Posts Tagged ‘Southern Poverty Law Center’

The Lunch Plot

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

By Jeffrey Page

The warm and fuzzily named American Family Association sounds like the kind of outfit just about anyone would be happy to join, but it turns out that AFA is, as Tallulah Bankhead once described herself, as pure as the driven slush.

This story begins with the annual observance of the decade-old “Mix It Up at Lunch Day,” the clunky title for a program designed to urge students to accept one another without regard to race, religion, disability or – horror of horrors! – sexual orientation.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which originated the Mix It Up at Lunch Day as part of its Teaching Tolerance program, asks schools to encourage students to have lunch for one day – next Tuesday, Oct. 30 – with someone they’ve avoided in the past. There’s no assigning of lunch tables or lunch mates, just kids deciding to sit with someone new for a while, or deciding not to.

Somehow the Sanfordville School in the Warwick district wound up on the law center’s list of participating schools, but the principal, Roger Longfield, told the Times Herald-Record this is not the case. “We’re not participating. We already have our kids mixed up,” he said.

Instead, the Sanfordville School will be decked out in a Halloween motif.

What is the American Family Association and why does it vehemently oppose Mix It Up at Lunch Day?

To call AFA a right-wing outfit is to slander true conservatives. AFA has a lot of weird positions on a lot of issues, but its foremost concern is the bid by gay men and women to be treated as fellow citizens. The Mix It Up at Lunch Day program is, AFA claims, nothing more than part of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s “nationwide push to promote the homosexual lifestyle in public schools.”

Do I exaggerate about the AFA’s benighted worldview? A man called Bryan Fischer, the American Family Association’s director of issue analysis, has written: “Homosexuality gave us Adolph Hitler, and homosexuals in the military gave us the Brown Shirts, the Nazi war machine, and six million dead Jews.” Get it? The holocaust was all Marlene Dietrich’s doing.

It doesn’t stop with gay people.

Fischer’s libel of African-Americans was beyond the pale and will not be repeated here. He lumped all Muslims together as security risks and said that, without exception, they should not be allowed to serve in the military. He said many Indians suffer from poverty and alcoholism because they have refused to adopt Christianity and instead “cling to the darkness of indigenous superstition.” And with no attribution, he declared that “homosexuals are rarely monogamous and have as many as 300 to 1,000 sexual partners over the course of a lifetime.”

In addition to vilifying and slandering the people it doesn’t like, the American Family Association likes to call boycotts.

It boycotted Google because of the search engine’s Legalize Love program on behalf of Lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender people. AFA called for the avoidance of JC Penney because Penney signed Ellen DeGeneres as its public face. For similar reasons, AFA wants consumers to pass on Levi’s, Cheerios, Pepsi and any number of other products whose manufacturers dare to portray gay people as human beings. At one point Fischer and his friends even wanted us to stop buying Oreos.

The Southern Poverty Law Center reports that more than 1 million school children participated in Mix It Up last year. Who is going to complain about a white kid and a black kid having sandwiches together? Or a Jew and a Baptist? Or – watch out, here is comes again – a gay kid and a straight kid? Students need to understand that they will not go through life meeting and interacting only with people like themselves.

What America could use are more programs that get people together and fewer that promote hatred and double standards of citizenship.

‘Armed and Dangerous’: America’s Scary Gun Culture Erupts Again

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

By Emily Theroux

It’s been a wild fortnight, as the Brits would say, in America’s homegrown “killing fields.”

Two shooting rampages have bookended the nightmarishly brief span of a mere two weeks, leaving the national psyche reeling from a surfeit of firearms carnage. On Sunday morning, the cable news channels were firmly focused on Mitt Romney’s propaganda prizefight with former boxer Harry Reid over whether the GOP candidate had paid any taxes during the past decade.

Meanwhile, at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, a neo-Nazi white supremacist named Wade Michael Page allegedly opened fire on a dozen worshipers, killing half of them before being shot in the stomach by police and “finishing himself off” with a self-inflicted shot to the head. Amardeep Kaleka, the son of the temple’s slain leader, Satwant Singh Kaleka, 65, later said Page appeared to be deliberately picking off male members of the congregation who wore their uncut hair wrapped in turbans, in accordance with Sikh religious practice.

The mainstream press sat up that afternoon and took notice, however briefly — which, with the exception of CNN, appeared to be just long enough to ascertain whether any white people had been killed in Wisconsin. Here’s how I imagine the chit-chat in the afternoon news meetings went down: “Sikhs, you say? A 500-year-old monotheistic religion with 30 million members worldwide, approximately 500,000 of whom live in the U.S., according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, those strange lefties who keep track of racist hate groups. It says right here: ‘Sikhs are not Muslims.’ Bet Wade Michael Page thought they were. So what are we looking at? Brown-skinned ‘other’ victims; tattooed skinhead member of the white-supremacist Hammerskins; disgraced ex-soldier; punk-rock musician “hate band” member; and drunken loser of a shooter who is already ‘history’ himself. Well, we all know what happened there. No pretty young white girls killed or kidnapped. Nothing to see here. Bummer — toss it to the bloggers!”

Riddhi Shah, who practices a related Indian religion known as Jainism, wrote an opinion piece in The Huffington Post asking why the American media appeared to care less about this attack than the one that had stunned the nation two weeks earlier in Colorado. The Week, a roundup of online news and opinion, offered four possible reasons:

  1. Sikhs are being treated as second-class victims.
  2. The relative randomness of the Aurora shooting is scarier.
  3. The Oak Creek shooting wasn’t as dramatic.
  4. It’s just media fatigue.

My vote, I’m afraid, remains largely with Numero Uno — not because the mainstream media are racist, but because I truly believe they peg their coverage primarily to readership and ratings. Round-the-clock coverage had already been designated to the Olympics; did TV viewers really want gymnastics superseded by wall-to-wall cable broadcasting devoted to members of an obscure religion that most Americans — including, very likely, their killer — confused with Muslims?

Unlike the cases of Jared Lee Loughner, James Holmes, and even Major Nidal Hassan, the Fort Hood shooter, the Sikh temple shooting by Wade Michael Page is reportedly being investigated by the FBI as a domestic terror incident. (Fox News, by the way, wasn’t at all pleased that the Hassan shooting case was classified as a “work-related” incident — and they’re not too keen on the shooting of non-white Sikhs warranting the domestic terror designation they expected for Hassan. The difference is that, while Page may have actually committed a hate crime targeting members of a specific ethnic and religious group, Hassan shot  co-workers of no particular race, creed, or nationality.)

 

Jared Lee Loughner sorry he ‘failed’ to kill Gabby Giffords

Two days after the Sikh temple tragedy, Arizona mass murderer Loughner — who killed six people and seriously wounded then-Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords — resurfaced to plead guilty to his crime.

During the tense weeks after Loughner’s arrest, pols and pundits alike buzzed with speculation about whether the shooting rampage had a political motive. The gunman appeared to have targeted a Democratic congresswoman who had barely won reelection in 2010 in a blazing red state. At issue was the fact that 2008 GOP veep candidate Sarah Palin had included Giffords among 20 “vulnerable” Democrats whose districts Palin believed had a good chance of falling to their Tea Party opponents. Palin’s infamous “Don’t Retreat; Reload!” map featured what resembled a gun sight hovering over each “targeted” district.

As it turned out, however, Jared Lee Loughner was a schizophrenic who was probably too preoccupied with listening to the cacophony of incoherent voices inside his head to have been paying much attention to the rantings of wingnut radio haters.

All Loughner had to reveal this week was how sorry he was that he had “failed,” as he had in most of his past endeavors, in his mission of killing Gabby Giffords. (Loughner also admitted that he likes the menial jobs he is assigned in prison, because even he can succeed at them.)

 

Gov. Rick Scott vows to defend Florida’s  ‘Docs vs. Glocks’ law

Somewhere along the short and winding road from Aurora, Colorado, to Oak Creek, Wisconsin, Florida’s trigger-happy governor, “Sheriff Rick” Scott, stepped out into the public square, six-shooters blazing, for yet another “Second Amendment remedies” showdown: a solemn oath to appeal Florida’s controversial “Docs vs. Glocks” law, which makes it a crime for doctors to ask patients if they own guns.

“The NRA’s gun for hire” (as Adam Weinstein, Mother Jones’ national security reporter, tagged him), Florida firearms lobbyist Marion Hammer told The Tampa Tribune, “Patients don’t like being interrogated about whether or not they own guns when they take their child with a sore throat to a pediatrician, nor do they like being interrogated in an emergency room when their Little Leaguer broke his leg sliding into first base.”

“First, do no harm” is rapidly being replaced by “Shoot first; ask (no) questions later” in the clinic and urgent-care waiting rooms of America. While you’re filling out the standard physicians’ questionnaire about past illnesses and unhealthy habits (e.g., alcohol, tobacco, and fast food dripping in trans-fats and high-fructose corn syrup), doesn’t it stand to reason that your doctor might also want to know about “risk factors” unrelated to stuff you consume — such as whether you sleep with a loaded 9mm handgun under your pillow? Or how about locking up that unsecured Uzi before it occurs to your 5-year-old to play “show and tell” with his little neighborhood friends?

Until a federal judge tossed the 2011 Firearm Owners’ Privacy Act out of court on the grounds that it violated doctors’ First Amendment rights, this bogus bill was capable of costing inquisitive physicians their medical licenses and a $10,000 fine, according to Weinstein. Since the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act in June, NRA supporters now fear that the feds could “coerce the names and habits of gun owners out of doctors’ medical records,” as one Florida gun-rights advocate told a local newspaper.

Dr. Bernd Wollschlaeger of North Miami Beach, one of a group of physicians who successfully sued the state over the law, considers the governor’s quest dangerously quixotic.  Scott has already spent more than $880,000 in taxpayer funds, fighting largely unsuccessful court battles over conservative causes, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “My fear is the state will appeal and keeping wasting money to fight windmills,” Wollschlaeger told a McClatchy Newspapers reporter last month. “This is an ideologically driven, politically motivated vendetta by the NRA that has to stop.”

 

Motormouth Mitt confuses ‘Sikh’ with ‘sheik’ at Iowa fund-fest

It couldn’t have been more ludicrous if Mitt Romney had attempted the tried-and-true tongue-twister “the sixth sheik’s sixth sheep’s sick” at his recent Iowa fundraiser. Mitt made more moolah than any candidate’s ever pulled in at a single cash-bash in Iowa history — almost $2 million. (Looks like he’ll just have to undergo a news cycle’s worth of media humiliation to get his karma out of hock.)

Philip Rucker of The Washington Post took up the challenge of Mitt mockery, writing that, after getting the tricky articulation right Tuesday morning, Mitt muffed his lines at the Iowa fundraiser, where “he instead talked about the ‘sheik temple’ and the ‘sheik people’. Sheik is an Arabic honorific, whereas Sikh is a religion with roots in South Asia.”

Without a videotape, Mitt could just as easily have been talking about the  “chic people” — just doing a little bit of “framing” for his well-heeled audience. The outcome of this increasingly surreal election, after all, depends on how Mitt “sheiks” the dice.