Category Archives: Intolerance

Blood on the border: Homeland security run amok


From being a relatively minor federal law enforcement before 9/11, the Border Patrol has been radically re-envisioned and empowered Borders and Customs, a militarized forced equipped with the latest in technology and more than doubled in size to a force of more than 21,000 armed agents.

In this investigation conducted by a Berkeley-based journalism center, MSNBC, and Mexican broadcaster Telemundo, we get a unique look at the actions U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the largest law enforcement agency in the Department of Homeland Security, boasting more than 60,000 employees,

The focus is seen from the viewpoints of those who have been the subjects of violence from the agency’s 21,000 armed agents, as well as by those who have been charged with overseeing the agency and investigating its actions.

Alonzo Pena, Deputy Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement from 2009 until the following year, and had spent 24 years as a special agent for other federal law enforcement agencies, describes the mindset succinctly: “They think they are the policemen of the world,” proudly declaring themselves La Máquina Verde, the Mean Green Machine,fighting alien invaders.

They live by the motto “When I bleed, my blood is green” Substitute blue for green and the words are the same as esnl heard many, many times during our years as a reporter. We suspect they also employ a rationale we’ve heard repeatedly from police at all levels of government: “Better to be judged by twelve [the size of the jury in most U.S. criminal courts] that carried by six [pallbearers in the typical funeral],” a rationale all too often accepted by their bosses, though less so since phones started coming out with built-in video cameras.

And when it comes to shooting brown people, they seem find it just as easy a do cops farther north of the border.

The report focus on men and women who have been the victims of agent violence, including rape and murder. Their numbers include unarmed criminals and alleged criminals, shot in the back while fleeing — an action strictly against agency policy — and Native American youths, shot on their own land.

One was a sixteen-year-old Mexican youth, shot in the back by an agent who fired through border fence and killed the boy on a Mexican street.

James Tomsheck, deputy commissioner for internal affairs for Customs and Border Protection from 2006 to 2014, came to the agency from a distinguished 30 years in the Secret Service. He describes an agency with a history  of protecting agents they know to have acted wrongly, then lying about the crimes they have committed. “I believe there is a culture of holding only themselves accountable, and interfering with outside agencies who attempt to hold Border Patrol personnel accountable for their actions.”

Tomsheck looked at 28 fatalities inflicted between January 2010 and June 2014 that he deemed merited further investigation, including seven he deemed high suspicious. None was prosecuted.

His frankness may have cost him his job under the new “reform” director brought in because of the results from Tomsheck’s findings.

It’s an important report, well worth your time.

From Noticias Telemundo:

Border Patrol Shooting | Noticias | Noticias Telemundo

Program notes from Reveal, the renamed website of Berkeley’s Center for Investigative Reporting:

Paralleling a decade of growth, the U.S. Border Patrol has seen a rise in corruption and a troubling trend of the use of deadly force. Amid a national debate around police use of force, The Center for Investigative Reporting, in collaboration with Telemundo and MSNBC, spent seven months investigating deadly force by Border Patrol agents and how these incidents are handled by its parent agency, U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Highlighting specific shootings involving agents and how a hiring surge that began more than a decade ago contributed to these issues, the investigation charted several incidents along the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona and Texas.

Among those interviewed were victims, speaking publicly for the first time, of a brutal assault, rape and attempted murder by a Border Patrol agent in South Texas. Reporting from Washington, D.C., and West Virginia, correspondent José Díaz-Balart got an exclusive first look at a new Border Patrol training tool: a use-of-force simulator used to prepare agents to respond appropriately to threats. Along with interviews of former high-ranking officials, some speaking publicly about inside details for the first time, the investigation offered new insights into how the U.S. government has failed to hold the agency accountable.

Headline of the day II: Netanyahu trumps Trump


Not-so-great minds think alike, via the Guardian:

Netanyahu plans fence around Israel to protect it from ‘wild beasts’

Israeli PM says proposed barrier would also solve problem of Hamas tunnels from Gaza, but plan already has critics in his own cabinet

The very, very creepy Ted Cruz’s weekend adventure


The weekend in question was 6-7 November, and the occasion was a hatefest called the National Religious Liberties Conference in Des Moines.

BLOG Theocons

But the liberties in question at the conference included the liberty to conduct a gay holocaust.

From Katherine Stewart, writing in the 16 November edition of the  New York Times [emphasis added]:

Earlier this month, in Des Moines, the prominent home-schooling advocate and pastor Kevin Swanson again called for the punishment of homosexuality by death. To be clear, he added that the time for eliminating America’s gay population was “not yet” at hand. We must wait for the nation to embrace the one true religion, he suggested, and gay people must be allowed to repent and convert.

Mr. Swanson proposed this at the National Religious Liberties Conference, an event he organized. Featured speakers included three Republican contenders for the presidency: the former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.

Mr. Huckabee later pleaded ignorance. Yet a quick web search will turn up Mr. Swanson’s references to the demonic power of “the homosexual Borg,” the unmitigated evil of Harry Potter and the Disney character Princess Elsa’s lesbian agenda.

Mr. Cruz apparently felt little need to make excuses. He was accompanying another of the featured speakers at the conference: his father, Rafael Cruz — a politically connected pastor who told a 2013 Family Leadership Summit that same-sex marriage was a government plot to destroy the family.

Yep, Ted’s pappy was right there, spouting his own brand of venomous bile, the kind that was meat and potatoes to his young son as he grew up.

Rachel Maddow brought the conclave to a broader audience in a trualy remarkable video from RightWingWatch.org. From MSNBC:

GOP Hopefuls Speak At Anti-Gay Conference

Program notes:

Rachel Maddow shows that while Democrats were participating in a candidates forum, Republicans Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal and Ted Cruz were guests at “religious freedom” event led by a pastor who preaches that homosexuality should be punished with death.

For more on the extreme beliefs of conference organizer Kevin Swanson, see this catalog of horrors from Right Wing Watch.

And from the New York Daily News, here’s one example:

“America, repent of your rebellion against God!” he yelled in his hysterical speech.

“America, repent of stumbling the little ones! America, repent of ‘Harry Potter’! America, repent of ‘How to Train Your Dragon!’

“America, repent that Dumbledore emerged as a homosexual mentor for Harry Potter, that Hiccup’s mentor in ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ emerged as a homosexual himself in order that history might repeat itself one more time.”

And what if your kid turns out to be gay [or is seduced by Satan into turning gay, which the good reverend seems to think is how it’s done]?

The good pastor has a suggestion:

“There are families, we’re talking Christian families, pastors’ families, elders’ families from good, godly churches whose sons are rebelling, hanging out with homosexuals and getting married and the parents are invited. What would you do if that was the case? Here is what I would do: sackcloth and ashes at the entrance to the church and I’d sit in cow manure and I’d spread it all over my body. That is what I would do and I’m not kidding, I’m not laughing.”

And from Jeff Rouner of the Houston Press comes this observation:

I was watching The Rachel Maddow Show the other day. . .when I heard a sentence that cannot possible have ever been uttered by human lips before in history: “Don’t you dare carve happy faces on open, pussy sores.”

So how did the candidates respond? Here’s the headline from a piece on the rant from the Des Moines Register:

Candidates won’t call out host citing death for gays

Of course they won’t. Cruz and Jindal are no doubt in agreement with the pastor’s pronouncements, though we’re not so sure about the Huck-ster.

Now consider this: Just substitute Jew for gay, and nothing the preacher says wouldn’t have fit right in the speeches of a certain Munich beer hall orator back in the 1920s.

And he has the imprimatur of a possible nominee for President of the United States.

Quote of the day Ted Cruz in a nutshell [Nut’s hell?]


From journalist and author Gary Leech, writing for Counterpunch:

Perhaps nothing captures the imperialist arrogance of Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz more succinctly than his campaign’s statement declaring, “What is best for America is best for the world.” In addition to the obvious fact that billions of people around the world might disagree with Cruz on this point is the fact that it is not at all clear that the Republican presidential candidate’s proposed policies are even best for most Americans. But given his victory this past week in the Iowa caucus, Cruz’s ultra-conservative views can no longer be ignored while mainstream and progressive pundits busy themselves dissecting the bombastic rhetoric of the far less scary Donald Trump.

In contrast to most candidates that run for president, Ted Cruz has a clear vision for the future of the country. The problem for many Americans is that it is a terrifying vision. It is a vision that is imperialist, racist, sexist, classist and homophobic. For instance, Cruz proposes building a giant wall across the US-Mexico border in addition to using high-tech measures to keep out “illegal” immigrants while allowing corporate labor needs to dictate the flow of “legal” immigrants into the country. In addition to strengthening the military to ensure US hegemony around the globe, he also vows to boost US military support for Israel and to withhold funding from the United Nations if it “continues its anti-Israel bias.”

On the domestic front, Cruz is calling for a flat tax that will benefit the rich and gut government social spending. He has also vowed to curtail women’s rights by stating that he will order the attorney general to investigate Planned Parenthood on his first day as president. And he opposes same-sex marriage, declaring that “marriage is a sacrament between one man and one woman.” Finally, Cruz would not only fail to address climate change, which he views as a hoax, he would promote expanded oil and gas production. Given that these policy proposals make Cruz one of the most conservative presidential contenders in decades, it would behoove us to take a closer at them.

Class cleansing, history, race, and the Super Bowl


A short but notable segment from Democracy Now! how issues of the issues of class and race are integral to America’s most iconic sporting event.

No Super Bowl in recent decades has evoked their spectral present more than the game’s 50th extravaganza, held in San Francisco, the nation’s most expensive city to inhabit, yet a city haunted by the issues of race and class.

It was, after all, San Francisco that brought the nation its first drug law, created in 1875 to repress a hard-working Chinese population by banning the use of opium, the drug which helped numb the pain brought on by long hours of physical exertion.

The San Francisco ordinance, quickly adopted by most other California cities with large Asian populations, didn’t halt sales of the drug; instead driving it underground and causing the price to spike.

Nor, as any visitor to modern San Francisco can attest, did it succeed in driving out its Chinese residents.

[The nation’s prohibitions of cocaine, marijuana, and heroin were all based directly on overt racist hysteria, as noted here.]

The San Francisco Bay Area was also the birthplace of the most prominent African American militants of the mid-20th Century, the Black Panthers.

And it was the Panthers who were, remarkably, celebrated in Sunday’s Super Bowl halftime show by one of the nation’s most popular singers.

But before the game was held, another cleansing of San Francisco took place, this time one based on class and not race.

And with that by way of preface, from Democracy Now!:

Beyoncé Wins the Super Bowl: Pop Legend Invokes Black Panthers, #BlackLivesMatter at Halftime Show

From the transcript:

AMY GOODMAN: Dave Zirin joins us from Washington, D.C., sports columnist for The Nation. His latest article, “The Streets of San Francisco: ‘Super Bowl City’ Meets Tent City.”

Thanks so much. His books include The John Carlos Story: The Sports Moment That Changed the World, which he co-wrote with John Carlos. Your response to all that happened last night, Dave?

DAVE ZIRIN: Well, there’s on the field and off the field. I mean, on the field, you had the Denver Broncos exhibit one of the great defensive performances in Super Bowl history. Off the field, what you had was really an unprecedented sweep of the homeless before a Super Bowl contest. And, you know, every Super Bowl in the host city has a narrative that exists outside the game. In New Orleans, it was “How will the city recover after Hurricane Katrina?” In New York, if you remember—we discussed this, Amy—it was the sweep and harassment of sex workers before the big game that took place in the Meadowlands.

And in San Francisco, it’s the fact that you have this city of only 800,000 people that has a homeless population of 10,000. Sixty-one percent of the homeless in San Francisco were working at the time they lost their homes. And one-third of these 10,000 people are children. And yet, the response from San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee was: You better get off the street. You better get gone, because we’re about to have a party for the 1 percent. We’re about to have a Woodstock for the wealthy and celebrate the Super Bowl and celebrate our conspicuous consumption. There’s no greater symbol of this year’s Super Bowl, to me, than the fact you could go to the game and buy a delicious hot dog with real gold flakes sprinkled on top, so you could eat gold with your hot dog while people are literally hungry outside the most unequal and, by some metrics, the wealthiest city now in the United States.

AMY GOODMAN: And can you talk about what happened inside, at halftime, Dave Zirin? Can you talk about not only what Beyoncé—

DAVE ZIRIN: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: —did there with her song, the homage to the Black Panthers—

DAVE ZIRIN: It was too short.

And now for something completely different. . .


Yet another animation from the National Film Board of Canada, today’s offering is the story of Seraphim “Joe” Fortes, a man born in the Caribbean in 1863, who transformed attitudes in one Canadian city simply by doing the things he loved best, swimming and teaching others to swim.

From the Dictionary of Canadian Biography:

Fortes came to Granville (Vancouver) on the Robert Kerr, debarking on 30 Sept. 1885. The town was booming because of the lumber industry and its designation as a railway terminus . People moved from Vancouver Island to the mainland in search of jobs, and a number of blacks came as well from eastern Canada, Alberta, the Pacific northwest, the West Indies, and even further afield. Consequently, the centre of British Columbia’s African Canadian community changed from Victoria to Vancouver as the century drew to a close. Most members of the black population there, which never numbered more than around 300, lived mainly in what became known as Strathcona or the East End.

For eight months, until the great fire of June 1886, Fortes ran Vancouver’s earliest shoeshine stand, in the Sunnyside Hotel on Water Street. Afterwards he worked as a bartender and porter at such local establishments as the Bodega Saloon on Carrall Street in Strathcona and the Alhambra Hotel at the corner of Carrall and Water. Known to be clean, sober, and an expert mixer of cocktails, he was most famous, however, for his volunteer work as a swimming instructor and lifeguard. He was a common sight at English Bay beach, where he taught thousands of children to swim. It was not until around 1897 that the city, in recognition of his services, put him on its payroll as a lifeguard; at some point he was also made a special police constable. He reputedly saved more than 100 people from drowning, including many children and several adults, among them John Hugo Ross, who would die in the sinking of the Titanic.

And without further ado, from the National Film Board of Canada:

Joe

Program notes:

This animated short tells the story of Seraphim “Joe” Fortes, one of Vancouver’s most beloved citizens. Born in the West Indies, Joe Fortes swam in English Bay for over than 30 years. A self-appointed lifeguard at first, he became so famous that the city of Vancouver finally rewarded him with a salary for doing what he loved best. He taught thousands of people to swim and saved over a hundred lives. Yet there were some who did not respect him because of his skin colour. Through his determination, kindness and love for children, Joe helped shift attitudes.

Directed by Jill Haras – 2002

Chart of the day II: Islam & a critical political divide


From a new Pew Research Center survey [PDF]:

BLOG Islam