Peace, Seattle WA

Sara Kershnar, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network

Harry Kopyto, Legal activist Toronto ON

Richard Koritz, veteran postal trade unionist and former member of North Carolina Human Relations Commission

Yael Korin, PhD., Scientist at UCLA; Campaign to End IsraelI Apartheid, Southern California

Dennis Kortheuer, CSULB, Israel Divestment Campaign

Steve Kowit, Professor Emeritus, Jewish Voice for Peace

Toby Kramer, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network

Jason Kunin, Independent Jewish Voices Canada

Dr. David Landy, Trinity College, Dublin

Jean Léger, Coalition pour la Justice et la Paix en Palestine, membre de la Coalition BDS Québec et de Palestiniens et Juifs Unis

Lynda Lemberg, Educators for Peace and Justice, Independent Jewish Voices, Toronto ON

David Letwin,* activist and teacher, Al-Awda NY

Michael Letwin,* former President, Association of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW Local 2325; USACBI; Al-Awda NY

Les Levidow, Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods (J-BIG), UK

Corey Levine, Human Rights Activist, Writer; National Steering Committee, Independent Jewish Voices Canada

Joseph Levine, Professor of Philosophy, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Lesley Levy, Independent Jewish Voices, Montreal

Mich Levy, teacher, Oakland CA

Abby Lippman, Professor Emerita; activist; Montreal

Brooke Lober, PhD candidate, University of Arizona, Gender and Women's Studies Department

Antony Loewenstein, journalist, author and Guardian columnist

Jennifer Loewenstein, Professor of Middle Eastern Studies, University of Wisconsin, Madison

Alex Lubin, Professor of American Studies, University of New Meixco

Andrew Lugg, Professor Emeritus, University of Ottawa, Canada

David Makofsky, Jewish Voice for Peace, Research Anthropologist

Harriet Malinowitz, Professor of English, Long Island University, Brooklyn

Mike Marqusee, Author, If I Am Not for Myself: Journey of an Anti-Zionist Jew

Miriam Marton, JD

Dr. Richard Matthews. independent scholar, London ON

Daniel L. Meyers, Former President National Lawyers Guild-NYC

Linda Milazzo, Writer/Activist/Educator, Los Angeles

Eva Steiner Moseley, Holocaust refugee, Massachusetts Peace Action board member and Palestine/Israel Working Group

Dr. Dorothy Naor, retired teacher, Herzliah, Israel

Marcy Newman, independent scholar; Author; The Politics of Teaching Palestine to Americans

Alex Nissen, Women in Black

Dr. Judith Norman, San Antonio, TX

Henry Norr, retired journalist, Berkeley CA

Michael Novick, Anti-Racist Action-Los Angeles/People Against Racist Terror

Prof. Bertell Ollman, NYU

Karin Pally, Santa Monica, CA

Prof. Ilan Pappé, Israeli historian and socialist activist

Karen Platt, Jewish Voice for Peace, Albany CA

Dr. Susan Pashkoff, Jews Against Zionism, London UK

Miko Peled, writer, activist; Author, The General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine

Prof. Gabriel Piterberg, UCLA

Mitch Podolak, Founder, Winnipeg Folk Festival and Vancouver Folk Music Festival

Karen Pomer,* granddaughter of Henri B. van Leeuwen, Dutch anti-Zionist leader and Bergen-Belsen survivor

Lenny Potash, Los Angeles CA

Fabienne Presentey, Independent Jewish Voices, Montréal

Diana Ralph, Independent Jewish Voices Canada

Roland Rance, Jews Against Zionism, London

Karen Ranucci, Independent Journalist, Democracy Now!

Ana Ratner, Artist, Puppeteer, Activist.

Michael Ratner, President Emeritus, Center for Constitutional Rights

Prof. Dr. Fanny-Michaela Reisin, Jewish Voice Germany

Diana M.A. Relke, Professor Emerita, University of Saskatchewan

Prof. Bruce Robbins, Columbia University

Stewart M. Robinson, retired Prof of Mathematics

Professor Lisa Rofel, University of California, Santa Cruz

Mimi Rosenberg, Producer & Host, Building Bridges and Wednesday Edition, WBAI 99.5 FM; Association of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW Local 2325

Lillian Rosengarten, Author, From The Shadows Of Nazi Germany To The Jewish Boat To Gaza

Prof. Jonathan Rosenhead, British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP)

Yehoahua Rosin, Israel

Ilana Rossoff, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network

Martha Roth, Independent Jewish Voices; Vancouver BC

Marty Roth, Emeritus professor of English, University of Minnesota

Ruben Roth, Assistant Professor, Labour Studies, Laurentian University; Independent Jewish Voices Canada

Emma Rubin, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network

Cheryl A. Rubenberg, Middle East Scholar; Editor, Encyclopedia of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict; Author, The Palestinians in Search of a Just Peace

Josh Ruebner, Author, Shattered Hopes: Obama’s Failure to Broker Israeli-Palestinian Peace

Mark Rudd, retired teacher, Albuquerque NM

Ben Saifer, Independent Jewish Voices Canada

Evalyn Segal, Rossmoor Senior Community

Sylvia Schwarz, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network

Yossi Schwartz, Internationalist Socialist League; Haifa

Carole Seligman, co-editor, Socialist Viewpoint magazine

Yom Shamash, Independent Jewish Voices, Vancouver, Canada

Tali Shapiro, Boycott from Within; Israel

Karen Shenfeld, Poet, Toronto ON

Sid Shniad, National Steering Committee, Independent Jewish Voices Canada

William Shookhoff, Independent Jewish Voices, Toronto ON

Melinda Smith, Jewish Voice for Peace, Albuquerque NM

Kobi Snitz, Tel Aviv

Marsha Steinberg, BDS-LA for Justice in Palestine, Los Angeles

Lotta Strandberg, Visiting Scholar, NYU

Carol Stone, Independent Jewish Voices, Vancouver BC

Miriam (Cherkes-Julkowski) Swenson, Ph.D.

Matthew Taylor, author

Laura Tillem, Peace and Social Justice Center of South Central Kansas

Peter Trainor, Independent Jewish Voices, Toronto

Rebecca Tumposky, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network

Darlene Wallach, Justice for Palestinians, San Jose CA

Dr. Abraham Weizfeld, JPLO

Bonnie Weinstein, Co-Editor of Socialist Viewpoint magazine; Publisher, Bay Area United Against War Newsletter

Sam Weinstein, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network-Labor; former President, UWUA Local 132

Judith Weisman, Independent Jewish Voices; Not in Our Name (NION); Toronto ON

Paul Werner, PhD, DSFS Editor, WOID, a journal of visual language

Noga Wizansky, Ph.D., artist, instructor, and researcher; Administrator, Institute of European Studies, UC Berkeley

Marcy Winograd, public school teacher, former congressional peace candidate

Bekah Wolf, UC Hastings College of Law Student; Co-founder, Palestine Solidarity Project

Sherry Wolf, International Socialist Organization

Dave Zirin, Author, Game Over: How Politics Have Turned the Sports World Upside Down

 

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Jews For Palestinian Right of Return on Facebook: http://tinyurl.com/jfpror                                                   

Web: http://bit.ly/1kR8SjM

One of the most transparent tactics opponents of marriage equality will attempt is to claim that supporters of marriage equality are intolerant of their opinion.

It's not only a transparent tactic but highly cynical. And apparently it's the tactic that Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida is attempting:
 
While Rubio has consistently held conservative positions on abortion and gay marriage, his current emphasis appears to be an effort to appeal to social conservatives who have yet to settle on a favored candidate for 2016. "Even before this speech is over, I will be attacked as someone who is a hater or a bigot," Rubio said.

  .. . In his remarks, Rubio acknowledged the United States has a history of discrimination against gays and lesbians. But he said he could not support such unions despite a quick-moving shift in public opinion in support of allowing same-sex couples to marry. "There is a growing intolerance on this issue," Rubio said of those who back same-sex marriages. He then urged his opponents to show civility: "Tolerance is also a two-way street."


No doubt, the folks at Fox News and members of the media who care more about attaining "access" than getting the story correct will fall for Rubio's junk.

But I agree with him that there needs to be civility on the issue. And let's start with addressing the following:

Staver: Gay Marriage Is 'A Direct Attack On Who God Is' 

 Klingenschmitt: Jesus Will Overrule The Supreme Court And Toss Gays Into Hell 

 Ben Carson Explains How Gay Marriage Is A Marxist Plot To Impose The 'New World Order'  
Barber: Gay Marriage Is 'The Brainchild' Of Satan 

 Renew America Pundit Warns Gay Marriage Will Turn Us Into Marxist Slaves 


If Sen. Rubio was honest with his cry for "tolerance," he would address those on his side of the argument with as much vigor as he attempts to place onus on us.

After all, we aren't the ones conjuring up images of Marxism, Satanism, or slavery.

**Background: On July 21, 2014, I received a phone call from a female U.S. military fighter pilot. She happens to be gay. She is not “out”, despite the fact that the odious “don’t ask don’t tell” policy no longer burdens the American armed forces and has been justly abolished. She knows well that homophobia is still rampant in the ranks, which is why the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) currently has 863 LGBTQ clients among our current number of over 38,000 U.S. military members and veterans, 96% of whom are practicing Christians themselves. She related that she had just experienced a loud conversation in her squadron area where a number of her fellow pilots were robustly cheering on Tony Dungy’s comments about how he would never have drafted Michael Sam for a team for which he was head coach and why. Michael Sam is the NFL’s first openly gay player. She told me that her fellow pilots were effusively praising Dungy’s “honesty” etc. She was terribly distraught. She asked me what I thought about it. This Op-Ed is my response to her.

A maelstrom of extremism is battering the United States of America, weakening and eroding the fundamental values of tolerance and inclusion embodied by our beautiful Constitution. The name of this extremist threat? Fundamentalist Christianity or “Dominionism.” This disturbing storm trend has entailed the infiltration of all fields of social life in U.S. schools, military bases, and a plethora of other key fora. Indeed, the three branches of civilian government have become bloody battlegrounds for the advancement of a hateful and bigoted agenda of American Christian extremist exceptionalism and supremacy. Big-box retailers, chicken sandwich purveyors, school boards and school districts, police departments, fire departments, sewage workers, legislatures, celebrities, and sports figures have served no small role as pawns, masterminds, and auxiliaries in this seditious modern-day brutal Crusade. A case in point is former Super Bowl-winning NFL head coach, NBC commentator, and unabashed homophobe, Tony Dungy.

Dungy showed his true colors as a classic bigot when he suggested that, were he still a head NFL coach, he would have avoided drafting Michael Sam, the first openly gay player to be drafted into the NFL. In the interview, Dungy, now a well-known national sports commentator, opined on Sam: "I wouldn't have taken him. It's not going to be totally smooth ... things will happen."

The cruel irony and almost unbearable hypocrisy of the comment is obvious to those who’ve followed Dungy’s career, which was anything but “totally smooth.” Dungy was the first African-American coach to win the Super Bowl, and had personally dealt with the sometimes subtle, sometimes rabid racist impediments to his own career. “Things” happened, the dogs tore into the red meat, yet Dungy himself persevered – and in so doing, paved the way for a more prominent role for black coaches within a formerly hyper-insular, white-dominated fraternity of NFL coaching.

Political pundit and sports commentator Keith Olbermann perfectly punctured Dungy’s mendacious malevolence with characteristic astuteness: “‘I wouldn’t want to deal with it, things will happen,’ is remarkably similar to what football coaches and owners said until 1946 about players who looked like Tony Dungy. And it’s remarkably similar to what NFL owners said until 1989 about guys who wanted to become NFL head coaches who look like Tony Dungy.”

Things” tend to happen when people fight for access to places from which they were previously, unjustly barred – yet now this former poster child for equal access is placing more barricades on the road to freedom. One can only wonder if Dungy would have had similar “advice” in relation to the desegregation of public schools and the armed forces! Perhaps he would have the nerve to protest the “distraction” to learning represented by integrated classrooms and military service branches? Oh how Jackie Robinson must be rolling over in his grave.

Hey you military fighter pilots getting all fired up and applauding Tony Dungy’s “honesty,” would you like to hear what Tony Dungy REALLY “being honest” would have sounded like? Ignorant beyond belief though it is, try the following: I, Tony Dungy, am a fundamentalist, evangelical Christian. As such, it is my genuine religious belief that Michael Sam, like all other homosexuals, has personally CHOSEN to be gay because no one is born gay. My fundamentalist Christian beliefs inform me that making such a choice to be gay is a grave sin against the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This ‘gay choice sin' can be ‘corrected’ only through special, intense, Christian-based reparative therapy and only by those willing to so submit. Michael Sam has not submitted to this ‘gay corrective reparative therapy’. Michael Sam is a sinner because he has chosen to be gay and the NFL needs no more sinners.

Now THAT would have been Dungy’s true honesty here. As much as it would have nauseated me, I would have at least respected him for publicly sticking to his twisted religious beliefs of bigotry and having the guts to have been out in the open about it. Instead, we have Dungy’s pathetic lies, anemic excuses and transparent hypocrisy. You can’t walk this travesty back, Tony. You can’t put squeezed-out toothpaste back into the tube there, Coach.

Betraying their inimical attitude towards social progress, certain media outlets quickly leapt to Dungy’s defense. Cowardly kowtowing to the prevalent anti-gay prejudice lying extant across the sports world, these outlets reported Dungy’s inflammatory words as either the “opinion” of a “devout Christian” or an unfortunate gaffe. Thus, by spinning Dungy’s words as a legitimate “opinion” from a professional career sportsman who is simply participating in a “spirited debate” rather than bigotry of the most inhumane, and prejudiced sort, hateful intolerance becomes cravenly normalized. These media outlets have, in effect, given a pass to what amounts to an open declaration of war on equal treatment for LGBTQ professional athletes. There is no other way to say it, folks.

Dungy’s expressions of disdain for gay athletes comes from a horrific strain of American religiosity that represents an abyss of ill-will towards “the other”, including but not limited to religious, sex, gender, cultural, and (quite often) ethnic and racial minorities. This wretched abyss has unleashed the towering obstacles of Old School discrimination and prejudice transgressing the Constitutional civil rights of our fellow Americans. Further, torrents of death and hatred have emanated from this conflagration of “faith-based” odium in the form of truly hateful, homophobic atrocities, anti-abortion terrorism, anti-Semitism, free-range Islamophobia, monstrous misogyny and directly related domestic violence.

In a manner similar to the “good Germans” of the 30’s and 40’s who greeted Hitler’s meteoric rise with placid complacency, sealing the doomed fate of tens of millions of human beings all over the world, a noxious cloud of denial and fear regarding an insidious and growing domestic extremist threat has paralyzed many of us. Hiding behind the dangerously disingenuous watchwords of “family values”, “home-schooling" and “tradition,” a spectrum of figures ranging from the soft-spoken to the obnoxiously bloviating are waging a relentless campaign against secular laws and trends otherwise designed to ensure equal rights for all Americans regardless of their faith, or no faith, traditions. Meanwhile, the U.S media has been pitifully remiss in sounding the clarion call alarm regarding this festering, open wound on the American body politic, allowing this sick sectarian infection of fundamentalist Christian fascism to appear “mainstream” and metastasize. Tony Dungy’s words regarding Michael Sam’s `drafting shouldn’t simply be interpreted as a feigned aversion to “controversy,” but as a blatant threat and a “dog whistle” for despicable anti-gay prejudice and universal homophobic hatred all of which emanates from the Mother Ship of unbridled dominionist Christian extremism basking and thriving in its protective camouflage of American callous indifference. 

Americans would do well to resoundingly reject Dungy’s malicious threats, incitements and, especially, his despicable hypocrisy. 

They would do even better to comprehend where it comes from.

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation is up against well-funded extremist religious organizations. Your donations allow us to continue our fight in the courts and in the media to fight for separation of church and state in the U.S. military. Please make a fully tax-deductible donation today at  helpbuildthewall.org.

Michael L. “Mikey” Weinstein, Esq. is founder and president of the six-time Nobel Peace Prize-nominated  Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), an honor graduate of the Air Force Academy, and a former J.A.G. in the U.S. Air Force. He served as a White House counsel in the Reagan Administration and as the Committee Management Officer of the “Iran-Contra” Investigation. He is also the former General Counsel to H. Ross Perot and Perot Systems Corporation. His two sons, daughter-in-law, son-in law, and brother-in-law are also graduates of USAFA. In December 2012, Defense News named Mikey one of the 100 Most Influential People in U.S. Defense. He is the author of  “With God On Our Side” (2006, St. Martin’s Press) and  “No Snowflake in an Avalanche” (2012, Vireo).

(Cross-posted from Tikkun Daily by David Harris-Gershon

As a Jew, I admit to being uniquely invested in what's occurring in Israel and Gaza - an investment sometimes cited to paint political discourse on Israel as niche. However, as an American citizen and a self-avowed progressive, I not only reject such notions, but hold that Israel is a core progressive issue which demands our broad attention.

There are many arguments made amongst progressives which seek to deflect discourse on Israel, and which echo arguments made across the political spectrum. Two of these arguments I'd like to counter below in an effort to show why Israel indeed stands as a principle progressive issue.

1) Why Single Out Israel?

One of the most consistent arguments I encounter for why Israel need not be discussed prominently is one I would categorize as a red herring. Here is how the argument goes: yes, horrible things are happening to the Palestinians, but there's a lot of bad in the world. Try focusing on Syria or Russia or Sudan for once.

This sort of logic simply doesn't hold any weight. Would I be unjustified in writing about water shutoffs in Detroit (as I've done) when land grabs in Africa are intensifying water scarcity crises for local communities? Of course I would.

It is impossible for me, or anyone else, to tackle an issue of importance without being presented with a myriad of other issues worthy of focus. But that's the nature of taking any moral stand or championing any cause: it is done knowing selectivity is inherent, natural and unavoidable.

Mehdi Hasan, political director for The Huffington Post (UK), put it most articulately when he wrote regarding his publication's current focus on Israel, Palestine and the intense suffering in Gaza:

On what grounds did we "single out" apartheid South Africa in the 1980s for condemnation and boycott? Weren't there other, more dictatorial regimes in Africa at the time, those run by black Africans such as Mengistu in Ethiopia or Mobutu in Zaire? Did we dare excuse the crimes of white Afrikaners on this basis?

Taking a moral stand inevitably requires us to be selective, specific and, yes, even inconsistent.

So, why Israel? Why should what's happening in Israel/Palestine be a progressive political issue in America? The answer is simple: America is inextricably linked with what's going on in the region in ways that are incomparable anywhere else in the world.

The U.S. gives Israel $3 billion annually in funding, more than it gives any other nation, and much of that funding supports Israel's military apparatus. The U.S. has even expanded that funding through 2018 despite the fact that Israel, against U.S. policy, has continued to expand its illegal settlements, making a U.S.-supported two-state solution impossible. America has also continuing this funding during Israel's decades-old military occupation in the West Bank, which denies Palestinians basic human rights while subjecting them to military law, including indefinite detentions, home demolitions, restrictions on movement and violent, sometimes deadly suppression of political protest.

And now, during a tragic war of choice in Gaza many international observers view as violating international law, the White House has backed Israel's efforts as hundreds of innocent civilians are being killed, often when their homes are targeted (an issue Jake Tapper raised pointedly with Israel's ambassador).

As citizens, our tax dollars are funding what is occurring.

Now, to be clear: I don't want funding cut to Israel. For example, as Hamas fires crude rockets (it cannot control) into Israel, the U.S.-provided Iron Dome is protecting civilians, my friends among them, and I'm grateful for that. However, I have many concerns about the way Israel is using its disproportionate military force - a force heavily-funded by America. Should we be invested in voicing concerns about how our tax dollars are being spent? As progressives? As Americans?

Absolutely.

2) Let Them Kill Each Other - Regional Hate Is None of My Concern

This is an insidious, dehumanizing and wholly simplistic tact that some people take with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, though in their defense, it's a view most media in America perpetuate. I have no intention of engaging in a comprehensive, historical review in this space to counter it, though doing so would certainly be appropriate.

Rather, I'll simply respond to this line of reasoning as follows: this "conflict" is not so much a prolonged war as it is a decades-long, asymmetrical oppression of one people (sadly, my people) over another.

Yes, religious hatred amongst minority groups on both sides exist. Yes, racism and anti-Semitism amongst minority groups on both sides exist. And yes, the continued conflict has worked over decades to imbue each society with mistrust for the other that is difficult to overcome.

However, this is a situation - just like every other geopolitical crisis - which has geopolitical solutions. Here is the kicker, though: no solutions will be advanced, nor will peace be attained, unless outside pressure is brought to bear upon both parties, for neither seem capable of extricating themselves from counterproductive policies on their own.

All the more reason for us to be involved and invested, as progressive Americans, in what is happening.

Yes, as a Jew, I am invested in Israel's future in unique ways. I want it to thrive and survive, to achieve its democratic promise, however difficult that may be. And this investment is, in part, what motivates me to critique Israel: the damage it's doing to the Palestinians is also destroying itself.

However, as a progressive American whose liberal Jewish values align with my U.S.-borne political ones, I find it imperative that we address Palestinian suffering, the denial of their human rights, and the suppression of their right to self-determination.

As Americans partially responsible for and heavily intertwined in the conflict, we have no other choice.

-§-


David Harris-Gershon is author of the memoir What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?, published recently by Oneworld Publications.

Follow him on Twitter @David_EHG.

 

 

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Israel's butchery and campaign of mass punishment against the people of Gaza continues.

Israel has now started using flechette rounds, white phosphorous, and DIME munitions, against the civilians in Gaza. The American people's tax dollars are subsidizing wanton cruelty. And again, when the retaliation and blowback comes, the ignorant and the stupid will say, "why do they hate us so much!" American politicians, complicit agents in a civic culture where the masses have been made into asses, will reply, "they hate our values and way of life!"

To tell the truth--that America subsidizes Israel and her meanness, and that American made and supplied helicopters, artillery, planes, and other armaments deal out death to the civilians in Gaza and the other occupied territories--would mean the end of one's political career. Truth is almost always punished. Thus, there are few of us who practice parrhesia as a life mantra. Most will retreat from Socrates's virtuous death.

On Monday, The Wall Street Journal's Thane Rosenbaum suggested that the civilian population in Gaza is complicit with their own misery.

He has indicted a whole population as "terrorists" and an existential threat to Israel.

Thus, the rules of war do not apply, because by definition there are no innocents or children in Gaza: the rank-and-file denizens of Gaza share responsibility for the actions of their political leaders.

Consequently, Israel's total war strategy is made valid by the objectification and dehumanization of a whole population.

Salon's Matt Bruenig has done an excellent job highlighting the hypocrisy of the American jingoists who were aghast and enraged when the same logic was used by Osama bin Laden and those others who "defended" his attacks on September 11, 2001:

When people — whether bin Laden, Rosenbaum, Churchill, or others — defend slaughtering civilians, they rarely intend to apply their arguments universally. Do you imagine, for instance, that Rosenbaum thinks that it would be legitimate to bomb his house, killing him and his family, because he is a loyal of the American government that fought an unjust war of aggression in Iraq? I suspect not. Do you imagine that he thinks Israeli civilians are legitimate targets of war because they continue to vote for the parties that they do? Again, one suspects not.

People who push the Rosenbaum-Laden argument do not seek to make a serious plea for a new category of quasi-combatant that it is legitimate to brutalize in war. Few if any people are willing to take any such argument to its logical and grisly conclusion. Instead, they seek simply to provide one-off cover to specific instances of civilian killings that they want to justify for other reasons. The “those civilians deserve it” point almost always comes unsheathed as a desperation move when the side you are deeply loyal to has done the indefensible.

Bruenig is essentially correct. American exceptionalism deems that the lives of Americans are more valuable than the lives of any other people. Moreover, American Exceptionalism means that all of the United States' actions abroad and at home are noble, righteous, and good. Rules of moral, ethical, or philosophical consistency are upended by American Exceptionalism and nationalism.

The argument made by "Hamas's Civilian Death Strategy" is supported by a scaffold of problematic assumptions about personhood, culture, and race that will be familiar to anyone who has reflected on, studied, or through lived experience, had to navigate the American and global color line.

Rosenbaum's logic is also an example of the white racial frame applied on an international scale.

To point:

On some basic level, you forfeit your right to be called civilians when you freely elect members of a terrorist organization as statesmen, invite them to dinner with blood on their hands and allow them to set up shop in your living room as their base of operations. At that point you begin to look a lot more like conscripted soldiers than innocent civilians. And you have wittingly made yourself targets.

It also calls your parenting skills into serious question. In the U.S. if a parent is found to have locked his or her child in a parked car on a summer day with the windows closed, a social worker takes the children away from the demonstrably unfit parent. In Gaza, parents who place their children in the direct line of fire are rewarded with an interview on MSNBC where they can call Israel a genocidal murderer.

Questioning the parenting skills of those who you oppress and target for violence is a way of making them ultimately responsible for their own suffering. Children are made into adults because they are not allowed the innocence that "proper" home training would have given them. In the United States, we see the logic of "good" and "bad" parenting as a type of moral claim that is used to justify violence against the black and brown body by White people and those others who are overly identified with Whiteness as power, privilege, and normality.

When white vigilantes, police, and other agents of the white racial state shoot and murder unarmed black and brown teenagers and children, the first move by the defenders of Whiteness in their framing of black life as criminality is to question the parental training and upbringing of the victim.

Trayvon Martin was "asking for it" because he was a "thug" whose parents couldn't control him. Jordan Davis and his friends were "disrespectful" to Michael Dunn.

The adultification and niggerization of black children and their families is legitimated and circulated by the racist logic of the American media and other forces of political and cultural socialization.

Borrowing from the great historian Alexander Saxton, if "racism is a theory of history", then the claims by Rosenbaum in support of Israel's mass punishment of the people of Gaza are an extension of the white racist logic that was used to support colonization, imperialism, and Apartheid.

The white racial frame has blinded Rosenbaum to how his suggestion that, "On some basic level, you forfeit your right to be called civilians when you freely elect members of a terrorist organization as statesmen, invite them to dinner with blood on their hands and allow them to set up shop in your living room as their base of operations" also applies to the United States.

He is describing the slave regime in the United States where white slavers and their allies were engaged in a tyrannical relationship based on war and terror against African-Americans. The regime of Jim and Jane Crow, and its KKK thugs and other white racial terrorists, were also supported by and embedded throughout white society.

By Rosenbaum's logic there were/are no innocents in white society. If there had been a series of rebellions by black Americans in which they rose up and killed white people en masse across the South and elsewhere during the Slavery, Reconstruction, and Jim and Jane Crow regimes, would Rosenbaum, and by extension The Wall Street Journal, have supported their actions? What about Nat Turner? Would Rosenbaum and The Wall Street Journal have backed Turner's attacks on "innocent" white "civilians"?

Thane Rosenbaum is no John Brown. As offered by "Hamas's Civilian Death Strategy", I doubt that he would apply his logic to armed resistance by people of color against a white racist society.

The violence by Israel against the people of Gaza, and the rhetorical strategies which are being deployed by the "mainstream" American and global media to justify it, should be familiar to anyone would has lived in a slum, ghetto, Bantustan, or other "occupied territory".

It must be stopped. "Not in my name" should be a slogan of action across the global color line.