The humiliation of 9th grade student Ahmed Mohamed

The title of this article deliberately mirrors that of Dr. Jerry Coyne’s article at Why Evolution Is True. I agree with Dr. Coyne that we have created a society in which “infractions” that three decades ago when I was in primary school would have been ignored or, at most, resulted in a lecture about how to behave now result in police arrest. This is both counterproductive and idiotic.

We have to stop thinking in terms of “security at all costs”. I’m tired of taking off my shoes when flying. I’m tired of taking off my belt when reporting for jury duty at the San Jose Federal court. Which happened two years ago and will likely be repeated when I report for jury duty again this coming monday.

Below is the mail I sent to the Irving, TX police department prior to reading Dr. Coynes article.

from:   Kurtis Rader 
date:   Fri, Sep 18, 2015 at 6:31 PM
subject:        the arrest of 9th grade student Ahmed Mohamed

I'm a 54 year old white male software engineer who grew up in a middle class suburban family that attended a Protestant church. In other words I'm a member of a demographic you could reasonably expect to support you. Yet every time I read about incidents like the arrest of 9th grade student Ahmed Mohamed I become more firmly convinced the police cannot be trusted to exercise good judgement and it is reasonable for me and my neighbors to fear an encounter with the police.

In my opinion the officers involved in that incident are not competent to issue parking tickets let alone arrest people. And your department's defense that

    “It could reasonably be mistaken as a device if left in a bathroom or under a car. The concern was, what was this thing built for? Do we take him into custody?”

and that you

    wanted "a broader explanation" from the teen

is absurd. Hang your heads in shame.

P.S., I'm also appalled at the behavior of the school staff. Your officers should have defused the situation (pun intended) instead of escalating tensions. Get a fucking grip.

P.S., I’ve included the “religion” tag on this post because I strongly suspect that the skin color and name of the student, suggesting he is a Muslim, was a factor in how he was treated. I have no love for Islam. As an atheist I dislike all religions. Nonetheless I feel it is wrong to discriminate against a person solely due to the religion you believe they adhere to.

The Rude Pundit nails it again regarding crime and punishment

I’ve been binge watching “The Wire” for a couple of weeks since I signed up for HBONow. This is a show renowned for its realistic depiction of how police handle crime in Baltimore, MA, USA. I love the show and hate what it says about the America I live in as a privileged white male.

The Rude Pundit writes another article you should be reading instead of mine about “America’s Obsession With Punishment: Who Cares If You’re Guilty?“. How can anyone, even a Republican, agree that holding someone in jail for three years for petty theft (even assuming there is sufficient reason to believe they are guilty) without trail is moral and consistent with American ideals?

See this article from the New York Times in April, 2015 where they claim

As of late March, over 400 people had been locked up for more than two years without being convicted of a crime, according to city data that is to be released publicly for the first time. And there are currently a half-dozen people at Rikers who have been waiting on pending cases for more than six years.

Fox News: “tone of their skin” helps identify “bad guys”

You’ve got to love it when one of the hosts on Fox News, in this case Shannon Bream, makes it crystal clear they are racists. From the New Civil Rights Movement:

On Fox’s “Outnumbered” Wednesday, the cast got into a discussion about how Paris police didn’t have enough weapons, which enabled – they claimed – the Islamic extremist terrorists to massacre 12 people.
Enter Fox News anchor Shannon Bream, a former corporate attorney and graduate of Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University.

Bream, speaking unscripted, wondered how police would be able to identify “bad guys” if they had ski masks and couldn’t “even know what color,” what “the tone of their skin was?”

“That’s my question about these guys because if we know they were speaking unaccented French and they had, you know, ski masks on, do we even know what color they were?,” Bream asked. “What the tone of their skin was,” she tried to clarify – as if that were less racist. “I mean what if they didn’t look like typical bad guys?”

H/T Daily Kos

A police chief who understands his job

Talking Points Memo brought to my attention that there are, even in the deep south of the USA, police chiefs who recognize that their job isn’t to pander to the frightened, bigoted, citizens they protect. Nashville Police Chief Steve Anderson wrote a marvelous response to someone who sent him an email essentially demanding that he use excessive force in dealing with non-violent protesters.

The person who wrote that email is, among other things, annoyed that the protests adversely impacted his activities (e.g., getting to work on time). I share that sentiment. In as much as I’d be annoyed by protesters whose actions get in the way of me going on about my business especially if I am not sympathetic to their views. But being inconvenienced does not warrant having the police assault and arrest the protesters.

I am thankful that many police officers can do their job with the understanding that their personal biases regarding who is a “good” or “not good” person is irrelevant. I am sad that there are so many officers who clearly cannot do so and are not held accountable for their irrational behavior.

#ElizabethLauten, GOP hack, should “pray” for forgiveness

I thought I had seen members of the GOP (aka Republicans) sink as low as possible. I was wrong. Elizabeth Lauten, the communications director for Tennessee representative Stephen Fincher (R-Tenn.), thought it was appropriate to write

Dear Sasha and Malia, I get you’re both in those awful teen years, but you’re a part of the First Family, try showing a little class. At least respect the part you play. Then again your mother and father don’t respect their positions very much, or the nation for that matter, so I’m guessing you’re coming up a little short in the ‘good role model’ department. Nevertheless, stretch yourself. Rise to the occasion. Act like being in the White House matters to you. Dress like you deserve respect, not a spot at a bar. And certainly don’t make faces during televised public events.

I’m no fan of President Obama notwithstanding my support for his presidential campaigns (as the lesser of two evils). Nevertheless, it is outrageous to use the president’s teenage daughters, who did not seek the public positions they now endure, as an oblique way to attack the president. Especially since the situation is a farce that has existed since President Harry Truman introduced it in 1947.

Ms. Lauten followed up with a post saying “After many hours of prayer, … I pledge to learn and grow …”. Sadly, it seems highly unlikely she will do either given that nothing fails like prayer. My Xmas wish is that Ms. Lauten loses her privileged position and is forced to work a minimum wage job.

Walking while black? Not okay in Michigan

An anxious citizen in Pontiac, Michigan called the police to report a black man walking with his hands in his pockets. Bear in mind that the temperature was near freezing and it was snowing lightly. The police officer didn’t shoot the scary black man. On the contrary, he acted with a surprising amount of professionalism given what we’ve come to expect for such encounters. Nonetheless, the officer did attempt to interrogate the person on the basis of nothing more than a, presumably white, person who was made uncomfortable at the sight of a black man in their neighborhood.

What I don’t understand is why the officer didn’t simply observe the person and leave him be when it was clear he wasn’t doing anything that would warrant stopping and interrogating the person. This shit has got to stop.

P.S., Here is another excellent summary of this incident at Daily Kos.

Dinesh D’Souza compares Ferguson Protests to ISIS

Convicted felon and adulterer Dinesh D’Souza says something stupid. Yeah, I know, that’s akin to declaring dog bites man. And don’t bother telling me I “poisoned the well” by labeling him a convicted felon and adulterer. I agree that neither of those attributes has any bearing on how we should view his statements regarding the situation in Ferguson, MO. Yet it is important to remind everyone that this sanctimonious, christian conservative, asshole has no business opining on anything involving morals or ethics.

What did he say, you ask? Just marvel at the wisdom of Dinesh D’Souza:

“The common thread between ISIS and what’s going in Ferguson is you have these people who basically believe that to correct a perceived injustice, it’s perfectly okay to inflict all types of new injustices,” D’Souza said on NewsMaxTV’s Steve Malzberg Show. “Behead guys who had nothing to do with it. Go and loot shops from business owners who were not part of the original problem whatsoever. And all of this is then licensed by the left and licensed to some degree by the media.”

I really don’t think that needs any commentary. However you’ve got to wonder if he ever reads or watches a source of information that isn’t Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, NewsMax, etcetera. Or for that matter if his brain is getting enough oxygen.

P.S., Do you think he ever looks in a mirror? Because his skin color isn’t exactly lily white. If he ever realizes that the average right-wing white American would view him as a sub-human who should be deported do you think his head would explode?

h/t Daily Kos, Salon, and Talking Points Memo.

John Oliver nails our incarceration problem

This segment by John Oliver on his new show “Last Week with John Oliver” pretty well sums up the problems with the US criminal justice system:

Then read “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” and “The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap“. Then consider yourself lucky if you’re a relatively well off white person in the United States. And if you are a member of that group hang your head in shame if you aren’t doing anything to correct this huge injustice.

Sagging pants? Go to jail

This should be unbelievable but a town in Florida has passed a law banning saggy pants. I’m no fan of that fashion style. If I had my way the offenders would be forced to watch Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. But, come on, six months in jail? Who believes this is anything but thinly veiled racism? It’s nothing more than yet another excuse to harass young black men. Why not pass a law that makes it illegal to commit the fashion crime of dark colored dress socks with sandals and shorts? Oh, right, that would affect old white men.