The Political Hurricane Show: Pseudo-patriotism and the religious bigotry in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings: Listen to the podcast here!
The Political Hurricane Show: Pseudo-patriotism and the religious bigotry in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings: Listen to the podcast here!
California has long been considered the epicenter of the nation’s worst housing crises in generations. In order to stem the tide of foreclosures, last year Governor Jerry Brown signed into law the Homeowner Bill of Rights. The Homeowners Bill of Rights is essentially a series of related bills meant to protect homeowners from some of the most egregious practices by the banks. Most notably, the bills ban lenders from robo-signings and dual-track foreclosures.
Dual-tracking is a common practice where the lender proceeds with foreclosure while negotiating with the owner to save their property. On its face, dual-tracking is akin to negotiating in bad-faith.
“Californians should not have to suffer the abusive tactics of those who would push foreclosure behind the back of an unsuspecting homeowner,” Governor Brown said after signing the bills into law. “These new rules make the foreclosure process more transparent so that loan servicers cannot promise one thing while doing the exact opposite.”
However, loopholes in the Homeowner Bill of Rights laws appear to allow banks to continue to dual-track on homes going through a short-sale. Earlier this month, I witnessed this reprehensible practice first hand.
A few months ago, I began the process of buying my first home. After looking at a few dozen homes in the area within my price range, I made an offer for a charming craftsman style two-story home in Forestville, California. After seeing the home, briefly talking with the homeowner, and learning about her condition, I offered her the full asking price plus closing fees.
I came with a pre-approved letter from my bank (for an amount twice the value of the home) and a 20% down payment. My offer was, as both of our agents would refer to it, extremely “clean.”
The homeowner (I’ll call her Jane) needed to sell the house quickly. She had lived in the house since the mid-90’s. Unfortunately, Jane became ill and had fallen onto hard times. She told me her medical bills had essentially wiped-out her saving and she found herself no longer able to pay the mortgage.
Jane was planning to move into a friend’s home. She had no other option. Her deed-in-leiu offers were turned down by the bank. In order to avoid bankruptcy she needed to sell the house. Remarkably, her bank gave her 7 days to find a buyer with a clean offer. As soon as the house went on the market I put in my offer. Jane accepted my offer immediately. Then came the wait. For nearly two weeks her bank went silent.
The following weekend, I decided to visit the home and take a walk around the neighborhood. Outside the house, Jane was packing up a truck with her final belongings. Seeing my arrival, she approached me nearly in tears.
“I guess you know?” Jane said.
“Know what?” I asked.
“I’m really sorry. I wanted to have a family who would love this house as much as I have. The bank says they are putting the home up for auction in a couple days”, she replied.
I Immediately sent an email to my agent who contacted Jane’s agent who then sent us the following response:
“Bank is giving me some difficulty, saying so close to sale date & investor had initially rejected a deed-in-leiu. I pointed out I met their criteria of bringing them an offer within the 7 days as set by them. I also brought up the fact that by all appearances, they were “dual tracking” this loan all along. I was placed on hold for a few minutes, then my phone person came on to tell me we were bumping up the chain and a supervisor was going to attempt to get a resolution. We will have to see as I held the dual tracking card until the last. I will be calling them tomorrow in the later afternoon as requested.”
The next day we officially received the bad news:
“We have been turned down for the short sale. I was actually turned down Fri. morning, but I brought up the fact that appearances are that this loan was “dual-tracked” all along, which became illegal in California as of 1/1/13. That bought me a little time as they claimed a supervisor was taking the package back to the investor. Again turned down. My client is devastated but not surprised.”
While the Homeowner Bill of Rights limit banks from some of their practices, loopholes still allow mortgage servicers to simultaneously negotiate a short-sale while foreclosing on a borrower. This is exactly what happened to Jane.
Lawyers on a free online legal advice site have been asked, “Shall I sue the banks for dual-tracking my home during short-sale negotiations?” The following quotes are from three attorneys responding to such questions:
“The first question of any potential claim, how were you harmed? Of the dual tracking arguments, the weakest argument involve short sales. After all, the homeowner is not entitled to a short sale. A short sale is subject to bank approval, and the bank doesn’t need to approve or consider it. Even if the bank acted in bad faith, there is still the problem of damages, or harm…Unless you have something in writing from the bank stating they would halt foreclosusre to allow the short sale to proceed, it is unlikely you have any claim a court would accept.”
A second attorney wrote, “The Homeowner Bill of Rights, which took effect this January, does not apply to short sale negotiations. The bank can’t foreclose on you while reviewing you for a modification.”
A third attorney continued, “There are several exceptions to the new law and one exception to the provisions which prohibit dual tracking is that the loan application must be ‘complete.’ Unless and until you have submitted a complete loan package dual tracking is permitted.”
Collectively, the above attorney comments pretty much sum up the problems with the new laws regarding dual-tracking foreclosures in California. Jane’s bank, Ocwen, established with Jane a criteria of 7 days for a clean offer on the short-sale. All the while they simultaneously foreclosed on her and put the house up for auction. By all appearances, Ocwen had no intention of accepting any offer to help Jane out of her foreclosure. The bank seemed to have no interest in Jane’s situation and the harm a foreclosure would inflict on her.
In spite of the new homeowner protections enacted into law this year, unless Californian’s insist on even stronger homeowner protections, the banks will continue to exploit loopholes and act in bad faith with impunity.
(families of Sandy Hook (Reuters)
Yesterday, a friend of mine posted on her Facebook page,
“I am appalled by MSNBC’s reporting morals, for editing the news with the purpose of sensationalizing the polarizing topic of gun control for their own agenda, and misleading people about what really happened during a hearing about gun control in Hartford, Conn. . .
There was no ‘heckling’. A question was asked by Neil Heslin, the father of six year old Jesse Lewis who sadly perished in the tragedy of the Sandy Hook school shooting. There was no response to this open question directed toward the audience during his heartfelt testimony. Complete silence. After this respectful silence, Mr. Heslin stated that ‘not one person can answer that question’. It was then that people with opposing views spoke up with their answers.
No matter which topic a news outlet is reporting about, the whole story should be told. It is tragic that some news agencies feel the need to create news rather than report it. The fact that MSNBC chose this tragedy to showcase their sensationalistic agenda is unconscionable. Shame on MSNBC. I don’t subscribe to television service, but if I did, I sure would not trust anything reported by MSNBC.”
It wasn’t just MSNBC that was being criticized for using the word “heckled” when characterizing the interruption of Mr. Heslin’s congressional testimony. The Huffington Post and several liberal/progressive websites also used the word “heckle” to describe the event.
Media opinion blogger Erik Wemple of the Washington Post agrees with my friend and has spilled a half gallon of ink on his blog explaining why he thinks MSNBC and Piers Morgan of CNN were wrong to label the event heckling. Wemple has called Morgan’s use of the word, “Misleading, at the very best: Heslin, as explained here, actually invited members of the audience at a meeting in Hartford to rebut his testimony.
Here’s the relevant transcript:
Heslin: “I don’t know how many people have young children or children. But just try putting yourself in the place that I’m in or these other parents that are here. Having a child that you lost. It’s not a good feeling; not a good feeling to look at your child laying in a casket or looking at your child with a bullet wound to the forehead. I ask if there’s anybody in this room that can give me one reason or challenge this question: Why anybody in this room needs to have an, one of these assault-style weapons or military weapons or high-capacity clips…..Not one person can answer that question.”
Crowd/Alleged Hecklers: “Second Amendment shall not be infringed”
Public official: “Please no comments while Mr. Heslin is speaking. Or we’ll clear the room. Mr. Heslin, please continue.”
Wemple goes on to point out, “MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell votes in favor of the “heckling” interpretation. He said on last night’s show, “Heckling’s when you say something stupid from the audience. And when a speaker rhetorically or directly asks an audience why you need 30-round magazines and assault weapons, and you yell a response which is basically ‘I think the Second Amendment says I can have them,’ you have not answered the question about why you need them.’
Clever thing that O’Donnell has done here — redefine the term “heckling” to apply narrowly to what happened in that hearing room. In doing so, he bypasses a more common definition, one that doesn’t help his case quite as much.” The more common definition Wemple provides by Merriam-Webster states, “Heckle: to harass and try to disconcert with questions, challenges, or gibes”
Wemple goes on to point out the audience showed great restraint throughout the majority of the testimony and therefore the disruptive comments were not intended to heckle Mr. Heslin. However, the crowd (two or more in the audience) was disconcerting and challenged Mr Heslin. Let’s also keep in mind comments were not permitted from the peanut gallery. Wemple’s argument that the audience showed great restraint prior to the outburst doesn’t hold a lot of weight given the fact that they were required to and had they not they would have been thrown out .
Whether it was fair to call the inappropriate outbursts heckling or not is really more about a media personalities working to improve their ratings, sell papers, or get clicks on their articles than any real scandal or breach in media ethics. It’s simply a game of semantics played out by media elites in order to create news out of a non-news grammatically technical sidebar. Much to do about nothing.
Victim heckling, the most sickening of all heckling, has been all too common amongst the right-wing. Certainly both the political left and right are guilty of heckling. In fact, some organizations, like the liberal anti-war group Code Pink, make heckling their trademark. It is one thing to heckle a politician or authority figure. However, it is entirely a different thing to heckle a victim. Unfortunately, this type of victim heckling has become all too common a tactic coming from the right-wing.
While many may take issue with whether Mr. Heslin was actually heckled while giving testimony, there is no doubt that many of the family members of those that lost their loved ones at Sandy Hook Elementary have been heckled and harassed by a vicious group of right-wing zealots.
One of the many articles on the conspiracy theories circulated by the right-wing that has resulted with the harassment of the Sandy Hook families can be found in a recent article by Salon. One egregious examples of this harassment would be the attacks on the Parker family. The parents of 6-year-old Emilie Parker, who died of multiple gunshot wounds, have received dozens of threatening phone calls and letters from the Christian right-wing accusing them of faking their own child’s death. Here is how Salon explains the Emily Parker conspiracy attacks:
“The girl in question is Emilie Parker, a 6-year-old who was shot multiple times and killed at Sandy Hook. But for conspiracy theorists, the tears her family shed at her funeral, the moving eulogy from Utah’s governor, and the entire shooting spree are fake. Welcome to the world where Sandy Hook didn’t really happen.
There are dozens of websites, blog posts and YouTube videos extolling the Emilie Parker hoax theory. If you Google her name, the very first result is a post mocking her father for crying at a press conference after the shooting…”
Because victim heckling has become such a common tactic for the right-wing, it should come as no surprise that liberal leaning media elites were quick to use the word heckling in the inappropriate interruption of Mr. Heslin’s testimony.
As I’ve pointed out, this victim heckling is now part of the right-wing’s playbook. Remember when the Affordable Health Care Act was being proposed and Teabaggers verbally attacked the uninsured, terminally ill, and disabled? If you don’t, here is a video that might help jog your memory. All over the country the right-wing heckled victims. It’s becoming a common practice. For more examples of right-wing victim heckling and harassment check out this article I published in back April of 2010.
In response to the criticism, MSNBC has reviewed the use of the word heckle in their programs and determined, “Our team reviewed the unedited clip and determined that it was heckling. The distinction was made because the shouts did not directly address the question being posed and were disruptive.
I agree. But whether my friend and I or for that matter the media wordsmith intelligentsia agree or not on the definition of heckling really means squat. What matters is how we treat one another. Whether we learn to listen and respect opposing opinions or we descend into believing it is right to attack the victims of ill fortune to promote an agenda remains to be seen. The real story here is not whether MSBNC breached journalistic ethics by choosing to use the word heckle to describe the event. The real story that should come out of this is if it ever right to attack the victims of hardship just because you disagree with their perspective or personal ideology.
“I have been fortunate enough to connect with a Voodoo Madame. I had a gentleman post on my book’s page and outline why I’m going to Hell…this bodes well for the ‘Fables’. The past two months have played out like a Fellini film, and I love it. In a past life, most writers must have been circus performers and we understand the show must go on, and we document the experience.” – Hunter S. Jones
The quote might explain why Hunter S. Jones, writer of the blog Exile on Peachtree Street and author of the novella Fables of the Reconstruction, barrows her namesake from Hunter S. Thompson. Like Thompson’s Gonzo journalism, Jones makes herself a central character in her own blog. Jones describes herself as a “Writer of erotica, curiosa, rock n’ roll, fiction,…enlightened rogue and mischief maker extraordinaire. I’m the one your mother warned you about”. After reading Jones debut book and blogsite, Thompson’s influence on Jones becomes apparent.
Jones’ writings explore the subterranean worlds of indie music, mysticism, and erotica. Over the years, Jones has written articles on indie rock bands, fashion, history and the arts. But, I’ll let Jones tell us her story:
DW: I’d like to know a little bit about your background. Can you please tell me when you were born, where were you raised, and how you ended up in Atlanta?
HSJ: I was born in Tennessee and grew up on a farm outside of Nashville. I was shipped off to Nashville to attend church schools at a fairly young age. However, as my mom says – ‘That didn’t work”. I’ve spent most of my life in Tennessee and Georgia, except for one ‘lost summer’ in Los Angeles. Mostly, my career has been in corporate promotion and marketing. I moved to Atlanta two years ago because I wanted to be part of a more vibrant energy and see what would happen.
DW: When did you start writing and what formal education do you have in the arts?
HSJ: I have written my entire life. I ran the school paper in high school and also a major force on the university paper. I continued to write, for any number of independent magazines and websites, covered indie rock, fashion, environmental concerns, the arts and historical features.
As for formal training? I have a degree in History as well as British and American Literature. Additionally, I have Master Level studies in Creative Writing and I have a Master’s Degree in Negotiation and Conflict Management. Now that is a true art form!
DW: Being from Nashville, please tell me about the music scene and the bands that have influenced you.
HSJ: Nashville is known for country music. Sure, I know the music of all the greats such as Hank Williams, Patsy Cline and Mother MayBelle Carter. You can’t be alive right now and not be influenced in some way by Johnny Cash, no matter what age you are.
However, my parents felt that if I listened only to country music, I would always be stereotyped, so I was exposed to the energy of rock & roll. Not a bad thing. Fortunately my misspent youth involved the rough and tumble Nashville that witnessed the clash between the rise of indie music against the major music corporations. It was great!
The bands that have always influenced me are the rock bands – the bar band – that play in clubs and develop their own sound. That is what inspires and influences me.
DW: Please tell us why music plays such a big role in your writings and why you would like to write a music column?
HSJ: Music is everywhere. The next door neighbor may be an insurance salesman, and at night he will be performing at the local open mike night singing and playing guitar. These talented people carry their instruments in their cars and trucks in case someone wants to have a party. Music surrounds you – it’s in the churches, at parties and in the air at night. It’s all I’ve ever known. Even nature sings in Tennessee.
DW: Mysticism and erotica also play a large part in your writings. Can you please share your thoughts on this fusion?
HSJ: Shakespeare said “If music be the food of love, play on.” I’ll go with that answer, please.
DW: What inspired you to write the novella Fables of the Reconstruction and are there any short stories you’ve written that helped lay the foundation for this story?
HSJ: Fables of the Reconstruction began as a short story and developed into a novella. It’s a book – a very strange little book. Like most artists, the basic concept appeared to me in dreams. The historical and supernatural aspects took many hours of research. Simply put – I have a very bizarre imagination. It can currently be purchased on Amazon.com in ebook format only.
DW: In Fables of the Reconstruction you write about Voodoo and the goddess Pomba Gira . Can you please tell us about your research into this subject and something about Pomba Gira?
HSJ: I love history, so that’s the historical angle of the Fables books. Also, I could understand the zombie dead- but-not-dead concept because of what I’m going through with an Achilles injury. (I live in Midtown Atlanta but I can’t do anything-basically I’m merely existing until I can live a ‘normal’ life, so I understand the undead concept.)
Put all those things together, add advice from a zombie expert from Glasgow, Scotland, dust on some magic voodoo powder (Haitian voodoo does involve zombie beliefs), thank the Goddess of the guitar first (I am from Nashville) and next thing you know, you have written a very strange but imaginative story.
Pomba Gira – the Goddess of the guitar – is actually a Brazilian voodoo Goddess however she was oftentimes the primary result of my research as I studied Haitian and Creole voodoo. Therefore felt she should be acknowledged. I gave her the introduction to the book, just as her invocations are done in actual rituals.
DW: Other than the music column, what’s next for Hunter S. Jones?
HSJ: There’s a super-secret project in the works for Spring 2013 – I’ll let you know more in the next few weeks. The contracts are in place and the announcement will be made soon. In the meantime, I plan to release my first in a series of short stories. The series is called Tales of a New Amsterdam. The first short story is titled The Legend.
And, early 2013 will see Fables Series Book 2 – Reconstruction of the Fables. There are lots going on Dean. Thanks again for inviting me to your blog site. Your interest in my work is appreciated. Likewise, I look forward to learning more about you and Expats Post.
Hi Everyone, if you missed my interview with Bill Friday…check out our podcast. Host, yours truly, talks about our Expats Media project and has a conversation with Bill regarding blogging, writing, poetry, and his son. In spite of the fact that I had a sore thoart, we had a sucessful first show. Check it out at the link below. Thanks!
I have to admit, I’ve been putting off publishing this article for a while. Last weekend, I was invited to participate in a live debate on BlogTalkRadio. The topic of debate, “White Guilt”. On the twenty year anniversary of the Rodney King riots, I was asked to express my opinions on a host of questions relating to racial discrimination, affirmative action, hate crimes, and racism.
I’m not an expert on racism, however I have written about the subject, quoting people that are experts on the topic. After reading a brief article posted at Expats Post and watching the short film, hosted by Mr. Midnight Movie and the Jewish Producer (JP), I decided to post a comment on the article disputing the whole notion of “White Guilt”.
As a result of my comment, I was invited to come on the No White Guilt show with Mr. Midnight Movie to further debate the related issues. Jewish Producer was kind enough to send me some of the questions up for debate in advance. Once the show got rolling, I was a little surprised the questions didn’t follow the order provided, but I just went with the flow. However, I was a little disappointed the very first question sent to me, which was suppose to be the main subject of debate, was never covered in the radio program.
During the show, I promised I would post my notes up on my website to quote and support the facts and statistics I was using for the show. I’ve procrastinated following through on that promise in part because I have been ill and in part because the collective notes is far too much information for a standard article. I have therefore cut some of the questions that were either not asked or we found ourselves in agreement. I also consolidated two questions because of the overlapping material. Even with all the cutting of information, this article runs long so I apologize for that. However, I decided to participate in the debate because I believe the subject is important and not something you would find on the mainstream media.
JP: What is YOUR definition of ‘White guilt’?
DW: I don’t have a definitions of ‘White guilt” The whole notion of ‘White guilt’ was fabricated by conservative ideologues in order to discredit liberal motives for policies that racially level the playing field in America ‘White guilt’ is a conservative fantasy used to perversely stereotype White liberals. It is believed the definition of ‘White guilt’ was developed by conservative columnist George Will, who stated, “White guilt is a form of self-congratulation, where Whites initiate “compassionate policies” toward people of color, to showcase their innocence to racism”.
In 2006, Conservative social commentator Shelby Steele literally wrote the book on the theory of White Guilt. Dr. Gregory Jay, of the University of Wisconsin, an expert on the subject of racism and “Whiteness” provides one of the most concise descriptions of Steele theory on the subject, “His book on the subject, White Guilt: How Blacks and Whites together Destroy the Promise of the Civil Rights Era, argues that “White Guilt is quite literally the same thing as black power,” the reduction of moral authority to a zero-sum game between Blacks and Whites wherein what was once the stigma of race becomes the neo-stigma of racism. The more guilty Whites feel about race/racism, the more empowered blacks are to use accusations of racism (and invocations of America’s racist history) as a disciplining rod. Steele cautions against the lure of White Guilt; for blacks, as a form of political capital; for whites, as a performance of social penance.”
Right-wing columnists, TV personalities, and radio hosts are constantly trying to distort to their audiences what liberals believe and what our underlying motives are. Instead of actually asking liberals why they support such and such a policy, most conservatives actively work to conceive nefarious or preposterous theories, mainly design to discredit liberals.
Jay further states, “But I’m not sure that “white guilt” is as big a problem as these cultural critics make it out to be. Moreover, the election of President Obama might be ushering in an era of “White rage” that is more than giving “White guilt” a run for its money”.
In a separate piece, Jay goes on to explain, “Antiracism is not about guilt or blame. You don’t have to be guilty or blameful to receive privileged treatment at the bank, at the store, in the courts, in legislative policy, etc. just because you are “White.””
In a lecture at Sonoma State University, noted author and expert on the subject of racism and White privilege, Tim Wise stated linguistically and philosophically, “There is a profound difference between guilt and responsibility…Guilt is something you feel because of something you’ve done. Responsibility is an action you take because of the person you are.” Wise goes on to point out that White’s have not supported affirmative action or other similar laws out of a sense of personal guilt. Rather, We do not choose the world we are born into. However, we can choose to take personal responsibility for helping make the world a more just and equal place.
One study that tested the theory of ‘White guilt’ was conducted by Dr. Patrick Ryan Granzka, who actually wrote his dissertation paper on the subject. What he found was that the conservative’s notion of ‘White guilt’ as expressed in Shelby Steele’s book, were widely considered by scholars to be “almost completely reductive, essentialist, and regressive.” However, Granzka does go on to say Steele’s work is “reflective of broader discourse about White guilt”. A discourse, I might add, that has been wholly created by conservative writers.
JP: What’s your view on Affirmative Action? What are your views on Public education’s role in white guilt?
DW: Affirmative Action has been effective in righting some of the wrongs resulting in a deeply rooted history of racism and discrimination in America. While it is not perfect (what government program is?), affirmative action programs have helped level the playing field, by a small degree.
During our live radio debate, Mr. Midnight Movie made the case that essentially the usefulness of affirmative action in American is over and the role of leveling the playing field has been achieved. Mr. Midnight Movie goes on to suggest that now affirmative action is simply used to lower the bar for a whole group of people that don’t “measure up” in his opinion. He argues that “you can’t lower standards so underrepresented students to come in”. He calls affirmative action policies a ‘free pass” which he believes “undermines our pursuit of excellence.”
That position would be fine if we lived in a country that had actually eliminated or even come close to eliminating institutionalized, systematic discrimination in our country. Here is what the U.N. says about the use of affirmative action programs:
“The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination stipulates (in Article 2.2) that affirmative action programs may be required of countries that ratified the convention, in order to rectify systematic discrimination. It states, however, that such programs “shall in no case entail as a consequence the maintenance of unequal or separate rights for different racial groups after the objectives for which they were taken have been achieved.”
I don’t believe the objectives set by affirmative action programs in the U.S. have been achieved. Here are some of the reasons why I have taken this position.
According to Tim Wise, Black folks with college degrees are twice as likely to be unemployed. MIT and University of Chicago Economics departments, in 2004 study reported, job applicants with White names are 50% more likely to be called back for an interview than applicants with Black or ethnic names. 85% of all jobs are created by networking. Whites have built on generations of racial advantage and when they hire, they look to people they know and live near.
Homestead Act of 1862 gave over 240 million acres of land to White folks. No less than 20 million White Americans are the living benefactor of the Homestead Act. In addition, the FHA and VA loans during the 30’s and into the mid-60’s gave 120 billion dollars of housing underwriting loans to almost entirely White folks. In fact, 98% of all the FHA and VA loans given during this period were given to White families. Blacks were denied the same loans; simply by allowing banks to redline Black communities. This helped create the White middle class, which has received systemic preferential treatment in the form of multi-government handouts going back prior to the birth of this nation.
Even in the last decade, Blacks with the same credit scores as Whites, were 2 to 3 times more likely to be targeted for predatory, subprime housing loans. A loan officer from Wells Fargo, even admitted publicly the bank’s policies were to steer Black’s into these high risk loans. Aside from the institutionalized discrimination of Black in home loans, on average, 2 to 3 million cases of housing discrimination are filed each year in the U.S.
Thus, as a result of Whites historically receiving massive government handouts, to the exclusion of people of color, White’s today still hold 90% of America’s GDP.
However, the institutionalized discrimination can also be found in the criminal justice system. Again, according to Tim Wise, the Justice Department’s own studies in 2009 determined Blacks and Latino males were 2 to 3 times more likely to have their cars stopped and searched, in spite of the fact that White males were 4 times more likely to have drugs on them. More on this topic in the following question.
JP: Black on White crime statistics why are they not discussed publically and in the main stream media?
DW: Well, I just did a little Google search and was able to find Fox News, CNN, and NPR discussing the issue. I’m sure other mainstream media outlets have also covered it. However, the issue of hate crimes and racism, in general, is often overlooked in the national news. I guess the crime statistics and racism is not really a sexy story. Mark Potok, from the Southern Poverty Law Center gives the best interview on the subject I was able to find in the mainstream media. Most of the segments I saw focused in particular on the FBI reports. NPR asks Potok about the FBI statistics:
“NPR: The FBI reports that about 20 percent of hate crimes are committed by African-Americans. And does that mean anything, or does that information have some bearing on this in some way?”
“MARK POTOK: Well, the FBI statistics are notoriously shaky, through no fault of their own. It’s a voluntary reporting system. The numbers are known to be extremely weak. That said, I think they are indicative of something. What the numbers show is, as you suggested, is almost 21 percent of hate crimes, according to FBI numbers, are committed by Black Americans, who comprise about 13 percent of the population. About 58 percent are committed by whites, who make up about 80 percent of the population. So the FBI statistics do suggest that Blacks commit hate crimes at a somewhat higher level than Whites. And that is very possibly true. We really can’t know that because the FBI stats are so incomplete.”
Potok goes on to say, that sometimes certain narratives are played out in the media, including the focusing of White on Black hate crimes and the downplaying the Black on White hate crimes. Nonetheless, Potok highlights the fact that the FBI reports are “notoriously shaky” due to the “voluntary reporting system”. Potok concludes that while it is possible Black on White hate crimes are “somewhat higher” we “really can’t know.”
However what we do know, in drug crimes, Blacks are eight times more likely to be sentenced to jail for the same crimes as Whites. The Sentencing Project looked at 40 recent studies on the conviction and sentencing rates in America. The organization presented a shocking overview of level of racism found in the criminal justice system nationwide. Here is excerpt from one of the criminology studies quoted by The Sentencing Project:
“The Pennsylvania study found that, controlling for other factors, including severity of the
offense and prior criminal history, white men aged 18-29 were 38 percent less likely to be
sentenced to prison than black men of the same age group. In addition, white men of this
age group were sentenced to an average prison term that was almost three months
shorter than that given to black men of this age group. Furthermore, black men aged 18-
29 were more than four times as likely to be sentenced to prison as white men over the
age of fifty.
The key findings from The Sentencing Project study showed “evidence of direct racial discrimination”. So there you have another piece of the puzzle. First, we know from Potok the FBI numbers are shaky due to voluntary reporting. Second, we also know the FBI statistics only reflect only those convicted of a crime. Add in the fact that if you’re Black, you’re more likely to be convicted and sentences severely than if you’re White, and you can see why the FBI’s reports only tell part of the picture.
There are plenty of other studies we can look at to support the fact that White on Black instatutional racism is still pervasive in the United States. The fact is, if you are Black, you are more likely to be pulled over by the cops, more likely to be searched, more likely to be arrested, more likely to be convicted, and more likely to receive the harshest sentences, including the death penalty. The FBI’s statistics do not take any of these facts into account.
JP: Selective outrage?
DW: I think Potok makes a good point when he explains the narrative told on the mainstream media can be fickle. Potok points out that millions of people on the right expressed outrage over the Black on White assaults (some of which amounted to hate crimes, some did not). All the while, once there is a White on Black crime, many on the left express their outrage and complain the mainstream media is not covering them. It’s like the two sides are talking right past each other. I once heard a scientist on the radio say that, “race is a political issue, not a biological issue”. How one views the mainstream media and what is being selected for public consumption is mostly dependant on your own political point of view. One thing is for certain, according to a recent Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting study, the mainstream media’s Sunday morning news programs are still overwhelmingly White (92%), male (84%), and Republican (70%). So guess who’s narrative’s are mostly being heard on these shows?
In conclusion, I would like to thank Mr. Midnight Movie and Jewish Producer for having me on their show. I think the topic is important and I appreciate having the opportunity to express an alternative perspective on this subject.
Every single year I go to Palestine for Christmas. Every time, I go to Bethlehem. And every single year my best friend Tina says, “Who the hell goes to Palestine for Christmas?” And I say …”Mary and Joseph went.” – Maysoon Zayid
When I first started researching this article I considered writing a tale of two comedians. It all started when I watched former Saturday Night Live comedian Victoria Jackson make some outrageous anti-Islamic comments on her cable program Politichicks. In the segment, Jackson states, “the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated our highest positions in government…Islam is our enemy.” Jackson goes on to rattle off why she believes Sharia law is being enforced in America. Of course, this is complete hogwash. There is nowhere in the United States where Sharia Law being imposed on Americans. Nor, is there any evidence that Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama are operating under the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood, as Jackson claims. However, that doesn’t stop bigoted Tea Party members, like Victoria Jackson, from spreading their destructive, hate filled lies. Jackson’s goals, and folks of the same ilk, are clearly aimed at creating fear of Obama by demonizing a group of people she obviously knows nothing about.
One of the most effective ways to counter bigotry, be it racial, gender oriented, or religious, is to simply get to know those that are different from us. I have to admit; I was born in New Jersey and grew up in a small town in the northwest corner of the state. There were very few Black people in my town and I knew of no Muslims. In my last year of High School, my parents moved down to Georgia and I eventually took a job at New Leaf, a book distributing company near Atlanta. One of my bosses was a super kind, motherly like, Black Muslim woman named Felicia. Often we worked in the same small room and I remember I always enjoyed our time together. Twenty years later, I wrote to New Leaf inquiring about the company and Felicia responded to my email. She had remembered me and together we took a nice little trip down memory lane.
I have found, once you get to know people that are different than you, you find they’re not all that different after all. Racial, gender oriented, and religious bigotry is a product of profound ignorance. And of course, the best way to counter ignorance is through education. This is what drew me to the comedian Maysoon Zayid. In many ways, Zayid is the perfect counter-balance to Jackson’s hateful and profoundly ignorant beliefs.
On stage and in interviews, Zayid has describes herself as “a Palestinian Muslim virgin with cerebral palsy, from New Jersey”. (Well, she is married now). Yet, Zayid is far more than a Palestinian, Muslim, comedian or actress, from New Jersey. Zayid has become a powerful educator and activist working on behalf of children with disabilities and against Islamophobia.
Zayid was born in New Jersey and attended Arizona State University (Go Sun Devils!). Zayid graduated with a BFA and went on to appear on the TV soap opera As the World Turns, bit roles on Law and Order, and other TV programs. In spite of Zayid’s early acting success, she often found her disability and ethnicity was hindering her acting career.
That is when she turned to standup comedy. In 2003 Zayid co-founded, with Dean Obeidallah, the now highly acclaimed New York Arab-American Comedy Festival. Remarkably, Zayid is said to be the first American Muslim woman comedian. Zayid is also reportedly the first person to ever perform standup comedy in Jordan and Palestine. I first discovered her comedy early two years ago.
Zayid currently co-hosts a radio program and is a frequent contributor to Keith Olbermann’s new show on Current TV. Click on the Olbermann link to watch Zayid comment on Lewes home supply store pulling their advertisement on The Learning Channel’s new program All American Muslim.
After this latest interview, Zayid was viciously attacked by right-wing extremists. The following is just one example she posted on her Facebook page, “This biatch is shaking in her taqiyya boots and she’s all drugged up too. She’s slurring her lies.” This crap reminds me of the time Rush Limbaugh mocked Michael J. Fox or when Ohio Tea Party members mocked a man with Parkinson’s disease because he supported the Affordable Health Care Act (Obamacare).
While Zayid’s success in acting, stand-up comedy and even as a commentator are all commendable actions, it is her work with children is what is most commendable. You see, three months of each year, Zayid works with program for disabled and orphaned children living in Palestinian refugee camps. Zayid uses art to help children cope with trauma and disabilities. Eighty percent is funded by her comedy.
Recently, I asked Maysoon Zayid to comment on her work with disabled (or as she says “differently-abled”) children and Islamophobic bigotry, serious stuff for a comedian. Nonetheless, Zayid graciously responded to my request. As you will see, Zayid uses her intelligence, wit, and humor to address many of the profound challenges confronting the Palestinians, Muslims, women, and people with different abilities:
DW: Recently, I read Alice Walker’s book “Overcoming Speechlessness”. As you may know, Walker devotes more than a third of the book to her experience in Palestine. In one section of the book she writes about women wearing a headscarf. In our phone conversation, you mentioned that you choose to not wear a headscarf. I’ve also heard you joke about how you planned on putting your bridesmaids in burkas. Still to this day, some people take real issue with the headscarf. Can you please share your thoughts on headscarves, your faith, and why you choose not to wear one?
MZ: I choose not to wear a headscarf because frankly nowhere in the Qaran does it say it’s required. Yes. It’s true. There’s nothing about a woman having to cover her hair. What it says and I’m not quoting, but the jist of it is, “cover”. I take a more Adam and Eve approach than scary ninja. I have met many women who choose to wear the hijab in all different ways. They are not forced, it’s a choice, and I respect that. Who knows, someday I may wear hijab, but I promise you I will never see me in a Burkini. There are also women who are forced to wear it, (yeah, I’m looking at you Saudi) that is sacrilege. In the end Islam has no hierarchy – what you believe is between you and God. Not covering my hair doesn’t make me any less Muslim and I doubt it will send me to hell in a hand-basket. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, I am good with God even if my hair is flappin’ in the wind. As for the burka joke, the reason I do that joke is to show that forcing a 37 year-old spinster to wear a sea-foam green ballgown is just as absurd as forcing a woman to wear a burka because that means “cover” to some man. Also, honestly, I was just trying to pick something (that) looks good on all different body types.
DW: I’m very much interested in your work with The Friends School of Ramallah and El-Bireh. Can you share with us a little bit about The Friends School, how you got involved, and what have been their challenges and accomplishments since you started volunteering at the school?
MZ: We don’t give people money, we’re very much hands on to “teach a refugee to fish.” Due to the political climate, I am not allowed to travel to Gaza, but we work everywhere else in (Palestine). Past projects include art and wellness programs, summer camp lunches, eye exams and glasses, Mommy classes, physical therapy equipment for rehab centers, tutoring seniors preparing for college, and providing shoes, clothing, and milk locally made for orphans.
In June of 2011 we were proud to have our first Maysoon’s Kids university scholarship recipient graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work from Bethlehem University. Currently we are partnered with three organizations. Our first partnership is with the Friends Quaker School in Ramallah. Friends is currently the only school in Palestine that mainstreams differently-abled children, otherwise they are left to glorified babysitting U.N. facilities where they learn nothing. It is our goal to provide scholarships that cover the entire K-12 education of a differently-abled student with no other financial means to attend. Our dream is that schools all over Palestine will mainstream, but for now we just want to get as many kids into Friends as possible. Our second partnership is with Playgrounds for Palestine, who we partnered with to build a locally-made accessable playground for the Silwad Disabled Center. We are planning to partner on a second playground. Finally, we are working with the Bethlehem Orphanage to facilitate the adoption of special needs orphans in search of a family. For more information please visit www.maysoon.com\charity.htm.
DW: When I look at biographies written about you online we often see claims about you being the “first stand-up comedian in Palestine and Jordan”. I know you have cast some doubts about this claim. Nonetheless, can you share with us a little about your experiences doing comedy in Palestine, Jordan, and Egypt? How free are you to joke about the governments, culture, gender, and other “hot button” issues?
MZ: The reason I never like to say I’m first is because what if there is someone who came before me? How disrespectful would that be? I did stand-up comedy in Jordan and Palestine not knowing it was groundbreaking. I was a comic in America, and my friends and family wanted to see me perform. So why not do a show? The first show was in Amman Jordan, followed by Bethlehem about two months later in 2002. I will never get to do another Amman show like that, because at the time I was completely under the radar and unaware of the country-to-country censorship in the Middle East. Luckily, Palestine has remained censorship free. Believe me, I challenge it every time I’m on stage there, just to make sure. You can’t really compare Egypt to Palestine. Contrary to popular belief, the Middle East is not one amalgams Arab blob. I was totally culture-shocked when I went to Egypt in 2009 even though I grew up spending summers in the Middle East. I had my ass grabbed more than a Kardashian. This would never happen in Ramallah, because if you do that to a Palestinian chick she’ll break your arm. I also got that really famous Pharaoh’s food poisoning the second I got to Cairo. Dean Obedallah was looking for me between shows for the curtain call and couldn’t find me because I was on the floor of the dirtiest bathroom in Cairo throwing up my shoes. Like a trooper, I got on stage for the second show. Unbeknownst to me Fayza the Minister of Tourism was perched front-row. I knew Egypt had strict censorship laws. I couldn’t make fun of Mubarak, Islam or talk about sex, but nobody said anything about Egypt Air. I did a joke about how I was happy for the first time ever that I have Cerebral Palsy because if I wasn’t flapping my arms the plane would have crashed. I then mentioned in passing that the plane was so filthy my lice had gotten fleas. Fayza didn’t find this funny and she charged up on stage screaming, “You’re not funny!” in English. She then attempted to slap me on my head. She was restrained by two Egyptian comics who had they known who she was would have let her beat me to death. After the revolution I was excited to finally be able to go back but unbelievably the maniac Fayza despite the revolution is still in power and is responsible for jailing a bunch of American NGOs. So I guess I’ll stick to Palestine where no one would dare try to censor or slap a disabled Palestinian J-Lo.
DW: Recently, presidential candidate Newt Gingrich called Palestinians an “invented people.” All the while, Pamela Geller has said “there is no such thing as Palestine”. Can you comment on these statements?
MZ: First of all, let’s be very clear, there is no such thing as a Pam Geller. Moving on to Newt Gingrich, this doughy man is a self-proclaimed historian, yet he seems to have missed the part in the Balfour Declaration which was the basis of the creation of the state of Israel where it states, “It being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.” That was 1917, yet Newt claims we were invented in 1970, so my question for Newt is this, “Who were these non-Jewish communities Balfour was yakkin’ about?” I am fully aware that Newt was paid twenty million dollars to help with his confusion, but let me be clear, I can trace my own family back no less than six generations and that is way before 1970. Palestinians are not invented, we exist and he’d have better luck proving Romney was invented which I believe is an actual scientific fact.
DW: Speaking about Pamela Geller, Ms. Geller states on her website, Atlas Shrugs, “(Maysoon Zayid is) an open supporter of the genocidal Hamas and Hezb’allah but she finds me “really terrifying”. Can you please address Geller’s accusations?
MZ: I try to make it a policy to never directly address someone with clearly untreated mental illness. But I would start with this; does Pam Geller walk into a room and say, “bye” instead of “hi” because she can’t resist the urge to lie? A simple Google search will show you that I have the words “I hate Hamas” basically tattooed on my forehead and Hezb’allah has about as much to do with me as fly fishing. Note to reader: I have Cerebral Palsy and if I ever attempted fly fishing I would most certainly yank out my eye. But even knowing almost nothing about them, like fly fishing, I despise Hezb’alla because I am 100% against any religious involvement in government. Hamas and Hezb’allah are both religious groups and I am secular, something Pam Geller would know if she ever bothered to read anything but her own drivel. Other than that, I feel like she should consider joining me for a duet. She can accuse, I can answer, it can go viral and probably save the world. But until that juncture I’m going to go back to pretending she doesn’t exist.
DW: As you may know, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, anti-Islamic hate groups are on the rise. Why do you think that is so and how might we reverse this trend?
MZ: Southern Poverty Law Center would be less impoverished if they, too, became an anti-Islamic hate group because there is big money in Muslim malevolence. Over $42.6 million was spent by seven charities, not to provide tolerance, but to actually promote hate in America. How’s that for charity? Obviously this is one of the main reasons hate is on the rise. I think the other major factor is that post-9/11 vilifying Muslims became part of campaign strategy the same way LGBT rights and abortion have been in the past, and continue to be. These are issues used to distract and terrify folks and sadly, they are very effective. While Robert Spencer and Victoria Jackson are given platforms left and right to spew hate, rarely are Muslims given a platform to dismiss this vile bigotry. As far as reversing this trend, the onus lies with the media and parents.
(Originally published at Expats Post).
Winter comes with wisps of fog
that slip into the gullies
and pour down the thin riverbeds
that lead to Bodega Bay;
“A quaint little drinking town with a fishing problem.”
Crab pots stack atop tiny white boats
with blue trim and Christmas lights drift by.
A captain wearing Santa’s cap and his crew
in reindeer antlers wave as they pass.
Inside Lucas Wharf,
red nosed clowns sip warm cocktails by the hearth.
Friends of the local folk band Stiff Dead Cat
jam for dollars and the occasional free beer.
All the while the ocean slaps ashore and roars.
In sync with the celebration.