A growing number of Republicans are floating another government shutdown.
Rep. Steve King (R-IA) floated the possibility of shutting down the government on Wednesday if President Obama issues an executive action granting deportation relief to more undocumented immigrants. King’s comments come just one day after Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) suggested that Republicans in the Senate use “funding mechanisms to address this issue.”
“If the president wields his pen and commits that unconstitutional act to legalize millions, I think that becomes something that is nearly political nuclear,” King said in remarks before the Westside Conservative Breakfast Club in Urbandale, Iowa, adding that “all bets are off” on passing a measure to keep the government running past October.
“I think the public would be mobilized and galvanized and that changes the dynamic of any continuing resolution and how we might deal with that,” he added.
Congress will have just 10 working days to pass a continuing resolution after it returns from summer vacation on September 8. Several Republicans have already threatened to hold up the measure over renewal of the Export-Import Bank and the administration’s proposed environmental regulations, though no party leaders have yet endorsed using must-pass legislation to prevent the administration’s forthcoming immigration action.
Speaking to Breitbart, Rubio said he would be “interested to see what kinds of ideas my colleagues have about using funding mechanisms to address this issue.”
Earlier this month, Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told a Politico reporter that Republicans would strong arm President Obama into adopting a host of Republican policy priorities, from repealing the Affordable Care Act to undoing environmental regulations, but did not specifically mention immigration.
In the House, Republicans approved a bill that would end the Obama administration’s Deferred Actions for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), which has allowed young immigrants to obtain work permits and remain in the country. The measure would also prohibit the president from extending the program to other undocumented people. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) did not say if he plans to attach the measure to the continuing resolution.
For the past few weeks, the spot where Michael Brown was shot and killed by Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson has had a steady stream of visitors and mourners, many of whom leave mementos such as flowers, stuffed animals and signs. Just blocks from West Florissant Avenue, which became known for large protests and clashes with police, this memorial site has been an area of calm and remembrance.
But even this area, after the shooting, was fraught with the tensions that have come to the forefront between the overwhelmingly white police force in the area and the city’s African-American majority.
Soon, police vehicles reappeared, including from the St. Louis County Police Department, which had taken control of the investigation. Several officers emerged with dogs. What happened next, according to several sources, was emblematic of what has inflamed the city of Ferguson, Missouri, ever since the unarmed 18-year-old was gunned down: An officer on the street let the dog he was controlling urinate on the memorial site.
The incident was related to me separately by three state and local officials who worked with the community in the immediate aftermath of the shooting. One confirmed that he interviewed an eyewitness, a young woman, and pressed her on what exactly she saw. “She said that the officer just let the dog pee on it,” that official told me. “She was very distraught about it.” The identity of the officer who handled the dog and the agency he was with remain unclear.
Missouri state Rep. Sharon Pace (D) also told Mother Jones that police initially blocked all traffic from entering the street where Brown was shot, but their vehicles were still allowed. According to Pace, police drove over the rose petals that had been scattered at the site, leading some residents to try to block the police vehicles from driving in.
The nightly protests along West Florissant Avenue are no longer attracting the crowds they did initially, and many community members are now trying to translate the awareness and attention in Ferguson to larger reforms.
“This is bigger than Mike Brown,” De Andrea Nichols, 26, a social entrepreneur in St. Louis, told The Huffington Post at the protests last week. “This is an issue that has been occurring regularly in our nation, and it took this death to make everyone go over the tipping point. In the future, we shouldn’t have to wait for something to happen to have our measures, our strategies, our tactics in place to prevent it.”
Anti-Muslim activist Pamela Geller believes that President Obama and other administration officials use the translation “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant” (ISIL) instead of “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria” (ISIS) to describe the Middle Eastern extremist group because he wants to trick Americans who don’t know what or where the Levant is. After telling conservative talk show host Janet Mefferd yesterday that Obama aided Islamic extremists, Geller alleged that the president is trying to trick the American people by using the translation “ISIL.”
“He says ‘ISIL,’ and why ‘ISIL’ over ‘ISIS’? In my opinion, because it’s to distract, dissemble, deceive and disarm the American people,” Geller said. “The Islamic State of Levant, if anyone looks it up they see Levant and they are like, ‘What’s Levant?’ He knows this.”
The last word in the name “Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham,” has been translated as both “Syria” and “the Levant,” or the eastern Mediterranean. The New York Times notes that “al-Sham takes in not just Syria but also Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, and even a part of southeastern Turkey.”
If Geller’s analysis is correct, she has also been aiding the group, as she hasregularlyused the terms “ISIL” and “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant” on her blog Atlas Shrugs, where she repeatedlywrote that ISIL, and not ISIS, is the correct name for the group:
The media had amended the name of the Islamic army tearing through Syria and Iraq to ISIS (Islamic State of Syria and Iraq). But the correct name is ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant). What is the the Levant? The geographical area they mean to rule. The Levant includes Egypt, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Cyprus and parts of Turkey.
KIRKWOOD, Missouri — Jean Loemker had planned to attend a city council meeting here one Thursday evening in February 2008, but she was tired and fell asleep on the couch with her TV on. When she woke later, a breaking news alert flashed on screen saying there had been a mass shooting at city hall.
“My first thought was: Cookie has lost it. I knew right then it was Cookie,” she recalled six years later, sitting in a coffeeshop directly across the street from where Charles Lee “Cookie” Thornton killed five people and injured two others in the council chambers before being killed by police.
Thornton was black and the city leaders were mostly white. The shooting exposed racial tension in this affluent St. Louis suburb about 20 miles south of Ferguson, which has been rocked by two weeks of its own racial unrest after a white police officer killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager.
Now, as Ferguson begins to look for a path forward, the city might find lessons in Kirkwood, which has found some success in bridging its own racial divide after a violent flash point that is still never far from residents’ minds.
The memory of the shooting, which attracted national attention, was revived for some Ferguson residents this week as the city prepared to hold its first council meeting since Brown’s death. Officials ultimately decided to cancel the meeting, citing security concerns.
“It was just one person acting, it had nothing to do with the rest of our community.”KIRKWOOD MAYOR ART MCDONNELLL
Thornton’s grievances with the white establishment of Kirkwood were personal and bureaucratic — “It was just one person acting, it had nothing to do with the rest of our community,” Mayor Art McDonnelll told msnbc — but they were the offspring of a forced marriage between two very different communities years earlier, as documented in a four-part St. Louis Magazine series and various other media reports.
In 1991, the mostly white Kirkwood annexed Meacham Park, a historic but run-down black neighborhood in unincorporated St. Louis County where Thornton lived. The merger was approved by large margins in both communities, but problems soon arose.
Not long after the merger, Kirkwood invoked eminent domain to take over large swaths of Meacham Park —much of it blighted or home to Section 8 housing — in order to build a Wal-Mart Supercenter and other commercial developments.
Eventually two-thirds of the neighborhood would be taken and Meacham Park’s population would fall by 30%. The community’s mostly black, mostly poor residents numbered less than 800, and they were swept into a city of more than 27,000, only 7% of whom were black.
The character of Meacham Park, whose streets are named after black luminaries like Crispus Attucks and which traces its roots back to 1896, seemed imperiled.
Even now, some residents feel they were cheated out of their land, says Harriet Patton, a longtime African-American activist in the neighborhood who heads the Meacham Park Neighborhood Improvement Association. “There are still some people who share that disposition and have not been very pleased with city officials and getting some resolution with their individual land,” she told msnbc.
Kirkwood has promoted its efforts to integrate the communities, including investing millions of dollars in infrastructure and home improvements. They built a handsome park in the center of the neighborhood. But everyone, white and black, agrees there’s still more to be done.
In its 2013 Annual Report, the city’s official Human Rights Commission wrote that it “continued to monitor the relationship between the City of Kirkwood and the Meacham Park neighborhood. The issues are long standing and deep, they need attention.” It took until last year for a subdivision of Kirkwood to remove unenforceable language from its bylaws prohibiting African-Americans from owning homes in the area.
Mourners hug as others leave following a memorial service for Kenneth Yost at First Presbyterian Church Monday, Feb. 11, 2008, in Kirkwood, Mo.
Photo by Jeff Roberson/AP
For Thornton, a black resident of Meacham Park, the problems were more idiosyncratic. Suddenly, things he had done for years, like park his business’ trucks on residential property, were illegal under Kirkwood’s city ordinances. As violations piled up, he fought aone-man war with city hall and lost at almost every turn. The defeats only seemed to further confirm his suspicions of a racist conspiracy against him, and drove him to more dramatic and unhinged displays of defiance, especially at Kirkwood City Council meetings, according to residents.
Loemker, a social worker who is now the area’s Democratic National Committeewoman, went to at least a year’s worth of meetings with Thornton while she was pushing the city to adopt an anti-smoking ordinance.
He was eccentric and pushed the envelope too far, she said, recalling a time he got dragged out of a meeting in handcuffs. But he was also funny and well-known in his community, where he was involved in charitable causes. “Cookie wanted a voice, he wanted to be heard. And he never felt like he was being heard,” she said.
Thornton grew increasingly erratic, getting into a physical confrontation with a city official at a local bar and picketing outside the mayor’s house. Not long after a federal court dealt him a final legal blow, Thornton went to city hall. This time he was armed.
Just as the city council meeting was about to begin on Feb. 7, 2008 , he started his rampage by shooting a police officer outside city hall. Thornton then took the officer’s gun, entered the council chamber, and shot the mayor, two council members, the public works director, a reporter, and another police officer. He died there behind a desk under a hail of police gunfire. The mayor later succumbed to his injuries.
Six years later, Kirkwood and Meacham Park have tried to find positive lessons from the tragedy. They held months of meetings to build relationships between the two sides of town, brought in a consultant who helps municipalities with tensions like these, worked to build trust between police and black residents, strengthened the human rights commission, and took other steps.
The measures helped, black and white leaders agree, but the effort is still a work in progress. “We are a closer-knit community and one that is proud of itself for what we have accomplished,” said Mayor McDonnell, who, like most city leaders, is white.
“I’m proud of Kirkwood. I think we’ve moved in a positive direction.”JEFFREY BLAIR, A BLACK RESIDENT OF MEACHAM PARK
Jeffrey Blair, an African-American resident of Meacham Park who sits on the Neighborhood Improvement Association board agreed. “I’m proud of Kirkwood. I think we’ve moved in a positive direction,” he said.
Already, the community is looking for ways to help Ferguson. Blair said that while the two violent incidents are “extremes,” they are emblematic of racial problem prevalent throughout St. Louis and so many other American cities. “Something horrific happens, and without that happening, people don’t realize that there are these inequities,” he explained.
In some ways, what happened in Kirkwood and Ferguson are almost the inverse of each other. In Ferguson, the act of one man provoked a community to revolt; in Kirkwood, the experience of a minority community helped provoke the action of one man.
Blair said leaders are already looking for ways to help Ferguson. There are plans for meetings with faith leaders in the two communities, some of which have already taken place, an event at a local church to show solidarity, and talk of political leaders joining together. Loemker invited Ferguson’s Democratic National Committeewoman, Patricia Bynes, to attend the party’s next meeting.
The key, both white and black residents agreed, is to build personal relationships across the divide, which is easier said than done.
Patton, who has often sparred with city officials, said a key pitfall to avoid is “uncontrolled anger.”
“The message that seems so needed is that there’s no winner in the fighting amongst the races. The blacks don’t win, the whites don’t win. So we might as well recognize that we’re on this earth together,” she said.
This year, Cookie’s nephew Jayson Thornton ran for city council. The treasurer for the neighborhood association, the younger Thornton is respected in Meacham Park. He fell short of winning the seat, but garnered 1,300 votes, which Patton said is a good sign.
For Todd Smith, the positive change he sought was more personal. Smith was the reporter who was shot while covering the meeting for the local Suburban Journals, and he could not have expected the routine assignment would change his life. Smith told msnbc he probably could never feel comfortable at an event like that again.
Today he works for Fathers’ Support Center, a St. Louis organization that works to help African-American fathers get involved in the lives of their children. The group has helped more than 11,000 fathers and over 26,000 children in the area, and just graduated a new class from the program this month. The group’s youth director attended Michael Brown’s funeral.
“I don’t know if I would be doing what I am doing now if I didn’t have that horrible experience happen,” he recalled. “If you’re faced with this situation, you can either turn very negative or make a positive as best you can out of it.”
Today, HRC Foundation released a new report that exposes one of the most influential groups in America promoting and coordinating the exportation of anti-LGBT bigotry, ideology, and legislation abroad: The World Congress of Families.
Labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and active in several nations across five continents, the Rockford, IL-based World Congress of Families (WCF) has organized large international “pro-family” conventions that bring together the most fringe activists engaged in anti-LGBT extremism since 1997. In July, WCF announced that its next annual international convention will take place in Salt Lake City, making it the first ever hosted on American soil.
“The World Congress of Families coordinates a dangerous group of activists spreading anti-LGBT rhetoric and promoting laws and policies that criminalize LGBT people and the speech of those who support them,” said Ty Cobb, HRC Foundation’s Director of Global Engagement. “They praise Vladimir Putin as the standard-bearer for traditional ‘family values’ and honored a Nigerian activist who claims LGBT advocates conspire with the terrorist group Boko Haram with a “Woman of the Year” award. Their advocacy abroad harms LGBT people from Russia to Nigeria and beyond. Hate is not an American value, and we must expose and work to stop the World Congress of Families and their extremist allies.”
HRC Foundation’s report documents: WCF’s origins and founding members; a timeline of its major international events; affiliations with prominent American officials, political groups, and religious organizations; engagement and lobbying with leaders and lawmakers abroad; and the primary regions in which the group has been most active.
Uganda, Russia, and Nigeria have enacted horrific anti-LGBT laws within the past year, and LGBT people in those countries have suffered vicious and violent backlashes in their wake. This includes harassment, discrimination, prosecution, public beatings, and murder. WCF and its affiliates are connected to anti-LGBT advocacy in each of the three countries, among many others.
WCF affiliate Scott Lively traveled repeatedly to Uganda claiming that LGBT people are responsible for the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide and the spread of HIV/AIDS. Some Ugandan officials credit Lively with the idea of introducing new legislation to further criminalize homosexuality in the country, and prominent Ugandan LGBT activists say the “bill is essentially his creation.” WCF also forcefully advocated for the draconian anti-LGBT Russian law, met with the law’s author in the Russian Duma, and released a public letter in support of the measure. WCF has also repeatedly hosted events in Nigeria with “pro-family” activists from Nigeria and elsewhere in Africa.
“This organization and their affiliates’ global advocacy have corresponded with a dangerous rise in anti-LGBT laws, discrimination, and even violence around the world,” said Cobb. “Their harmful impact is being felt in nearly every corner of the globe, and we urge all fair-minded Americans to reject the World Congress of Families and their exportation of anti-LGBT hate.”
In an interview with Newsmax’s Steve Malzberg yesterday, conservative pundit Ben Stein insisted that Michael Brown, the black teenager who was shot to death by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, “wasn’t unarmed” because he was “armed with his incredibly strong, scary self.”
“The idea of calling this poor man ‘unarmed’ when he was six-foot-four, 300 pounds, full of muscles, apparently — from what I read in the New York Times — on marijuana, to call him unarmed is like calling Sonny Liston unarmed or Cassius Clay unarmed,” Stein said.
He went on to accuse Attorney General Eric Holder of leading a “lynching” of the police officer who killed Brown, alleging that the deaths of Brown and of Trayvon Martin were cases of a “very large so-called victim attacking a policeman.”
After forty years of pushing corporate-friendly policy in state legislatures, this week the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is launching its new project aimed at doing the same at the local level. The director of the American City County Exchange (ACCE), Jon Russell, has been described as a “divisive” local government official, better known for pushing a national anti-immigrant agenda than for serving local interests and his constituents. ACCE’s first meeting will coincide with ALEC’s Annual Meeting in Dallas, Texas this week. The creation of ACCE comes as national corporate and ideological interests increasingly try to exert influence over municipal government. For example, over the past year, David Koch’s Americans for Prosperity has spent money on the mayoral race in Coralville, Iowa, the Board of Supervisors election in Iron County, Wisconsin, and school board elections in Douglas County, Colorado and Kenosha, Wisconsin. Read more… →
After forty years of pushing corporate-friendly policy in state legislatures, this week the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is launching its new project aimed at doing the same at the local level. The director of the American City County Exchange (ACCE), Jon Russell, has been described as a “divisive” local government official, better known for pushing a national anti-immigrant agenda than for serving local interests and his constituents. ACCE’s first meeting will coincide with ALEC’s Annual Meeting in Dallas, Texas this week. The creation of ACCE comes as national corporate and ideological interests increasingly try to exert influence over municipal government. For example, over the past year, David Koch’s Americans for Prosperity has spent money on the mayoral race in Coralville, Iowa, the Board of Supervisors election in Iron County, Wisconsin, and school board elections in Douglas County, Colorado and Kenosha, Wisconsin.
This is the perfect example of “Too Much Money”, it is using money that you can’t spend because you have everything and playing with it, by using people and politics as a game.
Back in 2008, The Alliance Defending Freedom launched a project called Pulpit Freedom Sunday that encouraged pastors to explicitly discuss political issues and candidates during their Sunday sermons in an effort to provoke the IRS into revoking their church’s tax-exempt status so that the ADF could then take the IRS to court in order to challenge regulations prohibiting tax-exempt churches from engaging in direct, partisan political activism.
Among the pastors who agreed to participate was Jody Hice, a right-wingradiohost who is now the GOP nominee for an open House seat from Georgia, who openly brags about his involvement on his campaign website:
In September 2008 – and in years since, Dr. Hice joined with pastors across the nation in challenging an IRS code that he considers an attack upon religious liberty. The IRS threatened churches with loss of tax-exempt status and with criminal sanctions if political issues were addressed from the pulpit. Hice took his bold stand by formally endorsing a candidate in a Sunday message and sending a copy of it to the IRS. The IRS backed down.
This Pulpit Freedom Sunday effort has taken place every year since 2008 and the IRS has consistently refused to take action against any of the churches or pastors who participated, much to the dismay of church-state separation organizations.
Eventually the Freedom From Religion Foundation filed its own lawsuit against the IRS, seeking to compel the agency to enforce these regulations and then withdrew the lawsuit after the IRS convinced the FRFF that it had not been ignoring the issue.
As Sarah Posner explained today, this latest development is now being spun by the Religious Right to claim that the IRS is colluding with atheist groups in order to target and persecute churches.
Among those fuming about this supposed persecution is none other than Jody Hice, who spent an entire radio broadcast last week declaring that it is a violation of the separation of church and state and accusing the IRS of threatening, bullying, and intimidating Christians into silence:
Of course, the entire point of the Pulpit Freedom Sunday was to get the IRS to take action against churches so that ADF could sue. And now that it looks like the IRS might actually do the very thing that ADF has been trying to provoke it to do for several years, Hice is livid even though he has personally participated in the effort to bring about this very result!
A newly released audio recording aired by CNN Monday purportedly captures the sound of gunfire from the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. The unauthenticated audio was recorded by a man who says he was taping a video chat conversation when the shooting of the unarmed black teen by a white police officer occurred around noon on Saturday, Aug. 9.
A newly released audio recording aired by CNN Monday purportedly captures the sound of gunfire from the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.
The unauthenticated audio was recorded by a man who says he was taping a video chat conversation when the shooting of the unarmed black teen by a white police officer occurred around noon on Saturday, Aug. 9.
CNN said it could not independently verify the authenticity of the audio. The man’s attorney, Lopa Blumenthal, said that her client discussed the tape with the FBI. The FBI has yet to comment on whether it questioned the man who made the recording.
"He heard loud noises and at the time he didn’t even realize the import of what he was hearing until afterwards," Blumenthal told CNN’s Don Lemon. "It just happened to have captured 12 seconds of what transpired outside of his building."
On the audio, a man can be heard video-chatting a friend while shots ring out in the background. After a pause in the gunfire, more shots can be heard.
A forensic audio expert told the network that he detected a cluster of six gunshots followed by four more after the pause on the recording. A private autopsy ordered by Brown’s family found last week that the unarmed teen had been shot at least six times, including twice in the head.
Fox’s Kimberly Guilfoyle has no credentials in national security, terrorism or international policy and she never seems to have spent one minute in military service. But that’s no reason not to play an expert on how to handle ISIS on Fox News.
On yesterday’s The Five, co-host Greg Gutfeld – another Fox talking head without a single credential qualifying him to make pronouncements about such a serious subject – seemed to view ISIS as just another excuse to smear President Obama, talk tough and bang the drum for a new war. With other people doing all the fighting and dying, of course:
Obama should get his head out of his golf bag or get out of town… It’s time to dispense with political correctness and get over being nice. Nice equals death. …And if our president isn’t up to it, then find someone who is. Hell, maybe it’s better if he stays on the course – for good.
Then it was Guilfoyle’s turn. Surprise! She also saw it as an excuse to smear Obama and talk tough about a new war! One that she didn’t mention serving in.
There should be no mercy involved because they (ISIS) have shown none. That’s the only language that they understand. …I really think there’s just really one right answer here. We can talk about the ways to get it done – air strikes, certainly – but it’s gonna take more than that. We’ve already got troops on the ground. We already need help from our U.K. and European allies and counterparts.
I mean, can I just make a special request on the magic lamp? Can we get, like, Netanyahu and, like, Putin in for 48 hours, head of the United States? I don’t know. I just want somebody to get in here and get it done right so that Americans don’t have to worry and wake up in the morning fearful of a group that’s murderous and horrific, like ISIS.
Nothing says “patriotic American” like demanding military action and wishing someone else were president!
Yes, folks, as much as it pains me to do it, I need to write another post about the Dumbest Man on the Internet tonight, because he’s spreading evil racist lies again, about something that’s easily checked.
Last week Attorney General Eric Holder met with Missouri Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson in Ferguson.
Johnson was celebrated for his handling of rioters in Ferguson, Missouri. (Slate photo)
Now there’s this photo of Captain Johnson pulling a gun on white kids…
This photo was from the “Ride of the Century” stunt bikers event in 2013. There was No reason for a gun to be drawn. The kids were doing bike stunts and the highway was clearly already shut down at this point.
Missouri Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson gun drawn on unarmed white kids.
This is what Ron is doing around those that he deems as thugs! Ron fears bikers??
Yes, there was definitely a reason for Capt. Ron Johnson to draw his gun, and these were definitely not harmless “unarmed white kids.”
After days of increasing tensions between police and the Ride of the Century participants, two riders died in crashes over the weekend. Many others were arrested and cited for a range of violations.
Metro police yesterday identified the victim in one of the fatal crashes as Michael Evans, a 32-year-old Harrisburg, Illinois resident. According to cops, he was speeding with a group of motorcyclists at around 6:05 p.m. on Saturday near an unmarked police vehicle on duty by Elizabeth and January avenues in the Hill neighborhood in south city. The group of riders were allegedly traveling southbound — in the northbound lane.
Evans’ motorcycle clipped the unmarked cop car while attempting to pass on the right, according to police.
That’s why Capt. Ron Johnson pulled his gun on these people. This was a lawless, violent, anarchistic event, not simply some harmless “white kids” doing bike stunts, and it had been happening for years, getting worse and worse. Finally, after people started dying in these “bike stunts,” the police cracked down and put a stop to it.
And Jim Hoft lives in St. Louis, so he certainly knows the history of the “Ride of the Century.” This is nothing but absolutely blatant racist incitement.
The fight against LGBT equality in Florida is being spearheaded by John Stemberger, a man who claims homosexuality is a “pathology” and believes marriage equality will indoctrinate “schoolchildren into a gay lifestyle.”
Stemberger, who is president of the Florida Family Policy Council (FFPC), made national headlines this month after he asserted that “inner city” residents “have almost a barbarian society” due to the decline of marriage. During a July 30 interview on 100.7 WFLA, Stemberger suggested that allowing gay people to marry would ultimately destroy the institution of marriage, saying:
STEMBERGER: Marriage is a unique institution that does many, many things that are productive, so you want to encourage marriage. In the inner city right now we see what happens when marriage is gone. You have almost a barbarian society. It’s a very simple society. When marriage is gone, bad things happen in society.
His remarks were condemned as racist, but they’re just the latest in a long line of inflammatory comments from Stemberger. Through his work at the FFPC, frequent media appearances, and his founding of an anti-gay alternative to the Boy Scouts, Stemberger has emerged as one of the most virulently anti-gay social conservatives in the country.
The group is also a vehicle for a distinctly theocratic brand of conservatism. Stemberger has said that “no religion can save [America] except for Christians” and declared that public policy should be guided by “scripture.”
Most recently, the FFPC featured prominently in the debate over Florida’s anti-gay marriage amendment, which a federal judge struck down on August 21. Despite having slammed Republican state attorney general Pam Bondi in 2010 for being childless and “liv[ing] with her 60-year-old doctor boyfriend,” the FFPC lauded her defense of the state’s marriage equality ban in court, hailing Bondi as “an example of courage and responsible stewardship of her authority as the highest law enforcement officer in the state.”
The FFPC’s anti-gay agenda extends far beyond opposing marriage equality. The organization opposes gay adoption, calling same-sex parents “objectively inferior" to married heterosexual parents, despite study after study demonstrating that children of same-sex parents fare as well or better than those raised by opposite-sex parents. Moreover, the FFPC supports discredited ”ex-gay” therapy programs, with a page on its website listing resources for “leaving [the] gay lifestyle.”
Meanwhile, the FFPC’s “gay rights" page provides links to rabidly anti-gay commentary, featuring articles like "What Homosexuals Want" (courtesy of the anti-LGBT hate group the American Family Association) and “The Gay Agenda and Manipulation.” The page also links to an FRC pamphlet which asserts that homosexuality is linked to higher rates of pedophilia - a claim with no empirical basis.
Stemberger’s Anti-Gay Bigotry
After a decade at the helm of the FFPC, Stemberger has produced a lengthy track record of anti-gay rhetoric, including referring to homosexuality a “pathology.”
Among Stemberger’s most persistent fixations is how gay men express their sexuality. He finds “in-your-face” gay men particularly irksome. Denouncing “the social construct called ‘gay,’” Stemberger once defined that “construct” as “in your face, it’s shoving down your throat, and it’s intimidation.” During the run-up to the Boy Scouts’ 2013 vote on allowing openly gay members, Stemberger, in a Washington Times column, deemed those “who have same-sex attractions” acceptable members of the Scouts, but only if they were “discreet” and not “loud and proud.”
That fear of proud gay men may stem from Stemberger’s fondness for the anti-gay trope that gay men want to “recruit” young boys - an assertion he made during a July 2013 interview with hate group leader Peter LaBarbera:
Similarly, as Florida prepared to vote on its anti-gay marriage amendment in 2008, Stemberger justified the ban by stating that allowing gay marriages in the state “could result in the indoctrination of schoolchildren into a gay lifestyle.” Stemberger also sees a plot against young innocents in Walt Disney World’s Gay Days, which he has assailed as an opportunity for gay men to “flaunt” themselves in front of children while they enjoy “unbridled debauchery.”
Trail Life USA
Perhaps the seminal moment in Stemberger’s career of anti-gay extremism came during the debate over the Boy Scouts of America’s (BSA) policy banning gay scouts. Stemberger became one of the most prominent supporters of the BSA’s gay ban, appearing on CNN and Fox News to defend the policy.
Stemberger’s argued that accepting gay scouts would sexualize the organization and cause churches to pull their support for the organization. Speaking to CNN’s Don Lemon, he predicted that allowing for gay scouts would “literally destroy the program.”
Speaking with LaBarbera, Stemberger also predicted that allowing openly gay Scouts would ”increase sexual abuse” between boys:
When the BSA decided to end its ban on gay scouts, Stemberger lamented that it had been “one of the sadest [sic] days of my life”:
Stemberger responded to the vote by founding Trail Life USA, an anti-gay alternative to the BSA. In a September 2013 interview with right-wing radio host Janet Mefferd, Stemberger said that Trail life would not “tolerate activists. We’re not going to tolerate somebody who’s, you know, here and queer, loud and proud, all of that nonsense”:
Trail Life launched to much fanfare, with Fox News host Mike Huckabee delivering the keynote address at the group’s inaugural convention. The group’s membership policy appears to bar not only gay participants, but also gay rights supporters, stating that “[w]e grant membership to adults and youth who do not engage in or promote sexual immorality of any kind.” Although chapters had been established in 40 states by March, an assessment by the Associated Press deemed Trail Life a “tiny movement" overall.
Local media has rightly lambasted Stemberger for his “barbarian” comment, but his record of extreme and offensive rhetoric is far more extensive than is being reported. As the legal battle over Florida’s marriage ban intensifies, outlets are likely to continueturning to Stemberger for a “conservative” voice on LGBT issues. If and when they do, they should be prepared to shine a light on the animus and extremism that motivate his work.
This page will replace the previous “Support Officer Wilson” page, so that donations will be tax deductible through “Shield of Hope”, a certified charity, and the official non-profit organization accepting donations for Officer Wilson at this time.
The new GoFundMe campaign has already raised an additional $150,717 in tax deductible donations, as of this writing.
Together, the funds have brought in more than $385,000.
Using Shield of Hope’s organizational filing with the Missouri Secretary of State, The Wire and Buzzfeed recently uncovered connections between Shield of Hope, The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 15 and the Ferguson Police Department.
FOP Lodge 15 and Shield of Hope share the same address, and a representative of the Fraternal Order of Police told Buzzfeed’s Jacob Fischler “that account is run by Lodge 15.” Among Shield of Hope’s board of directors include Ferguson Police Department Public Relation’s Officer Timothy Zoll, and City of Flourissant City Council Rep. Joe Eagan.
Lodge 15 President David Owens told Facebook users on the “I Support Darren Wilson” group that he can’t confirm the GoFundMe campaign’s administrators. This, despite that the Daily Beast already identified the GoFundMe campaign’s creator as Angela Wilson, and Shield of Hope is the campaign’s “certified charity.” Owens went on to assure users that 100% of the tax deductable proceeds received by Shield of Hope will go to Officer Wilson.
Gov. Pat Quinn today signed into law a measure aimed at providing further protections for pregnant women in the workplace.
The legislation bars employers from firing, segregating against or refusing to hire pregnant women. Sponsoring Rep. Mary Flowers, D-Chicago, has said the measure would relieve the issue of some women having to choose between having a child or taking a job.
The bill would require employers to make reasonable accommodations based on a woman’s needs, but a boss could ask for a doctor’s note. Women also could seek limited physical duties, such as avoiding heavy lifting. “This legislation is especially important for low-income workers, who typically have the most physically demanding jobs and are least likely to have access to maternity leave and sick time,” said Wendy Pollack, director of the Women’s Law and Policy Project at the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, in a statement issued by Quinn’s office. “Women can’t afford to lose their jobs, along with their income, seniority, and their employer-provided health insurance, or put their pregnancies at risk, due to the denial of a reasonable accommodation.”
Quinn signed the measure as he faces Republican challenger Bruce Rauner in the Nov. 4 election. The bill was not controversial in the General Assembly, passing the Senate 57-0 and the House 115-0. The law takes effect Jan. 1. You can read the bill here.
Routine sexist attacks from the National Rifle Association’s media outlets are undermining the organization’s political effort to reach out to women as a growing demographic.
On August 25, NRA magazine America’s 1st Freedom attacked prominent gun safety advocate and Mom’s Demand Action for Gun Sense in America founder Shannon Watts. As Gawker’s Adam Weinstein explained, the article featured images of Watts “as a cutout mom with kitchen and housekeeping accoutrements, because moms oughta know their place!” The accompanying article accused Watts of lying about being a stay-at-home mom, because she had for a time run a PR firm out of her house while raising her children.
This offensive depiction of a woman from NRA media seems in stark contrast to the political arm of the NRA, which the very same day debuted several new ads narrated by women — in a series titled “Good Guys” — promoting the message that guns are a sign of empowerment for women and that women are an important part of the NRA community. One features a woman lauding the importance of “Mom and Dad”; one stars a woman emphasizing the “courage" it takes to be one of the "Good Guys." Another ad released earlier this month also featured a female narrator driving a pickup truck and attacking Everytown for Gun Safety founder Michael Bloomberg, telling him to “keep your hands off our guns.”
Right-wing female commentators have long argued that “guns are the great equalizer between sexes in crimes against women,” falselyclaimingthat guns make women safer. CNN’s S.E. Cupp, The Blaze’s Dana Loesch, and Fox News’ Katie Pavlich have regularly appeared on cable news and published books to promote the NRA as a pro-women organization.
But as Media Matters noted in a feature on the NRA’s annual meeting, 2014 seemed to mark a shift for the organization towards focusing increasingly on women and moms. In part that shift is monetary, as advertisers see women as a largely untapped market. It also seems, however, that the shift is in part in response to gun safety organizations, including Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action, who increasingly emphasize how dangerous guns can be for women in abusive situations.
This recent recognition of women by the NRA is undermined, however, by the attack on Watts and the numerous misogynistic and sexist comments from NRA commentators and spokespeople.
Just two months ago, for example, an NRA commentatorfetishized assault weapons by comparing them to attractive women. Noir, a Sunday web series hosted by NRA News commentator Colion Noir, aired two separate ads that at first appear to feature a narrator describing stylishly-dressed, flirtatious women (“Her Jimmy Choo’s can’t be comfortable, but you’d never know it … She’s the kind to tell the bartender how to make her drink”), only to reveal at the end that he was describing a gun the entire time. One of the ads aired just days after a mass shooting in Isla Vista, California, which was reportedly inspired by the shooter’s admitted hatred of women.
Last year, the NRA featured Fox News’ Sean Hannity as a keynote speaker at the 7th Annual NRA Women’s Leadership Forum Luncheon, despite his association with a group whose leadership has claimed that one of America’s greatest mistakes was allowing women to vote.
NRA News host Cam Edwards once attacked Glamourmagazine’s Women of the Year Awards for making “the world a more dangerous place for women,” because the event honored victims of gun violence, including Pakistani education reformer Malala Yousafzai, and former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) — who was wounded during a 2011 mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona.
Most outrageous is NRA board member Ted Nugent, whose rampant sexism - including calling Hillary Clinton a “toxic cunt,” comparing abstaining from drugs and alcohol to avoiding “fat chicks,” telling a CBS producer “I’ll fuck you, how’s that sound?”, and featuring a nude, bound woman with a grenade in her mouth on an album cover — has never been a problem for the organization.
Gun safety advocates and progressives have also been talking about women more lately, as part of a new push to recognize the dangers guns pose to women in domestic violence situations. The presence of a gun in an abusive situation increases the risk that a woman will be murdered by 500 percent, and women are more than three times as likely to be murdered when there is a gun in their house even when domestic violence isn’t a factor. In fact, more women in the U.S. were killed by an intimate partner using a gun from 2001 to 2012 than the total number of troops killed in action in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined.
As for the argument that those women could have defended themselves if they had a gun, The Atlanticexplained that according to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health, researchers interviewed women across 67 battered women’s shelters, and found that nearly a third of them had lived in a household with a firearm. “In two-thirds of the homes, their intimate partners had used the gun against them, usually threatening to kill (71.4 percent) them. A very small percentage of these women (7 percent) had used a gun successfully in self-defense, and primarily just to scare the attacking male partner away.”
The NRA doesn’t want to talk about the realities of domestic violence. Instead, they prefer to fearmonger about liberals attempting to “insult” women by “taking” their guns. But they can’t have it both ways, talking about women as nothing more than sex objects and housewives one day, and liberated gun owners the next.
Writing trolly things is one way to stay relevant…
(Credit: Richard Shotwell/invision/ap)
Kevin Sorbo has a few thoughts on Ferguson, and they are very, very, very bad (I guess that’s how a B-list actor manages to stay relevant these days?) The former “Hercules” star has penned a truly insane, horrible, racist rant on Facebook, calling the protestors in Ferguson “losers” and “animals.” Ferguson, a predominantly black community, is just one of the many that has experienced racial profiling by police who see black kids as thugs, and Old Herc apparently agrees with that sort of profiling.
Therefore, Sorbo can’t seem to understand why people are upset that police shot and killed an unarmed kid and then used excessive force against everyone who spoke out against it (including journalists who were there to report on it).
D-list actor Kevin Sorbo recently had a leading role in the right-wing Christian film “God’s Not Dead,” in which he played a smug atheist college professor who seeks to destroy the faith of his students.
In promoting the film, which is now out on DVD, Sorbo has been making the rounds on Christian television and radio programs, saying that he based his portrayal in the film on all the angry and bitter atheists that he is always seeing on television.
Yesterday, Sorbo was a guest on End Times fanatic Rick Wiles’ radio program, where the two concluded that atheists are so angry because they secretly know that God does exist and hate him for “judging how they live their life.”
Sorbo said he doesn’t understand why atheists are so “filled with just hatred and anger,” saying that he feels sorry for them but also can’t help but laugh at them for spending “so much time ranting and raving about something that they don’t believe in.”
Wiles agreed, saying that he doesn’t "believe in the Tooth Fairy but I don’t spend all my time from trying to stop people from believing in the Tooth Fairy."
Of course, one could just as well make the same point in response to Sorbo and Wiles, noting that while they don’t believe in atheism, they sure do seem to be spending a lot of time ranting and raving about it.
In the end, both Wiles and Sorbo agreed that the real reason atheists are so angry is because, deep down, they know that God exists.
"The truth is," Wiles said, "they know he exists and they hate him. That’s what it’s all about."
"That is exactly what it is," Sorbo responded. “I know these guys must believe in something, otherwise they wouldn’t get so angry about it and they don’t like the fact that there is a higher power out there that is judging how they live their life”:
On his radio broadcast yesterday, Bryan Fischer eagerly helped spread theemergingright-wingnarrative that murdered journalist James Foley could have easily been rescued but President Obama was too busy playing golf to approve the rescue mission in time to save him.
But in Fischer’s telling, the tale grew even more bizarre when he then asserted that it was really White House advisor Valerie Jarrett who ordered the raid that killed Osama bin Laden and did so without even telling President Obama.
"The best information we have,"Fischer stated,"is that Valerie Jarrett pulled the trigger and told the Seal Team Six ‘you got to go in and get him.’ It was Valerie Jarrett that said ‘look, we have an opportunity here, we can’t afford to pass up this opportunity. I’m not even going to consult with Barack Obama. I’m not even going to consult with the president on this one, he’s out playing golf, I’m just going to give the go signal’ … So Valerie Jarrett was functioning as the de facto Commander in Chief”:
While this bizarre theory plays into Fischer’s long-held belief that President Obama was so uninvolved in the Bin Laden raid that he had to be Photoshopped into the iconic photo of the situation room, it rather conflicts with the other right-wing conspiracy theory that it was Jarrett who repeatedly thwarted attempts to capture or kill Bin Laden.
That claim is not true either, but Fischer ought to at least try a little harder to get his conspiracy theories straight.
Opposition to the educational standards known as Common Core has come from an array of Tea Party groups, conservative think-tanks, Glenn Beck, and the Koch Brothers’ Americans for Prosperity — and a few voices on the left as well. But one of the most active sources of opposition has been an unlikely group: a Christian conservative organization that works to defend the rights of homeschooling parents.
Homeschoolers are not actually covered by the educational standards. Still, the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) has spent tens of thousands of dollars in opposition to the Core State Standards Initiative, including federal lobbying, a microsite, and even a fully produced 39-minute documentary. According to a press release, “HSLDA has been opposing Common Core since 2009 and, as public concern over the standards grew, HSLDA Chairman Michael Farris decided that creating a film about the standards would be the best way to make information about Common Core widely available.” While HSLDA has tried to present these public school standards as an “immediate threat” to homeschooling families, critics from inside and outside of the homeschool movement wonder if it is part of a pattern of fear-mongering by an organization eager to maintain its membership base.
Among its most fervent opponents are the Home School Legal Defense Association and its founder Michael Farris. An attorney and ordained Baptist minister, Farris joined with J. Michael Smith in 1983 to establish an organization to provide advocacy and legal representation for parents who chose to educate their children at home. Farris was a already veteran of the Christian Right movement, having worked against the Equal Rights Amendment under anti-feminist legend Phyllis Schlafly in the 1970s, as head of the legal department at Concerned Women for America, and as a state director for Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority in the early 1980s. Today, HSLDA estimates its current membership as about 82,000 families. The organization, based in Purcellville, VA, reported in 2013 that its annual budget is more than $10 million.
A self-described “Christian organization,” HSLDA came to prominence as a growing number of conservative Christians, fed up with secular public schools, decided to educate their children in their own preferred way. Farris, in a video on the organization’s site explains, “Homeschooling has given us a way to obey God’s command to teach our children to love God as we go through the day… the only way to make that practical, to implement the command about teaching kids to love God, in the way that he prescribed, that I’ve figured out, is homeschooling.” Milton Gaither, a homeschooling historian and an associate professor of education at Messiah College, told ThinkProgress that as homeschooling became “an increasingly popular option for conservative Christians” in the 1980s, HSLDA created mailing lists, magazines, and an organizational structure to organize them. “HSLDA was able to corner the market,” Gaither said, “and by 1990 they were running the show and were pretty much the face of homeschooling.” In 1993, HSLDA reached a major milestone: homeschooling was legal in all 50 states.
Some homeschooling advocates were not thrilled that the movement’s most visible organization was and remains a religious one. Mark Hegener, publisher of Home Education Magazine, told ThinkProgress that Farris’ “approach is a narrow religious agenda, and homeschooling is just his shtick.” While the movement had been initially diverse and inclusive in its early days in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Heneger thinks HSLDA made homeschoolers seem like a homogeneous community of Bible “thumpers.” While he acknowledges the Christian homeschoolers represented by Farris and his organization have a right to be exclusive, Hegener does not believe they have a “right to be exclusive and speak for everybody.” Still, he said, while more inclusive homeschoolers attempted to band together to create a counterweight, the more individualist homeschooling families were not interested in a “top-down” centralized national organization and efforts were largely unsuccessful.
As head of HSDLA, Farris became a national spokesman for the homeschooling movement and one of the country’s most vocal critics of public schools. A 1993 Washington Post profile noted that, in his 1990 book Home Schooling and the Law, Farris argued that “Christian beliefs have been thoroughly eradicated from public schools,” and those schools are a “multi-billion-dollar inculcation machine” to push “secular humanism and new age religions.” It also quoted Farris as describing public schools as “godless” promoters of “evolution, hedonism and one-world government.”
While Farris was making a name for himself in the homeschooling world, he was also dipping his toes into politics. Relying on his prominence within the burgeoning Christian Right movement, Farris won the 1993 Republican nomination to be Lieutenant Governor of Virginia. Ron Faucheux of Campaigns & Elections called the general election contest “one of the nastiest campaigns ever waged for a statewide office.” His campaign energized religious conservatives and received the strong support of Christian Coalition founder and televangelist Pat Robertson. But his ideology and previous statements proved problematic. His Democratic opponent attacked him as “Jerry Falwell’s lieutenant,” called him “rigid and extreme” and highlighted Farris’ previouswork in trying to get books he believed promoted “Secular Humanism” removed from public schools. Quotes, like one from his 1992 book opining that “wives have a duty to be a loving and submissive aid to their husbands,” proved controversial, even for many within his own party. Though Farris repudiated some of his earlier writings, saying that did “not accurately represent” his views, even the state’s Republican U.S. Senator John Warner refused to back him and Farris lost by nearly 9 points (as the Republican nominee for governor won by a more than 17-point landslide).
Patrick Henry College
CREDIT: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
After the loss, Farris changed his sights from politics to higher education. In 1999, he broke ground on Patrick Henry College, a place for homeschooled students and others to prepare for political leadership. The college, also located in Purcellville, VA, was designed to be a Christian college to train students to work “for Christ and for Liberty.” Students at Patrick Henry must agree to a strict religious covenant, must promise to refrain from alcohol, tobacco, and drugs, to attend religious services regularly, and to abstain from premarital sex and dating (which Farris has called “serial infidelity.”) Farris has frequently expressed his dream that alumni will go on to win Academy Awards and the White House.
While the school is not legally affiliated with the homeschooling association, HSLDA helped found Patrick Henry College, continues to helps fund it, and shares the same land. Working an estimated 50 hours a week between his dual roles as chancellor of Patrick Henry College and chairman of HSLDA, Farris receives an annual compensation package of nearly $400,000 as he continues to work toward advancing his mission: combining God and the classroom under one roof.
‘Trampling the Constitution and education freedom’
Though opponents have tried to convince parents that the Common Core is a massive federal plot to usurp state and local control of education with a national curriculum — some even labeling it “Obamacore” — it is not actually even a federal program, nor a curriculum.
National Governors Association (NGA) Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) devised the set of standards, which lay out what public school students should be expected to know and understand by the time the graduate high school. All 50 states already had state standards in place, and the plan included “an explicit agreement that no state would lower its standards.” The goals were devised in 2009 by a panel of education experts, including representatives from standardized testing providers like ACT and College Board. Through their membership in the NGA, the elected governors of nearly every state agreed to set these goals, though they did not “define how the standards should be taught or which materials should be used to support students.” These goals, generally speaking, apply only to public school students.
While no state is required to participate in the Common Core standards, the Department of Education has offered some carrots to encourage adoption of high state standards, in general. These included grants via the Race to the Top portion of the 2009 stimulus law and waivers allowing states to opt-out of some No Child Left Behind requirements if they have switched to college and career ready standards. But adopting Common Core was not a requirement for either.
One of the Common Core’s strongest supporters has been a conservative educational think-tank called the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Michael Brickman, the organization’s national policy director, told ThinkProgress that while the federal government was not involved in crafting the standards, the federal incentives “painted a false impression that the federal government was behind” Common Core and led to opposition by groups like HSLDA. “I don’t think we’d be having this conversation if the federal government hadn’t incentivized states to adopt these standards — a very small portion of an optional grant program.”
This claim of a federal takeover is one of a series of objections Michael Farris and his Home School Legal Defense Association have cited in their massive anti-Common Core campaign. In 2013, on his Home School Heartbeat two-minute daily radio program, Farris did a series of segments with Estrada, outlining their opposition to the Common Core. In one segment, Estrada said, “We are seeing nothing less than the federal government pressuring states to adopt the Common Core and change their curriculum.” Farris responded that this was “one more example of the federal government trampling the Constitution and educational freedom.”
The most expensive part of the group’s campaign against Common Core was its 2014 documentary, Building the Machine. Farris described the film as “presented in a way that shows both sides arguing their case — but when you watch it, the opposition to the Common Core is so much more sensible than those that are promoting it, there’s no doubt left behind.” It would convince, Farris predicted, “people that are in the middle that this is a dangerous program.” (Farris told Tea Party activists in the same speech that Common Core is “the worst of the lot” of federal education programs, is an “evil idea,” and that his broader goal is “chopping off head of the snake entirely” by amending the constitution to ensure the federal government will no longer be able to use the “general welfare” clause of the constitution to interfere with education.)
CREDIT: HSLDA’S YOUTUBE ACCOUNT
The movie features an array of attacks on Common Core. A Cato Institute scholar suggests that it was not the “will” of people because they don’t vote for governors based on what they will do at the National Governors Association. Twomembers of the Common Core’s validation committee who did not back the final standards express their disappointment with what their former colleagues adopted. A journalism teacher objects to having standards and testing at all as a formula for a society where everyone is “mushed out to be the same.” A researcher from the Heartland Institute makes the odd claim that “we have no track record and the track record we have points against Common Core.” Farris himself appears to decry “systemization, and centralization, and data collection.” The Fordham Institute put out a point-by-point refutation of what it called “spurious accusations” in the documentary.
Almost no mention of homeschoolers is made in the film.
Protecting homeschoolers from birth control and same-sex marriage
One common attack on HSLDA has been that its work often extends to topics that are not directly connected to the rights of homeschoolers. So far this year, its federal lobbyists have workedto stop ratification of treaties, including U.N. Conventions on the Rights of the Child, the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, and the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, as well as passage of a bill to prevent corporations from denying birth control coverage in their healthcare benefits. HSLDA’s Estrada told ThinkProgess that the organization is concerned that the treaties include language protecting the “best interest of the child,” which could directly impact parents who disagree with the United Nation’s interpretation of that standard, and that the bill would undermine free speech and religious liberty.
In 2006, the group even lobbied for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. A statement on the group’s website explained that because “Same-sex marriage attacks the traditions of the family in western civilization,” it thus constitutes an “attack on parental rights.” Estrada said that the group no longer lobbies on this issue and that he did not know why it had done so then.
Ryan Stollar, executive director of Homeschool Alumni Reaching Out (a group of former homeschoolers who work within the movement to protect the rights of current homeschool kids), told ThinkProgress that he believes the issues the leaders of HSLDA “have chosen and continue to choose to focus on are not necessarily that issues that are in the best interest of the homeschooling movement,” and may be “actively jeopardizing” it. He cites “right-wing extremism,” positing that “making opposition to same-sex marriage a homeschooling issue is shooting [themselves] in the foot” in their attempt to represent the broader movement. “It alienates so many people,” he said, and the group’s thus-far successful work to block the disability treaty, for example, is “not connected” to homeschooling and “atrocious.”
Robert Kunzman, an expert on homeschooling and professor at the Indiana University Bloomington, told ThinkProgress, “To the extent that they believe it to be a threat, you can’t fault them for deciding that’s where to put their energies. But some of the issues they’re taking on are pretty far afield from homeschooling.” Among these questionably-related issues, he observed, is the Common Core.
‘Selling peace of mind to members’
HSLDA is not a typical advocacy organization. Rather than simply collecting donations, it offers members an informal insurance policy for $120 annually, serving as a legal team for parents who homeschool their kids and might face any interference from the government. HSLDA says that while it “cannot guarantee representation in every case,” it comes “to the aid of our members and many nonmembers whenever possible.”
HSLDA is “selling peace of mind to members,” Rachel Coleman, a homeschooling alum who leads the Coalition for Responsible Home Education, observed. But, she told ThinkProgress, “to convince people that they should be members, [HSLDA must] convince those parents that there is a reason for that. It’s helpful to them to present every little thing as a threat to homeschooling.”
It’s helpful to them to present every little thing as a threat to homeschooling.
Over the years, this “fear-mongering” charge has been one of the most frequent knocks on HSLDA. Gaither of Messiah College said the organization uses a “constant, steady stream of alarmist rhetoric of ‘what the federal government is doing is a threat,” with Farris spreading “constant fear that the federal government is getting bigger and bigger, more and more secular, [and is] destroying the creation of our forefathers.”
Kunzman concurred, telling ThinkProgress that he has frequently heard people in homeschool community criticize HSLDA as a group that “only survives financially by continuing to manufacture crises. That’s how they fundraise. Threats to homeschool freedom get the base riled up, so people contributing believe they need legal protection and political advocacy.” This victimization narrative has proven beneficial to the organization in good times and bad, he suggested: “If they win something, it’s great promotion of their services. If they lose, it’s ‘the threat is real and you’d better support us.’”
HSLDA dismissed these criticisms. Will Estrada, the organization’s director of federal relations, told ThinkProgress in a telephone interview that the group hears from some who think they “blow things up” out of proportion and others who think their tactics are not reactive enough. “Some of these people are a little too naïve. We see on a daily basis attempts to restrict homeschool freedom,” he said, noting that while the group does its best to share “the truth from our legal experience of 30 years, you can’t make everyone happy.”
Gaither also observed that while “Jesus in the Gospel says you can’t serve God and money,” some critics believe the organization’s leadership wants to be pure, but also to be well paid. Estrada also rejected any suggestion that Farris and the eight other HSLDA employees making upwards of $110,000 annually are unduly profiting from an organization that calls itself a Christian organization. “[Michael] Farris hasn’t had a vacation in years,” said Estrada, and “a lot of these people could be making way more than they are making” if they went to a K Street law firm.
Will the Common Core impact homeschooling?
An article in HSLDA’s quarterly Home School Court Report magazine entitled “Common Core testing affects homeschoolers this year,” warns that a small number of Tennessee homeschoolers who affiliate with local school districts instead of church schools could be forced to take a test based on the Common Core Standards. The same article also notes that even those families “have a good legal argument to avoid it.”
CREDIT: HSLDA’S COMMON CORE MICROSITE
For a full explanation of why HSLDA opted to get involved in Common Core, one must turn to the group’s anti-Common Core website. It spells out three major arguments as to how the Common Core represents a threat to homeschooling: data tracking, college admission standards, and standardized testing.
HSLDA says that “perhaps the most immediate threat to homeschool and private school students is the expansion of statewide longitudinal databases,” citing an Oklahoma official who proposed including homeschoolers in the data collection process. “In light of the growing revelations that the government is engaging in massive invasion of privacy in spheres other than education,” the group warns, “it is utterly impossible to believe that these databases will not be mined and misused to serve the ulterior purposes of a centralized government intent on growing its own power.”
Estrada told ThinkProgress that while he is not aware of any evidence that data-collection harms homeschooled children or impedes parents, he said he sees no reason that the federal government, states, or businesses need “all this information on kids.” “Whether data held by outside entities will make it so kids can’t homeschool isn’t really the question,” he suggested, “The question is why do they have it and should they have it.”
The other major concern is that if states have common standards for the public schools, standardized tests like SAT, ACT, and GED will be aligned to the Common Core and homeschooling parents who opt not to use Common Core curricula will see their kids do poorly and not get into college. Warning that kids taking these examinations might “soon encounter progressive ideologies including social engineering and alternative lifestyles,” HSLDA claims on its website, homeschool students who “are not adherents to the Common Core” could “find themselves at a significant disadvantage come test time.” Additionally, it claims that colleges and universities are “being pressured to adapt their standards for college readiness to the Common Core standards.”
Students taking the redesigned SAT, ACT, or the Iowa Tests could soon encounter progressive ideologies including social engineering and alternative lifestyles.
ThinkProgress contacted ACT Inc. (the non-profit company behind the ACT test), GED Testing Service(the public-private partnership behind the GED test), and College Board (the non-profit behind the SAT and AP tests) to see whether such a re-alignment was imminent. Ed Colby, director of public relations for ACT Inc. explained that in fact the opposite was true: “The ACT is already aligned with the Common Core standards,” he said, because the company “helped develop those standards” and was “at the table” when they were designed. CT Turner, senior director of public affairs for GED Testing Service said that it updates its tests based on “what people need to succeed,” not Common Core — and that its recent realignment “started happening before the Common Core standards came.” Carly Lindauer, senior director of external communications at College Board, said that the newly redesigned SAT “measures the skills and knowledge that evidence shows are essential for college and career success” and “is not aligned to any single set of standards.”
ThinkProgress also spoke with a psychometrician with expertise in how these standardized tests and the admissions processes work: Wisconsin Center for Education Research associate scientist H. Gary Cook. He noted that “a lot of what’s on [existing standardized tests already] are in these standards, as ACT said.” Moreover, he noted, the tests are a tool mainly for colleges and universities to determine who will likely succeed in their first year. While the “indirect customers” for these tests are “the people who take them,” the “primary customer of ACT and SAT are universities,” he explained, “If these didn’t work, universities wouldn’t use them.” As such, he said, he does not “see ACT or SAT” being coerced to adapt their core assessments to fit Common Core.
Estrada conceded that this concern has not proven an issue so far and said that HSLDA is in the process of updating that part of the site. “We’re watching very closely, it’s something we’re concerned about. But at this point it doesn’t look like the effect is going to be where we thought two to three years ago.” He suggested that this may be, in part, that with states like Texas not adopting Common Core, it became harder to create a nationalized curriculum. Either way, he said, homeschoolers continue to do well on the tests: “I love being proven wrong by homeschoolers when they’ve done so well and their education is so good, they come back and ace these tests even though they’ve never really been prepared for them.”
In his book Write These Laws On Your Children, homeschooling expert Robert Kunzman quoted Farris expressing concern that standardized testing is not going to be a fair measurement because content validity can’t be attained for so many different homeschooling experiences: “The problem is that all of this is entirely subjective. There is no such thing as an objective standard. A test is fair, according to due process standards, only if it measure the content of what you’ve been taught… you’d have to write an individualized, content-valid standardized test for every child that’s being homeschooled in America. You just can’t do that.” But despite his stated concern that homeschoolers might be disadvantaged by standardized tests, the school he founded and leads, Patrick Henry College, requires applicants to submit an SAT or ACT score. ThinkProgress was unable to talk with Farris nor another Patrick Henry College spokesman about his concerns about standardized testing and the college’s admissions policies.
Luis A. Huerta, an associate professor and coordinator of the education and policy program at Columbia University’s Teachers College, told ThinkProgress that he thinks HSLDA and homeschoolers have some reason to be cautious of Common Core. “If [Common Core affects] external metrics that are the gateway to college, this potential hurts the content of instruction they engage in as private homeschoolers,” he explained, adding, “I think they’re against this because it has the potential to change a lot of things.” At the same time, he said, this campaign could be yet another wedge issue that will boost HSLDA membership: “If they publicize potential ills, might this be the force that brings [lapsed members] back home to HSLDA?”
Messiah University’s Gaither observed that while he does see a lot of concern about Common Core homeschool online chat rooms, it is most often from people who do not seem to understand what the standards are. For HSLDA, he suspects, Common Core is another attempt to scare parents into thinking it’s a threat “so people will give money,” at a time when membership growth has slowed (its official membership total was about 3,000 families higher at the time of Kunzman’s 2009 book).
Parents and teachers are saying ‘We’re tired of all of these top-down mandates. To heck with it, we’re gonna homeschool.’
Whether this is part of the intent of the effort or not, HSLDA’s Estrada noted one other apparent impact of the campaign against Common Core: more homeschoolers. “I talk to families on an almost daily basis who are frustrated, not so much with Common Core, but who see it as the last straw. Parents and teachers are saying ‘We’re tired of all of these top-down mandates. To heck with it, we’re gonna homeschool.’” While he doesn’t know if it will be massive, “anecdotally, we see a lot of it.” He said they have not made a “concerted campaign” to recruit people based on their fear of having their kids in public schools aligned to the standards, but noted, “I’ve said, once or twice, on panels, ‘If you’re concerned about the Common Core, now’s a great time to homeschool!’”
Still, so far, Estrada admitted, Common Core has not actually affected homeschoolers. “But homeschoolers have seen what happens [when there are] centralized, standardized policies in place that affect all kids in education. We were founded in 1983 when most states criminalized homeschooling.” The Home School Legal Defense Association, he said, is fighting it now “before people say ‘all 50 states have Common Core. Why are those homeschool kids not getting the same education?’”
The conservative spin machine is in overdrive when it comes to the killing of unarmed teen – yes, that would be unarmed teen - Michael Brown by the on-duty white officer, Darren Wilson. They’re determined to flip the media narrative to demonize Brown and create a hero out of Wilson. But they can’t convince us, because their words ring hollow, their rationalizations ignore the death of a young man, their attitudes are a naked display of bigotry. See, we, progressives, don’t care about all the minutiae that the Fox News crowd wants us to focus on. We care about Michael Brown’s death, and about injustice, and about bigotry and racism and stereotyping and the black community being grossly unrepresented by its law enforcement personnel.
We don’t care that Michael Brown may have had a skirmish in a convenience store minutes before he was shot and killed by police officer Darren Wilson. Skirmishes – even shoplifting – are not executable offenses.
We don’t care that he was a large young man, physically imposing, and we won’t accept that the term “unarmed teenager” is a misnomer. He was eighteen. And his size didn’t stop the six bullets from killing him, did it?
We don’t care about the reasons given by the Keystone Cops in Ferguson, Missouri, for leaving Michael Brown on the ground, in public view, in the sun, for four hours. Death deserves dignity, and Ferguson cops denied that dignity to Michael Brown.
We don’t care that Officer Wilson had a clean record in Ferguson. We do care that he was part of a department in Jennings, Missouri, that was so fraught with racial tension and imbalance between the white officers and black residents that it was disbanded.
We don’t care that Michael Brown didn’t move out of the street as quickly as Officer Wilson perhaps thought he should have. In most cities, jaywalkers are ticketed by cops, not executed.
We don’t care that conservative media chooses to characterize President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder as“race pimps.” Any leaders – particularly black leaders – who would remain silent on a topic of this magnitude would be poor leaders indeed.
We don’t care that conservatives call us race-baiters when we are outraged by one of Wilson’s tone deaf friends bragging that the killing of Michael Brown will end up being “a good shooting … it was a good kill.” We know that no kill is a “good kill,” and that the person making that statement – as well as those who agree with it, support it – is a hard-line bigot and insensitive buffoon.
We don’t care that Officer Wilson was allegedly the nicest guy in the world at every moment prior to this life-changing event. We know that many, many people hide their true identities beneath a mask of affability, and we know that many, many people appear perfectly nice until the day they’re not.
We don’t care that there may have been a scuffle, and Officer Wilson may have had a little swelling around his face. His face will heal. Michael Brown’s six bullet holes, and the heart that stopped in a pool of blood on that Ferguson, Missouri, street, won’t.
And mainly, what we don’t care about is conservative anger that we care so much.
Judge Posner is the sole Republican on the panel — he’s served on the Court since President Reagan appointed him in 1981 — but he is a highly idiosyncratic judge who has grown increasingly critical of his fellow partisans in recent years. In a 2012 interview, for example, Posner complained that “there’s been a real deterioration in conservative thinking. And that has to lead people to re-examine and modify their thinking.” He added that he has personally “become less conservative since the Republican Party started becoming goofy.”
On the specific issue of gay rights, Posner’s views are a bit nuanced, but he is openly sympathetic to the case for equality. In a 2013 essay entitled “How Gay Marriage Became Legitimate,” Posner questioned the view that the courts have played much of a role in advancing LGBT equality. Using antiquated language, Posner’s bottom line was that “the growing acceptance of homosexual marriage seems a natural consequence of the sexual revolution that began in the 1960s rather than an effect, even to a small degree, of litigation.” Yet he was also dismissive of arguments against gay equality. “[I]t is hard to make a case for discriminating against [gay people],” Posner wrote, “apart from a religious case based largely on Roman Catholic doctrine.”
Judge Williams is less outspoken than Posner — few, if any judges, share Posner’s affection for expressing his views in public — but she is a Clinton-appointee to the Seventh Circuit who is widely viewed as left-of-center. Given the overwhelming consensus among federal judges that marriage equality is required by the Constitution, it is unlikely that Williams will break with this consensus.
All of this, of course, is said with a standard caveat. It ain’t over until the court issues its mandate, and there is no way to be certain about how any of these judges will rule. Nevertheless, marriage equality supporters should be very pleased with this panel.
Dylan Brogan, Madison’s most intrepid reporter, happened to catch right wing talk show host Vicki McKenna’s afternoon program while flipping through the dials last Friday.
On this day, McKenna was talking about the turmoil in Ferguson Missouri over a police officer shooting an unarmed teen that was, according to the police officer, attacking the police officer. McKenna repeatedly suggested that the police officer was in the right, simply defending himself, and the protests were completely unwarranted.
In a previous reporting endeavor, Brogan had obtained a police report that indicated that McKenna was charged during a 1997 U2 concert for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest for altercations with police officers, security guards and fellow concert goers. With this in mind, he was amazed by McKenna’s bravado in defending the police officer’s use of deadly force with an allegedly combative perpetrator.
A little background: Brogan is a progressive-leaning reporter that previously worked as a reporter at WEKZ during the Wisconsin protests. He also was progressive radio host John “Sly” Sylvester’s producer for several years. During the 2011 protests, McKenna was Walker’s biggest cheerleader and even went as far as to say that Madison fire fighters and police officers were “heroes no more” because of their pro-union actions during the protests.
So, Brogran called into the show, posing as “George,” and brought up the 1997 altercation and asked if lethal force would have been a reasonable response when she “hit that cop”:
A clearly angered McKenna responded: "I didn’t hit a cop! …that never happened… I didn’t hit anybody." McKenna then went on to shout that nothing in the police report says anything about her hitting a police officer and that all the claims over the years that she had hit a police officer were “slander,” “defamation” and a “lie” and that she got the disorderly conduct charge simply because she was “mouthing-off” to police officers.
On the next call, McKenna compares the distortion of the “actual events” in Ferguson to the left’s distortion of her 1997 disorderly conduct arrest, saying, "that idiot that just called and propagated a lie that’s been spread for 18 years— this is what the Left does."
So what does that police report say happened at that 1997 U2 concert? The report says that McKenna was removed from the concert when she “scratched” and “fought with” a Per Mar security officer that was trying to separate her from another concert-goer, with whom she was involved in a separate altercation.
Because of her physical altercation with the security officers, a “thrashing” McKenna was turned over to UW campus police and the UW campus police said she “struggled with us the same as she had with Per Mar” when they tried to move her another area of the concert. In response, the UW campus police had to put restraints on her hands.
Later, the report says the officers tried to eject McKenna from the concert, but she refused to leave and "brought her arm up, struck out with her hand out toward chief Clemens’ head. At the end of her reach, she made a forward swipe with her hand." Clemens told the officer writing the report that she "made contact with his ear when she swung at him."
For this behavior, McKenna was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.
Burger King confirmed Tuesday that it struck a deal to buy Tim Hortons Inc. for about $11 billion, a move that could help give the fast-food company a stronger foothold in the coffee and breakfast market. The corporate headquarters of the new company will be in Canada, which may also help Burger King lower its taxes. Such tax inversions have been criticized by President Barack Obama and Congress because they mean a loss of tax revenue for the U.S. government. Burger King and Tim Hortons said the chains will continue to be run independently and that Burger King will still operate out of Miami. The tie-up could help each Burger King and Tim Hortons chains pose a greater challenge to market leaders such as McDonald’s and Starbucks. It also reflects a desire by both companies to expand internationally. Burger King, which has about 14,000 locations, has been striking deals to open more locations in developing markets. The company sees plenty of room for growth internationally, given the more than 35,000 locations McDonald’s has around the world.
The first officer, Eddie Boyd III, was accused of physically abusing children three times between 2004 and 2006, but the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department’s internal affairs division only sustained the final complaint. Per HuffPost:
In April 2006, Boyd got into an argument with 12-year-old Jerica Thornton while following the girl and her brother home from school, according to a judge’s summary of the investigation.
After a verbal altercation turned physical, Boyd tackled the brother to the ground. When Jerica came to his aid, Boyd struck her in the head with his gun.
Boyd later claimed that he had pistol-whipped the girl “accidentally.”
Internal affairs said Boyd should be fired, but he was demoted instead. There was another incident involving a child six months later, when Boyd was serving as a probationary police officer. In April 2007, there was a fight outside Sumner High School, and freshman Christopher Dixon ran away, though he wasn’t involved, because he feared he would be arrested. Boyd claims that while trying to detain the boy, he slipped and “inadvertently” hit him in the face with handcuffs. Dixon says the officer pulled up next to him in his car, pointed a gun at him, and threatened to shoot, then whipped him across the face with his gun.
Boyd resigned a short time later, claiming in a deposition that he “just didn’t feel like dealing with the red tape and bureaucracy.” Dixon sued Boyd, but a jury acquitted him after Dixon made vague comments about whether he felt the officer intended to hit him. Boyd successfully fought the state’s attempt to have his police officer license revoked, and he was later hired as an officer in St. Ann, and then in Ferguson.
The second officer is Justin Cosma, who is one of the cops who arrested the Huffington Post’s Ryan Reilly and the Washington Post's Wesley Lowery. Reilly and colleague Ashley Alman report that Cosma and another officer, Richard Carter, are facing a civil rights lawsuit for an incident that occurred in 2012 when they were with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office. According to the lawsuit, a shirtless boy was standing at the end of his driveway checking his mailbox when the two officers approached and asked if he’d been playing on a highway nearby.
The suit says that after he said no, the officers “became confrontational,” grabbed the boy, choked him, and threw him to the ground. He suffered “bruising, choke marks, and cuts across his body,” as the officers “hog tied” and arrested him. The cops accused the 12-year-old of “assault of a law enforcement officer third degree,” and “resisting/interfering with arrest, detention, or stop,” but prosecutors refused to bring charges.
The allegations were made just after Cosma took a job with the Ferguson Police Department. Both he and Boyd have received awards for their conduct in other incidents.
The National Rifle Association went after a gun activist in the September issue of its America’s First Freedom magazine with an odd account of her professional background.
The writer, Dave Kopel, is shocked that the head of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense, Shannon Watts, describes herself as a stay-at-home mom but has worked in the past and runs a public relations firm from her home. The NRA piece is complete with an image of Watts surrounded by household items:
Kopel takes issue with Watts’ description of the group as a “grassroots” effort since she is an experienced public relations professional with former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg as a client. Moms Demand Action is now part of Bloomberg’s group of gun control organizations.
And Kopel is upset that Watts “purports to speak for all mothers” when she actually “speaks only for a relatively small group of highly gullible people, including some mothers.”
He points readers instead to gun rights activist Julie Globb, “captain of Team Smith & Wesson” and “mother of two.”
On Monday, 18-year-old Michael Brown was remembered in a funeral service by family, friends and thousands of people who never met him but mourned his death as symbol of injustice and inequality in America. At least 5,000 people attended the service at Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church. Members of Congress, entertainers, and civil rights activists were among those who gathered for the funeral.
ST. LOUIS — On Monday, 18-year-old Michael Brown was remembered in a funeral service by family, friends and thousands of people who never met him but mourned his death as symbol of injustice and inequality in America.
At least 5,000 people attended the service at Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church. Members of Congress, entertainers, and civil rights activists were among those who gathered for the funeral.
Among the highlights from the two-hour memorial:
A CALL TO ACTION: Michael Brown’s cousin, Eric Davis, told the audience that Brown had told his family shortly before he died that the world would someday know his name. Davis said he wants part of Brown’s legacy to be an increase in voter participation from the African American community.
"This generation stood up … and said we have had enough of seeing our brothers and sisters killed on the street," Davis said. "Show up at the voting polls and let your voices be heard."
A BIGGER MESSAGE: Brown’s uncle, Rev. Charles Ewing of St. Louis, cited the story of Cain and Abel from the holy book of Genesis, and spoke of blood crying out from the ground. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Rev. Ewing said, urging others audience to ask of each other.
"Michael Brown’s blood is crying from the ground," Ewing said. "It is crying for vengeance! It is crying for justice!"
A RENEWED CALL FOR JUSTICE: Benjamin Crump, the head attorney representing Brown’s family, tied the death to the Dred Scott Supreme Court decision, which originated in St. Louis more than 160 years ago. The decision declared that black people could not be recognized as U.S. citizens. He also cited the Three-Fifths Compromise of 1787, which counted slaves as 3/5ths of a person.
"We declare here today that (Brown) was not three-fifths of a citizen!" Crump told the cheering crowd. "He was an American citizen! We will not settle for three-fifths of justice! We will demand equal justice for Michael Brown Jr.!"
A CALL FOR PEACE: The Rev. Al Sharpton, who has counseled Brown’s family and called for calm in the community over the past two weeks, urged accountability in the black community, and called out the rioters and looters who have distracted from the tragedy.
"Michael Brown does not want to be remembered for a riot," Sharpton said. "Michael Brown wants to be remembered for how we deal with police in the United States. This is not about you. This is about justice."
A CALL FOR CHANGE: Sharpton also called for changes in how police treat minorities. The National Black Caucus of State Legislators issued a proclamation stating their intention to address the issue.
In the latest installment of the right-wing victimhood saga, the Illinois-based World Congress of Families has released an open letter accusing “sexual radicals” of launching a “smear campaign” against them in advance of a planned conference in Melbourne later this week.
“Sexual radicals have launched a smear campaign to discredit the Melbourne conference, which misrepresents the international pro-family movement and the positions of the World Congress of Families,” the letter says. “Specifically, it is alleged that advocacy of the natural (or normative) family is somehow unfair to other families and that we ‘shame’ single-parent families, homosexual ‘couples’ and the divorced.” (Scare quotes in the original.)
"The goal of sexual radicals is to deconstruct marriage and marginalize the family, and thus to transform society into something unrecognizable to generations past," the letter continues. "Like all social experiments that attempt to create a ‘new man,’ these are doomed to failure."
Also joining the defense of the World Congress of Families are the Family Research Council’s Patrick Fagan, the National Organization for Marriage’s Brian Brown, former House majority leader Tom Delay, the Alliance Defending Freedom’s Benjamin Bull, and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, along with a number of international allies of WCF.
Hundreds of mourners were gathered Monday at a St. Louis church for the funeral of a black teenager who was fatally shot by a police officer in Ferguson.
ST. LOUIS — The Rev. Al Sharpton on Monday called for a change in policing following the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Mo., saying the teen should be remembered for more than just disturbances.
“A movement means we’ve got to be here for the long haul and turn our chance into change, our demonstration into legislation,” Sharpton told mourners who had gathered at Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church.
Sharpton was speaking at the funeral services of Michael Brown, who was shot and killed by officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9. The Monday morning services drew large crowds to the St. Louis church, including celebrities, politicians, civil-rights activists, and the family members of teenagers who had died in similar shootings.
“This afternoon, Lesley and Michael Sr. will have to do something that is out of order,” Sharpton said. “They will have to lay their son to rest. Order says that children bury their parents. It is out of order … for children to be buried by their parents. We should not sit here today and act like we’re watching something that is in order.”
Family members who addressed the crowd spoke of the importance of the community’s voice following Brown’s death, and shared their memories of the teenager, who they say used to tell them he was going to “going to shake the world.”
“He just wanted so much,” his stepmother Cal Brown said. “He wanted to go to college, he wanted to have a family, he wanted to be a good father.”
Near the church — which can hold a crowd of thousands — a table was set up, covered with T-shirts that were being sold for $10 each before the service.
Brown, 18, was shot by Wilson in Ferguson, Mo., a St. Louis suburb that’s about a 10-minute drive from the church. In contrast to the demonstrations that followed his death, the scene Monday was quiet and peaceful, with many in line refusing to utter a word. At the funeral, Sharpton referred to video that appeared to show Brown robbing a store, which was released by police officials when they publicly identified Wilson after several days of unrest.
“America, how do you think we look when the world can see you can’t come up with a police report but you can find a video?” Sharpton said. “How do you think we look when young people march nonviolently asking for the land of the free and the home of the brave to hear their cry, and you put snipers on the roof, and pointed guns at them? How do we look?”
A day earlier, Brown’s father pleaded for calm in the city, saying he wanted a peaceful day for the services.
Brown’s black lacquer coffin with brass handles was closed as mourners filed into the sanctuary, which one church member, Pam Britt of St. Louis, said seats 2,500. Another auditorium a block away can hold an overflow crowd of 2,000.
The number of mourners could not be immediately confirmed Monday morning, but the main sanctuary, including the balcony, was filled to capacity 30 minutes before the services at 10 a.m. Central time. Burial followed at a St. Louis cemetery.
In the rear of the sanctuary, onlookers rose to their feet when they caught sight of civil rights icon Jesse Jackson Sr., celebrity pastor T.D. Jakes, and the father of Trayvon Martin, another black teenager who was killed in a controversial 2012 shooting. Spike Lee, Tom Joyner and the families of Oscar Grant and Jordan Davis were also present.
Those seated in the church again rose to their feet when the choir, singing softly to an organ, exploded into a full chorus, their voices vibrating through the pews.
Brown’s shooting and the massive protests it sparked garnered national attention when authorities confronted demonstrators while dressed in military gear and brandishing military-grade weapons. The events shook St. Louis’ African American community, Britt said.
“In this city, whites live in one side of town, the south side, and blacks live on the other,” said Britt, a custodian. “No one wants to talk about it until Mike Brown gets killed and all the racial tension comes out.”
Brown was walking in the middle of Canfield Drive with a friend, Dorian Johnson, on Aug. 9 when Wilson ordered them to a sidewalk. Police say at least one of the two mouthed off to Wilson, who rushed up to them in his cruiser — so close that his door apparently struck Brown when he opened it. An attorney for Johnson has often repeated Johnson’s claim that the officer struggled with Brown, held him by the throat and fired at least one shot as the teenager pulled away.
Johnson’s claim that Brown ran as the officer fired more shots, then turned to surrender with his hands raised before he was hit by several more bullets, contradicts accounts by Ferguson police and unidentified friends of Wilson, who claim Brown rushed toward him.
Johnson’s story was supported, at least partially, by several other witnesses who said they watched the incident in the residential area where it happened. Witnesses said Brown’s body, face down and bleeding from multiple gunshot wounds, was left for hours on Canfield Drive in full view of seething residents who documented the scene with pictures and video. It was there so long that shocked relatives who were not present during the shooting happened upon it and recognized the dead man as a family member.
As media outlets swarmed to St. Louis to record the spectacle on West Florissant Avenue, the protests erupted into violence, with police firing tear gas at young protesters, some of whom picked up the smoking canisters and hurled them back. Some in the crowds smashed into stores and looted them.
At their peak, the demonstrators numbered as many as 2,000, marching in circles on West Florissant and chanting three rallying cries: “Hands up, don’t shoot,” “No justice, no peace,” and “Please don’t shoot me.”
Not surprisingly, a thriving franchise of the nation’s booming white grievance industry has opened up in Ferguson, Mo. over the last week. It’s worth examining closely. As usual, it consists of two parts lies, one part paranoia, but at its heart it’s a big grift.
The weekend featured multiple protests supporting Darren Wilson, the missing Ferguson police officer who shot an unarmed Mike Brown on Aug. 9. His superiors apparently withheld Wilson’s name long enough for him to delete all social media accounts and skip town, but his supporters are declaring Wilson, not Brown, the victim here. A GoFundMe site raising funds for Wilson’s defense – though he’s not been charged with anything – garnered not only $250,000 in donations, but so many ugly racist rants GoFundMe administrators had to disable comments for the site. (They’ll have no trouble taking a cut of the racists’ money, of course.) Wilson’s supporters say they’ve raised $374,000 online and at local events, “to support his family,” one woman told MSNBC.
Why, besides racism, are Wilson’s supporters so convinced of his innocence? Well, any good grift will involve a hoax or two, to gin up the sense of outrage. First there was “Josie,” a purported friend of Wilson’s who called into a radio show helmed by gun-loving wing-nut Dana Loesch to tell Wilson’s side of the story. “Josie” insisted that Brown attacked Wilson, grabbed his gun, and the terrified cop shot only in self-defense. The problem? The details were almost identical to those shared on a fake Facebook page set up to look like Wilson’s own. But before the tale could be debunked, not only Fox but CNN had reported on “Josie’s” tale with some credulity. As karoli notes over at Crooks and Liars, it’s not clear whether Loesch was punked, or was in on the punking.
Of course Ferguson’s white grievance industry is getting major help from Fox News, the grievance industry’s biggest grifters. It’s funny, a couple of weeks ago Attorney General Eric Holder spent a few days as Fox’s favorite administration figure, with Bill O’Reilly and the crew at The Five piously instructing Ferguson protesters to trust the attorney general, who had taken over the inquiry into Mike Brown’s shooting. No more. On Friday’s “Five” Andrea Tantaros declared that Holder “runs that DOJ like the Black Panthers would,” while the whole team endorsed her claim that the attorney general is “race-baiting.”
Fox has peddled every allegation of wrongdoing by Mike Brown from the beginning of the story. On Fox and Friends Monday morning, Linda Chavez argued that the media should stop calling the teenager “unarmed” because “we’re talking about an 18-year-old man who is six foot four and weighs almost three hundred pounds, who is videotaped just moments before the confrontation with a police officer strong arming an employee and robbing a convenience store.” So Mike Brown can’t be considered unarmed because…he had arms?
It’s worth noting the way the phony information and paranoia peddled by well-known, oft-discredited right-wing media activists like Hoft and Loesch makes its way into the mainstream media ecosphere, again and again. CNN media critic Brian Stelter called out Fox this weekend for peddling the fractured eye socket story, and good for him, but to my knowledge he didn’t rap his own network for peddling the phony “Josie” story. The right’s influence on big stories like this can be more subtle and insidious: who believes the New York Times would have stooped to calling Mike Brown “no angel” – the evidence? He’d been in some “scuffles” and had “taken to rapping” – without the right wing braying about Brown’s stealing cigarillos and making up stories that he did even worse?
All that media support fanned the flames of white paranoia that manifested in the pro-Wilson activities back in Ferguson and St. Louis. You could see the trademark combination of innocence, fear and near-hysteria that powers the white grievance industry. “We will no longer live in fear,” one woman told The Guardian, as though a white person had been gunned down, not an unarmed black teenager. “We’ll all see this in the end that it was a good shooting,” a Wilson supporter named Tina Morrison told Buzzfeed, more than a little creepily. “You know, it was a good kill.” Unlike Morrison, most Wilson supporters refused to tell journalists their names, claiming they fear retribution at the hands of Brown’s defenders.
That paranoia about retribution is shared by the backers of Wilson’s GoFundMe project. It’s organized by Shield of Hope, a “charitable organization” that lists Ferguson Police Department public relations officer Timothy Zoll and Missouri State Rep. Jeffrey Roorda as directors. Roorda became nationally known for a 2009 bill that tried to keep the name of police officers involved in shootings private, because “releasing a name could put someone in grave jeopardy,” he explained.
Of course Mike Brown was the one in “grave jeopardy” in his clash with Darren Wilson. So far Wilson’s shrill supporters have raised an estimated $374,000 for a man who hasn’t been charged with a crime, who never produced an incident report of his confrontation with Brown, and who’s consistently been protected by his superiors. Meanwhile, they’ve outraised supporters of the Brown family, and they’ll likely raise more. The white grievance industry is getting good at this.
Gary Cass of the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission was a guest on the right-wing Christian radio program “On The Way With Paul Ridgeway” earlier this month where he made his case that the Islamic radicals in ISIS are the true face of Islam and warned that every mosque in America is “an armory of Hell.”
Saying that “we have fourteen hundred years of history to know what Islam is like and what Islam does,” Cass called for military intervention against ISIS to be carried out “with ferocity, because that’s the only thing that the Muslim mind will respect.”
"But the truth is," he continued, "every mosque in America, I say—and this is harsh words but I think I can back it up—is an armory of Hell."
Ridgeway agreed, as he and Cass later asserted that Muslims around the world have remained silent in the face of atrocities being carried out by ISIS because "they secretly agree with it and they want it."
"I think the truth is," Cass said, “that if you went to these mosques and you were able to get them to speak honestly, they would be delighted with what’s going on, that Christians are being killed”:
On a blazing Sunday afternoon, about 60 people showed up outside a bar in St. Louis to show support for the officer who killed Michael Brown.
St. Louis sizzled Sunday, with relentless heat and crushing humidity driving nearly everyone indoors. Nearly everyone, that is, but a group of demonstrators who sweated beside a busy road for hours to say one thing: “I am Darren Wilson.”
The gathering began gaining steam in the early afternoon outside Barney’s Sports Pub in south St. Louis — a place many described as a popular police watering hole. At it’s peak, between 50 and 70 people crowded around a table as organizers said they had raised thousands of dollars for Wilson, who killed Michael Brown on Aug. 9. A brief press conference ended with the group reciting in unison, “we are Darren Wilson.”
Participants were not always anxious to talk to the media. An organizer named Mark — who said he was a police officer but declined to give his last name — explained that the point was to let Wilson know people “think he’s a good officer” and “have his back.” Many others at the rally also were reluctant to give last names and in some cases to appear in pictures. Only one man who spoke with BuzzFeed claimed any personal connection with Darren Wilson, but he did not provide his name and said only that he knew Wilson and knew that he was not a racist.
Still, many people were willing to speak about their participation. This is what they had to say:
“We’ll all see this in the end that it was a good shooting. You know, it was a good kill.” — Tina Morrison
Jim Dalrymple II
Morrison, who used to live in Ferguson, said Wilson was trying to protect himself because he believed his life was in danger. “And had I been terrified for my life I would have killed him too,” she explained, adding later that “I totally believe what he did was the right thing.”
Despite ongoing conflicting reports about what happened during the shooting, many at the rally shared Morrison’s view that Brown was in some way the aggressor, and that Wilson would ultimately be vindicated.
“He deserves to be innocent until proven guilty.” — Sara Wilson
Jim Dalrymple II
The call for due process was a common one at the rally, and Sara Wilson (who is not related to Darren) said almost no one is “seeking justice” for Darren. Sara Wilson added that Darren had been “crucified” before the facts had come out.
“It was derailed with race. Michael Brown could have been white. It didn’t matter, Darren Wilson was doing his job.” — Mary Kourik
Jim Dalrymple II
Few, if any, at the rally believed race was a major factor in Brown’s killing. Many also believe others — protesters, the media, etc. — had incorrectly pushed race to the forefront. Kourik said that it was sad that Brown died, but that it was also sad Wilson had been treated unfairly. “I am Darren Wilson,” she said. “That could have very well been me the other day. It could have been any of us in that position.”
“It seems kind of one-sided. I mean the other side’s already got him convicted and he hasn’t had a say.” — Louie Puder
Jim Dalrymple II
Many at the rally, including Puder, were frustrated by the media coverage of Brown’s death and the ensuing fallout. Puder said Brown may have been unarmed, but “he’s six foot four, 300 plus pounds, that’s a pretty lethal weapon there.”
Puder wore a blue shirt with a police-style logo printed on the front. It was common attire Sunday in St. Louis; the shirts were a fundraiser, and in the back of the bar near a pool table organizers Sunday were busy ironing logos on more shirts to meet high demand. Despite the ongoing DIY operation, the shirts still sold out, several attendees said.
“This is who I stand for, the people who stand for me.” — Robin Clearmountain
Jim Dalrymple II
Clearmountain was among those at the rally who cited the danger of police work as a reason to afford officers respect. Her connection to police goes back a lifetime; according to Clearmountain, 59, her father worked as a police officer who came to St. Louis to desegregate the department. She especially lamented a lack of respect for police among younger generations.
Clearmountain, who is black and Native American, was one of two people at the rally who was not white. The other person, a black man, declined to be interviewed.
“We’re out here to support Darren Wilson because he don’t have a voice.” — Ed Chambers
Jim Dalrymple II
Chambers and others at the rally said that Wilson had been driven into hiding by threats and fears for his safety. “He’s in hiding and that’s not right,” Chambers said. “That’s why we’re out here.” Chambers also agreed with others at the rally who said Brown was the aggressor. “There’s evidence showing that it’s more in support of the officer,” he said.
Toward the end of the day, Graham Stewart showed up with a sign with the words “end police brutality” written in large words. He stood across the street from the rally, which he called “upsetting.”
Jim Dalrymple II
Stewart fought back tears as he described the rally across the street. “It’s really upsetting to me that this rally is taking place in my neighborhood,” he said. “It’s really upsetting to me that they seem to have the support of many of the people who live here, or who are at least driving by.” Graham went on to argue that those who are upset about Brown’s death want to make sure there’s an impartial investigation but aren’t sure that would happen under the current authorities. He added that he came out to show that not everyone in the neighborhood has a knee-jerk reaction to support police officers simply because they’re police officers.
A deal, which could be reached as soon as this week, would mean the iconically American company would be headquartered in Canada, and benefit from the country’s lower corporate tax rate, 15 percent, compared to the on-paper 35 percent rate in the U.S.
The tax benefits may not be the biggest driver of the deal. Burger King has been seeking more coffee offerings to keep up with competitors, keeping headquarters in Canada may placate that country’s regulators, and the combined entity would be the third-largest quick-service restaurant in the world. But it will reduce Burger King’s tax rate from the 27 percent it currently pays.
So-called “inversion” deals that moved a company headquarters from the U.S. and reduce tax rates are common, even when they are to somewhere as close Canada. In 2010, Valeant Pharmaceuticals moved from California north by combining with Biolvail Corp., lowering the tax rate it paid to less than 5 percent.
Yet despite the nominally high 35 percent American corporate tax rate, most multinational companies based here don’t pay that rate — the average is 12.6 percent thanks to a variety of ways they can lower their bills. A recent paper argued that the ability to lower their taxes actually makes American companies more competitive than others around the world. Meanwhile, companies that have done inversion deals haven’t necessarily seen a payoff in better performance. There’s no evidence suggesting that higher corporate tax rates lower economic growth and instead companies that pay the highest rates actually create the most jobs.
None of this has deterred the uptick in inversion deals over recent years, however. About a dozen have occurred this year and dozens are still in the works. The rate has sped up, with more than half of the 76 deals over the last three decades competed since the recession began. Drug company Pfizer is looking to acquire British AstraZeneca, and the maker of Adderall, AbbVie, is seeking to buy Irish Shire. Chiquita banana is also looking to merge with Irish Fyffes.
But public pressure has unraveled at least one deal: Walgreens, the largest American drug store, decided not to go through with an inversion through buying Swiss Alliance Boots. It was the third major deal to collapse in recent months.
Pressure could ramp up. The White House has been promising to take action to make these deals more difficult and less attractive, and the Treasury Department is looking at its options on that front. A bill was introduced in the house to close a loophole making inversions legal and other lawmakers have urged action.
According to the Washington Post, up until three years ago Darren Wilson worked for the Jennings Police Department, located not far from from the city of Ferguson. The Jennings police department was also made up of mostly white officers, who were supposed to be protecting and serving a mostly black community. Instead, there were so many problems between the police and residents of the town, that the entire 45 person police force was fired. Wilson was one of the officers who lost his job, when the Jennings police force was disbanded.
The city of Jennings has a population of only 14,000 residents, 89 percent of those citizens are black. The racial make-up of the city’s police force, on the other hand, was something like 43 white officers to two black officers. Much like Ferguson, the poverty rate is high and full time employment is scarce. Rodney Epps, one of the Jennings city council members who voted to disband the entire police force, told the Washington Post that the city was plagued racial tension.
“The straw that broke the camel’s back, an officer shot at a female. She was stopped for a traffic violation. She had a child in the back [of the] car and was probably worried about getting locked up. And this officer chased her down Highway 70, past city limits, and took a shot at her. Just ridiculous,”
Epps said during an interview, published on August 23.
After a string of lawsuits over unnecessary force, including accusations of police beating and attacking residents without cause, along with federal and state investigations that revealed fraud and corruption inside the Jennings police department, the city council realized that the entire force was a liability, instead of an asset.
The council voted 6-1 to shut down the Jennings police department, fire all 45 officers who belonged to it, and start over.
While there are no specific reports about Darren Wilson at this time, Lt. Jeff Fuestang, who was appointed to run the city’s new police department described conditions in Jennings at the time the that Wilson was fired:
“There was a disconnect between the community and the police department. There were just too many instances of police tactics which put the credibility of the police department in jeopardy. Complaints against officers. There was a communication breakdown between the police and the community. There were allegations involving use of force that raised questions.”
So much for that spotless record. Darren Wilson, along with 44 other cops, was fired because of serious misconduct, excessive force and rampant corruption. Why is that not on his record?
Things are bad in Ferguson but even worse in neighboring communities.
In the wake of Michael Brown’s killing, the strong community reaction reflected not only anger Brown’s death but long-standing racial tensions between the community and the police. Professor Clarissa Hayward told the L.A. Times that “The St. Louis metropolitan area has been an extreme example of racial segregation for 100 years.”
The front page of today’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch is a powerful illustration of one component of the divide — a largely white police force patrolling a largely black population. The disparity is huge in Ferguson but even worse in other communities throughout the state.
St. Louis County police officer Dan Page is best known for shoving CNN host Don Lemon while the journalist was covering the Michael Brown protests in Ferguson, Missouri. Page has since been suspended after video of his speech to a right-wing militia group, Oath Keepers of St. Louis and St. Charles, was brought to the attention of his superiors. In his speech Page claims to inside knowledge of a grand conspiracy against “Caucasian Christians.” However this is not the only time Page has expressed such views, as PRA has learned, he forcefully touted his claims on the TruNews radio show with Rick Wiles on July 10, 2014.
St. Louis County Officer Dan Page
Wiles’ popular radio show is a combination of end-times prophecy and right-wing conspiracy theories. For example, this past week Wiles interviewed Walid Shoebat, who claimed, “Obama is destroying Christian America. That’s his assignment as a jihadist, it is to destroy Christian America.” Shoebat is a popular speaker on the end-times prophecy circuit, celebrated for his claimed inside knowledge of a Muslim jihadist infiltration of U.S. government. PRA has also reported extensively on Shoebat and his claims, including in our 2011 research report, “Manufacturing the Muslim Menace.”
According to a USA Today interview with St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar, Dan Page joined the police force in 1979, but spent about nine of the last twelve to fifteen years deployed with the Army. Throughout the TruNews interview, embedded below, Wiles addresses Dan Page as Sgt. Major and discusses only his military career. Neither Wiles nor Page mentions Page’s tenure with the St. Louis County Police.
The TruNews radio show starts with a dramatic opening introducing, “Trunews, the only newscast reporting the countdown to the second coming of Jesus Christ, and now for the most powerful hour on radio, here is the end time newsman, Rick Wiles.” Following the introduction, Wiles launches into an introduction of Page as being in charge of U.S. Army special forces in Africa and having inside knowledge of a plot to create a global regime.
Page follows with an equally grandiose and unbelievable account of his military career, recounting military exploits including Vietnam, paratrooper training, training in Germany for psychological and asymmetric warfare, and a recent assignment as the senior enlisted adviser to the commanding officer of Africom. Page mispronounces the names of places and countries with which he is supposedly familiar, while claiming that his military experience has provided him with inside knowledge of a grand worldwide plot to end American sovereignty and a one-world government and military takeover.
Here are a few clips of the interview (the full and unedited version is at the bottom of this article):
Page claims (at about 21 minutes in) that the definition of terrorism has been changed by Homeland Security. Page states:
“It is a Caucasian male 18-65, one who supports the second amendment, one who believes in the second coming of Jesus Christ, one that is against illegal immigration and is against homosexuality and has a definition of traditional marriage. That is their definition of a terrorist.”
Wiles responds, “It has appeared for several years that the Obamanistas are purging the military of the patriots. Is that the case?”
Page then responds, “Yes, that’s absolutely true.” He also gives an account of “four-star generals and above” who he claims were removed by the Obama administration because “of their refusal to support military involvement in domestic affairs.” When Wiles asks Page why none of these generals have spoken out, he implies it is because they don’t want to lose their pensions. Wiles then asks if something significant is in the works for the year 2015. Page claims that he sat in on briefings from very high sources and learned that there is a timeline for orchestrated events that will create havoc worldwide and allow for the supposed globalist takeover.
Wiles also brings up the current influx of refugee children from South America into the United States, and asks Page if it is one of those orchestrated events. Page says it is, and that the wider scenario includes nuclear suitcase bombs, a planned North American Union, and, of course, further “demonization of Caucasian Christians.” Page expresses his belief that the flood of immigrant children is a clandestine operation with the purpose of programming American citizens for the eventual rounding up and imprisonment of their own children. In terms of the timeline for this conspiratorial takeover, Page states that he believes the takeover will be completed by 2017.
The interview closes with the following exchange (at 56:13 in the audio) about the inevitability of the coming one-world government takeover and loss of American sovereignty:
Dan Page: You have to put that [fear] aside] and make some decisions. God put the man in charge of his household to do two things—provide and protect his family. The males in this country are not doing that, they’ve abrogated that to the police department and somebody else to take care of it. It really grieves me to say, no, it can’t be stopped.
If we could get the men mobilized, to get politically active and hold the local and state officials responsible, we could change this. But I would give you some suggestions on this. Focus your attention at the county and state level, such as the sheriff’s office and things like that. Do not give any support to any federal, career politician. Do not donate to the Republican faction or the Democratic faction of the socialist party that we have in charge. Do not contribute anything to them. Stay at the state and local level. Then I think we have a chance.
Rick Wiles: The bottom line is Jesus Christ is our only hope.
Dan Page: I agree with that.
Rick Wiles: Unless this nation turns to Jesus Christ, nothing we do is is going to work.
Dan Page: Absolutely.
The St. Louis/St. Charles, Missouri Chapter of Oath Keepers has tried to distance the organization from the video of Page’s speech to them now that it has received national attention. However, the video rant, as well as the above interview, is compatible with the ideology voiced by leadership in the organization as well as a spin off of the group called the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association or CSPOA. Both groups have a mission of organizing their members to refuse to enforce federal laws that they believe are unconstitutional.
The St. Louis County Police department is one of the few county-controlled police departments in the nation. Most county departments are headed by elected sheriffs, who are viewed by the Oath Keepers and CSPOA as the supreme law of the land, with a constitutional mandate to counter the federal government, particularly concerning gun laws. Oath Keeper Richard Mack, the head of CSPOA, has described his organization of county sheriffs as the “army to set our nation free,” and claims to have about 500 county sheriffs who have signed on in agreement with their mandate .
Click here for the profile on CSPOA
Mack himself is a former sheriff, as well as a former lobbyist for Gun Owners of America (GOA). The CSPOA 2013 convention was held in St. Charles, the county seat of St. Charles County, Missouri. Over an hour of the highlights of that convention can be watched at their website.
These highlights and other media of the Oath Keepers and CSPOA focus on the role of county sheriffs to stand against “executive orders to derail the Second Amendment,” as described in a letter sent to sheriffs around the country by the the Liberty Group Coalition (comprised of the CSPOA, Oath Keepers, GOA, John Birch Society, and the Tenth Amendment Center).
I have written previously about the CSPOA as part of the national movement promoting nullification and secession in a profile of the organization and in a longer article titled Nullification, Neo-Confederates, and the Revenge of the Old Right. As I wrote in the profile, the May, 2013, CSPOA conference featured religion-infused rhetoric against “tyranny” of the federal government. Speakers included former Constitution Party leader Michael Peroutka, GOA’s Larry Pratt, Joe Wolverton of the John Birch Society, U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX), and Mike Zullo.
Zullo is Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s chief “birther” investigator. Part of the conference was dedicated to his latest revelations in this ongoing pursuit. Conference speakers also included several county sheriffs and Tea Party leaders. The highlight video opens with one of the few people of color in the movement, Sheriff David Clark of Milwaukee County.
PRA Fellow Frederick Clarkson has also written extensively about one of the speakers at the St. Charles CSPOA event, neo-Confederate leader and 2004 Constitution Party candidate for president, Michael Peroutka, who switched parties (presumably to gain credibility) and is currently a Republican nominee for the County Council in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. Peroutka is joined on the ticket by longtime ally and graduate of Peroutka’s course on the Constitution, Joseph Delimater, who is running for county sheriff.
Peroutka’s race for county council has already drawn national attention. Paul Rosenberg, writing at Salon, casts the Peroutka race in terms of the Republican Party’s race problem, as racist outbursts undermine the party’s efforts to become more diverse.
My article on nullification and Clarkson’s articles on Peroutka go into greater detail on the religious background of the philosophy behind organizing local and county leaders to lead a revolution against the federal government.
Unedited full version of Dan Page’s interview:
Dan Page was also interviewed on May 12, 2014 on the John Moore Radio Show. At about 24:50 in this interview, Dan Page states, “You’ve got Sen. Claire McCaskill right now beating the podium about assaults in the military and probably 99.9% of these things are bogus. One only need to look at a woman in a way she feels uncomfortable and that’s considered sexual assault in the military.”
On May 29th of this year, Officer Page appeared on the Caravan to Midnight radio program, and claimed that the public education system is full of Caucasian female school teachers who are teaching young Black males to hate White men. According to Page, those young Black men grow up to be willing to violently disarm White men.
Fox News host Jeanine Pirro kicked two African-American attorneys off of her show after they accused her of “distracting” from the death of slain teen Michael Brown by focusing on minor details of witness accounts.
On Saturday’s episode of Justice with Judge Jeanine, Pirro asked former St. Louis Mayor Freeman Bosley Jr. who is representing shooting witness Dorian Johnson, if his client was sticking to the story that Brown was shot while he had his hands up.
Bosley pointed out that an autopsy report was consistent with Johnson’s story.
"You know, there was a lot of misinformation that was put out there that might have fired up people for no reason," Pirro asserted.
"Yeah, it’s misinformation, and you shouldn’t be running with that," Bosley quipped. "Because if you take another look at the autopsy report, it shows that one of those shots could have been from the back."
After several minutes of sparring with Bosley, Pirro returned to questioning whether one of the shots came while Brown had his back to the officer.
"Your take on this now is that’s it’s possible that your client’s friend was shot in the back?" the Fox News host declared.
James Williams, who was also representing Johnson, noted that there had been “lots of misinformation, a lot of attempts to distract from the truth.”
Twenty-one former Mars Hill Church employees have lodged charges against Senior Pastor (and church founder) Mark Driscoll, saying that he “engaged in a pattern of abusive and intimidating conduct and that he has not changed his domineering behavior.”
Twenty-one former Mars Hill Church employees have lodged charges against Senior Pastor (and church founder) Mark Driscoll, saying that he “engaged in a pattern of abusive and intimidating conduct and that he has not changed his domineering behavior.”
"Yet we believe that Mark has also impacted us, the church, and the watching and listening world with a pattern of harmful ways. We feel responsible to submit these charges for the sake of the gospel, our own consciences and the future well-being of Mars Hill Church."
Update: The church released this statement to our news partner KOMO News:
"We take these allegations seriously and we are thankful that we have a process in place where allegations will be reviewed by our board and our elders. As it is relatively new that these former elders submitted this, at this time we don’t have any information on how long that process will take or what the outcome will be, but we look forward to having Pastor Mark back from vacation this Sunday."
Couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. In conclusion, look at his fucking necklace.
UPDATE: Here’s more information on Mark Driscoll’s alleged abuse of ex-employees:
I wouldn’t normally give extra attention to preening alpha evangedouche Mark Driscoll, but he seems to be popping up more and more in my mainstream feeds lately. His existence is not news, but if people are going to know who this guy is, I want to make sure they know who this guy is. The Seattle-based mega-pastor has turned “cool” Christianity into a thriving brand, luring new parishioners with his salt-and-pepper fauxhawk (I KNOW), phat sound system, and willingness to use phrases like “phat sound system” with a straight face. That marketability has landed him a bunch of book deals, nearly half a million Twitter followers, and the chance to get his butthole caressed on Fox and Friends. Oh, and he also bullies effeminate men for fun, thinks divorce is the fault of ugly wives riddled with sex demons, and requires congregants to sign a covenant vowing to abstain from “homosexuality, pornography, and fornication.”
The church’s blend of pop culture and strict Calvinist doctrine allows congregants to occupy a unique, rebellious niche between middle-aged conservative Christians and their secular liberal contemporaries. Mars Hill members talk about sex, drink alcohol, get tattoos, and swear. They listen to Fleet Foxes; they love Star Wars and graffiti art. They also believe homosexuality is a sin, men are meant to lead, and wives must submit to their husbands as the church submits to God.
I don’t blame young people for seeking a worship community that speaks to their demographics and aesthetics, but Driscoll’s Mars Hill Church sells oppressive traditionalism dressed up in tattoos and hoodies. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to suggest that young Christians look for a church that fulfills their spiritual and social needs without making them complicit in misogyny and homophobia. If you’re a socially liberal Christian, I don’t know why you’d want to make such a massive and destructive compromise. I’d also wager that you’re not as socially liberal as your vanity tells you.
Anyway, Driscoll’s latest arrived in my inbox via Christian Nightmares—he’s now palling around with Friend of Dorothy Glenn Beck on Beck’s online talk show. The interview is, predictably, focused on men and men’s problems and the importance of men and how men are our only hope of saving “Christiandom” [sic]. Driscoll admonishes his male flock for not bothering to “[take] a gal on a date, maybe to get a wife out of the deal”; parrots that old MRA talking point about how men do shitty in school; and adds that a lot of men don’t bother getting driver’s licenses because they’d rather “download porn on their phone while they’re on their bus trip.” (Quick Q: Whaaaaaaaat the fuck are you talking about. If you’re trying to convince me that you have no idea how porno works, then NICELY PLAYED, DRISCOLL.)
Because, of course, if you lose control of the men, then who will control the women!?
After that, Beck and Driscoll spend ten minutes whining about how oppressed they are by the concept of “tolerance.” Classic stuff. Great stuff.
Anyway, this seemed like as good a time as any to take a look back at a few of Mark Driscoll’s Greatest Hits—just in case there are people catching him on The View or being forwarded his video sermons by well-meaning aunts and feeling tempted by his faux-progressive peacocking. This organization is as regressive as they come. This dude is terrible and says terrible shit. But don’t take my word for it—take his.
The Time Mark Driscoll Referred to Women as “Weaker Vessels”
I don’t know if this really counts as “a time,” because it’s one of the cornerstones of Driscoll’s messaging so he’s kind of never not saying it. But don’t worry, girls! Just because you’re “weaker” doesn’t mean you’re inferior. In fact, Driscoll goes out of his way to make it clear thatmen and women are equal: “Equal but different. Within the covenant of marriage, men are the head and women are the helpers.”
Like, brah, maybe you’re just catching up on the reading list, but I crushed Animal Farm in the SIXTH GRADE.
The Time Mark Driscoll Said that Men Should Prune and Fertilize Their Wives Like a Prize Turnip or Something
A husband should be the firm and responsible head of his household, the leader of a “little flock called home and family.” He should think of his wife as “a garden” and himself as “the gardener.” If you look at your garden and don’t like how it looks, Driscoll preaches, just remember: “You are the gardener.”
The Time Mark Driscoll Told Women that If They’re Unhappy with Constrictive Gender Roles Then the Baby Jesus Will Send Them a Punishment-Headache
They’re quarrelsome. They’re a nag. And some women — you’re a nag. You’re disrespectful. You’re quarrelsome. Being married to you is like a life sentence, and the guy’s just scratching on his wall every day. Proverbs talks about certain women—they’re like a dripping faucet. You ever tried to sleep with a dripping faucet? Plunk, plunk, plunk, plunk, plunk. It’s what we use to torture people who are prisoners of war. A wife is like that.
A wife is like that.
The Time Mars Hill Church Announced They Were Opening a Parish Near Seattle’s Historically LGBT-Friendly Neighborhood So They Could Help All the Gross AIDS People
In January of this year, Mars Hill management announced the opening of a new parish in downtown Seattle (taking over the gorgeous First United Methodist Church, where I had my choir concerts when I was little, so SCREW THEM FOR THAT TOO), gleefully explaining: “Being closer to Capitol Hill is a blessing as we are serving and ministering to those who are infected with AIDS on the hill.” Spoken like a true ally/medical doctor! As usual, Slog responded best:
What services does Mars Hill perform for people with AIDS on Capitol Hill? Did they mean actually HIV, which is more common than AIDS? Why do they believe Capitol Hill is such a hotbed of AIDS? Because it’s younger? Because it’s gayer? Do they regret moving farther away from older neighborhoods like Magnolia that presumably have higher rates of cancer and other, generally more fatal diseases? Do they think that Capitol Hill is a disease-infested bastion of faggot heathens who can only find salvation in their hateful rhetoric, generalizations, and misappropriation of Jesus to control their cultish society and promote their repressive political agenda?
The Time Mars Hill Didn’t Actually Let Gay People Be Members of the Church, Despite All the AIDS They Supposedly Have that Needs Ministering
To be clear, GLBT are welcome to attend and participate at Mars Hill Downtown. They are not able to become members of the church.
The Time It Turned Out They Were Just Lying About Doing that HIV/AIDS Outreach Anyway
When asked what sort of “serving and ministering” they’d be doing for Seattle’s purportedly AIDS-riddled homosexuals, a Mars Hill spokesman explained that they were in the “beginning stages” of volunteering with the Lifelong AIDS Alliance. When reached for comment, Lifelong replied, “What? Ugh, no.”
The Time Mark Driscoll Said that Jesus Sends Him Special Hallucinations of Children Being Molested
That’s probably the greatest impression of “grandfather admitting to molesting a baby” ever committed to film.
The Time Mark Driscoll Asked His Congregants to Join Him in Mocking Effeminate Men
Amy describes Mark’s demeanor toward her as a “fiery tirade”. During this encounter, Mark told Amy he believed that every one of her sins were “sex based.” He said that the demons inside her were out to destroy every one of the marriages in their circle of friends.
"At one point," says Amy, "he asked me which one of my husband’s friends I had imagined sleeping with." Amy was dumbfounded by Mark’s questions and accusations. But she also admits, because she no longer trusted Mark, she was also slightly terrified of what was about to happen.
The Time Mark Driscoll Said that Male Masturbation “Borders on Homosexuality” Because You’re Touching a Dude’s Dong
First, masturbation can be a form of homosexuality because it is a sexual act that does not involve a woman. If a man were to masturbate while engaged in other forms of sexual intimacy with his wife then he would not be doing so in a homosexual way. However, any man who does so without his wife in the room is bordering on homosexuality activity, particularly if he’s watching himself in a mirror and being turned on by his own male body.
The Time Mars Hill Church Harassed and Invasively Pried into the Lives of Members Who Violated Its “Covenant”
But the church didn’t quit him. Not only was he barred from speaking with his now-former friends at the church, Lance says his pastor threatened to contact any future church that he might attend. And then Lance’s pastor took the extra step of calling the father of Lance’s girlfriend in Colorado. “They were warning him how dangerous I was,” Lance says. “That I was on a path of destruction that could result in the death of his daughter.”
The Time Mars Hill Church Used “Cool” Christianity to Prey on Vulnerable Young People Who Are New in Town, Going Through a Traumatic Stage of Life, Estranged from Their Families, and/or Just Lonely and Looking for Friends at the Coffee Shop
I don’t need a citation for that one. I live in Seattle.
The Time Mark Driscoll Wrote Nine Million Words About How Yoga Is “Demonic”
As I’ve explained in this post, yoga is a religious philosophy that is in direct opposition to Christianity. Thus, in its true form, yoga cannot be simply received by any Christian in good conscious [UGH, SIC]. To do so would be to reject the truths of Scripture and thus Jesus himself.
The Time Pastor Mark Wrote “Conscious” Instead of “Conscience” Like a Fucking 9th-Grader
SEE ABOVE. UGH.
The Time Mark Driscoll Behaves Just Like the Satan He’s Supposedly Decrying
He saves his Satan talk for the last chapter in which he says “Satan’s goal is for you to take the bait without seeing the hook. Once the hook is in your mouth, he’ll reel you in to take you as his captive” (p. 222) which is especially eerie for me in context of those I’ve known who have been involved at Mars Hill Church and have left. The good things on the surface drew them in. The shame and vying for absolution kept them there. But if Jesus said his yoke is easy and you are toiling under what you are being taught, is it possible something is wrong? If you are not allowed to bring your questions to your faith community, is it even a community of faith?
The Time Mars Hill Church Was So Oppressive and Abusive and Manipulative that Former Members Felt the Need to Form Support Groups and Blog Communities to Cope with Their Experiences There
"A wife who lets herself go and is not sexually available to her husband in the ways that the Song of Songs is so frank about is not responsible for her husband’s sin, but she may not be helping him either."
The Time Mark Driscoll Called James Cameron’s Avatar ”The Most Demonic, Satanic Movie I’ve Ever Seen”
Driscoll denounced its “demonic paganism” and its portrayal of a “false Jesus” and a “false heaven.” He also took issue with the film’s depiction of “connecting, literally, with trees and animals and beasts and birds.” Driscoll also said, “That any Christian could watch that without seeing the overt demonism is beyond me.”
As hip as he looks, his message brooks no compromise with Seattle’s permissive culture. New members can keep their taste in music, their retro T-shirts and their intimidating facial hair, but they had better abandon their feminism, premarital sex and any “modern” interpretations of the Bible. Driscoll is adamantly not the “weepy worship dude” he associates with liberal and mainstream evangelical churches, “singing prom songs to a Jesus who is presented as a wuss who took a beating and spent a lot of time putting product in his long hair.”
…The mainstream church, Driscoll has written, has transformed Jesus into “a Richard Simmons, hippie, queer Christ,” a “neutered and limp-wristed popular Sky Fairy of pop culture that … would never talk about sin or send anyone to hell.”
If you’re paying attention to the events unfolding in Ferguson — and by God, you better be — then you probably already know there is a group of people in this country of ours who are determined to change the focus of the conversation about the killing of Mike Brown and the subsequent protests, attempting to shift the lens away from the Constitutional rights of U.S. citizens and the killing of a black teenager. If you’re reading this, you probably already know the folks I’m talking about. But here they are. #Staywoke.
The Full-Blown Racist Troll Block on sight. Some of them are friends of your Facebook friends — block them. Some of them are your Facebook friends. Many of them are accounts like the one I have screenshotted below: anonymous and relying on blatantly racist language, such as blackface imagery, monkey references, use of the N-word, etc. These have exploded over the last week. We’re talking hundreds. I’ve been using Twitter avidly for years and I can’t recall ever seeing quite this much racist bile taking over an event-related hashtag (#Ferguson) as I have this week. Block them and report them for spam immediately.
The “Wait for Evidence” Troll This troll may or may not be anonymous and pretends to be focused on respecting and upholding the law. “We don’t know what happened yet,” they say, “wait for evidence before you lambast an officer of the law.” They pretend that things like racism, police brutality, police corruption, etc. don’t exist and insist that if concrete evidence is released, they will be swayed to feel “sympathy” for Mike Brown. But they won’t. When evidence arises, they find objection to its relevance or veracity. They then transform into The “Mike Brown Shouldn’t Have [insert human action here]” Troll, to follow.
The “Mike Brown Shouldn’t Have [insert human action here]” Troll This troll (and the others as well) will go great lengths to justify the taking of black life. “He shouldn’t have run,” “he shouldn’t have been sagging,” “he shouldn’t have been walking down the middle of the street,” “he shouldn’t have stolen something.” These trolls come in all races and will insist that when a police officer (or a homeowner, or a security guard) assaults a person of color, that person must have done something to deserve it. The fact that Mike Brown was shot at least 6 times doesn’t register as overkill, even when two of those shots were in the head. They will also extend effort to paint Ferguson as a ghetto, where this kind of thing happens all the time. Nope. Ferguson, Missouri had zero murders.
The “Police Are the Good Guys” Troll These folks have a blissfully naïve version of police in their heads, the one fed to them since they were children that says police are the good guys and that no matter what they do, they must have had a reason. These people have no concept — or pretend to have no concept — of the depth of white supremacy and the way it is ingrained in every facet of our culture… even our police. Because they believe the police are always right — and usually because they also believe that groups of black people are inherently violent — they have no qualms about police dressed in military gear, sitting on tanks and tear-gassing American citizens. ‘Murica. You may also hear these trolls say, “What about due process?” Well… we would proceed with due process. If they would actually arrest Darren Wilson. Which they haven’t. So…
The “Violence Just Begets More Violence” Troll These people are the riot-shamers. They roll out the word “looters!” at every chance and are not interested in the fact that only a small number of people at the protests have actively looted, or that Ferguson protestors actually locked arms to prevent said looting. These trolls hide behind anonymous accounts, they masquerade as sane coworkers, and they work for CNN and other major media outlets. They focus on the “unrest” in Ferguson and talk about it out of context in an attempt to 1) divert attention away from the killing of an unarmed black teenager and/or 2) disguise their lack of critical thought. As Mia McKenzie of Black Girl Dangerous said so well in this post:
"a community pushing back against a murderous police force that is terrorizing them is not a ‘riot.’ It’s an uprising. It’s a rebellion. It’s a community saying We can’t take this anymore. We won’t take it. It’s people who have been dehumanized to the point of rightful rage. And it happens all over the world. Uprisings and rebellions are necessary and inevitable, locally and globally. This is not to say that actual riots don’t happen. White folks riot at sporting events, for example. Riots happen. But people rising up in righteous anger and rage in the face of oppression should not be dismissed as simply a ‘riot.’"
The Concern Troll These are among the more passive aggressive trolls you will encounter. They not only target victims like Mike Brown with statements like “I wish he hadn’t stolen those cigars: he might be alive,” but target the community as well, saying things like “Should they really be out there protesting with little kids? I worry about that kind of parenting.”
Let me make one thing clear in case you weren’t sure: these people aren’t worried about the children of Ferguson. They’re not actually “concerned” at all,” despite their title. These people employ words like “worry” and “I wish” and “concern” to communicate their disapproval of black people doing anything besides playing the Martin Baker role. If they were actually concerned, they would see the images of police with hidden badge numbers, tear-gassing eight-year old girls, and be concerned about the escalation of violence police in Ferguson are responsible for.
The “But What About Black on Black Crime!” Troll Yes, 85 percent of violent crime against black people is perpetuated by other black people. But guess what? The exact same is true for violent crime committed against white people: the vast majority of those crimes are committed by other white people. People who use the term “black on black crime” either 1) work for Fox News, 2) are seeking to portray black people as violent and out of control, and/or 3) seek to portray black people as only caring about black lives when there is a way to blame white people. Let’s run that back: 1) If they work for Fox News…you already know. 2) If we’re going to make sweeping statements about people being violent and out of control, perhaps we should focus on young white males. 3) Anyone who would fit with #3 is not interested in facts, otherwise they would be aware of the vast number of organizations and movements to end gun violence in black neighborhoods… spearheaded by black people. The real motivation behind this troll (and all of them really) is to distract from the matter at hand, and that’s that an unarmed black teen is dead.
The “Don’t Make This A Racial Issue!” Troll These are the pearl-clutchers. “This could have happened to anyone! Let’s not make this a racial issue and instead focus on getting this cop off the street!” Yes, we should focus on getting this cop off the street, but we must also focus on the conditions that made this killing possible, and that is one of racism, white supremacy, and police violence that has been being built and rebuilt since the birth of this country. No, this wouldn’t have just happened to anyone. A black male is killed by police every 28 hours in America. This is a racial issue.
These trolls will also accuse you of being racist for talking about racism and start quoting to you all the times black people perpetuated “reverse racism” against white people. Suggested action? Block and keep it moving.
The Misinformation Bots These are particularly dangerous and I have seen a lot of them in the past week. I won’t speculate on where they come from — although I have a fairly good idea — but their sole purpose is to spread misinformation about Mike Brown and Darren Wilson, targeting people tweeting under the #Ferguson and #MikeBrown hashtags and sending them to false articles on homemade websites about alternate eyewitnesses that saw Brown attack Wilson, etc. Don’t engage with these people: they likely get paid for it. Report them as spam and, you guessed it: keep it moving.
The “I Wish We Could All Just Get Along” Troll These trolls might mean well. They might. But that doesn’t mean they’re not trolls. You post/tweet an article and they tweet back, “This is all really bad, but I wish this wasn’t happening. Can’t we all just get along?” They’re trolling you. We all wish we could get along. But right now a boy is dead and is receiving no justice by the system that supposedly exists to protect him. Injecting Pollyanna-isms aren’t helping anyone. If you really want to help and the frontlines aren’t for you, just donate to the Michael Brown Memorial Fund. And stay out of the way.
This isn’t an exhaustive list. When a black person is killed in America, trolls come out of the woodwork in an attempt to justify or distract from the taking of that life. After finishing this post, I’m not even sure “troll” is the right word, but I’m not sure if I have a better one either. Weights, perhaps. Cinder blocks shackled to the rising tide of Americans who want better, believe in better; who see the killing of another black kid in America and say “enough.” These people are not merely trolls. “Troll” implies something harmless, a faceless entity in the underbelly of the Internet. These people are not harmless. They are part of the problem. Unfortunately I don’t have a solution for the problem they pose: they are not interested in self-education. They are not interested in empathy. They are not interested in challenging the worldview that has tucked them in at night and told them the police are here for our protection and that black people deserve what they get. They are interested only in standing very still, while the rest of us move forward. All I can say is this: move on without them. Block, report, and move on without them. Even when they’re friends.