Militarization of Police Turning Communities into ‘War Zones’

From Common Dreams:  http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2014/06/24-4

SWAT raids disproportionately affecting people of color

Lauren McCauley

The rapid militarization of American police forces is turning our communities into “war zones” with tactics of war used disproportionately against people of color, charged a new report by the ACLU on Tuesday.

The report, War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing (pdf) reveals how heavily armed Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams are being increasingly deployed for basic police work, such as serving warrants or searching for a small amount of drugs.

“Our police are trampling on our civil rights and turning communities of color into war zones,” said Kara Dansky, senior counsel with the ACLU’s Center for Justice.

“Carried out by ten or more officers armed with assault rifles, flashbang grenades, and battering rams,” Dansky continued, “these paramilitary raids disproportionately impacted people of color, sending the clear message that the families being raided are the enemy.”

In preparing the report, the ACLU focused on more than 800 SWAT raids conducted by law enforcement agencies in 20 states. The report found that nearly 80% of the raids studied were conducted to serve search warrants, usually in drug cases. “With public support for the War on Drugs at an all-time low, police are using hyper-aggressive, wartime tools and tactics to fight a war that has lost its public mandate,” notes the ACLU.

The report highlights how such militarization has been aided by federal programs, which grant local law enforcement with surplus military equipment, including armored vehicles, grenade launchers, machine guns and silencers. Recent reporting by the New York Times revealed that under President Obama local police forces have become militarized at unprecedented levels.

“It’s time for American police to remember that they are supposed to protect and serve our communities,” writes the ACLU, “not wage war on the people who live in them.”

_____________________

Posted in Uncategorized. Comments Off on Militarization of Police Turning Communities into ‘War Zones’

Why Do Right-Wing Christians Think ‘Religious Freedom’ Means Forcing Their Faith on You?

From Alternet: http://www.alternet.org/belief/why-do-right-wing-christians-think-religious-freedom-means-forcing-their-faith-you

Religious freedom has turned into conservative code for imposing Christianity.

By Amanda Marcotte
June 25, 2014

Religious freedom is one of the most fundamental American values, written directly into the First Amendment of the Constitution. Of course, true religious freedom requires a secular society, where government stays out of the religion game and leaves it strictly to individual conscience, a standard that runs directly against the modern conservative insistence that America is and should be a “Christian nation”. So what are people who claim to be patriots standing up for American values to do? Increasingly, the solution on the right is to redefine “religious freedom” so that it means, well, its exact opposite. “Religious freedom” has turned into conservative code for imposing the Christian faith on the non-believers.

While it seems like a leap even for the most delusional conservatives to believe that their religious freedom can only be protected by giving Christians broad power to force their faith on others, a new report from the People For the American Way shows how the narrative is constructed. The report shows that Christian conservative circles have become awash in legends of being persecuted for their faith, stories that invariably turn out to be nonsense but that “serve to bolster a larger story, that of a majority religious group in American society becoming a persecuted minority, driven underground in its own country.” This sense of persecution, in turn, gives them justification to push their actual agenda of religious repression under the guise that they’re just protecting themselves.

The most obvious and persistent example of this is the issue of creationism in the classroom. Clearly, teaching creationism in a biology classroom is a straightforward violation of the First Amendment, a direct attempt to use taxpayer money to foist a very specific religious teaching on captive students. So what the right does is reframe the issue, arguing that teaching evolutionary theory is a form of religious oppression, a direct attack on the beliefs of fundamentalists in the classroom. This is pure hooey, of course, since evolutionary theory is not a religion but a scientific reality, and teaching science as science is no more a violation of religious freedom than teaching kids to that “cat” rhymes with “hat” is an imposition of religion. But once they’ve convinced themselves that learning science in the science classroom is religious persecution, it becomes easier to convince yourself that it’s okay to “fight back” by forcing your actual religion on everyone else.

You can see this play out in the legends that PFAW details out. Do Christian conservatives want to force their religious hostility to gays onto the military? Tell a lie about how a sergeant was persecuted for simply holding that religious belief to paint yourself as the “real” victim. Want to justify forcing non-believing kids to pray to your god in school? Tell lies about how kids are being punished for having private prayers all to themselves. Want to force people in the VA hospital to sing your religious songs and worship your god? Spread a false tale claiming that people aren’t allowed private ownership of religious cards. Tell enough of these stories and people on the right can convince themselves the only way they can protect their own right to worship is to force their religious practice on everyone else.

You can see how this kind of logic swept over the Becket Fund, a legal institution that was initially set up to protect the individual right to religious freedom. As chronicled by Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux at The American Prospect, the Becket Fund started off doing easily defensible work protecting people who wanted to express their religious beliefs in personal ways that are not coercive to others, such as protecting prisoners who wanted to have religious tchotchkes or workers who wanted to maintain religious hairstyles at work.

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/belief/why-do-right-wing-christians-think-religious-freedom-means-forcing-their-faith-you

Posted in Uncategorized. Comments Off on Why Do Right-Wing Christians Think ‘Religious Freedom’ Means Forcing Their Faith on You?

Buying Up the Planet: Out-of-Control Central Banks on a Corporate Buying Spree

From Common Dreams:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2014/06/23-0

by Ellen Brown

“Finance is the new form of warfare – without the expense of a military overhead and an occupation against unwilling hosts. It is a competition in credit creation to buy foreign resources, real estate, public and privatized infrastructure, bonds and corporate stock ownership. Who needs an army when you can obtain the usual objective (monetary wealth and asset appropriation) simply by financial means?”                                                                                     — Dr. Michael Hudson, Counterpunch, October 2010

When the US Federal Reserve bought an 80% stake in American International Group (AIG) in September 2008, the unprecedented $85 billion outlay was justified as necessary to bail out the world’s largest insurance company. Today, however, central banks are on a global corporate buying spree not to bail out bankrupt corporations but simply as an investment, to compensate for the loss of bond income due to record-low interest rates. Indeed, central banks have become some of the world’s largest stock investors.

Central banks have the power to create national currencies with accounting entries, and they are traditionally very secretive. We are not allowed to peer into their books. It took a major lawsuit by Reuters and a congressional investigation to get the Fed to reveal the $16-plus trillion in loans it made to bail out giant banks and corporations after 2008.

What is to stop a foreign bank from simply printing its own currency and trading it on the currency market for dollars, to be invested in the US stock market or US real estate market?  What is to stop central banks from printing up money competitively, in a mad rush to own the world’s largest companies?

Apparently not much. Central banks are for the most part unregulated, even by their own governments. As the Federal Reserve observes on its website:

[The Fed] is considered an independent central bank because its monetary policy decisions do not have to be approved by the President or anyone else in the executive or legislative branches of government, it does not receive funding appropriated by the Congress, and the terms of the members of the Board of Governors span multiple presidential and congressional terms.

As former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan quipped, “Quite frankly it does not matter who is president as far as the Fed is concerned. There are no other agencies that can overrule the action we take.”

Continue reading at: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2014/06/23-0 http://www.commondreams.org/view/2014/06/23-0

Posted in Uncategorized. Comments Off on Buying Up the Planet: Out-of-Control Central Banks on a Corporate Buying Spree

Punching Gloria Steinem: inside the bizarre world of anti-feminist women

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jul/07/anti-feminist-women-hobby-lobby-decision-great

How do you make sense of women who think the Hobby Lobby decision is ‘great’, college rape is ‘inflated’ and pay gaps don’t exist? Just don’t let ’em stop you


theguardian.com, Monday 7 July 2014

Every so often, one woman engages with me on Twitter who is against women’s suffrage. That’s right – she believes women shouldn’t have the right to vote. I always hoped it was a fake account, but no – this anti-suffrage enthusiast runs a blog where she writes about religion alongside recipes. It seems the only thing we have in common is a love of beets.

When men are against feminism, it’s frustrating, if ultimately predictable – groups with power have always been loathe to give it up. But when women come out against gender justice, it feels worse: no matter how fringe, the rise of the anti-feminist woman is not just baffling but a betrayal.

Obviously “women” aren’t a monolith, and neither are the issues that they care about or believe in. But anti-feminist organizing is based on a deep hypocrisy and selfishness – an ideology built to assure conservative women that as long as they are doing just fine, other women will make due. And they’re putting up roadblocks to progress right in the middle of a renewed feminist awakening, with retrograde sexism that’s ultimately not too different than that of their male counterparts.

Last week, for example, the US supreme court’s Hobby Lobby decision left most women’s groups livid. Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization for Women, called it “a shocking disregard for women’s health and lives.” The co-president of the National Women’s Law Center, Marcia Greenberger, said the ruling gave companies “a license to harm their female employees in the name of religion.”

But the Independent Women’s Forum (IWF) – a conservative women’s group with at least a quarter-million dollars in financial ties to Rush Limbaugh – called the decision “undoubtedly good news”. The group’s director of cultural programs, Charlotte Hays, told a crowd outside the court, “This is a great day,” and called the ruling a victory “for anyone who believes in freedom of conscience.” This from the same woman who has written that women shouldn’t be astronauts and that rape culture on college campuses is all “inflated numbers” and “hysteria”.

This latest crop of female anti-feminists – powerful, Washington-based organizations like IWF and Concerned Women for America – want to repeal the Violence Against Women Act and argue that pay inequity doesn’t exist. These organizations, along with a handful of popular writers and authors, want to convince women that it’s men who are the underserved sex. They want to convince you that inequality is just a trade-off.

And as much as feminists are accused of obsessing over women’s sexuality – as if by putting so much effort into abortion and birth control, we’re reducing women’s issues to those below the belt – it is the well-funded, poorly researched anti-feminists who can’t seem to get their minds off sex.

The Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute, for example, had a campaign to “bring back the hope chest”, and published a short booklet for college women called Sense and Sexuality, which doles out advice – in pink cursive writing – like this: “The rectum is an exit, not an entrance.” (As you can imagine, neither of these campaigns went viral.)

Continue reading at:  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jul/07/anti-feminist-women-hobby-lobby-decision-great

Posted in Uncategorized. Comments Off on Punching Gloria Steinem: inside the bizarre world of anti-feminist women